Page images
PDF
EPUB

less delicate organs of the European there was nothing particular to be observed, but the Jaggardar had evidently made a discovery of importance. After carefully regarding the signs he had observed for some time, he arose with a broad grin of satisfaction on his swarthy features, and merely uttering the word “ Koolgie !"* whilst he held up the fingers of both hands, to denote the number ten, proceeded with a more rapid step, and more confident air, like a hound running breast-high on the scent.

“It's all right now," whispered Mansfield ; " the imp has -struck upon a fresh trail, and the devil himself cannot throw him out when once he has fairly settled to it; we may, therefore, reckon with certainty on finding Bison at the other end, although it is very uncertain how long we may have to follow it before we come up to them.”

Charles smiled incredulously at the idea of any one being able to follow the track of an animal for miles over ground where not the slightest vestige of a foot-mark was visible to ordinary eyes, but, at the same time, expressed a hope that they might succeed.

“ Look here,” said Mansfield, as they approached a dry watercourse, where the fresh foot-marks of a herd of Bison were deeply imprinted in the half-baked mud. “You may now satisfy your own senses that our guide is on the right scent. Here, you see, is the fresh trail of ten or a dozen Bison, at least, and one of them an old bull, who will show fight, I'll be bound for him, and put your metal to the test, my hearty, before you take his scalp; but we must push forward, for old Kamah is fuming at this delay."

After following the trail for some miles, at a rapid pace, the Jaggardar became sensible, from certain signs which he observed, that the game was not far in advance. He now slackened his pace, and, renewing his signal to observe profound silence, began to creep along the bed of a small water-course with great caution and circumspection.

“ See,” whispered Mansfield, as they passed a bank of wet sand, where the trail was distinctly visible, and the water, which still continued to flow into the deeply indented foot-marks, had not yet filled them up—"we are close upon them now. Keep your wits about you, my boy, and be ready with your rifle, for the old bull is apt to make a charge, with but scanty warning."

Every faculty of the sagacious savage was now on the full stretch. He crept along with the air of a tiger about to spring on his prey: his rolling eye flashed fire; his wide nostrils were distended to the utmost limits, and even his ears appeared to erect themselves, like those of a wild animal. Presently he started, stopped, and, laying his ear close to the ground, listened attentively, then proceeded with more caution than before, stopping and listening, from time to time, till at length it became evident, from the triumphant beam of satisfaction which lighted up his savage features, that he had fully ascertained the position of the enemy. He now stood erect, cast a prying glance around, to make himself master of the locality, held up his hand to ascertain the direction of the wind, and, having apparently satisfied himself that all was right, motioned to his companions to follow his movements. Having scrambled cautiously out of the watercourse, he laid himself flat upon the ground, and, separating the tangled brushwood with one hand, began to worm his way through it, with the gliding motion and subtle cunning of a snake, Mansfield and Charles tried to imitate the serpentine motion of their savage guide, as they best could; but they found their less pliant limbs but ill adapted to this mode of progression, and the noise which they occasionally made in forcing their way through a thorny bush called forth many an angry frown from the Jaggardar. Having proceeded in this manner for some hundred yards, they suddenly came upon an opening amongst the bushes; and here a view burst upon the astonished sight of Charles, which made his eyes flash, and sent the blood coursing through his veins like quicksilver. They had gained the edge of a natural clearing in the forest, an open glade about three hundred yards in diameter, clothed with rich green herbage, and shaded by gigantic teak trees, which surrounded it on all sides, stretching their broad-leafed boughs far into the opening.

* Bison,

In the midst of this a herd of fifteen Bison were quietly feeding, perfectly unconscious of the near approach of danger. A mighty buli, the father of the herd, stalked about amongst the females, with the lordly step of a three-tailed bashaw in the midst of his seraglio; his ponderous dewlap imparting an air of grave dignity to his appearance, and his sullen eye, glaring from beneath the shadow of his thundery brow, menacing with destruction the hardy foe who dared to intrude upon his woody dominions. But Mansfield had tamed as proud as he, and feared not his glance. A grim smile of satisfaction passed over the harsh features of the Jaggardar, as he pointed out the stately herd; then raising himself cautiously from amongst the long grass, he posted himself behind a large tree, which effectually concealed his person, folded his arms across his chest, and, leaning against the stem, remained cold, still, and motionless as a bronze statue. Every trace of intense excitement which had so lately strung his nerves to the highest pitch had passed away; and he once more assumed the stoical, passionless air of the haughty savage. Pointing again towards the Bison, he nodded expressively to his companions, as much as to say, "I have done my duty; there is the game, and now, gentlemen, let me see what you can do."

Charles, furious with excitement, pitched forward his rifle, and, although his hand shook violently, from anxiety, and the exertions he had made in scrambling through the brushwood, was about to pull the trigger at random, when Mansfield seized his arm with the gripe of a blacksmith's vice, and pulled him down amongst the long grass.

“ Are you mad,” said he, in a low whisper, “ to risk a shot in your present state of excitement? Why, boy, you are panting like a brokenwinded post-horse, and the barrel of your rifle vibrates like a pendulum ! I suppose you fancy it's a drove of Zinganee bullocks we have to deal with; but wait a bit till you have seen the charge of a wounded Bison, and I am much mistaken but you'll think twice before you risk another shot with an unsteady hand. Here,” continued he, pulling Charles behind the stem of a large tree, “get under cover of this, in the first instance; you will find a breastwork somewhat useful before we have done. Now then, sit down till you have recovered breath, and, in the mean time, put fresh caps upon your rifle; I have more than once narrowly escaped death from neglecting this precaution.”

Charles, having rested for a few minutes, declared his hand to be as steady as a rock.

“ Well then," said Mansfield, rising slowly on one knee, and peeping from the large knotty stem which sheltered them," we shall put your steadiness to the test. Take that cow next you, and mind you aim for the heart, just behind the bend of the elbow ; hit her there, and she is your own: go six inches to the right or left, and you must stand by to receive a charge, for charge she will

, and the charge of a wounded Bison, let me tell you, is no child's play."

Charles, now perfectly cool, raised his rifle, took a deliberate aim at the nearest Bison, and fired. The enormous brute dropped heavily to the ground, and, uttering one deep groan, expired without a struggle : the ball had passed through her heart.

In the excitement of the moment, Charles was about to raise a shout of triumph, when Mansfield checked him, and pointing to the Jaggardar, who had already laid himself flat amongst the long grass, made signs to him to follow his example.

The herd, startled by the report of the rifle, suddenly raised their heads with a loud snort, gazed around them wildly, as if to ascertain from whence it proceeded, and trotting up to their fallen companion, began to snuff at the warm blood. The smell of this excited them to a state of phrenzy. They galloped round the open space in wild confusion, kicking their heels in the air, goring at each other with blind fury, and bellowing fearfully, in that deep tremulous tone so expressive of mingled rage and fear. Then, suddenly rallying, they slowly approached, in a body, to the object of their dread, again snuffed at the blood, and again bellowed, gored, and scampered with more violence than ever.

This wild scene had lasted for some minutes, and Mansfield was beginning to fear that in the course of their evolutions the maddened brutes might happen to stumble on their place of concealment, when, as if seized with a sudden panic, the whole herd stopped short, snorted, wheeled round, and uttering one tremendous roar, dashed into the thickest part of the jungle, crashing through the dry bamboos with the noise and resistless fury of a passing whirlwind.

The old bull alone stood his ground, lashing his sides with his tail, tearing up the earth, and bellowing with a voice of thunder that made the woods re-echo for miles.

“Our friend is very pugnaciously inclined,” remarked Mansfield, indulging in a low chuckle, as he slowly raised his rifle, and brought the sight to bear upon the broad forehead of the bull,“ we must see if a gentle hint from Clincher will not bring him to reason.”

The report of the rifle was followed by a crash, as if the ball had struck a plate of iron, and the bull dropped upon his knees with a surly growl.

The Jaggardar, uttering a wild yell, brandished his knife, and bounded forward to despatch him, whilst Mansfield, stepping from behind the shelter of the tree, cheered on the eager savage with a hearty shout.

But their triumph was premature: the ball had flattened against the massive skull of the animal, and merely stunned him, without inflicting any serious injury. He had regained his legs before the Jaggardar could reach him; and now, perfectly mad with rage and pain, rushed with headlong fury upon old Kamah. Quick as thought the active savage darted behind the nearest tree, and scrambled into the branches with the agility of a monkey. The bull, disappointed of his intended victim, turned with redoubled fury upon Mansfield. The hardy hunter, well accustomed to such scenes, and confident of his own coolness and presence of mind, stood by the side of the tree motionless as a statue, his eagle eye steadily fixed upon his mad antagonist, and his rifle on full cock, ready to act as occasion might require: but the weapon was not raised; he had but one barrel remaining, and was determined to reserve it till it could be discharged with deadly effect.

On came the bull at headlong speed-his tail on end, his blood-shot eye rolling in the frenzy of madness, his tongue lolling far out of his mouth, and the white foam flying in spray from his distended jaws. Mansfield awaited the charge with perfect coolness till the furious brute was within a few yards of him, when, stepping behind the shelter of the tree, he allowed the bull to pass in his headlong career, and, as he did so, discharged the remaining barrel of his rifle into his shoulder. The wounded monster uttered a surly growl, staggered forward about a hundred yards, stumbled, and fell heavily.

Charles, who had been watching Mansfield's movements with breathless anxiety, sprang from behind the tree and levelled his rifle-Mansfield struck down the barrel before he had time to discharge it.

“Gently, boy, gently,” cried he ; "wait till he is steady; the brute is tumbling about like a wounded grampus, and it is a hundred to one against hitting him in the right place-recollect this is our last shot and must not be thrown away rashly.” As he said this the wounded bull regained his legs. “Now then, my boy, be cool; stick close to the tree, and reserve your fire till I tell you."

Mustering his whole remaining strength, the frantic brute fixed his glaring eyes upon the hunters, and, lowering his head, dashed at them with determined fury. But his shoulder was stiff; the life-blood was ebbing fast, and his sight was bewildered. He stumbled over the trunk of a fallen tree—made one desperate plunge forward-his wounded shoulder failed him—and he rolled over at their feet, making the earth tremble under his enormous weight.

“ Now then,” shouted Mansfield," at him, before he can recover his legs. One shot behind the horns, and we have him.”

A peal of 'iendish laughter followed the report of Charles's rifle, and next instant old Kamah was seen clinging to the prostrate body of the bull, and clutching the hilt of a long hunting-knife, which was buried in his heart.

“ He was a gallant brute,” said Mansfield, dropping the butt-end of his rifle to the ground, and wiping the big drops of perspiration from his forehead.

KOONDAH. (To be continued.)

Sept.-VOL. LI. NO. CCI.

F

THE PAINTER'S DAUGHTER.

A TALE.

Cordelia, Sir, do you know me?
Lear. You are a spirit, I know : when did you die ?
Physician. He's scarce awake; let him alone awhile.
Lear. Pray, do not mock me:
I am a very foolish, fond old man ;

do not laugh at me ;
For, as I am a man, I think this lady
To be my child Cordelia.

“ EDWARD OTWAY is a very fine young man, and most uncommonly agreeable,” said Miss Priscilla Singleton, addressing her sister, Mrs. Wilmot, as they sat together, one summer's evening, in a sunny verandah overlooking the Regent's Park. “What a pity," she continued, “ that he is so ugly!”

“Opinions might vary on the latter point, although scarcely on the former," replied Mrs. Wilmot, with a smile; " and certainly he appears to me (even admitting your assertion to be the general impression) a man most expressly calculated to turn the heart of any woman not especially guarded by some previous engagement; for which reason, as I now see him walking in the garden with Cecil, I ought, like a prudent mother, to play the Duenna, since I have not a very exalted opinion of the steadiness of her little head, and doubt much that her heart has been fortified against him, by any impression in favour of her admirer, or rather adorer, Sir Hargrave Grenville, although you, Priscilla, might consider him as a much handsomer man."

“ Certainly I should,” replied Miss Singleton, following her sister a few steps as she passed from the verandah through the drawing-room, in order to join the young people in the garden. Priscilla turned to the pier-glass, and continued in soliloquy.

“And I do wonder what Sir Hargrave, who is undoubtedly a very sensible man, though not so fluent in conversation as Edward Otway, can possibly see in a girl like Cecil to admire to such a degree, as it must be confessed he does ! Indeed all the men make a most unaccountable fuss about her beauty, which I cannot see—I am sure her mouth is immensely too wide, and, though her teeth are very dazzling and her lips so uncommonly red, yet”-she continued, biting and pinching the narrow thin edges of her own mouth, which were only distinguishable from the rest of her face from their being of rather a darker yellow-" that belongs so exclusively to her youth; once she passes twenty we shall have no more sonnets addressed to her scarlet lip.' Then, though her skin is so very white, black hair would make any skin look white”—putting aside her own sandy locks, and trying a black satin riband in their place, without; however, producing the desired effect. “Indeed, she is too fair, as she never has the least colour, except on horseback, or in a heated room in the evening, and then she

« PreviousContinue »