To ride them in the nullah itself was there an impossibility ; but by galloping along the banks or the sides of the hills above, occasionally sighting them, they hoped to find a chance of forcing them into more open ground. Now and again one or the other caught sight of a black object or two flitting through the bushes, and announced the fact by a shout. Thus they continued for some time, when deeming the nullah more open and practicable, the two leading horsemen plunged in and essayed to force the pig from the cover.
It was a bold move, and deserved more success than it met with. Both were soon brought up by the thickness of the jungle and the rugged nature of the bed of the ravine. With some difficulty they extricated themselves, horses and men much scratched by the thorns through which they had forced their way.
The others, who were riding higher on the hill-side above, were out of sight when they emerged and again set their horses going ; but ere long two of them reappeared on a slope far ahead, apparently also thrown out. To these they rode, and found that the sounder had been for some time unviewed. It had, they considered, probably either been overrun or turned into some neighbouring; ravine. Mackenzie was not visible, and it became an object to discover, if possible, what had become of him. For this purpose they ascended the hill on whose side they were riding ; but thence there was nothing to be seen of either hunter or the pig.
One or two of the men now reached them. These were shortly followed by old Natta himself, who despatched some of his aids to neighbouring eminences, both to look for signs of the lost pig and ascertain what had become of the sole remaining man in pursuit, and give such assistance as might be necessary. He directed them to the probable line of the pig, which, however, it was now too late for the other hunters to follow.
Long they waited; but as nothing was seen or heard of their companion, Natta proposed forming an extended line with the few men present, and endeavour to turn up any pig that might be lying in the hills between their present position and Phoolrea. It was getting late in the afternoon, and satisfied that some of the men would come across Mackenzie, the remainder considered it useless to wait for him. They therefore adopted Natta s suggestion, and spread themselves over the hills. .
A boar was started a long way ahead and eventually viewed by Norman, whose throat was so dry the day having been very hot that his shouts dwindled into mere husky growls and squeaks, and he was unheard by any of the others. A beater or two in his neighbourhood, however, were more successful, and indicated the line of pursuit. The boar had a very long start, and Norman only just sighted him topping a hill far in front as he himself crossed that behind. He rode for the point at which it had disappeared, but discovered no further signs of it; and though both he and the remaining hunters galloped ahead in several directions, it was never viewed again.
The hills were very hard and rough, with rolling stones partially concealed by the short, crisp, yellow grass which, for the most part, covered them. A long stern chase over this ground, at the end of a rather trying day, proved sufficient to satisfy the most gluttonous of the horses, whose cut and battered legs and feet afforded ample testimony to its nature. They all now moved slowly to the tents, which were reached without further incident.
Mackenzie had not, they found, made his appearance; but a body of men, carrying a charpoy slung on poles, some hour or so after their arrival, was seen to emerge from the hills and approach.
There was some real anxiety expressed on the faces of those who observed the cortege, and they hastily walked forward to meet it. Rumours ran quickly through the little canvas village that " Mugunjie" sahib was killed had his leg broken his bowels torn out by an enraged boar. Fortunately none of these had occurred ; but still he had met with an accident, and a severe one.
He related to his friends that he, like them, had for some time missed the sounder of pig, but continuing to gallop in their presumed line, had caught sight of them crossing a piece of more open country, a good way to his left. He soon got on fair terms, and separated a good boar, which he closed with over some tolerably level ground, but rough with sheet-rock and stones.
His old mare was getting very done ; but the pig was also quite blown, and he was in the very act of preparing to spear it, when the mare's legs flew from beneath her and she came down a regular cracker on some sheet-rock, severely injuring her riders leg and cutting herself. Fortunately, the men sent after Mackenzie had hit on his tracks, and they shortly reached him. There were no bones broken, but his knee was so swollen and painful that he found himself unable to ride, and in consequence the men procured a charpoy and carriers from a neighbouring village and. brought him into camp.
He was at first in a good deal of pain, but hot fomentations and rest soon reduced the inflammation, and the leg became much easier. His old friend and companion, Norman, constituted himself the doctor and head-nurse, and saw personally that his instructions to the native servants were carried out and the huge limb of the Highlander kept continually bathed, himself assisting in the operation.
" After all, old fellow," said Norman, encouragingly, as he saw his friend more easy, " you came off cheaply. It might have been serious with a man of your weight, going at speed ! A cropper on sheet-rock, too ! You ought to have looked for worse effects."
" I assure you, Norman," the huge Highlander replied, with a grimace, " I am very well contented that it was no worse, whatever I ought to have looked for."
" So am I, old boy. But you must allow that, according to the dynamical laws regulating the fall of heavy bodies, your momentum on reaching mother earth must have been pretty considerable. Let's see, what is it ?—about fifteen stone, multiplied by the best pace of the old mare."
With such-like consolatory remarks Norman endeavoured to cheer his friend in his mishap. It was evident that Mackenzie's riding was over for some time to come ; but it was with difficulty he was induced to assent to the despatch of a messenger into Bhooj to bring out a dooley and bearers for his conveyance there. The self-constituted doctor had also considerable difficulty in persuading the patient to curtail the allowance of beer and punch, which, owing to his naturally insatiable thirst, was ordinarily no insignificant one.
To keep the maimed sportsman company and cheer him, dinner was ordered to be served in his tent, which, when cleared of its usual contents, with difficulty admitted the rest round a table reduced in size. It was no affected concern which Norman felt on behalf of his friend ; and the solicitude with which he watched him and his potations of beer during dinner was as genuine as ludicrous. The elder fully understood this and the kindly feeling which dictated it, and somewhat deprecatingly called for a third glass of beer, knowing full well that Norman s eye was on him.
" Tin awfully thirsty, but it shall be the last, Norman," he said ; " and IVe promised to cut down the punch."
In India, where men come to entertain real friendship one for another, there is a brotherly readiness to assist in times of sickness, but little displayed in more favoured regions. A great rough-handed, hairy man will sometimes constitute himself head-nurse, and, strange to say, will not infrequently perform his self-imposed functions with a tender, womanly gentleness and consideration singularly at variance with probabilities. Such a merging of the dignity of manhood in the devotion of a woman may be laughed at by many; but yet it is not without its advantages. I, who write, having fully experienced them when death almost out-balanced life, have good reason to think so.