" The hills above Kassersai are exceedingly steep ; and although to some extent rideable, are very difficult to hunt over. Covered with rock and stone, and largely furnished with jungle, they will bear no mean comparison with the very stiffest country hunted by the ' Nuggur Hunt/ Indeed, they are probably higher than any of the hills in that favoured region. I remember hearing that tigers were once roused during a beat there.
" Difficult though the ground was, pig were to be killed even on the hill-side, though the more desirable place to ride them was across a semicircular stretch of the plain which indented on, and was partly concealed by, the hills. However, it was not often possible to get them there, and we were obliged to ride them where we could.
" Being within easy reach of the large double station of Poona and Kirkee, it formed rather a favourite fixture for a single day, and there was a nice tope (grove) of trees near the village in which any number of tents could be pitched.
" I remember well I was late for breakfast on the morning in question. I had borrowed a pony a known devil from a friend, and its decided disposition to rear, and equally decided indisposition to obey orders and get along at a pace it was well capable of doing, detained me long on the road. In fact, it was a series of combats all the way. The consequence was, that when I reached the Hunt tent I found that the party had finished breakfast and started for the jungles.
" Snatching a hasty mouthful while my horse was being saddled, I prepared to join the hunters, and had little difficulty in finding them. They had already had a spurt after a boar, right in among the hills, and had just lost him when I reached the scene of action.
" We soon got away after another pig, which led us over the hills, and eventually took us to the face of those immediately overhanging Kassersai. Some of us here got on something like terms with it, and it was at last speared by a fine, wild young fellow who did not then for the first time distinguish himself as a bold and dashing rider.
" But what a hill that was ! I remember one man's saddle slipping right back for he had no hunting-breastplate and lie came off over his horse's tail.
"After the pig was speared it took to charging right and left among ns in the jungle, and at last retired to a bush, where it sulked and seemed indisposed to pay us any more attention. Whereupon one of the hunters, S-, got off his horse and walked manfully up to the bush, thinking, no doubt, he could polish it off at once. When he had approached to within a few yards, out it came at him with full charging power. I cannot recall whether he then speared it or not; but whether he hit or missed, it caught him about the legs and knocked him clean off his pins. Fortunately, S-was as active a fellow and good boxer as he was a fine rider ; so when the pig came at him again after its first successful rush, he received it with a well-delivered one-two, and followed that up with such a milling that the astonished pig retreated to its bush, quite overcome by such a pugilistic reception. It was shortly afterwards done to death. Had the assailant been a boar, would doubtless have suffered for his temerity; for their lightning right-and-left digs, performed with a couple of mere twists of the head and neck, are too quick and sudden to be evaded ; whereas a sow's bite, though giving a very awkward wound, is eluded far more easily."
" Your friend's adventure," said Melton, " reminds me of Morgante Maggiore's little mill with a pig. I have got a ' Byron' with me ; let me see how he renders Pulci's original."
The ' Byron' was got hold of, and Melton read to his audience the following stanzas first explaining how the giant Morgante had gone to fetch some water from the spring,—
" Arrived there, a prodigious noise he hears,
Which suddenly along the forest spread ; Whereat from out his quiver he prepares
An arrow for his bow, and lifts his head ; And lo ! a monstrous herd of swine appears,
And onward rushes with tempestuous tread, And to the fountain's brink precisely pours; So that the giant's joined by all the boars.
" Morgante at a venture shot an arrow,
Which pierced a pig precisely in the ear, And j>assed unto the other side quite through ;
So that the boar, defunct, lay tripped up near. Another, to avenge his fellow farrow,
Against the giant rushed in fierce career, And reached the passage with so swift a foot, Morgante was not now in time to shoot.
" Perceiving that the pig was on him close, He gave him such a punch upon the head,
As floored him so that he no more arose, Smashing the very bone ; and he feU dead
Next to the other. Having seen such blows, The other pigs along the valley fled;
Morgante on his neck the bucket took,
Full from the spring, which neither swerved nor shook.
" Now," continued the narrator, " there we have an excellent example of the value of a well-directed blow. How history repeats itself in the case of your friend"
A message from the Thakoor was, at this juncture, received, to the effect that he would on the following day, if agreeable to the Sahib logue, pay them a visit.
A polite message was returned, intimating that the Sahib logue would be delighted to see him, provided that he came at an hour when they were at home, and not absorbed in the sports of the field.
A late hour in the afternoon was then named, and lots were drawn to settle the two individuals who should make it a point to return in time to receive the old gentleman.
" I imagine," said Danvers, who was one of the two, " that he won't come in state with all his ragtail and bobtail, since we are only military men ; for I don't suppose he knows that Mowbray is a Political."
" Anything is good enough for captains, eh %" laughed Stewart. " Reminds me of an anecdote current in my own family.
" Some time during the last century it so happened that a body of military was temporarily quartered in a small town in the south of Scotland. Of course the surrounding lairds showed the officers every hospitable attention ; and among them a progenitor of my own had on one occasion thought fit to invite several to breakfast and a day's shooting. His careful wife was, of course, instructed to make due preparations, not only for the military, but for a number of neighbour-lairds whom he had asked to meet them.
" In those days and in those remote regions the wife was in fact, as in name, a helpmate to her lord.
Lacking, no doubt, something of the fine-lady ism and polish of the present day, she was, nevertheless, a useful sort of person in a house, which she made it her duty and pleasure to superintend and keep in order.
" Such a one was my great-grand—'Gad! I forget her exact relationship great-grand-something, however. Well, she was engaged in personally superintending the arrangements for the next day's feast, when a message was brought in to say that, owing to some county meeting, the lairds would be unable to join the party at breakfast.
"'Jenny V she shouted to one of her assistants occupied in an inner room, on receipt of this information ; "Jenny, woman, dinna fash aboot the caller eggs the auld yuns will do gran ly.'
"What for will I no, mem ?' asked the inquisitive Jenny, who had been strictly enjoined to have a good supply of fresh eggs from the poultry-yard.
"' The lairds will no' be here the morn,' responded her canny mistress; and then, I regret to say, added, with a singular want of respect for the military, ' Audit is gude eneuch for capt'ins.'
" Which, being interpreted," said Danvers, " means, I suppose, ' Anything is good enough for captains.' What a singularly agreeable woman your great-great-something must have been. I trust the female family respect for the service has improved since then."
"I think there must be a sequel to the story," observed Mowbray. " I would undertake to bet that Jenny who of course was young and pretty, and held officers in higher esteem than her mistress either had a battle-royal in the military favour, or else regaled them with the new eggs unknowingly to your great-grand-something."
" Very possibly," was the reply. " But family tradition has not handed down the fact."