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The Story Of Hathi Ganesh The White-eared Elephant






Source: The Sa'-zada Tales

It was very hot. The Summer moon, pushing lazily through the whispering
tracery of tall elm trees that cut the night sky, fell upon the same
group of forest friends gathered in front of Tiger's cage that had been
there the previous evening, when the Leopard brothers had discoursed so
pleasantly of their Jungle life.

"What is the tale to-night, Sa'-zada, loved Master?" asked Magh, the
Ourang-Outang, standing with one hand on Mooswa's back, who was lying
down.

"It is the talk of Hathi," answered the Keeper.

Hathi could be heard blowing softly through his trunk to clear his
throat, then he began his story:

"We were a mighty herd, all of forty, with two great Bulls in charge, I
remember; though to be sure when it came to be a matter of danger they
seemed to forget all about being in charge and cleared off as fast as
they could. I soon got to know that the herd was very proud of me."

"I should think they would be, my big beauty," cried Magh, patting his
forehead affectionately.

"You see," continued Hathi, "these white and pink spots all over my
neck and ears were a sign that great luck had come to the herd. Even
the Men-kind--but that, of course, I discovered years after at
Ava--even the Men-kind looked upon me as sacred, being a White
Elephant. Besides, I had but the one tusk, the right, and that is why I
am Ganesh, the Holy One.

"We wandered about in the Jungle, and when we Babe Elephants were
tired, the whole herd waited until we had rested and fed. That's why
the Bulls had nothing to do with leading the herd. They knew little of
what a calf could stand, so Mah, my Mother, always gave the signal when
we were to start or stop. I think she was very proud of being the
mother of the lucky Calf.

"But it was a lovely land to dwell in; all hills and valleys with
plenty of cover; and down in the flat lands the Men grew raji and rice,
and plantains.

"I think there must be some very wise animal who arranges all these
things--puts each one in the Jungle he likes best. Pardus was happy in
his hills, and White Chita liked the snow mountains, and Yellow Leopard
the rice fields; and Mooswa has told me when we've talked together,
that on the far side of his lands are the loveliest spruce forests any
Moose could wish to live in."

"Perhaps it was Sa'-zada or one of his kind," ventured Muskwa, the
Bear.

"It is God who arranges it," declared the Keeper, in a soft voice.

"I don't know who that may be," muttered Hathi, "but I thought there
was someone. Such a lovely Jungle it was; tall teak trees and pinkado,
and Telsapa from which the Men-kind drew oil for their fires.

"For days, and weeks, and months it would be hot and dry; and then
three times the big flower would come out on the padouk tree, and all
the Elephants would laugh and squeal with their trunks, for they knew
the rain would surely come. Yes, when we could see for the third time a
big cluster of flowers, patter, patter on the leaves we could hear the
rain, and soon drip, drip, drip, trickle it would come down on our
backs, washing the dust and little sticks out of every wrinkle until
even the old Bulls would commence to play like Calves.

"We finally came to a big river early in the morning, and every one
went in for a wash. Mind, I was only a babe about the size of a
Buffalo. The old ones lay down in the river, just keeping their trunks
out to breathe, and I thought to do the same, of course; but when I
flopped over on my side--bad footing! there was nothing anywhere but
soft, slippery water--there was quite a thousand miles of it, and dark
as the blackest night. I could see nothing, hear nothing only the
angry talk of the water that ran fast. They said that I screamed like a
young pig. Then something strong grabbed me by the hind leg, and pulled
me out up on the bank--it was Mah. She scolded roundly. Then she
spanked me good and hard.

"All that season I was not allowed to go in the water again. Mah washed
me down with her trunk, squirting the water over me.

"The eating was sweet in those Jungles; but best of all I liked the
young plantains when they were just beyond the blossom age, all wrapped
up in a big leaf, and juicy, and sweet.

"The first happening was from an evil-minded Bagh (tiger). That evening
I had wandered a little to one side, not knowing it, and Bagh, with a
fierce word in his big throat, jumped full on my head. Of course I
screamed----"

"Like a Pig," interjected Boar.

"Like a Babe Hathi," corrected Elephant. "And Mah, who had been looking
for me, just in the nick of time threw Bagh many yards into the Jungle
with her trunk. I don't know how other animals get along without a
trunk; it seems just suited for every purpose.


PULLED ME ..."]

"The next happening was worse, for it came from the Men-kind. It was a
hot, hot day. We were all standing on a hill in the shade of trees,
flapping our ears to keep the flies off, when suddenly Old Bull kinked
his head sideways, whistled softly through his trunk, and we all
stopped flapping to listen. Even Calf as I was, I knew there was some
danger near. In the wind there was nothing--nothing unusual, just the
sweet scent of the tiny little white flowers that grow close to the
short grass. But Old Bull was afraid; he gave a signal for us to move,
and we started.

"In a minute there was an awful cracking like the breaking of a tree,
only different, and we all ran here, there, everywhere. Of course since
that, having been taken in the hunt by the Men-kind, I know it was a
gun, as they call it.

"Old Bull charged straight for a little white cloud that rose from
where the noise had been; then crack! crack! crack! the guns trumpeted
all over the Jungle--but I won't tell any more of that happening,
because Old Bull was killed; and Mah, too--though the Men-kind said
afterwards, so I've heard, that it was a mistake, as they only killed
Bulls, being white hunters, for the sake of the feet and tusks.

"It was late in the evening before the herd gathered again, and we
traveled far, fearing the evil of the Men-kind."

"Was there no evil with your own people?" queried Wolf. "Just feeding,
and nothing else?"

"Well," answered Hathi, hesitatingly, "sometimes in a herd there grows
up one who is a 'Rogue.' We had one such, I remember. But that also
came about because of the Men-kind--a yellow man. It was a Hill-man,
and when this Rogue of whom I speak--he also was a Bull--was just full
grown, a matter of perhaps twenty years, this Hill-man thrust into his
head, from a distance, too, being seated in a tree, an arrow.

"The arrow remaining there as it did, caused this Bull to become of an
evil temper. Quarreling, quarreling always, butting his huge head into
a comrade because of a mere nothing; and with his tusks putting his
mark on many of us without cause; sometimes it would be a kick from his
forefoot, or a slap of his trunk. When we were near to the places of
the Men-kind he would wallow in the rice fields, and pull up the young
plantain trees by the roots, even knock the queer little houses they
lived in to pieces, for they were but of bamboo and leaves. Of course
the dwellers ran for their lives, and sometimes brought fire, and made
noise with their guns, and beat gongs to frighten him away.

"Many times we drove him forth from the herd; and sometimes he stayed
away himself for days, sulky. In the end we lost him altogether, and we
were all glad; but strange as it may appear, I saw him again in Rangoon
in the timber yards. That was after I was caught."

"Tell us about that happening," pleaded Sa'-zada, "for it is even not
written in The Book."

"I was taken in a manner full of deceit, and because I had faith in
those of my own kind. I was, perhaps, fifteen or twenty years old at
the time--but in a Hathi's life a year or two is of no moment, for we
are long-lived--and what might be called second in charge of the herd,
a condition of things which I resented somewhat, but the Herd Bull had
been leader while I was growing up, so there was no just claim on my
part really.

"And it happened in our wanderings that we came not far from the
greatest of all the Men's places in that land, Ava (Mandalay). One day
as I was pulling down the young bamboos and stripping the feathered
top, a strange Hathni (female elephant) came to me and put her trunk
softly on my neck. She was all alone, and I felt sorry for her;
besides, she was nice--showed me such lovely places for good feeding. I
spent a whole day with her, and the next day, too, and as we went
through the jungle, suddenly we came to a sort of immense, strong
hauda. It wasn't a bit like the Men's haudas that they live in,
else I should never have been deceived; great trunks of trees growing
up out of the ground straight, and close together, but no branches or
leaves to them; as square on top as the end of my leg. This
queer-looking jungle thing troubled me. 'What is it?' I asked Hathni.

"'It's my home,' she replied; 'come in, Comrade.'"

"And of course the woman had her way," remarked Sa'-zada; "you went
into the parlor, Hathi, old chap, I suppose."

"Not by that name knew I it, Sa'-zada; they called it a Keddah, as I
found out. But I went in."

"And was caged," laughed Black Chita.

"Inside," continued Hathi, "was a winding path, and Hathni trotted down
this so fast that I lost her. A great wooden gate dropped behind me,
and I knew that I was in a trap. It was a big place, but no openings to
get out.

"Then the Men-kind showed their yellow faces all over the walls, just
like Hanumen--the gray-whiskered Monkey of those parts.

"'A White Elephant at last, at last!' they cried; 'now will the King be
pleased.'

"I was left alone that night, but the next day the Men-kind came with
two ruffianly Bulls of my kind who bunted and bustled me about, and
fought me, while the men slipped great strong ropes over my legs. In a
week I was that tired and sore from this treatment that I was ready to
go any place. Then I was taken to Ava; and such doings! I dislike to
tell it all; it's hardly modest.

"They put a silk covering over me to keep the Flies off, and a garland
of white jasmine flowers about my neck--sweet-smelling flowers they
were; in my ears two big red stones of the ruby kind were placed; and
always as I walked a great silk umbrella was over my head. And as for
eating--humpf, humpf, humpf! they just made me ill with sweets to be
eaten out of gold dishes."


GREAT STRONG ROPES OVER MY LEGS."]

"Is this a true tale, O Sa'-zada?" queried Black Leopard. "For one of
the jungle folk it is a strange happening."

"It is true," replied the Keeper; "that was the way with the White
Elephant at the Burma King's court, it is written in another book I
have read."

"And no one was allowed to ride on my back but the King," declared
Hathi, "excepting, of course, the Mahout. As I walked I was afraid of
stepping on some one; the Men-kind were forever flopping down on their
knees to worship me. It was this way for years; then one season there
came war; great guns spoke with a roar louder than Bagh's; and vast
herds of the white-faced Men-kind came, letting free the blood of the
yellow-faced ones; and in the end I was taken away, and sent down to
Rangoon, and put to work in the timber yards. There was no worship, and
few sweetmeats, and for silk covering I was given a harness with
leather collar and chain traces. It was like being back in the jungle
again--I was just a common Hathi, only I was called there Raj Singh.

"It was at that time I met the Bull who was a Rogue. He was also
working in the timber yards, but it had done him much good--his temper
was improved."

"Was it kind treatment cured him?" asked Sa'-zada.

"No," replied Hathi; "they whipped him into a gentle behavior. Two big
Bulls with heavy iron chains swinging from their trunks thrashed him
until he promised to cease making trouble. But one day he broke out
bad, and smashed everything--tore the Master's dogcart to pieces,
knocked the Cooly's haudas down, and trumpeted like an evil jungle
spirit. He even killed his Mahout, which was a silly thing, though he
declared his driver, the Mahout, sitting up on his back, one foot on
either side, had prodded viciously at his head until poor Rogue's blood
was on fire.

"But in the end they sent me away to Sa'-zada, and I am quite content";
and reaching his big trunk over to the Keeper, Hathi caressed the
latter's cheek lovingly.

"Oh, we are all content," declared Magh; "for Sa'-zada is a kind and
gentle Master."

"Now, all to your cages and your pens," cried the Keeper, "for it is
late. To-morrow night, perhaps, we shall have the tale of Gidar, the
Jackal."





Next: The Stories Of Gidar The Jackal And Coyote The Prairie Wolf

Previous: The Stories Of White Yellow And Black Leopard



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