In half an hour a vehicle was at the door; and the boys were ready, dressed for the hunt, and with their guns in their hands. Two officers were appointed to attend them, and both of them spoke English very well. The vehicle provided was a kind of coach, the floor of which was cushioned, so that several persons could sleep on it during a long journey. It was drawn by four high-spirited horses; and, though the road was bad, it was driven at a high rate of speed; and in less than an hour they alighted in a wild region, where there was not a building of any kind to be seen.
The two officers directed the servants to take some boards from the top of the carriage, with which they stated their purpose to make a platform in a tree, where they could watch for game; but the boys objected to this arrangement, and declared that each of them would hunt on his own hook.
“But suppose you should come across a tiger, for they have been found here, though I hardly think you will see one,” said one of the officers. “What would you do then?”
“Shoot him, of course,” replied Scott. “What are our guns for?”
“But you may fire half a dozen balls into him without disabling the beast,” added Khayrat, the principal officer. “Tiger-hunting is dangerous sport, and you can’t be too careful.”
But the boys were very confident, and all of them were good shots; but they had never tried any hunting of this kind. Khayrat said there was plenty of deer in the vicinity, and they had better confine their attention to them. If they approached the foothill of the Vindya Mountains, which he pointed out to them, they might find tigers. With this warning, the “Big Four” separated, and struck into the jungle. Khayrat followed Louis, for he had been informed that he was the most important person in the quartet. Adil, the other officer, kept near Scott, who appeared to be the most reckless of the four.
Felix was not attended by any one; but he had not gone more than a hundred yards before he saw a huge cobra directly in front of him, bestirring himself as though he “meant business.” The fellow stood up, and he looked mad enough to chew up the hunter. But before he had time to discharge his piece at the monster, for he looked as though he was six feet long, Felix heard a rustling in the bushes at his left, and a moment later a disturbance on his right.
[Illustration: “He saw a huge cobra directly in front of him.”—Page 242.]
He looked in the direction of the noises, and saw two more cobras lifting their vicious heads into the air. These were more than he had bargained for; and, believing that discretion was the better part of valor, he climbed a tree in which he saw a convenient resting-place. Between him and the three snakes there was a small pool of water, half concealed by the bushes, and the reptiles had probably come there to drink or to obtain for food some of the amphibious creatures that lived there.