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- Rataplan - 3/27 -
have stuck there, she made her way steadily towards him, and as Rataplan, even then, took not the slightest notice she became bolder, and, trotting quietly up to him, began caressing him with her trunk and making several other endearing signs which were enough to melt the heart of any elephant under the sun.
Rataplan's heart was not exactly melted, but he was evidently interested and touched by the delicate attentions, and he became a little less morose and a little less moody; he even moved out of the tangled mass of undergrowth in which he had been standing, and deigned to talk to her a little bit; and Kinka made herself just as interesting as she possibly could.
Soon Rataplan began to forget his hatred of company, his dislike of his fellow-creatures; he began even to forget his evil thoughts and his mad rage, and he was just beginning to think what a nice, little elephant Kinka was when he felt, sharp pulls at his feet.
The next instant there was such a sudden pull on all his legs that, with a huge thud Rataplan found himself lying on the ground. With one furious cry of rage he did his best to turn, displaying a flexibility of body and limb which was quite astonishing in so clumsy an animal.
Rolling on the ground and uttering more cries of rage, it suddenly occurred to him to ask the nice, little elephant to help him. But alas! the nice, little elephant, Kinka, was nowhere to be seen.
Having done her duty and treacherously inveigled him in to the snare, with a little, triumphant wave of her trunk and a funny, little, trumpeting noise she had marched with a sort of "conquering hero" air back to her stable, there to tell the other _koomkies_ of her prowess and successful capture.
In vain Rataplan butted the tree nearest to him with all his huge strength; it never moved, scarcely even shook, and he rolled again on the ground in despair. He wound his trunk round and round one of the ropes, doing his best to break and split it, but the rope was good and strong and only squeaked dismally.
He shrieked and roared, writhed and turned, until the forest re-echoed with his cries, and the cruel ropes cut into his ankles, making deep, red wounds which stained the ground all round his feet.
After a time his shrill cries of rage developed into hoarse moans of humiliation and despair.
All that night and the next Rataplan was left there. The ropes cut deeper and deeper into his poor, swollen ankles, his body getting fainter and fainter for want of food. But he was not a Rogue elephant for nothing, and would not give in.
In vain a whole lot of _koomkies_ were brought out to try and induce him to follow them into the _keddah_; he was not to be tempted, and tore and strained at his ropes to such a degree that the _mahout_ feared he would make wounds that could never be healed; so he took away the _koomkies_ and waited yet another night.
The third night the _koomkies_ were brought out again, this time with Kinka at their head. But the sight of Kinka nearly drove Rataplan mad; he strained and tore at the ropes, trumpeting and roaring, until even the _koomkies_ were frightened. Could he only have got at Kinka, he would have torn her limb from limb. But although he stretched to his utmost, and his hind legs went out behind him in the struggle, he could not get near her.
The _mahout_ was getting troubled, for Rataplan's ankles were now in such a state as to make him almost valueless, and he knew, even did the elephant give in now, it would be months before they were healed, if indeed they ever healed at all.
Yet another long, weary day and night did poor Rataplan lay there, getting weaker and weaker and suffering untold agonies caused by those cruel ropes.
He had by this time torn his ankles so fearfully that they were all ulcerated, and stiff from lying on the ground. To add to his misery, he had caught violent inflammation in his eyes.
The _mahout_ realized that unless he got him into the _keddah_ soon he would be of no use at all, and once more did his best with _koomkies_ and dainty bits of food to tempt him to follow into the _keddah_.
But still Rataplan would not give in: his body was weak and getting visibly thinner, but his spirit was as strong, as wild and as unbreakable as ever.
There was a consultation among the _mahouts_, and it was decided, as he was still so savage, there was nothing to be done but to leave him yet one more day.
But the next day Rataplan presented a piteous sight. His poor ankles were swollen enormously; his eyes were so inflamed that he was quite blind, and, to make matters worse, the _mahouts_ saw that he was suffering now from the Ceylon Murrain.
There was nothing to be done then but kill him.
It had been a wet night which had made his poor, ulcerated ankles as bad as they could be, and the pain in his eyes was maddening. Suffering from the murrain, too, it was far too dangerous to take him among other elephants, and so the end of Rataplan, the Rogue, was that, in spite of his grand physique, his unbreakable spirit, and his indomitable patience, he was actually shot by the very things he had despised all his life--those silly little things that carried guns.
And Kinka, when she knew that he was dead, was not even sorry. She only gave a triumphant little trumpeting as she thought of the triumph of her capture.
And so no one grieved for Rataplan, no one cared or thought about him. But then we must not forget that he was and always had been Rataplan, the Rogue.
GEAN, THE GIRAFFE
A tall, stately, gentle creature, standing about eighteen feet high.
A pretty, graceful head; large, tender, dark eyes; a beautiful, tawny coat, covered with rich, dark spots; a long neck; a rather short body, measuring about seven feet in length; slender, shapely legs, terminating in feet with divided hoofs; and a long tail, ending in a wisp of dark-colored hair, which was a splendid thing with which to whisk off the flies.
This was Gean, the Giraffe, and she belonged to a tribe which boasted of the fact that they were the tallest of all animals. But they were not aggressive about it at all, for giraffes are the most modest and gentle creatures to be found anywhere. They are quiet and inoffensive in all their ways and movements, shy and timid to a degree, and so cautious and wary that it is extremely difficult to get near them in their wild state.
Gean was just as timid and wary as the rest of her tribe; indeed, she was peculiarly so, for she had been unfortunate enough to lose her mother when quite young, and, deprived of that mother's care and protection, she had experienced some very narrow escapes from many kinds of dangers and difficulties, and these had made her suspicious of every fresh object she came across. There were times when she was really too cautious, and would not accept friendly overtures from strangers of her own kind.
There was another young giraffe about the same age as herself, who had come to see her several times lately, and, although he was a fine, handsome animal and stood nearly two feet taller than Gean herself, she would have nothing to do with him. Not even when he took the trouble to reach up his long neck[Footnote: although a giraffe's neck is so long, it has exactly the same number of vertebrae as all other mammals--seven--but each vertebra is exceptionally long.--_Author_.] and, stretching his tongue out to its full length--about eighteen or twenty inches--break off a tender, young branch of the "camel-thorn," which is a sort of acacia tree and considered a great dainty by giraffes, and offer it to her. Gean was very independent, as well as shy, and much preferred to pick leaves and blades of grass for herself.
Groar took it all very well; he was disappointed, of course, but he preferred a young giraffe that was shy, and knew he should value her all the more if he had a little trouble and difficulty in winning her. So he waited patiently, hoping that some day he would have an opportunity of distinguishing himself, and the day arrived much sooner than he expected.
Gean was pacing slowly up and down the open plain one day, but keeping pretty close to the low woods--for she avoided the high forest, not being able to keep as good a lookout there for her two greatest enemies, men and lions--when she suddenly scented danger. It was a long way off, it is true, but Gean had a very keen sense of smell. Not being with any herd at present, Gean was accustomed to look after herself, and generally managed to keep clear of enemies, although, as I told you just now, she knew what it was to have very narrow escapes.
She was cautious enough not to stop walking, but kept slowly on, putting each foot down in a careful, dainty manner, and so softly that only the very faintest rustle could be heard, this being caused by the whisking to and fro of her tail, which made a curious little swish- swish as she moved. She took care, however, to look round in all directions, and, as her beautiful, round eyes projected in a peculiar manner, she was able to do this without moving her head at all. The only direction in which she could not look without turning her head was directly behind her, but this little difficulty was overcome by walking in a semi-circle for a few minutes.
Suddenly Gean saw the enemy. It was a full-grown lion, and he was creeping cautiously out of the underbrush in the wood close by. It was not often that lions came out by day, but Gean had passed close to this lion's lair, and the odor of such a dainty morsel as a giraffe was too much for the lion, who decided to make the most of his opportunity.
The moment Gean saw him, without moving her graceful, pretty head, she started off at full speed, and, although such a beautiful, graceful animal when still, or walking slowly, she certainly was awkward and ungainly when running. Her gait was clumsy and shambling, and, with her tail whisking to and fro all the time, she made an odd and undignified appearance. Her speed, however, made up for her ungainly movements, and for some time she outdistanced the lion by a long way.
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