The Story Of Sa'-zada Zoo Keeper
Source: The Sa'-zada Tales
It was the twelfth night of the Sa'-zada stories. For eleven evenings
Tiger, and Leopard, and the others had told of their manner of life,
with more or less relevancy. This night Sa'-zada, the little Master,
was to speak of his jungle and forest experience.
Magh, the Orang, was filled with a joyous anticipation. Perched as
usual on Hathi's broad forehead, she gave expression to little squeaks
Once even she stuck out her long, elastic under-lip and broke into the
little jungle song she always had resource to when pleasantly excited:
"Co-oo-oo-oo-oo! Co-wough, wough-oo!" with a rising inflection that
made the listener's ears tingle. She even danced a modest can-can on
Hathi's patient old head.
The Keeper came briskly up the walk, and patting Hathi's trunk
affectionately as it was held out to him, sat on the grass with his
back against Mooswa's side.
"Well, Comrades," he commenced, "before I came to a state of
friendship with the Jungle Dwellers, I was like a great many others of
my kind, and thought the only pleasure to be got from animals was in
"It is the beginning of a true talk," commented Pardus.
"And, so, in that time I hunted a great deal," continued Sa'-zada.
"When I first went to Burma to live, my bungalow was just on the edge
of the Jungle, and some of the Dwellers were always forcing their
presence upon me--either Snakes, or Jackals, or Jaruk the Hyena, or the
Bandar-Log; and one night even a Rogue Elephant----"
"Hum-p-p-ph! he should have been prodded with a sharp tusk," commented
"A Rogue Elephant," continued Sa'-zada, "came down and played
basket-ball with my garden and bamboo cook-house. Gidar the Jackal,
with a dozen companions, used to gut my kitchen, and then sit out in
the moonlight and howl at me in derision."
"We sing at night because we can't help it, and not because of ill will
to the Men-kind," corrected Gidar.
"Well, one night, as the Jackals were in the middle of a heavy chorus,
they suddenly ceased; a silence as of death came over everything; it
seemed as though all life had gone miles away from that part of the
country. Then came a hoarse call which shook my little bungalow----"
"I know," interrupted Gidar, "when we stop singing and move away
silently it is to make room for Bagh the Killer. We object to being
seen in the company of a murderer like that."
"Yes, it was Tiger," asserted Sa'-zada, "and two Sahibs, who were my
companions, and, like myself, new to the country, determined to get
"So next evening we took a Goat and tied it just inside the Jungle,
each one of us lying down on the ground at a short distance from our
bait. But the Goat commenced to browse quietly and refused to bleat. I
tried jumping him up and down by the tail and back of his neck, and
he'd bleat just as long as I'd pump. At last I tied him up so that he
stood on his hind legs, and he called then with full vigor. For the
matter of an hour we lay thus, when presently, behind me, I heard the
stealthy step of some huge Jungle Dweller coming for the Goat.
"It was the most deliberate animal I had ever waited for; it seemed
hours that those carefully planted feet had been heading towards the
back of my head. I could see nothing, for I was facing the other way,
and I dared not turn over for fear of frightening the approaching Tiger
away. This is a true tale, Comrades, and I did not like overmuch the
idea of Bagh or Pardus, whichever it might be, pouncing upon me from
"And they would do it," declared Gidar, "for there is a saying in
their tribe that 'a kill from behind is a kill of skill.'"
"Were you afraid, little Master?" asked Hathi.
"I didn't like it," answered Sa'-zada, evasively.
"I've lain close hid in the Elephant Grass," said Bagh, "when a mighty
drive of the Sahibs was on; and perhaps you felt that time, O Sa'-zada,
even as I did."
"I, too, have heard the Pigstickers galloping, galloping all about a
little nulla where I have sought for safety and the chance of my
life," added Wild Boar, "and it's dreadful. If all the Sahibs could
have known that feeling, even as you did, O Sa'-zada, perhaps they
would hunt us less."
"Perhaps," answered the Keeper; "but I could hear the great animal
creeping, oh, so carefully, step by step, hardly a twig shifting under
his cautious feet--only a little soft rustle of the leaves as they
whispered to the sleepy night air that something of evil was afoot. It
got on my nerves, I must say, for I knew that I had not one chance in a
thousand if Bagh were to spring upon me from behind. A fair fight I did
not mind. I dared not even whisper to my companions, for they were a
short distance from me, lest I should frighten the quarry away. When
the soft-moving feet were within five yards of my head they became
silent, and I felt that the great animal, Bagh or Pardus, or some
other Killer, was crouched ready for a spring.
"One minute, two minutes, an hour--perhaps half the night I seemed
waiting for something to happen. The suspense was dreadful. One of my
comrades had heard the footsteps, too, for I could see his rifle gleam
in the moonlight as he held it ready to fire at sight of the animal.
The strain was so trying that I almost wished Bagh would charge.
"But at last my nerves got the better of me and I turned over on my
face, bringing my Express up to receive the visitor. The noise startled
him, and with a hoarse bark he was off into the Jungle. It was only
little ribbed-faced Barking Deer, who had come out of curiosity to see
what the Goat was making a row about."
Hathi gave a great sigh of relief, for the Little Master's story of
thrilling danger had worked him up to a pitch of excited interest.
"I remember a little tale of a happening," said Arna the Buffalo. "We
were a herd of at least twenty, lying in a bit of nice, soft muddy
land, for it was a wondrous hot day, I remember, when suddenly right
through the midst of us walked a Sahib, and with him was one of the
Black Men-kind. By his manner I knew that he had not seen us, being
half-buried as we were in the jhil. Just beyond where we rested was a
plain of the dry grass Eating, and to that our enemies the Men passed.
Comrades, the method of our doing you know, when there is danger. If
it is far away, and we see it, we go quickly from its presence, as is
right for all Jungle Dwellers; but should it come suddenly close upon
us we fight with a strength that even Bagh dreads.
"As I have said, seeing the Sahib so close, our Leader sprang up and
snorted in anger. Now Bagh, when he is in an evil temper, roars loudly;
but we, being people of little voice, trusting more to our horns than
to noise, only call 'Eng-ugh!' before we charge. So, when our Leader
called twice, we rushed out into the field where was this Sahib. I
remember well, the Black man ran with great speed across the Plain, but
the Sahib faced us. In his eyes there was a look such as I have seen in
the eyes of another Bull when I have challenged him, and it was a
question whether we should fight or not.
"But fear came not to this Man," added Arna, decidedly, "for as we
raced down upon him, he smote at us with his Firestick, and taking the
cover that was on his head----"
"His helmet," suggested Sa'-zada.
"The cover in his hand," proceeded Arna, "charged full at us, calling
us evil names in a loud voice. I know not which of us turned in his
gallop, but certain it is that the herd passed on either side of the
Man and he was not hurt."
"But did you not turn and trample him?" asked Boar.
"No," answered Arna; "when we charge we charge, and there's an end of
"That is also our way," concurred Bagh, "except, perhaps, when we are
struck by the Firestick, then sometimes we turn and charge back."
"By-the-memory-of-honey!" said Muskwa the Bear, "I should like to hear
a tale from Sa'-zada of my people."
"Well," declared the Keeper, "there was a happening in connection with
Muskwa's cousin, Grizzly, that makes me tremble--I mean, calls up
rather unpleasant memories to this day."
"I'm glad of that--Whuf! glad we're to have the story," corrected
"It was in the Rocky Mountains," began Sa'-zada, "in the South Kootenay
Pass. I was after Big Horn, the Mountain Sheep, with two Comrades, and
a guide called Eagle Child, when we saw a big Grizzly coming down the
side of a mountain called the Camel's Back.
"Now, Eagle Child was a man very eager to do big things, so, almost
without asking my consent, he laid out the whole plan of campaign. On
the side of the Camel's Back Mountain grew a spruce forest, and through
this snow avalanches had ploughed roadways, from top to bottom, looking
like the streets of a city. Eagle Child called to me as he forded the
mountain stream on his Horse that he would go up one of these snow
roads and get the Grizzly, or turn him down another one for me.
"Now, Comrades, Muskwa here is a man of peace, loving his honey and his
Ants, but Grizzly is one to interview with great caution, and my
Comrade, Eagle Child, being a man of unwise haste, you will understand,
Comrades, that I expected strange happening when he started to
interfere with Grizzly's evening plans, for it was toward the end of
"It is not wise to meddle with one of a short temper," declared Hathi.
"I am not one of a short temper," objected Grizzly. "I seek a quarrel
with no one; but, perhaps, if this man, who was Sa'-zada's comrade,
sought to make a kill of one of our kind, there may have been trouble.
If I am of a great strength why is that--is it so that I may be killed
easily? Have I not strong claws just as Bagh has his teeth, and Boar
his tusks, and Python his strength of squeeze?--even also have I
somewhat of a squeeze myself. And shall I not use these things that I
have, as do the other Forest Dwellers when their desire is to live? I
am not like Elk that can gallop fast--flee from a slayer. And so, if I,
being strong, fight for my life, it is temper, eh? Wough! I am as I am.
But go on, Little Master--tell us of this happening."
"As I was saying," recommenced Sa'-zada, "when Eagle Child in his
great eagerness started after that Bear, I had an idea there would be
fun, and there was--though I must say that I followed up to give him
"There was no harm in that," said Grizzly, magnanimously. "Comrades of
the same kind must help each other."
"That Eagle Child had ridden up to meet the Grizzly was in itself a
fair promise for excitement, but also his Cayuse was one of the
jerkiest brutes ever ridden by anybody. He had a great dislike for
"Quite right, too," bubbled Unt the Camel; "I remember a Cavalry Man on
my back once----"
Sa'-zada interrupted Camel, and continued: "A dig from the spurs and
the Cayuse would refuse to budge; but, of course, the rider knew that.
"Eagle Child thought that the Bear was working down in a certain
direction, but, as you know, Comrades, Muskwa is a fellow of many
notions, turning and twisting and changing his course beyond all
"Yes, we are like that," assented Muskwa. "It is our manner of life. We
find our food in small parts, and in many places--berries here, and
Ants there, and perhaps Honey on the other side. We are not like Bagh,
who goes straight for his Kill, for we must keep a sharp lookout or we
shall find nothing."
"Well, Grizzly evidently turned, for, while my Guide was looking for
him in one direction, he bounced out not ten yards from the Cayuse from
a totally different quarter. This rather startled Eagle Child; and,
though he should have known better, he dug the silly spurs into his
erratic tempered Horse, with the result that the latter balked--bucked
up like a stubborn mule.
"This looked as though he meant to stop and fight it out--the Grizzly
evidently thought so, for he gave a snort of rage and tore down the
mountain full at his enemy. I dared not shoot for fear of striking my
comrade; but one bullet wouldn't have mattered, anyway; it wouldn't
have stopped the charging Grizzly. Luckily for Eagle Child, his Horse
reared just as the Bear arrived, and though he was sent flying,
Muskwa's cousin did not succeed in clawing him, his time being taken up
in making little pieces of the Horse. Eagle Child arrived at the foot
of the mountain very rapidly, for all this had happened at the top of a
long shale cut bank, and he did not look for smooth paths, but just
came away without regard to the means of transport."
"And is that all of the tale?" inquired Magh, with a rather
disappointed air, for she had hoped to hear of Muskwa's getting the
worst of the encounter.
"Not by any means," answered Sa'-zada; "that was but the beginning. My
comrade being out of the way," he continued, "I fired at Grizzly."
"To kill him?" exclaimed Mooswa, reproachfully.
"That was before I was comrade to the Jungle Dwellers," apologized the
Keeper--"before I knew they were more interesting alive than dead. And
I fear I struck him, too," he added, "for when he had finished knocking
the Horse to pieces we saw him go up the side of the Camel's Back
limping as though a leg had been broken."
"That was a shame," declared Mooswa.
"It would have been a great shame, an outrage," asserted Bagh, "if I,
or Pardus, or even Hathi had broken the leg of a Man; we would have
been hunted by a drove of twenty Elephants, and many of the Men-kind."
"But," objected Magh, "as Sa'-zada has said, that was before he had
proper wisdom, so we bear him no malice. Even Muskwa does not, do you,
old Shaggy Sides?"
"No, I did not know the law of life then," said the Keeper; "and Eagle
Child and myself followed after poor old wounded Grizzly and in our
hearts was a desire for his life. Eagle Child was cross because I had
laughed at him when he came down all covered with mud, also he had lost
a Horse. He swore that he would kill that Bear if it took a week."
"I know," commented Hathi, swinging his trunk sideways and lifting
Jaruk off his feet with a blow in the ribs as if by accident. "I hate
the smell of that Jungle Scavenger," he confided to Magh in a whisper.
"I know," he continued aloud, "I've heard the Sahibs swear often, over
a less matter than the killing of a Horse, too."
"We thought that Grizzly was badly wounded and couldn't go far, and
that we should soon come within range of him up amongst the rocks."
"Of course, he went up, having a broken leg," declared Pardus; "that's
the way with all Forest Dwellers--one pitches going down on three
"But it was getting late, so we hurried fast. I had tied my Horse to a
tree, for the climb was steep. Up, up, up we went; sometimes catching
sight of Grizzly, sometimes seeing a drop of blood----"
"Dreadful," whimpered Mooswa. "Why should Men be so eager to see the
blood of Forest Dwellers who have not harmed them?"
"Sometimes we saw blood on the rocks," proceeded Sa'-zada, "and
sometimes we followed Grizzly's trail by the mark of a stone upturned
where his strong claws had been planted. Once I got another shot at
him, and struck him, too, but, as Greybeard here might tell you, a
Grizzly is like Arna, he can carry off the matter of twenty bullets
unless they happen upon his heart or brain."
"That is even so," concurred Grizzly. "Whuff! I have at least a dozen
in my own body. The Men seek to improve our tempers after that manner."
"It was getting late," resumed Sa'-zada, "but still we continued
upward, the Bear holding on with great strength. It was October, and in
the hollows of the upper ranges snow was lying like a white apron in a
nurse's lap. 'He went this way,' said the guide to me, pointing to a
narrow ledge of rock around the side of a cliff, with a drop from it of
a thousand feet.
"Now, Eagle Child was a Stony Indian, and they are like Mountain Sheep
in their ability to climb. We had to work our way down carefully to
this ledge, helping each other lest we fall, and even when it was
reached the yawn of the valley a thousand feet below caused me to
tremble. So, cautiously we worked along this narrow path, and, as we
rounded the point, to our great fear we saw that we could go no
farther--a dead wall stood two hundred feet high in front of us.
Slowly, cautiously, we turned our bodies, and went back; and then we
saw what we had overlooked in our eagerness for poor old Grizzly's
life--we could not get up the way we had come down--we were trapped."
"It's a dreadful feeling," declared Pardus, "to be caught in a
Trap--though there were no Men enemies about you, Sa'-zada, to make it
"Or to be shut up in a Keddah," muttered Hathi--"it's awful. To be
taken out of one's nice pleasant jungle and led into a Keddah trap with
those of the Men-kind trumpeting and calling, and even those of our own
tribe, Elephant, taking part against us."
"Was that what made you friend to the Jungle Dwellers, Sa'-zada?" asked
"At the time," answered the Keeper, "I thought only of the dreadful fix
we were in. Below, a thousand feet or more, the sharp tops of the
spruce and cedar stood like spears----"
"I've felt a spear in my shoulder, ugh, ugh! it drives one fair mad
with fear and pain," grunted Boar.
"Under our feet was a narrow ledge of rock not the width of Hathi's
back; behind us, and on either side of us, the cliffs ran up hundreds
of feet. On the upper peak of the Camel's Back a snowstorm was shutting
out the last grey light of day--the darkness of night was fast coming
on. I could see nothing for it but to stand perfectly straight with our
backs to the rock wall all through the bitter night and talk to each
other to keep sleep away. The next day our comrades might find us, and
let down a rope to help us up."
"You could also think in the night of how we feel, O Little Brother,
when we are hunted," declared Pardus. "Even perhaps Grizzly with his
broken leg had to lie on some rock, afraid to travel in the night lest
"Yes, it was a good time to think of the troubles of Jungle Dwellers,"
"I thought of many things," said the Keeper, softly; "and but for Eagle
Child I fear I should have fallen a dozen times; I felt his hand on my
arm more than once pressing me against the wall. But at last morning
came. I never felt so cold in my life, for, you see, we dared not move
about. But it was noon before I saw my two comrades riding up the
valley looking for us.
"Eagle Child called, 'Hi, yi, yi--oh, yi!' The rocks threw his voice
far out, and they heard it. It took them a long time to climb up to the
place from where we had descended. They had brought their lassos with
them, for they knew that we were cut off; and soon, but with much
cautious labor, we were safe."
"And what of Grizzy?" asked Muskwa, solicitously.
"I hope he, too, got away all right," answered Sa'-zada, "for I never
saw him again--we did not follow him."
"I think Wie-sah-ke-chack led you to that place, Little Master, to give
Grizzly a chance for his life," commented Mooswa.
"I like our Master's story," declared Hathi; "so often I've heard the
Sahibs boasting of the Animals they have killed, but Sa'-zada tells
only of the times fear came to him because of his wrong-doing."
"That happening was of Greybeard, and he is but a cousin of mine,"
complained Muskwa the Black Bear. "Did you never meet with my family,
"If you insist upon it, Muskwa," answered the Keeper, "I might tell a
little tale of your people."
"I should like that--do," pleaded Black Bear; "in all the stories there
has been nothing of our doing."
"But they were also only relatives of yours, though they were black,
for the happening was in India, and there they are called Bhalu the
Bear. And the happening was not of my doing, either, for I was hunting
Bagh, the Tiger."
"Every hunter takes me for a choice," growled Raj Bagh.
"But this was a bad Tiger," declared Sa'-zada; "he had killed many
"And what of that--Waugh-houk! what of that, Little Master?" demanded
Raj Bagh. "Have not many people killed many of my kind--are they not
always killing us?"
"Still the Little Master is right," objected Hathi. "If a Bull Elephant
becomes Rogue, and, neglecting his proper eating which is in the
Jungle, goes seeking to kill the Men-kind, does he not surely come into
"But we be flesh eaters and slayers of life," answered Raj Bagh.
"Even so, though that were better otherwise, but do you not know of
your own people that the Men-kind are not for Kill? Before all other
Dwellers of the Jungle you stand forth and are ready to battle, but
just the scent of Man causes you to slink away like Jaruk the Hyena."
"I think that is true," commented Mooswa. "Wie-sah-ke-chack has
arranged all that."
Said the Keeper: "It is not right to kill the animals as men do, for
sport, but when Bagh, or any other Jungle Dweller, turns Man-eater, he
"And Sher Abi, too," squeaked Magh; "his tribe are all Man-eaters--they
should be all killed."
"At any rate," continued the Keeper, "I was after this Man-eater. I had
a machan built in a Pipal tree, and a Buffalo calf tied up near
"One of your young, Arna," said Bagh, vindictively.
"And early in the evening I climbed into my machan and prepared for
"That's Man's way," sneered Raj Bagh. "What chance have we against them
up in a machan? No chance; and they call that sport."
"And what chance has a village woman against a big-fanged Tiger?"
grunted Boar. "No chance. It seems to me there are few in the Jungle as
decent as Hathi and myself; we meddle not with the Men."
"Just before dark," continued Sa'-zada, "I heard a noise coming through
the Khir bushes. 'Bagh comes early,' I thought to myself."
"He must have been hungry to scent a kill before dark," muttered Raj
"He smelt a man and thought it a good chance to commit murder," sneered
"It wasn't Tiger at all," said the Keeper, "but three noisy Black
Bears--Bhalu the Bear. I thought they would soon pass, for they do not
meddle much with cattle."
"No, we are not throat cutters like Bagh," whuffed Muskwa.
"But they seemed in an inquisitive mood. Now, the calf was tied to the
foot of a toddy palm, and they looked at him as much as to say, 'What
are you doing here?'"
"I would have explained matters to them had I been there," exclaimed
Arna, shaking his head. "A poor Calf!"
"No doubt they meant to help him out of his trouble," volunteered
"Presently one of them proceeded to climb the toddy palm, and I thought
they were looking for me perhaps. On the tree was a jar the natives had
put there for catching the toddy liquor; and you can imagine my
surprise, Comrades, when I saw Bhalu take a big drink out of this. When
he came down one of his comrades went up. There were half-a-dozen toddy
trees there, and the Bears helped themselves to the toddy until in the
end they became very drunk."
"I know how that feels," said Oungea the Water Monkey; "have I not
told you, Comrades, of the gin my Master----"
"Caw-w-w, caw-w-w!" interrupted Crow. "I also know of that condition. I
ate some cherries once that had been thrown from a bungalow in
Calcutta, and they made my head wobble so I couldn't fly. A Sahib stood
in the door and laughed and said I was drunk."
"The cherries had been in brandy, I suppose," explained Sa'-zada. "But
Bhalu was most unmistakably drunk. They wanted to play with the Calf,
but he became frightened and bawled. I could see there was small chance
of a visit from Bagh with three drunken Bears and a bellowing Calf at
the foot of my tree."
"This is a nice story, Muskwa," sneered Magh. "I'm so glad to hear of
your people and their ways."
"Only cousins of mine," declared Muskwa, "and called Bhalu."
"All Bears are alike," snapped Coyote; "meddlesome thieves."
"They steal little Pigs," added Boar.
"They wouldn't go away," said Sa'-zada, "and I began to fear that I
shouldn't get a shot at Stripes. I did not want to shoot, because if
Tiger was anywhere in the neighborhood it would put an end to his
visit. I had nothing heavy to throw at them except my water-bottle;
but, finally, taking a long drink to keep the thirst away for a time,
I stood up in the machan and let fly the bottle. It caught the Bear
just behind the ear, and Bhalu, thinking one of his comrades had hurt
him, pitched into the other two, and there was a fierce three-cornered
fight on in a minute."
"I can swear that it is a true tale," barked Gidar, "for twice I've
seen a family of Bhalu's people in just such a stupid fight. Not that
they were possessed of toddy, for they are silly enough at all times.
But it is known in the Jungle that when Bhalu is wounded, he fights
with the first one he sees, even his own brother, thinking he has done
him the harm."
"One chap got the worst of the encounter and reeled off into the
Jungle, the other two following. I could hear them wrangling and
snarling for a long distance--all the world like a party of drunken
"These Bear stories are just lovely," grinned Magh. "Aren't they,
"Did you kill Bagh, the Man-eater?" asked Muskwa, to change the
"Yes, I stopped his murderous career that night," answered Sa'-zada.
"He was an evil animal and deserved to die. Now it is late and you must
all go to your cages."
"I'm glad your people had a chance to be heard from, Muskwa," lisped
Magh as she slid down Hathi's trunk. "You always looked so terribly
respectable and honest, that I was really afraid to speak to you."
"Phrut, phrut!" muttered Hathi through his trunk; "I have lived for a
matter of forty years or so, amongst the Jungle Dwellers and with the
Men-kind, and I think that we are all alike, all having some good and
some bad qualities."
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