Imágenes de página

form with a great curving spiny back crashed out of the thicket a stone's-throw to his right, looming as large as a young bullock against the snow. He threw the big .375 magnum to his shoulder. There was a satisfying crack almost as of a field-gun, followed by a still more satisfactory grunting roar of anguish. There was a conclusive timbre about this that made it appear unnecessary to go and look at the result in amongst the trees. Two or three more shots resounded on either side, a bullet or so whistled amongst the twigs, then one or two again. The baying of the hounds had become almost too exhilarating. 8. remembered with a twinge that he had not been too solicitous about the position of the gun " on his right when he fired his shot. Then the beaters suddenly appeared, the headmen winded their horns, and the baying and tumult died down. S. ran over to find his beast, and as he did so a sounder of small squeakers slipped past him.

[ocr errors]

His boar was a fine big animal, the heaviest of the five that had been killed in that very successful though with small tusks.

successful drive,

The omens had been successful. Every one's face was covered with smiles, and all felt that luck had turned. As it was S.'s first boar, he had to be blooded. The "ober-förster " smeared his cheeks and forehead with the animal's gore, and thrust a bloody pine-shoot

[blocks in formation]

Someone told the story of the commercial magnate who had taken part in a previous shoot there. He had let a good boar through without a shot at him and was full of explanations as to how his rifle had missed fire. These explanations were listened to until someone else noticed that the tree under which he had been standing had had all the snow rubbed off it for quite a way up its trunk.

The scene of that afternoon's efforts lay higher up in a rather loftier valley amongst great birch-trees. Rude traces of the old war between Tsar and Kaiser sprang to the eye here and there amongst the silver trunks. A mouldering breastwork revetted with great logs ran along the foot of a slope. Farther on a few cunningly hidden machine-gun emplacements cleverly built of timber showed where their murderous flanking fire had once swept the wooded slopes. The myriad shell craters of more familiar fronts were happily absent, which fact made some of the party reflect that perhaps this war was not such a vulgar brawl as the other had been. The youngest member of the party described incidents of the most recent war of all, or rather, of the most recent but one. He drew a vivid

picture of hordes of shaggy unwashed Cossacks swarming into the villages of the rich plains. This was the famous or notorious First Cavalry Army of the swashbuckler Budienny. Their technique included the practice of throwing away their scabbards, and leaving blood to cake on their uncleaned sabres, which dangled from knots at their belts, or were used to slash and beat the unarmed peasants and their women. Another interesting habit of theirs was that of forming secret ammunition dumps in the villages of the territory which they were about to invade. This was carried out by underground agencies, and most often by the cooperation of the moneylender class, the local "gombeen" men. The results were successful enough for an operation of this sort, and helped to enable Budienny to move his twenty thousand sabres over big distances without being tied down to lines of communication. An occidental quartermaster - general would shudder in horror at the unorthodoxy.

Both the afternoon's beats were fruitless, but this was not enough to spoil the general satisfaction at the morning's results. So supper back in the cottage was merrier than ever, and the party looked upon the wine when it was of divers colours, nor was song hindered by minor questions of tune.

The next day it was deemed expedient to return to the

original forest. The poacher was was "on the run," and boar were reported plentiful. Rumour proved a lying jade, and two days' hunting only produced a couple of roebuck, which had dashed through the line. On one early morning a silver fox stole quietly up to S., and looked calmly at him from five yards off. S.'s upbringing would not permit the sin of vulpicide, and still less that of discharging a great .375 at such a small animal, and so he had to bear the reproaches of having lost a skin worth forty dollars, for here they reckon in American currency as often as not. Somewhat of an insult to the pound sterling, which has been looking the dollar in the face for some time now.

The party had to break up that night, with the exception of H. and S. H. had not yet shot a boar, whilst S. was anxious to bag a big tusker. The other three had to return to work in the city. The pair decided to try another high valley leading over the main range of the southern frontier. This was full of Jews of all sorts and types, and their presence there was explained by the smuggling which goes on between the two countries. Not that the Jew ventures out on to mountain tracks and into forests in the snow, still less within range of a frontier guard's rifle; but there are ways of making money when the Gentile runs the risks.

So opportunities of seeing Jews were good, and maidens were not absent. H. and S. kept a good look-out and careful count.

They had started very early, and the distance was not great, so a couple of drives could be managed during the forenoon. This valley was rather different in type. As it approached the main backbone of the mountains, the valley walls were not so high. They were covered in a cloak of mixed fir and birch thick with undergrowth, whilst a rapid torrent stream ran down to the Vshaped valley bottom. The beaters were small boys, whose enthusiasm for the death of boars who ravaged the parental fields hardly balanced their awe of the said boars' tusks. Small blame to them, when a tiger will leave a wounded boar alone at the best of times. It is easier to be brave when you have a great big rifle in your hands rather than an ash staff.

The morning's beats produced nothing except a certain clamour about a more or less apocryphal boar, who appears to have treated the beaters with contempt, and proceeded across the frontier obviously without a passport.

Another beat in the afternoon met with no better luck. Finally, as a last resort, it was decided to drive down the valley as a whole. S. was stationed on the edge of the stones of the stream-bed at the foot of the western slope, and H.


climbed up a couple of hundred feet amongst the thick birch saplings and undergrowth of the eastern. The förster," who had a twelvebore loaded with "Lethal" bullets, took up his stand a little uphill from the centre.

The boys took a very long time to climb sufficiently far up to the head of the valley, so long that H. and S. feared that oncoming darkness might spoil the drive.

At last the shouts and crashing commenced. Then a loud and deep baying gave the joyful news of a tusker.

The clamour and tumult became near and louder. An occasional yell or so seemed to show that the nerves of some of the boys were showing signs of the stress. Then, to the accompaniment of a very spasm of shouts, a boar broke through the line, and S. saw him in the far distance between two pine clumps, silhouetted against the snow, and going fast and far out of reach. He looked a gigantic animal, and so it was with a sad heart that S. turned his back, made up his mind that the day was over, and commenced to unload his rifle.

Suddenly, as he was doing this, and listening to the recriminations of the "ober

förster" and the shrill excuses of the boys, a large boulder detached itself from the opposite hillside and commenced a crashing hidden descent through the saplings and bushes. He cursed the un

known individual who had dislodged it, and calculated that it would reach the level torrent bed in which he was standing just opposite to him and about fifty yards away. The last few yards of the slope were bare, and he watched the mass tumble down out of the thickets on to the open pine-needlecovered foot. In a sudden flash he realised that the boulder owned a large pair of tusks, which gleamed fiercely in a shaft of the sinking sun.

He hastily slid the bolt home, took a quick snap-shot whilst the beast still had its head lower than its hind-quarters, and then a very fierce and angry grunt, almost a bellow, told of a hit. The big tusker, and he was a very big one, checked his headlong rush not a jot as he got on to the level

of the stream-bed, but went straight for S. His thoughts suddenly turned on the results of encounters with wounded tusker boar. There was not much space for cogitation. The next shot evidently smashed the beast's near fore-shoulder, as it turned him in full career.

The turn caused his attack to take the fresh direction of the "ober-förster" when only about ten yards from S. The latter shouted to warn him, and fired a shot which proved decisive, though with scarcely a yard to spare.

The great grey boar owned a fine pair of tusks. He turned the scale at over two hundred kilogrammes, or a trifle under five hundred pounds, and now rejoices in the name of "Murgatroyd," which seems to fit him very well.



THIS is the story of how a high Tibetan official, the Kalon Lama, met an unexpected crisis in his and his country's affairs. It was one of those cases where a decision one way or the other had to be made, where inaction were as positive as action, and a wait-and-see policy out of the question. Nor was there time to refer the matter to superior authority. The responsibility for whatever was done or not done was his and his alone. He was called upon, in fact, to make an immediate decision in a matter of high policy. He did so, throwing in his lot, as was his wont, with the angels, and he perished utterly. Or perhaps that is rather begging the question. In life, or anyway in high politics, things are hardly as simple as that. However, we can say that he did what he thought was right regardless of consequences, which is as near as any of us can get to right in the abstract. And he passed on, but whether propter hoc or merely post hoe will probably never be established to the complete satisfaction of the people. Public opinion in that particular part of the world has it that it was the former; and, indeed, it is more in consonance with artistic valves. with our sense of the fitness of things, that it should be this

and not the prosaic other. Man must pay for his flights into the empyrean. What sort of world would it be if you could be heroic with impunity, if Semele were not consumed with fire or Belgium devastated? But happily life and our conception of what is fit and proper do not always tally, and so it is quite likely that it was merely post hoc after all.


He was one of the four members of the Council of State or Cabinet, and was concurrently Governor-General of the great frontier province of Kham and Commander-in-Chief of the army upon which Tibet relied to maintain her historic sovereignty, recently reasserted with effect throughout length and breadth of the land with the exception of a fringe of frontier territory still in the hands of her great neighbor, China, who. moreover, one tinued to claim an HMA suzerainty over the side unt try. He wat. in fatting it tak most responsible pat a pat could occopy; and to th A the confidence-test, varia right hand-of ba ang m ter, the Bodlad Av vara embeded in Ha Holla the Drains Latin, it of Tibet.

Impregibly en the most d Y HAWAK and

« AnteriorContinuar »