Here I was interrupted by the same gentleman. "All gross exaggerations," said he -"gross exaggerations; in fact, inventions to give interest to a book. I have an estate in the interior, and I have never seen a wild elephant. There may be a few in the jungles of Ceylon, but very few, and you never see them."
I began to discover the stamp of my companion from his expression, "You never see them." Of course I concluded that he had never looked for them; and I began to recover front the first shock which his exclamation, "There is no sport in Ceylon !" had given me.
I subsequently discovered that my new and non-sporting acquaintances were coffee-planters of a class then known as the Galle Face planters, who passed their time in cantering about the Colombo race-course and idling in the town, while their estates lay a hundred miles distant, uncared for, and naturally ruining their proprietors.
That same afternoon, to my delight and surprise, I met an old Gloucestershire friend in an officer of the Fifteenth Regiment, then stationed in Ceylon. From him I soon learnt that the character of Ceylon for game had never been exaggerated; and from that moment my preparations for the jungle commenced.
I rented a good airy house in Colombo as headquarters, and the verandas were soon strewed with jungle-baskets, boxes, tent, gun-cases, and all the paraphernalia of a shooting-trip.
What unforeseen and apparently trivial incidents may upset all our plans for the future and turn our whole course of life! At the expiration of twelve months my shooting trips and adventures were succeeded by so severe an attack of jungle fever that from a naturally robust frame I dwindled to a mere nothing, and very little of my former self remained. The first symptom of convalescence was accompanied by a peremptory order from my medical attendant to start for the highlands, to the mountainous region of Newera Ellia, the sanita rium of the island.
A poor, miserable wretch I was upon my arrival at this elevated station, suffering not only from the fever itself, but from the feeling of an exquisite debility that creates an utter hopelessness of the renewal of strength.
I was only a fortnight at Newera Ellia. The rest-house or inn was the perfection of everything that was dirty and uncomfortable. The toughest possible specimen of a beef-steak, black bread and potatoes were the choicest and only viands obtainable for an invalid. There was literally nothing else; it was a land of starvation. But the climate! what can I say to describe the wonderful effects of such a pure and unpolluted air? Simply, that at the expiration of a fortnight, in spite of the tough beef, and the black bread and potatoes, I was as well and as strong as I ever bad been; and in proof of this I started instanter for another shooting excursion in the interior.