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The Stories Of White Yellow And Black Leopard






Source: The Sa'-zada Tales

Through the listless leaves of the oaks and elms the moon was spraying
silver over the hot earth when Sa'-zada, throwing down bars and
unlocking gates, passed the words to his friends to gather at Leopard's
cage.

As he slipped the chain from Hathi's foot, and it fell with a soft
clink on the hay bed, he said, "Ganesh, you of the one tusk, keep thou
the Jungle Dwellers in order, for if one may judge from the manners of
one's own kind, who are men, this weather is a breeder of evil
tempers."

"Umph, umph!" grunted Hathi complacently. "I who have seen fifty such
times of discomfort think little of it. Surely the Sahib-kind, who are
also long dwellers, can remember that there comes another season of
cool. But, as you say, Master, perhaps it were well if I take into my
trunk a cooler of water for such as may fret themselves into a fever."

Even as Hathi spoke an angry roar shook the building they were in.

"Hear that, Patient One," cried Sa'-zada; "Pardus, the Black Panther,
who is at best a mighty cross chap, is in an evil way."

The cry of Black Panther, which was like the falling of many cataracts,
was causing the dead night air to tremble. "Hough-hough; a-hough!
Huzo-or, Wah-hough!"

"There, make haste, Little One!" said the Keeper to Elephant. "The
sight of our friends who are gathering at his cage, has put Pardus in a
temper, I fear."

In front of the Leopard's house all the outside animals of the Park had
assembled: Arna, the India Buffalo; Sher Abi, the Crocodile; Gidar, the
Jackal, and many others; even Magh, the Ourang-Outang, was there with a
Fox Terrier who lived in her cage.

"Friends," began Sa'-zada, "if we are all to live here together in this
Park, it were well that we know of each other's ways."

"That's a good idea," declared Sher Abi; "for in my time I have known
little of the habits of other animals. A dog, for instance, will come
down to the water to drink----"

"I know," interrupted Gidar; "and not having the wisdom of a Jungle
Dweller like me, he will come to drink and stop to sup with one of your
kind. Is that not so, Sher Abi?"

"Perhaps, perhaps," sighed the Magar; "and at home the Pups, having
lost a parent, fall into the clutches of Gidar the Jackal."

"I like this meeting," broke in Magh; "a gathering of thieves, and
cannibals, and murderers--Eaters of Dogs----"

"And Apes," came like a soft summer sigh from the bellows-mouth of the
Crocodile.

"Friends," interrupted the Keeper, "do not fall to quarreling. Let us
decide who is to tell the first tale. As we are at Leopard's cage,
perhaps he should have the first chance."

"I'm agreed," declared Magh; "murder stories are always interesting."

"I am sure everybody would be glad to hear of your killing, Magh,"
sneered Pardus.

"Well," continued Sa'-zada, "here are three Leopards: Pard, the Black
Leopard; Rufous, the Yellow Leopard, and White Leopard. We'll have
their stories for this evening."

"I'm no Leopard," objected Pardus, ceasing his restless walk for a
minute. Then he took three turns up and down in front of the bars, his
big velvet feet sounding "spufh, spufh," on the hard polished floor.
"No," he continued, stopping in front of Sa'-zada, sitting down, and
letting his big round head sink between his shoulders, until he looked
up from under heavy brows with yellow-green eyes, "no, I'm a Panther.
That is the way with the men of my land; to them we are all 'Chita,'
or else 'Bagh,' which surely means a Tiger."

"I know," answered Sa'-zada, "you are neither Bagh the Tiger, nor Chita
the Leopard."

"I should say not," answered Pardus. "Chita is long of leg and slim of
gut--a chaser of Rabbits, and of the build of an Afghan Hound. With one
crunch of my jaws--Waugh! Why, I could break his neck."

"What's the difference, anyway," objected Magh, "whether you are a
Leopard or Panther--you all belong to the family of Throat Cutters? But
what bothers me is that one is black, one is yellow, and one is white;
now, in my family, we are all of one shade."

"A very dirty color, too," sneered Pardus. "Waugh-hough! no color at
all--just dirt!"

"That is so that murderers like you cannot see me to eat me," answered
Magh. "If I am on the ground, am I not the color of the ground? And
when I am curled up on the limb of a tree am I not like a knot on the
tree trunk? That is to keep me safe from you and Python."

"That may be so," answered Pardus, "but I, who hunt in the early night,
find this black coat the very thing. Soft Paws! I have come so close to
a Bullock, working up wind, of course, that one spring completed the
Kill."

"Umph, umph!" grunted Hathi, with eager interest. "All that appears
reasonable; but, tell me, Brothers, why is Yellow Leopard so bright in
his spots? And if your black coat serves you so well, how does the
other, who is white, manage?"

"I speak only of myself," joined in Rufous, the Yellow Leopard. "True,
I also hunt at night at times, but it's slow work; perhaps a long night
watch by a water pool, and then only the kill of a Chinkara--a
mouthful, and in the time of scarce food, why, one must stalk when the
Grass-feeders are within range of one's eye. Who is there amongst you
all, even Soor (Wild Boar), with his sharp Pig eyes, that can say, when
I am crouched amongst the bushes with the sun making bright spots all
over the jungle, 'There is Yellow Leopard, who is a slayer.' Not only
is it good for the Kill, this coat of mine, but when the hunt is on
from the other side, when I seek to keep clear of the Men-kind--by my
caution! more than once, when it has been that way, have I slipped
quietly through the young jungle, and left the Beaters running up
against each other, asking which way went Bagh. I am no night prowler
like Pardus, for often have I killed in the open."

"I know nothing of all this matter," declared White Leopard; "but had I
been black like Pardus, or black-spotted like Rufous, I had died of a
lean stomach in the white mountains from which I come. Why, there, on
the hillside, every rock gleams white in the sunlight--not spotted,
mind you, for there is no jungle such as Rufous speaks of; even the
sand-hills are so white with the hot light that a mate of mine has been
almost at my side before I knew it."

"White Leopard is from the Safed Kho Mountains, the White Range, in
Afghanistan," said Sa'-zada for the information of the others.

"I know," declared Unt the Camel; "I've been there--just the loveliest
hot sandy hills and plains in the whole world. But, tell me, Little
Brother of the Blood-kind," he bubbled, "it is not always sunlight
there--at times the white storm comes--high up in the range--what do
you do then?"

"My coat gets whiter still," answered Leopard; "and if I close my eyes
and stalk by scent alone, why, you would never see me till I was at
your throat."

"It's either a lie or most curious truth," grunted Magh, biting the Fox
Terrier's ear till he squealed. "Here is a Pup that is white all the
time, and no lies about it, either."

"Oh, it's the truth," asserted Wapoos, the Hare; "in the winter time I,
also, turn white to save my throat from Lynx or Marten; though it is
not of my own doing, to be sure."

"It's Wie-sak-ke-chack, who is God of all Animals, who arranges it this
way," said Mooswa, solemnly.

"Well," interrupted Sa'-zada, "one of you Leopards tell us of the
manner of your coming here."

"As I have said," began White Leopard, "I was born in the Safed
Mountains, and it was a year of much hunger----"

"The very year I was born," declared Magh; "there hardly seemed more
than three nuts or berries in the world."

"Come up here, Chatterbox," grunted Hathi, winding his trunk around
Magh's body, and lifting her to his massive head.

"Let me hold the Pup," whined Sher Abi, spreading his shark mouth in a
disinterested yawn. Hathi blew a handful of small stones which he had
been picking up, into the opening, causing Sher Abi to sputter and
choke. When the laughter had subsided, White Leopard proceeded with his
story.

"As I have said, it was a year of much hunger, because the Affrides
made war, and the Sahibs came, and it seemed as though everything that
had life in it was driven out of the country. They ate up the Goats and
Sheep, and the Bullocks and Camels they took to carry their loads. It
was indeed a time of distressed stomachs; and, to make matters worse,
my Father, who was a killer of Bullocks and not a Goat eater, dropped
the matter of a thousand feet over a cliff and was killed. Then my
mother came with me, and I was still a Cub, down to the land of the
Marris, where there were many Sheep--the short-legged kind with the
broad fat tails; small they were, to be sure, and hardly of the bulk of
even a Cub's desire. The very sweetness of their flesh made one wish
that they had grown larger. Hunger pains! but it was a long tramp on a
lean stomach, and in the end we fell among Men thieves--those of the
White-kind, the Sahibs."

"Birds of a feather on one limb," sneered Magh, tickling Hathi on the
ear with her sharp finger.

"And in that land, though there were many Sheep, it was hard to make a
kill. Why, the Herd Men, Pathans they were called, which I think means
the greatest of all thieves, were as wary as Jungle Dwellers. At the
first try my Mother got a blow in the shoulder from one of their evil,
long-necked Firesticks."

"Ha, ha!" laughed Sa'-zada; "that long gun was a jezail, and the
Pathans are good marksmen, too. I could tell a story myself of their
shooting; but go on, Chita, it's your say."

"As for making a kill at night, Waugh! we had near starved watching for
a chance; these Hillmen huddled their Sheep and Goats into caves like
children, and slept across the opening.

"And do you know, Friends, they lived so close with their Sheep, that I
swear by my mustache they were of the same smell. Fine as my scent is,
one night I had crept close to what my nose told me was a Sheep, and
was just on the point of taking it by the neck when it got up on its
hind legs and roared at me with the man cry.

"We were like to die of hunger when Jaruk the Hyena came sneaking and
laughing, and talked of a blood compact to Rani, who was my Mother. We
were so hungry! but it was all to our undoing; for the grinning sneak
was a coward, and led us into an evil trap. He told us of three Sahibs,
a short journey from where we had our hunt; and these Sahibs were like
Cubs in their little knowledge of jungle ways, having Sheep and Goats
which they tied to stakes close by the white caves in which they lived,
and never a guard over them at night. Waugh! well I remember, hungry as
I was, how the smell of Hyena fair turned my stomach, so that I had
little longing for eating of any kind; but Rani, being older and having
more wisdom, knew that unless we soon found some method for making a
kill we should surely die.

"That night there was a small moon as we crept down over the valley and
up to a flat-land where the Men-kind lived in little white caves--such
odd caves, too, in one place to-day and in another the next."

"He means tents," explained Sa'-zada; "being a Cave Dweller himself,
his knowledge of houses is limited."

"It's a wonder he didn't call them trees," muttered Magh.

"Hyena stole along like a shadow of nothing, so smooth and soft were
his feet--a proper sneak, I must say I thought him even then, Cub as I
was."

"Are you listening, Jaruk?" called Magh, maliciously; "this was a
Brother of yours who was in partnership with Chita."

But Hyena only grinned a frothy laugh, and slunk over behind Sher Abi.

"Well," proceeded White Leopard, "we crept along, our bellies close to
earth, till we came to a little ledge, where Rani and I waited, while
Jaruk stole up to the white caves to see how the stalk was.

"'They sleep like the young of Owls in daytime,' he whispered when he
returned; 'even I, who am a creature of fear, and not like you, Rani, a
slayer of Bullocks, have rubbed my lean jaws against two fat Goats that
are chewing the sweet cud of plenty.'"

"How your mouth must have watered, White Shirt," sneered Magh.

"Then Rani commenced the stalk, and I, even a Cub, though I had always
lain hidden while she was making the kill before, followed close at her
heels. Even now I remember just how Rani made the kill. First one paw,
and then the other, she stretched out, and pulled herself along, with
never so much as the rattle of a single stone. The Goats were like the
Sahibs in the caves, safe in the conceit which comes of a full stomach.
When Rani crouched lower than ever and braced her hind paws carefully,
I knew that the charge was on. Waugh, waugh-houk! By the neck she had
one--for that is the way of our kind always--and with a jerk he was
thrown on her shoulder, and away up the hill she raced. I tried for
the other, but, being new to the kill, missed, getting only the rope in
my teeth. Even as I chased after Rani I could not help but laugh in
spite of my miss, for Hyena was screaming as he ran, 'Did you get the
fat one, the very fat one?'"

"The Greedy Pig," commented Magh.

"Ugh, ugh, ugh!" grunted Soor. "Why should he be likened to one of my
kind? More like he had a paunch full of peanuts, or other filth, such
as you carry, Miss Bleary-eye; or if he were greedy, was he not like
unto his mate, Chita, who will eat half his own weight at a single
kill?"

"Such a row I never heard in all my life," continued White Leopard;
"the Sahibs, and the black men who serve them, ran here and there with
blinking red eyes in their hands----"

"The Man Fire," quietly commented Mooswa.

"And all at once, over to one side, there was a short growl from a
Firestick; and a Sahib called loudly, 'I've got him! I've got him!'

"I wondered what it could be, for Rani and I were together with the
Goat. I almost hoped it was Jaruk; but he was close at our heels,
sniffing with his hungry nose, and fairly eating the sand where some of
the Goat's blood had trickled into it. Then all the blinking red eyes
passed swiftly to where the Sahib was, and we heard them laughing--only
louder than Hyena laughs.

"Next day Jaruk discovered that the Sahib had killed the other Goat
with his Firestick in the dark, thinking it was Rani.

"Of course, one Goat did not keep the hunger off very long; but for
three days we did not make another kill. Not but that we tried. Each
night we went close to the white caves, and Jaruk--I must say he had a
nose like a Vulture's eye--came back with a tale that the Sahibs were
watching with their Firesticks. But the next night we got another Goat.
Cunning Animals! but Jaruk used to laugh, and even coaxed Rani to make
a kill of one of the Men-kind.

"Then one night we crept as before, close for a kill, and Jaruk came
back to us laughing as though there wasn't a Sahib in all the Marri
country. Rani growled at him for a fool. Waugh-houk! did he mean to
have us all killed with his noise? And who was to do the killing, Jaruk
asked mockingly, for the white caves were empty, he said. The Sahibs,
and even the black-faced kind, had all gone away, and left the Goats
and Sheep for the pleasure of our kill.

"'It's a Raji (war), I'm sure,' he said; 'and they have gone out
amongst the Pathans to kill and be killed, and while they are at it we,
who are possessed of a great hunger, will make a kill of the Goats and
Sheep.'

"At this we went more boldly than before; but it was only a trap. These
of the Men-kind whom we had likened to young Owls, were up on the hill
behind a stone sangar; and just as we came to the Goats in the bright
moonlight there was such a crashing of Firesticks, and appearing of
what Mooswa calls the Man Fire, that I hope I may never see it again.
Rani was killed, as also was--which was not so bad--Jaruk the Hyena. I
had a paw broken, which to this day makes me go lame.

"Then the Men-kind rushed down, and the black-faced ones were for
killing me also; but one of the Sahibs, speaking, said: 'This is a Cub.
We will send him to Sa'-zada.'"

White Leopard ceased speaking, and Sa'-zada, putting his hand in
between the bars, patted his paw, and said: "Poor old Chita! it may not
be so nice here as in your own land, but we'll see that you do not go
hungry, anyway. Now, Rufous, my big Yellow Leopard, you should also
have an interesting account of yourself to give."

"Quite likely," exclaimed Magh; "we'll hear some more rare boasting,
I'll warrant."

"A true tale is no boast," said Mooswa, solemnly. "I, who have had
strange adventures, think it no harm to talk them over."

"Oh, you'll have a chance, Fat Nose!" retorted Magh; "but first let us
have a good, hearty lie from Leopard."

"There will be no lies," declared Sa'-zada, "for I have all these
matters in The Book--though they are not half so interestingly written,
I must say, as you can tell them yourselves, if you are so minded."

"Phrut!" muttered Hathi through his big trunk. "We'll have the lies as
spice--that will be when Magh's turn comes."

Thus appealed to, Yellow Leopard commenced: "I came from a jungle
land--Burma."

"My home," muttered Hathi, longingly.

"It may have been the year White Chita speaks of, for I remember I was
also wondrous hungry----"

"You always are," sneered Magh.

"Because I have not a paunch that holds a thief's load, whether it be
fish, fruit or filth," retorted Rufous. "But, as I was saying when this
Goat-faced Ape interrupted me, I was hungry, and, walking through the
thick jungle, discovered a Bullock--young, of great fatness. By a rare
chance it seemed caught in a branch of the elephant creeper----"

"Elephant what?" muttered Hathi. "Not of our kind. We have naught to do
with the killing of any young."

Sa'-zada explained: "Yellow Leopard means the giant jungle vine called
'elephant creeper,' which runs for perhaps the length of a mile, and is
so strong that it pulls down great trees and smothers them in its
grasp."

"Oh, jungle wood," cried Hathi, much relieved, "that's an elephant of
another color."

"I shikarried the small Bullock most carefully," continued Rufous.
"Round and round I went, taking the wind from every quarter; there was
the scent of nothing but the white jasmine, and the yellow-hearted
champac. When he saw me the Bullock-young became stupid with much fear;
the two of us stood facing each other. He pulled back tight on the
thing that held him, watching me with eyes that seemed as big as the
black spots on my ears. I crept closer, and closer, and closer; for
that is always the way with my kind; whether the prey be small or
great, we kill after the same manner always. Brothers, know you aught
of fear? We of the Blood-kind know it well. The Bullock's legs shivered
like leaves that tremble in the wind; and he asked me with his big eyes
to go away and not take him by the throat for his blood. How did he
know that, Brothers--how did he know that I was not coming like one of
his own kind to help him in his trouble? And the fear that I speak of
was in his eyes.

"With a roar, Waugh-hough! I charged full at him; my strong jaws
fastened on his throat, and, with a quick turn upwards, I threw him on
his back, and his neck was broken. Ghu-r-r-r-h! Whur-r-r-h! his young
blood was sweet as it trickled into my jaws, for I was so hungry. Not
that I drank his blood--that is a lie of the Men-kind who know little
of our ways."

"They're all alike," chattered Magh; "they murder, and it is all right
because they are hungry."

"Yes," retorted Yellow Leopard, "if I alone made a kill perhaps that
would be wrong; but we are all alike--it is our way of life. You are an
evil-looking, flea-covered, pot-bellied Monkey, but your kind are all
alike, so that is also your excuse."

Hathi shoved the tip of his trunk in his mouth, pretending to pick his
teeth, but really to smother the laughter that fairly shook his huge
sides.

"By a find of much eating!" ejaculated Gidar. "How I wish I had been
with you, Killer of Cattle. A whole Bullock! Eating of the choicest
kind for three days at least. Often for the length of that time have I
searched through a famine-stricken village in my native land, and in
the end achieved nothing, in the matter of food, but a pot of hot rice
water thrown on my back by a Boberchie (cook)--an opium-eating stealer
of his Master's goods."

"Would that you had been in my place," sneered Yellow Leopard, "for
even as I was going away with my kill----"

"Squee-squee-squee!" interrupted Magh with a sneering laugh. "Even I,
who am a Tree Dweller of little knowledge, knew that a tale from this
Cut-throat would soon run into a lie of great strength. May I kiss the
Tiger if I believe that Chita carried away a young Bullock."


KIND."]

"You are wrong, Magh," reproved Sa'-zada; "in my hunting days have I
seen even Bhainsa, the tame Buffalo, who is like unto a small Elephant,
carried a full half-mile by Bagh."

"Yes," asserted Yellow Leopard, "had the kill been an Ape like unto
Magh, I had bolted it at one mouthful lest the sight of it made me ill.
As I was saying, I took the young Bullock in my mouth, but at the first
step my forepaw was lifted by something of great strength. I was
surprised, for I had seen nothing--nothing but the kill. The thing that
had me by the paw was of a fiendish kind. Jungle-wisdom! but I was at a
loss. Dropping my prey I tried first this way and then that to break
away, but it gave with me every time, and when I was tired lifted me to
my hind legs, for the pull was always upward."

"Was it a Naht?" queried Hathi. "One of the Burmese jungle Spirits that
live in the Leppan Tree?"

"You were snared," declared Sa'-zada; "I know, I've seen it. A strong
green bamboo bent down, the snare fastened to it, and once over your
paw--no wonder you were on your hind legs most of the time like a
dancing Dervish."

"Why did you not bite it off?" queried Wolf.

"Neither would you," answered Leopard; "though I tried. The evil-minded
Men seemed to know just what I would do, and had put a big loose bamboo
over the cord. It was always down against my paw, and simply whirled
about from my teeth."

"Why didn't you trumpet?" asked Elephant.

"I haven't a bugle nose like you, Brother; but I roared till the jungle
shook in fear--even at the risk of bringing about me the Jungle Dogs,
who hunt in packs, as you all know."

"Whee-ugh!" whined Boar; "Baola, the mad kind. Nothing can stand
against them. When they drive, the jungle is swept clean. Better to die
in peace than make a noise and be torn to pieces by their ugly fangs."

"And who came?" queried Magh. "I suppose you were like the Bullock, and
your eyes grew big with the fear, and you begged them to go away and
not hurt you. It was all right when you were to make the kill
yourself--it was fine sport. Bah! I'm glad you were snared--I hate a
taker of life."

"The Men-kind came," answered Leopard meekly, for the mention of his
fear made him abashed; "and seeing that I was caught, a Sahib would not
let the Black-Men kill me, but set them to make a strong Bamboo cage. I
was put in that and sent here to Sa'-zada."

"I've been thinking," began Mooswa, plaintively.

"Well, now!" exclaimed Magh; "I thought you were asleep, Old Heavy-eye.
If you think with your nose, your thoughts must have been of great
importance."

Mooswa sniffed solemnly and continued: "You said you were hungry,
Yellow Leopard. Was it not a land of much good feeding?"

"It was a bad year--a year of starvation," answered Chita. "Up to that
time the way of my life had been smooth, for I had found the manner of
an easy kill. To be sure, Soor is not the pick of all good food----"

"'Soor,' indeed!" grunted Wild Boar. "Ugh, ugh, ugh! by the length of
my tusks you would have found me tough eating."

"You see," continued Chita, paying no attention to this interruption,
"the wild Pigs were horrid thieves----"

"You were well mated," mumbled Magh, stuffing a handful of peanut
shells in Hathi's ear.

"They used to go at night to the rice fields of the poor natives, and
chew and chew, and grunt, and row amongst themselves, until the
Men-kind were nearly ruined because of their greediness."

"But they did not eat the natives," objected Boar.

"Neither did I," protested Chita--"while the Pigs lasted," he muttered
to himself. "Knowing of all this, I made out a new kill-plan. At the
first beginning of dark time I would go quietly down to the rice
fields, hide myself in the straw that was near to the place where the
Men-kind tramped the grain from its stalk with Buffalo, and wait for
the coming of the rice thieves. Soon one dark shadow would slip from
the jungle, then another, and another, until they were many.

"'Chop, chop, chop!' I'd hear their wet mouths going in the rice; and
all the time growling and whining amongst themselves because of the
labor it was, and for fear that one had better chance than another; not
in peace, but with many rows, striking sideways at each other with
their coarse, ugly heads."

"You're a beauty!" commented Wild Boar. "When you shove your ugly face
up to the bars the women-kind scream, and jump back--I've noticed
that."

"Presently," continued Chita, "one would come my way, seeing the great
pile of straw, and I'd have him. Jungle Dwellers! how he'd squeal; and
his mates would scurry away jinking and bounding like Kakur Deer.
Cowardly swine they were. Now, Buffalo, when one of my kind charged
them, would throw themselves together like men of the war-kind, and
stand shoulder to shoulder."

"Yes; but, great Cat," objected Boar, "you took care to seize upon a
young one, I warrant. Suppose you come out here and try a charge with
me. Ugh, ugh! I'll soon slit up your lean sides with my sharp tusks."

"Be still!" commanded Sa'-zada; "here we are all friends, and this is
but a tale of what has been."

Chita had turned in a rage at Boar's taunt, and glared through the
bars, his great fangs bared, and tail lashing his sides. When the
Keeper spoke he snarled in disdain at the bristling Pig, and continued
the story.

"Then came the hungry year. At the turning of the monsoons there should
have been rain, but no rain came. All through the cold weather the
jungle had gone on drying up, and the grass turned brown, even to the
color of my coat. The Tree-Crickets and Toads whistled shrill and loud,
until the jungle was like a great nest of the sweet-feeders--the Bees.
Then when it was time for rain there was only more dryness.

"The yellow-clothed Phoongyis (Priests) prayed; and the Men-kind
brought sweetmeats and sheet-gold to their God Buddha; but still there
was no rain. Miles and miles I traveled for a drink; and if I made a
kill at the pool it was nothing but skin and bones. The small Deer that
bark, what were they? Not a mouthful. And the Pigs shriveled up until
one might as well have eaten straw. The Nilgai and the Sambhur-deer, as
big as you, Mooswa, went away from that land of desolation, and soon
nothing seemed to stir in all the jungle but the Koel Bird; and his cry
of 'fee-e-ever!' forever ringing in my ears drove me full mad.

"Then it was that I stalked close to the place of the Men-kind--though
I had never killed a Bullock before--and I made a kill. But after that
they took the Bullocks under their houses at night, thinking I would
not venture so close.

"But hunger is the death of all fear, and even there I made a kill.
Then again the Men-kind, in their selfishness, thought to outwit me,
for about the small village they built a stockade."

"Were there no guns?" queried Hathi. "I, who have been in a big hunt
with the Men-kind, have had them on my back with the fierce-striking
guns, and all that was in the jungle presently fell dead."

Chita laughed disagreeably.

"I almost forgot about that. One day, when they were still at the
stockade making, I saw one of these Yellow-faced Men tying two sticks
together and sticking them in the ground, somewhat after the fashion of
Mooswa's hind legs. Then surely it was a gun he put in the crotch of
the sticks, pointing at the little runway I had made for myself.

"I went into the elephant-grass that grew thereabout, and watching him
took thought of this thing. 'It is to do me harm,' I said, 'for is not
that my road? Always now I will come a little to one side, because of
this new thing.'

"And in the evening, as I came to the village, walking through the same
coarse grass, but to one side, mind you, there saw I two of these Men
sitting behind this thing that was surely a gun.

"Only, because of thee, Sa'-zada, perhaps this part were better not in
the story."

"If it is a true tale it is a true tale," quoth Hathi, sententiously;
"and, as the good Sa'-zada has said, of things that have happened."

"Oh, tell it all," commented the Keeper.

"Only say first you were hungry," sneered Magh; "hunger covers many
sins."

"Yes; I was hungry," moaned Chita; "chee-wough! so hungry. The Bullock
I had killed was but a collection of bones tied up in a thick skin; I
broke a good tooth trying to get a supper off him. And were not the
Men-kind trying to do evil for me also, little nut-eater, Magh? They
would take my skin to the Sahib and get much profit in bounty. I heard
them say that as I lay in the thick grass. I crept close, close----"

"Behind them," volunteered Wolf, "I know. You didn't look in their
eyes, Brother, did you?"

"They were busy talking," declared Chita, "and did not look my way.
Suddenly I sprang out just to frighten them, for they were close to the
stockade, and one ran away."

"Only one?" demanded Mooswa, simply.

But Chita had gone over to the corner of his cage, and sitting down,
was swinging his big head back and forth, back and forth, with his face
turned to the wall, like a Dog that has been whipped.

"He has caught Sa'-zada's eye," whispered Magh in Hathi's ear.

"It's a nasty tale," said the Keeper, "but I think it is true."

"Yes; it is true," declared Wild Boar; "that is the way of his kind."

"Then," said Sa'-zada, "they got this Sahib who has written in The
Book, and set the snare for Chita and caught him."

"At any rate, you were caught," muttered Hathi; "and from what you say,
it seems to me a change for the better."

"Now, Pardus," cried the Keeper, gently tapping Panther's tail, which
hung through between the bars, "tell us of the manner of your taking."

"I was caught twice," replied Pardus, blinking his eyes lazily, and
yawning until the great teeth shone white against his black coat; "but
you are right to call me Panther, for I am no Leopard. And it is so hot
here and dry; quite like the place they took me to--they of the black
faces--when I was first caught, being not more than a full-grown Cub,
as was White Leopard. That was at Vizianagram, up in the hills; but the
hills were not like White Leopard's, all hot and dry. The jungle was
cool and fresh, and full of dark places to hide in, with deep pools of
sweet water that one might drink after a kill. Here the Birds do
nothing but scream and scold; Hornbill, and Cockatoo, and Eagle make my
head ache with their harsh voices; there, if a Bird had occasion to
speak, it was a song about the sweet land he lived in. It is well
enough for Hathi to say that being trapped and brought here is a piece
of great luck; for my part, all day long I do nothing but think, think
of the Madras Hills. There were mango and tamarind, and peepul, and
huge banyan trees, with strong limbs stretching so far that one could
walk out full over the Deer paths, and wait in sweet content for a
kill. Perhaps even a big family of bamboos growing up about one's
resting-place, and whispering when the wind blew, and closing up their
thick green leaves to make shade when the sun shone.

"Even where the Men-kind came and sought to grow raji were plantain
trees and palm trees--Urgh-h-ah! why should there be anything but
jungle all over the world, it is so beautiful?"

"Don't cry about it, Little Bagheela," sneered Magh, "for surely
there's some sort of a story, some wondrous lie, in that head of
yours."

"True," continued Pardus, as though he had not caught Magh's
observation, "there were disagreeable things even there. Of course, it
will always be that way when the Bandar-log, the Monkeys, are about.
Silly-headed thieves, they were doing no manner of good to any one; but
more than once, when I've lain for hours waiting for the chance of a
small kill, and the time of the eating had drawn near, everything would
be upset by the mad laugh of Lungour, the Bandar-log.

"But I was caught, as Leopard has said, through the coming together of
a lean stomach and a trap of the Men-kind--neither a snare, nor the
Fire-stick, but a cage with a door that fell. True, inside was a Goat,
but what mattered that once the door was down?

"Then they brought me down to the Raja's palace in the Plains.
Stricken land! that was a place for any one to choose as a
home--nothing but red earth, with less growth than there is on the end
of my nose. The Men-kind lived in great square caves that blared white
in the sun. Me-thinks White Leopard would have felt more at home there
than I did."

"What did those of our kind eat?" queried Hathi. "Also, where the
Men-kind are is the Animal they call Horse, who is a Grass-eater--was
there no grass?"

"Scarce any," answered Pardus; "the Black-faced ones ran here and there
with sharp claws, taking up the poor grass by the root, and all for the
Raja's stables."

"What did they do with you, Bagheela?" asked Magh, anxious to hear the
story, for she was getting sleepy.

"Put me in a cage in the rose garden, where were others of my
kind--only they were of the color of Yellow Leopard. Of course, at
first I thought it was because the Raja was not hungry, and would eat
me another day; but in the next cage was a Leopard who had been there a
long time, and he told me why we were shut up that way. 'It's for
shikar,' he said. 'Soon all the Sahibs will gather, and we will be
turned loose, and they will kill us with spears and the firestick.'"

"That's right," commented Sa'-zada, nodding his head, "I've seen it;
also is it written in The Book. The Raja was a great sportsman, and
each year at Christmas time they had a hunt of this kind."

"My Mate taught me a trick or two that helped pass the time," continued
Black Panther. "'Bagheela,' he said to me, 'they will come to us here
on Horses; you who have the end cage may perchance keep your hand in,
and forget not the manner of a quick clutch with your paw. First, purr
and look sleepy,' he advised; 'second, never strike when the Horse is
beyond reach, for he is a creature of much fear; third, wait, wait,
wait--have patience, Little Bagheela. Also, from in front nothing is
done; but stand you ready at the end of your cage, which is a wall,
because there they cannot see you, and if the Man comes close, strike
quick and sure, for of this manner there is never but one chance.'

"Now, it happened that a fat Sahib came often to the cage, and I could
see that it was to teach the Horses not to be afraid of us. It was hard
to mind what my Mate said, for the Sahib poked me in the ribs with a
stick, or tickled me in the face with his riding-whip; but Yellow
Leopard was always whispering through his whiskers, 'Wait, wait,
wait--have patience, Little Bagheela.'"

"This is a long tale," whined Magh, sleepily.

"Keep still, Little One," objected Hathi, "no great stalk is ever done
in a hurry."

"One day," continued Pardus, "I heard the Horse coming by the end of my
cage.

"'Quick! Up!' called my Mate, Yellow Leopard.

"Like a spring on a Buck I was up on my hind legs against the end wall,
just at the last iron bar, ready. Around the corner came the Sahib
quite close. It was a new Horse, and he thought to take pleasure out of
frightening the poor Animal by a sudden sight of us.

"Waugh-houk! With a strong reach I had the Sahib by the leg.

"Whoo-whoo, waugh-waugh, whoo-o-o-o-waugh! how he roared. Of course, I
did not get him altogether, for the Horse saved his life by jumping
sideways. I licked the blood that was on my claws, and Yellow Leopard
and I both laughed till the Keeper came running with a sharp iron bar."

"I warrant you didn't laugh then," chimed in Magh.

"No; he beat me, though it was all Yellow Leopard's fault. The fat
Sahib swore that he would have the first spear in when I was let out at
the time of the hunt. He was for having me killed in the cage; but the
Raja said, 'No; his turn will come in the Shikar'; and when the Raja
spoke there was an end of all argument.

"'Little Bagheela,' said Yellow Leopard to me, 'we will get away to the
jungles together at the hunt time. If they let you out first--never
fear, Little One, you will have a start, for that is the Raja's way,
we are to have a show for our lives, though I warrant one cannot get
very far in five minutes--do you run very fast, and when you have come
to the small mud-caves of the Black-kind, hide in the place where the
Bullocks are kept. They will not look for you there, and not finding
you they will come back, thinking you have gone to the jungles. When I
am let out, I, too, will go that way, and together nothing will stand
between us and the hills. Should I go first I will wait for you.'

"Then one day a cage that was on wheels was put against the door behind
which I was kept, and with bars that were hot they drove me into it.
Then I was taken out to the fields, and when the Sahibs--there were
many of them--had gone back on the road, the door was opened. Would you
believe it, Friends, though I had been eating my heart out behind the
bars yonder, now that I had the chance, I was almost afraid to venture
on the plain. Even as I crept forth, a yellow-leafed bush suddenly bent
in the wind, and I sprang into the air as though it were the charge of
a Wild Boar----"

"Listen to that, Friends," grunted Soor; "of all Jungle Dwellers, he
has most fear of me."

"But remembering what Yellow Leopard had said, I ran swiftly toward the
little village that was between me and the hills; but not straight in
the open, mind you--I had not lived by the kill in the jungle for
nothing. First I leaped full over a long line of the fierce-pointed
aloe bush----"

"Phrut! I know that plant," muttered Hathi; "it has points sharper than
the goad of any Mahout. Sore toes! but I know it well."

"Even so," continued Pardus, "I ran swiftly along in the shadow of
this, and soon found a Bullock cave such as Yellow Leopard spoke of. In
the end the Men-kind could not find me, for I lay still, though once I
heard the voice of the fat Sahib quite close, swearing that he longed
for a sight of the 'black brute.' That was not my name, for I am Pardus
the Panther.

"After a little I heard more shouting; then there was a rustling noise
which I knew was the gallop of Yellow Leopard. He was calling as he
ran, 'Ehow-Ehow-Hough, Bagheela!' just as we call to our Mates in the
jungle.

"'A-Houk! here am I,' I cried, rushing out, thinking that we would soon
be safe in the cool jungle again. And away we dashed. By the loss of a
Kill! we had not gone far till almost in front of us we saw the fat
Sahib and three others on their Horses full in our path.

"'Oh-ho, my Black Beauty!' he cried, when he saw me; 'now we'll wipe
out the score.'"

"That's like the Men-kind," growled Raj Bagh, the Tiger; "they cage us
and kill us, and if we so much as raise a claw in defence of our lives
we are reviled, and they have a score against us to wipe out."



"Yes," asserted Pardus, "and long holding in their hate, too. If we
fail in a kill, do we go long hungered, turning from everything else
until we have slain the one that has escaped us? But there was the fat
Sahib, who had not gone back with the others, but was still searching
to kill me, Black Panther. Surely that was not what they call shikar
(sport), but a matter of hate he had laid up against me."

"You should have taken his beatings," declared Hathi, "even as I have,
more times than there are tusks to your paws; phrut, phrut! it has
always been that way with us Jungle Dwellers. When the Sahib beat us it
is evil fortune if we do not let it rest at that. True, there was a
Mahout once that went too far--but what am I saying? surely I am half
asleep. It is your story, Bagheela--you were saying that the fat Sahib
had killed you--I mean----"

"Yes," said Pardus, "the fat Sahib--I stopped; so did Yellow Leopard,
with an angry growl. Then behind I heard a little trumpet from Hathi."

"Not me," exclaimed the big Elephant; "I wasn't there."

"Most surely it is a wondrous lie," declared Magh; "and now he asks
Ganesh to say he was there and saw it."

"No, no!" interrupted Sa'-zada, "it was another Elephant."

"Even so," affirmed Pardus; "and on his back was the Raja, coming in
great haste.

"'Charge!' roared Yellow Leopard to me, and with a rush that was full
of wickedness he went straight for the fat Sahib; and before I knew how
it was done, had broken his neck with the hold that we all know so
well.

"The Raja, without waiting for Hathi to kneel, jumped from his back,
and rushing like the charge of a Sambhur, drove his spear through
Yellow Leopard as he still held the Sahib by the throat, and killed
him. Well I remember the spear was buried head deep in the ground.

"In fear, I raced back to the mud-caves in which were the Bullocks; and
they brought the cage again and put it to the door. But I was afraid to
enter till they dropped fire on me from above. Then I was taken back to
my old quarters, and in the end sent here to Sa'-zada."

"It's a pity the Sahib was killed," said the Keeper; "it was a horrible
death."

"I was sorry for Yellow Leopard," declared Pardus, "for he tried to get
me away with him to the jungles."

"Chee-chee! but I am sleepy," yawned Magh, sliding down Hathi's trunk
with the Pup under her arm. "These tales of killings are enough to make
one have bad dreams."

"Dreams!" exclaimed Sher Abi, opening his eyes, for he had been sound
asleep; "to be sure, to be sure! I've had a very bad dream. One should
not eat so much; but after all, I suppose it is the feathers that are
indigestible. E-ugh-h! Sa'-zada, could you not pluck the chickens
before you give them me to eat? There was a time when I could
digest----"

"Oh, move along, Magar!" interrupted Sa'-zada; "it is bed-time now.
You'll have a chance to talk some other night."

And presently the Animal town of the Greater City was quiet, save for
the bubble of Camel's long throat, and the gentle snore of Hathi's
pendulous nose. The moon blinked curiously through the whispering
leaves, and over all there was the solemn hush that comes in the night
when the days are days of fierce heat.





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

Previous: A Zulu Version Of The Legend Of The Origin Of Death



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