He plowed into a patch of bush behind the other elephants, and Eric and Don and I regrouped on our side of the stream to discuss the effects of the shot, which both had witnessed as from front-row seats in the first balcony.
Shortly after, we recrossed the stream for about the eighth time that morning, and climbed up onto the high east side of the narrow little valley, with the stream winding back and forth in the bottom. One of our Africans was now pointing excitedly into the valley, so we hurried along the rim to a point where we could see the whole bunch of elephants now standing in the open, having passed just through the patch of bush. We could see our elephant standing quietly with blood streaming out of his upper right side, and, as we watched, he almost sat down—his back legs just seemed to give way. However, he pulled himself together, and as I was studying the possibility of getting down close to him again for another shot, he disappeared into the bush with the others.
He left the herd to die
We then went around a curve in the bank so we could watch the stream in case they crossed again. It was now 10:30 or so, and some three-quarters of an hour after the shot. We were all just waiting for something to happen, for there was no chance for him to slip past all the lookouts we had posted. Don and I were watching a very brilliant blue bird going in and out a hole in a tree when one of our Africans signaled from down the bank that something was going on. We ran to where he was, and could see our elephant walking very laboriously and all alone, which Eric figured meant he was mortally wounded and had left the herd to die. He seemed completely oblivious of us as he walked slowly under the embankment to which I had hurried in order to give him a final arrow. There were five of us all huddled together as he passed just 10 feet below us. He stopped and made a growling noise, but made no move for us. I sent four quick arrows into his back in order to finish him off quickly. The arrows, with one exception, all went in almost to the feathers, and a few seconds after the last one struck him he bellowed and then rocked crazily before crashing in a cloud of dust and broken branches to the ground.
We all scrambled down the bank to see him better and Don wanted to get final pictures on his movie camera. At this point the elephant scrambled to his feet, and as I turned to run down the path the elephant had been traveling on I could feel Don's camera hitting the back of my head. But I knew the animal was gone, so after running a few feet I looked around, and, seeing that he was not following, I started back to where he was. At this point I could hear Eric laughing and shouting at the same time. It seems the elephant had tried to reach up the bank with its trunk for Eric's foot, Eric all the time scrambling to get more altitude.
But the elephant was done in. He staggered around again in a dizzy pattern, and then crashed into the side of a large bush for the last time. We stood around him for a few seconds as he died, and all talked about the excitement of the last few moments. In spite of the basic tragedy of the moment there were many comic features, and we chose to dwell on these. When he finally stiffened out we cut off his tail, and all went home to lunch while the Africans cleared away the bush so we could photograph him.
On the way back to camp, Eric commented that though he had killed a thousand elephants, this was the first one he had ever seen that was worth $10,000 and would no doubt be the last one, too, so we spent a lot of time on the pictures and the post-mortem, digging out the arrows to see what had happened.
So much for today. It has been very exciting—much like your first deer. I will be glad to get home and tell you all about it, though nothing much remains. I will write when I can. My love to all. Pop.