CAPTAIN CAMPBELL • S OLD FOREST RANGER.
THE contents of this handsome volume originally appeared in the New Monthly Magazine; they are now republished, with illustra- tions by PICKEN, and as reasonable a degree of splendour as the typographer and binder can bestow. The subject is the field-sports of Hindostan—deer-stalking, tiger, bear, elephant, boar, and bison hunting; the contrivance of a framework exhibitinwb the scenery, the natives, the sportsmen, and life in the jungle and on the march, as well as some other things which in a critical sense had been as well away. The interest of the chase is sometimes suspended for the heavy jokes of an old Scotch Army-surgeon, who, designed for a humorist, is only a bore ; much interrupting, if not irrelative matter, is introduced by describing mess-repasts, and so forth,— seemingly an imitation of the " Noctes " of Blackwood; besides which, there is a sort of love-tale between the daughter of an old Anglo-Indian and an officer cousin, who comes out to India on duty and to be initiated into field-sports. Unless under peculiar circumstances and very happily managed, frameworks are dubious things; distracting attention from the main subject to themselves, and that upon the principle of dividing and weakening. A well- planned introduction would often answer the purpose : and some- times the framework is a mere addendum—a double work without the advantage of two over one. Even the Taming of the Shrew might be presented as well without the " Induction" as with it ; nor is any use made of Christopher Sly after the play begins. But Captain CAMPBELL has mistaken the nature of a framework alto- gether: he makes the frame a part of the picture. The conse- quence is, that the sportsman, or general reader, perusing his book for its information feels the irrelative matter a hindrance or in- cumbrance ; whilefhere is not enough of fiction to gratify the novel-reader.
This defect is perhaps not the author's choice, but arose from some fancied necessity of magazine-writing, or, may be, some direct advice. The greater fault of ringing changes on words, with an egotistical obtrusion of the author's likes and dislikes—if not trace- able to the same cause, is certainly collateral—nzagazinish all over. And these things are more unfortunate because Captain CAMPBELL did not require any adventitious aid to make his real matter inte- resting. He is thoroughly master of his subject : that subject is various, full of matter and stirring incident, and well diversified by the romantic scenery of the Neilgherries, the gorgeous magnificence of the Tropical vegetation in the Plains, the atmospheric phmno- mena of Hindostan, and the native characters wi:h whom the sports- men are naturally brought in contact. Even the faults of the vo- lume originating in the mistaken framework can be got over. As- suming that there are two or three sportsmen—one elderly, the papa, one middle-aged, the veritable Nimrod, one juvenile, the lover—the reader may run his eye down the page till they are fairly afield, and then pass the dialogues where Dr. M'Phee bears a large part.
As an instance of the more germane matters, we will give a few extracts. Here, from a chapter on bison-shooting, is Seedee, the chief of a tribe of forest-residents, probably the aboriginal inha- bitants of India, on the trail.
TRACKING THE BISON.
" Hugh ! " exclaimed their guide, suddenly stopping short, and kneeling down to examine more carefully some marks which his experienced eye bad detected among the dry leaves and withered herbage. To the less delicate organs of the European there was nothing particular to be observed ; but the Jemmadar bad evidently made a discovery of importance. After carefully re- garding the signs he had observed for some thne, he arose with a broad grin of satisfaction on his swarthy features, and merely uttering the word " Koolgha! " whilst he held up the fingers of both bands, to denote the number ten, pro- ceeded with a more rapid step and more confident air, like a hound running breast-high on the scent.
" It's all right now," whispered Mansfield : "the imp has struck upon a fresh trail, and the Devil himself cannot throw him out when once he has fairly settled to it : we may therefore reckon with certainty on finding bison at the other end, although it is very uncertain how long we may have to follow it before we come up with them." Charles smiled incredulously at the idea of any one being able to follow the track of an animal for miles, over ground where not the slightest vestige of a foot-mark was visible to ordinary eyes; but at the same time expressed a hope that they might succeed.
Look here," said Mansfield, as they approached a dry water-course, where the fresh footmarks of a herd of bison were deeply imprinted on the half- baked mud. "You may now satisfy your own senses that our guide is on the right scent. Here, you see is the fresh trail of ten or a dozen bison at least ; and one of them an old hull, who will show fight, I'll be bound for him, and put your metal to the test, my hearty, before you take his scalp. But we mud push forward, for old Karnali is fuming at this delay." Sec following the trail for some miles at a rapid pace, the Jemmadar be- sensible, from certain signs which he observed, that the game was not far ranee. Be now slackened his pace, and, renewing his signal to observe profound silence, began to creep along the bed of a email water-course with great caution and arettmspection. See," whispered Mansfield, u they passed a bank of wet sand, where the trail was distinctly risible, and the water, which still continued to Sow into the deeply indented footmarks, had not yet filled them up ; we are close upon them now. Keep your wits about you, my boy, and be ready with your rifle, for the old bull is apt to make • charge with but scanty warning." Every faculty of the sagacious savage was now on the full stretch. He crept along with the air of a tiger about to spring on his prey : his rolling eye flashed fire, his wide nostrils were distended to the utmost limits, and even his ears ap- peared to erect themselves like those of a wild animal. Presently he started, stopped, and, laying his ear close to the ground, listened attentively ; then pro- carded with more caution than before, stopping and listening from time to time, till at length it became evident, from the triumphant beam of satisfaction which lighted up his savage features, that he had fully ascertained the position of the enemy. He now stood erect ; cast a prying glance around, to make him- self master of the locality ; held up his hand, to ascertain the direction of the wind ; and having apparently satisfied himself that all was right, motioned to his companions to follow his movements. Having scrambled cautiously out of the water-course, he laid himself flat upon the ground ; and, separating the tangled brushwood with one hand, began to worm his way through it with the gliding motion and subtle cunning of a snake. Mansfield and Charles tried to imitate the serpentine motion of their savage Ode as they best could ; but they found their less pliant limbs but ill-adapted to this mode of progression ; and the noise which they occasionally made in forcing their way through a thorny bush called forth many an angry frown from the Jemmadar. Having proceeded in this manner for some hundred yards, they suddenly came upon an opening among the bushes; and here a view burst upon the astonished sight of' Charles which made his eyes flash, and sent the blood coursing through his veins like quicksilver. They had gained the edge of a natural Clearing in the forest, an open glade about three hundred yards in diameter, clothed with rich green herbage and shaded by gigantic teak-trees, which surrounded it on all sides, stretching their broad-leafed boughs far into the opening. In the midst of this a herd of fifteen bison were quietly feeding, perfectly unconscious of the near approach of danger.
"As they penetrated deeper into the woods, the gloom became more intense, and the deep silence of solitude more imposing. It almost inspired them with a feeling of awe. Not a bird, not even an insect was heard. It appeared as if no living thing had ever disturbed the solitude of the primeval forest. And yet there were occasional traces of life. The tall rank grass, which grew up among the trees to the height of ten or twelve feet, was in many places trampled down by the wandering herds of wild elephants ; several recent footmarks of tigers might be traced along the sandy path ; and once or twice a jungle-dog was seen to glide across the road, with the drooping tail and stealthy pace which indicate the prowling savage. "Here and there an occasional opening in the tree-tops varied the monotony of the scene, exhibiting a gorgeous view of the mountains. Their stupendous crags, hanging woods, and sparkling waterfalls, backed by a sky of deeper blue than even Italy can boast, formed a striking contrast to the sombre gloom of the forest, and made the panting travellers sigh for the fresh mountain-breezes which they had so lately left."
The dialogue sometimes adds variety, and sometimes embues the book with a melodramatic air. Something of this is visible in the following ; where the sportsmen, tracking a wounded deer, stumble upon a tiger and have to face him.
"Forward, forward! " shouted Mansfield, turning a deaf ear to the Doctor's lamentations; • for he had remarked that the drops of blood, which had latterly been few and far between, now become larger, and had assumed a frothy ap- pearance—a sure sign that the wounded animal is nearly exhausted. "For- ward, Charles, my boy ; we are close upon her now." But his shout was an- swered by a surly growl not ten yards in front of them; and the whole party stopped dead, as if electrified by that fearful sound. "A tiger, by heavens!" muttered Mansfield, setting his teeth hard, and cocking both barrels of his rifle. "Ho Sahib, bagh he!" remarked the Jemmadar, looking as unconcerned as if it had only been a dog.
" I told you how it would be," roared the Doctor, turning short round and preparing for a hasty retreat. "bid, madman !" cried Mansfield in a voice of thunder, seizing him by the collar, and dragging him back to his side—" Do you wish to bring the tiger upon us ? If we turn our backs to him, we are dead men. Our only chance is to keep our eyes steadily fixed on the spot where he lies, and be ready to poste in a volley if be attempts to charge. But if we put a bold face on it, the chances are he will slip off quietly. Look at Charles, how manfully he stands his ground. I wonder you are not ashamed to show less nerve than a boy of his age. Here, stand by my side, and be ready with Mons Meg—she is like to do us yeoman's service among this long grass. Hang it, man, don't look so blue upon it : I have been in many a harder pinch than this, and got clear after all." But although Mansfield talked thus encouragingly to rouse the Doctor's drooping courage, his flashing eye, distended nostril, and compressed lips, showed that he considered it no child's play, but an affair of life and death—one of those desperate scrapes which the hardy forester must sometimes expect to fall into, but which it requires all his skill and steadiness of nerve to get well out of. "Kemal]," said he, in a low deep-toned voice, still keeping: his eye steadily
fixed on the spot where he supposed the tiger to be, and grasping his rifle more firmly—" Kamah, keep a good look out, and try if you can mark him among the grass. Steady, my lads " whispered he, setting his teeth and holding his breath, as another deep growl was heard, accompanied by that impatient switching of the tail which too certainly denotes an inclination to charge. "He is determined to fight, I see, and there is nothing for it but a well-directed volley. But as you value your lives stir not, and reserve your fire till you can see him."
The Doctor's teeth chattered, and a cold perspiration broke upon his forehead at this unwelcome announcement. Charles, too, looked a little paler than usual ; but his hand was steady, his eye quailed not, and the firm though com- pressed expression of his month showed that he was prepared to act like a man when called upon to do so. "Heidi() Sahib !" whispered the Jemmadar, his fierce eye flashing fire, as he gently touched Mansfield on the shoulder, and pointed eagerly towards the spot from whence the sound proceeded.
Mansfield strained his eyes in vain to discover the object which had attracted the attention of the savage. A low rustling sound was heard among the long grass, as if the tiger were creeping cautiously forward, so as to bring himself within a springing distance of his victims. It was a moment of fearful suspense ; but Mansfield nevei- altered a muscle of his countenance—his courage appeared to rise u the danger became more imminent. The rustling sound ceased, and the ominous switching of his tail was again heard. "Now for it lads, death or victory !" said Mansfield, in a low firm tone of voice, his proud lip curling haughtily as he drew himself up to his full height, and half raised the ride to his shoulder. "Be steady, and don't throw your shots away ; there is life or death in every ounce of lead. Ha!" at this cri- tical moment he caught a hasty glimpse of the tiger's malignant green eye as he lowered his head for the fatal spring. Like a flash of lightning, the trusty rifle poured forth its deadly contents. A roar, a bound, and the stricken mon- ster rolled gasping at their feet, with a two-ounce ball buried in his skull.
"Wallah, wallah I" shouted the Jemmadar, with uplifted hands, for once startled out of his stoical self-possession by the suddenness of the catastrophe.