Animal Ghosts or Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter by Elliott O'Donnell
VI INHABITANTS OF THE JUNGLE
"It was uphill till I got to the bend, and it might have been a mountain, it seemed so steep. I knew if the thing I had seen met them a little farther on, they would be cornered, as the cutting narrowed very much, leaving not more than twenty yards, and that was a generous estimate. At last, after what seemed an eternity, I reached the summit of the slope; the tiger was a mere speck along the line. I rushed after it as fast as I could go, stumbling, half falling, pulling myself together, and tearing on, and the faster I went the quicker moved the great white figure. A feeling of despair seized me; all my fondness for my wife became intensified tenfold, and was revealed to me then in its true nature; she was the one great tie that made life dear to me. Even my love for Eric paled away before the blinding affection I bore her. I tore madly on, shouting at the same time, anything to make the white tiger aware of my presence, to keep it from seeing her. Another bend in the road hid it from view. The same hideous fears gripped me hard and fast, as I strained every muscle in the mad pursuit. At last I ran round the curve, and saw before me the tableau I had dreaded. The tiger was crouching, ready to spring on the group of three--Eva, Eric and the ayah. They were paralysed with fear, and stood on the rails staring at it, unable to move or utter a sound. I well understood their feelings, and knew they were labouring in their minds as to whether the thing that confronted them was a creature of flesh and blood, or what it was. They could not take their eyes off it, and, as a consequence, did not see me. The white tiger now went through a series of actions, so lifelike that I could not but believe it was real, and that I had been deceived in thinking I had killed it. Its haunches quivered, it got ready to spring, and my rifle flew to my shoulder. I saw it mark Eric, and read the increased agony in my wife's eyes. The critical moment came. Another second, and the thing, be it material or supernatural, would jump. I must fire at all costs. If mortal, I must kill it, if ghostly, the noise of my rifle might dematerialize it. And, as God is my judge, O'Donnell, at that moment I had not the least idea which of it was--tiger or phantom. It sprang--my brain reeled--my fingers grew numb, and as my wife suddenly bounded forward, the shadowy form of Nahra seemed to rise from the ground and mock me. With a supreme effort I jerked my finger back and fired. Bang! The sound of the explosion acted like a safety-valve to the pent-up feelings of all, and there was a chorus of shrieks. I rushed forward--the ayah lay on the ground, face downward and motionless. My wife had hold of Eric, who was shaking all over. Of the tiger there were no signs. It had completely vanished.
"'Thank God,' I exclaimed, kissing my wife feverishly. 'Thank God! It was only a ghost! but it was very alarming, wasn't it?'
"'Alarming!' my wife gasped, 'it was awful! I quite thought it was real! so did Eric, and so did ---- '--then her eyes fell on the ayah, and she gave a great start. 'Charlie!' she cried, 'for mercy's sake look at her! I dare not! Is she all right?'
"I turned the ayah over--she was dead! Fright had killed her!
"I then told my wife of the curse of Nahra, and of the phantom I thought I had seen of him, when the white tiger was springing. When I had finished, my wife hid her face in my shoulder.
"'Charlie!' she said, 'I did something awful. I saw what I then took to be the real white tiger single out Eric, and in my anxiety to save him from the brute, I pushed the ayah in front of him. And the thing sprang on her instead. It was nothing short of murder! And yet--well, there were extenuating circumstances, weren't there?'
"'Of course there were,' I said--for I verily believed, O'Donnell, fear had, for the time being, turned her brain.
"On our way home she suddenly called my attention to Eric.
"'Charlie,' she cried, 'what's that mark on his cheek? He's hurt!'
"I looked--and my heart turned sick within me. On the boy's cheek was a faint red scratch, just as might have been caused by a slight, very slight contact with some animal's claw.
"'Sahib!' Cushai whispered to me, when he saw it and heard of our adventure. 'Sahib! Beware! Nahra was a clever man. He must have used the spirit of the white tiger as his tool. Let the medicine man examine the scar.'
"I did so. I took Eric to a Dr. Nicholson, who lived close by.
"He looked at the wound curiously for a few moments, and then said to me--he was renowned for his plain speaking--'Mr. De Silva, there's no use beating about the bush, and prolonging the agony unnecessarily for you and your wife. The boy's got leprosy--God alone knows how! At the most he may live six weeks.'
"The shock, of course, was terrible. Eric had to be isolated from everyone--even from those who loved him best--and died within a month.
"'Sahib, I knew!' Cushai said to me the day of the funeral, 'I knew some disaster would befall you. Nahra was a wonderful man, and his curse had to be fulfilled. You may rest assured, however, nothing further will befall you, for I saw Nahra in a vision this morning, and he told me both his and the white tiger's spirit were now on friendly terms, and would trouble you no more.'
"My wife and I left the place at once, and for a long time I lived in a hell of suspense lest she should develop the infernal disease. By a merciful providence, however, she did no such thing, but, on the contrary, picked up in health in the most marvellous fashion; indeed, she only told me yesterday, she felt better than she had done for years. I've told you the story, O'Donnell--and it is true in every detail--because it goes a long way to substantiate your theory that animals, as well as human beings, have a future life."
"I am absolutely sure they have!" I replied.
_Jungle Animals and Psychic Faculties_
It is, of course, impossible to say whether animals of the jungle possess psychic faculties, without putting them to the test, and this, for obvious reasons, is extremely difficult. But since I have found that such properties are possessed--in varying degree--by all animals I have tested, it seems only too probable that bears and tigers, and all beasts of prey, are similarly endowed.
It would be interesting to experiment with a beast of prey in a haunted locality; to observe to what extent it would be aware of the advent of the Unknown, and to note its behaviour in the actual presence of the phenomena.