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    Chapter 57

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    Chapter 58
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    She was not quite what you would call refined. She was not quite what
    you would call unrefined. She was the kind of person that keeps a
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man
    or Nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun
    visits on his round. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing over
    looked. Always, when you think you have come to the end of her
    tremendous specialties and have finished banging tags upon her as the
    Land of the Thug, the Land of the Plague, the Land of Famine, the Land of
    Giant Illusions, the Land of Stupendous Mountains, and so forth, another
    specialty crops up and another tag is required. I have been overlooking
    the fact that India is by an unapproachable supremacy--the Land of
    Murderous Wild Creatures. Perhaps it will be simplest to throw away the
    tags and generalize her with one all-comprehensive name, as the Land of

    For many years the British Indian Government has been trying to destroy
    the murderous wild creatures, and has spent a great deal of money in the
    effort. The annual official returns show that the undertaking is a
    difficult one.

    These returns exhibit a curious annual uniformity in results; the sort of
    uniformity which you find in the annual output of suicides in the world's
    capitals, and the proportions of deaths by this, that, and the other
    disease. You can always come close to foretelling how many suicides will
    occur in Paris, London, and New York, next year, and also how many deaths
    will result from cancer, consumption, dog-bite, falling out of the
    window, getting run over by cabs, etc., if you know the statistics of
    those matters for the present year. In the same way, with one year's
    Indian statistics before you, you can guess closely at how many people
    were killed in that Empire by tigers during the previous year, and the
    year before that, and the year before that, and at how many were killed
    in each of those years by bears, how many by wolves, and how many by
    snakes; and you can also guess closely at how many people are going to be
    killed each year for the coming five years by each of those agencies.
    You can also guess closely at how many of each agency the government is
    going to kill each year for the next five years.

    I have before me statistics covering a period of six consecutive years.
    By these, I know that in India the tiger kills something over 800 persons
    every year, and that the government responds by killing about double as
    many tigers every year. In four of the six years referred to, the tiger
    got 800 odd; in one of the remaining two years he got only 700, but in
    the other remaining year he made his average good by scoring 917. He is
    always sure of his average. Anyone who bets that the tiger will kill
    2,400 people in India in any three consecutive years has invested his
    money in a certainty; anyone who bets that he will kill 2,600 in any
    three consecutive years, is absolutely sure to lose.

    As strikingly uniform as are the statistics of suicide, they are not any
    more so than are those of the tiger's annual output of slaughtered human
    beings in India. The government's work is quite uniform, too; it about
    doubles the tiger's average. In six years the tiger killed 5,000
    persons, minus 50; in the same six years 10,000 tigers were killed, minus

    The wolf kills nearly as many people as the tiger--700 a year to the
    tiger's 800 odd--but while he is doing it, more than 5,000 of his tribe

    The leopard kills an average of 230 people per year, but loses 3,300 of
    his own mess while he is doing it.

    The bear kills 100 people per year at a cost of 1,250 of his own tribe.

    The tiger, as the figures show, makes a very handsome fight against man.
    But it is nothing to the elephant's fight. The king of beasts, the lord
    of the jungle, loses four of his mess per year, but he kills forty--five
    persons to make up for it.

    But when it comes to killing cattle, the lord of the jungle is not
    interested. He kills but 100 in six years--horses of hunters, no doubt
    --but in the same six the tiger kills more than 84,000, the leopard
    100,000, the bear 4,000, the wolf 70,000, the hyena more than 13,000,
    other wild beasts 27,000, and the snakes 19,000, a grand total of more
    than 300,000; an average of 50,000 head per year.

    In response, the government kills, in the six years, a total of 3,201,232
    wild beasts and snakes. Ten for one.

    It will be perceived that the snakes are not much interested in cattle;
    they kill only 3,000 odd per year. The snakes are much more interested
    in man. India swarms with deadly snakes. At the head of the list is the
    cobra, the deadliest known to the world, a snake whose bite kills where
    the rattlesnake's bite merely entertains.

    In India, the annual man-killings by snakes are as uniform, as regular,
    and as forecastable as are the tiger-average and the suicide-average.
    Anyone who bets that in India, in any three consecutive years the snakes
    will kill 49,500 persons, will win his bet; and anyone who bets that in
    India in any three consecutive years, the snakes will kill 53,500
    persons, will lose his bet. In India the snakes kill 17,000 people a
    year; they hardly ever fall short of it; they as seldom exceed it. An
    insurance actuary could take the Indian census tables and the
    government's snake tables and tell you within sixpence how much it would
    be worth to insure a man against death by snake-bite there. If I had a
    dollar for every person killed per year in India, I would rather have it
    than any other property, as it is the only property in the world not
    subject to shrinkage.

    I should like to have a royalty on the government-end of the snake
    business, too, and am in London now trying to get it; but when I get it
    it is not going to be as regular an income as the other will be if I get
    that; I have applied for it. The snakes transact their end of the
    business in a more orderly and systematic way than the government
    transacts its end of it, because the snakes have had a long experience
    and know all about the traffic. You can make sure that the government
    will never kill fewer than 110,000 snakes in a year, and that it will
    newer quite reach 300,000 too much room for oscillation; good speculative
    stock, to bear or bull, and buy and sell long and short, and all that
    kind of thing, but not eligible for investment like the other. The man
    that speculates in the government's snake crop wants to go carefully. I
    would not advise a man to buy a single crop at all--I mean a crop of
    futures for the possible wobble is something quite extraordinary. If he
    can buy six future crops in a bunch, seller to deliver 1,500,000
    altogether, that is another matter. I do not know what snakes are worth
    now, but I know what they would be worth then, for the statistics show
    that the seller could not come within 427,000 of carrying out his
    contract. However, I think that a person who speculates in snakes is a
    fool, anyway. He always regrets it afterwards.

    To finish the statistics. In six years the wild beasts kill 20,000
    persons, and the snakes kill 103,000. In the same six the government
    kills 1,073,546 snakes. Plenty left.

    There are narrow escapes in India. In the very jungle where I killed
    sixteen tigers and all those elephants, a cobra bit me but it got well;
    everyone was surprised. This could not happen twice in ten years,
    perhaps. Usually death would result in fifteen minutes.

    We struck out westward or northwestward from Calcutta on an itinerary of
    a zig-zag sort, which would in the course of time carry us across India
    to its northwestern corner and the border of Afghanistan. The first part
    of the trip carried us through a great region which was an endless
    garden--miles and miles of the beautiful flower from whose juices comes
    the opium, and at Muzaffurpore we were in the midst of the indigo
    culture; thence by a branch road to the Ganges at a point near Dinapore,
    and by a train which would have missed the connection by a week but for
    the thoughtfulness of some British officers who were along, and who knew
    the ways of trains that are run by natives without white supervision.
    This train stopped at every village; for no purpose connected with
    business, apparently. We put out nothing, we took nothing aboard. The
    train bands stepped ashore and gossiped with friends a quarter of an
    hour, then pulled out and repeated this at the succeeding villages. We
    had thirty-five miles to go and six hours to do it in, but it was plain
    that we were not going to make it. It was then that the English officers
    said it was now necessary to turn this gravel train into an express. So
    they gave the engine-driver a rupee and told him to fly. It was a simple
    remedy. After that we made ninety miles an hour. We crossed the Ganges
    just at dawn, made our connection, and went to Benares, where we stayed
    twenty-four hours and inspected that strange and fascinating piety-hive
    again; then left for Lucknow, a city which is perhaps the most
    conspicuous of the many monuments of British fortitude and valor that are
    scattered about the earth.

    The heat was pitiless, the flat plains were destitute of grass, and baked
    dry by the sun they were the color of pale dust, which was flying in
    clouds. But it was much hotter than this when the relieving forces
    marched to Lucknow in the time of the Mutiny. Those were the days of 138
    deg. in the shade.
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