Bengal Dacoits and Tigers/Tiger Stories/Through the Roof
THROUGH THE ROOF
They were laying the railway through the Hazaribagh district, and in a low-roofed bungalow at Giridih lived the Engineer in charge of the work. He was a young Englishman and his only recreation in this dreary place was riding and shooting.
The coolies lived in frail little mat houses in the same enclosure as his bungalow. One morning they came to him in a body to tell him that during the night a tiger had carried off one of their cows. The next morning another cow was missing, and on the third his servants awakened him with the news that his Arab pony was gone.
He loved the little animal. Many a mile had he scoured on its back. "Stripes" must be punished for this. He would sit up the coming night and watch.
Babus, servants and coolies loudly approved. What was life worth with such nightly happenings? and the lord of the jungle would surely come again. Had he not discovered a well-filled larder?
Work over, the young man loaded his gun, and after dinner took up his position and awaited the enemy. A reliable servant sat up with him.
The bungalow was raised on piles a few feet from the ground. It had brick walls but a thatched roof which sloped very low down on all sides. The wooden windows were closed. Our friend sat at one of them with the venetians slightly stretched. The bungalow was dark and still.
At last a strange odour filled the air and then the heavy breathing of the tiger was audible. It came and stood just outside the window. The young fellow noiselessly pointed his gun through the venetians and fired. An angry growl told that the tiger was wounded. Then it charged forward with a furious roar. The Englishman fired again and this time thought he had finished it. But the animal charged again with increased rage. After several attempts at the window it leapt for the roof and succeeded in clutching the eaves and scrambled up. The terrified servant cried: "Saheb, come into another room".
"Don't be a fool!" shouted his master, "the tiger can't come through the roof."In their huts the poor coolies heard the shots and the terrible roars and growls and dared not come
to their master's assistance. The tiger tore and scratched the thatch with all his might and soon made a hole. "Look! Saheb!" screamed the servant, "he comes through".
"I have a loaded gun in my hand", the Saheb replied.
The hole speedily grew larger as the great cat clawed and growled. The servant could stand it no longer. He bolted into the next room, shutting the door between. There he shivered and shook till morning, when he fled to the railway station a couple of miles away and told the Sahibs there his tale. They got guns and horses and rode over. They peered through the shutters and saw the tiger in the room. It soon scented them and charged with a mighty roar. They retreated without dignity to a safe distance where all stopped. One said, "I say! we must see what has happened to the poor chap". Another: "So many of us and loaded guns! We must do something". A third: "let's get back and kill the beast".
They went back and fired shot after shot through the shutters till the animal was killed. Then they broke into the room and found their luckless comrade dead on the floor, his loaded gun still in his hand. The tiger must have killed him with a slap of its mighty paw, and sat on his body all night, but clearly the animal was not a man-eater.