The Second Jungle Book
by Rudyard Kipling
HOW FEAR CAME
THE LAW OF THE
THE MIRACLE OF
A SONG OF KABIR
LETTING IN THE
A RIPPLE SONG
THE KING'S ANKUS
THE SONG OF THE
The stream is shrunk--the pool is dry,
And we be comrades, thou and I;
With fevered jowl and dusty flank
Each jostling each along the bank;
And by one drouthy fear made still,
Forgoing thought of quest or kill.
Now 'neath his dam the fawn may see,
The lean Pack-wolf as cowed as he,
And the tall buck, unflinching, note
The fangs that tore his father's throat.
The pools are shrunk--the streams are dry,
And we be playmates, thou and I,
Till yonder cloud--Good Hunting!--loose
The rain that breaks our Water Truce.
The Law of the Jungle--which is by far the oldest law in the
world--has arranged for almost every kind of accident that may befall
the Jungle People, till now its code is as perfect as time and custom
can make it. You will remember that Mowgli spent a great part of his
life in the Seeonee Wolf-Pack, learning the Law from Baloo, the Brown
Bear; and it was Baloo who told him, when the boy grew impatient at
the constant orders, that the Law was like the Giant Creeper, because
it dropped across every one's back and no one could escape. "When
thou hast lived as long as I have, Little Brother, thou wilt see how
all the Jungle obeys at least one Law. And that will be no pleasant
sight," said Baloo.
This talk went in at one ear and out at the other, for a boy who
spends his life eating and sleeping does not worry about anything till
it actually stares him in the face. But, one year, Baloo's words came
true, and Mowgli saw all the Jungle working under the Law.
It began when the winter Rains failed almost entirely, and Ikki,
the Porcupine, meeting Mowgli in a bamboo-thicket, told him that the
wild yams were drying up. Now everybody knows that Ikki is
ridiculously fastidious in his choice of food, and will eat nothing
but the very best and ripest. So Mowgli laughed and said, "What is
that to me?"
"Not much NOW," said Ikki, rattling his quills in a stiff,
uncomfortable way, "but later we shall see. Is there any more diving
into the deep rock-pool below the Bee-Rocks, Little Brother?"
"No. The foolish water is going all away, and I do not wish to
break my head," said Mowgii, who, in those days, was quite sure that
he knew as much as any five of the Jungle People put together.
"That is thy loss. A small crack might let in some wisdom." Ikki
ducked quickly to prevent Mowgli from pulling his nose-bristles, and
Mowgli told Baloo what Ikki had said. Baloo looked very grave, and
mumbled half to himself: "If I were alone I would change my
hunting-grounds now, before the others began to think. And
yet--hunting among strangers ends in fighting; and they might hurt the
Man-cub. We must wait and see how the mohwa blooms."
That spring the mohwa tree, that Baloo was so fond of, never
flowered. The greeny, cream-coloured, waxy blossoms were heat-killed
before they were born, and only a few bad-smelling petals came down
when he stood on his hind legs and shook the tree. Then, inch by inch,
the untempered heat crept into the heart of the Jungle, turning it
yellow, brown, and at last black. The green growths in the sides of
the ravines burned up to broken wires and curled films of dead stuff;
the hidden pools sank down and caked over, keeping the last least
footmark on their edges as if it had been cast in iron; the
juicy-stemmed creepers fell away from the trees they clung to and died
at their feet; the bamboos withered, clanking when the hot winds blew,
and the moss peeled off the rocks deep in the Jungle, till they were
as bare and as hot as the quivering blue boulders in the bed of the
The birds and the monkey-people went north early in the year, for
they knew what was coming; and the deer and the wild pig broke far
away to the perished fields of the villages, dying sometimes before
the eyes of men too weak to kill them. Chil, the Kite, stayed and grew
fat, for there was a great deal of carrion, and evening after evening
he brought the news to the beasts, too weak to force their way to
fresh hunting-grounds, that the sun was killing the Jungle for three
days" flight in every direction.
Mowgli, who had never known what real hunger meant, fell back on
stale honey, three years old, scraped out of deserted
rock-hives--honey black as a sloe, and dusty with dried sugar. He
hunted, too, for deep-boring grubs under the bark of the trees, and
robbed the wasps of their new broods. All the game in the jungle was
no more than skin and bone, and Bagheera could kill thrice in a night,
and hardly get a full meal. But the want of water was the worst, for
though the Jungle People drink seldom they must drink deep.
And the heat went on and on, and sucked up all the moisture, till
at last the main channel of the Waingunga was the only stream that
carried a trickle of water between its dead banks; and when Hathi, the
wild elephant, who lives for a hundred years and more, saw a long,
lean blue ridge of rock show dry in the very centre of the stream, he
knew that he was looking at the Peace Rock, and then and there he
lifted up his trunk and proclaimed the Water Truce, as his father
before him had proclaimed it fifty years ago. The deer, wild pig, and
buffalo took up the cry hoarsely; and Chil, the Kite, flew in great
circles far and wide, whistling and shrieking the warning.
By the Law of the Jungle it is death to kill at the
drinking-places when once the Water Truce has been declared. The
reason of this is that drinking comes before eating. Every one in the
Jungle can scramble along somehow when only game is scarce; but water
is water, and when there is but one source of supply, all hunting
stops while the Jungle People go there for their needs. In good
seasons, when water was plentiful, those who came down to drink at the
Waingunga--or anywhere else, for that matter--did so at the risk of
their lives, and that risk made no small part of the fascination of
the night's doings. To move down so cunningly that never a leaf
stirred; to wade knee-deep in the roaring shallows that drown all
noise from behind; to drink, looking backward over one shoulder, every
muscle ready for the first desperate bound of keen terror; to roll on
the sandy margin, and return, wet-muzzled and well plumped out, to the
admiring herd, was a thing that all tall-antlered young bucks took a
delight in, precisely because they knew that at any moment Bagheera or
Shere Khan might leap upon them and bear them down. But now all that
life-and-death fun was ended, and the Jungle People came up, starved
and weary, to the shrunken river,--tiger, bear, deer, buffalo, and
pig, all together,--drank the fouled waters, and hung above them, too
exhausted to move off.
The deer and the pig had tramped all day in search of something
better than dried bark and withered leaves. The buffaloes had found
no wallows to be cool in, and no green crops to steal. The snakes had
left the Jungle and come down to the river in the hope of finding a
stray frog. They curled round wet stones, and never offered to strike
when the nose of a rooting pig dislodged them. The river-turtles had
long ago been killed by Bagheera, cleverest of hunters, and the fish
had buried themselves deep in the dry mud. Only the Peace Rock lay
across the shallows like a long snake, and the little tired ripples
hissed as they dried on its hot side.
It was here that Mowgli came nightly for the cool and the
companionship. The most hungry of his enemies would hardly have cared
for the boy then, His naked hide made him seem more lean and wretched
than any of his fellows. His hair was bleached to tow colour by the
sun; his ribs stood out like the ribs of a basket, and the lumps on
his knees and elbows, where he was used to track on all fours, gave
his shrunken limbs the look of knotted grass-stems. But his eye, under
his matted forelock, was cool and quiet, for Bagheera was his adviser
in this time of trouble, and told him to go quietly, hunt slowly, and
never, on any account, to lose his temper.
"It is an evil time," said the Black Panther, one furnace-hot
evening, "but it will go if we can live till the end. Is thy stomach
"There is stuff in my stomach, but I get no good of it. Think you,
Bagheera, the Rains have forgotten us and will never come again?"
"Not I! We shall see the mohwa in blossom yet, and the little
fawns all fat with new grass. Come down to the Peace Rock and hear
the news. On my back, Little Brother."
"This is no time to carry weight. I can still stand alone,
but--indeed we be no fatted bullocks, we two."
Bagheera looked along his ragged, dusty flank and whispered. "Last
night I killed a bullock under the yoke. So low was I brought that I
think I should not have dared to spring if he had been loose. WOU!"
Mowgli laughed. "Yes, we be great hunters now," said he. "I am
very bold--to eat grubs," and the two came down together through the
crackling undergrowth to the river-bank and the lace-work of shoals
that ran out from it in every direction.
"The water cannot live long," said Baloo, joining them. "Look
across. Yonder are trails like the roads of Man."
On the level plain of the farther bank the stiff jungle-grass had
died standing, and, dying, had mummied. The beaten tracks of the deer
and the pig, all heading toward the river, had striped that colourless
plain with dusty gullies driven through the ten-foot grass, and, early
as it was, each long avenue was full of first-comers hastening to the
water. You could hear the does and fawns coughing in the snuff-like
Up-stream, at the bend of the sluggish pool round the Peace Rock,
and Warden of the Water Truce, stood Hathi, the wild elephant, with
his sons, gaunt and gray in the moonlight, rocking to and fro--always
rocking. Below him a little were the vanguard of the deer; below
these, again, the pig and the wild buffalo; and on the opposite bank,
where the tall trees came down to the water's edge, was the place set
apart for the Eaters of Flesh--the tiger, the wolves, the panther, the
bear, and the others.
"We are under one Law, indeed," said Bagheera, wading into the
water and looking across at the lines of clicking horns and starting
eyes where the deer and the pig pushed each other to and fro. "Good
hunting, all you of my blood," he added, lying own at full length, one
flank thrust out of the shallows; and then, between his teeth, "But
for that which is the Law it would be VERY good hunting."
The quick-spread ears of the deer caught the last sentence, and a
frightened whisper ran along the ranks. "The Truce! Remember the
"Peace there, peace!" gurgled Hathi, the wild elephant. "The Truce
holds, Bagheera. This is no time to talk of hunting."
"Who should know better than I?" Bagheera answered, rolling his
yellow eyes up-stream. "I am an eater of turtles--a fisher of frogs.
Ngaayah! Would I could get good from chewing branches!"
"WE wish so, very greatly," bleated a young fawn, who had only
been born that spring, and did not at all like it. Wretched as the
Jungle People were, even Hathi could not help chuckling; while Mowgli,
lying on his elbows in the warm water, laughed aloud, and beat up the
scum with his feet.
"Well spoken, little bud-horn," Bagheera purred. "When the Truce
ends that shall be remembered in thy favour," and he looked keenly
through the darkness to make sure of recognising the fawn again.
Gradually the talking spread up and down the drinking-places. One
could hear the scuffling, snorting pig asking for more room; the
buffaloes grunting among themselves as they lurched out across the
sand-bars, and the deer telling pitiful stories of their long
foot-sore wanderings in quest of food. Now and again they asked some
question of the Eaters of Flesh across the river, but all the news was
bad, and the roaring hot wind of the Jungle came and went between the
rocks and the rattling branches, and scattered twigs, and dust on the
"The men-folk, too, they die beside their ploughs," said a young
sambhur. "I passed three between sunset and night. They lay still, and
their Bullocks with them. We also shall lie still in a little."
"The river has fallen since last night," said Baloo. "O Hathi,
hast thou ever seen the like of this drought?"
"It will pass, it will pass," said Hathi, squirting water along
his back and sides.
"We have one here that cannot endure long," said Baloo; and he
looked toward the boy he loved.
"I?" said Mowgli indignantly, sitting up in the water. "I have no
long fur to cover my bones, but--but if THY hide were taken off,
Hathi shook all over at the idea, and Baloo said severely:
"Man-cub, that is not seemly to tell a Teacher of the Law. Never
have I been seen without my hide."
"Nay, I meant no harm, Baloo; but only that thou art, as it were,
like the cocoanut in the husk, and I am the same cocoanut all naked.
Now that brown husk of thine----" Mowgli was sitting cross-legged, and
explaining things with his forefinger in his usual way, when Bagheera
put out a paddy paw and pulled him over backward into the water.
"Worse and worse," said the Black Panther, as the boy rose
spluttering. "First Baloo is to be skinned, and now he is a cocoanut.
Be careful that he does not do what the ripe cocoanuts do."
"And what is that?" said Mowgli, off his guard for the minute,
though that is one of the oldest catches in the Jungle.
"Break thy head," said Bagheera quietly, pulling him under again.
"It is not good to make a jest of thy teacher," said the bear,
when Mowgli had been ducked for the third time.
"Not good! What would ye have? That naked thing running to and fro
makes a monkey-jest of those who have once been good hunters, and
pulls the best of us by the whiskers for sport." This was Shere Khan,
the Lame Tiger, limping down to the water. He waited a little to enjoy
the sensation he made among the deer on the opposite to lap, growling:
"The jungle has become a whelping-ground for naked cubs now. Look at
Mowgli looked--stared, rather--as insolently as he knew how, and
in a minute Shere Khan turned away uneasily. "Man-cub this, and
Man-cub that," he rumbled, going on with his drink, "the cub is
neither man nor cub, or he would have been afraid. Next season I shall
have to beg his leave for a drink. Augrh!"
"That may come, too," said Bagheera, looking him steadily between
the eyes. "That may come, too--Faugh, Shere Khan!--what new shame hast
thou brought here?"
The Lame Tiger had dipped his chin and jowl in the water, and
dark, oily streaks were floating from it down-stream.
"Man!" said Shere Khan coolly, "I killed an hour since." He went
on purring and growling to himself.
The line of beasts shook and wavered to and fro, and a whisper
went up that grew to a cry. "Man! Man! He has killed Man!" Then all
looked towards Hathi, the wild elephant, but he seemed not to hear.
Hathi never does anything till the time comes, and that is one of the
reasons why he lives so long.
"At such a season as this to kill Man! Was no other game afoot?"
said Bagheera scornfully, drawing himself out of the tainted water,
and shaking each paw, cat-fashion, as he did so.
"I killed for choice--not for food." The horrified whisper began
again, and Hathi's watchful little white eye cocked itself in Shere
Khan's direction. "For choice," Shere Khan drawled. "Now come I to
drink and make me clean again. Is there any to forbid?"
Bagheera's back began to curve like a bamboo in a high wind, but
Hathi lifted up his trunk and spoke quietly.
"Thy kill was from choice?" he asked; and when Hathi asks a
question it is best to answer.
"Even so. It was my right and my Night. Thou knowest, O Hathi."
Shere Khan spoke almost courteously.
"Yes, I know," Hathi answered; and, after a little silence, "Hast
thou drunk thy fill?"
"For to-night, yes."
"Go, then. The river is to drink, and not to defile. None but the
Lame Tiger would so have boasted of his right at this season
when--when we suffer together--Man and Jungle People alike." Clean or
unclean, get to thy lair, Shere Khan!"
The last words rang out like silver trumpets, and Hathi's three
sons rolled forward half a pace, though there was no need. Shere Khan
slunk away, not daring to growl, for he knew--what every one else
knows--that when the last comes to the last, Hathi is the Master of
"What is this right Shere Khan speaks of?" Mowgli whispered in
Bagheera's ear. "To kill Man is always, shameful. The Law says so.
And yet Hathi says----"
"Ask him. I do not know, Little Brother. Right or no right, if
Hathi had not spoken I would have taught that lame butcher his
lesson. To come to the Peace Rock fresh from a kill of Man--and to
boast of it--is a jackal's trick. Besides, he tainted the good water."
Mowgli waited for a minute to pick up his courage, because no one
cared to address Hathi directly, and then he cried: "What is Shere
Khan's right, O Hathi?" Both banks echoed his words, for all the
People of the Jungle are intensely curious, and they had just seen
something that none except Baloo, who looked very thoughtful, seemed
"It is an old tale," said Hathi; "a tale older than the Jungle.
Keep silence along the banks and I will tell that tale."
There was a minute or two of pushing a shouldering among the pigs
and the buffalo, and then the leaders of the herds grunted, one after
another, "We wait," and Hathi strode forward, till he was nearly
knee-deep in the pool by the Peace Rock. Lean and wrinkled and
yellow-tusked though he was, he looked what the Jungle knew him to
"Ye know, children," he began, "that of all things ye most fear
Man"; and there was a mutter of agreement.
"This tale touches thee, Little Brother," said Bagheera to Mowgli.
"I? I am of the Pack--a hunter of the Free People," Mowgli
answered. "What have I to do with Man?"
"And ye do not know why ye fear Man?" Hathi went on. "This is the
reason. In the beginning of the Jungle, and none know when that was,
we of the Jungle walked together, having no fear of one another. In
those days there was no drought, and leaves and flowers and fruit grew
on the same tree, and we ate nothing at all except leaves and flowers
and grass and fruit and bark."
"I am glad I was not born in those days," said Bagheera. "Bark is
only good to sharpen claws."
"And the Lord of the Jungle was Tha, the First of the Elephants.
He drew the Jungle out of deep waters with his trunk; and where he
made furrows in the ground with his tusks, there the rivers ran; and
where he struck with his foot, there rose ponds of good water; and
when he blew through his trunk,-- thus,--the trees fell. That was the
manner in which the Jungle was made by Tha; and so the tale was told
"It has not lost fat in the telling," Bagheera whispered, and
Mowgli laughed behind his hand.
"In those days there was no corn or melons or pepper or
sugar-cane, nor were there any little huts such as ye have all seen;
and the Jungle People knew nothing of Man, but lived in the Jungle
together, making one people. But presently they began to dispute over
their food, though there was grazing enough for all. They were lazy.
Each wished to eat where he lay, as sometimes we can do now when the
spring rains are good. Tha, the First of the Elephants, was busy
making new jungles and leading the rivers in their beds. He could not
walk in all places; therefore he made the First of the Tigers the
master and the judge of the Jungle, to whom the Jungle People should
bring their disputes. In those days the First of the Tigers ate fruit
and grass with the others. He was as large as I am, and he was very
beautiful, in colour all over like the blossom of the yellow creeper.
There was never stripe nor bar upon his hide in those good days when
this the Jungle was new. All the Jungle People came before him without
fear, and his word was the Law of all the Jungle. We were then,
remember ye, one people.
"Yet upon a night there was a dispute between two bucks--a
grazing-quarrel such as ye now settle with the horns and the
fore-feet--and it is said that as the two spoke together before the
First of the First of the Tigers lying among the flowers, a buck
pushed him with his horns, and the First of the Tigers forgot that he
was the master and judge of the Jungle, and, leaping upon that buck,
broke his neck.
"Till that night never one of us had died, and the First of the
Tigers, seeing what he had done, and being made foolish by the scent
of the blood, ran away into the marshes of the North, and we of the
Jungle, left without a judge, fell to fighting among ourselves; and
Tha heard the noise of it and came back. Then some of us said this and
some of us said that, but he saw the dead buck among the flowers, and
asked who had killed, and we of the Jungle would not tell because the
smell of the blood made us foolish. We ran to and fro in circles,
capering and crying out and shaking our heads. Then Tha gave an order
to the trees that hang low, and to the trailing creepers of the
Jungle, that they should mark the killer of the buck so that he should
know him again, and he said, "Who will now be master of the Jungle
People?" Then up leaped the Gray Ape who lives in the branches, and
said, "I will now be master of the Jungle."
At this Tha laughed, and said, "So be it," and went away very
"Children, ye know the Gray Ape. He was then as he is now. At the
first he made a wise face for himself, but in a little while he began
to scratch and to leap up and down, and when Tha came back he found
the Gray Ape hanging, head down, from a bough, mocking those who stood
below; and they mocked him again. And so there was no Law in the
Jungle--only foolish talk and senseless words.
"Then Tha called us all together and said: 'The first of your
masters has brought Death into the Jungle, and the second Shame. Now
it is time there was a Law, and a Law that ye must not break. Now ye
shall know Fear, and when ye have found him ye shall know that he is
your master, and the rest shall follow.' Then we of the jungle said,
'What is Fear?' And Tha said, 'Seek till ye find.' So we went up and
down the Jungle seeking for Fear, and presently the buffaloes----"
"Ugh!" said Mysa, the leader of the buffaloes, from their
"Yes, Mysa, it was the buffaloes. They came back with the news
that in a cave in the Jungle sat Fear, and that he had no hair, and
went upon his hind legs. Then we of the Jungle followed the herd till
we came to that cave, and Fear stood at the mouth of it, and he was,
as the buffaloes had said, hairless, and he walked upon his hinder
legs. When he saw us he cried out, and his voice filled us with the
fear that we have now of that voice when we hear it, and we ran away,
tramping upon and tearing each other because we were afraid. That
night, so it was told to me, we of the Jungle did not lie down
together as used to be our custom, but each tribe drew off by
itself--the pig with the pig, the deer with the deer; horn to horn,
hoof to hoof,--like keeping to like, and so lay shaking in the Jungle.
"Only the First of the Tigers was not with us, for he was still
hidden in the marshes of the North, and when word was brought to him
of the Thing we had seen in the cave, he said. 'I will go to this
Thing and break his neck.' So he ran all the night till he came to the
cave; but the trees and the creepers on his path, remembering the
order that Tha had given, let down their branches and marked him as he
ran, drawing their fingers across his back, his flank, his forehead,
and his jowl. Wherever they touched him there was a mark and a stripe
upon his yellow hide. AND THOSE STRIPES DO THIS CHILDREN WEAR TO THIS
DAY! When he came to the cave, Fear, the Hairless One, put out his
hand and called him 'The Striped One that comes by night,' and the
First of the Tigers was afraid of the Hairless One, and ran back to
the swamps howling."
Mowgli chuckled quietly here, his chin in the water.
"So loud did he howl that Tha heard him and said, 'What is the
sorrow?' And the First of the Tigers, lifting up his muzzle to the
new-made sky, which is now so old, said: 'Give me back my power, O
Tha. I am made ashamed before all the Jungle, and I have run away from
a Hairless One, and he has called me a shameful name.' 'And why?' said
Tha. 'Because I am smeared with the mud of the marshes,' said the
First of the Tigers. 'Swim, then, and roll on the wet grass, and if it
be mud it will wash away,' said Tha; and the First of the Tigers swam,
and rolled and rolled upon the grass, till the Jungle ran round and
round before his eyes, but not one little bar upon all his hide was
changed, and Tha, watching him, laughed. Then the First of the Tigers
said: 'What have I done that this comes to me?' Tha said, 'Thou hast
killed the buck, and thou hast let Death loose in the Jungle, and with
Death has come Fear, so that the people of the Jungle are afraid one
of the other, as thou art afraid of the Hairless One.' The First of
the Tigers said, 'They will never fear me, for I knew them since the
beginning.' Tha said, 'Go and see.' And the First of the Tigers ran to
and fro, calling aloud to the deer and the pig and the sambhur and
the porcupine and all the Jungle Peoples, and they all ran away from
him who had been their judge, because they were afraid.
"Then the First of the Tigers came back, and his pride was broken
in him, and, beating his head upon the ground, he tore up the earth
with all his feet and said: 'Remember that I was once the Master of
the Jungle. Do not forget me, O Tha! Let my children remember that I
was once without shame or fear!' And Tha said: 'This much I will do,
because thou and I together saw the Jungle made. For one night in each
year it shall be as it was before the buck was killed--for thee and
for thy children. In that one night, if ye meet the Hairless One--and
his name is Man--ye shall not be afraid of him, but he shall he
afraid of you, as though ye were judges of the Jungle and masters of
all things. Show him mercy in that night of his fear, for thou hast
known what Fear is.'
"Then the First of the Tigers answered, 'I am content'; but when
next he drank he saw the black stripes upon his flank and his side,
and he remembered the name that the Hairless One had given him, and he
was angry. For a year he lived in the marshes waiting till Tha should
keep his promise. And upon a night when the jackal of the Moon [the
Evening Star] stood clear of the Jungle, he felt that his Night was
upon him, and he went to that cave to meet the Hairless One. Then it
happened as Tha promised, for the Hairless One fell down before him
and lay along the ground, and the First of the Tigers struck him and
broke his back, for he thought that there was but one such Thing in
the Jungle, and that he had killed Fear. Then, nosing above the kill,
he heard Tha coming down from the woods of the North, and presently
the voice of the First of the Elephants, which is the voice that we
The thunder was rolling up and down the dry, scarred hills, but it
brought no rain--only heat--lightning that flickered along the
ridges--and Hathi went on: "THAT was the voice he heard, and it said:
'Is this thy mercy?' The First of the Tigers licked his lips and said:
'What matter? I have killed Fear.' And Tha said: 'O blind and foolish!
Thou hast untied the feet of Death, and he will follow thy trail till
thou diest. Thou hast taught Man to kill!'
"The First of the Tigers, standing stiffly to his kill, said. 'He
is as the buck was. There is no Fear. Now I will judge the Jungle
Peoples once more.'
"And Tha said: 'Never again shall the Jungle Peoples come to thee.
They shall never cross thy trail, nor sleep near thee, nor follow
after thee, nor browse by thy lair. Only Fear shall follow thee, and
with a blow that thou canst not see he shall bid thee wait his
pleasure. He shall make the ground to open under thy feet, and the
creeper to twist about thy neck, and the tree-trunks to grow together
about thee higher than thou canst leap, and at the last he shall take
thy hide to wrap his cubs when they are cold. Thou hast shown him no
mercy, and none will he show thee.'
"The First of the Tigers was very bold, for his Night was still on
him, and he said: 'The Promise of Tha is the Promise of Tha. He will
not take away my Night?' And Tha said: 'The one Night is thine, as I
have said, but there is a price to pay. Thou hast taught Man to kill,
and he is no slow learner.'
"The First of the Tigers said: 'He is here under my foot, and his
back is broken. Let the Jungle know I have killed Fear.'
"Then Tha laughed, and said: 'Thou hast killed one of many, but
thou thyself shalt tell the Jungle--for thy Night is ended.'
"So the day came; and from the mouth of the cave went out another
Hairless One, and he saw the kill in the path, and the First of the
Tigers above it, and he took a pointed stick----"
"They throw a thing that cuts now," said Ikki, rustling down the
bank; for Ikki was considered uncommonly good eating by the
Gonds--they called him Ho-Igoo--and he knew something of the wicked
little Gondee axe that whirls across a clearing like a dragon-fly.
"It was a pointed stick, such as they put in the foot of a
pit-trap," said Hathi, "and throwing it, he struck the First of the
Tigers deep in the flank. Thus it happened as Tha said, for the First
of the Tigers ran howling up and down the Jungle till he tore out the
stick, and all the Jungle knew that the Hairless One could strike from
far off, and they feared more than before. So it came about that the
First of the Tigers taught the Hairless One to kill--and ye know what
harm that has since done to all our peoples--through the noose, and
the pitfall, and the hidden trap, and the flying stick and the
stinging fly that comes out of white smoke [Hathi meant the rifle],
and the Red Flower that drives us into the open. Yet for one night in
the year the Hairless One fears the Tiger, as Tha promised, and never
has the Tiger given him cause to be less afraid. Where he finds him,
there he kills him, remembering how the First of the Tigers was made
ashamed. For the rest, Fear walks up and down the Jungle by day and
"Ahi! Aoo!" said the deer, thinking of what it all meant to them.
"And only when there is one great Fear over all, as there is now,
can we of the Jungle lay aside our little fears, and meet together in
one place as we do now."
"For one night only does Man fear the Tiger?" said Mowgli.
"For one night only," said Hathi.
"But I--but we--but all the Jungle knows that Shere Khan kills Man
twice and thrice in a moon."
"Even so. THEN he springs from behind and turns his head aside as
he strikes, for he is full of fear. If Man looked at him he would run.
But on his one Night he goes openly down to the village. He walks
between the houses and thrusts his head into the doorway, and the men
fall on their faces, and there he does his kill. One kill in that
"Oh!" said Mowgli to himself, rolling over in the water. "NOW I
see why it was Shere Khan bade me look at him! He got no good of it,
for he could not hold his eyes steady, and--and I certainly did not
fall down at his feet. But then I am not a man, being of the Free
"Umm!" said Bagheera deep in his furry throat. "Does the Tiger
know his Night?"
"Never till the Jackal of the Moon stands clear of the evening
mist. Sometimes it falls in the dry summer and sometimes in the wet
rains--this one Night of the Tiger. But for the First of the Tigers,
this would never have been, nor would any of us have known fear."
The deer grunted sorrowfully and Bagheera's lips curled in a
wicked smile. "Do men know this--tale?" said he.
"None know it except the tigers, and we, the elephants--the
children of Tha. Now ye by the pools have heard it, and I have
Hathi dipped his trunk into the water as a sign that he did not
wish to talk.
"But--but--but," said Mowgli, turning to Baloo, "why did not the
First of the Tigers continue to eat grass and leaves and trees? He
did but break the buck's neck. He did not EAT. What led him to the hot
"The trees and the creepers marked him, Little Brother, and made
him the striped thing that we see. Never again would he eat their
fruit; but from that day he revenged himself upon the deer, and the
others, the Eaters of Grass," said Baloo.
"Then THOU knowest the tale. Heh? Why have I never heard?"
"Because the Jungle is full of such tales. If I made a beginning
there would never be an end to them. Let go my ear, Little Brother."
THE LAW OF THE JUNGLE
Just to give you an idea of the immense variety of the Jungle Law,
I have translated into verse (Baloo always recited them in a sort of
sing-song) a few of the laws that apply to the wolves. There are, of
course, hundreds and hundreds more, but these will do for specimens of
the simpler rulings.
Now this is the Law of the Jungle--as old and as true as
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf
that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth
forward and back--
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength
of the Wolf is the Pack.
Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip; drink deeply, but
never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting, and forget not
the day is for sleep.
The jackal may follow the Tiger, but, Cub, when thy
whiskers are grown,
Remember the Wolf is a hunter--go forth and get food
of thine own.
Keep peace with the Lords of the Jungle--the Tiger, the
Panther, the Bear;
And trouble not Hathi the Silent, and mock not the Boar
in his lair.
When Pack meets with Pack in the Jungle, and neither
will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken--it may be fair
words shall prevail.
When ye fight with a Wolf of the Pack, ye must
fight him alone and afar,
Lest others take part in the quarrel, and the Pack be
diminished by war.
The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, and where he has
made him his home,
Not even the Head Wolf may enter, not even the Council
The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, but where he has
digged it too plain,
The Council shall send him a message, and so he shall
change it again.
If ye kill before midnight, be silent, and wake not the
woods with your bay,
Lest ye frighten the deer from the crops, and the brothers
go empty away.
Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates, and your cubs
as they need, and ye can;
But kill not for pleasure of killing, and SEVEN TIMES NEVER
If ye plunder his Kill from a weaker, devour not all in
Pack-Right is the right of the meanest; so leave him the
head and the hide.
The Kill of the Pack is the meat of the Pack. Ye must
eat where it lies;
And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair, or
The Kill of the Wolf is the meat of the Wolf. He may
do what he will,
But, till he has given permission, the Pack may not eat
of that Kill.
Cub-Right is the right of the Yearling. From all of his
Pack he may claim
Full-gorge when the killer has eaten; and none may
refuse him the same.
Lair-Right is the right of the Mother. From all of her
year she may claim
One haunch of each kill for her litter, and none may
deny her the same.
Cave-Right is the right of the Father--to hunt by himself
for his own.
He is freed of all calls to the Pack; he is judged by the
Because of his age and his cunning, because of his gripe
and his paw,
In all that the Law leaveth open, the word of the Head
Wolf is Law.
Now these are the Laws of the Jungle, and many and
mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch
and the hump is--Obey!
THE MIRACLE OF PURUN BHAGAT
The night we felt the earth would move We stole and plucked him by
the hand, Because we loved him with the love That knows but cannot
understand. And when the roaring hillside broke, And all our world
fell down in rain, We saved him, we the Little Folk; But lo! he does
not come again! Mourn now, we saved him for the sake Of such poor
love as wild ones may. Mourn ye! Our brother will not wake, And his
own kind drive us away! Dirge of the Langurs.
There was once a man in India who was Prime Minister of one of the
semi-independent native States in the north-western part of the
country. He was a Brahmin, so high-caste that caste ceased to have any
particular meaning for him; and his father had been an important
official in the gay-coloured tag-rag and bobtail of an old-fashioned
Hindu Court. But as Purun Dass grew up he felt that the old order of
things was changing, and that if any one wished to get on in the world
he must stand well with the English, and imitate all that the English
believed to be good. At the same time a native official must keep his
own master's favour. This was a difficult game, but the quiet,
close-mouthed young Brahmin, helped by a good English education at a
Bombay University, played it coolly, and rose, step by step, to be
Prime Minister of the kingdom. That is to say, he held more real
power than his master the Maharajah.
When the old king--who was suspicious of the English, their
railways and telegraphs--died, Purun Dass stood high with his young
successor, who had been tutored by an Englishman; and between them,
though he always took care that his master should have the credit,
they established schools for little girls, made roads, and started
State dispensaries and shows of agricultural implements, and published
a yearly blue-book on the "Moral and Material Progress of the State,"
and the Foreign Office and the Government of India were delighted.
Very few native States take up English progress altogether, for they
will not believe, as Purun Dass showed he did, that what was good for
the Englishman must be twice as good for the Asiatic. The Prime
Minister became the honoured friend of Viceroys, and Governors, and
Lieutenant-Governors, and medical missionaries, and common
missionaries, and hard-riding English officers who came to shoot in
the State preserves, as well as of whole hosts of tourists who
travelled up and down India in the cold weather, showing how things
ought to be managed. In his spare time he would endow scholarships for
the study of medicine and manufactures on strictly English lines, and
write letters to the "Pioneer", the greatest Indian daily paper,
explaining his master's aims and objects.
At last he went to England on a visit, and had to pay enormous
sums to the priests when he came back; for even so high-caste a
Brahmin as Purun Dass lost caste by crossing the black sea. In London
he met and talked with every one worth knowing-- men whose names go
all over the world--and saw a great deal more than he said. He was
given honorary degrees by learned universities, and he made speeches
and talked of Hindu social reform to English ladies in evening dress,
till all London cried, "This is the most fascinating man we have ever
met at dinner since cloths were first laid."
When he returned to India there was a blaze of glory, for the
Viceroy himself made a special visit to confer upon the Maharajah the
Grand Cross of the Star of India--all diamonds and ribbons and enamel;
and at the same ceremony, while the cannon boomed, Purun Dass was made
a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire; so that his name
stood Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E.
That evening, at dinner in the big Viceregal tent, he stood up
with the badge and the collar of the Order on his breast, and
replying to the toast of his master's health, made a speech few
Englishmen could have bettered.
Next month, when the city had returned to its sun-baked quiet, he
did a thing no Englishman would have dreamed of doing; for, so far as
the world's affairs went, he died. The jewelled order of his
knighthood went back to the Indian Government, and a new Prime
Minister was appointed to the charge of affairs, and a great game of
General Post began in all the subordinate appointments. The priests
knew what had happened, and the people guessed; but India is the one
place in the world where a man can do as he pleases and nobody asks
why; and the fact that Dewan Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E., had resigned
position, palace, and power, and taken up the begging-bowl and
ochre-coloured dress of a Sunnyasi, or holy man, was considered
nothing extraordinary. He had been, as the Old Law recommends, twenty
years a youth, twenty years a fighter,--though he had never carried a
weapon in his life,--and twenty years head of a household. He had used
his wealth and his power for what he knew both to be worth; he had
taken honour when it came his way; he had seen men and cities far and
near, and men and cities had stood up and honoured him. Now he would
let those things go, as a man drops the cloak he no longer needs.
Behind him, as he walked through the city gates, an antelope skin
and brass-handled crutch under his arm, and a begging-bowl of polished
brown coco-de-mer in his hand, barefoot, alone, with eyes cast on the
ground--behind him they were firing salutes from the bastions in
honour of his happy successor. Purun Dass nodded. All that life was
ended; and he bore it no more ill-will or good-will than a man bears
to a colourless dream of the night. He was a Sunnyasi--a houseless,
wandering mendicant, depending on his neighbours for his daily bread;
and so long as there is a morsel to divide in India, neither priest
nor beggar starves. He had never in his life tasted meat, and very
seldom eaten even fish. A five-pound note would have covered his
personal expenses for food through any one of the many years in which
he had been absolute master of millions of money. Even when he was
being lionised in London he had held before him his dream of peace and
quiet--the long, white, dusty Indian road, printed all over with bare
feet, the incessant, slow-moving traffic, and the sharp-smelling wood
smoke curling up under the fig-trees in the twilight, where the
wayfarers sit at their evening meal.
When the time came to make that dream true the Prime Minister took
the proper steps, and in three days you might more easily have found a
bubble in the trough of the long Atlantic seas, than Purun Dass among
the roving, gathering, separating millions of India.
At night his antelope skin was spread where the darkness overtook
him--sometimes in a Sunnyasi monastery by the roadside; sometimes by a
mud-pillar shrine of Kala Pir, where the Jogis, who are another misty
division of holy men, would receive him as they do those who know what
castes and divisions are worth; sometimes on the outskirts of a little
Hindu village, where the children would steal up with the food their
parents had prepared; and sometimes on the pitch of the bare grazing-
grounds, where the flame of his stick fire waked the drowsy camels.
It was all one to Purun Dass--or Purun Bhagat, as he called himself
now. Earth, people, and food were all one. But unconsciously his feet
drew him away northward and eastward; from the south to Rohtak; from
Rohtak to Kurnool; from Kurnool to ruined Samanah, and then up-stream
along the dried bed of the Gugger river that fills only when the rain
falls in the hills, till one day he saw the far line of the great
Then Purun Bhagat smiled, for he remembered that his mother was of
Rajput Brahmin birth, from Kulu way--a Hill-woman, always home-sick
for the snows--and that the least touch of Hill blood draws a man in
the end back to where he belongs.
"Yonder," said Purun Bhagat, breasting the lower slopes of the
Sewaliks, where the cacti stand up like seven-branched
candlesticks-"yonder I shall sit down and get knowledge"; and the
cool wind of the Himalayas whistled about his ears as he trod the road
that led to Simla.
The last time he had come that way it had been in state, with a
clattering cavalry escort, to visit the gentlest and most affable of
Viceroys; and the two had talked for an hour together about mutual
friends in London, and what the Indian common folk really thought of
things. This time Purun Bhagat paid no calls, but leaned on the rail
of the Mall, watching that glorious view of the Plains spread out
forty miles below, till a native Mohammedan policeman told him he was
obstructing traffic; and Purun Bhagat salaamed reverently to the Law,
because he knew the value of it, and was seeking for a Law of his own.
Then he moved on, and slept that night in an empty hut at Chota Simla,
which looks like the very last end of the earth, but it was only the
beginning of his journey. He followed the Himalaya-Thibet road, the
little ten-foot track that is blasted out of solid rock, or strutted
out on timbers over gulfs a thousand feet deep; that dips into warm,
wet, shut-in valleys, and climbs out across bare, grassy
hill-shoulders where the sun strikes like a burning-glass; or turns
through dripping, dark forests where the tree-ferns dress the trunks
from head to heel, and the pheasant calls to his mate. And he met
Thibetan herdsmen with their dogs and flocks of sheep, each sheep with
a little bag of borax on his back, and wandering wood-cutters, and
cloaked and blanketed Lamas from Thibet, coming into India on
pilgrimage, and envoys of little solitary Hill-states, posting
furiously on ring-streaked and piebald ponies, or the cavalcade of a
Rajah paying a visit; or else for a long, clear day he would see
nothing more than a black bear grunting and rooting below in the
valley. When he first started, the roar of the world he had left
still rang in his ears, as the roar of a tunnel rings long after the
train has passed through; but when he had put the Mutteeanee Pass
behind him that was all done, and Purun Bhagat was alone with himself,
walking, wondering, and thinking, his eyes on the ground, and his
thoughts with the clouds.
One evening he crossed the highest pass he had met till then--it
had been a two-day's climb--and came out on a line of snow-peaks that
banded all the horizon--mountains from fifteen to twenty thousand feet
high, looking almost near enough to hit with a stone, though they were
fifty or sixty miles away. The pass was crowned with dense, dark
forest--deodar, walnut, wild cherry, wild olive, and wild pear, but
mostly deodar, which is the Himalayan cedar; and under the shadow of
the deodars stood a deserted shrine to Kali--who is Durga, who is
Sitala, who is sometimes worshipped against the smallpox.
Purun Dass swept the stone floor clean, smiled at the grinning
statue, made himself a little mud fireplace at the back of the
shrine, spread his antelope skin on a bed of fresh pine-needles,
tucked his bairagi--his brass-handled crutch--under his armpit, and
sat down to rest.
Immediately below him the hillside fell away, clean and cleared
for fifteen hundred feet, where a little village of stone-walled
houses, with roofs of beaten earth, clung to the steep tilt. All
round it the tiny terraced fields lay out like aprons of patchwork on
the knees of the mountain, and cows no bigger than beetles grazed
between the smooth stone circles of the threshing-floors. Looking
across the valley, the eye was deceived by the size of things, and
could not at first realise that what seemed to be low scrub, on the
opposite mountain- flank, was in truth a forest of hundred-foot pines.
Purun Bhagat saw an eagle swoop across the gigantic hollow, but the
great bird dwindled to a dot ere it was half-way over. A few bands of
scattered clouds strung up and down the valley, catching on a
shoulder of the hills, or rising up and dying out when they were
level with the head of the pass. And "Here shall I find peace," said
Now, a Hill-man makes nothing of a few hundred feet up or down,
and as soon as the villagers saw the smoke in the deserted shrine,
the village priest climbed up the terraced hillside to welcome the
When he met Purun Bhagat's eyes--the eyes of a man used to control
thousands--he bowed to the earth, took the begging-bowl without a
word, and returned to the village, saying, "We have at last a holy
man. Never have I seen such a man. He is of the Plains--but
pale-coloured--a Brahmin of the Brahmins." Then all the housewives of
the village said, "Think you he will stay with us?" and each did her
best to cook the most savoury meal for the Bhagat. Hill-food is very
simple, but with buckwheat and Indian corn, and rice and red pepper,
and little fish out of the stream in the valley, and honey from the
flue-like hives built in the stone walls, and dried apricots, and
turmeric, and wild ginger, and bannocks of flour, a devout woman can
make good things, and it was a full bowl that the priest carried to
the Bhagat. Was he going to stay? asked the priest. Would he need a
chela-- a disciple--to beg for him? Had he a blanket against the cold
weather? Was the food good?
Purun Bhagat ate, and thanked the giver. It was in his mind to
stay. That was sufficient, said the priest. Let the begging-bowl be
placed outside the shrine, in the hollow made by those two twisted
roots, and daily should the Bhagat be fed; for the village felt
honoured that such a man--he looked timidly into the Bhagat's
face--should tarry among them.
That day saw the end of Purun Bhagat's wanderings. He had come to
the place appointed for him--the silence and the space. After this,
time stopped, and he, sitting at the mouth of the shrine, could not
tell whether he were alive or dead; a man with control of his limbs,
or a part of the hills, and the clouds, and the shifting rain and
sunlight. He would repeat a Name softly to himself a hundred hundred
times, till, at each repetition, he seemed to move more and more out
of his body, sweeping up to the doors of some tremendous discovery;
but, just as the door was opening, his body would drag him back, and,
with grief, he felt he was locked up again in the flesh and bones of
Every morning the filled begging-bowl was laid silently in the
crutch of the roots outside the shrine. Sometimes the priest brought
it; sometimes a Ladakhi trader, lodging in the village, and anxious to
get merit, trudged up the path; but, more often, it was the woman who
had cooked the meal overnight; and she would murmur, hardly above her
breath. "Speak for me before the gods, Bhagat. Speak for such a one,
the wife of so-and-so!" Now and then some bold child would be allowed
the honour, and Purun Bhagat would hear him drop the bowl and run as
fast as his little legs could carry him, but the Bhagat never came
down to the village. It was laid out like a map at his feet. He could
see the evening gatherings, held on the circle of the threshing-
floors, because that was the only level ground; could see the
wonderful unnamed green of the young rice, the indigo blues of the
Indian corn, the dock-like patches of buckwheat, and, in its season,
the red bloom of the amaranth, whose tiny seeds, being neither grain
nor pulse, make a food that can be lawfully eaten by Hindus in time of
When the year turned, the roofs of the huts were all little
squares of purest gold, for it was on the roofs that they laid out
their cobs of the corn to dry. Hiving and harvest, rice-sowing and
husking, passed before his eyes, all embroidered down there on the
many-sided plots of fields, and he thought of them all, and wondered
what they all led to at the long last.
Even in populated India a man cannot a day sit still before the
wild things run over him as though he were a rock; and in that
wilderness very soon the wild things, who knew Kali's Shrine well,
came back to look at the intruder. The langurs, the big gray-whiskered
monkeys of the Himalayas, were, naturally, the first, for they are
alive with curiosity; and when they had upset the begging-bowl, and
rolled it round the floor, and tried their teeth on the brass-handled
crutch, and made faces at the antelope skin, they decided that the
human being who sat so still was harmless. At evening, they would leap
down from the pines, and beg with their hands for things to eat, and
then swing off in graceful curves. They liked the warmth of the fire,
too, and huddled round it till Purun Bhagat had to push them aside to
throw on more fuel; and in the morning, as often as not, he would find
a furry ape sharing his blanket. All day long, one or other of the
tribe would sit by his side, staring out at the snows, crooning and
looking unspeakably wise and sorrowful.
After the monkeys came the barasingh, that big deer which is like
our red deer, but stronger. He wished to rub off the velvet of his
horns against the cold stones of Kali's statue, and stamped his feet
when he saw the man at the shrine. But Purun Bhagat never moved, and,
little by little, the royal stag edged up and nuzzled his shoulder.
Purun Bhagat slid one cool hand along the hot antlers, and the touch
soothed the fretted beast, who bowed his head, and Purun Bhagat very
softly rubbed and ravelled off the velvet. Afterward, the barasingh
brought his doe and fawn--gentle things that mumbled on the holy man's
blanket--or would come alone at night, his eyes green in the
fire-flicker, to take his share of fresh walnuts. At last, the
musk-deer, the shyest and almost the smallest of the deerlets, came,
too, her big rabbity ears erect; even brindled, silent mushick-nabha
must needs find out what the light in the shrine meant, and drop out
her moose-like nose into Purun Bhagat's lap, coming and going with the
shadows of the fire. Purun Bhagat called them all "my brothers," and
his low call of "Bhai! Bhai!" would draw them from the forest at noon
if they were within ear shot. The Himalayan black bear, moody and
suspicious--Sona, who has the V-shaped white mark under his
chin--passed that way more than once; and since the Bhagat showed no
fear, Sona showed no anger, but watched him, and came closer, and
begged a share of the caresses, and a dole of bread or wild berries.
Often, in the still dawns, when the Bhagat would climb to the very
crest of the pass to watch the red day walking along the peaks of the
snows, he would find Sona shuffling and grunting at his heels,
thrusting, a curious fore-paw under fallen trunks, and bringing it
away with a WHOOF of impatience; or his early steps would wake Sona
where he lay curled up, and the great brute, rising erect, would think
to fight, till he heard the Bhagat's voice and knew his best friend.
Nearly all hermits and holy men who live apart from the big cities
have the reputation of being able to work miracles with the wild
things, but all the miracle lies in keeping still, in never making a
hasty movement, and, for a long time, at least, in never looking
directly at a visitor. The villagers saw the outline of the barasingh
stalking like a shadow through the dark forest behind the shrine; saw
the minaul, the Himalayan pheasant, blazing in her best colours before
Kali's statue; and the langurs on their haunches, inside, playing with
the walnut shells. Some of the children, too, had heard Sona singing
to himself, bear-fashion, behind the fallen rocks, and the Bhagat's
reputation as miracle-worker stood firm.
Yet nothing was farther from his mind than miracles. He believed
that all things were one big Miracle, and when a man knows that much
he knows something to go upon. He knew for a certainty that there was
nothing great and nothing little in this world: and day and night he
strove to think out his way into the heart of things, back to the
place whence his soul had come.
So thinking, his untrimmed hair fell down about his shoulders, the
stone slab at the side of the antelope skin was dented into a little
hole by the foot of his brass-handled crutch, and the place between
the tree-trunks, where the begging-bowl rested day after day, sunk and
wore into a hollow almost as smooth as the brown shell itself; and
each beast knew his exact place at the fire. The fields changed their
colours with the seasons; the threshing-floors filled and emptied, and
filled again and again; and again and again, when winter came, the
langurs frisked among the branches feathered with light snow, till the
mother-monkeys brought their sad-eyed little babies up from the warmer
valleys with the spring. There were few changes in the village. The
priest was older, and many of the little children who used to come
with the begging-dish sent their own children now; and when you asked
of the villagers how long their holy man had lived in Kali's Shrine at
the head of the pass, they answered, "Always."
Then came such summer rains as had not been known in the Hills for
many seasons. Through three good months the valley was wrapped in
cloud and soaking mist--steady, unrelenting downfall, breaking off
into thunder-shower after thunder-shower. Kali's Shrine stood above
the clouds, for the most part, and there was a whole month in which
the Bhagat never caught a glimpse of his village. It was packed away
under a white floor of cloud that swayed and shifted and rolled on
itself and bulged upward, but never broke from its piers--the
streaming flanks of the valley.
All that time he heard nothing but the sound of a million little
waters, overhead from the trees, and underfoot along the ground,
soaking through the pine-needles, dripping from the tongues of
draggled fern, and spouting in newly-torn muddy channels down the
slopes. Then the sun came out, and drew forth the good incense of the
deodars and the rhododendrons, and that far-off, clean smell which the
Hill people call "the smell of the snows." The hot sunshine lasted for
a week, and then the rains gathered together for their last downpour,
and the water fell in sheets that flayed off the skin of the ground
and leaped back in mud. Purun Bhagat heaped his fire high that night,
for he was sure his brothers would need warmth; but never a beast came
to the shrine, though he called and called till he dropped asleep,
wondering what had happened in the woods.
It was in the black heart of the night, the rain drumming like a
thousand drums, that he was roused by a plucking at his blanket, and,
stretching out, felt the little hand of a langur. "It is better here
than in the trees," he said sleepily, loosening a fold of blanket;
"take it and be warm." The monkey caught his hand and pulled hard. "Is
it food, then?" said Purun Bhagat. "Wait awhile, and I will prepare
some." As he kneeled to throw fuel on the fire the langur ran to the
door of the shrine, crooned and ran back again, plucking at the man's
"What is it? What is thy trouble, Brother?" said Purun Bhagat, for
the langur's eyes were full of things that he could not tell. "Unless
one of thy caste be in a trap--and none set traps here--I will not go
into that weather. Look, Brother, even the barasingh comes for
The deer's antlers clashed as he strode into the shrine, clashed
against the grinning statue of Kali. He lowered them in Purun
Bhagat's direction and stamped uneasily, hissing through his
"Hai! Hai! Hai!" said the Bhagat, snapping his fingers, "Is THIS
payment for a night's lodging?" But the deer pushed him toward the
door, and as he did so Purun Bhagat heard the sound of something
opening with a sigh, and saw two slabs of the floor draw away from
each other, while the sticky earth below smacked its lips.
"Now I see," said Purun Bhagat. "No blame to my brothers that they
did not sit by the fire to-night. The mountain is falling. And yet--
why should I go?" His eye fell on the empty begging- bowl, and his
face changed. "They have given me good food daily since--since I came,
and, if I am not swift, to-morrow there will not be one mouth in the
valley. Indeed, I must go and warn them below. Back there, Brother!
Let me get to the fire."
The barasingh backed unwillingly as Purun Bhagat drove a pine
torch deep into the flame, twirling it till it was well lit. "Ah! ye
came to warn me," he said, rising. "Better than that we shall do;
better than that. Out, now, and lend me thy neck, Brother, for I have
but two feet."
He clutched the bristling withers of the barasingh with his right
hand, held the torch away with his left, and stepped out of the shrine
into the desperate night. There was no breath of wind, but the rain
nearly drowned the flare as the great deer hurried down the slope,
sliding on his haunches. As soon as they were clear of the forest more
of the Bhagat's brothers joined them. He heard, though he could not
see, the langurs pressing about him, and behind them the uhh! uhh! of
Sona. The rain matted his long white hair into ropes; the water
splashed beneath his bare feet, and his yellow robe clung to his frail
old body, but he stepped down steadily, leaning against the
barasingh. He was no longer a holy man, but Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E.,
Prime Minister of no small State, a man accustomed to command, going
out to save life. Down the steep, plashy path they poured all
together, the Bhagat and his brothers, down and down till the deer's
feet clicked and stumbled on the wall of a threshing-floor, and he
snorted because he smelt Man. Now they were at the head of the one
crooked village street, and the Bhagat beat with his crutch on the
barred windows of the blacksmith's house, as his torch blazed up in
the shelter of the eaves. "Up and out!" cried Purun Bhagat; and he did
not know his own voice, for it was years since he had spoken aloud to
a man. "The hill falls! The hill is falling! Up and out, oh, you
"It is our Bhagat," said the blacksmith's wife. He stands among
his beasts. Gather the little ones and give the call."
It ran from house to house, while the beasts, cramped in the
narrow way, surged and huddled round the Bhagat, and Sona puffed
The people hurried into the street--they were no more than seventy
souls all told--and in the glare of the torches they saw their Bhagat
holding back the terrified barasingh, while the monkeys plucked
piteously at his skirts, and Sona sat on his haunches and roared.
"Across the valley and up the next hill!" shouted Purun Bhagat.
"Leave none behind! We follow!"
Then the people ran as only Hill folk can run, for they knew that
in a landslip you must climb for the highest ground across the valley.
They fled, splashing through the little river at the bottom, and
panted up the terraced fields on the far side, while the Bhagat and
his brethren followed. Up and up the opposite mountain they climbed,
calling to each other by name-- the roll-call of the village--and at
their heels toiled the big barasingh, weighted by the failing strength
of Purun Bhagat. At last the deer stopped in the shadow of a deep
pinewood, five hundred feet up the hillside. His instinct, that had
warned him of the coming slide, told him he would he safe here.
Purun Bhagat dropped fainting by his side, for the chill of the
rain and that fierce climb were killing him; but first he called to
the scattered torches ahead, "Stay and count your numbers"; then,
whispering to the deer as he saw the lights gather in a cluster: "Stay
with me, Brother. Stay--till--I--go!"
There was a sigh in the air that grew to a mutter, and a mutter
that grew to a roar, and a roar that passed all sense of hearing, and
the hillside on which the villagers stood was hit in the darkness, and
rocked to the blow. Then a note as steady, deep, and true as the deep
C of the organ drowned everything for perhaps five minutes, while the
very roots of the pines quivered to it. It died away, and the sound of
the rain falling on miles of hard ground and grass changed to the
muffled drum of water on soft earth. That told its own tale.
Never a villager--not even the priest--was bold enough to speak to
the Bhagat who had saved their lives. They crouched under the pines
and waited till the day. When it came they looked across the valley
and saw that what had been forest, and terraced field, and
track-threaded grazing-ground was one raw, red, fan-shaped smear, with
a few trees flung head-down on the scarp. That red ran high up the
hill of their refuge, damming back the little river, which had begun
to spread into a brick-coloured lake. Of the village, of the road to
the shrine, of the shrine itself, and the forest behind, there was no
trace. For one mile in width and two thousand feet in sheer depth the
mountain-side had come away bodily, planed clean from head to heel.
And the villagers, one by one, crept through the wood to pray
before their Bhagat. They saw the barasingh standing over him, who
fled when they came near, and they heard the langurs wailing in the
branches, and Sona moaning up the hill; but their Bhagat was dead,
sitting cross-legged, his back against a tree, his crutch under his
armpit, and his face turned to the north-east.
The priest said: "Behold a miracle after a miracle, for in this
very attitude must all Sunnyasis be buried! Therefore where he now is
we will build the temple to our holy man."
They built the temple before a year was ended--a little stone-
and-earth shrine--and they called the hill the Bhagat's hill, and
they worship there with lights and flowers and offerings to this day.
But they do not know that the saint of their worship is the late Sir
Purun Dass, K.C.I.E., D.C.L., Ph.D., etc., once Prime Minister of the
progressive and enlightened State of Mohiniwala, and honorary or
corresponding member of more learned and scientific societies than
will ever do any good in this world or the next.
A SONG OF KABIR
Oh, light was the world that he weighed in his hands!
Oh, heavy the tale of his fiefs and his lands!
He has gone from the guddee and put on the shroud,
And departed in guise of bairagi avowed!
Now the white road to Delhi is mat for his feet,
The sal and the kikar must guard him from heat;
His home is the camp, and the waste, and the crowd--
He is seeking the Way as bairagi avowed!
He has looked upon Man, and his eyeballs are clear
(There was One; there is One, and but One, saith Kabir);
The Red Mist of Doing has thinned to a cloud--
He has taken the Path for bairagi avowed!
To learn and discern of his brother the clod,
Of his brother the brute, and his brother the God.
He has gone from the council and put on the shroud
("Can ye hear?" saith Kabir), a bairagi avowed!
LETTING IN THE JUNGLE
Veil them, cover them, wall them round-- Blossom, and creeper, and
weed-- Let us forget the sight and the sound, The smell and the touch
of the breed!
Fat black ash by the altar-stone, Here is the white-foot rain,
And the does bring forth in the fields unsown, And none shall
affright them again; And the blind walls crumble, unknown, o'erthrown
And none shall inhabit again!
You will remember that after Mowgli had pinned Shere Khan's hide
to the Council Rock, he told as many as were left of the Seeonee Pack
that henceforward he would hunt in the Jungle alone; and the four
children of Mother and Father Wolf said that they would hunt with him.
But it is not easy to change one's life all in a minute--particularly
in the Jungle. The first thing Mowgli did, when the disorderly Pack
had slunk off, was to go to the home-cave, and sleep for a day and a
night. Then he told Mother Wolf and Father Wolf as much as they could
understand of his adventures among men; and when he made the morning
sun flicker up and down the blade of his skinning-knife,--the same he
had skinned Shere Khan with,--they said he had learned something.
Then Akela and Gray Brother had to explain their share of the great
buffalo-drive in the ravine, and Baloo toiled up the hill to hear all
about it, and Bagheera scratched himself all over with pure delight at
the way in which Mowgli had managed his war.
It was long after sunrise, but no one dreamed of going to sleep,
and from time to time, during the talk, Mother Wolf would throw up
her head, and sniff a deep snuff of satisfaction as the wind brought
her the smell of the tiger-skin on the Council Rock.
"But for Akela and Gray Brother here," Mowgli said, at the end, "I
could have done nothing. Oh, mother, mother! if thou hadst seen the
black herd-bulls pour down the ravine, or hurry through the gates when
the Man-Pack flung stones at me!"
"I am glad I did not see that last," said Mother Wolf stiffly. "It
is not MY custom to suffer my cubs to be driven to and fro like
jackals. _I_ would have taken a price from the Man-Pack; but I would
have spared the woman who gave thee the milk. Yes, I would have spared
"Peace, peace, Raksha!" said Father Wolf, lazily. "Our Frog has
come back again--so wise that his own father must lick his feet; and
what is a cut, more or less, on the head? Leave Men alone. "Baloo and
Bagheera both echoed: "Leave Men alone."
Mowgli, his head on Mother Wolf's side, smiled contentedly, and
said that, for his own part, he never wished to see, or hear, or
smell Man again.
"But what," said Akela, cocking one ear--"but what if men do not
leave thee alone, Little Brother?"
"We be FIVE," said Gray Brother, looking round at the company, and
snapping his jaws on the last word.
"We also might attend to that hunting," said Bagheera, with a
little switch-switch of his tail, looking at Baloo. "But why think of
men now, Akela?"
"For this reason," the Lone Wolf answered: "when that yellow
chief's hide was hung up on the rock, I went back along our trail to
the village, stepping in my tracks, turning aside, and lying down, to
make a mixed trail in case one should follow us. But when I had fouled
the trail so that I myself hardly knew it again, Mang, the Bat, came
hawking between the trees, and hung up above me. Said Mang, "The
village of the Man-Pack, where they cast out the Man-cub, hums like a
"It was a big stone that I threw," chuckled Mowgli, who had often
amused himself by throwing ripe paw-paws into a hornet's nest, and
racing off to the nearest pool before the hornets caught him.
"I asked of Mang what he had seen. He said that the Red Flower
blossomed at the gate of the village, and men sat about it carrying
guns. Now _I_ know, for I have good cause,"--Akela looked down at the
old dry scars on his flank and side,--"that men do not carry guns for
pleasure. Presently, Little Brother, a man with a gun follows our
trail--if, indeed, he be not already on it."
"But why should he? Men have cast me out. What more do they need?"
said Mowgli angrily.
"Thou art a man, Little Brother," Akela returned. "It is not for
US, the Free Hunters, to tell thee what thy brethren do, or why."
He had just time to snatch up his paw as the skinning-knife cut
deep into the ground below. Mowgli struck quicker than an average
human eye could follow but Akela was a wolf; and even a dog, who is
very far removed from the wild wolf, his ancestor, can be waked out of
deep sleep by a cart-wheel touching his flank, and can spring away
unharmed before that wheel comes on.
"Another time," Mowgli said quietly, returning the knife to its
sheath, "speak of the Man-Pack and of Mowgli in TWO breaths-- not
"Phff! That is a sharp tooth," said Akela, snuffing at the blade's
cut in the earth, "but living with the Man-Pack has spoiled thine eye,
Little Brother. I could have killed a buck while thou wast striking."
Bagheera sprang to his feet, thrust up his head as far as he
could, sniffed, and stiffened through every curve in his body. Gray
Brother followed his example quickly, keeping a little to his left to
get the wind that was blowing from the right, while Akela bounded
fifty yards up wind, and, half-crouching, stiffened too. Mowgli looked
on enviously. He could smell things as very few human beings could,
but he had never reached the hair-trigger-like sensitiveness of a
Jungle nose; and his three months in the smoky village had set him
back sadly. However, he dampened his finger, rubbed it on his nose,
and stood erect to catch the upper scent, which, though it is the
faintest, is the truest.
"Man!" Akela growled, dropping on his haunches.
"Buldeo!" said Mowgli, sitting down. "He follows our trail, and
yonder is the sunlight on his gun. Look!"
It was no more than a splash of sunlight, for a fraction of a
second, on the brass clamps of the old Tower musket, but nothing in
the Jungle winks with just that flash, except when the clouds race
over the sky. Then a piece of mica, or a little pool, or even a
highly-polished leaf will flash like a heliograph. But that day was
cloudless and still.
"I knew men would follow," said Akela triumphantly. "Not for
nothing have I led the Pack."
The four cubs said nothing, but ran down hill on their bellies,
melting into the thorn and under-brush as a mole melts into a lawn.
"Where go ye, and without word?" Mowgli called.
"H'sh! We roll his skull here before mid-day!" Gray Brother
"Back! Back and wait! Man does not eat Man!" Mowgli shrieked.
"Who was a wolf but now? Who drove the knife at me for thinking he
might be Man?" said Akela, as the four wolves turned back sullenly and
dropped to heel.
"Am I to give reason for all I choose to, do?" said Mowgli
"That is Man! There speaks Man!" Bagheera muttered under his
whiskers. "Even so did men talk round the King's cages at Oodeypore.
We of the Jungle know that Man is wisest of all. If we trusted our
ears we should know that of all things he is most foolish." Raising
his voice, he added, "The Man-cub is right in this. Men hunt in packs.
To kill one, unless we know what the others will do, is bad hunting.
Come, let us see what this Man means toward us."
"We will not come," Gray Brother growled. "Hunt alone, Little
Brother. WE know our own minds. The skull would have been ready to
bring by now."
Mowgli had been looking from one to the other of his friends, his
chest heaving and his eyes full of tears. He strode forward to the
wolves, and, dropping on one knee, said: "Do I not know my mind? Look
They looked uneasily, and when their eyes wandered, he called them
back again and again, till their hair stood up all over their bodies,
and they trembled in every limb, while Mowgli stared and stared.
"Now," said he, "of us five, which is leader?"
"Thou art leader, Little Brother," said Gray Brother, and he
licked Mowgli's foot.
"Follow, then," said Mowgli, and the four followed at his heels
with their tails between their legs.
"This comes of living with the Man-Pack," said Bagheera, slipping
down after them. "There is more in the Jungle now than Jungle Law,
The old bear said nothing, but he thought many things.
Mowgli cut across noiselessly through the Jungle, at right angles
to Buldeo's path, till, parting the undergrowth, he saw the old man,
his musket on his shoulder, running up the trail of overnight at a
You will remember that Mowgli had left the village with the heavy
weight of Shere Khan's raw hide on his shoulders, while Akela and Gray
Brother trotted behind, so that the triple trail was very clearly
marked. Presently Buldeo came to where Akela, as you know, had gone
back and mixed it all up. Then he sat down, and coughed and grunted,
and made little casts round and about into the Jungle to pick it up
again, and, all the time he could have thrown a stone over those who
were watching him. No one can be so silent as a wolf when he does not
care to be heard; and Mowgli, though the wolves thought he moved very
clumsily, could come and go like a shadow. They ringed the old man as
a school of porpoises ring a steamer at full speed, and as they ringed
him they talked unconcernedly, for their speech began below the lowest
end of the scale that untrained human beings can hear. [The other end
is bounded by the high squeak of Mang, the Bat, which very many people
cannot catch at all. From that note all the bird and bat and insect
talk takes on.]
"This is better than any kill," said Gray Brother, as Buldeo
stooped and peered and puffed. "He looks like a lost pig in the
Jungles by the river. What does he say?" Buldeo was muttering
Mowgli translated. "He says that packs of wolves must have danced
round me. He says that he never saw such a trail in his life. He says
he is tired."
"He will be rested before he picks it up again," said Bagheera
coolly, as he slipped round a tree-trunk, in the game of
blindman's-buff that they were playing. "NOW, what does the lean
"Eat or blow smoke out of his mouth. Men always play with their
mouths," said Mowgli; and the silent trailers saw the old man fill
and light and puff at a water-pipe, and they took good note of the
smell of the tobacco, so as to be sure of Buldeo in the darkest night,
Then a little knot of charcoal-burners came down the path, and
naturally halted to speak to Buldeo, whose fame as a hunter reached
for at least twenty miles round. They all sat down and smoked, and
Bagheera and the others came up and watched while Buldeo began to tell
the story of Mowgli, the Devil-child, from one end to another, with
additions and inventions. How he himself had really killed Shere Khan;
and how Mowgli had turned himself into a wolf, and fought with him all
the afternoon, and changed into a boy again and bewitched Buldeo's
rifle, so that the bullet turned the corner, when he pointed it at
Mowgli, and killed one of Buldeo's own buffaloes; and how the village,
knowing him to be the bravest hunter in Seeonee, had sent him out to
kill this Devil-child. But meantime the village had got hold of Messua
and her husband, who were undoubtedly the father and mother of this
Devil-child, and had barricaded them in their own hut, and presently
would torture them to make them confess they were witch and wizard,
and then they would be burned to death.
"When?" said the charcoal-burners, because they would very much
like to be present at the ceremony.
Buldeo said that nothing would be done till he returned, because
the village wished him to kill the Jungle Boy first. After that they
would dispose of Messua and her husband, and divide their lands and
buffaloes among the village. Messua's husband had some remarkably fine
buffaloes, too. It was an excellent thing to destroy wizards, Buldeo
thought; and people who entertained Wolf-children out of the Jungle
were clearly the worst kind of witches.
But, said the charcoal-burners, what would happen if the English
heard of it? The English, they had heard, were a perfectly mad
people, who would not let honest farmers kill witches in peace.
Why, said Buldeo, the head-man of the village would report that
Messua and her husband had died of snake-bite. THAT was all arranged,
and the only thing now was to kill the Wolf-child. They did not happen
to have seen anything of such a creature?
The charcoal-burners looked round cautiously, and thanked their
stars they had not; but they had no doubt that so brave a man as
Buldeo would find him if any one could. The sun was getting rather
low, and they had an idea that they would push on to Buldeo's village
and see that wicked witch. Buldeo said that, though it was his duty to
kill the Devil-child, he could not think of letting a party of unarmed
men go through the Jungle, which might produce the Wolf-demon at any
minute, without his escort. He, therefore, would accompany them, and
if the sorcerer's child appeared--well, he would show them how the
best hunter in Seeonee dealt with such things. The Brahmin, he said,
had given him a charm against the creature that made everything
"What says he? What says he? What says he?" the wolves repeated
every few minutes; and Mowgli translated until he came to the witch
part of the story, which was a little beyond him, and then he said
that the man and woman who had been so kind to him were trapped.
"Does Man trap Man?" said Bagheera.
"So he says. I cannot understand the talk. They are all mad
together. What have Messua and her man to do with me that they should
be put in a trap; and what is all this talk about the Red Flower? I
must look to this. Whatever they would do to Messua they will not do
till Buldeo returns. And so----" Mowgli thought hard, with his fingers
playing round the haft of the skinning-knife, while Buldeo and the
charcoal-burners went off very valiantly in single file.
"I go hot-foot back to the Man-Pack," Mowgli said at last.
"And those?" said Gray Brother, looking hungrily after the brown
backs of the charcoal-burners.
"Sing them home," said Mowgli, with a grin; I do not wish them to
be at the village gates till it is dark. Can ye hold them?"
Gray Brother bared his white teeth in contempt. We can head them
round and round in circles like tethered goats--if I know Man."
"That I do not need. Sing to them a little, lest they be lonely on
the road, and, Gray Brother, the song need not be of the sweetest. Go
with them, Bagheera, and help make that song. When night is shut down,
meet me by the village--Gray Brother knows the place."
"It is no light hunting to work for a Man-cub. When shall I
sleep?" said Bagheera, yawning, though his eyes showed that he was
delighted with the amusement. "Me to sing to naked men! But let us
He lowered his head so that the sound would travel, and cried a
long, long, "Good hunting"--a midnight call in the afternoon, which
was quite awful enough to begin with. Mowgli heard it rumble, and
rise, and fall, and die off in a creepy sort of whine behind him, and
laughed to himself as he ran through the Jungle. He could see the
charcoal-burners huddled in a knot; old Buldeo's gun-barrel waving,
like a banana-leaf, to every point of the compass at once. Then Gray
Brother gave the Ya-la-hi! Yalaha! call for the buck-driving, when the
Pack drives the nilghai, the big blue cow, before them, and it seemed
to come from the very ends of the earth, nearer, and nearer, and
nearer, till it ended in a shriek snapped off short. The other three
answered, till even Mowgli could have vowed that the full Pack was in
full cry, and then they all broke into the magnificent Morning-song in
the Jungle, with every turn, and flourish, and grace-note that a
deep-mouthed wolf of the Pack knows. This is a rough rendering of the
song, but you must imagine what it sounds like when it breaks the
afternoon hush of the Jungle:--
One moment past our bodies cast No shadow on the plain; Now clear
and black they stride our track, And we run home again. In morning
hush, each rock and bush Stands hard, and high, and raw: Then give
the Call: "Good rest to all That keep The Jungle Law!"
Now horn and pelt our peoples melt In covert to abide; Now,
crouched and still, to cave and hill Our Jungle Barons glide. Now,
stark and plain, Man's oxen strain, That draw the new-yoked plough;
Now, stripped and dread, the dawn is red Above the lit talao.
Ho! Get to lair! The sun's aflare Behind the breathing grass: And
cracking through the young bamboo The warning whispers pass. By day
made strange, the woods we range With blinking eyes we scan; While
down the skies the wild duck cries "The Day--the Day to Man!"
The dew is dried that drenched our hide Or washed about our way;
And where we drank, the puddled bank Is crisping into clay. The
traitor Dark gives up each mark Of stretched or hooded claw; Then
hear the Call: "Good rest to all That keep the Jungle Law!"
But no translation can give the effect of it, or the yelping scorn
the Four threw into every word of it, as they heard the trees crash
when the men hastily climbed up into the branches, and Buldeo began
repeating incantations and charms. Then they lay down and slept, for,
like all who live by their own exertions, they were of a methodical
cast of mind; and no one can work well without sleep.
Meantime, Mowgli was putting the miles behind him, nine to the
hour, swinging on, delighted to find himself so fit after all his
cramped months among men. The one idea in his head was to get Messua
and her husband out of the trap, whatever it was; for he had a natural
mistrust of traps. Later on, he promised himself, he would pay his
debts to the village at large.
It was at twilight when he saw the well-remembered grazing-
grounds, and the dhak-tree where Gray Brother had waited for him on
the morning that he killed Shere Khan. Angry as he was at the whole
breed and community of Man, something jumped up in his throat and made
him catch his breath when he looked at the village roofs. He noticed
that every one had come in from the fields unusually early, and that,
instead of getting to their evening cooking, they gathered in a crowd
under the village tree, and chattered, and shouted.
"Men must always he making traps for men, or they are not
content," said Mowgli. "Last night it was Mowgli--but that night
seems many Rains ago. To-night it is Messua and her man. To-morrow,
and for very many nights after, it will be Mowgli's turn again."
He crept along outside the wall till he came to Messua's hut, and
looked through the window into the room. There lay Messua, gagged, and
bound hand and foot, breathing hard, and groaning: her husband was
tied to the gaily-painted bedstead. The door of the hut that opened
into the street was shut fast, and three or four people were sitting
with their backs to it.
Mowgli knew the manners and customs of the villagers very fairly.
He argued that so long as they could eat, and talk, and smoke, they
would not do anything else; but as soon as they had fed they would
begin to be dangerous. Buldeo would be coming in before long, and if
his escort had done its duty, Buldeo would have a very interesting
tale to tell. So he went in through the window, and, stooping over the
man and the woman, cut their thongs, pulling out the gags, and looked
round the hut for some milk.
Messua was half wild with pain and fear (she had been beaten and
stoned all the morning), and Mowgli put his hand over her mouth just
in time to stop a scream. Her husband was only bewildered and angry,
and sat picking dust and things out of his torn beard.
"I knew--I knew he would come," Messua sobbed at last. "Now do I
KNOW that he is my son!" and she hugged Mowgli to her heart. Up to
that time Mowgli had been perfectly steady, but now he began to
tremble all over, and that surprised him immensely.
"Why are these thongs? Why have they tied thee?" he asked, after a
"To be put to the death for making a son of thee--what else?" said
the man sullenly. "Look! I bleed."
Messua said nothing, but it was at her wounds that Mowgli looked,
and they heard him grit his teeth when he saw the blood.
"Whose work is this?" said he. "There is a price to pay."
"The work of all the village. I was too rich. I had too many
cattle. THEREFORE she and I are witches, because we gave thee
"I do not understand. Let Messua tell the tale."
"I gave thee milk, Nathoo; dost thou remember?" Messua said
timidly. "Because thou wast my son, whom the tiger took, and because
I loved thee very dearly. They said that I was thy mother, the mother
of a devil, and therefore worthy of death."
"And what is a devil?" said Mowgli. "Death I have seen."
The man looked up gloomily, but Messua laughed. "See!" she said to
her husband, "I knew--I said that he was no sorcerer. He is my son--my
"Son or sorcerer, what good will that do us?" the man answered.
"We be as dead already."
"Yonder is the road to the Jungle"--Mowgli pointed through the
window. "Your hands and feet are free. Go now."
"We do not know the Jungle, my son, as--as thou knowest," Messua
began. "I do not think that I could walk far."
"And the men and women would he upon our backs and drag us here
again," said the husband.
"H'm!" said Mowgli, and he tickled the palm of his hand with the
tip of his skinning-knife; "I have no wish to do harm to any one of
this village--YET. But I do not think they will stay thee. In a little
while they will have much else to think upon. Ah!" he lifted his head
and listened to shouting and trampling outside. "So they have let
Buldeo come home at last?"
"He was sent out this morning to kill thee," Messua cried. "Didst
thou meet him?"
"Yes--we--I met him. He has a tale to tell and while he is telling
it there is time to do much. But first I will learn what they mean.
Think where ye would go, and tell me when I come back."
He bounded through the window and ran along again outside the wall
of the village till he came within ear-shot of the crowd round the
peepul-tree. Buldeo was lying on the ground, coughing and groaning,
and every one was asking him questions. His hair had fallen about his
shoulders; his hands and legs were skinned from climbing up trees, and
he could hardly speak, but he felt the importance of his position
keenly. From time to time he said something about devils and singing
devils, and magic enchantment, just to give the crowd a taste of what
was coming. Then he called for water.
"Bah!" said Mowgli. "Chatter--chatter! Talk, talk! Men are
blood-brothers of the Bandar-log. Now he must wash his mouth with
water; now he must blow smoke; and when all that is done he has still
his story to tell. They are very wise people--men. They will leave no
one to guard Messua till their ears are stuffed with Buldeo's tales.
And--I grow as lazy as they!"
He shook himself and glided back to the hut. Just as he was at the
window he felt a touch on his foot.
"Mother," said he, for he knew that tongue well, what dost THOU
"I heard my children singing through the woods, and I followed the
one I loved best. Little Frog, I have a desire to see that woman who
gave thee milk," said Mother Wolf, all wet with the dew.
"They have bound and mean to kill her. I have cut those ties, and
she goes with her man through the Jungle."
"I also will follow. I am old, but not yet toothless." Mother Wolf
reared herself up on end, and looked through the window into the dark
of the hut.
In a minute she dropped noiselessly, and all she said was: "I gave
thee thy first milk; but Bagheera speaks truth: Man goes to Man at the
"Maybe," said Mowgli, with a very unpleasant look on his face;
"but to-night I am very far from that trail. Wait here, but do not
let her see."
"THOU wast never afraid of ME, Little Frog," said Mother Wolf,
backing into the high grass, and blotting herself out, as she knew
"And now," said Mowgli cheerfully, as he swung into the hut again,
"they are all sitting round Buldeo, who is saying that which did not
happen. When his talk is finished, they say they will assuredly come
here with the Red--with fire and burn you both. And then?"
"I have spoken to my man," said Messua. Khanhiwara is thirty miles
from here, but at Khanhiwara we may find the English--"
"And what Pack are they?" said Mowgli.
"I do not know. They be white, and it is said that they govern all
the land, and do not suffer people to burn or beat each other without
witnesses. If we can get thither to-night, we live. Otherwise we die."
"Live, then. No man passes the gates to-night. But what does HE
do?" Messua's husband was on his hands and knees digging up the earth
in one corner of the hut.
"It is his little money," said Messua. "We can take nothing else."
"Ah, yes. The stuff that passes from hand to hand and never grows
warmer. Do they need it outside this place also?" said Mowgli.
The man stared angrily. "He is a fool, and no devil," he muttered.
With the money I can buy a horse. We are too bruised to walk far, and
the village will follow us in an hour."
"I say they will NOT follow till I choose; but a horse is well
thought of, for Messua is tired." Her husband stood up and knotted the
last of the rupees into his waist-cloth. Mowgli helped Messua through
the window, and the cool night air revived her, but the Jungle in the
starlight looked very dark and terrible.
"Ye know the trail to Khanhiwara?" Mowgli whispered.
'Good. Remember, now, not to be afraid. And there is no need to go
quickly. Only--only there may be some small singing in the Jungle
behind you and before."
"Think you we would have risked a night in the Jungle through
anything less than the fear of burning? It is better to be killed by
beasts than by men," said Messua's husband; but Messua looked at
Mowgli and smiled.
"I say," Mowgli went on, just as though he were Baloo repeating an
old Jungle Law for the hundredth time to a foolish cub-- "I say that
not a tooth in the Jungle is bared against you; not a foot in the
Jungle is lifted against you. Neither man nor beast shall stay you
till you come within eye-shot of Khanhiwara. There will be a watch
about you." He turned quickly to Messua, saying, "HE does not believe,
but thou wilt believe?"
"Ay, surely, my son. Man, ghost, or wolf of the Jungle, I
"HE will be afraid when he hears my people singing. Thou wilt know
and understand. Go now, and slowly, for there is no need of any haste.
The gates are shut."
Messua flung herself sobbing at Mowgli's feet, but he lifted her
very quickly with a shiver. Then she hung about his neck and called
him every name of blessing she could think of, but her husband looked
enviously across his fields, and said: "IF we reach Khanhiwara, and I
get the ear of the English, I will bring such a lawsuit against the
Brahmin and old Buldeo and the others as shall eat the village to the
bone. They shall pay me twice over for my crops untilled and my
buffaloes unfed. I will have a great justice."
Mowgli laughed. "I do not know what justice is, but--come next
Rains. and see what is left."
They went off toward the Jungle, and Mother Wolf leaped from her
place of hiding.
"Follow!" said Mowgli; "and look to it that all the Jungle knows
these two are safe. Give tongue a little. I would call Bagheera."
The long, low howl rose and fell, and Mowgli saw Messua's husband
flinch and turn, half minded to run back to the hut.
"Go on," Mowgli called cheerfully. "I said there might be singing.
That call will follow up to Khanhiwara. It is Favour of the Jungle."
Messua urged her husband forward, and the darkness shut down on
them and Mother Wolf as Bagheera rose up almost under Mowgli's feet,
trembling with delight of the night that drives the Jungle People
"I am ashamed of thy brethren," he said, purring. "What? Did they
not sing sweetly to Buldeo?" said Mowgli.
"Too well! Too well! They made even ME forget my pride, and, by
the Broken Lock that freed me, I went singing through the Jungle as
though I were out wooing in the spring! Didst thou not hear us?"
"I had other game afoot. Ask Buldeo if he liked the song. But
where are the Four? I do not wish one of the Man-Pack to leave the
"What need of the Four, then?" said Bagheera, shifting from foot
to foot, his eyes ablaze, and purring louder than ever. "I can hold
them, Little Brother. Is it killing at last? The singing and the sight
of the men climbing up the trees have made me very ready. Who is Man
that we should care for him--the naked brown digger, the hairless and
toothless, the eater of earth? I have followed him all day--at
noon--in the white sunlight. I herded him as the wolves herd buck. I
am Bagheera! Bagheera! Bagheera! As I dance with my shadow, so danced
I with those men. Look!" The great panther leaped as a kitten leaps at
a dead leaf whirling overhead, struck left and right into the empty
air, that sang under the strokes, landed noiselessly, and leaped
again and again, while the half purr, half growl gathered head as
steam rumbles in a boiler. "I am Bagheera--in the jungle-- in the
night, and my strength is in me. Who shall stay my stroke? Man-cub,
with one blow of my paw I could beat thy head flat as a dead frog in
"Strike, then!" said Mowgli, in the dialect of the village, NOT
the talk of the Jungle, and the human words brought Bagheera to a
full stop, flung back on haunches that quivered under him, his head
just at the level of Mowgli's. Once more Mowgli stared, as he had
stared at the rebellious cubs, full into the beryl-green eyes till the
red glare behind their green went out like the light of a lighthouse
shut off twenty miles across the sea; till the eyes dropped, and the
big head with them--dropped lower and lower, and the red rasp of a
tongue grated on Mowgli's instep.
"Brother--Brother--Brother!" the boy whispered, stroking steadily
and lightly from the neck along the heaving back. "Be still, be still!
It is the fault of the night, and no fault of thine."
"It was the smells of the night," said Bagheera penitently. "This
air cries aloud to me. But how dost THOU know?"
Of course the air round an Indian village is full of all kinds of
smells, and to any creature who does nearly all his thinking through
his nose, smells are as maddening as music and drugs are to human
beings. Mowgli gentled the panther for a few minutes longer, and he
lay down like a cat before a fire, his paws tucked under his breast,
and his eyes half shut.
"Thou art of the Jungle and NOT of the Jungle," he said at last.
"And I am only a black panther. But I love thee, Little Brother."
"They are very long at their talk under the tree," Mowgli said,
without noticing the last sentence. "Buldeo must have told many
tales. They should come soon to drag the woman and her man out of the
trap and put them into the Red Flower. They will find that trap
sprung. Ho! ho!"
"Nay, listen," said Bagheera. "The fever is out of my blood now.
Let them find ME there! Few would leave their houses after meeting
me. It is not the first time I have been in a cage; and I do not think
they will tie ME with cords."
"Be wise, then," said Mowgli, laughing; for he was beginning to
feel as reckless as the panther, who had glided into the hut.
"Pah!" Bagheera grunted. "This place is rank with Man, but here is
just such a bed as they gave me to lie upon in the King's cages at
Oodeypore. Now I lie down." Mowgli heard the strings of the cot crack
under the great brute's weight. "By the Broken Lock that freed me,
they will think they have caught big game! Come and sit beside me,
Little Brother; we will give them 'good hunting' together!"
"No; I have another thought in my stomach. The Man-Pack shall not
know what share I have in the sport. Make thine own hunt. I do not
wish to see them."
"Be it so," said Bagheera. "Ah, now they come!"
The conference under the peepul-tree had been growing noisier and
noisier, at the far end of the village. It broke in wild yells, and a
rush up the street of men and women, waving clubs and bamboos and
sickles and knives. Buldeo and the Brahmin were at the head of it, but
the mob was close at their heels, and they cried, "The witch and the
wizard! Let us see if hot coins will make them confess! Burn the hut
over their heads! We will teach them to shelter wolf-devils! Nay, beat
them first! Torches! More torches! Buldeo, heat the gun-barrels!"
Here was some little difficulty with the catch of the door. It had
been very firmly fastened, but the crowd tore it away bodily, and the
light of the torches streamed into the room where, stretched at full
length on the bed, his paws crossed and lightly hung down over one
end, black as the Pit, and terrible as a demon, was Bagheera. There
was one half-minute of desperate silence, as the front ranks of the
crowd clawed and tore their way back from the threshold, and in that
minute Bagheera raised his head and yawned--elaborately, carefully,
and ostentatiously --as he would yawn when he wished to insult an
equal. The fringed lips drew back and up; the red tongue curled; the
lower jaw dropped and dropped till you could see half-way down the hot
gullet; and the gigantic dog-teeth stood clear to the pit of the gums
till they rang together, upper and under, with the snick of
steel-faced wards shooting home round the edges of a safe. Next
instant the street was empty; Bagheera had leaped back through the
window, and stood at Mowgli's side, while a yelling, screaming torrent
scrambled and tumbled one over another in their panic haste to get to
their own huts.
"They will not stir till day comes," said Bagheera quietly. "And
The silence of the afternoon sleep seemed to have overtaken the
village; but, as they listened, they could hear the sound of heavy
grain-boxes being dragged over earthen floors and set down against
doors. Bagheera was quite right; the village would not stir till
daylight. Mowgli sat still, and thought, and his face grew darker and
"What have I done?" said Bagheera, at last coming to his feet,
"Nothing but great good. Watch them now till the day. I sleep."
Mowgli ran off into the Jungle, and dropped like a dead man across a
rock, and slept and slept the day round, and the night back again.
When he waked, Bagheera was at his side, and there was a newly-
killed buck at his feet. Bagheera watched curiously while Mowgli went
to work with his skinning-knife, ate and drank, and turned over with
his chin in his hands.
"The man and the woman are come safe within eye-shot of
Khanhiwara," Bagheera said. "Thy lair mother sent the word back by
Chil, the Kite. They found a horse before midnight of the night they
were freed, and went very quickly. Is not that well?"
"That is well," said Mowgli.
"And thy Man-Pack in the village did not stir till the sun was
high this morning. Then they ate their food and ran back quickly to
"Did they, by chance, see thee?"
"It may have been. I was rolling in the dust before the gate at
dawn, and I may have made also some small song to myself. Now, Little
Brother, there is nothing more to do. Come hunting with me and Baloo.
He has new hives that he wishes to show, and we all desire thee back
again as of old. Take off that look which makes even me afraid! The
man and woman will not be put into the Red Flower, and all goes well
in the Jungle. Is it not true? Let us forget the Man-Pack."
"They shall he forgotten in a little while. Where does Hathi feed
"Where he chooses. Who can answer for the Silent One? But why?
What is there Hathi can do which we cannot?"
"Bid him and his three sons come here to me."
"But, indeed, and truly, Little Brother, it is not--it is not
seemly to say 'Come,' and 'Go,' to Hathi. Remember, he is the Master
of the Jungle, and before the Man-Pack changed the look on thy face,
he taught thee the Master-words of the Jungle."
"That is all one. I have a Master-word for him now. Bid him come
to Mowgli, the Frog: and if he does not hear at first, bid him come
because of the Sack of the Fields of Bhurtpore."
"The Sack of the Fields of Bhurtpore," Bagheera repeated two or
three times to make sure. "I go. Hathi can but be angry at the worst,
and I would give a moon's hunting to hear a Master-word that compels
the Silent One."
He went away, leaving Mowgli stabbing furiously with his
skinning-knife into the earth. Mowgli had never seen human blood in
his life before till he had seen, and--what meant much more to
him--smelled Messua's blood on the thongs that bound her. And Messua
had been kind to him, and, so far as he knew anything about love, he
loved Messua as completely as he hated the rest of mankind. But deeply
as he loathed them, their talk, their cruelty, and their cowardice,
not for anything the Jungle had to offer could he bring himself to
take a human life, and have that terrible scent of blood back again in
his nostrils. His plan was simpler, but much more thorough; and he
laughed to himself when he thought that it was one of old Buldeo's
tales told under the peepul-tree in the evening that had put the idea
into his head.
"It WAS a Master-word," Bagheera whispered in his ear. "They were
feeding by the river, and they obeyed as though they were bullocks.
Look where they come now!"
Hathi and his three sons had arrived, in their usual way, without
a sound. The mud of the river was still fresh on their flanks, and
Hathi was thoughtfully chewing the green stem of a young plantain-tree
that he had gouged up with his tusks. But every line in his vast body
showed to Bagheera, who could see things when he came across them,
that it was not the Master of the Jungle speaking to a Man-cub, but
one who was afraid coming before one who was not. His three sons
rolled side by side, behind their father.
Mowgli hardly lifted his head as Hathi gave him "Good hunting." He
kept him swinging and rocking, and shifting from one foot to another,
for a long time before he spoke; and when he opened his mouth it was
to Bagheera, not to the elephants.
"I will tell a tale that was told to me by the hunter ye hunted
to-day," said Mowgli. "It concerns an elephant, old and wise, who
fell into a trap, and the sharpened stake in the pit scarred him from
a little above his heel to the crest of his shoulder, leaving a white
mark." Mowgli threw out his hand, and as Hathi wheeled the moonlight
showed a long white scar on his slaty side, as though he had been
struck with a red-hot whip. "Men came to take him from the trap,"
Mowgli continued, "but he broke his ropes, for he was strong, and went
away till his wound was healed. Then came he, angry, by night to the
fields of those hunters. And I remember now that he had three sons.
These things happened many, many Rains ago, and very far away--among
the fields of Bhurtpore. What came to those fields at the next
"They were reaped by me and by my three sons," said Hathi.
"And to the ploughing that follows the reaping?" said Mowgli.
"There was no ploughing," said Hathi.
"And to the men that live by the green crops on the ground?" said
"They went away."
"And to the huts in which the men slept?" said Mowgli.
"We tore the roofs to pieces, and the Jungle swallowed up the
walls," said Hathi.
"And what more?" said Mowgli.
"As much good ground as I can walk over in two nights from the
east to the west, and from the north to the south as much as I can
walk over in three nights, the Jungle took. We let in the Jungle upon
five villages; and in those villages, and in their lands, the
grazing-ground and the soft crop-grounds, there is not one man to-day
who takes his food from the ground. That was the Sack of the Fields of
Bhurtpore, which I and my three sons did; and now I ask, Man-cub, how
the news of it came to thee?" said Hathi.
"A man told me, and now I see even Buldeo can speak truth. It was
well done, Hathi with the white mark; but the second time it shall be
done better, for the reason that there is a man to direct. Thou
knowest the village of the Man-Pack that cast me out? They are idle,
senseless, and cruel; they play with their mouths, and they do not
kill the weaker for food, but for sport. When they are full-fed they
would throw their own breed into the Red Flower. This I have seen. It
is not well that they should live here any more. I hate them!"
"Kill, then," said the youngest of Hathi's three sons, picking up
a tuft of grass, dusting it against his fore-legs, and throwing it
away, while his little red eyes glanced furtively from side to side.
"What good are white bones to me?" Mowgli answered angrily. "Am I
the cub of a wolf to play in the sun with a raw head? I have killed
Shere Khan, and his hide rots on the Council Rock; but--but I do not
know whither Shere Khan is gone, and my stomach is still empty. Now I
will take that which I can see and touch. Let in the Jungle upon that
Bagheera shivered, and cowered down. He could understand, if the
worst came to the worst, a quick rush down the village street, and a
right and left blow into a crowd, or a crafty killing of men as they
ploughed in the twilight; but this scheme for deliberately blotting
out an entire village from the eyes of man and beast frightened him.
Now he saw why Mowgli had sent for Hathi. No one but the long-lived
elephant could plan and carry through such a war.
"Let them run as the men ran from the fields of Bhurtpore, till we
have the rain-water for the only plough, and the noise of the rain on
the thick leaves for the pattering of their spindles--till Bagheera
and I lair in the house of the Brahmin, and the buck drink at the tank
behind the temple! Let in the Jungle, Hathi!"
"But I--but we have no quarrel with them, and it needs the red
rage of great pain ere we tear down the places where men sleep," said
"Are ye the only eaters of grass in the Jungle? Drive in your
peoples. Let the deer and the pig and the nilghai look to it. Ye need
never show a hand's-breadth of hide till the fields are naked. Let in
the Jungle, Hathi!"
"There will be no killing? My tusks were red at the Sack of the
Fields of Bhurtpore, and I would not wake that smell again."
"Nor I. I do not wish even their bones to lie on the clean earth.
Let them go and find a fresh lair. They cannot stay here. I have seen
and smelled the blood of the woman that gave me food--the woman whom
they would have killed but for me. Only the smell of the new grass on
their door-steps can take away that smell. It burns in my mouth. Let
in the Jungle, Hathi!"
"Ah!" said Hathi. "So did the scar of the stake burn on my hide
till we watched the villages die under in the spring growth. Now I
see. Thy war shall he our war. We will let in the jungle!"
Mowgli had hardly time to catch his breath--he was shaking all
over with rage and hate before the place where the elephants had
stood was empty, and Bagheera was looking at him with terror.
"By the Broken Lock that freed me!" said the Black Panther at
last. "Art THOU the naked thing I spoke for in the Pack when all was
young? Master of the Jungle, when my strength goes, speak for
me--speak for Baloo--speak for us all! We are cubs before thee!
Snapped twigs under foot! Fawns that have lost their doe!"
The idea of Bagheera being a stray fawn upset Mowgli altogether,
and he laughed and caught his breath, and sobbed and laughed again,
till he had to jump into a pool to make himself stop. Then he swam
round and round, ducking in and out of the bars of the moonlight like
the frog, his namesake.
By this time Hathi and his three sons had turned, each to one
point of the compass, and were striding silently down the valleys a
mile away. They went on and on for two days' march-- that is to say, a
long sixty miles--through the Jungle; and every step they took, and
every wave of their trunks, was known and noted and talked over by
Mang and Chil and the Monkey People and all the birds. Then they began
to feed, and fed quietly for a week or so. Hathi and his sons are like
Kaa, the Rock Python. They never hurry till they have to.
At the end of that time--and none knew who had started it--a
rumour went through the Jungle that there was better food and water
to be found in such and such a valley. The pig--who, of course, will
go to the ends of the earth for a full meal--moved first by companies,
scuffling over the rocks, and the deer followed, with the small wild
foxes that live on the dead and dying of the herds; and the
heavy-shouldered nilghai moved parallel with the deer, and the wild
buffaloes of the swamps came after the nilghai. The least little thing
would have turned the scattered, straggling droves that grazed and
sauntered and drank and grazed again; but whenever there was an alarm
some one would rise up and soothe them. At one time it would be Ikki
the Porcupine, full of news of good feed just a little farther on; at
another Mang would cry cheerily and flap down a glade to show it was
all empty; or Baloo, his mouth full of roots, would shamble alongside
a wavering line and half frighten, half romp it clumsily back to the
proper road. Very many creatures broke back or ran away or lost
interest, but very many were left to go forward. At the end of another
ten days or so the situation was this. The deer and the pig and the
nilghai were milling round and round in a circle of eight or ten miles
radius, while the Eaters of Flesh skirmished round its edge. And the
centre of that circle was the village, and round the village the crops
were ripening, and in the crops sat men on what they call
machans--platforms like pigeon-perches, made of sticks at the top of
four poles--to scare away birds and other stealers. Then the deer were
coaxed no more. The Eaters of Flesh were close behind them, and forced
them forward and inward.
It was a dark night when Hathi and his three sons slipped down
from the Jungle, and broke off the poles of the machans with their
trunks; they fell as a snapped stalk of hemlock in bloom falls, and
the men that tumbled from them heard the deep gurgling of the
elephants in their ears. Then the vanguard of the bewildered armies of
the deer broke down and flooded into the village grazing-grounds and
the ploughed fields; and the sharp-hoofed, rooting wild pig came with
them, and what the deer left the pig spoiled, and from time to time an
alarm of wolves would shake the herds, and they would rush to and fro
desperately, treading down the young barley, and cutting flat the
banks of the irrigating channels. Before the dawn broke the pressure
on the outside of the circle gave way at one point. The Eaters of
Flesh had fallen back and left an open path to the south, and drove
upon drove of buck fled along it. Others, who were bolder, lay up in
the thickets to finish their meal next night.
But the work was practically done. When the villagers looked in
the morning they saw their crops were lost. And that meant death if
they did not get away, for they lived year in and year out as near to
starvation as the Jungle was near to them. When the buffaloes were
sent to graze the hungry brutes found that the deer had cleared the
grazing-grounds, and so wandered into the Jungle and drifted off with
their wild mates; and when twilight fell the three or four ponies that
belonged to the village lay in their stables with their heads beaten
in. Only Bagheera could have given those strokes, and only Bagheera
would have thought of insolently dragging the last carcass to the open
The villagers had no heart to make fires in the fields that night,
so Hathi and his three sons went gleaning among what was left; and
where Hathi gleans there is no need to follow. The men decided to live
on their stored seed-corn until the rains had fallen, and then to take
work as servants till they could catch up with the lost year; but as
the grain-dealer was thinking of his well-filled crates of corn, and
the prices he would levy at the sale of it, Hathi's sharp tusks were
picking out the corner of his mud-house, and smashing open the big
wicker chest, leeped with cow-dung, where the precious stuff lay.
When that last loss was discovered, it was the Brahmin's turn to
speak. He had prayed to his own Gods without answer. It might be, he
said, that, unconsciously, the village had offended some one of the
Gods of the Jungle, for, beyond doubt, the Jungle was against them. So
they sent for the head-man of the nearest tribe of wandering
Gonds--little, wise, and very black hunters, living in the deep
Jungle, whose fathers came of the oldest race in India--the aboriginal
owners of the land. They made the Gond welcome with what they had, and
he stood on one leg, his bow in his hand, and two or three poisoned
arrows stuck through his top-knot, looking half afraid and half
contemptuously at the anxious villagers and their ruined fields. They
wished to know whether his Gods--the Old Gods--were angry with them
and what sacrifices should be offered. The Gond said nothing, but
picked up a trail of the Karela, the vine that bears the bitter wild
gourd, and laced it to and fro across the temple door in the face of
the staring red Hindu image. Then he pushed with his hand in the open
air along the road to Khanhiwara, and went back to his Jungle, and
watched the Jungle People drifting through it. He knew that when the
Jungle moves only white men can hope to turn it aside.
There was no need to ask his meaning. The wild gourd would grow
where they had worshipped their God, and the sooner they saved
themselves the better.
But it is hard to tear a village from its moorings. They stayed on
as long as any summer food was left to them, and they tried to gather
nuts in the Jungle, but shadows with glaring eyes watched them, and
rolled before them even at mid-day; and when they ran back afraid to
their walls, on the tree-trunks they had passed not five minutes
before the bark would be stripped and chiselled with the stroke of
some great taloned paw. The more they kept to their village, the
bolder grew the wild things that gambolled and bellowed on the
grazing-grounds by the Waingunga. They had no time to patch and
plaster the rear walls of the empty byres that backed on to the
Jungle; the wild pig trampled them down, and the knotty-rooted vines
hurried after and threw their elbows over the new-won ground, and the
coarse grass bristled behind the vines like the lances of a goblin
army following a retreat. The unmarried men ran away first, and
carried the news far and near that the village was doomed. Who could
fight, they said, against the Jungle, or the Gods of the Jungle, when
the very village cobra had left his hole in the platform under the
peepul-tree? So their little commerce with the outside world shrunk as
the trodden paths across the open grew fewer and fainter. At last the
nightly trumpetings of Hathi and his three sons ceased to trouble
them; for they had no more to be robbed of. The crop on the ground and
the seed in the ground had been taken. The outlying fields were
already losing their shape, and it was time to throw themselves on the
charity of the English at Khanhiwara.
Native fashion, they delayed their departure from one day to
another till the first Rains caught them and the unmended roofs let
in a flood, and the grazing-ground stood ankle deep, and all life came
on with a rush after the heat of the summer. Then they waded out--men,
women, and children--through the blinding hot rain of the morning, but
turned naturally for one farewell look at their homes.
They heard, as the last burdened family filed through the gate, a
crash of falling beams and thatch behind the walls. They saw a shiny,
snaky black trunk lifted for an instant, scattering sodden thatch. It
disappeared, and there was another crash, followed by a squeal. Hathi
had been plucking off the roofs of the huts as you pluck water-lilies,
and a rebounding beam had pricked him. He needed only this to unchain
his full strength, for of all things in the Jungle the wild elephant
enraged is the most wantonly destructive. He kicked backward at a mud
wall that crumbled at the stroke, and, crumbling, melted to yellow mud
under the torrent of rain. Then he wheeled and squealed, and tore
through the narrow streets, leaning against the huts right and left,
shivering the crazy doors, and crumpling up the caves; while his three
sons raged behind as they had raged at the Sack of the Fields of
"The Jungle will swallow these shells," said a quiet voice in the
wreckage. "It is the outer wall that must lie down," and Mowgli, with
the rain sluicing over his bare shoulders and arms, leaped back from a
wall that was settling like a tired buffalo.
"All in good time," panted Hathi. "Oh, but my tusks were red at
Bhurtpore; To the outer wall, children! With the head! Together! Now!"
The four pushed side by side; the outer wall bulged, split, and
fell, and the villagers, dumb with horror, saw the savage,
clay-streaked heads of the wreckers in the ragged gap. Then they
fled, houseless and foodless, down the valley, as their village,
shredded and tossed and trampled, melted behind them.
A month later the place was a dimpled mound, covered with soft,
green young stuff; and by the end of the Rains there was the roaring
jungle in full blast on the spot that had been under plough not six
MOWGLI'S SONG AGAINST PEOPLE
I will let loose against you the fleet-footed vines--
I will call in the Jungle to stamp out your lines!
The roofs shall fade before it,
The house-beams shall fall,
And the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall cover it all!
In the gates of these your councils my people shall sing,
In the doors of these your garners the Bat-folk shall cling;
And the snake shall be your watchman,
By a hearthstone unswept;
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall fruit where ye slept!
Ye shall not see my strikers; ye shall hear them and guess;
By night, before the moon-rise, I will send for my cess,
And the wolf shall he your herdsman
By a landmark removed,
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall seed where ye loved!
I will reap your fields before you at the hands of a host;
Ye shall glean behind my reapers, for the bread that is lost,
And the deer shall be your oxen
By a headland untilled,
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall leaf where ye build!
I have untied against you the club-footed vines,
I have sent in the Jungle to swamp out your lines.
The trees--the trees are on you!
The house-beams shall fall,
And the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall cover you all!
When ye say to Tabaqui, "My Brother!" when ye call the
Hyena to meat,
Ye may cry the Full Truce with Jacala--the Belly that runs
on four feet.
"Respect the aged!"
"It was a thick voice--a muddy voice that would have made you
shudder--a voice like something soft breaking in two. There was a
quaver in it, a croak and a whine.
"Respect the aged! O Companions of the River--respect the aged!"
Nothing could be seen on the broad reach of the river except a
little fleet of square-sailed, wooden-pinned barges, loaded with
building-stone, that had just come under the railway bridge, and were
driving down-stream. They put their clumsy helms over to avoid the
sand-bar made by the scour of the bridge-piers, and as they passed,
three abreast, the horrible voice began again:
"O Brahmins of the River--respect the aged and infirm!"
A boatman turned where he sat on the gunwale, lifted up his hand,
said something that was not a blessing, and the boats creaked on
through the twilight. The broad Indian river, that looked more like a
chain of little lakes than a stream, was as smooth as glass,
reflecting the sandy-red sky in mid-channel, but splashed with patches
of yellow and dusky purple near and under the low banks. Little creeks
ran into the river in the wet season, but now their dry mouths hung
clear above water-line. On the left shore, and almost under the
railway bridge, stood a mud-and-brick and thatch-and-stick village,
whose main street, full of cattle going back to their byres, ran
straight to the river, and ended in a sort of rude brick pier-head,
where people who wanted to wash could wade in step by step. That was
the Ghaut of the village of Mugger-Ghaut.
Night was falling fast over the fields of lentils and rice and
cotton in the low-lying ground yearly flooded by the river; over the
reeds that fringed the elbow of the bend, and the tangled jungle of
the grazing-grounds behind the still reeds. The parrots and crows, who
had been chattering and shouting over their evening drink, had flown
inland to roost, crossing the out-going battalions of the
flying-foxes; and cloud upon cloud of water-birds came whistling and
"honking" to the cover of the reed-beds. There were geese,
barrel-headed and black-backed, teal, widgeon, mallard, and sheldrake,
with curlews, and here and there a flamingo.
A lumbering Adjutant-crane brought up the rear, flying as though
each slow stroke would be his last.
"Respect the aged! Brahmins of the River--respect the aged!"
The Adjutant half turned his head, sheered a little in the
direction of the voice, and landed stiffly on the sand-bar below the
bridge. Then you saw what a ruffianly brute he really was. His back
view was immensely respectable, for he stood nearly six feet high, and
looked rather like a very proper bald-headed parson. In front it was
different, for his Ally Sloper-like head and neck had not a feather to
them, and there was a horrible raw-skin pouch on his neck under his
chin--a hold-all for the things his pick-axe beak might steal. His
legs were long and thin and skinny, but he moved them delicately, and
looked at them with pride as he preened down his ashy-gray
tail-feathers, glanced over the smooth of his shoulder, and stiffened
into "Stand at attention."
A mangy little Jackal, who had been yapping hungrily on a low
bluff, cocked up his ears and tail, and scuttered across the shallows
to join the Adjutant.
He was the lowest of his caste--not that the best of jackals are
good for much, but this one was peculiarly low, being half a beggar,
half a criminal--a cleaner-up of village rubbish-heaps, desperately
timid or wildly bold, everlastingly hungry, and full of cunning that
never did him any good.
"Ugh!" he said, shaking himself dolefully as he landed. "May the
red mange destroy the dogs of this village! I have three bites for
each flea upon me, and all because I looked--only looked, mark you--at
an old shoe in a cow-byre. Can I eat mud?" He scratched himself under
his left ear.
"I heard," said the Adjutant, in a voice like a blunt saw going
through a thick board--"I HEARD there was a new-born puppy in that
"To hear is one thing; to know is another," said the Jackal, who
had a very fair knowledge of proverbs, picked up by listening to men
round the village fires of an evening.
"Quite true. So, to make sure, I took care of that puppy while the
dogs were busy elsewhere."
"They were VERY busy," said the Jackal. "Well, I must not go to
the village hunting for scraps yet awhile. And so there truly was a
blind puppy in that shoe?"
"It is here," said the Adjutant, squinting over his beak at his
full pouch. "A small thing, but acceptable now that charity is dead
in the world."
"Ahai! The world is iron in these days," wailed the Jackal. Then
his restless eye caught the least possible ripple on the water, and he
went on quickly: "Life is hard for us all, and I doubt not that even
our excellent master, the Pride of the Ghaut and the Envy of the
"A liar, a flatterer, and a Jackal were all hatched out of the
same egg," said the Adjutant to nobody in particular; for he was
rather a fine sort of a liar on his own account when he took the
"Yes, the Envy of the River," the Jackal repeated, raising his
voice. "Even he, I doubt not, finds that since the bridge has been
built good food is more scarce. But on the other hand, though I would
by no means say this to his noble face, he is so wise and so
virtuous--as I, alas I am not----"
"When the Jackal owns he is gray, how black must the Jackal be!"
muttered the Adjutant. He could not see what was coming.
"That his food never fails, and in consequence----"
There was a soft grating sound, as though a boat had just touched
in shoal water. The Jackal spun round quickly and faced (it is always
best to face) the creature he had been talking about. It was a
twenty-four-foot crocodile, cased in what looked like treble-riveted
boiler-plate, studded and keeled and crested; the yellow points of his
upper teeth just overhanging his beautifully fluted lower jaw. It was
the blunt-nosed Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut, older than any man in the
village, who had given his name to the village; the demon of the ford
before the railway bridge, came--murderer, man-eater, and local fetish
in one. He lay with his chin in the shallows, keeping his place by an
almost invisible rippling of his tail, and well the Jackal knew that
one stroke of that same tail in the water would carry the Mugger up
the bank with the rush of a steam-engine.
"Auspiciously met, Protector of the Poor!" he fawned, backing at
every word. "A delectable voice was heard, and we came in the hopes of
sweet conversation. My tailless presumption, while waiting here, led
me, indeed, to speak of thee. It is my hope that nothing was
Now the Jackal had spoken just to be listened to, for he knew
flattery was the best way of getting things to eat, and the Mugger
knew that the Jackal had spoken for this end, and the Jackal knew that
the Mugger knew, and the Mugger knew that the Jackal knew that the
Mugger knew, and so they were all very contented together.
The old brute pushed and panted and grunted up the bank, mumbling,
"Respect the aged and infirm!" and all the time his little eyes burned
like coals under the heavy, horny eyelids on the top of his triangular
head, as he shoved his bloated barrel-body along between his crutched
legs. Then he settled down, and, accustomed as the Jackal was to his
ways, he could not help starting, for the hundredth time, when he saw
how exactly the Mugger imitated a log adrift on the bar. He had even
taken pains to lie at the exact angle a naturally stranded log would
make with the water, having regard to the current of
he season at the time and place. All this was only a matter of
habit, of course, because the Mugger had come ashore for pleasure;
but a crocodile is never quite full, and if the Jackal had been
deceived by the likeness he would not have lived to philosophise over
"My child, I heard nothing," said the Mugger, shutting one eye.
"The water was in my ears, and also I was faint with hunger. Since
the railway bridge was built my people at my village have ceased to
love me; and that is breaking my heart."
"Ah, shame!" said the Jackal. "So noble a heart, too! But men are
all alike, to my mind."
"Nay, there are very great differences indeed," the Mugger
answered gently. "Some are as lean asboat-poles. Others again are fat
as young ja--dogs. Never would I causelessly revile men. They are of
all fashions, but the long years have shown me that, one with another,
they are very good. Men, women, and children-- I have no fault to find
with them. And remember, child, he who rebukes the World is rebuked by
"Flattery is worse than an empty tin can in the belly. But that
which we have just heard is wisdom," said the Adjutant, bringing down
"Consider, though, their ingratitude to this excellent one," began
the Jackal tenderly.
"Nay, nay, not ingratitude!" the Mugger said. They do not think
for others; that is all. But I have noticed, lying at my station
below the ford, that the stairs of the new bridge are cruelly hard to
climb, both for old people and young children. The old, indeed, are
not so worthy of consideration, but I am grieved-- I am truly
grieved--on account of the fat children. Still, I think, in a little
while, when the newness of the bridge has worn away, we shall see my
people"s bare brown legs bravely splashing through the ford as before.
Then the old Mugger will be honoured again."
"But surely I saw Marigold wreaths floating off the edge of the
Ghaut only this noon," said the Adjutant.
Marigold wreaths are a sign of reverence all India over.
"An error--an error. It was the wife of the sweetmeat-seller. She
loses her eyesight year by year, and cannot tell a log from me--the
Mugger of the Ghaut. I saw the mistake when she threw the garland, for
I was lying at the very foot of the Ghaut, and had she taken another
step I might have shown her some little difference. Yet she meant
well, and we must consider the spirit of the offering."
"What good are marigold wreaths when one is on the rubbish- heap?"
said the Jackal, hunting for fleas, but keeping one wary eye on his
Protector of the Poor.
"True, but they have not yet begun to make the rubbish-heap that
shall carry ME. Five times have I seen the river draw back from the
village and make new land at the foot of the street. Five times have I
seen the village rebuilt on the banks, and I shall see it built yet
five times more. I am no faithless, fish- hunting Gavial, I, at Kasi
to-day and Prayag to-morrow, as the saying is, but the true and
constant watcher of the ford. It is not for nothing, child, that the
village bears my name, and "he who watches long," as the saying is,
"shall at last have his reward.""
"_I_ have watched long--very long--nearly all my life, and my
reward has been bites and blows," said the Jackal.
"Ho! ho! ho!" roared the Adjutant.
"In August was the Jackal born; The Rains fell in September; "Now
such a fearful flood as this," Says he, "I can"t remember!""
There is one very unpleasant peculiarity about the Adjutant. At
uncertain times he suffers from acute attacks of the fidgets or cramp
in his legs, and though he is more virtuous to behold than any of the
cranes, who are all immensely respectable, he flies off into wild,
cripple-stilt war-dances, half opening his wings and bobbing his bald
head up and down; while for reasons best known to himself he is very
careful to time his worst attacks with his nastiest remarks. At the
last word of his song he came to attention again, ten times
adjutaunter than before.
The Jackal winced, though he was full three seasons old, but you
cannot resent an insult from a person with a beak a yard long, and
the power of driving it like a javelin. The Adjutant was a most
notorious coward, but the Jackal was worse.
"We must live before we can learn," said the Mugger, "and there is
this to say: Little jackals are very common, child, but such a mugger
as I am is not common. For all that, I am not proud, since pride is
destruction; but take notice, it is Fate, and against his Fate no one
who swims or walks or runs should say anything at all. I am well
contented with Fate. With good luck, a keen eye, and the custom of
considering whether a creek or a backwater has an outlet to it ere you
ascend, much may be done."
"Once I heard that even the Protector of the Poor made a mistake,"
said the Jackal viciously.
"True; but there my Fate helped me. It was before I had come to my
full growth--before the last famine but three (by the Right and Left
of Gunga, how full used the streams to be in those days!). Yes, I was
young and unthinking, and when the flood came, who so pleased as I? A
little made me very happy then. The village was deep in flood, and I
swam above the Ghaut and went far inland, up to the rice-fields, and
they were deep in good mud. I remember also a pair of bracelets (glass
they were, and troubled me not a little) that I found that evening.
Yes, glass bracelets; and, if my memory serves me well, a shoe. I
should have shaken off both shoes, but I was hungry. I learned better
later. Yes. And so I fed and rested me; but when I was ready to go to
the river again the flood had fallen, and I walked through the mud of
the main street. Who but I? Came out all my people, priests and women
and children, and I looked upon them with benevolence. The mud is not
a good place to fight in. Said a boatman, "Get axes and kill him, for
he is the Mugger of the ford." "Not so," said the Brahmin. "Look, he
is driving the flood before him! He is the godling of the village."
Then they threw many flowers at me, and by happy thought one led a
goat across the road."
"How good--how very good is goat!" said the Jackal.
"Hairy--too hairy, and when found in the water more than likely to
hide a cross-shaped hook. But that goat I accepted, and went down to
the Ghaut in great honour. Later, my Fate sent me the boatman who had
desired to cut off my tail with an axe. His boat grounded upon an old
shoal which you would not remember."
"We are not ALL jackals here," said the Adjutant. Was it the shoal
made where the stone-boats sank in the year of the great drouth--a
long shoal that lasted three floods?"
"There were two," said the Mugger; "an upper and a lower shoal."
"Ay, I forgot. A channel divided them, and later dried up again,"
said the Adjutant, who prided himself on his memory.
"On the lower shoal my well-wisher"s craft grounded. He was
sleeping in the bows, and, half awake, leaped over to his waist--no,
it was no more than to his knees--to push off. His empty boat went on
and touched again below the next reach, as the river ran then. I
followed, because I knew men would come out to drag it ashore."
"And did they do so?" said the Jackal, a little awe-stricken. This
was hunting on a scale that impressed him.
"There and lower down they did. I went no farther, but that gave
me three in one day--well-fed manjis (boatmen) all, and, except in
the case of the last (then I was careless), never a cry to warn those
on the bank."
"Ah, noble sport! But what cleverness and great judgment it
requires!" said the Jackal.
"Not cleverness, child, but only thought. A little thought in life
is like salt upon rice, as the boatmen say, and I have thought deeply
always. The Gavial, my cousin, the fish-eater, has told me how hard it
is for him to follow his fish, and how one fish differs from the
other, and how he must know them all, both together and apart. I say
that is wisdom; but, on the other hand, my cousin, the Gavial, lives
among his people. MY people do not swim in companies, with their
mouths out of the water, as Rewa does; nor do they constantly rise to
the surface of the water, and turn over on their sides, like Mohoo and
little Chapta; nor do they gather in shoals after flood, like Batchua
"All are very good eating," said the Adjutant, clattering his
"So my cousin says, and makes a great to-do over hunting them, but
they do not climb the banks to escape his sharp nose. MY people are
otherwise. Their life is on the land, in the houses, among the cattle.
I must know what they do, and what they are about to do; and adding
the tail to the trunk, as the saying is, I make up the whole elephant.
Is there a green branch and an iron ring hanging over a doorway? The
old Mugger knows that a boy has been born in that house, and must some
day come down to the Ghaut to play. Is a maiden to be married? The
old Mugger knows, for he sees the men carry gifts back and forth; and
she, too, comes down to the Ghaut to bathe before her wedding, and--he
is there. Has the river changed its channel, and made new land where
there was only sand before? The Mugger knows."
"Now, of what use is that knowledge?" said the Jackal. "The river
has shifted even in my little life." Indian rivers are nearly always
moving about in their beds, and will shift, sometimes, as much as two
or three miles in a season, drowning the fields on one bank, and
spreading good silt on the other.
"There is no knowledge so useful," said the Mugger, "for new land
means new quarrels. The Mugger knows. Oho! the Mugger knows. As soon
as the water has drained off, he creeps up the little creeks that men
think would not hide a dog, and there he waits. Presently comes a
farmer saying he will plant cucumbers here, and melons there, in the
new land that the river has given him. He feels the good mud with his
bare toes. Anon comes another, saying he will put onions, and carrots,
and sugar-cane in such and such places. They meet as boats adrift
meet, and each rolls his eye at the other under the big blue turban.
The old Mugger sees and hears. Each calls the other "Brother," and
they go to mark out the boundaries of the new land. The Mugger hurries
with them from point to point, shuffling very low through the mud. Now
they begin to quarrel! Now they say hot words! Now they pull turbans!
Now they lift up their lathis (clubs), and, at last, one falls
backward into the mud, and the other runs away. When he comes back the
dispute is settled, as the iron-bound bamboo of the loser witnesses.
Yet they are not grateful to the Mugger. No, they cry "Murder!" and
their families fight with sticks, twenty a-side. My people are good
people--upland Jats--Malwais of the Bet. They do not give blows for
sport, and, when the fight is done, the old Mugger waits far down the
river, out of sight of the village, behind the kikar-scrub yonder.
Then come they down, my broad-shouldered Jats--eight or nine together
under the stars, bearing the dead man upon a bed. They are old men
with gray beards, and voices as deep as mine. They light a little
fire--ah! how well I know that fire!--and they drink tobacco, and they
nod their heads together forward in a ring, or sideways toward the
dead man upon the bank. They say the English Law will come with a rope
for this matter, and that such a man"s family will be ashamed, because
such a man must be hanged in the great square of the Jail. Then say
the friends of the dead, "Let him hang!" and the talk is all to do
over again--once, twice, twenty times in the long night. Then says
one, at last, "The fight was a fair fight. Let us take blood-money, a
little more than is offered by the slayer, and we will say no more
about it." Then do they haggle over the blood-money, for the dead was
a strong man, leaving many sons. Yet before amratvela (sunrise) they
put the fire to him a little, as the custom is, and the dead man comes
to me, and HE says no more about it. Aha! my children, the Mugger
knows--the Mugger knows--and my Malwah Jats are a good people!"
"They are too close--too narrow in the hand for my crop," croaked
the Adjutant. "They waste not the polish on the cow"s horn, as the
saying is; and, again, who can glean after a Malwai?"
"Ah, I--glean--THEM," said the Mugger.
"Now, in Calcutta of the South, in the old days," the Adjutant
went on, "everything was thrown into the streets, and we picked and
chose. Those wore dainty seasons. But to-day they keep their streets
as clean as the outside of an egg, and my people fly away. To be clean
is one thing; to dust, sweep, and sprinkle seven times a day wearies
the very Gods themselves."
"There was a down-country jackal had it from a brother, who told
me, that in Calcutta of the South all the jackals were as fat as
otters in the Rains," said the Jackal, his mouth watering at the bare
thought of it.
"Ah, but the white-faces are there--the English, and they bring
dogs from somewhere down the river in boats--big fat dogs--to keep
those same jackals lean," said the Adjutant.
"They are, then, as hard-hearted as these people? I might have
known. Neither earth, sky, nor water shows charity to a jackal. I saw
the tents of a white-face last season, after the Rains, and I also
took a new yellow bridle to eat. The white-faces do not dress their
leather in the proper way. It made me very sick."
"That was better than my case," said the Adjutant. "When I was in
my third season, a young and a bold bird, I went down to the river
where the big boats come in. The boats of the English are thrice as
big as this village."
"He has been as far as Delhi, and says all the people there walk
on their heads," muttered the Jackal. The Mugger opened his left eye,
and looked keenly at the Adjutant.
"It is true," the big bird insisted. "A liar only lies when he
hopes to be believed. No one who had not seen those boats COULD
believe this truth."
"THAT is more reasonable," said the Mugger. "And then?"
"From the insides of this boat they were taking out great pieces
of white stuff, which, in a little while, turned to water. Much split
off, and fell about on the shore, and the rest they swiftly put into a
house with thick walls. But a boatman, who laughed, took a piece no
larger than a small dog, and threw it to me. I--all my people--swallow
without reflection, and that piece I swallowed as is our custom.
Immediately I was afflicted with an excessive cold which, beginning in
my crop, ran down to the extreme end of my toes, and deprived me even
of speech, while the boatmen laughed at me. Never have I felt such
cold. I danced in my grief and amazement till I could recover my
breath and then I danced and cried out against the falseness of this
world; and the boatmen derided me till they fell down. The chief
wonder of the matter, setting aside that marvellous coldness, was that
there was nothing at all in my crop when I had finished my
The Adjutant had done his very best to describe his feelings after
swallowing a seven-pound lump of Wenham Lake ice, off an American
ice-ship, in the days before Calcutta made her ice by machinery; but
as he did not know what ice was, and as the Mugger and the Jackal knew
rather less, the tale missed fire.
"Anything," said the Mugger, shutting his left eye again--
"ANYTHING is possible that comes out of a boat thrice the size of
Mugger-Ghaut. My village is not a small one."
There was a whistle overhead on the bridge, and the Delhi Mail
slid across, all the carriages gleaming with light, and the shadows
faithfully following along the river. It clanked away into the dark
again; but the Mugger and the Jackal were so well used to it that they
never turned their heads.
"Is that anything less wonderful than a boat thrice the size of
Mugger-Ghaut?" said the bird, looking up.
"I saw that built, child. Stone by stone I saw the bridge-piers
rise, and when the men fell off (they were wondrous sure-footed for
the most part--but WHEN they fell) I was ready. After the first pier
was made they never thought to look down the stream for the body to
burn. There, again, I saved much trouble. There was nothing strange in
the building of the bridge," said the Mugger.
"But that which goes across, pulling the roofed carts! That is
strange," the Adjutant repeated. "It is, past any doubt, a new breed
of bullock. Some day it will not be able to keep its foothold up
yonder, and will fall as the men did. The old Mugger will then be
The Jackal looked at the Adjutant and the Adjutant looked at the
Jackal. If there was one thing they were more certain of than
another, it was that the engine was everything in the wide world
except a bullock. The Jackal had watched it time and again from the
aloe hedges by the side of the line, and the Adjutant had seen engines
since the first locomotive ran in India. But the Mugger had only
looked up at the thing from below, where the brass dome seemed rather
like a bullock"s hump.
"M--yes, a new kind of bullock," the Mugger repeated ponderously,
to make himself quite sure in his own mind; and "Certainly it is a
bullock," said the Jackal.
"And again it might be----" began the Mugger pettishly.
"Certainly--most certainly," said the Jackal, without waiting for
the other to finish.
"What?" said the Mugger angrily, for he could feel that the others
knew more than he did. "What might it be? _I_ never finished my words.
You said it was a bullock."
"It is anything the Protector of the Poor pleases. I am HIS
servant--not the servant of the thing that crosses the river."
"Whatever it is, it is white-face work," said the Adjutant; "and
for my own part, I would not lie out upon a place so near to it as
"You do not know the English as I do," said the Mugger. "There was
a white-face here when the bridge was built, and he would take a boat
in the evenings and shuffle with his feet on the bottom-boards, and
whisper: "Is he here? Is he there? Bring me my gun." I could hear him
before I could see him--each sound that he made--creaking and puffing
and rattling his gun, up and down the river. As surely as I had picked
up one of his workmen, and thus saved great expense in wood for the
burning, so surely would he come down to the Ghaut, and shout in a
loud voice that he would hunt me, and rid the river of me--the Mugger
of Mugger- Ghaut! ME! Children, I have swum under the bottom of his
boat for hour after hour, and heard him fire his gun at logs; and
when I was well sure he was wearied, I have risen by his side and
snapped my jaws in his face. When the bridge was finished he went
away. All the English hunt in that fashion, except when they are
"Who hunts the white-faces?" yapped the Jackal excitedly.
"No one now, but I have hunted them in my time."
"I remember a little of that Hunting. I was young then," said the
Adjutant, clattering his beak significantly.
"I was well established here. My village was being builded for the
third time, as I remember, when my cousin, the Gavial, brought me word
of rich waters above Benares. At first I would not go, for my cousin,
who is a fish-eater, does not always know the good from the bad; but I
heard my people talking in the evenings, and what they said made me
"And what did they say?" the Jackal asked.
"They said enough to make me, the Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut, leave
water and take to my feet. I went by night, using the littlest streams
as they served me; but it was the beginning of the hot weather, and
all streams were low. I crossed dusty roads; I went through tall
grass; I climbed hills in the moonlight. Even rocks did I climb,
children--consider this well. I crossed the tail of Sirhind, the
waterless, before I could find the set of the little rivers that flow
Gungaward. I was a month"s journey from my own people and the river
that I knew. That was very marvellous!"
"What food on the way?" said the Jackal, who kept his soul in his
little stomach, and was not a bit impressed by the Mugger"s land
"That which I could find--COUSIN," said the Mugger slowly,
dragging each word.
Now you do not call a man a cousin in India unless you think you
can establish some kind of blood-relationship, and as it is only in
old fairy-tales that the Mugger ever marries a jackal, the Jackal knew
for what reason he had been suddenly lifted into the Mugger"s family
circle. If they had been alone he would not have cared, but the
Adjutant"s eyes twinkled with mirth at the ugly jest.
"Assuredly, Father, I might have known," said the Jackal. A mugger
does not care to be called a father of jackals, and the Mugger of
Mugger-Ghaut said as much--and a great deal more which there is no use
in repeating here.
"The Protector of the Poor has claimed kinship. How can I remember
the precise degree? Moreover, we eat the same food. He has said it,"
was the Jackal"s reply.
That made matters rather worse, for what the Jackal hinted at was
that the Mugger must have eaten his food on that land-march fresh and
fresh every day, instead of keeping it by him till it was in a fit and
proper condition, as every self-respecting mugger and most wild beasts
do when they can. Indeed, one of the worst terms of contempt along the
River-bed is "eater of fresh meat." It is nearly as bad as calling a
man a cannibal.
"That food was eaten thirty seasons ago," said the Adjutant
quietly. "If we talk for thirty seasons more it will never come
back. Tell us, now, what happened when the good waters were reached
after thy most wonderful land journey. If we listened to the howling
of every jackal the business of the town would stop, as the saying is.
The Mugger must have been grateful for the interruption, because
he went on, with a rush:
"By the Right and Left of Gunga! when I came there never did I see
"Were they better, then, than the big flood of last season?" said
"Better! That flood was no more than comes every five years-- a
handful of drowned strangers, some chickens, and a dead bullock in
muddy water with cross-currents. But the season I think of, the river
was low, smooth, and even, and, as the Gavial had warned me, the dead
English came down, touching each other. I got my girth in that
season--my girth and my depth. >From Agra, by Etawah and the broad
waters by Allahabad----"
"Oh, the eddy that set under the walls of the fort at Allahabad!"
said the Adjutant. "They came in there like widgeon to the reeds, and
round and round they swung--thus!"
He went off into his horrible dance again, while the Jackal looked
on enviously. He naturally could not remember the terrible year of the
Mutiny they were talking about. The Mugger continued:
"Yes, by Allahabad one lay still in the slack-water and let twenty
go by to pick one; and, above all, the English were not cumbered with
jewellery and nose-rings and anklets as my women are nowadays. To
delight in ornaments is to end with a rope for a necklace, as the
saying is. All the muggers of all the rivers grew fat then, but it was
my Fate to be fatter than them all. The news was that the English were
being hunted into the rivers, and by the Right and Left of Gunga! we
believed it was true. So far as I went south I believed it to he true;
and I went down-stream beyond Monghyr and the tombs that look over
"I know that place," said the Adjutant. "Since those days Monghyr
is a lost city. Very few live there now."
"Thereafter I worked up-stream very slowly and lazily, and a
little above Monghyr there came down a boatful of white-faces--
alive! They were, as I remember, women, lying under a cloth spread
over sticks, and crying aloud. There was never a gun fired at us, the
watchers of the fords in those days. All the guns were busy elsewhere.
We could hear them day and night inland, coming and going as the wind
shifted. I rose up full before the boat, because I had never seen
white-faces alive, though I knew them well--otherwise. A naked white
child kneeled by the side of the boat, and, stooping over, must needs
try to trail his hands in the river. It is a pretty thing to see how a
child loves running water. I had fed that day, but there was yet a
little unfilled space within me. Still, it was for sport and not for
food that I rose at the child"s hands. They were so clear a mark that
I did not even look when I closed; but they were so small that though
my jaws rang true--I am sure of that-- the child drew them up swiftly,
unhurt. They must have passed between tooth and tooth--those small
white hands. I should have caught him cross-wise at the elbows; but,
as I said, it was only for sport and desire to see new things that I
rose at all. They cried out one after another in the boat, and
presently I rose again to watch them. The boat was too heavy to push
over. They were only women, but he who trusts a woman will walk on
duckweed in a pool, as the saying is: and by the Right and Left of
Gunga, that is truth!"
"Once a woman gave me some dried skin from a fish," said the
Jackal. "I had hoped to get her baby, but horse-food is better than
the kick of a horse, as the saying is. What did thy woman do?"
"She fired at me with a short gun of a kind I have never seen
before or since. Five times, one after another" (the Mugger must have
met with an old-fashioned revolver); "and I stayed open- mouthed and
gaping, my head in the smoke. Never did I see such a thing. Five
times, as swiftly as I wave my tail--thus!"
The Jackal, who had been growing more and more interested in the
story, had just time to leap back as the huge tail swung by like a
"Not before the fifth shot," said the Mugger, as though he had
never dreamed of stunning one of his listeners--" not before the
fifth shot did I sink, and I rose in time to hear a boatman telling
all those white women that I was most certainly dead. One bullet had
gone under a neck-plate of mine. I know not if it is there still, for
the reason I cannot turn my head. Look and see, child. It will show
that my tale is true."
"I?" said the Jackal. "Shall an eater of old shoes, a bone-
cracker, presume, to doubt the word of the Envy of the River? May my
tail be bitten off by blind puppies if the shadow of such a thought
has crossed my humble mind! The Protector of the Poor has condescended
to inform me, his slave, that once in his life he has been wounded by
a woman. That is sufficient, and I will tell the tale to all my
children, asking for no proof."
"Over-much civility is sometimes no better than over-much
discourtesy, for, as the saying is, one can choke a guest with curds.
I do NOT desire that any children of thine should know that the Mugger
of Mugger-Ghaut took his only wound from a woman. They will have much
else to think of if they get their meat as miserably as does their
"It is forgotten long ago! It was never said! There never was a
white woman! There was no boat! Nothing whatever happened at all."
The Jackal waved his brush to show how completely everything was
wiped out of his memory, and sat down with an air.
"Indeed, very many things happened," said the Mugger, beaten in
his second attempt that night to get the better of his friend.
(Neither bore malice, however. Eat and be eaten was fair law along
the river, and the Jackal came in for his share of plunder when the
Mugger had finished a meal.) "I left that boat and went up-stream,
and, when I had reached Arrah and the back-waters behind it, there
were no more dead English. The river was empty for a while. Then came
one or two dead, in red coats, not English, but of one kind
all--Hindus and Purbeeahs--then five and six abreast, and at last,
from Arrah to the North beyond Agra, it was as though whole villages
had walked into the water. They came out of little creeks one after
another, as the logs come down in the Rains. When the river rose they
rose also in companies from the shoals they had rested upon; and the
falling flood dragged them with it across the fields and through the
Jungle by the long hair. All night, too, going North, I heard the
guns, and by day the shod feet of men crossing fords, and that noise
which a heavy cart-wheel makes on sand under water; and every ripple
brought more dead. At last even I was afraid, for I said: "If this
thing happen to men, how shall the Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut escape?"
There were boats, too, that came up behind me without sails, burning
continually, as the cotton- boats sometimes burn, but never sinking."
"Ah!" said the Adjutant. "Boats like those come to Calcutta of the
South. They are tall and black, they beat up the water behind them
with a tail, and they----"
"Are thrice as big as my village. MY boats were low and white;
they beat up the water on either side of them" and were no larger
than the boats of one who speaks truth should be. They made me very
afraid, and I left water and went back to this my river, hiding by day
and walking by night, when I could not find little streams to help me.
I came to my village again, but I did not hope to see any of my people
there. Yet they were ploughing and sowing and reaping, and going to
and fro in their fields, as quietly as their own cattle."
"Was there still good food in the river?" said the Jackal.
"More than I had any desire for. Even I--and I do not eat mud--
even I was tired, and, as I remember, a little frightened of this
constant coming down of the silent ones. I heard my people say in my
village that all the English were dead; but those that came, face
down, with the current were NOT English, as my people saw. Then my
people said that it was best to say nothing at all, but to pay the tax
and plough the land. After a long time the river cleared, and those
that came down it had been clearly drowned by the floods, as I could
well see; and though it was not so easy then to get food, I was
heartily glad of it. A little killing here and there is no bad
thing--but even the Mugger is sometimes satisfied, as the saying is."
"Marvellous! Most truly marvellous!" said the Jackal. "I am become
fat through merely hearing about so much good eating. And afterward
what, if it be permitted to ask, did the Protector of the Poor do?"
"I said to myself--and by the Right and Left of Gunga! I locked my
jaws on that vow--I said I would never go roving any more. So I lived
by the Ghaut, very close to my own people, and I watched over them
year after year; and they loved me so much that they threw marigold
wreaths at my head whenever they saw it lift. Yes, and my Fate has
been very kind to me, and the river is good enough to respect my poor
and infirm presence; only----"
"No one is all happy from his beak to his tail," said the Adjutant
sympathetically. "What does the Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut need more?"
"That little white child which I did not get," said the Mugger,
with a deep sigh. "He was very small, but I have not forgotten. I am
old now, but before I die it is my desire to try one new thing. It is
true they are a heavy-footed, noisy, and foolish people, and the sport
would be small, but I remember the old days above Benares, and, if the
child lives, he will remember still. It may be he goes up and down the
bank of some river, telling how he once passed his hands between the
teeth of the Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut, and lived to make a tale of it.
My Fate has been very kind, but that plagues me sometimes in my
dreams-- the thought of the little white child in the bows of that
boat." He yawned, and closed his jaws. "And now I will rest and think.
Keep silent, my children, and respect the aged."
He turned stiffly, and shuffled to the top of the sand-bar, while
the Jackal drew back with the Adjutant to the shelter of a tree
stranded on the end nearest the railway bridge.
"That was a pleasant and profitable life," he grinned, looking up
inquiringly at the bird who towered above him. "And not once, mark
you, did he think fit to tell me where a morsel might have been left
along the banks. Yet I have told HIM a hundred times of good things
wallowing down-stream. How true is the saying, "All the world forgets
the Jackal and the Barber when the news has been told!" Now he is
going to sleep! Arrh!"
"How can a jackal hunt with a Mugger?" said the Adjutant coolly.
"Big thief and little thief; it is easy to say who gets the pickings."
The Jackal turned, whining impatiently, and was going to curl
himself up under the tree-trunk, when suddenly he cowered, and looked
up through the draggled branches at the bridge almost above his head.
"What now?" said the Adjutant, opening his wings uneasily.
"Wait till we see. The wind blows from us to them, but they are
not looking for us--those two men."
"Men, is it? My office protects me. All India knows I am holy."
The Adjutant, being a first-class scavenger, is allowed to go where
he pleases, and so this one never flinched.
"I am not worth a blow from anything better than an old shoe,"
said the Jackal, and listened again. "Hark to that footfall!" he went
on. "That was no country leather, but the shod foot of a white-face.
Listen again! Iron hits iron up there! It is a gun! Friend, those
heavy-footed, foolish English are coming to speak with the Mugger."
"Warn him, then. He was called Protector of the Poor by some one
not unlike a starving Jackal but a little time ago."
"Let my cousin protect his own hide. He has told me again and
again there is nothing to fear from the white-faces. They must be
white-faces. Not a villager of Mugger-Ghaut would dare to come after
him. See, I said it was a gun! Now, with good luck, we shall feed
before daylight. He cannot hear well out of water, and--this time it
is not a woman!"
A shiny barrel glittered for a minute in the moonlight on the
girders. The Mugger was lying on the sand-bar as still as his own
shadow, his fore-feet spread out a little, his head dropped between
them, snoring like a--mugger.
A voice on the bridge whispered: "It's an odd shot--straight down
almost--but as safe as houses. Better try behind the neck. Golly! what
a brute! The villagers will be wild if he's shot, though. He's the
deota [godling] of these parts."
"Don't care a rap," another voice answered; he took about fifteen
of my best coolies while the bridge was building, and it's time he was
put a stop to. I've been after him in a boat for weeks. Stand by with
the Martini as soon as I've given him both barrels of this."
"Mind the kick, then. A double four-bore's no joke."
"That's for him to decide. Here goes!"
There was a roar like the sound of a small cannon (the biggest
sort of elephant-rifle is not very different from some artillery),
and a double streak of flame, followed by the stinging crack of a
Martini, whose long bullet makes nothing of a crocodile's plates. But
the explosive bullets did the work. One of them struck just behind the
Mugger's neck, a hand's- breadth to the left of thle backbone, while
the other burst a little lower down, at the beginning of the tail. In
ninety- nine cases out of a hundred a mortally-wounded crocodile can
scramble to deep water and get away; but the Mugger of Mugger- Ghaut
was literally broken into three pieces. He hardly moved his head
before the life went out of him, and he lay as flat as the Jackal.
"Thunder and lightning! Lightning and thunder!" said that
miserable little beast. "Has the thing that pulls the covered carts
over the bridge tumbled at last?"
"It is no more than a gun," said the Adjutant, though his very
tail-feathers quivered. "Nothing more than a gun. He is certainly
dead. Here come the white-faces."
The two Englishmen had hurried down from the bridge and across to
the sand-bar, where they stood admiring the length of the Mugger. Then
a native with an axe cut off the big head, and four men dragged it
across the spit.
"The last time that I had my hand in a Mugger's mouth," said one
of the Englishmen, stooping down (he was the man who had built the
bridge), "it was when I was about five years old--coming down the
river by boat to Monghyr. I was a Mutiny baby, as they call it. Poor
mother was in the boat, too, and she often told me how she fired dad's
old pistol at the beast's head."
"Well, you've certainly had your revenge on the chief of the
clan--even if the gun has made your nose bleed. Hi, you boatmen! Haul
that head up the bank, and we'll boil it for the skull. The skin's too
knocked about to keep. Come along to bed now. This was worth sitting
up all night for, wasn't it?"
Curiously enough, the Jackal and the Adjutant made the very same
remark not three minutes after the men had left.
A RIPPLE SONG
Once a ripple came to land
In the golden sunset burning--
Lapped against a maiden's hand,
By the ford returning.
Dainty foot and gentle breast--
Here, across, be glad and rest.
"Maiden, wait," the ripple saith.
"Wait awhile, for I am Death!"
"Where my lover calls I go--
Shame it were to treat him coldly--
'Twas a fish that circled so,
Turning over boldly."
Dainty foot and tender heart,
Wait the loaded ferry-cart.
"Wait, ah, wait!" the ripple saith;
"Maiden, wait, for I am Death!"
"When my lover calls I haste-
Dame Disdain was never wedded!"
Ripple-ripple round her waist,
Clear the current eddied.
Foolish heart and faithful hand,
Little feet that touched no land.
Far away the ripple sped,
THE KING'S ANKUS
These are the Four that are never content, that have never
been filled since the Dews began--
Jacala's mouth, and the glut of the Kite, and the hands of the
Ape, and the Eyes of Man.
Kaa, the big Rock Python, had changed his skin for perhaps the
two-hundredth time since his birth; and Mowgli, who never forgot that
he owed his life to Kaa for a night's work at Cold Lairs, which you
may perhaps remember, went to congratulate him. Skin-changing always
makes a snake moody and depressed till the new skin begins to shine
and look beautiful. Kaa never made fun of Mowgli any more, but
accepted him, as the other Jungle People did, for the Master of the
Jungle, and brought him all the news that a python of his size would
naturally hear. What Kaa did not know about the Middle Jungle, as they
call it,--the life that runs close to the earth or under it, the
boulder, burrow, and the tree-bole life,--might have been written upon
the smallest of his scales.
That afternoon Mowgli was sitting in the circle of Kaa!s great
coils, fingering the flaked and broken old skin that lay all looped
and twisted among the rocks just as Kaa had left it. Kaa had very
courteously packed himself under Mowgli's broad, bare shoulders, so
that the boy was really resting in a living arm-chair.
"Even to the scales of the eyes it is perfect," said Mowgli, under
his breath, playing with the old skin. "Strange to see the covering of
one's own head at one's own feet!"
"Ay, but I lack feet," said Kaa; "and since this is the custom of
all my people, I do not find it strange. Does thy skin never feel old
"Then go I and wash, Flathead; but, it is true, in the great heats
I have wished I could slough my skin without pain, and run skinless."
"I wash, and ALSO I take off my skin. How looks the new coat?"
Mowgli ran his hand down the diagonal checkerings of the immense
back. "The Turtle is harder-backed, but not so gay," he said
judgmatically. "The Frog, my name-bearer, is more gay, but not so
hard. It is very beautiful to see--like the mottling in the mouth of a
"It needs water. A new skin never comes to full colour before the
first bath. Let us go bathe."
"I will carry thee," said Mowgli; and he stooped down, laughing,
to lift the middle section of Kaa's great body, just where the barrel
was thickest. A man might just, as well have tried to heave up a
two-foot water-main; and Kaa lay still, puffing with quiet amusement.
Then the regular evening game began--the Boy in the flush of his great
strength, and the Python in his sumptuous new skin, standing up one
against the other for a wrestling match--a trial of eye and strength.
Of course, Kaa could have crushed a dozen Mowglis if he had let
himself go; but he played carefully, and never loosed one-tenth of his
power. Ever since Mowgli was strong enough to endure a little rough
handling, Kaa had taught him this game, and it suppled his limbs as
nothing else could. Sometimes Mowgli would stand lapped almost to his
throat in Kaa's shifting coils, striving to get one arm free and catch
him by the throat. Then Kaa would give way limply, and Mowgli, with
both quick-moving feet, would try to cramp the purchase of that huge
tail as it flung backward feeling for a rock or a stump. They would
rock to and fro, head to head, each waiting for his chance, till the
beautiful, statue-like group melted in a whirl of black-and-yellow
coils and struggling legs and arms, to rise up again and again. "Now!
now! now!" said Kaa, making feints with his head that even Mowgli's
quick hand could not turn aside. "Look! I touch thee here, Little
Brother! Here, and here! Are thy hands numb? Here again!"
The game always ended in one way--with a straight, driving blow of
the head that knocked the boy over and over. Mowgli could never learn
the guard for that lightning lunge, and, as Kaa said, there was not
the least use in trying.
"Good hunting!" Kaa grunted at last; and Mowgli, as usual, was
shot away half a dozen yards, gasping and laughing. He rose with his
fingers full of grass, and followed Kaa to the wise snake's pet
bathing-place--a deep, pitchy-black pool surrounded with rocks, and
made interesting by sunken tree-stumps. The boy slipped in,
Jungle-fashion, without a sound, and dived across; rose, too, without
a sound, and turned on his back, his arms behind his head, watching
the moon rising above the rocks, and breaking up her reflection in the
water with his toes. Kaa's diamond-shaped head cut the pool like a
razor, and came out to rest on Mowgli's shoulder. They lay still,
soaking luxuriously in the cool water.
"It is VERY good," said Mowgli at last, sleepily. Now, in the
Man-Pack, at this hour, as I remember, they laid them down upon hard
pieces of wood in the inside of a mud-trap, and, having carefully shut
out all the clean winds, drew foul cloth over their heavy heads and
made evil songs through their noses. It is better in the Jungle."
A hurrying cobra slipped down over a rock and drank, gave them
"Good hunting!" and went away.
"Sssh!" said Kaa, as though he had suddenly remembered something.
"So the Jungle gives thee all that thou hast ever desired, Little
"Not all," said Mowgli, laughing; "else there would be a new and
strong Shere Khan to kill once a moon. Now, I could kill with my own
hands, asking no help of buffaloes. And also I have wished the sun to
shine in the middle of the Rains, and the Rains to cover the sun in
the deep of summer; and also I have never gone empty but I wished that
I had killed a goat; and also I have never killed a goat but I wished
it had been buck; nor buck but I wished it had been nilghai. But thus
do we feel, all of us."
"Thou hast no other desire?" the big snake demanded.
"What more can I wish? I have the Jungle, and the favour of the
Jungle! Is there more anywhere between sunrise and sunset?"
"Now, the Cobra said----" Kaa began. What cobra? He that went away
just now said nothing. He was hunting."
"It was another."
"Hast thou many dealings with the Poison People? I give them their
own path. They carry death in the fore-tooth, and that is not
good--for they are so small. But what hood is this thou hast spoken
Kaa rolled slowly in the water like a steamer in a beam sea.
"Three or four moons since," said he, "I hunted in Cold Lairs, which
place thou hast not forgotten. And the thing I hunted fled shrieking
past the tanks and to that house whose side I once broke for thy sake,
and ran into the ground."
"But the people of Cold Lairs do not live in burrows." Mowgli knew
that Kaa was telling of the Monkey People.
"This thing was not living, but seeking to live," Kaa replied,
with a quiver of his tongue. "He ran into a burrow that led very far.
I followed, and having killed, I slept. When I waked I went forward."
"Under the earth?"
"Even so, coming at last upon a White Hood [a white cobra], who
spoke of things beyond my knowledge, and showed me many things I had
never before seen."
"New game? Was it good hunting?" Mowgli turned quickly on his
"It was no game, and would have broken all my teeth; but the White
Hood said that a man--he spoke as one that knew the breed--that a man
would give the breath under his ribs for only the sight of those
"We will look," said Mowgli. "I now remember that I was once a
"Slowly--slowly. It was haste killed the Yellow Snake that ate the
sun. We two spoke together under the earth, and I spoke of thee,
naming thee as a man. Said the White Hood (and he is indeed as old as
the Jungle): 'It is long since I have seen a man. Let him come, and he
shall see all these things, for the least of which very many men would
"That MUST be new game. And yet the Poison People do not tell us
when game is afoot. They are an unfriendly folk."
"It is NOT game. It is--it is--I cannot say what it is."
"We will go there. I have never seen a White Hood, and I wish to
see the other things. Did he kill them?"
"They are all dead things. He says he is the keeper of them all."
"Ah! As a wolf stands above meat he has taken to his own lair. Let
Mowgli swam to bank, rolled on the grass to dry himself, and the
two set off for Cold Lairs, the deserted city of which you may have
heard. Mowgli was not the least afraid of the Monkey People in those
days, but the Monkey People had the liveliest horror of Mowgli. Their
tribes, however, were raiding in the Jungle, and so Cold Lairs stood
empty and silent in the moonlight. Kaa led up to the ruins of the
queens' pavilion that stood on the terrace, slipped over the rubbish,
and dived down the half- choked staircase that went underground from
the centre of the pavilion. Mowgli gave the snake-call,--"We be of one
blood, ye and I,"--and followed on his hands and knees. They crawled
a long distance down a sloping passage that turned and twisted
several times, and at last came to where the root of some great tree,
growing thirty feet overhead, had forced out a solid stone in the
wall. They crept through the gap, and found themselves in a large
vault, whose domed roof had been also broken away by tree-roots so
that a few streaks of light dropped down into the darkness.
"A safe lair," said Mowgli, rising to his firm feet, "but over-far
to visit daily. And now what do we see?"
"Am I nothing?" said a voice in the middle of the vault; and
Mowgli saw something white move till, little by little, there stood up
the hugest cobra he had ever set eyes on--a creature nearly eight feet
long, and bleached by being in darkness to an old ivory-white. Even
the spectacle-marks of his spread hood had faded to faint yellow. His
eyes were as red as rubies, and altogether he was most wonderful.
"Good hunting!" said Mowgli, who carried his manners with his
knife, and that never left him.
"What of the city?" said the White Cobra, without answering the
greeting. "What of the great, the walled city--the city of a hundred
elephants and twenty thousand horses, and cattle past counting--the
city of the King of Twenty Kings? I grow deaf here, and it is long
since I heard their war-gongs."
"The Jungle is above our heads," said Mowgli. I know only Hathi
and his sons among elephants. Bagheera has slain all the horses in
one village, and--what is a King?"
"I told thee," said Kaa softly to the Cobra,--"I told thee, four
moons ago, that thy city was not."
"The city--the great city of the forest whose gates are guarded by
the King's towers--can never pass. They builded it before my father's
father came from the egg, and it shall endure when my son's sons are
as white as I! Salomdhi, son of Chandrabija, son of Viyeja, son of
Yegasuri, made it in the days of Bappa Rawal. Whose cattle are YE?"
"It is a lost trail," said Mowgli, turning to Kaa. "I know not his
"Nor I. He is very old. Father of Cobras, there is only the Jungle
here, as it has been since the beginning."
"Then who is HE," said the White Cobra, "sitting down before me,
unafraid, knowing not the name of the King, talking our talk through a
man's lips? Who is he with the knife and the snake's tongue?"
"Mowgli they call me," was the answer. "I am of the Jungle. The
wolves are my people, and Kaa here is my brother. Father of Cobras,
who art thou?"
"I am the Warden of the King's Treasure. Kurrun Raja builded the
stone above me, in the days when my skin was dark, that I might teach
death to those who came to steal. Then they let down the treasure
through the stone, and I heard the song of the Brahmins my masters."
"Umm!" said Mowgli to himself. "I have dealt with one Brahmin
already, in the Man-Pack, and--I know what I know. Evil comes here in
"Five times since I came here has the stone been lifted, but
always to let down more, and never to take away. There are no riches
like these riches--the treasures of a hundred kings. But it is long
and long since the stone was last moved, and I think that my city has
"There is no city. Look up. Yonder are roots of the great trees
tearing the stones apart. Trees and men do not grow together," Kaa
"Twice and thrice have men found their way here," the White Cobra
answered savagely; "but they never spoke till I came upon them groping
in the dark, and then they cried only a little time. But ye come with
lies, Man and Snake both, and would have me believe the city is not,
and that my wardship ends. Little do men change in the years. But I
change never! Till the stone is lifted, and the Brahmins come down
singing the songs that I know, and feed me with warm milk, and take me
to the light again, I--I--_I_, and no other, am the Warden of the
King's Treasure! The city is dead, ye say, and here are the roots of
the trees? Stoop down, then, and take what ye will. Earth has no
treasure like to these. Man with the snake's tongue, if thou canst go
alive by the way that thou hast entered it, the lesser Kings will be
"Again the trail is lost," said Mowgli coolly. "Can any jackal
have burrowed so deep and bitten this great White Hood? He is surely
mad. Father of Cobras, I see nothing here to take away."
"By the Gods of the Sun and Moon, it is the madness of death upon
the boy!" hissed the Cobra. "Before thine eyes close I will allow thee
this favour. Look thou, and see what man has never seen before!"
"They do not well in the Jungle who speak to Mowgli of favours,"
said the boy, between his teeth; "but the dark changes all, as I
know. I will look, if that please thee."
He stared with puckered-up eyes round the vault, and then lifted
up from the floor a handful of something that glittered.
"Oho!" said he, "this is like the stuff they play with in the
Man-Pack: only this is yellow and the other was brown."
He let the gold pieces fall, and move forward. The floor of the
vault was buried some five or six feet deep in coined gold and silver
that had burst from the sacks it had been originally stored in, and,
in the long years, the metal had packed and settled as sand packs at
low tide. On it and in it and rising through it, as wrecks lift
through the sand, were jewelled elephant-howdahs of embossed silver,
studded with plates of hammered gold, and adorned with carbuncles and
turquoises. There were palanquins and litters for carrying queens,
framed and braced with silver and enamel, with jade-handled poles and
amber curtain-rings; there were golden candlesticks hung with pierced
emeralds that quivered on the branches; there were studded images,
five feet high, of forgotten gods, silver with jewelled eyes; there
were coats of mail, gold inlaid on steel, and fringed with rotted and
blackened seed-pearls; there were helmets, crested and beaded with
pigeon's-blood rubies; there were shields of lacquer, of
tortoise-shell and rhinoceros-hide, strapped and bossed with red gold
and set with emeralds at the edge; there were sheaves of
diamond-hilted swords, daggers, and hunting-knives; there were golden
sacrificial bowls and ladles, and portable altars of a shape that
never sees the light of day; there were jade cups and bracelets; there
were incense-burners, combs, and pots for perfume, henna, and
eye-powder, all in embossed gold; there were nose-rings, armlets,
head-bands, finger-rings, and girdles past any counting; there were
belts, seven fingers broad, of square-cut diamonds and rubies, and
wooden boxes, trebly clamped with iron, from which the wood had
fallen away in powder, showing the pile of uncut star-sapphires,
opals, cat's-eyes, sapphires, rubies, diamonds, emeralds, and garnets
The White Cobra was right. No mere money would begin to pay the
value of this treasure, the sifted pickings of centuries of war,
plunder, trade, and taxation. The coins alone were priceless, leaving
out of count all the precious stones; and the dead weight of the gold
and silver alone might be two or three hundred tons. Every native
ruler in India to-day, however poor, has a hoard to which he is always
adding; and though, once in a long while, some enlightened prince may
send off forty or fifty bullock-cart loads of silver to be exchanged
for Government securities, the bulk of them keep their treasure and
the knowledge of it very closely to themselves.
But Mowgli naturally did not understand what these things meant.
The knives interested him a little, but they did not balance so well
as his own, and so he dropped them. At last he found something really
fascinating laid on the front of a howdah half buried in the coins. It
was a three-foot ankus, or elephant- goad--something like a small
boat-hook. The top was one round, shining ruby, and eight inches of
the handle below it were studded with rough turquoises close together,
giving a most satisfactory grip. Below them was a rim of jade with a
flower- pattern running round it--only the leaves were emeralds, and
the blossoms were rubies sunk in the cool, green stone. The rest of
the handle was a shaft of pure ivory, while the point--the spike and
hook--was gold-inlaid steel with pictures of elephant- catching; and
the pictures attracted Mowgli, who saw that they had something to do
with his friend Hathi the Silent.
The White Cobra had been following him closely.
"Is this not worth dying to behold?" he said. Have I not done thee
a great favour?"
"I do not understand," said Mowgli. "The things are hard and cold,
and by no means good to eat. But this"--he lifted the ankus--"I desire
to take away, that I may see it in the sun. Thou sayest they are all
thine? Wilt thou give it to me, and I will bring thee frogs to eat?"
The White Cobra fairly shook with evil delight. "Assuredly I will
give it," he said. "All that is here I will give thee-- till thou
"But I go now. This place is dark and cold, and I wish to take the
thorn-pointed thing to the Jungle."
"Look by thy foot! What is that there?" Mowgli picked up something
white and smooth. "It is the bone of a man's head," he said quietly.
"And here are two more."
"They came to take the treasure away many years ago. I spoke to
them in the dark, and they lay still."
"But what do I need of this that is called treasure? If thou wilt
give me the ankus to take away, it is good hunting. If not, it is good
hunting none the less. I do not fight with the Poison People, and I
was also taught the Master-word of thy tribe."
"There is but one Master-word here. It is mine!"
Kaa flung himself forward with blazing eyes. "Who bade me bring
the Man?" he hissed.
"I surely," the old Cobra lisped. "It is long since I have seen
Man, and this Man speaks our tongue."
"But there was no talk of killing. How can I go to the Jungle and
say that I have led him to his death?" said Kaa.
"I talk not of killing till the time. And as to thy going or not
going, there is the hole in the wall. Peace, now, thou fat
monkey-killer! I have but to touch thy neck, and the Jungle will know
thee no longer. Never Man came here that went away with the breath
under his ribs. I am the Warden of the Treasure of the King's City!"
"But, thou white worm of the dark, I tell thee there is neither
king nor city! The Jungle is all about us!" cried Kaa.
"There is still the Treasure. But this can be done. Wait awhile,
Kaa of the Rocks, and see the boy run. There is room for great sport
here. Life is good. Run to and fro awhile, and make sport, boy!"
Mowgli put his hand on Kaa's head quietly.
"The white thing has dealt with men of the Man-Pack until now. He
does not know me," he whispered. "He has asked for this hunting. Let
him have it." Mowgli had been standing with the ankus held point down.
He flung it from him quickly and it dropped crossways just behind the
great snake's hood, pinning him to the floor. In a flash, Kaa's weight
was upon the writhing body, paralysing it from hood to tail. The red
eyes burned, and the six spare inches of the head struck furiously
right and left.
"Kill!" said Kaa, as Mowgli's hand went to his knife.
"No," he said, as he drew the blade; "I will never kill again save
for food. But look you, Kaa!" He caught the snake behind the hood,
forced the mouth open with the blade of the knife, and showed the
terrible poison-fangs of the upper jaw lying black and withered in the
gum. The White Cobra had outlived his poison, as a snake will.
"THUU" ("It is dried up"--Literally, a rotted out tree-stump),
said Mowgli; and motioning Kaa away, he picked up the ankus, setting
the White Cobra free.
"The King's Treasure needs a new Warden, he said gravely. "Thuu,
thou hast not done well. Run to and fro and make sport, Thuu!"
"I am ashamed. Kill me!" hissed the White Cobra.
"There has been too much talk of killing. We will go now. I take
the thorn-pointed thing, Thuu, because I have fought and worsted
"See, then, that the thing does not kill thee at last. It is
Death! Remember, it is Death! There is enough in that thing to kill
the men of all my city. Not long wilt thou hold it, Jungle Man, nor he
who takes it from thee. They will kill, and kill, and kill for its
sake! My strength is dried up, but the ankus will do my work. It is
Death! It is Death! It is Death!"
Mowgli crawled out through the hole into the passage again, and
the last that he saw was the White Cobra striking furiously with his
harmless fangs at the stolid golden faces of the gods that lay on the
floor, and hissing, "It is Death!"
They were glad to get to the light of day once more; and when they
were back in their own Jungle and Mowgli made the ankus glitter in the
morning light, he was almost as pleased as though he had found a bunch
of new flowers to stick in his hair.
"This is brighter than Bagheera's eyes," he said delightedly, as
he twirled the ruby. "I will show it to him; but what did the Thuu
mean when he talked of death?"
"I cannot say. I am sorrowful to my tail's tail that he felt not
thy knife. There is always evil at Cold Lairs--above ground or below.
But now I am hungry. Dost thou hunt with me this dawn?" said Kaa.
"No; Bagheera must see this thing. Good hunting!" Mowgli danced
off, flourishing the great ankus, and stopping from time to time to
admire it, till he came to that part of the Jungle Bagheera chiefly
used, and found him drinking after a heavy kill. Mowgli told him all
his adventures from beginning to end, and Bagheera sniffed at the
ankus between whiles. When Mowgli came to the White Cobra's last
words, the Panther purred approvingly.
"Then the White Hood spoke the thing which is?" Mowgli asked
"I was born in the King's cages at Oodeypore, and it is in my
stomach that I know some little of Man. Very many men would kill
thrice in a night for the sake of that one big red stone alone."
"But the stone makes it heavy to the hand. My little bright knife
is better; and--see! the red stone is not good to eat. Then WHY would
"Mowgli, go thou and sleep. Thou hast lived among men, and----"
"I remember. Men kill because they are not hunting;--for idleness
and pleasure. Wake again, Bagheera. For what use was this
thorn-pointed thing made?"
Bagheera half opened his eyes--he was very sleepy--with a
"It was made by men to thrust into the head of the sons of Hathi,
so that the blood should pour out. I have seen the like in the street
of Oodeypore, before our cages. That thing has tasted the blood of
many such as Hathi."
"But why do they thrust into the heads of elephants?"
"To teach them Man's Law. Having neither claws nor teeth, men make
these things--and worse."
"Always more blood when I come near, even to the things the
Man-Pack have made," said Mowgli disgustedly. He was getting a little
tired of the weight of the ankus. "If I had known this, I would not
have taken it. First it was Messua's blood on the thongs, and now it
is Hathi's. I will use it no more. Look!"
The ankus flew sparkling, and buried itself point down thirty
yards away, between the trees. "So my hands are clean of Death," said
Mowgli, rubbing his palms on the fresh, moist earth. "The Thuu said
Death would follow me. He is old and white and mad."
"White or black, or death or life, _I_ am going to sleep, Little
Brother. I cannot hunt all night and howl all day, as do some folk."
Bagheera went off to a hunting-lair that he knew, about two miles
off. Mowgli made an easy way for himself up a convenient tree, knotted
three or four creepers together, and in less time than it takes to
tell was swinging in a hammock fifty feet above ground. Though he had
no positive objection to strong daylight, Mowgli followed the custom
of his friends, and used it as little as he could. When he waked among
the very loud-voiced peoples that live in the trees, it was twilight
once more, and he had been dreaming of the beautiful pebbles he had
"At least I will look at the thing again," he said, and slid down
a creeper to the earth; but Bagheera was before him. Mowgli could hear
him snuffing in the half light.
"Where is the thorn-pointed thing?" cried Mowgli.
"A man has taken it. Here is the trail."
"Now we shall see whether the Thuu spoke truth. If the pointed
thing is Death, that man will die. Let us follow."
"Kill first," said Bagheera. "An empty stomach makes a careless
eye. Men go very slowly, and the Jungle is wet enough to hold the
They killed as soon as they could, but it was nearly three hours
before they finished their meat and drink and buckled down to the
trail. The Jungle People know that nothing makes up for being hurried
over your meals.
"Think you the pointed thing will turn in the man's hand and kill
him?" Mowgli asked. "The Thuu said it was Death."
"We shall see when we find," said Bagheera, trotting with his head
low. "It is single-foot" (he meant that there was only one man), "and
the weight of the thing has pressed his heel far into the ground."
"Hai! This is as clear as summer lightning," Mowgli answered; and
they fell into the quick, choppy trail-trot in and out through the
checkers of the moonlight, following the marks of those two bare feet.
"Now he runs swiftly," said Mowgli. "The toes are spread apart."
They went on over some wet ground. "Now why does he turn aside here?"
"Wait!" said Bagheera, and flung himself forward with one superb
bound as far as ever he could. The first thing to do when a trail
ceases to explain itself is to cast forward without leaving, your own
confusing foot-marks on the ground. Bagheera turned as he landed, and
faced Mowgli, crying, "Here comes another trail to meet him. It is a
smaller foot, this second trail, and the toes turn inward."
Then Mowgli ran up and looked. "It is the foot of a Gond hunter,"
he said. "Look! Here he dragged his bow on the grass. That is why the
first trail turned aside so quickly. Big Foot hid from Little Foot."
"That is true," said Bagheera. "Now, lest by crossing each other's
tracks we foul the signs, let each take one trail. I am Big Foot,
Little Brother, and thou art Little Foot, the Gond."
Bagheera leaped back to the original trail, leaving Mowgli
stooping above the curious narrow track of the wild little man of the
"Now," said Bagheera, moving step by step along the chain of
footprints, "I, Big Foot, turn aside here. Now I hide me behind a
rock and stand still," not daring to shift my feet. Cry thy trail,
"Now, I, Little Foot, come to the rock," said Mowgli, running up
his trail. "Now, I sit down under the rock, leaning upon my right
hand, and resting my bow between my toes. I wait long, for the mark of
my feet is deep here."
"I also, said Bagheera, hidden behind the rock. I wait, resting
the end of the thorn-pointed thing upon a stone. It slips, for here is
a scratch upon the stone. Cry thy trail, Little Brother."
"One, two twigs and a big branch are broken here," said Mowgli, in
an undertone. "Now, how shall I cry THAT? Ah! It is plain now. I,
Little Foot, go away making noises and tramplings so that Big Foot may
hear me." He moved away from the rock pace by pace among the trees,
his voice rising in the distance as he approached a little cascade.
noise--of--falling-water--covers--my--noise; and--here--I--wait. Cry
thy trail, Bagheera, Big Foot!"
The panther had been casting in every direction to see how Big
Foot's trail led away from behind the rock. Then he gave tongue:
"I come from behind the rock upon my knees, dragging the thorn-
pointed thing. Seeing no one, I run. I, Big Foot, run swiftly. The
trail is clear. Let each follow his own. I run!"
Bagheera swept on along the clearly-marked trail, and Mowgli
followed the steps of the Gond. For some time there was silence in
"Where art thou, Little Foot?" cried Bagheera. Mowgli's voice
answered him not fifty yards to the right.
"Um!" said the Panther, with a deep cough. "The two run side by
side, drawing nearer!"
They raced on another half-mile, always keeping about the same
distance, till Mowgli, whose head was not so close to the ground as
Bagheera's, cried: "They have met. Good hunting--look! Here stood
Little Foot, with his knee on a rock--and yonder is Big Foot indeed!"
Not ten yards in front of them, stretched across a pile of broken
rocks, lay the body of a villager of the district, a long,
small-feathered Gond arrow through his back and breast.
"Was the Thuu so old and so mad, Little Brother?" said Bagheera
gently. "Here is one death, at least."
"Follow on. But where is the drinker of elephant's blood--the
"Little Foot has it--perhaps. It is single-foot again now."
The single trail of a light man who had been running quickly and
bearing a burden on his left shoulder held on round a long, low spur
of dried grass, where each footfall seemed, to the sharp eyes of the
trackers, marked in hot iron.
Neither spoke till the trail ran up to the ashes of a camp-fire
hidden in a ravine.
"Again!" said Bagheera, checking as though he had been turned into
The body of a little wizened Gond lay with its feet in the ashes,
and Bagheera looked inquiringly at Mowgli.
"That was done with a bamboo," said the boy, after one glance. "I
have used such a thing among the buffaloes when I served in the
Man-Pack. The Father of Cobras--I am sorrowful that I made a jest of
him--knew the breed well, as I might have known. Said I not that men
kill for idleness?"
"Indeed, they killed for the sake of the red and blue stones,"
Bagheera answered. "Remember, I was in the King's cages at Oodeypore."
"One, two, three, four tracks," said Mowgli, stooping over the
ashes. "Four tracks of men with shod feet. They do not go so quickly
as Gonds. Now, what evil had the little woodman done to them? See,
they talked together, all five, standing up, before they killed him.
Bagheera, let us go back. My stomach is heavy in me, and yet it heaves
up and down like an oriole's nest at the end of a branch."
"It is not good hunting to leave game afoot. Follow!" said the
panther. "Those eight shod feet have not gone far."
No more was said for fully an hour, as they worked up the broad
trail of the four men with shod feet.
It was clear, hot daylight now, and Bagheera said, "I smell
Men are always more ready to eat than to run, Mowgli answered,
trotting in and out between the low scrub bushes of the new Jungle
they were exploring. Bagheera, a little to his left, made an
indescribable noise in his throat.
"Here is one that has done with feeding," said he. A tumbled
bundle of gay-coloured clothes lay under a bush, and round it was
some spilt flour.
"That was done by the bamboo again," said Mowgli. " See! that
white dust is what men eat. They have taken the kill from this
one,--he carried their food,--and given him for a kill to Chil, the
"It is the third," said Bagheera.
"I will go with new, big frogs to the Father of Cobras, and feed
him fat," said Mowgli to himself. "The drinker of elephant's blood is
Death himself--but still I do not understand!"
"Follow!" said Bagheera.
They had not gone half a mile farther when they heard Ko, the
Crow, singing the death-song in the top of a tamarisk under whose
shade three men were lying. A half-dead fire smoked in the centre of
the circle, under an iron plate which held a blackened and burned cake
of unleavened bread. Close to the fire, and blazing in the sunshine,
lay the ruby-and-turquoise ankus.
"The thing works quickly; all ends here," said Bagheera. "How did
THESE die, Mowgli? There is no mark on any."
A Jungle-dweller gets to learn by experience as much as many
doctors know of poisonous plants and berries. Mowgli sniffed the
smoke that came up from the fire, broke off a morsel of the blackened
bread, tasted it, and spat it out again.
"Apple of Death," he coughed. "The first must have made it ready
in the food for THESE, who killed him, having first killed the Gond."
"Good hunting, indeed! The kills follow close," said Bagheera.
"Apple of Death" is what the Jungle call thorn-apple or dhatura,
the readiest poison in all India.
"What now?" said the panther. "Must thou and I kill each other for
yonder red-eyed slayer?"
"Can it speak?" said Mowgli in a whisper. Did I do it a wrong when
I threw it away? Between us two it can do no wrong, for we do not
desire what men desire. If it be left here, it will assuredly continue
to kill men one after another as fast as nuts fall in a high wind. I
have no love to men, but even I would not have them die six in a
"What matter? They are only men. They killed one another, and were
well pleased," said Bagheera. "That first little woodman hunted well."
"They are cubs none the less; and a cub will drown himself to bite
the moon's light on the water. The fault was mine," said Mowgli, who
spoke as though he knew all about everything. "I will never again
bring into the Jungle strange things--not though they be as beautiful
as flowers. This"--he handled the ankus gingerly--"goes back to the
Father of Cobras. But first we must sleep, and we cannot sleep near
these sleepers. Also we must bury HIM, lest he run away and kill
another six. Dig me a hole under that tree."
"But, Little Brother," said Bagheera, moving off to the spot, "I
tell thee it is no fault of the blood-drinker. The trouble is with the
"All one," said Mowgli. "Dig the hole deep. When we wake I will
take him up and carry him back."
Two nights later, as the White Cobra sat mourning in the darkness
of the vault, ashamed, and robbed, and alone, the turquoise ankus
whirled through the hole in the wall, and clashed on the floor of
"Father of Cobras," said Mowgli (he was careful to keep the other
side of the wall), "get thee a young and ripe one of thine own people
to help thee guard the King's Treasure, so that no man may come away
alive any more."
"Ah-ha! It returns, then. I said the thing was Death. How comes it
that thou art still alive?" the old Cobra mumbled, twining lovingly
round the ankus-haft.
"By the Bull that bought me, I do not know! That thing has killed
six times in a night. Let him go out no more."
THE SONG OF THE LITTLE HUNTER
Ere Mor the Peacock flutters, ere the Monkey People cry,
Ere Chil the Kite swoops down a furlong sheer,
Through the Jungle very softly flits a shadow and a sigh--
He is Fear, O Little Hunter, he is Fear!
Very softly down the glade runs a waiting, watching shade,
And the whisper spreads and widens far and near;
And the sweat is on thy brow, for he passes even now--
He is Fear, O Little Hunter, he is Fear!
Ere the moon has climbed the mountain, ere the rocks
are ribbed with light,
When the downward-dipping trails are dank and drear,
Comes a breathing hard behind thee--snuffle-snuffle
through the night--
It is Fear, O Little Hunter, it is Fear!
On thy knees and draw the bow; bid the shrilling arrow go;
In the empty, mocking thicket plunge the spear;
But thy hands are loosed and weak, and the blood has left
It is Fear, O Little Hunter, it is Fear!
When the heat-cloud sucks the tempest, when the slivered
When the blinding, blaring rain-squalls lash and veer;
Through the war-gongs of the thunder rings a voice more
loud than all--
It is Fear, O Little Hunter, it is Fear!
Now the spates are banked and deep; now the footless
Now the lightning shows each littlest leaf-rib clear--
But thy throat is shut and dried, and thy heart against
Hammers: Fear, O Little Hunter--this is Fear!
The People of the Eastern Ice, they are melting like the snow--
They beg for coffee and sugar; they go where the white men go.
The People of the Western Ice, they learn to steal and fight;
"They sell their furs to the trading-post: they sell their souls
to the white.
The People of the Southern Ice, they trade with the whaler's
Their women have many ribbons, but their tents are torn and few.
But the People of the Elder Ice, beyond the white man's ken--
Their spears are made of the narwhal-horn, and they are the
last of the Men!
"He has opened his eyes. Look!"
"Put him in the skin again. He will be a strong dog. On the fourth
month we will name him."
"For whom?" said Amoraq.
Kadlu's eye rolled round the skin-lined snow-house till it fell on
fourteen-year-old Kotuko sitting on the sleeping-bench, making a
button out of walrus ivory. "Name him for me," said Kotuko, with a
grin. "I shall need him one day."
Kadlu grinned back till his eyes were almost buried in the fat of
his flat cheeks, and nodded to Amoraq, while the puppy's fierce mother
whined to see her baby wriggling far out of reach in the little
sealskin pouch hung above the warmth of the blubber-lamp. Kotuko went
on with his carving, and Kadlu threw a rolled bundle of leather
dog-harnesses into a tiny little room that opened from one side of the
house, slipped off his heavy deerskin hunting-suit, put it into a
whalebone-net that hung above another lamp, and dropped down on the
sleeping-bench to whittle at a piece of frozen seal-meat till Amoraq,
his wife, should bring the regular dinner of boiled meat and
blood-soup. He had been out since early dawn at the seal-holes, eight
miles away, and had come home with three big seal. Half-way down the
long, low snow passage or tunnel that led to the inner door of the
house you could hear snappings and yelpings, as the dogs of his
sleigh-team, released from the day's work, scuffled for warm places.
When the yelpings grew too loud Kotuko lazily rolled off the
sleeping-bench, and picked up a whip with an eighteen-inch handle of
springy whalebone, and twenty-five feet of heavy, plaited thong. He
dived into the passage, where it sounded as though all the dogs were
eating him alive; but that was no more than their regular grace before
meals. When he crawled out at the far end, half a dozen furry heads
followed him with their eyes as he went to a sort of gallows of
whale-jawbones, from which the dog's meat was hung; split off the
frozen stuff in big lumps with a broad-headed spear; and stood, his
whip in one hand and the meat in the other. Each beast was called by
name, the weakest first, and woe betide any dog that moved out of his
turn; for the tapering lash would shoot out like thonged lightning,
and flick away an inch or so of hair and hide. Each beast growled,
snapped, choked once over his portion, and hurried back to the
protection of the passage, while the boy stood upon the snow under the
blazing Northern Lights and dealt out justice. The last to be served
was the big black leader of the team, who kept order when the dogs
were harnessed; and to him Kotuko gave a double allowance of meat as
well as an extra crack of the whip.
"Ah!" said Kotuko, coiling up the lash," I have a little one over
the lamp that will make a great many howlings. SARPOK! Get in!"
He crawled back over the huddled dogs, dusted the dry snow from
his furs with the whalebone beater that Amoraq kept by the door,
tapped the skin-lined roof of the house to shake off any icicles that
might have fallen from the dome of snow above, and curled up on the
bench. The dogs in the passage snored and whined in their sleep, the
boy-baby in Amoraq's deep fur hood kicked and choked and gurgled, and
the mother of the newly-named puppy lay at Kotuko's side, her eyes
fixed on the bundle of sealskin, warm and safe above the broad yellow
flame of the lamp.
And all this happened far away to the north, beyond Labrador,
beyond Hudson's Strait, where the great tides heave the ice about,
north of Melville Peninsula--north even of the narrow Fury and Hecla
Straits--on the north shore of Baffin Land, where Bylot's Island
stands above the ice of Lancaster Sound like a pudding-bowl wrong side
up. North of Lancaster Sound there is little we know anything about,
except North Devon and Ellesmere Land; but even there live a few
scattered people, next door, as it were, to the very Pole.
Kadlu was an Inuit,--what you call an Esquimau,--and his tribe,
some thirty persons all told, belonged to the Tununirmiut--"the
country lying at the back of something." In the maps that desolate
coast is written Navy Board Inlet, but the Inuit name is best, because
the country lies at the very back of everything in the world. For nine
months of the year there is only ice and snow, and gale after gale,
with a cold that no one can realise who has never seen the thermometer
even at zero. For six months of those nine it is dark; and that is
what makes it so horrible. In the three months of the summer it only
freezes every other day and every night, and then the snow begins to
weep off on the southerly slopes, and a few ground-willows put out
their woolly buds, a tiny stonecrop or so makes believe to blossom,
beaches of fine gravel and rounded stones run down to the open sea,
and polished boulders and streaked rocks lift up above the granulated
snow. But all that is gone in a few weeks, and the wild winter locks
down again on the land; while at sea the ice tears up and down the
offing, jamming and ramming, and splitting and hitting, and pounding
and grounding, till it all freezes together, ten feet thick, from the
land outward to deep water.
In the winter Kadlu would follow the seal to the edge of this
land-ice, and spear them as they came up to breathe at their
blow-holes. The seal must have open water to live and catch fish in,
and in the deep of winter the ice would sometimes run eighty miles
without a break from the nearest shore. In the spring he and his
people retreated from the floes to the rocky mainland, where they put
up tents of skins, and snared the sea-birds, or speared the young seal
basking on the beaches. Later, they would go south into Baffin Land
after the reindeer, and to get their year's store of salmon from the
hundreds of streams and lakes of the interior; coming back north in
September or October for the musk-ox hunting and the regular winter
sealery. This travelling was done with dog-sleighs, twenty and thirty
miles a day, or sometimes down the coast in big skin "woman-boats,"
when the dogs and the babies lay among the feet of the rowers, and the
women sang songs as they glided from cape to cape over the glassy,
cold waters. All the luxuries that the Tununirmiut knew came from the
south--driftwood for sleigh-runners, rod-iron for harpoon-tips, steel
knives, tin kettles that cooked food much better than the old
soap-stone affairs, flint and steel, and even matches, as well as
coloured ribbons for the women's hair, little cheap mirrors, and red
cloth for the edging of deerskin dress-jackets. Kadlu traded the rich,
creamy, twisted narwhal horn and musk-ox teeth (these are just as
valuable as pearls) to the Southern Inuit, and they, in turn, traded
with the whalers and the missionary-posts of Exeter and Cumberland
Sounds; and so the chain went on, till a kettle picked up by a ship's
cook in the Bhendy Bazaar might end its days over a blubber-lamp
somewhere on the cool side of the Arctic Circle.
Kadlu, being a good hunter, was rich in iron harpoons, snow-
knives, bird-darts, and all the other things that make life easy up
there in the great cold; and he was the head of his tribe, or, as they
say, "the man who knows all about it by practice." This did not give
him any authority, except now and then he could advise his friends to
change their hunting-grounds; but Kotuko used it to domineer a little,
in the lazy, fat Inuit fashion, over the other boys, when they came
out at night to play ball in the moonlight, or to sing the Child's
Song to the Aurora Borealis.
But at fourteen an Inuit feels himself a man, and Kotuko was tired
of making snares for wild-fowl and kit-foxes, and most tired of all of
helping the women to chew seal- and deer-skins (that supples them as
nothing else can) the long day through, while the men were out
hunting. He wanted to go into the quaggi, the Singing-House, when the
hunters gathered there for their mysteries, and the angekok, the
sorcerer, frightened them into the most delightful fits after the
lamps were put out, and you could hear the Spirit of the Reindeer
stamping on the roof; and when a spear was thrust out into the open
black night it came back covered with hot blood. He wanted to throw
his big boots into the net with the tired air of the head of a family,
and to gamble with the hunters when they dropped in of an evening and
played a sort of home-made roulette with a tin pot and a nail. There
were hundreds of things that he wanted to do, but the grown men
laughed at him and said, "Wait till you have been in the buckle,
Kotuko. Hunting is not ALL catching."
Now that his father had named a puppy for him, things looked
brighter. An Inuit does not waste a good dog on his son till the boy
knows something of dog-driving; and Kotuko was more than sure that he
knew more than everything.
If the puppy had not had an iron constitution he would have died
from over-stuffing and over-handling. Kotuko made him a tiny harness
with a trace to it, and hauled him all over the house- floor,
shouting: "Aua! Ja aua!" (Go to the right). Choiachoi! Ja choiachoi!"
(Go to the left). "Ohaha!" (Stop). The puppy did not like it at all,
but being fished for in this way was pure happiness beside being put
to the sleigh for the first time. He just sat down on the snow, and
played with the seal-hide trace that ran from his harness to the pitu,
the big thong in the bows of the sleigh. Then the team started, and
the puppy found the heavy ten-foot sleigh running up his back, and
dragging him along the snow, while Kotuko laughed till the tears ran
down his face. There followed days and days of the cruel whip that
hisses like the wind over ice, and his companions all bit him because
he did not know his work, and the harness chafed him, and he was dot
allowed to sleep with Kotuko any more, but had to take the coldest
place in the passage. It was a sad time for the puppy.
The boy learned, too, as fast as the dog; though a dog-sleigh is a
heart-breaking thing to manage. Each beast is harnessed, the weakest
nearest to the driver, by his own separate trace, which runs under his
left fore-leg to the main thong, where it is fastened by a sort of
button and loop which can be slipped by a turn of the wrist, thus
freeing one dog at a time. This is very necessary, because young dogs
often get the trace between their hind legs, where it cuts to the
bone. And they one and all WILL go visiting their friends as they run,
jumping in and out among the traces. Then they fight, and the result
is more mixed than a wet fishing-line next morning. A great deal of
trouble can be avoided by scientific use of the whip. Every Inuit boy
prides himself as being a master of the long lash; but it is easy to
flick at a mark on the ground, and difficult to lean forward and catch
a shirking dog just behind the shoulders when the sleigh is going at
full speed. If you call one dog's name for "visiting," and
accidentally lash another, the two will fight it out at once, and stop
all the others. Again, if you travel with a companion and begin to
talk, or by yourself and sing, the dogs will halt, turn round, and sit
down to hear what you have to say. Kotuko was run away from once or
twice through forgetting to block the sleigh when he stopped; and he
broke many lashings, and ruined a few thongs before he could be
trusted with a full team of eight and the light sleigh. Then he felt
himself a person of consequence, and on smooth, black ice, with a bold
heart and a quick elbow, he smoked along over the levels as fast as a
pack in full cry. He would go ten miles to the seal-holes, and when he
was on the hunting~grounds he would twitch a trace loose from the
pitu, and free the big black leader, who was the cleverest dog in the
team. As soon as the dog had scented a breathing-hole, Kotuko would
reverse the sleigh, driving a couple of sawed-off antlers, that stuck
up like perambulator-handles from the back-rest, deep into the snow,
so that the team could not get away. Then he would crawl forward inch
by inch, and wait till the seal came up to breathe. Then he would stab
down swiftly with his spear and running-line, and presently would haul
his seal up to the lip of the ice, while the black leader came up and
helped to pull the carcass across the ice to the sleigh. That was the
time when the harnessed dogs yelled and foamed with excitement, and
Kotuko laid the long lash like a red-hot bar across all their faces,
till the carcass froze stiff. Going home was the heavy work. The
loaded sleigh had to be humoured among the rough ice, and the dogs sat
down and looked hungrily at the seal instead of pulling. At last they
would strike the well-worn sleigh-road to the village, and toodle-kiyi
along the ringing ice, heads down and tails up, while Kotuko struck up
the "An-gutivaun tai-na tau-na-ne taina" (The Song of the Returning
Hunter), and voices hailed him from house to house under all that dim,
When Kotuko the dog came to his full growth he enjoyed himself
too. He fought his way up the team steadily, fight after fight, till
one fine evening, over their food, he tackled the big, black leader
(Kotuko the boy saw fair play), and made second dog of him, as they
say. So he was promoted to the long thong of the leading dog, running
five feet in advance of all the others: it was his bounden duty to
stop all fighting, in harness or out of it, and he wore a collar of
copper wire, very thick and heavy. On special occasions he was fed
with cooked food inside the house, and sometimes was allowed to sleep
on the bench with Kotuko. He was a good seal-dog, and would keep a
musk-ox at bay by running round him and snapping at his heels. He
would even-- and this for a sleigh-dog is the last proof of
bravery--he would even stand up to the gaunt Arctic wolf, whom all
dogs of the North, as a rule, fear beyond anything that walks the
snow. He and his master--they did not count the team of ordinary dogs
as company--hunted together, day after day and night after night,
fur-wrapped boy and savage, long-haired, narrow-eyed, white-fanged,
yellow brute. All an Inuit has to do is to get food and skins for
himself and his family. The women-folk make the skins into clothing,
and occasionally help in trapping small game; but the bulk of the
food--and they eat enormously--must be found by the men. If the supply
fails there is no one up there to buy or beg or borrow from. The
people must die.
An Inuit does not think of these chances till he is forced to.
Kadlu, Kotuko, Amoraq, and the boy-baby who kicked about in Amoraq's
fur hood and chewed pieces of blubber all day, were as happy together
as any family in the world. They came of a very gentle race--an Inuit
seldom loses his temper, and almost never strikes a child--who did not
know exactly what telling a real lie meant, still less how to steal.
They were content to spear their living out of the heart of the
bitter, hopeless cold; to smile oily smiles, and tell queer ghost and
fairy tales of evenings, and eat till they could eat no more, and sing
the endless woman's song: "Amna aya, aya amna, ah! ah!" through the
long lamp-lighted days as they mended their clothes and their
But one terrible winter everything betrayed them. The Tununirmiut
returned from the yearly salmon-fishing, and made their houses on the
early ice to the north of Bylot's Island, ready to go after the seal
as soon as the sea froze. But it was an early and savage autumn. All
through September there were continuous gales that broke up the smooth
seal-ice when it was only four or five feet thick, and forced it
inland, and piled a great barrier, some twenty miles broad, of lumped
and ragged and needly ice, over which it was impossible to draw the
dog-sleighs. The edge of the floe off which the seal were used to fish
in winter lay perhaps twenty miles beyond this barrier, and out of
reach of the Tununirmiut. Even so, they might have managed to scrape
through the winter on their stock of frozen salmon and stored blubber,
and what the traps gave them, but in December one of their hunters
came across a tupik (a skin-tent) of three women and a girl nearly
dead, whose men had come down from the far North and been crushed in
their little skin hunting-boats while they were out after the long-
horned narwhal. Kadlu, of course, could only distribute the women
among the huts of the winter village, for no Inuit dare refuse a meal
to a stranger. He never knows when his own turn may come to beg.
Amoraq took the girl, who was about fourteen, into her own house as a
sort of servant. From the cut of her sharp-pointed hood, and the long
diamond pattern of her white deer-skin leggings, they supposed she
came from Ellesmere Land. She had never seen tin cooking-pots or
wooden-shod sleighs before; but Kotuko the boy and Kotuko the dog were
rather fond of her.
Then all the foxes went south, and even the wolverine, that
growling, blunt-headed little thief of the snow, did not take the
trouble to follow the line of empty traps that Kotuko set. The tribe
lost a couple of their best hunters, who were badly crippled in a
fight with a musk-ox, and this threw more work on the others. Kotuko
went out, day after day, with a light hunting-sleigh and six or seven
of the strongest dogs, looking till his eyes ached for some patch of
clear ice where a seal might perhaps have scratched a breathing-hole.
Kotuko the dog ranged far and wide, and in the dead stillness of the
ice-fields Kotuko the boy could hear his half-choked whine of
excitement, above a seal-hole three miles away, as plainly as though
he were at his elbow. When the dog found a hole the boy would build
himself a little, low snow wall to keep off the worst of the bitter
wind, and there he would wait ten, twelve, twenty hours for the seal
to come up to breathe, his eyes glued to the tiny mark he had made
above the hole to guide the downward thrust of his harpoon, a little
seal-skin mat under his feet, and his legs tied together in the
tutareang (the buckle that the old hunters had talked about). This
helps to keep a man's legs from twitching as he waits and waits and
waits for the quick-eared seal to rise. Though there is no excitement
in it, you can easily believe that the sitting still in the buckle
with the thermometer perhaps forty degrees below zero is the hardest
work an Inuit knows. When a seal was caught, Kotuko the dog would
bound forward, his trace trailing behind him, and help to pull the
body to the sleigh, where the tired and hungry dogs lay sullenly under
the lee of the broken ice.
A seal did not go very far, for each mouth in the little village
had a right to be filled, and neither bone, hide, nor sinew was
wasted. The dogs' meat was taken for human use, and Amoraq fed the
team with pieces of old summer skin-tents raked out from under the
sleeping-bench, and they howled and howled again, and waked to howl
hungrily. One could tell by the soap-stone lamps in the huts that
famine was near. In good seasons, when blubber was plentiful, the
light in the boat-shaped lamps would be two feet high--cheerful, oily,
and yellow. Now it was a bare six inches: Amoraq carefully pricked
down the moss wick, when an unwatched flame brightened for a moment,
and the eyes of all the family followed her hand. The horror of famine
up there in the great cold is not so much dying, as dying in the dark.
All the Inuit dread the dark that presses on them without a break for
six months in each year; and when the lamps are low in the houses the
minds of people begin to be shaken and confused.
But worse was to come.
The underfed dogs snapped and growled in the passages, glaring at
the cold stars, and snuffing into the bitter wind, night after night.
When they stopped howling the silence fell down again as solid and
heavy as a snowdrift against a door, and men could hear the beating of
their blood in the thin passages of the ear, and the thumping of their
own hearts, that sounded as loud as the noise of sorcerers' drums
beaten across the snow. One night Kotuko the dog, who had been
unusually sullen in harness, leaped up and pushed his head against
Kotuko's knee. Kotuko patted him, but the dog still pushed blindly
forward, fawning. Then Kadlu waked, and gripped the heavy wolf-like
head, and stared into the glassy eyes. The dog whimpered and shivered
between Kadlu's knees. The hair rose about his neck, and he growled as
though a stranger were at the door; then he barked joyously, and
rolled on the ground, and bit at Kotuko's boot like a puppy.
"What is it?" said Kotuko; for he was beginning to be afraid.
"The sickness," Kadlu answered. "It is the dog sickness." Kotuko
the dog lifted his nose and howled and howled again.
"I have not seen this before. What will he do?" said Kotuko.
Kadlu shrugged one shoulder a little, and crossed the hut for his
short stabbing-harpoon. The big dog looked at him, howled again, and
slunk away down the passage, while the other dogs drew aside right and
left to give him ample room. When he was out on the snow he barked
furiously, as though on the trail of a musk-ox, and, barking and
leaping and frisking, passed out of sight. His trouble was not
hydrophobia, but simple, plain madness. The cold and the hunger, and,
above all, the dark, had turned his head; and when the terrible
dog-sickness once shows itself in a team, it spreads like wild-fire.
Next hunting- day another dog sickened, and was killed then and there
by Kotuko as he bit and struggled among the traces. Then the black
second dog, who had been the leader in the old days, suddenly gave
tongue on an imaginary reindeer-track, and when they slipped him from
the pitu he flew at the throat of an ice-cliff, and ran away as his
leader had done, his harness on his back. After that no one would take
the dogs out again. They needed them for something else, and the dogs
knew it; and though they were tied down and fed by hand, their eyes
were full of despair and fear. To make things worse, the old women
began to tell ghost-tales, and to say that they had met the spirits of
the dead hunters lost that autumn, who prophesied all sorts of
Kotuko grieved more for the loss of his dog than anything else;
for though an Inuit eats enormously he also knows how to starve. But
the hunger, the darkness, the cold, and the exposure told on his
strength, and he began to hear voices inside his head, and to see
people who were not there, out of the tail of his eye. One night--he
had unbuckled himself after ten hours' waiting above a "blind"
seal-hole, and was staggering back to the village faint and dizzy--he
halted to lean his back against a boulder which happened to be
supported like a rocking-stone on a single jutting point of ice. His
weight disturbed the balance of the thing, it rolled over ponderously,
and as Kotuko sprang aside to avoid it, slid after him, squeaking and
hissing on the ice-slope.
That was enough for Kotuko. He had been brought up to believe that
every rock and boulder had its owner (its inua), who was generally a
one-eyed kind of a Woman-Thing called a tornaq, and that when a tornaq
meant to help a man she rolled after him inside her stone house, and
asked him whether he would take her for a guardian spirit. (In summer
thaws the ice-propped rocks and boulders roll and slip all over the
face of the land, so you can easily see how the idea of live stones
arose.) Kotuko heard the blood beating in his ears as he had heard it
all day, and he thought that was the tornaq of the stone speaking to
him. Before he reached home he was quite certain that he had held a
long conversation with her, and as all his people believed that this
was quite possible, no one contradicted him.
"She said to me, 'I jump down, I jump down from my place on the
snow,'" cried Kotuko, with hollow eyes, leaning forward in the
half-lighted hut. "She said, 'I will be a guide.' She said, 'I will
guide you to the good seal-holes.' To-morrow I go out, and the tornaq
will guide me."
Then the angekok, the village sorcerer, came in, and Kotuko told
him the tale a second time. It lost nothing in the telling.
"Follow the tornait [the spirits of the stones], and they will
bring us food again," said the angekok.
Now the girl from the North had been lying near the lamp, eating
very little and saying less for days past; but when Amoraq and Kadlu
next morning packed and lashed a little hand- sleigh for Kotuko, and
loaded it with his hunting-gear and as much blubber and frozen
seal-meat as they could spare, she took the pulling-rope, and stepped
out boldly at the boy's side.
"Your house is my house," she said, as the little bone-shod sleigh
squeaked and bumped behind them in the awful Arctic night.
"My house is your house," said Kotuko; "but I think that we shall
both go to Sedna together."
Now Sedna is the Mistress of the Underworld, and the Inuit believe
that every one who dies must spend a year in her horrible country
before going to Quadliparmiut, the Happy Place, where it never freezes
and the fat reindeer trot up when you call.
Through the village people were shouting: "The tornait have spoken
to Kotuko. They will show him open ice. He will bring us the seal
again!" Their voices were soon swallowed up by the cold, empty dark,
and Kotuko and the girl shouldered close together as they strained on
the pulling-rope or humoured the sleigh through the ice in the
direction of the Polar Sea. Kotuko insisted that the tornaq of the
stone had told him to go north, and north they went under Tuktuqdjung
the Reindeer--those stars that we call the Great Bear.
No European could have made five miles a day over the ice- rubbish
and the sharp-edged drifts; but those two knew exactly the turn of the
wrist that coaxes a sleigh round a hummock, the jerk that nearly lifts
it out of an ice-crack, and the exact strength that goes to the few
quiet strokes of the spear-head that make a path possible when
everything looks hopeless.
The girl said nothing, but bowed her head, and the long
wolverine-fur fringe of her ermine hood blew across her broad, dark
face. The sky above them was an intense velvety black, changing to
bands of Indian red on the horizon, where the great stars burned like
street-lamps. From time to time a greenish wave of the Northern Lights
would roll across the hollow of the high heavens, flick like a flag,
and disappear; or a meteor would crackle from darkness to darkness,
trailing a shower of sparks behind. Then they could see the ridged and
furrowed surface of the floe tipped and laced with strange
colours--red, copper, and bluish; but in the ordinary starlight
everything turned to one frost-bitten gray. The floe, as you will
remember, had been battered and tormented by the autumn gales till it
was one frozen earthquake. There were gullies and ravines, and holes
like gravel-pits, cut in ice; lumps and scattered pieces frozen down
to the original floor of the floe; blotches of old black ice that had
been thrust under the floe in some gale and heaved up again; roundish
boulders of ice; saw-like edges of ice carved by the snow that flies
before the wind; and sunken pits where thirty or forty acres lay below
the level of the rest of the field. From a little distance you might
have taken the lumps for seal or walrus, overturned sleighs or men on
a hunting expedition, or even the great Ten-legged White Spirit-Bear
himself; but in spite of these fantastic shapes, all on the very edge
of starting into life, there was neither sound nor the least faint
echo of sound. And through this silence and through this waste, where
the sudden lights flapped and went out again, the sleigh and the two
that pulled it crawled like things in a nightmare--a nightmare of the
end of the world at the end of the world.
When they were tired Kotuko would make what the hunters call a
"half-house," a very small snow hut, into which they would huddle
with the travelling-lamp, and try to thaw out the frozen seal-meat.
When they had slept, the march began again--thirty miles a day to get
ten miles northward. The girl was always very silent, but Kotuko
muttered to himself and broke out into songs he had learned in the
Singing-House--summer songs, and reindeer and salmon songs--all
horribly out of place at that season. He would declare that he heard
the tornaq growling to him, and would run wildly up a hummock, tossing
his arms and speaking in loud, threatening tones. To tell the truth,
Kotuko was very nearly crazy for the time being; but the girl was sure
that he was being guided by his guardian spirit, and that everything
would come right. She was not surprised, therefore, when at the end
of the fourth march Kotuko, whose eyes were burning like fire-balls in
his head, told her that his tornaq was following them across the snow
in the shape of a two-headed dog. The girl looked where Kotuko
pointed, and something seemed to slip into a ravine. It was certainly
not human, but everybody knew that the tornait preferred to appear in
the shape of bear and seal, and such like.
It might have been the Ten-legged White Spirit-Bear himself, or it
might have been anything, for Kotuko and the girl were so starved that
their eyes were untrustworthy. They had trapped nothing, and seen no
trace of game since they had left the village; their food would not
hold out for another week, and there was a gale coming. A Polar storm
can blow for ten days without a break, and all that while it is
certain death to be abroad. Kotuko laid up a snow-house large enough
to take in the hand-sleigh (never be separated from your meat), and
while he was shaping the last irregular block of ice that makes the
key-stone of the roof, he saw a Thing looking at him from a little
cliff of ice half a mile away. The air was hazy, and the Thing seemed
to be forty feet long and ten feet high, with twenty feet of tail and
a shape that quivered all along the outlines. The girl saw it too, but
instead of crying aloud with terror, said quietly, "That is Quiquern.
What comes after?"
"He will speak to me," said Kotuko; but the snow-knife trembled in
his hand as he spoke, because however much a man may believe that he
is a friend of strange and ugly spirits, he seldom likes to be taken
quite at his word. Quiquern, too, is the phantom of a gigantic
toothless dog without any hair, who is supposed to live in the far
North, and to wander about the country just before things are going to
happen. They may be pleasant or unpleasant things, but not even the
sorcerers care to speak about Quiquern. He makes the dogs go mad. Like
the Spirit-Bear, he has several extra pairs of legs,--six or
eight,--and this Thing jumping up and down in the haze had more legs
than any real dog needed. Kotuko and the girl huddled into their hut
quickly. Of course if Quiquern had wanted them, he could have torn it
to pieces above their heads, but the sense of a foot- thick snow-wall
between themselves and the wicked dark was great comfort. The gale
broke with a shriek of wind like the shriek of a train, and for three
days and three nights it held, never varying one point, and never
lulling even for a minute. They fed the stone lamp between their
knees, and nibbled at the half-warm seal-meat, and watched the black
soot gather on the roof for seventy-two long hours. The girl counted
up the food in the sleigh; there was not more than two days' supply,
and Kotuko looked over the iron heads and the deer-sinew fastenings of
his harpoon and his seal-lance and his bird-dart. There was nothing
else to do.
"We shall go to Sedna soon--very soon," the girl whispered. "In
three days we shall lie down and go. Will your tornaq do nothing? Sing
her an angekok's song to make her come here."
He began to sing in the high-pitched howl of the magic songs, and
the gale went down slowly. In the middle of his song the girl started,
laid her mittened hand and then her head to the ice floor of the hut.
Kotuko followed her example, and the two kneeled, staring into each
other's eyes, and listening with every nerve. He ripped a thin sliver
of whalebone from the rim of a bird-snare that lay on the sleigh, and,
after straightening, set it upright in a little hole in the ice,
firming it down with his mitten. It was almost as delicately adjusted
as a compass-needle, and now instead of listening they watched. The
thin rod quivered a little--the least little jar in the world; then it
vibrated steadily for a few seconds, came to rest, and vibrated again,
this time nodding to another point of the compass.
"Too soon!" said Kotuko. "Some big floe has broken far away
The girl pointed at the rod, and shook her head. "It is the big
breaking," she said. "Listen to the ground-ice. It knocks."
When they kneeled this time they heard the most curious muffled
grunts and knockings, apparently under their feet. Sometimes it
sounded as though a blind puppy were squeaking above the lamp; then
as if a stone were being ground on hard ice; and again, like muffled
blows on a drum; but all dragged out and made small, as though they
travelled through a little horn a weary distance away.
"We shall not go to Sedna lying down," said Kotuko. "It is the
breaking. The tornaq has cheated us. We shall die."
All this may sound absurd enough, but the two were face to face
with a very real danger. The three days' gale had driven the deep
water of Baffin's Bay southerly, and piled it on to the edge of the
far-reaching land-ice that stretches from Bylot's Island to the west.
Also, the strong current which sets east out of Lancaster Sound
carried with it mile upon mile of what they call pack-ice--rough ice
that has not frozen into fields; and this pack was bombarding the floe
at the same time that the swell and heave of the storm-worked sea was
weakening and undermining it. What Kotuko and the girl had been
listening to were the faint echoes of that fight thirty or forty miles
away, and the little tell-tale rod quivered to the shock of it.
Now, as the Inuit say, when the ice once wakes after its long
winter sleep, there is no knowing what may happen, for solid floe-ice
changes shape almost as quickly as a cloud. The gale was evidently a
spring gale sent out of time, and anything was possible.
Yet the two were happier in their minds than before. If the floe
broke up there would be no more waiting and suffering. Spirits,
goblins, and witch-people were moving about on the racking ice, and
they might find themselves stepping into Sedna's country side by side
with all sorts of wild Things, the flush of excitement still on them.
When they left the hut after the gale, the noise on the horizon was
steadily growing, and the tough ice moaned and buzzed all round them.
"It is still waiting," said Kotuko.
On the top of a hummock sat or crouched the eight-legged Thing
that they had seen three days before--and it howled horribly.
"Let us follow," said the girl. "It may know some way that does
not lead to Sedna"; but she reeled from weakness as she took the
pulling-rope. The Thing moved off slowly and clumsily across the
ridges, heading always toward the westward and the land, and they
followed, while the growling thunder at the edge of the floe rolled
nearer and nearer. The floe's lip was split and cracked in every
direction for three or four miles inland, and great pans of
ten-foot-thick ice, from a few yards to twenty acres square, were
jolting and ducking and surging into one another, and into the yet
unbroken floe, as the heavy swell took and shook and spouted between
them. This battering-ram ice was, so to speak, the first army that the
sea was flinging against the floe. The incessant crash and jar of
these cakes almost drowned the ripping sound of sheets of pack-ice
driven bodily under the floe as cards are hastily pushed under a
tablecloth. Where the water was shallow these sheets would be piled
one atop of the other till the bottommost touched mud fifty feet down,
and the discoloured sea banked behind the muddy ice till the
increasing pressure drove all forward again. In addition to the floe
and the pack-ice, the gale and the currents were bringing down true
bergs, sailing mountains of ice, snapped off from the Greenland side
of the water or the north shore of Melville Bay. They pounded in
solemnly, the waves breaking white round them, and advanced on the
floe like an old-time fleet under full sail. A berg that seemed ready
to carry the world before it would ground helplessly in deep water,
reel over, and wallow in a lather of foam and mud and flying frozen
spray, while a much smaller and lower one would rip and ride into the
flat floe, flinging tons of ice on either side, and cutting a track
half a mile long before it was stopped. Some fell like swords,
shearing a raw-edged canal; and others splintered into a shower of
blocks, weighing scores of tons apiece, that whirled and skirted
among the hummocks. Others, again, rose up bodily out of the water
when they shoaled, twisted as though in pain, and fell solidly on
their sides, while the sea threshed over their shoulders. This
trampling and crowding and bending and buckling and arching of the ice
into every possible shape was going on as far as the eye could reach
all along the north line of the floe. >From where Kotuko and the girl
were, the confusion looked no more than an uneasy, rippling, crawling
movement under the horizon; but it came toward them each moment, and
they could hear, far away to landward a heavy booming, as it might
have been the boom of artillery through a fog. That showed that the
floe was being jammed home against the iron cliffs of Bylot's Island,
the land to the southward behind them.
"This has never been before," said Kotuko, staring stupidly. "This
is not the time. How can the floe break NOW?"
"Follow THAT! the girl cried, pointing to the Thing half limping,
half running distractedly before them. They followed, tugging at the
hand- sleigh, while nearer and nearer came the roaring march of the
ice. At last the fields round them cracked and starred in every
direction, and the cracks opened and snapped like the teeth of wolves.
But where the Thing rested, on a mound of old and scattered ice-blocks
some fifty feet high, there was no motion. Kotuko leaped forward
wildly, dragging the girl after him, and crawled to the bottom of the
mound. The talking of the ice grew louder and louder round them, but
the mound stayed fast, and, as the girl looked at him, he threw his
right elbow upward and outward, making the Inuit sign for land in the
shape of an island. And land it was that the eight-legged, limping
Thing had led them to--some granite- tipped, sand-beached islet off
the coast, shod and sheathed and masked with ice so that no man could
have told it from the floe, but at the bottom solid earth, and not
shifting ice! The smashing and rebound of the floes as they grounded
and splintered marked the borders of it, and a friendly shoal ran out
to the northward, and turned aside the rush of the heaviest ice,
exactly as a ploughshare turns over loam. There was danger, of course,
that some heavily squeezed ice-field might shoot up the beach, and
plane off the top of the islet bodily; but that did not trouble Kotuko
and the girl when they made their snow- house and began to eat, and
heard the ice hammer and skid along the beach. The Thing had
disappeared, and Kotuko was talking excitedly about his power over
spirits as he crouched round the lamp. In the middle of his wild
sayings the girl began to laugh, and rock herself backward and
Behind her shoulder, crawling into the hut crawl by crawl, there
were two heads, one yellow and one black, that belonged to two of the
most sorrowful and ashamed dogs that ever you saw. Kotuko the dog was
one, and the black leader was the other. Both were now fat,
well-looking, and quite restored to their proper minds, but coupled to
each other in an extraordinary fashion. When the black leader ran off,
you remember, his harness was still on him. He must have met Kotuko
the dog, and played or fought with him, for his shoulder-loop had
caught in the plaited copper wire of Kotuko's collar, and had drawn
tight, so that neither could get at the trace to gnaw it apart, but
each was fastened sidelong to his neighbour's neck. That, with the
freedom of hunting on their own account, must have helped to cure
their madness. They were very sober.
The girl pushed the two shamefaced creatures towards Kotuko, and,
sobbing with laughter, cried, "That is Quiquern, who led us to safe
ground. Look at his eight legs and double head!"
Kotuko cut them free, and they fell into his arms, yellow and
black together, trying to explain how they had got their senses back
again. Kotuko ran a hand down their ribs, which were round and well
clothed. "They have found food," he said, with a grin. "I do not think
we shall go to Sedna so soon. My tornaq sent these. The sickness has
As soon as they had greeted Kotuko, these two, who had been forced
to sleep and eat and hunt together for the past few weeks, flew at
each other's throat, and there was a beautiful battle in the
snow-house. "Empty dogs do not fight," Kotuko said. "They have found
the seal. Let us sleep. We shall find food."
When they waked there was open water on the north beach of the
island, and all the loosened ice had been driven landward. The first
sound of the surf is one of the most delightful that the Inuit can
hear, for it means that spring is on the road. Kotuko and the girl
took hold of hands and smiled, for the clear, full roar of the surge
among the ice reminded them of salmon and reindeer time and the smell
of blossoming ground- willows. Even as they looked, the sea began to
skim over between the floating cakes of ice, so intense was the cold;
but on the horizon there was a vast red glare, and that was the light
of the sunken sun. It was more like hearing him yawn in his sleep
than seeing him rise, and the glare lasted for only a few minutes,
but it marked the turn of the year. Nothing, they felt, could alter
Kotuko found the dogs fighting over a fresh-killed seal who was
following the fish that a gale always disturbs. He was the first of
some twenty or thirty seal that landed on the island in the course of
the day, and till the sea froze hard there were hundreds of keen black
heads rejoicing in the shallow free water and floating about with the
It was good to eat seal-liver again; to fill the lamps recklessly
with blubber, and watch the flame blaze three feet in the air; but as
soon as the new sea-ice bore, Kotuko and the girl loaded the
hand-sleigh, and made the two dogs pull as they had never pulled in
their lives, for they feared what might have happened in their
village. The weather was as pitiless as usual; but it is easier to
draw a sleigh loaded with good food than to hunt starving. They left
five-and-twenty seal carcasses buried in the ice of the beach, all
ready for use, and hurried back to their people. The dogs showed them
the way as soon as Kotuko told them what was expected, and though
there was no sign of a landmark, in two days they were giving tongue
outside Kadlu's house. Only three dogs answered them; the others had
been eaten, and the houses were all dark. But when Kotuko shouted,
"Ojo!" (boiled meat), weak voices replied, and when he called the
muster of the village name by name, very distinctly, there were no
gaps in it.
An hour later the lamps blazed in Kadlu's house; snow-water was
heating; the pots were beginning to simmer, and the snow was dripping
from the roof, as Amoraq made ready a meal for all the village, and
the boy-baby in the hood chewed at a strip of rich nutty blubber, and
the hunters slowly and methodically filled themselves to the very brim
with seal-meat. Kotuko and the girl told their tale. The two dogs sat
between them, and whenever their names came in, they cocked an ear
apiece and looked most thoroughly ashamed of themselves. A dog who has
once gone mad and recovered, the Inuit say, is safe against all
"So the tornaq did not forget us," said Kotuko. The storm blew,
the ice broke, and the seal swam in behind the fish that were
frightened by the storm. Now the new seal-holes are not two days
distant. Let the good hunters go to-morrow and bring back the seal I
have speared--twenty-five seal buried in the ice. When we have eaten
those we will all follow the seal on the floe."
"What do YOU do?" said the sorcerer in the same sort of voice as
he used to Kadlu, richest of the Tununirmiut.
Kadlu looked at the girl from the North, and said quietly, "WE
build a house." He pointed to the north-west side of Kadlu's house,
for that is the side on which the married son or daughter always
The girl turned her hands palm upward, with a little despairing
shake of her head. She was a foreigner, picked up starving, and could
bring nothing to the housekeeping.
Amoraq jumped from the bench where she sat, and began to sweep
things into the girl's lap--stone lamps, iron skin-scrapers, tin
kettles, deer- skins embroidered with musk-ox teeth, and real
canvas-needles such as sailors use--the finest dowry that has ever
been given on the far edge of the Arctic Circle, and the girl from the
North bowed her head down to the very floor.
"Also these!" said Kotuko, laughing and signing to the dogs, who
thrust their cold muzzles into the girl's face.
"Ah," said the angekok, with an important cough, as though he had
been thinking it all over. "As soon as Kotuko left the village I went
to the Singing-House and sang magic. I sang all the long nights, and
called upon the Spirit of the Reindeer. MY singing made the gale blow
that broke the ice and drew the two dogs toward Kotuko when the ice
would have crushed his bones. MY song drew the seal in behind the
broken ice. My body lay still in the quaggi, but my spirit ran about
on the ice, and guided Kotuko and the dogs in all the things they did.
I did it."
Everybody was full and sleepy, so no one contradicted; and the
angekok, by virtue of his office, helped himself to yet another lump
of boiled meat, and lay down to sleep with the others in the warm,
well-lighted, oil-smelling home.
Now Kotuko, who drew very well in the Inuit fashion, scratched
pictures of all these adventures on a long, flat piece of ivory with
a hole at one end. When he and the girl went north to Ellesmere Land
in the year of the Wonderful Open Winter, he left the picture-story
with Kadlu, who lost it in the shingle when his dog-sleigh broke down
one summer on the beach of Lake Netilling at Nikosiring, and there a
Lake Inuit found it next spring and sold it to a man at Imigen who was
interpreter on a Cumberland Sound whaler, and he sold it to Hans
Olsen, who was afterward a quartermaster on board a big steamer that
took tourists to the North Cape in Norway. When the tourist season
was over, the steamer ran between London and Australia, stopping at
Ceylon, and there Olsen sold the ivory to a Cingalese jeweller for two
imitation sapphires. I found it under some rubbish in a house at
Colombo, and have translated it from one end to the other.
[This is a very free translation of the Song of the Returning
Hunter, as the men used to sing it after seal-spearing.
The Inuit always repeat things over and over again.]
Our gloves are stiff with the frozen blood,
Our furs with the drifted snow,
As we come in with the seal--the seal!
In from the edge of the floe.
Au jana! Aua! Oha! Haq!
And the yelping dog-teams go,
And the long whips crack, and the men come back,
Back from the edge of the floe !
We tracked our seal to his secret place,
We heard him scratch below,
We made our mark, and we watched beside,
Out on the edge of the floe.
We raised our lance when he rose to breathe,
We drove it downward--so!
And we played him thus, and we killed him thus,
Out on the edge of the floe.
Our gloves are glued with the frozen blood,
Our eyes with the drifting snow;
But we come back to our wives again,
Back from the edge of the floe!
Au jana! Aua! Oha! Haq!
And the loaded dog-teams go,
And the wives can hear their men come back.
Back from the edge of the floe!
For our white and our excellent nights---for the nights of
Fair ranging, far seeing, good hunting, sure cunning!
For the smells of the dawning, untainted, ere dew has departed!
For the rush through the mist, and the quarry blind-started!
For the cry of our mates when the sambhur has wheeled and is
standing at bay,
For the risk and the riot of night!
For the sleep at the lair-mouth by day,
It is met, and we go to the fight.
Bay! O Bay!
It was after the letting in of the Jungle that the pleasantest
part of Mowgli's life began. He had the good conscience that comes
from paying debts; all the Jungle was his friend, and just a little
afraid of him. The things that he did and saw and heard when he was
wandering from one people to another, with or without his four
companions, would make many many stories, each as long as this one. So
you will never be told how he met the Mad Elephant of Mandla, who
killed two-and-twenty bullocks drawing eleven carts of coined silver
to the Government Treasury, and scattered the shiny rupees in the
dust; how he fought Jacala, the Crocodile, all one long night in the
Marshes of the North, and broke his skinning-knife on the brute's
back- plates; how he found a new and longer knife round the neck of a
man who had been killed by a wild boar, and how he tracked that boar
and killed him as a fair price for the knife; how he was caught up
once in the Great Famine, by the moving of the deer, and nearly
crushed to death in the swaying hot herds; how he saved Hathi the
Silent from being once more trapped in a pit with a stake at the
bottom, and how, next day, he himself fell into a very cunning
leopard-trap, and how Hathi broke the thick wooden bars to pieces
above him; how he milked the wild buffaloes in the swamp, and how----
But we must tell one tale at a time. Father and Mother Wolf died,
and Mowgli rolled a big boulder against the mouth of their cave, and
cried the Death Song over them; Baloo grew very old and stiff, and
even Bagheera, whose nerves were steel and whose muscles were iron,
was a shade slower on the kill than he had been. Akela turned from
gray to milky white with pure age; his ribs stuck out, and he walked
as though he had been made of wood, and Mowgli killed for him. But the
young wolves, the children of the disbanded Seeonee Pack, throve and
increased, and when there were about forty of them, masterless,
full-voiced, clean-footed five-year-olds, Akela told them that they
ought to gather themselves together ahd follow the Law, and run under
one head, as befitted the Free People.
This was not a question in which Mowgli concerned himself, for, as
he said, he had eaten sour fruit, and he knew the tree it hung from;
but when Phao, son of Phaona (his father was the Gray Tracker in the
days of Akela's headship), fought his way to the leadership of the
Pack, according to the Jungle Law, and the old calls and songs began
to ring under the stars once more, Mowgli came to the Council Rock for
memory's sake. When he chose to speak the Pack waited till he had
finished, and he sat at Akela's side on the rock above Phao. Those
were days of good hunting and good sleeping. No stranger cared to
break into the jungles that belonged to Mowgli's people, as they
called the Pack, and the young wolves grew fat and strong, and there
were many cubs to bring to the Looking-over. Mowgli always attended a
Looking-over, remembering the night when a black panther bought a
naked brown baby into the pack, and the long call, "Look, look well, O
Wolves," made his heart flutter. Otherwise, he would be far away in
the Jungle with his four brothers, tasting, touching, seeing, and
feeling new things.
One twilight when he was trotting leisurely across the ranges to
give Akela the half of a buck that he had killed, while the Four
jogged behind him, sparring a little, and tumbling one another over
for joy of being alive, he heard a cry that had never been heard since
the bad days of Shere Khan. It was what they call in the Jungle the
pheeal, a hideous kind of shriek that the jackal gives when he is
hunting behind a tiger, or when there is a big killing afoot. If you
can imagine a mixture of hate, triumph, fear, and despair, with a kind
of leer running through it, you will get some notion of the pheeal
that rose and sank and wavered and quavered far away across the
Waingunga. The Four stopped at once, bristling and growling. Mowgli's
hand went to his knife, and he checked, the blood in his face, his
"There is no Striped One dare kill here," he said.
"That is not the cry of the Forerunner," answered Gray Brother.
"It is some great killing. Listen!"
It broke out again, half sobbing and half chuckling, just as
though the jackal had soft human lips. Then Mowgli drew deep breath,
and ran to the Council Rock, overtaking on his way hurrying wolves of
the Pack. Phao and Akela were on the Rock together, and below them,
every nerve strained, sat the others. The mothers and the cubs were
cantering off to their lairs; for when the pheeal cries it is no time
for weak things to be abroad.
They could hear nothing except the Waingunga rushing and gurgling
in the dark, and the light evening winds among the tree-tops, till
suddenly across the river a wolf called. It was no wolf of the Pack,
for they were all at the Rock. The note changed to a long, despairing
bay; and "Dhole!" it said, "Dhole! dhole! dhole!" They heard tired
feet on the rocks, and a gaunt wolf, streaked with red on his flanks,
his right fore-paw useless, and his jaws white with foam, flung
himself into the circle and lay gasping at Mowgli's feet.
"Good hunting! Under whose Headship?" said Phao gravely.
"Good hunting! Won-tolla am I," was the answer. He meant that he
was a solitary wolf, fending for himself, his mate, and his cubs in
some lonely lair, as do many wolves in the south. Won-tolla means an
Outlier--one who lies out from any Pack. Then he panted, and they
could see his heart-beats shake him backward and forward.
"What moves?" said Phao, for that is the question all the Jungle
asks after the pheeal cries.
"The dhole, the dhole of the Dekkan--Red Dog, the Killer! They
came north from the south saying the Dekkan was empty and killing out
by the way. When this moon was new there were four to me--my mate and
three cubs. She would teach them to kill on the grass plains, hiding
to drive the buck, as we do who are of the open. At midnight I heard
them together, full tongue on the trail. At the dawn-wind I found them
stiff in the grass--four, Free People, four when this moon was new.
Then sought I my Blood-Right and found the dhole."
"How many?" said Mowgli quickly; the Pack growled deep in their
"I do not know. Three of them will kill no more, but at the last
they drove me like the buck; on my three legs they drove me. Look,
He thrust out his mangled fore-foot, all dark with dried blood.
There were cruel bites low down on his side, and his throat was torn
"Eat," said Akela, rising up from the meat Mowgli had brought him,
and the Outlier flung himself on it.
"This shall be no loss," he said humbly, when he had taken off the
first edge of his hunger. "Give me a little strength, Free People, and
I also will kill. My lair is empty that was full when this moon was
new, and the Blood Debt is not all paid."
Phao heard his teeth crack on a haunch-bone and grunted
"We shall need those jaws," said he. "Were there cubs with the
"Nay, nay. Red Hunters all: grown dogs of their Pack, heavy and
strong for all that they eat lizards in the Dekkan."
What Won-tolla had said meant that the dhole, the red hunting- dog
of the Dekkan, was moving to kill, and the Pack knew well that even
the tiger will surrender a new kill to the dhole. They drive straight
through the Jungle, and what they meet they pull down and tear to
pieces. Though they are not as big nor half as cunning as the wolf,
they are very strong and very numerous. The dhole, for instance, do
not begin to call themselves a pack till they are a hundred strong;
whereas forty wolves make a very fair pack indeed. Mowgli's wanderings
had taken him to the edge of the high grassy downs of the Dekkan, and
he had seen the fearless dholes sleeping and playing and scratching
themselves in the little hollows and tussocks that they use for lairs.
He despised and hated them because they did not smell like the Free
People, because they did not live in caves, and, above all, because
they had hair between their toes while he and his friends were
clean-footed. But he knew, for Hathi had told him, what a terrible
thing a dhole hunting-pack was. Even Hathi moves aside from their
line, and until they are killed, or till game is scarce, they will go
Akela knew something of the dholes, too, for he said to Mowgli
quietly, "It is better to die in a Full Pack than leaderless and
alone. This is good hunting, and--my last. But, as men live, thou
hast very many more nights and days, Little Brother. Go north and lie
down, and if any live after the dhole has gone by he shall bring thee
word of the fight."
"Ah," said Mowgli, quite gravely, "must I go to the marshes and
catch little fish and sleep in a tree, or must I ask help of the
Bandar-log and crack nuts, while the Pack fight below?"
"It is to the death," said Akela. "Thou hast never met the
dhole--the Red Killer. Even the Striped One----"
"Aowa! Aowa!" said Mowgli pettingly. "I have killed one striped
ape, and sure am I in my stomach that Shere Khan would have left his
own mate for meat to the dhole if he had winded a pack across three
ranges. Listen now: There was a wolf, my father, and there was a wolf,
my mother, and there was an old gray wolf (not too wise: he is white
now) was my father and my mother. Therefore I--" he raised his voice,
"I say that when the dhole come, and if the dhole come, Mowgli and the
Free People are of one skin for that hunting ; and I say, by the Bull
that bought me--by the Bull Bagheera paid for me in the old days which
ye of the Pack do not remember--_I_ say, that the Trees and the River
may hear and hold fast if I forget; _I_ say that this my knife shall
be as a tooth to the Pack--and I do not think it is so blunt. This is
my Word which has gone from me."
"Thou dost not know the dhole, man with a wolf's tongue," said
Won-tolla. "I look only to clear the Blood Debt against them ere they
have me in many pieces. They move slowly, killing out as they go, but
in two days a little strength will come back to me and I turn again
for the Blood Debt. But for YE, Free People, my word is that ye go
north and eat but little for a while till the dhole are gone. There is
no meat in this hunting."
"Hear the Outlier!" said Mowgli with a laugh. Free People, we must
go north and dig lizards and rats from the bank, lest by any chance we
meet the dhole. He must kill out our hunting- grounds, while we lie
hid in the north till it please him to give us our own again. He is a
dog--and the pup of a dog--red, yellow-bellied, lairless, and haired
between every toe! He counts his cubs six and eight at the litter, as
though he were Chikai, the little leaping rat. Surely we must run
away, Free People, and beg leave of the peoples of the north for the
offal of dead cattle! Ye know the saying: 'North are the vermin;
south are the lice. WE are the Jungle.' Choose ye, O choose. It is
good hunting! For the Pack--for the Full Pack--for the lair and the
litter; for the in-kill and the out-kill; for the mate that drives the
doe and the little, little cub within the cave; it is met!--it is
met!--it is met!"
The Pack answered with one deep, crashing bark that sounded in the
night like a big tree falling. "It is met!" they cried. "Stay with
these," said Mowgli to the Four. We shall need every tooth. Phao and
Akela must make ready the battle. I go to count the dogs."
"It is death!" Won-tolla cried, half rising. What can such a
hairless one do against the Red Dog? Even the Striped One,
"Thou art indeed an Outlier," Mowgli called back; "but we will
speak when the dholes are dead. Good hunting all!"
He hurried off into the darkness, wild with excitement, hardly
looking where he set foot, and the natural consequence was that he
tripped full length over Kaa's great coils where the python lay
watching a deer-path near the river.
"Kssha!" said Kaa angrily. "Is this jungle-work, to stamp and
tramp and undo a night's hunting--when the game are moving so well,
"The fault was mine," said Mowgli, picking himself up. "Indeed I
was seeking thee, Flathead, but each time we meet thou art longer and
broader by the length of my arm. There is none like thee in the
Jungle, wise, old, strong, and most beautiful Kaa."
"Now whither does THIS trail lead?" Kaa's voice was gentler. "Not
a moon since there was a Manling with a knife threw stones at my head
and called me bad little tree-cat names, because I lay asleep in the
"Ay, and turned every driven deer to all the winds, and Mowgli was
hunting, and this same Flathead was too deaf to hear his whistle, and
leave the deer-roads free," Mowgli answered composedly, sitting down
among the painted coils.
"Now this same Manling comes with soft, tickling words to this
same Flathead, telling him that he is wise and strong and beautiful,
and this same old Flathead believes and makes a place, thus, for this
same stone-throwing Manling, and--Art thou at ease now? Could Bagheera
give thee so good a resting-place?"
Kaa had, as usual, made a sort of soft half-hammock of himself
under Mowgli's weight. The boy reached out in the darkness, and
gathered in the supple cable-like neck till Kaa's head rested on his
shoulder, and then he told him all that had happened in the Jungle
"Wise I may be," said Kaa at the end; "but deaf I surely am. Else
I should have heard the pheeal. Small wonder the Eaters of Grass are
uneasy. How many be the dhole?"
"I have not yet seen. I came hot-foot to thee. Thou art older than
Hathi. But oh, Kaa,"--here Mowgli wriggled with sheerjoy,-- "it will
be good hunting. Few of us will see another moon."
"Dost THOU strike in this? Remember thou art a Man; and remember
what Pack cast thee out. Let the Wolf look to the Dog. THOU art a
"Last year's nuts are this year's black earth," said Mowgli. "It
is true that I am a Man, but it is in my stomach that this night I
have said that I am a Wolf. I called the River and the Trees to
remember. I am of the Free People, Kaa, till the dhole has gone by."
"Free People," Kaa grunted. "Free thieves! And thou hast tied
thyself into the death-knot for the sake of the memory of the dead
wolves? This is no good hunting."
"It is my Word which I have spoken. The Trees know, the River
knows. Till the dhole have gone by my Word comes not back to me."
"Ngssh! This changes all trails. I had thought to take thee away
with me to the northern marshes, but the Word--even the Word of a
little, naked, hairless Manling--is the Word. Now I, Kaa, say----"
"Think well, Flathead, lest thou tie thyself into the death-knot
also. I need no Word from thee, for well I know----"
"Be it so, then," said Kaa. "I will give no Word; but what is in
thy stomach to do when the dhole come?"
"They must swim the Waingunga. I thought to meet them with my
knife in the shallows, the Pack behind me; and so stabbing and
thrusting, we a little might turn them down-stream, or cool their
"The dhole do not turn and their throats are hot," said Kaa.
"There will be neither Manling nor Wolf-cub when that hunting is
done, but only dry bones."
"Alala! If we die, we die. It will be most good hunting. But my
stomach is young, and I have not seen many Rains. I am not wise nor
strong. Hast thou a better plan, Kaa?"
"I have seen a hundred and a hundred Rains. Ere Hathi cast his
milk-tushes my trail was big in the dust. By the First Egg, I am older
than many trees, and I have seen all that the Jungle has done."
"But THIS is new hunting," said Mowgli. "Never before have the
dhole crossed our trail."
"What is has been. What will be is no more than a forgotten year
striking backward. Be still while I count those my years."
For a long hour Mowgli lay back among the coils, while Kaa, his
head motionless on the ground, thought of all that he had seen and
known since the day he came from the egg. The light seemed to go out
of his eyes and leave them like stale opals, and now and again he made
little stiff passes with his head, right and left, as though he were
hunting in his sleep. Mowgli dozed quietly, for he knew that there is
nothing like sleep before hunting, and he was trained to take it at
any hour of the day or night.
Then he felt Kaa's back grow bigger and broader below him as the
huge python puffed himself out, hissing with the noise of a sword
drawn from a steel scabbard.
"I have seen all the dead seasons," Kaa said at last, "and the
great trees and the old elephants, and the rocks that were bare and
sharp-pointed ere the moss grew. Art THOU still alive, Manling?"
"It is only a little after moonset," said Mowgli. I do not
"Hssh! I am again Kaa. I knew it was but a little time. Now we
will go to the river, and I will show thee what is to be done against
He turned, straight as an arrow, for the main stream of the
Waingunga, plunging in a little above the pool that hid the Peace
Rock, Mowgli at his side.
"Nay, do not swim. I go swiftly. My back, Little Brother."
Mowgli tucked his left arm round Kaa's neck, dropped his right
close to his body, and straightened his feet. Then Kaa breasted the
current as he alone could, and the ripple of the checked water stood
up in a frill round Mowgli's neck, and his feet were waved to and fro
in the eddy under the python's lashing sides. A mile or two above the
Peace Rock the Waingunga narrows between a gorge of marble rocks from
eighty to a hundred feet high, and the current runs like a mill-race
between and over all manner of ugly stones. But Mowgli did not trouble
his head about the water; little water in the world could have given
him a moment's fear. He was looking at the gorge on either side and
sniffing uneasily, for there was a sweetish-sourish smell in the air,
very like the smell of a big ant-hill on a hot day. Instinctively he
lowered himself in the water, only raising his head to breathe from
time to time, and Kaa came to anchor with a double twist of his tail
round a sunken rock, holding Mowgli in the hollow of a coil, while the
water raced on.
"This is the Place of Death," said the boy. "Why do we come here?"
"They sleep," said Kaa. "Hathi will not turn aside for the Striped
One. Yet Hathi and the Striped One together turn aside for the dhole,
and the dhole they say turn aside for nothing. And yet for whom do the
Little People of the Rocks turn aside? Tell me, Master of the Jungle,
who is the Master of the Jungle?"
"These," Mowgli whispered. "It is the Place of Death. Let us go."
"Nay, look well, for they are asleep. It is as it was when I was
not the length of thy arm."
The split and weatherworn rocks of the gorge of the Waingunga had
been used since the beginning of the Jungle by the Little People of
the Rocks--the busy, furious, black wild bees of India; and, as Mowgli
knew well, all trails turned off half a mile before they reached the
gorge. For centuries the Little People had hived and swarmed from
cleft to cleft, and swarmed again, staining the white marble with
stale honey, and made their combs tall and deep in the dark of the
inner caves, where neither man nor beast nor fire nor water had ever
touched them. The length of the gorge on both siaes was hung as it
were with black shimmery velvet curtains, and Mowgli sank as he
looked, for those were the clotted millions of the sleeping bees.
There were other lumps and festoons and things like decayed
tree-trunks studded on the face of the rock, the old combs of past
years, or new cities built in the shadow of the windless gorge, and
huge masses of spongy, rotten trash had rolled down and stuck among
the trees and creepers that clung to the rock- face. As he listened he
heard more than once the rustle and slide of a honey-loaded comb
turning over or failing away somewhere in the dark galleries; then a
booming of angry wings, and the sullen drip, drip, drip, of the wasted
honey, guttering along till it lipped over some ledge in the open air
and sluggishly trickled down on the twigs. There was a tiny little
beach, not five feet broad, on one side of the river, and that was
piled high with the rubbish of uncounted years. There were dead bees,
drones, sweepings, and stale combs, and wings of marauding moths that
had strayed in after honey, all tumbled in smooth piles of the finest
black dust. The mere sharp smell of it was enough to frighten anything
that had no wings, and knew what the Little People were.
Kaa moved up-stream again till he came to a sandy bar at the head
of the gorge.
"Here is this season's kill," said he. "Look!" On the bank lay the
skeletons of a couple of young deer and a buffalo. Mowgli could see
that neither wolf nor jackal had touched the hones, which were laid
"They came beyond the line;, they did not know the Law," murmured
Mowgli, "and the Little People killed them. Let us go ere they wake."
"They do not wake till the dawn," said Kaa. "Now I will tell thee.
A hunted buck from the south, many, many Rains ago, came hither from
the south, not knowing the Jungle, a Pack on his trail. Being made
blind by fear, he leaped from above, the Pack running by sight, for
they were hot and blind on the trail. The sun was high, and the Little
People were many and very angry. Many, too, were those of the Pack who
leaped into the Waingunga, but they were dead ere they took water.
Those who did not leap died also in the rocks above. But the buck
"Because he came first, running for his life, leaping ere the
Little People were aware, and was in the river when they gathered to
kill. The Pack, following, was altogether lost under the weight of the
"The buck lived?" Mowgli repeated slowly.
"At least he did not die THEN, though none waited his coming down
with a strong body to hold him safe against the water, as a certain
old fat, deaf, yellow Flathead would wait for a Manling--yea, though
there were all the dholes of the Dekkan on his trail. What is in thy
stomach?" Kaa's head was close to Mowgli's ear; and it was a little
time before the boy answered.
"It is to pull the very whiskers of Death, but--Kaa, thou art,
indeed, the wisest of all the Jungle."
"So many have said. Look now, if the dhole follow thee----"
"As surely they will follow. Ho! ho! I have many little thorns
under my tongue to prick into their hides."
"If they follow thee hot and blind, looking only at thy shoulders,
those who do not die up above will take water either here or lower
down, for the Little People will rise up and cover them. Now the
Waingunga is hungry water, and they will have no Kaa to hold them, but
will go down, such as live, to the shallows by the Seeonee Lairs, and
there thy Pack may meet them by the throat."
"Ahai! Eowawa! Better could not be till the Rains fall in the dry
season. There is now only the little matter of the run and the leap. I
will make me known to the dholes, so that they shall follow me very
"Hast thou seen the rocks above thee? From the landward side?"
"Indeed, no. That I had forgotten."
"Go look. It is all rotten ground, cut and full of holes. One of
thy clumsy feet set down without seeing would end the hunt. See, I
leave thee here, and for thy sake only I will carry word to the Pack
that they may know where to look for the dhole. For myself, I am not
of one skin with ANY wolf."
When Kaa disliked an acquaintance he could be more unpleasant than
any of the Jungle People, except perhaps Bagheera. He swam
down-stream, and opposite the Rock he came on Phao and Akela
listening to the night noises.
"Hssh! Dogs," he said cheerfully. "The dholes will come down-
stream. If ye be not afraid ye can kill them in the shallows."
"When come they?" said Phao. "And where is my Man-cub?" said
"They come when they come," said Kaa. "Wait and see. As for THY
Man-cub, from whom thou hast taken a Word and so laid him open to
Death, THY Man-cub is with ME, and if he be not already dead the fault
is none of thine, bleached dog! Wait here for the dhole, and he glad
that the Man- cub and I strike on thy side."
Kaa flashed up-stream again, and moored himself in the middle of
the gorge, looking upward at the line of the cliff. Presently he saw
Mowgli's head move against the stars, and then there was a whizz in
the air, the keen, clean schloop of a body falling feet first, and
next minute the boy was at rest again in the loop of Kaa's body.
"It is no leap by night," said Mowgli quietly. "I have jumped
twice as far for sport; but that is an evil place above--low bushes
and gullies that go down very deep, all full of the Little People. I
have put big stones one above the other by the side of three gullies.
These I shall throw down with my feet in running, and the Little
People will rise up behind me, very angry."
"That is Man's talk and Man's cunning," said Kaa. "Thou art wise,
but the Little People are always angry."
"Nay, at twilight all wings near and far rest for a while. I will
play with the dhole at twilight, for the dhole hunts best by day. He
follows now Won-tolla's blood-trail."
"Chil does not leave a dead ox, nor the dhole the blood-trail,"
"Then I will make him a new blood-trail, of his own blood, if I
can, and give him dirt to eat. Thou wilt stay here, Kaa, till I come
again with my dholes?"
"Ay, but what if they kill thee in the Jungle, or the Little
People kill thee before thou canst leap down to the river?"
"When to-morrow comes we will kill for to-morrow," said Mowgli,
quoting a Jungle saying; and again, "When I am dead it is time to
sing the Death Song. Good hunting, Kaa!"
He loosed his arm from the python's neck and went down the gorge
like a log in a freshet, paddling toward the far bank, where he found
slack-water, and laughing aloud from sheer happiness. There was
nothing Mowgli liked better than, as he himself said, "to pull the
whiskers of Death," and make the Jungle know that he was their
overlord. He had often, with Baloo's help, robbed bees' nests in
single trees, and he knew that the Little People hated the smell of
wild garlic. So he gathered a small bundle of it, tied it up with a
bark string, and then followed Won-tolla's blood-trail, as it ran
southerly from the Lairs, for some five miles, looking at the trees
with his head on one side, and chuckling as he looked.
"Mowgli the Frog have I been," said he to himself; "Mowgli the
Wolf have I said that I am. Now Mowgli the Ape must I be before I am
Mowgli the Buck. At the end I shall be Mowgli the Man. Ho!" and he
slid his thumb along the eighteen-inch blade of his knife.
Won-tolla's trail, all rank with dark blood-spots, ran under a
forest of thick trees that grew close together and stretched away
north-eastward, gradually growing thinner and thinner to within two
miles of the Bee Rocks. From the last tree to the low scrub of the Bee
Rocks was open country, where there was hardly cover enough to hide a
wolf. Mowgli trotted along under the trees, judging distances between
branch and branch, occasionally climbing up a trunk and taking a trial
leap from one tree to another till he came to the open ground, which
he studied very carefully for an hour. Then he turned, picked up
Won-tolla's trail where he had left it, settled himself in a tree with
an outrunning branch some eight feet from the ground, and sat still,
sharpening his knife on the sole of his foot and singing to himself.
A little before mid-day, when the sun was very warm, he heard the
patter of feet and smelt the abominable smell of the dhole- pack as
they trotted pitilessly along Won-tolla's trail. Seen from above, the
red dhole does not look half the size of a wolf, but Mowgli knew how
strong his feet and jaws were. He watched the sharp bay head of the
leader snuffing along the trail, and gave him "Good hunting!"
The brute looked up, and his companions halted behind him, scores
and scores of red dogs with low-hung tails, heavy shoulders, weak
quarters, and bloody mouths. The dholes are a very silent people as a
rule, and they have no manners even in their own Jungle. Fully two
hundred must have gathered below him, but he could see that the
leaders sniffed hungrily on Won-tolla's trail, and tried to drag the
Pack forward. That would never do, or they would be at the Lairs in
broad daylight, and Mowgli meant to hold them under his tree till
"By whose leave do ye come here?" said Mowgli.
"All Jungles are our Jungle," was the reply, and the dhole that
gave it bared his white teeth. Mowgli looked down with a smile, and
imitated perfectly the sharp chitter-chatter of Chikai, the leaping
rat of the Dekkan, meaning the dholes to understand that he considered
them no better than Chikai. The Pack closed up round the tree-trunk
and the leader bayed savagely, calling Mowgli a tree-ape. For an
answer Mowgli stretched down one naked leg and wriggled his bare toes
just above the leader's head. That was enough, and more than enough,
to wake the Pack to stupid rage. Those who have hair between their
toes do not care to be reminded of it. Mowgli caught his foot away as
the leader leaped up, and said sweetly: Dog, red dog! Go back to the
Dekkan and eat lizards. Go to Chikai thy brother--dog, dog--red, red
dog! There is hair between every toe!" He twiddled his toes a second
"Come down ere we starve thee out, hairless ape!" yelled the Pack,
and this was exactly what Mowgli wanted. He laid himself down along
the branch, his cheek to the bark, his right arm free, and there he
told the Pack what he thought and knew about them, their manners,
their customs, their mates, and their puppies. There is no speech in
the world so rancorous and so stinging as the language the Jungle
People use to show scorn and contempt. When you come to think of it
you will see how this must be so. As Mowgli told Kaa, he had many
little thorns under his tongue, and slowly and deliberately he drove
the dholes from silence to growls, from growls to yells, and from
yells to hoarse slavery ravings. They tried to answer his taunts, but
a cub might as well have tried to answer Kaa in a rage; and all the
while Mowgli's right hand lay crooked at his side, ready for action,
his feet locked round the branch. The big bay leader had leaped many
times in the air, but Mowgli dared not risk a false blow. At last,
made furious beyond his natural strength, he bounded up seven or eight
feet clear of the ground. Then Mowgli's hand shot out like the head of
a tree-snake, and gripped him by the scruff of his neck, and the
branch shook with the jar as his weight fell back, almost wrenching
Mowgli to the ground. But he never loosed his grip, and inch by inch
he hauled the beast, hanging like a drowned jackal, up on the branch.
With his left hand he reached for his knife and cut off the red, bushy
tail, flinging the dhole back to earth again. That was all he needed.
The Pack would not go forward on Won-tolla's trail now till they had
killed Mowgli or Mowgli had killed them. He saw them settle down in
circles with a quiver of the haunches that meant they were going to
stay, and so he climbed to a higher crotch, settled his back
comfortably, and went to sleep.
After three or four hours he waked and counted the Pack. They were
all there, silent, husky, and dry, with eyes of steel. The sun was
beginning to sink. In half an hour the Little People of the Rocks
would be ending their labours, and, as you know, the dhole does not
fight best in the twilight.
"I did not need such faithful watchers," he said politely,
standing up on a branch, "but I will remember this. Ye be true
dholes, but to my thinking over much of one kind. For that reason I
do not give the big lizard-eater his tail again. Art thou not pleased,
"I myself will tear out thy stomach!" yelled the leader,
scratching at the foot of the tree.
"Nay, but consider, wise rat of the Dekkan. There will now be many
litters of little tailless red dogs, yea, with raw red stumps that
sting when the sand is hot. Go home, Red Dog, and cry that an ape has
done this. Ye will not go? Come, then, with me, and I will make you
He moved, Bandar-log fashion, into the next tree, and so on into
the next and the next, the Pack following with lifted hungry heads.
Now and then he would pretend to fall, and the Pack would tumble one
over the other in their haste to be at the death. It was a curious
sight--the boy with the knife that shone in the low sunlight as it
sifted through the upper branches, and the silent Pack with their red
coats all aflame, huddling and following below. When he came to the
last tree he took the garlic and rubbed himself all over carefully,
and the dholes yelled with scorn. "Ape with a wolf's tongue, dost thou
think to cover thy scent?" they said. "We follow to the death."
"Take thy tail," said Mowgli, flinging it back along the course he
had taken. The Pack instinctively rushed after it. "And follow now--to
He had slipped down the tree-trunk, and headed like the wind in
bare feet for the Bee Rocks, before the dholes saw what he would do.
They gave one deep howl, and settled down to the long, lobbing
canter that can at the last run down anything that runs. Mowgli knew
their pack-pace to be much slower than that of the wolves, or he would
never have risked a two-mile run in full sight. They were sure that
the boy was theirs at last, and he was sure that he held them to play
with as he pleased. All his trouble was to keep them sufficiently hot
behind him to prevent their turning off too soon. He ran cleanly,
evenly, and springily; the tailless leader not five yards behind him;
and the Pack tailing out over perhaps a quarter of a mile of ground,
crazy and blind with the rage of slaughter. So he kept his distance by
ear, reserving his last effort for the rush across the Bee Rocks.
The Little People had gone to sleep in the early twilight, for it
was not the season of late blossoming flowers; but as Mowgli's first
foot- falls rang hollow on the hollow ground he heard a sound as
though all the earth were humming. Then he ran as he had never run in
his life before, spurned aside one--two-- three of the piles of stones
into the dark, sweet-smelling gullies; heard a roar like the roar of
the sea in a cave; saw with the tail of his eye the air grow dark
behind him; saw the current of the Waingunga far below, and a flat,
diamond- shaped head in the water; leaped outward with all his
strength, the tailless dhole snapping at his shoulder in mid-air, and
dropped feet first to the safety of the river, breathless and
triumphant. There was not a sting upon him, for the smell of the
garlic had checked the Little People for just the few seconds that he
was among them. When he rose Kaa's coils were steadying him and things
were bounding over the edge of the cliff--great lumps, it seemed, of
clustered bees falling like plummets; but before any lump touched
water the bees flew upward and the body of a dhole whirled
down-stream. Overhead they could hear furious short yells that were
drowned in a roar like breakers-- the roar of the wings of the Little
People of the Rocks. Some of the dholes, too, had fallen into the
gullies that communicated with the underground caves, and there choked
and fought and snapped among the tumbled honeycombs, and at last,
borne up, even when they were dead, on the heaving waves of bees
beneath them, shot out of some hole in the river-face, to roll over on
the black rubbish-heaps. There were dholes who had leaped short into
the trees on the cliffs, and the bees blotted out their shapes; but
the greater number of them, maddened by the stings, had flung
themselves into the river; and, as Kaa said, the Waingunga was hungry
Kaa held Mowgli fast till the boy had recovered his breath.
"We may not stay here," he said. "The Little People are roused
Swimming low and diving as often as he could, Mowgli went down the
river, knife in hand.
"Slowly, slowly," said Kaa. "One tooth does not kill a hundred
unless it be a cobra's, and many of the dholes took water swiftly
when they saw the Little People rise."
"The more work for my knife, then. Phai! How the, Little People
follow!" Mowgli sank again. The face of the water was blanketed with
wild bees, buzzing sullenly and stinging all they found.
"Nothing was ever yet lost by silence," said Kaa--no sting could
penetrate his scales--"and thou hast all the long night for the
hunting. Hear them howl!"
Nearly half the pack had seen the trap their fellows rushed into,
and turning sharp aside had flung themselves into the water where the
gorge broke down in steep banks. Their cries of rage and their threats
against the "tree-ape" who had brought them to their shame mixed with
the yells and growls of those who had been punished by the Little
People. To remain ashore was death, and every dhole knew it. Their
pack was swept along the current, down to the deep eddies of the Peace
Pool, but even there the angry Little People followed and forced them
to the water again. Mowgli could hear the voice of the tailless leader
bidding his people hold on and kill out every wolf in Seeonee. But he
did not waste his time in listening.
"One kills in the dark behind us!" snapped a dhole. "Here is
Mowgli had dived forward like an otter, twitched a struggling
dhole under water before he could open his mouth, and dark rings rose
as the body plopped up, turning on its side. The dholes tried to turn,
but the current prevented them, and the Little People darted at the
heads and ears, and they could hear the challenge of the Seeonee Pack
growing louder and deeper in the gathering darkness. Again Mowgli
dived, and again a dhole went under, and rose dead, and again the
clamour broke out at the rear of the pack; some howling that it was
best to go ashore, others calling on their leader to lead them back to
the Dekkan, and others bidding Mowgli show himself and he killed.
"They come to the fight with two stomachs and several voices,"
said Kaa. "The rest is with thy brethren below yonder, The Little
People go back to sleep. They have chased us far. Now I, too, turn
back, for I am not of one skin with any wolf. Good hunting, Little
Brother, and remember the dhole bites low."
A wolf came running along the bank on three legs, leaping up and
down, laying his head sideways close to the ground, hunching his
back, and breaking high into the air, as though he were playing with
his cubs. It was Won-tolla, the Outlier, and he said never a word, but
continued his horrible sport beside the dholes. They had been long in
the water now, and were swimming wearily, their coats drenched and
heavy, their bushy tails dragging like sponges, so tired and shaken
that they, too, were silent, watching the pair of blazing eyes that
"This is no good hunting," said one, panting.
"Good hunting!" said Mowgli, as he rose boldly at the brute's
side, and sent the long knife home behind the shoulder, pushing hard
to avoid his dying snap.
"Art thou there, Man-cub?" said Won-tolla across the water.
"Ask of the dead, Outlier," Mowgli replied. "Have none come
down-stream? I have filled these dogs' mouths with dirt; I have
tricked them in the broad daylight, and their leader lacks his tail,
but here be some few for thee still. Whither shall I drive them?"
"I will wait," said Won-tolla. "The night is before me."
Nearer and nearer came the bay of the Seeonee wolves. "For the
Pack, for the Full Pack it is met!" and a bend in the river drove the
dholes forward among the sands and shoals opposite the Lairs.
Then they saw their mistake. They should have landed half a mile
higher up, and rushed the wolves on dry ground. Now it was too late.
The bank was lined with burning eyes, and except for the horrible
pheeal that had never stopped since sundown, there was no sound in the
Jungle. It seemed as though Won-tolla were fawning on them to come
ashore; and "Turn and take hold!" said the leader of the dholes. The
entire Pack flung themselves at the shore, threshing and squattering
through the shoal water, till the face of the Waingunga was all white
and torn, and the great ripples went from side to side, like bow-waves
from a boat. Mowgli followed the rush, stabbing and slicing as the
dholes, huddled together, rushed up the river-beach in one wave.
Then the long fight began, heaving and straining and splitting and
scattering and narrowing and broadening along the red, wet sands, and
over and between the tangled tree-roots, and through and among the
bushes, and in and out of the grass clumps; for even now the dholes
were two to one. But they met wolves fighting for all that made the
Pack, and not only the short, high, deep-chested, white-tusked hunters
of the Pack, but the anxious-eyed lahinis--the she-wolves of the lair,
as the saying is--fighting for their litters, with here and there a
yearling wolf, his first coat still half woolly, tugging and
grappling by their sides. A wolf, you must know, flies at the throat
or snaps at the flank, while a dhole, by preference, bites at the
belly; so when the dholes were struggling out of the water and had to
raise their heads, the odds were with the wolves. On dry land the
wolves suffered; but in the water or ashore, Mowgli's knife came and
went without ceasing. The Four had worried their way to his side. Gray
Brother, crouched between the boy's knees, was protecting his stomach,
while the others guarded his back and either side, or stood over him
when the shock of a leaping, yelling dhole who had thrown himself
full on the steady blade bore him down. For the rest, it was one
tangled confusion--a locked and swaying mob that moved from right to
left and from left to right along the bank; and also ground round and
round slowly on its own centre. Here would be a heaving mound, like a
water-blister in a whirlpool, which would break like a water-blister,
and throw up four or five mangled dogs, each striving to get back to
the centre; here would be a single wolf borne down by two or three
dholes, laboriously dragging them forward, and sinking the while; here
a yearling cub would he held up by the pressure round him, though he
had been killed early, while his mother, crazed with dumb rage,
rolled over and over, snapping, and passing on; and in the middle of
the thickest press, perhaps, one wolf and one dhole, forgetting
everything else, would be manoeuvring for first hold till they were
whirled away by a rush of furious fighters. Once Mowgli passed Akela,
a dhole on either flank, and his all but toothless jaws closed over
the loins of a third; and once he saw Phao, his teeth set in the
throat of a dhole, tugging the unwilling beast forward till the
yearlings could finish him. But the bulk of the fight was blind flurry
and smother in the dark; hit, trip, and tumble, yelp, groan, and
worry-worry-worry, round him and behind him and above him. As the
night wore on, the quick, giddy-go-round motion increased. The dholes
were cowed and afraid to attack the stronger wolves, but did not yet
dare to run away. Mowgli felt that the end was coming soon, and
contented himself with striking merely to cripple. The yearlings were
growing bolder; there was time now and again to breathe, and pass a
word to a friend, and the mere flicker of the knife would sometimes
turn a dog aside.
"The meat is very near the bone," Gray Brother yelled. He was
bleeding from a score of flesh-wounds.
"But the bone is yet to he cracked," said Mowgli. "Eowawa! THUS do
we do in the Jungle!" The red blade ran like a flame along the side of
a dhole whose hind-quarters were hidden by the weight of a clinging
"My kill!" snorted the wolf through his wrinkled nostrils. "Leave
him to me."
"Is thy stomach still empty, Outlier?" said Mowgli. Won-tolla was
fearfully punished, but his grip had paralysed the dhole, who could
not turn round and reach him.
"By the Bull that bought me," said Mowgli, with a bitter laugh,
"it is the tailless one!" And indeed it was the big bay- coloured
"It is not wise to kill cubs and lahinis," Mowgli went on
philosophically, wiping the blood out of his eyes, "unless one has
also killed the Outlier; and it is in my stomach that this Won-tolla
A dhole leaped to his leader's aid; but before his teeth had found
Won-tolla's flank, Mowgli's knife was in his throat, and Gray Brother
took what was left.
"And thus do we do in the Jungle," said Mowgli.
Won-tolla said not a word, only his jaws were closing and closing
on the backbone as his life ebbed. The dhole shuddered, his head
dropped, and he lay still, and Won-tolla dropped above him.
"Huh! The Blood Debt is paid," said Mowgli. "Sing the song,
"He hunts no more," said Gray Brother; "and Akela, too, is silent
this long time."
"The bone is cracked!" thundered Phao, son of Phaona. "They go!
Kill, kill out, O hunters of the Free People!"
Dhole after dhole was slinking away from those dark and bloody
sands to the river, to the thick Jungle, up-stream or down- stream as
he saw the road clear.
"The debt! The debt!" shouted Mowgli. "Pay the debt! They have
slain the Lone Wolf! Let not a dog go!"
He was flying to the river, knife in hand, to check any dhole who
dared to take water, when, from under a mound of nine dead, rose
Akela's head and fore-quarters, and Mowgli dropped on his knees beside
the Lone Wolf.
"Said I not it would be my last fight?" Akela gasped. "It is good
hunting. And thou, Little Brother?"
"I live, having killed many."
"Even so. I die, and I would--I would die by thee, Little
Mowgli took the terrible scarred head on his knees, and put his
arms round the torn neck.
"It is long since the old days of Shere Khan, and a Man-cub that
rolled naked in the dust."
"Nay, nay, I am a wolf. I am of one skin with the Free People,"
Mowgli cried. "It is no will of mine that I am a man."
"Thou art a man, Little Brother, wolfling of my watching. Thou art
a man, or else the Pack had fled before the dhole. My life I owe to
thee, and to-day thou hast saved the Pack even as once I saved thee.
Hast thou forgotten? All debts are paid now. Go to thine own people. I
tell thee again, eye of my eye, this hunting is ended. Go to thine own
"I will never go. I will hunt alone in the Jungle. I have said
"After the summer come the Rains, and after the Rains comes the
spring. Go back before thou art driven."
"Who will drive me?"
"Mowgli will drive Mowgli. Go back to thy people. Go to Man."
"When Mowgli drives Mowgli I will go," Mowgli answered.
"There is no more to say," said Akela. "Little Brother, canst thou
raise me to my feet? I also was a leader of the Free People."
Very carefully and gently Mowgli lifted the bodies aside, and
raised Akela to his feet, both arms round him, and the Lone Wolf drew
a long breath, and began the Death Song that a leader of the Pack
should sing when he dies. It gathered strength as he went on, lifting
and lifting, and ringing far across the river, till it came to the
last "Good hunting!" and Akela shook himself clear of Mowgli for an
instant, and, leaping into the air, fell backward dead upon his last
and most terrible kill.
Mowgli sat with his head on his knees, careless of anything else,
while the remnant of the flying dholes were being overtaken and run
down by the merciless lahinis. Little by little the cries died away,
and the wolves returned limping, as their wounds stiffened, to take
stock of the losses. Fifteen of the Pack, as well as half a dozen
lahinis, lay dead by the river, and of the others not one was
unmarked. And Mowgli sat through it all till the cold daybreak, when
Phao's wet, red muzzle was dropped in his hand, and Mowgli drew back
to show the gaunt body of Akela.
"Good hunting!" said Phao, as though Akela were still alive, and
then over his bitten shoulder to the others: "Howl, dogs! A Wolf has
But of all the Pack of two hundred fighting dholes, whose boast
was that all jungles were their Jungle, and that no living thing
could stand before them, not one returned to the Dekkan to carry that
[This is the song that Chil sang as the kites dropped down one
after another to the river-bed, when the great fight was
finished. Chil is good friends with everybody, but he is a
cold-blooded kind of creature at heart, because he knows that
almost everybody in the Jungle comes to him in the long-run.]
These were my companions going forth by night--
(For Chil! Look you, for Chil!)
Now come I to whistle them the ending of the fight.
(Chil! Vanguards of Chil!}
Word they gave me overhead of quarry newly slain,
Word I gave them underfoot of buck upon the plain.
Here's an end of every trail--they shall not speak again!
They that called the hunting-cry--they that followed fast--
(For Chil! Look you, for Chil!)
They that bade the sambhur wheel, or pinned him as he passed--
(Chil! Vanguards of Chil!)
They that lagged behind the scent--they that ran before,
They that shunned the level horn--they that overbore.
Here's an end of every trail--they shall not follow more.
These were my companions. Pity 'twas they died!
(For Chil! Look you, for Chil!)
Now come I to comfort them that knew them in their pride.
(Chil! Vanguards of Chil!)
Tattered flank and sunken eye, open mouth and red,
Locked and lank and lone they lie, the dead upon their dead.
Here's an end of every trail--and here my hosts are fed.
THE SPRING RUNNING
Man goes to Man! Cry the challenge through the Jungle!
He that was our Brother goes away.
Hear, now, and judge, O ye People of the Jungle,--
Answer, who shall turn him--who shall stay?
Man goes to Man! He is weeping in the Jungle:
He that was our Brother sorrows sore!
Man goes to Man! (Oh, we loved him in the Jungle!)
To the Man-Trail where we may not follow more.
The second year after the great fight with Red Dog and the death
of Akela, Mowgli must have been nearly seventeen years old. He looked
older, for hard exercise, the best of good eating, and baths whenever
he felt in the least hot or dusty, had given him strength and growth
far beyond his age. He could swing by one hand from a top branch for
half an hour at a time, when he had occasion to look along the
tree-roads. He could stop a young buck in mid-gallop and throw him
sideways by the head. He could even jerk over the big, blue wild boars
that lived in the Marshes of the North. The Jungle People who used to
fear him for his wits feared him now for his strength, and when he
moved quietly on his own affairs the mere whisper of his coming
cleared the wood-paths. And yet the look in his eyes was always
gentle. Even when he fought, his eyes never blazed as Bagheera's did.
They only grew more and more interested and excited; and that was one
of the things that Bagheera himself did not understand.
He asked Mowgli about it, and the boy laughed and said. "When I
miss the kill I am angry. When I must go empty for two days I am very
angry. Do not my eyes talk then?"
"The mouth is hungry," said Bagheera, "but the eyes say nothing.
Hunting, eating, or swimming, it is all one--like a stone in wet or
dry weather." Mowgli looked at him lazily from under his long
eyelashes, and, as usual, the panther's head dropped. Bagheera knew
They were lying out far up the side of a hill overlooking the
Waingunga, and the morning mists hung below them in bands of white
and green. As the sun rose it changed into bubbling seas of red gold,
churned off, and let the low rays stripe the dried grass on which
Mowgli and Bagheera were resting. It was the end of the cold weather,
the leaves and the trees looked worn and faded, and there was a dry,
ticking rustle everywhere when the wind blew. A little leaf
tap-tap-tapped furiously against a twig, as a single leaf caught in a
current will. It roused Bagheera, for he snuffed the morning air with
a deep, hollow cough, threw himself on his back, and struck with his
fore-paws at the nodding leaf above.
"The year turns," he said. "The Jungle goes forward. The Time of
New Talk is near. That leaf knows. It is very good."
"The grass is dry," Mowgli answered, pulling up a tuft. "Even
Eye-of-the-Spring [that is a little trumpet-shaped, waxy red flower
that runs in and out among the grasses]--even Eye-of- the Spring is
shut, and . . . Bagheera, IS it well for the Black Panther so to lie
on his back and beat with his paws in the air, as though he were the
"Aowh?" said Bagheera. He seemed to be thinking of other things.
"I say, IS it well for the Black Panther so to mouth and cough,
and howl and roll? Remember, we be the Masters of the Jungle, thou
"Indeed, yes; I hear, Man-cub." Bagheera rolled over hurriedly and
sat up, the dust on his ragged black flanks. (He was just casting his
winter coat.) "We be surely the Masters of the Jungle! Who is so
strong as Mowgli? Who so wise?" There was a curious drawl in the voice
that made Mowgli turn to see whether by any chance the Black Panther
were making fun of him, for the Jungle is full of words that sound
like one thing, but mean another. "I said we be beyond question the
Masters of the Jungle," Bagheera repeated. "Have I done wrong? I did
not know that the Man-cub no longer lay upon the ground. Does he fly,
Mowgli sat with his elbows on his knees, looking out across the
valley at the daylight. Somewhere down in the woods below a bird was
trying over in a husky, reedy voice the first few notes of his spring
song. It was no more than a shadow of the liquid, tumbling call he
would be pouring later, but Bagheera heard it.
"I said the Time of New Talk is near," growled the panther,
switching his tail.
"I hear," Mowgli answered. "Bagheera, why dost thou shake all
over? The sun is warm."
"That is Ferao, the scarlet woodpecker," said Bagheera. "HE has
not forgotten. Now I, too, must remember my song," and he began
purring and crooning to himself, harking back dissatisfied again and
"There is no game afoot," said Mowgli.
"Little Brother, are BOTH thine ears stopped? That is no
killing-word, but my song that I make ready against the need."
"I had forgotten. I shall know when the Time of New Talk is here,
because then thou and the others all run away and leave me alone."
Mowgli spoke rather savagely.
"But, indeed, Little Brother," Bagheera began, "we do not
"I say ye do," said Mowgli, shooting out his forefinger angrily.
"Ye DO run away, and I, who am the Master of the Jungle, must needs
walk alone. How was it last season, when I would gather sugar-cane
from the fields of a Man-Pack? I sent a runner--I sent thee!--to
Hathi, bidding him to come upon such a night and pluck the sweet grass
for me with his trunk."
"He came only two nights later," said Bagheera, cowering a little;
"and of that long, sweet grass that pleased thee so he gathered more
than any Man-cub could eat in all the nights of the Rains. That was no
fault of mine."
"He did not come upon the night when I sent him the word. No, he
was trumpeting and running and roaring through the valleys in the
moonlight. His trail was like the trail of three elephants, for he
would not hide among the trees. He danced in the moonlight before the
houses of the Man-Pack. I saw him, and yet he would not come to me;
and _I_ am the Master of the Jungle!"
"It was the Time of New Talk," said the panther, always very
humble. "Perhaps, Little Brother, thou didst not that time call him
by a Master-word? Listen to Ferao, and be glad!"
Mowgli's bad temper seemed to have boiled itself away. He lay back
with his head on his arms, his eyes shut. "I do not know-- nor do I
care," he said sleepily. "Let us sleep, Bagheera. My stomach is heavy
in me. Make me a rest for my head."
The panther lay down again with a sigh, because he could hear
Ferao practising and repractising his song against the Springtime of
New Talk, as they say.
In an Indian Jungle the seasons slide one into the other almost
without division. There seem to be only two--the wet and the dry; but
if you look closely below the torrents of rain and the clouds of char
and dust you will find all four going round in their regular ring.
Spring is the most wonderful, because she has not to cover a clean,
bare field with new leaves and flowers, but to drive before her and to
put away the hanging-on, over-surviving raffle of half-green things
which the gentle winter has suffered to live, and to make the
partly-dressed stale earth feel new and young once more. And this she
does so well that there is no spring in the world like the Jungle
There is one day when all things are tired, and the very smells,
as they drift on the heavy air, are old and used. One cannot explain
this, but it feels so. Then there is another day--to the eye nothing
whatever has changed--when all the smells are new and delightful, and
the whiskers of the Jungle People quiver to their roots, and the
winter hair comes away from their sides in long, draggled locks. Then,
perhaps, a little rain falls, and all the trees and the bushes and the
bamboos and the mosses and the juicy-leaved plants wake with a noise
of growing that you can almost hear, and under this noise runs, day
and night, a deep hum. THAT is the noise of the spring--a vibrating
boom which is neither bees, nor falling water, nor the wind in tree-
tops, but the purring of the warm, happy world.
Up to this year Mowgli had always delighted in the turn of the
seasons. It was he who generally saw the first Eye-of-the-Spring deep
down among the grasses, and the first bank of spring clouds, which are
like nothing else in the Jungle. His voice could be heard in all sorts
of wet, star-lighted, blossoming places, helping the big frogs through
their choruses, or mocking the little upside-down owls that hoot
through the white nights. Like all his people, spring was the season
he chose for his flittings--moving, for the mere joy of rushing
through the warm air, thirty, forty, or fifty miles between twilight
and the morning star, and coming back panting and laughing and
wreathed with strange flowers. The Four did not follow him on these
wild ringings of the Jungle, but went off to sing songs with other
wolves. The Jungle People are very busy in the spring, and Mowgli
could hear them grunting and screaming and whistling according to
their kind. Their voices then are different from their voices at other
times of the year, and that is one of the reasons why spring in the
Jungle is called the Time of New Talk.
But that spring, as he told Bagheera, his stomach was changed in
him. Ever since the bamboo shoots turned spotty-brown he had been
looking forward to the morning when the smells should change. But when
the morning came, and Mor the Peacock, blazing in bronze and blue and
gold, cried it aloud all along the misty woods, and Mowgli opened his
mouth to send on the cry, the words choked between his teeth, and a
feeling came over him that began at his toes and ended in his hair--a
feeling of pure unhappiness, so that he looked himself over to be sure
that he had not trod on a thorn. Mor cried the new smells, the other
birds took it over, and from the rocks by the Waingunga he heard
Bagheera's hoarse scream--something between the scream of an eagle
and the neighing of a horse. There was a yelling and scattering of
Bandar-log in the new-budding branches above, and there stood Mowgli,
his chest, filled to answer Mor, sinking in little gasps as the breath
was driven out of it by this unhappiness.
He stared all round him, but he could see no more than the mocking
Bandar-log scudding through the trees, and Mor, his tail spread in
full splendour, dancing on the slopes below.
"The smells have changed," screamed Mor. "Good hunting, Little
Brother! Where is thy answer?"
"Little Brother, good hunting!" whistled Chil the Kite and his
mate, swooping down together. The two baffed under Mowgli's nose so
close that a pinch of downy white feathers brushed away.
A light spring rain--elephant-rain they call it--drove across the
Jungle in a belt half a mile wide, left the new leaves wet and nodding
behind, and died out in a double rainbow and a light roll of thunder.
The spring hum broke out for a minute, and was silent, but all the
Jungle Folk seemed to be giving tongue at once. All except Mowgli.
"I have eaten good food," he said to himself. "I have drunk good
water. Nor does my throat burn and grow small, as it did when I bit
the blue-spotted root that Oo the Turtle said was clean food. But my
stomach is heavy, and I have given very bad talk to Bagheera and
others, people of the Jungle and my people. Now, too, I am hot and now
I am cold, and now I am neither hot nor cold, but angry with that
which I cannot see. Huhu! It is time to make a running! To-night I
will cross the ranges; yes, I will make a spring running to the
Marshes of the North, and back again. I have hunted too easily too
long. The Four shall come with me, for they grow as fat as white
He called, but never one of the Four answered. They were far
beyond earshot, singing over the spring songs--the Moon and Sambhur
Songs-- with the wolves of the pack; for in the spring- time the
Jungle People make very little difference between the day and the
night. He gave the sharp, barking note, but his only answer was the
mocking maiou of the little spotted tree-cat winding in and out among
the branches for early birds' nests. At this he shook all over with
rage, and half drew his knife. Then he became very haughty, though
there was no one to see him, and stalked severely down the hillside,
chin up and eyebrows down. But never a single one of his people asked
him a question, for they were all too busy with their own affairs.
"Yes," said Mowgli to himself, though in his heart he knew that he
had no reason. "Let the Red Dhole come from the Dekkan, or the Red
Flower dance among the bamboos, and all the Jungle runs whining to
Mowgli, calling him great elephant-names. But now, because
Eye-of-the-Spring is red, and Mor, forsooth, must show his naked legs
in some spring dance, the Jungle goes mad as Tabaqui. . . . By the
Bull that bought me! am I the Master of the Jungle, or am I not? Be
silent! What do ye here?"
A couple of young wolves of the Pack were cantering down a path,
looking for open ground in which to fight. (You will remember that
the Law of the Jungle forbids fighting where the Pack can see.) Their
neck-bristles were as stiff as wire, and they bayed furiously,
crouching for the first grapple. Mowgli leaped forward, caught one
outstretched throat in either hand, expecting to fling the creatures
backward as he had often done in games or Pack hunts. But he had never
before interfered with a spring fight. The two leaped forward and
dashed him aside, and without word to waste rolled over and over close
Mowgli was on his feet almost before he fell, his knife and his
white teeth were bared, and at that minute he would have killed both
for no reason but that they were fighting when he wished them to be
quiet, although every wolf has full right under the Law to fight. He
danced round them with lowered shoulders and quivering hand, ready to
send in a double blow when the first flurry of the scuffle should be
over; but while he waited the strength seemed to ebb from his body,
the knife-point lowered, and he sheathed the knife and watched.
"I have surely eaten poison," he sighed at last. Since I broke up
the Council with the Red Flower--since I killed Shere Khan-- none of
the Pack could fling me aside. And these be only tail- wolves in the
Pack, little hunters! My strength is gone from me, and presently I
shall die. Oh, Mowgli, why dost thou not kill them both?"
The fight went on till one wolf ran away, and Mowgli was left
alone on the torn and bloody ground, looking now at his knife, and
now at his legs and arms, while the feeling of unhappiness he had
never known before covered him as water covers a log.
He killed early that evening and ate but little, so as to be in
good fettle for his spring running, and he ate alone because all the
Jungle People were away singing or fighting. It was a perfect white
night, as they call it. All green things seemed to have made a month's
growth since the morning. The branch that was yellow-leaved the day
before dripped sap when Mowgli broke it. The mosses curled deep and
warm over his feet, the young grass had no cutting edges, and all the
voices of the Jungle boomed like one deep harp-string touched by the
moon--the Moon of New Talk, who splashed her light full on rock and
pool, slipped it between trunk and creeper, and sifted it through a
million leaves. Forgetting his unhappiness, Mowgli sang aloud with
pure delight as he settled into his stride. It was more like flying
than anything else, for he had chosen the long downward slope that
leads to the Northern Marshes through the heart of the main Jungle,
where the springy ground deadened the fall of his feet. A man-taught
man would have picked his way with many stumbles through the cheating
moonlight, but Mowgli's muscles, trained by years of experience, bore
him up as though he were a feather. When a rotten log or a hidden
stone turned under his foot he saved himself, never checking his pace,
without effort and without thought. When he tired of ground- going he
threw up his hands monkey-fashion to the nearest creeper, and seemed
to float rather than to climb up into the thin branches, whence he
would follow a tree-road till his mood changed, and he shot downward
in a long, leafy curve to the levels again. There were still, hot
hollows surrounded by wet rocks where he could hardly breathe for the
heavy scents of the night flowers and the bloom along the creeper
buds; dark avenues where the moonlight lay in belts as regular as
checkered marbles in a church aisle; thickets where the wet young
growth stood breast-high about him and threw its arms round his waist;
and hilltops crowned with broken rock, where he leaped from stone to
stone above the lairs of the frightened little foxes. He would hear,
very faint and far off, the chug-drug of a boar sharpening his tusks
on a bole; and would come across the great gray brute all alone,
scribing and rending the bark of a tall tree, his mouth dripping with
foam, and his eyes blazing like fire. Or he would turn aside to the
sound of clashing horns and hissing grunts, and dash past a couple of
furious sambhur, staggering to and fro with lowered heads, striped
with blood that showed black in the moonlight. Or at some rushing ford
he would hear Jacala the Crocodile bellowing like a bull, or disturb
a twined knot of the Poison People, but before they could strike he
would be away and across the glistening shingle, and deep in the
So he ran, sometimes shouting, sometimes singing to himself, the
happiest thing in all the Jungle that night, till the smell of the
flowers warned him that he was near the marshes, and those lay far
beyond his farthest hunting-grounds.
Here, again, a man-trained man would have sunk overhead in three
strides, but Mowgli's feet had eyes in them, and they passed him from
tussock to tussock and clump to quaking clump without asking help from
the eyes in his head. He ran out to the middle of the swamp,
disturbing the duck as he ran, and sat down on a moss-coated
tree-trunk lapped in the black water. The marsh was awake all round
him, for in the spring the Bird People sleep very lightly, and
companies of them were coming or going the night through. But no one
took any notice of Mowgli sitting among the tall reeds humming songs
without words, and looking at the soles of his hard brown feet in case
of neglected thorns. All his unhappiness seemed to have been left
behind in his own Jungle, and he was just beginning a full-throat song
when it came back again--ten times worse than before.
This time Mowgli was frightened. "It is here also!" he said half
aloud. "It has followed me," and he looked over his shoulder to see
whether the It were not standing behind him. "There is no one here."
The night noises of the marsh went on, but never a bird or beast spoke
to him, and the new feeling of misery grew.
"I have surely eaten poison," he said in an awe-stricken voice.
"It must be that carelessly I have eaten poison, and my strength is
going from me. I was afraid--and yet it was not _I_ that was
afraid--Mowgli was afraid when the two wolves fought. Akela, or even
Phao, would have silenced them; yet Mowgli was afraid. That is true
sign I have eaten poison. . . . But what do they care in the Jungle?
They sing and howl and fight, and run in companies under the moon, and
I--Hai-mai!--I am dying in the marshes, of that poison which I have
eaten." He was so sorry for himself that he nearly wept. "And after,"
he went on, "they will find me lying in the black water. Nay, I will
go back to my own Jungle, and I will die upon the Council Rock, and
Bagheera, whom I love, if he is not screaming in the valley--Bagheera,
perhaps, may watch by what is left for a little, lest Chil use me as
he used Akela."
A large, warm tear splashed down on his knee, and, miserable as he
was, Mowgli felt happy that he was so miserable, if you can understand
that upside-down sort of happiness. "As Chil the Kite used Akela," he
repeated, "on the night I saved the Pack from Red Dog." He was quiet
for a little, thinking of the last words of the Lone Wolf, which you,
of course, remember. "Now Akela said to me many foolish things before
he died, for when we die our stomachs change. He said . . . None the
less, I AM of the Jungle!"
In his excitement, as he remembered the fight on Waingunga bank,
he shouted the last words aloud, and a wild buffalo-cow among the
reeds sprang to her knees, snorting, "Man!"
"Uhh!" said Mysa the Wild Buffalo (Mowgli could hear him turn in
his wallow), "THAT is no man. It is only the hairless wolf of the
Seeonee Pack. On such nights runs he to and fro."
"Uhh!" said the cow, dropping her head again to graze, "I thought
it was Man."
"I say no. Oh, Mowgli, is it danger?" lowed Mysa.
"Oh, Mowgli, is it danger?" the boy called back mockingly. "That
is all Mysa thinks for: Is it danger? But for Mowgli, who goes to and
fro in the Jungle by night, watching, what do ye care?"
"How loud he cries!" said the cow. "Thus do they cry," Mysa
answered contemptuously, "who, having torn up the grass, know not how
to eat it."
"For less than this," Mowgli groaned to himself, for less than
this even last Rains I had pricked Mysa out of his wallow, and ridden
him through the swamp on a rush halter." He stretched a hand to break
one of the feathery reeds, but drew it back with a sigh. Mysa went on
steadily chewing the cud, and the long grass ripped where the cow
grazed. "I will not die HERE," he said angrily. "Mysa, who is of one
blood with Jacala and the pig, would see me. Let us go beyond the
swamp and see what comes. Never have I run such a spring running--hot
and cold together. Up, Mowgli!"
He could not resist the temptation of stealing across the reeds to
Mysa and pricking him with the point of his knife. The great dripping
bull broke out of his wallow like a shell exploding, while Mowgli
laughed till he sat down.
"Say now that the hairless wolf of the Seeonee Pack once herded
thee, Mysa," he called.
"Wolf! THOU?" the bull snorted, stamping in the mud. "All the
jungle knows thou wast a herder of tame cattle--such a man's brat as
shouts in the dust by the crops yonder. THOU of the Jungle! What
hunter would have crawled like a snake among the leeches, and for a
muddy jest--a jackal's jest--have shamed me before my cow? Come to
firm ground, and I will--I will . . ." Mysa frothed at the mouth, for
Mysa has nearly the worst temper of any one in the Jungle.
Mowgli watched him puff and blow with eyes that never changed.
When he could make himself heard through the pattering mud, he said:
"What Man-Pack lair here by the marshes, Mysa? This is new Jungle to
"Go north, then," roared the angry bull, for Mowgli had pricked
him rather sharply. "It was a naked cow-herd's jest. Go and tell them
at the village at the foot of the marsh."
"The Man-Pack do not love jungle-tales, nor do I think, Mysa, that
a scratch more or less on thy hide is any matter for a council. But I
will go and look at this village. Yes, I will go. Softly now. It is
not every night that the Master of the Jungle comes to herd thee."
He stepped out to the shivering ground on the edge of the marsh,
well knowing that Mysa would never charge over it and laughed, as he
ran, to think of the bull's anger.
"My strength is not altogether gone," he said. It may be that the
poison is not to the bone. There is a star sitting low yonder." He
looked at it between his half-shut hands. "By the Bull that bought me,
it is the Red Flower--the Red Flower that I lay beside before--before
I came even to the first Seeonee Pack! Now that I have seen, I will
finish the running."
The marsh ended in a broad plain where a light twinkled. It was a
long time since Mowgli had concerned himself with the doings of men,
but this night the glimmer of the Red Flower drew him forward.
"I will look," said he, "as I did in the old days, and I will see
how far the Man-Pack has changed."
Forgetting that he was no longer in his own Jungle, where he could
do what he pleased, he trod carelessly through the dew- loaded grasses
till he came to the hut where the light stood. Three or four yelping
dogs gave tongue, for he was on the outskirts of a village.
"Ho!" said Mowgli, sitting down noiselessly, after sending back a
deep wolf-growl that silenced the curs. "What comes will come. Mowgli,
what hast thou to do any more with the lairs of the Man-Pack?" He
rubbed his mouth, remembering where a stone had struck it years ago
when the other Man-Pack had cast him out.
The door of the hut opened, and a woman stood peering out into the
darkness. A child cried, and the woman said over her shoulder, "Sleep.
It was but a jackal that waked the dogs. In a little time morning
Mowgli in the grass began to shake as though he had fever. He knew
that voice well, but to make sure he cried softly, surprised to find
how man's talk came back, "Messua! O Messua!"
"Who calls?" said the woman, a quiver in her voice.
"Hast thou forgotten?" said Mowgli. His throat was dry as he
"If it be THOU, what name did I give thee? Say!" She had half shut
the door, and her hand was clutching at her breast.
"Nathoo! Ohe, Nathoo!" said Mowgli, for, as you remember, that was
the name Messua gave him when he first came to the Man-Pack.
"Come, my son," she called, and Mowgli stepped into the light, and
looked full at Messua, the woman who had been good to him, and whose
life he had saved from the Man-Pack so long before. She was older, and
her hair was gray, but her eyes and her voice had not changed.
Woman-like, she expected to find Mowgli where she had left him, and
her eyes travelled upward in a puzzled way from his chest to his head,
that touched the top of the door.
"My son," she stammered; and then, sinking to his feet: "But it is
no longer my son. It is a Godling of the Woods! Ahai!"
As he stood in the red light of the oil-lamp, strong, tall, and
beautiful, his long black hair sweeping over his shoulders, the knife
swinging at his neck, and his head crowned with a wreath of white
jasmine, he might easily have been mistaken for some wild god of a
jungle legend. The child half asleep on a cot sprang up and shrieked
aloud with terror. Messua turned to soothe him, while Mowgli stood
still, looking in at the water- jars and the cooking-pots, the
grain-bin, and all the other human belongings that he found himself
remembering so well.
"What wilt thou eat or drink?" Messua murmured. "This is all
thine. We owe our lives to thee. But art thou him I called Nathoo, or
a Godling, indeed?"
"I am Nathoo," said Mowgli, "I am very far from my own place. I
saw this light, and came hither. I did not know thou wast here."
"After we came to Khanhiwara," Messua said timidly, "the English
would have helped us against those villagers that sought to burn us.
"Indeed, I have not forgotten."
"But when the English Law was made ready, we went to the village
of those evil people, and it was no more to be found."
"That also I remember," said Mowgli, with a quiver of his nostril.
"My man, therefore, took service in the fields, and at last-- for,
indeed, he was a strong man--we held a little land here. It is not so
rich as the old village, but we do not need much-- we two."
"Where is he the man that dug in the dirt when he was afraid on
"He is dead--a year."
"And he?" Mowgli pointed to the child.
"My son that was born two Rains ago. If thou art a Godling, give
him the Favour of the Jungle, that he may be safe among thy--thy
people, as we were safe on that night."
She lifted up the child, who, forgetting his fright, reached out
to play with the knife that hung on Mowgli's chest, and Mowgli put
the little fingers aside very carefully.
"And if thou art Nathoo whom the tiger carried away," Messua went
on, choking, "he is then thy younger brother. Give him an elder
"Hai-mai! What do I know of the thing called a blessing? I am
neither a Godling nor his brother, and--O mother, mother, my heart is
heavy in me." He shivered as he set down the child.
"Like enough," said Messua, bustling among the cooking-pots. "This
comes of running about the marshes by night. Beyond question, the
fever had soaked thee to the marrow." Mowgli smiled a little at the
idea of anything in the Jungle hurting him. "I will make a fire, and
thou shalt drink warm milk. Put away the jasmine wreath: the smell is
heavy in so small a place."
Mowgli sat down, muttering, with his face in his hands. All manner
of strange feelings that he had never felt before were running over
him, exactly as though he had been poisoned, and he felt dizzy and a
little sick. He drank the warm milk in long gulps, Messua patting him
on the shoulder from time to time, not quite sure whether he were her
son Nathoo of the long ago days, or some wonderful Jungle being, but
glad to feel that he was at least flesh and blood.
"Son," she said at last,--her eyes were full of pride,-- "have any
told thee that thou art beautiful beyond all men?"
"Hah?" said Mowgli, for naturally he had never heard anything of
the kind. Messua laughed softly and happily. The look in his face was
enough for her.
"I am the first, then? It is right, though it comes seldom, that a
mother should tell her son these good things. Thou art very beautiful.
Never have I looked upon such a man."
Mowgli twisted his head and tried to see over his own hard
shoulder, and Messua laughed again so long that Mowgli, not knowing
why, was forced to laugh with her, and the child ran from one to the
other, laughing too.
"Nay, thou must not mock thy brother," said Messua, catching him
to her breast. "When thou art one-half as fair we will marry thee to
the youngest daughter of a king, and thou shalt ride great elephants."
Mowgli could not understand one word in three of the talk here;
the warm milk was taking effect on him after his long run, so he
curled up and in a minute was deep asleep, and Messua put the hair
back from his eyes, threw a cloth over him, and was happy.
Jungle-fashion, he slept out the rest of that night and all the next
day; for his instincts, which never wholly slept, warned him there was
nothing to fear. He waked at last with a bound that shook the hut, for
the cloth over his face made him dream of traps; and there he stood,
his hand on his knife, the sleep all heavy in his rolling eyes, ready
for any fight.
Messua laughed, and set the evening meal before him. There were
only a few coarse cakes baked over the smoky fire, some rice, and a
lump of sour preserved tamarinds--just enough to go on with till he
could get to his evening kill. The smell of the dew in the marshes
made him hungry and restless. He wanted to finish his spring running,
but the child insisted on sitting in his arms, and Messua would have
it that his long, blue-black hair must he combed out. So she sang, as
she combed, foolish little baby-songs, now calling Mowgli her son, and
now begging him to give some of his jungle power to the child. The hut
door was closed, but Mowgli heard a sound he knew well, and saw
Messua's jaw drop with horror as a great gray paw came under the
bottom of the door, and Gray Brother outside whined a muffled and
penitent whine of anxiety and fear.
"Out and wait! Ye would not come when I called," said Mowgli in
Jungle-talk, without turning his head, and the great gray paw
"Do not--do not bring thy--thy servants with thee," said Messua.
"I--we have always lived at peace with the Jungle."
"It is peace," said Mowgli, rising. "Think of that night on the
road to Khanhiwara. There were scores of such folk before thee and
behind thee. But I see that even in springtime the Jungle People do
not always forget. Mother, I go."
Messua drew aside humbly--he was indeed a wood-god, she thought;
but as his hand was on the door the mother in her made her throw her
arms round Mowgli's neck again and again.
"Come back!" she whispered. "Son or no son, come back, for I love
thee--Look, he too grieves."
The child was crying because the man with the shiny knife was
"Come back again," Messua repeated. "By night or by day this door
is never shut to thee."
Mowgli's throat worked as though the cords in it were being
pulled, and his voice seemed to be dragged from it as he answered, "I
will surely come back."
"And now," he said, as he put by the head of the fawning wolf on
the threshold, "I have a little cry against thee, Gray Brother. Why
came ye not all four when I called so long ago?"
"So long ago? It was but last night. I--we--were singing in the
Jungle the new songs, for this is the Time of New Talk. Rememberest
"And as soon as the songs were sung," Gray Brother went on
earnestly, "I followed thy trail. I ran from all the others and
followed hot-foot. But, O Little Brother, what hast THOU done, eating
and sleeping with the Man-Pack?"
"If ye had come when I called, this had never been," said Mowgli,
running much faster.
"And now what is to be?" said Gray Brother. Mowgli was going to
answer when a girl in a white cloth came down some path that led from
the outskirts of the village. Gray Brother dropped out of sight at
once, and Mowgli backed noiselessly into a field of high-springing
crops. He could almost have touched her with his hand when the warm,
green stalks closed before his face and he disappeared like a ghost.
The girl screamed, for she thought she had seen a spirit, and then she
gave a deep sigh. Mowgli parted the stalks with his hands and watched
her till she was out of sight.
"And now I do not know," he said, sighing in his turn. "WHY did ye
not come when I called?"
"We follow thee--we follow thee," Gray Brother mumbled, licking at
Mowgli's heel. "We follow thee always, except in the Time of the New
"And would ye follow me to the Man-Pack?" Mowgli whispered.
"Did I not follow thee on the night our old Pack cast thee out?
Who waked thee lying among the crops?"
"Ay, but again?"
"Have I not followed thee to-night? "
"Ay, but again and again, and it may be again, Gray Brother?"
Gray Brother was silent. When he spoke he growled to himself, "The
Black One spoke truth."
"And he said?"
"Man goes to Man at the last. Raksha, our mother, said----"
"So also said Akela on the night of Red Dog," Mowgli muttered.
"So also says Kaa, who is wiser than us all."
"What dost thou say, Gray Brother?"
"They cast thee out once, with bad talk. They cut thy mouth with
stones. They sent Buldeo to slay thee. They would have thrown thee
into the Red Flower. Thou, and not I, hast said that they are evil and
senseless. Thou, and not I--I follow my own people--didst let in the
Jungle upon them. Thou, and not I, didst make song against them more
bitter even than our song against Red Dog."
"I ask thee what THOU sayest?"
They were talking as they ran. Gray Brother cantered on a while
without replying, and then he said,--between bound and bound as it
were,--"Man-cub--Master of the Jungle--Son of Raksha, Lair- brother to
me--though I forget for a little while in the spring, thy trail is my
trail, thy lair is my lair, thy kill is my kill, and thy death-fight
is my death-fight. I speak for the Three. But what wilt thou say to
"That is well thought. Between the sight and the kill it is not
good to wait. Go before and cry them all to the Council Rock, and I
will tell them what is in my stomach. But they may not come--in the
Time of New Talk they may forget me."
"Hast thou, then, forgotten nothing?" snapped Gray Brother over
his shoulder, as he laid himself down to gallop, and Mowgli followed,
At any other season the news would have called all the Jungle
together with bristling necks, but now they were busy hunting and
fighting and killing and singing. From one to another Gray Brother
ran, crying, "The Master of the Jungle goes back to Man! Come to the
Council Rock." And the happy, eager People only answered, "He will
return in the summer heats. The Rains will drive him to lair. Run and
sing with us, Gray Brother."
"But the Master of the Jungle goes back to Man," Gray Brother
"Eee--Yoawa? Is the Time of New Talk any less sweet for that?"
they would reply. So when Mowgli, heavy-hearted, came up through the
well- remembered rocks to the place where he had been brought into the
Council, he found only the Four, Baloo, who was nearly blind with age,
and the heavy, cold-blooded Kaa coiled around Akela's empty seat.
"Thy trail ends here, then, Manling?" said Kaa, as Mowgli threw
himself down, his face in his hands. "Cry thy cry. We be of one
blood, thou and I--man and snake together."
"Why did I not die under Red Dog?" the boy moaned. "My strength is
gone from me, and it is not any poison. By night and by day I hear a
double step upon my trail. When I turn my head it is as though one had
hidden himself from me that instant. I go to look behind the trees and
he is not there. I call and none cry again; but it is as though one
listened and kept back the answer. I lie down, but I do not rest. I
run the spring running, but I am not made still. I bathe, but I am not
made cool. The kill sickens me, but I have no heart to fight except I
kill. The Red Flower is in my body, my bones are water--and--I know
not what I know."
"What need of talk?" said Baloo slowly, turning his head to where
Mowgli lay. "Akela by the river said it, that Mowgli should drive
Mowgli back to the Man-Pack. I said it. But who listens now to Baloo?
Bagheera--where is Bagheera this night?-- he knows also. It is the
"When we met at Cold Lairs, Manling, I knew it," said Kaa, turning
a little in his mighty coils. "Man goes to Man at the last, though the
Jungle does not cast him out."
The Four looked at one another and at Mowgli, puzzled but
"The Jungle does not cast me out, then?" Mowgli stammered.
Gray Brother and the Three growled furiously, beginning, "So long
as we live none shall dare----" But Baloo checked them.
"I taught thee the Law. It is for me to speak," he said; "and,
though I cannot now see the rocks before me, I see far. Little Frog,
take thine own trail; make thy lair with thine own blood and pack and
people; but when there is need of foot or tooth or eye, or a word
carried swiftly by night, remember, Master of the Jungle, the Jungle
is thine at call."
"The Middle Jungle is thine also," said Kaa. I speak for no small
"Hai-mai, my brothers," cried Mowgli, throwing up his arms with a
sob. "I know not what I know! I would not go; but I am drawn by both
feet. How shall I leave these nights?"
"Nay, look up, Little Brother," Baloo repeated. There is no shame
in this hunting. When the honey is eaten we leave the empty hive."
"Having cast the skin," said Kaa, "we may not creep into it
afresh. It is the Law."
"Listen, dearest of all to me," said Baloo. There is neither word
nor will here to hold thee back. Look up! Who may question the Master
of the Jungle? I saw thee playing among the white pebbles yonder when
thou wast a little frog; and Bagheera, that bought thee for the price
of a young bull newly killed, saw thee also. Of that Looking Over we
two only remain; for Raksha, thy lair-mother, is dead with thy
lair-father; the old Wolf-Pack is long since dead; thou knowest
whither Shere Khan went, and Akela died among the dholes, where, but
for thy wisdom and strength, the second Seeonee Pack would also have
died. There remains nothing but old bones. It is no longer the Man-cub
that asks leave of his Pack, but the Master of the Jungle that changes
his trail. Who shall question Man in his ways?"
"But Bagheera and the Bull that bought me," said Mowgli. "I would
His words were cut short by a roar and a crash in the thicket
below, and Bagheera, light, strong, and terrible as always, stood
"Therefore," he said, stretching out a dripping right paw, "I did
not come. It was a long hunt, but he lies dead in the bushes now--a
bull in his second year--the Bull that frees thee, Little Brother. All
debts are paid now. For the rest, my word is Baloo's word." He licked
Mowgli's foot. "Remember, Bagheera loved thee," he cried, and bounded
away. At the foot of the hill he cried again long and loud, "Good
hunting on a new trail, Master of the Jungle! Remember, Bagheera loved
"Thou hast heard," said Baloo. "There is no more. Go now; but
first come to me. O wise Little Frog, come to me!"
"It is hard to cast the skin," said Kaa as Mowgli sobbed and
sobbed, with his head on the blind bear's side and his arms round his
neck, while Baloo tried feebly to lick his feet.
"The stars are thin," said Gray Brother, snuffing at the dawn
wind. "Where shall we lair to-day? for from now, we follow new
And this is the last of the Mowgli stories.
[This is the song that Mowgli heard behind him in the Jungle till
he came to Messua's door again.]
For the sake of him who showed
One wise Frog the Jungle-Road,
Keep the Law the Man-Pack make--
For thy blind old Baloo's sake!
Clean or tainted, hot or stale,
Hold it as it were the Trail,
Through the day and through the night,
Questing neither left nor right.
For the sake of him who loves
Thee beyond all else that moves,
When thy Pack would make thee pain,
Say: "Tabaqui sings again."
When thy Pack would work thee ill,
Say: "Shere Khan is yet to kill."
When the knife is drawn to slay,
Keep the Law and go thy way.
(Root and honey, palm and spathe,
Guard a cub from harm and scathe!)
Wood and Water, Wind and Tree,
Jungle-Favour go with thee!
Anger is the egg of Fear--
Only lidless eyes are clear.
Cobra-poison none may leech.
Even so with Cobra-speech.
Open talk shall call to thee
Strength, whose mate is Courtesy.
Send no lunge beyond thy length;
Lend no rotten bough thy strength.
Gauge thy gape with buck or goat,
Lest thine eye should choke thy throat,
After gorging, wouldst thou sleep?
Look thy den is hid and deep,
Lest a wrong, by thee forgot,
Draw thy killer to the spot.
East and West and North and South,
Wash thy hide and close thy mouth.
(Pit and rift and blue pool-brim,
Middle-Jungle follow him!)
Wood and Water, Wind and Tree,
Jungle-Favour go with thee!
In the cage my life began;
Well I know the worth of Man.
By the Broken Lock that freed--
Man-cub, 'ware the Man-cub's breed!
Scenting-dew or starlight pale,
Choose no tangled tree-cat trail.
Pack or council, hunt or den,
Cry no truce with Jackal-Men.
Feed them silence when they say:
"Come with us an easy way."
Feed them silence when they seek
Help of thine to hurt the weak.
Make no banaar's boast of skill;
Hold thy peace above the kill.
Let nor call nor song nor sign
Turn thee from thy hunting-line.
(Morning mist or twilight clear,
Serve him, Wardens of the Deer!)
Wood and Water, Wind and Tree,
Jungle-Favour go with thee!
On the trail that thou must tread
To the thresholds of our dread,
Where the Flower blossoms red;
Through the nights when thou shalt lie
Prisoned from our Mother-sky,
Hearing us, thy loves, go by;
In the dawns when thou shalt wake
To the toil thou canst not break,
Heartsick for the Jungle's sake:
Wood and Water, Wind and Tree,
Wisdom, Strength, and Courtesy,
Jungle-Favour go with thee!