Rataplan, a rogue elephant; and other stories eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 168 pages of information about Rataplan, a rogue elephant; and other stories.

He was a fine young animal, and as he stood there at that dizzy height, his four feet planted firmly on the peak, he showed to very best advantage.  Chaffer stood about two feet high at the shoulders, and was about three feet in length, not counting his short, black tail; his yellowish-brown body was streaked down the back with a black line, which defined the spine, while his beautiful head—­the face and throat a peculiar yellowish-white, with a brownish-black mark which went from his mouth to his eyes—­was surmounted by a splendid pair of horns nearly come to perfection.

These horns were from six to eight inches long, black and shiny, slender and round, rising from the forehead perpendicularly, and curving sharply at the extremities into hooks.  Very proud Chaffer was of them, for they meant; so much to him.  They meant, for one thing, that he was now almost full grown, and that he would soon be of an age to take his place in the antelope world as a champion and fighter.  He could hold his own now with some of the males, and, although he had just been driven out of the herd, several others had been forced out with him, so he did not trouble himself much about it.

The only thing he was puzzled about was what he should do next, but this little matter was decided for him in a manner he never dreamed of.  He was some way from the herd now, but at that moment he heard the well-known whistle of the sentinel chamois.[Footnote:  Each herd has a chamois who acts as a sentinel.  At the slightest sign of danger this sentinel gives a peculiar whistle, not particularly shrill or piercing, but which has a curious, penetrating power and carries a great distance.  Not only does this sentinel give warning of danger, but he indicates from which direction it is coming.—­Author.] In an instant Chaffer was off, leaping over wide chasms, climbing over crags and dizzy heights, sliding down dangerous, slippery places, but always going in the opposite direction to the approaching enemy.

For Chaffer knew now what the danger was—­it was a man; and he could, with his wonderful power of scent, smell him, although he was still a great distance away.  Once having realized that it was a man, Chaffer lost no time, but made his way at once up the steepest crag he could find.  It was much easier for him to go up than down, for his legs were adapted for this purpose, The hind ones being much longer than the front ones.

His small, neat feet were formed for climbing; his forefeet had very sharp hoofs, which, when descending, Chaffer would dig into the ground to gain a foothold, and his hind feet had curious, false hoofs.  That is to say, the outer hoofs were higher than the soles, and this enabled him to have a grip on the slightest notch or projection on the face of the rocks, so that it was almost impossible for him to slip.  In descending the rocks, he would place his forefeet close together and push them in front of him; he could then slide down the face of an almost perpendicular cliff with the greatest ease and safety, and alight at the bottom without so much as a scratch.

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Rataplan, a rogue elephant; and other stories from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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