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- Umboo, the Elephant - 4/19 -
"Now who is talking?" asked Woo-Uff, the lion. "I thought we were to listen to Umboo's story."
"That's right--we were," said Snarlie. "I'm sorry I talked so much. But I was telling Chako about the books we are in, Woo-Uff."
"Yes, books are all well enough," said the lion, "but give me a good piece of meat. Now go on, Umboo. What was it Chako asked?"
"I wanted to know if Umboo's mother let him fall when she lifted him high up in her trunk when they came to the jungle river," said the monkey in the circus cage.
"No," answered Umboo, "she did not drop me. My mother was very strong, and her trunk had a good hold of me. She didn't drop me at all."
"Then what did she lift you up for?" asked Chako. "Once, in the jungle where I came from, I saw a big elephant lift up a tiger in his trunk, and the elephant threw the tiger down on the ground as hard as he could, and hurt him."
"That was because the tiger was going to bite the elephant if he could," answered Umboo. "Elephants only have their tusks, and trunk and big feet to fight with. They can't bite as you monkeys can, nor as lions and tigers can. But my mother lifted me up in her trunk to put me on her back."
"What did she want to do that for?" asked Humpo, the camel. "Was a hunter coming with a gun?"
"No, but she was going to swim across the river with the rest of the herd," answered Umboo, "and she knew I was too little to know how to swim yet. I learned how later, though, and I liked the water. But this time my mother took me across the river on her back."
"It's a good thing your mother didn't have a camel-back like Humpo," said Woo-Uff, with a sort of chuckling laugh.
"Why?" asked Horni, the rhinoceros.
"Because, if Mrs. Stumptail had a back, with humps in, as the camels have, Umboo would have fallen off into the water," said the lion, as he opened his big mouth in a sleepy yawn, showing his big, white, sharp teeth.
"My mother's back was big and strong," said Umboo. "It was flat, and not humpy, like a camel's, though their backs are all right on the desert. My mother lifted me up on her back with her trunk, and there I sat while she and the other elephants waded into the river."
And then the circus elephant went on telling his story.
Into the jungle river walked the elephants, the littlest ones on their mothers' backs, and some, very small ones, held in their mothers' trunks, which were lifted high in the air. These were the babies of the herd who were too small to ride safely on the backs of the big creatures.
"Pooh! I'm bigger than you! I can swim like the other elephants!" said Keedah; a large elephant boy, as he looked up and saw Umboo on his mother's back. "I don't have to be carried across a river! I can swim by myself."
"And so will my little boy, soon," said Mrs. Stumptail. "Swim on your own side, Keedah, and don't splash water on Umboo."
But Keedah was a little elephant chap full of mischief, and he did not do as he was told. Instead he filled his trunk with water and sprayed it all over Umboo.
"Ouch!" cried the little elephant baby, for the water felt cold, at first. "Stop it, Keedah!"
"Ha! Ha! I made you get wet, whether you swim or not!" laughed Keedah. "I'll put some more water on you!"
"No you don't! Now you swim along!" suddenly cried Mrs. Stumptail. "Get away!"
With that she tapped Keedah on his head with her trunk two or three times, and, when an elephant wants to, it can strike very hard with its long nose, even though it seems soft.
"Ouch! Ouch!" trumpeted Keedah as he swam out of reach of Mrs. Stumptail. "Ouch! Let me alone!"
"Learn to behave yourself then," said Umboo's mother.
"I'm going to tell my father on you!" cried the mischievous little elephant.
"Well, it won't do you any good," said a heavy voice behind him, and there was Keedah's father himself swimming along. "I saw what you did to Umboo," went on the old gentleman elephant, "and Mrs. Stumptail did just right to tap you with her trunk. Now be a good boy, and don't shower any more water on the baby elephants."
So Keedah promised that he wouldn't, and Umboo clung as tightly as he could, with his sprawly legs, to his mother's broad back as she swam across the river.
The water was wide, at this part of the jungle, but elephants are good swimmers. They can go in very deep water, and as long as they can keep the tip end of their trunk out, so they can breathe, the rest of their body can sink away down below the surface. And when the elephants are in the water the flies, mosquitoes and other biting bugs of the jungle can not harm them.
For, though the skin of elephants, rhinoceros beasts, and even the hippopotami, is very thick, some bugs can bite through it enough to give pain, and the animals don't like that. But in the water nothing can bite them, unless it's a crocodile, and none of those big fellows would come near a whole herd of elephants.
"What are we going to do when we get on the other side of the river?" asked Umboo of his mother, as he reached his trunk down in the water and took a little drink.
"Oh, we will rest a while, eat something, perhaps, and then we will keep on marching to a better part of the jungle," she answered.
"I know what I'm going to do when I get on the other shore," spoke Keedah, as once more he swam up along side of Umboo and his mother.
"What?" asked the little elephant who was having such a nice ride across the river. "What are you going to do?"
"I am going to have a slide down hill," went on Keedah, who did not seem to be going to make any more trouble.
"What's sliding down hill?" asked Umboo, and of course, you understand, all this talk was in animal language.
"Sliding down hill is fun," went on Keedah. "You know Old Tusker went up to the top of a place, called a hill, to look and see about the hunters in the jungle. Well, there is a hill on the other side of this river, and when we get across I'm going to the top of it and slide down.
"It's hard work going up hill," went on the larger elephant boy, "but it's easy coming down. You just sit on your hind legs, hold your trunk up in the air and down you come as fast as anything!"
"And be careful you don't bump into anything," said Mrs. Stumptail. "Sliding down hill is all right if you don't bump into anything. You must be careful, Umboo. Don't slide down any hills unless you ask me first."
"I won't," promised the baby elephant. "But tell me more about it, Keedah. Did you ever slide down hill?"
"Many a time. I was with the herd last year when we swam this same river. I could swim then, too, and when we came to the hill I climbed up. Then I came down lots faster than I walked up, and I went splash into the river. That didn't hurt at all," he said to Umboo's mother.
"No, it doesn't hurt to slide into the water," said the old elephant lady. "If you do any sliding, Umboo, see that you splash into the water, and not on the hard ground."
"I will, after I learn to swim," spoke Umboo.
A little later the herd of elephants were safely across the jungle river. Some rested in the shade of trees, pulling off the low branches and the palm nuts. Others rolled in the mud, to make a sort of coating over their skins, to keep off the flies. Others went to the top of the hill to slide down, and Keedah went with them.
"Oh, mother! I wish I could slide!" said Umboo, when he saw what fun the other elephants were having. They really did slide down hill, just as otters do, only the otter, or beaver, likes to have water on his slide, and the elephants did not care whether their slide was wet or dry. Down they came, over sticks and stones, and their skin was so tough that they never got hurt. And yet a fly could bite through that same hide! But that is because a fly has a very fine, sharp bill, which can go through the tiny pores, or holes, in the elephant's skin.
"Oh, I want to slide!" said Umboo to his mother. "I'm big enough, and if I can't swim when I splash in the water, you can be near to pull me out. Please let me slide down hill!"
"And did she let you?" asked Snarlie, the tiger, as the elephant stopped in the telling his story long enough to take a bite of hay. "Did she let you, Umboo?"
UMBOO LEARNS SOMETHING
Umboo, the big circus elephant, swallowed the sweet hay he had been chewing, and was about to keep on with the telling of his story about the things that happened to him when he was a little chap in the Indian jungle, when a lot of men came in the tent where the animals were standing about, or resting in their cages.
"Oh, now we can't hear any more of the story," said Chako, the big
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