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We ride quietly over to investigate, and there he is sure enough-a grey old gentleman, squatting in his form like a hare, with lips wrinkled by his curling tushes to a perpetual sardonio grin, and little eyes that watch our every movement.
One moment we visualise him thus the next he is out upon us with his war-ory. Straight down on B. he bears, but B. has his horse in motion to meet him, and as the boar rises on his hooks to uppercut with all the strength of his mighty neck, the spear-point enters his wither and is driven home by the weight of horse and pig.
A moment he stands, blood pouring from his mouth, then totters and falls down. Death could not be quicker or more merciful.
So, with varying fortunes, the morning passes to the luncheon halt, where horses are off-saddled, watered, and fed, while we have our meal beneath a tree. But first of all the beaters must be attended to, and they seat themselves on their hunkers in a big oirole, waiting for their rations to be distributed. These rations consist of a big handful of gram1 and a lump of gur per man-not excessive, you think, after a long morning's beating, but it is the food to which they are acoustomed, so they are quite happy and sit munching away like so many monkeys.
After luncheon we beat the rest of the island till all
the coverts have been drawn, or horses and beaters have had enough. Then the unofficial members of the Tent Club can hie them back to camp, but the secretary must still remain, for there are sundry rites yet to be performed.
All the dead boar have been collected-and the writer once remembers twenty of them after a day on Pig Islandand these must be weighed and measured, for a careful record of size and weight is kept in the Tent Club Log, together with the names of successful riders and their horses. Also, a fine of one gold Mohr (sixteen rupees) must be recorded against any miscreant responsible for the death of a BOW or an unwarrantable boar.
The beaters, too, are again formed up-this time in groups by villages-and their day's wages are handed out them and the pig distributed amongst them as fairly as possible; for except for the tushes, which ge to the firstspear, the pig are the beaters' perquisite-probably the only meat-meal many of them get in the year.
And the daily wage for which each man is content to beat is tuppence- tuppence and a handful of gram, for a day's beating. Think of that, ye shooting hosts at home, and envy; for even before the war was not the wage five shillings and his lunch for a beater on a Perthshire moor?-and one trembles to think what they must be asking of you now!
The day is over; the other i-Nur to Nadir, the robber spears have long since ridden Turcoman that broke the off to camp, and the last beater Mahrattas by the sword of set out for his home. Pig Ahmed Khan Abdali? Island has sunk back to its wonted calm—and all is still,
As I linger by the bridgehead, and watch the shadows of the western bank lengthen slowly over Mother Gunga's bosom, memories of India, the beloved, come thronging to the mind-India in a state of change India tortured by orude experiment.
And ever fresh pictures rise of old hunting days, and of the companions and the horses who will hunt no more. Among the throng I see again L.-S. of the 13th on old "Grey Dawn," that best of country-breds, and "Chicken" of the 60th on wonderful little "Defender "; D. of the 14th on "Indian Chief," on whom he rode and speared a black-buck singlehanded, and N. and L.-S. of the Horse Artillery on "Leotard" and "Darkie," those two perfect pig-stickers; little P. of the 7th on his game old roan, and the Earl, that kindest and best of sportsmen. And a host of others behind-in sooth, there must have been feasting in Valhalla when Wodin, the Hunter of the Gods, welcomed such a goodly company.
But is there no return? And will they hunt no more? Have we forgotten the story of Panipat, that battlefield but a few short miles to the westward, where the fate of India has been thrice decided-the battlefield that gave Delhi to Babar the Mogul, and the Peacock Throne and the Koh
Do we not know that-to this day-no man may pass thereby after the sun has set, for phantom hosts of Tartar and Afghan, Persian and Kizilbash, make the empty plains ring again with hideous strife, and nightly play the drama of times long gone, when the stricken field was strewn with saffron robes of fallen Rajput chivalry, as with the petals of a full-blown rose?
And if there be return to scenes of death and dread and suffering - surely, then, much more so will there be to those that memery holds dear!
Faint on the evening air I seem to hear again the ring of hoofs nearer and nearer- and then the rustle and crash of the reed - like grass as the heat sweeps by. They are close upon their boar, and one rider, whose voice I know so well-out in front with eyes fixed on his quarry-is calling the course of the boar for those behind, as all good hunters should.
"On-on-on," I hear his joyous refrain, and then "Right "Right right," in wild crescendo. The boar has doubled like a hare-but his warning shout has been in time, and those behind take up the running.
And so the sounds fade in the distance, and night draws in. Good hunting to you, old friends, and good-bye.
A COMPANY OF TANKS.
BY MAJOR W. H. L. WATSON, D.S.O., D.C.M., Author of 'Adventures of a Despatch Rider.'
CHAPTER XIV.-THE CARRIER TANKS.
AT my leisure I visited the Headquarters of the Tank Corps in Regent Street, and after a somewhat undignified appeal to the good nature of a corperal-the staff-captain was busy, or out to lunch, or dictating-I obtained a fortnight's leave. The fortnight passed expensively, but it was pleasant, if dull, to take the train at the end of it from Waterloo and not from Victoria. In due course I arrived at Nool Station, and with two cheery subalterns, who had experienced enthralling adventures in Bournemouth, I drove in a taxi along narrow winding lanes to the camp on the orest of a hill.
I reported, but the charming officers who received me had not been warned of my arrival, and were perplexed. Majors, it appeared, were 8 drug on the market unattached majors swarmed in Bovington. Would I go to the Depot at Wareham? I refused politely. I knew something of the Depot. Two skeleton battalions were just being formed. They might not go out to France this year. I refused again: I did not intend to stop at Bovington any longer than was necessary.
At last it was suggested that I should be posted to the
"Carrier Tanks." I had not heard of them, and asked for information. I was told vaguely "that they would carry infantry about," and it was expected that they would embark within the next three months.
So I found my way through the nice, clean, well-ordered camp to the lines of the Carrier tanks. That night I slept uncomfortably on a borrowed blanket in a bare and chilly hut. It had never struck me that I should require my camp-kit at home.
In the morning I was given the command of the 4th Infantry Carrier Company.
The six Carrier Companies were under the command of Lieut.-Colonel L. A. de B. Doucet, R.E. They were to consist of tanks specially constructed to carry infantry. In the past the infantry had followed the tanks. Now it was intended that they should go forward in the tanks. If, for example, it was necessary to storm a village, the Carrier tanks would fill up with infantry and deposit them in the middle of the village to the confusion of the enemy. The prospect was certainly exhilarating.
But soon these hopes began
slowly to disappear. Perhaps pany was splendid-eighteen
the plan was a little startling. The Carrier Companies would not carry infantry "at first." They must begin their lives by carrying supplies. We were called "Tank Supply Companies," and we began to suspect that we should become finally a branch of that splendid Corps, the Royal Army Service Corps. We struggled vigorously against the depression which the prospect produced-we felt we were not worthy. We refused to believe that we should never carry infantry through a barrage to certain victory. The Staff, however, were brutally frank. An order was published, informing us that although we were not "fighting troops," we should remember that diseipline was useful. This order was none too helpful, especially since it was firmly believed both by officers and men that & somewhat non-combatant officer was responsible for it. Of course there was no truth in this rumeur.
From the 12th February to the 12th June I was at Bovington Camp, and never have I liked soldiering less. Bovington Camp must have been designed to encourage men to serve in France. In France there is life, interest, even glamour. At Bovington the bones of soldiering stuck out disgustingly. We saw too clearly the formalities, the severities. But I had not been at the Base. If I had, I should have been more prepared for Bovington.
The raw material of my com
out of the twenty officers, and the majority of the men, had served overseas-and since the company was over strength, I was able to weed out the weaker brethren in the course of training. I found it increasingly difficult to realise that my officers and men were not "fighting troops."
For the first three weeks we concentrated on drill. Then batches of officers and men were sent to be trained by the instructors of the camp. At the beginning of May we drew Mark IV. tanks, and used them by a system of reliefs from dawn to dusk. Towards the end of the month, when we waited breathlessly for every scrap of news from France, we began to train as a Lewis Gun Company in case it should be necessary for us to be sent overseas at once, but the crisis passed, and we returned to our tanks.
Gradually the company began to find itself, and to feel that the 4th Carrier Company was without doubt the finest company at Bovington. Our equipment and our transport arrived. Soon we were ready, and eagerly awaited marching orders.
I have not wearied you with details of training or of life at Bovington, because I have no desire to recall them, but it would not be fair to write only of soldiering. I should be churlish, indeed, if I did not set down how an amateur soldier, stale and tired of war, was refreshed and encouraged. The cold flame of gorse in the clear dusk, the hot lawn of the
shabby rectory, the healthy the bridge as the Archimedes noise and bustle of Dorchester made her stately way into the streets, the simple magio of harbour. Maidûa, the steady tramp from stuffy Abbotsbury over Black Down with its cleansing winds, and through the quietude of Winterborne, the smooth rich downs by Charminster, the little footpath walk at evening by the transparent stream under the dark trees to the orderly cottages of Stinsford, the infinite stretch of half-seen country from the summit of Creech Barrow-these memories bred a stouter soldier than any barrack-square. I am grateful.
At 9 AM, on June 12 we paraded for the last time at Bovington. The usual farewell speech was made. We marched off in bright sunshine, The band, whose strange noises in the huts behind my orderlyroom had so vilely disturbed me, played us down to the station. At Southampton there was the usual delay. In the afternoon we embarked on the Archimedes for Havre, and sailed at dusk.
Four years before-in August 1914-I had crossed from Dublin to Havre in the Archimedes. Then I was a corporal, slept on a coil of rope, and drew my rations from among the horses. Now I was "O.C. Ship," with an Adjutant who saw that my orders were obeyed, slept in the Captain's cabin, and dined magnificently. During those four years the Archimedes had been employed without a break in carrying troops. The Captain had received a decoration. It was a proud O.C. Ship who stood on
We disembarked at the same quay, though, instead of the Frenchmen, who in 1914 crowded to help us, singing patriotie songs, there was in 1918 a baggage party of Americans with with acquisitive tendencies. Whether No. 2 Rest Camp was an improvement on the wool warehouses with their fleas is a matter of opinion.
We entrained, as the 5th Divisional Signal Company had entrained, at Point Six, Hangar de Laine, but this time, instead of travelling through to Landrecies, with cheers at every level-crossing, we spent the day at Rouen, to the benefit of the Hotel de la Poste. At dawn on the 15th we found ourselves at Etaples, where we breakfasted, and at 9 A.M. we arrived at Blangy, where the 4th Battalion was once again billeted, and marched wearily to Blingel Camp, half-way between Blangy and Auchy-lez-Hesdin.
We remained at Blingel until July 20, and suffered from an inspection, an epidemic of Spanish influenza, and lack of whisky. We drew twelve tanks (Mk. IV.) from old friends at Erin, and trained mightily, carrying out a number of competitions and experiments. Forgetting for the moment that we were not "fighting troops," we discovered and used a revolver range, and, like proper Tank companies, practised battlefiring at Fleury. We might