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Title: Anecdotes of Big Cats and Other Beasts
Author: Wilson, David Alec
Language: English
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ANECDOTES OF BIG CATS AND OTHER BEASTS



  Our good and true stories shall lighten our ills,
    And songs to us comfort shall bring,
  As long as the waters run down from the hills,
    And trees bud afresh in the Spring.



              ANECDOTES OF
                BIG CATS
            AND OTHER BEASTS


                   BY
              DAVID WILSON


  THE BETTER THAT WE SEE THROUGH MEN,
  THE GLADDER LOOK AT BEASTS AGAIN.


           METHUEN & CO. LTD.
          36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
                 LONDON



_First Published in 1910_



_This book may be translated into any language without payment._



CONTENTS

                                                PAGE
       I. Three Men Together                       1
      II. The Wonderful Escape of "Tiger-Hill"    10
     III. Sherlock Holmes in a Wood               19
      IV. Where Tigers Flourish--
            1. Tigers in the Air                  27
            2. Tigers Victorious                  29
            3. Working Alongside                  32
            4. At very Close Quarters             36
            5. The Charge of the Tigress          41
       V. The Girl and the Tigress                46
      VI. The Old Men and the Tiger               54
     VII. Recovering the Corpse                   58
    VIII. The Inspector's Escape                  62
      IX. The Sound of Humanity                   67
       X. The Tiger at the Rifle-range            74
      XI. A Lesson from the Water Buffalo--
            1. The Buffalo and the Skunk          84
            2. Hunting the Buffalo                87
            3. Taming the Buffalo                 88
     XII. The Buffalo and the Crocodile           93
    XIII. A Nest of Crocodiles                    97
     XIV. Useful Snakes                          107
      XV. The Tucktoo                            110
     XVI. The Kitten's Catch                     113
    XVII. The Leopard as a Killer of Men--
            1. Twice Twenty Years Ago or More    118
            2. A Leopard that Loved the Ladies   122
            3. No Man Comes Amiss                124
            4. Its Way of Doing                  125
            5. The Final Fight                   129
   XVIII. On Heads in General                    133
     XIX. The Unfinished Speech and Dance        139
      XX. The Big Pet Cat                        145
     XXI. The Leopard that Needed a Dentist      150
    XXII. The Devil as a Leopard                 152
   XXIII. The Gallant Leopard                    159
    XXIV. A Dumb Appeal put into Words           166
     XXV. The Fox in the Suez Canal              171
    XXVI. Solidarity among the Brutes--
            1. Elephants                         175
            2. The Baboons and the Leopards      178
            3. The Indian Baboons and the Bear   181
            4. Simla Monkeys                     186
            5. Co-operation                      191
   XXVII. A Run for Life                         194
  XXVIII. Mother's Love among the Monkeys        196
    XXIX. Exit the Hunter--
            1. Up to Date                        198
            2. The Lion in Death                 201
            3. Killing Tigers and Apes           205
            4. The Happy Hunter                  209
            5. The Use of Hunting                213
            6. Irresistible Evolution            214
     XXX. Charlie Darwin, or the Lady-Gibbon--
               Explanatory Note                  216
            1. Children of Air, in General       216
            2. Charlie Darwin                    220
            3. Running Away                      225
            4. Settling Down                     228
            5. Teasing Tom                       233
            6. Evening and Morning               238
            7. Table Manners                     242
            8. Dogs                              245
            9. Equality is Equity                246
           10. Where Civilisation Began          248
           11. Filial Feeling                    251
           12. Agreeable Sensations              255
           13. Corroborating Aristotle & Co.     260
           14. The Last Chapter                  265
    XXXI. The Brief Biography of a Little Bear--
            1. Early Days                        271
            2. Up the Chimney                    276
            3. At a Railway Station              279
            4. A Breakfast at Ye-U               281
            5. The Bear and the Perambulator     285
            6. Life in a Country Town            287
            7. The Wonderful Suckling            295
            8. Harum-scarum                      298
            9. All the Rest                      300
           10. Her Epitaph                       304
   XXXII. A Chinese Hunter (740 B.C.)            307



ANECDOTES OF BIG CATS AND OTHER BEASTS



I

THREE MEN TOGETHER


The ideal hunter, like the ideal soldier or mountaineer, seaman or
worker of any kind, "leaves nothing to chance"; yet in anticipating
events he realises the limits of human foresight and remains
continually wide-awake. Wellington has quoted Marshal Wrede's report
of Napoleon's way of doing--to do from day to day what the
circumstances require, but never have any general plan of campaign.
That was how to rule circumstances by obeying them, as a seaman
steering through the storm may be said to rule the waves. There are
some occupations that allow more room for somnolence than others. Like
the seaman afloat and the soldier in war, the man who is hunting big
cats can ill afford to be caught napping. The consequences are apt to
be sudden. It is a terrible thing to wake up from a nap with nothing
to do but die.

Whether you are hunting thieves or tigers, you proceed by good
guessing based on knowledge. There is no real difference between what
is pompously called scientific reasoning and plain common-sense, as
Huxley has elaborately shown. Thieves and tigers have their habits,
like all living things, and need to eat to live. One of the commonest
successful ways of coming to close quarters with "Mr Stripes" is to go
to where he has been killing lately, and lie in ambush. If you
persevere in doing that in the usual way, you are sure to meet the
tiger in the long run; and perhaps, as happened to this writer in
Burma, you may enjoy the pleasure of making his acquaintance with
startling suddenness the very first time you try. So it is well to be
ready for anything, lest you have a disagreeable experience, like
three men in the Assam forests, whose adventure is worth telling, as a
warning to beginners. The present writer heard it from Major Shaw
(6th Gurkhas), in whom he has complete confidence. Of course it was in
Assam that Major Shaw heard of it. For obvious reasons, no other names
than his are given; and no superfluous details.

There is a public rest-house in the Assam woods, which was visited by
a hungry tiger not many years ago. The caretaker (or "dirwan") was
there at the time, but nobody else. The tiger took him away, and ate
him.

Exactly how it was done remained unknown, as is usual in such cases.
The men who are eaten by beasts of prey are generally like the crews
of ships that never arrive, but remain for ever "missing." Not once in
a thousand times can even the bones be found, and nothing was
discovered in this instance, but nobody doubted what had happened.
Nevertheless, a successor was soon installed in the dead man's place.
The tiger called again; and once more the post became vacant, and a
public servant was mysteriously "missing."

The caretaker of a rest-house, like the humble postman, is one of the
few officials who appear to the non-official world to justify their
existence. If it had been a forester or a policeman, a judge or a
soldier, people would have shrugged their shoulders and said, "So much
the worse for him." In the glad excitement of filling the vacancy, his
colleagues would have forgotten him, and only his relatives, perhaps,
if they had cause, lamented. But the caretakers of rest-houses are not
luxuries but necessaries; and when either a second or a third man
(Major Shaw could not recollect whether three caretakers or only two)
had in this way disappeared into the hideous darkness that dimly
veiled a hungry tiger, and there was a likelihood that travellers
might be inconvenienced by the post remaining vacant, three men of
public spirit arose and took their rifles, and went together to spend
a night in the tiger-haunted bungalow, and give Mr Stripes a warm
reception when he next came to call.

The oddest detail in the account of their preparations is that they
fixed bayonets. The veranda was level with the floor of the building,
apparently, and not far above the ground. It was reached from outside
by a flight of steps, and ran along the front, with the doors of the
rooms opening upon it. That was where the three men placed themselves,
when they had finished dinner and arranged everything, fixed bayonets
and all. They closed the doors, and supposed they were invisible, for
the gleam of the lamplight was then restricted to the back and the
side-windows. In front was only darkness visible. As they lay in wait
there, the one in the middle would be where the caretaker was
accustomed to lie, opposite the top of the stairs.

It must be remembered that the men perhaps expected to have to sit up
several nights. They soon found what they had not expected, that it is
very hard to keep awake, especially in a horizontal position, at the
hour when you are usually asleep. Experienced hunters would have taken
turns to lie in the middle wide-awake, and let the other men, on right
and left, be at liberty to snooze. But these three men had been too
excited to apprehend in advance the possibility of closing their eyes
while waiting. They conversed in low whispers, and peered into the
dark. Instead of coffee to keep them awake, as the night wore on, they
drank whisky-and-soda.

The sound of a tropical forest is like London's noise, which never
altogether stops, but what reached their ears was unexciting. The
quadrupeds a-hunting were unseen, and flitted about as noiselessly as
the clouds.

The three men slept. The man in the middle was suddenly jerked to his
feet by the tight clasp of the tiger's jaws upon his forearm; and he
staggered as it led him away, as if he had been a child. He was out of
reach of his rifle before he was sufficiently awake to realise what
was happening. It was afterwards conjectured that the tiger had been
waiting below, and listening to their whispering, till the change of
noises indicated sleep.

While the tiger, taking its man by the arm, was stepping downstairs,
the man was thinking only, "I hope the bullet won't hit me." He never
doubted that one of his companions was preparing to fire. But the
other two men, awakened, and aware that the tiger had come, had taken
refuge in a room, and supposed that he had done the same.

There was nothing very remarkable in the tiger pulling away the man in
this way. That was probably how he had treated the caretakers. In
their many millenniums of battle with mankind, and civilised mankind,
not ill-armed negroes, such as make the lions bold, the tigers of the
old world seem to have learned that the arms are the dangerous members
of a man, like the poison fangs of a serpent, so that to seize them is
to master him. There are many cases of a man being saved alive from a
tiger by other men, when it was pulling him away by the arm; but I
have never heard of any man so situated being able to deliver himself.
In general, of course, it is easier to break a man's neck at once; but
if you were a tiger, and your man were on a veranda, and had to be
brought downstairs to be eaten comfortably, could you think of a
better way than to pull him by the arm, and make him descend the
stairs on his own legs? The tiger is a specialist in killing, and
knows its business. It is not killing men that bothers the tiger, but
catching them unawares.

So the tiger and the man together reached the bottom of the stairs
without anything happening, and thence the tiger led towards the
adjoining forest; but on the way the victim turned his face to the
house as well as he could, and cried: "Are you fellows not going to
help me?"

This was the first intimation of his fate to the other two. One of
them came out and ran after the retreating figures of the tiger and
the man disappearing down the pathway, going towards the woods, and
overtook them in the nick of time. The shout had somehow affected the
tiger too. He opened his jaws, and the mangled arm fell free; but a
great paw was on the man's shoulder; and on the other shoulder another
paw was now deliberately laid, and the tiger breathed in his face a
deep, long exhalation--warm breath of a peculiar odour, that seemed to
penetrate him.

Just then the pursuer arrived, and thrust his bayonet between the
tiger's ribs, and pushed it in, and pulled the trigger. Then leaving
the rifle there, feeling instinctively what Dr Johnson noticed in
himself with surprise, when travelling in the Highlands, how
willingly, in the dark, a man becomes "content to leave behind him
everything but himself," he shouted "Follow me!" and ran back into the
bungalow. The startled tiger had indeed let go its prey for the
moment, but, seeing him run after the other man, it followed both;
and, bounding up the stairs once more, it overtook at the top the man
with the mangled arm, but only in time to give him a "smack on the
back," which sent him flying through the doorway into the room where
the others were. Then it died.

They washed the badly-bitten arm with whisky, having no medicaments of
any kind. It would have been strange if they had had any, for men are
so seldom hurt in tiger-shooting that nobody anticipates injury. They
had nothing but whisky. So they poured it on, and "it nipped," at
any-rate, which was, somehow, a comfort.

When the wounded man beheld himself in the looking-glass in the
morning, he saw that his hair had suddenly grown grey in that one
night. The third man, it is said, was delirious, with shame and
remorse, because he had faltered. Meanwhile the tiger, growing stiff,
lay dead on the veranda, just outside the door of the room, with a
gaping wound in its side, like Thorwaldsen's lion at Lucerne.

When Major Shaw saw the injured man he had quite recovered. There was
a scar on the arm, and a stiffness in two of the fingers, nothing
else; but "for the rest of my life I could smell a tiger at fifty
yards," said he. "I'll never forget the smell that went through me as
he breathed upon me--never, as long as I live."



II

THE WONDERFUL ESCAPE OF "TIGER-HILL"


I am sorry to say it is more than twenty years since I began to listen
to stories of tigers and leopards in Burma; and even more since I
first made acquaintance with the beasts myself. I do not expect to see
any more now, except in a Zoo. So perhaps it is time to note what has
been learned, to re-tell the best of what I have heard, and in short
do for others what others in days gone by have done for me. I have
always considered that the man who keeps a good story fresh is the
greatest of public benefactors.

What made me think of this in connection with cats was the recent
discovery of the truth of a story, which I have heard many times
without believing it. It was first told to me in 1891 by Burmans in
the locality where it happened. Then, and as often afterwards as it
was told, I questioned the speaker about how he knew, and never was
quite satisfied. Even the version of it in Colonel Pollok's _Wild
Sports of Burma and Assam_ (p. 65 of the 1900 edition), read like
hearsay and seemed unconvincing. At last, in 1908, Colonel Dobbs told
it to me in Coonoor, and when he was questioned he was able to delight
me with the news that he had _seen_ the thing. So here it is.

The time was 1859. The scene was the forest-covered hilly ground about
seventy miles north of Maulmain, in what is now Bilin township of
Thaton district, Burma, between the Sittang and Salween rivers. A
detachment of the 32nd Madras Native Infantry, under Captain Manley,
was marching on business there, going in single file along a footpath,
preceded by the civil officer with them, a Mr Charles Hill.

Hill was a big man, "over six feet and of great strength," and strode
ahead with a big stick in his hand, while two orderlies or servants
followed at a careless distance behind him, with his weapons. This
Chinese way of making war or hunting is almost a custom in Burma among
Europeans; and a very natural custom too, in a hot, moist climate.

Suddenly Hill came upon a tiger lying full length on the footpath,
apparently asleep. He looked round and called for his gun. It was for
the moment out of reach.

Perhaps it may be worth while to try to make the ordinary stay-at-home
Englishman, who does not know how lucky he is to be able to stay at
home, and knows a great deal less than he supposes, realise how and
why the sensations of Mr Hill were different from what his own would
have been. The first point is that Hill knew what a Londoner would
never suspect, that there was no particular cause to be afraid. If
afraid, he had only to go back a few yards, and shout, and bang the
trees with his stick. The monstrous cat would take the hint and
silently slip away. Not even a tiger in the prime of life would _seek_
a fight. He feels, what politicians are only beginning to realise in
another sphere, that fighting is bad business.

We must remember that the tiger has no medicaments, no surgical help,
no hospitals, no friends, no companions. When he crawls away to lick
his wounds, he is as solitary in a hostile world as a poor man "out of
a job," on a wet wintry night on the Thames Embankment, and suffers
and dies unaided and alone. This is not conducive to courage. So even
a tiger that has taken to eating men does not openly attack humanity,
but lies in wait for it, to take it by surprise without fighting,
seeking nothing but to get his dinner in the easiest way. Our common
criminals, and many wholesale thieves of superficial respectability,
are more dangerous than tigers because of their extra cunning, but not
different in spirit. What difference there is, is in favour of the
tiger. He is never malevolent or cruel. Like Jonathan Wild, he never
hurts anybody, except to benefit himself.

The Englishman at home will perhaps now be ready to understand the
next point that will surprise him, that the retiring habits of the
tiger make him a rare sight, even in countries where he is at home. I
have known many people who had often suffered from the depredations of
tigers, but had never seen one, just as a man's house may be burgled
more than once without his seeing any of the burglars. The tiger is
like a burglar, who comes and goes in the dark.

It is true that a globe-trotter visiting Rangoon to-day (1909) may buy
on the Pagoda steps a picture of a tiger upon the Pagoda, and be truly
told that it was seen there. Some years ago a tiger did go up the
gentle slope of the spire; and once arrived there, he stood
bewildered, as if paralysed; conspicuous, like a weather-cock upon a
steeple, looking helplessly down upon a large port like Plymouth, a
big animated and terrified target, while the soldiers shot at him till
they killed him. But though Englishmen, who knew there were tigers
always near, might think this natural, and only wonder that it did not
happen oftener, and wish it would, yet to the people of the country,
who knew the habits of tigers, it seemed portentous. Long afterwards
old men might be seen on the Pagoda platform shaking their heads
knowingly, and if you listened and understood them, you could hear
them discussing what the miracle meant. It was certainly very odd. The
poor animal must somehow have lost his reckoning. To use an
old-fashioned phrase, he was never intended for a town life, and
assuredly he never intended to try it. The Pagoda stands on the skirts
of the town, on the last bluff of the Pegu hills, and he was probably
going up it before he knew he had left the woods.

An incident that took place near the scene of Mr Hill's adventure may
be mentioned to illustrate the normal ways of the tiger. Three
officers united to assist the villagers there against a tiger that was
thinning their herds. Each of them had killed big cats before; and one
was locally famous as a hunter. His house was full of trophies,
including scores of tiger skins, of which he was as proud as ever Red
Indian was of scalps. About a hundred villagers who knew the ground
well co-operated zealously. No mistakes were made, and everybody did
his best for several days; and yet not one of the large party ever
even saw the beast they were seeking. He had not gone away. He was
lying low; and he resumed his cattle killing as soon as they stopped
hunting. The widest "beat" in woods like these is like a net flung at
random into the sea. A hunter is lucky if he averages a single glimpse
of such game for half-a-dozen days or nights out of bed. Experienced
hunters seldom go out there after tiger except to spend a night in a
tree over a "kill," which is generally a bullock killed and left half
eaten, to which the tiger may return.

So it is easy to understand why Hill was unwilling to lose sight of
this fellow, especially if Colonel Pollok is rightly informed that it
was a man-eater; for in that part of Burma the occasional man-eater is
not only a public affliction, he is also more often than not old and
decrepit. I saw one in the Sittang valley, which had killed three men
in one week, and yet was a meagre creature, with shrunken shanks and
bald, bare hide, which made him look mangy, and with only a single
whole tooth in his jaws, and two broken ones. So if Hill had heard the
rumour which Colonel Pollok believed and took this for a man-eater, he
might reasonably suppose he could take liberties. The canny Dutch
themselves have a proverb, that the hares can pull the lion's beard
when the lion has grown old.

It is a witty exaggeration, of course, as proverbs often are. In
reality, neither hares nor horses nor deer of any kind would risk
going near a lion or a tiger, however old. They shrink in horror from
the like of a tiger. I have felt a brave horse shudder at one although
he was dead, for even in death he seemed terrible. But his carcass
does not cumber long the ground. White ants have a horror of nothing,
and maggots and microbes, safe in their insignificance, are equally
impartial. Vultures, too, may serve the tiger for undertakers, as they
serve the Parsis, or the wild dogs may anticipate them. Sometimes it
has been credibly reported that the dogs begin the tiger's funeral
before he is dead, so that if only the Dutch had said "dogs" instead
of "hares" their proverb would have been _not_ wit but natural
history.

Even if Hill had never heard about this tiger being a stiff old
man-eater, he might have suspected it was one, because it was there,
upon the footpath, as if it had fallen asleep while watching for some
benighted traveller who might be caught unawares. The few seconds Hill
stood waiting for a gun would seem as many minutes, or more. In short,
it is easy to imagine how, as he watched the big beast, perhaps
stretching itself and yawning, seeming likely to step aside soon,
before a gun arrived, into a wood wherein a few steps would make it
safe from pursuit, the big strong man lost patience, and lifting his
stick with both hands he hit the tiger on the head between the eyes.

This completed the wakening process. Hill said he only saw it
disappear among the bushes at the side of the path. Meanwhile
Lieutenant Dobbs (he was _young_ Dobbs then and on duty under Captain
Manley) happened to be nearest to the front after Hill, and he and
some sepoys hurried forward. In jungle fighting you run to the
shouting, just as in ordinary war the rule used to be to march towards
the sound of the cannon. So Dobbs, running forward in this way, was in
time to see what followed. It was all over in a few seconds, and the
reproaches of the troops in some histories of the event are without
foundation. The tiger leapt out of the bush towards Hill's back, and
with a paw on each of his shoulders was seen to be biting at the back
of his neck, as if trying to get a grip. Then Hill, who had been flung
forward into a stooping posture, but kept his foothold, straightened
himself with a jerk, whirled round and thrust out his arms in front of
him, with open palms, as if pushing. "That, at least, is what it
seemed like to me," said the accurate veteran, Colonel Dobbs, and that
was how Hill described it. Then the tiger fell backwards, rolled on
his back, regained his balance with a soft, silent celerity, and
disappeared again among the bushes "almost like lightning," and was
seen no more.

Hill came staggering towards Dobbs, and fell on his face in a dead
faint. He was bleeding freely from the neck, but the bleeding was soon
stopped. "Only the upper fangs penetrated the neck," writes Colonel
Pollok. What Dobbs was sure of was only that in a short time Hill was
going about as usual, "though he complained of stiff neck for about
two years afterwards."

In 1891 the Burmans thereabouts were still speaking of him as
"Kya-ma-naing," meaning "The man that the tiger did not beat." He was
honourably known to his countrymen in Burma for the rest of his life
as "Tiger-Hill"; and the many and various versions of his adventure
might furnish texts for a book on mythology as long as Fraser's three
big volumes on the _Golden Bough_. But as nearly all the reflections
hitherto made upon it are refuted by this mere statement of the
details, the present writer will take warning from the mistakes of his
predecessors and leave readers, now in possession of the truth, to
evolve their own reflections.



III

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN A WOOD


On 20th April 1895, being engaged in Forest Settlement work among the
low hills abutting on the south the mountain barrier between Burma and
Assam, I was aroused, as I sat reading in a tent in the afternoon, by
a signal. It meant that my colleague, Mr Bruce, the Deputy Conservator
of Forests, who had gone out to shoot pigeons for dinner, either was
or expected soon to be in contact with tiger, and wished me to join
him--which I did, at a run. He was near the camp. The tigers
thereabouts are more plentiful than elsewhere in Burma. We had seen
and heard abundant evidence of their proximity for weeks past, and
were both anxious for a closer acquaintance.

A fat and full-grown deer was lying dead upon the stones in a
stream-bed. The first guess was that a tiger, having killed, was about
to eat it, but withdrew for a moment out of sight at the sound of the
pigeon-shooting. On this hypothesis we diligently searched in all
likely directions, and made sure there was no tiger near. Then we
gathered round the deer. A faint, faint smell, perceptible as we
closed upon it, showed that the venison was tending to that
disintegration which awaits all flesh when life departs, and answered
those who were beginning to doubt if it was dead, because it lay as if
it might have been asleep, and there was no sign to show how it had
died.

"Twelve to twenty-four hours dead, and not killed by any tiger," was
the first unanimous conclusion, after minute inspection and
confabulation; and "still fresh enough to be eaten" was the next
decision, all but equally unanimous.

This satisfied most of the men; but Bruce stood silent, while they
knelt round it and began to ply their knives. I stayed to await
developments. Casting perplexed looks up and down the stream, Bruce
ejaculated, more than once, "I would give anything to know how that
beast died." "It's too soft to roast, but will make splendid curry,"
said the cook, inspecting a joint cut from the carcass.

When the men had cut off about three times as much as would suffice to
"abate their desire of food," they began obligingly to discuss what
was puzzling Bruce, and in a short time, so lively are the Burmese
wits, every man seemed to be as interested as himself in the
apparently insoluble problem. A mystery attracts men, as a light does
the moths; or, as Cicero explains it in his _Offices_ (i.4)--"The
peculiarity of man is to seek and follow after truth. So, as soon as
we are relaxed from our necessary cares and concerns, what we covet is
to see, to hear, and to learn something; and the knowledge of things
obscure or wonderful quickly appears to us to be indispensable for our
comfort and happiness."

Wild dogs were as likely as a tiger to have killed that deer; but
equally certain not to leave the dead uneaten. The wild dogs and the
tigers alike are real professional hunters, who kill in order to be
able to eat and live. They are not sportsmen, who kill for amusement,
that is to say, for want of occupation. Besides, there were no marks
discoverable of either a tiger or dogs.

The partition of the venison served the purpose of a post-mortem. When
it was seen that the neck was broken, we looked at the steep ground on
the northern bank and saw how the deer could have tumbled down; and
"killed by a fall" was the first step to a final verdict.

But why did it fall? It was useless to suggest, as one did,
"committed suicide in a temporary state of insanity." He was gravely
assured on every hand that the deer, however worried, do not commit
suicide.

It would be long to tell the other guesses. Nobody could find a
scratch on the carcass. That alone disposed of many theories.

Bruce had for some time spoken only in interjections. His mind was
working. Suddenly he cried, with the abrupt inspiration of a seer, "I
have it! I have it! I see what it was. This stag and another fought
for a hind on that high bank, and this was the one pushed over."

We agreed. Some of us would have agreed to anything, being tired of
the subject. But we really were convinced; and when Bruce had finished
describing the probable (what a blessed word probable is, to be
sure!--the probable) antlers of the victor, contrasting them with the
poor young brow of the dead, there were some among us who would in a
little time have been capable of describing in a witness-box the
aforesaid victorious antlers as things seen and handled. It was a
doubter who said, "If you're right the tracks of the fighters must be
visible yet. It cannot have been before last night. The ground seems
soft up there, and there has been no rain."

As soon as the words were spoken, as if by one consent, the men tore
up the steep, Bruce shouting something that sounded like, "Right you
are, for once!" On hands and knees went some; and they distributed
themselves, to miss nothing, panting, puffing, all climbing as if a
golden fleece awaited their joint efforts, and earnestly scanning the
ground as they went. They did not compete though they vied with each
other, each helping his neighbour, in a genial way; and, joyfully
working together, they unconsciously illustrated the solidarity of
humanity in real life.

Soon they were rejoicing and jubilating as loudly as if a heap of
golden fleeces had been found, for they saw the tracks they went to
seek. The duel of the stags, as it must have happened in the cool
starlight of the preceding night, could be traced and rehearsed from
the hieroglyphics on the ground by the sharpened wits of the village
specialists, with more confidence than the incidents of a battle can
be deciphered by a historian. Here it was, in a narrow glade, that
they charged and grappled; there and there they struggled and pushed
to and fro till one went backwards, and there at last, as you could
see, one backed over the steep and stumbled suddenly into death, to
lie on the stones below, until we came and, anticipating other
carrion-eaters, cut him up for dinner.

"And now, let's track the victor!"

Heigh-ho! It was to face a tiger I laid down my book, and not to
follow an amorous deer; but the tracks led into the stream again.
"The victor went for a drink," we said to each other, like children
rejoicing to find that they can draw an inference for themselves, or
rather like men who have learned, as all men do at last, how liable
they are to be mistaken, and are slow to feel sure of anything till
they find that others agree.

Among the stones the tracks were lost. Then I recalled how Robert the
Bruce of Bannockburn had baffled the bloodhounds following him once,
in his days of difficulty, by walking along a stream; and I suggested
that the deer might in the same way baffle a modern Bruce. But men are
more knowing than bloodhounds.

"The stag is not a water-buffalo. He'll quench his thirst and leave
the stream. Won't he?"

"He must have done so, for he isn't here."

"The banks aren't rocks. We'll see where he left as well as where he
came, won't we?"

"Assuredly you shall, if you look long enough. I'll stay ten minutes."

"I'll stay till dark."

It was not needed. The men started to seek the trail with enthusiasm;
and in a few minutes there was a joyful shout and soon we were
following the vanished stag, as confidently as if he were bodily in
front of us, along one of the deer-paths that were a feature of these
primeval woods. Our Burmans were admirable. Plain villagers, but
all-round men, observant, they could notice swiftly and surely the
slightest marks on the surface of the path which were signs of recent
tracks. They had a rare reward. Few modern events have caused to sated
Europeans the sensations they experienced when, instead of the
expected jumble of many prints, to show where our wanderer rejoined
his fellows, or at least his partner, they came upon the clean-picked
bones and antlers of the stag at the side of the path, and a few fresh
tiger-tracks that showed how he in turn had died....

"I like this, I like to get to the bottom of things. I'm glad we
came," cried Bruce. "This is the kind of thing that makes you realise
what life in the forests truly is...."

"Beasts for beasts," said his companion, "if one has to deal with
beasts, the four-legged varieties here are simple and almost harmless
compared to the rascals on two legs...."

Bruce was urgent upon me to write out this authentic idyll of the
woods which he had elucidated. I had to promise; but I did it
vaguely--"when I have time," "when I retire," "when the spirit moves
me"--so that time was not of the essence of the contract. It never
occurred to me that there was any need to hurry on his account, for he
was the younger man; but now I wish I had kept my promise sooner. For
Bruce is dead.



IV

WHERE TIGERS FLOURISH


1. TIGERS IN THE AIR

In 1895, while doing Forest Settlement work in the Upper Chindwin
district of Upper Burma, I lived in an atmosphere of tigers. Hardly a
day passed without seeing or hearing some sign of them. It was a great
disappointment, both to my companion and colleague, Mr Bruce, Deputy
Conservator of Forests, and to myself to finish our long journeyings
without a single encounter. We spared no pains to compass one; but we
were going fast, with a troop of elephants for baggage, and were being
met at many points by crowds of men on business; so that it was not a
surprise, although it was a disappointment, to miss seeing "our friend
the enemy" at home. The tiger, as we were well aware, might say with
Tommy Atkins that he is fighting for meat and not for glory; and when,
in seeking dinner, he caught sight of an enemy that seemed dangerous,
he was bound to behave like Brer Rabbit, to lie low and say nothing.
The jungle was continuous, and in parts so thick that he might at
times have been lying within spitting distance and remained unseen and
unsuspected.

No doubt the tigers saw us many a time, though we saw none of them.
The villagers, in order to feel safe, went about in twos and threes or
in larger parties, like London policemen in the slums. Whenever two
parties met, they discussed the latest news of tigers. Among a crowd
of items, I well recollect that both Mr Dickinson, the Conservator,
and Mr Bruce had much to tell me about the fine performances of
C.W. Allan of their department that year there, and of his experiences
in 1894.

As "half a word fixed, upon or near the spot, is worth a cart-load of
recollection," according to authority, I have persuaded Mr Allan, now
Deputy Conservator at Henzada, to let me publish a few extracts from
his _Shikar-Book_, a contemporary record. It may be as well to mention
that, knowing him well, I believe what he wrote as firmly as if I had
seen it all myself, and that it tallies completely with what was told
me in 1895.


2. TIGERS VICTORIOUS

[_Extract from the "Shikar-Book" of C.W. Allan_]

"During the month of March, 1894, I had to go out into the Kubo
Valley, in the Kindat Forest Division, Upper Chindwin, to do the
demarcation of the Khanpat Reserve. On the 16th I arrived at the
village of Thinzin and halted there the 17th to collect coolies to do
the work, which I found to be no easy matter. On inquiring the reason,
I was told that there was a man-eater tiger in that part of the
forest, and that it had killed three men within the last six weeks,
and that people were afraid to go anywhere near the forest. This was
very unpleasant news. However, the work had to be done and men must be
found, so I ordered the Thugyi (village headman) to hurry up and get
them, and told him that there was nothing to be afraid of as I had
five guns with me and could look after the men.

"On questioning the Thugyi about the man-eater, he informed me that
the first man killed was a mahout (elephant driver) employed by the
Bombay Burma Trading Corporation. This man was carried off in the
Pyoungbok stream. He and another man had gone out to look for their
elephant, which had been fettered and turned out to graze. And it was
whilst following up the drag of the chain that the tiger sprang on to
the mahout who was leading, and was carrying a gun on his shoulder,
and carried him off. The man who was following the mahout was carrying
a dah (big knife) in his hand, and was just behind the mahout. He was
so taken aback that he could do nothing to save his companion, so ran
away and informed some other men who were encamped close by. But they
were too frightened to go and look for the mahout. And it would not
have been much good their going, for by the time they got to the place
the tiger would have finished his meal and moved off.

"The second man carried off was also a mahout in the service of the
B. B. T. C. He was also carried off much in the same manner from the
Nansawin stream, and within ten days of the date the first man was
killed. This mahout was out with a party of some six men hunting for
fish in the stream, when the tiger sprang on to him from the bank and
carried him off before the other men could do anything. They too did
not attempt to save their comrade, but made tracks out of that stream
as fast as their legs could carry them.

"The third man killed was a Burmese policeman. A party of six
constables were out on patrol, and had camped for the night under a
large teak tree between the Pyoungbok and Nansawin streams. About four
o'clock in the morning one of the men had got up and lit a fire, and
put on a pot of rice to boil for their breakfast, and had lain down
again beside the other men, intending to have another forty winks. He
had barely laid himself down when a tiger sneaked up behind the tree
they were sleeping under and seized the end man by the waist and
carried him off. The poor man shouted for all he was worth, 'Shoot,
shoot, the tiger is carrying me off.' This roused the others and they
picked up their guns and tried to shoot, but the powder or caps being
damp, the charges would not go off. They, however, put on fresh caps
and eventually got the guns to shoot. After this they fired several
shots and shouted, but the man's cries had stopped, so they judged
that he must have been killed.

"The constables waited at their camp till daylight, and then went off
to the camp of some Burmese elephant drivers, which was about three
miles off, and made them collect their elephants, some seventeen in
number, and then returned and looked for their comrade. They found the
remains within a couple of hundred yards of their night's camp. The
tiger had finished its meal and had gone off. The Thugyi informed me
that although several shots had been fired in the direction the tiger
had gone it was not frightened, and sat there and finished its meal.

"Hearing all this, I did not wonder at the men not wanting to go into
the forest. However, the work had to be done and go I must. Though I
must admit I did not quite appreciate the job."


3. WORKING ALONGSIDE

"On the morning of the 18th March some twenty men turned up, and the
Thugyi informed me that the others would follow. So I made a move and
got as far as the Khanpat stream, where I halted for a bit and had
breakfast and then moved on again. It was my intention to make the
Pyoungbok camp that day, as I was told it had a fence round it, made
by the patrols to keep out the tiger. But the coolies would not move
fast enough, so I camped on the Nanpalon stream.

"After seeing the camp pitched and everything in place, I told my
clerk to make all the men stay together, and not to let any men go
about the forest in ones and twos, for fear of the tiger. I also told
him to have a big fire burning and to keep a watch of five men at the
fire and to relieve them every two hours, and to call me in case of an
alarm.

"I turned into bed at about nine o'clock, and had not been in bed ten
minutes when the clerk came and called me, saying the tiger had come.
I jumped out of bed, and taking my rifle ran out. The men at the fire
told me that a pony tied near them began to get very restless, and
kept looking towards the stream, so they got up and looked, and saw
the tiger not twenty paces off, ready to rush at them. I asked where
it had gone to on being found out. They replied that it had gone down
into the stream.

"Whilst I was talking to the men, one man, who was looking in the
direction of the stream, said, 'Look, sir, there it is, going up the
bank,' and sure enough there it was, about seventy yards off, going
across the bed of the stream. I had a shot and it sprang up the bank,
and just as it was disappearing I fired a second shot. All the men
said I had hit it, and Maung Kyaw Nya, my forester, was for going and
looking for blood, but I thought this too dangerous and would not let
him go. The next morning we got up early and went and had a look at
the place where the tiger had been standing when I fired at it. I
found where both the bullets had struck the ground. They were both
clean misses, and had struck below the tiger and between its legs."

(_N.B._--Mr Allan was and is one of the best hunters in Burma; but, in
firing in the dark, one cannot see one's sights, and so the best of
shots makes misses.--D.W.)

"For the next three days nothing happened and the coolies seemed to
have got over their fright and were working well.

"On the 23rd I moved camp to a place on the Nansawin stream. The
forest there was very dense and I did not at all like the idea of
camping there, but as that was the only place where there was water, I
had a place cleared and pitched my tent, and then went out to inspect
the work. I gave orders to Maung Kyaw Nya to go ahead and pick out the
way the line of demarcation should go in, and also to see how far the
Thonhmwason" (that is, Three-Waters-Meeting, a camping-place where
three streams met) "was from my camp of that day.

"At 3 p.m. a man came to me from the camp and said that Mg. Kyaw Nya
had returned, as he had been chased by a tiger. On my return to camp
in the evening I sent for Kyaw Nya and questioned him as to why he had
not carried out my order. He replied that he and two other men were
going along the foot of the hill following the boundary, when they
came on to a half-eaten sambur (big deer). They were going to take the
flesh and bring it to camp for their dinner, when they heard a
rustling in the leaves, and on looking round saw a tiger coming to see
what they wanted with its dinner. The men, seeing the tiger coming,
dropped the sambur and went for all they were worth, till they got out
into the bed of the stream, and then came down it to my camp.

"I thought the men were afraid to go out by themselves to locate the
boundary, and had invented the yarn about the tiger. Mg. Kyaw Nya
said, 'If you do not believe me, sir, I will show you the place.'

"On the morning of the 25th I went out with Mg. Kyaw Nya and three or
four men, and they took me to the place where the tiger's kill had
been, and sure enough there had been a kill there, but it had been
finished off during the night and there was nothing but the skull and
feet left. On my return to camp I had tea, and was thinking of tying
out a goat and sitting up for the tiger, but I did not like the idea
of having to get off the machan (platform made in a tree) and come
back to the tent in the dark, so I gave it up."

(Another objection, fatal to this plan, was that the men would have
been afraid to stay in the camp at night by themselves.--D.W.)

"About 4 p.m. the men were returning from work, when I heard a great
shouting not far from camp, so went out in the direction and met them
returning. The forester in charge informed me that a tiger had charged
out at the line of men and had tried to take one from the centre, and
that the man had thrown his dah (big knife) at the beast, on which it
bolted back into the grass."


4. AT VERY CLOSE QUARTERS

"On seeing that the tiger was round our camp I took extra precautions
and made all the men stop in one place just behind my tent; and gave
orders to my Indian servants to have their dinner early, and to sleep
with the Burmese coolies. My cook, an Indian, would not stop near the
Burmans, though told to do so several times. He had his kitchen fire
just in front of my tent. However, I told him he must sleep with the
other men. The other Indians also told him not to be a fool and stay
away by himself. To them he replied that he was not afraid, and that
if it was his fate the tiger would have him. He said, 'If it takes me,
it will be a case of one crunch and all will be over,' and this is
just what happened.

"I was having dinner early, before it got quite dark, so as to get the
men together. The cook had given me my soup and had cleared the plate
and put a roast fowl before me, and had gone back to the fire and was
standing with a knife in his hand watching the pudding on the fire.

"I was just carving the chicken, when I heard the cook give a
frightened cry, and on looking up I saw the tiger spring on to the
cook. In jumping up I upset the table and the lamp on it, also a glass
of beer that had just been poured out for me, and ran out shouting at
the tiger, and threw my table knife at it. My dogs, two terriers and a
spaniel, were sitting by my table, and jumped up and ran after the
tiger with me and attacked it. One terrier and the spaniel were killed
on the spot, and the other dog got away. In spite of this the tiger
went off with the cook. I thought the tiger had got the cook by the
back, but the sweeper who was standing close by with my goats" (that
is to say, had been there when the tiger came), "said it had got him
by the head, and so it turned out to be the case.

"On hearing me shout, the sweeper ran into the tent and got my rifle
and cartridges and handed them to me. I put in a cartridge and fired
in the direction the tiger had gone, and this had the effect of making
him drop the cook, but we did not know it at the time as no one would
venture into the forest to look for him. This of course upset everyone
in camp, and all huddled round my tent as close as they could and
shouted and beat tins all night. No one would even go to replenish the
fire unless I went with them, though it was not three yards from my
tent. All that night the tiger kept moving round the tent and I kept
it off by firing shots whenever we heard it walking in the leaves and
saw its eyes shining like live coals in the dark."


Here it may be noted that the eyes of a tiger, shining through the
blackness of the utter dark, are a phenomenon hard to forget, if once
you see them. In this instance, whatever strange light shone in them
may have been intensified by the glare of the camp-fire reflected in
those glistening optics. But no such addition was possible in another
case credibly reported to me and of more recent date in the extreme
north of Burma. A tiger ventured into the sepoy lines one night, and
entering the open door of a hut, it killed and carried away a man
asleep in bed. His comrades chased and mobbed the beast, which dropped
the corpse and escaped. The sepoys, taking counsel together, put out
the lights and hushed all noises, as if everyone was asleep; and in
fact they were back in their huts, and the door of the dead man's
dwelling stood open as before. Only, in ambush, below or beside the
bed, in a dark corner, a brave man was waiting, rifle ready; and the
tiger did come back to that identical door that night, and was shot,
exactly as the sepoys had hoped. What lingers in the memory best, of
all the details of that adventure, is that the man who lay in wait
told a magistrate, who told me, that when the tiger came, all he saw
was "the eyes in the doorway, shining into the room like two coloured
lamps, filling the room with tinted light." So he felt that hiding was
impossible and "banged away."

One other remark may be intercalated, to let readers realise what is
what. Even to men of experience in tiger attacks, the swift suddenness
of events is a continual surprise. The tiger practises "surprise
tactics," and his attack often is, and always is when he can manage
it, like a railway collision--it takes long to tell, but only a few
seconds to happen.

Let us now return to Mr Allan's journal.


"Early next morning, as soon as it was light enough to see, I started
to look for the body of the cook, and found it not ten paces from
where he had been cooking. The jungle, as I said before, was very
thick, so we could not see it at night."


(The tiger must have dropped the corpse when Mr Allan fired. He had
therefore lost his supper. Probably enough that was why he continued
prowling round.--D.W.)


"The tiger had caught the cook by the head as the sweeper had said,
for one fang had gone into his right eye and had knocked it out,
another had gone into his throat just below the chin, and two had gone
into the skull and neck at the back. So it must have taken the whole
head into its mouth, for it was a pulp with the brains coming out.

"We dug a shallow grave for the poor old cook and buried him, and then
left that forest as fast as the men could lay legs to the ground, for
nothing would induce them to stop another hour.... They yelled and
shouted till they got right clear of the forest.

"In leaving the forest no one wanted to be the last in the line for
fear of being taken from the back, so I brought up the rear."


It only remains to be added that in 1895, though the tigers "remained
as usual," Mr Allan finished the demarcation work so tragically
interrupted, and even took his wife to see the grave of the cook.


5. THE CHARGE OF THE TIGRESS

Coming to 1909, there is an episode in his _Shikar-Book_ about a
tigress, which for various reasons may be transcribed:--


"... 14th April.--I started up to inspect the Banbwebin fire line ...
accompanied by my wife ... an Indian and two Burmans.... After we had
gone about five miles up the ... path, ... we heard bamboos being
broken. The Burmans said there must be a herd of wild elephants
feeding on the flowered bamboos. I thought they might possibly be
bison or a rhinoceros, so walked on to see what they really were. The
Indian was walking ahead of me, and I was following, looking down the
side of the hill from which the sound of the bamboos being broken
came, when Barhan, the Indian peon, stopped and said 'Bag' (tiger). I
looked up and saw the tiger crossing the path about sixty paces ahead
of me, so ... had a quick shot at it. On which it turned round and
came down the hill straight at me.... My wife, who was just behind me,
on seeing it come down the hill, called out, 'It is coming.' ... It
came on, and when less than thirty paces from me I fired the second
barrel and knocked it over. After receiving the shot it fell and lay
on the ground, trying to drag itself towards us.... It put its head up
and snarled and showed its teeth.... The Burmans, who were very
excited, kept on saying, 'Give it another shot quick, or it will get
up and do for us.' So after a bit I put in another cartridge and
walked up a few paces and gave it a bullet in the chest and finished
it off.

"After giving it a shot in the chest I walked round and got above it,
and then approached cautiously with my gun at the ready to give it
another shot if necessary; but after throwing a clod or two of earth
at it, and finding that it did not move, I walked up and pulled its
tail, and when I found that it was dead I called out to my wife, who
was close by all the time, and she came up.

"We found it to be a tigress ... measuring eight feet and five inches
as she lay.... The first shot had missed and the second ... caught her
at the point of the shoulder. On looking at my gun, I found that the
200 yards leaf sight had got pushed up, and that made me shoot high. I
was carrying the gun in my right hand, but holding it across my back,
and in pulling it forward in a hurry, the leaf sight had got pushed
up, and I did not notice it in the excitement of the moment....

"Maung Nita, one of the Burmans who was with me, said, 'Sir, if you
had not finished her with the second shot we would all have been lying
kicking on the ground.'

"As three men were not able to lift her, my wife rode back to our camp
and called other eight men, and they slung her on poles and carried
her into camp.

"On dissecting the tigress, I found that she had nothing in her
stomach and appeared to have had no food for some time. She was
evidently out shikaring (hunting), and was after the animals that I
heard breaking bamboos." ...


In a private letter to me at the time, Mr Allan wrote:--

"... Had I missed the second shot she would have had us.... She was
very angry. She was hungry and meant business. On opening her we found
that she ... had evidently not had a meal for some days." ... This
illustrates a truth which is often forgotten by us. The big beasts
live from hand to mouth, like improvident working men. A dog may bury
a bone, a tiger return to a kill, and a leopard has been known to put
half a corpse or an unfinished bit of venison up a tree for security.
But beyond the next meal they never look. It is only the insects of
the universe, like ants and bees, or such animals as squirrels, that
practise thrift. Hence arose the Jewish proverb about considering the
ways of the ant in order to be wise. There is no such lesson to be
learned from the cat.

One can be sorry for the tigress all the same. Think of her empty
stomach, and perhaps hungry cubs in her lair; and then this big,
strong Englishman, with his diabolical machinery in his hand,
molesting her as she was stalking the wild cattle. "She meant
business," said he. Of course she did. Did anyone think she was
hunting for amusement?

No matter now! Her body lies inert enough, a subject for their
inquisitive knives to her indifferent.

Put yourself in the skin of that tigress, if you can. Think what a
gunshot means to a wild beast, and consider how, when fired at, she
"faced the music" in the real sense of that phrase, and went "straight
at the guns," as gallantly as the Light Brigade at Balaklava. As even
the enemy notes--"After receiving the shot, _it fell and lay on the
ground, trying to drag itself towards us.... It put its head up and
snarled and showed its teeth._" ... Was she not like the glorious
Englishman, who, when his legs were cut away, still fought upon his
stumps? Did any hero of Homer's ever surpass that sorely-stricken
tigress? Could any living creature have done more? And yet there are
men to be found who call the big cats cowards! I never heard Mr Allan
do that, nor any other man of sense who knew them well at first hand.

No wonder tigers flourished in the days of old. It is the invention of
gunpowder, and then of breechloaders, that has handicapped them
hopelessly. The long guerilla war between them and us has lasted for
scores of millenniums; but the end is now in sight. Let us not libel
the brave that are doomed to disappear. Let us not rail at the
conquered. If they were fierce and strong, they were not cruel. As
Nature made them, so they filled their function. They came, and
chased, and conquered, impelled by hunger: and now that their hour has
come they are going away. The day is at hand when the big wild cats
shall all be as completely extinct as the vanished giants that
wallowed in the primeval slime.



V

THE GIRL AND THE TIGRESS


This is a story that has been often told; and I confess I did not
believe it when I heard it in 1895, in the district where it happened.
Long afterwards, in 1908, Mr G. Tilly, who had been the District
Superintendent of Police on the spot at the time, told me he held a
local inquiry, and was so completely satisfied of the truth of it that
he recommended the payment of a reward of R100 to the girl, and the
Deputy Commissioner and the Commissioner agreed with him, and the
Chief Commissioner of Burma sanctioned the reward, which was paid. In
the absence of any motive for rash credulity on the part of these
officers, this might seem enough; but I happened to be acquainted with
Mr Grant Brown, who is now the Deputy Commissioner of that district,
called the Upper Chindwin, and wrote to him about it. He replied on
21/2/09: "... I remembered the incident quite well as told in the
_Rangoon Gazette_, and should have included it in my article on
Burmese women if I had been able to remember more of the details; but
I had no idea that it took place in this district. Curiously enough,
the very first person I asked was the headman of the village where the
thing happened. He could give me no details beyond those you
mention.... The heroine is dead, and as I thought I was sure to find
an account of what happened in the record-room I did not make further
inquiries. A search has been made, however, without result...."

The "article" mentioned is Mr Grant Brown's article in _The Women of
all Nations_, by Messrs Joyce & Thomas, published by the Messrs
Cassell lately.

Failing to find the record of the original inquiry held by Mr Tilly,
which had perished, as a thing no longer needed, in a periodical
destruction of papers, Mr Grant Brown had a new inquiry held, and the
vernacular record of it is now before me. I sent a set of
interrogatories, which have been answered by Ma Shway U, an
eye-witness, and the head man of the village and another man, who were
soon on the scene, measured the tigress and did everything else that
needed to be done. None of these persons has any motive for
misstatement, and the chance of mistake is infinitesimal. That time
has not altered their stories I can myself testify, for what they say
tallies with what I was told in 1895.

Readers can now see how my doubts have been removed, and must be
impatient to know what it was that I was so slow to believe. As
Mr Tilly tells me the newspapers merely gave more or less abbreviated
versions of his report, I have not referred to them.

The scene was Seiktha village on the Chindwin, an Upper Burman
tributary of the Irrawaddy, in one of the districts that form the
southern fringe of the mountains between Burma and Assam. One day in
1894 three nut-brown girls set out from Seiktha to cut firewood in the
forest, making for a likely place they knew, a little south-east of
their village. They carried one or two heavy knives or choppers, like
butchers' cleavers, such as are common in Burman houses.

Now if there had only been a man with them, or even a big boy, he
would certainly there and then, in going and coming, have walked in
front, bearing a spear or dah, a big curved knife like a sword. What
makes it needful to mention a thing so obvious to us who have lived
there is that Englishwomen sometimes resent, as degrading to their
sex, the Oriental custom that makes the man stalk in front; whereas a
little reflection would show them, when familiar with plain facts of
this kind, that there are reasons for it honourable to human nature.
It is not as a master that a man, who is a man, precedes a woman, or
goes into war, or business, or politics; but as a pioneer, protector,
provider, and in short head servant. The old maid, at whom Dean Ramsay
made us laugh, because she "thought a man was perfect salvation," was
moved by a wise inherited instinct, far different from what simple
sophisticated persons have hitherto supposed.

On this occasion there was no man at all, and in the absence of any
natural protector it was "go as you please." A tigress in the bush saw
her chance. The lightest-limbed and lightest-laden of the trio was a
little girl, Mintha by name, who ran on in front. The tigress seized
her and carried her away.

There is a lot, at times, in etymology. An Englishman who knows
Burmese would tell you that _Mintha_ means prince, or son of an
official (min); but, as written in Burmese, without a long accent on
the _tha_, and pronounced like an ordinary English word with the
stress in front, the name Mintha has another modest meaning which you
may discover from a dictionary, but can only with difficulty persuade
a Burman to tell you. It means _Better-than-an-Official_, a name
curiously recalling the kind of names that were common in England in
the great days of Cromwell.

"We know what judges can be made to do," said Selden, grimly.

"We know what officials are," the Burmans have been saying for
centuries; and they class them with thieves and plagues, perhaps with
more emphasis to-day than ever before. So Mintha is an unpretentious
name, and so common that the little girl who bore it had probably
never thought of the meaning of it, and would certainly have referred
you to her mother if you had asked her about it.

She was perhaps eleven years old, but small for that age, this brown
little maiden whom they called "Better-than-an-Official," and swift
and silent like a dream the tigress stepped out and picked her up and
carried her away between its teeth, as a cat does a little mouse.

Her older sister, Ngway Bwin, which means Silver-blossom, a girl on
the verge of womanhood, about fourteen years old, was next behind her,
and beheld her taken. She quickly turned to the third girl, Shway U or
Grain-of-Gold, who happened at that moment to have a chopper in her
hand; and, snatching the chopper, little Silver-blossom ran at the
very top of her speed after the tigress. She overtook it, and lifting
the big knife high above her head with both hands, she brought it down
heavily on the animal's head. It dropped little Mintha,
"Better-than-an-Official," and stood as if it were stunned. It was
easy to see the need of keeping it stunned. Silver-blossom knew that
that was her only chance. So hammer, hammer, hammer, cut succeeding
cut, the little Burmese maiden killed the tigress.

Grain-of-Gold was the only other person near. She always said, and
says still (1909), that she did nothing but look on. The village
headman reported, and still reports, that the animal, which was shown
to everybody in 1894, was a full-grown tigress in the prime of life,
measuring "8 cubits and 2 meiks." A cubit, in rough village measures,
is still the original cubit, from the elbow to the farthest
finger-tip, and a "meik" is the width of a clenched fist with the
thumb standing out. So 8 cubits and 2 meiks can hardly be less than 11
or 12 feet; but the villagers measure along the curved outline of the
body, so we may conclude the straight measurement was 8 or 9 feet.

The soft brown skin of Better-than-an-Official had been broken and she
was a little hurt on the back of the neck and on one arm; but these
injuries were so slight that it is likely the tigress meant to give
its cubs the pleasure of playing with her, instead of which
Better-than-an-Official, saved by her sister and quickly cured of her
scratches, is now reported to be living at Kule village, Mingin
township. The sister, Silver-blossom herself, was quite unhurt. She
became, deservedly, the pride of the countryside, but "died of a
decline" ten years afterwards.

If her adventure appeared in a romance one would smile at the
absurdity of the author who expected to be believed for a moment. Yet,
after carefully questioning everybody concerned, Mr Tilly, who is a
man of sense, believed it at the time and has never doubted it; and
Mr Grant Brown, after a new local inquiry, believes it; and so do I.
Let readers please themselves.

It may assist them to a right conclusion to remind them that Michelet
has shown that Joan of Arc seems stranger to us than she really was
because we are ignorant of history. Her performance was glorious for
herself and France, one of the most glorious episodes in the history
of the world; but all the same it was only the superlative of many
similar doings of brave French women. Precisely in the same way it has
to be remembered that, like hens emboldened to fly in the faces of
dogs or boys in defence of chicks, many girls in charge of brothers or
sisters have been known to surpass belief in their feats of devotion.
So Silver-blossom was not odd in the sense of being peculiar. She was
like other brave girls, only more so.

At the same time it would be wrong to minimise what she did. It is the
exact truth to say she expanded the range of human possibilities.
Think of a Burmese child doing that!

Let them who know no better "explain" the miracle. The man who ceases
to wonder at it does not understand it. I frankly admire the girl, and
have no "explanation," unless it be one to quote the hymn--

  "God moves in a mysterious way,
  His wonders to perform."

A pious Quaker's phrase would have been, "God moved her." If there is
in English any better name for the Living Spirit of the Universe that
surged in her heart and nerved her arm, it is not known to me. But, as
a good Muslim Imam of my acquaintance once remarked to me, "There are
many names for God."



VI

THE OLD MEN AND THE TIGER


This was told me in 1908 by Mr Thomson, who as District Magistrate had
held an inquest at the time upon the tragedy; and his recollections
have been verified and supplemented by Mr Webb, the present District
Magistrate. The depositions have, in ordinary course, been destroyed;
but the details that are still recoverable seem to be sufficient.

The time was 1900, and the scene was Zwettaw village, Thongwa
township, not far from Rangoon. The old headman, U Myat Thin,
described in confidential official registers which he never saw as "an
easy-going old Talaing" or native of Lower Burma, was sauntering
outside the village about midday, watching his grandchildren, who were
playing near him. Suddenly a tiger appeared and seized and carried
away his grand-daughter. That kind of thing is done with the speed of
thought; and Hercules himself, in the old man's place, could not have
prevented the tiger getting the child. Probably Hercules himself, if
unarmed, would have done no more than the old man did, namely, run
into the village and shout for help.

But who was to help? Every man and woman fit for work was away in the
fields. Only the old people and children were in the village. He took
a spear from his house, and three other old men like himself did
likewise. The four of them followed the tiger at once, and tracked and
ran with such goodwill that they overtook him, though they were too
late to save the child.

One of the finest traits of character which I have noticed in Burmese
villagers is their readiness to fight to recover from a wild beast the
body of any person it has killed. Let a European try to take a bone
from a bulldog and he may be able to guess, faintly and distantly, at
what these four old men were undertaking when they closed with a
famishing tiger, to fight him for his freshly-killed food. They had no
firearms, no missiles of any kind, not even bows and arrows. They had
nothing to rely on but each other, as, with one spirit, they attacked
him, thrusting at his vitals with their spears. The fight was too
unequal. He killed one of them, and with a stroke of his paw he broke
the shoulder of the grandfather, and so escaped away.

The news was sent to the men in the fields, and as soon as possible a
new party took up the trail, including policemen with guns. They had
not far to go. In the next field they found the tiger--dead. He had
been gored to death by a herd of buffaloes that had been peacefully
grazing there when he came among them. If he had not been wounded they
would probably not have attacked him, or he would not have lingered
long enough to give them a chance. So the old men had not fought in
vain.

A herdsman of experience has said to me: "If the tiger was bleeding,
the sight of his blood would make the buffaloes charge him." That
coincides with a red rag irritating a bull in England; but another
herdsman said it was the smell, and several thought the wound made no
difference. "A buffalo will not stand to be eaten by a tiger, but at
sight of one stampedes, either at him or away from him." Very likely,
indeed.

"I think the grandfather recovered," continued Mr Thomson. "I know I
recommended a good reward and that it was paid." It appears from the
official registers that he was quite well before the end of the year.
On 12th December 1900 the Assistant Commissioner felt bound to note,
as a matter of business: "The daily pilgrimage to the local Kyaung (a
Buddhist monastery) is the end of his existence now, I think." Why
not? In the heroic days of Greece a time of prayer was deemed the
fittest ending to a well-spent life.

It was not till 29th June 1908 that the registers tell of him what has
some day to be told of us all--"Deceased. For successor see ..."

So far as can be discovered, the brave old man paid no heed whatever
to the rewards, or to what was thought about him. It was right to
honour such gallantry in every possible way; but the deed was one no
money could have purchased, and the story is one I like to tell
whenever I hear anybody who knows no better talking of the "cowardice
of the Burmans."



VII

RECOVERING THE CORPSE


The present Deputy Commissioner of Pyapon district, Burma (Major
Nethersole, 1909), is my authority for this incident, which is
selected as the most remarkable of several of its kind. He
investigated it on the spot, and told me of it at the time. He himself
gave as many days as he could spare to hunting the tiger concerned,
which killed eight men in Pyapon district before it met its fate.

One of them was old Po An, the headman of Eyya village. "Eyya" or
"Irra" is the first part of the name of our local Mississippi, the
Irrawaddy, and the village is, in fact, at the mouth of the great
water-way so called, though it is only one of many water-ways through
which the mighty river mingles with the sea. In other words, the
village is on the coast, and about the middle of the delta, between
Rangoon and Bassein.

In the last week of 1908 Po An and his son, and a friend of his own
age (about sixty), left home together to get bamboos. They went in a
little boat, landed where they intended, entered the muddy woods and
cut what they wanted, and started to carry the bamboos to their boat.

They had heard that there was a man-killing tiger "somewhere
thereabouts," but the Burman with a knife in his hand is not easily
frightened in the forest. They made the mistake, which is the
besetting sin of brave men and used to be called English, of despising
the enemy, and did not even keep close together. In returning
bamboo-laden, Po An lagged behind "about forty yards," but nobody
thought anything of that. His son and companion heard a noise in the
jungle too, but did not think of it till a minute or two later, when
they ceased to hear the sound of Po An behind, and shouted, "Are you
all right?" Receiving no reply they looked round. Not seeing him they
laid down their burdens and retraced their steps, but had not far to
go. In a glade through which they had come they saw the prostrate
figure of Po An and the tiger standing over him.

They were only two men, and one of them was old, and they had no
weapons but the big knives they had been using. But instantly they
flourished their knives and moved forward, shouting and yelling as if
they were the advance guard of an army of men.

The tiger, a big animal in the prime of life, looked up at them in
deliberate surprise, and visibly hesitated. Then, as they approached,
he moved aside, slowly and reluctantly, into cover, as if to watch
what was going to happen and consider what to do.

The two men ran forward, snatched up the corpse and started for the
boat, looking round continually, brandishing their knives and
shouting, and seeing, or thinking they saw, those great eyes glaring
at them through the bushes. They said they even heard the tiger
following. Perhaps they did. Time after time they thought it was about
to spring upon them, and faced towards the sound, real or imaginary,
with knives uplifted and loud shouts of defiance. They reached the
boat and got on board, but did not take time to loose the rope. They
cut it and pushed off.

Next morning the elder of the two took Major Nethersole and another
officer to the place, and there they saw the severed rope and the
tracks of the tiger patrolling on the muddy banks. The tides had been
such that the tracks must have been made after the men departed, and
left no room for doubt that the tiger had come after them to the
water's edge, and there lingered long, going up and down as if in a
cage, and looking across the waters on which the men had disappeared.

It was several days before the son of Po An and his old friend
discovered, as their excitement abated, how badly their nerves had
been shaken. Their sleep began to be broken by hideous dreams.

That was more than three months ago. The tiger is dead now (April
1909). His skull and hide can be seen at Pyapon. But still, I believe,
though now at greater and greater intervals, sometimes the one and
sometimes the other of the two brave men is wakened by the nightmare
of those awful eyes, and shrieks and shrieks to his neighbours to come
and stay beside him.



VIII

THE INSPECTOR'S ESCAPE


It was about February 1891, and on the left or eastern bank of the
Sittang River in Toungoo district, Lower Burma, that an inspector of
police was riding northwards along a cart-road, through the woods, as
the daylight was quitting the sky, and "suddenly," to use his own
words, "I seemed, at one and the same instant, to get a terrific blow
in the small of the back, and to feel the pony under me springing
upwards, as if it were jumping to the sky." He completed his
description by gestures.

A listener suggested, "As if it were suddenly galloping up a wall?"

"Quite so," said he. "The next I felt was that I seemed to fall back
upon something soft, and that's all I know. The next I saw was the
people bending over me, and I could hear one say to another, 'He's not
dead yet,' and others said, 'He's dead,' but none of them touched me,
and I tried to speak, but could not. Then after a long time somebody
saw I was breathing, and somebody put something under my head, and ...
I am not hurt, so far as I am aware," concluded the inspector, "but
feel stunned and queer, and horribly helpless."

The villagers said, "We saw the pony come galloping with an empty
saddle along the road which goes through the village, and in the
middle of the village it stopped short and made a noise. It was
quivering. Its hind-quarters were bleeding from great tiger's
claw-marks as you see them yet."

The poor beast was still sore from the scratches a month afterwards.
Whether it ever recovered I never heard.

With a celerity and courage characteristic of the unspoiled Burman,
every man in the village soon had a da (big knife) or home-made spear
in his hand, and many had torches or lamps as well. But while they
thus prepared for action promptly, it has to be noted that there was a
certain hesitation about starting. Some objected. Why? The pony had
been recognised as the inspector's. He was rather popular than
otherwise, but he was a policeman. No Burman could say with truth that
he thought it right to save the life of a policeman. Even the older
men, who were addicted to religion, could only say, "He's a man, after
all." Equally with the rest they believed that any policeman in the
pay of the English is irretrievably doomed to hell, and has deserved
to be. But, what made the pious elders on this occasion more readily
silent than they might otherwise have been, there were several who
delivered themselves of sentiments that might be translated by a verse
of an old English ballad:--

  "Saddled and bridled
    And booted rade he;
  Toom hame (empty home) cam' the saddle,
    But never cam' he!"

"It's not a man that you're going to save. You're likely to be late
for that! It's a corpse you're going to take from a tiger."

This was conclusive. The most scrupulous Burman can risk his life with
a clear conscience in fighting a tiger to recover a corpse. So the
crowd set out.

Great was their wonder to find the inspector prostrate upon the road,
unconscious, but unscratched. When they had heard his story they said
to me,--

"The tiger cannot have seen him at all. Lying in wait here, it must
have seen only his piebald pony, and, leaping so as to land on its
shoulders, it must have knocked its nose severely against the man's
back and slipped down. Then he fell upon it, and so perplexed it more
than ever, and it would step aside into cover to consider awhile."

Perhaps the shrewdest remark made on the incident was this: "When
struck on the back, the man must have let out a howl. That would
frighten the tiger!" The inspector did not remember that, but could
not be expected to remember it. He would do it without thinking.

It was his own and the general opinion that if help had not come, as
it did, the tiger would have come back; and, humanity mastering
prejudice, the people said, "We are glad we came."

The fright made him talk of leaving the police and leading a new life.
But his salary was good. He was like the rich man in Scripture, who
had great possessions. The villagers did not blame him for changing
his mind and not resigning. It was as much in earnest as in jest that
they said, "He may become religious, when he takes his pension."

About the same time as this wonderful escape, a lonely leper who lived
in a hut, like a hermit, on the opposite side of the river,
disappeared for ever, and the few bloody rags that were left and the
tell-tale footprints showed that the tiger had come upon him, like a
thief in the night, and carried him bodily away.

"We are very sorry for the leper," said the villagers to the
inspector, when he next rode by, and the fate of the leper was
discussed. "We are very sorry for the leper, and for the tiger too.
Either your pony or yourself would have been more wholesome eating."



IX

THE SOUND OF HUMANITY


The leopard, if not the boldest of all the feline tribes, is at least
the best acquainted with mankind. His partiality for dogs makes him
familiar with men's villages. More than any other beast, perhaps, he
is prompt to turn at bay when wounded and "charge home." Many a man
has lost his life to a wounded leopard. Yet even a leopard is daunted
by the sound of humanity.

In 1888 a big one was seen in a large village, not far from Maulmain,
one morning. The scattered wooden houses and plentiful shrubs afforded
cover. He was merely looking for a dog, and the people said he had
repeatedly taken one unnoticed. But this morning a woman saw him and
shrieked. The other women shrieked responsive, the children screamed,
the dogs barked, and, amid the deafening uproar, the men of the
village, and some chance visitors who happened to have guns, concerted
measures, partly by dumb show, being scarcely able to make themselves
audible to each other.

As soon as the men had obtained silence on one side of the clump of
brushwood, wherein Mr Spots was waiting for the clamour to subside,
and the men began yelling on the other sides of it, the leopard
stepped cautiously into the open on the silent quarter, looking like a
detected thief, preparing to run, with his tail between his legs, like
a dog that feels he is about to be kicked and deserves it. On seeing
an unexpected man in front of him, the leopard shrank aside,
apologetically, as if abashed. The man killed it. A sense of what he
owed to the other men prevented him allowing it to escape; and so he
fired. But it was "against the grain." He felt like slaying a man who
had asked for quarter; but, after all, no quarter is ever expected or
given on either side in humanity's protracted war with dangerous cats.

In this case the leopard heard no shot until the shot was fired that
killed it. It was cowed by the cries. So we need not wonder that the
tiger, which is more sylvan in habit and less used to human noises,
can be "beaten" out of shelter by the shouting of men and boys. When
the tiger breaks out and kills a beater it is not because it has found
the heart to face the yelling crowd, but because it is desperate.

We should remember that leopards and tigers love peace as much as do
the Quakers. There is no jingo nonsense about them. They never want to
fight, and absolutely will not fight unless they have to. Their single
aim is to get their dinners, which, as Bismarck reminded a deputation,
is the first business of every living being. "Good" or "bad" depends
on the way of doing it, he might have added. The war between cats and
us is not due to their malignant hostility, but to their physiological
necessities. If we were content to let them prey upon us there would
be peace. On other terms there can be none. A compromise is
impossible. What had to be settled, when the first Hercules took up
his club, was whether the world was to be filled by men or cats. It is
now some millenniums since the ultimate issue became obvious; but the
end is not reached yet.

Of course it is not altogether an aversion to fighting that makes the
tiger seek for peace at any price when men surround him. Try for a
moment to think in the skin of a tiger. The little jungle dogs are
formidable to him, as he is an individualist, and they run in packs.
They kill the big deer before his nose, including some he has to leave
alone. But what is the union of the dogs compared to the solidarity of
men, who "have pity upon one another," as Mahomed noticed? And think
again, what a puny thing is a tiger's tooth or claw compared to a big
knife!

True it is that when a tiger finds a man unready and alone, he can
kill him as easily as a man can kill a chicken. But in the course of
ages he has acquired an instinctive horror of men, weak as they are,
such as men, in turn, have of snakes. The unknown seems infinite, to
tigers as to men. A dog has its teeth, a deer or bull its horns; but
when a crowd of men are coming at him with a noise like a cyclone, a
tiger cannot tell what to expect. So, even if you were a tiger, with a
man's intellect to illumine the aspect of things in general, you would
often feel along with it that the better part of valour is discretion.

It is not easy to think in the skin of a tiger. It is easier to
realise the effect of the sound of humanity upon a tiger's nerves by
watching him and the beaters. The matter is not one upon which there
is any difference of opinion possible. This said, nothing perhaps
could make the truth so palpable to happy stay-at-homes as a
reminiscence I recently heard from a brave European officer who has
had experience as a hunter.

For obvious reasons I will omit details that might enable others to
identify him against his will. Suffice it to say, the scene was "in
darkest Burma," and the time about the end of the nineteenth century.

"You know," said he, "the noise that the tiger makes in going through
kaing grass."

But readers in general cannot know that. So it may be explained. In
the woods the tiger glides gently, and steps unheard upon dry leaves a
man could not touch without a noise. He realises the ideal of good
children--to be seen without being heard. It is not that he likes to
be seen. He is of a retiring disposition, and prefers to be unnoticed
so much so that even if you frequent his haunts you are not likely to
see him more than once or twice in a lifetime, though you may comfort
yourself--if it is a comfort--by reflecting that he doubtless sees you
oftener. He may be a neighbour of yours all his life; as a cub, he may
be fed upon your cattle, and, as a grown-up tiger, help himself to the
same, without once showing his face or letting you hear his stealthy
step. He comes and goes like a thief in the night, and if by rarest
chance he walks by day it is on silent pads more noiseless than the
best of rubber tyres. But the kaing grass reeds in swampy parts of
Burma grow thick and high. They are seldom less than a man's height,
and sometimes so high as to overtop a man on horseback, and too thick
for a dog to get through. When the tiger is hunting there he has to
lie in wait by the sides of the paths. I hesitate to believe what is
sometimes said--that he never is noiseless in the kaing--but the
evidence is overwhelming that he often goes through it "as loudly as a
cart," say some who have heard him, as they waited for him over a
kill, or, in one instance, over a calf tied up as a bait.

"The noise is not the _same_ as a cart's, only as loud. It seems to be
unmistakable if once you have heard it," said the hunter, whose
experience is to be told. "There is a crackling swish--swish, as he
crumples up the reeds at every stride. Think of my feelings when I
heard it again coming at me as I was walking back to camp along the
narrow footpath, with the reeds towering above me, as if shutting out
all help, to hide you and drown your voice. Oh, my God!" The man was
speaking years afterwards, and shuddered still. "It made me feel
queer, I tell you," he went on. "I was paralysed till I remembered
what to do. Then didn't I howl, 'Thank God!' and yell! and swear!
Somehow you don't recall, at such a time, what you say at church. The
tiger might have digested me before I could have repeated a prayer.
But every particle of profanity, English, Burmese and Hindustani, that
ever was in my head came out then with a howl. I didn't care what it
was if it made a noise."

The curious listener, on history intent, tried to refresh his memory
by leading questions, but he positively blushed at the recollection,
and was as shy as a girl. He proceeded:

"I kept it up, you know--I had to, although I heard the sound draw
back a little. It's no joke to have to bluff a tiger in the kaing
grass and in the dark, when you cannot see but know he can, and may
have his eye upon you. I never stopped the noise. I felt he might
spring upon me if it slacked for a second. And when I could not think
of any other oath I struck up singing...." And, in short, he emerged
from the darkness into the flickering glare of the camp-fire, yelling
"Rule, Brittania!" much louder than he ever sang before.



X

THE TIGER AT THE RIFLE-RANGE


About 1891 a tiger began levying taxes on the little town of Shwegyin
(Shwayjeen), in Lower Burma, where the Shwegyin river joins the big
Sittang. The people were used to leopards, but tigers had ceased from
troubling them so long that, as one said, "you might as well try to
persuade us that the dead had arisen as that tigers had come back." As
there had always been tigers in the adjoining mountains, and the
forest spread over the country, and touched the town on every side but
where the rivers ran, this prejudice would have been surprising, if it
had not been so very human. It is hard to persuade men of what they do
not like. The people of Shwegyin were not to be talked out of their
comfortable security. No words could persuade them to look out for
tiger, but the deeds of the beast itself gradually did.

Though tigers and leopards alike are earnest tariff reformers, their
schedules differ in details, and as week succeeded week, and the dogs,
so dear to leopards, were steadily neglected, and the invisible enemy,
hovering around the herds coming home carelessly, anyhow, in the
twilight, took calves and cows and bullocks, as they chanced to stray
and offer themselves, in a style no Burman leopard ever tries, its
capacity for great destruction was allowed to prove its greatness, and
the most prejudiced of the local elders was at last candid enough to
say, "I fear I may have to admit it to be a tiger when it is dead and
I see it."

At a meeting of the Municipal Committee the president mentioned,
adding the losses reported, that the depredations in three months
amounted to more than half a year's taxes on the town. Like other
oppressors, it destroyed a great deal more than it needed.

The members groaned in chorus, especially those who had cattle. But
one who had no such possessions remained cheerful and broke the
silence, saying, "It will die some day."

A fellow-member who had had losses glared at the speaker, who was
remarkably obese, and said, "If the tiger only knew how much better
eating some fat men in our town would make, he might be persuaded to
change his diet. I wish he would."

"I never go out at night," said the obese one, hastily, growing grave,
whereat the others laughed, and, recovering his composure, he
continued: "Tigers come and tigers go, but the taxes go on for ever.
When one official goes, another comes." Receiving the expected murmur
of applause, he added, "That's what I was going to say."

It should perhaps be remarked that officials in Burma are proverbially
classed with thieves and similar afflictions. We must remember that
the civilisation of Burma is older than that of England, and should
not be angry when the people there smile at those of us who are simple
enough to suppose ourselves anything better than an expensive
nuisance.

"Of two equal taxes," a Socratic member asked, "which do you feel the
more--the first you pay, or the second?"

"The second."

"And the second or the third?"

"The third."

"And the third or a fourth?"

Then all became eloquent simultaneously, lest an addition to the taxes
might be in contemplation.

The conclusion was unanimous that the last tax was ever the worst, and
the tiger's inflictions the hardest of all to bear. This emboldened a
sufferer to propose a levy, and municipal compensation to losers--a
proposal which his fellow-members declared to be impracticable. There
was no lack of sympathy when details were told. Even the obese member
remarked, with unaffected emphasis, "I was very sorry for Mother
Silver when she lost a cow." And another fatality was told, and
another, and another. If they could have compassed the tiger's death
by voting, it would have quickly died.

It did not die. A vote is seldom more than a good resolution. Deeds
always need a doer. The most a vote can do is to ensure the worker
elbow-room, and in this instance it was superfluous. Nobody wanted to
spare the tiger. How to catch it was the problem. Its ravages were
imputed to the English government, which had been confiscating arms.
So the Deputy Commissioner lent guns and gave out ammunition gratis.
But still the tiger flourished.

In vain did men spend nights in trees, "sitting up over a kill," as
they expressed it. It never returned to cold meat. Why should it, with
plenty of fresh cattle available? In vain did they study the ways it
went, and sit in ambush. There was an infinite variety about it. It
never repeated a catch in the same place and way. To describe
completely all its doings, and the plans that _failed_ to catch it,
would fill a book.

At an early period of its history the people began to fetch the cattle
home by daylight; but that simple device did not defeat it long. True,
it loved the darkness better than the light, and the herds came home
undiminished. But the tiger was not to be driven back to a lighter
diet so easily. He followed his food. The cattle disappeared in the
dark from pens and sheds, and tell-tale marks proclaimed that the
thief was the enemy with four big legs and ugly claws.

At times there was an intermission of some weeks, long enough to let
everyone grow careless again. But it had only gone to the hills, most
probably as people go to Carlsbad, to rest its digestive organs. Then
it returned to business with appetite refreshed, a very hungry tiger.
People began to speak of it with bated breath and shows of humbleness,
as an Englishman talks of a lord or a German of an emperor. That
feeling grew to a superstitious dread. This was clearly more than an
ordinary tiger.

"Perhaps it is a tigress with a litter of hungry kittens," was a
matter-of-fact suggestion, received with a shudder, as if it had been
disrespectful, a kind of lese-majesty. Besides, the suggestion was at
last seen to be wrong, for once at last, once only, and then only
after it had killed its scores, it was seen. A man was riding in the
moonlight along the lonely boundary road, and saw it stride across the
road, and sit down on the farther side, as if to wait to see him pass.
It did not crouch. It sat up squarely, like a cat at home. It raised
its head as high as possible, as if to enjoy the coolness of the
evening breeze, which was as welcome to the tiger as to any European.
On sight of it the rider's Arab mare began to dance, and turned again
and again to bolt backwards. This saved Mr Stripes, for the rider,
though apparently unarmed, had a pistol in his pocket, and had taken
it out and was preparing to empty it as he galloped past. But the mare
would not go nearer than 30 yards. The tiger became tired of watching
her pirouetting, and stood up as if to depart. The rider fired, and at
the sound of the shot, which missed, the tiger slouched swiftly into
the woods unharmed, and gave no time for a second shot. When the man
arrived at his house, a mile away, he found five other men at his
gate, waiting for him, and saying, "Come with us. He" (there was no
need to be more explicit) "is slaughtering now on the inner side of
this road. We know where he'll cross it, and are going to ambuscade
him."

"No use!" was the reply. "I have just seen him pass." They went to see
if they had guessed aright. But no! The spot they meant to ambuscade
was half a mile from the actual crossing-place.

Perhaps the only man in the town who had a gun and did not hunt that
tiger was the Sergeant-Instructor, a solitary representative of the
British army, stationed in Shwegyin to drill the volunteers. And the
reason why he did not go a-hunting, as everybody knew, was that
Mrs Sergeant-Instructor had announced that she would go with him.

She meant it too. "Another lady" in the station had sat up with her
husband. Why should she not do likewise? If a tiger fight had been the
kind of thing she supposed, such as might be shown in a circus or a
tournament, she would have made a magnificent second to her gallant
husband, and so he admitted. If only the tiger would come openly to
their door in daylight, "instead of skulking in the dark round about,
like a coward," as I believe she said, Mrs Sergeant-Instructor would
have done her duty, and probably a good deal more. And she undoubtedly
was disgusted with "the man's poor spirit." But every man in the
station knew better. As an officer whispered to me: "What would be the
use of the man sitting up with Mrs Sergeant-Instructor? She could not
hold her tongue five minutes, not to speak of hours."

Nevertheless, there was chaff enough at first, which it was hard for
him to bear until, in time, the continual failures of experienced
hunters, magistrates and foresters, policemen and soldiers and others,
became a consolation.

"Ah, the target is easier to see than a tiger," he would murmur, when
scoring at the range.

The range was a clearing in the forest on low ground, upon the
municipal boundary, a clearing of about 100 yards wide and 600 long.

One morning the Sergeant-Instructor went to it alone, with a rifle in
his hand and two or three cartridges in his pocket. "As a kind of
object for the morning's walk," he explained, "I meant to fire a shot
at the range, to make sure I had got the rifle springs right. It was a
bit stiff last Sunday. I had been working at it, to diminish the
pull-off."

As you descend to the range from the main road, you first arrive at
the 600 yards' station, the butts being at the farthest end; and this
morning, "seeing all clear," said he, "I just lay down at 600 yards,
and decided to take the shot from there, without going any farther.

"So I shifted about as usual, till I was lying comfortably, and
adjusted my sights, and took aim; and then, just before pulling the
trigger, I cast my eyes to windward, to the left as it happened, to
see what the trees were like, and whether my allowance for the breeze
was right. As I was looking at the trees on my left, I saw the tiger
come out and walk across the range, to go between me and the target. I
was glad there was nobody there. There was no time to talk. It did not
hurry, so to speak, but went fast over the ground, fast and straight,
like a man going to catch a train, with no time to lose, but too big a
bug to run--you know the kind of thing."

"Like a man going over a level-crossing?"

"You might say that, but he did not look up and down. He stared
straight in front of him, and I am sure he did not see me at all, or
look to see anything on either side."

"Like the ideal Christian pilgrim, not looking right or left?"

The Sergeant seemed puzzled. He had not noticed anything pious about
it. So I tried again.

"Like a dog after game? Perhaps he was after something?"

"That's it, that's it. I'm sure he had sport in sight."

"Preoccupied, so to speak?"

"Very much so. You know there are always cattle grazing on the far
side of the range. He was hard at them. I just had time to shoot and
no more. I noticed he would cross at 300 yards, and, doing everything
as fast as I could, I lowered my sights, and aimed, and fired. He
dropped, and never moved, and ... here he is...."

It had been a fine tiger, in the prime of life; and, as doctors say
after a post-mortem, the corpse had all the appearance of having been
extremely well nourished. Death was the result of a sudden failure of
the heart's action, due to violence.

The Sergeant-Instructor had scored a bull's-eye.



XI

A LESSON FROM THE WATER BUFFALO


1. THE BUFFALO AND THE SKUNK

When the Philippinos tell you now of the swagger of the Spaniards,
which was the sorest of the sorrows that drove them into revolt, they
often mention that the Spaniards called them "water buffaloes."

"To call you geese would have been kind in comparison?"

"Oh, quite polite!"

Indeed the water buffalo known to us in Burma, also, is not smart at
all. Slow, heavy and dull, amphibious in his habits, he moves like a
very fat pig, with almost less agility. Slipping through the muddy
slush, in the sleekness of his prime, he looks almost "like a whale?"
Yes, round enough for that, and almost like a little whale, except for
his awkwardness, for his legs are not yet atrophied or sea-changed,
and he has only his legs to move by; and also except--a big
exception--his huge horns. These are extended like the arms of a
gesticulating orator or other creature that flings his arms wide and
turns up his hands; but never were arms flung out so gracefully as
those horns, with a sweep like that of a scythe or scimitar,
symmetrical and pointed. They lie on the back, when the owner lifts
its nose to sniff the wind, harmless and out of the way, like a sword
in its sheath. There is nothing ornamental about them, any more than
about the Forth Bridge; and yet so beautiful is fitness that perhaps
no bovine head has finer ornaments.

It always surprises one to see how cool the beast remains with these
exclamatory horns. But it is these very horns that let him remain cool
and at leisure in the haunted woods. From tigers down, all possible
enemies are afraid of them. So the Burman water buffalo never needs to
hasten; and, like a gentleman of independent means, not needing to
exert himself, grows slow. His gait is dignified. His mind is dull.

This is not rhetorical conjecture, but natural history. Every healthy,
living organism is harmonious, meaning all of a piece, such as men try
to make their pictures and songs, and everything else they want to
make well; and this particular collocation of cause and effect might
be illustrated and proved by many modern instances.

Not to be offensive to our fellow-men, who in every country exhibit
the same tendency; averting our gaze from all who are happy in "having
something else than their brains to depend upon"; avoiding politics,
which is a legitimate field of natural history, but obscured by
vapours which make observation difficult, let us take the skunk--not
meaning any kind of men, who are really miscalled skunks, for they
have none of the beast's qualities but one, and in general have the
nimbleness of rats--let us come among the animals and candidly
consider the four-legged skunk.

He is a little beast, no bigger than a house cat, and lives, as puss
would do in the woods, on worms and insects and mice and birds and
such small game. But he is not nimble, like the cat, or fox, or any
other hunting and hunted creature. He is as leisurely as the water
buffalo, and as careless of observation in the wildest country as a
dog in a farmer's yard. However hungry, the bigger beasts of prey,
whose natural food he might seem to be, prefer to leave him alone. The
fact is that he can make himself be smelt in a sickening way for
nearly a mile off; and so "the skunk," according to an observer, "goes
leisurely along, holding up his white tail as a danger-flag, for none
to come within range of his nauseous artillery."

"Call me a skunk?" a man might say, "I wish I were, sometimes." There
is perhaps no kind of life that is not worth living; so we need not
wonder that there is something to envy in the skunk. The water buffalo
is a perfect gentleman, compared to him; but the same security against
enemies has produced in both the same leisurely habits. The horns
protect the buffalo, and are at once his weapon and his danger-flag.


2. HUNTING THE BUFFALO

On the last day of 1908, in a morning walk at Myaungmya, Lower Burma,
I met two acquaintances, Messrs Dunn and M'Kenzie, riding home. They
had elected to enjoy their Christmas holidays a-hunting, and been away
for several days.

"Hunting what?"

"Buffalo."

"I believe the buffalo is a dangerous beast to tackle."

They looked at each other in a way that showed they had an adventure
to tell. They had gone with another European and a crowd of followers
to a muddy island in the delta, where a wild bull buffalo lived. They
had failed to find him, and were all walking carelessly away, when he
accidentally met them. The sight of a mob where he had lived alone,
like Robinson Crusoe, startled the old bull, and he charged. Then
magistrates, policemen and followers stampeded in many directions.
With the instinct inherited from our forgotten arboreal ancestors, the
fugitives sought refuge in the trees; but the trees were too small to
lift them above the reach of the horns, and one or more would have
been killed if Mr Dunn had not stumbled and fallen in the mud. This
stopped the buffalo, which tried to pick him up, but could not do it,
as he had the sense to lie flat. So it passed on; and Dunn then
crawled to where his servant had dropped his gun, and recovered it,
and shot the buffalo.


3. TAMING THE BUFFALO

This adventure shows how easily lives might be lost in hunting the
wild buffalo, about which the herdsmen who know him best have told me
what should, perhaps, be better known, were it only to prevent
misunderstandings. There is not the slightest need for war between
buffaloes and us. They are not natural enemies, like the tiger. They
are not even troublesome to tame, like the deer.

"Though terrible to kill, they are easy to catch," say the herdsmen
familiar with their haunts. "You have only to decoy them into a pen,
and once there they can sell for a price at once, like those born in
the village. They are more valuable," said one herdsman.

"But the taming?"

"That's nothing. Let them starve till they are weak. Then feed them
up, slowly. Make them feel they are being fed by men."

"They can see that."

"No, for you generally bandage their eyes. You have to speak to them
and not leave them to eat as if they found the food themselves. Let
them know they owe it to you."

"You don't think of that at all," said another man. "Neither do they.
This is what happens. There's generally a lot of them, like a herd.
Some would be dead, before others were weak. If you just flung the
food in anyhow, the weaklings would be the last to get it. You keep an
eye on them, so as not to lose any; and whenever you see that one is
weak, you feed that one."

"It comes to the same thing," rejoined the man who spoke first. "They
learn that men are their friends, and then they'll do anything you
want."

"Do they work willingly?"

"Who ever did? They do what they have to, like other people. A
buffalo is so mighty that he hardly needs to make an effort to pull
the plough. The one new caught and tamed does as well as the rest."

"Why is he worth more?"

"He isn't," said the other man, quoting figures. An argument followed,
and in the end they agreed. A newly-tamed herd might sell for less per
head than village-born cattle, if the wild ones caught included more
old animals and calves. Compare contemporaries, and the wild one is
the better.

"Why?"

Various reasons were suggested, including one that was oddly
expressed. "The wild animal is the more vigorous, because he has never
been spoiled by working. Think how different I would have been if I
had never had to work for my living!"

This was absurd. Till we came here, with our commercial creed that
money makes the man, education in Burma was universal and free to the
poor, and, however it be in England, where factory workers breed in
slums and breathe polluted air, in Burma the working man lives mostly
in the fields, and is sturdier, and often more sensible, than the
idler. The herdsmen reluctantly admitted this; and it led to a
digression.

In a Socratic way, I explained the gospel of work, with half-and-half
acceptance as long as I quoted only Chinese maxims and examples; but,
happening to hint that the English also had that to teach the East, I
spoiled the lesson. There was a general laugh. "When do the English
work?" Then one asked the other: "Did you ever see an Englishman
working?" They said to each other that the only Englishmen who worked
were one or two, whom the others did not speak to, but treated like
the Pagoda-slaves of native Burma. We returned to the buffaloes.

"Why is the wild one the better?"

"He is stronger, and fresher, and quieter."

"Quieter?"

"Yes. He thinks of men, women and children as his feeders, and will
never hurt anybody, and a little child can lead him."

"A child can drive the village cattle."

"The wild ones tamed are safest of all." (It should be noted that the
domestic buffalo is dangerous occasionally, and people are sometimes
hurt or killed by them.)

"Don't they notice that men caught them?"

"They're not clever enough for that."

"Don't they try to escape?"

"Never. Why should they? They have all they want. It is our business
to keep them contented, and it's easy."

"Their calves are at times obstreperous," a man added, after a pause,
and the others agreed, but said, "All you need do, at the worst, is to
cut their horns, that is, cut off the tips."

"Why not do that to all the calves? There's somebody killed or hurt by
buffaloes every year in Burma."

"The glory of a buffalo is his horns. It would be wrong, because it
would not be natural to blunt them. We would never do it unless we
could not help it, when a particular beast is bad."

"It's too much bother, I suppose."

"No, it's easy. But it does not look natural. The buffalo with his
horns blunted is disfigured, and seems to feel it."

"No, no, it's not natural at all," said one after the other, with
emphasis.

"How do you hunt the buffalo?"

"We never hunt the buffalo. No Burman ever did. At any rate, none ever
does now. It is much safer and easier to catch and tame them; and it
pays better."

A buffalo went by as our talk was ending; and on its withers was
sitting a little boy of six or seven years of age, drumming merrily on
its broad neck with his heels. At sight of us, he signified to it, by
slaps and shouts, to move aside, so as not to splash us; and the big
buffalo gently obeyed.



XII

THE BUFFALO AND THE CROCODILE


When the rains have all run off, and the snows of Central Asia have
not begun to melt, about the middle of the dry weather, the Irrawaddy,
our Burman Mississippi, runs its lowest; and in such places as Magwe,
a district on the road to Mandalay, the sandbanks are conspicuous. In
1894 there was, as there often is, a sandbank in Magwe district that,
starting from the eastern bank, like a dam, athwart the current, bent
down the stream, like a breakwater at sea, enclosing a natural harbour
between it and the bank. This little harbour was shoaled at its
southern or open end by the silting sands in the water eddying there;
but for most of its length it was deep enough to be as comfortable for
the cattle as if the whole enclosure had been made for their
convenience.

It was all a big buffalo-wallow one afternoon that year (1894). One
after another, scores of long-horned buffaloes had subsided into it,
like submarines, leaving little but their nostrils on the surface. Men
and women stood about on the bank, and children were bathing at the
water's edge. Suddenly a splashing drew all eyes. It takes much to
excite a buffalo. Even their manner of fighting is more than
elephantine. I stood and watched a duel among them lately (1908), but
never will again. It was perhaps the most leisurely battle that human
being could endure to watch. But there, in 1894, men stared in wonder
at a huge cow-buffalo splashing distractedly southwards from the
extreme upper end of the pool. They soon saw she was chasing a
crocodile that was carrying off her calf. Finding herself distanced in
the water, she took to the shore, and galloped like a cart-horse in a
hurry.

"I don't know," said an onlooker, "whether we could have reached the
shoal in time to be of any use, but when we saw the old cow going like
that, we thought it best to stand aside."

This was wise. The buffalo is enormous, and might easily kill a man by
inadvertence, and a big crocodile, such as they said this was, though
not so overwhelming, is otherwise dangerous. It does not seem to have
been ascertained how old a crocodile can be. It seems to live to a
great age, once it passes safely through the dangers of adolescence,
and to continue growing bigger the longer it lives, like a tree. In
Arakan I had seen some Indian coins that had ceased to be current for
about a century, and were then, in 1893, recovered from the stomach of
a patriarchal crocodile. The likeliest guess was that he had got this
trouble in his stomach--for such it probably was to him--by eating one
of the corpses that furnished such plenteous feeding to his tribe in
the wars in Arakan, more than a century before. There was nothing
certain, of course, except the age of the coins and the fact that they
were found in his stomach, and he might have eaten another beast that
had eaten the corpse, or he might have recently dined upon an
Arakanese archæologist, but it is at least as likely that he had been
suffering--if he suffered--a hundred years, for the headlong gluttony
of youth.

A Sanskrit proverb runs:

  When lion and striped tiger fight a bout,
  It's best to leave these two to fight it out.

So the Burmans felt as they watched the march of events:

  When buffalo and crocodile debate,
  The thing for man to do is--stand and wait.

They had not to wait long.

"It was the nicest thing I ever saw in my life," said a man to me, his
voice almost trembling with enthusiasm months afterwards. "I never
heard tell of a thing like it. She went along the bank like a dog, in
spite of her size. We ran to see better. Some say she made for the
water, when she came abreast of the crocodile, but seeing the
crocodile go by, drew back and galloped on again. I did not see that.
We all saw the finish. She took the water at the shoal and stood
waiting, like a cat. Of course the cattle knew the place, but fancy
the old cow reflecting that the crocodile would need to cross the
shoal to reach deep water.

"At first, while she stood waiting, we thought she was too late, as
the enemy had gone below the surface, but soon we saw the stiff-necked
crocodile, not looking round, slowly dragging the calf and itself over
the sand, in front of the old cow. Ha, ha! She waited for the right
moment, just like a cat; then charged, like a buffalo; and then we saw
the great crocodile wriggling high in the air, spitted and tossed as
easily as if it had been only a puppy. The horns both went clean
through the middle of its body, and came out again."

I forget the fate of the calf, but they told me the taste of the
crocodile's flesh. The nicest bits were near the tail. So I know that
the crocodile died.



XIII

A NEST OF CROCODILES


In 1893 and 1894 I was Deputy Commissioner of Kyaukpyu district, which
means the islands of Ramri and Cheduba, and smaller isles adjoining,
and an adjacent strip of the malarious coast of Arakan. The
headquarters was in the north of Ramri, and, sitting in my house
there, one evening early in 1894, I heard an unusual clamour at the
door. There was audibly somebody having an altercation with my
servants.

I went to see and hear. It was a fisherman from a far-off corner of
the district. Till shortly before then the Government had paid rewards
for the destruction of crocodiles and their eggs; and so this man, on
finding a nest of crocodile's eggs, put them in a bushel basket and
started with it for headquarters. He was nearly there before he heard
that these eggs were no more paid for. Loath to lose his labour, he
finished his journey and tried to sell them in the bazaar. There was a
sensation. He had to run.

The people cried to him that he must not sleep in the town till he got
rid of them. "Fling them into the sea," they said; but he was most
unwilling. "Hope springs eternal in the human breast." Perhaps it was
a lie that rewards were no longer paid? One never can tell what to
believe. He decided to try to speak to the Deputy Commissioner before
flinging the eggs away.

I heard his story, and told him it was true that rewards were paid no
more; but I pitied the man and bought the nest from him, basket and
all, paying him liberally. It is needful to mention the liberality of
the payment to explain what followed.

"Take it upstairs."

The servants were men, of course, not women; yet they shuddered and
drew back, each pushing another forward.

"I'll carry it for you!" cried the happy fisherman; "is it into the
bedroom you want me to take it?"

"Put it on the front verandah."

The servants surveyed it from a distance. The eggs were in colour like
hen's eggs, and about twice the size. They were longer, but hardly at
all thicker, and peculiar only in being of the same size at both ends.
Some scores of them were embedded in mud, with roots of reeds and
grass; but there is no reason to suppose, as has been done, that the
crocodile which laid the eggs had mixed the grasses with the mud. How
could she, stiff-necked as she is, and unhandy? The mud so mixed would
be the readiest available where the eggs were laid, between wind and
water in a shallow tidal creek. That was where the fisherman said that
he found them. The heat of the sun is what hatches them. Part of the
day they lie bare to it or almost bare, and for the rest of the time
they are covered by water which the sun has warmed. In such an
incubator the heat of the rotting grass would matter no more than a
lucifer match in a furnace. Of course, all life does hang upon the
sun, but the unhatched crocodiles depend on it directly, and might
make out a better title to celestial parentage than anyone I know, not
even excepting the Emperor of Japan.

The servants remained alarmed. It was probably at their instigation
that a carpenter came to see if he was not wanted to make a wooden
wall to screen the verandah where the eggs were from the rest of the
house. When bidden make anything he liked, if willing to be paid for
it by two or three young crocodiles, he hastily retreated. The beasts
have a bad name in Arakan. There, as in Egypt, they do eat people
occasionally, but there is nothing else against them.

Another device of the servants was to keep the dogs beside the nest
and feed them there. "To give us warning when the crocodiles come
out," they said, "so that we may let you know." There was no doubt
that the little dears were on their way--too far on their way to let
me blow any of the eggs successfully. I did blow one or two, but the
holes made by the departing contents were too big. The shells were not
worth keeping.

The dogs were not needed after all. A number of visitors were sitting
and standing around the nest on the morning when the great moment
came, and the eggs atop began to open like popcorns. From every
opening shell there leapt a baby crocodile, span-long but perfect, as
nimble as a rat and desperately hungry. No wonder! Think of the food
they needed to swell them to the size of their mighty parent.

It was difficult to study them. Whatever noise they made was drowned
in the clamour of the visitors and servants; and they themselves, to
the number of about half a dozen, were soon drowned in whisky, as the
best substitute for the spirits of wine which had not arrived. Their
little corpses may still be seen in Glasgow Museum, I suppose. At
least, I sent them to it for a sepulchre. The rest, and all their
unhatched brethren, found a more common grave in a hole that was ready
for them in the garden.

I was very sorry to have to do this; but I had to be at office at
10 a.m., and if this had not been done before I went, I would have
found my house desolate on my return, and no dinner ready. My servants
would have fled unanimously. So the poor little crocodiles had to die.
But it was humanely done, and the unhatched eggs were broken before
being buried, and the earth rammed tight.

"Stand and see the man does it," I said to the "boy" or factotum.

"You may be sure it'll be done," said he, and added, with unusual
cheerfulness, "we'll all be helping him."

Though the lucky fisherman had been told to say as little as possible,
he had boasted so much of his good fortune that a plain-spoken
vernacular proclamation had to be sent in all directions to this
effect--

                   _NOTICE_
           NESTS OF CROCODILES' EGGS
  The Deputy Commissioner Does not Want any More

There was a curious sequel a month or two later. Somewhere about the
south of Ramri Island, there lived a secluded farmer of strong
intellect, who asked himself, "Why did the Deputy Commissioner want to
hatch crocodiles' eggs?" His neighbours were asking themselves the
same question, and to an interested gathering at a Buddhist temple he
explained his solution of the conundrum.

"Why do we hatch the eggs of fowls? Because we want fowls. Therefore
it must have been because he wanted crocodiles that the Deputy
Commissioner bought and hatched the crocodile's eggs.

"He probably did not know, as we do, that the new-born crocodiles are
untameable, like fishes. They need a great deal of time to grow big.
But a full-grown crocodile is a very sagacious as well as a very
hungry animal, and it would quickly become devoted to anybody who fed
it as well as he could afford to feed it. So, if he paid so much for
the eggs, he would give thousands of rupees for a really big and
mature crocodile, especially if it were nicely tamed."

The wisdom of this reasoning was much admired. So the wise fellow and
his friends sought the acquaintance of the dwellers in the creeks, and
decoyed into a little tank a patriarchal crocodile. Some weeks were
spent in "taming" it (and dosing it with opium, as was afterwards
suspected). Then half a dozen men, no longer young, shouldered the
pole to which the crocodile was tied, and carried it, more than a
day's journey, to the district headquarters.

They came to the house of the Deputy Commissioner about the middle of
the second day after leaving home, and were told he was at office.
They went to seek him.

He was on the bench, in court. Shrieks and shouts and a wild stampede
of people was the informal announcement of the new arrival. They
stopped all business; but nothing stopped them. Not knowing the way
very well, they began by entering the Treasury. The sentry shouted and
the guard turned out with fixed bayonets and loaded rifles, in case
this might be a manœuvre for more easily rushing the Treasury.

"We are fetching a live crocodile to the Deputy Commissioner," cried
the newcomers to all who would listen to them. Then it was supposed
they might have been sent for, and they were directed to the
court-rooms.

The bailiff rushed into court, and, looking distracted, trembling and
hardly able to articulate, he said,--

"Six men, with a great struggling crocodile alive, on the verandah
now, coming in, nothing can stop them. They want to see the Deputy
Commissioner. I went for the Superintendent of Police, but he is out.
They won't listen to me."

I went out to them and had the beast carried downstairs, and heard
their story. There was no possible room to doubt their good faith.
Their dream of a fortune, for such they expected, seemed like the
Arabian Nights.

I told them I did not want a crocodile, but that as they had taken so
much trouble I would pay them out of my own pocket, for killing it,
the largest reward that Government used to pay. This was like offering
a pound or two to men who looked for thousands. Of course they did not
thank me. I left them to finish the matter themselves, and returned to
business.

I was not to be quit of the crocodile so easily. For more than an hour
a crowd continued to collect round the live monster as it lay on the
grassy sands between the court-house and the sea. Then the bailiff
returned to me more distracted than ever.

"The men have decided to unbind the crocodile and leave it where it
is, and depart. They say they will not accept money as the price of
blood. This is a tamed crocodile. It is like a friend. If it is
dangerous now it is only because it is hungry. So long as it is well
fed it will hurt nobody. They are not damned fishermen, nor damned
hunters." (These adjectives were not used profanely, but correctly, as
it is the popular belief that fishermen and hunters are damned.)
"These men say that they are respectable Buddhists and cultivators.
They would not kill a wild crocodile, much less a tame one."

"Put it in the sea."

"I told them to do so, but they said it wouldn't go."

"Bid them carry it to the creek a mile away."

The bailiff asked whether the reward was to be paid if it were let go
in the creek, and thinking of possible damage subsequently I answered
"No."

He returned to say, "The men declare that they have carried it far
enough already. They've done enough for nothing."

"Then leave it bound."

"They want their ropes and pole."

"I'll take its blood upon my head. Call a man from the Treasury guard
to shoot it. Let them fling its carcass into the sea and pay them
then."

To this they agreed, it was reported; and, fearing some accident to
the crowd, in the absence of the Superintendent of Police, I went to
see the killing rightly done.

There was difficulty in getting people to move out of danger. So one
of the men knelt beside the crocodile unbidden, and, with a knowing
look, full of suppressed fun, he cut the strings that held the jaws
together and some of the other ropes.

Slowly the crocodile moved and opened wide the greatest mouth I ever
beheld--something suggestive of the "Jaws of Hell." The crowd shrieked
and dispersed to a distance. Then the crocodile died. His bearers
received the promised money, the fishes ate his body, and his blood is
upon my head.



XIV

USEFUL SNAKES


In the backwoods of Thayetmyo district, Burma, in 1886, I was next to
the man who was guiding a party of policemen and villagers going, in
single file, on the track of robbers in arms, who had been
cattle-lifting. Suddenly the guide in front held his hand behind his
back as a signal to stop, and I passed on the signal.

The guide began to move forward, on his toes, as noiselessly as a cat,
towards something on the ground. His eyes were riveted upon it, 20 or
30 feet in front of him. To the rest of the party it was invisible.
The only noise was the flick of a hand on a pony's neck, removing a
horsefly; and even that was stopped, and all was hushed. We seemed to
hold our breath, and, though the guide was moving as quick as man
could move without a noise, he seemed to be creeping slowly, slowly.
He lifted up his arms as he came near his object, and then dived
forward, so to speak, not losing his balance, but taking a great step
and stooping, and recovering himself with equal speed. Then we saw his
game. He had caught by the tail a long snake, 5 or 6 feet long, and
was whirling it in the air.

It was thrilling to see it writhing in vain resistance to the laws of
matter and the tendency called centrifugal. Its wriggling ended after
two or three thwacks of its head upon the ground; but, long after it
was as limp as a whipcord, he went on twirling it and thwacking it. He
reminded me of the Scottish motto, "I mak' siccar," or "I make sure."
The legend is that when Bruce had stabbed a traitor at Dumfries and
said to a henchman, "I think I have killed him," the henchman
answered, "Think? I mak' siccar," and went and finished the killing.
Our guide was as resolute as he to make sure; but after a while he
held the limp thing at arm's length, and let it dangle a second or two
in front of him, undeniably dead. Then he flung it over his shoulder
and walked on in silence.

"Any use?" I cried.

"Curry for us all," he answered, looking backwards over his shoulder
and seeming surprised at the question.

In 1887, a few months later, being on the Pegu Yoma Mountains between
Toungoo and Thayetmyo, still on the same kind of business, and leading
a crowd of hungry men, I remembered this, and shot a python more than
7 yards long and as thick as a man's thigh. We met each other
accidentally, he and I. He had been dozing after dinner, and yawned in
the finest old Piccadilly style. I sent an unmannerly bullet into his
mouth, which killed him. For two days, at least, his flesh supplied
the wherewithal to flavour the rice of more than forty men; but I
cannot tell the taste of it. I have eaten silkworms curried. They
tasted like shrimps. But if the reader wishes to realise the savour of
snakes, let him eat them himself.



XV

THE TUCKTOO


Burma is chiefly remarkable for a lizard that occasionally haunts the
trees and houses there. Span-long or more, it has a head big out of
all proportion compared with others of the lizard clans, and eyes that
sometimes seem to follow you like owl's eyes, and a loud voice.
"Tuck-too!" it cries, "Tuck-too! Tuck-too!" without any variation,
except an occasional repetition of the "oo-oo-oo" at the end, like a
musician tuning his pipes.

It is considered very lucky to have such a lizard in your house; and
as it is said to be fond of baby rats, and rats bring plague, the
prejudice may have some foundation in fact. Its principal food is
insects--a wholesome appetite too; but its great glory comes from the
similarity of its cry, weak in consonants and loud in vowels, to the
Burmese for _Quite so_. It is a great prophet. They say the rains can
be foretold by counting its _Quite sos_; and if you are about to wed
you should ask it, "Is she good? Is she bad?" "Quite so, quite so,"
says the prophet, impartial as Fate. But perverse, let it stop first;
and if your last question to get "Quite so" is the question,--"Is she
bad?" you should break off the marriage. They say that marriages have
been broken off on this account; and assuredly, in many a village, you
can see and hear the children with mock gravity keeping time to the
tucktoo and crying in chorus,--"Is she good? Is she bad?"

Sometimes, like other prophets, it comes to church to speak, never to
listen; and then it may be loudly heard, to the joy of the
congregations rather than of the clergy. The rest of its history has
been embalmed in a song by one of its friends:--

                    I

  There's a goggle-eyed cherub, that's living with me;
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'
  And, whatever I do, he is anxious to see.
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'

                    II

  With a crocodile's shape, but, thank Heaven! he's small,
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'
  He walks on the ceiling, and walks on the wall
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'

                    III

  When he opens his jaws, of a terrible size,
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'
  I can hardly believe he's just hunting for flies.
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'

                    IV

  His head's twice as big as it should be, at least--
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'
  He's only a lizard as man is a beast.
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'

                    V
  His cousin Chameleon keeps changing in hue;
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'
  But he never alters, the steady Tuck-too!
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'

                    VI

  By day and by night, he will tell you his name--
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'
  And though he speaks often, it's always the same--
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'

                    VII

  Yet there's many great speakers more tiresome than he,
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'
  My goggle-eyed cherub, that's living with me!
          'Tuck-too! Tuck-too!'
          'Oo--oo--oo--oo!'



XVI

THE KITTEN'S CATCH


He is a common grey kitten; but he is the last of a large family, and
his mother is devoted to him, and takes great pains about his
education. Now that he can run about, his mother fetches indoors
little field-mice for him, and baby rats from the stable; and so the
kitten is quickly learning the trade of all his tribe. But mother was
digesting last night (11/6/09) and would not run about with him, would
only flick her tail; and chasing mother's tail became gradually
monotonous for a kitten that had had a field-mouse in his paws, to say
nothing of a baby rat.

So he went and spoke to the big fat frog that was sitting in the
corner of the dining-room, face to the wall, like a pupil at school
sent to stand in the corner as a punishment. Only, the frog was not
being punished. He was catching flies. He looked round at the kitten
coming near and trying to draw attention. He is a pot-bellied frog, of
elderly look, so that his leaping seems out of character. On this
occasion, however, his deportment was unimpeachable. He looked at the
kitten earnestly, but never spoke, moving nothing but his head, as he
turned it round to see him. He gazed at the importunate little cat, as
once a gaitered bishop gazed at a newspaper-boy who wanted to speak to
him, but seemed unlikely to be polite. "I wish no ill to you, but
please leave me alone." That was what the frog's look seemed to say;
but he uttered no sound. Perhaps he thought that talking might disturb
the flies he was catching, just as the gentle angler sometimes prays
for silence, lest a whisper be heard by the fish.

The kitten took the hint and jumped upon a chair and thence to the
table, and walked across it towards me. He is fond of me; that is to
say, he sometimes comes to me when he has nothing else to do or wants
something. But on the way across the table he saw what seemed more
interesting. The brass Egyptian finger-bowl caught his eye, and he
surveyed it and its doily. He had passed it unconcerned a few minutes
before, but that was when preoccupied about the frog. On this
occasion, after an attentive survey of the finger-bowl, he put out his
paw and tried to push it sideways. It did not move. He tried a spring
and a push, to add momentum to his muscle; and so he shook it a
little.

He raised himself to his full height and looked and beheld something
inside it, moving! Then he became excited.

When you try to think like a cat, you must begin by realising that he
has fewer categories than Aristotle. The universe is, in his mind,
divided into--_himself_ and other things not-himself, which is exactly
the feline counterpart of Hegel & Co.'s Ego and Non-Ego; but, having
to find a living, the cat has passed as far beyond the Hegelian stage
as the Germans themselves have done since Hegel died. He classifies
things not-himself into the Eatable and the Not-Eatable; and again, a
cross-division, into what he fears and what he does not fear; and
thirdly, another cross-division, he distinguishes things that move
from things that do not move. Few hunting animals are long of learning
that last distinction; and yet to know that motionless things escape
the eye is one of the first lessons that scouts have to be taught. The
kitten knew it. He flopped down motionless a while, as soon as he saw
something moving inside the bowl; but men who have been miseducated
into believing without observing, whose minds have been constricted by
Greek grammars and the rest, as the feet of Chinese ladies are
constricted by bandages, men of bandaged brains, in short, still need
to be taught that in their maturity. Better late than never!

Stealthily the kitten now approached the bowl and tried in vain to
jerk out what was inside. The bowl was too heavy for him. He crept
round and round it, and endeavoured to move it by pulling the
tablecloth, but failed again. Then he sat down at a distance, with his
head between his paws, and watched it and considered, concentrating
his intellect upon it, exactly as a boy sits down, with his arms round
his head to puzzle out a thing, retiring into himself, so that
distracting sights and sounds be held aloof, and only the problem to
be solved find access to his brain. It is an excellent thing to make a
_camera obscura_ of your skull in that way at times. I have watched a
great inventor doing it; and with like admiration I now watched the
kitten. No apology is needed to my Brahman friends for mentioning that
this concentration is what they call "Yoga," described as "a
discipline whereby the powers in man are to be so trained that they
will attain their utmost development, and will realise and respond to
the subtlest and minutest influences which bear on him from outside."
Such is ever the way of the wise; and it may be attempted by the
simple too, if they are sincere. It is conceit and affectation that
make the fool. The kitten had no weakness of that kind. So he
meditated to some purpose; for he saw what to do.

He put out his paw and tugged the doily. Hurrah! The bowl moved
briskly. The hunt was up now at the fifth tug the water flew out. The
triumphant kitten darted round the bowl to catch his prey and found
nothing. The tablecloth was wet; but how could he connect the wetness
of the tablecloth with the thing that had leapt from the bowl?

I tried to console him with milk, but he was transported beyond the
reach of sordid comforting. Besides, he was not hungry. He returned
again and again to investigate the matter, till he was tired. Where
had the thing gone to? He never guessed, and I could not tell him.
Poor little puss! For him, as for humanity, the ocean of mystery, on
which all things swim, is very close at times.



XVII

THE LEOPARD AS A KILLER OF MEN


1. TWICE TWENTY YEARS AGO OR MORE

Not long ago I read in Indian papers about a leopard in Central India
which had killed about 173 men and women, and the carcass of which
showed fore-paws and chest muscles of unusual size. "It had almost the
front of a tiger," wrote one of the scribes. This was exactly the
description of another of the same kind, which was told me about 1888
by Colonel Bingham, then Conservator of Forests for an eastern
division of Burma. He beguiled the long evening in a rest-house on the
fringe of the woods by telling me the life-history of a man-killing
leopard in Central India, which I believe he had hunted there about
twenty or thirty years before. It made the "hours and minutes
hand-in-hand go by" so light that it was long, long after our usual
bed-time before we thought of looking at our watches.

If he had been the common story-teller, I could never have kept awake,
much less forgotten to note the time. He was a man of accurate and
scientific tastes, and great knowledge of Natural History, and, best
of all, one of those rare comfortable souls who are more interested in
things in general than in themselves. This makes accuracy almost easy,
and modesty comes without an effort. We discussed at length the
question whether that leopard had been a cross between the leopard and
the tiger. The reports about it had made Bingham think it must be so,
but the post-mortem upon it, at which I think he assisted, made him
dubious, for, to his surprise, he found its markings purely leopard's,
and the only difference between it and common leopards to be its size,
especially in front.

"After all," I said, "the size is the chief difference between
leopards and common cats." Bingham agreed, and I found he was still of
the opinion that lions and tigers, leopards and jaguars, are all more
nearly related than at first sight appears. He had been, as I then
was, sanguine about getting evidence that they interbred, and while
telling me he had never succeeded, thought another might. Indeed it
should be better known that the chief difference between lions and
tigers is the lion's way of wearing his hair. The difference in bone
and muscle is less, much less than there is between varieties of
domestic cats; and it is easy to exaggerate the specific importance of
colour. I know a worthy Dutchman (Mr Hegt), who told me he acquainted
Charles Darwin with an interesting accouchement of a lady-leopard in
Holland. She brought forth at a birth kits black and white, such as
the naturalists had till then classed as different species. Darwin was
delighted at the news.

The best part of our talk, however, was about the leopard's
adventures. Bingham was not a man to forget that the carcass cut up
after death is not the leopard. It is merely a confused conglomerate
of hide and flesh and bones and teeth and claws, drenched in blood.
Such things are the mortal remains of the leopard; but its spirit, the
fire of life that made it terrible, that great reality, whatever you
call it, has fled away on the wings of the wind. So fled the spirits
of its victims. Its fleshy garment lies before you as helpless as ever
were theirs, as harmless as if it had been a sheep.

It was a little playful kitten in the forests, not long before it
became a terrible killer of men, for its tribe grows fast. It took to
killing as its trade, like a fish to water. Its mother taught it
nothing else. When her milk ran dry, she taught it how to flesh its
baby fangs; and under her kind, encouraging, maternal eyes it grew up
big and strong, and then it left its mother's lair to feed itself and
live alone.

There is something thrilling in the strangeness which such separation
brings. The cat is a tender mother, but she soon forgets her children.
A few months after parting, if this leopard and its mother met in the
woods, they would glare at each other like strangers, without
recognition. If you doubt this, study your civilised domestic cats,
especially when they are hungry. The matter is not doubtful.

This does not mean that the leopards eat each other. As hawks do not
peck out the eyes of hawks, so leopards seek for tenderer beef than
that of leopards. Besides, their single aim in life being to satisfy
their appetites cheaply, to risk a scratch would be bad business. So
they compete in the woods exactly as mercantile firms do in the city,
each grabbing all it can. They generally die of starvation, but see
nothing odd in that. They have faced starvation all their lives; and
even when the mother-leopard comes to perish so, there is no
bitterness in her heart at the thought that it is her multitudinous
kittens that have made food scarce. She has forgotten them. They have
passed out of her mind completely, like the shadows of the clouds that
pass across the surface of a mountain lake, and go by and leave no
sign.


2. A LEOPARD THAT LOVED THE LADIES

Colonel Bingham had not been able to ascertain what made this leopard
take early to humanity. A guess that many favoured was suggested by
its life-long preference for women. The guess was that its mother had
given her little ones some girls to flesh their baby fangs upon. There
had been some horrible cases of that sort. One shudders to think of
girls in the maws of leopards, like the little mice a tabby brings to
her kittens. But, after all, many a girl meets a worse fate in a
European town. The human beast of prey is crueller than any cat.

Whatever the explanation, the fact, at which the Central Provinces of
India soon were shuddering, was that this great leopard grew into a
man-eater, that seemed to combine the strength and stomach of the
tiger and the wily familiarity of the leopard. He took girls for
choice. Of two women returning with water from the well, the one was
taken and the other was left, that is to say, ran screaming home. So
marked was his preference for their sex, that whenever he was supposed
to be near a village, the women all became like purdanishin ladies,
and would not go out of doors.

I believe it was a police-officer, but it may have been a "man in the
forests," who told Bingham of being bothered by a nasty smell in a
mango grove in which he had pitched his tent. They searched far and
near for the cause of it a long time, and at last discovered the
putrid half of a woman's body, hidden in the foliage, in a fork of a
mango tree. The villagers said they knew by what was left that it was
the remains of the leopard's meal, for it had an Homeric appreciation
of entrails. The head was wanting, and the arms too; but the legs were
little more than nibbled. About half the corpse had been put aside for
further recourse, if needed. It had not been needed. The leopard must
have found another. Indeed, they said that it seldom needed to dine
upon cold meat.

It would often have had to do so, of course, if it had limited itself
to women; but it no more thought of that than an epicure thinks of
restricting himself to turtle. The women were its tit-bits; but they
were so shy that it might often have starved if it had taken nothing
else.

Its taste for them has often been discussed, but none of the theories
propounded were more than guesses. The most interesting incident
mentioned in these discussions concerned a leopard in the Shan States
of Burma. It ordinarily lived on dogs and game and cattle, like other
leopards, but once it killed a man and a woman. The magistrate who
went to seek the corpses told me that, in following the trail,
ornaments the woman had been wearing were found in bits on the ground,
and then the two corpses--the man's untasted, the woman's more than
half-eaten.


3. NO MAN COMES AMISS

This leopard was, without an effort, catholic in its tastes,
especially when hungry. It seldom ate mere venison, or touched the
dogs which common leopards love, but nothing human ever came amiss. It
never heeded caste. It ate woodmen. It ate policemen. It ate the
village artisans, especially leather workers, caught outside the
villages. It ate a holy hermit, and was fond of priests. It ate
postmen. It ate pilgrims. The pilgrims crowded into bigger parties on
its account, and kindled fires at night, and took turns of watching.
More than once the leopard came upon the pilgrim sentry, not very
wide-awake, and killed him suddenly. The rest were safe for that
night, but did not sleep much. A solitary ploughman in a field, as he
turned his cattle at the corner, was seized from behind, and had rest
from his toil. It seldom happened that even the bones were found. The
leopard did not eat the bones, but there were other beasts of many
kinds and sizes to finish what was left.

The total of its "kills" came in the end to about three hundred, more
or less, spread over a "considerable time" as these things go, that is
to say, a year or two, more than a year, "a good deal more than a
year," it was said. In the long-drawn life of a man, who is very long
lived for a beast, it can very seldom have happened, if ever it did
happen, that any man, with all the helps of mechanism, has killed so
many leopards.


4. ITS WAY OF DOING

"How could you be sure that this 'kill' was done by this particular
leopard, and not by another?" was my frequent question, variously
answered, according to circumstances. It had a style of its own, one
seemed to feel, after hearing a few of its exploits. There were
instances of men hunting it, who were killed instead of killing; but,
curiously enough, its most peculiar feat was a failure, from the
leopard's point of view.

It went into a big village one day, between four and five o'clock in
the afternoon, and in broad daylight strode through three-quarters of
it, passing between two rows of houses. Swiftly as it seemed to sweep
past, it must have been going slower than usual, for it looked right
and left as it went, sending piercing looks into many screaming
interiors. Near the farther end it turned and walked straight through
the open doorway into an old man's house, without pausing, as if it
had come by appointment. The old man was alone inside, and lay dozing.
It took him from his bed, and carried him away, and, strangest of all,
instead of going to the outside of the village near that end, retraced
its steps by the way it had come.

Men's shouts now mingled with piercing screams and the old man's cries
for help, and the leopard saw in front of him, blocking his path, nine
or ten men with big sticks. "By the grace of God" they had found it in
their hearts to face the monster, with no better weapons than these.
Give honour where honour is due! There was courage needed for that.

With the dexterity of a Boer commander, who had ambuscaded a
detachment but found an unexpected hostile force in his rear, the
leopard grasped the situation, and changed his plans. Turning aside
and passing between two houses, he escaped unhurt, but dropped the old
man, who was also unhurt in body, though badly shaken in nerves.

The long evening hours did not drag so much as usual that night in the
village, but by three or four o'clock in the morning there perhaps was
nobody living there who had not forgotten his excitement and fallen
asleep; and now the hour was at hand when the cocks would waken the
world; but there was a ruder awakening than usual that morning there.
From the old man's house there rang out piercing yells. In a few
minutes every man within hearing had come to it, with whatever weapons
were at hand, and as many as could enter crowded in to hear the old
man's story.

"I was sound asleep," he said. "I seemed to dream of a rat gnawing
something beside me, and, gradually, between asleep and awake, I began
to hear a kind of scrape-scrape-scraping. It was so strange that I
grew broad awake, trying to make out what it was. Then I knew it was
some beast on the mud-roof above me. I lay and lay and listened, and
wondered what it could be. It sounded like dogs at first, but I
concluded it was something else. No dog could scrape like that. I
thought of going outside and looking, but I felt too tired to be
bothered. I lay and lay and looked at the inside of the roof, where
the scraping was. I did not expect to see anything. I looked there,
just because the scraping was there. The place was there, right above
my face as I lay on my back. Just as I was taking a kind of last look,
before falling asleep altogether, I saw the leopard's two eyes shining
at me through a big hole in the roof. There's the hole!" ...

There was indeed a hole, and some of the villagers said that in
running up they saw the form of the leopard disappearing in the
moonlight, and the roof outside showed marks. "Nightmare," I
suggested, but Bingham would not allow that. The marks showed that a
leopard had come; and I had to admit that, though there was no direct
proof that it was the identical leopard, the odds were about a million
to one that it was, if, as the Privy Council Judges have suggested, as
a good rule in doubtful cases, we pay regard to the likelihoods
arising from known habits and undisputed facts. (I have simplified
their verbiage, but that is their meaning.)


5. THE FINAL FIGHT

The chief evidence that one leopard did all the "kills" credited to
this one was the uninterrupted series while it lived, and the
cessation, for a while, when it died. But, though practically
uninterrupted in time, its killings varied in place, to the perplexity
of its pursuers. More than once, when most of those who were seeking
it were in one locality, ambuscading half-eaten remains, it went
elsewhere, and started afresh, where it had the advantage of being
unexpected. It took little pains to remain incognito. It might have
travelled far without eating, as other tigers and leopards often do;
but this leopard was as self-indulgent as railway passengers now can
be, in comfortable expresses, and beguiled the time by eating, as they
do. It seldom went a hundred miles without killing somebody for a
meal.

Colonel Bingham could not say whether it was helped by the people
being deprived of fire-arms; but thought that probably nothing had
happened in the Central Provinces to make any difference to the
leopard in that respect. A great many guns were given out to likely
persons to hunt it, and many young officers, and some no longer young,
not military men only, but civilians of all kinds, taking short leave
on purpose, when they could not otherwise come near it, gave their
leisure to the hunting of this multitudinous murderer. "I never saw
such cordial co-operation," said Bingham. "Rival hunting parties
forgot their rivalries, and helped each other to the uttermost." The
beast was beginning to obsess the minds of men; and, here and there,
fields were lying waste, uncultivated, through fear of it.

More than once a man with a gun was killed by it, which does not,
however, mean that a leopard can openly "fight" a man with a gun. It
means that when a leopard can take a man by surprise, a gun upon his
shoulder is no protection. They said so and explained it, to a postman
who had succeeded to a vacancy which the leopard had made.
Nevertheless the man continued to flagitate his official superiors for
a gun, until, wearied by his importunity, they gave him one. Then, as
he went his rounds, that postman's inquiries after the leopard had a
new significance.

The sight of his gun was pleasant to the villagers, and they praised
his public spirit. He deserved their praise. Bethink you of the mails
he carried in the broiling sun, as he plodded many weary miles along
the dusty roads, and how long you would have volunteered to add a gun
and ammunition to such a burden. What made his conduct the more
praiseworthy was that he knew the gun would not save him if the
leopard were on the war-path and saw him first. In fighting of that
kind, as in guerilla war, it is often only the first glimpse that
counts. When the rule is to kill at sight, then to see is to conquer.

He had been carrying the gun in this way some weeks, at least, perhaps
for months. It had ceased to be needful for him to ask questions as he
went from village to village. At sight of him, anyone who had news
came to tell it. Many a time he laid his burdens down, to let someone
far away but beckoning to him come to where he was, and then they
would sit and talk together as if time had barely even a relative
existence and did not count for much. Nobody ever grumbled. The rural
mails were never in a hurry.

One ever-memorable day he was met outside a village by many of the men
who lived there, coming out to meet him, and hastening to relieve him
of his business burdens with unusual solicitude, leaving nothing to
occupy him but the gun. Then with eager whispers they led him through
the village to a big tree on the farther side of it, half bare of
leaves. "See the leaves at that corner, high up. He's there, he's
there. We saw him go there. Watch till the leaves shake. He cannot
move without shaking them."

The postman got ready his gun, probably putting the end of the barrel
on a rest, though I am not sure I was told that. It was unfortunate
for the leopard that there was no wind. The air must have been rising,
as I have seen it under similar conditions, hot from the ground, as
from a furnace floor; but even through the shimmering atmosphere the
postman could see the leaves were still, fixed, as if made of metal.
The leopard waited long, but so did he. And all was hushed. Then he
saw a slight, slight movement, just visible among the leaves; and then
he fired.

It was some time before the leopard came down, and still longer before
anyone ventured close enough to the body to be sure it was dead. But
whatever reward had been offered was now payable to the postman. The
details of the post-mortem have been sufficiently indicated already;
and indeed they were no part of the life of the leopard, which, almost
immediately after the postman touched the trigger, ended suddenly. And
so does this--its history.



XVIII

ON HEADS IN GENERAL


The earliest human tools were weapons too, mere sticks and stones; and
perhaps the earliest great discovery, before the invention of fire and
in days of infinite antiquity, was the importance of heads.

The value of the discovery was due to the natural weakness of our
limbs and teeth and nails. The other beasts were better provided with
natural weapons and neither needed tools nor made them. The importance
of heads did not concern them at all. The lions and tigers, who are
regularly killing men and cattle in the way of business, do it as we
kill fowls, by a sudden jerk of the neck. They have other ways, but
they seem to like that best, as Homer noticed, and we can see to-day.
_See_ Pope's translation, _Iliad_, v. 206, etc.:

  "... When the lordly lion seeks his food
  Where grazing heifers range the lonely wood,
  He leaps among them with a furious bound,
  Bends their strong necks and tears them to the ground...."

That is exactly the principle of the improved drop of the modern
hangman, and swift and painless enough to please the most humane; but
it needs a greatly superior force. The hangman is magnificent; but he
is not war. Herein lay the importance of the discovery that hitting
the head could stun and kill. Thereby the primitive sticks, by which
our long-forgotten ancestors straightened their backs and stiffened
their feeble knees, became clubs; and men began to face the lions in
their path, and other enemies.

But for this great discovery we would have remained as restricted in
diet and outlook as the chimpanzees. Whether tending cattle or
cultivating the ground, men must be ready and able to take the open
field and hold their own against all comers.

Accordingly, we find that the discovery was familiar in the remotest
of recorded times. The wearing of helmets is a fashion as ancient as
civilisation itself. The Rig-Veda Aryans had helmets, and the Homeric
Greeks, and in the ancient classical _Odes_ (iv, 2, 4, 5) a Chinese
poet, perhaps coeval with Homer, tells of a potentate:

  "He's thirty thousand men afoot,
    Who handsome helmets wear,
  With shells and bright vermilion strings
    That flutter in the air,"

thus anticipating the "red coats" of England. Indeed, that is not the
only coincidence of old and new. The Homeric chiefs went among their
men, in times of confusion, striking right and left with effective,
home-made sceptres of wood, like modern policemen with their
truncheons. The helmets of the police make the likeness almost
palpable.

In the House of Commons a touching medieval survival is the wearing of
hats. It comes down from the days when the steel-cap clapped on the
head was the first step in a breach of the peace, and the head
uncovered was the silent, unmistakable symbol of the peace-making
speech, the soft words to turn away wrath. Little as he thinks of it,
the member, who takes off his hat and stands up to speak, is led by a
beautiful old custom to assume an attitude such as Themistocles has
been admired for expressing, when violence was offered him in council,
and he said, "Strike, but hear me." Meanwhile, upon the table lies the
unwieldy metal bauble, meant to represent the mace or loaded stick of
the Speaker, who presides and makes no speech, but silently tables his
tool as if intimating, "My voice keeps order and my club gives law."

Every other mace as well as his, and every sceptre and staff of
office, is merely a sophisticated emblem of the original reality,
which is a common stick. The weapons of ancient Egyptians and
Chaldeans are ancient indeed compared to anything in Europe; but they
are modern things, as of yesterday, compared to the cudgel from the
woods. And what is perhaps the most remarkable fact of all, while
fashions change in war-tackle as in ladies' dresses, the primitive
cudgel abides the same; and under primitive conditions it is wielded
to-day by the hands of contemporary men, exactly as it was wielded by
our forefathers, who preceded history so far that, in our books, we
speak of them as "missing." We mean no harm, and we shall, all of us,
be missing some day. So there has always appeared to me to be an
antiquarian interest in what is certainly, for other reasons too, the
best leopard story I know.

In 1886 a Burman farmer was working in his fields, about twenty miles
from Thayetmyo, in Lower Burma, and noticed a leopard seize and carry
away a calf. He picked up a stick and ran after it, shouting and
waving the stick. The leopard saw him and paused and looked at him;
but did not drop its prey, as the man had hoped. He fingered the stick
in his hands, not taking his eyes off the enemy, and felt, to his joy,
that it was a "male bamboo," a bamboo solid inside, a very strong and
formidable cudgel, light enough to handle quickly and heavy enough to
kill a man or stun an ox.

They continued to eye each other askance, he and the leopard. He would
have been happy to see it drop the veal and go. It would have been
well content to depart without hurting him. But to go away supperless
was not its intention, and to let it take away his calf was not his.

It was interesting to study how they had manoeuvred, the leopard
trying to reach cover without approaching the man, and the man to
prevent that, without risking an encounter face to face. This lasted
long. There was plenty of active patience on both sides; and strategy
so admirable that I afterwards regretted that I did not make a plan of
the ground and record it all. At length the leopard ventured a bound
over a bush and the man came within reach of it sideways, and lifting
high his "male bamboo," he dealt his first smashing blow on the skull.
Everything turned on that. To fail to stun the leopard would have been
most dangerous. But he did not fail. He stunned it; and, with a shower
of rapidly-repeated blows, he killed it, and not only saved his veal,
but also earned the twenty rupees reward that is always payable for
killing a leopard. Surely it never was better earned.

I happened to be in charge of the office of the Deputy Commissioner at
Thayetmyo, when he came for his reward, and held the inquiry myself. I
noted the details carefully, because friends in the station, one of
them a veteran who had been a quarter of a century in India, had
nothing to tell to equal it; and, in the twenty-three years that have
passed since then, during which I have heard on the average more than
one leopard anecdote a month, I have never been able to verify
anything so good as this.



XIX

THE UNFINISHED SPEECH AND DANCE


In fairness to the eloquent hero of this adventure it should be told,
lest any reader does not know it, that wounded leopards are as
dangerous as wounded lions or tigers. There was one that was clumsily
handled by villagers in Burma a few years ago, and six men died out of
those it injured; and I know a man who has told me, with a shudder,
that he has twice seen a clever hunter at his side killed by a wounded
leopard "charging home."

It was early in 1888, and on the plains near the mouth of the Sittang
river in Burma, that I was one of about twenty men with rifles who
gathered round a big and leafy tree, in which a mortally-wounded
leopard had taken refuge. None could see him; and, when his growl was
hushed, we could not even guess his whereabouts. It grew tedious
standing there, like waiting for a train that is late. Many men fired
at moving twigs, on the chance that he might be below them. "He ought
to be in bits by this time," said one at last, "and falling down in
detachments." But nothing fell, not even a drop of blood. It became
more and more difficult to keep the villagers surging around at a safe
distance.

Then out stepped a brave sepoy, and, heedless of the dissuasive shouts
of his companions, he prepared to climb the tree. I shouted "stop";
and he grew eloquent, not in the style of Bengal, but in the best
Indian manner, heated sincerely by seeing himself balked of a chance
of distinction.

"What is the danger to _me_? Am I afraid of anything? Let cannon and
rifles thunder and rattle, I will walk into myriads of them if I am
bidden. What is a leopard to the like of that?

"I want to _show_ what I can do. I will show I cannot be afraid. O,
let me go! Do not bid me stop! What is a little leopard? I could take
a tiger by the paw!

"It is a duty to slay that leopard, a duty to face and kill him, a
duty to the people, a duty to the Sarkar." ...

Here note two things. First, see the innate instinct of obedience,
illustrated by the reference to the Sarkar or Government. Fancy any
European talking of it in such a connection without derision. Among
our very soldiers it would raise a laugh. Well indeed do the Indians
say, as they are now doing, that it is Europe that leads and
pin-pricks them into anarchy. The other thing to note is the fine
oratorical tact of the speaker, worthy of Demosthenes. There was not
the faintest allusion to what we all knew, that the leopard was sure
to be dead presently. This did not make it less dangerous to close
with him, but only made it quite needless. The speech ran on:

"It is a duty to slay that leopard. Through this big village he went
ravenous, seeking whom to devour. He terrified the women and children,
and made the men shiver, while the sky rang with shrieks. He stalked
as a master through the town" (here the orator, by a sweep of one arm,
included the adjoining village to the north); "and the country
shuddered with horror" (here, with a sweep of both arms, he included
the entire countryside).

In fact, the leopard had been in search of a superfluous village dog,
and when he found himself noticed and heard the people yelling, he
skulked from bush to bush till he was shot, and then ran up a tree.
The orator expressed the matter differently. There is a great deal in
the way of putting things. What he next said was:

"He left the woods, the home of his kind. He came among the dwellings
of men. Shall we make way for him? Shall he be suffered to ravage and
run away? Shall he come and go like our master, as if we all were
sheep and he the eater? No! give me but the word, and up I go, and
take him by the paw, and fling him down. Danger? What do I care for
danger? O, let me at him, to show how brave a man can be and make the
beasts beware! For, of all the duties a brave man has...."

At this moment he looked up, as if at the sky, but saw the leopard,
suddenly visible, coming down the tree, and hastily ran back, and was
seen and heard no more.

A curious sequel is worth telling. The wounded beast ran into a bush;
and a young Burman policeman, who understood of the sepoy's speech
only that he was boasting of bravery, resolved to show himself the
better man, and sprang forward, dancing a beautiful _pas seul_, and
brandishing a big knife, the Burman sword, a handier weapon than ours.
"I'll finish the leopard," he cried, and started for its hiding-place,
running past me.

It was a pretty sight. We never see now in Europe the solo dances
still visible in Burma, and some other eastern countries, on religious
high tides. We can only read of them in the Hebrew Bible, which tells
of King David casting off the trappings of royalty, and leaping and
dancing before the ark in a scanty garment, and so scandalising the
genteelest of his wives, Saul's daughter, Michal, who quarrelled with
him about it. A dance like David's, if you are lucky, you may yet see
in Burma; but hardly again, in this new world of breechloaders and
explosive acids, hardly but by some rare accident, can anyone see what
we saw then, a spontaneous Pyrrhic dance done singly, so to speak, a
man dancing forward, flourishing his sword, to a deadly encounter.

A most deadly encounter it might have been. The leopard was shot
through the lungs, and bleeding to death, inwardly. I thought I had
noticed him spit blood, and anyone could see he was badly wounded. But
he was only dying, not dead. His eyes flashed in the dark below the
brushwood, where he lay, and he raised his head and half sat up,
showing his teeth and growling, a very loud, monotonous, continuous
growl.

I just was in time to knock our hero down, within five yards of the
leopard, and step between him and it, quickly joined by one or two
others. There was nothing to do but stand ready. The uplifted head was
lowered, slowly; the growl grew less, and was punctuated by pauses,
which grew longer and longer. There was a long pause, during which
there was nothing to hear but men's breathing; then the dread silence
was broken by the voice of a young Burman, creeping past me on all
fours and crying, "Just let me pull its tail...."

It was an idle day that followed, which gave them leisure to enjoy
themselves. About twenty-nine men spent it dividing the corpse. They
quarrelled, and I quoted to them the proverb, "The lot causeth
contention to cease." Sure enough, it did so. They cast lots in peace,
and told me that eating such a beast made men partake the strength and
courage of the dead. I thought of many things, as I listened, such as
Marco Polo's story of tribes in Southern China, who were so sure of
acquiring fine qualities in this way that, if a traveller seemed
uncommonly beautiful or otherwise gifted, they sometimes killed and
ate him. It is a strange belief, and, in one form or another, it has
appeared in many countries. But all the same, whatever I happened to
remember on this occasion, the prevailing feeling was that the next
time there was such a job to be done, with such a crowd, it would be
alike expedient and gracious to--delegate the leadership.



XX

THE BIG PET CAT


One evening in the nineties I went to dine at the house of a friend in
Burma, and was unexpectedly greeted at the entrance by a leopard
almost fully grown. He received me with the same restful manner of
dignified armed neutrality that may be seen on the features of a
domestic cat, or of an old family servant, observing a strange
visitor.

"Do the others know?" I asked the host, meaning the other
dinner-guests, not yet arrived.

"Yes, they all know him, but none of them like him, or maybe it is
that he does not like them, I don't exactly know what is the matter.
He seems to feel by instinct that you're a friend. Dear old fellow!"
and the big cat laid its head confidentially on his thigh, and rolled
its eyes dubiously in the way cats do, while a fat hand caressed its
fine fur tenderly, lovingly.

"It'll be rare fun to see the rest arrive." It was indeed a pleasant
entertainment to see that bachelor's house being entered as if a very
distinguished hostess were receiving the visitors. The sight of
"Mr Spots" made the most free-and-easy a little constrained in manner.
They kept their eyes upon him; and as he moved about at his ease, they
made way for him with an agility of quick politeness more common in
Frenchmen than in Englishmen. But though he engrossed their
conversation as much as their thoughts, there was a lack of heartiness
in their appreciation which seemed to sadden their host. He tried to
keep the fine animal beside himself.

"Pets should always be young and growing creatures," he said, as he
scratched its head, and with many mingled puffs and sighs went on to
say, "They are a nuisance when they grow up.... You lose their
affection, you see.... Women are just the same.... This beautiful
beast does not heed me now, and at one time no puppy could be
fonder.... He would lie on his back to be tickled by a straw, and play
with me by the hour.... He hardly ever snarled, even at the servants.
Look at him!" The gentle beast was made to show his teeth and opened a
capacious mouth.

"Yes, indeed," said one. "I've done nothing but look at him since I
came in, and have had my hand on my pistol already, once."

"He won't hurt you. He's _had_ his dinner."

Another visitor sent his dog home, and opportunely remarked that as
leopards were fond of eating dogs, they felt at home with humanity as
lions or tigers never could. It was hunger only that made these bigger
beasts eat men. The normal tiger or lion would run away from a child,
or at any rate pass it by. But even a well-fed leopard might take to
"long pig," meaning humanity, in simple wantonness, for a change.

"I hope he always has plenty of salt with his food," said one. "Might
I tell the boy to fetch some for him now?"

"Why, in all the world?"

"Because it is the salt in human flesh that is said to be the great
attraction."

"You don't suppose my leopard spends his time in studying chemistry,
do you? I tell you he would not eat you if you offered yourself. His
belly's full."

"Mr Spots" yawned and looked round the company with an air of royal
indifference. His master continued to scratch his head. In obedience
to a gesture, he submitted quietly, when a servant fastened a chain on
his neck, and reluctantly but unresistingly he let himself be led
away.

"I'm very sorry," said his master, looking after him affectionately,
almost as if apologising to the pet. "That's what is hurting his
feelings," he explained to us.

"What?"

"The chain--the restriction--the want of confidence is spoiling his
fine temper." After a pause he added: "As I was saying, it's the
lapse of time. Pets should always be adolescent, and women too."

"Not women," protested one, who quoted "Age cannot whither her nor
custom stale her infinite variety."

"It's not variety that _I_ want," cried he. "I hate change. I would
like my pets never to grow up. It's the change I object to. It's
horrid, these transfers...."

"Hillo! Are you transferred?" we cried, more interested than
surprised; for, as readers are probably aware, the Europeans of every
kind in the east are at the best respectable vagabonds, globe-trotters
by trade, and only a few derelicts, who are settling down to die, can
have a fixed abode.

"Transferred? No, no--I don't mean that. I was thinking of transfers
of affection," he explained, and he proceeded to discuss the claims of
various Zoos, and the chance of poor "Mr Spots" being more happy in
one than another, like a mother discussing her daughter's suitors.

Amidst the merriment that arose when all constraint was ended, he was
advised to wed, and seemed to take the advice most seriously. He did
send away the leopard, and did take a wife, not long afterwards; and
as he was a good-hearted man, I believe she is a happy woman; but she
little suspects who was her predecessor in her husband's affections.



XXI

THE LEOPARD THAT NEEDED A DENTIST


The excellent American dentist at Madras had me "at discretion" in
1908; and as he worked he began talking, in the kindly way some
dentists have, about things in general, and in particular, when
encouraged and led to that topic, he spoke about the science of his
useful art.

"What spoils the teeth is want of use," said he. "Look at cats! What
fine teeth tigers have!"

"When they are young," said I, "are you aware that tigers and leopards
often die prematurely of starvation, because their teeth fail them?
There is no kind of living creature that needs more than they do the
services of a really competent dentist. See!"

He looked over his shoulder with a start, as if half expecting to see
some strange customer; but it was only a common messenger....

Resuming his work, he began recalling all he had heard from various
patients about cats' teeth; and suddenly ejaculated, "You're right,
you're right! I had forgotten what a man told me he saw in the
Nilgiris. From a distance, but close enough to see well, he saw a big
leopard seize his dog as it played on the road. The dog got loose, in
a surprising way. The leopard caught and mouthed him again, and then
again; and finally let him go and disappeared as men approached. Three
times that dog had been seen in its mouth, and yet there was not a
scratch on the body of the dog. The leopard could not have had a tooth
in its head."



XXII

THE DEVIL AS A LEOPARD


In 1891, in Shwegyin (pronounced Shwayjeen), then the headquarters of
a district in Burma, but now decayed, because the railway went another
road, I became aware as I sat in office of an unusual hush in the
precincts of the public buildings. My messenger came uncalled into my
room, and stood as if struggling to speak but unable to articulate. My
head clerk, the excellent Babu Chowdry, followed him, though it was an
uncommon time for him to come in. With obvious difficulty and
hesitation, almost stammering, the Babu said, "The devil has come to
town."

Ah, if I were only a fictioneer, what a brilliant opening this gives
for fine writing. It might be indulged in without fear of
contradiction; for, if Babu Chowdry read a thing I wrote as an account
of our talk, he would not only affirm it to be true, but honestly
believe it. All the King's Counsel in London, cross-examining in
partnership, could not shake him, or do anything but make everybody,
themselves included, believe him the more. His transparent good faith
would convince them. This is not ironical, but the simple truth. If I
wrote in the Kipling fashion, keeping faithful to what the Babu could
recall, he would trust me for the rest, so that the story might be
told in this way.

"The Devil has come to town," said the Babu.

"Show him in."

"But he is not here. He's in the town."

"Send for him then."

"But he won't come. He ..."

"Tell the police to fetch him."

"How? He ..."

"You should know perfectly that no warrant is required. He can be
arrested without a warrant if he won't come quietly, were it only for
being without a visible and respectable means of subsistence. Send a
note to the superintendent."

"But it isn't a man. It's a Devil, and a leopard."

"A leopard?"

"A leopard, but a Devil."

"Shoot it."

"But it's a Devil."

"Shoot it, all the same."

"But it's a Devil, and so the rifles won't go off."

Instead of all which, to tell the downright truth, instead of any
invention, I looked in silence awhile at my excited clerk as he
repeated, half mechanically, "The Devil has come to town," and
guessing that perhaps a tiger, which had been flurrying the place for
some weeks, had paid a mid-day visit, I stepped outside to the
verandah to see what the matter was, probably telling somebody to go
for a rifle. I looked in all directions, but saw no stampeding, such
as might be expected if a tiger were strolling anywhere near. There
were many marks of general consternation. Everybody seemed to have
stopped suddenly whatever he had been doing. The one detail capricious
memory supplies is the sight of a man at a refreshment-stall, who had
paused with a spoonful of food half-way to his lips, and stood as if
petrified as long as I saw him, gaping and listening. Next I noticed
the District Superintendent of Police, Mr W.G. Snadden, a sensible,
first-rate man, coming from his office, which was in a building
adjacent to mine. Without waiting to be asked, he shouted to me,
"Don't you bother. It's only a leopard frightening people at my house,
and I'll go and see what the row is and come and let you know."

"Anybody hurt?"

"I believe not."

I felt Babu Chowdry watching me to see if I was satisfied. He drew a
deep breath. "That'll be all right," we said to each other, and both
returned to work. He came into my room a minute later, and said
impressively, "The people do say it must be a Devil, as the rifles
won't go off." He waited to see the effect of the announcement, but
getting only, "That'll be all right," he returned to business.

In an hour or so Snadden reappeared, looking tired with laughing. This
was what he had to tell:

"My wife had a fright yesterday. A leopard had been seen prowling
round the house. A servant said it came upon the verandah, and stood
on its hind legs and looked into the nursery, where the baby was, and
also a dog." (Mr Snadden intimated in some way that he had doubted the
story.) He continued: "I told my wife it would prefer dog, but
naturally she did not wish it to have a choice. So I set her mind at
rest by leaving a military policeman with a rifle to hold the fort
when I came to office, explaining to him what to do if the leopard
returned. It came all right, about the same time as yesterday. They
say the cook was in the act of showing the policeman where it issued
yesterday from the jungle, when they saw it reappear.

"The man loaded, aimed, and pulled the trigger. The cartridge did not
go off. He slipped in another noiselessly, and aimed again. There was
no hurry. The leopard did not see him. It was standing still,
apparently taking a deliberate view of the house and servants'
quarters; looking for a dog, I do believe. No man could want an easier
target. After aiming carefully he pulled the trigger, and for the
second time the shot did not go off.

"This seems to have flustered him, so that he made an audible click as
he put in a third cartridge, and the leopard heard it and looked round
and saw him, and turned to go away. He took aim at it. It turned its
head round for a parting glance at him just as he pulled the trigger
again. For the third time the rifle failed to act. The shot did not go
off. The man was left standing, half distracted. He said that as it
disappeared the leopard swelled to the size of a tiger, and the glare
of its eyes as it looked at him made his heart stand still. It could
be no common leopard that bewitched his rifle so.

"Everybody in the house gathered round him to hear his story. That was
when my wife sent a man running to me. The policeman half-walked,
half-staggered to the lines" (the huts where sepoys lived, near
Mr Snadden's house), "and there he was when I went up. They had had a
glorious scare. By George, how quickly the panic spread!" reflected
Mr Snadden. "They were shivering with funk all round the court before
the man, who was running from my house, arrived there. I had noticed
something was amiss, and was making inquiries to find out what it was
before he came."

"Had the man loitered on the way?"

"No, I think he came straight. The panic round here was not his doing,
whatever it was. It came up from the bazaar. I've made sure of that.
It seems a miracle. I've been round pacifying the town. The bazaar was
upside down, business was stopped, women were shrieking and running
after their children a mile away from my house, within a few minutes
after the leopard disappeared into the bushes. I cannot understand
it."

"Was the beast seen elsewhere?"

"No. The panic was all about what had happened and the rifle not going
off."

Neither of us ever knew how the panic spread, though Mr Snadden had a
fine scientific curiosity about it, which made him take much trouble
inquiring. He concluded his report on this occasion, thus:

"It did not last long at the lines. The man had hardly told his story
more than five times when the Subadar (the principal native officer)
pushed his way into the middle of the crowd to hear him, and,
listening to him, took the rifle out of his hands to examine it. He
lifted the hammer, and pointing to the leather on the nipple, asked
him, 'Did you remove _that?_' The man looked stupefied, shook his
head, and relapsed into silence, and the excitement ended. The men
were very good about it, laughing only a little and not unkindly. They
did not jeer at the poor fellow, but rather pitied him, for the
accidental oversight that had made him look so foolish, and given him
such a fright," and made him miss the reward of twenty rupees, more
than a month's pay, which he would have got for killing the leopard.

When the truth was known it was easy to pacify the town.



XXIII

THE GALLANT LEOPARD


The lions and tigers and leopards cannot bring libel suits or arrange
duels. So men can call them cowards with impunity, and often do; but
it is not fair, and surely all who have been long enough in the woods
to know better should do justice to the beasts that are dumb. Besides,
there is a real joy in telling the downright truth. It is apt to have
the merit of novelty, for one thing. That is why it seems right to
tell in 1909 an adventure that befell three gallant officers in Upper
Burma, a little more than a dozen years ago.

Three real ornaments of the British army, and one of them so highly
placed that in confidential moments after dinner he spoke to me not of
his debts, but of his savings and investments, were riding abreast
together through a forest. Three finer specimens of "Britishers
abroad" the army could not have furnished. They combined all its best
qualities--the wild daring of the Irish scallawag, the steadiness of
the Englishman, and the cunning of the Jew. If they had all been of
one kind, whether scallawags, Englishmen, or Jews, they might have
come out of this adventure less perfectly. Great is the advantage of a
judicious mixture!

What happened was that a leopard was looking for a meal as they came
along. He was not hunting men. He was crouching among the bushes
beside the road and watching, as a cat watches sparrows, a crowd of
monkeys gambolling among the trees, and unconsciously coming near him.
He is at home in the trees, and very fond of monkeys; but they are too
nimble for him, if they have a chance. So he was biding his time, till
one of them would be within reach of a sudden spring; and none of them
had noticed him, when the three officers came riding past.

Now, whatever the attraction was, probably curiosity, what is certain
is that the advent of our gallant three caused a sensation in the
little world aloft; and, as the miniature men and women of the woods
crowded to see the very latest samples of British officers, they saw
the leopard too! And with wild hullabaloo they hurried far away.

The leopard was angry. Had he not cause? Who were these men to come
and spoil his sport? They, on their noisy iron-shod horses, prancing
along, with their orderlies clattering behind them, coming as if the
world belonged to them? He felt like another Jonah, who could answer
the Lord inquiring, "Doest thou well to be angry?" with a heart-whole
emphasis, saying, "I do well!"

So he came boldly upon the road on which they were galloping and stood
upon it, facing them. He took no pains to hide himself. He was no
longer in the mood for crouching. He waited for them; but he did not
lie in wait. His lips were ajar, and every muscle tight--a pretty
picture!

"Good God! There's a leopard!" cried the son of Jacob. See how deeply
rooted is piety in the Semitic soul! Men have known that man for
nearly twenty years, and never heard him mention God at any other
time.

They all drew bridle and dismounted. Even the scallawag consented to
do that. The Englishman called for his gun. An orderly handed it to
him.

"By all that's holy, you're not going to provoke him by peppering him
with snipe-shot?"

The Englishman agreed not to fire, as they had no ball-cartridges. But
the leopard was not aware of that. The road was along the side of a
slope. The ground went steeply up on one side of it; steeply down on
the other. So the leopard, "lightly and without apparent effort," like
a cat leaping upon a chair, sprang upwards, and sat behind a bush, 15
or 20 feet above the level of the road.

"Slight as the cover for him was, it would have been ample, if we had
not seen him go behind it," said one of the men to me afterwards. "We
remarked how well he knew to hide himself. Till he went behind that
bush we would not have believed it could have covered anything. Once
he was there, it was only because we had seen him go that we knew he
was there. But for that, we would have seen nothing. The ground being
above us was a help to us, and, knowing where to look, we could see
the outline of the leopard plainly through the leaves. He had not
allowed for that."

No; he had not reckoned on the watchfulness of three men resolute that
the _élite_ of the British army should not be made into cat's-meat.
They held each other back, so to speak, without any difficulty. They
could see that where the enemy sat was like a magnificent
spring-board. If he had selected the eldest of them, and leapt with
his usual accuracy, he and his chosen one would have been a hundred
yards down the glen together in a few seconds; and the excitement in
army circles would have been very great. Half a dozen men would have
"got steps."

But these three were too wary. They--felt their value to the
Commonwealth. They _would_ not pass in front of him. Nothing would
induce them. It was, "You first, sir," for a long time, till the
leopard was tired of it, and saw the game was up. He leapt down
lightly and crossed the road before their faces, with a deliberate
swinging stride, looking round at them as he passed.

"There really seemed to me to be something of a swagger in his walk,"
said one of the officers, naturally imputing to the leopard the
feelings of a man and an officer; but in truth the leopard had no
swagger in his mind. He looked at them in passing, as at creatures he
had to keep an eye upon; but, far from thinking of impressing them, he
was as indifferent to their feelings as the rocks. In Hamlet's phrase,
they were less than Hecuba to him. They were merely passing animals,
that had disturbed his hunting, and he was now quitting them as he
would a herd of deer that had got wind of him and held aloof.

What seemed his swagger was the unconscious dignity of his gait. I
have seen it in a tiger, crossing a road in the moonlight, when he
thought he was unobserved. Many men have remarked it. It may be seen
in the common cat occasionally, and has been explained in various
ways. The swift movement by long strides and the silent footfalls are
easily noticed; but there is more than that. The dignity of cats is
one of Nature's effects, which we can see and admire, but not
reproduce. How could we, standing up on our hind legs and to that
manner born, ever do more than mimic it? The most puissant of
potentates may call himself the son of the sun, the cousin of the
moon, and the father or grandfather of all the stars; he may be named
in sheepskins and figure in sheeps' heads as the King of kings and
Lord of lords, the Emperor of emperors and Czar of czars; but he is
first cousin to the monkey all the time. His gold lace and purple
cloaks, his tinsel hats and thrones maybe as high as pyramids, cannot
make him cease to be funny when he swaggers; and, at the best, you
half expect a wink. Nothing can give us the born dignity of the feline
fellows. But we need not envy them. Soon, very soon, in a century or,
at the latest, a millennium or two, there will be none of them left,
except perhaps the household toms and tabbies. "So runs the world
away."

Thus it was without any thought about the officers, who were standing
abashed, that the leopard moved down the steep slope into the depths
of the glen, abandoning all hope of well-fed British beef, and perhaps
deciding to try once more for the monkeys.

  "Hope springs eternal in a hungry heart."

It is only needful to add that this adventure was told me by one of
the three. I have not been able to get leave to give the names; but
that does not matter, for the leopard did not know the names himself.
It was enough for him, and must be enough for us, to know that they
were strong and healthy men, and their orderlies the same; and to the
leopard the iron-shod horses may have appeared to be equally
formidable. Yet, with just cause of offence and an empty stomach to
stimulate him, he faced them all, and departed only because he saw it
was useless to wait for them to pass. They _would_ not go in front of
him. Was ever leopard so honoured before? These men would not have
deferred so much to a British lord, much less to an Italian pope or
common emperor.

If leopards dealt in art, that would be a scene for a picture; and
fain would I have sent the men's photos to an R.A. of my acquaintance;
but to ask them for that purpose would have been as hopeless as to ask
leave to give their names. So any inspired artist who pictures this
scene must paint the officers' faces from his fancy. All that I am
permitted to certify is the truth of the adventure.

Bravo, Mr Spots!!!



XXIV

A DUMB APPEAL PUT INTO WORDS


The Griffin at Temple Bar, a lump of metal like a medieval nightmare,
is one of multitudinous monstrosities such as Burns described:

  "Forms like some Bedlam Statuary's dream,
  The crazed creation of misguided whim;
  Forms might be worshipped on the bended knee,
  And still the second dread command be free;
  Their likeness is not found on earth, in air or sea!"

The significance of the Griffin, however, goes deeper than the
conventionality, which alone the artists deride; for it is only half
an explanation to cry "conventional." What made it "conventional?" Why
did men convene to admire such an object?

One has to grope among the beginnings of history to be able to guess;
and for that purpose, one has to stoop to the mental level of wild
backwoodsmen, not men of civilised breeds who have reverted, like the
mustangs of South America, but real, wild backwoodsmen, none of whose
ancestors have ever been anything else, since time began.

On trying the thing, I found it as easy to think with them as ever it
was to keep down to the level of civilised men, carousing after
dinner, when

  "The soul subsides, and wickedly inclines
  To seem but mortal, e'en in sound divines."

Of course it is a commonplace to connect the Griffin with the winged
lion of Babylon and other misshapen beasts. But Babylon was as much
sophisticated as London is to-day, and as far removed from primitive
conditions.

It is among the wild backwoodsmen, if anywhere, that one can reach
back to the real antiquity; and if you listen to them at home,
especially when they have forgotten you or suppose you asleep, you
gradually realise what a great place is filled in their minds by
beasts of prey, and in particular by the little-seen-but-much-felt
feline foes. Many a man and woman among the jungle folk has never
beheld them at all, but few have escaped their depredations. They
combine the terrors of force and cunning, and abide a bugbear to
humanity, from infancy to age.

Perhaps this may be best illustrated by one of the most famous
incidents in the life of Confucius, dated by the _Family Sayings_ at
B.C. 516, about the time when Darius was sacking Babylon. Here is the
paragraph in the old Chinese history (translated by Legge, _Li Ki_,
II. II. 3, 10.)

"As he was passing by the side of the Ta'e mountain, there was a woman
weeping and wailing by a grave. Confucius bent forward in his
carriage, and after listening to her for some time, sent Tsze-Loo to
ask the cause of her grief.

"'You weep, as if you had experienced sorrow upon sorrow,' said
Tsze-Loo.

"The woman replied, 'It is so. My husband's father was killed here by
a tiger, and my husband also; and now my son has met the same fate.'

"Confucius asked her why she did not remove from the place, and on her
answering, 'There is here no oppressive government,' he turned to his
disciples, and said, 'My children, remember this, oppressive
government is fiercer than a tiger.'"


It takes an effort for a modern man to feel the force of the words of
the sage. The tiger means so little to us, and meant so much to the
weeping woman and her neighbours. Still harder is it for us to realise
the primitive ignorance of the exact shape of the enemy. Even to the
few backwoodsmen who have seen one dead, it soon becomes a vague
recollection. The infinite terror of the beasts and the ignorance of
their forms are not the less indubitable facts, because they are so
far beyond our ordinary comprehension; and these are the facts that
perhaps explain, so far as we can explain, the grotesque shape of the
Griffin. We must remember that our Zoos are a modern invention, almost
like firearms; for two or three millenniums do not make antiquity in a
world so old as ours. In the days when Griffins first took shape,
whatever was the most hideous object would seem to be the best
likeness of the horrid reality.

But the Zoos should let us know better now; and our writers and
speakers should teach us better than to hate the beasts of prey. It is
quite unnecessary. There is something coldly impartial in their war
with us. They do not hate us, any more than the rocks do, or the
icebergs. Red, "red in tooth and in claw," they remain unconscious
instruments of Fate, and serve to stiffen us. If they kill us, it is
in self-defence or for food. There is no wanton cruelty; but there is
no mercy. There are surprises, but no treachery. Even the French do
not feel themselves betrayed, when it is the wolves that win. There is
no sentimental humbug about this war; but also, no excuse for
ferocity.

I never visit a Zoo and see the poor prisoners behind the bars without
hearing, with the mind's ears, a greeting, an appeal for pity, as if
the poor big cats were really saying what they can only symbol in
silence.

"Look at and pity us! You will not have such cats to look at long.
Lions and tigers, leopards and jaguars, the species now all perishing
salute ye, O men!

"We are neither grotesque nor hideous, neither wicked nor cowardly,
neither cruel nor treacherous. We are merely cats. We had to live in
the only way for which we were adapted.

"The war between you and us is nearly over now. It has lasted long,
but the end is at hand. The world is lost to us big cats, and we are
passing away, on the wings of the wind....

"Woe, woe to the conquered!!!...

"Ye may lay aside your fears! Do lay aside your fears, for fear is
cruel. Ye have no need to fear us any more. We are your prisoners of
war, and spared to make a human holiday....

"We killed or left alone, and cannot guess why ye do otherwise; but we
cannot understand ye at all....

"We look around into daylight that is dimmer than darkness, and see
not why we are here. We submit, because we must; and we are dying,
dying, dying! All your devices but prolong our deaths! For life needs
liberty. There is no life in prison for cats, or for men....

"The species all about to die salute ye!

"Have pity on us, O men!!!"



XXV

THE FOX IN THE SUEZ CANAL


One afternoon, about the end of the nineteenth century, a steamer was
passing southwards through the Suez Canal, and as I sat in the shade
on its deck and looked eastwards over the desert, I saw a little
animal with a bushy tail running along the ridge at the canal side,
keeping level with the steamer. A slight occasional glance in our
direction showed that he knew we were there. At first, he appeared to
be a jackal; but, when glasses were turned upon him, we agreed that he
was more like the fox indigenous in the deserts and the lands
adjacent, the "fennec" as it is called, the "little fox" of Scripture
that is said to spoil the vines in one passage. It is a true fox; but
smaller in the body and bigger in the eyes and in the ears than other
foxes, and more easily tamed. By destroying vermin, he perhaps
balances his account with humanity, and is no more considered an enemy
than the swallow. He is said to eke out his want of strength by
diligence, and often escape his enemies by digging himself into
safety. Needless to say, unlike many other foxes, this one digs his
own hole, and is never without one, so that it must have been of him
that Jesus was thinking, when He said: "The foxes have holes, and the
birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay
His head" (Matt. viii. 20).

A lady, who was watching him with delight, was afterwards sorry that
she pointed him out to various idle men. She intended only to give
them pleasure; and did not in time bethink her, in what their pleasure
lay. Complacent cries of sham excitement were soon followed
by--"ping"--a shot from the bridge; and the bright little fox ceased,
suddenly, to run abreast of us, fell suddenly lame, and crawled aside.

"Well shot!" cried several raucous voices....

Some Arabs, working near, looked up to see what was being fired at,
and leaned on their tools, and spoke to each other, looking, from time
to time, at the steamer and in the direction of the fox. In 1886,
living at Suez some days, I had had various talks with such men,
seeking to sound their sentiments on things in general; and on this
occasion, I felt that I knew, as well as if I had heard it, that they
were saying to each other--"What bloody brutes!"

What seemed to confirm this guess, was that I did overhear our Indian
deck-scrapers making remarks....

Three or four days later, a fellow-passenger was still gloating over
the glorious achievement. We were near the south of the Red Sea by
this time. Thinking to make him sorry for the wounded beast, I
said--"The fox is likely to be dead of starvation and thirst by now."

"Ha, yes," said he, "it isn't likely to live much longer after a
Martini bullet has perforated its thigh, ha, ha, ha!"

"People don't shoot foxes in England."

"They kill them in another way. They're just as cruel.... Of course,
one would rather have galloped after him; but what can you do from a
ship's deck?"

"Not gallop, certainly." I tried another tack. "It is thought wrong,
in the Highlands, I have heard, to shoot at the deer, unless you are
likely to kill."

"No?" He seemed surprised; but after a pause, he could explain the
mystery. "It would spoil the venison," said he.

"Do you think the man who shot the fox in the thigh has nothing to be
sorry for?"

"He could not be sure of the head. I think that, on the whole, he did
very well. He was in a moving ship, and it was running."

"Are you not sorry for the fox?"

"Not at all."

I was tempted to say I was sorry for him; and could have said so,
sincerely. But, after all, he was young, and a human being, though
mentally and morally less developed than the Indian seamen or the Arab
labourers. I was loath to hurt his feelings. He deserved as much
consideration as--the fox. So we changed the subject.



XXVI

SOLIDARITY AMONG THE BRUTES


1. ELEPHANTS

Our Indian newspapers recently (1909) reproduced reports of a public
meeting in London, which had been made remarkable by the presence of
the veteran Mr Selous, who had assured inquirers that the elephants do
really assist each other in distress. He doubtless gave details of
many modern instances; but the newspapers omitted them. So here is
one.

Towards the end of 1897, some herds of wild elephants spread far and
wide over the harvest fields in Toungoo district, Burma. They had used
to do that, not every year, but at intervals, for generations; but
this visitation was unusually severe. The area cultivated was greater
than ever before, and the villagers had been disarmed. On former
occasions the elephants had gone away as soon as the men began to
shoot, or even to make a noise like shots, by putting bamboos into
fires which they hastily kindled on the edges of the fields; but, on
this occasion, the elephants merely paused a little to trumpet to each
other, "I'm not hurt," "Nor I," "Nor I." Then they resumed grazing at
random, heeding the noises of humanity, the shouting and the rattling
of tins and sticks and the bamboo-crackers, no more than the cawing of
the crows.

The news seemed to spread in the elephant world that men had ceased to
shoot; for as the herd that came first went farther from the hills,
seeking pastures new, the farmers who had begun to breathe freely were
horrified to see new herds appear. On the morning that the first news
came to me, it was followed in a few hours by reports of fresh havoc,
like those that rained upon Job. "We'll need an extra officer to
measure up the damage for revenue exemptions on that account," was the
prudent reminder of a responsible subordinate, expert in reeling off
official rigmaroles; but I took an original plan, of which nothing was
said, or ever would have been, if that newspaper report had not
recalled to mind an incident too good to leave in oblivion. I took the
first train to a station that seemed to be the centre of the
elephants' operations; and in less than two hours a general engagement
was in progress. A long line of men, including military and other
policemen and carrying all the firearms of any kind available,
advanced as fast as they could towards the elephants, whose demeanour
and behaviour could not have been surpassed.

Whenever they discovered that the shots were now followed by bullets,
they all ceased grazing, far and near, as far as the eye could reach
over a spacious, level plain. They gathered into herds, and, as soon
as possible, every herd, with cows and calves on the safe side and
fighting males next the enemy to secure the rear, was moving towards
the western hills, far quicker than a man could walk. Many of them
were wounded, but none were left behind. I had not myself the luck to
see, but heard from many others who saw it at the time, a sight that
well might be immortalised. A big, wounded tusker had raised the men's
hopes. They knew the value of ivory, and hastened to isolate him; but
two other big elephants, of which one at least was seen to be a
female, ran to him and supported him, one at each side. They held him
up as he limped along and joined the herd in safety, and all went off
together. The men were left lamenting, and admiring too.

Upon the hills, among primeval woods, the elephants that roam, intent
on provender, oblivious of war, resemble the Yankees among the great
powers of the world. Their superabundance of material brings water to
the teeth of potentates of prey; but the herds of elephants are too
terrible to tackle. They graze in peace in the cool glens, and have
been known, in thirsty weather, to drink alongside a tiger. Such a
thing, at least, has been reported as seen, and often inferred from
tracks. Think of what must have been in the heart of the tiger, as he
lapped the cool water, with an empty stomach, and eyed the elephants'
calves. But "whatsoe'er he thought, he acted right," and departed
without hostilities, undoubtedly protesting, in the language of the
woods, his love of peace--which was no doubt sincere, under the
circumstances.


2. THE BABOONS AND THE LEOPARD

It is not ill deeds alone that are done because the means to do them
are in sight. The same is true of good deeds also. The elephants can
help each other better than most quadrupeds, because they have trunks;
and so can the monkeys, because they have hands. Herein lay the
primitive germ of society. Indeed there is profit in remembering this,
for it follows that selfish greed, which is the root of gambling and
theft of every kind, is a reversion in the scale of being, not merely
to the monkey level, but far below it, to the level of the cats and
fishes.

Be the explanation what it may, the mutual helpfulness of monkeys is
well ascertained. They could hardly survive in the woods on other
terms. A male baboon in Egypt has been seen to turn and face some
dogs, and protect and deliver a young baboon in danger of succumbing
to them. Here the remarkable thing is that it was the male that did
it. Many females would fight for their young. Maternal love is the
taproot of life; but the root of society is family solidarity. That
the poor "dog-faced" baboon of old Egypt, unaltered for 6000 years, is
able to rise so high in the social scale as this, is perhaps what is
best worth knowing about him.

The leopard is the great enemy of monkeys of all kinds. This may be
said to be true "all the world over," if the American jaguar is called
a kind of leopard, as it sometimes is. So it is with special pleasure
that one reads of an incident seen in Africa not long ago by Sir
J. Percy Fitzpatrick. It occurs in the standard biography of his dog,
_Jock of the Bushveld_, pp. 270, 271, 272, and it happened to a
leopard that narrowly missed dining upon the hero, "Jock," and so
cutting short his distinguished career. Jock's master, apparently, was
a-hunting, and saw the leopard pinning a baboon with its left paw in
the bottom of a stony glen; but before it could do more, a host of
angry baboons descended the rocks towards it, with an uproar that even
to a Fitzpatrick seemed deafening; and upon the leopard, which had one
paw occupied, they "showered loose earth, stones, and debris of all
sorts down with awkward underhand scrapes of their forepaws" (meaning
their hands). Nearer and nearer they came, while the leopard vainly
threatened them with its free forepaw. Louder and louder grew the
uproar. The baboons, like old Cato and the Chinese, believed in
shouting and grimacing to frighten the foe; and here they practised
that. Neither Cato nor any Chinese warrior could surpass a monkey in
twisting the features. The artist who tried to represent their
contortions in Sir Percy's book has done his best, but could not
succeed. It is "like painting fire," as Carlyle once said.

The leopard became alarmed. It is an Indian proverb that the tigers do
not count the sheep; but the baboon is not so negligible. The corpses
of a chimpanzee and a lion, it has been reported (but not by Sir
Percy), have been found interlocked, the chimpanzee having been
disembowelled, and the lion throttled. The leopard could not know
that. I confess I have doubts of the truth of the history myself. But
the leopard had misgivings as the noisy crowd came nearer and nearer,
and let his victim go. Sir Percy watched the triumphant baboons
depart. "The crowd scrambled up the slope again," he reports, and he
tells us he believed, and so may we, what "all the Kafirs maintained,
that they could see the mauled one dragged along by its arms by two
others, much as a child might be helped uphill...."

It is a likely guess that the fighting baboons were the adult males of
the tribe. This is a guess suggested by another interesting bit of
history.


3. THE INDIAN BABOONS AND THE BEAR

Dr Murphy, now civil surgeon at Maubin, in the delta of Burma, where
this is written, is a unique phenomenon. That is a clumsy phrase to
apply to any fellow-creature, but accurate. He is a perfectly popular
European official--popular in spite of being an official, because he
is a good doctor, spontaneously sympathetic, kind and helpful, and
does not bully or grab.

Two little facts may be told on the authority of the present Deputy
Commissioner of Maubin district and his predecessor, to give Dr Murphy
the pleasure of seeing himself as others see him, and to give
strangers a glimpse of him. In 1908, when he was about to go away on
sorely-needed sick leave, the good people of Maubin town, who did not
realise how ill he was, got up a petition to the effect that
Dr Murphy's leave should be refused, as Maubin town could not possibly
dispense with him. When he was expected to return in 1909, the Deputy
Commissioner hastened to Rangoon to solicit that Dr Murphy might be
posted again to Maubin. That was how he came to be in Maubin this year
(1909), when he told me three pretty anecdotes, which, knowing him
well, I retell now with as much confidence as if I had seen and heard
with my own eyes and ears everything he told me he saw and heard.

In 1883 he and his brother were schoolboys at Mussoorie in the
Himalayas; and were in the habit of frequenting a glen where lived a
tribe of Indian baboons, "langurs" the people name them. These are
"black-faced, white-whiskered, long-tailed, big, grey monkeys, not by
any means as tall as a man, but as thick in the arm." They are a
different species from the African baboons, but quite as clannish.
They live on terms of neutrality with mankind, as the various tribes
of men may be said to live with each other; that is to say, open
hostilities are strictly avoided on both sides, and stealing is
restricted to what can be done in secret. In this instance, as the
stealing is all on one side, it might be said they levied tribute upon
men, but they do not attack people. School children at Simla have told
this writer that the "wild" baboons often sit and watch them, they and
the children eyeing each other with equal curiosity.

Of course, they are not Quakers, nor even Hindus. If people flung
stones at them, they would fling stones in return. The little brown
fisher monkey of Burma, too, will do that. But "in deference to Hindu
prejudices," the English leave them alone, so that they have probably
never noticed the English. They pay no taxes, these white-whiskered
gentlemen; and reciprocate human forbearance. "Live and let live," is
their rule with men, and so, in general, schoolboys hardly notice
them.

Great therefore was the surprise of the two little Irishmen one day to
notice the baboons in a state of excitement, jabbering loudly, and
plainly preparing for battle. Their women and children were all
huddled in one place, and the big males gathered in another, moving in
a body. The boys, as if by instinct, followed the crowd of males "to
see the fun," whatever it might be, just as in the Highlands of
Scotland, when they were inhabited, the boys used to follow the men at
funerals and weddings "to see the fights."

Their curiosity was richly rewarded. The baboons began to bait a
solitary, angry bear. The boys were dangerously close to the bear
before they saw him; but he did not heed them, which was lucky. A
bear, encountered at random, is often "worse than a tiger," it is
said; because the tiger can always get out of the way when he wants,
but the bear is so slow that he despairs of escaping, and turns and
rends the man who has met him. In this case, luckily for the two
little Murphys, the bear was preoccupied. The baboons swarmed noisily
in the trees around and above him. The elder of the two boys, who
alone saw much, said that he saw them incessantly, one hard upon
another, come close enough to slap the bear violently with the open
palm of the hand on back or belly, on head or side, on whatever point
seemed safest of access--Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Their
objurgations were like the sound of a cataract. The bear was
distracted, snapping and striking here and there, but always missing.
The baboons relied on their agility to escape his teeth and paws, with
complete success, so far as the boys saw; but the boys did not linger.
They had not the feeling of security that the baboons had; and,
thankful to have escaped notice, "Run, run," cried the elder, and they
ran to a safe distance. There they stood and listened; and when the
thunder of the battle and the shouting indicated the bear's retreat,
the boys consulted the hillmen, and were told that these battles,
which were familiar to the hillmen, always ended in that way.

The glen of the baboons was open to the south and east, sheltered and
sunny, and convenient for the fields and gardens, in which the baboons
could seek for change of diet. The adjoining glen of the bears had a
wetter aspect. True, with all its wetness, it had many oaks whose
acorns were dear to the hearts of the bears, and they meant to keep
it; but why not have the other glen also? They esteemed the baboons no
more than the Belgians esteem the negroes. So, from time to time, an
Imperialist bear invaded the land of the baboons; but the hillmen said
that they did not think the same bear ever came twice. The reason was
that the bear, invading, always came alone. He was too inveterate an
individualist to form a Chartered Company. He did not even hunt in
couples. So the invader, irresistible as he seemed, was always
repulsed by the solid regiment of baboons.

Thus it is that men and baboons are taught the need of solidarity. As
Benjamin Franklin quietly and sublimely remarked on 4th July 1776--"We
must all hang together, else we shall all hang separately."


4. SIMLA MONKEYS

The years go by like clouds. In 1902, Dr Murphy was no longer a
schoolboy, running about Mussoorie, but a surgeon employed by Simla
municipality, and familiar with the little monkeys there, who lived on
Jacko Hill. They overran the town, these little men; and took every
possible advantage of the toleration of the good Hindus. Perhaps it is
needful to mention that Indians are so indulgent that European
naturalists in India are continually surprised at the slight fear of
men among wild birds and beasts. Thus it was that "Hindu prejudice"
protected the monkeys at Simla, though nobody suffered more from them
than the Hindus; but even they agreed with Dr Murphy that "something
must be done," when the little men from Jacko insisted on entering his
house and removing the bread from the breakfast table.

It would be a long story to tell the plans that failed. The plan that
worked was beautiful in its simplicity.

Two earthen pots were buried before the eyes of the monkeys, looking
on. Only the thick and narrow rims were left above ground. What this
was for, no monkey could comprehend, and the more of them that
gathered, the more they seemed perplexed. A "multitude of counsellors"
may bring confusion instead of wisdom. It was the easiest thing in the
world for any of them to put in his hand and feel the emptiness of the
pots. But, why were they buried there? "Hum--hum," none of them could
tell.

When they were about to disperse and dismiss the matter, as one of the
many mysterious eccentricities of men, Dr Murphy put grain into the
pots in front of them. This was a sudden illumination to the assembly.
To keep grain safe from monkeys is one of the continual problems of
Simla life. "And this is _his_ way of doing it," thought the monkeys
to themselves.

They did not delay to show him what they thought of his device and
him. It was really too ridiculous. One of their leading men came
straight to the pots and put a hand into one of them, keeping his eyes
on Dr Murphy. It was as easy as ever to put a hand in; but, when his
clenched fist was full of grain, he could not take it out.

After one or two ineffectual attempts to withdraw his hand, he put the
other hand into the other pot, which had been placed convenient for
that very purpose. Perhaps, when he put in the second hand, his object
was to find out what was holding the first; but when it also touched
the grain, the force of habit made him grab with it also, a
beautifully human trait of character; and there he stood with both his
hands in chancery, meaning by chancery a place that does not readily
let anything out that once comes in.

There he remained standing. It never came into his head to open his
hands and withdraw them empty. He was an emblem of many an
Anglo-Indian, who has "heard the East a-calling," and seeking a "soft
job," has wandered where his tribe cannot thrive, but is detained by
what he has in hand, and cannot find the heart to forego. The monkey
stood there, with both hands full, quite wealthy for a monkey, but a
helpless prisoner. If there had been pots enough, his kinsmen would
all have come and done likewise; but there were only two, and he had
monopolised them; and now he had to endure the multitudinous advice of
the empty-handed monkeys, and their criticism, and ...

That was not all he had to endure. Dr Murphy took a whip and proceeded
to chastise him, not very severely, but sufficiently to keep him from
thinking clearly in the abstract. Then the hubbub thickened round the
doctor. The tribe that dwelt on Jacko gathered clamorous. Quick, from
the hill and almost every tree, wherever tribesmen were who heard the
news, they hastened to the great indignation meeting, all seeming to
talk at once, and making hideous grimaces, at which, to their
surprise, Dr Murphy laughed aloud. They did not understand his noises
and grimaces; but what they could not fail to see was his
indifference. Whack, whack, whack! He continued the flogging amidst a
chorus of disapproval, quite equal to that of the United Press
Association.

The prisoner broke away. The pots had not been very strong; and in his
struggles he had broken off the rims. With an earthenware bracelet on
each wrist and both hands full of grain, he reached the nearest tree;
and there he opened his hands and dropped the grain. "All that a man
hath he will give for his life." But in this instance, the general
opinion of observers was that the grain was dropped by inadvertence,
as the monkey opened his hands in haste to climb, forgetting what he
held.

By a similarly inadvertent knock against the tree, he broke one of his
bracelets as he went up. Well for him if he had broken both! He joined
the crowd that had come to help him, with still a bracelet (of a pot's
rim) on one of his wrists. This caused an immediate revulsion of
feelings. His friends became his persecutors. They crowded round him,
pushing and pulling him, smacking and scratching him, and biting him
till the blood came. In a few minutes that leading monkey would have
been dead, and perhaps they would have been carrying his corpse to the
hill, as some people said they used to do, but suddenly, as the
persecuted one was floundering about, the fatal pot's rim broke and
fell in pieces to the ground. Behold, he was now as the other monkeys
were, different from the rest no more, but sore afflicted and in
agony. They succoured him now, like a prodigal returned, and helped
him gently away, leaving the kind doctor sad to see how far beyond his
intentions the poor fellow had been punished. The doctor declared he
would never set that trap again.

But how very human it was! To translate the fine verse of Béranger's
song ("Les Fous")--

  "As we toe the line, we duffers,
    If anyone quits the crowd,
  Whatever he does or suffers,
    We all of us yell aloud.
  The crowd runs to kick him, or slays him,
    And afterwards sees it was blind;
  Then we set up his statue, and praise him
    As a credit to all mankind."


5. CO-OPERATION

Whether or not the guess is right that in that hubbub among the
monkeys in the Simla trees there was a rudimentary heresy hunt, or, in
other words, that the monkeys were screeching whatever in monkey
language intimated, "Bad form, bad form," "Order, order," it cannot be
surprising to find solidarity such as theirs facilitated, or even made
possible, by what can only be called a kind of language. If Max Müller
had been beside Dr Murphy one day in 1905 in Simla, and seen what
Dr Murphy then saw, he would probably have abandoned the proud claim
he has made for humanity to a monopoly of speech. We must be content
with the more modest boast of developing it.

The doctor noticed a monkey sitting on the flat roof of a small house
in Simla, where lived a man who roasted gram and sold it. The little
brown fellow was visibly hankering after the gram exposed for sale on
a tray before the door. He leaned over and looked long at the man
beside it. Then the doctor saw him go to a short distance and confer
with four or five others, two of whom returned with him, and three
little heads bent over the roof to study the situation and the
unconscious seller of gram.

Then one of them went down the water-pipe behind the house, walked
boldly round to the front of it, and openly, before the eyes of the
astonished man, took a handful and ran away. The man snatched a stick
and chased him; and Dr Murphy noticed with surprise that, of two
possible roads, the fugitive took the least convenient for himself,
but the one that best kept the man out of sight and reach of his
stall. As soon as he was gone, the two remaining monkeys hurried down
and helped themselves to handfuls and escaped away, to be presently
rejoined by their daring colleague, who had drawn away the man.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the significance of this incident.
These monkeys must somehow have been able to speak together and trust
each other. To every union of several we may apply what Heraclitus
said of every unit,--"Its character is its fate." Solidarity is
possible in exact proportion to the degree of honesty prevailing. So
the monkeys must have had a rudimentary kind of honesty as well as a
rudimentary kind of speech; and that was why they could act on
Moltke's maxim--"Erst wägen, dann wagen" ("First ponder, then dare,"
or, in commoner words, "Think before you act"), and then carry out
their plans and co-operate well. We would be absent-minded beggars
indeed if we did not see here the germ of that tribal solidarity from
which all human civilisation has gradually evolved. Let us never
forget our humble beginnings, or despise our poor relations.



XXVII

A RUN FOR LIFE


In Phayre's _History of Burma_ it is mentioned that "the loud,
deep-toned cries of the hoolook ape ... resound dismally in those dark
forest solitudes, and startle the traveller ..." (ch. xxii). They
would startle only those who did not recognise in the resounding
"Oo-oo-oos" the voices of harmless, primitive communities of hairy
little black men and women, called gibbons, the smallest of the apes
that closely resemble humanity. They are probably the strongest of us
all in the arms, in proportion to their size; for it is on their
agility in the trees that they depend to escape their enemies.

It was in an Upper Burman forest that one of them was noticed a few
years ago, pursued by a leopard, which had got between him and the
rest of the tribe. What handicapped the little black man--or was it a
woman?--was the bareness of the trees. If the trees had been more
thickly clad the spotted enemy could not have kept him in sight; but,
as it was, whenever the gibbon looked down, the leopard's eyes were on
him; and if he paused to rest, it seemed about to mount. "Oo-oo-oo!"
On, on, on he had to go, there was no rest for the gibbon. It was like
Dante's Hell. He cried pitifully, incessantly, "Oo-oo-oo," and his
kinsfolk answered him across the glen; but, what could they do? They
could no more mob a leopard than the swallows could. "Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo!"

If he could have rejoined them, however, he would have been safe; for
then the leopard could not have tired him out. So said the countrymen,
who explained the ways of "Mr Spots"; but in this instance the leopard
was able to keep between him and the rest. The intervening space was
increasing. Did the little man know some round-about way? "Oo-oo-oo!"
The others answered him, as if to say, "Cheer up! Here we are, waiting
for you!" "Oo-oo-oo!" His speed increased, as he went farther away, as
if he were growing nervous; and surely he had lost his head for a
moment when he put foot on the ground, passing a gap, thinking the
enemy far enough behind. The leopard was ready for that, and seized
him. Then, in that far corner of the glen, there was silence--the
silence of death.



XXVIII

MOTHER'S LOVE AMONG THE MONKEYS


In January 1909 a friend at Pyapon, Burma, told me that, as he was
passing through an unfrequented creek near the shore there, between
Rangoon and Bassein, the sudden apparition of his steam-launch alarmed
a crowd of monkeys. They were on the trees, overhanging the water, and
chattering loudly. They hurried away, with leaps and swings, quickly
and easily, all but one. He was a _very_ little fellow, and there was
a big gap in front of him, too big for him; and so he stood shivering,
about to fall. His mother saw his plight, and came back and joined
him. To take him was impossible. So she sat beside him; and he pressed
close to her and clung to her; and she put one arm around him, and,
quietly but with quivering lips, she faced the awful apparition,
whistling, splashing, puffing. It passed without hurting her or her
son. They suffered nothing but the fright.

"Very queer they looked as we came close to them," thought the men on
the boat; but their fear was as natural as that of men who see a lion
at large. It is likely, too, that that brown mother-monkey had had
losses before; and a mother's heart to feel them. Perhaps a memory of
old sorrows, dimly present yet, as well as something of the sublime
instinct which makes humanity at times self-sacrificing and brave, had
strengthened her heart enough to let her face the immeasurable dangers
of the noisy, unknown monster.

Instead of laughing at her ignorance, think of our own--how little we
can ever know of her or her tribe, how utterly undecipherable,
mysterious beyond any hieroglyphics, remain the lines upon her face
the "multitudinous wrinkled tragedies" upon the parchment of that
little brow! We pass each other close enough; but an infinite gulf
divides us, a gulf deeper than that in the parable: for there is no
speech across it, no signalling, no telegraphy of any kind. No
communication whatever is possible between us, any more than if we
lived in different solar systems. Only, we can see and admire in her a
mother's love, exactly as we can behold the flashing glories of the
kingfisher's feathers, or hear the merry music of the lark. The world
is not a nightmare after all.



XXIX

EXIT THE HUNTER


1. UP TO DATE

Why are there so few heroic tales of our brave boys a-hunting with
breechloaders, may be asked. The truth is that, with modern weapons,
hunting is as unromantic as work in a slaughter-house.

Men may still be wounded by teeth or claws, as I have known one who
lost an arm to a tiger, and every now and then a man is killed,
although he has modern weapons in his hand; but it is mostly by
accident or stupidity, and nearly always by preventable accident, like
getting wounded on a railway. It is painful, and may be fatal; but so
rare and so preventable that to take the risk needs no more courage
than to step into a train.

That is why so many lies are told. The truth is bald. I have witnessed
some, and credibly heard of hundreds of hunting adventures, in the
most dangerous corners of the world; and read of thousands more. To
see the truth, one has to allow for the many events that seem too
commonplace to remember, as well as for all the tricks of slippery
memory. Statistics are not available, which is helpful in a thing like
this; for statistics are misleading, and can be quoted to prove
anything. So every man has to generalise from what he knows; and,
doing so, I concur in the opinion of those judicious persons who think
that the most dangerous kinds of modern hunting are safer in every way
than common coal-mining. The percentage of mortality is almost
certainly a great deal smaller. Not once, so far as I have been able
to believe, not once did any man, with modern weapons in his hands, do
anything very heroic, or _need_ to do it. The grit was often there;
but there was no real opportunity, for it is not the mere taking of
risks that makes the hero. The gambling spirit is equal to that. The
hero rises above selfishness as far as above fear, and does what he
sees to be right, unheeding consequences. In our long war with the
beasts, which has lasted so many millenniums, we needed such men at
the start, but not now. The brunt of the battle is over, and anyone
can finish it.

That is why there is little to tell in our anecdotes of modern
adventures, unless when something happens under primitive conditions.
Never did any modern hunter have to face such danger as was faced by a
bereaved old Burman grandfather in a village near Rangoon when he took
a spear in his hand, and, with other old men, ran after the tiger that
was carrying away his grandchild, and closed with it. These old
fellows showed a spirit that makes one think better of humanity. But
what are we to think of the idle men with breechloaders and servants?
What drives them to the field or forest? The heavy burden of
life-weariness, the Nemesis of idleness and plethora. The best of them
are seeking a relief from real worries, perhaps, and the others
killing time, or seeking amusement. Why not? It is nonsense for any
man to dictate the pleasures of another; but let us have no cant at
any rate, no make-believe heroics, as if the killing of cats needed
particular bravery on the part of a man with a battery.

There are few more genuine pleasures in life than that of a European
officer, who is at hand to help villagers in India against leopards or
tigers, and feels his gun of use; and the wounds, if any, received in
that way would leave honourable scars. But such a coincidence of duty
and pleasure is rare, and seldom to be got by seeking for it. It is
altogether a different thing from the experience of sportsmen in
search of sensations.


2. THE LION IN DEATH

Here is a cutting from a friendly review of a recent book in the
_Westminster Gazette_ of 5th December 1908.

"Our author, we have said, got no lions. Other game came to him in
plenty, but the lions always evaded his gun. Yet he gives us a living
picture of a lion hunt, when the harried animal, which has been trying
to slink off, at last turns to bay and determines on the fight to a
finish:

"'Death is the only possible conclusion.

"'Broken limbs, broken jaws, a body raked from end to end, lungs
pierced through and through, entrails torn and protruding--none of
these count. It must be death--instant and utter for the lion, or down
goes the man, mauled by septic claws and fetid teeth, crushed and
crunched, and poisoned afterwards to make doubly sure. Such are the
habits of this cowardly and wicked animal.'"

Since Goldsmith described how

  "The dog, to gain his private ends,
  Went mad, and bit the man,"

there has been nothing to equal the humour of this imputed wickedness.
A simple person might suppose that the lion paused to spit in poison,
or at least deliberately poisoned his teeth and claws; whereas, of
course, he merely does not clean them properly. Having to live in the
backwoods of Africa, and support himself somehow, he cannot command
the toilet requisites of Belgravia. Is not that wicked? And his
cowardice, in not standing to be shot at, is uncommonly like that of
the Boers. Why should he not avoid the enemy's fire?

In truth, it is plain that the author, as indeed he tells us, was not
describing what he saw, but repeating what he was told. His words are
not a "living picture," but, if he will allow me to say it, a bloody
blur, which no more gives an idea of the real fight than the hospital
beds give an idea of a battle. In the supreme hour of conflict, both
sides "see red," but not in that way. Neither thinks of wounds. There
seems to be no time for that. The only thought is how to kill; and in
the glad excitement the manifold details of life and all its
conventions, which seem so real in cold blood, are crumpled up like
stage properties in a conflagration; and all seems fair in war, and
all _is_ fair; and the issue lies with the God of battles, and not
with the elderly lawyers at The Hague or anywhere else.

So much the worse is it then for the lions, and so much the worse for
any man or nation found unready, unprepared. Ah, if we could only
regulate battles like law-courts, how different the world would be!
But God knows best. It somehow _must_ be better as it is.

If this Englishman or any other man would meet the lion on equal
terms, as knight met knight in the Middle Ages, I am sure there is not
a lion, young or old, in Africa, there is not a tiger in India or
Burma, that would not accept the challenge with pleasure. As the
challenged party would have the choice of weapons, and a sportsman
could not object to fair-play, we may be sure that "Nature's weapons"
would be the lion's choice, and the victory swift and certain for the
lion, even if it rained Englishmen, to say nothing of other people.

This is an old, old story. Hercules himself had to use a club and
poisoned arrows. It is by tools and co-operation that we master the
other beasts. The cats are a particularly easy conquest, as they are
bigoted individualists. But let us not add insult to injury, and call
them cowardly because they dodge us. When next our author is at
Lucerne, let him step aside into the garden there and look at
Thorwaldsen's lion, cut in the living rock, and see whether it does
not lift his thoughts above the shambles. The wounded lion he
described, according to the reviewer, was "trying to slink off."
Thorwaldsen shows what it was seeking to die in peace. Why chase and
torture him more? To get his hide? The lion-hunter, whoever he was,
although he risked his life gratuitously, was like a silly child
pulling a cat's tail and a thoughtlessly cruel child, for this big cat
was in mortal agony.

Machinery-murder, for beasts of every kind, including men, is now a
fact inevitable, and, like everything inevitable, it bears a blessing
in it, if only we submit to the will of the Almighty, and recognise
what He has brought to pass. The blessing latent in this apparent
affliction, perhaps, is that we may cease to admire the business of
slaughter; and if so, what a stream of blessings may flow from that
one.

  "For ever since historian writ,
    And ever since a bard could sing,
  Doth each exalt with all his wit
    The noble art of murdering."


3. KILLING TIGERS AND APES

I have just been invited to invest in an electric apparatus, to be
installed upon the tree one sits in, when waiting over a "kill" for
the return of the tiger. The difficulty at present is to see to shoot
in the dark; and this invention enables you to press a button and
flood the place with electric light. If then you are moderately quick,
you can shoot the beast while he is blinking at the light, as easily
as if it were day. You are as safe in the tree as in a bedroom and
very nearly as comfortable on your platform. You can sleep there all
night--four nights out of five at the least--when nothing happens.
When the great night comes, that is to say, when the tiger comes, even
then you need not lose more sleep than most passengers do in a
sleeping carriage on a railway. The swing of the tree in the breeze
and the rustling of the leaves make your platform a superlatively
soothing bed; and as you lie back and look up at the drifting clouds,
and the moon or the stars, you can feel you have the excitements of
savage life, combined with all the comforts of Charing Cross; for at
your side is a good fellow, willing, for a consideration, to keep
watch for the tiger, better than you possibly could, and to watch you,
too, and take care that, in waiting, you do not roll over on your back
and snore, and finally wake you when it comes. What a dramatic whisper
it is in your ear--"Tiger come! Tiger come!" Nothing in any theatre
can equal it! Do not be in too big a hurry to fire. There is no need
to hurry, if you take care to make no noise at all, and it is well to
take time to waken thoroughly, so as to aim your best. If then you
fire and kill, you are contented for an hour or two. There might then
even be a little danger for you, if you had made a bargain with the
Devil like Faust's (see Goethe's text, Scene IV)--

  "If e'er you find me quite content,
    And bidding time stand still,
  To Hell you then can have me sent,
    And bind me as you will!"

But even in that case, the danger would be momentary. "Another" and
"another" you would want; and the Devil himself could not provide
them--at any rate in Burma, where the many ineffectual days and nights
become intolerable, unless you have something else to do as well.

Accordingly it is the Forest officers, whose work is in the woods, who
can hunt to most advantage. There was one I knew who killed many
scores of tigers, mostly by "sitting up over a kill," in the manner
described. I doubt if he knew the exact figure himself. It must have
been over a hundred. Besides the tigers, the same man killed perhaps
every kind of wild beast in the Burman forests, except only the big
ape.

Here, it may be noted, for the information of those who deny the
existence of that animal on the Continent, that the writer knew a
Mr Bruce, Deputy Conservator of Forests, and a completely credible
man, who found his camp-followers attacked by a big ape. To save human
life, he shot it, and on laying out the corpse he found it little
smaller than the orang-outang. This was in the Upper Chindwin, in the
north of Burma; and the villagers, who professed to know it well,
called it the "wild man of the woods," which is what orang-outang
means in the Malay language.

"I would have done something else," said the man of many trophies to
me. "I would not have shot the big ape--at least not within many years
past. I once did shoot a monkey in a tree. I used small shot that
lacerated its bowels. The poor little beast sat on the bough and held
its protruding entrails in its hand and looked at me. I felt as if it
was asking me 'Why did you do that?' I swore I'd never kill a monkey
again, and never did, and never will."

This reminds one of the common report, which one would like to
believe, that a great man of science is occasionally haunted by the
ghosts of the apes he has slain. The generous man is prone to remorse.
But it is vain. "You can't cure the wounds your arrow has made by
merely unbending your bow."

What most needs to be told, however, for it is least suspected, is
that with modern weapons and a little skill and nerve, the hunter
never has to face much danger. Even accidents are rare, and mostly
avoidable. There is little to fear, except monotony and malaria; and
green mosquito-nets have long been available for hunters to diminish
the malaria. How to diminish the monotony is a problem that remains
unsolved.

In India there is less of it--I mean of the monotony. The patchiness
of the forests makes the killing of cats more expeditious in India
than in Burma. The poor labourers who "beat" have a little involuntary
excitement. There is some real danger for them; but for nobody else.
The potentates aloft, on elephants or other elevations, waiting to
pull triggers, which is their function, are as safe as if they were on
the bridge of a battleship, bombarding whales. The ladies could do it
equally well; or the ladies' maids. The expense is multiplied a
hundred or a thousand times, to increase the amusement; and that is
the fashionable Indian tiger-hunting. It differs from ordinary hunting
as the Spanish bull-ring differs from the slaughter-house; but, as
there is room for thousands to sit in safety round the Spanish circus,
and a display of courage and agility by the leading actors, a Spaniard
might reasonably argue that his sort of sport was superior in every
way. It certainly does supply more fun for the money.


4. THE HAPPY HUNTER

The happiest huntsman I ever heard of was a fat little Frenchman, who
was a guest in a shooting-box in the Highlands of Scotland. His host
was some ex-royalty; and one morning the whole crowd were going to
stalk the deer, except our hero, who stood watching their departure as
cheerily as he could. "Take a gun and potter about yourself near the
house," was the parting shout to him; and after a little, finding time
begin to drag, he remembered the kindly-meant advice, and shouldered a
gun and went off alone.

At dinner-time, he could hardly contain himself till the others had
finished telling their doings; and when at last his hints had made
them curious, and they asked what sport he had had, he cried: "Ah, my
friends, smaller, but better than yours. Just over the top of the
first hillock (_petite colline_), on the edge of the moor, I met a
glorious herd of Scottish chamois, magnificent wild sheep (_moutons
sauvages_), and killed half-a-dozen of them before they escaped. They
must have watched you all go to a distance and felt safe. I completely
surprised them."

It was only the conventions of sport that made the fat little man
ridiculous. The deer were no more wild animals than the sheep. If the
deer-stalkers were real hunters, so was he. In danger and in joy, they
were the same.

They tell me that this story is well-known in London. That was to be
expected. It was too good not to tell. But I heard it in 1894, in the
north, from a parish clergyman of superior character, who located it
in ground adjacent to his parish. It is impossible that he lied. There
is barely one chance in ten that he was misinformed. So, if the
"French lord" concerned convinces me that he desires such
"immortality" as the mention of his name would give, then his name
shall be mentioned, with perhaps a few more particulars. The
probabilities seem to me about ten to one that the story is true.
After all, a statement is not _necessarily_ false, _because_ it is
known in London.

The pleasure of fighting big cats any brave man can feel. But wherein
lies the joy of being what Lord Chesterfield despised, a poulterer? Or
of butchering the deer? Why do we not all feel as kind-hearted
Plutarch did that, when men are at play, the beasts that help in the
fun should have a share of it? Why is there joy in dealing out death?
God knows. I have felt it myself; but a man cannot really analyse his
feelings. He can only pretend to do that. At times--not always of
course, but often enough--our feelings are as mysterious as the stars,
which we can watch and photograph, but never explain.

So, when I say God knows, I mean that there doubtless are in Nature,
which is another name for the mystery of the Universe, abundant
reasons, far beyond my sounding. And I do know a partial explanation,
a kind of clue, which our mealy-mouthed manners make me hesitate to
mention. Yet, after all, truth needs no fine excuses, and the
sentiments of the natural man need no apology. There is a genuine joy
in killing. Nobody needs to be ashamed of it, any more than of
sneezing. It is born in us all; and to a mind undeveloped, unable to
imagine itself in the place of another, cruelty is a pure pleasure,
the lively sensations of it not being spoiled by pity. That was how
the Inquisitors enjoyed themselves, and executions were always
popular. A man likes killing as naturally as he likes sugar. "Clear
your minds of cant," as Dr Johnson advised, and it is easy to see in
that the true attraction of hunting. How great and genuine a joy it is
I never realised till once I watched a lady crunching a praying mantis
under a paper-weight, and gloating over its sufferings, just as a
cousin of hers, a famous hunter, loved to dwell on his more gory
glories. She was sipping a liqueur she liked a minute later, with the
same beatific expression of happiness.

The good old salt, Frank Bullen, has lately been lamenting the new and
unromantic ways of whaling, when the whales are chased by steamers and
the harpoons driven home by gunpowder, and the whales quickly finished
by bombs. Indeed, there is no blinking the fact that the fun is out of
the business. A man should think himself a fool if he goes on fancying
that there is danger or romance, when there is none. The whaler and
the hunter, under modern conditions, are as like the old-fashioned
whalers and hunters as the saloon passengers in an Atlantic greyhound
are like the fellow-voyagers of Columbus or Drake.


5. THE USE OF HUNTING

To talk of the use of hunting to-day is generally cant, like talking
of the danger of it. At the expense of what is wasted in a few years
upon foxes in England, it would be possible to exterminate the lions,
tigers, leopards, wolves, foxes, jaguars and every other big kind of
dangerous wild beasts on the face of the earth; and fewer lives need
be lost in the business than went to the building of the Forth Bridge.
The work might be done in a year or two; and in the same time, and
still more cheaply--perhaps with a positive profit--the deer and
elephants and other wild cattle might all be killed or tamed.

In Great Britain, of course, no planning would be needed. The clearing
of the game there shall all be done for fun, "like winking," as soon
as the many-headed king, the multitude, decides, if it ever does
decide, to end the Game Laws. It is in the Indian and Burman and
American and African forests, and in the plateaux of Central Asia,
that a little planning and some expense would be required, and a
little brave work need to be done. Of course, the present writer is
not advocating such a thing. He is fond of cats; and loves wild Nature
as well as Nature tamed. But let us have no cant about the business;
and recognise what humanity can do in A.D. 1910.

What men go after big cats for is, in general, amusement, just as much
as when they go to shoot pigeons; and the one kind of sport is
intrinsically, nowadays, no more dangerous than the other. Hunting
used to be a school of war; and so was archery. Both arts are equally
obsolete for any such purpose. It is only among unwarlike peoples,
like the English or the Chinese, that such a thing needs to be
mentioned. Officers who go a-hunting are not making themselves better
able to lead regiments in battle. It is well if the hunting does not
make them worse. There is nothing of military art or science to be
learned from sport. Gunpowder and chemicals and machinery have ended
that, and made hunting to-day the same kind of thing as golf, or
cricket, or any other child's play.


6. IRRESISTIBLE EVOLUTION

I saw a real hunter a few months ago (1908). He was a Eurasian, in
Burma, living from hand to mouth. His clothes were of the roughest,
poor fellow, and his appearance showed he had to live very barely. The
police said that he was kept alive by his patient mother, who "allowed
him to sponge upon her." A passion for hunting had withdrawn him from
other occupations. The deer in the woods, along the muddy coast, and
the rewards for an occasional leopard or tiger, I was told, enabled
him to buy ammunition and a little food. He came before me with his
companions, some idle vagabond Burmans of like tastes, because, it was
alleged, when other game failed, they had decided to become hunters of
men--in plain words, they were robbers. As I unravelled the tangled
threads of his history, I saw in it what any man, who has developed
healthily, can read in his own consciousness, a summary of human
evolution from hunting to stealing. From stealing to working is the
next step. The hunters shall soon be all vanished from the earth; but
the thieves shall be with us yet awhile.



XXX

CHARLIE DARWIN, OR THE LADY-GIBBON


  [_Note._--This study of a gibbon was suggested by the writings of
  Mr Wallace, the veteran natural philosopher, still alive, who
  shares with Charles Darwin the honour of proposing the theory of
  Natural Selection. His writings not being at hand where this is
  written, his exact words cannot be quoted; but certainly it was
  because he intimated in some way how much was to be learned by the
  observation of an adolescent orang-outang, domesticated under
  natural conditions, that I undertook the upbringing and education
  of a young gibbon when it was offered to me. The results, for
  which much of the credit belongs to my wife, seem to justify
  completely the shrewd anticipations of Wallace.]


1. CHILDREN OF AIR, IN GENERAL

  Children of air, without the wings to fly,
  Like apes, we mount the trees to reach the sky.

Why not? Are not our arms better than wings, the implements of an
inferior species? A very slight knowledge of anatomy is enough to let
one know that nobody can have both wings and arms. The why of that is
inscrutable; but the fact is undeniable. The Almighty has written that
in the skeletons of all creation.

What fools we are, when we try to improve on the works of God! In His
eyes, it is but as yesterday since our parents, with bent backs and
feeble knees, came out of the wood, and, "hand in hand, with wandering
steps and slow," they stumbled on their humble human way. Fine roads
and cars, big houses and convenient clothes we have procured
ourselves; but let us not unwisely forget our origin, nor fail to
recognise the Mystery of Mysteries, from which we emerged, and into
which we shall soon again subside.

There is something so ridiculous in human pride, it is so silly as
well as so sinful, that it is profitable to dwell in thought upon the
touches of Nature that link us to our humbler kindred, even to those
of our monkey cousins, surviving still. Well might Goethe glory, as we
know he did, in his discovery of the intermaxillary bone--the little
bone which the apes have between the jaws, but which men were always
supposed to lack, until the poet and anatomist found it, latent and
disused, but visible yet in every son of man.

On this and many other such likenesses, it is needless now to dwell.
Encyclopædias are cheap, and the works of Charles Darwin. Rather
consider what has been noticed less, and is equally remarkable, the
likenesses in feelings, habits and gestures, which depend less upon
the bones and muscles than upon the nerves, and upon the spiritual
springs, still more impalpable than nerves.

In learning to swim, for example, the first lesson is, do not lift the
arms out of the water; for in water or anywhere else, when men are
excited, up go their arms. This is not merely a conventional stage
gesture. It has become so, because it is a spontaneous movement in
real life. Why? Surely, because our arboreal ancestors, whether it was
a lion in their way that frightened them or a bull, would take to the
trees, and the uplifted arms were the first step to safety. Besides,
the little babies in the trees, long, long ago, had to hang on to
their mothers by their arms. The whole significance of the gesture
lies in its spontaneity. It is by taking thought that we run. We have
to learn to walk, no less than to dance; but the baby, newly born,
lifts up his little arms, and thinks of what he is doing no more than
does an adult in despair, or a drowning man that is sinking in the
sea.

Let Aristotle and Confucius say what they will about the best road in
the middle, the habits of innumerable ages cannot be unlearned at
dictation. In the hour of danger men are apt to revert, and grope for
an escape upwards, like the apes, feeling that that must be the right
direction--Excelsior. So "to the hills they lift their eyes" and run,
when hills are visible and trees are not.

It is not only in the hour of danger that we feel this itching for
altitude. It consoled the sailors who had to climb the masts. At
least, they sometimes said so, singing with gusto,

  "We jolly sailor-boys are sitting up aloft,
  And the land-lubbers lying down below."

To this day it makes yachtsmen happy--at least, some of them say so,
and it is otherwise not easy to understand their preference for cloths
stretched on poles to more efficient modern machinery. Be that as it
may, it is certainly the itching for altitude that is the inherent
part of the pleasure of climbing knotted ropes and poles and slippery
mountain-sides, of drifting in balloons like clouds, or whirring madly
about like monstrous mechanical partridges with motors in their
bellies. For myriads of ages, our noble ancestors looked down upon
things in general from the trees, and the taste revives in us readily,
and soon feels as natural as winking.

So, if old fashions of decoration last, and a "coat of arms" is needed
for some successful sailor in the sky, he could choose no more
appropriate emblem than a noble little gibbon. The mighty muscles of
an orang-outang or gorilla might put a man to shame, whereas the
gibbon is much smaller than ourselves. He is also the nimblest of all
us creatures with legs and arms, and in various ways more like us than
any of the others. So let the emblem be a gibbon and a man clasping
hands, and the legend these plain words of simple truth--

  "TWO CHILDREN OF THE AIR."


2. "CHARLIE DARWIN"

It was "antipathy to Darwin," they told me, which made a reverend
missionary, in the last century, exhort some neighbours of ours, some
Christian Karens in Burma, to "shoot at sight" the monkeys and little
apes that occasionally took a few plantains from their gardens. The
loss of fruit could be minimised in other, gentler ways, as their
Burman neighbours showed them. The "heathens" were so "benighted" that
they spoke of the trifling losses caused by the apes exactly as the
poet Burns spoke of the depredations of the little mouse, whose nest
his plough destroyed--

  "I doubtna, whiles, but thou may thieve;
  What then? poor beastie, thou maun live! ...
  I'll get a blessing with the lave (what is left),
                And never miss't!"

It is a wonderful coincidence, which I know for a fact, that the
Burmese Buddhist gardeners used phrases expressing similarly these
identical sentiments.

The Christians were taught to feel differently. So it was lucky for
her that it was in a "heathen" garden that the mother of our heroine
was trespassing one day in 1892. Running from the sound of the
approaching gardener, she escaped with difficulty, and left her girl
behind. Poor frightened little mother, what a loss was there! You
never knew the fate of your child. You never saw her any more at all.

The gardener carried the captured one in a basket to my wife, who
agreed to adopt her, and named her Charlotte, or "Charlie" Darwin. For
immediate company of her own size, she had a nice tabby, with whom she
became quickly familiar. The little cats in the woods survive by
haunting the trees, and doubtless live on terms of neutrality with the
monkeys and the apes. The big leopard is the common enemy of both the
little cats and the monkeys. When once a suckling leopard, the size of
a kitten, was given us, and my wife tried to coax a tabby to be wet
nurse, and the cats of the house were all standing round observant of
the stranger, the suckling gave a little leopard's growl, and
instantly the cats were panic-stricken, and fled to the roof, and
stayed there long after the departure of the suckling, till hunger
brought them down. The universal welcome these same cats extended to
Charlie showed that her tribe was considered friendly. The first thing
I remember of her, perhaps, also, her earliest recollection of our
house, was her cheerfully dipping her nose in the cats' dish, and
sharing their milk.

She never needed a wet nurse, being more than half-grown when we
received her. In fact, our neighbour had caught her pulling plantains.
Among the common monkeys, the anxious mothers seem to have a rule of
thumb to keep their young within reach, by using the tails as French
nursemaids use the leading-strings. "The length of your tail, my
child--no farther shall you go." But our Charlie was of the human-like
species, and no more had a tail than the reader himself. Besides, she
was old enough to be out of leading-strings. Mother and daughter had
been alike absorbed in the fruit, and in an absent-minded way had let
the gardener surprise them. He said he had never even flung a stone at
a monkey, and always been content to chase them away. So Charlie
Darwin and her mother had doubtless been presuming on his good-nature,
as females are apt to do. But the sight of pretty Charlie tempted him,
and he knocked her down, with a clod of earth, he said, and made her
prisoner unhurt.

She soon grew to her full height, swelling visibly from week to week,
almost from day to day, but the full height of her tribe is below army
requirements. She was never much above two feet. Next to the size, the
chief difference between her and the reader, if the reader is a girl,
was that her arms were proportionally longer and stronger, and her
legs shorter and weaker. Her Latin name was Hylobates Hooluck; but, as
she never went to school, much less to college, it was never used. And
nobody spoke of her as a gibbon. Plain "Charlie Darwin" she was always
called, and seemed to like it.

She was not proud, though, if she had been, she might have been
excused. The brightness of her face made her a centre of attraction.
She seemed to dress well; for though she was never insulted with
humanly manipulated rags, her beautiful fur appeared to be like a
perfectly fitting black satin dress, of Oriental cut, and gave Miss
Charlie Darwin the look of a modest lady, at home in a drawing-room.
Her sparkling eyes, like moist beads, were surmounted by big white
eyebrows. These set off her features so well that one could understand
why European ladies, in more leisurely days than ours, took time to
mark their faces with beauty spots.

When moving or standing about in the drawing-room, she tottered at
times, and would put her hand on anything convenient to support
herself, as many an old lady likes to do; and often she would sit
down, with a sigh of pleasure. But Charlie did not sit long anywhere.
Her restless agility showed her youth. At tea-time, in particular, she
was very much alive. She was devoted to fruit; but her natural good
manners, some said, her female curiosity, said others, made her sample
everything. She neglected the plain bread but, like other young
people, had an almost undiscriminating love for cakes. Shortbread was
an exception. She was very partial to it; and it was rare fun to give
her none and keep it out of easy reach, and watch the result. She sat
demurely unconcerned, as a woman can, till she supposed she was
unobserved. Then swiftly and softly she ran to where it was, never
taking her eyes off the company, as if too interested in what they
were saying to think of anything else; and deftly took the shortbread
and resumed her seat, as if it were a matter of no consequence.

The only imperfection in her table manners was her way of drinking
from a saucer, lapping her tea as the cats lapped milk. In vain my
wife showed her a better example. Habits of that kind are easier to
learn than to unlearn; and, after all, men also drink in that way at
times, under primitive conditions, lapping of the water with the
tongue, as a dog lappeth. (See Judges vii, 5.)


3. RUNNING AWAY

Nothing can really make up to a child for the loss of a mother. True
mother's love is like immeasurable space, and gives humanity its first
taste of the Infinite. The fishes know it not, and hardly the
crocodiles; but, as we move up the scale of being, it comes more and
more into evidence. The rage of "a bear that has lost her whelps" is
proverbial. I had a friend in the Chitral expedition who told me that
they caught the children of an unlucky she-bear; and the bereaved
mother, "though she must have been starving among the snows," followed
the army for days, and the sentries had to be on the look-out for her.
She desisted at length, and probably died there of starvation and
despair.

Among our poor cousins, the apes, there is many a mother might put to
shame alike the drabs of the slums and the fashionable females of the
decadent sets. So it was not strange that Charlie Darwin moped. Though
her stomach was well filled, she had lost her mother.

Her mother was not the whole of her loss. She had lost her clan; for
these little beings live together, and the germs of human society are
visible in their associations "for better or worse." The human soul
can no more develop in solitude than a tree can grow in a vacuum; and
in the same way little Charlie seemed to feel an aching void.
Repeatedly, in the early weeks after she came to us, she would go to
sit on one of the trees on the edge of the compound (or yard); and
there she would long remain motionless, gazing across the road to the
woods from which she had come. At other times, she would go to the
other side of the yard, and sit and gaze across the river, at forests
on the farther side. "Where can they all be? Oh, where's my mother?"
Her hankering for what she had lost for ever was so plain that we were
not surprised when she went away to look for them all.

She was absent for several days. Except that she was not in any of the
other gardens or adjacent woods, nothing was ever known of her
whereabouts. Many pairs of sharp eyes were watching for her in many
directions, to earn a good reward; but nobody earned it. She came back
herself. Early one morning it was reported that she was in the tree at
the door, the tree where she generally ended in returning from a round
in the garden. Her custom had been to come to the ground there and
walk across the road and run upstairs. But her natural awkwardness
after such an absence, and possibly her uncertainty about the
reception she might expect, made her stay in the tree this morning. A
servant climbed to fetch her down, and she bit him. She descended to
within a few yards of the ground to speak to me, though it was only
"Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo!" But as soon as she saw my wife coming down the
stairs she hurried to meet her. It was really like a child coming
home. My wife handed her a plantain, and she at once began to eat.
Then holding it in her right hand, and biting at it, she gave her left
hand to my wife; and in that way they went upstairs together.

Charlie was too busy eating to say much that forenoon; and, when she
did speak, her words were like water spilt upon the ground. "Words," I
say; for I do think it likely that her multitudinous intonations, if
intelligible to us--that is to say, if we had understood them as her
mother could have done--would have had the effect of words. But we
could not understand her, at least not well, though my wife, perhaps
taking pity upon my curiosity, declared she could gather that Charlie
had had a hard time, and travelled a great deal, and got little to
eat, and failed to find any of her relations; and that she was minded
now to be content with my wife for a mother, and make friends with
humanity, and never run away any more. And, certainly, she never did.


4. SETTLING DOWN

There is an excellent man in Burma who is said to have lived many
years upon nuts; and an acquaintance of his told me he had been led to
the discovery that this was the ideal food, by the consideration that
nuts must be the staple food of monkeys. I suggested to vary his diet
by a regular consumption of ants. Charlie was very fond of them. She
would even pause in eating cake to pick up an ant if she saw one. I
doubt if she would have done so for a nut. She used to pick up any
ant, even the smallest, with finger and thumb with the utmost
facility, and put the prize between her fine teeth and crunch it.

My wife had an egg in her hand one day on the veranda when she was
talking to Charlie, who was sitting on the veranda rail. With sudden
alacrity, Charlie grabbed the egg, and, holding it with both hands,
tried to break the shell with her teeth. She failed. It is likely all
the eggs she had received from her mother in the woods had thinner
shells than those of hens, and so she did not think of using much
force. She turned the big egg round and round in her hands with looks
of astonishment; and then, in a business-like way, as if she knew
there was just one thing to be done, she broke it on the veranda
railing on which she was sitting, and guzzled the contents with such
gusto that she smeared her face and soiled her dainty fur with the
yoke. The next time she received an egg she was supplied with a saucer
to break it in; but never disguised her preference for the primitive
way of doing she had learned in the woods. So, to make her use the
saucer, my wife had herself to break the egg.

The plan of education adopted was in the style of Rabelais. "Do what
you like," was the first commandment. Or she might be said to have
accepted Goethe's gospel of self-culture, for she "developed"
diligently. She never was teased by any kind of collars, chains, or
bonds. There was never any restriction upon her, except that of
hunger, which tethers us all, and in satisfying her hunger she could
do what she liked.

While the house was liberty hall to her, and milk and fruit and rice
and cakes and, in short, the necessaries of civilised life were there,
the garden was in dry weather preferred, except of course at tea-time,
and at night. Of roses and orchids she could have said what the toper
said of beer--she may have had too much, but never enough. To be quite
candid, she eyed the opening buds as boys eye fruit. She seldom waited
till they bloomed fully before she ate them. When such visitors as
native ladies had natural flowers in their top decorations, they had
to be warned against Charlie's attentions. It was funny to see her
grave little face looking up at the lady caressing her, while the
long, lithe arm was reached furtively round to the top or back of the
lady's head, and the pretty flower there was deftly detached and
brought to Charlie's lips, without any pretence of chivalry.

One bad result of liberty, which happily did not take place, was
suggested by the sad fate of a common brown monkey in Rangoon. It
lived in the garden of a friend of mine, not far from the Scots
Church, and was quiet and respectable until it took to drink.
Everything was done to reclaim it, and it was on the road to a
complete reformation, when it unfortunately discovered, at the top of
a toddy-palm near where it lived, a pot into which a good deal of
toddy had run. It could not resist the sudden temptation, and drank so
much that it fell from the tree and broke its neck. It is well known
that baboons are often sots, and the little brown monkeys are at times
no better. Great, therefore, was my relief to see that Charlie, after
sniffing the wines and spirits in the decanters one day, showed
plainly that she did not like the smell. There were toddy-palms near
our house too, but nothing ever induced her to try the effect of
alcohol. In this matter, the saving clause, it now strikes me, was
that there never was alcohol on the table till dinner-time, and by
that time she was always asleep. The force of example is very great on
these little bits of men and women, a susceptibility of theirs which
is one of their most human characteristics. I once heard a man
boasting of having seduced a pet monkey into carousing with him, and
drinking beer enough to have a headache in the morning, "just like
master." Charlie was never so tempted.

Our house was an old-fashioned, comfortable wooden building, all on
one floor, and the floor about 10 feet above the ground, with a deep
roof made of wooden shingles. When Charlie decided to run away no more
she selected as her sleeping-place a part of the eaves with a
convenient view of the interior, and yet far enough from the wall to
be out of reach of anybody but a monkey or a bird. Unfortunately (for
themselves) our pigeons had deserted their own little house and
settled where Charlie decided to sleep. It was interesting and easy to
watch what happened. Charlie took what room she wanted, and ignored
their existence. For some weeks, I think, they lived together
peaceably. Then the birds discovered that their new neighbour was fond
of pigeons' eggs, and went away, not because they were meek, for
pigeons are pugnacious birds, but because they could not defend their
nests.

Another gibbon known to me in Burma was less fortunate in his dealings
with "our feathered friends." He was so young and inexperienced that
he treated crows as Charlie treated the pigeons, and was mobbed by
them to such purpose that long afterwards, when he was full-grown and
able to go with his mistress to the tennis-court, holding on by her
skirts, or hand in hand with her, it was a favourite joke of wicked
men to cry, "Caw-caw-caw." Thereat, in ecstasies of alarm, the little
man deserted his mistress, and ran and hid himself under the nearest
bush. Luckily for Charlie, there were no crows in our yard, only
pigeons, whom she could push aside with impunity. They accepted their
fate, and the place where they had lived so long knew them no more.

It was curious to see little Charlie, so weak that she trembled at a
dog if it came within reach of her, thus exercising the law of the
jungle, that might is right, on what was weaker still.


5. TEASING TOM

Charlie's favourite seat was upon the veranda rail. It gave her a wide
and beautiful view of the garden and the river and forests, to say
nothing of the far-off mountains blue, her native home, for Hylobates
Hooluck is by choice a mountaineer. Indoors, without moving more than
her head, by merely looking round, she could see the drawing-room,
whereof the veranda was an extension, and, through wide doorways never
closed, the much more interesting dining-room beyond.

Dr Clark, once famous as Gladstone's physician, is said to have been
fond of telling how he watched a little girl sitting in front of a
fire, to which a footman brought coals. The man took no notice of her
till she coughed violently; and then he looked round, and a few kind
words passed.

"Why did you cough?" asked the doctor, when the man had gone.

"To make James look at me," said the candid child; but it is
surprising in a man like Clark that he is said to have quoted this as
an indication of the _inferiority_ of women. If he really did so, it
was because he had not thought the matter out, and was confused by
words. The difference between men and women is one of kind, not of
degree. It is not a difference of less or more, but of sex. A million
women could not make one man; but neither could a million men make one
women.

Now it is true that a normal little boy, sitting where the girl sat,
would not have felt an inclination to attract the attention of a maid,
mending the fire; and it is true that normal little girls are
continually acting as the doctor saw that little one act. The gentle
sex spontaneously craves to be noticed by the other. Why? Surely,
because they have been specialised in character no less than in
physical form for domestic life; and their essential business ever is
to study and humour the men, whose function is to feed and protect
them and their children. "He for God only, she for God in him,"
remains as true as gravitation, even if we fling the Hebrew Bible
aside, and give the great Reality some other name.

That this specialisation of sex comes from a far-off date was
curiously manifested by our little Charlie. Indeed it was easy to see,
and easy to verify by observation in the hills, that "her people"
lived under social arrangements like the patriarchal family. Sir Henry
Maine, if he had known it, might have reinforced his argument on
ancient law from an antiquity manifested by the habits of these small
people, compared to which the oldest days of Rome were but as
yesterday. So completely womanly was our pet that many of her doings
were conundrums to masculine wits. It takes a woman to understand a
woman. He was a wiser man than usual who said--"When I say I know
women, I mean that I know I don't know them."

Perhaps no man could ever have guessed what Charlie found amiss with
our fine tom-cat. "Don't you see? Tom takes no notice of her," it was
explained. "He ignores her existence."

Tom's manners were simply perfect Piccadilly. If Charlie had been
conventional middle-class English, she would have been humbled. If
French or German, she might have been amused or angry, according to
circumstances. Being as irrepressibly democratic as the Burmans and
Mongolians in general, she was simply puzzled; and in playing at tig
or some other game with the other cats, which was a habit of hers, she
might often be observed to be watching Tom with a perplexed look, like
a kindly teacher "taking stock" of a backward pupil. Tom never looked
at her.

One day, as she sat on the veranda rail, she was seen to be intently
studying him. He lay motionless, as if asleep, under an easy chair,
his tail projecting far. She leapt lightly down to the floor, ran
noiselessly along it, as if on tip-toe, and was in the act of reaching
forth her hand to the tail, when Tom sprang to attention, and the
threatened tail began to swell and sway from side to side in the air.
Unabashed, (for indeed I never saw her abashed, only frightened, and
on this occasion she was not frightened), she gleefully ran round the
chair, chasing the tail, with merry cries of "Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo!"

Tom sulkily turned one way and another, keeping his tail out of reach,
and visibly perplexed. Charlie enjoyed the game immensely. It lasted a
long time, and then Tom lost patience, and thrust out his paw, with
the claws extended.

He could hardly have hoped to touch her. He might as easily have
caught a swallow. The claws did not come within five inches of her;
but the savage gesture was an outrage to her feelings. She ejaculated
what sounded like a squeak, but perhaps should be called a scream; and
as he remained callous and far from apologetic, she turned her back
upon the clown and resumed her seat upon the rail. Tom, for his part,
with a greater air of dignity than usual, if possible, the sacred tail
uplifted inviolate, that is to say, untouched, stalked grandly away;
but he had not gone two yards before Charlie leapt upon the floor
again, as noiseless as a shadow, and swift "as arrow from a bow," she
darted after him and seized the end of his tail between her finger and
thumb. She seemed to pinch it, and certainly gave it a sharp tug; and
then, like magic, when Tom whirled round, she was sitting on the rail
again, making faces at him, and audibly chuckling in the intervals of
triumphant hooting, "Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo!"

He gazed at her awhile in bewilderment, and moved away.

  "He went like one that had been stunned,
    And is of sense forlorn;
  A sadder and a wiser cat,
    He rose the morrow morn."


6. EVENING AND MORNING

Ever after she returned from seeking her mother, Charlie eyed the
woods like a frightened child, and vehemently plumped for
civilisation. No wonder! Death is ever at hand for all beings; but in
the woods it seems to press upon you. The very tigers have a recurring
prospect of death by starvation, a fact which should mitigate our
hatred of them, while confirming our hostility. The Lilliputian tribe
of gibbons have lively days, quite full of trouble. They are so human,
and yet so much weaker than humanity, struggling to save their
carcasses from leopards and Christians by sheer agility and
co-operation, living from hand to mouth, picking from the bushes what
they can, where any bush may hide a mortal enemy.

I had noticed among the hills that one heard nothing of them at
nights; and, watching Charlie's ways, I soon saw why. Having found a
cozy corner for herself in the eaves, at the expense of the pigeons,
she retired to it at dark, as regularly as Shakespeare's ploughman.
She, "with a body filled and vacant mind, got her to rest, ... never
saw horrid night, the child of Hell, slept in Elysium...."

She detested lamps more than Ruskin did steam-engines. He sometimes
went in trains. She would have nothing to do with lamps. She--went to
bed. Vain was it to light her roost and offer fruit of the most
attractive quality. You could set the cocks a-crowing with your
artificial dawn; but Charlie knew too much. She lifted her head, and
that was all. She looked at you a second or two, blinking sleepily;
and turned to rest again. We are children of the light, the apes and
we, no less than children of the air; and Charlie would not quit her
sleeping place until the sun relit the world.

Then she rose and came into our room for fruit. In a country near the
Equator, like Lower Burma, sunrise and sunset fall between five and
seven o'clock all the year round; and Charlie's hours differed little
from those of the villagers. So she came in with the dawn and the
morning coffee; but, at that early hour, she would take nothing but
fruit, perhaps because she was in a hurry to go out of doors. She did
not even give us her company while she was eating. Fruit in hand, she
toddled out and away.

She always toddled on the floor, like a child, when she went slowly;
but her usual gait was a light run, such as they now practise in some
Continental armies, as the least fatiguing way for infantry to cover
the ground at times, especially going downhill. You bend forward
a little (how much, depends on your centre of gravity), and trot,
trot, trot, never straightening the legs. I saw the crew of
H.M.S. _Devastation_ running about in that way, during some manœuvres
in the seventies, and heard men talking of it as "a way we have in the
navy, keeps the boys awake, we never walk." So I would have claimed
the discovery for the British navy, when a foreign doctor claimed to
have invented it, if I had not known that both had been forestalled
long ago by the little apes.

Necessity had doubtless been the mother of invention for them, as it
is so often for us. These little creatures dare not walk in the woods,
as men and big apes can do. When on the ground they have to run for
their lives, at the top of their speed. Up in the trees they are safe
from a tiger, and even from a leopard, as a rule, if they see him. But
on the ground there is no beast needs do them reverence. The smallest
adult jungle dog could singly kill the sturdiest of gibbons. That was
why Charlie had learned from her mother to trot like a man-of-war's
man on any flat surface.

When I paid a morning visit to the stable, she often met me there. She
had not walked across the compound; but from some high tree had
noticed me and come whirling down. I have seen her rub her hand upon
the pony's rock-salt, and then put it to her lips and look at me
making various inviting sounds, as if to say, "Try this; it's not at
all bad." At other times, like a child, she put grain between her
teeth and crunched it. I think I have seen her spit it out; but cannot
remember seeing her swallow it.

She would accompany me as far as the gate, I on the ground, she up
aloft, and rather quicker for the short distance; but she stopped at
the edge of the compound, looking timidly at the woods on the farther
side of the road, and never venturing beyond the fence.

Towards eight o'clock, I was told, she was generally among the trees
near the gate, where she had a view of the roads by which I would
return; but it was not a matter of personal affection. Whenever she
saw me in the distance, she knew that breakfast would be ready in half
an hour, and hastened indoors to look round, having a fine youthful
appetite, freshened by exercise. Her business-like, straight return
journey was considered so safe a sign that I was in sight that the
cook believed her rather than the clock. The explanation was that
breakfast was required at an irregular time, between nine and ten, but
regularly about half an hour after my return. So Charlie was
pronounced "really useful."


7. TABLE MANNERS

When we were at dinner she was always asleep; but, with equal
regularity, she was always impatiently awaiting us at the breakfast
table.

A chair was set for her, of course, but never used, except as a
stepping-stone to the table. It did not suit her size, and we did not
have one specially made for her, as the giants did for Gulliver. She
so obviously did not want it that it would have been superfluous.

The knives and forks she examined curiously, but without admiration.
Like the Asiatics of old, she kept or made her fingers clean enough to
eat with, and desired no better implements. I never saw her use a
spoon, except to rap on the table.

Sitting upon the table, she faced my wife and watched her, as if she
felt, but in a friendly way, as Frederick the Great felt towards the
Emperor Joseph, whose portrait he kept in view, saying, "That is the
person to keep mine eye upon."

Though clever at imitation, she adhered to her own ways of eating and
drinking, and did not imitate ours. This may have been because her
habits of that kind were fixed before she came to us; but we thought
her way of lapping was like the cat's.

She did not remain seated upon the table, but walked about upon it,
like a _petite_ Madame Sans-Gêne, or little Miss Free-and-Easy. At
first she was circumspect in her movements and did no damage. But
familiarity brings carelessness, and carelessness catastrophes. As the
Chinese say, too:--

  "Warily you aye should walk,
    Watching not to stumble;
  Men may safe on mountains stalk,
    And on ant-hills tumble."

So the day came when she tripped, and there was a loud smash. Then she
whisked herself to the pole of a curtain hanging near. So quick she
went that observers could not agree whether she touched the curtain on
the way, or mounted with a hop, skip and jump.

Once there, she found that that perch had great natural advantages. It
commanded a complete view of the back premises as well as the
dining-room, and yet was not many yards from the table. So she always
stayed there, for choice, afterwards.

The place visibly pleased her from its elevation. She liked looking
down, and disliked looking up. She showed her preference with a naïve
candour that left no room for doubt, and has always seemed to me to
illustrate and illuminate the laws of Society.

Of course, she was regularly served. Whatever she called for was
handed up. And more than once I recollect that we affected to forget
her, and did not look at her or heed her. Then down she came, and
walked about on the table, helping herself and chattering in our
faces, with many a grimace and "Oo-oo-oo," our small, black Madame
Sans-Gêne, with the big white eyebrows, the little Miss Free-and-Easy.


8. DOGS

Once it happened that Charlie was left in charge of a neighbour, as
she was young and we had to go from home; and in the neighbour's house
a dog bit her. When next she saw my wife she flung her arms round my
wife's neck, and clung to her with sobs and moans, and all the
gestures natural to her sex in affliction, and ever afterwards she
seemed to feel that dogs were hostile.

I recollect that once our house was filled with visitors, some local
tin-god and official attendants, and one of the aforesaid attendants
had a bright little terrier at his heels. Poor dog, his master could
not silence the irreverent barkings that interrupted even the divinity
his master was attending. Cuffs and kicks were useless. Charlie, up
aloft, had fixed the terrier with her glittering eye, and
"Oo-oo-oo-ed" at him till he was frantic. When he was thrashed into a
moment's silence, and she saw she was observed, she nimbly scuttled
away among the upper carpentry, only to reappear in a few seconds
elsewhere, and catch the dog's eye again, and "Oo-oo-oo" at him
afresh; and then the barking recommenced, and the inevitable beating
and yelping, which she seemed to enjoy immensely.


9. EQUALITY IS EQUITY

Although she went about on her hind legs, as we do, she did not
despise her four-footed acquaintances, and was always intimate with
the tabby, to whom she had been introduced on arrival. It was a pretty
sight to watch them dip their little heads together into the saucer of
milk. They always started fair, but pussy lapped the better. The milk
diminished so fast that Charlie could see that her share would be the
smaller one at that rate. Then tenderly but irresistibly she put her
strong right arm round pussy's neck and pulled her back, out of reach
of the saucer. Charlie went on lapping herself, looking round often at
the cat, winking vigorously with both eyes, and uttering various
friendly vowel sounds. Here, perhaps, it had better be noted, for the
information of philologists, that hers was exclusively a vowel
language. I never heard her sound a consonant. It would therefore have
been difficult to represent it phonetically. The modulations of tones
were too delicate for an Aryan ear; but a Chinaman might have been
more successful, and my Burmans caught them well. Her meaning could
best have been recorded by ideograms, like the oldest of the Chinese
or Egyptian hieroglyphs. But there was no use for such a thing. She
did not need it, and would not have learned it.

It was probably the accompanying gestures that made pussy understand
her. To be pulled back from the saucer, and tightly held out of reach
of it, is what may be called an unmistakable hint. Puss acquiesced.
When Charlie thought their shares had been equalled she relaxed the
embrace, and puss began again; but though she resumed drinking in a
polite, deferential way, as if saying, "By your leave, ma'am," puss
never abated her speed of lapping, and so had soon to be withdrawn
once more. Occasionally this took place as often as three or four
times in the emptying of one saucer; and seldom did it fail to happen
once. In fact I noticed that at length they used to _begin_ operations
with Charlie's arm upon pussy's neck, ready for action. Day after day
this went on. Puss never struggled. When the milk was thus equally
finished they parted friends. The great rule of equity law, that
"Equality is equity," was never better practised; and so profoundly is
it in accordance with the nature of things that even a cat can
understand it, when constrained.


10. WHERE CIVILISATION BEGAN

But where had Charlie learned that "Equality is equity," a rule that
has been found beyond the grasp of a "common"-minded chancellor?
Surely, in the family circle. Her whole character, and, in particular,
the readiness to imitate, upon which I do not dwell only because
everybody knows that kind of thing, was that of one who had inherited
family instincts, whose ancestors had lived in families for immemorial
generations. The habits of living species are slowly modified in the
lapse of millenniums; and we were not teaching Charlie tricks, but
letting her develop naturally, and observing her.

The mention of imitation reminds me that Charlie could handle my
wife's hand-mirror as well as any lady; but the first sight of it
raised hopes that were disappointed. She was seen to be moving it back
and forward with one hand, while with the other she was groping behind
it, until at last she was satisfied that there was no other gibbon
there. The great life-sorrow of Charlie was that she never saw another
like herself again. It was pathetic to see her looking in the mirror,
and then at other inmates of the house, as if asking herself, "Why am
I so different?" She was like Robinson Crusoe, without a chance of
deliverance; or she might be compared to Gulliver among the giants.
Though in proportion not so small as he was, she was too small to feel
at home or among equals; and for animals as for men to be weak is to
be miserable, and strength and weakness are largely matters of
comparison. We petted her so that she did not feel that much; and
though nothing could supply the lack of kindred beings, the lapse of
time benumbed the pain, and she was consoled.

  "Reader, if thou an oft-told tale wilt trust,
  Thou'lt gladly do and suffer what thou must."

One of the best-known bits of English literature is the sentence which
keeps the memory of old Hobbes green, his fancy picture of a state of
Nature.--


"No arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all"
(especially for philosophers), "continual fear and danger of violent
death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

The great mistake in this nightmare description is the supposition
that men were ever solitary by natural habits. Never, never, O Hobbes,
since men began to be, never but in artificial conglomerations defying
the laws of Nature, and dying in consequence, never did men and women
stand alone. Individualism in its extreme form is actual insanity. In
moderate forms it has always been common. It fills our jails to-day.
It is almost universal among the cat tribes; but wherever and whenever
it spreads among men it leads to death. The most primitive of human
creatures ever known to maintain themselves have been found to live in
families. The human apes, nay, the very baboons do likewise. So it is
contrary to science or sifted common-sense to think of our arboreal
ancestors as solitaries.

What probably misled Hobbes was the remark of Tacitus, in his
_Germany_ (XVI), that the Germans, who may have seemed to Hobbes, as
to a great French historian, "the last arrived of the barbarians,"
lived "scattered and apart, just as a spring, a meadow, or a wood has
attracted them." But Tacitus goes on to tell how they lived in
villages, and were united in tribes or clans, just like the people of
Afghanistan both then and now, or the Highland clans till the
eighteenth century.

What misled Hobbes is matter of conjecture. That he was mistaken is
certain. It would be contrary to all analogies based on our existing
knowledge, that is to say, it would be sheer hallucination to imagine
that, between our cousins the human apes, and primitive humanity, who
both live in families, there was a different kind of creatures in
human form, who lived like cats, each for himself, and every man
against everybody else. Hobbes, himself, if he were alive to-day,
would laugh at that, and in the light of new knowledge he would be the
first to allow that, though life in a state of Nature has its
drawbacks, solitude was never one of them. Civilisation is the art of
living together; and it commenced with family life in immemorial
antiquity, before we left the trees, so that it may be said to be
older than humanity itself.


11. FILIAL FEELING

It is a common remark of Japanese philosophers, applying Western
science to their Eastern histories, that filial affection is unknown
to the beasts, and the last feeling to develop in spiritual evolution,
and consequently the first to deteriorate. That is how they have been
known to explain the moral inferiority of Western civilisation; for,
as lawyers, on legal-political questions, do always--of course in a
perfectly honourable manner--adapt their legal principles to their
politics, so do philosophers, unconsciously, shape theories to suit
their national prejudices. Why not? A man whose trade is words can
find reasons for anything; but a man who cares for nothing but the
truth soon learns not to theorise beyond his knowledge.

However, I never quarrel with anybody, least of all with the
philosophers. They can either stretch their theory, or else say
Charlie was not a beast. One or other of these two things they must
do, when they know how she convinced her sceptical master that she
loved as a dutiful child and was utterly devoted to the lady who had
received and fed and protected her--master's wife. A little girl who
risks her life for her stepmother is sure to be well furnished by
nature with filial piety.

Many were the experiments made to test this, as soon as time enough
had elapsed to let filial affection germinate in Charlie, if the germ
of it were in her. My wife had long been sure of it, but I was
doubting yet, when an indisputable experiment settled the question in
Charlie's favour, and so, perhaps, gave her a place in history.

By the happiest of inspirations, one morning, my wife began crying and
sobbing while Charlie was still within hearing, at the other end of
the house but not yet outside the eaves. "Pretend to slap me," she
said, "and make a noise."

I obeyed, and Charlie heard. Swift as a flash, she reappeared on the
partition wall, between the bedroom and the dressing-room, and moving
restlessly upon it, with arms now and then uplifted in distress, she
"Oo-oo-oo-ed" at the top of her voice, and made hideous grimaces at
me, and uttered guttural grunts we had never heard before, quite
German or Pathan in accent, noises that seemed to emanate from the
deepest depths of her being.

By the help of a mirror, I could see her without directly looking at
her. Finding threats and expostulations unheeded, she took a leap of
more than two yards, and landed on the curtain poles of the bed. I
could not then pretend not to see her; but, to her horror, I heeded
her no more than before. Then she made another big leap, and landed on
my shoulders, and, as I felt before I felt her feet, clapped a hand
upon each eye. If it had been serious fighting, as she believed it
was, she might have had my eyes out before I was aware of her
movement--so quick was she, "like a needle." At least, she could have
blinded me for the moment--at the probable cost of her life. She had,
in fact, in her desperation, for my wife's sake, ventured to try the
identical feat that Ulysses practised on the cannibal monster
Polyphemus, whom he blinded in his cave. If one reflects that she
could hardly have weighed a stone, and the man she attacked was
rather above than below the average of men in size and weight, one
cannot refuse to her the praise that properly belongs to a
Jack-the-Giant-Killer or tricky Ulysses.

That she was generally timid, as was natural for her size and sex,
merely clenches the argument about her filial feeling. Say, if you
like, that it was excitement, half-hysterical, that did it. What
caused the excitement but her devotion?

Luckily for myself, I had been watching her closely. My hands were on
her little wrists in a moment, and no harm was done; and my wife's
caresses soon composed her.

I would gladly have repeated the experiment oftener than was allowed,
which was only after long intervals about twice; and on every such
occasion, the whole drama was rehearsed, the small spontaneous
performer never failing to make her death-defying leap. And every time
she did it, she was rewarded not with tit-bits only, but with what
children dearly love, a pleasant sight. My wife thrashed me. Then
Charlie laughed. She rolled from side to side, as she sat on the
partition wall, as if "unable to contain herself." She "Oo-oo-oo-ed"
approval, and danced for joy.


12. AGREEABLE SENSATIONS

In the eighth book of his autobiography (_Dichtung_, etc.), Goethe
moralises that "with the infinite idiosyncrasy of human nature on the
one side, and the infinite variety in the modes of life and pleasure
on the other, it is a wonder that the human race has not worn itself
out long ago." He explains the mystery by a toughness which, it is now
safe to say, must have been inherited from our arboreal ancestors, for
Charlie had it in full measure.

The fact was that, when she grew up, she suffered from _ennui_, and no
wonder! She had food without seeking it, and was safe from the
continual dangers that kept her lively and busy in the woods. Without
a husband "to make her uneasy," as the old song says, and no children
to work for, she was in the same painful quandary as so many good
maiden ladies I know, whose "only labour is to kill the time, and
labour dire it is, and weary woe." Often enough it is not their fault,
as it was not Charlie's.

  "Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
    The dark, unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
  Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
    And waste its sweetness on the desert air."

To do her justice, Charlie set to work to amuse herself, unhasting,
unresting, in a way worthy of Goethe's disciple, and not only found
agreeable sensations for herself, but provided them for her admirers.

As a child of Nature, she tolerated drawing-room monotonies chiefly
for the sake of cake and shortbread; but she dearly loved to see men
coming to call, especially if, as generally happened, they wore high
headgear. Our house had much open woodwork aloft, which suited her as
if it had been designed for her convenience. After very little
practice she was able to send flying far the hat or turban of any man
coming up the front stairs. It added to the joke that they had been
duly warned against her. She would show herself and move away when
looked at--the shy, innocent creature--but it was only to another
beam, where she was unobserved, whence she could stoop upon the
passer-by, and with a dexterous touch uncover him. The variety of
expressions on the faces of the men, as they looked up at the sweet
little cherub who was grinning aloft, was perhaps as amusing to her as
to anybody else.

There was a proud Mohammedan who swore his turban should escape, and,
flinging dignity to the winds, desirous at any cost of scoring over
those whose headgears had descended, he kept his hand on his. So
Charlie's usual side-blow merely shook it. The man cried out
triumphant--too soon. With the quickness of thought Charlie changed
her tactics. Instead of repeating the ineffectual side-stroke, she
caught the turban in the middle and pulled it up. The man whirled
round indignant, and she dropped it at his feet with a grin. He told
her she was a heathen. She answered, "Oo-oo-oo!"

To drop things from a height seemed a perennial pleasure to her. That
is a characteristic of many monkeys, and, in many forms, is visible in
men and women. To keep to monkeys, I recollect a playmate in the
seventies who wept with laughing as he told me how his pet monkey,
being driven in spite of his protests out of the drawing-room, had
taken refuge, poor exile, in the kitchen. My friend was not allowed to
go into exile with him, and was bidden hold his tongue when he called
attention to alarming noises. The monkey was meanwhile sitting on the
highest shelf in the kitchen, solacing his solitude by pitching the
best china of the household upon the brick floor.

Among the most agreeable of the sensations which Charlie was addicted
to seeking was that of sliding in a sitting posture--the "sitting
glissade" they call it in the Alps. She had no snows, but contented
herself with the boards, upon the ridges and dips in our shingle roof.
From the highest apex of the roof to near the eaves she came sliding
down, pretty quick, partly by force of gravity, partly by pushing
herself with her hands. Her hands clattered and rattled on the shingle
roof with a great noise, which added to her joy. Once down to near the
eaves, she would stop and run to the top again, with looks and cries
like those of boys sliding on the ice.

It is surely needless to multiply references to show how human this
spontaneous performance was. As the Cimbrians came down the valley of
the Adige, about a hundred years before Christ, the Romans saw with
amazement the barbarians, "almost naked among the ice," says the
historian, as if reporting an eye-witness, sit upon their shields and
slide down the Alpine slopes. There is no detail of these old wars
that sticks better in the memory than this, and one is reminded of it
by our new fashions of adult sliding, so wonderfully like the sport of
the brave invading savages, two thousand years ago.

As for her love of noise, nobody can call for proof of the humanity of
that. It is self-evident.

Even if the idealists are right who claim that the only cure for
_ennui_, and the only way to peace of heart and mind, is the "love of
God," or the "love of beauty," or the "love of knowledge and wisdom,"
or "art," which is not always trumpery, or "music," which is not
always noise, or whatever other name we give to the harmony and the
visions vouchsafed to the pure and good and wise, not even the
idealists, indeed they least of all, can claim to be different in kind
from little Charlie. The difference is only in degree. In her humble
way, like an inquisitive child, she was for ever investigating things,
stroking a tiger's skin, for example, comparing it with other
materials on the floor, turning back the cat's outer ear and gazing
into it like a surgeon; touching, tasting, handling, whatever was
within her reach; for ever on the outlook for anything fresh, like the
idle Athenians, who crowded round the first preacher of salvation, in
search of something new. This universal craving of mankind is a
natural inheritance from busy forefathers who lived aloft, and had to
be continually on the look-out. And as Charlie sometimes sat and
dreamily gazed upon the world in general, with a puzzled look, and
beheld with mingled joy and bewilderment the glorious sun, she seemed
to me to be better qualified than any sophisticated Athenian to pay
real homage to the "Unknown God."


13. CORROBORATING ARISTOTLE & CO.

Wondering, if not worshipping, as she blinked at the morning sun,
Charlie Darwin then and all the rest of the day was continually giving
opportunities of observation such as would have rejoiced the heart of
Wallace. The gibbons in a Zoo are more out of their element than men
in a jail. They are surrounded by strange sights and sounds, and
stupefied and quasi-paralysed by lack of occupation. We can learn
little more from them living there than from their little bodies when
they are dead. Nor are pets more satisfactory. At any rate all others
I have seen, but Charlie, were too sophisticated. You could no more
learn from them their native life, than you could learn the ways of
English children in the country by watching poor little guttersnipes,
who have never been out of town.

But Charlie was the real wild maid of the woods, the genuine gibbon,
unadulterated. She never needed to conform to our ways unless she saw
fit to do so, to please herself. It was live and let live, on both
sides. She was at home in every sense. Cousins of hers, perhaps actual
brothers and sisters, or her bereaved mother, were roving free, not
very far away--as free as any wild beast ever is, that is to say,
living from hand to mouth as usual, seeking provender. And after all,
that is how Nature first made man--

  "Ere the base laws of servitude began,
  When wild in woods the noble savage ran."

One day as I was listening to mingled sounds from across the river,
thinking I heard the "Oo-oo-oos" of the gibbons, mingled with dogs'
barking and human cries, there seemed to be a look of recognition on
Charlie's face, and she also listened; but neither then nor at any
time did she make a second attempt to join her relatives, so that her
master began to hope that, perhaps, when she was older, some likely
bachelor of their clan might be attracted to civilisation by her. It
was quite certain she would never revert. She had had her fill of
barbarism.

The melancholy moping of her first few days, when she used to eye the
woods, never returned after it went away. From dawn to dusk, her
mercurial activity never ceased, and that fact seemed to her master to
illuminate one of the most interesting problems in mental evolution.

It is not yet very long since Sandow and others have taught us that
the best way to develop the muscles is to use them frequently in
gentle exercises, avoiding great spasmodic efforts, which strain and
weaken them. The same law applies to the mind. There was a Latin
jingle to that effect current long ago in schools, which is worth
preserving as a bit of old-fashioned wisdom. I never saw it in print,
but was taught it orally many years ago by one who had learned it in
the same way sixty years before.

  "Gutta cavat lapidem
    Non vi, sed sæpe cadendo;
  Sic vir fit doctus
    Non vi, sed sæpe legendo."

The meaning is this--

  A man's made learned by reading oft,
    And not by rush and shock;
  Just as the water, falling down,
    Drip-dripping, wears the rock.

Assuming for the sake of brevity that the reader agrees to this, which
is a matter about which men of sense are generally agreed, what has to
be told is that Charlie Darwin, our Charlie, illustrating evolution
without studying it, unconsciously suggested that the approved method
of steady and gentle exertion was merely a continuation of Nature's
way upwards, the identical way that Nature took to bring the apes
above the other beasts, and then improve the apes. Their hands
provided a ready means of action for many purposes, and their habits
of diet, which made them ever ready to eat, provided a perpetual
supply of motive power. The great progressive movement, so begun, has
never stopped. The restlessness and the _ennui_ which cause so many
crimes and follies are Nature's impulse, misused or neglected. It
comes from habits older than the hills. It is the vital force of each.
With it, we may do evil, if we will; but we can do nothing at all
without it. The cats can gorge themselves and sleep in happiness and
health; but Nature has made that impossible for gibbons and for men.

Of course the only novelty here is the suggestion that continual
employment was Nature's way of stimulating the growth of the brain.
The doctrine that beings, with such brains as men and apes have now,
can find content and peace in healthy occupation, and in no other way,
is a very old discovery; but, as there are many to whom philosophy is
folly written large, it may make the truth more credible to them to
mention that Charlie's habits proved this beyond a doubt, and so
corroborated the profoundest conclusion of Aristotle (_Ethics_).

She also ratified the rhetoric of John Ruskin. His declamations
against the excessive division of labour were the derision of
practical people in the nineteenth century. "Polishing the pins with
men's souls! Bah!" With shrugs and sneers they intimated that he was a
lunatic. If he had not been rich, he might have been jailed as an
incendiary. Rich or poor, he would have been in danger anywhere but in
free and happy England. And now England's patience is rewarded by the
discovery that Ruskin was essentially right. If our brains have been
developed by our innate readiness to "turn our hands to anything,"
then, assuredly, to restrict activity to one or two mechanical
movements is to reverse the natural process, and so torture the mind
worse than the constraining bandages torture the feet of Chinese
ladies. The damage done to vital organs in that way cannot be
compensated by any wages.

Thus were the conclusions of Aristotle and the rhetoric of Ruskin
reinforced by the example of Charlie Darwin.


14. THE LAST CHAPTER

By May 1893, when Charlie had been about a year in her master's house,
he had been about two and a half years in the same station, in charge
of the same district, doing the same kind of work. The average for the
province was a few months. So he should not have been surprised that
he was then, on the shortest possible notice, transferred from where
he was, in the Sittang valley, in the east of Burma, to a district
with headquarters on Ramri Island, off the western coast.

What to do with Charlie in such a hurry, with such a destination,
would have been a troublesome question if she had not by that time
become independent and able to support herself. It was not that any
gibbon-Romeo had found her out. That happy fate had been impossible in
the time allowed. If, indeed, we had continued to dwell there in the
woods for another year or so, it was the confident expectation of the
neighbouring gardeners that some enterprising young gibbon would have
recognised her charms, and appreciated the combined advantages of
freedom and plenty. An official post, with abundance to eat and drink
and nothing to do, truly it was the very kind of soft job that
Mr Kipling's heroes roam the world to find. Yes, assuredly, the
gardeners were right. We would have had another civilised gibbon very
soon. Already somebody was considering on what terms, as to housing
and settlements, the managers of the Rangoon Zoo might obtain the
family. But, like many another spinster, Charlie lost her chance
through no fault of her own. We could not stay, and when suddenly the
time came to go, Charlie was ready. She had won her independence
differently.

It came about in this way. Our house was on the edge of the town.
There was nothing beyond it but some Buddhist temples and the
rifle-range. The way to both these places of resort was the road by
the side of which, among the trees, Charlie finished her morning
exercises, and sat watching for my return, impatient for breakfast. So
she was soon noticed by the people, policemen, volunteers or
villagers, who were often passing about that very time, and they never
failed to stop and watch her. Monkeys are not uncommon; but a gibbon
is a rare and popular sight on the plains of Burma. Few of the
passers-by had ever seen so human a beast before, not even the Hindu
policemen, who hold monkeys in special honour.

Of all the tribes who have both arms and legs, including ourselves,
the gibbons appear to be, proportionately, the strongest in the arms.
Those of Malaysia, in particular, called "agile" by naturalists, are
among the record leapers of the world, clearing at a fling a space
beyond the capacity of perhaps any other being without wings. Darwin
and Wallace would explain this by pointing out that they are the prey
of animals that lie in wait to catch them as they pass from tree to
tree, so that those of them who touched the ground the least would be
the most likely to survive. The same tendencies are visible in Burma,
and though Charlie's immediate kindred are not such record-makers as
her cousins in Malaysia, they are fine performers, and so was she.

By slow degrees, not all at once, the little acrobat in black velvet
tights became aware of the friendly attention of the observing crowds.
It was a visible addition to the pleasure of both sides to be
conscious of each other. The people began to applaud. When they saw
her enjoy their applause, they applauded the more. She seemed so like
a prima donna or actress, that I have never, since then, made the
common mistake of supposing the "little airs" of a woman on a public
scene to be affectation. Once, in particular, I was watching her
unobserved, when she seemed, in her excitement, to have forgotten for
the moment breakfast and everything else. She was apparently resting
when first I caught sight of her, and she did not see me. At any rate,
she was sitting with her back to the audience, looking over her
shoulder at intervals to make sure that they were still waiting. Then
she began to go bounding round the tree. After a little of this, she
went in a corkscrew direction upwards, and when high up flung herself
to a neighbouring tree. The feat was received with a burst of
applause, in the midst of which she went whirling round and came to
the top of the tree, and sat there, on the airiest pinnacle, surveying
the admiring crowd with complacency.

This happened oftener and oftener. When I was transferred, all sorts
of people offered to take her. So, first, she went to see how she
liked the surroundings of the house of the Sergeant-Instructor of the
Volunteers. Her subsequent history was reported thus.--

The Sergeant's house adjoined the barracks of the Hindu (Sikh)
policemen, who had been the most appreciative of her many admirers;
and Charlie was not a chained monkey, but a free woman, though a
Lilliputian. It soon appeared that she now needed more admiration than
any one man could give. She took less and less notice of the Sergeant
and his wife, and stayed more and more in the trees beside the
barracks, and at last it was agreed that she was to be common
property, while all were there together, but that the Hindus were to
take her when they marched away. And that was how Charlie became a
camp-follower and the pet of a battalion.

We next heard of her in 1897, when a native officer called upon us at
Toungoo, expressly to give us news of her. She was then with her
battalion in Rangoon, and as popular as ever. The details he gave have
slipped from memory, all but one, which he repeated in English,
addressing my wife: "Karlie" (so they pronounced her name) "Karlie is
now very fat."

In later years I tried to find out more, but failed. These little
people do not live long. There was a rumour that she died in 1905;
and, doubtless, she did die, her body returning to dust and air, and
her perplexed spirit, as her Hindu friends, and indeed her old master
too, would agree to say, subsiding into the great ocean of being that
floods the world.

  Like foam that from the sea comes white,
  So come all living things to light;
  Like foam returning to the sea,
  So, having been, they cease to be.



XXXI

THE BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF A LITTLE BEAR


1. EARLY DAYS

It was in 1899 and in Upper Burma that two little bears were brought,
by villagers who had caught them, to an officer still flourishing as a
magistrate in Burma, but averse to fame for himself, though willing
that his pets should have their place in history. "They were at first
no bigger than that," he said, as he held his hands about a foot
apart, "and I took a fancy to them and decided to bring up both."

It was as interesting as if they had been babies, and easier. Indeed
the bear has a certain primeval claim upon us, having perhaps been
humanity's oldest acquaintance. It is not a mere accident that the
Greeks made him a king of the woods and sacred to Diana, and the Red
Indians of America made elaborate respectful speeches to excuse
themselves for eating him, as if it were a kind of cannibalism. It can
hardly be doubted that men and bears became friends at first in much
the same way as men become friendly among themselves at college and
elsewhere, because they chanced to be neighbours and of similar
habits. Nuts were nuts to bears and men, and fruits and eggs were
appreciated by both alike. For thousands of years our arboreal
ancestors and the bears must have hobnobbed together, both finding it
awkward to have to be at home upon the trees and yet move about upon
the ground. Ah! how we both did envy the birds! We have risen a great
deal in the world since then, and the bears have been stationary, but
we need not be proud. While we watch the clumsy gait of the bear as he
brings his forelegs to the ground, if he has far to go, and hobbles
along, not very nimbly perhaps, but better than we could go on all
fours, his very clumsiness should give us food for thought. As he is
now, so once were we, that is to say, our ancestors, meaning our
arboreal ancestors, not long ago, that is to say, probably less than a
million years ago.

When he is young and only learning to walk, his toes being turned in
so as to suit his arboreal movements, the bear trips on his own paws
and at times rolls over in a ludicrous way, as if turning an unwilling
somersault. After such a collapse, his next impulse naturally is to
move backwards, as the safer way. But then, his eyes being set in his
head like our own, he soon finds that the universe is too complex to
allow indefinite blind retrogression; and so he tries again, and makes
another cautious step or two forward, with a continuous effort to
avoid tripping on his own toes. At last, though not without many a sad
catastrophe, he does learn to go forward and follow his nose like
other people. This is natural history, an account of how a little bear
learns to walk, and it is not an allegory of the Russian empire, as
readers might suppose. That was how these two little ones learned,
while growing in size and in favour with man and woman. They were in
their native climate, and too young as yet to see any difference
between humanity and themselves.

It was pleasant to watch them and share their feelings, and escape for
a moment from the narrow limitations of humanity.--

  At home in the world, wheresoever I be,
  There's nothing alive that is foreign to me.

I have another friend, who has also been foster-father to bears, and
who is fond of illustrating the distinction between instinct and
reason by their infantile habits. However small the cub, he never
needs to be taught how to bend and arrange the twigs, so as to give
himself a convenient resting-place upon a branch. That, I am told, is
instinct; and so, I suppose, is licking his paws, which comes as easy
as breathing. But once two baby bears were attracted by the smell of
honey to a wild bees' nest up a tree. The bees came out with angry
buzz and stings. The assailants were young, and had neither bee-hats
nor aprons, and they retired, discomfited. Their kind master gave
them, as consolation prize, some spoonfuls of honey on a plate. They
licked it all up, and then looked at each other with surprise and
animation, as men do who are realising something strange, as if saying
to each other, and each to himself, "So that was the meaning of the
smell we went to investigate."

When the "brutality of instinct," as the French call it, was thus
reinforced by knowledge, they did not hesitate. "They did not pause to
parley or dissemble." Straight back to the tree they went, and up it,
swiftly, steadily, right to the nest of the bees, and tore it open,
heedless of the stings, brushing the bees aside as carelessly as if
they were flies. They guzzled the honey, and came down slowly, licking
their lips, only when it was finished. Surely their foster-father
might well be proud of bears like these, and say that they could draw
inferences as well as an undergraduate.

In case any reader is led by this history to bring up a cub, let him
remember to leave plenty of water in his tub in the bathroom. It is
sure to be much appreciated in the hot weather. There is no prettier
sight than a little bear enjoying himself in that way, with his two
little hands--I mean forepaws--hanging over different sides of the
tub, as he leans back. It should, however, be remembered that, not
being equal to the use of towels, he likes to go to a bed and roll
himself on the bedding when he comes out of the water. So unless there
is someone standing by, there should be a waterproof sheet over any
accessible bed.

These things are common to adolescent bears. The uniformity of Nature
is an old discovery, and one of them is like another. As this is not a
treatise on Natural History but a biography of an individual, I must
restrict myself to what was peculiar to our heroine and her companion,
and leave others to dilate upon what may be generally seen in her
fellow-creatures of the same species.


2. UP THE CHIMNEY

In writing as in living, it is easier to see what is right than to do
it. The biographers of Europe would agree that their proper concern
was only what was characteristic of their heroes, and not the details
of human life in general. "In the abstract," they would all agree to
this; yet which of them does it? The difficulty is to discover what is
distinctive.

If that is hard for a man who is writing about a man, it is still
harder for the historian of a bear. If I were a bear, I would not have
been puzzled to know whether the great adventure in the chimney was a
thing to tell, or only what any bears would have done. Not being a
bear, the writer could not ask his inner consciousness. He had to ask
his friends who had bred bears; and when he found that our heroine's
master was the only one of them all who had a house with a chimney,
the problem had to be abandoned as insoluble. So he has decided, like
a certain great author, to take the risk of being tedious rather than
elliptical.

The open-brick fireplace with a chimney was for heating, not for
cooking; and stood in the hall, near the front door. "I could never
discover why it was there," said the unfortunate tenant of the house.
The building was an achievement of the Public Works Department, which
is surrounded by mysteries and has ways past finding out in Burma.

That fireplace and chimney perplexed the two little bears as well as
their master; and once, when there was no fire, they sat down together
on the hearth, and meditated; and as they meditated they lifted up
their eyes and saw the sky! How their hearts did burn within them, as
they gazed upon that light in darkness; and their instinctive
propensity to climb made them get up on their hind legs and gape at
each other, and rub their eyes and look up again. Like the juvenile
hero of Longfellow, they felt the impulse of "Excelsior!" Up they
started, to reach that sky. At first, they were quite composed--it
seemed little harder than going upstairs; and there was no hurry or
flurry. They helped each other. But a chimney that grows narrower as
you go up is disconcerting to the aspiring climber without hands. It
disturbs the centre of gravity in an unusual way. They fell back,
first one and then the other, and again, and again, and again; and
ever, like the spider whose persistence cheered the Bruce, they tried
again, and again, and again; and still they fell. They became
individualistic, but not all at once desperate. There was a sublime
fixity upon their countenances, significant of the primeval elemental
forces which impelled them, yet nevertheless pathetically human. After
all, they were "seeking the light," be it remembered, honestly
"seeking the light." Their blind impulsiveness made them all the
better symbols of humanity. Think of the European scholastics in the
Middle Ages. What were _they_ doing for many centuries but trying to
climb to the sky through a sooty chimney?


Smile if you will and must, but do not laugh. You would have had no
heart for laughing if you had seen the agonies of the bears when
strength failed them, and their falls and bruises were--enough! They
flung themselves upon the ashes of the hearth in a despair that was
equal to that of any man. From nose to tail they covered themselves
with ashes--to say nothing of the soot already there.

However, as Byron sings, and psalmists and fakirs have experienced,
"the heart may break, yet brokenly live on." When they had had enough
of the ashes and the soot, they emerged; and naturally, desiring above
all things to be clean again, they rubbed themselves upon the freshly
painted walls and nice clean furniture; and when the servants ran to
remonstrate, they made for the bedrooms, amidst a general alleluia!


I abstained from asking their master what he said when he came home;
and he seemed to appreciate my forbearance.


3. AT A RAILWAY STATION

The next remarkable incident was on a railway journey, on the way to
Ye-U. The guard had charge of them, and kept them in their basket in
his own van, where he "could have an eye upon them." This would have
been enough if they had been common wild bears, newly caught; but
these were civilised animals, and while the guard kept an eye upon
them, they kept two pairs of eyes on the guard.

It was a single line of railway, and there were long pauses at every
station, during which the guard was on the platform. In one of these
intervals, the bears made a united effort, "with a pull, and a push,
and a push altogether," and then the shrieks of a stampeding crowd
drew the eyes of the guard and the station-master and everybody else
to the unusual sight of two fine young bears enjoying a walk on the
station platform.

The panic was not unreasonable. If they had been wild young things,
their own terror would have made them dangerous. Fear is the cause of
cruelty, as Sir Charles Elliot (_Odysseus_) has aptly remarked, in
explaining the reciprocal atrocities of Greeks and Turks. But the
bright little bears of this history had never known fear, secluded as
they were in a happy home. They only wanted to stretch their legs, as
other passengers were doing. When that was seen, the shrieks of terror
turned to shrieks of laughter; and people made reverent way for them,
and followed them with admiring looks, crowding respectfully, without
pressing close upon them, as if they had been royalties or popular
idols. The railway officials were not teased by any more impatient
questions as to when that train would start. It must have been more
than a quarter of an hour after the starting signals had been given,
before anyone thought of showing the bears and their admirers the need
of resuming their places and continuing the journey.

The rest of the life of the bigger of the two, the leader in this
adventure, was short, and like the records of common humanity, where
"to be born and die, of rich and poor makes all the history." He was
wandering about with his chain loose, in his master's garden, and went
up a tree. The chain became entangled round his neck; and, when next
he was seen, it was the dead body of a half-grown bear that was
hanging from the end of his chain. Nobody saw how it happened; but
there the beast was--dead!


4. A BREAKFAST AT YE-U

"Life belongs to the living," say the wise. Whoever survives, must be
prepared for changes; and there is no misfortune so great that a
person of sense cannot draw some benefit from it. That is true at
times of bears, as well as of men. For the surviving bear in this
instance, the sad death of her companion was not without a pleasant
result. She was delivered from her chain, and rejoiced in her liberty,
like a suffragette. That is why the story of her life is
interesting--and short. Incidentally, it might be a lesson and a
warning to her sister-mortals in petticoats and running loose; but, to
be perfectly candid, that is not why it is written. I do not wish to
claim any merit, undeserved. I tell her story just because I liked it.

It is often a pleasure to remember sorrows past, as Æneas reminded his
shipwrecked companions, by way of comforting them. But it may be
doubted whether our heroine ever took much pleasure in the
recollection of the breakfast at Ye-U.

Three officers came to breakfast with her master; and her usual place
at table being filled, she moved about, like a privileged child at a
party, suspecting no harm and intending none to any living creature,
when one of the men at table gave her the end of a cigarette. She ate
it. Whatever else she scrutinised, she had always eaten without
hesitation whatever was offered by the hand of man. So she swallowed
the end of the cigarette, and became very unhappy.

There may have been moral as well as physical nausea. Who can read
what passes in the brain of a bear? Or feel what is in her heart? She
may have felt, in a dumb, instinctive way, what Schiller has
articulated--

  "Oh, she _deserves_ to find herself deceived,
  Who seeks a heart in the unthinking man!"

She went and lay near the wall of the dining-room, with unconscious
dignity averting her eyes from the merry party, and making them laugh
by her look of patient helplessness, as she rubbed her stomach with
her two forepaws.

A pony was the next performer that morning. The dining-room was on the
level of the ground, and the pony, running loose, came to the table as
usual for a tit-bit. "Send the beast away," was the impatient wish of
a guest--let us hope he was the hero of the cigarette. The host, who
might otherwise have gradually given some bits of fruit, handed the
happy quadruped a whole pineapple, and bade him go away, intending
thus to please his guest and yet not disappoint his pony. Pineapples
are cheap in Burma. They are likewise very juicy and good. The lucky
pet, who also had the easy confidence of a privileged person, began to
roll the big pineapple in his mouth, and was in no haste to depart.

The mischief-maker, if it was he, as we hope, made a gesture to
quicken him; and the obedient animal in turning raised his nose above
the head of the impatient man; and then there flowed down upon the man
a torrent of mingled froth and pineapple juice, all churned together
into a sticky milk. He howled, and tried to dodge it, but was unlucky
in his movements. The only result was that he received the torrent in
two directions. While one stream ran down his face, and anointed
whatever took the place of a beard, the other ran down the back of his
head and neck, even to the uttermost skirts of his garments.

Then the bear was forgotten; and the other men began to laugh at the
man who sat under the pony. They laughed the more when he lost his
temper. Even the host did laugh; and let us, who can congratulate
ourselves that we have never been guilty of such a breach of courtesy,
be candid enough to consider--did we ever encounter such temptation?

What enhanced the fun, and his affliction, was that instead of frankly
facing the situation and going to a bathroom, he tried to clean
himself at table. After exhausting the resources of civilisation in
the shape of handkerchiefs and napkins and finger-bowls, he used
towels--big bathroom towels; and still he found purification as
difficult as ever did Macbeth.--

  "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
  Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
  The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
  Making the green one red."

But it was not a troubled conscience that dimmed his eyes. His bodily
eyes saw perfectly. The trouble was the real adhesiveness of the
mixture saturating his garments and his skin. The language of Macbeth,
too, was refined in comparison to his; for, as he glared at the
laughers around him, he said ... what I would not repeat, not even in
an affidavit.

Our heroine said nothing. _She_ did not join in the laughing. She was
generally fond of fun; but on this particular occasion, she seemed to
be completely self-absorbed, as sufferers are apt to be. There are
times when one craves to be alone. She turned her face to the wall and
her back to the company.


5. THE BEAR AND THE PERAMBULATOR

Her master loved her as dearly as ever any man loved a dog; and so,
when he was transferred from the north of Upper to the south of Lower
Burma, he took her with him. This was lucky for her. She had made a
bad impression on the man who came to relieve him, although, as
himself a father of children, he might have been expected to
appreciate her. It was all a misunderstanding.

The new man had come in advance of his family, but brought with him a
perambulator, nicely upholstered; and when the gentleman went upstairs
to bed, and the servants to their quarters, our heroine naturally
proceeded to examine the perambulator, which was exactly the right
size for her. There was nobody else in the house whom it suited at
all. How could she know, without being told, of the impending arrival
of another little thing? Everything thereabouts had been at her
disposal hitherto. How could she suspect that this might not be?

Of course she was too young to understand distinctions of property;
but, even if she had had a mature human intellect, she might easily
have made the mistake she apparently did.

At any rate, what is certain is that, next morning, the fine leather
was torn to tatters, and the horse-hair spread about, while she
contemplated the work of her paws with complacency. The new magistrate
was as unable to express his feelings as our heroine to explain her
thoughts. They gaped at each other, I believe. Presumably, she had
found the stuffing hot, and wished to make her new toy suit the
climate and her taste. But she could not explain all that; and the new
magistrate said....

Suffice it for the purpose of this history that he made no objection
when her own dear, original master declared that he would take her
with him wherever he went. So they departed together.


_P.S._--While the biographer of the bear is correcting the proofs of
this book at Toungoo, Burma, in June, 1910, he meets the owner of the
perambulator, who not only confirms what is here recorded, but even
becomes bitter again against the bear, and, warming at the
recollection, rhapsodies in his wrath.--"She was a wicked beast. She
tore out the insides of my pillows, too. She was eternally meddling.
She went everywhere. Nothing was sacred to her at all. I never was
gladder to see any pet begone." "But did not N. love her?" it was
asked, naming her owner. "O yes, he did, he thought nothing too good
for her." What a happy little bear!


6. LIFE IN A COUNTRY TOWN

Their destination was Kyauktan, a Burman name that means a "ridge of
rock." As you go up the river to Rangoon a low ridge is visible,
inland, on the right, almost parallel to the muddy bank, and not very
far from it. It is a ridge of rock; but, in that benignant land, there
seems to be something indecent, or at least savouring of skeletons, in
bare rocks like those of more desolate countries; and in this
instance, as usual there, you may know the rock is below, but you see
only the elevated greenery. Towards the seaward end of the ridge is
Kyauktan, a little country town on a tidal creek, invisible from the
ocean steamers. There was the new home of our happy heroine. There she
lived in her master's house, amid abundance infinite to her, because
she could not measure it. Milk and rice she tolerated, as other
children do; but even of these she took only what she wanted; and she
had an embarrassing choice of riches of other kinds, enough to make
any honey-bear quite happy.

The deep black of her fine fur was relieved by beautiful white lines
on her bosom, meeting in the middle, like a necklace with a pendant on
the breast. As she squatted on her haunches her nose was little above
the edge of the table; but when she stood up to help herself, as she
was continually doing, the natural decoration on her bosom was
conspicuous, and she almost seemed as if quite nicely dressed.

Table manners she had none. How could she have manners when she had no
hands? The word "manners" comes from the word for hand (main, manus).
Manners mean a dexterity that hands make possible for men and monkeys,
but not for bears. If they had had the hands and we their paws, the
evolution of species would have taken a different turn, and the course
of the world's history changed indeed! Our heroine had to adapt
herself, and did it with great dexterity, but she could not grow
hands. Her method at table was to reach forth both her paws, and scoop
in towards herself whatever she wanted; and then she would lift things
to her lips with both paws, using her nails almost as the Chinese do
their chopsticks. It was not her fault that she had to break glasses
and upset dishes and make many a mess.

Her master could deny her nothing. It was therefore lucky for him that
her tastes were not expensive. She liked fruits best, and the fresh
kinds too, which are cheap, not the tinned things. But she was not
bigoted. Her appetite was eclectic. Sweet jam was appreciated, and
honey in a high degree; but she did not altogether refuse marmalade if
she saw nothing better.

Occasionally she was utterly unreasonable, and became troublesome, not
by pulling the tablecloth, as did another Burman bear of my
acquaintance, but by a peculiarity equally characteristic of a pet
that was spoiled. Or it might be attributed to her temperament. It
consisted in being so absorbed in what she saw that she forgot
everything else, just like the ordinary doctrinaire or idealist or
athlete or any other kind of common person, able to see only one thing
at a time. For example, if she saw plantains on the table, and wanted
them, but did not then want any of the milk or sugar or other things
intervening, she ignored what she did not want, and leaned over far
enough to include the plantains in her magnificent embrace, and pulled
the plantains to her, unheeding all the rest.

No man is perfect. Her master has confessed that he once or twice was
so provoked at such a performance as to give her a tap on the nose,
whereupon she went and "sulked in a corner," as he expressed it; but
how could he tell what she was thinking?

Some said she whimpered for her mother on such occasions. The Burmans
say, "When the child trips, it cries for its mother"; but it is not
certain that she remembered her early days, for she was but a young
thing when she was caught and taken to a man's house. Her master may
well have been an indifferent substitute for an indulgent parent; but
he was all she had, and his jam was very good.

He was not allowed to monopolise her young affections. She had not
been long in Kyauktan before she had explored the town and even found
her way to the bazaar or market, where the stall-holders, male and
female, welcomed her with open arms.

To tell Europeans of a bear running about loose and being welcomed
with open arms in the markets may seem a fairy tale; and though in a
narrative of fact it is permissible to tell what is stranger than
fiction, still it may be as well to explain a few things that
Europeans cannot easily know. The Kyauktan bazaar was a _retail_
market, where people were never in a hurry, quite different from
Covent Garden; and the bears of Burma have different habits from those
of Europe. They are smaller too; but that is the least of the
difference.

In Europe, if we mean to be rude and impute rudeness, we call a man
a bear. To torture bears was a familiar sport, not long
ago--bear-baiting. We still use the word; and big bears ignominiously
led captive may still be seen, bemocked to make a foolish holiday. All
this implies a hostile attitude which is never seen in Burma.

Perhaps a grim passage in Gibbon's _History_ may be quoted to show the
contrast. It is in chapter xxv, and concerns the great Emperor
Valentinian (A.D. 364–375). He had put his brother Valens on the
throne at Constantinople, and taken charge of the rowdier end of the
world himself.

"In the government of his household, or of his empire, slight, or even
imaginary offences, a hasty word, a casual omission, an involuntary
delay, were chastised by a sentence of immediate death. The
expressions which issued the most readily from the mouth of the
emperor of the West were, 'Strike off his head'; 'Burn him alive';
'Let him be beaten with clubs till he expires'; and his most favoured
ministers soon understood that, by a rash attempt to dispute or
suspend the execution of his sanguinary commands, they might involve
themselves in the guilt and punishment of disobedience. The repeated
gratification of this savage justice hardened the mind of Valentinian
against pity and remorse; and the sallies of passion were confirmed by
the habits of cruelty. He could behold with calm satisfaction the
convulsive agonies of torture and death: he reserved his friendship
for those faithful servants whose temper was the most congenial to his
own. The merit of Maximin, who had slaughtered the noblest families of
Rome, was rewarded with the royal approbation and the prefecture of
Gaul. Two fierce and enormous bears, distinguished by the appellations
of _Innocence_ and Mica Aurea, could alone deserve to share the favour
of Maximin. The cages of those trusty guards were always placed near
the bedchamber of Valentinian, who frequently amused his eyes with the
grateful spectacle of seeing them tear and devour the bleeding limbs
of the malefactors who were abandoned to their rage. Their diet and
exercises were carefully inspected by the Roman emperor; and, when
_Innocence_ had earned her discharge by a long course of meritorious
service, the faithful animal was again restored to the freedom of her
native woods."

Unlike those occidental savages, the heroine of our history, if asked
to eat the flesh of men or even butchers' meat, would have felt as
much insulted as Bernard Shaw himself. I do not mean that either she
or "the Shaw" would rather starve than nibble a chicken; but that
their tastes were delicate, and they preferred cereals and vegetables
and fruits and sweets to any kind of carcasses.

The Burmans call the bear "wetwun," the governor or minister of the
pigs, the "gentleman pig"; and sometimes say, between jest and
earnest, that pigs and bears are good Buddhists. That is because they
are not murderous, though strong. It is only in self-defence that they
ever do hurt. They live in general without taking life; and a nice
she-bear that was sleek and tame was a treat to see, especially as she
was not proud, the unpardonable sin in Mongolian eyes. She was ever
willing to accept little tit-bits of fruit and to stand and be
caressed by anybody.

The woods were near. No doubt she often lifted up her eyes in that
direction; but the sweet things of the table and the excitements of
the bazaar--all the comforts of Charing Cross, so to speak--kept her
from trying to escape.

I once knew a pet that did run away, and after some days' absence came
back again; but in this instance, the bear did not worry her master in
that way. Servants are not partial to pets. She could go wherever she
liked, and perhaps they would not have been sorry if she had departed
altogether. But she always came back. Perhaps it was because she could
escape at any time, as easily to-morrow as to-day. There was no hurry.
She may have intended to go off to the woods at some time or other,
and always postponed it. As Goethe admirably says, "We love to walk
along the plains, with the summit in our eye."

Whatever her feelings or thoughts, when she took her walks abroad,
that is to say, outside her master's little park or compound, she
generally went to the bazaar.


7. THE WONDERFUL SUCKLING

One of the most amusing of European ways in Burma and India is the
habit of adhering to hours of work and fashions of garments that suit
London. In the heat of the day the whites and their direct employees
are supposed to be working hard. This leaves the best hours of the
twenty-four for amusement, which is not exactly what was intended. The
fashion is set by men who live in the hills. That is the secret.

You cannot really ignore the sun in the Tropics, however; you can only
pretend to do it. Go into many a native quarter or bazaar in the
middle of the day, as the bear used to do at Kyauktan, and you behold
life honestly relaxed. The customers in the bazaar are country cousins
from a distance, if there are any customers. The buzz of an occasional
sewing-machine is like the drone of bees in summer, harmonious enough
in the ears of the bazaar-sellers, many of whom are taking a siesta.

When she wanted fun or fruit or to see the crowd--when she was on
business, so to speak--the bear went to the bazaar like other Kyauktan
people, in the morning, or perhaps the late afternoon. When she went
in the middle of the day, it was just because master was busy at court
and it was dull at home, and a rest seemed likely to be more enjoyable
in company.

When once she was sauntering towards it at this mid-day hour, she
passed an Indian cottage, in front of which, upon a "charpoy" or
bedstead, used also as a couch, and now set upon the ground in a shady
spot, a young Indian mother lay sound asleep, with baby in her lap, it
may be guessed. At any rate the baby had had enough for the time,
while mamma lay back upon the couch, breathing peacefully. Her plump
and healthy breasts were full of milk; and as the little bearess
looked, the instinct of childhood returned upon her, and she went up
softly and laid her lips to the nipple which the other baby had
abandoned. "She milked the woman dry," said people afterwards; but
nobody saw it being done. Nobody noticed anything till the street rang
with female shrieks. "Ayāh! Ayāh! Ayāh! Mother! mother! Help, help!
Come, all! Come, all! Come! Come! Come, all! Come, all! Help! help!
Ah, mother, mother, mother, mother! Ayāh! Ayāh!" The bear pushed her
way through the gathering crowd and hurried home unhurt. One does not
readily lift a hand against an old favourite; and she was home before
people realised the terrible event.

Luckily for everybody, Kyauktan was, and still is, blessed with that
most useful of men--an honest lawyer. He was a barrister-at-law; but
the queer convention of some parts of Europe, which restricts the best
lawyers to talking in court, and allows them to be consulted only
through another lawyer, is as unknown in Burma as in America. At
Kyauktan, as in Boston, you do _not_ need to be "lathered in one shop
and shaved in another." You choose your lawyer, and go to him,
straight.

The Kyauktan barrister had been an official once; but, as people said,
he had retired and reformed. In sober truth, he had been one of the
best Commissioners ever known in Burma; and now his mere presence at
Kyauktan made life more bearable to honest men, for many miles around.

To him the husband of the unhappy young mother, just milked dry, went
running, a score of women probably shrieking instructions after him,
and half the women in Kyauktan standing ready to advise. But,
wonderful to tell, there were many of them on the side of the bear,
poor harmless orphan; and when, after a while, the obedient husband
slowly returned to his wife, and did not announce a suit or anything
else to be done, some praised the lawyer, and others said that the man
had only pretended to go and consult him. The strangest thing of all,
significant of much, was that nobody then complained to the bear's
master or even told him of the matter. He was left to learn it later
from the bantering of the honest lawyer. Was there ever a pet so
popular before?


8. HARUM-SCARUM

There were many other freaks of the bear which a kind conspiracy of
silence concealed from her master as long as possible. Like other
bachelors who live alone, he was not always punctual in sitting down
to table. His pet had the healthy appetite of youth, and was hungry at
times before dinner was ready, and then, being at home everywhere and
not troubled with false pride, she naturally went to the kitchen and
helped herself.

It is likely that she burned or scalded herself in that way, for it is
known that another little Burman bear, who frequented the kitchen, had
that experience. But we have only probability to go upon in this
instance. She made no complaints, and returned regularly, and the cook
would not tell tales. Indeed, he seems to have taken great pains to
protect her, thrusting himself between her and danger so often that,
at last, not knowing what he would be at, she either misunderstood his
intentions or lost patience, and recollecting how strong she was, she
turned to claw that affectionate but too meddlesome cook.

The upshot was all her master was allowed to know. It could not be
concealed. The cook had to bolt. Alone in the kitchen, with unfettered
discretion, she behaved like the reasonable, civilised animal she was.
She merely took what she wanted and did what she liked, and allowed
the cook to return. She had never meant to hurt him, only to remove
him out of her way.

She used to travel about with her master, when he went on tour. Being
unable to ride a pony, she sat in a cart. The ideal method would have
been for her to sit in a box or basket on such occasions, and journey
as Gulliver did in Brobdingnag; but it was useless to argue with her.
She could burst any wickerwork, as easily as Samson burst his bonds,
and she saw no need for anything but a convenient seat. She liked to
joke with the driver, like a passenger on an old-fashioned bus or
coach; but gradually it came to her master's knowledge that, only too
often, the driver and anybody else in the cart had to jump down to
avoid her--she was so rough in her horseplay. There was a rumour that
she once knocked down a driver; but he made no complaint and it was
probably an accident. I was once nearly knocked down by a bear that
cannoned against me by inadvertence, hurrying to greet me in a
friendly way.

When left alone in the cart, she never attempted to touch the reins.
She gazed at them and the bullocks, serenely unconcerned, as the
passengers in a steamer look at the machinery. When the driver went to
the bullocks' heads and stopped them, and gathered up the reins and
climbed back into the cart, she seemed to consider his behaviour a
matter of course, and looked as if anything else would have surprised
her. Nevertheless, when these transporting adventures became known,
her master insisted on leaving her at home.


9. ALL THE REST

It was not altogether disagreeable to the bear to be left alone in the
house, with only a servant or two, and nobody to correct her; but she
made herself unpleasant to other people. Her master found her, after
every absence, "more and more savage" upon his return. These are his
own words; and yet, and yet, however imperious to others or
contemptuous of humanity, she was always amenable to him, and to him
she was always dear.

At this point, as is common in biographies, the historian who would be
faithful must face a divided duty. In order to please the friends and
relatives, one has to heed nothing but what they choose to tell; and
if one does that, then the biography is merely an unreadable fiction.
As a satirist cynically puts it,--

  Facts inane the volume fill,
  Keep the secret secret still;
  Here and there may truth be guessed
  From what can be seen--suppressed!

One of the things that make this biography worth writing is the
freedom from conventional restraints. So readers shall have the truth,
and the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The bear's master has
long been a friend of mine, and I hope will so continue, but truth is
dearer than anybody. So I will not suppress the remarks of the honest
lawyer at Kyauktan, who is also an old friend, and has read the first
draft of this work. He sent me a letter on the subject, containing the
excruciating words that the bear at Kyauktan had become "a nuisance."
The expression is his. My responsibility is limited to quoting it. I
desire to express no opinion of my own.

What her own master could not help seeing was the contrast between her
behaviour and that of a very respectable bear at Syriam, a place at
the other end of the ridge, nearly a day's walk from Kyauktan, just
across the river from Rangoon. The bear living there belonged to
Mr Brand of the Burma Oil Company, and he and our heroine's master
often compared notes, and discussed the problem of her higher
education. Mr Brand seemed to think she had good natural gifts, but
had come to a difficult age when she needed _daily_ supervision. He
never went on tour himself, and was willing to take charge of her. She
would be sure to benefit by the company of an older and well-behaved
bear, and the two together would be happier at Syriam than either was
alone. At last her owner was persuaded, and, when every preliminary
had been settled, our heroine set out for her new home (A.D. 1900).

She went in a slow cart, and the day was hot. It is not so well known
as it should be that bears and elephants and tigers, too, are almost
as sensitive to the sunshine as white men. In this instance, though
every possible precaution was taken, the bear was decidedly unhappy on
the way. We have to remember that she was an adolescent female and a
fully emancipated one, who had lived exclusively for her own
amusement, and never had anything particular to do or to suffer in
this world. Her sensations, therefore, must have been remarkably like
those of the American family, immortalised in Ruskin's letter to
Norton of 1869.

  "I ... was fated to come from Venice to Verona with an American
  family, father and mother and two girls--presumably rich--girls 15
  and 18. I never before conceived the misery of wretches who had
  spent all their lives in trying to gratify themselves. It was a
  little warm--warmer than was entirely luxurious--but nothing in
  the least harmful. They moaned and fidgeted and frowned and puffed
  and stretched and fanned, and ate lemons, and smelt bottles, and
  covered their faces, and tore the cover off again, and had no one
  thought or feeling, during five hours of travelling in the most
  noble part of all the world, except what four poor beasts would
  have had in their den in a menagerie, being dragged about on a hot
  day...." (_Letters of John Ruskin to C.E. Norton_, I, pp. 218 and
  219.)

The longest road has an end, and Syriam was reached at last. The cart
stopped, and the bear came down from it with every sensation smothered
in one irresistible craving for coolness "Anything to be cool!" A
pleasant-looking tank of water was near, and into it she plunged.

The details of what followed are variously reported. Eyes she had and
ears of the best; but she used them to avoid people. It was only after
a long time that it pleased her to emerge, quite shivering now, cool
enough at last.

Fever came on and pneumonia; and, next day she died, and that is the
end of the story. When you think of it, that is how every story would
end if it went on long enough.


10. HER EPITAPH

It is now 1910: and already Mr Brand himself is dead; and, spinning in
the official whirligig, "like the wind's blast, never resting,
homeless," the bear's old master has long ago left Kyauktan, and been
in many places. So it is natural that no monument has been put up to
her memory; and, maybe, none ever will be. But the things of the
spirit are so wonderfully made that words on paper may endure longer
than marble or brass; wherefore, though it has not been engraved, let
her epitaph be printed. If it is remembered till there is another as
long and equally free from falsehood, it may endure for centuries;
and, in the far forward dark abysms of time, this little bear may be
associated with the constellation of that name, the constellation
containing the Polar star. Far stranger things have happened in this
wonderful world.

  HER EPITAPH

  "Here sleeps a bear emancipated,
  Who died here young, and died unmated,
  Because obedience was not taught her,
  And so she stayed too long in water,
  When once she wanted to be cool,
  And did not know she was a fool:
  Her every wish she gratified,
  And so she had a chill, and died.

    In vain are others' love and care;
  The others can't be everywhere.
  For sins no neighbours can atone;
  We suffer, and we die, alone.
  For fine sleek hair and sparkling eyes
  Are useless, if you aren't wise;
  And things outside you have their laws,
  Far stronger than the strongest paws.

    So sister-mortals, learn from me!
  Take warning if you'd happy be,
  To hate the darkness, love the light,
  And don't do nothing but what's right;
  And listen sometimes now and then,
  To what is yelled at you by men;
  And so enjoy your lives, instead
  Of being, prematurely, dead."



XXXII

A CHINESE HUNTER (740 B.C.)

A strange and vivid glimpse by firelight into distant darkness is
given by two Chinese songs, Odes i, vii, 3 and 4, in Legge's _Chinese
Classics_, IV, pp. 127 to 131. I have versified Mr Legge's prose. The
date was certainly more than 500, and probably 740 B.C., and the
locality northern China, probably Honan. Shuh means "younger brother,"
so that, except to those who believe the commentators, which I cannot,
the hero, like the poet, is anonymous,--"_The_ younger brother."

Both translations may be sung to the same air, "Scots Wha Ha'e," which
was a traditional hunting tune in the south of Scotland.

_N.B._--"Ribbons" for reins is a literal translation. That familiar
metaphor is over 2600 years old.


  I. SHUH HAS OUT A-HUNTING GONE

  Shuh has out a-hunting gone;
  Men enough are still in town;
  But it seems to me there's none,
          While I look for you!
  People feast and people drive;
  Streets are thronged with men alive;
  But they're blank till Shuh arrive,
          None there are like Shuh!


  II. SHUH UPON HIS CHARIOT STANDS

                I

  Shuh upon his chariot stands;
  Takes the ribbons in his hands;
  Four bay horses feel commands,
          Stepping to and fro.
  Regular, like dancers high,
  Or the wild geese in the sky,
  Insides lead, and outsides nigh,
          Like their shoulders, go!

                II

  At the marsh Shuh stands the first;
  Bright the fires around it burst.
  Out there springs the tiger curst,
          Teeth and claws we meet.
  So does Shuh; his arms are bare,
  Stops the tiger, kills it there;
  Lays the bloody carcass fair
          At the prince's feet.

                III

  Try it not again, my Shuh;
  Never hurt we'd see on you!
  Once like that for life will do,--
          Other game is here.
  See him give the horses rein;
  Stop, and shoot, and off amain;
  Shoot, and hit, and shoot again,
          While the fire is clear.

               IV

  How he brings the horses round!
  How the game comes to the ground,
  When his arrows kill and wound
          Wheresoe'er they go.
  Still they go; but, now, they're few;
  Now, the quiver's empty too.
  Home! The steeds the stable view,
          Yet they're coming slow!


In the classical texts, these ancient hunting-songs appear as here
translated; but in singing them, if there is time to spare, the first
may well be sung _after_ the second as well as before it. It is at
once a fit introduction and a fit conclusion.

These two songs are taken from a collection of _Chinese Songs and
Sayings_, not published yet, and put here to show a kind of
tiger-killing deserving as much honour as men can ever give a
fellow-man.

In those days hunting was more like work than sport, and tigers were
still a menace to humanity, such as we can hardly now conceive. There
was great merit in hindering a tiger from escaping then; but to-day
that matters little. Such an event as the song describes is not
uncommon still. I have heard credibly of about a dozen like it among
contemporaries in Burma in the last twenty-four years. Men seeking
deer or other game are suddenly confronted by a tiger similarly
engaged. If the men make way for him, he merely shows his teeth and
swiftly escapes, and that is what generally happens. But if any one of
the hunters hurts him, or his road seems blocked, then there is
danger; and that is how fatal accidents often happen.

Something of that sort was probably impending on this occasion,
740 B.C., or about then. There was probably a big crowd and a
desperate tiger, and while the others facing him were shrinking, Shuh
perhaps leaped from his chariot, certainly stepped to the front, ready
for action, a stalwart Chinese figure, stripped to the waist, like
Nelson's sailors on a day of battle, and in all likelihood a
big-pointed knife in his hand. A shout might make the tiger shy a
second, and so give him a chance; but the likeliest thing is that the
tiger, coming out of the darkness into the glare of the fires, did not
see him, and perhaps was trying to get away, or charging some other
person, so that Shuh could take him sideways and kill him. Somehow or
other, Shuh did it. Think of the few thrilling seconds of glorious
life, and the jubilation of the crowd when the knife went home.

Note the difference between them and us. Miss your shot with the
breechloader, and you can fire again, and even if you do not hit a
vital part, you can stop him. "But with bow and arrows," as an old man
said to me in 1889, telling how he and his father had fought a tiger
with such weapons, and showing me the good old cross-bow they used,
"it is folly to shoot till he is close, for at a distance the arrow
merely irritates him. Wait till he is near."

"Ten yards?"

"My father, let him come nearer. Then you hit his brain through the
eye, if he's coming straight, or the heart through the ribs, if he
shows his side, and so he is dead."

"But if he isn't dead?"

"Then drop your bow, and fight him with the knife. Never try a second
shot, for, if you do, he's sure to get you. The tiger is very, _very_
quick. You have to dodge him and get a knife into his vitals before he
grips you."

I suggested a spear; but was told it was too clumsy and slow to be a
good weapon.

The words of that old veteran, living among the hills between Burma
and China, seemed to me to illuminate the hunting scene in old Honan
better than any of the commentators on the Classics. But for his talk,
one would have been slow to guess that Shuh went close to the tiger
with a knife. That would explain why the poet alluded to Shuh's bare
arms, and to his standing in the front. He could not have fired arrows
from his chariot, for the horses would have bolted. So we may still
see him through so many centuries, afoot and in front, with
business-like bare arms and sharp knife ready; we can rejoice with
them all, and admire him yet, and feel also, with the singers, "once
like that for life will do." It comes like a shock to remember that we
are among the shades, and that more than fifty or sixty generations of
men have come and gone since Shuh and his companions all melted into
dust and air.

It gives us another kind of shock to contrast that kind of work with
modern hunting. Our statesmen at large, slaughtering in foreign woods,
are neither better nor worse than their friends at home, "the
poulterers." The only serious danger is from their own awkwardness in
handling guns. Their butcheries are like those in old Roman arenas;
and even Theodore Roosevelt himself, returning in gory glory but
without a scratch from Africa, can only be compared by one of his
admirers to the immortal Tartarin of Tarascon.



COLSTONS LIMITED, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH



Transcriber's note

Inconsistent hyphenation (firearms/fire-arms, forepaws/fore-paws,
midday/mid-day, retell/re-tell, tucktoo/tuck-too) and spelling
(da/dah, veranda/verandah) have been left as printed in the original.





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