Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page

 

 

 

Jinks, the Jackal by Ellen Velvin

Jinks lay at his master's feet, his forepaws stretched out in front of him, and his sharp-pointed, black nose nestling comfortably on them. To all appearance he was asleep; but every now and then his sharp, bright eyes would open, and glance swiftly round in all directions, so swiftly that it was hard to realize he had opened them at all.

It was an exceptionally hot morning, even for India, and Jinks' master stopped reading, to sigh with the heat and wipe his streaming face. Jinks was only too glad of an interruption; he had been still quite long enough, and, in his restless, fidgety way, wanted to be doing something. So, as his master yawned, sighed and fluttered his silk handkerchief, Jinks rose up, stretched himself luxuriously, and, following his master's example, yawned too.

He was a fine-looking animal as he stood up and wagged his bushy, fox- like tail, and his master was struck, for the first time, with his handsome appearance and size. For he had known Jinks from a tiny baby, having carried him home in his arms after he had found him with his dead mother, and fed him warm bread and milk, getting in return many a nasty bite from the vixenish little animal, who had all the viciousness of his race.

But, in due course of time, what with repeated kindnesses and tender care, Jinks had grown not only tame, but quite gentle, and was now extremely fond of his master, and never happy unless with him. His master returned his affection warmly, and the two were close companions; went out for long walks together, when it was not too hot; had their meals together, and would have shared the same room in the bungalow, had it not been that Jinks had a most unpleasant smell at times, which civilization could not dispel, and which made it quite impossible for him to be kept indoors at night. Indeed, there were times when this unpleasant odor was so manifest in the daytime, that Jinks was sent to his kennel in disgrace.

He always felt the disgrace keenly, and, although he invariably went at once when he was told, he did so under protest, with his bushy tail and dog-like head held down in a shamefaced manner, and a peculiar gleam in his eyes which spoke not only of shame, but of anger, only kept under through force of discipline. For his master, understanding his nature, had never allowed Jinks for one moment to get the better of him or disobey him in the smallest thing, and Jinks knew too well how a certain small dog-whip felt to wish for any more of it. He had been a pup up to this time, and just as full of wickedness and mischief as he could be.

The occupants of the bungalow had gone through the same experiences— somewhat worse, perhaps—as most people have who bring up a puppy by hand, and had not only found all kinds of small garments strewed about indiscriminately, dragged out and pulled to pieces, but had at times lost articles altogether. Occasionally, a few particles would be found in Jinks' kennel, but Jinks never appeared to know anything about them, and, in answer to their accusations and scoldings, only put on a quizzical, enquiring air, as though he really had not the least idea what they were talking about. Even when caught in the very act, he would pretend not to know what was meant; but when the dog-whip came across his back he would give such an appalling howl that his chastisers would stop for very terror, lest he should wake up the rest of his kind in the neighborhood.

Jinks did not know there were any of his own kind in the neighborhood. As a matter of fact, he had never thought about himself at all, but, having all he wanted in the shape of food and sport, had made himself quite content and even happy. As he grew from babyhood he got more mischievious still, and gave no end of trouble by eating and destroying nearly all the grapes on the vines, and fruit on the trees and bushes.

Then, one night he had a beautiful time. His master had tied him to his kennel, as usual, and left him for the night, and Jinks was just settling down to sleep, when he suddenly heard a rustling overhead in the tall bushes. The rustling was caused by a silly chicken, who, in some way or other, had lost its way, and was now so extremely unwise as to go to roost over the head of a young jackal.

Jinks had never tasted chicken, great care having been taken about this for many reasons; but, somehow, as soon as he found out what was roosting just above him, he had an irresistible desire to get that chicken and see how he tasted. Unfortunately, he was tied up, and his master never allowed him a long rope; but Jinks, having once made up his mind, was not going to allow a rope to stop him.

He therefore set to work in the most determined manner to break it, stretching himself away from his kennel with all his might, but so noiselessly—for he had all the cunning of his kind—that even the chicken, who was uneasy and restless, heard not a sound. But, strain and tug as he would, Jinks could not break the rope, for it was a strong one, and, although he possessed good muscles and sinews, and pressed every nerve into service, there was only a funny little squeak caused by the strands of the rope rubbing together, and there it ended.

Jinks sat down for a few moments on his haunches to think it over. He had no intention of giving up, and, although he had not the slightest idea of the flavor of chicken, he felt that the time had come when he must have it, come what might. So he set his clever brain to work, while his keen, crafty eyes glanced in all directions, but never lost sight of the chicken for a single instant.

He had lost his domesticated look for the time being; and as he sat there, with his bright eyes gleaming, his rough tongue hanging out of his open mouth, and an expectant look on his furry, oval face, he looked just what he was—a strong and healthy young jackal.

Suddenly he thought of something, and without an instant's hesitation lay down to carry out his idea. Taking the rope in his strong white teeth, he gradually, in a silent, stealthy manner, began to gnaw the strands one by one. Now and then he would stop just for a moment to moisten his lips and to make sure that the chicken was still there; then he would continue the gnawing as before. When he got to the last strand, what his strong, powerful teeth had nearly accomplished, his rough, coarse tongue finished, for it was covered with thorn-like protuberances capable of scraping the flesh off an ox.

There was a little snap, and Jinks was free. He had never wished to be free before, but the chicken had given him his wish for freedom, and he meant to have the chicken. With one swift spring he caught the bird, and in another moment his teeth were buried in its breast and back, and the unfortunate straggler from the home roost was giving his last cry, choked in its infancy by another grip from Jinks' mouth.

Jinks took the dainty morsel inside his kennel; for, now he had caught the chicken, he had a guilty feeling, and, moreover, he wanted to enjoy it in peace and privacy. And, oh, how he did enjoy it! Never in all his life had he tasted anything so delicious—it was so young, and juicy, and tender, and the flavor of it! He was obliged to stop every now and then to lick his lips and relish it to the utmost, for he would not have missed an atom of the pleasure for the world.

He ate the whole thing—flesh and bones and even the entrails: he also ate a few feathers, which he did not particularly care about; but it was impossible to get the delicious food without, and so he did not care much. By the time he had finished, the only remains of the chicken were the feathers, which floated about as though seeking for their lost home.

By morning Jinks had removed every trace of his night's doings but the broken rope and the feathers. He had licked every tiny spot of blood off his mouth and coat, but he could not tie himself up again, and he could not get rid of the feathers, although he had made several clever attempts. He had tried to catch them with his mouth and paws, but they had evaded him in the most wonderful manner, and had maddened him at times by floating round him, and even alighting on his very nose, as if to taunt him. In vain he slapped his nose sharply with his paw each time he felt that nasty, irritating, tickling sensation. He always gave his nose a hard knock, while the feathers went floating gaily off as before. He gave it up at last, and lay down in his kennel with a meek expression on his face, but a guilty look in his eyes.

It was the custom for one of the servants to untie Jinks in the morning, so that he could go at once to his master. Occasionally his master would come and set him loose himself, and take him for a morning walk before it got too hot, so that whoever found Jinks had been untied naturally concluded the other had done it.

So it was on this particular morning. Jinks, after lying in his kennel for some time with his meek expression, suddenly remembered this, and so resolved to go into the house as though he had just been untied. He had cunning enough, however, to wait until he heard the servants moving about, and then he got up slowly, and, with his usual bright, wide-awake air, made his way into the house and to his master.

And this was the very morning when Jinks had been lying at his master's feet, and, as he rose up, that his master noticed what a handsome animal he had grown, and how big he was getting. There was no doubt he was a fine animal. He was nearly full-grown now, and stood about fifteen inches high at the shoulders, and measured nearly two feet from the tip of his nose to the beginning of his bushy tail. He had a handsome head, good, muscular limbs, and a beautiful coat of greyish-yellow color, rather dark on the back and head, but much lighter and softer underneath the body and on the insides of the legs. His bright, full eyes changed color repeatedly, but, to a close observer, one dominant expression was always in them—an expression of the deepest craft and cunning.

As he stood there, looking at his master with a subdued, enquiring kind of manner, the latter realized that he was almost a full-grown jackal, and began to wonder whether, after all his domestic training and surroundings, he would ever show the characteristic traits of his kind. Up to now he had been gentleness itself, and was as meek and obedient as any domesticated dog, but he had wild and savage blood in him, and there was a peculiar gleam in his eyes at that moment that his master could not quite understand.

The truth was, Jinks was growing uneasy and uncomfortable under his master's close scrutiny, and began to wonder, after all, whether he did not know all about that chicken. He had never looked at him in this way before, and it both annoyed and irritated him to a frightful degree, and he grew restless, and finally turned his head so that he could not see the steady, embarrassing eyes of his master.

But, as he turned his head, his master caught sight of one tiny spot of blood on his neck which Jinks had evidently overlooked. He said nothing for a moment, and then called Jinks to him in a kindly, caressing manner.

Jinks hesitated. He had grown suspicious, and he did not like his master's manner; in addition to which, he could not forget that he was guilty about the chicken; so, when his master reached forward to pat him, Jinks, thinking he was going to slap him, suddenly turned round and bit him sharply through the hand. It was the very same hand that had fed him from a baby, and cared for and tended him all through his babyhood and young days, and up to this time had protected him from all harm and danger.

But that was nothing to Jinks now. He scented danger, and the treacherous meanness of his nature came suddenly to the fore. He forgot the care and kindness of his master; forgot everything but the fact that those eyes were still looking at him, and that they made him feel restless, irritable and wild. He had had this wild feeling for some time now, but he had been keeping it in restraint, fearing that dog-whip and dreading the anger of his master; but now, for some reason or other, he did not care what his master thought of him, and, as he snapped fiercely at his master's hand, he growled and snarled as savagely as any wild jackal.

Without a moment's hesitation, his master, with his free hand, caught Jinks by the throat and called for help. Luckily, two servants were close by, and came immediately, and Jinks' master gave orders to fetch a gun and shoot him at once.

But Jinks was not born to be shot in that manner. As he felt that grip on his throat, he suddenly realized his strength, and with one great wrench he tore himself free, snapping and snarling in true savage fashion, and showing his fang-like teeth in an appalling manner. He would have sprung straight at the throat of his master, but that at that moment there was a flash of fire, a terrific bang, and Jinks, scared out of his wits, fled, howling in the most miserable way.

This was the last Jinks saw of his master, or his master saw of him, for some time, for after that he returned no more to the home which had sheltered him so long, but roamed the country at will, and made night hideous by his screams and howls. He wandered about for some time, seeking for a companion of some sort, but the only animals at all like himself were one or two domestic dogs which lived in the neighborhood, and of these, for some reason or other Jinks was afraid, and so kept at a safe distance.

Now, in his old life, Jinks had always slept at night and moved about in the daytime, but now he got into the habit of hiding himself by day in woody jungles and such places, and at night going out and wandering about in search of food. He wondered once or twice what had made him feel so differently. He did not know that it was partly due to the fact that he had tasted fresh blood. True, it was only chicken's blood, but it was blood all the same, and it had awakened the latent thirst for it in him, and this, combined with the fact that he had just reached the age of an adult jackal, accounted for his suddenly getting so wild and savage.

All this, however, Jinks could not understand. He only knew that he felt lonely and miserable, and that his restlessness would not let him keep still more than a few minutes at a time. At last he began to get very hungry, for he was not accustomed to getting his own food, and did not know the way in which to set about it. He began to wish he could find another chicken, and his mouth watered at the very thought.

Then one evening he came across some sheep feeding in a field, and, being hungry and desperate, he killed one, and then gorged himself to such a degree that he could scarcely walk away.

He had a good, long sleep after this in one of the shady jungles, and when he woke up was too lazy, for a time, to trouble himself about anything. His loneliness, however, increased daily, and as the days went on he grew so miserable that he gave vent every now and then to dismal, blood-curdling howls, which echoed and re-echoed through the woods, scaring all the wild creatures and striking terror into their hearts.

Then, one night, when he was very hungry again, and could not find anything to eat, he suddenly remembered that he had left some of the flesh on the sheep he had killed a few nights ago. He would go and find it, and if the vultures had not finished it he would have a good feed. He had almost forgotten the way, but when he had gone a short distance he could smell it, for it had become rotten by that time, and was nothing but putrid flesh. Jinks had never tasted putrid flesh, but he did not seem to feel any dislike to it, for as he smelt it he licked his lips in pleasurable anticipation, and hurried on in his quick, silent way.

He was not happy, however, and when he was nearly there gave one of his piercing cries—something between a wild scream and a dismal howl —a cry which, to his bewilderment and surprise, called forth a perfect chorus of screams, shrieks and howls which startled him almost to death. He stood absolutely motionless for a few moments, with one paw uplifted, and his eyes and ears strained to the utmost. Horrible as the shrieks were, there was something familiar and comforting about them, and he felt joyous and frightened at the same time.

When the howls began to die away, he felt impelled to send forth another shrieking scream, and this was again answered in the same way as before. This time Jinks did not stop to listen; he went hurriedly forward to find out what it was.

And what a sight met his eyes! There, just in front of him, was a whole pack of animals exactly like himself crowded round the carcass of the sheep he had killed a few nights ago. Nearly all the animals, at the moment he came upon them, were standing with uplifted heads, their sharp noses pointing at the peaceful moon, howling and screaming at the top of their voices. In a few moments some of them stopped, and continued their occupation of tearing off the rotten flesh of the dead sheep, and swallowing it greedily. Dozens of vultures hovered overhead, and, watching their opportunity, dived down every now and again and tore a piece of flesh from the carcass with their powerful beaks, and then hurried off, making unearthly noises which, joined to the howls of the jackals, made the most awful discord imaginable.

When the jackals had all stopped howling, Jinks moved slowly forward, with a deprecating air, for he was not sure of his reception. And, indeed, had he known what sort of a reception he would get, it is doubtful whether he would ever have ventured forward at all. For the moment the jackals caught sight of him, with one accord they left the carcass of the sheep, and with a few swift bounds surrounded him. They very soon let him know he was a stranger, and an unwelcome one, and before he had time to realize the state of affairs he had received several sharp bites.

His smell was against him, to begin with, for a tame jackal loses much of the strongness of the odor peculiar to him, and a pack of jackals rather prides itself on the strongness of its smell, for this smell keeps away many things that are unpleasant to them in the shape of enemies.

But Jinks was not going to stand still and be bitten to death, so he promptly turned upon his assailants, and bit and tore some of them so savagely that the others paused. One old jackal, being keenly jealous of new arrivals in the shape of strange jackals, took upon himself to catch Jinks by his foreleg, a mistake he had reason to regret, for Jinks—who was abnormally strong, and possessed the peculiar little excrescence shaped like a cone on his head, and which generally denotes a leader of a pack—suddenly seized his opponent by his throat, and refused to let go until he was dead. Then, shaking him as though he had been a little terrier, he laid him down with a growl, and looked round as much as to say:

"Now, then, who comes next?"

None of the jackals seemed to be particularly anxious, for now that Jinks was standing among so many of his fellows, he found he was just a little taller than any of them, and this little gave him. an immense advantage. He snapped and bit one or two more just to show them he was still ready to go on; but, although they all howled and screamed again, they were not anxious to fight. The newcomer had killed their leader, and they were afraid of him.

Jinks wasted no time. He had not stayed long enough in captivity to become really tame or timid, and this one fight had made a jackal of him, and he took care to let them know it. He was wildly excited, and daring enough at that moment for anything, and his daring and recklessness inspired the jackals with respect, and, in spite of a few dissenting voices, Jinks promptly took the leadership of the pack without more ado. It all came as natural to him as though he had been a wild, free thing all his life, and dependent on his own resources for food and shelter.

In that moment he forgot all his past life, and only realized that he was a strong, full-grown animal; that he was the leader of the pack, and that the others, for some unaccountable reason, were afraid of him, and ready to acknowledge that he was their master.

And so Jinks, having chosen his position, kept it. And this was not the only thing he chose and kept. He chose several wives from the pack, and took care to have the best and youngest, no matter how much he had to fight for them, or how much the others resented it. He was quite willing to prove his right to them by as many fights as might be needed; but if he fancied a wife he never rested until he had won her, and then woe betide anyone who so much as looked at her.

But it was not long before the pack knew better than to dispute Jinks' will; he was a splendid leader, daring, brave and as full of pluck and cunning as any jackal could wish.

So he reigned supreme for many years, and fine doings there were sometimes among the pack.

[Illustration: "JINKS WAS NEVER SO HAPPY AS WHEN HE WAS LEADING HIS
PACK."]

Jinks' pack was the largest for miles round, and numbered over two hundred animals, not to speak of young pups. He had quite a large family of his own by this time, for a jackal mother generally has four or five pups at a time, and Jinks had a good many wives. He was proud of them all, in his way, but he cared more for the chase and hunting expeditions than anything else, and was never so happy as when he was leading his pack either after sheep and antelopes, or taking it to visit some of the farm-houses, towns or villages in search of food.

The pack grew to be famous, after a time, for its ravages and daring, and the distant sound of its awful howling would make the unfortunate inhabitants of the various places shrink and shiver with terror. It came to such a pass, after awhile, that a price was set upon each jackal's head, and a few of them were killed off, but only a few. There was so much danger attendant on attacking such a large number, that only one or two men were daring enough to attempt it.

One of these daring men was Jinks' old master, and so terrible had been the mischief done by the jackals, not only to his sheep and cattle, but to his fruits and crops, that he determined, come what might, to destroy as many of the vicious creatures as he could. The villagers and farmers had been obliged to keep their livestock locked up, and even then, in a few cases, the daring brutes had broken in, taken what they wanted, killed a few animals besides, just to show they had been there, and then made off.

The consequence was, that the jackals had to depend on antelopes and smaller animals, and, these being very scarce, they were almost famished. Jinks was obliged to lead his pack to one of the towns where there was plenty of offal and refuse of all kinds, and here the jackals did good service, for, having cleared the streets of putrid and pestilential matter, the town, which had been down with fever, recovered its health and regained its strength.

Having cleared the towns and villages of all the refuse, the jackals grew more daring still. The live stock was still locked up, and in such a way now that, do what they would, they could not get in the sheds and houses; so they betook themselves to the bungalows, and actually entered the larders and helped themselves.

It happened one night that Jinks led his pack to his old home—the place where he had been so carefully reared. Whether he remembered the place it is impossible to say, but his master was waiting for them with a number of other men, and, as they were all armed with guns, the pack had a warm reception.

As a rule, no matter how much the inhabitants of the bungalows were prepared, the moment that horrible, howling scream began they lost their nerve, and became so frightened and bewildered that they were only too thankful if the jackals took what they wanted in the shape of food and they escaped with their lives.

But Jinks' old master and the men who were with him were made of different stuff, and when, with their usual howl, the animals sprang upon the house, they were met with a volume of fire and smoke that frightened and subdued them for a moment. When they recovered themselves, they were met with more fire and smoke, and, as the latter cleared away, numbers of them could be seen stretched out on the ground, limp and senseless.

Among these was Jinks—brave, plucky, crafty, treacherous Jinks—who had led his pack to the home which had nourished and fed him, and to the master who had tended and cared for him.

As soon as the pack found that their leader had fallen with so many others of their kin, and as the horrible smoke and fire kept on, the remaining members of it turned and fled, howling, moaning and screaming at the top of their voices.

When all had gone but the dead or dying, Jinks' master came forward to where Jinks' handsome body was lying motionless.

"I really believe this is Jinks," his old master said, in surprise. And Jinks he proved to be, for he remembered that peculiar, little, bony projection on Jinks' head, and, although it could not be seen, being covered by a funny little tuft of hair, he felt for it and found it, and this, with the size and markings of the animal, were conclusive.

"Poor old Jinks!" his master said, regretfully, stroking the still handsome head and body. "He was a beautiful animal, but just as treacherous as the rest of his kind."

Now, as a matter of fact, Jinks was not dead yet, and at the sound of the old, familiar voice he opened his eyes, now dim and misty with suffering, and looked at his old master in the way he had been used to do when he was only a pup and dependent on him for everything. And, at the sight of this, his master, who had grown very, very fond of his pet after having him all those years, broke down completely and cried like a child. His friends persuaded him to go away, and, feeling that he could not bear to see his old pet actually die, he consented and went into the house, where he did his best to forget the sad episode.

And what about Jinks? Well, as soon as his master had disappeared, Jinks, although wounded, took himself off in a stealthy manner and rejoined his pack. He had intended to feign death[Footnote: It is a well-known fact that jackals will sometimes feign death as a means of escape.—Author.] until attention was taken from him, but the sound of his master's voice had been too much for him, and he had opened his eyes in spite of himself. He had, however, been crafty enough to close them again and keep perfectly still until they all drew off, and then he slunk away, as I have just told you.

He was sick and feeble for some time after this, and his pack despised him for it, but after awhile he recovered and was himself again. But whether he had had a shock, or whether he still had a tiny bit of affection for his old master in that treacherous heart of his, will never be known.

As soon as he was strong again lie led his pack to a new neighborhood, and, as he was never seen or heard of again, he probably shared the fate of most wild animals and died a tragic death.