Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

minor occupations in which he can be successfully engaged. Thus elephants were at one time employed in the launching of ships, being trained to push in unison with their powerful fronts and heavy bodies. It is told of one that was directed to force a large vessel into the water, but which proved superior to his strength, that, on being upbraided for his laziness, the distressed animal increased his efforts with such vehemence, that he fractured his skull on the spot. In piling wood, drawing water, removing obstructions from the way of an army on march, &c. the elephant is highly serviceable; and if properly directed, will perform his duties with astonishing precision. 'I have seen,' says M. D'Obsonville, 'two occupied in beating down a wall, which their keepers had desired them to do, and encouraged them by a promise of fruits and brandy. They combined their efforts; and doubling up their trunks, which were guarded from injury by leather, thrust against the strongest part of the wall, and by reiterated shocks continued their attacks, still observing and following the effect of the equilibrium with their eyes; then at last making one grand effort, they suddenly drew back together, that they might not be wounded by the ruins.' It is also told of an elephant at Barrackpore, that would swim laden with parcels to the opposite shore of the Ganges, and then unload himself with undeviating accuracy. In the year 1811, a lady, staying with her husband, an officer in the Company's service, at a house near the fort of Travancore, was astonished one morning to observe an elephant, unattended, marching into the courtyard, carrying a box in his trunk, apparently very heavy. He deposited this, and going his way, soon returned with a similar box, which he placed by the side of the other. He continued this operation till he had formed a considerable pile, arranged with undeviating order. The boxes contained the treasure of the rajah of Travancore, who had died in the night, and of whose property the English commander had taken possession, thus removing the more valuable for greater security.

Much of what is called docility in animals arises from mere unreasoning habit, forced upon them by frequent repetition, by food, punishing them when the act is ill executed, and by giving them delicacies when it is well performed. Thus a horse will go to his own stall, and stand in it untied as well as when tied; go to and from the water, place himself between the shafts of the cart, and do other similar acts without any interference ; just as an elephant will tie its own legs at night, or kneel when a person of rank passes by. But there are many duties which the latter will learn to perform almost at first sight, the knowledge of which he acquires with an aptitude that would do credit even to human reason. 'I have myself,' says the author of Twelve Years' Military Adventure, 'seen the wife of a mahoud (for the followers often take their families with them to camp) give a baby in charge to an elephant, while she went on some business, and have been highly amused in observing the sagacity and care of the unwieldy nurse. The child, which, like most children, did not like to lie still in one position, would, as soon as left to itself, begin crawling about; in which exercise it would probably get among the legs of the animal, or entangled in the branches of the trees on which he was feeding; when the elephant would, in the most tender manner, disengage his charge, either by lifting it out of the way with his trunk, or by removing the impediments to its free progress. If the child had crawled to such a distance as to verge upon the limits of his range (for the animal was chained by the leg to a peg driven into the ground), he would stretch out his trunk, and lift it back as gently as possible to the spot whence it started.'

Perhaps the docility of the elephant could not be better illustrated than by the aptitude and precision which it manifests in the capture of its wild brethren. The female decoys are the very impersonations of duplicity and cunning: they can be taught not only to lavish their false caresses, but to bind the fetters of the captive; nay, they even outstrip their lessons, and seem to rejoice in the capture. Dr Darwin tells us that he was informed by a gentleman of veracity, that in some parts of the East the elephant is taught to walk on a narrow path between two pitfalls, which are covered with turf, and then to go into the woods and induce the wild herd to come that way. The decoy walks slowly onward till near the trap, and then bustles away as if in sport or in fear, passing safely between the pits, while some of those which follow in the wake are inevitably entangled. The same gentleman says also, that it was universally observed that such wild elephants as had escaped the snare, always pursued the traitor with the utmost vehemence; and if they could overtake him, which sometimes happened, they beat him to death.

ATTACHMENT AND GRATITUDE.

The elephant, when carefully tamed, is one of the most gentle, most obedient, and most affectionate of all domestic animals. He is so fond of his keeper that he caresses him, strives to please him, and even to anticipate his commands. His attachment, indeed, sometimes becomes so strong, and his affection so warm and durable, that he has been known to die of sorrow when in a paroxysm of madness he had killed his guide. This disposition, however, is wholly acquired; in a state of nature he has no regard for man, but shuns rather than seeks his presence. Whether this acquired regard be the result of fear, of habitual obedience brought about by a system of rewards and punishments, or of an innate gentleness which insensibly attaches itself to that which daily surrounds it, it would be difficult to decide, though, along with most naturalists, we are inclined to adopt the latter opinion. The animal is naturally gregarious, and when denied the companionship of its fellows, will, like the horse, dog, &c. expend its sympathies on those creatures with which it is most familiar.

In the Philosophical Transactions a story is related of an elephant having such an attachment for a very young child, that he was never happy but when it was near him. The nurse used, therefore, very frequently to take the child in its cradle and place it between its feet. This he at length became so much accustomed to, that he would never eat his food except when it was present. When the child slept, he used to drive off the flies with his proboscis ; and when it cried, he would move the cradle backwards and forwards, and thus rock it again to sleep. Nor will this instance of sagacious affection appear at all improbable to those who are acquainted with the thorough intimacy which generally subsists between the family of the Indian mahoud and his elephant, which may be said literally to live under the same roof, eat the same bread, and drink the same water.

We have seen how attached the Duke of Devonshire's elephant became to her keeper, crying after him when absent, and even refusing to be comforted. The same affection almost always subsists between the Indian mahoud and his charge. Nor is it at all surprising, seeing that he is ever with it, feeds it, cleans it, adorns and caresses it, with unfailing attention.

The following instances of gratitude are in the highest degree praiseworthy, and might well put to the blush many who lay claim to a higher position in the scale of intelligence. An elephant in Ajmeer, which passed frequently through the bazaar, or market, as he went by a certain herb-woman, always received from her a mouthful of greens. At length he was seized with one of his periodical fits of rage, broke from his fetters, and, running through the market, put the crowd to flight, and among others this woman, who in her haste forgot a little child she had brought with her. The animal, gratefully recollecting the spot where his benefactress was wont to sit, laid aside his fury, and, taking up the infant gently in his trunk, placed it safely on a stall before a neighbouring house. Again, there was a soldier at Pondicherry who was accustomed, whenever he received his share of liquor, to carry a certain quantity of it to one of these animals, and by this means a very cordial intimacy was formed between them. Having drunk rather too freely one day, and finding himself pursued by the guards, who were going to take him to prison, the soldier took refuge under the elephant's body, and fell asleep. The guard tried in vain to force him from this asylum, as the animal protected him most strenuously with his trunk. The following morning, the soldier, recovering from his drunken fit, shuddered with horror to find himself stretched under the belly of this huge animal. The elephant, who, without doubt, perceived the man's embarrassment, caressed him with his trunk, in order to

inspire him with courage, and made him understand that he might now depart in safety.

RESENTMENT AND REVENGE.

Though generally mild, docile, and even affectionate, there are none of the domestic animals half so prone to resent injuries and insults as the elephant. The horse, for example, will endure patiently under the hardest labour, starvation, and the harshest treatment— rarely if ever avenging the brutalities to which he is exposed. Not so with the elephant; for, goad him beyond his accustomed speed, and he becomes furious; overload him, and he throws oft his burden; refuse him a promised delicacy, and he punishes the insult j treat him harshly, and he will trample the aggressor to death. The manner in which he resents his insults is, however, frequently as ludicrous as his revenge is fatal.

Every one must have read of the mishaps of the Delhi tailor. This individual was in the habit of giving some little delicacy, such as an apple, to an elephant that daily passed by his shop, and soaccustomed had the animal become to this treatment, that it regularly put its trunk in at his window to receive the expected gift. One day, however, the tailor being out of humour, thrust his needle into the beast's proboscis, telling it to be gone, as he had nothing togive it. The creature passed on, apparently unmoved; but on coming to the next dirty pool of water, filled its trunk, and returned to the shop-window, into which it discharged the whole contents,, thoroughly drenching poor Snip and the wares by which he was. surrounded. Again, a painter was desirous of drawing the elephant kept in the menagerie at Versailles in an uncommon attitude, which was that of holding his trunk raised up in the air, with his mouth open. The painter's boy, in order to keep the animal in this posture, threw fruit into his mouth ; but as he had frequently deceived him, and made him an offer only of throwing the fruit, he grew angry; and, as if he had known the painter's intention of drawing him was the cause of the affront that was offered him, instead of revenging himself on the lad, he turned his resentment on his master, and taking up a quantity of water in his trunk, threw it on the paper which the painter was drawing on, and spoilt it.

A sentinel belonging to the menagerie at Paris was always very careful in requesting the spectators not to give the elephants anything to eat. This conduct particularly displeased the female, who beheld him with a very unfavourable eye, and had several times endeavoured to correct his interference by sprinkling his head with water from her trunk. One day, when several persons were collected to view these animals, a bystander offered the female a bit of bread. The sentinel perceived it; but the moment he opened his mouth to give his usual admonition, she, placing herself immediately before kirn, discharged in his face a violent stream of water. A general laugh ensued; but the sentinel having calmly wiped his face, stood a little to one side, and continued as vigilant as before. Soon afterwards he found himself under the necessity of repeating his admonition to the spectators; but no sooner was this uttered, than the female laid hold of his musket, twirled it round with her trunk, trod it under her feet, and did not restore it till she had twisted it nearly into the form of a corkscrew. It is stated, amongst the traditionary stories of elephant resentment, that Pidcock, to whom the Exeter 'Change menagerie formerly belonged, had for some years a custom of treating himself and his elephant in the evening with a glass of spirits, for which the animal regularly looked. Pidcock invariably gave the elephant the first glass out of the bottle, till one night he exclaimed: 'You have been served first long enough, and k 's my turn now.' The proud beast was offended, refused the glass when he was denied the precedence, and never more would join his master in his revelries.

Innumerable stories of ludicrous resentment might be collected, but we shall close this section with the following abridgments from the Menageries: 'Mr Williamson tells an anecdote of an elephant who used to be called the Pangul, or fool, but who vindicated his claim to another character in a very singular manner. He had refused to bear a greater weight upon a march than was agreeable to him, by constantly pulling part of the load off his back; and a quarter-master of brigade, irritated at his obstinacy, threw a tentpin at his head. In a few days after, as the animal was going from the camp to water, he overtook the quarter-master, and seizing him with his trunk, lifted him into a large tamarind-tree which overhung the road, leaving him to cling to the boughs, and get down as well as he could. Lieutenant Shipp, to try this memory of injuries, gave an elephant a large quantity of Cayenne pepper between some bread. The animal was much irritated by the offence, and about six weeks after, when the unsuspecting joker went to fondle him, he endured the caresses very placidly, but finished the affair by drenching his persecutor with dirty water from head to foot.'

It is not always, however, in this harmless and jocular manner that the elephant displays his resentment, as the following wellauthenticated instances will shew: An elephant that was exhibited in France some years ago, seemed to know when it was mocked by any person, and remembered the affront till an opportunity for revenge occurred. A man deceived it, by pretending to throw something into its mouth: the animal gave him such a blow with its trunk as knocked him down, and broke two of his ribs; after which it trampled upon him, broke one of his legs, and bending down on its knees, endeavoured to push its tusks into his body; but they luckily ran into the ground on each side of his thigh, without doing him any injury. In this case the provocation was certainly not

« ForrigeFortsett »