I have said that I love my enemies, which is a course frequently suggested but not often practiced. In this case by my enemy I mean the boar.
I was lucky enough to capture in the jungle a very young "squeaker," as young boars are called. I took him home and kept him for ? long time, and found him a delightful and interesting young friend. He lived loose in my compound and retained all his wildness, hiding in his clump of bushes when any stranger came along.
I got him to come to me when I called him for food and he would do so also for the sweeper when he offered him food. But he invariably attacked the sweeper with his tiny tusks, hinting to him that he wanted the food but wished to dispense with his company.
There was an old stump of a tree in the garden around which Algernon (for that was his name) was never tired of galloping. He used to practice running a figure of eight round the stump, cutting at it with his baby tusks every time he passed, right and left alternately, thus practicing for combats that were to come.
I had an old English mare loose in the compound, who, being a staunch pig-sticker, used to go for Algernon whenever she saw him, and the little beggar positively delighted in leading her on till she tore after him, with ears back, eager to trample on him or to kick him if she could only get him.
Unfortunately one day some dogs about the place saw this chase going on and joined in and soon ran down poor little Algernon and bit and tore him so badly that he had to be killed. The killing was done with the spear as behoved his rank.
The only other wild pet that I had was a small panther, named Squirks. I had heard of a panther in a certain part of the Kadir and was out looking for him on an elephant.
Peering down into the grass jungle through which we were moving I saw what I took to be the paw of a panther sticking out from behind a tussock of grass. So I fired where I judged the body of the animal to be.
This startled the paw and as it moved I saw that it was a complete panther on a very small scale. So I got down and picked it up and took it back into camp.
I was sleeping out in the open that night on a native bedstead with my puppy and this new acquisition alongside me. In the night he started squalling in panther language but soon settled down again quietly alongside the puppy, with whom he was already friends.
Next morning we found the pugs of a panther having walked round and round my bed, evidently in connection with the squawkings—possibly its mother, but she had not summoned sufficient courage to rescue her off-spring.
So Squirks lived with me for nearly a year and was a most cheering mischievous comrade, as tame as a dog, but in no way reliable.
When I was leaving India many people volunteered to take over Squirks. I gave them twenty-four hours’ trial of him, but in every case he was returned with thanks. He was too strong and too mischievous, so I finally passed him on to Jamrach.
Of course, I had innumerable horses and dogs, not always beautiful, but none the less beloved. I suppose there has seldom been a more ugly pony than Hercules, but he was my very first possession in the horse line and I had bought him for a very small sum from an Indian grasscutter who used him for carrying forage to the market.
With care and feeding he turned out a most useful animal, a grand jumper for paper chases, and a handy, sensible polo pony.
From "Boswell’s Life of Johnson," a puppy that died from overeating in my early days, down to "Shawgm" of to-day I have scarcely ever been without a dog—or two—or three.
Shawgm, a beautiful Labrador, with a glossy coat and great solemn brown eyes, was given to me on the occasion of a Rally of Scouts of five counties—Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Monmouth. Hence his name, based on the initial letters of the names of the counties.
That dog has a perfectly human mind and understanding.
I have read recently that the difference between man and the creature world is that man has a sense of humour and animals have not.
The author of that remark can never have owned a dog.
Stalking, by pitting one’s cunning against that of one’s quarry, has a tremendous fascination for me, even if it is only creeping up to a bird or a rabbit and "freezing" stock still so that he doesn’t notice one while one watches his every move at close quarters.
Still more thrilling, of course, is the stalking of wild big game in difficult country, such as the ibex in the Himalayas or the stag in Scotland, or better still some beast who has it in his power to go for you.
In mentioning stag stalking I don’t mean what is usually understood by the term in Scotland—namely creeping about under the direction of a ghillie till he shows you your target and hands you your rifle.
The moment for the rifle is, for me, the moment where the pleasure of the stalk ends. You have, it is true, the excitement left of seeing whether you hit or miss and whether, then, your hit kills or only maims.
In either case, to me, though goodness knows I ought to be pretty hardened to it, the hit always brings regret. I hate to see the beautiful eye of a gazelle gently questioning: "What harm have I done that you should shoot me?" and then glazing in death.
I have never, in all the years that have passed since, quite got over the remorse I felt when as a small boy I killed my first bird.
But, as I said before, I am utterly inconsistent; there is a tremendous satisfaction in bringing down neatly a high, fast-flying pheasant, or a grouse coming straight at your face, just as there is in bowling over a racing buck or a dangerous animal.
On the other hand to kill a venerable great elephant would be to me as "teat an impertinence as to blow up part of the Tower of London; but to stalk him with a camera would be a very different pair of shoes—the best sport possible.
SCOTTISH DEER STALKING
Of this I have done very little and so am scarcely qualified to speak—but I have done enough to know that I don’t care for it. I had stalked many kinds of deer and big game in other climes, but when it came to being led about by a ghillie over the moor in Scotland I lost interest in it. To my mind the whole fun of stalking lies in spotting your stag and planning and carrying out your approach by yourself. If you get within range successfully that is all you want (especially if it is within range of a long-distance camera). As far as I am concerned somebody else can then do the killing.
I hated having my rifle carried for me and in its case. On my first visit to the hill when this was done I expostulated: "Supposing we come upon a stag suddenly."
"Ah! ye’ll no do that," and at the next turn of the path we did that very thing. What a scramble to get the rifle out of its cover and loaded and handed to me, by which time the old stag was out of sight, far away up the glen. When at last we stalked to nearly within shot of another he winded us and trotted off round a small clump of timber. Rifle in hand I tore away to cut him off—the ghillie staying behind and objecting that this was no way! I was evidently transgressing some rule of stalking etiquette.
But sure enough there came the stag cantering across my bows at 160 yards (paced) and with my infernal good luck a flying pot shot at him got him in the neck and rolled him over, dead.
The ghillie was full of flattering remarks, but I thought all the time they were covering a certain amount of displeasure at my behaviour. Later on he had reason really to dislike me.
I was walking up the hill with a well-known lady stalker. She insisted on carrying her rifle in case of a surprise. Suddenly a stag was there before us and she got a snap-shot at him as he darted away and plunged down into thick undergrowth in the ravine. We could see nothing of him, but a dog that was accompanying the party dashed in and was presently in full cry away up the corrie. We all started after him but I was not happy about it and still looked for sign on the ground.
Almost immediately I found it, a drop or two of blood, then a hoof mark—and more—which led me down the ravine in the opposite direction from the hunt. I only had to go some fifty to a hundred yards till I found the stag lying dead. The dog was running heel.
STALKING WITH A CAMERA
Big game kodak-ing is taking the place of big game shooting, as the recognised form of sport. Where big game hunters used to compare notes over their rifles they now do so with no less interest over their cameras. It implies more crafty stalking and as great daring and skill as ever.
The trophies, especially if gained with a movie camera, form a far more exciting record both for yourself and for your friends than any dead horns and hides.
It is tending to make the big game hunter more of a naturalist than a butcher, and it leaves the fauna still intact for our sons to hunt in their turn, in the same fashion, and so to learn the invaluable lessons one gains in the school of the jungle.
There is yet another form of sport which I should like to have crowded into my life, and that is mountain climbing.
I have pettifogged pretty freely up and down the minor heights of the Himalayas and the Andes and the Rockies, but though I have gazed in awed admiration on their mighty snows, I have never trespassed on those sublime heights.
There is to me something sacred about their calm isolation far far above the world where it would be presumption for puny man to make his footmarks.
Mountaineering appeals to me not merely for the sport of stalking ibex or of climbing for climbing’s sake, but because there is something spiritual and uplifting about it, as good for the soul as the exercise is for the body.
I read somewhere lately:
THE SCHOOL OF THE JUNGLE
These lessons of the wild are, for Scouting, indispensable, whether it be for peace purposes of exploration and the like, or for war purposes of military information.
They develop the qualities of observation and deduction, endurance, courage, patience, resourcefulness, self-reliance, nerve, and eye for country, as no other training could do.
But, side by side with these, one gains a wider conception of the Brotherhood of man, where the hardships and dangers are shared by faithful, if less civilised, natives.
And then through living in continued contact with Nature a fuller and higher appreciation is developed of its order and of its Creator.