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- In Times of Peril - 3/55 -
daylight--the morning hours up to eight o'clock being the most pleasant of the whole day.
Kate and Rose were up, and all had had "_chota hazaree_" (little breakfast) by half-past six, and were ready when Captain Dunlop drew up in his buggy--a conveyance which will only hold two. The dog-cart was already at the door, and the whole party were soon in motion. On the road they passed several of their friends, for every one was going out to the hunt, and merry greetings were exchanged.
The scenery round Sandynugghur resembles that which is common to all the great plains of India watered by the Ganges and Jumna. The country is for the most part perfectly flat, and cut up into little fields, divided by shallow ditches. Here and there nullahs, or deep watercourses, with tortuous channels and perpendicular sides, wind through the fields to the nearest stream. These nullahs constitute the great danger of hunting in the country. In the fields men may be noticed, in the scantiest of attire, working with hoes among their springing crops; women, wrapped up in the dark blue calico cloth which forms their ordinary costume, are working as hard as the men. Villages are scattered about, generally close to groves of trees. The huts are built of mud; most of them are flat-topped, but some are thatched with rushes. Rising above the villages is the mosque, where the population are Mohammedan, built of mud like the houses, but whitewashed and bright. The Hindoo villages generally, but not always, have their temples. The vegetation of the great plains of India is not tropical, according to the ideas of tropical vegetation gathered from British hothouses. There are a few palms and many bananas with their wide leaves, but the groves are composed of sturdy trees, whose appearance at a distance differs in no way from that of ordinary English forest trees. Viewed closer, the banian with its many stems is indeed a vegetable wonder; but, were it not for the villages and natives, a traveler might journey for very many miles across the plains of India without seeing anything which would specially remind him that he was out of England.
There were a considerable number of traps assembled when Major Warrener drew up, and some eight or ten gentlemen on horseback, each carrying a boar-spear--a weapon not unlike the lance of an English cavalryman, but shorter in the handle. The riders were mostly dressed in coats of the Norfolk jacket type, and knee-breeches with thick gaiters. The material of their clothes was a coarse but very strong cloth of native make, gray or brown in color. Some wore round hats and forage caps with puggarees twisted round them.
A chorus of greeting saluted the party as they drove up.
"Well, young ladies," the colonel said, "so you have come out to see the death of the boar,
"'The boar, the boar, the mighty boar,'
as the song says? So you are not going to take a spear to-day, major? Think it's time to leave it to the youngsters, eh?"
"Where are the wild boars, Mrs. Renwick?" Kate asked of the colonel's wife.
"Pig, my dear; we always call them pig when we speak of them together, though we talk of the father of the family as the boar. Do you see that clump of long grass and jungle right across the plain? That's where they are. They have been watched all night. They went out to feed before daybreak and have just gone back again. Do you think we are in the best place for seeing the sport, Major Warrener?"
"I think, Mrs. Renwick, that if you leave your trap and go up to the top of that knoll, two hundred yards to the right, you will get a really good view of the plain."
Mrs. Renwick alighted from the dog-cart in which the colonel had driven her, and the whole party, following her example, walked in a laughing group to the spot which Major Warrener had indicated, and which was pronounced as just the place. The _syces_ stood at the heads of the horses, and those who were going to take part in the sport cantered off toward the spot where the pigs were lurking, making, however, a wide _détour_ so as to approach it from the other side, as it was desired to drive them across the plain. At some distance behind the clump were stationed a number of natives, with a variety of mongrel village curs. When they saw the horsemen approach they came up and prepared to enter the jungle to drive out the pigs.
The horsemen took up their position on either side of the patch in readiness to start as soon as the animals were fairly off. A number of villagers, in whose fields of young rice the family had done much damage during the few days that they had taken up their abode in their present quarters, were assembled on such little rises of ground as were likely to give a good view of the proceedings. There were about a dozen horsemen with spears; of these, three or four were novices, and these intended to try their skill for the first time upon the "squeakers," as the young pigs are called, while the others prepared for a race after the old ones.
Great nerve, considerable skill, and first-rate horsemanship are required for the sport of pigsticking. The horse, too, must be fast, steady, well- trained and quick, for without all these advantages the sport is a dangerous one. The wild boar is, at the start, as fast as a horse. He is very quick at turning, and when pressed always attacks his pursuers, and as he rushes past will lay open the leg or flank of a horse with a sweeping cut with his sharp tusk. If he can knock a horse down the position of his rider would be serious indeed, were not help to arrive in time to draw off the attention of the enraged animal from his foe. Heavy falls, too, take place over watercourses and nullahs, and in some parts of India the difficulties are greatly increased by bowlders of all kinds being scattered over the ground, and by the frequent occurrence of bushes and shrubs armed with most formidable spines and thorns. Conspicuous among these is the bush known as the "wait-a-bit thorn," which is furnished with two kinds of thorn--the one long, stiff, and penetrating, the other short and curved, with a forked point almost like a fishhook. When this once takes hold it is almost necessary to cut the cloth to obtain a release.
Scarcely had the beaters, with much shouting and clamor, entered the patch of bush in which the pigs were lying, than the porcine family, consisting of a splendid boar and sow, and eight nearly full-grown squeakers, darted out on the open, and in a moment the horsemen were off in pursuit. The ground was deep and heavy, and the pigs at the first burst gained fast upon their pursuers. There was no attempt on the part of the pigs to keep together, and directly after starting they began to diverge. The old boar and sow both kept across the plain--one bearing toward the left, the other to the right. The squeakers ran in all directions--some at right angles to the line that the old ones were taking. The object of one and all was to gain cover of some kind.
With their hats pressed well down upon their heads, and their spears advanced with the head some two or three feet from the ground, the hunters started after them--some making after the boar, some after the sow, according to the position which they occupied at the commencement of the chase, while some of the young hands dashed off in pursuit of the squeakers.
There were five, however, after the boar; Captain Dunlop, a young ensign named Skinner, the Scotch doctor of the regiment, and two civilians. For a short time they kept together, and then Captain Dunlop and Skinner began to draw ahead of the others.
The boar was a stanch one, and a mile had been passed before his speed began sensibly to diminish. The young ensign, who was mounted on a very fast Arab, began to draw up to him three or four lengths ahead of Captain Dunlop, bearing his horse so as to get upon the left side of the boar, in order to permit him to use his spear to advantage.
He was nearly up to him when Captain Dunlop, who saw the boar glancing back savagely, cried:
"Look out, Skinner! he will be round in a moment; keep your horse well in hand!"
A moment later the boar was round. The horse, young and unbroken at the work, started violently, swerved, and, before his rider could get him round, the boar was upon him. In an instant the horse was upon the ground, with a long gash upon his flank, and Skinner, flying through the air, fell almost directly in the boar's way.
Fortunately for the young ensign, Captain Dunlop, as he shouted his warning, had turned his horse to the left, so as to cut off the boar when he turned, and he was now so close that the boar, in passing, had only time to give a vicious blow at the fallen man, which laid his arm open from his shoulder to his elbow.
At that instant Captain Dunlop arrived, and his spear pierced the animal's flank. His aim was, however, disconcerted by his horse, at the moment he struck, leaping over the fallen ensign; the wound, therefore, was but a glancing one, and in a moment the boar was round upon his new assailant. Fortunately the horse was a well-trained one, and needed not the sharp touch of his master's rein to wheel sharp round on his hind legs, and dart off at full speed. The boar swerved off again, and continued his original line of flight, his object being to gain a thick patch of jungle, now little over a quarter of a mile distant; the detention, however, was fatal to him, for the doctor, who was close on Captain Dunlop's heels, now brought up his horse with a rush and, with a well-aimed thrust, ran the animal through, completely pinning him to the earth. The honor of his death was therefore divided between the doctor and Captain Dunlop, for the latter had drawn first blood, or, as it is termed, had taken first spear, while the former had scored the kill.
The sow had been more fortunate than her lord. She had taken a line across a part of the plain which was intersected by several nullahs. She, too, had been wounded, but one of the nullahs had thrown out several of her pursuers: one rider had been sent over his horse's head and stunned; and the sow, turning sharp down a deep and precipitous gully, had made her escape. Three of the squeakers fell to the spears of the Griffs--young hands--and the rest had escaped. The boar had been killed only a short distance from the rise upon which the spectators from Sandynugghur were assembled, and the beaters soon tied its four legs together, and, putting a pole through them, six of them carried the beast up to the colonel's wife for inspection.
"What a savage-looking brute it is!" said Kate; "not a bit like a pig, with all those long bristles, and that sharp high back, and those tremendous tusks."
"Will you accept the skin, Miss Warrener?" Captain Dunlop said to her afterward; "I have arranged with the doctor. He is to have the hams, and I am to have the hide. If you will, I will have it dressed and mounted."
"Thank you, Captain Dunlop, I should like it very much;" but, as it turned out, Kate Warrener never got the skin.
The boar killed, the doctor's first care was to attend to the wounded, and Skinner's arm was soon bound up, and he was sent home in a buggy; the man who was stunned came to in a short time. The unsuccessful ones were much laughed at by the colonel and major, for allowing half the game started to get away.
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