“I’ve got her,” said the voice of Tom gleefully. “My! isn’t she a beauty? Over nine pounds if she is an ounce. Only just in time, though,” he went on, “for, look! she’s drowning; her head wobbles as though she were sea-sick. Buck up, pussie, buck up! You mustn’t cheat the hounds at last, you know. It wouldn’t be sportsmanlike, and they hate dead hares.”
Then he held me by my hind legs to drain the water out of me, and afterwards began to blow down my nose, I did not know why.
“Don’t do that, Tom,” said Ella sharply. “It’s nasty.”
“Must keep the life in her somehow,” answered Tom, and went on blowing.
“Master Tom,” interrupted Giles, who was rowing the boat. “I ain’t particular, but I wish you’d leave that there hare alone. Somehow I thinks there’s bad news in its eye. Who knows? P’raps the little devil feels. Any way, it’s a rum one, its swimming out to sea. I never see’d a hunted hare do that afore.”
“Bosh!” said Tom, and continued his blowing.
We reached the shore and Tom jumped out of the boat, holding me by the ears. The hounds were all on the beach, most of them lying down, for they were very tired, but the men were standing in a knot at a distance talking earnestly, Tom ran to the hounds, crying out—
“Here she is, my beauties, here she is!” whereon they got up and began to bay. Then he held me above them.
“Master Tom,” I heard Jerry’s voice say, “for God’s sake let that hare go and listen, Master Tom,” and the girl Ella, who of a sudden had begun to sob, tried to pull him back.
But he was mad to see me bitten to death and eaten, and until he had done so would attend to no one. He only shouted, “One—two—three! Now, hounds! Worry, worry, worry!”
Then he threw me into the air above the red throats and gnashing teeth which leapt up towards me.
The Hare paused, but added, “Did you tell me, friend Mahatma, that you had never been torn to pieces by hounds, ‘broken up,’ I believe they call it?”
“Yes, I did,” I answered, “and what is more I shall be obliged if you will not dwell upon the subject.”
“As you like,” said the Hare. “Certainly it was very dreadful. It seemed to last a long time. But I don’t mind it so much now, for I feel that it can never happen to me again. At least I hope it can’t, for I don’t know what I have done to deserve such a fate, any more than I know why it should have happened to me once.”
“Something you did in a previous existence, perhaps,” I answered. “You see then you may have hunted other creatures so cruelly that at last your turn came to suffer what you had made them suffer. I often think that because of what we have done before we men are also really being hunted by something we cannot see.”
“Ah!” exclaimed the Hare, “I never thought of that. I hope it is true, for it makes things seem juster and less wicked. But I say, friend Mahatma, what am I doing here now, where you tell me poor creatures with four feet never, or hardly ever come?”