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The Story Of Raj Bagh The King Tiger






Source: The Sa'-zada Tales

While the Keeper Sa'-zada was still loitering over his tea, there came
to his ears an imperious roaring call "Wah-h-h! Wah-h-h! Wah-houh!"

"This is the Tiger's night, indeed," he muttered to himself. "Old Raj
Bagh is eager to tell us the tale of his life." Then he hurried down to
their cages and corrals saying, "Come, comrades; the King of the Jungle
calls us."

"We shall have strong tales of blood-letting to-night," muttered Magh
the Orang-Outang.

"King of the Jungle, indeed!" sneered Hathi, the Elephant. "When I was
Lord of the jungle I knew no king--that is, amongst the animals."

"Now," began Sa'-zada, opening The Book, when the Jungle Dwellers had
all gathered in front of Bagh, the killer's cage; "now we shall know
all about Huzoor Stripes. And mind you, Hathi, and all the rest, there
must be no anger, for Bagh's way of life has not been of his own
making; for with his kind it is their nature to kill that which they
eat."

"I was born in Chittagong," began Bagh, "and well I remember the little
Nullah in which my Mother kept me, a big tea garden spread over three
hills just near our hiding place, and there was always much good
eating.

"For months after I was born my Mother made me hide in the Nullah.
That was always in the evening. And as for hiding, how anyone can get
along without stripes in his coat I can't understand. Let me hide in a
grass field where the sun throws sharp shadows up and down across
everything and I'll give my ration of meat for the week to anyone who
can see me three lengths of my tail away."

"Where was your Mother all this time?" queried Magh, tauntingly.

"To be sure," answered Bagh, "she would be away for hours making the
kill, and when she came back would lick my face, and teach me the sweet
smell of new meat and hot blood. Then the next evening, just as it was
getting dark, she would take me with her to the kill, which was usually
a Cow, and which she had very cunningly hidden in elephant grass, or a
bamboo clump, or some little Nullah. There would be still half of it
left. I grew big and strong, and longed to make a kill on my own
account.

"But that year a terrible thing happened to the Buffaloes and Cows upon
which we depended for food. They were all down in the Flat Lands,
which is close by the sea, and one day when the jungle was much torn by
strong, fierce winds, a great water came over the land, and ate up all
the Cattle, and many of the Men-kind. Then, indeed, we fairly starved,
for the few that were left were kept close to the bamboo houses of the
villagers. Night after night, even in the day-time, my Mother and I
sought for the chances of a kill, for I had grown big at that time, and
she took me with her. We were really starving; perhaps a small Chital
(deer), or a Dog, or something came our way once in a while, but the
pain in my stomach was so great that I moaned, and moaned, and I
believe it was because of me that my Mother became a Man-killer."

"Horrible!" exclaimed Mooswa. "Became a killer of the Men-kind?
Dreadful!"

"I, too, have killed Men," asserted Raj Bagh; "and why is it so evil,
my big-nosed eater-of-grass? Your food is the leaves of the jungle, and
you have it with you always. When you are hungry you walk, walk, and
soon you come to where there is much food, and you eat, and with you
that is all right--there is no evil in it. As Sa'-zada has said, it is
our way of life to kill our eating. When there is no Chital we kill
Sambhur; when there are no Deer we kill Pigs, or even Buffalo; when
there is nothing but Man, and we are changed from our usual way of kill
by great hunger, we slay Man. With all Dwellers of the Jungle, there
is fear of the Men-kind, that is all, nothing but fear; and when once
that is broken we kill the Men-kind even as any other Jungle Dweller."

"Little Brother," began Sa'-zada, "it is spoken amongst my Kind, that a
Man-killer is always an old, broken-toothed Tiger, full-manged, and of
evil ways; and that once having tasted human flesh he becomes a killer
of nothing else."

"Ha-hauk!" laughed Bagh, "those be silly Jungle tales. Am I
broken-toothed, or full of a mange, or is Raj Bagh? All a lie, Little
Master, all a lie. It is but a chance of the Jungle that makes a
Man-killer, even as I will tell, and the taste of the flesh is not more
than the taste of meat.

"Yes," he continued, "I was with my Mother that day, the first day of
the Man-kill, and in my stomach was a great pain like the biting of Red
Ants. It was near the coming of night, and we crept down into the tea
garden where there were many of the coolie kind working amongst the
bushes. I think my Mother was looking for a stray dog, or perhaps a
small Bullock; but the coolies seeing us cried aloud in their fright,
'Bagh hai!' and ran. I think it was this that made my Mother charge
suddenly amongst them, for if they had stood and looked at us I'm sure
we should have turned and gone away; but in the charge a Man fell.
Baghni seized him by the neck, threw him on her back, and we both
galloped into the jungle. After that, whenever we were hungry we went
back to the tea garden in just the same way.

"But one day a coolie saw us first and ran to his master's bungalow
crying with much fear. Neither of us thought anything of that, for it
was as they had done before; so we went on down in the little Nullah
between the hills, looking sharply for others of the Black Workers.
Suddenly I heard a noise as of something approaching.

"'Keep still, O Baghela,' said Baghni, 'here cometh one of the
Men-kind, and I will make a kill.'

"As we waited, presently there was no sound. 'The kill has gone away,'
I whispered to Baghni, but she struck me hard with her tail, almost
knocking some of my teeth out; that was to keep still. There was not
even any scent of the Men-kind in the wind now; most surely he had gone
away, I thought. What a silly old Baghni my Mother must be.

"I heard a soft whistle behind me, 'Sp-e-e-t!' just like that, much as
you've heard Hawk in his cage call. When I looked around there was one
of the White-face, even the Sahib of the tea garden. I knew him, for I
had seen him once before. In his hand he held what I have since learned
was a thunder-stick. I looked in his eyes for perhaps three lashes of
my tail, but I could see there nothing of the Man-fear Hathi has told
us of. Such eyes I have never seen in any animal's head; not yellow
like those of my kind, nor red and black like Hathi's, nor even dull
brown like Korite the killer's; just of a quiet color like a tiny bit
of the sky coming between the leaves of the forest.

"What was he waiting for, I thought. Baghni had not heard him, for she
did not turn her head. Then he made the call like Hawk's again, and
Baghni turned her head even as I had, and looked full at him, but he
did not run away.

"Now feeling something lifted from me, because his eyes were on Baghni,
I think, I looked again sideways from the corner of my eye. Baghni had
set her ears tight back, and drawn her lip up in a cross snarl, so that
her teeth, almost the length of Boar's tusks, said as plain as could
be, 'Now I will crush your back.' But still in his eyes that were like
bits of sky was not the Man-fear; if I had seen it there most surely I
had charged straight at his throat, for I was angry, and still, I
think, filled with much fear.

"Then Baghni turned around, crouched with her head low, looking
straight at him. As she did so, the Sahib raised his thunder-stick,
there was an awful noise from it, I heard Baghni scream 'Gur-houk!' and
she had charged. I, too, followed her, thinking she had got this Man
who was our kill; but just beyond in the Nullah, even the length of
Bainsa's corral from here, I saw her on her side tearing up the tea
bushes with her great paws. I stopped for the length of two breaths,
but I could see that there was something very wrong--she was going to
sleep. Then the greatest fear that I have ever known came over me, and
I galloped fast into the jungle to where was my hiding-place."


WRONG ..."]

"They had killed your Mother, had they, Bagh?" asked Mooswa.

"I think so, for I never saw her again. I was afraid to go back where
the men labored, and, as I had said, there were no Bullocks, and I
nearly starved to death."

"But how did they catch you?" queried Magh.

"It was all because of my hunger. When I was not stronger than a jungle
Bakri (sheep), not having eaten for days and days, I heard one night a
Pariah Dog howling in the jungle. It took me hours to know that there
was no danger near this crying one of the Dog-kind. I went round and
round in circles that I had made smaller each time, and drew the wind
from all sides into my nose to see if there was the Man scent. There
was nothing but the Pariah, and by some means he had got into a hole.
Of course, afterwards I knew it was the evil work of this Sahib who had
killed Baghni. Such a hole the Pariah was in, it was as long as these
two cages, and though wide at the bottom, it was small at the top, even
like the cover of Magh's house yonder. I crawled in and caught the Dog
in my strong jaws. Sweet flesh! how he howled when he knew I was
coming.

"Then with a crash something fell behind me, and closed the hole so I
could not get out, and at once I heard them shouting."

"Where had they come from so soon?" queried Magh.

"They were up in the jungle trees," answered Bagh.

"I think it is a fine lie," grunted Boar. "Do you mean to say, Bagh,
that you could not see them in the trees?"

"You have little knowledge of my kind, Piggy. Know you not that when
going through the jungle we never look up?"

"I do," interrupted Raj Bagh, "but I learned the trick. Brother Bagh is
right, though; I suppose it comes from always looking for our kill on
the ground, and I have heard that this is why the Hunters so often kill
us from Machans (shooting rest in a tree). We never see them until we
are struck."

"The Men were all about the hole," continued Bagh, "and it was he of
the white face that cried, 'Don't kill him, don't stick him with the
spears! He is only a Baghela, and we will take him alive for Sa'-zada.'

"They dug little holes from the top, and bound me with strong ropes; it
was so narrow I couldn't turn round, you see. Then I was sent here to
Sa'-zada. Though he is good to me, still I wish I was back in my old
jungle."

"Ah-h-houk! Great Brothers," roared Raj Bagh. "My mate has told you of
Chittagong and his tea gardens, but the middle jungles in India is the
place for a Tiger to rule; and for years I was Lord of the Sumna
Forests, and the terror of the Gonds, the little black-faced Men who
are wondrous Shikaris. Close grass. Waw-hough! but it was beautiful
there. The many red faces of the chewal tree smiled at me, and the
purple ears of the sal tree listened to my roar till its great branches
trembled in fear. Close hid in the Khagar grass I would lie and sleep
all through the long hot day, and the little Gonds, even the big,
white-faced Men, might pass the length of this cage from me, and not
know that I was there. But I would know. Talking, talking always they
would go, and if they were up wind, my nose would find them many jumps
away.

"I was born there, and Baghni, my Mother, and Sher Bagh, my Sire,
taught me all that a Tiger should know of the ways of the Men-kind. But
in the end both of them came to their death through the evil ways of
these seekers for our lives. Wah, wah, wah-hough! I am a Man-killer.
And why not?"

"You should be ashamed to say so," cried Magh, petulantly, "and before
Sa'-zada, too."

"Wah! I was a Man-killer," repeated Raj Bagh, "a killer of many Men,
but it was not my fault. When I was a cub my Sire was Lord of the Sumna
Jungles; and close to our lair was a jhil to which all animals of
those parts came to drink when they were hot, and the hills blazed red
with the evil fire of the little Gonds. Chetal, and Nilgai, and
Sambhur, and the Ribbed-Faced Deer that coughed like a Wild Dog; even
Chinkara, the little Gazelle that is but a mouthful for one of my
needs--all came there when the forest grew dark; and always when we
were hungry, which was often, more came than went away. It was ever the
same with Sher Bagh, who was my Sire, and Baghni, always the same way
in a kill with them. In those days I watched it often, for I, being a
Bagheela, took no part except in the eating. Chita walks not softer in
his cage than Sher Bagh would step through the jungle when he was
stalking a kill; and then at the end with a rush it was all over.

"But one year it became so hot--why, the rocks burned our pads as we
walked; so hot that our jhil dried up, and none of the Jungle
Dwellers came to drink. It was hot, so hot, and never a drop of the
sweet water falling. The fire crept down from the hills and ate up the
small part of the jungle and the grass, and I think the Jungle Dwellers
went to other parts. At any rate, as Brother Bagh has said, we were
sore distressed for a kill. Of course, we could go and drink where the
other Dwellers dared not, close to the villages of the little Gonds. I
remember, being but a Baghela and having little wisdom, saying to
Baghni, 'Why do we not kill Goru (cattle) and Bainsa, who are here in
the hands of the Men-kind?' But Sher Bagh, who had lived into much
wisdom, growled, and striking me hard with his paw, said, 'Little one,
that way comes the full hate of the Men-kind, and we who fear not the
Dwellers in the Jungle, fear Man.'

"But still we became more hungry, and Baghni, whose milk was my only
food, grew unwise and said, 'Let us kill the Goru.' But Sher Bagh
growled at her, and said again, 'That way comes the hate of the
Men-kind. Now when these little men who are Gonds pass near to me in
the jungle, they salaam and say, "Peace be with you, Sher Bagh, Huzoor
Bagh"; and they go in peace, and the fear that is on me when I look in
their eyes passes away.'

"For many nights after that we wandered far through the jungle, I with
Baghni, and Sher Bagh by himself in another part. And in the days that
were so hot, as I slept, great times of blood drinking and sweet
meat-eating came to my mind--but when I woke there was nothing--nothing
but hunger pains in my stomach. It was also this way with Baghni and
Sher Bagh. Many times Baghni said, 'Let us kill the Goru, for of what
use is the good will of the Men-kind if we die?'

"At last Sher Bagh also became unwise, and said, 'We will kill the
Goru, for Baghela and you, Baghni, are starving. When the Goru feed in
a herd to-morrow, even in the time of light--which, of course, was the
day--together we will creep close in the much-thorned korinda, and
kill a Cow; for if we kill one in a herd there will be less trouble,
and perhaps it will not be missed of the Men-kind.' Wah! I shall never
forget the sweet eating of that Goru. And the drink of blood!
Che-hough! it was as though I had been athirst since my birth.

"Sher Bagh dragged the Goru to a jungle of Kakra trees, and we ate it
all. But the next day the Horned Ones did not feed in that place, and
as we were walking in the close of the daytime Sher Bagh heard the
thin-voiced cry of a Gond cart coming over the road; it was like the
song of the Koel bird; it was made by the wheels, I think. 'There will
be Goru to the cart,' said Sher Bagh. 'Yes, two of them,' answered
Baghni, 'but also one of the Men-kind, a little Gond.' 'Even now I am
hungry,' declared Sher Bagh; 'when I roar in front of the Goru the
little Gond will pass quickly into a sal tree, and then we can eat of
his Bullocks.'

"It was as my Sire had said, and we made a kill, and carried them far
from the roadside, and had the sweetest eating for two nights. All our
strength was coming back to us, and Baghni, purring softly, for she was
pleased, said to her Lord, 'Did I not say "drink the blood of the
Goru," when we were starving, and are they not easy of kill?' But Sher
Bagh, looking up in the trees, for it was as we came to the kill for
our second night's eating, answered, 'We must be careful, for upon us
will surely fall the full hate of these little Gonds; and they claim a
kill for a kill, blood for blood; it is their manner of life when they
deal with others of the Men-kind.'

"I knew that fear of the little Gonds had come strong upon my Sire when
he looked up to the sal trees, for, as I have said, it is not of our
habit to look up; we fear nothing of the jungle that hides in trees.
The Peacocks, and Monkeys, and Crows, even Panther--what are they?
Nothing to claim the time of my kind. Said Sher Bagh to Baghni, 'The
Goru that go in carts are easy for the kill.' 'And there are always two
of them,' answered she.

"This new manner of life by practice became easy to us; we would hide
in the khagar grass or the jowri, which is a nut grass of the Men,
beside the road at the day's end, and always we would know of the
cart's coming by its voice, that was like Koel bird's, or the miaou of
a Peacock. We made many a kill of this kind. And it was this way that I
became first of all a Man-killer, even my first kill was of the
Men-kind, just an evil chance. It was Baghni who said to Sher Bagh,
'Baghela must know the method of a kill. We have now not much hunger,
so let him make the next kill of the Goru, and if he misses, it will
not matter, for we are well fed.'

"I shall never forget that night as I crouched by the road beside
Baghni, waiting for the little Gond with his Goru. I was trembling like
the tall grass shivers at the top when one passes through it. 'Keep
still,' whispered Baghni; 'a little noise makes a hard kill, and much
noise is no kill at all.' If it had been a Sambhur or a Nilgai we
should have had no supper, for the grass whispered under me as I shook
it with my trembling. Then down the road in the early dark came the
cart with its snarling voice. Just as the Goru were opposite, Baghni
struck me with her tail and cried, 'Ah-h-houk!' which means to charge.
As I sprang, being but a Baghela, and my first kill, I was slow, and
the Goru jumped, causing me to miss sadly. But I landed full on the
cart, and by an evil chance the little Gond was under my paws. Mind,
Comrades, with me it was but a kill, and I could not see his eyes, and
without intent on my part his shoulder was in my jaws, and in less time
than I can tell it I had him in the jungle. It was my first kill, and I
was wild--but I don't want to talk about it. I wish he had beaten me
off, even struck me with the thunder-stick, for, after all, what was
the kill? not bigger than a Chetal, and it brought the full hate of the
Men-kind to us, and Sher Bagh and Baghni were slain."

"By the little Gonds?" asked Hathi.

"The Gonds and the Sahibs," answered Tiger. "Even your people, Hathi,
took part in the kill of my Sire and Baghni. But it was our old enemy,
hunger, that caused it all. For three nights we waited by the roadside
and no carts passed. It is true one passed; a lodhi cartman, with the
wisdom of Cobra, put Pig's fat on the wheels of his cart, and there
was no noise until he was right upon us, even had passed, for the stalk
had not properly started, you see. 'Never mind,' said Baghni, 'the
little Men of a slow wit, the Gonds, will come this way with their
Goru, many of them'; but they didn't. And save for two old Langurs
(monkeys) that cursed from a pipal tree as we went back to our
Nullah, we saw no Dweller of the Jungle, nor of the fields. 'The hate
of the little Gonds is coming to us,' growled Bagh. 'And I am so
hungry,' moaned Baghni. 'Baghela should not have killed any of the
Men-kind,' declared my Sire.

"The Men go to their rest at night, even the little Gonds, knowing that
the Jungle Dwellers will not come in great numbers to the fields
because of our guard. And it was but an evil chance, too, that I made a
kill of the Gond. But when we were most hungered, after many days, one
night, not far from our Nullah, was a Bullock tied to a tree.
'Waw-houk!' exclaimed Baghni, calling her Lord to the find;
'Che-waugh!' said she, 'here is a Bail of the Men-kind; make the kill.'

"'It is of their hate,' growled Sher Bagh, 'the Bullocks do not come of
their own way here to the jungle--we must be careful.'

"Half the night was gone before we had stalked all sides of the Goru,
but there was nothing--not even up in the sal leaves. That was what
Baghni said, for with her sharp eyes she saw Hookus (big green
pigeon), resting on a branch, which meant that there was nothing to
frighten him. When Sher Bagh had made the kill, he dragged it far away
from our Nullah. That was most wise, Comrades; it was so that the
Men-kind should not find our home.

"When our hunger was gone Baghni said, 'We will eat again when the
sun's light passes once more.' 'No,' growled my Sire, 'we will not come
back to the kill, for the hate of the little Gonds will be here when
they see that we have eaten of the Goru.'

"That was wise also. To make sure, and to teach me, a Baghela, Sher
Bagh took us down wind from the drag next night, and the scent of the
Men-kind came strong in our faces. 'Our enemies are there,' declared
Bagh.

"Being a Baghela I thought this fine play, and by the cunning of my
Sire we killed what we found tied in the Jungle, but never went back to
the drag. Even once in the dark, as we hunted, hearing the grunt of a
Goru, and going up wind to it, Sher Bagh knew that the Hunters were
waiting in the sal and pipal trees over the bait, so we went back to
the Nullah and rested on lean stomachs."

"Your Sire was too clever for them," commented Magh, as Tiger ceased
speaking for an instant.

"Perhaps it was clever," answered Raj Bagh. "But in two days more
something came to us that no Jungle Dweller can withstand: a full beat
of the Jungles.

"Being but a Baghela," sighed Raj Bagh, "I did not know what it was
when the beat commenced; I thought that the forest winds were in an
evil temper, but Sher Bagh cried to Baghni, 'Quick! we must go far, for
now comes the hate of the white-faced kind, for the beat is their way
of a kill.' We lay quiet in our Nullah, thinking they might pass.
'Tap, tap, tap!' I heard on one side, much like the klonk, klonk! of
Mis-gar (coppersmith bird). 'What is that?' I asked my Sire.

"'The sal trees cry because they are stricken by the Beaters,' he
answered. 'Tum, tum, tum-m!' I heard from the other side of the
Nullah. 'Is it the belling of a Nilgai?' I asked. 'The little Gonds
who are of this beat call with their drums,' answered Sher Bagh. 'All
the jungle is falling,' I cried. 'It is the coming of Hathi,' answered
my Sire, 'for it is a beat of many Hathi. Come, Baghela, come, Baghni,'
he called, and we stole like frightened Chinkara through the sal and
pipal jungle.

"'To the Baghni-wali nulla!' (tigress valley) cried Sher Bagh to us as
we followed. But as we sought to enter this place of many caves a
Beater smote at us with the thunder-stick from a tree, but that was
only to frighten us away, for Bagh whispered, 'The Beaters are not to
make the kill.'

"'Here will be little spoor for them to follow,' growled Sher Bagh as
we ran. Soon we thought we had lost those who sought our lives. As we
rested for a little while in some thick, wild plum bushes they came all
about us. There were many Hathi, and on three of the Hathi were little
caves----"

"Haudas," corrected Elephant. "That is the way the Men-kind ride on my
back when we are in the beat."

"And the Men had thunder-sticks with which they smote Sher Bagh and
Baghni. 'Waw, waw-houk!' roared my Sire when he was
struck--'Che-waugh!' he cried to me, 'flee, Baghela, while I charge.'
With a rush he sprang on a big Hathi's nose, and I think he got even to
the hauda, for the Hathi turned and ran, screaming with pain; and I,
seeing this, broke from my cover and charged back through the Beaters
who were on foot. Just in my path I saw one of the Beaters striking two
sticks together. Being cross because of my hot pads, and what they had
done to Sher Bagh, I seized this one, and took him with me.

"After that, I lived alone, and because the Jungle Dwellers had fled
from those parts, and because of the wrong we had from these Gonds, I
became a Man-killer, eating that which was put in my reach."

"How did they catch you?" questioned Wolf.



"Because I sought to change my way of life," answered Bagh, "and
leaving the Man-kill I made to satisfy my hunger with a Goat. I heard
the Goat cry at night-time," continued Bagh, "and after a careful
stalk, finding nothing of the presence of Man, I sprang on Bakri the
Goat----"

"And the Goat captured you," cried Magh, gleefully.

"Together we fell into a deep hole that had been dug by the evil little
Gonds. Though I ate the Bakri I could not get out again, and in the
morning the Men were all about me, both white and black. How the little
Men reviled me! But it seemed the Sahibs wanted to take me alive, so
they dug another hole close to the one in which I was, put a big wooden
cage with a door to it down, and then with long spears broke through
the walls between the cage and the hole I was in. Of course, I was glad
enough to go any place; besides, they threw down on me their dreadful
fire. I sprang in the cage and the door dropped behind me. Then many of
the Men-kind pulled the cage out with ropes, and I was sent here to
Sa'-zada."





Next: The Story Of The Tribe Of King Cobra

Previous: The Stories Of Gidar The Jackal And Coyote The Prairie Wolf



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