The Elephant in a Well

by W. H. G. Kingston

While the British troops were besieging Bhurtpore in India, the water in the ponds and tanks in the neighbourhood becoming exhausted, it could only be obtained from deep and large wells. In this service elephants were especially useful.

One day two of these animals,—one of them large and strong, the other much smaller,—came together to a well. The smaller elephant carried by his trunk a bucket, which the larger, not having one, stole from him. The smaller animal knew that he could not wrest it from the other, but he eyed him, watching for an opportunity of avenging himself. The larger elephant now approached the edge of the well, when the smaller one, rushing forward with all his might, pushed him fairly into the water.

Ludicrous as was the scene, the consequences might have been disastrous. Should the huge animal not be got out, the water would be spoiled; at all events, his floundering about would make it very muddy. The elephant, however, seemed in no way disconcerted, and kept floating at his ease, enjoying the cool liquid, and exhibiting no wish to come out of it. At length a number of fascines used in the siege were brought, and these being lowered into the well, the elephant was induced by his driver to place them under his feet. In this way a pile was raised sufficiently high to enable him to stand upon it. But, being unwilling to leave the water, he after a time would allow no more fascines to be lowered; and his driver had to caress him, and promise him plenty of arrack as a reward, to induce him to raise himself out of the water. Thus incited, the elephant permitted more fascines to be thrown in; and at length, after some masonry was removed from the margin of the well, he was able to step out—the whole operation having occupied fourteen hours.

You will probably smile at the conduct of the two huge creatures. It was curiously like that of human beings. A big boy plays a smaller one a trick—snatches something from him. The other retaliates. An uproar is raised, and often serious inconvenience follows. These two elephants behaved just like two ill-tempered boys; and through them a whole army was doomed to suffer for many hours the pangs of thirst. Remember the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you.”