A Hunting Ramble with Zeke
At the foot of the mountain, a steep path went up among rocks and clefts mantled with verdure. Here and there were green gulfs, down which it made one giddy to peep. At last we gained an overhanging, wooded shelf of land which crowned the heights; and along this, the path, well shaded, ran like a gallery.
In every direction the scenery was enchanting. There was a low, rustling breeze; and below, in the vale, the leaves were quivering; the sea lay, blue and serene, in the distance; and inland the surface swelled up, ridge after ridge, and peak upon peak, all bathed in the Indian haze of the Tropics, and dreamy to look upon. Still valleys, leagues away, reposed in the deep shadows of the mountains; and here and there, waterfalls lifted up their voices in the solitude. High above all, and central, the Marling-spike lifted its finger. Upon the hillsides, small groups of bullocks were seen; some quietly browsing; others slowly winding into the valleys.
We went on, directing our course for a slope of these hills, a mile or two further, where the nearest bullocks were seen.
We were cautious in keeping to the windward of them; their sense of smell and hearing being, like those of all wild creatures, exceedingly acute.
As there was no knowing that we might not surprise some other kind of game in the coverts through which we were passing, we crept along warily.
The wild hogs of the island are uncommonly fierce; and as they often attack the natives, I could not help following Tonois example of once in a while peeping in under the foliage. Frequent retrospective glances also served to assure me that our retreat was not cut off.
As we rounded a clump of bushes, a noise behind them, like the crackling of dry branches, broke the stillness. In an instant, Tonois hand was on a bough, ready for a spring, and Zekes finger touched the trigger of his piece. Again the stillness was broken; and thinking it high time to get ready, I brought my musket to my shoulder.
Look sharp! cried the Yankee; and dropping on one knee, he brushed the twigs aside. Presently, off went his piece; and with a wild snort, a black, bristling boarhis cherry red lip curled up by two glittering tusksdashed, unharmed, across the path, and crashed through the opposite thicket. I saluted him with a charge as he disappeared; but not the slightest notice was taken of the civility.
By this time, Tonoi, the illustrious descendant of the Bishops of Imeeo, was twenty feet from the ground. Aramai! come down, you old fool! cried the Yankee; the pesky critters on tother side of the island afore this.
I rayther guess, he continued, as we began reloading, that weve spoiled sport by firing at that ere tarnal hog. Them bullocks heard the racket, and is flinging their tails about now on the keen jump. Quick, Paul, and lets climb that rock yonder, and see if so be theres any in sight.
But none were to be seen, except at such a distance that they looked like ants.
As evening was now at hand, my companion proposed our returning home forthwith; and then, after a sound nights rest, starting in the morning upon a good days hunt with the whole force of the plantation.
Following another pass in descending into the valley, we passed through some nobly wooded land on the face of the mountain.
One variety of tree particularly attracted my attention. The dark mossy stem, over seventy feet high, was perfectly branchless for many feet above the ground, when it shot out in broad boughs laden with lustrous leaves of the deepest green. And all round the lower part of the trunk, thin, slab-like buttresses of bark, perfectly smooth, and radiating from a common centre, projected along the ground for at least
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