Bengal Dacoits and Tigers/Tiger Stories/Earning the Reward
EARNING THE REWARD
A man-eating tiger was roaming through Hazaribagh station. It had killed many villagers and had become so daring that it entered the market-place in broad day-light.
A poor old tailor on his way home one evening was seized by the blood-thirsty animal, and his screams for help filled the little town. The morning light showed traces of the struggle between man and beast, and where the latter had been dragged from the main road.
The villagers did puja that night that all might be saved from a like fate. A few days after, a ploughman and a little boy stood talking about the tiger. "How do you know that he won't catch you?" asked the boy.
The ploughman answered confidently: "I have done puja". Barely had the words passed his lips than the tiger leapt upon him. The boy was startled, but not realising his own danger not only did he not run but also caught up a stick and tried to save his friend. In spite of his hitting it the animal began to devour the unfortunate man, snarling threateningly the while. Then the boy threw away the stick and fled to the village. The news roused the villagers and they determined to try to rid themselves of their foe. Armed with spears, sticks and heavy bamboos they followed the boy to the scene of the tragedy. But the tiger was gone.
The Government had offered a handsome reward to any one who would succeed in killing this tiger and now a poor shop-keeper determined to win it. He knew nothing of shooting but worked up the ambition of a friend who could shoot and had a couple of guns. Together they essayed the difficult job. Difficult it was. The tiger seldom returned to his kill, nor stopped at a kill any length of time, and was known to have killed three or four victims in one day.
However they hoped for success. The villagers had been very careful of late and the tiger had consequently been obliged to go hungry. It was just possible he might return to the kill. So they got permission for a mangled body to be left there, and built a machan near it. At sunset they took up their places and watched.At first the pair felt cheerful. A brilliant
moon illuminated the whole country making everything as clear as day. But no tiger came. And later, as the hours dragged on, their cramped position, the nearness of a dead body, the silence and mystery of the night, all got on their nerves, and they wished they had not attempted such a task. But to leave now would be dangerous. So they did their best to encourage each other and waited on.
In the small hours of the night they distinctly heard the tiger coming and saw a huge black shadow moving stealthily towards their tree. The animal looked enormous in the uncertain light and each thought the machan too low and wished himself in his house in the village. Neither dared to speak or move.
Not far from the machan was a hillock. The tiger, after stalking round the tree, went to the corpse, smelled it, and then crossing to the hillock climbed up and sat himself there. The men felt sure he could now see them.
The tiger began to sniff as if he scented them. Then it yawned and snarled. The men sat fascinated. Presently the great head turned towards them. The shopman pulled the trigger of the gun he held. There was a deafening roar and the tiger disappeared from the hillock. Then all became still. They knew by the roar of pain that he was hit. Tigers are clever and often feign death when wounded. They dared not descend. They were not sure he that he was killed. At any moment he might attack their tree. Comrades in enterprise and fear, they sat gripping each other in the darkness, for the moon had now set.
The villagers had heard the shot and at day-break came to the spot. They found the tiger lying dead at the foot of the hillock. The heroes could barely descend from the machan, so stiff and aching were their bones. Together they received the plaudits of the village and shared the Government reward which to them was quite a small fortune.