Rudyard Kipling’s “A Ripple Song”

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Once a ripple came to land
In the golden sunset burning—
Lapped against a maiden’s hand,
By the ford returning.

Dainty foot and gentle breast—
Here, across, be glad and rest.
“Maiden, wait,” the ripple saith;
“Wait awhile, for I am Death!”

“Where my lover calls I go—
Shame it were to treat him coldly—
’Twas a fish that circled so,
Turning over boldly.”

Dainty foot and tender heart,
Wait the loaded ferry-cart.
“Wait, ah, wait!” the ripple saith;
“Maiden, wait, for I am Death!”

“When my lover calls I haste—
Dame Disdain was never wedded!”
Ripple-ripple round her waist,
Clear the current eddied.

Foolish heart and faithful hand,
Little feet that touched no land.
Far away the ripple sped,
Ripple—ripple running red!
 

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Rudyard Kipling’s “The Undertakers”

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When ye say to Tabaqui, “My Brother!” when ye call the Hyena to meat,

Ye may cry the Full Truce with Jacala — the Belly that runs on four feet.

Jungle Law

“Respect the aged!”

“It was a thick voice — a muddy voice that would have made you shudder — a voice like something soft breaking in two. There was a quaver in it, a croak and a whine.

“Respect the aged! O Companions of the River — respect the aged!”

Nothing could be seen on the broad reach of the river except a little fleet of square-sailed, wooden-pinned barges, loaded with building-stone, that had just come under the railway bridge, and were driving down-stream. They put their clumsy helms over to avoid the sand-bar made by the scour of the bridge-piers, and as they passed, three abreast, the horrible voice began again:

“O Brahmins of the River — respect the aged and infirm!”

A boatman turned where he sat on the gunwale, lifted up his hand, said something that was not a blessing, and the boats creaked on through the twilight. The broad Indian river, that looked more like a chain of little lakes than a stream, was as smooth as glass, reflecting the sandy-red sky in mid-channel, but splashed with patches of yellow and dusky purple near and under the low banks. Little creeks ran into the river in the wet season, but now their dry mouths hung clear above water-line. On the left shore, and almost under the railway bridge, stood a mud-and-brick and thatch-and-stick village, whose main street, full of cattle going back to their byres, ran straight to the river, and ended in a sort of rude brick pier-head, where people who wanted to wash could wade in step by step. That was the Ghaut of the village of Mugger–Ghaut.

Night was falling fast over the fields of lentils and rice and cotton in the low-lying ground yearly flooded by the river; over the reeds that fringed the elbow of the bend, and the tangled jungle of the grazing-grounds behind the still reeds. The parrots and crows, who had been chattering and shouting over their evening drink, had flown inland to roost, crossing the out-going battalions of the flying-foxes; and cloud upon cloud of water-birds came whistling and “honking” to the cover of the reed-beds. There were geese, barrel-headed and black-backed, teal, widgeon, mallard, and sheldrake, with curlews, and here and there a flamingo.

A lumbering Adjutant-crane brought up the rear, flying as though each slow stroke would be his last.

“Respect the aged! Brahmins of the River — respect the aged!”

The Adjutant half turned his head, sheered a little in the direction of the voice, and landed stiffly on the sand-bar below the bridge. Then you saw what a ruffianly brute he really was. His back view was immensely respectable, for he stood nearly six feet high, and looked rather like a very proper bald-headed parson. In front it was different, for his Ally Sloper-like head and neck had not a feather to them, and there was a horrible raw-skin pouch on his neck under his chin — a hold-all for the things his pick-axe beak might steal. His legs were long and thin and skinny, but he moved them delicately, and looked at them with pride as he preened down his ashy-gray tail-feathers, glanced over the smooth of his shoulder, and stiffened into “Stand at attention.”

A mangy little Jackal, who had been yapping hungrily on a low bluff, cocked up his ears and tail, and scuttered across the shallows to join the Adjutant.

He was the lowest of his caste — not that the best of jackals are good for much, but this one was peculiarly low, being half a beggar, half a criminal — a cleaner-up of village rubbish-heaps, desperately timid or wildly bold, everlastingly hungry, and full of cunning that never did him any good.

“Ugh!” he said, shaking himself dolefully as he landed. “May the red mange destroy the dogs of this village! I have three bites for each flea upon me, and all because I looked — only looked, mark you — at an old shoe in a cow-byre. Can I eat mud?” He scratched himself under his left ear.

“I heard,” said the Adjutant, in a voice like a blunt saw going through a thick board —“I HEARD there was a new-born puppy in that same shoe.”

“To hear is one thing; to know is another,” said the Jackal, who had a very fair knowledge of proverbs, picked up by listening to men round the village fires of an evening.

“Quite true. So, to make sure, I took care of that puppy while the dogs were busy elsewhere.”

“They were VERY busy,” said the Jackal. “Well, I must not go to the village hunting for scraps yet awhile. And so there truly was a blind puppy in that shoe?”

“It is here,” said the Adjutant, squinting over his beak at his full pouch. “A small thing, but acceptable now that charity is dead in the world.”

“Ahai! The world is iron in these days,” wailed the Jackal. Then his restless eye caught the least possible ripple on the water, and he went on quickly: “Life is hard for us all, and I doubt not that even our excellent master, the Pride of the Ghaut and the Envy of the River ——”

“A liar, a flatterer, and a Jackal were all hatched out of the same egg,” said the Adjutant to nobody in particular; for he was rather a fine sort of a liar on his own account when he took the trouble.

“Yes, the Envy of the River,” the Jackal repeated, raising his voice. “Even he, I doubt not, finds that since the bridge has been built good food is more scarce. But on the other hand, though I would by no means say this to his noble face, he is so wise and so virtuous — as I, alas I am not ——”

“When the Jackal owns he is gray, how black must the Jackal be!” muttered the Adjutant. He could not see what was coming.

“That his food never fails, and in consequence ——”

There was a soft grating sound, as though a boat had just touched in shoal water. The Jackal spun round quickly and faced (it is always best to face) the creature he had been talking about. It was a twenty-four-foot crocodile, cased in what looked like treble-riveted boiler-plate, studded and keeled and crested; the yellow points of his upper teeth just overhanging his beautifully fluted lower jaw. It was the blunt-nosed Mugger of Mugger–Ghaut, older than any man in the village, who had given his name to the village; the demon of the ford before the railway bridge, came — murderer, man-eater, and local fetish in one. He lay with his chin in the shallows, keeping his place by an almost invisible rippling of his tail, and well the Jackal knew that one stroke of that same tail in the water would carry the Mugger up the bank with the rush of a steam-engine.

“Auspiciously met, Protector of the Poor!” he fawned, backing at every word. “A delectable voice was heard, and we came in the hopes of sweet conversation. My tailless presumption, while waiting here, led me, indeed, to speak of thee. It is my hope that nothing was overheard.”

Now the Jackal had spoken just to be listened to, for he knew flattery was the best way of getting things to eat, and the Mugger knew that the Jackal had spoken for this end, and the Jackal knew that the Mugger knew, and the Mugger knew that the Jackal knew that the Mugger knew, and so they were all very contented together.

The old brute pushed and panted and grunted up the bank, mumbling, “Respect the aged and infirm!” and all the time his little eyes burned like coals under the heavy, horny eyelids on the top of his triangular head, as he shoved his bloated barrel-body along between his crutched legs. Then he settled down, and, accustomed as the Jackal was to his ways, he could not help starting, for the hundredth time, when he saw how exactly the Mugger imitated a log adrift on the bar. He had even taken pains to lie at the exact angle a naturally stranded log would make with the water, having regard to the current of the season at the time and place. All this was only a matter of habit, of course, because the Mugger had come ashore for pleasure; but a crocodile is never quite full, and if the Jackal had been deceived by the likeness he would not have lived to philosophise over it.

“My child, I heard nothing,” said the Mugger, shutting one eye. “The water was in my ears, and also I was faint with hunger. Since the railway bridge was built my people at my village have ceased to love me; and that is breaking my heart.”

“Ah, shame!” said the Jackal. “So noble a heart, too! But men are all alike, to my mind.”

“Nay, there are very great differences indeed,” the Mugger answered gently. “Some are as lean as boat-poles. Others again are fat as young ja — dogs. Never would I causelessly revile men. They are of all fashions, but the long years have shown me that, one with another, they are very good. Men, women, and children — I have no fault to find with them. And remember, child, he who rebukes the World is rebuked by the World.”

“Flattery is worse than an empty tin can in the belly. But that which we have just heard is wisdom,” said the Adjutant, bringing down one foot.

“Consider, though, their ingratitude to this excellent one,” began the Jackal tenderly.

“Nay, nay, not ingratitude!” the Mugger said. “They do not think for others; that is all. But I have noticed, lying at my station below the ford, that the stairs of the new bridge are cruelly hard to climb, both for old people and young children. The old, indeed, are not so worthy of consideration, but I am grieved — I am truly grieved — on account of the fat children. Still, I think, in a little while, when the newness of the bridge has worn away, we shall see my people’s bare brown legs bravely splashing through the ford as before. Then the old Mugger will be honoured again.”

“But surely I saw Marigold wreaths floating off the edge of the Ghaut only this noon,” said the Adjutant.

Marigold wreaths are a sign of reverence all India over.

“An error — an error. It was the wife of the sweetmeat-seller. She loses her eyesight year by year, and cannot tell a log from me — the Mugger of the Ghaut. I saw the mistake when she threw the garland, for I was lying at the very foot of the Ghaut, and had she taken another step I might have shown her some little difference. Yet she meant well, and we must consider the spirit of the offering.”

“What good are marigold wreaths when one is on the rubbish-heap?” said the Jackal, hunting for fleas, but keeping one wary eye on his Protector of the Poor.

“True, but they have not yet begun to make the rubbish-heap that shall carry ME. Five times have I seen the river draw back from the village and make new land at the foot of the street. Five times have I seen the village rebuilt on the banks, and I shall see it built yet five times more. I am no faithless, fish-hunting Gavial, I, at Kasi today and Prayag tomorrow, as the saying is, but the true and constant watcher of the ford. It is not for nothing, child, that the village bears my name, and ‘he who watches long,’ as the saying is, ‘shall at last have his reward.’”

I have watched long — very long — nearly all my life, and my reward has been bites and blows,” said the Jackal.

“Ho! ho! ho!” roared the Adjutant.

 

“In August was the Jackal born;

The Rains fell in September;

‘Now such a fearful flood as this,’

Says he, ‘I can’t remember!’”

 

There is one very unpleasant peculiarity about the Adjutant. At uncertain times he suffers from acute attacks of the fidgets or cramp in his legs, and though he is more virtuous to behold than any of the cranes, who are all immensely respectable, he flies off into wild, cripple-stilt war-dances, half opening his wings and bobbing his bald head up and down; while for reasons best known to himself he is very careful to time his worst attacks with his nastiest remarks. At the last word of his song he came to attention again, ten times adjutaunter than before.

The Jackal winced, though he was full three seasons old, but you cannot resent an insult from a person with a beak a yard long, and the power of driving it like a javelin. The Adjutant was a most notorious coward, but the Jackal was worse.

“We must live before we can learn,” said the Mugger, “and there is this to say: Little jackals are very common, child, but such a mugger as I am is not common. For all that, I am not proud, since pride is destruction; but take notice, it is Fate, and against his Fate no one who swims or walks or runs should say anything at all. I am well contented with Fate. With good luck, a keen eye, and the custom of considering whether a creek or a backwater has an outlet to it ere you ascend, much may be done.”

“Once I heard that even the Protector of the Poor made a mistake,” said the Jackal viciously.

“True; but there my Fate helped me. It was before I had come to my full growth — before the last famine but three (by the Right and Left of Gunga, how full used the streams to be in those days!). Yes, I was young and unthinking, and when the flood came, who so pleased as I? A little made me very happy then. The village was deep in flood, and I swam above the Ghaut and went far inland, up to the rice-fields, and they were deep in good mud. I remember also a pair of bracelets (glass they were, and troubled me not a little) that I found that evening. Yes, glass bracelets; and, if my memory serves me well, a shoe. I should have shaken off both shoes, but I was hungry. I learned better later. Yes. And so I fed and rested me; but when I was ready to go to the river again the flood had fallen, and I walked through the mud of the main street. Who but I? Came out all my people, priests and women and children, and I looked upon them with benevolence. The mud is not a good place to fight in. Said a boatman, ‘Get axes and kill him, for he is the Mugger of the ford.’ ‘Not so,’ said the Brahmin. ‘Look, he is driving the flood before him! He is the godling of the village.’ Then they threw many flowers at me, and by happy thought one led a goat across the road.”

“How good — how very good is goat!” said the Jackal.

“Hairy — too hairy, and when found in the water more than likely to hide a cross-shaped hook. But that goat I accepted, and went down to the Ghaut in great honour. Later, my Fate sent me the boatman who had desired to cut off my tail with an axe. His boat grounded upon an old shoal which you would not remember.”

“We are not ALL jackals here,” said the Adjutant. “Was it the shoal made where the stone-boats sank in the year of the great drouth — a long shoal that lasted three floods?”

“There were two,” said the Mugger; “an upper and a lower shoal.”

“Ay, I forgot. A channel divided them, and later dried up again,” said the Adjutant, who prided himself on his memory.

“On the lower shoal my well-wisher’s craft grounded. He was sleeping in the bows, and, half awake, leaped over to his waist — no, it was no more than to his knees — to push off. His empty boat went on and touched again below the next reach, as the river ran then. I followed, because I knew men would come out to drag it ashore.”

“And did they do so?” said the Jackal, a little awe-stricken. This was hunting on a scale that impressed him.

“There and lower down they did. I went no farther, but that gave me three in one day — well-fed manjis (boatmen) all, and, except in the case of the last (then I was careless), never a cry to warn those on the bank.”

“Ah, noble sport! But what cleverness and great judgment it requires!” said the Jackal.

“Not cleverness, child, but only thought. A little thought in life is like salt upon rice, as the boatmen say, and I have thought deeply always. The Gavial, my cousin, the fish-eater, has told me how hard it is for him to follow his fish, and how one fish differs from the other, and how he must know them all, both together and apart. I say that is wisdom; but, on the other hand, my cousin, the Gavial, lives among his people. MY people do not swim in companies, with their mouths out of the water, as Rewa does; nor do they constantly rise to the surface of the water, and turn over on their sides, like Mohoo and little Chapta; nor do they gather in shoals after flood, like Batchua and Chilwa.”

“All are very good eating,” said the Adjutant, clattering his beak.

“So my cousin says, and makes a great to-do over hunting them, but they do not climb the banks to escape his sharp nose. MY people are otherwise. Their life is on the land, in the houses, among the cattle. I must know what they do, and what they are about to do; and adding the tail to the trunk, as the saying is, I make up the whole elephant. Is there a green branch and an iron ring hanging over a doorway? The old Mugger knows that a boy has been born in that house, and must some day come down to the Ghaut to play. Is a maiden to be married? The old Mugger knows, for he sees the men carry gifts back and forth; and she, too, comes down to the Ghaut to bathe before her wedding, and — he is there. Has the river changed its channel, and made new land where there was only sand before? The Mugger knows.”

“Now, of what use is that knowledge?” said the Jackal. “The river has shifted even in my little life.” Indian rivers are nearly always moving about in their beds, and will shift, sometimes, as much as two or three miles in a season, drowning the fields on one bank, and spreading good silt on the other.

“There is no knowledge so useful,” said the Mugger, “for new land means new quarrels. The Mugger knows. Oho! the Mugger knows. As soon as the water has drained off, he creeps up the little creeks that men think would not hide a dog, and there he waits. Presently comes a farmer saying he will plant cucumbers here, and melons there, in the new land that the river has given him. He feels the good mud with his bare toes. Anon comes another, saying he will put onions, and carrots, and sugar-cane in such and such places. They meet as boats adrift meet, and each rolls his eye at the other under the big blue turban. The old Mugger sees and hears. Each calls the other ‘Brother,’ and they go to mark out the boundaries of the new land. The Mugger hurries with them from point to point, shuffling very low through the mud. Now they begin to quarrel! Now they say hot words! Now they pull turbans! Now they lift up their lathis (clubs), and, at last, one falls backward into the mud, and the other runs away. When he comes back the dispute is settled, as the iron-bound bamboo of the loser witnesses. Yet they are not grateful to the Mugger. No, they cry ‘Murder!’ and their families fight with sticks, twenty a-side. My people are good people — upland Jats — Malwais of the Bet. They do not give blows for sport, and, when the fight is done, the old Mugger waits far down the river, out of sight of the village, behind the kikar-scrub yonder. Then come they down, my broad-shouldered Jats — eight or nine together under the stars, bearing the dead man upon a bed. They are old men with gray beards, and voices as deep as mine. They light a little fire — ah! how well I know that fire! — and they drink tobacco, and they nod their heads together forward in a ring, or sideways toward the dead man upon the bank. They say the English Law will come with a rope for this matter, and that such a man’s family will be ashamed, because such a man must be hanged in the great square of the Jail. Then say the friends of the dead, ‘Let him hang!’ and the talk is all to do over again — once, twice, twenty times in the long night. Then says one, at last, ‘The fight was a fair fight. Let us take blood-money, a little more than is offered by the slayer, and we will say no more about it.’ Then do they haggle over the blood-money, for the dead was a strong man, leaving many sons. Yet before amratvela (sunrise) they put the fire to him a little, as the custom is, and the dead man comes to me, and HE says no more about it. Aha! my children, the Mugger knows — the Mugger knows — and my Malwah Jats are a good people!”

“They are too close — too narrow in the hand for my crop,” croaked the Adjutant. “They waste not the polish on the cow’s horn, as the saying is; and, again, who can glean after a Malwai?”

“Ah, I— glean — THEM,” said the Mugger.

“Now, in Calcutta of the South, in the old days,” the Adjutant went on, “everything was thrown into the streets, and we picked and chose. Those wore dainty seasons. But today they keep their streets as clean as the outside of an egg, and my people fly away. To be clean is one thing; to dust, sweep, and sprinkle seven times a day wearies the very Gods themselves.”

“There was a down-country jackal had it from a brother, who told me, that in Calcutta of the South all the jackals were as fat as otters in the Rains,” said the Jackal, his mouth watering at the bare thought of it.

“Ah, but the white-faces are there — the English, and they bring dogs from somewhere down the river in boats — big fat dogs — to keep those same jackals lean,” said the Adjutant.

“They are, then, as hard-hearted as these people? I might have known. Neither earth, sky, nor water shows charity to a jackal. I saw the tents of a white-face last season, after the Rains, and I also took a new yellow bridle to eat. The white-faces do not dress their leather in the proper way. It made me very sick.”

“That was better than my case,” said the Adjutant. “When I was in my third season, a young and a bold bird, I went down to the river where the big boats come in. The boats of the English are thrice as big as this village.”

“He has been as far as Delhi, and says all the people there walk on their heads,” muttered the Jackal. The Mugger opened his left eye, and looked keenly at the Adjutant.

“It is true,” the big bird insisted. “A liar only lies when he hopes to be believed. No one who had not seen those boats COULD believe this truth.”

“THAT is more reasonable,” said the Mugger. “And then?”

“From the insides of this boat they were taking out great pieces of white stuff, which, in a little while, turned to water. Much split off, and fell about on the shore, and the rest they swiftly put into a house with thick walls. But a boatman, who laughed, took a piece no larger than a small dog, and threw it to me. I— all my people — swallow without reflection, and that piece I swallowed as is our custom. Immediately I was afflicted with an excessive cold which, beginning in my crop, ran down to the extreme end of my toes, and deprived me even of speech, while the boatmen laughed at me. Never have I felt such cold. I danced in my grief and amazement till I could recover my breath and then I danced and cried out against the falseness of this world; and the boatmen derided me till they fell down. The chief wonder of the matter, setting aside that marvellous coldness, was that there was nothing at all in my crop when I had finished my lamentings!”

The Adjutant had done his very best to describe his feelings after swallowing a seven-pound lump of Wenham Lake ice, off an American ice-ship, in the days before Calcutta made her ice by machinery; but as he did not know what ice was, and as the Mugger and the Jackal knew rather less, the tale missed fire.

“Anything,” said the Mugger, shutting his left eye again —“ANYTHING is possible that comes out of a boat thrice the size of Mugger–Ghaut. My village is not a small one.”

There was a whistle overhead on the bridge, and the Delhi Mail slid across, all the carriages gleaming with light, and the shadows faithfully following along the river. It clanked away into the dark again; but the Mugger and the Jackal were so well used to it that they never turned their heads.

“Is that anything less wonderful than a boat thrice the size of Mugger–Ghaut?” said the bird, looking up.

“I saw that built, child. Stone by stone I saw the bridge-piers rise, and when the men fell off (they were wondrous sure-footed for the most part — but WHEN they fell) I was ready. After the first pier was made they never thought to look down the stream for the body to burn. There, again, I saved much trouble. There was nothing strange in the building of the bridge,” said the Mugger.

“But that which goes across, pulling the roofed carts! That is strange,” the Adjutant repeated. “It is, past any doubt, a new breed of bullock. Some day it will not be able to keep its foothold up yonder, and will fall as the men did. The old Mugger will then be ready.”

The Jackal looked at the Adjutant and the Adjutant looked at the Jackal. If there was one thing they were more certain of than another, it was that the engine was everything in the wide world except a bullock. The Jackal had watched it time and again from the aloe hedges by the side of the line, and the Adjutant had seen engines since the first locomotive ran in India. But the Mugger had only looked up at the thing from below, where the brass dome seemed rather like a bullock’s hump.

“M— yes, a new kind of bullock,” the Mugger repeated ponderously, to make himself quite sure in his own mind; and “Certainly it is a bullock,” said the Jackal.

“And again it might be ——” began the Mugger pettishly.

“Certainly — most certainly,” said the Jackal, without waiting for the other to finish.

“What?” said the Mugger angrily, for he could feel that the others knew more than he did. “What might it be? I never finished my words. You said it was a bullock.”

“It is anything the Protector of the Poor pleases. I am HIS servant — not the servant of the thing that crosses the river.”

“Whatever it is, it is white-face work,” said the Adjutant; “and for my own part, I would not lie out upon a place so near to it as this bar.”

“You do not know the English as I do,” said the Mugger. “There was a white-face here when the bridge was built, and he would take a boat in the evenings and shuffle with his feet on the bottom-boards, and whisper: ‘Is he here? Is he there? Bring me my gun.’ I could hear him before I could see him — each sound that he made — creaking and puffing and rattling his gun, up and down the river. As surely as I had picked up one of his workmen, and thus saved great expense in wood for the burning, so surely would he come down to the Ghaut, and shout in a loud voice that he would hunt me, and rid the river of me — the Mugger of Mugger–Ghaut! ME! Children, I have swum under the bottom of his boat for hour after hour, and heard him fire his gun at logs; and when I was well sure he was wearied, I have risen by his side and snapped my jaws in his face. When the bridge was finished he went away. All the English hunt in that fashion, except when they are hunted.”

“Who hunts the white-faces?” yapped the Jackal excitedly.

“No one now, but I have hunted them in my time.”

“I remember a little of that Hunting. I was young then,” said the Adjutant, clattering his beak significantly.

“I was well established here. My village was being builded for the third time, as I remember, when my cousin, the Gavial, brought me word of rich waters above Benares. At first I would not go, for my cousin, who is a fish-eater, does not always know the good from the bad; but I heard my people talking in the evenings, and what they said made me certain.”

“And what did they say?” the Jackal asked.

“They said enough to make me, the Mugger of Mugger–Ghaut, leave water and take to my feet. I went by night, using the littlest streams as they served me; but it was the beginning of the hot weather, and all streams were low. I crossed dusty roads; I went through tall grass; I climbed hills in the moonlight. Even rocks did I climb, children — consider this well. I crossed the tail of Sirhind, the waterless, before I could find the set of the little rivers that flow Gungaward. I was a month’s journey from my own people and the river that I knew. That was very marvellous!”

“What food on the way?” said the Jackal, who kept his soul in his little stomach, and was not a bit impressed by the Mugger’s land travels.

“That which I could find — COUSIN,” said the Mugger slowly, dragging each word.

Now you do not call a man a cousin in India unless you think you can establish some kind of blood-relationship, and as it is only in old fairy-tales that the Mugger ever marries a jackal, the Jackal knew for what reason he had been suddenly lifted into the Mugger’s family circle. If they had been alone he would not have cared, but the Adjutant’s eyes twinkled with mirth at the ugly jest.

“Assuredly, Father, I might have known,” said the Jackal. A mugger does not care to be called a father of jackals, and the Mugger of Mugger–Ghaut said as much — and a great deal more which there is no use in repeating here.

“The Protector of the Poor has claimed kinship. How can I remember the precise degree? Moreover, we eat the same food. He has said it,” was the Jackal’s reply.

That made matters rather worse, for what the Jackal hinted at was that the Mugger must have eaten his food on that land-march fresh and fresh every day, instead of keeping it by him till it was in a fit and proper condition, as every self-respecting mugger and most wild beasts do when they can. Indeed, one of the worst terms of contempt along the River-bed is “eater of fresh meat.” It is nearly as bad as calling a man a cannibal.

“That food was eaten thirty seasons ago,” said the Adjutant quietly. “If we talk for thirty seasons more it will never come back. Tell us, now, what happened when the good waters were reached after thy most wonderful land journey. If we listened to the howling of every jackal the business of the town would stop, as the saying is.”

The Mugger must have been grateful for the interruption, because he went on, with a rush:

“By the Right and Left of Gunga! when I came there never did I see such waters!”

“Were they better, then, than the big flood of last season?” said the Jackal.

“Better! That flood was no more than comes every five years — a handful of drowned strangers, some chickens, and a dead bullock in muddy water with cross-currents. But the season I think of, the river was low, smooth, and even, and, as the Gavial had warned me, the dead English came down, touching each other. I got my girth in that season — my girth and my depth. From Agra, by Etawah and the broad waters by Allahabad ——”

“Oh, the eddy that set under the walls of the fort at Allahabad!” said the Adjutant. “They came in there like widgeon to the reeds, and round and round they swung — thus!”

He went off into his horrible dance again, while the Jackal looked on enviously. He naturally could not remember the terrible year of the Mutiny they were talking about. The Mugger continued:

“Yes, by Allahabad one lay still in the slack-water and let twenty go by to pick one; and, above all, the English were not cumbered with jewellery and nose-rings and anklets as my women are nowadays. To delight in ornaments is to end with a rope for a necklace, as the saying is. All the muggers of all the rivers grew fat then, but it was my Fate to be fatter than them all. The news was that the English were being hunted into the rivers, and by the Right and Left of Gunga! we believed it was true. So far as I went south I believed it to be true; and I went down-stream beyond Monghyr and the tombs that look over the river.”

“I know that place,” said the Adjutant. “Since those days Monghyr is a lost city. Very few live there now.”

“Thereafter I worked up-stream very slowly and lazily, and a little above Monghyr there came down a boatful of white-faces — alive! They were, as I remember, women, lying under a cloth spread over sticks, and crying aloud. There was never a gun fired at us, the watchers of the fords in those days. All the guns were busy elsewhere. We could hear them day and night inland, coming and going as the wind shifted. I rose up full before the boat, because I had never seen white-faces alive, though I knew them well — otherwise. A naked white child kneeled by the side of the boat, and, stooping over, must needs try to trail his hands in the river. It is a pretty thing to see how a child loves running water. I had fed that day, but there was yet a little unfilled space within me. Still, it was for sport and not for food that I rose at the child’s hands. They were so clear a mark that I did not even look when I closed; but they were so small that though my jaws rang true — I am sure of that — the child drew them up swiftly, unhurt. They must have passed between tooth and tooth — those small white hands. I should have caught him cross-wise at the elbows; but, as I said, it was only for sport and desire to see new things that I rose at all. They cried out one after another in the boat, and presently I rose again to watch them. The boat was too heavy to push over. They were only women, but he who trusts a woman will walk on duckweed in a pool, as the saying is: and by the Right and Left of Gunga, that is truth!”

“Once a woman gave me some dried skin from a fish,” said the Jackal. “I had hoped to get her baby, but horse-food is better than the kick of a horse, as the saying is. What did thy woman do?”

“She fired at me with a short gun of a kind I have never seen before or since. Five times, one after another” (the Mugger must have met with an old-fashioned revolver); “and I stayed open-mouthed and gaping, my head in the smoke. Never did I see such a thing. Five times, as swiftly as I wave my tail — thus!”

The Jackal, who had been growing more and more interested in the story, had just time to leap back as the huge tail swung by like a scythe.

“Not before the fifth shot,” said the Mugger, as though he had never dreamed of stunning one of his listeners —“not before the fifth shot did I sink, and I rose in time to hear a boatman telling all those white women that I was most certainly dead. One bullet had gone under a neck-plate of mine. I know not if it is there still, for the reason I cannot turn my head. Look and see, child. It will show that my tale is true.”

“I?” said the Jackal. “Shall an eater of old shoes, a bone-cracker, presume, to doubt the word of the Envy of the River? May my tail be bitten off by blind puppies if the shadow of such a thought has crossed my humble mind! The Protector of the Poor has condescended to inform me, his slave, that once in his life he has been wounded by a woman. That is sufficient, and I will tell the tale to all my children, asking for no proof.”

“Over-much civility is sometimes no better than over-much discourtesy, for, as the saying is, one can choke a guest with curds. I do NOT desire that any children of thine should know that the Mugger of Mugger–Ghaut took his only wound from a woman. They will have much else to think of if they get their meat as miserably as does their father.”

“It is forgotten long ago! It was never said! There never was a white woman! There was no boat! Nothing whatever happened at all.”

The Jackal waved his brush to show how completely everything was wiped out of his memory, and sat down with an air.

“Indeed, very many things happened,” said the Mugger, beaten in his second attempt that night to get the better of his friend. (Neither bore malice, however. Eat and be eaten was fair law along the river, and the Jackal came in for his share of plunder when the Mugger had finished a meal.) “I left that boat and went up-stream, and, when I had reached Arrah and the back-waters behind it, there were no more dead English. The river was empty for a while. Then came one or two dead, in red coats, not English, but of one kind all — Hindus and Purbeeahs — then five and six abreast, and at last, from Arrah to the North beyond Agra, it was as though whole villages had walked into the water. They came out of little creeks one after another, as the logs come down in the Rains. When the river rose they rose also in companies from the shoals they had rested upon; and the falling flood dragged them with it across the fields and through the Jungle by the long hair. All night, too, going North, I heard the guns, and by day the shod feet of men crossing fords, and that noise which a heavy cart-wheel makes on sand under water; and every ripple brought more dead. At last even I was afraid, for I said: ‘If this thing happen to men, how shall the Mugger of Mugger–Ghaut escape?’ There were boats, too, that came up behind me without sails, burning continually, as the cotton-boats sometimes burn, but never sinking.”

“Ah!” said the Adjutant. “Boats like those come to Calcutta of the South. They are tall and black, they beat up the water behind them with a tail, and they ——”

“Are thrice as big as my village. MY boats were low and white; they beat up the water on either side of them and were no larger than the boats of one who speaks truth should be. They made me very afraid, and I left water and went back to this my river, hiding by day and walking by night, when I could not find little streams to help me. I came to my village again, but I did not hope to see any of my people there. Yet they were ploughing and sowing and reaping, and going to and fro in their fields, as quietly as their own cattle.”

“Was there still good food in the river?” said the Jackal.

“More than I had any desire for. Even I— and I do not eat mud — even I was tired, and, as I remember, a little frightened of this constant coming down of the silent ones. I heard my people say in my village that all the English were dead; but those that came, face down, with the current were NOT English, as my people saw. Then my people said that it was best to say nothing at all, but to pay the tax and plough the land. After a long time the river cleared, and those that came down it had been clearly drowned by the floods, as I could well see; and though it was not so easy then to get food, I was heartily glad of it. A little killing here and there is no bad thing — but even the Mugger is sometimes satisfied, as the saying is.”

“Marvellous! Most truly marvellous!” said the Jackal. “I am become fat through merely hearing about so much good eating. And afterward what, if it be permitted to ask, did the Protector of the Poor do?”

“I said to myself — and by the Right and Left of Gunga! I locked my jaws on that vow — I said I would never go roving any more. So I lived by the Ghaut, very close to my own people, and I watched over them year after year; and they loved me so much that they threw marigold wreaths at my head whenever they saw it lift. Yes, and my Fate has been very kind to me, and the river is good enough to respect my poor and infirm presence; only ——”

“No one is all happy from his beak to his tail,” said the Adjutant sympathetically. “What does the Mugger of Mugger–Ghaut need more?”

“That little white child which I did not get,” said the Mugger, with a deep sigh. “He was very small, but I have not forgotten. I am old now, but before I die it is my desire to try one new thing. It is true they are a heavy-footed, noisy, and foolish people, and the sport would be small, but I remember the old days above Benares, and, if the child lives, he will remember still. It may be he goes up and down the bank of some river, telling how he once passed his hands between the teeth of the Mugger of Mugger–Ghaut, and lived to make a tale of it. My Fate has been very kind, but that plagues me sometimes in my dreams — the thought of the little white child in the bows of that boat.” He yawned, and closed his jaws. “And now I will rest and think. Keep silent, my children, and respect the aged.”

He turned stiffly, and shuffled to the top of the sand-bar, while the Jackal drew back with the Adjutant to the shelter of a tree stranded on the end nearest the railway bridge.

“That was a pleasant and profitable life,” he grinned, looking up inquiringly at the bird who towered above him. “And not once, mark you, did he think fit to tell me where a morsel might have been left along the banks. Yet I have told HIM a hundred times of good things wallowing down-stream. How true is the saying, ‘All the world forgets the Jackal and the Barber when the news has been told!’ Now he is going to sleep! Arrh!”

“How can a jackal hunt with a Mugger?” said the Adjutant coolly. “Big thief and little thief; it is easy to say who gets the pickings.”

The Jackal turned, whining impatiently, and was going to curl himself up under the tree-trunk, when suddenly he cowered, and looked up through the draggled branches at the bridge almost above his head.

“What now?” said the Adjutant, opening his wings uneasily.

“Wait till we see. The wind blows from us to them, but they are not looking for us — those two men.”

“Men, is it? My office protects me. All India knows I am holy.” The Adjutant, being a first-class scavenger, is allowed to go where he pleases, and so this one never flinched.

“I am not worth a blow from anything better than an old shoe,” said the Jackal, and listened again. “Hark to that footfall!” he went on. “That was no country leather, but the shod foot of a white-face. Listen again! Iron hits iron up there! It is a gun! Friend, those heavy-footed, foolish English are coming to speak with the Mugger.”

“Warn him, then. He was called Protector of the Poor by some one not unlike a starving Jackal but a little time ago.”

“Let my cousin protect his own hide. He has told me again and again there is nothing to fear from the white-faces. They must be white-faces. Not a villager of Mugger–Ghaut would dare to come after him. See, I said it was a gun! Now, with good luck, we shall feed before daylight. He cannot hear well out of water, and — this time it is not a woman!”

A shiny barrel glittered for a minute in the moonlight on the girders. The Mugger was lying on the sand-bar as still as his own shadow, his fore-feet spread out a little, his head dropped between them, snoring like a — mugger.

A voice on the bridge whispered: “It’s an odd shot — straight down almost — but as safe as houses. Better try behind the neck. Golly! what a brute! The villagers will be wild if he’s shot, though. He’s the deota [godling] of these parts.”

“Don’t care a rap,” another voice answered; “he took about fifteen of my best coolies while the bridge was building, and it’s time he was put a stop to. I’ve been after him in a boat for weeks. Stand by with the Martini as soon as I’ve given him both barrels of this.”

“Mind the kick, then. A double four-bore’s no joke.”

“That’s for him to decide. Here goes!”

There was a roar like the sound of a small cannon (the biggest sort of elephant-rifle is not very different from some artillery), and a double streak of flame, followed by the stinging crack of a Martini, whose long bullet makes nothing of a crocodile’s plates. But the explosive bullets did the work. One of them struck just behind the Mugger’s neck, a hand’s-breadth to the left of the backbone, while the other burst a little lower down, at the beginning of the tail. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred a mortally-wounded crocodile can scramble to deep water and get away; but the Mugger of Mugger–Ghaut was literally broken into three pieces. He hardly moved his head before the life went out of him, and he lay as flat as the Jackal.

“Thunder and lightning! Lightning and thunder!” said that miserable little beast. “Has the thing that pulls the covered carts over the bridge tumbled at last?”

“It is no more than a gun,” said the Adjutant, though his very tail-feathers quivered. “Nothing more than a gun. He is certainly dead. Here come the white-faces.”

The two Englishmen had hurried down from the bridge and across to the sand-bar, where they stood admiring the length of the Mugger. Then a native with an axe cut off the big head, and four men dragged it across the spit.

“The last time that I had my hand in a Mugger’s mouth,” said one of the Englishmen, stooping down (he was the man who had built the bridge), “it was when I was about five years old — coming down the river by boat to Monghyr. I was a Mutiny baby, as they call it. Poor mother was in the boat, too, and she often told me how she fired dad’s old pistol at the beast’s head.”

“Well, you’ve certainly had your revenge on the chief of the clan — even if the gun has made your nose bleed. Hi, you boatmen! Haul that head up the bank, and we’ll boil it for the skull. The skin’s too knocked about to keep. Come along to bed now. This was worth sitting up all night for, wasn’t it?”

*****

Curiously enough, the Jackal and the Adjutant made the very same remark not three minutes after the men had left.

 

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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!

 

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 “A Song of Kabir”

Oh, light was the world that he weighed in his hands!
Oh, heavy the tale of his fiefs and his lands!
He has gone from the guddee and put on the shroud,
And departed in guise of bairagi avowed!

Now the white road to Delhi is mat for his feet.
The sal and the kikar must guard him from heat.
His home is the camp, and waste, and the crowd —
He is seeking the Way as bairagi avowed!

He has looked upon Man, and his eyeballs are clear —
(There was One; there is One, and but One, saith Kabir);
The Red Mist of Doing has thinned to a cloud —
He has taken the Path for bairagi avowed!

To learn and discern of his brother the clod,
Of his brother the brute, and his brother the God,
He has gone from the council and put on the shroud
(“Can ye hear?” saith Kabir), a bairagi avowed!

 

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Here’s chapter 5 of that sci-fi novel! This one’s gonna be rough…

Okay! Here is chapter five of that novel I haven’t named yet–that’s got to change soon… Anyway, if you haven’t read the prologue, chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, and chapter 4, go read those first or you will be very, very confused. I know for a fact that this chapter is going to be much more typo-ridden than the last since none of my beta readers have read this far yet. Still, I hope you guys enjoy it all the same!

 

Disclaimer: these chapters have not yet been professionally edited so there will most definitely be mistakes that I did not catch. Also this series contains violence, moderately strong language, and a touch of gore. Reader discretion is advised.

Chapter 5

Out of the Frying Pan

 

“The uniforms look superb, Mr. Cain,” Noire said as he examined Kira and Artemis in front of the entrance hatch. “Your contact certainly has an eye for detail.”

“My tailor droids made them,” Cain said, his voice low, and growling as it usually was. Kira had gotten used to his naturally severe tone. “I believe Tora Corps employees will find everything to be in order.”

Kira glanced toward Artemis noting that he looked quite dashing with his face clean-shaven and his usually unruly chestnut-brown hair brushed back out of his face. The white uniform fitted his tall, toned form perfectly, accentuating his muscles. The edges of his long, high collared coat was lined with smooth black trim, and the rank stripes on the left side of his chest pulsed orange and black in time with his heart—a staple of the Tora Corp solider uniforms. Those stripes monitored pulse-rate, body temperature, and a multitude of other physical functions. It was like having a personal diagnostics droid. Traditionally the information the stripes gathered were sent to one’s data chip, but since Kira and Artemis lacked that tech, Kira programmed the stripes to send the data to their holowatches instead.

Kira wore an outfit almost identical to Artemis’s, except hers was tailor-made for her curvier physique. The tight black pants that went with uniform were not nearly as uncomfortable as she thought they’d be, and Artemis didn’t seem to mind them either. Tight was good—tight meant loose material wouldn’t get in the way in case they had to fight. The material had some stretch to it as well which would allow for flexibility. Overall, Kira approved of their uniforms.

Artemis scratched at his neck, his serious solider act falling to pieces in that instant. “This coat’s kinda hot—and not in the good way.”

“You can adjust the coat’s temperature with your watch,” Cain said. “Ms. Chevalier, you added those settings, didn’t you.”

“Of course,” Kira said, gabbing Artemis’s wrists and pointing and speaking to the watch. “Archimedes, make Artemis’s coat 70 degrees Fahrenheit.”

“Yes, Ms. Chevalier,” Archimedes replied in his smooth inflectionless voice.

Artemis’s upper lip twitched in disgust. “You gave mine a voice too?”

“Our watches share an operating system. Deal with it,” she replied coolly, letting go of his wrist and letting it fall back down to his side.

Noire’s dark, well-maintained brows furrowed—the only sign he ever showed of discomfort. “Is there nothing I can say to make you reconsider?”

There was plenty Noire could say to make Kira reconsider, but when Artemis set his mind on something… “Nope,” Artemis said, making a popping sound at the ‘p’. He placed his hands on his hips, looking like a super hero out of one of his stupid comic books. “We’re doing this, Addy. Once we steal some MCTA and sell it, we’re gonna be rolling in the dough and you’re gonna be back on top again! We’re gonna have all the new tech we need to steal anything we want. This is our only ticket out of this slump.”

Noire’s lips pressed into a thin, white slash. “We’re not in a slump. We’re fine—we’re surviving.”

“But we could be thriving,” Artemis said pointedly. “We used to and we will again. You don’t have to worry about me and K—we’re gonna be alright. With her brains and my moves, there’s no way those science nerds can stop us.”

“Assuming you work together,” Noire said, loosely crossing his arms over his chest. “That’s the only way you’re going to be successful. You must learn to operate as one unit, not as two individuals with separate plans.”

Kira could tell by Noire’s wary tone that he didn’t think they were ready for a heist like this. In truth, Kira didn’t think they were ready either, but she couldn’t let Artemis do this alone. He was too brash to execute a successful lift. He needed her steady hand, and she was certain he knew that too.

Artemis set his hand on Noire’s shoulder and grinned so confidently, Kira was tempted to believe his next words. “We’re gonna be fine, Pops. Me and K learned from the best, after all.”

Cain’s dark eyes flickered to Noire who still looked as if he was fighting the urge to knock her and Artemis unconscious to prevent them from leaving. “Departures end in less than an hour now. It’s time to go.”

Noire clenched his jaw so tightly that Kira thought he might break his teeth as Cain typed in a code on the touch keypad and opened the entrance hatch. Kira lowered her eyes and turned her back to her mentor, her and Artemis following Cain out of Noire’s base.

Noire made a sound as if he was going to speak and Kira looked back at him. His mouth hung open for a moment as if he couldn’t decide what to say before giving up and waving her forward without another word.

The hatch shut and its three steel bolts locked into place. The metallic thud of the bolts was more severe and final than it had ever been before, and the sound echoed through her. She felt a cold sort of emptiness envelop her as she watched Cain and Artemis climb up the ladder that would lead them to the surface. It was a familiar feeling that settled uncomfortably at the pit of her stomach.

This wasn’t a good idea. Something inside of her was screaming for her to turn back now. After a moment of indulging the panicked thoughts, she took a deep breath and attempted to release all of her worries upon exhale.

That was just her pessimism talking. Everything would be fine. Despite trying to convince herself of this, that terrible feeling in the pit of her stomach did not dissipate.

 

Cain programmed the coordinates into his hovercraft’s navigation system and they flew off toward Tora Corp’s teleportation center. It was a lush hovercraft complete with real leather cushions and a minibar full of drinks neither Kira nor Artemis had ever tasted or even heard of. Cain didn’t allow them to partake in any of the luxurious drinks as he feared it would impair their judgment.

The Tora Corporation Teleportation Center was a massive domed building that floated in the sky above Imperial city. Like most other building, the teleportation center was made of thick anti-shatter glass that had been tinted white, making it difficult to see what was on the inside unless you were very close—nose-pressed-to-the-glass close.

Cain dropped them off at the building’s entrance not saying so much as ‘good luck’ before speeding away. Kira didn’t mind the abrupt exit—there was nothing he could have said to ease her fretful mind anyway.

Artemis’s eyes darted down to her chest. She was just about to slap him when she too looked down to see that her stripes were blinking quite rapidly in time with her heart. Artemis placed his hand on her shoulder, his features softening into something less excited and more sympathetic. He knew that he was the only reason she had come along. He knew he’d dragged her into this against her better judgment. He knew and maybe deep down he also knew that it was unfair for him to have manipulated her in such a way.

He gently squeezed her shoulder. “Hey.” Kira eyes flickered up to meet his. “It’s gonna be alright.”

She nodded slowly, averting her eyes once more. “I hope so…”

He patted her arm roughly. “It will! Me and you are always gonna be ‘A o’ K’! Get it? Cause my name starts with and A and your name—”

“I get it,” she said quickly, grabbing his wrist and pulling him towards the entrance where other people dressed in uniforms like there’s were strolling into the building. “Let’s just get inside. If we loiter out here for too long, people might get suspicious.”

When they entered the teleportation center, they paused to take in the sight. They stood in a large, open room with white, tile floors, and harsh fluorescent lighting—even with technological advancements lightbulbs where still the best way to light a room. People didn’t bustle about here, they marched and waited in orderly lines once they got to where they were headed. And it was quiet. Not so quiet that one could hear a pin drop, but much too quiet for a public space with so much foot traffic. Scanning droids hovered about overhead, soundlessly scanning each person in sight. Noting this, Kira could not help but shrink where she stood.

Who where they kidding? There was no way they were going fool anyone even with their weeks’ worth of solider training and Tora Corp uniforms. This was a mistake, and they needed to get out of there before they were caught and thrown into prison for their lousy attempts at impersonation.

“Tora Corp doesn’t image-ray their employee’s skulls. I checked,” Artemis said to lowly, more to herself than to Artemis.

Artemis shrugged. “Yeah, I know. We went over this before we left. Come on, let’s get to the scan dock.”

Kira swallowed heavily and straightened up, feeling her hands trembling against her will. “Right. Let’s just try to avoid the droids. If there’s even the tiniest inconsistency with our data files, they’ll pick it up.”

“What about the scanning dock itself?”

She shook her head. “The docks aren’t intelligent bots. They just read the information and cross-reference it with the employee data Tora Corp has on file. As long as there aren’t more than a few discrepancies, we should be able to pass the scan with no problem.”

“And Tora Corp has us on file?”

“Yes. Cain used his connections to put our alias information into Tora’s employee database. We should be fine,” she said, once more trying to convince herself more so than her already confident partner.

“Sure we will,” Artemis said, pushing back his shoulders and putting on a more serious face. “Now let’s go be the best damn soldiers Tora Corp’s ever had.”

Kira sighed. “I’m pretty sure ‘the best damn soldiers Tora Corp ever had’ wouldn’t be planning on stealing from them.”

Artemis smirked. “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s go steal some shit, K.”

His smirk must have been infectious for she found herself smirking too. “Now you’re speaking my language.”

They strolled through the crowd of men and women in solider uniforms, lab coats, and expensive suits, as they made their way towards the scanning docks—a line of large circular platforms with rectangular archways for people to pass beneath—at the back of the large domed space. Once they passed the scan they would be authorized to teleport to N.E.S. Bengal—Tora Corporation’s Research and Development space station. Kira just hoped they would make it to the docks. At least five scanner droids stood between them and their ultimate goal and there were another two scanning people behind them.

She pushed on Artemis’s back, urging him to go faster, trying her best not to look as anxious as she felt. Her palms were already saturated with perspiration despite the cool air circulating throughout the teleportation center lobby. She knew Noire had done an excellent job on their alias files, but that terrible feeling at the pit of her stomach had yet to go away. Was this intuition telling her to run, or was it merely nerves? She couldn’t tell, but she prayed to whatever omniscient being that was listening that it was the latter of the two.

They were forced to bring their quick strides to a halt when they reached the rather long line of people and AIBs waiting to be scanned. Kira cursed beneath her breath, noting that there was still one more scanner droid up ahead along with one hovering a few people behind them in line. There was no way they could avoid the droids now. She just hoped that Noire had double and triple checked their data files for flaws. Of course he would have checked them multiple times, Kira thought, breathing in deeply through her nose as one of the droids moved on to the third person in front of them. There’s nothing wrong with our data files. There’s nothing wrong with our data files. There’s nothing wrong with our—

Data files forged. Intruder alert. Data files forged,” said a monotonous droid voice from behind her.

Kira spun around and saw that Artemis had gone pale and his eyes were wide. A scanner droid was hovering behind him, blinking red. The droid’s voice sounded over the loud speakers now. “Data files forged. Intruder alert.”

Soldiers in black uniforms wearing smooth helmets that covered their entire face had surrounded their section of the line before Kira even had a chance to blink. They raised their sleek-looking phaser-guns—if she wasn’t so frightened, she knew she’d be drooling over the weapons. A slow grin built upon Artemis’s face, his eyes alight with mischief—she knew what that look meant. He was about to do something stupid again.

Fine, she thought glumly to herself. I’m sure whatever he’s planning on doing won’t get us in any more trouble than we’re already in. She was just about to step back and let Artemis beat them up, when she noticed something: the soldier’s weren’t looking at Artemis—they were looking at the man directly behind Artemis. The droid hovered above the middle-aged man, still flashing red.

Artemis raised his arms, clenching his hands into fist, but Kira grabbed his wrists and yanked his arms back down to his sides, giving him a discreet shake of her head. Their cover wasn’t blown yet, but it would be if Artemis started kicking and punching the soldiers.

“I know what you do!” shouted the man behind Artemis. “You’re killers and I’m going expose you one way or another! Reid Zarlock murdered my daughter and buried the evidence underneath mountains of red tape!” the man cried, his voice breaking beneath the weight of his words. “His damned organization is killing innocent beings, and us, the common people, are going to be the ones to pay the price for his greed! They’re coming … it won’t be long now. We’re all going to die…”

“Take him down,” one of the soldiers commanded coolly.

The other soldiers rushed the man and rendered him unconscious with a stun shot—she knew because stun shots were blue—to the temple. They dragged the limp man off, not towards the buildings exit, but past the scanning docks to the teleporting chambers beyond. What were they doing? Why didn’t the soldiers just throw him outside?

Once Tora security had gone, Artemis relaxed, his shoulders slumping forward as he exhaled softly. “I think I might need a new pair of pants, K.”

Kira laughed despite herself. Great job, Noire. If only that other guy had one of your pristine file sets, huh? she though as she faced forward once more.

“Do you think all that crap that hippie just spouted was true?” Artemis asked lowly as the line shuffled forward.

“What? About that Zarlock guy being some murderous mastermind? Doubtful,” Kira said. “He looks and acts like a bum Tora picked up off the skyway to be their figure-head. He’s just some idiot that got lucky with a couple good ideas, that’s it.”

Artemis hummed thoughtfully. “If you say so, K. You’re the genius—I’m just here to be eye-candy.”

“And half the time you can’t even do that right.”

“But half the time I do,” he said, playfully nudging her in the small of her back.

She rolled her eyes. “I was being generous.”

“Ouch! Way to hurt a guy’s pride.”

Despite the mild jokes, the air between them was still tense. They stopped talking and Kira was glad for it. All she wanted to do was focus on getting past the scanning docks—if they did, they would have little else to worry about. She breathed in and out as steady and slow as she could manage, trying to keep the stripes on her coat from blinking too quickly.

After what seemed like hours—when in actuality it only took a few minutes—it was Kira’s turn the step up onto one of the scanning platforms. Her eyes darted to the armed guards on either side of the scanning platform. They were looking straight ahead, unmoving, and their faces were shielded by smooth black helmets just like the soldiers who dragged the hysterical man away. She stood there for a moment waiting for something to happen, and startled when an even female voice sounded from above her. “Please face forward and lift your arms so that scanning may begin.”

Kira did as the scanner instructed, lifting her arms up horizontally to shoulder height. There was a soft buzzing sound that droned on for a few seconds before the scanner beeped loudly. “Unauthorized technology detected.”

She breathed in deeply, swallowing hard as the soldiers beside the scanning dock left their posts to hop up onto the platform with her. One guard took a flat, metallic wand from his belt and waved it down her torso, while the other guard inspected her clothes, soon pulling up her sleeve to reveal her holowatch. “Found it,” the second solider said to his friend with the wand. “What’s with the old timekeeping tech, Sergeant? Is your data chip defunct or something?”

Kira shook her head, her gaze flickering to Artemis, who gave her a thumbs up. She could do this. She was smart, she could make up a lie. She cleared her throat. “I like vintage tech. I restore old watches as a hobby.”

“What’s a watch?” the solider with the wand asked with a tilt of his helmeted head.

She pointed to her wrist. “This. I was told we were allowed to bring a few personal effects on board. This doesn’t violate protocol, does it?”

“That depends on what it does,” the first guard said. “Show us.”

Kira was tempted to smirk, but she knew that wouldn’t be in her best interest at the moment. These soldiers didn’t know a thing about old tech. She tapped the screen of her hollow watch and the time was projected above the watch face. She shrugged. “Not so impressive is it? But what can I say—I’m a sucker for antique things like this.”

The guards stared at the watched for a moment before turning their heads to look at each other. “Let her keep it,” the second solider said, slipping his wand back into his belt. “It’s just some crappy old tech.”

Kira scowled but stopped herself from saying or doing anything that might jeopardize the task at hand. She pulled down her sleeve. “Is that all?”

“Not yet,” said the first guard. “Scanning dock three, state Tora employee status.”

“Employee status confirmed,” the dock replied. “Kira Leonid—Chief Master Sergeant. Science and engineer level ten downloaded to data chip. Employee on teleportation roster.”

The second guard nodded. “A scientist, huh? You better get going. They need up there, Sergeant Leonid.” The two soldiers saluted her and she saluted them back just as Cain had taught her.

She strolled off the platform, smiling minutely to herself. That wasn’t so terrible, she thought as she watched Artemis step up onto the platform after her. The dock beeped, just like it had with her, alerting the guards of unauthorized tech once more. They found Artemis’s watch without any trouble.

“You’ve got one too, Sergeant?” the first guards asked incredulously. “Hobby of yours?”

“Nah. I’m too dumb to mess with tech,” Artemis said with an unwavering smile. Kira wished she had half the confidence he exuded. “Sergeant Leonid refurbed an extra and it looked so cool I just had to have it.”

The second guard crossed his arms over his chest. “Alright, he’s clean. Scanning dock three, state Tora employee status.”

“Employee status confirmed. Artemis Hartford—Chief Master Sergeant. Combative Martial Arts chip level ten downloaded to data chip. Employee on teleportation roster.”

“Looks like you’re all set, Sergeant Hartford,” said the first solider. “Have I nice trip.”

They saluted each other and Artemis marched off the platform with his head held high to meet Kira. He nudged her once he was close enough. “Easy peasy,” he said with a wink.

She shook her head and ran a hand through her short, brown hair. “Whatever. Let’s just get to the teleporters.”

They followed the long hall behind the scanner docks and eventually reached a much smaller domed room than they had been in before. Upon arrival, Kira and Artemis were instructed by a woman in a white lab suit, to get in to one of the many glass capsules that lined the concaved wall at far end of the chamber.

Kira and Artemis exchanged slightly wary looks. They both had never teleported before, and Kira could tell that the idea of their shattered particles being shot up into space faster than the speed of light unsettled him as much as it did her. But they had both come this far—they were going to finish what they started. Thus, after the moment of hesitation passed, Kira stepped up into a capsule, and Artemis did the same.

Kira only had the chance to take one deep breath before the sensation of being pinched all over her body set in. The next thing she knew, the scene around her capsule was gone in the blink of an eye and she was on her way to the N.E.S. Bengal.

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

Rudyard Kipling’s “the Miracle of Purun Bhagat”

The night we felt the earth would move
We stole and plucked him by the hand,
Because we loved him with the love
That knows but cannot understand.

And when the roaring hillside broke,
And all our world fell down in rain,
We saved him, we the Little Folk;
But lo! he does not come again!

Mourn now, we saved him for the sake
Of such poor love as wild ones may.
Mourn ye! Our brother will not wake,
And his own kind drive us away!

Dirge of the Langurs

 

There was once a man in India who was Prime Minister of one of the semi-independent native States in the north-western part of the country. He was a Brahmin, so high-caste that caste ceased to have any particular meaning for him; and his father had been an important official in the gay-coloured tag-rag and bobtail of an old-fashioned Hindu Court. But as Purun Dass grew up he felt that the old order of things was changing, and that if any one wished to get on in the world he must stand well with the English, and imitate all that the English believed to be good. At the same time a native official must keep his own master’s favour. This was a difficult game, but the quiet, close-mouthed young Brahmin, helped by a good English education at a Bombay University, played it coolly, and rose, step by step, to be Prime Minister of the kingdom. That is to say, he held more real power than his master the Maharajah.

When the old king — who was suspicious of the English, their railways and telegraphs –died, Purun Dass stood high with his young successor, who had been tutored by an Englishman; and between them, though he always took care that his master should have the credit, they established schools for little girls, made roads, and started State dispensaries and shows of agricultural implements, and published a yearly blue-book on the “Moral and Material Progress of the State,” and the Foreign Office and the Government of India were delighted. Very few native States take up English progress altogether, for they will not believe, as Purun Dass showed he did, that what was good for the Englishman must be twice as good for the Asiatic. The Prime Minister became the honoured friend of Viceroys, and Governors, and Lieutenant-Governors, and medical missionaries, and common missionaries, and hard-riding English officers who came to shoot in the State preserves, as well as of whole hosts of tourists who travelled up and down India in the cold weather, showing how things ought to be managed. In his spare time he would endow scholarships for the study of medicine and manufactures on strictly English lines, and write letters to the “Pioneer”, the greatest Indian daily paper, explaining his master’s aims and objects.

At last he went to England on a visit, and had to pay enormous sums to the priests when he came back; for even so high-caste a Brahmin as Purun Dass lost caste by crossing the black sea. In London he met and talked with every one worth knowing –men whose names go all over the world — and saw a great deal more than he said. He was given honorary degrees by learned universities, and he made speeches and talked of Hindu social reform to English ladies in evening dress, till all London cried, “This is the most fascinating man we have ever met at dinner since cloths were first laid.”

When he returned to India there was a blaze of glory, for the Viceroy himself made a special visit to confer upon the Maharajah the Grand Cross of the Star of India — all diamonds and ribbons and enamel; and at the same ceremony, while the cannon boomed, Purun Dass was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire; so that his name stood Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E.

That evening, at dinner in the big Viceregal tent, he stood up with the badge and the collar of the Order on his breast, and replying to the toast of his master’s health, made a speech few Englishmen could have bettered.

Next month, when the city had returned to its sun-baked quiet, he did a thing no Englishman would have dreamed of doing; for, so far as the world’s affairs went, he died. The jewelled order of his knighthood went back to the Indian Government, and a new Prime Minister was appointed to the charge of affairs, and a great game of General Post began in all the subordinate appointments. The priests knew what had happened, and the people guessed; but India is the one place in the world where a man can do as he pleases and nobody asks why; and the fact that Dewan Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E., had resigned position, palace, and power, and taken up the begging-bowl and ochre-coloured dress of a Sunnyasi, or holy man, was considered nothing extraordinary. He had been, as the Old Law recommends, twenty years a youth, twenty years a fighter, — though he had never carried a weapon in his life, — and twenty years head of a household. He had used his wealth and his power for what he knew both to be worth; he had taken honour when it came his way; he had seen men and cities far and near, and men and cities had stood up and honoured him. Now he would let those things go, as a man drops the cloak he no longer needs.

Behind him, as he walked through the city gates, an antelope skin and brass-handled crutch under his arm, and a begging-bowl of polished brown coco-de-mer in his hand, barefoot, alone, with eyes cast on the ground — behind him they were firing salutes from the bastions in honour of his happy successor. Purun Dass nodded. All that life was ended; and he bore it no more ill-will or good-will than a man bears to a colourless dream of the night. He was a Sunnyasi — a houseless, wandering mendicant, depending on his neighbours for his daily bread; and so long as there is a morsel to divide in India, neither priest nor beggar starves. He had never in his life tasted meat, and very seldom eaten even fish. A five-pound note would have covered his personal expenses for food through any one of the many years in which he had been absolute master of millions of money. Even when he was being lionised in London he had held before him his dream of peace and quiet — the long, white, dusty Indian road, printed all over with bare feet, the incessant, slow-moving traffic, and the sharp-smelling wood smoke curling up under the fig-trees in the twilight, where the wayfarers sit at their evening meal.

When the time came to make that dream true the Prime Minister took the proper steps, and in three days you might more easily have found a bubble in the trough of the long Atlantic seas, than Purun Dass among the roving, gathering, separating millions of India.

At night his antelope skin was spread where the darkness overtook him — sometimes in a Sunnyasi monastery by the roadside; sometimes by a mud-pillar shrine of Kala Pir, where the Jogis, who are another misty division of holy men, would receive him as they do those who know what castes and divisions are worth; sometimes on the outskirts of a little Hindu village, where the children would steal up with the food their parents had prepared; and sometimes on the pitch of the bare grazing-grounds, where the flame of his stick fire waked the drowsy camels. It was all one to Purun Dass — or Purun Bhagat, as he called himself now. Earth, people, and food were all one. But unconsciously his feet drew him away northward and eastward; from the south to Rohtak; from Rohtak to Kurnool; from Kurnool to ruined Samanah, and then up-stream along the dried bed of the Gugger river that fills only when the rain falls in the hills, till one day he saw the far line of the great Himalayas.

Then Purun Bhagat smiled, for he remembered that his mother was of Rajput Brahmin birth, from Kulu way — a Hill-woman, always home-sick for the snows — and that the least touch of Hill blood draws a man in the end back to where he belongs.

“Yonder,” said Purun Bhagat, breasting the lower slopes of the Sewaliks, where the cacti stand up like seven-branched candlesticks, “yonder I shall sit down and get knowledge;” and the cool wind of the Himalayas whistled about his ears as he trod the road that led to Simla.

The last time he had come that way it had been in state, with a clattering cavalry escort, to visit the gentlest and most affable of Viceroys; and the two had talked for an hour together about mutual friends in London, and what the Indian common folk really thought of things. This time Purun Bhagat paid no calls, but leaned on the rail of the Mall, watching that glorious view of the Plains spread out forty miles below, till a native Mohammedan policeman told him he was obstructing traffic; and Purun Bhagat salaamed reverently to the Law, because he knew the value of it, and was seeking for a Law of his own. Then he moved on, and slept that night in an empty hut at Chota Simla, which looks like the very last end of the earth, but it was only the beginning of his journey.

He followed the Himalaya-Thibet road, the little ten-foot track that is blasted out of solid rock, or strutted out on timbers over gulfs a thousand feet deep; that dips into warm, wet, shut-in valleys, and climbs out across bare, grassy hill-shoulders where the sun strikes like a burning-glass; or turns through dripping, dark forests where the tree-ferns dress the trunks from head to heel, and the pheasant calls to his mate. And he met Thibetan herdsmen with their dogs and flocks of sheep, each sheep with a little bag of borax on his back, and wandering wood-cutters, and cloaked and blanketed Lamas from Thibet, coming into India on pilgrimage, and envoys of little solitary Hill-states, posting furiously on ring-streaked and piebald ponies, or the cavalcade of a Rajah paying a visit; or else for a long, clear day he would see nothing more than a black bear grunting and rooting below in the valley. When he first started, the roar of the world he had left still rang in his ears, as the roar of a tunnel rings long after the train has passed through; but when he had put the Mutteeanee Pass behind him that was all done, and Purun Bhagat was alone with himself, walking, wondering, and thinking, his eyes on the ground, and his thoughts with the clouds.

One evening he crossed the highest pass he had met till then — it had been a two-day’s climb — and came out on a line of snow-peaks that banded all the horizon — mountains from fifteen to twenty thousand feet high, looking almost near enough to hit with a stone, though they were fifty or sixty miles away. The pass was crowned with dense, dark forest — deodar, walnut, wild cherry, wild olive, and wild pear, but mostly deodar, which is the Himalayan cedar; and under the shadow of the deodars stood a deserted shrine to Kali– who is Durga, who is Sitala, who is sometimes worshipped against the smallpox.

Purun Dass swept the stone floor clean, smiled at the grinning statue, made himself a little mud fireplace at the back of the shrine, spread his antelope skin on a bed of fresh pine-needles, tucked his bairagi — his brass-handled crutch — under his armpit, and sat down to rest.

Immediately below him the hillside fell away, clean and cleared for fifteen hundred feet, where a little village of stone-walled houses, with roofs of beaten earth, clung to the steep tilt. All round it the tiny terraced fields lay out like aprons of patchwork on the knees of the mountain, and cows no bigger than beetles grazed between the smooth stone circles of the threshing-floors. Looking across the valley, the eye was deceived by the size of things, and could not at first realise that what seemed to be low scrub, on the opposite mountain-flank, was in truth a forest of hundred-foot pines. Purun Bhagat saw an eagle swoop across the gigantic hollow, but the great bird dwindled to a dot ere it was half-way over. A few bands of scattered clouds strung up and down the valley, catching on a shoulder of the hills, or rising up and dying out when they were level with the head of the pass. And “Here shall I find peace,” said Purun Bhagat.

Now, a Hill-man makes nothing of a few hundred feet up or down, and as soon as the villagers saw the smoke in the deserted shrine, the village priest climbed up the terraced hillside to welcome the stranger.

When he met Purun Bhagat’s eyes — the eyes of a man used to control thousands — he bowed to the earth, took the begging-bowl without a word, and returned to the village, saying, “We have at last a holy man. Never have I seen such a man. He is of the Plains — but pale-coloured — a Brahmin of the Brahmins.” Then all the housewives of the village said, “Think you he will stay with us?” and each did her best to cook the most savoury meal for the Bhagat. Hill-food is very simple, but with buckwheat and Indian corn, and rice and red pepper, and little fish out of the stream in the valley, and honey from the flue-like hives built in the stone walls, and dried apricots, and turmeric, and wild ginger, and bannocks of flour, a devout woman can make good things, and it was a full bowl that the priest carried to the Bhagat. Was he going to stay? asked the priest. Would he need a chela — a disciple — to beg for him? Had he a blanket against the cold weather? Was the food good?

Purun Bhagat ate, and thanked the giver. It was in his mind to stay. That was sufficient, said the priest. Let the begging-bowl be placed outside the shrine, in the hollow made by those two twisted roots, and daily should the Bhagat be fed; for the village felt honoured that such a man — he looked timidly into the Bhagat’s face –should tarry among them.

That day saw the end of Purun Bhagat’s wanderings. He had come to the place appointed for him — the silence and the space. After this, time stopped, and he, sitting at the mouth of the shrine, could not tell whether he were alive or dead; a man with control of his limbs, or a part of the hills, and the clouds, and the shifting rain and sunlight. He would repeat a Name softly to himself a hundred hundred times, till, at each repetition, he seemed to move more and more out of his body, sweeping up to the doors of some tremendous discovery; but, just as the door was opening, his body would drag him back, and, with grief, he felt he was locked up again in the flesh and bones of Purun Bhagat.

Every morning the filled begging-bowl was laid silently in the crutch of the roots outside the shrine. Sometimes the priest brought it; sometimes a Ladakhi trader, lodging in the village, and anxious to get merit, trudged up the path; but, more often, it was the woman who had cooked the meal overnight; and she would murmur, hardly above her breath. “Speak for me before the gods, Bhagat. Speak for such a one, the wife of so-and-so!” Now and then some bold child would be allowed the honour, and Purun Bhagat would hear him drop the bowl and run as fast as his little legs could carry him, but the Bhagat never came down to the village. It was laid out like a map at his feet. He could see the evening gatherings, held on the circle of the threshing-floors, because that was the only level ground; could see the wonderful unnamed green of the young rice, the indigo blues of the Indian corn, the dock-like patches of buckwheat, and, in its season, the red bloom of the amaranth, whose tiny seeds, being neither grain nor pulse, make a food that can be lawfully eaten by Hindus in time of fasts.

When the year turned, the roofs of the huts were all little squares of purest gold, for it was on the roofs that they laid out their cobs of the corn to dry. Hiving and harvest, rice-sowing and husking, passed before his eyes, all embroidered down there on the many-sided plots of fields, and he thought of them all, and wondered what they all led to at the long last.

Even in populated India a man cannot a day sit still before the wild things run over him as though he were a rock; and in that wilderness very soon the wild things, who knew Kali’s Shrine well, came back to look at the intruder. The langurs, the big gray-whiskered monkeys of the Himalayas, were, naturally, the first, for they are alive with curiosity; and when they had upset the begging-bowl, and rolled it round the floor, and tried their teeth on the brass-handled crutch, and made faces at the antelope skin, they decided that the human being who sat so still was harmless. At evening, they would leap down from the pines, and beg with their hands for things to eat, and then swing off in graceful curves. They liked the warmth of the fire, too, and huddled round it till Purun Bhagat had to push them aside to throw on more fuel; and in the morning, as often as not, he would find a furry ape sharing his blanket. All day long, one or other of the tribe would sit by his side, staring out at the snows, crooning and looking unspeakably wise and sorrowful.

After the monkeys came the barasingh, that big deer which is like our red deer, but stronger. He wished to rub off the velvet of his horns against the cold stones of Kali’s statue, and stamped his feet when he saw the man at the shrine. But Purun Bhagat never moved, and, little by little, the royal stag edged up and nuzzled his shoulder. Purun Bhagat slid one cool hand along the hot antlers, and the touch soothed the fretted beast, who bowed his head, and Purun Bhagat very softly rubbed and ravelled off the velvet. Afterward, the barasingh brought his doe and fawn — gentle things that mumbled on the holy man’s blanket — or would come alone at night, his eyes green in the fire-flicker, to take his share of fresh walnuts. At last, the musk-deer, the shyest and almost the smallest of the deerlets, came, too, her big rabbity ears erect; even brindled, silentmushick-nabha must needs find out what the light in the shrine meant, and drop out her moose-like nose into Purun Bhagat’s lap, coming and going with the shadows of the fire. Purun Bhagat called them all “my brothers,” and his low call of “Bhai! Bhai!” would draw them from the forest at noon if they were within ear shot. The Himalayan black bear, moody and suspicious–Sona, who has the V-shaped white mark under his chin–passed that way more than once; and since the Bhagat showed no fear, Sona showed no anger, but watched him, and came closer, and begged a share of the caresses, and a dole of bread or wild berries. Often, in the still dawns, when the Bhagat would climb to the very crest of the pass to watch the red day walking along the peaks of the snows, he would find Sona shuffling and grunting at his heels, thrusting, a curious fore-paw under fallen trunks, and bringing it away with a whoof of impatience; or his early steps would wake Sona where he lay curled up, and the great brute, rising erect, would think to fight, till he heard the Bhagat’s voice and knew his best friend.

Nearly all hermits and holy men who live apart from the big cities have the reputation of being able to work miracles with the wild things, but all the miracle lies in keeping still, in never making a hasty movement, and, for a long time, at least, in never looking directly at a visitor. The villagers saw the outline of the barasingh stalking like a shadow through the dark forest behind the shrine; saw the minaul, the Himalayan pheasant, blazing in her best colours before Kali’s statue; and the langurs on their haunches, inside, playing with the walnut shells. Some of the children, too, had heard Sona singing to himself, bear-fashion, behind the fallen rocks, and the Bhagat’s reputation as miracle-worker stood firm.

Yet nothing was farther from his mind than miracles. He believed that all things were one big Miracle, and when a man knows that much he knows something to go upon. He knew for a certainty that there was nothing great and nothing little in this world: and day and night he strove to think out his way into the heart of things, back to the place whence his soul had come.

So thinking, his untrimmed hair fell down about his shoulders, the stone slab at the side of the antelope skin was dented into a little hole by the foot of his brass-handled crutch, and the place between the tree-trunks, where the begging-bowl rested day after day, sunk and wore into a hollow almost as smooth as the brown shell itself; and each beast knew his exact place at the fire. The fields changed their colours with the seasons; the threshing-floors filled and emptied, and filled again and again; and again and again, when winter came, the langurs frisked among the branches feathered with light snow, till the mother-monkeys brought their sad-eyed little babies up from the warmer valleys with the spring. There were few changes in the village. The priest was older, and many of the little children who used to come with the begging-dish sent their own children now; and when you asked of the villagers how long their holy man had lived in Kali’s Shrine at the head of the pass, they answered, “Always.”

Then came such summer rains as had not been known in the Hills for many seasons. Through three good months the valley was wrapped in cloud and soaking mist — steady, unrelenting downfall, breaking off into thunder-shower after thunder-shower. Kali’s Shrine stood above the clouds, for the most part, and there was a whole month in which the Bhagat never caught a glimpse of his village. It was packed away under a white floor of cloud that swayed and shifted and rolled on itself and bulged upward, but never broke from its piers — the streaming flanks of the valley.

All that time he heard nothing but the sound of a million little waters, overhead from the trees, and underfoot along the ground, soaking through the pine-needles, dripping from the tongues of draggled fern, and spouting in newly-torn muddy channels down the slopes. Then the sun came out, and drew forth the good incense of the deodars and the rhododendrons, and that far-off, clean smell which the Hill people call “the smell of the snows.” The hot sunshine lasted for a week, and then the rains gathered together for their last downpour, and the water fell in sheets that flayed off the skin of the ground and leaped back in mud. Purun Bhagat heaped his fire high that night, for he was sure his brothers would need warmth; but never a beast came to the shrine, though he called and called till he dropped asleep, wondering what had happened in the woods.

It was in the black heart of the night, the rain drumming like a thousand drums, that he was roused by a plucking at his blanket, and, stretching out, felt the little hand of alangur. “It is better here than in the trees,” he said sleepily, loosening a fold of blanket; “take it and be warm.” The monkey caught his hand and pulled hard. “Is it food, then?” said Purun Bhagat. “Wait awhile, and I will prepare some.” As he kneeled to throw fuel on the fire the langur ran to the door of the shrine, crooned and ran back again, plucking at the man’s knee.

“What is it? What is thy trouble, Brother?” said Purun Bhagat, for the langur‘s eyes were full of things that he could not tell. “Unless one of thy caste be in a trap — and none set traps here — I will not go into that weather. Look, Brother, even the barasingh comes for shelter!”

The deer’s antlers clashed as he strode into the shrine, clashed against the grinning statue of Kali. He lowered them in Purun Bhagat’s direction and stamped uneasily, hissing through his half-shut nostrils. “Hai! Hai! Hai!” said the Bhagat, snapping his fingers, “Is this payment for a night’s lodging?” But the deer pushed him toward the door, and as he did so Purun Bhagat heard the sound of something opening with a sigh, and saw two slabs of the floor draw away from each other, while the sticky earth below smacked its lips.

“Now I see,” said Purun Bhagat. “No blame to my brothers that they did not sit by the fire to-night. The mountain is falling. And yet — why should I go?” His eye fell on the empty begging-bowl, and his face changed. “They have given me good food daily since — since I came, and, if I am not swift, to-morrow there will not be one mouth in the valley. Indeed, I must go and warn them below. Back there, Brother! Let me get to the fire.”

The barasingh backed unwillingly as Purun Bhagat drove a pine torch deep into the flame, twirling it till it was well lit. “Ah! ye came to warn me,” he said, rising. “Better than that we shall do; better than that. Out, now, and lend me thy neck, Brother, for I have but two feet.”

He clutched the bristling withers of the barasingh with his right hand, held the torch away with his left, and stepped out of the shrine into the desperate night. There was no breath of wind, but the rain nearly drowned the flare as the great deer hurried down the slope, sliding on his haunches. As soon as they were clear of the forest more of the Bhagat’s brothers joined them. He heard, though he could not see, the langurs pressing about him, and behind them the uhh! uhh! of Sona. The rain matted his long white hair into ropes; the water splashed beneath his bare feet, and his yellow robe clung to his frail old body, but he stepped down steadily, leaning against the barasingh. He was no longer a holy man, but Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E., Prime Minister of no small State, a man accustomed to command, going out to save life. Down the steep, plashy path they poured all together, the Bhagat and his brothers, down and down till the deer’s feet clicked and stumbled on the wall of a threshing-floor, and he snorted because he smelt Man. Now they were at the head of the one crooked village street, and the Bhagat beat with his crutch on the barred windows of the blacksmith’s house, as his torch blazed up in the shelter of the eaves. “Up and out!” cried Purun Bhagat; and he did not know his own voice, for it was years since he had spoken aloud to a man. “The hill falls! The hill is falling! Up and out, oh, you within!”

“It is our Bhagat,” said the blacksmith’s wife. “He stands among his beasts. Gather the little ones and give the call.”

It ran from house to house, while the beasts, cramped in the narrow way, surged and huddled round the Bhagat, and Sona puffed impatiently. The people hurried into the street — they were no more than seventy souls all told — and in the glare of the torches they saw their Bhagat holding back the terrified barasingh, while the monkeys plucked piteously at his skirts, and Sona sat on his haunches and roared.

“Across the valley and up the next hill!” shouted Purun Bhagat. “Leave none behind! We follow!”

Then the people ran as only Hill folk can run, for they knew that in a landslip you must climb for the highest ground across the valley. They fled, splashing through the little river at the bottom, and panted up the terraced fields on the far side, while the Bhagat and his brethren followed. Up and up the opposite mountain they climbed, calling to each other by name — the roll-call of the village — and at their heels toiled the big barasingh, weighted by the failing strength of Purun Bhagat. At last the deer stopped in the shadow of a deep pinewood, five hundred feet up the hillside. His instinct, that had warned him of the coming slide, told him he would he safe here.

Purun Bhagat dropped fainting by his side, for the chill of the rain and that fierce climb were killing him; but first he called to the scattered torches ahead, “Stay and count your numbers;” then, whispering to the deer as he saw the lights gather in a cluster: “Stay with me, Brother. Stay — till — I — go!”

There was a sigh in the air that grew to a mutter, and a mutter that grew to a roar, and a roar that passed all sense of hearing, and the hillside on which the villagers stood was hit in the darkness, and rocked to the blow. Then a note as steady, deep, and true as the deep C of the organ drowned everything for perhaps five minutes, while the very roots of the pines quivered to it. It died away, and the sound of the rain falling on miles of hard ground and grass changed to the muffled drum of water on soft earth. That told its own tale.

Never a villager — not even the priest — was bold enough to speak to the Bhagat who had saved their lives. They crouched under the pines and waited till the day. When it came they looked across the valley and saw that what had been forest, and terraced field, and track-threaded grazing-ground was one raw, red, fan-shaped smear, with a few trees flung head-down on the scarp. That red ran high up the hill of their refuge, damming back the little river, which had begun to spread into a brick-coloured lake. Of the village, of the road to the shrine, of the shrine itself, and the forest behind, there was no trace. For one mile in width and two thousand feet in sheer depth the mountain-side had come away bodily, planed clean from head to heel.

And the villagers, one by one, crept through the wood to pray before their Bhagat. They saw the barasingh standing over him, who fled when they came near, and they heard thelangurs wailing in the branches, and Sona moaning up the hill; but their Bhagat was dead, sitting cross-legged, his back against a tree, his crutch under his armpit, and his face turned to the north-east.

The priest said: “Behold a miracle after a miracle, for in this very attitude must all Sunnyasis be buried! Therefore where he now is we will build the temple to our holy man.”

They built the temple before a year was ended — a little stone-and-earth shrine — and they called the hill the Bhagat’s hill, and they worship there with lights and flowers and offerings to this day. But they do not know that the saint of their worship is the late Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E., D.C.L., Ph.D., etc., once Prime Minister of the progressive and enlightened State of Mohiniwala, and honorary or corresponding member of more learned and scientific societies than will ever do any good in this world or the next.

 

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Here is chapter 4 of that sci-fi novel I haven’t named yet!

Sorry this is a little late! It’s been a while since I’ve given you guys one of these (about two months I think), so here is chapter 4 FINALLY. Click the following links for the prologuechapter 1, chapter 2, and chapter 3!

 

Disclaimer: these chapters have not yet been professionally edited so there will most definitely be mistakes that I didn’t catch. Also this series contains violence, moderately strong language, and a touch of gore. Reader discretion is advised.

Chapter 4

Would-Be Killer

 

After five days of order intensive soldier training—curtesy of Lucas Cain—Kira and Artemis were nearly ready to infiltrate the N.E.S. Bengal. They had both been taught how to salute properly, how to reply to a superior officer, as well as how to address people who ranked lower than them. They’d been through Obstacle courses designed by Cain to simulate military training and it was no surprise to anyone that they both passed the physical assessments with flying colors. It was true that Artemis was more physically inclined than she was, but she was still much more skilled at combat than most people her age. Regardless, she was expecting to be underestimated, thus she’d worked twice as hard as Artemis to see to it that she was at least on par with him.

Thanks to Artemis’s vast knowledge of multiple martial arts, he was able to flip and spin his way through Cain’s difficult laser trials, while Kira had to run and dodge to keep herself from getting burned by the beams. There were a few times that she’d been tempted to just shoot the laser projectors and be done with them; however, she refrained knowing that sort of exercise was good practice for beating more complex security systems that were ‘un-hackable’—although she had yet to meet a system that she couldn’t hack into.

Kira liked Cain. Yes, he was strict and at times difficult to get along with because of his severe personality, but he was very good at getting she and Artemis to give it their all in every task he had them do. It was hard work, but Kira felt as if she had learned a lot about how to be a convincing Tora Corp solider—she only hoped the Tora Corp staff would feel the same.

Another day of training had finally concluded and Kira and Artemis sat in the middle of the bunker’s vacant training grounds—a large empty section of the base that Cain had used to project his laser obstacle courses. Cain had since ended the projections and was in the midst of packing up his state of the art lightdrives and other modern tech which Kira envied. With a simple flick and swipe of his fingers, Cain opened up a translucent light screen in front of him, typing in a few things.

“I thought only data chips could support lightbeam interfaces,” Kira said as she watched him.

Cain paused in his type to point to the onyx band on his finger. “You’re not the only one with tech accessories, Ms. Chevalier. Unfortunately we at the Timber Organization must occasionally turn to empire technology to keep us ‘in the game’ as it were, but we make their tech our own. We try to keep up with our own ingenuity, but empire tech is advancing too quickly, even for our genius engineers and technicians. It’s strange really—the leaps the empire has taken with technology is almost supernatural…”

“What? You think ghosts and vampires are helping them out or something?” Artemis asked with a snort of a laugh.

Cain raised a brow at Artemis. “I don’t know what a vampire is, but no, I don’t think it has anything to do with people’s residual energy. The term ‘ghost’ is so archaic I couldn’t even remember what it was you were talking about for a moment,” he said before returning his attention to his light screen. “In any case, the sixth dimension plane has been barred off to the living for almost four centuries now, therefore, I don’t believe ‘ghosts’, as you call them, are the culprits here. Tora Corporation tech is advancing almost as quickly as empire tech—I want you two to find out why.”

Kira and Artemis discreetly glanced to one another, both looking reluctant to the idea. “With all due respect, Mr. Cain, Artemis and I are only going to the Bengal to steal a sample of Tora Corp’s new MCTA prototype. We’re thieves, not spies,” Kira said.

Artemis nodded, Hopping to his feet and stretching his arms out high above his head. “She’s right. We just wanna get in and get out.”

Cain frowned and swiped his light screen away, closing it out. “I thought there might be a bit of resistance from the two of you. So, I’m prepared to make you a deal. If you find out how Tora Corp’s technology is advancing so rapidly, the Timber Organization will donate all new tech to this bunker. You and I both know Noire is in desperate need of new equipment and so are you. Deliver to me the information that I require and the tech is yours—no strings attached.”

Artemis smirked, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re gonna update this whole bunker just for some info? Man, you wolves must really be hard up.”

“It’s not every day that we get the opportunity to infiltrate a high-security facility,” Cain said, clasping his hands behind his back. “Even with the tech and means, most of our operatives have been reluctant to agree to precarious mission such as the one you are undertaking.”

Kira scoffed and shut her eyes, slowly shaking her head. “So, basically, you’re trying to capitalize on our stupidity?”

“Those aren’t exactly the words I’d choose, but, in a sense, yes,” Cain replied.

“Well, at least he’s upfront about it,” Artemis said with a shrug.

“If Mr. Noire believes you can successfully achieve what you intend to do, I have absolutely no reason to doubt you,” Cain said, cracking the smallest of smiles. “He’s a tough critic.”

Yeah he is,” Artemis muttered sourly.

Cain picked up his stainless steel briefcase, typing in a code on the touchscreen lock. “Well, Mr. Flynn, Ms. Chevalier, I believe we’re done for today. I’ll see myself out.”

Kira got to her feet and shook Cain’s hand. “Thank you for all your help, Mr. Cain. Artemis and I really appreciate it.”

Cain nodded. “Anything for protégés of the Panther. I’ll see the two of you bright and early tomorrow morning.”

“Can ‘early’ be like ten-thirty?” Artemis asked, smiling hopefully.

“Nice try, Mr. Flynn. I’ll see you at six,” Cain said as he strode out of the white warehouse-looking room, leaving Artemis and Kira to stand there alone.

Kira took a deep breath. “Two days.”

Artemis nodded. “Two days.”

“I’m almost finished with your holowatch,” Kira said, waving to him and strolling to the exit. “I’ll drop it off at your room tonight after I’m done with it.”

Artemis was silent for a moment before jogging after her. “Hey wait.”

She stopped and turned around to face him. “Yeah?”

“You’re not freaking out are you?”

She shrugged. No she wasn’t freaking out, but she wasn’t confident about this plan either. But now wasn’t the time for those sorts of admissions. She offered him a weak smile. “Of course not. I’m fine.”

“Good. Me too,” he said, patting her arm. “We’ve got this in the bag, K.” He then brushed past her, whistling one of his favorite rock and roll tune as he too left the training arena.

Artemis ran a hand through her hair, grasping him for a moment before letting her hand fall back down to her side. I hope things go as smoothly as he thinks they’re going to go…

 

Kira finished Artemis’s holowatch that evening and brought it to him. It took quite a while, but she was eventually able to teach him how to use his new gadget. “Are you sure you’ve got the hang of it?” she asked, watching him tap random options on his holoscreen. “If you need me to go over it again—”

“I got it, I got it! Chill out, will you?” Artemis said as he swiped his finger down and lowered the holoprojection. “So you loaded up those files that Noire put together for our cover IDs?”

“Yes,” Kira said, handing him their modified ear coms. “I also modified our coms so to include Noire’s language translating microbugs. As long as we have our coms in our ears we’ll be able to understand what people speaking other languages are say, as well as communicate in the appropriate languages.”

“Awesome. But aren’t they gonna check for outside tech?” Artemis asked.

“Yes, but Noire coded our files to include medical history. We have a few ‘AI implants’, so they shouldn’t question our coms or holowatches,” Kira replied, taking a seat beside Artemis on his bed and sticking her com in her ear. “I’ve programed our holowatches to communicate with our coms so anything we hear, the micro drives in our watches will record.”

“How about what we see?”

“No go. We’re out of eye-lens recorders.”

“You think they’ve got some up on Bengal?”

Kira pulled her legs up onto the bed and crossed them beneath her. “You never know. Maybe they’ve got something better than eye-lens recorders up there.”

Artemis set his elbow on his leg and leaned his cheek against his fist. “Looks like you’ve got it all figured out then. Noire told me that our bot tailor’s finished with our uniforms. It took nearly ten minutes to finish them—that thing’s getting old…”

Kira hung her head, her shoulders falling forward. “We had a newer one.”

“I know,” he grumbled. “Do you … wanna talk about him or something?”

“Not really.”

“Are you sure?”

Artemis groaned and threw her hands up in the air. “Elliot’s gone and he stole all of our best equipment! What more is there to say, Artemis?”

He pursed his lips nodding slowly. “So… Were you and him ever—”

No.”

“You two just seemed so—”

“We weren’t.”

“Really? Cause it kinda felt like—”

“We were friends, Artemis,” Kira snapped. “That was bad enough, alright? I should have seen it in him—that darkness.”

“It’s not your fault, and no one blames you for what he did,” Artemis said, his tone gentler than it usually was. “It’s been three years, Kira—you should be able to talk about this by now. He screwed us all over, not just you.”

“He was a part of the only family I’ve ever known. I can’t just forget that.”

“You don’t have to forget it, you just have to remember that me and Noire are your family too,” Artemis said, staring at her intently. “Elliot’s a dick, alright? Can’t you just, I dunno, try to move on?”

She could feel the anger bubbling within in her chest as the memories of her former comrade and friend flooded back to her. Artemis was right. It had been three years—she should have gotten over it by now. But the fury she felt each time Elliot’s name was brought up never went away.

Her hands tightened into fists, her nails biting into the palms of her hands. “Noire and I knew him for twelve years and you knew him ten—I just don’t get how someone could betray people who they’ve known for so long,” Kira whispered.

Artemis cautiously placed his hand on her back. “We don’t need him, Kira. We’re gonna get that MCTA and find out how Tora’s coming up with their tech and then this place is getting a major overhaul. And, you know what?”

“What?”

“Elliot broke rule number one of the code,” Artemis said. He straightened up and cleared his throat before reciting in Noire’s accent, “Only steal from those who can live without it. Is someone who can’t even follow that simple rule worth mourning over? It’s like Noire says: holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die—or some crap like that. It’s just not worth it to be mad at him anymore. He’s gone, he’s never coming back, and we’re probably never gonna have to see his stupid, smug face again. So, screw Elliot! We’ve got more important shit to deal with.”

Kira breathed in deeply and lifted her head again. “Yeah, you’re right. It just—it makes me so angry every time I think about what he did. I don’t know how to let that go. I want to, but I can’t. I dream about kicking his ass at least once a week and it’s so … satisfying. But that satisfaction is gone as soon as I wake up and realize that I didn’t really hurt him and he got away scot-free. And I can’t stand that he’s out there with our tech, probably living the high life in some fancy loft, while we—the terrible two—”

“Damn, that name sucks so hard…”

“—are stuck in an endless cycle of attempted robberies, getting caught by Figment, and jail time—lather, rinse, repeat,” Kira said through gritted teeth. “I swear if I ever see him again, I’ll—”

“You’ll what, Kira? Kill him?” Artemis asked. “What is it with your ‘gun go boom, solve all problems’ attitude? Killing him is not gonna get our stuff back.”

“Uh, yes it will, Artemis,” she said. “After he’s gone we can just steal it all back. He’ll be dead, it’s not like he’s going care.”

“Killing him is not gonna make you feel any better.”

“I beg to differ.”

Artemis fell back on the bed staring up at the poster laden canvas ceiling above. “We’re not gonna need the shitty tech he stole from us once we get that info that Cain wants. Just let it go—let him go. You think he’s sitting around in his fancy loft thinking about us? Hell no! So why should we waste our time thinking about him?”

Kira glanced back at him. “Why did you even bring this subject up?”

“Because I don’t want it to be an issue on this job. I need you to focus on that MCTA.”

Kira clenched her jaw. “Elliot is going to be the last thing on my mind when I’m up there.”

“Good. That’s all I needed to hear.”

Kira, tiring of the conversation, stood up from the bed and went to the door. “I’m going to sleep, you should too. Don’t stay up all night listening to that noise you call music.”

“It’s called ‘classic rock’,” Artemis said rather haughtily. “Jeez, download a music history book, will you? Get cultured.”

She refrained from rolling her eyes as the door slid open for her. “Night, Artemis.

“See ya on the flip side, K.”

Kira strolled down an aisle of whirring and beeping machines as she made her way back to her room. She had lied when she told Artemis that Elliot would be the last thing on her mind. Elliot was going to be the very first thing on her mind. She was going to keep him in the forefront of her thoughts to motivate her. She was going to prove to him that they didn’t need him and that they were doing just fine without him.

She suddenly paused, hearing voices from just up ahead. Is that Noire and Cain? I thought Cain left for the day, she thought, slowing her gait and tiptoeing forward so as not to alert them of her presence. She peered around the side of a machine that controlled the bunker’s emergency laser barriers and saw Noire and Cain standing in a small nook-like space with a few chairs and a small table.

“How long until you’ve got the memento viewer up and running?” Noire asked.

“Six months at the very least,” Cain replied pouring an amber-colored liquid from the automatic kettle and into a glass cup.

She thought she recalled Noire refereeing to the drink as ‘tea’, but she had never had any. Tea was scarce along with any other food item that wasn’t processed into tablets, which is why Noire saved most of his rare things for special occasions.

“Why so long?” Noire asked, taking a seat in one of the chairs.

“Light spheres are hard to come by,” Cain said before taking a sip out of his cup. “The empire regulates them quite strictly, as I’m sure you know. Most of my black market connections refuse to sell them, and the ones who will sell them rarely have them in stock. I’m having my best engineers build a substitute; however, until we have a suitable replacement, the memento viewer will remain inoperable.”

A memento viewer? Kira thought. Why would the Timber Organization need one of those? That’s really old tech.

“Have you considered giving the memento back to her?” Noire asked. “Perhaps there’s a way to return it to her mind.”

“If there was, I would have done it already,” Cain said, sighing softly. “The technology is temperamental. When the empire tested their memento replacement process, all of their subjects died. I would never risk that with Kira.”

Kira’s eyes widen. They were talking about her? If that was true then it would certainly explain why she couldn’t remember anything before the age of five. Had they wiped her memory, and, if they had, what for?

After Noire said nothing in response, Cain went on. “Perhaps we needn’t worry ourselves over this as much now that Braith is dead. Demetrius is proving himself to be a fair and just emperor. Besides, there’s no certainty that the information the memento holds pertains to anyone other than a dead man anyway.”

Noire’s expression hardened. “Don’t you start with that nonsense too, Lucas. The empire—in any form—is more harmful to our society than helpful. Demetrius may be a ‘kind and just’ ruler, as you say, but he is still oppressing his people. Perhaps he doesn’t oppress as overtly as his father, but he has yet to repeal the law that states that all citizens of the Northwest Empire must be chipped by the age of five—that’s not freedom. Things haven’t changed.”

“The boy has only been emperor for two years,” Cain reasoned. “He can’t fix everything his father ruined in such a short period of time.”

Noire scowled, tapping his fingers impatiently on the arm of his chair. “You’re going soft, Cain. Demetrius is a poison to our world, just like his father—perhaps a better tasting poison, but a poison nonetheless.”

Cain finished his tea and set the cup down on the glass table beside Noire’s chair. “Since you feel so strongly about it, Adair, I’ll have my organization continue to search for a way to repair the memento.”

“A wise decision,” Noire said. “It’s not my place to tell you how to run your organization, but I truly believe it’s unwise not to find out what’s on Kira’s memento. The Empire attempted to hunt her down for the information she possessed—it must be important.”

“I suppose we’ll find out soon enough,” Cain said as he picked up his briefcase. “Tomorrow I’ll continue with Kira and Artemis’s training.”

“Do you think they’re ready?”

Cain paused, looking back over his shoulder at Noire. “As ready as they can be given the time constraint. Once they’re on the Bengal, they’re going to be on their own. Keep communication with them to a minimum—the less you speak with them, the lower their chances are of getting caught.”

Noire furrowed his brow, nodding slowly. “I understand.”

Cain straightened out his neatly pressed suit jacket and strolled away. “As long as they keep their heads down, they’ll be just fine. Despite what you may think, you’ve taught them well, Mr. Noire.”

Noire said nothing more as Cain got further and further way, his footsteps fading and the sound of the entrance hatch opening and closing behind him.

Kira pressed herself to the box-like machine she was listening from and tilted her head back to the domed bunker ceiling far above. The empire was chasing after her when she was a child? What information could she—a kid at the time—have possibly possessed that was so important to them? It didn’t make any sense. But she did know one thing for certain: she had to find out what was on that extracted memento. Not for the empire’s sake, but for her own sake. That was a stolen piece of her life and she wanted it back.

Noire had kept something vital from her for sixteen years and she was going to find out what it was even if he didn’t want her too. She had gone along with what he said for long enough—it was time to find out about her past, and her family, and who she really was. It was time she got the answers she deserved. Well, look at the bright side, she thought, despite the sinking feeling at the pit of her stomach. At least I’m not thinking about killing Elliot anymore.

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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!

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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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