" You young rascals ought to have been flogged for taking such unfair advantages of poor snipes," said Stewart. "I should certainly have confiscated that valuable fowling-piece with which you committed such sporting misdeeds, had I been your master. Weren't you ever called to account by gamekeepers or others V " Twice by outsiders, and many times by our " natural enemy, the factor. But that has nothing to do with the anecdotes I have related. Did you see any muggurs (alligators) on the Rhoda tank to-day, Mac ? I seldom go there without coming across a diminutive specimeii."
" Yes," was the reply. u I came unexpectedly right on to one little fellow, about five feet long. He was basking with his mouth open, on a mud bank among the bushes and reeds near the edge of the tank ; and I could have hit him over the head, or speared him, if I had been provided with that weapon. He floundered away much discomposed when he awoke to a sense of my proximity, and I gave him a dose of small shot, which, I dare say, didn't even tickle him."
"Speaking of spearing muggurs," said Stewart,
" recalls to my mind a curious scene where such a feat was actually performed. It happened at Dongwa, in Guzerat, where a large hunting party had assembled.
"One day, towards evening, we were returning to our camp after a good day's sport, and were quietly walking in our horses by the road which passed by the side of the village tank, when we saw a small muggur, five or six feet long, basking on the bank. We thought what a nice shot it presented, and regretted having no rifles with us. Just then, however, a native traveller, armed with sword and matchlock, appeared coming along the road, and we pointed the animal out to him, and asked him to take a shot at it. He entered into the fun of the thing, and readily agreed. Putting a perfect handful of coarse-grained native powder down the long barrel of his matchlock, he rammed home a bullet somewhat approaching a spherical shape. This preliminary concluded, he primed and lit his match, and stalking behind a bank got within some thirty yards of the unconscious muggur. Resting his matchlock over the bank, he commenced to take aim. I say commenced, for, unlike the rapid aim of the English sportsman, the traveller took a long and weary time to adjust his piece and bring it to bear. Perhaps he was particularly tardy on this occasion from the desire to distinguish himself before so many sporting sahib logue. For a considerable time the matchlock remained in position, and at last the trigger, or rather the article which represented the trigger, was pushed. The powder in the pan fired for a moment, and then, with a most astounding noise, the contents were discharged, and the operator received a kick which must have much incommoded him.
"'He's hit! he's hit!' several of us exclaimed, as the luckless muggur commenced cutting the queerest imaginable capers, principally on, or by means of, his tail. He jumped about as if quite unaware what had taken place ; and at first appeared so confused, that he made no effort to seek his natural element, the water.
" Some of us seized our spears from the syces at least, those who had them at hand, and jumped off our horses, while one or two rode, spear in hand, to the spot. One of the footmen had, however, set the example, and was the first to reach the muggur. He was a tall, strong fellow by far the most successful in that day's previous sport and plunged his spear into the dancing muggur s side. There it became fixed, either in the ribs or mail, and my friend, equally unable to withdraw it, and loth to let go his hold, was dragged towards the water ; for the thrust seemed to revive the beast and arouse it to a sense of its position.
"Several of us were now around them some on foot, some on horseback digging away at the unfortunate beast, who soon managed to reach the water, with its principal adversary still tenaciously holding on to his spear. Into the shallow part they went, and there was a tremendous scrimmaging and splashing, as the muggur, now getting exhausted, still strove with its plucky and pertinacious assailant. Before it could reach the deep water and swim, the animal's strength was expended, and it was obliged to succumb. The victorious spearman drew the dead muggur to shore in triumph, and we had then leisure to examine it.
" The bullet had struck it in the head, and would of itself, probably, have proved finally fatal; but with the extraordinary tenacity of life which these animals possess, it might easily have got away notwithstanding the various wounds administered by myself and others had not H--hung on so well as he did.
Spearing a muggur.
"The sporting traveller was much elated at the success of his shot; and a small douceur of rupees still further gratified him, and excited the envy of a number of the beaters and others, to whom he recited his part in the affair with much volubility of language and vehemence of gesture."
" Rather a novelty in the way of shikar, certainly" observed Mackenzie; " few can say that they have assisted in the death of a muggur by spearing."
" And how about hanging, then ?" asked Mowbray.
" About hanging ! " ejaculated Mac. " What, hanging a muggur do you mean ? "
" I do mean hanging a muggur ; for, strange as it may seem, I once assisted in that operation."
This assertion was received with some incredulity, and various expressions indicative of that feeling were uttered around. Mowbray's head was referred to in connection with a bag ; there was a recommendation, too, in which that gallant corps, the " Marines," was prominently mentioned; while lively allusion was also made to a certain Baron Munchausen.
Simply saying, however, that those who held these sentiments would change their opinion when he had related the circumstances attending the singular strangulation he had mentioned, he proceeded with his narrative.