Rudyard Kipling’s “Mowgli’s Song Against People”

I will let loose against you the fleet-footed vines –
I will call in the Jungle to stamp out your lines !
The roofs shall fade before it,
The house-beams shall fall;
And the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall cover it all !

In the gates of these your councils my people shall sing.
In the doors of these your garners the Bat-folk shall cling;
And the snake shall be your watchman,
By a hearthstone unswept;
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall fruit where ye slept !

Ye shall not see my strikers; ye shall hear them and guess.
By night, before the moon-rise, I will send for my cess,
And the wolf shall be your herdsman
By a landmark removed;
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall seed where ye loved !

I will reap your fields before you at the hands of a host.
Ye shall glean behind my reapers for the bread that is lost;
And the deer shall be your oxen
On a headland untilled;
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall leaf where ye build !

I have untied against you the club-footed vines –
I have sent in the Jungle to swamp out your lines !
The trees – the trees are on you !
The house-beams shall fall;
And the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall cover you all !

 

Man, I’ve been off my game, guys! I’m sorry I’ve missed so many updates. A lot of exciting things have happened with The Prince of Prophecy Vol. III: Changing Tides, and it’s kept me really busy! I’m going to try to stay on top of these posts, but if I get a little behind I’m sorry in advance–right now I’m running my own three-ring circus.

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

 

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Rudyard Kipling’s “Letting in the Jungle”

Veil them, cover them, wall them round —

Blossom, and creeper, and weed —

Let us forget the sight and the sound,

The smell and the touch of the breed!

Fat black ash by the altar-stone,

Here is the white-foot rain,

And the does bring forth in the fields unsown,

And none shall affright them again;

And the blind walls crumble, unknown, o’erthrown

And none shall inhabit again!

You will remember that after Mowgli had pinned Shere Khan’s hide to the Council Rock, he told as many as were left of the Seeonee Pack that henceforward he would hunt in the Jungle alone; and the four children of Mother and Father Wolf said that they would hunt with him. But it is not easy to change one’s life all in a minute — particularly in the Jungle. The first thing Mowgli did, when the disorderly Pack had slunk off, was to go to the home-cave, and sleep for a day and a night. Then he told Mother Wolf and Father Wolf as much as they could understand of his adventures among men; and when he made the morning sun flicker up and down the blade of his skinning-knife — the same he had skinned Shere Khan with — they said he had learned something. Then Akela and Gray Brother had to explain their share of the great buffalo-drive in the ravine, and Baloo toiled up the hill to hear all about it, and Bagheera scratched himself all over with pure delight at the way in which Mowgli had managed his war.

It was long after sunrise, but no one dreamed of going to sleep, and from time to time, during the talk, Mother Wolf would throw up her head, and sniff a deep snuff of satisfaction as the wind brought her the smell of the tiger-skin on the Council Rock.

“But for Akela and Gray Brother here,” Mowgli said, at the end, “I could have done nothing. Oh, mother, mother! if thou hadst seen the black herd-bulls pour down the ravine, or hurry through the gates when the Man–Pack flung stones at me!”

“I am glad I did not see that last,” said Mother Wolf stiffly. “It is not MY custom to suffer my cubs to be driven to and fro like jackals. I would have taken a price from the Man–Pack; but I would have spared the woman who gave thee the milk. Yes, I would have spared her alone.”

“Peace, peace, Raksha!” said Father Wolf, lazily. “Our Frog has come back again — so wise that his own father must lick his feet; and what is a cut, more or less, on the head? Leave Men alone.” Baloo and Bagheera both echoed: “Leave Men alone.”

Mowgli, his head on Mother Wolf’s side, smiled contentedly, and said that, for his own part, he never wished to see, or hear, or smell Man again.

“But what,” said Akela, cocking one ear —“but what if men do not leave thee alone, Little Brother?”

“We be FIVE,” said Gray Brother, looking round at the company, and snapping his jaws on the last word.

“We also might attend to that hunting,” said Bagheera, with a little switch-switch of his tail, looking at Baloo. “But why think of men now, Akela?”

“For this reason,” the Lone Wolf answered: “when that yellow chief’s hide was hung up on the rock, I went back along our trail to the village, stepping in my tracks, turning aside, and lying down, to make a mixed trail in case one should follow us. But when I had fouled the trail so that I myself hardly knew it again, Mang, the Bat, came hawking between the trees, and hung up above me.” Said Mang, “The village of the Man–Pack, where they cast out the Man-cub, hums like a hornet’s nest.”

“It was a big stone that I threw,” chuckled Mowgli, who had often amused himself by throwing ripe paw-paws into a hornet’s nest, and racing off to the nearest pool before the hornets caught him.

“I asked of Mang what he had seen. He said that the Red Flower blossomed at the gate of the village, and men sat about it carrying guns. Now I know, for I have good cause,”— Akela looked down at the old dry scars on his flank and side — “that men do not carry guns for pleasure. Presently, Little Brother, a man with a gun follows our trail — if, indeed, he be not already on it.”

“But why should he? Men have cast me out. What more do they need?” said Mowgli angrily.

“Thou art a man, Little Brother,” Akela returned. “It is not for US, the Free Hunters, to tell thee what thy brethren do, or why.”

He had just time to snatch up his paw as the skinning-knife cut deep into the ground below. Mowgli struck quicker than an average human eye could follow but Akela was a wolf; and even a dog, who is very far removed from the wild wolf, his ancestor, can be waked out of deep sleep by a cart-wheel touching his flank, and can spring away unharmed before that wheel comes on.

“Another time,” Mowgli said quietly, returning the knife to its sheath, “speak of the Man–Pack and of Mowgli in TWO breaths — not one.”

“Phff! That is a sharp tooth,” said Akela, snuffing at the blade’s cut in the earth, “but living with the Man–Pack has spoiled thine eye, Little Brother. I could have killed a buck while thou wast striking.”

Bagheera sprang to his feet, thrust up his head as far as he could, sniffed, and stiffened through every curve in his body. Gray Brother followed his example quickly, keeping a little to his left to get the wind that was blowing from the right, while Akela bounded fifty yards up wind, and, half-crouching, stiffened too. Mowgli looked on enviously. He could smell things as very few human beings could, but he had never reached the hair-trigger-like sensitiveness of a Jungle nose; and his three months in the smoky village had set him back sadly. However, he dampened his finger, rubbed it on his nose, and stood erect to catch the upper scent, which, though it is the faintest, is the truest.

“Man!” Akela growled, dropping on his haunches.

“Buldeo!” said Mowgli, sitting down. “He follows our trail, and yonder is the sunlight on his gun. Look!”

It was no more than a splash of sunlight, for a fraction of a second, on the brass clamps of the old Tower musket, but nothing in the Jungle winks with just that flash, except when the clouds race over the sky. Then a piece of mica, or a little pool, or even a highly-polished leaf will flash like a heliograph. But that day was cloudless and still.

“I knew men would follow,” said Akela triumphantly. “Not for nothing have I led the Pack.”

The four cubs said nothing, but ran down hill on their bellies, melting into the thorn and under-brush as a mole melts into a lawn.

“Where go ye, and without word?” Mowgli called.

“H’sh! We roll his skull here before mid-day!” Gray Brother answered.

“Back! Back and wait! Man does not eat Man!” Mowgli shrieked.

“Who was a wolf but now? Who drove the knife at me for thinking he might be Man?” said Akela, as the four wolves turned back sullenly and dropped to heel.

“Am I to give reason for all I choose to, do?” said Mowgli furiously.

“That is Man! There speaks Man!” Bagheera muttered under his whiskers. “Even so did men talk round the King’s cages at Oodeypore. We of the Jungle know that Man is wisest of all. If we trusted our ears we should know that of all things he is most foolish.” Raising his voice, he added, “The Man-cub is right in this. Men hunt in packs. To kill one, unless we know what the others will do, is bad hunting. Come, let us see what this Man means toward us.”

“We will not come,” Gray Brother growled. “Hunt alone, Little Brother. WE know our own minds. The skull would have been ready to bring by now.”

Mowgli had been looking from one to the other of his friends, his chest heaving and his eyes full of tears. He strode forward to the wolves, and, dropping on one knee, said: “Do I not know my mind? Look at me!”

They looked uneasily, and when their eyes wandered, he called them back again and again, till their hair stood up all over their bodies, and they trembled in every limb, while Mowgli stared and stared.

“Now,” said he, “of us five, which is leader?”

“Thou art leader, Little Brother,” said Gray Brother, and he licked Mowgli’s foot.

“Follow, then,” said Mowgli, and the four followed at his heels with their tails between their legs.

“This comes of living with the Man–Pack,” said Bagheera, slipping down after them. “There is more in the Jungle now than Jungle Law, Baloo.”

The old bear said nothing, but he thought many things.

Mowgli cut across noiselessly through the Jungle, at right angles to Buldeo’s path, till, parting the undergrowth, he saw the old man, his musket on his shoulder, running up the trail of overnight at a dog-trot.

You will remember that Mowgli had left the village with the heavy weight of Shere Khan’s raw hide on his shoulders, while Akela and Gray Brother trotted behind, so that the triple trail was very clearly marked. Presently Buldeo came to where Akela, as you know, had gone back and mixed it all up. Then he sat down, and coughed and grunted, and made little casts round and about into the Jungle to pick it up again, and, all the time he could have thrown a stone over those who were watching him. No one can be so silent as a wolf when he does not care to be heard; and Mowgli, though the wolves thought he moved very clumsily, could come and go like a shadow. They ringed the old man as a school of porpoises ring a steamer at full speed, and as they ringed him they talked unconcernedly, for their speech began below the lowest end of the scale that untrained human beings can hear. [The other end is bounded by the high squeak of Mang, the Bat, which very many people cannot catch at all. From that note all the bird and bat and insect talk takes on.]

“This is better than any kill,” said Gray Brother, as Buldeo stooped and peered and puffed. “He looks like a lost pig in the Jungles by the river. What does he say?” Buldeo was muttering savagely.

Mowgli translated. “He says that packs of wolves must have danced round me. He says that he never saw such a trail in his life. He says he is tired.”

“He will be rested before he picks it up again,” said Bagheera coolly, as he slipped round a tree-trunk, in the game of blindman’s-buff that they were playing. “NOW, what does the lean thing do?”

“Eat or blow smoke out of his mouth. Men always play with their mouths,” said Mowgli; and the silent trailers saw the old man fill and light and puff at a water-pipe, and they took good note of the smell of the tobacco, so as to be sure of Buldeo in the darkest night, if necessary.

Then a little knot of charcoal-burners came down the path, and naturally halted to speak to Buldeo, whose fame as a hunter reached for at least twenty miles round. They all sat down and smoked, and Bagheera and the others came up and watched while Buldeo began to tell the story of Mowgli, the Devil-child, from one end to another, with additions and inventions. How he himself had really killed Shere Khan; and how Mowgli had turned himself into a wolf, and fought with him all the afternoon, and changed into a boy again and bewitched Buldeo’s rifle, so that the bullet turned the corner, when he pointed it at Mowgli, and killed one of Buldeo’s own buffaloes; and how the village, knowing him to be the bravest hunter in Seeonee, had sent him out to kill this Devil-child. But meantime the village had got hold of Messua and her husband, who were undoubtedly the father and mother of this Devil-child, and had barricaded them in their own hut, and presently would torture them to make them confess they were witch and wizard, and then they would be burned to death.

“When?” said the charcoal-burners, because they would very much like to be present at the ceremony.

Buldeo said that nothing would be done till he returned, because the village wished him to kill the Jungle Boy first. After that they would dispose of Messua and her husband, and divide their lands and buffaloes among the village. Messua’s husband had some remarkably fine buffaloes, too. It was an excellent thing to destroy wizards, Buldeo thought; and people who entertained Wolf-children out of the Jungle were clearly the worst kind of witches.

But, said the charcoal-burners, what would happen if the English heard of it? The English, they had heard, were a perfectly mad people, who would not let honest farmers kill witches in peace.

Why, said Buldeo, the head-man of the village would report that Messua and her husband had died of snake-bite. THAT was all arranged, and the only thing now was to kill the Wolf-child. They did not happen to have seen anything of such a creature?

The charcoal-burners looked round cautiously, and thanked their stars they had not; but they had no doubt that so brave a man as Buldeo would find him if any one could. The sun was getting rather low, and they had an idea that they would push on to Buldeo’s village and see that wicked witch. Buldeo said that, though it was his duty to kill the Devil-child, he could not think of letting a party of unarmed men go through the Jungle, which might produce the Wolf-demon at any minute, without his escort. He, therefore, would accompany them, and if the sorcerer’s child appeared — well, he would show them how the best hunter in Seeonee dealt with such things. The Brahmin, he said, had given him a charm against the creature that made everything perfectly safe.

“What says he? What says he? What says he?” the wolves repeated every few minutes; and Mowgli translated until he came to the witch part of the story, which was a little beyond him, and then he said that the man and woman who had been so kind to him were trapped.

“Does Man trap Man?” said Bagheera.

“So he says. I cannot understand the talk. They are all mad together. What have Messua and her man to do with me that they should be put in a trap; and what is all this talk about the Red Flower? I must look to this. Whatever they would do to Messua they will not do till Buldeo returns. And so ——” Mowgli thought hard, with his fingers playing round the haft of the skinning-knife, while Buldeo and the charcoal-burners went off very valiantly in single file.

“I go hot-foot back to the Man–Pack,” Mowgli said at last.

“And those?” said Gray Brother, looking hungrily after the brown backs of the charcoal-burners.

“Sing them home,” said Mowgli, with a grin; “I do not wish them to be at the village gates till it is dark. Can ye hold them?”

Gray Brother bared his white teeth in contempt. “We can head them round and round in circles like tethered goats — if I know Man.”

“That I do not need. Sing to them a little, lest they be lonely on the road, and, Gray Brother, the song need not be of the sweetest. Go with them, Bagheera, and help make that song. When night is shut down, meet me by the village — Gray Brother knows the place.”

“It is no light hunting to work for a Man-cub. When shall I sleep?” said Bagheera, yawning, though his eyes showed that he was delighted with the amusement. “Me to sing to naked men! But let us try.”

He lowered his head so that the sound would travel, and cried a long, long, “Good hunting”— a midnight call in the afternoon, which was quite awful enough to begin with. Mowgli heard it rumble, and rise, and fall, and die off in a creepy sort of whine behind him, and laughed to himself as he ran through the Jungle. He could see the charcoal-burners huddled in a knot; old Buldeo’s gun-barrel waving, like a banana-leaf, to every point of the compass at once. Then Gray Brother gave the Ya-la-hi! Yalaha! call for the buck-driving, when the Pack drives the nilghai, the big blue cow, before them, and it seemed to come from the very ends of the earth, nearer, and nearer, and nearer, till it ended in a shriek snapped off short. The other three answered, till even Mowgli could have vowed that the full Pack was in full cry, and then they all broke into the magnificent Morning-song in the Jungle, with every turn, and flourish, and grace-note that a deep-mouthed wolf of the Pack knows. This is a rough rendering of the song, but you must imagine what it sounds like when it breaks the afternoon hush of the Jungle:—

 

One moment past our bodies cast

No shadow on the plain;

Now clear and black they stride our track,

And we run home again.

In morning hush, each rock and bush

Stands hard, and high, and raw:

Then give the Call: “Good rest to all

That keep The Jungle Law!”

Now horn and pelt our peoples melt

In covert to abide;

Now, crouched and still, to cave and hill

Our Jungle Barons glide.

Now, stark and plain, Man’s oxen strain,

That draw the new-yoked plough;

Now, stripped and dread, the dawn is red

Above the lit talao.

Ho! Get to lair! The sun’s aflare

Behind the breathing grass:

And cracking through the young bamboo

The warning whispers pass.

By day made strange, the woods we range

With blinking eyes we scan;

While down the skies the wild duck cries

“The Day — the Day to Man!”

The dew is dried that drenched our hide

Or washed about our way;

And where we drank, the puddled bank

Is crisping into clay.

The traitor Dark gives up each mark

Of stretched or hooded claw;

Then hear the Call: “Good rest to all

That keep the Jungle Law!”

 

But no translation can give the effect of it, or the yelping scorn the Four threw into every word of it, as they heard the trees crash when the men hastily climbed up into the branches, and Buldeo began repeating incantations and charms. Then they lay down and slept, for, like all who live by their own exertions, they were of a methodical cast of mind; and no one can work well without sleep.

Meantime, Mowgli was putting the miles behind him, nine to the hour, swinging on, delighted to find himself so fit after all his cramped months among men. The one idea in his head was to get Messua and her husband out of the trap, whatever it was; for he had a natural mistrust of traps. Later on, he promised himself, he would pay his debts to the village at large.

It was at twilight when he saw the well-remembered grazing-grounds, and the dhak-tree where Gray Brother had waited for him on the morning that he killed Shere Khan. Angry as he was at the whole breed and community of Man, something jumped up in his throat and made him catch his breath when he looked at the village roofs. He noticed that every one had come in from the fields unusually early, and that, instead of getting to their evening cooking, they gathered in a crowd under the village tree, and chattered, and shouted.

“Men must always be making traps for men, or they are not content,” said Mowgli. “Last night it was Mowgli — but that night seems many Rains ago. To-night it is Messua and her man. To-morrow, and for very many nights after, it will be Mowgli’s turn again.”

He crept along outside the wall till he came to Messua’s hut, and looked through the window into the room. There lay Messua, gagged, and bound hand and foot, breathing hard, and groaning: her husband was tied to the gaily-painted bedstead. The door of the hut that opened into the street was shut fast, and three or four people were sitting with their backs to it.

Mowgli knew the manners and customs of the villagers very fairly. He argued that so long as they could eat, and talk, and smoke, they would not do anything else; but as soon as they had fed they would begin to be dangerous. Buldeo would be coming in before long, and if his escort had done its duty, Buldeo would have a very interesting tale to tell. So he went in through the window, and, stooping over the man and the woman, cut their thongs, pulling out the gags, and looked round the hut for some milk.

Messua was half wild with pain and fear (she had been beaten and stoned all the morning), and Mowgli put his hand over her mouth just in time to stop a scream. Her husband was only bewildered and angry, and sat picking dust and things out of his torn beard.

“I knew — I knew he would come,” Messua sobbed at last. “Now do I KNOW that he is my son!” and she hugged Mowgli to her heart. Up to that time Mowgli had been perfectly steady, but now he began to tremble all over, and that surprised him immensely.

“Why are these thongs? Why have they tied thee?” he asked, after a pause.

“To be put to the death for making a son of thee — what else?” said the man sullenly. “Look! I bleed.”

Messua said nothing, but it was at her wounds that Mowgli looked, and they heard him grit his teeth when he saw the blood.

“Whose work is this?” said he. “There is a price to pay.”

“The work of all the village. I was too rich. I had too many cattle. THEREFORE she and I are witches, because we gave thee shelter.”

“I do not understand. Let Messua tell the tale.”

“I gave thee milk, Nathoo; dost thou remember?” Messua said timidly. “Because thou wast my son, whom the tiger took, and because I loved thee very dearly. They said that I was thy mother, the mother of a devil, and therefore worthy of death.”

“And what is a devil?” said Mowgli. “Death I have seen.”

The man looked up gloomily, but Messua laughed. “See!” she said to her husband, “I knew — I said that he was no sorcerer. He is my son — my son!”

“Son or sorcerer, what good will that do us?” the man answered. “We be as dead already.”

“Yonder is the road to the Jungle”— Mowgli pointed through the window. “Your hands and feet are free. Go now.”

“We do not know the Jungle, my son, as — as thou knowest,” Messua began. “I do not think that I could walk far.”

“And the men and women would be upon our backs and drag us here again,” said the husband.

“H’m!” said Mowgli, and he tickled the palm of his hand with the tip of his skinning-knife; “I have no wish to do harm to any one of this village — YET. But I do not think they will stay thee. In a little while they will have much else to think upon. Ah!” he lifted his head and listened to shouting and trampling outside. “So they have let Buldeo come home at last?”

“He was sent out this morning to kill thee,” Messua cried. “Didst thou meet him?”

“Yes — we — I met him. He has a tale to tell and while he is telling it there is time to do much. But first I will learn what they mean. Think where ye would go, and tell me when I come back.”

He bounded through the window and ran along again outside the wall of the village till he came within ear-shot of the crowd round the peepul-tree. Buldeo was lying on the ground, coughing and groaning, and every one was asking him questions. His hair had fallen about his shoulders; his hands and legs were skinned from climbing up trees, and he could hardly speak, but he felt the importance of his position keenly. From time to time he said something about devils and singing devils, and magic enchantment, just to give the crowd a taste of what was coming. Then he called for water.

“Bah!” said Mowgli. “Chatter — chatter! Talk, talk! Men are blood-brothers of the Bandar-log. Now he must wash his mouth with water; now he must blow smoke; and when all that is done he has still his story to tell. They are very wise people — men. They will leave no one to guard Messua till their ears are stuffed with Buldeo’s tales. And — I grow as lazy as they!”

He shook himself and glided back to the hut. Just as he was at the window he felt a touch on his foot.

“Mother,” said he, for he knew that tongue well, “what dost THOU here?”

“I heard my children singing through the woods, and I followed the one I loved best. Little Frog, I have a desire to see that woman who gave thee milk,” said Mother Wolf, all wet with the dew.

“They have bound and mean to kill her. I have cut those ties, and she goes with her man through the Jungle.”

“I also will follow. I am old, but not yet toothless.” Mother Wolf reared herself up on end, and looked through the window into the dark of the hut.

In a minute she dropped noiselessly, and all she said was: “I gave thee thy first milk; but Bagheera speaks truth: Man goes to Man at the last.”

“Maybe,” said Mowgli, with a very unpleasant look on his face; “but to-night I am very far from that trail. Wait here, but do not let her see.”

“THOU wast never afraid of ME, Little Frog,” said Mother Wolf, backing into the high grass, and blotting herself out, as she knew how.

“And now,” said Mowgli cheerfully, as he swung into the hut again, “they are all sitting round Buldeo, who is saying that which did not happen. When his talk is finished, they say they will assuredly come here with the Red — with fire and burn you both. And then?”

“I have spoken to my man,” said Messua. “Khanhiwara is thirty miles from here, but at Khanhiwara we may find the English —”

“And what Pack are they?” said Mowgli.

“I do not know. They be white, and it is said that they govern all the land, and do not suffer people to burn or beat each other without witnesses. If we can get thither to-night, we live. Otherwise we die.”

“Live, then. No man passes the gates to-night. But what does HE do?” Messua’s husband was on his hands and knees digging up the earth in one corner of the hut.

“It is his little money,” said Messua. “We can take nothing else.”

“Ah, yes. The stuff that passes from hand to hand and never grows warmer. Do they need it outside this place also?” said Mowgli.

The man stared angrily. “He is a fool, and no devil,” he muttered. “With the money I can buy a horse. We are too bruised to walk far, and the village will follow us in an hour.”

“I say they will NOT follow till I choose; but a horse is well thought of, for Messua is tired.” Her husband stood up and knotted the last of the rupees into his waist-cloth. Mowgli helped Messua through the window, and the cool night air revived her, but the Jungle in the starlight looked very dark and terrible.

“Ye know the trail to Khanhiwara?” Mowgli whispered.

They nodded.

“Good. Remember, now, not to be afraid. And there is no need to go quickly. Only — only there may be some small singing in the Jungle behind you and before.”

“Think you we would have risked a night in the Jungle through anything less than the fear of burning? It is better to be killed by beasts than by men,” said Messua’s husband; but Messua looked at Mowgli and smiled.

“I say,” Mowgli went on, just as though he were Baloo repeating an old Jungle Law for the hundredth time to a foolish cub —“I say that not a tooth in the Jungle is bared against you; not a foot in the Jungle is lifted against you. Neither man nor beast shall stay you till you come within eye-shot of Khanhiwara. There will be a watch about you.” He turned quickly to Messua, saying, “HE does not believe, but thou wilt believe?”

“Ay, surely, my son. Man, ghost, or wolf of the Jungle, I believe.”

“HE will be afraid when he hears my people singing. Thou wilt know and understand. Go now, and slowly, for there is no need of any haste. The gates are shut.”

Messua flung herself sobbing at Mowgli’s feet, but he lifted her very quickly with a shiver. Then she hung about his neck and called him every name of blessing she could think of, but her husband looked enviously across his fields, and said: “IF we reach Khanhiwara, and I get the ear of the English, I will bring such a lawsuit against the Brahmin and old Buldeo and the others as shall eat the village to the bone. They shall pay me twice over for my crops untilled and my buffaloes unfed. I will have a great justice.”

Mowgli laughed. “I do not know what justice is, but — come next Rains. and see what is left.”

They went off toward the Jungle, and Mother Wolf leaped from her place of hiding.

“Follow!” said Mowgli; “and look to it that all the Jungle knows these two are safe. Give tongue a little. I would call Bagheera.”

The long, low howl rose and fell, and Mowgli saw Messua’s husband flinch and turn, half minded to run back to the hut.

“Go on,” Mowgli called cheerfully. “I said there might be singing. That call will follow up to Khanhiwara. It is Favour of the Jungle.”

Messua urged her husband forward, and the darkness shut down on them and Mother Wolf as Bagheera rose up almost under Mowgli’s feet, trembling with delight of the night that drives the Jungle People wild.

“I am ashamed of thy brethren,” he said, purring. “What? Did they not sing sweetly to Buldeo?” said Mowgli.

“Too well! Too well! They made even ME forget my pride, and, by the Broken Lock that freed me, I went singing through the Jungle as though I were out wooing in the spring! Didst thou not hear us?”

“I had other game afoot. Ask Buldeo if he liked the song. But where are the Four? I do not wish one of the Man–Pack to leave the gates to-night.”

“What need of the Four, then?” said Bagheera, shifting from foot to foot, his eyes ablaze, and purring louder than ever. “I can hold them, Little Brother. Is it killing at last? The singing and the sight of the men climbing up the trees have made me very ready. Who is Man that we should care for him — the naked brown digger, the hairless and toothless, the eater of earth? I have followed him all day — at noon — in the white sunlight. I herded him as the wolves herd buck. I am Bagheera! Bagheera! Bagheera! As I dance with my shadow, so danced I with those men. Look!” The great panther leaped as a kitten leaps at a dead leaf whirling overhead, struck left and right into the empty air, that sang under the strokes, landed noiselessly, and leaped again and again, while the half purr, half growl gathered head as steam rumbles in a boiler. “I am Bagheera — in the jungle — in the night, and my strength is in me. Who shall stay my stroke? Man-cub, with one blow of my paw I could beat thy head flat as a dead frog in the summer!”

“Strike, then!” said Mowgli, in the dialect of the village, NOT the talk of the Jungle, and the human words brought Bagheera to a full stop, flung back on haunches that quivered under him, his head just at the level of Mowgli’s. Once more Mowgli stared, as he had stared at the rebellious cubs, full into the beryl-green eyes till the red glare behind their green went out like the light of a lighthouse shut off twenty miles across the sea; till the eyes dropped, and the big head with them — dropped lower and lower, and the red rasp of a tongue grated on Mowgli’s instep.

“Brother — Brother — Brother!” the boy whispered, stroking steadily and lightly from the neck along the heaving back. “Be still, be still! It is the fault of the night, and no fault of thine.”

“It was the smells of the night,” said Bagheera penitently. “This air cries aloud to me. But how dost THOU know?”

Of course the air round an Indian village is full of all kinds of smells, and to any creature who does nearly all his thinking through his nose, smells are as maddening as music and drugs are to human beings. Mowgli gentled the panther for a few minutes longer, and he lay down like a cat before a fire, his paws tucked under his breast, and his eyes half shut.

“Thou art of the Jungle and NOT of the Jungle,” he said at last. “And I am only a black panther. But I love thee, Little Brother.”

“They are very long at their talk under the tree,” Mowgli said, without noticing the last sentence. “Buldeo must have told many tales. They should come soon to drag the woman and her man out of the trap and put them into the Red Flower. They will find that trap sprung. Ho! ho!”

“Nay, listen,” said Bagheera. “The fever is out of my blood now. Let them find ME there! Few would leave their houses after meeting me. It is not the first time I have been in a cage; and I do not think they will tie ME with cords.”

“Be wise, then,” said Mowgli, laughing; for he was beginning to feel as reckless as the panther, who had glided into the hut.

“Pah!” Bagheera grunted. “This place is rank with Man, but here is just such a bed as they gave me to lie upon in the King’s cages at Oodeypore. Now I lie down.” Mowgli heard the strings of the cot crack under the great brute’s weight. “By the Broken Lock that freed me, they will think they have caught big game! Come and sit beside me, Little Brother; we will give them ‘good hunting’ together!”

“No; I have another thought in my stomach. The Man–Pack shall not know what share I have in the sport. Make thine own hunt. I do not wish to see them.”

“Be it so,” said Bagheera. “Ah, now they come!”

The conference under the peepul-tree had been growing noisier and noisier, at the far end of the village. It broke in wild yells, and a rush up the street of men and women, waving clubs and bamboos and sickles and knives. Buldeo and the Brahmin were at the head of it, but the mob was close at their heels, and they cried, “The witch and the wizard! Let us see if hot coins will make them confess! Burn the hut over their heads! We will teach them to shelter wolf-devils! Nay, beat them first! Torches! More torches! Buldeo, heat the gun-barrels!”

Here was some little difficulty with the catch of the door. It had been very firmly fastened, but the crowd tore it away bodily, and the light of the torches streamed into the room where, stretched at full length on the bed, his paws crossed and lightly hung down over one end, black as the Pit, and terrible as a demon, was Bagheera. There was one half-minute of desperate silence, as the front ranks of the crowd clawed and tore their way back from the threshold, and in that minute Bagheera raised his head and yawned — elaborately, carefully, and ostentatiously — as he would yawn when he wished to insult an equal. The fringed lips drew back and up; the red tongue curled; the lower jaw dropped and dropped till you could see half-way down the hot gullet; and the gigantic dog-teeth stood clear to the pit of the gums till they rang together, upper and under, with the snick of steel-faced wards shooting home round the edges of a safe. Next instant the street was empty; Bagheera had leaped back through the window, and stood at Mowgli’s side, while a yelling, screaming torrent scrambled and tumbled one over another in their panic haste to get to their own huts.

“They will not stir till day comes,” said Bagheera quietly. “And now?”

The silence of the afternoon sleep seemed to have overtaken the village; but, as they listened, they could hear the sound of heavy grain-boxes being dragged over earthen floors and set down against doors. Bagheera was quite right; the village would not stir till daylight. Mowgli sat still, and thought, and his face grew darker and darker.

“What have I done?” said Bagheera, at last coming to his feet, fawning.

“Nothing but great good. Watch them now till the day. I sleep.” Mowgli ran off into the Jungle, and dropped like a dead man across a rock, and slept and slept the day round, and the night back again.

When he waked, Bagheera was at his side, and there was a newly-killed buck at his feet. Bagheera watched curiously while Mowgli went to work with his skinning-knife, ate and drank, and turned over with his chin in his hands.

“The man and the woman are come safe within eye-shot of Khanhiwara,” Bagheera said. “Thy lair mother sent the word back by Chil, the Kite. They found a horse before midnight of the night they were freed, and went very quickly. Is not that well?”

“That is well,” said Mowgli.

“And thy Man–Pack in the village did not stir till the sun was high this morning. Then they ate their food and ran back quickly to their houses.”

“Did they, by chance, see thee?”

“It may have been. I was rolling in the dust before the gate at dawn, and I may have made also some small song to myself. Now, Little Brother, there is nothing more to do. Come hunting with me and Baloo. He has new hives that he wishes to show, and we all desire thee back again as of old. Take off that look which makes even me afraid! The man and woman will not be put into the Red Flower, and all goes well in the Jungle. Is it not true? Let us forget the Man–Pack.”

“They shall be forgotten in a little while. Where does Hathi feed to-night?”

“Where he chooses. Who can answer for the Silent One? But why? What is there Hathi can do which we cannot?”

“Bid him and his three sons come here to me.”

“But, indeed, and truly, Little Brother, it is not — it is not seemly to say ‘Come,’ and ‘Go,’ to Hathi. Remember, he is the Master of the Jungle, and before the Man–Pack changed the look on thy face, he taught thee the Master-words of the Jungle.”

“That is all one. I have a Master-word for him now. Bid him come to Mowgli, the Frog: and if he does not hear at first, bid him come because of the Sack of the Fields of Bhurtpore.”

“The Sack of the Fields of Bhurtpore,” Bagheera repeated two or three times to make sure. “I go. Hathi can but be angry at the worst, and I would give a moon’s hunting to hear a Master-word that compels the Silent One.”

He went away, leaving Mowgli stabbing furiously with his skinning-knife into the earth. Mowgli had never seen human blood in his life before till he had seen, and — what meant much more to him — smelled Messua’s blood on the thongs that bound her. And Messua had been kind to him, and, so far as he knew anything about love, he loved Messua as completely as he hated the rest of mankind. But deeply as he loathed them, their talk, their cruelty, and their cowardice, not for anything the Jungle had to offer could he bring himself to take a human life, and have that terrible scent of blood back again in his nostrils. His plan was simpler, but much more thorough; and he laughed to himself when he thought that it was one of old Buldeo’s tales told under the peepul-tree in the evening that had put the idea into his head.

“It WAS a Master-word,” Bagheera whispered in his ear. “They were feeding by the river, and they obeyed as though they were bullocks. Look where they come now!”

Hathi and his three sons had arrived, in their usual way, without a sound. The mud of the river was still fresh on their flanks, and Hathi was thoughtfully chewing the green stem of a young plantain-tree that he had gouged up with his tusks. But every line in his vast body showed to Bagheera, who could see things when he came across them, that it was not the Master of the Jungle speaking to a Man-cub, but one who was afraid coming before one who was not. His three sons rolled side by side, behind their father.

Mowgli hardly lifted his head as Hathi gave him “Good hunting.” He kept him swinging and rocking, and shifting from one foot to another, for a long time before he spoke; and when he opened his mouth it was to Bagheera, not to the elephants.

“I will tell a tale that was told to me by the hunter ye hunted today,” said Mowgli. “It concerns an elephant, old and wise, who fell into a trap, and the sharpened stake in the pit scarred him from a little above his heel to the crest of his shoulder, leaving a white mark.” Mowgli threw out his hand, and as Hathi wheeled the moonlight showed a long white scar on his slaty side, as though he had been struck with a red-hot whip. “Men came to take him from the trap,” Mowgli continued, “but he broke his ropes, for he was strong, and went away till his wound was healed. Then came he, angry, by night to the fields of those hunters. And I remember now that he had three sons. These things happened many, many Rains ago, and very far away — among the fields of Bhurtpore. What came to those fields at the next reaping, Hathi?”

“They were reaped by me and by my three sons,” said Hathi.

“And to the ploughing that follows the reaping?” said Mowgli.

“There was no ploughing,” said Hathi.

“And to the men that live by the green crops on the ground?” said Mowgli.

“They went away.”

“And to the huts in which the men slept?” said Mowgli.

“We tore the roofs to pieces, and the Jungle swallowed up the walls,” said Hathi.

“And what more?” said Mowgli.

“As much good ground as I can walk over in two nights from the east to the west, and from the north to the south as much as I can walk over in three nights, the Jungle took. We let in the Jungle upon five villages; and in those villages, and in their lands, the grazing-ground and the soft crop-grounds, there is not one man today who takes his food from the ground. That was the Sack of the Fields of Bhurtpore, which I and my three sons did; and now I ask, Man-cub, how the news of it came to thee?” said Hathi.

“A man told me, and now I see even Buldeo can speak truth. It was well done, Hathi with the white mark; but the second time it shall be done better, for the reason that there is a man to direct. Thou knowest the village of the Man–Pack that cast me out? They are idle, senseless, and cruel; they play with their mouths, and they do not kill the weaker for food, but for sport. When they are full-fed they would throw their own breed into the Red Flower. This I have seen. It is not well that they should live here any more. I hate them!”

“Kill, then,” said the youngest of Hathi’s three sons, picking up a tuft of grass, dusting it against his fore-legs, and throwing it away, while his little red eyes glanced furtively from side to side.

“What good are white bones to me?” Mowgli answered angrily. “Am I the cub of a wolf to play in the sun with a raw head? I have killed Shere Khan, and his hide rots on the Council Rock; but — but I do not know whither Shere Khan is gone, and my stomach is still empty. Now I will take that which I can see and touch. Let in the Jungle upon that village, Hathi!”

Bagheera shivered, and cowered down. He could understand, if the worst came to the worst, a quick rush down the village street, and a right and left blow into a crowd, or a crafty killing of men as they ploughed in the twilight; but this scheme for deliberately blotting out an entire village from the eyes of man and beast frightened him. Now he saw why Mowgli had sent for Hathi. No one but the long-lived elephant could plan and carry through such a war.

“Let them run as the men ran from the fields of Bhurtpore, till we have the rain-water for the only plough, and the noise of the rain on the thick leaves for the pattering of their spindles — till Bagheera and I lair in the house of the Brahmin, and the buck drink at the tank behind the temple! Let in the Jungle, Hathi!”

“But I— but we have no quarrel with them, and it needs the red rage of great pain ere we tear down the places where men sleep,” said Hathi doubtfully.

“Are ye the only eaters of grass in the Jungle? Drive in your peoples. Let the deer and the pig and the nilghai look to it. Ye need never show a hand’s-breadth of hide till the fields are naked. Let in the Jungle, Hathi!”

“There will be no killing? My tusks were red at the Sack of the Fields of Bhurtpore, and I would not wake that smell again.”

“Nor I. I do not wish even their bones to lie on the clean earth. Let them go and find a fresh lair. They cannot stay here. I have seen and smelled the blood of the woman that gave me food — the woman whom they would have killed but for me. Only the smell of the new grass on their door-steps can take away that smell. It burns in my mouth. Let in the Jungle, Hathi!”

“Ah!” said Hathi. “So did the scar of the stake burn on my hide till we watched the villages die under in the spring growth. Now I see. Thy war shall be our war. We will let in the jungle!”

Mowgli had hardly time to catch his breath — he was shaking all over with rage and hate before the place where the elephants had stood was empty, and Bagheera was looking at him with terror.

“By the Broken Lock that freed me!” said the Black Panther at last. “Art THOU the naked thing I spoke for in the Pack when all was young? Master of the Jungle, when my strength goes, speak for me — speak for Baloo — speak for us all! We are cubs before thee! Snapped twigs under foot! Fawns that have lost their doe!”

The idea of Bagheera being a stray fawn upset Mowgli altogether, and he laughed and caught his breath, and sobbed and laughed again, till he had to jump into a pool to make himself stop. Then he swam round and round, ducking in and out of the bars of the moonlight like the frog, his namesake.

By this time Hathi and his three sons had turned, each to one point of the compass, and were striding silently down the valleys a mile away. They went on and on for two days’ march — that is to say, a long sixty miles — through the Jungle; and every step they took, and every wave of their trunks, was known and noted and talked over by Mang and Chil and the Monkey People and all the birds. Then they began to feed, and fed quietly for a week or so. Hathi and his sons are like Kaa, the Rock Python. They never hurry till they have to.

At the end of that time — and none knew who had started it — a rumour went through the Jungle that there was better food and water to be found in such and such a valley. The pig — who, of course, will go to the ends of the earth for a full meal — moved first by companies, scuffling over the rocks, and the deer followed, with the small wild foxes that live on the dead and dying of the herds; and the heavy-shouldered nilghai moved parallel with the deer, and the wild buffaloes of the swamps came after the nilghai. The least little thing would have turned the scattered, straggling droves that grazed and sauntered and drank and grazed again; but whenever there was an alarm some one would rise up and soothe them. At one time it would be Ikki the Porcupine, full of news of good feed just a little farther on; at another Mang would cry cheerily and flap down a glade to show it was all empty; or Baloo, his mouth full of roots, would shamble alongside a wavering line and half frighten, half romp it clumsily back to the proper road. Very many creatures broke back or ran away or lost interest, but very many were left to go forward. At the end of another ten days or so the situation was this. The deer and the pig and the nilghai were milling round and round in a circle of eight or ten miles radius, while the Eaters of Flesh skirmished round its edge. And the centre of that circle was the village, and round the village the crops were ripening, and in the crops sat men on what they call machans — platforms like pigeon-perches, made of sticks at the top of four poles — to scare away birds and other stealers. Then the deer were coaxed no more. The Eaters of Flesh were close behind them, and forced them forward and inward.

It was a dark night when Hathi and his three sons slipped down from the Jungle, and broke off the poles of the machans with their trunks; they fell as a snapped stalk of hemlock in bloom falls, and the men that tumbled from them heard the deep gurgling of the elephants in their ears. Then the vanguard of the bewildered armies of the deer broke down and flooded into the village grazing-grounds and the ploughed fields; and the sharp-hoofed, rooting wild pig came with them, and what the deer left the pig spoiled, and from time to time an alarm of wolves would shake the herds, and they would rush to and fro desperately, treading down the young barley, and cutting flat the banks of the irrigating channels. Before the dawn broke the pressure on the outside of the circle gave way at one point. The Eaters of Flesh had fallen back and left an open path to the south, and drove upon drove of buck fled along it. Others, who were bolder, lay up in the thickets to finish their meal next night.

But the work was practically done. When the villagers looked in the morning they saw their crops were lost. And that meant death if they did not get away, for they lived year in and year out as near to starvation as the Jungle was near to them. When the buffaloes were sent to graze the hungry brutes found that the deer had cleared the grazing-grounds, and so wandered into the Jungle and drifted off with their wild mates; and when twilight fell the three or four ponies that belonged to the village lay in their stables with their heads beaten in. Only Bagheera could have given those strokes, and only Bagheera would have thought of insolently dragging the last carcass to the open street.

The villagers had no heart to make fires in the fields that night, so Hathi and his three sons went gleaning among what was left; and where Hathi gleans there is no need to follow. The men decided to live on their stored seed-corn until the rains had fallen, and then to take work as servants till they could catch up with the lost year; but as the grain-dealer was thinking of his well-filled crates of corn, and the prices he would levy at the sale of it, Hathi’s sharp tusks were picking out the corner of his mud-house, and smashing open the big wicker chest, leeped with cow-dung, where the precious stuff lay.

When that last loss was discovered, it was the Brahmin’s turn to speak. He had prayed to his own Gods without answer. It might be, he said, that, unconsciously, the village had offended some one of the Gods of the Jungle, for, beyond doubt, the Jungle was against them. So they sent for the head-man of the nearest tribe of wandering Gonds — little, wise, and very black hunters, living in the deep Jungle, whose fathers came of the oldest race in India — the aboriginal owners of the land. They made the Gond welcome with what they had, and he stood on one leg, his bow in his hand, and two or three poisoned arrows stuck through his top-knot, looking half afraid and half contemptuously at the anxious villagers and their ruined fields. They wished to know whether his Gods — the Old Gods — were angry with them and what sacrifices should be offered. The Gond said nothing, but picked up a trail of the Karela, the vine that bears the bitter wild gourd, and laced it to and fro across the temple door in the face of the staring red Hindu image. Then he pushed with his hand in the open air along the road to Khanhiwara, and went back to his Jungle, and watched the Jungle People drifting through it. He knew that when the Jungle moves only white men can hope to turn it aside.

There was no need to ask his meaning. The wild gourd would grow where they had worshipped their God, and the sooner they saved themselves the better.

But it is hard to tear a village from its moorings. They stayed on as long as any summer food was left to them, and they tried to gather nuts in the Jungle, but shadows with glaring eyes watched them, and rolled before them even at mid-day; and when they ran back afraid to their walls, on the tree-trunks they had passed not five minutes before the bark would be stripped and chiselled with the stroke of some great taloned paw. The more they kept to their village, the bolder grew the wild things that gambolled and bellowed on the grazing-grounds by the Waingunga. They had no time to patch and plaster the rear walls of the empty byres that backed on to the Jungle; the wild pig trampled them down, and the knotty-rooted vines hurried after and threw their elbows over the new-won ground, and the coarse grass bristled behind the vines like the lances of a goblin army following a retreat. The unmarried men ran away first, and carried the news far and near that the village was doomed. Who could fight, they said, against the Jungle, or the Gods of the Jungle, when the very village cobra had left his hole in the platform under the peepul-tree? So their little commerce with the outside world shrunk as the trodden paths across the open grew fewer and fainter. At last the nightly trumpetings of Hathi and his three sons ceased to trouble them; for they had no more to be robbed of. The crop on the ground and the seed in the ground had been taken. The outlying fields were already losing their shape, and it was time to throw themselves on the charity of the English at Khanhiwara.

Native fashion, they delayed their departure from one day to another till the first Rains caught them and the unmended roofs let in a flood, and the grazing-ground stood ankle deep, and all life came on with a rush after the heat of the summer. Then they waded out — men, women, and children — through the blinding hot rain of the morning, but turned naturally for one farewell look at their homes.

They heard, as the last burdened family filed through the gate, a crash of falling beams and thatch behind the walls. They saw a shiny, snaky black trunk lifted for an instant, scattering sodden thatch. It disappeared, and there was another crash, followed by a squeal. Hathi had been plucking off the roofs of the huts as you pluck water-lilies, and a rebounding beam had pricked him. He needed only this to unchain his full strength, for of all things in the Jungle the wild elephant enraged is the most wantonly destructive. He kicked backward at a mud wall that crumbled at the stroke, and, crumbling, melted to yellow mud under the torrent of rain. Then he wheeled and squealed, and tore through the narrow streets, leaning against the huts right and left, shivering the crazy doors, and crumpling up the caves; while his three sons raged behind as they had raged at the Sack of the Fields of Bhurtpore.

“The Jungle will swallow these shells,” said a quiet voice in the wreckage. “It is the outer wall that must lie down,” and Mowgli, with the rain sluicing over his bare shoulders and arms, leaped back from a wall that was settling like a tired buffalo.

“All in good time,” panted Hathi. “Oh, but my tusks were red at Bhurtpore; To the outer wall, children! With the head! Together! Now!”

The four pushed side by side; the outer wall bulged, split, and fell, and the villagers, dumb with horror, saw the savage, clay-streaked heads of the wreckers in the ragged gap. Then they fled, houseless and foodless, down the valley, as their village, shredded and tossed and trampled, melted behind them.

A month later the place was a dimpled mound, covered with soft, green young stuff; and by the end of the Rains there was the roaring jungle in full blast on the spot that had been under plough not six months before.

 

This story was a little long, but I hope you enjoyed it all the same! For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Rudyard Kipling’s “The Law of the Jungle”

*****

Now this is the Law of the Jungle —
as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
but the Wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk
the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,
and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.


Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip;
drink deeply, but never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting,
and forget not the day is for sleep.


The Jackal may follow the Tiger,
but, Cub, when thy whiskers are grown,
Remember the Wolf is a Hunter —
go forth and get food of thine own.


Keep peace withe Lords of the Jungle —
the Tiger, the Panther, and Bear.
And trouble not Hathi the Silent,
and mock not the Boar in his lair.


When Pack meets with Pack in the Jungle,
and neither will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken —
it may be fair words shall prevail.


When ye fight with a Wolf of the Pack,
ye must fight him alone and afar,
Lest others take part in the quarrel,
and the Pack be diminished by war.


The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge,
and where he has made him his home,
Not even the Head Wolf may enter,
not even the Council may come.


The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge,
but where he has digged it too plain,
The Council shall send him a message,
and so he shall change it again.


If ye kill before midnight, be silent,
and wake not the woods with your bay,
Lest ye frighten the deer from the crop,
and your brothers go empty away.


Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates
,
and your cubs as they need, and ye can;
But kill not for pleasure of killing,
and seven times never kill Man!


If ye plunder his Kill from a weaker,
devour not all in thy pride;
Pack-Right is the right of the meanest;
so leave him the head and the hide.


The Kill of the Pack is the meat of the Pack.
Ye must eat where it lies;
And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair,
or he dies.


The Kill of the Wolf is the meat of the Wolf.
He may do what he will;
But, till he has given permission,
the Pack may not eat of that Kill.


Cub-Right is the right of the Yearling.
From all of his Pack he may claim
Full-gorge when the killer has eaten;
and none may refuse him the same.


Lair-Right is the right of the Mother.
From all of her year she may claim
One haunch of each kill for her litter,
and none may deny her the same.


Cave-Right is the right of the Father —
to hunt by himself for his own:
He is freed of all calls to the Pack;
he is judged by the Council alone.


Because of his age and his cunning,
because of his gripe and his paw,
In all that the Law leaveth open,
the word of your Head Wolf is Law.


Now these are the Laws of the Jungle,
and many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law
and the haunch and the hump is — Obey!

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Rudyard Kipling’s “How Fear Came”

Sorry I’m a little late with this guys! My schedule has been pretty hectic for the last couple of weeks… Anyway! I have some good news–we’ve finished the first Jungle Book, which means we’re moving on to the second! Hurray!!! I hope you guys enjoy How Fear Came by Rudyard Kipling!

 

The stream is shrunk–the pool is dry,
And we be comrades, thou and I;
With fevered jowl and dusty flank
Each jostling each along the bank;
And by one drouthy fear made still,
Forgoing thought of quest or kill.
Now ‘neath his dam the fawn may see,
The lean Pack-wolf as cowed as he,
And the tall buck, unflinching, note
The fangs that tore his father’s throat.
The pools are shrunk–the streams are dry,
And we be playmates, thou and I,
Till yonder cloud–Good Hunting!–loose
The rain that breaks our Water Truce.

The Law of the Jungle–which is by far the oldest law in the world–has arranged for almost every kind of accident that may befall the Jungle People, till now its code is as perfect as time and custom can make it. You will remember that Mowgli spent a great part of his life in the Seeonee Wolf-Pack, learning the Law from Baloo, the Brown Bear; and it was Baloo who told him, when the boy grew impatient at the constant orders, that the Law was like the Giant Creeper, because it dropped across every one’s back and no one could escape. “When thou hast lived as long as I have, Little Brother, thou wilt see how all the Jungle obeys at least one Law. And that will be no pleasant sight,” said Baloo.

This talk went in at one ear and out at the other, for a boy who spends his life eating and sleeping does not worry about anything till it actually stares him in the face. But, one year, Baloo’s words came true, and Mowgli saw all the Jungle working under the Law.

It began when the winter Rains failed almost entirely, and Ikki, the Porcupine, meeting Mowgli in a bamboo-thicket, told him that the wild yams were drying up. Now everybody knows that Ikki is ridiculously fastidious in his choice of food, and will eat nothing but the very best and ripest. So Mowgli laughed and said, “What is that to me?”

“Not much now,” said Ikki, rattling his quills in a stiff, uncomfortable way, “but later we shall see. Is there any more diving into the deep rock-pool below the Bee-Rocks, Little Brother?”

“No. The foolish water is going all away, and I do not wish to break my head,” said Mowgii, who, in those days, was quite sure that he knew as much as any five of the Jungle People put together.

“That is thy loss. A small crack might let in some wisdom.” Ikki ducked quickly to prevent Mowgli from pulling his nose-bristles, and Mowgli told Baloo what Ikki had said. Baloo looked very grave, and mumbled half to himself: “If I were alone I would change my hunting-grounds now, before the others began to think. And yet–hunting among strangers ends in fighting; and they might hurt the Man-cub. We must wait and see how the mohwa blooms.”

That spring the mohwa tree, that Baloo was so fond of, never flowered. The greeny, cream-coloured, waxy blossoms were heat-killed before they were born, and only a few bad-smelling petals came down when he stood on his hind legs and shook the tree. Then, inch by inch, the untempered heat crept into the heart of the Jungle, turning it yellow, brown, and at last black. The green growths in the sides of the ravines burned up to broken wires and curled films of dead stuff; the hidden pools sank down and caked over, keeping the last least footmark on their edges as if it had been cast in iron; the juicy-stemmed creepers fell away from the trees they clung to and died at their feet; the bamboos withered, clanking when the hot winds blew, and the moss peeled off the rocks deep in the Jungle, till they were as bare and as hot as the quivering blue boulders in the bed of the stream.

The birds and the monkey-people went north early in the year, for they knew what was coming; and the deer and the wild pig broke far away to the perished fields of the villages, dying sometimes before the eyes of men too weak to kill them. Chil, the Kite, stayed and grew fat, for there was a great deal of carrion, and evening after evening he brought the news to the beasts, too weak to force their way to fresh hunting-grounds, that the sun was killing the Jungle for three days” flight in every direction.

Mowgli, who had never known what real hunger meant, fell back on stale honey, three years old, scraped out of deserted rock-hives–honey black as a sloe, and dusty with dried sugar. He hunted, too, for deep-boring grubs under the bark of the trees, and robbed the wasps of their new broods. All the game in the jungle was no more than skin and bone, and Bagheera could kill thrice in a night, and hardly get a full meal. But the want of water was the worst, for though the Jungle People drink seldom they must drink deep.

And the heat went on and on, and sucked up all the moisture, till at last the main channel of the Waingunga was the only stream that carried a trickle of water between its dead banks; and when Hathi, the wild elephant, who lives for a hundred years and more, saw a long, lean blue ridge of rock show dry in the very centre of the stream, he knew that he was looking at the Peace Rock, and then and there he lifted up his trunk and proclaimed the Water Truce, as his father before him had proclaimed it fifty years ago. The deer, wild pig, and buffalo took up the cry hoarsely; and Chil, the Kite, flew in great circles far and wide, whistling and shrieking the warning.

By the Law of the Jungle it is death to kill at the drinking-places when once the Water Truce has been declared. The reason of this is that drinking comes before eating. Every one in the Jungle can scramble along somehow when only game is scarce; but water is water, and when there is but one source of supply, all hunting stops while the Jungle People go there for their needs. In good seasons, when water was plentiful, those who came down to drink at the Waingunga–or anywhere else, for that matter–did so at the risk of their lives, and that risk made no small part of the fascination of the night’s doings. To move down so cunningly that never a leaf stirred; to wade knee-deep in the roaring shallows that drown all noise from behind; to drink, looking backward over one shoulder, every muscle ready for the first desperate bound of keen terror; to roll on the sandy margin, and return, wet-muzzled and well plumped out, to the admiring herd, was a thing that all tall-antlered young bucks took a delight in, precisely because they knew that at any moment Bagheera or Shere Khan might leap upon them and bear them down. But now all that life-and-death fun was ended, and the Jungle People came up, starved and weary, to the shrunken river,–tiger, bear, deer, buffalo, and pig, all together,–drank the fouled waters, and hung above them, too exhausted to move off.

The deer and the pig had tramped all day in search of something better than dried bark and withered leaves. The buffaloes had found no wallows to be cool in, and no green crops to steal. The snakes had left the Jungle and come down to the river in the hope of finding a stray frog. They curled round wet stones, and never offered to strike when the nose of a rooting pig dislodged them. The river-turtles had long ago been killed by Bagheera, cleverest of hunters, and the fish had buried themselves deep in the dry mud. Only the Peace Rock lay across the shallows like a long snake, and the little tired ripples hissed as they dried on its hot side.

It was here that Mowgli came nightly for the cool and the companionship. The most hungry of his enemies would hardly have cared for the boy then, His naked hide made him seem more lean and wretched than any of his fellows. His hair was bleached to tow colour by the sun; his ribs stood out like the ribs of a basket, and the lumps on his knees and elbows, where he was used to track on all fours, gave his shrunken limbs the look of knotted grass-stems. But his eye, under his matted forelock, was cool and quiet, for Bagheera was his adviser in this time of trouble, and told him to go quietly, hunt slowly, and never, on any account, to lose his temper.

“It is an evil time,” said the Black Panther, one furnace-hot evening, “but it will go if we can live till the end. Is thy stomach full, Man-cub?”

“There is stuff in my stomach, but I get no good of it. Think you, Bagheera, the Rains have forgotten us and will never come again?”

“Not I! We shall see the mohwa in blossom yet, and the little fawns all fat with new grass. Come down to the Peace Rock and hear the news. On my back, Little Brother.”

“This is no time to carry weight. I can still stand alone, but–indeed we be no fatted bullocks, we two.”

Bagheera looked along his ragged, dusty flank and whispered. “Last night I killed a bullock under the yoke. So low was I brought that I think I should not have dared to spring if he had been loose. Wou!”

Mowgli laughed. “Yes, we be great hunters now,” said he. “I am very bold–to eat grubs,” and the two came down together through the crackling undergrowth to the river-bank and the lace-work of shoals that ran out from it in every direction.

“The water cannot live long,” said Baloo, joining them. “Look across. Yonder are trails like the roads of Man.”

On the level plain of the farther bank the stiff jungle-grass had died standing, and, dying, had mummied. The beaten tracks of the deer and the pig, all heading toward the river, had striped that colourless plain with dusty gullies driven through the ten-foot grass, and, early as it was, each long avenue was full of first-comers hastening to the water. You could hear the does and fawns coughing in the snuff-like dust.

Up-stream, at the bend of the sluggish pool round the Peace Rock, and Warden of the Water Truce, stood Hathi, the wild elephant, with his sons, gaunt and gray in the moonlight, rocking to and fro–always rocking. Below him a little were the vanguard of the deer; below these, again, the pig and the wild buffalo; and on the opposite bank, where the tall trees came down to the water’s edge, was the place set apart for the Eaters of Flesh–the tiger, the wolves, the panther, the bear, and the others.

“We are under one Law, indeed,” said Bagheera, wading into the water and looking across at the lines of clicking horns and starting eyes where the deer and the pig pushed each other to and fro. “Good hunting, all you of my blood,” he added, lying own at full length, one flank thrust out of the shallows; and then, between his teeth, “But for that which is the Law it would be very good hunting.”

The quick-spread ears of the deer caught the last sentence, and a frightened whisper ran along the ranks. “The Truce! Remember the Truce!”

“Peace there, peace!” gurgled Hathi, the wild elephant. “The Truce holds, Bagheera. This is no time to talk of hunting.”

“Who should know better than I?” Bagheera answered, rolling his yellow eyes up-stream. “I am an eater of turtles–a fisher of frogs. Ngaayah! Would I could get good from chewing branches!”

We wish so, very greatly,” bleated a young fawn, who had only been born that spring, and did not at all like it. Wretched as the Jungle People were, even Hathi could not help chuckling; while Mowgli, lying on his elbows in the warm water, laughed aloud, and beat up the scum with his feet.

“Well spoken, little bud-horn,” Bagheera purred. “When the Truce ends that shall be remembered in thy favour,” and he looked keenly through the darkness to make sure of recognising the fawn again.

Gradually the talking spread up and down the drinking-places. One could hear the scuffling, snorting pig asking for more room; the buffaloes grunting among themselves as they lurched out across the sand-bars, and the deer telling pitiful stories of their long foot-sore wanderings in quest of food. Now and again they asked some question of the Eaters of Flesh across the river, but all the news was bad, and the roaring hot wind of the Jungle came and went between the rocks and the rattling branches, and scattered twigs, and dust on the water.

“The men-folk, too, they die beside their ploughs,” said a young sambhur. “I passed three between sunset and night. They lay still, and their Bullocks with them. We also shall lie still in a little.”

“The river has fallen since last night,” said Baloo. “O Hathi, hast thou ever seen the like of this drought?”

“It will pass, it will pass,” said Hathi, squirting water along his back and sides.

“We have one here that cannot endure long,” said Baloo; and he looked toward the boy he loved.

“I?” said Mowgli indignantly, sitting up in the water. “I have no long fur to cover my bones, but–but if thy hide were taken off, Baloo—-”

Hathi shook all over at the idea, and Baloo said severely:

“Man-cub, that is not seemly to tell a Teacher of the Law. Never have I been seen without my hide.”

“Nay, I meant no harm, Baloo; but only that thou art, as it were, like the cocoanut in the husk, and I am the same cocoanut all naked. Now that brown husk of thine—-” Mowgli was sitting cross-legged, and explaining things with his forefinger in his usual way, when Bagheera put out a paddy paw and pulled him over backward into the water.

“Worse and worse,” said the Black Panther, as the boy rose spluttering. “First Baloo is to be skinned, and now he is a cocoanut. Be careful that he does not do what the ripe cocoanuts do.”

“And what is that?” said Mowgli, off his guard for the minute, though that is one of the oldest catches in the Jungle.

“Break thy head,” said Bagheera quietly, pulling him under again.

“It is not good to make a jest of thy teacher,” said the bear, when Mowgli had been ducked for the third time.

“Not good! What would ye have? That naked thing running to and fro makes a monkey-jest of those who have once been good hunters, and pulls the best of us by the whiskers for sport.” This was Shere Khan, the Lame Tiger, limping down to the water. He waited a little to enjoy the sensation he made among the deer on the opposite to lap, growling: “The jungle has become a whelping-ground for naked cubs now. Look at me, Man-cub!”

Mowgli looked–stared, rather–as insolently as he knew how, and in a minute Shere Khan turned away uneasily. “Man-cub this, and Man-cub that,” he rumbled, going on with his drink, “the cub is neither man nor cub, or he would have been afraid. Next season I shall have to beg his leave for a drink. Augrh!”

“That may come, too,” said Bagheera, looking him steadily between the eyes. “That may come, too–Faugh, Shere Khan!–what new shame hast thou brought here?”

The Lame Tiger had dipped his chin and jowl in the water, and dark, oily streaks were floating from it down-stream.

“Man!” said Shere Khan coolly, “I killed an hour since.” He went on purring and growling to himself.

The line of beasts shook and wavered to and fro, and a whisper went up that grew to a cry. “Man! Man! He has killed Man!” Then all looked towards Hathi, the wild elephant, but he seemed not to hear. Hathi never does anything till the time comes, and that is one of the reasons why he lives so long.

“At such a season as this to kill Man! Was no other game afoot?” said Bagheera scornfully, drawing himself out of the tainted water, and shaking each paw, cat-fashion, as he did so.

“I killed for choice–not for food.” The horrified whisper began again, and Hathi’s watchful little white eye cocked itself in Shere Khan’s direction. “For choice,” Shere Khan drawled. “Now come I to drink and make me clean again. Is there any to forbid?”

Bagheera’s back began to curve like a bamboo in a high wind, but Hathi lifted up his trunk and spoke quietly.

“Thy kill was from choice?” he asked; and when Hathi asks a question it is best to answer.

“Even so. It was my right and my Night. Thou knowest, O Hathi.” Shere Khan spoke almost courteously.

“Yes, I know,” Hathi answered; and, after a little silence, “Hast thou drunk thy fill?”

“For to-night, yes.”

“Go, then. The river is to drink, and not to defile. None but the Lame Tiger would so have boasted of his right at this season when–when we suffer together–Man and Jungle People alike.” Clean or unclean, get to thy lair, Shere Khan!”

The last words rang out like silver trumpets, and Hathi’s three sons rolled forward half a pace, though there was no need. Shere Khan slunk away, not daring to growl, for he knew–what every one else knows–that when the last comes to the last, Hathi is the Master of the Jungle.

“What is this right Shere Khan speaks of?” Mowgli whispered in Bagheera’s ear. “To kill Man is always, shameful. The Law says so. And yet Hathi says—-”

“Ask him. I do not know, Little Brother. Right or no right, if Hathi had not spoken I would have taught that lame butcher his lesson. To come to the Peace Rock fresh from a kill of Man–and to boast of it–is a jackal’s trick. Besides, he tainted the good water.”

Mowgli waited for a minute to pick up his courage, because no one cared to address Hathi directly, and then he cried: “What is Shere Khan’s right, O Hathi?” Both banks echoed his words, for all the People of the Jungle are intensely curious, and they had just seen something that none except Baloo, who looked very thoughtful, seemed to understand.

“It is an old tale,” said Hathi; “a tale older than the Jungle. Keep silence along the banks and I will tell that tale.”

There was a minute or two of pushing a shouldering among the pigs and the buffalo, and then the leaders of the herds grunted, one after another, “We wait,” and Hathi strode forward, till he was nearly knee-deep in the pool by the Peace Rock. Lean and wrinkled and yellow-tusked though he was, he looked what the Jungle knew him to be–their master.

“Ye know, children,” he began, “that of all things ye most fear Man”; and there was a mutter of agreement.

“This tale touches thee, Little Brother,” said Bagheera to Mowgli.

“I? I am of the Pack–a hunter of the Free People,” Mowgli answered. “What have I to do with Man?”

“And ye do not know why ye fear Man?” Hathi went on. “This is the reason. In the beginning of the Jungle, and none know when that was, we of the Jungle walked together, having no fear of one another. In those days there was no drought, and leaves and flowers and fruit grew on the same tree, and we ate nothing at all except leaves and flowers and grass and fruit and bark.”

“I am glad I was not born in those days,” said Bagheera. “Bark is only good to sharpen claws.”

“And the Lord of the Jungle was Tha, the First of the Elephants. He drew the Jungle out of deep waters with his trunk; and where he made furrows in the ground with his tusks, there the rivers ran; and where he struck with his foot, there rose ponds of good water; and when he blew through his trunk,– thus,–the trees fell. That was the manner in which the Jungle was made by Tha; and so the tale was told to me.”

“It has not lost fat in the telling,” Bagheera whispered, and Mowgli laughed behind his hand.

“In those days there was no corn or melons or pepper or sugar-cane, nor were there any little huts such as ye have all seen; and the Jungle People knew nothing of Man, but lived in the Jungle together, making one people. But presently they began to dispute over their food, though there was grazing enough for all. They were lazy. Each wished to eat where he lay, as sometimes we can do now when the spring rains are good. Tha, the First of the Elephants, was busy making new jungles and leading the rivers in their beds. He could not walk in all places; therefore he made the First of the Tigers the master and the judge of the Jungle, to whom the Jungle People should bring their disputes. In those days the First of the Tigers ate fruit and grass with the others. He was as large as I am, and he was very beautiful, in colour all over like the blossom of the yellow creeper. There was never stripe nor bar upon his hide in those good days when this the Jungle was new. All the Jungle People came before him without fear, and his word was the Law of all the Jungle. We were then, remember ye, one people.

“Yet upon a night there was a dispute between two bucks–a grazing-quarrel such as ye now settle with the horns and the fore-feet–and it is said that as the two spoke together before the First of the First of the Tigers lying among the flowers, a buck pushed him with his horns, and the First of the Tigers forgot that he was the master and judge of the Jungle, and, leaping upon that buck, broke his neck.

“Till that night never one of us had died, and the First of the Tigers, seeing what he had done, and being made foolish by the scent of the blood, ran away into the marshes of the North, and we of the Jungle, left without a judge, fell to fighting among ourselves; and Tha heard the noise of it and came back. Then some of us said this and some of us said that, but he saw the dead buck among the flowers, and asked who had killed, and we of the Jungle would not tell because the smell of the blood made us foolish. We ran to and fro in circles, capering and crying out and shaking our heads. Then Tha gave an order to the trees that hang low, and to the trailing creepers of the Jungle, that they should mark the killer of the buck so that he should know him again, and he said, “Who will now be master of the Jungle People?” Then up leaped the Gray Ape who lives in the branches, and said, “I will now be master of the Jungle.”

At this Tha laughed, and said, “So be it,” and went away very angry.

“Children, ye know the Gray Ape. He was then as he is now. At the first he made a wise face for himself, but in a little while he began to scratch and to leap up and down, and when Tha came back he found the Gray Ape hanging, head down, from a bough, mocking those who stood below; and they mocked him again. And so there was no Law in the Jungle–only foolish talk and senseless words.

“Then Tha called us all together and said: ‘The first of your masters has brought Death into the Jungle, and the second Shame. Now it is time there was a Law, and a Law that ye must not break. Now ye shall know Fear, and when ye have found him ye shall know that he is your master, and the rest shall follow.’ Then we of the jungle said, ‘What is Fear?’ And Tha said, ‘Seek till ye find.’ So we went up and down the Jungle seeking for Fear, and presently the buffaloes—-”

“Ugh!” said Mysa, the leader of the buffaloes, from their sand-bank.

“Yes, Mysa, it was the buffaloes. They came back with the news that in a cave in the Jungle sat Fear, and that he had no hair, and went upon his hind legs. Then we of the Jungle followed the herd till we came to that cave, and Fear stood at the mouth of it, and he was, as the buffaloes had said, hairless, and he walked upon his hinder legs. When he saw us he cried out, and his voice filled us with the fear that we have now of that voice when we hear it, and we ran away, tramping upon and tearing each other because we were afraid. That night, so it was told to me, we of the Jungle did not lie down together as used to be our custom, but each tribe drew off by itself–the pig with the pig, the deer with the deer; horn to horn, hoof to hoof,–like keeping to like, and so lay shaking in the Jungle.

“Only the First of the Tigers was not with us, for he was still hidden in the marshes of the North, and when word was brought to him of the Thing we had seen in the cave, he said. ‘I will go to this Thing and break his neck.’ So he ran all the night till he came to the cave; but the trees and the creepers on his path, remembering the order that Tha had given, let down their branches and marked him as he ran, drawing their fingers across his back, his flank, his forehead, and his jowl. Wherever they touched him there was a mark and a stripe upon his yellow hide. And those stripes do this children wear to this day! When he came to the cave, Fear, the Hairless One, put out his hand and called him ‘The Striped One that comes by night,’ and the First of the Tigers was afraid of the Hairless One, and ran back to the swamps howling.”

Mowgli chuckled quietly here, his chin in the water.

“So loud did he howl that Tha heard him and said, ‘What is the sorrow?’ And the First of the Tigers, lifting up his muzzle to the new-made sky, which is now so old, said: ‘Give me back my power, O Tha. I am made ashamed before all the Jungle, and I have run away from a Hairless One, and he has called me a shameful name.’ ‘And why?’ said Tha. ‘Because I am smeared with the mud of the marshes,’ said the First of the Tigers. ‘Swim, then, and roll on the wet grass, and if it be mud it will wash away,’ said Tha; and the First of the Tigers swam, and rolled and rolled upon the grass, till the Jungle ran round and round before his eyes, but not one little bar upon all his hide was changed, and Tha, watching him, laughed. Then the First of the Tigers said: ‘What have I done that this comes to me?’ Tha said, ‘Thou hast killed the buck, and thou hast let Death loose in the Jungle, and with Death has come Fear, so that the people of the Jungle are afraid one of the other, as thou art afraid of the Hairless One.’ The First of the Tigers said, ‘They will never fear me, for I knew them since the beginning.’ Tha said, ‘Go and see.’ And the First of the Tigers ran to and fro, calling aloud to the deer and the pig and the sambhur and the porcupine and all the Jungle Peoples, and they all ran away from him who had been their judge, because they were afraid.

“Then the First of the Tigers came back, and his pride was broken in him, and, beating his head upon the ground, he tore up the earth with all his feet and said: ‘Remember that I was once the Master of the Jungle. Do not forget me, O Tha! Let my children remember that I was once without shame or fear!’ And Tha said: ‘This much I will do, because thou and I together saw the Jungle made. For one night in each year it shall be as it was before the buck was killed–for thee and for thy children. In that one night, if ye meet the Hairless One–and his name is Man–ye shall not be afraid of him, but he shall he afraid of you, as though ye were judges of the Jungle and masters of all things. Show him mercy in that night of his fear, for thou hast known what Fear is.’

“Then the First of the Tigers answered, ‘I am content’; but when next he drank he saw the black stripes upon his flank and his side, and he remembered the name that the Hairless One had given him, and he was angry. For a year he lived in the marshes waiting till Tha should keep his promise. And upon a night when the jackal of the Moon [the Evening Star] stood clear of the Jungle, he felt that his Night was upon him, and he went to that cave to meet the Hairless One. Then it happened as Tha promised, for the Hairless One fell down before him and lay along the ground, and the First of the Tigers struck him and broke his back, for he thought that there was but one such Thing in the Jungle, and that he had killed Fear. Then, nosing above the kill, he heard Tha coming down from the woods of the North, and presently the voice of the First of the Elephants, which is the voice that we hear now—-”

The thunder was rolling up and down the dry, scarred hills, but it brought no rain–only heat–lightning that flickered along the ridges–and Hathi went on: “That was the voice he heard, and it said: ‘Is this thy mercy?’ The First of the Tigers licked his lips and said: ‘What matter? I have killed Fear.’ And Tha said: ‘O blind and foolish! Thou hast untied the feet of Death, and he will follow thy trail till thou diest. Thou hast taught Man to kill!’

“The First of the Tigers, standing stiffly to his kill, said. ‘He is as the buck was. There is no Fear. Now I will judge the Jungle Peoples once more.’

“And Tha said: ‘Never again shall the Jungle Peoples come to thee. They shall never cross thy trail, nor sleep near thee, nor follow after thee, nor browse by thy lair. Only Fear shall follow thee, and with a blow that thou canst not see he shall bid thee wait his pleasure. He shall make the ground to open under thy feet, and the creeper to twist about thy neck, and the tree-trunks to grow together about thee higher than thou canst leap, and at the last he shall take thy hide to wrap his cubs when they are cold. Thou hast shown him no mercy, and none will he show thee.’

“The First of the Tigers was very bold, for his Night was still on him, and he said: ‘The Promise of Tha is the Promise of Tha. He will not take away my Night?’ And Tha said: ‘The one Night is thine, as I have said, but there is a price to pay. Thou hast taught Man to kill, and he is no slow learner.’

“The First of the Tigers said: ‘He is here under my foot, and his back is broken. Let the Jungle know I have killed Fear.’

“Then Tha laughed, and said: ‘Thou hast killed one of many, but thou thyself shalt tell the Jungle–for thy Night is ended.’

“So the day came; and from the mouth of the cave went out another Hairless One, and he saw the kill in the path, and the First of the Tigers above it, and he took a pointed stick—-”

“They throw a thing that cuts now,” said Ikki, rustling down the bank; for Ikki was considered uncommonly good eating by the Gonds–they called him Ho-Igoo–and he knew something of the wicked little Gondee axe that whirls across a clearing like a dragon-fly.

“It was a pointed stick, such as they put in the foot of a pit-trap,” said Hathi, “and throwing it, he struck the First of the Tigers deep in the flank. Thus it happened as Tha said, for the First of the Tigers ran howling up and down the Jungle till he tore out the stick, and all the Jungle knew that the Hairless One could strike from far off, and they feared more than before. So it came about that the First of the Tigers taught the Hairless One to kill–and ye know what harm that has since done to all our peoples–through the noose, and the pitfall, and the hidden trap, and the flying stick and the stinging fly that comes out of white smoke [Hathi meant the rifle], and the Red Flower that drives us into the open. Yet for one night in the year the Hairless One fears the Tiger, as Tha promised, and never has the Tiger given him cause to be less afraid. Where he finds him, there he kills him, remembering how the First of the Tigers was made ashamed. For the rest, Fear walks up and down the Jungle by day and by night.”

“Ahi! Aoo!” said the deer, thinking of what it all meant to them.

“And only when there is one great Fear over all, as there is now, can we of the Jungle lay aside our little fears, and meet together in one place as we do now.”

“For one night only does Man fear the Tiger?” said Mowgli.

“For one night only,” said Hathi.

“But I–but we–but all the Jungle knows that Shere Khan kills Man twice and thrice in a moon.”

“Even so. Then he springs from behind and turns his head aside as he strikes, for he is full of fear. If Man looked at him he would run. But on his one Night he goes openly down to the village. He walks between the houses and thrusts his head into the doorway, and the men fall on their faces, and there he does his kill. One kill in that Night.”

“Oh!” said Mowgli to himself, rolling over in the water. “Now I see why it was Shere Khan bade me look at him! He got no good of it, for he could not hold his eyes steady, and–and I certainly did not fall down at his feet. But then I am not a man, being of the Free People.”

“Umm!” said Bagheera deep in his furry throat. “Does the Tiger know his Night?”

“Never till the Jackal of the Moon stands clear of the evening mist. Sometimes it falls in the dry summer and sometimes in the wet rains–this one Night of the Tiger. But for the First of the Tigers, this would never have been, nor would any of us have known fear.”

The deer grunted sorrowfully and Bagheera’s lips curled in a wicked smile. “Do men know this–tale?” said he.

“None know it except the tigers, and we, the elephants–the children of Tha. Now ye by the pools have heard it, and I have spoken.”

Hathi dipped his trunk into the water as a sign that he did not wish to talk.

“But–but–but,” said Mowgli, turning to Baloo, “why did not the First of the Tigers continue to eat grass and leaves and trees? He did but break the buck’s neck. He did not eat. What led him to the hot meat?”

“The trees and the creepers marked him, Little Brother, and made him the striped thing that we see. Never again would he eat their fruit; but from that day he revenged himself upon the deer, and the others, the Eaters of Grass,” said Baloo.

“Then thou knowest the tale. Heh? Why have I never heard?”

“Because the Jungle is full of such tales. If I made a beginning there would never be an end to them. Let go my ear, Little Brother.”

 

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