Sporting Adventures in Wild Regions. No. 1 — The Chase of a Man-Eater.
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Introductory Note: “Sporting Adventures in Wild Regions. No. 1. —The Chase of a Man-Eater” reflects Colonel Mylne’s experience in India and serves as an excellent example of the children’s adventure stories printed by The Union Jack magazine. It narrates the hunt for a dangerous tiger that has been taking human lives in a remote region of India. The story is narrated by the protagonist, an Englishman serving in the military during the period of British imperialism in India, and provides an interesting look at relations between the British and the native Indians. It is therefore worth noting the nature of the interactions between the protagonist and the natives of India as well as the fact that the final resolution is brought about by the Englishmen within the story.
I WAS seated in the verandah of my bungalow at ——, one sultry afternoon during the month of June, enjoying the luxury of doing nothing except watching the curling wreaths of smoke from my cheroot as they rose in the clear air, when my old shikaree, Jungly Baba, came hurrying up.1A “cheroot” is a type of cigar. “Shikaree” is an Anglo-Indian term for a hunter.
“News, sahib!2An honorific used by an Indian to address a European. I bring news,” he said. “The man-eater has just been seen in a field of sugar-cane, a little way beyond the cantonments; if we make haste we shall catch him of a certainty.”
In a moment I was on my feet, and telling Baba to order my syce to bring round my pony, I hurriedly donned my sporting apparel.3A “syce” is a servant who follows a horseman on foot. Taking two of my most trusty rifles, I was ready to mount by the time the groom appeared with my hardy little steed. I carrying one of the rifles, and Baba the other, we set out. We had not gone far when we met a native woman—her hair dishevelled, her countenance expressive of grief.
“Ah, sahib! the monster has carried off my little son Mattadeen, and killed him,” she exclaimed, addressing me. “No one could save my boy, but you may avenge him.”
“I’ll do my best to kill the brute,” I answered, as the bereaved mother went on her way.
Baba told me that her son was a little herd-boy, and that it was most probable the tiger had got hold of him. We found that the man-eater had deserted the sugar-cane fields where he had been seen, and had gone off towards the open country. Still there was a possibility of coming up with him, and we pushed on. After going a mile or so we came upon blood stains on the grass, and as we followed them up, they led us to a spot just outside the jungle, where, in a pool of blood, we found all that remained of the poor herd-boy—part of his skull, a rag or two, and a few fingers. The cruel spectacle made me vow that I would not rest till I had killed the man-eater. Though we searched far and wide, we could not discover the brute, and as night was approaching we had to return to the cantonments.4Original text omits a period here. I had made arrangements for renewing the chase the following morning, when, just as I was starting, the order to march arrived, and I was compelled to abandon my intention.
On my return the following year, having again engaged Jungly Baba as my shikaree, I asked him if the man-eater had been killed.
“No, sahib,” he answered; “but he has killed several people—among them, my friend sepoy Ram Singh, a noted hunter.5A “sepoy” is an Anglo-Indian term meaning a native Indian who was employed as a soldier by the British. So numerous were the murders committed by the man-eater, that the Maharajah sent to say that he would give a reward if we could kill the tiger.6A “maharaja” is a high-ranking Indian, often a prince. Accordingly Ram Singh and I set off, and traced him for two days. At length, one sultry afternoon, saying he did not believe I wished to discover the tiger while he was with me, that I might have all the reward to myself—which, sahib, on my honor, was not the case—we separated; he went to the right and I to the left. I had never been so long before looking for a tiger, and I began to think he was a bhoot (a spirit), and that I should never find him. After some time however, I heard a shot. ‘Then Ram Singh has found the tiger at last,’ I thought; and I directed my steps towards the spot whence the sound came. I made my way along the bed of a nullah (a watercourse, perfectly dry during the hot season). After going some distance, I saw before me on the ground a matchlock. It was Ram Singh’s, and all round were clots of blood, and some torn clothes, while the sand was trodden down, giving evidence of a struggle having taken place there. Then I knew that Ram Singh had wounded the tiger, and that the tiger had killed him. As it was now getting dark, I had to return home, but next day, taking up the tracks, after proceeding on cautiously—for fear the tiger should spring out on me—I came to the spot to which the brute had dragged his victim. There lay part of Ram Singh’s body—the rest having been devoured during the night. If that tiger is ever killed, we shall discover the bullet which Ram Singh fired; for I’m sure he hit the brute, which would not otherwise have attacked him.”
Thus, finding that the man-eater was still at large, the first morning that we were at liberty my friend Macbean and I resolved to beat up his quarters. We knew the ground well, as we had before hunted over it. The elephants were ordered round at an early hour, and having taken our seats in the houdahs, we started, and soon came upon a “kill,” which I may explain means the remains of a cow, buffalo, or any other animal partially eaten.7A “houdah” is a seat situated on an elephants back which can fit one or two people. We took opposite sides of the nullah, that we might be more likely to fall in with the chase. After going some way I saw Macbean stop, and my eyes following the direction in which he was levelling his rifle, I perceived the tiger lying asleep on a rock close to a small pool of water. I was too far off to hit the brute. Macbean fired; the bullet struck him in the belly, when, springing up, he made off as fast as he could move. There is real excitement in chasing a man-eater, the foe of the human race. In spite of the rocks and shrubs and other impediments, our mahouts pushed on our elephants.8A “mahout” is a person who drives elephants. The chase was a long one. Macbean had crossed to my side of the nullah. At length, in a suppressed tone, he cried out, “There he is, there,” and the crack of his rifle resounded among the rocks. Again he fired, and this time the bullet struck the animal’s fore-leg, and wounded him. I also had two shots, but only one of them took effect. Again the tiger went off limping, and we tracked him by the large clots of blood left on the ground.
“Where can he be?” exclaimed Macbean, as, searching round, we could nowhere find the blood-stains.
We therefore came to the conclusion that we had overrun the spot where he was hiding.
By this time the sun had set, and we were beginning to fear that we had lost him altogether. Fortunately a Bheel who was in front of us caught sight of him, and brought us the information where he was to be foundaR9Bheel is a native of a tribe living in the hill ranges of Central India (colonel’s own footnote). We accordingly went in chase, and again getting up to him, once more fired, but without effect, for away went the tiger, we following. As I got near I saw the creature lying at the foot of a tree, biting at its paw and tearing up the ground in its rage. I ordered my mahout to bring the elephant close up to him. I was just taking aim when the tiger charged, but was prevented from springing by the thick branches of a large fallen tree which lay between us. Disappointed in its attempt, the brute now crossed the nullah. We both followed, and I was pushing on my elephant in order to get a near shot and kill him, when he once more charged with a roar which made the elephant turn tail. The tiger on this caught her by her hind leg. On feeling the tiger’s claws, she kicked out with a force which made it drop, and off she set scuttling away as hard as she could pelt through the jungle, her eccentric performances making my guns roll from side to side in the houdah, while I was at every instant in danger of being knocked over, houdah and all, as she careered under the wide-spreading boughs of the trees. It was about the most unpleasant ride I ever had. When we had gone half a mile, the mahout managed to stop her, and turned her back. In the meanwhile Maclean had been blazing away at the beast, which had several times attempted to get at him, and was evidently determined to die game. Once more on my return I fired, when a second time my cowardly elephant took fright and bolted, but was stopped sooner than before, and on returning to the scene of action I put a couple of bullets through the tiger’s head, which finally finished him. I never saw an animal die so hard.
Though an old brute, he was not more than nine feet in length. On skinning him, a small bullet was found imbedded in his flesh, close to the shoulder.
“Ah, I was right, then,” said Jungly Baba, holding it up. “This would have just fitted Ram Singh’s matchlock, and proves that this brute is the very man-eater that killed him.”
To show their gratitude the people brought out milk and sweetmeats to offer us, and our men had a plentiful repast provided for them, while there were great rejoicings in the neighbouring villages when it was known that the scourge of the district had at last been slain.
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20 January 2021
8 August 2023
|A “cheroot” is a type of cigar. “Shikaree” is an Anglo-Indian term for a hunter.
|An honorific used by an Indian to address a European.
|A “syce” is a servant who follows a horseman on foot.
|Original text omits a period here.
|A “sepoy” is an Anglo-Indian term meaning a native Indian who was employed as a soldier by the British.
|A “maharaja” is a high-ranking Indian, often a prince.
|A “houdah” is a seat situated on an elephants back which can fit one or two people.
|A “mahout” is a person who drives elephants.
|Bheel is a native of a tribe living in the hill ranges of Central India (colonel’s own footnote).
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