During the period consumed in slightly refreshing the inner man after the various contretemps attending the first run, and while Natta was getting together the men and making the arrangements for the beat, the untimely and inglorious fate of the wretched horse naturally formed the principal topic of conversation.
Had the loss of a horse occurred through any of the ordinary chances of the field, such as being ripped by a boar or injured by a fall, the fact, while deplorable enough in itself, would have been in the common nature of things, and might happen at any time. But so untoward a chance as one's own spear being the cause of death was, it was agreed on all sides, in the highest degree deplorable, and the pitiable fate of the good horse was much bemoaned.
* See Appendix, Note M.
They were led on to speak of accidents to horses in the hunting-field, and all had acquaintance, either in their own persons or that of friends, with losses thus incurred. One of the party had himself to regret the death of a nice Arab from the rip of a boar, and one or two of the others had heard of friends or acquaintances being similarly circumstanced.
Then a man related how his horse broke its back in a narrow canal cutting in Scinde; and one had a friend whose hunter broke its leg in a deep earth-crack.
These and other misfortunes formed the subject of conversation; and accounts of spear accidents to the riders themselves, of occasional though rare occurrence, were also related. Natta s appearance, however, put a stop to this rather melancholy discussion, and the party once more prepared for action.
It was hoped that the beaters might succeed in driving pig from the thick jungle and swamp, and force them to break into the more open fields which I have described as being mixed with scattered thickets and make for the hills. With the object of commanding the many likely avenues of escape, the party was broken up into units, each of whom took up a separate position, in sight, however, of his mimediate neighbours. Long they waited, and waited in vain ; for the pig, if induced to leave the tangled covert of the thick jungle in some parts impassable even to the men would get into the swamp, and when dislodged from that, re-enter the jungle. This went on for some time, and several of the beaters narrowly escaped being ripped, till at last Natta came out and advised the sahibs themselves to endeavour to hustle a pig into the open, by riding at him, when seen, in such parts as might be practicable for horsemen. On this suggestion they acted, and, sometimes singly, sometimes in concert, moved through parts of the swamp putting up numerous snipe— and such open avenues of the jungle as they could press through. Every now and then one or more of the hunters would make a rush at a pig which happened to cross him ; and in one instance Stewart got so close away at the tail of a big black hog in the swamp, that he pounded after it through deep mud and slush. He might, possibly, have had a chance of spearing had not his horse unfortunately come down and given him a most unpleasant roll in black mud, anything but inviting either in appearance or smell.
Struggling through bushes and swampy bits of marsh and tamarisk jungle, and much incommoded by the twigs and sticks, which acted like whips, two or three of the others bullied a nice young boar to such an extent that, though they were unable to spear him, he was at last induced to trust to his legs and broke away, albeit not in sight of any of the party, all of whom he had thrown off. But markers, judiciously placed, announced the fact, and each hunter made his way out of the cover by such exit as offered itself. Stewart, who had remounted unhurt after his spill, was the first to get into the open, and was hallooed away after the boar, which after awhile he fortunately sighted and pursued.
The rest, emerging at different points, galloped after the leading horseman, with, according to their position, more or less chance of taking part in the contest.
Mowbray was nearest, and got away on fair terms with the leader, but not sufficiently so to have much chance of struggling with him at present.
The boar, perhaps from the muddy nature of his usual abiding-place, proved a very slow one, and Stewart gained fast upon it, leaving Mowbray half-adozen lengths in his rear. As he neared it, this was a little diminished ; and when the pig who somehow seemed to select the easiest riding-ground he could find, perhaps from confusion after his hustling was getting done, the distance had been still further decreased. Twice the pig jinked, each time giving some further advantage to Mowbray. A third time the hog slightly turned as Stewart closed ; and he, being within reach but with the pig on his bridle-hand, attempted as it crossed to spear him on that side by an overhand thrust across his horse's left shoulder. But such thrusts, at long distances, are very uncertain, and he missed. Mowbray, now cramming in the spurs, cut in and, rushing up, got on intimate terms, and speared the boar behind the shoulder. It made little attempt to fight, or perhaps had little opportunity, for it was quickly disposed of by further wounds from Stewart, Vivian, and Norman.
Tins affair thus satisfactorily concluded, and Stewart, who was quite black from his coating of mud, having been scraped, the party endeavoured, but unsuccessfully, to get another run, and at last returned to the tents, where the shooters also soon after arrived with a nice show of game.
Mackenzie brought in fourteen brace, consisting of six and a half of duck and teal, five and a half of quail, one and a half couple of snipe, and a strange bird which one of the party, who was a bit of an ornithologist, believed to be a purple egret.
He had visited Rhoda tank, at and about which he got eight or nine brace, and then went down to the river —to which some flights of teal had betaken themselves —and there made a shot which considerably influenced the size of his bag. While walking along through some thick rushes on the edge of the river, accompanied by a couple of men, with the hope of picking up a stray duck or snipe, he observed a large flock of teal peaceably reposing on the bosom of a pool in the river.
This pool was commanded from the bank he was on, about a couple of hundred yards further up the stream.
Some jow bushes grew on the bank, and presented every facility for a stalk, so Mackenzie lost no time in availing himself of the opportunity thus offered. Making a considerable detour he placed the bushes between himself and the teal, and crept up cautiously behind them. When he had arrived as he thought somewhere within shot, he peered through a bush, but found that he had miscalculated both distance and position, and was forced to retreat. He did so, and then made for another clump. This time he was more successful; and on carefully looking through the branches, saw that most of the teal were still sitting in innocent security on the water, while one or two were waddling about on the further bank of the river, all within shot.
He cocked his gun and stood up, thus fully exposing his person. The teal rose at the unexpected sight, and he fired his right barrel into the ruck of the huddled and frightened birds, scattering them in every direction. Several fell, and he fired his left barrel at one which was wounded and flying painfully away. His first barrel, it was found, had disposed of no less than seven killed or severely wounded all of which were secured by the beaters.
Hawkes had bagged nine brace of sorts, including, however, four coolen. These he had obtained by hiding himself in their line of flight, and getting shots as they came in the morning from their feeding-grounds to the water. A little incident, deemed worthy of record in his note-book, had also occurred to him. A snipe rose out of some rushes and flew away low, as if with the object of darting behind some of the bushes which grew out in the water. Just as he dodged round the corner of one of these, and at the very moment of disappearance, Hawkes fired, but whether with success or not as regarded the snipe, he could not see. An unfortunate bird of the redshank tribe, however, took it into its head just then to cross the line of fire, and receiving a portion of the charge, fell. As redshanks, et hoc genus, are not esteemed as sport by the Indian gunner, Hawkes was dissatisfied with the exchange, but a further search proved that the snipe had also fallen.
The doctor and the sailor had returned to Bhooj, shooting on their way there, but their bag remains unrecorded.