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THERE are two varieties of the camel; the Bactrian camel, with two hunches; and the dromedary, with only one. The first is a native of Asia, and the latter belongs to the African continent.
The camel with two hunches is much stronger and shorter on its legs than the dromedary, and is chiefly employed as a beast of burden; its great strength enabling it to carry very heavy loads. The dromedary is a much lighter and more active creature, and is the chief means of maintaining an intercourse between the different parts of Africa and Arabia. The Arab venerates his camel as the gift of heaven, and without its aid he could neither subsist, trade, nor travel.
In those parts of the world there are districts where the sun shines upon vast plains of parched and trackless sand. Sometimes a whirlwind raises this loose sand in clouds; at other times the traveller has to dread the fury of a scorching wind, called the Simoom. But, in all his difficulties, his reliance is on the camel; which has been called “the Ship of the Desert,” because it is so much used to convey merchandise across those sandy plains, which would otherwise be impassable.
The camel is from five to seven feet high; the head is small, the neck very long, and the body of a long irregular shape, the legs tall and slender, and the tail reaches to the joints of the hind legs. The feet are very large, and are hoofed in a very peculiar manner. The under part of the feet is protected by a long, tough, and pliable skin, which by yielding in all directions enables the animal to travel with perfect security over dry, hot, and sandy regions.
While being laden, camels show their dislike to any packet which appears too heavy. When however, it is
once on their backs, they continue to bear it with the patient expression of countenance which I fear passes for more than it is worth. All camels are loaded kneeling, and they can go from twenty-four to sixty hours without rest, and with no more than a few mouthfuls of food, which they crop off a thorny bush as they pass; or handful of barley given them by their master. Parts of the desert are strewed with small, dry, drab-colored plants, thorny and otherwise, which the camels continue to crop as they walk, jostling the rider not a little.
They can go long without water, and, if one considers the parching heat of the desert, this is the more to be wondered at. It is partly, no doubt, owing to the large supply they can at one time take into, and carry in, their stomachs. I have seen camels go for eleven or twelve days without a drop of water. All of them did not drink even when we came to water, nor did any drink a large quantity or seem disturbed by the want of it, though the sun was very powerful, and we travelled twelve or thirteen hours daily.
At first they are difficult to ride. The rider mounts while the animal is kneeling, and sits like a lady, with the right leg over the fore pommel of the saddle.
In rising, the camel suddenly straightens its hind legs before moving either of the fore ones, so that if the rider is unprepared he will be jerked over its ears. It moves the legs of each side alternately, which sways the rider to and fro. The motion, however, is soon learned; and, when fatigued, the rider can change sides, or shift his position in various
ways. Sometimes a traveller places his whole family, wife and children, in one pannier, fastened to the saddle; puts himself in another on the opposite side, and accompanies any caravan he happens to fall in with.
An elephant is first in size, and in sense, of all the beasts of the field, and when used kindly he puts forth great strength, and works hard to help and serve his master. The trunk of the elephant is of more use to him than our hands are to us. With it he takes up food and water, and puts them into his mouth. This trunk will pick up a sixpence, and lift a heavy load; tear down trees, and undo locks and bolts of doors.
The elephant smells by means of his trunk, and breathes through it. He feeds upon the tall juicy grass of India, and digs up roots, and can reach the young sprays, and pull down the ripe fruits of the palm and other trees.
In India he helps to build ships. Long planks of wood, that twenty men could not move, are drawn along quite easily by him. Round a heavy beam, for example, a strong rope is tied, the end of which one takes up, and twists it round his trunk. He has the sense to draw it between, or raise it over, things lying in the way, to the ship-side.
A poor woman who had been kind to an elephant often left her child in his care while she went out to work. When the woman died he would not let the child go out of his sight, and would not eat until it was laid in its cradle at his feet. When the child was old enough to crawl about, he gently held it back with the trunk from harm, just as a kind nurse would guard her little charge.
In war-time elephants are used to drag the heavy guns and cannon
often up a steep hill-side. When driven back after a battle, they never tread on the wounded men, but lift them with care, and lay them aside, and so make room to pass. Even at a rapid pace they can do this, and that with the greatest care.
An elephant was bid to drag a great load up a steep and bad road. He tried, and did his best; then stopped short, as if to show that it could not be done. The owner said in a harsh voice, "Take that lazy beast away, and bring a better one.” The poor creature knew what the unjust words meant, and made one last effort, which moved the load, but cost the life of the elephant: it fell down dead on the spot.
Some elephants had to pass over a bridge, and their sense enabled them to know that it was not safe. The first would not set a foot on the bridge, and when pricked to go on, it turned back in a rage, and no one could stop it. The next stood still at the foot of the bridge. It was pricked and urged on for a time, in vain. At last, with a deep groan, it went on. Before it got to the middle, the bridge fell with a crash, and the elephant was thrown upon the sharp rough rocks below.
The last elephant saw it all, and made its way down a steep bank, to reach its friend before death put an end to pain and misery.
Book of Beasts.
AN ELEPHANT'S REVENGE AND REMORSE. A FAVORITE elephant, a remarkably fine animal, whose name was Malleer, had to contend with a most formidable opponent of his own race. The spectacle was to take place in a spacious arena *, around which the King of Oude † and thousands of his people had so arranged themselves as to have a view of all the whole scene. In a moment of extreme excitement, when goaded to fury, Malleer suddenly rushed upon his mahout or keeper, and at a single stroke of his trunk killed him.
“Our alarni and horror," says one who witnessed it, “were increased at seeing a woman rushing directly towards the elephant. She had an infant in her arms, and she ran as fast as her burden would permit.
“Her piercing cry thrilled through the hearts of some few at least of those who stood by.
"Frantic with grief, she exclaimed, 'Oh Malleer! Malleer! savage beast! See what
have done! Here, finish our house † at once. You have taken off the roof now break down the walls: you have killed my husband, whom
loved so well—now kill me and his son.' “We expected to see the fierce animal turn from the mangled remains of the husband to tear the wife and child asunder. We were agreeably disappointed.
“Malleer's rage was appeased; and he now felt remorse for what he had done. You could see it in his drooping ears and downcast head. He took his foot off the mahout's
* Arena, an open space in the centre of a spectacle or show.
+ Oude, a northern province of India, annexed under the East India Company in 1854, under Earl Dalhousie : now subject to the British Crown.
| House, family.