Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/101

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Collectanea. 75

June and not a drop of rain fell until July 26th, though rain was both needed and expected in June. Fortunately for my reputa- tion, an officer from another District had arrived on the Sunday, and all through those long weeks Tahla Ram spent his time in rubbing into the subordinates of the other District, with irritating reiteration, the remark that " some one with inauspicious feet had arrived on the Hill before his Lord."

But I did not understand Tahla Ram fully until I married and my wife attained to the condition which we cloak over, but which the simpler natives, welcoming the thing that must please their master, were delighted to observe, — the condition, as it is termed by them, of " Hope."

I must state that to lonely men in a lonely District shooting is the only thing that preserves life, — the life of the lonely man, not of the birds ; and, as the season wanes, and one knows that blank days of unalloyed heat and duststorms are before one until Sep- tember and the Hill Partridge come again, every possible day becomes precious to one. I was surprised, however, to find that, towards the end of the season, messages to my pet shikarri mis- carried, that tiie call-birds for quail had collected few of their friends near them, and that altogether shooting had failed before the end of the season. It was not till two rock pigeons settled, as pigeons were wont to do, on the roof of my house, that Tahla Ram disclosed his hand. " Why kill in these days ? " he said,

  • ' Life is very precious to you."

A further manifestation of the same idea occurred a little later. I had taught my wife to shoot, as I had my sister before I married. The discouragement of women shooting is an excellent thing where preserved game is scarce enough to be preserved for man alone, but, in a lonely District where there is nothing to do but shoot, it is well that a woman should take an interest in the only thing that is of interest. My wife showed such prowess on birds of various kinds that, when she took a severe fever in May, Tahla Ram ascribed it to the Evil Eye of one or other of the numerous persons who had applauded her skill.

The other chuprassi was a pudding-headed creature, with, as is often the case with stupid people, many and great redeeming qualities. He thoroughly understood the serious notions of his