Policy as well as justice demand that the Indian hunter, in whatever sport engaged, should satisfy him-self that the men have their due. To all young sportsmen, therefore, my earnest advice is, See to the payment yourself ! Valeat quantum votere potest.
Eegarded as beaters, the present assemblage was not so satisfactory as respectable. Followers of trades, but imperfectly acquainted with the jungles and the requirements of sport, are but poor substitutes for the classes from which beaters are drawn. Having the usual allowance of lungs, however, they were told to provide themselves with sticks as they went along, and it was hoped would prove but little inferior, in point of noise, to the ordinary beater. There was some grumbling among them at their impressment, but most of them soon accepted it as unavoidable, and philosophically made the best of their situation. On the road to the hunting-ground, although care was taken to see that none of the men bolted, one or two did manage to slip away. But, in one instance, the runaway was recaptured and ignominiously brought back amid the derisive jeers of his fellows.
The field in which the old boar was reported to be enjoying his daily rest was about half a mile from the village. It was an isolated patch with several fallow fields in the immediate vicinity. But not far distant were other patches of sugar-cane and numerous fields of castor-oil, cotton, and other crops. The sugar-cane grows exceedingly dense and high, and is quite impervious to a horse. Indeed, men move through it with difficulty, except in pathways by which the cultivators enter to open or change the small channels of irrigation. It affords fine cover for wild pig, who get very fat on the rich saccharine feeding supplied by it; and an old boar will sometimes take possession of a patch and charge any one who disturbs him, to the great annoyance and sometimes serious danger of the cultivators.
Some of these on this occasion, though they dreaded the detriment to the canes by the passage of so many men through them, were not ill-pleased to know that their enemy stood a good chance of being ousted from his comfortable quarters, and of death relieving them of his further visits.
As the party approached, one or two men whom Natta had left as look-outs, accompanied by the owners of the field, came up and reported that the boar was still securely lodged in the shady recesses of the sugar-cane. The ryots made supplication that the beaters should be forbidden to cut and crib any of the sugar-cane, and ordered to move through with as little detriment to it as possible. In compliance with their petitions, al] purloining was prohibited under the severest penalties in case of detection, and the march through was ordered to be conducted with great caution.
The field was not large ; so the men were huddled in pretty thickly, while the riders, in two detachments of three and two respectively, remained outside on either flank, accompanying the line as it advanced.
The favourite abiding place of the old boar, where he had been frequently disturbed, was pointed out by the cultivators, who seemed to take a nervous sort of interest in the proceedings. As this was approached, the noise became intensified, and the horses' hearts could be felt distinctly beating under the legs of the riders, who themselves anxiously and expectantly watched the tops of the canes for any motion indicating the passage through them of a heavy body below ; or they glanced along the sides and to the end corners of the field, nervously on the look-out to detect the bristled front of the old boar as he listened before trusting to his speed over the open ground.
Full often had most of them felt that spasmodic thrill of anxiety or excited delight, as the grisly foe either shows its head at the edge of the field, uncertain whether to break or rush back through the line of beaters, or at once dashes out and goes right away.
On this occasion they had not long to wait. As the beaters approached the spot indicated by the owners of the field, the canes appeared disturbed, and their tops were seen to rustle as if swayed by a strong current of wind. Spears were pointed by the hunters towards the onward motion as their eyes gleamed with excitement and satisfaction. Soon a man, posted in a tree near the end of the field, shouted loudly, and Hawkes, who was riding furthest out on that side, sung out, " There he goes, a weighty and most respectable dooker."
" Ride away then," said Mowbray, who was in charge of the detachment, " we have no time to lose. Try and cut him off from that other sugar-cane field." And howling, to let the other party know of the " gone away," they set to work.
The field referred to was a still larger one of sugar-cane, distant about half a mile, and for this the boar had evidently set his head. The ground was pretty open, and save for two or three hedges, and one or two strips of jungle, presented no obstacles in the line he had taken. But, with a good start, the boar had a chance of reaching the cover before he could be over-hauled, unless he were so old and obese as to be unable to gallop.
This he did not prove to be, though good feeding and middle age had somewhat deteriorated his youthful fleetness, and by no means improved his wind. The hunters, almost in a body, flew over the first hedge of piled-up bair thorns, perhaps a hundred yards in the rear of the boar, and every stride afterwards improved their position. Another hedge was negotiated, though in more scattered order, and the two leading horsemen were not more than a dozen lengths from the boar's tail.
The glittering lower tusk, defined against the dark mouth and dirty ruddy colouring of the upper one, which latter raised the lip into a savage curl, could now be discerned as no unworthy trophy to him who might become its fortunate possessor. It was a racing tussle, and anybody's spear. Danvers and Stewart were riding beside each other in the van, but were so closely pressed by Melton, who was waited on not two lengths in the rear by the other two, that it would have been hard for an observer to select whom to back.