What of the hunting, hunter bold?
Brother, the watch was long and cold.
What of the quarry ye went to kill?
Brother, he crops in the jungle still.
Where is the power that made your pride?
Brother, it ebbs from my flank and side.
Where is the haste that ye hurry by?
Brother, I go to my lair--to die.
Now we must go back to the first tale. When Mowgli left the
wolf's cave after the fight with the Pack at the Council Rock, he
went down to the ploughed lands where the villagers lived, but he
would not stop there because it was too near to the jungle, and
he knew that he had made at least one bad enemy at the Council.
So he hurried on, keeping to the rough road that ran down the
valley, and followed it at a steady jog-trot for nearly twenty
miles, till he came to a country that he did not know. The valley
opened out into a great plain dotted over with rocks and cut up
by ravines. At one end stood a little village, and at the other
the thick jungle came down in a sweep to the grazing-grounds, and
stopped there as though it had been cut off with a hoe. All over
the plain, cattle and buffaloes were grazing, and when the little
boys in charge of the herds saw Mowgli they shouted and ran away,
and the yellow pariah dogs that hang about every Indian village
barked. Mowgli walked on, for he was feeling hungry, and when he
came to the village gate he saw the big thorn-bush that was drawn
up before the gate at twilight, pushed to one side.
'Umph!' he said, for he had come across more than one such
barricade in his night rambles after things to eat. 'So men are
afraid of the People of the Jungle here also.' He sat down by the
gate, and when a man came out he stood up, opened his mouth, and
pointed down it to show that he wanted food. The man stared, and
ran back up the one street of the village shouting for the
priest, who was a big, fat man dressed in white, with a red and
yellow mark on his forehead. The priest came to the gate, and
with him at least a hundred people, who stared and talked and
shouted and pointed at Mowgli.
'They have no manners, these Men Folk,' said Mowgli to himself.
'Only the gray ape would behave as they do.' So he threw back his
long hair and frowned at-the crowd.
'What is there to be afraid of?' said the priest. 'Look at the
marks on his arms and legs. They are the bites of wolves. He is
but a wolf-child run away from the jungle.'
Of course, in playing together, the cubs had often nipped Mowgli
harder than they intended, and there were white scars all over
his arms and legs. But he would have been the last person in the
world to call these bites; for he knew what real biting meant.
'Arre! Arre!' said two or three women together. 'To be bitten by
wolves, poor child! He is a handsome boy. He has eyes like red
fire. By my honour, Messua, he is not unlike thy boy that was
taken by the tiger.'
'Let me look,' said a woman with heavy copper rings on her wrists
and ankles, and she peered at Mowgli under the palm of her hand.
'Indeed he is not. He is thinner, but he has the very look of my
The priest was a clever man, and he knew that Messua was wife to
the richest villager in the place. So he looked up at the sky for
a minute, and said solemnly: 'What the jungle has taken the
jungle has restored. Take the boy into thy house, my sister, and
forget not to honour the priest who sees so far in to the lives
'By the Bull that bought me,' said Mowgli to himself, 'but all
this talking is like another looking-over by the Pack! Well, if I
am a man, a man I must become.'
The crowd parted as the woman beckoned Mowgli to her hut, where
there was a red lacquered bedstead, a great earthen grain-chest
with curious raised patterns on it, half a dozen copper cooking-
pots, an image of a Hindu god in a little alcove, and on the wall
a real looking-glass, such as they sell at the country fairs.
She gave him a long drink of milk and some bread, and then she
laid her hand on his head and looked into his eyes; for she
thought perhaps that he might be her real son come back from the
jungle where the tiger had taken him. So she said: 'Nathoo, O
Nathoo!' Mowgli did not show that he knew the name. 'Dost thou
not remember the day when I gave thee thy new shoes?' She touched
his foot, and it was almost as hard as horn. 'No,' she said,
sorrowfully; 'those feet have never worn shoes, but thou art very
like my Nathoo, and thou shalt be my son.'
Mowgli was uneasy, because he had never been under a roof before;
but as he looked at the thatch, he saw that he could tear it out
any time if he wanted to get away, and that the window had no
fastenings. 'What is the good of a man,' he said to himself at
last, 'if he does not understand man's talk? Now I am as silly
and dumb as a man would be with us in the jungle. I must learn
It was not for fun that he had learned while he was with the
wolves to imitate the challenge of bucks in the jungle and the
grunt of the little wild pig. So as soon as Messua pronounced a
word Mowgli would imitate it almost perfectly, and before dark he
had learned the names of many things in the hut.
There was a difficulty at bedtime, because Mowgli would not sleep
under anything that looked so like a panther-trap as that hut,
and when they shut the door he went through the window. 'Give him
his will,' said Messua's husband. 'Remember he can never till now
have slept on a bed. If he is indeed sent in the place of our son
he will not run away.'
So Mowgli stretched himself in some long, clean grass at the edge
of the field, but before he had closed his eyes a soft gray nosed
poked him under the chin.
'Phew!' said Gray Brother (he was the eldest of Mother Wolf's
cubs). 'This is a poor reward for following thee twenty miles.
Thou smellest of wood-smoke and cattle-altogether like a man
already. Wake, Little Brother; I bring news.'
'Are all well in the jungle?' said Mowgli, hugging him.
'All except the wolves that were burned with the Red Flower. Now,
listen. Shere Khan has gone away to hunt far off till his coat
grows again, for he is badly singed. When he returns he swears
that he will lay thy bones in the Waingunga.'
'There are two words to that. I also have made a little promise.
But news is always good. I am tired to-night,-very tired with new
things, Gray Brother,--but bring me the news always.'
'Thou wilt not forget that thou art a wolf? Men will not make
thee forget?' said Gray Brother anxiously.
'Never. I will always remember that I love thee and all in our
cave; but also I will always remember that I have been cast out
of the Pack.'
'And that thou mayest be cast out of another pack. Men are only
men, Little Brother, and their talk is like the talk of frogs in
a pond. When I come down here again, I will wait for thee in the
bamboos at the edge of the grazing ground.'
For three months after that night Mowgli hardly ever left the
village gate, he was so busy learning the ways and customs of
men. First he had to wear a cloth round him, which annoyed him
horribly; and then he had to learn about money which he did not
in the least understand, and about ploughing, of which he did not
see the use. Then the little children in the village made him
very angry. Luckily, the Law of the Jungle had taught him to keep
his temper, for in the jungle life and food depend on keeping
your temper; but when they made fun of him because he would not
play games or fly kites, or because he mispronounced some word,
only the knowledge that it was unsportsmanlike to kill little
naked cubs kept him from picking them up and breaking them in
He did not know his own strength in the least. In the jungle he
knew he was weak compared with the beasts, but in the village
people said that he was as strong as a bull.
And Mowgli had not the faintest idea of the difference that caste
makes between man and man. When the potter's donkey slipped in
the clay-pit, Mowgli hauled it out by the tail, and helped to
stack the pots for their journey to the market at Khanhiwara.
That was very shocking, too, for the potter is a low-caste man,
and his donkey is worse. When the priest scolded him, Mowgli
threatened to put him on the donkey, too, and the priest told
Messua's husband that Mowgli had better be set to work as soon as
possible; and the village head-man told Mowgli that he would have
to go out with the buffaloes next day, and herd them while they
grazed. No one was more pleased than Mowgli; and that night,
because he had been appointed a servant of the village, as it
were, he went off to a circle that met every evening on a masonry
platform under a great fig-tree. It was the village club, and the
head-man and the watchman and the barber (who knew all the gossip
of the village), and old Buldeo, the village hunter, who had a
Tower musket, met and smoked. The monkeys sat and talked in the
upper branches, and there was a hole under the platform where a
cobra lived, and he had his little platter of milk every night
because he was sacred; and the old men sat around the tree and
talked, and pulled at the big huqas (the water-pipes), till far
into the night. They told wonderful tales of gods and men and
ghosts; and Buldeo told even more wonderful ones of the ways of
beasts in the jungle, till the eyes of the children sitting
outside the circle bulged out of their heads. Most of the tales
were about animals, for the jungle was always at their door. The
deer and the wild pig grubbed up their crops, and now and again
the tiger carried off a man at twilight, within sight of the
Mowgli, who naturally knew something about what they were talking
of, had to cover his face not to show that he was laughing, while
Buldeo, the Tower musket across his knees, climbed on from one
wonderful story to another, and Mowgli's shoulders shook.
Buldeo was explaining how the tiger that had carried away
Messua's son was a ghost-tiger, and his body was inhabited by the
ghost of a wicked old money-lender, who had died some years ago.
'And I know that this is true,' he said, 'because Purun Dass
always limped from the blow that he got in a riot when his
account-books were burned, and the tiger that I speak of he
limps, too, for the tracks of his pads are unequal.'
'True, true; that must be the truth,' said the greybeards,
'Are all these tales such cobwebs and moontalk?' said Mowgli.
'That tiger limps because he was born lame, as every one knows.
To talk of the soul of a money-lender in a beast that never had
the courage of a jackal is child's talk.'
Buldeo was speechless with surprise for a moment and the head-man
'Oho! It is the jungle brat, is it?' said Buldeo. 'If thou are so
wise, better bring his hide to Khanhiwara, for the Government has
set a hundred rupees on his life. Better still, do not talk when
thy elders speak.'
Mowgli rose to go. 'All the evening I have lain here listening,'
he called back over his shoulder, 'and, except once or twice,
Buldeo has not said one word of truth concerning the jungle,
which is at his very doors. How, then, shall I believe the tales
of ghosts and gods and goblins which he says he has seen?'
'It is full time that boy went to herding,' said the headman,
while Buldeo puffed and snorted at Mowgli's impertinence.
The custom of most Indian villages is for a few boys to take the
cattle and buffaloes out to graze in the early morning, and bring
them back at night; and the very cattle that would trample a
white man to death allow themselves to be banged and bullied and
shouted at by children that hardly come up to their noses. So
long as the boys keep with the herds they are safe, for not even
the tiger will charge a mob of cattle. But if they straggle to
pick flowers or hunt lizards, they are sometimes carried off.
Mowgli went through the village street in the dawn, sitting on
the back of Rama, the great herd bull; and the slaty-blue
buffaloes, with their long, backward-sweeping horns and savage
eyes, rose out of their byres, one by one, and followed him, and
Mowgli made it very clear to the children with him that he was
the master. He beat the buffaloes with a long, polished bamboo,
and told Kamya, one of the boys, to graze the cattle by
themselves, while he went on with the buffaloes, and to be very
careful not to stray away from the herd.
An Indian grazing-ground is all rocks and scrub and tussocks and
little ravines, among which the herds scatter and disappear. The
buffaloes generally keep to the pools and muddy places, where
they lie wallowing or basking in the warm mud for hours. Mowgli
drove them on to the edge of the plain where the Waingunga River
came out of the jungle; then he dropped from Rama's neck, trotted
off to a bamboo clump, and found Gray Brother. 'Ah,' said Gray
Brother, 'I have waited here very many days. What is the meaning
of this cattle-herding work?'
'It is an order,' said Mowgli. 'I am a village herd for a while.
What news of Shere Khan?'
'He has come back to this country, and has waited here a long
time for thee. Now he has gone off again, for the game is scarce.
But he means to kill thee.'
'Very good,' said Mowgli. 'So long as he is away do thou or one
of the four brothers sit on that rock, so that I can see thee as
I come out of the village. When he comes back wait for me in the
ravine by the dhak-tree in the centre of the plain. We need not
walk into Shere Khan's mouth.'
Then Mowgli picked out a shady place, and lay down and slept
while the buffaloes grazed round him. Herding in India is one of
the laziest things in the world. The cattle move and crunch, and
lie down, and move on again, and they do not even low. They only
grunt, and the buffaloes very seldom say anything, but get down
into the muddy pools one after another, and work their way into
the mud till only their noses and staring china-blue eyes show
above the surface, and there they lie like logs. The sun makes
the rocks dance in the heat, and the herd-children hear one kite
(never any more) whistling almost out of sight overhead, and they
know that if they died, or a cow died, that kite would sweep
down, and the next kite miles away would see him drop and follow,
and the next, and the next, and almost before they were dead
there would be a score of hungry kites come out of nowhere. Then
they sleep and wake and sleep again, and weave little baskets of
dried grass and put grasshoppers in them; or catch two praying-
mantises and make them fight; or string a necklace of red and
black jungle-nuts; or watch a lizard basking on a rock, or a
snake hunting a frog near the wallows. Then they sing long, long
songs with odd native quavers at the end of them, and the day
seems longer than most people's whole lives, and perhaps they
make a mud castle with mud figures of men and horses and
buffaloes, and put reeds into the men's hands, and pretend that
they are kings and the figures are their armies, or that they are
gods to be worshipped. Then evening comes, and the children call,
and the buffaloes lumber up out of the sticky mud with noises
like gunshots going off one after the other, and they all string
across the gray plain back to the twinkling village lights.
Day after day Mowgli would lead the buffaloes out to their
wallows, and day after day he would see Gray Brother's back a
mile and a half away across the plain (so he knew that Shere Khan
had not come back), and day after day he would lie on the grass
listening to the noise round him, and dreaming of old days in the
jungle. If Shere Khan had made a false step with his lame paw up
in the jungles by the Waingunga, Mowgli would have heard him in
those long, still mornings.
At last a day came when he did not see Gray Brother at the
signal-place, and he laughed and headed the buffaloes for the
ravine by the dhak-tree, which was all covered with golden-red
flowers. There sat Gray Brother, every bristle on his back
'He has hidden for a month to throw thee off thy guard. He
crossed the ranges last night with Tabaqui, hot-foot on thy
trail,' said the wolf, panting.
Mowgli frowned. 'I am not afraid of Shere Khan, but Tabaqui is
'Have no fear,' said Gray Brother, licking his lips a little. 'I
met Tabaqui in the dawn. Now he is telling all his wisdom to the
kites, but he told me everything before I broke his back. Shere
Khan's plan is to wait for thee at the village gate this evening-
-for thee and for no one else. He is lying up now in the big dry
ravine of the Waingunga.'
'Has he eaten to-day, or does he hunt empty?' said Mowgli, for
the answer meant life or death to him.
'He killed at dawn,--a pig,--and he has drunk too. Remember,
Shere Khan could never fast, even for the sake of revenge.'
'Oh! Fool, fool! What a cub's cub it is! Eaten and drunk too, and
he thinks that I shall wait till he has slept! Now, where does he
lie up? If there were but ten of us we might pull him down as he
lies. These buffaloes will not charge unless they wind him, and I
cannot speak their language. Can we get behind his track so that
they may smell it?'
'He swam far down the Waingunga to cut that off,' said Gray
'Tabaqui told him that, I know. He would never have thought of it
alone.' Mowgli stood with his finger in his mouth, thinking. 'The
big ravine of the Waingunga. That opens out on the plain not half
a mile from here. I can take the herd round through the jungle to
the head of the ravine and then sweep down--but he would slink
out at the foot. We must block that end. Gray Brother, canst thou
cut the herd in two for me?'
'Not I, perhaps--but I have brought a wise helper.' Gray Brother
trotted off and dropped into a hole. Then there lifted up a huge
gray head that Mowgli knew well, and the hot air was filled with
the most desolate cry of all the jungle--the hunting-howl of a
wolf at mid-day.
'Akela! Akela!' said Mowgli, clapping his hands. 'I might have
known that thou wouldst not forget me. We have a big work in
hand. Cut the herd in two, Akela. Keep the cows and calves
together, and the bulls and the plough-buffaloes by themselves.'
The two wolves ran, ladies'-chain fashion, in and out of the
herd, which snorted and threw up its head, and separated into two
clumps. In one the cow-buffaloes stood, with their calves in the
centre, and glared and pawed, ready, if a wolf would only stay
still, to charge down and trample the life out of him. In the
other the bulls and the young bulls snorted and stamped; but,
though they looked more imposing, they were much less dangerous,
for they had no calves to protect. No six men could have divided
the herd so neatly.
'What orders?' panted Akela. 'They are trying to join again.'
Mowgli slipped on to Rama's back. 'Drive the bulls away to the
left, Akela. Gray Brother, when we are gone, hold the cows
together, and drive them into the foot of the ravine.'
'How far?' said Gray Brother, panting and snapping.
'Till the sides are higher than Shere Khan can jump,' shouted
Mowgli. 'Keep them there till we come down.' The bulls swept off
as Akela bayed, and Gray Brother stopped in front of the cows.
They charged down on him, and he ran just before them to the foot
of the ravine, as Akela drove the bulls far to the left.
'Well done! Another charge and they are fairly started. Careful,
now--careful, Akela. A snap too much, and the bulls will charge.
Hujah! This is wilder work than driving black-buck. Didst thou
think these creatures could move so swiftly?' Mowgli called.
'I have--have hunted these too in my time,' gasped Akela in the
dust. 'Shall I turn them into the jungle?'
'Ay, turn! Swiftly turn them! Rama is mad with rage. Oh, if I
could only tell him what I need of him to-day!'
The bulls were turned to the right this time, and crashed into
the standing thicket. The other herd-children, watching with the
cattle half a mile away, hurried to the village as fast as their
legs could carry them, crying that the buffaloes had gone mad and
But Mowgli's plan was simple enough. All he wanted to do was to
make a big circle uphill and get at the head of the ravine, and
then take the bulls down it and catch Shere Khan between the
bulls and the cows; for he knew that after a meal and a full
drink Shere Khan would not be in any condition to fight or to
clamber up the sides of the ravine. He was soothing the buffaloes
now by voice, and Akela had dropped far to the rear, only
whimpering once or twice to hurry the rear-guard. It was a long,
long circle, for they did not wish to get too near the ravine and
give Shere Khan warning. At last Mowgli rounded up the bewildered
herd at the head of the ravine on a grassy patch that sloped
steeply down to the ravine itself. From that height you could see
across the tops of the trees down to the plain below; but what
Mowgli looked at was the sides of the ravine, and he saw with a
great deal of satisfaction that they ran nearly straight up and
down, while the vines and creepers that hung over them would give
no foothold to a tiger who wanted to get out.
'Let them breathe, Akela,' he said, holding up his hand. 'They
have not winded him yet. Let them breathe. I must tell Shere Khan
who comes. We have him in the trap.'
He put his hands to his mouth and shouted down the ravine,--it
was almost like shouting down a tunnel,--and the echoes jumped
from rock to rock.
After a long time there came back the drawling, sleepy snarl of a
full-fed tiger just wakened.
'Who calls?' said Shere Khan, and a splendid peacock fluttered up
out of the ravine screeching.
'I, Mowgli. Cattle thief, it is time to come to the Council Rock!
Down--hurry them down, Akela! Down, Rama, down!'
The herd paused for an instant at the edge of the slope, but
Akela gave tongue in the full hunting-yell, and they pitched over
one after the other, just as steamers shoot rapids, the sand and
stones spurting up round them. Once started, there was no chance
of stopping, and before they were fairly in the bed of the ravine
Rama winded Shere Khan and bellowed..
'Ha! Ha!' said Mowgli, on his back. 'Now thou knowest!' and the
torrent of black horns, foaming muzzles, and staring eyes whirled
down the ravine like boulders in flood-time; the weaker buffaloes
being shouldered out to the sides of the ravine, where they tore
through the creepers. They knew what the business was before
them-the terrible charge of the buffalo-herd, against which no
tiger can hope to stand. Shere Khan heard the thunder of their
hoofs, picked himself up, and lumbered down the ravine, looking
from side to side for some way of escape; but the walls of the
ravine were straight, and he had to keep on, heavy with his
dinner and his drink, willing to do anything rather than fight.
The herd splashed through the pool he had just left, bellowing
till the narrow cut rang. Mowgli heard an answering bellow from
the foot of the ravine, saw Shere Khan turn (the tiger knew if
the worst came to the worst it was better to meet the bulls than
the cows with their calves), and then Rama tripped, stumbled, and
went on again over something soft, and, with the bulls at his
heels, crashed full into the other herd, while the weaker
buffaloes were lifted clean off their feet by the shock of the
meeting. That charge carried both herds out into the plain,
goring and stamping and snorting. Mowgli watched his time, and
slipped off Rama's neck, laying about him right and left with his
'Quick, Akela! Break them up. Scatter them, or they will be
fighting one another. Drive them away, Akela. Hai, Rama! Hai!
hai! hai! my children. Softly now, softly! It is all over.'
Akela and Gray Brother ran to and fro nipping the buffaloes'
legs, and though the herd wheeled once to charge up the ravine
again, Mowgli managed to turn Rama, and the others followed him
to the wallows.
Shere Khan needed no more trampling. He was dead, and the kites
were coming for him already.
'Brothers, that was a dog's death,' said Mowgli, feeling for the
knife he always carried in a sheath round his neck now that he
lived with men. 'But he would never have shown fight. His hide
will look well on the Council Rock. We must get to work swiftly.'
A boy trained among men would never have dreamed of skinning a
ten-foot tiger alone, but Mowgli knew better than any one else
how an animal's skin is fitted on, and how it can be taken off.
But it was hard work, and Mowgli slashed and tore and grunted for
an hour, while the wolves lolled out their tongues, or came
forward and tugged as he ordered them.
Presently a hand fell on his shoulder, and looking up he saw
Buldeo with the Tower musket. The children had told the village
about the buffalo stampede, and Buldeo went out angrily, only too
anxious to correct Mowgli for not taking better care of the herd.
The wolves dropped out of sight as soon as they saw the man
'What is this folly?' said Buldeo angrily. 'To think that thou
canst skin a tiger! Where did the buffaloes kill him? It is the
Lame Tiger, too, and there is a hundred rupees on his head. Well,
well, we will overlook thy letting the herd run off, and perhaps
I will give thee one of the rupees of the reward when I have
taken the skin to Khanhiwara.' He fumbled in his waist-cloth for
flint and steel, and stooped down to singe Shere Khan's whiskers.
Most native hunters singe a tiger's whiskers to prevent his ghost
'Hum!' said Mowgli, half to himself as he ripped back the skin of
a fore-paw. 'So thou wilt take the hide to Khanhiwara for the
reward, and perhaps give me one rupee? Now it is in my mind that
I need the skin for my own use. Heh! old man, take away that
'What talk is this to the chief hunter of the village? Thy luck
and the stupidity of thy buffaloes have helped thee to this kill.
The tiger has just fed, or he would have gone twenty miles by
this time. Thou canst not even skin him properly, little beggar-
brat, and forsooth I, Buldeo, must be told not to singe his
whiskers. Mowgli, I will not give thee one anna of the reward,
but only a very big beating. Leave the carcass!'
'By the Bull that bought me,' said Mowgli, who was trying to get
at the shoulder, 'must I stay babbling to an old ape all noon?
Here, Akela, this man plagues me.'
Buldeo, who was still stooping over Shere Khan's head, found
himself sprawling on the grass, with a gray wolf standing over
him, while Mowgli went on skinning as though he were alone in all
'Ye-es,' he said, between his teeth. 'Thou art altogether right,
Buldeo. Thou wilt never give me one anna of the reward. There is
an old war between this lame tiger and myself--a very old war,
and--I have won.'
To do Buldeo justice, if he had been ten years younger he would
have taken his chance with Akela had he met the wolf in the
woods; but a wolf who obeyed the orders of this boy who had
private wars with man-eating tigers was not a common animal. It
was sorcery, magic of the worst kind, thought Buldeo, and he
wondered whether the amulet round his neck would protect him. He
lay as still as still, expecting every minute to see Mowgli turn
into a tiger, too.
'Maharaj! Great King,' he said at last, in a husky whisper.
'Yes,' said Mowgli, without turning his head, chuckling a little.
'I am an old man. I did not know that thou wast anything more
than a herd-boy. May I rise up and go away, or will thy servant
tear me to pieces?'
'Go, and peace go with thee. Only, another time do not meddle
with my game. Let him go, Akela.'
Buldeo hobbled away to the village as fast as he could, looking
back over his shoulder in case Mowgli should change into
something terrible. When he got to the village he told a tale of
magic and enchantment and sorcery that made the priest look very
Mowgli went on with his work, but it was nearly twilight before
he and the wolves had drawn the great gay skin clear of the body.
'Now we must hide this and take the buffaloes home! Help me to
herd them, Akela.'
The herd rounded up in the misty twilight, and when they got near
the village Mowgli saw lights, and heard the conches and bells in
the temple blowing and banging. Half the village seemed to be
waiting for him by the gate. 'That is because I have killed Shere
Khan,' he said to himself; but a shower of stones whistled about
his ears, and the villagers shouted: 'Sorcerer! Wolf's brat!
'Go away! Get hence quickly, or the priest will turn thee into a
wolf again. Shoot, Buldeo, shoot!'
The old Tower musket went off with a bang, and a young buffalo
bellowed in pain.
'More sorcery!' shouted the villagers. 'He can turn bullets.
Buldeo, that was thy buffalo.'
'Now what is this?' said Mowgli, bewildered, as the stones flew
'They are not unlike the Pack, these brothers of thine,' said
Akela, sitting down composedly. 'It is in my head that, if
bullets mean anything, they would cast thee out.'
'Wolf! Wolf's cub! Go away!' shouted the priest, waving a sprig
of the sacred tulsi plant.
'Again? Last time it was because I was a man. This time it is
because I am a wolf. Let us go, Akela.'
A woman--it was Messua--ran across to the herd, and cried: 'Oh,
my son, my son! They say thou art a sorcerer who can turn himself
into a beast at will. I do not believe, but go away or they will
kill thee. Buldeo says thou art a wizard, but I know thou hast
avenged Nathoo's death.'
'Come back, Messua!' shouted the crowd. 'Come back, or we will
Mowgli laughed a little short ugly laugh, for a stone had hit him
in the mouth. 'Run back, Messua. This is one of the foolish tales
they tell under the big tree at dusk. I have at least paid for
thy son's life. Farewell; and run quickly, for I shall send the
herd in more swiftly than their brickbats. I am no wizard,
'Now, once more, Akela,' he cried. 'Bring the herd in.'
The buffaloes were anxious enough to get to the village. They
hardly needed Akela's yell, but charged through the gate like a
whirlwind, scattering the crowd right and left.
'Keep count!' shouted Mowgli scornfully. 'It may be that I have
stolen one of them. Keep count, for I will do your herding no
more. Fare you well, children of men, and thank Messua that I do
not come in with my wolves and hunt you up and down your street.'
He turned on his heel and walked away with the Lone Wolf; and as
he looked up at the stars he felt happy. 'No more sleeping in
traps for me, Akela. Let us get Shere Khan's skin and go away.
No; we will not hurt the village, for Messua was kind to me.'
When the moon rose over the plain, making it look all milky, the
horrified villagers saw Mowgli, with two wolves at his heels and
a bundle on his head, trotting across at the steady wolf's trot
that eats up the long miles like fire. Then they banged the
temple bells and blew the conches louder than ever; and Messua
cried, and Buldeo embroidered the story of his adventures in the
jungle, till he ended by saying that Akela stood up on his hind
legs and talked like a man.
The moon was just going down when Mowgli and the two wolves came
to the hill of the Council Rock, and they stopped at Mother
'They have cast me out from the Man-Pack, Mother,' shouted
Mowgli, 'but I come with the hide of Shere Khan to keep my word.'
Mother Wolf walked stiffly from the cave with the cubs behind
her, and her eyes glowed as she saw the skin.
'I told him on that day, when he crammed his head and shoulders
into this cave, hunting for thy life, Little Frog-I told him that
the hunter would be the hunted. It is well done.'
'Little Brother, it is well done,' said a deep voice in the
thicket. 'We were lonely in the jungle without thee,' and
Bagheera came running to Mowgli's bare feet. They clambered up
the Council Rock together, and Mowgli spread the skin out on the
flat stone where Akela used to sit, and pegged it down with four
slivers of bamboo, and Akela lay down upon it, and called the old
call to the Council, 'Look--look well, O Wolves!' exactly as he
had called when Mowgli was first brought there.
Ever since Akela had been deposed, the Pack had been without a
leader, hunting and fighting at their own pleasure. But they
answered the call from habit, and some of them were lame from the
traps they had fallen into, and some limped from shot-wounds, and
some were mangy from eating bad food, and many were missing; but
they came to the Council Rock, all that were left of them, and
saw Shere Khan's striped hide on the rock, and the huge claws
dangling at the end of the empty, dangling feet. It was then that
Mowgli made up a song without any rhymes, a song that came up
into his throat all by itself, and he shouted it aloud, leaping
up and down on the rattling skin, and beating time with his heels
till he had no more breath left, while Gray Brother and Akela
howled between the verses.
'Look well, O Wolves. Have I kept my word?' said Mowgli when he
had finished; and the wolves bayed, 'Yes,' and one tattered wolf
'Lead us again, O Akela. Lead us again, O Man-cub, for we be sick
of this lawlessness, and we would be the Free People once more.'
'Nay,' purred Bagheera, 'that may not be. When ye are full-fed,
the madness may come upon ye again. Not for nothing are ye called
the Free People. Ye fought for freedom, and it is yours. Eat it,
'Man-Pack and Wolf-Pack have cast me out,' said Mowgli. 'Now I
will hunt alone in the jungle.'
'And we will hunt with thee,' said the four cubs.
So Mowgli went away and hunted with the four cubs in the jungle
from that day on. But he was not always alone, because years
afterward he became a man and married.
But that is a story for grown-ups.