A chapter of accidents—A compromise—Young antelope hunting A heavy fall and its consequences—Collision with a buffalo-Flying a donkey—Travelling by mail-cart in the Punjaub—An unlucky stage—Systems of travelling compared—Travelling in state in Raj poo tana—An overthrow-—The pleasures of a year's trip to India.
The usual log was lighted in front of Mackenzie's tent on the lee side, and his bed within, having been drawn across the door, he was able to join in the conversation and hear what went on outside. Mackenzie at first wished to sit outside with his leg resting on another chair ; and it was rather amusing to the others to hear the discussion which ensued thereon between the two friends the heavy weight and light weight of the party. Eventually the former submitted to the friendliness and good sense which dictated the objections of the other, and the pertinacity with which he stuck to them. But this desirable result was not attained until two tumblers of punch instead of one— which Norman at first insisted on was to be the recognised allowance for the evening. The amateur doctor, however, made a graceful merit of necessity ; for he knew that restriction to a single tumbler was highly improbable under any circumstances, and was, therefore, the more willing to make this compromise. These preliminary matters being thus satisfactorily adjusted, the materials were called for, and under Mackenzie's directions the brew was compounded.
" I was telling Mac before dinner," said Norman, " that he got off remarkably cheaply in his fall, considering what a weight he is. I remember being equally or more hurt by a very similar cropper."
" Where was that ?" asked Mowbray.
" Near Poona. In those days we used to assemble during the monsoon and hunt down half-grown antelope with horse and spear. To my mind it was rather cruel work, for we ran them sometimes till they were so exhausted that they lay down and were speared in that position. As a mere cross-country gallop, however, over a varied course, it was a fine sport, and trying to both man and horse. The young antelope, too, had, on the whole, the best of it, for there were few of us who could boast of a kill, though my light weight enabled me to be among the number.
" On one occasion my stout old horse left the rest of the party fairly out of sight. There was not one present when, after an eight or ten mile gallop, I killed a fine buck fawn.
" On another, when out alone with my rifle, finding the deer were too wild to approach, I called up horse and spear, and after a long, steady gallop, killed another young buck fawn.
" I never actually tried a full-grown buck, but I think it was a matter quite within the reach of possibility to spear one. Indeed, I went so far as to offer to bet on my doing so, stipulating, however, that I should choose my own time, and have three trials if unsuccessful at first. A buck might by chance elude a man once, or even twice, without the comparative powers of horse and deer being fairly tested. The bet, under those conditions, was not accepted, though I offered it publicly at a large mess-table. In case of restricting myself to a single trial, offers of odds against me were, however, made. However, that is a question foreign to my anecdote.
" On one occasion we had met as usual in considerable force, for a gallop after deer, and soon found a herd of antelope. The ground was intersected by nullahs, amongst which sheet-rock cropped out in many places. Across one of these the deer led us, and some of us had to negotiate it at rather an awkward place; so much so, that one or two rather shirked it. Confident in the cat-like powers of my clever little Arab, I thought I would show the way, and, as frequently happens, received correction for my vanity. I rushed past the faltering horsemen, and took the drop in, but, unfortunately, landed on a slanting slab of sheet-rock, which just there most inconveniently obtruded itself.
Directly my horse's hoofs touched, they seemed to fly from under him, and down he came on his side with my left leg under his body. I had barely touched the ground, when crack ! there came close to my head the feet of a great, stud-bred mare, whose rider was not quite certain whether the head he caught a glimpse of was struck or not. Fortunately she did not come down ; and seeing both my horse and myself getting to our legs, and receiving from me satisfactory assurances of safety, he, as others, passed on their way and left me alone. Unfortunately, my horse got loose, and when I rose I saw him careering away on the other side of the nullah. I found that, in addition to cuts and bruises all down my left side from head to foot, my ancle was very severely sprained, or, as I first thought, with something broken about it. I managed, however, with the assistance of my spear, to hobble to the bank ; arrived there, I considered that my best plan would be to endeavour to reach a neighbouring village, and commenced hopping on my sound leg for that purpose. The shaking, however, shortly caused such pain that I was forced to pull up.
As luck would have it, my horse had made for the road which led to cantonments at no great distance, and was there caught by a party of travelling mendicants, who, shortly, to my great delight, brought it towards me.
A most villanous looking lot they were as ever thugged a buneea or committed docoity; and when they came near refused to deliver up my horse without a gratuity. I had no money with me, but promised to reward them if they would come to my house in cantonments. With this they were not satisfied, —perhaps not caring to be seen much in public, and would not give up the animal till I forked out. I was not particularly conversant with the language in those youthful days ; but I used all the arguments I was master of to induce them to surrender my horse, and without effect. It was evidently a case where conciliatory measures were lost, and a resort to the argumentum ad hominem had become necessary. Gathering myself together, with spear in rest, I suddenly hobbled towards the man who held my horse, as fast as I could, and threatened to run him through, there and then, if he did not let go the bridle. This forcible argument had the desired effect. He dropped the bridle, and with his comrades, retreated to a short distance. I seized hold, but it was a long time before I could manage to mount, and the blackguards jeered at my unsuccessful efforts. When I did so, I rode quietly off, no doubt to the disappointment of the fellows, whose extortionate demands were thus frustrated.