The boar was a heavy one, and had the ground been better adapted for riding, would have soon been run into. But seamed as it was with watercourses, and covered with stones which lay thick on the rough wavy undulations, the pursued had many advantages, of which he was not slow to avail himself. He dodged in and out of the nullahs, over and round rocky ridges, and when pushed from one would make for another, occasionally for a brief space eluding the nearest horsemen. By these means, and by facing rough bits up which the horses with difficulty scrambled, he had managed to hold his own, and was yet uncaught when he approached a steep face of the hill with a rugged, rock-bound rent which cut into the upper portion on the right.
Norman and Stewart happened to be at this time in the van, and made every effort to reach the hog before he could make these places, where pursuit would be most difficult, Owing to the nature of the country, the pace had not been very severe ; but the ground was trying, and the grey old boar was getting pumped ; age and obesity had not improved his wind.
As they ran at the very foot of the next high ascent hi front, Norman got a fair opportunity on a bit of undulating ground ; and making a determined rush, ran up to the boar. But the latter had yet something left in him ; and with the prospect of an asylum in the higher parts of the hills, was not to be caught so easily. Wheeling suddenly and so quickly to the right as almost to lose his legs and fall on his side, he avoided the rider, who galloped past and came round in time to see the hog disappear in the nullah, and his companion riding along it up the face of the hill above. The others were yet a little behind as Norman pushed into the nullah in direct pursuit. Some followed him, and some rode up on either side ; but before long all were reduced to a pace the reverse of fast.
Catching sight of the hog now and then through the rocks and bushes, Norman stumbled on up the stony channel, and again gradually neared the pursued. One or two above had also viewed the boar at intervals, but at last all were so done, and the ground was so steep and rough, that they were able to get little more than a walk out of their horses.
Norman was jogging slowly on, creeping over big stones and sheet rock, as the boar, actually reduced to a walk, disappeared among some bushes up a cleft, and nothing more was seen of him.
In vain the hunters tried to recover his line. He had got away among the interminable rents, fissures, and gullies of the wild hill-sides and escaped undetected.
For some time the hunters rode here and there in vain efforts to sight the pig, but at last desisted and joined Natta, who, with his companions and the syces, had followed the sportsmen. Strange to say, there had been no falls. Indeed, on very rough and difficult ground, an Arab seems to be so fully aware of his danger, and, in consequence, so alert, that he comes down less frequently than on an apparently more easy country. He is in his element when crossing a rough, stony country, and rarely loses his fore-legs in galloping down a steep hill-side. And in India hill-sides are galloped down that would rather astonish even the most practised hunter accustomed only to English horses.
On this occasion one or two had lost shoes; and various cuts and bruises showed that galloping over stones is not by any means free from injurious results, but there was no great damage done.
Natta naturally deplored the loss of the boar, and, in consequence, his own inam; but he confessed that a kill in the upper portion of the hills was hardly to be expected, unless chance greatly favoured the hunters.
He was of opinion that they might find other pig among the nullahs and bushes in the broken ground at the foot of the hills. But as it was extremely doubtful and the day was well advanced, it was thought desirable to give up, and allow Natta and his son to make the best of their way at once to Bhooj, thence to proceed to the new hunting ground in the western district of Cutch.
The local trackers were accordingly paid, and with a small additional gratuity, dismissed satisfied to their homes.
They were capital, hard-working puggees, and well deserved their hardly-earned wages. This settled, the sportsmen, some on their ponies, some on the horses they had hunted, rode leisurely into Bhooj, distant about ten or eleven miles.
A short description of the military station of Bhooj —which is peculiarly situated and of the residence therein of a sporting subaltern, may not be unacceptable to the English reader before I proceed to chronicle the further doings of the hunters.
The station is distant about a mile from the large town of Bhooj, the capital of Cutch, and residence of the Bao, a Bajpoot chief of the Jhareja tribe and king of the country. It is situated on the lower slope and part of the adjoining plain, at the foot of a rugged, isolated hill, or block of hills, of irregular shape and outline, whose sinuous crest is surmounted by a masonry wall. Bastions distributed every here and there mark a position more prominent, or where, in the convolutions of the different ridges and spurs, two lines of wall form a junction. The hill itself is stony, but nowhere quite precipitous; and, with the exception of a few prickly-pear bushes of the pointed variety, and some stunted shrubs, is entirely barren. Of volcanic origin, rising from the middle of a small, hillbesprinkled, little cultivated plain or basin, almost entirely surrounded by high hills at a distance of from three to seven or eight miles, its appearance is singularly striking, especially when approached from the sea-coast by the Mandavie road. This crosses the sur-rounding barrier of hills about four miles off by a winding, tortuous course, and thence is obtained a fine view of the whole plain, with the hill and its frowning battlements overlooking the station, whose whitewashed and red-tiled houses nestle among the scanty foliage at its base.