" Cut in between him and the jungle! " he ejaculated, as the three set their horses going. " He won't twig us for a bit if we ride well for his rear."
They could have ridden so as to endeavour to intercept the boar before he could reach the broken ground, but that might have given too early warning of their vicinity, and turned him back. There was no obstacle between the jungle and the nullahs, nothing but thin patches of jungle on the sand ridges round the fields, and one or two small hedges, all negotiable without the slightest difficulty.
; Acting on the instructions of Norman, who knew the country well, the two kept along with him at a rapid gallop, but without pressing their horses to extreme speed. The boar was going along at a brisk pace, but not one to distress himself, and appeared unaware of the movement to his right rear. But when the hunters had made good their object, cut in behind him, and set their horses going in earnest, he seemed suddenly to realise that not unperceived or unpursued had his course been taken. He now lay down to his work with a will, in the hope of making the nullahs. But fast horses and sharp spurs, and men who knew how to use both were behind him, and it seemed extremely doubtful if his refuge could be attained before they were on him.
Norman's young horse was half frantic with excitement, and when the hunters at first set to work in direct pursuit, could with difficulty be restrained. - But his rider had not, on that day, for the first time ridden a fresh, fiery colt after pig, and soon brought him into something like command. He was obliged, however, to take a slight pull, and Mowbray drew level with him, Vivian being a length or two in the rear.
They closed fast with the boar, and with such even advantage that it would have been difficult to say who led. For two or three hundred yards they raced together, each with an eye on the boar but occasionally glancing at, and taking cognizance of, his competitor. As I have before observed, it is not always the foremost horseman who secures the spear. Still, the lead gives great advantage, and, if obtainable, is struggled for by all.
So long did the two continue locked together that it seemed likely to end in a dead heat. The boar cleared a low hedge of thorns but a few lengths in front of them, and showed evident signs that the pace had told on him, while the nearest nullah was yet a couple of hundred yards away.
Norman now drew ahead of his companion. The gallant young one answered to the spurs, and as he rushed up to the blown hog had got clear from his competitor.
With his spear extended far in front, and leaning over his horse's neck, he attempted to prick the hog, which, however, gave a sharp turn and the colt dashed past. Mowbray, who had taken a slight pull on his horse when he found himself passed, now took advantage of the turn, drove his horse up, and, leaning forward, just managed to touch the boar behind. - Norman thought he had failed, but a cry of " First spear," told the contrary. The hog made another sharp turn, and Norman, with some difficulty bringing round the colt, who, though showing no fear of the game, was naturally unaware of the object in view, again got in behind it. The boar now ran down alongside a hedge, boring in toward it as if with the view of keeping on the pursuer s bridle hand. But Norman forced him a little out, and rushing past drove his spear deep in as the boar made a half turn and tried to charge. The young one swerved a little, but his blood was up and he behaved as a game Arab should do, and, in truth, generally does. The rider withdrew his spear unbroken, and wheeled round again to come to action. In doing so, however, he met Mowbray, who had just received a charge, and a serious broadside collision took place. Both riders were shaken in their seats, and the colt nearly came down, but each managed to pull himself and his horse together, and the attack was renewed.
Vivian, who had been out-paced, now joined in the action. But they had reached the brink of the first nullah, and into it the boar plunged, followed by the horsemen, who forced him to climb up the opposite bank. There, however, with curled back, erect bristles, glaring eyes, and champing tusks, he faced round and refused to budge an inch further.
It was rather an awkward position to assail, but a direct attack was unavoidable. Norman was nearest and dashed up the bank. The boar met him before he could gain a footing on the top, and, had the colt not behaved like a veteran, it might have come to grief. As it was, it barely escaped being ripped. Norman's spear rattled in among the boar s teeth, but the charge was staved off, and the impetus of the animal carried it on into the nullah. Vivian here got a slight dig, but the boar ascended another portion of the bank, went on a little, and again stood at bay.
Mowbray and Norman whose horse was getting half frantic rushed up this slope together, the former a little in advance, and on the left. The boar was standing with foam flying from his jaws on a piece of level but stony ground, and after a few sharp trotting steps rushed at Mowbray, thus passing directly across Norman. The latter made a thrust in front and struck the boar, which was at the same moment received by Mowbray on his spear. Norman s spear came across his horse's chest and flew from his grasp, while to avoid coming end on over the pig the colt rose to jump him. But only partial was his success. The boar was struck and knocked over, and either the spear-shaft or the horse's head hit Norman a blow in the face, knocking off his hat and giving him a bloody nose. The active young horse staggered on but recovered, and Norman found himself still in his saddle, and pulling his horse up on the other side half confused with the blow and the brief scrimmage, for it had been the work of a few seconds. Both horsemen came round; but that was the gallant boar's last charge. He had risen to his legs, trotted a few paces, then reeled, sank on his knees, and rolled over, and gasping out his last sob; was gathered to his fathers.