To make the best of it, it was a brutal sport. The elephant is a noble beast, so intelligent that he deserves the consideration of man; and to them it seemed barbarous to set them fighting, even if the animals had belligerent instincts, though they never displayed them in their domesticated condition unless under strong provocation. Some of the gentlemen regarded the exhibition as but little better than a prize-fight; though they all attended the occasion, for the more sensitive ones thought it would be impolite to decline the invitation, especially as the exhibition was got up especially for them.
They were ushered into a large apartment, one side of which consisted of lofty arches, through which the display could be witnessed. At either end of the arena was chained a monster male elephant. A number of female elephants were on an elevation near it; and it seemed as though they were placed there for the same reason that the ladies were admitted to the tournaments of the knights in England and France. It was said that these females had a decided taste for such fights, and possibly the sight of them stimulated the male combatants.
There were a number of men, very slightly clothed, in the ring, who seemed like the chulos of the Spanish arena, though their functions could hardly be the same; and there were many openings in the walls through which they could escape, instead of leaping over the fence, as the bull-fighters do. Some of them were armed with lances, and others with a stick with fireworks at the end.
The Guicowar entered the spectators’ apartment, which was already well filled with nobles and the foreigners. He was dressed in white linen, with an elegant cap on his head. He had a fine athletic form, and wore a short beard. He was not inclined to take the special arm-chair assigned to him, but walked about, speaking to his guests, not omitting the boys, to whom he appeared to have taken a fancy.
His Highness gave a signal, at which the mahouts took their places on the necks of the big beasts, and the chains which secured the combatants were cast off. The monsters roared, and, with their trunks elevated, advanced to the affray. They increased their speed as they came nearer to each other. They rushed together, as Scott expressed it, “head on,” and the strangers seemed to feel the shock through their nerves. It was so violent the beasts dropped upon their knees forward.
Then they began to twist their trunks together, and buck with their tusks. For some minutes the giants wrestled together, but the combat proved to be of brief duration. The party could see that one of them was getting the worst of it, and was inclined to “hedge.” In fact, he had had enough of it; but he was too wise to abandon his tactics when it was time for him to retreat. Mustering all his power, he made a desperate effort, and succeeded in forcing the other back enough to turn his huge body without exposing his flank to the tusks of the enemy, and then beat a hasty retreat.