Again on the trail—Found—A sharp struggle for the spear among the nullahs—Killed—The peculiarity of the pug accounted for-A run in the hills—Found and lost—A severe fall—Brought into camp—Amateur doctoring—Indian friendship.
The sun was rising as the hunters, accompanied by their syces, wound round the shoulder of the small isolated hill from which the highest bastions of the Fort of Seesagud overlooked the village. Some were on their way to Mhow to shoot; the remainder, five in number, to meet Natta at a villlage in the direction of Phoolrea, in the neighbourhood of which he expected to find pig.
He had promised either to meet them there himself, or send a man with directions regarding the place to which he should guide them. Separating from the shooters among the lanes in the neighbourhood of the pretty, well-watered, and cultivated country about Mhow, with its pleasant plantations of dates and other trees, the hunting party jogged quietly on towards Phoolrea, which was distant some seven or eight miles from Seesagud.
On reaching the village alluded to, they rested under some trees in the vicinity, and fell-to on the breakfast which had been despatched ahead. This had not been long finished when a man arrived from Natta to say that he had come across the pug of a sounder of pig, which went towards the hills, and also that of a solitaire, which he was then engaged in following up. The man was directed to guide the hunters along the road to Phoolrea, as the trail led in that direction.
They had not proceeded far, when, from a ridge which they crossed, they discovered Natta and the other puggees tracking across a small piece of open ground, towards the hills. The shikarees, who were on the look-out, also at the same time saw the riders, and beckoned for them to join.
Natta, it was found, had brought the solitary pug from some fields, where its owner had been regaling himself during the night. It now led in the direction of some very broken ground, much cut up by a complete net-work of nullahs, which drained the higher undulating land into the river flowing at the foot of the Chitranu hills. The latter lay on the other side of this stream, which followed the outline of their base. The pug was that of a large pig, but somewhat narrow for that of a solitary boar. Several times, as the tracking progressed, old Natta was seen to stoop and carefully examine and criticise the foot-print, apparently with some uncertainty. Indeed, so evident was this, that he was asked if he was sure of its being a track of that morning ?
" Quite certain, sahib," he replied unhesitatingly. " Look ! the pugs on the earth are yet sharp cut. The midday wind has drifted no dust into them. He passed early this morning, and I expect he will be lying somewhere yonder," and the old man pointed to the most intricate part of the nullahs referred to.
As yet the ground was tolerably open, but with a general slope or fall towards the river, and was pretty thickly studded with nasty slabs of sheet rock. A few prickly pear bushes were scattered about, singly and in clumps, over the ungenerous soil, and these changed into a thicker cover in and about the nullahs further on. The latter widening as they receded from the ridge recently crossed over, became more numerously supplied by little feeders ; and across these intersections- in their path the hunters had to make their way as they advanced.
The ground was fair for tracking, and although several little temporary halts occurred, a cast or two a-head quickly picked up the trail again without any serious check.
As they gradually descended, and the bushes became thicker, Natta kept a wary look-out a-head, and hinted his opinion that the pig would be soon started.
Several times stones had been cast into bushes and small patches which the trail approached ; and not many minutes after Natta had spoken, he pointed to some prickly pears, into which a volley of stones was cast by his assistants. The result of this discharge was to disturb a fine pig in its repose, causing it to break on the other side.
Several simultaneous shouts from the puggees put the somewhat scattered party of hunters in motion, and away they thundered in instant pursuit, though it was not till Norman had held his spear aloft and gave a hunting yell that the furthermost rider was aware of the "gone away."
The pig, who was a regular flier, notwithstanding its fair size, went away at score with its head set for the most intricate part of the nullahs. It lay out with such a will that at first it gained on the hunters, and increased the considerable advantage it had at starting. It led at a rattling pace for some time across a long piece of open, and then suddenly disappeared from sight in a nullah which cut its course diagonally.
The hunters, closing in from different directions, according to their position at starting, reached this a hundred yards or more in rear of the pig, and galloped along, some on one bank, some on the other, with the object of hitting on the pursued whichever side it might eventually take.
There was a good deal of flying jumping, mixed with in-and-out scrambling, as the riders came across the various gullies which fed the larger nullah; but still the pig was once or twice sighted bounding through the bushes in its bed, as a turn of the nullah allowed those on the top to command its depths far in front. But ere long the pursuers had not even this satisfaction; and for so considerable a time did the pig remain unviewed, that the leaders began to fear that they had over-ridden and missed it by its turning into some one of the lateral feeders or branches, several of which, of equal magnitude, every here and there formed a junction.
The speed of the leading horsemen became therefore slackened, but not for long. Norman, who was most advanced on the left, and casting his eyes warily about, sighted a black object just for one moment as it plunged into a nullah far on his left front. Swiftly turning, his yell and raised spear announced his view, and soon brought the rest behind him as he made for a portion of the nullah a long way in front of the point of the pig's disappearance. Once again he caught a glimpse of it a considerable distance ahead, and cutting judiciously across to a bend of the nullah, arrived on the bank but a few seconds after the pig had passed beneath. Having it in full view, he dropped in, and set to work to ride it in the bed. The pig was a stout one, with a fine turn of speed; but the greater staying powers of the horses had at last effect, and Norman held his own, though his progress was occasionally somewhat impeded by the bushes which, in many parts, thickly filled the nullah.