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Tent Life in Tigerland
Chapter XIX - Incidents of the "Big Beat"


News from the military — Arrangements for grazing commissariat elephants—Advent of a jolly party—News of big game—An imposing procession—The start—The country-—-Lagging behind—A sudden apparition—"A Sumbur, by Jove!!"—Only a Swamp deer after all—Points of difference- -We proceed down the river—A likely spot for game—A sudden diversion—The monkeys' warning—A hurried consultation—Briggs left on the watch—Grows impatient—Determines to reconnoitre—A soliloquy—A warv stalk-— "A sight that sets his ears a tingling"—"Angry green eyes glaring"-—Bang!—A miss—A shot and a charge simultaneously—Bullet and teeth both "get home" —Poor Briggs carried home—After the cubs next day—The "Old General" in charge—Discovery and capture of the cubs—A likely spot for leopard—Gopal on the track—"Not one but two leopards"—They will not break—Halt for tiffin and send for fireworks—One more try— The end of a memorable day.

One day, -while vainly trying to hear up against my growing weakness, I was lying on a couch in my cool and darkened middle room, which served as parlour, drawing and dining room all in one, when a baying chorus of yelps and barks, and every variety of canine noises, apprised me that some stranger had surely broken in upon my forest solitude.

I heard the clatter of accoutrements, the black panther tugged at his chain, growling hoarsely, the horses neighed loudly from the stables, the denizens of the fowl-yard added their cackling clamour to the general din, and then my soft-footed bearer came in to tell me that a shutr sowar waited without, with a message for " His Highness "—that was for ins. (A shutr sowar is a mounted camel trooper.) Going out, I found a tine picturesque-looking and most soldierly fellow, who had come from Sitapore, and was the hearer of various pleasant chits from my friends the officers stationed there with their regiment. They had heard of my illness, and were anxious to know if 1 would be well enough to put them up if they came across, as they intended, a few of them, to make a hunting trip to my jungles. There was also a letter from one of the Government officers belonging to the Commissariat department, saying he had been informed that I had extensive grazing rights "to let" in my jungles, and wishing to know if there was forage enough for about forty commissariat elephants, what I would charge per head, and generally full particulars. He had a large number of elephants under his charge, and they needed rest, and a spell in the forest for a few months.

I may as well at once inform the reader that I succeeded in making a bargain with the Captain, to allow the elephants the full range of the jungles for four months, at thirty rupees per head, the attendants to have the right of cutting fodder-as they pleased, in certain defined localities: and very shortly thereafter the ponderous brutes arrived, and were formed into two camps; and I started a small bazaar to supply the men in charge with grain, salt, and their other simple wants. This helped me much in my work of village settlement and the little bazaar has long since become a flourishing village.

I sent back a message to my friends, making arrangements for the proposed hunting trip, and in due time they arrived.

"We managed to persuade our friend the Captain to allow us the use of some dozen of the best elephants; and one fine morning we started across the Kutna, to beat up the forest in the direction of my friend and neighbour the old General's place, and a merry and motley party we were. For convenience sake I will use fictitious names.

There was old Major Burns, Captain Steel in charge of the elephants, Captain Green, a gallant young Lieutenant named Briggs, and myself. I was still very shikust, that is, weak, "washed out," "seedy;" but the jovial company had roused me up a bit, and as we had ample supplies of all those creature comforts that aid so much to make life bearable in India, we felt pretty jolly on the whole.

Some two miles from my bungalow the sluggish creek opened out into a series of marshy shallows, thickly overgrown with reeds, and it was reported that a tiger, or a leopard—some accounts said a pair, for the reports were conflicting—had here formed a lair, and he, she, or they was or were in the habit of levying black-mail on the scanty flocks and herds of the scattered forest dwellers in the vicinity. This part of the forest did not lie under my charge, and, truth to tell, I knew very little about the locality; but we were to meet the "Old General" on the ground, and be knew every inch of the country, and he was to take the direction of the hunt.

It was a picturesque sight to see the straggling but imposing procession of stately elephants, with here and there a hovjdah, surmounted by the white-coated sahibs, with their broad, mushroom-looking sun hats. The cortege included numbers of my red-turbaned peons, from down country, several trim-whiskered halputs of the district, numbers of my wood-cutters with ragged blue puggrees, and clothing of the scantiest, and a goodly number of the nondescript tatterdemalion crew that invariably turn up from "Heaven knows where" whenever there is "a big beat" afoot. Here were charcoal-burners, swart and grimy, cowherds from the forest country to the north, with long elf-like locks, weather-beaten faces, and a look of resolute daring, mingled with a cunning, leering, furtive expression which was very suggestive of many an unauthorised foray into the territory of some villagers with wdiom they were on hostile terms, and whose cattle accordingly were held to he lawful spoil. We hail several professional trackers of course, and under the most favourable auspices we sallied forth, crossed the sluggish ford, and plunged into the gloomy recesses of the thick Sal forest beyond.

The ground we found to be rather rocky and difficult. Near the Kutna, in the low lands, the swamps were frequent, and the ground treacherous, so for the time being we had to skirt a rocky, barren range, that lay parallel to the course of the stream, and which afforded but poor cover for game, and naturally we, or rather they, pushed on as fast as we could, in the endeavour to reach our trysting-ground while yet the day was young.

Briggs and I were lagging behind, and so indifferent were we to our surroundings, that we were chatting away quite unconcernedly, and smoking our cigars, and letting the mahouts do pretty much with us as they liked. These, wishing to spare the elephants the trouble of surmounting the rocky ridge, over which our motley train had already disappeared, took the low ground by the river, which, though soft and slushy, and slightly longer as to distance, was still much easier for the big brutes on which we were leisurely rifling.

A patch of thick nurkul skirted the swamp. The nurkul was juicy, succulent, and green. The elephants sidled towards it, and the brushing of the long reeds against my Tuned ah was the first intimation I had that we had fallen out of the line. I was seated most comfortably, with my legs up on the front bar, puffing away at a particularly nice number one Manilla, when all of a sudden I saw Briggs, who was similarly engaged, start up, pitch his cigar away, seize his gun, and, following with my eye the. outstretched hand of the mahout, who was eagerly pointing ahead, I distinguished through the nurkul the line branching horns of a noble stag.

"A Sambur! Maori! By Jove! " yelled Briggs, letting drive at the same moment, and the quick thud that followed, told us that the bullet had sped home.

The noble brute made a convulsive leap forward, three hinds simultaneously dashing with him into the sluggish water, here covered with dead leaves and a brown scum, and as the wounded stag gallantly breasted the torpid current, Briggs put another bullet into him, and he only reached the further bank to fall prone to earth; and there he lay, convulsively struggling, till at length he turned over on his side, his antlered head fell slowly back, and he rolled down the bank, stone dead, into the water.

"Bravo Briggs!" said I, quite pleased at my friend's success.

"Oh, I'm so glad, old man!" responded Briggs. "I have been longing so to kill a Sambur." I had my doubts as to its being a real Sambur; and when we had secured our prize, by the aid of some of the attendants that the sound of our firing bad brought to the spot, I had no difficulty in deciding that it was a very fine specimen of the Marsh or Swamp deer (Rucervus Duvaucellii). The Sambur (Cemis Aristotelis) is very often mistaken for the Swamp deer; but any one who has shot both, and narrowly observed the differences, would not be likely to make the mistake. The confusion often arises, no doubt, from the natives using the same name to both, indifferently.

Broadly speaking, the Sambur is a somewhat larger animal than the Swamp deer. His coat is darker and more shaggy, and he has a mane not unlike the Bed deer at home. He frequents, too, comparatively elevated and broken ground, while the Swamp deer, as the name implies, loves to haunt the vicinity of marshes, and may often be found in the heat of the day, when the flies are troublesome, immersed up to his neck nearly, like an old buffalo in the water; and at any time he may be found in great herds, in suitable localities, browsing on the aquatic plants, to reach which he will wade in till the water is up to his shoulders. He has a bright red, shining coat, as glossy generally as that of a well-groomed horse, and very often may be observed a line of indistinct whitish spots on either side of the ridge along the back: while the Sambur has no marking of any such sort to disturb the uniformity of his dun-brown coat. The skin of the Sambur is thicker and more valuable than that of the Swamp deer. (I had a pair of Sambur skin slippers once made for me in Calcutta, that I wore for over ten years, and they were pretty well in constant use.) The young of both are very much alike, but the difference in size, in colour, in the setting of the horns, and other distinct and marked points of divergence, are quite sufficient to settle the disputed point to any unprejudiced mind.

However, Briggs would have it that he had killed a Sambur. And we had the whole matter thoroughly discussed in the bungalow that night, and the notes I have above recorded are the result of that discussion.

Being elated with this piece of luck, we very naturally, as I imagine, determined to stick to the river. I had in fact never before visited this part of the forest, and being assured by one or two of the attendant hangers-on that deer and pig were numerous farther down, we after padding the slaughtered stag, proceeded on our way.

We certainly thought ourselves under a fortunate star, for after leaving the swampy patch in which we had just been so lucky, we crossed a swelling spur of the high land, which here trended downwards toward the river, causing the stream to make a wide bend to the south. And on the other side I recognised a bit of a grassy glade, with a towering Semul tree on its far side, winch I knew from past experience to lie a fa\ ourite haunt of various kinds of deer.

What lay beyond this spur, however, I knew not, and on topping the rise we were agreeably surprised to find another large stretch of swampy country, which lay at right angles to the Kutna, and which in fact proved to he the valley or watershed of a . sinuous, sluggish, forest tributary of the Kutna itself, and as it was well grassed throughout, with here and there clumps of denser green where the tall nurkul waved its feathery tops, I congratulated Briggs on our happy discovery, and we prepared to descend into the grass, when a sudden diversion took place which had the effect of altering our plans.

At a little distance to the right of where we stood was a thick clump of bright and glossy Jhamun bushes, and just beyond that a stately Mhowa tree in full flower, scenting the whole glade with its luscious, rather sickly perfume; and just as we appeared on the scene, a troop of monkeys—the individuals of which had been regaling themselves on the sticky mass of fallen flowers—suddenly sprung up belter skelter from the ground, scampered in wild affright hand over hand, from branch to branch, and then from their vantage ground of overhanging boughs gave vent to an extraordinary series of short, sharp, hoarse barking sounds which once heard is always significant. Briggs was amused. He thought this was merely their mode of venting their anger at our intrusion, but I did not think they had yet seen us.

I had heard that signal too often before and knew what it meant.

"Hold hard!" I hissed out to Briggs.

"What!" ("Halt!") this to the mahout

"What's up?" said the bewildered Briggs, seeing plainly from my looks that there was something important on the tapis.

"There must be a tiger or leopard there," I said in a low, impressive tone.

I had scarce uttered the words, when another fierce chattering demonstration from the monkeys seemed to accentuate my warning, and our surmises were further strengthened by the corroboration of one or two of the experienced foresters who were standing close by the elephants, who huddled up closer to us, and told us that there must doubtless be a tiger beside the Mhova tree.

Now the little valley, as 1 have said, was well grassed. The thick forest extended beyond, and if there was the chance of getting a tiger, I knew it would be futile to try to beat him up with only two elephants.

We moved back behind the shelter of the rise, and after a hasty consultation, it was resolved that I would take one of the trackers w ith me, hasten after the rest of our party, and bring them back, while Briggs should quietly wait, and watch the ground.

At once I set off on my errand, and left Briggs with a fervent injunction to be patient, and not spoil sport by moving a step till we returned.

I found that the Major and party had been seduced into following a troop of spotted deer, and after a long search I at length found them several miles out of the track they should have taken, and not in the very sweetest humour either, as they were under the impression, until I undeceived them, that they were very near the rendezvous where- we expected to meet "The General."

They had shot at, but missed, numerous deer, and were cursing the jungles, their luck, the elephants, themselves and my own poor self; and wondering where I had got to, when my news completely changed the current and tone of their thoughts; and after a "per)" all round, we lost no time in beginning to retrace our steps.

Now this is what was happening elsewhere.

Briggs, never noted for excessive wisdom, quite inexperienced in the ways of Indian woodcraft, and blissfully ignorant of the peculiurities of elephants and tigers, began to grow impatient.

For a time he watched the antics of the monkeys, still vigilant and excited on their tree. Then, getting tired of his cramped position in the howdah, for the elephant had been well withdrawn, back into the shade of the valley near the river, he made the mahout move her back still a bit farther, and getting down to stretch his legs, he lit a cigar (a most foolish thing to do under such circumstances), while the mahout tightened the hoiodah ropes. Next the socially-disposed mahout prepared and shared with the three or four attendants who were waiting with him, a palm full of Soortec; that is, in vulgar parlance, "a chew of baccy," prepared a la Hindostanee, by briskly rubbing together some acrid tobacco leaf, some powdered betel-nut, and some specially prepared lime. A pinch of this delectable bonne bouehe is then handed to each friend, while the remainder is thrown from the grimy palm into the wide distended mouth of the operator, and then the delicious sensation of chewing begins, and a feeling of supreme content steals over the gratified senses, descending even to the regions of the oesophagus.

Well, this did not particularly interest Briggs.

The demon of curiosity now took possession of him.

"What harm could there be," he asked himself, "if he stole cautiously forward to reconnoitre?"

There could be no danger. He could be very cautious. Besides, had he not his gun with him! What a glorious lark if he could bag the tiger to his own cheek, if it was a tiger! Perhaps after all "Maori" was mistaken, audit might only be a pig, or even a deer. Besides, how could any one tell what meaning should be attached to the jabber and chatter of a lot of monkeys ? How long that fellow "Maori" was in coming back! Hang it all! He would chance it. Just a quiet peep to see if there was really anything stirring or not!

All this passed through Briggs's brain, I have no doubt.

At all events he yielded to temptation; and with a make-believe- assumption of the most innocent unconcern, though his heart was going pit-a-pat, lie left the little group beside the elephant, and began a slow wary approach towards the brow of the hill again, making this time a deviation to the right, which would bring him up abreast of the line of the AIhowa tree.

Of course every blessed monkey had its eye on him now at every step he took, and signified their contempt for his inexperience by grinning and chattering at liim as he stooped and dodged from bush to bush and from tree to tree. Of course, too, every beast of the jungle, from the frisky little squirrel behind the big tree on Ids right, the Saap guh or iguana, in the hollow log beside him, down to the jackal with his two wives slouching along beside the water in tire swampy hollow, were all watching his every movement, and he, poor fellow, all the time imagining that he was doing his stalk so splendidly and so unobserved.

Why, the golden oriole as it flitted swiftly past exchanged a look full of amused contempt with the meditative owl that, with half-open but very observant "peepers," vigilantly watched every movement of the sublimely unconscious and self-deluded Briggs.

But now he has breasted the rise. The Mhoira tree is within thirty paces of him.

There is a friendly screen of jhamun bushes, behind which he creeps, as he thinks, all unseen and unnoted.

Stooping down, he cautiously and gently presses aside the intervening twigs, and there—right in front of him—not twenty paces away—he sees a sight that sets his ears tingling—causes his nerves to twitch, and his face to flame, as every drop of blood goes bounding at accelerated speed through every vein of his intensely excited and eager frame.

Briggs, mind you, was no coward. Not he! Briggs was as bold as a lion, and about as inexperienced as a gosling.

His few sporting experiences hitherto had been in the shires at home, and after a hotter* pack, for a short time killing jackals in a sporting civil station in Lower Bengal.

His first impulse was to yell out "Yoicks tally ho!"

His second impulse, quick as thought, was to bring his gun to his shoulder.

There, right in front of him, quite out in the open, lay a magnificent tigress on her side! Her lithe tail twitched spasmodically from side to side, with short, sharp, nervous jerks. A sleek pair of well-grown cubs sprawled playfully about her majestic form; and like a great cat as she was, she rolled about, now on her back, now on her side, now right over, with ears back, and great mustachios twitching, and mighty paws held aloft, the cruel claws extending and retracting, and for a minute the gleaming fangs showing like a fleck of white upon a blood-red ground, as the file-like tongue licked the paws. She was for a wonder quite off her guard, and all unconscious of the near proximity of a foe.

That suggestive tongue and those gleaming fangs sobered Briggs like a sudden douche of cold water. The flame died away from his cheeks, his quivering nerves became rigid as steel, all in an instant.

He had brought his piece to full cock, and the noise, slight as it was, had apprised the graceful but suspicious and cruel beast that her solitude had been invaded.

Lithe and light, swift as thought, and supple as an eel, she bounded up, and for a moment she stood with angry green eyes glaring at the bushes, behind which lay the rash intruding Briggs. The two cubs, with backs arched, their bristles stiff, and spitting like angry torn cats, had, as if by an electric touch, found themselves cowering behind the alarmed tigress mother. What a picture of savage life!

For the life of him Briggs could have done no other than he did. . . . He fired!!

His hand must have been shaking, though he swears to this day that he was as cool as a cucumber.

Bang! went the piece! The bullet went singing harmlessly away over the waving reeds in the swampy dingle. The monkeys shook the branches with both hands, screamed, barked hoarsely, and "raised Cain generally." The little squirrel rushed in wild affright to the topmost bough of his friendly tree; and the slouching jackal with his harem turned tail and died incontinently from the scene.

A thin spiral column of smoke curls up above the Jhmumn, bushes, and, if one had been near, a muttered exclamation which sounded very like a British expletive of one syllable, and beginning with "a big bigI," might have been distinctly heard.

The angry green light flashes lurid and uncanny in the eyes of the crouching tigress now. Her creamy paunch presses the ground, and her terrible striped flanks are twitching and quivering with nervous and muscular force, as she lays her ears back, and draws aside her cruel lips, so that her gleaming fangs are clearly seen.

What an embodiment of devilish cruelty, of hate and savagery incarnate!

"God help you now, good Briggs, if your second bullet speeds as idly as the first!"

Bang! Crash! The report and the spring are simultaneous.

The bullet has found a billet this time; but the cruel claws and teeth have got home too.

"When, some half-an-hour later, the cavalcade of elephants reached the spot, we found poor Briggs half dead from pain and loss of blood; a fearful seam across his brow, laying both temples bare, and a great ugly, punctured wound in his thigh, where the dying tigress had made her teeth meet.

The bullet had gone right through the fierce brute's heart, but she had made good her charge. With one terrific sweep of her great paw she had almost scalped poor Briggs. He had instinctively ducked his head and thus saved his life; for had the tigress caught him fair, she would doubtless have dislocated his neck, and ended his sporting career there and then for ever. This blow stunned him, and he remembered no more until we brought him to with a drop of brandy forced between his clenched teeth. The tigress had fallen in a heap upon him, and beyond the last dying bite in his thigh, and a few insignificant bruises and scratches, he was otherwise unhurt.

The little group of attendants down in the hollow had after a time mustered up courage, being emboldened by the stillness, and when we arrived, we found them attempting to staunch the wounds of poor Briggs, and with his poor torn scalp resting on the prostrate body of his slain foe, he did look a most ghastly and distressful sight indeed.

"Well, what happened next?"

"I need not keep you in suspense. Briggs recovered. He had careful nursing and skilful surgery, and he has shot many a tiger since then. But—and here lies the moral.

NeveR again on foot!

This misadventure, as you may imagine, spoilt our sport, and put an end to further proceedings for that day. We conveyed the wounded Briggs back to my bungalow, sent in to Sitapur for the doctor, and acquainted "The General," by messenger, of the accident, and in the evening we had the satisfaction of seeing his burly form and jovial face at table, and full many a tale of stirring jungle, life and vivid sporting incident did he that night recite to us.

Next day poor Briggs was very feverish and in great pain.

I remained behind with him, as in duty bound, and in truth I was pretty well on the invalid list myself, and "The General," therefore must tell you how they managed to secure the cubs. I simply tell the tale as told to me.

Next morning the Major, with Steel, Green, and the "Old General," made an early start, and sending my pony on to the that, I accompanied the elephants that far; then taking a detour through the forest to see my coolies at work on the several clearings, I rejoined poor little Briggs in the bungalow, and did my best to alleviate his sufferings through the day.

The hunting party meanwhile made good progress down the river, and on arriving at the scene of Briggs's misadventure, they formed line, and proceeded to beat the jungle from south to north. The ground, right in the centre, was too boggy for the elephants, hut din enough was raised to startle, one would have thought, every living tiling out of its recesses. The occupants of the various guddees and homlahs threw clods and stones into every clump of bushes and grass that the elephants could not reach, but not a rustle or sign of any living thing rewarded their efforts.

Knowing well how close a tiger will lie, and rightly assuming that the cubs would not likely have gone far from cover, The General" was not satisfied, even after they had thus beaten the jungle twice lengthways, and once again across from corner to corner.

A number of the natives having become emboldened somewhat by the apparent absence of anything uncanny, now boldly leapt into the jungle, and plunging about in the miry and uncertain foothold, belaboured the bushes and clumps with their long lathees, poked their spears into every likely recess, and had gone nearly three-parts through the tangled brake, when a joyful shout from Green announced a discover}'. lie had gone saunteringly and quite aimlessly round to the northern end of the little valley, and passing close to a rather overhanging ledge of rock which jutted forward from the hillside, he discovered in a sparse fringe of trailing bushes the objects of their quest.

There lay the two little vixens, not bigger than spaniels, their green eyes glaring in the semi-obscurity; and with their backs set against the hollow in the cleft rock, they snarled and spat and showed their teeth in such defiant fashion as to make the attempt to capture them alive anything hut an inviting or engaging task.

At Green's shout a number of the beaters near the edge of the jungle hurried up, and presently the Major jolted up on his elephant to enjoy the spectacle of the lucky find.

Now, right in the centre of the morass, in the most inaccessible part of it, there was a dense tangled patch of jungle, consisting of Thamun and other bushes all interlaced and tangled together; the still black water showing clear around the gnarled and twisted roots and branches. A sort of natural platform had been formed by the deposition of layers of flood-wrack at different times; and both "The General" and Steel, who were old, experienced shikarees, had noted the spot as just the very place a leopard would choose for a stronghold.

They had noticed, too, that while a few egrets and water-hens had been flushed from other parts of the swarm, not a solitary bird had been seen near this most likely of all spots, where they might have been most looked for.

The beaters, too, seemed to manifest a strange and suspicious aversion to going near the place; and the elephants betrayed a very suggestive and significant inquietude when brought as close up to it as the nature of the boggy ground permitted.

At the first beat Steel had said, "By Jove! what a place for leopard!"

"The General" now came up, and quietly said to Steel—

"I say, old man, I could almost swear there's something lying up in that Uaree there"—pointing to the tangled thicket 1 have just described.

"Hi! Gopal!" he shouted to a lean, cadaverous, old fellow, who stood apart from the others, on the bank.

Gopal, tucking up his clothes inside his waistbelt,

immediately responded to the summons, and plunged into the jungle

"Gopal," said "The General," in a low tone and in Hindostanee, "we think there's a janwar inside here. The others are afraid to go in—are you afraid?"

""Whatever "the Protector of the Poor' orders, that will his slave perform," was the ready answer of Gopal.

"Bravo! then see! get round if possible to that firm landing-stage on the other side, and note the signs."

"Buhut utchha," was all the response. Divesting his wiry frame of every shred of clothing, and handing his clothes up to the mahout, keeping only his puggaree on which he more tightly wound round his elf-like locks, Gopal, cautiously probing with his iron-bound staff, and feeling the inky, oozy depths in front of him, slipped in up to his shoulders, and half swimming, half floundering, lurched across the worst part of the treacherous ooze, and presently emerged, dripping with mud and water and slime, on to a quaking sort of island, right in the centre of the swamp, whereon no foot of beater had yet trod.

One quick glance around, a step or two forward, a close, peering scrutiny among the sedge and bushes, then with a quick, lithe, backward motion, Gopal .seemed to glide like a snake backwards into the water again, and hurrying back announced to "The General," while his eyes fairly blazed with excitement, that there were evidently not one, but two leopards even now in the thicket. The marks were fresh, and there could be no doubt on the matter.

"Ah. I thought so!"

"Didn't I tell you?" broke simultaneously from the lips of "The General" and Steel. Just at this moment it was that Green's joyful shout announced the discovery of the two tiger cubs, already narrated.

Glad, rather, of the diversion, our two friends made their way out of the jungle, and rejoined Green and the Major, and very shortly the full strength of the party was congregated round the hollow, in the depths of which the two cubs were now plainly visible.

The little beggars were not captured without a tussle. But at length, by cutting down bundles of reeds, and with these blocking up the sides of the crevice, and then pushing these fascines before them, the natives were able almost to smother the two hapless little cubs, and after a deal of scuffling and excitement the two young tigers were fairly caught, enveloped in country-made blankets, and, despite their snarling and fighting and biting, were .strapped and tied down, and consigned to safe keeping.

"Now, boys," said "The General," "we had better have a go at the leopards."

"A go at the leopards?" said the Major. "What leopards?"

"What do you mean?" queried Green.

"Mean! " quoth Steel. "he, means that there's a pair of leopards in the Baree there, that's all!"

The others were still incredulous, till Gopal was recalled and re-examined, and then the ardour of the chase revived, and it was resolved to make a determined effort to dislodge the two spotted robbers from their stronghold.

"Well, to make a long story short, they tried for over two hours to force the leopards to break.

Despite large promises of reward, the beaters only perfunctorily performed their functions. Gopal was the only one that would venture across the Stygian bog; and he. armed with a puggaree full of stones, once again forced his way across; and although he succeeded in actually getting a glimpse of one of the leopards, he could not prevail on. them to break.

Fact was, the two brutes knew well enough the impregnability of their position.

This fact by-and-by became discernible to "the General."

"Boys! it's no use," he said. "They will never break while so many of us are all around. Small blame to them! let's go to lunch."

So posting various scouts to keep watch, an adjournment was made for tiffin, and a messenger was despatched on horseback for sundry persuaders from the bungalow, in the shape of native bombs and other fireworks, which pre very often used in like circumstances, where the beaters are afraid to enter the cover," as in the present ease; and as a rule the- bombs are used with signal success.

So it was on this occasion.

A dead silence settled down over the little swampy alley, so recently the scene of wild din and commotion. Possibly the leopards thought the danger all over. They were mistaken if they thought anything of the kind.

It was now getting late in the afternoon, and the shadows were lengthening. "The General" had posted his men judiciously and well. The messenger had returned with a load of fire bombs. The beaters, now swelled by various additions from the villages round the jungle, were marshalled in imposing array by "The General" himself; and then, at a given signal, they gave tongue like a pack of hounds, pressed into the covert, and when near enough, the old Director of the Hunt, igniting one—two—three of the bombs, hurled them with all his force right into the heart of the dense covert, where it was known the sulky and treacherous quarry lurked.

The combined din of the yelling beaters rent the air. The very elephants seemed to catch the contagion and trumpeted shrilly with excitement. The sputtering bombs fizzled and crackled, and emitted a dense grey column of smoke, and then breaking into active ignition, there was a hissing roar, as they volleyed forth their pent-up fires; and with a sharp note of rage and defiance the two leopards sprang from their long hugged covert, and while one foil at once to a well-directed shot from Steel, who was advantageously posted, the other doubled like a hare, sprang unharmed through the beaters, and quickly disappeared over the brow of the eminence right behind the line.

The wounded one lay sprawling and floundering, mailing impotent attempts to get up and do mischief; but it was "spined " (the shot had been a lucky one); arid presently it got its "coup de grace," and was padded.

Then away went the whole cavalcade in hot pursuit after the survivor of the long and wearisome beat.

They never caught it up.

So ended a very memorable hunt. Briggs was so bad that he had to be taken into the station, and I became so ill that I had in a few days to follow him; and shortly afterwards I left the Oude jungles, never again I fear to revisit them, and for many months—first at Bombay, then at Bareilly with my brother, then in Calcutta—I fairly fought with death, and by-and-by, after long, long months of pain and weariness, I found renewed health and a fresh lease of life in the glorious atmosphere of sunny Australia, laden with the scent of the fragrant gum trees, and redolent with the perfume of the golden wattle bloom.

Before closing these sketches of my old forest life, however, I must narrate an adventure which befell my dear old forest companion "The General."

However strained and unnatural may seem the narrative, I have reason to believe it is not one whit exaggerated; and nothing I could relate of my own personal experiences could more vividly bring before the mind of the reader the wild life and startling vicissitudes which pertain to the lot of the lonely pioneer in a frontier Indian district.


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