Agra to Bhartpur, 15 February 1893

The hunt and especially the hunting grounds of the day before had been so pleasant that we decided to undertake the same trip to Bhartpur again and depart to Delhi in the evening instead of the morning. At half past seven o’clock our special train was ready. I asked the railway director to stop at the pond where we had seen so numerous waterfowl the day before. The proposition proved difficult to execute due to the trains driving in the opposite direction. In the end the severe director allowed us a stop of five minutes.

When we reached the spot we jumped out of the carriages and fired into the swarms of the birds taking off. A black-necked stork and three ducks were the result of the first salvo. We were just been given the signal to depart again when the conductor ran back some distance on the railway tracks and returned with a splendid southern white pelican (Pelecanus roseus) which he had seen fall. It is probable that the salvo on the stork had hit the pelican flying behind it accidentally as nobody had directly aimed at it.

In full drive I shot from the platform of my compartment a black-necked stork in flight and a fishing „metal stork“ as we christened the  Asian openbill stork  due to its shimmering back plumage. The locomotive driver had seen the two birds fall and stopped the train so that we could retrieve the birds. Now the conductors had caught fire for the hunt. When we saw a herd of nilgais, the train stopped in an instant and Wurmbrand killed a cow which was transferred to the baggage wagon.

Having just started moving the train was stopped again just after a few hundred meters, the conductors came and pointed out a her of nilgai bulls that grazed in the thick jungle. The gentlemen quickly descended with their rifles while I watched as a spectator as I had already shot three nilgais the day before. Clam shot one bull, Wurmbrand wounded another which he retrieved after a long search. Prónay missed a bull in flight. Now the hunting drive was awakened in me who had wanted to remain a spectator. Clam amicably lent me his rifle and I pursued the herd running and with luck managed to kill a strong bull. So we had in a short time put three nilgai bulls and one cow on the roof.

The train, driven by the conductors with the hunting bug, soon advanced, soon drove back in the direction of the hunters so that we could quickly stow the bagged game and embark again. I have hunted on foot, on horse, in wagons an in boats but a hunt from railway carriage I have participated in for the first time and can only attest to its success — highly recommended.

We arrived one hour late in Bhartpur where the surprised maharaja received us again not without a sinister glance through the windows of my carriage where the birds have been hanged for drying. Fortunately, he did not suspect anything about the poached nilgais.

After breakfast with the charming Colonel Martelli I developed the battle plan and decided to undertake a large hunt with my gentlemen through the whole jungle where I had hunted the day before and seen numerous nilgais and jackals. The latter however were unfortunately not to be found as they had fled after yesterday’s shooting. Instead I shot just at the beginning three small Indian hares (Lepus ruficaudatus), plus with a ball, a gorgeous sarus crane with a purple red head.

Countless holy peacocks and pigeons, as well numerous nilgais and black-bucks were visible which did not stop within firing distance. As the game was much too jumpy, I asked Colonel Martelli to let us hunt in the jungle surrounding the ponds and which had only been passed by the driving elephants yesterday. To reach it faster we mounted the elephants and crossed one of the ponds. We could observe how securely the smart thick-skins walk even in deep water. They probe the ground cautiously while walking slowly before they set their mighty feet down. They were continuously playing with their trunks, taking in water, blowing it out and eating many water plants. I used this ride to practice shooting for the hunt in Nepal; due to the continually moving body of the elephant, at the beginning, an untrained shot is highly uncertain out of the hauda as I had already witnessed in Tandur. The first attempt missed a large number of ducks and cormorants. The next ball did no better as I missed a nilgai after we had just entered the jungle.  Only a black-necked stork, this gorgeous bird of the local swamps, I could bag. Everywhere the sound of the rifles rang out happily. When we met again on a small clearing, Saint Hubertus had favored Clam most with a charming Indian gazelle a so called Chinkara (Gazella bennetti) and two jackals.

As riding elephants and missing shots was not too my liking, I formed with my gentlemen on foot and stepped, not without damage to skin and clothes, into the thick thorny bushes where we had rich pickings. Prónay and I bagged each a nilgai bull; furthermore some jackals, partridges,  quails and hares. As usual in such thick bushes the line of shooters had become disorganized so that it took some time until we all met again at the rendez-vous to enter the carriage merrily about the successful hunt and drive to Bhartpur.

Out of one or two of the „accidental“ kills of nilgais the total rose to nine. I hope that the maharaja should he ever hear about our sacrilege that he will forgive us dedicated disciples of Diana and not punish others who are guiltless for these acts. At the farewell from Bhartpur, the maharaja  was very friendly, gave me his portrait as well as a fly whisk made out of an ivory strip and had again salutes fired to the pleasure of all. If he had already known about the nilgais, the separation would not have been as heartfelt!

When we returned to Agra, we engaged in all sorts of trading — a true bazaar had developed in our palace — we said good-bye to Kinsky who had to stay behind for the present due to his fever and drove towards 9 o’clock in the evening again to the Taj. As the weather had been playing jokes on us during the first visit and also today, the moon was not shining, I did not want to leave Agra without having seen this gorgeous building at least in artificial light. The latter one was made by Bengal candles. These were held by hundreds of natives which were posted on the roofs of the two lateral mosques in the garden and looked like Nero’s living torches. The effect of the lighting was almost magical. Voiceless I admired the quiet splendor and pomp of this gorgeous picture. In a blinding white light lay the jewel of oriental architecture in front of us, darkly rose the contours of the trees as well as the cedar groves around. All around there was a deep silence of the night. To me it was as if the breath of centuries past was touching my senses, that it demonstrated its greatness by such a master work. We entered one of the mosques and had the Bengal candles first be extinguished and then lighted again so that we saw the Taj through the gate of the mosque as if in a frame. The Bengal flames were shining mildly like moonshine above the proud building which seemed to be woven out of light and stood magically there — an enchanting view. Sunken in this pleasure we stood for a long, long time until flame after flame went out and the enchanting image disappeared into the dark night.

Shortly afterwards the journey continued on the lines of the East Indian Railway by the way of Tundia and Aligarh to Delhi.

Links

  • Location: Agra, India
  • ANNO – on 15.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. By telegram, it is announced that the ship Fasana that Franz Ferdinand had met in the Indian Ocean has safely reached Pola, the home base of the k.u.k fleet, completing its journey around the world in 17,5 months. A famine has hit parts of Russia.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays Lessing’s “Nathan der Weise“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing Wagner’s „Lohengrin“.

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