Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 18, 1912
“My dear,” remarked Father Elephant one evening, looking over the top of his paper, “I see by the Elephant Ledger that sugar cane is going to be very scarce this winter!”
“My! My!” sighed Mother Elephant, waving her needle in discouraged circles, “What are we coming to?”
“Dried roots and cocoanut husks!” snapped Uncle Abner Elephant, giving the fire a vicious poke.
“Twice two cocoanuts equals four,” droned Oliver Elephant sleepily from his bed in the corner.
“Well,” said Father Elephant, puffing contentedly at his pipe, “WE don’t need to worry with a whole cellarful of provisions!”
“Don’t be too cheerful, father,” warned Mother Elephant, creaking her chair dismally. “Maybe the house will burn down, or, or--????—
BANGETY—BUMP—BUMP—BUMP—BANGETY—BUMP—BUMP—BANG!!! thundered some one on the door.
Up flew Mother Elephant’s ears, knocking her lace cap over one eye. Down crashed Father Elephant’s best pipe, breaking into a hundred pieces, while into the fire rocked Uncle Abner Elephant.
The next minute, with a shattering smash, the front door burst open, and in rushed their neighbor, Chancellor Rhinoceros. “Run for your lives!!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!” he panted, wiping his head on his red bandana handkerchief.
“Huh—wh—at is it? What is it?” moaned Mother Elephant, wringing her trunk, while Father Elephant and the Chancellor pulled Uncle Abner out of the fireplace (in which he had become tightly wedged).
“TWO LEGS!! TWO LEGS!! That’s what!!” puffed the Chancellor. “And if you value your tusks fly for the hills!”
Mother Elephant hauled Oliver Elephant out of bed (in his pajamas), and the three, without so much as a last look at their cozy home, rushed out into the night. “Just follow me,” said the Chancellor, plunging along through the choking darkness. Pulling Oliver Elephant between them, Father and Mother Elephant stumbled after, while Uncle Abner Elephant brought up in the rear, keeping a sharp lookout for the two legs (which, I suppose, you have guessed by this time, were men).
“Ugh!—Hu!—Say, look out what you’re doing, won’t you?” gasped Oliver breathlessly, for in their agitation Father Elephant went one side of a tree and Mother Elephant the other. Bump! went Oliver Elephant’s trunk against the bark, while from each side his parents nearly pulled him in half.
“My darling child!!” cried Mother Elephant, tears streaming down her face as she felt the huge bump on Oliver’s trunk.
“Don’t stop! DON’T STOP!” puffed the Chancellor, and at the same minute he caught his foot in a vine and plunged head first into a mass of stickery underbrush.
Thump—thump—came Father and Mother Elephant against him. “Ugh—ugh!” grunted Uncle Abner Elephant, bumping into Father Elephant and sitting violently down. “What’s the matter ahead?”
“Don’t stop! Don’t stop! You’ll be killed!” snorted the Chancellor, limping on and never noticing that one toe was missing.
“At this rate we’ll all be killed, anyway!” gasped Mother Elephant in a resigned voice.
By this time Oliver Elephant was crying dismally. “I can’t see anything!! My—my head hurts—I’ve a stone in my foot, and I’m—tired!!” he wailed.
“Hush—hush!” mumbled Uncle Abner. “Do you want to be make into hot-water bags? That’s what will happen if the two-legs get you!!”
On and on, and on and on stumbled the weary party, and at last just as the sun was coming up over the hills the Chancellor and Father Elephant agreed that they were out of danger. With a sigh Uncle Abner felt himself carefully all over with his trunk, and seemed to be relieved to find that, with the exception of the seat of his trousers, which had been severely damaged by the fall in the fire, he was as good as ever. “It might have been worse,” he rumbled a little breathlessly.
“Worse!” moaned Mother Elephant, sinking to the ground while Father Elephant fanned her with a palm leaf. “Worse! I shall never be the same! And our child—look at him!” Oliver, in a dusty heap on the ground, was already sound asleep. Such a little bundle of scratches and bruises and bumps. Boys and girls, if you had looked at him you wouldn’t have even known he was an elephant.
“Provisions in the cellar!!—don’t worry!!” snorted Mother Elephant as she covered him tenderly up in her shawl. Without further ado Father Elephant and Uncle Abner Elephant rolled up under a tree and were soon snoring like 20 steamboats.
Then, after the Chancellor assured Mother Elephant that he would keep his eye open for the enemy, she covered her head with her cambric handkerchief and endeavored to compose her mind to sleep.
Is at hand; the breeze
Is full of tantalizing, sugared,
The kettles boil and bubble, and
The shelves are full of jars;
As the busy housewives of the land
Prepare to cope with Mars.
And in Supposyville likewise,
The bustle is tremendous;
“For we must turn to proper use
The stores that Nature sends us,”
Declared the Queen. With sleeves rolled up
She’s there among the rest;
And joyously the work proceeds,
With merry quip and jest.
The children lick the spoons with glee,
And everywhere the traces
Of peaches, grapes and apple jams
Appear on little faces.
And on the day the tops are clapped
Upon the last preserves,
The dear delightful kingdom has
The Feast Day it deserves.
And every single person there—
To admire the exhibition, which
Amounts to rows and rows.
And after they have danced and sung,
The King is wont to say
A few short words. I wish you’d heard
His speech the other day.
He said preserving fruit each year
Was right and wise and good;
But other things must be preserved
And put up, same as food.
“For days will come when you’ll be sad,
So put up lots of cheer,
Safe in the corners of your hearts,
For use some other year.”
And friends must be preserved, he said,
Thought not with spice, and such;
But just with thoughtfulness and love.
You can’t preserve too much
Good nature, either; and the shelves
Of every heart should hold
A whole jar full of hope, or else
They’ll all at once grow old.
Yes, all these thing must be preserved,
The King said; and he’s right,
And I think I’ll start preserving ’em
With all my main and might.
(And you had better, too!)