I never saw game in such masses as had now collected in this neighbourhood. The heat was intense, and the noble forest in the vicinity of Yalle river offered an asylum to all animals beneath its shade, where good water and fine grass upon the river's bank supplied their wants. In this forest there was little or no underwood; the trees grew to an immense size and stood far apart, so that a clear range might be obtained for a hundred yards. It was, therefore, a perfect spot for deer-stalking; the tops of trees formed an impervious screen to the sun's rays; and I passed several days in wandering with my rifle through these shady solitudes, killing an immense quantity of game. The deer were in such masses that I restricted myself to bucks, and I at length became completely satiated. There was too much game; during the whole day's walk I was certainly not FIVE MINUTES without seeing either deer, elk, buffaloes, or hogs. The noise of the rifle did not appear to scare them from the forest; they would simply retreat for a time to some other portion of it, and fresh herds were met with in following up one which had been disturbed. Still, there were no elephants. Although I had upwards of fifty coolies and servants, they could not dry the venison sufficiently fast to prevent the deer from stinking as they were killed, and I resolved to leave the country.
I gave orders for everything to be packed up in readiness for a start, after an early breakfast, on the following morning. The servants were engaged in arranging for the departure, when a native brought intelligence of a rogue elephant within four miles of the tent. It was late in the afternoon, but I had not seen an elephant for so long that I was determined to make his acquaintance. My friend B. accompanied me, and we immediately started on horseback.
Our route lay across very extensive plains, interspersed with low thorny bushes and wide salt lakes. Innumerable wild hogs invited us to a chase. There could not be a better spot for boar-spearing, as the ground is level and clear for riding. There were numerous herds of deer and buffaloes, but we did not fire a shot, as we had determined upon an interview with the rogue. We traversed about four miles of this style of country, and were crossing a small plain, when our guide suddenly stopped and pointed to the elephant, who was about a quarter of a mile distant. He was standing on a little glade of about fifty yards across; this was surrounded upon all sides but one with dense thorny jungle, and he therefore stood in a small bay of open ground. It was a difficult position for an attack. The wind blew directly from us to him, therefore an advance in that direction was out of the question; on the other hand, if we made a circuit so as to get the wind, we should have to penetrate through the thorny jungle to arrive at him, and we should then have the five o'clock sun directly in our eyes. However, there was no alternative, and, after a little consultation, the latter plan was resolved upon.
Dismounting, we ordered the horse-keepers to conceal the horses and themselves behind a thick bush, lest the elephant should observe them, and with this precaution we advanced, making a circuit of nearly a mile to obtain the wind. On arrival at the belt of thick jungle which divided us from the small glade upon which he stood, I perceived, as I had expected, that the sun was full in our eyes. This was a disadvantage which I felt convinced would lose us the elephant, unless some extraordinary chance intervened; however, we entered the thick jungle before us, and cautiously pushed our way through it. This belt was not more than fifty yards in width, and we soon broke upon the small glade.
The elephant was standing with his back towards us, at about forty paces distant, close to the thick jungle by his side; and, taking my four-ounce rifle, I walked quietly but quickly towards him. Without a moment's warning he flung his trunk straight up, and, turning sharp round, he at once charged into us. The sun shone full in my eyes, so that I could do nothing but fire somewhere at his head. He fell, but immediately recovered himself, and before the smoke had cleared away he was in full retreat through the thorny jungle, the heavy ball having taken all the pluck out of him. This was just as I had expected; pursuit in such a jungle was impossible, and I was perfectly contented with having turned him.
The next morning, having made all arrangements for starting homewards, after breakfast I took my rifle and one gun-bearer with a double-barrelled gun to enjoy one last stroll in the forest. It was just break of day. My first course was towards the river which flowed through it, as I expected to find the game near the water, an hour before sunrise being their time for drinking. I had not proceeded far before immense herds of deer offered tempting shots; but I was out simply in search of large antlers, and none appearing of sufficient size, I would not fire. Buffaloes continually presented themselves: I was tired of shooting these brutes, but I killed two who looked rather vicious; and I amused myself with remarking the immense quantity of game, and imagining the number of heads that I could bag had I chosen to indulge in indiscriminate slaughter. At length I noticed a splendid buck lying on the sandy bed of the river, beneath a large tree; his antlers were beautiful, and I stalked him to within sixty yards and shot him. I had not been reloaded ten minutes, and was walking quietly through the forest, when I saw a fine antlered buck standing within thirty yards of me in a small patch of underwood. His head was turned towards me, and his nostrils were distended in alarm as he prepared to bound off. I had just time to cock my rifle as he dashed off at full speed; but it was a murderous distance, and he fell dead. His antlers matched exactly with those I had last shot.