The Jungle Book
by Rudyard Kipling
Hunting-Song of the Seeonee Pack
Road-Song of the Bandar-Log
The White Seal
Toomai of the Elephants
Shiv and the Grasshopper
Her Majesty's Servants
Parade Song of the Camp Animals
Now Rann the Kite brings home the night
That Mang the Bat sets free--
The herds are shut in byre and hut
For loosed till dawn are we.
This is the hour of pride and power,
Talon and tush and claw.
Oh, hear the call!--Good hunting all
That keep the Jungle Law!
Night-Song in the Jungle
It was seven o'clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills
when Father Wolf woke up from his day's rest, scratched himself,
yawned, and spread out his paws one after the other to get rid of
the sleepy feeling in their tips. Mother Wolf lay with her big
gray nose dropped across her four tumbling, squealing cubs, and
the moon shone into the mouth of the cave where they all lived.
"Augrh!" said Father Wolf. "It is time to hunt again."
going to spring down hill when a little shadow with a bushy tail
crossed the threshold and whined: "Good luck go with you, O Chief
of the Wolves. And good luck and strong white teeth go with noble
children that they may never forget the hungry in this world."
It was the jackal--Tabaqui, the Dish-licker--and the
wolves of India despise Tabaqui because he runs about making
mischief, and telling tales, and eating rags and pieces of leather
from the village rubbish-heaps. But they are afraid of him too,
because Tabaqui, more than anyone else in the jungle, is apt to go
mad, and then he forgets that he was ever afraid of anyone, and
runs through the forest biting everything in his way. Even the
tiger runs and hides when little Tabaqui goes mad, for madness is
the most disgraceful thing that can overtake a wild creature. We
call it hydrophobia, but they call it dewanee--the madness--
"Enter, then, and look," said Father Wolf stiffly, "but
is no food here."
"For a wolf, no," said Tabaqui, "but for so mean a person
myself a dry bone is a good feast. Who are we, the Gidur-log [the
jackal people], to pick and choose?" He scuttled to the back of
the cave, where he found the bone of a buck with some meat on it,
and sat cracking the end merrily.
"All thanks for this good meal," he said, licking his lips.
"How beautiful are the noble children! How large are their eyes!
And so young too! Indeed, indeed, I might have remembered that
the children of kings are men from the beginning."
Now, Tabaqui knew as well as anyone else that there is nothing
so unlucky as to compliment children to their faces. It pleased
him to see Mother and Father Wolf look uncomfortable.
Tabaqui sat still, rejoicing in the mischief that he had made,
and then he said spitefully:
"Shere Khan, the Big One, has shifted his hunting grounds. He
will hunt among these hills for the next moon, so he has told me."
Shere Khan was the tiger who lived near the Waingunga River,
twenty miles away.
"He has no right!" Father Wolf began angrily--"By the
of the Jungle he has no right to change his quarters without due
warning. He will frighten every head of game within ten miles,
and I--I have to kill for two, these days."
"His mother did not call him Lungri [the Lame One] for
nothing," said Mother Wolf quietly. "He has been lame in one foot
from his birth. That is why he has only killed cattle. Now the
villagers of the Waingunga are angry with him, and he has come
here to make our villagers angry. They will scour the jungle for
him when he is far away, and we and our children must run when the
grass is set alight. Indeed, we are very grateful to Shere Khan!"
"Shall I tell him of your gratitude?" said Tabaqui.
"Out!" snapped Father Wolf. "Out and hunt with thy master.
Thou hast done harm enough for one night."
"I go," said Tabaqui quietly. "Ye can hear Shere Khan
in the thickets. I might have saved myself the message."
Father Wolf listened, and below in the valley that ran down to
a little river he heard the dry, angry, snarly, singsong whine of
a tiger who has caught nothing and does not care if all the jungle
"The fool!" said Father Wolf. "To begin a night's work
that noise! Does he think that our buck are like his fat
"H'sh. It is neither bullock nor buck he hunts to-night,"
said Mother Wolf. "It is Man."
The whine had changed to a sort of humming purr that seemed to
come from every quarter of the compass. It was the noise that
bewilders woodcutters and gypsies sleeping in the open, and makes
them run sometimes into the very mouth of the tiger.
"Man!" said Father Wolf, showing all his white teeth. "Faugh!
Are there not enough beetles and frogs in the tanks that he must
eat Man, and on our ground too!"
The Law of the Jungle, which never orders anything without a
reason, forbids every beast to eat Man except when he is killing
to show his children how to kill, and then he must hunt outside
the hunting grounds of his pack or tribe. The real reason for
this is that man-killing means, sooner or later, the arrival of
white men on elephants, with guns, and hundreds of brown men with
gongs and rockets and torches. Then everybody in the jungle
suffers. The reason the beasts give among themselves is that Man
is the weakest and most defenseless of all living things, and it
is unsportsmanlike to touch him. They say too--and it is true
--that man-eaters become mangy, and lose their teeth.
The purr grew louder, and ended in the full-throated "Aaarh!"
of the tiger's charge.
Then there was a howl--an untigerish howl--from Shere
Khan. "He has missed," said Mother Wolf. "What is it?"
Father Wolf ran out a few paces and heard Shere Khan muttering
and mumbling savagely as he tumbled about in the scrub.
"The fool has had no more sense than to jump at a woodcutter's
campfire, and has burned his feet," said Father Wolf with a grunt.
"Tabaqui is with him."
"Something is coming uphill," said Mother Wolf, twitching
ear. "Get ready."
The bushes rustled a little in the thicket, and Father Wolf
dropped with his haunches under him, ready for his leap. Then, if
you had been watching, you would have seen the most wonderful
thing in the world--the wolf checked in mid-spring. He made his
bound before he saw what it was he was jumping at, and then he
tried to stop himself. The result was that he shot up straight
into the air for four or five feet, landing almost where he left
"Man!" he snapped. "A man's cub. Look!"
Directly in front of him, holding on by a low branch, stood a
naked brown baby who could just walk--as soft and as dimpled a
little atom as ever came to a wolf's cave at night. He looked up
into Father Wolf's face, and laughed.
"Is that a man's cub?" said Mother Wolf. "I have never
one. Bring it here."
A Wolf accustomed to moving his own cubs can, if necessary,
mouth an egg without breaking it, and though Father Wolf's jaws
closed right on the child's back not a tooth even scratched the
skin as he laid it down among the cubs.
"How little! How naked, and--how bold!" said Mother Wolf
softly. The baby was pushing his way between the cubs to get
close to the warm hide. "Ahai! He is taking his meal with the
others. And so this is a man's cub. Now, was there ever a wolf
that could boast of a man's cub among her children?"
"I have heard now and again of such a thing, but never in our
Pack or in my time," said Father Wolf. "He is altogether without
hair, and I could kill him with a touch of my foot. But see, he
looks up and is not afraid."
The moonlight was blocked out of the mouth of the cave, for
Shere Khan's great square head and shoulders were thrust into the
entrance. Tabaqui, behind him, was squeaking: "My lord, my lord,
it went in here!"
"Shere Khan does us great honor," said Father Wolf, but his
eyes were very angry. "What does Shere Khan need?"
"My quarry. A man's cub went this way," said Shere Khan.
"Its parents have run off. Give it to me."
Shere Khan had jumped at a woodcutter's campfire, as Father
Wolf had said, and was furious from the pain of his burned feet.
But Father Wolf knew that the mouth of the cave was too narrow for
a tiger to come in by. Even where he was, Shere Khan's shoulders
and forepaws were cramped for want of room, as a man's would be if
he tried to fight in a barrel.
"The Wolves are a free people," said Father Wolf. "They
orders from the Head of the Pack, and not from any striped
cattle-killer. The man's cub is ours--to kill if we choose."
"Ye choose and ye do not choose! What talk is this of
choosing? By the bull that I killed, am I to stand nosing into
your dog's den for my fair dues? It is I, Shere Khan, who speak!"
The tiger's roar filled the cave with thunder. Mother Wolf
shook herself clear of the cubs and sprang forward, her eyes, like
two green moons in the darkness, facing the blazing eyes of Shere
"And it is I, Raksha [The Demon], who answers. The man's cub
is mine, Lungri--mine to me! He shall not be killed. He shall
live to run with the Pack and to hunt with the Pack; and in the
end, look you, hunter of little naked cubs--frog-eater--
fish-killer--he shall hunt thee! Now get hence, or by the
Sambhur that I killed (I eat no starved cattle), back thou goest
to thy mother, burned beast of the jungle, lamer than ever thou
camest into the world! Go!"
Father Wolf looked on amazed. He had almost forgotten the
days when he won Mother Wolf in fair fight from five other wolves,
when she ran in the Pack and was not called The Demon for
compliment's sake. Shere Khan might have faced Father Wolf, but
he could not stand up against Mother Wolf, for he knew that where
he was she had all the advantage of the ground, and would fight to
the death. So he backed out of the cave mouth growling, and when
he was clear he shouted:
"Each dog barks in his own yard! We will see what the Pack
will say to this fostering of man-cubs. The cub is mine, and to
my teeth he will come in the end, O bush-tailed thieves!"
Mother Wolf threw herself down panting among the cubs, and
Father Wolf said to her gravely:
"Shere Khan speaks this much truth. The cub must be shown to
the Pack. Wilt thou still keep him, Mother?"
"Keep him!" she gasped. "He came naked, by night, alone
very hungry; yet he was not afraid! Look, he has pushed one of my
babes to one side already. And that lame butcher would have
killed him and would have run off to the Waingunga while the
villagers here hunted through all our lairs in revenge! Keep him?
Assuredly I will keep him. Lie still, little frog. O thou Mowgli
--for Mowgli the Frog I will call thee--the time will come when
thou wilt hunt Shere Khan as he has hunted thee."
"But what will our Pack say?" said Father Wolf.
The Law of the Jungle lays down very clearly that any wolf
may, when he marries, withdraw from the Pack he belongs to. But
as soon as his cubs are old enough to stand on their feet he must
bring them to the Pack Council, which is generally held once a
month at full moon, in order that the other wolves may identify
them. After that inspection the cubs are free to run where they
please, and until they have killed their first buck no excuse is
accepted if a grown wolf of the Pack kills one of them. The
punishment is death where the murderer can be found; and if you
think for a minute you will see that this must be so.
Father Wolf waited till his cubs could run a little, and then
on the night of the Pack Meeting took them and Mowgli and Mother
Wolf to the Council Rock--a hilltop covered with stones and
boulders where a hundred wolves could hide. Akela, the great gray
Lone Wolf, who led all the Pack by strength and cunning, lay out
at full length on his rock, and below him sat forty or more wolves
of every size and color, from badger-colored veterans who could
handle a buck alone to young black three-year-olds who thought
they could. The Lone Wolf had led them for a year now. He had
fallen twice into a wolf trap in his youth, and once he had been
beaten and left for dead; so he knew the manners and customs of
men. There was very little talking at the Rock. The cubs tumbled
over each other in the center of the circle where their mothers
and fathers sat, and now and again a senior wolf would go quietly
up to a cub, look at him carefully, and return to his place on
noiseless feet. Sometimes a mother would push her cub far out
into the moonlight to be sure that he had not been overlooked.
Akela from his rock would cry: "Ye know the Law--ye know the
Law. Look well, O Wolves!" And the anxious mothers would take up
the call: "Look--look well, O Wolves!"
At last--and Mother Wolf's neck bristles lifted as the time
came--Father Wolf pushed "Mowgli the Frog," as they called him,
into the center, where he sat laughing and playing with some
pebbles that glistened in the moonlight.
Akela never raised his head from his paws, but went on with
the monotonous cry: "Look well!" A muffled roar came up from
behind the rocks--the voice of Shere Khan crying: "The cub is
mine. Give him to me. What have the Free People to do with a
man's cub?" Akela never even twitched his ears. All he said was:
"Look well, O Wolves! What have the Free People to do with the
orders of any save the Free People? Look well!"
There was a chorus of deep growls, and a young wolf in his
fourth year flung back Shere Khan's question to Akela: "What have
the Free People to do with a man's cub?" Now, the Law of the
Jungle lays down that if there is any dispute as to the right of a
cub to be accepted by the Pack, he must be spoken for by at least
two members of the Pack who are not his father and mother.
"Who speaks for this cub?" said Akela. "Among the Free
who speaks?" There was no answer and Mother Wolf got ready for
what she knew would be her last fight, if things came to fighting.
Then the only other creature who is allowed at the Pack
Council--Baloo, the sleepy brown bear who teaches the wolf cubs
the Law of the Jungle: old Baloo, who can come and go where he
pleases because he eats only nuts and roots and honey--rose upon
his hind quarters and grunted.
"The man's cub--the man's cub?" he said. "I speak for
man's cub. There is no harm in a man's cub. I have no gift of
words, but I speak the truth. Let him run with the Pack, and be
entered with the others. I myself will teach him."
"We need yet another," said Akela. "Baloo has spoken,
is our teacher for the young cubs. Who speaks besides Baloo?"
A black shadow dropped down into the circle. It was Bagheera
the Black Panther, inky black all over, but with the panther
markings showing up in certain lights like the pattern of watered
silk. Everybody knew Bagheera, and nobody cared to cross his
path; for he was as cunning as Tabaqui, as bold as the wild
buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant. But he had a
voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree, and a skin
softer than down.
"O Akela, and ye the Free People," he purred, "I have
in your assembly, but the Law of the Jungle says that if there is
a doubt which is not a killing matter in regard to a new cub, the
life of that cub may be bought at a price. And the Law does not
say who may or may not pay that price. Am I right?"
"Good! Good!" said the young wolves, who are always hungry.
"Listen to Bagheera. The cub can be bought for a price. It is
"Knowing that I have no right to speak here, I ask your
"Speak then," cried twenty voices.
"To kill a naked cub is shame. Besides, he may make better
sport for you when he is grown. Baloo has spoken in his behalf.
Now to Baloo's word I will add one bull, and a fat one, newly
killed, not half a mile from here, if ye will accept the man's cub
according to the Law. Is it difficult?"
There was a clamor of scores of voices, saying: "What matter?
He will die in the winter rains. He will scorch in the sun. What
harm can a naked frog do us? Let him run with the Pack. Where is
the bull, Bagheera? Let him be accepted." And then came Akela's
deep bay, crying: "Look well--look well, O Wolves!"
Mowgli was still deeply interested in the pebbles, and he did
not notice when the wolves came and looked at him one by one. At
last they all went down the hill for the dead bull, and only
Akela, Bagheera, Baloo, and Mowgli's own wolves were left. Shere
Khan roared still in the night, for he was very angry that Mowgli
had not been handed over to him.
"Ay, roar well," said Bagheera, under his whiskers, "for
time will come when this naked thing will make thee roar to
another tune, or I know nothing of man."
"It was well done," said Akela. "Men and their cubs are
wise. He may be a help in time."
"Truly, a help in time of need; for none can hope to lead the
Pack forever," said Bagheera.
Akela said nothing. He was thinking of the time that comes to
every leader of every pack when his strength goes from him and he
gets feebler and feebler, till at last he is killed by the wolves
and a new leader comes up--to be killed in his turn.
"Take him away," he said to Father Wolf, "and train him
befits one of the Free People."
And that is how Mowgli was entered into the Seeonee Wolf Pack
for the price of a bull and on Baloo's good word.
Now you must be content to skip ten or eleven whole years, and
only guess at all the wonderful life that Mowgli led among the
wolves, because if it were written out it would fill ever so many
books. He grew up with the cubs, though they, of course, were
grown wolves almost before he was a child. And Father Wolf taught
him his business, and the meaning of things in the jungle, till
every rustle in the grass, every breath of the warm night air,
every note of the owls above his head, every scratch of a bat's
claws as it roosted for a while in a tree, and every splash of
every little fish jumping in a pool meant just as much to him as
the work of his office means to a business man. When he was not
learning he sat out in the sun and slept, and ate and went to
sleep again. When he felt dirty or hot he swam in the forest
pools; and when he wanted honey (Baloo told him that honey and
nuts were just as pleasant to eat as raw meat) he climbed up for
it, and that Bagheera showed him how to do. Bagheera would lie
out on a branch and call, "Come along, Little Brother," and at
first Mowgli would cling like the sloth, but afterward he would
fling himself through the branches almost as boldly as the gray
ape. He took his place at the Council Rock, too, when the Pack
met, and there he discovered that if he stared hard at any wolf,
the wolf would be forced to drop his eyes, and so he used to stare
for fun. At other times he would pick the long thorns out of the
pads of his friends, for wolves suffer terribly from thorns and
burs in their coats. He would go down the hillside into the
cultivated lands by night, and look very curiously at the
villagers in their huts, but he had a mistrust of men because
Bagheera showed him a square box with a drop gate so cunningly
hidden in the jungle that he nearly walked into it, and told him
that it was a trap. He loved better than anything else to go with
Bagheera into the dark warm heart of the forest, to sleep all
through the drowsy day, and at night see how Bagheera did his
killing. Bagheera killed right and left as he felt hungry, and so
did Mowgli--with one exception. As soon as he was old enough to
understand things, Bagheera told him that he must never touch
cattle because he had been bought into the Pack at the price of a
bull's life. "All the jungle is thine," said Bagheera, "and
canst kill everything that thou art strong enough to kill; but for
the sake of the bull that bought thee thou must never kill or eat
any cattle young or old. That is the Law of the Jungle." Mowgli
And he grew and grew strong as a boy must grow who does not
know that he is learning any lessons, and who has nothing in the
world to think of except things to eat.
Mother Wolf told him once or twice that Shere Khan was not a
creature to be trusted, and that some day he must kill Shere Khan.
But though a young wolf would have remembered that advice every
hour, Mowgli forgot it because he was only a boy--though he
would have called himself a wolf if he had been able to speak in
any human tongue.
Shere Khan was always crossing his path in the jungle, for as
Akela grew older and feebler the lame tiger had come to be great
friends with the younger wolves of the Pack, who followed him for
scraps, a thing Akela would never have allowed if he had dared to
push his authority to the proper bounds. Then Shere Khan would
flatter them and wonder that such fine young hunters were content
to be led by a dying wolf and a man's cub. "They tell me," Shere
Khan would say, "that at Council ye dare not look him between the
eyes." And the young wolves would growl and bristle.
Bagheera, who had eyes and ears everywhere, knew something of
this, and once or twice he told Mowgli in so many words that Shere
Khan would kill him some day. Mowgli would laugh and answer: "I
have the Pack and I have thee; and Baloo, though he is so lazy,
might strike a blow or two for my sake. Why should I be afraid?"
It was one very warm day that a new notion came to Bagheera--
born of something that he had heard. Perhaps Ikki the Porcupine
had told him; but he said to Mowgli when they were deep in the
jungle, as the boy lay with his head on Bagheera's beautiful black
skin, "Little Brother, how often have I told thee that Shere Khan
is thy enemy?"
"As many times as there are nuts on that palm," said Mowgli,
who, naturally, could not count. "What of it? I am sleepy,
Bagheera, and Shere Khan is all long tail and loud talk--like
Mao, the Peacock."
"But this is no time for sleeping. Baloo knows it; I know it;
the Pack know it; and even the foolish, foolish deer know.
Tabaqui has told thee too."
"Ho! ho!" said Mowgli. "Tabaqui came to me not long ago
some rude talk that I was a naked man's cub and not fit to dig
pig-nuts. But I caught Tabaqui by the tail and swung him twice
against a palm-tree to teach him better manners."
"That was foolishness, for though Tabaqui is a mischief-maker,
he would have told thee of something that concerned thee closely.
Open those eyes, Little Brother. Shere Khan dare not kill thee in
the jungle. But remember, Akela is very old, and soon the day
comes when he cannot kill his buck, and then he will be leader no
more. Many of the wolves that looked thee over when thou wast
brought to the Council first are old too, and the young wolves
believe, as Shere Khan has taught them, that a man-cub has no
place with the Pack. In a little time thou wilt be a man."
"And what is a man that he should not run with his brothers?"
said Mowgli. "I was born in the jungle. I have obeyed the Law of
the Jungle, and there is no wolf of ours from whose paws I have
not pulled a thorn. Surely they are my brothers!"
Bagheera stretched himself at full length and half shut his
eyes. "Little Brother," said he, "feel under my jaw."
Mowgli put up his strong brown hand, and just under Bagheera's
silky chin, where the giant rolling muscles were all hid by the
glossy hair, he came upon a little bald spot.
"There is no one in the jungle that knows that I, Bagheera,
carry that mark--the mark of the collar; and yet, Little
Brother, I was born among men, and it was among men that my mother
died--in the cages of the king's palace at Oodeypore. It was
because of this that I paid the price for thee at the Council when
thou wast a little naked cub. Yes, I too was born among men. I
had never seen the jungle. They fed me behind bars from an iron
pan till one night I felt that I was Bagheera--the Panther--
and no man's plaything, and I broke the silly lock with one blow
of my paw and came away. And because I had learned the ways of
men, I became more terrible in the jungle than Shere Khan. Is it
"Yes," said Mowgli, "all the jungle fear Bagheera--all
"Oh, thou art a man's cub," said the Black Panther very
tenderly. "And even as I returned to my jungle, so thou must go
back to men at last--to the men who are thy brothers--if thou
art not killed in the Council."
"But why--but why should any wish to kill me?" said Mowgli.
"Look at me," said Bagheera. And Mowgli looked at him
steadily between the eyes. The big panther turned his head away
in half a minute.
"That is why," he said, shifting his paw on the leaves. "Not
even I can look thee between the eyes, and I was born among men,
and I love thee, Little Brother. The others they hate thee
because their eyes cannot meet thine; because thou art wise;
because thou hast pulled out thorns from their feet--because
thou art a man."
"I did not know these things," said Mowgli sullenly, and he
frowned under his heavy black eyebrows.
"What is the Law of the Jungle? Strike first and then give
tongue. By thy very carelessness they know that thou art a man.
But be wise. It is in my heart that when Akela misses his next
kill--and at each hunt it costs him more to pin the buck--the
Pack will turn against him and against thee. They will hold a
jungle Council at the Rock, and then--and then--I have it!"
said Bagheera, leaping up. "Go thou down quickly to the men's
huts in the valley, and take some of the Red Flower which they
grow there, so that when the time comes thou mayest have even a
stronger friend than I or Baloo or those of the Pack that love
thee. Get the Red Flower."
By Red Flower Bagheera meant fire, only no creature in the
jungle will call fire by its proper name. Every beast lives in
deadly fear of it, and invents a hundred ways of describing it.
"The Red Flower?" said Mowgli. "That grows outside their
in the twilight. I will get some."
"There speaks the man's cub," said Bagheera proudly.
"Remember that it grows in little pots. Get one swiftly, and keep
it by thee for time of need."
"Good!" said Mowgli. "I go. But art thou sure, O my
Bagheera"--he slipped his arm around the splendid neck and
looked deep into the big eyes--"art thou sure that all this is
Shere Khan's doing?"
"By the Broken Lock that freed me, I am sure, Little Brother."
"Then, by the Bull that bought me, I will pay Shere Khan full
tale for this, and it may be a little over," said Mowgli, and he
"That is a man. That is all a man," said Bagheera to himself,
lying down again. "Oh, Shere Khan, never was a blacker hunting
than that frog-hunt of thine ten years ago!"
Mowgli was far and far through the forest, running hard, and
his heart was hot in him. He came to the cave as the evening mist
rose, and drew breath, and looked down the valley. The cubs were
out, but Mother Wolf, at the back of the cave, knew by his
breathing that something was troubling her frog.
"What is it, Son?" she said.
"Some bat's chatter of Shere Khan," he called back. "I
among the plowed fields tonight," and he plunged downward through
the bushes, to the stream at the bottom of the valley. There he
checked, for he heard the yell of the Pack hunting, heard the
bellow of a hunted Sambhur, and the snort as the buck turned at
bay. Then there were wicked, bitter howls from the young wolves:
"Akela! Akela! Let the Lone Wolf show his strength. Room for
the leader of the Pack! Spring, Akela!"
The Lone Wolf must have sprung and missed his hold, for Mowgli
heard the snap of his teeth and then a yelp as the Sambhur knocked
him over with his forefoot.
He did not wait for anything more, but dashed on; and the
yells grew fainter behind him as he ran into the croplands where
the villagers lived.
"Bagheera spoke truth," he panted, as he nestled down in some
cattle fodder by the window of a hut. "To-morrow is one day both
for Akela and for me."
Then he pressed his face close to the window and watched the
fire on the hearth. He saw the husbandman's wife get up and feed
it in the night with black lumps. And when the morning came and
the mists were all white and cold, he saw the man's child pick up
a wicker pot plastered inside with earth, fill it with lumps of
red-hot charcoal, put it under his blanket, and go out to tend the
cows in the byre.
"Is that all?" said Mowgli. "If a cub can do it, there
nothing to fear." So he strode round the corner and met the boy,
took the pot from his hand, and disappeared into the mist while
the boy howled with fear.
"They are very like me," said Mowgli, blowing into the pot
he had seen the woman do. "This thing will die if I do not give
it things to eat"; and he dropped twigs and dried bark on the red
stuff. Halfway up the hill he met Bagheera with the morning dew
shining like moonstones on his coat.
"Akela has missed," said the Panther. "They would have
him last night, but they needed thee also. They were looking for
thee on the hill."
"I was among the plowed lands. I am ready. See!" Mowgli
held up the fire-pot.
"Good! Now, I have seen men thrust a dry branch into that
stuff, and presently the Red Flower blossomed at the end of it.
Art thou not afraid?"
"No. Why should I fear? I remember now--if it is not a
dream--how, before I was a Wolf, I lay beside the Red Flower,
and it was warm and pleasant."
All that day Mowgli sat in the cave tending his fire pot and
dipping dry branches into it to see how they looked. He found a
branch that satisfied him, and in the evening when Tabaqui came to
the cave and told him rudely enough that he was wanted at the
Council Rock, he laughed till Tabaqui ran away. Then Mowgli went
to the Council, still laughing.
Akela the Lone Wolf lay by the side of his rock as a sign that
the leadership of the Pack was open, and Shere Khan with his
following of scrap-fed wolves walked to and fro openly being
flattered. Bagheera lay close to Mowgli, and the fire pot was
between Mowgli's knees. When they were all gathered together,
Shere Khan began to speak--a thing he would never have dared to
do when Akela was in his prime.
"He has no right," whispered Bagheera. "Say so. He is
dog's son. He will be frightened."
Mowgli sprang to his feet. "Free People," he cried, "does
Shere Khan lead the Pack? What has a tiger to do with our
"Seeing that the leadership is yet open, and being asked to
speak--" Shere Khan began.
"By whom?" said Mowgli. "Are we all jackals, to fawn
cattle butcher? The leadership of the Pack is with the Pack
There were yells of "Silence, thou man's cub!" "Let him
speak. He has kept our Law"; and at last the seniors of the Pack
thundered: "Let the Dead Wolf speak." When a leader of the Pack
has missed his kill, he is called the Dead Wolf as long as he
lives, which is not long.
Akela raised his old head wearily:--
"Free People, and ye too, jackals of Shere Khan, for twelve
seasons I have led ye to and from the kill, and in all that time
not one has been trapped or maimed. Now I have missed my kill.
Ye know how that plot was made. Ye know how ye brought me up to
an untried buck to make my weakness known. It was cleverly done.
Your right is to kill me here on the Council Rock, now.
Therefore, I ask, who comes to make an end of the Lone Wolf? For
it is my right, by the Law of the Jungle, that ye come one by
There was a long hush, for no single wolf cared to fight Akela
to the death. Then Shere Khan roared: "Bah! What have we to do
with this toothless fool? He is doomed to die! It is the man-cub
who has lived too long. Free People, he was my meat from the
first. Give him to me. I am weary of this man-wolf folly. He
has troubled the jungle for ten seasons. Give me the man-cub, or
I will hunt here always, and not give you one bone. He is a man,
a man's child, and from the marrow of my bones I hate him!"
Then more than half the Pack yelled: "A man! A man! What has
a man to do with us? Let him go to his own place."
"And turn all the people of the villages against us?" clamored
Shere Khan. "No, give him to me. He is a man, and none of us can
look him between the eyes."
Akela lifted his head again and said, "He has eaten our food.
He has slept with us. He has driven game for us. He has broken
no word of the Law of the Jungle."
"Also, I paid for him with a bull when he was accepted. The
worth of a bull is little, but Bagheera's honor is something that
he will perhaps fight for," said Bagheera in his gentlest voice.
"A bull paid ten years ago!" the Pack snarled. "What
care for bones ten years old?"
"Or for a pledge?" said Bagheera, his white teeth bared under
his lip. "Well are ye called the Free People!"
"No man's cub can run with the people of the jungle," howled
Shere Khan. "Give him to me!"
"He is our brother in all but blood," Akela went on, "and
would kill him here! In truth, I have lived too long. Some of ye
are eaters of cattle, and of others I have heard that, under Shere
Khan's teaching, ye go by dark night and snatch children from the
villager's doorstep. Therefore I know ye to be cowards, and it is
to cowards I speak. It is certain that I must die, and my life is
of no worth, or I would offer that in the man-cub's place. But
for the sake of the Honor of the Pack,--a little matter that by
being without a leader ye have forgotten,--I promise that if ye
let the man-cub go to his own place, I will not, when my time
comes to die, bare one tooth against ye. I will die without
fighting. That will at least save the Pack three lives. More I
cannot do; but if ye will, I can save ye the shame that comes of
killing a brother against whom there is no fault--a brother
spoken for and bought into the Pack according to the Law of the
"He is a man--a man--a man!" snarled the Pack. And most
of the wolves began to gather round Shere Khan, whose tail was
beginning to switch.
"Now the business is in thy hands," said Bagheera to Mowgli.
"We can do no more except fight."
Mowgli stood upright--the fire pot in his hands. Then he
stretched out his arms, and yawned in the face of the Council; but
he was furious with rage and sorrow, for, wolflike, the wolves had
never told him how they hated him. "Listen you!" he cried.
"There is no need for this dog's jabber. Ye have told me so often
tonight that I am a man (and indeed I would have been a wolf with
you to my life's end) that I feel your words are true. So I do
not call ye my brothers any more, but sag [dogs], as a man should.
What ye will do, and what ye will not do, is not yours to say.
That matter is with me; and that we may see the matter more
plainly, I, the man, have brought here a little of the Red Flower
which ye, dogs, fear."
He flung the fire pot on the ground, and some of the red coals
lit a tuft of dried moss that flared up, as all the Council drew
back in terror before the leaping flames.
Mowgli thrust his dead branch into the fire till the twigs lit
and crackled, and whirled it above his head among the cowering
"Thou art the master," said Bagheera in an undertone. "Save
Akela from the death. He was ever thy friend."
Akela, the grim old wolf who had never asked for mercy in his
life, gave one piteous look at Mowgli as the boy stood all naked,
his long black hair tossing over his shoulders in the light of the
blazing branch that made the shadows jump and quiver.
"Good!" said Mowgli, staring round slowly. "I see that
dogs. I go from you to my own people--if they be my own people.
The jungle is shut to me, and I must forget your talk and your
companionship. But I will be more merciful than ye are. Because
I was all but your brother in blood, I promise that when I am a
man among men I will not betray ye to men as ye have betrayed me."
He kicked the fire with his foot, and the sparks flew up. "There
shall be no war between any of us in the Pack. But here is a debt
to pay before I go." He strode forward to where Shere Khan sat
blinking stupidly at the flames, and caught him by the tuft on his
chin. Bagheera followed in case of accidents. "Up, dog!" Mowgli
cried. "Up, when a man speaks, or I will set that coat ablaze!"
Shere Khan's ears lay flat back on his head, and he shut his
eyes, for the blazing branch was very near.
"This cattle-killer said he would kill me in the Council
because he had not killed me when I was a cub. Thus and thus,
then, do we beat dogs when we are men. Stir a whisker, Lungri,
and I ram the Red Flower down thy gullet!" He beat Shere Khan
over the head with the branch, and the tiger whimpered and whined
in an agony of fear.
"Pah! Singed jungle cat--go now! But remember when next I
come to the Council Rock, as a man should come, it will be with
Shere Khan's hide on my head. For the rest, Akela goes free to
live as he pleases. Ye will not kill him, because that is not my
will. Nor do I think that ye will sit here any longer, lolling
out your tongues as though ye were somebodies, instead of dogs
whom I drive out--thus! Go!" The fire was burning furiously at
the end of the branch, and Mowgli struck right and left round the
circle, and the wolves ran howling with the sparks burning their
fur. At last there were only Akela, Bagheera, and perhaps ten
wolves that had taken Mowgli's part. Then something began to hurt
Mowgli inside him, as he had never been hurt in his life before,
and he caught his breath and sobbed, and the tears ran down his
"What is it? What is it?" he said. "I do not wish to
the jungle, and I do not know what this is. Am I dying,
"No, Little Brother. That is only tears such as men use,"
said Bagheera. "Now I know thou art a man, and a man's cub no
longer. The jungle is shut indeed to thee henceforward. Let them
fall, Mowgli. They are only tears." So Mowgli sat and cried as
though his heart would break; and he had never cried in all his
"Now," he said, "I will go to men. But first I must say
farewell to my mother." And he went to the cave where she lived
with Father Wolf, and he cried on her coat, while the four cubs
"Ye will not forget me?" said Mowgli.
"Never while we can follow a trail," said the cubs. "Come
the foot of the hill when thou art a man, and we will talk to
thee; and we will come into the croplands to play with thee by
"Come soon!" said Father Wolf. "Oh, wise little frog,
again soon; for we be old, thy mother and I."
"Come soon," said Mother Wolf, "little naked son of mine.
For, listen, child of man, I loved thee more than ever I loved my
"I will surely come," said Mowgli. "And when I come it
be to lay out Shere Khan's hide upon the Council Rock. Do not
forget me! Tell them in the jungle never to forget me!"
The dawn was beginning to break when Mowgli went down the
hillside alone, to meet those mysterious things that are called
Hunting-Song of the Seeonee Pack
As the dawn was breaking the Sambhur belled
Once, twice and again!
And a doe leaped up, and a doe leaped up
From the pond in the wood where the wild deer sup.
This I, scouting alone, beheld,
Once, twice and again!
As the dawn was breaking the Sambhur belled
Once, twice and again!
And a wolf stole back, and a wolf stole back
To carry the word to the waiting pack,
And we sought and we found and we bayed on his track
Once, twice and again!
As the dawn was breaking the Wolf Pack yelled
Once, twice and again!
Feet in the jungle that leave no mark!
Eyes that can see in the dark--the dark!
Tongue--give tongue to it! Hark! O hark!
Once, twice and again!
His spots are the joy of the Leopard: his horns are the
Be clean, for the strength of the hunter is known by the
gloss of his hide.
If ye find that the Bullock can toss you, or the heavy-browed
Sambhur can gore;
Ye need not stop work to inform us: we knew it ten seasons
Oppress not the cubs of the stranger, but hail them as Sister
For though they are little and fubsy, it may be the Bear is
"There is none like to me!" says the Cub in the pride of his
But the jungle is large and the Cub he is small. Let him
think and be still.
Maxims of Baloo
All that is told here happened some time before Mowgli was turned
out of the Seeonee Wolf Pack, or revenged himself on Shere Khan
the tiger. It was in the days when Baloo was teaching him the Law
of the Jungle. The big, serious, old brown bear was delighted to
have so quick a pupil, for the young wolves will only learn as
much of the Law of the Jungle as applies to their own pack and
tribe, and run away as soon as they can repeat the Hunting Verse
--"Feet that make no noise; eyes that can see in the dark; ears
that can hear the winds in their lairs, and sharp white teeth, all
these things are the marks of our brothers except Tabaqui the
Jackal and the Hyaena whom we hate." But Mowgli, as a man-cub,
had to learn a great deal more than this. Sometimes Bagheera the
Black Panther would come lounging through the jungle to see how
his pet was getting on, and would purr with his head against a
tree while Mowgli recited the day's lesson to Baloo. The boy
could climb almost as well as he could swim, and swim almost as
well as he could run. So Baloo, the Teacher of the Law, taught
him the Wood and Water Laws: how to tell a rotten branch from a
sound one; how to speak politely to the wild bees when he came
upon a hive of them fifty feet above ground; what to say to Mang
the Bat when he disturbed him in the branches at midday; and how
to warn the water-snakes in the pools before he splashed down
among them. None of the Jungle People like being disturbed, and
all are very ready to fly at an intruder. Then, too, Mowgli was
taught the Strangers' Hunting Call, which must be repeated aloud
till it is answered, whenever one of the Jungle-People hunts
outside his own grounds. It means, translated, "Give me leave to
hunt here because I am hungry." And the answer is, "Hunt then
food, but not for pleasure."
All this will show you how much Mowgli had to learn by heart,
and he grew very tired of saying the same thing over a hundred
times. But, as Baloo said to Bagheera, one day when Mowgli had
been cuffed and run off in a temper, "A man's cub is a man's cub,
and he must learn all the Law of the Jungle."
"But think how small he is," said the Black Panther, who would
have spoiled Mowgli if he had had his own way. "How can his
little head carry all thy long talk?"
"Is there anything in the jungle too little to be killed? No.
That is why I teach him these things, and that is why I hit him,
very softly, when he forgets."
"Softly! What dost thou know of softness, old Iron-feet?"
Bagheera grunted. "His face is all bruised today by thy--
"Better he should be bruised from head to foot by me who love
him than that he should come to harm through ignorance," Baloo
answered very earnestly. "I am now teaching him the Master Words
of the Jungle that shall protect him with the birds and the Snake
People, and all that hunt on four feet, except his own pack. He
can now claim protection, if he will only remember the words, from
all in the jungle. Is not that worth a little beating?"
"Well, look to it then that thou dost not kill the man-cub.
He is no tree trunk to sharpen thy blunt claws upon. But what are
those Master Words? I am more likely to give help than to ask it"
--Bagheera stretched out one paw and admired the steel-blue,
ripping-chisel talons at the end of it--"still I should like to
"I will call Mowgli and he shall say them--if he will.
Come, Little Brother!"
"My head is ringing like a bee tree," said a sullen little
voice over their heads, and Mowgli slid down a tree trunk very
angry and indignant, adding as he reached the ground: "I come for
Bagheera and not for thee, fat old Baloo!"
"That is all one to me," said Baloo, though he was hurt and
grieved. "Tell Bagheera, then, the Master Words of the Jungle
that I have taught thee this day."
"Master Words for which people?" said Mowgli, delighted to
show off. "The jungle has many tongues. I know them all."
"A little thou knowest, but not much. See, O Bagheera, they
never thank their teacher. Not one small wolfling has ever come
back to thank old Baloo for his teachings. Say the word for the
Hunting-People, then--great scholar."
"We be of one blood, ye and I," said Mowgli, giving the words
the Bear accent which all the Hunting People use.
"Good. Now for the birds."
Mowgli repeated, with the Kite's whistle at the end of the
"Now for the Snake-People," said Bagheera.
The answer was a perfectly indescribable hiss, and Mowgli
kicked up his feet behind, clapped his hands together to applaud
himself, and jumped on to Bagheera's back, where he sat sideways,
drumming with his heels on the glossy skin and making the worst
faces he could think of at Baloo.
"There--there! That was worth a little bruise," said the
brown bear tenderly. "Some day thou wilt remember me." Then he
turned aside to tell Bagheera how he had begged the Master Words
from Hathi the Wild Elephant, who knows all about these things,
and how Hathi had taken Mowgli down to a pool to get the Snake
Word from a water-snake, because Baloo could not pronounce it, and
how Mowgli was now reasonably safe against all accidents in the
jungle, because neither snake, bird, nor beast would hurt him.
"No one then is to be feared," Baloo wound up, patting his
furry stomach with pride.
"Except his own tribe," said Bagheera, under his breath; and
then aloud to Mowgli, "Have a care for my ribs, Little Brother!
What is all this dancing up and down?"
Mowgli had been trying to make himself heard by pulling at
Bagheera's shoulder fur and kicking hard. When the two listened
to him he was shouting at the top of his voice, "And so I shall
have a tribe of my own, and lead them through the branches all day
"What is this new folly, little dreamer of dreams?" said
"Yes, and throw branches and dirt at old Baloo," Mowgli went
on. "They have promised me this. Ah!"
"Whoof!" Baloo's big paw scooped Mowgli off Bagheera's back,
and as the boy lay between the big fore-paws he could see the Bear
"Mowgli," said Baloo, "thou hast been talking with the
Bandar-log--the Monkey People."
Mowgli looked at Bagheera to see if the Panther was angry too,
and Bagheera's eyes were as hard as jade stones.
"Thou hast been with the Monkey People--the gray apes--the
people without a law--the eaters of everything. That is great
"When Baloo hurt my head," said Mowgli (he was still on his
back), "I went away, and the gray apes came down from the trees
and had pity on me. No one else cared." He snuffled a little.
"The pity of the Monkey People!" Baloo snorted. "The
stillness of the mountain stream! The cool of the summer sun!
And then, man-cub?"
"And then, and then, they gave me nuts and pleasant things to
eat, and they--they carried me in their arms up to the top of
the trees and said I was their blood brother except that I had no
tail, and should be their leader some day."
"They have no leader," said Bagheera. "They lie. They
"They were very kind and bade me come again. Why have I never
been taken among the Monkey People? They stand on their feet as I
do. They do not hit me with their hard paws. They play all day.
Let me get up! Bad Baloo, let me up! I will play with them
"Listen, man-cub," said the Bear, and his voice rumbled like
thunder on a hot night. "I have taught thee all the Law of the
Jungle for all the peoples of the jungle--except the Monkey-Folk
who live in the trees. They have no law. They are outcasts.
They have no speech of their own, but use the stolen words which
they overhear when they listen, and peep, and wait up above in
the branches. Their way is not our way. They are without
leaders. They have no remembrance. They boast and chatter and
pretend that they are a great people about to do great affairs in
the jungle, but the falling of a nut turns their minds to laughter
and all is forgotten. We of the jungle have no dealings with
them. We do not drink where the monkeys drink; we do not go where
the monkeys go; we do not hunt where they hunt; we do not die
where they die. Hast thou ever heard me speak of the Bandar-log
"No," said Mowgli in a whisper, for the forest was very still
now Baloo had finished.
"The Jungle-People put them out of their mouths and out of
their minds. They are very many, evil, dirty, shameless, and they
desire, if they have any fixed desire, to be noticed by the Jungle
People. But we do not notice them even when they throw nuts and
filth on our heads."
He had hardly spoken when a shower of nuts and twigs spattered
down through the branches; and they could hear coughings and
howlings and angry jumpings high up in the air among the thin
"The Monkey-People are forbidden," said Baloo, "forbidden
the Jungle-People. Remember."
"Forbidden," said Bagheera, "but I still think Baloo
have warned thee against them."
"I--I? How was I to guess he would play with such dirt.
The Monkey People! Faugh!"
A fresh shower came down on their heads and the two trotted
away, taking Mowgli with them. What Baloo had said about the
monkeys was perfectly true. They belonged to the tree-tops, and as
beasts very seldom look up, there was no occasion for the monkeys
and the Jungle-People to cross each other's path. But whenever
they found a sick wolf, or a wounded tiger, or bear, the monkeys
would torment him, and would throw sticks and nuts at any beast
for fun and in the hope of being noticed. Then they would howl
and shriek senseless songs, and invite the Jungle-People to climb
up their trees and fight them, or would start furious battles over
nothing among themselves, and leave the dead monkeys where the
Jungle-People could see them. They were always just going to have
a leader, and laws and customs of their own, but they never did,
because their memories would not hold over from day to day, and so
they compromised things by making up a saying, "What the
Bandar-log think now the jungle will think later," and that
comforted them a great deal. None of the beasts could reach them,
but on the other hand none of the beasts would notice them, and
that was why they were so pleased when Mowgli came to play with
them, and they heard how angry Baloo was.
They never meant to do any more--the Bandar-log never mean
anything at all; but one of them invented what seemed to him a
brilliant idea, and he told all the others that Mowgli would be a
useful person to keep in the tribe, because he could weave sticks
together for protection from the wind; so, if they caught him,
they could make him teach them. Of course Mowgli, as a
woodcutter's child, inherited all sorts of instincts, and used to
make little huts of fallen branches without thinking how he came
to do it. The Monkey-People, watching in the trees, considered
his play most wonderful. This time, they said, they were really
going to have a leader and become the wisest people in the jungle
--so wise that everyone else would notice and envy them.
Therefore they followed Baloo and Bagheera and Mowgli through the
jungle very quietly till it was time for the midday nap, and
Mowgli, who was very much ashamed of himself, slept between the
Panther and the Bear, resolving to have no more to do with the
The next thing he remembered was feeling hands on his legs and
arms--hard, strong, little hands--and then a swash of branches
in his face, and then he was staring down through the swaying
boughs as Baloo woke the jungle with his deep cries and Bagheera
bounded up the trunk with every tooth bared. The Bandar-log
howled with triumph and scuffled away to the upper branches where
Bagheera dared not follow, shouting: "He has noticed us! Bagheera
has noticed us. All the Jungle-People admire us for our skill and
our cunning." Then they began their flight; and the flight of the
Monkey-People through tree-land is one of the things nobody can
describe. They have their regular roads and crossroads, up hills
and down hills, all laid out from fifty to seventy or a hundred
feet above ground, and by these they can travel even at night if
necessary. Two of the strongest monkeys caught Mowgli under the
arms and swung off with him through the treetops, twenty feet at a
bound. Had they been alone they could have gone twice as fast,
but the boy's weight held them back. Sick and giddy as Mowgli was
he could not help enjoying the wild rush, though the glimpses of
earth far down below frightened him, and the terrible check and
jerk at the end of the swing over nothing but empty air brought
his heart between his teeth. His escort would rush him up a tree
till he felt the thinnest topmost branches crackle and bend under
them, and then with a cough and a whoop would fling themselves
into the air outward and downward, and bring up, hanging by their
hands or their feet to the lower limbs of the next tree.
Sometimes he could see for miles and miles across the still green
jungle, as a man on the top of a mast can see for miles across the
sea, and then the branches and leaves would lash him across the
face, and he and his two guards would be almost down to earth
again. So, bounding and crashing and whooping and yelling, the
whole tribe of Bandar-log swept along the tree-roads with Mowgli
For a time he was afraid of being dropped. Then he grew angry
but knew better than to struggle, and then he began to think. The
first thing was to send back word to Baloo and Bagheera, for, at
the pace the monkeys were going, he knew his friends would be left
far behind. It was useless to look down, for he could only see
the topsides of the branches, so he stared upward and saw, far
away in the blue, Rann the Kite balancing and wheeling as he kept
watch over the jungle waiting for things to die. Rann saw that
the monkeys were carrying something, and dropped a few hundred
yards to find out whether their load was good to eat. He whistled
with surprise when he saw Mowgli being dragged up to a treetop and
heard him give the Kite call for--"We be of one blood, thou and
I." The waves of the branches closed over the boy, but Chil
balanced away to the next tree in time to see the little brown
face come up again. "Mark my trail!" Mowgli shouted. "Tell
Baloo of the Seeonee Pack and Bagheera of the Council Rock."
"In whose name, Brother?" Rann had never seen Mowgli before,
though of course he had heard of him.
"Mowgli, the Frog. Man-cub they call me! Mark my tra-il!"
The last words were shrieked as he was being swung through the
air, but Rann nodded and rose up till he looked no bigger than a
speck of dust, and there he hung, watching with his telescope eyes
the swaying of the treetops as Mowgli's escort whirled along.
"They never go far," he said with a chuckle. "They never
what they set out to do. Always pecking at new things are the
Bandar-log. This time, if I have any eye-sight, they have pecked
down trouble for themselves, for Baloo is no fledgling and
Bagheera can, as I know, kill more than goats."
So he rocked on his wings, his feet gathered up under him, and
Meantime, Baloo and Bagheera were furious with rage and grief.
Bagheera climbed as he had never climbed before, but the thin
branches broke beneath his weight, and he slipped down, his claws
full of bark.
"Why didst thou not warn the man-cub?" he roared to poor
Baloo, who had set off at a clumsy trot in the hope of overtaking
the monkeys. "What was the use of half slaying him with blows if
thou didst not warn him?"
"Haste! O haste! We--we may catch them yet!" Baloo
"At that speed! It would not tire a wounded cow. Teacher of
the Law--cub-beater--a mile of that rolling to and fro would
burst thee open. Sit still and think! Make a plan. This is no
time for chasing. They may drop him if we follow too close."
"Arrula! Whoo! They may have dropped him already, being
tired of carrying him. Who can trust the Bandar-log? Put dead
bats on my head! Give me black bones to eat! Roll me into the
hives of the wild bees that I may be stung to death, and bury me
with the Hyaena, for I am most miserable of bears! Arulala!
Wahooa! O Mowgli, Mowgli! Why did I not warn thee against the
Monkey-Folk instead of breaking thy head? Now perhaps I may have
knocked the day's lesson out of his mind, and he will be alone in
the jungle without the Master Words."
Baloo clasped his paws over his ears and rolled to and fro
"At least he gave me all the Words correctly a little time
ago," said Bagheera impatiently. "Baloo, thou hast neither memory
nor respect. What would the jungle think if I, the Black Panther,
curled myself up like Ikki the Porcupine, and howled?"
"What do I care what the jungle thinks? He may be dead by
"Unless and until they drop him from the branches in sport, or
kill him out of idleness, I have no fear for the man-cub. He is
wise and well taught, and above all he has the eyes that make the
Jungle-People afraid. But (and it is a great evil) he is in the
power of the Bandar-log, and they, because they live in trees,
have no fear of any of our people." Bagheera licked one forepaw
"Fool that I am! Oh, fat, brown, root-digging fool that I
am," said Baloo, uncoiling himself with a jerk, "it is true what
Hathi the Wild Elephant says: `To each his own fear'; and they,
the Bandar-log, fear Kaa the Rock Snake. He can climb as well as
they can. He steals the young monkeys in the night. The whisper
of his name makes their wicked tails cold. Let us go to Kaa."
"What will he do for us? He is not of our tribe, being
footless--and with most evil eyes," said Bagheera.
"He is very old and very cunning. Above all, he is always
hungry," said Baloo hopefully. "Promise him many goats."
"He sleeps for a full month after he has once eaten. He may
be asleep now, and even were he awake what if he would rather kill
his own goats?" Bagheera, who did not know much about Kaa, was
"Then in that case, thou and I together, old hunter, might
make him see reason." Here Baloo rubbed his faded brown shoulder
against the Panther, and they went off to look for Kaa the Rock
They found him stretched out on a warm ledge in the afternoon
sun, admiring his beautiful new coat, for he had been in
retirement for the last ten days changing his skin, and now he was
very splendid--darting his big blunt-nosed head along the
ground, and twisting the thirty feet of his body into fantastic
knots and curves, and licking his lips as he thought of his dinner
"He has not eaten," said Baloo, with a grunt of relief, as
soon as he saw the beautifully mottled brown and yellow jacket.
"Be careful, Bagheera! He is always a little blind after he has
changed his skin, and very quick to strike."
Kaa was not a poison snake--in fact he rather despised the
poison snakes as cowards--but his strength lay in his hug, and
when he had once lapped his huge coils round anybody there was no
more to be said. "Good hunting!" cried Baloo, sitting up on his
haunches. Like all snakes of his breed Kaa was rather deaf, and
did not hear the call at first. Then he curled up ready for any
accident, his head lowered.
"Good hunting for us all," he answered. "Oho, Baloo,
dost thou do here? Good hunting, Bagheera. One of us at least
needs food. Is there any news of game afoot? A doe now, or even
a young buck? I am as empty as a dried well."
"We are hunting," said Baloo carelessly. He knew that you
must not hurry Kaa. He is too big.
"Give me permission to come with you," said Kaa. "A blow
or less is nothing to thee, Bagheera or Baloo, but I--I have to
wait and wait for days in a wood-path and climb half a night on
the mere chance of a young ape. Psshaw! The branches are not
what they were when I was young. Rotten twigs and dry boughs are
"Maybe thy great weight has something to do with the matter,"
"I am a fair length--a fair length," said Kaa with a little
pride. "But for all that, it is the fault of this new-grown
timber. I came very near to falling on my last hunt--very near
indeed--and the noise of my slipping, for my tail was not tight
wrapped around the tree, waked the Bandar-log, and they called me
most evil names."
"Footless, yellow earth-worm," said Bagheera under his
whiskers, as though he were trying to remember something.
"Sssss! Have they ever called me that?" said Kaa.
"Something of that kind it was that they shouted to us last
moon, but we never noticed them. They will say anything--even
that thou hast lost all thy teeth, and wilt not face anything
bigger than a kid, because (they are indeed shameless, these
Bandar-log)--because thou art afraid of the he-goat's horns,"
Bagheera went on sweetly.
Now a snake, especially a wary old python like Kaa, very
seldom shows that he is angry, but Baloo and Bagheera could see
the big swallowing muscles on either side of Kaa's throat ripple
"The Bandar-log have shifted their grounds," he said quietly.
"When I came up into the sun today I heard them whooping among the
"It--it is the Bandar-log that we follow now," said Baloo,
but the words stuck in his throat, for that was the first time in
his memory that one of the Jungle-People had owned to being
interested in the doings of the monkeys.
"Beyond doubt then it is no small thing that takes two such
hunters--leaders in their own jungle I am certain--on the
trail of the Bandar-log," Kaa replied courteously, as he swelled
"Indeed," Baloo began, "I am no more than the old and
sometimes very foolish Teacher of the Law to the Seeonee
wolf-cubs, and Bagheera here--"
"Is Bagheera," said the Black Panther, and his jaws shut with
a snap, for he did not believe in being humble. "The trouble is
this, Kaa. Those nut-stealers and pickers of palm leaves have
stolen away our man-cub of whom thou hast perhaps heard."
"I heard some news from Ikki (his quills make him
presumptuous) of a man-thing that was entered into a wolf pack,
but I did not believe. Ikki is full of stories half heard and
very badly told."
"But it is true. He is such a man-cub as never was," said
Baloo. "The best and wisest and boldest of man-cubs--my own
pupil, who shall make the name of Baloo famous through all the
jungles; and besides, I--we--love him, Kaa."
"Ts! Ts!" said Kaa, weaving his head to and fro. "I also
have known what love is. There are tales I could tell that--"
"That need a clear night when we are all well fed to praise
properly," said Bagheera quickly. "Our man-cub is in the hands
the Bandar-log now, and we know that of all the Jungle-People they
fear Kaa alone."
"They fear me alone. They have good reason," said Kaa.
"Chattering, foolish, vain--vain, foolish, and chattering, are
the monkeys. But a man-thing in their hands is in no good luck.
They grow tired of the nuts they pick, and throw them down. They
carry a branch half a day, meaning to do great things with it, and
then they snap it in two. That man-thing is not to be envied.
They called me also--`yellow fish' was it not?"
"Worm--worm--earth-worm," said Bagheera, "as well as
things which I cannot now say for shame."
"We must remind them to speak well of their master. Aaa-ssp!
We must help their wandering memories. Now, whither went they
with the cub?"
"The jungle alone knows. Toward the sunset, I believe," said
Baloo. "We had thought that thou wouldst know, Kaa."
"I? How? I take them when they come in my way, but I do not
hunt the Bandar-log, or frogs--or green scum on a water-hole,
for that matter."
"Up, Up! Up, Up! Hillo! Illo! Illo, look up, Baloo of the
Seeonee Wolf Pack!"
Baloo looked up to see where the voice came from, and there
was Rann the Kite, sweeping down with the sun shining on the
upturned flanges of his wings. It was near Rann's bedtime, but he
had ranged all over the jungle looking for the Bear and had missed
him in the thick foliage.
"What is it?" said Baloo.
"I have seen Mowgli among the Bandar-log. He bade me tell
you. I watched. The Bandar-log have taken him beyond the river
to the monkey city--to the Cold Lairs. They may stay there for
a night, or ten nights, or an hour. I have told the bats to watch
through the dark time. That is my message. Good hunting, all you
"Full gorge and a deep sleep to you, Rann," cried Bagheera.
"I will remember thee in my next kill, and put aside the head for
thee alone, O best of kites!"
"It is nothing. It is nothing. The boy held the Master Word.
I could have done no less," and Rann circled up again to his
"He has not forgotten to use his tongue," said Baloo with
chuckle of pride. "To think of one so young remembering the
Master Word for the birds too while he was being pulled across
"It was most firmly driven into him," said Bagheera. "But
am proud of him, and now we must go to the Cold Lairs."
They all knew where that place was, but few of the Jungle
People ever went there, because what they called the Cold Lairs
was an old deserted city, lost and buried in the jungle, and
beasts seldom use a place that men have once used. The wild boar
will, but the hunting tribes do not. Besides, the monkeys lived
there as much as they could be said to live anywhere, and no
self-respecting animal would come within eyeshot of it except in
times of drought, when the half-ruined tanks and reservoirs held a
"It is half a night's journey--at full speed," said
Bagheera, and Baloo looked very serious. "I will go as fast as I
can," he said anxiously.
"We dare not wait for thee. Follow, Baloo. We must go on the
quick-foot--Kaa and I."
"Feet or no feet, I can keep abreast of all thy four," said
Kaa shortly. Baloo made one effort to hurry, but had to sit down
panting, and so they left him to come on later, while Bagheera
hurried forward, at the quick panther-canter. Kaa said nothing,
but, strive as Bagheera might, the huge Rock-python held level
with him. When they came to a hill stream, Bagheera gained,
because he bounded across while Kaa swam, his head and two feet of
his neck clearing the water, but on level ground Kaa made up the
"By the Broken Lock that freed me," said Bagheera, when
twilight had fallen, "thou art no slow goer!"
"I am hungry," said Kaa. "Besides, they called me speckled
"Worm--earth-worm, and yellow to boot."
"All one. Let us go on," and Kaa seemed to pour himself along
the ground, finding the shortest road with his steady eyes, and
keeping to it.
In the Cold Lairs the Monkey-People were not thinking of
Mowgli's friends at all. They had brought the boy to the Lost
City, and were very much pleased with themselves for the time.
Mowgli had never seen an Indian city before, and though this was
almost a heap of ruins it seemed very wonderful and splendid.
Some king had built it long ago on a little hill. You could still
trace the stone causeways that led up to the ruined gates where
the last splinters of wood hung to the worn, rusted hinges. Trees
had grown into and out of the walls; the battlements were tumbled
down and decayed, and wild creepers hung out of the windows of the
towers on the walls in bushy hanging clumps.
A great roofless palace crowned the hill, and the marble of
the courtyards and the fountains was split, and stained with red
and green, and the very cobblestones in the courtyard where the
king's elephants used to live had been thrust up and apart by
grasses and young trees. From the palace you could see the rows
and rows of roofless houses that made up the city looking like
empty honeycombs filled with blackness; the shapeless block of
stone that had been an idol in the square where four roads met;
the pits and dimples at street corners where the public wells once
stood, and the shattered domes of temples with wild figs sprouting
on their sides. The monkeys called the place their city, and
pretended to despise the Jungle-People because they lived in the
forest. And yet they never knew what the buildings were made for
nor how to use them. They would sit in circles on the hall of the
king's council chamber, and scratch for fleas and pretend to be
men; or they would run in and out of the roofless houses and
collect pieces of plaster and old bricks in a corner, and forget
where they had hidden them, and fight and cry in scuffling crowds,
and then break off to play up and down the terraces of the king's
garden, where they would shake the rose trees and the oranges in
sport to see the fruit and flowers fall. They explored all the
passages and dark tunnels in the palace and the hundreds of little
dark rooms, but they never remembered what they had seen and what
they had not; and so drifted about in ones and twos or crowds
telling each other that they were doing as men did. They drank at
the tanks and made the water all muddy, and then they fought over
it, and then they would all rush together in mobs and shout:
"There is no one in the jungle so wise and good and clever and
strong and gentle as the Bandar-log." Then all would begin again
till they grew tired of the city and went back to the tree-tops,
hoping the Jungle-People would notice them.
Mowgli, who had been trained under the Law of the Jungle, did
not like or understand this kind of life. The monkeys dragged him
into the Cold Lairs late in the afternoon, and instead of going to
sleep, as Mowgli would have done after a long journey, they joined
hands and danced about and sang their foolish songs. One of the
monkeys made a speech and told his companions that Mowgli's
capture marked a new thing in the history of the Bandar-log, for
Mowgli was going to show them how to weave sticks and canes
together as a protection against rain and cold. Mowgli picked up
some creepers and began to work them in and out, and the monkeys
tried to imitate; but in a very few minutes they lost interest and
began to pull their friends' tails or jump up and down on all
"I wish to eat," said Mowgli. "I am a stranger in this
of the jungle. Bring me food, or give me leave to hunt here."
Twenty or thirty monkeys bounded away to bring him nuts and
wild pawpaws. But they fell to fighting on the road, and it was
too much trouble to go back with what was left of the fruit.
Mowgli was sore and angry as well as hungry, and he roamed through
the empty city giving the Strangers' Hunting Call from time to
time, but no one answered him, and Mowgli felt that he had reached
a very bad place indeed. "All that Baloo has said about the
Bandar-log is true," he thought to himself. "They have no Law,
Hunting Call, and no leaders--nothing but foolish words and
little picking thievish hands. So if I am starved or killed here,
it will be all my own fault. But I must try to return to my own
jungle. Baloo will surely beat me, but that is better than
chasing silly rose leaves with the Bandar-log."
No sooner had he walked to the city wall than the monkeys
pulled him back, telling him that he did not know how happy he
was, and pinching him to make him grateful. He set his teeth and
said nothing, but went with the shouting monkeys to a terrace
above the red sandstone reservoirs that were half-full of rain
water. There was a ruined summer-house of white marble in the
center of the terrace, built for queens dead a hundred years ago.
The domed roof had half fallen in and blocked up the underground
passage from the palace by which the queens used to enter. But
the walls were made of screens of marble tracery--beautiful
milk-white fretwork, set with agates and cornelians and jasper and
lapis lazuli, and as the moon came up behind the hill it shone
through the open work, casting shadows on the ground like black
velvet embroidery. Sore, sleepy, and hungry as he was, Mowgli
could not help laughing when the Bandar-log began, twenty at a
time, to tell him how great and wise and strong and gentle they
were, and how foolish he was to wish to leave them. "We are
great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful
people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true,"
they shouted. "Now as you are a new listener and can carry our
words back to the Jungle-People so that they may notice us in
future, we will tell you all about our most excellent selves."
Mowgli made no objection, and the monkeys gathered by hundreds and
hundreds on the terrace to listen to their own speakers singing
the praises of the Bandar-log, and whenever a speaker stopped for
want of breath they would all shout together: "This is true; we
all say so." Mowgli nodded and blinked, and said "Yes" when
asked him a question, and his head spun with the noise. "Tabaqui
the Jackal must have bitten all these people," he said to himself,
"and now they have madness. Certainly this is dewanee, the
madness. Do they never go to sleep? Now there is a cloud coming
to cover that moon. If it were only a big enough cloud I might
try to run away in the darkness. But I am tired."
That same cloud was being watched by two good friends in the
ruined ditch below the city wall, for Bagheera and Kaa, knowing
well how dangerous the Monkey-People were in large numbers, did
not wish to run any risks. The monkeys never fight unless they
are a hundred to one, and few in the jungle care for those odds.
"I will go to the west wall," Kaa whispered, "and come
swiftly with the slope of the ground in my favor. They will not
throw themselves upon my back in their hundreds, but--"
"I know it," said Bagheera. "Would that Baloo were here,
we must do what we can. When that cloud covers the moon I shall
go to the terrace. They hold some sort of council there over the
"Good hunting," said Kaa grimly, and glided away to the west
wall. That happened to be the least ruined of any, and the big
snake was delayed awhile before he could find a way up the stones.
The cloud hid the moon, and as Mowgli wondered what would come
next he heard Bagheera's light feet on the terrace. The Black
Panther had raced up the slope almost without a sound and was
striking--he knew better than to waste time in biting--right
and left among the monkeys, who were seated round Mowgli in
circles fifty and sixty deep. There was a howl of fright and
rage, and then as Bagheera tripped on the rolling kicking bodies
beneath him, a monkey shouted: "There is only one here! Kill him!
Kill." A scuffling mass of monkeys, biting, scratching, tearing,
and pulling, closed over Bagheera, while five or six laid hold of
Mowgli, dragged him up the wall of the summerhouse and pushed him
through the hole of the broken dome. A man-trained boy would have
been badly bruised, for the fall was a good fifteen feet, but
Mowgli fell as Baloo had taught him to fall, and landed on his
"Stay there," shouted the monkeys, "till we have killed
friends, and later we will play with thee--if the Poison-People
leave thee alive."
"We be of one blood, ye and I," said Mowgli, quickly giving
the Snake's Call. He could hear rustling and hissing in the
rubbish all round him and gave the Call a second time, to make
"Even ssso! Down hoods all!" said half a dozen low voices
(every ruin in India becomes sooner or later a dwelling place of
snakes, and the old summerhouse was alive with cobras). "Stand
still, Little Brother, for thy feet may do us harm."
Mowgli stood as quietly as he could, peering through the open
work and listening to the furious din of the fight round the Black
Panther--the yells and chatterings and scufflings, and
Bagheera's deep, hoarse cough as he backed and bucked and twisted
and plunged under the heaps of his enemies. For the first time
since he was born, Bagheera was fighting for his life.
"Baloo must be at hand; Bagheera would not have come alone,"
Mowgli thought. And then he called aloud: "To the tank, Bagheera.
Roll to the water tanks. Roll and plunge! Get to the water!"
Bagheera heard, and the cry that told him Mowgli was safe gave
him new courage. He worked his way desperately, inch by inch,
straight for the reservoirs, halting in silence. Then from the
ruined wall nearest the jungle rose up the rumbling war-shout of
Baloo. The old Bear had done his best, but he could not come
before. "Bagheera," he shouted, "I am here. I climb! I haste!
Ahuwora! The stones slip under my feet! Wait my coming, O most
infamous Bandar-log!" He panted up the terrace only to disappear
to the head in a wave of monkeys, but he threw himself squarely on
his haunches, and, spreading out his forepaws, hugged as many as
he could hold, and then began to hit with a regular bat-bat-bat,
like the flipping strokes of a paddle wheel. A crash and a splash
told Mowgli that Bagheera had fought his way to the tank where the
monkeys could not follow. The Panther lay gasping for breath, his
head just out of the water, while the monkeys stood three deep on
the red steps, dancing up and down with rage, ready to spring upon
him from all sides if he came out to help Baloo. It was then that
Bagheera lifted up his dripping chin, and in despair gave the
Snake's Call for protection--"We be of one blood, ye and I"--
for he believed that Kaa had turned tail at the last minute. Even
Baloo, half smothered under the monkeys on the edge of the
terrace, could not help chuckling as he heard the Black Panther
asking for help.
Kaa had only just worked his way over the west wall, landing
with a wrench that dislodged a coping stone into the ditch. He
had no intention of losing any advantage of the ground, and coiled
and uncoiled himself once or twice, to be sure that every foot of
his long body was in working order. All that while the fight with
Baloo went on, and the monkeys yelled in the tank round Bagheera,
and Mang the Bat, flying to and fro, carried the news of the great
battle over the jungle, till even Hathi the Wild Elephant
trumpeted, and, far away, scattered bands of the Monkey-Folk woke
and came leaping along the tree-roads to help their comrades in
the Cold Lairs, and the noise of the fight roused all the day
birds for miles round. Then Kaa came straight, quickly, and
anxious to kill. The fighting strength of a python is in the
driving blow of his head backed by all the strength and weight of
his body. If you can imagine a lance, or a battering ram, or a
hammer weighing nearly half a ton driven by a cool, quiet mind
living in the handle of it, you can roughly imagine what Kaa was
like when he fought. A python four or five feet long can knock a
man down if he hits him fairly in the chest, and Kaa was thirty
feet long, as you know. His first stroke was delivered into the
heart of the crowd round Baloo. It was sent home with shut mouth
in silence, and there was no need of a second. The monkeys
scattered with cries of--"Kaa! It is Kaa! Run! Run!"
Generations of monkeys had been scared into good behavior by
the stories their elders told them of Kaa, the night thief, who
could slip along the branches as quietly as moss grows, and steal
away the strongest monkey that ever lived; of old Kaa, who could
make himself look so like a dead branch or a rotten stump that the
wisest were deceived, till the branch caught them. Kaa was
everything that the monkeys feared in the jungle, for none of them
knew the limits of his power, none of them could look him in the
face, and none had ever come alive out of his hug. And so they
ran, stammering with terror, to the walls and the roofs of the
houses, and Baloo drew a deep breath of relief. His fur was much
thicker than Bagheera's, but he had suffered sorely in the fight.
Then Kaa opened his mouth for the first time and spoke one long
hissing word, and the far-away monkeys, hurrying to the defense of
the Cold Lairs, stayed where they were, cowering, till the loaded
branches bent and crackled under them. The monkeys on the walls
and the empty houses stopped their cries, and in the stillness
that fell upon the city Mowgli heard Bagheera shaking his wet
sides as he came up from the tank. Then the clamor broke out
again. The monkeys leaped higher up the walls. They clung around
the necks of the big stone idols and shrieked as they skipped
along the battlements, while Mowgli, dancing in the summerhouse,
put his eye to the screenwork and hooted owl-fashion between his
front teeth, to show his derision and contempt.
"Get the man-cub out of that trap; I can do no more," Bagheera
gasped. "Let us take the man-cub and go. They may attack again."
"They will not move till I order them. Stay you sssso!" Kaa
hissed, and the city was silent once more. "I could not come
before, Brother, but I think I heard thee call"--this was to
"I--I may have cried out in the battle," Bagheera answered.
"Baloo, art thou hurt?
"I am not sure that they did not pull me into a hundred little
bearlings," said Baloo, gravely shaking one leg after the other.
"Wow! I am sore. Kaa, we owe thee, I think, our lives--Bagheera
"No matter. Where is the manling?"
"Here, in a trap. I cannot climb out," cried Mowgli. The
curve of the broken dome was above his head.
"Take him away. He dances like Mao the Peacock. He will
crush our young," said the cobras inside.
"Hah!" said Kaa with a chuckle, "he has friends everywhere,
this manling. Stand back, manling. And hide you, O Poison
People. I break down the wall."
Kaa looked carefully till he found a discolored crack in the
marble tracery showing a weak spot, made two or three light taps
with his head to get the distance, and then lifting up six feet of
his body clear of the ground, sent home half a dozen full-power
smashing blows, nose-first. The screen-work broke and fell away
in a cloud of dust and rubbish, and Mowgli leaped through the
opening and flung himself between Baloo and Bagheera--an arm
around each big neck.
"Art thou hurt?" said Baloo, hugging him softly.
"I am sore, hungry, and not a little bruised. But, oh, they
have handled ye grievously, my Brothers! Ye bleed."
"Others also," said Bagheera, licking his lips and looking
the monkey-dead on the terrace and round the tank.
"It is nothing, it is nothing, if thou art safe, oh, my pride
of all little frogs!" whimpered Baloo.
"Of that we shall judge later," said Bagheera, in a dry voice
that Mowgli did not at all like. "But here is Kaa to whom we owe
the battle and thou owest thy life. Thank him according to our
Mowgli turned and saw the great Python's head swaying a foot
above his own.
"So this is the manling," said Kaa. "Very soft is his
and he is not unlike the Bandar-log. Have a care, manling, that I
do not mistake thee for a monkey some twilight when I have newly
changed my coat."
"We be one blood, thou and I," Mowgli answered. "I take
life from thee tonight. My kill shall be thy kill if ever thou
art hungry, O Kaa."
"All thanks, Little Brother," said Kaa, though his eyes
twinkled. "And what may so bold a hunter kill? I ask that I may
follow when next he goes abroad."
"I kill nothing,--I am too little,--but I drive goats
toward such as can use them. When thou art empty come to me and
see if I speak the truth. I have some skill in these [he held out
his hands], and if ever thou art in a trap, I may pay the debt
which I owe to thee, to Bagheera, and to Baloo, here. Good
hunting to ye all, my masters."
"Well said," growled Baloo, for Mowgli had returned thanks
very prettily. The Python dropped his head lightly for a minute
on Mowgli's shoulder. "A brave heart and a courteous tongue,"
said he. "They shall carry thee far through the jungle, manling.
But now go hence quickly with thy friends. Go and sleep, for the
moon sets, and what follows it is not well that thou shouldst
The moon was sinking behind the hills and the lines of
trembling monkeys huddled together on the walls and battlements
looked like ragged shaky fringes of things. Baloo went down to
the tank for a drink and Bagheera began to put his fur in order,
as Kaa glided out into the center of the terrace and brought his
jaws together with a ringing snap that drew all the monkeys' eyes
"The moon sets," he said. "Is there yet light enough
From the walls came a moan like the wind in the tree-tops--
"We see, O Kaa."
"Good. Begins now the dance--the Dance of the Hunger of
Kaa. Sit still and watch."
He turned twice or thrice in a big circle, weaving his head
from right to left. Then he began making loops and figures of
eight with his body, and soft, oozy triangles that melted into
squares and five-sided figures, and coiled mounds, never resting,
never hurrying, and never stopping his low humming song. It grew
darker and darker, till at last the dragging, shifting coils
disappeared, but they could hear the rustle of the scales.
Baloo and Bagheera stood still as stone, growling in their
throats, their neck hair bristling, and Mowgli watched and
"Bandar-log," said the voice of Kaa at last, "can ye
or hand without my order? Speak!"
"Without thy order we cannot stir foot or hand, O Kaa!"
"Good! Come all one pace nearer to me."
The lines of the monkeys swayed forward helplessly, and Baloo
and Bagheera took one stiff step forward with them.
"Nearer!" hissed Kaa, and they all moved again.
Mowgli laid his hands on Baloo and Bagheera to get them away,
and the two great beasts started as though they had been waked
from a dream.
"Keep thy hand on my shoulder," Bagheera whispered. "Keep
there, or I must go back--must go back to Kaa. Aah!"
"It is only old Kaa making circles on the dust," said Mowgli.
"Let us go." And the three slipped off through a gap in the walls
to the jungle.
"Whoof!" said Baloo, when he stood under the still trees
again. "Never more will I make an ally of Kaa," and he shook
himself all over.
"He knows more than we," said Bagheera, trembling. "In
little time, had I stayed, I should have walked down his throat."
"Many will walk by that road before the moon rises again,"
said Baloo. "He will have good hunting--after his own fashion."
"But what was the meaning of it all?" said Mowgli, who did
know anything of a python's powers of fascination. "I saw no more
than a big snake making foolish circles till the dark came. And
his nose was all sore. Ho! Ho!"
"Mowgli," said Bagheera angrily, "his nose was sore on
account, as my ears and sides and paws, and Baloo's neck and
shoulders are bitten on thy account. Neither Baloo nor Bagheera
will be able to hunt with pleasure for many days."
"It is nothing," said Baloo; "we have the man-cub again."
"True, but he has cost us heavily in time which might have
been spent in good hunting, in wounds, in hair--I am half
plucked along my back--and last of all, in honor. For,
remember, Mowgli, I, who am the Black Panther, was forced to call
upon Kaa for protection, and Baloo and I were both made stupid as
little birds by the Hunger Dance. All this, man-cub, came of thy
playing with the Bandar-log."
"True, it is true," said Mowgli sorrowfully. "I am an
man-cub, and my stomach is sad in me."
"Mf! What says the Law of the Jungle, Baloo?"
Baloo did not wish to bring Mowgli into any more trouble, but
he could not tamper with the Law, so he mumbled: "Sorrow never
stays punishment. But remember, Bagheera, he is very little."
"I will remember. But he has done mischief, and blows must be
dealt now. Mowgli, hast thou anything to say?"
"Nothing. I did wrong. Baloo and thou are wounded. It is
Bagheera gave him half a dozen love-taps from a panther's
point of view (they would hardly have waked one of his own cubs),
but for a seven-year-old boy they amounted to as severe a beating
as you could wish to avoid. When it was all over Mowgli sneezed,
and picked himself up without a word.
"Now," said Bagheera, "jump on my back, Little Brother,
will go home."
One of the beauties of Jungle Law is that punishment settles
all scores. There is no nagging afterward.
Mowgli laid his head down on Bagheera's back and slept so
deeply that he never waked when he was put down in the home-cave.
Road-Song of the Bandar-Log
Here we go in a flung festoon,
Half-way up to the jealous moon!
Don't you envy our pranceful bands?
Don't you wish you had extra hands?
Wouldn't you like if your tails were--so--
Curved in the shape of a Cupid's bow?
Now you're angry, but--never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!
Here we sit in a branchy row,
Thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,
All complete, in a minute or two--
Something noble and wise and good,
Done by merely wishing we could.
We've forgotten, but--never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!
All the talk we ever have heard
Uttered by bat or beast or bird--
Hide or fin or scale or feather--
Jabber it quickly and all together!
Excellent! Wonderful! Once again!
Now we are talking just like men!
Let's pretend we are ... never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!
This is the way of the Monkey-kind.
Then join our leaping lines that scumfish through the pines,
That rocket by where, light and high, the wild grape swings.
By the rubbish in our wake, and the noble noise we make,
Be sure, be sure, we're going to do some splendid things!
What of the hunting, hunter bold?
Brother, the watch was long and cold.
What of the quarry ye went to kill?
Brother, he crops in the jungle still.
Where is the power that made your pride?
Brother, it ebbs from my flank and side.
Where is the haste that ye hurry by?
Brother, I go to my lair--to die.
Now we must go back to the first tale. When Mowgli left the
wolf's cave after the fight with the Pack at the Council Rock, he
went down to the plowed lands where the villagers lived, but he
would not stop there because it was too near to the jungle, and he
knew that he had made at least one bad enemy at the Council. So
he hurried on, keeping to the rough road that ran down the valley,
and followed it at a steady jog-trot for nearly twenty miles, till
he came to a country that he did not know. The valley opened out
into a great plain dotted over with rocks and cut up by ravines.
At one end stood a little village, and at the other the thick
jungle came down in a sweep to the grazing-grounds, and stopped
there as though it had been cut off with a hoe. All over the
plain, cattle and buffaloes were grazing, and when the little boys
in charge of the herds saw Mowgli they shouted and ran away, and
the yellow pariah dogs that hang about every Indian village
barked. Mowgli walked on, for he was feeling hungry, and when he
came to the village gate he saw the big thorn-bush that was drawn
up before the gate at twilight, pushed to one side.
"Umph!" he said, for he had come across more than one such
barricade in his night rambles after things to eat. "So men are
afraid of the People of the Jungle here also." He sat down by the
gate, and when a man came out he stood up, opened his mouth, and
pointed down it to show that he wanted food. The man stared, and
ran back up the one street of the village shouting for the priest,
who was a big, fat man dressed in white, with a red and yellow
mark on his forehead. The priest came to the gate, and with him
at least a hundred people, who stared and talked and shouted and
pointed at Mowgli.
"They have no manners, these Men Folk," said Mowgli to
himself. "Only the gray ape would behave as they do." So he
threw back his long hair and frowned at the crowd.
"What is there to be afraid of?" said the priest. "Look
the marks on his arms and legs. They are the bites of wolves. He
is but a wolf-child run away from the jungle."
Of course, in playing together, the cubs had often nipped
Mowgli harder than they intended, and there were white scars all
over his arms and legs. But he would have been the last person in
the world to call these bites, for he knew what real biting meant.
"Arre! Arre!" said two or three women together. "To be
by wolves, poor child! He is a handsome boy. He has eyes like
red fire. By my honor, Messua, he is not unlike thy boy that was
taken by the tiger."
"Let me look," said a woman with heavy copper rings on her
wrists and ankles, and she peered at Mowgli under the palm of her
hand. "Indeed he is not. He is thinner, but he has the very look
of my boy."
The priest was a clever man, and he knew that Messua was wife
to the richest villager in the place. So he looked up at the sky
for a minute and said solemnly: "What the jungle has taken the
jungle has restored. Take the boy into thy house, my sister, and
forget not to honor the priest who sees so far into the lives of
"By the Bull that bought me," said Mowgli to himself, "but
this talking is like another looking-over by the Pack! Well, if I
am a man, a man I must become."
The crowd parted as the woman beckoned Mowgli to her hut,
where there was a red lacquered bedstead, a great earthen grain
chest with funny raised patterns on it, half a dozen copper
cooking pots, an image of a Hindu god in a little alcove, and on
the wall a real looking glass, such as they sell at the country
She gave him a long drink of milk and some bread, and then she
laid her hand on his head and looked into his eyes; for she
thought perhaps that he might be her real son come back from the
jungle where the tiger had taken him. So she said, "Nathoo, O
Nathoo!" Mowgli did not show that he knew the name. "Dost thou
not remember the day when I gave thee thy new shoes?" She touched
his foot, and it was almost as hard as horn. "No," she said
sorrowfully, "those feet have never worn shoes, but thou art very
like my Nathoo, and thou shalt be my son."
Mowgli was uneasy, because he had never been under a roof
before. But as he looked at the thatch, he saw that he could tear
it out any time if he wanted to get away, and that the window had
no fastenings. "What is the good of a man," he said to himself
last, "if he does not understand man's talk? Now I am as silly
and dumb as a man would be with us in the jungle. I must speak
It was not for fun that he had learned while he was with the
wolves to imitate the challenge of bucks in the jungle and the
grunt of the little wild pig. So, as soon as Messua pronounced a
word Mowgli would imitate it almost perfectly, and before dark he
had learned the names of many things in the hut.
There was a difficulty at bedtime, because Mowgli would not
sleep under anything that looked so like a panther trap as that
hut, and when they shut the door he went through the window.
"Give him his will," said Messua's husband. "Remember he
never till now have slept on a bed. If he is indeed sent in the
place of our son he will not run away."
So Mowgli stretched himself in some long, clean grass at the
edge of the field, but before he had closed his eyes a soft gray
nose poked him under the chin.
"Phew!" said Gray Brother (he was the eldest of Mother Wolf's
cubs). "This is a poor reward for following thee twenty miles.
Thou smellest of wood smoke and cattle--altogether like a man
already. Wake, Little Brother; I bring news."
"Are all well in the jungle?" said Mowgli, hugging him.
"All except the wolves that were burned with the Red Flower.
Now, listen. Shere Khan has gone away to hunt far off till his
coat grows again, for he is badly singed. When he returns he
swears that he will lay thy bones in the Waingunga."
"There are two words to that. I also have made a little
promise. But news is always good. I am tired to-night,--very
tired with new things, Gray Brother,--but bring me the news
"Thou wilt not forget that thou art a wolf? Men will not make
thee forget?" said Gray Brother anxiously.
"Never. I will always remember that I love thee and all in
our cave. But also I will always remember that I have been cast
out of the Pack."
"And that thou mayest be cast out of another pack. Men are
only men, Little Brother, and their talk is like the talk of frogs
in a pond. When I come down here again, I will wait for thee in
the bamboos at the edge of the grazing-ground."
For three months after that night Mowgli hardly ever left the
village gate, he was so busy learning the ways and customs of men.
First he had to wear a cloth round him, which annoyed him
horribly; and then he had to learn about money, which he did not
in the least understand, and about plowing, of which he did not
see the use. Then the little children in the village made him
very angry. Luckily, the Law of the Jungle had taught him to keep
his temper, for in the jungle life and food depend on keeping your
temper; but when they made fun of him because he would not play
games or fly kites, or because he mispronounced some word, only
the knowledge that it was unsportsmanlike to kill little naked
cubs kept him from picking them up and breaking them in two.
He did not know his own strength in the least. In the jungle
he knew he was weak compared with the beasts, but in the village
people said that he was as strong as a bull.
And Mowgli had not the faintest idea of the difference that
caste makes between man and man. When the potter's donkey slipped
in the clay pit, Mowgli hauled it out by the tail, and helped to
stack the pots for their journey to the market at Khanhiwara.
That was very shocking, too, for the potter is a low-caste man,
and his donkey is worse. When the priest scolded him, Mowgli
threatened to put him on the donkey too, and the priest told
Messua's husband that Mowgli had better be set to work as soon as
possible; and the village head-man told Mowgli that he would have
to go out with the buffaloes next day, and herd them while they
grazed. No one was more pleased than Mowgli; and that night,
because he had been appointed a servant of the village, as it
were, he went off to a circle that met every evening on a masonry
platform under a great fig-tree. It was the village club, and the
head-man and the watchman and the barber, who knew all the gossip
of the village, and old Buldeo, the village hunter, who had a
Tower musket, met and smoked. The monkeys sat and talked in the
upper branches, and there was a hole under the platform where a
cobra lived, and he had his little platter of milk every night
because he was sacred; and the old men sat around the tree and
talked, and pulled at the big huqas (the water-pipes) till far
into the night. They told wonderful tales of gods and men and
ghosts; and Buldeo told even more wonderful ones of the ways of
beasts in the jungle, till the eyes of the children sitting
outside the circle bulged out of their heads. Most of the tales
were about animals, for the jungle was always at their door. The
deer and the wild pig grubbed up their crops, and now and again
the tiger carried off a man at twilight, within sight of the
Mowgli, who naturally knew something about what they were
talking of, had to cover his face not to show that he was
laughing, while Buldeo, the Tower musket across his knees, climbed
on from one wonderful story to another, and Mowgli's shoulders
Buldeo was explaining how the tiger that had carried away
Messua's son was a ghost-tiger, and his body was inhabited by the
ghost of a wicked, old money-lender, who had died some years ago.
"And I know that this is true," he said, "because Purun Dass
always limped from the blow that he got in a riot when his account
books were burned, and the tiger that I speak of he limps, too,
for the tracks of his pads are unequal."
"True, true, that must be the truth," said the gray-beards,
"Are all these tales such cobwebs and moon talk?" said Mowgli.
"That tiger limps because he was born lame, as everyone knows. To
talk of the soul of a money-lender in a beast that never had the
courage of a jackal is child's talk."
Buldeo was speechless with surprise for a moment, and the
"Oho! It is the jungle brat, is it?" said Buldeo. "If
art so wise, better bring his hide to Khanhiwara, for the
Government has set a hundred rupees on his life. Better still,
talk not when thy elders speak."
Mowgli rose to go. "All the evening I have lain here
listening," he called back over his shoulder, "and, except once
twice, Buldeo has not said one word of truth concerning the
jungle, which is at his very doors. How, then, shall I believe
the tales of ghosts and gods and goblins which he says he has
"It is full time that boy went to herding," said the head-man,
while Buldeo puffed and snorted at Mowgli's impertinence.
The custom of most Indian villages is for a few boys to take
the cattle and buffaloes out to graze in the early morning, and
bring them back at night. The very cattle that would trample a
white man to death allow themselves to be banged and bullied and
shouted at by children that hardly come up to their noses. So
long as the boys keep with the herds they are safe, for not even
the tiger will charge a mob of cattle. But if they straggle to
pick flowers or hunt lizards, they are sometimes carried off.
Mowgli went through the village street in the dawn, sitting on the
back of Rama, the great herd bull. The slaty-blue buffaloes, with
their long, backward-sweeping horns and savage eyes, rose out
their byres, one by one, and followed him, and Mowgli made it very
clear to the children with him that he was the master. He beat
the buffaloes with a long, polished bamboo, and told Kamya, one of
the boys, to graze the cattle by themselves, while he went on with
the buffaloes, and to be very careful not to stray away from the
An Indian grazing ground is all rocks and scrub and tussocks
and little ravines, among which the herds scatter and disappear.
The buffaloes generally keep to the pools and muddy places, where
they lie wallowing or basking in the warm mud for hours. Mowgli
drove them on to the edge of the plain where the Waingunga came
out of the jungle; then he dropped from Rama's neck, trotted off
to a bamboo clump, and found Gray Brother. "Ah," said Gray
Brother, "I have waited here very many days. What is the meaning
of this cattle-herding work?"
"It is an order," said Mowgli. "I am a village herd for
while. What news of Shere Khan?"
"He has come back to this country, and has waited here a long
time for thee. Now he has gone off again, for the game is scarce.
But he means to kill thee."
"Very good," said Mowgli. "So long as he is away do thou
one of the four brothers sit on that rock, so that I can see thee
as I come out of the village. When he comes back wait for me in
the ravine by the dhak tree in the center of the plain. We need
not walk into Shere Khan's mouth."
Then Mowgli picked out a shady place, and lay down and slept
while the buffaloes grazed round him. Herding in India is one of
the laziest things in the world. The cattle move and crunch, and
lie down, and move on again, and they do not even low. They only
grunt, and the buffaloes very seldom say anything, but get down
into the muddy pools one after another, and work their way into
the mud till only their noses and staring china-blue eyes show
above the surface, and then they lie like logs. The sun makes the
rocks dance in the heat, and the herd children hear one kite
(never any more) whistling almost out of sight overhead, and they
know that if they died, or a cow died, that kite would sweep down,
and the next kite miles away would see him drop and follow, and
the next, and the next, and almost before they were dead there
would be a score of hungry kites come out of nowhere. Then they
sleep and wake and sleep again, and weave little baskets of dried
grass and put grasshoppers in them; or catch two praying mantises
and make them fight; or string a necklace of red and black jungle
nuts; or watch a lizard basking on a rock, or a snake hunting a
frog near the wallows. Then they sing long, long songs with odd
native quavers at the end of them, and the day seems longer than
most people's whole lives, and perhaps they make a mud castle with
mud figures of men and horses and buffaloes, and put reeds into
the men's hands, and pretend that they are kings and the figures
are their armies, or that they are gods to be worshiped. Then
evening comes and the children call, and the buffaloes lumber up
out of the sticky mud with noises like gunshots going off one
after the other, and they all string across the gray plain back to
the twinkling village lights.
Day after day Mowgli would lead the buffaloes out to their
wallows, and day after day he would see Gray Brother's back a mile
and a half away across the plain (so he knew that Shere Khan had
not come back), and day after day he would lie on the grass
listening to the noises round him, and dreaming of old days in the
jungle. If Shere Khan had made a false step with his lame paw up
in the jungles by the Waingunga, Mowgli would have heard him in
those long, still mornings.
At last a day came when he did not see Gray Brother at the
signal place, and he laughed and headed the buffaloes for the
ravine by the dhk tree, which was all covered with golden-red
flowers. There sat Gray Brother, every bristle on his back
"He has hidden for a month to throw thee off thy guard. He
crossed the ranges last night with Tabaqui, hot-foot on thy
trail," said the Wolf, panting.
Mowgli frowned. "I am not afraid of Shere Khan, but Tabaqui
is very cunning."
"Have no fear," said Gray Brother, licking his lips a little.
"I met Tabaqui in the dawn. Now he is telling all his wisdom to
the kites, but he told me everything before I broke his back.
Shere Khan's plan is to wait for thee at the village gate this
evening--for thee and for no one else. He is lying up now, in
the big dry ravine of the Waingunga."
"Has he eaten today, or does he hunt empty?" said Mowgli,
the answer meant life and death to him.
"He killed at dawn,--a pig,--and he has drunk too.
Remember, Shere Khan could never fast, even for the sake of
"Oh! Fool, fool! What a cub's cub it is! Eaten and drunk
too, and he thinks that I shall wait till he has slept! Now,
where does he lie up? If there were but ten of us we might pull
him down as he lies. These buffaloes will not charge unless they
wind him, and I cannot speak their language. Can we get behind
his track so that they may smell it?"
"He swam far down the Waingunga to cut that off," said Gray
"Tabaqui told him that, I know. He would never have thought
of it alone." Mowgli stood with his finger in his mouth,
thinking. "The big ravine of the Waingunga. That opens out on
the plain not half a mile from here. I can take the herd round
through the jungle to the head of the ravine and then sweep down
--but he would slink out at the foot. We must block that end.
Gray Brother, canst thou cut the herd in two for me?"
"Not I, perhaps--but I have brought a wise helper." Gray
Brother trotted off and dropped into a hole. Then there lifted up
a huge gray head that Mowgli knew well, and the hot air was filled
with the most desolate cry of all the jungle--the hunting howl
of a wolf at midday.
"Akela! Akela!" said Mowgli, clapping his hands. "I might
have known that thou wouldst not forget me. We have a big work in
hand. Cut the herd in two, Akela. Keep the cows and calves
together, and the bulls and the plow buffaloes by themselves."
The two wolves ran, ladies'-chain fashion, in and out of the
herd, which snorted and threw up its head, and separated into two
clumps. In one, the cow-buffaloes stood with their calves in the
center, and glared and pawed, ready, if a wolf would only stay
still, to charge down and trample the life out of him. In the
other, the bulls and the young bulls snorted and stamped, but
though they looked more imposing they were much less dangerous,
for they had no calves to protect. No six men could have divided
the herd so neatly.
"What orders!" panted Akela. "They are trying to join
Mowgli slipped on to Rama's back. "Drive the bulls away to
the left, Akela. Gray Brother, when we are gone, hold the cows
together, and drive them into the foot of the ravine."
"How far?" said Gray Brother, panting and snapping.
"Till the sides are higher than Shere Khan can jump," shouted
Mowgli. "Keep them there till we come down." The bulls swept off
as Akela bayed, and Gray Brother stopped in front of the cows.
They charged down on him, and he ran just before them to the foot
of the ravine, as Akela drove the bulls far to the left.
"Well done! Another charge and they are fairly started.
Careful, now--careful, Akela. A snap too much and the bulls
will charge. Hujah! This is wilder work than driving black-buck.
Didst thou think these creatures could move so swiftly?" Mowgli
"I have--have hunted these too in my time," gasped Akela in
the dust. "Shall I turn them into the jungle?"
"Ay! Turn. Swiftly turn them! Rama is mad with rage. Oh,
if I could only tell him what I need of him to-day."
The bulls were turned, to the right this time, and crashed
into the standing thicket. The other herd children, watching with
the cattle half a mile away, hurried to the village as fast as
their legs could carry them, crying that the buffaloes had gone
mad and run away.
But Mowgli's plan was simple enough. All he wanted to do was
to make a big circle uphill and get at the head of the ravine, and
then take the bulls down it and catch Shere Khan between the bulls
and the cows; for he knew that after a meal and a full drink Shere
Khan would not be in any condition to fight or to clamber up the
sides of the ravine. He was soothing the buffaloes now by voice,
and Akela had dropped far to the rear, only whimpering once or
twice to hurry the rear-guard. It was a long, long circle, for
they did not wish to get too near the ravine and give Shere Khan
warning. At last Mowgli rounded up the bewildered herd at the
head of the ravine on a grassy patch that sloped steeply down to
the ravine itself. From that height you could see across the tops
of the trees down to the plain below; but what Mowgli looked at
was the sides of the ravine, and he saw with a great deal of
satisfaction that they ran nearly straight up and down, while the
vines and creepers that hung over them would give no foothold to a
tiger who wanted to get out.
"Let them breathe, Akela," he said, holding up his hand.
"They have not winded him yet. Let them breathe. I must tell
Shere Khan who comes. We have him in the trap."
He put his hands to his mouth and shouted down the ravine--
it was almost like shouting down a tunnel--and the echoes jumped
from rock to rock.
After a long time there came back the drawling, sleepy snarl
of a full-fed tiger just wakened.
"Who calls?" said Shere Khan, and a splendid peacock fluttered
up out of the ravine screeching.
"I, Mowgli. Cattle thief, it is time to come to the Council
Rock! Down--hurry them down, Akela! Down, Rama, down!"
The herd paused for an instant at the edge of the slope, but
Akela gave tongue in the full hunting-yell, and they pitched over
one after the other, just as steamers shoot rapids, the sand and
stones spurting up round them. Once started, there was no chance
of stopping, and before they were fairly in the bed of the ravine
Rama winded Shere Khan and bellowed.
"Ha! Ha!" said Mowgli, on his back. "Now thou knowest!"
the torrent of black horns, foaming muzzles, and staring eyes
whirled down the ravine just as boulders go down in floodtime; the
weaker buffaloes being shouldered out to the sides of the ravine
where they tore through the creepers. They knew what the business
was before them--the terrible charge of the buffalo herd against
which no tiger can hope to stand. Shere Khan heard the thunder of
their hoofs, picked himself up, and lumbered down the ravine,
looking from side to side for some way of escape, but the walls of
the ravine were straight and he had to hold on, heavy with his
dinner and his drink, willing to do anything rather than fight.
The herd splashed through the pool he had just left, bellowing
till the narrow cut rang. Mowgli heard an answering bellow from
the foot of the ravine, saw Shere Khan turn (the tiger knew if the
worst came to the worst it was better to meet the bulls than the
cows with their calves), and then Rama tripped, stumbled, and went
on again over something soft, and, with the bulls at his heels,
crashed full into the other herd, while the weaker buffaloes were
lifted clean off their feet by the shock of the meeting. That
charge carried both herds out into the plain, goring and stamping
and snorting. Mowgli watched his time, and slipped off Rama's
neck, laying about him right and left with his stick.
"Quick, Akela! Break them up. Scatter them, or they will be
fighting one another. Drive them away, Akela. Hai, Rama! Hai,
hai, hai! my children. Softly now, softly! It is all over."
Akela and Gray Brother ran to and fro nipping the buffaloes'
legs, and though the herd wheeled once to charge up the ravine
again, Mowgli managed to turn Rama, and the others followed him to
Shere Khan needed no more trampling. He was dead, and the
kites were coming for him already.
"Brothers, that was a dog's death," said Mowgli, feeling for
the knife he always carried in a sheath round his neck now that he
lived with men. "But he would never have shown fight. His hide
will look well on the Council Rock. We must get to work swiftly."
A boy trained among men would never have dreamed of skinning a
ten-foot tiger alone, but Mowgli knew better than anyone else how
an animal's skin is fitted on, and how it can be taken off. But
it was hard work, and Mowgli slashed and tore and grunted for an
hour, while the wolves lolled out their tongues, or came forward
and tugged as he ordered them. Presently a hand fell on his
shoulder, and looking up he saw Buldeo with the Tower musket. The
children had told the village about the buffalo stampede, and
Buldeo went out angrily, only too anxious to correct Mowgli for
not taking better care of the herd. The wolves dropped out of
sight as soon as they saw the man coming.
"What is this folly?" said Buldeo angrily. "To think
thou canst skin a tiger! Where did the buffaloes kill him? It is
the Lame Tiger too, and there is a hundred rupees on his head.
Well, well, we will overlook thy letting the herd run off, and
perhaps I will give thee one of the rupees of the reward when I
have taken the skin to Khanhiwara." He fumbled in his waist cloth
for flint and steel, and stooped down to singe Shere Khan's
whiskers. Most native hunters always singe a tiger's whiskers to
prevent his ghost from haunting them.
"Hum!" said Mowgli, half to himself as he ripped back the
of a forepaw. "So thou wilt take the hide to Khanhiwara for the
reward, and perhaps give me one rupee? Now it is in my mind that
I need the skin for my own use. Heh! Old man, take away that
"What talk is this to the chief hunter of the village? Thy
luck and the stupidity of thy buffaloes have helped thee to this
kill. The tiger has just fed, or he would have gone twenty miles
by this time. Thou canst not even skin him properly, little
beggar brat, and forsooth I, Buldeo, must be told not to singe his
whiskers. Mowgli, I will not give thee one anna of the reward,
but only a very big beating. Leave the carcass!"
"By the Bull that bought me," said Mowgli, who was trying
get at the shoulder, "must I stay babbling to an old ape all noon?
Here, Akela, this man plagues me."
Buldeo, who was still stooping over Shere Khan's head, found
himself sprawling on the grass, with a gray wolf standing over
him, while Mowgli went on skinning as though he were alone in all
"Ye-es," he said, between his teeth. "Thou art altogether
right, Buldeo. Thou wilt never give me one anna of the reward.
There is an old war between this lame tiger and myself--a very
old war, and--I have won."
To do Buldeo justice, if he had been ten years younger he
would have taken his chance with Akela had he met the wolf in the
woods, but a wolf who obeyed the orders of this boy who had
private wars with man-eating tigers was not a common animal. It
was sorcery, magic of the worst kind, thought Buldeo, and he
wondered whether the amulet round his neck would protect him. He
lay as still as still, expecting every minute to see Mowgli turn
into a tiger too.
"Maharaj! Great King," he said at last in a husky whisper.
"Yes," said Mowgli, without turning his head, chuckling a
"I am an old man. I did not know that thou wast anything more
than a herdsboy. May I rise up and go away, or will thy servant
tear me to pieces?"
"Go, and peace go with thee. Only, another time do not meddle
with my game. Let him go, Akela."
Buldeo hobbled away to the village as fast as he could,
looking back over his shoulder in case Mowgli should change into
something terrible. When he got to the village he told a tale of
magic and enchantment and sorcery that made the priest look very
Mowgli went on with his work, but it was nearly twilight
before he and the wolves had drawn the great gay skin clear of the
"Now we must hide this and take the buffaloes home! Help me
to herd them, Akela."
The herd rounded up in the misty twilight, and when they got
near the village Mowgli saw lights, and heard the conches and
bells in the temple blowing and banging. Half the village seemed
to be waiting for him by the gate. "That is because I have killed
Shere Khan," he said to himself. But a shower of stones whistled
about his ears, and the villagers shouted: "Sorcerer! Wolf's
brat! Jungle demon! Go away! Get hence quickly or the priest
will turn thee into a wolf again. Shoot, Buldeo, shoot!"
The old Tower musket went off with a bang, and a young buffalo
bellowed in pain.
"More sorcery!" shouted the villagers. "He can turn bullets.
Buldeo, that was thy buffalo."
"Now what is this?" said Mowgli, bewildered, as the stones
"They are not unlike the Pack, these brothers of thine," said
Akela, sitting down composedly. "It is in my head that, if
bullets mean anything, they would cast thee out."
"Wolf! Wolf's cub! Go away!" shouted the priest, waving a
sprig of the sacred tulsi plant.
"Again? Last time it was because I was a man. This time it
is because I am a wolf. Let us go, Akela."
A woman--it was Messua--ran across to the herd, and cried:
"Oh, my son, my son! They say thou art a sorcerer who can turn
himself into a beast at will. I do not believe, but go away or
they will kill thee. Buldeo says thou art a wizard, but I know
thou hast avenged Nathoo's death."
"Come back, Messua!" shouted the crowd. "Come back, or
will stone thee."
Mowgli laughed a little short ugly laugh, for a stone had hit
him in the mouth. "Run back, Messua. This is one of the foolish
tales they tell under the big tree at dusk. I have at least paid
for thy son's life. Farewell; and run quickly, for I shall send
the herd in more swiftly than their brickbats. I am no wizard,
"Now, once more, Akela," he cried. "Bring the herd in."
The buffaloes were anxious enough to get to the village. They
hardly needed Akela's yell, but charged through the gate like a
whirlwind, scattering the crowd right and left.
"Keep count!" shouted Mowgli scornfully. "It may be that
have stolen one of them. Keep count, for I will do your herding
no more. Fare you well, children of men, and thank Messua that I
do not come in with my wolves and hunt you up and down your
He turned on his heel and walked away with the Lone Wolf, and
as he looked up at the stars he felt happy. "No more sleeping in
traps for me, Akela. Let us get Shere Khan's skin and go away.
No, we will not hurt the village, for Messua was kind to me."
When the moon rose over the plain, making it look all milky,
the horrified villagers saw Mowgli, with two wolves at his heels
and a bundle on his head, trotting across at the steady wolf's
trot that eats up the long miles like fire. Then they banged the
temple bells and blew the conches louder than ever. And Messua
cried, and Buldeo embroidered the story of his adventures in the
jungle, till he ended by saying that Akela stood up on his hind
legs and talked like a man.
The moon was just going down when Mowgli and the two wolves
came to the hill of the Council Rock, and they stopped at Mother
"They have cast me out from the Man-Pack, Mother," shouted
Mowgli, "but I come with the hide of Shere Khan to keep my word."
Mother Wolf walked stiffly from the cave with the cubs behind
her, and her eyes glowed as she saw the skin.
"I told him on that day, when he crammed his head and
shoulders into this cave, hunting for thy life, Little Frog--I
told him that the hunter would be the hunted. It is well done."
"Little Brother, it is well done," said a deep voice in the
thicket. "We were lonely in the jungle without thee, and Bagheera
came running to Mowgli's bare feet. They clambered up the Council
Rock together, and Mowgli spread the skin out on the flat stone
where Akela used to sit, and pegged it down with four slivers of
bamboo, and Akela lay down upon it, and called the old call to the
Council, "Look--look well, O Wolves," exactly as he had called
when Mowgli was first brought there.
Ever since Akela had been deposed, the Pack had been without a
leader, hunting and fighting at their own pleasure. But they
answered the call from habit; and some of them were lame from the
traps they had fallen into, and some limped from shot wounds, and
some were mangy from eating bad food, and many were missing. But
they came to the Council Rock, all that were left of them, and saw
Shere Khan's striped hide on the rock, and the huge claws dangling
at the end of the empty dangling feet. It was then that Mowgli
made up a song that came up into his throat all by itself, and he
shouted it aloud, leaping up and down on the rattling skin, and
beating time with his heels till he had no more breath left, while
Gray Brother and Akela howled between the verses.
"Look well, O Wolves. Have I kept my word?" said Mowgli. And
the wolves bayed "Yes," and one tattered wolf howled:
"Lead us again, O Akela. Lead us again, O Man-cub, for we be
sick of this lawlessness, and we would be the Free People once
"Nay," purred Bagheera, "that may not be. When ye are
full-fed, the madness may come upon you again. Not for nothing
are ye called the Free People. Ye fought for freedom, and it is
yours. Eat it, O Wolves."
"Man-Pack and Wolf-Pack have cast me out," said Mowgli. "Now
I will hunt alone in the jungle."
"And we will hunt with thee," said the four cubs.
So Mowgli went away and hunted with the four cubs in the
jungle from that day on. But he was not always alone, because,
years afterward, he became a man and married.
But that is a story for grown-ups.
THAT HE SANG AT THE COUNCIL ROCK WHEN HE
DANCED ON SHERE KHAN'S HIDE
The Song of Mowgli--I, Mowgli, am singing. Let the jungle
listen to the things I have done.
Shere Khan said he would kill--would kill! At the gates in the
twilight he would kill Mowgli, the Frog!
He ate and he drank. Drink deep, Shere Khan, for when wilt thou
drink again? Sleep and dream of the kill.
I am alone on the grazing-grounds. Gray Brother, come to me!
Come to me, Lone Wolf, for there is big game afoot!
Bring up the great bull buffaloes, the blue-skinned herd bulls
with the angry eyes. Drive them to and fro as I order.
Sleepest thou still, Shere Khan? Wake, oh, wake! Here come I,
and the bulls are behind.
Rama, the King of the Buffaloes, stamped with his foot. Waters of
the Waingunga, whither went Shere Khan?
He is not Ikki to dig holes, nor Mao, the Peacock, that he should
fly. He is not Mang the Bat, to hang in the branches. Little
bamboos that creak together, tell me where he ran?
Ow! He is there. Ahoo! He is there. Under the feet of Rama
lies the Lame One! Up, Shere Khan!
Up and kill! Here is meat; break the necks of the bulls!
Hsh! He is asleep. We will not wake him, for his strength is
very great. The kites have come down to see it. The black
ants have come up to know it. There is a great assembly in his
Alala! I have no cloth to wrap me. The kites will see that I am
naked. I am ashamed to meet all these people.
Lend me thy coat, Shere Khan. Lend me thy gay striped coat that I
may go to the Council Rock.
By the Bull that bought me I made a promise--a little promise.
Only thy coat is lacking before I keep my word.
With the knife, with the knife that men use, with the knife of the
hunter, I will stoop down for my gift.
Waters of the Waingunga, Shere Khan gives me his coat for the love
that he bears me. Pull, Gray Brother! Pull, Akela! Heavy is
the hide of Shere Khan.
The Man Pack are angry. They throw stones and talk child's talk.
My mouth is bleeding. Let me run away.
Through the night, through the hot night, run swiftly with me, my
brothers. We will leave the lights of the village and go to
the low moon.
Waters of the Waingunga, the Man-Pack have cast me out. I did
them no harm, but they were afraid of me. Why?
Wolf Pack, ye have cast me out too. The jungle is shut to me and
the village gates are shut. Why?
As Mang flies between the beasts and birds, so fly I between the
village and the jungle. Why?
I dance on the hide of Shere Khan, but my heart is very heavy. My
mouth is cut and wounded with the stones from the village, but
my heart is very light, because I have come back to the jungle.
These two things fight together in me as the snakes fight in the
spring. The water comes out of my eyes; yet I laugh while it
I am two Mowglis, but the hide of Shere Khan is under my feet.
All the jungle knows that I have killed Shere Khan. Look--look
well, O Wolves!
Ahae! My heart is heavy with the things that I do not understand.
The White Seal
Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,
And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
The moon, o'er the combers, looks downward to find us
At rest in the hollows that rustle between.
Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow,
Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,
Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas!
All these things happened several years ago at a place called
Novastoshnah, or North East Point, on the Island of St. Paul, away
and away in the Bering Sea. Limmershin, the Winter Wren, told me
the tale when he was blown on to the rigging of a steamer going to
Japan, and I took him down into my cabin and warmed and fed him
for a couple of days till he was fit to fly back to St. Paul's
again. Limmershin is a very quaint little bird, but he knows how
to tell the truth.
Nobody comes to Novastoshnah except on business, and the only
people who have regular business there are the seals. They come
in the summer months by hundreds and hundreds of thousands out of
the cold gray sea. For Novastoshnah Beach has the finest
accommodation for seals of any place in all the world.
Sea Catch knew that, and every spring would swim from whatever
place he happened to be in--would swim like a torpedo-boat
straight for Novastoshnah and spend a month fighting with his
companions for a good place on the rocks, as close to the sea as
possible. Sea Catch was fifteen years old, a huge gray fur seal
with almost a mane on his shoulders, and long, wicked dog teeth.
When he heaved himself up on his front flippers he stood more than
four feet clear of the ground, and his weight, if anyone had been
bold enough to weigh him, was nearly seven hundred pounds. He was
scarred all over with the marks of savage fights, but he was
always ready for just one fight more. He would put his head on
one side, as though he were afraid to look his enemy in the face;
then he would shoot it out like lightning, and when the big teeth
were firmly fixed on the other seal's neck, the other seal might
get away if he could, but Sea Catch would not help him.
Yet Sea Catch never chased a beaten seal, for that was against
the Rules of the Beach. He only wanted room by the sea for his
nursery. But as there were forty or fifty thousand other seals
hunting for the same thing each spring, the whistling, bellowing,
roaring, and blowing on the beach was something frightful.
From a little hill called Hutchinson's Hill, you could look
over three and a half miles of ground covered with fighting seals;
and the surf was dotted all over with the heads of seals hurrying
to land and begin their share of the fighting. They fought in the
breakers, they fought in the sand, and they fought on the
smooth-worn basalt rocks of the nurseries, for they were just as
stupid and unaccommodating as men. Their wives never came to the
island until late in May or early in June, for they did not care
to be torn to pieces; and the young two-, three-, and
four-year-old seals who had not begun housekeeping went inland
about half a mile through the ranks of the fighters and played
about on the sand dunes in droves and legions, and rubbed off
every single green thing that grew. They were called the
holluschickie--the bachelors--and there were perhaps two or
three hundred thousand of them at Novastoshnah alone.
Sea Catch had just finished his forty-fifth fight one spring
when Matkah, his soft, sleek, gentle-eyed wife, came up out of the
sea, and he caught her by the scruff of the neck and dumped her
down on his reservation, saying gruffly: "Late as usual. Where
have you been?"
It was not the fashion for Sea Catch to eat anything during
the four months he stayed on the beaches, and so his temper was
generally bad. Matkah knew better than to answer back. She
looked round and cooed: "How thoughtful of you. You've taken the
old place again."
"I should think I had," said Sea Catch. "Look at me!"
He was scratched and bleeding in twenty places; one eye was
almost out, and his sides were torn to ribbons.
"Oh, you men, you men!" Matkah said, fanning herself with
hind flipper. "Why can't you be sensible and settle your places
quietly? You look as though you had been fighting with the Killer
"I haven't been doing anything but fight since the middle of
May. The beach is disgracefully crowded this season. I've met at
least a hundred seals from Lukannon Beach, house hunting. Why
can't people stay where they belong?"
"I've often thought we should be much happier if we hauled out
at Otter Island instead of this crowded place," said Matkah.
"Bah! Only the holluschickie go to Otter Island. If we went
there they would say we were afraid. We must preserve
appearances, my dear."
Sea Catch sunk his head proudly between his fat shoulders and
pretended to go to sleep for a few minutes, but all the time he
was keeping a sharp lookout for a fight. Now that all the seals
and their wives were on the land, you could hear their clamor
miles out to sea above the loudest gales. At the lowest counting
there were over a million seals on the beach--old seals, mother
seals, tiny babies, and holluschickie, fighting, scuffling,
bleating, crawling, and playing together--going down to the sea
and coming up from it in gangs and regiments, lying over every
foot of ground as far as the eye could reach, and skirmishing
about in brigades through the fog. It is nearly always foggy at
Novastoshnah, except when the sun comes out and makes everything
look all pearly and rainbow-colored for a little while.
Kotick, Matkah's baby, was born in the middle of that
confusion, and he was all head and shoulders, with pale, watery
blue eyes, as tiny seals must be, but there was something about
his coat that made his mother look at him very closely.
"Sea Catch," she said, at last, "our baby's going to
"Empty clam-shells and dry seaweed!" snorted Sea Catch.
"There never has been such a thing in the world as a white seal."
"I can't help that," said Matkah; "there's going to be
And she sang the low, crooning seal song that all the mother seals
sing to their babies:
You mustn't swim till you're six weeks old,
Or your head will be sunk by your heels;
And summer gales and Killer Whales
Are bad for baby seals.
Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,
As bad as bad can be;
But splash and grow strong,
And you can't be wrong.
Child of the Open Sea!
Of course the little fellow did not understand the words at
first. He paddled and scrambled about by his mother's side, and
learned to scuffle out of the way when his father was fighting
with another seal, and the two rolled and roared up and down the
slippery rocks. Matkah used to go to sea to get things to eat,
and the baby was fed only once in two days, but then he ate all he
could and throve upon it.
The first thing he did was to crawl inland, and there he met
tens of thousands of babies of his own age, and they played
together like puppies, went to sleep on the clean sand, and played
again. The old people in the nurseries took no notice of them,
and the holluschickie kept to their own grounds, and the babies
had a beautiful playtime.
When Matkah came back from her deep-sea fishing she would go
straight to their playground and call as a sheep calls for a lamb,
and wait until she heard Kotick bleat. Then she would take the
straightest of straight lines in his direction, striking out with
her fore flippers and knocking the youngsters head over heels
right and left. There were always a few hundred mothers hunting
for their children through the playgrounds, and the babies were
kept lively. But, as Matkah told Kotick, "So long as you don't
lie in muddy water and get mange, or rub the hard sand into a cut
or scratch, and so long as you never go swimming when there is a
heavy sea, nothing will hurt you here."
Little seals can no more swim than little children, but they
are unhappy till they learn. The first time that Kotick went down
to the sea a wave carried him out beyond his depth, and his big
head sank and his little hind flippers flew up exactly as his
mother had told him in the song, and if the next wave had not
thrown him back again he would have drowned.
After that, he learned to lie in a beach pool and let the wash
of the waves just cover him and lift him up while he paddled, but
he always kept his eye open for big waves that might hurt. He was
two weeks learning to use his flippers; and all that while he
floundered in and out of the water, and coughed and grunted and
crawled up the beach and took catnaps on the sand, and went back
again, until at last he found that he truly belonged to the water.
Then you can imagine the times that he had with his
companions, ducking under the rollers; or coming in on top of a
comber and landing with a swash and a splutter as the big wave
went whirling far up the beach; or standing up on his tail and
scratching his head as the old people did; or playing "I'm the
King of the Castle" on slippery, weedy rocks that just stuck out
of the wash. Now and then he would see a thin fin, like a big
shark's fin, drifting along close to shore, and he knew that that
was the Killer Whale, the Grampus, who eats young seals when he
can get them; and Kotick would head for the beach like an arrow,
and the fin would jig off slowly, as if it were looking for
nothing at all.
Late in October the seals began to leave St. Paul's for the
deep sea, by families and tribes, and there was no more fighting
over the nurseries, and the holluschickie played anywhere they
liked. "Next year," said Matkah to Kotick, "you will be a
holluschickie; but this year you must learn how to catch fish."
They set out together across the Pacific, and Matkah showed
Kotick how to sleep on his back with his flippers tucked down by
his side and his little nose just out of the water. No cradle is
so comfortable as the long, rocking swell of the Pacific. When
Kotick felt his skin tingle all over, Matkah told him he was
learning the "feel of the water," and that tingly, prickly
feelings meant bad weather coming, and he must swim hard and get
"In a little time," she said, "you'll know where to swim
but just now we'll follow Sea Pig, the Porpoise, for he is very
wise." A school of porpoises were ducking and tearing through the
water, and little Kotick followed them as fast as he could. "How
do you know where to go to?" he panted. The leader of the school
rolled his white eye and ducked under. "My tail tingles,
youngster," he said. "That means there's a gale behind me. Come
along! When you're south of the Sticky Water [he meant the
Equator] and your tail tingles, that means there's a gale in front
of you and you must head north. Come along! The water feels bad
This was one of very many things that Kotick learned, and he
was always learning. Matkah taught him to follow the cod and the
halibut along the under-sea banks and wrench the rockling out of
his hole among the weeds; how to skirt the wrecks lying a hundred
fathoms below water and dart like a rifle bullet in at one
porthole and out at another as the fishes ran; how to dance on the
top of the waves when the lightning was racing all over the sky,
and wave his flipper politely to the stumpy-tailed Albatross and
the Man-of-war Hawk as they went down the wind; how to jump three
or four feet clear of the water like a dolphin, flippers close to
the side and tail curved; to leave the flying fish alone because
they are all bony; to take the shoulder-piece out of a cod at full
speed ten fathoms deep, and never to stop and look at a boat or a
ship, but particularly a row-boat. At the end of six months what
Kotick did not know about deep-sea fishing was not worth the
knowing. And all that time he never set flipper on dry ground.
One day, however, as he was lying half asleep in the warm
water somewhere off the Island of Juan Fernandez, he felt faint
and lazy all over, just as human people do when the spring is in
their legs, and he remembered the good firm beaches of
Novastoshnah seven thousand miles away, the games his companions
played, the smell of the seaweed, the seal roar, and the fighting.
That very minute he turned north, swimming steadily, and as he
went on he met scores of his mates, all bound for the same place,
and they said: "Greeting, Kotick! This year we are all
holluschickie, and we can dance the Fire-dance in the breakers off
Lukannon and play on the new grass. But where did you get that
Kotick's fur was almost pure white now, and though he felt
very proud of it, he only said, "Swim quickly! My bones are
aching for the land." And so they all came to the beaches where
they had been born, and heard the old seals, their fathers,
fighting in the rolling mist.
That night Kotick danced the Fire-dance with the yearling
seals. The sea is full of fire on summer nights all the way down
from Novastoshnah to Lukannon, and each seal leaves a wake like
burning oil behind him and a flaming flash when he jumps, and the
waves break in great phosphorescent streaks and swirls. Then they
went inland to the holluschickie grounds and rolled up and down in
the new wild wheat and told stories of what they had done while
they had been at sea. They talked about the Pacific as boys would
talk about a wood that they had been nutting in, and if anyone had
understood them he could have gone away and made such a chart of
that ocean as never was. The three- and four-year-old
holluschickie romped down from Hutchinson's Hill crying: "Out of
the way, youngsters! The sea is deep and you don't know all
that's in it yet. Wait till you've rounded the Horn. Hi, you
yearling, where did you get that white coat?"
"I didn't get it," said Kotick. "It grew." And just
was going to roll the speaker over, a couple of black-haired men
with flat red faces came from behind a sand dune, and Kotick, who
had never seen a man before, coughed and lowered his head. The
holluschickie just bundled off a few yards and sat staring
stupidly. The men were no less than Kerick Booterin, the chief of
the seal-hunters on the island, and Patalamon, his son. They came
from the little village not half a mile from the sea nurseries,
and they were deciding what seals they would drive up to the
killing pens--for the seals were driven just like sheep--to be
turned into seal-skin jackets later on.
"Ho!" said Patalamon. "Look! There's a white seal!"
Kerick Booterin turned nearly white under his oil and smoke,
for he was an Aleut, and Aleuts are not clean people. Then he
began to mutter a prayer. "Don't touch him, Patalamon. There has
never been a white seal since--since I was born. Perhaps it is
old Zaharrof's ghost. He was lost last year in the big gale."
"I'm not going near him," said Patalamon. "He's unlucky.
you really think he is old Zaharrof come back? I owe him for some
"Don't look at him," said Kerick. "Head off that drove
four-year-olds. The men ought to skin two hundred to-day, but
it's the beginning of the season and they are new to the work. A
hundred will do. Quick!"
Patalamon rattled a pair of seal's shoulder bones in front of
a herd of holluschickie and they stopped dead, puffing and
blowing. Then he stepped near and the seals began to move, and
Kerick headed them inland, and they never tried to get back to
their companions. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of seals
watched them being driven, but they went on playing just the same.
Kotick was the only one who asked questions, and none of his
companions could tell him anything, except that the men always
drove seals in that way for six weeks or two months of every year.
"I am going to follow," he said, and his eyes nearly popped
out of his head as he shuffled along in the wake of the herd.
"The white seal is coming after us," cried Patalamon. "That's
the first time a seal has ever come to the killing-grounds alone."
"Hsh! Don't look behind you," said Kerick. "It is Zaharrof's
ghost! I must speak to the priest about this."
The distance to the killing-grounds was only half a mile, but
it took an hour to cover, because if the seals went too fast
Kerick knew that they would get heated and then their fur would
come off in patches when they were skinned. So they went on very
slowly, past Sea Lion's Neck, past Webster House, till they came
to the Salt House just beyond the sight of the seals on the beach.
Kotick followed, panting and wondering. He thought that he was at
the world's end, but the roar of the seal nurseries behind him
sounded as loud as the roar of a train in a tunnel. Then Kerick
sat down on the moss and pulled out a heavy pewter watch and let
the drove cool off for thirty minutes, and Kotick could hear the
fog-dew dripping off the brim of his cap. Then ten or twelve men,
each with an iron-bound club three or four feet long, came up, and
Kerick pointed out one or two of the drove that were bitten by
their companions or too hot, and the men kicked those aside with
their heavy boots made of the skin of a walrus's throat, and then
Kerick said, "Let go!" and then the men clubbed the seals on the
head as fast as they could.
Ten minutes later little Kotick did not recognize his friends
any more, for their skins were ripped off from the nose to the
hind flippers, whipped off and thrown down on the ground in a
pile. That was enough for Kotick. He turned and galloped (a seal
can gallop very swiftly for a short time) back to the sea; his
little new mustache bristling with horror. At Sea Lion's Neck,
where the great sea lions sit on the edge of the surf, he flung
himself flipper-overhead into the cool water and rocked there,
gasping miserably. "What's here?" said a sea lion gruffly, for
a rule the sea lions keep themselves to themselves.
"Scoochnie! Ochen scoochnie!" ("I'm lonesome, very
lonesome!") said Kotick. "They're killing all the holluschickie
on all the beaches!"
The Sea Lion turned his head inshore. "Nonsense!" he said.
"Your friends are making as much noise as ever. You must have
seen old Kerick polishing off a drove. He's done that for thirty
"It's horrible," said Kotick, backing water as a wave went
over him, and steadying himself with a screw stroke of his
flippers that brought him all standing within three inches of a
jagged edge of rock.
"Well done for a yearling!" said the Sea Lion, who could
appreciate good swimming. "I suppose it is rather awful from your
way of looking at it, but if you seals will come here year after
year, of course the men get to know of it, and unless you can find
an island where no men ever come you will always be driven."
"Isn't there any such island?" began Kotick.
"I've followed the poltoos [the halibut] for twenty years, and
I can't say I've found it yet. But look here--you seem to have
a fondness for talking to your betters--suppose you go to Walrus
Islet and talk to Sea Vitch. He may know something. Don't
flounce off like that. It's a six-mile swim, and if I were you I
should haul out and take a nap first, little one."
Kotick thought that that was good advice, so he swam round to
his own beach, hauled out, and slept for half an hour, twitching
all over, as seals will. Then he headed straight for Walrus
Islet, a little low sheet of rocky island almost due northeast
from Novastoshnah, all ledges and rock and gulls' nests, where the
walrus herded by themselves.
He landed close to old Sea Vitch--the big, ugly, bloated,
pimpled, fat-necked, long-tusked walrus of the North Pacific, who
has no manners except when he is asleep--as he was then, with
his hind flippers half in and half out of the surf.
"Wake up!" barked Kotick, for the gulls were making a great
"Hah! Ho! Hmph! What's that?" said Sea Vitch, and he struck
the next walrus a blow with his tusks and waked him up, and the
next struck the next, and so on till they were all awake and
staring in every direction but the right one.
"Hi! It's me," said Kotick, bobbing in the surf and looking
like a little white slug.
"Well! May I be--skinned!" said Sea Vitch, and they all
looked at Kotick as you can fancy a club full of drowsy old
gentlemen would look at a little boy. Kotick did not care to hear
any more about skinning just then; he had seen enough of it. So
he called out: "Isn't there any place for seals to go where men
don't ever come?"
"Go and find out," said Sea Vitch, shutting his eyes. "Run
away. We're busy here."
Kotick made his dolphin-jump in the air and shouted as loud as
he could: "Clam-eater! Clam-eater!" He knew that Sea Vitch never
caught a fish in his life but always rooted for clams and seaweed;
though he pretended to be a very terrible person. Naturally the
Chickies and the Gooverooskies and the Epatkas--the Burgomaster
Gulls and the Kittiwakes and the Puffins, who are always looking
for a chance to be rude, took up the cry, and--so Limmershin
told me--for nearly five minutes you could not have heard a gun
fired on Walrus Islet. All the population was yelling and
screaming "Clam-eater! Stareek [old man]!" while Sea Vitch rolled
from side to side grunting and coughing.
"Now will you tell?" said Kotick, all out of breath.
"Go and ask Sea Cow," said Sea Vitch. "If he is living
he'll be able to tell you."
"How shall I know Sea Cow when I meet him?" said Kotick,
"He's the only thing in the sea uglier than Sea Vitch,"
screamed a Burgomaster gull, wheeling under Sea Vitch's nose.
"Uglier, and with worse manners! Stareek!"
Kotick swam back to Novastoshnah, leaving the gulls to scream.
There he found that no one sympathized with him in his little
attempt to discover a quiet place for the seals. They told him
that men had always driven the holluschickie--it was part of the
day's work--and that if he did not like to see ugly things he
should not have gone to the killing grounds. But none of the
other seals had seen the killing, and that made the difference
between him and his friends. Besides, Kotick was a white seal.
"What you must do," said old Sea Catch, after he had heard
son's adventures, "is to grow up and be a big seal like your
father, and have a nursery on the beach, and then they will leave
you alone. In another five years you ought to be able to fight
for yourself." Even gentle Matkah, his mother, said: "You will
never be able to stop the killing. Go and play in the sea,
Kotick." And Kotick went off and danced the Fire-dance with a
very heavy little heart.
That autumn he left the beach as soon as he could, and set off
alone because of a notion in his bullet-head. He was going to
find Sea Cow, if there was such a person in the sea, and he was
going to find a quiet island with good firm beaches for seals to
live on, where men could not get at them. So he explored and
explored by himself from the North to the South Pacific, swimming
as much as three hundred miles in a day and a night. He met with
more adventures than can be told, and narrowly escaped being
caught by the Basking Shark, and the Spotted Shark, and the
Hammerhead, and he met all the untrustworthy ruffians that loaf up
and down the seas, and the heavy polite fish, and the scarlet
spotted scallops that are moored in one place for hundreds of
years, and grow very proud of it; but he never met Sea Cow, and he
never found an island that he could fancy.
If the beach was good and hard, with a slope behind it for
seals to play on, there was always the smoke of a whaler on the
horizon, boiling down blubber, and Kotick knew what that meant.
Or else he could see that seals had once visited the island and
been killed off, and Kotick knew that where men had come once they
would come again.
He picked up with an old stumpy-tailed albatross, who told him
that Kerguelen Island was the very place for peace and quiet, and
when Kotick went down there he was all but smashed to pieces
against some wicked black cliffs in a heavy sleet-storm with
lightning and thunder. Yet as he pulled out against the gale he
could see that even there had once been a seal nursery. And it
was so in all the other islands that he visited.
Limmershin gave a long list of them, for he said that Kotick
spent five seasons exploring, with a four months' rest each year
at Novastoshnah, when the holluschickie used to make fun of him
and his imaginary islands. He went to the Gallapagos, a horrid
dry place on the Equator, where he was nearly baked to death; he
went to the Georgia Islands, the Orkneys, Emerald Island, Little
Nightingale Island, Gough's Island, Bouvet's Island, the Crossets,
and even to a little speck of an island south of the Cape of Good
Hope. But everywhere the People of the Sea told him the same
things. Seals had come to those islands once upon a time, but men
had killed them all off. Even when he swam thousands of miles out
of the Pacific and got to a place called Cape Corrientes (that was
when he was coming back from Gough's Island), he found a few
hundred mangy seals on a rock and they told him that men came
That nearly broke his heart, and he headed round the Horn back
to his own beaches; and on his way north he hauled out on an
island full of green trees, where he found an old, old seal who
was dying, and Kotick caught fish for him and told him all his
sorrows. "Now," said Kotick, "I am going back to Novastoshnah,
and if I am driven to the killing-pens with the holluschickie I
shall not care."
The old seal said, "Try once more. I am the last of the Lost
Rookery of Masafuera, and in the days when men killed us by the
hundred thousand there was a story on the beaches that some day a
white seal would come out of the North and lead the seal people to
a quiet place. I am old, and I shall never live to see that day,
but others will. Try once more."
And Kotick curled up his mustache (it was a beauty) and said,
"I am the only white seal that has ever been born on the beaches,
and I am the only seal, black or white, who ever thought of
looking for new islands."
This cheered him immensely; and when he came back to
Novastoshnah that summer, Matkah, his mother, begged him to marry
and settle down, for he was no longer a holluschick but a
full-grown sea-catch, with a curly white mane on his shoulders, as
heavy, as big, and as fierce as his father. "Give me another
season," he said. "Remember, Mother, it is always the seventh
wave that goes farthest up the beach."
Curiously enough, there was another seal who thought that she
would put off marrying till the next year, and Kotick danced the
Fire-dance with her all down Lukannon Beach the night before he
set off on his last exploration. This time he went westward,
because he had fallen on the trail of a great shoal of halibut,
and he needed at least one hundred pounds of fish a day to keep
him in good condition. He chased them till he was tired, and then
he curled himself up and went to sleep on the hollows of the
ground swell that sets in to Copper Island. He knew the coast
perfectly well, so about midnight, when he felt himself gently
bumped on a weed-bed, he said, "Hm, tide's running strong
tonight," and turning over under water opened his eyes slowly and
stretched. Then he jumped like a cat, for he saw huge things
nosing about in the shoal water and browsing on the heavy fringes
of the weeds.
"By the Great Combers of Magellan!" he said, beneath his
mustache. "Who in the Deep Sea are these people?"
They were like no walrus, sea lion, seal, bear, whale, shark,
fish, squid, or scallop that Kotick had ever seen before. They
were between twenty and thirty feet long, and they had no hind
flippers, but a shovel-like tail that looked as if it had been
whittled out of wet leather. Their heads were the most
foolish-looking things you ever saw, and they balanced on the ends
of their tails in deep water when they weren't grazing, bowing
solemnly to each other and waving their front flippers as a fat
man waves his arm.
"Ahem!" said Kotick. "Good sport, gentlemen?" The
answered by bowing and waving their flippers like the Frog
Footman. When they began feeding again Kotick saw that their
upper lip was split into two pieces that they could twitch apart
about a foot and bring together again with a whole bushel of
seaweed between the splits. They tucked the stuff into their
mouths and chumped solemnly.
"Messy style of feeding, that," said Kotick. They bowed
again, and Kotick began to lose his temper. "Very good," he said.
"If you do happen to have an extra joint in your front flipper you
needn't show off so. I see you bow gracefully, but I should like
to know your names." The split lips moved and twitched; and the
glassy green eyes stared, but they did not speak.
"Well!" said Kotick. "You're the only people I've ever
uglier than Sea Vitch--and with worse manners."
Then he remembered in a flash what the Burgomaster gull had
screamed to him when he was a little yearling at Walrus Islet, and
he tumbled backward in the water, for he knew that he had found
Sea Cow at last.
The sea cows went on schlooping and grazing and chumping in
the weed, and Kotick asked them questions in every language that
he had picked up in his travels; and the Sea People talk nearly as
many languages as human beings. But the sea cows did not answer
because Sea Cow cannot talk. He has only six bones in his neck
where he ought to have seven, and they say under the sea that that
prevents him from speaking even to his companions. But, as you
know, he has an extra joint in his foreflipper, and by waving it
up and down and about he makes what answers to a sort of clumsy
By daylight Kotick's mane was standing on end and his temper
was gone where the dead crabs go. Then the Sea Cow began to
travel northward very slowly, stopping to hold absurd bowing
councils from time to time, and Kotick followed them, saying to
himself, "People who are such idiots as these are would have been
killed long ago if they hadn't found out some safe island. And
what is good enough for the Sea Cow is good enough for the Sea
Catch. All the same, I wish they'd hurry."
It was weary work for Kotick. The herd never went more than
forty or fifty miles a day, and stopped to feed at night, and kept
close to the shore all the time; while Kotick swam round them, and
over them, and under them, but he could not hurry them up one-half
mile. As they went farther north they held a bowing council every
few hours, and Kotick nearly bit off his mustache with impatience
till he saw that they were following up a warm current of water,
and then he respected them more.
One night they sank through the shiny water--sank like
stones--and for the first time since he had known them began to
swim quickly. Kotick followed, and the pace astonished him, for
he never dreamed that Sea Cow was anything of a swimmer. They
headed for a cliff by the shore--a cliff that ran down into deep
water, and plunged into a dark hole at the foot of it, twenty
fathoms under the sea. It was a long, long swim, and Kotick badly
wanted fresh air before he was out of the dark tunnel they led him
"My wig!" he said, when he rose, gasping and puffing, into
open water at the farther end. "It was a long dive, but it was
The sea cows had separated and were browsing lazily along the
edges of the finest beaches that Kotick had ever seen. There were
long stretches of smooth-worn rock running for miles, exactly
fitted to make seal-nurseries, and there were play-grounds of hard
sand sloping inland behind them, and there were rollers for seals
to dance in, and long grass to roll in, and sand dunes to climb up
and down, and, best of all, Kotick knew by the feel of the water,
which never deceives a true sea catch, that no men had ever come
The first thing he did was to assure himself that the fishing
was good, and then he swam along the beaches and counted up the
delightful low sandy islands half hidden in the beautiful rolling
fog. Away to the northward, out to sea, ran a line of bars and
shoals and rocks that would never let a ship come within six miles
of the beach, and between the islands and the mainland was a
stretch of deep water that ran up to the perpendicular cliffs, and
somewhere below the cliffs was the mouth of the tunnel.
"It's Novastoshnah over again, but ten times better," said
Kotick. "Sea Cow must be wiser than I thought. Men can't come
down the cliffs, even if there were any men; and the shoals to
seaward would knock a ship to splinters. If any place in the sea
is safe, this is it."
He began to think of the seal he had left behind him, but
though he was in a hurry to go back to Novastoshnah, he thoroughly
explored the new country, so that he would be able to answer all
Then he dived and made sure of the mouth of the tunnel, and
raced through to the southward. No one but a sea cow or a seal
would have dreamed of there being such a place, and when he looked
back at the cliffs even Kotick could hardly believe that he had
been under them.
He was six days going home, though he was not swimming slowly;
and when he hauled out just above Sea Lion's Neck the first person
he met was the seal who had been waiting for him, and she saw by
the look in his eyes that he had found his island at last.
But the holluschickie and Sea Catch, his father, and all the
other seals laughed at him when he told them what he had
discovered, and a young seal about his own age said, "This is all
very well, Kotick, but you can't come from no one knows where and
order us off like this. Remember we've been fighting for our
nurseries, and that's a thing you never did. You preferred
prowling about in the sea."
The other seals laughed at this, and the young seal began
twisting his head from side to side. He had just married that
year, and was making a great fuss about it.
"I've no nursery to fight for," said Kotick. "I only
show you all a place where you will be safe. What's the use of
"Oh, if you're trying to back out, of course I've no more to
say," said the young seal with an ugly chuckle.
"Will you come with me if I win?" said Kotick. And a green
light came into his eye, for he was very angry at having to fight
"Very good," said the young seal carelessly. "If you
He had no time to change his mind, for Kotick's head was out
and his teeth sunk in the blubber of the young seal's neck. Then
he threw himself back on his haunches and hauled his enemy down
the beach, shook him, and knocked him over. Then Kotick roared to
the seals: "I've done my best for you these five seasons past.
I've found you the island where you'll be safe, but unless your
heads are dragged off your silly necks you won't believe. I'm
going to teach you now. Look out for yourselves!"
Limmershin told me that never in his life--and Limmershin
sees ten thousand big seals fighting every year--never in all
his little life did he see anything like Kotick's charge into the
nurseries. He flung himself at the biggest sea catch he could
find, caught him by the throat, choked him and bumped him and
banged him till he grunted for mercy, and then threw him aside and
attacked the next. You see, Kotick had never fasted for four
months as the big seals did every year, and his deep-sea swimming
trips kept him in perfect condition, and, best of all, he had
never fought before. His curly white mane stood up with rage, and
his eyes flamed, and his big dog teeth glistened, and he was
splendid to look at. Old Sea Catch, his father, saw him tearing
past, hauling the grizzled old seals about as though they had been
halibut, and upsetting the young bachelors in all directions; and
Sea Catch gave a roar and shouted: "He may be a fool, but he is
the best fighter on the beaches! Don't tackle your father, my
son! He's with you!"
Kotick roared in answer, and old Sea Catch waddled in with his
mustache on end, blowing like a locomotive, while Matkah and the
seal that was going to marry Kotick cowered down and admired their
men-folk. It was a gorgeous fight, for the two fought as long as
there was a seal that dared lift up his head, and when there were
none they paraded grandly up and down the beach side by side,
At night, just as the Northern Lights were winking and
flashing through the fog, Kotick climbed a bare rock and looked
down on the scattered nurseries and the torn and bleeding seals.
"Now," he said, "I've taught you your lesson."
"My wig!" said old Sea Catch, boosting himself up stiffly,
he was fearfully mauled. "The Killer Whale himself could not have
cut them up worse. Son, I'm proud of you, and what's more, I'll
come with you to your island--if there is such a place."
"Hear you, fat pigs of the sea. Who comes with me to the Sea
Cow's tunnel? Answer, or I shall teach you again," roared Kotick.
There was a murmur like the ripple of the tide all up and down
the beaches. "We will come," said thousands of tired voices. "We
will follow Kotick, the White Seal."
Then Kotick dropped his head between his shoulders and shut
his eyes proudly. He was not a white seal any more, but red from
head to tail. All the same he would have scorned to look at or
touch one of his wounds.
A week later he and his army (nearly ten thousand
holluschickie and old seals) went away north to the Sea Cow's
tunnel, Kotick leading them, and the seals that stayed at
Novastoshnah called them idiots. But next spring, when they all
met off the fishing banks of the Pacific, Kotick's seals told such
tales of the new beaches beyond Sea Cow's tunnel that more and
more seals left Novastoshnah. Of course it was not all done at
once, for the seals are not very clever, and they need a long time
to turn things over in their minds, but year after year more seals
went away from Novastoshnah, and Lukannon, and the other
nurseries, to the quiet, sheltered beaches where Kotick sits all
the summer through, getting bigger and fatter and stronger each
year, while the holluschickie play around him, in that sea where
no man comes.
This is the great deep-sea song that all the St. Paul seals sing
when they are heading back to their beaches in the summer. It is
a sort of very sad seal National Anthem.
I met my mates in the morning (and, oh, but I am old!)
Where roaring on the ledges the summer ground-swell rolled;
I heard them lift the chorus that drowned the breakers' song--
The Beaches of Lukannon--two million voices strong.
The song of pleasant stations beside the salt lagoons,
The song of blowing squadrons that shuffled down the dunes,
The song of midnight dances that churned the sea to flame--
The Beaches of Lukannon--before the sealers came!
I met my mates in the morning (I'll never meet them more!);
They came and went in legions that darkened all the shore.
And o'er the foam-flecked offing as far as voice could reach
We hailed the landing-parties and we sang them up the beach.
The Beaches of Lukannon--the winter wheat so tall--
The dripping, crinkled lichens, and the sea-fog drenching all!
The platforms of our playground, all shining smooth and worn!
The Beaches of Lukannon--the home where we were born!
I met my mates in the morning, a broken, scattered band.
Men shoot us in the water and club us on the land;
Men drive us to the Salt House like silly sheep and tame,
And still we sing Lukannon--before the sealers came.
Wheel down, wheel down to southward; oh, Gooverooska, go!
And tell the Deep-Sea Viceroys the story of our woe;
Ere, empty as the shark's egg the tempest flings ashore,
The Beaches of Lukannon shall know their sons no more!
At the hole where he went in
Red-Eye called to Wrinkle-Skin.
Hear what little Red-Eye saith:
"Nag, come up and dance with death!"
Eye to eye and head to head,
(Keep the measure, Nag.)
This shall end when one is dead;
(At thy pleasure, Nag.)
Turn for turn and twist for twist--
(Run and hide thee, Nag.)
Hah! The hooded Death has missed!
(Woe betide thee, Nag!)
This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought
single-handed, through the bath-rooms of the big bungalow in
Segowlee cantonment. Darzee, the Tailorbird, helped him, and
Chuchundra, the musk-rat, who never comes out into the middle of
the floor, but always creeps round by the wall, gave him advice,
but Rikki-tikki did the real fighting.
He was a mongoose, rather like a little cat in his fur and his
tail, but quite like a weasel in his head and his habits. His
eyes and the end of his restless nose were pink. He could scratch
himself anywhere he pleased with any leg, front or back, that he
chose to use. He could fluff up his tail till it looked like a
bottle brush, and his war cry as he scuttled through the long
grass was: "Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!"
One day, a high summer flood washed him out of the burrow
where he lived with his father and mother, and carried him,
kicking and clucking, down a roadside ditch. He found a little
wisp of grass floating there, and clung to it till he lost his
senses. When he revived, he was lying in the hot sun on the
middle of a garden path, very draggled indeed, and a small boy was
saying, "Here's a dead mongoose. Let's have a funeral."
"No," said his mother, "let's take him in and dry him.
Perhaps he isn't really dead."
They took him into the house, and a big man picked him up
between his finger and thumb and said he was not dead but half
choked. So they wrapped him in cotton wool, and warmed him over a
little fire, and he opened his eyes and sneezed.
"Now," said the big man (he was an Englishman who had just
moved into the bungalow), "don't frighten him, and we'll see what
It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose,
because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity. The
motto of all the mongoose family is "Run and find out," and
Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose. He looked at the cotton wool,
decided that it was not good to eat, ran all round the table, sat
up and put his fur in order, scratched himself, and jumped on the
small boy's shoulder.
"Don't be frightened, Teddy," said his father. "That's
way of making friends."
"Ouch! He's tickling under my chin," said Teddy.
Rikki-tikki looked down between the boy's collar and neck,
snuffed at his ear, and climbed down to the floor, where he sat
rubbing his nose.
"Good gracious," said Teddy's mother, "and that's a wild
creature! I suppose he's so tame because we've been kind to him."
"All mongooses are like that," said her husband. "If
doesn't pick him up by the tail, or try to put him in a cage,
he'll run in and out of the house all day long. Let's give him
something to eat."
They gave him a little piece of raw meat. Rikki-tikki liked
it immensely, and when it was finished he went out into the
veranda and sat in the sunshine and fluffed up his fur to make it
dry to the roots. Then he felt better.
"There are more things to find out about in this house," he
said to himself, "than all my family could find out in all their
lives. I shall certainly stay and find out."
He spent all that day roaming over the house. He nearly
drowned himself in the bath-tubs, put his nose into the ink on a
writing table, and burned it on the end of the big man's cigar,
for he climbed up in the big man's lap to see how writing was
done. At nightfall he ran into Teddy's nursery to watch how
kerosene lamps were lighted, and when Teddy went to bed
Rikki-tikki climbed up too. But he was a restless companion,
because he had to get up and attend to every noise all through the
night, and find out what made it. Teddy's mother and father came
in, the last thing, to look at their boy, and Rikki-tikki was
awake on the pillow. "I don't like that," said Teddy's mother.
"He may bite the child." "He'll do no such thing," said
father. "Teddy's safer with that little beast than if he had a
bloodhound to watch him. If a snake came into the nursery now--"
But Teddy's mother wouldn't think of anything so awful.
Early in the morning Rikki-tikki came to early breakfast in
the veranda riding on Teddy's shoulder, and they gave him banana
and some boiled egg. He sat on all their laps one after the
other, because every well-brought-up mongoose always hopes to be a
house mongoose some day and have rooms to run about in; and
Rikki-tikki's mother (she used to live in the general's house at
Segowlee) had carefully told Rikki what to do if ever he came
across white men.
Then Rikki-tikki went out into the garden to see what was to
be seen. It was a large garden, only half cultivated, with
bushes, as big as summer-houses, of Marshal Niel roses, lime and
orange trees, clumps of bamboos, and thickets of high grass.
Rikki-tikki licked his lips. "This is a splendid hunting-ground,"
he said, and his tail grew bottle-brushy at the thought of it, and
he scuttled up and down the garden, snuffing here and there till
he heard very sorrowful voices in a thorn-bush.
It was Darzee, the Tailorbird, and his wife. They had made a
beautiful nest by pulling two big leaves together and stitching
them up the edges with fibers, and had filled the hollow with
cotton and downy fluff. The nest swayed to and fro, as they sat
on the rim and cried.
"What is the matter?" asked Rikki-tikki.
"We are very miserable," said Darzee. "One of our babies
out of the nest yesterday and Nag ate him."
"H'm!" said Rikki-tikki, "that is very sad--but I am
stranger here. Who is Nag?"
Darzee and his wife only cowered down in the nest without
answering, for from the thick grass at the foot of the bush there
came a low hiss--a horrid cold sound that made Rikki-tikki jump
back two clear feet. Then inch by inch out of the grass rose up
the head and spread hood of Nag, the big black cobra, and he was
five feet long from tongue to tail. When he had lifted one-third
of himself clear of the ground, he stayed balancing to and fro
exactly as a dandelion tuft balances in the wind, and he looked at
Rikki-tikki with the wicked snake's eyes that never change their
expression, whatever the snake may be thinking of.
"Who is Nag?" said he. "I am Nag. The great God Brahm
his mark upon all our people, when the first cobra spread his hood
to keep the sun off Brahm as he slept. Look, and be afraid!"
He spread out his hood more than ever, and Rikki-tikki saw the
spectacle-mark on the back of it that looks exactly like the eye
part of a hook-and-eye fastening. He was afraid for the minute,
but it is impossible for a mongoose to stay frightened for any
length of time, and though Rikki-tikki had never met a live cobra
before, his mother had fed him on dead ones, and he knew that all
a grown mongoose's business in life was to fight and eat snakes.
Nag knew that too and, at the bottom of his cold heart, he was
"Well," said Rikki-tikki, and his tail began to fluff up
again, "marks or no marks, do you think it is right for you to eat
fledglings out of a nest?"
Nag was thinking to himself, and watching the least little
movement in the grass behind Rikki-tikki. He knew that mongooses
in the garden meant death sooner or later for him and his family,
but he wanted to get Rikki-tikki off his guard. So he dropped his
head a little, and put it on one side.
"Let us talk," he said. "You eat eggs. Why should not
"Behind you! Look behind you!" sang Darzee.
Rikki-tikki knew better than to waste time in staring. He
jumped up in the air as high as he could go, and just under him
whizzed by the head of Nagaina, Nag's wicked wife. She had crept
up behind him as he was talking, to make an end of him. He heard
her savage hiss as the stroke missed. He came down almost across
her back, and if he had been an old mongoose he would have known
that then was the time to break her back with one bite; but he was
afraid of the terrible lashing return stroke of the cobra. He
bit, indeed, but did not bite long enough, and he jumped clear of
the whisking tail, leaving Nagaina torn and angry.
"Wicked, wicked Darzee!" said Nag, lashing up as high as he
could reach toward the nest in the thorn-bush. But Darzee had
built it out of reach of snakes, and it only swayed to and fro.
Rikki-tikki felt his eyes growing red and hot (when a
mongoose's eyes grow red, he is angry), and he sat back on his
tail and hind legs like a little kangaroo, and looked all round
him, and chattered with rage. But Nag and Nagaina had disappeared
into the grass. When a snake misses its stroke, it never says
anything or gives any sign of what it means to do next.
Rikki-tikki did not care to follow them, for he did not feel sure
that he could manage two snakes at once. So he trotted off to the
gravel path near the house, and sat down to think. It was a
serious matter for him.
If you read the old books of natural history, you will find
they say that when the mongoose fights the snake and happens to
get bitten, he runs off and eats some herb that cures him. That
is not true. The victory is only a matter of quickness of eye and
quickness of foot--snake's blow against mongoose's jump--and
as no eye can follow the motion of a snake's head when it strikes,
this makes things much more wonderful than any magic herb.
Rikki-tikki knew he was a young mongoose, and it made him all the
more pleased to think that he had managed to escape a blow from
behind. It gave him confidence in himself, and when Teddy came
running down the path, Rikki-tikki was ready to be petted.
But just as Teddy was stooping, something wriggled a little in
the dust, and a tiny voice said: "Be careful. I am Death!" It
was Karait, the dusty brown snakeling that lies for choice on the
dusty earth; and his bite is as dangerous as the cobra's. But he
is so small that nobody thinks of him, and so he does the more
harm to people.
Rikki-tikki's eyes grew red again, and he danced up to Karait
with the peculiar rocking, swaying motion that he had inherited
from his family. It looks very funny, but it is so perfectly
balanced a gait that you can fly off from it at any angle you
please, and in dealing with snakes this is an advantage. If
Rikki-tikki had only known, he was doing a much more dangerous
thing than fighting Nag, for Karait is so small, and can turn so
quickly, that unless Rikki bit him close to the back of the head,
he would get the return stroke in his eye or his lip. But Rikki
did not know. His eyes were all red, and he rocked back and
forth, looking for a good place to hold. Karait struck out.
Rikki jumped sideways and tried to run in, but the wicked little
dusty gray head lashed within a fraction of his shoulder, and he
had to jump over the body, and the head followed his heels close.
Teddy shouted to the house: "Oh, look here! Our mongoose is
killing a snake." And Rikki-tikki heard a scream from Teddy's
mother. His father ran out with a stick, but by the time he came
up, Karait had lunged out once too far, and Rikki-tikki had
sprung, jumped on the snake's back, dropped his head far between
his forelegs, bitten as high up the back as he could get hold, and
rolled away. That bite paralyzed Karait, and Rikki-tikki was just
going to eat him up from the tail, after the custom of his family
at dinner, when he remembered that a full meal makes a slow
mongoose, and if he wanted all his strength and quickness ready,
he must keep himself thin.
He went away for a dust bath under the castor-oil bushes,
while Teddy's father beat the dead Karait. "What is the use of
that?" thought Rikki-tikki. "I have settled it all;" and
Teddy's mother picked him up from the dust and hugged him, crying
that he had saved Teddy from death, and Teddy's father said that
he was a providence, and Teddy looked on with big scared eyes.
Rikki-tikki was rather amused at all the fuss, which, of course,
he did not understand. Teddy's mother might just as well have
petted Teddy for playing in the dust. Rikki was thoroughly
That night at dinner, walking to and fro among the
wine-glasses on the table, he might have stuffed himself three
times over with nice things. But he remembered Nag and Nagaina,
and though it was very pleasant to be patted and petted by Teddy's
mother, and to sit on Teddy's shoulder, his eyes would get red
from time to time, and he would go off into his long war cry of
Teddy carried him off to bed, and insisted on Rikki-tikki
sleeping under his chin. Rikki-tikki was too well bred to bite or
scratch, but as soon as Teddy was asleep he went off for his
nightly walk round the house, and in the dark he ran up against
Chuchundra, the musk-rat, creeping around by the wall. Chuchundra
is a broken-hearted little beast. He whimpers and cheeps all the
night, trying to make up his mind to run into the middle of the
room. But he never gets there.
"Don't kill me," said Chuchundra, almost weeping.
"Rikki-tikki, don't kill me!"
"Do you think a snake-killer kills muskrats?" said Rikki-tikki
"Those who kill snakes get killed by snakes," said Chuchundra,
more sorrowfully than ever. "And how am I to be sure that Nag
won't mistake me for you some dark night?"
"There's not the least danger," said Rikki-tikki. "But
in the garden, and I know you don't go there."
"My cousin Chua, the rat, told me--" said Chuchundra, and
then he stopped.
"Told you what?"
"H'sh! Nag is everywhere, Rikki-tikki. You should have
talked to Chua in the garden."
"I didn't--so you must tell me. Quick, Chuchundra, or I'll
Chuchundra sat down and cried till the tears rolled off his
whiskers. "I am a very poor man," he sobbed. "I never had
enough to run out into the middle of the room. H'sh! I mustn't
tell you anything. Can't you hear, Rikki-tikki?"
Rikki-tikki listened. The house was as still as still, but he
thought he could just catch the faintest scratch-scratch in the
world--a noise as faint as that of a wasp walking on a
window-pane--the dry scratch of a snake's scales on brick-work.
"That's Nag or Nagaina," he said to himself, "and he
crawling into the bath-room sluice. You're right, Chuchundra; I
should have talked to Chua."
He stole off to Teddy's bath-room, but there was nothing
there, and then to Teddy's mother's bathroom. At the bottom of
the smooth plaster wall there was a brick pulled out to make a
sluice for the bath water, and as Rikki-tikki stole in by the
masonry curb where the bath is put, he heard Nag and Nagaina
whispering together outside in the moonlight.
"When the house is emptied of people," said Nagaina to her
husband, "he will have to go away, and then the garden will be our
own again. Go in quietly, and remember that the big man who
killed Karait is the first one to bite. Then come out and tell
me, and we will hunt for Rikki-tikki together."
"But are you sure that there is anything to be gained by
killing the people?" said Nag.
"Everything. When there were no people in the bungalow, did
we have any mongoose in the garden? So long as the bungalow is
empty, we are king and queen of the garden; and remember that as
soon as our eggs in the melon bed hatch (as they may tomorrow),
our children will need room and quiet."
"I had not thought of that," said Nag. "I will go, but
is no need that we should hunt for Rikki-tikki afterward. I will
kill the big man and his wife, and the child if I can, and come
away quietly. Then the bungalow will be empty, and Rikki-tikki
Rikki-tikki tingled all over with rage and hatred at this, and
then Nag's head came through the sluice, and his five feet of cold
body followed it. Angry as he was, Rikki-tikki was very
frightened as he saw the size of the big cobra. Nag coiled
himself up, raised his head, and looked into the bathroom in the
dark, and Rikki could see his eyes glitter.
"Now, if I kill him here, Nagaina will know; and if I fight
him on the open floor, the odds are in his favor. What am I to
do?" said Rikki-tikki-tavi.
Nag waved to and fro, and then Rikki-tikki heard him drinking
from the biggest water-jar that was used to fill the bath. "That
is good," said the snake. "Now, when Karait was killed, the big
man had a stick. He may have that stick still, but when he comes
in to bathe in the morning he will not have a stick. I shall wait
here till he comes. Nagaina--do you hear me?--I shall wait
here in the cool till daytime."
There was no answer from outside, so Rikki-tikki knew Nagaina
had gone away. Nag coiled himself down, coil by coil, round the
bulge at the bottom of the water jar, and Rikki-tikki stayed still
as death. After an hour he began to move, muscle by muscle,
toward the jar. Nag was asleep, and Rikki-tikki looked at his big
back, wondering which would be the best place for a good hold.
"If I don't break his back at the first jump," said Rikki, "he
still fight. And if he fights--O Rikki!" He looked at the
thickness of the neck below the hood, but that was too much for
him; and a bite near the tail would only make Nag savage.
"It must be the head"' he said at last; "the head above
hood. And, when I am once there, I must not let go."
Then he jumped. The head was lying a little clear of the
water jar, under the curve of it; and, as his teeth met, Rikki
braced his back against the bulge of the red earthenware to hold
down the head. This gave him just one second's purchase, and he
made the most of it. Then he was battered to and fro as a rat is
shaken by a dog--to and fro on the floor, up and down, and
around in great circles, but his eyes were red and he held on as
the body cart-whipped over the floor, upsetting the tin dipper and
the soap dish and the flesh brush, and banged against the tin side
of the bath. As he held he closed his jaws tighter and tighter,
for he made sure he would be banged to death, and, for the honor
of his family, he preferred to be found with his teeth locked. He
was dizzy, aching, and felt shaken to pieces when something went
off like a thunderclap just behind him. A hot wind knocked him
senseless and red fire singed his fur. The big man had been
wakened by the noise, and had fired both barrels of a shotgun into
Nag just behind the hood.
Rikki-tikki held on with his eyes shut, for now he was quite
sure he was dead. But the head did not move, and the big man
picked him up and said, "It's the mongoose again, Alice. The
little chap has saved our lives now."
Then Teddy's mother came in with a very white face, and saw
what was left of Nag, and Rikki-tikki dragged himself to Teddy's
bedroom and spent half the rest of the night shaking himself
tenderly to find out whether he really was broken into forty
pieces, as he fancied.
When morning came he was very stiff, but well pleased with his
doings. "Now I have Nagaina to settle with, and she will be worse
than five Nags, and there's no knowing when the eggs she spoke of
will hatch. Goodness! I must go and see Darzee," he said.
Without waiting for breakfast, Rikki-tikki ran to the
thornbush where Darzee was singing a song of triumph at the top of
his voice. The news of Nag's death was all over the garden, for
the sweeper had thrown the body on the rubbish-heap.
"Oh, you stupid tuft of feathers!" said Rikki-tikki angrily.
"Is this the time to sing?"
"Nag is dead--is dead--is dead!" sang Darzee. "The
valiant Rikki-tikki caught him by the head and held fast. The big
man brought the bang-stick, and Nag fell in two pieces! He will
never eat my babies again."
"All that's true enough. But where's Nagaina?" said
Rikki-tikki, looking carefully round him.
"Nagaina came to the bathroom sluice and called for Nag,"
Darzee went on, "and Nag came out on the end of a stick--the
sweeper picked him up on the end of a stick and threw him upon the
rubbish heap. Let us sing about the great, the red-eyed
Rikki-tikki!" And Darzee filled his throat and sang.
"If I could get up to your nest, I'd roll your babies out!"
said Rikki-tikki. "You don't know when to do the right thing at
the right time. You're safe enough in your nest there, but it's
war for me down here. Stop singing a minute, Darzee."
"For the great, the beautiful Rikki-tikki's sake I will stop,"
said Darzee. "What is it, O Killer of the terrible Nag?"
"Where is Nagaina, for the third time?"
"On the rubbish heap by the stables, mourning for Nag. Great
is Rikki-tikki with the white teeth."
"Bother my white teeth! Have you ever heard where she keeps
"In the melon bed, on the end nearest the wall, where the sun
strikes nearly all day. She hid them there weeks ago."
"And you never thought it worth while to tell me? The end
nearest the wall, you said?"
"Rikki-tikki, you are not going to eat her eggs?"
"Not eat exactly; no. Darzee, if you have a grain of sense
you will fly off to the stables and pretend that your wing is
broken, and let Nagaina chase you away to this bush. I must get
to the melon-bed, and if I went there now she'd see me."
Darzee was a feather-brained little fellow who could never
hold more than one idea at a time in his head. And just because
he knew that Nagaina's children were born in eggs like his own, he
didn't think at first that it was fair to kill them. But his wife
was a sensible bird, and she knew that cobra's eggs meant young
cobras later on. So she flew off from the nest, and left Darzee
to keep the babies warm, and continue his song about the death of
Nag. Darzee was very like a man in some ways.
She fluttered in front of Nagaina by the rubbish heap and
cried out, "Oh, my wing is broken! The boy in the house threw a
stone at me and broke it." Then she fluttered more desperately
Nagaina lifted up her head and hissed, "You warned Rikki-tikki
when I would have killed him. Indeed and truly, you've chosen a
bad place to be lame in." And she moved toward Darzee's wife,
slipping along over the dust.
"The boy broke it with a stone!" shrieked Darzee's wife.
"Well! It may be some consolation to you when you're dead to
know that I shall settle accounts with the boy. My husband lies
on the rubbish heap this morning, but before night the boy in the
house will lie very still. What is the use of running away? I am
sure to catch you. Little fool, look at me!"
Darzee's wife knew better than to do that, for a bird who
looks at a snake's eyes gets so frightened that she cannot move.
Darzee's wife fluttered on, piping sorrowfully, and never leaving
the ground, and Nagaina quickened her pace.
Rikki-tikki heard them going up the path from the stables, and
he raced for the end of the melon patch near the wall. There, in
the warm litter above the melons, very cunningly hidden, he found
twenty-five eggs, about the size of a bantam's eggs, but with
whitish skin instead of shell.
"I was not a day too soon," he said, for he could see the
cobras curled up inside the skin, and he knew that the minute they
were hatched they could each kill a man or a mongoose. He bit off
the tops of the eggs as fast as he could, taking care to crush the
young cobras, and turned over the litter from time to time to see
whether he had missed any. At last there were only three eggs
left, and Rikki-tikki began to chuckle to himself, when he heard
Darzee's wife screaming:
"Rikki-tikki, I led Nagaina toward the house, and she has gone
into the veranda, and--oh, come quickly--she means killing!"
Rikki-tikki smashed two eggs, and tumbled backward down the
melon-bed with the third egg in his mouth, and scuttled to the
veranda as hard as he could put foot to the ground. Teddy and his
mother and father were there at early breakfast, but Rikki-tikki
saw that they were not eating anything. They sat stone-still, and
their faces were white. Nagaina was coiled up on the matting by
Teddy's chair, within easy striking distance of Teddy's bare leg,
and she was swaying to and fro, singing a song of triumph.
"Son of the big man that killed Nag," she hissed, "stay
I am not ready yet. Wait a little. Keep very still, all you
three! If you move I strike, and if you do not move I strike.
Oh, foolish people, who killed my Nag!"
Teddy's eyes were fixed on his father, and all his father
could do was to whisper, "Sit still, Teddy. You mustn't move.
Teddy, keep still."
Then Rikki-tikki came up and cried, "Turn round, Nagaina.
Turn and fight!"
"All in good time," said she, without moving her eyes. "I
will settle my account with you presently. Look at your friends,
Rikki-tikki. They are still and white. They are afraid. They
dare not move, and if you come a step nearer I strike."
"Look at your eggs," said Rikki-tikki, "in the melon
the wall. Go and look, Nagaina!"
The big snake turned half around, and saw the egg on the
veranda. "Ah-h! Give it to me," she said.
Rikki-tikki put his paws one on each side of the egg, and his
eyes were blood-red. "What price for a snake's egg? For a young
cobra? For a young king cobra? For the last--the very last of
the brood? The ants are eating all the others down by the melon
Nagaina spun clear round, forgetting everything for the sake
of the one egg. Rikki-tikki saw Teddy's father shoot out a big
hand, catch Teddy by the shoulder, and drag him across the little
table with the tea-cups, safe and out of reach of Nagaina.
"Tricked! Tricked! Tricked! Rikk-tck-tck!" chuckled
Rikki-tikki. "The boy is safe, and it was I--I--I that caught
Nag by the hood last night in the bathroom." Then he began to
jump up and down, all four feet together, his head close to the
floor. "He threw me to and fro, but he could not shake me off.
He was dead before the big man blew him in two. I did it!
Rikki-tikki-tck-tck! Come then, Nagaina. Come and fight with me.
You shall not be a widow long."
Nagaina saw that she had lost her chance of killing Teddy, and
the egg lay between Rikki-tikki's paws. "Give me the egg,
Rikki-tikki. Give me the last of my eggs, and I will go away and
never come back," she said, lowering her hood.
"Yes, you will go away, and you will never come back. For you
will go to the rubbish heap with Nag. Fight, widow! The big man
has gone for his gun! Fight!"
Rikki-tikki was bounding all round Nagaina, keeping just out
of reach of her stroke, his little eyes like hot coals. Nagaina
gathered herself together and flung out at him. Rikki-tikki
jumped up and backward. Again and again and again she struck, and
each time her head came with a whack on the matting of the veranda
and she gathered herself together like a watch spring. Then
Rikki-tikki danced in a circle to get behind her, and Nagaina spun
round to keep her head to his head, so that the rustle of her tail
on the matting sounded like dry leaves blown along by the wind.
He had forgotten the egg. It still lay on the veranda, and
Nagaina came nearer and nearer to it, till at last, while
Rikki-tikki was drawing breath, she caught it in her mouth, turned
to the veranda steps, and flew like an arrow down the path, with
Rikki-tikki behind her. When the cobra runs for her life, she
goes like a whip-lash flicked across a horse's neck.
Rikki-tikki knew that he must catch her, or all the trouble
would begin again. She headed straight for the long grass by the
thorn-bush, and as he was running Rikki-tikki heard Darzee still
singing his foolish little song of triumph. But Darzee's wife was
wiser. She flew off her nest as Nagaina came along, and flapped
her wings about Nagaina's head. If Darzee had helped they might
have turned her, but Nagaina only lowered her hood and went on.
Still, the instant's delay brought Rikki-tikki up to her, and as
she plunged into the rat-hole where she and Nag used to live, his
little white teeth were clenched on her tail, and he went down
with her--and very few mongooses, however wise and old they may
be, care to follow a cobra into its hole. It was dark in the
hole; and Rikki-tikki never knew when it might open out and give
Nagaina room to turn and strike at him. He held on savagely, and
stuck out his feet to act as brakes on the dark slope of the hot,
Then the grass by the mouth of the hole stopped waving, and
Darzee said, "It is all over with Rikki-tikki! We must sing his
death song. Valiant Rikki-tikki is dead! For Nagaina will surely
kill him underground."
So he sang a very mournful song that he made up on the spur of
the minute, and just as he got to the most touching part, the
grass quivered again, and Rikki-tikki, covered with dirt, dragged
himself out of the hole leg by leg, licking his whiskers. Darzee
stopped with a little shout. Rikki-tikki shook some of the dust
out of his fur and sneezed. "It is all over," he said. "The
widow will never come out again." And the red ants that live
between the grass stems heard him, and began to troop down one
after another to see if he had spoken the truth.
Rikki-tikki curled himself up in the grass and slept where he
was--slept and slept till it was late in the afternoon, for he
had done a hard day's work.
"Now," he said, when he awoke, "I will go back to the
Tell the Coppersmith, Darzee, and he will tell the garden that
Nagaina is dead."
The Coppersmith is a bird who makes a noise exactly like the
beating of a little hammer on a copper pot; and the reason he is
always making it is because he is the town crier to every Indian
garden, and tells all the news to everybody who cares to listen.
As Rikki-tikki went up the path, he heard his "attention" notes
like a tiny dinner gong, and then the steady "Ding-dong-tock! Nag
is dead--dong! Nagaina is dead! Ding-dong-tock!" That set all
the birds in the garden singing, and the frogs croaking, for Nag
and Nagaina used to eat frogs as well as little birds.
When Rikki got to the house, Teddy and Teddy's mother (she
looked very white still, for she had been fainting) and Teddy's
father came out and almost cried over him; and that night he ate
all that was given him till he could eat no more, and went to bed
on Teddy's shoulder, where Teddy's mother saw him when she came to
look late at night.
"He saved our lives and Teddy's life," she said to her
husband. "Just think, he saved all our lives."
Rikki-tikki woke up with a jump, for the mongooses are light
"Oh, it's you," said he. "What are you bothering for?
the cobras are dead. And if they weren't, I'm here."
Rikki-tikki had a right to be proud of himself. But he did
not grow too proud, and he kept that garden as a mongoose should
keep it, with tooth and jump and spring and bite, till never a
cobra dared show its head inside the walls.
(Sung in honor of Rikki-tikki-tavi)
Singer and tailor am I--
Doubled the joys that I know--
Proud of my lilt to the sky,
Proud of the house that I sew--
Over and under, so weave I my music--so weave I the house that I
Sing to your fledglings again,
Mother, oh lift up your head!
Evil that plagued us is slain,
Death in the garden lies dead.
Terror that hid in the roses is impotent--flung on the dung-hill
Who has delivered us, who?
Tell me his nest and his name.
Rikki, the valiant, the true,
Tikki, with eyeballs of flame,
Rikk-tikki-tikki, the ivory-fanged, the hunter with eyeballs of
Give him the Thanks of the Birds,
Bowing with tail feathers spread!
Praise him with nightingale words--
Nay, I will praise him instead.
Hear! I will sing you the praise of the bottle-tailed Rikki, with
eyeballs of red!
(Here Rikki-tikki interrupted, and the rest of the song is
Toomai of the Elephants
I will remember what I was, I am sick of rope and chain--
I will remember my old strength and all my forest affairs.
I will not sell my back to man for a bundle of sugar-cane:
I will go out to my own kind, and the wood-folk in their lairs.
I will go out until the day, until the morning break--
Out to the wind's untainted kiss, the water's clean caress;
I will forget my ankle-ring and snap my picket stake.
I will revisit my lost loves, and playmates masterless!
Kala Nag, which means Black Snake, had served the Indian
Government in every way that an elephant could serve it for
forty-seven years, and as he was fully twenty years old when he
was caught, that makes him nearly seventy--a ripe age for an
elephant. He remembered pushing, with a big leather pad on his
forehead, at a gun stuck in deep mud, and that was before the
Afghan War of 1842, and he had not then come to his full strength.
His mother Radha Pyari,--Radha the darling,--who had been
caught in the same drive with Kala Nag, told him, before his
little milk tusks had dropped out, that elephants who were afraid
always got hurt. Kala Nag knew that that advice was good, for the
first time that he saw a shell burst he backed, screaming, into a
stand of piled rifles, and the bayonets pricked him in all his
softest places. So, before he was twenty-five, he gave up being
afraid, and so he was the best-loved and the best-looked-after
elephant in the service of the Government of India. He had
carried tents, twelve hundred pounds' weight of tents, on the
march in Upper India. He had been hoisted into a ship at the end
of a steam crane and taken for days across the water, and made to
carry a mortar on his back in a strange and rocky country very far
from India, and had seen the Emperor Theodore lying dead in
Magdala, and had come back again in the steamer entitled, so the
soldiers said, to the Abyssinian War medal. He had seen his
fellow elephants die of cold and epilepsy and starvation and
sunstroke up at a place called Ali Musjid, ten years later; and
afterward he had been sent down thousands of miles south to haul
and pile big balks of teak in the timberyards at Moulmein. There
he had half killed an insubordinate young elephant who was
shirking his fair share of work.
After that he was taken off timber-hauling, and employed, with
a few score other elephants who were trained to the business, in
helping to catch wild elephants among the Garo hills. Elephants
are very strictly preserved by the Indian Government. There is
one whole department which does nothing else but hunt them, and
catch them, and break them in, and send them up and down the
country as they are needed for work.
Kala Nag stood ten fair feet at the shoulders, and his tusks
had been cut off short at five feet, and bound round the ends, to
prevent them splitting, with bands of copper; but he could do more
with those stumps than any untrained elephant could do with the
real sharpened ones. When, after weeks and weeks of cautious
driving of scattered elephants across the hills, the forty or
fifty wild monsters were driven into the last stockade, and the
big drop gate, made of tree trunks lashed together, jarred down
behind them, Kala Nag, at the word of command, would go into that
flaring, trumpeting pandemonium (generally at night, when the
flicker of the torches made it difficult to judge distances), and,
picking out the biggest and wildest tusker of the mob, would
hammer him and hustle him into quiet while the men on the backs of
the other elephants roped and tied the smaller ones.
There was nothing in the way of fighting that Kala Nag, the
old wise Black Snake, did not know, for he had stood up more than
once in his time to the charge of the wounded tiger, and, curling
up his soft trunk to be out of harm's way, had knocked the
springing brute sideways in mid-air with a quick sickle cut of his
head, that he had invented all by himself; had knocked him over,
and kneeled upon him with his huge knees till the life went out
with a gasp and a howl, and there was only a fluffy striped thing
on the ground for Kala Nag to pull by the tail.
"Yes," said Big Toomai, his driver, the son of Black Toomai
who had taken him to Abyssinia, and grandson of Toomai of the
Elephants who had seen him caught, "there is nothing that the
Black Snake fears except me. He has seen three generations of us
feed him and groom him, and he will live to see four."
"He is afraid of me also," said Little Toomai, standing up
his full height of four feet, with only one rag upon him. He was
ten years old, the eldest son of Big Toomai, and, according to
custom, he would take his father's place on Kala Nag's neck when
he grew up, and would handle the heavy iron ankus, the elephant
goad, that had been worn smooth by his father, and his
grandfather, and his great-grandfather.
He knew what he was talking of; for he had been born under
Kala Nag's shadow, had played with the end of his trunk before he
could walk, had taken him down to water as soon as he could walk,
and Kala Nag would no more have dreamed of disobeying his shrill
little orders than he would have dreamed of killing him on that
day when Big Toomai carried the little brown baby under Kala Nag's
tusks, and told him to salute his master that was to be.
"Yes," said Little Toomai, "he is afraid of me,"
and he took
long strides up to Kala Nag, called him a fat old pig, and made
him lift up his feet one after the other.
"Wah!" said Little Toomai, "thou art a big elephant,"
wagged his fluffy head, quoting his father. "The Government may
pay for elephants, but they belong to us mahouts. When thou art
old, Kala Nag, there will come some rich rajah, and he will buy
thee from the Government, on account of thy size and thy manners,
and then thou wilt have nothing to do but to carry gold earrings
in thy ears, and a gold howdah on thy back, and a red cloth
covered with gold on thy sides, and walk at the head of the
processions of the King. Then I shall sit on thy neck, O Kala
Nag, with a silver ankus, and men will run before us with golden
sticks, crying, `Room for the King's elephant!' That will be
good, Kala Nag, but not so good as this hunting in the jungles."
"Umph!" said Big Toomai. "Thou art a boy, and as wild
buffalo-calf. This running up and down among the hills is not the
best Government service. I am getting old, and I do not love wild
elephants. Give me brick elephant lines, one stall to each
elephant, and big stumps to tie them to safely, and flat, broad
roads to exercise upon, instead of this come-and-go camping. Aha,
the Cawnpore barracks were good. There was a bazaar close by, and
only three hours' work a day."
Little Toomai remembered the Cawnpore elephant-lines and said
nothing. He very much preferred the camp life, and hated those
broad, flat roads, with the daily grubbing for grass in the forage
reserve, and the long hours when there was nothing to do except to
watch Kala Nag fidgeting in his pickets.
What Little Toomai liked was to scramble up bridle paths that
only an elephant could take; the dip into the valley below; the
glimpses of the wild elephants browsing miles away; the rush of
the frightened pig and peacock under Kala Nag's feet; the blinding
warm rains, when all the hills and valleys smoked; the beautiful
misty mornings when nobody knew where they would camp that night;
the steady, cautious drive of the wild elephants, and the mad rush
and blaze and hullabaloo of the last night's drive, when the
elephants poured into the stockade like boulders in a landslide,
found that they could not get out, and flung themselves at the
heavy posts only to be driven back by yells and flaring torches
and volleys of blank cartridge.
Even a little boy could be of use there, and Toomai was as
useful as three boys. He would get his torch and wave it, and
yell with the best. But the really good time came when the
driving out began, and the Keddah--that is, the stockade--
looked like a picture of the end of the world, and men had to make
signs to one another, because they could not hear themselves
speak. Then Little Toomai would climb up to the top of one of the
quivering stockade posts, his sun-bleached brown hair flying loose
all over his shoulders, and he looking like a goblin in the
torch-light. And as soon as there was a lull you could hear his
high-pitched yells of encouragement to Kala Nag, above the
trumpeting and crashing, and snapping of ropes, and groans of the
tethered elephants. "Mael, mael, Kala Nag! (Go on, go on, Black
Snake!) Dant do! (Give him the tusk!) Somalo! Somalo!
(Careful, careful!) Maro! Mar! (Hit him, hit him!) Mind the
post! Arre! Arre! Hai! Yai! Kya-a-ah!" he would shout, and
the big fight between Kala Nag and the wild elephant would sway to
and fro across the Keddah, and the old elephant catchers would
wipe the sweat out of their eyes, and find time to nod to Little
Toomai wriggling with joy on the top of the posts.
He did more than wriggle. One night he slid down from the
post and slipped in between the elephants and threw up the loose
end of a rope, which had dropped, to a driver who was trying to
get a purchase on the leg of a kicking young calf (calves always
give more trouble than full-grown animals). Kala Nag saw him,
caught him in his trunk, and handed him up to Big Toomai, who
slapped him then and there, and put him back on the post.
Next morning he gave him a scolding and said, "Are not good
brick elephant lines and a little tent carrying enough, that thou
must needs go elephant catching on thy own account, little
worthless? Now those foolish hunters, whose pay is less than my
pay, have spoken to Petersen Sahib of the matter." Little Toomai
was frightened. He did not know much of white men, but Petersen
Sahib was the greatest white man in the world to him. He was the
head of all the Keddah operations--the man who caught all the
elephants for the Government of India, and who knew more about the
ways of elephants than any living man.
"What--what will happen?" said Little Toomai.
"Happen! The worst that can happen. Petersen Sahib is a
madman. Else why should he go hunting these wild devils? He may
even require thee to be an elephant catcher, to sleep anywhere in
these fever-filled jungles, and at last to be trampled to death in
the Keddah. It is well that this nonsense ends safely. Next week
the catching is over, and we of the plains are sent back to our
stations. Then we will march on smooth roads, and forget all this
hunting. But, son, I am angry that thou shouldst meddle in the
business that belongs to these dirty Assamese jungle folk. Kala
Nag will obey none but me, so I must go with him into the Keddah,
but he is only a fighting elephant, and he does not help to rope
them. So I sit at my ease, as befits a mahout,--not a mere
hunter,--a mahout, I say, and a man who gets a pension at the
end of his service. Is the family of Toomai of the Elephants to
be trodden underfoot in the dirt of a Keddah? Bad one! Wicked
one! Worthless son! Go and wash Kala Nag and attend to his ears,
and see that there are no thorns in his feet. Or else Petersen
Sahib will surely catch thee and make thee a wild hunter--a
follower of elephant's foot tracks, a jungle bear. Bah! Shame!
Little Toomai went off without saying a word, but he told Kala
Nag all his grievances while he was examining his feet. "No
matter," said Little Toomai, turning up the fringe of Kala Nag's
huge right ear. "They have said my name to Petersen Sahib, and
perhaps--and perhaps--and perhaps--who knows? Hai! That is
a big thorn that I have pulled out!"
The next few days were spent in getting the elephants
together, in walking the newly caught wild elephants up and down
between a couple of tame ones to prevent them giving too much
trouble on the downward march to the plains, and in taking stock
of the blankets and ropes and things that had been worn out or
lost in the forest.
Petersen Sahib came in on his clever she-elephant Pudmini; he
had been paying off other camps among the hills, for the season
was coming to an end, and there was a native clerk sitting at a
table under a tree, to pay the drivers their wages. As each man
was paid he went back to his elephant, and joined the line that
stood ready to start. The catchers, and hunters, and beaters, the
men of the regular Keddah, who stayed in the jungle year in and
year out, sat on the backs of the elephants that belonged to
Petersen Sahib's permanent force, or leaned against the trees with
their guns across their arms, and made fun of the drivers who were
going away, and laughed when the newly caught elephants broke the
line and ran about.
Big Toomai went up to the clerk with Little Toomai behind him,
and Machua Appa, the head tracker, said in an undertone to a
friend of his, "There goes one piece of good elephant stuff at
least. 'Tis a pity to send that young jungle-cock to molt in the
Now Petersen Sahib had ears all over him, as a man must have
who listens to the most silent of all living things--the wild
elephant. He turned where he was lying all along on Pudmini's
back and said, "What is that? I did not know of a man among the
plains-drivers who had wit enough to rope even a dead elephant."
"This is not a man, but a boy. He went into the Keddah at the
last drive, and threw Barmao there the rope, when we were trying
to get that young calf with the blotch on his shoulder away from
Machua Appa pointed at Little Toomai, and Petersen Sahib
looked, and Little Toomai bowed to the earth.
"He throw a rope? He is smaller than a picket-pin. Little
one, what is thy name?" said Petersen Sahib.
Little Toomai was too frightened to speak, but Kala Nag was
behind him, and Toomai made a sign with his hand, and the elephant
caught him up in his trunk and held him level with Pudmini's
forehead, in front of the great Petersen Sahib. Then Little
Toomai covered his face with his hands, for he was only a child,
and except where elephants were concerned, he was just as bashful
as a child could be.
"Oho!" said Petersen Sahib, smiling underneath his mustache,
"and why didst thou teach thy elephant that trick? Was it to help
thee steal green corn from the roofs of the houses when the ears
are put out to dry?"
"Not green corn, Protector of the Poor,--melons," said
Little Toomai, and all the men sitting about broke into a roar of
laughter. Most of them had taught their elephants that trick when
they were boys. Little Toomai was hanging eight feet up in the
air, and he wished very much that he were eight feet underground.
"He is Toomai, my son, Sahib," said Big Toomai, scowling.
is a very bad boy, and he will end in a jail, Sahib."
"Of that I have my doubts," said Petersen Sahib. "A boy
can face a full Keddah at his age does not end in jails. See,
little one, here are four annas to spend in sweetmeats because
thou hast a little head under that great thatch of hair. In time
thou mayest become a hunter too." Big Toomai scowled more than
ever. "Remember, though, that Keddahs are not good for children
to play in," Petersen Sahib went on.
"Must I never go there, Sahib?" asked Little Toomai with a
"Yes." Petersen Sahib smiled again. "When thou hast seen
elephants dance. That is the proper time. Come to me when thou
hast seen the elephants dance, and then I will let thee go into
all the Keddahs."
There was another roar of laughter, for that is an old joke
among elephant-catchers, and it means just never. There are great
cleared flat places hidden away in the forests that are called
elephants' ball-rooms, but even these are only found by accident,
and no man has ever seen the elephants dance. When a driver
boasts of his skill and bravery the other drivers say, "And when
didst thou see the elephants dance?"
Kala Nag put Little Toomai down, and he bowed to the earth
again and went away with his father, and gave the silver four-anna
piece to his mother, who was nursing his baby brother, and they
all were put up on Kala Nag's back, and the line of grunting,
squealing elephants rolled down the hill path to the plains. It
was a very lively march on account of the new elephants, who gave
trouble at every ford, and needed coaxing or beating every other
Big Toomai prodded Kala Nag spitefully, for he was very angry,
but Little Toomai was too happy to speak. Petersen Sahib had
noticed him, and given him money, so he felt as a private soldier
would feel if he had been called out of the ranks and praised by
"What did Petersen Sahib mean by the elephant dance?" he said,
at last, softly to his mother.
Big Toomai heard him and grunted. "That thou shouldst never
be one of these hill buffaloes of trackers. That was what he
meant. Oh, you in front, what is blocking the way?"
An Assamese driver, two or three elephants ahead, turned round
angrily, crying: "Bring up Kala Nag, and knock this youngster of
mine into good behavior. Why should Petersen Sahib have chosen me
to go down with you donkeys of the rice fields? Lay your beast
alongside, Toomai, and let him prod with his tusks. By all the
Gods of the Hills, these new elephants are possessed, or else they
can smell their companions in the jungle." Kala Nag hit the new
elephant in the ribs and knocked the wind out of him, as Big
Toomai said, "We have swept the hills of wild elephants at the
last catch. It is only your carelessness in driving. Must I keep
order along the whole line?"
"Hear him!" said the other driver. "We have swept the
Ho! Ho! You are very wise, you plains people. Anyone but a
mud-head who never saw the jungle would know that they know that
the drives are ended for the season. Therefore all the wild
elephants to-night will--but why should I waste wisdom on a
"What will they do?" Little Toomai called out.
"Ohe, little one. Art thou there? Well, I will tell thee,
for thou hast a cool head. They will dance, and it behooves thy
father, who has swept all the hills of all the elephants, to
double-chain his pickets to-night."
"What talk is this?" said Big Toomai. "For forty years,
father and son, we have tended elephants, and we have never heard
such moonshine about dances."
"Yes; but a plainsman who lives in a hut knows only the four
walls of his hut. Well, leave thy elephants unshackled tonight
and see what comes. As for their dancing, I have seen the place
where--Bapree-bap! How many windings has the Dihang River?
Here is another ford, and we must swim the calves. Stop still,
you behind there."
And in this way, talking and wrangling and splashing through
the rivers, they made their first march to a sort of receiving
camp for the new elephants. But they lost their tempers long
before they got there.
Then the elephants were chained by their hind legs to their
big stumps of pickets, and extra ropes were fitted to the new
elephants, and the fodder was piled before them, and the hill
drivers went back to Petersen Sahib through the afternoon light,
telling the plains drivers to be extra careful that night, and
laughing when the plains drivers asked the reason.
Little Toomai attended to Kala Nag's supper, and as evening
fell, wandered through the camp, unspeakably happy, in search of a
tom-tom. When an Indian child's heart is full, he does not run
about and make a noise in an irregular fashion. He sits down to a
sort of revel all by himself. And Little Toomai had been spoken
to by Petersen Sahib! If he had not found what he wanted, I
believe he would have been ill. But the sweetmeat seller in the
camp lent him a little tom-tom--a drum beaten with the flat of
the hand--and he sat down, cross-legged, before Kala Nag as the
stars began to come out, the tom-tom in his lap, and he thumped
and he thumped and he thumped, and the more he thought of the
great honor that had been done to him, the more he thumped, all
alone among the elephant fodder. There was no tune and no words,
but the thumping made him happy.
The new elephants strained at their ropes, and squealed and
trumpeted from time to time, and he could hear his mother in the
camp hut putting his small brother to sleep with an old, old song
about the great God Shiv, who once told all the animals what they
should eat. It is a very soothing lullaby, and the first verse
Shiv, who poured the harvest and made the winds to blow,
Sitting at the doorways of a day of long ago,
Gave to each his portion, food and toil and fate,
From the King upon the guddee to the Beggar at the gate.
All things made he--Shiva the Preserver.
Mahadeo! Mahadeo! He made all--
Thorn for the camel, fodder for the kine,
And mother's heart for sleepy head, O little son of mine!
Little Toomai came in with a joyous tunk-a-tunk at the end of
each verse, till he felt sleepy and stretched himself on the
fodder at Kala Nag's side. At last the elephants began to lie
down one after another as is their custom, till only Kala Nag at
the right of the line was left standing up; and he rocked slowly
from side to side, his ears put forward to listen to the night
wind as it blew very slowly across the hills. The air was full of
all the night noises that, taken together, make one big silence--
the click of one bamboo stem against the other, the rustle of
something alive in the undergrowth, the scratch and squawk of a
half-waked bird (birds are awake in the night much more often than
we imagine), and the fall of water ever so far away. Little
Toomai slept for some time, and when he waked it was brilliant
moonlight, and Kala Nag was still standing up with his ears
cocked. Little Toomai turned, rustling in the fodder, and watched
the curve of his big back against half the stars in heaven, and
while he watched he heard, so far away that it sounded no more
than a pinhole of noise pricked through the stillness, the
"hoot-toot" of a wild elephant.
All the elephants in the lines jumped up as if they had been
shot, and their grunts at last waked the sleeping mahouts, and
they came out and drove in the picket pegs with big mallets, and
tightened this rope and knotted that till all was quiet. One new
elephant had nearly grubbed up his picket, and Big Toomai took off
Kala Nag's leg chain and shackled that elephant fore-foot to
hind-foot, but slipped a loop of grass string round Kala Nag's
leg, and told him to remember that he was tied fast. He knew that
he and his father and his grandfather had done the very same thing
hundreds of times before. Kala Nag did not answer to the order by
gurgling, as he usually did. He stood still, looking out across
the moonlight, his head a little raised and his ears spread like
fans, up to the great folds of the Garo hills.
"Tend to him if he grows restless in the night," said Big
Toomai to Little Toomai, and he went into the hut and slept.
Little Toomai was just going to sleep, too, when he heard the coir
string snap with a little "tang," and Kala Nag rolled out of his
pickets as slowly and as silently as a cloud rolls out of the
mouth of a valley. Little Toomai pattered after him, barefooted,
down the road in the moonlight, calling under his breath, "Kala
Nag! Kala Nag! Take me with you, O Kala Nag!" The elephant
turned, without a sound, took three strides back to the boy in the
moonlight, put down his trunk, swung him up to his neck, and
almost before Little Toomai had settled his knees, slipped into
There was one blast of furious trumpeting from the lines, and
then the silence shut down on everything, and Kala Nag began to
move. Sometimes a tuft of high grass washed along his sides as a
wave washes along the sides of a ship, and sometimes a cluster of
wild-pepper vines would scrape along his back, or a bamboo would
creak where his shoulder touched it. But between those times he
moved absolutely without any sound, drifting through the thick
Garo forest as though it had been smoke. He was going uphill, but
though Little Toomai watched the stars in the rifts of the trees,
he could not tell in what direction.
Then Kala Nag reached the crest of the ascent and stopped for
a minute, and Little Toomai could see the tops of the trees lying
all speckled and furry under the moonlight for miles and miles,
and the blue-white mist over the river in the hollow. Toomai
leaned forward and looked, and he felt that the forest was awake
below him--awake and alive and crowded. A big brown
fruit-eating bat brushed past his ear; a porcupine's quills
rattled in the thicket; and in the darkness between the tree stems
he heard a hog-bear digging hard in the moist warm earth, and
snuffing as it digged.
Then the branches closed over his head again, and Kala Nag
began to go down into the valley--not quietly this time, but as
a runaway gun goes down a steep bank--in one rush. The huge
limbs moved as steadily as pistons, eight feet to each stride, and
the wrinkled skin of the elbow points rustled. The undergrowth on
either side of him ripped with a noise like torn canvas, and the
saplings that he heaved away right and left with his shoulders
sprang back again and banged him on the flank, and great trails of
creepers, all matted together, hung from his tusks as he threw his
head from side to side and plowed out his pathway. Then Little
Toomai laid himself down close to the great neck lest a swinging
bough should sweep him to the ground, and he wished that he were
back in the lines again.
The grass began to get squashy, and Kala Nag's feet sucked and
squelched as he put them down, and the night mist at the bottom of
the valley chilled Little Toomai. There was a splash and a
trample, and the rush of running water, and Kala Nag strode
through the bed of a river, feeling his way at each step. Above
the noise of the water, as it swirled round the elephant's legs,
Little Toomai could hear more splashing and some trumpeting both
upstream and down--great grunts and angry snortings, and all the
mist about him seemed to be full of rolling, wavy shadows.
"Ai!" he said, half aloud, his teeth chattering. "The
elephant-folk are out tonight. It is the dance, then!"
Kala Nag swashed out of the water, blew his trunk clear, and
began another climb. But this time he was not alone, and he had
not to make his path. That was made already, six feet wide, in
front of him, where the bent jungle-grass was trying to recover
itself and stand up. Many elephants must have gone that way only
a few minutes before. Little Toomai looked back, and behind him a
great wild tusker with his little pig's eyes glowing like hot
coals was just lifting himself out of the misty river.
Then the trees closed up again, and they went on and up, with
trumpetings and crashings, and the sound of breaking branches on
every side of them.
At last Kala Nag stood still between two tree-trunks at the
very top of the hill. They were part of a circle of trees that
grew round an irregular space of some three or four acres, and in
all that space, as Little Toomai could see, the ground had been
trampled down as hard as a brick floor. Some trees grew in the
center of the clearing, but their bark was rubbed away, and the
white wood beneath showed all shiny and polished in the patches of
moonlight. There were creepers hanging from the upper branches,
and the bells of the flowers of the creepers, great waxy white
things like convolvuluses, hung down fast asleep. But within the
limits of the clearing there was not a single blade of green--
nothing but the trampled earth.
The moonlight showed it all iron gray, except where some
elephants stood upon it, and their shadows were inky black.
Little Toomai looked, holding his breath, with his eyes starting
out of his head, and as he looked, more and more and more
elephants swung out into the open from between the tree trunks.
Little Toomai could only count up to ten, and he counted again and
again on his fingers till he lost count of the tens, and his head
began to swim. Outside the clearing he could hear them crashing
in the undergrowth as they worked their way up the hillside, but
as soon as they were within the circle of the tree trunks they
moved like ghosts.
There were white-tusked wild males, with fallen leaves and
nuts and twigs lying in the wrinkles of their necks and the folds
of their ears; fat, slow-footed she-elephants, with restless,
little pinky black calves only three or four feet high running
under their stomachs; young elephants with their tusks just
beginning to show, and very proud of them; lanky, scraggy old-maid
elephants, with their hollow anxious faces, and trunks like rough
bark; savage old bull elephants, scarred from shoulder to flank
with great weals and cuts of bygone fights, and the caked dirt of
their solitary mud baths dropping from their shoulders; and there
was one with a broken tusk and the marks of the full-stroke, the
terrible drawing scrape, of a tiger's claws on his side.
They were standing head to head, or walking to and fro across
the ground in couples, or rocking and swaying all by themselves--
scores and scores of elephants.
Toomai knew that so long as he lay still on Kala Nag's neck
nothing would happen to him, for even in the rush and scramble of
a Keddah drive a wild elephant does not reach up with his trunk
and drag a man off the neck of a tame elephant. And these
elephants were not thinking of men that night. Once they started
and put their ears forward when they heard the chinking of a leg
iron in the forest, but it was Pudmini, Petersen Sahib's pet
elephant, her chain snapped short off, grunting, snuffling up the
hillside. She must have broken her pickets and come straight from
Petersen Sahib's camp; and Little Toomai saw another elephant, one
that he did not know, with deep rope galls on his back and breast.
He, too, must have run away from some camp in the hills about.
At last there was no sound of any more elephants moving in the
forest, and Kala Nag rolled out from his station between the trees
and went into the middle of the crowd, clucking and gurgling, and
all the elephants began to talk in their own tongue, and to move
Still lying down, Little Toomai looked down upon scores and
scores of broad backs, and wagging ears, and tossing trunks, and
little rolling eyes. He heard the click of tusks as they crossed
other tusks by accident, and the dry rustle of trunks twined
together, and the chafing of enormous sides and shoulders in the
crowd, and the incessant flick and hissh of the great tails. Then
a cloud came over the moon, and he sat in black darkness. But the
quiet, steady hustling and pushing and gurgling went on just the
same. He knew that there were elephants all round Kala Nag, and
that there was no chance of backing him out of the assembly; so he
set his teeth and shivered. In a Keddah at least there was
torchlight and shouting, but here he was all alone in the dark,
and once a trunk came up and touched him on the knee.
Then an elephant trumpeted, and they all took it up for five
or ten terrible seconds. The dew from the trees above spattered
down like rain on the unseen backs, and a dull booming noise
began, not very loud at first, and Little Toomai could not tell
what it was. But it grew and grew, and Kala Nag lifted up one
forefoot and then the other, and brought them down on the ground
--one-two, one-two, as steadily as trip-hammers. The elephants
were stamping all together now, and it sounded like a war drum
beaten at the mouth of a cave. The dew fell from the trees till
there was no more left to fall, and the booming went on, and the
ground rocked and shivered, and Little Toomai put his hands up to
his ears to shut out the sound. But it was all one gigantic jar
that ran through him--this stamp of hundreds of heavy feet on
the raw earth. Once or twice he could feel Kala Nag and all the
others surge forward a few strides, and the thumping would change
to the crushing sound of juicy green things being bruised, but in
a minute or two the boom of feet on hard earth began again. A
tree was creaking and groaning somewhere near him. He put out his
arm and felt the bark, but Kala Nag moved forward, still tramping,
and he could not tell where he was in the clearing. There was no
sound from the elephants, except once, when two or three little
calves squeaked together. Then he heard a thump and a shuffle,
and the booming went on. It must have lasted fully two hours, and
Little Toomai ached in every nerve, but he knew by the smell of
the night air that the dawn was coming.
The morning broke in one sheet of pale yellow behind the green
hills, and the booming stopped with the first ray, as though the
light had been an order. Before Little Toomai had got the ringing
out of his head, before even he had shifted his position, there
was not an elephant in sight except Kala Nag, Pudmini, and the
elephant with the rope-galls, and there was neither sign nor
rustle nor whisper down the hillsides to show where the others had
Little Toomai stared again and again. The clearing, as he
remembered it, had grown in the night. More trees stood in the
middle of it, but the undergrowth and the jungle grass at the
sides had been rolled back. Little Toomai stared once more. Now
he understood the trampling. The elephants had stamped out more
room--had stamped the thick grass and juicy cane to trash, the
trash into slivers, the slivers into tiny fibers, and the fibers
into hard earth.
"Wah!" said Little Toomai, and his eyes were very heavy.
"Kala Nag, my lord, let us keep by Pudmini and go to Petersen
Sahib's camp, or I shall drop from thy neck."
The third elephant watched the two go away, snorted, wheeled
round, and took his own path. He may have belonged to some little
native king's establishment, fifty or sixty or a hundred miles
Two hours later, as Petersen Sahib was eating early breakfast,
his elephants, who had been double chained that night, began to
trumpet, and Pudmini, mired to the shoulders, with Kala Nag, very
footsore, shambled into the camp. Little Toomai's face was gray
and pinched, and his hair was full of leaves and drenched with
dew, but he tried to salute Petersen Sahib, and cried faintly:
"The dance--the elephant dance! I have seen it, and--I die!"
As Kala Nag sat down, he slid off his neck in a dead faint.
But, since native children have no nerves worth speaking of,
in two hours he was lying very contentedly in Petersen Sahib's
hammock with Petersen Sahib's shooting-coat under his head, and a
glass of warm milk, a little brandy, with a dash of quinine,
inside of him, and while the old hairy, scarred hunters of the
jungles sat three deep before him, looking at him as though he
were a spirit, he told his tale in short words, as a child will,
and wound up with:
"Now, if I lie in one word, send men to see, and they will
find that the elephant folk have trampled down more room in their
dance-room, and they will find ten and ten, and many times ten,
tracks leading to that dance-room. They made more room with their
feet. I have seen it. Kala Nag took me, and I saw. Also Kala
Nag is very leg-weary!"
Little Toomai lay back and slept all through the long
afternoon and into the twilight, and while he slept Petersen Sahib
and Machua Appa followed the track of the two elephants for
fifteen miles across the hills. Petersen Sahib had spent eighteen
years in catching elephants, and he had only once before found
such a dance-place. Machua Appa had no need to look twice at the
clearing to see what had been done there, or to scratch with his
toe in the packed, rammed earth.
"The child speaks truth," said he. "All this was done
night, and I have counted seventy tracks crossing the river. See,
Sahib, where Pudmini's leg-iron cut the bark of that tree! Yes;
she was there too."
They looked at one another and up and down, and they wondered.
For the ways of elephants are beyond the wit of any man, black or
white, to fathom.
"Forty years and five," said Machua Appa, "have I followed
lord, the elephant, but never have I heard that any child of man
had seen what this child has seen. By all the Gods of the Hills,
it is--what can we say?" and he shook his head.
When they got back to camp it was time for the evening meal.
Petersen Sahib ate alone in his tent, but he gave orders that the
camp should have two sheep and some fowls, as well as a double
ration of flour and rice and salt, for he knew that there would be
Big Toomai had come up hotfoot from the camp in the plains to
search for his son and his elephant, and now that he had found
them he looked at them as though he were afraid of them both. And
there was a feast by the blazing campfires in front of the lines
of picketed elephants, and Little Toomai was the hero of it all.
And the big brown elephant catchers, the trackers and drivers and
ropers, and the men who know all the secrets of breaking the
wildest elephants, passed him from one to the other, and they
marked his forehead with blood from the breast of a newly killed
jungle-cock, to show that he was a forester, initiated and free of
all the jungles.
And at last, when the flames died down, and the red light of
the logs made the elephants look as though they had been dipped in
blood too, Machua Appa, the head of all the drivers of all the
Keddahs--Machua Appa, Petersen Sahib's other self, who had never
seen a made road in forty years: Machua Appa, who was so great
that he had no other name than Machua Appa,--leaped to his feet,
with Little Toomai held high in the air above his head, and
shouted: "Listen, my brothers. Listen, too, you my lords in the
lines there, for I, Machua Appa, am speaking! This little one
shall no more be called Little Toomai, but Toomai of the
Elephants, as his great-grandfather was called before him. What
never man has seen he has seen through the long night, and the
favor of the elephant-folk and of the Gods of the Jungles is with
him. He shall become a great tracker. He shall become greater
than I, even I, Machua Appa! He shall follow the new trail, and
the stale trail, and the mixed trail, with a clear eye! He shall
take no harm in the Keddah when he runs under their bellies to
rope the wild tuskers; and if he slips before the feet of the
charging bull elephant, the bull elephant shall know who he is and
shall not crush him. Aihai! my lords in the chains,"--he
whirled up the line of pickets--"here is the little one that has
seen your dances in your hidden places,--the sight that never
man saw! Give him honor, my lords! Salaam karo, my children.
Make your salute to Toomai of the Elephants! Gunga Pershad, ahaa!
Hira Guj, Birchi Guj, Kuttar Guj, ahaa! Pudmini,--thou hast
seen him at the dance, and thou too, Kala Nag, my pearl among
elephants!--ahaa! Together! To Toomai of the Elephants.
And at that last wild yell the whole line flung up their
trunks till the tips touched their foreheads, and broke out into
the full salute--the crashing trumpet-peal that only the Viceroy
of India hears, the Salaamut of the Keddah.
But it was all for the sake of Little Toomai, who had seen
what never man had seen before--the dance of the elephants at
night and alone in the heart of the Garo hills!
Shiv and the Grasshopper
(The song that Toomai's mother sang to the baby)
Shiv, who poured the harvest and made the winds to blow,
Sitting at the doorways of a day of long ago,
Gave to each his portion, food and toil and fate,
From the King upon the guddee to the Beggar at the gate.
All things made he--Shiva the Preserver.
Mahadeo! Mahadeo! He made all,--
Thorn for the camel, fodder for the kine,
And mother's heart for sleepy head, O little son of mine!
Wheat he gave to rich folk, millet to the poor,
Broken scraps for holy men that beg from door to door;
Battle to the tiger, carrion to the kite,
And rags and bones to wicked wolves without the wall at night.
Naught he found too lofty, none he saw too low--
Parbati beside him watched them come and go;
Thought to cheat her husband, turning Shiv to jest--
Stole the little grasshopper and hid it in her breast.
So she tricked him, Shiva the Preserver.
Mahadeo! Mahadeo! Turn and see.
Tall are the camels, heavy are the kine,
But this was Least of Little Things, O little son of mine!
When the dole was ended, laughingly she said,
Master, of a million mouths, is not one unfed?"
Laughing, Shiv made answer, "All have had their part,
Even he, the little one, hidden 'neath thy heart."
From her breast she plucked it, Parbati the thief,
Saw the Least of Little Things gnawed a new-grown leaf!
Saw and feared and wondered, making prayer to Shiv,
Who hath surely given meat to all that live.
All things made he--Shiva the Preserver.
Mahadeo! Mahadeo! He made all,--
Thorn for the camel, fodder for the kine,
And mother's heart for sleepy head, O little son of mine!
Her Majesty's Servants
You can work it out by Fractions or by simple Rule of Three,
But the way of Tweedle-dum is not the way of Tweedle-dee.
You can twist it, you can turn it, you can plait it till you drop,
But the way of Pilly Winky's not the way of Winkie Pop!
It had been raining heavily for one whole month--raining on a
camp of thirty thousand men and thousands of camels, elephants,
horses, bullocks, and mules all gathered together at a place
called Rawal Pindi, to be reviewed by the Viceroy of India. He
was receiving a visit from the Amir of Afghanistan--a wild king
of a very wild country. The Amir had brought with him for a
bodyguard eight hundred men and horses who had never seen a camp
or a locomotive before in their lives--savage men and savage
horses from somewhere at the back of Central Asia. Every night a
mob of these horses would be sure to break their heel ropes and
stampede up and down the camp through the mud in the dark, or the
camels would break loose and run about and fall over the ropes of
the tents, and you can imagine how pleasant that was for men
trying to go to sleep. My tent lay far away from the camel lines,
and I thought it was safe. But one night a man popped his head in
and shouted, "Get out, quick! They're coming! My tent's gone!"
I knew who "they" were, so I put on my boots and waterproof
and scuttled out into the slush. Little Vixen, my fox terrier,
went out through the other side; and then there was a roaring and
a grunting and bubbling, and I saw the tent cave in, as the pole
snapped, and begin to dance about like a mad ghost. A camel had
blundered into it, and wet and angry as I was, I could not help
laughing. Then I ran on, because I did not know how many camels
might have got loose, and before long I was out of sight of the
camp, plowing my way through the mud.
At last I fell over the tail-end of a gun, and by that knew I
was somewhere near the artillery lines where the cannon were
stacked at night. As I did not want to plowter about any more in
the drizzle and the dark, I put my waterproof over the muzzle of
one gun, and made a sort of wigwam with two or three rammers that
I found, and lay along the tail of another gun, wondering where
Vixen had got to, and where I might be.
Just as I was getting ready to go to sleep I heard a jingle of
harness and a grunt, and a mule passed me shaking his wet ears.
He belonged to a screw-gun battery, for I could hear the rattle of
the straps and rings and chains and things on his saddle pad. The
screw-guns are tiny little cannon made in two pieces, that are
screwed together when the time comes to use them. They are taken
up mountains, anywhere that a mule can find a road, and they are
very useful for fighting in rocky country.
Behind the mule there was a camel, with his big soft feet
squelching and slipping in the mud, and his neck bobbing to and
fro like a strayed hen's. Luckily, I knew enough of beast
language--not wild-beast language, but camp-beast language, of
course--from the natives to know what he was saying.
He must have been the one that flopped into my tent, for he
called to the mule, "What shall I do? Where shall I go? I have
fought with a white thing that waved, and it took a stick and hit
me on the neck." (That was my broken tent pole, and I was very
glad to know it.) "Shall we run on?"
"Oh, it was you," said the mule, "you and your friends,
have been disturbing the camp? All right. You'll be beaten for
this in the morning. But I may as well give you something on
I heard the harness jingle as the mule backed and caught the
camel two kicks in the ribs that rang like a drum. "Another
time," he said, "you'll know better than to run through a mule
battery at night, shouting `Thieves and fire!' Sit down, and keep
your silly neck quiet."
The camel doubled up camel-fashion, like a two-foot rule, and
sat down whimpering. There was a regular beat of hoofs in the
darkness, and a big troop-horse cantered up as steadily as though
he were on parade, jumped a gun tail, and landed close to the
"It's disgraceful," he said, blowing out his nostrils. "Those
camels have racketed through our lines again--the third time
this week. How's a horse to keep his condition if he isn't
allowed to sleep. Who's here?"
"I'm the breech-piece mule of number two gun of the First
Screw Battery," said the mule, "and the other's one of your
friends. He's waked me up too. Who are you?"
"Number Fifteen, E troop, Ninth Lancers--Dick Cunliffe's
horse. Stand over a little, there."
"Oh, beg your pardon," said the mule. "It's too dark
much. Aren't these camels too sickening for anything? I walked
out of my lines to get a little peace and quiet here."
"My lords," said the camel humbly, "we dreamed bad dreams
the night, and we were very much afraid. I am only a baggage
camel of the 39th Native Infantry, and I am not as brave as you
are, my lords."
"Then why didn't you stay and carry baggage for the 39th
Native Infantry, instead of running all round the camp?" said the
"They were such very bad dreams," said the camel. "I
sorry. Listen! What is that? Shall we run on again?"
"Sit down," said the mule, "or you'll snap your long
stick-legs between the guns." He cocked one ear and listened.
"Bullocks!" he said. "Gun bullocks. On my word, you and your
friends have waked the camp very thoroughly. It takes a good deal
of prodding to put up a gun-bullock."
I heard a chain dragging along the ground, and a yoke of the
great sulky white bullocks that drag the heavy siege guns when the
elephants won't go any nearer to the firing, came shouldering
along together. And almost stepping on the chain was another
battery mule, calling wildly for "Billy."
"That's one of our recruits," said the old mule to the troop
horse. "He's calling for me. Here, youngster, stop squealing.
The dark never hurt anybody yet."
The gun-bullocks lay down together and began chewing the cud,
but the young mule huddled close to Billy.
"Things!" he said. "Fearful and horrible, Billy! They
into our lines while we were asleep. D'you think they'll kill
"I've a very great mind to give you a number-one kicking,"
said Billy. "The idea of a fourteen-hand mule with your training
disgracing the battery before this gentleman!"
"Gently, gently!" said the troop-horse. "Remember they
always like this to begin with. The first time I ever saw a man
(it was in Australia when I was a three-year-old) I ran for half a
day, and if I'd seen a camel, I should have been running still."
Nearly all our horses for the English cavalry are brought to
India from Australia, and are broken in by the troopers
"True enough," said Billy. "Stop shaking, youngster.
first time they put the full harness with all its chains on my
back I stood on my forelegs and kicked every bit of it off. I
hadn't learned the real science of kicking then, but the battery
said they had never seen anything like it."
"But this wasn't harness or anything that jingled," said the
young mule. "You know I don't mind that now, Billy. It was
Things like trees, and they fell up and down the lines and
bubbled; and my head-rope broke, and I couldn't find my driver,
and I couldn't find you, Billy, so I ran off with--with these
"H'm!" said Billy. "As soon as I heard the camels were
I came away on my own account. When a battery--a screw-gun mule
calls gun-bullocks gentlemen, he must be very badly shaken up.
Who are you fellows on the ground there?"
The gun bullocks rolled their cuds, and answered both
together: "The seventh yoke of the first gun of the Big Gun
Battery. We were asleep when the camels came, but when we were
trampled on we got up and walked away. It is better to lie quiet
in the mud than to be disturbed on good bedding. We told your
friend here that there was nothing to be afraid of, but he knew so
much that he thought otherwise. Wah!"
They went on chewing.
"That comes of being afraid," said Billy. "You get laughed
by gun-bullocks. I hope you like it, young un."
The young mule's teeth snapped, and I heard him say something
about not being afraid of any beefy old bullock in the world. But
the bullocks only clicked their horns together and went on
"Now, don't be angry after you've been afraid. That's the
worst kind of cowardice," said the troop-horse. "Anybody can be
forgiven for being scared in the night, I think, if they see
things they don't understand. We've broken out of our pickets,
again and again, four hundred and fifty of us, just because a new
recruit got to telling tales of whip snakes at home in Australia
till we were scared to death of the loose ends of our head-ropes."
"That's all very well in camp," said Billy. "I'm not
stampeding myself, for the fun of the thing, when I haven't been
out for a day or two. But what do you do on active service?"
"Oh, that's quite another set of new shoes," said the troop
horse. "Dick Cunliffe's on my back then, and drives his knees
into me, and all I have to do is to watch where I am putting my
feet, and to keep my hind legs well under me, and be bridle-wise."
"What's bridle-wise?" said the young mule.
"By the Blue Gums of the Back Blocks," snorted the
troop-horse, "do you mean to say that you aren't taught to be
bridle-wise in your business? How can you do anything, unless you
can spin round at once when the rein is pressed on your neck? It
means life or death to your man, and of course that's life and
death to you. Get round with your hind legs under you the instant
you feel the rein on your neck. If you haven't room to swing
round, rear up a little and come round on your hind legs. That's
"We aren't taught that way," said Billy the mule stiffly.
"We're taught to obey the man at our head: step off when he says
so, and step in when he says so. I suppose it comes to the same
thing. Now, with all this fine fancy business and rearing, which
must be very bad for your hocks, what do you do?"
"That depends," said the troop-horse. "Generally I have
in among a lot of yelling, hairy men with knives--long shiny
knives, worse than the farrier's knives--and I have to take care
that Dick's boot is just touching the next man's boot without
crushing it. I can see Dick's lance to the right of my right eye,
and I know I'm safe. I shouldn't care to be the man or horse that
stood up to Dick and me when we're in a hurry."
"Don't the knives hurt?" said the young mule.
"Well, I got one cut across the chest once, but that wasn't
"A lot I should have cared whose fault it was, if it hurt!"
said the young mule.
"You must," said the troop horse. "If you don't trust
man, you may as well run away at once. That's what some of our
horses do, and I don't blame them. As I was saying, it wasn't
Dick's fault. The man was lying on the ground, and I stretched
myself not to tread on him, and he slashed up at me. Next time I
have to go over a man lying down I shall step on him--hard."
"H'm!" said Billy. "It sounds very foolish. Knives are
things at any time. The proper thing to do is to climb up a
mountain with a well-balanced saddle, hang on by all four feet and
your ears too, and creep and crawl and wriggle along, till you
come out hundreds of feet above anyone else on a ledge where
there's just room enough for your hoofs. Then you stand still and
keep quiet--never ask a man to hold your head, young un--keep
quiet while the guns are being put together, and then you watch
the little poppy shells drop down into the tree-tops ever so far
"Don't you ever trip?" said the troop-horse.
"They say that when a mule trips you can split a hen's ear,"
said Billy. "Now and again perhaps a badly packed saddle will
upset a mule, but it's very seldom. I wish I could show you our
business. It's beautiful. Why, it took me three years to find
out what the men were driving at. The science of the thing is
never to show up against the sky line, because, if you do, you may
get fired at. Remember that, young un. Always keep hidden as
much as possible, even if you have to go a mile out of your way.
I lead the battery when it comes to that sort of climbing."
"Fired at without the chance of running into the people who
are firing!" said the troop-horse, thinking hard. "I couldn't
stand that. I should want to charge--with Dick."
"Oh, no, you wouldn't. You know that as soon as the guns are
in position they'll do all the charging. That's scientific and
neat. But knives--pah!"
The baggage-camel had been bobbing his head to and fro for
some time past, anxious to get a word in edgewise. Then I heard
him say, as he cleared his throat, nervously:
"I--I--I have fought a little, but not in that climbing
way or that running way."
"No. Now you mention it," said Billy, "you don't look
though you were made for climbing or running--much. Well, how
was it, old Hay-bales?"
"The proper way," said the camel. "We all sat down--"
"Oh, my crupper and breastplate!" said the troop-horse under
his breath. "Sat down!"
"We sat down--a hundred of us," the camel went on, "in
square, and the men piled our packs and saddles, outside the
square, and they fired over our backs, the men did, on all sides
of the square."
"What sort of men? Any men that came along?" said the
troop-horse. "They teach us in riding school to lie down and let
our masters fire across us, but Dick Cunliffe is the only man I'd
trust to do that. It tickles my girths, and, besides, I can't see
with my head on the ground."
"What does it matter who fires across you?" said the camel.
"There are plenty of men and plenty of other camels close by, and
a great many clouds of smoke. I am not frightened then. I sit
still and wait."
"And yet," said Billy, "you dream bad dreams and upset
camp at night. Well, well! Before I'd lie down, not to speak of
sitting down, and let a man fire across me, my heels and his head
would have something to say to each other. Did you ever hear
anything so awful as that?"
There was a long silence, and then one of the gun bullocks
lifted up his big head and said, "This is very foolish indeed.
There is only one way of fighting."
"Oh, go on," said Billy. "Please don't mind me. I suppose
you fellows fight standing on your tails?"
"Only one way," said the two together. (They must have been
twins.) "This is that way. To put all twenty yoke of us to the
big gun as soon as Two Tails trumpets." ("Two Tails" is camp
slang for the elephant.)
"What does Two Tails trumpet for?" said the young mule.
"To show that he is not going any nearer to the smoke on the
other side. Two Tails is a great coward. Then we tug the big gun
all together--Heya--Hullah! Heeyah! Hullah! We do not climb
like cats nor run like calves. We go across the level plain,
twenty yoke of us, till we are unyoked again, and we graze while
the big guns talk across the plain to some town with mud walls,
and pieces of the wall fall out, and the dust goes up as though
many cattle were coming home."
"Oh! And you choose that time for grazing?" said the young
"That time or any other. Eating is always good. We eat till
we are yoked up again and tug the gun back to where Two Tails is
waiting for it. Sometimes there are big guns in the city that
speak back, and some of us are killed, and then there is all the
more grazing for those that are left. This is Fate. None the
less, Two Tails is a great coward. That is the proper way to
fight. We are brothers from Hapur. Our father was a sacred bull
of Shiva. We have spoken."
"Well, I've certainly learned something tonight," said the
troop-horse. "Do you gentlemen of the screw-gun battery feel
inclined to eat when you are being fired at with big guns, and Two
Tails is behind you?"
"About as much as we feel inclined to sit down and let men
sprawl all over us, or run into people with knives. I never heard
such stuff. A mountain ledge, a well-balanced load, a driver you
can trust to let you pick your own way, and I'm your mule. But--
the other things--no!" said Billy, with a stamp of his foot.
"Of course," said the troop horse, "everyone is not made
the same way, and I can quite see that your family, on your
father's side, would fail to understand a great many things."
"Never you mind my family on my father's side," said Billy
angrily, for every mule hates to be reminded that his father was a
donkey. "My father was a Southern gentleman, and he could pull
down and bite and kick into rags every horse he came across.
Remember that, you big brown Brumby!"
Brumby means wild horse without any breeding. Imagine the
feelings of Sunol if a car-horse called her a "skate," and you
imagine how the Australian horse felt. I saw the white of his eye
glitter in the dark.
"See here, you son of an imported Malaga jackass," he said
between his teeth, "I'd have you know that I'm related on my
mother's side to Carbine, winner of the Melbourne Cup, and where I
come from we aren't accustomed to being ridden over roughshod by
any parrot-mouthed, pig-headed mule in a pop-gun pea-shooter
battery. Are you ready?"
"On your hind legs!" squealed Billy. They both reared up
facing each other, and I was expecting a furious fight, when a
gurgly, rumbly voice, called out of the darkness to the right--
"Children, what are you fighting about there? Be quiet."
Both beasts dropped down with a snort of disgust, for neither
horse nor mule can bear to listen to an elephant's voice.
"It's Two Tails!" said the troop-horse. "I can't stand
A tail at each end isn't fair!"
"My feelings exactly," said Billy, crowding into the
troop-horse for company. "We're very alike in some things."
"I suppose we've inherited them from our mothers," said the
troop horse. "It's not worth quarreling about. Hi! Two Tails,
are you tied up?"
"Yes," said Two Tails, with a laugh all up his trunk. "I'm
picketed for the night. I've heard what you fellows have been
saying. But don't be afraid. I'm not coming over."
The bullocks and the camel said, half aloud, "Afraid of Two
Tails--what nonsense!" And the bullocks went on, "We are sorry
that you heard, but it is true. Two Tails, why are you afraid of
the guns when they fire?"
"Well," said Two Tails, rubbing one hind leg against the
other, exactly like a little boy saying a poem, "I don't quite
know whether you'd understand."
"We don't, but we have to pull the guns," said the bullocks.
"I know it, and I know you are a good deal braver than you
think you are. But it's different with me. My battery captain
called me a Pachydermatous Anachronism the other day."
"That's another way of fighting, I suppose?" said Billy, who
was recovering his spirits.
"You don't know what that means, of course, but I do. It
means betwixt and between, and that is just where I am. I can see
inside my head what will happen when a shell bursts, and you
"I can," said the troop-horse. "At least a little bit.
not to think about it."
"I can see more than you, and I do think about it. I know
there's a great deal of me to take care of, and I know that nobody
knows how to cure me when I'm sick. All they can do is to stop my
driver's pay till I get well, and I can't trust my driver."
"Ah!" said the troop horse. "That explains it. I can
"You could put a whole regiment of Dicks on my back without
making me feel any better. I know just enough to be
uncomfortable, and not enough to go on in spite of it."
"We do not understand," said the bullocks.
"I know you don't. I'm not talking to you. You don't know
what blood is."
"We do," said the bullocks. "It is red stuff that soaks
the ground and smells."
The troop-horse gave a kick and a bound and a snort.
"Don't talk of it," he said. "I can smell it now, just
thinking of it. It makes me want to run--when I haven't Dick on
"But it is not here," said the camel and the bullocks. "Why
are you so stupid?"
"It's vile stuff," said Billy. "I don't want to run,
don't want to talk about it."
"There you are!" said Two Tails, waving his tail to explain.
"Surely. Yes, we have been here all night," said the
Two Tails stamped his foot till the iron ring on it jingled.
"Oh, I'm not talking to you. You can't see inside your heads."
"No. We see out of our four eyes," said the bullocks. "We
see straight in front of us."
"If I could do that and nothing else, you wouldn't be needed
to pull the big guns at all. If I was like my captain--he can
see things inside his head before the firing begins, and he shakes
all over, but he knows too much to run away--if I was like him I
could pull the guns. But if I were as wise as all that I should
never be here. I should be a king in the forest, as I used to be,
sleeping half the day and bathing when I liked. I haven't had a
good bath for a month."
"That's all very fine," said Billy. "But giving a thing
long name doesn't make it any better."
"H'sh!" said the troop horse. "I think I understand what
"You'll understand better in a minute," said Two Tails
angrily. "Now you just explain to me why you don't like this!"
He began trumpeting furiously at the top of his trumpet.
"Stop that!" said Billy and the troop horse together, and
could hear them stamp and shiver. An elephant's trumpeting is
always nasty, especially on a dark night.
"I shan't stop," said Two Tails. "Won't you explain that,
please? Hhrrmph! Rrrt! Rrrmph! Rrrhha!" Then he stopped
suddenly, and I heard a little whimper in the dark, and knew that
Vixen had found me at last. She knew as well as I did that if
there is one thing in the world the elephant is more afraid of
than another it is a little barking dog. So she stopped to bully
Two Tails in his pickets, and yapped round his big feet. Two
Tails shuffled and squeaked. "Go away, little dog!" he said.
"Don't snuff at my ankles, or I'll kick at you. Good little dog
--nice little doggie, then! Go home, you yelping little beast!
Oh, why doesn't someone take her away? She'll bite me in a
"Seems to me," said Billy to the troop horse, "that our
Two Tails is afraid of most things. Now, if I had a full meal for
every dog I've kicked across the parade-ground I should be as fat
as Two Tails nearly."
I whistled, and Vixen ran up to me, muddy all over, and licked
my nose, and told me a long tale about hunting for me all through
the camp. I never let her know that I understood beast talk, or
she would have taken all sorts of liberties. So I buttoned her
into the breast of my overcoat, and Two Tails shuffled and stamped
and growled to himself.
"Extraordinary! Most extraordinary!" he said. "It runs
our family. Now, where has that nasty little beast gone to?"
I heard him feeling about with his trunk.
"We all seem to be affected in various ways," he went on,
blowing his nose. "Now, you gentlemen were alarmed, I believe,
when I trumpeted."
"Not alarmed, exactly," said the troop-horse, "but it
feel as though I had hornets where my saddle ought to be. Don't
"I'm frightened of a little dog, and the camel here is
frightened by bad dreams in the night."
"It is very lucky for us that we haven't all got to fight in
the same way," said the troop-horse.
"What I want to know," said the young mule, who had been quiet
for a long time--"what I want to know is, why we have to fight
"Because we're told to," said the troop-horse, with a snort
"Orders," said Billy the mule, and his teeth snapped.
"Hukm hai!" (It is an order!), said the camel with a gurgle,
and Two Tails and the bullocks repeated, "Hukm hai!"
"Yes, but who gives the orders?" said the recruit-mule.
"The man who walks at your head--Or sits on your back--Or
holds the nose rope--Or twists your tail," said Billy and the
troop-horse and the camel and the bullocks one after the other.
"But who gives them the orders?"
"Now you want to know too much, young un," said Billy, "and
that is one way of getting kicked. All you have to do is to obey
the man at your head and ask no questions."
"He's quite right," said Two Tails. "I can't always obey,
because I'm betwixt and between. But Billy's right. Obey the man
next to you who gives the order, or you'll stop all the battery,
besides getting a thrashing."
The gun-bullocks got up to go. "Morning is coming," they
said. "We will go back to our lines. It is true that we only see
out of our eyes, and we are not very clever. But still, we are
the only people to-night who have not been afraid. Good-night,
you brave people."
Nobody answered, and the troop-horse said, to change the
conversation, "Where's that little dog? A dog means a man
"Here I am," yapped Vixen, "under the gun tail with my
You big, blundering beast of a camel you, you upset our tent. My
man's very angry."
"Phew!" said the bullocks. "He must be white!"
"Of course he is," said Vixen. "Do you suppose I'm looked
after by a black bullock-driver?"
"Huah! Ouach! Ugh!" said the bullocks. "Let us get away
They plunged forward in the mud, and managed somehow to run
their yoke on the pole of an ammunition wagon, where it jammed.
"Now you have done it," said Billy calmly. "Don't struggle.
You're hung up till daylight. What on earth's the matter?"
The bullocks went off into the long hissing snorts that Indian
cattle give, and pushed and crowded and slued and stamped and
slipped and nearly fell down in the mud, grunting savagely.
"You'll break your necks in a minute," said the troop-horse.
"What's the matter with white men? I live with 'em."
"They--eat--us! Pull!" said the near bullock. The yoke
snapped with a twang, and they lumbered off together.
I never knew before what made Indian cattle so scared of
Englishmen. We eat beef--a thing that no cattle-driver touches
--and of course the cattle do not like it.
"May I be flogged with my own pad-chains! Who'd have thought
of two big lumps like those losing their heads?" said Billy.
"Never mind. I'm going to look at this man. Most of the
white men, I know, have things in their pockets," said the
"I'll leave you, then. I can't say I'm over-fond of 'em
myself. Besides, white men who haven't a place to sleep in are
more than likely to be thieves, and I've a good deal of Government
property on my back. Come along, young un, and we'll go back to
our lines. Good-night, Australia! See you on parade to-morrow, I
suppose. Good-night, old Hay-bale!--try to control your
feelings, won't you? Good-night, Two Tails! If you pass us on
the ground tomorrow, don't trumpet. It spoils our formation."
Billy the Mule stumped off with the swaggering limp of an old
campaigner, as the troop-horse's head came nuzzling into my
breast, and I gave him biscuits, while Vixen, who is a most
conceited little dog, told him fibs about the scores of horses
that she and I kept.
"I'm coming to the parade to-morrow in my dog-cart," she said.
"Where will you be?"
"On the left hand of the second squadron. I set the time for
all my troop, little lady," he said politely. "Now I must go back
to Dick. My tail's all muddy, and he'll have two hours' hard work
dressing me for parade."
The big parade of all the thirty thousand men was held that
afternoon, and Vixen and I had a good place close to the Viceroy
and the Amir of Afghanistan, with high, big black hat of astrakhan
wool and the great diamond star in the center. The first part of
the review was all sunshine, and the regiments went by in wave
upon wave of legs all moving together, and guns all in a line,
till our eyes grew dizzy. Then the cavalry came up, to the
beautiful cavalry canter of "Bonnie Dundee," and Vixen cocked
ear where she sat on the dog-cart. The second squadron of the
Lancers shot by, and there was the troop-horse, with his tail like
spun silk, his head pulled into his breast, one ear forward and
one back, setting the time for all his squadron, his legs going as
smoothly as waltz music. Then the big guns came by, and I saw Two
Tails and two other elephants harnessed in line to a forty-pounder
siege gun, while twenty yoke of oxen walked behind. The seventh
pair had a new yoke, and they looked rather stiff and tired. Last
came the screw guns, and Billy the mule carried himself as though
he commanded all the troops, and his harness was oiled and
polished till it winked. I gave a cheer all by myself for Billy
the mule, but he never looked right or left.
The rain began to fall again, and for a while it was too misty
to see what the troops were doing. They had made a big half
circle across the plain, and were spreading out into a line. That
line grew and grew and grew till it was three-quarters of a mile
long from wing to wing--one solid wall of men, horses, and guns.
Then it came on straight toward the Viceroy and the Amir, and as
it got nearer the ground began to shake, like the deck of a
steamer when the engines are going fast.
Unless you have been there you cannot imagine what a
frightening effect this steady come-down of troops has on the
spectators, even when they know it is only a review. I looked at
the Amir. Up till then he had not shown the shadow of a sign of
astonishment or anything else. But now his eyes began to get
bigger and bigger, and he picked up the reins on his horse's neck
and looked behind him. For a minute it seemed as though he were
going to draw his sword and slash his way out through the English
men and women in the carriages at the back. Then the advance
stopped dead, the ground stood still, the whole line saluted, and
thirty bands began to play all together. That was the end of the
review, and the regiments went off to their camps in the rain, and
an infantry band struck up with--
The animals went in two by two,
The animals went in two by two,
The elephant and the battery mul',
and they all got into the Ark
For to get out of the rain!
Then I heard an old grizzled, long-haired Central Asian chief,
who had come down with the Amir, asking questions of a native
"Now," said he, "in what manner was this wonderful thing
And the officer answered, "An order was given, and they
"But are the beasts as wise as the men?" said the chief.
"They obey, as the men do. Mule, horse, elephant, or bullock,
he obeys his driver, and the driver his sergeant, and the sergeant
his lieutenant, and the lieutenant his captain, and the captain
his major, and the major his colonel, and the colonel his
brigadier commanding three regiments, and the brigadier the
general, who obeys the Viceroy, who is the servant of the Empress.
Thus it is done."
"Would it were so in Afghanistan!" said the chief, "for
we obey only our own wills."
"And for that reason," said the native officer, twirling his
mustache, "your Amir whom you do not obey must come here and take
orders from our Viceroy."
Parade Song of the Camp Animals
ELEPHANTS OF THE GUN TEAMS
We lent to Alexander the strength of Hercules,
The wisdom of our foreheads, the cunning of our knees;
We bowed our necks to service: they ne'er were loosed again,--
Make way there--way for the ten-foot teams
Of the Forty-Pounder train!
Those heroes in their harnesses avoid a cannon-ball,
And what they know of powder upsets them one and all;
Then we come into action and tug the guns again--
Make way there--way for the twenty yoke
Of the Forty-Pounder train!
By the brand on my shoulder, the finest of tunes
Is played by the Lancers, Hussars, and Dragoons,
And it's sweeter than "Stables" or "Water" to me--
The Cavalry Canter of "Bonnie Dundee"!
Then feed us and break us and handle and groom,
And give us good riders and plenty of room,
And launch us in column of squadron and see
The way of the war-horse to "Bonnie Dundee"!
As me and my companions were scrambling up a hill,
The path was lost in rolling stones, but we went forward still;
For we can wriggle and climb, my lads, and turn up everywhere,
Oh, it's our delight on a mountain height, with a leg or two to
Good luck to every sergeant, then, that lets us pick our road;
Bad luck to all the driver-men that cannot pack a load:
For we can wriggle and climb, my lads, and turn up everywhere,
Oh, it's our delight on a mountain height, with a leg or two to
We haven't a camelty tune of our own
To help us trollop along,
But every neck is a hair trombone
(Rtt-ta-ta-ta! is a hair trombone!)
And this our marching-song:
Can't! Don't! Shan't! Won't!
Pass it along the line!
Somebody's pack has slid from his back,
Wish it were only mine!
Somebody's load has tipped off in the road--
Cheer for a halt and a row!
Urrr! Yarrh! Grr! Arrh!
Somebody's catching it now!
ALL THE BEASTS TOGETHER
Children of the Camp are we,
Serving each in his degree;
Children of the yoke and goad,
Pack and harness, pad and load.
See our line across the plain,
Like a heel-rope bent again,
Reaching, writhing, rolling far,
Sweeping all away to war!
While the men that walk beside,
Dusty, silent, heavy-eyed,
Cannot tell why we or they
March and suffer day by day.
Children of the Camp are we,
Serving each in his degree;
Children of the yoke and goad,
Pack and harness, pad and load!