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it ready, with gasping
made hurdles, latticed beak, for the stick of
with green boughs porridge, another bird
from the jungle, and would struggle for
these we leaned against ward to usurp the
the poles on whatever place of the first, and
side we most needed peck murderously at
shelter. its brother.
If the wind blew high, Eventually, every
these shelters were bird being fed and I
lashed to the poles in myself almost pros
order that they would trated with nervous
not blow in or out. It exhaustion, the thank"Obsessed by a fatuous devotion
was an apotheosis of less rascals would en
architectural simdeavor to make me
plicity. repeat the process and flutter all The chameleons lived in these hurover me, belligerently twittering a dles. They were quiet, law-abiding persistent encore.
reptiles, and gave no trouble. The Shamelessly, some of the more ad- leopards lived with the cook and other venturous of the gang would pursue retainers until they grew too big for me to the al-fresco bath-room where I domestic comfort and convenience, tubbed in the early dawn, and would when they were presented to my nearwaggle their feathers as the water was est neighbor, a planter who lived about splashed over them, and chirrup an- forty miles away. grily if the cook’s hens, or any other He was a very renowned shikaree, unprivileged intruders, dared trespass or hunter, but as there were no roads as lawlessly as they.
in that part of the world, and a broad My jungle palace stood in a natural river lay between us, I did not see so clearing, on a ridge that shed the water much of him as I might have done during the rains. Its floor was a plat- were circumstances more conducive to form of mud-mortar raised about neighborliness. That he was a man of eighteen inches above the level of the great and discriminating acumen may surrounding ground, and its roof was be deduced from the fact that he alof thatch made from jungle-grass, no ways praised my bulbuls as being the suitable palms growing in that part of most remarkable lot of wild fowl in India. This roof was supported on
southern Bengal. poles cut from the jungle, but walls As soon as I was bathed and dressed there were none.
it was my custom to sally forth on When the rainy season set in, we horseback and visit certain mines in which by that time I had secured mental birds before sitting down to many Santhals as workers. This
my own breakfast. meant a ride of about ten or fifteen As a matter of fact, the wretched miles, from which I returned at about creatures did not really require food on nine or ten o'clock in the forenoon, such occasions. They had been pickquite ready for breakfast and a good ing up various kinds of bugs and beestiff whisky "peg."
tles and other dainties all the morning; Between me and such pleasures, but, like spoiled women, they fretted however, invariably ensued a second for small and superfluous attentions, battle with the bulbuls; for on the first and would have combined to make my yelp of the friendly hound that her life miserable had I failed to pamper alded my approach to the compound, them. the whole tribe of feathered retainers At breakfast, however, they held me came piping and fluttering from their sacred and taboo. Once in a blue perches in the shrubs or shelters, and moon, perhaps, frenzied by some congregated with their clamant griev- drunken ecstasy of daring, or driven ances at the entrance-porch.
thither by the exigencies of battle Before I was off my horse half a with a butterfly, one might drop upon dozen of them would be squabbling the dish of curry or alight for a tranabout his ears or on my broad-rimmed sient second on the back of my chair. topi; and when Narain Singh, my Gar- Taken by and large, however, as the whal, held out for me the bubbling and sailors say, my person and my viands welcome glass, as like as not, before I were alike immune from onslaught touched it, a bulbul would be fluttering during the course of my lonely meal. on its rim, pretending
But when the cloth he thought it was the
was cleared and I took attah-pot.
up my newspaper or Love of peace is the
my writing, the period father of many follies.
of truce was considered In my case it all too
as having passed, and often led to my calling
I was likely to have for the attah-pot and
fresh incursions at any feeding those tempera
Fortunately for me, the lure of the atory snakes and animals abounded out-of-doors was then almost para- among the trees and bushes, and mount for the bulbuls, and unless I doubtless also there were many ghosts started writing immediately after and demons inimical to bird life that breakfast, I was likely to be left in lurked there unseen of human eyes. peace for several hours. Three of the There were many trees of mysterious birds, however, were obsessed by a repute thereabouts, some benignly fatuous devotion
haunted, others to penmanship,
infested by devils and if one or all of
wholly malignant. these happened to
Despite the fact be on the premises
that the evil spirits when I started a
of these arboreal letter, I had to
temples were abandon the work
soothed and asalmost as soon as
suaged by constant it was begun.
offerings,-rice, The scratching
rags, fruit, and bits of the pen on the
of sugar-cane that white paper
were left by pious seemed to enthral
native worshipers them. They
to clutter around would perch on
their roots,-no my shoulder or on
sure dependence the ink-bottle, and
could be placed the instant I start
upon the effects of ed to write they
such precautions, would swoop down
and all haunted on the paper and
trees were regardpeck wickedly at
ed as evil roosts the nib as it "Chidi Kahn then returned to his lawful
for bulbuls. scratched along.
Therefore Chidi Perhaps they
Khan shepherded thought the written word was some them home every night, and often fancifully twisted worm.
there was a fearsome hue and cry when It was the self-appointed duty of some errant bird was missing. In Chidi Khan to gather in the bulbuls at such an event, no retainer of the estabsundown and place them in their cages lishment might retire to rest until the for the night. They were small brown truant was safely recovered. birds not much bigger than ordinary Winter passed with few such misEnglish sparrows, light on the breast, haps, but strange things happened in and with black tufts on their heads. the spring. Out of those happenings Well able to take care of themselves by came sad losses. Around about that day, though they were, the night was country-side grew many mowah-trees, filled with perils that they could fine, umbrageous fellows that spread neither combat nor understand. Pred- their shade almost as generously as the
sacred banians, and blossomed into Whether it was the mowah beer or heavy-scented, wax-like flowers that the nuptials that came between Chidi covered the ground where they fell. Khan and his responsibilities to the
Upon this seasonal falling of the bulbuls, I never was able to explain mowah-blooms ensued much rejoicing satisfactorily; but for a week I was left
among the natives, who gathered the cookless and the bulbuls were deprived fallen blossoms in great baskets, sing- of their shepherd, and five of the buling the while, and even blowing conch- buls disappeared. horns as they reaped the harvest of the Chidi Khan then returned to his trees. Well might they be merry on lawful occasions, chastened and deeply such occasions, because the fall of the repentant; but of the fourteen bulbuls mowah-bloom was really their vintage, that had cheered our domicile only a genuinely bacchanalian festival, and nine remained. Of the five that had from the thick, heavy-scented blos- departed, two were of the trio that soms they brewed the most potent and used to bewilder me while I was most terrible beer on earth.
writing. Following the vintage came the nup- Shortly after this great bereavetial season of the Santhals, which ut- ment, other afflictions followed that terly disrupted all work at the mines were ultimately destined to bear while it lasted, and in no respect sav- harshly upon the bulbuls and the Sanored of those more romantic wooings thals and all my other people of the that the bulbuls of Moore and Byron jungle. Their sahib was at the part
. were supposed to accelerate in the ing of the ways. more conventional regions of Persia One afternoon I sallied forth with and Kashmir. In the principal San- my groom and my grass-cutter and my thal village the natives erected a huge, body-servant, Narain Singh, and we barn-like structure, roofed and walled traveled the forty miles and crossed with thatch and brambles. On a set the river that separated me from my day all the matrimonially eligible neighbor. He lived in a "pukka" youths and damsels of the adjacent house, with great brick pillars supportdistrict were gathered together and in- ing its lofty roof. Fair fountains and ducted into this connubial arbor, and gardens were about; many ryots tilled there they were left to woo and mate the adjacent lands, whence they with one another until all who could brought their indigo to his factory, find their respective affinities of the where it was wrought into the blue opposite sex had found them.
dye of commerce.
He saw That love at first sight is no common people of his own kind than I did, and failing of the Santhals was revealed by he saw them oftener; but I am not the fact that this process of mutual sure that I was the lonelier white man selection occupied several days; and of the two.
of the two. With him I tarried a even at the end of that period several pleasant week, spending our days unmated youths and damsels were hunting after bears and leopards and left forlorn, and were perforce obliged other wild things, and between times, to wait another year before being able by lamplight, we arranged that there to secure a second chance in the great should be a fair asylum for my bulbuls lottery of marriage.
were I to be called elsewhere. He
rode with me to the river when we part it is open to question whether by parted, and I saw him only once more. the end of a year the god of the tree
Before my advent thither, the or the sahib of the bulbuls was congreatest god in my people's country sidered of the greater importance. was the god of the great cotton-tree Chidi Khan, lantern to my feet in the that raised its gaunt, drab majesty matter of bulbuls, made no effort to above a mound that stood about two claim even a share of the renown which hundred yards from my abode. No he had thus brought upon me, but body dared gather the fluffy balls that rather sought to repudiate it. This floated away from it in the flowering always baffled my comprehension; but season, because every such piece of Chidi Khan was a Mohammedan serfluff was reputed to embody some pe- vant of the old school, and as such culiar devil of its own.
sought his own exaltation in the reIt was not for me, a stranger within flected glory of the presence. their gates, to question the might or With that object in view, no doubt, puissance of the Santhals' god, sup- he proclaimed that my intimacy with ported as it was on a foundation of un- the bulbuls was a mere trifling result fathomable tradition. Therefore I of my power in the matter of weaving always treated him with becoming spells, a statement that seemed reasonreverence, and did much toward estab able and satisfactory to his hearers, lishing a religious entente affecting though it frequently placed me in situ
many uncongeni- ations of great embarrassment. Thus al creeds by des- on one occasion, when they brought in patching as my a wretched native who had been badly oblation, to be stung by a huge scorpion and was belplaced at the foot lowing his agony to the skies, I gave of the sacred tree, Chidi Khan a solution of ammonia to a roasted jungle- apply to the wound and neutralize the fowl that was too poison. Such stings generally keep tough to cut with the patient howling for two or more a carving-knife. days, but the relief given by a quick
Yet despite application of ammonia is instantathis token of ven- neous. eration on my Chidi Khan explained to the grate
“All rare creatures, all fresh and genuine"