They ranged from one mysterious hill to another, to the ranges of the Himalayas and back again. There were no rivers that they did not swim, no jungles that they did not penetrate, no elephant trails that they did not follow, in the whole northeastern corner of British India. And all the time Muztagh's strength grew upon him until it became too vast a thing to measure or control.
And it is a curious fact that the little baby lifted his ears at the sound and rocked back and forth on his pillar legs. Of all the places in the great world, only a few remain wherein a captive elephant hears the call of his wild brethren at birth. Muztagh's birthplace lies around the corner of the Bay of Bengal, not far from the watershed of the Irawadi, almost north of Java.
If Muztagh's ears had been sharp enough to hear their words across the space of hills, he wouldn't have gone to his mud-baths with such complacency the next day. But the space between them was fifty miles of sweating jungle, and of course he did not hear. "You will go, Khusru," said the leader, "for there are none here half so skilful with horsehair rope as you.
All night long, except the regular four hours of sleep, he would hear her grumble and rumble and mutter discontent that her little son shared with her. Muztagh's second year was little better. Of course he had reached the age where he could eat such dainties as grass and young sugar-cane, but these things could not make up for the fun he was missing in the hills.
He sold Muztagh's mother to an elephant-breeder from a distant province. Little Muztagh saw her march away between two tuskers down the long elephant trail into the valley and the shadow. "Watch the little one closely to-night," Dugan Sahib said to his mahout. So when they had led him back and forth along the lines, they saw that the ends of his ropes were pegged down tightly.
The grass gave way to bamboo thickets, the smell of the huts to the wild, bewitching perfumes of the jungle. Then, still in silence, because there are decencies to be observed by animals no less than men, he walked forward with his trunk outstretched into the primordial jungle and was born again. Muztagh's reception was cordial from the very first.
Muztagh's tusk, driven by five tons of might behind it, would have pierced a ship's side, and the rhino limped away to let his hurt grow well and meditate revenge. Thereafter for a full year, he looked carefully out of his bleary, drunken eyes and chose a smaller objective before he charged.