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We bounced along a rutted track bordering the Kanderi Swamp and the Voi River, hornbills flying past with plaintive cries. We found a place where the undergrowth thinned, affording us a good view. Peyton played the hyena tape, and as the hideous wails echoed across the landscape, we scanned with binoculars.
"Oh my God!" Peyton said suddenly. In the same instant came the shrill trumpets of elephants angered by the hyena cries. Turning to look, I saw nine of them, charging out of the scrub to our right: three calves and two adolescents behind a phalanx of four females, coming on at a stiff-legged run, gray hides reddened by Tsavo's lateritic dust, ears flapping like unsheeted sails in a gale, trunks raised, tusks glinting in the early light.
They were a hundred yards away at most, a distance they halved in about two seconds, which was when the matriarch ceased trumpeting and lowered her head—a signal that the threat displays were over. This was the real thing. She came straight for us with a terrible singleness of purpose. Her tusks could easily pierce the Land Rover's thin aluminum skin, and with a little help from her friends she could overturn the vehicle and leave it looking like a flattened beer can, with us inside looking like—well, I didn't care to think about that. With admirable sangfroid, Peyton switched off the tape recorder, started the engine, and took off as fast as the road would allow, meaning not very fast. We hadn't gone far by the time the matriarch, followed by the rest, thundered through the spot where we'd been parked. Eight of the elephants carried on, but the old girl, with astonishing agility, turned abruptly and chased us down the road, like a traffic cop pursuing a speeder.
Peyton stepped on the gas. Finally, satisfied that we'd been seen off, the matriarch halted and, with a parting trumpet and final toss of her great head, turned back to rejoin the others. We watched the herd shamble off, now as calm as they'd been enraged—a magisterial procession against an eastern sky going from bright orange to peach to primrose.