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My Winter Garden
by [?]


Note: {1} Fraser’s Magazine, January 1858.

So, my friend: you ask me to tell you how I contrive to support this monotonous country life; how, fond as I am of excitement, adventure, society, scenery, art, literature, I go cheerfully through the daily routine of a commonplace country profession, never requiring a six- weeks’ holiday; not caring to see the Continent, hardly even to spend a day in London; having never yet actually got to Paris.

You wonder why I do not grow dull as those round me, whose talk is of bullocks–as indeed mine is, often enough; why I am not by this time ‘all over blue mould;’ why I have not been tempted to bury myself in my study, and live a life of dreams among old books.

I will tell you. I am a minute philosopher: though one, thank Heaven, of a different stamp from him whom the great Bishop Berkeley silenced–alas! only for a while. I am possibly, after all, a man of small mind, content with small pleasures. So much the better for me. Meanwhile, I can understand your surprise, though you cannot understand my content. You have played a greater game than mine; have lived a life, perhaps more fit for an Englishman; certainly more in accordance with the taste of our common fathers, the Vikings, and their patron Odin ‘the goer,’ father of all them that go ahead. You have gone ahead, and over many lands; and I reverence you for it, though I envy you not. You have commanded a regiment–indeed an army, and ‘drank delight of battle with your peers;’ you have ruled provinces, and done justice and judgment, like a noble Englishman as you are, old friend, among thousands who never knew before what justice and judgment were. You have tasted (and you have deserved to taste) the joy of old David’s psalm, when he has hunted down the last of the robber lords of Palestine. You have seen ‘a people whom you have not known, serve you. As soon as they heard of you, they obeyed you; but the strange children dissembled with you:’ yet before you, too, ‘the strange children failed, and trembled in their hill-forts.’

Noble work that was to do, and nobly you have done it; and I do not wonder that to a man who has been set to such a task, and given power to carry it through, all smaller work must seem paltry; that such a man’s very amusements, in that grand Indian land, and that free adventurous Indian life, exciting the imagination, calling out all the self-help and daring of a man, should have been on a par with your work; that when you go a sporting, you ask for no meaner preserve than the primaeval forest, no lower park wall than the snow- peaks of the Himalaya.

Yes; you have been a ‘burra Shikarree’ as well as a ‘burra Sahib.’ You have played the great game in your work, and killed the great game in your play. How many tons of mighty monsters have you done to death, since we two were schoolboys together, five-and-twenty years ago? How many starving villages have you fed with the flesh of elephant or buffalo? How many have you delivered from man-eating tigers, or wary old alligators, their craws full of poor girls’ bangles? Have you not been charged by rhinoceroses, all but ript up by boars? Have you not seen face to face Ovis Ammon himself, the giant mountain sheep–primaeval ancestor, perhaps, of all the flocks on earth? Your memories must be like those of Theseus and Hercules, full of slain monsters. Your brains must be one fossiliferous deposit, in which gaur and sambur, hog and tiger, rhinoceros and elephant, lie heaped together, as the old ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs are heaped in the lias rocks at Lyme. And therefore I like to think of you. I try to picture your feelings to myself. I spell over with my boy Mayne Reid’s amusing books, or the ‘Old Forest Ranger,’ or Williams’s old ‘Tiger Book,’ with Howitt’s plates; and try to realize the glory of a burra Shikarree: and as I read and imagine, feel, with Sir Hugh Evans, ‘a great disposition to cry.’