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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMr. Isaacs: A Tale Of Modern India - Chapter 9
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Mr. Isaacs: A Tale Of Modern India - Chapter 9 Post by :PitCrew Category :Long Stories Author :F. Marion Crawford Date :July 2011 Read :3108

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Mr. Isaacs: A Tale Of Modern India - Chapter 9


The Himalayan _tonga is a thing of delight. It is easily described, for in principle it is the ancient Persian war-chariot, though the accommodation is so modified as to allow four persons to sit in it back to back; that is, three besides the driver. It is built for great strength, the wheels being enormously heavy, and the pole of the size of a mast. Harness the horses have none, save a single belt with a sort of lock at the top, which fits into the iron yoke through the pole, and can slide from it to the extremity; there is neither breeching nor trace nor collar, and the reins run from the heavy curb bit directly through loops on the yoke to the driver's hands. The latter, a wiry, long-bearded Mohammedan, is armed with a long whip attached to a short thick stock, and though he sits low, on the same level as the passenger beside him on the front seat, he guides his half broken horses with amazing dexterity round sharp curves and by giddy precipices, where neither parapet nor fencing give the startled mind even a momentary impression of security. The road from Simla to Kalka at the foot of the hills is so narrow that if two vehicles meet, the one has to draw up to the edge of the road, while the other passes on its way. In view of the frequent encounters, every tonga-driver is provided with a post horn of tremendous power and most discordant harmony; for the road is covered with bullock carts bearing provisions and stores to the hill station. Smaller loads, such as trunks and other luggage, are generally carried by coolies, who follow a shorter path, the carriage road being ninety-two miles from Umballa, the railroad station, to Simla, but a certain amount may be stowed away in the tonga, of which the capacity is considerable.

In three of these vehicles our party of six began the descent on Tuesday morning, wrapped in linen "dusters" of various shades and shapes, and armed with countless varieties of smoking gear. The roughness of the road precludes all possibility of reading, and, after all, the rapid motion and the constant appearance of danger--which in reality does not exist--prevent any overpowering _ennui from assailing the dusty traveller. So we spun along all day, stopping once or twice for a little refreshment, and changing horses every five or six miles. Everybody was in capital spirits, and we changed seats often, thus obtaining some little variety. Isaacs, who to every one's astonishment, seemed not to feel any inconvenience from his accident, clung to his seat in Miss Westonhaugh's tonga, sitting in front with the driver, while she and her uncle or brother occupied the seat behind, which is far more comfortable. At last, however, he was obliged to give his place to Kildare, who had been very patient, but at last said it "really wasn't fair, you know," and so Isaacs courteously yielded. At last we reached Kalka, where the tongas are exchanged for _dak gharry or mail carriage, a thing in which you can sit up in the daytime and lie down at night, there being an extension under the driver's box calculated for the accommodation of the longest legs. When lying down in one of these vehicles the sensation is that of being in a hearse and playing a game of funeral. On this occasion, however, it was still early when we made the change, and we paired off, two and two, for the last part of the drive. By the well planned arrangements of Isaacs and Kildare, two carriages were in readiness for us on the express train, and though the difference in temperature was enormous between Simla and the plains, still steaming from the late rainy season, the travelling was made easy for us, and we settled ourselves for the journey, after dining at the little hotel; Miss Westonhaugh bidding us all a cheery "good-night" as she retired with her _ayah into the carriage prepared for her. I will not go into tedious details of the journey--we slept and woke and slept again, and smoked, and occasionally concocted iced drinks from our supplies, for in India the carriages are so large that the traveller generally provides himself with a generous basket of provisions and a travelling ice-chest full of bottles, and takes a trunk or two with him in his compartment. Suffice it to say that we arrived on the following day at Fyzabad in Oude, and that we were there met by guides and shikarries--the native huntsmen--who assured us that there were tigers about near the outlying station of Pegnugger, where the elephants, previously ordered, would all be in readiness for us on the following day. The journey from Fyzabad to Pegnugger was not a long one, and we set out in the cool of the evening, sending our servants along in that "happy-go-lucky" fashion which characterises Indian life. It has always been a mystery to me how native servants manage always to turn up at the right moment. You say to your man, "Go there and wait for me," and you arrive and find him waiting; though how he transferred himself thither, with his queer-looking bundle, and his lota, and cooking utensils, and your best teapot wrapped up in a newspaper and ready for use, and with all the other hundred and one things that a native servant contrives to carry about without breaking or losing one of them, is an unsolved puzzle. Yet there he is, clean and grinning as ever, and if he were not clean and grinning and provided with tea and cheroots, you would not keep him in your service a day, though you would be incapable of looking half so spotless and pleased under the same circumstances yourself.

On the following day, therefore, we found ourselves at Pegnugger, surrounded by shikarries and provided with every instrument of the chase that the ingenuity of man and the foresight of Isaacs and Ghyrkins could provide. There were numbers of tents, sleeping tents, cooking tents, and servants' tents; guns and ammunition of every calibre likely to be useful; _kookries_, broad strong weapons not unlike the famous American bowie knives (which are all made in Sheffield, to the honour, glory, and gain, of British trade); there were huge packs of provisions edible and potable; baskets of utensils for the kitchen and the table, and piles of blankets and tenting gear for the camp. There was also the little collector of Pegnugger, whose small body housed a stout heart, for he had shot tigers on foot before now in company with a certain German doctor of undying sporting fame, whose big round spectacles seemed to direct his bullets with unerring precision. But the doctor was not here now, and so the sturdy Englishman condescended to accept a seat in the howdah, and to kill his game with somewhat less risk than usual.

This first day was occupied in transferring our party, now swelled by countless beaters and numerous huntsmen, not to mention all the retinue of servants necessary for an Indian camp, to the neighbourhood of the battlefield. There is not much conversation on these occasions, for the party is apt to become scattered, and there is a general tone of expectancy in the air, the old hands conversing more with the natives who know the district than with each other, and the young ones either wondering how many tigers they will kill, or listening open mouthed to the tales of adventure reeled off by the yard by the old bearded shikarry, who has slain the king of the jungle with a _kookrie in hand to hand struggle when he was young, and bears the scars of the deadly encounter on his brown chest to this day. Old Ghyrkins, who was evidently in his element, rode about on a little _tat_, questioning beaters and shikarries, and coming back every now and then to bawl up some piece of information to the little collector, who had established himself on one of the elephants and looked down over the edge of the howdah, the great pith hat on his head making him look like an immense mushroom with a very thin stem sprouting suddenly from the back of the huge beast. He smiled pleasantly at the old sportsman from his elevation, and seemed to know all about it. It so chanced that when he received Isaacs' telegrams he had been planning a little excursion on his own account, and had been sending out scouts and beaters for some days to ascertain where the game lay. This, of course, was so much clear gain to us, and the little man was delighted at the opportune coincidence which enabled him, by the unlimited money supplied, to join in such a hunt as he had not seen since the time when the Prince of Wales disported himself among the royal game, three years before. As for Miss Westonhaugh, she was in the gayest of spirits, as she sat with her brother on an elephant's back, while Isaacs, who loved the saddle, circled round her and kept up a fire of little compliments and pretty speeches, to which she was fast becoming inured. Kildare and I followed them closely on another elephant, discoursing seriously about the hunt, and occasionally shouting some question to John Westonhaugh, ahead, about sport in the south.

Before evening we had arrived at our first camping ground, near a small village on the outskirts of the jungle, and the tents were pitched on a little elevation covered with grass, now green and waving. The men had mowed a patch clear, and were busy with the pegs and all the paraphernalia of a canvas house, and we strolled about, some of us directing the operations, others offering a sacrifice of cooling liquids and tobacco to the setting sun. Miss Westonhaugh had heard about living in tents ever since she came to India, and had often longed to sleep in one of those temporary chambers that are set up anywhere in the "compound" of an English bungalow for the accommodation of the bachelor guests whom the house itself is too small to hold; now she was enchanted at the prospect of a whole fortnight under canvas, and watched with rapt interest the driving of the pegs, the raising of the poles, and the careful furnishing of her dwelling. There was a carpet, and armchairs, and tables, and even a small bookcase with a few favourite volumes. To us in civilised life it seems a great deal of trouble to transport a lunch basket and a novel to some shady glen to enjoy a day's rest in the open air, and we would almost rather starve than take the trouble to carry provisions. In India you speak the word, and as by magic there arises in the wilderness a little village of tents, furnished with every necessary luxury--and the luxuries necessary to our degenerate age are many--a kitchen tent is raised, and a skilled dark-skinned artist provides you in an hour with a dinner such as you could eat in no hotel. The treasures of the huge portable ice-chest reveal cooling wines and soda water to the thirsty soul, and if you are going very far beyond the reach of the large towns, a small ice-machine is kept at work day and night to increase the supply while you sleep, and to maintain it while you wake. In the _connat or verandah of the tent, long chairs await you after your meal, and as you smoke the fragrant cigarette and watch the stars coming out, you feel as comfortable as though you had been dining in your own spacious bungalow in Mudnugger.

It was not long before all was ready, and having made many ablutions and a little toilet, we assembled round the dinner table in the eating tent, the same party that had dined at Mr. Currie Ghyrkins' house on Sunday night, with the addition of the little collector of Pegnugger, whose stories of his outlying district were full of humour and anecdote. The talk bending in the direction of adventure, Kildare, who had been lately in South Africa with his regiment, told some tales of Zulus and assegais and Boers in the Hibernian style of hyperbole. The Irish blood never comes out so strongly as when a story is to be told, and no amount of English education and Oxford accent will suppress the tendency. The brogue is gone, but the love of the marvellous is there still. Isaacs related the experience of "a man he knew," who had been pulled off his elephant, howdah and all, and had killed the tiger with a revolver at half arm's length.

"Ah yes," said the little collector, who had not caught the names of all the party when introduced, "I read about it at the time; I remember it very well. It happened in Purneah two years ago. The gentleman was a Mr. Isaacs of Delhi. Queer name too--remember perfectly." There was a roar of laughter at this, in which the collector joined vociferously on being informed that the man with the "queer name" was his neighbour at table.

"You see what you get for your modesty," cried old Ghyrkins, laughing to convulsions.

"And is it really true, Mr. Isaacs?" asked Miss Westonhaugh, looking admiringly across at the young man, who seemed rather annoyed.

And so the conversation went round and all were merry, and some were sleepy after dinner, and we sat in long chairs under the awning or _connat_. There was no moon yet, but the stars shone out as they shine nowhere save in India, and the evening breeze played pleasantly through the ropes after the long hot day. Miss Westonhaugh assured everybody for the hundredth time that day that she rather liked the smell of cigars, and so we smoked and chatted a little, and presently there was a jerk and a sputtering sneeze from Mr. Ghyrkins, who, being weary with the march and the heat and the good dinner, and on the borders of sleep, had put the wrong end of his cigar in his mouth with destructive results. Then he threw it away with a small volley of harmless expletives, and swore he would go to bed, as he could not stand our dulness any longer; but he merely shifted his position a little, and was soon snoring merrily.

"What a pity it is we have no piano, Katharine," said John Westonhaugh, who was fond of music. "Could you not sing something without any accompaniment?"

"Oh no. Mr. Isaacs," she said, turning her voice to where she could see the light of his cigarette and the faint outline of his chair in the starlight, "here we are in the camp. Now where is the 'lute' you promised to produce for us? I think the time has come at last for you to keep your promise."

"Well," said he, "I believe there really is an old guitar or something of the kind among my traps somewhere. But it might wake Mr. Ghyrkins, who, I understand from his tones, is asleep."

Various opinions were expressed to the effect that Mr. Ghyrkins was not so easily disturbed, and a voice like Kildare's was heard to mumble that "it would not hurt him if he was," a sentence no one attempted to construe. So the faithful Narain was summoned, and instructed to bring the instrument if he could find it. I was rather surprised at Isaacs' readiness to sing; but in the first place I had never heard him, and besides I did not make allowance for the Oriental courtesy of his character, which would not refuse anything, or make any show of refusal in order to be pressed. Narain returned with a very modern-looking guitar-case, and, opening the box, presented his master with the instrument, which, as Isaacs took it to the light in the door of the tent to see if it had travelled safely, appeared to be a perfectly new German guitar. I suspected him of having purchased it at the little music shop at Simla, for the especial amusement of our party.

"I thought it was a lute you played on," said Miss Westonhaugh, "a real, lovely, ancient Assyrian lute, or something of that kind."

"Oh, a plain guitar is infinitely better and less troublesome," said Isaacs as he returned to his seat in the dark and began to tune the strings softly. "It takes so long to tune one of those old things, and then nothing will make them stand. Now this one, you see,--or rather you cannot see,--has an ingenious contrivance of screws by which you may tune it in a moment." While he was speaking he was altering the pitch of the strings, and presently he added, "There, it is done now," and two or three sounding chords fell on the still air. "Now what shall I sing? I await your commands."

"Something soft, and sweet, and gentle."

"A love-song?" asked he quietly.

"Well yes--a love-song if you like. Why not?" said she.

"No reason in the world that I can think of," I remarked. Whereat Lord Steepleton Kildare threw his cigar away, and began lighting another a moment after, as if he had discarded his weed by mistake.

Isaacs struck a few chords softly, and then began a sort of running accompaniment. His voice, which seemed to me to be very high, was wonderfully smooth and round, and produced the impression of being much more powerful than he cared to show. He sang without the least effort, and yet there was none of that effeminate character that I have noticed in European male singers when producing high notes very softly. I do not understand music, but I am sure I never heard an opera tenor with a voice of such quality. The words of his song were Persian, and the pure accents of his native tongue seemed well suited to the half passionate, half plaintive air he had chosen. I afterwards found a translation of the sonnet by an English officer, which I here give, though it conveys little idea of the music of the original verse.

Last night, my eyes being closed in sleep, but my good fortune awake,
The whole night, the livelong night, the image of my beloved one was the companion of my soul.
The sweetness of her melodious voice still remains vibrating on my soul;
Heavens! how did the sugared words fall from her sweeter lips;
Alas! all that she said to me in that dream has escaped from my memory,
Although it was my care till break of day to repeat over and over her sweet words.
The day, unless illuminated by her beauty, is, to my eyes, of nocturnal darkness.
Happy day that first I gazed upon that lovely face!
May the eyes of Jami long be blessed with pleasing visions, since they presented to his view last night
The object, on whose account he passed his waking life in expectation.(1)

Footnote 1: Sir Gore Ousely, _Notices of the Persian Poets_.

His beautiful voice ceased, and with infinite skill he wove a few strains of the melody into the final chords he played when he had finished singing. It was all so entirely novel, so unlike any music most of us had ever heard, and it was so undeniably good, that every one applauded and said something to the singer in turn, expressing the greatest admiration and appreciation. Miss Westonhaugh was the last to speak.

"It is perfectly lovely," she said. "I wish I could understand the words--are they as sweet as the music?"

"Sweeter," he answered, and he gave an offhand translation of two or three verses.

"Beautiful indeed," she said; "and now sing me another, please." There was no resisting such an appeal, with the personal pronoun in the singular number. He moved a little nearer, and emphatically sang to her, and to no one else. A song of the same character as the first, but, I thought, more passionate and less dreamy, as his great sweet voice swelled and softened and rose again in burning vibrations and waves of sound. She did not ask a translation this time, but some one else did, after the applause had subsided.

"I cannot translate these things," said Isaacs, "so as to do them justice, or give you any idea of the strength and vitality of the Persian verses. Perhaps Griggs, who understands Persian very well and is a literary man, may do it for you. I would rather not try." I professed my entire inability to comply with the request, and to turn the conversation asked him where he had learned to play the guitar so well.

"Oh," he answered, "in Istamboul, years ago. Everybody plays in Istamboul--and most people sing love-songs. Besides it is so easy," and he ran scales up and down the strings with marvellous rapidity to illustrate what he said.

"And do you never sing English songs, Mr. Isaacs?" asked the collector of Pegnugger, who was enchanted, not having heard a note of music for months.

"Oh, sometimes," he answered. "I think I could sing 'Drink to me only with thine eyes'--do you know it?" He began to play the melody on the guitar while he spoke.

"Rather--I should think so!" Kildare was heard to say. He was beginning to think the concert had lasted long enough.

"Oh, do sing it, Mr. Isaacs," said the young girl, "and my brother and I will join in. It will be so pretty!"

It certainly sounded very sweetly as he gave the melody in his clear, high tones, and Miss Westonhaugh and John sang with him. Having heard it several thousand times myself, I was beginning to recognise the tune well enough to enjoy it a good deal.

"That is very nice," said Kildare, who was sorry he had made an impatient remark before, and wanted to atone.

"Eh? what? how's that?" said Mr. Ghyrkins just waking up. "Oh! of course. My niece sings charmingly. Quite an artist, you know." And he struggled out of his chair and said it was high time we all went to bed if we meant to shoot straight in the morning. The magistrate of Pegnugger concurred in the opinion, and we reluctantly separated for the night to our respective quarters, Isaacs and I occupying a tent together, which he had caused to be sent on from Delhi, as being especially adapted to his comfort.

On the following day at dawn we were roused by the sound of preparations, and before we were dressed the voices of Mr. Currie Ghyrkins and the collector were heard in the camp, stirring up the sleepy servants and ordering us to be waked. The two old sportsmen felt it their duty to be first on such an occasion as this, and in the calm security that they would do everything that was right, Isaacs and I discussed our tea and fruit--the _chota haziri or "little breakfast" usually taken in India on waking--sitting in the door of our tent, while Kiramat Ali and Narain and Mahmoud and the rest of the servants were giving a final rub to the weapons of the chase, and making all the little preparations for a long day. And we sat looking out and sipping our tea.

In the cool of the dawn Miss Westonhaugh came tripping across the wet grass to where her uncle was giving his final directions about the furnishing of his howdah for the day; a lovely apparition of freshness in the gray morning, all dressed in dark blue, a light pith helmet-shaped hat pressing the rebellious white-gold hair almost out of sight. She walked so easily it seemed as if her dainty little feet had wings, as Hermes' of old, to ease the ground of their feather weight. A broad belt hung across her shoulder with little rows of cartridges set all along, and at the end hung a very business-like revolver case of brown leather and of goodly length. No toy miniature pistol would she carry, but a full-sized, heavy "six-shooter," that might really be of use at close quarters. She stood some minutes talking with Mr. Ghyrkins, not noticing us in the shadow of the tent some thirty yards away; Isaacs and I watched her intently--with very different feelings, possibly, but yet intensely admiring the fair creature, so strong and pliant, and yet so erect and straight. She turned half round towards us, and I saw there were flowers in the front of her dress. I wondered where they had come from; they were roses--of all flowers in the world to be blooming in the desert. Perhaps she had brought them carefully from Fyzabad, but that was improbable; or from Pegnugger--yes, there would be roses in the collector's garden there. Isaacs rose to his feet.

"Oh, come along, Griggs. You have had quite enough tea!"

"Go ahead; I will be with you in a moment." But a sudden thought struck me, and I went with him, bareheaded, to greet Miss Westonhaugh. She smiled brightly as she held out her hand.

"Good morning, Mr. Isaacs. Thank you so much for the roses. How _did you do it? They are _too lovely!" So it was just as I thought. Isaacs had probably despatched a man back to Pegnugger in the night.

"Very easy I assure you. I am so glad you like them. They are not very fresh after all though, I see," he added depreciatingly, as men do when they give flowers to people they care about. I never heard a man find fault with flowers he gave out of a sense of duty. It is perhaps that the woman best loved of all things in the world has for him a sweetness and a beauty that kills the coarser hues of the rose, and outvies the fragrance of the double violets.

"Oh no!" she said, emphasising the negative vigorously. "I think they are perfectly beautiful, but I want you to tell me where you got them." I began talking to Ghyrkins, who was intent on the arrangement of his guns which was going on under his eyes, but I heard the answer, though Isaacs spoke in a low voice.

"You must not say that, Miss Westonhaugh. You yourself are the most perfect and beautiful thing God ever made." By a superhuman effort I succeeded in keeping my eyes fixed on Ghyrkins, probably with a stony, unconscious stare, for he presently asked what I was looking at. I do not think Isaacs cared whether I heard him or not, knowing that I sympathised, but Mr. Ghyrkins was another matter. The Persian had made progress, for there was no trace of annoyance in Miss Westonhaugh's answer, though she entirely overlooked her companion's pretty speech.

"Seriously, Mr. Isaacs, if you mean to have one of them for your badge to-day, you must tell me how you got them." I turned slowly round. She was holding a single rose in her fingers, and looking from it to him, as if to see if it would match his olive skin and his Karkee shooting-coat. He could not resist the bribe.

"If you really want to know I will tell you, but it is a profound secret," he said, smiling. "Griggs, swear!"

I raised my hand and murmured something about the graves of my ancestors.

"Well," he continued, "yesterday morning at the collector's house I saw a garden; in the garden there were roses, carefully tended, for it is late. I took the gardener apart and said, 'My friend, behold, here is silver for thee, both rupees and pais. And if thou wilt pick the best of thy roses and deliver them to the swift runner whom I will send to thee at supper time when the stars are coming out, I will give thee as much as thou shalt earn in a month with thy English master. But if thou wilt not do it, or if thou failest to do it, having promised, I will cause the grave of thy father to be defiled with the slaughter of swine, and, moreover, I will return and beat thee with a thick stick!' The fellow was a Mussulman, and there was a merry twinkle in his eye as he took the money and swore a great oath. I left a running man at Pegnugger with a basket, and that is how you got the roses. Don't tell the collector, that is all."

We all laughed, and Miss Westonhaugh gave the rose to Isaacs, who touched it to his lips, under pretence of smelling it, and put it in his buttonhole. Kildare came up at this moment and created a diversion; then the collector joined us and scattered us right and left, saying it was high time we were in the howdahs and on the way. So we buckled on our belts, and those who wore hats put them on, and those who preferred turbans bent while their bearers wound them on, and then we moved off to where the elephants were waiting and got into our places, and the _mahouts urged the huge beasts from their knees to their feet, and we went swinging off to the forest. The pad elephants, who serve as beaters and move between the howdah animals, joined us, and presently we went splashing through the reedy patches of fern, and crashing through the branches, towards the heart of the jungle.

Mr. Currie Ghyrkins, whose long experience had made him as cool when after tigers as when reading the _Pioneer in his shady bungalow at Simla, had taken Miss Westonhaugh with him in his howdah, and as an additional precaution for her safety, the little collector of Pegnugger, who was a dead shot, only allowed two pad elephants to move between himself and Ghyrkins. As there were thirty-seven animals in all, the rest of the party were much scattered. I thought there were too many elephants for our six howdahs, but it turned out that I was mistaken, for we had capital sport. The magistrate of Pegnugger, who knew the country thoroughly, was made the despot of the day. His orders were obeyed unquestioningly and unconditionally, and we halted in long line or marched onwards, forcing a passage through every obstacle, at his word. We might have been out a couple of hours, watching every patch of jungle and blade of long rank grass for a sight of the striped skin, writhing through the reeds, that we so longed to see, when the quick, short crack of a rifle away to the right brought us to a halt, and every one drew a long breath and turned, gun in hand, in the direction whence the sound had come. It was Kildare; he had met his first tiger, and the first also of the hunt. He had put up the animal not five paces in front of him, stealing along in the cool grass and hoping to escape between the elephants, in the cunning way they often do. He had fired a snap shot too quickly, inflicting a wound in the flank which only served to rouse the tiger to madness. With a leap that seemed to raise its body perpendicularly from the ground, the gorgeous creature flew into the air and settled right on the head of Kildare's elephant, while the terrified _mahout wound himself round the howdah. It would have been a trying position for the oldest sportsman, but to be brought into such terrific encounter at arm's length, almost, at one's very first experience of the chase, was a terrible test of nerve. Those who were near said that in that awful moment Kildare never changed colour. The elephant plunged wildly in his efforts to shake off the beast from his head, but Kildare had seized his second gun the moment he had discharged the first, and aiming for one second only, as the tossing head and neck of the tusker brought the gigantic cat opposite him, fired again. The fearful claws, driven deep and sure into the thick hide of the poor elephant, relaxed their hold, the beautiful lithe limbs straightened by their own perpendicular weight, and the first prize of the day dropped to the ground like lead, dead, shot through the head.

A great yell of triumph arose all along the line, and the little _mahout crept cautiously back from his lurking-place behind the howdah to see if the coast were clear. Kildare had behaved splendidly, and shouts of congratulation reached his ears from all sides. Miss Westonhaugh waved her handkerchief in token of approbation, every one applauded, and far away to the left Isaacs, who was in the last howdah, clapped his hands vigorously, and seat his high clear voice ringing like a trumpet down the line.

"Well done, Kildare! well done, indeed!" and his rival's praise was not the least grateful to Lord Steepleton on that day. Meanwhile the shikarries gathered around the fallen beast. It proved to be a young tigress some eight feet long, and the clean bright coat showed that she was no man-eater. So the pad elephant came alongside, to use a nautical phrase not inappropriate, and kneeling down received its burden willingly, well knowing that the slain beauty was one of his deadly foes. The _mahout pronounced the elephant on which Kildare was mounted able to proceed, and only a few huge drops of blood marked where the tigress had kept her hold. We moved on again, beating the jungle, wheeling and doubling the long line, wherever it seemed likely that some striped monster might have eluded us. Marching and counter-marching through the heat of the day, we picked up another-prize in the afternoon. It was a large old tiger, nine feet six as he lay; he fell an easy prey to the gun of the little collector of Pegnugger, who sent a bullet through his heart at the first shot, and smiled rather contemptuously as he removed the empty shell of the cartridge from his gun. He would rather have had Kildare's chance in the morning.

After all, two tigers in a day was not bad sport for the time of year. I knew Isaacs would be disappointed at not having had a shot, where his rival in a certain quarter had had so good an opportunity for displaying skill and courage; and I confessed to myself that I preferred a small party, say, a dozen elephants and three howdahs, to this tremendous and expensive _battue_. I had a shot-gun with me, and consoled myself by shooting a peacock or two as we rolled and swayed homewards. We had determined to keep to the same camp for a day or two, as we could enter the forest from another point on the morrow, and might even beat some of the same ground again with success.

It was past five when we got down to the tents and descended from our howdahs, glad to stretch our stiffened limbs in a brisk walk. The dead tigers were hauled into the middle of the camp, and the servants ran together to see the result of the _sahib log's day out. We retired to dress and refresh ourselves for dinner.

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Mr. Isaacs: A Tale Of Modern India - Chapter 10 Mr. Isaacs: A Tale Of Modern India - Chapter 10

Mr. Isaacs: A Tale Of Modern India - Chapter 10
CHAPTER XIn Isaacs' tent I was pulling off my turban, all shapeless and crumpled by the long day, while Isaacs stood disconsolately looking at the clean guns and unbroken rows of cartridges which Narain deposited on the table. The sun was very low, and shone horizontally through the raised door of the tent on my friend's rather gloomy face. At that moment something intercepted the sunshine, and a dark shadow fell across the floor. I looked, and saw a native standing on the threshold, salaaming and waiting to be spoken to. He was not one of our men, but a common

Mr. Isaacs: A Tale Of Modern India - Chapter 8 Mr. Isaacs: A Tale Of Modern India - Chapter 8

Mr. Isaacs: A Tale Of Modern India - Chapter 8
CHAPTER VIIIIt was nearly four o'clock in the afternoon when Isaacs and I emerged from the narrow road upon the polo ground. We were clad in the tight-fitting garments which are necessary for the game, and wrapped in light top-coats; as we came out on the green we saw a number of other men in similar costume standing about, and a great many native grooms leading ponies up and down. Miss Westonhaugh was there in her gray habit and broad hat, and by her side, on foot, Lord Steepleton Kildare was making the most of his time, as he waited for