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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

Chapter VIII

Chapter VIII.

A Healthy Game.

The most popular game among many was the throwing of 16oz. bullets, and we could boast of having in our detachment a man who could beat all who ever competed with him, a John Sullivan, who afterwards met his death in this colony. I often wondered how he picked up the art, for I had never seen the game before I saw it in Aden, and as he was good and competed with some of the Bombay Artillery shortly after our arrival, who were among the best, he must have had experience in the game before he saw that part. I will here relate the particulars of poor Sullivan's death, and a singular dream he had the night before he met it.

It was during the campaign on the West Coast of the island in 1865-1866, an attack on Otapawa Pah was arranged by General Chute. Consequently, troops from various outposts were collected to assist those marching from Wanganui to Taranaki. Sullivan, then a sergeant, was one of the party which left Waingongoro redoubt to join the combined force during the march. Sullivan related a dream he had the night before, concerning the very pah they were then marching for. I must here mention that no white man—a soldier, at any rate—had ever seen the pah. He described it as accurately as if he was well acquainted with it; that he went with a party to attack it, and when inside and all danger was supposed to be over, a native fired at him out of a whare, and sent a bullet through his right wrist, and, strange to relate, he met the fate he had dreamed of; but, in addition to the bullet passing through his right wrist, it passed through his waist-belt and body, and poor Sullivan was among the ten "Die Hards" who ended their days on the 13th January, 1866, the gallant little Colonel Hazzard being one of them. I may add that poor Sullivan related the dream in the hearing of at least fifty men.

On that same occasion we had a sergeant (Fred Day), who was usually one of the most jovial fellows in the regiment, even when danger existed. He belonged to Colonel Hazzard's company, and when that gallant officer fell, the first words he page 43 asked were, "Is Day killed?" And when answered in the affirmative, he said, "I thought he would he, and he must have had the same idea himself, for he hardly uttered a word during the march here."

The "Die Hards" had a pretty tough time of it that morning—ten killed and nineteen wounded in a very few minutes. Colonel Butler was in a towering rage, for he wanted to send flanking parties out, and had he been allowed to do so, the number who made good their escape at the back could not have done so, and our loss would not have been so great. General Chute boasted that that was the way to take them—rush right at them, and let them see we are not afraid of them. The General himself had a narrrow escape; he had one of the buttons of his coat shot off. Colonel Hazzard's body was taken to Wanganui; the remainder were buried at Waingongoro.

Tom Walton's Dream.

As I have related one dream in connection with the old "Die Hards," I may here refer to another, the hero of which, so far as I know, is still in the flesh in this colony.

In the early part of the sixth decade of the present progressive nineteenth century, 'Tom Walton' resided in one of the shires of dear old England, and was sent one day by his father to a town some miles away to receive some money—a pretty large sum. Tom was endowed with a fair share of life, and was a very large-hearted young fellow, and when he got possession of the money he felt himself to be a person of no mean importance, and acted accordingly, and before starting for home he had a leetle too much stimulant. On his way home, having to walk, he was struck with a desire to lie down and rest his weary head. He left the road and made for the friendly shelter of a haystack; but before settling down he took the precaution to hide his father's money, as he thought it possible that others might be tempted to the same spot, and seeing him, they might be inquisitive enough, without a desire to disturb him, to see how he fared financially for the road. So Tom put the money in a secure place somewhere about the fence, near a post, and he was soon in the land of dreams.

When he awoke next morning the sun was well up, he felt his pockets, but, alas, there was nothing there. He had forgotten all about hiding the money, and concluded that someone had been taking unwarrantable liberty.

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"Well," said Tom, "I can never face the governor without it."

So he resolved to do what thousands of young fellows had done before him, take the Queen's shilling, which he did and ere long found himself over in Kilkenny, from where he wrote home to allay any feeling of anxiety which must have existed there.

Tom got on very well with his drill. He was one of that stamp of young fellows whom no one could dislike. He was soon dismissed from recruits' drill, and looking forward to foreign service.

One night he had a dream, when the whole scene of the haystack, and the spot where he had planted the money, came most vividly to his mind. In the morning he related the circumstance to his Color Sergeant, and asked him to procure him a short furlough to go home.

This was soon done, and off Tom trips to England, and made straight for the spot, picked up the money, and was soon home and everything explained.

Then his parents were anxious to purchase Tom's discharge, but this he would not consent to, as he had taken a fancy to the army. The "Die Hards" shortly left for Corfu, then on to the Crimea; endured the hardships of the campaign, and kept company with the regiment to this colony. Here he completed his time, then took his discharge, and afterwards joined the colonial force, and was present and got wounded when the gallant Yon Tempsky and other good officers met their doom. Tom recovered from his wound, though a dangerous one, and I trust is yet hale and hearty. If a good, jolly temper is any way conducive to long life, Tom, barring accidents, ought to live to a good old age.

A Prisoner Prince.

There was an Indian prince brought down to Aden for safe custody, but I regret I am unable to recollect his name. He was met at the steamer by Lieutenant Arthur of the Aden troop, and driven in a carriage and lodged in one of our common prison cells, which were under the charge of Corporal John Wood, No. 1040, who was in high glee at having a real live prince under his orders. Wood was our low comedy man, and a very good one too, though, as we thought he was past the age for growing, he seemed to have grown several inches after the prince came; but he got mighty uppish, and would hardly look at his old friends.

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He thought he had suddenly become famous, and boasted that he would yet find a resting place in Westminster Abbey, but he didn't though.

This is the same 1040 that so distinguished himself on one or two occasions with the bear, which will be referred to later on.

The prince was eventually sent out to Arabia. We were at a loss to account for his being placed in such a confinement. That he was perfectly safe in Aden is beyond question, unless it was thought he might work mischief among the sepoys had he been on parole.

Eau-De-Cologne as a Beverage.

I have stated that the canteen did not open till gunfire at noon. It was a very difficult task for those who felt out of sorts in the morning, after imbibing rather freely over night, to procure a "pick me up;" so, if sufficient capital could be procured, a bottle of Eau-de-Cologne would be purchased, which seemed to answer much the same purpose, but I think it was more intoxicating, and those using it would be very flushed in the face, and attention would soon be drawn to them on that account.

Animal Pets.

This is a subject which I cannot ignore in this narrative, because one animal was the means of infusing a very great deal of life into us, and it would be wrong not to give him a prominent place. I refer to a fine black bear presented to us by Captain Playfair, who was assistant political resident of Aden. As may be supposed Bruin was very attractive. There was a circular building—roof and poles—erected for him, with a pole in the centre to which he was chained. Thus he was able to walk round as much as he pleased. For some time there were men watching him at all hours of the day. He was very fond of play, and from the first he seemed to take a decided dislike to white canvas boots, which were very plentiful among us, being so much cooler than leather. As he was doing his walk round inside the circle of men, he had a nasty knack of suddenly throwing out a paw to damage or smear white boots. Usually the fore paw was applied, but sometimes he would pass a pair with his fore paws, and when it was supposed he did not intend noticing any particular boot, he would throw out a hind one. The two pioneers were deputed to look after Bruin. Dates were his page 46 chief food, but he never refused any nice things offered by visitors. One of his keepers was very fond of porter and arrack, and often, when anyway loaded, he would stroll up and lie down with Bruin.

It became quite a cant saying at tattoo if P—— did not respond to his name for some one to call out—

"Oh! he's having a sleep with his chum."

Bruin frequently broke loose, and for the first few times this caused a little excitement. His den was located just at the back of the theatre bungalow, and running at right angles with the theatre was a large bungalow used sometimes for the sick when the hospital was full, with a space of a few yards between. When loose, Bruin was very fond of prying about and investigating matters which many thought he had no business to. He was always very anxious to see the contents of a bungalow when he got loose, others of a less inquisitive disposition would have been satisfied with looking through the wicker work.

Unless he was seen and one of his keepers soon appeared, Bruin was bound to find the inside soon. Reed walls and doors were not much to stand against him, though generally he got in by a door.

There were two men living in the theatre who generally did the lion's share of the work in putting pieces on the stage. They had their quarters at the opposite end from the stage, and one afternoon the one who did the daubing was on the stage, the other doing an afternoon nap. Bruin got loose and managed to get inside the compartment used for sleeping. He went sniffing about until he got to the face of the sleeper, who was facing from the wall. Bruin's breath and sniffs awoke him; but he was not long in Bruin's company, for he made a bound over him and the two partitions which divided the three different-priced compartments (about three feet high), and on to the stage, ran up a ladder, pulled it after him, and left his comrade (who was putting a few finishing strokes on some scenery for that night's performance) to look after himself.

He soon took in the situation; but instead of remonstrating for such cowardly conduct, he suddenly discovered that he was in need of some more colouring material, and bounded out of the green room door to get it, leaving Bruin to refresh himself with about three gallons of cocoanut oil, which had been put in a tin trough for the footlights.

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In due time one of his keepers arrived and led him away, but not before he had disposed of all the oil. The moment Bruin saw one of his keepers near him he would throw himself down for a little play. Bruin always had his chain on when he got loose; consequently, he could sometimes be heard before he was seen.

He took it into his head another day to visit the hospital bungalow next door. He walked in through an open door, close to which was a sergeant in bed suffering from rheumatics, which had confined him to his bed for four months, from which he had not moved; but as Bruin walked in, poor Tobin leaped from his bed and out through another door. The other patients were so taken aback at Tobin's sudden activity, that they ran to see where he was going. Not from the bear? Oh, dear, no! Bruin did Sergeant James Tobin more good with that one short visit than the doctors had in four months.

Every Sunday Bruin was taken down and chained to one of the verandah posts of a bungalow, and was allowed just as much chain as would enable him to look in a door. On one occasion a Sergeant Hey wood, not long since deceased, and who was well known in Rangitikei and Invercargill, went out of his small room at the end of the long bungalow to do an afternoon nap. As he would enjoy more breeze, he took possession of the cot close to the door which Bruin could look in. The sergeant fixed himself with his feet towards the wall, and was soon in the land of dreams.

Bruin was noticed to be paying more than ordinary attention to the trestle of the cot nearest to him. The cot consisted of two iron trestles and three boards. He seemed at a loss how to manage the little devilment he had in him; but at last a happy thought seemed to strike him, and he was not long carrying it out. He turned round, as he was unable to get a fore paw round it, and got a hind one round, then gave a good pull, bringing the trestle through the doorway, and, as a consequence the three boards and the sergeant were scattered on the floor. Poor Heywood soon gathered himself up, and when he saw Bruin calmly looking on, he declared that he was just dreaming he was being chased by a huge wild cat. Through that little joke Bruin was deprived of a yard or two of chain, and the pleasure of putting his head in the door.

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One evening we were on parade, all facing the theatre and about 150 yards from it, when one of the men who lived in the theatre was coming down all ready equipped for night guard as soon as the parade was over. He had not travelled many yards from his residence when he heard Bruin's chain, who was just moving through the interval between the theatre and hospital bungalows. Wood at once put on express speed Unless he made a slight detour, there was a drop, sloping about one in one, as far as my memory serves me at this distance of time, over 30 years, and about four or five yards from top to bottom. Wood took the straight line, and as his inclination was going much faster than his legs, he overbalanced himself in the descent, and spread himself out like a devil fish at the bottom, and the whole parade, officers and all roared with laughter.

A battery of R.A. landed at Aden one Sunday. We had refreshments ready for them, and after they had done justice to them, we, as a matter of course, took a man or two each to show them round, and the cantonments were soon dotted with men. Bruin, thinking, perhaps, he had been overlooked on account of our visitors, took it into his head to make down on his own account. We had been so accustomed to see him loose that we hardly noticed, presuming that one of the pioneers would see him, but on this occasion, as if by a mutual understanding, not one of us drew the attention of any of the strangers to our pet, leaving them to make the discovery. We were not long in becoming acquainted with the fact that they had seen him. Their expressions of surprise were highly amusing. They could not believe at first that it could be a bear moving about at largo and none of our men taking am notice of it; but when they were satisfied it was, some were for running and getting out of the way, until they were assured there was no danger. Eventually, one of the keepers took him off to his Sunday's place, and, as it may be inferred, the strangers soon flocked about him.

The fact of us possessing that bear seemed to have been known a long way off, as many travellers who called in at Aden asked if it was true we had such a pet, and, as a matter of course, they always wished to see him.

When we were expecting to leave Aden to join the headquarters of the regiment up in India, it became a question of what was to be done with Bruin, so it was decided to send him to England as a present to the Zoological Gardens at page 49 West Middlesex, being where the regiment is called after. Soon an opportunity was afforded, the captain of a sailing vessel undertaking to see him safe home; and one day, with no small amount of trouble, Bruin was got into a dray and taken off to Steamer Point, and on board. He got home all right, and a letter of thanks came out for the valuable present.