Down the line went the command to close ranks and to pass the order on: "Serrez � droite! Relayez la commande!"
We heard the fusillade to our right and the bugling of the horn. Between M. Hatte and me a roebuck flushed and bounded over the bracken.
Twice more before we emerged from the woods to rejoin our stationary companions we heard the fusillade and the sound of the hallali. Then as the last men came out into the dusk, there came from the woods the other traditional, long-drawn call on the horn that signals the conclusion of the hunt. "The hunter's adieu," Alfred Victor de Vigny has called it in a famous stanza of verse. It is impossible to hear that sound in that spot at that hour and not be reminded of his lines:
J'aime le son du Cor, le soir, au fond des bois,
Soit qu'il chante les pleurs de la biche aux abois,
Ou l'adieu du chasseur que l'�cho faible accueille
Et que le vent du nord porte de feuille en feuille.
(I love the sound of the hunting horn, at day's end, deep in the woods, whichever its melody—that of the quarry brought to bay, or the hunter's farewell, gathered in a faint echo, and carried by the north wind from leaf to leaf.)
The following evening, at cocktail time, there came a knock on our door. M. Hatte was there. He carried, in a transparent plastic bag, a shaggy slab of sanglier—my share. For that is how it is done in these democratic days; to each man who assists in the hunt, a share of the meat. Mine was from one of the young ones, M. Hatte assured me, saying that the big old boars get so tough that only their heads are edible. He laid his package on the drawing-room table and accepted my offer of a drink.
It was M. Hatte's first meeting with my wife. The presentations concluded, we recounted the hunt, heard from him stories of others he had been in on in his time. I gathered much of the information I have here relayed. Meanwhile, the room—the whole house—was filling with an odor. It was not a stench, exactly; in fact, it was rather sweetish. But it was powerful. It was almost stifling.
M. Hatte declined a second drink—his tractor awaited him. The moment he was gone I fell to dressing the chunk of meat, resisting my wife's demand that it be thrown out—far out. I had my opportunity then to verify Buffon's statements about the coarseness of the Sanglier's pelt and the thickness of its hide. You could have soled boots with it.
The pelt gone, the meat smelled clean. For seven days we aged it; for two days more we marinated it in red wine. We invited friends to share it, on the understanding that we had in readiness the makings of a quick substitute dinner. It was the best meat that any of us had ever tasted. It was, truly, gibier royal.