Thrusting at the chest—A remarkable feat—An attempt to engage three bears with spear and pistol—A chance meeting—A solitary-boar chase—A happy thrust—The remarkable feat explained— The Kerai—A dash at a leopard—A long solitary hunt—Found and lost—Found, lost, and re-found—A satisfactory conclusion —Pig in the sea—Another single-handed encounter—Pig easily lost—Cases in point.
Established, according to custom, round the bright, sparkling log-fire, the hunters commented on the little incidents of the day's sport.
" That was an effective dig of yours to-day in the chest," observed Danvers to Norman, "we had some difficulty in withdrawing the spear. But somehow or other a thrust over the head and into the back appears usually a more deadly wound."
" Yes," was the reply; "one does not often get a clear thrust at the chest. A boar will sometimes throw it off with his head, which somehow generally seems to get in the way. Then you might as well hit a stone as his shoulderbone. To be successful it must strike fair."
" I remember," observed Mowbray, " doing rather a remarkable feat with a thrust into the chest. The spear went clean through the whole length of his body, and protruded near the tail."
" Oh ! come," said Mackenzie ; " draw it mild. It would require a steam hammer to do that at a blow."
"Listen, unbeliever, and you shall hear how the feat was performed. I assure you my credit as a man of almost superhuman strength was established by its practical demonstration. My spear was really and truly run clean through the hog as if he were ready spitted for roasting. There was another rather singular circumstance attending that morning's proceedings, so I will give it in full.
" In the year 1859, after the mutiny, we were still hunting that slippery blackguard, Tantia Topee, who led numerous small columns a pretty dance throughout Rajpootana and Central India. I had been attached to one or two of these in a political capacity, and was ordered to join another, then supposed to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of Kotah, to which place I repaired with a small escort of Sikh troopers.
" Arrived there I could hear nothing for certain of the whereabouts of the force ; but as my information pointed to the fact that it had left the limits of Rajpootana, and gone into another jurisdiction, I waited near Kotah for a few days to satisfy myself that such was the case, before returning to head quarters. I generally amused myself during the mornings for it was the hot weather with looking about in the neighbourhood of my camp for game, both for the sake of sport and to supply my camp, and I frequently brought home a black buck or chin-kara, sometimes two.
" On the morning in question I had sauntered out with a single-barrelled rifle and a solitary attendant. At the distance of a few hundred yards from my camp, and with only an open field intervening between it and the large village near which I was pitched, there was a tank, dry at this season, with an embankment on which grew several mowah trees. Happening to cast my eyes towards this, I saw to my extreme astonishment, an old bear with two young ones, from half to three parts grown, lobbing along the top of the bank, and even as I looked they pulled up to listen. The distance was far for anything like a certain shot, and as they were a couple of miles away from the jungle for which they would probably make, I thought the present a fine opportunity for a running engagement with spear and revolver; so, while I kept watch, I started off my attendant to fetch my horse and weapons from the camp, which was close at hand. Before the horse could be saddled, however, the old bear, deeming, I suppose, all clear in front, again moved on with her young ones at a good lobbing canter, for she evidently considered that the tempting mowah fruit had detained her longer than was either customary or safe.
" I ran after and watched them across some rocky ground covered with low scrub, till they scrambled over a bit of broken embankment, which formed another tank some distance further on, and disappeared beyond. My horse was now trotted up to me, with a loaded revolver in the holsters. This, or the spear, or both, I thought I might use as circumstances dictated ; perhaps get a good dig at first before the bear was prepared, and then finish the engagement at a safer distance with the revolver; or, at any rate, if I found the old one too much for me, spear one of the young ones, which were of a good size. But alas ! for any credit the spearing of a bear might have brought me, I never again sighted them ; a fact, however re-gretable, perhaps, after all, more conducive to the preservation of an entire skin by myself and horse, than might otherwise have been the case.
" I rode at speed to the gap where I had seen the bears disappear, crossed over, galloped on beyond, and reached the jungle, which was tolerably open. This I penetrated in several directions, but, as I have said, without again seeing them.
"As I rode leisurely back I met my attendant, accompanied by one or two other men, with my guns, so I again turned, and we examined various parts of the jungle, but found that the bears had made for the cliffs -and rocks on the banks of the river Chumbul a little further on, a place full of secure fastnesses and called the Kerai. At last, as the morning drew on, after an ineffectual shot at a neilghye, we made our way homewards by a different route, and, as luck would have it, came across a nice sounder of pig. They were grubbing up the ground for roots, and evidently just picking their last little bit of breakfast before retiring to cover for their daily repose. They were by no means shy, for being near a preserve of the Kotah Rajah's, they were not allowed to be harried, but kept for his especial shooting.
"It was a nice chance for me; so I rode at the biggest, a good boar, who at first seemed to fancy I couldn't intend to interfere with him. In this, however, he was quickly undeceived, and, as I approached, bolted away. I tried to keep him out from the jungle, and for some short time succeeded ; but he gradually edged towards it, and I galloped in among the bushes, which were here open enough for riding, pretty close behind. It was very thorny, though, and my horse suffered a good deal; but he was accustomed to it, and we managed to stick to the boar, rather, I imagine, to his surprise. Of course, being by myself, I was able, to some extent, to take my own opportunities, and not obliged to spear whenever the slightest chance presented itself. So, after keeping pretty close to him for he soon became blown for some short time, I ran up and speared him in the back. It was some time before I got another good opportunity; and then being a little to his flank, I rode at his head, and he came round.