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

Part 5 out of 5

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exposure, that I matched exactly with the stem of a tree against which I
was leaning, and one of the elephants kept advancing towards me until I
could nearly touch him with my rifle; still he did not see me, and I did
not wish to fire, as I should alarm the herd, which would then be lost
for ever. Unfortunately, just at this moment, the other elephant saw
Palliser, and the alarm was given. There was no help for it, and we were
obliged to fire. Mine fell dead, but the other fell, and, recovering
himself immediately, he escaped in the thick jungle.

This was bad luck, and we returned towards the 'amblam' to breakfast. On
our way there we found that the 'rogue' had concealed himself in a piece
of thick jungle, backed by hills of very high lemon grass. From this
stronghold we tried to drive him, and posted ourselves in a fine
position to receive him should he break cover; but he was too cunning to
come out, and the beaters were too knowing to go in to drive such bad
jungle; it was, therefore, a drawn game, and we were obliged to leave

When within a short distance of the 'amblam', a fine black partridge got
up at about sixty yards. I was lucky enough to knock him over with a
rifle, and still more fortunate in not injuring him much with the ball,
which took his wing off close to his body. Half an hour afterwards he
formed part of our breakfast.

During our meal a heavy shower of rain came down, and continued for
about two hours.

In the afternoon we sallied out, determined to shoot at any large game
that we might meet. We had lately confined our sport to elephants, as we
did not wish to disturb the country by shooting at other game; but
having fired in this neighbourhood during the morning, we were not very

We walked through a lovely country for about five miles, seeing nothing
whatever in the shape of game, not even a track, as all the old marks
were washed out by the recent shower. At length we heard the barking of
deer in the distance, and, upon going in that direction, we saw a fine
herd of about thirty. They were standing in a beautiful meadow of about
a hundred acres in extent, perfectly level, and interspersed with trees,
giving it the appearance of an immense orchard rather thinly planted.
One side of this plain was bounded by a rocky mountain, which rose
precipitously from its base, the whole of which was covered with fine
open forest.

We were just stalking towards the deer when we came upon a herd of wild
buffaloes in a small hollow, within a close shot.

Palliser wanted a pair of horns, and he was just preparing for a shot,
when we suddenly heard the trumpet of an elephant in the forest at the
foot of the rocky mountains close to us.

Elephants, buffaloes, and deer were all within a hundred yards of each
other: we almost expected to see Noah's ark on the top of the hill.

Of course the elephants claimed our immediate attention. It was
Palliser's turn to lead the way; and upon entering the forest at the
foot of the mountain, we found that the elephants were close to us. The
forest was a perfect place for elephant-shooting. Large rocks were
scattered here and there among the fine trees, free from underwood;
these rocks formed alleys of various widths, and upon such ground an
elephant had no chance.

There was a large rock the size of a small house lying within a few
yards from the entrance of the forest. This rock was split in two
pieces, forming a passage of two feet wide, but of several yards in
length. As good luck would have it, an elephant stood exactly on the
other side, and, Palliser leading the way, we advanced through this
secure fort to the attack.

On arrival at the extreme end, Palliser fired two quick shots, and,
taking a spare gun, he fired a third, before we could see what was going
on, we being behind him in this narrow passage. Upon passing through we
thought the fun was over. He had killed three elephants, and no more
were to be seen anywhere.

Hardly had he reloaded, however, when we heard a tremendous rushing
through the forest in the distance; and, upon quickly running to the
spot, we came upon a whole herd of elephants, who were coming to meet us
in full speed. Upon seeing us, however, they checked their speed for a
moment, and Palliser and Wortley both fired, which immediately turned
them. This was at rather too long a distance, and no elephants were

A fine chase now commenced through the open forest, the herd rushing off
pele mele. This pace soon took us out of it, and we burst upon an open
plain of high lemon grass. Here I got a shot at an elephant, who
separated from the main body, and I killed him.

The pace was now so great that the herd fairly distanced us in the
tangled lemon grass, which, though play to them, was very fatiguing to

Upon reaching the top of some rising ground I noticed several elephants,
at about a quarter of a mile distant upon my left in high grass, while
the remaining portion of the herd (three elephants) were about two
hundred yards ahead, and were stepping out at full speed straight before

Wortley had now had plenty of practice, and shot his elephants well. He
and Palliser followed the three elephants, while I parted company and
ran towards the other section of the herd, who were standing on some
rising ground, and were making a great roaring.

On arriving within a hundred yards of them, I found I had caught a
'Tartar'. It is a very different thing creeping up to an unsuspecting
herd and attacking them by surprise, to marching up upon sheer open
ground to a hunted one with wounded elephants among them, who have
regularly stood at bay. This was now the case. The ground was perfectly
open, and the lemon grass was above my head: thus I could only see the
exact position of the elephants every now and then, by standing upon the
numerous little rocks that were scattered here and there. The elephants
were standing upon some rising ground, from which they watched every
movement as I approached. They continued to growl without a moment's
intermission, being enraged not only from the noise of the firing, but
on account of two calves which they had with them, and which I could not
see in the high grass. There was a gentle rise in the ground within
thirty paces of the spot upon which they stood; and to this place I
directed my steps with great care, hiding in the high grass as I crept
towards them.

During the whole of this time, guns were firing without intermission in
the direction taken by Palliser and Wortley, thus keeping my game
terribly on the qui vive. What they were firing so many shots at, I
could not conceive.

At length I reached the rising ground. The moment that I was discovered
by them, the two largest elephants came towards me, with their ears
cocked and their trunks raised.

I waited for a second or two till they lowered their trunks, which they
presently did; and taking a steady shot with one of my doubled-barrelled
No. 10 rifles, I floored them both by a right and left. One, however,
immediately recovered, and, with the blood streaming from his forehead,
he turned and retreated with the remainder of the herd at great speed
through the high grass.

The chase required great caution. However, they fortunately took to a
part of the country where the grass was not higher than my shoulders,
and I could thus see well over it. Through this, I managed to keep
within fifty yards of the herd, and I carried the heavy four-ounce
rifle, which I knew would give one of them a benefit if he turned to

I was following the herd at this distance when they suddenly halted, and
the wounded elephant turned quickly round, and charged with a right good
intention. He carried his head thrown back in such a position that I
could not get a fair shot, but, nevertheless, the four-ounce ball
stopped him, and away he went again with the herd at full speed, the
blood gushing in streams from the wound in his head.

My four-ounce is a splendid rifle for loading quickly, it being so thick
in the metal that the deep groove catches the belt of the ball
immediately. I was loaded in a few seconds, and again set off in
pursuit; I saw the herd at about 200 yards distant; they had halted, and
they had again faced about.

I had no sooner approached within sixty paces of them, than the wounded
elephant gave a trumpet, and again rushed forward out of the herd. His
head was so covered with blood, and was still thrown back in such a
peculiar position, that I could not get a shot at the exact mark. Again
the four-ounce crashed through his skull, and, staggered with the blow,
he once more turned and retreated with the herd.

Loading quickly, I poured the powder down AD LIBITUN, and ran after the
herd, who had made a circuit to arrive in the same forest in which we
had first found them. A sharp run brought me up to them; but upon seeing
me they immediately stopped, and, without a moment's pause, round came
my old antagonist again, straight at me, with his head still raised in
the same knowing position. The charge of powder was so great that it
went off like a young fieldpiece, and the elephant fell upon his knees;
but, again recovering himself, he turned and went off at such a pace
that he left the herd behind, and in a few minutes I was within twenty
yards of them; I would not fire, as I was determined to bag my wounded
bird before I fired a single shot at another.

They now reached the forest, but, instead of retreating, the wounded
elephant turned short round upon the very edge of the jungle and faced
me; the remaining portion of the herd (consisting of two large elephants
and two calves) had passed on into the cover.

This was certainly a plucky elephant; his whole face was a mass of
blood, and he stood at the very spot where the herd had passed into the
forest, as though he was determined to guard the entrance. I was now
about twenty-five yards from him, when, gathering himself together for a
decisive charge, he once more came on.

I was on the point of pulling the trigger, when he reeled, and fell
without a shot, from sheer exhaustion; but recovering himself
immediately, he again faced me, but did not move. This was a fatal
pause. He forgot the secret of throwing his head back, and he now held
it in the natural position, offering a splendid shot at about twenty
yards. Once more the four-ounce buried itself in his skull, and he fell

Palliser and Wortley came up just as I was endeavouring to track up the
herd, which I had now lost sight of in the forest. Following upon their
tracks, we soon came in view of them. Away we went as fast as we could
run towards them, but I struck my shin against a fallen tree, which cut
me to the bone, and pitched me upon my head. The next moment, however,
we were up with the elephants: they were standing upon a slope of rock
facing us, but regularly dumbfounded at their unremitting pursuit; they
all rolled over to a volley as we came up, two of them being calves.
Palliser killed the two biggest right and left, he being some paces in

This was one of the best hunts that I have ever shared in. The chase had
lasted for nearly an hour. There had been thirteen elephants originally
in the herd, every one of which had been bagged by fair running. Wortley
had fired uncommonly well, as he had killed the three elephants which he
and Palliser had chased, one of which had given them a splendid run and
had proved restive. The elephant took fifteen shots before she fell, and
this accounted for the continual firing which I had heard during my
chase of the other section. We had killed fourteen elephants during the
day, and we returned to the 'amblam', having had as fine sport as Ceylon
can afford.

December 7.--This, being Sunday, was passed in quiet; but a general
cleaning of guns took place, to be ready for the morrow.

Dec. 8.--We went over many miles of ground without seeing a fresh
track. We had evidently disturbed the country on this side of the river,
and we returned towards the 'amblam', determined to cross the river
after breakfast and try the opposite side.

When within a mile of the 'amblam' we heard deer barking, and, leaving
all our gun-bearers and people behind, we carefully stalked to the spot.
The ground was very favourable, and, having the wind, we reached an
excellent position among some trees within sixty yards of the herd of
deer, who were standing in a little glade. Wortley and I each killed a
buck; Palliser wounded a doe, which we tracked for a great distance by
the blood, but at length lost altogether.

After breakfast we crossed the large river which flows near the
'amblam', and then entered a part of the 'Park' that we had not yet

Keeping to our left, we entered a fine forest, and skirted the base of a
range of rocky mountains. In this forest we saw deer and wild buffalo,
but we would not fire a shot, as we had just discovered the fresh track
of a rogue elephant. We were following upon this, when we heard a bear
in some thick jungle. We tried to circumvent him, but in vain; Bruin was
too quick for us, and we did not get a sight of him.

We were walking quietly along the dry bed of a little brook bordered by
thick jungle upon either side, when we were suddenly roused by a
tremendous crash through the jungle, which was evidently coming straight
upon us.

We were in a most unfavourable position, but there was no time for any
farther arrangement than bringing the rifle on full cock, before six
elephants, including the 'rogue' whose tracks we were following, burst
through the jungle straight at us.

Banda was nearly run over, but with wonderful agility he ran up some
tangled creepers hanging from the trees, just as a spider would climb
his web. He was just in time, as the back of one of the elephants grazed
his feet as it passed below him.

In the meantime the guns were not idle. Wortley fired at the leading
elephant, which had passed under Banda's feet, just as he was crossing
the brook on our left. His shot did not produce any effect, but I killed
him by a temple-shot as he was passing on. Palliser, who was on our
right, killed two, and knocked down a third, who was about half-grown.
This fellow got up again, and Wortley and Palliser, both firing at the
same moment, extinguished him.

The herd had got themselves into a mess by rushing down upon our scent
in this heedless manner, as four of them lay dead within a few paces of
each other. The 'rogue', who knew how to take care of himself, escaped
with only one companion. Upon these tracks we now followed without loss
of time.

An hour was thus occupied. We tracked them through many glades and
jungles, till we at length discovered in a thick chenar the fresh tracks
of another herd, which the 'rogue' and his companion had evidently
joined, as his immense footprint was very conspicuous among the numerous
marks of the troop. Passing cautiously through a thick jungle, we at
length emerged upon an extensive tract of high lemon grass. There was a
small pool of water close to the edge of the jungle, which was
surrounded with the fresh dung of elephants, and the muddy surface was
still agitated by the recent visit of some of these thirsty giants.

Carefully ascending some slightly rising ground, and keeping close to
the edge of the jungle, we peered over the high grass.

We were in the centre of the herd, who were much scattered. It was very
late, being nearly dusk, but we counted six elephants here and there in
the high grass within sixty paces of us, while the rustling in the
jungle to our left, warned us, that a portion of the herd had not yet
quitted this cover. We knew that the 'rogue' was somewhere close at
hand, and after his recent defeat he would be doubly on the alert. Our
plans therefore required the greatest vigilance.

There was no doubt as to the proper course to pursue, which was to wait
patiently until the whole herd should have left the jungle and
concentrated in the high grass; but the waning daylight did not permit
of such a steady method of proceeding. I then proposed that we should
choose our elephants, which were scattered in the high grass, and
advance separately to the attack. Palliser voted that we should creep up
to the elephants that were in the jungle close to us, instead of going
into the high grass.

I did not much like this plan, as I knew that it would be much darker in
the jungle than in the patina, and there was no light to spare. However,
Palliser crept into the jungle, towards the spot where we heard the
elephants crashing the bushes.

Instead of following behind him, I kept almost in a line, but a few feet
on one side, otherwise I knew that should he fire, I should see nothing
for the smoke of his shot. This precaution was not thrown away. The
elephants were about fifty yards from the entrance to the jungle, and we
were of course up to them in a few minutes. Palliser took a steady shot
at a fine elephant about eight yards from him, and fired.

The only effect produced was a furious charge right into us!

Away went all the gun-bearers except Wallace as hard as they could run,
completely panic-stricken. Palliser and Wortley jumped to one side to
get clear of the smoke, which hung like a cloud before them; and having
taken my position with the expectation of something of this kind, I had
a fine clear forehead shot as the elephant came rushing on; and I
dropped him dead.

The gun-bearers were in such a fright that they never stopped till they
got out on the patina.

The herd had of course gone off at the alarm of the firing, and we got a
glimpse of the old 'rogue' as he was taking to the jungle. Palliser
fired an ineffectual shot at him at a long range, and the day closed. It
was moonlight when we reached the 'amblam': the bag for that day being
five elephants, and two bucks.

Dec. 9.--We had alarmed this part of the country; and after spending a
whole morning in wandering over a large extent of ground without seeing
a fresh track of an elephant, we determined to move on to Nielgalla,
eight miles from the 'amblam.' We accordingly packed up, and started off
our coolies by the direct path, while we made a long circuit by another
route, in the hope of meeting with heavy game.

After riding about four miles, our path lay through a dense forest up
the steep side of a hill. Over this was a narrow road, most difficult
for a horse to ascend, on account of the large masses of rocks, which
choked the path from the base to the summit. Leaving the horse-keepers
with the horses to scramble up as they best could, we took our guns and
went on in advance. We had nearly reached the summit of this pass, when
we came suddenly upon some fragments of chewed leaves and branches,
lying in the middle of the path. The saliva was still warm upon them,
and the dung of an elephant lay in the road in a state which proved his
close vicinity. There were no tracks, of course, as the path was nothing
but a line of piled rocks, from which the forest had been lately
cleared, and the elephants had just been disturbed by the clattering of
the horses' hoofs in ascending the rugged pass.

Banda had run on in front about fifty yards before us, but we had no
sooner arrived on the summit of the hill, than we saw him returning at a
flying pace towards us, with an elephant chasing him in full speed.

It was an exciting scene while it lasted: with the activity of a deer,
he sprang from rock to rock, while we of course ran to his assistance,
and arrived close to the elephant just as Banda had reached a high block
of stone, which furnished him an asylum. A shot from Palliser brought
the elephant upon his knees, but, immediately recovering himself, he ran
round a large rock. I ran round the other side, and killed him dead
within four paces.

Upon descending the opposite side of the pass, we arrived in flat
country, and on the left of the road we saw another elephant, a 'rogue',
in high lemon grass. We tried to get a shot at him, but it was of no
use; the grass was so high and thick, that after trying several
experiments, we declined following him in such ground. We arrived at
Nielgalla in the evening without farther sport: here we killed a few
couple of snipe in the paddy-fields, which added to our dinner.

Dec. 10.--Having beaten several miles of country without seeing any
signs of elephants, we came unexpectedly upon a herd of wild buffaloes;
they were standing in beautiful open ground, interspersed with trees,
about a hundred and ten paces from us. I gave Palliser my heavy rifle,
as he was very anxious to get a pair of good horns, and with the
pleasure of a spectator I watched the sport. He made a good shot with
the four-ounce, and dropped the foremost buffalo; the herd galloped off
but he broke the hind leg of another buffalo with one of the No. 10
rifles, and, after a chase of a couple of hundred yards, he came up with
the wounded beast, who could not extricate himself from a deep gully of
water, as he could not ascend the steep bank on three legs. A few more
shots settled him.

We gave up all ideas of elephants for this day after so much firing;
but, curious enough, just as we were mounting our horses, we heard the
roar of an elephant in a jungle on the hillside about half a mile
distant. There was no mistaking the sound, and we were soon at the spot.
This jungle was very extensive, and the rocky bed of a mountain-torrent
divided it into two portions; on the right hand was fine open forest,
and on the left thorny chenar. The elephants were in the open forest,
close to the edge of the torrent.

The herd winded us just as we were approaching up the steep ascent of
the rocky stream, and they made a rush across the bed of the torrent to
gain the thick jungle on the opposite bank. Banda immediately beckoned
to me to come into the jungle with the intention of meeting the
elephants as they entered, while Palliser was to command the narrow
passage, in which there was only space for one person to shoot, without

In the mean time, Palliser knocked over three elephants as they crossed
the stream, while we, on reaching the thick jungle, found it so dense
that we could see nothing. Just as we were thinking of returning again
to the spot that we had left, we heard a tremendous rush in the bush,
coming straight towards us. In another instant I saw a mass of twisted
and matted thorns crashing in a heap upon me. I had barely time to jump
on one side, as the elephant nearly grazed me, and I fired both barrels
into the tangled mass that he bore upon his head. I then bolted, and
took up a good position at a few yards' distance. The shots in the head
had so completely stunned the elephant that she could not move. She now
stood in a piece of jungle so dense that we could not see her, and
Palliser creeping up to her, while we stood ready to back him, fired
three shots without the least effect. She did not even move, being
senseless with the wound. One of my men then gave him my four-ounce
rifle. A loud report from the old gun sounded the elephant's knell, and
closed the sport for that trip.

We returned to Nielgalla, the whole of that day's bag belonging to
Palliser--four elephants and two buffaloes. We packed up our traps, and
early the next morning we started direct for Newera Ellia, having in
three weeks from the day of our departure from Kandy bagged fifty
elephants, five deer, and two buffaloes; of which, Wortley had killed to
his bag, ten elephants and two deer; Palliser sixteen elephants and two
buffaloes; V. Baker, up to the time of his leaving us, two elephants.



Thus ended a trip, which exhibited the habits and character of elephants
in a most perfect manner. From the simple experience of these three
weeks' shooting a novice might claim some knowledge of the elephant; and
the journal of this tour must at once explain, even to the most
uninitiated, the exact proportion of risk with which this sport is
attended, when followed up in a sportsmanlike manner. These days will
always be looked back to by me with the greatest pleasure. The moments
of sport lose none of their brightness by age, and when the limbs become
enfeebled by time, the mind can still cling to scenes long past, with
the pleasure of youth.

One great addition to the enjoyment of wild sport is the companionship
of thorough sportsmen. A confidence in each other is absolutely
necessary; without this, I would not remain a day in the jungle. An even
temper, not easily disturbed by the little annoyances inseparable from a
trip in a wild country, is also indispensable; without this, a man would
be insufferable. Our party was an emblem of contentment. The day's sport
concluded, the evenings were most enjoyable, and will never be
forgotten. The well arranged tent, the neatly-spread table, the beds
forming a triangle around the walls, and the clean guns piled in a long
row against the gun-rack, will often recall a tableau in after years, in
countries far from this land of independence. The acknowledged sports of
England will appear child's play; the exciting thrill will be wanting,
when a sudden rush in the jungle brings the rifle on full cock; and the
heavy guns will become useless mementoes of past days, like the dusty
helmets of yore, hanging up in an old hall. The belt and the
hunting-knife will alike share the fate of the good rifle, and the
blade, now so keen, will blunt from sheer neglect. The slips, which have
held the necks of dogs of such staunch natures, will hang neglected from
the wall; and all these souvenirs of wild sports, contrasted with the
puny implements of the English chase, will awaken once more the longing
desire, for the 'Rifle and Hound in Ceylon'.

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