His Majestys Elephant
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It takes a good deal of prodding to put up a gun-bullock. Here, youngster, stop squealing. The dark never hurt anybody yet.
The gun-bullocks lay down together and began chewing the cud, but the young mule huddled close to Billy. They came into our lines while we were asleep. Nearly all our horses for the English cavalry are brought to India from Australia, and are broken in by the troopers themselves. The first time they put the full harness with all its chains on my back I stood on my forelegs and kicked every bit of it off. When a battery—a screw-gun mule calls gun-bullocks gentlemen, he must be very badly shaken up.
Who are you fellows on the ground there? We were asleep when the camels came, but when we were trampled on we got up and walked away. It is better to lie quiet in the mud than to be disturbed on good bedding. We told your friend here that there was nothing to be afraid of, but he knew so much that he thought otherwise.
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I hope you like it, young un. But the bullocks only clicked their horns together and went on chewing. But what do you do on active service?
What’s so special about a white elephant?
How can you do anything, unless you can spin round at once when the rein is pressed on your neck? Get round with your hind legs under you the instant you feel the rein on your neck. I suppose it comes to the same thing. Now, with all this fine fancy business and rearing, which must be very bad for your hocks, what do you do? The man was lying on the ground, and I stretched myself not to tread on him, and he slashed up at me.
Next time I have to go over a man lying down I shall step on him—hard. Knives are dirty things at any time. Then you stand still and keep quiet—never ask a man to hold your head, young un—keep quiet while the guns are being put together, and then you watch the little poppy shells drop down into the tree-tops ever so far below.
I wish I could show you our business. Why, it took me three years to find out what the men were driving at. The science of the thing is never to show up against the sky line, because, if you do, you may get fired at.
See a Problem?
Remember that, young un. Always keep hidden as much as possible, even if you have to go a mile out of your way.
I lead the battery when it comes to that sort of climbing. I should want to charge—with Dick. But knives—pah! The baggage-camel had been bobbing his head to and fro for some time past, anxious to get a word in edgewise. Then I heard him say, as he cleared his throat, nervously:. Well, how was it, old Hay-bales? Any men that came along?
Her Majesty’s Servants
I am not frightened then. I sit still and wait. Well, well! Did you ever hear anything so awful as that? There is only one way of fighting. I suppose you fellows fight standing on your tails? They must have been twins. To put all twenty yoke of us to the big gun as soon as Two Tails trumpets. Two Tails is a great coward.
Then we tug the big gun all together—Heya—Hullah! We do not climb like cats nor run like calves. We go across the level plain, twenty yoke of us, till we are unyoked again, and we graze while the big guns talk across the plain to some town with mud walls, and pieces of the wall fall out, and the dust goes up as though many cattle were coming home. Eating is always good. We eat till we are yoked up again and tug the gun back to where Two Tails is waiting for it.
Sometimes there are big guns in the city that speak back, and some of us are killed, and then there is all the more grazing for those that are left. This is Fate. None the less, Two Tails is a great coward. That is the proper way to fight. We are brothers from Hapur. Our father was a sacred bull of Shiva. We have spoken. I never heard such stuff. But— the other things—no! Remember that, you big brown Brumby! Brumby means wild horse without any breeding. I saw the white of his eye glitter in the dark.
White Elephants in Thailand
Are you ready? Be quiet. Two Tails, are you tied up?
Two Tails, why are you afraid of the guns when they fire? My battery captain called me a Pachydermatous Anachronism the other day. It means betwixt and between, and that is just where I am. I try not to think about it. I know just enough to be uncomfortable, and not enough to go on in spite of it. Two Tails stamped his foot till the iron ring on it jingled. If I was like my captain—he can see things inside his head before the firing begins, and he shakes all over, but he knows too much to run away—if I was like him I could pull the guns. But if I were as wise as all that I should never be here.