The Jungle Book HTML version
Toomai of the Elephants
I will remember what I was, I am sick of rope and chain--
I will remember my old strength and all my forest affairs.
I will not sell my back to man for a bundle of sugar-cane:
I will go out to my own kind, and the wood-folk in their lairs.
I will go out until the day, until the morning break--
Out to the wind's untainted kiss, the water's clean caress;
I will forget my ankle-ring and snap my picket stake.
I will revisit my lost loves, and playmates masterless!
Kala Nag, which means Black Snake, had served the Indian Government in
every way that an elephant could serve it for forty-seven years, and as he was
fully twenty years old when he was caught, that makes him nearly seventy--a ripe
age for an elephant. He remembered pushing, with a big leather pad on his
forehead, at a gun stuck in deep mud, and that was before the Afghan War of
1842, and he had not then come to his full strength.
His mother Radha Pyari,--Radha the darling,--who had been caught in the same
drive with Kala Nag, told him, before his little milk tusks had dropped out, that
elephants who were afraid always got hurt. Kala Nag knew that that advice was
good, for the first time that he saw a shell burst he backed, screaming, into a
stand of piled rifles, and the bayonets pricked him in all his softest places. So,
before he was twenty-five, he gave up being afraid, and so he was the best-loved
and the best-looked-after elephant in the service of the Government of India. He
had carried tents, twelve hundred pounds' weight of tents, on the march in Upper
India. He had been hoisted into a ship at the end of a steam crane and taken for
days across the water, and made to carry a mortar on his back in a strange and
rocky country very far from India, and had seen the Emperor Theodore lying
dead in Magdala, and had come back again in the steamer entitled, so the
soldiers said, to the Abyssinian War medal. He had seen his fellow elephants die
of cold and epilepsy and starvation and sunstroke up at a place called Ali Musjid,
ten years later; and afterward he had been sent down thousands of miles south