Slike strani
PDF
ePub

little evergreen woods, locally called sholas, among the characteristic trees of which are the ilex and eugenia, the reddening shades of which recall at one stage the autumnal beauties of Dunkeld, at another the glories of the maple forests in the lovely woods around Kioto. The rhododendron, which abounds, does not recall the stunted shrub familiar to the Londoner. It is a big tree, and its gnarled and twisted trunk is generally covered with soft green moss, and from its branches hangs the light green moss called old man's beard, from which descend sparkling drops of rain. There is no such thing as a solitary tree on the hill slopes, unless it be here and there a rhododendron blushing to find itself alone. The smallest woods range themselves into compact little fringes to the streams that run down to meet the inevitable river at the bottom of each valley, that flows down to meet the big river at the bottom of the hills.

It was now three o'clock, a time when samber—the deer called by the erudite Rusa Aristotelis-leave the cover of the sholas and come out on the surrounding grass-land. Straight below us, at a distance of perhaps half a mile, amidst all these beauties of nature, the biggest stag that ever was seen was peacefully grazing. Under cover of the cloud we had unconsciously come straight above him, and the problem now was to get down in the open sunlight without being seen. It is not only classical heroes, however, who have been saved by the sudden intervention of a cloud such as now drifted slowly up and enveloped everything. One of my two companions and myself let ourselves down along the face of the rock and through the long grass, a recurring shower bath at every step, to a point a hundred feet or so below the place where the stag had been sighted, and then proceeded to crawl stealthily along the edge of the shola, which is as sharply defined, it must be remembered, as a box hedge in an English garden. It was exciting work, for no one could tell at what minute we might chance upon the stag; and just as I was thinking of this the largest head I ever saw loomed larger than ever in front of my face. Two white tips a prodigious distance apart, a loud bell, a whisk, and a crash, and the stag was off in the friendly shola before you could get your rifle to your shoulder or had fully realised that he was there.

Disappointedly we climbed back, and then the clouds lifted for the last time, and from four o'clock till nightfall bright sunshine illuminated the silent valleys and all but the tops of the hills. In front of us in the uplands we spied a young stag, and stalked him, wasting a long shot, and then sat down on a rock which formed a most convenient point of vantage, and scanned the surrounding country with the glass. I saw nothing, but the shikari's keen eye made out a jungle sheep, or barking deer, at a distance from a quarter to half a mile below us. Everything is below or above here. There

is no level ground. I turned the glasses in the direction given, and saw what looked at first, I must say it, however absurd, like an enormous bird with his legs well under him and his wings half folded. On a longer inspection the bird looked more and more like an enormous owl. As it could not be an owl, what could it be? The sun, shining brighter and brighter, revealed marks on its back which suggested a panther, but when these marks looked long and black the thing actually developed into a tiger. Remember I was sitting straight above it; it was so foreshortened that the relations between fore legs and hind legs were confounded, and hind legs looked very much like wings. Besides, who ever expected to see a tiger sitting out on an open plot of grass warming himself in the sun? The problem again was how to get near him. There was some very difficult ground to get over ;

all down the hill were rocks and tussocks of coarse grass and thorny bushes. There was cover, however, and my shikari and I in a state of feverish excitement made a prodigious detour, a mile to the left of the tiger, to the edge of the opposite side of the shola a long way beneath, and then climbed slowly and silently up the long side of the shola till we reached the corner on the other side of which we had seen him. This was the time to cock the rifle and prepare for battle; but, alas! on rounding the corner there was no necessity for either; the grass plot was as bare as a London back garden.

However exciting to experience, there is a sameness about the narration of such events. Suffice it to say that as with the biggest stag that ever was seen so with the only tiger that ever looked like a colossal owl; the result was disappointment and a long climb back to the point of departure. The other shikari, who had stayed behind, had, from the top of the hill, seen the tiger go into the shola, and had been a probably complacent witness of our fruitless labours.

All these descents and ascents had taken much time, and there was hardly enough daylight left for a walk of six very bad miles back to the bungalow when, at half-past five, we turned our faces homewards, leaving on the left a forest which clothed the whole of one precipitous side of the valley, and in the centre of which was situated an ideal waterfall which tumbled in and out of the trees and splashed and frothed and roared in the sunlight till it joined the hidden stream below. As we tramped along the opposite hillside, we put up a pheasant, but met no other living thing except some brother sportsmen, owls and hawks, like ourselves in search of prey, and probably more successful. It is quite dark at seven in these lonely valleys, and it was half-past six when we were climbing the last ascent preparatory to dropping down a few hundred almost perpendicular feet to the bungalow. The sun was sinking, and could not penetrate the cloud which enveloped the top of the hill. We walked along quietly, with those mixed feelings which a day induces when game is seen but not bagged, and the excitement of stalking is

uncrowned with the glory of a kill. I say mixed feelings, for I suppose that in shooting, as in love-making, it is better to have seen and lost than never to have seen at all. I thought regretfully of the biggest stag that ever was seen, and reproachfully of the impatient tiger, who, doubtless disgusted by doubts as to his identity, declined to wait till a view within rifle-shot should settle the point. A stray sambur might at any minute be seen grazing ; so I had my rifle, a •450 express, loaded, and a few spare cartridges in my pocket; and my shikari behind me had a couple of ball cartridges in his muzzleloader, which had been put there for the benefit of the above-mentioned tiger. I was the first to top the brow of the hill, from which grass land slopes with a gentle descent to a burn fringed with rhododendrons, beyond which was a tiny lawn flanked by a thick shola.

The cloud still lingered on the top of the hill; there was no trace of the departing sun, and the burn, the rhododendrons, the lawn, and the shola were invisible. You could only see about gunshot distance, and the foreground was occupied by-tigers. The sight that met my eyes as I topped the crest of the hill was this: three full-grown tigers in a cloud-you could see nothing else.

The cloud, which deprived them of a background, added to their apparent size, and on this occasion there was nothing of the owl about them. On reflection I think the first impression produced by tigers met in this way is that it is very fortunate to have met them, and that it might be as well to leave them alone. However, there was only one thing to be done, whatever one might think; and the instant I saw them I took aim and fired at the one which presented a broadside, and a discharge behind me showed that the occasion was not one for etiquette, and that my shikari had followed suit with one barrel. The smoke hung like a thick cloud in front of us; the spring of the pin of my rifle was broken, and in loading I could not close the breech before pushing it back with my finger. Looking up, I saw one of the tigers had moved upwards in our direction. He was not charging; the impression he produced on my mind was that of a person annoyed at an interruption and not certain whence it had proceeded. Of course it was only a glimpse. As I closed the breech of my rifle the shikari from behind fired at the approaching tiger and turned him. At the same moment the cloud lifted, the smoke of rifle and gun cleared away, the burn, the rhododendrons, the little lawn and the shola, all was clear as day, as was the form of one tigress, now across the brook, whose yellow coat streaked with black showed up plainly through the trees as she painfully dragged behind her two broken legs towards a point where the burn took off from the bottom of the shola. Before she reached that tree she had received four more express bullets, fired from close quarters, and underneath the tree she lay down and after a few groans died. The

tigers, with the mist, had disappeared, but one of them was found dead of his wounds a week later hardly a hundred yards from where we met him.

I measured the dead one with my scarf. She was a scarf and half long from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail, that is to say seven and a half feet, not by any means a big tiger; but then to have met her in that way just at the end of a blank day, to find oneself in a cloud with three tigers and to kill even one, was immensely, unspeakably satisfactory. So thought the two natives, who, like myself, had never dreamt of getting a tiger, and I think bad never seen one before. When the big cat was well dead they boxed her ears, bowed to her, and talked to her with endearing and ironical expressions. We were bound to skin her at once, for the jackals would have eaten her before morning. One of the hind legs was completely shattered by the first express bullet, and inside her were lots of little bits of the express bullets.

They cut out her liver; they judged her by reason of its five lobes to be a tigress of five years; they cut some fat from her belly to eat, which gives courage. As they skinned her one would say to the other, ' I hope she won't run away,” “How are you, younger sister? you won't kill any more cattle.' At last we got her head and skin tied up in a coat and cloth and belt, and carried them home. And here ends this brief account of one day's sport in India.

I should like to violate the unities and include in this day a stag—not, alas ! the biggest that ever was seen -killed

the morrow. I should like to tell how, in search of ibex, I met him in the open, shot him in the neck, and tracked him down the long shola by his blood, and found him at last prostrate by the burn-side. These and other pleasures may those expect who shoot upon these lovely mountains. Health, scenery, and some sport they may count upon, but few can hope as I did in one day to meet one tiger in the open and to chance upon three others in a cloud.

J. D. Rees.

on

CENTURY FOR CENTURY.

STARTED in 1830 by M. Buloz, the Revue des Deux Mondes has maintained an undisputed supremacy in French periodical literature. The Revue has always extended its hospitality to unknown authors with a generosity tempered by discrimination. Alfred de Musset's masterpiece in comedy, The Caprice, was not admitted to the Théâtre Français until ten years after its publication, though all his poems had found a place in the Revue. But whilst rising luminaries gain admission to the sanctuary of M. Buloz, as the ante-chamber to the Academy, the great writers of the day deem it an honour to be among his contributors. Thus in every number are found such names as those of M. Taine, the Duc de Broglie, M. Maxime Ducamp, the Comte de Paris, M. Octave Feuillet, M. Renan, M. François Coppée, and M. Cherbuliez. Naturally, the articles of the Revue deal principally with French topics. Our own magazines, which largely exceed in number those of France, rarely devote their space to subjects of a foreign nature. It is therefore a source of satisfaction when the well-known salmon-coloured cover of the Revue des Deux Mondes contains the title of an article on English history, politics, or letters. In recent years Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare, Hogarth, Carlyle, Darwin, and the fiction of George Eliot and Ouida, to quote at haphazard, have been treated of in its pages. A writer of repute, M. Augustin Filon, sometime tutor to the Prince Imperial, has made English worthies the subject of various papers. Having devoted his attention to Lord Tennyson and Hogarth in articles deserving of commendation, he has more recently criticised the works of our two leading contemporary historians. Valued as are the achievements of Mr. Froude and Mr. Lecky, and great as is their importance in our eyes, it is still an agreeable surprise that a writer who has so ample a mass of material for his investigations nearer home should occupy himself with the analysis of these comprehensive narratives of the progress of England and her institutions. I purpose dealing only with M. Filon's essay on Mr. Lecky which appeared in the Revue for the 1st of March of this year, and it is to be regretted that when we turn from its matter to its manner M. Filon should fail to display that impartiality which characterised his former articles. We should not

« PrejšnjaNaprej »