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