Tigress by Ellen
The day had been exceptionally hot, but a light breeze sprang up
towards dusk and softly rustled the dry, dusky, jungle grass, making
it bend and shimmer in graceful, undulating waves. The rustling
resembled the swaying of corn, and as the breeze increased it became
more and more pronounced. One part of the long grass rustled more than
the other; it did not stop even when the breeze had passed over it on
its way to other grasses.
The rustling grew louder, and, instead of the gentle, swaying motion
caused by the breeze, the grass suddenly parted and bent in opposite
directions, and from the middle there softly stepped out a full grown
tiger. For a few seconds he stood perfectly still. His four, velvet
paws were planted firmly on the ground; his pliable tail was waving
slowly to and fro, and his bright yellow eyes glanced quickly and
sharply in all directions. He was a splendid fellow and quite young.
His light, tawny-yellow body was exquisitely marked with dark, velvety
stripes—some double, some single—but each stripe even and regular.
His legs, down to his soft velvety-looking paws, were marked in the
same way, and his long tail had rings of the same dark color all the
way down. The under parts of his body, his throat and chest, and the
long hair which grew in little tufts on either side of his face were
of soft, creamy-white. His large, round head, with its small,
upstanding ears, was marked much in the same way; while his fine
whiskers gave him the appearance of a huge cat, and so in a way he
was, for he belonged to the cat tribe and had all the instincts of the
It was beginning to grow dusk, but Tranta was early to-night. This was
the reason that his eyes had a somewhat peculiar look just then, for
he did not care very much for light. It made the pupils of his eyes
contract from their usual vertical slits into small, round spots, and
when this was the case he could not see very well.
As Tranta stood there, every sense on the alert, there was another
rustle close by, but of this he took no notice. The grass waved as
before, and no human eye would have been able to discover anything but
grass, but in another moment a second striped, tawny body came forth,
somewhat smaller than Tranta, but marked in the same way, and moving
with the same lithe, noiseless steps. This was Tera—Tranta's wife—
and she was one of the fiercest tigresses for miles round.
Not far off, hidden cunningly in the jungle grass, were four fine
cubs, who looked like big, playful kittens. This was the first time
Tera had left them, and she was unusually cautious and careful.
Tranta stopped listening as soon as his wife appeared, and began to
move softly and stealthily off; his furry body scarcely showing
against the jungle grass and making no sound whatever. The truth was
Tranta had an idea that the beaters were out, and he was looking for a
couple of nice korinda [Footnote: The korinda is a bushy shrub
with large, drooping branches, covered with thick leaves. Tigers so
habitually use this bush that hunters invariably look out for it when
tiger hunting.—Author] bushes, where he and his wife could hide for
the time being; but on account of the cubs he did not want them to be
too far away from or too close to his lair, and Tera followed him at a
little distance in an undecided mood, for she was troubled. Her first
thought was for her little ones, and with the cunning of the tiger she
wished to lead the beaters away from her cubs. So it was that, with
stealthy, but hesitating steps, she followed Tranta, who had come out
earlier than usual, in order to provide against to-morrow's danger.
But on the way to find the korinda bush, something happened that
turned Tranta's attention.
It was not entirely on the beater's account that Tranta wanted a
korinda bush; a korinda is an ideal place in which to lie in wait
for a young bullock, and, when the bullock comes, it is easy to spring
out, strike him down, and drink his warm blood. And Tranta was getting
hungry. He was also very thirsty, and, as he began to smell water, he
decided to go and have a good drink before hunting further.
Pushing his way through the thick undergrowth, he suddenly came to a
little stream, and there, just by the water, bending their beautiful
heads to drink, with their small, graceful feet planted firmly on the
bank, stood two beautiful, spotted deer.
Now, two of the special dainties that a tiger loves are spotted deer
and peacocks; but he prefers the spotted deer. It is dainty and
delicious food, and difficult to get on account of the deer's
timidity. Tranta's yellow eyes gleamed, and, as lie was not in a very
good position to spring just then, he decided to wait until the deer
should more a little closer. So he drew in his breath and flattened
his fur to make himself as small as possible, and the jungle grass
behind him, by blending so wonderfully with his coat, helped to hide
But the deer seemed suspicious, and lifted their graceful heads in a
quick, nervous manner, glancing timidly around with their large,
gentle eyes, and sniffing doubtfully. At that moment a third deer
appeared close to Tranta, and the temptation was too great. With one
swift spring Tranta landed on the deer's back, his teeth in its
throat. It was a merciful death, for Tranta never let go until the
deer ceased to struggle, and then he promptly proceeded to make a good
He looked round for Tera, but Tera had made the most of her
opportunities and had killed one of the other deer, and so had a meal
of her own. As soon as she had eaten as much as she wanted, she tore
off great pieces of venison, and, taking them up in her mouth, trotted
back to her lair. She had forgotten all about the korinda bush by
this time, and thought only of her cubs. She was just beginning to
train them, and to consider that they needed a little stronger food
now than she could give them, and a nice bit of venison was the very
thing to begin on. She took no notice of her husband at all, but, in
her silent, stealthy way, crept back to her lair and put the dainty
temptingly in front of her little ones.
The young cubs, up to this time, had been very kitten-like in their
behavior, purring and frolicking about, and only emitting occasional
little growls when thrown about or disturbed by one another. But, at
the sight of the fresh meat, the wild blood showed itself, and, with
simultaneous springs, four little tawny bodies alighted on the
venison, tearing it and growling in true tiger fashion.
Tera looked on proudly. She was delighted to see this display, for it
showed that they inherited the family spirit, and she encouraged them
in it. She caught hold of a piece of the meat herself and growled and
snarled, lifting her upper lip and displaying her strong, yellow
fangs, in order to show them the way in which to behave.
The little ones learned their lesson quickly. By the time they had
finished the pieces of venison they were about as savage specimens of
the cat tribe as could be found anywhere. Not only did they gnaw and
tear, and growl, but they used their small claws, which were just
beginning to grow. Contracting their feet, until the claws, which were
like little sickles, curved slowly inward, they slashed the venison
until it looked as though it had been cut with so many knives.
Tera was more pleased than ever to see them use their feet in this
fashion—for a tiger's chief weapons are in its feet, and it can tear
a man, horse or bullock to pieces in a very short time with these
After they had finished their meal the cubs lay down, licking the
spots of fresh blood which were left on their noses and paws, and
giving funny little growls at the reminiscences of the feast.
But Tera was uneasy about the beaters, and, having had her evening
meal, she did not go out again that night. She was restless and
unsettled, and kept a sharp lookout until the early morning. Then she
fell into a sound sleep, lying with her forepaws tucked comfortably
under her and her head resting on them. But in the midst of this
restful sleep Tera suddenly sprang up, her tail waving threateningly,
her whiskers twitching, and her keen eyes fierce and defiant.
Just outside the lair Tera could see a group of natives banging,
screaming, yelling and beating pans, accompanied by a horrible
drumming sound which nearly deafened her. The cubs, frightened and
bewildered, crouched round their mother and nestled closely to her.
Had it not been for her cubs, Tera would have gone out in spite of
all, for the noise was terrifying and bewildering, and she scarcely
knew where she was or what she was doing. But she had her little ones
to think of, and, at that moment, would rather have died than have
Her fur bristled up with rage, and she prepared to fight to the death.
She knew exactly what was happening; knew perfectly well that the
cruel hunters were behind the beaters, and that they were only waiting
for her to come out so that they could use those horrible things full
And so, fortunately for her, she stayed where she was, and thus not
only saved her own life, but probably the lives of her little ones.
The beaters, concluding there were no tigers about, moved off, and, as
soon as their voices died away in the distance, Tera—after caressing
her cubs—lay down and gave them their morning meal, keeping a sharp
lookout, meanwhile, with uplifted head, nervous ears, and eyes that
gleamed like amber.
Meanwhile, Tranta, who had found a particularly nice korinda bush,
and crept into it, considered himself safe. He knew the beaters were
coming; he had heard them when they were doing their best to lure Tera
forth, so he crouched still closer in his hiding-place.
As the noise stopped he knew, with his tiger instinct, that they would
soon find him out, and they appeared sooner than he expected. Then the
howls, screams and banging made the worst and most terrifying noise he
had ever heard in a tiger hunt. He was pretty sure of himself. He had
had some narrow escapes before this, but so far had always managed to
get out safely. So, in spite of the noise, he kept perfectly still.
But these beaters were very daring. They not only came close to the
korinda bush, but they actually parted the branches, and the noise
became so terrible and deafening that at last Tranta grew bewildered,
and sprang out, scarcely knowing what he was doing, and not caring
He wished now that he had stayed in the jungle. Certainly the hunters
could have seen him, but he might have crept off in some way. But now
he had no time to think, for, as he sprang out, there was a sharp
"Bang," followed by a "Ping! ping! ping!" and Tranta suddenly felt a
sharp pain in his leg.
The pain was so great that he was obliged to go on three legs and hold
up the fourth, which hung in a limp manner and hurt him dreadfully.
The fright and shock maddened him, and he turned and faced the hunters
defiantly, snarling in his fiercest way and showing his huge mouth and
cruel teeth. But, as he turned, there was another "Ping! ping!"—a
flash of fire almost in his eyes, and Tranta reeled.
The next instant he recovered himself, and, not liking the fire,
turned round and made swiftly for the river. The beaters and hunters
followed, and did their best to turn him from the water, but they were
not quick enough. In spite of having only three legs to use, Tranta,
with a few swift springs, got to the water first, and there he had the
best of it.
He was a beautiful swimmer, and, even with a wounded leg, could swim
well enough to get away from his enemies.
A short distance from the shore a small ship was lying at anchor, and
Tranta cunningly made straight for it. The two natives who were in
charge of it promptly went over one side as Tranta climbed up the
other, and, although a few shots were fired after him as he clambered
on board, they went wide of the mark, and Tranta lay down on the small
deck and licked his wounded leg.[Footnote: A fact.—Author.] He
stayed there all that day, and neither the beaters nor the hunters
dare go near him. But at night he crept over the side of the ship and
swam to shore, and, as he scrambled out of the water, a well-directed
shot killed him. He was a fine specimen of a tiger, and, as his leg
had only been broken, his skin was unharmed, and later occupied a
place of honor in a palace.
Tera wondered what had become of Tranta, but, as she was very sleepy
and tired, the day passed on, and his absence caused her no
uneasiness. She was a little surprised that he did not appear in the
evening, but finally wandered out by herself, and was fortunate enough
to come across a fine bullock. She did not take any of it to her
little ones this time. She knew perfectly well that too much meat
would not be good for them, so gave them their usual evening meal of
nice warm milk.
Tera was a little uneasy all through that night, as Tranta did not
return, but she took it very calmly. She had been growing indifferent
to him lately, and the cares of her growing family were taking up all
As the days went on and Tranta did not appear, Tera forgot all about
her husband, and devoted all her time and attention to her cubs.
She waited another week or two, and then, after studying their size
and strength, she concluded that it was quite time to teach them how
to hunt and kill for themselves. So, to the cubs' great joy, they were
allowed that same evening to accompany their mother on a hunting
Tera was a good mother, and took great pains in teaching them how to
walk, where to walk, and when to walk; how to draw in their fur in
times of danger; how to hide themselves in the long, jungle grass
until it was difficult to tell which was grass and which was tiger;
taught them, in fact, all the accomplishments necessary to make them
good Bengal tigers. Their own instincts told them the rest, and they
proved very apt pupils.
Softly and silently Terra's supple body wended through the tangled
undergrowth of the jungle, followed by the four cubs, who growled,
whimpered and gamboled about like so many kittens.
At last the cubs began to get tired. It was just when they were
thinking of refusing to go any farther that Tera told them—in tiger
language—that here was the end of their journey. Crouching softly
with her head on her paws, her fierce, yellow eyes fixed on some
moving objects in front of her, and her lips and whiskers moving
excitedly, Tera told them to look.
They had come to the end of the jungle now, and facing them was an
open field. In the field were seven or eight young calves—the very
things on which to teach young tigers how to kill. Telling her little
ones to watch her, Tera, with one mighty bound, sprang at the nearest
calf, bringing him to the ground with the force of the blow. She
alighted full on the back of the calf, and her long teeth fastened
themselves in its poor, quivering throat.
It was soon over, and, almost before the calf was dead, the four cubs,
fired by the sight of blood and their mother's example, sprang, with
cruel ferocity on the carcass, and tore and dragged it to pieces.
[Illustration: "TERA SPRANG AT THE NEAREST CALF, BRINGING HIM TO THE
But Tera had not brought them there simply to eat. Her part was to
teach them to kill, so, administering a sharp pat to each, she made
them leave the body of the calf and attempt a little killing for
At first the cubs grumbled and growled, and even scolded their mother
in their anger, but, in a very short time, they grew just as excited
over the killing process as they had been over the eating, and,
although one calf would have been enough to last them for days, they
never rested until every one of the little animals was dead, for the
killing had aroused all their savage instincts.
Tera looked on proudly, but at last insisted on their returning home.
With her strong teeth and sickle-like claws she tore off pieces of
meat, and each little cub, seizing a piece savagely in his mouth,
trotted after its mother, who led the way straight back to their lair.
After this, however, Tera had rather an anxious time, for, once having
taught the cubs to wander forth, she could not keep them at home, and,
as she had thoughtfully made her lair near a farm, the cubs amused
themselves night after night by killing as many animals as they could
Wantonly destructive, the cubs gave way to their ferocious and
bloodthirsty nature, and, as they grew stronger, they would sometimes
kill three or four cows at a time—calves, pigs, anything, in fact,
that came in their way.
Whether it was the meat diet or the freedom, Tera could never make
out, but, certain it was, that very soon, instead of consulting their
mother and depending on her for everything, the cubs grew fierce and
savage, and snarled whenever she came near them.
Being able now to supply themselves with food, they no longer cared
for the food their mother provided, and one night, when Tera had put
up with it for some time, she quietly slipped off and left them to
look out for themselves.
She forgot her children as easily as she had forgotten her husband,
and in a very short time was comfortable and happy by herself.
Having no ties or cares, she wandered farther afield, and finally made
her home in another jungle. It was, she concluded, a much better
jungle than the other; but the very first day she took up her quarters
in it there was a great disturbance.
From her hiding-place Tera peeped forth, and saw three or four huge
elephants moving slowly towards her. The elephants were carrying
curious things on their backs—something like boxes, and in these
boxes were men with guns.
Now, Tera would always attack an elephant if it was alone. But she
certainly did not like the idea of attacking three or four of them. So
intent was she on watching the elephants slowly moving towards her,
with their huge forms swaying heavily along, that it was with a sudden
shock that she realized that something was behind her.
Turning her head with a swift movement—that only a tiger can make—
she saw two other elephants, and at the same instant there was a blaze
and a cloud of smoke. With a wild roar, Tera sprang full at the
nearest elephant; her four paws, with their cruel claws, sank deeply
into his skin, while her great, yellow head almost faced the head of a
There was a moment's pause, and another blaze of fire, and then Tera,
in spite of convulsive efforts, felt her grasp on the elephant
loosening. Dazzled and bewildered, she suddenly found herself at the
elephant's feet. In a hazy manner she was conscious that something was
touching her. Beyond this she knew nothing, for her muscular body was
losing its strength, her yellow eyes were growing dim and misty, and
her life blood was staining the jungle grass a deep crimson. For a few
moments she lay perfectly still, and then, with a long-drawn,
shuddering gasp, threw back her handsome head and died.
It was a cruel death, perhaps, yet it was merciful, for it was far
better to die like that than to grow old, or sick, and be torn to
death by one of her own kind, or left to starve in the jungle.
And, curiously enough, her skin eventually went to the very same
palace where Tranta's had been sent some time before.