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The Stories Of Gidar The Jackal And Coyote The Prairie Wolf






Source: The Sa'-zada Tales

"To-night," commenced Sa'-zada, "we are to have the interesting life
story of the two half-brothers, Gidar and Coyote."

"A thief's tale of a certainty," chuckled Magh.

"In my land, which was Burma, there were none so useful as we," began
Gidar. "Not of high repute our mission, perhaps, but still useful,
being scavengers; and to this end we are all born with a fair appetite;
but useful always, even Bagh knows that. I was Lieutenant to one of his
kind--a great killer he was--for a matter of two years. Then he came by
way of a dispute with the Men-kind, and they finished him in short
order.

"Now, you know, Brothers, our kind have steadily worked southward from
India, pushing into new lands from all time, even like the Sahibs,
until we are now half down through Burma. It must be a dull land that
has not our sweet song at night. If there were but a Pack here now we'd
sing you a rare chorus."

"I've heard the song," quoth Bagh; "it's wretched."

"How goes it?" asked Wolf. "Our Pack has a cry of great strength; the
'bells of the forest,' the Redmen call it."

"It's somewhat this way," said Jackal, and sitting on his haunches he
raised his long, sharp nozzle high in air, stretching his lean throat
toward the moon that glinted fretfully through the swaying trees; and
on the still, quiet night air floated his cry of far-off India:

"'Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-o-o-o-o-o!
I smell a dead Hindoo-oo!'

"That would be my cry, Brothers. Then from all quarters of the jungle
the Pack would take up the song and sing back:

"'Where, where, where, where, where, where?'

"And I would answer back cheerily:

"'Here, here, here, here, here, here!'

"Then all together we would sing with all our lungs:

"'Oo-oo-oo-o-o-o-o-h
Mussulman or Hind-oo?
Here, there, or anywhere,
All flesh is flesh, we do not care.'"

"A charming song," sneered Magh.

"Ah, I cannot give it right; you should have heard it, little
Eater-of-sour-fruit, in the dead closeness of a Burman jungle, from the
many throats of a hungry Pack.

"The people of that land liked the song full well, and they never
molested us. But life was one continuous struggle for food. We were not
slayers like Chita, or Bagh, or Python; or stealers of crops like Boar
and Rogue Hathi; almost as simple in our way of life as Mooswa.

"I remember once a fat Dog-pup of the Terrier kind, which I bagged. It
was all the fault of the Pup's master; he tried to kill me."

"You had probably been singing to him," said Sa'-zada.

"We had, I admit," answered Jackal. "It was on Borongo Island; two men,
Sahibs they were called there, you know, lived in a bungalow built on
high posts, after the manner of all houses in that land. The bungalow
was built on the shore, and every day the water came up under it, and
then went back again. This was a most wise arrangement of the water's
traveling, for it threw up many a dead Fish and Crab for our eating.

"Well I remember the cook-house was a little to one side from the
bungalow, with a poor, ill-conditioned bamboo door to it. Regularly,
doing our scavenger work, we used to clean up that cook-house, eating
everything the servant-kind had not devoured. Several times I made a
great find in that very place, for the cook, it appears, was a most
forgetful fellow. When there was nothing left for us in the way of
food, we'd carry off the pots and pans into the jungle grass; why, I
hardly know, but it seemed proper to do so.

"Neither do I know which of the Pack first started singing under the
bungalow; but this also afforded us much content. Many hours on in the
dark we'd all steal gently down from the jungle, and gather under the
house. Then, as one, we'd give voice to the hunger cry together, until
even the Sahibs would shout in fear. It was good to make the Men-kind
afraid; but also we would flee swiftly, for the two Sahibs would rush
out like a jackal that had suddenly become possessed of much poisoned
meat, and 'bang, bang, bang' with the guns.

"I had much to do with Men, and just when I thought they were full
cross because of our serenade, what was my surprise to find each
evening a full measure of rice put in a certain place for me. 'It is
full of the datura' (poison), I thought, and watched while a lean
Pariah Dog from the village ate it. But there was nothing wrong with
it. So the next evening I made haste to get a full share of it myself.
As I ate, hurriedly I must say, twang-g! came a mighty Boar-spear.

"But only the shaft of it struck my back, so I made off with great
diligence. I heard the Sahib say as he picked up the spear, 'Missed
him, by Jove!' You see, he had been hiding in a corner of the bungalow.
But I was hungry, and the rice was good--most delicious--so I crept
back with two comrades, and keeping to the thick grass, stalked the
bungalow most carefully. I saw the Sahibs all at their eating, for the
door was open, it being hot; you see, he thought I wouldn't come back
so soon.

"'I will eat with you,' I said, and made straight for the rice; but it
was nearly all gone; the Terrier Pup of which I have spoken, and which
belonged to this very Sahib who had thrown the spear, was just
finishing his Master's bait.

"'Oh, you wicked Dog!' I said, 'to steal my supper this way,' and
knowing that his master was in the habit of throwing spears at that
very spot, I picked him up and carried him to the jungle for safety.

"'Oh, oh E-u-u-h!' how he squealed, and the Men-kind left their eating,
and came rushing after us with much shouting, but it was dark and they
had no chance of catching us."

"And you ate the poor little fellow?" asked Mooswa.

"Horrible!" cried Magh, "to eat a Dog."

"Not at all bad stuffed with rice, I assure you," declared Gidar. "For
a day or two I kept more or less out of the way; I was afraid the
Sahibs might be very angry.

"It was two nights after this I discovered more rice some distance from
the bungalow in a pail which was sunk in the ground, and over this
stood a couple of posts that had not been there before. I remembered
that, so I sat by quietly watching this new thing, and trying to decide
what it might be.

"Now the Sahibs had two pigs, and as I watched, along came these two,
grunting, and shoving things about with their long noses, and presently
one of them discovered the rice in the pail.

"'Ugh, ugh, ugh!' said he, 'just a mouthful of this will do me good.'
You know, of course, a pig eats first and thinks after, so in this case
he plunged his big head in the pail, and 'zip! whang!' went something,
and before I could jump to my feet he was dangling in the air hung by
the neck; he didn't even have a chance to squeal. Of course his mate
took to his heels and cleared out, while I finished the rice, knowing
the evil was in the custody of my Squeaker friend. In the morning the
Pig was dead."

"It's a fine thief's tale," commented Magh, "but in the end they caught
you right enough."

"Not there," corrected Gidar; "that was another place. A Sahib who had
come to the jungle seeking dwellers for such places as this, made the
taking; but with him one might as well be caught first as last, for he
knew more of our ways than we knew of his. Now let Coyote speak; I am
tired."

"Does Coyote come from Burma, too, O Sa'-zada?" queried Magh.

"No, he's from Mooswa's country; from the great plains away in the far
West. There is not much in The Book about Coyote; that is, not much
that's good."

"I knew it," laughed Magh; "I've watched him there in his cage which is
opposite mine, day after day, and I never saw a smile on his face."

"You should be put in the cage with Hyena," declared Coyote, "if you
think an animal has got to grin all the time to be of fair nature. Or
of what use are you, little pot-belly, or the whole of your
tribe--Hanuman, Hooluk, or Chimpanzee--none of you worth the nuts you
eat; and yet you're always grinning and chattering, and playing fool
tricks about the cage. You're a fine one to judge your fellow
creatures."

"Coyote just sits there and scratches Fleas, and growls, and snaps at
his mate--he's a low-born sort of Wolf," continued Magh.

"He's not of our kind," declared Wolf; "it's all a lie."

"Never mind, never mind," cried Sa'-zada, "no doubt like all the rest
of us he has his good and bad qualities."

"I was once starving," resumed Coyote. "You who have lived in a warm
land where something is growing all the year round, know nothing of the
hunger that comes when the fierce blizzard blots out everything, and
there is only snow, snow, everywhere. Can one eat snow? It's all very
fine for you with a paunch full of candy to sit there and prate about
stealing, but if Wie-sak-ke-chack puts the hunger pains in one's
stomach and the fat bacon--Ghurr-h-h! but the juice of it is sweet when
one is near dead--puts the fat bacon behind log walls, what is one to
do, eh? Does a fellow dig, dig, dig through earth so hard that he must
bite it out with his teeth, dig deep under the log walls for sport as
the Cubs play in the sunshine, or just to steal? Bah, you who have
never known hunger know not of this thing. Why, once when the ground
was frozen hard, and I was dying inch by inch, some fierce-toothed
Animal inside me biting, biting--only of course it was the hunger
chewing at my stomach--I dove fair through the window of a log shack to
get at the meat inside. The glass cut me, to be sure, but that was
nothing to the hunger pain that goes on, on, never ceasing until there
is food, or one is dead.

"I saved a man's life once at a post called Stand-Off. The place came
by its name in the days of a mighty fight when my Man and his comrades
stood off the Mounted Police. These Men had been given as bad a name as
Coyotes even. My Man may have been bad, too; but how was I to know,
being only a Coyote? He was always throwing me bones and pieces of
bread, and whistling to me, and calling me Jack.

"Now this place Stand-Off was on the river flat, and one night in
spring-time I heard a great flood coming down the Belly River. It was a
still night, and the noise of the rushing water came to my ears for
miles, but the Men heard it not, for they were all in the Shacks. Fast
I galloped down over the flat near to the Shack where was this Man who
had often thrown me a bone. I whimpered, and whistled, and barked the
danger call, and howled the death-coming song, and finally my friend
came to the door and threw a stick of wood at me, and spoke fierce
oaths. Then he shut the door. I could hear the roaring getting louder
and louder, and knew that soon it would be too late for all the
Men-kind; not that I cared, except for this one. On one side of the
town was the swift-running Belly River, and beyond a high-cut bank; on
my side was the flat land that would soon be many feet deep with ice
and rushing water. So I howled louder than ever, and he came out and
strove to kill me with a Firestick, but I only ran a little piece into
the darkness, and howled again.

"Being a Man of much temper he chased me, and the noise brought out the
others, for they thought it was Indians. I sought to lead him over to
the side of the flat land which was next the sloping hill, knowing full
well that the new water would flow there first.

"All at once he ceased running behind me, and I, who was listening,
knew that he scarce breathed he was that still. Now, he will hear it,
I thought; and in an instant I heard him cry to the others: 'Boys, we
must pull out from this--there's a devil of a freshet coming.' That was
the way of the Men from Stand-Off; many strange words of a useless
need.

"I tell you, Comrades, it was soon an awful night; here and there the
Men ran trying to save something--their Horses and guns for most part,
even some of the evil firewater; and the strong swearings they used
sounded but just as the whimpering of Wolf Pups, the wind was that
fierce, carrying the dreadful roar of the Chinook flood.

"You who have heard Bagh and Hathi scolding at each other, with perhaps
Black Panther and Bald Eagle taking part, may know somewhat the like of
that night's noises.

"Seeing that my Man was coming riding swiftly on his Cayuse, I, too,
ran quickly for the upland; but, as I have said, just in the hollow
which was there, being the trail where once had run the river, the
flood was rushing even as I have seen it in the foot-hills--the flat
land was surrounded.

"As the Men galloped up they stopped, and spoke evil words at the
flood, rushing up and down looking for a ford. I also was afraid to
cross.

"Suddenly I thought me of a place I knew well lower down, wondrous like
a Beaver dam, though I think there had been no Beavers in the land
since Chief Mountain was a hole in the ground. I barked, to call my Man
friend, and ran toward this spot.


HASN'T ...'"]

"'There goes that locoed Coyote,' I heard him say; 'he's trailing for a
crossing; damned if I don't follow him. Come on, you fellows,' and
after me they galloped like madmen.

"Just below the place that was like a dam the water was not too bad,
for the ice had jammed up above, and it was spreading out all over the
flat. I plunged in, for, Comrades, it was a time of great hurry.
Swimming a river is not of my liking--none of my kind like it--but this
seemed an evil night altogether, with no choice but to reach the
uplands.

"'Sure thing! the Coyote's dead to rights on this outfit,' I heard my
Man say; and wallow, wallow, in the bronchos came, splashing and
snorting. And so we crossed just as the ice broke in the jam, and swept
down like the swift rolling of many stones. I heard my Man say as they
all got down from the horses to empty the water out of their long
boots, 'If I ever clap peeps on to that Coyo again, I'll shove grub
pile into him till he busts. Strike me dead if he hasn't saved the
whole outfit of us.'

"Anyway I knew there would be much feeding and no harm if I kept close
to these evil Men-kind, for they were great givers.

"I sought to save the one man, and if there be any credit it comes to
me because of that; the others followed him, and even they said he
had saved them."

"I think it is a true tale," declared Mooswa, "for I once had a
happening in saving the life of a Boy who had been good to me."

"What happened to the Men's place, Dog-Wolf?" queried Sa'-zada.

"In the morning there was nothing--nothing but great pieces of ice all
over the flat. Then the Men trailed for a place called Slideout, where
were more evil men of the firewater way of life, and I followed,
arranging it so that my Man saw me, and that day when he killed an
Antelope, he left a sweet piece of the eating for me; and I might have
lived all my life close to their camp in great fatness, but for the
evil chance that drew the Men-kind close to a place called MacLeod. And
it was there, being pursued by ferocious yellow-haired Dogs, I hid in a
Hen-house and was caught. At first they were for killing me, but there
happened a Man-Pup of that house who cried for me as his Doggie, and
later came one of the Men-kind, gave blankets in exchange for me, and I
was sent here to the place where is Sa'-zada."

"He is either a great liar, or not so bad as is written in The Book,"
commented Sher Abi, the Crocodile; "but in my land where was his
Brother, the Jackal, I never heard good of his kind."

"I am sure it is a true tale," declared Sa'-zada; "Coyote could not
have made it up."





Next: The Story Of Raj Bagh The King Tiger

Previous: The Story Of Hathi Ganesh The White-eared Elephant



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