The Jungle Book

“I can,” said the troop-horse. “At least a little bit. I try not to think about it.”

“I can see more than you, and I do think about it. I know there’s a great deal of me to take care of, and I know that nobody knows how to cure me when I’m sick. All they can do is to stop my driver’s pay till I get well, and I can’t trust my driver.”

“Ah!” said the troop horse. “That explains it. I can trust Dick.”

“You could put a whole regiment of Dicks on my back without making me feel any better. I know just enough to be uncomfortable, and not enough to go on in spite of it.”

“We do not understand,” said the bullocks.

“I know you don’t. I’m not talking to you. You don’t know what blood is.”

“We do,” said the bullocks. “It is red stuff that soaks into the ground and smells.”

The troop-horse gave a kick and a bound and a snort.

“Don’t talk of it,” he said. “I can smell it now, just thinking of it. It makes me want to run—when I haven’t Dick on my back.”

“But it is not here,” said the camel and the bullocks. “Why are you so stupid?”

“It’s vile stuff,” said Billy. “I don’t want to run, but I don’t want to talk about it.”

“There you are!” said Two Tails, waving his tail to explain.

“Surely. Yes, we have been here all night,” said the bullocks.

Two Tails stamped his foot till the iron ring on it jingled. “Oh, I’m not talking to you. You can’t see inside your heads.”

“No. We see out of our four eyes,” said the bullocks. “We see straight in front of us.”

“If I could do that and nothing else, you wouldn’t be needed to pull the big guns at all. 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. I should be a king in the forest, as I used to be, sleeping half the day and bathing when I liked. I haven’t had a good bath for a month.”

“That’s all very fine,” said Billy. “But giving a thing a long name doesn’t make it any better.”

“H’sh!” said the troop horse. “I think I understand what Two Tails means.”

“You’ll understand better in a minute,” said Two Tails angrily. “Now you just explain to me why you don’t like this!”

He began trumpeting furiously at the top of his trumpet.

“Stop that!” said Billy and the troop horse together, and I could hear them stamp and shiver. An elephant’s trumpeting is always nasty, especially on a dark night.

“I shan’t stop,” said Two Tails. “Won’t you explain that, please? Hhrrmph! Rrrt! Rrrmph! Rrrhha!” Then he stopped suddenly, and I heard a little whimper in the dark, and knew that Vixen had found me at last. She knew as well as I did that if there is one thing in the world the elephant is more afraid of than another it is a little barking dog. So she stopped to bully Two Tails in his pickets, and yapped round his big feet. Two Tails shuffled and squeaked. “Go away, little dog!” he said. “Don’t snuff at my ankles, or I’ll kick at you. Good little dog—nice little doggie, then! Go home, you yelping little beast! Oh, why doesn’t someone take her away? She’ll bite me in a minute.”

“Seems to me,” said Billy to the troop horse, “that our friend Two Tails is afraid of most things. Now, if I had a full meal for every dog I’ve kicked across the parade-ground I should be as fat as Two Tails nearly.”

I whistled, and Vixen ran up to me, muddy all over, and licked my nose, and told me a long tale about hunting for me all through the camp. I never let her know that I understood beast talk, or she would have taken all sorts of liberties. So I buttoned her into the breast of my overcoat, and Two Tails shuffled and stamped and growled to himself.

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