Looking straight in front, a few dwarf and stunted trees dotted the horizon, marking probably the position of the well-pits Natta had referred to as being in the " bunnee." This is a tract of coarse rank grass, which springs up after the monsoon, and, in irregular patches, forms a sort of outlying tract of vegetation, contrasting with the otherwise extreme sterility of the Runn. The water in the wells or pits scattered throughout its area is generally brackish, and disagree-able both to taste and smell.
A line of low brushwood gave a marked appearance to the waste about a mile or two out, and in this it was expected to find the pig.
Far away, beyond these breaks in the wilderness, could be discerned the blue outlines of Puchum and Khureer, whose highlands showed bold above the line of the horizon.
These oases were the only lands which broke the monotony of that sterile, uninhabited tract between Cutch and the sand-hills of Thurr.
Behind the spectators lay the valley down which they had ridden on the previous evening ; and the bed of the river which intersected it waterless, save for a few pools could be traced on the other side of the village and through the green jungle, till it became lost in the Runn.
" Well," said Melton, after examining the wild landscape, " if we get pig out there they will have but a poor chance. Where will they make for ?"
" For the mainland, most probably," answered Norman. " They do escape, though, sometimes; for they are deuced cunning, and break away far in front of the line of beaters. You will find some of that scrub and those tufts of high grass, too, afford much thicker cover and be more of obstacles than they appear to be from this. "With a fair start, however, with such a party as ours, the pig must die."
"It is not nearly such jolly hunting as inland," observed HaAwkes, whose horse was not so well adapted for the plain; " but it is a pretty sure find, that's one comfort in these days of pig scarcity."
" That is the best of Cutch; we have country of every description," said Mackenzie, the heavy weight. " Each to his taste ; I confess I prefer the level."
The party now returned to prepare for breakfast, and they shortly reappeared at that meal, clad in a costume more befitting the hunting-field.
Certainly the appearance of such a party at an English coversicle would be received with an amount of interest and observation less flattering than curious But it was more according to the necessities and demands of an Indian jungle chase than the natty, elaborate get-up of the British fox-hunter, neat and workmanlike though it be; or the still more elaborate, but very unworkmanlike, apparel of " Moosoo," when he rides forth to enjoy " Le sport."
Long gaiters of samber skin, boots of the same, or made from common native leather, either black or in its semi-tanned and yellow state, English, Hessian, and butcher boots, and an occasional pair of tops, will all usually be found in a large Indian huntingfield.
Cords, corduroy, and rarely, leather, form the materials of which the breeches are for the most part constructed, though other and various cloths are by no means uncommon. These are surmounted by jackets often as variable in cut, colour, and material as those who wear them.
A brownish colour called "baubel"—as that most adapted to concealment is principally in vogue, and the jacket is cut short and fits moderately close, so as to be more convenient in riding, and present less of a hold to thorns and branches.
Breakfast was soon despatched, for Natta was expected early. He had gone out with his assistants; simply to make sure that pig had remained in the Runn and not returned. To track them to the vicinity of their lair would be hazardous, as it might disturb them.
While the hunters were yet lounging about, engaged with the after-breakfast cheroot, and speculating on the prospects of sport, a hum of many voices, relieved by occasional shouts in the village, announced the gathering of men, and shortly afterwards, Natta, attended by three or four of the local puggees, was seen to approach.
The " khubber'; was to the effect that pig were certainly lying out, so preparations were made for an immediate start. Horses were saddled; the tiffin basket was hoisted on to the head of a villager, who, with several others, had been squatted basking in the sun for some time past; burnt clay chatty pots, porous coojahs and leathern choguls, were filled with water and given to the men ; bottles of beer, too, wrapped in wet cloths, were handed over to the tender mercies of others, who, to judge by the cautious and half-frightened manner with which they were received, regarded them with some apprehension.
All these measures effected, the horsemen mounted, and the cavalcade was soon in motion. In the outskirts of the village, however, it halted awhile to enable Norman to count the beaters there assembled, and distribute among them common gun wads, with his initials written on each side to prevent deception. These were denominated tickers, tickels, tickut, or such other variety of the word " ticket" as the fancy of the recipient suggested, and were carefully tied up in a corner of the puggree or kumurbund. This completed, the whole party took their way towards the Runn, and again halted at its edge, where a brief consultation took place regarding the arrangements for the beat.
All deferred to the celebrated old shikaree, who knew the country about Lodye, as elsewhere, well; but the local experience of the village men was useful in supplementing his more general knowledge, and he appealed to them to confirm the soundness of his plan of action.
" You see, sahib people," said Natta, who had exchanged his clerical coat for an exceedingly dingy and patched old striped jacket, " we do not know exactly where the pig are lying, but I have seated a sounder for two clays in yonder line of bushes, and I think we shall also find some in the scrub on this side; so I propose forming the line and beating straight out from this, and then beat the line of bushes."