I soon got a chance, and made a vigorous thrust which, to my astonishment, missed ; for it seemed so easy a thing to spear a large object like a boar, that I hardly thought it possible. However, there it was, a ' palpable miss.' Somebody else now got at him, and brought him regularly to bay as I wheeled round and came opposite. I confess I felt just a little anxious after I found missing so easy, and visions of poor ' Mab' with entrails trailing, and of a small party with a boar diligently digging at his prostrate person, suggested themselves. Some one, however, shouted, ' Go at him, youngster!' so at him I went, and this time with somewhat more success. Not to be outdone, as I went at him, he came at me, and charged in a most determined manner. I caught him in the head, and with so much force, owing to the impetus of the onset, that I was a little shaken in my seat, and half expected to see the pig drop dead with the spear in his brain. But boars' skulls are not so brittle ; and, indeed, he seemed little the worse of my thrust, which, though, was sufficient to keep him away, and he was soon after polished off between us.
" That was the first pig I ever dipped steel into, and I felt elated at fleshing my maiden spear, though I had yet to learn the triumphant delight and rapture of taking a first one, I examined the fallen enemy with feelings of great interest and gratification, but the departure of my companions in search of fresh sport warned me that I must, for the time, conclude my inspection.
" We rode to the top of one of the hills to see if any other pig were in sight in the vicinity; and, from its summit, saw below us, on the other side, a solitary horseman sharply engaged with another pig. So we galloped off to his assistance, and not too soon. Man and horse were both dead beat, and, fortunately, the pig was in nearly the same state.
When we came on to the scene the boar was under the horse, and ripping at him right and left. The horse was so pumped as to be unable to get out of the way, though he managed to kick and fight in self-defence, and the horseman's thrusts seemed weak and fruitless. Doubtless they served to distract the boar s attention, but that was all. On our approach, the hog left his adversary, and, after a brief engagement, was satisfactorily accounted for.
" We had then leisure to examine the horse's injuries. It had escaped with comparatively wonderfully little damage. Several gashes there were, but none in the belly of sufficient depth to let the entrails protrude. He was soon attended to, and ere long was led off to camp. The horseman had kept his eye on the ' donkey,' and, despite the attractions of other and closer pig which crossed him, got a spurt after it, but lost it in a wooded nullah. He then viewed and went after the boar, with which we found him ; but being out of condition, and not in very strong health, found himself too done to deal with him satisfactorily, or give a decisive wound.
" I think there were four pig altogether killed out of that sounder; at any rate, six were laid in front of our tents that evening. But one horse at least was hors-de-combat, and my particular friend had met with a serious fall in the hills, and was incapacitated from riding for some days.
" Such, gentlemen, was my first day's hog-hunting, and a very good one too. I fear it is not particularly interesting ; but somehow, though I have taken many a first spear since, memory clings about one's early efforts. It was the best day we had during a ten days' trip which was spent in hunting and shooting about the hills. I was lucky in taking my initiatory lesson in such good company, for there were some crack men across country among the party."
A good day's sport, certainly," said Norman ; " one rarely gets so good a one in these degenerate days. What with shooting pig and sow-slaying, I verily believe the breed will soon become extinct. It makes me quite unhappy to think of the way in which sows with squeakers at their tails, and even in young, are polished off, as if such were, or could be, legitimate sport. Only fancy the time when we are reduced to the last pig !" And the speaker sighed profoundly as this terrible reflection suggested itself.
"A fine subject for a poem," remarked Hawkes; " but I say, Mac, old fellow, we are off to bed. I recommend you to move there also, unless you intend sleeping here all night."
" Eh ! ah ! " ejaculated Mackenzie, who had for some time past been comfortably snoozing, perhaps just a little affected by the assiduity with which he had practically endeavoured, and successfully, to prove to the others the excellence of his " brew." " Whasht, ole fellow. Ah ! yesh, remember; very good shtory indeed. Hulloo ! pipsh gone out." The pipe had indeed gone out, but was so habituated to the nook in which it was held, that it appeared to have a cohesive power almost involuntary on the part of the holder, and was still, retained in his mouth. Taking it from its berth, Mackenzie gravely apostrophised it. " Not good pife ; what go out for, ole pife ? Dishgushted with conduct. Go tóbed." Suiting the action to the word, he put the pipe in its case, and continued,ó " Think I shall go tóbed, too. Easht wind very cole ; makesh a man walk unsteady."
And indeed it was apparent that the worthy fellow's legs were in some sort affected, as was evinced by his rather tortuous mode of progression towards the tents. He had not proceeded far before he was heard to exclaim, " Wheresh my tent ?" and to address the same query in the vernacular to a servant then passing, by whom he was safely conducted.
" Hark at old Mac there, inquiring for his tent/' said Stewart, who was an inveterate teller of Scotch anecdotes. " Keminds me of the story of Mr. Macgregor. He had been out to a convivial party one evening, and returned to his lodgings in one of those many-storeyed houses in Edinburgh, just, as he would have himself expressed it,'a wee drappie in the ee.' For a time he wandered about the common stair, making fruitless endeavours to ascertain which was the door of his own room among the many, each of which presented an exact counterpart of its neighbour. At last, he met a girl belonging to the house on the stairs, and addressed her.
" 'Can ye tell me, lassie,' he asked, ' where Mr. Macgregor lives?'
" ' Why,' returned the girl, in astonishment, ' ye're Mr. Macgregor yoursell.'
" ' I ken that weel eneuch, ye jade,' was the rejoinder. ' But I want to ken where I live.'
" Something like our friend Mac there, and now ' good-niglit to you all."
The party in effect broke up ; but before retiring to rest, most of them took a parting look at their horses, to ascertain that head and heel ropes were not too tight, the night clothing properly adjusted, and copious beds of hay strewn beneath them. A little consideration of this sort for the animals on whom so much of the hunter's pleasure depends is their due, and necessary to prevent an ignorant or indolent syce from robbing them of comfortable rest. A horse will sometimes not lie down at all if his ropes are too tight; and even if he overcomes the fear of being thrown in his efforts, his position may be so contracted and uncomfortable as to disturb him throughout the night. They enjoy an easy position equally with their masters.
Having seen to the welfare of their favourites, the hunters retired, with minds at rest, to enjoy their own slumbers.