Before closing, Norman took a slight pull on his horse, for he thought he had time to manage the affair as he chose. With a touch of his spur he then let him go, and dashed suddenly up to the blown pig. But it was young and active ; and, though the attempt might have proved successful with a weighty old patriarch, it was not so with him. The boar turned sharply, without giving an opportunity of spearing. With full command of the situation, Norman next tried another favourite and very telling manoeuvre. He brought his horse round in a wide circuit; and, as the pig resumed its original direction, instead of closing in behind, he rode diagonally, as it were, at its head, or to cut it off. There was a vicious glance at the rider, a sudden slackening of pace, a partial turn, and the game young boar came fully round with a surly grunt or two, and charged home with all the pluck and impetuosity of its kind.
This was what Norman expected, and for which he was quite prepared as he recognised the well-known premonitory symptoms. With his horse well in hand, and holding his spear so as to give it free, loose play, not fixed in rest, he eased Game-Cock off to the left as the boar came on; and when it arrived almost under the stirrup, and made as if to spring at his thigh, he drove the spear over the boar s head deep into the back. As he shot past to the left of the beast, who reeled from the blow, he was able to withdraw his spear unbroken, for the bamboo was one tough, supple, and well-prepared.
By the time Norman had wheeled his horse to bring him again into action, he saw it was nearly all up with the boar, who was staggering slowly on. He rode up alongside, and the pig rolled over as he again speared it. Melton closely followed by Mowbray now arrived on the scene, and a prod from the former, as the pig lay gasping on the ground, closed the action.
It appeared that neither of the new arrivals had seen anything of the rest of the party after being first hallooed away; and it was only Norman's howls which had directed them to the line of the pig just killed, they having failed to hit it from the uncertain directions of the excited beaters.
After letting the horses recover wind, the three retraced their steps towards the line of bushes, now dim in the distance. The sun was getting low ; so, after quietly walking for some time, they slowly trotted on, keeping a wary look-out around in case of any other pig taking it into his head to make a flying excursion out into the Bunnee; but none followed the example of the enterprising young boar.
About half way back, however, Norman, who from habit, frequently cast his eyes on the ground to observe the marks of animals, pulled up with a sudden exclamation, and, jumping off his horse, proceeded to inspect a hoof-print.
It was the pug of that singular animal,'" the wild donkey of the Eunn, which roams at will over that barren wilderness, and but rarely approaches the haunts of men on the mainland. Powerful and fleet of foot, it is generally supposed to be invincible with horse and spear, though there are records of its having been so slain. . .
" A Eunn donkey's pug, and fresh, too ! " ejaculated Norman. " I believe he must have been here last night.
What a chance we might have had ! "
" More likely to kill our horses than the donkey," said Melton. " Horseflesh is too valuable now-a-days for such experiments. Fancy finding yourself and horse dead beat, twenty miles out in the Eunn, without a bush for shelter, and about that distance from the nearest water, and then seeing the donkey kicking his heels in the air in disdain as he cantered away! No, thank you; I prefer running within a decent distance of the mainland."
" I should though so like to see if it could be done," remarked Norman, as he looked affectionately at his stout old horse, and wondered if it was in him."
" Don't ask me to join you, that's all," said Melton. " It seems to me that it would be but an ass's errand óno offence to you."
" It might it might, in more senses than one.
However, we must be getting on." But even after Norman had remounted, he mechanically followed the pug for a short distance, drawing lines behind each print after the manner of puggees with the butt end of his spear. But the trail turned to the right, and leaving it, he, with the others, again trotted on, and shortly afterwards, met one of the shikarees and some men who were directed to the place where the boar lay dead.
* See Appendix, Note I.
Ere long they passed through the line of bushes, and seeing several of the hunters riding quietly towards home, cantered on and joined them. From these they learnt that a large sounder, containing one whacking boar, had broken back down the jungle strip, but only one or two of those nearest had got well away after them. The big one managed to elude all, but a young boar was accounted for, and was the only one killed out of the sounder besides that of Norman's, which alone had taken an independent line into the Bunnee. The spear had fallen to Stewart after a bit of a tussle. As Natta could not calculate on any more pig being found, and as evening was drawing on, the party proceeded towards camp, whic was reached without any other game being seen. Three pig were considered a good day's sport; though, with the. luck of so many lying out, it might easily have been better on that simple riding-ground.
It had not been by any means a trying day for most of the horses, but yet comfortable flannel bandages for their legs were in demand that evening; a measure which, if not absolutely requisite, was still desirable as a precautionary one.
The first pig had already been brought into camp, and furnished chops, which, under the name of pork " muttony chops," * formed an important addition to the dinner fare.
* See Appendix, Note J.