Now the hunt was in our sector. The keepers and the corps of beaters came into view. "Chasse! Chasse!" they cried, and the horns sounded a tattoo. The dogs were on a trail, barking, baying. Our men tensed. We heard crashings in the dry, dead bracken, which made the hunters visible along our line lean forward, each taking his cue from the one on his left, and raise and ready their guns. The dogs came our way, veered, and the chase swept past. Again and again we heard the shots and the trumpeting of the hallali, and each time the faces of the men near me showed that in imagination, in memory, they were there, "in on the kill." But along our section of the line, no shot had been fired when, an hour later, the horn sounded the call signaling the end of the hunt.
"A great economy of cartridges," commented the village grocer, making a moue.
Eight dead boars lay thrown together on the ground in the courtyard of the farm, our assembly point. Wine bottles appeared—delicious, dry, white Sancerre. The boars ranged in color from ginger to chestnut to near-black, as they ranged upward in size. The males had been castrated. This is done because the odor from the testicles is so strong that, unless they are removed, a few hours are enough to spoil the meat of the whole carcass.
Not only in temperament, but also in almost all aspects of its appearance, the wild boar bears only a distant resemblance to the domestic pig. It has tall, powerful shoulders. It is short and compact in body. Its hams are long and lean. Its legs are short, its hooves delicate. Its snout is long, the muzzle dark and calloused from its constant rooting. But the most striking difference is its pelt. Next to its hide grows a thick fuzzy fur; from out of this fur grow bristles as long as seven or eight inches. They grow abundantly, from snout to tail. It is a shaggy beast. Buffon was right—not a pretty creature. But, even in death, one to respect.
We drove 15 miles to the site of our second hunt. This was on higher ground, in wilder country, with roads less well tended. Ours shortly became impassable. The cars were left alongside it and we took to our feet. We had now lost some few of our number—people anxious to beat the traffic jams on the road back to Paris—but we were still a good 60 strong. It was getting late, the light failing fast. "D�p�chez-vous, messieurs! D�p�chez-vous!" M. Hatte urged, as we hiked to our starting place.
No dogs, no gamekeepers on this hunt. No beaters. Or rather, more beaters than before. On this one, we—one half our number—were to be our own beaters, driving the game toward the other half, in wait for them, as all of us had been on our first hunt. And in order that I might experience both aspects of the chasse � sanglier, I would be one of the beaters.
Now I began to wonder if I really wanted to take part in this, for I was unarmed, and had been from the start. I was there strictly as a spectator. A pity that I was not allowed to carry a gun; but, because application must be made months in advance for all the many permits required, the liability insurance, etc., etc., it is far too complicated for an alien to hunt in France. Now, standing in my spot on the road at the woods' edge, one of a long line of men awaiting our marching orders, the only one of them without a gun, I began to have visions of the hunter on one side or the other of me wounding but not killing—just enraging—one of those big old fellows with the curved and whetted tusks.
"En avant!" Down the line came the word, and bursting into a din of shouts, calls and grunts, the column of men entered the woods.
From M. Hatte, on my left, to me came this command: "Allo? Monsieur Enfr�! Faits de bruit! Faites de bruit! Ce que vous voudrez. Parlez � ses cochons! Faites de bruit en anglais!" I did as ordered. I made as much noise as anybody in the line—more, being unarmed. I was such an enthusiastic beater that I earned myself a rebuke from the hunter on my right. "Vous, � gauche, ralentissez!" he yelled at me. I was getting ahead of the line, and maybe thereby flushing the game before guns had come up within range of it. Meanwhile, I talked to those pigs in three tongues—theirs, my own and that of my companions. "Allez-l�! Allez-l�!" I yelled in French as good as the best of them. "Pig! Pig! Pig! Uh, pig! Uh! Uh! Uh! Show your dirty snouts, you sales cochons, you!"
I came upon a wallow so fresh the tracks were filling with water as M. Hatte and I bent over them. Big ones and little ones—a drove of half a dozen at least—there just moments before us.