« PoprzedniaDalej »
which they always do, when they are closely beset ; and then every one must take care of himself : for it is a very dangerous encounter, and so it was here, the beast grew outrageous, and turning upon them, ran directly at the man who first wounded him, whilst another from behind, threw a lance into his flank; then the bull turned again, as he always does, to the person who last wounded him; and the hunters being divided to take him all ways, and keeping at a gond distance likewise, as well to prevent hurting one another, as to give him room to play in, they at length killed him; but this sometimes proves a very tragical pastime.
This night we lay in a wood, where we found faungidge in abundance; thus we lived deliciously with only the natural produce of the country. I tied up my calves every night that my cows might not stray, and was forced to rise two or three times, to see that none of my cattle got amongst the wild ones; for when they do, it is no small trouble to catch them again; for whenever they see the others run, they follow likewise, as fast as they can.
The next day at noon we halted at a spring, which rises from the highest hill in this island, called Vohitchmaner, or red-hill; vohitch signifying a hill, or mountain. I drove my cattle into a fine valley, where there was fine grass, but a wild bull came amongst them, and covered one of my cows. I had a great inclination * to kill him, though I almost shook for fear; they are terrible creatures to any body's apprehension, who is not used to them, and my fear was the cause of my ill success; for concealing myself under another cow, I took such an awkward aim at him, that I struck one of my own herd instead of him. However, as the wound did not prove mortal, I concealed it; not so much out of any apprehension I had of my master's anger, as out of fear of being laughed at, for wounding a tame cow, instead of a wild bull.
We set up early this afternoon, in a place commodiously situated near some good water ; and then we went out to search for wild honey and faungidge. I had the good fortune to discover a large hole in a hollow tree, that was full of the former; I made a fire presently, and with a brand smoked the bees out. In the next place I cut down a vounturk, to make a vessel like a tub, to put my honey in. This vounturk is a tree or plant, (for I don't well know what to call it,) of a very particular shape and nature. It grows upright as an arrow, about sixteen or eighteen feet in length, is thin below, thick in the middle, and taper again above, like a nine pin. At the top there are two or three branches, that bear leaves of a great length; in the spring they have blossoms, but I never saw any fruit that came to perfection; the outer bark is whitish, like old lead, and full of long thorns, which are easily struck off with a lance. We likewise cut the bark all round, and the tree immediately falls down, not being able to support itself: after this we take away what length we want, and pull out the spungy substance on the inside, till we come within three or four inches of the bottom. By this means we make a vessel light and easy of carriage, and in one of these I secured my honey. The juice of this vounturk is good liquor, and even fit to boil any thing in, when water is scarce. I found also some faungidge. At my return I paid my respects to deaan Murnanzack, and made him a present of some of my honey, which is a compliment our lords always expect.
It was now night, and they were going a beef bunting: when they set out on purpose to kill the best beasts, they always make choice of the darkest nights. They permitted me, on my request, to accompany them; but first ordered me to wash myself, as they themselves did, that we might not smell either of smoke or sweat. I would have taken two lances according to custom, but they obliged me to leare one behind me, lest two together might rattle in my hand. These cattle feed only in the night, and if all these precautions were not taken, they could never be surprised; for they are always on their guard, snorting with their noses, and listening after their pursuers. We can hear them roar, and bellow a great way off; by which we know where they are, and we are forced always to go round till they are directly to the windward of us; for otherwise they would soon scent us. As soon as we had got the wind and cattle right ahead, and were within hearing, we walked with all the circumspection imaginable, cropping the top of the grass with our hands, as close as possible, to mimic, as well as we could, the noise a cow makes when she bites it. The moment they heard us they were all hush; not one of them bellowed or grazed, but seemed to listen with the utmost-attention : which when we perceived, we all stood still likewise without a whisper, whilst three or four, who understood the nature of it best, continued cropping the grass. When the cattle had listened, till (as we imagined) they took us for some of their own species, they returned to their grazing, and we walked with caution nearer, still mimicking them as we moved softly along. Deaan Murnanzack ordered me to keep behind, lest they should discern my white skin, and be startled ; he also gave me his lamber to cover myself with, which was a large piece of black silk, so that if I had been near them, they could have seen nothing but my face, the grass being above knee deep.
At length we got amongst them, so that one of our men (as he told me) with some grass in his hand, and under the cover of a bush, took hold of the dug of a cow, and finding she gave no milk, he concluded she was not lean ; for which reason he stuck his lance instantly into her belly, and drew it out again, making no other motion. The cow thus wounded will give a spring perhaps, and make a noise, as if another had run her horns against her ; but this is so common amongst them, that the herd is not any ways disturbed by it: so that our people stuck three or four after this manner, and left them, with an intention to come the next morning, and track them by their blood; for it is very dangerous to come near them in the night. As soon as they find themselves sorely wounded, they run from their companions, and will attack the first man they see. They are generally found actually dead, or fallen down in some wood, or shelter of bushes, as if they industriously endeavoured to conceal themselves. No sooner had we determined to depart, and I had returned deaan Murnanzack his lamber, than a calf, that had been mortally wounded, began to make a hideous uproar, and running about, made the herd jealous ; so that they ran away, and the calf made directly at me, and knocked me backwards; I caught hold of his leg, but cried out lustily for help. This accident afforded much mirth, and fixed a joke upon me afterwards; as a stout fellow to cry out for assistance to cope with a calf. However, they took him, cut him to pieces, and carried him away; of whom we made a very good supper. I have been informed, that notwithstanding these cattle are so wild, the cows will sometimes stand still to have their dugs handled, and several of them have been milked in the dark into a horn; however, as I never attempted this myself, I cannot absolutely vouch it for truth; yet as I have heard so many affirm it, I think there are no just grounds to contradict it.
We were in no hurry to get home, for not only our cattle, but we too, lived as well as we could desire there; so that though we kept going forwards, yet we made several days more of our journey than we should have done. A day or two after this beef hunting, we had an accidental diversion of another kind: our dogs had got the scent of some wild hogs that were got into a thicket, and were very busy in running round it; but could find no entrance for a considerable time. At length, however, they found the path which the swine had made, and attempted to enter the wood by it: the passage was defended by a large boar, who fought the dogs with great fury, and wounded one of them in a very dangerous manner. Now, what with the dogs on the one hand, and the swine on the other, there was such a yelping, grunting, and howling, that the woods sang with their poise; and one would have imagined
all the hogs in the island had met there by consent, ir. order to revenge their quarrel upon us.
We laid down oyr burdens, and some of us went up to them, armed with guns and lances. Deaan Murnanzack shot the boar that wounded his dog ; whereupon another in an instant defended the entrance, and fought so resolutely, that neither the dogs, nor we ourselves, could come near the cattle that were within ; till we had made a passage behind them with our hatchets and lances, and then fired upon some of the most resolute, who turned upon us. The rest perceiving themselves attacked behind, fought their way through the dogs, and ran away, with the dogs after them. Words cannot describe the noise there was, especially after a number of them were wounded. We found seven dead, besides several others so wounded that they could not make off. We picked out only one or two of the fattest, for there are very few that will eat them. I did not dare to take any, on account of my office of killing beeves, and the eating of swine's flesh is accounted so contemptible a thing, that I should have lessened my dignity, and perhaps been degraded ; which, whatever mean thoughts I might possibly have, as to the honour of it, I had too good an opinion of its value to part with it for the gratification of my appetite in one meal: for in this case they are curious to a punctilio, that if the daughterof a king be married to any one that is not of a royal family, their children are not admitted to the honour of killing beeves, notwithstanding the father be a freeman, and a chief amongst his neighbours.
We used every evening to sit down near the prince, and discourse of one thing or another to divert the time; now, though it is a common custom amongst the princes here, to converse with every body in the most familiar manner, yet they preserve a decent state and distinction. The people throughout the whole island pay a religious regard to dreams, and imagine that their good demons (for I cannot tell what other name