" Why, you talk of those articles as if they were something to eat," said Danvers. " Remember, too, pig are fond of lying in cotton fields."
" Yes, but it is only when other cover is available at the seasons when it is cut. Depend on it, when Lord Macaulay's New Zealander is contemplating the ruinous prospect from a broken arch of London-bridge, his brother will be lamenting the singular scarcity of wild animals especially pigs in this country, and gazing at it and its high chimneys from the top of a gigantic cotton-spinning manufactory."
These lamentations might have continued had not Mowbray reminded the mourners that they were wandering from the subj ect of discourse, and that such unhappy anticipations of a terrible future were as useless as miserable. It behoved them to make the best of the present, and leave the future to the New Zealanders. By way of diverting their minds from the prospect, he asked Mackenzie to favour them with a fresh brew; a request with which that gentleman speedily complied, and the conversation returned into its former channel.
" Speaking of antelope shooting," said Danvers, " I shall never forget an occurrence where, as I thought, a native received the bullet instead of a buck.
" I was out one morning before breakfast, and as the ground had been a good deal shot over, and the game was rather wild, I took a cart with me to stalk them. I managed to secure one nice young buck out of a small herd by a shot right through both the hind quarters, by which he was completely disabled. Soon after this I came across a large herd, which I tried all I could to circumvent; but they were very wary, and I could not get within a reasonable distance. I followed, however, hoping for some chance, when some men shouting in a field in front turned them, and they doubled back past my cart at full gallop. As they went by they put on extra steam, and raced away at a tremendous pace. They were, however, not more than a hundred yards off, so I aimed, as I imagined, well in front of a handsome buck with a good pair of horns, and fired. He continued on as if untouched ; but the ' thud' there is no mistaking, announced a hit, and, to my horror, a man, who was walking along a road with a woman just beyond, fell. I turned so sick. The sensations I experienced were painful to a degree. It seemed to me that I was almost a murderer to fire a random shot with such exceeding carelessness ; and, for the mere sake of a chance hit, to endanger a man's life. However, I cannot pretend to describe my feelings enough that they were far from pleasant, I cast clown my rifle and ran off at speed towards the unfortunate victim of my culpable want of precaution. Just as I reached the neighbourhood of the line of pugs which indicated where the deer had galloped past me, the man rose, and quite unconcernedly, walked away with his female companion. I gazed at him for a moment in bewilderment as I pulled up, for my imagination had depicted as certain the mans serious wound or death; but casting my eyes around, they encountered a young three-parts grown buck lying dead in his tracks. I could almost have cried with the sensation of relief I experienced. The man must have stooped for some purpose at the moment of my firing; and my attention being concentrated on the buck I aimed at, I had not observed the fall of another immediately behind him. But the shock 1 received that day gave me a lesson."
" I am afraid we are rather careless sometimes," remarked Mowbray, " and accidents with shot are by no means uncommon. I have both peppered a friend and been peppered myself; and I remember that a companion with whom I was once shooting, fired at a quail, which he missed, but instead, hit two men and two bullocks, and it proved rather an expensive shot to him. The fellows were little hurt, but being able to show a few drops of blood, and by kicking up a great row, induced him to part with a good many rupees a legitimate fine, however, for his carelessness.
But how do you account, Danvers, for being so far behind in your shot as to hit a deer well in the rear ?" " Who can account for his bad shooting ? I had got the range, but not the line, I suppose ; and when a buck is going at full speed, one should aim far aheadó how much, theoretically, I can hardly pretend to say, one must judge practically by eye on the spot. Evidently I was behind the mark. But even with such slow-flying birds as wild-geese, I have aimed a-head of the leader and brought down number two in the line, as neatly as if it was intended. I firmly believe that men, whether with rifle or smooth-bore, make more misses by firing behind moving game than in any other way. I am certain I do so myself."
"I agree with you," said Mackenzie. "But still, some will ' aim at a pigeon and hit a crow' under other conditions. I once stalked some neilghye, and got a fine open shot at the bull. I made certain of him, for he loomed as large as an ox, but he galloped off, and a cow which was immediately beyond him, and, as it seemed to me, quite hidden by her bulky lord, fell dead."
" One of the prettiest things," remarked Norman, " I ever saw with regard to killing the wrong animal happened to the Guicowar of Baroda. Had a number of English officers not been present, I verily believe it would have led to the death of somebody.
" The occasion was a grand one. It was the Guicowar's birthday; and a general invitation had been issued to the officers of troops in cantonments, to attend a hunt in a preserve some few miles from the city, a breakfast and subsequent late tiffin being included in the programme. I myself was on a visit to Baroda, and of course the invitation extended to me.
" Everything was arranged in first-rate style fine tents, and no end of a spread, and liquor ad libitum. After breakfast, elephants were supplied for the accommodation of the party which consisted of perhaps twenty officers and we sallied forth in great state, the political officer to the court accompanying the Guicowar himself.