When an army marches in India, elephants are employed in carrying field-pieces, levelling roads, piling up timber, fetching water; all of which, and many other occupations, they perform with a regularity which shows that they understand what they are about. Formerly, indeed, they were often trained to launch ships, by pushing them off the stocks with the weight of their huge bodies.

Some troops, on their march, had to cross a steep and rugged hill. This could only be done by cutting away portions, and laying trees to fill up the chasms. The first elephant, when conducted up to this roughly-formed road, shook his head, and roared piteously, evidently convinced that it was insecure. On some alteration being made he recommenced his examination, by pressing with his trunk the trees that had been thrown across. After this he advanced a fore-leg with great caution, raising the fore-part of his body so as to throw the weight on the trunk. Thus he examined every tree and rock as he proceeded, while frequently no force could induce him to advance till some alteration he desired had been made. On his reaching the top his delight was evident. He caressed his keepers, and threw the dirt about in a playful manner.

A younger elephant had to follow. The first watched his ascent with the most intense interest, making motions all the while as though he was assisting him, by shouldering him up the declivity. As the latter neared the top, a difficult spot had to be passed, when the first, approaching, extended his trunk to the assistance of his brother in distress. The younger, entwining his round it, was thus led up to the summit in safety. The first on this evinced his delight by giving a salute something like the sound of a trumpet. The two animals then greeted each other as if they had been long separated, and had just met after accomplishing a perilous achievement. They mutually embraced, and stood face to face for a considerable time, as if whispering congratulations. The driver then made them salaam to the general, who ordered them five rupees each for sweetmeats. On this they immediately returned thanks by another salaam.

Can you, after reading this, ever refuse to help any human beings in distress? Imitate, too, that sagacious elephant, in never venturing on unsafe ground. Look before you leap.