Mr. Pickles led the way through the Congo, followed by Charles O’Day and Josef Netherland - owner and operator of the Netherland Adventure Camp in Nome, Alaska.
“I know it’s around here someplace,” said Mr. Pickles. “These trees sure look familiar.”
“There the same sort of tree we’ve been seeing since we got off the plane,” said Charles. “That was ten miles ago! How do you forget where you left your own herd!"
“I thought elephants never forget?” said Mr. Netherland.
“That’s just a rumor,” said Mr. Pickles. “We forget plenty. But we never forget our manners.”
“Sorry,” said Mr. Netherland.
“The correct phrase is, ‘elephants never sweat,’” said Mr. Pickles. “No sweat glands, you see. We get to cool ourselves off by flapping these big ears of ours.”
And flapping their ears is just what some were doing at the elephant camp.
“Where on earth can he be!” said Mr. Pickles’ mother Hanna.
The herd of twelve held tails and circled the camp in distress.
“Don’t fret so, mother,” said her husband.
”I simply must get out of the Congo!” said Hanna. ”I want to live in an igloo as big as all Africa! I want to feel the cold wind in my face and the crunchy snow underfoot! I want to sleigh ride down a mountain and ice skate with polar bears! I want to wear a winter parka and snow goggles and warm my tusks on a moonlit night by a roaring fire.”
“He’ll be along any minute, said father Hannah. “And we'll be out of here in no time.”
“That’s if he even remembers to put one foot in front of the other,” said mother Hannah. “You know how forgetful the boy is. Remember the time of the Great Congo Gathering of '98? When all the families got together?”
“I’ll never forget it,” said father Hannah. “What a time that was!”
“Why, he couldn’t tell one elephant from another!” she said. “He kept tailing along with the wrong herd! Then he had the nerve to say, ‘Except for cross-eyed Uncle Harold and bow-legged Aunt Maude, we do all look alike.’
“Did you ever hear of anything so outrageous in your life?” she continued. “That anyone would confuse me with Harriet Findlay! She’s got to be about the ghastliest looking beast in all of Africa! Those ridiculous ears of hers! And those beady eyes! She gives me the shivers!”
“Now, now, dear,” said father. “you need to calm yourself.”
“For all I know,” said mother Hannah. “He could be on his way to Alaska with a completely different herd! And if I find out it’s Harriet Findlay and her herd, I’ll rip her ears off!”
“And what is this Mr. Pickles business?” she said. “Did the boy forget his own name?”
“I did find that rather peculiar,” said father. “Maybe there were too many Hortense’s in the Amazon and he didn’t want to confuse anyone.”
“Maybe,” said mother. “But he was born Hortense and he’s going to stay Hortense! Mr. Pickles? Really!”
Hortense in Exile by Jacques Rouboad is book close to mother Hannah’s heart. She stumbled over the book after the herd stampeded a campsite that was occupied by a band of French elephant pouchers.
“Look, Francois, we do not even have to come looking for the large snouted beasts, for they are coming directly to us!”
“But, Maurice, my friend, they are coming to greet us much too fast! And what is that outrageous cry they are making all the fuss with?
“I think, Francois, that we had better - how do you say - skedaddle!”
And skedaddle they did. Leaving behind tents, food, clothing, hunting equipment and miscellaneous entertainments.
“Look,” said young mother Hannah, catching her breathe and nosing through the rubble, “a book. Hortense in Exile. Why, I haven’t read a book since we stampeded those Russians back in ‘92.
“Hortense,” continued young mother Hannah, who was with child at the time. “What a lovely name for a baby!”
“Ah, “said Mr. Pickles to his traveling companions, “here we are! I’d recognize those bowed-legs anywhere. Aunt Maude! I’m home!”
“Hortense!” said Aunt Maude.
“Hortense?” said his traveling companions.