Most Wise, Most Subtle Kingly Mountain, Raj of Elephants — So Kudrat called him, and with reason
AT THE first treble note of the young bull’s angry trumpet, old Chundra knew that the thing he had awaited for more than a year had come at last. The herd of nearly a hundred elephants had halted for a day on the banks of the Indus. They were scattered here and there in the forest when the young bull’s challenge crashed upon the stillness. Immediately Chundra, the ancient leader of the band, left the plantain tree on which he had been feeding and made his way toward the distant sound. As he went, the live old leading bulls, Chundra’s advisory council, also ceased feeding and fell in behind him.
The sounder of the trumpet call, a young thirty-year-old bull, came stamping and blowing out of the thickets at sight of Chundra, and once more blared his challenge w ith upraised trunk. The rules of the game demanded a formal answer, and the old leader curled his own trunk above his head and sounded a trumpet note of his own, then came on.
This was the moment for which old Chundra had waited with a secret satisfaction. He was an old beast, nearly a hundred, almost as old as an elephant may be, and in his vast brain that was almost equal to the brain of a man, he was glad that the hour for his abdication had arrived. For sixty years he had led the herd in its wanderings up and down and back and forth through the great 'Ferai Forest, that laps like a fecund sea about the flanks of the Indian Himalayas. Now he was weary of responsibility, the glory had long gone from his kingship. Being a leader entailed many things. It meant being first in strength, first in battle and establishing proud priority in the mating rites of the herd, and Chundra had no further use for these. They were glories to fire the young and arrogant. Gladly he would have relinquished his crown now' without a struggle, but there are strict laws governing an elephant herd. A herd leader is vested with power for life, and no more than a human monarch may he lay aside his mantle without due ceremony.
The young challenger was a colossal beast, taller even than Chundra himself, though not as heavy. It was he whom the wise elders of the herd had long known to be the next logical contestant for leadership. Born in the herd and schooled through the years in Chundra’s own wisdom, he had simply developed by slow degrees into the mightiest bull in the band, with a power as yet unguessed even by himself. The spring mating fever was once more beginning to be felt in the herd, and now that power in the young bull had become a tiling too vast to be longer subdued, just as Chundra had foreseen.
For more than a minute both great bulls stxxl still, about half a gunshot apart, eyeing each other, apparently placidly, almost motionless, enormous, sombre and brooding. Each of them was nearly twelve feet from ground to head, of implacable, devastating might; each close to six tons of annihilating, resistless weight; nine feet from tip to tip of swung-out, sail-like ears; eight feet and 250 pounds weight of gleaming, battering tusks. No wonder they paused for a space as if to weigh the gravity of the thing and give one another time to withdraw if so minded, before hurling all that titanic force into combat.
Behind Chundra the five old herd bulls were standing together in a little group beneath two plantain trees, standing quite evidently for established law and order until further notice. Behind the young bull loomed his constant crony, a gaunt one-tusk«! bull of evil repute. A natural trouble-maker, this bull for a year past had found perverse satisfaction in egging on the hot-tempered thirty-year-old in anticipation of just this moment.
It was the young challenger who broke the dramatic pause. Abruptly he beat the ground hollowly with his trunk and advanced with lowered head. Without hatred or malice, out of mere duty to give all comers satisfaction, Chundra blasted and likewise advanced, rocking and rolling like a battleship in a heavy sea. They came together with a monumental clash of yellowed tusks and meeting skulls, and with a strain in sheer foot-pounds pressure such as could scarcely be reckoned.
For a full hour then, while the watching herd squealed and trumpeted and shifted their ranks to accommodate the fighters, the great beasts heaved and strained, tusk striking tusk in a stupendous yet cunning test of wile and strength.
The forest echoed again and again to the dull shock and scrape of their colliding bodies as they lunged and parried. Then, drawing off, they would lumber to the attack again, meeting with a concussion that made the ground tremble. Great branches and even the trunks of small trees toppled and came down as they crashed against them; creepers parted like string, and the undergrowth was flattened out beneath the great trampling feet.
Several times Chundra was seen to stagger plainly, blunder sidewise and recover. It may well be that he refrained from putting his utmost craft into that battle, for certain it was that involved and varied thought processes took place in his vast brain. At any rate he fought steadily and convincingly, and where the young bull showed an edge on him in quickness and the jx)wer of recovery, it was only a small edge.
At the end of an hour two things were plain to the watching elders: in craft and sagacity Chundra was still master, but the younger bull’s sheer physical strength and resiliency had worn the old monarch down. In the end, Chundra, a flaming bar of crimson standing out on his shoulder, lowered his head and curled his trunk backward in token of defeat and backed slowly from the arena, leaving the thirty-year-old to trumpet his victory afar. Ostensibly the young bull had become leader of the band, physically he was supreme, but in wisdom he had yet to prove himself.
And that, one might think, would have ended the affair, but it was not so. A ruler of sixty years standing was not to retire from politics so easily as all that. Chundra still had his faithful retainers, old cronies among the leading bulls and his devoted retinue of nursemaids, elderly spinster elephants who had been attached to him for more than a decade. These remain«! as faithful and watchful now as when he had been king. And so for a week or two Chundra remained with the herd as a follower, a most valued member of the advisory council so to speak, and twice his seasoned wisdom had been put to great account; once when the new leader got the herd into a dangerous morass whose secret mazes Chundra had learned more than a score of years before, and again when native elephant hunters tried to pocket the band in a great keddah in the forest, camouflaged with growing vines and branches. For Chundra had known man. He had even lost his fear of man, that terror that forever obsessed the wild elephants. Long ago he had learned all the tricks of the elephant hunters, for he had been captured in his youth, and it was that knowledge combined with the wisdom of the jungle trails that had made him the great monarch that he was.
What he wanted now was to depart on a long and aimless journey, to be alone with his dreams and his memories. He liad a great deal of trouble with his teeth these days, like all old people, and that meant tusk trouble too, for tusks are teeth, albeit sujxirteeth which develop a superache accordingly, which is disastrous to the disposition. Soon, very soon, he would be starting on his long final journey, the longest of all, to the secret resting place of his kind, the Elephant Burial Grounds. A year or so at best w as all that remained to him. Until then he had the urge that comes to all the aged, whether human or animal, to rest and reminisce, to putter and take his time, to grumble and be surly and self-absorbed and surrender to plain crankiness if so minded, and enjoy the weird pleasure that accompanied it. He waited therefore until the pcrf«’t time and opportunity arrived, and on a night of calling breeze and moonshine, slipped away from the herd unnoticed and headed up into the fastnesses of the high Kashmir hills.
FOLLOWED an endless procession of tranced and sundrenched days, in which he wandered wherever fancy led him, drugg«! by the blissful apathy that followed strife. This was the time of which he had dreamed for many years, days in which he had nothing to do but humor his whims, with undisputed feeding grounds and basking places where neither law nor duty nor females could curtail ihm. For a w-eek at a time he would remain almost quiescent, drowsing much and roaming not at all except to move down to the river in the heat of the day. There he would bathe for hours. Lying in the shallows he would spray trunkfuls of warm water over his back, and the jungle folk
for half a mile around would hear the grotesque far-carrving grunts and squeals of delight that only an elephant gives. A contentment he had not known since calfhood returned to him. and his mind, like the mind of an old man, roved back into the past. And what visions he had—processions of barbaric grandeur in which he had borne a gleaming howdah on his back: gay Durbars in the courts of Indian princes: the warm palms of a generation of manlings, and of the beautiful women of the palaces who had loved him and paid him tribute of honey cakes and ginger.
Indian history had been made in his century span of life. In his youth he had seen men laying the iron trails for the first, fire-carriages through the forest. He had seen the redcoats marching up along the lower valleys of the Terai with tame elephants carrying their screw-guns, and he had heard the sound of far battles in the Sepoy Mutiny. He had seen the crumbling of small Indian satrapies of the interior. Some of these he had wandered through, long after the jungle had taken them back and hyenas and jackals laired in their crumbling courts and palaces.
Before he was twenty he had been a captive in the court of one of these small rulers, the old Rajah of Cooch Behar. His tusks had been banded with gold then, and his legs had known chains. But the strongest bonds humans could devise had been inadequate to hold for long his colossal strength, once he had passed his twenty-fifth year, and he had broken away at last and sought the jungle to fulfill his destiny.
He loved the jungle nights that throbbed and pulsed as if with hot bhxxi. the tense stillness of midday when the green gloom of the forest was like a cave of the dead except for the occasional planing of a parrot or weaver bird from tree to tree.
At night he revelled in the spicy jungle scents released by the dew. His mind became purged of old worries and duties, and he found these last days wonderful even as certain old men who have lived a noble and gracious life. He could relish the sawing snarl of the hunting tiger these days, and tolerate the horrible laughter of the hyenas and their poor relations, the jackals, and even their close attentions, for they kept sharp watch of him now as if they knew that his days were numbered.
T_TE HAD his little adventures, too. Once he had to crush and trample a giant python that had foolishly flung a mottled coil about his forelegs, thinking to overpower him. Another time he wandered upcountrv for aimless days, passing beyond the highest teak and bamboo forests, beyond all the travelled game trails, to the realm where the snowy ounce prowled ghostlike beneath low deodars at timber line. This was not at all elephant country: too high and too steep, too much danger of falling and breaking a leg, which meant death, for the gait of the great pachyderms is single-footed and they are tx) heavy to navigate on three legs. But Chundra did not heed nor care. No herd to think of now, and this was holiday, his first as well as last.
It was there one day amid the icy winds from the heights that he saw a band of the rarest creatures left on the planet, the incredibly hideous Kirt-lsen-heou, or “monkeys of the snow,” who hate all other living things. With a crescendo of horrible howling and the look of demons on their greenish bearded faces, they surrounded Chundra. showering him with abuse and many things worse. And Chundra, the mighty, the old king, fled away from that place, not in fear but in deep disgust, for of all creatures he loathed the monkey folk most, the only beasts who had hands and could hurl missiles like men, yet with brains as vile as a mad jackal's.
Thus for nearly four months Chundra’s peregrinations continued. Twice during that i>eriod he almost ran into the old herd again, but was warned in time to slip silently away from the more populous game trails. At the end of that time he found himself in a stretch of dense river bush he had known and loved long ago in his youth. Along the stream banks, juicy cane grew in rank profusion. It was here he had had his right ear slit on a tiger hunt with the Great Raj, his master, when Harima, the tigress, came charging from the burning jungle edge, to make one last spring to Chundra’s head before she fell beneath the weapons of the men in the howdah above. There was a deep still pool just at the bend of the river, and here he had bathed on the day of that far-off hunt while his mahout tended his wounds. And here he bathed again, and as vividly as if it had been yesterday he relived the details of that hunt, for that is the manner in which an elephant’s memory spans the years.
But there were things that made it very easy to recall it all—the presence, for instance, of another tiger, very much like the terrible Harima of old, whose great pugmarks were to be seen in the wet mold of the stream bank, the dread of every native in the district. Chundra, of course, was well aware of this: his trunk with its marvellous washed-air cooling and scenting system had apprised him of that at once, and later as he bathed he had actually glimpsed the painted mask of the tiger regarding him from the jungle edge. But though he was old and alone, Chundra knew no trepidation concerning that terrible lord of the
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upon the wild things he dealt with as I created more or less for the pleasure of the ; hunter, to test his skill and to serve his ; economic purpose, and the happenings i afield as simply a part of the day's work.
But in India he had achieved a different ! point of view, a fatalism which granted I deep reason back of all the seemingly chance happenings and contacts of life, a i purpose that was part of a great plan. A I deadly snake found in one’s camp, or the offer of presents from a rajah, each had its bearing and cause somewhere in the chemistry of a man’s days. It was no chance therefore that had brought old Chundra, who had known man before, wandering out of nowhere to become for a time his captive. The reason was not apparent now, but would show itself. Meantime the big bull was invaluable to him as a burden-bearer and companion.
"Saw you anything of Ilari, Kudrat?” Mayhew asked, giving the lame tiger its native name.
"He is still dose by, sahib. I came upon tracks by the river, some of them but an hour old. 1 le is very large, as the villagers have said. His pug-marks as broad as the tracks of a water buffalo, and he will take much catching, for a tiger that stalks by day has lost all fear. He will be watching the very men as they dig the pit trap. One wonders indeed if he is not watching close by at this moment, for surely something unpleasant is annoying the Great One . . .”
Chundra had ceased his contented rocking, and his little eyes were watching the near-by jungle edge as he chewed his cane. From time to time his trunk raised to winnow the air, and he blasted sharply ! and with distinct displeasure.
“Tomorrow,” said Mayhew, “the pit will be finished. Then we shall see what we i shall see.’’
' I VHERE WAS a double reason for Mayhew’s eagerness to capture this particular tiger. He had a standing offer from his people of $5,000 for a large, fiery, hill-bred tiger such as this. True, Hari was lame, ever since he had been wounded by a hunter’s bullet three seasons before, but that would matter little once he was in a cage. His truly remarkable size would more than make up for it. Likewise his capture would rid the district of a terror not only to beasts but to men, for three ; times Hari had made a human kill in the ! vicinit y of the native village a mile upriver.
His fall therefore would be hailed as a i blessing by the natives.
A tiger with a bent and twisted hind leg I is not agile enough to be sure of its usual game in the jungle. His stalking is no longer faultless, the injured leg cuts down his spring to a fraction of its former range and speed. Very soon after his accident, therefore, Hari had taken the line of least resistance and turned his attention to man. Always it is a very old or crippled tiger that turns mankiller.
In the thickets and in the fifteen-foot reeds that grew along the river bank, Hari was known to spend his daytime hours. By night he prowled about the native village, dreaming of man’s tender flesh as once he had dreamed of young deer. The scent of this upstanding enemy which had formerly brought him only fear and torment, now inflamed his senses with a terrible lust. It was really so easy after all. It had amazed even Hari himself to learn that men were the weakest things in all the jungle, the dullest of sense, the least agile of creatures, whose speed was not even equal to that of an aged buffalo.
Although he preserved a certain wary wisdom, his boldness had increased month by month, and the natives had long since taken to retiring as soon as darkness fell and keeping well away from the river trails even in daytime.
Always, for a hundred sears and more, there had been a great tiger or pair of tigers to lord it over this particular stretch of river bush. It was so far from all roads and all places that the natives had become inured to such a state of affairs. This
particular tiger was none other than the grandson of that famed Harima of old that Chundra had helped to slay. These things Mayhew had gathered in the course of his hobnobbing with the villagers.
He had his doubts about catching such a tiger in a pit trap with an ordinary bait of young kid, however. A bait of young human would be more in Hari’s line, he thought grimly. However, he would try, and. failing in the capture, lie would at all events end the Lame One’s career with a bullet by a concerted tiger hunt, for the beast was beginning to get on his nerves. This lonely camp of his by the river had become a magnetic spot for Hari on his rounds. Nightly Joan had awakened shuddering at the long-drawn “Aiee-ooo-oum!” the blood-chilling hunger moan of the tiger from the near-by jungle, followed always by a sound like a ghoulish laugh with a leer running through it, the unearthly howling that jackals only make when hunting with a tiger, known as the “pheal.” This is one of the most effective of all a tiger’s hunting wiles. Its purpose is to paralyze with fright and paralyze it does, man and beast alike, the part played by the tiger’s "followers” being no less effective than his own dread voice.
For some of those hideous nights Hari would pay, Mayhew vowed.
1 lis doubts about the pit trap were proved well grounded in the next few days. Each morning there were repeated signs of the big cat’s prowling about camp. But as far as snare or deadfall was concerned, they might as well have been marked by bells and warning signs. Day after dav the Lame One, infamously familiar with man, continued to match and mock the best of Mayhew’s trapping skill, as well as that of Kudrat Das.
After a few days Mayhew ceased to focalize on the tiger. Already time was pressing. The season of the monsoons was almost at hand and before that time he wished to leave for the coast with the numerous prizes he had captured during his two months stay in upper Kashmir. On the fifth day after Chundra’s capture, Mayhew with most of his “boys”—Madras and Singhalese, with a sprinkling of Burmese—made an expedition into the deep bush to trap more gibbons and collect a thirty-foot python reported to be sleeping off a big feed. Joan was left in camp with only Kudrat Das and one of the men for protection—excepting of course for old Chundra.
"PROM THE very first hour a definite
and delectable chord had been struck between these two. The sight of the white woman, her voice and the fair sweet scent of her, had carried Chundra back into the past like nothing else he had yet seen. For he was a prince of caste and the memsahih was a lady, and like Kudrat of the soothing voice, she treated him as a Great One should oe treated.
Joan had purloined sugar and ginger for the old king, she had washed out and cured for him a festering wound made by jungle thorns, for which he would ever be grateful. Likewise she had adapted from old Kudrat the flowery native form of speech with him.
Like Chundra’s, this trip of hers into Kashmir was a holiday, back of it the pressure of all the long-held dreams and desires of girlhood concerning the Far East and the storied Vales of Kashmir. But what she had found here went beyond all that—deep revelations and a beauty and mystery that surpassed the romantic lore that had drawn her to this land. And the highlight of her holiday was this mythical relationship with old Chundra.
The heart of noon on this particular day; a blanket of heat pressing upon the jungle—that midday hiatus of the tropics that is more silent even than midnight. When she and Kudrat had finished their light lunch of fruits and honey, Joan retired to her screen-covered hammock until the worst of the heat was over, for at this hour, if a white man’s helmet were to roll
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but a dozen feet into the sunlight, it behooved him to wait in the shade till a native fetched it. But she did not sleep today as usual. The heat was too oppressive, and for another thing, a myna bird kept up a continual scolding close to the camp’s edge. Presently she saw Kudrat unfasten Chundra’s ankle chains preparatory to taking the Great One down to the stream for his midday bath. She watched as the grey trunk twined gently about the little old man and swung him lightly aloft.
The myna bird continued to scold from the same spot. Over at the far side of the clearing the Singhalese boy dozed at the foot of a big tree. Joan lay still for a time, the distant sounds of parrots and gibbons exercising a hypnotic monotony on her senses. Later she must have fallen asleep for a space, at any rate she returned to consciousness very suddenly with eyes wide open.
She continued to lie quite motionless, as complete awareness flowed back to her brain. Beneath half-closed lids she took in the clearing. Perhaps it was only the heat that had awakened her. And yet as drowsiness drained completely from her, she was aware of a tiny gong of alarm that seemed to have been ringing a long time in her head.
A feeling of uneasiness began to pervade her every nerve, but some attunement to the wild gained during months in the open, warned her against making the slightest move. Instead, she opened her eyes a bit wider and. as a dim form in a negative slowly stands out for the eye, she became aware of the satanic painted mask of a great tiger no more than twenty feet away.
It was Hari. and he stood in a patch of mottled sun and shadow that camouflaged him perfectly, his gaze for the moment drawn by the horrified sputtering of a pair of gibbons in a near-by cage. Joan recalled the persistent complaint of the myna bird, that alarm bell of the jungle, and knew that the tiger must have been lurking near for hours. She knew that he had been creeping toward herat the moment she had awakened, and that if she had made one sudden move he would have sprung. Killer that he was, in the alien sunlight of midday His high-tension nervous system was on edge, his purpose diffused by every sound. Only this and the inborn dalliance of all cats had given her these moments of grace.
If only she could scream for help!
TJTER HEART pounding until it shook •*her body, Joan nevertheless had presence of mind to refrain from making the slightest sound. Instinct warned her that if she called or made a single move, the tiger would be upon her like a yellow bolt. She recalled that the revolver Mayhew had given her hung in the tent, at least thirty feet away. Useless to think of that. So she continued to lie as one dead, watching the pale yellow eyes of the tiger turning this way and that as he hesitated, catlike, to enter the patch of bright sunlight that lay just before him.
Now she saw that the spot beneath the tree where the Singhalese boy had rested was deserted. No need to wonder what had become of him. Your natives were generally in a funk when crisis came. He had slipped away into the forest no doubt, and sought safety in some tall tree. There was just a chance, however, that he might have gone after Kudrat Das. She breathed a silent prayer at the thought, while, moveless as a mouse feigning death before a cat, she waited, waited for what might come — the death spring, or some miracle, some possible interruption from the jungle roundabout.
More than a minute dragged by—a period out of all time to Joan. Her limbs became unbearably cramped under the strain, and nerves like hot needles seemed pricking her skin. The tiger had now
collected his scattered faculties, the empty unforgettable eyes once more lixed ujxjn the dim figure behind the hanging net. An unholy tempest of exultation possessed him, a hunting fever that only human game induced. Ding since Hari had learned that, just as a young doe is easiei prey than a horned buck, certain of the man tribe were more easily taken than others. Such a one was before him now, alone in the camp, for he had seen the other men creatures depart. His lean body quivered and stiffened as he inched forward.
Although the strange netting that hung between him and the woman perturbed him somewhat, Joan knew that in a moment or two he would make his spring. Then, even as she was almost driven to screaming desperation, there came an interruption, twanging her stretched nerves to breaking, and startling the tiger into swift movement that brought an involuntary gasp from the girl.
The sound that came to her was slight though imperative, upsetting the dramatictension at the very instant of crisis. Joan knew it to be Kudrat and Chundra returning along the river trail, and in the same breath she realized that her one chance had come.
Hari had turned his head to glare, his lean lower jaw dropping in a soundless snarl, his tense muscles quivering. He was furious and afraid. Yet he was too close to his prey now to turn away. The stalking tiger and the stooping hawk the wild blood of these two is too fierce to brook a change of purpose once their kill is chosen. In spite of the man who was coming closer each instant, he would make his leap first
and trust to chance to drag his prey away into the forest.
Instinctively Joan knew that Hari would never spring until he had sunk to a crouch once more. Before he had done so she went silently to her knees, and drew herself swiftly up on the stout branch from which the hammock was strung. In that same little instant she called out high and clear to Kudrat Das and the tiger made his rush.
For a saving breath or two there at the base of the tree, the tawny terror fouled his claws in the folds of netting. It was only frail cotton stuff that had been draped about the hammock, but to the tiger it was disconcerting and full of menace. He spat and ripped the clinging stuff to shreds before he sprang for the lower limb. But already Joan was climbing to the limb above, while from behind something was coming across the clearing, a vast form rushing as on wings of wind.
A PYTHONLIKE trunk flicked out and, regardless of the saber claws that might rip it and cause slow death by starvation should the wounds fester, wrapped about one of the tiger’s hind legs, tugged and flung the striped one to the ground with a rib-cracking jolt. Then above the tumult rose the voice of Kudrat Das, on Chundra’s back, encouraging, giving orders. “Tehoh! Oh, Wise and
Fearless! Hee! Ter hum!”
Ancient words of the elephant cult. The very orders Chundra had known of old when he harried tigers out of the deep jungle. The old man had carried no weapon to the river and now he dare not descend for one. The entire situation hung upon old Chundra.
The tiger rose like a yellow streak, dodged, slipped beneath the elephant’s legs and sprang again to the tree bole. Chundra whirled, cunning with all the cunning of the tiger hunts of old. Again the flick of that reaching trunk dragged Hari down in time to balk his victory. But as he fell his claws ripped cruelly, terribly, down one hind leg. and the elephant bellowed with pain. Then he crashed down
with a great forefoot, just missing the tiger s vitals, as Hari with a scream writhed free.
“Ahee! Well done, Great and Sacred Pigling!” Kudrat’s voice, praising, encouraging. “Once more and the victory is thine.”
But now Hari’s blood was up. For the first time in many years, he had been frustrated on the very verge of a kill. Eyes phosphor-pale, he circled, dodged, but again the huge bulk of the elephant inter|X>sed. Hari knew well when humans were armed and when not; nothing to fear from either the man or the woman. He sprang high and buried his great curved teeth in the elephant’s shoulder, claws sunk into one pillarlike leg as into a tree. Chundra staggered, trumpeted in agonv as the bright blood flowed, but at Kudrat’s command wheeled swiftly again to face the striped shape of fear as it flashed aside and settled with quivering muscles for a final charge.
Round and round in a dizzying half circle the tiger slunk, the big padded feet of the elephant turning with him in a frenzied jig of vigilance. He had done his part and more. Why was there no help as of old from the man who rode him, only pressure, endless wheedling encouragement? He rumbled, groaned protestingly.
Then from haunches of coiled steel Hari sprang in from the side, flashed beneath Chundra’s belly and up to the lower branch again. He caught, hung, spat and Chundra moved by blind instinct, terrible and avenging, crashed a great shoulder against the tree—the wounded shoulder, so that he groaned aloud. But even as an apple is crushed in a press the tiger’s body was crushed against the trunk, to fall in a yowling crumpled heap to the ground, where his life’s blood was trodden out beneath the elephant’s mighty weight. For Chundra sank on his knees to knead that hated form past all resemblance of any beast that had ever lived.
T ONG BEFORE dusk that night MayL-* hew was back with the boys, drawn by a telepathic sense that all was not well in camp Joan met him on the river trail, her pale face seeming to leap at him from the shadows—a strange moment in which the man knew that some part of him had been aware of what had happened for hours. He did not voice it then, nor did he let Joan talk until much later in the twilight as they sat with Kudrat Das before the open tent.
The forest breathed in the first cool of night, great moths and fireflies on silent wings spatted against the tent flap. A fire crackled brightly before the tent and its
yellow glow showed old Chundra standing in his usual place, though no ankle chains had been put on him, at the sahib’s order. 'I hose ankles and both great forelegs were red and torn as though grapnel had fouled them. Mayhew and Kudrat had worked long over the wounds, bathing them as on that other far-off day in the deep pool at the river bend, and applying healing salve from the medicine kit. The Great One was still in pain, but a rumble of contentment came from him as he rocked, for he had been given a quart of arrack in warm honey water.
Mayhew’s gaze was lost in the fire, through his mind a train of grim finalities was burning. He knew now the reason why old Chundra had been led to his jungle camp; he knew also the reason for many other things that had hitherto been mere conjecture, and he dared not dwell upon what would have happened had they been otherwise.
__ Long after the camp was still that night, Chundra continued to dream and rock and dream—of olden hunts, of wars, of labor and gay processions. And because of the warmth of the arrack in his blood and the mounting fever that came of his wounds, past and present were as one, and all between was lost.
^ Out of this, some hours later, came the Call. I low or whence it came there was no saying, but he knew, as infallibly as any premonition of the spirit ever given to man, that these wounds of his were final— that he was not to recover. Nature had finally conquered—an urge from the unseen pulled him irresistibly toward that final sanctuary of his kind. Where that sanctuary was he did not know, only his mysterious elephant sense knew, but it was far, and the time that was left him was none too long.
In the earliest grey of dawn, Mayhew was awakened by Kudrat Das at the tent flap. The little mahout had been worried about the elephant and had stood guard most of the night. There was a wail in his voice now as he pointed to the form of old Chundra disappearing into the night mist.
“Said I not so last night?” he cried. “But the me nmay be able to head him off. ” “Head off nothing,” said Mayhew firmly, “and let none of the boys leave camp.” Full understanding, sudden and sure, seemed vouchsafed him.
“But the elephant, and the promised reward,” wailed Kudrat miserably.
“Where the Great One has gone now no man may follow nor bring him back. As for the reward,” smiled Mayhew, “it shall be even greater than that which was first promised. Have the boys pack this morning; we will leave at midday.”