Table of Content

Chapter 43 - The Giraffe Hunters by Mayne Reid

Excitement for all

The two elephants were moving along what seemed to be a narrow path leading to the maize-field, or the kraal beyond it. They were in no great haste, but going as though conscious that a favourite article of food was near, and that they were pretty sure of obtaining it.

“When once they get engaged upon the corn,” said Hendrik, “they are ours. They won’t notice us, and we shall have an opportunity for getting a good shot.”

Suddenly one of the elephants—the foremost one—was seen to sink into the earth! The other stopped for a moment, as though endeavouring to comprehend the cause of his companion’s disappearance. It then turned round and commenced carefully treading the back track.

“A pit,” exclaimed Hendrik. “One of the elephants has gone down into a pit.”

“On, on! let us kill the other,” shouted Groot Willem, as he urged his gigantic horse into a gallop. Hendrik and Arend galloped after.

The retreating elephant was apparently in no haste to get out of their way, but moved leisurely along.

When the three youths were within a hundred yards of it, uttering a trumpet-like sound, it turned and charged toward them. Expecting something of the kind, they were not unprepared. Groot Willem instantly brought the roer to his shoulder and fired.

The loud report of the gun was accompanied by the sharp cracks of the two rifles carried by his companions. Hendrik and Arend wheeled their horses to the right; Willem turned to the left, and the huge monster rushed between them.

For a moment it stopped, as if undecided which to pursue first. Had the three gone in the same direction, there probably would not have been an instant’s hesitation, and one of them would have risked being overtaken. That moment of indecision gave them time for forming a plan, and gaining a start upon their pursuer.

“The pit! the pit!” shouted Hendrik. “Ride for the pit!”

His command was instantly obeyed.

The elephant turned, and, observing the direction of their retreat, continued to pursue them; but in a slow, leisurely way, as though not wholly decided whether to follow them or not. At that instant was heard a loud prolonged bellowing,—the voice of an elephant in the agony of despair. It proceeded from the pit.

The pursuer instantly came to a stand. The cry of its companion in distress awoke a feeling more human than that of revenge. It was fear,—a fear that seemed to control its power of reasoning, since it immediately turned tail and retreated from the danger that had befallen its friend. While making its retreat, it appeared to choose the tracks made by the horses in approaching the spot; as though instinct admonished it that by so doing it would avoid any pitfalls that might be constructed on the plain.

“After him! Follow him up,” cried Arend. “Hans is in danger.”

Only a short while was spent in reloading their guns; then, urging their horses to the greatest speed, they galloped after the elephant.

Hans and his dusky companions had not been uninterested spectators of the actions of the others, and now saw that they would soon be called upon to become actors in a similar scene. The elephant was rushing rapidly down upon them, but the thought of flight only arose in their minds to be immediately dismissed. The pack-horses must be defended at all cost; and the young botanist, bidding Swartboy and Congo look after them, rode out in front to meet the advancing foe.

He was mounted on a horse that would not stand quiet for two seconds at a time; and as his life might depend on the correctness of his aim, he dismounted for the purpose of firing. His horse, released, galloped away from his side. The wounded elephant was not more than fifty paces off, and now turned in pursuit of the horse, apparently without seeing the enemy it should have feared most.

This was the opportunity for Hans, and he did not allow it to escape him. Steadily raising the gun to his shoulder, he aimed at the huge creature, just behind its fore leg, as the latter was thrown forward in the stride. On shambled the enraged monster with a deafening roar.

The other horses had already broken from the control of their keepers, and were galloping in different directions. A few long stretches and the tusks of the elephant were close upon Congo’s steed, which chanced to be crossing the line of pursuit at right angles. In another instant the horse was tossed into the air, and, passing six or eight feet high above the monster’s back, fell heavily upon the ground behind it. But the Kaffir had slid out of the saddle and stood upon the ground unharmed.

The effort made in destroying the horse was the last the wounded elephant was able to perform. The dogs were clustering upon its heels; and as it reeled wildly about to get at them, it seemed to grow giddy, and at length fell heavily along the earth.

“I do believe,” said Hendrik, who at this moment rode up along with Willem and Arend,—“yes, I’m quite certain that the dogs think they have dragged that elephant down!”

“Den they is as big an ole fool as Congo,” said Swartboy who was annoyed at the fact that the Kaffir had just performed a feat for which he would receive the approbation of his young masters. Congo only answered with a smile. He had again aroused the jealousy of his rival, and was satisfied.

The elephant, which proved to be a very large bull, expired a few minutes after falling. Its tusks were over five feet in length, and to Swartboy was given the task of extracting them.

The horse ridden by Congo was of course no longer available; and the lading of another had to be distributed amongst the remaining pack-horses, to provide the Kaffir with a mount. The spot was soon deserted.

Hendrik, Groot Willem, and Arend, were anxious to be off to the pit, into which the other elephant had fallen, having never seen one caught in that way before.

“Hans,” inquired Hendrik, “will you look after everything here, or will you come along with us?”

“O, I prefer staying,” said the quiet Hans. “Perhaps by doing so I may again come in for the lion’s share of the sport, as I have just now.”

“We must take Congo along with us,” suggested Arend. “It is certain there will be some of the natives at the pit. We saw several houses near the maize-field, and there is no doubt a large kraal.”

“Yes, come with us, Congo,” commanded his master, as he rode off, followed by all the others except the good-natured Hans and his servant Swartboy, who usually came in for the biggest share of the business, while the others appropriated the amusement.

 Table of Content