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please don't forget that a tiger's dress, as you call it, matches in colour the jungle he frequents. In the gaudy tawny and orange hues that surrounded me I could make out nothing, positively nothing, till I fancied the reeds began to shake.
“. Steady,' whispered one-eye, who was born a Scotchman, and under strong excitement spoke the language still.“ Tak’ time man! Now! give it him.'
Whether it was the noise the beaters made, or the roar of the animal, or both combined, I cannot say, but such a fearful row I never heard in my life as at that moment. The reeds seemed to divide of themselves and out rushed a beast as big as a donkey, making straight towards me, with a sleek round head as broad as a bull's.
“I took the best aim I could at his mouth, and let him have an eleven-bore ball crash into the very middle of it.”
“Oh, Mr. Dennison ! How could you ?”
“How couldn't I, you mean. Instead of his tumbling headlong at my feet, as I fully expected, I heard a rush and singing in my ears, a long dark body seemed to shoot between me and the sun.
I felt something like an electric shock, only stronger, and I found myself half stunned, half paralysed, but not so frightened as I should have thought, lying on my back, with a wide hairy chest astride over mine, and a ton of weight driving spikes through my left arm as it pinned me to the ground.
“He said I didn't faint; but the next thing I remember was my friend giving me brandy, and the tiger stretched out stone dead, three or four yards off. What really happened was this. When the beast came at me out of the jungle I shot him, as I meant to do, in a vital place; but I fancy I must have aimed an inch too low, for I only broke his jaw. In two bounds he was on me, and if I had been alone, why, I should never have inflicted on you so long a story in this pretty drawing-room. But the indigo-planter was as cool a hand and as good a sportsman as ever sat in a howdah. He knew the nature of the beast was so far cat-like that it would gloat for an instant over its victim before dealing the fatal buffet, and of that instant he took advantage. With a deliberate and deadly aim he finished it up by a double shot through the spine. There was not a moment to spare, and, as I said before, I think you must allow the mouse had a squeak for it.”
Annie felt more interested than she cared to own, so applied herself sedulously to her drawing, while she asked,
“And what became of the Hindoo—the person whose grandmother was eaten by the tiger ?”
“ The Hindoo was like other Hindoos, very grateful and demonstrative, with a shade of polite insincerity. His ideas on the subject of tigers, as I gathered from my friend, were most remarkable. Had the last shot not killed the tiger, in which case the tiger must assuredly have killed me, nothing would have persuaded this intelligent native but that my spirit was destined to accompany the animal in its excursions, and assist it to obtain its prey. Fancy me, disembodied, if you can, leading a tiger about in a leash, like Una with the lion! That would be a subject for a sketch-Miss Dennison, won't you try it ?
Annie shook her head. "I don't like joking about these horrors, said she; “but you can't mean that the natives seriously believe such absurdities?”
“I will only tell you what the old gentleman positively assured us happened in his own case, some years before. His eldest son had been killed by a tiger, and partly eaten, when the brute was disturbed, and driven away from its meal. The father, armed with a rusty matchlock, as long as himself, climbed into a tree at night, resolved to watch the body, and have a shot at the beast, when it returned, as it certainly would, for another supper off his boy. He had not long to wait. The tiger stole out of the jungle, and came gliding into the moonlight, when, just as the weapon covered a vital spot, he whisked round, and slipped into the covert again. The corpse, sitting upright, was nodding at the tree on which the avenger had perched himself, and its friendly warning had not been in vain. The Hindoo then came down and fastened the boy's body to the ground. Again he watched, and again the tiger made his appearance, but one of the corpse's hands was free, and that hand pointed faithfully towards the post of danger, with the same result as before. The undefeated old gentleman came down, nevertheless, once more, and pinned his boy's body secure to the earth, so that it could not move a limb. His patience and perseverance were rewarded. The tiger emerged a third time, and finished a hasty morsel with an ounce of lead in his brain. The man stuck to the truth of his story with the utmost confidence. A great English sahib had bought the tiger's skin, and it was well known in Mysore and the adjacent districts that such was the nature of the man-eater and the destiny of his victim. Miss Dennison, have you finished your sketch ?”
“I should like to have seen all you have, Mr. Mortimer,” said the young lady, colouring her tiger with some sepia and the feather-end
'Gentlemen have a great advantage over ladies. They go about the world seeing and doing things, while we can only sit at home and-draw.”
He looked up. The last word was not quite what he expected. Her head was bent over her colour-box, and he could not help thinking what a beautiful sketch she herself would make in that attitude, if only she could be transferred to card-board or canvas. Something whispered, “Why not become possessor of the original ? You have money; you
of a pen.
are neither old nor ugly; your manners are pleasant; your position undeniable. Surely you have only got to ask and have.” But perhaps the assumed facility of the transaction lessened its charm, and Percy felt he was not yet so far gone but that he could balance calmly the pros and cons of that irrevocable plunge, which for the first time in his life he contemplated the possibility of making.
She little thought what a push she gave him towards the brink by her innocent question, asked, nevertheless, with a faint increase of colour in her cheek:
“Do you know if Mr. Maxwell is expected to-day? He said he should come down again to see how you were getting on."
Now Horace Maxwell, who remained at the Priors to watch his friend's recovery for nearly a week after the accident of which he was the innocent cause, had carried with him to London the good wishes of everybody in the house. Even Aunt Emily declared that he showed more feeling than she could have expected from any young man of the present day, while the skill with which he rode Barmecide up to their joint catastrophe, constituted him a prime favourite with Uncle John. Miss Blair had been prepared to like him from the first, and the conviction that her influence over him was less than she expected, in no way decreased her partiality. She had never before any difficulty in such matters, but here was one with whom she began swimmingly, and never advanced a step. She reflected, she wondered, she watched. She could not make out whether he was taken by Miss Dennison or not.
And Annie, who asked herself the very same question, had decided, with more prudence than young ladies generally possess, that it must never be answered, one way or the other. Mr. Maxwell was nice, no doubt. None of her partners or male friends had ever been so nice. More of a man of the world than Lexley, who besides had become very odd and altered of late. Better looking than Mortimer, and altogether, as it seemed to her, belonging to a different class of beings from honest Nokes and Stokes, gone back to duty in their barracks. But he was not a marrying man. Some instinct, usually dormant in the breast of woman till she becomes a chaperon, had warned Annie that his pleasant glances, his bright smiles, were simply the frank tribute of one who had nothing else to offer. She did not forget an occasion when she found him in the billiard-room, holding a confidential conversation with Miss Blair. They changed colour, she was sure, when she opened the door. Miss Dennison was not much given to analysing her feelings, or she might have felt alarmed at certain pangs of jealousy occasioned by the confusion of the gentleman, and the disinclination she felt afterwards for the society of the lady.
Still, though one never means, and don't even want to marry a man, one can appreciate his good qualities, be glad that he should visit one,
and ask his friend, not without a blush, when one is likely to see him again.
“He talked of to-day,” answered Percy, moving his sound leg uneasily on the sofa ; " but that's no reason he should come. People cannot tear themselves away from the delights of London. Look at the Pikes-promised faithfully, threw everybody over, and never appeared at all.”
"You say that on purpose to make me angry,” exclaimed Annie. “You know that she is my dearest friend, and the General is simply my idol. But how could they come when baby was ill? It is brutal to think of it."
“Babies never ought to be ill,” was his answer. They never are, when properly brought up. Look at savages : I lived with a tribe once who turned the children out of their lodges directly they were weaned. The weakly died off, the strong grew up, and everybody was satisfied. Don't go, Miss Dennison, I'm not such an ogre as you think.”
“I must go," replied Annie; "but I'll tidy you up first. Luncheon will be ready in five minutes, and most of the sepia for your tiger's stripes has come off on my hands. Yes, I don't mind showing you the sketch, but you must promise not to bounce about and fidget with the sofa-cushions. You're not nearly so good a patient as you were, Mr. Mortimer. I suppose that means you are getting better."
“It means I have too kind a nurse," replied Percy, looking gratefully in the girl's face, while she put her half-finished sketch into his hand.
“I'll do it,” he thought, “hang me if I won't!" Then he reflected on the great disadvantage at which a suitor is placed when fastened down to a sofa by a broken leg. Had the lady been a person of experience—a widow, for instance, or a London girl of many seasons' practice, or even Miss Blair, as he had lately learned to call her-the helplessness of his attitude would have been rather in his favour. Through all nature seems to prevail the law of mechanics, that" action and reaction are equal and contrary." In love and in business alike, each seems prepared to advance in proportion as the other recedes, until some imaginary line is reached at which people come to an understanding and conclude the transaction. But such mutual accommodation can only be calculated with certainty when both are experienced dealers, well acquainted with the value of their wares. In the present instance Percy thought it more than probable that anything like a premature declaration would put Miss Dennison to & flight he would be powerless to check by the exercise of certain gentle yet resolute measures that his experience taught him produced very soothing results. To be left on a sofa, with a half-finished offer on his lips, that could only be completed at a young lady's pleasure, when, where, and how she would ? Not if he knew it! Into so thoroughly false a position Mortimer would be the last man on earth to blunder; and so, instead of seizing the pretty hand that held the sketch and pressing it to his lips, he contented himself with a kindly glance into the pretty face, and a request that he might become the proud possessor of the picture when complete.
"I don't know,” said Annie. “You'll hang it up somewhere, and laugh at it with your bachelor-friends."
“On the contrary, I shall keep it under lock and key, in a portfolio, and only look at it when I feel I want taking down a peg. You are strong in caricature, Miss Dennison, but you are not merciful. Am I really as ugly as that ?”
“India is very unbecoming, I have been told,” answered Annie, demurely. “I never saw you there, you know, so I have drawn on my imagination."
"And drawn from it to some purpose, it seems. Well, it's lucky we cannot see ourselves as others see us. The tiger is capital. Is he drawn from the imagination too?"
“Oh! no. I've seen him at the Zoological.”
"Why don't you see me at the Zoological ? I know all the keepers, and a good many of the beasts. Won't you come to the Zoo with me, some day, when we get back to London ?”
“I don't know,” said Annie, again. “I must really go and wash my hands now. The gong will sound in five minutes.
“First tell me who that is coming up the avenue. I can just see a hat between the cedars.”
He seemed desirous to prolong the conversation. It was so pleasant to have her there all to himself. In the afternoon, of course, she would go out walking, or riding, or drawing; and their tête-à-tête would be broken up for the rest of the day.
"It's Mr. Lexley,” answered Annie. “He often comes to luncheon now, and walks the whole way-eleven miles! Mr. Mortimer, do you
She flushed up.
“Do I know what?”
“It's very ridiculous, of course, but I can't help thinking that Mr. Lexley is rather inclined to--to like somebody here." “Meaning Miss Dennison ?"
. “Not meaning Miss Dennison the least. Somebody very different from Miss Dennison.”
“ You can't mean Mrs. Dennison !” he exclaimed, raising his eyebrows in affected horror. “And a clergyman, too! How shocking !”
“I am serious," she answered, though she could not help laughing; “which you never are for five minutes, even with a broken leg. Of course he likes Aunt Emily and all of us very much, but I don't fancy