O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1921
Part 1 out of 8
Produced by Stan Goodman, Keith M. Eckrich, and the Online Distributed
_O. HENRY MEMORIAL AWARD PRIZE STORIES of 1921_
CHOSEN BY THE SOCIETY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY BLANCHE COLTON WILLIAMS
THE HEART OF LITTLE SHIKARA. By Edison Marshall
THE MAN WHO CURSED THE LILIES. By Charles Tenney Jackson
THE URGE. By Maryland Allen
MUMMERY. By Thomas Beer
THE VICTIM OF HIS VISION. By Gerald Chittenden
MARTIN GERRITY GETS EVEN. By Courtney Ryley Cooper and Leo F. Creagan
STRANGER THINGS. By Mildred Cram
COMET. By Samuel A. Derieux
FIFTY-TWO WEEKS FOR FLORETTE. By Elizabeth Alexander Heermann
WILD EARTH. By Sophie Kerr
THE TRIBUTE. By Harry Anable Kniffin
THE GET-AWAY. By O.F. Lewis
"AURORE." By Ethel Watts Mumford
MR. DOWNEY SITS DOWN. By L.H. Robbins
THE MARRIAGE IN KAIRWAN. By Wilbur Daniel Steele
GRIT. By Tristram Tupper
FOUNDER OF THE O. HENRY MEMORIAL COMMITTEE
The plan for the creation of the O. Henry Memorial Committee was
conceived and the work of the Committee inaugurated in the year 1918
by the late John F. Tucker, LL.M., then Directing Manager of the
Society of Arts and Sciences. The Society promptly approved the plan
and appropriated the sum necessary to inaugurate its work and to make
The Committee is, therefore, in a sense, a memorial to Mr. Tucker, as
well as to O. Henry. Up to the time of his death Mr. Tucker was a
constant adviser of the Committee and an attendant at most of its
Born in New York City in 1871 and educated for the law, Mr. Tucker's
inclinations quickly swept him into a much wider stream of
intellectual development, literary, artistic, and sociological. He
joined others in reviving the Twilight Club (now the Society of Arts
and Sciences), for the broad discussion of public questions, and to
the genius he developed for such a task the success of the Society up
to the time of his death was chiefly due. The remarkable series of
dinner discussions conducted under his management, for many years, in
New York City, have helped to mould public opinion along liberal
lines, to educate and inspire. Nothing he did gave him greater pride
than the inception of the O. Henry Memorial Committee, and that his
name should be associated with that work perpetually this tribute is
hereby printed at the request of the Society of Arts and Sciences.
In 1918 the Society of Arts and Sciences established, through its
Managing Director, John F. Tucker, the O. Henry Memorial. Since that
year the nature of the annual prize and the work of the Committee
awarding it have become familiar to writer, editor, and reader of
short stories. To the best short story written by an American and
published in America the sum of $500 is awarded; to the second best,
the sum of $250. In 1919 the prize winning story was Margaret Prescott
Montague's "England to America"; in 1920 it was Maxwell Struthers
Hurt's "Each in His Generation." Second winners were: 1919, Wilbur
Daniel Steele's "For They Know Not What They Do," and, 1920, Frances
Noyes Hart's "Contact!" [The prizes were delivered on June 2, 1920,
and on March 14, 1921, at the annual memorial dinner, Hotel Astor.]
In 1921 the Committee of Award consisted of these members:
BLANCHE COLTON WILLIAMS, Ph. D., Chairman
EDWARD J. WHEELER, Litt. D.
ETHEL WATTS MUMFORD
FRANCES GILCHRIST WOOD
GROVE E. WILSON
And the Committee of Administration:
JOHN F. TUCKER, [Deceased, February 27, 1921.], Founder of the O.
EDWARD J. WHEELER, Litt.D.
GLENN FRANK, Editor of _The Century Magazine_
GEORGE C. HOWARD, Attorney.
As in previous years each member of the Committee of Award held
himself responsible for reviewing the brief fiction of certain
magazines and for circulating such stories as warranted reading by
Results in 1921 differ in a number of respects from those of 1919 and
1920. In the earlier half year, January excepted, every reader
reported a low average of current fiction, so low as to excite
apprehension lest the art of the short story was rapidly declining.
The latter six months, however, marked a reaction, with a higher
percentage of values in November and December. Explanation of the low
level lies in the financial depression which forced a number of
editors to buy fewer stories, to buy cheaply, or to search their
vaults for remnant of purchases made in happier days. Improvement
began with the return to better financial conditions.
The several members of the Committee have seldom agreed on the
comparative excellence of stories, few being of sufficient superiority
in the opinion of the Committee as a whole to justify setting them
aside for future consideration. The following three dozen candidates,
more or less, average highest:
Addington, Sarah, Another Cactus Blooms (_Smart Set_, December).
Alexander, Elizabeth, Fifty-Two Weeks for Florette [Reprinted as by
Elizabeth Alexander Heermann.] (_Saturday Evening Post_, August 13).
Allen, Maryland, The Urge (_Everybody's_, September).
Arbuckle, Mary, Wasted (_Midland_, May).
Beer, Thomas, Mummery (_Saturday Evening Post_, July 30).
Burt, Maxwell Struthers, Buchanan Hears the Wind (_Harper's_, August).
Byrne, Donn, Reynardine (_McClure's_, May).
Chittenden, Gerald, The Victim of His Vision (_Scribner's_, May).
Comfort, Will Levington, and Dost, Zamin Ki, The Deadly Karait
Cooper, Courtney Ryley, and Creagan, Leo F. Martin, Gerrity Gets Even
Cooper, Courtney Ryley, Old Scarface (_Pictorial Review_, April).
Cram, Mildred, Stranger Things--(_Metropolitan_, January).
Derieux, Samuel A., Comet (_American_, December).
Hull Helen R., Waiting (_Touchstone_, February).
Jackson, Charles Tenney, The Man who Cursed the Lilies (_Short
Stories_, December 10).
Kerr, Sophie, Wild Earth (_Saturday Evening Post_, April 2).
Kniffin, Harry Anable, The Tribute (_Brief Stories_, September).
Lewis, O.F., The Get-A way (_Red Book_, February); The Day of Judgment
(_Red Book_, October).
Mahoney, James, Wilfrid Reginald and the Dark Horse (_Century_,
Marshall, Edison, The Heart of Little Shikara (_Everybody's_,
Morris, Gouverneur, Groot's Macaw (_Cosmopolitan_, November); Just One
Thing More (_Cosmopolitan_, December).
Mumford, Ethel Watts, "Aurore" (_Pictorial Review_, February); The
Crowned Dead (_Short Stories_, July); Funeral Frank (_Detective
Stories_, October 29).
Robbins, L.H., Mr. Downey Sits Down (_Everybody's_, June).
Steele, Wilbur Daniel, 'Toinette of Maissonnoir (_Pictorial Review_,
July); The Marriage in Kairwan (_Harper's_, December).
Street, Julian, A Voice in the Hall (_Harper's_, September).
Stringer, Arthur, A Lion Must Eat (_McClure's_, March).
Tupper, Tristram, Grit (_Metropolitan_, March).
Vorse, Mary Heaton, The Halfway House (_Harper's_, October).
Wolff, William Almon, Thalassa! Thalassa! (_Everybody's_, July).
* * * * *
The following stories rank high with a majority of the Committee:
Anthony, Joseph, A Cask of Ale for Columban (_Century_, March).
Baker, Karle Wilson, The Porch Swing (_Century_, April).
Balmer, Edwin, "Settled Down" (_Everybody's_, February).
Beer, Thomas, Addio (_Saturday Evening Post_, October 29); The Lily
Pond (_Saturday Evening Post_, April 16).
Biggs, John, Jr., Corkran of the Clamstretch (_Scribner's_, December).
Boulton, Agnes, The Snob (_Smart Set_, June).
Boyle, Jack, The Heart of the Lily (_Red Book_, February); The Little
Lord of All the Earth (_Red Book_, March).
Byrne, Donn, The Keeper of the Bridge (_McClure's_, April).
Canfield, Dorothy, Pamela's Shawl (_Century_, August).
Connell, Richard, The Man in the Cape (_Metropolitan_, July).
Cooper, Courtney Ryley, The Fiend (_Cosmopolitan_, March); Love (_Red
Cram, Mildred, Anna (_McCatt's_, March); The Bridge (_Harper's
Derieux, Samuel A., Figgers Can't Lie (_Delineator_, April); The
Bolter (_American_, November).
Dreiser, Theodore, Phantom Gold (_Live Stories_, March).
Ellerbe, Alma and Paul, When the Ice Went Out (_Everybody's_, May).
England, George Allan, Test Tubes (_Short Stories_, March).
Erickson, Howard, The Debt (_Munsey's_, February).
Fraenkel, H. E., The Yellow Quilt (_Liberator_, December).
Ginger, Bonnie, The Decoy (_Century_, October).
Hart, Frances Noyes, The American (_Pictorial Review_, November).
Hergesheimer, Joseph, Juju (_Saturday Evening Post_, July 30); The
Token (_Saturday Evening Post_, October 22).
Hopper, Elsie Van de Water, The Flight of the Herons (_Scribner's_,
Hughes, Rupert, When Crossroads Cross Again (_Collier's_, January 29).
Hurst, Fannie, She Walks in Beauty (_Cosmopolitan_, August).
Irwin, Inez Haynes, For Value Received (_Cosmopolitan_, November).
Irwin, Wallace, The Old School (_Pictorial Review_, April).
Kabler, Hugh MacNair, Like a Tree (_Saturday Evening Post_) January
Lanier, Henry Wysham, Circumstantial (_Collier's_, October 15).
Lewis, Sinclair, Number Seven (_American_, May).
Mahoney, James, Taxis of Fate (_Century_, November).
Mason, Grace Sartwell, Glory (_Harper's_, April).
Moore, Frederick, The Picture (_Adventure_, September 10).
Mouat, Helen, Aftermath (_Good Housekeeping_, September).
Natteford, J. F., A Glimpse of the Heights (_Photoplay_, April).
Neidig, William F, The Firebug (_Everybody's_, April).
Pitt, Chart, Debt of the Snows (_Sunset_, April).
Post, Melville Davisson, The Mottled Butterfly (_Red Book_, August);
The Great Cipher (_Red Book_, November).
Read, Marion Pugh, Everlasting Grace (_Atlantic Monthly_, March).
Rhodes, Harrison, Night Life and Thomas Robinson (_Saturday Evening
Post_, June 4).
Rouse, William Merriam, Arms of Judgment (_Argosy-All-Story Weekly_,
Shore, Viola Brothers, The Heritage (_Saturday Evening Post_, February
Singmaster, Elsie, The Magic Mirror (_Pictorial Review_, November).
Springer, Fleta Campbell, The Mountain of Jehovah (_Harper's_, March).
Tarkington, Booth, Jeannette (_Red Book_, May).
Titus, Harold, The Courage of Number Two (_Metropolitan_, June).
Train, Arthur, The Crooked Fairy (_McCall's_, July).
Watson, Marion Elizabeth, Bottle Stoppers (_Pictorial Review_, June).
Wormser, G. Ranger, Gossamer (_Pictorial Review_, March).
The following stories are regarded the best of the year by the judges
whose names are respectively indicated:
1. The Marriage in Kairwan, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Harper's_,
December). Ethel Watts Mumford.
2. A Life, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Pictorial Review_, August).
Edward J. Wheeler.
3. Wisdom Buildeth Her House, by Donn Byrne (_Century_, December).
Blanche Colton Williams.
4. Waiting, by Helen R. Hull (_Touchstone_, February). Grove E.
5. The Poppies of Wu Fong, by Lee Foster Hartman (_Harper's_,
November). Frances Gilchrist Wood.
Out of the first list sixteen stories were requested for republication
in this volume. The significance of the third list lies in the fact
that only one story was selected from it, the others meeting
objections from the remainder of the Committee.
Since no first choice story won the prize, the Committee resorted, as
in former years, to the point system, according to which the leader is
"The Heart of Little Shikara," by Edison Marshall. To Mr. Marshall,
therefore, goes the first prize of $500. In like manner, the second
prize, of $250, is awarded to "The Man Who Cursed the Lilies," by
Charles Tenney Jackson.
In discussing "A Life," "The Marriage in Kairwan," and "'Toinette of
Maissonnoir," all published by Wilbur Daniel Steele in 1921, in
remarking upon the high merit of his brief fiction in other years, and
in recalling that he alone is represented in the first three volumes
of O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories, the Committee intimated the
wish to express in some tangible fashion its appreciation of this
author's services to American fiction. On the motion of Doctor
Wheeler, therefore, the Committee voted to ask an appropriation from
the Society of Arts and Sciences as a prize to be awarded on account
of general excellence in the short story in 1919, 1920, and 1921. This
sum of $500 was granted by the Society, through the proper
authorities, and is accordingly awarded to Wilbur Daniel Steele.
Two characteristics of stories published in 1921 reveal editorial
policies that cannot but be harmful to the quality of this art. These
ear-marks are complementary and, yet, paradoxically antipodal. In
order to draw out the torso and tail of a story through Procrustean
lengths of advertising pages, some editors place, or seem to place, a
premium upon length. The writer, with an eye to acceptance by these
editors, consciously or unconsciously pads his matter, giving a
semblance of substance where substance is not. Many stories fall below
first rank in the opinion of the Committee through failure to achieve
by artistic economy the desired end. The comment "Overwritten"
appeared again and again on the margins of such stories. The reverse
of this policy, as practised by other editors, is that of chopping the
tail or, worse, of cutting out sections from the body of the
narrative, then roughly piecing together the parts to fit a smaller
space determined by some expediency. Under the observation of the
Committee have fallen a number of stories patently cut for space
accommodation. Too free use of editorial blue pencil and scissors has
furnished occasion for protest among authors and for comment by the
press. For example, in _The Literary Review_ of _The New York Post_,
September 3, the leading article remarks, after granting it is a rare
script that cannot be improved by good editing, and after making
allowance for the physical law of limitation by space: "Surgery,
however, must not become decapitation or such a trimming of long ears
and projecting toes as savage tribes practise. It seems very probable
that by ruthless reshaping and hampering specifications in our
magazines, stories and articles have been seriously affected."
Further, "the passion for editorial cutting" is graphically
illustrated in The _Authors' League Bulletin_ for December (page 8) by
a mutilation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
Although, by the terms of the Memorial, the Committee were at liberty
to consider only stories by American authors, they could not but
observe the increasing number of races represented through authorship.
Some of the following names will be recognized from preceding years,
some of them are new: Blasco Ibanez, W. Somerset Maugham, May
Sinclair, Mrs. Henry Dudeney, Mary Butts, Frank Swinnerton, Georges
Clemenceau, Johan Bojer, H. Soederberg, Seumas Macmanus, R. Sabatini,
Demetra Vaka, Achmed Abdullah, Rabindranath Tagore, A. Remizov, Konrad
Bercovici, Anzia Yezierska, and--daughter of an English mother and
Italian father who met in China, she herself having been born in San
Francisco--Adriana Spadoni. Nor do these represent all the nations
whose sons and daughters practise the one indigenous American art on
its native soil. Let the list stand, without completion, sufficient to
The note of democracy is sounded, as a sequence, in the subject
matter. East Side Italian and Jew brush shoulders in Miss Spadoni's
tales; Englishman, Dane, and South Sea Islander shake hands on the
same page of W. Somerset Maugham's "The Trembling of a Leaf";
Norwegian, Frenchman, and Spaniard are among us, as before;
Bercovici's gypsies from the Roumanian Danube, now collected in
"Ghitza," flash colourful and foreign from the Dobrudja Mountains and
the Black Sea. In one remarkable piece of melodrama, "Rra Boloi," by
the Englishman Crosbie Garstin (_Adventure_), and the African witch
doctor of the Chwene Kopjes enters short-story literature.
The Oriental had been exploited to what appeared the ultimate; but
continued interest in the Eastern problem brings tidal waves of
Japanese and Chinese stories. Disarmament Conferences may or may not
effect the ideal envisioned by the Victorian, a time "when the war
drums throb no longer, and the battle-flags are furled in the
Parliament of Man"; but the short story follows the gleam, merely by
virtue of authorship and by reflecting the peoples of the earth.
When Lee Foster Hartman created his Chinese hero in "The Poppies of Wu
Fong," dramatized Oriental inscrutability with Occidental suavity and
sureness, and set off the Oriental gentleman in American surroundings,
he brought together the nations in a new vision of the brotherhood of
man. This story was preferred, for the reasons implied, by Frances
Gilchrist Wood, who sees in Wu Fong's garden the subtle urge of acres
of flowers, asleep under the stars, pitted against the greed of
profiteers; who sees in answer to Western fume and fret the wisdom of
Confucius, "Come out and see my poppies." The story was rejected by
other members who, while applauding the author's motivation of
character, his theme, and his general treatment, yet felt a lack of
emotion and a faltering at the dramatic climax.
Wilbur Daniel Steele's "The Marriage in Kairwan" presents an appalling
tragedy which, if it be typical, may befall any Tunisian lady who
elects for herself man's standard of morality--for himself. Such a
story is possible when the seeing eye and the understanding heart of
an American grasps the situation in Kairwan and through the
technician's art develops it, transforms it, and bears it into the
fourth dimension of literature. The thread of narrative runs thinly,
perhaps, through the stiffly embroidered fabric, heavy as cloth of
gold; the end may be discerned too soon. But who can fail of being
shocked at the actual denouement? The story may be, as Ethel Watts
Mumford admits, caviar. "But if so," she adds, "it is Beluga
Donn Bryne's "Wisdom Buildeth Her House," is constructed on a
historic foundation, the visit that Balkis, Queen of Sheba, made to
Solomon, King of the Jews. Mr. Bryne has not only built a cunning
mosaic, plunging into the stream of Scriptural narrative for his
tessellations and drawing gems out of The Song of Solomon, but he has
also recalled by virtue of exercising a vigorous imagination, the
glory of the royalty that was Sheba's and the grandeur of her domain
in pictures as gorgeously splendid as those from an Arabian Night. He
has elaborated the Talmud story with mighty conviction from a novel
point of view and has whetted his theme on the story of a love the
King lacked wisdom to accept. The Chairman of the Committee prefers
this story; but other members assert that it lacks novelty and
vitality, nor can they find that it adds anything new to the Song of
These three first choice stories, then, are strong in Oriental
flavour, characters, and setting.
Again, democracy (in the etymological sense of the word, always,
rather than the political) is exemplified in the fiction of 1921, in
that the humblest life as well as the highest offers matter for
romance. More than in former years, writers seek out the romance that
lies in the lives of the average man or woman. Having learned that the
Russian story of realism, with emphasis too frequently placed upon the
naturalistic and the sordid, is not a vehicle easily adapted to
conveying the American product, the American author of sincerity and
belief in the possibility of realistic material has begun to treat it
in romantic fashion, always the approved fashion of the short story in
this country. So Harry Anable Kniffin's "The Tribute" weaves in 1,700
words a legend about the Unknown Soldier and makes emotionally vivid
the burial of Tommy Atkins. Commonplace types regarded in the past as
insufficiently drab, on the one hand, and insufficiently picturesque
on the other are reflected in this new romantic treatment. Sarah
Addington's "Another Cactus Blooms" prophesies colour in that hard and
prickly plant the provincial teacher at Columbia for a term of
graduate work. Humorously and sardonically the college professor is
served up in "The Better Recipe," by George Boas (_Atlantic Monthly_,
March); the doctorate degree method is satirized so bitterly, by
Sinclair Lewis, in "The Post Mortem Murder" (_Century_, May), as to
challenge wonder, though so subtly as to escape all save the
Sophie Kerr's "Wild Earth" makes capital in like legitimate manner of
the little shop girl and her farmer husband. Wesley Dean is as far
removed from the Down Easterner of a Mary Wilkins farm as his wife,
Anita, is remote from the Sallies and Nannies of the farmhouse. Of the
soil this story bears the fragrance in a happier manner; its theme of
wild passion belongs to the characters, as it might belong, also, to
the man and woman of another setting. "Here is a romance of the farm,"
the author seems to say; not sordid realistic portrayal of earth
grubbers. So, too, Tristram Tupper's "Grit" reveals the inspiration
that flashed from the life of a junkman. So Cooper and Creagan evoke
the drama of the railroad man's world: glare of headlight, crash of
wreckage and voice of the born leader mingle in unwonted
orchestration. "Martin Gerrity Gets Even" is reprinted as their best
story of this _genre_.
The stories of Ethel Watts Mumford declare her cosmopolitan ability
and her willingness to deal with lives widely diverse. At least three
rank high in the estimation of her fellow-committeemen. "Aurore," by
its terseness and poignant interpretation of the character of the
woman under the Northern Lights touches poetry and is akin to music in
its creative flight. The Committee voted to include it in Volume III,
under the author's protest and under her express stipulation that it
should not be regarded as a candidate for either prize. That another
of her stories might have found place in the collection is indicated
best by the following letter:
16 Gramercy Park
New York City
Re. O. HENRY MEMORIAL PRIZE.
To Dr. B.C. Williams,
605 West 113 Street,
New York City.
My Dear Doctor Williams,
I mailed to you yesterday a copy of a story by Ethel Watts Mumford,
entitled "Funeral Frank," published in the _Detective Story Magazine_
two weeks ago--for your consideration in awarding the O. Henry
I think it is the best short story I have read in a long time both for
originality of subject and technical construction.
The choice on the author's part of such an unsuspected (by the reader)
and seemingly insignificant agent for the working of Nemesis, I think
shows great skill. I say _seemingly_ insignificant because a little
dog seems such a small and unlikely thing to act the leading part in a
criminal's judgment and suggested regeneration--and yet all lovers of
animals know what such a tie of affection may mean, especially to one
who has no human friends--and even while it works, the victim of
Nemesis as the author says "is wholly unconscious of the irony of the
Apart from this I think the tale is exceedingly well told in good
English and with the greatest possible economy of space.
Yours very truly,
"Waiting," by Helen R. Hull, stands first on the list of Grove E.
Wilson, who thinks its handling of everyday characters, its simplicity
of theme and its high artistry most nearly fulfil, among the stories
of the year, his ideal of short story requirements. Though admired as
literature by the Committee, it seemed to one or two members to
present a character study rather than a story. Certainly, in no other
work of the period have relations between a given mother and daughter
been psychologized with greater deftness and skill.
Other members of society reflected in the year are preachers, judges,
criminals, actors, and actresses. For some years, it is true, actor
and actress have been treated increasingly as human beings, less as
puppets who walk about on the stage. This volume contains two stories
illustrating the statement: "The Urge," by Maryland Allen, which
marshalls the grimly ironic reasons for the success of the heroine who
is the most famous comedienne of her day; "Fifty-Two Weeks for
Florette," which touches with a pathos that gave the story instant
recognition the lives of vaudeville Florette and her son. It is not
without significance that these stories are the first their respective
authors have published.
0.F. Lewis brings the judge to his own bar in "The Day of Judgment,"
but had difficulty in finding a denouement commensurate with his
antecedent material. The Committee Preferred his "The Get-Away" and
its criminals, who are Presented objectively, without prejudice, save
as their own acts invoke it. Viciously criminal is Tedge, of "The Man
Who Cursed the Lilies," by Charles Tenney Jackson. The Committee value
this narrative for the power and intensity of its subject matter, for
its novel theme, for its familiar yet seldom-used setting, for its
poetic justice and for its fulfilment of short story structural laws.
"The Victim of His Vision," by Gerald Chittenden, dramatizes the
missionary's reverse, unusual in fiction, and presents a convincing
demonstration of the powers of voodoo. Readers who care for
manifestations of the superstitious and the magical will appreciate
the reality of this story as they will that of "Rra Boloi," mentioned
above. They may also be interested in comparing these with Joseph
Hergesheimer's "Juju." Mr. Hergesheimer's story, however, fails to
maintain in the outcome the high level of the initial concept and the
execution of the earlier stages.
A number of 1921 stories centre about a historic character. F. Scott
Fitzgerald's "Tarquin of Cheapside" (_Smart Set_, February) offers in
episode form the motivation of Shakespeare's "Rape of Lucrece"; Mary
Raymond Shipman Andrews parallels her "The Perfect Tribute" and eulogy
of Lincoln with "His Soul Goes Marching On" and warm reminiscence of
Roosevelt; Fleta Campbell Springer's "The Role of Madame Ravelles" is
apparently a tapestry in weaving the stately figure of Georgette
LeBlanc. Ranking highest among these personal narratives, however, is
Mildred Cram's "Stranger Things--" Besides calling up, under the name
of Cecil Grimshaw, the irresistible figure of Oscar Wilde, the author
has created a supernatural tale of challenging intricacy and
imaginative genius. The only other stories of the supernatural to find
place in the Committee's first list are Maxwell Struthers Burt's
"Buchanan Hears the Wind" and Mary Heaton Vorse's "The Halfway House."
In all of these, suggestion, delicately managed, is the potent element
Animals figure in vaster numbers and under intensive psychological
study. That a race-horse owner goes nowadays to the astrologer for a
horoscope of his racer is a fact that insinuatingly elevates the beast
to the plane of his master. In the short story of 1921, the monkey,
the tiger, the elephant, the dog and all their kind are treated from
an anthropomorphic point of view. Courtney Ryley Cooper's
titles--"Love" and "Vengeance," for example--covering stories
dominated by the animal character, betray the author's ascription of
human attributes to his hero or villain. "Reynardine," by Donn Byrne,
retails with haunting charm the friendship between the Fitzpauls and
the fox, in an instance that tests the friendship. Foxes, for Morgan
of the story, "took on for him now a strange, sinister entity.... They
had become to him a quasi-human, hypernormal race.... They had tabus
as strict as a Maori's. Strange, mystical laws."--"Corkran of the
Clamstretch" uniquely portrays the ugly and heroic "R.T.C." throughout
as a gentleman, "who met triumph with boredom," and "defeat, as a
great gentleman should, with quiet courtesy and good humour." Samuel
A. Derieux adds "Comet" to his list of superintelligent dogs in a
story the Committee regard as one of his best. It should be compared
with R.G. Kirk's "Gun-Shy" (_Saturday Evening Post_, October 22).
Similar in theme, in sympathy and in the struggle--that of a trainer
to overcome a noble dog's fear of the powder roar--the stories diverge
in the matter of workmanship. Yet "Gun-Shy" is based on a plot
superior to that of "Comet." Oddly enough, the Committee preferred not
one of the humanized-beast stories, but Edison Marshall's "The Heart
of Little Shikara." The preference was because of a number of counts,
however; moreover, the man eater takes second place beside Little
Shikara, whose bravery and loyalty motivate the thrilling climax of
the narrative. And it is just this: a superb story, with underscoring
Anthropomorphism is found at its height in "A Life," by Wilbur Daniel
Steele. Dr. Edward J. Wheeler places this story first of the year's
brief fiction, on the score of originality, power, and satisfactory
evolution of the struggle, with its triumphant dramatic reverse. Other
members of the Committee, though sensible of its claim to high
distinction, believe it is a novelette, not to be classed as a short
story, and therefore barred from consideration. Its spirit, one
affirms, lacks something of the vigour which made of "Guiablesse"
(_Harper's_, 1919) so convincing a work of art. Another member finds
its value somewhat decreased in that its theme had been used similarly
in John Masefield's "The Wanderer."
The child's place in the democracy of the short story was assured
years ago. No remarkably outstanding examples have come from the pen
of Booth Tarkington, amusing as are his adolescents and children of
the _Red Book_ tales. The best combinations of humour and childhood
appeared to the Committee to be "Wilfrid Reginald and the Dark Horse,"
by James Mahoney, and "Mr. Downey Sits Down," by L.H. Robbins. For
laughter the reader is recommended to each of these, the latter of
which is reprinted in this volume. For humour plus a trifle more of
excitement, "Mummery," by Thomas Beer, is included. Mr. Beer has
succeeded in handling Mrs. Egg as Miss Addington manages Miss
Titwiler, the "Cactus"; that is, as the equal of author and reader,
but also--and still without condescension--as reason for twinkles and
Apart from consideration of impulses dominating the short story of
1921, impulses here summarized under the general idea of democracy,
the story is different in several particulars. First, its method of
referring to drink, strong drink, marks it of the present year. The
setting is frequently that of a foreign country, where prohibition is
not yet known; the date of the action may be prior to 1919; or the
apology for presence of intoxicating liquors is forthcoming in such
statement as "My cellar is not yet exhausted, you see."
Second, the war is no longer tabu; witness "The Tribute," and "His
Soul Goes Marching On." Touched by the patina of time and mellowed
through the mellifluence of age, the war now makes an appeal
dissimilar to that which caused readers two or three years ago to
declare they were "fed up."
Third, Freudian theories have found organic place in the substance of
the story. They have not yet found incorporation in many narratives
that preserve short story structure, however--although it is within
conceivability that the influence may finally burst the mould and
create a new--and the Committee agree in demanding both substance and
structure as short story essentials.
Finally, the story reflects the changing ideals of a constantly
changing age. Not only are these ideals changing because of
cross-currents that have their many sources in racial springs far
asunder, not only because of contact or conflict between the ideals
and cosmic forces dimly apprehended; also they are changing because of
the undeniable influence of what Emerson called the Oversoul. The
youth of the time is different, as youth is always different. But now
and then a sharp cleavage separates the succeeding generations and it
separates them now. The youth of England has found interpretation in
Clemence Dane's play, "A Bill of Divorcement." In America, the
interpretation is only half articulate; but when the incoherent sounds
are wholly intelligible, the literature of the short story will have
entered, in definite respects, upon a new era.
The Committee of Award wish once again to thank the authors, editors,
and publishers whose cooperation makes possible this annual volume and
the O. Henry Memorial Prizes.
Blanche Colton Williams.
New York City
January 10, 1922
_O. HENRY MEMORIAL AWARD PRIZE STORIES of 1921_
THE HEART OF LITTLE SHIKARA
By EDISON MARSHALL
If it hadn't been for a purple moon that came peering up above the
dark jungle just at nightfall, it would have been impossible to tell
that Little Shikara was at his watch. He was really just the colour of
the shadows--a rather pleasant brown--he was very little indeed, and
besides, he was standing very, very still. If he was trembling at all,
from anticipation and excitement, it was no more than Nahar the tiger
trembles as he crouches in ambush. But the moon did show him--peering
down through the leaf-clusters of the heavy vines--and shone very
softly in his wide-open dark eyes.
And it was a purple moon--no other colour that man could name. It
looked almost unreal, like a paper moon painted very badly by a clumsy
stage-hand. The jungle-moon quite often has that peculiar purplish
tint, most travellers know, but few of them indeed ever try to tell
what causes it. This particular moon probed down here and there
between the tall bamboos, transformed the jungle--just now
waking--into a mystery and a fairyland, glinted on a hard-packed
elephant trail that wound away into the thickets, and always came back
to shine on the coal-black Oriental eyes of the little boy beside the
village gate. It showed him standing very straight and just as tall as
his small stature would permit, and looked oddly silvery and strange
on his long, dark hair. Little Shikara, son of Khoda Dunnoo, was
waiting for the return of a certain idol and demigod who was even now
riding home in his _howdah_ from the tiger hunt.
Other of the villagers would be down to meet Warwick Sahib as soon as
they heard the shouts of his beaters--but Little Shikara had been
waiting almost an hour. Likely, if they had known about it, they would
have commented on his badness, because he was notoriously bad, if
indeed--as the villagers told each other--he was not actually cursed
with evil spirits.
In the first place, he was almost valueless as a herder of buffalo.
Three times, when he had been sent with the other boys to watch the
herds in their wallows, he had left his post and crept away into the
fringe of jungle on what was unquestionably some mission of
witchcraft. For small naked brown boys, as a rule, do not go alone and
unarmed into the thick bamboos. Too many things can happen to prevent
them ever coming out again; too many brown silent ribbons crawl in the
grass, or too many yellow, striped creatures, no less lithe, lurk in
the thickets. But the strangest thing of all--and the surest sign of
witchcraft--was that he had always come safely out again, yet with
never any satisfactory explanations as to why he had gone. He had
always looked some way very joyful and tremulous--and perhaps even
pale if from the nature of things a brown boy ever can look pale. But
it was the kind of paleness that one has after a particularly
exquisite experience. It was not the dumb, teeth-chattering paleness
"I saw the sergeant of the jungle," Little Shikara said after one of
these excursions. And this made no sense at all.
"There are none of the King's soldiers here," the brown village folk
replied to him. "Either thou liest to us, or thine eyes lied to thee.
And didst thou also see the chevron that told his rank?"
"That was the way I knew him. It was the black bear, and he wore the
pale chevron low on his throat."
This was Little Shikara all over. Of course he referred to the black
Himalayan bear which all men know wears a yellowish patch, of chevron
shape, just in front of his fore legs; but why he should call him a
jungle-sergeant was quite beyond the wit of the village folk to say.
Their imagination did not run in that direction. It never even
occurred to them that Little Shikara might be a born jungle creature,
expatriated by the accident of birth--one of that free, strange breed
that can never find peace in the villages of men.
"But remember the name we gave him," his mother would say. "Perhaps he
is only living up to his name."
For there are certain native hunters in India that are known, far and
wide, as the Shikaris; and possibly she meant in her tolerance that
her little son was merely a born huntsman. But in reality Little
Shikara was not named for these men at all. Rather it was for a
certain fleet-winged little hawk, a hunter of sparrows, that is one of
the most free spirits in all the jungle.
And it was almost like taking part in some great hunt himself--to be
waiting at the gate for the return of Warwick Sahib. Even now, the
elephant came striding out of the shadows; and Little Shikara could
see the trophy. The hunt had indeed been successful, and the boy's
glowing eyes beheld--even in the shadows--the largest, most beautiful
tiger-skin he had ever seen. It was the great Nahar, the royal tiger,
who had killed one hundred cattle from near-by fields.
Warwick Sahib rode in his _howdah_, and he did not seem to see the
village people that came out to meet him. In truth, he seemed half
asleep, his muscles limp, his gray eyes full of thoughts. He made no
answer to the triumphant shouts of the village folk. Little Shikara
glanced once at the lean, bronzed face, the limp, white, thin hands,
and something like a shiver of ecstasy went clear to his ten toes. For
like many other small boys, all over the broad world, he was a
hero-worshipper to the last hair of his head; and this quiet man on
the elephant was to him beyond all measure the most wonderful living
creature on the earth.
He didn't cry out, as the others did. He simply stood in mute worship,
his little body tingling with glory. Warwick Sahib had looked up now,
and his slow eyes were sweeping the line of brown faces. But still he
did not seem to see them. And then--wonder of wonders--his eyes rested
full on the eyes of his little worshipper beside the gate.
But it was quite the way of Warwick Sahib to sweep his gray, tired-out
eyes over a scene and seemingly perceive nothing; yet in reality
absorbing every detail with the accuracy of a photographic plate. And
his seeming indifference was not a pose with him, either. He was just
a great sportsman who was also an English gentleman, and he had
learned certain lessons of impassiveness from the wild. Only one of
the brown faces he beheld was worth a lingering glance. And when he
met that one his eyes halted in their sweeping survey--and Warwick
That face was the brown, eager visage of Little Shikara. And the blood
of the boy flowed to the skin, and he glowed red all over through the
It was only the faintest of quiet, tolerant smiles; but it meant more
to him than almost any kind of an honour could have meant to the
prematurely gray man in the _howdah_. The latter passed on to his
estate, and some of the villagers went back to their women and their
thatch huts. But still Little Shikara stood motionless--and it wasn't
until the thought suddenly came to him that possibly the beaters had
already gathered and were telling the story of the kill that with
startling suddenness he raced back through the gates to the village.
Yes, the beaters had assembled in a circle under a tree, and most of
the villagers had gathered to hear the story. He slipped in among
them, and listened with both outstanding little ears. Warwick Sahib
had dismounted from his elephant as usual, the beaters said, and with
but one attendant had advanced up the bed of a dry creek. This was
quite like Warwick Sahib, and Little Shikara felt himself tingling
again. Other hunters, particularly many of the rich sahibs from across
the sea, shot their tigers from the security of the _howdah_; but this
wasn't Warwick's way of doing. The male tiger had risen snarling from
his lair, and had been felled at the first shot.
Most of the villagers had supposed that the story would end at this
point. Warwick Sahib's tiger hunts were usually just such simple and
expeditious affairs. The gun would lift to his shoulder, the quiet
eyes would glance along the barrel--and the tiger, whether charging or
standing still--would speedily die. But to-day there had been a
curious epilogue. Just as the beaters had started toward the fallen
animal, and the white Heaven-born's cigarette-case was open in his
hand, Nahara, Nahar's great, tawny mate, had suddenly sprung forth
from the bamboo thickets.
She drove straight to the nearest of the beaters. There was no time
whatever for Warwick to take aim. His rifle leaped, like a live thing,
in his arms, but not one of the horrified beaters had seen his eyes
lower to the sights. Yet the bullet went home--they could tell by the
way the tiger flashed to her breast in the grass.
Yet she was only wounded. One of the beaters, starting, had permitted
a bough of a tree to whip Warwick in the face, and the blow had
disturbed what little aim he had. It was almost a miracle that he had
hit the great cat at all. At once the thickets had closed around her,
and the beaters had been unable to drive her forth again.
The circle was silent thereafter. They seemed to be waiting for
Khusru, one of the head men of the village, to give his opinion. He
knew more about the wild animals than any mature native in the
assembly, and his comments on the hunting stories were usually worth
"We will not be in the honoured service of the Protector of the Poor
at this time a year from now," he said.
They all waited tensely. Shikara shivered. "Speak, Khusru," they urged
"Warwick Sahib will go again to the jungles--and Nahara will be
waiting. She owes two debts. One is the killing of her mate--and ye
know that these two tigers have been long and faithful mates. Do ye
think she will let that debt go unpaid? She will also avenge her own
"Perhaps she will die of bleeding," one of the others suggested.
"Nay, or ye would have found her this afternoon. Ye know that it is
the wounded tiger that is most to be feared. One day, and he will go
forth in pursuit of her again; and then ye will not see him riding
back so grandly on his elephant. Perhaps she will come here, to carry
away _our_ children."
Again Shikara tingled--hoping that Nahara would at least come close
enough to cause excitement. And that night, too happy to keep silent,
he told his mother of Warwick Sahib's smile. "And some time I--I,
thine own son," he said as sleepiness came upon him, "will be a killer
of tigers, even as Warwick Sahib."
"Little sparrow-hawk," his mother laughed at him. "Little one of
mighty words, only the great sahibs that come from afar, and Warwick
Sahib himself, may hunt the tiger, so how canst thou, little
"I will soon be grown," he persisted, "and I--I, too--will some time
return with such a tiger-skin as the great Heaven-born brought this
afternoon." Little Shikara was very sleepy, and he was telling his
dreams much more frankly than was his wont. "And the village folk will
come out to meet me with shoutings, and I will tell them of the
shot--in the circle under the tree."
"And where, little hawk, wilt thou procure thine elephants, and such
rupees as are needed?"
"Warwick Sahib shoots from the ground--and so will I. And sometimes he
goes forth with only one attendant--and I will not need even one. And
who can say--perhaps he will find me even a bolder man than Gunga
Singhai; and he will take me in his place on the hunts in the
For Gunga Singhai was Warwick Sahib's own personal attendant and
gun-carrier--the native that the Protector of the Poor could trust in
the tightest places. So it was only to be expected that Little
Shikara's mother should laugh at him. The idea of her son being an
attendant of Warwick Sahib, not to mention a hunter of tigers, was
only a tale to tell her husband when the boy's bright eyes were closed
"Nay, little man," she told him. "Would I want thee torn to pieces in
Nahara's claws? Would I want thee smelling of the jungle again, as
thou didst after chasing the water-buck through the bamboos? Nay--thou
wilt be a herdsman, like thy father--and perhaps gather many rupees."
But Little Shikara did not want to think of rupees. Even now, as sleep
came to him, his childish spirit had left the circle of thatch roofs,
and had gone on tremulous expeditions into the jungle. Far away, the
trumpet-call of a wild tusker trembled through the moist, hot night;
and great bell-shaped flowers made the air pungent and heavy with
perfume. A tigress skulked somewhere in a thicket licking an injured
leg with her rough tongue, pausing to listen to every sound the night
gave forth. Little Shikara whispered in his sleep.
A half mile distant, in his richly furnished bungalow, Warwick Sahib
dozed over his after-dinner cigar. He was in evening clothes, and
crystal and silver glittered on his board. But his gray eyes were half
closed; and the gleam from his plate could not pass the long, dark
lashes. For his spirit was far distant, too--on the jungle trails with
that of Little Shikara.
One sunlit morning, perhaps a month after the skin of Nahar was
brought in from the jungle, Warwick Sahib's mail was late. It was an
unheard-of thing. Always before, just as the clock struck eight, he
would hear the cheerful tinkle of the postman's bells. At first he
considered complaining; but as morning drew to early afternoon he
began to believe that investigation would be the wiser course.
The postman's route carried him along an old elephant trail through a
patch of thick jungle beside one of the tributaries of the Manipur.
When natives went out to look, he was neither on the path nor drowned
in the creek, nor yet in his thatched hut at the other end of his
route. The truth was that this particular postman's bells would never
be heard by human ears again. And there was enough evidence in the wet
mould of the trail to know what had occurred.
That night the circle under the tree was silent and shivering. "Who is
next?" they asked of one another. The jungle night came down,
breathless and mysterious, and now and then a twig was cracked by a
heavy foot at the edge of the thickets. In Warwick's house, the great
Protector of the Poor took his rifles from their cases and fitted them
"To-morrow," he told Gunga Singhai, "we will settle for that postman's
death." Singhai breathed deeply, but said nothing. Perhaps his dark
eyes brightened. The tiger-hunts were nearly as great a delight to him
as they were to Warwick himself.
But while Nahara, lame from Warwick's bullet, could no longer overtake
cattle, she did with great skilfulness avoid the onrush of the
beaters. Again Little Shikara waited at the village gate for his hero
to return; but the beaters walked silently to-night. Nor were there
any tales to be told under the tree.
Nahara, a fairly respectable cattle-killer before, had become in a
single night one of the worst terrors of India. Of course she was
still a coward, but she had learned, by virtue of a chance meeting
with a postman on a trail after a week of heart-devouring starvation,
two or three extremely portentous lessons. One of them was that not
even the little deer, drinking beside the Manipur, died half so easily
as these tall, forked forms of which she had previously been so
afraid. She found out also that they could neither run swiftly nor
walk silently, and they could be approached easily even by a tiger
that cracked a twig with every step. It simplified the problem of
living immensely; and just as any other feline would have done, she
took the line of least resistance. If there had been plenty of carrion
in the jungle, Nahara might never have hunted men. But the kites and
the jackals looked after the carrion; and they were much swifter and
keener-eyed than a lame tiger.
She knew enough not to confine herself to one village; and it is
rather hard to explain how any lower creature, that obviously cannot
reason, could have possessed this knowledge. Perhaps it was because
she had learned that a determined hunt, with many beaters and men on
elephants, invariably followed her killings. It was always well to
travel just as far as possible from the scene. She found out also
that, just as a doe is easier felled than a horned buck, certain of
this new kind of game were more easily taken than the others.
Sometimes children played at the door of their huts, and sometimes old
men were afflicted with such maladies that they could not flee at all.
All these things Nahara learned; and in learning them she caused a
certain civil office of the British Empire to put an exceedingly large
price on her head.
Gradually the fact dawned on her that unlike the deer and the buffalo,
this new game was more easily hunted in the daylight--particularly in
that tired-out, careless twilight hour when the herders and the
plantation hands came in from their work. At night the village folk
kept in their huts, and such wood-cutters and gipsies as slept without
wakened every hour to tend their fires. Nahara was deathly afraid of
fire. Night after night she would creep round and round a gipsy camp,
her eyes like two pale blue moons in the darkness, and would never
And because she was taking her living in a manner forbidden by the
laws of the jungle, the glory and beauty of her youth quickly departed
from her. There are no prisons for those that break the jungle laws,
no courts and no appointed officers, but because these are laws that
go down to the roots of life, punishment is always swift and
inevitable. "Thou shall not kill men," is the first law of the wild
creatures; and everyone knows that any animal or breed of animals that
breaks this law has sooner or later been hunted down and slain--just
like any other murderer. The mange came upon her, and she lost flesh,
and certain of her teeth began to come out. She was no longer the
beautiful female of her species, to be sung to by the weaver-birds as
she passed beneath. She was a hag and a vampire, hatred of whom lay
deep in every human heart in her hunting range.
Often the hunting was poor, and sometimes she went many days in a
stretch without making a single kill. And in all beasts, high and low,
this is the last step to the worst degeneracy of all. It instils a
curious, terrible kind of blood-lust--to kill, not once, but as many
times as possible in the same hunt; to be content not with one death,
but to slay and slay until the whole herd is destroyed. It is the
instinct that makes a little weasel kill all the chickens in a coop,
when one was all it could possibly carry away, and that will cause a
wolf to leap from sheep to sheep in a fold until every one is dead.
Nahara didn't get a chance to kill every day; so when the opportunity
did come, like a certain pitiable kind of human hunter who comes from
afar to hunt small game, she killed as many times as she could in
quick succession. And the British Empire raised the price on her head.
One afternoon found her within a half mile of Warwick's bungalow, and
for five days she had gone without food. One would not have thought of
her as a royal tigress, the queen of the felines and one of the most
beautiful of all living things. And since she was still tawny and
graceful, it would be hard to understand why she no longer gave the
impression of beauty. It was simply gone, as a flame goes, and her
queenliness was wholly departed, too. In some vague way she had become
a poisonous, a ghastly thing, to be named with such outcasts as the
jackals or hyenas.
Excessive hunger, in most of the flesh-eating animals, is really a
first cousin to madness. It brings bad dreams and visions, and, worst
of all, it induces an insubordination to all the forest laws of man
and beast. A well-fed wolf-pack will run in stark panic from a human
being; but even the wisest of mountaineers do not care to meet the
same gray band in the starving times of winter. Starvation brings
recklessness, a desperate frenzied courage that is likely to upset all
of one's preconceived notions as to the behaviour of animals. It also
brings, so that all men may be aware of its presence, a peculiar lurid
glow to the balls of the eyes.
In fact, the two pale circles of fire were the most noticeable
characteristics of the long, tawny cat that crept through the bamboos.
Except for them, she would hardly have been discernible at all. The
yellow grass made a perfect background, her black stripes looked like
the streaks of shadow between the stalks of bamboo, and for one that
is lame she crept with an astounding silence. One couldn't have
believed that such a great creature could lie so close to the earth
and be so utterly invisible in the low thickets.
A little peninsula of dwarf bamboos and tall jungle grass extended out
into the pasture before the village and Nahara crept out clear to its
point. She didn't seem to be moving. One couldn't catch the stir and
draw of muscles. And yet she slowly glided to the end; then began her
wait. Her head sunk low, her body grew tense, her tail whipped softly
back and forth, with as easy a motion as the swaying of a serpent. The
light flamed and died and flamed and died again in her pale eyes.
Soon a villager who had been working in Warwick's fields came trotting
in Oriental fashion across the meadow. His eyes were only human, and
he did not see the tawny shape in the tall grass. If any one had told
him that a full-grown tigress could have crept to such a place and
still remained invisible, he would have laughed. He was going to his
thatched hut, to brown wife and babies, and it was no wonder that he
trotted swiftly. The muscles of the great cat bunched, and now the
whipping tail began to have a little vertical motion that is the final
warning of a spring.
The man was already in leaping range; but the tiger had learned, in
many experiences, always to make sure. Still she crouched--a single
instant in which the trotting native came two paces nearer. Then the
man drew up with a gasp of fright.
For just as the clear outlines of an object that has long been
concealed in a maze of light and shadow will often leap, with sudden
vividness, to the eyes, the native suddenly perceived the tiger.
He caught the whole dread picture--the crouching form, the terrible
blue lights of the eyes, the whipping tail. The gasp he uttered from
his closing throat seemed to act like the fall of a firing-pin against
a shell on the bunched muscles of the animal; and she left her covert
in a streak of tawny light.
But Nahara's leaps had never been quite accurate since she had been
wounded by Warwick's bullet, months before. They were usually straight
enough for the general purposes of hunting, but they missed by a long
way the "theoretical centre of impact" of which artillery officers
speak. Her lame paw always seemed to disturb her balance. By
remembering it, she could usually partly overcome the disadvantage;
but to-day, in the madness of her hunger, she had been unable to
remember anything except the terrible rapture of killing. This
circumstance alone, however, would not have saved the native's life.
Even though her fangs missed his throat, the power of the blow and her
rending talons would have certainly snatched away his life as a storm
snatches a leaf. But there was one other determining factor. The
Burman had seen the tiger just before she leaped; and although there
had been no time for conscious thought, his guardian reflexes had
flung him to one side in a single frenzied effort to miss the full
force of the spring.
The result of both these things was that he received only an awkward,
sprawling blow from the animal's shoulder. Of course he was hurled to
the ground; for no human body in the world is built to withstand the
ton or so of shocking power of a three-hundred-pound cat leaping
through the air. The tigress sprawled down also, and because she
lighted on her wounded paw, she squealed with pain. It was possibly
three seconds before she had forgotten the stabbing pain in her paw
and had gathered herself to spring on the unconscious form of the
native. And that three seconds gave Warwick Sahib, sitting at the
window of his study, an opportunity to seize his rifle and fire.
Warwick knew tigers, and he had kept the rifle always ready for just
such a need as this. The distance was nearly five hundred yards, and
the bullet went wide of its mark. Nevertheless, it saved the native's
life. The great cat remembered this same far-off explosion from
another day, in a dry creek-bed of months before, and the sing of the
bullet was a remembered thing, too. Although it would speedily return
to her, her courage fled and she turned and faced into the bamboos.
In an instant, Warwick was on his great veranda, calling his beaters.
Gunga Singhai, his faithful gun-carrier, slipped shells into the
magazine of his master's high-calibered close-range tiger-rifle. "The
elephant, Sahib?" he asked swiftly.
"Nay, this will be on foot. Make the beaters circle about the fringe
of bamboos. Thou and I will cross the eastern fields and shoot at her
as she breaks through."
But there was really no time to plan a complete campaign. Even now,
the first gray of twilight was blurring the sharp outlines of the
jungle, and the soft jungle night was hovering, ready to descend.
Warwick's plan was to cut through to a certain little creek that
flowed into the river and with Singhai to continue on to the edge of
the bamboos that overlooked a wide field. The beaters would prevent
the tigress from turning back beyond the village, and it was at least
possible that he would get a shot at her as she burst from the jungle
and crossed the field to the heavier thickets beyond.
"Warwick Sahib walks into the teeth of his enemy," Khusru, the hunter,
told a little group that watched from the village gate. "Nahara will
collect her debts."
A little brown boy shivered at his words and wondered if the beaters
would turn and kick him, as they had always done before, if he should
attempt to follow them. It was the tiger-hunt, in view of his own
village, and he sat down, tremulous with rapture, in the grass to
watch. It was almost as if his dream--that he himself should be a
hunter of tigers--was coming true. He wondered why the beaters seemed
to move so slowly and with so little heart.
He would have known if he could have looked into their eyes. Each
black pupil was framed with white. Human hearts grow shaken and
bloodless from such sights as this they had just seen, and only the
heart of a jungle creature--the heart of the eagle that the jungle
gods, by some unheard-of fortune, had put in the breast of Little
Shikara--could prevail against them. Besides, the superstitious
Burmans thought that Warwick was walking straight to death--that the
time had come for Nahara to collect her debts.
Warwick Sahib and Singhai disappeared at once into the fringe of
jungle, and silence immediately fell upon them. The cries of the
beaters at once seemed curiously dim. It was as if no sound could live
in the great silences under the arching trees. Soon it was as if they
They walked side by side, Warwick with his rifle held ready. He had no
false ideas in regard to this tiger-hunt. He knew that his prey was
desperate with hunger, that she had many old debts to pay, and that
she would charge on sight.
The self-rage that is felt on missing some particularly fortunate
chance is not confined to human beings alone. There is an old saying
in the forest that a feline that has missed his stroke is like a
jackal in dog-days--and that means that it is not safe to be anywhere
in the region with him. He simply goes rabid and is quite likely to
leap at the first living thing that stirs. Warwick knew that Nahara
had just been cheated out of her kill and someone in the jungle would
pay for it.
The gaudy birds that looked down from the tree-branches could scarcely
recognize this prematurely gray man as a hunter. He walked rather
quietly, yet with no conscious effort toward stealth. The rifle rested
easily in his arms, his gray eyes were quiet and thoughtful as always.
Singularly, his splendid features were quite in repose. The Burman,
however, had more of the outer signs of alertness; and yet there was
none of the blind terror upon him that marked the beaters.
"Where are the men?" Warwick asked quietly. "It is strange that we do
not hear them shouting."
"They are afraid, Sahib," Singhai replied. "The forest pigs have left
us to do our own hunting."
Warwick corrected him with a smile. "Forest pigs are brave enough," he
answered. "They are sheep--just sheep--sheep of the plains."
The broad trail divided, like a three-tined candlestick, into narrow
trails. Warwick halted beside the centre of the three that led to the
creek they were obliged to cross. Just for an instant he stood
watching, gazing into the deep-blue dusk of the deeper jungle.
Twilight was falling softly. The trails soon vanished into
shadow--patches of deep gloom, relieved here and there by a bright
leaf that reflected the last twilight rays. A living creature coughed
and rustled away in the thickets beside him.
"There is little use of going on," he said. "It is growing too dark.
But there will be killings before the dawn if we don't get her first."
The servant stood still, waiting. It was not his place to advise his
"If we leave her, she'll come again before the dawn. Many of the
herders haven't returned--she'll get one of them sure. At least we may
cross the creek and get a view of the great fields. She is certain to
cross them if she has heard the beaters."
In utter silence they went on. One hundred yards farther they came to
the creek, and both strode in together to ford.
The water was only knee-deep, but Warwick's boots sank three inches in
the mud of the bottom. And at that instant the gods of the jungle,
always waiting with drawn scimitar for the unsuspecting, turned
Singhai suddenly splashed down into the water, on his hands and knees.
He did not cry out. If he made any sound at all, it was just a
shivering gasp that the splash of water wholly obscured. But the thing
that brought home the truth to Warwick was the pain that flashed,
vivid as lightning, across his dark face; and the horror of death that
left its shadow. Something churned and writhed in the mud; and then
Both of them had forgotten Mugger, the crocodile, that so loves to
wait in the mud of a ford. He had seized Singhai's foot, and had
already snatched him down into the water when Warwick fired. No living
flesh can withstand the terrible, rending shock of a high-powered
sporting rifle at close range. Mugger had plates of armour, but even
these could not have availed against it if he had been exposed to the
fire. As it was, several inches of water stood between, a more
effective armour than a two-inch steel plate on a battleship. Of
course the shock carried through, a smashing blow that caused the
reptile to release his hold on Singhai's leg; but before the native
could get to his feet he had struck again. The next instant both men
were fighting for their lives.
They fought with their hands, and Warwick fought with his rifle, and
the native slashed again and again with the long knife that he carried
at his belt. To a casual glance, a crocodile is wholly incapable of
quick action. These two found him a slashing, darting, wolf-like
thing, lunging with astounding speed through the muddied water,
knocking them from their feet and striking at them as they fell.
The reptile was only half grown, but in the water they had none of the
usual advantages that man has over the beasts with which he does
battle. Warwick could not find a target for his rifle. But even human
bodies, usually so weak, find themselves possessed of an amazing
reserve strength and agility in the moment of need. These men realized
perfectly that their lives were the stakes for which they fought, and
they gave every ounce of strength and energy they had. Their aim was
to hold the mugger off until they could reach the shore.
At last, by a lucky stroke, Singhai's knife blinded one of the lurid
reptile eyes. He was prone in the water when he administered it, and
it went home just as the savage teeth were snapping at his throat. For
an instant the great reptile flopped in an impotent half-circle,
partly reared out of the water. It gave Warwick a chance to shoot, a
single instant in which the rifle seemed to whirl about in his arms,
drive to his shoulder, and blaze in the deepening twilight. And the
shot went true. It pierced the mugger from beneath, tearing upward
through the brain. And then the agitated waters of the ford slowly
The last echo of the report was dying when Singhai stretched his
bleeding arms about Warwick's body, caught up the rifle and dragged
them forty feet up on the shore. It was an effort that cost the last
of his strength. And as the stars popped out of the sky, one by one,
through the gray of dusk, the two men lay silent, side by side, on the
Warwick was the first to regain consciousness. At first he didn't
understand the lashing pain in his wrists, the strange numbness in one
of his legs, the darkness with the great white Indian stars shining
through. Then he remembered. And he tried to stretch his arm to the
prone form beside him.
The attempt was an absolute failure. The cool brain dispatched the
message, it flew along the telegraph-wires of the nerves, but the
muscles refused to react. He remembered that the teeth of the mugger
had met in one of the muscles of his upper arm, but before
unconsciousness had come upon him he had been able to lift the gun to
shoot. Possibly infection from the bite had in some manner temporarily
paralyzed the arm. He turned, wracked with pain, on his side and
lifted his left arm. In doing so his hand crossed before his eyes--and
then he smiled wanly in the darkness.
It was quite like Warwick, sportsman and English gentleman, to smile
at a time like this. Even in the gray darkness of the jungle night he
could see the hand quite plainly. It no longer looked slim and white.
And he remembered that the mugger had caught his fingers in one of its
He paused only for one glance at the mutilated member. He knew that
his first work was to see how Singhai had fared. In that glance he was
boundlessly relieved to see that the hand could unquestionably be
saved. The fingers were torn, yet their bones did not seem to be
severed. Temporarily at least, however, the hand was utterly useless.
The fingers felt strange and detached.
He reached out to the still form beside him, touching the dark skin
first with his fingers, and then, because they had ceased to function,
with the flesh of his wrist. He expected to find it cold. Singhai was
alive, however, and his warm blood beat close to the dark skin.
But he was deeply unconscious, and it was possible that one foot was
For a moment Warwick lay quite still, looking his situation squarely
in the face. He did not believe that either he or his attendant was
mortally or even very seriously hurt. True, one of his arms had
suffered paralysis, but there was no reason for thinking it had been
permanently injured. His hand would be badly scarred, but soon as good
as ever. The real question that faced them was that of getting back to
Walking was out of the question. His whole body was bruised and
lacerated, and he was already dangerously weak from loss of blood. It
would take all his energy, these first few hours, to keep his
consciousness. Besides, it was perfectly obvious that Singhai could
not walk. And English gentlemen do not desert their servants at a time
like this. The real mystery lay in the fact that the beaters had not
already found and rescued them.
He wore a watch with luminous dial on his left wrist, and he managed
to get it before his eyes. And then understanding came to him. A full
hour had passed since he and his servant had fought the mugger in the
ford. And the utter silence of early night had come down over the
There was only one thing to believe. The beaters had evidently heard
him shoot, sought in vain for him in the thickets, possibly passed
within a few hundred feet of him, and because he had been unconscious
he had not heard them or called to them, and now they had given him up
for lost. He remembered with bitterness how all of them had been sure
that an encounter with Nahara would cost him his life, and would thus
be all the more quick to believe he had died in her talons. Nahara had
her mate and her own lameness to avenge, they had said, attributing in
their superstition human emotions to the brute natures of animals. It
would have been quite useless for Warwick to attempt to tell them that
the male tiger, in the mind of her wicked mate, was no longer even a
memory, and that premeditated vengeance is an emotion almost unknown
in the animal world. Without leaders or encouragement, and terribly
frightened by the scene they had beheld before the village, they had
quickly given up any attempt to find his body. There had been none
among them coolheaded enough to reason out which trail he had likely
taken, and thus look for him by the ford. Likely they were already
huddled in their thatched huts, waiting till daylight.
Then he called in the darkness. A heavy body brushed through the
creepers, and stepping falsely, broke a twig. He thought at first that
it might be one of the villagers, coming to look for him. But at once
the step was silenced.
Warwick had a disturbing thought that the creature that had broken the
twig had not gone away, but was crouching down, in a curious manner,
in the deep shadows. Nahara had returned to her hunting.
"Some time I, too, will be a hunter of tigers," Little Shikara told
his mother when the beaters began to circle through the bamboos. "To
carry a gun beside Warwick Sahib--and to be honoured in the circle
under the tree!"
But his mother hardly listened. She was quivering with fright. She had
seen the last part of the drama in front of the village; and she was
too frightened even to notice the curious imperturbability of her
little son. But there was no orderly retreat after Little Shikara had
heard the two reports of the rifle. At first there were only the
shouts of the beaters, singularly high-pitched, much running back and
forth in the shadows, and then a pell-mell scurry to the shelter of
For a few minutes there was wild excitement at the village gates.
Warwick Sahib was dead, they said--they had heard the shots and run to
the place of firing, and beat up and down through the bamboos; and
Warwick Sahib had surely been killed and carried off by the tigress.
This dreadful story told, most of the villagers went to hide at once
in their huts; only a little circle of the bravest men hovered at the
gate. They watched with drawn faces the growing darkness.
But there was one among them who was not yet a man grown; a boy so
small that he could hover, unnoticed, in the very smallest of the
terrible shadow-patches. He was Little Shikara, and he was shocked to
the very depths of his worshipping heart. For Warwick had been his
hero, the greatest man of all time, and he felt himself burning with
indignation that the beaters should return so soon. And it was a
curious fact that he had not as yet been infected with the contagion
of terror that was being passed from man to man among the villagers.
Perhaps his indignation was too absorbing an emotion to leave room for
terror, and perhaps, far down in his childish spirit, he was made of
different stuff. He was a child of the jungle, and perhaps he had
shared of that great imperturbability and impassiveness that is the
eternal trait of the wildernesses.
He went up to one of the younger beaters who had told and retold a
story of catching a glimpse of Nahara in the thickets until no one was
left to tell it to. He was standing silent, and Little Shikara thought
it possible that he might reach his ears.
"Give ear, Puran," he pleaded. "Didst thou look for his body beside
the ford over Tarai stream?"
"Nay, little one--though I passed within one hundred paces."
"Dost thou not know that he and Singhai would of a certainty cross at
the ford to reach the fringe of jungle from which he might watch the
eastern field? Some of you looked on the trail beside the ford, but
none looked at the ford itself. And the sound of the rifle seemed to
come from thence."
"But why did he not call out?"
"Dead men could not call, but at least ye might have frightened Nahara
from the body. But perhaps he is wounded, unable to speak, and lies
But Puran had found another listener for his story, and speedily
forgot the boy. He hurried over to another of the villagers, Khusru
"Did no one look by the ford?" he asked, almost sobbing. "For that is
the place he had gone."
The native's eyes seemed to light. "_Hai_, little one, thou hast
thought of what thy elders had forgotten. There is level land there,
and clear. And I shall go at the first ray of dawn--"
"But not to-night, Khusru--?"
"Nay, little sinner! Wouldst thou have me torn to pieces?"
Lastly Little Shikara went to his own father, and they had a moment's
talk at the outskirts of the throng. But the answer was nay--just the
same. Even his brave father would not go to look for the body until
daylight came. The boy felt his skin prickling all over.
"But perhaps he is only wounded--and left to die. If I go and return
with word that he is there, wilt thou take others and go out and bring
"_Thou_ goest!" His father broke forth in a great roar of laughter.
"Why, thou little hawk! One would think that thou wert a hunter of
Little Shikara blushed beneath the laughter. For he was a very boyish
little boy in most ways. But it seemed to him that his sturdy young
heart was about to break open from bitterness. All of them agreed that
Warwick Sahib, perhaps wounded and dying, might be lying by the ford,
but none of them would venture forth to see. Unknowing, he was
beholding the expression of a certain age-old trait of human nature.
Men do not fight ably in the dark. They need their eyes, and they
particularly require a definite object to give them determination. If
these villagers knew for certain that the Protector of the Poor lay
wounded or even dead beside the ford, they would have rallied bravely,
encouraged one another with words and oaths, and gone forth to rescue
him; but they wholly lacked the courage to venture again into the
jungle on any such blind quest as Little Shikara suggested.
But the boy's father should not have laughed. He should have
remembered the few past occasions when his straight little son had
gone into the jungle alone; and that remembrance should have silenced
him. The difficulty lay in the fact that he supposed his boy and he
were of the same flesh, and that Little Shikara shared his own great
dread of the night-curtained jungle. In this he was very badly
mistaken. Little Shikara had an inborn understanding and love of the
jungle; and except for such material dangers as that of Nahara, he was
not afraid of it at all. He had no superstitions in regard to it.
Perhaps he was too young. But the main thing that the laugh did was to
set off, as a match sets off powder, a whole heartful of unexploded
indignation in Shikara's breast. These villagers not only had deserted
their patron and protector, but also they had laughed at the thought
of rescue! His own father had laughed at him.
Little Shikara silently left the circle of villagers and turned into
At once the jungle silence closed round him. He hadn't dreamed that
the noise of the villagers would die so quickly. Although he could
still see the flame of the fire at the village gate behind him, it was
almost as if he had at once dropped off into another world. Great
flowers poured perfume down upon him, and at seemingly a great
distance he heard the faint murmur of the wind.
At first, deep down in his heart, he had really not intended to go all
the way. He had expected to steal clear to the outer edge of the
firelight; and then stand listening to the darkness for such
impressions as the jungle would choose to give him. But there had been
no threshold, no interlude of preparation. The jungle in all its
mystery had folded about him at once.
He trotted softly down the elephant trail, a dim, fleet shadow that
even the keen eyes of Nahara could scarcely have seen. At first he was
too happy to be afraid. He was always happy when the jungle closed
round him. Besides, if Nahara had killed, she would be full-fed by now
and not to be feared. Little Shikara hastened on, trembling all over
with a joyous sort of excitement.
If a single bird had flapped its wings in the branches, if one little
rodent had stirred in the underbrush, Little Shikara would likely have
turned back. But the jungle-gods, knowing their son, stilled all the
forest voices. He crept on, still looking now and again over his
shoulder to see the village fire. It still made a bright yellow
triangle in the dusk behind him. He didn't stop to think that he was
doing a thing most grown natives and many white men would not have
dared to do--to follow a jungle trail unarmed at night. If he had
stopped to think at all he simply would have been unable to go on. He
was only following his instincts, voices that such forces as maturity
and grown-up intelligence and self-consciousness obscure in older
men--and the terror of the jungle could not touch him. He went
straight to do what service he could for the white sahib that was one
of his lesser gods.
Time after time he halted, but always he pushed on a few more feet.
Now he was over halfway to the ford, clear to the forks in the trail.
And then he turned about with a little gasp of fear.
The light from the village had gone out. The thick foliage of the
jungle had come between.
He was really frightened now. It wasn't that he was afraid he couldn't
get back. The trail was broad and hard and quite gray in the
moonlight. But those far-off beams of light had been a solace to his
spirit, a reminder that he had not yet broken all ties with the
village. He halted, intending to turn back.
Then a thrill began at his scalp and went clear to his bare toes.
Faint through the jungle silences he heard Warwick Sahib calling to
his faithless beaters. The voice had an unmistakable quality of
Certain of the villagers--a very few of them--said afterward that
Little Shikara continued on because he was afraid to go back. They
said that he looked upon the Heaven-born sahib as a source of all
power, in whose protection no harm could befall him, and he sped
toward him because the distance was shorter than back to the haven of
fire at the village. But those who could look deeper into Little
Shikara's soul knew different. In some degree at least he hastened on
down that jungle trail of peril because he knew that his idol was in
distress, and by laws that went deep he knew he must go to his aid.
The first few minutes after Warwick had heard a living step in the
thickets he spent in trying to reload his rifle. He carried other
cartridges in the right-hand trousers pocket, but after a few minutes
of futile effort it became perfectly evident that he was not able to
reach them. His right arm was useless, and the fingers of his left,
lacerated by the mugger's bite, refused to take hold.
He had, however, three of the five shells the rifle held still in his
gun. The single question that remained was whether or not they would
be of use to him.
The rifle lay half under him, its stock protruding from beneath his
body. With the elbow of his left arm he was able to work it out.
Considering the difficulties under which he worked, he made amazingly
few false motions; and yet he worked with swiftness. Warwick was a man
who had been schooled and trained by many dangers; he had learned to
face them with open eyes and steady hands, to judge with unclouded
thought the exact percentage of his chances. He knew now that he must
work swiftly. The shape in the shadow was not going to wait all night.
But at that moment the hope of preserving his life that he had clung
to until now broke like a bubble in the sunlight. He could not lift
the gun to swing and aim it at a shape in the darkness. With his
mutilated hands he could not cock the strong-springed hammer. And if
he could do both these things with his fumbling, bleeding, lacerated
fingers, his right hand could not be made to pull the trigger. Warwick
Sahib knew at last just where he stood. Yet if human sight could have
penetrated that dusk, it would have beheld no change of expression in
the lean face.
An English gentleman lay at the frontier of death. But that occasioned
neither fawning nor a loss of his rigid self-control.
Two things remained, however, that he might do. One was to call and
continue to call, as long as life lasted in his body. He knew
perfectly that more than once in the history of India a tiger had been
kept at a distance, at least for a short period of time, by shouts
alone. In that interlude, perhaps help might come from the village.
The second thing was almost as impossible as raising and firing the
rifle; but by the luck of the gods he might achieve it. He wanted to
find Singhai's knife and hold it compressed in his palm.
It wasn't that he had any vain hopes of repelling the tiger's attack
with a single knife-blade that would be practically impossible for his
mutilated hand to hold. Nahara had five or so knife-blades in every
paw and a whole set of them in her mouth. She could stand on four legs
and fight, and Warwick could not lift himself on one elbow and yet
wield the blade. But there were other things to be done with blades,
even held loosely in the palm, at a time like this.
He knew rather too much of the way of tigers. They do not always kill
swiftly. It is the tiger way to tease, long moments, with half-bared
talons; to let the prey crawl away a few feet for the rapture of
leaping at it again; to fondle with an exquisite cruelty for moments
that seem endless to its prey. A knife, on the other hand, kills
quickly. Warwick much preferred the latter death.
And even as he called, again and again, he began to feel about in the
grass with his lacerated hand for the hilt of the knife. Nahara was
steadily stealing toward him through the shadows.
The great tigress was at the height of her hunting madness. The
earlier adventure of the evening when she had missed her stroke, the
stir and tumult of the beaters in the wood, her many days of hunger,
had all combined to intensify her passion. And finally there had come
the knowledge, in subtle ways, that two of her own kind of game were
lying wounded and helpless beside the ford.
But even the royal tiger never forgets some small measure of its
caution. She did not charge at once. The game looked so easy that it
was in some way suggestive of a trap. She crept forward, a few feet at
a time. The wild blood began to leap through the great veins. The hair
went stiff on the neck muscles.
But Warwick shouted; and the sound for an instant appalled her. She
lurked in the shadows. And then, as she made a false step, Warwick
heard her for the first time.
Again she crept forward, to pause when Warwick raised his voice the
second time. The man knew enough to call at intervals rather than
continuously. A long, continued outcry would very likely stretch the
tiger's nerves to a breaking point and hurl her into a frenzy that
would probably result in a death-dealing charge. Every few seconds he
called again. In the intervals between the tiger crept forward. Her
excitement grew upon her. She crouched lower. Her sinewy tail had
whipped softly at first; now it was lashing almost to her sides. And
finally it began to have a slight vertical movement that Warwick,
fortunately for his spirit, could not see.
Then the little light that the moon poured down was suddenly reflected
in Nahara's eyes. All at once they burned out of the dusk; two
blue-green circles of fire fifty feet distant in the darkness. At that
Warwick gasped--for the first time. In another moment the great cat
would be in range--and he had not yet found the knife. Nothing
remained to believe but that it was lost in the mud of the ford, fifty
feet distant, and that the last dread avenue of escape was cut off.
But at that instant the gasp gave way to a whispered oath of wonder.
Some living creature was running lightly down the trail toward
him--soft, light feet that came with amazing swiftness. For once in
his life Warwick did not know where he stood. For once he was the
chief figure of a situation he did not entirely understand. He tried
to probe into the darkness with his tired eyes.
"Here I am!" he called. The tiger, starting to creep forward once
more, halted at the voice. A small straight figure sped like an arrow
out of the thickets and halted at his side.
It was such an astounding appearance as for an instant completely
paralyzes the mental faculties. Warwick's first emotion was simply a
great and hopeless astonishment. Long inured to the mystery of the
jungle, he thought he had passed the point where any earthly happening
could actually bewilder him. But in spite of it, in spite of the
fire-eyed peril in the darkness, he was quite himself when he spoke.
The voice that came out of the silence was wholly steady--a kindly,
almost amused voice of one who knows life as it is and who has
mastered his own destiny.
"Who in the world?" he asked in the vernacular.
"It is I--Little Shikara," a tremulous voice answered. Except for the
tremor he could not keep from his tone, he spoke as one man to
Warwick knew at once that Little Shikara was not yet aware of the
presence of the tiger fifty feet distant in the shadows. But he knew
nothing else. The whole situation was beyond his ken.
But his instincts were manly and true. "Then run speedily, little
one," he whispered, "back to the village. There is danger here in the
Little Shikara tried to speak, and he swallowed painfully. A lump had
come in his throat that at first would not let him talk. "Nay,
Protector of the Poor!" he answered. "I--I came alone. And I--I am thy
Warwick's heart bounded. Not since his youth had left him to a gray
world had his strong heart leaped in just this way before. "Merciful
God!" he whispered in English. "Has a child come to save me?" Then he
whipped again into the vernacular and spoke swiftly; for no further
seconds were to be wasted. "Little Shikara, have you ever fired a
"Then lift it up and rest it across my body. Thou knowest how it is
Little Shikara didn't know exactly, but he rested the gun on Warwick's
body; and he had seen enough target practice to crook his finger about
the trigger. And together, the strangest pair of huntsmen that the
Indian stars ever looked down upon, they waited.
"It is Nahara," Warwick explained softly. For he had decided to be
frank with Little Shikara, trusting all to the courage of a child. "It
all depends on thee. Pull back the hammer with thy thumb."
Little Shikara obeyed. He drew it back until it clicked and did not,
as Warwick had feared, let it slip through his fingers back against
the breach. "Yes, Sahib," he whispered breathlessly. His little brave
heart seemed about to explode in his breast. But it was the test, and
he knew he must not waver in the sahib's eyes.
"It is Nahara, and thou art a man," Warwick said again. "And now thou
must wait until thou seest her eyes."
So they strained into the darkness; and in an instant more they saw
again the two circles of greenish, smouldering fire. They were quite
near now--Nahara was almost in leaping range.
"Thou wilt look through the little hole at the rear and then along the
barrel," Warwick ordered swiftly, "and thou must see the two eyes
along the little notch in front."
"I see, Sahib--and between the eyes," came the same breathless
whisper. The little brown body held quite still. Warwick could not
even feel it trembling against his own. For the moment, by virtue of
some strange prank of Shiv, the jungle-gods were giving their own
strength to this little brown son of theirs beside the ford.
"Thou wilt not jerk or move?"
"Nay, Sahib." And he spoke true. The world might break to pieces or
blink out, but he would not throw off his aim by any terror motions.
They could see the tiger's outline now--the lithe, low-hung body, the
tail that twitched up and down.
"Then pull the trigger," Warwick whispered.
The whole jungle world rocked and trembled from the violence of the
When the villagers, aroused by the roar of the rifle and led by Khusru
and Puran and Little Shikara's father, rushed down with their
firebrands to the ford, their first thought was that they had come
only to the presence of the dead. Three human beings lay very still
beside the stream, and fifty feet in the shadows something else, that
obviously was _not_ a human being, lay very still, too. But they were
not to have any such horror story to tell their wives. Only one of the
three by the ford, Singhai, the gun-bearer, was even really
unconscious; Little Shikara, the rifle still held lovingly in his
arms, had gone into a half-faint from fear and nervous exhaustion, and
Warwick Sahib had merely closed his eyes to the darting light of the
firebrands. The only death that had occurred was that of Nahara the
tigress--and she had a neat hole bored completely through her neck. To
all evidence, she had never stirred after Little Shikara's bullet had
After much confusion and shouting and falling over one another, and
gazing at Little Shikara as if he were some new kind of a ghost, the
villagers got a stretcher each for Singhai and the Protector of the
Poor. And when they got them well loaded into them, and Little Shikara
had quite come to himself and was standing with some bewilderment in a
circle of staring townspeople, a clear, commanding voice ordered that
they all be silent. Warwick Sahib was going to make what was the
nearest approach to a speech that he had made since various of his
friends had decoyed him to a dinner in London some years before.
The words that he said, the short vernacular words that have a way of
coming straight to the point, established Little Shikara as a legend
through all that corner of British India. It was Little Shikara who
had come alone through the jungle, said he; it was Little Shikara's
shining eyes that had gazed along the barrel, and it was his own brown
finger that had pulled the trigger. Thus, said Warwick, he would get
the bounty that the British Government offered--British rupees that to
a child's eyes would be past counting. Thus in time, with Warwick's
influence, his would be a great voice through all of India. For small
as he was, and not yet grown, he was of the true breed.
After the shouting was done, Warwick turned to Little Shikara to see
how he thought upon all these things. "Thou shalt have training for
the army, little one, where thy good nerve will be of use, and thou
shalt be a native officer, along with the sons of princes. I, myself,
will see to it, for I do not hold my life so cheap that I will forget
the thing that thou hast done to-night."
And he meant what he said. The villagers stood still when they saw his
earnest face. "And what, little hawk, wilt thou have more?" he asked.
Little Shikara trembled and raised his eyes. "Only sometimes to ride
with thee, in thy _howdah_, as thy servant, when thou again seekest
The whole circle laughed at this. They were just human, after all.
Their firebrands were held high, and gleamed on Little Shikara's dusky
face, and made a lustre in his dark eyes. The circle, roaring with
laughter, did not hear the sahib's reply, but they did see him nod his
"I would not dare go without thee now," Warwick told him.
And thus Little Shikara's dreams came true--to be known through many
villages as a hunter of tigers, and a brave follower and comrade of
the forest trails. And thus he came into his own--in those far-off
glades of Burma, in the jungles of the Manipur.
THE MAN WHO CURSED THE LILIES
By CHARLES TENNEY JACKSON
From _Short Stories_
Tedge looked from the pilot-house at the sweating deckhand who stood
on the stubby bow of the _Marie Louise_ heaving vainly on the pole
thrust into the barrier of crushed water hyacinths across the channel.
Crump, the engineer, shot a sullen look at the master ere he turned
back to the crude oil motor whose mad pounding rattled the old bayou
stern-wheeler from keel to hogchains.
"She's full ahead now!" grunted Crump. And then, with a covert glance
at the single passenger sitting on the fore-deck cattle pens, the
engineman repeated his warning, "Yeh'll lose the cows, Tedge, if you
keep on fightin' the flowers. They're bad f'r feed and water--they
can't stand another day o' sun!"
Tedge knew it. But he continued to shake his hairy fist at the
deckhand and roar his anathemas upon the flower-choked bayou. He knew
his crew was grinning evilly, for they remembered Bill Tedge's
year-long feud with the lilies. Crump had bluntly told the skipper he
was a fool for trying to push up this little-frequented bayou from
Cote Blanche Bay to the higher land of the west Louisiana coast, where
he had planned to unload his cattle.
Tedge had bought the cargo himself near Beaumont from a beggared
ranchman whose stock had to go on the market because, for seven
months, there had been no rain in eastern Texas, and the short-grass
range was gone.
Tedge knew where there was feed for the starving animals, and the
_Marie Louise_ was coming back light. By the Intercoastal Canal and
the shallow string of bays along the Texas-Louisiana line, the bayou
boat could crawl safely back to the grassy swamp lands that fringe the
sugar plantations of Bayou Teche. Tedge had bought his living cargo so
ridiculously cheap that if half of them stood the journey he would
profit. And they would cost him nothing for winter ranging up in the
swamp lands. In the spring he would round up what steers had lived and
sell them, grass-fat, in New Orleans. He'd land them there with his
flap-paddle bayou boat, too, for the _Marie Louise_ ranged up and down
the Inter-coastal Canal and the uncharted swamp lakes and bays
adjoining, trading and thieving and serving the skipper's obscure
Only now, when he turned up Cote Blanche Bay, some hundred miles west
of the Mississippi passes, to make the last twenty miles of swamp
channel to his landing, he faced his old problem. Summer long the
water hyacinths were a pest to navigation on the coastal bayous, but
this June they were worse than Tedge had ever seen. He knew the
reason: the mighty Mississippi was at high flood, and as always then,
a third of its yellow waters were sweeping down the Atchafalaya River
on a "short cut" to the Mexican Gulf. And somewhere above, on its west
bank, the Atchafalaya levees had broken and the flood waters were all
through the coastal swamp channels.
Tedge grimly knew what it meant. He'd have to go farther inland to
find his free range, but now, worst of all, the floating gardens of
the coast swamps were coming out of the numberless channels on the
He expected to fight them as he had done for twenty years with his
dirty bayou boat. He'd fight and curse and struggle through the _les
flotantes_, and denounce the Federal Government, because it did not
destroy the lilies in the obscure bayous where he traded, as it did on
Bayou Teche and Terrebonne, with its pump-boats which sprayed the
hyacinths with a mixture of oil and soda until the tops shrivelled and
the trailing roots then dragged the flowers to the bottom.
"Yeh'll not see open water till the river cleans the swamps of
lilies," growled Crump. "I never seen the beat of 'em! The high
water's liftin' 'em from ponds where they never been touched by a
boat's wheel and they're out in the channels now. If yeh make the
plantations yeh'll have to keep eastard and then up the Atchafalaya
and buck the main flood water, Tedge!"
Tedge knew that, too. But he suddenly broke into curses upon his
engineer, his boat, the sea and sky and man. But mostly the lilies. He
could see a mile up the bayou between cypress-grown banks, and not a
foot of water showed. A solid field of green, waxy leaves and upright
purple spikes, jammed tight and moving. That was what made the master
rage. They were moving--a flower glacier slipping imperceptibly to the
gulf bays. They were moving slowly but inexorably, and his dirty
cattle boat, frantically driving into the blockade, was moving
He hated them with the implacable fury of a man whose fists had lorded
his world. A water hyacinth--what was it? He could stamp one to a
smear on his deck, but a river of them no man could fight. He swore
the lilies had ruined his whisky-running years ago to the Atchafalaya
lumber camps; they blocked Grand River when he went to log-towing;
they had cost him thousands of dollars for repairs and lost time in
his swamp ventures.
Bareheaded under the semi-tropic sun, he glowered at the lily-drift.
Then he snarled at Crump to reverse the motor. Tedge would retreat
"I'll drive the boat clean around Southwest Pass to get shut of 'em!
No feed, huh, for these cows! They'll feed sharks, they will! Huh, Mr.
Cowman, the blisterin' lilies cost me five hundred dollars already!"
The lone passenger smoked idly and watched the gaunt cattle
staggering, penned in the flat, dead heat of the foredeck. Tedge
cursed him, too, under his breath. Milt Rogers had asked to make the
coast run from Beaumont on Tedge's boat. Tedge remembered what Rogers
said--he was going to see a girl who lived up Bayou Boeuf above
Tedge's destination. Tedge remembered that girl--a Cajan girl whom he
once heard singing in the floating gardens while Tedge was battling
and cursing to pass the blockade.
He hated her for loving the lilies, and the man for loving her. He
burst out again with his volcanic fury at the green and purple horde.
"They're a fine sight to see," mused the other, "after a man's eyes
been burned out ridin' the dry range; no rain in nine months up
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