A Bancoorah yarn—Billy the blacksmith —The black sloth
bear-—Camp at Susunneah marble quarries—A transformation scene—Night
the hunt —To our posts!—The beat —Billy is dry—"Look out! there's a
bear!"—Down goes Billy - Bruin a-top—A novel wrestling match--Intense
excitement—Over the prccipice !—Search for the body—Miraculous escape—"Twanka.
diddleoh"—More about tears—The surveyor's fight for life—A terrible
disfigurement—Marvels of modem surgery-—A sweetheart true as steel—A slap at
sceptics- — Truth stranger than fiction."
after a blank day for tiger, we were all sitting under the shamianah, and
the conversation turned on bears.
was very anxious to get a bear-skin, to send to his friends, and it was his
remark, I think, which gave a direction to the talk.
"Oh, you never find bears so low down as this," Joe remarked.
"No? I thought there were plenty of them."
"Oh, no; they generally stick to hilly country, or the
elevated forest lands, but are rarely met with in grass jungle in the
riverine plains such as these."
"Are they dangerous shooting?"
"Well, not particularly. They are easily shot, and a little
of it goes a long way."
"They are dangerous brutes at close quarters, though." I
"How? Did you ever have a tussle with one?"
"Well, not myself, but I have shot them, and have seen many
shot, and one of the most exciting adventures I ever took part in was with a
"Out with it, Maori."
"Spin us the yarn, old man," with numerous other similar
"Let's Lave a 'peg'
first," said Mac; and he at once shouted for the Bearer.
The B. and S. was soon brought, and all hands settled down
comfortably in their long easy chairs, to hear my story.
I turned to Pat.
"You remember old Billy Parrot?"
"What, little ' Beely,' as
the natives used to call him? I should think I do; what a rum little beggar
he was, to be sure."
"Was that the little blacksmith that came up to erect the
machinery at Rampore?" said Butty.
"He was an awful' swiper' wasn't
"Yes, when he could get it. He was about the strongest little
man of his inches ever came into Tirlioot," continued Pat.
"He was altogether a character. Oh, I know your yarn now. It
happened down at Bancoorah, didn't it?"
I rejoined in the affirmative.
"Ah," said Pat, "that was a rum go, and no mistake. But you
ought to tell these fellows what sort of a man your hero was."
"Oh, you can do that," I rejoined.
"Well, boys," said Pat, nothing loath, "Billy, as you have
just heard, was originally a blacksmith. He had been a sailor, and had
knocked about the world a good deal, and at last had got a billet in the
Calcutta mint, on some miserable tullub
of perhaps 40 or 50 rupees a month. When Henry H. was down in Calcutta one
cold weather, looking about for a man to come up and put his machinery
together, he came across Billy. The prospect of a good job in a planting
district at 150 rupees a month was quite enough to seduce Billy from his
allegiance, and he accordingly came up to Tirhoot.
"He was a good-natured little fellow, as strong as a bull, a
splendid wrestler, as we soon found out, but not very polished in his
manners—fond of liquor."
"Small blame to him," said George.
"But his bete
a lady. He never felt at ease when in a lady's presence; for, poor fellow,
he had never been much used to polished society, and the ladies used to quiz
"What was that song he used to sing again? It had a capital
chorus, I remember," asked Mac,
"Oh, aye! let me see, what was it?" Pat ruminated.
"I remember the chorus," I said. "Twanka diddleoh— don't you
"Ah, that was it. I only remember the beginning of it—
"I am a good blacksmith,
The prince of good fellows;
I drive away care
While I work at my bellows.
I forget the rest, but the chorus runs thus." Pat then sang—
"Twanka diddleoh, Twankediddleoh,
He that loves good ale
Is a jolly good fellow."
I have often wished to get the words of the song. It was a
capital chorus, though it may lack the polished beauty of a Tennysonian
lyric, and many a time I have joined lustily in the refrain, with choice
spirits keen and true, who now sleep peacefully in the perfumed garden plots
of factories, scattered through the sunny plains of Beliar.
Billy was tremendously strong, and we used to pit him against
native wrestlers whenever we could get him up to the scratch. He was really
a proficient wrestler, and very fond of that most manly but much neglected
sport. To get up his muscle, Billy used to go into severe training, and I
never saw him worsted in an encounter but once, when he was thrown by a slim
wiry Brahmin, from somewhere near Delhi.
Contests between trained rams, as well as cock fighting, are
very favourite amusements with wealthy natives. Billy had a magnificent
trained ram, and I have seen him kneel down, brace up his brawny muscles,
and present the fleshy part of his arm and shoulder, for the ram to butt at.
In this way, Billy trained both his ram and himself simultaneously, killing
"two birds with one stone." To see the ram with "bossed front" come tearing
down at the charge at his utmost speed, and come smash on Billy's braced-up
muscles with a souf, you
would have thought his arm must be pounded into a jelly, and that Billy
would never survive the shock. It never seemed to hurt him, however. I have
seen him go through the ordeal more than once, and the natives used to think
him a perfect man of iron.
"Well," said George, "I would object to being made such a Butt of,
shied his slipper at him, while groans arose from all sides.
"You ought to pipe us
a stare after
that," said Butty.
again started "Twaukediddleoh," and we all joined in the chorus.
"When the noise had subsided, they again asked me for my yarn
about Billy and the Bear.
Before working up my climax, however, I had perhaps better
begin by giving the reader a few items of information about the Indian bear,
and the scene of the occurrence between Billy and Bruin.
Forsyth, in that most delightful book, "The Highlands of
Central India," says :—
common black sloth bear of the plains of India, Ursus
very plentiful in the hills, on either side of the Narbada, between
Jubbulpur and Manilla. Indeed, there are few parts of these highlands where
a bear may not at any time be met with. They are generally very harmless
until attacked, living on roots, honey, and insects, chiefly white ants,
which they dig out of their earthen hillocks. The natives call them adam
'sons of men,' and, consideling them half human, will not as a rule molest
them. Really, their absurd antics almost justify the idea. Sometimes,
however, a bear will attack very savagely without provocation—generally,
when they are come upon suddenly, and their road of escape is cut off. As a
rule, in frequented parts, they do not come out of their mid-day retreats,
in caves and dense thickets, until nightfall; but in remote tracts they may
be met with in the middle of the day."
They are plentiful in the western parts of India. In the
Bombay Residency about Shahpore, Goonda, and other localities under the
western ghats. They may be met with, too, in Central Assam, and indeed in
most of the hilly parts of the mighty Indian Peninsula. I have shot them on
the Nepaul Frontier in North Bhaugulpore, and near the border in Oudh, but
the scene of the occurrence I am about to narrate lies in Bancoorah. This
charming place nestles amid the Rajmehal Hills, in Bengal Proper, and is a
favourite haunt of many varieties of large game.
1 had received an invitation from our former Superintendent
of Police, to join him in a Bear-shooting excursion, and I accordingly
packed up my traps and started.
Arrived at Sahibgunge, I had encountered poor Billy, as drunk
as the Piper o' Dundee, and held in pawn by the irate kitinutgar of tlie
Dawk Bungalow, for liquors and other goods supplied. I could not leave Billy
to the tender mercies of our sable Aryan brother, and knowing he was very
good if put on his honour, I took him along with me. In due course we
1 need not weary you with the preliminaries for a shikar party
in the East. There is no stint of comforts, let me tell you, and the Anglo-lndian
well knows how to cater for all the wants of frail mortality.
Our party consisted of the Judge of the District, the Doctor,
one or two Calcutta Barristers, my friend the Peeler, Billy, and myself. I
had lent Billy s gun;
we had always plenty of spare habiliments in our dressing-cases and
portmanteaus, and one fine morning off we set from the station in the
highest spirits, and after "juist a wee snifter to clear oor thrapples," as
the Doctor put it. Needless to remark, our disciple of Galen hailed from
"north the Tweed." His prescription gave unbounded satisfaction to Billy,
who remarked to me confidentially,—
"Ah, Maori! He's a fine fellow, that Doctor, no mistake!"
After a smart ride, we reached our encampment in the cool of
the evening, and again the soothing weed and the worship of Bacchus claimed
their votaries. About eight p.m. dinner was announced, and we. adjourned to
the mess room.
We were camped at a place called Susunneah. Near by were some
famous marble quarries. The whole neighbourhood was reported to be well
stocked with game. The country was difficult to beat, and we had an army of
coolies for that purpose. Among the hills were many rugged gullies and
precipitous gorges and numerous caves, among which the bears took up their
Every arrangement had been made for our comfort, and to those
who do not know what high official position, combined with good pay, can do
in the East, I may as well sketch the surroundings. Our mess room for
We found, in this rocky wilderness, an apartment brilliant
with towers and lights, a table glittering with glass and plate, and
groaning under the weight of such a repast as is rarely seen, except at the
board of some mighty "swell," high up in the Olympian heights of senior
service and good appointments.
But two short days before, this banquet hall had been the
abode of dirt, discomfort, smoke, noise and confusion. Cobwebs stretched
their cheerless cords in dusty festoons from the grimy roof. The smoky walls
gave back the lurid gleam of iiuttering, flickering flame. Dusky forms were
seen through the smoke, gliding about with red-hot iron bars in hand, like
evil spirits bent on errands of malice and destruction. A thick sulphureous
pall hung all around; and from within came sounds of clanging iron,
clattering steel, and a groaning wheezy pulling sound, as if the demons of
the pit had got the asthma; but which actually proceeded from about half a
dozen broken-winded blacksmiths' bellows. In fact, not to mystify you
further, the apartment had been used as the smithy attached to the quarries.
Under the active supervision of my host, however, the forges
had been pulled down, anvils and bellows hid away: the floor, cleared of its
litter, had been laid with slabs of smooth white stone from the neighbouring
Under the transforming magic wand of a raj
a master mason, and a pot of whitewash, the walls now glistened white as
purity itself, while the grimy cobwebs had given place to tasteful curtains
and handsome hangings. But I must "belay"—''heave in the slack," or we will
never get to the bears.
Over that dinner I would fain linger. If you want the
perfection of cookery, go to India. The fragrant odours, the savoury steams,
the tender, juicy, seasoned tit-bits of
game, the incomparable salad, the well-selected wines, the
foaming champagne, well iced—for our Calcutta friends had brought up a
notable supply of ice with them—and then the after siesta, when, with pipe
gently pressed between the lips, the aromatic vapour curling lovingly around
our heads, the relaxed lingers of the left hand toying with the polished
stem of the champagne goblet, the punkah swinging
gratefully overhead, mind and body at perfect ease, we—but hold!— this
really will not do;
we shall never get to the bears.
Ah, here comes the shikari; so
now to give our orders, and then "turn in."
This was accordingly done, and soon a deep silence reigned
around, only broken at intervals by a stertorous gurgitation from Billy; a
squeak occasionally from the creaking
a rustle, as some uneasy sleeper, on whom the salmon had
taken effect, turned restlessly on his couch.
Outside, however, in the shade of the trees, a different
scene was being enacted. Here a number of ghatwals had
congregated; and with that intense admiration of classic music which
distinguishes the mild and veracious Hindoo, they waked the echoes of the
surrounding bilk, and lulled the pallid moon to sleep, with gentle
serenades, chanted with all the melting pathos which a strongly nasal
intonation can bestow, and charmingly accompanied by the brittle diapason of
about a dozen large Sonthali drums.
This agreeable concert, varied at intervals by the demoniac
bowling of a pack of jackals and the baying chorus of all the dogs in camp,
was maintained till nearly dawn.
Nothing is so dear to the native as this unearthly din all
night. They call it music. Profane Anglo-Indians sometimes call it something
else and christen it with a boot-jack, or any handy missile.
At 3.00 a.m., a voice in sweetly modulated tones awoke the
silence of the tent in which four of the party were asleep.
"Sahib! Sahib! " No answer.
"Sahib!" a little louder. "Sarce
teen budja hai/"
which means, "It's half-past three o'clock." Still no reply. The speaker
then gave a gentle twist to a big toe, which protruded from beneath the
sheet. Whereupon a voice, like that of the Numean lion, terrible in its
wrath, roared out,"Jehunnum
ko jao, soar ka beta" which,
being translated, meant a peremptory order to the son of a pig to betake
himself to the antithesis of Paradise. At the same time the owner of the
voice, a brawny giant, uprose, with staring eyes and dishevelled hair, but
not before the obsequious attendant had made a precipitate retreat through
the friendly doorway.
This awoke all the sleepers, and we were soon discussing: chota
gun cases were opened, cartridges hunted up, arms distributed among the
the horses and elephants were brought forward, and all
hands-fairly started for the jungle, which was some four miles off.
A most suspicious looking box was sent on ahead, in charge of
two brawny coolies who groaned beneath its weight.. This was popularly
supposed to contain fireworks, and,
if by a wild fiction you can call a sandwich a Catherine wheel, a bottle of
soda water a cracker, and other liquors squibs and Roman candles, then it was fireworks.
Several hours later, when the hot sun had parched the gullets of the
sportsmen, the "fireworks
let off to great advantage, I can assure you.
On our arrival in the jungle we found our policeman had
arranged everything for our comfort. We were to post ourselves along the
edge of a steep precipitous gully—here called a khud—and
let the gatwals and
coolies beat up to us. Mychans, or
platforms in the trees, had been prepared for us about fifty yards apart;
and we were not long in taking our places. Being a pretty good shot, and
being, moreover an invited guest, I had been told off to the extreme right
of the line. Close to my mychan was
a pretty well worn deer track, leading to a rugged precipitous descent into
the deep khud beneath, and in the rear of our position. The sides of the khud were
strewn with rugged splintered boulders and sharp jutting rocks. In every
crevice a multitude of bushes and gnarled trees had found a precarious
foothold, and hid the depths below as with an impenetrable screen; but we
could hear the gurgling and splashing of a hill-stream far down in the deep
recesses and parrots, mango birds, orioles, and other creatures of gorgeous
plumage, darted hither and thither and imparted an aspect of animation to
was away near the other end of the line, and my friend the Police
Superintendent occupied the mychan next
to mine. Being old stagers we hail each provided ourselves with a neat
little portable "moorah," or
cane stool, and from our comfortable perches we smiled with grim
satisfaction as dimly, through the leafy screen, we could descry our less
thoughtful companions, wriggling on a knot, or straddling a branch with
their legs dangling beneath.
I soon disposed of my knife, cartridge belt, and other
incumbrances, in branches handy, and with my revolver stuck in my cummerbund, I
settled myself down, to wait the result of the hank, as
the beat in forest jungle is termed.
Soon a distant shout announced that the coolies had begun the
beat,—the drums could be heard fitfully in the far distance, and the yells
and shouts swelled in volume as the men crested a ridge, and became subdued
and deadened again as they plunged through the hollows amid the rocky
ground. There were numerous caves in the jungle, believed to be tenanted by
bears; but as we had received no certain intelligence
of the presence of Bruin, and as our Calcutta friends were anxious to get
ail the sport possible, it had been arranged that we were to fire at
anything that might get up.
soon a rustle was heard in the thicket in front; the sharp crack of a rifle
and the whiz of a bullet followed, as the doctor opened the ball by a shot
at a small ravine deer, the deer came over in one direction, and was just
"taken out of my teeth" by the "Peeler," who tumbled it over in front of me.
The line of beaters now drew nearer and nearer, and the
firing and excitement became general. I knew the crack of the number. 16 I
had lent to Billy, and recognised its sharp ping more than once. Hares,
partridges, peafowl, jackals, jungle fowl, and other small game, hurried
past unheeded. From the tremendous din, we judged bigger game was afoot.
Every eye was strained to its widest extent, every ear on the alert, every
nerve tense and strung. Soon, with a magnificent bound, a, noble stag came
leaping forth, followed by a trembling string of frightened fawns and does.
He passed the "Peeler," and received a bullet in the hind leg, and as he
tottered up to my mychan my
express bullet caught him full in the neck, and he toppled over. A few
spasmodic struggles and all was still. The hinds went tearing madly down the
rugged defile, and then the beaters began to emerge in twos and threes, and
we were reluctantly obliged to confess that there was "no Bruin this
We now descended, discussed a few of the "fireworks," sent
the killed deer away to the foot of the hill, and then again prepared to
take up our stations.
The beaters who had beaten from the east end had opened out
from the centre and gone right and left face, so as to get clear of the
jungle, and were leisurely making their way to the west end to beat back.
A long silent wait now ensued. Our doctor I could just
faintly see on his perch, to all appearance fast asleep. C. and I had been
exchanging a few quiet remarks in a low undertone, when our ears at the same
instant caught a suspicious crackle of breaking sticks, and, pointing our
guns at the place whence the sound proceeded, we were ready to fire, when
forth from the foliage appeared the heated visage of Billy, looking like a
full moon, and he hailed us in husky accents—
"Maori, for goodness' sake give us a 'peg'! I'm as dry as a
"Confound you, Billy," I said; "why the Dickens couldn't you
wait? We might have a bear on us at any moment, and you might spoil the
"Oh, hang the bears," said Billy; "I'm as dry as a match box,
and I must have a 'peg'! "
To get quit of him, C.
handed him down a leathern bottle containing the needful, and Billy took a
long pull; then another, yet another, and then, wiping his mouth with the
back of Ins hand, returned the bottle to C. In the meantime I had descended
from my mychan, foolishly
leaving my battery behind me, and was leisurely stepping out to take "a
slight taste of the crature" myself. (Note to the tyro in Indian shooting:
never leave your gun in jungle-shooting, you know not what at any moment may
C. was lying full length on his mychar reaching
down for the bottle, when a shrill whistle made our hearts jump, and the
Judge yelled out from the far left—
"Look out, you beggars, there's a bear! "
Instantly I turned to rush back to my perch of safety.
Bill dropped the bottle and spluttered out—
"The devil there is:"
C. sprang into position, and tried to reach down his gun.
In less than five seconds, however, with a curious savage
grunt, and a rush through the bushes, a great she-bear was close upon Billy.
She had a little cub, a wee beady-eyed round little ball of
fur, hanging like grim death to her back, and she came swiftly with a
lurching rolling gait, and it began to look very awkward indeed for Billy
I do not think she would have waited to attack either of us,
but instinctively I pulled my revolver and fired. The bullet took her fair
in the lower jaw, and made a terribly splintered wound; and then, with a
savage growl of pain and wrath, she rose up and rushed straight at Billy,
who seemingly had been too bewildered to fly.
I was "making tracks" for my friendly tree now, as hard as I
could run, and C. yelled out to Billy—
"Here, Parrot, give us your hand, man. Look smart, you rnuff,
or you'll be grabbed!"
Billy seemed for an instant to be undecided. C. had lain
down, and was again trying to grasp Billy's hand. Billy's inches were,
however, too few; he could not reach the friendly succouring clasp. All this
passed much quicker than I can describe it.
Just at the last moment, all too late as it proved, Billy
tried to flee. The hot breath of the infuriated bear was now on his cheek.
He made a leap, but his foot caught in a vine, and down he went.
In an instant the savage growling brute was on top of him.
Well it was for Billy now that my shot, after all, had caught the brute in
A bear's fangs, let me tell you, are no child's toy. But the
brute was powerless to bite.
Still they can lacerate a man terribly with their long,
powerful black claws, with which they tear open the hardened ant-hills.
My heart was beating like a sledge hammer. By this time both
C. and I had got our guns, but we could see nothing but a confused mass of
fur and leggings. Billy, however, now seemed to be getting his "dander up,"
as our Yankee friends would say.
I am sorry to say Billy was not a pious young man, he was
swearing most horribly, and really concerned for his safety as we were, we
could scarcely retain our gravity.
The bear had got him in a firm hug, and was rolling over and
over with him, growling most savagely, and smothering him with the blood
that rushed from the broken jaw.
Billy's knowledge of the tricks of the wrestling ring, and
his great strength, here now, however, stood him in good stead. His strong
little bandy legs were twined, with a clutch like ivy, round the hind
quarters of the bear, keeping it from tearing him with its hind claws. He
had got his left elbow right under the bear's throat, a favourite wrestling
trick of Billy's, keeping its mouth from his face, and with his right fist
he was dealing the infuriated brute sounding blows in the face, the ribs,
and over the snout, shouting like a madman all the while, and mingling
Hindoo and marine oaths together, in the oddest and most laughable jumble
I never saw such a sight, and, imminent as was the danger to
our poor friend, I fairly roared with laughter. This seemed to rouse Billy's
ire worse than ever, and he began to expend a few of the vials of his wrath
upon me. By this time, the whole of the party, attracted by the noise, were
coming trooping to the spot.
The bear was a big powerful animal, and we began to note with
concern, that in their struggles, the strangely but, after all. not unevenly
matched combatants had rolled very near to the edge of the khud.
We shouted to Billy to apprise him of this new danger, but he
was too excited, and too intent on administering punishment to his enemy, to
catch the import of what we said. Over and over they rolled. They writhed
and panted and struggled. Billy's grip was as unyielding as the bear's. For
once the shaggy monster of the woods had encountered a hug fully as
determined as his own.
You may imagine all this passed as quick as words can speak.
There had been no time to do anything. The Doctor was now tearing at a
vigorous sapling; but a club was just as powerless in our hands as a knife
or gun. We could get no chance to strike or shoot, for we might just as
likely hurt Billy as the bear.
The growling savage was tearing at Billy's shoulders, cutting
deeply into the flesh, as we could see. The cub had disappeared into the
undergrowth. Billy was pommeling the bear, raining his blows with lustiest
good will on the bleeding face of the maddened animal.
Over and over they rolled. They were now terribly near the
edge of the khud.
"Oh, Heavens! he'll be killed," cried the Judge.
We were now seriously alarmed.
My ill-timed hilarity was now hushed, and a wild dread tugged
at my heart-strings.
We were seemingly all actuated by a desperate impulse to save
Billy at one and the same moment. We rushed forward, but all too late.
With a last defiant whoop from Billy, the interlocked
combatants gave one lurch on the giddy edge of the deep, rocky precipice,
and, as we rushed to the verge, we saw the black jumbled mass bound from an
overhanging sharp-edged ledge of basalt, and rumblingly disappear down the
gloomy shaded depths of the chasm.
I felt nearly sick. The Judge staggered up against a tree.
For several moments none of us spoke,
"Good Heavens, it is awful!" said one of the barristers.
C. was the first to evince some decision of purpose.
Not one of us, I am certain, ever expected to see poor Billy
"Let us get down," said C.
He whistled on a small silver whistle for some of the syces to
come up, and we prepared to descend by the deer track I have already noted,
to search for the mangled remains of our poor comrade.
When some of the men came up, C. ordered a spare elephant to
be got as soon as possible; and then—a melancholy, moody, and silent
party—we began the steep descent, each fearing the worst, and not daring to
hope that the poor fellow had escaped a cruel death.
It was a wild, rugged spot. "We were soon in a dense shade,
Towering rocks raised their rugged bosses on either side. It was no easy
task, and not unattended with danger, getting to the bottom of the khud.
Not one of us spoke. I do not think one of us exchanged a
syllable as we clambered down. We were all too busy with our forebodings,
and sick at heart with the fate of our companion.
At last we got to the bottom of the deep ravine, and slowly,
and struggling amid shattered rocks, tenacious creepers, and prostrate
forest trees, began our search up the gloomy hollow.
Already the news had spread among the beaters. It is amazing
how quickly an alarm spreads among these wild hill-men. A knot of them were
now tearing recklessly down the path by which we had descended, and their
loud expressions of alarm and commiseration broke the silence.
I felt awfully sad at heart. I was reproaching myself with
having brought the poor fellow with me, to act as a sort of butt; and my
heart smote me as I thought how, if I had only aimed truer, or rushed in to
help a little sooner, our poor comrade's life might have been spared.
was in front, making a desperate attempt to clamber over a huge boulder that
lay right in the path. Dense matted jungle barred the way on every side.
Behind this wall of jagged rock we expected to find the mangled body of poor
Billy. It was impossible any one could fall from such a height and not be
I hurried forward and tried to push C. up from behind. He was
desperately tugging at a tuft of grass which grew out of a cleft in the
rock, when a sound smote on the stillness that caused me to stagger. My
knees bent under me. C., who had been standing on my back with one foot,
while like a cat he tried to find a foothold on the rock with the other,
swayed like a ripe apple, and clutched still more desperately at the tuft of
Again the sound!
Down I fell on my face. Down came C. on the top of me, and
rolling over on to the Doctor, who was close behind, he communicated his
motion to the Judge, and there we all went rolling down the scaur together.
The natives, seeing us all rolling in a heap in this ludicrous manner,
imagined the bear had attacked us again, and began swarming up the rocks and
trees in all directions, and for a few minutes the gloomy cavernous-like
bottom of the deep narrow khud resounded with noises like the pit of Tophet.
"What in the name of thunder had caused all this commotion?
On the other side of the great opposing rock, we could now
distinctly hear, "Twauke diddle oh! Twanke diddle ok! Twanke diddle, iddle,
iddle, oh! " crooned softly.
"We leapt to our feet. "Hurrah!" we shouted, and then we
hurrahed and shouted, and leapt about again, and generally behaved as if we
had all suddenly gone mad.
There was no doubt about it; Billy had escaped as by a
miracle, and there he was, giving us his jolly old chorus, albeit he gasped
somewhat for breath, and seemed to be rather thick in the wind.
We soon got over the rock. The natives tore a way through the
creepers and ferns; and we found Bily alive, but sorely torn and bruised,
sitting on the mangled carcase of his late enemy, and though very shaky and
faint, yet still full of pluck, and as eager for a "peg" as ever.
Poor Billy! He soon had a brimming soda and brandy brought
him, and then we learned the particulars of his unpremeditated and
As we looked up at the frowning crags, we could scarcely,
even yet, reconcile his escape with the grim evidence of the fearful height
he had fallen.
Yet, barring a terrible bruise on the thigh, and his torn and
lacerated shoulders, he was sound in wind and limb. On examining the bear,
we found that the whole of her ribs had been smashed in, as you would crush
an egg-shell. She must have fallen on the jagged rock we saw from the top,
and fortunately her body reached the earth first, and doubtless saved poor
Billy from being smashed into a mangled heap. My pistol bullet had smashed
her under jaw completely. My pistol was a Thomas's patent, and carried a
large ball, but Billy's escape was, after all, simply miraculous.
Poor fellow, he bore all the pain of his removal with the
most imperturbable nonchalance. Fortunately, the doctor was handy, and by
the evening, Billy, propped up in a camp bed, with wraps and pillows at his
back, was again able to give us his glorious chorus:
"Twankedlddle oh, &c., he that loves good ale
Is a jolly good fellow." ******
When I had finished my yarn, Pat proposed Billy's health, and
we all did justice to the toast.
Poor Billy has long ago gone to the silent land of shadows.
Peace to his ashes.
"Did you catch the cub?" asked Mac.
"Yes," I replied. "The beaters found it, and C. kept it for a
long time and taught it many tricks. You know they are easily tamed."
Eventually, he got tired of it, arid gave it to his bearer,
who, in turn, sold it to a travelling Caboolee, and my own bearer, Chubbo
out to me at Sonepore fair, last year, a dancing bear, which he stoutly
affirmed was the same cub that we caught on that memorable day when Billy
wrestled the mother and came oot the victor.
These Indian sloth bears can be taught almost any tricks.
They are very commonly led about by wandering showmen, principally Afghans,
in this way, muzzled, from village to village, and go through a variety of
antics to the great amusement of the children.
The keeper generally has a long cord affixed to the poor
bear's snout, and as he jerks this, he intones in a sing-song nasal drawl—
"Nateho, lihalo ; Nateho! Arree, Nateho! hah!" "Dance,
my bear, dance!" &c.
the common name in Bengal for the bear, and they are really very tractable,
and can be taught almost anything; but when wounded, or roused, as you have
just seen by my story, they can become very dangerous and savage foes. I can
further illustrate this.
At the time of the Prince of Wales's visit to India, I
happened to be laid up with a severe illness, which necessitated constant
nursing and medical attendance. The celebrated war correspondent, Archibald
Forbes, and Mr. Henty, special correspondent of the Standard, were
my brother's guests; and partly to make room for them, and also to be
constantly near the doctor, I got a snug little private room in the fine
General Hospital, out near the Cathedral, in Calcutta.
In the next room to mine was a merry young fellow, a surveyor
in the Indian Survey Department, and we soon struck up an intimacy. I was
unable to leave my bed, but B. used to come in and beguile the tedium of my
forced inaction. Poor fellow! His had been a terrible trial; he was all
bandaged up, round the head and face, and for some time it was painful to
see him come in. At first I did not like to ask him what was the matter, but
seeing my curiosity, he one day volunteered the information.
"You are wondering what I am bandaged up like this for," he
said; "I'll tell you."
"Fact is, I've lost half my face, from an encounter with a
My looks expressed the concern and curiosity I felt.
"Yes," continued B., "the brute has spoilt my beauty for me,
but I had the satisfaction of killing the varmint."
Then he told me the particulars.
He had been out surveying in the hills, somewhere in the
Nerbudda valley, I think it was; and his men had cut several lanes in the
thick grass and underwood, for the purpose of his survey. One day, while
peeping through his theodolite, an immense she-bear came calmly out into the
cleared avenue, and stood placidly surveying him. To
take sights of another kind was the work of an instant. Picking up his
rifle, he sent a ball crashing in behind the shoulder of the bear, and the
shaggy brute toppled over, seemingly shot dead. Very foolishly and
incautiously, poor B. bounded forward exultantly to examine his prize. As he
was turning the apparently dead beast over, she suddenly got up and fetched
him a terrific clawing "wipe" across the face. The poor fellow's voice
faltered when he told me this part of the story.
The whole of his right cheek, his lower eyelid, half of his
lips and nostrils were clawed clean away.
With a trembling sob in his voice he, added,—
"I wouldn't have minded much, old man, but I was just about
to be married to the nicest little woman in the world, and she doesn't know
anything about this, and I am afraid now to let her know."
Poor gallant fellow, he was too true a man to ask the girl he
dearly loved to wed a maimed and disfigured unfortunate, like himself.
But I may as well tell the sequel.
His men had got him to Jubbulpore, where the doctor did all
for him that he could, and sent him down to Bombay. Here the stitching had
all to be done over again, and the poor fellow nearly died from exhaustion
and loss of blood.
His first thought had been of his promised bride, and he had
begged his friends not to tell her of his terrible disfiguration.
to get well in Bombay, he had now been some time in the Calcutta hospital as
a private patient, and in a few days he was to undergo an operation, from
which he had hopes he would emerge with some renewed promise of eventual
To be brief, the operation was performed. It was done by Sir
Joseph Fayrer, I believe, with Dr. Ewart and others assisting, and was
witnessed by the Duke of Sutherland, I remember, who came into my room to
give me a kindly word in passing through. I daresay he thought I was one of
the regular patients. I'm none the less grateful for his kindly meant
courtesy. Remember I am only stating veritable facts.
The operation caused great stir at the time, and is in itself
a wonderful tribute to the marvellous development of surgical skill at this
stage of the world's history.
B. was supplied with a perfect new eyelid from a flap of skin
taken from his brow. From the skin of his neck a new cheek was formed. From
his throat a layer was dissected, twisted up, and formed into lips, and a
new nostril was also fashioned for him from the same material.
It may please the sympathetic reader to know that the girl he
loved so well stuck to him like a brick, and the last I heard of them was
that they were happily married, and B. was—barring a few ugly scars, of
course—very little the worse for his rude encounter with an Indian she-bear.
Now those are facts. There are, as I have already pointed
out, some unbelieving and possibly vacant-minded individuals who think
themselves awfully smart and knowing; they will not believe anything that
falls beyond the range of their own narrow comprehension and restricted
These are the men who sneer at all tiger stories, who openly
flout every traveller as a romancer, and who are so wise in their own
conceit, and so entrenched in their little petty circle of limited
common-place experience, that they scout every man who happens to have seen
a few strange adventures as an impostor, and laugh the laugh of scornful
disbelief whenever the travelled man opens the wallet of his memory, and
tells a few of his reminiscences.
Such conventional unbelievers remind me of a capital story of
a well-known Australian colonist, who experienced a rebuff of the sort I
refer to once, when he was home in England.
Our retired squatter, among other places in the old country,
had paid a visit to see the beauties of the South of England, and found
himself at Torquay on the occasion to which I refer.
It happened to be the weekly market day, and many of the
neighbouring farmers had come into the market town. Our colonist found
himself at dinner-table at the farmers' ordinary at one of the chief hotels,
and sat down near the end of the table. Opposite to him sat a wizened old
farmer, with cheeks like a winter apple, and with a keen look of bottled-up
curiosity on his face.
The gentleman who sat at the other end of the table during
dinner called to our friend, whom he knew as an Australian gentleman—
"Mr. So-and-so, the pleasure of a glass of wine with you,"
adding, "It is not every day we get a real live Australian amongst us."
This fired the little old fanner's curiosity.
"With a look of mingled bonhomie, curiosity,
and deference, he said—
"Be ye from Australia, sor?"
"Yes, I've just returned after an absence of thirty years."
"Foine country, be'ant it?"
"Well, I've got every reason to speak well of it, being
enabled to retire from business."
"Ah!" there was a pause.
"What might be the price of oxen out your way now?"
"Oh, I've seen them sold at £25 a Lead."
"Ah! fair price, that."
"Yes, and I've seen them sold at 5s. 6d."—Sensation.
The old farmer seemed undecided. A short time elapsed. Then
he returned to the charge.
"What might be the price of wedders now in Australy?"
Our "Waler " was equal to the occasion.
"I've seen them sold at 20s. apiece."
"Yes, and I've seen them sold at eighteenpence a dozen."
Still further sensation.
The old farmer stared aghast. The company were getting amused
The bluff old English yeoman was however not to be put down
thus. He at length hazarded another question.
"What might be the size of your fields now in Australy?"
Our friend, having in his mind's eye a station on the
"Downs," where five or six flocks of sheep could be seen depasturing from
the verandah of his house, and to give the farmer a further idea of the size
of the Downs, said, referring to a well-known mountain in
"Have you ever been to the top of Hey Tor?"
"And you can look upon two seas from the top, can't you?"
"Yes, maight be, on a foine day!"
"Well, that's the
size of our fields."
The old man was thoroughly nonplussed. Our friend was as
grave as a judge. The old fellow laid down his knife and fork, crammed his
hat on his head, then he said slowly and deliberately—
"Thou beest the biggest liar ever God created."
He left the room amid roars of laughter, in which our friend
heartily joined, and yet he uttered naught but unvarnished truth in his
To my sneering unbelieving critics, who have twitted me with
"drawing the long bow" in my hunting adventures, I commend the moral—
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are
dreamt of in thy philosophy."
And also,—the world is bigger than a cheese plate.