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Tent Life in Tigerland
Chapter XVIII - In the Wilds of Oude


New surroundings—Waste land grants—A forest Alsatia—Pioneer work —The bungalow and its environment—My pets—An outpost near the Sarda River—Reducing chaos to order—Surveying the country— A likely sjiot for tiger—Send Juggroo for the elephant—A sudden interuption—A roar and a panic—The young tiger charges—A picture of savage grace—Lucky escape and fortunate shot—Another surprise —Advent of the elephant—Preparing to beat—Motet refuses—More elephants needed—Renew the beat next day—Forming line—A plucky charge—A stampede—The coolies refuse—Trying it single-handed —Once more to the charge—A hit!—The tigress turns tail—A foolish resolve—Following the tigress—"A dry and weary wilderness"—Cross the Sarda—Intense excitement—A stern chase—In a dangerous fix—Hopelessly lost—"No sign of life or water"—Deadly thirst—Delirium—I am deserted—A terrible night—Digging for water—Unconsciousness—Found by the searchers.

In a far-off corner of this historic province of "Tigerland" were my next experiences of Indian "Tent Life" destined to be. The death of the rhino just described was one of my first experiences in my new environment. Let me describe it.

The chill swamp mists and sweltering steams of the Koosee jungles had nearly made an end of me, and were like to lay my bones to rest beside the three lonely mounds in the factory garden at Lutchmeepore; but happily yielding to the solicitations of a beloved brother—alas! since gone to his rest—I took a short run home after the famine year-, and early in 1876, I found myself back again in India, and installed in charge of very extensive waste-land grants, in the northern corner of Oude. Indeed, portions of my forest land and not a few of my villages extended right away up to the banks of the Sarda in the North-West Provinces.

The surroundings here were entirely different to anything to which I had hitherto been accustomed. The very habits and castes of the people were different; the dialect was strange to me at first. The crops were new to me. The system of agriculture was more primitive. The whole country, instead of being flat, sandy, and covered with the tall coarse Koosee grass, was clad thick with dense forest jungle, interspersed with broad plains; and these covered with short crisp herbage, on which vast herds of black buck browsed, and which were as entirely opposite to the swampy marshes of the Koosee Dyaras as they well could be.

The "grants" were held under certain conditions of improvement clearly laid down and defined in the "Waste Land Regulations ; and my improvements were liable to be measured up, or at all events inspected, once every five years. Owing to a succession of bad seasons and very indifferent management, the estates had been allowed to drift. Improvements were at a stand-still. Village settlement had been totally arrested. That is, settlement of the proper kind; but owing to incompetence and neglect, large portions of the forest had been encroached upon by indiscriminate and irresponsible selectors; and the grazing and forest rights had been so badly conserved that the grants had in reality become a sort of no man's territory—a kind of Alsatia, to which Adullamites resorted, and where, as in the time of the Judges in Israel, "every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

I had got the survey maps of the place and studied them well. I had also made a careful and patient survey for myself, and I found that, under proper management and with judicious outlay, the grants could be made, a very payable property; and so I accepted the charge, and began again my wild, lonely forest life, under new conditions, but with the most perfect confidence reposed in me, and with carte blanche at my disposal so far as funds were concerned.

The nearest city was Shajehanpore, some thirty miles distant on the one side to the south; while on the southeast lay the cleanly little town and military cantonment of Sitapore. Midway between Sitapore and Doddpore, which was the name of my headquarters, lay the village and police station of Mahumdee, a place famous in the annals of the great mutiny; but I cannot tell that story now.

My only European neighbour was a burly Angus-shire man, bearing a well-known and honoured Angus name; and he was so reserved and retiring that all sorts of rumours were afloat concerning him. But of him more anon.

The main topographical feature of the greater "grant" (the one on which most work and money had been expended) was a deep, sluggish, tortuous watercourse, 'which wound snakelike through the almost impervious forest jungle, and which, though choked up and impeded in almost every yard of its course by tons of debris, masses of fallen timber, and great unsightly accumulations of rotting vegetation, drift and rubbish generally, yet contained a goodly volume of water, which ran perennially with a sluggish, almost imperceptible flow, but which I felt convinced, if properly cleared and judiciously conserved, would give me a magnificent source of wealth in the facility which it afforded for irrigation on a large scale; and to this important work of clearing the Kutna nuddee—for so was it called—and preparing the rich virgin lands on its banks for indigo and other crops, were my first energies and endeavours directed.

I had, too, simultaneously with the more immediate rough work, such as this was, of forest reclamation and water-conservation, to make an accurate survey of what the grants really comprised. I had to assert my rights where these had been invaded. Tillage clearings had to he made in the most salubrious localities procurable for my faithful followers from Tirhoot and Bhaugulpore, who had accompanied me into these inhospitable and fever-haunted solitudes. Wells had to be dug; groves of fruit trees planted; brick kilns erected, and an indigo factory, with vats, reservoir, and all necessary buildings and appurtenances, had to be established. I had to check the incursions of lawless desperadoes from neighbouring taiodks, who periodically swooped down on my scattered villages, and harried the herds, stole the grain, or filched the forest products of my domain. Sometimes on horseback, more commonly on my staunch and trusty little nvulnia elephant Motat (" The Pearl"), and often, when the fever ami ague were on me, in a litter borne by faithful bearers, I perambulated the forest, supervising the operations of the coolies, cheering and encouraging them by my presence, and generally directing the beneficent work of industrial settlement and reclamation of the wilderness to the use and habitation of man; surely as noble a task as can well engage the energy and brain of any pioneer, and, in my humble judgment, far transcending the too often abused and degraded role of politician or even, alas ! preacher.

In very truth, 1 at all events can say, that having come through many and varied experiences, having sounded nearly every note in the gamut of a busy life's vicissitudes, I look back to my happy days of "tent life" as a planter and pioneer of settlement with the most unalloyed feelings of satisfaction, and with a supreme longing that I could live them all over again.

I have tried to conjure up, all too imperfectly, a dim, indistinct vision of the hopes and aspirations that animated me. I have tried, all too inadequately, to give you some faint conception of the problems that press for solution in the daily routine of a life such as is led by hundreds of the finest spirits of our race, in the mysterious and seductive

East. I have endeavoured to paint in hold outline, by only a few suggestive touches, the opportunities for real honest work that are included in the range of duties pertaining to such a sphere of labour as that in which so many brave young pioneers are fighting now. The reader, if he has any sympathy and imagination, can supply the rest.

Let me now fill in the picture by a few rapid details. Let me pourtray the environment, physical and material, in which I now found myself.

The bungalow of earthen walls, thick and cool, well plastered with ochre-coloured earth outside, and kalsomined interiorly, having a broad shady verandah, a well thatched, steep pitched roof, and commodious comfortable rooms, is shadowed by a mighty pcepul tree, around whose giant butt I have grouped numberless ferns and orchids, culled from the forest, and beneath whose grateful amplitude of bough and twig and leaf, the dogs lie placidly dozing nearly all the day. In the shadow, too, and close by, is a stout wooden cage with iron bars, and chained to a great staple in the tree itself is a magnificent black panther, one of my numerous pets. Two affectionate porcupines here also generally have their siesta during the day. Their frugivorous tastes make them ardent "cupboard lovers," and they can always be "wooed and won" into docility by a present of bananas. How their quills rattle as they shuffle along after me sometimes ! They freely consort with the terriers, and are not a bit afraid of their proximity, feeling no doubt perfectly safe in their panoply of mail. In the verandah, at one end I have a litter of four jackals, and two little foxes, with their beady black eyes and sharp roguish muzzles; and at the other end, in an ample wired-in space, I have some dozen young pea-fowl from the jungle, being tended in most matronly fashion by a fat old clucking foster-mother from the fowl-yard. The young pea-fowl are ravenously fond of white ants, and my "sioeeper" brings in a supply of these dainty but dangerous delicacies every morning—I say dangerous, because I have to watch that none of the insidious termites are allowed to effect a lodgment in the walls or floor of the bungalow.

Then there is my daintily formed, delicate little antelope "Nita," dearest pet of all. She comes tripping up at my call, the silver collar of tiny bells round her neck making fairy music to the graceful undulations of her supple sylphlike form. And she often leaps up into my lap when I am lying reading, and disputes possession of couch with a great Persian long-haired, blue-eyed cat, and a couple of wiry-haired, pink-nosed, affectionate and playful mongoose.

In front extends a trimly kept garden, gay with flowers, redolent of sweet perfumes, and sloping gradually down to the circumference of the guarding hedge of thorny shrubs, beyond which lies a tangled expanse of thick thatching grass, in which lurk the slouching jackal, the sly fox, the lanky Indian hare, and any quantity of red-legged quail, grey partridge, and occasionally a stray florican, perhaps a belated pea-fowl, or sometimes the more deadly and dangerous wolf or leopard.

Beyond that again, stretching around in a continuous dark circle, without a break, hemming in the spacious plain with a mysterious belt of glossy foliage, stands the forest primeval; and in the glades and coverts, and around the rank tangle of undergrowth, there are to be found nearly every variety of game known to the Indian sportsman—from the fierce rhinoceros and savage tiger, down to the little four-horned chikarct, the smallest antelope we have got.

The great plain, in which my group of buildings is the central object, has been carven or hewn out of the forest; and it is now well cultivated, and, indeed, the harvest is even now well begun. Various groups of Assamees, or cultivators, working in the fields, give an air of life to what is generally, I must confess, a rather lonely and solitary prospect. Two or three semi-deserted villages are scattered at intervals over the plain, and tiny curling columns of whitish-grey smoke rise in clear relief against the black background of sombre sal jungle. A palcur tree (not unlike the aspen) raises at intervals its canopy of brighter green, or a Parass (the flame tree), gorgeous with its crimson blossom, breaks in like a splash of fire on the uniform dull tint of the surrounding woods. There are no tall palms, no feathery clumps of bamboos, no fringed streamers of the flag-like banana, no glistening dome of sacred shrine as yet in this infant settlement, to break the melancholy monotony of the far-stretching forest.

There is one gap to be sure. I had almost forgot. Right in front there is a jagged break in the continuity of the circumference of boscage, yawning like the mouth of a tomb. A thick black smoke ascends day and night from this cleft aperture, for here my gangs of coolies are busy clearing a wide track to the river—opening out fresh land for the plough—and here the brick-kiln burns, and great piles of charcoal are constantly being made.

Having had a sprinkling of rain during the night, the air is crisp, and the atmosphere is unusually clear, and far away in the extreme distance, over the long low line of forest country, the mighty crests of the majestic Himalayas rise clear, sharp, glistening, and well defined in the fresh morning air. There is a rosy glow, high up there, on the fretted battlements of snow, as if the Aurora had settled permanently on those towering heights of eternal whiteness and dazzling purity.

I have said that one of the outlying grants to the north was not far from the Sarda river; and my first view of the Sarda, about which I had heard so much in connection with the great irrigation schemes of the North-West Provinces, was rather disappointing.

I had been for some months at Doddpore, trying to get the mass of detail connected with the work there into proper form; and at length, one tine morning in the Indian midsummer, 1 found time to make my long deferred visit to Allengunge, the furthest outlying post of my widely-scattered charge, and situated on the banks of the Sarda.

I need not weary the Reader with a detailed account of the factory work I had to undertake.

Indeed, my recollections of that trip, so far as work was concerned, are not of the most pleasant character. I found that wholesale swindling had been going on. Everything was in confusion. The herds of cattle belonging to the factory had been looted right and left.

Factory lands had been settled upon surreptitiously— boundary disputes were of daily occurrence; and it was only by dint of the most vigorous and unrelaxing vigilance and effort that I managed to get matters into a fairly workable condition; and at length, after two or three weeks of unremitting toil and unflagging exertion, I managed to get things pretty fairly reduced to order, and felt that I deserved a holiday.

I had only the one elephant with me—my little "Moke" —and hearing that there was a piece of likely jungle close to the banks of the river, I set out one morning on horseback, telling the attendants to bring the elephant up quietly behind-—my object being to make a sort of reconnaissance, with a view more of acquainting myself with "the lay of the country" than with any serious intention of having a beat.

The country on the hither side of the Sarda I found consisted almost entirely of elevated sandy ridges, the sand being of a blackish hue, mixed here and there in the hollows with a peaty loam, which was extensively cultivated, the crops being mainly rice, maize, and tobacco.

On the intervening ridges, gingelly and cotton were the most common crops, with here and there long strips of urkur, from which the Dhall pea is obtained; and in all directions, where the plough had not been used, were dense, thorny thickets of acacia, and long, straggling bits of forest land, the undergrowth in which was sparse and open.

So far as the prospects of game were concerned, I thought it, after the Koosee dyaras and the thickly wooded jungle near Doddpore, to be very unlikely country indeed.

But one thing I had forgotten—viz., that it was quite out of the beaten track, and had never, perhaps, been visited by European sportsmen at all; and the natives were so poor and so primitive in their ways, that I doubt very much if the sound of a gunshot had ever awakened the echoes in any of the likely haunts about the whole district.

I had a Mussulman syce with me—Juggeroo by name— who was a most enthusiastic sportsman, and, indeed, a good tracker, and who seemed to know instinctively every likely spot where there was any probability of our finding any big game.

We saw numerous marks of pig and deer of various kinds, and small game was abundant, but I thought there was little chance of finding any really good sport, and after a long circuit of some ten or twelve miles, I was on the point of returning, when Juggeroo earnestly besought me to visit a spot on the banks of the river some half a mile ahead, which he assured me was a very favourite haunt of tigers.

Rather sceptical, I allowed myself to be persuaded, and on we went.

At the top of a long sandy ridge, bearing evidences, in the stunted cotton bushes and withered stalks of the sesamum plant, both of the perversity of the soil and the slovenly character of the cultivation, we suddenly came to an abrupt break, which dipped straight from our feet into a densely wooded amphitheatre of luxuriant jungle growth.

It was a regular "pocket," evidently caused by some extensive landslip into the river, the rapid waters of which, sparkling merrily over the sandy bars, we saw gleaming in the distance through the still foliage. The very smell of the air spoke to my practised senses at trace that here was at last a likely spot for game.

Any man who has had a large jungle experience can tell by numberless subtle sensations, which no one can explain, whether a locale is a likely one or not.

I felt at once that here there was certain to be game.

It was just the very spot for a tiger.

The declivity was sufficiently deep to afford dense shade at the bottom of the hollow.

All around, the cultivated slopes were such as to afford capital stalking ground for a tiger of even the most varied and dainty tastes, as cattle, pig, and deer were plentiful.

Then the water was close by, and the covert was thick enough to afford ample security against the sudden interruption of any dangerous visitor "on hostile thoughts intent."

In fact, looking down on Juggeroo, I could see a grin of smug self-satisfaction on his face, which said as plainly as if he had spoken—" There, Sahib ! didn't I tell you 1 What do you think of Juggeroo now?"

My look of quick response broadened the grin on his face, and when I finished the hitherto unspoken colloquy by saying to him in Hindostanee, "Yes, this will do, Juggeroo," he seemed delighted, and suggested at once that I should alight and let him ride back to bring up the elephant.

To this I agreed; and presently Juggeroo, with his bare feet in the stirrups, hammered his horny heels into my horse's ribs, and with his hair streaming behind him, like one possessed of a demon, he quickly vanished, and I was left with two or three stray villagers to more critically survey the position.

Feeling satisfied that the dingle could only be beaten by an elephant, I leisurely lit my pipe, and reclining against a shady tree, began to enter into a conversation with the villagers.

A young lad who was with us, after some time began, in the idle, desultory way that comes natural to a man who is waiting and has little to occupy his mind, to toss some clods of earth that were lying close by into the dell below. Indeed, I was not attending to him, or perhaps I might have forbidden him.

"Behold what great events from little causes spring! r You can imagine the consternation which seized our party when after the third or fourth divot, as we would call it in Scotch, which he threw down, a response came from the hollow below, in the shape of a terrific roar, which set our blood tingling through every vein, blanching the faces of the natives to almost an ashen pallor, and, I am not ashamed to say, causing me in double quick time to shin up the tree beneath which I had been lying with all the celerity, if not the grace, of a professional acrobat.

The whole tiring was so sudden and unexpected that I actually committed the unpardonable sin of leaving my gun behind me.

And presently, following upon the roar, out bounced a three-parts-grown young tiger—defiance glowing from his fiery eyes, his mustochios bristling with wrath, the hair on his neck as stiff as the quills of the proverbial porcupine, and his tail as stiff as a ramrod. lie came tearing out just as a hawk comes down on a covey of frightened partridges.

The luckless lad who had been the immediate cause of this ebullition of wrath, was not to escape scot-free. With two or three terrific bounds, the young tiger was upon him, and with one swoop of his tremendous paw sent the poor wretch flying through the air as if he had been projected from a catapult.

Quick as a cat leaps after a mouse, the lithe young tiger bestrode the prostrate young villager, but luckily without seeking to tear or molest him further. There he stood, a splendid embodiment of savage grace, his noble head poised grandly on his muscular neck and shoulders, his swinging tail lashing his flanks, and slowly turning his head from side to side, he growled out in a sullen undertone his defiance of all and sundry who dared to intrude upon his kingly domain.

I had now gathered my scattered wits together, and feeling ashamed of my temporary panic, I gently shifted my position from the forked branch upon which I had taken refuge, and slid down the tree as quickly as I could, and gripping my gnu—a number 12 central fire, side-snap action, breechloader, which had stood me in good stead on many a critical occasion—I hastily slipped in two ball cartridges, and peering round the bole of the tree, let the growling young savage have the contents of both barrels, one bullet taking him Behind the ear, and the other going clean through his heart.

He dropped like a piece of lead right across the recumbent form of the terrified coolie; and presently I was surrounded by the exultant villagers, and we were able to drag the young fellow, saturated from head to foot in the blood of the tiger, he himself, barring a long lacerated wound across his flanks, not a bit the worse for the rough shaking of the mighty paw which he had just experienced.

And now another roar from the dense patch of jungle behind again startled our scarcely recovered nerves, and sauve qui pent was once more the order of the day.

I got behind my tree this time, not up it, and thought to myself that these northern tigers were a trifle- more energetic in their responses than those of the grass jungle country- to which I hail been so long accustomed. However, beyond a terrific caterwauling and a deep bass accompaniment of surly growls, there was no further manifestation on the part of the concealed denizen or denizens, for we knew not whether there were more than one or not in the dense jungle below.

Here too in the distance we could see the elephant approaching, in company with Juggeroo, still on horseback, and with several of my villagers and factory servants, forming quite a goodly cavalcade.

You can judge of their surprise at seeing the evidences of our sharp skirmish.

The young fellow who had been clawed, received their condolences and congratulations; while of course I came in for the usual amount of hyperbole, and was likened to the great Bam Bam himself, and called the biggest Bustoom, or hero, that had ever been heard of or seen in these parts.

Judging from the evidences just afforded us that the temper of the concealed tiger might be somewhat fiery, I determined not to subject my companions to the danger of being clawed and perhaps killed.

So telling them to retire to safe positions, and then make as much din as they liked, I got Juggeroo up with me on the guddee, and with a lot of clods piled between us, we putMotet5 straight for the jungle.

She evidently did not like the situation.

I should explain too that the mahout was not her usual driver, but a raw, inexperienced, and rather impulsive youth —worse luck, as you shall see.

Moving her fore feet ominously backwards and forwards, and curling up her tiunk, she emitted a shrill piping explosion, and it was as much as the mahout could do to get her to face the steep descent. In fact, no sooner had she got about two body-lengths into the dense undergrowth, than another terrific growling roar from our concealed antagonists seemed to quite seal her determination as to what course she was to pursue; and in spite of bufferings and blows and angry objurgations, she resolutely refused to have anything more to do with the task we wished to set her, and incontinently rushed out of the jungle with such evidences of " funk " as I had never seen her display on any former occasion.

Now you must not judge Motee too harshly.

The fact is, it was quite unfair to make her face the determined tiger in his chosen abode, when she had such a break-neck road to travel. And had her own old mahout been in charge, he would never have attempted to force her to do any such thing.

Some such reflection crossed my mind, and so patting poor old Motce on the trunk—for I had now got down, being at some distance from the jungle—she showed her appreciation of my kindness by caressing my hair with her trunk, and rumbling out a sort of muffled volume of thanks, which expressed as plainly as possible that she would do anything for me in reason, but she would be hanged if she would face the tiger in such a place as that, with no support, and with the almost certainty of getting the worst of any encounter that might ensue. "All right, old woman," I said; "we will try it in another way."

Making a wide detour, therefore, we got down by a rather precipitous bank to the little flat bordering the river; and from which side we could get a much better view up the dell, and were able to form some estimate of the rotten nature of the ground and the extreme difficulty of the approach which we had first attempted.

The whole circumference of the hollow could not have been more than some forty or fifty acres, but it was disrupted and riven as if by an earthquake.

Great yawning fissures were perceptible in the broken banks. There was a perfect network of hanging creepers, tumbled trees, and masses of brushwood.

And I felt certain that the growling party in this splendidly chosen retreat was very likely an old tigress, with possibly another cub, and that it would be the height of foolhardiuess to attempt to dislodge her from sucli a well-chosen position with only one elephant.

And so, after posting sentinels all around the place, with strict orders to immediately report any occurrence that came within their ken, and with the promise of substantial reward in case we got the tiger, we withdrew from the jungle, flayed the youngster I had shot, and then hied back to Allengunje, where my munshee at once sent off mounted messengers to try to get the loan of two or three elephants, with a view to renewing the beat on the morrow.

To make a long story short, by eleven o'clock next morning four elephants came in, and all the able-bodied men from the scattered hamlets around accompanied us, bearing with them all the most murderous-looking weapons that the imagination of man could conceive—clubs, spears, reaping hooks, ancient swords, and unwieldy battle-axes, ct hoc genus omne; and at the head of my motley crew—like Falstaff leading his ragged regiment through Coventry—away we went to the scene of our late encounter, determined this time either "to do or die."

An honest intelligent young baboo, son of a neighbour zemindar, and the proud possessor of an old matchlock, which dated possibly back to the middle of the last, century, and who bestrode a savage-looking elephant belonging to his father, was my companion. I gave Juggeroo one of my spare, guns, and mounted him upon another of the elephants; I rode Motee myself, and taking the two spare elephants with me to act as beaters when we reached the jungle, I posted the bahoo and Juggeroo one on each side of the dingle, and forming a line below, of niv nondescript army of beaters, we started to beat from the river bank.

This, barring the cub of the previous day, was my flrst experience of a North-west tiger, and I am bound to say a more plucky brute never charged a line.

We had scarcely begun our operations, raising din enough to awaken the dead, when, immediately accepting the challenge, she came roaring down on us, open-mouthed, and made for one of the elephants, leaping from the hank clean on to its head, sending the mahout flying off into a dense, thick, thorny scrub behind, where he lay yelling with forty horse-power lungs, and calling on all the gods and goddesses to save him from instant destruction, while the elephant, with a shrill scream of consternation and dismay, turned tail and made straight for the stream, where he got half submerged in a quicksand; while my coolies, like an ants' nest in a thunderstorm, went hurry scurry, hither and thither, casting their staves and other warlike implements behind them, and in fact such a stampede I never before witnessed.

Motee behaved, however, very pluckily, sustaining well her old character for courage.

Curling up her trunk, and setting her ears back, she hastily swirled around in the direction of the charging tiger, nearly unseating me by the rapidity of her movements; but before I could draw a line on the vixenish brute as she clawed the first elephant, the incidents which I have been describing were accomplished, and the tigress had again gone back into the jungle to sulk.

At all events her immediate object had been accomplished. Despite all my subsequent endeavours, she had succeeded in striking such "a blue funk" into the hearts of all my followers, that not one of them would again face the jungle.

In vain I entreated, commanded, promised, besought, stormed, raved, and, I am sorry to say, swore. But as it was in Hindostanee perhaps it doesn't count.

It was no use, not one of my craven crew would face the jungle.

With my heart swelling with indignation, and my gorge rising in disgust, I at length determined to tackle the brute single-handed.

So putting Motee once more face to the foe, we cautiously entered the cover by a winding beaten path, that seemed to have been made by the deer and other wild beasts coming down to the river to drink, and we had not penetrated far into the shade before the gallant tigress, with a terrific roar, seeming nothing loath to accept our challenge, came bounding out again straight at the elephant.

This time I was enabled to get a quick snap shot, which must have taken her somewhere in the hindquarters. She must have been a bit of a "cock-tail" after all, for with a howl of mingled rage and pain, her warlike fury seemed to collapse all of a sudden, and turning tail in the most currish manner, she slunk away among the undergrowth; and presently hearing a terrific hullabaloo from the bank above, we withdrew from our position, only to receive the assurances of the excited mob high above our heads, that the tigress was making off across the stream, with her tail between her legs, and evidently hard hit.

Ah, now! what a revulsion of feeling in the bosoms, what a change in the attitudes of the dusky warriors!

How proudly they swelled out their chests like pouter pigeons, and told what they "would have done" if the Sahib had only waited! How they plumed themselves on their bravery, and with what eagerness they pressed advice upon me to follow up without loss of time! And here came in a string of adjectives reflecting upon the poor tigress's ancestors which I had better leave unrecorded.

However, as the day was young, and the tigress evidently wounded, I determined to at once follow up the trail.

And so, acting most foolishly on impulse, as the sequel will prove, began one of the most wearisome and disastrous stern chases it has ever been my bad fortune to take part in.

The country of the Sarda was indeed "a dry and very land."

This was its character.

Great rolling successions of undulating sand-dunes, with not a particle of vegetation, except rank, harsh, wiry bent-grass in unsightly clumps, and ever and anon a barricade of thorny acacia bushes. Here and there sweltering pools of stagnant water, covered with a greenish, glairy scum; and as the hot winds swept across the inhospitable expanse, swirling columns of sand whirled and eddied around, like mad dancing dervishes, and the blazing sun shot forth his fiery darts with ruthless directness; in fact, a more bare, bleak, uninviting tract of country it would be difficult to imagine.

This was doubtless the old bed of the Sarda, and extended for miles to the north, right away up, in fact, to the Bahryicll Talook, beyond the swift-flowing Gogra on the south, and right away northwards to the Nepaul Terai without a break. Indeed for leagues there is not a vestige of human habitation in this barren and inhospitable wilderness.

And into this wild and forbidding tract I was rushing with all the temerity of a rash, inexperienced young fool, when I really ought to have known better.

But so it was, and what will not an ardent sportsman do when he sees the stripes of a wounded tiger practically, as he thinks, within his grasp?

To tell the truth, I lost my head, and what added to my misfortune, my young and inexperienced mahout- and attendants lost theirs too.

Our miscalculation was a disastrous one for me, as will presently be shown.

We all thought that the tigress could only go for a short distance, and that we would be sure very speedily to bring her to bay; but we little knew the demon we had to deal with.

And so the mahout began to ply toe and heels on the elephant's neck, in the most approved usual fashion, digging his hard toes behind the poor brute's ears, wriggling on his seat as if he was trying to win the Derby; and to the accompaniment of a series of resounding whacks with the gudjboz or goad on the poor elephant's cranium, we plunged into the swift current of the Sarda, sending the spray Hying before us, and amid the most intense excitement we emerged on the other side, seeing the tigress at a considerable distance ahead, just disappearing behind an undulating ridge of sand, and apparently very hard hit.

Away we went in wild pursuit.

The jolting motion of the elephant was anything but pleasant, and I had to hang on by the ropes with one hand, and keep hold of my gun with the other.

Wq topped the sandbank just in time to see her majesty disappearing over the succeeding ridge in front; but seemingly going as fresh as before.

Our poor elephant put 011 all the pace she knew, but we did not seem to gain on the tigress.

After we had covered perhaps two or three miles in this fashion, I began to dimly realise that after all we were not to have such an easy prey as we had imagined.

And even then I would have turned back, but that my infernal mahout, for a wonder, strongly urged me to go on, and so on we went.

To make a long story short, we foil owed up our retreating quarry for miles, and to this day I have grave doubts as to whether that never-to-be-sufficiently-objurgated brute was not possessed by some malign spirit, some baleful enticing demon, seeking to lure us on to our destruction.

At any rate, after experiencing agonies of thirst; with the fierce excitement of the chase long since pounded out of me, depressed with the inevitable reaction from strong emotion, with my tongue feeling like a piece of parched leather, and my temples throbbing as if the veins would burst, we were at last warned by the lengthening shades that the day was wellnigh spent, and 1 had begun to fully realise the actual danger of our position, when to my dismay I found that the mahout knew nothing of the country, and the elephant began to show signs of being thoroughly fagged. Of course the others had hours ago tailed off, and we two were alone in this wild and weary wilderness.

By this time the tigress (the demon-possessed tigress) had evidently vanished apparently into thin air, for we saw no more of her. May maledictions pursue her!

Then began such a night of pain and thirst and weariness as I hope never again to experience. No doubt, too, I was sickening for the fever that afterwards fell upon me.

We began to cast about for water, or sign of habitation, but we were verily in a desert land, for sign of life or water was there none; and by-and-by the blood-red sun sank to rest behind the distant bronzed horizon, and the great full-orbed moon came slowly sailing up, flooding the bleak sand ridges with a ghastly light; and as if all the evil spirits of Gadara had revisited " the glimpses of the moon; " having packs of jackals seemed to start up around us from every hollow, and the unearthly chorus struck a weird, uncanny chill upon our already drooping spirits.

We were now hopelessly bewildered.

In searching for the water the mahout had completely lost all knowledge of his whereabouts; and instead of leaving the elephant to find its way by its own unaided intelligence, as we ought to have done, the stupid man kept directing it hither and thither, in a most aimless fashion, until at length the poor brute began to show signs of resentment, and falling into a fit of the sulks, commenced rocking and shaking most violently, in the attempt to dislodge us from its wearied back. Here was a pretty kettle of fish!

But in all sober seriousness it was no light matter.

I cannot describe to you my sensations. I was racked with pain, and a consuming thirst had possession of me.

I fancy I must hare received a slight sunstroke during the day, and so when, at length, utterly wearied and unnerved, I slid to the ground, a fit of trembling came upon me, and 1 must have become unconscious. My next recollection was awaking as if from a horrid nightmare, and sitting up in a dazed manner I found myself entirely alone, with a pack of some fifteen or twenty jackals, squatting on their haunches all around me, and gazing on me with greedy eyes that blazed like live coals; and they seemed to be apparently debating amongst themselves whether they should "go for me straight," or wait until the breath left my helpless body altogether, when I would fall an easier prey to their unholy appetites.

The strangest and most whimsical absurdities flashed through my brain.

One mangy old brute, lying down at full length, struck me as being like an old woman that used to sell toffee in my old native village when I was a boy, and 1 could not help laughing as the brute champed its yellow fangs, licking its hungry chops, and, as I thought, leering at me in a most horribly suggestive and familiar fashion.

I fancy I must have been still somewhat delirious, and what my fate might have been I know not, had not, fortunately, two of the jackals begun snarling at each other; and the whole pack, open-tongued, gave utterance to the most unearthly, diabolical series of long-drawn yells which would not have shamed the dogs of Cerberus himself.

I suppose this Toused me a bit, for staggering to my feet I raised my gun, and immediately the cowardly pack scattered as if a rocket had burst amongst them. Shaking in every limb, my knees trembling under me, my dry tongue almost rattling in my mouth, every sense lost in the one agonising desperate desire for water, I staggered on, plunging wildly about, yet with a blind instinct clutching my gun; and again I must have fallen and become unconscious, for when I came to myself the morning sun was struggling to cast his feeble, fitful rays through a dense canopy of fog that had settled down on this bleak, inhospitable tract, and sitting up I ruefully surveyed my forlorn surroundings. I was racked with pain and stupid with fever, and yet that scene is burned in upon my memory.

At a little distance in front of me was a slight depression, tilled with mimosa bushes; and the thought struck me, that perhaps by digging with my hunting-knife I might find water.

I was in a burning fever, and very weak—so weak that I had to crawl on my hands and knees to the hollow.

This happy inspiration doubtless saved my life. After a weak and weary effort, I came upon water, and saturating my handkerchief in the unwholesome-looking liquid, I squeezed it again and again into my Mouth, until at length I began to feel a little refreshed.

Hut oh, that weary, weary day!

All day long, until about mid-afternoon, I must have lain there beside this scooped-out hole, with the hot sun beating down upon me, and when at length my fellows found me, I was in a raving delirium and fever, and how I got back to the factory I know not to this day.

At all events, the result of that unlucky adventure was the breaking up of my jungle home: I was ordered to take a sea voyage round to Bombay, where I lay for nearly two months, almost helpless with rheumatic fever, and eventually I had to seek a radical change by a trip to Australia; but not before I had come back to my lonely post in the jungle, where I made a brave effort to combat my growing weakness, in the endeavour to fulfil the trust imposed on me, but in such an unequal contest I of course soon had to succumb.


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