Page images
PDF
EPUB

fretted and craved for the release, but week, chiefly to light his pipe and lift we are told that, as he sat alone by his to his lips a tonic which he had to fireside preparing to face the eternities, take, as he could do neither himself, he said to Lecky, “The two things I and he used to sink into long unbroken think of most are the stars and the lit silences. He was still, however, able tle children." And the last picture to take in a little reading, and just bewhich Mr. Lecky draws for us of the fore his last illness I read to him some old prophet is infinitely pathetic: "I of Burns's letters, the last book, I used to dine with him regularly once a think, he tried to read." Chambers's Journal.

A. Stodart Walker.

THE COLLECTOR AND THE TIGER.

I saw my first tiger in a scrub-jungle say, and not over-much English to say two miles from the Nepal frontier. We it in. Still that never depresses a were out camping—the Collector and I Bengali. He begged his Honor most ---making an inspection of the more re- respectfully to believe that the sole mote police "thanas" or outposts, and thing he really cared about in this the day before, under a brilliant Jan- world was the performance of his duty. uary sun, we had ridden twenty miles Only the district he had to inspect was: from one to another along the ploughed a large one-forty miles by thirty. His fields and grassy wastes, intersected Honor was mistaken in thinking it with river-courses, some old, some new, smaller. Or the map might be wrong. some dried-up, some brimming with In any case there were many villages limpid water, that make this less- in it-countless villages, full of timid known portion of Bengal at once so people, who, if a dacoity occurred, did monotonous and so fascinating. In not help the police at all. They were the end we came to what was a unique afraid to. That was because the daformation for that part-a low inland coits could so easily be avenged on cliff. There we found our tents pitched them. In a few hours of the night just over the dried bed of a stream, they could come over from Nepal terriand a Bengali sub-inspector of police tory, fall upon witnesses and kill them, awaiting us in the dreadful mustard- and return before dawn. They were colored uniform and pork-pie cap which the most audacious men. Only two the Government has ordained for these days ago they had actually stolen an usually fat servants.

elephant-a valuable female elephant He was a wily man, this sub-in- belonging to a Babu who lived close by spector. There had been many da- -and had gone off with it. Such a coities in the neighborhood, and it was thing was unheard of. the Collector's business to demand, in The Collector interposed to say that a cold-blooded and menacing manner, this was exactly what he thought himwhy the police had apparently done self. Such a thing was not only unnothing to stop them. Did the sub-in- heard of, but if heard of again would spector suppose that he was stationed suggest the inference that the sub-inthere just in order to enjoy himself? spector was grossly neglecting his duty, Or was he perhaps in league with the and would require to be removed. dacoits? What had he to say about the Thereupon the sub-inspector's face fell, matter?

and only lighted up after the Collector, The sub-inspector had a great deal to having given one of those brief lectures, at once moral and practical, "By a panther, no doubt?" said the which only Anglo-Indian officials of Collector jeeringly. experience can give, in this case, "By a big bagh," said the sub-inupon the method of following up clues spector with great seriousness,—“so and the need of eschewing idleness,, big, that it is like a horse." He measinquired if there was any shikar in the ured the air up to eight feet. “People neighborhood.

in the village have seen it. There are You can impress a Bengali, but you many small baghs, too,-panthers,—but cannot beguile him. I was watching this is a big one. Very big It is the sub-inspector's face as the Col- bigger than a horse. Your Honor will lector put that question quite dispas- go after it, perhaps, to-morrow mornsionately, and I could see flashing over ing?" it the idea that the Collector was a “Yes--if you find some tic kabbar,” great hunter, that of all things the said the Collector. "But it must be Sahib loves most to shoot a big bagh, tic." and that if he were the means of put- The sub-inspector went off, saying it ting his Honor on the track of a big should be very tic indeed. "Tic" bagh, which would then assuredly be means accurate, and it therefore means killed, he would be remembered by his what no Bengali ever is. NevertheHonor not as a policeman who had less, as the Collector said, it would be failed badly to catch dacoits, but as worth trying for a tiger if the jungle one who had helped intelligently to was not too thick. Tigers are not so set before him a tiger. All men, says plentiful in Bengal nowadays (except, the East, are corruptible; and here, of course, in the Sunderbunds, where thought the sub-inspector, was the the trees are so dense and the air so Collector's weak point.

pestilent that hunting is about 90 per "There is undoubtedly a bagh near cent in favor of the tiger) that one can by," he said after a pause. "A big afford to miss a chance, and this part bagh."--he measured the air with his of the district was reported to contain hand up to about six feet.

a few. At all events, we might get a How do you know?" said the Col.leopard. Unlike tigers, leopards lector.

(usually known as panthers) are in"Only a month ago a cow was taken creasing all over the country. They two miles from where your Honor's con conceal themselves in any patch tents stand."

of grass, whereas the tiger cannot, and “What is the good," asked the Col- seeras to resent the gradual cutting lector, "of telling me that a cow was down of forests that made his once im. taken a month ago? The bagh that penetrable home. Where he still surtook it may have travelled fifty miles vives up-country is in some stretch of since then!"

tree-jungle that can scarcely be beaten “But, your Honor," said the sub-in- with fewer than twenty or thirty elespector, with the readiness verbally to phants. Unluckily no more of these retrieve a mistake which is again so were to be obtained by us than the Oriental, “another cow was taken the two that happened to be yet with us, night before last.”

after having brought on some of our "Only you forgot to mention it?” camp outfit.

Two, however, were bet"I was about to mention it," said the ter than none, and a third was eventsub-inspector. "It was a full-grown ually added to us by the good offices of cow, and was dragged some dis- the sub-inspector. Having vouched for tance."

the presence of a tiger, he seemed determined that at least all due prep- misunderstood, smiled assentingly. arations should be made for its extinc- The Collector also smiled, and they tion. He had sent out three watch- deemed the moment favorable. men to ascertain if any more cows had “Yes, we are cordy," said one of been killed; and himself turned up at them, “but in your Honor's company our tents later that same evening to we should not fear. We may come?" say that, if his Honor was willing, "All right," said the Collector. two Babus-the schoolmaster of the vil- "Only mind you don't hold your guns lage and the nephew of a Zemindar- in my direction." would be gratified if they were al- It seemed rather a blunt way of forelowed to join the expedition, bringing warning members of one's shootingtheir own elephant.

party, but, as the Collector explained to "They are here outside, waiting to me after the Babus had departed, it is hear if your Honor permits,” said the necessary. For choice they will alsub-inspector, waving into the dark- ways hold their guns at a fellow-creaness, where we could dimly see two ture. This makes hunting on a pad bowing figures in the indecent draper- elephant nervous work. A lurch or a ies that Babus affect.

jib on the part of the elephant faced "Are they in the habit of hunting?" suddenly by a wounded tiger, and a asked the Collector, who desired their wild clutch at the pad-rope on the elephant more than their company. part of the Babu, will sometimes

The two figures moved up to the flap cause his gun to go off in any direction door-way of the tent.

rather than the tiger's, especially if "We shoot the panther," said two the Babu happens to be holding it by voices in unison. “We do not of our- the trigger. In taking risks of this selves shoot the tiger."

kind the Babu is fearless enough, but "Why not?” asked the Collector. the Sahib less so.

"Why not?” repeated the sub-in- The Collector was so very much less spector, and there were some mur- so that, on the following morning, bemured explanations between the three fore we started at about nine o'clock, of them. Then the sub-inspector an- he disarmed the Babus of two revolnounced

vers which they had brought with them "Your Honor, they do not shoot the in addition to their guns (one of which tiger because they are cordy men." was muzzle-loading), in case the tiger "Cordy?

came to close quarters; but I do not “Cordy, your Honor.”

fancy they minded the confiscation, and The Collector did not understand, and the sub-inspector, who was to come looked towards me. I shook my head. with us, very much approved of it. He The word, apparently an English one, rode our spare elephant together with was new to me.

one of the Collector's chuprassies, both “What do you mean by cordy?" de-armed for the nonce with shot-guns, manded the Collector.

and he kept shouting directions to the "I mean," the sub-inspector beat Babus how to hold their weapons unabout for what he did mean,—“I mean til the Collector abashed him-for a -I mean-cordy. It is that they are moment or two-by pointing out that cordy--they fear the tiger."

while he was discovering the mote in "Cowardly!" said the Collector with the Babus' eye—so to speak—his own sudden inspiration, and the two Ba- gun was pointed full at the head of bus, who had pressed forward into our the unfortunate chuprassie behind him. lamplight in their anxiety not to be After that the sub-inspector contented

himself with instructing the mahout gle. On the other hand, the jungle in how to drive his elephant.

which the sub-inspector felt sure that It was a perfect day of North Indian the very big bagh did live was a small winter, the sky blue and fleckless to the one, easy to beat. It was this latter horizon, the sun beginning to blaze, the point rather than the sub-inspector's air still cool. From our cliff a long superstition about riding north on view of the plains extended, broken Monday that decided the Collector to here and there by clumps of bamboo try the north jungle, and we entered it and mango groves. Through distant in about three-quarters of an hour silvery sands rivers still more silvery from the time we started, the elemeandered, and tiny cattle dotted the phants having moved well. I find it bare brown fields. As we started easier to praise an elephant after I north along the edge of the cliff, a have got off it than when I am on it, cloud of parrots burst from a tree over- for the reason that when its pace is head, and made the air for a moment most superb and rapid then is the a whorl of glittering green. There man mounted on it most uncomfortmust have been several hundreds of able. No doubt the thing is a matter them. Massed like that, there are only of use and wont. A mahout looks two bird-flights I know to compare fairly comfortable on his steed's neck. with them for beauty,—that of silver So does a Babu on a pad. But then plovers and that of the peacock-col- a Bengali always does look comfortored fowl misnamed the purple coote. able. It is his nature to, except in I have seen all three in this same the dock, when, if he is guilty and he country, and could never decide which thinks the judge may be aware of was the most worth seeing. Perhaps the fact, his toes begin to twiddle. the silver plovers wheeling into the Malaise of that sort is worth watching sunset. It reminded me always of a for-an Indian judge has told me. Our sight that may be viewed at times off Babus looked very comfortable, in our South English coasts—a pilchard spite of their respective guns, which shoal hauled up in the nets under a they had been ordered to bold butt moon.

downwards, being sloped in a deadBut this is by the way, as so many line for one another's heads. fascinating things are in Bengal. It was a jungle consisting chiefly of

I said that we moved north on our scrub-oaks, and to me it somehow elephants, and the reason for that was looked uncommonly small to be the not so much that the sub-inspector had abode of a tiger. It could not have got tic information of a tiger in that been half a mile wide, and its length direction, as that on Monday—he de. was a mile at most. We had just clared—it is lucky to ride north. To passed through a village to enter it, tell the truth, which is more than the and I could see thin smoke indicating sub-inspector could really do, no more another village on the opposite side. definite news about tigers had been "Surely," I said to the Collector, "a forthcoming over night. There were, tiger doesn't live as close to mankind on the other hand, rumors involving as this?" two tigers or more, of which one cer- "Oh, yes," he said. "I shot my first tainly appeared to have its beat to tiger in a very similar place.” the south. Possibly, however, this “But didn't the villagers dislike was only a small bagh—or leopard, - having him there?" I asked. and the jungle in which it lived-if it The wood was lined with paths did live there was a very large jun- through which it was clear the natives passed to their work on either side, go so delicately and thoroughly. Some and it struck me as singularly un- say that for all their horny skin they pleasant to know that when one was can feel the scratch of a dog-rose, with coming home tired after a day's work which the jungle is often thick, and one might find a tiger barring one's I can believe it, from seeing their unway.

willingness to enter a dense patch. *They don't like him," said the Col. Yet they are more earnest than any lector, “any more than your villagers human beater, and a good deal more like a motor going through. But they competent, too, by reason of their long get used to him. I shouldn't wonder strong trunks, when anything has to at all if there was one here."

be had out of close-growing clumps. The elephants had separated a bit. It is not easy, of course, to tell preand were beating the wood in line, cisely which of the work is done by swishing at the thicker cover with the mahout and which by the eletheir trunks, and wheeling in and out. phant; but if there is any shirking, I The first thing that started up—with should be inclined to ascribe it to the an awful clatter-was a pig, and he mahout for choice. bolted before us at a great pace. Both We put up nothing else in our first Babus pointed their guns at the gray beat across the jungle except two streak of him as he vanished, and the jackals, that went off at a gentle canCollector was only just in time to pre- ter, with their ears up, and a few monvent the sub-inspector from firing gooses; and coming back, higher up, without taking aim-“We don't want we had no more success. We did into frighten the tiger away for the sake deed find the skeleton of a cow, but of a pig," he said.

this was old, possibly two months or "No, sir," said the sub-inspector, in more.

The sub-inspector advised quick sympathy with his chief, and that we should move on to a grass hastened to tell the Babus that they jungle hard by the river that separates were not to shoot at pigs. "Shoot Bengal from Nepal, where he now felt only at tigers," he added.

persuaded a bagh would be found. If "And if you shoot," said the Col- it were not, he said, it would be simlector drily, “do not-as the sub-in- ple to cross the river, and beat for a spector does--first place the butt of while on the Nepal side. \ As, howyour gun against the pit of your stom- ever, the entrance of Indian officials ach and shut your eyes.”

into that territory is strictly forbidden "I shall keep them open next time, by treaty, the Collector refused to your Honor," said the sub-inspector, consider it, thereby showing himself as though he had hitherto been experi- less corruptible than the sub-inspector menting with a view to finding out had supposed. He confessed to me what method of discharge was most to that he was sorely tempted, and it bis superior's taste; and we moved on must be a considerable temptation to again in silence, only the mahouts giv- enter at times and commit a dacoity ing an occasional sharp injunction to upon wild beasts. Indigo-planters, their elephants in that mahout lan- who used to go in pretty freely fifteen guage which they say is the same all or twenty years ago, before the auover India and Ceylon.

thorities became too strict, have told Just as in otter-hunting the hound- me that the shooting was magnificent. work is to many the most interesting The Nepalese villagers liked them to part, so in this jungle-beating, ele come and kill off a tiger free of charge. phant-work is. The huge creatures and if an official discovered them, it

« PreviousContinue »