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SKETCHES FROM A SPORTSMAN'S PORTFOLIO.
BY PERCY B. ST. JOHN, ESQ.
HUNTING IN ETHIOPIA. Some time ago I entertained my readers with the records of two recollections, in which friends were concerned ; I now set aside my own memories, though only for a while, to introduce the British public to the wild sports of South Abyssinia. Major W.C. Harris, well known to every lover of hunting on a large scale, by his delightful “Wild Sports in Southern Africa,” and “ Portraits of African Game Animals,” has published a book,* replete with information of every kind, written in a style at once animated, florid, glowing, and nervous, full of adventure and hair-breadth escapes, and bringing us in immediate contact and intimate acquaintance with a people of whom we knew before literally nothing--the reports of the French spy, Rochel d’Hericourt, being so full of glaring falsehoods as to be worthless, and Messrs. Combes and Tamisier being little known in this country. The result of Major Harris's visit is of great political and commercial importance; his account of Shoa, its king, people, priests, and productious, deeply and singularly interesting; and to us in particular his sporting recollections are replete with stirring and delightful charms.' “ The hunting portion of the Eesah tribe, remarks our traveller, while on his perilous journey from Tajura to Ankober, “usually carry a rude bamboo flute, the wild plaintive cadence of which is believed to charm the ostrich. _ Universally skilled in woodcraft, the ferocious subjects of Ibu Fara may be styled a nation of hunters, many being proprietors of trained ostriches, which graze during the day with the flocks in the open plain, and have their legs hobbled at night, to preclude wandering. These gigantic birds are employed with great success in stalking wild animals, a trained donkey being also in constant use, lashed below the belly of which the archer is carried among the unsuspecting herd, when his arrows, poisoned with the milk of the euphorbia antiquorum, deal death on every side.”
To us poor folk at home, content to slay a pheasant, or at most a deer in the highlands, the following is awfully tantalising : “Judgment was calmly delivered, until the arrival of some breathless horseman, with intelligence of the discovery of a colony of baboons, would arrest the proceedings. 'Sáhela Sélassie ye moot?' inquired the sporting monarch of Shoa, on one of these occasions; "are they well
* " The Highlands of Ethiopia.” By Major W. Cornwallis Harris, Longman and Co. Three volumes. 1844.
surrounded ?'” Being assured of this, “his majesty galloped towards the spot, followed by every rifle and fowling-piece of which the imperial armoury could boast. On the verge of a deep valley a countless pig-faced army was presently revealed, laying waste the rising crop. Lusty veterans, with long Gowing manes, strutted consequentiously among the ladies; and others, squaited upon their haunches, with many a ghasily grin displayed their white teeth whilst hunting down the vermin that infested their rough shaggy coats. Casting aside his chequered robe, the king, with all the ardour of a school-boy, daslied into the middle of the amazed group, and, under a running fire from himself and courtiers, the field was presently strewed with slain and wounded. Mangled wretches were now to be seen dragging their mutilated limbs behind them, in ineffectual exertions to reach the precipitous chasm of the Bereza, where white foaming waters were thundering below ; whilst the grimacing survivors, far out of danger, whooped in echoes amid the bush-grown clefis, to re-assemble the discomfited forces."
After this brilliant victory of the King of Shoa, an elephant-hunt is quite refreshing. Nine tailors make a man; in Shoa forty gallas make an elephant; and, at all events, to kill an elephant is equivalent to the destruction of forty of the human denizens of the forest. Immense terror filled the souls of the dusky Abyssinians at the desperate nature of European courage, and with difficulty were beaters found ; at length“ a gallop of three miles through a dense covert, consisting of strong elastic wands, interlaced with prickly weeds and coarse spear-grass, left the crowd far in the rear; and, arriving at the spot where the animals had been viewed, 'Yellow Horse,' with half a score of his wild riders, was alone present. The deep holes left by the feet of the monstrous animals in the wet sand at the water's edge were still bubbling from below; and from the summit of a tree, the broad backs of a herd being presently identified at some distance, by the measured flapping of their huge ears, it was resolved that the native allies should tarry where they were, whilst two of the party proceeded quietly to the attack on foot, before the governor, with his noisy retinue, should arrive from the rear. After much opposition on the part of old Boroo, who vowed that the despot would hold him responsible for the accident which the rash measure was certain to entail
, the arrangement was finally carried. A stealthy advance up the wind, under cover of the copse wood, soon revealed a small open area which had been trampled completely bare; and in its centre, beneath the scanty shade of a venerable camel-thorn, which had been well polished by continual rubbing, stood a gigantic bull, surrounded by four of his seraglio. British credit was now completely at stake. Creeping, therefore, to the extreme verge of the covert, in order to render certainty more sure, a two-ounce ball, planted in the only small fatal spot presented by the huge target, laid low the mighty patriarch of the herd, whose fall made the earth to tremble. One of the survivors, rushing towards the ambush, received a volley of hard bullets in her broad forehead, which turned the attack, and brought her also to the ground, after a fight with her companions of fifty yards. She, however, rose, after some minutes, and escaped into the thick forest to die, attention being meanwhile
entirely engrossed by the tusker, the noble quarry, who, although prostrate on his side, like a fallen tower, manifested in his dying moments, by sundry portentous noises and uncouth struggles, an inclination to assume an erect position. His destruction was speedily completed ; but it was still impossible to leave the spot, from a conviction that the haggart Ambara rabble would not fail to claim the honour and the credit of having slain the prize with their powerless spears, should any perchance find the carcass during the absence of the lawful proprietors—a surmise which was fully confirmed by the appropriation of the tail as a trophy, by the very first man who made his appearance."
It is wbile reading the soul-stirring narratives of such a delightful, animated, and vigorous writer as Major Harris, where every page beams with something new, interesting, and extraordinary, that we again wish ourselves amid those scenes which we sought to describe last month. Major Harris, too, had a buffalo-hunt—not aunid countless myriads, which are seen in the great western prairie—not with the daring and intrepid red-skin, it is true, but amid influences no less entrancing and inoviny. Oh, there is an intense, exciting, deep pleasure in the wild and dangerous clase, which, to be comprehended, must be felt! But a truce to our reflections, which can be spared for another opportunity. “At break of day the hunters were in the saddle. Last night's traces of the wanton strength of the giaut monarch of the forest were visible among the noble trees. Huge branches, twisted from the stein, lay scattered in various quarters, and the fresh footmarks of the devastators were presently discovered. Several ineffectual attempts had been made to decrease the number of the rabble train, and the disturbance created had the effect, like the tail of the rattle-snake, of warning all of the approach of enemies. Myriads of clamorous guinea-fowl, whirring above the grove, in every direction, spread the alarm far and wide; and the quarry, driven deeper and deeper into the dark recesses, finally took shelter in a sea of tangled bulrushes, which skirted the borders of numerous rivulets of running waters that pour their muddy tribute into the Gasary. During several hours thus fruitlessly passed, the strenuous and unanimous exertions of the retinue were most unremitting to prevent success; but a limited party on foot, with three of the governor's braves, were at length induced to lead the way into the covert. Here the cast of a few hundred yards revealed the tracks of a buffalo, and the trail was carried through thick groves of wild tamarisk, where shady boughs, meeting overhead, formed natural bowers and arcades. The tumult had now ceased. Whilst stealing in Indian file through vast fields of tall flags, and carefully avoiding contact with every projecting twig, the fresh traces of the quarry frequently demonstrated that he was close at hand; and at length a measured splashing of water in the broad channel below gave notice of his actual presence. The leading Adel cast a keen glance through the intervening screen of blue tamarisk, and, turning, pointed to both his eyes. From the brink of the river-bank a noble buffalo was perceived rolling from side to side, as it waded indolently across the stream, which reached above the girth, ever and anon whisking its tasselled tail, to dislodge a host of persecuting flies. Its intention
evidently was to land immediately below the ambush taken; and, as less than fifty yards intervened, each step advanced rendered the target more unfavourable. A two-ounce ball in the point of the shoulder, though it tumbled the unwieldy animal on its haunches, did not sufficiently paralyze its giant strength to bring it fairly down; and, before another rifle could be obtained, it had burst from the eddying water, and plunged into the adjacent thicket. No trace of blood rewarded the closest scrutiny; and, after a few minutes' deliberation, the attendants pronounced the animal unscathed; but finding the party positive as to the spot in which the bullet had taken effect, and firmly resolved not to abandon the quest, several able casts were made among the tall flags that waved over the rivulet. Fifteen minutes passed on without a whisper, when a low whistle from the thicket proclaimed the success of Koerbo, the Adel. He had discovered the wounded beast recumbent in the darkest recesses of the tamarisk grove, its red eyes gleaming through the gloom, saliva streaming in bell-ropes from the mouth, and the breathing hard and husky. A faint charge ensued, but its strength was on the wane, and as it stumbled across a prostrate bough, its demolition was completed.” The remainder must be sought for in the Major's delightful volumes, which, despite the gibes of certain interested and ignorant detractors, are, without exception, the most useful, agreeable, and meritorious travels which have appeared for many a season. All those who have not the book, let them buy--the money will be well spent.
We have nothing to do with aught save the sporting portion, in this place; and if our readers think not that delightful, we pity their taste.
PUBLIC AMUSEMENTS OF THE METROPOLIS.
“ With tongues all loudness, and with eyes all mirth."
The great winter festival just passed away was celebrated with the same joyous vociferations and happy smiling looks that never yet failed to invest byegone anniversaries with associations most blythe and gladsome. Christmas cheer has been amply provided by managers of theatres and exhibitions, and the fare has been liberally discussed by those who give themselves
to the amusements of the season. Pretty prolific of novelty the playhouses must be, if reliance could be placed in those veritable authorities—the playbills. By the way, by pinning implicit faith to the announcements of managers, some little confusion must be safe to follow ; especially so just now, when it is positively declared by every lessee who performs pantomime, in letters as huge as his goblins' nasal developments, that at his house is to be seen" The best pantomime in London."
Mr. Webster has produced one of the fairy tales of the Arabian Nights, a little altered and modernised by the brothers Brough. “Camaralzaman and Badoura ; or, the Prince and the Peri,” is a happy hit. The young authors deserve no inconsiderable meed of praise for having so well seasoned, spiced, and flavoured the Christmas dish of the HAYMARKET. Keeley and his wife are, beyond all question, irresistibly droll, quaint, odd, and amusing. Miss P. Horton, as the Prince, whether in her daddy's palace or roving abroad, is quite at home. So easy, graceful, and piquant in her action and style, and so pleasing in her utterance, is this favourite actress, that no surprise can be felt that the parodies given with so much effect should be vehemently redemanded. Miss Reynolds, as the Daughter of the Emperor of China, looks and moves like a princess. As for the King of - Burlesque and Emperor of China, Bland he's suited to a T. No slo leaves about him ; in short, he is, as his wont, very great in the glorious pomp and high and mighty dignity of majesty.
“ Your Life's in Danger” serves as an excellent vehicle for the humour of Keeley, who literally convulses the house by detailing the grievances imposed upon him by all sorts of people mistaking him for some great man. Mr. and Mrs. Kean draw excellent houses at fullprice, and the burlesque brings bumpers at half-price. A desirable result of which Mr. Webster is richly deserving.
About the middle of the month we are promised French opera on a grand and extensive scale at the St. James's THEATRE, where at present Dunbolton's Serenaders are hitting off the eccentricities of Nigger life by a comical display of vocal and instrumental oddities. If this entertainment should not partake of the popularity which attended it two years ago, who can marvel ? Since the period of the Ethiopians first “coming out,” it must be borne in mind that the public has been over-dosed with sable serenaders in all shapes and forms, bearing all manner of long-sounding titles, and wearing every kind of “ damnable faces.” Now it may not be unfairly urged
“Superfluous lags the nigger on the stage.” “ To err is human." We ventured to express an opinion when Robert Houdin was amongst us last season that it was a moral impossibility for the necromatic art to be carried beyond the limits then pursued by that adroit magician. We now candidly confess our mistake in hazarding such a conjecture. We are induced to offer this expiation after witnessing the wondrous feats which at these presents are being enacted by the same dexterous hand. Whatever Houdin performed last year, he surpasses this; and that's a fact which“ nobody can deny Those (if such there be) who have not seen the astonishing deeds of cabalistic character performed by this skilful and expert prestidigatteur should lose not a moment in hastening to the St. James's. Robert Houdin of a verity is not to be excelled
“ None but himself could be his parallel.” The success of the Lyceum Christmas piece is as inimense as its merits unquestionably entitle it to be crowned with. “ The King of the Peacocks” reflects a vast amount of credit on Planché the author, Madame Vestris the producer, and Beverley the scene-painter. Planché has contrived to construct a most attractive, pleasing, and withal elegant entertainment out of materials that would undoubtedly in