HISTORICAL FICTIONAL REPRESENTATIONS OF WHITE TIGERS
There are plenty of stories about white tigers, but I have chosen a few historical short stories to illustrate how these near mythical creatures captured the imagination of authors in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
MAJOR MONSOON'S TIGER STORY
From All the Year Round, August 1863, later in Tales for the Marines, 1865
This piece from 1865 would have been based on the early accounts of wite tigers from Dinajpur and Goruckpur
“Thank you, I think I will take another cheroot, old fellow; they're a first rate brand, but not quite the sort I keep for my own smoking, and pass the brandy; thank you; your brandy's good brandy, my dear boy, but not very good brandy. One can't expect it at the sea-side.”
The Major took another cheroot from the frail but odorous dark cedar box, bound with red, and he also condescendingly filled himself a peculiarly stiff third tumbler of brandy-and-water. I say brandy and water, bat the expression is scarcely correct, for, as he told me, ever since a fit of hydrophobia at Kollywallah, up at the foot of the Hill Country, he had acquired a strong dislike to water, and a grateful recollection of the brandy which had preserved his valuable life.
The Major was a full-habited, middle sized, middle aged man, with a bruised, flattish, red face, rather staring blue eyes, and a noisy, good humoured, impudent manner that nothing could daunt. He wore a straw hat with a blue band, an immense gilt double eyeglass tied with a broad black ribbon, a loose light suit of a pale nankeen colour, very small dancing shoes, and carried a large silver-mounted Penang "lawyer." I scarcely how I picked up the gallant officer, but on the eighth day of my stay in Ramsgate I had got so tired of shrimps, raffles, bathing, using a telescope, and slopping about on weedy rocks, that I had begun to look out for a companion on the Esplanade seats. But he whom I looked for in vain there met me unsought, in the billiard rooms on the cliff. At that genteel establishment I found the major laughing, talking, telling stories, executing unparalleled cannons, betting condescendingly with very juvenile boating men, and drinking brandy pawnee at come young amateur commodore's expense, with a manner as totally free from pride as it was radiant with the urbanity of the officer and the traveller.
The major was one of those indescribable men who can be seen any day between four and dark, looking into the cigar shops in Regent Street, lounging about the doors of billiard rooms in Leicester square, dozing on seats in St. James' Park, or reading the American news with a severe air in Wild's reading-room: an indefinite man of indefinite occupations. An idler tired of himself could not, however, have discovered a more talkative, cheery, rattling, good natured companion than the major. He had, like myself, apparently found Ramsgate dull, for he lost no opportunity of cultivating my acquaintance, and, as he lodged only three doors from me in Seaside Terrace, there was seldom an evening when the major did not drop in to take his coffee and smoke his cigar on my balcony.
It was on the fourth evening of our acquaintance that the major, having lighted his fourth cheroot and mixed, as I have said, his third glass of brandy and water, sank down luxuriously in a rocking chair, tucked his legs by a violent exertion (for I should mention that he was a little lame) on a second chair, and, with an air of almost sultanic enjoyment, commenced the following story of one of his most remarkable achievements in the hunting field:
"Twenty years ago," said the major, "I commanded a detachment of my native regiment, 'The Fighting Half Hundred' (as we were called, from our behaviour in the Burmese war), at a little village called Kollywallah, in the northeast corner of the Jubbalgore district of the Bengal presidency. It was near a jungle fall of tigers; and as we soon put down the paltry tax riots that had brought us to Kollywallah, and time began to hang heavy on our hands, I and Twentyman, the only other officer, naturally took to tiger hunting, which exciting amusement soon became a passion with us. In six months there was not a ryot at Kollywallah who did not know me as ‘the Great Bhikarree,' and it was all I could do to prevent the people from worshiping me and my hunting elephant, 'Ramchunder.'
"One morning, when Twentyman was down with jungle fever, and I was sitting by his side reading him 'Charles O'Malley' in the balcony of our bungalow, which gave on the cantonment, I heard a great noise as of a crowd of natives trying to force their way in past my native servants. Poor Twentyman, who was fretful for want of sleep, beginning to groan and complain at the noise, I ran out with my big hunting whip, and licking the n*ggers all round, asked them what they meant by making such a cursed noise. ‘Choop ruho ekdum' ('be silent immediately') I shouted.
"The kitmutgar, an old grey-bearded fellow who had been butler to my father, the General, came salaaming forward when he saw me, andseaid:- ' Sahib, sahib, the country people from Moonje have come to ask sahib to come and shoot a white tlger — a maneater — which has already killed an old woman, six children and ten bullocks.'
"Out I went, just as I was, in my slippers, and sure enough at the gate of the compound, if you'll believe me, there were about a hundred natives, salaaming, and tom-toming, and praying Mahadao to soften the sahib's heart and induce him to listen to them and come and kill the white tiger. I promised to do what I could, if they would supply beaters, and would be ready at the jungle next day with their usual heathenish and unsportsmanlike paraphernalia of native drums, bells, horns and metal pans with stones in them. Off they went, throwing somersaults and shouting like children, calling me every blessed name they could lay their hands on, and promising to muster in force at the place appointed, though they were half of them tiger worshippers at Moonje and would not have let me kill the animal if he hadn't turned a ‘man-eater.'
"Back I went to Twentyman, who was sitting up in bed, more cheerful, eating some fruit.
"’What's the row!' said he, quite in his old voice.
“I told him that the people of Moonje wanted me to go and kill a ‘man-eater,' but I didn't like leaving him.
“’Then you go, old boy,' said he, 'for Dr. Johnson came in just as you left, and says I'm twice the man I was yesterday; I'll get along well enough with a book and a cheroot or two.’
"’And may I take your double barrelled breechloader?'
"'Of course; anything I have, Monsoon. Johnson says Moonje has been fall of tigers ever since the last rajah took to preserving them, and made it death to kill one; but for God's sake, Monsoon, take care of yourself. Those man-eaters are no joke, and if I were yon I would ride to Poonajar and get Simpson and Dever to go.'
"'No,' said I, 'Twentyman. This is an affair of danger, and I'll stalk the beast alone. There shall be no man but myself to share the glory.’
“’You are a plucky fellow, Monsoon,' said Twentyman. ‘As you like, but, for my own part, I'd rather have one Englishman than a thousand of those noisy devils, with their infernal drums and horns. They'd spoil an angel's shooting.'
"The rest of that day I spent in preparing for the tiger campaign at Moonje. I put on my red-brown shooting coat, made of stuff of that peculiar dry leaf colour usually worn by Indian tiger hunters, and which I was the first to introduce into the Presidency. The plan of this coat was my own invention; it had fourteen pockets, each destined for a special purpose, and never used for any other. It held caps, gun-picker, tigers' fat for greasing locks, spare nipples, gun-screws, a small boot jack (the use of which I will tell you presently), a knife with sixteen blades, greased patches, iron bullets, cartridges, a pocket revolver, a brandy flask, a hunting knife as strong as a bill hook, a dried tongue, a cigar case, a powder-horn, fusees, a sketch book, a small key bugle, a camp stool, and a few other items useful to a man of several resources.
"As this white tiger I was to fight had escaped the native pitfalls, poison, spring guns, and other stratagems of the crafty natives of the jungle village, I felt that at last I bad met a foeman worthy of my arm, and I prepared for a gigantic effort.
"I filled Ramchunder's howdah with tulwahs (keen native swords), double-barrelled guns, rockets and boar-spears; so that, keeping the sagacious animal near me fastened to a tree, I could return to him at any time for fresh weapons and for lunch; for, even in my enthusiasm for the chase, I did not forget some cold fowls and two or three bottles of champagne, etc., and my khansamah (or butler) was to sit in the howdah and attend to the commissariat and general stores.
"The day came. I felt a strange glow of pleasure, mingled with a strange presentiment of danger which I could not shake off, do what I might. However, I said nothing to Twentyman, who wished me every success, and off I went on Bamchunder, who seemed proud to share in the adventure, which was more than the cowardly khansamah was, for his teeth shook like castanets, and he dropped a bottle of bitter beer in sheer nervousness in packing. At last we were ready.
"’Juhlde jao!' ('go quick') cried I to the mahout; and off trotted old Ramchunder to the side of the Moonje jungle, where all the beaters had assembled.
"If you'll believe me, even at the taking of Mooltan there wasn't such a gol mol (I am again talking Hindostanee - I mean, in pure English, 'row') as when about two hundred of the native fellows began to break into the jungle of praua trees and korinda shrubs, firing matchlocks, yelling like fiends broke loose, rattling metal pans, ringing bells and blowing horns; while half a dozen of the boldest and most active of the beaters were sent on to climb trees and give notice if the man-eater stole away in their direction. It was arranged that I was to lie in wait, with Ramchunder, opposite to one of the most tigerish places; a crossing over a dry nullah (or ravine) where three native postmen had been carried off on consecutive days by the same tiger.
"And now again the presentiment weighed upon me as soon as I found myself alone with that miserable funky old khansamah, who did nothing bat matter prayers from the Koran and look at his amulet of tiger’s claws. Sir, all sorts of disagreeable anecdotes came fermenting up in my mind. I thought of how Major Bunsen, in the Forty-third, had died in four hours of lockjaw from a scratch he received from a tiger's claw; and of how Captain Charters, of the Fourth Light Infantry, was found dead in the jungle from a tiger bite.
“I had been particularly careful with Dostee Pooloo, the captain of the beaters, as to the direction in which he was to drive the tigers, for these rascals generally frequent the same spot, and I had every reason to suppose that I should soon have my hands full.
“'Dostee Pooloo, my boy,' said I, handing him a cheroot (for the n*ggers like you to be civil to them), ' be sure and drive everything that is in the jungle sou’-westerly, for if I am far away from Ramchunder and the guns, when they break covert, there'll be a blank space left for me at the mess-table to-morrow.'
“When I said this, Dostee Pooloo showed all his box of teeth, and I saw that, he was game to do just what I wished, so long as he hadn't to fight the tigers himself.
“Having planted my old khansamah with Ramchunder and the cold fowls, and the champagne, and the double-barrelled rifles near an old palm tree, with strict injunctions not to move, I stole off down the nullah whisk-whisk, as the natives say - which means very gently.
"I suppose I had not gone more than three hundred yards from where I left the khansamah and Ramchunder, before a path to the right, trodden down as if by wild boars through a tract of tall, dry, dusty jungle grass, burnt by the son to a pale straw colour, attracted my attention. The beaters seemed to rouse nothing, and I began to think the story of the white tiger all a humbug and a flam.
"The path led on past a little tope of cocoa-nut palm, strung with fruit. Curiosity and a natural love or adventure carrying me on, I followed it for some hundred yards till I saw the path a few yards before me open out into a sort of natural amphitheatre, beyond which lay the dry bed of a small watercourse, the surface of which, if you'll believe me, sir, was one vast tangle of enormous jungle flowers - great crimson fellows, big as teacups, and smelling of musk and patchouli; ropes of creeping plants binding tree to tree, and strung with scented yellow blossoms and trails of things like tulips, only as large as my hat, and with purple bellflowers every half inch down the stalk.
"In a small open space surrounded by deep Moonje grass, and only visible from the higher clump of ground where they sunned themselves, strutted half a dozen peacocks. I had just knelt down and covered the biggest of them with my rifle - a splendid fellow, with a great fan-tail, all green and purple - when, lo and behold! what should come skipping from tree to tree but a whole tribe of monkeys, chattering, chasing each other, holding each other's tails, and cutting such capers that it was all I could do to keep from laughing out and spoiling the whole game.
“I had scarcely readjusted my aim, which these monkeys had thrown out, before, from out of the jungle close to me, ran three little spotted deer and a wild hog, and began racing about as if that spot was their regular playground, and yet with a sort of fascinated stare and alarm that made me suspect mischief. I determined, however, coute gue coute, to see the thing out, so I drew the brandy flask from my No. 13 pocket, and took a sup to steady my hand. Before I had put it back, sure enough, out between two champa trees came a tremendous beast of a boa constrictor, as large round as a bolster, and seventy feet long, if he was an inch - his scales wet and shining with the dew, and he writhing and undulating like an enormous caterpillar.
“If you'll believe me, sir, surprised as I was, I had still presence of mind enough to aim firm and steady at his nearest eye, thinking what a triumph it would be to take him home to poor Twentyman, when what I should see about twenty feet beyond this beast but some strange object waving in the grass! I covered it with my rifle, and was just going to press the trigger with my forefinger, when I heard a crash, and an enormous tiger, clearing the boa constrictor, leaped a space of nearly forty feet (as I afterwards measured), and struck me to the ground before I could readjust my piece.
"It was the white tiger - the man-eater - l felt sore of it at the first glance; a splendid fellow, full thirteen feet long, of a pale tawny cream colour striped with dark brown, his chest almost white.
"If you'll believe me, sir, as he held me and shook me in his month, I felt no pain and no terror, but a sort of almost pleasant benumbed drowsiness, and a strange curiosity as to how the brute would eat me. I could hear the deer, monkeys and snake scuttle off as he shook me, as a cat does a mouse, or a terrier a rat. Then I remember I tried to get a pistol from pocket No. 13, and fainted.
"Before I came to, full half an hour must have elapsed. There I lay in a nest of dry Moonje grass. I felt that the monster was still over me. I felt his pestilential breathing on my face even in my swoon. Yes, there he was, his enormous length reclining beside me, his striped tail sweeping across my face at every vibration - his head turned from me. If you'll believe me, sir, he had actually munched and chewed the whole of my left leg from the toe to the knee; he had eaten about three feet of it, sir (pardon the awkwardness of the expression), during my swoon.”
“Chewed, Major Monsoon!” I cried, in an angry, expostulatory voice. "Why, there are your two legs as sound as mine!"
"Pooh! pooh! my dear sir," said he, without a smile and quite unruffled, holding out his left leg to me to pinch, “the leg he munched was cork then, as it is cork now, and as it has been ever since. A cannon ball took off its fleshy predecessor at the siege of Mooltan. One happy result of its being cork, as you may imagine, was that it took the beast some time to get through, and that the beast didn't hurt me much.
“I opened my eyes quietly when I found what he was at, for he kept growling and snarling over the rather indigestible meal, and I began to look round me to see where my rifle was. If you'll believe me, sir, there it lay, full cocked, not three inches from my right hand.
"My first thought was to steal my hand along and get hold of my rifle, but the instant I moved even a limb, the beast of a ‘man-eater' began to growl, and evinced a dangerous disposition to leave my cork leg and settle on the more valuable one of flesh. I therefore, for the moment, abandoned the attempt, and resigned myself to death; for it seemed certain that when the beast had finished the cork leg and began to taste my blood, he would turn round and devour me.
“I was sufficiently cool, even in this horrible emergency, to cast my eyes round to see if I was wounded. I found no wound, but discovered that the tiger had in seizing me torn off and probably devoured the tenth and eleventh pockets of my shooting jacket. I listened for the beaters, but could hear no voice or sound. They had either gone so far off that they were out of hearing, or what was more likely, they had been alarmed by the tiger end had fled. For they're poor creatures, the n*ggers, in any real danger.
"I now. therefore, gave myself up as lost; the tiger was still gnawing my cork knee and had one paw lying as heavy as lead on my other leg, when suddenly, if you’ll believe me the beast yawned twice, nodded his heed and fell fast asleep. I saw it all in a moment. He had swallowed in my no. Ten pocket a large bottle of morphine, n American preparation of great strength – that I always carried with me when I went tiger-hunting, in case of an attack of neuralgia, to which I was subject before I had two-thirds of my teeth carried away by a match-lock bullet at Bundelcore. Now was my opportunity. There lay the great striped beast fast asleep. I stole my hand gently towards my rifle. I grasped it. I cocked it. I looked at the clean brass cap, held the muzzle close to the brute’s ear, and fired. With a yell - a groan - the beast fell. I leaped up at the same moment to avoid his fatal claws, and gave him the second barrel behind the right paw, close to the heart. He groaned, stretched out his legs, tore the earth in long scratches you might lay your hands in, and fell dead. I took out my repeater. It was exactly three minutes past two p.m. I had started from the bungalow at Kollywallah at seven a.m. Then a giddiness came over me, and I fainted again.
"I was awoke by something soft touching my face. I looked np. Kind heaven! It was Ramchunder, with the beast of a khansamah dead drunk in the howdah, and with one of my silver topped champagne bottles in his hand. I instantly called out, 'Pukrao!' which is Hindostanee for ‘take hold,' and, if you’ll believe me, air, the sagacious animal whom I had trained to do this, lifted me with his proboscis into the howdah; for how could I move, you know, with my cork leg all eaten away?
“The first thing I did was - what do you think!”
I could not guess.
"The first thing I did, sir, was to punch that beast of a khansamah's head, to be sure, and then go in search of Dostee Pooloo and those cowardly n*gger beaters.
"If you'll believe me, sir, we found them in the nearest village, two miles off, cooking rice at a fire, and telling the people how the sahib had been killed by the man-eater. So what did I do but ride in among them on Ramchunder and give the fellows such a welting with the whip of my buggy, which I always carried for that purpose, that they fell on their knees and cried for mercy.
"'Juhlde jao, Dostee Pooloo,' l cried, 'and bring home the tiger on a stretcher of champa boughs. You'll find him in such a place.'
"And so they did, and three hours after, just at sunset, we entered Kollywallah in procession, firing guns, letting off rockets, the n*ggers shouting songs about the sahib and the tiger. Twentyman was delighted to see me, for he had given me up for lost, as one of the beaters had run to the bungalow and told him I was killed.”
The next morning, when I called at the major’s lodgings, I found, to my astonishment, that he had left by the six a. m. train, desiring the landlady to send in his bill to his brother at No. Twenty-six. His brother! But I felt bound in honour to pay it.
On closely considering the story of Major Monsoon’s remarkable escape from the tiger, I found several alarming discrepancies that led to doubts in my mind as to its entire veracity. Breech-loaders were not, think, invented, twenty years ago, and, now I think of it, I regret I did not pinch his leg hard - to make sure that it really was cork.
P.S. The other day, too, at the Oriental Club, I was telling the story to Colonel Curry, when he made the following remark:- My dear Foozle, the fellow was humbugging you, take my word for it, Monsoon is traditional name in India, and is often tagged on to native stones.”
THE NAHRABAD GHOST TIGER
By Clarence Pullen, 1902
This piece from 1902 was written at a time when snow-white tigers were known from specimens shot in Assam, and from the snow white tiger brought back by Pellew.
I FOUND the Rajah of Budhrapore at home in his palace. He received me cordially enough, but, try as 1 would, I could not enlist his interest in the matter about which I had come. He was gloomy and silent. Finding he could not be persuaded to talk, I gave over the business for the day and took my leave. But before I left the place I met Ram Abadhur, the half-caste court interpreter, and learned the cause of the Rajah's depression.
“It is the tiger that disturbs his highness,” Ram Abadhur said. “He has appeared in the jungle about Nahrabad, and there is much talk of him among the people. He is a man-eater, but that is nothing. Strange reports have come to the palace that the beast is in the likeness of a tiger pictured on the flag of the old Kehab kings, and the story has spread that he is the reincarnation ofRaj Kehab. His coming, it is whispered, means some misfortune to the reigning family—a death, or it even might be that which his highness most dreads (this is very secret, sahib), the return of the old ruling family to the throne.”
Through many traditions I knew Raj Kehab, the mighty founder of the royal family that had ruled Budhrapore for a thousand years, up to the time, half a century before, when the East India Company installed In power the new dynasty, which began with the present Rajah’s grandfather, and I had seen in the Viceroy’s palace at Calcutta, kept as a relic, the flag which from the time of Raj Kehab down to the last king descended from him had been the emblem of the Kehab dynasty. Its design was a tiger worked in white embroidery upon a dark-green ground.
I rode home, and at the bungalow found Khatra Ahab, the shikari, awaiting me in the compound. He was master of his craft. He knew the habits of all the jungle beasts and could read the tokens of their goings and comings as surely as the white man reads the business signs in the city streets. Before I had time to speak with him I was hailed from the verandah by Captain Bent Murdoch, Chief of the Budhrapore police, who had ridden with his orderly from Caramhat that morning. After bidding him welcome I questioned Khatra as to the truth of the report of a man-eating tiger in the Nahrabad jungle.
“I have seen him,” the shikari answered. “Watching from a tree, I saw him pass not twenty paces away. On that day he carried off my cousin's wife from the rice field. He had feasted and had no need to kill, but he looked at me. Sahib, his color! I swear by Krishna, he was white. And his eyes! The colour of a tiger’s eyes in daylight is yellow, but his were red —as red as the blood smears on his jowls. When I saw his tracks I knew them, for I had seen them before. Sahib, it is useless to follow him, for he is a ghost tiger. His lair is in the haunted city of Nahrabad.”
“Then to Nahrabad we will go for him,” exclaimed Captain Murdoch, who was famous as a hunter of big game. “Ghost or no ghost, white or striped, we’ll wait for him there tonight. If lead fails we’ll try a silver bullet. I suppose, major, you can lend me a gun?”
“Two, if you wish.” I returned. “Khatra, you know the tiger’s path. You will guide us this afternoon to where we shall watch to-night by the Nahrabad ruins.”
The shikari tried to object, but I overruled his objections, and he unwillingly agreed to be our guide. The details having been arranged, I had time to talk with Murdoch. For several months he had been unusually busy suppressing the dacoits who, at the beginning of the year, had started their annual carnival of robbery and murder in the Rajah's dominions. He had broken up the principal band, and, so far as could be known, those of the outlaws who had not been killed outright were in jail awaiting the trials which would determine whether they should be hanged or sent to penal servitude in the Andamans. One only had escaped, Nadraj, their chief, and no search could discover his hiding place.
“His death or capture would be worth more than that of all the rest of the band,” Murdoch said. “There won’t be an end of dacoity in Budhrapore so long as he is alive.”
Everybody In Budhrapore knew of Nadraj, and most people, Native or European, had cause to dread him. A high-born Hindu, fanatically hating everything associated with the English rule in India, his crimes and cruelties had been inspired as much by hatred and revenge as by desire of plunder. Native mothers stilled their children with the threat of his name. As he was utterly desperate, even the Rajah himself, who favoured the English, could not be safe from the chance of assassination while Nadraj was at large.
“I can't think where he can be concealed,” the captain continued. “If he were friendly to the Rajah I could understand, but his Majesty has the greatest motive of any one for wishing him off the earth. Do you know that this dacoit is of the old royal family— a lineal descendant, it is said, of Raj Kehab? If the old dynasty had not been overthrown by the help of the English he might be Rajah of Budhrapore to-day. We are going to his ancestral city to-night to wait for the tiger.”
Our preparations for the hunt were simple—two heavy rifles, a haversack with provisions, and a mat to sit on. We made our start for Nahrabad in the afternoon and rode to a little village at the jungle’s edge, where the people had already gathered the wood for the fires which they would burn at night to keep the tiger away.
Leaving the horses there in charge of the captain's orderly, we walked along the bullock path which led through a dense jungle to the ruined city. An hour’s walking brought us to a spot where the path emerged into an open, grassy space. On the right, across a nullah, a ruined wall encircled the face of an eminence, and a vast heap of fallen stone rising like a hill within it was Nahrabad, Raj Kebab’s city. Wild vines and bushes hid the ruin in places, and a few trees had forced their way into the open among the stones of the fallen walls. Here and there a carved column or stretch of wall stood in place. Far up in the ruins, at the very top, there rose from the debris two marble posts, with the capstones still resting upon them. Here had been the main entrance of the Rajah’s palace, and from it a rock stairway, on which ten men might have marched abreast, could Ire traced down to a broad platform where a gate had opened in the city wall. The gate and its posts were gone, but a flight of steps, with the hewn stones broken and awry, but still in place, remained, leading from the platform down to the foot of the slope below the wall. Between the foot of the wall and the nullah, which once had been a moat, there was a thick growth of jungle shrubs as high as a man’s shoulders.
With Khatra leading, we went cautiously on until he paused at a line of bent and trampled grass where some large, soft-footed creature had made a pathway between the jungle and the nullah opposite the gateway. We followed the path into the nullah, which was swampy at the bottom. On the hard ground the tracks were invisible to the white man’s eye, but here they were deeply imprinted in the moist soil, the great paws of a tiger, which, not many hours before, had descended from the jungle into the nullah and thence to the other side to the foot of the broken steps leading to the gateway.
“The tiger Is at home,” the shikari said. “If he comes out to range to-night he will pass here. We must await his coming beyond the nullah.”
We went back across the nullah to choose our places. The sun was near its setting, and we had no time to lose. About thirty yards from the brink was a korinda bush large enough to shelter us all. We crawled under this, and the long, horizontally growing branches, with their tips drooped to the ground on every side, made a perfect place of concealment. Through the leafage we cut loopholes from which we could command the path on both sides of the nullah and the steps and gateway beyond. This done, we opened the haversack, ate our supper and settled ourselves for waiting. The sun had plunged down behind the ruins, and soon the blackness of the Indian night hid the ruined city a hundred yards away. The very stars were shut from our view by the overlapping branches above our heads. We tipped our rifle sights with phosphorus In order that they might readily be caught in the darkness, and then made ourselves as comfortable as possible. There were the usual night noises of the jungle, and our ears quickened at the rustling of small animals in the grass about us, but there was no sound to indicate that the tiger had come forth. In an hour the round moon came up behind us, flooding the scene with light, and the shikari, crouching behind me, touched my arm.
“See, sahib! Below the wall, to the left of the steps.”
Just above the tops of the bushes, between the nullah and the foot of the wall, a white spot was moving, as if afloat in the air, toward the steps that led down from the gateway to the ground.
“What is it, Khatra?” I whispered, but the shikari did not answer. With puzzled curiosity Murdoch and I watched the thing slowly skirting the foot of the wall. It was not difficult, to understand that a superstitious native should see in it the spirit of Raj Kehab patrolling the bulwark of his city.
Up in the ruins two jackals, chasing each other about the palace steps, suddenly checked their play, paused in an attitude of listening and slunk away out of view. The shikari, crouching behind me, trembled violently. Turning our gaze upward, Murdoch and I looked at the palace doorway, where a new figure had appeared. The capstone on which, by tradition, Raj Kebab's tiger emblem stood carved in marble, had in the daylight rested level and bare upon the posts. Now upon the capstone, in the full rays of the moon, white as the marble beneath it, the form of a tiger was silhouetted against the night sky. For a few long seconds, while we waited and wondered, it remained like a statue of alabaster, then in an instant vanished. It was all very queer and eerie.
“It is no delusion; we both saw him. What do you think?” I whispered to Murdoch.
“We’re here to shoot whatever comes,” the captain answered. “If it isn’t a trick of imagination, if that’s the fellow that made the tracks in the nullah, he should show up next at the gateway. Ha! what's that—below the wall, at the foot of the steps? The tiger can’t have gone down there so soon! It’s a man-and he’s going up into the city.”
In the excitement of watching the apparition on the capstone we had taken no further thought of the white object afloat above the bushes, until now, emerging into the open space at the foot of the steps, it took form of the turban of a tall man in native garb, who began to ascend the steps to the gateway. As his head and shoulders rose above the landing he looked around, bringing his profile into view.
“Khatra!” he whispered, shaking the trembling shikari, “tell me who it is you see!”
‘‘Captain sahib,” the answer came quiveringly, “it is the spirit of his great ancestor, Raj Kebab. It is Nadraj.
The man went on, stepped upon the landing and stood upright, while his shadow, stretching across the platform before him, fell upon a square-faced upright stone. A pale something crept like a giant snake, then suddenly enlarging enormously, shot forward in a white streak which gathered upon and overwhelmed the tall figure at the landing. The sound of a man’s cry of alarm was lost in the deep-throated note of a tiger's snarl as the two went together down to the pavement. A savage shake, the sound of crunching bone, heard plainly by us a hundred yards away, and the tiger, rising to his feet, lifted his head, and with eyes glowing with opaline flames looked over his victim across the nullah as if in challenge to us.
Our rifles were already sighted upon him, and we fired together. Through the smoke we saw the tiger rise into the air above the man, fall half way down upon the steps below, and roll to the bottom. Before the rattle of our shots had died away among the ruins he lay outstretched and motionless at the foot of the steps, while at the top the head of the man he had killed, hanging limply over the edge of the landing, seemed peering down at his slayer.
We reloaded our rifles, crawled from under the bush, and went over to where the tiger was lying. By the light of a torch we examined the mysterious beast which had terrified the Kajah and his kingdom. Its hair was milk-white from nose to tall tips, and its eyes the colour of red-hued Irises. It needed no naturalist to tell us that the rarest of jungle trophies, an albino tiger, had fallen to our guns.
“I am an old man and have hunted the jungle for all my days,” said the shikari, “but never have I seen or heard of anything so wonderful.” Then we went up the steps to the landing where the dead man lay. Murdoch lifted the head—the neck was broken—and as Khatra held the torch down to the upturned face they both exclaimed together, “It is Nadraj:’
We laid the dead dacoit out on the platform, with his folded turban covering his face, and went back to the tiger. The threat of death would not have induced Khatra to touch the body, but he held the torch while Murdoch and I skinned the beast. We carried the skins by turn through the jungle to the village, and, after informing the people that the tiger was dead, rode back to the bungalow. With a squad of police summoned from Caramahat, Murdoch and I next morning went to Nahrabad, where, having fully identified him as Nadraj, we buried the dacoit chief by the side of the nullah, at the foot of the old wall of the city his ancestors had reigned.
Our white tiger skin was one of the year’s wonders in India. It had seemed pure white in the night, but in the clear daylight the markings of the ordinary tiger could be seen faintly indicated by clouded streaks, like light crayon pencillings on the white ground colour. The Rajah was delighted with what we had done, and he sent two splendid emeralds to Murdoch and me in appreciation of our service in ridding his dominions of the ghost-like disturber of the royal peace. He greatly desired the skin and repeatedly asked us to name a price for it, but Murdoch and I held it with the intention of presenting it to her Majesty the Empress at a convenient time. But we delayed too long, for it vanished from the bungalow one day in my absence, and no search could recover it. I suspect that the Rajah and his priests could have accounted for its disappearance. Held in their custody, they would regard it as a hostage against future reincarnations of Raj Kebab. But nothing we could do helped the matter, and Murdoch and I had to regard the Rajah’s emeralds as recompense for the loss of our priceless trophy.
WHITE TIGER WHICH WOULD NOT DIE
Was it a Were-tiger of Just an Ordinary Beast of the Jungle?
By Samuel Scoville, Jr.
The Winnipeg Tribune, 23rd May, 1931
This piece from 1931 was written at a time when snow-white tigers were known from specimens shot in Assam, and from the snow white tiger brought back by Pellew.
Samuel Scoville, Jr. who is a distinguished lawyer as well as author, has written many well-known books of true adventure, including “The Blue Pearl,” “Everyday Adventures,” “The Inca Emerald.” “Wild Folk,” and “The Red Diamond.” His vivid gift of narration reaches a glowing peak in this gripping tale of Teloa, the slave girl whose rare courage and quick thought laid low the mysterious white tiger who had terrorized a jungle village, and removed at last the dread peril that the guns of man had failed to vanquish
Not since the days when Solomon’s navy sailed to Tarshish and brought back gold and silver and ivory and apes and peacocks has the Malay Peninsula changed. Still the swift, silent little men of the deep forest snare great, jeweled peacocks and trap the langurs of the high tree tops with hollow gourds; still the seladang, the tiger, the rhinoceros, and the python contend for the mastery of the jungle, and still the Semarang, the Little People, rule them all by virtue of that spark of the eternal flame which makes man the lord of the beast. There in the jungle one night, when the white moonlight filtered through the tree tops like melting snow, Teloa was born. Mala, her mother, was a woman of the Semarang, and she named her daughter after that rose-and-gold orchid, Teloa, Star of the Forest.
Fourteen wonderful years the girl lived In the jungle with her tribe, wild and free as the sambhur whose belling aroused her at dawn. Her days were full of little, happy adventures. Sometimes it was the finding of a crimson hibiscus flower which she thrust into the great coil of blue-black hair which came down low over her forehead or wore in the sarong of plaited bark which covered a skin like pale-gold satin. Other days she hunted the jungle for lansat, that white fruit of the deep woods, and mangosteens and custard applies, or caught para, which are sluggish fruit-eating fish, out of still pools, and snared mouse deer for pets.
Always, too, there was Nion, the son of the chief of her little band. It was he who taught her to walk up the tallest trees, leaning against a twist of linen about her waist, and to imitate the call of the rain birds, whose notes fall from the tree tops like drops of molten silver. Together they caught birdwing butterflies with velvet-black and emerald wings, and minivets, like flames of fire in the forest, and trogons with blue backs and crimson breasts. Then came the raid of the Pehang Malays, who had their village at the edge of the jungle. They owed allegiance to the Sultan of Parak and every year had to deliver to him as tribute either two slaves or two elephant tusks. As it was safer to hunt men than elephants, slavers annually invaded the jungle of the Semarang.
It all happened at dawn. One moment the forest was velvet-black, starred with the white blossoms of the moonflowers, while the vines hung in dim green webs against the sepia shadows of the trees. Then, like the opening of the door of some vast furnace, the risen sun flamed through the darkness, and the silence was shattered by a thousand voices of bird and beast. Near where the Semarang slept by their banked fires, with only the smoke for a coverlet, sounded the yelling, ringing challenge of an argus pheasant. At once it was answered from all three sides of the camping place. The notes had hardly died away before the grizzled old leader of the band leaped to his feet like a cat, as his trained ears caught something unusual in the call.
“Up, up, brothers!” he hissed. “The hunters of men be upon us."
Even as he spoke, every one of the little company was on his feet, with the swift silence of startled animals, just as the fierce sorak, that war cry of the Malays, sounded, and from all sides the raiders rushed upon them. Like a covey of quail the forest-folk scattered. Some dived into the thickets, others went up the dangling lianas hand over hand. None stayed to fight. Teloa waited an instant to lend a hand to the wrinkled old grandmother whom she had been helping. Even as she thrust her into safety in the densest part of a thorn thicket, an arm like a steel band wound about her waist, and a second later a rope was twisted tight around her wrists.
Nion sprang at the man, but another slaver slashed at him with a barong, that deadly Malay knife. A swinging liana broke the force of the blow, yet the boy’s brown skin was suddenly laced with crimson, and Teloa’s last memory of him, as he disappeared among the tree tops was of a face distorted with pain and grief. A moment later everything went black before her straining eyes, and she knew nothing more until she found herself in the house of old Ahmad, one of the elders of the Malay village where she was to be kept until the Sultan sent for the tribute. There, although not ill-used, she was watched every moment, day and night, and spent most of her time on a tiny platform of bamboos hung from the ceiling in a corner, like a swallow’s nest.
Soon after her arrival came the tiger. It was old Ahmad himself who first glimpsed the dreadful visitor. He was following a twisting path through the jungle when suddenly a peacock stepped out into a clearing ahead of him, its breast a blaze of emerald and sapphire. Ahmad crouched back of a bush, while the regal bird spread its tail, and with its crested head held high moved slowly forward. A moment later Ahmad crept closer, foot by foot, for the peacock is one of the prizes of the jungle, and the range of his old blunderbuss was strictly limited. Then, even as he raised his clumsy weapon, he saw something which struck from his mind everything save an overpowering desire to be elsewhere.
Between himself and the bird was suddenly thrust from the underbrush the sinister head of a great tiger. Old Ahmad had seen tigers before, and in his youth had even helped to hunt them, but never a tiger like that one. Once or twice in a century there is born in the jungles of the Malay Peninsula, a white tiger, one of those rare albinos, which occur among all mammals. Such a one crept out, foot by foot, before the old man's startled eyes. Instead of being orange-yellow with black stripes, the great beast was cream-white from the tip of his muzzle to the end of his tail, and the stripes on his body showed like the watered pattern of moire silk.
Crouching double, the old hunter crept back along the trail just as the tiger sprang upon the gleaming bird. Although the beast was a good ten feet long and weighed half a thousand pounds, it rose in the air light as thistledown. There was one terrified squawk from the peacock, and the next moment, with its brilliant body in his jaws, the tiger disappeared in a nearby thicket.
As soon as he reached a bend in the trail, Ahmad straightened up and ran like the wind toward the village, where he spread the news that a white tiger was abroad. That evening, as the men of the village gossiped beneath the great baobab tree which stood in the centre of the market place, the talk was all of the strange beast which had come to their jungle. Most of those present believed the tiger, like the werewolf of the North, was none other than one of those ghastly evil men who have the power to take on at will the form of an animal.
Whether demon, vampire or were-tiger, the white beast soon showed that it was at any rate a man killer. Two days after its arrival, at that hour which the Malays have named “When-the-buffalo-go-down-to-drink,” which is about five o’clock in the afternoon, it sprang upon Baruga, the ursurer, at the outskirts of the “village, killed him with one terrible blow, and with his body in his jaws, rushed along the street, while the people scattered before him as if blown by some great wind of fear.
That night the elders of the village met at Ahmad's house. They would not have ventured even so far had it not been for their blood-bought knowledge of tiger ways. For two days the gorged beast would not kill again.
White men would have spoken openly of the enemy who lurked at their gate. The little brown men who sat that night around a sputtering stone lamp filled with palm oil knew better. No Malay will call a tiger by his real name lest he hear and come. Moreover, they believe that after a tiger hae killed, the ghost of the dead man rides on his head and directs him to his next victim. Wherefore that night there was a long silence broken only by the conventional grunts and groans which a Malay employs in place of conversation. It was the priest who spoke first.
“What is thy counsel, my father?” he said deferentially to Ahmad. “Thou art the oldest and the wisest hunter in the village. What thinkest thou of the White One?”
The old man looked at him sardonically. “Thou hast said,” he answered at last, “that he is a demon. Whether that be so, I know not. That he is a man-killer, however, we all know .......the dead man hated me when he was alive,” he went on after a pause. “More than thrice have I plucked poor men from out of his clutches and saved them from jail and the torture. Moreover, this, my house, is the nearest to the jungle.
“Wherefore it is probable that he who was Baruga will guide the killer to me first of all. It is my counsel that we meet here every night and kill the White One when at last he comes, lest he destroy us and our women and children separately.”
There was another long silence after Ahmad's speech. Then the company began to melt away.
“Who can contend with demons?” murmured Toku, as he slipped unobtrusively out of the door.
“Thou shalt have my prayers,” Orgoba assured the old man - and was gone.
One by one, the others left, each with some evasive farewell, until of them all only Igi, the hunter, remained.
“Why stayest thou?” old Ahmad inquired of him bitterly. “Follow the others. It may be that the White One will be satisfied with my old carcass and leave the rest of you unharmed.
“Not so, my father,” returned the younger man. “I, too, know something of the Striped Folk. When one takes to man-killing he never stops. Moreover, I would rather fight this one with thee alone than with the whole company of those cowards who have fled.”
From that night Igi lived at the house of Ahmad. With him he brought his arms, a smooth-bore musket which would go off three times out of five, a spear with a yard-long razor-edged head of grey steel, the inevitable barong shaped like a butcher's cleaver, and his kreese, a long, narrow dagger with a wavy blade.
Three days passed, and there was no sign of the white tiger, Then came the night of the full moon. That evening Ahmad and Igi sat long at table, served by the old man’s three wives, while Teloa, as always, was above them, hidden in her tiny loft. Suddenly from far out in the jungle there came a sound like a ghastly laugh, with a hideous leer running through it. As it died away the men started to their feet.
“The pheal,” whispered old Ahmad, and Igi nodded and looked to the priming of his long gun.
Again came the ghoulish cry, this time much nearer. Somewhere in the jungle a jackal was giving the unearthly howl which it only makes when hunting with a tiger. For a third time it sounded from the darkness of the jungle, followed by absolute silence. Even the frogs seemed to have stopped their notes for a moment. Then the stillness was shattered by perhaps the most dreadful sound on earth - the roar of a hunting tiger. It began close to the earth, a long-drawn out “how-ow-own,” and rose and increased in volume until the whole jungle vibrated. As the last notes died away, there came screams of uncontrollable fear from the women; Teloa, of them all, made no sound.
“Quiet, foolish ones,” hissed Ahmad. “Do you wish to bring the White One to our very door?”
At his voice the wailing cries stopped instantly - but it was too late. Peering through one of the window holes cut in the bamboo wall, Igi saw a white figure glide like a ghost toward the house and caught the gleam of terrible green-shadowed eyes showing like molten gold in the dark. Suddenly, not fifty yards from the cabin, came the deep moan which a tiger gives when he is sure of his kill. In the sound was the very essence of cold-blooded cruelty and withal a certain quality of triumph which made it doubly horrible. There was a moment of stillness, and then from the edge of the jungle came a grunting cough.
“Stand fast, my brother,” whispered old Ahmad; “now he charges.” .
Igi nodded, and loosening the barong in his belt, drew back the clumsy hammer of his musket. As he did so, from without came the pad, pad, pad of hurrying feet; and in a moment the light bamboo house shook and creaked under the weight of the great beast. Misjudging his distance, the tiger had sprung short, and for an instant clung to the edge of the sloping thatch with bent forepaws as he tried in vain to pull himself up on the roof itself. A second later, there came the thud of his body striking the ground within a couple of yards of the two men, crouched back of the thin bamboo wall. Snarling horribly the tiger rose up on his hind legs and clawed at the door, making deep grooves in the thick pinang planks.
Before Ahmad could stop him, the younger hunter clapped his musket to his shoulder, and aiming hurriedly through one of the window holes, pulled the trigger. The crashing report was followed instantly by a dreadful screech from without as the bullet cut through one of the great cat's ears, the most sensitive part of a tiger's body. With a thunderous roar the enraged brute sprang again, landing this time on the very peak of the roof, and began to rip off great masses of the loose thatch. With a quick movement old Ahmad put out the smoking lamp, and motioned to the sobbing women to take refuge in the farthest corner of the room, so as to clear a space for the fight to the death which he knew must now come.
As the two men looked to their weapons, and the women huddled together, the moonlight shone through the great gap in the roof, white and still, as if there was no such thing in the world as fear or death. Suddenly the opening in the roof was darkened by such a head of horror as few men indeed have had to face. The eyes of the tiger glared down upon them like incandescent emeralds; his terrible mouth snarled open, showing his glittering white teeth, and the hot red gullet beyond, while his grim face was wrinkled with a scowl of utter fury.
While Igi was frantically trying to load his musket in the dark, Ahmad took careful aim and fired at the tiger's head, shouting the sorak as he did so. The handful of stones which the old man used for bullets failed to pierce the thick bones, and the great cat, maddened by the pain, thrust his head and burly shoulders clear through the roof. Grasping his spear, Igi jabbed up at him desperately, but the weapon was suddenly caught out of his hands by the clutch of a great paw and hurled up against the ceiling, to fall across the little loft where Teloa lay. Instinctively she gripped it, with her slim, strong hands, as with a rending crash the great beast burst through the flimsy roof and leaped to the floor below.
As he landed, Ahmad clubbed his gun and struck a tremendous blow at the beast's head with its flashing eyes and snarling mouth, just as Igi slashed at him with his barong. Neither stroke went home. Springing beck out of range of their blows, before either could recover his balance, the fierce brute was upon them. To the girl watching from above, it seemed as though he gave each a soft pat with his great paw, yet both men went spinning back against the wall, bruised and disabled.
Through the ripped-out roof the moon shone so brightly that every detail of the life and death struggle in the little room showed vividly to the watcher above. In a corner huddled the women, whimpering with terror. Against one wall Igi moved feebly, while Ahmad lay stunned near the door. The great head of the tiger seemed to mask his ten-foot body, while his long tail switched back and forth, and the giant muscles rippled up and down his sleek sides as he moved toward the men.
For a moment he crouched before he sprang, as if choosing his victim. On that moment, that tiny tick of time, hung the lives of everyone there. As it was passing, the girl from the jungle gripped the great spear mightily, and leaning far out over the side of the little platform on which she lay, drove it with a sure eye and a steady hand clear through the mighty body crouched below her. The yard-long, double-edged point, razor sharp, and keen as a rapier, slipped through the white skin and tough muscles just back of the beast’s left fore paw, and as the girl threw all her weight and strength upon the thrust, split the tiger's very heart.
With a dreadful yelling screech, the deadly brute sprang straight up into the air, and turning over, fell back quivering in death, its open mouth not a foot from where Igi lay.
As he slowly came to himself, the first thing the young hunter saw was the gaping jaws of the tiger close to his face. With a grunt of horror he executed a most creditable back somersault, came up on his feet, and backed against the wall, his barong gripped In one hand and his naked kreese in the other, to meet the spring which he expected. Only when he saw by the white moonlight that the dreadful eyes which stared up into his own were glazed and sightless and that his own spear was buried clear to the cross-bar in the vast body, did his tense muscles relax.
For a full minute he stared at the white bulk stretched out stark before him. Then he moved cautiously toward the grim carcass and tried to withdraw the spear, but it was buried so deep in the bone of the opposite shoulder blade, that he was unable to pull it out.
“A brave stroke indeed,” the Malay muttered to himself as he tugged at the spear. “Strange that I do not remember making it.”
An involuntary giggle came from the women’s corner at his words, echoed by a little laugh from above. Looking up, Igi saw for the first time the jungle girl smiling down at him in the moonlight.
“Whose was the hand, O Princess, that killed the White One?” he asked, gazing up at her admiringly.
‘It was I who borrowed thy spear and thrust with it at the Grandfather-of Stripes.” she answered in the slow, clear tones of her tribe. “No princess am I, but a slave-girl of the Semarang.” And she swung herself to the floor end stood before him.
Before the young hunter could speak again, there sounded the creaking voice of Ahmad, who had recovered his senses in time to hear Teloa’s last words.
“Thou art a slave no longer,” he announced. “I will send the Sultan the skin of the white tiger, which he would rather have than a thousand slave girls, and thou shalt be free.”
The next morning the sky was like dark-blue velvet just before the dawn. Suddenly the sun showed through the green of the jungle like some vast ruby set in jade. An arjuna butterfly, all gold and crimson, floated over the tree tops, and the scented air was full of bird calls as Teloa moved among the trees, free once mere to claim her birthright of beauty and joy. Following a hidden trail, she moved through the tangle of trees and vines until in the distance the flash of a cataract showed against the slope of a faraway hill.
As she caught the gleam, the girl stopped, and from her parted lips came the sweet, rippling call of the rain bird. Suddenly it was answered, and flitting through the tree tops came one of the birds itself. Black and claret, with a cobalt-blue bill and emerald eyes, it flew around her head and finally disappeared in a n:arby thicket. At the foot of the waterfall Teloa gave the call again, and once more it was answered, this time from the ground, instead of the tree tops. For the last time she whistled the lovely laughing notes.
There was a rustle in the bushes ahead, and suddenly into the trail burst the figure of Nion. A white scar stretched clear across his face, but Teloa saw nothing but the look in his eyes, felt nothing but the clasp of his arms about her. Then, hand in hand, the two disappeared down the trail which led to freedom and life and love.
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