by Samuel White Baker
Curious Phenomenon - Panorama of Ouva - South-west Monsoon - Hunting Followers - Fort M'Donald - River - Jungle Paths - Dangerous Locality - Great Waterfall - Start for Hunting - The Find - A Gallant Stag - "Bran" and Lucifer" - "Phrenzy's" Death - Buck at Bay - The Cave Hunting-box- "Madcap's" Dive - Elk Soup - Former Inundation - " Bluebeard" leads off - " Hecate's" Course -The Elk's Leap - Variety of Deer - The Axis - Ceylon Bears - Variety of Vermin - Trials for Hounds - Hounds and their Masters - A Sportsman "shut up"- A Corporal and Centipede.
From June to November the south-west monsoon brings wind and mist across the Newera Ellia mountains.
Clouds of white fog boil up from the Dimboola valley like the steam from a huge cauldron, and invade the Newera Ellia plain through the gaps in the mountains to the westward.
The wind howls over the high ridges, cutting the jungle with its keen edge, so that it remains as stunted brushwood, and the opaque screen of driving fog and drizzling rain is so dense that one feels convinced there is no sun visible within at least a hundred miles.
There is a curious phenomenon, however, in this locality. When the weather described prevails at Newera Ellia, there is actually not one drop of rain within four miles of my house in the direction of Badulla. Dusty roads, a cloudless sky and dazzling sunshine astonish the thoroughly-soaked traveler, who rides out of the rain and mist into a genial climate, as though he passed through a curtain. The wet weather terminates at a mountain called Hackgalla (or more properly Yakkadagalla, or iron rock). This bold rock, whose summit is about six thousand five hundred feet above the sea, breasts the driving wind and seems to command the storm. The rushing clouds halt in their mad course upon its crest and curl in sudden impotence around the craggy summits. The deep ravine formed by an opposite mountain is filled with the vanquished mist, which sinks powerless in its dark gorge; and the bright sun, shining from the east, spreads a perpetual rainbow upon the gauze-like cloud of fog which settles in the deep hollow.
This is exceedingly beautiful. The perfect circle of the rainbow stands like a fairy spell in the giddy depth of the hollow, and seems to forbid the advance of the monsoon. All before is bright and cloudless; the lovely panorama of the Ouva country spreads before the eye for many miles beneath the feet. All behind is dark and stormy; the wind is howling, the forests are groaning, the rain is pelting upon the hills.
The change appears impossible; but there it is, ever the same; season after season, year after year, the rugged top of Hackgalla struggles with the storms, and ever victorious the cliffs smile in the sunshine on the eastern side; the rainbow reappears with the monsoon, and its vivid circle remains like the guardian spirit of the valley,.
It is impossible to do justice to the extraordinary appearance of this scene by description. The panoramic view in itself is celebrated; but as the point in the road is reached where the termination of the monsoon dissolves the cloud and rain into a thin veil of mist, the panorama seen through the gauze-like atmosphere has the exact appearance of a dissolving view; the depth, the height and distance of every object, all great in reality, are magnified by the dim and unnatural appearance; and by a few steps onward the veil gradually fades away, and the distant prospect lies before the eye with a glassy clearness made doubly striking by the sudden contrast.
The road winds along about midway up the mountain, bounded on the right by the towering cliffs and sloping forest of Hackgalla, and on the left by the almost precipitous descent of nearly one thousand feet, the sides of which are clothed by alternate forest and waving grass. At the bottom flows a torrent, whose roar, ascending from the hidden depth, increases the gloomy mystery of the scene.
On the north, east and south-east of Newera Ellia the sunshine is perpetual during the reign of the misty atmosphere, which the south-west monsoon drives upon the western side of the mountains. Thus, there is always an escape open from the wet season at Newera Ellia by a short walk of three or four miles.
A long line of dark cloud is then seen, terminated by a bright blue sky. So abrupt is the line and the cessation of the rain that it is difficult to imagine how the moisture is absorbed.
This sudden termination of the cloud-capped mountain gives rise to a violent wind in the sunny valleys and bare hills beneath. The chilled air of Newera Ellia pours down into the sun-warmed atmosphere below, and creates a gale that sweeps across the grassy hilltops with great force, giving the sturdy rhododendrons an inclination to the north-east which clearly marks the steadiness of the monsoon.
It is not to be supposed, however, that Newera Ellia lies in unbroken gloom for months together. One month generally brings a share of uninterrupted bad weather; this is from the middle of June to the middle of July. This is the commencement of the south-west monsoon, which usually sets in with great violence. The remaining portion of what is called the wet season, till the end of November, is about as uncertain as the climate of England - some days fine, others wet, and every now and then a week of rain at one bout.
A thoroughly saturated soil, with a cold wind, and driving rain and forests as full of water as sponges, are certain destroyers of scent; hence, hunting at Newera Ellia is out of the question during such weather. The hounds would get sadly out of condition, were it not for the fine weather in the vicinity which then invites a trip.
I have frequently walked ten miles to my hunting grounds, starting before daybreak, and then after a good day's sport up and down the steep mountains, I have returned home in the evening. But this is twelve hours' work, and it is game thrown away, as there is no possibility of getting the dead elk home. An animal that weighs between four hundred and four hundred and fifty pounds without his insides, is not a very easy creature to move; at any time, especially in such a steep mountainous country as the neighborhood of Newera Ellia. As previously described, at the base of the mountains are cultivated rice-lands, generally known as paddy-fields, where numerous villages have sprung up from the facility with which a supply of water is obtained from the wild mountains above them. I have so frequently given the people elk and hogs which I have killed on the heights above their paddy-fields that they are always on the alert at the sound of the bugle, and a few blasts from the mountain-top immediately creates a race up from the villages, some two or three thousand feet below. Like vultures scenting carrion, they know that an elk is killed, and they start off to the well-known sound like a pack of trained hounds. Being thorough mountaineers, they are extraordinary fellows for climbing the steep grassy sides. With a light stick about six feet long in one hand, they will start from the base of the mountains and clamber up the hillsides in a surprisingly short space of time, such as would soon take the conceit out of a "would-be pedestrian." This is owing to the natural advantages of naked feet and no inexpressibles.
Whenever an elk has given a long run in the direction of this country, and after a persevering and arduous chase of many hours, I have at length killed him on the grassy heights above the villages, I always take a delight in watching the tiny specks issuing from the green strips of paddy as the natives start off at the sound of the horn.
At this altitude, it requires a sharp eye to discern a man, but at length they are seen scrambling up the ravines and gullies and breasting the sharp pitches, until at last the first man arrives thoroughly used up and a string of fellows of lesser wind come in, in sections, all thoroughly blown.
However, the first man in never gets the lion's share, as the poor old men, with willing spirits and weak flesh, always bring up the rear, and I insist upon a fair division between the old and young, always giving an extra piece to a man who happens to know a little English. This is a sort of reward for acquirements, equivalent to a university degree, and he is considered a literary character by his fellows.
There is nothing that these people appreciate so much as elk and hog's flesh. Living generally upon boiled rice and curry composed of pumpkins and sweet potatoes, they have no opportunities of tasting meat unless upon these occasions.
During the very wet weather at Newera Ellia I sometimes take the pack and bivouac for a fortnight in the fine-weather country. About a week previous I send down word to the village people of my intention, but upon these occasions I never give them the elk. I always insist upon their bringing rice, etc., for the dogs and myself in exchange for venison, otherwise I should have some hundreds of noisy, idle vagabonds flocking up to me like carrion-crows.
Of course I give them splendid bargains, as I barter simply on the principle that no man shall come for nothing. Thus, if a man assist in building the kennel, or carrying a load, or cutting bed-grass, or searching for lost hounds, he gets a share of meat. The others bring rice, coffee, fowls, eggs, plantains, vegetables, etc., which I take at ridiculous rates-a bushel of rice for a full-grown elk, etc., the latter being worth a couple of pounds and the rice about seven shillings. Thus the hounds keep themselves in rice and supply me with everything that I require during the trip, at the same time gratifying the natives.
The direct route to this country was unknown to Europeans at Newera Ellia until I discovered it one day, accidentally, in following the hounds.
A large tract of jungle-covered hill stretches away from the Moon Plains at Newera Ellia toward the east, forming a hog's back of about three and a half miles in length. Upon the north side this shelves into a deep gorge, at the bottom of which flows, or rather tumbles, Fort M'Donald river on its way to the low country, through forest-covered hills and perpendicular cliffs, until it reaches the precipitous patina mountains, when, in a succession of large cataracts, it reaches the paddy-fields in the first village of Peréwellé (guava paddy-field). Thus the river in the gorge below runs parallel to the long hog's back of mountain. This is bordered on the other side by another ravine and smaller torrent, to which the Badulla road runs parallel until it reaches the mountain of Hackgalla, at which place the ravine deepens into the misty gorge already described.
At one time, if an elk crossed the Badulla road and gained the Hog's Back jungle, both he and the hounds were lost, as no one could follow through such impenetrable jungle without knowing either the distance or direction.
"They are gone to Fort M'Donald river!" This was the despairing exclamation at all times when the pack crossed the road, and we seldom saw the hounds again until late that night or on the following day. Many never returned, and Fort M'Donald river became a by-word as a locality to be always dreaded.
After a long run one day, the pack having gone off in this fatal direction, I was determined, at any price, to hunt them up, and accordingly I went some miles down the Badulla road to the limestone quarries, which are five miles from the Newera Ellia plain. From this point I left the road and struck down into the deep, grassy valley, crossing the river (the same which runs by the road higher up) and continuing along the side of the valley until I ascended the opposite range of hills. Descending the precipitous side, I at length reached the paddy-fields in the low country, which were watered by Fort M'Donald river, and I looked up to the lofty range formed by the Hog's Back hill, now about three thousand feet above me. Thus I had gained the opposite side of the Hog's Back, and, after a stiff pull lip the mountain, I returned home by a good path which I had formerly discovered along the course of the river through the forest to Newera Ellia, via Rest-and-be-Thankful Valley and the Barrack Plains, having made a circuit of about twenty-five miles and become thoroughly conversant with all the localities. I immediately determined to have a path cut from the Badulla Road across the Hog's Back jungle to the patinas which looked down upon Fort M'Donald on the other side and, up which I had ascended on my return. I judged the distance would not exceed two miles across, and I chose the point of junction with the Badulla road two miles and a half from my house. My reason for this was, that the elk invariably took to the jungle at this place, which proved it to be the easiest route.
This road, on completion, answered every expectation, connecting the two sides of the Hog's Back by an excellent path of about two miles, and débouching on the opposite side on a high patina peak which commanded the whole country. Thus was the whole country opened up by this single path, and should an elk play his old trick and be off across the Hog's Back to Fort M'Donald river, I could be there nearly as soon as he could, and also keep within hearing of the bounds throughout the run.
I was determined to take the tent and regularly hunt up the whole country on the other side of the Hog's Back, as the weather was very bad at Newera Ellia, while in this spot it was beautifully fine, although very windy.
I therefore sent on the tent, kennel-troughs and pots, and all the paraphernalia indispensable for the jungle, and on the 31st May, 1852, I started, having two companions - Capt. Pelly, Thirty-seventh Regiment, who was then commandant of Newera Ellia, and his brother on a visit. It was not more than an hour and a half's good walking from my house to the high patina peak upon which I pitched the tent, but the country and climate are so totally distinct from anything at Newera Ellia that it gives every one the idea of being fifty miles away.
We hewed out a spacious arbor at the edge of the jungle, and in this I had the tent pitched to protect it from the wind, which it did effectually, as well as the kennel, which was near the same spot. The servants made a good kitchen, and the encampment was soon complete.
There never could have been a more romantic or beautiful spot for a bivouac. To the right lay the distant view of the low country, stretching into an undefined distance, until the land and sky appeared to melt together. Below, at a depth of about three thousand feet, the river boiled through the rocky gorge until it reached the village of Peréwellé at the base of the line of mountains, whose cultivated paddy-fields looked no larger than the squares upon a chess-board. On the opposite side of the river rose a precipitous and impassable mountain, even to a greater altitude than the facing ridge upon which I stood, forming as grand a foreground as the eye could desire. Above, below, around, there was the bellowing sound of heavy cataracts echoed upon all sides.
Certainly this country is very magnificent, but it is an awful locality for hunting, as the elk has too great an advantage over both hounds and hunters. Mountainous patinas of the steepest inclination, broken here and there by abrupt precipices, and with occasional level platforms of waving grass, descend to the river's bed. These patina mountains are crowned by extensive forests, and narrow belts of jungle descend from the summit to the base, clothing the numerous ravines which furrow the mountain's side. Thus the entire surface of the mountains forms a series of rugged grasslands, so steep as to be ascended with the greatest difficulty, and the elk lie in the forests on the summits and also in the narrow belts which cover the ravines.
The whole country forms a gorge, like a gigantic letter V. At the bottom roars the dreaded torrent, Fort M'Donald river, in a succession of foaming cataracts, all of which, however grand individually, are completely eclipsed by its last great plunge of three hundred feet perpendicular depth into a dark and narrow chasm of wall-bound cliffs.
The bed of the river is the most frightful place that can be conceived, being choked by enormous fragments of rock, amidst which the irresistible torrent howls with a fury that it is impossible to describe.
The river is confined on either side by rugged cliffs of gneiss rock, from which these fragments have from time to time become detached, and have accordingly fallen into the torrent, choking the bed and throwing the obstructed waters into frightful commotion. Here they lie piled one upon the other, like so many inverted cottages; here and there forming dripping caverns; now forming walls of slippery rock, over which the water falls in thundering volumes into pools black from their mysterious depth, and from which there is no visible means of exit. These dark and dangerous pools are walled in by hoary-looking rocks, beneath which the pent-up water dives and boils in subterranean caverns, until it at length escapes through secret channels, and reappears on the opposite side of its prison-walls; lashing itself into foam in its mad frenzy, it forms rapids of giddy velocity through the rocky bounds; now flying through a narrowed gorge, and leaping, striving and wrestling with unnumbered obstructions, it at length meets with the mighty fall, like death in a madman's course. One plunge! without a single shelf to break the fall, and down, down it sheets; at first like glass, then like the broken avalanche of snow, and lastly! - we cannot see more - the mist boils from the ruin of shattered waters and conceals the bottom of the fall. The roar vibrates like thunder in the rocky mountain, and forces the grandeur of the scene through every nerve.
No animal or man, once in those mysterious pools, could ever escape without assistance. Thus in years post, when elk were not followed up in this locality, the poor beast, being hard pressed by the hounds, might have come to bay in one of these fatal basins, in which case, both he and every bound who entered the trap found sure destruction.
The hard work and the danger to both man and bound in this country may be easily imagined when it is explained that the nature of the elk prompts him to seek for water as his place of refuge when hunted; thus he makes off down the mountain for the river, in which he stands at bay. Now the mountain itself is steep enough, but within a short distance of the bottom the river is in many places guarded by precipices of several hundred feet in depth. A few difficult passes alone give access to the torrent, but the descent requires great caution.
Altogether, this forms the wildest and most arduous country that can be imagined for hunting, but it abounds with elk.
The morning was barely gray when I woke up the servants and ordered coffee, and made the usual preparations for a start. At last, thank goodness! the boots are laced! This is the troublesome part of dressing before broad daylight, and nevertheless laced ankle-boots must be worn as a protection against sprains and bruises in such a country. Never mind the trouble of lacing them; they, are on now, and there is a good day's work in store for them.
It was the 30th May, 1853, a lovely hunting morning and a fine dew on the patinas; rather too windy, but that could not be helped.
Quiet now! - down, Bluebeard! - back, will you, Lucifer! Here's a smash! there goes the jungle kennel! the pack squeezing out of it in every direction as they hear the preparations for departure.
Now we are all right; ten couple out, and all good ones. Come along, yo-o-i, along here! and a note on the horn brings the pack close together as we enter the forest on the very summit of the ridge. Thus the start was completed just as the first tinge of gold spread along the eastern horizon, about ten minutes before sunrise.
The jungles were tolerably good, but there were not as many elk tracks as I had expected; probably the high wind on the ridge had driven them lower down for shelter; accordingly I struck an oblique direction downward, and I was not long before I discovered a fresh track; fresh enough, certainly, as the thick moss which covered the ground showed a distinct path where the animal had been recently feeding.
Every hound had stolen away; even the greyhounds buried their noses in the broad track of the buck, so fresh was the scent; and I waited quietly for "the find." The greyhounds stood round me with their cars cocked and glistening eyes, intently listening for the expected sound.
There they are! all together, such a burst! They must have stolen away mute and have found on the other side the ridge, for they were now coming down at full speed from the very summit of the mountain.
From the amount of music I knew they had a good start, but I had no idea that the buck would stand to such a pack at the very commencement of the hunt. Nevertheless there was a sudden bay within a few hundred yards of me, and the elk had already turned to fight. I knew that he was an immense fellow from his track, and I at once saw that he would show fine sport.
Just as I was running through the jungle toward the spot, the bay broke and the buck had evidently gone off straight away, as I heard the pack in full cry rapidly increasing their distance and going off down the mountain.
Sharp following was now the order of the day, and away we went. The mountain was so steep that it was necessary every now and then to check the momentum of a rapid descent by clinging to the tough saplings. Sometimes one would give way and a considerable spill would be the consequence. However, I soon got out on the patina about one-third of the way down the mountain, and here I met one of the natives, who was well posted. Not a sound of the pack was now to be heard; but this man declared most positively that the elk had suddenly changed his course, and, instead of keeping down the hill, had struck off to his left along the side of the mountain. Accordingly, off I started as hard as I could go with several natives, who all agreed as to the direction.
After running for about a mile along the patinas in the line which I judged the pack had taken, I heard one hound at bay in a narrow jungle high up on my left. It was only the halt of an instant, for the next moment I heard the same hound's voice evidently running on the other side of the strip of jungle, and taking off down the mountain straight for the dreaded river. Here was a day's work cut out as neatly as could be.
Running toward the spot, I found the buck's track leading in that direction, and I gave two or three view halloos at the top of my voice to bring the rest of the pack down upon it. They were close at hand, but the high wind had prevented me from hearing them, and away they came from the jungle, rushing down upon the scent like a flock of birds. I stepped of the track to let them pass as they swept by, and "For-r-r-a-r-d to him! For-r--r-ard!" was the word the moment they had passed, as I gave them a halloo down the hill. It was a bad look-out for the elk now; every hound knew that his master was close up, and they went like demons.
The "Tamby" * was the only man up, and he and I immediately followed in chase down the precipitous patinas; running when we could, scrambling, and sliding on our hams when it was too steep to stand, and keeping good hold of the long tufts of grass, lest we should gain too great an impetus and slide to the bottom. *An exceedingly active Moorman, who was my great ally in hunting.
After about half a mile passed in this manner, I heard the bay, and I saw the buck far beneath, standing upon a level, grassy platform, within three hundred yards of the river. The whole pack was around him except the greyhounds, who were with me; but not a hound had a chance with him, and he repeatedly charged in among them, and regularly drove them before him, sending any single hound spinning whenever he came within his range. But the pack quickly reunited, and always returned with fresh vigor to the attack. There was a narrow, wooded ravine between me and them, and, with caution and speed combined, I made toward the spot down the precipitous mountain, followed by the greyhounds " Bran" and Lucifer."
I soon arrived on a level with the bay, and, plunging into the ravine, I swung myself down from tree to tree, and then climbed up the opposite side. I broke cover within a few yards of him. What a splendid fellow he looked! He was about thirteen hands high, and carried the most beautiful head of horns that I had ever seen upon an elk. His mane was bristled up, his nostril was distended, and, turning from the pack, he surveyed me, as though taking the measure of his new antagonist. Not seeming satisfied, he deliberately turned, and, descending from the level space, he carefully, picked his way. Down narrow elk-runs along the steep precipices, and, at a slow walk, with the whole pack in single file at his heels, he clambered down toward the river. I followed on his track over places which I would not pass in cold blood; and I shortly halted above a cataract of some eighty feet in depth, about a hundred paces from the great waterfall of three hundred feet.
It was extremely grand; the roar of the falls so entirely hushed all other sounds that the voices of the hounds were perfectly inaudible, although within a few yards of me, as I looked down upon them from a rock that overhung the river.
The elk stood upon the brink of the swollen torrent; he could not retreat, as the wall of rock was behind him, with the small step-like path by which he had descended; this was now occupied by the yelling pack.
The hounds knew the danger of the place; but the buck, accustomed to these haunts from his birth, suddenly leapt across the boiling rapids, and springing from rock to rock along the verge of the cataract, he gained the opposite side. Here he had mistaken his landing-place, as a shelving rock, upon which he had alighted, was so steep that he could not retain his footing, and he gradually slid down toward the river.
At this moment, to my horror, both "Bran" and Lucifer" dashed across the torrent, and bounding from rock to rock, they sprung at the already tottering elk, and in another moment both he and they rolled over in a confused mass into the boiling torrent. One more instant and they reappeared, the buck gallantly stemming the current, which his great length of limb and weight enabled him to do; the dogs, overwhelmed in the foam of the rapids, were swept down toward the fall, in spite of their frantic exertions to gain the bank.
They were not fifteen feet from the edge of the fall, and I saw them spun round and round in the whirlpools being hurried toward certain destruction. The poor dogs seemed aware of the danger, and made the most extraordinary efforts to avoid their fate. They were my two favorites of the pack, and I screamed out words of encouragement to them, although the voice of a cannon could not have been heard among the roar of waters. They had nearly gained the bank oil the very ver-e of the fall, when a few tufts of lemon grass concealed them from my view. I thought they were over, and I could not restrain a cry of despair at their horrible fate. I felt sick with the idea. But the next moment I was shouting hurrah! they are all right, thank goodness, they were saved. I saw them struggling up the steep bank, through the same lemon grass, which had for a moment obscured their fate. They were thoroughly exhausted and half drowned.
In the mean time, the elk had manfully breasted the rapids, carefully choosing the shallow places; and the whole pack, being mad with excitement, had plunged into the waters regardless of the danger. I thought every hound would have been lost. For an instant they looked like a flock of ducks, but a few moments afterward they were scattered in the boiling eddies, hurrying with fatal speed toward the dreadful cataract. Poor "Phrenzy!" round she spun in the giddy vortex; nearer and nearer she approached the verge - her struggles were unavailing - over she went, and was of course never heard of afterward.
This was a terrible style of hunting; rather too much so to be pleasant. I clambered down to the edge of the river just in time to see the elk climbing, as nimbly as a cat up the precipitous bank on the opposite side, threading his way at a slow walk under the overhanging rocks, and scrambling up the steep mountain with a long string of hounds at his heels in single file. "Valiant," "Tiptoe" and "Ploughboy" were close to him, and I counted the other hounds in the line, fully expecting to miss half of them. To my surprise and delight, only one was absent; this was poor "Phrenzy." The others had all managed to save themselves. I now crossed the river by leaping from rock to rock with some difficulty, and with hands and knees I climbed the opposite bank. This was about sixty feet high, from the top of which the mountain commenced its ascent, which, though very precipitous was so covered with long lemon grass that it was easy enough to climb. I looked behind me, and there was the Tamby, all right, within a few paces.
The elk was no longer in sight, and the roar of the water was so great that it was impossible to hear the hounds. However, I determined to crawl along his track, which was plainly discernible, the high grass being broken into a regular lane which skirted the precipice of the great waterfall in the direction of the villages.
We were now about a hundred feet above, and on one side of the great fall, looking into the deep chasm into which the river leapt, forming a cloud of mist below. The lemon grass was so high in tufts along the rocks that we could not see a foot before us, and we knew not whether the next step would land us on firm footing, or deposit us some hundred feet below. Clutching fast to the long grass, therefore, we crept carefully on for about a quarter of a mile, now climbing the face of the rocks, now descending by means of their irregular surfaces, but still stirring the dark gorge down which the river fell.
At length, having left the fall some considerable distance behind us, the ear was somewhat relieved from the bewildering noise of water, and I distinctly heard the pack at bay not very far in advance. In another moment I saw the elk standing on a platform of rock about a hundred yards ahead, on a lower shelf of the mountain, and the whole pack at bay. This platform was the top of a cliff which overhung the deep gorge; the river flowing in the bottom after its great fall, and both the elk and hounds appeared to be in "a fix." The descent had been made to this point by leaping down places which he could not possibly reascend, and there was only one narrow outlet, which was covered by the hounds. Should he charge through the hounds to force this passage, half a dozen of them must be knocked over the precipice.
However, I carefully descended, and soon reached the platform. This was not more than twenty feet square, and it looked down in the gorge of about three hundred feet. The first seventy of this depth were perpendicular, as the top of the rock overhung, after which the side of the cliff was marked by great fissures and natural steps formed by the detachment from time to time of masses of rock which had fallen into the river below. Bushes and rank grass filled the interstices of the rocks, and an old deserted water-course lay exactly beneath the platform, being cut and built out of the side of the cliff.
It was a magnificent sight in such grand scenery to see the buck at bay when we arrived upon the platform. He was a dare-devil fellow, and feared neither hounds nor man, every now and then charging through the pack, and coming almost within reach of the Tamby's spear. It was a difficult thing to know how to kill him. I was afraid to go in at him, lest in his struggles he should drag the hounds over the precipice, and I would not cheer the seizers on for the same reason. Indeed, they seemed well aware of the danger, and every now and then retreated to me, as though to entice the elk to make a move to some better ground.
However, the buck very soon decided the question. I made up my mind to halloo the hounds on, and to hamstring the elk, to prevent him from nearing the precipice: and, giving a shout, the pack rushed at him. Not a dog could touch him; he was too quick with his horns and fore feet. He made a dash into the pack, and then regained his position close to the verge of the precipice. He then turned his back to the hounds, looked down over the edge, and, to the astonishment of all, plunged into the abyss below! A dull crash sounded from beneath, and then nothing was heard but the roaring of the waters as before. The hounds looked over the edge and yelled with a mixture of fear and despair. Their game was gone!
By making a circuit of about half a mile among these frightful precipices and gorges, we at length arrived at the foot of the cliff down which the buck had leapt. Here we of course found him lying dead, as he had broken most of his bones. He was in very fine condition; but it was impossible to move him from such a spot. I therefore cut off his head, as his antlers were the finest that I have ever killed before or since.
To regain the tent, I had a pull for it, having to descend into the village of Peréwellé, and then to reascend the opposite mountain of three thousand feet; but even this I thought preferable to returning in cold blood by the dangerous route I had come.
Tugging up such a mountain was no fun after a hard morning's work, and I resolved to move the encampment to a large cave, some eight hundred feet lower down the mountain. Accordingly, I struck the tent, and after breakfast we took up our quarters in a cavern worthy of Robin Hood. This had been formed by a couple of large rocks the size of a moderate house, which had been detached from the overhanging cliff above, and had fallen together. There was a smaller cavern within, which made a capital kennel; rather more substantial than the rickety building of yesterday
Some of the village people, hearing that the buck was killed and lying in the old water-course, went in a gang to cut him up. What was their surprise on reaching the spot to find the carcase removed! It had evidently been dragged along the water-course, as the trail was distinct in the high grass, and upon following it up, away went two fine leopards, bounding along the rocks to their adjacent cave. They had consumed a large portion of the flesh, but the villagers did not leave them much for another meal. Skin, hoofs, and in fact every vestige of an elk, is consumed by these people.
For my own part, I do not think much of elk venison, unless it be very fit, which is rarely the case. It is at all times more like beef than any other meat, for which it is a very good substitute. The marrow-bones are the "bonne bouche," being peculiarly rich and delicate. Few animals can have a larger proportion of marrow than the elk, as the bones are more hollow than those of most quadrupeds. This cylindrical formation enables them to sustain the severe shocks in descending rough mountains at full speed. It is perfectly wonderful to see an animal of near six hundred pounds' weight bounding down a hillside, over rocks and ruts and every conceivable difficulty of ground, at a pace which will completely distance the best hound; and even at this desperate speed, the elk will never make a false step; sure-footed as a goat, he will still fly on through bogs, ravines, tangled jungles and rocky rivers, ever certain of his footing.
The foregoing description of an elk-hunt will give the reader a good idea of the power of this animal in stemming rapids and climbing dangerous precipices; but even an elk is not proof against the dangers of Fort M'Donald river, an example of which we had on the following morning.
The hounds found a doe who broke cover close to me in a small patina and made straight running for the river. She had no sooner reached it than I beard her cry out, and as she was closely followed I thought she was seized. However, the whole pack shortly returned, evidently thrown out, and I began to abuse them pretty roundly, thinking that they had lost their game in the river. So they had, but in an excusable manner; the poor doe had been washed down a rapid, and had broken her thigh. We found her dead under a hollow rock in the middle of the river.
Here we had a fine exemplification of the danger of the mysterious pools.
While I was opening the elk, with the pack all round me licking their lips in expectation, old "Madcap" was jostled by one of the greyhounds, and slipped into a basin among the rocks, which formed an edge of about two feet above the surface.
The opposite side of the pool was hemmed in by rocks about six feet high, and the direction of the under-current was at once shown by poor old "Madcap" being swept up against this high wall of rock, where she remained paddling with all her might in an upright position.
I saw the poor beast would be sucked under, and yet I could not save her. However, I did my best at the risk of falling in myself.
I took off my handkerchief and made a slip-knot, and begging Pelly to lie down on the top of the rock, I took his hand while I clung to the face of the wall as I best could by a little ledge of about two inches' width.
With great difficulty I succeeded in hooking the bitch's head in the slip-knot, but in my awkward position I could not use sufficient strength to draw her out. I could only support her head above the water, which I could distinctly feel was drawing her from me. Presently she gave a convulsive struggle, which freed her head from the loop, and in an instant she disappeared.
I could not help going round the rock to see if her body should be washed out when the torrent reappeared, when, to my astonishment, up she popped all right, not being more than half drowned by her subterranean excursion, and we soon helped her safe ashore. Fortunately for her, the passage had been sufficiently large to pass her, although I have no doubt a man would have been held fast and drowned.
There was so much water in the river that I determined to move from this locality as too dangerous for hunting. I therefore ordered the village people to assemble on the following morning to carry the loads and tent. In the mean time I sent for the dead elk.
There could riot be a better place for a hunting-box than that cave. We soon had a glorious fire roaring round the kennel-pot, which, having been well scoured with sand and water, was to make the soup. Such soup! - shades of gourmands, if ye only smelt that cookery! The pot held six gallons, and the whole elk, except a few steaks, was cut up and alternately boiled down in sections. The flesh was then cut up small for the pack, the marrowbones reserved for "master," and the soup was then boiled until it had evaporated to the quantity required. A few green chilies, onions in slices fried, and a little lime-juice, salt, black pepper and mushroom ketchup, and - in fact, there is no rise thinking of it, as the soup is not to be had again. The fire crackled and blazed as the logs were heaped upon it as night grew near, and lit up all the nooks and corners of the old cave. Three beds in a row contained three sleepy mortals. The hounds snored and growled, and then snored again. The servants jabbered, chewed betel, spit, then jabbered a little more, and at last everything and everybody was fast asleep within the cave.
The next morning we had an early breakfast and started, the village people marching off in good spirits with the loads. I was now en route for Bertram's patinas, which lay exactly over the mountain on the opposite side of the river. This being perpendicular, I was obliged to make a great circuit by keeping the old Newera Ellia path along the river for two or three miles, and then, turning off at right angles, I knew an old native trace over the ridge. Altogether, it was a round of about six miles, although the patinas were not a mile from the cave in a straight line.
The path in fact terminates upon the high peak, exactly opposite the cave, looking down upon my hunting-ground of the day before, and on the other side the ridge lie Bertram's patinas.
The extreme point of the ridge which I had now gained forms one end of a horse -shoe or amphitheatre; the other extremity is formed by a high mountain exactly opposite at about two miles' distance. The bend of the horse-shoe forms a circuit of about six miles, the rim of which is a wall of precipices and steep patina mountains, which are about six or seven hundred feet above the basin or the bottom of the amphitheatre. The tops of the mountains are covered with good open forest, and ribbon-like strips descend to the base. Now the base forms an uneven shelf of great extent, about two thousand feet above the villages. This shelf or valley appears to have suffered at some remote period from a terrible inundation. Landslips of great size and innumerable deep gorges and ravines furrow the bottom of the basin, until at length a principal fissure carries away the united streams to the paddy-fields below.
The cause of this inundation is plain enough. The basin has been the receptacle for the drainage of an extensive surface of mountain. This drainage has been effected by innumerable small torrents, which have united in one general channel through the valley. The exit of this stream is through a narrow gorge, by which it descends to the low country. During the period of heavy rains a landslip has evidently choked up this passage, and the exit of the water being thus obstructed, the whole area of the valley has become a lake. The accumulated water has suddenly burst through the obstruction and swept everything before it. The elk are very fond of lying under the precipices in the strips of jungle already mentioned. When found, they are accordingly forced to take to the open country and come down to the basin below, as they cannot possibly ascend the mountain except by one or two remote deer-runs. Thus the whole hunt from the find to the death is generally in view.
From every point of this beautiful locality there is a boundless and unbroken panorama of the low country.
Unfortunately, although the weather was perfectly fine, it was the windy season, and a gale swept across the mountains that rendered ears of little use, as a hound's voice was annihilated in such a hurricane This was sadly against sport, as the main body of the pack would have no chance of joining the finding hound.
However, the hounds were unkenneled at break of day, and, the tent being pitched at the bottom of the basin, we commenced a pull up the steep patinas, hoping to find somewhere on the edge of the jungles.
"There's scent to a certainty! - look at old Bluebeard's nose upon the ground and the excited wagging of his stern. Ploughboy notices it - now Gaylass they'll hit it off presently to a certainty, though it's as cold as charity. That elk was feeding here early in the night; the scent is four hours old if a minute. There they go into the jungle, and we shall lose the elk, ten to one, as not another hound in the pack will work it up. It can't be helped; if any three hounds will rouse him out, those are the three."
For a couple of hours we had sat behind a rock, sheltered from the wind, watching the immense prospect before us. The whole pack were lying around us except the three missing hounds, of whom we had seen nothing since they stole away upon the cold scent.
That elk must have gone up to the top of the mountains after feeding, and a pretty run he must be having, very likely off to Matturatta plains; if so, good-bye to all sport for to-day, and the best hounds will be dead tired for to-morrow.
I was just beginning to despair when I observed a fine large buck at about half a mile distance, cantering easily toward us across an extensive flat of table-land. This surface was a fine sward, on the same level with the point upon which we sat, but separated from us by two small wooded ravines, with a strip of patina between them. I at once surmised that this was the hunted elk, although, as yet, no hounds were visible.
On arrival at the first ravine we immediately descended, and shortly after he reappeared on the small patina between the two ravines, within three hundred yards of us. Here the strong gale gave him our scent. It was a beautiful sight to see him halt in an instant, snuff the warning breeze and, drawing up to his full height, and wind the enemy before him.
Just at this moment I heard old "Bluebeard's" deep note swelling in the distance, and I saw him leading across the table-land as true as gold upon the track; "Ploughboy" and "Gaylass" were both with him but they were running mute.
The buck heard the hounds as well as we did, and I was afraid that the whole pack would also catch the sound, and by hurrying toward it, would head the elk him from his course. Up to the present time and turn they had not observed him.
Still the buck stood in an attitude of acute suspense. He winded an enemy before him and he heard another behind, which was rapidly closing up, and, as though doubting his own power of scent, he gave preference to that of hearing, and gallantly continued his course and entered the second ravine just beneath our feet.
I immediately jumped up, and, exciting the hounds in a subdued voice, I waved my cap at the spot, and directed a native to run at full speed to the jungle to endeavor to meet the elk, as I knew the hounds would then follow him. This they did; and they all entered the jungle with the man except the three greyhounds, "Lucifer," "Bran" and "Hecate," who remained with me.
A short time passed in breathless suspense, during which the voices of the three following hounds rapidly approached as they steadily persevered in the long chase; when suddenly, as I had expected, the main body of the pack met the elk in the strip of jungle.
Joyful must have been the burst of music to the ears of old "Bluebeard" after his long run. Out crashed the buck upon the patinas near the spot where the pack had entered, and away he went over the grassy hills at a pace which soon left the hounds behind. The greyhounds will stretch his legs for him. Yo-i-ck to him, Lucifer! For-r-r-ard to him, Hecate !
Off dashed the three greyhounds from my side at a railway pace, but, as the buck was above them and had a start of about two hundred yards, in such an uphill race both Bran and Lucifer managed to lose sight of him in the undulations.
Now was the time for Hecate's enormous power of loin and thigh to tell, and, never losing a moment's view of her game, she sped up the steep mountain side and was soon after seen within fifty yards of the brick all alone, but going like a rocket.
Now she has turned him ! that pace could not last up hill, and round the elk doubled and came flying down the mountain side.
From the point of the hill upon which we stood we had a splendid view of the course; the bitch gained upon him at every bound, and there was a pitiless dash in her style of going that boded little mercy to her game. What alarmed me, however, was the direction that the buck was taking. An abrupt precipice of about two hundred and fifty feet was lying exactly in his path; this sunk sheer down to a lower series of grass-lands.
At the tremendous pace at which they were going I feared lest their own impetus should carry both elk and dog to destruction before they could see the danger.
Down they flew with unabated speed; they neared the precipice, and a few more seconds would bring them to the verge.
The stride of the buck was no match for the bound of the greyhound: the bitch was at his flanks, and he pressed along at flying speed.
He was close to the danger and it was still unseen: a moment more and "Hecate" sprang at his ear. Fortunately she lost her hold as the ear split. This check saved her. I shouted, "He'll be over!" and the next instant he was flying through the air to headlong destruction.
Bounding from a projecting rock upon which he struck, he flew outward, and with frightfully increasing momentum he spun round and round in his descent, until the centrifugal motion drew out his legs and neck as straight as a line. A few seconds of this multiplying velocity and - crash!
It was all over. The bitch had pulled up on the very brink of the precipice, but it was a narrow escape.
Sportsmen are contradictory creatures. If that buck had come to bay, I should have known no better sport than going in at him with the knife to the assistance of the pack; but I now felt a great amount of compassion for the poor brute who had met so terrible a fate. It did not seem fair; and yet I would not have missed such a sight for anything. Nothing can be conceived more terribly grand than the rush of so large an animal through the air; and it was a curious circumstance that within a few days no less than two bucks had gone over precipices, although I had never witnessed one such an accident more than once before.
Upon reaching the fatal spot, I, of course, found him lying stone dead. He had fallen at least two hundred and fifty feet to the base of the precipice; and the ground being covered with detached fragments of rock, he had broken most of his bones, beside bursting his paunch and smashing in the face. However, we cut him up and cleaned him, and, with the native followers heavily laden, we reached the tent.
The following morning I killed another fine buck after a good run on the patinas, where he was coursed and pulled down by the greyhounds; but the wind was so very high that it destroyed the pleasure of hunting. I therefore determined on another move - to the Matturatta Plains, within three miles of my present hunting ground.
After hunting four days at the Matturatta Plains, I moved on to the Elephant Plains, and from thence returned home after twelve days' absence, having killed twelve elk and two red deer.
The animal known as the "red deer" in Ceylon is a very different creature to his splendid namesake in Scotland; he is particularly unlike a deer in the disproportionate size of his carcase to his length of leg. He stands about twenty-six inches high at the shoulder and weighs (live weight) from forty-five to fifty pounds. He has two sharp tusks in the upper jaw, projecting about an inch and a half from the gum. These are exactly like the lower-jaw tusks of a boar, but they incline in the contrary direction, viz., downward, and they are used as weapons of defence.
The horns of the red deer seldom exceed eight inches in length, and have no more than two points upon each antler, formed by a fork-like termination. This kind of deer has no brow antler. They are very fast, and excel especially in going up hill, in which ground they frequently escape from the best grey-hounds.
There is no doubt that the red-deer venison is the best in Ceylon, but the animal itself is not generally sought after for sport. He gives a most uninteresting run; never going straight away like a deer, but doubling about over fifty acres of ground like a hare, until he is at last run into and killed. They exist in extraordinary numbers throughout every portion of Ceylon, but are never seen in herds.
Next to the red deer is the still more tiny species, the "mouse deer." This animal seldom exceeds twelve inches in height, and has the same characteristic as the red deer in the heavy proportion of body to its small length of limb. The skin is a mottled ash-gray, covered with dark spots. The upper jaw is furnished with sharp tusks similar to the red deer, but the head is free from horns.
The skull is perfectly unlike the head of a deer, and is closely allied to the rat, which it would exactly resemble, were it not for the difference in the teeth. The mouse deer lives principally upon berries and fruits; but I have seldom found much herbage upon examination of the paunch. Some people consider the flesh very good, but my ideas perhaps give it a "ratty" flavor that makes it unpalatable.
These little deer make for some well-known retreat the moment that they are disturbed by dogs, and they are usually found after a short run safely ensconced in a hollow tree.
It is a very singular thing that none of the deer tribe in Ceylon have more than six points on their horns, viz., three upon each. These are, the brow-antler point, and the two points which form the extremity of each horn. I have seen them occasionally with more, but these were deformities in the antlers.
A stranger is always disappointed in a Ceylon elk's antlers; and very naturally, for they are quite out of proportion to the great size of the animal. A very large Scotch red deer in not more than two-thirds the size of a moderately fine elk, and yet he carries a head of horns that are infinitely larger.
In fact, so rare are fine antlers in Ceylon that I could not pick out more than a dozen of really handsome elk horns out of the great numbers that I have killed.
A handsome pair of antlers is a grand addition to the beauty of a fine buck, and gives a majesty to his bearing which is greatly missed when a fine animal breaks cover with only a puny pair of horns. There is as great a difference in his appearance as there would be in a life-guardsman in full uniform or in his shirt.
The antlers of the axis, or spotted deer, are generally longer than those of the elk; they are also more slender and graceful. Altogether, the spotted deer is about the handsomest of that beautiful tribe. A fine spotted stag is the perfection of elegance, color, strength, courage and speed. He has a proud and thorough-bred way of carrying his head, which is set upon his neck with a peculiar grace. Nothing can surpass the beauty of his full black eye. His hide is as sleek as satin - a rich brown, slightly tinged with red, and spotted as though mottled with flakes of snow. His weight is about two hundred and fifty pounds (alive).
It is a difficult thing to judge of a deer's weight with any great accuracy; but I do not think I am far out in my estimation of the average, as I once tried the experiment by weighing a dead elk. I had always considered that a mountain elk, which is smaller than those of the low country, weighed about four hundred pounds when cleaned, or five hundred and fifty pounds live weight. I happened one day to kill an average-sized buck, though with very small horns, close to the road; so, having cleaned him, I sent a cart for his carcase on my return home. This elk I weighed whole, minus his inside, and he was four hundred and eleven pounds. Many hours had elapsed since his death, so that the carcase must have lost much weight by drying; this, with the loss of blood and offal, must have been at least one hundred and fifty pounds, which would have made his live weight five hundred and sixty-one pounds.
Of the five different species of deer in Ceylon, the spotted deer is alone seen upon the plains. No climate can be too hot for his exotic constitution, and he is never found at a higher elevation than three thousand feet. In the low country, when the midday sun has driven every other beast to the shelter of the densest jungles, the sultan of the herd and his lovely mates are sometimes contented with the shade of an isolated tree or the simple border of the jungle, where they drowsily pass the day, flipping their long ears in listless idleness until the hotter hours have passed away. At about four in the afternoon they stroll upon the open plains ,bucks, does and fawns, in beautiful herds; when undisturbed, as many as a hundred together. This is the only species of deer in Ceylon that is gregarious.
Neither the spotted deer, nor the bear or buffalo, is to be found at Newera Ellia. The axis and the buffalo being the usual denizens of the hottest countries, are not to be expected to exist in their natural state in so low a temperature; but it is extraordinary that the bear, who in most countries inhibits the mountains, should in Ceylon adhere exclusively to the low country.
The Ceylon bear is of that species which is to be seen in the Zoological Gardens as the "sloth bear;" an ill-bred-looking fellow with a long-haired black coat and a gray face.
A Ceylon bear's skin is not worth preserving; there is no fur upon it, but it simply consists of rather a stingy allowance of black hairs. This is the natural effect of his perpetual residence in a hot country, where his coat adapts itself to the climate. He is desperately savage, and is more feared by the natives than any other animal, as he is in the constant habit of attacking people without the slightest provocation. His mode of attack increases the danger, as there is a great want of fair play in his method of fighting. Lying in wait, either behind a rock or in a thick bush, he makes a sudden spring upon the unwary wanderer, and in a moment he attacks his face with teeth and claws. The latter are about two inches long, and the former are much larger than a leopard's; hence it may easily be imagined how even a few seconds of biting and clawing might alter the most handsome expression of countenance.
Bears have frequently been known to tear off a man's face like a mask, leaving nothing but the face of a skull.
Thus the quadrupeds of Newera Ellia and the adjacent highlands are confined to the following classes: the elephant, the hog, the leopard, the chetah, the elk, the red deer, the mouse deer, the hare, the otter, the jackal, the civet cat, the mongoose and two others (varieties of the species), the black squirrel, the gray squirrel, the wanderoo monkey (the largest species in Ceylon), the porcupine, and a great variety of the rat.
Imagine the difficulty of breaking in a young hound for elk-hunting when the jungles are swarming with such a list of vermin! The better the pup the more he will persevere in hunting everything that he can possibly find; and with such a variety of animals, some of which have the most enticing scent, it is a source of endless trouble in teaching a young hound what to limit and what to avoid.
It is curious to witness the sagacity of the old hounds in joining or despising the opening note of a newcomer.
The jungles are fearfully thick, and it requires great exertion on the part of the dog to force his way through at a pace that will enable him to join the finding hound; thus he fears considerable disappointment if upon his arrival he finds the scent of a monkey or a cat instead of his legitimate game. An old hound soon marks the inexperienced voice of the babbler, and after the cry of "wolf" has been again repeated, nothing will induce him to join the false finder.
Again, it is exceedingly interesting to observe the quickness of all hounds in acknowledging their leader. Only let them catch the sound of old "Bluebeard's" voice, and see the dash with which they rush through the jungle to join him. They know the old fellows note is true to an elk or hog, and, with implicit confidence in his "find," they never hesitate to join.
There are numerous obstacles to the breaking and training of dogs of all kinds in such a country. A hound when once in the jungle is his own master. He obeys the sound of the halloo or the born, or not, as he thinks proper. It is impossible to correct him, as he is out of sight.
Now, the very fact of having one or two first-rate finders in a pack, will very likely be the cause of spoiling the other hounds. After repeated experience their instinct soon shows them that, no matter how the whole pack may individually hunt, the "find" will be achieved by one of the first-rate hounds, and gradually they give up hunting and take to listening for the opening note of the favorite. Of course in an open country they would be kept to their work by the whip, but at Newera Ellia this is impossible. This accounts for the extreme paucity of first-rate "finders."
Hunting in a wild country is a far more difficult task for hounds than the ordinary chase at home. Wherever a country is cultivated it must be enclosed. Thus, should a flock of sheep have thrown the hounds out by crossing the scent, a cast round the fences must soon hit it off again if the fox has left the field. But in elk-hunting it is scarcely possible to assist the hounds; a dozen different animals, or even a disturbed elk, may cross the scent in parts of the jungle where the cry of the hounds is even out of hearing. Again, an elk has a constant habit of running or swimming down a river, his instinct prompting him to drown his own scent, and thus throw off his pursuers. Here is a trial for the hounds! - the elk has waded or swum down the stream, and the baffled pack arrive upon the bank; their cheering music has ceased; the elk has kept the water for perhaps a quarter of a mile, or he may have landed several times during that distance and again have taken to water.
Now the young hounds dash thoughtlessly across the river, thinking of nothing but a straight course, and they are thrown out on the barren bank on the other side. Back they come again, wind about the last track for a few minutes, and then they are forced to give it up - they are thrown out altogether.
Mark the staunch old hounds! - one has crossed the river; there is no scent, but he strikes down the bank with his nose close to the ground, and away he goes along the edge of the river casting for a scent. Now mark old "Bluebeard," swimming steadily down the stream; he knows the habits of his game as well as I do, and two to one that he will find, although "Ploughboy" has just started along the near bank so that both sides of the river are being hunted.
Now this is what I call difficult hunting; bad enough if the huntsman be up to assist his hounds, but nine times out of ten this happens in the middle of a run, without a soul within a mile.
The only way to train hounds in this style of country is to accustom them to complete obedience from puppyhood. This is easily effected by taking them out for exercise upon a road coupled to old hounds. A good walk every morning, accompanied by the horn and the whip, and they soon fall into such a habit of obedience that they may be taken out without the couples.
The great desideratum, then, is to gain their affection and confidence, otherwise they will obey upon the road and laugh at you when in the jungle. Now "affection" is a difficult feeling to instill into a foxhound, and can only be partially attained by the exercise of cupboard love; thus a few pieces of dry liver or bread, kept in the pocket to be given to a young hound who has sharply answered to his call, will do more good than a month of scolding and rating.
" Confidence," or the want of it, in a hound depends entirely upon the character of his master. There is an old adage of "like master, like man;" and this is strongly displayed in the hound. The very best seizer would be spoiled if his master were a leetle slow in going in with the knife; and, on the other hand, dogs naturally shy of danger turn into good seizers where their master invariably leads them in.
Not only is their confidence required and gained at these times, but they learn to place implicit reliance upon their master's knowledge of hunting, in the same manner that they acknowledge the superiority of a particular hound. This induces them to obey beyond any method of training, as they feel a certain dependence upon the man, and they answer his halloo or the horn without a moment's hesitation.
Nothing is so likely to destroy the character of a pack as a certain amount of laziness or incapacity upon the master's part in following them up. This is natural enough, as the best hounds, if repeatedly left unassisted for hours when at bay with their game until they are regularly beaten off, will lose their relish for the sport. On the other hand, perseverance on the huntsman part will ensure a corresponding amount in the hounds; they will become so accustomed to the certain appearance of their master at the bay at some time or other that they will stick to their game till night. I have frequently killed elk at two or three o'clock in the afternoon that have been found at six in the morning. Sometimes I have killed them even later than this when, after wandering fruitlessly the whole day in every direction but the right one, my ears have at length been gladdened by the distant sound of the bay. The particular moment when hope and certainty combined reward the day's toil is the very quintessence of joy and delight. Nothing in the shape of enjoyment can come near it. What a strange power has that helpless-looking mass - the brain! One moment, and the limbs are fagged, the shins are tender with breaking all day through the densest jungles, the feet are worn with unrequited labor and - hark! The bay! no doubt of it - the bay! There is the magic spell which, acting on the brain, flies through every nerve. New legs, new feet, new everything, in a moment! fresh as though just out of bed; here we go tearing through the jungle like a buffalo, and as happy as though we had just come in for a fortune - happier, a great deal.
Nevertheless, elk-hunting is not a general taste, as people have not opportunities of enjoying it constantly. Accordingly, they are out of condition, and soon be, come distressed and of necessity "shut up" (a vulgar but expressive term). This must be fine fun for a total stranger rather inclined to corpulency, who has dauntlessly persevered in keeping up with the huntsman, although at some personal inconvenience. There is a limit to all endurance, and he is obliged to stop, quite blown, completely done. He loses all sounds of hounds and huntsman, and everything connected with the hunt. Where is he? How horrible the idea that flashes across his mind! he has no idea where he is, except that he is quite certain that he is in some jungle in Ceylon.
Distraction! Ceylon is nearly all jungle, two hundred and eighty miles long and he is in this - somewhere He tries to recollect by what route he has come; impossible! He has been up one mountain, and then he turned to the right, and got into a ravine; he recollects the ravine, for he fell on his head with the end of a dead stick in his stomach just as he got to the bottom; he forgets every other part of his route, simply having an idea that he went down a great many ravines and up a number of hills, and turned to the right and left several times. He gives it up; he finds himself "lost," and, if he is sensible, he will sit down and wait till some one comes to look for him, when he will start with joy at the glad sound of the horn. But should he attempt to find his way alone through those pathless jungles, he will only increase his distance from the right course.
One great peculiarity in Newera Ellia is the comparative freedom from poisonous vermin. There are three varieties of snakes, only one of which is hurtful, and all are very minute. The venomous species is the "carrawellé," whose bite is generally fatal; but this snake is not often met with. There are no ticks, nor bugs, nor leeches, nor scorpions, nor white ants, nor wasps, nor mosquitoes; in fact, there is nothing venomous except the snake alluded to, and a small species of centipede. Fleas there are certainly - indeed, a fair sprinkling of fleas; but they are not troublesome, except in houses which are unoccupied during a portion of the year. This is a great peculiarity of a Ceylon flea - he is a great colonist; and should a house be untenanted for a few months, so sure will it swarm with these "settlers." Even a grass hut built for a night's bivouac in the jungle, without a flea in the neighborhood, will literally swarm with them if deserted for a couple of months. Fleas have a great fancy for settling upon anything white; thus a person with white trowsers will be blackened with them, while a man in darker colors will be comparatively free. I at first supposed that they appeared in larger numbers on the white ground because they were more easily distinguished; but I tried the experiment of putting a sheet of writing-paper and a piece of brown talipot leaf in the midst of fleas; the paper was covered with them, while only two or three were on the talipot.
The bite of the small species of centipede alluded to is not very severe, being about equivalent to a wasp's sting. I have been bitten myself, and I have seen another person suffering from the bite, which was ludicrous enough.
The sufferer was Corporal Phinn, of H.M. Fifteenth Regiment. At that time he was one of Lieutenant de Montenach's servants, and accompanied his master on a hunting-trip to the Horton Plains.
Now Phinn was of course an Irishman; an excellent fellow, a dead hand at tramping a bog and killing a snipe, but (without the slightest intention of impugning his veracity) Phinn's ideality was largely developed. He was never by himself for five minutes in the jungle without having seen something wonderful before his return; this he was sure to relate in a rich brogue with great facetiousness.
However, we had just finished dinner one night, and Phinn had then taken his master's vacant place (there being only one room) to commence his own meal, when up he jumped like a madman, spluttering the food out of his mouth, and shouting and skipping about the room with both hands clutched tightly to the hinder part of his inexpressibles. "Oh, by Jasus! help, sir, help! I've a reptile or some divil up my breeches! Oh! bad luck to him, he's biting me! Oh! oh! it's sure a sarpint that's stinging me! quick, sir, or he'll be the death o' me!"
Phinn was frantic, and upon lowering his inexpressibles we found the centipede about four inches long which had bitten him. A little brandy rubbed on the part soon relieved the pain.