by Samuel White Baker
Excitement of Elephant-shooting--An Unexpected Visitor--A Long Run with a Buck--Hard Work Rewarded--A Glorious Bay--End of a Hard Day's Work--Bee-hunters--Disasters of Elk-hunting--Bran Wounded--'Old Smut's' Buck--Boar at Hackgalla--Death of `Old Smut'--Scenery from the Perewelle Mountains--Diabolical Death of 'Merriman'--Scene of the Murder.
In describing so many incidents in elephant-shooting it is difficult to convey a just idea of the true grandeur of the sport: it reads too easy. A certain number are killed out of a herd after an animated chase, and the description of the hunt details the amount of slaughter, but cannot possibly explain the peculiar excitement which attends elephant-shooting beyond all other sports. The size of the animal is so disproportionate to that of the hunter that the effect of a large herd of these monsters flying before a single man would be almost ridiculous could the chase be witnessed by some casual observer who was proof against the excitement of the sport. The effect of a really good elephant shot in the pursuit of a herd over open country is very fine. With such weapons as the double-barrelled No. 10 rifles a shot is seldom wasted; and during the chase, an elephant drops from the herd at every puff of smoke. It is a curious sight, and one of the grandest in the world, to see a fine rogue elephant knocked over in full charge. His onset appears so irresistible, and the majesty of his form so overwhelming, that I have frequently almost mistrusted the power of man over such a beast; but one shot well placed, with a heavy charge of powder behind the ball, reduces him in an instant to a mere heap of flesh.
One of the most disgusting sights is a dead elephant four or five days after the fatal shot. In a tropical climate, where decomposition proceeds with such wonderful rapidity, the effect of the sun upon such a mass can be readily understood. The gas generated in the inside distends the carcass to an enormous size, until it at length bursts and becomes in a few hours afterwards one living heap of maggots. Three weeks after an elephant is killed, nothing remains but his bones and a small heap of dried cases, from which the flies have emerged when the time arrived for them to change from the form of maggots. The sight of the largest of the animal creation being thus reduced from life to nothingness within so short a space of time is an instance of the perishable tenure of mortality which cannot fail to strike the most unthinking. The majesty, the power, and the sagacity of the enormous beast are scattered in the myriads of flies which have fed upon him.
It is a delightful change after a sporting trip of a few weeks in the hot climates to return again to the cool and even temperature of Newera Ellia. The tent is a pleasant dwelling when no other can be obtained, but the comfort of a good house is never so much appreciated as on the return from the jungle.
One great pleasure in the hunting at Newera Ellia is the ease with which it is obtained. In fact, the sport lies at the very door. This may be said to be literally true and not a facon de parler, as I once killed an elk that jumped through a window. It was a singular incident. The hounds found three elk at the same time on the mountain at the back of the hotel at Newera Ellia. The pack divided: several hounds were lost for two days, having taken their elk to an impossible country, and the rest of the pack concentrated upon a doe, with the exception of old Smut, who had another elk all to himself. This elk, which was a large doe, he brought down from the top of the mountain to the back of the hotel, just as we had killed the other, which the pack had brought to the same place. A great number of persons were standing in the hotel yard to view the sport, when old Smut and his game appeared, rushing in full fly through the crowd. The elk was so bothered and headed that she went through the back door of the hotel at full gallop, and Smut, with his characteristic sagacity, immediately bolted round to the front of the house, naturally concluding that if she went in at the back door she must come out at the front. He was perfectly right; the old dog stood on the lawn before the hotel, watching the house with great eagerness. In the meantime the elk was galloping from room to room in the hotel, chased by a crowd of people, until she at length took refuge in a lady's bedroom, from which there was no exit, as the window was closed. The crash of glass may be imagined as an animal as large as a pony leaped through it; but old Smut was ready for her, and after a chase of a few yards he pulled her down. This is the only instance that I have ever known of an elk entering a building, although it is a common occurrence with hunted deer in England. An elk found on the top of Pedro talla Galla, which rises from the plain of Newera Ellia, will generally run straight down the mountain, and, unless headed, he will frequently come to bay in the river close to the hotel, which is situated at the foot of the mountain. This, however, is not a rule without an exception, as the elk on some occasions takes a totally different direction, and gives a hard day's work. It was on July 27, 1852, that I had a run of this kind. It was six A.M. when my youngest brother and I started from the foot of Pedro to ascend the mountain. The path is three miles long, through jungle the whole way to the summit. There were fresh tracks of elk near the top of the mountain; the dew lay heavily upon the leaves, and the scent was evidently strong, as Merriman and Ploughboy, the two leading hounds, dashed off upon it, followed by the whole pack. In a few minutes we heard them in full cry about a quarter of a mile from us, going straight down the hill. Giving them a good holloa, we started off down the path at a round pace, and in less than a quarter of an hour we were at the foot of the mountain on the plain. Here we found a number of people who had headed the elk (a fine buck) just as he was breaking cover, and he had turned back, taking off to some other line of country at a great pace, as we could not hear even a whimper. This was enough to make a saint swear, and, blessing heartily the fellows who had headed him, we turned back and retraced our steps up the mountain to listen for the cry of the pack among the numerous ravines which furrow the sides.
It was of no use; we could hear nothing but the mocking chirp of birds and the roaring of the mountain torrents. Not a sign of elk or dogs. The greyhounds were away with the pack, and knowing that the dogs would never leave him till dark, we determined not to give them up. No less than three times in the course of the day did we reascend the mountain to listen for them in vain. We went up to the top of the Newera Ellia Pass, in the hope of hearing them in that direction, but with the same want of success. Miles of ground were gone over to no purpose. Scaling the steep sides of the mountains at the back of the barracks, we listened among the deep hollows on the other side, but again we were disappointed; the sound of the torrents was all that we could hear.
Descending again to the plain, we procured some breakfast at a friend's house, and we started for the Matturatta Plains. These plains are about three or four miles from the barracks; and I had a faint hope that the buck might have crossed over the mountain, and descended into this part of the country to a river which flows through the patinas. We now mounted our horses, having been on foot all the morning. It was three o'clock P.M., and, with little hope of finding the dogs, we rode along the path towards the Matturatta Plains.
We had just entered the forest, when we met a young hound returning along the path with a wound from a buck's horn in the shoulder. There was now no doubt of the direction, and we galloped along the path towards the plains as hard as we could go. About half way to the plains, to my joy I saw an immense buck's track in the path going in the same direction; the toes were spread wide apart, showing the pace at which he had been going; and there were dogs' tracks following him, all as fresh as could be. This was a gladdening sight after a hard day's work, and we gave a random cheer to encourage any dogs that might be within hearing, rattling our horses over the ground at their best speed.
At last the plains were reached. We pulled up our panting steeds, and strained every nerve to hear the cry of the hounds. The snorting of the horses prevented our hearing any distant sound, and I gave a holloa and listened for some answering voice from a dog. Instead of a sound, Bran and Lucifer suddenly appeared. This was conclusive evidence that the pack was somewhere in this direction, and we rode out into the plain and again listened. Hark to old Smut! there was his deep voice echoing from the opposite hills. Yoick to him, Bran! forward to him, Lucifer! and away the greyhounds dashed towards the spot from which the sound proceeded. The plain forms a wide valley, with a river winding through the centre, and we galloped over the patinas after the greyhounds in full speed. There was no mistaking the bay. I could now distinguish Merriman's fine voice in addition to that of old Smut, and a general chorus of other tongues joined in, till the woods rang again. The horses knew the sport, and away they went, but suddenly over went old Jack, belly-deep in a bog, and sent me flying over his head. There is nothing like companionship in an accident, and Momus accordingly pitched upon his nose in the same bog, my brother describing a fine spread-eagle as he sprawled in the soft ground, We were close to the bay; the horses extricated themselves directly, and again mounting we rode hard to the spot
The buck was at bay in the river, and the exhausted dogs were yelling at him from the bank. The instant that we arrived and cheered them on, old Smut came from the pack towards us with an expression of perfect delight; he gave himself two or three rolls on the grass, and then went to the fight like a lion. The buck, however, suddenly astonished the whole pack by jumping out of the river, and, charging right through them, he started over the plain towards the jungle, with the hounds after him. He had refreshed himself by standing for so long in the cold stream, while the dogs, on the contrary, were nearly worn out. He reached the jungle with the whole pack at his heels; but after doubling backward and forward in the forest for about five minutes, we heard the crash in the bushes as he once more rushed towards the plain, and he broke cover in fine style, with the three greyhounds, Bran, Lucifer and Lena, at his haunches. In another instant he was seized, but he fell with such a shock that it threw the greyhounds from their hold, and recovering himself with wonderful quickness, he went down the slope towards the river at a tremendous pace. The greyhounds overtook him just as he gained the steep bank of the river, and they all rolled over in a confused crowd into the deep water.
The next moment the buck was seen swimming proudly down the river, with the pack following him down the stream in full cry. Presently he gained his footing, and, disdaining farther flight, he turned bravely upon the hounds.
He was a splendid fellow; his nostrils were distended, his mane was bristled up, and his eyes flashed, as, rearing to his full height, he plunged forward and struck the leading dogs under the water. Not a dog could touch him; one by one they were beaten down and half-drowned beneath the water. Old Smut was to the front as usual: down the old dog was beaten, but he reappeared behind the elk's shoulder, and the next moment he was hanging on his ear. The poor old dog had lost so many of his teeth in these encounters that he could not keep his hold, and the buck gave a tremendous spring forward, shaking off the old dog and charging through the pack, sinking nearly half of them for a few moments beneath the water. He had too much pluck to fly farther, and, after wading shoulder-deep against the stream for a few yards, he turned majestically round, and, facing the baying pack, he seemed determined to do or die. I never saw a finer animal; there was a proud look of defiance in his aspect that gave him a most noble appearance; but at that time he had little pity bestowed upon him.
There he stood ready to meet the first dog. Old Smut had been thrown to the rear as the buck turned, and Lena came beautifully to the front, leading the whole pack. There was a shallow sandbank in the river where the bitch could get a footing, and she dashed across it to the attack. The buck met her in her-advance by a sudden charge, which knocked her over and over, but at the same instant Valiant, who is a fine, powerful dog, made a clever spring forward and pinned the buck by the ear. There was no shaking him off, and he was immediately backed up by Ploughboy, who caught the other ear most cleverly. There the two dogs hung like ear-rings as the buck, rearing up, swung them to and fro, but could not break their hold. In another moment the greyhounds were upon him-the whole pack covered him; his beautiful form was seen alternately rearing from the water with the dogs hanging upon him in all directions, then struggling in a confused mass nearly beneath the surface of the stream. He was a brave fellow, and had fought nobly, but there was no hope for him, and we put an end to the fight with the hunting-knife.
It was past four o'clock P.M., and he had been found at seven A.M., but the conclusion fully repaid us for the day's work. The actual distance run by the buck was not above eight miles, but we had gone about twenty during the day, the greater portion of which was over most fatiguing ground.
On an open country an elk would never be caught without greyhounds until he had run fifteen or twenty miles. The dense jungles fatigue him as he ploughs his way through them, and thus forms a path for the dogs behind him. How he can move in some of these jungles is an enigma; a horse would break his legs, and, in fact, could not stir in places through which an elk passes in full gallop.
The principal underwood in the mountain districts of Ceylon is the 'nillho.' This is a perfectly straight stem, from twelve to twenty feet in length, and about an inch and a half in diameter, having no branches except a few small arms at the top, which are covered with large leaves. This plant, in proportion to its size, grows as close as corn in a field, and forms a dense jungle most difficult to penetrate. When the jungles are in this state, the elk is at a disadvantage, as the immense exertion required to break his way through this mass soon fatigues him, and forces him to come to bay.
Every seven years this 'nillho' blossoms. The jungles are then neither more nor less than vast bouquets of bright purple and white flowers; the perfume is delicious, and swarms of bees migrate from other countries to make their harvest of honey. The quantity collected is extraordinary. The bee-hunters start from the low country, and spend weeks in the jungle in collecting the honey and wax. When looking over an immense tract of forest from some elevated point, the thin blue lines of smoke may be seen rising in many directions, marking the sites of the bee-hunters fires. Their method of taking the honey is simple enough. The bees' nests hang from the boughs of the trees, and a man ascends with a torch of green leaves, which creates a dense smoke. He approaches the nest and smokes off the swarm, which, on quitting the exterior of the comb, exposes a beautiful circular mass of honey and wax, generally about eighteen inches in diameter and six inches thick. The bee-hunter being provided with vessels formed from the rind of the gourd attached to ropes, now cuts up the comb and fills his chatties, lowering them down to his companions below.
When the blossom of the nillho fades, the seed forms; this is a sweet little kernel, with the flavour of a nut. The bees now leave the country, and the jungles suddenly swarm, as though by magic, with pigeons, jungle-fowl, and rats. At length the seed is shed and the nillho dies.
The jungles then have a curious appearance. The underwood being dead, the forest-trees rise from a mass of dry sticks like thin hop-poles. The roots of these plants very soon decay, and a few weeks of high wind, howling through the forest, levels the whole mass, leaving the trees standing free from underwood. The appearance of the ground can now be imagined-a perfect chaos of dead sticks and poles, piled one on the other, in every direction, to a depth of between two and three feet. It can only be compared to a mass of hurdles being laid in a heap. The young nillho grows rapidly through this, concealing the mass of dead sticks beneath, and forms a tangled barrier which checks both dogs and man. With tough gaiters to guard the shins, we break through by main force and weight, and the dogs scramble sometimes over, sometimes under the surface. At this period the elk are in great numbers, as they feed with great avidity upon the succulent young nillho. The dogs are now at a disadvantage. While they are scrambling with difficulty through this mass of half-rotten sticks, the elk bounds over it with ease, leaving no path behind him, as he clears it by leaps, and does not exhaust himself by bursting through it. He now constantly escapes, and leaves the pack miles behind; the best hounds follow him, but with such a start he leads them into the unknown depths of the jungles, over high mountains and across deep ravines, from which the lost dogs frequently never return.
There can be no question that it is a bad country for hunting at all times, as the mass of forest is so disproportionate to the patinas; but, on the other hand, were the forests of smaller size there would be less game. Elk-hunting is, on the whole, fine sport. There are many disappointments constantly occurring, but these must happen in all sports. The only important drawback to the pleasure of elk-hunting is the constant loss of the dogs. The best are always sure to go. What with deaths by boars, leopards, elk, and stray hounds, the pack is with difficulty maintained. Puppies are constantly lost in the commencement of their training by straying too far into the jungle, and sometimes by reckless valour. I lost a fine young greyhound, Lancer, own brother to Lucifer, in this way. It was his first day with the pack.
We found a buck who came to bay in a deep rocky torrent, where the dogs had no chance with him, and he amused himself by striking them under water at his pleasure. He at length took his stand among some large rocks, between which the torrent rushed with great rapidity previous to its descent over a fall of sixty feet.
In this impregnable position young Lancer chose to distinguish himself, and with a beautiful spring he flew straight at the buck's head; but the elk met him with a tremendous blow with the fore feet, which broke his back, and the unfortunate Lancer was killed in his first essay and swept over the waterfall. This buck was at bay for two hours before he was killed.
A veteran seizer is generally seamed with innumerable scars. Poor old Bran, who, being a thoroughbred greyhound, is too fine in the skin for such rough hunting, has been sewn up in so many places that he is a complete specimen of needlework. If any dog is hurt in a fight with elk or boar, it is sure to be old Bran. He has now a scar from a wound that was seven inches in length, which he received from a buck whose horns are hanging over my door.
I had started with the pack at daybreak, and I was riding down the Badulla road, about a mile from the kennel, when the whole pack suddenly took up a scent off the road, and dashed into the jungle in full cry. The road was enclosed by forest on either side. The pack had evidently divided upon two elk, as they were running in different directions.
Starting off down the pass, I soon reached the steep patinas, and I heard the pack coming down through the jungle which crowns the hills on the left of the road. There was a crush in the underwood, and the next moment a fine buck broke cover and went away along the hillside. Merriman and Tiptoe were the two leading dogs, and they were not fifty yards behind him. Old smut came tearing along after them, and I gave Bran a holloa and slipped him immediately. It was a beautiful sight to see Bran fly along the patina: across the swampy bottom, taking the broad stream in one bound, and skimming up the hill, he was on the buck's path in a few minutes, pulling up to him at every stride. He passed the few dogs that were in chase like lightning, and in a few more bounds he was at the buck's side. With a dexterous blow, however, the buck struck him with his fore foot, and sent him rolling down the hill with a frightful gash in his side. The buck immediately descended the hillside, and came to bay in a deep pool in the river. Regardless of his wound, old Bran followed him; Smut and the other dogs joined, and there was a fine bay, the buck fighting like a hero. The dogs could not touch him, as he was particularly active with his antlers.
I jumped into the water and gave them a cheer, on which the buck answered immediately by charging at me. I met him with the point of my hunting-knife in the nose, which stopped him, and in the same moment old Smut was hanging on his ear, having pinned him the instant that I had occupied his attention. Bran had the other ear just as I had given him the fatal thrust. In a few seconds the struggle was over. Bran's wound was four inches wide and seven inches long.
My brother had a pretty run with the doe with the other half of the pack, and we returned home by eight A.M., having killed two elk.
Daybreak is the proper time to be upon the ground for elk-hunting. At this hour they have only just retired to the jungle after their night's wandering on the patinas, and the hounds take up a fresh scent, and save the huntsman the trouble of entering the jungle. At a later hour the elk have retired so far into the jungle that much time is lost in finding them, and they are not so likely to break cover as when they are just on the edge of the forest. I had overslept myself one morning when I ought to have been particularly early, as we intended to hunt at the Matturatta Plains, a distance of six miles. The scent was bad, and the sun was excessively hot; the dogs were tired and languid. It was two o'clock P.M., and we had not found, and we were returning through the forest homewards, having made up our minds for a blank day.
Suddenly I thought I heard a deep voice at a great distance; it might have been fancy, but I listened again. I counted the dogs, and old Smut was missing. There was no mistaking his voice when at bay, and I now heard him distinctly in the distance. Running towards the sound through fine open forests, we soon arrived on the Matturatta Plains. The whole pack now heard the old dog distinctly, and they rushed to the sound across the patinas. There was Smut, sure enough, with a fine buck at bay in the river, which he had found and brought to bay single-handed.
The instant that the pack joined him, the buck broke his bay, and, leaping up the bank, he gave a beautiful run over the patinas, with the whole pack after him, and Bran a hundred paces in advance of the other dogs, pulling up to him with murderous intent. Just as I thought that Bran would have him, a sudden kick threw the dog over, but he quickly recovered himself, and again came to the front, and this time he seized the buck by the ear, but, this giving way, he lost his hold and again was kicked over. This had checked the elk's speed for some seconds, and the other dogs were fast closing up, seeing which, the buck immediately altered his course for the river, and took to water in a deep pool. Down came old Smut after him, and in a few moments there was a beautiful chorus, as the whole pack had him at bay.
The river went through a deep gorge, and I was obliged to sit down and slide for about thirty yards, checking a too rapid descent by holding on to the rank grass. On arriving at the river, I could at first see nothing for the high grass and bushes which grew upon the bank, but the din of the bay was just below me. Sliding through the tangled underwood, I dropped into deep water, and found myself swimming about with the buck and dogs around me. Smut and Bran had him by the ears, and a thrust with the knife finished him.
However great the excitement may be during the actual hunting, there is a degree of monotony in the recital of so many scenes of the same character that may be fatiguing: I shall therefore close the description of these mountain sports with the death of the old hero Smut, and the loss of the best hound, Merriman, both of whom have left a blank in the pack not easily filled.
On October 16, 1852, I started with a very short pack. Lucifer was left in the kennel lame; Lena was at home with her pups; and several other dogs were sick. Smut and Bran were the only two seizers out that day, and, being short-handed, I determined to hunt in the more green country at the foot of Hackgalla mountain.
My brother and I entered the jungle with the dogs, and before we had proceeded a hundred yards we heard a fierce bay, every dog having joined. The bay was not a quarter of a mile distant, and we were puzzled as to the character of the game: whatever it was, it had stood to bay without a run. Returning to the patina, in which position we could distinctly assure ourselves of the direction, we heard the bay broken, and a slow run commenced. The next instant Bran came hobbling out of the jungle covered with blood, which streamed from a frightful gash in his hind-quarters. There was no more doubt remaining as to the game at bay; I it was an enormous boar.
Bran was completely HORS DE COMBAT; and Smut, having lost nearly all his teeth, was of no use singlehanded with such an enemy. We had no seizers to depend upon, and the boar again stood to bay in a thick jungle.
I happened to have a rifle with me that morning, as I had noticed fresh elephant-tracks in the neighbourhood a few days previous, and hoping to be able to shoot the boar, we entered the jungle and approached the scene of the bay.
When within twenty paces of the spot I heard his fierce grunting as he charged right and left into the baying pack.* (*It was impossible to call the hounds off their game; therefore the only chance lay in the boar being seized, when I could have immediately rushed in with the knife. It was thus necessary to cheer the pack to the attack, although a cruel alternative.) In vain I cheered them on. I heard no signs of his being seized, but the fierce barking of old Smut, mingled with the savage grunts of the boar, and the occasional cry of a wounded dog, explained the hopeless nature of the contest. Again I cheered them on, and suddenly Smut came up to me from the fight, which was now not ten paces distant, but perfectly concealed in thick bamboo underwood. The old dog was covered with blood, his back was bristled up, and his deep growl betokened his hopeless rage. Poor old dog! he had his death-wound. He seemed cut nearly in half; a wound fourteen inches in length from the lower part of the belly passed up his flank, completely severing the muscle of the hind leg, and extending up to the spine. His hind leg had the appearance of being nearly off, and he dragged it after him in its powerless state, and, with a fierce bark, he rushed upon three legs once more to the fight. Advancing to within six feet of the boar, I could not even see him, both he and the dogs were so perfectly concealed by the thick underwood. Suddenly the boar charged. I jumped upon a small rock and hoped for a shot, but although he came within three feet of the rifle, I could neither see him nor could he see me. Had it not been for the fear of killing the dogs, I would have fired where the bushes were moving, but as it was I could do nothing. A rifle was useless in such jungle. At length the boar broke his bay, but again resumed it in a similar secure position. There was no possibility of assisting the dogs, and he was cutting up the pack in detail. If Lucifer and Lena had been there we could have killed him, but without seizers we were helpless in such jungle.
This lasted for an hour, at the expiration of which we managed to call the dogs off. Old Smut had stuck to him to the last, in spite of his disabled state. The old dog, perfectly exhausted, crawled out of the jungle : he had received several additional wounds, including a severe gash in his throat. He fell from exhaustion, and we made a litter with two poles and a horsecloth to carry him home. Bran, Merriman, and Ploughboy were all severely wounded. We were thoroughly beaten. It was the first time that we had ever been beaten off, and I trust it may be the last. We returned home with our vanquished and bleeding pack--Smut borne in his litter by four men--and we arrived at the kennel a melancholy procession. The pack was disabled for weeks, as the two leading hounds, Merriman and Ploughboy, were severely injured.
Poor old Smut lingered for a few days and died. Thus closed his glorious career of sport, and he left a fame behind him which will never be forgotten. His son, who is now twelve months old, is the facsimile of his sire, and often recalls the recollection of the old dog. I hope he may turn out as good.* (*Killed four months afterwards by a buck elk.)
Misfortunes never come alone. A few weeks after Smut's death, Lizzie, an excellent bitch, was killed by a leopard, who wounded Merriman in the throat, but he being a powerful dog, beat him off and escaped. Merriman had not long recovered from his wound, when he came to a lamentable and diabolical end.
On December 24, 1852, we found a buck in the jungles by the Badulla road. The dead nillho so retarded the pack that the elk got a long start of the dogs; and stealing down a stream he broke cover, crossed the Badulla road, ascended the opposite hills, and took to the jungle before a single hound appeared upon the patina. At length Merriman came bounding along upon his track, full a hundred yards in advance of the pack. In a few minutes every dog had disappeared in the opposite jungle on the elk's path.
This was a part of the country where we invariably lost the dogs, as they took away across a vast jungle country towards a large and rapid river situated among stupendous precipices. I had often endeavoured to find the dogs in this part, but to no purpose; this day, however, I was determined to follow them if possible. I made a circuit of about twenty miles down into the low countries, and again ascending through precipitous jungles, I returned home in the evening, having only recovered two dogs, which I found on the other side of the range of mountains, over which the buck had passed. No pen can describe the beauty of the scenery in this part of the country, but it is the most frightful locality for hunting that can be imagined. The high lands suddenly cease; a splendid panoramic view of the low country extends for thirty miles before the eye; but to descend to this, precipices of immense depth must be passed; and from a deep gorge in the mountain, the large river, after a succession of falls, leaps in one vast plunge of three hundred feet into the abyss below. This is a stupendous cataract, about a mile below the foot of which is the village of Perewelle. I passed close to the village, and, having ascended the steep sides of the mountain, I spent hours in searching for the pack, but the roaring of the river and the din of the waterfalls would have drowned the cry of a hundred hounds. Once, and only once, when halfway up the side of the mountain, I thought I heard the deep bay of a hound in the river below; then I heard the shout of a native; but the sound was not repeated, and I thought it might proceed from the villagers driving their buffaloes. I passed on my arduous path, little thinking of the tragic fate which at that moment attended poor Merriman.
The next day all the dogs found their way home to the kennel, with the exception of Merriman. I was rather anxious at his absence, as he knew the whole country so thoroughly that he should have been one of the first dogs to return. I was convinced that the buck had been at bay in the large river, as I had seen his tracks in several places on the banks, with dog tracks in company; this, added to the fact of the two stray dogs being found in the vicinity, convinced me that they had brought the elk to bay in the river, in which I imagined he had beaten the dogs off. Two or three days passed away without Merriman's return; and, knowing him to be the leading hound of the pack, I made up my mind that he had been washed down a waterfall and killed.
About a week after this had happened, a native came up from the low country with the intelligence that the dogs had brought the buck to bay in the river close to the village of Perewelle, and that the inhabitants had killed the elk and driven the dogs away. The remaining portion of this man's story filled me with rage and horror. Merriman would not leave the body of the elk: the natives thought that the dog might be discovered in their village, which would lead to the detection of the theft of the elk; they, therefore, tied this beautiful hound to a tree, knocked his brains out with a hatchet, and threw his body into the river. This dog was a favourite with everyone who knew the pack. The very instant that I heard the intelligence, I took a good stick, and, in company with my brother, three friends, and my informant, we started to revenge Merriman. Perewelle is twelve miles from my house across country: it was six P.M. when we started, and we arrived at a village within two miles of this nest of villains at half-past eight. Here we got further information, and a man who volunteered to point out three men who were the principal actors in murdering the dog. We slept at this village, and, rising at four o'clock on the following morning, we marched towards Perewelle to surprise the village and capture the offenders.
It was bright moonlight, and we arrived at the village just at break of day. The house was pointed out in which the fellows lived; we immediately surrounded it, and upon entering we seized the offenders. Upon searching the house we found a quantity of dried venison, a spear and an axe, covered with blood, with which they had destroyed the unfortunate dog.
Taking a fine gutta-percha whip, I flogged the culprits soundly; and we forced them to lead the way and point out the very spot of the elk's death. They would not confess the dog's murder, although it was proved against them.
It was a frightful spot, about two hundred paces below the foot of the great fall. The river, swollen by the late rain, boiled, and strove with the opposite rocks, lashing itself into foam, and roaring down countless cataracts, which, though well worthy of the name, sank into insignificance before the mighty fall which fed them. High above our heads reared the rocky precipice of a thousand feet in height, the grassy mountains capped with forest, and I could distinguish the very spot from which I had heard the shouts of men on the day of Merriman's death. Had I only known what was taking place below, I might perhaps have been in time to save the dog.
We found the blood and remains of the offal of the buck, but we, of course, saw no remains of the dog, as the power of the torrent must soon have dashed him to atoms against the rocks.
Thus ended poor Merriman: a better hound never lived. Unfortunately, Ceylon laws are often administered by persons who have never received a legal education, and the natives escaped without further punishment than the thrashing they had received. Of this, however, they had a full dose, which was a sweet sauce to their venison which they little anticipated.
The few descriptions that I have given of elk-hunting should introduce a stranger thoroughly to the sport. No one, however, can enjoy it with as much interest as the owner of the hounds; he knows the character of every dog in the pack--every voice is familiar to his ear; he cheers them to the attack; he caresses them for their courage; they depend upon him for assistance in the struggle, and they mutually succour each other. This renders the dog a more cherished companion than he is considered in England, where his qualities are not of so important a nature; and it makes the loss of a good hound more deeply felt by his master.
Having thus described the general character of Ceylon sports in all branches, I shall conclude by a detailed journal of one trip of a few weeks in the low country, which will at once explain the whole minutiae of the shooting in the island. This journal is taken from a small diary which has frequently accompanied me on these excursions, containing little memoranda which, by many, might be considered tedious. The daily account of the various incidents of a trip will, at all events, give a faithful picture of the jungle sports.