Bengal Dacoits and Tigers
Maharanee Sunity Devee
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BENGAL DACOITS AND TIGERS
Maharanee Sunity Devee, C.I.
of Cooch Behar
The Jhee's Discovery
Trapped by a Cobra
Saved by a Bear
Girl as Kali-Ma
The Deputy Magistrate
All for Nothing
A Punjabee Dacoit
A Child's Experience
Two Chinese Dacoits
An Unfaithful Servant
The Bearer's Fate
Through the Roof
Earning the Reward
A Burmese Monster
The Palki and the Tiger
An Assam Adventure
A Thrilling Story
A Cachar Tiger
A Maharajah's Adventures
The Jhee's Discovery
It was the month of Jaishta (May-June) in Bengal, and the earth
languished under the scorching rays of the sun and sent up a voiceless
prayer to the Rain God to come soon and refresh the fields and jungles
with the welcome "barsat" (rainy season).
Yet, in spite of the intense heat, a young and delicately nurtured
Bengali lady was travelling. She was on her way to pay a visit to
her parents-in-law, for after marriage the bride returns to her
childhood's home and remains there, paying visits from time to time
to her husband's home until the day comes when she goes to live there.
It is a Bengali custom that ladies, especially young ladies, must
always wear their jewellery, even when travelling. Arms, wrists,
neck and ankles, bare of jewels, are a sign of widowhood or dire
poverty. Out young heroine was accordingly adorned with jewels and she
was also richly attired. Was she not the daughter of a wealthy man and
going to visit her mother-in-law? So her mother had lovingly dressed
her in an exquisite gold-embroidered Benares silk saree of finest
texture and superb workmanship, and the jewellery, which adorned her
graceful arms, neck and ankles, was in keeping with the richness of
Twelve bearers took turns in carrying the covered palanquin or palki
in which she travelled. They had been in her father's service for
many years and were known, to be trustworthy. A faithful jhee (maid)
accompanied her, sometimes walking beside the palki and at other
times sitting within, to fan her young mistress and help to enliven
the weary journey with tales of former travels. Two men-servants,
whom in Bengal we call durwans and who are permitted to bear arms
in defence of their masters' goods, completed the party. One of
them walked on either side of the palanquin and each carried a naked
sword in his hand. These two men were tried and trusted retainers of
the young lady's father, and were prepared to defend their master's
daughter even at the cost of their lives.
The route lay through a lonely country district with stretches of
rice-fields scattered between, and villages nestling here and there
among groves of trees. At. one of these villages the party halted
awhile for rest and refreshment, and then on again in the fierce heat
of a close Indian day.
Thus many miles had been passed; and the evening shades were beginning
to cool the wearisome day, when the travellers drew near to a group of
trees not far from a small tank (artificial lake). The palki-bearers
sighted this ideal resting-place and asked the jhee to inform their
young mistress of it, and beseech that they might stop there and
refresh themselves with a draught of water, after which they would
be able to travel still faster,
A gracious consent was readily given by the fair one within the
palanquin. She had found the heat almost beyond endurance, and pitied
the bearers who had the weight of her palki and herself added to
The palanquin was gently set down under a large and shady tree, and
the durwans respectfully withdrew a little distance to permit of the
jhee raising the covering, so that their kind mistress might also
enjoy the grateful shade and coolness of the grove.
The spot was lonely and their responsibility great, so the men decided
among themselves that they should divide into two parties. Six should
remain with the guard to protect their fair charge in case of any
untoward happening while the other six refreshed themselves at
This plan was no sooner agreed upon than the first six trooped off
gleefully towards the tank. The others stretched themselves in the
shade and relaxed their limbs in the interval of waiting.
Time passed unheeded till it dawned upon some of those who waited that
they still thirsted and that the first six seemed too long away. They
asked the jhee to obtain leave for them to go and hurry the others up
and refresh themselves at the same time, so that the journey might
soon be resumed as the evening sun was nearing the horizon, and if
they delayed further night would overtake them. The young lady gave
the desired permission and the second six soon disappeared towards
the tank. They too were long away!
The jhee felt uneasy but kept her fears to herself. Suddenly she too
disappeared. Without a word to her mistress she had decided to see what
the bearers were doing at the tank. Climbing up a tree, she crept along
an overhanging branch and a dreadful sight met her horrified gaze. Some
of the bearers lay dead in the shallow water and the surviving ones
were fighting desperately for their lives with a small band of outlaws.
Rushing back to the palki with the utmost speed and regardless
of onlookers, she flung wide the door, screaming frantically,
"Dacoits! dacoits! run, didi (elder sister), run. With these eyes of
mine I saw them. I climbed a tree and saw them. Some of our bearers
lie dead and they are killing the others. Fly! fly for your life!" With
these words she turned and led the way with swiftness impelled by fear.
The lonely occupant of the palanquin received the awful tidings with
horror and dismay. Often had she heard tales of dacoits and their
ruthless deeds. For a fleeting instant the thought, that she must fall
a victim to such desperados, paralysed her with fear; but only for an
instant. Her woman's wit and ingenuity moved her to action. Quickly
she divested herself of her heavy jewelled anklets. How could she
run thus weighted? and might not their value satisfy the greed of the
highwaymen? Flinging them down in the palanquin, she hastily closed
the doors and dropped the covering over its sides. Let them think
she was within. The search of the palki would delay them awhile.
Then tucking up her rich satee she too started to run for her life. She
had gone but a few steps when the voices of the two durwans arrested
her. They had heard the jhee's distracted cry, and their only thought
was for their young mistress.
"Didi," they said, addressing her affectionately and respectfully by
the endearing name of sister, which is a custom permitted in Bengal to
the servants of every household. In the home of her girlhood a girl is
addressed as "didi" (sister) and in her father-in-law's house as "bow"
(son's wife). Sons of the family are addressed as "dada" (brother,
strictly elder brother) and sons-in-law as "jamai".
"Didi, fear not! As long as there is breath in these bodies we will
defend you. If the dacoits overtake us, we will guard you. No harm
shall come to you."
Encouraged by their presence and words, the girl made all possible
speed. But her delicate feet were unused to rough, hard roads,
and, despite her will and brave efforts, she tripped and stumbled
continually. In Bengal, in the hot dry weather, the country roads
are difficult to traverse. The deep ruts of the rainy season dry up
and the once muddy earth crumbles into thick heavy dust, into which
the feet of the wayfarers sink. Fast travelling is difficult even for
those who are used to journeying, so the poor young lady made little
headway and was soon overtaken by her pursuers. They had not been
long in discovering her flight and were soon racing after her from
under the tree. As she ran she heard their shouts, and then realised
that they had caught up with her guard who were resisting them.
The poor girl ran on and on alone, and presently saw a tiny hamlet
hidden among some trees. She made for this as fast as her trembling
limbs could carry her and rushed breathlessly into a small red
brick-house, the door of which stood slightly ajar, crying: "Shut
the door! Dacoits are following me!" Then, overcome with fear and
exhaustion, she sank unconscious upon the floor.
The ladies of the little household ran forward on hearing her cry and
shut the door promptly. Dacoits were known and feared everywhere. Then
they tenderly ministered to the stranger. As soon as she recovered
her senses, she related to them what had befallen her and implored
The master of the house immediately despatched a messenger to a distant
police outpost for aid. Soothed and comforted, the girl eagerly hoped
and prayed for the arrival of her attendants.
After some time, word was brought in that a palki was approaching. Even
in the dark the approach of a palki is made known by the rhythmic cries
of the bearers. Soon it arrived in front of the red brick-house and
the bearers, halting, asked loudly if a strange lady, richly attired
and decked with jewels, was within. From an upper window the master
of the house answered them, while the girl and her kindly hostess
listened anxiously downstairs. The pseudo palki-bearers next informed
the listeners that they were the servants of a very wealthy man and
had been conveying his daughter to her parents-in-law's house.
"But" they boldly declared, "our master's daughter is such a
troublesome girl. She causes us much anxiety whenever she is sent to
visit her mother-in-law. She is so unwilling to go that it is with
great difficulty that we get her safely there."
The anxious listeners within felt sure these were the dacoits and
longed for the arrival of the police. The disguised thieves persisted
in their questioning for some time in spite of the house master's
repeated advice that they had better search elsewhere. At last they
departed carrying the palki with them. And the dwellers in the red
brick-house breathed more freely. But not for long.
The village was a tiny one and the pretended bearers soon returned
from their search. Planting the palki in the doorway, they shouted:
"We know for certain that our mistress is hiding somewhere. We feel
sure she is in your house. Here we will sit till you send her forth."
On hearing these words the poor pursued girl fell at the feet of her
host, calling herself his daughter and addressing him as "father", and
implored of him not to give her up to these awful dacoits. The good
man assured her of his protection while his wife raised her from the
floor, and, embracing her, said they would all sooner suffer death
than give her up.
The trying hours dragged on till past midnight. Then the dacoits
announced that the lady must be produced or they would force an
entrance into the house. No reply was given to this ultimatum. The
highwaymen waited awhile and then assailed the door with heavy blows.
The distraught girl besought her hostess to take her jewels and
hand them out to the burglars and thus ensure peace and safety for
all. The mistress of the house declared this would not satisfy the
ruffians and once more assured her guest that, whatever happened,
they would strive to protect her.
Presently the door gave way and, with coarse oaths and triumphant
threats, the dacoits entered. But unknown to them,--so busy had they
been hammering and swearing,--the police had arrived and now followed
in on their heels. The dacoits were all captured and confessed their
guilt as to the murder of the palki-bearers and the probable death
of the two durwans, who, they averred, had fought like tigers.
The bodies of these two devoted servants were found, all battered
and bruised, on the roadside and were given honourable cremation by
their master, whose daughter they had saved by their devotion.
The jhee was found close to the spot, hiding among the branches of a
tree. She had witnessed the fight between the durwans and dacoits and
the flight and pursuit of her mistress. When both reached home again,
the jhee filled up dull hours with vivid accounts of their adventure.
This little story is a true one and shows how difficult and dangerous
travel was in the old days in Bengal. Travelling by palki is now
in many parts a thing of the past, for the whole Province is being
linked together by a network of railways. Good roads and better police
arrangements also lessen the terrors of travelling in places where
railways are still wanting.
Trapped by a Cobra
Not many years ago a young married lady was journeying alone.
It is not customary in India for young women, even if married, to go
out by themselves. The purdah system unfits them for independence. Even
when going for a short distance by palanquin or just for a carriage
drive, a chaperon is necessary.
Yet occasions arise when it is imperative that they should journey,
but no suitable escort can be found or spared for the purpose. They
are then obliged to go with servants. It may seem strange that young
ladies should be permitted to travel alone with servants. But readers
who know India will not be surprised, for Indians treat their servants
after the patriarchal system, especially those who have served the
family for generations. Even hired attendants, like the driver in
this story, are thoroughly trusted when known to the family.
The young lady was on her way to visit her father and mother. Indian
parents-in-law cannot visit at the parental home of their
daughter-in-law. Therefore bow-ma journeyed alone with her little son,
a child of about five years of age.
The distance was not a long one, only from Calcutta to Durgapore, a
village a few miles away from the city. So a hackney-carriage was hired
with a driver who had often before been employed by her father-in-law,
and everyone felt assured bow-ma would reach her destination safely.
Her mother-in-law saw her into the carriage. Her little boy was lifted
up beside her, and, with many injunctions to drive carefully and with
speed ringing in his ears, the driver whipped up his horses and they
Bow-ma knew the road well. Often had she journeyed to and fro in
the early years of her married life, and even after the birth of her
little son her visits to her parents had been frequent.
The carriage was close and her heavy silken saree hot to wear, so
she opened the venetians and lazily watched the familiar landmarks
as they passed. She had started early so that the journey should be
accomplished in day-light, and still they did not reach home. She
noted the various trees and hedges and was puzzled. Surely, the road
seemed different. The sun, a ball of golden fire, sank to rest in
a bed of many-tinted clouds, and still they had not arrived. Bow-ma
felt strangely anxious.
The carriage suddenly swerved. To her dismay she saw they had turned
into a rough and untravelled road with paddy-fields on either side. The
place seemed lonely. It was now rapidly growing dark, for in India
after sun-set Night does not long delay her coming. A presentiment of
evil clutched bow-ma's heart. She whispered to her little boy to ask
the driver where they were and when they should arrive. In India it
is not permitted a woman to address any man save her husband, father,
The child obeyed but the driver made no reply. "Ask again," whispered
the mother, "he has not heard you,"
The boy asked, "When shall we arrive?" again and again, but not a
word answered the driver.
Bow-ma, now thoroughly alarmed, beat the shutters of the carriage
and commanded her son to shout loudly. The boy screamed at the top
of his voice, "Why don't you reply? What road is this?"
The driver now answered disrespectfully: "You will soon know where
you are going," and laughed.
His rude gruff tone and evasive answer confirmed bow-ma's worst
fears. The awful word dacoits stood out in her mind in letters of
fire. Horror and dread filled her soul. Drawing her child towards
her, she hushed his eager questioning and waited in silent anguish
for the coming danger.
The carriage bumped and rattled over the uneven road. Presently it
stopped. It was now almost dark. The door was jerked open and a harsh
voice commanded: "Get out of the carriage." Bow-ma recognised the
driver's voice and, realising the futility of objecting, without a
word she stepped down and helped her little son to alight.
"Follow me" was the next rough order. Again she silently obeyed. The
man left the road and led her a little distance away under the shadow
of some trees. "Take off your jewels. Give them to me." A faint sigh
of relief escaped her. Perhaps the jewels were all he wanted. Quickly
she unclasped her handsome necklet and gave it him. He grasped it
greedily with one hand and extended the other for more. One by one she
stripped her wrists and arms of their lovely bracelets and bangles and
handed them to him. "More" he growled. She pulled the rings from her
fingers and added to them her ear and nose rings. "Your waist chain"
he snapped. She unclasped and dropped its golden weight into those
greedy hands. "Take off your anklets, I want all" he sneered. She
knelt on the ground to unclasp them. Then, rising, handed them to him,
wondering what more would follow.
Meanwhile the child wept bitterly, and angrily forbade the driver
to take his mother's jewels, calling him robber and thief. "Yes,
dacoit I am," the scoundrel replied to the boy's revilings, "and if
you will not be quiet, I will teach you how to." Bow-ma gently strove
to console and silence her son. "Fret not! Your father will give me
more and better jewels."
"Take off your saree" was the next outrageous command. The boy's
indignation flamed afresh. His mother took an unguarded step forward
and asked: "Are not my jewels enough that you want the saree off
"Aye, your saree and all you have. Silence your child or I will kill
him." Terrible was the harsh voice in its determination. Bow-ma's
heart stood still. Entreaty wonld be of no avail. She unwound the
richly-embroidered silken folds from about her and cast the gold and
green saree at his feet: "Take it."
"You have stripped my mother," screamed the boy. The ruffian caught
the saree with a fearful oath and turning on him said: "Now I can
deal with you. I will fetch a brick from yonder kiln and pound the
breath out of you," With these words he strode forward, tying the
jewels in the saree as he went. Now her sorely-tried nerves gave way,
and, distracted with grief, bow-ma caught her child in her arms,
and their mingled cries rent the air. But the thief did not return.
About midnight a village policeman going his rounds heard their
cries. At first he paid no heed to them: jackals swarmed and disturbed
the night. Again the anguished voices quivered in the air. There was
something human in the sound. He stopped to listen. The cries rose
again. He walked forward in their direction. Clearer, as he advanced,
shrilled the distressed voices, and he recognised they were those
of a woman and a child. He quickened his steps and hastened to
the spot. The light from his lantern revealed bow-ma and her son,
clinging to each other and weeping piteously.
"Who are you? What ails you?" he asked. The distraught mother,
unconscious of the flight of time, thinking him the heartless dacoit
returned to kill her boy, fell at his feet in an agony of supplication:
"Spare my son. Take my life instead."
"I am a chowkidar (watchman). What is up?" But so dulled were her
ears with fear and grief that he was twice obliged to repeat his
words. When the joyful intelligence reached her brain she burst into
tears. "O! save my son." Then the consciousness that the danger
was past reminded her of her own plight, and she sobbed: "Give me
something to wear."
The policeman had noticed her semi-nude state. Dropping, his pugree
at her feet he turned away. She shook out its many folds and draped
it about her body. Then she related what had befallen her and pointed
towards the direction the thief had taken.
The policeman walked cautiously forward, his lantern raised in one
hand and his lathi tightly grasped in the other. A few yards ahead
he came to an old brick kiln. Here, prone among the broken bricks,
lay the robber in greater straits than his victims. A huge cobra was
tightly coiled round his right arm, while on the left hung the saree
and the jewels. The rays of the lantern disturbed the snake. With
an angry hiss it uncoiled itself and disappeared. The dacoit, more
dead than alive from simple fear of the snake's fatal sting, yielded
himself a prisoner, and it was subsequently discovered that the whole
gang, of whom he was a member, were licensed hackney drivers.
Saved by a Bear
The evening shadows and silence had settled on the river Hooghly as an
old Brahman wended his way to one of the many ghats (landing places).
The dinghis--little boats which ply backwards and forwards all day
carrying passengers to and from Calcutta--had all been made fast
for the night. Some of the boatmen were cooking their evening meal,
while others sat about on the decks smoking and singing. Many of the
boats were wedged close together and drawn up on to the bank.
But one lay well in the water and some distance from its
fellow-craft. Its manjhi (headman) stood on the stern deck, binding
together the mat roof of his boat. His seemingly careless gaze took
in the Brahman, about to descend the bank. He noted that the old man
carried a parcel, partially concealed in his chadar (scarf), and,
from the manner in which he hugged it, the observer concluded it
contained something valuable. As the Brahman came nearer, the manjhi
saw it was a bag of money.
The old man picked his way down the bank and called upon boat after
boat to take him to a small village near Serampore, for in those days
there was no railway. None were willing to go so far. Meanwhile a
whispered consultation had taken place between the manjhi and dhars
(oarsmen) of the furthest dinghi. When the Brahman finally accosted
them, they first demurred and then, as though still reluctant,
consented to hire their boat.
Just as they were pushing off, a man with a performing bear ran down
the bank. "Where goest thou?" he asked.
"Serampore" answered the Brahman before the boatman could reply.
"My home is near by," the man remarked gladly, and jumped into the
boat, pulling his bear after him.
The boatmen scowled angrily: "Get out, we go not so far." But he
would not. The manjhi warned him that he and his bear would gain
nothing by forcing themselves into the boat.
"These boatmen are queer customers," he laughingly remarked to the
Brahman, and to them: "Gain nothing! Why! I will reach my home."
"So you say," they answered.
The bear-man wondered within himself at their unwillingness to have
him as a passenger. He and the old Brahman made a few remarks to each
other. Then they fell silent.
They were near the end of their journey when the bear-man asked
suddenly: "Manjhi, have we not passed Serampore?"
"Are you the guru of boatmen that you question me?" replied the
manjhi, and then, in a more conciliatory tone, added: "We are going
higher up for a crossing. The tide is strong." The explanation was
reasonable. But the bear-man's suspicions had been awakened and he
was on the alert. The Brahman sat placidly nursing his bag which the
bear-man too had noticed contained money. He had also noticed that
the manjhis kept glancing furtively at it and its owner.
The river crossed, the boat hugged the bank; after a time it came
to a standstill. One of the manjhis jumped ashore with the rope
and secured it to a tree. The Brahman and the bear-man both asked:
"What is wrong? Why stop the boat in this strange place?"
"You will soon know, you will soon see," answered the boatmen and
chuckled over some secret joke as, one after another, each stepped
ashore and disappeared.
The aged Brahman gazed after them apprehensively. Then, placing his
money between his knees, as he sat on the deck with crossed legs tucked
under him, he folded his hands together and bent forward in prayer.
The bearman thought within himself: "Prayer for him, action for
me." And saying softly to the old man; "Brahman Thakoor, something
is brewing. I follow to see," he too stepped ashore.
Not far from the tree he found a small thatched house and several
men gathered behind it. Moving warily forward among the group he
recognised the manjhis. "Dacoits!" he whispered to himself. Then an
inspiration struck him.
He ran back to the boat, and asked the Brahman to change his seat
to the stern and be ready to steer off when he gave him a signal. He
took up a position in the prow and fondled his bear.
Within a few minutes a party of men appeared coming towards the
dinghi. Some were boatmen; all were dacoits.
The actor loosed the bear's chain, saying: "Go! go! hug the life out
of all of them!"
The sagacious animal responded to his master's order with a fierce
charge right among the approaching band of robbers. With startled
cries they fled in all directions. Quite sure they were effectively
scattered, the bear-man called his animal back, secured its chain
once more, and pushed from the shore.
With some difficulty he and the old Brahman navigated themselves back
to Calcutta and informed the police authorities there. The police
took possession of the dinghi which on inspection proved to be a
dacoit's nest well-equipped with instruments fitted for murder and
robbery. But none of this gang of river dacoits were captured.
The lives of the Brahman and the showman were certainly saved by the
wonderful intelligence of the latter's bear.
Madhub Babu, a Calcutta gentleman, owned much property in that city
and was known far and wide on account of his great wealth. To do him
honour, the City Fathers had named a tank after him.
At that time there flourished a notorious dacoit, Raghu, for whose
capture Government had offered a handsome reward. But like Robin Hood
of old, Raghu Dacoit had caught popular fancy by his generosity to
the poor. Though he looted the rich, to the needy, the famine-stricken
and widows he was always kind. No one would inform against him.
Madhub Babu had a fine country house in Chandernagore, where he
frequently entertained his friends. On one of these occasions, the
latest doings of Raghu Dacoit were being discussed. The Babu remarked
confidently: "He dare not visit me. He knows my house is well guarded."
One of the guests quickly rejoined: "Oh, don't say that. Raghu Dacoit
is a dangerous and clever man,"
A few days after, Madhub Babu received a letter from the famous
outlaw saying that he would be pleased to visit the rich man's
country house. Madhub Babu was amazed at the audacity of the fellow,
and wondered how his remark had reached the robber's ears.
He immediately sent information to Calcutta and asked for a strong
body of police to be sent at his expense. They arrived, and his
country residence was extra well guarded for some time. But nothing
happened! Madhub Babu concluded that the letter had been a hoax. So
the police guard was withdrawn.
Madhub Babu's Chandernagore house stood on the bank of the river. One
dark night a boat came quietly to the ghat. Its occupants silently
landed and proceeded stealthily to the house. Every door and window
was securely fastened, but what mattered that to Raghu and his
band? Tall trees graced the grounds everywhere and many grew near the
house. Climbing the nearest, some of the dacoits reached up a long
and stout bamboo from it to the flat roof. A slim youth crawled over
and fixed the other end securely. Then one by one some of the gang
slid across. The door of the staircase leading down into the house
stood open. Creeping like cats downstairs they gained the entrance
hall. Here they found all the durwans fast asleep. The light of their
lanterns showed the durwans' swords hanging on the wall. In a trice
the dacoits had them down, unsheathed, and, oh, bitter blow! despatched
Madhub Babu's men with their own weapons.
Then noiselessly opening the door they admitted the remainder of the
band. For a few hours there was uproar, confusion and dismay while
the burglars invaded room after room and collected all Madhub Babu's
treasures with which they disappeared.
While still smarting under the loss of his valuables, the Babu received
another letter from Raghu Dacoit asking, "Had his visit given Madhub
Girl as Kali-Ma
A large and well-to-do family lived happily in a country place
One day their peace was disturbed by an anonymous letter. The writer
warned them to expect a "dacoity" (burglary). These Indian outlaws
always make it a point of honour to inform their intended victims,
and always come with drums, torch-light and a sort of war-cry.
There was much valuable jewellery in the house and the family, thinking
discretion the better part of valour, gathered all together, packed
it securely and, taking it with them, left their home about sunset
for safe quarters.
Somehow one of the younger ladies with a tiny infant was left
behind. Unaware of the warning letter or desertion of the family,
she slept peacefully through the early hours of the night. But later,
she was awakened by the sound of drums and loud cries, which she
recognised as the signal of the dacoits. Rushing out of her chamber
she discovered that the burglars were already in the house and that
none of the family were to be found. From room to room she fled,
finding none to protect her, and realised that she was alone and
helpless. Even her husband was gone!
She was a high-spirited and resourceful girl. She knew her life
and the baby's as well were in danger and she determined to outwit
the burglars. She had a swarthy complexion like Kali, the dacoits'
divinity. Often had her mother bemoaned its darkness! Now it should
serve her. But was she black enough? To make assurance doubly sure,
she caught up a bottle of ink, which she knew where to find, and
hastily smeared her face and limbs with it. Then, hiding her baby
in a safe corner, she uncoiled her heavy hair and let its luxuriant
black tresses fall about her like a cloak. Her preparations complete,
she placed herself in a large niche at the head of the stairs.
The dacoits found nothing below worth attention and trooped
upstairs. The flickering glare of their torches fell upon a life-like
image of Kali the Terrible. With protruding scarlet tongue and fixed
staring eyes, the girl stood immovable and breathless, silently
invoking all her family gods to come to her aid in her bold design.
With an awe-struck cry of "Mercy! mercy! Kali-Ma!", the thieves
fell prostrate at her feet. The girl held her breath. Was it
possible that her plan had succeeded? The slow seconds passed. The
Chief arose. "Come, brothers, we touch nothing where Mother Kali is
worshipped." With hasty and reverent steps they descended the stairs
and left the house.
Long after the dacoits had gone the girl stood there. Then the strain
snapped and she relapsed to her normal self. Fear swept over her and
she rushed out of the house. But her trembling limbs could not carry
her far. She fell in a dead faint on the pathway. The neighbours,
who had heard the dacoits enter the house and seen them go away silent
and empty-handed, came to learn the mystery and found her there.
When the family returned next morning, the neighbours abused them
soundly for leaving the girl and her babe behind. The girl herself
was so hurt by the neglect that she had scarcely strength enough
to relate the strange happenings of the night. Her husband found it
difficult to make his peace; he said that he believed her to be with
the ladies of the family. In zenana families even the most devoted
husband has little voice in his wife's movements, as all arrangements
are left in the hands of the mother-in-law. There were several ladies
and children in the family and the mother-in-law had thought the girl
was with some of them. Friendship was however finally restored. All
generously admired her ingenuity and realised her bravery. From the
white-haired old father to the smallest child, everyone was grateful
then and always after for her presence of mind on that memorable night.
The Deputy Magistrate
In the Dacca district, a few years ago, there was a big dacoity. A
Deputy Magistrate was ordered to secretly investigate the matter and,
if possible, to capture the miscreants.
Besides his cook and personal attendants he took with him some
policemen. All were disguised. They travelled in several small boats.
It was late in the evening as they neared the place, where the burglary
had occurred. He decided to proceed no further that night. The boats
put to; the men cooked their evening meal and all retired.
About midnight, the Magistrate awoke with a start to hear many voices
calling him by name. He listened: "So you have come to arrest us,
to put us in jail, to hang us. Ah! you will soon see who will be
punished. We shall know how clever you are!"
The night was pitch-dark. He noiselessly opened the small window
of the boat and saw a number of men, with flaming torches in their
hands and armed with heavy sticks, coming down the bank. There was no
time to call his men. He seized his loaded revolver. But what was one
against so many! He decided to bolt. The land way was barred by the
dacoits. What of the river? He was a good swimmer. But the water looked
black as ink and swarmed with crocodiles. Yet to stay in the boat meant
certain death. If he gained the opposite bank, he could make for his
father-in-law's house, which was near the river and where his wife was
then staying. He might escape the crocodiles. He determined to risk it.
Like a flash all this passed through his mind. Opening the other
window he clambered out stealthily and slipped into the water. A
few powerful strokes carried him across. He stumbled up the bank and
raced through the thorny jungle to his father-in-law's house.
The sleeping family were disturbed by his violent knocking. As soon
as he was admitted, he went to his wife's room. She was horrified to
hear of his danger. After a hasty bath and change she insisted that he
should eat something, and while he was refreshing himself, she informed
her father of his son-in-law's escape and predicament. To her surprise,
her father said: "I am sorry, but he must leave my house."
"O! father, how can he?" she pleaded.
"He must" repeated her father.
The daughter fell at her parent's feet and implored him not to drive
her husband forth. But no words of hers could move him. "Why should
all suffer for one?" he argued. She returned sadly to her husband.
Presently the cries of the dacoits showed that they had scented their
quarry. Soon they shouted at the door: "Open! or drive out the Deputy
Magistrate. We know he is here. Give him to us or what happens be on
your own head."
The wife wept piteously. Her father remained obdurate, muttering,
"I knew this would happen."
The unfortunate Magistrate could not understand his father-in-law's
behaviour. He sat with his head bowed in despair. Suddenly his wife
ran to him.
"You must try to escape. I have an idea." She pulled out a saree and
some jewels, and began to dress him as a woman,
"It's no use," he said hopelessly, "they will catch me."
"Be brave," she said encouragingly, "for my sake see if you cannot
With tender hands she arranged the saree, draping it well over his head
to conceal his face. Then giving him a ghurra (water vessel) told him
to pretend that he was going to fetch water from the river. Cheered
by her courage, he caught her to his heart in a mute farewell, and
her prayers went with him.
He had not gone far from the house when cries arose of "There he
is!" But some one shouted: "It is a woman. Look elsewhere." And he
passed slowly to the river. Here he flung the brass ghurra far out
into the stream and ran for his life along the bank. No sounds of
pursuit followed him, and he now gained courage enough to form a
plan of escape. Not far from his father-in-law's village was a small
police station. Thither he bent his steps and asked protection of
its solitary occupant.
The man recognised him and asked: "Deputy Saheb, why are you here? What
The Magistrate told him of the dacoits and of his escape. "Dacoits
after you!" said the policeman and looked grave. "Sir, I cannot help
you. What is one policewallah against so many? If I shelter you we
shall both die. You better push on."
For a time the Magistrate pleaded to deaf ears. But at length his
promises of promotion and reward moved the man. "Come" he said "I
will do my best," and, rising, led the way to his own house. Here
in the inner room was a high machan--a huge bamboo shelf made like
a raft and suspended from the roof and reached by a moveable ladder,
used for storing all sorts of things.
On this machan were some old blankets. "Here, conceal yourself in
these" said the policeman. The Deputy Magistrate needed no second
bidding. He climbed up and rolled himself in one of the blankets and
heaped the others in front of him. The policeman carried the ladder
away, right out of the house. Then he shut the door and returned to
After a time there came the noise of the dacoits. They soon entered
the police station and shouted: "Give up that Deputy Saheb. We know
he is here."
"Deputy, what Deputy? I cannot understand. Where is he?" answered
"Don't be shamming," returned the dacoits contemptuously, "thou
knowest well whom we mean. Produce him if you value your own life."
In vain the policeman pleaded ignorance. His trembling limbs and
shaking voice belied his words. The dacoits bound him, searched
the police office, and then proceeded to hunt the house. "He is not
here. Let us not waste further time," said one. "Let's look well,"
said another, "and search every place." Some climbed the machan and
discovered their victim. It did not take them long to drag him down,
and beat him mercilessly with their long sticks, till he became
unconscious. The policeman too was severely chastised. Him they
left lying there; but rolled the offending Magistrate in an old mat,
bound him tightly with a rope and carried him away to the river.
As he was borne on their shoulders through the night air, he gradually
came to his senses but kept silent and listened to his captors. By
this time it was dawn, and they were at the river. The majority were
for re-crossing and burning him, dead or alive. One dissentient voice
struck him with surprise. It was his father-in-law's! Clearly he
was one of the gang! But scruples had overtaken him and he pleaded
that he might not be a witness of the projected murder of his
son-in-law. "Spare me! spare me!" he cried.
Some jeered: "Ho! Ho! you still have a soft corner in your heart for
your son-in-law." At last they agreed that he might absent himself
and he apparently turned back.
The others now put their burden into a boat and crossed the river. They
were laughing at the father-in-law's weakness, and as they approached
the ghat failed to observe a Government budgerow anchored there. It
was the Divisional Commissioner's. He was out on tour. The paharawalla
on deck checked them: "Do not make such a noise. The Saheb sleeps."
They answered rudely and the watchman retorted angrily. The dacoits
loudly abused the man.
The noise woke up the Commissioner, and he got out on deck with a
loaded revolver in his hand. The dacoits jumped from their dinghy and
ran up the bank. It was evident who they were and the Commissioner
fired, aiming at their legs. One man fell with a scream of pain but
scrambled to his feet and ran on.
Nothing was to be gained by chasing them through the still dark
jungle. The Commissioner turned his attention to the boat. "Search
it" he ordered his watchmen. His quick eyes detected legs protruding
from a mat, and he was not surprised when his chaprassi called:
"Saheb, a dead man lies in it."
The Deputy murmured feebly: "I am not dead. I live." The chaprassi
amended the first statement: "Saheb, he speaks." The Commissioner
jumped into the dinghi, cut the ropes that bound the unfortunate man,
and discovered the Deputy Magistrate. It did not take him long to
recover and pour his tale of woe into his Chief's ears.
By sunrise they were all after the dacoits. Blood-drops marked the
way and, near by, they found the wounded man who, only able to hobble,
had hidden himself in a thicket. The Deputy Magistrate's father-in-law
was arrested. He was one of the leaders of the band. It did not take
long to capture the others. And after this, for a time, this part of
the Dacca district enjoyed peace from dacoits.
All for Nothing
A young and very high-caste Bengali lady was married to the son of a
rich man who lived near Hooghly, a small town within a short distance
Some years passed, but there was no sign of a son and heir. The
parents-in-law were fond of the girl. She had won her way into their
hearts and they sympathised with her. Yet they longed to see the old
name being carried down the years, and whisperings grew into talk
of a second marriage for their son. The girl's parents were anxious
Then a kindly Providence intervened, and after months of expectation
a little son lay in her arms, and both families rejoiced with the
girl and shared her pride in the boy baby.
When the child was about a year old, the young mother's brother became
engaged to be married. The date was fixed and invitations sent to
the girl and to the family of her parents-in-law. It was arranged
that she and her baby should attend the wedding.
Not far off, also in Hooghly, lived a widowed sister (of the girl)
in her father-in-law's house. She too was going to the wedding,
and it was settled that both sisters should travel in the same
boat to Calcutta. No male member of either family could accompany
them. Therefore, their father sent an old servant from Calcutta to
fetch them. This man was trusted and treated like a member of the
family, with whom he had been for years.
The girl put together her clothes. Her good mother-in-law unlocked the
great safe and took out the girl's best jewels. An Indian wedding
is the occasion for a great display of clothes and jewellery,
and a well-dressed and richly-adorned bow raises the credit of the
mother-in-law, especially if the wedding is in the girl's own family;
so a careful selection was made. Baby was not forgotten either. Tiny
gold bangles and chains had been showered upon him at his birth,
and this was his first public appearance.
They started early, so as to arrive during the afternoon. There was
to be a ceremony the next day and many guests had arrived at the
bride-groom's house, and all watched eagerly for the two sisters. But
the hours waned and still they tarried. Late in the evening, the old
servant arrived, agitated and all mud-bespattered.
Family, guests and servants plied him with questions concerning
the sisters. Not a word would he reply. Suspicions soon voiced
themselves. Dacoits were about. Everyone knew of the wedding and the
consequent family gathering. Everyone knew too that the daughter was
the cherished bow of a rich family.
Urged by these arguments and his own anxiety, the father threatened
to skin the man alive unless he spoke. Intimidated by his master's
anger, the servant stated that the boat had capsized and the sisters
and baby were drowned.
The house of mirth and laughter was changed to one of weeping. But
the father did not accept the information in its entirety. He called
in the police and a vigorous search was made. All the boatmen were
found. They stated they had swum ashore but could or would give no
word of the ladies.
The only possible clue was given by an Englishman living in a mill
on the river bank at Chinsurah. About midnight, on the date of
the disappearance of the ladies, he heard the cries of women and
a child. At first he had thought of going to see what was up. But
the sounds were coming from a thick jungle, and he argued it was
impossible any one could be there in trouble, and finally thought no
more of the seeming cries.
This ill-omened happening broke up the wedding party. The marriage
was cancelled. All the preparations had been for nothing. To this day
the fate of the sisters is unknown. The bride and bridegroom-elect
were married to other parties.
A Punjabee Dacoit
In a railway train several Punjabee ladies sat on the lower berths
of a second class compartment, laughing and talking gaily. They
were, with one exception, all richly dressed and each of them wore a
quantity of jewels. The exception was a capable, good-looking woman,
of about twenty-five. Her short hair, neck and arms bare of jewellery,
and plain white saree, proclaimed her a widow. But like the others
she chatted merrily, and a listener would have learned from their
conversation that they had been attending a wedding, and were now
on their way home. Witty remarks about the guests, criticism of the
looks of the bride, and comparisons of this wedding with others,
passed from one to another, and whiled away the hours of the journey
as the train sped onwards.
Night fell, and the ladies became silent. They rested against each
other and dozed at intervals. The widow sat on a trunk at the end of
the carriage and silently told her beads. The train slowed down and
stopped at a little station. Then the bell clanged and once again
they were on their way. The little station had not been left far
behind when a dark figure appeared on the foot-board of the ladies'
carriage, and a man's head was thrust in at one of the windows. A
startled exclamation from one of the party drew the attention of all
to the intruder, who was pulling himself up into the carriage. He
was very fierce-looking, wore a huge turban, and had a bushy black
beard. In one hand he held a knife and with the other he assisted
himself into the compartment, in spite of the ladies' protestations.
Some of them began to cry but one or two bolder spirits ventured to
argue with him. In answer to their questions and objections, he said
roughly: "It is a long while before you will reach another station. I
have come for your jewels. If you give them to me quietly, I will
not hurt any of you; but if not--" and he looked very expressively
at the knife in his hand.
After some few minutes, the ladies, who were inclined to oppose him,
yielded to the tearful advice of their more timid sisters, and one by
one they began to unclasp necklaces and belts and hand them over to
the dacoit together with bracelets, bangles and rings. The ruffian,
finding them docile, did not hustle them in any way but stood leisurely
receiving the spoil. Then he carefully folded all in a rich saree
and was knotting the ends together when the train suddenly stopped,
and an Englishman pushed open the door of the ladies' compartment
and sprang at him with the exclamation, "You scoundrel!"
The sudden surprise and assault threw the robber off his feet, and
he fell sprawling on the carriage floor, with the Englishman on top
of him. In the meantime, the guard and others arrived and the thief
was secured and his hands and feet were bound together with his own
pugree, and he was removed to the guard's van.
The widow was the heroine of the adventure. As soon as she saw the
man entering the carriage, she realised his purpose. Slipping into
the lavatory she climbed through the window there on to the footboard,
and pulled herself along by the carriage rods to the next compartment
where the solitary occupant, an Englishman, sat reading.
He was amazed to see a woman clinging to the window of his carriage,
but fortunately he understood the language; and when she said "Help,
thief in the next carriage", he opened the door and got her into his
carriage without any delay. In a few words, she acquainted him with
what was happening in the next compartment. He immediately pulled
the alarm cord to stop the train, and hurried along the footboard to
the assistance of the ladies. They were profuse in their expressions
of gratitude to him, but he insisted that they owed their lives and
their jewels to their courageous friend.
A Child's Experience
Some years ago in a country place, not far from Calcutta, there lived
a well-to-do Bengalee gentleman. He was an old man; and his large
family consisting of sons, grandsons, and his brothers with their
wives and children, and many dependent relatives--all lived happily
together in their ancestral home.
It was an old-fashioned house with verandahs, courtyards and many
rooms. In a large dalan or verandah all the family poojas were
celebrated. Here the daughters of the house were married, and for
generations the old walls had looked on at family gatherings and
There were extensive grounds round the house. Quite close to the zenana
there was a large kitchen garden which supplied all the vegetables
consumed daily in the house; and so plentiful was the produce that
large trays filled with vegetables were sent out every day as presents
to friends, relatives and to the neighbouring temples.
A little further away was an orchard, and in spring the numerous
mango trees delighted all eyes with their blossoms. And there were
jack fruit trees, peaches, plums and guava trees in numbers, besides
long lines of plantains and palms of several kinds.
In the garden, orchard and stables there were tanks and wells so
that the supply of water was sufficient for the needs of such a large
establishment. In front of the mansion there was a large ornamental
tank or lake with white marble steps leading to its waters. Here every
evening the men and boys of the family gathered to recreate and enjoy
the cooling south breeze, and they were often joined by neighbours,
and many a pleasant hour was spent on those marble steps.
An avenue of trees and a high hedge rendered the house quite private,
and the roof was a lovely recreation place and promenade for the
ladles and girls of the family, who were all purdah.
The old man's wealth was much discussed and the expensive clothes
and rich jewels of the ladies were often spoken of. One day the
old gentleman received a warning letter from a band of dacoits that
the house would be visited by them that night. After some hurried
consultation, the family packed up all their jewels and valuables
and sought shelter in flight. It was decided to spend the night at
a place a few miles distant.
In the excitement a young mother was separated from her little boy,
a child of about three or four years of age. She concluded that he
was with some other member of the family in another carriage and did
not trouble herself about it. But on their arrival at their place of
refuge he was not found with any of the others.
The mother's distress of mind was pitiful. She wished to return
for her child; but it was growing dark and there was the danger of
meeting the dacoits. So her wish was overruled, and through the long
night she suffered terrible anxiety, picturing in her mind all that
was perhaps befalling her little son.
In the meantime the child was sleeping sweetly and peacefully in his
bed in his mother's room. Tired out with play, he had slipped into
bed unknown to any one and there he lay.
About twelve at night the dacoits arrived and broke into the
house. They searched the empty rooms and were furious at finding no
valuables worth carrying away. They came to the room where the little
boy slept, and their loud voices awakened him. He sat up and, seeing
their strange faces and glaring torches, screamed with fright. One
of them threatened to kill him if he did not stop his noise. Another
stepped to the bedside and taking the little boy in his arms said:
"Little one, do not cry. No one will hurt you."
The child recognised his father's servant and twined his little arms
around the man's neck. The other dacoits laughed and walked out of
the room leaving their comrade with the child.
When daylight broke, the family returned home, and the poor young
mother flew through the house in search of her child. To her surprise
and joy she found him sleeping peacefully in her own room. Her
hysterical caresses awakened him and the little fellow could not
understand what ailed his mother.
"Did nothing happen during the night?" she asked. "Did you see anything
or anyone, my son?"
Rubbing his chubby knuckles in his eyes the sleepy little boy answered:
"Oh, yes, where were you, mother? A lot of men came. Some wanted to
hit me, but--(naming the servant) was with them, and he sent them
away. Then he gave me sweets and put me to sleep."
The servant was arrested, and he confessed that he was one of the
band of dacoits who had sent the warning letter and had broken into
the house. Nearly the whole band was captured.
Two Chinese Dacoits
In a large house in Calcutta there lived an Englishman, his wife and
her sister. Mrs. C. was of a highly-strung and nervous disposition,
and as her husband's business frequently occasioned his absence from
home, they had persuaded her sister Ethel to come out to India on a
Ethel was a bright, lively girl, very practical and quite the opposite
of her sister, whom she often rallied for her timidity. Once when
Alice was more trying than usual, Ethel exclaimed: "Perhaps if I were
a little like you, Alice, delicate, nervous and silly, I might get
a husband who would fuss over me like Charlie does over you."
Alice laughed at her sister's earnestness and said: "If you were not
healthy and strong-minded you would understand me better, Ethel."
Not long afterwards the two ladies were left alone for some days as
Mr. C. was obliged to go upcountry on business. While he was away,
Ethel slept with her sister. It was the cold weather when night closes
in early and the evenings are long. Mrs. C. liked an early dinner,
soon after which she always retired. Ethel liked to spend the long
quiet evenings, reading or writing, and often sat up till midnight.
One afternoon, while they were at lunch, a telegram was brought in,
and on opening it, Alice exclaimed delightedly "Charlie will be back
in time for dinner."
The evening passed away till dinner time but Mr. C. did not arrive
and the ladies waited till nine o'clock. Then they dined, and when
the clock struck ten and still there was no arrival, Alice said she
would go to bed, as Charlie must have missed his train and the next
was not due till near midnight.
Ethel looked up from her book and said: "Well, I am sleeping in my
"O! you know I hate to be alone," exclaimed Alice; "you might come
and sleep in mine until Charlie comes in."
"Alice, you are selfish," retorted Ethel. "I shall barely be in bed
before he walks in. The only thing for me is to go to bed in your
room in my evening dress."
"How silly you are," said Alice peevishly; "why cannot you undress as
usual? Charlie may not come at all to-night and I dread being alone."
"Oh, very well," said Ethel, "I will come and read in your room till
Charlie does come. I shall never marry a man who is always away on
business," With these words she forsook her easy chair and accompanied
her sister into the large bed-room. She threw herself on the side of
the bed and went on with her book.
Alice undressed, got into bed and was soon asleep. Ethel finished
her book and then lay waiting for her brother-in-law. The lights in
the hall and on the landing were not extinguished, but the house was
still and quiet. It was near twelve and Alice was just wondering if
Mr. C. would really arrive or if it would not be better for her to
undress and get into bed comfortably when she heard gentle footsteps
on the stairs.
"There's Charlie," she said to herself, "and how softly he is coming
upstairs! he is a considerate husband."
She looked at her sister, saw that she was sleeping very soundly. "I
will pretend to be asleep too," said Ethel to herself and she drew
up the bed-clothes to hide her evening dress and put a pillow over
To her disappointment, Charlie delayed his coming and she was wondering
if he was dining when the door slowly opened, but instead of Mr. C. two
Chinamen entered the room. Ethel stared at them from under her pillow
with amazement. At first they stood motionless beside the door. Then,
closing it noiselessly, they advanced into the room. Their quaint
clothes, long pigtails and red eyes together with their stealthy
movements and the hour of midnight, created an uncanny atmosphere in
the room, and for the first time in her life Ethel began to understand
what nerves mean. Never in her life had her pulses jumped and throbbed
as they were doing now. She controlled her inclination to scream and
from under her pillow watched the men.
They examined the room and one of them approached the toilette table
and began to transfer the jewels and silver ornaments which lay upon it
to a capacious bag. The other took a big cigar out of his pocket and
lit it. Then he stepped to Mrs. C.'s side and began to puff the smoke
into her face. She was sleeping upon her back and though she at first
stirred uneasily she soon seemed to sink into a deeper sleep. After
a few minutes by her side, the Chinaman moved round to Ethel's side
of the bed; but seeing that her head was covered by a pillow and that
she was apparently fast asleep, he turned to help his comrade.
At this moment Mr. C.'s voice sounded in the hall and he came
running upstairs, whistling gaily. The robbers exchanged alarmed
looks and hastily hid themselves and their bag of booty behind a large
almirah. Charlie opened the door and came into the room, saying "Alice,
where are you?" Approaching the bed he said "What, asleep!" and bent
over his wife. But she was in a deep slumber and oblivious of her
husband's presence. He noticed Ethel's form on the opposite side of
the bed and, walking gently round, touched her arm and whispered:
"Are you asleep too?"
She lifted the pillow, stretched her arms, and then sat up on the
bed. He noticed her evening dress and was explaining his late arrival
when she jumped up crossly from the bed and saying, "Look at your wife,
is she not looking ghastly?" went out of the room. Charlie returned to
his wife's side and looked closely at her. Her face seemed strangely
pallid and her hands were cold. He endeavoured to wake her and was
still trying to rouse her when Ethel returned to the room followed
by several of the servants, who looked excited.
In answer to his question, "What is wrong with Alice?" Ethel said
"There are two thieves hidden behind the almirah. Let the servants help
you to secure them and then you will know what is wrong with Alice."
The two Chinamen were soon routed out from behind the almirah,
captured and handed over to the police. A doctor was summoned and
Alice was brought out of the stupor, she had been thrown into by the
fumes of opium smoke.
An Unfaithful Servant.
A rich zemindar named Bose lived in Lucknow, He had emigrated there
from Bengal, acquired land there, and studied the language until
he could speak Urdu like a Hindustanee. He became so much a native
of Lucknow that, when business took him down to Calcutta, he felt
himself a foreigner and stranger in Bengal.
His wife was an invalid and, as the years told on her, he
had frequently to take her to Calcutta for medical advice and
treatment. Their only child was a daughter who was the darling of their
household. The second favourite in the family was a boy called Ram,
who though really a servant was treated like a son of the house and
both Mr. and Mrs. Bose were very fond of him.
When quite a small boy, Ram had been taken into service in the Bose
menage; and as his parents were both dead and he was remarkably quick
and intelligent, the zemindar took a fatherly interest in the lad and
had him taught to read and write. The teacher thought so highly of
Ram's intellect that he was taught one subject after another by his
indulgent master, and when he grew older, was especially educated
and trained for estate work. When his education was finished he
was appointed to be confidential clerk and cashier, and gradually
grew to know as much of Bose's money affairs as the zemindar did
himself. Whenever the rich man went on his estate, Ram went with
him. At times of collection, Ram had the office of counting the silver
and locking it up in the cash box. Frequently thousands of rupees
passed through his hands in this way, and he alone always knew what
amount of money the cash box contained.
One year, Bose and the faithful Ram had been round the zemindari,
collecting rents; and, as many who had been in arrears paid up, they
returned with a larger sum of money than usual. This was locked up
in the cash box and Bose told his wife in Ram's hearing that next
day he should deposit it in the bank. The cash box was always kept
at night on a table by the zemindar's bed-side.
The Boses had a large house in Lucknow and it was nearly always full,
as Mrs. Bose was fond of company and they invariably had a number
of relatives and friends staying with them. Mr. and Mrs. Bose slept
upstairs in a large south room, which opened into another large room
alongside of it. The only furniture in their room was their two beds
and a table which stood between the beds to hold the cash box and
The night of the zemindar's return, his wife could not sleep. She
had been ill and she counted the hours as the night wore on. The
light of the lantern showed her husband's sleeping form, the naked
sword which always hung at his bedpost, and the bare white-washed
walls of the room. As she lay awake, Mrs. Bose thought she heard a
noise at the door leading into the other room. The noise came again
and she listened intently. Some one opened the door and then shut
it. Mrs. Bose kept still, listened and watched. Some one again opened
and shut the door gently, then again and again. It struck Mrs. Bose
that this was being done to ascertain whether the inmates of the room
were asleep or awake. She continued to keep perfectly still.
Now the door was pushed wide open and Ram entered, and closed the door
softly behind him. When Mrs. Bose saw him enter, her first thought
was that he was the bearer of some bad news, and she very nearly
asked him what was the matter. But his stealthy movements made her
feign sleep and see what he was about; and as he approached her bed
on tiptoe, she closed her eyes and lay as if peacefully sleeping. He
stood beside the bed apparently watching her. Mrs. Bose's nerves were
tingling with fear, and it took all her powers of self-control to keep
her eyes closed and her breath steady. Just as the effort seemed more
than she could keep up, Ram moved away from her bed.
Through her eye-lashes she watched him creep noiselessly to the table
and examine the cash box. Then he returned to the side of her bed
and coughed. Mrs. Bose again succeeded in keeping perfectly still
and he moved round to his master's bedside. Here he stood motionless
for some seconds and then unfastened the sword. The zemindar was
sleeping heavily and as he detached the sword Ram smiled to himself
as if everything was very satisfactory. He grasped the sword in his
right hand and made a trial stroke. Then, smiling again, he lifted
the curtain of the zemindar's bed with his left hand.
Mrs. Bose felt sure that his motive was murder as well as robbery, and
she now shrieked loudly for aid. At the first sound of her voice Ram
dropped the sword and fled from the room. His wife's piercing screams
of "Murder! Help!" woke the zemindar, but by the time he understood
what had taken place Ram had let himself out of the house and was gone.
When morning came the police were informed and the zemindar offered a
handsome reward for the arrest of Ram; but though the police hunted
in Lucknow and elsewhere and also searched the village where Ram's
relatives lived, no one knew anything of him and he was never again
heard of in Lucknow.
Some years after, the old zemindar died and one of the last remarks he
made was: "I should like to know what has happened to poor Ram." He
had never forgotten his affection for his old protege, and had quite
forgiven him for his ungratefulness.
The Bearer's Fate
Mr. Gupta, a Bengali gentleman, was a skilled engineer. The Government
thought highly of him and whenever any work of special difficulty
had to be undertaken, always chose him.
At one time he was stationed at Hazaribagh. This district is even
now infested with tigers, and in those far-off days these lords of
the jungle roamed far and wide.
There was then no railway. Travelling was done by palki or by
"push-push"---a box-like carriage on four wheels, in which the
traveller was forced to recline, and which relays of coolies pushed
before them. The roads were often mere tracks through dense forest.
It happened that Mr. Gupta was ordered to report on some important work
a few miles away. His devoted wife carefully packed his luggage. They
were a happy couple and each short parting was a pain in their lives. A
trustworthy old servant always accompanied his master to camp. But
to-day to his mistress' surprise he begged not to go.
When Gupta came in, his wife told him of the man's unwillingness to
"Nonsense!" said Gupta, "he will have to go. What has happened to him?"
"I think he is ill" the wife excusingly replied, her tender heart
full of the man's wistful face and strange manner. Still she agreed
with her husband and told the bearer, he must go with his master.
"Forgive me, I have high fever, Ma-ji," he shivered, addressing her
by the honoured name of mother, as is the custom of Indian servants
in an Indian household.
She turned again to her husband who said: "I know what is in the
poor old fellow's mind. He has an idea he will be killed by a
tiger. However, tell him there is no danger. I am taking a large
number of bearers and he can keep near the palki."
Mrs. Gupta tried to cheer the servant with this information but he
wailed: "Ma-ji, I am afraid. Surely a tiger will kill me to-night."
"Do not fear," consoled the kind lady. "Your master will take good
care of you." "Go you must," she continued in a firm tone. "There is
no one except you who knows his ways and can see to his comfort. Now
get ready quickly."
"Oh, Ma-ji," he sobbed like a child, "I obey, but my heart is heavy."
Mr. Gupta had to travel through the night. After an early dinner he
started, attended by many palki-bearers and the old servant. The moon
rose bright and glorious and bathed the picturesque country in soft
radiance. The silence of the forest was broken only by the rhythmic
cries of the bearers and the pat-pat of their feet. The first stream
was reached and the bearers asked for a halt. Consent granted, they
went into the stream to drink of the deeper water. The old servant
crouched by the palki.
"Thirstest not?" kindly asked his master.
"Babu-ji, I feel nervous. I will stay near you."
Gupta wondered what might have unstrung the man, and felt sorry for
him. "Come and sit close to me," he said.
The night was cold and the old bearer, huddled in his blanket, sat
on the edge of the palki door.
Suddenly the stillness of the night was broken by a rapid crash
through the dry grass near the palki, and with a thrilling roar a
tiger leapt at the man and dragged him away. The palki shook, and
the bearer's piteous cry "Babu-ji, Babu-ji, I told you" filled the
forest, and echoed and echoed again as the tiger bore him away. Then
all became still.
Gupta realised what had happened. He lay back sick with horror, and
felt as if he were the guilty one. For many a day the old man's dying
wail rang in his ears.
Through the Roof
They were laying the railway through the Hazaribagh district, and
in a low-roofed bungalow at Giridih lived the Engineer in charge of
the work. He was a young Englishman and his only recreation in this
dreary place was riding and shooting.
The coolies lived in frail little mat houses in the same enclosure
as his bungalow. One morning they came to him in a body to tell him
that during the night a tiger had carried off one of their cows. The
next morning another cow was missing, and on the third his servants
awakened him with the news that his Arab pony was gone.
He loved the little animal. Many a mile had he scoured on its
back. "Stripes" must be punished for this. He would sit up the coming
night and watch.
Babus, servants and coolies loudly approved. What was life worth with
such nightly happenings? and the lord of the jungle would surely come
again. Had he not discovered a well-filled larder?
Work over, the young man loaded his gun, and after dinner took up
his position and awaited the enemy. A reliable servant sat up with him.
The bungalow was raised on piles a few feet from the ground. It had
brick walls but a thatched roof which sloped very low down on all
sides. The wooden windows were closed. Our friend sat at one of them
with the Venetians slightly stretched. The bungalow was dark and still.
At last a strange odour filled the air and then the heavy breathing of
the tiger was audible. It came and stood just outside the window. The
young fellow noiselessly pointed his gun through the Venetians and
fired. An angry growl told that the tiger was wounded. Then it charged
forward with a furious roar. The Englishman fired again and this
time thought he had finished it. But the animal charged again with
increased rage. After several attempts at the window it leapt for
the roof and succeeded in clutching the eaves and scrambled up. The
terrified servant cried: "Saheb, come into another room".
"Don't be a fool!" shouted his master, "the tiger can't come through
In their huts the poor coolies heard the shots and the terrible roars
and growls and dared not come to their master's assistance. The tiger
tore and scratched the thatch with all his might and soon made a
hole. "Look! Saheb!" screamed the servant, "he comes through".
"I have a loaded gun in my hand", the Saheb replied.
The hole speedily grew larger as the great cat clawed and growled. The
servant could stand it no longer. He bolted into the next room,
shutting the door between. There he shivered and shook till morning,
when he fled to the railway station a couple of miles away and told the
Sahibs there his tale. They got guns and horses and rode over. They
peered through the shutters and saw the tiger in the room. It
soon scented them and charged with a mighty roar. They retreated
without dignity to a safe distance where all stopped. One said,
"I say! we must see what has happened to the poor chap". Another:
"So many of us and loaded guns! We must do something". A third:
"let's get back and kill the beast".
They went back and fired shot after shot through the shutters
till the animal was killed. Then they broke into the room and found
their luckless comrade dead on the floor, his loaded gun still in his
hand. The tiger must have killed him with a slap of its mighty paw, and
sat on his body all night, but clearly the animal was not a man-eater.
Earning the Reward
A man-eating tiger was roaming through Hazaribagh station. It had
killed many villagers and had become so daring that it entered the
market-place in broad day-light.
A poor old tailor on his way home one evening was seized by the
blood-thirsty aninial, and his screams for help filled the little
town. The morning light showed traces of the struggle between man
and beast, and where the latter had been dragged from the main road.
The villagers did puja that night that all might be saved from a like
fate. A few days after, a ploughman and a little boy stood talking
about the tiger. "How do you know that he won't catch you?" asked
The ploughman answered confidently: "I have done puja". Barely had
the words passed his lips than the tiger leapt upon him. The boy was
startled, but not realising his own danger not only did he not run
but also caught up a stick and tried to save his friend. In spite
of his hitting it the animal began to devour the unfortunate man,
snarling threateningly the while. Then the boy threw away the stick
and fled to the village. The news roused the villagers and they
determined to try to rid themselves of their foe. Armed with spears,
sticks and heavy bamboos they followed the boy to the scene of the
tragedy. But the tiger was gone.
The Government had offered a handsome reward to any one who would
succeed in killing this tiger and now a poor shop-keeper determined
to win it. He knew nothing of shooting but worked up the ambition
of a friend who could shoot and had a couple of guns. Together they
essayed the difficult job. Difficult it was. The tiger seldom returned
to his kill, nor stopped at a kill any length of time, and was known
to have killed three or four victims in one day.
However they hoped for success. The villagers had been very careful
of late and the tiger had consequently been obliged to go hungry. It
was just possible he might return to the kill. So they got permission
for a mangled body to be left there, and built a machan near it. At
sunset they took up their places and watched.
At first the pair felt cheerful. A brilliant moon illuminated
the whole country making everything as clear as day. But no tiger
came. And later, as the hours dragged on, their cramped position,
the nearness of a dead body, the silence and mystery of the night,
all got on their nerves, and they wished they had not attempted such
a task. But to leave now would be dangerous. So they did their best
to encourage each other and waited on.
In the small hours of the night they distinctly heard the tiger coming
and saw a huge black shadow moving stealthily towards their tree. The
animal looked enormous in the uncertain light and each thought the
machan too low and wished himself in his house in the village. Neither
dared to speak or move.
Not far from the machan was a hillock. The tiger, after stalking
round the tree, went to the corpse, smelled it, and then crossing to
the hillock climbed up and sat himself there. The men felt sure he
could now see them,
The tiger began to sniff as if he scented them. Then it yawned
and snarled. The men sat fascinated. Presently the great head
turned towards them. The shopman pulled the trigger of the gun he
held. There was a deafening roar and the tiger disappeared from the
hillock. Then all became still. They knew by the roar of pain that he
was hit. Tigers are clever and often feign death when wounded. They
dared not descend. They were not sure that he was killed. At any
moment he might attack their tree. Comrades in enterprise and fear,
they sat gripping each other in the darkness, for the moon had now set.
The villagers had heard the shot and at day-break came to the
spot. They found the tiger lying dead at the foot of the hillock. The
heroes could barely descend from the machan, so stiff and aching were
their bones. Together they received the plaudits of the village and
shared the Government reward which to them was quite a small fortune.
A Burmese Monster
Some years ago Government sent an engineer and party to explore and
prospect in the forests of Burma. None returned. Their disappearance
was a mystery.
The authorities decided to send another party to ascertain the fate
of the first and continue the work. To induce volunteers, a handsome
salary was offered; and at length an Englishman came forward. He
asked for twice the number of native attendants that the first man
had had. Government granted him his request and provided him with
every facility procurable and he started.
He followed the course taken by his predecessor up a large river. He
travelled in a big boat and his men in smaller ones. Here and there
they came upon traces of the former party. They pushed on. Suddenly
all indications of the missing ones ceased. He felt he had better stop
and investigate. Tents were landed and pitched and the men began to
prepare their evening meal.
As he sat in his tent reading, he heard loud shouts and some of
his coolies rushed to him. They said that as they were cooking they
saw a great black thing hanging from a tree above them. When they
made a noise it disappeared. It was long and thick and black. The
coolies were frightened out of their wits and refused to remain in
that place. Argument was of no use; so the tents were taken down and
the party moved on.
Another spot was selected and here they stayed peacefully for some
days. Suddenly a man was missing. Then another and another! Each
disappeared when alone. The coolies were frightened and uneasy. But
this time the Sahib managed to control them. He himself was anxious
Next a coolie who had gone to the river to scour vessels after a meal
disappeared. The plates and lotas were scattered about just as if
he had been suddenly seized. The Englishman thought that a crocodile
must have taken him off.
Soon after this incident the engineer was fishing in the river opposite
to the camp, and he noticed two coolies coming to the river. They
sat down at the ghat and began to scour their vessels. The murmur of
their voices reached him.
Presently the boatman clutched his arm and pointed to the bank. He
looked. One of the coolies was chasing a huge hairy monster. The
other could not be seen.
The engineer soon crossed the river and joined the coolie, still in the
chase after the strange creature. As usual, the Saheb carried a loaded
revolver and as he ran he fired several shots at the animal. They
had no effect on it. The beast ran on with heavy lumbering strides,
covering the ground with great rapidity and only once glancing back
over its shoulders with a horrible grin. He could not overtake it and
it disappeared into the thick jungle. Its hair was so long that it
completely covered the man it carried in its powerful arms. It was
some kind of an orang-outang.
The mystery was now cleared up. The engineer returned. His task
was accomplished. Later he wrote an account of this adventure and
concluded with these words:--"Now when I see a great hairy spider I
tremble! and the remembrance of that monstrous black form returns to
me, and the hideous grin that thrilled me. Never can I forget it."
The Palki and the Tiger
In a lonely village in the Hazaribagh district the peaceful dwellers
were one evening disturbed by shrill cries of distress. When they
gathered round the house from whence the cries came, they discovered
that a ghastly murder had been committed. The headman of the village
immediately despatched two messengers for the police. These men
started in the dawn and reached the Police outpost just before sunset.
The Inspector-in-charge was a Bengalee, named Bose, who was a very
intelligent officer and keen on his work. As soon as he received
information of the murder, he ordered one of his staff to arrange for
a push-push (carriage which is partly drawn and partly pushed by men)
and a set of bearers. He quickly put together a few requisites for
the journey, and was soon ready. The night was not far advanced when
the orderly returned with a push-push and eight bearers, and Bose
started off, attended by his cook and body-servant.
The road lay through a forest. At times the path was so narrow and
rocky that the men could make little progress, and at last they
declared that the road was impassable for a wheeled conveyance, and
that it was necessary for the Inspector to change into a palki. One
of them said that about two miles off the road there was a village,
and that in the village there lived a rich Hindustani merchant who
might lend a palki. Bose was pleased at the suggestion and told the
push-push bearers to take him to the village. They needed no second
bidding, and the Inspector was soon being trundled across the paddy
fields that lay between the village and the road. Arrived there,
he hastened to the merchant's house and asked to see him.
A handsome up-countryman came out and when, he saw that his visitor
was a gentleman he courteously asked him to enter and be seated. The
Inspector soon explained his necessity for a palki, and the rich man
placed his at the disposal of the police officer. "But Jenab (Sir),"
he said, "tigers are bad in this forest and you have to pass through a
part known to be a favourite haunt of theirs. Have you any fire-arms?"
"Only my revolver," said Bose "but I must push on and take my
chance." And as the palki now stood ready and the bearers declared
themselves refreshed, he thanked his host for his ready assistance,
bade him farewell and started once again.
The bearers were full of spirits after their rest at the merchant's
house and for a mile or two travelled at a rapid pace; but the narrow
winding road impeded their progress, and as the night advanced the
eerie sounds of the forest must have got on their nerves. At the
commencement of the journey they had beguiled the march with stories
of tigers and bears met in the forest, but after some hours of travel
they became silent; and beyond the usual directions of the forward
men concerning the road and occasionally a shrill cry to scare away
wild animals, they made no remarks to each other.
Within the palki, Bose lay fitfully dozing. The night was oppressive
and his thoughts were on the murder and his chances of a successful
capture of the wrong-doer. The road had become wider and level and
the men were going along at a good pace, when suddenly they dropped
the palki to the ground and fled in all directions. Bose shouted:
"What is up? Why have you run away?" No answer greeted his ears but
a strange odour penetrated his nostrils and he knew there was a tiger
in the jungle. He quickly pulled the doors of the palki jamming them
as securely as he could with the ends of his razai (quilt). Then he
tore the strong border off his dhoti (loin cloth) and commenced to
bind the handles of the doors together. He had just finished firmly
lashing together the handles on one side when he heard an ominous
growling. With frantic haste he bound the handles of the opposite doors
together, praying fervently that he might escape the jaws of the tiger.
The animal continued growling. Evidently the dark bulk of the palki
frightened him. Bose sat inside, huddled in a heap and breathless. The
tiger, re-assured by the stillness of the object before him, ceased
growling; and presently, the soft thud of his feet and his sniffing
round the palki told the trembling man within that 'Stripes' was
making an investigation.
Now a mighty roar shook the jungles and Bose realised that the tiger
had leapt upon the roof of the palki and was scratching furiously at
it. Bose clutched the handles of the doors and held on to them with the
grip of despair. The tiger scratched and growled and finally bounded
off the top and began a vigorous assault upon the side. The palki
toppled over on to its other side. Poor Bose congratulated himself
that now one of the doors rested upon Mother Earth and he could give
his whole energy to defending the other. He gripped the handles with
renewed determination and waited.
The tiger had sustained a shock at seeing the unknown monster he
was tackling roll over, and for a time satisfied himself by growling
savagely. But as the monster lay still "Stripes" tried the experiment
of a sharp blow with his paw. The palki rested on uneven ground and
the blow made it rock. The tiger waited awhile; and when the rocking
had subsided administered another stroke. The palki rocked again. The
situation now developed into a game between the huge cat and the
palki. When he slapped the palki rocked; and when the palki ceased
vibrating the tiger slapped again. Inside the palki, the Inspector
held on to the handles of the door and prayed for deliverance.
At last the tiger, wearied of the game and purring loudly, walked
away. Bose breathed more freely but knew not if the danger was
past. There he lay gripping the handles of the door and wishing for
daylight. At last the dawn broke and with the first rays of light
courage returned to the bearers and servants, who were hiding in
the branches of the surrounding trees. They called to each other,
expressing anxiety as to their master's fate. Finally, as the daylight
grew stronger they encouraged each other to descend and approach
As they examined it with wonder some very cutting remarks from within
assured them of their master's existence, and with many apologies
for the abrupt way in which they had abandoned him they righted the
palki and assisted him out.
The journey was soon resumed and Bose had the satisfaction of arresting
the murderer in spite of his ill-timed adventure and forced delay.
An Assam Adventure
Some years ago, an English baron came out to India to enjoy some
tiger shooting. He received invitations to many Native States, and was
having a right royal time. In the course of his wanderings he came to
Assam. In those days, the jungles of Assam swarmed with tigers but a
"man-eater" was very rarely known there.
Sir M. was in a small camp with just two or three other guns, and all
were hopeful of "bagging" a tiger, for the roaring of the lords of the
jungle could be heard almost every night. The tents had been pitched
on the bank of a river and all round the camp and on the opposite
bank was heavy jungle. Wild animals abounded in these jungles and the
camp servants did not appreciate the site. No sooner had the Sahebs
finished their dinner than the servants disappeared into their tents,
and securing themselves within, as strongly as they could, devoutly
hoped that the morning light would find them still alive and unharmed.
One evening Sir M. retired to his own tent immediately after dinner. He
was very tired but as he was not sleepy, he made himself comfortable
and settled down on a long-sleeved chair with a book. His tent was
a small one, with a camp cot, a couple of chairs and a table. On the
table stood a reading lamp. M. was soon absorbed in his book and did
not notice how the hours fled. The camp became quiet and still. It
was a dark close night and the door of his tent stood open, for he
was a lover of air. He had read on for some time when his attention
was drawn to a movement of his tent wall. It seemed to him as if
some one or something was rubbing along the side. He put down his
book and got on to his feet to see what it could be. As he was about
to step forward the head of a tiger loomed in the doorway, the eyes
gleaming brightly. Sir M. stood motionless with surprise and "Stripes"
stepped into the tent. He was a fine specimen of a Royal Bengal tiger,
and M. forgot everything in his admiration of the noble animal.
The table with the lamp upon it stood between Sir M. and the tiger,
and each stood on either side of it gazing at each other. As the silent
seconds passed, Sir M. realized that he was in danger and bethought
him of his rifle which was almost within reach of his hand; but he
dared not move and so continued gazing steadfastly at his visitor. The
tiger too stood, surveying his vis-a-vis and then began to move round
the table. The lamp either attracted or annoyed him and he raised
his paw to the table. The weight of the huge paw tilted the table,
the lamp toppled and fell with a crash. The terrified tiger gave a
mighty roar, turned tail and fled.
The camp was aroused. Everyone shouted and rushed out into the night,
armed with some weapon or other. Sir M. related to his brother guns
what had happened and they all enjoyed a good laugh and rather envied
him for the fine sight he had of such a superb specimen of the kings
of the jungle.
A Thrilling Story
One evening, in Assam, a young Englishman was driving along a lonely
jungle road. He wished to visit a neighbouring Saheb; and though his
servants had warned him that tigers had been frequently seen on that
particular road, he had laughed at their fears and told them that
the only tiger to be feared was a "man-eater", and that there were no
"man-eating" tigers about that district. As usual in the mofussil of
India, he was going out to dine and sleep, and his bearer had put up
his clothes and his suit case was stowed into the dog-cart.
The road was a good one and considerably wide, for it was the main
thoroughfare in the district and along it tea, jute and all other
agricultural products were transported to the river for export to other
districts of India and also to Europe. Nevertheless it was bordered
on either side by dense jungle, and there were few villages in its
vicinity. After sunset it was a road little frequented by villagers
and it had the reputation of being tiger-haunted.
There was no moon and, as B. had not started much before sunset,
darkness soon overtook him on the road. As he had no syce with him
he got down to light the trap-lamps and jumped in and drove on again
very cheerily. He was not far from where he must turn off the main
road to the narrow one leading to his friend's estate, when the pony
suddenly took fright at something and bolted. At first B. tried to
pull the animal up; but its erect ears and wild snorting showed him
that there was cause for alarm. He looked over his shoulder and in
the dim starlight discerned the bulk of some animal in pursuit of
them. An eerie feeling came over him and he wondered what was going
to happen. He sat tight in his seat and let the pony race on. The
chase continued and the pony began to show signs of collapse. It was
evidently being overcome by fear and, in spite of all B.'s urging,
could not keep up the pace, and the pursuing animal gained upon
them. B. had just determined to leap from the cart when the pony
tripped and fell and B. was shot out of the cart. He fell into the
long grass on the side of the road, and had barely collected himself
when a dark form sprang upon the pony.
The poor animal neighed with fear but kicked and fought its
foe. B. rolled down the side of the road and began to crawl away
through the jungle as fast as he could. Long grass and thorny brambles
grew on either side of the road and as it was the dry season every
movement of his made a crackling and rustling; and often he fancied
he heard an animal in pursuit of him, or he would imagine he was
about to meet one coming through the jungle towards him. He pressed
on as fast as he could, sometimes crawling and sometimes walking,
and at last he saw the glimmer of lights and came to some huts. He
shouted to the inmates who came to his assistance.
When they discovered a Saheb in such a plight they were full of
concern, helped him to their huts, gave him hot milk to drink and
washed his wounds. His clothes were torn and his hands and knees
bleeding from his flight through the thorny jungle. The sympathising
villagers emptied a hut for him to rest in, and when morning came
escorted him to the scene of his mishap.
The mangled remains of his poor pony told him that the wild animal
had been a very famished tiger. B. returned to his own bungalow a
wiser man, and told his servants that, had he taken their advice, he
would not have suffered such an adventure or the loss of his pony. He
rewarded the villagers for their kindness and hospitality and for a
long time his escape was the talk of the district.
A Cachar Tiger
In the province of Assam lies a fertile and picturesque valley called
Cachar. Shut in on north, south and east by lofty hills, this valley
remained hidden for centuries and was never conquered by any of the
Mahommedan rulers of India.
Here a race of aboriginal kings held sway, and it was the East India
Company who first became masters of this hilly corner of Bengal. In
1830, the last of the old Cachari kings died without heir, and
"Company Bahadoor" took possession of the little kingdom.
In 1855, the discovery of the tea-plant, growing wild in the jungles,
opened out a new industry, and soon the low-lying hills, knolls and
undulating plains of the little valley became gradually clear of
jungle, and covered instead with row after row of carefully-kept and
trim tea bushes. To-day acres upon acres of tea are grown in Cachar;
and the inland steamers, which ply all through the rainy season up
and down the wide-rolling stream of the river Barak, bring down for
export millions of pounds of tea for the "cheering cup".
Cachar is rich in forests, and tigers and other wild animals are there
in plenty. During the monsoon the jungle animals retreat to the higher
levels of the forest-clad hills. But when the rains abate they begin
to gradually descend; and when the great "hoars" or fenlands dry up
at the approach of the cold season, numerous tigers take up their
winter haunts in the patches of jungle, which grow here and there in
the marsh lands, and in the forests which often surround or separate
the tea gardens.
It was cold-weather time about forty years ago, and four planters
sat talking after dinner in the Manager's bungalow on a tea garden
in Cachar. We will call them M., B., C. and H.
The bungalow, like many bungalows in tea districts, stood on a
high hill, the steep sides of which had been terraced and planted
with tea. On adjacent but lower hills stood the factory and coolie
lines. Everything was quiet and lay wrapped in a heavy fog.
In the verandah near the steps sat the bungalow chowkidar
(watchman). The charity of the Tea Company had provided him and his
fellow-coolies with blankets. And he wore his in the usual pachim
(North-West Provinces) style: one end of the blanket is pleated and
tied closely with a piece of string, the short part above the cord
forming a tuft. The wearer pulls the pleated end of the blanket over
his head, the tuft resting on his crown. The sides of the blanket are
drawn round the body, and thus the blanket is made to form both a hood
and a cloak, in which the wearer hugs himself against the inclemency
of the weather.
The chowkidar sat on his mat huddled up in his blanket, droning one
of the time-honoured bhajans (hymns) of India.
Presently he disappeared and, next, piercing yells rent the mist-laden
atmosphere. The four Sahebs were in the verandah in a trice, and soon
discovered the chowkidar returning to the verandah, visibly shaken
and without his blanket.
"What is the matter, and who shouted?" asked the Manager.
"Saheb," the chowkidar replied in a quavering voice "a tiger sprang
on me and caught the knot of my blanket."
"Here!" interrupted the four Englishmen incredulously.
"Yes, Huzoor (Your Honour), as I sat here against this post the tiger
came, seized the knot of my blanket and began to pull. Like lightning
I made my plan. I grasped with a strong tight hold the sides of the
blanket and holding myself together like a ball I let Lord Tiger
pull. He dragged me to the edge of the tila (hill). There I suddenly
let go the blanket and shouted with all my might. The tiger fell over,
down the hill, and is gone."
Sure enough, there were the foot-marks of the tiger, the mark of
the drag, and the signs of where "Stripes" had slipped over and down
The tiger had been harrying the coolies for some time and a rumour
had got about that he was a man-eater. It was pretty certain that he
would come again the next night; so the planters determined to sit
up and shoot him.
On the following night after dinner M. B. C. and H. took their
positions on the verandah. Each had his loaded gun and all waited
patiently for the tiger. Time passed. It was weary work and they dozed.
M.'s dog had wandered off to the kitchen as usual after dinner. After
some time it returned hurriedly and ran up the steps of the verandah,
barking in a frightened manner. The dog's barking woke the four
men. B. sat first near the steps and H. not far from him in a
The dog ran into the dining-room and hid himself under the table and
everything again became quiet, and the men waited. Suddenly a hoarse
cry paralysed three of them. "He's on me. Shoot."
The tiger had come up on to the verandah and springing at B. caught him
by the arm. Then, releasing the arm, he made a spring at his victim's
throat. B. was instantly on his feet and, as the tiger essayed his
throat, he rammed his clenched fist into the animal's mouth. The
tiger shook the man's fist out of its mouth and made another attempt
to reach his throat. B. repeated his manoeuvre. This happened three
or four times.
In the meantime the other three men dared not shoot for fear of missing
the ferocious cat and killing their comrade. H. had the presence of
mind to swiftly fix his bayonet, and, rushing towards the tiger, he
thrust it in the animal's side, firing as he did so. The tiger fell
backwards off the verandah mortally wounded, but to the amazement
of the Sahebs struggled tip and made another attempt to get at B. He
was however too badly wounded and fell back dead.
B.'s hand and arm were terribly mauled, and after medical treatment
he had to go home on long leave.
A Maharajah's Adventures
A Maharajah of Bengal who became a noted sportsman shot his first
tiger when he was quite a small boy. When about twelve years of
age he went out on a shoot one cold weather on his estate. He was
accompanied by some of his relatives, and they encamped in one of
the forest bungalows. This bungalow was just an ordinary Assam house
built on a chang or raised platform. It consisted of a large centre
room with a bedroom on either side and a deep verandah in the front,
where the servants slept at night. Under large trees, some little
distance away, the elephants were chained, and not far off were
stables for the horses.
The Maharajah shared his room with a friend, a lad about two years
older than himself. One night between ten and eleven o'clock, when
all were in bed and asleep after a tiring day and an early dinner,
the near roaring of a tiger awakened the camp. In a twinkling the
servants had trasferred themselves and their bedding from the verandah
into the centre room and securely bolted the door. Roar after roar
sounded through the night, but the young Maharajah slept the healthful
and deep sleep of tired childhood and the mighty voice of the lord
of the jungle did not disturb him. His friend was awakened by the
majestic sound and lay trembling with fear; envying his blissfully
unconscious companion, until the nearness of the tiger broke down
his self-control and, vigorously shaking his bed-fellow, he shouted
in his ear: "Tiger, tiger!"
The young Maharajah awoke, yawned, stretched and listened. The roaring
had ceased but under the bungalow they could hear the purring of a
tiger as it rubbed itself against a post. The younger and fearless
boy laughed with glee and assured his friend that there was no danger
of the tiger getting into the bungalow, and that on the morrow they
would be easily able to track and shoot it. Soon the sounds of purring
and rubbing gave place to others, and the occupants of the bungalow
realised that more than one tiger played beneath them. Next day in
the jungle near the forest bungalow the party shot a couple of tigers,
a tigress and her cubs.
In later years the Maharajah became famous for his shoots and many and
varied were his adventures and experiences. One year he was in camp
with a large party and they were out one afternoon after buffaloes. A
fine bull was driven out of a patch of thick jungle and faced the guns
with defiance in his eyes. He was a grand target and the Maharajah's
finger ached to pull his trigger, but courtesy forbade him and he
generously, as always, left the fine prize for his guests. But, one
after another, each missed his shot and the noble bull charged past
into thicker jungle. As the line of guns attempted to follow, one
of them spied a leopard up on a tree looking thoroughly scared. This
animal had evidently been disturbed by the commotion in the forest and
had been so terrified that it had climbed into a tree for shelter; and
there, on a branch, poor "Spots" fell an easy prey to the sportsmen.
One of the strangest adventures that the Maharajah had was when,
returning to camp one evening, he was informed that one of his largest
and best elephants, "Kennedy", had got stuck in quicksand. In many
parts of Assam there are quicksands and quagmires. This particular one
chanced to be in a nala (stream). The elephant had refused to cross
the partially dried-up stream. Instinct had warned him through the
tip of his trunk that danger lurked there, but his mahout (driver),
anxious to get into camp after a hard day and knowing that across
this stream was a short cut, had forced him. They had advanced but
a yard or two when the huge animal began to sink, and the more he
struggled and strove to extricate himself the deeper he sank. The
Maharajah hastened to the spot as soon as he heard of the catastrophe,
for "Kennedy" was a fine and valuable elephant and a steady one for
shikar (shooting). At the sound of his master's voice poor "Kennedy"
looked towards the bank, and the Maharajah saw that great tears of
anguish were rolling down the poor beast's face as he bellowed in
an agony of fear. The Maharajah directed the men who had gathered
around the scene to fell some saplings, which were conveyed to the
nala by some smaller elephant and pushed into the quagmire towards
"Kennedy". The poor entrapped animal seemed to understand that efforts
were being made to rescue him, and he obeyed his driver's now soothing
voice and held himself still. At last, the combined labours of men
and brother-elephants provided a safe footing of submerged saplings
and branches; and "Kennedy" pulled himself out of the treacherous
sand and was escorted back to the camp with great rejoicings.
Not long after this "Kennedy" distinguished himself in another way,
but this time evoked the displeasure and not the pity of his good
master. An engineer, named Ashton, had charge of the feilkhana
(elephant stables) and had once severely punished "Kennedy". After
the manner of his kind, the elephant bore the memory of the outrage
in his heart and waited the opportunity to be revenged. One morning
the camp was astir for a shoot. The guests stood ready outside
their tents and the elephants were waiting to carry them into the
forest. Suddenly "Kennedy" charged at Ashton, who stood a little
apart from the group, and flinging him to the ground began to roll
him under his feet. The Maharajah, with wonderful presence of mind,
immediately ordered "Debraj", a larger and more powerful elephant than
"Kennedy" and his rival in the feilkhana, to the rescue. "Debraj's"
mahout ordered him to charge at "Kennedy", and, urged forward with
voice and prong; "Debraj" did so with a good will. When "Kennedy"
saw his ancient enemy charging at him, he forgot his grudge against
Ashton, and, considering that "he who fights and runs away lives to
fight another day", he bolted, with his trunk in the air. Ashton was
picked up from the dust very much shaken by his rolling and fright but,
to the astonishment of every one, in no way injured.
During one of his shooting expeditions, the Maharajah and his
companions decided one night that they would go out on foot at
the very break of dawn and see the animal world in the jungle; and
they were well rewarded for their adventurous spirit. In a glade
of the forest they had a magnificent sight of a large herd of bison
peacefully grazing in the dewy grass. They could hear tigers and bears
passing back through the jungles to their dens in the deeper forest,
and as the men stood there admiring the grand heads of the bison a
monstrous tiger passed along quite close to one of the party, the
Maharajah's brother-in-law. On the bank of a river they came upon
a nest of young pythons. The guests thought it was a curious mound;
but the Maharajah recognised the reared heads of the young snakes and
told his friends what the heap was. When they came closer, they could
see that the long slimy bodies were all twisted together; and with an
uncanny feeling, the sportsmen watched these serpents uncoil themselves
from each other and glide away and disappear through the grass.
Once, after a long and fruitless day in the jungles, the Maharajah
decided he would try his luck stalking some deer that he spied on the
opposite side of a narrow strip of jungle. He accordingly left his
elephant and began to creep through the long dry bramble-choked grass
with his rifle in his hand. As he pushed his way through the thick
jungle he fancied he heard an animal breathing and then something
crackled. Intent on the deer before him, he concluded that he had
broken a twig or a branch with the end of his rifle and pushed on. As
he emerged from the thicket on the opposite side from where he had
entered, he came face to face with a group of shepherds. They stared
at him in amazement and then, recognising him as their Maharajah, fell
at his feet in rapturous joy. Accustomed as he was to demonstrations
from his people, their abandon struck him as something unusual, and he
was about to question them when they exclamed: "Hoozoor, Dharmabatar,
(Your Honor, Royal Master,) how did you come in safety through that
jungle?" He smiled at their wonderment and was about to chide them
gently when they continued: "An immense tiger has just slain one of
our cows and dragged it into that very jungle from which Your Honor has
emerged." The Maharajah now understood that the sound he had heard as
he pushed his way through the jungle was the tiger enjoying a feed of
his kill, and he felt thankful that he had not stumbled directly upon
it. Like the keen sportsman he was, he signalled his elephant and,
mounting it, secured the feasting tiger with an easy shot.
One cold season, the Viceroy was enjoying a shoot on the Maharajah's
estates. One evening, as they were dressing for dinner, there came
through the stillness of the restful air the "twitter" of a tiger. Do
many of my readers know what the "twitter" of a tiger is? It is a sound
the Monarch of the Jungle makes and it is just like the twitter of a
bird;--in fact, some declare it is only the twitter of a bird. Well,
on this particular evening, the tiger must have been passing quite
close to the camp, for his "twitter" was clear and unmistakeable. The
Maharajah, with his usual courtesy, immediately bethought himself of
his guests, and invited Their Excellencies to come out into the open
and listen to the novel sound. They did, and very pleased and proud
they were when they heard the tiger's "twitter" clearly and distinctly
through the gathering shade and stillness of the darkening night.
The shooting camps were invariably pitched on the bank of a river or
stream. One evening, two of the servants crossed the shallow stream in
front of the camp to enjoy some fishing. They found a suitable place
behind a mound and here they sat quietly watching their lines. The
afternoon hours passed swiftly and the sun was nearing the horizon
when their attention was simultaneously drawn to a sound above their
heads. Looking up, to their horror, they saw an immense tiger just
above them. One of them shivered with terror and, clutching his
companion, said in a hoarse whisper: "Our hour has come." The other
whispered back: "Keep perfectly still and quiet." Breathless, the two
watched the huge tiger descend the bank and pass majestically to the
edge of the water where he stopped to quench his thirst. It seemed to
the two trembling men that it took the Lord of the Jungle fully half
an hour to drink his fill. Then, as slowly and impressively, the tiger
turned from the stream and ascended the bank. When he reached the top
he stood there, gazing before him either as if admiring the scenery
or contemplating a meal off one of the men. The pair scarcely dared to
breathe and wild schemes of taking to their heels to gain the centre of
the stream and swim down the river shot through their brains. At last
the tiger slowly turned away from the river and disappeared into the
forest. Then, after some time, the frightened servants hurried across
the stream back to camp, and told the Maharajah of their terrible
experience. The footprints of the animal corroborated their story
and their asseveration that they had seen a very very big tiger.
During one of the shoots, the shikaris (native sportsmen) brought news
that a rhino had been seen in a certain jungle. The guests were much
excited and a beat was organised for the next day. The morning dawned
and all set out and were soon posted to their various positions. The
front "stop" guns were on the bank of a river. The Maharajah was in
the beating line. When about half way through the piece of jungle
he noticed that one of his brother guns looked disappointed. He
accordingly asked "What's up?" The guest answered that he thought that
a large animal had broken back. However nothing was discovered and as
it was mid-day a halt for lunch was considered desirable. A spot was
soon selected and the signal given and the lines broke up. Just as
the foremost elephants were about to kneel to permit their riders to
dismount, there arose from the "stop" elephants a cry of "Tiger". In
the jungle, quite close to one of the "stop" guns, a tiger was enjoying
a feed of a wild pig; and as the elephant turned to join the others,
he almost trod on the tiger. In a moment the line was re-organised,
but the surprised tiger, finding itself surrounded by foes, turned
tail and ran down the bank of the river. The stream was nearly dry
and the bed was very shingly, and as the startled tiger picked its
way gingerly across the pebbles and pools of water it looked like a
stranded cat. It had not progressed very far when a well-directed shot
laid it low; and with this unexpected prize the party sat down to lunch
in excellent spirits. As rhino generally fight shy of elephants, they
did not think there was much use continuing the beat after lunch. So
they decided that they should make tracks for home and have general
shooting. General shooting means that there is no beating line. A
long straight line of march is formed, and each gun elephant is in
between the pad or beating elephants. The Maharajah was almost the
last gun in the line. Nearly all were out of the jungle when his keen
and practised eye noticed a small pad elephant jib at something as
they passed through a piece of jungle. "Did your elephant refuse to
come through?" he questioned the mahout of the small elephant. "Yes,
Maharajah, he smelt something in the jungle," the man replied. "Beat
this piece of jungle", the Maharajah quickly ordered the pad elephants
with him. They beat it and drove forth a rhino which fell dead to the
Maharajah's gun. Before His Highness had time to take up his other
rifle, a second galloped out of the jungle and charged straight at
the Maharajah's elephant. The elephant spun round to avoid the furious
onslaught and in the meantime the Maharajah managed to raise his gun
and, getting in his shot in spite of the gyrations of the elephant,
laid out rhino No. 2 in grand style to the applause of his companions.
Coming back to camp in the dusk one evening, the Maharajah, who had
wonderful eyesight, thought he saw a tiger lying still in an open
field. He raised his gun and whispered to his mahout. As they came
nearer, the tiger--for tiger it was--raised itself to its feet and
prepared to spring at the elephant. Too late! Snap went the Maharajah's
trigger and the royal beast lay dead,
These are but a few of the shooting adventures of a sportsman-Maharajah
who has gone on the long journey from life to the greater life beyond,
but whose memory lives in the annals of Bengal as a keen and successful
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