" Our arrangements were soon completed. We climbed into our nest, and, after receiving our batteries, and being joined by my shikaree to act as a look-out, we sent all the men away towards the village.
" The shadows of evening soon fell, and the sun went down without our seeing, or indeed expecting to see, anything. But the tigers were hungry, for my man knew that they had made no recent kill, and he confidently expected their visit before it became too dark to see them. There was no moon in the early part of the night.
" The only circumstance which occurred to cause us any solicitude before the deep gloaming stole on the surrounding jungle, was the passing of a party of Bheel girls by a path behind the position occupied by us. They were returning from their daily occupation of cutting grass and wood, and it was with some trepidation I heard their chatter and laughter as, unconscious of their neighbours, they passed on their way. We knew not for certain in which direction the tigers were lying, but expected that wherever the selected place was, it must be in the immediate vicinity. It was, therefore, with a feeling of relief that we heard the laughter of the light-hearted girls die away in the distance.
" I was calculating that we should certainly be very late for dinner, and that our mess comrade would have for some time to perforin alone the duties of host, when my friend gave me a nudge, and I could see in the waning light that he was looking considerably excited, and preparing for action.
"As I quietly cocked my rifle, I looked in the direction to which the muzzle of his gun was pointed, but saw nothing. In another half minute, however, a lengthened yell broke the stillness which was fast settling down on the jungle, and awoke the mountain echoes. This was prolonged into a maze of sound, as the yelling continued uninterruptedly from a tree in our vicinity. By whom caused, or for what purpose, we were for some time in helpless ignorance. At last, after repeated inquiries, the yelling ceased, and a tremulous voice replied, in answer to our interrogatories, 'that the tigers had come to the foot of the tree then containing the speaker, and had snuffed at his pair of shoes left there. Thereupon, excessive fright had ensued, and created the disturbance we had heard.'
" Gad ! sir, how my fingers itched to have that fellow by the throat. He was a servant of my friend's who, disregarding our positive orders, had climbed into a neighbouring tree, instead of going away with the rest of the men, perhaps deeming himself safer near us than with them. I felt that, if that unhappy man had been in our tree, I should inevitably have kicked him out of it, and then gone below and kicked him up again.
" My friend, it appeared, had seen the two large tigers passing through some bushes a short distance off, evidently feeling their way, as they generally do, before coming to their banquet. The shikaree had also seen them, still nearer, when they approached the tree in which my friend's rascal was seated, and we should probably in another minute or so have had them under our fire at a distance not exceeding twenty paces.
" We waited for some time longer, till too dark to see, in fact, and then reluctantly descended, and made our way towards the village. But it was not in the nature of man to allow the culprit to escape scathless. My friend got hold of the trembling wretch and administered chastisement, though not, I confess, with such severity as I thought the magnitude of the offence demanded.
" We were of course late by an hour for dinner, which was over on our arrival; but our guests hardly required apologies on our part for not being present to receive them, when such excellent excuse as the possible slaughter of a tiger was offered. Moreover, our ill-success and its cause gave them an opportunity of making a good many exceedingly poor jokes at least, we failed to appreciate them and we had to undergo a considerable amount of chaff."
After some further conversation on the subject of unlucky spots, and the pertinacious way in which many natives will halloo in the very face of the approaching game, the party separated, and the night-hush soon after fell on the slumbering little camp.