Part 3 out of 4
And you do not believe that any one can be made a better man by any one
else, by any exterior agency, by any good that you or others may do to
him. What makes you what you are is the fact that you really cherish
this beautiful ideal image of your worship and reverence, and love it;
but for this, you would be the most insufferable man of my acquaintance,
instead of being the most agreeable."
Isaacs was gifted with a marvellous frankness of speech. He always said
what he meant, with a supreme indifference to consequences; but he said
it with such perfect honesty and evident appreciation of what was good,
even when he most vehemently condemned what he did not like, that it was
impossible to be annoyed. Every one laughed at his attack on me, and
having satisfied my desire to observe Miss Westonhaugh, which had
prompted my first remark about griffins, I thought it was time to turn
the conversation to the projected hunt.
"My dear fellow," I said, "I think that in spite of your Parthian shaft,
your definition of a cynic is as complimentary to the school at large as
to me in particular. Meanwhile, however," I added, turning to Mr.
Ghyrkins, "I am inclined to believe with Lord Steepleton that the
subject uppermost in the thoughts of most of us is the crusade against
the tigers. What do you say? Shall we not all go as we are, a neat party
"Well, well, Mr. Griggs, we shall see, you know. Now, if we are going at
all, when do you mean to start?"
"The sooner the better of course," broke in Kildare, and he launched
into a host of reasons for going immediately, including the wildest
statistics about the habits of tigers in winter. This was quite natural,
however, as he was a thorough Irishman and had never seen a tiger in his
life. Mr. Currie Ghyrkins vainly attempted to stem the torrent of his
eloquence, but at last pinned him on some erratic statement about tigers
moulting later in the year and their skins not being worth taking.
Kildare would have asserted with equal equanimity that all tigers shed
their teeth and their tails in December; he was evidently trying to
rouse Mr. Ghyrkins into a discussion on the subject of tiger shooting in
general, a purpose very easily accomplished. The old gentleman was soon
goaded to madness by Kildare's wonderful opinions, and before long he
vowed that the youngster had never seen a tiger,--not one in his whole
life, sir,--and that it was high time he did, high time indeed, and he
swore he should see one before he was a week older. Yes, sir, before he
was a week older, "if I have to carry you among 'em like a baby in arms,
sir, by gad, sir--I should think so!"
This was all we wanted, and in another ten minutes we were drinking a
bumper to the health of the whole tiger-hunt and of Miss Westonhaugh in
particular. Isaacs joined with the rest, and though he only drank some
sherbet, as I watched his bright eyes and pale cheek, I thought that
never knight drank truer toast to his lady. Miss Westonhaugh rose and
went out, leaving us to smoke for a while. The conversation was general,
and turned on the chase, of course. In a few minutes Isaacs dropped his
cigarette and went quietly out. I determined to detain the rest as long
as possible, and I seconded Mr. Ghyrkins in passing the claret briskly
round, telling all manner of stories of all nations and peoples--ancient
tales that would not amuse a schoolboy in America, but which were a
revelation of profound wit and brilliant humour to the unsophisticated
British mind. By immense efforts--and I hate to exert myself in
conversation--I succeeded in prolonging the session through a cigar and
a half, but at last I was forced to submit to a move; and with a
somewhat ancient remark from Mr. Ghyrkins, to the effect that all good
things must come to an end, we returned to the drawing-room.
Isaacs and Miss Westonhaugh were looking over some English photographs,
and she was enthusiastically praising the beauties of Gothic
architecture, while Isaacs was making the most of his opportunity, and
taking a good look at her as she bent over the album. After we came in,
she made a little music at the tuneless piano--there never was a piano
in India yet that had any tune in it--playing and singing a little, very
prettily. She sang something about a body in the rye, and then something
else about drinking only with the eyes, to which her brother sang a sort
of second very nicely. I do not understand much about music, but I
thought the allusion to Isaacs' temperance in only drinking with his
eyes was rather pointed. He said, however, that he liked it even better
with a second than when she sang it alone, so I argued that it was not
the first time he had heard it.
"Mr. Isaacs," said she, "you have often promised to sing something
Persian for us. Will you not keep your word now?"
"When we are among the tigers, Miss Westonhaugh, next week. Then I will
try and borrow a lute and sing you something."
It was late for an Indian dinner-party, so we took our departure soon
afterwards, having agreed to meet the following afternoon at Annandale
for the game of polo, in which Westonhaugh said he would also play. He
and Isaacs made some appointment for the morning; they seemed to be very
sympathetic to each other. Kildare mounted and rode homeward with us,
though he had much farther to go than we. If he felt any annoyance at
the small successes Isaacs had achieved during the evening, he was far
too courteous a gentleman to show it; and so, as we groped our way
through the trees by the starlight, chiefly occupied in keeping our
horses on their legs, the snatches of conversation that were possible
were pleasant, if not animated, and there was a cordial "Good-night" on
both sides, as we left Kildare to pursue his way alone.
* * * * *
It was nearly four o'clock in the afternoon when Isaacs and I emerged
from the narrow road upon the polo ground. We were clad in the
tight-fitting garments which are necessary for the game, and wrapped in
light top-coats; as we came out on the green we saw a number of other
men in similar costume standing about, and a great many native grooms
leading ponies up and down. Miss Westonhaugh was there in her gray habit
and broad hat, and by her side, on foot, Lord Steepleton Kildare was
making the most of his time, as he waited for the rest of the players.
Mr. Currie Ghyrkins was ambling about on his broad little horse, and
John Westonhaugh stood with his hands in his pockets and a large
Trichinopoli cheroot between his lips, apparently gazing into space.
Several other men, more or less known to us and to each other, moved
about or chatted disconnectedly, and one or two arrived after us. Some
of them wore coloured jerseys that showed brightly over the open collars
of their coats, others were in ordinary dress and had come to see the
game. Farther off, at one side of the ground, one or two groups of
ladies and their escorting cavaliers haunted at a short distance by
their saices in many-coloured turbans and belts, or _cummer-bunds,_ as
the sash is called in India, moved slowly about, glancing from time to
time towards the place where the players and their ponies were preparing
for the contest.
Few games require so little preparation and so few preliminaries as
polo, descended as it is from an age when more was thought of good
horsemanship and quick eye than of any little refinements depending on
an accurate knowledge of fixed rules. Any one who is a firstrate rider
and is quick with his hands can learn to play polo. The stiffest of arms
can be limbered and the most recalcitrant wrist taught to turn nimbly in
its socket; but the essential condition is, that the player should know
how to ride. This being established, there is no reason why anybody who
likes should not play the game, if he will only use a cetrain amount of
caution, and avoid braining the other players and injuring the ponies by
too wild a use of his mallet. Presently it was found that all who were
to play had arrived--eight of us all told. Kildare had arranged the
sides and had brought the other men necessary to make the number
complete, so we mounted and took up our positions on the ground. Kildare
and Isaacs were together, and Westonhaugh and I on the other side, with
two men I knew slightly. We won the charge, and Westonhaugh, who was a
celebrated player, struck the ball off cleverly, and I followed him up
with a rush as he raced after it. Isaacs, on the other side, swept along
easily, and as the ball swerved on striking the ground bent far over
till he looked as though he were out of the saddle and stopped it
cleverly, while Kildare, who was close behind, got a good stroke in just
in time, as Westonhaugh and I galloped down on him, and landed the ball
far to the rear near our goal. As we wheeled quickly, I saw that one of
the other two men on our side had stopped it and was beginning to
"dribble" it along. This was very bad play, both Westonhaugh and I being
so far forward, and it met its reward. Isaacs and Kildare raced down on
him, but the latter soon pulled up on finding himself passed, and
waited. Isaacs rushed upon the temporising player and got the ball away
from him in no time; eluded the other man, and with a neat stroke sent
the ball right between the poles. The game had hardly lasted three
minutes, and a little sound of clapping was heard from where the
spectators were standing, far off on one side. I could see Miss
Westonhaugh plainly, as she cantered with her uncle to where the victors
were standing together on the other side, patting their ponies and
adjusting stirrup and saddle. Isaacs had his back turned, but wheeled
round as he heard the sound of hoofs behind him and bowed low in his
saddle to the fair girl, whose face, I could see even at that distance,
was flushed with pleasure. They remained a few minutes in conversation,
and then the two spectators rode away, and we took up our positions once
The next game was a much longer one. It was the turn of the other party
to hit off, for Kildare won the charge. There were encounters of all
kinds; twice the ball was sent over the line, but outside the goal, by
long sweeping blows from Isaacs, who ever hovered on the edge of the
scrimmage, and, by his good riding, and the help of a splendid pony,
often had a chance where another would have had none. At last it
happened that I was chasing the ball back towards our goal, from one of
his hits, and he was pursuing me. I had the advantage of a long start,
and before he could reach me I got in a heavy "backhander" that sent the
ball far away to one side, where, as good luck would have it,
Westonhaugh was waiting. Quick as thought he carried it along, and in
another minute we had scored a goal, amidst enthusiastic shouts from the
spectators, who had been kept long in suspense by the protracted game.
This time it was to our side that the young girl came, riding up to her
brother to congratulate him on his success. I thought she had less
colour as she came nearer, and though she smiled sweetly as she said,
"It was splendidly played, John," there was not so much enthusiasm in
her voice as the said John, who had really won the game with masterly
neatness, might have expected. Then she sat quietly looking over the
ground, while we dismounted from our ponies, breathless, and foaming,
and lathery, from the hard-fought battle. The grooms ran up with
blankets and handfuls of grass to give the poor beasts a rub, and
covering them carefully after removing the saddles, led them away.
The sun leaves Annandale early, and I put on a coat and lit a cigarette,
while the saice saddled our second mounts. There are few prettier sights
than an English game, of any kind, on a beautiful stretch of turf. The
English live, and move and have their being out of doors. A
cricket-match, tennis, a racecourse, or a game of polo, show them at
their greatest advantage, whether as players or spectators. Their fresh
complexions suit the green of the grass and of the trees as naturally as
a bed of roses, or cyclamens, or any fresh and healthy flower will
combine with the grass and the ferns in garden or glen. The glorious
vitality that belongs to their race seems to blossom freshly in the
contact with their mother earth, and the physical capacity for motion
with which nature endows them makes them graceful and fascinating to
watch, when in some free and untrammelled dress of white they are at
their games, batting and bowling and galloping and running; they have
the same natural grace then as a herd of deer or antelopes; they are
beautiful animals in the full enjoyment of life and vigour, of health
and strength; they are intensely alive. Something of this kind passed
through my mind, in all probability, and, combined with the delightful
sensation any strong man feels in the pause after great exertion,
disposed me well towards my fellows and towards mankind at large.
Besides we had won the last game.
"You look pleased, Mr. Griggs," said Miss Westonhaugh, who had probably
been watching me for a moment or two. "I did not know cynics were ever
"I remember who it was that promised to crown the victors of this match,
Miss Westonhaugh, and I cherish some hopes of being one of them. Would
you mind very much?"
"Mind? Oh dear no; you had better try. But if you stand there with your
coat on, you will not have much chance. They are all mounted, and
waiting for you."
"Well, here goes," I said to myself, as I got into the saddle again. "I
hope he may win, but he would find me out in a minute if I tried to play
into his hands." We were only to play the best out of three goals, and
the score was "one all." All eight of us had fresh mounts, and the
experience of each other's play we had got in the preceding games made
it likely that the game would be a long one. And so it turned out.
From the first things went badly. John Westonhaugh's fresh pony was very
wild, and he had to take him a breather half over the ground before he
could take his place for the charge. When at last the first stroke was
made, the ball went low along the ground, spinning and twisting to right
and left. Both Kildare and Isaacs missed it and wheeled across to
return, when a prolonged scrimmage ensued less than thirty yards from
their goal. Every one played his best, and we wheeled and spun round in
a way that reminded one of a cavalry skirmish. Strokes and back-strokes
followed quickly, till at last I got the ball as it came rolling out
between my horse's legs, and, hotly pursued, beyond the possibility of
making a fair stroke, I moved away with it in front of me.
Then began one of those interminable circular games that all polo
players know so well, round and round the battlefield, riding close
together, sometimes one succeeding in driving the ball a little, only to
be foiled by the next man's ill-delivered back-stroke; racing, and
pulling up short, and racing again, till horses and riders were in a
perspiration and a state of madness not to be attained by any peaceful
means. At last, as we were riding near our own goal, some one, I could
not see who, struck the ball out into the open. Isaacs, who had just
missed, and was ahead, rode for it like a madman, his club raised high
for a back-stroke. He was hotly pressed by the man who had roused my
wrath in the first game by his "dribbling" policy. He was a light weight
and had kept his best horse for the last game, so that as Isaacs spun
along at lightning speed the little man was very close to him, his club
well back for a sweeping hit. He rode well, but was evidently not so old
a hand in the game as the rest of us. They neared the ball rapidly and
Isaacs swerved a little to the left in order to get it well under his
right hand, thus throwing himself somewhat across the track of his
pursuer. As the Persian struck with all his force downwards and
backwards, his adversary, excited by the chase, beyond all judgment or
reckoning of his chances, hit out wildly, as beginners will. The long
elastic handle of his weapon struck Isaacs' horse on the flank and
glanced upward, the head of the club striking Isaacs just above the back
of the neck. We saw him throw up his arms, the club in his right hand
hanging to his wrist by the strap. The infuriated little arab pony tore
on, and in a moment more the iron grip of the rider's knees relaxed,
Isaacs swayed heavily in the saddle and fell over on the near side, his
left foot hanging in the stirrup and dragging him along some paces
before the horse finally shook himself clear and scampered away across
the turf. The whole catastrophe occurred in a moment; the man who had
done the mischief threw away his club to reach the injured player the
sooner, and as we thundered after him, my pony stumbled over the long
handle, and falling, threw me heavily over his head. I escaped with a
very slight kick from one of the other horses, and leaving my beast to
take care of himself, ran as fast as I could to where Isaacs lay, now
surrounded by the six players as they dismounted to help him. But there
was some one there before them.
The accident had occurred near the middle of the ground, and opposite
the place where Miss Westonhaugh and her uncle had taken up their stand
to watch the contest. With a shake of the reins and a blow of the hand
that made the thoroughbred bound his length as he plunged into a gallop,
the girl rode wildly to where Isaacs lay, and reining the animal back on
his haunches, sprang to the ground and knelt quickly down, so that
before the others had reached them she had propped up his head and was
rubbing his hands in hers. There was no mistaking the impulse that
prompted her. She had seen many an accident in the hunting-field, and
knew well that when a man fell like that it was ten to one he was badly
Isaacs was ghastly pale, and there was a little blood on Miss
Westonhaugh's white gauntlet. Her face was whiter even than his, though
not a quiver of mouth or eyelash betrayed emotion. The man who had done
it knelt on the other side, rubbing one of the hands. Kildare and
Westonhaugh galloped off at full speed, and presently returned bearing a
brandy-flask and a smelling-bottle, and followed by a groom with some
water in a native _lota_. I wanted to make him swallow some of the
liquor, but Miss Westonhaugh took the flask from my hands.
"He would not like it. He never drinks it, you know," she said in a
quiet low voice, and pouring some of the contents on her handkerchief,
moistened all his brows and face and hair with the powerful alcohol.
"Loosen his belt! pull off his boots, some of you!" cried Mr. Currie
Ghyrkins, as he came up breathless. "Take off his belt--damn it, you
know! Dear, dear!" and he got off his _tat_ with all the alacrity he
Miss Westonhaugh never took her eyes from the face of the prostrate
man--pressing the wet handkerchief to his brow, and moistening the palm
of the hand she held with brandy. In a few minutes Isaacs breathed a
long heavy breath, and opened his eyes.
"What is the matter?" he said; then, recollecting himself and trying to
move his head--"Oh! I have had a tumble. Give me some water to drink."
There was a sigh of relief from every one present as he spoke, quite
naturally, and I held the _lota_ to his lips. "What became of the ball?"
he asked quickly, as he sat up. Then turning round, he saw the beautiful
girl kneeling at his side. The blood rushed violently to his face, and
his eyes, a moment ago dim with unconsciousness, flashed brightly.
"What! Miss Westonhaugh--you?" he bounded to his feet, but would have
fallen back if I had not caught him in my arms, for he was still dizzy
from the heavy blow that had stunned him. The blood came and went in his
cheeks, and he hung on my arm confused and embarrassed, looking on the
"I really owe you all manner of apologies--" he began.
"Not a bit of it, my dear boy," broke in Ghyrkins, "my niece was nearest
to you when you fell, and so she came up and did the right thing, like
the brave girl she is." The old fellow helped her to rise as he said
this, and he looked so pleased and proud of her that I was delighted
with him. "And now," he went on, "we must see how much you are hurt--the
deuce of a knock, you know, enough to kill you--and if you are not able
to ride, why, we will carry you home, you know; the devil of a way off
it is, too, confound it all." As he jerked out his sentences he was
feeling the back of Isaacs' head, to ascertain, if he could, how much
harm had been done. All this time the man who had done the mischief was
standing by, looking very penitent, and muttering sentences of apology
as he tried to perform any little office for his victim that came in his
way. Isaacs stretched out his arm, while Ghyrkins was feeling and
twisting his head, and taking the man's hand, held it a moment.
"My dear sir," he said, "I am not in the least hurt, I assure you, and
it was my fault for crossing you at such a moment. Please do not think
anything more about it." He smiled kindly at the young fellow, who
seemed very grateful, and who from that day on would have risked
everything in the world for him. I heard behind me the voice of Kildare,
"Faith," said he, "that fellow is a gentleman if I ever saw one. I am
afraid I should not have let that infernal duffer off so easily.
By-the-bye, Isaacs," he said aloud, coming up to us, "you know you won
the game. Nobody stopped the ball after you hit it, and the saices say
it ran right through the goal. So cheer up; you have got something for
your pains and your tumble." It was quite true; the phlegmatic saices
had watched the ball instead of the falling man. Miss Westonhaugh, who
was really a sensible and self-possessed young woman, and had begun to
be sure that the accident would have no serious results, expressed the
most unbounded delight.
"Thank you, Miss Westonhaugh," said Isaacs; "you have kept your promise;
you have crowned the victor."
"With brandy," I remarked, folding up a scarf which somebody had given
me wherewith to tie a wet compress to the back of his head.
"There is nothing the matter," said Ghyrkins; "no end of a bad bruise,
that's all. He will be all right in the morning, and the skin is only a
"Griggs," said Isaacs, who could now stand quite firm again, "hold the
wet handkerchief in place, and give me that scarf." I did as he
directed, and he took the white woollen shawl, and in half a dozen turns
wound it round his head in a turban, deftly and gracefully. It was
wonderfully becoming to his Oriental features and dark eyes, and I could
see that Miss Westonhaugh thought so. There was a murmur of approbation
from the native grooms who were looking on, and who understood the
"You see I have done it before," he said, smiling. "And now give me my
coat, and we will be getting home. Oh yes! I can ride quite well."
"That man has no end of pluck in him," said John Westonhaugh to Kildare.
"By Jove! yes," was the answer. "I have seen men at home make twice the
fuss over a tumble in a ploughed field, when they were not even stunned.
I would not have thought it."
"He is not the man to make much fuss about anything of that kind."
Isaacs stoutly refused any further assistance, and after walking up and
down a few minutes, he said he had got his legs back, and demanded a
cigarette. He lit it carefully, and mounted as if nothing had happened,
and we moved homeward, followed by the spectators, many of whom, of
course, were acquaintances, and who had ridden up more or less quickly
to make polite inquiries about the accident. No one disputed with Isaacs
the right to ride beside Miss Westonhaugh on the homeward road. He was
the victor of the day, and of course was entitled to the best place. We
were all straggling along, but without any great intervals between us,
so that the two were not able to get away as they had done on Saturday
evening, but they talked, and I heard Miss Westonhaugh laugh. Isaacs was
determined to show that he appreciated his advantage, and though, for
all I know, he might be suffering a good deal of pain, he talked gaily
and sat his horse easily, rather a strange figure in his light-coloured
English overcoat, surmounted by the large white turban he had made out
of the shawl. As we came out on the mall at the top of the hill, Mr.
Ghyrkins called a council of war.
"Of course we shall have to put off the tiger-hunt."
"I suppose so," muttered Kildare, disconsolately.
"Why?" said Isaacs. "Not a bit of it. Head or no head, we will start
to-morrow morning. I am well enough, never fear."
"Nonsense, you know it's nonsense," said Ghyrkins, "you will be in bed
all day with a raging headache. Horrid things, knocks on the back of the
"Not I. My traps are all packed, and my servants have gone down to
Kalka, and I am going to-morrow morning."
"Well, of course, if you really think you can," etc. etc. So he was
prevailed upon to promise that if he should be suffering in the morning
he would send word in time to put off the party. "Besides," he added,
"even if I could not go, that is no reason why you should not."
"Stuff," said Ghyrkins.
"Oh!" said Miss Westonhaugh, looking rather blank.
"That would never do," said John.
"Preposterous! we could not think of going without you," said Lord
Steepleton Kildare loudly; he was beginning to like Isaacs in spite of
himself. And so we parted.
"I shall not dine to-night, Griggs," said Isaacs, as we paused before
his door. "Come in for a moment: you can help me." We entered the richly
carpeted room, and he went to a curious old Japanese cabinet, and after
opening various doors and divisions, showed a small iron safe. This he
opened by some means known to himself, for he used no key, and he took
out a small vessel of jade and brought it to the light. "Now," he said,
"be good enough to warm this little jar in your hands while I go into
the next room and get my boots and spurs and things off. But do not open
it on any account--not on any account, until I come back," he added very
"All right, go ahead," said I, and began to warm the cold thing that
felt like a piece of ice between my hands. He returned in a few minutes
robed in loose garments from Kashmir, with the low Eastern slippers he
generally wore indoors. He sat down among his cushions and leaned back,
looking pale and tired; after ordering the lamps to be lit and the doors
closed, he motioned me to sit down beside him.
"I have had a bad shaking," he said, "and my head is a good deal
bruised. But I mean to go to-morrow in spite of everything. In that
little vial there is a powerful remedy unknown in your Western medicine.
Now I want you to apply it, and to follow with the utmost exactness my
instructions. If you fear you should forget what I tell you, write it
down, for a mistake might be fatal to you, and would certainly be fatal
I took out an old letter and a pencil, not daring to trust my memory.
"Put the vial in your bosom while you write: it must be near the
temperature of the body. Now listen to me. In that silver box is wax.
Tie first this piece of silk over your mouth, and then stop your
nostrils carefully with the wax. Then open the vial quickly and pour a
little of the contents into your hand. You must be quick, for it is very
volatile. Rub that on the back of my head, keeping the vial closed. When
your hand is dry, hold the vial open to my nostrils for two minutes by
your watch. By that time, I shall be asleep. Put the vial in this pocket
of my _caftan_; open all the doors and windows, and tell my servant to
leave them so, but not to admit any one. Then you can leave me; I shall
sleep very comfortably. Come back and wake me a little before midnight.
You will wake me easily by lifting my head and pressing one of my hands.
Remember, if you should forget to wake me, and I should still be asleep
at one o'clock, I should never open my eyes again, and should be dead
before morning. Do as I tell you, for friendship's sake, and when I wake
I shall bathe and sleep naturally the rest of the night."
I carefully fulfilled his instructions. Before I had finished rubbing
his head he was drowsy, and when I took the vial from his nostrils he
was sound asleep. I placed the precious thing where he had told me, and
arranged his limbs on the cushions. Then I opened everything, and
leaving the servant in charge went my way to my rooms. On removing the
silk and the wax which had protected me from the powerful drug, an
indescribable odour which permeated my clothes ascended to my nostrils;
aromatic, yet pungent and penetrating; I never smelt anything that it
reminded me of, but I presume the compound contained something of the
nature of an opiate. I took some books down to Isaacs' rooms and passed
the evening there, unwilling to leave him to the care of an inquisitive
servant, and five minutes before midnight I awoke him in the manner he
had directed. He seemed to be sleeping lightly, for he was awake in a
moment, and his first action was to replace the vial in the curious
safe. He professed himself perfectly restored; and, indeed, on examining
his bruise I found there was no swelling or inflammation. The odour of
the medicament, which, as he had said, seemed to be very volatile, had
almost entirely disappeared. He begged me to go to bed, saying that he
would bathe and then do likewise, and I left him for the night;
speculating on the nature of this secret and precious remedy.
* * * * *
The Himalayan _tonga_ is a thing of delight. It is easily described, for
in principle it is the ancient Persian war-chariot, though the
accommodation is so modified as to allow four persons to sit in it back
to back; that is, three besides the driver. It is built for great
strength, the wheels being enormously heavy, and the pole of the size of
a mast. Harness the horses have none, save a single belt with a sort of
lock at the top, which fits into the iron yoke through the pole, and can
slide from it to the extremity; there is neither breeching nor trace nor
collar, and the reins run from the heavy curb bit directly through loops
on the yoke to the driver's hands. The latter, a wiry, long-bearded
Mohammedan, is armed with a long whip attached to a short thick stock,
and though he sits low, on the same level as the passenger beside him on
the front seat, he guides his half broken horses with amazing dexterity
round sharp curves and by giddy precipices, where neither parapet nor
fencing give the startled mind even a momentary impression of security.
The road from Simla to Kalka at the foot of the hills is so narrow that
if two vehicles meet, the one has to draw up to the edge of the road,
while the other passes on its way. In view of the frequent encounters,
every tonga-driver is provided with a post horn of tremendous power and
most discordant harmony; for the road is covered with bullock carts
bearing provisions and stores to the hill station. Smaller loads, such
as trunks and other luggage, are generally carried by coolies, who
follow a shorter path, the carriage road being ninety-two miles from
Umballa, the railroad station, to Simla, but a certain amount may be
stowed away in the tonga, of which the capacity is considerable.
In three of these vehicles our party of six began the descent on Tuesday
morning, wrapped in linen "dusters" of various shades and shapes, and
armed with countless varieties of smoking gear. The roughness of the
road precludes all possibility of reading, and, after all, the rapid
motion and the constant appearance of danger--which in reality does not
exist--prevent any overpowering _ennui_ from assailing the dusty
traveller. So we spun along all day, stopping once or twice for a little
refreshment, and changing horses every five or six miles. Everybody was
in capital spirits, and we changed seats often, thus obtaining some
little variety. Isaacs, who to every one's astonishment, seemed not to
feel any inconvenience from his accident, clung to his seat in Miss
Westonhaugh's tonga, sitting in front with the driver, while she and her
uncle or brother occupied the seat behind, which is far more
comfortable. At last, however, he was obliged to give his place to
Kildare, who had been very patient, but at last said it "really wasn't
fair, you know," and so Isaacs courteously yielded. At last we reached
Kalka, where the tongas are exchanged for _dak gharry_ or mail carriage,
a thing in which you can sit up in the daytime and lie down at night,
there being an extension under the driver's box calculated for the
accommodation of the longest legs. When lying down in one of these
vehicles the sensation is that of being in a hearse and playing a game
of funeral. On this occasion, however, it was still early when we made
the change, and we paired off, two and two, for the last part of the
drive. By the well planned arrangements of Isaacs and Kildare, two
carriages were in readiness for us on the express train, and though the
difference in temperature was enormous between Simla and the plains,
still steaming from the late rainy season, the travelling was made easy
for us, and we settled ourselves for the journey, after dining at the
little hotel; Miss Westonhaugh bidding us all a cheery "good-night" as
she retired with her _ayah_ into the carriage prepared for her. I will
not go into tedious details of the journey--we slept and woke and slept
again, and smoked, and occasionally concocted iced drinks from our
supplies, for in India the carriages are so large that the traveller
generally provides himself with a generous basket of provisions and a
travelling ice-chest full of bottles, and takes a trunk or two with him
in his compartment. Suffice it to say that we arrived on the following
day at Fyzabad in Oude, and that we were there met by guides and
shikarries--the native huntsmen--who assured us that there were tigers
about near the outlying station of Pegnugger, where the elephants,
previously ordered, would all be in readiness for us on the following
day. The journey from Fyzabad to Pegnugger was not a long one, and we
set out in the cool of the evening, sending our servants along in that
"happy-go-lucky" fashion which characterises Indian life. It has always
been a mystery to me how native servants manage always to turn up at the
right moment. You say to your man, "Go there and wait for me," and you
arrive and find him waiting; though how he transferred himself thither,
with his queer-looking bundle, and his lota, and cooking utensils, and
your best teapot wrapped up in a newspaper and ready for use, and with
all the other hundred and one things that a native servant contrives to
carry about without breaking or losing one of them, is an unsolved
puzzle. Yet there he is, clean and grinning as ever, and if he were not
clean and grinning and provided with tea and cheroots, you would not
keep him in your service a day, though you would be incapable of looking
half so spotless and pleased under the same circumstances yourself.
On the following day, therefore, we found ourselves at Pegnugger,
surrounded by shikarries and provided with every instrument of the chase
that the ingenuity of man and the foresight of Isaacs and Ghyrkins could
provide. There were numbers of tents, sleeping tents, cooking tents, and
servants' tents; guns and ammunition of every calibre likely to be
useful; _kookries_, broad strong weapons not unlike the famous American
bowie knives (which are all made in Sheffield, to the honour, glory, and
gain, of British trade); there were huge packs of provisions edible and
potable; baskets of utensils for the kitchen and the table, and piles of
blankets and tenting gear for the camp. There was also the little
collector of Pegnugger, whose small body housed a stout heart, for he
had shot tigers on foot before now in company with a certain German
doctor of undying sporting fame, whose big round spectacles seemed to
direct his bullets with unerring precision. But the doctor was not here
now, and so the sturdy Englishman condescended to accept a seat in the
howdah, and to kill his game with somewhat less risk than usual.
This first day was occupied in transferring our party, now swelled by
countless beaters and numerous huntsmen, not to mention all the retinue
of servants necessary for an Indian camp, to the neighbourhood of the
battlefield. There is not much conversation on these occasions, for the
party is apt to become scattered, and there is a general tone of
expectancy in the air, the old hands conversing more with the natives
who know the district than with each other, and the young ones either
wondering how many tigers they will kill, or listening open mouthed to
the tales of adventure reeled off by the yard by the old bearded
shikarry, who has slain the king of the jungle with a _kookrie_ in hand
to hand struggle when he was young, and bears the scars of the deadly
encounter on his brown chest to this day. Old Ghyrkins, who was
evidently in his element, rode about on a little _tat_, questioning
beaters and shikarries, and coming back every now and then to bawl up
some piece of information to the little collector, who had established
himself on one of the elephants and looked down over the edge of the
howdah, the great pith hat on his head making him look like an immense
mushroom with a very thin stem sprouting suddenly from the back of the
huge beast. He smiled pleasantly at the old sportsman from his
elevation, and seemed to know all about it. It so chanced that when he
received Isaacs' telegrams he had been planning a little excursion on
his own account, and had been sending out scouts and beaters for some
days to ascertain where the game lay. This, of course, was so much clear
gain to us, and the little man was delighted at the opportune
coincidence which enabled him, by the unlimited money supplied, to join
in such a hunt as he had not seen since the time when the Prince of
Wales disported himself among the royal game, three years before. As for
Miss Westonhaugh, she was in the gayest of spirits, as she sat with her
brother on an elephant's back, while Isaacs, who loved the saddle,
circled round her and kept up a fire of little compliments and pretty
speeches, to which she was fast becoming inured. Kildare and I followed
them closely on another elephant, discoursing seriously about the hunt,
and occasionally shouting some question to John Westonhaugh, ahead,
about sport in the south.
Before evening we had arrived at our first camping ground, near a small
village on the outskirts of the jungle, and the tents were pitched on a
little elevation covered with grass, now green and waving. The men had
mowed a patch clear, and were busy with the pegs and all the
paraphernalia of a canvas house, and we strolled about, some of us
directing the operations, others offering a sacrifice of cooling liquids
and tobacco to the setting sun. Miss Westonhaugh had heard about living
in tents ever since she came to India, and had often longed to sleep in
one of those temporary chambers that are set up anywhere in the
"compound" of an English bungalow for the accommodation of the bachelor
guests whom the house itself is too small to hold; now she was enchanted
at the prospect of a whole fortnight under canvas, and watched with rapt
interest the driving of the pegs, the raising of the poles, and the
careful furnishing of her dwelling. There was a carpet, and armchairs,
and tables, and even a small bookcase with a few favourite volumes. To
us in civilised life it seems a great deal of trouble to transport a
lunch basket and a novel to some shady glen to enjoy a day's rest in the
open air, and we would almost rather starve than take the trouble to
carry provisions. In India you speak the word, and as by magic there
arises in the wilderness a little village of tents, furnished with every
necessary luxury--and the luxuries necessary to our degenerate age are
many--a kitchen tent is raised, and a skilled dark-skinned artist
provides you in an hour with a dinner such as you could eat in no hotel.
The treasures of the huge portable ice-chest reveal cooling wines and
soda water to the thirsty soul, and if you are going very far beyond the
reach of the large towns, a small ice-machine is kept at work day and
night to increase the supply while you sleep, and to maintain it while
you wake. In the _connat_ or verandah of the tent, long chairs await you
after your meal, and as you smoke the fragrant cigarette and watch the
stars coming out, you feel as comfortable as though you had been dining
in your own spacious bungalow in Mudnugger.
It was not long before all was ready, and having made many ablutions and
a little toilet, we assembled round the dinner table in the eating tent,
the same party that had dined at Mr. Currie Ghyrkins' house on Sunday
night, with the addition of the little collector of Pegnugger, whose
stories of his outlying district were full of humour and anecdote. The
talk bending in the direction of adventure, Kildare, who had been lately
in South Africa with his regiment, told some tales of Zulus and assegais
and Boers in the Hibernian style of hyperbole. The Irish blood never
comes out so strongly as when a story is to be told, and no amount of
English education and Oxford accent will suppress the tendency. The
brogue is gone, but the love of the marvellous is there still. Isaacs
related the experience of "a man he knew," who had been pulled off his
elephant, howdah and all, and had killed the tiger with a revolver at
half arm's length.
"Ah yes," said the little collector, who had not caught the names of all
the party when introduced, "I read about it at the time; I remember it
very well. It happened in Purneah two years ago. The gentleman was a Mr.
Isaacs of Delhi. Queer name too--remember perfectly." There was a roar
of laughter at this, in which the collector joined vociferously on being
informed that the man with the "queer name" was his neighbour at table.
"You see what you get for your modesty," cried old Ghyrkins, laughing to
"And is it really true, Mr. Isaacs?" asked Miss Westonhaugh, looking
admiringly across at the young man, who seemed rather annoyed.
And so the conversation went round and all were merry, and some were
sleepy after dinner, and we sat in long chairs under the awning or
_connat_. There was no moon yet, but the stars shone out as they shine
nowhere save in India, and the evening breeze played pleasantly through
the ropes after the long hot day. Miss Westonhaugh assured everybody for
the hundredth time that day that she rather liked the smell of cigars,
and so we smoked and chatted a little, and presently there was a jerk
and a sputtering sneeze from Mr. Ghyrkins, who, being weary with the
march and the heat and the good dinner, and on the borders of sleep, had
put the wrong end of his cigar in his mouth with destructive results.
Then he threw it away with a small volley of harmless expletives, and
swore he would go to bed, as he could not stand our dulness any longer;
but he merely shifted his position a little, and was soon snoring
"What a pity it is we have no piano, Katharine," said John Westonhaugh,
who was fond of music. "Could you not sing something without any
"Oh no. Mr. Isaacs," she said, turning her voice to where she could see
the light of his cigarette and the faint outline of his chair in the
starlight, "here we are in the camp. Now where is the 'lute' you
promised to produce for us? I think the time has come at last for you to
keep your promise."
"Well," said he, "I believe there really is an old guitar or something
of the kind among my traps somewhere. But it might wake Mr. Ghyrkins,
who, I understand from his tones, is asleep."
Various opinions were expressed to the effect that Mr. Ghyrkins was not
so easily disturbed, and a voice like Kildare's was heard to mumble that
"it would not hurt him if he was," a sentence no one attempted to
construe. So the faithful Narain was summoned, and instructed to bring
the instrument if he could find it. I was rather surprised at Isaacs'
readiness to sing; but in the first place I had never heard him, and
besides I did not make allowance for the Oriental courtesy of his
character, which would not refuse anything, or make any show of refusal
in order to be pressed. Narain returned with a very modern-looking
guitar-case, and, opening the box, presented his master with the
instrument, which, as Isaacs took it to the light in the door of the
tent to see if it had travelled safely, appeared to be a perfectly new
German guitar. I suspected him of having purchased it at the little
music shop at Simla, for the especial amusement of our party.
"I thought it was a lute you played on," said Miss Westonhaugh, "a real,
lovely, ancient Assyrian lute, or something of that kind."
"Oh, a plain guitar is infinitely better and less troublesome," said
Isaacs as he returned to his seat in the dark and began to tune the
strings softly. "It takes so long to tune one of those old things, and
then nothing will make them stand. Now this one, you see,--or rather you
cannot see,--has an ingenious contrivance of screws by which you may
tune it in a moment." While he was speaking he was altering the pitch of
the strings, and presently he added, "There, it is done now," and two or
three sounding chords fell on the still air. "Now what shall I sing? I
await your commands."
"Something soft, and sweet, and gentle."
"A love-song?" asked he quietly.
"Well yes--a love-song if you like. Why not?" said she.
"No reason in the world that I can think of," I remarked. Whereat Lord
Steepleton Kildare threw his cigar away, and began lighting another a
moment after, as if he had discarded his weed by mistake.
Isaacs struck a few chords softly, and then began a sort of running
accompaniment. His voice, which seemed to me to be very high, was
wonderfully smooth and round, and produced the impression of being much
more powerful than he cared to show. He sang without the least effort,
and yet there was none of that effeminate character that I have noticed
in European male singers when producing high notes very softly. I do not
understand music, but I am sure I never heard an opera tenor with a
voice of such quality. The words of his song were Persian, and the pure
accents of his native tongue seemed well suited to the half passionate,
half plaintive air he had chosen. I afterwards found a translation of
the sonnet by an English officer, which I here give, though it conveys
little idea of the music of the original verse.
Last night, my eyes being closed in sleep, but my good fortune awake,
The whole night, the livelong night, the image of my beloved one was the
companion of my soul.
The sweetness of her melodious voice still remains vibrating on my soul;
Heavens! how did the sugared words fall from her sweeter lips;
Alas! all that she said to me in that dream has escaped from my memory,
Although it was my care till break of day to repeat over and over her
The day, unless illuminated by her beauty, is, to my eyes, of nocturnal
Happy day that first I gazed upon that lovely face!
May the eyes of Jami long be blessed with pleasing visions, since they
presented to his view last night
The object, on whose account he passed his waking life in
His beautiful voice ceased, and with infinite skill he wove a few
strains of the melody into the final chords he played when he had
finished singing. It was all so entirely novel, so unlike any music most
of us had ever heard, and it was so undeniably good, that every one
applauded and said something to the singer in turn, expressing the
greatest admiration and appreciation. Miss Westonhaugh was the last to
"It is perfectly lovely," she said. "I wish I could understand the
words--are they as sweet as the music?"
"Sweeter," he answered, and he gave an offhand translation of two or
"Beautiful indeed," she said; "and now sing me another, please." There
was no resisting such an appeal, with the personal pronoun in the
singular number. He moved a little nearer, and emphatically sang to her,
and to no one else. A song of the same character as the first, but, I
thought, more passionate and less dreamy, as his great sweet voice
swelled and softened and rose again in burning vibrations and waves of
sound. She did not ask a translation this time, but some one else did,
after the applause had subsided.
"I cannot translate these things," said Isaacs, "so as to do them
justice, or give you any idea of the strength and vitality of the
Persian verses. Perhaps Griggs, who understands Persian very well and is
a literary man, may do it for you. I would rather not try." I professed
my entire inability to comply with the request, and to turn the
conversation asked him where he had learned to play the guitar so well.
"Oh," he answered, "in Istamboul, years ago. Everybody plays in
Istamboul--and most people sing love-songs. Besides it is so easy," and
he ran scales up and down the strings with marvellous rapidity to
illustrate what he said.
"And do you never sing English songs, Mr. Isaacs?" asked the collector
of Pegnugger, who was enchanted, not having heard a note of music for
"Oh, sometimes," he answered. "I think I could sing 'Drink to me only
with thine eyes'--do you know it?" He began to play the melody on the
guitar while he spoke.
"Rather--I should think so!" Kildare was heard to say. He was beginning
to think the concert had lasted long enough.
"Oh, do sing it, Mr. Isaacs," said the young girl, "and my brother and I
will join in. It will be so pretty!"
It certainly sounded very sweetly as he gave the melody in his clear,
high tones, and Miss Westonhaugh and John sang with him. Having heard it
several thousand times myself, I was beginning to recognise the tune
well enough to enjoy it a good deal.
"That is very nice," said Kildare, who was sorry he had made an
impatient remark before, and wanted to atone.
"Eh? what? how's that?" said Mr. Ghyrkins just waking up. "Oh! of
course. My niece sings charmingly. Quite an artist, you know." And he
struggled out of his chair and said it was high time we all went to bed
if we meant to shoot straight in the morning. The magistrate of
Pegnugger concurred in the opinion, and we reluctantly separated for the
night to our respective quarters, Isaacs and I occupying a tent
together, which he had caused to be sent on from Delhi, as being
especially adapted to his comfort.
On the following day at dawn we were roused by the sound of
preparations, and before we were dressed the voices of Mr. Currie
Ghyrkins and the collector were heard in the camp, stirring up the
sleepy servants and ordering us to be waked. The two old sportsmen felt
it their duty to be first on such an occasion as this, and in the calm
security that they would do everything that was right, Isaacs and I
discussed our tea and fruit--the _chota haziri_ or "little breakfast"
usually taken in India on waking--sitting in the door of our tent, while
Kiramat Ali and Narain and Mahmoud and the rest of the servants were
giving a final rub to the weapons of the chase, and making all the
little preparations for a long day. And we sat looking out and sipping
In the cool of the dawn Miss Westonhaugh came tripping across the wet
grass to where her uncle was giving his final directions about the
furnishing of his howdah for the day; a lovely apparition of freshness
in the gray morning, all dressed in dark blue, a light pith
helmet-shaped hat pressing the rebellious white-gold hair almost out of
sight. She walked so easily it seemed as if her dainty little feet had
wings, as Hermes' of old, to ease the ground of their feather weight. A
broad belt hung across her shoulder with little rows of cartridges set
all along, and at the end hung a very business-like revolver case of
brown leather and of goodly length. No toy miniature pistol would she
carry, but a full-sized, heavy "six-shooter," that might really be of
use at close quarters. She stood some minutes talking with Mr. Ghyrkins,
not noticing us in the shadow of the tent some thirty yards away; Isaacs
and I watched her intently--with very different feelings, possibly, but
yet intensely admiring the fair creature, so strong and pliant, and yet
so erect and straight. She turned half round towards us, and I saw there
were flowers in the front of her dress. I wondered where they had come
from; they were roses--of all flowers in the world to be blooming in the
desert. Perhaps she had brought them carefully from Fyzabad, but that
was improbable; or from Pegnugger--yes, there would be roses in the
collector's garden there. Isaacs rose to his feet.
"Oh, come along, Griggs. You have had quite enough tea!"
"Go ahead; I will be with you in a moment." But a sudden thought struck
me, and I went with him, bareheaded, to greet Miss Westonhaugh. She
smiled brightly as she held out her hand.
"Good morning, Mr. Isaacs. Thank you so much for the roses. How _did_
you do it? They are _too_ lovely!" So it was just as I thought. Isaacs
had probably despatched a man back to Pegnugger in the night.
"Very easy I assure you. I am so glad you like them. They are not very
fresh after all though, I see," he added depreciatingly, as men do when
they give flowers to people they care about. I never heard a man find
fault with flowers he gave out of a sense of duty. It is perhaps that
the woman best loved of all things in the world has for him a sweetness
and a beauty that kills the coarser hues of the rose, and outvies the
fragrance of the double violets.
"Oh no!" she said, emphasising the negative vigorously. "I think they
are perfectly beautiful, but I want you to tell me where you got them."
I began talking to Ghyrkins, who was intent on the arrangement of his
guns which was going on under his eyes, but I heard the answer, though
Isaacs spoke in a low voice.
"You must not say that, Miss Westonhaugh. You yourself are the most
perfect and beautiful thing God ever made." By a superhuman effort I
succeeded in keeping my eyes fixed on Ghyrkins, probably with a stony,
unconscious stare, for he presently asked what I was looking at. I do
not think Isaacs cared whether I heard him or not, knowing that I
sympathised, but Mr. Ghyrkins was another matter. The Persian had made
progress, for there was no trace of annoyance in Miss Westonhaugh's
answer, though she entirely overlooked her companion's pretty speech.
"Seriously, Mr. Isaacs, if you mean to have one of them for your badge
to-day, you must tell me how you got them." I turned slowly round. She
was holding a single rose in her fingers, and looking from it to him, as
if to see if it would match his olive skin and his Karkee shooting-coat.
He could not resist the bribe.
"If you really want to know I will tell you, but it is a profound
secret," he said, smiling. "Griggs, swear!"
I raised my hand and murmured something about the graves of my
"Well," he continued, "yesterday morning at the collector's house I saw
a garden; in the garden there were roses, carefully tended, for it is
late. I took the gardener apart and said, 'My friend, behold, here is
silver for thee, both rupees and pais. And if thou wilt pick the best of
thy roses and deliver them to the swift runner whom I will send to thee
at supper time when the stars are coming out, I will give thee as much
as thou shalt earn in a month with thy English master. But if thou wilt
not do it, or if thou failest to do it, having promised, I will cause
the grave of thy father to be defiled with the slaughter of swine, and,
moreover, I will return and beat thee with a thick stick!' The fellow
was a Mussulman, and there was a merry twinkle in his eye as he took the
money and swore a great oath. I left a running man at Pegnugger with a
basket, and that is how you got the roses. Don't tell the collector,
that is all."
We all laughed, and Miss Westonhaugh gave the rose to Isaacs, who
touched it to his lips, under pretence of smelling it, and put it in his
buttonhole. Kildare came up at this moment and created a diversion; then
the collector joined us and scattered us right and left, saying it was
high time we were in the howdahs and on the way. So we buckled on our
belts, and those who wore hats put them on, and those who preferred
turbans bent while their bearers wound them on, and then we moved off to
where the elephants were waiting and got into our places, and the
_mahouts_ urged the huge beasts from their knees to their feet, and we
went swinging off to the forest. The pad elephants, who serve as beaters
and move between the howdah animals, joined us, and presently we went
splashing through the reedy patches of fern, and crashing through the
branches, towards the heart of the jungle.
Mr. Currie Ghyrkins, whose long experience had made him as cool when
after tigers as when reading the _Pioneer_ in his shady bungalow at
Simla, had taken Miss Westonhaugh with him in his howdah, and as an
additional precaution for her safety, the little collector of Pegnugger,
who was a dead shot, only allowed two pad elephants to move between
himself and Ghyrkins. As there were thirty-seven animals in all, the
rest of the party were much scattered. I thought there were too many
elephants for our six howdahs, but it turned out that I was mistaken,
for we had capital sport. The magistrate of Pegnugger, who knew the
country thoroughly, was made the despot of the day. His orders were
obeyed unquestioningly and unconditionally, and we halted in long line
or marched onwards, forcing a passage through every obstacle, at his
word. We might have been out a couple of hours, watching every patch of
jungle and blade of long rank grass for a sight of the striped skin,
writhing through the reeds, that we so longed to see, when the quick,
short crack of a rifle away to the right brought us to a halt, and every
one drew a long breath and turned, gun in hand, in the direction whence
the sound had come. It was Kildare; he had met his first tiger, and the
first also of the hunt. He had put up the animal not five paces in front
of him, stealing along in the cool grass and hoping to escape between
the elephants, in the cunning way they often do. He had fired a snap
shot too quickly, inflicting a wound in the flank which only served to
rouse the tiger to madness. With a leap that seemed to raise its body
perpendicularly from the ground, the gorgeous creature flew into the air
and settled right on the head of Kildare's elephant, while the terrified
_mahout_ wound himself round the howdah. It would have been a trying
position for the oldest sportsman, but to be brought into such terrific
encounter at arm's length, almost, at one's very first experience of the
chase, was a terrible test of nerve. Those who were near said that in
that awful moment Kildare never changed colour. The elephant plunged
wildly in his efforts to shake off the beast from his head, but Kildare
had seized his second gun the moment he had discharged the first, and
aiming for one second only, as the tossing head and neck of the tusker
brought the gigantic cat opposite him, fired again. The fearful claws,
driven deep and sure into the thick hide of the poor elephant, relaxed
their hold, the beautiful lithe limbs straightened by their own
perpendicular weight, and the first prize of the day dropped to the
ground like lead, dead, shot through the head.
A great yell of triumph arose all along the line, and the little
_mahout_ crept cautiously back from his lurking-place behind the howdah
to see if the coast were clear. Kildare had behaved splendidly, and
shouts of congratulation reached his ears from all sides. Miss
Westonhaugh waved her handkerchief in token of approbation, every one
applauded, and far away to the left Isaacs, who was in the last howdah,
clapped his hands vigorously, and seat his high clear voice ringing like
a trumpet down the line.
"Well done, Kildare! well done, indeed!" and his rival's praise was not
the least grateful to Lord Steepleton on that day. Meanwhile the
shikarries gathered around the fallen beast. It proved to be a young
tigress some eight feet long, and the clean bright coat showed that she
was no man-eater. So the pad elephant came alongside, to use a nautical
phrase not inappropriate, and kneeling down received its burden
willingly, well knowing that the slain beauty was one of his deadly
foes. The _mahout_ pronounced the elephant on which Kildare was mounted
able to proceed, and only a few huge drops of blood marked where the
tigress had kept her hold. We moved on again, beating the jungle,
wheeling and doubling the long line, wherever it seemed likely that some
striped monster might have eluded us. Marching and counter-marching
through the heat of the day, we picked up another-prize in the
afternoon. It was a large old tiger, nine feet six as he lay; he fell an
easy prey to the gun of the little collector of Pegnugger, who sent a
bullet through his heart at the first shot, and smiled rather
contemptuously as he removed the empty shell of the cartridge from his
gun. He would rather have had Kildare's chance in the morning.
After all, two tigers in a day was not bad sport for the time of year. I
knew Isaacs would be disappointed at not having had a shot, where his
rival in a certain quarter had had so good an opportunity for displaying
skill and courage; and I confessed to myself that I preferred a small
party, say, a dozen elephants and three howdahs, to this tremendous and
expensive _battue_. I had a shot-gun with me, and consoled myself by
shooting a peacock or two as we rolled and swayed homewards. We had
determined to keep to the same camp for a day or two, as we could enter
the forest from another point on the morrow, and might even beat some of
the same ground again with success.
It was past five when we got down to the tents and descended from our
howdahs, glad to stretch our stiffened limbs in a brisk walk. The dead
tigers were hauled into the middle of the camp, and the servants ran
together to see the result of the _sahib log's_ day out. We retired to
dress and refresh ourselves for dinner.
* * * * *
In Isaacs' tent I was pulling off my turban, all shapeless and crumpled
by the long day, while Isaacs stood disconsolately looking at the clean
guns and unbroken rows of cartridges which Narain deposited on the
table. The sun was very low, and shone horizontally through the raised
door of the tent on my friend's rather gloomy face. At that moment
something intercepted the sunshine, and a dark shadow fell across the
floor. I looked, and saw a native standing on the threshold, salaaming
and waiting to be spoken to. He was not one of our men, but a common
ryot, clad simply in a _dhoti_ or waist-cloth, and a rather dirty
"Kya chahte ho?"--"What do you want?" asked Isaacs impatiently. He was
not in a good humour by any means. "Wilt thou deprive thy betters of the
sunlight thou enjoyest thyself?"
"The sahib's face is like the sun and the moon," replied the man
deprecatingly. "But if the great lord will listen I will tell him what
shall rejoice his heart."
"Speak, unbeliever," said Isaacs.
"Protector of the poor! you are my father and my mother! but I know
where there lieth a great tiger, an eater of men, hard-hearted, that
delighteth in blood."
"Dog," answered Isaacs, calmly removing his coat, "the tiger you speak
of was seen by you many moons since; what do you come to me with idle
tales for?" Isaacs was familiar with the native trick of palming off old
tigers on the unwary stranger, in the hope of a reward.
"Sahib, I am no liar. I saw the tiger, who is the king of the forest,
this morning." Isaacs' manner relaxed a little, and he sat down and
lighted the eternal cigarette. "Slave," he said meditatively, "if it is
as you say, I will kill the tiger, but if it is not as you say, I will
kill you, and cause your body to be buried with the carcass of an ox,
and your soul shall not live." The man did not seem much moved by the
threat. He moved nearer, and salaamed again.
"It is near to the dwelling of the sahib, who is my father," said the
man, speaking low. "The day before yesterday he destroyed a man from the
village. He has eaten five men in the last moon. I have seen him enter
his lair, and he will surely return before the dawn; and the sahib shall
strike him by his lightning; and the sahib will not refuse me the ears
of the man-eater, that I may make a _jaedu_, a charm against sudden
"Hound! if thou speakest the truth, and I kill the tiger, the monarch of
game, I will make thee a rich man; but thou shalt not have his ears. I
desire the _jaedu_ for myself. I have spoken; wait thou here my
pleasure." The ryot bent low to the earth, and then squatted by the
tent-door to wait, in the patient way that a Hindoo can, for Isaacs to
go and eat his dinner. As the latter came out ten minutes later, he
paused and addressed the man once more. "Speak not to any man of thy
tiger while I am gone, or I will cut off thine ears with a pork knife."
And we passed on.
The sun was now set and hovering in the afterglow, the new moon was
following lazily down. I stopped a moment to look at her, and was
surprised by Miss Westonhaugh's voice close behind me.
"Are you wishing by the new moon, Mr. Griggs?" she asked.
"Yes," said I, "I was. And what were you wishing, Miss Westonhaugh, if I
may ask?" Isaacs came up, and paused beside us. The beautiful girl stood
quite still, looking to westward, a red glow on the white-gold masses of
"Did you say you were wishing for something, Miss Westonhaugh?" he
asked. "Perhaps I can get it for you. More flowers, perhaps? They are
very easily got."
"No--that is, not especially. I was wishing--well, that a tiger-hunt
might last for ever; and I want a pair of tiger's ears. My old _ayah_
says they keep off evil spirits and sickness; and all sorts of things."
"I know; it is a curious idea. I suppose both those beasts there have
lost theirs already. These fellows cut them off in no time."
"Yes. I have looked. So I suppose I must wait till to-morrow. But
promise me, Mr. Isaacs, if you shoot one to-morrow, let me have the
"I will promise that readily enough. I would promise anything you--" The
last part of the sentence was lost to me, as I moved away and left them.
At dinner, of course, every one talked of the day's sport, and
compliments of all kinds were showered on Lord Steepleton, who looked
very much pleased, and drank a good deal of wine. Ghyrkins and the
little magistrate expressed their opinion that he would make a famous
tiger-killer one of these days, when he had learned to wait. Every one
was hungry and rather tired, and after a somewhat silent cigar, we
parted for the night, Miss Westonhaugh rising first. Isaacs went to his
quarters, and I remained alone in a long chair, by the deserted
dining-tent. Kiramat Ali brought me a fresh hookah, and I lay quietly
smoking and thinking of all kinds of things--things of all kinds,
tigers, golden hair, more tigers, Isaacs, Shere Ali, Baithop--, what was
his name--Baithop--p--. I fell asleep.
Some one touched my hand, waking me suddenly. I sprang to my feet and
seized the man by the throat, before I recognised in the starlight that
it was Isaacs.
"You are not a nice person to rouse," remarked he in a low voice, as I
relaxed my grasp. "You will have fever if you sleep out-of-doors at this
time of year. Now look here; it is past midnight, and I am going out a
little way." I noticed that he had a _kookrie_ knife at his waist, and
that his cartridge-belt was on his chest.
"I will go with you," said I, guessing his intention. "I will be ready
in a moment," and I began to move towards the tent.
"No. I must go alone, and do this thing single-handed. I have a
particular reason. I only wanted to warn you I was gone, in case you
missed me. I shall take that ryot fellow with me to show me the way."
"Give him a gun," I suggested.
"He could not use one if I did. He has your _kookrie_ in case of
"Oh, very well! do not let me interfere with any innocent and childlike
pastime you may propose for your evening hours. I will attend to your
funeral in the morning. Good-night."
"Good-night; I shall be back before you are up." And he walked quickly
off to where the ryot was waiting and holding his guns. He had the sense
to take two. I was angry at the perverse temerity of the man. Why could
he not have an elephant out and go like a sensible thinking being,
instead of sneaking out with one miserable peasant to lie all night
among the reeds, in as great danger from cobras as from the beast he
meant to kill? And all for a girl --an English girl--a creature all fair
hair and eyes, with no more intelligence than a sheep! Was it not she
who sent him out to his death in the jungle, that her miserable caprice
for a pair of tiger's ears might be immediately satisfied? If a woman
ever loved me, Paul Griggs,--thank heaven no woman ever did,--would I go
out into bogs and desert places and risk my precious skin to find her a
pair of cat's ears? Not I;--wait a moment, though. If I were in his
place, if Miss Westonhaugh loved _me_--I laughed at the conceit. But
supposing she did. Just for the sake of argument, I would allow it. I
think that I would risk something after all. What a glorious thing it
would be to be loved by a woman, once, wholly and for ever. To meet the
creature I described to him the other night, waiting for me to come into
her life, and to be to her all I could be to the woman I should love.
But she has never come; never will, now; still, there is a sort of rest
to me in thinking of rest. Hearth, home, wife, children; the worn old
staff resting in the corner, never to wander again. What a strange thing
it is that men should have all these, and more, and yet never see that
they have the simple elements of earthly happiness, if they would but
use them. And we, outcasts and wanderers, children of sin and darkness,
in whose hands one commandment seems hardly less fragile than another,
would give anything--had we anything to give--for the happiness of a
home, to call our own. How strange it is that what I said to Isaacs
should be true. "Do not marry unless you must depend on each other for
daily bread, or unless you are rich enough to live apart." Yes, it is
true, in ninetynine cases out of a hundred. But then, I should add a
saving clause, "and unless you are quite sure that you love each other."
Ay, there is the _pons asinorum,_ the bridge whereon young asses and old
fools come to such terrible grief. They are perfectly sure they love
eternally; they will indignantly scorn the suggestions of prudence; love
any other woman? never, while I live, answers the happy and
unsophisticated youth. Be sorry I did it? Do you think I am a schoolboy
in my first passion? demands the aged bridegroom. And so they marry, and
in a year or two the enthusiastic young man runs away with some other
enthusiastic man's wife, and the octogenarian spouse finds himself
constituted into a pot of honey for his wife's swarming relations to
settle on, like flies. But a man in strong middle prime of age, like me,
knows his own mind; and--yes, on the whole I was unjust to Isaacs and to
Miss Westonhaugh. If a woman loved me, she should have all the tiger's
ears she wanted. "Still, I hope he will get back safely," I added, in
afterthought to my reverie, as I turned into bed and ordered Kiramat Ali
to wake me half an hour before dawn.
I was restless, sleeping a little and dreaming much. At last I struct a
light and looked at my watch. Four o'clock. It would not be dawn for
more than an hour; I knew Isaacs had made for the place where the tiger
passed his days, certain that he would return near daybreak, according
to all common probability. He need not have gone so early, I thought.
However, it might be a long way off. I lay still for a while, but it
seemed very hot and close under the canvas. I got up and threw a
_caftan_ round me, drew a chair into the _connat_ and sat, or rather
lay, down in the cool morning breeze. Then I dozed again until Kiramat
Ali woke me by pulling at my foot. He said it would be dawn in half an
hour. I had passed a bad night, and went out, as I was, to walk on the
grass. There was Miss Westonhaugh's tent away off at the other end. She
was sleeping calmly enough, never doubting that at that very moment the
man who loved her was risking his life for her pleasure--her slightest
whim. She would be wide awake if she knew it, staring out into the
darkness and listening for the crack of his rifle. A faint light
appeared behind the dining-tent, over the distant trees, like the light
of London seen from twenty or thirty miles' distance in the country, a
faint, suggestive, murky grayness in the sky, making the stars look
The sound of a shot rang true and clear through the chill air; not far
off I thought. I held my breath, listening for a second report, but none
came. So it was over. Either he had killed the tiger with his first
bullet, or the tiger had killed him before he could fire a second. I was
intensely excited. If he were safe I wished him to have the glory of
coming home quite alone. There was nothing for it but to wait, so I went
into my tent and took a bath--a very simple operation where the bathing
consists in pouring a huge jar of water over one's head. Tents in India
have always a small side tent with a ditch dug to drain off the water
from the copious ablutions of the inmate. I emerged into the room
feeling better. It was now quite light, and I proceeded to dress
leisurely to spin out the time. As I was drawing on my boots, Isaacs
sauntered in quietly and laid his gun on the table. He was pale, and his
Karkee clothes were covered with mud and leaves and bits of creeper, but
his movements showed he was not hurt in any way; he hardly seemed tired.
"Well?" I said anxiously.
"Very well, thank you. Here they are," and he produced from the pocket
of his coat the _spolia opima_ in the shape of a pair of ears, that
looked very large to me. There was a little blood on them and on his
hands as he handed the precious trophies to me for inspection. We stood
by the open door, and while I was turning over the ears curiously in my
hands, he looked down at his clothes.
"I think I will take a bath," he said; "I must have been in a dirty
"My dear fellow," I said, taking his hand, "this is absurd. I mean all
this affected calmness. I was angry at your going in that way, to risk
your head in a tiger's mouth; but I am sincerely glad to see you back
alive. I congratulate you most heartily."
"Thank you, old man," he said, his pale face brightening a little. "I am
very glad myself. Do you know I have a superstition that I must fulfil
every wish of--like that--even half expressed, to the very letter?"
"The 'superstition,' as you call it, is worthy of the bravest knight
that ever laid lance in rest. Don't part with superstitions like that.
They are noble and generous things."
"Perhaps," he answered, "but I really am very superstitious," he added,
as he turned into the bathing _connat_. Soon I heard him splashing among
the water jars.
"By-the-bye, Griggs," he called out through the canvas, "I forgot to
tell you. They are bringing that beast home on an elephant. It was much
nearer than we supposed. They will be here in twenty minutes." A
tremendous splashing interrupted him. "You can go and attend to that
funeral you were talking about last night," he added, and his voice was
again drowned in the swish and souse of the water. "He was rather
large--over ten feet--I should say. Measure him as soon as he--" another
cascade completed the sentence. I went out, taking the measuring tape
from the table.
In a few minutes the procession appeared. Two or three matutinal
shikarries had gone out and come back, followed by the elephant, for
which Isaacs had sent the ryot at full speed the moment he was sure the
beast was dead. And so they came up the little hill behind the
dining-tent. The great tusker moved evenly along, bearing on the pad an
enormous yellow carcass, at which the little _mahout_ glanced
occasionally over his shoulder. Astride of the dead king sat the ryot,
who had directed Isaacs, crooning a strange psalm of victory in his
outlandish northern dialect, and occasionally clapping his hands over
his head with an expression of the most intense satisfaction I have ever
seen on a human face. The little band came to the middle of the camp
where the other tigers, now cut up and skinned elsewhere, had been
deposited the night before, and as the elephant knelt down, the
shikarries pulled the whole load over, pad, tiger, ryot and all, the
latter skipping nimbly aside. There he lay, the great beast that had
taken so many lives. We stretched him out and measured him--eleven feet
from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail, all but an inch--as a
little more straightening fills the measure, eleven feet exactly.
Meanwhile, the servant and shikarries collected, and the noise of the
exploit went abroad. The sun was just rising when Mr. Ghyrkins put his
head out of his tent and wanted to know "what the deuce all this
_tamaesha_ was about."
"Oh, nothing especial," I called out. "Isaacs has killed an eleven foot
man-eater in the night. That is all."
"Well I'm damned," said Mr. Ghyrkins briefly, and to the point, as he
stared from his tent at the great carcass, which lay stretched out for
all to see, the elephant having departed.
"Clear off those fellows and let me have a look at him, can't you?" he
called out, gathering the tent curtains round his neck; and there he
stood, his jolly red face and dishevelled gray hair looking as if they
had no body attached at all.
I went back to our quarters. Isaacs was putting the ears, which he had
carefully cleansed from blood, into a silver box of beautiful
workmanship, which Narain had extracted from his master's numerous
"Take that box to Miss Westonhaugh's tent," he said, giving it to the
servant, "with a greeting from me--with 'much peace.'" The man went out.
"She will send the box back," said I. "Such is the Englishwoman. She
will take a pair of tiger's ears that nearly cost you your life, and she
would rather die than accept the bit of silver in which you enclose
them, without the 'permission of her uncle.'"
"I do not care," he said, "so long as she keeps the ears. But unless I
am much mistaken, she will keep the box too. She is not like other
Englishwomen in the least."
I was not sure of that. We had some tea in the door of our tent, and
Isaacs seemed hungry and thirsty, as well he might be. Now that he was
refreshed by bathing and the offices of the camp barber, he looked much
as usual, save that the extreme paleness I had noticed when he came in
had given place to a faint flush beneath the olive, probably due to his
excitement, the danger being past. As we sat there, the rest of the
party, who had slept rather later than usual after their fatigues of the
previous day, came out one by one and stood around the dead tiger,
wondering at the tale told by the delighted ryot, who squatted at the
beast's head to relate the adventure to all comers. We could see the
group from where we sat, in the shadow of the _connat_, and the
different expressions of the men as they came out. The little collector
of Pegnugger measured and measured again; Mr. Ghyrkins stood with his
hands in his coat pockets and his legs apart, then going to the other
side he took up the same position again. Lord Steepleton Kildare
sauntered round and twirled his big moustache, saying nothing the while,
but looking rather serious. John Westonhaugh, who seemed to be the
artistic genius of the party, sent for a chair and made his servant hold
an umbrella over him while he sketched the animal in his notebook, and
presently his sister came out, a big bunch of roses in her belt, and a
broad hat half hiding her face, and looked at the tiger and then round
the party quickly, searching for Isaacs. In her hand she held a little
package wrapped in white tissue paper. I strolled up to the group,
leaving Isaacs in his tent. I thought I might as well play innocence.
"Of course," I remarked, "those fellows have bagged his ears as usual."
"They never omit that," said Ghyrkins.
"Oh no, uncle," broke in Miss Westonhaugh, "he gave them to me!"
"Who?" asked Ghyrkins, opening his little eyes wide.
"Mr. Isaacs. Did not he kill the tiger? He sent me the ears in a little
silver box. Here it is--the box, I mean. I am going to give it back to
him, of course."
"How did Mr. Isaacs know you wanted them?" asked her uncle, getting red
in the face.
"Why, we were talking about them last night before dinner, and he
promised that if he shot a tiger to-day he would give me the ears." Mr.
Ghyrkins was redder and redder in the morning sun. There was a storm of
some kind brewing. We were collected together on the other side of the
dead tiger and exchanged all kinds of spontaneous civilities and
remarks, not wishing to witness Mr. Ghyrkins' wrath, nor to go away too
suddenly. I heard the conversation, however, for the old gentleman made
no pretence of lowering his voice.
"And do you mean to say you let him go off like that? He must have been
out all night. That beast of a nigger says so. On foot, too. I say on
foot! Do you know what you are talking about? Eh? Shooting tigers on
foot? What? Eh? Might have been killed as easily as not! And then what
would you have said? Eh? What? Upon my soul! You girls from home have no
more hearts than a parcel of old Juggernauts!" Ghyrkins was now furious.
We edged away towards the dining-tent, making a great talk about the
terrible heat of the sun in the morning. I caught the beginning of Miss
Westonhaugh's answer. She had hardly appreciated the situation yet, and
probably thought her uncle was joking, but she spoke very coldly, being
properly annoyed at his talking in such a way.
"You cannot suppose for a moment that I meant him to go," I heard her
say, and something else followed in a lower tone. We then went into the
"Now look here, Katharine," Mr. Ghyrkins' irate voice rang across the
open space, "if any young woman asked me----" John Westonhaugh had risen
from his chair and apparently interrupted his uncle. Miss Westonhaugh
walked slowly to her tent, while her male relations remained talking. I
thought Isaacs had shown some foresight in not taking part in the
morning discussion. The two men went into their tents together and the
dead tiger lay alone in the grass, the sun rising higher and higher,
pouring down his burning rays on man and beast and green thing. And soon
the shikarries came with a small elephant and dragged the carcass away
to be skinned and cut up. Kildare and the collector said they would go
and shoot some small game for dinner. Isaacs, I supposed, was sleeping,
and I was alone in the dining-tent. I shouted for Kiramat Ali and sent
for books, paper, and pens, and a hookah, resolved to have a quiet
morning to myself, since it was clear we were not going out to-day. I
saw Ghyrkins' servant enter his tent with bottles and ice, and I
suspected the old fellow was going to cool his wrath with a "peg," and
would be asleep most of the morning. John would take a peg too, but he
would not sleep in consequence, being of Bombay, iron-headed and
spirit-proof. So I read on and wrote, and was happy, for I like the heat
of the noon-day and the buzzing of the flies, and the smell of the
parched grass, being southern born.
About twelve o'clock, when I was beginning to think I had done enough
work for one day, I saw Miss Westonhaugh's native maid come out of her
mistress's tent and survey the landscape, shading her eyes with her
hand. She was dressed, of course, in spotless white drapery, and there
were heavy anklets on her feet and bangles of silver on her wrist. She
seemed satisfied by her inspection and went in again, returning
presently with Miss Westonhaugh and a large package of work and novels
and letter-writing materials. They came straight to where I was sitting
under the airy tent where we dined, and Miss Westonhaugh established
herself at one side of the table at the end of which I was writing.
"It is so hot in my tent," she said almost apologetically, and began to
unroll some worsted work.
"Yes, it is quite unbearable," I answered politely, though I had not
thought much about the temperature. There was a long silence, and I
collected my papers in a bundle and leaned back in my chair. I did not
know what to say, nor was anything expected of me. I looked occasionally
at the young girl, who had laid her hat on the table, allowing the rich
coils of dazzling hair to assert their independence. Her dark eyes were
bent over her work as her fingers deftly pushed the needle in and out of
the brown linen she worked on.
"Mr. Griggs," she began at last without looking up, "did you know Mr.
Isaacs was going out last night to kill that horrid thing?" I had
expected the question for some time.
"Yes; he told me about midnight, when he started."
"Then why did you let him go?" she asked, looking suddenly at me, and
knitting her dark eyebrows rather fiercely.
"I do not think I could have prevented him. I do not think anybody could
prevent him from doing anything he had made up his mind to. I nearly
quarrelled with him, as it was."
"I am sure I could have stopped him, if I had been you," she said
"I have not the least doubt that you could. Unfortunately, however, you
were not available at the time, or I would have suggested it to you."
"I wish I had known," she went on, plunging deeper and deeper. "I would
not have had him go for--for anything."
"Oh! Well, I suppose not. But, seriously, Miss Westonhaugh, are you not
flattered that a man should be willing and ready to risk life and limb
in satisfying your lightest fancy?"
"Flattered?" she looked at me with much astonishment and some anger. I
was sure the look was genuine and not assumed.
"At all events the tiger's ears will always be a charming reminiscence,
a token of esteem that any one might be proud of."
"I am not proud of them in the least, though I shall always keep them as
a warning not to wish for such things. I hope that the next time Mr.
Isaacs is going to do a foolish thing you will have the common sense to
prevent him." She returned to her starting-point; but I saw no use in
prolonging the skirmish, and turned the talk upon other things. And soon
John Westonhaugh joined us, and found in me a sympathetic talker and
listener, as we both cared a great deal more for books than for tigers,
though not averse to a stray shot now and then.
In this kind of life the week passed, shooting to-day and staying in
camp to-morrow. We shifted our ground several times, working along the
borders of the forest and crashing through the jungle after tiger with
varying success. In the evenings, when not tired with the day's work, we
sat together, and Isaacs sang, and at last even prevailed upon Miss
Westonhaugh to let him accompany her with his guitar, in which he proved
very successful. They were constantly together, and Ghyrkins was heard
to say that Isaacs was "a very fine fellow, and it was a pity he wasn't
English," to which Kildare assented somewhat mournfully, allowing that
it was quite true. His chance was gone, and he knew it, and bore it like
a gentleman, though he still made use of every opportunity he had to
make himself acceptable to Miss Westonhaugh. The girl liked his manly
ways, and was always grateful for any little attention from him that
attracted her notice, but it was evident that all her interest ceased
there. She liked him in the same way she liked her brother, but rather
less, if anything. She hardly knew, for she had seen so little of John
since she was a small child. I suppose Isaacs must have talked to her
about me, for she treated me with a certain consideration, and often
referred questions to me, on which I thought she might as well have
consulted some one else. For my part, I served the lovers in every way I
could think of. I would have done anything for Isaacs then as now, and I
liked her for the honest good feeling she had shown about him,
especially in the matter of the tiger's ears, for which she could not
forgive herself--though in truth she had been innocent enough. And they
were really lovers, those two. Any one might have seen it, and but for
the wondrous fascination Isaacs exercised over every one who came near
him, and the circumstances of his spotless name and reputation for
integrity in the large transactions in which he was frequently known to
be engaged, it is certain that Mr. Ghyrkins would have looked askance at
the whole affair, and very likely would have broken up the party.
In the course of time we became a little _blase_ about tigers, till on
the eighth day from the beginning of the hunt, which was a Thursday, I
remember, an incident occurred which left a lasting impression on the
mind of every one who witnessed it. It was a very hot morning, the
hottest day we had had, and we had just crossed a _nullah_ in the
forest, full from the recent rains, wherein the elephants lingered
lovingly to splash the water over their heated sides, drowning the
swarms of mosquitoes from which they suffer such torments, in spite of
their thick skins. The collector called a halt on the opposite side; our
line of march had become somewhat disordered by the passage, and
numerous tracks in the pasty black mud showed that the _nullah_ was a
favourite resort of tigers--though at this time of day they might be a
long distance off. I had come next to the collector after we emerged
from the stream, the pad elephants having lingered longer in the water,
and Mr. Ghyrkins with Miss Westonhaugh was three or four places beyond
me. It was shady and cool under the thick trees, and the light was not
good. The collector bent over his howdah, looking at some tracks.
"Those tracks look suspiciously fresh, Mr. Griggs," said the collector,
scrutinising the holes, not yet filled by the oozing back water of the
_nullah_. "Don't you think so?"
"Indeed, yes. I do not understand it at all," I replied. At the
collector's call a couple of beaters came forward and stooped down to
examine the trail. One of them, a good-looking young _gowala_, or
cowherd, followed along the footprints, examining each to be sure he was
not going on a false spoor; he moved slowly, scrutinising each hole, as
the traces grew shallower on the rising ground, approaching a bit of
small jungle. My sight followed the probable course of the track ahead
of him and something caught my eyes, which are remarkably good, even at
a great distance. The object was brown and hairy; a dark brown, not the
kind of colour one expects to see in the jungle in September. I looked
closely, and was satisfied that it must be part of an animal; still more
clearly I saw it, and no doubt remained in my mind; it was the head of a
bullock or a heifer. I shouted to the man to be careful, to stop and let
the elephants plough through the undergrowth, as only elephants can. But
he did not understand my Hindustani, which was of the civilised _Urdu_
kind learnt in the North-West Provinces. The man went quickly along, and
I tried to make the collector comprehend what I saw. But the pad
elephants were coming out of the water and forcing themselves between
our beasts, and he hardly caught what I said in the confusion. The track
led away to my left, nearly opposite to the elephant bearing Mr.
Ghyrkins and his niece. The little Pegnugger man was on my right. The
native held on, moving more and more rapidly as he found himself
following a single track. I shouted to him--to Ghyrkins--to everybody,
but they could not make the doomed man understand what I saw--the
freshly slain head of the tiger's last victim. There was little doubt
that the king himself was near by--probably in that suspicious-looking
bit of green jungle, slimy green too, as green is, that grows in sticky
chocolate-coloured mud. The young fellow was courageous, and ignorant of
the immediate danger, and, above all, he was on the look out for
bucksheesh. He reached the reeds and unclean vegetables that grew thick
and foul together in the little patch. He put one foot into the bush.
A great fiery yellow and black head rose cautiously above the level of
the green and paused a moment, glaring. The wretched man, transfixed
with terror, stood stock still, expecting death. Then he moved, as if to
throw himself on one side, and at the same instant the tiger made a dash
at his naked body, such a dash as a great relentless cat makes at a
gold-fish trying to slide away from its grip. The tiger struck the man a
heavy blow on the right shoulder, felling him like a log, and coming
down to a standing position over his prey, with one paw on the native's
right arm. Probably the parade of elephants and bright coloured howdahs,
and the shouts of the beaters and shikarries, distracted his attention
for a moment. He stood whirling his tail to right and left, with half
dropped jaw and flaming eyes, half pressing, half grabbing the fleshy
arm of the senseless man beneath him--impatient, alarmed, and horrible.
"Pack!!! Pi-i-i-i-ing ..." went the crack and the sing of the merry
rifle, and the scene changed.
With a yell like a soul in everlasting torment the great beast whirled
himself into the air ten feet at least, and fell dead beside his victim,
shot through breast and breastbone and heart. A dead silence fell on the
spectators. Then I looked, and saw Miss Westonhaugh holding out a second
gun to Mr. Ghyrkins, while he, seeing that the first had done its work,
leaned forward, his broad face pale with the extremity of his horror for
the man's danger, and his hands gripping at the empty rifle.
"You've done it this time," cried the collector from the right. "Take
six to four the man's dead!"
"Done," called Kildare from the other end. I was the nearest to the
scene, after Ghyrkins. I dropped over the edge of the howdah and made
for the spot, running. I think I reflected as I ran that it was rather
low for men to bet on the poor fellow's life in that way. Tigers are
often very deceptive and always die hard, and I am a cautious person, so
when I was near I pulled out my long army six-shooter, and, going
witihin arm's length, quietly put a bullet through the beast's eye as a
matter of safety. When he was cut up, however, the ball from the rifle
of Mr. Ghyrkins was found in his heart; the old fellow was a dead shot
still. I went up and examined the prostrate man. He was lying on his
face, and so I picked him up and propped his head against the dead
tiger. He was still breathing, but a very little examination proved that
his right collar-bone and the bone of his upper arm were broken. A
little brandy revived him, and he immediately began to scream with pain.
I was soon joined by the collector, who with characteristic promptitude
had torn and hewed some broad slats of bamboo from his howdah, and with
a little pulling and wrenching, and the help of my long, tough
turban-cloth, a real native pugree, we set and bound the arm as best we
could, giving the poor fellow brandy all the while. The collar-bone we
left to its own devices; an injury there takes care of itself.
An elephant came up and received the dead tiger, and the man was carried
off and placed in my howdah. The other animals with their riders had
gathered near the scene, and every one had something to say to Ghyrkins,
who by his brilliant shot and the life he had saved, had maintained his
reputation, and come off the hero of the whole campaign. Miss
Westonhaugh was speechless with horror at the whole thing, and seemed to
cling to her uncle, as if fearing something of the same kind might
happen to her at any moment. Isaacs, as usual the last on the line of
beating, came up and called out his congratulations.
"After saving a life so well, Mr. Ghyrkins, you will not grudge me the
poor honour of risking one, will you?"
"Not I, my boy!" answered the delighted old sportsman, "only if that
mangy old man-eater had got you down the other day, I should not have
been there to pot him!"
"Great shot, sir! I envy you," said Kildare.
"Splendid shot. A hundred yards at least," said John Westonhaugh
meditatively, but in a loud voice.
So we swung away toward the camp, though it was early. Ghyrkins
chuckled, and the man with the broken bones groaned. But between the
different members of the party he would be a rich man before he was
well. I amused myself with my favourite sport of potting peacocks with
bullets; it is very good practice. Isaacs had told me that morning when
we started that he would leave us the next day to meet Shere Ali near
Keitung. We reached camp about three o'clock, in the heat of the
afternoon. The injured beater was put in a servant's tent to be sent off
to Pegnugger in a litter in the cool of the night. There was a doctor
there who would take care of him under the collector's written orders.
The camp was in a shady place, quite unlike the spot where we had first
pitched our tents. There was a little grove of mango-trees, rather
stunted, as they are in the north, and away at one corner of the
plantation was a well with a small temple where a Brahmin, related to
all the best families in the neighbouring village, dwelt and collected
the gifts bestowed on him and his simple shrine by the superstitious,
devout, or worldly pilgrims who yearly and monthly visited him in search
of counsel, spiritual or social. The men had mowed the grass smooth
under the trees, and the shade was not so close as to make it damp. Some
ryots had been called in to dig a ditch and raised a rough _chapudra_ or
terrace, some fifteen feet in diameter, opposite the dining-tent, on
which elevation we could sit, even late at night, in reasonable security
from cobras and other evil beasts. It was a pleasant place in the
afternoon, and pleasanter still at night. As I turned into our tent
after we got back, I thought I would go and sit there when I had bathed,
and send for a hookah and a novel, and go to sleep.
* * * * *
I observed that Isaacs was very quick about his toilet, and when I came
out and ascended the terrace, followed by Kiramat Ali with books and
tobacco, I glanced lazily over the quiet scene, settling myself in my
chair, and fully expecting to see my friend somewhere among the trees,
not unaccompanied by some one else. I was not mistaken. Turning my eyes
towards the corner of the grove where the old Brahmin had his shrine, I
saw the two well-known figures of Isaacs and Miss Westonhaugh sauntering
towards the well. Having satisfied the expectations of my curiosity, I
turned over the volume of philosophy, well thumbed and hard used as a
priest's breviary, and I inhaled long draughts of tobacco, debating
whether I should read, or meditate, or dream. Deciding in favour of the
more mechanical form of intellectuality, I fixed on a page that looked
inviting, and followed the lines, from left to right, lazily at first,
then with increased interest, and finally in that absorbed effort of
continued comprehension which constitutes real study. Page after page,
syllogism after syllogism, conclusion after conclusion, I followed for
the hundredth time in the book I love well--the book of him that would
destroy the religion I believe, but whose brilliant failure is one of
the grandest efforts of the purely human mind. I finished a chapter and,
in thought still, but conscious again of life, I looked up. They were
still down there by the well, those two, but while I looked the old
priest, bent and white, came out of the little temple where he had been
sprinkling his image of Vishnu, and dropped his aged limbs from one step
to the other painfully, steadying his uncertain descent with a stick. He
went to the beautiful couple seated on the edge of the well, built of
mud and sun-dried bricks, and he seemed to speak to Isaacs, I watched,
and became interested in the question whether Isaacs would give him a
two-anna bit or a copper, and whether I could distinguish with the naked
eye at that distance between the silver and the baser metal. Curious,
thought I, how odd little trifles will absorb the attention. The
interview which was to lead to the expected act of charity seemed to be
lasting a long time.
Suddenly Isaacs turned and called to me; his high, distinct tones
seeming to gather volume from the hollow of the well. He was calling me
to join them. I rose, rather reluctantly, from my books and moved
through the trees to where they were.
"Griggs," Isaacs called out before I had reached him, "here is an old
fellow who knows something. I really believe he is something of a yogi."
"What ridiculous nonsense," I said impatiently, "who ever heard of a
yogi living in a temple and feeding on the fat of the land in the way
all these men do? Is that all you wanted?" Miss Westonhaugh, peering
down into the depths of the well, laughed gaily.
"I told you so! Never try to make Mr. Griggs swallow that kind of thing.
Besides, he is a 'cynic' you know."
"As far as personal appearance goes, Miss Westonhaugh, I think your
friend the Brahmin there stands more chance of being taken for a
philosopher of that school. He really does not look particularly well
fed, in spite of the riches I thought he possessed." He was a
strange-looking old man, with a white beard and a small badly-rolled
pugree. His black eyes were filmy and disagreeable to look at. I
addressed him in Hindustani, and told him what Isaacs said, that he
thought he was a yogi. The old fellow did not look at me, nor did the
bleared eyes give any sign of intelligence. Nevertheless he answered my
"Of what avail that I do wonders for you who believe not?" he asked, and
his voice sounded cracked and far off.
"It will avail thee several coins, friend," I answered, "both rupees and
pais. Reflect that there may be bucksheesh in store for thee, and do a
"I will not do wonders for bucksheesh," said the priest, and began to
hobble away. Isaacs stepped lightly to his side and whispered something
in his ear. The ancient Brahmin turned.
"Then I will do a wonder for you, but I want no bucksheesh. I will do it
for the lady with white hair, whose face resembles Chunder." He looked
long and fixedly at Miss Westonhaugh. "Let the _sahib log_ come with me
a stone's throw from the well, and let one sahib call his servant and
bid him draw water that he may wash his hands. And I will do this
wonder; the man shall not draw any water, though he had the strength of
Siva, until I say the word." So we moved away under the trees, and I
shouted for Kiramat Ali, who came running down, and I told him to send a
_bhisti_, a water-carrier, with his leathern bucket. Then we waited.
Presently the man came, with bucket and rope.
"Draw water, that I may wash my hands," said I.
"Achha, sahib," and he strode to the well and lowered his pail by the
rope. The priest looked intently at him as he shook the rope to turn the
bucket over and let it fill; then he began to pull. The bucket seemed to
be caught. He jerked, and then bent his whole weight back, drawing the
rope across the edge of the brickwork. The thing was immovable. He
seemed astonished and looked down into the well, thinking the pail was
caught in a stone. I could not resist the temptation to go down and
inspect the thing. No. The bucket was full and lying in the middle of
the round sheet of water at the bottom of the well. The man tugged,
while the Brahmin never took his eyes, now bright and fiery, off him. I
went back to where they all stood. The thing had lasted five minutes.
Then the priest's lips moved silently.
Instantly the strain was released and the stout water-carrier fell
headlong backwards on the grass, his heels in the air, jerking the
bucket right over the edge of the well. He bounded to his feet and ran
up the grove, shouting "Bhut, Bhut," "devils, devils," at the top of his
voice. His obstinacy had lasted so long as the bucket would not move,
but then his terror got the better of him and he fled.
"Did you ever see anything of that kind before, Miss Westonhaugh?" I
"No indeed; have you? How is it done?"
"I have seen similar things done, but not often. There are not many of
them that know how. But I cannot tell you the process any more than I
can explain the mango trick, which belongs, distantly, to the same class
The Brahmin, whose eyes were again dim and filmy, turned to Isaacs.
"I have done a wonder for you. I will also tell you a saying. You have
done wrong in not taking the advice of your friend. You should not have
come forth to kill the king of game, nor have brought the white-haired
lady into the tiger's jaws. I have spoken. Peace be with you." And he
"And with you peace, friend," answered Isaacs mechanically, but as I
looked at him he turned white to the very lips.
Miss Westonhaugh did not understand the language, and Isaacs would have
been the last person to translate such a speech as the Brahmin had made.
We turned and strolled up the hill, and presently I bethought me of some
errand, and left them together under the trees. They were so happy and
so beautiful together, the fair lily from the English dale and the deep
red rose of Persian Gulistan. The sun slanted low through the trees and
sank in rose-coloured haze, and the moon, now just at the half, began to
shine out softly through the mangoes, and still the lovers walked,
pacing slowly to and fro near the well. No wonder they dallied long; it
was their last evening together, and I doubted not that Isaacs was
telling her of his sudden departure, necessary for reasons which I knew
he would not explain to her or to any one else.
At last we all assembled in the dining-tent. Mr. Currie Ghyrkins was
among the first, and his niece was the last to enter the room. He was
glorious that evening, his kindly red face beamed on every one, and he
carried himself like a victorious general at a ladies' tea-party. He had
reason to be happy, and his jerky good spirits were needed to
counterbalance the deep melancholy that seemed to have settled upon his
niece. The colour was gone from her cheeks, and her dark eyes, heavily
fringed by the black brows and lashes, shone out strangely; the contrast
between the white flaxen hair, drawn back in simple massive waves like a
Greek statue, and the broad level eyes as dark as night, was almost
startling this evening in the singularity of its beauty. She sat like a
queenly marble at the end of the table, not silent, by any means, but so
evidently out of spirits that John Westonhaugh, who did not know that
Isaacs was going in the morning, and would not have supposed that his
sister could care so much, if he had known, remarked upon her
"What is the matter, Katharine?" he asked kindly. "Have you a headache
this evening?" She was just then staring rather blankly into space.
"Oh no," she said, trying to smile. "I was thinking."
"Ah," said Mr. Ghyrkins merrily, "that is why you look so unlike
yourself, my dear!" And he laughed at his rough little joke.
"Do I?" asked the girl absently.
But Ghyrkins was not to be repressed, and as Kildare and the Pegnugger
man were gay and wide awake, the dinner was not as dull as might have
been expected. When it was over, Isaacs announced his intention of
leaving early the next morning. Very urgent business recalled him
suddenly, he explained. A messenger had arrived just before dinner. He
must leave without fail in the morning. Miss Westonbaugh of course was
forewarned; but the others were not. Lord Steepleton Kildare, in the act
of lighting a cheroot, dropped the vesuvian incontinently, and stood
staring at Isaacs with an indescribable expression of empty wonder in
his face, while the match sputtered and smouldered and died away in the
grass by the door. John Westonhaugh, who liked Isaacs sincerely, and had
probably contemplated the possibility of the latter marrying Katharine,
looked sorry at first, and then a half angry expression crossed his
face, which softened instantly again. Currie Ghyrkins swore loudly that
it was out of the question--that it would break up the party--that he
would not hear of it, and so on.
"I must go," said Isaacs quietly. "It is a very serious matter. I am
sorry--more sorry than I can tell you; but I must."
"But you cannot, you know. Damn it, sir, you are the life of the party,
you know! Come, come, this will never do!"
"My dear sir," said Isaacs, addressing Ghyrkins, "if, when you were
about to fire this morning to save that poor devil's life, I had begged
you not to shoot, would you have complied?"
"Why, of course not," ejaculated Ghyrkins angrily.
"Well, neither can I comply, though I would give anything to stay with
"But nobody's life depends on your going away to-morrow morning. What do
you mean? The deuce and all, you know, I don't understand you a bit."
"I cannot tell you, Mr. Ghyrkins; but something dependg on my going,
which is of as great importance to the person concerned as life itself.
Believe me," he said, going near to the old gentleman and laying a hand
on his arm, "I do not go willingly."
"Well, I hope not, I am sure," said Ghyrkins gruffly, though yielding.
"If you will, you will, and there's no holding you; but we are all very
sorry. That's all. Mahmoud! bring fire, you lazy pigling, that I may
smoke." And he threw himself into a chair, the very creaking of the cane
wicker expressing annoyance and dissatisfaction.
So there was an end of it, and Isaacs strode off through the moonlight
to his quarters, to make some arrangement, I supposed. But he did not
come back. Miss Westonhaugh retired also to her tent, and no one was
surprised to see her go. Kildare rose presently and asked if I would not
stroll to the well, or anywhere, it was such a jolly night. I went with
him, and arm in arm we walked slowly down. The young moon was bright
among the mango-trees, striking the shining leaves, that reflected a
strange greenish light. We moved leisurely, and spoke little. I
understood Kildare's silence well enough, and I had nothing to say. The
ground was smooth and even, for the men had cut the grass close, and the
little humped cow that belonged to the old Brahmin cropped all she could
We skirted round the edge of the grove, intending to go back to the
tents another way. Suddenly I saw something in front that arrested my
attention. Two figures, some thirty yards away. They stood quite still,
turned from us. A man and a woman between the trees, an opening in the
leaves jost letting a ray of moonlight slip through on them. His arm
around her, the tall lissome figure of her bent, and her head resting on
his shoulder. I have good eyes and was not mistaken, but I trusted
Kildare had not seen. A quick twitch of his arm, hanging carelessly
through mine, told me the mischief was done before I could turn his
attention. By a common instinct we wheeled to the left, and passing into
the open strolled back in the direction whence we had come. I did not
look at Kildare, but after a minute he began to talk about the moonlight
and tigers, and whether tigers were ever shot by moonlight, and
altogether was rather incoherent; but I took up the question, and we
talked bravely till we got back to the dining-tent, where we sat down
again, secretly wishing we had not gone for a stroll after all. In a few
minutes Isaacs came from his tent, which he must have entered from the
other side. He was perfectly at his ease, and at once began talking
about the disagreeable journey he had before him. Then, after a time, we
broke up, and he said good-bye to every one in turn, and Ghyrkins told
John to call his sister, if she were still visible, for "Mr. Isaacs
wanted to say good-bye." So she came and took his hand, and made a
simple speech about "meeting again before long," as she stood with her
uncle; and my friend and I went away to our tent.
We sat long in the _connat_. Isaacs did not seem to want rest, and I
certainly did not. For the first half hour he was engaged in giving
directions to the faithful Narain, who moved about noiselessly among the
portmanteaus and gun-cases and boots which strewed the floor. At last
all was settled for the start before dawn, and he turned to me.
"We shall meet again in Simla, Griggs, of course?"
"I hope so. Of course we shall, unless you are killed by those fellows
at Keitung. I would not trust them."
"I do not trust them in the least, but I have an all-powerful ally in
Ram Lal. Did you not think it very singular that the Brahmin should know
all about Ram Lal's warning? and that he should have the same opinion?"
"We live in a country where nothing should astonish us, as I remember
saying to you a fortnight ago, when we first met," I answered. "That the
Brahmin possesses some knowledge of _yog-vidya_ is more clearly shown by
his speech about Ram Lal than by that ridiculous trick with my
"You are not easily astonished, Griggs. But I agree with you as to that.
I am still at a loss to understand why I should not have come or let the
others come. I was startled at the Brahmin."
"I saw you were; you were as white as a sheet, and yet you turned up
your nose at Ram Lal when he told you not to come."
"The Brahmin said something more than Ram Lal. He said I should not have
brought the white-haired lady into the tiger's jaws. I saw that the
first warning had been on her account, and I suppose the impression of
possible danger for her frightened me."
"It would not have frightened you three weeks ago about any woman," I
said. "It appears to me that your ideas in certain quarters have
undergone some little change. You are as different from the Isaacs I