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192

ART. V.- Thirty Years in India, &c. By MAJOR H. Bevan. 2 vols

London : Richardson. 1839. Mr. Bevan's experience of India commenced in 1808, and extended with but slight interruption to 1838. He went out as a cadet, without patronage or extraneous interest, but gradually made advances, to military rank, even in spite of considerable obstacles and disasters. Belonging to the history of his vicissitudes, we may mention, that he returned in 1832 as an invalid to England, where he married, that he returned to the eastern clime, when his leave was out, and that he there lost his partner and three of their offspring in the course of two days, cholera being the fell foe. An infant was left, with whom, after his sore bereavements, he hastened back to his native land, where he has for some time solaced, or at least occupied himself by recording a “Soldier's Reminiscences of Native and European Life in the Presidencies.”

These reminiscences are exactly what we should expect from a matter-of-fact soldier, who has got the air and mellow experience of a veteran. The very term Major, in its fullest and most significant meaning, is fraught with all that we feel and wish to express in fond recognition of a Soldier. It is a far better, and more characteristic word than Colonel. Major bears the same sort of honourable distinction as compared with that higher title, conventionally and militarily speaking, that Marquis does to Duke ; we mean the novelists' notion of the French noblesse; and Major Bevan is all that we have indicated. He is not a “ fine writer.” He pretends to no system or sort of philosophy. His style is plain, straightforward, and if not that of a scholar, of a gentleman. He has had experience enough among stirring scenes, and these he describes graphically. In spite of the idleness or monotony of distant stations at which he had much experience, his activity and dexterity originated adventures that became in his hands themes of pleasant and exciting description. He was eager to learn native languages, and was consequently brought into contact with parties whom his excellent qualities of head and heart failed not to make friends, and his observation to appreciate. Legends and traditions hence became his property. Then he was an engineer and a land surveyor, and was consequently conversant with scenes of which Anglo-Indian officers have not, generally, much knowledge. Above all, and naturally enough, considering his remote, and peculiar occupations, his characteristic elasticity and vivacity, he seems to have had more experience in the chase, more prowess, and self.confidence than often fall to the lot even of the legitimate descendants of Nimrod. We must add, that amid all the scenes and occasions which he describes, connected or intermingled with all his notices of comrades or remarkable characters that

he mentions, although there be nothing in the shape of elaborate disquisition or speculation, the attentive reader will gather facts which he himself may advantageously use in the processes of reasoning upon the past, the present, and the future conditions of British India, both as to the manners and dispositions of the natives, and the policy of the English. Having said this much generally of Major Bevan's work, which is manifestly a strikingly faithful portrait of the man, we proceed to call from it some passages, those of personal adventure, as it will be seen, forming the staple of the contribution.

The glimpses we obtain of the life and manners of the Indians, both from the stories of a legendary or current and popular mind, and from the incidents of which the author was himself an eyewitness, frequently indicate much more than he, perhaps, contemplated when they were first presented to him. How much woful superstition, for example, is there identified and inseparably connected with the following spectacle, which encountered the eyes of Mr. Beran at a very early period of his eastern experience :

· I reached Calcutta the latter end of October in a budjerow, sent to convey the cadets from the ship up the river. W'ishing to see the country, some of us landed while at anchor, waiting for the tide, when we witnessed a most revolting sight-a woman and child left on the slimy banks of the river by their relatives, to be taken down the river by the receding tide. The child was dead, and partly devoured by the Pariah dogs, though the woman had used all her remaining strength in vain to drive them away with a stick she still held in her hand, but she was unable to use it with effect, owing to her excessive weakness. number of birds, called adjutants, vultures, crows, &c., were waiting quietly at a distance, till the dogs had satisfied themselves on the body of the child, which was torn to pieces. We were anxious to rescue the woman; but the boatmen who accompanied us, told us it could not be allowed, as they were both exposed in consequence of having an incurable disease, in order that the holy water of the Ganges' might waft their souls to the realms of everlasting happiness, for such is the superstitious idea of all Hindoos."

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At a much later period of Mr. Bevan's Indian experience, he met, in the course of one of his hunting excursions with two natives, of the Konkany cast, brother and sister, who were injected with a sort of leprosy called Elephantiasis. Their appearance was most repulsive ; their skin being perfectly red, and their hair and eyes of the same colour. Their voices were shrill and nasal. They said that they had been born in that state. In consequence of their calamity, they were regarded as outcasts, and obliged to live apart from all others.

Of the White Indians, or Albinos, who are often met with in the more inland tracts of the Peninsula, we are told.

“ Their colour is that of a dead European of a very fauir complexion. They are almost blind till brought into some dark or shady place, so susceptible are they of the common light of day. Their constitutions are extremely delicate; they are for the most part timid and irresolute, and are seldom known to live to an advanced age. In these respects the Konkanies I have mentioned were similar to the Albinos, and they shared the degradation of these miserable beings. Fortunately the females rarely bear children; but, when they do, their offspring is of the natural colour of the tribe to which they belong, it however always manifests a strong constitutional tendency to leprous disease."

At an early age of our author's history in India, he was sent from Madras on a surveying expedition to a remote part, where his solitude would have been heart-wearing had be been incapable of finding occupation and enjoyment, when beyond the reach of European society. His accommodating nature, however, and his enterprise, mastered the loneliness ; for he set himself to the acquiring of the language of the natires, by making the culture of their friendship and good offices subservient to his various purposes and pastimes. It was his practice, accordingly, to invite to his tents in the evenings a few of the most intelligent of the villagers in his neighbourhood, and for the benefit he received, to find amusement for them, treating them occasionally with a Nautch, and giving them betelnut at their departure. in this way, he made advances in the knowledge of the language, and added constantly to his general information of the people and of the country. By the bye, he vindicates the Nautch from the charge of being a licentious dance, in so far as his observation has gone, declaring that there is “ more for the rigid moralist to condemn in one Italian ballet,” than in all the Nautches he had ever witnessed in India. He adds, that clergymen of acknowledged piety, Bishop Heber among others, have often witnessed these dances at native entertainments, and considered them as innocent as any of a kindred nature in Europe.

But the young cadet required some active employment in the way of pastime in the intervals between professional engagements and evening entertainments,—that of field sports being naturally pressed upon him, in the course of his surveyings, where lakes, forests, and every variety of wild nature abounded. We must therefore allow him to describe some of his adventures and those of others, belonging to that class of recollections, which he declares “ every old Indian will admit to be among the most treasured of a veteran's reminiscences." Here is one scene of the kind alluded to:

Having learned that a tiger had been entrapped by some villagers sixteen miles to the eastward of Manintuddy, the novelty of the sight, with the hope of getting a shot, induced me to go to the place. I there. fore started, in the company of two other officers; when we reached the place we found a thick piece of underwood, about thirty yards in diameter, surrounded by strong nets thirteen feet high, and supported on stout poles, well secured. Nearly one hundred people were stationed at intervals round the poles, each armed with a long spear. A portion of them kept constant watch during the night and day, to prevent an escape, which the tiger attempted several times, especially at night, by springing against the netting, to the nieshes of which he clung, till forced to quit his hold by the spearman. Two days and nights elapsed before we could induce the people to make an attack. Our anxiety was great, but the head men told us we must wait patiently until the Brahmins should perform certain ceremonies that were absolutely necessary to propitiate the aid of their gods, in order that no accident might occur to any person. At the same time they added, that not a shot could be allowed, or even an arrow discharged from the bow at the tiger, as spears must be the only weapons used. The delay I attribute to the wish of getting a larger concourse of people, as the headman of the village levied a contribution proportioned to each person's means, ostensibly for the purpose of providing them with food, and sacrificing to the deities. When the final arrangements were completed, ten men entered the jungle with bill-hooks, and cut a way towards the centre of the place where the tiger was supposed to lie. They were guarded by twenty able spearmen, and on approaching towards the middle of the jungle, a splendid royal tiger rushed out with a roar, and sprung over the men who were cutting the brushwood, but he was received by the spearmen with great coolness, and transfixed on the spot. In his death-struggle he broke off the heads of several spears, with as much ease as if they had been twigs. During this affair, much to the astonishment of all, a tigress sprung against the netting on the opposite side, but was quickly repelled by the spearmen outside. She retreated into the jungle, near the party cutting it down, and after a little time, making another effort to spring over the netting, she and her cub were dispatched, but not without a desperate struggle. No accident occurred, as the greatest order and regularity was observed. It appears only one tiger had been originally traced to this thicket, after it had killed a buffalo and its calf. No suspicion existed of the tigress and her cub."

Now for a night adventure of the sporting class also :

“ We pursued our way for about half a mile, and while passing some rice fields unexpectedly disturbed a herd of elephants, whose trumpeting evinced that they did not mucli relish being disturbed from their agreeable repast in the grain fields, where they were leisurely feeding. As the natives are somewhat alarmed at meeting these animals, we took a different direction, and for some time lost the intended track, and got entangled in an extensive morass, the deep holes of which were partly filled with mud and parsly with water, into which we often plunged in the dark. At last we caine on a herd of deer, but they passed us at full speed. This we understood to be caused by scme animal in pursuit, and immediately after the growlof a tiger was heard, which again so frightened the people that there was some difficulty in making them proceed any

further. We also encountered a sounder, or herd of hog, but, strange to say, these animals are not influenced by the lights in the same manner as deer, elk, hares, &c.; whether this arises from their instinct, or difference of vision, cannot be determined, but in my various night excursions I have never been able to get a shot at any of the wild hogs, as they make off on the approach of the lights. The too premature anxiety of my friend, in showing himself in advance of the lights, frightened away a herd of deer, but the man who carried the torch kept after them at a smart pace, cautioning us in a low tone to keep immediately in his track. We soon came up with them; the brightness of their eyes first attracted notice, and on approaching within twenty or thirty yards, the usual distance to fire with certainty, our four barrels brought down two fine does, and wounded a large buck.”

The natives make use of many expedients, some of them very simple and inefficient, a novice may think, for the capture of those formidable animals they have to encounter, and wish to extirpate, or those harmless but noble ones, which are eagerly sought for, and highly prized : for example the antelope is thus overcome,

A number of pits are dug sufficiently deep to hide a man sitting in them, at about sixty yards apart, in the form of a semicircle. At each extremity of the pit sticks are driven into the ground, to which twine is fastened with feathers a few feet apart; these are kept fluttering by the wind, and prevent the deer from running away outside the pits,a direction which they naturally take, as nothing appears to prevent their approach. Thus the marksman, who waits patiently till they are sufficiently near, is enabled to take a deliberate and unerring aim with his matchlock, or old musket. Occasionally a herd of cattle, or flock of sheep, are used to drive the antelope in the wished-for direction. The buck antelope is also taken alive by means of a tame one, driven into a herd, where he is inmediately attacked by the wild buck. They fight desperately, seldom allowing more than one male to a herd. The buck, in the fury of his outset, gets entangled in the toils fastened to the horns of the decoy, and is held there till the huntsman runs up and secures him. The tame antelope sometimes gets gored and put to flight, and after such an accident it becomes too timid to be of further use."

On the Malabar coast, vultures are decoyed in the manner indicated in our next extract:

“ The vultures are often seen soaring at an immense height in great numbers, wheeling round in circles. On perceiving the carrion and one of their own species, they descend with rapidity to the spot, where snares and nets have been previously laid, in which they soon become entangled, and the fine down is plucked off from under their wings and breast, when they are again let free: this article brings a high price; it is chiefly used in the manufacture of muffs and tippets. When at a loss for carrion, the natives kill and cut up a vulture, and the birds are found perfectly ready to prey upon their own species thus prepared.”

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