The Animal Story Book - online children's book

Edited By Andrew Lang And With Numerous Illustrations By H. J. Ford

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MORE ABOUT ELEPHANTS
325
was, contained the only water to be found for a great dis­tance. On three sides of the tank there was a clearing, but on the fourth lay a very thick wood, where the herd lay encamped all day, waiting for darkness to fall, so that they might all go to drink. Major Skinner knew the habits of elephants well, and what to expect of them, so he sent all his natives to sleep, and climbed himself into a large tree that sheltered the tank at one corner. However, it appeared that the elephants were unusually cautious that night, for he sat in his tree for two hours before a sound was heard, though they had been lively enough as long as the sun was shining.
Suddenly a huge elephant forced his way through the thickest part of the forest, and advanced slowly to the tank, his ears at full cock, and his eyes glancing stealthily round. He gazed longingly at the water for some minutes, but did not attempt to drink — perhaps he felt it would be a mean advantage to take of his comrades — and then he quietly retraced his steps backwards till he had put about a hundred yards between himself and the water, when five elephants came out of the jungle and joined him. These he led forward, listening carefully as before, and placed them at certain spots where they could command a view both of the open country and the forest. This done, and the safety of the others provided for, he went to fetch the main body of the herd, which happened to be four or five times as large as usual. Silently, as if preparing for an assault, the whole of this immense body marched up to where the scouts were standing, when a halt was signalled, so that the leader might for the last time make sure that no hidden danger, in the shape of man, lion, or tiger, awaited them. Then permission was given, and with a joyful toss of their trunks in the air, in they dashed, drinking, wallowing, and rolling over with delight, till one would have thought it had been years since they had tasted a drop of water, or known the pleasures of a bath.
From his perch in the tree Major Skinner had been
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