_MISS CAYLEY'S ADVENTURES_ (1899), ch. 9
by Grant Allen
published by Grant Richards
THE ADVENTURES OF THE MAGNIFICENT MAHARAJAH
OUR arrival at Bombay was a triumphal entry. We
were received like royalty. Indeed, to tell you
the truth, Elsie and I were beginning to get just a
leetle bit spoiled. It struck us now that our
casual connection with the Ashurst family in its
various branches had succeeded in saddling us like
the Lady of Burleigh, 'with the burden of an honour
unto which we were not born.' We were everywhere
treated as persons of importance; and, oh dear, by
dint of such treatment we began to feel at last
almost as if we had been raised in the purple. I
felt that when we got back to England we should
turn up our noses at plain bread and butter.
Yes, life has been kind to me. Have your
researches into English literature ever chanced to
lead you into reading Horace Walpole, I wonder?
That polite trifler is fond of a word which he
coined himself--'Serendipity.' It derives from the
name of a certain happy Indian Prince Serendip,
whom he unearthed (or invented) in some obscure
Oriental story; a prince for whom the fairies or
the genii always managed to make everything
pleasant. It implies the faculty, which a few of
us possess, of finding whatever we want turn up
accidentally at the exact right moment. Well, I
believe I must have been born with serendipity in
my mouth, in place of the proverbial silver spoon,
for wherever I go, all things seem to come out
exactly right for me.
The Jumna, for example, had hardly heaved
to in Bombay Harbour when we noticed on the quay a
very distinguished-looking Oriental potentate, in a
large, white turban with a particularly big diamond
stuck ostentatiously in its front. He stalked on
board with a martial air, as soon as we stopped,
and made inquiries from our captain after someone
he expected. The captain received him with that
odd mixture of respect for rank and wealth,
combined with true British contempt for the
inferior black-man, which is universal among his
class in their dealings with native Indian
nobility. The Oriental potentate, however, who was
accompanied by a gorgeous suite like that of the
Wise Men in Italian pictures, seemed satisfied with
his information, and moved over with his stately
glide in our direction. Elsie and I were standing
near the gangway among our rugs and bundles, in the
hopeless helplessness of disembarkation. He
approached us respectfully, and, bowing with
extended hands and a deferential air, asked, in
excellent English, 'May I venture to inquire which
of you two ladies is Miss Lois Cayley?'
'I am,' I replied, my breath taken away
by this unexpected greeting. 'May I venture to
inquire in return how you came to know I was
arriving by this steamer?'
He held out his hand, with a courteous
inclination. 'I am the Maharajah of
Moozuffernuggar,' he answered in an impressive
tone, as if everybody knew of the Maharajah of
Moozuffernuggar as familiarly as they knew of the
Duke of Cambridge. 'Moozuffernuggar in Rajputana--
not the one in the Doab. You must have
heard my name from Mr. Harold Tillington.'
I had not; but I dissembled, so as to salve his
pride. 'Mr. Tillington's friends are our
friends,' I answered, sententiously.
'And Mr. Tillington's friends are my
friends,' the Maharajah retorted, with a low bow to
Elsie. 'This is no doubt, Miss Petheridge. I have
heard of your expected arrival, as you will guess,
from Tillington. He and I were at Oxford together;
I am a Merton man. It was Tillington who first
taught me all I know of cricket. He took me to
stop at his father's place in Dumfriesshire. I owe
much to his friendship; and when he wrote me that
friends of his were arriving by the Jumna,
why, I made haste to run down to Bombay to greet
The episode was one of those topsy-turvy mixtures
of all places and ages which only this jumbled
century of ours has witnessed; it impressed me
deeply. Here was this Indian prince, a feudal
Rajput chief, living practically among his vassals
in the Middle Ages when at home in India; yet he
said 'I am a Merton man,' as Harold himself might
have said it; and he talked about cricket as
naturally as Lord Southminster talked about the
noble quadruped. The oddest part of it all was, we
alone felt the incongruity; to the Maharajah, the
change from Moozuffernuggar to Oxford and from
Oxford back again to Moozuffernuggar seemed
perfectly natural. They were but two alternative
phases in a modern Indian gentleman's education and
Still, what were we to do with him? If Harold
had presented me with a white elephant I could
hardly have been more embarrassed than I was at the
apparition of this urbane and magnificent Hindoo
prince. He was young; he was handsome; he was
slim, for a rajah; he wore European costume, save
for the huge white turban with its obtrusive
diamond; and he spoke English much better than a
great many Englishmen. Yet what place could he
fill in my life and Elsie's? For once, I felt
almost angry with Harold. Why couldn't he have
allowed us to go quietly through India, two simple
unofficial journalistic pilgrims, in our native
His Highness of Moozuffernuggar, however, had his
own views on this question. With a courteous wave
of one dusky hand, he motioned us gracefully into
somebody else's deck chairs and then sat down on
another beside us, while the gorgeous suite stood
by in respectful silence--unctuous gentlemen in
pink-and-gold brocade--forming a court all round
us. Elsie and I, unaccustomed to be so observed,
grew conscious of our hands, our skirts, our
postures. But the Maharajah posed himself with
perfect unconcern, like one well used to the fierce
light of royalty. 'I have come,' he said, with
simple dignity, 'to superintend the preparations
for your reception.'
'Gracious heavens!' I exclaimed. 'Our reception,
Maharajah? I think you misunderstand. We are two
ordinary English ladies of the proletariat,
accustomed to the level plain of professional
society. We expect no reception.'
He bowed again, with stately Eastern deference.
'Friends of Tillington's,' he said shortly, 'are
persons of distinction. Besides, I have heard of
you from Lady Georgina Fawley.'
'Lady Georgina is too good,' I answered, though
inwardly I raged against her. Why couldn't she
leave us alone, to feed in peace on dak-bungalow
chicken, instead of sending this regal-mannered
heathen to bother us?
'So I have come down to Bombay to make sure that
you are met in the style that befits your
importance in society,' he went on, waving his
suite away with one careless hand, for he saw it
fussed us. 'I mentioned you to His Honour the
Acting-Governor, who had not heard you were coming.
His Honour's aide-de-camp will follow shortly with
an invitation to Government House while you remain
in Bombay--which will not be many days, I don't
doubt, for there is nothing in this city of plague
to stop for. Later on, during your progress up
country, I do myself the honour to hope that you
will stay as my guests for as long as you choose at
My first impulse was to answer: 'Impossible,
Maharajah; we couldn't dream of accepting your kind
invitation.' But on second thoughts, I remembered
my duty to my proprietor. Journalism first;
inclination afterwards! My letter from Egypt on
the rescue of the Englishwoman who escaped from
Khartoum had brought me great éclat as a
special correspondent, and the Daily
Telephone now billed my name in big letters on
its placards, so Mr. Elworthy wrote me. Here was
another noble chance; must I not strive to rise to
it? Two English ladies at a native court in
Rajputana! that ought to afford scope for some
'It is extremely kind of you,' I said,
hesitating, 'and it would give us great pleasure,
were it feasible, to accept your friendly offer.
But--English ideas, you know, prince! Two
unprotected women! I hardly see how we could come
alone to Moozuffernuggar, unchaperoned.'
The Maharajah's face lighted up; he was evidently
flattered that we should even thus dubiously
entertain his proposal. 'Oh, I've thought about
that, too,' he answered, growing more colloquial in
tone. 'I've been some days in Bombay, making
inquiries and preparations. You see, you had not
informed the authorities of your intended visit, so
that you were travelling incognito--or
should it be incognita?--and if Tillington
hadn't written to let me know your movements, you
might have arrived at this port without anybody's
knowing it, and have been compelled to take refuge
in an hotel on landing.' He spoke as if we had
been accustomed all our lives long to be received
with red cloth by the Mayor and Corporation, and
presented with illuminated addresses and the
freedom of the city in a gold snuff-box. 'But I
have seen to all that. The Acting-Governor's
aide-de-camp will be down before long, and I have
arranged that if you consent a little later to
honour my humble roof in Rajputana with your august
presence, Major Balmossie and his wife will
accompany you and chaperon you. I have lived in
England: of course I understand that two English
ladies of your rank and position cannot travel
alone--as if you were Americans. But Mrs.
Balmossie is a nice little soul, of unblemished
character'--that sweet touch charmed me--'received
at Government House'--he had learned the respect
due to Mrs. Grundy--'so that if you will accept my
invitation, you may rest assured that everything
will be done with the utmost regard to the--the
unaccountable prejudices of Europeans.'
His thoughtfulness took me aback. I thanked him
warmly. He unbent at my thanks. 'And I am
obliged to you in return,' he said. 'It gives me
real pleasure to be able through you, to repay
Harold Tillington part of the debt I owe him. He
was so good to me at Oxford. Miss Cayley, you are
new to India, and therefore--as yet--no doubt
unprejudiced. You treat a native gentleman, I see,
like a human being. I hope you will not stop long
enough in our country to get over that stage--as
happens to most of your countrymen and
countrywomen. In England, a man like myself is an
Indian prince; in India, to ninety-nine out of a
hundred Europeans, he is just "a damned nigger."'
I smiled sympathetically. 'I think,' I said,
venturing under these circumstances on a harmless
little swear-word--of course, in quotation
marks--'you may trust me never to reach
'So I believe,' he answered, 'if you are a friend
of Harold Tillington's. Ebony or ivory, he never
forgot we were two men together.'
Five minutes later, when the Maharajah had gone
to inquire about our luggage, Lord Southminster
strolled up. 'Oh, I say, Miss Cayley,' he burst
out, 'I'm off now ; ta-ta: but remembah, that
offah's always open. By the way, who is your black
friend? I couldn't help laughing at the airs the
fellah gave himself. To see a niggah sitting
theah, with his suite all round him, waving his
hands and sunning his rings, and behaving for all
the world as if he were a gentleman; it's reahly
too ridiculous. Harold Tillington picked up with a
fellah-like that at Oxford--doosid good cricketer
too, wondah if this is the same one?"
'Good-bye, Lord Southminster,' I said, quietly,
with a stiff little bow. 'Remember, on your side,
that your "offer" was rejected once for all last
night. Yes, the Indian prince is Harold
Tillington's friend, the Maharajah of
Moozuffernuggar--whose ancestors were princes while
ours were dressed in woad and oak-leaves. But you
were right about one thing; he behaves--like a
'Oh, I say,' the pea-green young man ejaculated,
drawing back; 'that's anothah in the eye for me.
You're a good 'un at facers. You gave me one for a
welcome, and you give me one now for a parting
shot. Nevah mind though, I can wait; you're
backing the wrong fellah--but you're not the
Ethels, and you're well worth waiting for.' He
waved his hand. 'So-long! See yah again in
And he retired, with that fatuous smile still
absorbing his features.
Our three days in Bombay were uneventful; we
merely waited to get rid of the roll of the ship,
which continued to haunt us for hours after we
landed--the floor of our bed-rooms having acquired
an ugly trick of rising in long undulations, as if
Bombay were suffering from chronic earth-quake. We
made the acquaintance of His Honour the Acting
Governor, and His Honour's consort. We were also
introduced to Mrs. Balmossie, the lady who was to
chaperon us to Moozuffernuggar. Her husband was a
soldierly Scotchman from Forfarshire, but she
herself was English--a flighty little body with a
perpetual giggle. She giggled so much over the
idea of the Maharajah's inviting us to his palace
that I wondered why on earth she accepted his
invitation. At this she seemed surprised. 'Why,
it's one of the jolliest places in Rajputana,' she
answered, with a bland Simla smile; 'so
picturesque--he, he, he--and so delightful.
Simpkin flows like water--Simpkin's baboo English
for champagne, you know--he, he, he; and though of
course the Maharajah's only a native like the rest
of them--he, he, he--still, he's been educated at
Oxford, and has mixed with Europeans, and he knows
how to make one--he, he, he--well, thoroughly
'But what shall we eat?' I asked. 'Rice, ghee,
'Oh dear no--he, he, he--Europe food, every bit
of it. Foie gras, and York ham, and wine ad
lib. His hospitality's massive. If it weren't
for that, of course, one wouldn't dream of going
there. But Archie hopes some day to be made
Resident, don't you know; and it will do him no
harm--he, he, he-- with the Foreign Office, to have
cultivated friendly relations beforehand with His
Highness of Moozuffernuggar. These natives--he,
he, he--so absurdly sensitive!'
For myself, the Maharajah interested me, and I
rather liked him. Besides, he was Harold's friend,
and that was in itself sufficient recommendation.
So I determined to push straight into the heart of
native India first, and only afterwards to do the
regulation tourist round of Agra and Delhi, the Taj
and the mosques, Benares and Allahabad, leaving the
English and Calcutta for the tail-end of my
journey. It was better journalism; as I thought
that thought, I began to fear that Mr. Elworthy was
right after all, and that I was a born journalist.
On the day fixed for our leaving Bombay, whom
should I meet but Lord Southminster--with the
Maharajah--at the railway station!
He lounged up to me with that eternal smile still
vaguely pervading his empty features. 'Well, we
shall have a jolly party, I gathah,' he said.
'They tell me this niggah is famous for his
I gazed at him, positively taken aback. 'You
mean to tell me,' I cried, 'you actually propose to
accept the Maharajah's hospitality?'
His smile absorbed him. 'Yaas,' he answered,
twirling his yellow moustache, and gazing across at
the unconscious prince, who was engaged in
overlooking the arrangements for our saloon
carriage. 'The black fellah discovahed I was a
cousin of Harold's, so he came to call upon me at
the club, of which some Johnnies heah made me an
honorary membah. He's offahed me the run of his
place while I'm in Indiah; and, of course, I've
accepted. Eccentric sort of chap; can't make him
out myself: says anyone connected with Harold
Tillington is always deah to him. Rum start, isn't
'He is a mere Oriental,' I answered, 'unused to
the ways of civilised life. He cherishes the
superannuated virtue of gratitude.'
'Yaas; no doubt--so I'm coming along with you.'
I drew back, horrified. 'Now? While I am there?
After what I told you last week on the steamer?'
'Oh, that's all right. I bear yah no malice. If
I want any fun, of course I must go while
you're at Moozuffernuggar.'
'Yah see, this black boundah means to get up some
big things at his place in your honah; and one
naturally goes to stop with anyone who has big
things to offah. Hang it all, what does it mattah
who a fellah is if he can give yah good shooting?
It's shooting, don't yah know, that keeps society
in England togethah!'
'And therefore you propose to stop in the same
house with me!' I exclaimed, 'in spite of what I
have told you! Well, Lord Southminster, I should
have thought there were limits which even
He cut me short with an inane grin. 'There you
make your blooming little erraw,' he answered,
airily. 'I told yah, I keep my offah still open;
and, hang it all, I don't mean to lose sight of yah
in a hurry. Some other fellah might come along and
pick you up when I wasn't looking; and I don't want
to miss yah. In point of fact, I don't mind
telling yah, I back myself still for a couple of
thou' soonah or latah to marry yah. It's dogged as
does it; faint heart, they say nevah won fair
If it had not been that I could not bear to
disappoint my Indian prince, I think, when I heard
this, I should have turned back then and there at
The journey up country was uneventful, but dusty.
The Mofussil appears to consist mainly of dust;
indeed, I can now recall nothing of it but one
pervading white cloud which has blotted from my
memory all its other components. The dust clung to
my hair after many washings, and was never really
beaten out of my travelling clothes; I believe part
of it thus went round the world with me to England.
When at last we reached Moozuffernuggar, after two
days' and a night's hard travelling, we were met by
a crowd of local grandees; who looked as if they
had spent the greater part of their lives in
brushing back their whiskers, and we drove up at
once, in European carriages, to the Maharajah's
palace. The look of it astonished me. It was a
strange and rambling old Hindoo hill-fort, high
perched on a scarped crag, like Edinburgh Castle,
and accessible only on one side, up a gigantic
staircase, guarded on either hand by sculptured
elephants cut in the living sandstone. Below
clustered the town, an intricate mass of tangled
alleys. I had never seen anything so picturesque
or so dirty in my life; as for Elsie, she was
divided between admiration for its beauty and
terror at the big-whiskered and white-turbaned
'What sort of rooms shall we have?' I whispered
to our moral guarantee, Mrs. Balmossie.
'Oh, beautiful, dear,' the little lady smirked
back. 'Furnished throughout--he, he, he--by
Liberty. The Maharajah wants to do honour to his
European guests--he,he, he--he fancies, poor man,
he's quite European. That's what comes of sending
these creatures to Oxford! So he's had suites of
rooms furnished for any white visitors who may
chance to come his way. Ridiculous, isn't it?
And champagne--oh, gallons of it! He's
quite proud of his rooms, he, he, he--he's always
asking people to come and occupy them; he thinks
he's done them up in the best style of decoration.'
He had reason, for they were as tasteful as they
were dainty and comfortable. And I could not for
the life of me make out why his hospitable
inclination should be voted 'ridiculous.' But Mrs.
Balmossie appeared to find all natives alike a huge
joke together. She never even spoke of them
without a condescending smile of distant
compassion. Indeed, most Anglo-Indians seem first
to do their best to Anglicise the Hindoo, and then
to laugh at him for aping the Englishman.
After we had been three days at the palace and
had spent hours in the wonderful temples and ruins,
the Maharajah announced with considerable pride at
breakfast one morning that he had got up a
tiger-hunt in our special honour.
Lord Southminster rubbed his hands.
'Ha, that's right, Maharaj,' he said, briskly.
'I do love big game. To tell yah the truth, old
man, that's just what I came heah for.'
'You do me too much honour,' the Hindoo answered,
with quiet sarcasm. 'My town and palace may have
little to offer that is worth your attention; but I
am glad that my big game, at least, has been lucky
enough to attract you.'
The remark was thrown away on the pea-green young
man. He had described his host to me as 'a black
boundah.' Out of his own mouth I condemned him--he
supplied the very word--he was himself nothing more
than a born bounder.
During the next few days, the preparations for
the tiger-hunt occupied all the Maharajah's
energies. 'You know, Miss Cayley,' he said to me,
as we stood upon the big stairs, looking down on
the Hindoo city, 'a tiger-hunt is not a thing to be
got up lightly. Our people themselves don't like
killing a tiger. They reverence it too much.
They're afraid its spirit might haunt them
afterwards and bring them bad luck. That's one of
'You do not share it yourself, then?' I asked.
He drew himself up and opened his palms, with a
twinkling of pendant emeralds. 'I am royal,' he
answered, with naive dignity, 'and the tiger is a
royal beast. Kings know the ways of kings. If a
king kills what is kingly, it owes him no grudge
for it. But if a common man or a low caste man
were to kill a tiger--who can say what might
I saw he was not himself quite free from the
'Our peasants,' he went on, fixing me with his
great black eyes, 'won't even mention the tiger by
name, for fear of offending him: they believe him
to be the dwelling-place of a powerful spirit. If
they wish to speak of him, they say, "the great
beast," or "my lord, the striped one." Some think
the spirit is immortal except at the hands of a
king. But they have no objection to see him
destroyed by others. They will even point out his
whereabouts, and rejoice over his death; for it
relieves the village of a serious enemy, and they
believe the spirit will only haunt the huts of
those who actually kill him.'
'Then you know where each tiger lives?' I asked.
'As well as your gamekeepers in England know
which covert may be drawn for foxes. Yes; 'tis a
royal sport, and we keep it for Maharajahs. I
myself never hunt a tiger till some European
visitor of distinction comes to Moozuffernuggar,
that I may show him good sport. This tiger we
shall hunt to-morrow, for example, he is a bad old
hand. He has carried off the buffaloes of my
villagers over yonder for years and years, and of
late he has also become a man-eater. He once ate a
whole family at a meal--a man, his wife, and his
three children. The people at Janwargurh have been
pestering me for weeks to come and shoot him; and
each week he has eaten somebody--a child or a
woman; the last was yesterday--but I waited till
you came, because I thought it would be something
to show you that you would not be likely to see
'And you let the poor people go on being eaten
that we might enjoy this sport!' I cried.
He shrugged his shoulders, and opened his hands.
'They were villagers, you know--ryots: mere tillers
of the soil--poor naked peasants. I have thousands
of them to spare. If a tiger eats ten of them,
they only say, "It was written upon their
foreheads." One woman more or less, who would
notice her at Moozuffernuggar?'
Then I perceived that the Maharajah was but still
The eventful morning arrived at last, and we
started, all agog, for the jungle where the tiger
was known to live. Elsie excused herself. She
remarked to me the night before as I brushed her
back hair for her, that she had 'half a mind' not
to go. 'My dear,' I answered, giving the brush a
good dash, 'for a higher mathematician, that phrase
lacks accuracy. If you were to say 'seven-eighths
of a mind' it would be nearer the mark. In point
of fact, if you ask my opinion, your inclination to
go is a vanishing quantity.'
She admitted the impeachment with an accusing
blush. 'You're quite right, Brownie; to tell you
the truth, I am afraid of it.'
'So am I, dear; horribly afraid. Between
ourselves I'm in a deadly funk of it. But "the
brave man is not one that feels no fear"; and I
believe the same principle applies almost equally
to the brave woman. I mean "that **** subdue" as
far as I am able. The Maharajah's guest shall be
the first girl who has ever gone tiger-hunting. I
am frightened out of my life. I never held a gun
in my born days before. But, Elsie, recollect,
this is splendid journalism. I intend to
go through with it.'
'You offer yourself on the altar, Brownie.'
'I do, dear; I propose to die in the cause. I
expect the proprietor to carve on my tomb, "Sacred
to the memory of the martyr of journalism. She was
killed, in the act of taking shorthand notes, by a
We started at early dawn, a motley mixture. My
short cycling skirt did beautifully for tiger-
hunting. There was a vast company of native
swells, nawabs and ranas, in gorgeous costumes,
whose precise names and titles I do not pretend to
remember; there were also Major Balmossie, Lord
Southminster, the Maharajah, and myself--all
mounted on gaily-parisoned elephants. We had
likewise, on foot, a miserable crowd of wretched
beaters, with dirty while loin-cloths. We were all
very brave of course--demonstratively brave--and we
talked a great deal at the start about the
exhilaration given by 'the spice of danger.' But
it somehow truck me that the poor beaters on foot
had the majority of the danger and extremely little
exhilaration. Each of us great folks was mounted
on his own elephant, which carried a light basket-
work howdah in two compartments: the front one
intended for the noble sportsman, the back one for
a servant with extra guns and ammunition. I
pretended to like it, but I fear I trembled
visibly. Our mahouts sat on the giants' necks,
each armed with a pointed goad, to whose admonition
the huge beasts answered like clock-work. A good
journalist always pretends to know everything
before hand, so I speak carelessly of the 'mahout,'
as if he were a dear acquaintance. But I don't
mind telling you aside, in confidence, that I had
only just learnt the word that morning.
The Maharajah protested at first against my
taking part in the actual hunt, but I believe he
was proud that the first lady tiger-hunter should
have joined his party.
Dusty and shadeless, the road from
Moozuffernuggar fares straight across the plain
towards the crumbling mountains. Behind, in the
heat mist, the castle and palace on their
steeply-scarped crag, with the squalid town that
clustered at their feet, reminded me once more most
strangely of Edinburgh, where I used to spend my
vacations from Girton. But the pitiless sun
differed greatly from the gray haar of the northern
metropolis. It warmed into intense white the
little temples of the wayside, and beat on our
heads with tropical garishness.
I am bound to admit also that tiger-hunting is
not quite all it is cracked up to be. In my fancy
I had pictured the gallant and bloodthirsty beast
rushing out upon us full pelt from some grass-grown
nullah at the first sniff of our presence and
fiercely attacking both men and elephants. Instead
of that, I will confess the whole truth: frightened
as at least one of us was of the tiger, the tiger
was still more desperately frightened of his human
assailants. I could see clearly that so far from
rushing out of his own accord to attack us, his one
desire was to be let alone. He was horribly
afraid; he skulked in the jungle like a wary old
fox in a trusty spinney. There was no nullah
(whatever a nullah may be), there was only a waste
of dusty cane-brake. We encircled the tall grass
patch where he lurked, forming a big round with a
ring-fence of elephants. The beaters on foot,
advancing, half naked, with a caution with which I
could fully sympathise, endeavoured by loud shouts
and gesticulations to rouse the royal beast to a
sense of his position. Not a bit of it; the royal
beast declined to be drawn; he preferred
retirement. The Maharajah, whose elephant was
stationed next to mine, even apologised for the
resolute cowardice with which he clung to his
The beaters drew in: the elephants, raising their
trunks in air and sniffing suspicion, moved slowly
inward. We had girt him round now with a perfect
ring, through which he could not possibly break
without attacking somebody. The Maharajah kept a
fixed eye on my personal safety. But still the
royal animal crouched and skulked, and still the
black beaters shrieked, howled, and gesticulated.
At last, among the tall perpendicular lights and
shadows of the big grasses and bamboos, I seemed to
see something move--something striped like the
stems, yet passing slowly, slowly, slowly between
them. It moved in a stealthy undulating line. No
one could believe till he saw it how the bright
flame-coloured bands of vivid orange-yellow on the
monster's flanks, and the interspersed black
stripes, could fade away and harmonise, in their
native surroundings, with the lights and shades of
the upright jungle. It was a marvel of mimicry.
'Look there!' I cried to the Maharajah, pointing
one eager hand. 'What is that thing there,
He stared where I pointed. 'By Jove,' he cried,
raising his rifle with a sportsman's quickness,
'you have spotted him first! The tiger!'
The terrified beast stole slowly and cautiously
through the tall grasses, his lithe, silken side
gliding in and out snakewise, and only his fierce
eyes burning bright with gleaming flashes between
the gloom of the jungle. Once I had seen him, I
could follow with ease his sinuous path among the
tangled bamboos, a waving line of beauty in
perpetual motion. The Maharajah followed him too,
with his keen eyes, and pointed his rifle hastily.
But, quick as he was, Lord Southminster was before
him. I had half expected to find the pea-green
young man turn coward at the last moment; but in
that I was mistaken: I will do him the justice to
say, whatever else he was, he was a born sportsman.
The gleam of joy in his leaden eye when he caught
sight of the tiger, the flush of excitement on his
pasty face, the eagerness of his alert attitude,
were things to see and remember. That moment
almost ennobled him. In sight of danger, the best
instincts of the savage seemed to revive within
him. In civilised life he was a poor creature;
face to face with a wild beast he became a mighty
shikari. Perhaps that was why he was so fond of
big-game shooting. He may have felt it raised him
in the scale of being.
He lifted his rifle and fired. He was a cool
shot, and he wounded the beast upon its left
shoulder. I could see the great crimson stream
gush out all at once across the shapely sides,
staining the flame-coloured stripes and reddening
the black shadows. The tiger drew back, gave a
low, fierce growl, and then crouched among the
jungle. I saw he was going to leap; he bent his
huge backbone into a strong downward curve, took in
a deep breath, and stood at bay, glaring at us.
Which elephant would he attack? That was what he
was now debating. Next moment, with a frightful
R'-r'-r'-r', he had straightened out his muscles,
and, like a bolt from a bow, had launched his huge
I never saw his charge. I never knew he had
leapt upon me. I only felt my elephant rock from
side to side like a ship in a storm. He was
trumpeting, shaking, roaring with rage and pain,
for the tiger was on his flanks, its claws buried
deep in the skin of his forehead. I could not keep
my seat; I felt myself tossed about in the frail
howdah like a pill in a pill-box. The elephant, in
a death grapple, was trying to shake off his
ghastly enemy. For a minute or two, I was
conscious of nothing save this swinging movement.
Then, opening my eyes for a second, I saw the
tiger, in all his terrible beauty, clinging to the
elephant's head by the claws of his fore paws, and
struggling for a foothold on its trunk with his
mighty hind legs, in a wounded agony of despair and
vengeance. He would sell his life dear; he would
have one or other of us.
Lord Southminster raised his rifle again; but the
Maharajah shouted aloud in an angry voice: 'Don't
fire! Don't fire! You will kill the lady! You
can't aim at him like that. The beast is rocking
so that no one can say where a shot will take
effect. Down with your gun, sir, instantly!'
My mahout, unable to keep his seat with the
rocking, now dropped off his cushion among the
scrub below. He could speak a few words of
English. 'Shoot, Mem Sahib, shoot!' he cried,
flinging his hands up. But I was tossed to and
fro, from side to side, with my rifle under my arm.
It was impossible to aim. Yet in sheer terror I
tried to draw the trigger. I failed; but somehow I
caught my rifle against the side of my cage.
Something snapped in it somewhere. It went off
unexpectedly, without my aiming or firing. I shut
my eyes. When I opened them again, I saw a
swimming picture of the great sullen beast, loosing
his hold on the elephant. I saw his brindled face;
I saw his white tusks. But his gleaming pupils
burned bright no longer. His jaw was full towards
me: I had shot him between the eyes. He fell,
slowly, with blood streaming from his nostrils, and
his tongue lolling out. His muscles relaxed; his
huge limbs grew limp. In a minute, he lay
stretched at full length on the ground, with his
head on one side, a grand, terrible picture.
My mahout flung up his hands in wonder and
amazement. 'My father!' he cried aloud. 'Truly,
the Mem Sahib is a great shikari!'
The Maharajah stretched across to me. 'That was
a wonderful shot!' he exclaimed. 'I could never
have believed a woman could show such nerve and
Nerve and coolness, indeed! I was trembling all
over like an Italian greyhound, every limb a jelly;
and I had not even fired: the rifle went off of
itself without me. I am innocent of having ever
endangered the life of a haycock. But once more I
dissembled. 'Yes, it was a difficult
shot,' I said jauntily, as if I rather liked
tiger-hunting. 'I didn't think I'd hit him.'
Still the effect of my speech was somewhat marred,
I fear, by the tears that in spite of me rolled
down my cheek silently.
''Pon honah, I nevah saw a finah piece of
shooting in my life,' Lord Southminster drawled
out. Then he added aside, in an undertone, 'Makes
a fellow moah determined to annex her than evah!'
I sat in my howdah, half dazed. I hardly heard
what they were saying. My heart danced like the
elephant. Then it stood still within me. I was
only aware of a feeling of faintness. Luckily for
my reputation as a mighty sportswoman, however, I
just managed to keep up, and did not actually
faint, as I was more than half inclined to do.
Next followed the native pæan. The beaters
crowded round the fallen beast in a chorus of
congratulation. Many of the villagers also ran
out, with prayers and ejaculations, to swell our
triumph. It was all like a dream. They hustled
round me and salaamed to me. A woman had shot him!
Wonderful! A babel of voices resounded in my ears.
I was aware that pure accident had elevated me into
'Put the beast on a pad elephant,' the Maharajah
The beaters tied ropes round his body and raised
him with difficulty.
The Maharajah's face grew stern. 'Where are the
whiskers?' he asked, fiercely, in his own tongue,
which Major Balmossie interpreted for me.
The beaters and the villagers, bowing low and
expanding their hands, made profuse expressions of
ignorance and innocence. But the fact was
patent--the grand face had been mangled. While
they had crowded in a dense group round the fallen
carcass, somebody had cut off the lips and whiskers
and secreted them.
'They have ruined the skin!' the Maharajah cried
out in angry tones. 'I intended it for the lady.
I shall have them all searched, and the man who has
done this thing----'
He broke off, and looked around him. His silence
was more terrible by far than the fiercest threat.
I saw him now the Oriental despot. All the natives
drew back, awestruck.
'The voice of a king is the voice of a great
god,' my mahout murmured, in a solemn whisper.
Then nobody else said anything.
'Why do they want the whiskers?' I asked, just to
set things straight again. 'They seem to have been
in a precious hurry to take them!'
The Maharajah's brow cleared. He turned to me
once more with his European manner. 'A tiger's
body has wonderful power after his death,' he
answered. 'His fangs and his claws are very potent
charms. His heart gives courage. Whoever eats of
it will never know fear. His liver preserves
against death and pestilence. But the highest
virtue of all exists in his whiskers. They are
mighty talismans. Chopped up in food, they act as
a slow poison, which no doctor can detect, no
antidote guard against. They are also a sovereign
remedy against magic or the evil eye. And
administered to women, they make an irresistible
philtre, a puissant love-potion. They secure you
the heart of whoever drinks them.'
'I'd give a couple of monkeys for those
whiskahs,' Lord Southminster murmured, half
We began to move again. 'We'll go on to where we
know there is another tiger,' the Maharajah said,
lightly, as if tigers were partridges. 'Miss
Cayley, you will come with us?'
I rested on my laurels. (I was quivering still
from head to foot.) 'No, thank you, Maharajah,' as
unconcernedly as I could; 'I've had quite enough
sport for my first day's tiger-hunting. I think
I'll go back now, and write a newspaper account of
this little adventure.'
'You have had luck,' he put in. 'Not everyone
kills a tiger his first day out. This will make
'I wouldn't have missed it for a hundred pounds,'
'Then try another.'
'I wouldn't try another for a thousand,' I cried,
That evening, at the palace, I was the heroine of
the day. They toasted me in a bumper of
Heidsieck's dry monopole. The men made speeches.
Everybody talked gushingly of my splendid courage
and my steadiness of hand. It was a brilliant
shot, under such difficult circumstances. For
myself, I said nothing. I pretended to look
modest. I dared not confess the truth--that I
never fired at all. And from that day to this I
have never confessed it, till I write it down now
in these confiding memoirs.
One episode cast a gloom over my ill-deserved
triumph. In the course of the evening, a telegram
arrived for the pea-green young man by a
white-turbaned messenger. He read it, and crumpled
it up carelessly in his hand. I looked inquiry.
'Yaas,' he answered, nodding. 'You're quite right.
It's that! Pooah old Marmy has gone, aftah all!
Ezekiel and Habakkuk have carried off his sixteen
stone at last! And I don't mind telling yah
now--though it was a neah thing--it's I
who am the winnah!'