All his life Sa-zada the Keeper had lived with animals. That was why he could talk to them, and they to him; that was why he knew that something must be done to keep his animal friends from fretting themselves to death during the dreadful heat that came like a disease over their part of the Greater City.
In the Greater City itself the sun smote with a fierceness that was like the anger of evil gods. The air vibrated with palpitating white heat, and the shadows were as the blue flame of a forge. Men and women stole from ovened streets, wide-mouthed, to places where trees swayed and waters babbled feebly of a cooler rest; even the children were sent away that they might not die of fevered blood.
But in the Animal City there was no escape. The Dwellers from distant deep jungles and tall forests had only blistering iron bars between them and the sirocco that swept from the brick walls of the Greater City.
It was because of this that Sa-zada said, I must make them talk of their other life, lest they die of this.
In the Greater City men thought only of themselves; but with Sa-zada it was different. The animals were his children-his friends; so he had contrived that all of the Peace-kind-the Grass-feeders and others-should come from their cages and corrals and meet each evening in front of the iron-bound homes which contained those of the Blood-kind, to tell stories of their past life.
Sa-zada had asked Hathi, the one-tusked Elephant, who had been Ganesh in Hindustan, about it. In Hathis opinion those who had seen the least, and were of little interest, would do all the talking-that was his experience of jungle life; so the Keeper had wisely arranged that each evening some one animal, or group, should tell the tale.
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He told us of three Sahibs, a short journey from where we had our hunt; and these Sahibs were like Cubs in their little knowledge of jungle ways, having Sheep and Goats which they tied to stakes close by the white caves in which they lived, and never a guard over them at night.
...Of course, at first I thought it was because the Raja was not hungry, and would eat me another day; but in the next cage was a Leopard who had been there a long time, and he told me why we were shut up that way.
...If they let you out first-never fear,[Pg 31] Little One, you will have a start, for that is the Rajas way, we are to have a show for our lives, though I warrant one cannot get very far in five minutes-do you run very fast, and when you have come to the small mud-caves of the Black-kind, hide in the place where the Bullocks are kept.
...I was,[Pg 45] perhaps, fifteen or twenty years old at the time-but in a Hathis life a year or two is of no moment, for we are long-lived-and what might be called second in charge of the herd, a condition of things which I resented somewhat, but the Herd Bull had been leader while I was growing up, so there was no just claim on my part really.
...At last the White Man came to a herd of Musk-Ox; but what think you of the temper Black Wolf had when he saw that the Men-kind were not for making a big Kill at all; just the matter of a Head or two to take back with them.
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