A dramatic story of my lord, The Elephant, in his jungle
W. A. FRASER
RAJA RAYA, of Naldanga, owned a female elephant of the Kumariah caste named Lakshmi, and one day when she was carrying a load of firewood to the palace a wild bull elephant charged out from the jungle. The woodcutters who were behind took to their heels, uttering loud cries. The bull butted Lakshmi in the side, knocking her mahout from her neck, and he also ran away. Then the two elephants went off to the jungle together.
Presently natives came running, saying that the Raja’s elephant and the jungle tusker were trampling and eating crops; they had even uprooted some date-palms to eat the dates.
The villagers could do nothing against such enemies, so Raja Raya sent out a fighting tusker named Shersha, accompanied by several spearmen, to drive off the jungle elephant and bring Lakshmi home.
But the tusker found the jungle bull too tough—he came back with some tusk marks on his rump. The jungle tusker was in the pink of condition, and, as the natives said, as big as a small house. He and Lakshmi raided the fields at night and took to the marshes in the daytime.
There were many marshes in Jessore that in September were covered with a growth of elephant grass ten or twelve feet high.
Early one morning, thirteen days from the time Lakshmi had eloped, her old mahout, Nandu, heard a plaintive trumpeting at the big wooden gates of the elephant lines; it was Lakshmi pleading to be
taken in. The wild elephant was there, too, caressing her with his trunk and trying to turn her toward the jungle. But the lady was tired of the honeymoon; she was weary of being an outcast, so she was finally got within the gates, and the tusker went off to feed upon young bamboo shoots that grew nearby.
“That evil elephant will return and some of us will be torn limb from limb,” Nandu declared.
“We must get a gun from the Maharaja and shoot the brute,” mahout Wazir said.
“It is an order of the Sirkar that a permit is required to slay a jungle elephant,” Nandu objected. “I will have the iron-worker prepare a large tack for the foot of this jungle devil.”
The blacksmith took a small piece of thin sheet-steel and turned up four corners of it, sharpening these until he had a huge tack with a square base to rest upon. This was placed upon the hard metalled road up which the wild tusker would come seeking the fair lady he had lost. And at this point obstructions were placed either side. It was not long before he was back, looking for trouble. “Look upon him, brothers,” Nandu cried; “was there ever such a hathi seen—he has ears like the sails of a boat, and he carries his trunk as an old man carries a stick to walk with.”
But the elephant had passed over the tack without picking it up. When he came to the closed gate he seemed to surmise that it had been put there to keep him from Lakshmi, and he gave vent to trumpet notes of anger. The mahouts tried to get the old fighting tusker out of the keddah to give battle to the jungle brute, but the old fellow had had enough of that sort of thing and refused to take part in their dispute with the stranger. Nandu ran down the road, retrieved the tack, and placed it behind the elephant; then he called to the spearmen to charge the beast and turn him quickly. There were a dozen men armed with long spears who had been making a brave show with very little action,
but at Nandu’s command they rushed, with a great hullabaloo, and the hathi, never having come across this sort of warfare in the jungle, was frightened; and in shuffling back, he put a big, soft-padded foot fair on the points of the steel tack. But he did know what a thorn in the foot meant— he had suffered more than once from that painful thing; so now he turned, with a plaintive whimper, and made off to his home, the great, friendly jungle where there was not the annoyance of these unreasonable humans.
TN 649 days from the time Lakshmi returned from her truancy with the jungle elephant she gave birth to a long-nosed baby. It was a male elephant, and was enclosed in a membranous sac. The babe lay as if devoid of life—there was not a flutter of an organ, not a tremble of a limb or muscle. But with more than a human understanding, out of that marvellous development called instinct, Lakshmi knew what was wrong, or acted in blind obedience to that instinct, and, lifting a forefoot, she struck the sac a sharp tap, and it exploded with a report. Still the little one did not appear to breathe, and the mother then placed her foot upon the babe’s breast and pressed; then she released the pressure, continuing to apply artificial respiration just as if she were a trained human being, until the wee elephant commenced to breathe naturally; then Lakshmi desisted.
Raja Deva Raya had witnessed all this wonderful thing, and being a high-caste Brahman, a Kulin Brahman, he believed that in the body of Lakshmi abode the wise spirit of someone who had died, and that thus was exhibited the refining influence of the Wheel, the reincarnated goodness. Seldom a babe elephant was born in captivity, and a festival was ordered to celebrate this event. And Raja Deva Raya told far and wide the tale of Lakshmi’s motherhood wisdom, and just as far and wide he was laughed at.
BUT Nandu the mahout was troubled. His sharp, jungle-trained eyes saw things the Raja missed. And he judged these phenomena through his pantheistic teaching the belief in gods and bhuts, jungle spirits. So a few days after the birth of the elephant he came to the Audience Hall where the Raja sat in reception, and said: “Maharaja, your slave is troubled in his heart; we, all of us, being mahouts of experience, have said one to another that the tusker that came up out of the jungle was a bhut, an evil spirit, the hidden form of the Devil.” “You and the other mahouts are but fools, Nandu,” the Raja answered.
“Yes, Maharaja, as compared with your Highness, we are fools, but did not the jungle one prevail over Shersha, he who has not been conquered by any other tusker until now?”
“It was because the jungle elephant was lean of limb and wind, while Shersha is like thyself, Nandu, old and stiff in the legs.”
“That is as your Highness has said, words of truth; but there are other things to be mentioned that are not so easy to understand. A man who found the tack in the river mud where it had been sucked out of the foot of the jungle bull saw there in his track the mark of the Devil; but three toes showed where the hind foot had rested, and there are no elephants that are not just evil spirits but what have four toes both in front and behind.”
“A toe nail had been torn off, Nandu.”
“Salaam, Maharaja, but the little one has only three toes upon each hind foot even as the jungle sire has; also his ears are larger than an elephant of good intent should have.”
“Sit you here until I return,” the Raja commanded. Then he went into his library and read a book that treated of elephants. And in that book he read that the African elephant had but three toes behind while the Asian had four. And that the elephants in Africa had enormous ears, such as Nandu had said the bull of the jungle possessed. It was quite plain to the Raja now. The elephant that had begotten Lakshmi’s babe was an African; one that had escaped, probably, from the Nizam of Hyderabad’s herd. The Nizam had a lot of Arab soldiers from Africa and also elephants from that land.
“Come thou, mahout,” the Raja said when he went back to the hall, “I will look at the little babe.”
When he had looked upon Lakshmi’s little one for a time, he said: “That is the way with you of a low caste, Nandu. When you do not understand what the gods have done, you say it is the labor of evil spirits. The elephant that came up out of the jungle and begot this little one is of the breed that the Nizam has brought from across the black water because they are bigger and more warlike than those we have here. That is why he prevailed over Shersha; and it is the caste of that breed to have but three toes thus. We will name Lakshmi’s babe Kala Raja (Black King) because he is of the caste that abides in the land of the black men.”
BUT as soon as the Raja’s back was turned, Nandu pointed a finger of scorn at the babe elephant and said with a bitter sneer, Hubshi.
Interpreted, he said, “Nigger.” That was what the Arab men were called—Hubshis, niggers. And from that day Lakshmi’s babe got no name but Hubshi, except when the Raja was within hearing.
Nearly all of the Raja’s men were Hindus, and they looked upon Hubshi as a sort of Mussulman—all the black men who came from Africa were Mussulmen.
And as Jessore was divided about half and half between the two religions, there was a very narrowminded bitterness’ that extended even to the innocent elephant.
The mahout of Shersha who had been beaten by Hubshi’s father, hated the little offspring of the jungle tusker, and many a knock with a stick the little chap came by because of that animosity.
And something had gone wrong in the mental equipment of the little elephant. He was, practically, a half-caste, with all that that means in uncertainty of temperament. He soon showed that he had the clever brain of his mother, and there were symptoms of the half-tamed war spirit of the African sire. He had the peculiar finger-and-thumb formation at the end of his trunk that is an African elephant’s equipment, differing from the Asian elephant’s in having the lower tip longer; and this seemed to lead him into mischief, to the taking of things, sometimes causing him physical reproach. No woman has anything on an elephant in sensitiveness and the art of hiding a desire for revenge over an injury received, and in the little brain, so like a pearl hidden away in the vast bone structure of Hubshi’s head, with its hollows and contours, out of some form of
reasoning or instinct there developed a distrust, a rebellion, of and against the human beings who showed him no affection.
TT WAS when Hubshi was twenty years old that the A first serious bit of temper showed up. A new mahout now had charge of him, Wazir by name, for Nandu had grown too old for the job. The new mahout had declared that Hubshi was unsafe for one man to handle, so a spearman was allotted to accompany Hubshi. Perhaps Hubshi had been possessed of some sort of liking for old Nandu and resented the change. At any rate, one day he noticed that the spearman had loitered behind as they journeyed along a road, and he reached up and pulled Wazir the mahout from his seat, and throwing him on his back on the road tried to crush him with his head. But the road was hard and Hubshi’s tusks prevented him from getting his huge forehead down on the man. Wazir took hold of the tusks and managed to keep between them; then he kicked viciously at the elephant’s face, and a big iron ring that he wore on a toe caught Hubshi fair in an eye. Hubshi rose up from his knees at this painful blow, and the mahout ran for a brick-curbed well; he made it, and ran around it so fast that the elephant got dizzy—at any rate, Wazir made leeway enough to streak it for a bit of bamboo jungle, where Hubshi lost him.
Hubshi went off to the fields of raji and had a hearty snack; then he came back to the elephant keddah and tooted his trumpet to be let in. Nandu, though he was old, had still a kindly feeling for the young of Lakshmi, and he declared there was no harm in the butcha, the boy.
It was just a lark with him, he declared. He talked himself into a boasting vein, and the end of this was that the Raja put Nandu in charge of Hubshi again. And the old man asked to have the spearman removed, saying that he had seen the latter more than once prod the poor animal in the leg.
"pVIDENTLY the young elephant liked Nandu, for he was most docile in his care. He might have become a sedate old boy to be lined up on a tiger-beat if the extraordinary thing had not happened. It was all over the coming of Prince Mannu to Naldanga to wed the daughter of a rich native landowner. The bridegroom came in impressive state, with a huge fantastic parade. There were twenty camels bearing kettledrums, the drummers beating out much sound from the sheepskin drumheads. Followed fifty spearmen leading a mob of matchlock-men; the standard bearers followed; and came the prince in a silver palki, borne by twenty men and wearing a golden crown. Resplendent in crimson and cloth-of-gold trappings, thirty elephants stalked behind the palki, their howdahs full of richly garbed natives. They filled the narrow road.
Raja Deva was sending to the landowner ten elephants to keep up the prestige of Naldanga, and it happened that these were issuing from the palace gates when Prince Mannu stopped his palki at that point to salute the Raja, and they soon were all mixed up with the animals of the procession. Nandu observed a huge elephant running the fingers of his trunk over the forehead of Hubshi as if he had found a long-lost friend. Suddenly he stared and grunted in surprise . . the
creature had enormous ears; Nandu looked down at the elephant’s hind feet, and there he saw, gleaming white, for they had been freshly polished, three toes only. And now Hubshi seemed interested in the stranger, for he was returning the caress. Nandu lifted the joined fingertips of his hands to his forehead and said, “Salaam, brother; I am Nandu the keeper of this delight of the gods.”
“Salaam,, and I am the servant of this son of the Devil, though a mahout of repute known as Kumara.”
“Some castes are evil-minded,” Nandu said. “Of what caste is thy charge?”
“Surely a bhut caste, an evil one who is a lost spirit; he was obtained from hunters who trapped him in the jungle. He but waits for the chance to stamp out the life of his keeper and go back to the gods that are always calling to him from the jungle. I shall have to report to the prince that my mother is dying and asks me to go back to my own land.”
“It were better that the elephant returned to his jungle,” Nandu said.
The procession started, but it was with difficulty that Kumara separated his elephant from Hubshi; and Hubshi, too, trumpeted.
'T'HAT night as the elephant •*men sat around an acrid fire of dried cow-chips Nandu told of discovering the African that was the sire of Hubshi. “Well, the jungle will always call its own; it will come back and overrun the land that is taken from it when the land starves again; and it will call to its children, man or beast, and their ears will hear,” Wazir said.
“Would it be better that these two, the jungle bull and Hubshi, were in the keeping of the jungle and not in the confines of a keddah?’’ Nandu queried.
“One more or less does not matter to Raja, but that Hubshi, the nigger, should have put a tusk through me the time he tried for my life surely is of moment to all of us,” Wazir said.
“It is no profit to keep those of the jungle who hear the call to go back,” Jeswunt Singh observed. “The caged tiger is not good company—his roar makes my liver turn to water.”
Suddenly there floated upon the dead night air a tremulous trumpet note—it had a calling cadence to it. “That is the call of the jungle bull—never have I forgotten it since he pleaded with Lakshmi to come forth,” Wazir declared.
“Each to his kind—the wild ass takes no heed of the blood-mares of the Salt Range; the wild bull knew Hubshi by the thing that is not taught but born in the proper one,” Jeswunt said.
“The camp of the prince is there beyond in the edge of the cantonment where the elephant that calls sends forth his voice,” Nandu said, “and I go to make secure the one that is called Hubshi. I will make him fast to a tree in the compound by a chain. It is in my mind that Kumara would make an o.ffering of sweets to Kali if by chance the bull he serves vanished into the jungle.”
“I will go with thee lest Hubshi, with these things on his mind, tear thee apart,” Wazir offered.
At the stables Nandu said: “I will bring forth the Nigger and chain him to the big tamarind tree, for the stall door would not stand against one push of his head, should he desire to go to meet the bull that talks to him tonight.”
When Nandu came leading Hubshi by the spear hooked in his trunk, Wazir said, “Pass me the chain and key for the lock, and do you hold to his nose with the hook while I make the leg fast to the tree, for this evil one turns on a man without warning.”
Then Wazir put the iron band that was on the end of the chain about Hubshi’s leg and pretended to lock it there. But in the morning there was only the empty chain under the tamarind, and Nandu was running to the palace, beating his breast with an open hand, and crying: “A thief has come in the night and stolen the loved one of my heart, the king of all elephants.”
AND soon, men who tilled the soil came crying that two elephants from the Raja’s keddahs were eating their crops. But one of the two crop burglars was the African from the prince’s herd, and Kumara, like Nandu, was lamenting that he had been bereft of a loved one. Nobody had seen Wazir and the mahout of the African sitting together after Wazir had put the chain on Hubshi’s leg, between them a jug of mohwa spirits; nor heard Kumara say: “I will not now write to my sister to send me a note telling me to come because my mama is dead, for if that outcast of a big-eared devil stays in the jungle to which he has gone, the prince will give me pay for looking after another for I am a man of renown as a mahout.”
“And who shall say,” Nandu added, “but what two bhut spirits abide again on earth in the bodies of the grand creatures. And it may well be, that is, perchance it may be that they are ancestors of yours or mine; and shall we not acquire merit with the gods by doing honor to such?”
“We have done honor to the spirits of our kin if they abide in the forms of these noble creatures, for we have, at the risk of offense to our masters, returned them to the jungle that is their mother,” Kumara said with a deep gravity born of the strong spirit of the liquor.
“I go now, Kumara,” Wazir said, “and you must be ready in the morning with a seemly story of how the African elephant went back to the jungle outside of your knowledge; and I will relate to all that the jungle bull and the Nigger recognized each other because in them dwelt the bhuts of the same caste.”
“Now,” Kumara began, “we sleep, not fearing that we wake on the morrow to be torn to shreds by the trunk of a demon elephant. May Mother Jungle be kind to the creatures we have lost, and keep them to her breasts ”
ALL the mahouts were glad that
V Hubshi had disappeared: they prayed that he would never return. They had walked in fear ever since he had tried to crush Wazir with his huge head. “Once a killer always a killer” was very true of an
elephant; worse than a tiger was a rogue elephant, for he would dissemble, wait with patient hatred, the little pig-eyes never hinting at the ferocity smoldering in the huge head. So the search for the escaped ones was not sincere. The Raja’s orders were received with deep salaams, but over the cooking-fires it was said that where the gods had intervened to protect them from danger by turning the evildisposed hathis back into the jungle, it were well to sit in content. And the villagers, with their proverbial false data, reported from every point of the compass that the elephants were in their territory destroying crops and killing people. And in Jessore there were no methods of capturing elephants—it was not an elephant country; and the Raja would give no one a permit to shoot any kind of an elephant, much less Hubshi.
So the elephants disappeared so completely that the natives said that perhaps they had gone to the elephants’ graveyard, a fabulous pool in the Chittagong hills, a bottomless morass into which all elephants walked when they felt death coming on. Of course this was true, else how was it that the body of a dead elephant never had been found in the jungle?
But Hubshi and the African were a long way from the pool of oblivion: they were wandering leisurely along the old elephant highway across India, which ran along the Vindhyan Range and the lower reaches of the Himalayas. Playing along this, they came to the region in which were the Government keddahs, used for the purpose of catching wild elephants. Neither of them had ever seen an elephant trapping-pit, so they were not expecting the path along which they were trudging to fall away suddenly, showing a pit ten feet long by ten feet wide and ten feet deep; but that happened as Hubshi put his feet upon the cover, so craftily hidden by cross-sticks of bamboo covered with twigs and leaves. If the pit had been made by the Naga hillmen it would have been studded with bamboo spears to kill him; but Finnerty Sahib had constructed it, and it was half-full of brushwood to break the eleohant’s fall.
A forest guard, on his rounds of the pits, heard Hubshi’s troubled trumpeting, and raced for the keddahs to inform Finnerty of the catch. The African shuffled around the pit, investigating the evil thing and the best way to get hie mate out of the trap. It did not take him long to decide that a wall had to come down—the wall at Hubshi’s head. With his strong tusks he ripped it into the pit. When he had cut it down considerably he took a walk around the pit, wondering, no doubt, why his chum did not climb out. Beside the hole was a pile of cut wood that had been placed there to throw into the pit when an elephant had been well secured by ropes around his neck and his hind feet, in order to raise the footing for him in getting out. There is no way of knowing the process of reasoning that conveyed to the African the idea that it would help matters if he were to shove the whole thing into the pit; but that is just what he did. Of course Hubshi got the faggots under his feet and this caused him to struggle to make the surface; the African, noting this, reached down and twined his trunk around that of the other and with this assistance Hubshi scrambled out.
'KyfAJOR Finnerty, hurrying to the pit with his men, was just in time to see the two elephants disappearing into the jungle. He grinned when he looked at his pit, half full of cut wood, and said to his head shikari, Pirwa Gond: “We’ll get these cheeky chaps for this if they stick around a bit; we’ll put the noosers after them.”
The noosers were Moormen from Ceylon, and were called Pana panakhens: they were elephant hunters,, and captured these creatures by noosing a hind leg with the rawhide noose they carried slung over a shoulder, after the animals had been started in flight by beaters. When the noose had been successfully thrown, the ncoser would dart around a tree with the rawhide and take several turns, the beaters laying hold of the bight of the rope.
As it was late, the hunt was put off until the next morning, and Finnerty sent men out with a lot of sweet cakes to spread about in the jungle, knowing that the elephants with their very keen scent would find them.
The next morning Finnerty’s men informed him that the elephants had eaten all the cakes. As the animals poked about in the jungle seeking for the sweet morsels they loved, the African suddenly cocked his big ears and stretching out his trunk, took a whiff at the wind that had carried some taint he did not like. He picked up the scent of Finnerty’s beaters who had been sent purposely up-wind from the elephants to drive them toward the noosers who were hidden beside the path the beasts would follow. Now curious noises came to the ears of the elephants; it was the tapping of short sticks against trees by the beaters; and with a warning grunt the African led Hubshi down the path at a smart pace.
A S THE elephants passed, a nooser slipped out, and spurting till he was close threw his rawhide. It was a good cast, and the loop went around Hubshi’s hind foot. The man darted around a tree, winding the rope around its trunk, and the men who were waiting rushed out from their hiding-places to seize the rope. An ordinary elephant would have fought the noose, tried to break it with the pull of his great strength, but Hubshi’s unusual intelligence told him that his weapons, his tusks and trunk, were needed at the point of attack; so, at the first pinch of the noose, he pivoted like a top, and before the nooser could escape Hubshi had his trunk about him. He slammed the man on the ground, put a foot on one leg, took the other in his trunk and ripped the body in two pieces as one might tear a piece of cotton.
The African had turned at the sound of strife and was about to charge the beaters, when Finnerty Sahib came running up the path, a double-barrelled eight-bore rifle in his hand. He took a quick snap-sight at the knob on the African’s forehead, behind which nested the little brain, and let go. But just at that instant the African had lowered his head to seize a native, and the conical bullet whizzed its way through the heavy bone structure, missing the vital spot, and failing to bring the animal down. But it had the effect of turning the African’s attention from the men to himself, and also to the fact that Hubshi was deserting, scuttling off into the jungle; so he followed his mate. Finnerty was too old a hand at big game hunting to follow up an unwounded elephant not properly prepared, so he spent two hours over his arrangement of matters. He took his two shikaris, Pirwa Gond and Maldeo, a double-barrelled, eight-bore rifle and a double-barrel, a twelve-bore gun using a spherical ball. This latter weapon was of little use against the massive bone structure of an elephant’s head on account of its lack of penetration, but useful in an emergency to stop a charge with its weight of metal.
ALL day the spoor of the animals led down hill—they were going back to the lowlands; the wounded one finding it easier going down the incline, probably. At times Finnerty noted smears of blood upon tree trunks, showing that blood was running down into the wounded elephant’s eyes, partly blinding him. But it was extraordinary how his great strength
carried him on, mile after mile and at a prodigious speed.
All day Pirwa Gond had spoken of the elephants as being evil spirits. He had seen in the soft clay of the stream beds the three-toed footprints left by both animals. Pirwa, being a Gond, had been taught to regard the jungle as peopled by bhuls, or evil spirits; all the big animals were gods—the tiger one to be worshipped, to be propitiated rather than exterminated. When they lost the trail of the elephants in the dried-up watercourses of the hills, Pirwa declared they would never see track of them again, for they had vanished into thin air. But Maldeo, the second shikari, said with a sneer. “It would be possible that they should vanish quickly, were we in your country, for your monkey-men, the Gonds, would have eaten them.”
When the trail was picked up again it was too late to follow on; so camp was made, and the pursuit was continued the next morning. Pirwa was in the lead, and suddenly he halted, and held up a warning hand. Finnerty could hear a curious, sobbing sound as if one of the elephants were making plaintive noises.
“Hear that, Sahib,” Pirwa said; “is that not like the voice of a bhut in one of the elephants, luring us to a close grasp for our destruction?”
“He thinks that we are all Gonds and will run away,” Maldeo jibed.
“Go thou, then, most brave Maldeo, and see as to the position of the elephants for a shot,” Finnerty commanded.
Maldeo wormed his way silently through the bit of scrub jungle, while Finnerty stood ready to hurry to his assistance. But there was only a time of silence, and then Maldeo wás seen coming back, a look of great gravity on his dark face.
“It is the little Gond’s bhut, Sahib: he is wise in such matters of the jungle gods.”
T-IE LED them forward cautiously, and indicated to Finnerty a rock behind which was still heard the low wail. When the Major peered around the rock he saw a native sitting on the ground, between his legs a half-drum, through the head of which he was pulling back and forth a stout string, the friction of this process creating the peculiar moaning he had mistaken for the whimper of an elephant. The man was calling his buffalo, which had stampeded when the elephants raided the village in which the native lived. In the night Hubshi and the African had charged down from the hills upon the little bamboo huts, carrying away to some distance the roof of one. The villagers had fled to the jungle, but Hubshi had come upon two men who were guarding a few goats and had trampled one of them to death.
From the village the trail led down into marshland, covered by a thick growth of elephant grass ten to twelve feet high. It was a dangerous place in which to follow desperate elephants; through such a growth an elephant could crash his way faster than a man could run; and if Finnerty came upon the beasts he was following suddenly, and did not bring one of them down at his first shot, some of his party would be killed. He had been troubled, before leaving on this hunt, over the fact that he had not brought down the African when he had shot him at the noosing operations. His shot had been good; perhaps it was that the charge of powder, eight drams, had not given the bullet drive enough to go through the massive skull to penetrate the small brain that lay behind the knob on the forehead. So he had put in his pocket for this hunt some cartridges loaded with ten drams of powder. He had some misgiving over the use of these, for his eight-bore was too light for such a heavy charge—the recoil would be severe; but he could stand that by holding the rifle firmly to his big, strong shoulder. Now was the time to use the heavy charge—a miss in bringing down one of the elephants should he charge, would mean almost certain death; so Finnerty made a shift, putting the ten-dram shells into his rifle.
Then he saw Pirwa Gond put an admonishing hand behind him, and, standing still, he made out an impatient phutphut from one of the elephants. There wasn’t a tree from which to make an observation; there was no way of discovering the beast’s position-head or tail on. In that thick cover in which the elephants were so much at home, there was but one way to get a shot—go forward swiftly, as silently as possible, and try with a snapshot for the animal’s brain. Finnerty whispered to Pirwa to stand by with the spare gun, the smooth twelvebore, to stop the elephant’s charge if the rifle did not bring him down. When Finnerty came within sight of the elephant he saw that the beast’s head was turned partly away, the forehead shot quite out of line and the side temple shot not good. That was bad; the brain, no larger than an orange, hidden away in that huge structure of bone, had to be punctured or somebody would die.
So Finnerty circled off the path the elephants had made, and at that instant there came a warning call from Pirwa that Hubshi—for it was he—was about to charge. Hubshi had heard, and spinning on his feet, he whirled and came on with a rush. Finnerty fired both barrels of his eight-bore at the elephant’s head. The resolve to hold the rifle extra tight was forgotten in the emergency, and the Sahib was knocked flat by the recoil, the bullet, deflected by this, not quite finding the brain and failing to bring the elephant to earth. With great presence of mind Finnerty lay still in the grass. He could see that Hubshi was badly cut up, the blood streaming down into his eyes and blinding him so much that he was searching for his enemy by scent, and just where the sahib had stood in the path, the elephant caught the man-scent, and kneeling down he searched in the grass with his trunk. He was not more than three feet from Finnerty with the tip of that snake-like trunk, weaving it back and forth. The Sahib, tortured by the uncertain fix, did not know whether he should make a break for a get-away or lie still, hoping the elephant would miss him and go away. Even if he got to his feet, the beast would catch him before he had gone a hundred yards.
And then Pirwa Gond, brave little chap, came on the run, and putting the twelve-bore to the elephant’s head let go with both barrels. The spherical balls would not go through the bone ramparts of that massive head to the brain, for the twelve-bore was intended for only softskin animals; but with its weight of metal it was the very stunning thing to take Hubshi’s mind off the matter of the Sahib in the grass. He was keeled over by the impact, but was up in no time and racing down the path in pursuit of the Gond. But Pirwa was a wily jungle man, and he wiggled into the grass; and Hubshi, missing him, continued on to look for his mate.
"pINNERTY was tired and shaken by
all he had gone through, but it would not do to give the elephants another night’s start of them; so on again were his orders. The trail led through the marsh and out to a stretch of rolling country. Presently Pirwa pointed to a distant knoll, saying, “Jungle dogs, Sahib.”
Finnerty saw the one dog that was visible waving an erect tail back and forth, and he knew the brute was signalling to a pack to come on. Off to the left was a meadowlike stretch of brushcovered land and in it he could make out several dogs moving toward the one on the hill. They were beating the cover scientifically, preserving an even distance of about one hundred yards from each other, and going with steady pace.
Finnerty knew what this gathering meant: the dogs had caught the scent of blood, and once in pursuit of the wounded elephants they would never give up the chase. That some would be killed would make no difference: the others would carry on. Chital, or deer, or tiger, it made no difference: the brutes would eat off their prey as it stood, or ran, or lay.
“We must hurry, Pirwa,” he said; and the little Gond nodded his head, knowing that the Sahib meant that they would not allow the filthy dogs to cut the elephants to pieces, kill them by inches.
Suddenly there was the sound of turmoil ahead, strife. There was no noise from the dogs; but that meant nothing— they did not give tongue. Once Finnerty had come without warning upon a terrible battle; a dozen dogs had a tiger backed up against a rock, dashing in and out at him until his skin hung in ribbons, but they were not giving voice. Over a rise in the ground, and there, down in a little valley, a terrible struggle was going on. Hubshi was down, weak from his wounds, but striving to rise as the red-grey dogs darted in and lanced his flesh. A thrill of admiration ran through Finnerty as he saw that the African was trying to defend his mate, not seeking his own safety in flight—the dogs would not have followed him but would have remained to devour Hubshi. And three squashed red-grey forms, lying in the grass, told how pluckily he was standing his ground. And all futile, Finnerty knew. The red vermin of the jungle would wear the big hero out; in and out they were darting, slashing at the trunk and eyes and belly of the helpless creature on the ground. They were living things imbued with a blood lust, a mad craving for hot flesh. They had no ideas of life or death, or desire for killing—they did not know what killing was. If half their number lay dead it would make no difference; it would mean nothing; in their mouths was the taste of blood and flesh.
With a wave of his hand to the Gond, Finnerty hurried on until he was within thirty yards of the conflict. Then he knelt down and put a bullet from the eightbore through a dog; then the other barrel vomited fire and another frothing fiend jumped in the air, fell, writhed, and lay still. The African cocked his big ears in the direction of the gunfire, but he neither charged nor ran away. He seemed to sense that the dog-enemy was being killed. And the dogs were not diverted from their murderous onslaught by this new danger. They ripped at the heels of the African and leapt into the air to lance his trunk as he flailed at them. Steadily Finnerty took a gun from Pirwa as he loaded it, and passed him the empty.
AFTER a time Finnerty began to fear • that his cartridges might fail, so, motioning to Pirwa and Maldeo to follow close, he strode off toward the combat. He picked off a dog as he went, and the few that were left hesitated over the new state of things—the rifle’s crash and spitting fire, and the appearance of the creature all jungle dwellers feared—the Sahib. Then they slipped silently into the scrub and disappeared. The African was confused—there were so many things; the dogs had been a terrible thing; and now the Sahib to be dreaded, and the gun that belched fire and crashing noises. He trudged tragically away a hundred yards and stood there, watching the men.
“Come and keep close with the spare,’ Finnerty said to Pirwa. Then, going with a quiet movement, he went up to Hubshi and studied the poor creature. “He’s not got a chance, Pirwa,” he said; and then he put the elephant out of the misery of a living death.
“What about the other one, Sahib—he has big tusks?”
“I don’t care. I’m not going to kill a hero like that after he stuck to a pal. He’s got a chance to get over his wounds and somebody else can take him on if they want to . . . I’m not going to, anyway. We’ll hike back to the keddahs.”