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The new trail was followed up rapidly, each step eliciting some cheering remark, as to its distinctness. It had been found upon the summit of the hills, where a considerable extent of table-land intervened before the country beyond became visible. Over this the Shikaries proceeded at a long trot without a check, till the plain lay stretched beneath them. A flock of goats was feeding amongst the rocks on the mountain-side, watched by a shepherd, who sat motionless like a bronzed figure on the heated rocks. The little gray fox basked in the sun, heedless of his proximity; and the wolf passed by at a lazy trot, lolling out his tongue, and hanging his slouching head as if indifferent to the presence of man. Ranges of naked rocks encircling a plain of barren sand, like a vast amphitheatre, met the eye on every side. The scanty vegetation was scorched into a uniform sunburnt tint, and the few sickly date-trees which reared their stunted heads in the midst of the wilderness, only served to heighten the appearance of desolation. There is something peculiarly wild in such a scene. A sky without a cloud, a plain without a spot of verdure cracked into gaping fissures, and the sun, like a ball of burnished metal, blazing over its nakedness. No smoke to mark the site of a single hut; no trace of man, save that solitary goatherd, passing his life amongst the beasts of the desert, and they not fearing him.
So far the party had pursued the wandering tigress by her trail. The nature of the chase was now altered.
While the natives stood clustered together at fault, having lost the track among stones, Mansfield was looking around considering where they would probably bring her to bay, when his quick eye perceived the goats to start, and scramble in confusion up the rocks.
“My rifle, Azapah; there she goes !"
It was indeed the hunted tigress once more in view. Charles threw forward his rifle, and fired without a moment's hesitation, although the tigress was nearly three hundred yards distant. But the bullet fell far short of its intended mark.
“ That is rather too long a range for accurate shooting, Master Charles," said Mansfield, “ we must push on and get nearer.
She can Dever keep up that pace under such a sun.”
“Sahib, if an old man may speak,” interrupted Bhurmah, “it will be better to remain quiet. She is making straight for her house—that ravine below us. There she will lay up. I have followed her trail into it before now."
“I dare say you are right,” replied Mansfield, watching the tigress with his glass.
“She is nearly blown. Ay, now she looks back-I can see her jaws wide open, her tongue is hanging a foot out of her mouth, and is as white as her teeth. We have her now-she has disappeared under the bank. Her race is run, and she must stand to bay. But, oh! for two hours more of daylight!” he added, looking at the lengthening shadows on the plain.
“ It is a strong hold she has chosen,” observed Bhurmah. “I have seen a tiger hold out for a whole day against three elephants in that very place, and you may be sure the Man-eater of Shikarpoor knows the strongest part.”.
“She shall not beat us,” exclaimed Mansfield, rising and motioning
to the Mahout. “ She shall not beat us if we should be forced to
“ In that remark there was much meaning, as the sequel proved."
By the time the indefatigable band had surrounded their game, the sun was gilding the hill-tops with its setting rays. Not a moment was lost. Bhurmah mounted the howdah that he might guide the Mahout at once to the spot where he expected to find the tigress, for he knew every inch of the ground, and, on this occasion, he was not mistaken. The experienced Shikarie brought the elephant under a clump of bauble bushes which grew upon a high ledge of almost perpendicular rock. Farther progress was impossible. Pointing upwards to an opening in the grass, through which a heavy animal had cvidently passed, he said, “ There is her den!” A low growl from the centre of the bushes confirmed his accuracy.
She had chosen her stronghold admirably. It was protected, in front, by a mountain-stream, and backed by a perpendicular rock, which projected over it so as to shelter it from above. Mansfield looked in vain for a path where the elephant might find footing. There was none. A man might have reached the den by climbing ; but certain death would have been the fate of him who dared to approach the watchful tigress. One chance of success still remained, and it was adopted. The elephant having been withdrawn, Mansfield and Charles posted themselves on a rock, sufficiently high to protect them from the tigress, in the event of her bolting, and directed the people to bombard her position with rockets from the opposite height. But all was ineffectual. Showers of rockets lighted up the gloomy chasm, and ignited the thin grass along its edges, but it quickly consumed, without spreading to the bushes in which she lay: they were green and would not burn.
When the whole stock of combustibles had been exhausted, rocks were hurled down, and volleys of matchlocks fired; but the only result was an occasional surly growl; and the party, wearied, and dispirited by their fruitless efforts, were unwillingly obliged to retire, it having become too dark for further operations.
For three whole days the same party traversed the country without finding a mark, or hearing any intelligence of the dreaded tigress. But she was pursued by men who had sworn that she should die, and the ardour of their search was not relaxed.
On the morning of the fourth day, whilst Bhurmah and his men were trying some covert in the neighbourhood, two herd-boys sat watching their buffaloes, in that valley where the pursuit had first commenced. They cared little about tigers : for they knew that the old bull of their herd would protect them while they kept at his side. And now that the great Man-eater had been driven from the neighbourhood, there was nothing to fear. Thus unsuspicious of danger the boys sauntered along, picking berries, and amusing themselves with childish sports, till they had wandered a considerable distance from their protectors.
Alas! the destroyer was at hand. She had crept from bush to bush, so silently, that her heavy breathing first gave warning of her approach. The hindermost child turned round, his heart beating with a vague presentiment of danger. The fierce eye of the tigress met his. He utstered a scream of terror, and shrieked the fearful name of Bhag! The
sound had scarcely passed his lips, when the terrible roar of the monster shook the earth, and his small bones crackled between her jaws. The other boy fled to the nearest tree, into which he climbed, with the agility of a monkey; from thence he saw the tigress toss her prey over her shoulder, and trot back, growling, to the jungle. As soon as she was out of sight he hurried to the village to give the alarm; and, in less than an hour, Mansfield and his followers, guided by the little herdboy, were on their way to the fatal spot.
It was a sight to make a woman weep, to see that poor trembling child standing with the tears rolling down his cheeks, over the scene of the late tragedy.
The ground was spattered with the blood and brains of his brother ; and as he told his melancholy tale, a cold shudder would run through his little frame, and choked his feeble voice, each time that his downcast gaze fell upon the horrible traces.
Mansfield drew a rough hand across his eyes as he ordered the elephant to kneel, in a voice that faltered.
“ Ask that boy, one of you,” said he, addressing a Peon, “ if he would like to come with me, on the elephant, and see that cursed tigress die.”
The man whom he addressed stared ; and a murmur of amazement ran around, at an offer so little in conformity with a native's idea of becoming dignity. To mount a. naked outcast boy upon the same elephant with an English Burrah Sahib! The idea was almost sacrilegious. But the honest, manly heart of Mansfield knew no such petty pride, and he repeated his orders in a tone which admitted of no remonstrance, whilst he cast a look of kindness on the poor despised child, whose large black eyes were fixed upon him, with a look of stupified amazement. He was reluctantly obeyed, Charles had taken his seat, and Mansfield was about to follow, when the elephant, tired of kneeling so long on hard ground, gave utterance to his annoyance, by an angry roar.
Before the elephant had time to rise, the buffaloes, which had been quietly grazing, round the edge of the jungle, raised their heads, snorted, and rushed in a body towards one point, bellowing furiously.
“ Bhag! bhag."" shrieked the terrified child, cowering down into the bottom of the howdah.
“By heavens, it is !” cried Mansfield, springing to the ground. “She has taken the alarm already; the large rifle, quick!". Azapah thrust it into his hand. Setting the third sight, for a long shot, he stretched back one leg, and slowly raised the heavy weapon to his eye, his finger feeling the trigger, with a pressure so gradual, that the barrel seemed to pour forth its contents spontaneously at the instant it rested motionless.
“ That hit her!" he calmly observed, as he dropped the discharged weapon into the hollow of his arm, and stood for a moment to watch the effect of the shot. The tigress, who was stealing along, at a distance of full two hundred yards, uttered a short angry roar, and dropped on her knees. When she rose, one fore-leg hung dangling from her shoulder, and in this crippled state, she slunk into cover, pursued by the buffaloes, Sept.- VOL. LVII. NO. ccxxv.
bellowing at her haunches. A murmur of admiration ran around the bystanders at this exhibition of skill, which so far exceeded what the majority thought possible, that it seemed more than human, and made them look upon the successful marksman almost in the light of a demigod. Even old Bhurmah could hardly believe his senses, when he heard the soft thud of the bullet, and saw the animal drop, at a distance so far beyond the range of his own trusty matchlock. And the poor little herd-boy clasped his hands together, and his large eyes glistened with tears of gratitude when the joyful shout announced that his dreaded enemy was disabled from flight, and her death certain.
Without noticing the admiration which his skilful shot had occasioned, Mansfield reloaded his rifle with scrupulous exactness, and took his seat in the howdah beside Charles, with the wondering herd-boy between them. Old Bhurmah climbed up on the elephant's crupper to ensure being in at the death, and the stately animal marched up to the final encounter.
Drops of blood guided them to the bush in which the wounded tigress lay. The heavy foot of the advancing elephant shook the ground. She raised her head, laid back her ears savagely, and ceased licking the blood from her shattered shoulder. Mansfield cautioned Charles to be ready, but not to fire in a hurry, as he would wait for him to take the first shot. They were now near enough to observe the bush agitated, as if she was collecting herself for a rush, and a low growl gave forth its warning. Old Bhurmah danced about like a maniac, one hand grasping the back of the howdah to support himself, the other brandishing his sword, and his long white mustache, which curled up to his eyes, giving him a look of ferocity almost equal to that of the tigress. The sagacious elephant twisted his trunk up to be out of harm's way, and advanced cautiously another step. A louder growl increased to a short hoarse roar.
“Keep him steady now, my lad-she is coming," said Mansfield, addressing the Mahout with perfect coolness. Charles held his breath, and his eyes seemed as if starting from his head with excitement, as he cocked both barrels of his rifle, and half raised it to his shoulder.
“No hurry, boy; take her coolly," said Mansfield.
The branches crashed—a brindled mass gleamed through them, and the tigress sprang forth. Her Aaming eye gazed wildly around, then settled on her foes. Every hair in her body stood erect—her tail lashed her painted sides, and her flanks heaved laboriously, as if almost suffocated with rage. Úttering a deep growl, she arched her back and lowered her head for a spring.
“ Now!" Quick as lightning followed the flash of the rifle, both barrels being discharged almost simultaneously, and the tigress staggered back with two balls in her chest. She recovered her footing, and was in the act of bounding forward to the charge, when a shot from Mansfield's unerring rifle entered her brain. She dropped from her proud attitude, and the famous Man-eater of Shikarpoor lay gasping in a pool of blood, which gushed from a ragged hole between her eyes,
Whilst Azapah busied himself in the important operation of singeing the whiskers of the dead tigress, the overjoyed natives crowded around rending the air with shouts, and invoking blessings on the head of the Burrah Sahib, the invincible slayer of wild beasts, whose powerful hand had rid the country of this dreadful scourge.
Mansfield and Charles reloaded their rifles, and, guided by the keen eye of old Bhurmah, followed the back trail to examine the lair of the famous Man-eater. They now forced their way through the tangled brushwood without fear of danger; and, in the heart of a thick clump of bauble bushes, soon found the half-devoured remains of the unfortunate herd-boy. On a further search, many more ghastly traces were found of the dreaded monster's fearful devastation. Human bones, and human bones alone--for, of late, she had confined herself exclusively to man-eating, lay scattered about in various directions; and one there was which, more than all the others, smote the heart of Charles with a feeling of deadly sickness. It was a mangled and disjointed skeleton; but the long silken tresses of a woman still hung in tangled masses from the grinning skull; and silver bangles, once the cherished ornaments of female beauty, now encircled bleached and marrowless bones. What a fearful mockery of human vanity was this! And, oh! what dreadful pangs had racked those fleshless bones ! What maddening thoughts may not have Aitted through that now senseless skull! What wild shrieks of despair may not have been uttered by those mouldering jaws, ere the trembling spirit took its flight! How many unavailing tears have been shed for the untimely, perhaps unknown fate of her, who now a loathsome skeleton, may once have been the smiling beauty of the village !-perhaps a beloved wife !-perhaps the widowed mother of children !-helpless, friendless children, who now look in vain for the fond smile of maternal tenderness, in the cold eyes of strangers; and, with feeble voices, call upon the name of her who loved them.
Reader, if thou hast ever assisted in slaying a man-eater ; if thou hast ever gazed on such a scene as this, thou wilt doubtless have felt, as Charles did, something more than a hunter's triumph at the successful termination of thy labours; and thy heart will have swelled with a grateful consciousness of having been an instrument in the hands of Providence, to deliver thy helpless fellow-creatures from one of the most dreadful scourges by which the human race is persecuted La confirmed Man-eater.
A FAIR SHOT.
BY LOUISA H. SHERIDAN.
S-spoke of the lover, who, pleading in vain