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to me, and not asking to intrude breathless expectation behind. No on me in any way beyond his own sound in the forest, but the distant particular function. It is a selfish hoot of the langur, and the mournfeeling in a way, no doubt, to feel ful sigh of the breeze through the that you and you alone are enjoy- foliage overhead. At last, after ing the woodland charm, and are much devious wandering, Afsul to profit by the chances of the chase, suddenly stops, and, taking up a but I plead guilty to it most com- morsel of broken leaf from the pletely, and enjoy my loneliness as ground, calls the forest peon into an unmixed delight.
consultation. We followed a beaten track for I wait amxiously for the verdict, a mile, and then plunged into the which is solemnly given in a whisjungle, passing under magnificent per, that several bison have been teak-trees with their enormous there within a few hours. We leaves, then through vast clumps of know that they cannot be distant, bamboo and sandal-wood, and other, and we clear for action. I take the to me unknown forest plants. Nor 12-bore and see that the cartridges was animal life wanting. Two are all right, while the peon takes spotted deer dashed
across the the lighter rifle. On we go, no glade in front of us. The large longer in desultory wandering, but handsome Malabar squirrel Aashed following step by step the footsteps his golden coat in the branches of the herd. Every jungle-sign is over our head, and quaint birds of examined with redoubled care ; no gorgeous plumage fitted across our longer we walk unheeding from path. A mile and a half of jungle- thicket to thicket, but a searching walking, and we came to a stream eye peers round every corner bewhose muddy banks showed that fore we debouch from the shelter the mighty elephant had often of each gigantic tree. The unshod there quenched his thirst; and, foot of the native falls noiselessly oh joy! among the massive foot- as a feather on the ground, while I prints Afsul pointed to a sharply- struggle vainly to pass over the cut print, more like that of a large débris of dried bamboo and withdeer than anything else, and whis- ered teak leaves without waking pered “ Koolga" (bison).
the echoes at every pace.
From We scrambled through the stream time to time, when I make a louder and up the slippery bank on the crackle then usual, Afsul darts a other side, and there track after look of remonstrance over his track crossing each other in differ- shoulder. I perspire profusely, in ent directions, some fresh, some old, bracing every muscle in the atshowed that bison had been recently tempt to emulate the snakelike haunting that part of the forest. movement of my guide, but cerThen the real business of the track- tainly with only moderate success. er began. Slowly pacing along, cri- I could not have believed before tically examining every track, now that one man could make so much stooping to pick up a bruised leaf noise. How I wished thatpressed into the soil by the weighty tread, now turning to look at a “The light harebell would raise its
head blade of the lofty grass or a twig of
Elastic ’neath my airy tread.” the jungle undergrowth, which had been bent or broken from its orig. How long did this last? I beinal direction, while I followed in lieve not more than half an hour, but in the time I lived weeks of penetrable bulwark of solid bone. anxiety and self-reproach.
No better chance offers, so drawSuddenly—what was that? Has ing a long breath, I fire where I anybody fired a pistol ahead of us? fancy his throat may be. Heavens ! No, it must be a bison crashing what a stampede followed the shot. through a giant bamboo. Afsul The crash as of a squadron of puts back his hand and presses me cavalry, the clatter of hoofs, the down, till he can be certain of the rending of tree and bush filled direction. A gleam of combat the air. We dashed forward. I shoots over his face. Off come could see some huge backs plunghis red head-gear and his blanket, ing through the distant jungle, and are twisted tightly round his and where the old bull
wasloins, his muscular shoulders show- nothing. ing in gleaming bronze in the How I abused myself mentally afternoon sun. Then slowly, very as a duffer; how, as I mopped slowly, he steals forward. The my streaming brow, I felt that anxieties of the past are
now tears would better become me than nothing to the trepidation of the perspiration, need not be told. present. Again and again the Still, a gleam of hope shone on crackling of bamboos-now like me. Afsul was questing about a pistol-shot, now like a crack of on the track that the bison had the great waggon-whip of South followed, and I saw him pounce Africa. We worm our way along, on a broken leaf, with the comfollowing the moving herd, through forting word “ blood." There it muddy watercourse, through ruth- was, unmistakably, a tiny drop less thorns, and over the most in- of fresh blood, so tiny that none exorable of rocks. Twenty min- but the hawk eye of the forest utes at least of mortal agony, when man could have distinguished it. Afsul, quivering with excitement, Then began a weary but exciting turns and says, “ Maro, maro !" pursuit, which lasted till the sun (shoot, shoot!)
was dropping over the lowest trees I try to pull myself together, of the forest. Here a gout of and stare into what appears a vast gore seemed to promise that a confused mass of foliage. Afsul's severe wound had been inflicted. patience is getting exhausted, and Then for a long distance nothing he points madly in a particular guided us but a fresh hoof-print, direction. I struggle to follow a broken stem, or a jungle leaf his eagle glance, and at last see stained with the tell-tale red spot. a huge head glaring at me about Once or twice we heard a movefifty yards off, the grey forehead ment ahead. Nor was our path of a bull, the slaty eye, and the an easy one—for the most part broad muzzle thrown forward in through elephant-grass nine or ten the true fashion of the noble bison. feet high, whose sturdy stems and Nothing to be seen of the body broad leaves were no contemptible -nothing but a thickly inter- obstacle, . The wonder of it was twined mass of jungle herbage that a herd of seven or eight huge and branches. I knew enough animals should have passed before of bison shooting theoretically to us, through grass, bush, and foliknow that it is hopeless to fire age, and hardly left a trace beat the head, where the vital parts hind,-few traces, at least, that are protected by an almost im- could be detected by any eye not trained from childhood in forest that are put up for the use of the signs. At last, as we arrived on forest officials while the timber is the crest of a small hill, we saw being selected for felling; but as HIM, not more than 150 yards wood-cutting for the year had not distant, in all his noble propor- yet commenced, it would be empty, tions in the valley beneath. Only and the neighbouring forest quite a momentary glimpse. With a undisturbed. And here let me resnort of contempt he plunged again mark how advisable it is, when in into obscurity, followed by a vain a malarious jungle, to live in a hut, and harmless snap-shot. It was however rude, in preference to a now nearly dark. Afsul said that tent; and if a tent must be used, further chase was useless, as the that it should be a small thick one, bull was travelling well and strong- instead of the large one of comly, leaping over the broken down paratively open material generally trees instead of blundering through used in India. them. Reluctantly I made up my Having seen my bullock-cart well mind that my first essay had not on its way on an almost undistinbeen a success, and that I had guishable track on the following better turn my steps homewards. morning, I started myself with This I did through the darkling Abdul Rahman, the forest ranger, forest, having at any rate the con- to walk by a shorter cut. Nothing soling thought that, in the shik- can be more lovely than an early day arri's opinion, the bull was only in an Indian jungleslightly wounded, and would soon recover.
There pipe anthems of all Probably he had only
the birds, been hit on his massive shoulder, The köil's fluted song, the bulbul's and the bullet had glanced off the hymn, bone.
The morning, morning' of the painted Serious was the council of war
The twitter of the sunbirds starting that evening as to the best plan of
forth action for my few available days. To find the honey ere the bees be out, Long and earnest was the consul- The grey crow's caw, the parrot's tation with the trusty Afsul over
scream, the strokes a camp-fire, after dinner and a
Of the green hammersmith, the myna's
chirp, soothing cigarette had softened
finished love-talk of the the bitterness of the day's failure. doves." Should we plunge deeper into the forest from our present quarters To a European—even to the man and look for other bison, which, whose Indian experiences have been the village herdsman said, were confined to cities and cantonments wandering near? Or should we —everything is strange, everything leave our quarters altogether, move has an interest and a charm; and to a hut in a more central position, in the fresh morning air, with the and recommence operations in an cool jungle-grass under foot, a entirely new district? Finally we morning walk is an unmixed pleadecided on the latter, and march- sure. So it is; but may there not ing orders were issued for the fol- be a discordant note of — shall I lowing morning
say— funk, suddenly thrust into The forest hut that we were to your satisfaction? Or shall I momake for was between five and six dify the feeling into slight nervousmiles off. It was one of the few ness? Abdul Rahman and I were
strolling along, pleased, mutually ground, a most necessary precaution I trust, with our society, when we for natives as much as for Eurocame to a streamlet crossing our peans from the feverish malaria. path. My friend gave a start, and The fates were against me that his cheery face grew long and seri- afternoon, and it was not till the ous. There at his foot was the next day that I was able again to footmark of a large tiger, only go on the war-path. We started lately pressed into the mud—so between six and seven Afsul, lately, that the water all round i: the peon, and myself. As had not had time to ooze into the dived into the forest-path, the impression. A step or two further, night mists were rising slowly, and we came upon more most un- and still hung on the tree tops. mistakable signs of the tiger's re- The long grass, soaked with moiscent presence, and we knew that ture, almost met overhead, and he must then be in the wood within made
carry the rifles with a few yards of us. I began to re- every precaution, to keep them at gret that I had only a walking- least dry, while the rising sun stick instead of a rifle; and Abdul glimmered through the branches, quickened his pace, while glancing and was greeted by the cheery right and left at the thick bush all crow of the jungle-cock. We had round us. However, I believe we a walk of three or four miles, had nothing to fear. I afterwards marking en route many tracks of heard that the tiger was an old ac- chitul, sambur, bison, and elequaintance—almost a confidential phant, but seeing nothing but one friend--of the district, and small barking deer, who stood probably only lurking near the provokingly close and stared at village in hopes of picking up us, as if he knew that we dared some stray cattle from the village not fire a shot, for fear of disturbherd--a toll which he no doubt ing the mightier game. considered his right. He probably No tracks presented themselves knew the herdsmen by sight, and sufficiently fresh to tempt a purwas not foolish enough to jeopar- suit. After much devious search, dise his character for harmlessness we entered a little glade, where by eating man—even an unwary lay, half-buried by vegetation, an stranger in the land—as long as old rotten moss-grown trunk, an bullocks were plentiful.
overthrown tree, which had once We arrived at the forest lodge, towered among the giants of the a mud hut of one room, in the forest. Afsul's professional eye middle of a small clearing. A detected a solitary bee, issuing from swampy stream trickled past with- a crevice to meet the warmth of in a few yards, and fed a clear the now glowing sun, and suddenly burn that sparkled through the plunging his arm up to the shoulder trees on the edge of the woodland. into the recesses of the trunk, he Everywhere the ground was stamped pulled out a large handful of honeywith the great tread of the wild comb, cooly brushing off a dozen elephants which had passed and bees, that stuck to him, and which repassed the clearing, careless of seemed either to have forgotten to occasional human visitors. The sting or to find the skin of the hut itself, with its two or three honey-collector proof against their subsidiary sheds, was built with weapons. While he was munchthe floor raised three feet off the ing his comb and marking the store with a view to a future visit, bull (a “wantaga" in the jungle the peon and I passed ahead. dialect), with horns ringed at the There was a slight noise in the base from age, and battered and jungle, a little gentle crackle of chipped at the points from fighting. branches. Afsul sprang from be. He was measured carefully on the hind, clutched me by, the shoulder, spot, by pulling his fore legs out and, with a face full of excitement, straight and placing a stake in the hissed out “ Koolga !” We moved ground at his feet and another at stealthily on, Afsul parting the his shoulder, and passing a string branches carefully to get a clearer fairly between them clear of his view. A vast form showed indis- body. He measured just 6 feet tinctly through the trees. The in height, and from the point of peon whispered "Anay" (elephant). the nose to the tip of the tail, 11 But there was a sudden snort and ft. 6 inches. a half whistling low, which could So much exertion deserved reonly come from a bison. Afsul freshment, which I took in biscuits dashed forward from one cover to and cold tea, just tempered from another, dragging me with him. my pocket-flask, while my attendWe saw the great beast moving ants squatted aside contentedly slowly towards us, half hidden by and chewed betel. I offered them the trees and bamboos. I tried to each a dram, but Afsul, the Mussulmove to one side, as Afsul was man, declined, while the Hindoo rather in my way, when the bison peon took his down with the smack turned to make off. I took a of satisfaction of a Highland gillie. fairly careful shot, and (as we At length we roused ourselves, afterwards found) hit him behind marked where our bison lay, and the elbow. He moved on, how- struck off in an untried direction, ever, and we followed warily, after to see if the afternoon would emuI had reloaded. About 300 yards late the morning's good fortune. further on, we could just see him We descended to a lower level, and standing in the middle of thick got into yet thicker and darker jungle, and I fired both barrels jungle than we had hitherto tradeliberately where his great side versed. I made my first acquaintloomed through the branches. This ance with the jungle-leech. I was finished him, and we heard the aware of a small thread-like being, crash as of the fall of a tower. which had dropped from a leaf and “ Profundit humi bos." Afsul was wriggling on the sleeve of my clutched my hunting-knife, dropped coat, vainly struggling to make his blanket and headgear, rushed at way through the strong linenthe mighty fallen, sprang upon the another on my wrist, which was heaving side, and seizing a horn, pushed off with difficulty, leaving plunged the knife in his throat. a drop of blood behind. This was What a moment of satisfaction ! most discomposing.
I was preand yet not altogether unalloyed. pared for the bison's charge and Who could look at the corpse of for any of the other legitimate the gallant slain without some chances of shikar, but I was not feeling of remorse, however slight prepared for the attacks of these and feeting, and regret that he insinuating miscreants. There is would roam his forest solitudes, something more than disagreeable his home for many long years, no in the abiding thought of tiny more. He was a grand solitary bloodsuckers, and fancied ticklings