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| Home | Reading Room THE JUNGLE BOOK

by Rudyard Kipling

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"Tiger! Tiger!"

What of the hunting, hunter bold?

Brother, the watch was long and cold.

What of the quarry ye went to kill?

Brother, he crops in the jungle still.

Where is the power that made your pride?

Brother, it ebbs from my flank and side.

Where is the haste that ye hurry by?

Brother, I go to my lair--to die.

Now we must go back to the first tale. When Mowgli left the

wolf's cave after the fight with the Pack at the Council Rock, he

went down to the plowed lands where the villagers lived, but he

would not stop there because it was too near to the jungle, and he

knew that he had made at least one bad enemy at the Council. So

he hurried on, keeping to the rough road that ran down the valley,

and followed it at a steady jog-trot for nearly twenty miles, till

he came to a country that he did not know. The valley opened out

into a great plain dotted over with rocks and cut up by ravines.

At one end stood a little village, and at the other the thick

jungle came down in a sweep to the grazing-grounds, and stopped

there as though it had been cut off with a hoe. All over the

plain, cattle and buffaloes were grazing, and when the little boys

in charge of the herds saw Mowgli they shouted and ran away, and

the yellow pariah dogs that hang about every Indian village

barked. Mowgli walked on, for he was feeling hungry, and when he

came to the village gate he saw the big thorn-bush that was drawn

up before the gate at twilight, pushed to one side.

"Umph!" he said, for he had come across more than one such

barricade in his night rambles after things to eat. "So men are

afraid of the People of the Jungle here also." He sat down by the

gate, and when a man came out he stood up, opened his mouth, and

pointed down it to show that he wanted food. The man stared, and

ran back up the one street of the village shouting for the priest,

who was a big, fat man dressed in white, with a red and yellow

mark on his forehead. The priest came to the gate, and with him

at least a hundred people, who stared and talked and shouted and

pointed at Mowgli.

"They have no manners, these Men Folk," said Mowgli to

himself. "Only the gray ape would behave as they do." So he

threw back his long hair and frowned at the crowd.

"What is there to be afraid of?" said the priest. "Look 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 honor, Messua, he is not unlike thy boy that was

taken by the tiger."

"Let me look," said a woman with heavy copper rings on her

wrists and ankles, and she peered at Mowgli under the palm of her

hand. "Indeed he is not. He is thinner, but he has the very look

of my boy."

The priest was a clever man, and he knew that Messua was wife

to the richest villager in the place. So he looked up at the sky

for a minute and said solemnly: "What the jungle has taken the

jungle has restored. Take the boy into thy house, my sister, and

forget not to honor the priest who sees so far into the lives of men."

"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 funny raised patterns on it, half a dozen copper

cooking pots, an image of a Hindu god in a little alcove, and on

the wall a real looking glass, such as they sell at the country 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 speak

their talk."

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

nose poked him under the chin.

"Phew!" said Gray Brother (he was the eldest of Mother Wolf's

cubs). "This is a poor reward for following thee twenty miles.

Thou smellest of wood smoke and cattle--altogether like a man

already. Wake, Little Brother; I bring news."

"Are all well in the jungle?" said Mowgli, hugging him.

"All except the wolves that were burned with the Red Flower.

Now, listen. Shere Khan has gone away to hunt far off till his

coat grows again, for he is badly singed. When he returns he

swears that he will lay thy bones in the Waingunga."

"There are two words to that. I also have made a little

promise. But news is always good. I am tired to-night,--very

tired with new things, Gray Brother,--but bring me the news


"Thou wilt not forget that thou art a wolf? Men will not make

thee forget?" said Gray Brother anxiously.

"Never. I will always remember that I love thee and all in

our cave. But also I will always remember that I have been cast

out of the Pack."

"And that thou mayest be cast out of another pack. Men are

only men, Little Brother, and their talk is like the talk of frogs

in a pond. When I come down here again, I will wait for thee in

the bamboos at the edge of the grazing-ground."

For three months after that night Mowgli hardly ever left the

village gate, he was so busy learning the ways and customs of men.

First he had to wear a cloth round him, which annoyed him

horribly; and then he had to learn about money, which he did not

in the least understand, and about plowing, of which he did not

see the use. Then the little children in the village made him

very angry. Luckily, the Law of the Jungle had taught him to keep

his temper, for in the jungle life and food depend on keeping your

temper; but when they made fun of him because he would not play

games or fly kites, or because he mispronounced some word, only

the knowledge that it was unsportsmanlike to kill little naked

cubs kept him from picking them up and breaking them in two.

He did not know his own strength in the least. In the jungle

he knew he was weak compared with the beasts, but in the village

people said that he was as strong as a bull.

And Mowgli had not the faintest idea of the difference that

caste makes between man and man. When the potter's donkey slipped

in the clay pit, Mowgli hauled it out by the tail, and helped to

stack the pots for their journey to the market at Khanhiwara.

That was very shocking, too, for the potter is a low-caste man,

and his donkey is worse. When the priest scolded him, Mowgli

threatened to put him on the donkey too, and the priest told

Messua's husband that Mowgli had better be set to work as soon as

possible; and the village head-man told Mowgli that he would have

to go out with the buffaloes next day, and herd them while they

grazed. No one was more pleased than Mowgli; and that night,

because he had been appointed a servant of the village, as it

were, he went off to a circle that met every evening on a masonry

platform under a great fig-tree. It was the village club, and the

head-man and the watchman and the barber, who knew all the gossip

of the village, and old Buldeo, the village hunter, who had a

Tower musket, met and smoked. The monkeys sat and talked in the

upper branches, and there was a hole under the platform where a

cobra lived, and he had his little platter of milk every night

because he was sacred; and the old men sat around the tree and

talked, and pulled at the big huqas (the water-pipes) till far

into the night. They told wonderful tales of gods and men and

ghosts; and Buldeo told even more wonderful ones of the ways of

beasts in the jungle, till the eyes of the children sitting

outside the circle bulged out of their heads. Most of the tales

were about animals, for the jungle was always at their door. The

deer and the wild pig grubbed up their crops, and now and again

the tiger carried off a man at twilight, within sight of the village


Mowgli, who naturally knew something about what they were

talking of, had to cover his face not to show that he was

laughing, while Buldeo, the Tower musket across his knees, climbed

on from one wonderful story to another, and Mowgli's shoulders


Buldeo was explaining how the tiger that had carried away

Messua's son was a ghost-tiger, and his body was inhabited by the

ghost of a wicked, old money-lender, who had died some years ago.

"And I know that this is true," he said, "because Purun Dass

always limped from the blow that he got in a riot when his account

books were burned, and the tiger that I speak of he limps, too,

for the tracks of his pads are unequal."

"True, true, that must be the truth," said the gray-beards,

nodding together.

"Are all these tales such cobwebs and moon talk?" said Mowgli.

"That tiger limps because he was born lame, as everyone knows. To

talk of the soul of a money-lender in a beast that never had the

courage of a jackal is child's talk."

Buldeo was speechless with surprise for a moment, and the

head-man stared.

"Oho! It is the jungle brat, is it?" said Buldeo. "If thou

art so wise, better bring his hide to Khanhiwara, for the

Government has set a hundred rupees on his life. Better still,

talk not when thy elders speak."

Mowgli rose to go. "All the evening I have lain here

listening," he called back over his shoulder, "and, except once 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 head-man,

while Buldeo puffed and snorted at Mowgli's impertinence.

The custom of most Indian villages is for a few boys to take

the cattle and buffaloes out to graze in the early morning, and

bring them back at night. The very cattle that would trample a

white man to death allow themselves to be banged and bullied and

shouted at by children that hardly come up to their noses. So

long as the boys keep with the herds they are safe, for not even

the tiger will charge a mob of cattle. But if they straggle to

pick flowers or hunt lizards, they are sometimes carried off.

Mowgli went through the village street in the dawn, sitting on the

back of Rama, the great herd bull. The slaty-blue buffaloes, with

their long, backward-sweeping horns and savage eyes, rose out

their byres, one by one, and followed him, and Mowgli made it very

clear to the children with him that he was the master. He beat

the buffaloes with a long, polished bamboo, and told Kamya, one of

the boys, to graze the cattle by themselves, while he went on with

the buffaloes, and to be very careful not to stray away from the 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 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 center of the plain. We need

not walk into Shere Khan's mouth."

Then Mowgli picked out a shady place, and lay down and slept

while the buffaloes grazed round him. Herding in India is one of

the laziest things in the world. The cattle move and crunch, and

lie down, and move on again, and they do not even low. They only

grunt, and the buffaloes very seldom say anything, but get down

into the muddy pools one after another, and work their way into

the mud till only their noses and staring china-blue eyes show

above the surface, and then they lie like logs. The sun makes the

rocks dance in the heat, and the herd children hear one kite

(never any more) whistling almost out of sight overhead, and they

know that if they died, or a cow died, that kite would sweep down,

and the next kite miles away would see him drop and follow, and

the next, and the next, and almost before they were dead there

would be a score of hungry kites come out of nowhere. Then they

sleep and wake and sleep again, and weave little baskets of dried

grass and put grasshoppers in them; or catch two praying mantises

and make them fight; or string a necklace of red and black jungle

nuts; or watch a lizard basking on a rock, or a snake hunting a

frog near the wallows. Then they sing long, long songs with odd

native quavers at the end of them, and the day seems longer than

most people's whole lives, and perhaps they make a mud castle with

mud figures of men and horses and buffaloes, and put reeds into

the men's hands, and pretend that they are kings and the figures

are their armies, or that they are gods to be worshiped. Then

evening comes and the children call, and the buffaloes lumber up

out of the sticky mud with noises like gunshots going off one

after the other, and they all string across the gray plain back to

the twinkling village lights.

Day after day Mowgli would lead the buffaloes out to their

wallows, and day after day he would see Gray Brother's back a mile

and a half away across the plain (so he knew that Shere Khan had

not come back), and day after day he would lie on the grass

listening to the noises round him, and dreaming of old days in the

jungle. If Shere Khan had made a false step with his lame paw up

in the jungles by the Waingunga, Mowgli would have heard him in

those long, still mornings.

At last a day came when he did not see Gray Brother at the

signal place, and he laughed and headed the buffaloes for the

ravine by the dhk tree, which was all covered with golden-red

flowers. There sat Gray Brother, every bristle on his back lifted.

"He has hidden for a month to throw thee off thy guard. He

crossed the ranges last night with Tabaqui, hot-foot on thy

trail," said the Wolf, panting.

Mowgli frowned. "I am not afraid of Shere Khan, but Tabaqui

is very cunning."

"Have no fear," said Gray Brother, licking his lips a little.

"I met Tabaqui in the dawn. Now he is telling all his wisdom to

the kites, but he told me everything before I broke his back.

Shere Khan's plan is to wait for thee at the village gate this

evening--for thee and for no one else. He is lying up now, in

the big dry ravine of the Waingunga."

"Has he eaten today, or does he hunt empty?" said Mowgli, for

the answer meant life and death to him.

"He killed at dawn,--a pig,--and he has drunk too.

Remember, Shere Khan could never fast, even for the sake of


"Oh! Fool, fool! What a cub's cub it is! Eaten and drunk

too, and he thinks that I shall wait till he has slept! Now,

where does he lie up? If there were but ten of us we might pull

him down as he lies. These buffaloes will not charge unless they

wind him, and I cannot speak their language. Can we get behind

his track so that they may smell it?"

"He swam far down the Waingunga to cut that off," said Gray


"Tabaqui told him that, I know. He would never have thought

of it alone." Mowgli stood with his finger in his mouth,

thinking. "The big ravine of the Waingunga. That opens out on

the plain not half a mile from here. I can take the herd round

through the jungle to the head of the ravine and then sweep down

--but he would slink out at the foot. We must block that end.

Gray Brother, canst thou cut the herd in two for me?"

"Not I, perhaps--but I have brought a wise helper." Gray

Brother trotted off and dropped into a hole. Then there lifted up

a huge gray head that Mowgli knew well, and the hot air was filled

with the most desolate cry of all the jungle--the hunting howl

of a wolf at midday.

"Akela! Akela!" said Mowgli, clapping his hands. "I might

have known that thou wouldst not forget me. We have a big work in

hand. Cut the herd in two, Akela. Keep the cows and calves

together, and the bulls and the plow buffaloes by themselves."

The two wolves ran, ladies'-chain fashion, in and out of the

herd, which snorted and threw up its head, and separated into two

clumps. In one, the cow-buffaloes stood with their calves in the

center, and glared and pawed, ready, if a wolf would only stay

still, to charge down and trample the life out of him. In the

other, the bulls and the young bulls snorted and stamped, but

though they looked more imposing they were much less dangerous,

for they had no calves to protect. No six men could have divided

the herd so neatly.

"What orders!" panted Akela. "They are trying to join 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


"I have--have hunted these too in my time," gasped Akela in

the dust. "Shall I turn them into the jungle?"

"Ay! Turn. Swiftly turn them! Rama is mad with rage. Oh,

if I could only tell him what I need of him to-day."

The bulls were turned, to the right this time, and crashed

into the standing thicket. The other herd children, watching with

the cattle half a mile away, hurried to the village as fast as

their legs could carry them, crying that the buffaloes had gone

mad and run away.

But Mowgli's plan was simple enough. All he wanted to do was

to make a big circle uphill and get at the head of the ravine, and

then take the bulls down it and catch Shere Khan between the bulls

and the cows; for he knew that after a meal and a full drink Shere

Khan would not be in any condition to fight or to clamber up the

sides of the ravine. He was soothing the buffaloes now by voice,

and Akela had dropped far to the rear, only whimpering once or

twice to hurry the rear-guard. It was a long, long circle, for

they did not wish to get too near the ravine and give Shere Khan

warning. At last Mowgli rounded up the bewildered herd at the

head of the ravine on a grassy patch that sloped steeply down to

the ravine itself. From that height you could see across the tops

of the trees down to the plain below; but what Mowgli looked at

was the sides of the ravine, and he saw with a great deal of

satisfaction that they ran nearly straight up and down, while the

vines and creepers that hung over them would give no foothold to a

tiger who wanted to get out.

"Let them breathe, Akela," he said, holding up his hand.

"They have not winded him yet. Let them breathe. I must tell

Shere Khan who comes. We have him in the trap."

He put his hands to his mouth and shouted down the ravine--

it was almost like shouting down a tunnel--and the echoes jumped

from rock to rock.

After a long time there came back the drawling, sleepy snarl

of a full-fed tiger just wakened.

"Who calls?" said Shere Khan, and a splendid peacock fluttered

up out of the ravine screeching.

"I, Mowgli. Cattle thief, it is time to come to the Council

Rock! Down--hurry them down, Akela! Down, Rama, down!"

The herd paused for an instant at the edge of the slope, but

Akela gave tongue in the full hunting-yell, and they pitched over

one after the other, just as steamers shoot rapids, the sand and

stones spurting up round them. Once started, there was no chance

of stopping, and before they were fairly in the bed of the ravine

Rama winded Shere Khan and bellowed.

"Ha! Ha!" said Mowgli, on his back. "Now thou knowest!" and

the torrent of black horns, foaming muzzles, and staring eyes

whirled down the ravine just as boulders go down in floodtime; the

weaker buffaloes being shouldered out to the sides of the ravine

where they tore through the creepers. They knew what the business

was before them--the terrible charge of the buffalo herd against

which no tiger can hope to stand. Shere Khan heard the thunder of

their hoofs, picked himself up, and lumbered down the ravine,

looking from side to side for some way of escape, but the walls of

the ravine were straight and he had to hold on, heavy with his

dinner and his drink, willing to do anything rather than fight.

The herd splashed through the pool he had just left, bellowing

till the narrow cut rang. Mowgli heard an answering bellow from

the foot of the ravine, saw Shere Khan turn (the tiger knew if the

worst came to the worst it was better to meet the bulls than the

cows with their calves), and then Rama tripped, stumbled, and went

on again over something soft, and, with the bulls at his heels,

crashed full into the other herd, while the weaker buffaloes were

lifted clean off their feet by the shock of the meeting. That

charge carried both herds out into the plain, goring and stamping

and snorting. Mowgli watched his time, and slipped off Rama's

neck, laying about him right and left with his stick.

"Quick, Akela! Break them up. Scatter them, or they will be

fighting one another. Drive them away, Akela. Hai, Rama! Hai,

hai, hai! my children. Softly now, softly! It is all over."

Akela and Gray Brother ran to and fro nipping the buffaloes'

legs, and though the herd wheeled once to charge up the ravine

again, Mowgli managed to turn Rama, and the others followed him to

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 anyone else how

an animal's skin is fitted on, and how it can be taken off. But

it was hard work, and Mowgli slashed and tore and grunted for an

hour, while the wolves lolled out their tongues, or came forward

and tugged as he ordered them. Presently a hand fell on his

shoulder, and looking up he saw Buldeo with the Tower musket. The

children had told the village about the buffalo stampede, and

Buldeo went out angrily, only too anxious to correct Mowgli for

not taking better care of the herd. The wolves dropped out of

sight as soon as they saw the man coming.

"What is this folly?" said Buldeo angrily. "To think 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 always singe a tiger's whiskers to

prevent his ghost from haunting them.

"Hum!" said Mowgli, half to himself as he ripped back the skin

of a forepaw. "So thou wilt take the hide to Khanhiwara for the

reward, and perhaps give me one rupee? Now it is in my mind that

I need the skin for my own use. Heh! Old man, take away that fire!"

"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 herdsboy. May I rise up and go away, or will thy servant

tear me to pieces?"

"Go, and peace go with thee. Only, another time do not meddle

with my game. Let him go, Akela."

Buldeo hobbled away to the village as fast as he could,

looking back over his shoulder in case Mowgli should change into

something terrible. When he got to the village he told a tale of

magic and enchantment and sorcery that made the priest look very


Mowgli went on with his work, but it was nearly twilight

before he and the wolves had drawn the great gay skin clear of the


"Now we must hide this and take the buffaloes home! Help me

to herd them, Akela."

The herd rounded up in the misty twilight, and when they got

near the village Mowgli saw lights, and heard the conches and

bells in the temple blowing and banging. Half the village seemed

to be waiting for him by the gate. "That is because I have killed

Shere Khan," he said to himself. But a shower of stones whistled

about his ears, and the villagers shouted: "Sorcerer! Wolf's

brat! Jungle demon! Go away! Get hence quickly or the priest

will turn thee into a wolf again. Shoot, Buldeo, shoot!"

The old Tower musket went off with a bang, and a young buffalo

bellowed in pain.

"More sorcery!" shouted the villagers. "He can turn bullets.

Buldeo, that was thy buffalo."

"Now what is this?" said Mowgli, bewildered, as the stones

flew thicker.

"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 stone thee."

Mowgli laughed a little short ugly laugh, for a stone had hit

him in the mouth. "Run back, Messua. This is one of the foolish

tales they tell under the big tree at dusk. I have at least paid

for thy son's life. Farewell; and run quickly, for I shall send

the herd in more swiftly than their brickbats. I am no wizard,

Messua. Farewell!"

"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


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

Wolf's cave.

"They have cast me out from the Man-Pack, Mother," shouted

Mowgli, "but I come with the hide of Shere Khan to keep my word."

Mother Wolf walked stiffly from the cave with the cubs behind

her, and her eyes glowed as she saw the skin.

"I told him on that day, when he crammed his head and

shoulders into this cave, hunting for thy life, Little Frog--I

told him that the hunter would be the hunted. It is well done."

"Little Brother, it is well done," said a deep voice in the

thicket. "We were lonely in the jungle without thee, and Bagheera

came running to Mowgli's bare feet. They clambered up the Council

Rock together, and Mowgli spread the skin out on the flat stone

where Akela used to sit, and pegged it down with four slivers of

bamboo, and Akela lay down upon it, and called the old call to the

Council, "Look--look well, O Wolves," exactly as he had called

when Mowgli was first brought there.

Ever since Akela had been deposed, the Pack had been without a

leader, hunting and fighting at their own pleasure. But they

answered the call from habit; and some of them were lame from the

traps they had fallen into, and some limped from shot wounds, and

some were mangy from eating bad food, and many were missing. But

they came to the Council Rock, all that were left of them, and saw

Shere Khan's striped hide on the rock, and the huge claws dangling

at the end of the empty dangling feet. It was then that Mowgli

made up a song that came up into his throat all by itself, and he

shouted it aloud, leaping up and down on the rattling skin, and

beating time with his heels till he had no more breath left, while

Gray Brother and Akela howled between the verses.

"Look well, O Wolves. Have I kept my word?" said Mowgli. And

the wolves bayed "Yes," and one tattered wolf howled:

"Lead us again, O Akela. Lead us again, O Man-cub, for we be

sick of this lawlessness, and we would be the Free People once


"Nay," purred Bagheera, "that may not be. When ye are

full-fed, the madness may come upon you again. Not for nothing

are ye called the Free People. Ye fought for freedom, and it is

yours. Eat it, O Wolves."

"Man-Pack and Wolf-Pack have cast me out," said Mowgli. "Now

I will hunt alone in the jungle."

"And we will hunt with thee," said the four cubs.

So Mowgli went away and hunted with the four cubs in the

jungle from that day on. But he was not always alone, because,

years afterward, he became a man and married.

But that is a story for grown-ups.



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