Excerpt: David Livingstone

DeathPetsDavid Livingstone

From "Missionary travels and researches in South Africa" by David Livingstone, published in 1858.• •

...I beheld an elephant and her calf at the end of the valley, about two miles distant. The calf was rolling in the mud, and the dam was standing fanning herself with her great ears. As I looked at them through my glass, I saw a long string of my own men appearing on the other side of them, and Sekwebu told me that these had gone off saying, "Our father will see today what sort of men he has got." I then went higher up the side of the valley, in order to have a distinct view of their mode of hunting. The goodly beast, totally unconscious of the approach of an enemy, stood for some time suckling her young one, which seemed about two years old; they then went into a pit containing mud, and smeared themselves all over with it, the little one frisking about his dam, flapping his ears and tossing his trunk incessantly in elephantine fashion. She kept flapping her ears and wagging her tail, as if in the height of enjoyment. Then began the piping of her enemies, which was performed by blowing into a tube, or the hands closed together, as boys do into a key. They call out to attract the animal's attention:

"O chief! Chief! We have come to kill you..."

Both animals expanded their ears and listened, then left their bath as the crowd rushed toward them. The little one ran forward toward the end of the valley, but, seeing men there, returned to his dam. She placed herself on the danger side of her calf, and passed her proboscis over it again and again, as if to assure it of safety. She frequently looked back to the men, who kept up an incessant shouting, singing, and piping; then looked at her young one and ran after it, sometimes sideways, as if her feelings were divided between anxiety to protect her offspring and desire to revenge the temerity of her persecutors. The men kept about a hundred yards in her rear, and some that distance from her flanks, and continued thus until she was obliged to cross a rivulet. The time spent in descending and getting up on the opposite bank allowed of their coming up to the edge, and discharging their spears at about twenty yards distance. After the first discharge she appeared with her sides red with blood, and, beginning to flee for her own life, seemed to think no more of her young. I had previously sent off Sekwebu with orders to spare the calf. It ran very fast, but neither young nor old ever enter into a gallop; their quickest pace is only a sharp walk. Before Sekwebu could reach them, the calf had taken refuge in the water, and was killed. The pace of the dam gradually became slower. She turned with a shriek of rage, and made a furious charge back among the men. They vanished at right angles to her course, or sideways, and, as she ran straight on, she went through the whole party, but came near no one except a man who wore a piece of cloth on his shoulders... She charged three or four times, and, except in the first instance, never went farther than 100 yards. She often stood after she had crossed a rivulet, and faced the men, though she received fresh spears. It was by this process of spearing and loss of blood that she was killed; for at last, making a short charge, she staggered round and sank down dead in a kneeling posture... I turned from the spectacle of the destruction of noble animals, which might be made so useful in Africa, with a feeling of sickness, and it was not relieved by the recollection that the ivory was mine, though that was the case.

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