Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/413

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405
THE AUTHOR ESCAPES DEATH BY A MIRACLE.

ers, amounting to eighteen. Their towering forms told me at a glance that they were all males. It was a splendid sight to behold so many huge creatures approaching with a free, sweeping, unsuspecting, and stately step. The somewhat elevated ground whence they emerged, and which gradually sloped toward the water, together with the misty night air, gave an increased appearance of bulk and mightiness to their naturally giant structures.

Crouching down as low as possible in the "skärm," I waited with beating heart and ready rifle the approach of the leading male, who, unconscious of peril, was making straight for my hiding-place. The position of his body, however, was unfavorable for a shot; and, knowing from experience that I had little chance of obtaining more than a single good one, I waited for an opportunity to fire at his shoulder, which, as before said, is preferable to any other part when shooting at night. But this chance, unfortunately, was not afforded till his enormous bulk towered above my head. The consequence was, that, while in the act of raising the muzzle of my rifle over the "skärm," my body caught his eye, and, before I could place the piece to my shoulder, he swung himself round, and with trunk elevated and ears spread, desperately charged me. It was now too late to think of flight, much less of slaying the savage beast. My own life was in imminent jeopardy; and seeing that, if I remained partially erect, he would inevitably seize me with his proboscis, I threw myself on my back with some violence, in which position, and without shouldering the rifle, I fired upward at random toward his chest, uttering at the same time the most piercing shouts and cries. The change of position, in all human probability, saved my life; for, at the same instant, the trunk of the enraged animal descended precisely on the spot where I had been previously couched, sweeping away the stones (many of a large size) that formed the fore part of my "skärm" like so many pebbles. In another moment his broad fore feet passed directly over my face.