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   Chapter 22 THE TWO ELEPHANTS.

Jack Haydon's Quest By John Finnemore Characters: 11963

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

All this passed directly below Jack's horrified eyes. The pad-elephant was so frightened at the advent of this savage specimen of his own species, that he had turned stupid and made no attempt to obey his driver's orders. Instead, he turned and backed slowly from the place, keeping his head towards the "rogue." Thus Jack saw the ferocious brute swiftly crush the life out of the man upon whom he knelt, then leap up and rush back to the spot where the two ponies and the rider who had used the dah were still lying on the ground.

The ponies had both been trodden on in that terrific charge, and the man, untouched by the elephant, had been flung three or four yards, and lay half-stunned by his fall. As he scrambled to his feet the "rogue" was upon him. With a scream of rage the maddened brute bent down his huge head and delivered a sweeping stroke with his tusk. The great sharp spear of ivory struck the man in the back and was driven clean through the body. The elephant raised his head and swung the man high above the ground. Jack shuddered as he saw the writhing figure impaled on that huge tusk.

For a moment the elephant held his victim aloft as if in triumph, then with a swing of his head he hurled the man far away, and looked round for fresh victims. At the next moment the earth shook under his tread as he thundered down upon the pad-elephant and the burden it bore.

"Cut me loose!" roared Jack to the half-caste. "What chance have I got, tied to this howdah?"

But Saya Chone, ashen with fear, clung to the edge of the car, and had eyes and ears for nothing save for the great beast charging full upon them. Jack hurled himself to and fro, trying to slacken a little the bonds which held him a prisoner under such fearful circumstances. If the pad-elephant would only make a fight of it, there would be a chance for its riders to slip down and escape, but how could Jack help himself?

As the "rogue" made his last few sweeping strides upon them, the pad-elephant seemed to pluck up the courage of desperation. He was a fine, big, powerful fellow, though not equal in size to his wild enemy, and now he took a step or two forward, threw out his huge forehead, and met his enemy in full career.

The crash as the two huge beasts charged into each other was tremendous. The pad-elephant was driven back half a dozen yards, but he kept his feet. Then the two immense creatures, head braced to head and tusks locked in tusks, began a steady trial of strength, each striving to force the other back.

Now Saya Chone plucked out his heavy revolver, and, leaning over the edge of the howdah, began to fire swiftly into the head and body of the savage "rogue." But though the bullets cut deeply into the flesh, and the blood spouted freely, the big brute troubled nothing about that. As far as reaching any vital part went, the revolver might have been a pop-gun, and the wild elephant gave himself up entirely to the struggle with his tame brother.

In a few minutes it was seen that he was carrying the day. The pad-elephant, with deep grunts of anger and fear, began to give way before the fierce strength and impetuosity of his terrible opponent. Jack looked round and saw that they were alone; the Malay and the fourth attendant had fled from the place.

Then, at the next moment, the elephant under them gave up the fight. He suddenly backed off, turned, and lumbered across the clearing in full flight. The "rogue" threw up his trunk, and trumpeted a roar of victory, then dashed after the pad-elephant in savage pursuit. He was much swifter, and soon came up on the flank where Jack, by turning his head, had him in full view. Jack saw the small, fierce eyes burning with fury, and then the head was bent and the great forehead was driven against the flying enemy. The shock was such that the pad-elephant was driven to its knees, the driver was hurled over its head, and Saya Chone flung headlong out of the car. Jack alone remained in the howdah, held fast by his bonds.

Again the "rogue" elephant charged his enemy, and now the latter was flung over on to its side, and the rim of the howdah brushed the ground. Jack looked up in despair. The vast bulk of the infuriated elephant hung right over him as the "rogue" prepared to trample upon the foe whom he had hurled to the ground. In vain did Jack dash himself to and fro in his bonds; he was fastened only too securely, and he knew that the least stroke of the foot now raised above his head would crush him as surely as a steam-hammer would crush a nut. At the next second Jack saw a gleaming white tusk dart down towards him as the "rogue" bent his head and struck.

The tusk went through the howdah within six inches of Jack's leg, and was buried deep in the back of the pad-elephant Then the "rogue," as he withdrew the dripping spear of ivory, caught sight of something and turned his wicked little eyes on it. He saw the driver and Saya Chone at some little distance running for their lives, and his fickle fancy turned to the thoughts of making short work of them before he finished with his tame brother.

Away he went in pursuit of this new object, and the pad-elephant scrambled to its feet, and stood for a few moments as if bewildered and uncertain what to do. During these few moments Jack saw the driver caught and felled to earth by the huge beast before whose savage might all stood helpless. Saya Chone had far outrun his companion, and the half-caste disappeared among the trees as the "rogue" began to trample upon the driver, whose frightful screams were silenced as both breath and life itself were swiftly crushed out of the body, so soon made pulp under those huge round feet.

Suddenly the pad-elephant wheeled about with big clumsy movements, and was off at a good round lumbering trot in the opposite direction. He had seen quite enough of this savage brother of the jungle, and had no wish for further punishment. But the "rogue" had no intention of

letting him go so easily. Leaving the driver, the wild elephant dashed after the tame one at full speed.

And now began a most extraordinary race. The pad-elephant darted straight into the jungle and took the country as it came, straight before him, thinking of nothing but escape. He dashed through groves of bamboos and saplings, cutting his way clean through; he raced grunting and puffing up hill-side and down ravines; he dodged through the big trees with an agility and swiftness most wonderful in so heavy and clumsy a beast, and all the time his enemy hung upon his rear, sometimes near enough to gore his flank, sometimes out-distanced for a little as the tame beast, frenzied with fear and pain, put out an extraordinary burst of speed. And in the howdah, fast bound still to the tough wicker-work, was Jack, the only spectator of this marvellous chase through the jungle, and one with an immense stake in it.

When the "rogue" came up, Jack's heart beat thick with anxiety. If the creature that bore him was once more knocked down, then he knew that it would be all over with him. He would certainly be crushed like a fly in the terrific struggle which would follow. When the pad-elephant got away, Jack breathed a little more freely, until he heard his enemy's ponderous steps once again thundering up.

Mile after mile, through jungle or over open plain, this marvellous chase went on, and still the pad-elephant raced snorting for his life, still the furious "rogue" pounded at his heels in hot pursuit.

Jack was nearly shaken to pieces. He braced his feet against the side of the howdah, and propped himself firmly against a corner of the huge basket in which he rode. More than once the curling trunk of the pursuer was raised above his head, but, as is well known, the wild elephant hesitated to attack a rider on the tame one's back. For three full hours the furious monarch of the jungle drove the pad-elephant before him, a ride Jack never forgot to the end of his days. Then they came out on a wide grassy plain by a river, where a large herd of wild elephants was standing knee-deep in the stream, solemnly spouting water over their backs.

On rushed the pad-elephant, now panting and almost ready to fall from exhaustion, towards his fellows. But the "rogue," a hater of his kind, pulled up, trumpeted a few shrill notes of defiance, turned, and trotted back into the jungle.

The pad-elephant now stood still, trembling from head to foot with his tremendous exertions. The herd of wild elephants, more than twenty in number, left the river and came towards the beast which bore the howdah and Jack. They marched up in slow and stately fashion, without any sign of anger, but apparently full of curiosity as to this newcomer and his strange equipment.

At the next moment Jack found himself in a most extraordinary position, his elephant being surrounded by the wild herd, whose trunks ran here and there over their tame brother like so many hands being stretched out to examine him. One big bull put his trunk into the howdah and ran it over Jack, who remained perfectly still, knowing that an incautious movement might arouse the animal's anger. But these creatures seemed as mild and gentle as the "rogue" had been ferocious. Before long their curiosity was satisfied, and they strolled away to crop the young bamboo shoots.

At last Jack breathed a little more freely. His wild ride had been a terrible business for him. A hundred and a hundred times had his heart come into his mouth when the great beast that bore him had plunged through groves where it seemed that over-hanging boughs must sweep howdah and rider from the elephant's back. But he had come through all these dangers safely, and now the "rogue" had gone back to the jungle and the pad-elephant was at peace.

Presently Jack underwent an odd experience. His elephant walked down to the river and took a long drink. Jack envied the lucky brute; he, too, was parched with thirst. But in another moment he had water enough and to spare, for the elephant, filling his trunk with water, began to cool himself by spouting it over his body, and in a very short time Jack was drenched to the skin.

"It's refreshing, at any rate," thought Jack, as he shut his eyes against a fresh deluge of yellow water. "I wish to goodness I could only work myself free. I've got clear away from Saya Chone and the Strangler, and that's something to the good."

He began again to work himself about in his bonds, but he was soon obliged to desist. He was already stiff, and he soon became very sore as he struggled with his fastenings, which seemed to be eating into his very flesh.

"It's no go," he said half-aloud. "I cannot shake myself loose," and he fell back into his corner.

His elephant now came out of the river, and looked around eagerly for food. The herd of wild ones was already deep in a large bamboo thicket, and the tame one went at once after them and began to crop and munch the bamboo shoots. The wild elephants, feeding as they went, plunged farther and farther into a region of wild jungle, far from any habitations of men, and the tame one steadily followed them, bearing on his back the young Englishman, a prisoner, and forced to accompany the elephant wherever he might go.

"I've heard," thought Jack, "that these tame ones will often break away and join wild herds. I'm in a pretty desperate fix if I've got to remain lashed in this howdah while this brute rambles far and wide with this troop of companions he has hit upon."

He looked around on every side, but saw nothing that could give him the slightest cause for hope. With every step he was being carried deeper and deeper into the recesses of the jungle where no hunter dare venture, where the elephant, the tiger, and the leopard rule as undisputed masters. His plight was terrible. Who would free him, who could free him of the bonds which held him in subjection to so cruel a fate?

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