" A long spear," Mowbray remarked, " is often as dangerous to those about in a scrimmage as to the pig.
It is so far less handy and manageable. But this, however, is a subject of less moment than the indiscriminate slaughter of sows. What is your opinion on that head, Colonel ?"
" Indiscriminate slaughter of sows, sir!" repeated the old hunter with great emphasis. " And pray, sir, who the devil dares to kill sows when there is the chance of a boar. Yes, sir, I said dare," and the peppery old fellow glared round the table. " By gad ! sir, if I knew of a fellow belonging to my regiment laying himself out to kill sows, I'd stop his leave, sir. By gad ! I would."
" I presume, Colonel," said an old captain, " that you would allow them to be killed occasionally when boars are not forthcoming ?"
" Under certain circumstances it may be admissible," was the reply. "Nothing gives a finer run than a lanky, out-lying sow. If men get away, too, in pursuit of a sounder, and after a long chase, close and find no boar, I could forgive their sticking a sow provided she was in proper condition and had no squeakers at her tail. But, as a general rule, the sex should be spared. Indiscriminate slaughter is unpardonable quite. Why, sir ! the unfortunate beast may be with young ! I presume no sportsman in his senses —or indeed out of them would countenance the destruction of a vixen in May, in England. Neither should a sow run any such risk. And we must remember that the breeding season of pig is not so regular as that of foxes. I have seen sows with young in August, December, and other months."
With the doctrine inculcated by the Colonel there was no open dissent, though one or two had, on former occasions, urged that all pig found should be killed, irrespective of sex. None, however, could gainsay the sportsman-like view of the case, taken by the old hunter.
"It is my belief," said Stewart, "that the general slaughter of sows is gradually destroying the breed. Pig are not nearly so plentiful as they were formerly; and I believe that to be one of the principal causes. I was mentioning, Colonel, the other day, that I was present, not long ago, when six sows were killed on a dead maidan, in Guzerat, and all within the space of a couple of hours, and one of them was, I regret to say, big with young."
"Do you really mean to state that as a fact ?" asked the Colonel, solemnly. " I trust, Captain Stewart, you took no part in so unsportsmanlike so—I can find no word to express my abhorrence so ungentlemanly a deed."
" The only way in which I was concerned, sir, was in helping to finish a wretched beast which was wounded, in order the sooner to put it out of pain. I steadily refused to have anything to do with them in the first instance. And the extraordinary part of it was, that most of those present were equally averse to killing them in such wholesale fashion."
" Then, sir," retorted the Colonel, " I can only say that those present adopted a very singular method of showing their aversion. I do trust, gentlemen," he continued, glancing round, " that no one here will ever prove his objections in a similar manner."
All repudiated any intention of doing so, and it was agreed that the " Hunt" rules should prohibit sowicide except in certain authorised cases.
After some other discussion on these and kindred subjects, Norman produced a set of rules, which, when they had undergone some modifications and alterations suggested by the Colonel and others, stood as follows :—
" 1. Length of spear inclusive of blade not to exceed nine feet.
" 2. No spear to be thrown.
" 3. Every man who takes a first-spear to remain with his pig till it is killed. He is not to go in pursuit of another before that takes place. (Note.— Should his spear be broken, it is of course allowable to proceed in quest of another.)
" 4. All questions of disputed spears to be settled by the majority of those present. In case of no other rider being witness, tushes to be divided.
"5. In the event of a wounded pig escaping and being afterwards tracked and again started, the rider who, in the first instance took first spear, to be entitled to the tushes provided he is present at the second run. If voluntarily absent, the successful man in the second instance to become so entitled. (Absence from accidents or other involuntary circumstances not to disqualify.)
" 6. Boars always to be selected from a sounder. A young boar not being an absolute squeaker in preference to any sow, however large.
" 7. As a general rule, sows are not to be speared. But in the following cases such shall be considered legitimate :—When a solitary outlying sow is turned out:—When after a sounder has been ridden, it is found to contain no boars, a sow may be selected but only one. In event of a sounder breaking up, should the party divide, killing more than one, the fault lies with those who do not follow the rider who first reaches the sounder. Under no circumstances are sows to be ridden which have squeakers (unweaned pig), or regarding the enceinte state of which there can be the faintest suspicion.
" 8. The beaters to be invariably paid by the Hunt Secretary, or sportsman deputed by him.
" 9. The reward for a boar with a fair tush to be five rupees; for a young boar three rupees. No reward for sows, except in certain cases, where shikarees appear to deserve it. But no encouragement should be held out for them to show sows equally with boars,"
" I have heard of rules," said Norman, " prohibiting more than two riding after one pig, and also all spearing till the boar charged. Such may be very well where pig are innumerable, and their being driven from cover certain; but with us quite inapplicable. Fancy, for instance, only two being allowed to ride a pig after half-a-day's tracking; thus reducing, too, a fine open race to a mere match. As for not spearing till charged, half the spirit and emulation of the contest for the spear would be destroyed. And in stiff country, where it would be difficult to head the pig or attack it from the flank and one is only too glad to bring it to bay by spearing as opportunity offers many a good one would escape altogether from the reluctance to infringe the rule. First spear could, I should think, have been of little moment to those who ever acted on any such law. However, as I have only seen the latter once proposed, perhaps no one ever did."
All agreed that such rules were inapplicable to the countries in which they had hunted, however adapted they might be to places elsewhere. The laws, therefore, as recorded, were passed, and became, thereafter, the adopted nucleus of a code on which others might be engrafted according to time, place, and circumstances.
These important matters thus happily disposed of, one of the company was called on for a song, which he gave in the following words :—