Full Cry.—a Speedy Sow Among The Nullahs.
As the river was approached, the surface of the country became still more broken by the ramifications of the various water channels, and the pig might yet escape amid their windings unless hard and closely pressed.
The nullah was for the most part dry; but with occasional small pools of water. The rest of its bed consisted of open pieces of sandy soil, interspersed with jungle. The pig dashed into one of these bits of open from out of some low bushes only two or three lengths in front of Norman, who considered that this offered a good opportunity for closing.
The nullah was too narrow for it to avoid him, he thought, and so, if he could only get his horse once within reach, the spear was secure. . Though he could not afford to look round when hand and eye were so necessary to help his horse over the rough ground on which he was riding, he was instinctively aware that one or two horsemen were not far behind him, and ready to take advantage of any chance fortune or the pig might give them.
With a dig of the spurs he sent his horse almost within reach. Another stride or two and the spear would be blooded ; when, with a movement as sudden as unexpected, the pig made a sudden turn, sprang to the left, and shot up a sloping portion of the bank which there presented itself. Had it been on his off or spear hand he was so close that he might have had a chance of pricking it before it reached the top, but not so on the near side. He was unable to turn bis horse in time, and shot past the place, which those behind, however, were enabled to scramble up. He soon did the same a little further on, but had the mortification to find that two other horsemen were more directly in the line of the pig, who was making across a piece of open to another nullah.
The pig had taken heart of grace, and was making-good use of the advantage its sudden manoeuvre had given it, and was yet unreached when, once more, it flung itself headlong down a bank and raced away in the bed of another nullah. In at different points went all three horsemen, but this time Danvers was leading, and Norman in the rear; the remaining two having hitherto been somewhat thrown out, were considerably behind.
The pig again threw off its immediate pursuers after a brief spurt down the nullah, and a second time faced a piece of open as it made for another watercourse. In-and-outing; it found was to its advantage.
This time Norman, with his horse well in hand, reached the top of the bank first, and again got the lead. It was now just a question whether he could reach the pig before it again trusted to the nullahs.
The run had lasted some time, which, with the severity of the pace, and the natural difficulty of the ground, had told on all, but least on his stout old horse with its light burden.
Across the bit of flat he drew away from his companions, and closed with the pig on the very bank of the nullah. Whatever was in front, down he must go, and down he went, almost in the same stride with the pursued. There was a hard crash on a ledge of sheet rock, a slip, a flying about of legs, a scrambling struggle, a save, and in the next moment, as the well-accustomed old hunter recovered himself nobly, the spear was driven deep into the pig.
The other two, having more time to choose, selected a sloping portion of the bank, and went in at a more favourable spot.
But there were plenty of bushes, pieces of sheet rock, and one or two pools of water, and it was difficult to bring the pig to bay. At last, however, it came to anchor under some bushes which jutted out from the bank above, and the hunters were enabled to get a fair go in at it. Several times it charged, most of the five for all were now up spearing it more or less successfully, till at last a settler from Danvers sent it to that bourne whence no pigs return.
Instead of an old boar, it proved to be as Norman and Danvers had for some time suspected a sow ; a lanky, hard running, barren sow, with a considerable display of tush. Her solitary and unsocial habit of lying by herself had deceived old Natta, though the greater narrowness of the pug had struck him as unusual in the print of a "vieux solitaire" as the French designate the old shunner of his kind.
Natta shook his head with a solemn shake as he mournfully contemplated the dead pig, and out of the fulness of his heart he spoke.
" I couldn't make it out, sahibs," he said; " the pug resembled that of a sow's, but the habits were those of an outlying boar. I was deceived, but the old she-devil has paid for her unusual liking for solitude. I am sorry I left the sounder for her trail."
" I suppose we can try and find them also ?" suggested Norman. " Where did you leave their pugs ?"
" I left them, sahib, between the village you stopped at, and that portion of the hills," and Natta pointed to a point about two miles away. " If it be your honour s pleasure I can recover them."
This the party decided on doing ; and they soon after moved to the place indicated, and had little trouble in hitting the trail. But the pugging as they approached the hills was very difficult, and they sent for a few men from the village to drive the thickly wooded nullahs, in some one of which it was expected that the pig had sought refuge.
Meantime they carried on the pug, which led over some stiff country till it brought them to a gash between two hills, and here they determined to wait for the arrival of the men. Not to be unemployed in the interval, the hunters collected round the prog-basket and had tiffin, while their horses were regaled with the mid-day feed.
On the arrival of the men they again went to work. One or two ravines were drawn blank; but at last, in a deep, wooded, and rocky gully, some pig were sighted by the beaters, who halloed away the hunters on their line.