CHAPTER XIII. MORAL RESULTS OF THE HUNT.
The moral result of the elephant hunt was very satisfactory, at the same time most unexpected.
The sound of cannon had been heard by the natives for many miles; this had awakened their curiosity, and numbers had sped from the surrounding heights and satisfied themselves that several elephants had been killed. The natives of Bedden flocked to our little camp in hundreds, and were delighted at receiving permission to take as much elephant's flesh as they required. They raced along the bank for a couple of miles to the spot where the two elephants had been secured by my people, and towed upon a sand-bank.
I had sent down a noggur to make sure of the heads, as the opportunity of obtaining entire skulls seldom offered. These two heads had now been brought safely to camp, and the natives were employed in cleaning every atom of flesh from the bone.
In the mean time, great numbers of our enemies were to be seen squatting upon the heights, watching the happier Baris of Bedden, who had congregated like vultures in the river, and were quarrelling and scrambling over the immense carcases of the elephants. The temptation was too great to withstand. Who could resist flesh? The mouths of our enemies were watering, as they watched the heavy loads of red meat carried upon the heads of the rival Baris. In the afternoon, a messenger hailed the sentry to say that one of the sheiks wished to present himself to me to crave a cessation of hostilities. Shortly after the disappearance of this man with a courteous answer, a batch of messengers arrived to beg that their chief might be received, as they all desired peace.
On the following morning I held a general levee. About twenty headmen, or sheiks of principal villages, attended by many of their people, came to present themselves and to sue for peace. I received the chiefs on my diahbeeah, and each received a present of a long blue shirt as he stepped on board. They now seated themselves by Bedden, and a general explanation took place.
I assured them of my regret that they had forced me into war, as my mission to the country had been one of peace; at the same time they must have seen how impossible it was to resist the troops who were armed with weapons of precision, and drilled in a manner very different from the companies of slave-hunters.
I told them that I had many thousand cattle, and that had they agreed to sell me the corn that was absolutely needed for the troops, I should have paid for it punctually with cows, as I had promised them when I first entered their district. I also explained that, as they must have observed, I had never taken a single head of cattle from them, although I had frequently heard the lowing of their oxen. I had adopted this conduct, although in actual war, merely to impress upon them the fact that they might depend upon my word. I had offered to exchange my cattle for their corn; thus had I taken their cattle, they might have disbelieved my sincerity.
They replied, that "it must be expected that little differences would occur at the beginning." They had been incited against us by the Baris of Belinian, and the war was entirely their own fault. At the same time they laughed, and said that "hunger was a very bad thing, and that hungry men would always fill their stomachs, if they could, therefore we had been quite right to take their corn." They declared that it did not in the least matter, as the islands were very fertile, and would produce another crop very quickly; in the mean time they had a good supply concealed, and their loss only necessitated a little extra labour.
They continued this peaceable conversation by saying, that "the elephants were seldom seen in this district, and that the Baris did not understand such hunting, but they had heard the cannons, and they knew that we should be able to kill them." The meeting concluded by a request for meat; and the sheiks having given instructions to certain messengers, despatched them to summon their people to the sand-bank, where the remains of the elephants were lying.
In a short time, swarms of natives, lately our enemies, were collecting from all quarters, and hurrying towards the attractive spot, as though they were going to a fair.
I gave the headmen [*] a present of beads, and took them to admire themselves in the large glass within the cabin of the diahbeeah. I scrambled some pounds of beads among their people, and got up foot-races for prizes.
[*Footnote: The superior chief was presented with a costume which delighted him. This was a long blue shirt with red waist-band, a bright tin funnel inverted to form a helmet with a feather in the tube, and a pair of spectacles. He declared that he would be "the admiration of the women."]
The natives selected some of their best runners; but although they ran well, they were all beaten by Ali Nedjar of the "Forty Thieves," who was the champion runner of the expedition.
The sheiks requested that the cannon might be fired for their amusement. A shot with blank cartridge made them look very serious. They then went to look at the two elephants' heads, which they believed had been blown off by the cannon on the day of the hunt.
They returned to the diahbeeah, and ordered their people to bring the present they had prepared for me. This consisted of thirty-one jars of merissa, each of which was duly tasted by themselves as a proof of the absence of poison.
Before they departed, I was assured, not only of their regret that any misunderstanding should have taken place, but that after their bean crop, which would be in about two months, they would unite with Bedden and carry all my baggage into the interior. They took leave and went off in the direction of the dead elephants.
Here was a sudden change in the politics of the country! Peace had been effected by the sacrifice of two elephants!