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BY "AL KHANZIR."
THERE is an island on the Ganges, lying far off the beaten track, a little insignificant island only a mile or two in length and about half as broad, a mere sandbank covered with grass and tamarisk; but it is dearer to my heart than almost any other spot on earth, for what memories it brings back of joyous days and of goed friends, man and horse, memories for the most part of those we shall not meet again till the Happy Hunting Grounds are reached.
"Pig Island "-for so this island is well named-lies in the country of the most famous Indian Tent Club,1 and a more ideal home for pig could not be found. Just let me try to describe this Kadir country for these who have not had the luck to know it-the "Kadir" being, of course, the name given to the whole wide riverbed which has been scored across the bosom of Hindustan by the ever-changing course of Mother Gunga through the ages. Let us ride together, reader, you and I, and mark the varying country through which we pass to reach a Tent Club Meet at Pig Island.
From our cantonments at M-, camp in the Kadir lies some thirty-five miles away. A metalled road runs for the first twelve miles out of can
tonments. Beyond that again a road does indeed exist, but it is the sort of road that even a Ford would hesitate to tackle; so, for anybody who respects the innards of his car, there is nothing for it on the onward journey but to hack-unless, indeed, you would prefer to drive in a country tumtum,2 and to suffer a long-drawn-out agony of cup-and-ball, which, once experienced, will never be repeated.
It is an afternoon in early spring, and we have reached the point where we must leave the car. Primitive though it is, the onward road we follow is one of some importance as the direct connecting link between the headquarters of the two oivil districts of Mand B—, lying some forty miles apart.
Libellous tradition has it that, during the régime of a very celebrated civil servant
still fortunately with us, though in a much exalted capacity-the project of metalling this road throughout was seriously discussed, but that he successfully opposed the scheme, ostensibly on grounds of soundest policy, but in reality in order that his favourite snipe-shoot, which lies in this direction, should not thus become accessible to all and sundry.
A Tent Club corresponds to a Hunt; the Hon. Secretary to the Master. 2 A two-wheeled cart.
However little truth there may be in this yarn, certain it is that Pig Island owes much of its charm and much of the sport it shows to its inaccessibility; and though at the close of a Meet in June we may sometimes curse the weary miles as we hack home, still we all join with the ryots of the district in venerating the memory of a Collector whose spacious methods appealed to the sporting instincts alike of brown and white.
We find our horses waiting beneath a tree beside the road, and in five minutes they are saddled, and we are off on our steady hack towards the still distant river. It is a pleasant ride, for the weather is still cool, and the track is soft and sandy, and well shaded by a double row of trees. It leads us across a level plain, studded with villages and smiling with crops a rich land, watered by a multitude of canal-distributaries. Here every square yard is cultivated, and the bright emerald of rising wheat, and the golden gleam of hemp and mustard, blend into the darker masses of the mango - topes, those billowy groves of mighty fruit trees, often many acres in extent, where every tree is spaced and lined with mathematical regularity, and the shady aisles beneath, carpeted with flowers and musical with running water, are pregnant with promise of shelter and of coolth.
At the outskirts of a village we stop beside a well to water
our horses, and, seated on its broad cemented brim, smoke a contemplative cigarette. Towards us down the vista of mingled light and shade, and through the golden haze of floating dust-motes-rides an ancient grey beard on a sickle - hooked chestnut tat. He dismounts stiffly beside the well, and with a courteous salute sets about watering his pony. But a friendly greeting from us in return, and a question about the local crops, soon break down his reserve, and he begins to yarn to us as only such an old worthy can.
A Jat this, belonging to as stout a class of yeoman farmers as any in India,-than whom none have done better service in the War,—and he tells proudly of the number of recruits his village sent, till hardly a man was left, and of his own grandson who, twice wounded in Mesopotamia, has now been taken as orderly by his colonel.
And then he asks the latest news of the Punjab, expressing supreme contempt for the instigators of the recent outrages. This subject brings him back to his stock topic, the Great Mutiny-that vast upheaval of his childhood which he can just remember, and about which, after the manner of old Caspars the world over, he loves to hold forth to any long-suffering audience.
So he points out a lofty peepul-tree in the distance, and smacking his lips over the details, tells the tale of the hanging he there witnessed some
1 Civil official in charge of a district,
sixty years ago the hanging of Lal Singh, the Goojr, with his gang of merry men, who had indulged in a brief orgy of robbery and murder in these troublous times.
Dwellers between the desert and the sown-these Goojrs, you must remember, have always been the hereditary reivers and cattle-thieves of the Kadir borderland. Likely enough lads they are too, and they are now recruited to an extent never before thought of, so the war has brought a certain modicum of respectability to the clan.
But in India we are as nice in matters of family history and pedigree as ever they were at the court of the Habsburgs, and our memories are long.
Now the Jat is, and always has been, in the main a lawabiding farmer, whose only departures from virtue arise in the hot blood of disputes over women or water-rights. Then, indeed, he will indulge in a regular Donnybrook Fair, but that he regards as quite a gentlemanly proceeding-and he looks down exceedingly on his more picturesque neighbours, for whose old-time forays he still bears a bitter grudge.
So there has never been any love lost between the clansa fact doubtless tending to sweeten the memory of that bygone retribution; but still it is easy to see that summary justice such as was meted out to Lal Singh-combined with security of property and a strong government-is all that our old friend wants, and that Mr Gandhi and passive resistance, political representa
tion, and Home Rule all leave him very cold indeed. And this old Jat is typical of yeoman India-which is, after all, almost the only India worth a second thought.
After bidding the old gentleman a fond farewell, we ride forward on our way. A few miles on, and do you see that low mound on your left above the village? Tradition has it that it marks the western gate of Hastinapur, that great vanished city of the Golden Age of Hinduism, which in its prime spread twelve miles eastward to the Ganges, but of which to-day scarcely a scattered brick remains.
Now a long line of trees looms up across our front, and we ride into them to find ourselves on the bridge over a great canal, one of those stupendous works of irrigation that, had we nothing else to our credit, alone would justify our holding India.
It is the great Ganges Canal, and to it all the country through which we have passed owes its wonderful fertility. Spanned by regular bridges and mighty as a great river, it runs straight as a die between its wooded banks through the breadth of a Province, bringing life to tens of thousands of acres along its course.
A few miles on, and all at once it is as though we had reached the brink of some cliffgirt coast, and that a great brown sea were stretched out at our feet; for the ground falls steeply in front of us, the road dives suddenly down a sandy ravine through serub- and thorn-olad banks, and below
us, stretching mile on mile, lies Bourh Gangas open out into a sea of grass and tamarisk-reed-grown lakes and bogs of it is the Kadir.
But to most of us it is much more. To the ordinary youngster of the sort who, nurtured on a diet of Surtees and Sorope, St John and Samuel Baker, feels himself at least as competent to discuss the points of a horse as to expound the intricacies of the jazz, and is untrammelled by any Cockney dread of solitude and empty spaces-to such a one the Kadir is almost Paradise.
Along this stretch of the Ganges the Kadir is a lowlying belt of grass and scrubjungle, some five or six miles in width. Teeming with game of every sort, this belt is demarcated on either side by a low continuous line of cliffs and ravines, the favoured haunt of leopard and hyena.
Within the confines of these oliffs, the river-itself about four hundred yards in widthpursues an ever changing course, while the whole surface of the Kadir is seamed and scored by innumerable old channels and beds, some dry and grass-grown, but others flying a danger-signal of tall green reeds as a warning that any rider venturing into them will find himself thoroughly and completely bogged.
great extent, which autumn sees alive with duck and snipe. Their quaking surface will seldom support your weight, so some sort of punt or coracle is essential, and also a local marshman as a guide, or you will soon find yourself lost in the maze of alleyways through the giant reeds. Given these, however, and you can comfortably shoot your hundred duck in a morning's and evening's flighting.
Let us halt for a moment on the cliff-edge and look down on the Kadir. The prevailing impression is grass, and still more grass. But not grass as they know it in the Shires. This grass is of many varieties, but short springy turf it almost never is. To the rider it may be hock-high, girth-high, waist-high, headhigh; it grows in brakes so close and fine and straight that it has been well named "tooth-brush," and so dense that a heavy horse will force his way through it only at a walk. Again, it grows in single canes, thick and stiff as the eane of an usher, and to the galloping horseman almost as painful. But usually it is fair galloping grass, perhaps up to your girths, through which your horse seems literally to sail in the wake of the hunted boar. But whatever the vari
These marshy channels are known locally as Bourh Ganga, or the old Ganges, and cross-ety, by the season of which ings over them are few and far between. They form safe sanotuaries for pig, and wherever they exist are the invariable point of any hunted boar. Here and there these
we speak it is burnt to a uniform yellow, and as dry as tinder, and through each and every variety the hoghunter must be prepared to follow his boar as best he can,
for you may be sure that a hunted boar is going to take the thickest and blindest line in the countryside.
There is at first something particularly alarming in trusting oneself "all-out" through grass so high that the rider has to be ready to guard his eyes with his spear-arm; but the going on the whole is sound and good, and it is surprising how a well-balanced horse with a good shoulder stands up when not interfered with-unless, indeed, you are unlucky enough to run aeross one of those absolutely blind grass-covered fissures in the ground, or upon a blind well, both of which do here and there exist, and then the oleverest of horses is helpless.
But avoid a straight shoulder and a short rein as you would the plague, or you will fall, and fall repeatedly, and the number of people who really like doing that is, after all, exceedingly small.
Kadir, burn big stretches of the high dry grass at this season, to bring on short green grazing; so, between them all, by the spring the coverts are reduced to manageable size, and hunting becomes generally possible.
But patches of every covert will remain unhuntable right to the end of the season. These patches, of course, will invariably be the point of every hunted boar; so the strategy of the beat and the taotios of the spears during the huntboth alike must aim at forcing the boar away from his point, and in this battle of wits lies much of the delight of pigsticking.
Here and there out of this sea of grass, like occasional islands, rise small villages of mud and thatch, each built on a low mound against the floods, and each marked by a venerable peepul-tree, round which of an evening the village elders are wont to settle the world's During the monsoon rains in affairs. A few acres of clearing late summer, the Ganges over- devoted to a field of barley, flows her banks till practically a plot of sugar-cane, and some the whole Kadir is immersed. melon-beds-mark the extent At this season grass and weeds of civilisation, and then the spring up as if by magic, and grass shuts in again. after the water has subsided the country is quite unhuntable owing to the thickness and extent of the coverts. tunately each kind of grass has its own individual use-for bedding, thatching, matting, and the like-so that, as soon as the shrinking of the floods has allowed of the sun's drying the new growth, large areas are rapidly out. The Goojrs, too, who graze their herds of buffaloes and oattle in the
Now look beyond the miles of intervening grass at that belt of more sandy soil by the banks of the actual river, and you will see a dark line of distant green: it marks where the grass gives place to tamarisk. This is an evergreen growth, locally known 88 "jhow," that grows in great brakes like giant ling, and makes cool summer lying, which the pig like well.
When the coverts are not too