A CHARGE O ELEPHANTS.
ITO THE EDITOR OP THE " SPECTLTOR."1
SIR,-It chanced last December that my ship was detained for duty in the Laccadive Islands, with headquarters at Calicut, on the West Coast of India. During one period, whilst the vessel was lying off that port awaiting coal and provisions in an interval of visiting the islands, I had an opportunity of getting some shooting in the neighbourhood. Running roughly parallel to the coast and some forty miles from it are the Nilgiri Hills, a large range of mountains, the summit of which, " The Camel's Hump," is a well-known landmark from seaward, and I was informed that sambhur were plentiful there, and that if I could get away for a few days I should probably get a shot or two at them, and possibly tiger or panther. The Collector of the district very kindly assisted me by arranging for carts and shikaris, and also lent me a 12-bore rifle which he possessed, as well as a miscellaneous collection of cartridges, mostly loaded with three drachms of black powder and soft bullets, which, in default of other arms and ammunition, I was very grateful for, having only my 12-bore shot-gun with me. Young C., who accompanied me, was armed with a •405 Winchester repeating-rifle with soft- nosed bullets, lent to him by some one else in the station. We started off on our shooting trip one night after dinner, with two bullock carts, in one of which we were to sleep, the other holding our kit and servants. Our sleeping cart was made comfortable with quantities of straw on which we slept all night, awakened only at intervals by the cries of the driver when the bullocks wanted urging uphill, or continued on their journey from a temporary halt by the wayside. At daylight we got out of our cart and walked alongside it in the cool air. On each side of the road were paddy-fields bordered by thick jungle with clumps of feathery bamboos, and with occasional patches of high bauhinnia-trees in flower, which showed brick- red against the light-green foliage of the jungle. We came to the foot of the hills about lunchtime, and took up our quarters in a &I bungalow at a place called Puttapudi. In the afternoon we got together a number of coolies and had a beat through the jungle for sambhur ; but although we heard the game break through, we saw nothing. Our shikari had evidently taken too large a piece of jungle for us to be adequately posted to command the various exits from it.
At daylight next morning we were aroused by the owner of the house, who was very excited, and told us that during the night one of the villagers had been killed by a wild elephant. It appears that this man, who was a keeper of tame elephants used for the purpose of hauling timber in the surrounding jungle, awoke hearing a noise in his compound, and pre- sumably thinking that one of his elephants was eating his plantain-trees, went out to drive the beast into its proper quarters, only to realise his mistake when too late to save his life, as the elephant was a wild one, and turned on him and killed him. My informant, who was an old shikari, told me that there was a herd of elephants in the vicinity, and that they had done a lot of damage to the crops, and asked me if I would care to have a shot at them. Previous to this I had had no really dangerous big-game shooting, and my com- panion very little experience of any sort of shooting at all, and moreover I did not feel over-confident with regard to my weapons and ammunition ; but I realised that it was a chance of a lifetime, and concluded that the opportunity was too good to miss. Accordingly I arranged for the best shikari in the village to accompany me, and for three of the jungle people to track the animals ; and by eight o'clock we started off.
About a mile outside the village, whilst going through some paddy-fields towards the hills, we came upon tracks of elephants in the soft mud, and for some distance after- wards, until well into the jungle, we had no difficulty in following their footmarks, which steadily went uphill; the track was some four feet broad and the walking easy, although very hot, so that we made good progress for some five miles or so. Our path took us along the edge of a ravine, and we could hear the noise of a stream some hundred feet or so below us. We came to a small natural clearing in our path, and thought it would be an excellent place for a rest, whilst our trackers went ahead to see if they could find any signs of the herd ; so we halted and refreshed ourselves by bathing our faces in a stream which here crossed our path, making a succession of small cascades to the river below.
We began to think that the herd had probably travelled some miles since morning, and that it was exceedingly unlikely that we should see anything of them, when suddenly our trackers came back to tell us that there was a herd of elephants feeding in some bamboos about half-a-mile off. All was now excitement : we jumped up at once and looked to our rifles. I gave my shot-gun to my shikari, one barrel being loaded with ball, the other being choke, with orders to him to keep close behind me and hand it me if I required it. We went slowly and cautiously forward, our luncheon- carriers staying behind up a tree for safety.
The jungle now became denser and the track difficult to
follow and all uphill. There was dead silence all around us, and we knew not at what moment we should come on the herd. We slowly came to the spot where our trackers had seen the elephants, but there was no sign of them. They had evidently moved off. We crossed a depression in the ground where there was nothing but bamboos, some upright, others lying across our path, making our progress very slow. Gradually we emerged from it, each step taken with caution. The ground became steeper again, and we took advantage of every opening between bamboo clumps, wild tapioca, and trees to proceed. We again came to a slight clearing some few yards in extent, and my shikari was whispering to one of the trackers to go ahead and see if he could locate where the elephants were, and particularly where the largest tusker was, when sud- denly, in the dead silence, we heard right in front of us, some distance ahead, a terrific noise,—trees coming down, and the crash of them coming closer and closer. My friend C. dived into a bamboo clump to my right front. I had barely time to get behind a small tree some twelve inches in diameter, where I tried to make myself as small as possible, when I saw the head and shoulders of a huge elephant making straight for me, and directly over the bamboos where C. was lying. I threw up my rifle and fired as near as I could judge low down at the centre of his forehead by the juncture of his trunk. My doing so brought the beast up all standing; its ears went out like a bat's wings, and I shot again with my left barrel at the same spot. I threw out the empty cartridges, put in two more, tried to close the breach of my rifle and could not. I looked round for my second gun,—my sbikari had disappeared, and there was no one in sight. As I turned my bead back I was aware of a large cow elephant with a young one about four feet high standing right underneath her—both with their heads turned towards me and looking straight at me—some five and a half yards distant. She trumpeted and came towards me. I could not close the breach, and quite realised I was in a tight place. I turned and bolted, falling on my face a few feet away over some wild tapioca across my path, and expecting that any second might be my last. During my flight and fall I was still wondering why I could not close the breach of the rifle, and only after I was down did I realise that my rifle had not got rebounding locks, to which I was accustomed, and that before I could close the breach I must recock the hammers. In less time than it takes to relate I did so, and stood up, only to find that all was silence around. My friend C. came out of the bamboos and stated that he had had the narrowest shave of his life, as he was actually waiting to roll over on one side or the other when the animal came over him, as he expected it must. The natives came up and stated that they had seen eight elephants, which appeared to have charged right through us. We went forward and found a pool of blood twelve and a half yards from my tree where the first elephant had been sighted, not two yards from the bamboos. The second elephant had evidently missed sight of me when I fell, hence my escape from her. The one I shot was picked up three miles off with two bullets in its head, and so ended a most exciting day's shooting.—I am, Sir, &c., W. B. H.