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- Umboo, the Elephant - 6/19 -
"And you dug it up yourself! That is best part of it," said his mother. "You have learned to do something for yourself. Now, when you find yourself alone in the jungle, if you should stray away from the rest of the herd, you will know how to get something to eat. You have learned something."
"Is this all I have to learn?" Umboo wanted to know.
"Indeed not!" cried his mother. "There are many more things that you must know. But one thing at a time. A little later I will show you how to pull down a big tree, when there are palm nuts, or sweet branches, growing near the top, which you cannot reach, no matter how you try. Pulling trees down will be the next lesson. But dig up some more roots."
"I will dig some for you," said Umboo.
"Excuse me for not giving you some of the first ones I dug."
"Oh, that's all right," said Mrs. Stumptail. "I wanted you to learn, but you may give me some of the next ones you pry up."
Umboo uncovered more roots, and gave his mother some, and then, as he was moving to another part of the jungle, there suddenly sounded through the forest a loud, shrill cry.
"Quick, Umboo, come with me!" cried his mother. "That is Tusker calling us!"
"What does he want?" asked Umboo.
"He wants to tell us there is danger!" said Umboo's mother. "Hurry! Come with me back to the rest of the herd!"
Not stopping to dig up any more roots, Umboo rushed off through the jungle after his mother, who hurried on ahead. As they crashed along, breaking their way through bushes and knocking down small trees, they heard again the shrill trumpet of Tusker, the oldest and largest elephant of the jungle.
"What is he saying?" asked Umboo of his mother, as he hurried along, now close to her. "What is Tusker saying?"
"He is telling of some kind of danger," said the older elephant. "Just what it is I don't know. But the herd will be moving away very soon, to hide in a dark part of the jungle, and we must go with them."
As Umboo and his mother came out into an open part of the forest, where they had left the other elephants, when Umboo had been led away to be given his root-digging lesson, there was great excitement. Tusker stood on top of a little hill, his trunk high in the air, making all sorts of queer, trumpeting noises.
"We were waiting for you," said Mr. Stumptail to Umboo's mother. "We are going to run away and hide. Tusker is calling you."
"Well, tell him we are here now," said Mrs. Stumptail. "I had to give Umboo his lesson."
"And I dug up some sweet roots," said the little elephant, "but I didn't have time to bring you any," he told his father.
"Some other time will do," spoke Mr. Stumptail. "Hello, Tusker!" he called through his trunk to the old, big elephant. "Here they are now! Umboo and his mother have come back. We can all go hide in the jungle."
"Why must we hide?" asked Umboo.
"Because Tusker smelled danger," answered Keedah, who was with the other small elephants where they were gathered together, the older ones about them. "He smelled white and black hunters, with guns, and they are coming to shoot us, Tusker says. So he called a warning to all of us."
"I heard it away off where I was digging up roots," said Umboo. "But did Tusker see the hunters with their guns?"
"No, I didn't see them," said Tusker himself, coming down from the hill just then. "But I smelled them, and that is the same thing. The wind was blowing from them to me, and I could smell them very plainly. Come now, elephants! Into the deep, dark part of the jungle, where the hunters can not find us, we will go--far into the jungle."
Then the herd moved off, and Umboo's mother told him, as they hurried along, that an elephant's eyes can not see very far.
"We have not a very sharp sight, like the hawks or the vultures," said Mrs. Stumptail, "so we have to depend on our noses. We can smell things a long way off, and when you are older you will get to know the difference between the sweet roots, under the ground, and the man- smell, which means danger.
"Tusker smelled the man-smell, even though he could not see the white and black hunters, and then he trumpeted through his trunk to tell us all to run away," said Mrs. Stumptail.
Through the jungle crashed the herd of elephants, not going any faster, though, than Umboo and the other small ones could trot along. Though an elephant is very big and heavy he can move swiftly through the forest, and go in places where no horse could travel, for the way would be too rough, and great vines and trees would be strung across the path. Indeed there is no path, the elephants making one for themselves, and when once a herd starts off it can hardly ever be caught by a hunter on foot.
"Do you think any of us will be shot?" asked Umboo, as he shuffled along beside his mother. "How does it feel to be shot?"
"My! But you ask a lot of questions," said Mrs. Stumptail; and I think Umboo was like a lot of boys and girls I know. But then if you don't ask questions how are you ever going to find out anything?
"I can tell you how it feels to be shot," said a middle-aged elephant, who was hurrying along, next to Mr. Stumptail. "It hurts very much, Umboo! It hurts very much, and worse than a whole lot of big bugs biting you at once."
"Were you ever shot?" asked Umboo.
"Indeed I was," answered the elephant, whose name was Bango, called so because he used to bang big trees down with his head. "I was shot twice."
"Tell me about it," said Umboo.
"It was some years ago," went on Bango. "I was with another herd, and we were eating away in the jungle. All at once I heard a noise like a little clap of thunder, and I felt a sharp pain in my head. One of the hard things the hunters shoot in their guns had hit me. Then another struck me in the leg."
"Didn't any of you smell the hunter coming?" asked Mr. Stumptail. "Didn't you smell him and get out of the way?"
"No," answered Bango, "none of us did. The wind was blowing the wrong way, I guess. But as soon as we heard the gun, and when I gave a blast through my trunk, as I felt myself hurt, then all the herd knew what had happened, and away we rushed, just as we are rushing now. We went very fast."
"Did the hunter get any of you?" asked Umboo.
"Not that time. I was the only one hit," said Bango. "But another time five or six of the herd I was with were killed by hunters."
"What for?" asked Keedah, who was now more friendly with Umboo. "Why did the hunters kill the elephants, Bango?"
"To get their big teeth, or tusks. Our tusks are ivory, you know, and the hunter men, so I have been told, take our teeth to make into round balls, with which they play games, or they use them to put on machines that make tinkle-tinkle sounds."
By this Bango meant pianos, the keys of which used to be made from ivory, though now they are mostly celluloid. And the game men play, with balls made from elephants' tusks, is called billiards.
On and on through the jungle hurried the elephants, until at last Tusker, who led the way, came to a stop.
"This is far enough," he said. "I do not believe the hunters will find us here. We will rest now."
Indeed it was time to stop, for some of the smaller elephants were quite tired out. Big elephants can hurry through the jungle very fast for as long as twenty hours at a time, stopping, perhaps, only during the very hottest part of the day. And when an elephant is very tired it begins to perspire, or "sweat," over each eye, and two little hollow places there look as though they had been wet with a sponge.
In the cooler part of the shady jungle the elephants rested, some of them pulling down branches from the trees to get at the leaves or tender bark. Umboo began sniffing along the ground with his trunk.
"What are you doing?" asked Keedah.
"I am smelling for sweet roots," was the answer. "My mother showed me how to do it. Do you want me to show you?"
"I learned that long ago," said Keedah.
"Why I can even get palm nuts off a high tree by knocking the tree down. Can you do that? Smelling out earth-roots is nothing!"
"I think it is something," spoke Umboo. "And, when I get a little bigger my mother is going to show me how to pull over, or knock down, a whole tree. But now I am hungry for roots."
So Umboo kept on sniffing at the ground with his trunk. He was feeling quite hungry. Suddenly Keedah cried:
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