« PreviousContinue »
fellow," I halted my horse, and, placing my rifle to my shoulder, I waited for a broadside. This, the next moment, he exposed, when I sent a bullet through his shoulder, and dropped him on the spot. He rose, however, again, when I finished him with a second in the breast. The Bakalahari now came up in wonder and delight. I ordered John to cut off his head and forepaws, and bring them to the waggons; and, mounting my horse, I galloped home, having been absent about fifteen minutes. When the Bakalahari women heard that the man-eater was dead, they all commenced dancing about with joy, calling me their father.
Mr. Cumming's first encounter with a member of the royal family well nigh brought his wanderings and adventures to a close. His antagonist was a bold lioness, who showed fight most resolutely, and was not despatched, till she had nearly killed Mr. Cumming's horse. The female indeed seems always to have proved herself a more formidable opponent than the male, who, even when numbers might have made him more bold, would get away if he could. Here is an account of a serio.comic interview with one of the queens of the wild :
Ruyter came towards me, and I ran forward to obtain a view beyond a slight rise in the grouvd to see whither the lionesses had gone. In so doing, I came suddenly upon them, within about seventy yards; they were standing looking back at Ruyter. I then very rashly commenced making a rapid stalk in upon them, and fired at the nearest, having only one shot in my rifle. The ball told loudly, and the lioness, at which I had fired, wheeled right round, and came on, lashing her tail, showing her teeth, and making that horrid murderous deep growl, which an angry lion generally utters. At the same moment her comrade, who seemed better to know that she was in the presence of man, made a hasty retreat into the reeds. The instant the lioness came on, I stood up to my full height, holding my rifle, and my arms extended, and high above my head. This checked her in her course : but op looking round and missing her comrade, and observing Ruyter slowly advancing, sbe was still more exasperated, and, fancy. ing that she was being surrounded, she made another forward movement, growling terribly. This was a moment of great danger. I felt that my only chance of safety was extreme steadiness: so, standing motionless as a rock, with my eyes firmly fixed upon her, I called out in a clear commanding voice, Holloa! old girl, what's the hurry? take it easy; holloa! holloa !" She instantly once more halted, and seemed perplexed, looking round for her comrade. I then thought it prudent to beat à retreat, which I very slowly did, talking to the lioness all the time. She seemed undecided as to her future movements, and was gazing after me, and snuffing the ground, when I last beheld her.
In the following anecdote the lion is represented as playing for the hunter that part, which the jackal is popularly believed to perform for the lion himself. The statement is somewhat marvellous ; but we presume Mr. Cumming repeats it on the best authority:
This is a very remarkable and not unfrequent occurrence. Often, when a springbok is thus wounded, one or moro jackals suddenly appear, and assist the hunter in capturing his quarry. In the more distant huntinglands of the interior, it sometimes happens that the lion assists the sports
man in a similar manner with the larger animals; and, though this may appear like a traveller's story, it is nevertheless true ; and instances of the kind happened both to myself and to Mr. Oswell of the H.E.I.C.S., dashing sportsman, and one of the best hunters I ever met, who performed two hunting expeditions into the interior. Mr. Oswell and a companion were one day galloping along the shady banks of the Limpopo, in full pursuit of a wounded buffalo, when they were suddenly joined by three lions, who seemed determined to dispute the chace with them. The buffalo held stoutly on, followed by the three liops-Oswell and his companion bringing up the rear, Very soon the lions sprang upon the mighty bull, and dragged him to the ground, when the most terrific scuffle ensued. Mr. Oswell and friend then approached, and opened their fire upon the royal family; and, as each ball struck the lions, they seemed to consider it was a poke from the horns of the buffalo, and redoubled their attentions to him. At length the sportsmen succeeded in bowling over two of the lions; upon which the third, finding the ground too hot for him, made off.
This Mr. Oswell, of the Hon'ble East India Company's Service, is a Madras civilian, who is spending his leave to England in warring with the brute tribes of South Africa. We saw it mentioned in the papers very lately, that he was still shooting elephants on the banks of the Limpopo. Let us hope that, though he is a hunter after Mr. Cumming's own heart, he does not intend to make that gentleman in all respects his model.
Elephant-shooting may be a very noble pursuit in the eyes of true sportsmen: but we must confess that to us there is some. thing very repulsive in Mr. Cumming's accounts of bis slaughter-work on this half-reasoning, inoffensive inhabitant of the wild. The very bulk of the living mass pleads against its needless and needlessly cruel destruction. But take a specimen of our wild hunter's dealings with this sagacious brute :
In the mean time I was loading and firing as fast as could be, sometimes at the head, and sometimes behind the shoulder, until my elephant's forequarters were a mass of gore ; notwithstanding which he continued to hold stoutly on, leaving the grass and branches of the forest scarlet in his wake.
On one occasion, he endeavored to escape by charging desperately amid the thickest of the flames ; but this did not avail, and I was soon once more alongside. I blazed away at this elephant, until I began to think that he was proof against my weapons. Having fired thirty-five rounds with my twogrooved rifle, I opened fire upon him with the Dutch sixpounder ; and, when forty bullets had perforated his bide, he began for the first time to evince signs of a dilapidated constitution. He took up a position in a grove; and, as the dogs kept barking round him, he backed stern foremost among the trees, which yielded before his gigantic strength. Poor old fellow ! he had long braved my deadly shafts, but I plainly saw that it was now all over with him ; so I resolved to expend no further ammunition, but hold bim in view until he died. Throughout the chase this elephant repeatedly cooled his person with large quantities of water, which he ejected from his trunk over his back and sides ; and, just as the pangs of death came over him, he stood, trembling violently beside a thorny tree, and kept pouring water into his bloody mouth until he died, when he pitched heavily forward, with the whole weight of his fore-quarters resting on the points of his tusks.
A most singular occurrence now took place. He lay in this posture for several seconds; but the amazing pressure of the carcase was more than the head was able to support. He had fallen with his head so short under him, that the tusks received little assistance from his legs. Something must give way,
The strain on the mighty tusks was fair ; they did not, therefore, yield; but the portion of his head, in which the tusk was imbedded, extending a long way above the eye, yielded and burst with a muffled crash. The tusk was thus free, and turned right round in his head, so that a man could draw it out; and the carcase fell over, and rested on its side. This was a very first-rate elephant : and the tusks he carried were long and perfect.
It almost sickens us to read what Mr. Cumming here records in so business-like a manner. A little further on, he tells us how, having secured an elephant with a single shot, rendering him instantly dead-lame, he resolved to devote a short time to the contemplation of the noble animal, who was “eying his pursuers with a resigned and philosophic air;" and how, having enjoyed a cup of coffee, and some pleasing reflections on his position, as "a chief over boundless forests,” with “one of the finest elephants in Africa, awaiting his pleasure beside a neighbouring tree,” and after having " admired" the said elephant for a considerable time, he "resolved to make experiments for vulnerable points !” So approaching very near, he fired several bullets at different parts of the enormous skull. They " did not seem to affect the elephant in the slightest degree, as be only acknowledged the shots with a salaam-like movement of bis trunk, with the point of which he gently touched the wound with a striking and peculiar action.” Poor wretch! Possibly he felt the balls in his head. Even Mr. Cumming at length was “surprised and shocked" to find that he was "only tormenting and prolonging the sufferings of the noble beast, which bore his trials with such dignified composure;" and he mercifully “resolved to finish the proceeding with all possible despatch :
I resolved to finish the proceeding with all possible despatch ; accordingly I opened fire upon him from the left side, aiming behind the shoulder; but, even there, it was long before my bullets seemed to take effect. I first fired six shots with the two-grooved, which must have eventually proved mortal, but as yet he evinced no visible distress; after which I fired three shots at the same part with the Dutch six-pounder. Large tears now trickled from his eyes, which he slowly shut and opened ; his colossal frame quivered convulsively ; and, falling on his side, he expired. The tusks of this elephant were beautifully arched, and were the heaviest I had yet met with, averaging 90 lbs. weight a-piece.
Shooting elephants from an ambush hole, as they come to drink at night, is an achievement, which calls for no great dis. play of either skill or courage, we should think; but it is one in which Mr. Cumming was highly successful: though he complains that many of the unfortunate brutes, whom he knew to be mortally wounded, were lost to him : and he subsequently adhered to the practice of bunting them with dogs and horses, by day or night.
Mr. Cumming dignifies his attacks on the elephants with the designation of " fighting," --such fighting, we should say, as might be betwixt a battering-ram and a light six-pounder! The onset of the elephant is of course irresistible ; but, it is only accident, that can give him an opportunity of bringing bis strength into play against a well-mounted hunter, or even an active map on foot. One more illustration of Mr. Cumming's "sport" with the elephants, and we will release the reader from the contemplation of a not very pleasant subject :
At first he made vain attempts to escape, and then to charge ; but, find. ing he could neither escape nor catch any of us, he stood at bay, beside a tree, and my after-riders began to assail him. It was curious to watch his movements, as the boys, at about twenty yards distance, pelted him with sticks, &c. Each thing, as it was thrown, he took up, and hurled back at them. When, however, dry balls of elephants' dung were pitched at him, he contented himself with smelling at them with his trunk. At length wishing to put an end to his existence, I gave him four shots behind the shoulder, when be at once exhibited signs of distress ; water ran from his eyes, and he could barely keep them open ; presently his gigantic form quivered, and, falling over, he expired. At night, we again watched the fountain. Only one elephant appeared ; late in the night he came up to leeward, and got our wind. I, however, shot two fine old muchocho, or white rhinoceroses, and wounded two or three borélé, which were found by the natives.
Of course it will not be supposed that all the victims to the prowess of our mighty hunter submitted to their fate as philosoo phically as the much-enduring elephant, or were as easy of conquest, as the timid antelope and the helpless camelopards, who fell weeping before his rifle. The lion was sometimes provoked to take an offensive position, when even Mr. Cumming was not quite insensible to its terrors; and the rhinoceros and the buffalo would occasionally make a furious and dangerous charge. Even the elephant, when hard pressed, would turn upon his pursuer with his formidable but unwieldy strength. Much of Mr. Cumming's" sport" was, what we should hope even an ardent sportsman of the most orthodox school would regard as mere butcher-work; but, on the other hand, he had occasionally encounters, which would have called forth all the coolness and courage of the best and boldest soldier. The king of beasts did not always maintain his proverbial reputation for dignified intrepidity in the presence of man or brute. He often, it must be confessed, shewed his teeth only when he found that he could not safely display his heels. But his queen seldom failed to vindicate the character of the royal family, when the opportunity offered.
The rhinoceros seems to have wanted nothing but activity to make him a very formidable antagonist for the hunter. Mr. Cumming tells of one which chased him round and round a bush ; but the light-footed biped had it all his own way even. tually, and, with a raking shot, sent his pursuer to the right about. This uugainly brute, as well as the still clumsier hippopotamus, is, according to our author, attended by a very strange ally, bound to his fortunes by the strong tie of selfinterest. As the mouse is said in the fable to have saved the life of the lion, so the rhinoceros, according to Mr. Cumming, often owes the continuance of his existence to a little bird, whom in return he provides with a luxurious living—to his own comfort and advantage, nevertheless :
These rhinoceros-birds are constant attendants upon the hippopotamus and the four varieties of rhinoceros, their object being to feed upon the ticks and other parasitic insects that swarm upon these animals. They are of a greyish colour, and are nearly as large as a common thrush ; their voice is very similar to that of the mistletoe-thrush. Many a time have these everwatchful birds disappointed me in my stalk, and tempted me to invoke an anathema upon their devoted beads. They are the best friends the rhinoceros has, and rarely fail to awaken him, even in his soundest nap. “ Chukroo” perfectly understands their warning; and, springing to his feet, he generally first looks about him in every direction, after wbich he invariably makes off. I have often hunted a rhinoceros on horseback, which led me a chase of many miles, and required a number of shots before he fell, during which chase several of these birds remained by the rhinoceros to the last. They reminded me of mariners on the deck of some bark sailing on the ocean, for they perched along his back and sides; and, as each of my bullets told on the shoulder of the rhinoceros, they ascended about six feet into the air, uttering their harsh cry of alarm, and then resumed their position. It sometimes happened that the lower branches of trees, under which the rhinoceros passed, swept them from their living deck, but they always recovered their former station. They also adhere to the rhinoceros during the night. I bave often shot these animals at midnight when drinking at the fountains; and the birds, imagining they were asleep, remained with them till morning, and on my approaching, before taking flight, they exerted themselves to their utmost to awaken Chukroo from his deep sleep.
Our author says, that this feathered guardian attended the hippopotamus, as well as the rhinoceros: but, we should suppose, that the amphibious habits of the former would but seldom allow him to benefit by the warning voice. Certainly, when swimming and diving in deep water, the winged sentry must have forsaken bis post; and then it was that the unwary
sea cow” became an inglorious victim to the hunter's rifle.
In justice to Mr. Cumming we must acknowledge, that his