The approbation was conveyed in the form of noise, which being contagious was joined in by Norman himself. The terriers and nondescripts belonging to the camp took up the chorus, and this was responded to by the village curs. The jackals howled in concert; and doubtless many a grisly old boar, with his family around him, stopped and grunted a savage disapproval, as the distant noise came borne on the night-breeze, and arrested the party in their diligent grubbing for food.
Contented with this decided intimation of their appreciation of Norman's proposal, the hunters, glass in hand, and calling for such wraps as they possessed, made a move to a lighted log; which nickered and sparkled outside with a pleasant look of the old home so far away possibly its principal attraction.
But, shade of Beau Brummel! what queer objects they would have been deemed in the old home itself. One or two had arrayed themselves in dressing-gowns, or military cloaks of British manufacture. Some had mounted Caubool or Cashmere chogas of soft "push-meena," woven from the silky hair of the Thibetan goat, or the coarser "puttoo" of camel's hair. One had a long cotton-padded Persian gown, and two were habited in finely dressed sheepskins, called poshteens. These were worn with the hairy side in, forming, externally, a soft, yellow, silk-embroidered leather. But one solitary individual wore an English greatcoat. Comfort and convenience were certainly more studied than appearance, and English-made clothing was scarce in that remote district.
" Old Natta," said Norman, " reported to-day that he had heard that the lungra-wallah has lately ripped a couple more men, one of whom died. It is a pity we can't rid the world of him."
" I don't believe half of these stories we hear of boars killing men," observed Stewart. " Love of the marvellous is uncommonly prone to make them exaggerate every little incident they hear. I don't remember in all my experience, seeing a dozen men ripped severely, and not one killed."
" Nor have I" said Norman. "A sulky old boar is no doubt an ugly customer, but not quite so bad as the lungra-wallah is said to be."
" Have you ever known one of the hunters themselves ripped ?" asked the sailor, of Stewart, with an internal consciousness of his own limited equestrian ability. . " Yes; I have seen a few instances. An affair occurs to me where one of the riders came to grief, and was rather severely hurt. I may as well give it as my contribution this evening.
" It happened near Ahmedabad, in Guzerat. A large party of us went out one day to beat the Kutwarra jungle, which being only six or seven miles from the station, with a chance of getting the pig over a dead plain, was rather a favourite fixture for a single day's meet.
" We rode out to breakfast about a dozen or more strong, and set to work when that important meal was concluded. It was entirely a jungle-beating business, no pugging. The cover is a thick strip of jungle, about a mile long, lying along the edge of a small river. On the opposite side, an open plain extends for a distance of a couple of miles or more; and at about that distance several bheers of high grass and strips of jungle afford good cover, and for these the pig usually make when they break across the river. Sometimes, however, they go up or down it, and then their point is the cultivated fields and sugar cane about the villages which lie in both directions.
Our usual plan was to separate into two bodies, each taking up a position under trees situated about a couple of hundred yards out in the plain, and near either end of the jungle. Acting on this plan, we were obliged to let the pig get well away before riding them.
" On the occasion in question we had done so, but the pig seemed very wary and disinclined to break. A lengthened hustling, however, had at last effect, and a fine boar with a capital pair of tusks, made his appearance on the further bank of the river, near the end at which was stationed the party I was with. After a slight hesitation, he slipped into it, for the water was quite shallow, and soon afterwards reappeared on our side, and went away at a lazy gallop right into the plain, not very far from the trees which sheltered us. It was evident that he was in a suspicious frame of mind, and though he had not seen us, was very doubtful of the ground in front. We let him get well away; and at last the word was given to ride. Away we went in a cluster at a sharp gallop, but not putting our horses along at full speed till we closed near to the boar, which though we were not long in doing. He had been going leisurely along, and did not observe us till we were pretty close. He then made a few quick rapid strides and shot ahead; but, distrustful of the length of plain in front, swerved to the right, and as we got behind him, came quite round and made backward tracks for the jungle he had just quitted.
"Another fellow and myself had drawn ahead of the others, and were racing together as this manoeuvre was effected. It was just a toss-up whether we could pick him up before he made good his object and reached the cover. A lanky sow would probably have escaped us, but it was different with a well-fed boar, and we thought the chances in our favour. Still the jungle was so close, that nothing but the hardest pressing would enable us to turn or stop him before the river was reached. He was.a very active boar, and though full grown was young. It was a regular set-to between my companion and myself, each doing all he knew to obtain the lead. In our struggle and anxiety to overhaul the boar we little thought of a fact with which both of us were well acquainted that it is not always the leaders who obtain the first spear. Still, being in front, I defy any man not to strive for the premiership. I was a stone or more lighter than my antagonist, and, as I was riding a horse I considered quite as good as his, I naturally began to slip away from him as we approached the boar, now showing symptoms of getting blown. Every stride made a difference, and I soon had a clear lead, and found myself overhauling the pig hand over hand.
" ' I shall have a chance at you,' I thought, ' before the river is reached ;' when lo ! horror of horrors! my attention was diverted from my quarry by the appearance, almost in his front, of the other party of horsemen. They were riding at an easy pace with the object of intercepting the boar, and cutting off his retreat. We sung out to them to clear the way, but they were equally solicitous with ourselves to get the spear, and took no notice.
" The pig, however, was soon forced to diverge from his line, and as I followed, they were brought on my left front, and now made play with fresh horses. I would not budo;e an inch as we came together at an angle, and a collision was only just avoided with the leading horseman. In another second, however, he shot past, and my lead was lost.
" With his horse quite fresh, he ran straight up to the boar, and speared it without a turn. The boar at once came round, and met me as I galloped up. I drove my spear well in, and at the same moment, my active young horse rose, and flew clean over the pig. I was unable to withdraw the spear, which was left standing upright in his body. For a moment I thought there must be a crash, but in the next we were clear, and sailing away beyond, and I soon brought my nag round.