Page images

the land, & declivity plunges inferno of hot embers from down to the stony bed where, which a tongue of flame darts at the melting of the snows in up now and again. The trestles far off mountains, the great must have caught and burnt river whirls & muddy torrent. up like a box of matches,—& The sides are precipitous, irreg- few more solid timbers stick ular, curved, and bitten fantas- up drunkenly out of the heap, tically by the swirling torrent, rails are looped in festoons now reduced to a mere thread with some hard-wood sleepers through the pools deep down hanging on to them, a steel in the shadows of the chasm. tie or two projects like a black

The advanced line moves to thread from the sea of glowing its right, feeling along the rim embers. for a practicable descent: the We have reached the bridge, channel turns and twists about, but the enemy have been too for the course meanders as swift for us. if the Maker of things had The race


over. The marked it out carelessly when raiders have done their task, he was planning this forgotten and done it well, for the big corner.

bridge is down, and & gap At last a halt. We have sunders the Army from its turned curve. We look Base. along the valley, and all is The Commander-in-Chief explained.

will be pretty savage, but he The scene is full of smoke- knows that it is only one point a curtain stretches across the in the match which has been valley, rent here and there as scored to the other side. an idle eddy of wind turns it And Milray? Milray will aside: beyond is a glowing laugh.

[ocr errors]




THE defeat of the English and to my mind are, or were, representatives of Polo by the very dissimilar in their play, Americans this year has given though the same rules practimuch food for thought among cally obtain in both polo players, and though there countries. But I think I may have been many reasons given be excused if I make a few reand excuses made, the fact re- marks as to my own opinion mains. That we have the finest with regard to them-an opinmaterial for polo in the world ion which has been formed from is beyond question, - men,

- a long and practical experience ponies, and money to back it, of both. Any one who chooses

-but it does not follow from to take up the Badminton this that we necessarily play Library will find there a very the best polo. The opinion of excellent history of the game, an "old stager" like myself is as far as it is possible to obtain

“” generally looked upon by the it, from its first inception by exponents of what is considered the ancients to the present day, a later and more up-to-date and full descriptions as to what game, whatever the game may it was and is. It may be of be, as obsolete, useless, and pre- interest, however, to some to sumptuous, and it may be so; know from how small a beginbut having been asked, by both ning, and from what a different English and American players, style of play, the present game as one of the oldest stagers of of polo first emerged from its the polo world, to give a few of obscurity and grew into the my views, I will endeavour to world-wide, well-known game do so for what they are worth, it deservedly is to-day. in the hopes that they may

It is ancient history now lead to some discussion among that one day in 1869, when the present players, and pos- the 10th Hussars were under sibly give a hint to the polo canvas at Aldershot for the enthusiasts of the day which summer drills, Chicken Har. may enable them to improve topp, lying back in a chair the present game.

after luncheon reading The I do not propose or desire to Field,' exclaimed, “By Jove! enter into any lengthy detail this must be a good game,” as to the origin of polo, or a and read a description minute discussion as to the of "hockey horseback" difference between the Indian in India. Some five or six and English games, which are of us who were in the tent played under different condi- then and there sent for our tions of ground and climate, chargers, and routed up some

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

the game,

old heavy walking-sticks and some ponies and been working

cricket - ball, and began at the game at Aldershot, and to try to knock the ball it was agreed that we should about - a somewhat difficult play a match at Hounslow. thing to do properly, as may We played eight a-side, withbe imagined, on a tall horse out any rules—just think of it! with a short stick, as, of course, and try to imagine what the we could not reach the ball. game must have been like. However, it appealed much to We tried to put some sort of us, and resulted in our im- organisation into provising a sort of long-handled which we rather based on mallet and having some wooden that of a football team, placballs turned about the size of ing four men in the bully, a cricket-ball. We then de with two half-backs and & puted Billy Chaine to go over back and a goalkeeper; but, as to Ireland and get us some you may imagine, in about ponies, impressing upon him two minutes the two sides that they must be very quiet were mingled up anyhow, all and handy, and under 14 jammed together, 'ramming hands, and that we did not into each other, generally at a mind their being a bit slow, walk, with little idea as to for nobody at that time had where the ball was, like a footany idea that you would be ball scrimmage, and the only able “to go the pace" at the two people remaining in their game. He returned with about places were

the two goal. seventeen ponies, and we set to keepers, sticking religiously bework to try to fashion out a tween their respective posts. suitable ball and sticks and to However, we had grand fun, play the game.

and very cheery, good That started polo. The 9th game, though of the Lancers were quartered at papers of the day said it Aldershot, and we got them to was more remarkable for the come and try the game, and strength of the language used they promised to get ponies during it than the brilliancy of and play us a matoh later on the play. We were, I think, We returned to Hounslow, rather a bigger and heavier where we were quartered, and lot of men than they were, and marked out a bit of ground I suppose it was the force and on Hounslow Heath as a polo weight of ourselves and ponies, ground, and got a heavy roller or possibly the language, which and made it as level and as succeeded in gaining good as we could. I wonder scrambling victory. what the polo player of the The only other game that I present day would say about have seen to compete with it that ground now? Anyway, was one that I once played we were very pleased, and sent with the Tartars at Lehin off a challenge to the 9th Ladak, said to be one of the Lancers, who had got together earliest homes of the game.

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

of ours,


It was on the occasion of a most curious, and well worth grand tamacha there, and all seeing. the tribes round were gathered After our match at Hounstogether for it. We played in low we got the Blues and the High Street in fact, the 1st Life Guards, both of which

( only street), which was 180 regiments were great pals yards long and about 30 yards of

to take


the wide, with

narrow water- game, and the following year course running down one side we and the 9th combined of the street, which consisted played them a match-Heavy of low flat - roofed houses, on v. Light Cavalry. We played the top of which were gath- six a-side, and had drawn up ered the spectators-men and some few rules which we tried women in their quaint multi- to adhere to. The game took coloured garments, with a band place in Richmond Park: we composed of tomtoms, horns, had a most cheery game, and and various other ear - break- all London came to see it. At ing, hideous instruments. The a big dinner of the four regiplayers themselves, with their ments at the

- Star

and picturesque dress, on dimin- Garter” that night, polo was utive ponies with enormous fully discussed, voted the best saddles and large wooden of games and a grand trainstirrups, were worth looking ing for cavalry officers (as at. When mounted, my feet indeed it is for any man), almost touched the ground, took deep root, and has never my hardy little Tat was looked back since. small. There were thirty-two At the end of 1872 the 10th

- sixteen a-side. But Hussars went to Muttra, in the there appeared to be only a North-West Provinces of India, very few who thought about and there they set to work at the ball, hard wooden ones; polo in earnest, the Household the rest shouted and jostled Cavalry and the 9th Lancers and brandished their sticks, doing the same in England. which were about three feet The


at that time in long, with heavy, curved, India was played on ,

12.2 hard-wood heads. The popu- ponies, and there was,

of lace yelled in chorus, drowning course, a difficulty in getting even the unearthly music () them strong enough and good

? of the bands. It & enough to carry much weight, real pandemonium. After the and we therefore made our game and the excitement standard of height 13.2.

Calwe had

par- cutta had at that time got a ade of mummers, dancing in club, the height being 12.2, quaint robes and masks repre- also the planters in Behar, senting the heads of different and one or two regiments up beasts, and &


and in the north of India had ball in the castle at night. clubs also. All these were The whole entertainment was much averse to the idea of

[ocr errors]

of us





raising the height of the competing teams must

be ponies, averring that it would mounted on ponies of the spoil the game. The 54th same height, whatever that Regiment had a wonderfully agreed height may be. good team, with which they Their captain said to me had beaten all opponents. afterwards, “You were quite They were marching down right-our small ponies canfrom the north of India, and, not play with your big ones; passing near Muttra, chal- but I would never have belenged us to play them at lieved it, for I always thought Agra. There were no definite that if we four got hold of rules, but we agreed amongst the ball, no team in the world ourselves to a certain few to could prevent us getting prevent danger—such as cross- through them, and I expected ing, &c. When they arrived we should have beaten you on the ground, I remarked to very easily." The news of the captain of their

of their team our easy victory soon went that it was hardly fair for abroad, and by degrees the us to play against their small whole of the north of India ponies, 12-2, on our big ones, took to the 13:2 ponies; but 13.2, for such ours were then Caloutta and Southern India considered, though in these were very obstinate, and even days they would be called when I went down there ten rats.

years afterwards they were He laughed rather sarcasti- still playing and sticking to cally, and said, “Oh, we shall the 12-2 ponies, and it took me see: a big pony cannot turn some little time before I could as quickly as a small one." We persuade them to alter the played for about half an hour, height. and I don't think that they The 9th Lancers arrived in got inside our half of the India the following year and ground, or that our back had went to Sialkot. We met to hit the ball more than two them at Toondla, where they or three times, for we could stopped en route up country, of course gallop round them and, badly bitten like ourand ride them off we selves with the game, they liked, and we scored some- joined us in a lengthy disthing like twenty goals. They cussion as to rules, and as to

much astonished and how we could manage to infuse disgusted, and chucked it up, some organisation into the and we then mixed the two game, for at that time there teams and had some good were only one or two simple rallies. This result showed rules, or rather agreements, how impossible it

is for as to crossing, &c., in order, & team a small height as far as possible, to avoid of pony to compete with danger. In 1875 all the carone mounted on bigger and alry regiments met at the stronger ones, and that the Durbar held by the Prince of




« PreviousContinue »