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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Another tiger story from Mrs. Reid

On the 11th December we left Saugor Roads, without losing any of our men by tigers, although boats from the ship had landed on the island almost every day. 

The next morning we discharged our pilot, just three months from the day we received one on board on our entrance to the port. 

A few days after we sailed we became somewhat settled, and soon formed ourselves at ease with each other; conversation, without stiffness or reserve, was kept up at table among our agreeable party, nor did it fail during the whole voyage. Capt. R[oss] was a well-informed agreeable man, and had seen much service in India, particularly under Lord Cornwallis, whom he served as military secretary; he was now returning to join his family in England. 

Dr. L[aird] was a particular friend of Capt R[oss], and a most worthy man, much esteemed by many he had left behind; he also had seen much service with the army under General Sir Eyre Coote, whom he attended until his death. His memory was sadly impaired, particularly respecting any recent event; but of any thing concerning the army, or occurrences of former times, he could give the most minute account. 

This loss of memory was attributed to the consequences of a tiger hunt, the history of which I shall give you. Mr. R[oss], himself, and a party of gentlemen, had agreed to spend a little time with a friend at a place called Couti, not far from Kedgeree, where they enjoyed the manly sport of bear hunting, and were generally successful. 

One morning they went out as usual, and left an elderly gentleman and a young man as his companion; these two had strolled from the bungalow on foot, enjoying the cool morning air. Nothing interrupted their pleasure until they passed an opening in the jungle, when their ears were assailed with a most hideous growl; upon turning to the spot whence the sound issued, they were horror-struck at seeing a large royal tiger worrying at the throat of a poor cow he had just seized.

They instantly started back towards the house, thinking every moment they should be attacked by the tiger. The young man very soon out-ran the elder, who called lustily for him to stand and look athe tiger in the face, assuring him it would not then attack them; at length the young man slacked his pace, and let the elder come up with him, who seizing his coat, cried, “now we are equal, you young dog, run for your life.” 

They reached the house in safety, which without doubt they owed to the prey which had already occupied the animal’s attention. Measures were now concerted for his destruction; accordingly next day a large party sallied forth, well mounted upon elephants who were trained for such an encounter. They were very soon at the place where the tiger lay concealed: they partly surrounded him but nothing could induce him to leave the cover. They fired many shots in all directions, and were in hopes they had killed him. 

The elephant upon which Dr. L[aird] was mounted being more bold than the rest, advanced to the jungle, when, just as he entered, the tiger sprang upon his neck; the doctor instantly fired his piece, and the furious animal quitted his hold, but the elephant was so frightened that he turned and set off at a rate which made it impossible for Dr. L[aird] to dismount until he came to a river, where in consequence of his apprehension that the elephant would ford, he dropped off behind, and hurt himself considerably with the fall; this however was not the worst, he now had to find his way back to the house, which was upwards of five miles distant, in a scorching sun: he was immediately seized with a jungle fever, from the effects of which his memory never recovered. 

The tiger was killed, but the party lost several gentlemen by fever before they returned to Calcutta, in consequence of which, neither Dr. L[aird] or Mr. B— ever attended another hunting party while they remained in India.

No wonder!  It seems that tiger hunts were even more dangerous than described in the Boys' Own books.  But bear hunting? In India? Surely it's a typo for boar hunting?  The only bear outside of the Himalayas is the insect-eating sloth bear, a most unaggressive customer. Or maybe Mrs. R. was such a rapt listener that the tellers couldn't resist embroidering the tale? Even if the speaker had a job to remember what he had had for breakfast...

1 comment:

Linda Collison said...

Jungle fevers ever so much more deadly than tigers.