The Four-ounce again - Tidings of a Rogue - Approaching a Tank Rogue - An Exciting Moment - Ruins of Pollanarua - Ancient Ruins - Rogues at Doolana - B. Charged by a Rogue - Planning an Attack - A Check - Narrow Escape - Rogue-stalking - A Bad Rogue - Dangers of Elephant-shooting - The Rhatamahatmeya's Tale.
A broken nipple in my long two-ounce rifle took me to Trincomalee, about seventy miles out of my proposed route. Here I had it punched out and replaced with a new one, which I fortunately had with me. No one who has not experienced the loss can imagine the disgust occasioned by an accident to a favourite rifle in a wild country. A spare nipple and mainspring for each barrel and lock should always be taken on a shooting trip.
In passing by Kandelly, on my return from Trincomalee, I paid a second visit to the lake. This is very similar to that of Minneria; but the shooting at that time was destroyed from the same cause which has since ruined Minneria - 'too many guns.' The buffaloes were not worthy of the name; I could not make one show fight, nor could I even get within three hundred yards of them. I returned from the plain with disgust; but just as I was quitting the shores of the lake I noticed three buffaloes in the shallows about knee-deep in the water, nearly half a mile from me. They did not look bigger than dogs, the distance was so great.
There is nothing like a sheet of water for trying a rifle; the splash of the ball shows with such distinctness the accuracy or the defect in the shooting. It was necessary that I should fire my guns off in order to clean them that evening: I therefore tried their power at this immense distance.
The long two-ounce fell short, but in a good line. I took a rest upon a man's shoulder with the four-ounce rifle, and, putting up the last sight, I aimed at the leading buffalo, who was walking through the water parallel with us. I aimed at the outline of the throat, to allow for his pace at this great distance. The recoil of the rifle cut the man's ear open, as there were sixteen drachms of powder in this charge.
We watched the smooth surface of the water as the invisible messenger whistled over the lake. Certainly three seconds elapsed before we saw the slightest effect. At the expiration of that time the buffalo fell suddenly in a sitting position, and there he remained fixed, many seconds after, a dull sound returned to our ears; it was the 'fut' of the ball, which had positively struck him at this immense range. What the distance was I cannot say; it may have been 600 yards, or 800, or more. It was shallow water the whole way: we therefore mounted our horses and rode up to him. Upon reaching him, I gave him a settling ball in the head, and we examined him. The heavy ball had passed completely through his hips, crushing both joints, and, of course, rendering him powerless at once.
The shore appeared full half a mile from us on our return, and I could hardly credit my own eyes, the distance was so immense, and yet the ball had passed clean through the animal's body.
It was of course a chance shot, and, even with this acknowledgment, it must appear rather like the 'marvellous' to a stranger; - this is my misfortune, not my fault. I certainly never made such a shot before or since; it was a sheer lucky hit, say at 600 yards; and the wonderful power of the rifle was thus displayed in the ball perforating the large body of the buffalo at this range. This shot was made with a round ball, not a cone. The round belted ball for this heavy two-grooved rifle weighs three ounces. The conical ball weighs a little more than four ounces.
While describing the long shots performed by this particular rifle, I cannot help recounting a curious chance with a large rogue elephant in Topari tank. This tank or lake is, like most others in Ceylon, the result of vast labour in past ages. Valleys were closed in by immense dams of solid masonry, which, checking the course of the rivers, formed lakes of many miles in extent. These were used as reservoirs for the water required for the irrigation of rice lands. The population who effected these extensive works have long since passed away; their fate is involved in mystery. The records of their ancient cities still exist, but we have no account of their destruction. The ruins of one of these cities, Pollanarua, are within half a mile of the village of Topari, and the waters of the adjacent lake are still confined by a dam of two miles in length, composed of solid masonry. When the lake is full, it is about eight miles in circumference.
I had only just arrived at the village, and my horse-keeper had taken the horse to drink at the lake, when he suddenly came running back to say that a rogue elephant was bathing himself on the opposite shore, at about two miles' distance.
I immediately took my guns and went after him. My path lay along the top of the great dam, which formed a causeway covered with jungle. This causeway was about sixty feet in breadth and two miles in length; the lake washed its base about twenty feet below the summit. The opposite shore was a fine plain, bordered by open forest, and the lake spread into the grassy surface in wide and irregular bays.
I continued my course along the causeway at a fast walk, and on arriving at the extremity of the lake, I noticed that the ancient dam continued for a much greater distance. This, together with the great height of the masonry from the level of the water, proved that the dimensions of the tank had formerly been of much greater extent.