Returning from a spectacle such as I have attempted to describe, one cannot help feeling how immeasurably it exceeds in interest those royal battues where timid deer are driven in crowds to unresisting slaughter; or those vaunted “wild sports” the amusement of which appears to be in proportion to the effusion of blood. Here the only display of power was the imposition of restraint; and though considerable mortality often occurs amongst the animals caught, the infliction of pain, so far from being an incident of the operation, is most cautiously avoided from its tendency to enrage, the policy of the captor being to conciliate and soothe. The whole scene exhibits the most marvellous example of the voluntary alliance of animal sagacity and instinct in active co-operation with human intelligence and courage; and nothing else in nature, not even the chase of the whale, can afford so vivid an illustration of the sovereignty of man over brute creation even when confronted with force in its most stupendous embodiment.
Of the two young elephants which were taken in the corral, the smallest was sent down to my house at Colombo, where he became a general favourite with the servants. He attached himself especially to the coachman, who had a little shed erected for him near his own quarters at the stables. But his favourite resort was the kitchen, where he received a daily allowance of milk and plantains, and picked up several other delicacies besides. He was innocent and playful in the extreme, and when walking in the grounds he would trot up to me, twine his little trunk round my arm, and coax me to take him to the fruit-trees. In the evening the grass-cutters now and then indulged him by permitting him to carry home a load of fodder for the horses, on which occasions he assumed an air of gravity that was highly amusing, showing that he was deeply impressed with the importance and responsibility of the service entrusted to him. Being sometimes permitted to enter the dining-room, and helped to fruit at desert, he at last learned his way to the side-board; and on more than one occasion having stolen in, during the absence of the servants, he made a clear sweep of the wine-glasses and china in his endeavours to reach a basket of oranges. For these and similar pranks we were at last forced to put him away. He was sent to the Government stud, where he was affectionately received and adopted by Siribeddi, and he now takes his turn of public duty in the department of the Commissioner of Roads.
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Conduct in Captivity.