Belated at Fusseah—The old Chowfoydar—Searching
for supper—The dilapidated bungalow—The Gomastah's news--Tigers
close by— Proposal to sit up for a shot—Shooting from pits—Night scenes in
the jungle—A silent watch—A misty figure through the gloom—A sudden roar—The
challenge accepted—The plot thickens - The young tiger and the old boar—A
death-struggle—Savage beasts in mortal conflict— Defiant to the
last—Trophies of the night.
last chapter I incidentally
mentioned that I had
seen a fight between a boar and a tiger. Such stray encounters are far from
uncommon, although rarely witnessed by any one in a position to note its
incidents and thus be able to relate them afterwards. In the silent solitude
of these remote wilds, where savage animals hold undisturbed sway, rare
scenes of thrilling interest are constantly occurring. Tragedies are enacted
that would startle even the most sluggish circulation into bounding
excitement. The scenes in an Indian jungle, especially when the rapid
twilight has given place to the dim, misty, mysterious night, are indeed
Often in the morning one may come across the evidences of a
death-struggle, a ghastly encounter, or a dear-bought victory, in the
blood-stained and torn bushes and grass, the clawed and tossed up roots and
earth, and often the crunched and shattered bones of some poor victim, that
may have battled stoutly for his life against the midnight robber, or been
struck down swiftly and surely beneath the mighty paw of the great striped
King of the jungles.
Sometimes, however, the tiger does not have it all his own
way; I was once witness to the truth of this fact.
It was a memorable scene. I can never forget it. The occasion
was on this wise. I had been down at Fusseah during mahye, or
manufacture, taking note of the different processes, and had been delayed
longer than I intended by the bursting of a press in the press-house. This
was to some extent a serious matter, for I only expected to have a few
presses in all, as most of my crop had been swamped by Hoods and incessant
rains; and we were only expecting to fill one or two vats more, before we
would have to conclude the manufacture entirely for the season, with a very
poor return for all our year's labour and outlay. The rivers were all in
high flood. The road through the jungles was in parts wholly submerged. My
elephant had not yet returned from a village, to which it had taken my Gomaifah, or
headman, who had gone to report on the amount of plant there, still
remaining to be cut. Altogether there seemed not the remotest prospect or
possibility of my getting back to the head factory by daylight. There was no
use grumbling. I resolved to make the best of a bad job, end remain at
Fusseah for the night.
Unfortunately, in anticipation of the bad mahye, the
whole of my Belatee stores—that
is, tinned meats, tea, groceries, and such articles as are purchased in an
English shop—had some time previously been sent to the head factory, and
there was not an atom of provender of what are called "Europe or Belatee stores,"
about the place. The factory
Jhanki Gope, that grizzled, wily old veteran, who had been suspected in
bygone times of having taken part in many a midnight foray on the herds of
neighbouring villages, and who even now, if report spoke true, was not
averse to a little moss-trooping work if the chances of discovery were
remote, came up to me with solicitude in his eye and extreme deference in
his tone, to ask if my Highness would permit him to levy a contribution in
kind from the batan, or
cattle camp, close by.
Knowing from experience what a good purveyor Jhanki was, I
signified my assent, and away went Jhanki with his blue puggree, jauntily
set on the side of his head, his "lyart locks" aggressively sticking up in
all directions through its tattered folds, and swinging his ponderous
iron-bound lathee vigorously
around his head in the exuberance of his delight, as he scented a good Burra
Khanna for himself in the requisition he was about to make. How Jhanki
managed to persuade the batanecahs I
know not, but in a very short time after I had reclined my weary limbs on
the rather dilapidated cane couch in the verandah, I was made aware of his
presence by his tall figure looming through the gloom, as with beaming
alacrity he informed me that he had procured provender for his gureeb
protector of the poor—meaning that I found that Jhanki had brought two of
the herdsmen with him, lusty picturesque fellows both, bearing a goodly
supply of sweet luscious curdled milk, crisp chupatees, or
griddle cakes, and a small pot of clotted cream, while the bleating of an
impounded kid, dragged captive at the heels of the stalwart Jhanki, gave
promise of grilled chops if "my soul longed after the flesh pots."
To tell the truth, I was quite ready for a good supper. I had
had a long day's hard work, with little food, and of course, having had no
intention to be away from my comfortable bungalow for the night when I
started in the morning, had made no provision suitable to the circumstances
in which I now found myself.
The factory buildings at Fusseah were dilapidated in the
extreme. The river had several times during the previous rains swept over
the whole Kamat, or
home cultivation, and had even submerged the vats and the building itself in
parts. No assistant lived there, and the place was about the dreariest
habitation for a white man that could be conceived. The thatch and tiles in
places on the roof had fallen off, leaving the bamboo rafters exposed to
rain and sun. and innumerable bats had effected a lodgment in the dark
corners of the mildewed rooms, and were now darting backwards and forwards
with their eerie, ghostly flight—in and out, in and out, with that weird,
silent, zig-zag motion so suggestive of dilapidation, darkness, damp and
I was glad therefore to have my rather gloomy thoughts
interrupted by the advent of the three men, and bestowing a bucksheesh. gave
the needful orders to have supper prepared by the Gomastah's servants.
While the cooking operations were proceeding, I had time to chat with the
herdsmen, who informed me that in some thick jangle between the factory and
the ghat, they
had reason to believe that two tigers had taken up their abode. Of course,
with the usual Oriental hyperbole, they described the animals as being of
gigantic dimensions, and of the most bloodthirsty dispositions. But having
learned by bitter experience how much reliance was to be placed in such
tales, I attached but little importance to their news. Presently, however,
Debnarian Singh, the Gonmstah himself,
on his elephant, came clanking up to the factory with his report. He was
accompanied by several villagers, all chattering and talking loudly, and
from their excited conversation it was evident some unusual event had
alighted and made his salaam, I was soon put in possession of the khubber,
There could be no doubt that "tiger" were in the
neighbourhood, for on coming across a chuclach—that
is, a large open piece of cultivation near the factory, bordered by a belt
of tall-growing and rather dense grass jungle—the returning party had come
across signs of a recent "kill."' In fact, the torn carcase of the cow was
still bleeding and warm; and in the gathering gloom the keen-sighted
villagers, who were all practical huntsmen, had been aide to see the poonj,
of two tigers in the soft earth.
This was rather an uncommon circumstance, that two tigers
should he present at a kill, but Debnarian Singh told me that there, could
be no doubt that it was a tigress and half-grown cub, which he had already
marked down, but which, as he had not seen them for some days, he fancied
had left the vicinity owing to the low-lying lands having become submerged.
The floods had prevented him getting in any elephants to hunt them up, and
the matter had been almost forgotten.
being now nearly ready, we deferred further talk until after that important
meal had been discussed.
I don't think I ever enjoyed a meal less. The surroundings
were comfortless and dreary. The wretched outturn of my crop and the
misadventure of the day in the press-house, had not tended to raise my
spirits. The damp, dirty floor, and the miserable charpoy,
or native truckle-bed, made of knotted strings, and which was
the only apparent available resting-place for the night, were very different
from the cosy bedstead and comfortable matted room of my snug bungalow, so
that I shuddered inwardly at the prospect of having to spend a night in such
a lonely and forbidding spot.
One gets so accustomed to comfortable, not to say luxurious,
surroundings in the East, and so habituated to the attendance of the silent
obsequious servants, who anticipate your slightest wish, that the very
absence of my bearer I felt was quite a personal misfortune. Even my pipe
after supper did not seem to smoke as well as usual, and I was fast getting
into a desperate fit of the blues when Jhanki again came to the rescue by
suggesting that I might be able to get a shot at pig or hog deer, as they
were very numerous quite close, to the factory, and in fact the Go'iaastak had
two or three pits near by, dug for the purpose, in which he was accustomed
to occasionally ensconce himself, and indulge in a luxury dear to a
middle-aged and rather adipose Indian sportsman, that of lying in wait fur
and killing his quarry at unawares, and which is known to the Anglo-Saxon as
"pot-walloping." I never for a moment thought of sitting up for tiger,
notwithstanding the reliable evidence of their presence I had just received.
In the Koosee jungles, such foolhardiness is not common. In forest country,
or even in rocky districts, it might not he so risky, but in these flat
grassy plains the idea is seldom even entertained, Durneah is essentially
the country of the lordly elephant and the big lattue.
Of course I had my gun with me, and my cartridge-belt was
full, and Jhanki's astute mind had conceived the idea, that if I should be
fortunate enough to shoot anything, he
would doubtless come in for a big share of the meat, and I daresay visions
of roast pork or venison already floated before his excited imagination.
However, anything was better than the cold, creepy sensations which were
stealing over me; and as the Gotuastah volunteered
to go with me, I determined for the first time in my Indian career to try
the novel experience of shooting from a deer-pit.
This mode of shooting is very commonly practised by the
native shikarees in these jungles. Indeed, where pig and deer are so
numerous, the destruction by rooting up and tramping down is quite as great
as that done by the animals feeding on the crops, and consequently the
village watchers seek to gratify their love of sport, as well as protect
their crops and furnish their larders, by shooting as many of the midnight
four-footed marauders as they possibly can.
They select a spot generally near the edge of the jungle,
some little distance from the tracks of the pig or deer or such animals as
frequent their fields, and here they form a shallow pit some two or three
feet deep, the earth from which they dispose of in the shape of sloping
breastwork all round. To guard against a possible surprise from the rear—for
tigers of course are very numerous where other game is so plentiful—they
commonly stick some strong prickly branches of acacia or Bher or other
barbed jungle bushes on the side nearest the cover. If they are of a
particularly luxurious disposition, they line the inside of the pit with
warm, dry rice straw; and stout, elderly well-to-do pot-hunters even go the
length of taking a small cane morah, or
stool, to sit on, and thus avoid getting cramped during the long, weary wait
which often ensues before they get a chance of "a pot shot." The sportsman's
head being thus only some two feet or a foot and a half, or even less, above
the level of the ground, and the space in front being clear and open, any
animal, as big even as a jackal, coming between the level of his eye and the
sky-line in front, affords an easy mark, while he himself remains perdv and
If the wind be favourable, the chances of a shot are not at
all bad, and sometimes the patient watcher is rewarded by bagging several of
the jungly depredators who do so much damage to his crops.
To such a pit, then, I was conducted by my swarthy blue-puggaree'd
guide. He had the forethought and consideration to take a morah with
him, and finding there was room in the pit for the two of us, I made myself
as comfortable as I could while Jlianki huddled himself up in very small
space behind me.
The Gomastah, who
was himself a keen sportsman, occupied a similar coign of vantage a little
distance to the right.
It was now nearly ten o'clock. The watery crescent moon
struggled with fitful, evanescent gleams amid the humid, tumbled waste of
formless cloud. Here and there a sickly solitary star peeped timorously
through a watery aperture in the sky, which again quickly closed as the
clouds surged and floated slowly across the face of the heavens. Far away
one could hear the ceaseless mysterious swish of the swift river rolling its
turbid flood down to mingle with the mighty Ganges in the distant valley
which is the teeming cradle of the Hindoo race.
A quivering, long-drawn, pulsating sigh seemed to be wafted
at intervals across the dark, misty plain in front, as the cold night breeze
swept through the feathery tops of the long jungle grass, and the bending
stalks rustled and shivered and nodded their phimed heads together as if
telling the secrets of Night's jealously guarded mystery to each other.
Ever and anon a Brahmany duck (chuckwa) calling to its mate,
or the low, muffled tinkle of a cow-bell from some cattle camp in the
jungle, would break the brooding silence. The sounds of distant tom-toms
would beat in occasionally like a thudding pulse upon the still night air,
and then all would die away again, and the deep silence brooded like a pall
upon the whole scene. The atmosphere was heavy with the penetrating odour of
the cattle-dung fires, burnt at every Batan all
night, partly to scare off wild beasts, but quite as much to ward oif the
attacks of the ubiquitous hordes of mosquitoes winch hover in clouds about
At such moments, one's whole past career passes swiftly in
review before one's mental vision. I could not help feeling a sense of
incongruity as I thought of my old college days, and what some of my old
light-hearted comrades would say, could they see me half interred in a
jungle pit in this faraway nook of India, with a semi-naked cowering old
cattle lifter for my only companion.
Occasionally a soft, stealthy footfall would make itself
barely perceptible to our strained sense of hearing, as an inquisitive
jackal, or possibly a porcupine or mongoose, would creep near, trying to
probe the secret of the gloom-enveloped shooting-pit. Once or twice a shadow
had loomed above the skyline, and as often I had glanced along the barrel of
my ready gun, but only to find that it was but a skulking jackal and not
game worthy to be the recipient of my bullet.
The nights by the river in such a damp jungly district are
always chilly, and the ground mists are very depressing, and although well
wrapped up, my fingers were getting numb, and my senses dulled by the long
stretch of watchful attention, when all of a sudden Jhanki gently touched my
arm, and whispered in my ear, so low that I could scarcely catch his
dine hath, Sahib "
(Look to the right, sir). I quickly but noiselessly turned my head in the
direction indicated, and felt a thrill as I saw what seemed, in the misty
grey shadows of the night, looming big and indistinct against the dull
skyline, to be a great bulky mass, which Jhanki assured me in the same low
whisper was a burrci
The direction of the wind was such that he was all unaware of
our presence. He was coming straight towards us, slouching along in a
seemingly slovenly, unconcerned manner, stopping now and then to give a
self-satisfied sort of grunt, and rooting with his great, strong, flexible
snout at almost every step, whenever any juicy or succulent tit-bit seemed
to invite his attention. He was apparently alone. Either his harem had
satisfied their hunger and the ladies were reclining within the shelter of
the tall grass, or he was possibly some sour Thersites, who scorned the
solacements of matrimony, and preferred to take the field in solitary
Just then a friendly puff seemed to clear a long slanting
avenue in the leaden pall of cloud, and the maidan, or
open ground in front, was lightened by a sickly, straggling gleam from the
pale crescent moon, and objects became a little more distinct. I was just
about taking a sight to cover the boar's brawny chest, when suddenly he
struck an attitude, raised his head, and stood out clearer, sharper and well
defined—a noble picture of unconscious grace. Ay! boar though he was, he was
a noble-looking picture of massive strength.
For believe me, reader, a grand old fighting Bengal boar in
his native jungle has a suggestiveness of power and strength about him which
imparts to his mien a something which is not far short of downright dignity.
Something had evidently disturbed him.
What was it?
We were not allowed to wonder long, for from the jungle came
forth a sudden growling, prolonged roar, which told us that more royal prey
was afoot. The situation was becoming interesting.
Jhanki's clutch upon my arm was becoming tighter. I could
hear his quick, sharp breath as he hissed in my ear, "Barjh
ten Kkoda wund! " (A
The tusker did not seem exceedingly alarmed. His attitude
seemed to say, "I fear no foe. I am monarch of my own domain, and I care not
for the growl even of a tiger."
Lowering his head with an angry toss, he gave a loud and
savage grunt—a deep "hoo! hoo!" as if taking up the challenge and defying
the tiger to do his worst.
Evidently the plot was thickening.
And now I became witness of such a scene as is only possible to witness in
these wild jungles, where savage brute life comes into conflict, kind with
kind, and where the most thrilling tragedies are being continually
As if accepting the grunt of the boar as a direct gage of
battle, a louder roar from the jungle was the. response, and forth into the
arena, with a bound, came out a magnificently formed young male tiger,
lashing his lean flanks with his angry tail, his moustachios bristling with
rage, his lips retracted, showing his gleaming fangs, and the bushy hair
round his throat and neck stiff like a great ruff round his fine fierce
face, as he seemed determined to "force the fighting," and win the victory
by a sudden
Alas for the young tiger!
He was evidently unsophisticated, and not well versed in
jungle attack. He had probably been accustomed to find such quarry as
timorous deer or a poor stray heifer of the herd overcome with terror at the
sound of his magnificent roar. He may have witnessed the more wary but
invariably successful onslaught of his ravenous dam upon every kind of
four-footed beast in his native hunting-grounds. He was "out for the night."
He was itching to win his spurs. The promptings of independent action were
strong within him. He longed to be out of leading-strings, and wanted to
kill his own quarry. And so like a young brave out after his first scalp, he
roared defiance to all and sundry. The old grey boar he had stumbled on now,
however, was a champion of just such another kidney, much to the young
tiger's evident astonishment. Like the typical Irishman, "he was spoilin'
for a fight," and amid the intense excitement of the scene it was really
whimsical to observe the young tiger's sudden attitude of bewilderment. The
old boar did not seem to mind the roar so very much as might have been
anticipated. He actually repeated his "hoo! hoo'" only in if possible, more
aggressive, insulting and defiant manner. Nay more, such was his temerity
that he actually advanced with a short, sharp rush in the direction of the
I am sure that if the tiger could have retreated then with
any dignity, he. would have been content to have cried "off" there and then.
He evidently found that he had "woke up the wrong passenger," and that
possibly for his first fight he. had caught rather a "tartar"; and the boar
seemed on his part to resent his intrusion as something which was not to be
tolerated for an instant. This rash, presumptuous, intrusive bully, tiger or
no tiger, must be taught to respect the rights of priority of possession.
Meantime Jhanki's eyes were almost starting out of his head
with excitement, and I was so intent upon watching the curious scene now
being rehearsed almost within reach, that for the moment I forgot all about
my gun, and indeed luckily. For had we made a movement it is quite probable
that the attention of either the tiger or the boar, or possibly
both, might have been drawn to the third party in this
midnight scene, and it might have gone hard with either Jhanki or myself if
they had chosen to attack us instead of each other.
However, the drama in real life being enacted so close before
our eyes was too engrossing for us to think of the consequences.
Intently peering through the indistinct light, we eagerly
watched the development of this strange rencontre.
The tiger was now crouching low, crawling stealthily round
and round the boar, who changed front with every movement of his lithe and
sinewy adversary, keeping his determined head and sharp, deadly tusks ever
facing his stealthy and treacherous foe. The bristles of the boar's back
were up at a right angle from the strong spine. The wedged-shaped head
poised on the strong neck and thick rampart of muscular shoulder was bent
low, and the whole attitude of the body betokened full alertness and angry
resoluteness. In their circlings the two brutes were now nearer to each
other and nearer to us, and thus we could mark every movement with greater
precision. The tiger was now growling and showing his teeth; and all this,
that takes such a time to tell, was but the work of a few short minutes.
Crouching now still lower till he seemed almost flat on the ground, and
gathering ins sinewy limbs beneath his lithe, lean body, he suddenly
startled the stillness with a loud roar, and quick as lightning sprang upon
For a brief minute the struggle was thrilling in its intense
With one swift, dexterous sweep of the strong, ready paw, the
tiger fetched the boar a teriffic slap right across the jaw, which made the
strong beast reel; but with a hoarse grunt of resolute defiance, with two or
three short, sharp digs of the strong head and neck, and swift cutting blows
of the cruel, gashing tusks, he seemed to make a hole or two in the tiger's
coat, marking it with more stripes than nature had ever painted there; and
presently both combatants were streaming with gore.
This was round number one.
The tiger had evidently got more than he bargained for.
at present very even.
The tremendous buffet of the sharp claws had torn flesh and
skin away from off the boar's cheek and forehead, leaving a great ugly flap
hanging over his face and half blinding him.
But Master Stripes had not come off scathless. There were two
or three ugly rips in his chest and neck, from which copious streams were
flowing; and there was a troubled indecision about the sweep of his long
tail which betokened a mind ill at ease, and seemed to say, "I wish I were
well out of this."
The pig was now on his mettle.
With another hoarse grunt, he made straight for the tiger,
who very dexterously eluded the charge, and lithe and quick as a cat after a
mouse, doubled almost on itself, and alighted clean on the boar's back,
inserting his teeth above the shoulders, tearing with his claws and biting
out great mouthfuls of flesh from the quivering carcase of his maddened
He seemed now to be having all the best of it.
So much so that the boar discreetly stumbled and fell
forward, whether by accident or design I know not, but the effect was to
bring the tiger clean over his head, sprawling clumsily on the ground. I
almost shouted, "Aha, now you have him!" for the tables were turned.
Round number two.
Getting his fore feet on the tiger's prostrate carcase, the
boar now gave two or three short, ripping gashes with the strong, white
tusks, almost disembowelling his foe, and then exhausted seemingly by the
effort, apparently giddy and sick, he staggered aside and lay down panting
and champing his tusks, but still defiant, with his head to the foe.
This was round number three.
But the tiger, too, was sick—yea, sick unto death. The
blood-letting had been too much for him. And now thinking that it was time
for the interference of a third party, I let the two mutually disabled
combatants have the contents of both my barrels, and we had the satisfaction
presently of seeing the struggling limbs grow still, and knew that both were
Such is a plain, bald narrative of one of the most unique and
thrilling experiences of all my sporting career in India. It rarely happens
to the fortunate lot of any hunter to be witness of such a desperate
struggle between the fierce and powerful tiger and the gamest and pluckiest
beast of the Indian jungle—a good old fighting grey boar.