One Saturday, the Fiend had been over to the township, taking our weekly consignment of butter, and bringing back such news as there was, and such stores as we required. He returned with intelligence that set our shanty in a ferment. A young lady had come up from Auckland on a visit!
The Fiend had found a note at the township, left there for our community generally. It was from the wife of a settler whom we speak of as the Member. She informed us that her friend. Miss —— Fairweather, let it be, was on a visit to her; and she invited us to go there on Sunday, the next day, and whenever else we could. The epistle concluded with some adroit reference to the charms and graces of her guest, conveyed in that vague and curiosity-exciting manner so peculiarly feminine.
Full parliament of the shanty was instantly summoned, and we proceeded to discuss the matter. It was decided, without opposition, that we should accept the invitation, and should spend the following day at the Member's. Not a dissentient voice so far as that was concerned. The whole parliament would pay its respects to Miss Fairweather, somehow or other; no question about that. And then we had to take into consideration the important subject of dress.
Every one wished to make the best appearance he possibly could, and Old Colonial peremptorily commanded that we should turn out in our best attire. But our best was a poor thing.
The common wardrobe of the shanty was overhauled; and it became evident that we were worse off than we had at first supposed. Under ordinary circumstances, not more than two or three of us would require a go-to-meeting rig-out at one and the same time. Even a full change of garments was scarcely ever called for by the whole party at once. Commonly, when going to visit one of our married neighbours, we thought it enough to clean ourselves a bit and put a coat over our shirts; that was all. But something more killing was needful on this occasion; and, to our consternation, we found we had not got a square change of clothes to go round.
It was too late to go to the township to buy some additional clothes; besides, we could not afford such extravagances just then. Three or four of us might have turned out pretty decently, perhaps, but not the whole crew. And no one would hear of any plan that might keep him at home. We would all go, making shift as well as we could.
All other work was at once put aside, and we were soon briskly at it, washing out shirts and trousers. A roaring fire was kindled outside the shanty, for the purpose of quickly drying the cleansed integuments; for, some two or three were reduced to the temporary necessity of draping themselves in blankets, a la Maori, while the only clothes they had were being washed and dried.
Two of the boys had canvas breeches, that were supposed to be white when they were clean. Now canvas goes hard and stiff when wet, and is therefore not readily washed. Our chums were dissatisfied with the stained and discoloured appearance their nether garments presented, after all the washing they could give them. Pipeclay was suggested, but of pipeclay we had none. In lieu of it the boys got some white limestone, which they first calcined, and then puddled up into a paste with water. This mixture they rubbed into the fabric of their breeches.
The effect of this could not be very well made out by firelight, and next morning there was no time to alter it if it did not suit. However, the ingenious whitewashes were satisfied. They had what Dandy Jack called "stucco breeches," which had a dazzling effect at a distance, certainly. The worst of it was that the plaster cracked and peeled off in flakes, and that the four whitewashed legs left visible traces upon everything else they touched. Still, we do not go courting every day, you know, and some little variation from conventional routine is excusable when we do.
We had all to take to tailoring, sewing, mending, and cobbling. Everything we had was tattered and torn; and had to be patched and repaired somehow. We could not confront the gaze of Beauty with great rents in our shirts. This was a fearful business, the materials for effecting it being exceedingly limited, and our fingers unused to the work. It was a sight to see O'Gaygun, his philosophy and gallantry at war with one another, sewing blue flannel patches on a red shirt, and groaning lamentably over the task.
Old Colonial officiated as barber, and, one by one, we all passed under his hands, he himself being operated upon by the Saint. With a pair of wool-shears, and the relics of the common comb, he clipped our flowing tresses close to our heads, reducing the unruly touzles to something like order; and he trimmed our beards to a uniform pattern, such as he considered was neat and becoming. We did not want to look like savages, he said.
Unfortunately, the Saint was not such a good hand at the hair-cutting business, so Old Colonial looked rather singular, the white scalp showing in patches among his raven curls. But the boss could not see this himself, and no one mentioned the matter to him, out of merciful consideration for the Saint.
Then Old Colonial manufactured pomatum out of lard and beeswax, scenting it with lemon-peel and a sweet-smelling leaf. This stuff he styled "Te Pahi Brilliantine," and with it he plentifully bedaubed our hair and beards.
As a customary thing we never dream of cleaning our boots. It is altogether a waste of time, and it would be entirely useless to do it. Moreover, our boots are of rough hide, and not adapted for blacking. We merely scrape the mud off them with a shingle; that is quite enough. But, on this unusual occasion, it was decreed that we should black our boots and leggings. The tide would be full when we started in our boat, therefore we could get on board in the creek; and, not being under the necessity of plodging through the deep mud that is laid bare at low tide, we should reach our destination with passably clean feet.
Blacking we had none, of course; that had to be made. We did not know exactly how to do it, so we tried various experiments. We prepared charcoal, and we scraped soot out of the top of the stove. We mixed these with kerosene oil, and, as some one said there ought to be sulphuric acid in blacking, we put in some vinegar instead of it. This mess was held to be the most effective, and was consequently used. Our foot and leg-gear was ridded of the mud of many weeks, and was smeared with the newly invented blacking.
Behold us next morning ready to start! A line of nine ruffianly-looking scarecrows, under review by Old Colonial, head-master of the ceremonies. Our shirts are clean, though elaborately embroidered in many colours. Our trousers ditto. Our boots, whether high ankle-jacks, or lace-ups and leggings, are black, if not polished. Each man wears a coat. Rather ragged, rather ancient are these coats, originally of very varied kinds. But the etiquette of the bush does not demand much in coats. So long as your shirt is clean and whole, your coat may be a little off colour, so to put it. People are not so particular about the coat. It is an excrescence, not an essential garment like the shirt and breeches.
There is one coat short, but Dandy Jack gracefully waives any claim he might have had, and goes without. He can well do so. Such is the force of habit, that, somehow or other, he looks more elegant than any of us. He is even well dressed, as we estimate that condition. It is aggravating, because——But no matter!
There is one garment that has been the cause of introducing "hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness" among us. It is a coat of brown hemp-cloth, faced with leather. A coat of English make, with many pockets, such as sportsmen and gamekeepers wear sometimes. It had been thought too good to be used, and had been stowed aside in the library. Such as it is, it is the best garment we have got. After much wrangling we had to draw lots for it, and, much to his satisfaction, Old Colonial acquired the right to wear it.
A box of paper collars had been discovered, so our unaccustomed necks are all tightly throttled in them. They do not fit, of course, and have to be fixed up with string and slips of flax; still, the effect is dazzling. The wet had got into the box, however, and a brown patch appears on the left side of each collar. This does for a trade mark, or badge of the shanty. Scarves or neckties we have none, nor any substitute or apology for them.
Our newly-cropped and pomatumed heads are thatched with strangely ancient and weather-worn hats. These are of three general varieties, or were, when they were new. First, come soft felt wide-awakes, broad-brimmed and steeple-crowned, now presenting every diversity of slouch. Next, are hats of the same original shape, made of coarse plaited straw or reeds, now very much broken and bent. Finally, there are the remains of one or two pith helmets and solar topees.
We have striven to make our head-gear look as jaunty and fresh as was possible. We have blacked the hats or whitewashed them, and have stuck feathers and flowers in them to give an air of gaiety to our otherwise sombre and sedate aspect. And thus we stand, while Old Colonial examines the regiment, giving a finishing touch here and there, where he deems it requisite. Then he draws back and proudly surveys us, and, bearing in mind the contrast we present to our customary everyday appearance, he says—
"We shall do, boys! Proceed to victory, my Pahi lady-killers!"
We have a good distance to go, for the Member's place is fully twenty miles off; but we have plenty of rowers, and have wind as well as tide in our favour. Locomotion by water being our customary means of getting about, we think nothing of the distance, and get over it in fair time.
The Member's place is a very different style of thing to ours. He has been some years longer here than we have on the Pahi; and has had plenty of means to enable him to do as he liked. In former times some of us worked for him, and we are all very good friends. But it is a year or two since most of us visited here, and so we are much struck with the improvement that has been effected since we last saw the place.
To begin with, we land upon a little wharf or causeway of planks laid upon piles, which runs out over the mud to low-water mark, and enables people to land or embark at any time, without struggling through the mud first of all. For, on all these rivers, mud is the general rule. Shingle and sand appear in places, and there is often a belt of either above high-water mark; but below that, and as far as the ebb recedes, is almost invariably a stretch of greenish-grey sticky ooze. It is in this that the mangroves flourish, and it contains the shell-fish which the Maoris largely eat. Our boats are usually built flat-bottomed, so that they may be readily hauled up from, or shoved down to the water on the slippery surface of the mud, as may be required.
The Member's house stands close to the beach, but on a little elevation just above it. It is placed in an irregularly shaped basin, that opens out upon the river. Round the basin run low ranges, covered still with their original bush. But all the undulating extent between them and the river, some seven hundred acres or so, is under grass or cultivation. It is all enclosed with a boundary fence of strong pig-proof post-and-rail, and divided off by well cared for hedges, or wire fences. There are other and newer clearings beyond the ranges and out of sight, but here all that is visible is very much trimmer and neater in appearance than our farm.
Over three parts of the basin the plough has passed. About one-half is under wheat, maize, and other crops, while the grass on the remainder looks wonderfully rich, freed as it is from stumps, drained, and, to a measurable extent, levelled. Cattle, sheep, horses, and pigs are feeding in the paddocks.
We eye the scene with great admiration, and even envy. This is the sort of thing our farm ought to be, and will be. It is what it might have been already, perhaps, if we had been capitalists. But then we weren't.
The Member has got beyond the stage where we are still stuck. He is scarcely a pioneer farmer any longer. He has made his home, and a beautiful home it is, though shut out, seemingly, from all the world beside. The ranges, dark with woods, sweep round the fertile fields, the river flows below, and beyond it the untouched virginity of forest is again picturesquely apparent.
But we are in a hurry to get up to the house, and so we walk at once from the landing-place. A well-made gravelled path leads up from the waterside, not straight to the house, which is rather to the right, but along a neat paling, which encloses the gardens round it. On the left is an orchard of some extent, within which we see a great many more fruit-trees than we possess ourselves; they have been grown with care, and the varied produce of that fruit-yard would be a mine of wealth in Covent Garden.
Beyond the orchard, which is divided from the path by a hedge of orange, lemon, and quince, cut down into a dense shrubbery, we catch a glimpse through the trees of several labourers' cottages, and some barns or wool-sheds. The path is shaded by an avenue of fine trees, very large considering how young they are. Among them may be seen English oaks and beeches, American maples and sumachs, Spanish chestnuts, Australian blue-gums, Chinese and Japanese trees and shrubs, tropic palms, and some of the indigenous ornaments of the bush.
A hundred yards up this avenue, and we pass to the right through a gate in the garden paling. There we find ourselves in enchanted ground, for there is surely no garden in the North, except, perhaps, that of the Horticultural Society at Auckland, which is superior to this. It is beautifully laid out, and to us, fresh from the uncouth barbarism of our shanty and its surroundings, this place seems to breathe of the "Arabian Nights." And is there not a certain princess within, into whose seraphic presence we are now entering? We inhale a new atmosphere, and tread lightly, almost on tiptoe, speaking unconsciously in whispers, and with the blood running quicker through our veins.
The Member has money, as I have mentioned, and here, as elsewhere, money is a magician's rod that will work wonders. To the Member labour and the cost of it bear other relations than they do to us. He is able to look on life in a different light, and may expend toil on other matters than such as are of bare utility. And he has done so, wisely and lavishly, and so his home is what a home should be in this fair land—an Eden of natural beauty.
In this garden there are smooth lawns and dainty flower-beds, winding walks and blossomy banks, trellised arbours and shady groves. Taste and elegance are manifest all round us, from the scented rosery to the well-kept melon-patch. The rich and splendid hues of countless flowers delight our eyes, while their unwonted sweetness sends a mild intoxication into us with every breath we draw. We pass up to the house along a straight, broad path, smooth and white with shell-gravel. The path divides the garden in a part of its length, and has a hedge on either side. But these hedges are of ornamental rather than useful kind. One is of geranium and the other of fuchsia. Here those beautiful plants, which are guarded so carefully in English conservatories, grow into trees in the open air. These geranium and fuchsia hedges are composed of many varieties of both. They are about eight or ten feet in height, and are constantly and carefully pruned to keep down their too exuberant tendencies. They are loaded with blossom, while the fuchsia fruit is a palatable addition to the many dainties of garden and orchard.
The house before us carries about it the same air of comfort and ease as the garden, not to speak of elegance. It is a large villa, similar to some of the mansions one may see about colonial cities. Of what style its architecture may be I cannot say. It appears to partake of the character, externally, both of a Swiss chalet and a Norwegian country house.
Of course, the material of the building is entirely kauri timber, with the exception of the chimneys, which are of brick, and the piles, hidden from sight, which are of puriri wood. There are many angles, corners, gables, wings, and outputs, designed for utility as well as appearance. Round the whole house runs a broad verandah, following the irregularities of the edifice. Above it is a balcony, forming a verandah for the upper storey, and the high, steep roof extends evenly over this. Between the pillars of the verandah is a light rail or trellis, upon which flowering creepers are twined, passion-flowers, with their handsome blossoms and refreshing fruit, conspicuous among them. Openings give admittance from the garden here and there; while light staircases connect the upper and lower verandahs outside the house.
There has been some care in the ornamentation and finish; suitable carvings and mouldings adding beauty to the general design. The walls are painted white, picked out with green, while the shingled roof, being coloured red, looks passably like tiling. Altogether, the Member is to be congratulated on his domicile. It is a very different affair to ours. It would be honestly called a mansion in any country.
This is the sort of house we intend to have, we say, as we walk up to it. And this is the kind of garden we will have round it, too. O'Gaygun sniffs at the flowers with pretended disrespect, and mutters something about "taters" being more useful and to the purpose. But even he is a little quelled by the surroundings, and we hear no more of his barbaric philosophy for a time.
Still, mark this, there is an air about the place that makes it different from so many old-country habitations. You do not feel that you may look but mustn't touch. You are not reminded that everything is for show, and not for use. There is no primness in the garden. There is an honest degree of orderly disorder, and an absence of formality. You do not feel as if you ought not to walk on the grass for fear of hurting it. There is no artificiality apparent; no empty pretences whatsoever.
The house partakes of the same characteristic. It looks homely, and as if it was meant to be lived in. As we reach the verandah we notice a saddle or two carelessly slung over the rail; we see a hammock hung in one corner; and some clothes drying on lines in another. A couple of colley dogs come barking to meet us from their kennels on a shady side; and various other slight details betoken that we are still in the unsophisticated bush.
We tramp heavily along the verandah, a formidable gang of uncouth barbarians. Old Colonial, at our head, gives a gentle coo-ee to intimate our arrival. Then out pops our hostess from somewhere. A merry, bright-eyed little woman is she, such as it does one's heart good to behold. She comes forward, with two of her children beside her, not a whit dismayed at the invasion. She gives us a hearty welcome, shaking hands religiously all along our lengthy line.
This is one of those women who always make you feel gratified and contented with yourself and all the world, after you have shaken hands with or spoken to her. "Magnetic," some people call it. She is every one's sister, and you feel an instinctive affection for her, of that sober and yet warm kind which may be termed loyalty. She is queen in the Kaipara; and all of us think it the greatest pleasure in life to obey her behests.
Chatting gaily, our hostess leads us through an open French window into the drawing-room, and we follow her, with a pleased and yet bashful sense of expectancy. Into the drawing-room, mark you! and a real drawing-room, too; not a visible make-believe, like the library in our shanty. This is a large room, furnished as people do furnish their best reception-chamber in civilized lands. Pictures hang on the varnished walls; books and book-cases stand here and there; tables loaded with knick-knacks, vases of flowers, workboxes, albums, and so forth; chairs and sofas and lounges; ornaments, statuettes, brackets, and various etcetera, betoken a life of greater ease than that of our shanty.
We sit around in an uncouth semicircle, awkward and somewhat ill at ease, for we feel ourselves a little out of place in that room. One cannot live the life that we have lived for years past, without feeling strange and uncomfortable when once again brought within the influence of refinement. So we look at our boots with a sense that our hobnails do not match with the white Japanese matting that covers the floor; and we sit on the edge of our chairs just as other rustics would do at home. Our hats removed, the results of Old Colonial's tonsorial operations are made fully apparent. Our hostess surveys us with a puzzled air. I think she is struggling with a desire to laugh at the quaint simplicity of the communal wardrobe of our shanty, as it is now displayed on our persons before her.
We have been petting the children, and, like other children, these are a trifle too observant. One of them, who is sitting on Old Colonial's knee, suddenly becomes aware of the state of his poll, and, pulling his beard to attract attention, asks—
"What made you cut your hair off?"
Old Colonial looks across at the Saint; and then, catching Mrs. Member's eye, he and she and all of us go off into peals and roars of laughter. In the midst of this the door opens, we catch sight of another lady entering, and we stumble confusedly to our feet. It is she!
Miss Fairweather comes forward, escorted by the Member, and followed by a straggling crowd of half a dozen men, similar barbarians to ourselves, who have got here before us. She is a pretty girl, a very pretty girl, would be considered so anywhere. Here, in her dainty elegance of costume, to our rude senses she appears almost too beautiful. She dazzles us altogether; we know no longer whether we are standing on our heads or our heels.
We are being severally introduced with all due ceremony. The little beauty is not by any means disconcerted at the ordeal; she is evidently used to the position she occupies; used to being regarded with awe as a superior being by ranks and regiments of bearded bushmen. She receives our reverential bows with an amused expression in her blue eyes, and shakes hands with us, one by one, with the air of a princess according gracious favours to her subjects. And a funny little incident occurs.
Miss Fairweather remarks to the Little'un that she thinks she has met him before; in Auckland, probably. Either she is mistaken, or, the Little'un has forgotten, and is shamefaced. He blushes the colour of beet-root. His huge frame wobbles in confusion; and, awkwardly trying to shrink out of sight, as his bashful habit is, he steps backward, and plants a giant heel upon O'Gaygun's toe. That outraged individual startles the assemblage with the sudden exclamation, "Gosh!" Endeavouring to extricate himself, he lumbers against the Saint and Dark Charlie, whom he sends flying into a centre-table. The table overturns, of course, and Dark Charlie's short, thick person sprawls and flounders heavily over it.
The ice is now thoroughly broken. The ladies fall into seats, fairly screaming with laughter, and all of us, except the unlucky ones, begin to feel more at home. Then Mrs. Member tells her friend all sorts of wild legends about our shanty, such as obtain among the feminine public of the district. She says we are just a pack of overgrown schoolboys, who are rapidly turning into absolute savages. And they banter us deliciously to their hearts' content.
But we are not noisy visitors, you know, on such occasions as these. On the contrary, the ladies do most of the talking, as some of us are absolutely tongue-tied. We can do nothing but sit and gaze at the young lady in our midst with all our eyes. She is a houri straight from Paradise, and we poor mortals just get a glimpse from beyond the gate, as it were.
Then more arrivals keep dropping in by twos and threes, neighbouring settlers and chums of ours. So at last a circle of some thirty more or less rough-looking men form a court about those two ladies. Then we go to dinner in another room. Most of us dine chiefly off Miss Fairweather, devouring her with our admiring gaze, listening enraptured to her chat, and pulsating with wild joy if she do but smile or speak to us personally. Many can hardly eat anything; they are too love-sick already.
After dinner our shyness has disappeared, and our native manhood re-asserts itself. The men of the Pahi must not be cut out by rivals from other rivers. They must do all they know to find favour in those beautiful eyes. We go strolling about the place in little knots, admiring the garden, eating fruit in the orchard, visiting the paddocks to see the stock and the crops, and generally enjoying ourselves after our manner.
Each of our ladies has a little group around her, which goes off separately. The component parts of Miss Fairweather's immediate train may change from time to time; men may come and men may go, as it pleases her; but the gallant O'Gaygun, the devoted Dandy Jack, the obliging Old Colonial, and the fascinating Fiend are ever hovering around her, deferent, attentive, and adoring. Whether she is strolling or sitting, walking or talking, one or all of them seem to be by her side. They will not leave the field open to their numerous rivals, not for one minute, if they know it.
How it was managed I cannot tell, but I have the fact on the best authority, Mrs. Member's in good sooth, that something happened very much. That is to say, my informant tells me that the young lady received no less than sixteen distinct proposals of marriage that day, nearly all of which were renewed on subsequent occasions. It can only have been for the barest fraction of a minute that any gentleman could find himself alone with her. But, whenever any one did get the chance, he must have jumped at the opportunity.
You see, it is the custom of the country, of the bush at all events. We have no time for courting, scarcely any opportunity for it. We propose first—marry first if we can—and do the courting afterwards. We have to be spry about these things if we ever intend to get wedded at all. It is the result of competition. A great many men are hungering and yearning for wives, and there are very few girls for them to choose among. So matches are made without very extensive preliminaries. The ladies appear to like this celerity. Perhaps they are unwittingly philosophic, and reflect that, with months of courting, they can really know little more of a man than they did the first hour they met him, because he is naturally on his best behaviour then. Marriage is a lottery any way you can work it. It is only afterwards that each partner can obtain a true knowledge of the other. And I am bound to say that you will not find better wives or better husbands anywhere, than you will in the bush.
So, as I have said, Miss Fairweather received sixteen offers that day. In point of fact she took all hearts by storm. Not a man in the Kaipara who would not have laid down and died for her. Not a bachelor among us who would not have felt exalted to the seventh heaven if he could have won her for his wife. But I dare say no more on this topic, and no more about the dear little beauty either, lest the too fortunate and ever-to-be envied gentleman, who now calls himself her husband, should come after me with his stock-whip.
When the sun has set and evening has come, supper over, we sit in the lamp-lit drawing-room, enjoying the sweet intoxication of the ladies' presence. Or we lounge on the verandah outside the open windows, listening to the chat within, hearing around us the whispers of the forest, or the ripple and risp of the moonlit river, gazing at the profound shadows of the wooded ranges opposite, and inhaling the fragrant sweets of the sleeping garden. Peaceful and silent is that starlit night in the bush.
Then, it being Sunday, the Member gives us service. And as the piano sounds, and we all join in singing the 23rd Psalm—
"In pastures green, He leadeth me, The quiet waters by,"
I think, that to even the most irreligious or most careless among us, the words, under the influences of our situation, come fraught with homely inspiration.
Later, we are rowing back home with the tide. But we carry with us renewed hope and energy for our daily toil; for we have had, as it were, a foretaste of what is to be ours, some day, not so very far hence. We, too, shall have a home like that, as a reward for years of toil and hardship. And, God willing, it shall be graced for each of us with a wife like—her.
It is a beautiful morning in March, when an unusually large party assembles at "our shanty." The sun is just rising, and is not yet visible above the sheltering ranges which hem in the central flat that forms the farm. The sky is cloudless, the air still and fragrant with the odours of the awakening woods.
Day-dawn is always the most beautiful time in New Zealand. It is especially so on this occasion, for a few showers had refreshed the thirsty earth on the previous day; and to us, as we emerge from our blankets eager with expectation, all Nature seems to wear a fresher and more blooming aspect.
Half a mile below the shanty rolls the river, broad and blue, while the wooded shore opposite seems scarcely a stone's throw distant. The smoke curls lazily up from the fire within the shanty, where men are breakfasting and girding themselves for the fray.
Outside on the clearings the hum of the crickets is as yet scarcely perceptible, but a party of turkeys can be seen advancing across the grass in line of battle, commencing their day's onslaught on the insect tribes. Cattle and sheep, pigs and poultry, have withdrawn from the immediate neighbourhood of the shanty, and are assembled in groups at a respectful distance, wondering and frightened at the unusual gathering of the human species.
For with the sun come settlers and Maoris from all sides, some brought by boats and canoes upon the river, some galloping on horseback along the beach, others on foot struggling through the woods and across the ranges on either hand, all converging upon the shanty with shouting salutations, that are responded to with loudly demonstrated welcome.
A rough and wild-looking assemblage we are, I make no doubt, yet fitting well into the foreground of the scene, with its rude and incipient civilization insulting the dominant wildness of Nature all around. Long before the sun has had time to climb above the ranges our muster is complete, and a larger party assembled than a stranger would imagine it possible to gather from so sparsely populated a district. Some thirty, settlers and their workmen, are there, together with about twice as many natives.
All are equipped for the hunt in the lightest possible marching order—shirt, trousers and belt, boots and leggings, with an apology for a hat to crown the whole—such is the costume; a sheath-knife and tomahawk the weapons; with a store of food, tobacco and matches, to provide against all emergencies—such is the provision. Our native allies are attired in much the same guise, only slightly more ragged and dirty—if that be possible—and, generally speaking, barefooted. They are in a state of suppressed excitement, shown by their gleaming eyes and teeth, and in their wild exclamations and gestures.
And I must not forget the most important members of the hunting party—the dogs. Some two dozen have been collected for the occasion, most of them belonging to Maoris; of no particular breed, but all large and heavy, strong-jawed and supple-limbed animals, wolfish-looking fierce creatures, but all more or less trained to the work before them. Good pig-dogs are not easily met with, and in the bush they are esteemed a prize. Our lot are a scratch pack, made up of any that can be induced to seize a pig, and have weight sufficient to hold on to him; a few are thought to be more experienced and capable.
The men, on assembling, mostly go into the shanty to get some breakfast, in the shape of tea, bread, smoked fish and pork, and then straggle about the place, smoking, chatting, and waiting for the order to start. Picture the rough grassy slopes, covered with the standing stumps among the new grass, the rude shanty in the middle of the lower ground, as I have described it, the background of bush-covered heights, with the sun just coming up from behind them into the brilliant sky; and people this scene with the groups of men—Maori and Pakeha, uncouth in appearance as the shaggy cattle that are looking on from a corner of the clearing, or as the clumsy-looking but savage dogs that roam about, or are held in leash by their owners. Such is a "meet" in the bush.
"Rather a different affair from the last meet of the Pytchley that you and I rode to," remarks one brawny, blue-shirted and ankle-jacked giant to another, as they squat on a log, comfortably enjoying an early whiff of "Venus" from their short, black clays.
"What would they say at home, if they could see us now?" replies his friend, pushing back the battered relic of a "topee" from his unkempt hair and somewhat dirty face. Truly, the pair would scarcely appear to advantage in an English huntingfield, in their present trim.
And now, while the last preparations are being made for the start, let us see what it is we are about to attack. The New Zealand wild pig of the present day is the descendant of animals introduced by Captain Cook and other of the early voyagers from the old countries. These people gave pigs to the natives with whom they opened intercourse, and the Maoris, not being used to live stock, lost a good many of their new acquisitions, which ran away into the bush and easily eluded pursuit in its dense coverts. Here they bred and multiplied to such a degree that immense droves of them are now to be found in all parts of the islands. In the fern-root and other roots of the bush they find an endless supply of food, which, if it does not tend to make their meat of good quality, at any rate seems to favour an increase in their numbers.
Whatever may have been the original breed of these animals, the present representatives of the race are neither particularly good-looking or useful. They are lank and lean, with large heads and high shoulders, narrow, spiny backs sloping downwards to the short hind legs; hams they have none. They are thickly covered with bristles, and are mostly black, brown, and grizzled in colour. The mass of them are not large, but the patriarchal boars attain a great size, some of them standing over three feet in height. These fellows have enormous tusks curling on each side of their massive jaws, sharp as razors and strong as crowbars.
Wild pigs are usually shy, and keep well out of the way of human invaders of their solitudes; but boars have occasionally been known to "tree" some incautious wayfarer, while, when hunted, they become exceedingly ferocious. One of our stockmen, out riding on open ground, was attacked by a boar that suddenly rushed upon him from a thicket; his horse was ripped up in a moment, and he only escaped by nimbly climbing into a tree that was fortunately near.
In hunting the pigs it is necessary to go afoot, on account of the density of the bush, and accidents sometimes occur. Some dogs are sure to be killed; while now and then a too rash hunter may get the calf of his leg torn off, and might be otherwise injured, even fatally, though I never knew of any case of so grave a nature.
Settlers regard wild pigs as vermin, only made to be exterminated; and they have, I think, considerable reason for their hatred. The pigs are capable of doing a great deal of damage. Fences must be strongly and closely put up to keep them out, and they must be continually examined and carefully repaired when necessary; for one rotten stake in a fence has often been the cause of a loss of great magnitude. In a single night the wild pigs may devastate many acres, if they once gain admittance, and destroy tons of potatoes, maize, or any sort of crop.
But there is also another way in which they are prejudicial to the farmer, and peculiarly so to the newer settler. I have said that they are excessively lean and ill-shaped beasts, and I may add that their flesh is not only very tough, but it also has a strong smell, and a peculiarly nauseous flavour. The old pigs, both male and female, are absolutely uneatable in any part, though very young sows are appreciated by the Maoris—when they cannot get domestic-bred pork—and are eaten on a pinch by settlers and bushmen, whose vigorous appetites overcome all fastidiousness.
Pork—fresh and salted, bacon and ham—is the natural and invariable food of the settler. Beef and mutton are too valuable as marketable steers, dairy cattle, and wool-growers, and are not so conveniently prepared into keeping forms; hence the pigs he breeds on his clearings are looked upon by the bush-farmer as the regular source whence to draw his household provision in the meat way. Now, if the wild boars out of the bush get among the brood sows upon the clearings, the result is deplorably manifest in the next generation, which will display more or less of the evil characteristics of the wild race. Thus, both the older farmer and the newest settler are nearly touched, and both unite in a common warfare with the enemy.
It is often possible to stalk down and to shoot individual wild pigs on open ground, but that is looked upon merely as a cheerful interlude of sport; it has no deterrent or scaring effect upon the bulk of the droves, and is a waste of time, so far as regards the clearance of a district. A grand and well-organized drive, such as that we are about to see, will often result in not a single wild pig being visible in the district for six months and more afterwards. It is good sport, too; very arduous, since the hunter has to run and scramble through miles of forest. It has in it a good spice of danger, such as Britons love, and is, on the whole, pretty popular. Pig-hunting may be described as a sort of national sport in New Zealand.
But here is Old Colonial issuing from the shanty, and a start seems imminent. The plan of campaign has been arranged between him and Mihake Tekerahi, the Maori, and another settler from a neighbouring river. The straggling groups of men and dogs are divided into three bodies, two of which will proceed to right and left respectively, and the third will go directly "back" from the farm. All the parties will become subdivided into smaller gangs, in the course of the day, but all will converge upon a given point in the bush, which will be the limit of the hunt.
The block of land on which we are lies between three large rivers, and, owing to the conformation of the country and the winding of the rivers, its fourth side is a narrow neck of land not more than a mile and a half wide. Here there is a very lofty and rugged range, and it is the spot agreed on as our final rendezvous, being some fifteen miles distant from our shanty.
Besides the men who have met at the farm, there are several parties who will start from more distant places, and who will also make for the range as their terminal point. We hope, by this concentrated drive, to kill as many pigs as possible, and to cause the rest of them to retire beyond the narrow space between the rivers; then the whole of our block will be free from them for some time to come. We have thought of running a fence across from river to river, but the rough nature of the ground, and the absence of suitable material quite close to the required spot, would make this rather too arduous—and therefore too expensive—a work for us to perform just yet, in our incipient stage of settlement. So we content ourselves with an annual hunt on a grand and conjoint scale, and with such minor forays as it pleases individuals to make from time to time.
Our way at first—I speak of the band which regards Old Colonial as its chief director—lies up the clearings, through the bush above, and so to the elevated ground behind the shanty. Here a halt is called, and our band is again subdivided into two divisions, which are to take along the two ranges that commence from this point, hunting the gullies on both sides of them as they go. Then there is a loud fire of coo-ees, to ascertain the position of the brigades that started under Mihake and the other man. Their answering coo-ees come faintly but clearly out of the distant bush on both sides of us, denoting that they have severally reached their appointed starting places.
And now the work begins in earnest. There is a tightening of belts, a putting out of pipes, and a general air of alertness on every face. For a time we go plunging on among the trees and brushwood, encouraging the dogs that are hunting the gullies below with frequent shouts of "Hi, there, Rimu! Go in, Shark!" and so forth. We have not yet started any pigs, though here and there we pass tracts of ground ploughed up by them.
But, soon, there is a sudden burst of barking from the right, and some of us rush frantically off in that direction. But the loud voice of Old Colonial is heard calling in the dogs and shouting—
"Ware cattle! Ware cattle! Keep back there, it's Red Spot's mob!"
And presently, with flying tails and tossing horns, a score of great beasts go lumbering and crashing by, pursued by that ill-conditioned Shark, who never will remember his duty, and persists in chasing pigs when his business is to be after cattle, and so, to-day, is earnestly and conscientiously driving cattle when he ought to give his mind only to pigs.
All the roaring and swearing that goes ringing through the trees only serves to convince Shark that he is in the right; and he is only stopped in his wild career by the fortunate fact that the Saint, who has lagged far in the rear, steps in the way, cajoles Shark into listening to his advice, and, with a big stick and a few of the most gorgeous expletives of which he is eminently the master, persuades the errant hound of his mistake. Deep and dire are the maledictions heaved at the unhappy Shark, and in which his companions, Rimu and Toto, Wolf and Katipo, have unjustly to share. For the row occasioned by the episode has been enough to scare away all the pigs in the district; or, as a Maori near me mysteriously phrases it, "Make te tam poaka runny kanui far hihi!"—a sentence that I put on record, as a specimen of the verbal excesses to which education may lead the once untutored savage.
However, the most knowing may sometimes be mistaken, and so it luckily proves in the present instance, for scarcely have we recovered from our disgust at Shark's misconduct, and resumed our hunting operations, than again the canine music breaks merrily out, followed by shouts in a dozen voices of—
"Pig! pig! Lay up there, dogs! Good dogs! Lay up there, Rimu, Rimu, Toto! At 'em, boys! At 'em! Lay up! Pig! pig!"
And then the hot excitement seizes upon us all, and, as we hear the unmistakable grunting, squealing, and hough-houghing of pigs, we plunge madly down to the scene of action. It is no time for considering one's steps; we go straight for the point where the noise leads us, crashing against trees, stumbling over logs, regardless of every obstacle. We pitch headlong into holes hidden by treacherous banks of ferns; we swing over little precipices by the help of supple-jacks and lianes; we press through thorny bush-lawyers, heedless of the rags and skin we leave behind us; we splash through mud and water up to our waists; hot and breathless, torn and bleeding, bruised and muddy, we come tumbling, crashing, plunging, bounding down the sides of the gully, mad with the fierce excitement of the moment.
A number of pigs are rushing wildly about among the flax and fern-trees, not knowing which way to escape. The dogs are at them gallantly, seizing them by the ears, laying up against them flank to flank, and holding on like grim death. The din is terrific, every one is shouting encouragement to the dogs, or to himself; the pigs are squealing and crying as only pigs can.
Half a dozen dogs have fastened on to as many pigs, growling and worrying, but holding fast in spite of the twisting and shaking of their prey, in spite of the clashing of tusks and the savage snorting of one or two boars among the drove, in spite of being dragged and scraped through brushwood and timber, keeping always flank to flank with the pigs they hold, like good dogs as they are.
I see Old Colonial bounding on before me, after a huge pig that is dragging the great dog on his ear as a bull-dog would drag a rat in a similar position. The pig heads up the bank, but Old Colonial is upon him; he grabs at a hind leg and seizes it with both hands.
He is down, and is also dragged on his face for a moment; but he still keeps his grip in spite of kicking and struggling; keeps a firm, hard hold, regardless of the bruises and scratches he is getting; never leaves go till he gets his opportunity, till he can put foot to the ground; and then, with one mighty heave, over goes the pig on his back. Then triumphantly does Old Colonial put his knee on the boar's belly, calmly he presses back the snout with one hand, while, in the other, his knife glitters for a moment in the sunshine, and is then driven well home.
In another minute, with Old Colonial's whoop of victory ringing in my ears, I, too, am engaged. A great, heavy sow passes close before me, with Katipo tearing at her ear. Simultaneously a couple of Maoris and myself charge after her. One of them stops behind to tomahawk such of her litter as he can catch; the other man and I hurl ourselves down upon the animal, after chasing her a hundred yards or so among the scrub.
I seize at a leg and am thrown violently to the ground, getting a kick in the face that sets my nose bleeding. The Maori comes to my aid and gets a hold, and together we are rolled over on the ground.
Alas! we have not between us Old Colonial's knack and activity, nor are we endowed with muscles of such steely fibre. We keep our clutch determinedly, desperately, and we are flung and bumped among the tree-roots and brushwood. The pig is screaming like a hundred railway engines; kicking, plunging, stamping, tearing, twisting from side to side in a vain endeavour to rid herself of us, or to get at us with those formidable jaws; shaking Katipo—a big mastiff-like cur—about, as a cat would shake a mouse. But still we two men hold on to that hind leg of hers, careless of our hurts, prone on our faces, but straining every muscle to keep the grip. Presently we get a chance; together we get our knees upon a log, together we put our backs into the effort, and heave. Over she goes.
Hurrah! On to her at once! Sit on her belly and keep her down! Never mind the kicking legs in the air! Get a hand between the struggling forelegs, gently, along the neck! Now then, out with the ready sheath-knife, and dig it in! There! Right to the heart, till the blood spurts out over us! Hurrah! Good! There's another mother of a family the less!
And now we may take breath for a minute or two, praise old Katipo, and cut off the pig's ears as a trophy. Only for the shortest possible minute, though, for the hunt is going on with headlong haste and hurry. We must be up and off after more pigs, and must rejoin the rest of the scattered party, whose shouts may be heard in various directions; there must be no loitering when pigs are near, for they will not wait, we may be sure.
As we run and scramble on through the scrub, making way upwards along the gully, we pass several dead pigs at intervals, which show that the rest of the boys have been well employed. Presently we come upon the Saint, in the midst of a gloomy thicket of birch, sitting astride of a great dead boar, and employed with his tomahawk in endeavouring to chop out the tusks.
Then Katipo discovers a small family of pigs comfortably stowed away among the dense vegetation of a little marshy hollow. These give the three of us some diversion; we manage to kill two of them, and drive out the remainder upwards through the bush. Following them up hotly for about a mile, Katipo lays hold of one after another, which we turn over and stick as we can, killing two or three more in this way.
But the work is very arduous, and the day is wearing towards noon, and is consequently very hot—March being here equivalent to an English September, but much warmer and drier. We are dripping with sweat, our shirts torn and muddied, blood all over us—both pigs' and our own—and we feel well-nigh exhausted for the time being by the tremendous and violent exertions we have been making.
After the next pig is finally, and with desperate fighting, slaughtered, there seems to be a general tacit advance towards taking a rest. Katipo and another dog that we have picked up have taken to lapping at the creek in the gully, and laying themselves down near the stream, seem inclined for a brief snooze. The two Maoris are hacking at some nikaus, and extracting the pith therefrom; and the Saint and I think it well to do likewise.
After munching away at the refreshing stuff for a considerable while, we guiltily put on our pipes; guiltily, for we know that our earnest leader, Old Colonial, will persevere with unflagging zeal and untiring energy, and will continue the chase without a moment's cessation. Many of the settlers will do the same, though probably but few of the natives, for they have not a fine power of endurance, and it pleases them usually to do things by spurts.
However, we are all the better for the temporary relaxation, and pursue our course with renewed vigour. We have now reached the recesses of the heavy forest, after passing through various gradations of lighter bush. Here and there, on our way, we have come across stretches of open fern-land; but in this district bush is the most prevalent characteristic of the vegetation.
Now and then we come upon some gully or flat that has been fired at some previous period, either by Maoris or settlers. These old burns are now covered with a dense and uniform jungle of ti-tree second-growth, through which it is often not easy to pass. The cane-like stems of the young ti-tree grow close together, like a field of corn, bearing a feathery green foliage and a white flower, and having a pleasant balsamic odour. High above the soft green surface of the second-growth are lifted the bleached trunks and skeleton arms of dead trees, standing gaunt and grim at intervals among the younger growths below.
These ti-tree coverts afford very close harbourage for pigs. In them pigs may hide so well that the hunter might touch them before he saw them; nay, cattle even may hide as closely. Through the ti-tree there frequently run narrow paths, or irregular tracks, worn by pigs and cattle; and, as the wayfarer passes along any one of these tracks, he has the pleasant excitement of knowing that at any moment he may come face to face with a boar, in a position where the boar naturally has all the advantage, if he chooses to avail himself of it.
In the course of the day our little party makes way onward through the bush, in the direction of the general rendezvous. Occasionally we start up pigs, sometimes losing them, and sometimes getting one or two; but the details of the capture and sticking of those we manage to catch do not differ very much from the account already given, except that we have not killed any pigs of particularly large size.
About noon, or somewhat after, we make a decided halt for the purpose of getting our dinners, of which we begin to feel very much in need. Unhappily, no one has brought a tin pannikin along with him, so we cannot make ourselves any tea; but we light a fire at the bottom of a shady gully, beside some running water, and commence to cook our repast.
Each man has got his little parcel of bread or biscuit and meat, tied up firmly in flax, and fastened to his belt; but besides this, the bush is affording us other kinds of tucker. Katipo killed a kiwi in the course of our morning's hunt, and this bird is now being skinned, cut up, and roasted on sticks. We wish it had been a weka, or bush-hen, as that is more succulent eating; but we have hearty appetites, and will do justice to the kiwi, anyhow.
Then the Maoris have cut out the livers of a couple of young pigs, and these are toasted in strips, and are not such bad eating after all. By way of desert we have some berries from the trees around, that prove very nice.
After our appetites are satisfied, and the digestive pipe duly smoked, we resume our hunting operations. But luck is no longer with us, and when, after walking and scrambling for two or three miles, and feeling that the time is fast slipping by, we do come upon pigs, we get separated in the chase that ensues, and I find myself very shortly after that completely alone.
I keep walking on, however, in the direction I judge will bring me out upon the place of assembly; and, after an hour or two, I begin to hear sounds of life. I am on somewhat high ground, which gradually slopes downward in the direction I am taking. It is all heavy bush in this part; huge trees, covered with ferns and creepers, soar upwards on all sides. The sunlight falls in patches here and there, through the canopy of branches far overhead, and occasionally there occur little glades and dells and openings, quite open to the light.
Below the great trees are many smaller ones, among which I notice nikau-palms, cabbage-palms, fern-trees, and tingahere, attracting the eye with their stranger forms. Below these, again, is a thick jungle of shrubs of many species, masses of creeping-plants matting the bushes together, or depending from the trees and ferns in infinite profusion and luxuriance.
The late afternoon sun is slanting from behind me, so that when its rays shoot through the branches they light up the scenes in front, and thus the picture I presently witness comes before me with proper artistic effect. I hear sounds of life coming through the trees in advance of me—the sounds of men shouting and yelling in excitement; the noise of dogs barking and yelping; and through it and above it all, clearer and clearer heard as I run hastily forward, the horrid hoarse "hough-hough"—that sound so hollow and booming as heard in the "echoing woods,"—with the sharper metallic clashing of savage jaws, that I know can only proceed from some patriarchal boar.
A minute later and I come out upon the scene of action. It is a comparatively open glade, surrounded on all sides by the dense forest, and having, near the opposite extremity, a small, abruptly-rising knoll, that is crowned by a single gigantic rata-tree. The little glade is full of unwonted life; nigh a score of the hunting party, and eight or ten dogs, are making things pretty lively within it.
The cause of all the uproar and excitement is seen among the spreading and massive roots of the rata; it is a boar, one of the largest any of us ever saw, and he is now "bailed up" below the great tree.
To say that he seems as big as a donkey but feebly expresses the apparent size of the beast. His stern is set back against the tree; but the mighty and ferocious head is turned full upon his foes. Every bristle on his crest stands erect with rage. The small but fierce eyes take in every movement, and survey dogs and men with desperate and fiend-like animosity. The long snout is pointed straight forward, showing the gleaming teeth below it, while the great tusks, curving up from the jaws, shine like scimitars.
Nor is the huge brute one moment still; his fore-feet are pawing and tearing at the ground; his head is turned first in one direction and then in another; his whole body is quivering and shaking; foam flies from his grinding jaws; while his continued snorting, with its roaring, bellowing, and shrieking intonations, is horrible to hear.
Yet as this savage king of the forest stands there at bay, there is a something grand and majestic about him, something of barbaric and unconquerable pride and courage, despite his demoniac and ogre-like ugliness; but, I am afraid, no one sees anything but a big fierce pig, who must be slaughtered as speedily and cleverly as possible.
Most of the men keep at a respectful distance, not caring to get too close to those formidable tusks; but they are actively employed in shouting and brandishing knives and tomahawks. Close in front of the pig, amid a whirling circle of barking dogs, Old Colonial, O'Gaygun, and one or two Maoris appear to be performing an exciting kind of war-dance. They are endeavouring to urge in the dogs, and are trying to draw the pig out from among the tree-roots; while, at the same time, they are springing actively about in order to avoid each fancied and expected rush of the boar.
But the boar is not to be drawn out from among the high branching roots that protect his flanks and stern. At every near approach of dog or man he feints to charge, lowering and tossing his head, uttering yet fiercer notes of wrath, or tearing up the ground, and sending splinters flying from the tree with blows from his tusks; such threatening movements on his part effectually deterring his foes in their advance. Sticks and stones, large and weighty, are hurled at him from all sides. What does he care for such puny projectiles? Even a well-aimed tomahawk, that strikes him full and fairly, fails to hurt or penetrate his armour of bristles and tough hide. Like Achilles, his weak place is in his heels—his rear, and that is well protected behind him.
But another foeman to the swinish champion now appears upon the scene. A man, whom I have come close to in the hurry-skurry, suddenly calls to me—
"Look at old Tama up there behind the tree!" Then he shouts in stentorian delight—
"Te toa rere, te toa mahuta! Go it, Tama, old boy! Hopu te poaka! Jump in and kill him!"
Looking up at the great trunk of the rata, with its extensive pedestal of gnarled and twisting roots, that for six or eight feet from the ground branch down all round its base, I see peering round the stem, and from above the roots, a face that I know well; it is that of Tama-te-Whiti. He has made a circuit, got behind the tree, and is now climbing over and among the extended roots, cautiously and silently stealing upon the pig, with intent to drive it out of the cover of the tree.
Old Tama's grey hair hangs loosely over his brows; his elaborate tattooing looks unusually conspicuous; his arms are bare to the shoulder; and, as he gradually draws himself into our view, we see his body is almost bare, except a few fluttering rags of shirt that still remain about him. The other day I saw Tama at the township, elaborately attired in black broadcloth and white linen and all the rest of it, looking a perfect picture of smug respectability and aged innocence. Now here he is, grasping a tomahawk in his sinewy hand, with a knife held between his teeth, and—albeit 'tis only a boar he is attacking—with a fire dancing in his eyes like that which shone there in his hot youth, when, here in these self-same woods, he and the young braves of his tribe met in deadly conflict with the invading Ngapuhi.
The boar is unconscious of Tama's approach; he is occupied with his adversaries in front, who are redoubling their efforts to attract his attention. And at this moment another of the hunters is seized with an heroic impulse.
It has at last come home to the mind of that impetuous and much objurgated dog, Shark, that his destiny in life is to be a boar-hound. Hitherto, his experience of the manners and customs of pigs has not been great; but the conviction has come to him that he knows all about the business; and, too, he is probably anxious to retrieve his disgraceful conduct of the morning. Shark is a fresh arrival on the scene, having just come in with one of the straggling parties. He is not contented to join his canine companions, who are warily waiting their opportunity to dash in on the boar's flanks and rear; but, like all high-couraged and impetuous youth, Shark dashes, barking, to the front, and blindly, quixotically, and madly, he charges on the boar.
Alas! poor dog! great as was his bravery, his size, his strength, what could they avail in such foolhardy strife? One jerk of the black snout, one flash of the white tusks, and, with a last yelping scream, the body of poor Shark goes whirling up into the air, and falls a bleeding, bisected, lifeless lump. Poor Shark! with all his faults, I think we loved him well!
But even in his death he is avenged. The boar darted a few feet forward in his onslaught upon Shark, and the opportunity has been seized upon. The war-cry of the Ngatewhatua goes echoing through the forest, as old Tama springs down in rear of the boar; his swinging tomahawk inflicts a gaping wound, and he seizes a hind leg of the pig before that animal can back itself among the roots.
Other Maoris, Old Colonial, and more of the party rush to his aid. Dogs seize on the boar's bleeding ears. For a minute there is a scene of direful confusion, an indescribable struggle in which men, dogs, and pig are mingled in a twisting, shouting, panting, wrestling heap. Another dog gets his flank slit up, a man has his legging and trouser torn off his leg, and then the giant brute is conquered. Overturned and shrieking, kicking, biting, struggling desperately to the last, till half a dozen knives are buried in his heart.
With the slaughter of the monster boar the day's hunt comes to an end. The spot is close to the rendezvous, and most of the parties have arrived, or are not far off. There is an interchange of gossip over the doings of the day among the various groups; and, by-and-by, a count up of the number of pigs killed. Ears and tails are produced as vouchers, and about three hundred and fifty pigs, big and little, are thus accounted for, while half a dozen pair of tusks, of more than ordinary size, denote the killing of as many large boars. The tusks from the last slain monster become the property of Old Colonial, and, gaily mounted in silver, they may now be found among the ornaments of an English drawing-room.
But now evening is upon us, and many of the party are tramping homewards in divers directions through the bush. Others make their way to a point on one of the rivers, a mile or so from the rendezvous, where boats have been brought up, and whence they will have a long row to their various places. But by far the greater number are too much fagged out with the exertions of the day to move from their present resting-places.
So a camp is formed in a suitable spot, and one or two of the least tired set about getting some supper ready, and gather fern for bedding. And when night deepens overhead, and the shadows of the forest fold round us, recumbent forms are stretched around the roaring camp-fire; supper, rude and rough, but hearty, has been eaten, pipes are lighted, and while some are snoring, others are lazily recounting their doughty deeds, and enjoying to the full the well-earned rest that fitly terminates a pig-hunt in the bush.
END OF VOL. I.