" They wanted us, of course, to slay the unfortunate beast then and there. One or two of the hunters proposed giving him a fair start in the open and riding him ; while one bloodthirsty fellow wished to spear him on foot. But the rest voted with me, that it would not be quite sportsmanlike to hunt him, and that he should be unbound and left to run and fight another day.
" The difficulty now was how to cut his bonds ; for the ungrateful brute would inevitably charge his benefactors as soon as freed. One or two men, however, volunteered to do it, if we would stand by on horseback, ready to distract his attention, or rush in and save them in case of danger. This was done and directly the last withe was cut, the operators darted behind us, before the surly old fellow was fully aware of his release. Immediately on his realizing this, he made towards us, but seeing our firm attitude, and the crowd of villagers behind, he thought better of his intention, and with a surly grunt, turned, and trotted into the neighbouring jungle.
" It is very difficult, is it not," asked Hawkes, "to sit a swimming horse ?
" It is difficult in a measure," was the reply, " for the water has a tendency to lift a man out of the saddle ; and of course the deeper you sink, the stronger this becomes. Besides that, a horse's hind quarters sink, or seem to sink, lower than the fore, and so sometimes give the impression of his rearing. A good rider, though, can easily cling on with his legs sufficiently to retain his seat at any rate, a very little practice would, I should think, enable him to do so. I always take the precaution of withdrawing my feet from the stirrups before entering deep water; for I find the irons get pressed back against the instep in swimming, and it then becomes difficult to slip the foot out. A man might easily be drowned by the fact of being unable to get clear of his stirrup in case of an upset.
" Well, practice both for men and horses may do something" observed Melton. " But I have had ocular proof that to sit a swimming horse is by no means an easy matter to the uninitiated. I recollect once forming one of a party which had assembled to beat the islands of the Ravee above Mooltan, in the Punjaub, for pig. On this occasion, not one of a section, composed of six of the party, was able to swim his horse fairly across a deep channel which divided two of the islands. All were good, two indeed celebrated, riders, and I suppose that the fault in their cases was, that the horses had not been accustomed to swim ; for immediately on getting out of their depth, they appeared to rear up, and in one or two instances rolled back on their riders, who got a most tremendous ducking.
"I happened to be one of two who had crossed at a ford lower down, and standing on a bluff point of the bank had leisure to contemplate and laugh at the amusing scene. It was April, and the day very hot; and but for the melodramatic appearance of the thing, both of us would have felt inclined to plunge in and join our comrades in a bath, for doubtless we should have fared as the rest. As it was, however, it so happened that we two alone of all the party were fortunate enough to see the pig and get a run, which, however, was a short one, and resulted in the hogs' escape into the long grass jungle. These tracts form the chief — almost only — cover for pig in those parts of the country, where they live in the grass-covered alluvial flats which fringe each bank of the '6 five rivers.' "**
** See Appenclix, Note N.
" I wonder your friends didn't seize the horses' manes," said Danvers; "a horse being so much heavier in the fore part is naturally more buoyant there in water, and the stern sinks correspondingly. This would convey the impression of rearing to the unaccustomed rider; but I imagine had they stuck well forward for awhile, they would have found it a matter of little difficulty."
"I had a narrow escape on one occasion," said Norman; " but though at one time my pony had sunk so low as to have nothing but his nose and upper part of the head above water, I succeeded in sticking to him till I was washed out of my seat by the force of the current, but not by any such rearing as Melton has described. I was shooting in the Charwa hills, on the other side of Bhooj, in the month of May, for a couple of days, and early in the morning one of those sudden hot weather storms burst upon us, and the rain came down in sheets. My tent was prostrated, and I only just managed to jump out of bed and dart out at the door as it fell. Fortunately, I selected the door to windward and so escaped being involved in the fall. It was of no use remaining any longer; so I determined to ride into cantonments at once, and accordingly made my toilet under a cart, got on my tattoo, and rode off.
" I found the streams and nullahs full of water, for the rain in the hills had been exceedingly heavy, and I had some difficulty in crossing more than one. At last I came to a nullah where the water looked deep, and was running like a mill-race. However, I pushed my pony in ; but directly he got out of his depth the current caught him, and away we went with great velocity down stream. At one time he almost disappeared, but rose again, and we continued on our journey in the middle of the raging water, I all the time endeavouring to guide him to the bank. Ere long a stronger surge of the water fairly caught us, and we parted company. I struck out for the nearest bank, which was that I had left, and very steep, but— after being washed away in one ineffectual attempt to s;ain a footing—I managed to scramble out and had leisure to look after my tattoo. He was washed down a good deal lower, where the current carried him into a bend of the stream and lie, too, made good his landing, but on the opposite side.
" This was unfortunate, for though I looked up and down stream for a convenient spot from which to make an effort to reach that side, the water was tearing along at such, a pace that, after my recent experience,