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.
Abou Do now explained the cause of the accident. While the party of camel, men and others were engaged in cutting up the dead elephants, the three aggageers had found the track of a bull that had escaped wounded. In that country, where there was no drop of water upon the east bank of the Settite for a distance of sixty or seventy miles to the river Gash, an elephant, if wounded, was afraid to trust itself to the interior. One of our escaped elephants had therefore returned to the thick jungle, and was tracked by the aggageers to a position within two or three hundred yards of the dead elephants. As there were no guns, two of the aggageers, utterly reckless of consequences, resolved to ride through the narrow passages formed by the large game, and to take their chance with the elephant, sword in hand. Jali, as usual, was the first to lead, and upon his little gray mare he advanced with the greatest difficulty through the entangled thorns, broken by the passage of heavy game; to the right and left of the passage it was impossible to move. Abou Do had wisely dismounted, but Suleiman followed Jali. Upon arriving within a few yards of the elephant, which was invisible in the thick thorns, Abou Do crept forward on foot, and discovered it standing with ears cocked, evidently waiting for the attack. As Jali followed on his light gray mare, the elephant immediately perceived the white color and at once charged forward. Escape was next to impossible. Jali turned his snare sharply around, and she bounded off; but, caught in the thorns, the mare fell, throwing her rider in the path of the elephant that was within a few feet behind, in full chase. The mare recovered herself in an instant, and rushed away; the elephant, attracted by the white color of the animal, neglected the man, upon whom it trod in the pursuit, thus breaking his thigh. Abou Do, who had been between the elephant and Jali, had wisely jumped into the thick thorns, and, as the elephant passed him, he again sprang out behind and followed with his drawn sword, but too late to save Jali, as it was the affair of an instant. Jumping over Jali's body, he was just in time to deliver a tremendous cut at the hind leg of the elephant, that must otherwise have killed both horses and probably Suleiman also, as the three were caught in a cul de sac, in a passage that had no outlet, and were at the elephant's mercy.
Abou Do seldom failed. It was a difficult feat to strike correctly in the narrow jungle passage with the elephant in full speed; but the blow was fairly given, and the back sinew was divided. Not content with the success of the cut, he immediately repeated the stroke upon the other leg, as he feared that the elephant, although disabled from rapid motion, might turn and trample Jali. The extraordinary dexterity and courage required to effect this can hardly be appreciated by those who have never hunted a wild elephant; but the extreme agility, pluck, and audacity of these Hamran sword-hunters surpass all feats that I have ever witnessed.
I set Jali's broken thigh and attended to him for four days. He was a very grateful but unruly patient, as he had never been accustomed to remain quiet. At the end of that time we arranged an angarep comfortably upon a camel, upon which he was transported to Geera, in company with a long string of camels, heavily laden with dried meat and squares of hide for shields, with large bundles of hippopotamus skin for whip-making, together with the various spoils of the chase. Last but not least were numerous leathern pots of fat that had been boiled down from elephants and hippopotami.
The camels were to return as soon as possible with supplies of corn for our people and horses. Another elephant-hunter was to be sent to us in the place of Jali, but I felt that we had lost our best man.