CHAPTER VIII. The elephant trumpets - Fighting an elephant with swords - The forehead-shot - Elephants in a panic - A superb old Neptune - The harpoon reaches its aim - Death of the hippopotamus - Tramped by an elephant.
In the way of sport I never saw anything so magnificent or so absurdly dangerous. No gladiatorial exhibition in the Roman arena could have surpassed this fight. The elephant was mad with rage, and nevertheless he seemed to know that the object of the hunters was to get behind him. This he avoided with great dexterity, turning as it were upon a pivot with extreme quickness, and charging headlong, first at one and then at another of his assailants, while he blew clouds of sand in the air with his trunk, and screamed with fury. Nimble as monkeys, nevertheless the aggageers could not get behind him. In the folly of excitement they had forsaken their horses, which had escaped from the spot. The depth of the loose sand was in favor of the elephant, and was so much against the men that they avoided his charges with extreme difficulty. It was only by the determined pluck of all three that they alternately saved each other, as two invariably dashed in at the flanks when the elephant charged the third, upon which the wary animal immediately relinquished the chase and turned round upon his pursuers. During this time I had been laboring through the heavy sand, and shortly after I arrived at the fight the elephant charged directly through the aggageers, receiving a shoulder-shot from one of my Reilly No. 10 rifles, and at the same time a slash from the sword of Abou Do, who with great dexterity and speed had closed in behind him, just in time to reach the leg. Unfortunately, he could not deliver the cut in the right place, as the elephant, with increased speed, completely distanced the aggageers, then charged across the deep sand and reached the jungle. We were shortly upon his tracks, and after running about a quarter of a mile he fell dead in a dry watercourse. His tusks were, like those of most Abyssinian elephants, exceedingly short, but of good thickness.
Some of our men, who had followed the runaway horses, shortly returned and reported that during our fight with the bull they had heard other elephants trumpeting in the dense nabbuk jungle near the river. We all dismounted, and sent the horses to a considerable distance, lest they should by some noise disturb the elephants. We shortly heard a crackling in the jungle on our right, and Jali assured us that, as he had expected, the elephants were slowly advancing along the jungle on the bank of the river, and would pass exactly before us. We waited patiently in the bed of the river, and the crackling in the jungle sounded closer as the herd evidently approached. The strip of thick thorny covert that fringed the margin was in no place wider than half a mile; beyond that the country was open and park-like, but at this season it was covered with parched grass from eight to ten feet high. The elephants would, therefore, most probably remain in the jungle until driven out.
In about a quarter of an hour we knew by the noise in the jungle, about a hundred yards from the river, that the elephants were directly opposite to us. I accordingly instructed Jali to creep quietly by himself into the bush and to bring me information of their position. To this he at once agreed.
In three or four minutes he returned. He declared it impossible to use the sword, as the jungle was so dense that it would check the blow; but that I could use the rifle, as the elephants were close to us - he had seen three standing together, between us and the main body of the herd. I told Jali to lead me directly to the spot, and, followed by Florian and the aggageers, with my gun-bearers, I kept within a foot of my dependable little guide, who crept gently into the jungle. This was exceedingly thick, and quite impenetrable, except in the places where elephants and other heavy animals had trodden numerous alleys. Along one of these narrow passages we stealthily advanced, until Jali stepped quietly on one side and pointed with his finger. I immediately observed two elephants looming through the thick bushes about eight paces from me. One offered a temple-shot, which I quickly took with a Reilly No. 10, and floored it on the spot. The smoke hung so thickly that I could not see distinctly enough to fire my second barrel before the remaining elephant had turned; but Florian, with a three-ounce steel-tipped bullet, by a curious shot at the hind-quarters, injured the hip joint to such an extent that we could more than equal the elephant in speed.