The Story Of Raj Bagh The King Tiger

: 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


"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


"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


"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?


"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


"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


"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


"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


"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


"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


"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