Tent-Life: Page 3 of 5
where every servant knows his exact duty, and every detail of arrangement has come through the traditions of a thousand years.
To be properly performed, especially if ladies are of the party, you take two complete sets of tents-the bichoba, or cottage-shape, the bath tent, with the rowtie, for the servants. You engage either camels, or oxen with carts, and provide probably a covered pony carriage for feminine inarches and, of course, your own horses and servants. These last include syces for the nags, a butler, a cook, a boy for lamps and dogs, a body servant, probably a clerk, and an ayah-with camp attendants, besides the people with the cattle, and a shikari, or native hunter. Any such profusion of "assistance" as this would obviously be out of place in the United States or England, but it is indispensable for India,
and the camp thus swells to considerable dimensions when it has been fairly started away from the city or station and has definitely entered upon the wild, delicious, open roads of the jungle.
It is of those roads, and of the glorious cold-weather mornings which I have enjoyed in India, that tent-life reminds me. You dine luxuriously if you like, in your big, snug, carpeted shamiana; you have your music, your chat, and your cigar under the purple moonlight of Hindostan; you "turn in" healthily tired with the day's march or shooting, and while you sleep, too well accustomed to the village drum and to the yelling jackal to be disturbed by them, your duplicate tents have gone forward the next stage of ten or twelve miles, and will be pitched by daybreak in some new and picturesque locality.
Going to bed at 9 p.m. renders rising betimes easy, and you will be willingly aroused by the jingling of the cattle-gear and the stamping of the Arabs and the
crackling of the sticks on the cook's fire in time to see the "wolf's tail" still in the lower eastern sky-that band of gray and white and black cloud which is the veil of the morning star and the forerunner of dawn.
As you watch, the horizon's gray warms into pale gold, the "breath of daylight" steals across the sleeping earth, precisely like a soft but heavy sigh drawn by the awakening planet. The feathers of the palms, the needles of the bamboos, the green ribbons of the tiger-grass stir audibly to that sound; and out of the still obscure sky, of which, however, the eastern margin is reddening, sounds the "kâk! kâk!" of the Indian
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Update history: This page originally created 2 March 2007. Latest update 2 June 2011.