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The Rifle and The Hound in Ceylon by Sir Samuel White Baker

Part 2 out of 5

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one hour left before darkness would set in. The wind had entirely
ceased, leaving a perfect calm; the air was thick and heavy, and the
heat was thus rendered doubly fatiguing. We noticed, however, that the
track of the elephants had doubled back instead of continuing in the
direct line that we had followed so long. This gave us hope, as the
elephants no longer had the advantage of the wind, and we pushed on as
fast as we could go.

It was about half an hour before dusk, and our patience and hopes were
alike exhausted, when we suddenly once more heard the wh-r-r-r of the
elephants winding us within a hundred yards. It was our last chance, and
with redoubled speed we rushed after them.

Suddenly we broke from the high jungle in which we had been for the last
two hours, and found ourselves in a chena jungle of two years' growth,
about five feet high, but so thick and thorny that it resembled one vast
blackthorn hedge, through which no man could move except in the track of
the retreating elephants.

To my delight, on entering this low jungle, I saw the female at about
forty yards' distance, making off at a great pace. I had a light
double-barrelled gun in my hand, and, in the hopes of checking her pace,
I fired a flying shot at her ear. She had been hunted so long that she
was well inclined to fight, and she immediately slackened her speed so
much that in a few instants I was at her tail, so close that I could
have slapped her. Still she ploughed her way through the thick thorns,
and not being able to pass her owing to the barrier of jungle, I could
only follow close at her heels and take my chance of a shot. At length,
losing all patience, I fired my remaining barrel under her tail, giving
it an upward direction in the hope of disabling her spine.

A cloud of smoke hung over me for a second, and, throwing my empty gun
on one side, I put my hand behind me for a spare rifle. I felt the
welcome barrel pushed into my hand at the same moment that I saw the
infuriated head of the elephant with ears cocked charging through the
smoke! It was the work of an instant. I had just time to cock the
two-ounce rifle and take a steady aim. The next moment we were in a
cloud of smoke, but as I fired, I felt certain of her. The smoke cleared
from the thick bushes, and she lay dead at SIX FEET from the spot where
I stood. The ball was in the centre of her forehead, and B., who had
fired over my shoulder so instantaneously with me that I was not aware
of it, had placed his ball within three inches of mine. Had she been
missed, I should have fired my last shot.

This had been a glorious hunt; many miles had been gone over, but by
great luck, when the wind dropped and the elephant altered her course,
she had been making a circuit for the very field of korrakan at which we
had first found her. We were thus not more than three miles from our
resting-place, and the trackers who know every inch of the country, soon
brought us to the main road.

The poonchy and the bull elephant, having both separated from the
female, escaped.

One great cause of danger in shooting in thick jungles is the obscurity
occasioned by the smoke of the first barrel; this cannot escape from the
surrounding bushes for some time, and effectually prevents a certain aim
with the remaining barrel. In wet weather this is much increased.

For my own part I dislike shooting in thick jungles, and I very seldom
do so. It is extremely dangerous, and is like shooting in the dark; you
never see the game until you can almost touch it, and the labour and
pain of following up elephants through thorny jungle is beyond

On our return to the post-holder's hut we dined and prepared for sleep.
It was a calm night, and not a sound disturbed the stillness of the air.
The tired coolies and servants were fast asleep, the lamp burnt dimly,
being scantily fed with oil, and we were in the act of lying down to
rest when a frightful scream made us spring to our feet. There was
something so unearthly in the yell that we could hardly believe it
human. The next moment a figure bounded into the little room that we
occupied. It was a black, stark naked. His tongue, half bitten through,
protruded from his mouth; his bloodshot eyes, with a ghastly stare, were
straining from their sockets, and he stood gazing at us with his arms
extended wide apart. Another horrible scream burst from him, and he fell
flat upon his back.

The post-holder and a whole crowd of awakened coolies now assembled, and
they all at once declared that the man had a devil. The fact is, he had
a fit of epilepsy, and his convulsions were terrible. Without moving a
limb he flapped here and there like a salmon when just landed. I had
nothing with me that would relieve him, and I therefore left him to the
hands of the post-holder, who prided himself upon his skill in
exorcising devils. All his incantations produced no effect, and the
unfortunate patient suddenly sprang to his feet and rushed madly into
the thorny jungle. In this we heard him crashing through like a wild
beast, and I do not know to this day whether he was ever heard of

The Cingalese have a thorough belief in the presence of devils; one sect
are actually `devil-WORSHIPPERS,' but the greater portion of the natives
are Bhuddists. Among this nation the missionaries make very slow
progress. There is no character to work upon in the Cingalese: they are
faithless, cunning, treacherous, and abject cowards; superstitious in
the extreme, and yet unbelieving in any one God. A converted Bhuddist
will address his prayers to our God if he thinks he can obtain any
temporal benefit by so doing, but, if not, he would be just as likely to
pray to Bhudda or to the devil.

I once saw a sample of heathen conversion in Ceylon that was enough to
dishearten a missionary.

A Roman Catholic chapel had been erected in a wild part of the country
by some zealous missionary, who prided himself upon the number of his
converts. He left his chapel during a few weeks' absence in some other
district, during which time his converts paid their devotion to the
Christian altar. They had made a few little additions to the ornaments
of the altar, which must have astonished the priest on his return.

There was an image of our Saviour and the **Virgin:** that was all
according to custom. But there were also 'three images of Bhudda,' a
coloured plaster-of-Paris image of the Queen and Prince Albert upon the
altar, and a very questionable penny print in vivid colours hanging over
the altar, entitled the 'Stolen Kiss.' So much for the conversion of the
heathen in Ceylon. The attempt should only be made in the schools, where
the children may be brought up as Christians, but the idea of converting
the grown-up heathen is a fallacy.


The Four-ounce again--Tidings of a Rogue--Approaching a Tank Rogue --An
Exciting Moment--Ruins of Pollanarua--Ancient Ruins--Rogues at
Doolana--B. Charged by a Rogue--Planning an Attack--A Check--Narrow
Escape--Rogue-stalking--A Bad Rogue--Dangers of Elephant-shooting--The
Rhatamahatmeya's Tale.

A broken nipple in my long two-ounce rifle took me to Trincomalee, about
seventy miles out of my proposed route. Here I had it punched out and
replaced with a new one, which I fortunately had with me. No one who has
not experienced the loss can imagine the disgust occasioned by an
accident to a favourite rifle in a wild country. A spare nipple and
mainspring for each barrel and lock should always be taken on a shooting

In passing by Kandelly, on my return from Trincomalee, I paid a second
visit to the lake. This is very similar to that of Minneria; but the
shooting at that time was destroyed from the same cause which has since
ruined Minneria--'too many guns.' The buffaloes were not worthy of the
name; I could not make one show fight, nor could I even get within three
hundred yards of them. I returned from the plain with disgust; but just
as I was quitting the shores of the lake I noticed three buffaloes in
the shallows about knee-deep in the water, nearly half a mile from me.
They did not look bigger than dogs, the distance was so great.

There is nothing like a sheet of water for trying a rifle; the splash of
the ball shows with such distinctness the accuracy or the defect in the
shooting. It was necessary that I should fire my guns off in order to
clean them that evening: I therefore tried their power at this immense

The long two-ounce fell short, but in a good line. I took a rest upon a
man's shoulder with the four-ounce rifle, and, putting up the last
sight, I aimed at the leading buffalo, who was walking through the water
parallel with us. I aimed at the outline of the throat, to allow for his
pace at this great distance. The recoil of the rifle cut the man's ear
open, as there were sixteen drachms of powder in this charge.

We watched the smooth surface of the water as the invisible messenger
whistled over the lake. Certainly three seconds elapsed before we saw
the slightest effect. At the expiration of that time the buffalo fell
suddenly in a sitting position, and there he remained fixed, many
seconds after, a dull sound returned to our ears; it was the 'fut' of
the ball, which had positively struck him at this immense range. What
the distance was I cannot say; it may have been 600 yards, or 800, or
more. It was shallow water the whole way: we therefore mounted our
horses and rode up to him. Upon reaching him, I gave him a settling ball
in the head, and we examined him. The heavy ball had passed completely
through his hips, crushing both joints, and, of course, rendering him
powerless at once.

The shore appeared full half a mile from us on our return, and I could
hardly credit my own eyes, the distance was so immense, and yet the ball
had passed clean through the animal's body.

It was of course a chance shot, and, even with this acknowledgment, it
must appear rather like the 'marvellous' to a stranger;--this is my
misfortune, not my fault. I certainly never made such a shot before or
since; it was a sheer lucky hit, say at 600 yards; and the wonderful
power of the rifle was thus displayed in the ball perforating the large
body of the buffalo at this range. This shot was made with a round ball,
not a cone. The round belted ball for this heavy two-grooved rifle
weighs three ounces. The conical ball weighs a little more than four

While describing the long shots performed by this particular rifle, I
cannot help recounting a curious chance with a large rogue elephant in
Topari tank. This tank or lake is, like most others in Ceylon, the
result of vast labour in past ages. Valleys were closed in by immense
dams of solid masonry, which, checking the course of the rivers, formed
lakes of many miles in extent. These were used as reservoirs for the
water required for the irrigation of rice lands. The population who
effected these extensive works have long since passed away; their fate
is involved in mystery. The records of their ancient cities still exist,
but we have no account of their destruction. The ruins of one of these
cities, Pollanarua, are within half a mile of the village of Topari, and
the waters of the adjacent lake are still confined by a dam of two miles
in length, composed of solid masonry. When the lake is full, it is about
eight miles in circumference.

I had only just arrived at the village, and my horse-keeper had taken
the horse to drink at the lake, when he suddenly came running back to
say that a rogue elephant was bathing himself on the opposite shore, at
about two miles' distance.

I immediately took my guns and went after him. My path lay along the
top of the great dam, which formed a causeway covered with jungle. This
causeway was about sixty feet in breadth and two miles in length; the
lake washed its base about twenty feet below the summit. The opposite
shore was a fine plain, bordered by open forest, and the lake spread
into the grassy surface in wide and irregular bays.

I continued my course along the causeway at a fast walk, and on arriving
at the extremity of the lake, I noticed that the ancient dam continued
for a much greater distance. This, together with the great height of the
masonry from the level of the water, proved that the dimensions of the
tank had formerly been of much greater extent.

Descending by the rugged stones which formed the dam wall I reached the
plain, and, keeping close to the water's edge, I rounded a large neck of
land covered with trees, which projected for some distance into the
lake. I knew, by the position of the elephant, when I first saw him,
that he was not far beyond this promontory, and I carefully advanced
through the open forest, hoping that I might meet him there on his exit
from his bath. In this I was mistaken, for on passing through this
little belt of trees I saw the elephant still in the lake, belly-deep,
about 300 paces from me. He was full 120 yards from the shore, and I was
puzzled how to act. He was an immense brute, being a fine specimen of a
tank 'rogue.' This class are generally the worst description of rogue
elephants, who seldom move far from the lakes, but infest the shores for
many years. Being quite alone, with the exception of two worthless
gun-bearers, the plan of attack required some consideration.

The belt of trees in which I stood was the nearest piece of cover to the
elephant, the main jungle being about a quarter of a mile from the shore
of the lake. In the event of a retreat being necessary, this cover would
therefore be my point. There was a large tamarind-tree growing alone
upon the plain about a hundred and fifty paces from the water's edge,
exactly in a line with the position of the elephant. The mud plastered
to a great height upon the stem showed this to be his favourite
rubbing-post after bathing.

Having determined upon my plan of attack, I took the guns from the
gun-bearers and sent the men up the tree, as I knew they would run away
in the event of danger, and would most probably take the guns with them
in their flight. Having thus secured the arms, I placed the long
two-ounce against a large and conspicuous tree that grew upon the
extreme edge of the forest, and I cautiously advanced over the open
plain with my two remaining guns, one of which I deposited against the
stem of the single tamarind-tree. I had thus two points for a defensive
retreat, should it be necessary.

I had experienced considerable difficulty in attaining my position at
the tamarind-tree without being observed by the elephant; fortunately, I
had both the wind and the sun favourable, the latter shining from my
back full into the lake.

The elephant was standing with his back to the shore exactly in a line
with me, and he was swinging his great head from side to side, and
flapping his ears in the enjoyment of his bath. I left the tree with my
four-ounce rile, and, keeping in a direct line for his hind-quarters, I
walked towards him. The grass was soft and short; I could therefore
approach without the slightest noise: the only danger of being
discovered was in the chance that I might be seen as he swung his head
continually on either side. This I avoided by altering my course as I
saw his head in the act of coming round, and I soon stood on the edge of
the lake exactly behind him, at about 120 yards. He was a noble-looking
fellow, every inch a rogue, his head almost white with numerous
flesh-coloured spots. These give a savage and disgusting appearance to
an elephant, and altogether he looked a formidable opponent. I had
intended to shout on arriving at my present position, and then to wait
for the front shot as he charged; but on looking back to the
tamarind-tree and my proposed course for retreat, the distance appeared
so great, rendered still more difficult by a gradual ascent, that I felt
it would be impossible to escape if my chance lay in running. I hardly
knew what to do; I had evidently caught a 'Tartar.'

His head was perpetually swinging to and fro, and I was of course
accordingly altering my position to avoid his eye. At one of these half
turns he flapped his right ear just as his head came round, and I
observed a perfectly white mark, the size of a saucer, behind the ear,
in the exact spot for a fatal shot. I at once determined to try it, even
at this distance; at all events, if it failed, and he should charge, I
had a fair start, and by getting the spare gun from the tamarind-tree I
could make a defence at the cover.

His attention was completely absorbed in a luxurious repast upon a bed
of the succulent lotus. He tore up bunches of the broad leaves and snaky
stalks, and, washing them carefully with his trunk, he crushed the juicy
stems, stuffing the tangled mass into his mouth as a savage would eat
maccaroni. Round swung his head once more, the ear flapped, the mark was
exposed, but the ear again concealed it just as I had raised the rifle.
This happened several times, but I waited patiently for a good chance,
being prepared for a run the moment after firing.

Once more his head swung towards me: the sun shone full upon him, and I
raised the rifle to be ready for him if he gave me the chance. His ear
flapped forward just as his head was at a proper angle for a shot. The
mark shone brightly along the sights of the rifle as I took a steady
aim; the answer to the report of the gun was--a dull splash!

He had sunk upon his knees stone dead. I could hardly believe my eyes.
The sight of so large an animal being killed at such a distance by one
shot had an extraordinary effect. I heard a heathenish scream of joy
behind me, and upon turning round I perceived the now courageous
gun-bearers running towards me at their best pace. They were two of the
Topari villagers, and had been perfectly aghast at the idea of one
person, with only a single-barrelled rifle, attacking a tank rogue in
the open plain. The sequel had turned their fear into astonishment. They
now had the laugh at me, however, as they swam fearlessly up to the dead
elephant to cut off his tail, which I would not have done for any
reward, for fear of crocodiles, which abound in the tank. The ball had
struck the white mark exactly in the centre, which pleased these natives
exceedingly, and they returned in safety with the tail.

I have frequently tried these long shots since, but I never succeeded
again except once, and that was not satisfactory, as the elephant did
not die upon the spot, but was found by the natives on the following

On my return to the village I took a shot-gun and strolled along the
banks of the lake. The snipe were innumerable, and I killed them till my
head ached with the constant recoil of the gun in addition to the heat.
I also killed several couple of ducks and teal in addition to
twenty-eight couple of snipe. This was the Paradise for sport at the
time of which I write. It had never been disturbed: but it has since
shared the fate of many other places.

The open forest in the vicinity of the lake abounded with deer. Grassy
glades beneath the shady trees give a park-like appearance to the scene,
and afford a delightful resort for the deer.

In strolling through these shady glades you suddenly arrive among the
ruins of ancient Pollanarua. The palaces are crumbled into shapeless
mounds of bricks. Massive pillars, formed of a single stone, twelve feet
high, stand in upright rows throughout the jungle here and there over an
extent of some miles. The buildings which they once supported have long
since fallen, and the pillars now stand like tombstones over vanished
magnificence. Some buildings are still standing; among these are two
dagobas, huge monuments of bricks, formerly covered with white cement,
and elaborately decorated with different devices. These are shaped like
an egg that has been cut nearly in half, and then placed upon its base;
but the cement has perished, and they are mounds of jungle and rank
grass which has overgrown them, although the large dagoba is upwards of
a hundred feet high.

A curious temple, formed on the imperishable principle of excavating in
the solid rock, is in perfect preservation, and is still used by the
natives as a place of worship: this is presided over by a priest. Three
large images of Bhudda, carved out of solid rock, occupy the positions
in which he is always represented; that in the recumbent posture is
fifty-six feet long, cut from one stone.

I was strolling through these ruins when I suddenly saw a spotted doe
feeding among the upright pillars before mentioned. I was within twenty
yards of her before she was aware of my vicinity, and I bagged her by a
shot with a double-barrelled gun. At the report of the gun a herd of
about thirty deer, which were concealed amongst the ruins, rushed close
by me, and I bagged another doe with the remaining barrel.

The whole of this country must at one time have been densely populated;
perhaps this very density may have produced pestilence, which swept away
the inhabitants. The city has been in ruins for about 600 years, and was
founded about 300 years B.C. Some idea of the former extent of the
Ceylon antiquities may be formed from the present size of the ruins.
Those of Anarajapoora are sixteen miles square, comprising a surface of
256 square miles. Those of Pollanarua are much smaller, but they are
nevertheless of great extent.

The inhabitants of the present village of Topari are a poor squalid
race; and if they are descended in a direct line from the ancient
occupants of the city, they are as much degenerated in character and
habits as the city itself is ruined in architecture. Few countries can
be more thinly populated than Ceylon, and yet we have these numerous
proofs of a powerful nation having once existed. Wherever these lakes or
tanks exist in the present day, a populous country once flourished. In
all countries which are subject to months of drought, a supply of water
is the first consideration, or cultivation must cease. This was the
object in forming the tanks, which are especially numerous throughout
the Tambancadua district. These tank countries afford a great diversity
of sport, as they all abound with wild fowl, and snipe in their season
(from November to May). During the time of drought they are always the
resort of every kind of wild animal, which are forced to the
neighbourhood for a supply of water.

The next tank to Topari is that of Doolana; this is eight miles from the
former, and is about the same extent. In this district there are no less
than eight of these large lakes. Their attractions to rogue elephants
having been explained, it may be readily understood that these gentry
abound throughout the district. I shall, therefore, select a few
incidents that have happened to me in these localities, which will
afford excellent illustrations of the habits of `rogues.'

Having arrived at Doolana, on the 5th April, 1847, with good Moormen
trackers, who were elephant-catchers by profession, I started for a
day's sport, in company with my brother B. This particular portion of
the district is inhabited entirely by Moormen. They are a fine race of
people, far superior to the Cingalese. They are supposed to be descended
from Arabian origin, and they hold the Mohammedan religion. The
Rhatamahatmeya, or head man of the district, resides at Doolana, and he
had received us in a most hospitable manner. We therefore started direct
from his house.

Passing through a belt of low thick jungle, exactly in front of the
village, we entered upon the plain which formed the border of the tank.
This lake is about three miles in length, but is not more than a mile in
width in its widest part, and in some places is very much less. The
opposite side of the tank is fine open forest, which grows to the
water's edge, and is in some parts flooded during the wet season. At
this time the soil was deep and muddy.

This was not a place visited by sportsmen at that period; and upon
arriving at the margin of the lake, an exciting view presented itself.
Scattered over the extent of the lake were `thirteen rogue elephants;'
one was not a quarter of a mile from us; another was so far off he could
hardly be distinguished; another was close to the opposite jungle; and
they were, in fact, all single elephants. There was an exception to
this, however, in one pair, who stood in the very centre of the tank,
side by side; they were as black as ebony, and although in view with
many brother rogues, they appeared giants even among giants. The Moormen
immediately informed us that they were a notorious pair, who always
associated together, and were the dread of the neighbourhood. There were
many tales of their ferocity and daring, which at the time we gave
little heed to.

Crossing the tank in a large canoe, we arrived in the open forest upon
the opposite shore. It was a mass of elephant tracks; which sank deep in
the soft earth. They were all so fresh and confused that tracking was
very difficult. However, we at length fixed upon the tracks of a pair of
elephants, and followed them up. This was a work of considerable time,
but the distant cracking of a bough at length attracted us to their
position, and we shortly came up with them, just as they had winded us
and were moving off. I fired an ineffectual shot at the temple of one,
which separated him from the other, after whom we started in chase at
full speed. Full speed soon ended in a stand-still in such ground; it
was deep, stiff clay, in which we sank over our ankles at every step,
and varied our struggles by occasionally flying sprawling over the
slippery roots of the trees.

The elephants ran clean away from us, and the elephant-catchers, who
knew nothing of the rules for carrying spare guns, entering into the
excitement of the chase, and free from the impediments of shoes, ran
lightly along the muddy ground, and were soon out of sight as well as
the elephants. Still we struggled on, when, presently we heard a shout
and then a shot; then another shout; then the trumpet of an elephant.
Shot after shot then followed with a chorus of shouts; they were
actually firing all our spare guns!

In a few moments we were up with them. In a beautifully open piece of
forest, upon good hard ground, these fellows were having a regular
battle with the rogue. He was charging them with the greatest fury, but
he no sooner selected one man for his object than these active fellows
diverted his rage by firing into his hind-quarters and yelling at him.
At this he would immediately turn and charge another man, when he would
again be assailed as before. When we arrived he immediately selected B.,
and came straight at him, but offered a beautiful shot in doing so, and
B. dropped him dead.

The firing had disturbed a herd of elephants from the forest, and they
had swum the large river in the neighbourhood, which was at that time so
swollen that we could not cross it. We, therefore, struck off to the
edge of the forest, where the waters of the lake washed the roots of the
trees, and from this point we had a fine view of the greater portion.

All the rogues that we had at first counted had retired to their several
entrances in the forest, except the pair of desperadoes already
mentioned--they knew no fear, and had not heeded the shots fired. They
were tempting baits, and we determined to get them if possible. These
two elephants were standing belly-deep in the water, about a quarter of
a mile from the shore; and the question was, `How were we to get near
them?' Having observed that the other rogues had retreated to the forest
at the noise of the firing, it struck me that we might by some ruse
induce these two champions to follow their example, and, by meeting them
on their entrance, we might bring them to action.

Not far upon our left, a long shallow bank, covered with reeds,
stretched into the tank. By wading knee-deep along this shoal, a man
might approach to within 200 paces of the elephants and would be nearly
abreast of them. I, therefore, gave a man a gun, and instructed him to
advance to the extreme end of the shallows, taking care to conceal
himself in the rushes, and when at the nearest point he was to fire at
the elephants. This, I hoped, would drive them to the jungle, where we
should endeavour to meet them.

The Moorman entrusted upon this mission was a plucky fellow, and he
started off, taking a double gun and a few charges of powder and ball.
The elephant-catchers were delighted with the idea, and we patiently
awaited the result. About a quarter of an hour passed away, when we
suddenly saw a puff of white smoke spring from the green rushes at the
point of the sandbank. A few moments after, we heard the report of the
gun, and we saw the ball splash in the water close to the elephants.
They immediately cocked their ears, and, throwing their trunks high in
the air, they endeavoured to wind the enemy; but they did not move, and
they shortly again commenced feeding upon the water-lilies. Another shot
from the same place once more disturbed them, and, while they winded the
unseen enemy, two more shots in quick succession from the old quarter
decided their opinion, and they stalked proudly through the water
towards the shore.

Our satisfaction was great, but the delight of the elephant-catchers
knew no bounds. Away they, started along the shores of the lake, hopping
from root to root, skipping through the mud, which was more than a foot
deep, their light forms hardly sinking in the tough surface. A
nine-stone man certainly has an advantage over one of twelve in this
ground; added to this, I was carrying the long two-ounce rifle of
sixteen pounds, which, with ammunition, &c., made up about thirteen and
a half stone, in deep stiff clay. I was literally half-way up the calf
of my leg in mud at every step, while these light, naked fellows tripped
like snipe over the sodden ground. Vainly I called upon them to go
easily; their moment of excitement was at its full pitch, and they were
soon out of sight among the trees and underwood, taking all the spare
guns, except the four-ounce rifle, which, weighing twenty-one pounds,
effectually prevented the bearer from leaving us behind,

What added materially to the annoyance of losing the spare guns was the
thoughtless character of the advance. I felt sure that these fellows
would outrun the position of the elephants, which, if they had continued
in a direct route, should have entered the jungle within 300 yards of
our first station.

We had slipped, and plunged, and struggled over this distance, when we
suddenly were checked in our advance. We had entered a small plot of
deep mud and rank grass, surrounded upon all sides by dense rattan
jungle. This stuff is one woven mass of hooked thorns: long tendrils,
armed in the same manner, although not thicker than a whip-cord, wind
themselves round the parent canes and form a jungle which even elephants
dislike to enter. To man, these jungles are perfectly impervious.

Half-way to our knees in mud, we stood in this small open space of about
thirty feet by twenty. Around us was an opaque screen of impenetrable
jungle; the lake lay about fifty yards upon our left, behind the thick
rattan. The gun-bearers were gone ahead somewhere, and were far in
advance. We were at a stand-still. Leaning upon my long rifle, I stood
within four feet of the wall of jungle which divided us from the lake. I
said to B., 'The trackers are all wrong, and have gone too far. I am
convinced that the elephants must have entered somewhere near this

Little did I think that at that very moment they were within a few feet
of us. B. was standing behind me on the opposite side of the small open,
or about seven yards from the jungle.

I suddenly heard a deep guttural sound in the thick rattan within four
feet of me; in the same instant the whole tangled fabric bent forward,
and bursting asunder, showed the furious head of an elephant with
uplifted trunk in full charge upon me!

I had barely time to cock my rifle, and the barrel almost touched him as
I fired. I knew it was in vain, as his trunk was raised. B. fired his
right-hand barrel at the same moment without effect from the same cause.
I jumped on one side and attempted to spring through the deep mud: it
was of no use, the long grass entangled my feet, and in another instant
I lay sprawling in the enraged elephant's path within a foot of him. In
that moment of suspense I expected to hear the crack of my own bones as
his massive foot would be upon me. It was an atom of time. I heard the
crack of a gun; it was B.'s last barrel. I felt a spongy weight strike
my heel, and, turning quickly heels over head, I rolled a few paces and
regained my feet. That last shot had floored him just as he was upon me;
the end of his trunk had fallen upon my heel. Still he was not dead, but
he struck at me with his trunk as I passed round his head to give him a
finisher with the four-ounce rifle, which I had snatched from our
solitary gun-bearer.

My back was touching the jungle from which the rogue had just charged,
and I was almost in the act of firing through the temple of the still
struggling elephant, when I heard a tremendous crash in the jungle
behind me similar to the first, and the savage scream of an elephant. I
saw the ponderous foreleg cleave its way through the jungle directly
upon me. I threw my whole weight back against the thick rattans to avoid
him, and the next moment his foot was planted within an inch of mine.
His lofty head was passing over me in full charge at B., who was
unloaded, when, holding the four-ounce rifle perpendicularly, I fired
exactly under his throat. I thought he would fall and crush me, but this
shot was the only chance, as B. was perfectly helpless.

A dense cloud of smoke from the heavy charge of powder for the moment
obscured everything. I had jumped out of the way the instant after
firing. The elephant did not fall, but he had his death blow the ball
had severed his jugular, and the blood poured from the wound. He
stopped, but collecting his stunned energies he still blundered forward
towards B. He, however, avoided him by running to one side, and the
wounded brute staggered on through the jungle. We now loaded the guns;
the first rogue was quite dead, and we followed in pursuit of rogue
number two. We heard distant shots, and upon arriving at the spot we
found the gun-bearers. They had heard the wounded elephant crushing
through the jungle, and they had given him a volley just as he was
crossing the river over which the herd had escaped in the morning. They
described the elephant as perfectly helpless from his wound, and they
imagined that he had fallen in the thick bushes on the opposite bank of
the river. As I before mentioned, we could not cross the river on
account of the torrent, but in a few days it subsided, and the elephant
was found lying dead in the spot where they supposed he had fallen.

Thus happily ended the destruction of this notable pair; they had proved
themselves all that we had heard of them, and by their cunning dodge of
hiding in the thick jungle they had nearly made sure of us. We had
killed three rogues that morning, and we returned to our quarters well

Since that period I have somewhat thinned the number of rogues in this
neighbourhood. I had a careful and almost certain plan of shooting them.
Quite alone, with the exception of two faithful gun-bearers, I used to
wait at the edge of the jungle at their feeding time, and watch their
exit from the forest. The most cautious stalking then generally enabled
me to get a fatal shot before my presence was discovered. This is the
proper way to succeed with rogue elephants, although of course it is
attended with considerable danger. I was once very nearly caught near
this spot, where the elephants are always particularly savage. The lake
was then much diminished in size by dry weather, and the water had
retired for about a hundred yards from the edge of the forest, leaving a
deep bed of mud covered with slime and decayed vegetable matter. This
slime had hardened in the sun and formed a cake over the soft mud
beneath. Upon this treacherous surface a man could walk with great care.
Should the thin covering break through, he would be immediately
waist-deep in the soft mud. To plod through this was the elephant's
delight. Smearing a thick coat of the black mud over their whole bodies,
they formed a defensive armour against the attacks of mosquitoes, which
are the greatest torments that an elephant has to contend with.

I was watching the edge of the forest one afternoon at about four
o'clock, when I noticed the massive form of one of these tank rogues
stalk majestically from the jungle and proceed through the deep mud
towards the lake. I had the wind, and I commenced stalking him.

Advancing with my two gun-bearers in single file, I crept carefully from
tree to tree along the edge of the forest for about a quarter of a mile,
until I arrived at the very spot at which he had made his exit from the

I was now within eighty yards of him as he stood with his head towards
the lake and his hind-quarters exactly facing me. His deep tracks in the
mud were about five feet apart, so great was his stride and length of
limb, and, although the soft bog was at least three and a half feet
deep, his belly was full two feet above the surface. He was a fine
fellow, and, with intense caution, I advanced towards him over the
trembling surface of baked slime. His tracks had nearly filled with
water, and looked like little wells. The bog waved as I walked carefully
over it, and I stopped once or twice, hesitating whether I should
continue; I feared the crusty surface would not support me, as the
nearer I approached the water's edge the weaker the coating of slime
became, not having been exposed for so long a time to the sun as that at
a greater distance.

He was making so much noise in splashing the mud over his body that I
had a fine chance for getting up to him. I could not withstand the
temptation, and I crept up as fast as I could.

I got within eight paces of him unperceived; the mud that he threw over
his back spattered round me as it fell. I was carrying a light
double-barrelled gun, but I now reached back my hand to exchange it for
my four-ounce rifle. Little did I expect the sudden effect produced by
the additional weight of the heavy weapon. The treacherous surface
suddenly gave way, and in an instant I was waist deep in mud. The noise
that I had made in falling had at once aroused the elephant, and, true
to his character of a rogue, he immediately advanced with a shrill
trumpet towards me. His ears were cocked, and his tail was well up; but
instead of charging, as rogues generally do, with his head thrown rather
back and held high, which renders a front shot very uncertain, he rather
lowered his head, and splashed towards me through the mud, apparently
despising my diminutive appearance.

I thought it was all up with me this time; I was immovable in my bed of
mud, and, instead of the clean brown barrel that I could usually trust
to in an extremity, I raised a mass of mud to my shoulder, which encased
my rifle like a flannel bag. I fully expected it to miss fire; no sights
were visible, and I had to guess the aim with the advancing elephant
within five yards of me. Hopelessly I pulled the slippery trigger. The
rifle did not even hang fire, and the rogue fell into the deep bed of
mud stone dead. If the rifle had missed fire I must have been killed, as
escape would have been impossible. It was with great difficulty that I
was extricated from my muddy position by the joint exertions of myself
and gun-bearers.

Elephants, buffaloes, and hogs are equally fond of wallowing in the mud.
A buffalo will gallop through a swamp, hock deep, in which a horse would
be utterly powerless, even without a rider. Elephants can also make
wonderful progress through deep mud, the formation of the hind legs with
knees instead of hocks giving them an increased facility for moving
through heavy ground.

The great risk in attacking rogue elephants consists in the
impracticability of quick movements upon such ground as they generally
frequent. The speed and activity of a man, although considerable upon a
smooth surface, is as nothing upon rough, stumpy grass wilds, where even
walking is laborious. What is comparatively level to an elephant's foot
is as a ploughed field to that of a man. This renders escape from
pursuit next to impossible, unless some welcome tree should be near,
round which the hunter could dodge, and even then he stands but a poor
chance, unless assistance is at hand. I have never seen anyone who could
run at full speed in rough ground without falling, if pursued. Large
stones, tufts of rank grass, holes, fallen boughs, gullies, are all
impediments to rapid locomotion when the pursued is forced to be
constantly looking back to watch the progress of his foe, and to be the
judge of his own race.

There is a great art in running away. It requires the perfection of
coolness and presence of mind, without which a man is most likely to run
into the very danger that he is trying to avoid. This was the cause of
Major Haddock's death in Ceylon some years ago. He had attacked a
'rogue,' and, being immediately charged, he failed to stop him, although
he gave him both barrels. Being forced to run, he went off at full
speed, and turning quickly round a tree, he hoped the elephant would
pass him. Unfortunately, he did not look behind him before he turned,
and the elephant passed round the opposite side of the tree, and, of
course, met him face to face. He was instantly trampled to death.

Mr. Wallet was also killed by a rogue elephant; this animal was shot a
few days afterwards, in a spirited contest, by Captain Galway and Ensign
Scroggs, both of whom were very nearly caught in the encounter. A
gentleman of the name of Keane was added to the list of victims a few
years ago. He had fired without effect, and was almost immediately over-
taken by the elephant and crushed to death. The most extraordinary tale
that I have ever heard of rogue elephants in Ceylon was told me by the
Rhatamahatmeya of Doolana, who was present at the scene when a lad. I do
not profess to credit it entirely; but I will give it in his own words,
and, to avoid the onus of an improbable story, I will entitle it the
'Rhatamahatmeya's Tale.' In justice to him, I must acknowledge that his
account was corroborated by all the old men of the village.


'There was a notorious rogue elephant at Doolana about thirty years ago,
whose ferocity was so extreme that he took complete possession of a
certain part of the country adjoining the lake. He had killed eight or
nine persons, and his whole object in existence appeared to be the
waylaying and destruction of the natives. He was of enormous size, and
was well known by a peculiar flesh-coloured forehead.

`In those days there were no fire-arms in this part of the country;
therefore there was no protection for either life or property from this
monster, who would invade the paddy-fields at night, and actually pull
down the watch-houses, regardless of the blazing fires which are lighted
on the hearth of sand on the summit; these he used to scatter about and
extinguish. He had killed several natives in this manner, involving them
in the common ruin with their watch-houses. The terror created by this
elephant was so extreme that the natives deserted the neighbourhood that
he infested.

`At length many months passed away without his being either seen or
heard of; the people began to hope that he had died from the effect of
poisoned arrows, which had frequently been shot at him from the
watch-houses in high trees; and, by degrees, the terror of his name had
lost its power, and he ceased to be thought of.

`It was in the cool of the evening, about an hour before sunset, that
about twenty of the women from the village were upon the grassy borders
of the lake, engaged in sorting and tying into bundles the rushes which
they had been gathering during the day for making mats. They were on the
point of starting homeward with their loads, when the sudden trumpet of
an elephant was heard, and to their horror they saw the well-known
rogue, with the unmistakable mark upon his forehead, coming down in full
charge upon them. The ground was perfectly open; there were no trees for
some hundred yards, except the jungle from which he was advancing at a
frightful speed. An indiscriminate flight of course took place, and a
race of terror commenced. In a few seconds the monster was among them,
and, seizing a young girl in his trunk, he held her high in the air, and
halted, as though uncertain how to dispose of his helpless victim. The
girl, meanwhile, was vainly shrieking for assistance, and the petrified
troop of women, having gained the shelter of some jungle, gazed
panic-stricken upon the impending fate of their companion.

`To their horror the elephant slowly lowered her in his trunk till near
the ground, when he gradually again raised her, and, bringing her head
into his mouth, a report was heard like the crack of a whip--it was the
sudden crushing of her skull. Tearing the head off by the neck, he
devoured it; and, placing his forefoot upon the body, he tore the arms
and legs from their sockets with his trunk, and devoured every portion
of her.

`The women rushed to the village with the news of this unnatural

`Doolana and the neighbourhood has always been famous for its
elephant-hunters, and the husband of this unfortunate girl was one of
the most active in their pursuit. The animals are caught in this country
and sold to the Arabs, for the use of the Indian Government.

`The news of this bloody deed flew from village to village; war to the
knife was declared against the perpetrator, and preparations were
accordingly made.

`Since the murder of this girl he had taken up his abode in a small
isolated jungle adjoining, surrounded by a small open plain of fine soft
grass, upon a level sandy soil.

`A few days after this act, a hundred men assembled at Doolana,
determined upon his destruction. They were all picked
elephant-hunters--Moormen; active and sinewy fellows, accustomed to
danger from their childhood. Some were armed with axes, sharpened to the
keenest edge, some with long spears, and others with regular elephant
ropes, formed of the thongs of raw deer's hide, beautifully twisted.
Each division of men had a separate duty allotted.

`They marched towards the small jungle in which the rogue was known to
be; but he anticipated their wishes, and before they were within a
hundred paces of his lair, he charged furiously out. The conflict began
in good earnest. The spearmen were in advance, and the axemen were
divided into two parties, one on either flank, with an equal number of
ropemen. The instant that he charged the whole body of men ran forward
at full speed to meet him; still he continued his furious onset,
undismayed by the yells of a hundred men. The spearmen halted when
within twenty yards, then turned and fled; this had been agreed upon
beforehand. The elephant passed the two flanks of axemen in pursuit of
the flying enemy; the axemen immediately closed in behind him, led by
the husband of the murdered girl. By a well-directed blow upon the hind
leg, full of revenge, this active fellow divided the sinew in the first
joint above the foot.* (*Since this was written I have seen the African
elephant disabled by one blow of a sharp sword as described in the "Nile
Tributaries of Abyssinia.") That instant the elephant fell upon his
knees, but recovered himself directly, and endeavoured to turn upon his
pursuers; a dozen axes flashed in the sunbeams, as the strokes were
aimed at the other hind leg. It was the work of an instant: the massive
limb bent powerless under him, and he fell in a sitting posture, utterly
helpless, but roaring with mad and impotent fury. The ropemen now threw
nooses over his trunk and head; his struggles, although tremendous, were
in vain; fifty men, hanging their weight upon several ropes attached to
his trunk, rendered that dreaded weapon powerless. The sharp lances were
repeatedly driven into his side, and several of the boldest hunters
climbing up the steep ascent of his back, an axe was seen to fall
swiftly and repeatedly upon his spine, on the nape of his tough neck.
The giant form suddenly sank; the spine was divided, and the avenging
blow was dealt by the husband of his late victim. The destroyer was no
more. The victory was gained without the loss of a man.'

The natives said that this elephant was mad; if so it may account in
some measure for the unheard-of occurrence of an elephant devouring
flesh. Both elephants and buffaloes attack man from malice alone,
without the slightest idea of making a meal of him. This portion of the
headman's story I cannot possibly believe, although he swears to it. The
elephant may, perhaps, have cracked her head and torn his victim to
pieces in the manner described, but the actual 'eating' is incredible.


Character of the Veddahs--Description of the Veddahs--A Monampitya
Rogue--Attacking the Rogue--Breathless Excitement--Death of a Large
Rogue--Utility of the Four-ounce--A Curious Shot--Fury of a Bull
Buffalo--Character of the Wild Buffalo--Buffalo-shooting at Minneria
Lake--Charge in High Reeds--Close of a Good Day's Sport--Last Day at
Minneria--A Large Snake--An Unpleasant Bedfellow.

Doolana is upon the very verge of the most northern point of the Veddah
country, the whole of which wild district is the finest part of Ceylon
for sport. Even to this day few Europeans have hunted these secluded
wilds. The wandering Veddah, with his bow and arrows, is occasionally
seen roaming through his wilderness in search of deer, but the report of
a native's gun is never heard; the game is therefore comparatively
undisturbed. I have visited every portion of this fine sporting country,
and since I have acquired the thorough knowledge of its attractions, I
have made up my mind never to shoot anywhere but there. The country is
more open than in most parts of Ceylon, and the perfect wildness of the
whole district is an additional charm.

The dimensions of the Veddah country are about eighty miles from north
to south, by forty in width. A fine mountain, known as the 'Gunner's
Coin,' is an unmistakable landmark upon the northern boundary. From this
point a person may ride for forty miles without seeing a sign of a
habitation; the whole country is perfectly uncivilised, and its scanty
occupants, the 'Veddahs,' wander about like animals, without either
home, laws, or religion.

I have frequently read absurd descriptions of their manners and customs,
which must evidently have been gathered from hearsay, and not from a
knowledge of the people. It is a commonly believed report that the
Veddahs 'live in the trees,' and a stranger immediately confuses them
with rooks and monkeys. Whoever first saw Veddah huts in the trees would
have discovered, upon enquiry, that they were temporary watch-houses,
from which they guard a little plot of korrakan from the attacks of
elephants and other wild beasts. Far from LIVING in the trees, they live
nowhere; they wander over the face of their beautiful country, and
migrate to different parts at different seasons, with the game which
they are always pursuing. The seasons in Ceylon vary in an extraordinary
manner, considering the small size of the island. The wet season in one
district is the dry season in another, and vice versa. Wherever the dry
weather prevails, the pasturage is dried up; the brooks and pools are
mere sandy gullies and pits. The Veddah watches at some solitary hole
which still contains a little water, and to this the deer and every
species of Ceylon game resort. Here his broad-headed arrow finds a
supply. He dries the meat in long strips in the sun, and cleaning out
some hollow tree, he packs away his savoury mass of sun-cooked flesh,
and fills up the reservoir with wild honey; he then stops up the
aperture with clay.

The last drop of water evaporates, the deer leave the country and
migrate into other parts where mountains attract the rain and the
pasturage is abundant. The Veddah burns the parched grass wherever he
passes, and the country is soon a blackened surface--not a blade of
pasture remains; but the act of burning ensures a sweet supply shortly
after the rains commence, to which the game and the Veddahs will then
return. In the meantime he follows the game to other districts, living
in caves where they happen to abound, or making a temporary but with
grass and sticks.

Every deer-path, every rock, every peculiar feature in the country,
every pool of water, is known to these hunting Veddahs; they are
consequently the best assistants in the world in elephant-hunting. They
will run at top speed over hard ground upon an elephant's track which is
barely discernible even to the practised eye of a white man.
Fortunately, the number of these people is very trifling or the game
would be scarce.

They hunt like the leopard; noiselessly stalking till within ten paces
of their game, they let the broad arrow fly. At this distance who could
miss? Should the game be simply wounded, it is quite enough; they never
lose him, but hunt him up, like hounds upon a blood track.

Nevertheless, they are very bad shots with the bow and arrow, and they
never can improve while they restrict their practice to such short

I have often tried them at a mark at sixty yards, and, although a very
bad hand with a bow myself, I have invariably beaten them with their own
weapons. These bows are six feet long, made of a light supple wood, and
the strings are made of the fibrous bark of a tree greased and twisted.
The arrows are three feet long, formed of the same wood as the bows. The
blades are themselves seven inches of this length, and are flat, like
the blade of a dinner-knife brought to a point. Three short feathers
from the peacock's wing are roughly lashed to the other end of the

The Veddah in person is extremely ugly; short, but sinewy, his long
uncombed locks fall to his waist, looking more like a horse's tail than
human hair. He despises money, but is thankful for a knife, a hatchet,
or a gaudy-coloured cloth, or brass pot for cooking.

The women are horribly ugly and are almost entirely naked. They have no
matrimonial regulations, and the children are squalid and miserable.
Still these people are perfectly happy, and would prefer their present
wandering life to the most luxurious restraint. Speaking a language of
their own, with habits akin to those of wild animals, they keep entirely
apart from the Cingalese. They barter deer-horns and bees'-wax with the
travelling Moormen pedlers in exchange for their trifling requirements.
If they have food, they eat it; if they have none, they go without until
by some chance they procure it. In the meantime they chew the bark of
various trees, and search for berries, while they wend their way for
many miles to some remembered store of deer's flesh and honey, laid by
in a hollow tree.

The first time that I ever saw a Veddah was in the north of the country.
A rogue elephant was bathing in a little pool of deep mud and water near
the tank of Monampitya, about six miles from the 'Gunner's Coin.' This
Veddah had killed a wild pig, and was smoking the flesh within a few
yards of the spot, when he suddenly heard the elephant splashing in the
water. My tent was pitched within a mile of the place, and he
accordingly brought me the intelligence.

Upon arrival at the pool I found the elephant so deep in the mud that he
could barely move. His hind-quarters were towards me; and the pool not
being more than thirty yards in diameter, and surrounded by impenetrable
rattan jungle on all sides but one small opening, in which I stood, I
was obliged to clap my hands to attract his attention. This had the
desired effect; he turned slowly round, and I shot him immediately. This
was one of the Monampitya tank rogues, but in his muddy position he had
no chance.

The largest elephant that I have ever seen was in this neighbourhood. I
had arrived one afternoon at about five o'clock in a fine plain, about
twelve miles from Monampitya, where the presence of a beautiful lake and
high grass promised an abundance of game. It was a most secluded spot,
and my tent and coolies being well up with my horse, I fixed upon a
shady nook for the tent, and I strolled out to look for the tracks while
it was being pitched.

A long promontory stretched some hundred yards into the lake, exactly
opposite the spot I had fixed upon for the encampment, and, knowing that
elephants when bathing generally land upon the nearest shore, I walked
out towards the point of this projecting neck of land.

The weather was very dry, and the ground was a mass of little pitfalls,
about two feet deep, which had been made by the feet of the elephants in
the wet weather, when this spot was soft mud and evidently the favourite
resort of the heavy game. The ground was now baked by the sun as hard as
though it were frozen, and the numerous deep ruts made walking very
difficult. Several large trees and a few bushes grew upon the surface,
but for the most part it was covered by a short though luxuriant grass.
One large tree grew within fifty yards of the extreme point of the
promontory, and another of the same kind grew at an equal distance from
it, but nearer to the main land. Upon both these trees was a coat of
thick mud not many hours old. The bark was rubbed completely away, and
this appeared to have been used for years as a favourite rubbing-post by
some immense elephant. The mud reached full twelve feet up the trunk of
the tree, and there were old marks far above this which had been scored
by his tusks. There was no doubt that one of these tank rogues of
extraordinary size had frequented this spot for years, and still
continued to do so, the mud upon the tree being still soft, as though it
had been left there that morning. I already coveted him, and having my
telescope with me, I took a minute survey of the opposite shore, which
was about half a mile distant and was lined with fine open forest to the
water's edge. Nothing was visible. I examined the other side of the lake
with the same want of success. Although it was such a quiet spot, with
beautiful grass and water, there was not a single head of game to be
seen. Again I scrutinised the opposite shore. The glass was no sooner
raised to my eye than I started at the unexpected apparition. There was
no mistaking him; he had appeared as

though by magic--an elephant of the most extraordinary size that I have
ever seen. He was not still for an instant, but was stalking quickly up
and down the edge of the lake as though in great agitation. This
restlessness is one of the chief characteristics of a bad rogue. I
watched him for a few minutes, until he at length took to the water, and
after blowing several streams over his shoulders, he advanced to the
middle of the tank, where he commenced feeding upon the lotus leaves and

It was a calm afternoon, and not a breath of air was stirring; and
fearing lest the noise of the coolies, who were arranging the
encampment, should disturb him, I hastened back. I soon restored quiet,
and ordering the horses to be led into the jungle lest he should
discover them, I made the people conceal themselves; and taking my two
Moormen gun-bearers, who were trusty fellows that I had frequently shot
with, I crept cautiously back to my former position, and took my station
behind the large tree farthest from the point which commanded the
favourite rubbing-post and within fifty yards of it. From this place I
attentively watched his movements. He was wandering about in the water,
alternately feeding and bathing, and there was a peculiar devilry in his
movements that marked him as a rogue of the first class. He at length
made up his mind to cross the tank, and he advanced at quick strides
through the water straight for the point upon which I hoped to meet him.

This was an exciting moment. I had no companion, but depended upon my
own gun, and the rutty nature of the ground precluded any quick
movements. The watching of the game is the intense excitement of
elephant-shooting--a feeling which only lasts until the animal is within
shot, when it suddenly vanishes and gives place to perfect calmness. At
this time I could distinctly hear the beating of my own heart, and my
two gun-bearers, who did not know what fear was, were literally
trembling with excitement.

He was certainly a king of beasts, and proudly he advanced towards the
point. Suddenly he disappeared; nothing could be seen but his trunk
above the water as he waded through the deep channel for a few yards,
and then reared his majestic form dripping from the lake. He stood upon
the `point.' I never saw so grand an animal; it seemed as though no
single ball could kill him, and although his head and carcass were
enormous, still his length of leg appeared disproportionately great.
With quick, springy paces he advanced directly for his favourite tree
and began his process of rubbing, perfectly unaware of the hidden foes
so near him.

Having finished his rubbing, he tore up several bunches of grass, but
without eating them he threw them pettishly over his back, and tossed
some from side to side. I was in momentary dread lest a horse should
neigh and disturb him, as they were within 200 paces of where he stood.
Everything was, however, quiet in that direction, where the hiding
coolies were watching the impending event with breathless interest.

Having amused himself for some moments by kicking up the turf and dirt
and throwing the sand over his back, he took it into his head to visit
the main shore, and for this purpose he strode quickly in the direction
of the encampment. I moved round the tree to secrete myself as he
advanced. He was soon exactly at right angles with me as he was passing
the tree, when he suddenly stopped: his whole demeanour changed in an
instant; his ears cocked, his eyes gleamed, his tail on end and his
trunk raised high in the air, he turned the distended tip towards the
tree from behind which I was watching him. He was perfectly motionless
and silent in this attitude for some moments. He was thirty yards from
me, as I supposed at the time, and I reserved my fire, having the
four-ounce rifle ready. Suddenly, with his trunk still raised, his long
legs swung forward towards me. There was no time to lose; I was
discovered, and a front shot would be useless with his trunk in that
position. Just as his head was in the act of turning towards me I took a
steady shot at his temple. He sank gently upon his knees, and never
afterwards moved a muscle! His eyes were open, and so bright that I
pushed my finger in them to assure myself that life was perfectly
extinct. He was exactly thirty-two paces from the rifle, and the ball
had passed in at one temple and out at the other. His height may be
imagined from this rough method of measuring. A gun-bearer climbed upon
his back as the elephant lay upon all-fours, and holding a long stick
across his spine at right angles, I could just touch it with the points
of my fingers by reaching to my utmost height. Thus, as he lay, his back
was seven feet two inches, perpendicular height, from the ground. This
would make his height when erect about twelve feet on the spine-an
enormous height for an elephant, as twelve feet on the top of the back
is about equal to eleven feet six inches at the shoulder. If I had not
fortunately killed this elephant at the first shot, I should have had
enough to do to take care of myself, as he was one of the most
vicious-looking brutes that I ever saw, and he was in the very act of
charging when I shot him.

With these elephants the four-ounce rifle is an invaluable weapon; even
if the animal is not struck in the mortal spot, the force of the blow
upon the head is so great that it will generally bring him upon his
knees, or at least stop him. It has failed once or twice in this, but
not often; and upon those occasions I had loaded with the conical ball.
This, although it will penetrate much farther through a thick substance
than a round ball, is not so effective in elephant-shooting as the
latter. The reason is plain enough. No shot in the head will kill an
elephant dead unless it passes through the brain; an ounce ball will
effect this as well as a six-pound shot; but there are many cases where
the brain cannot be touched, by a peculiar method of carrying the head
and trunk in charging, etc.; a power is then required that by the
concussion will knock him down, or turn him; this power is greater in
the round ball than in the conical, as a larger surface is suddenly
struck. The effect is similar to a man being run through the arm with a
rapier or thrust at with a poker--the rapier will pass through him
almost without his knowledge, but the poker will knock him down. Thus
the pointed conical ball will, perhaps, pass through an elephant's
forehead and penetrate as far as his shoulders, but it will produce no
immediate effect. For buffalo-shooting the conical ball is preferable,
as with the heavy charge of powder that I use it will pass completely
through him from end to end. A four-ounce ball, raking an animal from
stem to stern, must settle him at once. This is a desirable thing to
accomplish with wild buffaloes, as they may, frequently prove awkward
customers, even after receiving several mortal wounds from light guns.

The four-ounce conical ball should be an excellent weapon for African
shooting, where the usual shot at an elephant is at the shoulder. This
shot would never answer in Ceylon; the country is not sufficiently open
to watch the effects produced upon the animal, and although he may have
a mortal wound, he carries it away with him and is not bagged. I have
frequently tried this shot; and, although I have seen the elephants go
away with ears and trunk drooping, still I have never bagged more than
one by any but the head shot. This fellow was a small `tusker,' who
formed one of a herd in thick thorny jungle. There were several rocks in
this low jungle which overtopped the highest bushes; and having taken my
station upon one of these, I got a downward shot between the shoulders
at the tusker, and dropped him immediately as the herd passed beneath.
The jungle was so thick that I could not see his head, or, of course, I
should have chosen the usual shot. This shot was not a fair criterion
for the shoulder, as I happened to be in a position that enabled me to
fire down upon him, and the ball most likely passed completely through

I remember a curious and unexpected shot that I once made with the
four-ounce rifle, which illustrates its immense power. I was shooting at
Minneria, and was returning to the tent in the afternoon, having had a
great day's sport with buffaloes, when I saw a large herd in the
distance, ranged up together, and gazing intently at some object near
them. Being on horseback I rode up to them, carrying my heavy rifle;
and, upon a near approach I discovered two large bulls fighting
furiously. This combat was exciting the attention of the herd, who
retreated upon my approach. The two bulls were so engaged in their duel
that they did not notice me until I was within fifty yards of them.
First one, then the other, was borne to the ground, when presently their
horns became locked together, as though arm in arm. The more they tugged
to separate themselves, the tighter they held together, and at length
they ranged side by side, Taking a shot at the shoulder of the nearest
bull, they both fell suddenly to the ground. The fall unlocked their
horns, and one bull recovering his legs, retreated at a slow pace and
dead lame. The nearest bull was killed, and mounting my horse I galloped
after the wounded buffalo. The chase did not last long. Upon arriving
within fifty yards of his flank, I noticed the blood streaming from his
mouth, and he presently rolled over and died. The ball, having passed
through his antagonist, had entered his shoulder, and, smashing the
shoulder-blade, had passed through the body, lodging in the tough hide
upon his opposite side, from which I extracted it by simply cutting the
skin which covered it.

I have frequently seen the bull buffaloes fight each other with great
fury. Upon these occasions they are generally the most dangerous, all
their natural ferocity being increased by the heat of the combat. I was
once in pursuit of an elephant which led me across the plain at
Minneria, when I suddenly observed a large bull buffalo making towards
me, as though to cut me off in the very direction in which I was
advancing. Upon his near approach I noticed numerous bloody cuts and
scratches upon his neck and shoulders, which were evidently only just
made by the horns of some bull with whom he had been fighting. Not
wishing to fire, lest I should alarm the elephant, I endeavoured to
avoid him, but this was no easy task. He advanced to within fifty paces
of me, and, ploughing up the ground with his horns, and roaring, he
seemed determined to make an attack. However, I managed to pass him at
length, being determined to pay him off on my return, if he were still
in the same spot.

On arriving near the position of the elephant, I saw at once that it was
impossible to get him: he was standing in a deep morass of great extent,
backed by thick jungles, and I could not approach nearer than 150 paces.
After trying several ruses to induce him to quit his mud-bath and come
on, I found it was of no use; he was not disposed to be a fighter, as he
saw my strong position upon some open rising ground among some large
trees. I therefore took a rest upon the branch of a tree, and gave him a
shot from the four-ounce rifle through the shoulder. This sent him to
the thick jungle with ears and trunk drooping, but produced no other
effect. I therefore returned towards the tent, fully expecting to meet
my old enemy, the bull, whom I had left master of the field. In this I
was not disappointed; he was standing within a few yards of the same
spot, and, upon seeing me, he immediately advanced, having a very poor
opinion of an enemy who had retreated from him an hour previous.

Instead of charging at a rapid pace he trotted slowly up, and I gave him
the four-ounce when within fifty yards. This knocked him over; but, to
my astonishment, he recovered himself instantly and galloped towards me.
Again he stopped within twenty yards of me, and it was fortunate for me
that he did; for a servant who was carrying my long two-ounce rifle had,
in his excitement, cocked it and actually set the hair-trigger. This he
managed to touch as he handed it to me, and it exploded close to my
head. I had only a light double-gun loaded, and the buffalo was
evidently prepared to charge in a few seconds.

To my great satisfaction I saw the bloody foam gathering upon his lips,
and I knew that he was struck through the lungs; but, nevertheless, the
distance was so short between us that he could reach me in two or three
bounds. Keeping my Moorman with the light gun close to me in readiness,
I began to load my two big rifles. In the mean time the bull was
advancing step by step with an expression of determined malice, and my
Cingalese servant, in an abject state of fright, was imploring me to
run--simply as an excuse for his own flight. `Buffalo's coming, sar!
Master, run plenty, quick! Buffalo's coming, sar! Master, get big tree!'
I could not turn to silence the fellow, but I caught him a fine backward
kick upon the shins with my heel, which stopped him, and in a few
seconds I was loaded and the four-ounce was in my hand. The bull, at
this time, was not fifteen yards from me; but, just as I was going to
fire, I saw him reel to one side; and in another moment he rolled upon
his back, a dead buffalo, although I had not fired after my first shot.
The ball, having entered his chest, was sticking in the skin of his
haunch, having passed through his lungs. His wonderful pluck had kept
him upon his legs until life was extinct.

I am almost tired of recounting so many instances of the courage of
these beasts. When I look back to those scenes, so many ghosts of
victims rise up before me that, were I to relate one-half their
histories, it would fill a volume. The object in describing these
encounters is to show the style of animal that the buffalo is in his
natural state. I could relate a hundred instances where they have died
like curs, and have afforded no more sport than tame cows; but I merely
enumerate those scenes worth relating that I have witnessed. This will
show that the character of a wild buffalo can never be depended upon;
and if the pursuit is followed up as a sport by itself, the nature of
the animal cannot be judged by the individual behaviour of any
particular beast. Some will fight and some will fly, and no one can tell
which will take place; it is at the option of the beast. Caution and
good shooting, combined with heavy rifles, are necessary. Without heavy
metal the sport would be superlatively dangerous if regularly followed
up. Many persons kill a wild buffalo every now and then; but I have
never met with a single sportsman in Ceylon who has devoted himself to
the pursuit as a separate sport. Unless this is done the real character
of buffaloes in general must remain unknown. It may, however, be
considered as a rule with few exceptions that the buffaloes seldom
commence the attack unless pursued. Their instinct at once tells them
whether the man advancing towards them over the plain comes as an enemy.
They may then attack; but if unmolested they will generally retreat,
and, like all men of true courage, they will never seek a quarrel, and
never give in when it is forced upon them. Many descriptions of my
encounters with these animals may appear to militate against this
theory, but they are the exceptions that I have met with; the fierce
look of defiance and the quick tossing of the head may appear to portend
a charge, but the animals are generally satisfied with this
demonstration, and retreat.

Attack the single bulls and follow them up, and they will soon show
their real character. Heavy rifles then make a good sport of what would
otherwise be a chance of ten to one against the man. It must be
remembered that the attack is generally upon an extensive plain, without
a single sheltering tree; escape by speed is therefore impossible, and
even a horse must be a good one or a buffalo will catch him.

Without wading through the many scenes of carnage that I have witnessed
in this branch of sport, I will sum up the account of buffalo-shooting
by a decription of one day's work at Minneria.

The tent was pitched in a secluded spot beneath some shady trees,
through which no ray of sun could penetrate; the open forest surrounded
it on all sides, but through the vistas of dark stems the beautiful
green plain and glassy lake could be seen stretching into an undefined
distance. The blue hills, apparently springing from the bosom of the
lake, lined the horizon, and the shadowy forms of the Kandian mountains
mingled indistinctly with the distant clouds. From this spot, with a
good telescope, I could watch the greater part of the plain, which was
at this time enlivened by the numerous herds of wild buffaloes scattered
over the surface. A large bull was standing alone about half a mile from
the tent, and I thought him a fine beast to begin with.

I started with two well-known and trusty gun-bearers. This bull
apparently did not wish to fight, and when at nearly 400 yards' distance
he turned and galloped off. I put up all the sights of the long two-
ounce rifle, and for an instant he dropped to the shot at this distance,
but recovering immediately he turned round, and, although upon only
three legs, he charged towards me. At this distance I should have had
ample time to reload before he could have come near me, so I took a
quiet shot at him. with my four-ounce rifle. A second passed, and he
pitched upon his head and lay upon the ground, struggling in vain to
rise. This was an immensely long shot to produce so immediate an effect
so reloading quickly I stepped the distance. I measured 352 paces, and I
then stood within ten yards of him, as he still lay upon the ground,
endeavouring vainly to rush at me. A ball in his head settled him. The
first shot had broken his hind leg--and the shot with the big rifle had
hit him on the nose, and, tearing away the upper jaw, it had passed
along his neck and escaped from behind his shoulder. This was a great
chance to hit him so exactly at such a range. His skull is now in
England, exhibiting the terrific effect of the heavy ball.

I had made up my mind for a long day's work, and I therefore mounted my
horse and rode over the plain. The buffaloes were very wild, as I had
been shooting here for some days, and there were no less than forty-two
carcasses scattered about the plain in different directions. I fired
several ineffectual shots at immense ranges; at length I even fired at
random into a large herd, which seemed determined to take to the jungle.
After they had galloped for a quarter of a mile, a cow dropped to the
rear and presently fell. Upon riding up to her I found her in the last
gasp; the random shot had struck her behind the shoulder, and I finished
her by a ball in the head. One of the bulls from this herd had separated
from the troop, and had taken to the lake; he had waded out for about
400 yards, and was standing shoulder-deep. This was a fine target; a
black spot upon the bright surface of the lake, although there was not
more than eighteen inches of his body above the water. I rode to the
very edge of the lake, and then dismounting I took a rest upon my
saddle. My horse, being well accustomed to this work, stood like a
statue, but the ball dapped in the water just beyond the mark. The
buffalo did not move an inch until the third shot. This hit him, and he
swam still farther off; but he soon got his footing, and again gave a
fair mark as before. I missed him again, having fired a little over him.
The fifth shot brought luck and sank him. I do not know where he was
hit, as of course I could not get to him; but most likely it was in the
spine, as so small a portion of his body was above water.

I passed nearly the whole day in practising at long ranges; but with no
very satisfactory effect; several buffaloes badly wounded had reached
the jungle, and my shoulder was so sore from the recoil of the heavy
rifle during several days' shooting with the large charge of powder,
that I was obliged to reduce the charge to six drachms and give up the
long shots.

It was late in the afternoon, and the heat of the day had been intense.
I was very hungry, not having breakfasted, and I made up my mind to
return to the tent, which was now some eight miles distant. I was riding
over the plain on my way home, when I saw a fine bull spring from a
swampy hollow and gallop off. Putting spurs to my horse, I was soon
after him, carrying the four-ounce rifle; and, upon seeing himself
pursued, he took shelter in a low but dry hollow, which was a mass of
lofty bulrush and coarse tangled grass, rising about ten feet high in an
impervious mass. This had been a pool in the wet weather, but was now
dried up, and was nothing but a bed of sedges and high rushes. I could
see nothing of the bull, although I knew he was in it. The hollow was in
the centre of a wide plain, so I knew that the buffalo could not have
passed out without my seeing him, and my gun-bearers having come up, I
made them pelt the rushes with dried clods of earth. It was of no use:
he would not break cover; so I determined to ride in and hunt him up.
The grass was so thick and entangled with the rushes that my horse could
with difficulty force his way through it; and when within the dense mass
of vegetation it towered high above my head, and was so thick that I
could not see a yard to my right or left. I beat about to no purpose for
about twenty minutes, and I was on the point of giving it up, when I
suddenly saw the tall reeds bow down just before me. I heard the rush of
an animal as he burst through, and I just saw the broad black nose,
quickly followed by the head and horns, as the buffalo charged into me.
The horse reared to his full height as the horns almost touched his
chest, and I fired as well as I was able. In another instant I was
rolling on the ground, with my horse upon me, in a cloud of smoke and

In a most unsportsmanlike manner (as persons may exclaim who were not
there) I hid behind my horse, as he regained his legs. All was
still--the snorting of the frightened horse was all that I could hear. I
expected to have seen the infuriated buffalo among us. I peeped over the
horse's back, and, to my delight and surprise, I saw the carcass of the
bull lying within three feet of him. His head was pierced by the ball
exactly between the horns, and death had been instantaneous. The horse,
having reared to his full height, had entangled his hind legs in the
grass, and he had fallen backwards without being touched by the buffalo,
although the horns were close into him.

I was rather pleased at being so well out of this scrape, and I made up
my mind never again to follow buffaloes into high grass. Turning towards
the position of the tent, I rode homewards. The plain appeared deserted,
and I rode for three or four miles along the shores of the lake without
seeing a head of game. At length, when within about three miles of the
encampment, I saw a small herd of five buffaloes and three half-grown
calves standing upon a narrow point of muddy ground which projected for
some distance into the lake.

I immediately rode towards them, and upon approaching to within sixty
yards, I found they consisted of three cows, two bulls, and three
calves. I had advanced towards them upon the neck of land upon which
they stood; there was, therefore, no retreat for them unless they took
to the water. They perceived this themselves, but they preferred the
bolder plan of charging through all opposition and then reaching the
main land. After a few preliminary grunts and tosses of the head, one of
the bulls charged straight at me at full gallop; he was not followed by
his companions, who were still irresolute; and, when within forty yards,
he sprang high in the air, and pitching upon his horns, he floundered
upon his back as the rifle-ball passed through his neck and broke his
spine. I immediately commenced reloading, but the ball was only half-way
down the barrel when the remaining bull, undismayed by the fate of his
companion, rushed on at full speed. Snatching the long two-ounce rifle
from a gun-bearer, I made a lucky shot. The ball must have passed
through his heart, as he fell stone dead.

The three cows remained passive spectators of the death of their mates,
although I was convinced by their expression that they would eventually
show fight. I was soon reloaded, and not wishing to act simply on the
defensive, and thus run the risk of a simultaneous onset, I fired at the
throat of the most vicious of the party. The two-ounce ball produced no
other effect than an immediate charge. She bounded towards me, and,
although bleeding at the mouth, the distance was so short that she would
have been into me had I not stopped her with the four-ounce rifle, which
brought her to the ground when within fifteen paces; here she lay
disabled, but not dead, and again I reloaded as fast as possible.

The two remaining cows appeared to have taken a lesson from the fate of
their comrades; and showing no disposition to charge, I advanced towards
them to within twenty yards. One of the cows now commended tearing the
muddy ground with her horns, and thus offered a certain shot, which I
accordingly took, and dropped her dead with a ball in the nape of the
neck. This was too much for the remaining buffalo; she turned to plunge
into the lake, but the four-ounce through her shoulder brought her down
before she could reach the water, into which the three calves had
sprung, and were swimming for the main shore. I hit the last calf in the
head with a double-barrelled gun, and he immediately sank; and I missed
another calf with the left-hand barrel; therefore two escaped. I sent a
man into the water to find the dead calf, which he soon did, and hauled
it to the shore; and having reloaded, I proceeded to examine the hits on
the dead buffaloes. It was fortunate that I had reloaded; for I had no
sooner approached to within three or four yards of the cow that I had
left dying, when she suddenly sprang to her feet, and would have
charged, had I not killed her by a ball in the head from a light
double-barrel that I was then carrying. These animals had shown as good
sport as I had ever witnessed in buffalo-shooting, but the two heavy
rifles were fearful odds against them, and they were added to the list
of the slain. It was now late in the evening, and I had had a long day's
work in the broiling sun. I had bagged ten buffaloes, including the
calf, and having cut a fillet from the latter, I took a gun, loaded with
shot, from my horse-keeper, and gave up ball-shooting, having turned my
attention to a large flock of teal, which I had disturbed in attacking
the buffaloes. This flock I had marked down in a small stream which
flowed into the lake. A cautious approach upon my hands and knees,
through the grass, brought me undiscovered to the bank of the stream,
where, in a small bay, it emptied itself into the lake, and a flock of
about eighty teal were swimming among the water-lilies within twenty
yards of me. I fired one barrel on the water, and the other in the air
as they rose, killing five and wounding a sixth, which escaped by
continual diving. On my way home I killed a few snipe, till at length
the cessation of daylight put an end to all shooting.

The moon was full and shone over the lake with great brilliancy; the air
was cool and refreshing after the great heat of the day; and the chirp
of the snipe and whistling sound of the wild fowl on the lake were the
only noises that disturbed the wild scene around. The tent fires were
blazing brightly in the forest at about a mile distant; and giving my
gun to the horse-keeper, I mounted and rode towards the spot.

I was within half a mile of the tent, and had just turned round an angle
made by the forest, when I suddenly saw the grey forms of several
elephants, who had just emerged from the forest, and were feeding in the
high grass within a hundred yards of me. I counted seven, six of which
were close to the edge of the jungle, but the seventh was a large bull
elephant, who had advanced by himself about sixty yards into the plain.
I thought I could cut this fellow off, and, taking my big rifle, I
dismounted and crept cautiously towards him. He winded me before I had
gone many paces, gave a shrill trumpet of alarm, and started off for the
jungle; the rest of the herd vanished like magic, while I ran after the
bull elephant at my best speed. He was too quick for me, and I could not
gain upon him, so, halting suddenly, I took a steady shot at his ear
with the four-ounce at about seventy yards. Down he went to the shot,
but I heard him roar as he lay upon ,the ground, and I knew he would be
up again in a moment. In the same instant, as I dropped my empty rifle,
a double-barrelled gun was pushed into my hand, and I ran up to him,
just in time to catch him as he was half risen. Feeling sure of him, I
ran up within two yards of his head and fired into his forehead. To my
amazement he jumped quickly up, and with a loud trumpet he rushed
towards the jungle. I could just keep close alongside him, as the grass
was short and the ground level, and being determined to get him, I ran
close to his shoulder, and, taking a steady shot behind the ear, I fired
my remaining barrel. Judge of my surprise!--it only increased his speed,
and in another moment he reached the jungle: he was gone. He seemed to
bear a charmed life. I had taken two shots within a few feet of him that
I would have staked my life upon. I looked at my gun. Ye gods! I had
been firing SNIPE SHOT at him. It was my rascally horse-keeper, who had
actually handed me the shot-gun, which I had received as the
double-barrelled ball-gun that I knew was carried by a gun-bearer. How I
did thrash him! If the elephant had charged instead of making off I
should have been caught to a certainty.

This day's shooting was the last day of good sport that I ever had at
Minneria. It was in June, 1847. The next morning I moved my encampment
and started homewards. To my surprise I saw a rogue elephant drinking in
the lake, within a quarter of a mile of me; but the Fates were against
his capture. I stalked him as well as I could, but he winded me, and
came on in full charge with his trunk up. The heavy rifle fortunately
turned but did not kill him, and he escaped in thorny jungle, through
which I did not choose to follow.

On my way to the main road from Trincomalee to Kandy I walked on through
the jungle path, about a mile ahead of my followers, to look out for
game. Upon arriving at the open country in the neighbourhood of
Cowdellai, I got a shot at a deer at a killing distance. She was not
twenty yards off, and was looking at me as if spellbound. This provided
me with venison for a couple of days. The rapid decomposition of all
things in a tropical climate renders a continued supply of animal food
very precarious, if the produce of the rifle is alone to be depended
upon. Venison killed on one day would be uneatable on the day following,
unless it were half-dressed shortly after it was killed; thus the size
of the animal in no way contributes to the continuation of the supply of
food, as the meat will not keep. Even snipe killed on one morning are
putrid the next evening; the quantity of game required for the
subsistence of one person is consequently very large.

After killing the deer I stalked a fine peacock, who gave me an hour's
work before I could get near him. These birds are very wary and
difficult to approach; but I at length got him into a large bush,
surrounded by open ground. A stone thrown into this dislodged him, and
he gave me a splendid flying shot at about thirty yards. I bagged him
with the two-ounce rifle, but the large ball damaged him terribly. There
are few better birds than a Ceylon peafowl, if kept for two days and
then washed in vinegar: they combine the flavour of the turkey and the

I was obliged to carry the bird myself, as my two gun-bearers were
staggering under the weight of the deer, and the spare guns were carried
by my tracker. We were proceeding slowly along, when the tracker, who
was in advance, suddenly sprang back and pointed to some object in the
path. It was certainly enough to startle any man. An enormous serpent
lay coiled in the path. His head was about the size of a very small
cocoa-nut, divided lengthways, and this was raised about eighteen inches
above the coil. His eyes were fixed upon us, and his forked tongue
played in and out of his mouth with a continued hiss. Aiming at his
head, I fired at him with a double-barrelled gun, within four paces, and
blew his head to pieces. He appeared stone dead; but upon pulling him by
the tail, to stretch him out at full length, he wreathed himself in
convulsive coils, and lashing himself out in full length, he mowed down
the high grass in all directions. This obliged me to stand clear, as his
blows were terrific, and the thickest part of his body was as large as a
man's thigh. I at length thought of an expedient for securing him.
Cutting some sharp-pointed stakes, I waited till he was again quiet,
when I suddenly pinned his tail to the ground with my hunting-knife, and
thrusting the pointed stake into the hole, I drove it deeply into the
ground with the butt end of my rifle. The boa made some objection to
this, and again he commenced his former muscular contortions. I waited
till they were over, and having provided myself with some tough jungle
rope (a species of creeper), I once more approached him, and pinning his
throat to the ground with a stake, I tied the rope through the incision,
and the united exertions of myself and three men hauled him out
perfectly straight. I then drove a stake firmly through his throat and
pinned him out. He was fifteen feet in length, and it required our
united strength to tear off his skin, which shone with a variety of
passing colours. On losing his hide he tore away from the stakes; and
although his head was shivered to atoms, and he had lost three feet of
his length of neck by the ball having cut through this part, which
separated in tearing off the skin, still he lashed out and writhed in
frightful convulsions, which continued until I left him, bearing as my
trophy his scaly hide. These boas will kill deer, and by crushing them
into a sort of sausage they are enabled by degrees to swallow them.
There are many of these reptiles in Ceylon; but they are seldom seen, as
they generally wander forth at night. There are marvellous stories of
their size, and my men assured me that they had seen much larger than
the snake now mentioned; to me he appeared a horrible monster.

I do not know anything so disgusting as a snake. There is an instinctive
feeling that the arch enemy is personified when these wretches glide by
you, and the blood chills with horror. I took the dried skin of this
fellow to England; it measures twelve feet in its dry state, minus the
piece that was broken from his neck, making him the length before
mentioned of fifteen feet.

I have often been astonished that comparatively so few accidents happen
in Ceylon from snake-bites; their immense number and the close nature of
the country making it a dangerous risk to the naked feet of the natives.
I was once lying upon a sofa in a rest-house at Kandellai, when I saw a
snake about four feet long glide in at the open door, and, as though
accustomed to a particular spot for his lodging, he at once climbed upon
another sofa and coiled himself under the pillow. My brother had only
just risen from this sofa, and was sitting at the table watching the
movements of his uninvited bedfellow. I soon poked him out with a stick,
and cut off his head with a hunting-knife. This snake was of a very
poisonous description, and was evidently accustomed to lodge behind the
pillow, upon which the unwary sleeper might have received a fatal bite.
Upon taking possession of an unfrequented rest-house, the cushions of
the sofas and bedsteads should always be examined, as they are great
attractions to snakes, scorpions, centipedes, and all manner of


Capabilities of Ceylon--Deer at Illepecadewe--Sagacity of a Pariah
Dog--Two Deer at One Shot--Deer-stalking--Hambantotte Country--Kattregam
Festival--Sitrawelle--Ruins of Ancient Mahagam-- Wiharewelle--A Night
Attack upon Elephants--Shooting by Moonlight--Yalle River--Another
Rogue--A Stroll before Breakfast-- A Curious Shot--A Good Day's Sport.

There are few countries which present a more lovely appearance than
Ceylon. There is a diversity in the scenery which refreshes the eye; and
although the evergreen appearance might appear monotonous to some
persons, still, were they residents, they would observe that the colour
of the foliage is undergoing a constant change by the varying tints of
the leaves in the different stages of their growth. These tints are far
more lovely than the autumnal shades of England, and their brilliancy is
enhanced by the idea that it is the bursting of the young leaf into
life, the freshness of youth instead of the sere leaf of a past summer,
which, after gilding for a few days the beauty of the woods, drops from
frozen branches and deserts them. Every shade of colour is seen in the
Ceylon forests, as the young leaves are constantly replacing those which
have fallen without being missed. The deepest crimson, the brightest
yellow and green of every shade, combine to form a beautiful crest to
the forest-covered surface of the island.

There is no doubt, however, that there is too much wood in Ceylon; it
prevents the free circulation of air, and promotes dampness, malaria,
and consequently fevers and dysentery, the latter disease being the
scourge of the colony. The low country is accordingly decidedly

This vast amount of forest and jungle is a great impediment to the
enjoyment of travelling. The heat in the narrow paths cut through dense
jungles is extreme; and after a journey of seventy or eighty miles
through this style of country the eye scans the wild plains and
mountains with delight. Some districts, however, are perfectly devoid of
trees, and form a succession of undulating downs of short grass. Other
parts, again, although devoid of heavy timber, are covered with dense
thorny jungles, especially the country adjoining the sea-coast, which is
generally of a uniform character round the whole island, being
interspersed with sand plains producing a short grass.

Much has been said by some authors of the "capabilities" of Ceylon; but
however enticing the description of these capabilities may have been,
the proof has been decidedly in opposition to the theory. Few countries
exist with such an immense proportion of bad soil. There are no minerals
except iron, no limestone except dolomite, no other rocks than quartz
and gneiss. The natural pastures are poor; the timber of the forests is
the only natural production of any value, with the exception of
cinnamon. Sugar estates do not answer, and coffee requires an expensive
system of cultivation by frequent manuring. In fact, the soil is
wretched; so bad that the natives, by felling the forest and burning the
timber upon the ground, can only produce one crop of some poor grain;
the land is then exhausted, and upon its consequent desertion it gives
birth to an impenetrable mass of low jungle, comprising every thorn that
can be conceived. This deserted land, fallen again into the hand of
Nature, forms the jungle of Ceylon; and as native cultivation has thus
continued for some thousand years, the immense tract of country now in
this impenetrable state is easily accounted for. The forests vary in
appearance; some are perfectly free from underwood, being composed of
enormous trees, whose branches effectually exclude the rays of the sun;
but they generally consist of large trees, which tower above a thick,
and for the most part thorny, underwood, difficult to penetrate.

The features of Ceylon scenery may, therefore, be divided as follows:-

Natural forest, extending over the greater portion. Thorny jungle,
extending over a large portion.

Flat plains and thorny jungles, in the vicinity of the coast.

Open down country, extending over a small portion of the interior.

Open park country, extending over the greater portion of the Veddah

The mountains, forming the centre of the island.

The latter are mostly covered with forest, but they are beautifully
varied by numberless open plains and hills of grass land at an altitude
of from three to nearly nine thousand feet.

If Ceylon were an open country, there would be no large game, as there
would be no shelter from the sun. In the beautiful open down country
throughout the Ouva district there is no game larger than wild hogs,
red-deer, mouse-deer, hares, and partridges. These animals shelter
themselves in the low bushes, which generally consist of the wild
guavas, and occupy the hollows between the undulations of the hills. The
thorny jungles conceal a mass of game of all kinds, but in this retreat
the animals are secure from attack. In the vicinity of the coast, among
the `flat plains and thorny jungles,' there is always excellent shooting
at particular seasons. The spotted deer abound throughout Ceylon,
especially in these parts, where they are often seen in herds of a
hundred together. In many places they are far too numerous, as, from the
want of inhabitants in these parts, there are no consumers, and these
beautiful beasts would be shot to waste.

In the neighbourhood of Paliar and Illepecadewe, on the north-west
coast, I have shot them till I was satiated and it ceased to be sport.
We had nine fine deer hanging up in one day, and they were putrefying
faster than the few inhabitants could preserve them by smoking and
drying them in steaks. I could have shot them in any number, had I
chosen to kill simply for the sake of murder; but I cannot conceive any
person finding an enjoyment in slaying these splendid deer to rot upon
the ground.

I was once shooting at Illepecadewe, which is a lonely, miserable spot,
when I met with a very sagacious and original sportsman in a most
unexpected manner. I was shooting with a friend, and we had separated
for a few hundred paces. I presently got a shot at a peafowl, and killed
her with my rifle. The shot was no sooner fired than I heard another
shot in the jungle, in the direction taken by my friend. My rifle was
still unloaded when a spotted doe bounded out of the jungle, followed by
a white pariah dog in full chase. Who would have dreamt of meeting with
a dog at this distance from a village (about four miles)? I whistled to
the dog, and to my surprise he came to me, the deer having left him out
of sight in a few seconds. He was a knowing-looking brute, and was
evidently out hunting on his own account. Just at this moment my friend
called to me that he had wounded a buck, and that he had found the
blood-track. I picked a blade of grass from the spot which was tinged
with blood; and holding it to the dog's nose, he eagerly followed me to
the track; upon which I dropped it. He went off in a moment; but,
running mute, I was obliged to follow; and after a chase of a quarter of
a mile I lost sight of him. In following up the foot-track of the
wounded deer I heard the distant barking of the dog, by which I knew
that he had brought the buck to bay, and I was soon at the spot. The
buck had taken up a position in a small glade, and was charging the dog
furiously; but the pariah was too knowing to court the danger, and kept
well out of the way. I shot the buck, and, tying a piece of jungle-rope
to the dog's neck, gave him to a gun-bearer to lead, as I hoped he might
be again useful in hunting up a wounded deer.

I had not proceeded more than half a mile, when we arrived at the edge
of a small sluggish stream, covered in most places with rushes and
water-lilies. We forded this about hip-deep, but the gun-bearer who had
the dog could not prevail upon our mute companion to follow; he pulled
violently back and shrinked, and evinced every symptom of terror at the
approach of water.

I was now at the opposite bank, and nothing would induce him to come
near the river, so I told the gun-bearer to drag him across by force.
This he accordingly did, and the dog swam with frantic exertions across
the river, and managed to disengage his head from the rope. The moment
that he arrived on terra firma he rushed up a steep bank and looked
attentively down into the water beneath.

We now gave him credit for his sagacity in refusing to cross the
dangerous passage. The reeds bowed down to the right and left as a huge
crocodile of about eighteen feet in length moved slowly from his shallow
bed into a deep hole. The dog turned to the right-about, and went off as
fast as his legs would carry him. No calling or whistling would induce
him to return, and I never saw him again. How he knew that a crocodile
was in the stream I cannot imagine. He must have had a narrow escape at
some former time, which was a lesson that he seemed determined to profit

Shortly after the disappearance of the dog, I separated from my
companion and took a different line of country. Large plains, with
thorny jungles and bushes of the long cockspur thorn interspersed,
formed the character of the ground. This place literally swarmed with
peafowl, partridges, and deer. I killed another peacock, and the shot
disturbed a herd of about sixty deer, who bounded over the plain till
out of sight. I tracked up this herd for nearly a mile, when I observed
them behind a large bush; some were lying down and others were standing.
A buck and doe presently quitted the herd, and advancing a few paces
from the bush they halted, and evidently winded me. I was screening
myself behind a small tree, and the open ground between me and the game
precluded the possibility of a nearer approach. It was a random distance
for a deer, but I took a rest against the stem of the tree and fired at
the buck as he stood with his broadside exposed, being shoulder to
shoulder with the doe. Away went the herd, flying over the plain; but,
to my delight, there were two white bellies struggling upon the ground.
I ran up to cut their throats; (*1 This is necessary to allow the blood
to escape, otherwise they would be unfit for food) the two-ounce ball
had passed through the shoulders of both; and I stepped the distance to
the tree from which I had fired, 'two hundred and thirteen paces.'

Shortly after this 1 got another shot which, by a chance, killed two
deer. I was strolling through a narrow glade with open jungles upon
either side, when I suddenly heard a quick double shot, followed by the
rush of a large herd of deer coming through the jungle. I immediately
lay flat upon the ground, and presently an immense herd of full a
hundred deer passed across the glade at full gallop, within seventy
yards of me. Jumping up, I fired at a doe, and, to my surprise, two deer
fell to the shot, one of which was a fawn; the ball had passed through
the shoulder of the mother, and had broken the fawn's neck upon the
opposite side. I am astonished that this chance of killing two at one
shot does not more often happen when the dense body of a herd of deer is
exposed to a rifle-ball.

Deer-stalking is one of the most exciting sports in the world. I have
often crept upon hands and knees for upwards of a quarter of a mile
through mud and grass to get a shot at a fine antlered buck. It
frequently happens that after a long stalk in this manner, when some
sheltering object is reached which you have determined upon for the
shot, just as you raise your head above the grass in expectation of
seeing the game, you find a blank. He has watched your progress by the
nose, although the danger was hidden from his view, and your trouble is

In all wild shooting, in every country and climate, the `wind' is the
first consideration. If you hunt down wind you will never get a deer.
You will have occasional glimpses of your game, who will be gazing
intently at you at great distances long before you can see them, but you
will never get a decent shot. The great excitement and pleasure of all
sport consists in a thorough knowledge of the pursuit. When the dew is
heavy upon the ground at break of day, you are strolling noiselessly
along with the rifle, scanning the wide plains and searching the banks
of the pools and streams for foot-marks of the spotted deer. Upon
discovering the tracks their date is immediately known, the vicinity of
the game is surmised, the tracks are followed up, and the herd is at
length discovered. The wind is observed; dry leaves crumbled into powder
and let fall from the hand detect the direction if the slightest air is
stirring, and the approach is made accordingly. Every stone, every bush
or tree or tuft of grass, is noted as a cover for an advance, and the
body being kept in a direct line with each of these objects, you
approach upon hands and knees from each successive place of shelter till
a proper distance is gained. The stalking is the most exciting sport in
the world. I have frequently heard my own heart beat while creeping up
to a deer. He is an animal of wonderful acuteness, and possessing the
keenest scent; he is always on the alert, watching for danger from his
stealthy foe the leopard, who is a perfect deer-stalker.

To kill spotted deer well, if they are tolerably wild, a person must be
a really good rifle shot, otherwise wise he will wound many, but seldom
bag one. They are wonderfully fast, and their bounding pace makes them
extremely difficult to hit while running. Even when standing they must
be struck either through the head, neck, or shoulder, or they will
rarely be killed on the spot; in any other part, if wounded, they will
escape as though untouched, and die a miserable death in solitude.

In narrating long shots that I have made, I recount them as bright
moments in the hours of sport; they are the exceptions and not the rule.
I consider a man a first-rate shot who can ALWAYS bag his deer standing
at eighty yards, or running at fifty. HITTING and BAGGING are widely
different. If a man can always bag at the distance that I have named he
will constantly hit, and frequently bag, at extraordinary ranges, as
there is no doubt of his shooting, and, when he misses, the ball has
whizzed somewhere very close to the object; the chances are, therefore,
in favour of the rifle.

The deer differ in character in various parts of Ceylon. In some places
where they are rarely disturbed they can be approached to within thirty
or forty paces, in which case a very moderate shot can easily kill them;
but it is better sport when they are moderately wild. The greatest
number of deer that I ever saw was in the south-eastern part of Ceylon,
in the neighbourhood of Pontane and Yalle. The whole of this country is
almost uninhabited, and accordingly undisturbed. Yalle is the nearest
town of importance, from which a good road, lined on either side with
cocoa-nut and bread-fruit trees, extends as far as Tangalle, fifty
miles. A few miles beyond this village the wild country begins, and
Hambantotte is the next station, nearly ninety miles from Yalle. The
country around Hambantotte is absolutely frightful-wide extending plains
of white sand and low scrubby bushes scattered here and there; salt
lakes of great extent, and miserable plains of scanty herbage,
surrounded by dense thorny jungles. Notwithstanding this, at some
seasons the whole district is alive with game. January and February are
the best months for elephants and buffaloes, and August and September
are the best seasons for deer, at which time the whole country is burnt
up with drought, and the game is forced to the vicinity of Yalle river
and the neighbouring pools. In the wet season this district is nearly
flooded, and forms a succession of deep marshes, the malaria from which
is extremely unhealthy. At this time the grass is high, and the
elephants are very numerous.

When I was in this part of the country the drought was excessive; the
jungle was parched, and the leaves dropped from the bushes under the
influence of a burning sun. Not a cloud ever appeared upon the sky, but
a dazzling haze of intense heat spread over the scorched plains. The
smaller streams were completely dried up, and the large rivers were
reduced to rivulets in the midst of a bed of sand.

The whole of this country is a succession of flat sandy plains and low
jungles contiguous to the sea-coast. The intense heat and the glare of
the sun rendered the journey most fatiguing. I at length descried a long
line of noble forest in the distance, and this I conjectured to be near
the river, which turned out to be the case; we were soon relieved from
the burning sun by the shade of as splendid a forest as I have ever
seen. A few hundred yards from the spot at which we had entered, Yalle
river rolled along in a clear stream. In the wet season this is a rapid
torrent of about 150 yards in width, but at this time the bed of the
river was dry, with the exception of a stream of about thirty paces
broad, which ran directly beneath the bank we were descending.

An unexpected scene now presented itself. The wide bed of the river was
shaded on either side by groves of immense trees, whose branches
stretched far over the channel; and not only beneath their shade, but in
every direction, tents formed of talipot leaves were pitched, and a
thousand men, women, and children lay grouped together; some were
bathing in the river, some were sitting round their fires cooking a
scanty meal, others lay asleep upon the sand, but all appeared to be
congregated together for one purpose; and so various were the castes and
costumes that every nation of the East seemed to have sent a
representative. This was the season for the annual offerings to the
Kattregam god, to whose temple these pilgrims were flocking, and they
had made the dry bed of Valle river their temporary halting-place. A few
days after, no less than 18,000 pilgrims congregated at Kattregam.

I was at this time shooting with my friend, Mr. H. Walters, then of the
15th Regiment. We waded up the bed of the river for about a mile, and
then pitched the tent under some fine trees in the open forest. Several
wild buffaloes were drinking in the river within a short distance of us;
but thinking this a likely spot for elephants, we determined not to
disturb the neighbourhood by firing a shot until we had first explored
the country. After a walk of a couple of hours through fine open forest
and small bushy plains, we came to the conclusion that there were very
few elephants in the country, and we devoted ourselves to other game.

After a day or two spent in killing deer, a few wild buffaloes, and only
one elephant, I felt convinced that we should never find the latter, in
the dry state of the country, unless by watching at some tank at night.
We therefore moved our encampment inland about twenty-five miles from
Yalle. Here there is a large tank, which I concluded would be the resort
of elephants.

A long day's journey through a burning sun brought us to Sitrawelle.
This is a small village, about six miles inward from the sea-coast
village of Kesinde. Here the natives brought us plantains and buffalo
milk, while we took shelter from the sun under a splendid tamarind tree.
Opposite to this was a 'bo'-tree; *(very similar to the banian-tree)
this grew to an extraordinary size; the wide spreading branches covered
about half an acre of ground, and the trunk measured upwards of forty
feet in circumference. The tamarind-tree was nearly the same size; and I
never saw together two such magnificent specimens of vegetation. A few
paces from this spot, a lake of about four miles' circuit lay in the
centre of a plain; this was surrounded by open forests and jungles, all
of which looked like good covers for game. Skirting the opposite banks
of the lake, we pitched the tent under some shady trees upon a fine
level sward. By this time it was nearly dusk, and I had barely time to
stroll out and kill a peacock for dinner before night set in.

The next morning, having been joined by my friend, Mr. P. Braybrook,
then government agent of this district, our party was increased to
three, and seeing no traces of elephants in this neighbourhood, we
determined to proceed to a place called Wihare-welle, about six miles
farther inland.

Our route now lay along a broad causeway of solid masonry. On either
side of this road, stone pillars of about twelve feet in height stood in
broken, rows, and lay scattered in every direction through the jungle.
Ruined dagobas and temples jutted their rugged summits above the
tree-tops, and many lines of stone columns stood in parallel rows, the
ancient supports of buildings of a similar character to those of
Pollanarua and Anarajahpoora. We were among the ruins of ancient
Mahagam. One of the ruined buildings had apparently rested upon
seventy-two pillars. These were still erect, standing in six lines of
twelve columns; every stone appeared to be about fourteen feet high by
two feet square and twenty-five feet apart. This building must therefore
have formed an oblong of 300 feet by 150. Many of the granite blocks
were covered with rough carving; large flights of steps, now irregular
from the inequality of the ground, were scattered here and there; and
the general appearance of the ruins was similar to that of Pollanarua,
but of smaller extent. The stone causeway which passed through the ruins
was about two miles in length, being for the most part overgrown with
low jungle and prickly cactus. I traversed the jungle for some distance
until arrested by the impervious nature of the bushes; but wherever I
went, the ground was stewed with squared stones and fallen brickwork
overgrown with rank vegetation.

The records of Ceylon do not afford any satisfactory information
concerning the original foundation of this city. The first time that we
hear of it is in the year 286 B.C.; but we have no account of the era or
cause of its desertion. Although Mahagam is the only vestige of an
ancient city in this district, there are many ruined buildings and
isolated dagobas of great antiquity scattered throughout the country. I
observed on a peak of one of the Kattregam hills large masses of fallen
brickwork, the ruins of some former buildings, probably coeval with
Mahagam. The whole of this district, now so wild and desolate, must in
those days have been thickly populated and highly cultivated, although,
from the present appearance of the country, it does not seem possible
that it has ever altered its aspect since the Creation.

Descending a steep bank shaded by large trees, we crossed the bed of the
Manick Ganga (`Jewel River'). The sand was composed of a mixture of
mica, quartz, sapphire, ruby, and jacinth, but the large proportion of
ruby sand was so extraordinary that it seemed to rival Sindbad the
Sailor's vale of gems. The whole of this was valueless, but the
appearance of the sand was very inviting, as the shallow stream in
rippling over it magnified the tiny gems into stones of some magnitude.
I passed an hour in vainly searching for a ruby worth collecting, but
the largest did not exceed the size of mustard seed.

The natives use this sand for cutting elephants' teeth, in the same
manner that a stonemason uses sand to assist him in sawing through a
stone. Elephants' teeth or grinders are so hard that they will produce
sparks upon being struck with a hatchet.

About two miles from the opposite bank of the river, having journeyed
through a narrow path bordered upon either side by thick jungle, we
opened upon an extensive plain close to the village of Wihare-welle.
This plain was covered with wild indigo, and abounded with peafowl.
Passing through the small village at the extremity of the plain, we
pitched the tent upon the borders of the lake, about a quarter of a mile
beyond it. This tank was about three miles in circumference, and, like
that of Sitrawelle, was one of the ancient works of the Mahagam princes.

The village was almost deserted; none but the old men and women and
children remained, as the able-bodied men had gone to the Kattregam
festival. We could, therefore, obtain no satisfactory information
regarding elephants; but I was convinced, from the high grass around the
lake, that if any elephants were in the district some would be here. It
was late in the evening, the coolies were heaping up the night-fires,
and as darkness closed upon us, the savoury steam of a peacock that was
roasting on a stick betokened the welcome approach of dinner. We had
already commenced, when the roaring of elephants within a short distance
of the tent gave us hope of sport on the following day.

At daybreak the next morning I strolled round the lake to look for
tracks. A herd of about seven had been feeding during the night within
half a mile of the tent. During my walk I saw innumerable pea-fowl,
jungle-fowl, hares and ducks, in addition to several herds of deer; but
not wishing to disturb the country, I did not fire, but returned to the
tent and sent out trackers.

In the afternoon the natives returned with intelligence of a small pool
two miles from the opposite shore of the lake, situated in dense jungle;
here they had seen fresh elephant tracks, and they proposed that we
should watch the pool that evening at the usual drinking hour of the
game. As this was the only pool of water for miles round with the
exception of the lake, I thought the plan likely to succeed, and we
therefore started without loss of time.

On arrival at the pool we took a short survey of our quarters. A small
round sheet of water of perhaps eighty yards in diameter lay in the
midst of a dense jungle. Several large trees were growing close to the
edge, and around these lay numerous rocks of about four feet high,
forming a capital place for concealment. Covering the tops of the rocks
with boughs to conceal our heads, we lay quietly behind them in
expectation of the approaching game.

The sun sank, and the moon rose in great beauty, throwing a silvery

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