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Major Monsoon's Tiger Story

Major Monsoon's Tiger Story image
Parent Issue
Day
16
Month
July
Year
1886
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

"Thank you, I think I will take another cheroot, old fellow - they're a first rata brand, but not quite the sort I keep for my own smoking- and pass the brandy; thank you; your brandy's good brandy, ray doar boy, but not very good brands. One can't aspect it at the seaside." The Major took another cheroot f: om the frail but odotous dark cedar box, bound with red; he also condeecendingly filled himself a particularly stift third tumbler of brandy and water. I say brandy and water, but the sxpressioo is scarcely correct, for, as ho told me, ever since a fit of hydro phobia at Kollywallah, up at thefoot of the hill country, he had acquired a strong dislike to water, and a grateful recoliection of the brandy which had preservad his valuable life. The Major was a full habited, middle sized, middle aged man, with a bruised, flattish, red face, rather staring blue eyes, and a noisy, good humoved, impudent manner that nothing could daunt. He wore a straw hat with a blue band, an immense gilt doublé eytglass, tied with a broad black ribbon, a loóse light snit of a palé nankeen color, very small dancing shoes, and carried a large silvermounted Penang "lawyer." I scarcely knowhow Ipickedup thegallant officer,but on theeighth day of my stay in Ramsgate I had got so tired of shriiiips, raffles, bathing, using a telescope, and slopping around on weedy rocka, tbat I had begun to look out for a companion on the Esplanade seats. But he whom I looked for in vain there met me unsought, in the billiard rooms on the clifi. At that gonteel establishment I found the major laughing, talking, telling stories, executingunparalleledcarroms, betting condescendingly with very juvenile boating men, and drinking brandy pawnee, at some young amateur commodore's expense, with a manner as totally free from pride as it was radient with the urbanityof theofficer and the traveler. The major was one of those indeBcribable men who can be seen any day between four and dark, looking into the clgar shops in Regent street, lounging about the doors of billiard rooms in Leioeater square, dozing on seats in St. James' Park, or reading the American newa with a severe air in Wild's roadlog room; an indefinite man of indefinita occupationa. An ïdler tirod of himself could not, however, have discovered a more talkative, cheery, rattling, good-natured companion tlian the major. He had, like myself, auparent-ly found Kanisgate dul), forlie lost no opportunity m eultivating my acquaintance, and, as he lodged ouiy threo doors from me in Seaside Terrace, there was seldom an evening whau the major did not drop in to take hls cofïee and smoke his cigar In my baloony. It was on the fourth evening of our acquaintance that tho major, having lighted his fonrth eheroot and mixed, as I havo sa.id, hÍ3 third glass of braudy and water, sank down luxuriously in a rooking chair, tucked his legs by a violent exertion (for I should mention that he was a little lama) on a sfccond chair, and, with an air of almos't Buitanic enjoyment, commenced the following story of one of his most remarkable achiavements in the hunting field: ''Twenty yar3 ago,"said the major, "I commanded a detachment of my native regiment, 'The Fightiug HalrHundred' (as we were called, from our behavior in the Burmese war) at a little village called Kollywallah, in the northeast corner of the Jabbalpore district of the Bengal prasitlonoj-. It was near a jungle full of tigers; and as we soon put down the paltry tax riots that had brought us to Kollywallah, and time began tohang heavy on our hands, I and Twentyman, the only other officer, naturally took to tiger hunting, which exciting amusement soon beeame a passion with us. In six months there was nota ryot at Kollywallah who did not know me as 'the Great Shikarree," and it was all 1 could do to prevent the people from worshiping me and my hunting elephant, 'Ramchunder.' "One morning, when Twentyman was down with jungle fever, and I was eitting by his side reading 'Charles O'Malley in the balcony of our bungalow, which 'gave' on the cantonment, I heard a great noise as of a crowd of natives trying to force their way in past my native servants. Poor Twentyman, who was fretful with want of sleep, beginning to groan and complain at the noise, I ran out with my big hunting whip, and licking the niggers all round, asked them what tbe.y meant by making such a cursed notse. "Choop ruho ekdum' ('be silent immediately') I shouted. "Tho kitmutgar, an oldgray-headed fellow who had been butler to my fjithet', the General, cama salaaming forward when he saw me, and said: "'Sahib, sahib, the country people from Moonje have come to ask sahib to come and shoot a white tiger - a inaueater- which bas already lcilled an old woman, six children and ten bullocks.' "Out I went, just as I was, in my slippers, and sure enough at the gate of the compound, if you'lj believe me, theie were about lui) nativas, aalaaining, tom-tomming, and playiag the Mahadeo to aoftn the sahib's beart and Induce hím to listen to thom and couie and kill the wliita tiger. I promised to do what I oould, if thay would iupply baaters, aa; would ba ready at. the jungla next day with their usual heat hen ish and unsportsmanlike parapheriiilia of nativa drums, bells, horns and metal pana with stooes in theta. Off they went, throwing somervaults and ahouting like children, civlling roe ovory blaased name they could lay thoir tonguea on, and promi-iii to mustor in force at the place appjinte1, bhough thoy were half of them tiger worshippera at Moonjaand wor.ld not have let me kill the animal if he hadn't turnod a 'man-eater.' "Baak I want to Twontyman, who was sitting up In bod, more cheerful, eating soma fruit. 'Wriat's tho row, JackT" said he, rjuitfl in his old voice. "I told hún thafc the people of Moonje wantod n-,p to go nnrt kill a 'nianoater,' bul 1 didn't like leaving hiin. " Then you go, old boy,' said he 'for Dr. Johnson came in just as you left, and saya I'm twice the man I was yesterday; 111 get along well enough with a book and a cheroot or two." 'And may I take your doublé barrelled breech-loader?" " ' Of coiirse; anything I have, Monsoon. Johnson says Moonje has been full of tigera ever since the last Rajah took to preserving them, and made it death to kill one; but for God's sake, Monsoon, take care of yourself. Thost man-eaters are no joke, and if I were you I would ride td Poonahjar and get Simpson and Dever to go too.' " 'No,' said I, 'Twentyman. This is an affair of danger, and 111 stalk the beast alone. There shall be no Englishman but myself to share the glory.' "'You areapluckyfelIow.Monsoon,' said Twentyman. 'As you like, but for my own part, I'd rather have one Englishman than a thousand of those noi'sy devils, with theirinfernal drums and horns. They'd spoü an angel's shooting.' "The rest of that day I spentin preparing for the tigercampaign at Moonje. I put on my red-brown shooting coat, made of stuff of that peculiar dry leaf color usually worn by Indian tiger hunters, and which I was the first to introduce into the presidency. The plaii of this coat was my own invention; it had fourteen pockets, each designed fora special purpose, and never used for any other. It held caps, gun pieker, tlgers' fatforgreasinglocks, spare nipples, gun-screws a smallboot jack (the use of which I will teil you presently),a knife with sixteen blades, greased patches, iron bullets,cartridges, a pocket revolver, hook, a dried tongue, fusees, a sketch book, a cigar case, a powder horn, a small key bugle, a camp stool, and a few other items, useful to a man of several resources. "As this white tiger I was to fight had escapedthenativepitfalls, poison, spring guns, and other strategems of the crafty natives of thejungle village, I feit that at last I had met a foeman worthy of my arm, and Iprepared for a gigantic effort. I filled Ramchunder's howdah with tulwahs (keen native swords), double-barrelled guns, rockef,8 and boar spears; so that, keeping that sagacious animal near me fastened to a tree, I could return to him at any time for fresh weapons and for lunch; for, even in my enthusiasm for the chase, I did not forget some cold fowls and two or three bottles of champagne, etc; my khansamah, or butler, was to sit in the howdah and attend to the commissariat and general stores. "The day came. Ifelt a strange glow of pleasure, mingled with a strange presentiment of danger which I could not shake off, dowhatl might. However, I said nothing to Twentyman, who wished me every success. and off I went on Ramchunder, who seemed proud to share in the adventure; which was more than the cowardly khansamah was, for his teeth shook like castanets, and he dropped a bottle of bitter beer in sheer nervousness in packing. At last we were ready. '"Juhlde jao!' ('go quick') cried I to the mahout; and off trotted old Ramchunder to the side of the Moonje jungle, where all the beaters had assembled. "If you'll believe me, even at the takin of Mooltan there wasn't sucha gol mol (I am agaln talking Hindostanee - I mean, inpure English, 'row') as when about 200 of the native tellows began to break into the iunglo of praus trees and korindashrubs, firing matchiocks, yelling like fiends broke loóse, rattling metal pans, ringing bella and blowing horiw; while half a dozeh of the boldest and most active of the beaters were snt on to climb trees and give notice if the man-eater stole away in their direction. It was arranged that I was to lie in wait, with Ramchunder, opposite to one of the most tigerish places; a crossing over a dry nullah, or ravine, where three native postmen had been carried ofl on consecutive days by the same tiger. "And now again the presentnnent weighed upon me as soon as I found myself alone with that miserable funky oíd khansamah, who did nothing but mutter prayers from the Koran and look at his amulet of tigers' claws. I tell you, sir, all sorts of disagreeable anecdotes came fermenting up in my mind. I thought of how Major Bunsen, in the Forty-third, had died in four hours of loekjaw from a scratch he received from a tiger's claws; and of how Captain Charters, of the Pourth Light Infantry, was found dead in the júnele from a tiger bite. "I had been partieularlycareful with Dostee Pooloo, the captain of the bearers, as to tigers, for these rascáis generally frequent the sairm pot. and I had every reason to suppose that 1 should soon have my hands full. " 'Dostee Pooloo, my boy,' said I, handing him a cheroot (for theniggers like you to be civil), 'be sure and drive everything that is in the jungle sou'westerly, for if I am far away from Ramchunder and the guns, when they break covert, there'll be a blank space left for me at the mess-table to-morrow.' When I said this, Dostee Pooloo showed all his box of teeth, and I saw that he was game to do just what I wished, so long as he hadn't to fight the tiger himself. "Havingplanted my old khansamah with Ramchunder and the cold fowls, champagne, and thedoubled-barrelled rifles near an old palm tree, withstrict injunctions not to move, 1 stole ofl down the nuliah whish-whish, as the natives say- which means very gently. "I suppose I had not gone more than 300 yards from where I left the khansamah, before a path to the right, trodden down as if by wild boars through a tract of tall, dry, dusty jungle giass, burnt by the sun to a pala straw color, attracted my attention. The beaters seemed to rouse nothing, and I began to think the story of the white tiger all a humbug and a sham. "The path led on past a little tope of cocoanut palm, strune with fruit. Curiosity and a natural love of adventure carrying me on, I followed it for some hundred yards till I saw the patch a few yards betore me open out into a sort of natural amphitheatre, beyond which lay the dry bed of a small jvater-course, the surface of which, f you'll believe me, sir, was one vast tangle of enormous jungle flowers - great crimson fellovvs, big as teacups, and smolling of muskand patchouli; ropes of creeping plants binding tree to tree, and strung with setnted yellow blossoms and trails of thlngs like tulips, only a largo as my hat, and with purple-bell flowers every half inch ilown the stalk. "In a Binall open space surrounded by deep Moonje rass, and only visible from the higher clump of ground whero they sunned themselves, strutted half a dozen peacocks. I had just knelt down and covered the biggest of them with my rifle- a splendid fellow, with a great fan-tail, all green and purpla - when, lo and behold! what should come skipping from tree to tree but a whole tribe of monkeys, chattering, chasing each other, holding each othor's tails, andcuttingsuch capers f hat it was all I could do to keep from laughing out and spoiling the whole game. "I had scarcely readjusted my aim, which these monkeys had thrownout, before, from out of the jungle close to me, ran three lit.tle -.."H deer and a wild hoi;, and lie-jan rtiomu aboiB as f that spot was their regular playground, and yel with a sort of fascinated stare and alarm that made me suspect in8chief. 1 determined, however, come qui coute, to see tho thing out, so I drew the brandy tkisk from íiiy No. 13 pocket, and took a sup to steady niy hand. Before I had put it back, snre enougli, out bet ween two champa trees carne a tremendous beast of a boa conatrictor, as large round as a bolwtei, and 70 ieet long, if he was an inch - his acales wet and shining with the dew, and hè writhing and undulating like an enormous caterpillar. "If you'll belicvo nio, sir, surprised aa I was, I liad slill presence of raind enough to aim lirm and str.-idy at his nearest eye, thinking whstt a triumph it would be to take him home to poor Twentyman. When what Ishouldsee about twenty feet beyond this beast but some strange object waving in the grass! I covered it with my rille, and was just going to press thetrigger with my forefinger, when I heard a rush, andan enormous tiger,clearing the boa conatrictor, leaped a space of nearly 40 feet (as I afterwards rneasured), before I could readjust my piece. "It was the white tiger - the-maneater - I feit sure of it at the first glance; a splendid fellow, full 13 feet íong, of a palé tawny cream color striped with dark brown his chest almost white. "If you'll believe me, sir, as he held me and shook me in his niouth, I felt no pain and no terror, but a sort of almost pleasant benumbed dro wsiness and a strange curioslty as to how the brute would eat me. I could hear the deer, monkeys and snake scuttle off as ho shook me, as a cat does a mouse or a terrier a rat. Then I tried to eet a pistol from pocket No. 13, and fainted. "Before I carne to, full half an hour must have elaps'ed. There I lay in a nest of dry Moonje grass. I feit that the monster was still over me. I feit his pestilential breathing on my face even in my swoon. Yes, therehe was, his enormous length reclining beside me, his striped taü sweepingacross my feet at every vibration - his head turned from me. If you'll believe me, sir, he had actually munched and chewed the whole of my left leg from the toe to the knee; he had eaten about three feet of it, sir (pardon the awkwardness of the expression), during my swoon." "Chewed; Major Monsoon?" I cried in an angry, expostulatory voice. "Why, there areyour two legs as sound as mine!" "Pooh! pooh! my dear sir,"saidhe, without a smile and quite unruffled, holding out his left leg to me to pinch, "the leg he munched was cork then, as it is now, and as it has been ever since. A cannon ball took of its fleshy predecessor at the siege of Mooltan. One happy result of it being cork, aa you may imagine, was that it took the beast some time to get throngh, and that the beast didn't hurt me mach. "I opened my eyes quietly when I found what he was at, for he kppt growling and snarling over the rather indigestible meal, and I began to look round me to see where my rille was. If you'll believe me, sir, there it lay, full cocked, not three inches from my right hand. "My first thought was to ateal my hand along and get hold of my rifle, but the instant I moved even a limb, the beast of a 'ma-n-eater' began to fjrowl, and evinced a dangerous disposition to leave my cork leg and settle on the more valuable one of flesh. I therefore, for the moment, abanioned the attempt, and resigned myself to death; for it seerned certain that when the beast had finished the cork lea and began to taste my blood, he would turn and devour me. "I was sutliciently cool, even in this horrible emergency, to cast eyes around to see if I was wounded. I found no wound but discovered that the tiger had in seizing me torn off and probably devoured the tenth and eleventh pockets of my shooting jacket. I listened for the beaters, but could hear no voice or sound. They had either gone so far off that they were out of hearing, or what was more likely, they had been alarmed by the tiger and had Hd. For they're poor creatures, the niggers, in anyreal danger. "I now, therefore, gave myself up as lost; the tiger was still gnawing my cork knee and had one paw lying a8 heavy as lead on my other leg, wnen suddenly, if you'll believe me the beast yawned twice, nodded his head and feil fast asleep. I saw it all in a moment. He had swallowed, in my No. 10 pocket, a largo bottle of morphine, - the bimeconate of morphine, an American prparation of great strength - that I ahvays carried with me when I went tigor himting, in caso of an attack of neuralgia, to which I was subject after I had two-thirds of my teeth carried away by a matchlock bullct at Bundelcore. Now was my oppoitunity. There lay the great striped beast fast asleep. I stole my hand gently toward my rifle. I grasped it. I cocked it. I looked at the clean copper cap, held the muz.le close to the brute's ear and fired. With a yell - a groan- the beast feil. I leaped up at the same moment to avoid his fatal claws, and gave him the second barrel behind the right paw, close to the heart. He groaned, stretched out his legs, tore the earth in long scratches you might lay your hands in, and feil dead. J took out my repeater. It was exaetly three minutes past 2 p. m. I had started from the bungalow at Kolly wallah at 7 A. M. Then a giddiness carne over me, and I fainted again. "I was awoke by something soft touching my fuce. I looked lip. Kind heaven! It was Ramchunder, with the beast of akhansamah dead drunk in the howdah, and with one of my silver topped champagnebottlea in his hand. I instantlycalledout, 'Pukrao!' which is Hindostanee for 'take hold,' and, if you'll believe me, sir, the sagacious animal, whom I had trained to this, lifted me up with his proboscis into the howdah; for how could I move, you know, with my cork leg all eaten away? "The first thing I did was - what do you think?" I could not guess. "The first thing I did, sir, was to punch that beast of a khansamah's head, to be sure, and then go in search of Dostee Pooloo and those cowardly nigger beaters. "If you'll believe me, sir, we found them in the nearest village, two miles off, cooking rice at a lire, and telling the people how the sahib had been killed by the man-eater. So what did I do but ride in aniong them on Ramchunder and give the fellows such a welting with the whip of my buggy, which I alwaye ca.iried for that purpose, that they feil on their knees and cried for mercy. '"Juhlde joa, Dostee Pooloo,' I cried, 'and bring home tho tiger on a stretcher of champa boughs. You'll önd him in such a place.' "Go they did, and three hours after, just at sunset we entered Kdllywallah in procession, firing guns, letting oi rockets, the niggers shouting songa about the sahib and the tiger. Twentyman was deliglited to see me, for he had given me up tor lost, as one of the beaters had run to the bungalow and told him I was killed." The next morning, when I cilled ni íhe major's lodings, I found, to my astonisliment, he liad left by the 6 a. m. train desiriag thelandlady to eend in his bill to his brother at No 25. Hiabrotherl But I feit bound iu honor to pay it. On closely considering the story of Major Monsoon's remarkable escape froin the tiger, I found several alarming diserepancies that led to doubt in niy mind as to its entire veracity. Breech loaders were not, I think, invented 20 years aeo, and, now I think of it, I regret I did" not pinch liis leg hard - to make sure it really wascork. P. S.- The other day, too, at the Oriental Club, I was telling the story to Colonel Curry, when he made the ïollowing remark:- "My uear Foozle, the fellow was humbugging you, take my word for it. Monsoon is a traditional name in Indian, and is often tagged on to native storiea. There was a Colonel Monsoon, I believe, about Lake's time, on whom the Ilindoos wrote thia dispatch: - Qhora per howdah, hutti pur een, Juldee bahar jata Colonel Monseen, which means in English: Saddloa onelephants, howdaba on horses, MoriBoon ran away with the whole ot his torces. "And, depend on it, that's what the dog borrowed his name from. Here, waiter, another bottle of sherry."

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Ann Arbor Democrat