by Samuel White Baker
Another Trip to the Park-A Hard Day's Work-Discover a Herd-Death of the Herd-A Furious Charge-Caught at Last-The Consequences-A Thorough Rogue-Another Herd in High Lemon Grass-Bears-A Fight between a Moorman and a Bear-A Musical Herd-Herd Escape-A Plucky Buck-Death of `Killbuck' -Good Sport with a Herd-End of the Trip.
ABOUT twelve months elapsed without my pulling a trigger. I had contented myself with elk-hunting in Newera Ellia and the vicinity, but in November, 1850, the greyhounds were again in their palanquin, and, ac companied by my brother V., I was once more in the saddle on my steady-going old horse Jack, en route for the Park.
It was 5 P.M. on a cool and lovely evening that we halted, and unsaddled in this beautiful country. Our tents and coolies were far behind, our horse-keepers were our only attendants, and we fixed upon a spot as the most eligible site for the tents. A large open park lay before us, interspersed with trees, and clumps of forest. A clear stream flowed from some low rocky hills upon our right, and several detached masses of rock lay scattered irregularly here and there, like the ruins of an old castle. Large trees grew from the crevices of these rocks, and beneath their shade we turned our horses loose to graze upon a soft sweet grass, with which this part of the Park is covered. We had the greyhounds with us, and a single rifle, but no other guns, as the servants were far behind. Having given directions to the horse-keepers to point out the spot for the tents on the arrival of the people, we took a stroll with the greyhounds to get a deer, as we depended upon this chance for our dinner.
Just as we were starting, we noticed two large elephants feeding on the rocky hills within a quarter of a mile of us; but having no guns up, with the exception of one rifle, we were obliged to postpone the attack, and, cautioning the horse-keepers to observe silence lest the game should be alarmed, we left the elephants to their meal, while we struck off in another direction with the greyhounds. We found a herd of deer within half a mile of our starting-place; they had just come out from the forest for the night's feeding; and when I first saw them, they were barking to each other in a small glade within sixty paces of the jungle. Dinner depending upon success, I stalked them with the greatest caution. Taking Killbuck and Lena in the slips I crept from tree to tree without the slightest noise; I had the wind, and if any dogs could kill a deer in the difficult position in which the herd stood, these two would do it. I got within sixty yards of the herd before they observed me, and as they dashed off towards the jungle, I slipped the straining greyhounds. A loud cheer to the dogs confused the herd, and they scattered to the right and left as they gained the forest, the dogs being close up with them, and Killbuck almost at a buck's throat as he reached the jungle. Following as well as I could through the dusky jungle, I shortly heard the cry of a deer, and on arriving at the spot I found Killbuck and Lena with a buck on the ground. No deer had a chance with this wonderful dog Killbuck. When he was once slipped, there was no hope for the game pursued; no matter what the character of the country might be, it was certain death to the deer. We gralloched the buck, and having fed the dogs with the offal, we carried him on a pole to the place where we had left the horses. On arrival, we deposited our heavy burden; and to our satisfaction, we found all our people had arrived. The tents were pitched, and the night-fires were already blazing, as daylight had nearly ceased.
In the course of an hour, we were comfortably seated at our table, with venison steaks, and chops smoking before us--thanks to the dogs, who were now soundly sleeping at our feet. During the progress of dinner I planned the work for the day following. We were now eight miles from Nielgalla (Blue Rock), the village at which Banda resided, and I ordered a man to start off at daybreak to tell him that I was in his country, and to bring old Medima and several other good men (that I knew) to the tent without delay. I proposed that we should, in the meantime, start at daylight on the tracks of the two elephants that we had seen upon the hills, taking Wallace and a few of the best coolies as gun-bearers. Wallace is a Cochin man, who prides himself upon a mixture of Portuguese blood. He speaks six different languages fluently, and is without exception the best interpreter and the most plucky gun-bearer that I have ever seen. He has accompanied me through so many scenes with unvarying firmness that I never have the slightest anxiety about my spare guns if he is there, as he keeps the little troop of gun-bearers in their places in a most methodical manner.
At break of day on the following morning we were upon the tracks of the two elephants, but a slight shower during the night had so destroyed them that we found it was impossible to follow them up. We therefore determined to examine the country thoroughly for fresh tracks, and we accordingly passed over many miles of ground, but to little purpose, as none were to be seen.
We at length discovered fresh traces of a herd in thick thorny jungle, which was too dense to enter, but marking their position, we determined to send out watchers on the following day to track them into better country. Having killed a deer, we started him off with some coolies that we had taken with us on this chance, and we continued our route till 3 P.M. We had lost our way, and, not having any guide, we had no notion of the position of the tents; the heat of the day had been intense, and, not having breakfasted, we were rather anxious about the direction. Strolling through this beautiful expanse of Park country, we directed our course for a large rocky mountain, at a few miles' distance, at the base of which I knew lay the route from the tent to Nielgalla. To our great satisfaction we found the path at about 4 P.M., and we walked briskly along at the foot of the mountain in the direction of our encampment, which was about four miles distant.
We had just arrived at an angle of the mountain, which, in passing, we were now leaving to our left, when we suddenly halted, our attention having been arrested by the loud roaring of elephants in a jungle at the foot of the hills, within a quarter of a mile of us. The roaring continued at intervals, reverberating among the rocks like distant thunder, till it at length died away to stillness.
We soon arrived in the vicinity of the sound, and shortly discovered tracks upon a hard sandy soil, covered with rocks and overgrown with a low, but tolerably open jungle at the base of the mountain. Following the tracks, we began to ascend steep flights of natural steps formed by the successive layers of rock, which girded the foot of the mountain; these were covered with jungle, interspersed with large detached masses of granite, which in some places formed alleys through which the herd had passed. The surface of the ground being nothing but hard rock, tracking was very difficult, and it took me a considerable time to follow them up by the pieces of twigs and crunched leaves, which the elephants had dropped while feeding. I at length tracked them to a small pool formed by the rain-water in the hollow of the rock; here they had evidently been drinking only a few minutes previous, as the tracks of their feet upon the margin of the pool were still wet. I now went on in advance of the party with great caution, as I knew that we were not many paces from the herd. Passing through several passages among the rocks, I came suddenly upon a level plateau of ground covered with dense lemon grass about twelve feet high, which was so thick and tangled, that a man could with difficulty force his way through it. This level space was about two acres in extent, and was surrounded by jungle upon all sides but one; on this side, to our right as we entered, the mountain rose in rocky steps, from the crevices of which, the lemon grass grew in tall tufts.
The instant that I arrived in this spot, I perceived the nap of an elephant's ear in the high grass, about thirty paces from me, and upon careful inspection I distinguished two elephants standing close together. By the rustling of the grass in different places I could see that the herd was scattered, but I could not make out the elephants individually, as the grass was above their heads.
I paused for some minutes to consider the best plan of attack; but the gun-bearers, who were behind me, being in a great state of excitement, began to whisper to each other, and in arranging their positions behind their respective masters, they knocked several of the guns together. In the same moment, the two leading elephants discovered us, and, throwing their trunks up perpendicularly, they blew the shrill trumpet of alarm without attempting to retreat. Several trumpets answered the call immediately from different positions in the high grass, from which, trunks were thrown up, and huge heads just appeared in many places, as they endeavoured to discover the danger which the leaders had announced.
The growl of an elephant is exactly like the rumbling of thunder, and from their deep lungs the two leader, who had discovered us, kept up an uninterrupted peal, thus calling the herd together. Nevertheless, they did not attempt to retreat, but stood gazing attentively at us with their ears cocked, looking extremely vicious. In the meantime, we stood perfectly motionless, lest we should scare them before the whole herd had closed up. In about a minute, a dense mass of elephants had collected round the two leaders, who were all gazing at us; and thinking this a favourable moment, I gave the word, and we pushed towards them through the high grass. A portion of the herd immediately wheeled round and retreated as we advanced, but five elephants, including the two who had first discovered us, formed in a compact line abreast, and thrashing the long grass to the right and left with their trunks, with ears cocked and tails up, they came straight at us. We pushed forward to meet them, but they still came on in a perfect line, till within ten paces of us.
A cloud of smoke hung over the high grass as the rifles cracked in rapid succession, and the FIVE ELEPHANTS LAY DEAD in the same order as they had advanced. The spare guns had been beautifully handed; and running between the carcasses, we got into the lane that the remaining portion of the herd had made by crushing the high grass in their retreat. We were up with them in a few moments; down went one! then another! up he got again, almost immediately recovering from V.'s shot; down he went again! as I floored him with my last barrel.
I was now unloaded, as I had only two of my double-barrelled No. 10 rifles out that day, but the chase was so exciting that I could not help following empty-handed, in the hope that some gun-bearer might put one of V.'s spare guns in my hand. A large elephant and her young one, who was about three feet and a half high, were retreating up the rugged side of the mountain, and the mother, instead of protecting the little one, was soon a hundred paces ahead of him, and safely located in a thick jungle which covered that portion of the mountain. Being empty-handed, I soon scrambled up and caught the little fellow by the tail; but he was so strong that I could not hold him, although I exerted all my strength, and he dragged me slowly towards the jungle to which his mother had retreated. V. now came up, and he being loaded, I told him to keep a look-out for the mother's return, while I secured my captive, by seizing him by the trunk with one hand and by the tail with the other; in this manner I could just master him by throwing my whole weight down the hill, and he began to roar like a full-grown elephant. The mother was for a wonder faithless to her charge, and did not return to the little one's assistance. While I was engaged in securing him, the gun-bearers came up, and at this moment I observed, at the foot of the hill, another elephant, not quite full grown, who was retreating through the high grass towards the jungle. There were no guns charged except one of my No. 10 rifles, which some one had reloaded; taking this, I left the little 'Ponchy' with V. and the gun-bearers, and running down the side of the hill, I came up with the elephant just as he was entering the jungle, and getting the earshot, I killed him.
We had bagged nine elephants, and only one had escaped from the herd; this was the female who had forsaken her young one.
Wallace now came up and cut off the tails of those that I had killed. I had one barrel still loaded, and I was pushing my way through the tangled grass towards the spot where the five elephants lay together, when I suddenly heard Wallace shriek out, 'Look out, sir! Look out!--an elephant's coming!'
I turned round in a moment; and close past Wallace, from the very spot where the last dead elephant lay, came the very essence and incarnation of a 'rogue' elephant in full charge. His trunk was thrown high in the air, his ears were cocked, his tail stood erect above his back as stiff as a poker, and screaming exactly like the whistle of a railway engine, he rushed upon me through the high grass with a velocity that was perfectly wonderful. His eyes flashed as he came on, and he had singled me out as his victim.
I have often been in dangerous positions, but I never felt so totally devoid of hope as I did in this instance. The tangled grass rendered retreat impossible. I had only one barrel loaded, and that was useless, as the upraised trunk protected his forehead. I felt myself doomed; the few thoughts that rush through men's minds in such hopeless positions, flew through mine, and I resolved to wait for him till he was close upon me, before I fired, hoping that he might lower his trunk and expose his forehead.
He rushed along at the pace of a horse in full speed; in a few moments, as the grass flew to the right and left before him, he was close upon me, but still his trunk was raised and I would not fire. One second more, and at this headlong pace he was within three feet of me; down slashed his trunk with the rapidity of a whip-thong! and with a shrill scream of fury he was upon me!
I fired at that instant; but in a twinkling of an eye I was flying through the air like a ball from a bat. At the moment of firing. I had jumped to the left, but he struck me with his tusk in full charge upon my right thigh, and hurled me eight or ten paces from him. That very moment he stopped, and, turning round, he beat the grass about with his trunk, and commenced a strict search for me. I heard him advancing close to the spot where I lay as still as death, knowing that my last chance lay in concealment. I heard the grass rustling close to me; closer and closer he approached, and he at length beat the grass with his trunk several times exactly above me. I held my breath, momentarily expecting to feel his ponderous foot upon me. Although I had not felt the sensation of fear while I had stood opposed to him, I felt like what I never wish to feel again while he was deliberately hunting me up. Fortunately I had reserved my fire until the rifle had almost touched him, for the powder and smoke had nearly blinded him, and had spoiled his acute power of scent. To my joy I heard the rustling of the grass grow fainter; again I heard it at a still greater distance; at length it was gone!
At that time I thought that half my bones were broken, as I was numbed from head to foot by the force of the blow. His charge can only be compared to a blow from a railway engine going at twenty miles an hour.
Not expecting to be able to move, I crept to my hands and knees. To my delight there were no bones broken, and with a feeling of thankfulness I stood erect. I with difficulty reached a stream of water near the spot, in which I bathed my leg, but in a few minutes it swelled to the size of a man's waist. In this spot everyone had congregated, and were loading their guns, but the rogue had escaped.
My cap and rifle were now hunted for, and they were at length found near the spot where I had been caught. The elephant had trodden on the stock of the rifle, and it bears the marks of his foot to this day.
In a few minutes I was unable to move. We therefore sent to the tent for the horses, and arrived at 6 P.M., having had a hard day's work from 5 A.M. without food.
On arrival at the tent we found Banda and the trackers.
There could not be a better exemplification of a rogue than in this case. A short distance apart from the herd, he had concealed himself in the jungle, from which position he had witnessed the destruction of his mates. He had not stirred a foot until he saw us totally unprepared, when he instantly seized the opportunity and dashed out upon me. If I had attempted to run from him, I should have been killed, as he would have struck me in the back; my only chance was in the course which I pursued--to wait quietly until he was just over me, and then to jump on one side; he thus struck me on the thickest part of the thigh instead of striking me in the stomach, which he must have done had I remained in my first position; this would have killed me on the spot.
I passed an uncomfortable night, my leg being very painful and covered with wet bandages of vinegar and water. The bruise came out from my ankle to my hip; the skin was broken where the tush had struck me, and the blood had started under the skin over a surface of nearly a foot, making the bruise a bright purple, and giving the whole affair a most unpleasant appearance. The next morning I could not move my leg, which felt like a sack of sand, and was perfectly numbed; however, I kept on a succession of cold lotions, and after breakfast I was assisted upon my horse, and we moved the encampment to Nielgalla. On the following day I could just manage to hobble along, my leg being at least double its usual size, and threatening to spoil my sport for the whole trip.
We were seated at breakfast when a native came in, bringing intelligence of a herd of elephants about four miles distant. I was not in a state for shooting, but I resolved to mount my steady old horse Jack, and take my chance of revenge for my mishap. The guns were accordingly loaded, and we started.
We had ridden through the Park for about three miles, and had just turned round the corner of a patch of jungle, when we came suddenly upon a large rogue elephant, who was standing in the open, facing us at about seventy yards. The moment that he saw the horses he turned sharp round, and retreated to a long belt of fine open forest which was close behind him. There was no resisting the invitation upon such favourable ground, and immediately dismounting, we followed him. I now found that my leg was nearly useless, and I could only move at a snail's pace, and even then with great pain. Upon reaching the forest, we found that the rogue had decamped, not wishing to meet us in such advantageous ground. We followed his tracks for a few hundred yards through the wood, till we suddenly emerged upon a large tract of high lemon grass. Into this, our cunning foe had retreated, and with my decreased powers of locomotion, I did not wish to pursue him farther. I was at length persuaded by Banda to make a trial, and we accordingly left the track, and pushed our way through the high grass to some rising ground, from which we could look over the surface of waving vegetation, and find out the exact position of the elephant. While forcing our way through the dense mass, I momentarily expected to hear the rush of the rogue charging down upon us, and I was glad to find myself at length safe in the position we had steered for.
Upon scanning the surface of the grass, I distinguished the elephant immediately; he was standing close to the edge of the jungle in the high grass facing us, at about 150 yards distant. He was a picture of intense excitement and attention, and was evidently waiting for us. In the position that we now occupied, we unavoidably gave him the wind, and he of course almost immediately discovered us. Giving two or three shrill trumpets, he paced quickly to and fro before the jungle, as though he were guarding the entrance. To enter the high grass to attack him, would have been folly, as he was fully prepared, and when once in the tangled mass we could not have seen him until he was upon us; we therefore amused ourselves for about ten minutes by shouting at him. During this time he continued pacing backwards and forwards, screaming almost without intermission; and having suddenly made up his mind to stand this bullying no longer, he threw his trunk up in the air and charged straight at us. The dust flew like smoke from the dry grass as he rushed through it; but we were well prepared to receive him. Not wishing him to come to close quarters with my useless leg, I gave him a shot with my two-ounce rifle, at about 120 paces. It did not even check him, but it had the effect of making him lower his trunk, and he came on at undiminished speed. Taking the four-ounce rifle from Wallace, I heard the crack of the ball as it entered his head at about 100 yards. He was down! A general shout of exclamation rose from Banda and all the gun-bearers. I reloaded the four-ounce immediately, and the ball was just rammed home when we heard the supposed dead elephant roaring on the ground. In another moment he regained his legs and stood with his broadside exposed to us, stunned with the heavy ball in his head. Taking a steady shot at his shoulder, I gave him a second dose of the four- ounce; he reeled to and fro and staggered into the jungle. I dared not follow him in my crippled state, and we returned to the horses; but the next day he was found dead by the natives.
I much feared that the shot fired might have disturbed the herd of elephants, as they were reported to be not far distant; this, however, proved not to be the case, as we met the watchers about a mile farther on, who reported the herd to be perfectly undisturbed, but located in the everlasting lemon grass. At this time the greater portion of the Park was a mass of this abominable grass, and there was no chance of getting the elephants in any other position, this serving them at the same time for both food and shelter. How they can eat it is a puzzle; it is as sharp as a knife, and as coarse as a file, with a flavour of the most pungent lemon peel.
We shortly arrived at the spot in which the herd was concealed; it was a gentle slope covered with dense lemon grass, terminated by a jungle. We could just distinguish the tops of the elephants' heads in several places, and, having dismounted, we carefully entered the grass, and crept towards the nearest elephants. The herd was much scattered, but there were five elephants close to each other, and we made towards these, Banda leading the way. My only chance of making a bag lay in the first onset; I therefore cautioned Wallace to have the spare guns handed with extra diligence, and we crept up to our game. There were two elephants facing us, but we stalked them so carefully through the high grass that we got within four paces of them before they discovered us; they cocked their ears for an instant, and both rolled over at the same moment to the front shot. Away dashed the herd, trumpeting and screaming as they rushed through the high grass. For a few moments my game leg grew quite lively, as it was all downhill work, and I caught up an elephant and killed him with the left-hand barrel. Getting a spare gun, I was lucky enough to get between two elephants who were running abreast towards the jungle, and I bagged them by a right and left shot. Off went the herd at a slapping pace through the jungle, V. pitching it into them, but unfortunately to very little purpose, as they had closed up and formed a barrier of sterns; thus we could not get a good shot. For about a quarter of a mile I managed to hobble along, carried away by the excitement of the chase, through jungles, hollows, and small glades, till my leg, which had lost all feeling, suddenly gave way, and I lay sprawling on my face, incapable of going a step farther. I had killed four elephants; six had been killed altogether. It was very bad luck, as the herd consisted of eleven; but the ground was very unfavourable, and my leg gave way when it was most required.
A few days after this, the tents were pitched on the banks of the broad river of Pattapalaar, about eight miles beyond Nielgalla. Elephants were very scarce, and the only chance of getting them, was to work hard. We were on horseback at break of day, and having forded the river, we rode silently through plain and forest in search of tracks. We refused every shot at deer, lest we should disturb the country, and scare away the elephants.
We had ridden for some distance upon an elephant path, through a tolerably open forest at the foot of a range of rocky mountains, when Banda, who was some paces in advance, suddenly sprang back again, crying, 'Wallaha! wallaha!' (Bears! bears!) We were off our horses in a moment, but I fell sprawling upon my back, my leg being so powerless and numbed that I could not feel when I touched the ground. I recovered myself just in time to see a bear waddling along through the jungle, and I pushed after him in pursuit at my best pace. V. had disappeared in the jungle in pursuit of another bear, and I presently heard two or three shots. In the meantime my game had slackened speed to a careless kind of swaggering walk; and the underwood being rather thick, I was determined to get close to him before I fired, as I knew that I could not follow him far, and my success would therefore depend upon the first shot. I overtook him in a few moments, and I was following within a foot of his tail, waiting for a chance for a clear shot between his shoulders, as the thick underwood parted above his back, when he suddenly sprang round, and with a fierce roar, he leaped upon the muzzle of the gun. I fired both barrels into him as he threw his whole weight against it, and I rolled him over in a confused cloud of smoke and crackling bushes. In a moment he was on his legs again, but going off through the thick underwood at a pace that in my helpless state soon left me far behind. His state must have been far from enviable, as he left portions of his entrails all along his track. V. had killed his bear; he weighed about two hundred pounds, and measured fourteen inches round the arm, without his hide.
The Ceylon bear is a most savage animal, constantly attacking men without the slightest provocation. I have seen many natives frightfully disfigured by the attacks of bears, which they dread more than any other animal. Nothing would induce my trackers to follow up the wounded beast. I followed him as far as I could, but my useless limb soon gave way, and I was obliged to give him up. I once saw a Moorman, who was a fine powerful fellow and an excellent elephant-tracker, who had a narrow escape from a bear. He was cutting bamboos with a catty or kind of bill-hook, when one of these animals descended from a tree just above him and immediately attacked him. The man instinctively threw his left arm forward to receive the bear, who seized it in his mouth and bit the thumb completely off, lacerating the arm and wrist at the same time in a frightful manner. With one blow of the bill-hook the Moorman cleft the bear's skull to the teeth, at the same time gashing his own arm to the bone by the force of the blow; and he never afterwards recovered the proper use of the limb.
The Ceylon bear feeds upon almost anything that offers; he eats honey, ants, fruit, roots, and flesh whenever he can procure it: his muscular power is enormous, and he exerts both teeth and claws in his attack. They are very numerous in Ceylon, although they are seldom met with in any number, owing to their nocturnal habits, which attract them to their caves at break of day.
After strolling over the country for some miles, we came upon fresh elephant-tracks in high grass, which we immediately followed up. In the course of half an hour, after tracking them for about two miles through open country, we entered a fine forest, in which the herd had retired; but our hopes of meeting them in this favourable ground were suddenly damped by arriving at a dense chenar jungle in the very heart of the forest. This chenar extended for some acres, and rose like a hedge, forming a sudden wall of thorns, which effectually checked our advance. The elephants had retired to this secure retreat, and having winded us they kept up an uninterrupted roaring. I never heard such a musical herd: the deep and thunder-like growls, combined with the shrill trumpet and loud roars, as they all joined in concert, had a particularly grand effect, and a novice in elephant-shooting would have felt his heart beat in double time.
There was a rogue consorting with this herd, and it was necessary to be particularly cautious in the attack. It was impossible to enter such thick jungle, and I've waited for some hours in the forest, close to the edge of the chenar, trying every dodge in vain to induce the herd to quit their stronghold. They were continually on the QUI VIVE. Sometimes a tremendous rush would be heard in the thick jungle as the herd would charge towards us; but they invariably stopped just upon the borders, and would not venture into the open forest. On one occasion I thought we had them: they rushed to the edge of the thick jungle, and suddenly filed off to the left and halted in a line within a few feet of the forest. We were within six paces of them, concealed behind the trunks of several large trees, from which we could discover the dim forms of six elephants through the screen of thorns, which had a similar effect to that produced by looking through a gauze veil. For some moments they stood in an attitude of intense attention, and I momentarily expected them to break cover, as we were perfectly still and motionless in our concealed position. Suddenly they winded us, and whisked round to the thick jungle, disappearing like magic.
We now tried the effect of bullying, and we sent men to different parts of the jungle to shout and fire guns; this stirred up the wrath of the rogue, and he suddenly burst from the thick jungle and rushed into the open forest right among us. We were both standing behind the trees; and the gun-bearers, with the exception of Wallace, had thrown the guns down and had bolted up the trees when they heard the rush of the elephant through the jungle; thus, upon his arrival in the open forest, he could see no one, and he stood gazing about him with his ears cocked and tail on end, not knowing exactly what to do, but ready to charge the first person that showed himself. He was an immense elephant, being one of the largest that I have ever seen, and he had as fine an expression of vice in his appearance as any rogue could wish for. Suddenly he turned his trunk towards us, but he was puzzled as to the exact position of any one, as so many men were scattered among the trees. I was within twenty yards of him, and he turned his head towards the spot, and was just on the move forward, when I anticipated his intentions by running up to him and knocking him over by a shot in the forehead, which killed him. Unfortunately the herd at the same moment broke cover on the opposite side of the jungle, and escaped without a shot being fired at them. It was nearly dusk, and we were five miles from the tent; we were therefore obliged to give them up.
The next morning, at daybreak, I rode out with the greyhounds, Killbuck, Bran and Lena, to kill a deer. The lemon grass was so high at this season that the dogs had no chance, and I was therefore compelled to pick out some spot which was free from this grass, and employ beaters to drive the jungles, instead of stalking the deer in the usual manner. I tracked a herd of deer into a large detached piece of cover, and, sending the beaters round to the opposite side, I posted myself with the greyhounds in the slips behind a clump of trees, upon a small plain of low, soft grass.
The noise of the beaters approached nearer and nearer, and presently two splendid bucks with beautiful antlers rushed from the jungle about two hundred yards from me, and scudded over the plain. I slipped the greyhounds, and away they went in full fly, bounding over the soft turf in grand style.
Mounting old Jack, who was standing at my elbow, and giving him the spur, I rode after them. It was a splendid course; the two bucks separated, Bran and Lena taking after one, and Killbuck following the other in his usual dashing manner. Away they went with wonderful speed, the bucks constantly doubling to throw the dogs out; but Killbuck never overshot his game, and as the buck doubled, he was round after him in fine style. I now followed him, leaving Bran and Lena to do their best, and at a killing pace we crossed the plain--through a narrow belt of trees, down a stony hollow, over another plain, through a small jungle, on entering which Killbuck was within a few yards of the buck's haunches.
Now, old Jack is as fond of the sport as I am, and he kept up the chase in good style; but just as we were flying through some high lemon grass, a fallen tree, which was concealed beneath, tripped up the horse's fore legs, and in an instant he was on his nose, turning a complete somersault. I was pitched some yards, and upon instinctively mounting again, the sparks were dancing in my eyes for some seconds before I recovered myself, as we continued the chase with unabated speed.
We pressed along up some rising ground, having lost sight of the game; and as we reached the top of the hill I looked around and saw the buck at bay about a hundred paces from me, upon fine level ground, fighting face to face with the dog, who sprang boldly at his head. That buck was a noble fellow; he rushed at the dog, and they met like knights in a tournament; but it was murderous work; he received the reckless hound upon his sharp antlers and bored him to the ground. In another instant Killbuck had recovered himself, and he again came in full fly at the buck's face with wonderful courage; again the buck rushed forward to meet him, and once more the pointed antlers pinned the dog, and the buck, following up his charge, rolled him over and over for some yards.
By this time I had galloped up, and I was within a few feet of the buck, when he suddenly sprang round with the evident intention of charging the horse. In the same moment Killbuck seized the opportunity, and the buck plunged violently upon the ground, with the staunch dog hanging upon his throat. I, jumped off my horse, and the buck fell dead by a thrust with the knife behind the shoulder.
I now examined the dog; he was wounded in several places, but as he bled but little, I hoped that his apparent exhaustion arose more from the fatigue of the fight than from any severe injury.
At this time Bran and Lena came up; they had lost their deer in some high lemon grass, but they also were both wounded by the buck's horns. I now put Killbuck and Lena together in the slips, and with the buck, carried upon cross-poles by six men, I rode towards the tent. I had not proceeded far when the man who was leading the greyhounds behind my horse suddenly cried out, and on turning round I saw Killbuck lying on the ground. I was at his side in a moment, and I released his neck from the slips. It was too late; his languid head fell heavily upon the earth; he gave me one parting look, and after a few faint gasps he was gone.
I could hardly believe he was dead. Taking off my cap, I ran to a little stream and brought some water, which I threw in his face; but his teeth were set, his eyes were glazed, and the best and truest dog that was ever born was dead. Poor Killbuck! he had died like a hero, and though I grieved over him, I could not have wished him a more glorious death.
I was obliged to open him to discover the real injury. I had little thought that the knife which had so often come to his assistance was destined to so sad a task. His lungs were pierced through by the deer's horns in two places, and he had died of sudden suffocation by internal haemorrhage. A large hollow tree grew close to the spot; in this I buried him. The stag's antlers now hang in the hall, a melancholy but glorious memento of poor Killbuck.
In a few days my leg had so much improved that I could again use it without much inconvenience; I therefore determined to pay the cave a visit, as I felt convinced that elephants would be more numerous in that neighbourhood. We started in the cool of the afternoon, as the distance was not more than eight miles from our encampment. We had proceeded about half-way, and our horses were picking their way with difficulty over some rocky hills, when we came upon fresh tracks of a herd of elephants. It was too late to go after them that evening; we therefore pitched the tent upon the spot, resolving to track them up at daybreak on the following morning.
We were accordingly out before sunrise, and came upon the tracks within a mile of the tent. We at length discovered the herd upon the summit of a steep rocky hill. There were no trees in this part, and we carefully ascended the hill, stepping from rock to rock and occasionally concealing ourselves in the high grass, till we at length stood at the very feet of the elephants, two of whom were standing upon a large platform of rock, about seven feet above us. They were so high above us that I was obliged to aim about four inches down the trunk, so that the ball should reach the brain in an upward direction; this shot proved successful, and killed him. V., who had not taken this precaution, missed; and the whole herd of eight elephants started off in full retreat.
The rocks were so steep that it occupied some time in climbing over the top of the hill; upon reaching which, we saw the elephants going off at great speed, with a start of about two hundred paces. The ground was perfectly open, covered by small loose rocks free from grass, and the chase commenced in good earnest. With the elephants in view the whole time, and going at a great pace, a mile was run without the possibility of firing a shot. By this time we had arrived at an undulating country covered with small rocks, and grass about four feet high, which made the pace dreadfully fatiguing; still we dared not slacken the speed for an instant lest the elephants should distance us. This was the time for rifles to tell, although their weight (15 lbs.) was rather trying in so long and fast a run. I was within eighty paces of the herd, and I could not decrease the distance by a single yard. I halted and took a shot at the ear of a large elephant in the middle of the herd. The shot so stunned him that, instead of going on straight, he kept turning round and round as though running after his tail; this threw the herd into confusion, and some ran to the right and others to the left, across some steep hollows. Running up to my wounded elephant, I extinguished him with my remaining barrel; and getting a spare rifle from Wallace, who was the only gun-bearer who had kept up, I floored another elephant, who was ascending the opposite side of a hollow about forty yards off: this fellow took two shots, and accordingly I was left unloaded. V. had made good play with the rifles as the herd was crossing the hollow, and he had killed three, making six bagged in all. The remaining two elephants reached a thick jungle and escaped.
We returned to the tent, and after a bath we sat down with a glorious appetite to breakfast, having bagged six elephants before seven o'clock A.M.
In the afternoon we went to the cave and sent out trackers. We were very hard up for provisions in this place: there were no deer in the neighbourhood, and we lived upon squirrels and parrots, both of which are excellent eating, but not very substantial fare.
The whole of this part of the country was one dark mass of high lemon grass, which, not having been burnt, was a tangled mixture of yellow stalks and sharp blades, that completely destroyed the pleasure of shooting.
In this unfavourable ground we found a herd of ten elephants, and after waiting for some time in the hope of their feeding into a better country, we lost all patience and resolved to go in at them and do the best we could. It was late in the afternoon, and the herd, who were well aware of our position, had all closed up in a dense body, and with their trunks thrown up they were trumpeting and screaming as though to challenge us to the attack.
Pushing our way through the high grass, we got within six paces of the elephants before they attempted to turn, and the heavy battery opened upon them in fine style. Levelling the grass in their path, they rushed through it in a headlong retreat, V. keeping on one flank, while I took the other; and a race commenced, which continued for about half a mile at full speed, the greater part of this distance being up hill. None of these elephants proved restive; and on arriving at thick jungle two only entered out of the ten that had composed the herd; the remaining eight lay here and there along the line of the hunt.
Out of four herds and three rogues fired at we had bagged thirty-one elephants in a few days' shooting. My mishap on the first day had much destroyed the pleasure of the sport, as the exercise was too much for my wounded leg, which did not recover from the feeling of numbness for some months.