After a stay of a few days in this neighbourhood, during which we had good sport in elephant-shooting, we returned to the Park country. The first evening of our return, we heard elephants roaring in the jungle within a short distance of the tent. At daybreak the next morning we were on their tracks, and after a walk of five miles we found them in thick thorny jungle, and only killed three. We had a long day's work, and we were returning home in the afternoon when we suddenly observed a herd of deer grazing in the beautiful park. The headman of this part of the country is a first-rate sportsman, and has always accompanied me in shooting through this district. This man, whose name is Banda, is the only Cingalese that I have ever seen who looks like a man of good birth in his nation. Strikingly handsome and beautifully proportioned, with the agility of a deer, he is in all respects the beau ideal of a native hunter. His skill in tracking is superb, and his thorough knowledge of the habits of all Ceylon animals, especially of elephants, renders him a valuable ally to a sportsman. He and I commenced a careful stalk, and after a long circuit I succeeded in getting within seventy paces of the herd of deer. The ground was undulating, and they were standing on the top of a low ridge of hills. I dropped a buck with my two-ounce rifle, and the herd immediately disappeared behind the top of the hill. Taking one of my double-barrelled rifles, which Banda gave me, I ran to the top of the hill as fast as I could, just in time to see the herd going at a flying speed along a small valley at a long distance. Another buck was separated from the herd by about forty paces, and putting up the second sight of my rifle, I took a shot at him; to my delight he plunged heavily upon the turf. I fired my remaining barrel at the herd, but I must have missed, as none fell. I immediately stepped the distance to the dead buck, 187 paces. I had fired a little too high, and missed his body, but the ball struck him in the neck and had broken his spine. A successful flying shot at this distance has a very pretty effect, and Banda was delighted.
There were very few elephants at this season at the Park, and the numberless 'ticks' which swarmed in the grass, spoilt all the pleasure of shooting. These little wretches, which are not larger than a small grain of gunpowder, find their way to every part of the body, and the irritation of their bites is indescribable. Scratching, is only adding fuel to fire; there is no certain prevention or relief from their attacks; the best thing that I know is cocoa-nut oil rubbed daily over the whole body, but the remedy is almost as unpleasant as the bite. Ceylon is, at all times, a frightful place for vermin: in the dry weather we have ticks; it the wet weather mosquitoes, and, what are still more disgusting, 'leeches,' which swarm in the grass, and upon the leaves of the jungle. These creatures insinuate themselves through all the openings in a person's dress - up the trousers, under the waistcoat, down the neck, up the wrists, and in fact everywhere, drawing blood with insatiable voracity, and leaving an unpleasant irritation for some days after.
All these annoyances form great drawbacks to the enjoyment of the low-country sports; although they are afterwards forgotten, and the bright moments of the sport are all that are looked back to, they are great discomforts at the time. When the day is over, and the man, fatigued by intense heat and a hard day's work, feels himself refreshed by a bath and a change of clothes, the incurable itching of a thousand tick-bites destroys all his pleasure; he finds himself streaming with blood from leech-bites, and for the time he feels disgusted with the country. First-rate sport can alone compensate for all these annoyances.
There is a portion of the Park country known as Dimbooldene. In this part there is a cave formed by a large overhanging rock, which is a much cooler residence than the tent. Here we accordingly bivouacked, the cave being sufficiently large to contain the horses in addition to ourselves and servants. After a delightfully cool night, free from mosquitoes, we made a day of it, but we walked from sunrise till 5 P.M. without seeing a sign of an elephant. At length, from the top of a high hill on the very confines of the Park country, we looked across a deep valley, and with the assistance of the telescope we plainly distinguished a large single elephant feeding on the grassy side of an opposite mountain. To cross the deep valley that separated us, and to ascend the mountain, would have taken several hours, and at this time of the day it was impracticable; we were thus compelled to turn our backs upon the game, and return towards our rocky home. Tired, more from our want of success than from the day's work, we strolled leisurely along, and we were talking of the best plan to be adopted for the next day's work, when I suddenly observed a herd of eight elephants going up the side of a small hill at their best pace within 200 yards of us. They had just quitted a small jungle at the bottom of a ravine, and they had been alarmed by our approach.
Off we started in pursuit, down the rugged side of the hill we were descending, and up the opposite hill, upon the elephants' tracks, as hard as we could run. Just as we reached the top of the hill, the elephants were entering a small jungle on the other side. My brother got a shot, and killed the last of the herd; in another moment they had disappeared. It had been a sharp burst up the steep hill, and we stopped to breathe, but we were almost immediately in pursuit again, as we saw the herd emerge from the jungle at the base of the hill, and plough their way through a vast field of high lemon grass.