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.
-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
without, with a message for " His Highness "—that was for ins. (A shutr
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
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
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
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
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
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
"Hold hard!" I hissed out to Briggs.
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
two leopards even
now in the thicket. The marks were fresh, and there could be no doubt on the
"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
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
"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,
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
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
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.