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Afloat with a Tiger.
A traveler in faraway India relates the following thrilling adventure with a tiger: From the heavy rain which falls upon Indian mountains the low-lying country is liable to such sudden floods that every year many beasts, and even human beings, are drowned ere they can make their escape to the higher grounds. On one occasion a terrible flood came up so suddenly that I had to spend a day and night in an open canoe in consequence, during which time I had good opportunities of seeing the good and bad effects produced by them. I lived at the time in a mat house, situated upon a hill which I supposed was quite above high-water mark, but an old Mahometan gentleman having told me that, when he was a little boy, he recollected the water once rising higher than the hill, I took the precaution of keeping a canoe in a small ditch close at hand.

The rainy season began, and daily the river rose higher. One morning we noticed that the mountain tops were covered with heavy banks of dark clouds, though no rain fell out on the plain where we were; but we noticed many animals, a leopard among others, sneak out of the high grass and make for hilly ground. The most curious thing, however, was the smart manner in which rats and even grasshoppers came scampering away from the threatening danger. These latter came in such crowds toward my bungalow that not only the fowls about the premises had a good feed on them, but kites and crows began to swoop down in such numbers that the air was filled with their cries and the noise of their rushing wings.

While watching the immense destruction of these insects we were[Pg 61] startled by the outbreak of the thunderstorm high up on the mountains, but far above the peals of thunder rose the terrible sound of rushing water. Animals now came tearing out of the lowlands too terrified to notice whither they went, so that I stood ready, gun in hand, in case any of the dangerous kind should try to seek an asylum on my particular hill; but with the exception of a huge wild boar, who had to be shot as he charged up the slope, all took refuge elsewhere.

Soon the water burst through the river bank, spreading over the country, sweeping down the tall grass jungle and surging and roaring round our hill. Packing all that was valuable in small parcels, we gathered them in a heap, hoping that the flood would subside ere it reached the building. All round about large trees, uprooted by the terrible force of the deluge, were swept along, several animals vainly trying to keep a footing among their roots and branches. At last the water reached the steps of the house; so, pulling our boat close up, we stepped in with what we could save and hung to the wooden posts of the building, vainly trusting that the worst had come; but it was not so, for we soon had to leave go the post and pass the boat's rope round a tree. The water then rushed in, the house toppled over, and it and its contents were swept away by the flood.

In a short time the tree began to shake and bend, so we knew that it was being uprooted; therefore, letting go the rope, we launched forth upon the seething waste of waters and were whirled away. Onward we rushed through masses of logs, branches, the remains of houses, and such like wreck, having to be very careful that our frail vessel did not get upset or crushed. Twice we made for the tops of hills that showed themselves above water, but on approaching them we found that they had been taken possession of by wild animals.

Here a tiger crouched on a branch of a tree, seemingly too much alarmed at his perilous position to molest the half-dozen deer that[Pg 62] crowded timidly together right underneath his perch. Up above him the smaller branches were stocked with monkeys, who looked very disconsolate at their enforced imprisonment. As we swept past, the tiger raised his head, gave a deep growl and showed his teeth, then crouched down again as if fully aware of his helplessness, and we had too much to think of ourselves to interfere with him.

Gaining the open country, the scene was one of desolation; but the current was not so strong, so we turned round, seeing the flood was going down, and by nightfall we had got back to where the house had stood. Every vestige of the once pretty homestead had disappeared, with sheep and cattle, though the fowls had managed to find a roost on the topmost branches of some orange trees, which alone remained to mark the spot.

As the moon rose, the mountaineers came down from the villages, and, embarking on rafts and in canoes, went round the different hills, shooting and spearing the animals that had swum there; and truly the sight of such a hunting scene was an exciting one. Here a stout stag, defending himself with his antlers as best he might against the spearsmen, kept up a gallant fight till death.

The tiger we had seen in the morning took to swimming, and on being wounded with a spear turned on the nearest canoe, upsetting the hunters into the water, where a desperate encounter took place; but he was eventually dispatched by a blow from an ax—not, however, before he had clawed some of his pursuers most severely.

At daylight the water had entirely gone down, and a thick, muddy deposit covered all the lowland, while an immense number of snakes, scorpions, and other unpleasant creatures lay dead in all directions, upon which and the drowned animals vultures, crows and kites were feeding.


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