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- Umboo, the Elephant - 5/19 -
monkey, to Gink the little, long-tailed chap.
"Why can't we?" Gink wanted to know.
"Because the circus is going to move on. Our cage will be put on the steam cars, and away we will go, and Umboo, and the rest of the elephants, will be put in big box-cars."
"Won't we ever see him again, or hear more of his story?" asked Gink, who had not been with the circus very long, and so did not know much about it.
"Oh, yes, of course we'll hear more later on," answered Chako, "but not until tomorrow. Now the circus is going to move."
And that is just what happened. The men closed the sides of the cages, shutting the animals up in them. The tent was taken down, horses were hitched to the wagons, and away went the whole, big circus on a train to the next town where the show was to be given.
"It's too bad!" exclaimed Horni, the rhinoceros, who had a big horn on the end of his nose. "It's too bad, Umboo! I wanted to hear you tell about sliding down hill."
"I'll tell you tomorrow," said the elephant. "Now I have to go and help the horses, by pushing on some of the heavy wagons with my head. I'll finish the sliding-down-hill part of my story tomorrow."
"All right, don't forget!" called Chako, just before the men closed down the sides of the monkey cage.
"I won't," promised Umboo.
"It was the same way when I was telling my story," said Snarlie, the tiger. "Every now and then I had to stop when the circus moved from one place to another."
All through the night the trains of cars, with the circus wagons, tents, horses and performers, rolled along. In the morning the cars stopped just outside a big city, where the show was to be given for three days.
"And now I'll have a chance to tell you a lot more about what we elephants did in the jungle," said Umboo, when, once more, all the animal friends were in the tent together. "That is I'll tell you more, if you aren't tired of hearing it," he added.
"Tired? I should say not!" chattered Gink. "Go on, Umboo, if you please. Tell us a lot more!"
"And don't forget about sliding down hill," added Woo-Uff, the lion. "Did your mother let you?"
"Oh, yes, she let me," answered Umboo. "At first she did not want to, for a lot of the big elephants were having this fun. But, after a while, when they went away from the hill, having slid down enough, and when Keedah, and some of the other elephant boys and girls, took their turn, I went with them.
"At first I was a little afraid, when I got to the top of the hill, and saw how steep it was, and how far it seemed down to the bottom where the river ran. But I stuck my front feet out in front of me, and I sat down on the back part of my hind legs, where my skin is very thick, and then, all of a sudden Keedah came up behind me and gave me a push." "Did you go down?" asked Snarlie, laughing so that his sharp, white teeth showed in his red mouth.
"Did I go down? I should say I did!" cried Umboo. "I went down so fast I almost turned over in a somersault, the way the trick dogs do in our circus. And, at first, I was scared.
"But the hill of dirt was smooth, without any big stones in it, and away I slid. When I got to the water, in I went with a big splash; though of course I didn't make as much of a splatter as some of the larger elephants did."
"Was it fun?" asked Humpo, the camel.
"At first I didn't like it," answered Umboo. "The water got up my trunk, and choked me a little, and took my breath away. But my mother stood on the bank of the river and soon pulled me out; and when I went down next time I curled my trunk up, so then I was all right."
The other circus animals liked so much to hear Umboo's story of sliding down hill, that they kept asking him questions about it until nearly dinner time. But when the men came in the tent, bringing hay for the horses, elephants and camels, big chunks of meat for the lions and tigers, and dried bread for the monkeys, then all the animals were quiet for a time--at least they made no noise except chewing.
And after their meal they all went to sleep for a little while, those in cages curling up in a corner, and the horses lying down on straw, but the elephants took their sleep standing up, for an elephant, even in the jungle, never lies down except perhaps to roll in water, or a mud-puddle. And the only time they lie down in a circus is when they are doing some trick.
"Now I guess you have slid down hill enough, Umboo," said the elephant's mother to him. "It is all right to have some fun, but there are other things to do in the jungle besides that. You must learn a few things."
"I had to learn things too," said Woo-Uff. "I had to learn how to creep up on fat goats, and knock them over with my big paws. There was an old lion named Boom-Boom, and he and I--"
"Wait a minute! Wait a minute!" called Humpo, the camel, as he was chewing some hay in the circus tent after his dinner. "Is this your story, or Umboo's?"
"Oh, I forgot. I beg your pardon, Umboo!" said the big lion. "Please go on."
So Umboo went on telling his story, speaking of how his mother told him there were other things to do in the jungle besides sliding down hill to splash into the river.
It was some time after this, when Umboo had grown larger and stronger, and two of his tusks or teeth, had grown out of his jaw, sticking far beyond his lips, that his mother said to him:
"Now, Umboo, it is time you learned how to get something to eat for yourself. Up to now I have given you milk, or you have eaten the sweet palm nuts or the tree branches I pulled down for you, or those the other elephants left. Now it is time you learned to do things for yourself. Come with me, Umboo."
"Where are we going?" asked the small elephant. That is he was smaller than his mother, though he was very large along side of a dog or a cat. "Where are we going?"
"Far into the jungle," answered Mrs. Stumptail.
Umboo followed after her, brushing his way through the bushes, pushing aside even those that had thorns on them, for he never felt the sharp pricks through his thick skin, though, as I have told you, some kinds of bugs can bite their way through even this.
Suddenly, as Umboo walked along behind his mother, he began to sniff the air through his trunk.
"What is that good smell?" he asked, in elephant talk, of course. "It smells just like those nice, sweet roots you gave me to eat the other day."
"And that is just what you do smell, Umboo," said his mother. "Near here, in the jungle, grow trees with those sweet roots. If you want to eat some now see if you can find any. In that way you will learn when I am not with you. Hunt around now, and see if you can't smell where the sweet roots grow."
Umboo was hungry and he wanted, very much, to get the roots. So he began sniffing with his trunk close to the ground. When he moved one way the smell was not so strong.
"That means you are moving away from the roots," his mother told him. "Come over this way."
So Umboo moved the other way, and the smell of the sweet roots grew stronger, just as when you come nearer to a bakery or candy shop.
"Ah! Here they are! Right down under the ground, here!" suddenly cried Umboo, tapping with his trunk on a certain place under a big tree. "The roots are here, mother," he said. "But how am I going to get them out? I can't eat them if they are under the dirt!"
"How would you think you might get them out?" asked Mrs. Stumptail. "Come, be a smart elephant, Umboo. Use your brains. Elephants are the smartest animals in the world. Think a little and then see what you will do."
So Umboo thought, and then he remembered seeing what the other elephants did when they were hungry, and wanted to dig up tree roots.
"I guess I'll poke away the dirt with my feet," he said.
"Yes, that's a good way to begin," said Mrs. Stumptail.
So Umboo, with his big, broad fore feet, loosened the dirt over the tree roots. They were not down very deep, being the top roots, and not the big heavy ones, buried far down in the earth.
"Ha! Now I can see the roots!" cried the little boy elephant. "They are uncovered, but still I can't lift them up with my trunk, mother. What shall I do next?"
"What are your tusks for?" asked Mrs. Stumptail. "Don't be so silly! Pry up the roots with your tusks!"
So Umboo knelt down and put one of his big long teeth under a root. Then with a twist of his head he pried the root up from the ground.
"There! See how easy it is!" said his mother.
Then Umboo chewed the sweet root, but he did not swallow the hard, woody part. That would not have been good for him.
"Oh, but this is sweet!" he cried, shutting his eyes as he chewed away. "This is the sweetest root I ever ate."
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