"MAMA! -- mama!" cried a little boy.
THE LITTLE BOY AND THE ELEPHANT
But she could not near him, nor could he see her; but what he did see, and it frightened him very much, was a big crocodile. The little boy hardly had time to be in real danger before he saw a large elephant come from the bushes. Coiling its trunk around the tail of the crocodile, the elephant flung him into the air.
The little boy -- Prince Nooro was his name -- forgot his fright, and jumped up and down, laughing and clapping his hands to see the reptile go up, turn over and over, and come down splash! into the water.
It was on the bank of a beautiful river, and they stood looking at each other, little Nooro and the noble elephant that had saved his life.
The elephant gently wound its trunk around the body of the little boy, and, taking him up, went away through the thicket into the deep jungle.
Nooro had seen tame elephants, and was at first not afraid; but as he was carried along through the forest he became uneasy.
"I want to go to my mama!" he cried.
Of course, the elephant did not know what he meant. Besides, he had his own notions of what he ought to do with the boy; and so he went on.
Over high hills and across deep valleys went the elephant with long, swinging steps.
By and by he set the child down, because he wanted to eat the leaves of some young palm-trees. Nooro started to run away; but the elephant took him up and placed him high up in the fork of a tree, and then Nooro began to cry. The elephant paid no attention to his crying, and while eating would reach up to him a bit of the fodder; but Nooro only cried the louder.
When he had eaten all he wanted, the elephant took him down from the tree and went onward till they came to a spring, where he took a good drink, after having again put Nooro in a tree. Then taking up the hollow husk of a large nut lying on the ground, he dipped up some water and lifted it to Nooro, and the little fellow, being very thirsty, drank heartily. This pleased the elephant very much.
Leaving the spring, it was not long before they were under some tall trees bearing fruit. Nooro knew the fruit quite well, and was fond of it. The elephant, too, liked sweet fruit, and reaching high up with his trunk, brought some of it down, which he ate with great relish. He did not forget the little boy, again perched aloft in the fork of a tree, and to him he gave fruit as fast as he could eat. And now more than ever was the elephant pleased -- not so much because he was eating what he himself liked, but because the child ate also. Besides fruits, they also had nuts of several sorts.
When the sun went down and the darkness came on, Nooro began once more to think of his mother, and that made him cry; but at length he fell asleep. Then the elephant spread on the ground some large palm-leaves and soft, dry grass, making Nooro a kind of bed.
When he awoke in the morning the little boy again thought of his mama and cried; but as each day passed, he cried less and less.
The elephant had placed him in a large pelican's nest, made of a great many sticks, and so high up in the branches of a tall tree that he could just reach it with his trunk and put Nooro into it. But when it rained very hard the elephant would take Nooro from his nest and place him under his body, closing his huge legs around him, and setting up great, broad palm-leaves on each side of him, and it was a rare thing that a drop of rain fell into the snug shelter where Nooro was cozily nestling.
Sometimes these heavy showers lasted for hours. While the rain came down in torrents, he would peep out to see the monkeys and the squirrels running for shelter among the trees and branches.
With these creatures he soon was on the best of terms. The monkeys grew very fond of him, and when he was up in his nest they would come to him with choice fruits and nuts, on purpose to see him eat. Besides, they brought the little baby monkeys to play with him; and nothing afforded them greater sport than to see him try to climb after the young monkeys as they bounded from limb to limb;and, out of sheer joy, the older ones themselves would scamper up and down among the branches.
Certainly this was not the best society for a child to grow up in; but if he did not learn his letters, he grew strong and active.
Nooro had by this time quite forgotten what few words he had learned when at home with his mother; but he naturally fell into a kind of language of his own, and he had names for the different foods. The fruit he liked best of all he called "keekee," His good friend the elephant, who took such good care of him, he called " Popo." He would say to the elephant: "Popo, -- keekee!"
And well did the elephant know what he meant; for when night came he would go away, and early the next morning come back with a big bunch of the fruit. Nooro, with his eyes hardly open, would hear Popo snort, and, looking down, would see his favorite fruit held up on the elephant's trunk. Then in his own strange language Nooro would say, "Thank you, Popo!"
The monkeys often gathered round and wanted some, too; and as Nooro was generous, he gave them all some, and down they all sat in a ring, with Nooro in the center. And a happier set of creatures never were seen; while on the ground below Popo was browsing, or fanning himself with bunches of grass.
All this time Nooro was growing fast; and as he grew bigger, stronger, and smarter, he learned to jump up on Popo's back as the elephant bent down on his fore knees to receive him. Then up over his head and down on the trunk he would clamber; then up he would be lifted, on the tip of it, as far as the elephant could stretch it. Then old Popo would gently fling him up in the air, and down would come Nooro as true as a top, and light right on the top of the elephant's head. And again, when Nooro happened to be on the ground, and wanted to get on the elephant's back, he would grasp Popo's trunk, go sailing up on the end of it, and then glide down and over his head to his back. But the drollest of all was when he wanted to get off the elephant,—all he did was to slide down his back to the ground.
The monkeys, seeing this sport, thought they would do the same. So they began by taking hold of the elephant's trunk, jumping on his back, and other saucy capers. But Popo, although he never hurt anything, did not care to have a parcel of monkeys scampering over him, so he sent one monkey reeling in the air, and swung half a dozen others aside; and so, gathering themselves up, the chattering fellows limped up the trees the best they could, and, creeping cautiously out on the branches, sat grinning and snarling at Popo, who only fanned himself quietly in the shade.
Nooro could n't help laughing at his friends the monkeys, who in turn looked round snappishly at him, no doubt feeling very much inclined to play him some trick; but as Nooro never served them any tricks, they thought better of it and; let him alone. It was some time, however, before they could be brought to their senses and stop pestering poor Popo with their impudent pranks, and was only after some very bad bruises that they learned to behave themselves and attend to good manners.
But with his Nooro it was otherwise, and Popo was never so much pleased as when he could play with Nooro. He would take him up in his trunk and place him on his tusks, or he would hold him aloft in the up to the very noses of the envious monkeys, where Nooro sometimes even caught them by their tails, and, thus carrying them away, let go, when they would go sailing to the nearest branch. This they took in good part, and enjoyed it much; but as for jumping on the elephant's back, or meddling with him in any way, that they dared not do, and they always jumped clear of him.
It was when Nooro was about eight years old that he saw, one day, while aloft in his tree, a lot of elephants not far off.
"Popos! popos!" he cried out, in his queer invented language. "More Popos! I thought there was only one Popo!"
And while he was so much excited up in the tree, Popo below was stamping the ground with his big feet, his trunk stretched in the direction of the elephants, and trumpeting.
The elephants came on slowly nearer and nearer; and Nooro, seeing they had no tusks, but only short tushes, cried out in surprise.
When they got within a stone's throw they halted. They seemed to be afraid to go any farther. But they kept swinging their trunks round in a dreadful manner, as if they meant mischief.
Popo uttered another loud cry, which was taken up by the other elephants, and the forest rang with the strange noise.
There they stood, with their trunks stretched out ominously toward Popo; but he was now quiet, and seemed not to heed them, but leisurely fanned himself with a bunch of leaves.
All at once a single elephant bore down upon Popo, who dropped his fan and stood ready to meet him. When he came near, Popo, suddenly lowering his head, rushed fiercely toward the other, who, frightened by the very sight of those dreadful tusks, turned and fled.
The other elephants, terrified, broke and fled also, and soon were out of sight, while Popo playfully twirled off the leaves within easy reach or brushed away the flies that were troubling him.
Nooro was glad to see the elephants run away, for he had begun to fear that his dear old Popo might be badly hurt or even killed. But Popo was very strong, and much larger than any of that herd of elephants, and was, withal, armed with powerful tusks, while they were not; and for these reasons they feared him, much as they might have wanted to hurt or to kill him.
Nooro and Popo lived in the deepest seclusion of the forest, and after the elephants were gone all was peaceful for a long time. But one day, toward evening, the little boy said to the elephant, in his own queer language:
" Popo, you have n't brought me any kee-kees for a long time. Keekees, Popo!"
That evening, in the early twilight, Popo was already on his way; for he meant to bring an extra fine bunch.
About midnight, when it was dark and still, Nooro was awakened by a faint rubbing noise against the edge of his nest, and felt a puff of air in his face. What could it be? He looked. Why, it was the trunk of an elephant! The tip of it was just up to the nest. At first he thought it was Popo; but Popo had never disturbed him at that hour of the night. He was about to take hold of the trunk, and was saying, " Brought the keekees already, Popo?" when, looking over the edge, he saw some large, black-looking things moving about on the ground below. He looked again, keener than before. He saw their trunks. He was sure they were elephants.
" Bad popos! The bad popos again!"
In his trouble he thought of calling on his friends the monkeys. But they, lively fellows, were sound asleep. Besides, what could they do against all this throng of big elephants? Quickly he climbed farther up the tree, and got out of the way. It was well he did, for the biggest of the elephants was reaching up and trying to get hold of him, and seeing that he could only just touch the nest, one of the other elephants knelt down at the foot of the tree that the larger one might place his fore feet on his back, so that he could reach quite over into the nest and take Nooro out. The elephants, with their little eyes, did not see Nooro escape; so the elephant felt all around the nest, and then broke it to pieces in fierce anger. Down went the sticks, rattling and crashing. The monkeys dreamed the world was coming to an end, and the elephants, baffled, stamped the ground with their big feet.
Now what was to be done? They were determined to have the boy. So they coiled their trunks round the tree, as many as could crowd in; and as they stood all around it, some pulling one way and some another, they pulled against each other. Of course they could not bring down the tree in that way; but by and by some of them on one side, being tired, let go; the tree began to bend, and at last down it came, crash! Nooro -- ah, Nooro! -- where was he? Why, he was up in another tree! For, wise as the elephants were, he was wiser than they. When the tree began to shake he had sense enough to clamber by the branches to another that grew by the side of it; and indeed, he passed over three or four before he stopped, which he did when he heard the crash.
The elephants began poking their trunks all around among the branches of the fallen tree, hoping to find Nooro; but soon they stretched them aloft toward the tree to which he was holding fast. They scented but could not see him. Then they all went over in that direction, and began pulling, not at the tree to which he was clinging, but at one next to it; for it was not possible for them in the darkness to make out which of three or four trees he was really in. These were all large and very strong, and all night long they pulled away by turns at each one of them; but while they were working at a tree on which he might happen to be, he would easily know it by the shaking, and off he would go to another.
At last the day broke. Nooro, looking down, could distinctly see the elephants; and how surprised he was to behold among them four little ones!
"Little popos! Little popos!" he exclaimed in his made-up words.
These were the young elephants; and although he stood in such fear of the big ones, he could not keep his eyes off the little ones -- they looked so pretty, with their tiny trunks, when they played with one another.
Suddenly all the elephants stood together with their faces one way and trunks outstretched. Nooro looked in the direction they were pointing, and lot there was Popo coming afar off. He knew him by his tusks. Suddenly Popo stopped, and reached high up in a tree with his extended trunk.
Again he was on the move, coming faster and faster; and, blowing through his trunk a fearful cry of rage, he ran with such fury into the midst of the herd of elephants, shoving and poking with his mighty tusks, that they fled like frightened sheep, leaving him master of the field.
He trotted back, but soon returned, and this time with a glorious bunch of the fruit Nooro had asked for.
Popo knew very well, far better than the little boy himself, that children needed shelter; and as Nooro had no longer any house, he took him to a tall tree having a very large trunk, from which a bough branched out far from the ground, and as Popo held him up on the end of his trunk, he could but just reach it with his hands. On to this he raised himself, and climbing farther up among the branches, came to a pelican's nest, much larger and yet higher than the one he had occupied before. This, however, was not so well sheltered as that; but on looking down, Nooro saw Popo already reaching up a big, broad palm-leaf, and slipping down, he took and carried it up over the nest, where he fastened it as best he could with sprigs of the climbing vines; for, boy as he was, he knew well enough it would protect him from rain and sun. Popo passed up to him a good many more, which he wedged and jammed in among the branches overhead and all around, afterward binding them all together with strips of bamboo.
It was not so far from the old nest but that the same monkeys were still his companions, so there was no lack of company, such as it was.
Popo might have taken him to another part of the forest; but he knew very well that there was no spot so safe as this, as it was rarely that a man, or even an elephant, came near it. So here they lived in peace through a round of seasons; but though all was calm, Popo did not therefore cease to be watchful. He knew only too well the covetous nature of elephants, who, like men, want to get that which others have; and as that wicked herd had seen him amusing himself so finely with his beautiful pet Nooro, he was always on the alert lest they might come and snatch him away.
One night, coming back with keekees, the day just breaking, Popo, ever on his guard, scented elephants. They were not far off, and had already seen him with his bunch of fruit. They, however, stood in such awe of his great size and formidable tusks that they dared not molest him; but he could see them rubbing their trunks together meaningly, and knew very well that there was something on foot in those heads of theirs, and that they were the same herd that had tried to steal Nooro.
They had been on the watch for Popo, and, having seen his bunch of keekees, knew just where he got them, for there was but one spot in the whole country where such fine fruit was found.
Popo stood looking at them threateningly as they slowly moved off, and then trotted on gaily to hand over to Nooro the fruit he was so fond of.
A whole moon passed away before Popo went after keekees again. On his way lie seemed to exercise unusual caution. He reached in safety the place where the keekees were growing, and, boldly taking off the finest bunch of all, hurried back. All went well this time until, coming to a very narrow pass between high rocks, Popo stopped and looked round, extending his trunk in every direction and sniffing the air. At last, scenting no danger, he went on.
But at the other end of that narrow pass were the other etephants lying in wait for him. They knew he would have to come that way, and stood ready to fall upon him the moment he got there. He was already almost there when he took alarm, but now the passage was so narrow that he could scarcely turn. Boldly he pushed forward, when out from either side sprang a dozen elephants, seized him by the legs, and held him fast, while twice as many more rushed upon him from the front, crowding upon him so thick he could not move. Savagely they attacked him from the back, and would, no doubt, have killed him, but suddenly they all fled. They had placed sentinels to give warning of any danger, and these had sounded the alarm. Away they all sped, and were lost in the jungle.
Poor Popo alone remained. There came up to him two men; but flee from them he could not, he was so weak. The people of that country were kind to elephants, and prized them highly. These two men took pity on him, dug up certain roots, pressed out the juice, and with it washed his wounds and bound them up. They tied a rope to one of his legs, that he might not get away from them; but he was ready to follow, for their kindness made him already love them; and this elephant, by far the largest and shrewdest that had ever been seen in that part of the country, whom no traps could catch, no fences could hold, and no drums, sticks, trumpets, or fires could frighten, was now led captive to the town.
As they went along the men said he was a "rogue " -- one of those elephants that no herd whatever would have anything to do with, getting somehow separated from his own family, and never allowed to join any other. They said that these rogues were very vicious. Now, the truth is that Popo was one of the gentlest creatures in the world, and that very herd which had fallen upon him so cowardly and so savagely, and which had tried to steal Nooro, once owned him for a faithful and noble leader. But years before, having, with other elephants, been surrounded and driven into a corral-trap, he was made prisoner, and while in captivity, exciting the admiration and gaining the love of everybody, became deeply attached to a little child. That child died. He grieved, fled to the wilderness, and once more led a life of forest freedom, until one day, happening to be where Nooro was lost in the woods, and almost in the jaws of the crocodile, he saved him, nursed him with care, and saw the little boy grow up to be a healthy, strong, and beautiful lad.
As he was led into the town everybody flocked to see him. All gazed in astonishment and clapped their hands for Joy. One and all cried, quot;Boobooroo! Boobooroo!" which meant "The biggest of the big."
The town was the royal residence, and the sovereign was a good, wise queen. She was called the Daughter of the Sun and the Sublime Ruler of Elephants.
Popo was led before the queen. On seeing him her large and beautiful eyes sparkled with delight. She rose from the throne and, speaking not a word, stood wondering.
"Glorious elephant!" at length she said; "thou art indeed the King of Elephants!"
Orders were immediately given that Popo should at once receive the best attention of the highly skilled elephant-doctors of the royal household, and by the care of those renowned physicians he soon recovered.
The royal stables, splendid as they were, were not deemed worthy of so grand an elephant. Therefore a magnificent structure, ornamented with gold and precious gems, was built for him in the choicest spot of the royal gardens.
He was arrayed in robes the most costly, and was admired wherever he went.
Popo, now "Boobooroo," might have felt some pride living in such fine style; but certain it is his mind went often in search of that secluded forest where he and Nooro had lived so peacefully, and there can be little doubt that he would have liked that free life far better than all the pomp of royalty.
Yet was he not unmindful of kind treatment. His keepers were very fond of him, and to them he yielded grateful obedience. He was all gentleness, and yet was there not an elephant so knowing as he. As at first he had astonished all by his great size arid handsome tusks, so now he gained the love and admiration of all by his docility and wonderful powers. His sagacity was extraordinary, and in nothing was it more charmingly shown than in the respectful manner in which he always saluted the queen. But what people liked in him above all was his love of little children, always amusing them, never growing weary of them, ever caressing them. And this gave the queen even more joy than any of the people. She bestowed upon him the title of the "Children's Elephant." It became very well known, too, that there were times when a little child could lead this giant elephant and no grown man could.
Popo, however, never forgot the little boy, and the pleasant place in that lovely forest where Nooro, on the day that Popo had been waylaid by the wicked elephants, anxiously awaited his coming. Nearly the whole morning Nooro thought only of the delicious fruit; but when the day began to wane he thought only of Popo. As the sun went down the full moon rose, and Nooro, high up in his tree, saw an elephant coming. His heart beat faster.
" Popo! Popo!" he cried.
But there were no tusks. Then came another elephant, and all at once appeared a whole herd. They were the same that had troubled them before. There were the same four young ones.
"Those bad popos again!" he thought.
They stood all night under the trees, but did not try to break them down, knowing them to be altogether too large for their strength. The next morning Nooro was afraid to come down, and all that day he waited for them to go away, hoping every moment to see Popo coming. But the elephants knew that Popo had been caught and was in the hands of men; so, now they no longer had anything to fear, they were come to capture Nooro.
And there they stayed. For two or three days Nooro was distressed for want of food and water, and, had it not been for his friends the monkeys, would have been forced to come down from his tree the very first day; but they seemed to know just how he was placed, and brought him not only food, but water also, in cup-shaped shells. Besides, they detested those meddling elephants as much as Nooro feared them, and from high up in the trees pelted them with sticks, of which they could get plenty by pulling the pelicans' nests to pieces.
But the elephants, although they would have liked to punish those saucy creatures, were not to be driven away by any such paltry warfare, and bided their time. They knew that Nooro would have to come down, which, indeed, he did about midnight of the fourth day, the moon being above an hour high. He let himself down by long strips of vines he had tied together, and tried to run past, thinking the elephants might be asleep. But straightway one of them seized him with his trunk; at the same time there was a twittering noise, as of birds, made with their lips, and of a sudden a dozen or more came running up, and, gathered together in a body, they made off, full speed.
It was daylight before they halted in a beautiful grove of tall palms, which had grown up in the depth of the wilderness, where no man for years upon years had set his foot.
Here the elephants put Nooro down. He could not run away, for they were ready for him on every side, and having seen Popo play with him so prettily, they thought they would have their sport, too. So one of them raised him on his trunk. But Nooro was both afraid and sullen, and would not stand on the end of it. Then another elephant took and reached him over to a third; and so they passed him round. Even the four little young ones took part in this play, and enjoyed it more than all the rest. Placing a guard around him, they presently brought him sweet fruits, which they could easily pluck with their trunks. He ate with relish, and naturally began to be pleased with such good elephants; and the more he ate the better humor he was in. When the little ones came and gracefully swung their trunks toward him, he pulled at them playfully, and they, growing bolder, placed him on their backs, and were delighted with his skill in riding them.
Nooro and the little elephants at once became the best of friends, and the more he played with them the more he forgot his good and trusty friend, old Popo.
At night the elephants placed him within the herd, with the four young ones in the center, on whom he lay down and slept, while the older ones stood guard all round, and not the fiercest wild beast of the forest would have dared to venture near.
The next day, bright and early, Nooro was ready for play. The little ones brought him his breakfast; the old ones strolled around, plucking up grass or twirling off leaves. The monkeys overhead peeped out from their hiding-places, butterflies fluttered, birds piped and sang, and in the breeze was the sweetness of flowers.
After he had eaten of the good fruits, the elephants took him up and passed him round to one another; and he, now all activity and gladness, climbed on to the ends of their trunks as they held them up, and running down over their heads and sliding along their backs, slipped off by their tails to the ground, to the great delight of the whole herd, young and old, who frisked about like little kittens, big elephants though they were.
Yet in all these gambols they were mindful of every danger, and never hurt him in the least.
But there were witnesses of all this sport. And who were they? Surely the monkeys. They looked out from behind the bunches of fruit, high up in the trees, then scampered among the leaves, twigs, and branches, chasing each other, shrieking, squealing, and chattering, and then looked again, more astonished than before.
Nor was it many days before Nooro got on the best of terms with them. He climbed up the trees and played with them among the pretty flowers and the golden fruit.
Thus the days were beautiful, and life was even brighter and more glorious than the sun itself. Yet would Nooro sometimes think, as the elephants were lazily fanning themselves, or the monkeys happened to be quiet for a moment, of his good old friend Popo. There were times, too, when the elephants would go away and be gone for several days. It was then that Popo would be almost sure to come to his mind.
One day while the herd was away, he saw an elephant afar off, and thought one of them was coming back.
"But he has tusks!" he shouted.
The elephant came nearer.
"Here he comes with his big tusks!"
He clapped his hands for joy.
"It's Popo! it's Popo!"
Nooro clambered down the tree and ran toward him.
Popo made a joyous bound, fondled him a moment with his trunk, took him up, and fled at full speed.
It was time. The elephants, ever on the alert, had scented him all that day, and there was a race for the possession of the boy.
Popo outran them and carried off the prize. This time he had the wind in his favor. He scented them coming, and, holding Nooro fast, turned far out of their way.
That afternoon and all night Popo kept going. They were then in a dense forest, and all that day, because it was very hot, rested in the shade of the tall trees. Not an animal was to be seen, scarcely a bird; only, there was a dreamy hum of countless insects. Nooro' would say sometimes:
" Popo, where have you been all this time?"
The elephant, of course, could not understand nor answer such a question, and yet Nooro noticed that every time he asked, Popo would point with his trunk.
Before the sun had set they were again going fast through the forest, Nooro riding on the elephant's back; and when it grew dark he had to cling close to his neck to keep clear of the branches and vines that hung in the way.
But Popo picked the way well, and when the morning came Nooro awoke from a good sleep, without a scratch on his body.
It was scarcely day when they came to the edge of the town, and Nooro, seeing houses, wondered what they could be; but great was his astonishment, a few minutes later, on beholding two women, who were coming to the wells for water. They had just come from behind a hedge, and were so close that he could well see their faces. They, surprised at seeing the large elephant, whom everybody supposed to have fled, never to come back, dropped their big pitchers, threw up their arms, and shrieked:
"Boobooroo! Boobooroo! The King of Elephants!"
They were so excited, and turned and fled so quickly, that they did not see Nooro, who was hidden behind the elephant's head.
Away they ran into the town, crying:
"The King of Elephants has come back! The King has come back!"
Then the people ran out of their houses and flocked to the highroad, where Popo was coming at a good pace. The throng soon grew so dense that he could no longer go ahead, while around him they were shouting:
"He has brought a boy!"
Everybody was astonished, and nobody knew what to make of it, the boy looked so very strange on the elephant's back; while he himself was more astonished than any of them, for never before, so far as he remembered, had he seen any people. He clung with fear to his good old friend Popo, who was now led to the queen, just where he was bound of his own accord.
As they approached the palace cheers after cheers went up. The queen came forth, wondering what it all meant. As soon as she was seen, all shouted:
" Make way! Make way for the great, good queen!"
The royal guards made a wide opening through the crowd, and Popo, with Nooro still clinging to him, advanced through the passage and presented himself before the queen; and she, surprised at seeing the noble elephant, whom she had given up for lost, exclaimed in a loud voice:
"The Children's Elephant, the greatest of elephants, has come back!"
But when she saw the boy on his neck she was more astonished than ever.
"What! A boy? A strange-looking boy!You have brought a child with you!"
Popo, bending his fore knees, knelt down before the queen.
" But who is this that you have brought with you?" she asked, and stepped toward Nooro; but he, afraid, clung still closer to old Popo.
" Why, my lad, you are not afraid, are you? Tell me who you are, and from what country you come!"
The queen's kind words were to Nooro's ears the sweetest music he had ever heard, and losing a little of his fear, he now looked up, when he saw her beautiful face lighted up with, all the charm of noble goodness. So now his eyes were greeted with an image more beautiful than all the world beside.
And she, on her part, thought she had never seen so beautiful a boy. Of fine proportions, with hair long and flowing, eyes sparkling like morning dewdrops, in action graceful and manly. Nooro stood before her in all the beauty of his youth.
She took him by the hand, and asked him many questions; but he did not understand a word. Nor could any one understand him. The learned men -- men who could speak many languages -- were called to make out what language he spoke and what country he came from, but not one could tell.
"Then," said the queen, "he must have dropped from the skies, and our big elephant caught him as he fell. He shall be called the 'Son of the Clouds.'"
And as she said this Popo took Nooro in his trunk and held him aloft, and Nooro, mounting, stood upon the end of the trunk.
Then a shout went up from the people. The queen, like the rest, astonished, feared he would fall, and cried out to the elephant:
" You will kill the beautiful boy!"
Hardly had she said this when Nooro sprang high in the air, and when he came down, Popo caught him upon his trunk and tusks.
Then went up from the people a greater shout than before, and the queen said:
"That is the way he fell from the clouds, and that is the way the elephant caught him."
Popo, kneeling, then set Nooro down before the queen; and she, placing her royal hand upon his head, said:
"Welcome, Son of the Clouds! You have fallen to us like a beautiful thought from heaven. The palace shall be your home, we shall be your friends, and my children shall be your playmates."
He was dressed in royal garments, and the queen, calling the princesses, her little daughters, said to them:
"This is the Son of the Clouds. He has fallen from heaven like a beautiful dream. He is a bright, good boy. Shake hands, little children. There, now; be good friends."
They shook hands and looked into each other's eyes. Then the younger of the little girls stepped up and, grasping Nooro by the arm, said:
" Oh, we 've been playing such a nice play! Come!"
And long before the sun went down they were playing hide-and-seek in the palace corners.
When children play they learn -- learn fast and well. Scarce a year rolled round, and Nooro learned all that his little playmates knew, and could speak almost as well as they.
And now that she could talk to him and he to her, the queen loved him still the more, and more than ever did he seem not only like a beautiful dream, but like a bright reality fallen from heaven.
One day she took both his hands in hers, saying to him:
"Once we had a little boy -- a lovely child. That child, seven years ago, was lost to us. We called him Nooro. He would be your age now, and we shall call you Nooro in his stead -- Nooro, Son of the Clouds."
When he heard the name "Nooro" the sound was like the echo of a forgotten dream. His eyes were full of thought, and on his lips was the play of innocence. He knelt before the queen and wept.
Then did she raise him, and, in all the joy of a mother's fondness, kissed him tenderly.
"Oh," she said, "maybe you are my Nooro!"
And he, forgetting that she was a queen, placed his little arms around her neck, and sobbed the only word of love he remembered:
From that time they loved each other as mother and son. Sometimes she would say to him:
" I do not know that you are my son; neither can you know that I am your mother: but we will believe, Nooro, we will believe!"
And the love which was between them grew yet deeper by the charm of mystery.
The wise men of the court taught him good and useful knowledge, and early childhood not having been forced with too much learning, he grew up a healthy, strong, and active man. Like the queen, he was loved by the whole people, and the princesses, his younger sisters, by their modest bearing and womanly goodness, won the hearts of all.
Peace, good will, and happiness reigned in the land for many years.
One day the queen, now old, called Nooro and said to him:
" My son, death will come ere long to take me away from you all. The crown shall be yours. The people wish it."
But Nooro answered:
"We do not know that I am your son. I do not desire to be king. The wise and beautiful princess, your eldest daughter, ought to be queen. The people honor and love her. I like the palace because in it live my dearest friends; but I love the sweet wild woods. There, in that beautiful forest, where the faithful Popo cared for me so long and well, I long to end my days."
Then the queen said:
" I wished you to be king; but I know that you love the freshness and beauty of nature better than all things on earth, and that you do so love them because there dwells in you a noble and exalted soul. It shall be, then, as you wish."
The good queen died. The people wanted Nooro for their king; but when they saw that he would in no wise wear the crown, they said:
"The princess, the eldest daughter, will be to us a good ruler, and give us peace and happiness."
Nooro, with his good friend Popo, went to that old forest where nature was yet as charming as when he was a child, and building with his own hands a modest shelter from sun and rain, he dwelt for many happy years in unison with nature's truth and glory.
Popo lived there with him, and when Nooro, full a hundred years, sank sweetly into the repose of death, the faithful elephant stood by his side.
And daily at sunrise, Popo, bringing flowers, knowing that Nooro had loved them, would spread them on his grave.
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