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Two Narrow Escapes by Uncle Ned

 

One evening last winter the children called upon their uncle Ned, who is a sailor, and just home from India, for a story. He willingly granted their request, and at once proceeded to tell them of a narrow escape he once made, as follows:

"At the time of the occurrence I was staying at a small village called Yealah, in India, with a young friend in the civil service, who had a bungalow there. We used to amuse ourselves picking up shells on the beach in the cool of the evening, and later, sitting out enjoying the breeze and smoking our cheroots. One evening, however, our conversation was interrupted by a herd of buffaloes rushing past us at full speed, which we imputed to their being chased by a tiger. On the following morning our surmise proved correct, and we learned that a tiger had carried off a buffalo within two or three hundred yards of where we had been sitting on the previous evening. My friend, who was a keen sportsman, resolved to track the tiger; and I accompanied him, with a number of natives, who took care to keep at a safe distance in the rear. Following the broad track through the jungle, we soon arrived at the spot to which the tiger had dragged his prey, and here we found the mangled remains of the buffalo, but the tiger had betaken himself elsewhere to enjoy his siesta after gorging himself. We proceeded on cautiously; but as the jungle got very thick and tangled, my friend decided it would be imprudent to proceed any further, and we halted. We brought the butts of our rifles to the ground, and being of a botanical turn, I stooped to pick up a flower. At that moment a tremendous roar echoed through the forest, and seemed to stun me. I staggered a little, as if from a blow; but recovering myself, grasped my rifle, for I immediately guessed it was the tiger. My friend, with an exclamation, 'What an escape!' dashed away to the right, and I was about to follow, I knew not exactly whither, when he made his appearance, to my intense satisfaction.

"His first exclamation was, 'The brute has got away. Just like my luck.' And then he added, 'What a lucky escape you had!'

"'What do you mean?' said I.

"'Why, don't you know that, as you stooped down to pick the flower, that tiger sprang at you, and missed you by a few inches?'

"I confess a cold sweat broke out over me, and I inwardly thanked the Almighty for my providential escape.

"As my story is rather a short one, I will tell you another of a lucky escape I witnessed; though first I should mention that soon after this affair my friend paid with his life for the temerity with which he tracked tigers in the jungle.

"The brig to which I belonged was proceeding from Rangoon, and one evening, after having come to an anchor abreast of a small inlet just above Elephant Creek, at the mouth of the Irrawaddy, I accompanied the skipper and a friend in the boat up the inlet to a small village to procure a supply of fruit. On our return my companions expressed their determination to bathe; but as I did not feel inclined to do so, I seated myself in the stern, and taking out of my pocket one of Scott's novels, amused myself with reading until they should have completed their bath.

"About five minutes had elapsed, and the skipper was alone in the water, when my attention was aroused by shouts and screams from the villagers, who were hurrying down to the water's edge. Turning round, I saw my captain, for whom I had no great affection, exerting every muscle to gain the bank, from which he was still at a considerable distance. Not seeing anything to account for the hubbub, my first impression was that a child had fallen into the water, and that he was swimming to the spot of the accident to save it. In an instant I directed the Lascars to 'give way' with the oars, and seizing the helm, steered as nearly as I could guess in the direction to which the gestures of the Burmese appeared to point. Before I reached the point the skipper disappeared beneath the water; but, full of the preconceived impression, I imagined that he was diving in search of the child. A few strokes and we were at the spot, but it was not until the Lascar crew lashed their oars violently into the water that the truth flashed upon me. It must be an alligator that was pursuing him; and soon all doubt was removed, when the master, a few moments later, rose at a short distance from us in a spot where he could feel the bottom, and ran quickly ashore, his shoulder bleeding profusely. The whole transaction occupied a very short time, and the wounded master was conveyed on board the brig with all dispatch.

"On inquiry I learned that the alligator had been first seen by the Burmese, who gave instant notice of his approach, as before described, and the warning was as quickly comprehended by the captain. All his exertions to escape were, however, unavailing, and he felt himself seized a little below the shoulder. By a convulsive effort he succeeded in shaking off his cruel antagonist, and again struck out. The animal, however, again advanced, and seizing him nearly by the same place, dragged him under the surface for an instant or two, when the splashing of the oars compelled him to relax his hold. On examination it proved that the arm, although severely lacerated, was not so much injured as to incur the necessity of amputation; and being placed under medical care at Rangoon, the skipper was soon enabled to resume his duties."