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Tent Life in Tigerland
Chapter II - At Close Quarters with a Tiger


Ryseree—A decaying village—Ravages of the river—Joe's yarn— The ruined shrine—"Sign" of tiger—The bamboo thicket-—A foolhardy resolve—Tracking tiger on all fours—Inside the thicket—Inside the enclosure—Inside the temple —The bats— "Alone with a man-eater"—The tigress at bay—"Minutes that seem like hours"—Well done, good revolver—"Never again on foot"—Wild beast statistics from The Saturday Review.

"I fancy, Mac," said Butty, "that was about the narrowest 'hutch' you ever had in your life." ("Hutch" is from "bufchana," to escape.)

"Never a closer," said Mac; "I thought it was all up with me once or twice."

"How did you feel?" I asked.

"Well, I can hardly tell you. Whenever I recognised that the brute was on me, I felt at once my only chance of safety was to lie perfectly still. Once or twice the oppression on my face from the pressure of the heavy canvas was almost suffocating, and when the huge tusk buried itself in the earth close to my side, I could scarcely refrain from calling out."

"It must have grazed your ribs?"

"It did. After that, I seemed to turn quite unconcerned. All sorts of funny ideas came trooping across my brain. I couldn't, for the life of me, help feeling cautiously about for my pipe, which had dropped somewhere near, when I tripped on the ropes. I seemed, too, to have a quick review of all the actions I had ever done, and was just dropping off into a dreamy unconsciousness, after pulling a desperate race against Oxford with my old crew, when your voices roused me to sensation once more."

Said Joe, "Well, do you know, I have had the same sensations exactly, during one very narrow squeak I once had."

"Which one was that?" said George.

"Can't you remember the buehao (escape) I had in the Ryseree mundil (temple)?"

"Ah, yes! Tell them that. By Jove, that was a squeak, and no mistake!"

By this time our curiosity was all aflame, and there was a general cry of, "Come on, Joe, let's have the yarn."

"Tamaco lao!" shouted Mac, that being equivalent in English to "Bring thjs tobacco!" and the white-robed old bearer appeared at the bidding; entering noiselessly from the outside gloom, as if a spectre, summoned by a cabalistic spell from the shadowy realms of spirit-land, had entered on the scene.

Another boy followed him, bearing the Agdan, that is, a small brass or silver salver, containing pieces of glowing charcoal. Along with this fire-dish (they are often beautifully carved, and form a handsome ornament), the boy presented to each smoker a pair of "chimtas," or small silver tongs, with which the ruddy charcoal is lifted, and put into the bowl of the pipe; and while Mac was nearly burning his rubicund proboscis, in the attempt to ignite his strong moist tobacco, I may as well describe the locale of Joe's exciting adventure.

I knew Ryseree well. It was a straggling village, on the right bank of the main stream of the Koosee, and had once been a place of considerable importance. The encroachments of the stream had laid waste to many of its once fertile rice fields. The magnificent tanks, which had been excavated with such patient care, and at such a vast expenditure of labour by the villagers of some far-away remote time—so remote that even tradition failed to crystallise a single fact concerning them—were many of them now choked up with sand and matted growth of water-plants. Very few houses in the once populous and thriving town were now occupied. Tumble-down frameworks of rotting bamboos and mouldering thatch, festooned by rank luxuriant trailing creepers and wild gourds, lay scattered all round the open area, like an aggregation of big green ant-hills.

Round the environs of the dismantled village, white gnarled mango trees, denuded of bark und bare of leaves, stretched out their gaunt arms, as if beseeching pity for their forsaken greenery and stripped condition. The soil all around was dank and clammy and moist. Here and there a huge embankment of sand, with a mound of brushwood and matted debris, showed where the annual floods tore down from the "terai," sweeping everything before them in their devastating rush. A few foundations of solid plastered brickwork, with rudely fashioned posts, standing up alone, battered, charred, and slowly rotting, evidenced the forsaken site of some wealthy grain merchant's "dukan," or granary; but the only inhabitants now left in the village were a few humble cultivators of the cowherd and gardening castes, with two or three Brahmin and Rajpoot families; indigent, listless, fever-stricken, and subsisting entirely on the produce of their reduced herds, or the crops raised from a few patches of vetches, or rice, scattered at intervals among the tall encroaching jungle grass, which everywhere waved its rustling tops, and surrounded the ruined hamlet as with a belt of impenetrable, sapless, dun-coloured growth.

Such villages are common enough in these "Dyctras" or liverine plains, all over India. Many of the rivers that come thundering down into the plains from the Himalaya, to join the Ganges, shape for themselves a regular channel of gradual indentation parallel to their course. If any of my readers will take the trouble to look at the. map, they will see that, like the ribs of a fern leaf, rivers come running into the Ganges from both sides. Those on the north-east side, while their current takes a southerly course, yet eat into the plain from east to west; and in this way many of their tracks, if we may use that term, are often many miles in width. As the river gradually works its way along, it eats into the settled cultivated country on the one side, leaving behind it, on the other, a wasted wilderness of sand-banks, patches of black mould on which grows a luxuriant vegetation, deep creeks, shallow sand-bars and stagnant lagoons; in fact, the very intricate country which I have described as the haunt of the tiger, rhinoceros, and buffalo, the most worthless country for culture or settlement, but the finest country in the world for game and sport.

The once thriving village and fertile rice-fields of Ryseree had reached just about the culminating stage of this gradual destructive process. The rich oil and seed merchants, the sleek Brahmins, the gallant Rajpoots with their free tread, manly forms, and independent bearing, had grown tired of warring against continued floods and annual irruptions of the predatory Koosee, and had sought a settlement further away from the turbulent stream. The cattle-folds and granaries had crumbled down, and lapsed into jungle. The bamboo topes had tangled and twisted themselves into a dense matted impenetrable brake. The orchards of mangoes no longer bore a single leaf. The temples were mouldering to dust. One shrine, sacred to Khristna, was still occasionally visited by some very aged and infirm devotee, from some far-off village, whence he had come in his old age, to offer up a prayer and deposit a few flowers once more before he died at the shrine where he hid worshipped in his vigorous early manhood ere yet the terrible Koosee had swept away the glory of the village.

It was a dreary place. The village "collections" were always in arrear. The chief item in the annual revenue was the fee charged at so much per head, on the foreign cattle that were driven every year after the subsidence of the floods, to graze on the fat pasture that then sprung up on the deserted clearings, now almost unrecognisable from the original jungle. Great herds of these cattle were driven to this part of the Dyarah, as a favourite feeding ground, and, as a direct consequence, tigers were plentiful, and a "drive" through the Eyseree ilakci, or jurisdiction, was always regarded as a sure "find."

And now to let Joe tell his story.

We were all attention. Our pipes were "drawing" beautifully. The night was but young. There was little danger of "Shumsher" again putting in an appearance, and while the "nokcr chakur" (servants) cleared up the wreck of the "shamiana" outside, and put things generally to rights, Joe, with a loud a-hem, commenced.

"Ye know, boys, I'm no bad at spinning a yarn, and I would much rather George pitched it to ye. He could do it better than I can, and he was with me at the time."

"I remember the incident well," said George, "but I never poach."

"Blaze away, Joe, and you'll soon come to the end of it!"

"Well," said Joe, "it was a good many years ago now, when my old father was alive; and he would seldom allow us to have any of the factory elephants to go out after a tiger, unless he went with us himself. On this occasion, George and I had got the loan of a few 'beater' elephants, from the dehaat (surrounding country). It was the first time we had gone out by ourselves, and we were full of ardour and inexperience.

"We had beaten all over the Bamnattea tuppra (tuppra is 'an island') round by Shikargunje and Burgamma, and had put up nothing but a few pig and hog-deer. It was an intensely hot day. "We kept filing the jungle as we went along, and about two in the afternoon we stopped near Rokureea Ghat (ferry) to have some tiffin (lunch).

"While munching our dalpattees (a kind of cake) and drinking some milk, which a polite Bataneea (cowherd) had presented to us, a man came over in the boat and told us that there was a man-eating tiger over at Eyseree. We sent over one of our own peons to fossick out more information, and he soon came back with a confirmation of the report, and in a very short time we had swum our elephants across, and were making for the supposed lair of the tiger as fast as we could go; and you know, Maori, what sort of a elehant it is," said Joe, turning to me.

"Awful bad travelling," I assented; "I know the place."

"There was not much jungle about the village then," Joe continued, "and we beat every possible patch we could think of as a likely spot, but coming on no 'sign,' we began to think we had been hoaxed, and were inclined to give up further attempts for that day at least, in no very amiable mood.

"Close by one of the tanks—a small tank, with its surface so covered by a dense carpeting of weeds that an incautious elephant might even have been deceived, and have plunged in, thinking it was dry land—there grew a solitary semul, or cotton tree. All round it was a dense, matted, inextricably tangled, wild growth of bamboos, laced together with creepers and climbing plants, and through the close-clustered, clinging maze we could discern the grey, weather-stained, domed roof of a temple, with great cracks gaping in the masonry, and the iron trident on the top, twisted, bent, and rust-eaten, hanging down over part of the roof. Amid the clefts of the masonry a few sinuous creepers had effected a lodgment, especially one broad-leaved, shady peepml tree (the fieus indicus). The shade below was dark as the mouth of a cave, and the ground was moist and yielding, while the elephants sank a foot deep into it every time we went near it. It was so matted and wet, the creepers clung and intertwined so closely and tenaciously together, that I never imagined it would hide a tiger, and, indeed, we would not have thought of beating through it, had not the mahout on George's elephant directed our attention to a few scratches on the bark of the tree, which, very excitedly, he affirmed to be the marks of a tiger's claws.

"We both laughed at the idea, for the marks were fully eleven feet off the ground, and we never imagined a tiger could reach up that height."

"I've seen marks higher up a tree than tht," said Mac.

"So have I since," said Joe, "but at that time we were rather incredulous. However, I was determined to be satisfied, and, getting down, I commenced to crawl through the brake in order to get to the trunk of the tree. Very fortunately for me, as you will see in a minute, I took my pistol with me. It was that identical pistol," said the narrator, pointing to a handsome ivory-handled Thomas's patent lying on the table. "You know it, all of you. It carries a heavy bullet, with a good charge, and is no toy at close quarters, as my story will prove anon."

"Why did you get off the elephant?" said Butty. "That was surely a foolish thing to do."

"Ye don't catch this child doin' such griff-like, tricks," said Pat.

"Well, I have learned more caution since," said Joe; "but the fact is, both George and I were afraid there might have been an eenar (well) about the place, with perhaps blocks of masonry, and, to tell the truth, I don't think any elephant could have forced his way through such a tangled clump."

"I remember, too," put in George, "that the edge of the tank was rotten, and the ground panky (stiff moist clay), and we were afraid of getting the elephants bogged, let alone tumbling them down a well. Besides, we never for a moment dreamed we would come upon 'old stripes' there after having been all over the place, and got never a sign. Go on, Joe."

Joe continued:

"I got through to the tree with some difficulty, and there, sure enough, were the footprints of a large tiger, as distinct as any one might wish to see. The ground showed marks all over a space of several yards in circumference. The tiger had evidently been stretching itself up against the tree, and cleaning its nails on the bark. The scratchings on the bark were quite plain, and seemed of very recent date, as the white milky juice had scarcely yet dried on the tree.

"I narrowly scrutinised the whole surroundings. I could see at one portion where the huge brute must have slipped a little on the edge of the tank while drinking. The water was yet muddy where it had flowed into the track of the claws. It was hot, sultry, and still. The perspiration streamed from me. I called out to George that there were signs of tiger sure enough, and very fresh signs, too, but did not think the brute was now in the covert.

"Are there any signs of a kill?' cried George.
"I can't see any, but I'll have a look,' I answered; and then creeping on hands and knees, cutting away a twig here and a creeper there, I slowly made my way inwards, knife in hand, and my pistol ready in my belt. I penetrated yet farther and farther into the dark, noisome, gloomy tangle of matted undergrowth."

"But hang it all, man alive! was there a tiger inside?" burst forth Butty.

"Wait a bit, and you'll hear!" said Joe.

"Dry up, Wheels! Go on, Joe," said Pat.

Joe resumed his yarn.

"As I advanced farther and farther through the tortuous, intricate path I was forcing for myself, the sounds of the elephants and talking of the men grew fainter and. fainter. The shade, too, deepened, and grew gloomier; and full of bounding health and spirits as I was, I could not repress a sort of shudder as I crept deeper and deeper into the heart of the bansirarree (bamboo brake).

''I could hear George crying out occasionally, and 1 answered as well as I could. After one response, I could have almost sworn I heard a rustling and stealthy creaking, as if some animal were forcing a way through the thicket in front of one. A cold, creepy sensation came over me, and for a moment I could hear my heart beat audibly. Still, I never for a moment thought there could be a tiger. Neither of us ever imagined a tiger would have gone into such a close place, without leaving plain traces of his presence. Besides, I had often heard strange stories of the Ryseree Tza Mundil (the Ryseree Temple). The natives said it was haunted; that there was immense treasure hidden in it, and that all sorts of "Ihouts" (ghosts) and spirits guarded the sacred deposit."

George chimed in, "Joe had often expressed a wish to explore this old temple, and it was that, I think, as much as anything, that led him to be so foolhardy."

"Well, but the tiger! " said Rutty.

"Hold on, man," says Pat, "hurry no man's cattle, you might have a donkey of your own some day."

"Faith an' I'd never buy you, Pat, at any rate."

"Oh, shut up, you fellows"! growled old Mac. "Let's have the yarn."

"Well," continued Joe, "by this time I was in a pretty mess with sweat and mud and muck of all sorts; but I was now well through the encircling brake, and close up to the mouldering wall of the old temple. Heaps of broken sculptured masonry lay scattered about. The wooden framework of a door in the wall, hung ajar, dropping noiselessly into dust. The shade and shelter were so complete, that not even a breath of wind could penetrate inside, to cause the trembling moth-eaten timber to stir. A ruined low wall, its coping all displaced, and great ugly chasms in its continuity, surrounded a circumscribed courtyard, literally choked with rank vegetation. Bushes started from every crevice and every crack in the mossy flag-stones. A greenish fungus-like growth covered all the masonry, and the smell was sickly, oppressive, and suggestive of rottenness. Everything spoke of ruin and decay and desolation—but desolate and dreary as the spot appeared, it wanted not inhabitants. As I shook from myself the dank leaves and withered twigs, and once more stood erect, a skulking jackal slouched over the crumbling wall, on the other side of the enclosure; an odious, repulsive-looking Sapgo (a species of iguana) slithered noiselessly through a gap among the ruins ; and numerous large-eared bats came flapping swiftly round me, and with an eerie, uncanny swoop and ghost-like swish, disappeared in the gloom."

"Ugh," said Butty, with a shudder, "it must have been a lively sort of a. place? Eh, Joe?"

"Lively?" said Joe. "I tell you I never felt so uncomfortable in my life. I'm not superstitious, as you know, and I don't think I'm much of a funk stick either; but I'll never forget how I felt just then, nor how earnestly I wished I was well out of the infernal hole I had got into.

"A few cracked and crumbling steps, slippery with slimy mould and festooned across with spiders' webs, led up to the low frowning archway. I could yet see the little chiselled gutter, with a stone spout, that carried away the milk poured as a libation to the grim idol—perhaps the blood of human sacrifices, who knows?—formerly offered to the deity whose ruined shrine I was now surveying. Having come so far, I determined I would complete my exploration thoroughly. The temple was one of those ordinary triple-domed affairs you see so constantly in all these ruined Koosee villages. There is first a sort of antechamber, access to which is got through a low-browed door. Inside is a central square chamber, right under the biggest dome, with a black stone, placid in an oval on the floor, and a gutter round it, to let the blood, or oil, or milk, which are used as offerings, run away from this sacrificial stone or altar, and in the further recess, on a sort of pedestal, in an alcove, generally stood the idol.

"I peered into the temple. A few straggling fitful gleams of subdued light struggled through here and there a fissure in the rugged, massive walls; but they only served as a foil to the Cimmerian gloom which enshrouded the whole interior. The roof was high, vaulted, and reverberating. I could hear the swish of the horrid bats as they circled round and round the interior of the dome. The air seemed alive with whisperings. It was only the noise of the bat wings, but it sounded very ghost-like and fearsome.. One would occasionally swoop almost in my face, causing me to start back involuntarily. As my eyes became a little more accustomed to the gloom, I could see the sinuous roots of the fig-tree that was silently but surely piercing every crevice, insinuating itself into every crack and cranny, and more certainly and swiftly than the destroying hand of time itself, was hastening onward the inevitable dissolution of the strong, massive, mysterious structure that had been built perhaps when the Druids chanted their wild songs round the weird circle of Stonehenge."

"Bravo, Joe! You're getting quite poetical! " This from Butty, who was quietly replenishing his pipe.

"Oh, do shut up!" snorted Mac. "Let him finish his yarn. He's coming to the pith of the story now."

"These roots, in some places," continued Joe, who was evidently warming to his tale as the vivid recollection of the scene came back to him, "looked like huge coiling snakes as they twisted about the fractured walls and roof. But the gloom and shade were so intense, I could not discern anything clearly inside the temple. At the far end, beyond the indistinctly shaped arches and buttressed projections, I could see something shining like a jewel through the gloom. It sparkled and shone just like a brilliant in a setting of jet; and not doubting but that it might be some tinsel round the mouldering fane in the hidden recess, or perhaps might even be a real jewel, for such a thing was not at all unlikely, I withdrew my head, and shouted out as loud as I could to George, to send a fellow in with matches, that I might thoroughly explore the gloomy interior of the murky ruin.

"I fancied then again, as the echo of my own shout lingered round the ruin, that a sharp sibilant sound came from the dark interior. It sounded like the 'tuff-fuH'' of an angry cat; but imagining it to be only the hiss of a snake, or perhaps some sound made by the bats, 1 took no further notice of it.

"From George's responsive shout, I made out that he was hastening to join me himself; and I could, after a short pause, hear him forcing his elephant into the bamboos; but after a struggle, he seemed to find the task an impossibility, and retired.

"Again I called to him, and again I thought I heard the puffing, hissing sort of a sound inside.

"Bv-and-bye, I could hear George laboriously making his way through the brake, following the track I had made, and swearing awfully at the prickly, spiky barrier of twigs and creepers that impeded his progress.

"He took such a time that I got impatient. I turned again, and peered into the dim chamber. I was startled. Far back in the cavern-like gloomy arch, glittered two lustrous orbs of a baleful greenish hue. Their intensity seemed to wax and wane, as does the sparkle of a diamond as the light strikes on its facets. I was struck dumb with astonishment for the minute. I could hear George rustling noisily through the last opposing barrier of twigs that separated him from me; my curiosity was now quite aflame. Strange, I felt no compunctious visitings of fear. The presence of my brother seemed to nerve me. The oppressive feeling of solitariness and sense of some impending danger seemed to have left me.

"The glittering light of the two blazing jewels seemed to expand and scintillate, and emit a yet more intense lustre. With a cry to George, 'Come on, George!' I stooped down and entered the close, stifling atmosphere:—the darkness seemed to swallow me up. I strode forth; the bats surged round my head, brushing me with their wings in wild affright. I was directly under the dome. My hands were extended in front of me like a blind man groping in an unknown place, when—with a roar that seemed to shake the very walls and reverberated through the vaulted apartment, the jewels blazed like a lurid gleam of fire; a quick convulsive spasm seized my heart as if a giant hand had clutched it and squeezed it like a sponge, and I knew at once that I was face to face, cooped up in this loathsome kennel, caught in a deadly trap, at one with a man-eating tiger!

"At such a time, one does not take long to think. 'Twas then the vista of my life appeared before my mental vision. 'Twas then a similar experience as Mac's, when he was like to be crushed by that brute of an elephant, flashed across my brain. Every incident of my life came trooping back to memory, quick and distinct as the lightning flash lights up every leaf and dripping twig and falling rain-drop in a thunderstorm on a summer's night.

"My next act was purely instinctive. I realised, rather than thought or felt, that the brute had been crouching back in the chamber expecting to remain undiscovered. I had an instinctive perception that it was a cur, that it would have rather remained hidden than fought. It was probably gorged after a heavy repast. It must have been a coward, but my bold unceremonious entry must have been construed into an attack. It had no escape, and, rendered fierce by desperation, it was now springing upon me. As I say, all this flashed swift as thought over my intelligence. It took not an instant of time. But in that instant I grasped al! the circumstances of the case. I realised my danger, and quick as thought I threw myself flat on my face. The echoing reverberations of that terrible roar yet deafened me. I knew there was a ringing sound in my ears. A huge body swept over me with a terrific rush. In the confused jumble of sound and conflicting emotions, I heard George's shout of dismay and terror. I seemed to dart forward, and for a minute I breathed again. In my mechanical instinct I had darted forward. I was now behind the pillar which supported the arch of the inner shrine. The man-eater was rushing round the central chamber, lashing his sides with his tail, and growling and roaring, but evidently in as great a funk as either George or myself.

"George was shouting like the devil outside, not knowing really what to do, and the tigress, for such she proved to be, was such an arrant cur that she was afraid to face him.

"Here, however, was your humble servant in as pretty a mess as you can well imagine."

"Sweet Father! I think so," said Pat.

"A devil of a fix," said Mac.

"By Jove," was all I could think of saying while we all hung breathless on Joe's every sentence.

"Well, boys, to make a long story short," said Joe, "I got off safe and sound, and we killed the tiger between us."

"How was that?" we all queried.

"This is what I did," continued our captain. "As you remember, I had my pistol. I was in a dreadful funk as you may imagine, but desperation gave me a certain nerve; and I knew that a movement or a whisper would probably bring down the fierce brute on me; and cooped up as I was in a mere den, what chance could I have against a real live tiger? In stretching out my hand, I could at any moment have touched the brute. She seemed to have forgot my existence quite, and after a few fierce boundings round the central chamber, she was now lying crouched down, peering eagerly out at the portal where George was yelling like a fiend to the mahouts and peons to come to him. Her head was between me and what little light there was. Slowly I raised the pistol. At the click of the hammer, faint as it was, she gave an ominous growl and turned her head.

"Now or never was the time.

"A flash that lighted up the gloom!!

"Again!

"Again!!— Yet again !!!

"The arched temple once more resounded with reverberating echoes; but no roar this time from the tigress.

"She was stone dead.

"The first bullet had gone clean into the brain.

"And now, boys," said Joe, as he reached out his hand for the soda water and brandy bottle, "that's my yarn, and I don't want ever again to meet a janwar of that sort, under anything like similar circumstances"—(janwar means an animal).

Of course then the conversation turned on the feelings of both Joe and George during the quick but exciting succession of incidents. Various comments were made. We congratulated Joe on his good aim and lucky escape; and George told us of how they had taken home the tigress, having had to literally cut a passage out into the open, to let them remove the body.

The tigress killed by Joe under such memorable circumstances was an old mangy brute, almost toothless, lank, lean, and almost without a shred of hair. She measured eight feet four inches, and must have been a cowardly, timorous brute. Still it was a most foolhardy thing of any one to venture on foot into a thick jungle of the description above stated, when there were signs of tiger about.

Joe told me afterwards that he must have been several times quite close to the tigress as he forced his way through the jungle. At any moment she could have killed him with one blow of her powerful paw, and in his after career, during his residence in the Koosee jungles, during winch time he witnessed the death of over three hundred tigers, scores of them falling to his own gun, Joe was never known to move far from his line of elephants on foot, if tiger's foot-prints were to be seen in the vicinity

Lest the "intelligent sceptic" may be startled at the record of Joe's success as a tiger slayer, I append the following extract from the Saturday Review of January 15, 1887 :—

"Such reading as the annual report sent home by the Government of India on the destruction caused by venomous snakes and noxious wild beasts, together with the measures taken for their extermination, forcibly reminds us of the primary functions of Government in the Indian Empire. The unremitting campaign waged against these pests is only a minor instance of the large share of attention which the Administration is obliged to devote to defending an inert population against the most immediate dangers to life and property. But it will serve its purpose as well as more conspicuous illustrations to show how continuously the efforts of Government must be exerted in this direction, and how impossible it is to implant and foster Western habits of self-reliance and energy in the races of the Indian Peninsula. Their traditional helplessness is brought into rather startling relief by an examination of the official returns before us. We find, for instance, that no less than 641 deaths are reported as due to jackals alone in the Bombay Presidency, Bengal, and the North-west Provinces. The Indian jackal is by no means a formidable beast, although it can fight in an ugly way when driven into a corner. Jackals, it is true, will occasionally attack a chance wanderer by night. But a mere show of determined defence is generally enough to keep them from coming to close quarters with an adult; and these figures are certainly higher than could be reasonably expected. A perusal of this report, moreover, is equally calculated to astonish and enlighten people who have a vague idea of the mischief done by snakes and wild beasts in India as to the serious extent.

The loss of human life is striking enough, but the del Sedations amongst cattle, which are often the Indian peasant's only source of subsistence and well-being, must not be left out of sight. The measures of protection under a system of Government encouragement and reward, do not, on the contrary, make very much progress, if we arc to judge from the report under consideration. Indeed, the death list rose from 22,425 persons in the previous year to 22,907 in the last twelve months. In estimating these figures, however, we must bear in mind the tendency of Indian statistics, as common as it is illusory, for atiy given returns to swell in proportion as improvements are effected in the reporting agencies. This feature is certainly illustrated by the figures before us. In one province the police were instructed for the first time last year to report the loss amongst cattle, together with the ordinary vital statistics which they are charged to collect, instead of sending in the information at separate times. The result of this consolidation of their duties was that something like a third more cattle were returned as destroyed, although the Local Government remarks that there is 'no reason to suppose that there had been any increase in the actual number of deaths.' At the same time it is acknowledged that even these figures are below the truth. 'Many of the largest grazing-grounds upon which tigers and leopards do most mischief are situated miles away from any police station, and the graziers do not, during the grazing months, often leave the jungle for the town or village where there is a reporting station.

"We may take it, however, that, although the statistics relating to cattle are admittedly imperfect, the returns affecting human life are approximately correct, and represent fairly enough the annual mortality attributable to snakes and wild beasts. The death list has averaged over 22,500 for the last four years. As usual, the provinces which principally suflered w'ere Bengal, the North-West Provinces, and Oudh. Together they contribute nearly two-thirds of the roll. Venomous snakes, of course, are far the deadliest enemies of human life. Out of the total number of deaths they caused 20,142, leaving 2,675 to be ascribed to wild beasts. No information is given as to the part played by the different varieties, but the cobra is always the most destructive, and few things briug home more vividly to Mr. Grifnn the fatalism and apathy of the natives than their remissness in clearing out buildings or localities notoriously swaging with these creatures. Amongst wild beasts the tiger occupies, as usual, a bad pre-eminence; and, although he is more difficult for the .sportsman to get at every year, there is no practical abatement in his destructiveness. Certain spots which are isolated by malaria and want of communications are as much his undisputed haunts still as those ' beats' in the Central Provinces along the great salt line that streteheil across India before the days of the Straclieys, where the tigers discharged the duties of the jiatrol, and the hardiest native smuggler would not dare to run his pack. 'Alligators, crocodiles and sharks' are again credited with 231 deaths in the three provinces mentioned above, though it caunot lie said that in this enumeration the Government of India errs on the side of too accurate a classification. The alligator proper is, in fact, only found in the New World, while the various Indian crocodiles differ in some important respects from the true crocodile of Africa. It is, we believe, the 'mugger,' or marsh crocodile, which generally comes iu for the loose designation of alligator, and this beast reaches an enormous size.

"As we have stated above, the returns of the destruction (if cattle are very far from being exact. Last year, however, has the proud distinction of showing the heaviest loss that has yet been officially reported. The total number of domestic cattle killed tan up to nearly 00,000 head. Snakes are uot held responsible for much of this loss, only 2,000 eases being put down to snake-bite; while the chief agents in the slaughter are tigers and leopards, each claiming considerably over 20,u00 victims. To turn now to measures of reprisal, we find that 1,835 tigers, 1,874 bears, and 6,278 wolves were killed off last year, as compared with 2,196, 2,000, and 6,706 respectively in the preceding twelve months, in which the figures, for some unexplained reason, rose considerably above the average. This bag need not make the sportsman in quest of big game lose heart, provided he has at his disposal those three coveted requisites—time, health, and money. The extermination of snakes depends very much upon the character of the season, which does not appear to have been particularly favourable last year. Nevertheless, the number destroyed did not fall below the average, which has ranged for some time between 300,000 and 400,000; and of course this is far from being accurate, and is probably very much below the mark. The Government grants bestowed for these protective measures came to the tolerable sum of Rs. 2, 21,126."

The moon was now declining red and threatening through the rising mists, so finishing each his "peg," we called to our "bearers," retired to our camp beds, and were soon dreaming of their destructiveness, the dreams of the ardent Indian sportsman, while silence hovered over the snowy whiteness of our tents.


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