“Well, then, gentlemen,” resumed that worthy functionary, “it appears that this morning, on the elephants being brought up to carry the mess and Hospital Tents, one of the number was found to be missing, and the Muccadem declared that it was useless to attempt to put anything extra on the others, for that they would not stir a peg if so overloaded. I did not know what to do in this dilemma; the tents could not be left behind, so I sent for Fortescue, who was in charge of the Government cattle, to ask his advice. In a few minutes he came cantering up. I explained matters. The elephant cannot be far off.” At this moment a Muccadem came running up to say that the animal was in the jungle, about a quarter of a mile off, but was refractory and would not budge an inch in the direction of the camp.
“Divide his load among the other four,” said Fortescue.
“But they will not carry it, sir,” replied the native Inspector.
“I know that as well as you can tell me, but do as I order you.”
The Inspector salammed and obeyed, but the animals would not move. “Now take off the load from two and give them a couple of tether chains.” This was done, the loads removed, and a long chain, used for camp purposes given to each, who caught them up with their trunks and seemed to know exactly what they were expected to do with them. They were then led into the jungle where the other one was said to be.
“You will see some fun presently,” said Fortescue, and he was right, for in a very short time the refractory animal was seen coming into camp at the top of his speed, shrieking and crying, closely followed by the other two, who were thrashing him soundly with the chains that had been given to them for that purpose. There is no doubt they gave him to understand that they did not intend to carry his load for him.
I have heard elephant stories before, but it was most ridiculously absurd to see that great mountain of flesh crying like a whipped child, go down on his knees and quietly receive his burden without any attempt to hurt or molest his keeper.
All the baggage was by this time off the ground; the regiment got the order to advance, which they did with right good will, for both officers and men of the Light Dragoons were equally satisfied to find themselves once more approaching their comfortable quarters in Karricabad.
Smiling Spring, with her ever-changing episode of sunshine and tears, had twice come and gone. The gorgeous fields of golden grain had for a second time bent their heads beneath the harvest side, and the autumnal tints of every hue and shade had again fallen on the rich foliage of the magnificent old woods of Devon, while the whirr of the pheasant in the preserves, and the popping at the partridges among the turnips, indicated that the shooting season had once more commenced over the broad lands around Vellenaux.