It was seven o’clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills when Fathe_olf woke up from his day’s rest, scratched himself, yawned, and spread ou_is paws one after the other to get rid of the sleepy feeling in their tips.
Mother Wolf lay with her big gray nose dropped across her four tumbling, squealing cubs, and the moon shone into the mouth of the cave where they al_ived. "Augrh!” said Father Wolf. “It is time to hunt again.” He was going t_pring down hill when a little shadow with a bushy tail crossed the threshol_nd whined: “Good luck go with you, O Chief of the Wolves. And good luck an_trong white teeth go with noble children that they may never forget th_ungry in this world.”
It was the jackal–Tabaqui, the Dish-licker–and the wolves of India despis_abaqui because he runs about making mischief, and telling tales, and eatin_ags and pieces of leather from the village rubbish-heaps. But they are afrai_f him too, because Tabaqui, more than anyone else in the jungle, is apt to g_ad, and then he forgets that he was ever afraid of anyone, and runs throug_he forest biting everything in his way. Even the tiger runs and hides whe_ittle Tabaqui goes mad, for madness is the most disgraceful thing that ca_vertake a wild creature. We call it hydrophobia, but they call it dewanee–th_adness– and run.
“Enter, then, and look,” said Father Wolf stiffly, “but there is no foo_ere.”
“For a wolf, no,” said Tabaqui, “but for so mean a person as myself a dry bon_s a good feast. Who are we, the Gidur-log [the jackal people], to pick an_hoose?” He scuttled to the back of the cave, where he found the bone of _uck with some meat on it, and sat cracking the end merrily.
“All thanks for this good meal,” he said, licking his lips. "How beautiful ar_he noble children! How large are their eyes! And so young too! Indeed, indeed, I might have remembered that the children of kings are men from th_eginning.”
Now, Tabaqui knew as well as anyone else that there is nothing so unlucky a_o compliment children to their faces. It pleased him to see Mother and Fathe_olf look uncomfortable.
Tabaqui sat still, rejoicing in the mischief that he had made, and then h_aid spitefully:
“Shere Khan, the Big One, has shifted his hunting grounds. He will hunt amon_hese hills for the next moon, so he has told me.”
Shere Khan was the tiger who lived near the Waingunga River, twenty mile_way.
“He has no right!” Father Wolf began angrily–"By the Law of the Jungle he ha_o right to change his quarters without due warning. He will frighten ever_ead of game within ten miles, and I–I have to kill for two, these days.”
“His mother did not call him Lungri [the Lame One] for nothing,” said Mothe_olf quietly. “He has been lame in one foot from his birth. That is why he ha_nly killed cattle. Now the villagers of the Waingunga are angry with him, an_e has come here to make our villagers angry. They will scour the jungle fo_im when he is far away, and we and our children must run when the grass i_et alight. Indeed, we are very grateful to Shere Khan!”
“Shall I tell him of your gratitude?” said Tabaqui.
“Out!” snapped Father Wolf. “Out and hunt with thy master. Thou hast done har_nough for one night.”
“I go,” said Tabaqui quietly. “Ye can hear Shere Khan below in the thickets. _ight have saved myself the message.”
Father Wolf listened, and below in the valley that ran down to a little rive_e heard the dry, angry, snarly, singsong whine of a tiger who has caugh_othing and does not care if all the jungle knows it.
“The fool!” said Father Wolf. “To begin a night’s work with that noise! Doe_e think that our buck are like his fat Waingunga bullocks?”
“H’sh. It is neither bullock nor buck he hunts to-night," said Mother Wolf.
“It is Man.”
The whine had changed to a sort of humming purr that seemed to come from ever_uarter of the compass. It was the noise that bewilders woodcutters an_ypsies sleeping in the open, and makes them run sometimes into the very mout_f the tiger.
“Man!” said Father Wolf, showing all his white teeth. “Faugh! Are there no_nough beetles and frogs in the tanks that he must eat Man, and on our groun_oo!”
The Law of the Jungle, which never orders anything without a reason, forbid_very beast to eat Man except when he is killing to show his children how t_ill, and then he must hunt outside the hunting grounds of his pack or tribe.
The real reason for this is that man-killing means, sooner or later, th_rrival of white men on elephants, with guns, and hundreds of brown men wit_ongs and rockets and torches. Then everybody in the jungle suffers. Th_eason the beasts give among themselves is that Man is the weakest and mos_efenseless of all living things, and it is unsportsmanlike to touch him. The_ay too–and it is true –that man-eaters become mangy, and lose their teeth.
The purr grew louder, and ended in the full-throated “Aaarh!" of the tiger’_harge.
Then there was a howl–an untigerish howl–from Shere Khan. “He has missed,” said Mother Wolf. “What is it?”
Father Wolf ran out a few paces and heard Shere Khan muttering and mumblin_avagely as he tumbled about in the scrub.
“The fool has had no more sense than to jump at a woodcutter’s campfire, an_as burned his feet,” said Father Wolf with a grunt. "Tabaqui is with him.”
“Something is coming uphill,” said Mother Wolf, twitching one ear. “Ge_eady.”
The bushes rustled a little in the thicket, and Father Wolf dropped with hi_aunches under him, ready for his leap. Then, if you had been watching, yo_ould have seen the most wonderful thing in the world–the wolf checked in mid- spring. He made his bound before he saw what it was he was jumping at, an_hen he tried to stop himself. The result was that he shot up straight int_he air for four or five feet, landing almost where he left ground.
“Man!” he snapped. “A man’s cub. Look!”
Directly in front of him, holding on by a low branch, stood a naked brown bab_ho could just walk–as soft and as dimpled a little atom as ever came to _olf’s cave at night. He looked up into Father Wolf’s face, and laughed.
“Is that a man’s cub?” said Mother Wolf. “I have never seen one. Bring i_ere.”
A Wolf accustomed to moving his own cubs can, if necessary, mouth an eg_ithout breaking it, and though Father Wolf’s jaws closed right on the child’_ack not a tooth even scratched the skin as he laid it down among the cubs.
“How little! How naked, and–how bold!” said Mother Wolf softly. The baby wa_ushing his way between the cubs to get close to the warm hide. “Ahai! He i_aking his meal with the others. And so this is a man’s cub. Now, was ther_ver a wolf that could boast of a man’s cub among her children?”
“I have heard now and again of such a thing, but never in our Pack or in m_ime,” said Father Wolf. “He is altogether without hair, and I could kill hi_ith a touch of my foot. But see, he looks up and is not afraid.”
The moonlight was blocked out of the mouth of the cave, for Shere Khan’s grea_quare head and shoulders were thrust into the entrance. Tabaqui, behind him, was squeaking: “My lord, my lord, it went in here!”
“Shere Khan does us great honor,” said Father Wolf, but his eyes were ver_ngry. “What does Shere Khan need?”
“My quarry. A man’s cub went this way,” said Shere Khan. "Its parents have ru_ff. Give it to me.”
Shere Khan had jumped at a woodcutter’s campfire, as Father Wolf had said, an_as furious from the pain of his burned feet. But Father Wolf knew that th_outh of the cave was too narrow for a tiger to come in by. Even where he was, Shere Khan’s shoulders and forepaws were cramped for want of room, as a man’_ould be if he tried to fight in a barrel.
“The Wolves are a free people,” said Father Wolf. “They take orders from th_ead of the Pack, and not from any striped cattle-killer. The man’s cub i_urs–to kill if we choose.”
“Ye choose and ye do not choose! What talk is this of choosing? By the bul_hat I killed, am I to stand nosing into your dog’s den for my fair dues? I_s I, Shere Khan, who speak!”
The tiger’s roar filled the cave with thunder. Mother Wolf shook herself clea_f the cubs and sprang forward, her eyes, like two green moons in th_arkness, facing the blazing eyes of Shere Khan.
“And it is I, Raksha [The Demon], who answers. The man’s cub is mine, Lungri–mine to me! He shall not be killed. He shall live to run with the Pac_nd to hunt with the Pack; and in the end, look you, hunter of little nake_ubs–frog-eater– fish-killer–he shall hunt thee! Now get hence, or by th_ambhur that I killed (I eat no starved cattle), back thou goest to th_other, burned beast of the jungle, lamer than ever thou camest into th_orld! Go!”
Father Wolf looked on amazed. He had almost forgotten the days when he wo_other Wolf in fair fight from five other wolves, when she ran in the Pack an_as not called The Demon for compliment’s sake. Shere Khan might have face_ather Wolf, but he could not stand up against Mother Wolf, for he knew tha_here he was she had all the advantage of the ground, and would fight to th_eath. So he backed out of the cave mouth growling, and when he was clear h_houted:
“Each dog barks in his own yard! We will see what the Pack will say to thi_ostering of man-cubs. The cub is mine, and to my teeth he will come in th_nd, O bush-tailed thieves!”
Mother Wolf threw herself down panting among the cubs, and Father Wolf said t_er gravely:
“Shere Khan speaks this much truth. The cub must be shown to the Pack. Wil_hou still keep him, Mother?”
“Keep him!” she gasped. “He came naked, by night, alone and very hungry; ye_e was not afraid! Look, he has pushed one of my babes to one side already.
And that lame butcher would have killed him and would have run off to th_aingunga while the villagers here hunted through all our lairs in revenge!
Keep him? Assuredly I will keep him. Lie still, little frog. O thou Mowgli –for Mowgli the Frog I will call thee–the time will come when thou wilt hun_here Khan as he has hunted thee.”
“But what will our Pack say?” said Father Wolf.
The Law of the Jungle lays down very clearly that any wolf may, when h_arries, withdraw from the Pack he belongs to. But as soon as his cubs are ol_nough to stand on their feet he must bring them to the Pack Council, which i_enerally held once a month at full moon, in order that the other wolves ma_dentify them. After that inspection the cubs are free to run where the_lease, and until they have killed their first buck no excuse is accepted if _rown wolf of the Pack kills one of them. The punishment is death where th_urderer can be found; and if you think for a minute you will see that thi_ust be so.
Father Wolf waited till his cubs could run a little, and then on the night o_he Pack Meeting took them and Mowgli and Mother Wolf to the Council Rock–_illtop covered with stones and boulders where a hundred wolves could hide.
Akela, the great gray Lone Wolf, who led all the Pack by strength and cunning, lay out at full length on his rock, and below him sat forty or more wolves o_very size and color, from badger-colored veterans who could handle a buc_lone to young black three-year-olds who thought they could. The Lone Wolf ha_ed them for a year now. He had fallen twice into a wolf trap in his youth, and once he had been beaten and left for dead; so he knew the manners an_ustoms of men. There was very little talking at the Rock. The cubs tumble_ver each other in the center of the circle where their mothers and father_at, and now and again a senior wolf would go quietly up to a cub, look at hi_arefully, and return to his place on noiseless feet. Sometimes a mother woul_ush her cub far out into the moonlight to be sure that he had not bee_verlooked. Akela from his rock would cry: “Ye know the Law–ye know the Law.
Look well, O Wolves!” And the anxious mothers would take up the call: “Look–look well, O Wolves!”
At last–and Mother Wolf’s neck bristles lifted as the time came–Father Wol_ushed “Mowgli the Frog,” as they called him, into the center, where he sa_aughing and playing with some pebbles that glistened in the moonlight.
Akela never raised his head from his paws, but went on with the monotonou_ry: “Look well!” A muffled roar came up from behind the rocks–the voice o_here Khan crying: “The cub is mine. Give him to me. What have the Free Peopl_o do with a man’s cub?” Akela never even twitched his ears. All he said was:
"Look well, O Wolves! What have the Free People to do with the orders of an_ave the Free People? Look well!”
There was a chorus of deep growls, and a young wolf in his fourth year flun_ack Shere Khan’s question to Akela: “What have the Free People to do with _an’s cub?” Now, the Law of the Jungle lays down that if there is any disput_s to the right of a cub to be accepted by the Pack, he must be spoken for b_t least two members of the Pack who are not his father and mother.
“Who speaks for this cub?” said Akela. “Among the Free People who speaks?” There was no answer and Mother Wolf got ready for what she knew would be he_ast fight, if things came to fighting.
Then the only other creature who is allowed at the Pack Council–Baloo, th_leepy brown bear who teaches the wolf cubs the Law of the Jungle: old Baloo, who can come and go where he pleases because he eats only nuts and roots an_oney–rose upon his hind quarters and grunted.
“The man’s cub–the man’s cub?” he said. “I speak for the man’s cub. There i_o harm in a man’s cub. I have no gift of words, but I speak the truth. Le_im run with the Pack, and be entered with the others. I myself will teac_im.”
“We need yet another,” said Akela. “Baloo has spoken, and he is our teache_or the young cubs. Who speaks besides Baloo?”
A black shadow dropped down into the circle. It was Bagheera the Blac_anther, inky black all over, but with the panther markings showing up i_ertain lights like the pattern of watered silk. Everybody knew Bagheera, an_obody cared to cross his path; for he was as cunning as Tabaqui, as bold a_he wild buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant. But he had a voic_s soft as wild honey dripping from a tree, and a skin softer than down.
“O Akela, and ye the Free People,” he purred, “I have no right in you_ssembly, but the Law of the Jungle says that if there is a doubt which is no_ killing matter in regard to a new cub, the life of that cub may be bought a_ price. And the Law does not say who may or may not pay that price. Am _ight?”
“Good! Good!” said the young wolves, who are always hungry. "Listen t_agheera. The cub can be bought for a price. It is the Law.”
“Knowing that I have no right to speak here, I ask your leave.”
“Speak then,” cried twenty voices.
“To kill a naked cub is shame. Besides, he may make better sport for you whe_e is grown. Baloo has spoken in his behalf. Now to Baloo’s word I will ad_ne bull, and a fat one, newly killed, not half a mile from here, if ye wil_ccept the man’s cub according to the Law. Is it difficult?”
There was a clamor of scores of voices, saying: “What matter? He will die i_he winter rains. He will scorch in the sun. What harm can a naked frog do us?
Let him run with the Pack. Where is the bull, Bagheera? Let him be accepted.” And then came Akela’s deep bay, crying: “Look well–look well, O Wolves!”
Mowgli was still deeply interested in the pebbles, and he did not notice whe_he wolves came and looked at him one by one. At last they all went down th_ill for the dead bull, and only Akela, Bagheera, Baloo, and Mowgli’s ow_olves were left. Shere Khan roared still in the night, for he was very angr_hat Mowgli had not been handed over to him.
“Ay, roar well,” said Bagheera, under his whiskers, “for the time will com_hen this naked thing will make thee roar to another tune, or I know nothin_f man.”
“It was well done,” said Akela. “Men and their cubs are very wise. He may be _elp in time.”
“Truly, a help in time of need; for none can hope to lead the Pack forever,” said Bagheera.
Akela said nothing. He was thinking of the time that comes to every leader o_very pack when his strength goes from him and he gets feebler and feebler, till at last he is killed by the wolves and a new leader comes up–to be kille_n his turn.
“Take him away,” he said to Father Wolf, “and train him as befits one of th_ree People.”
And that is how Mowgli was entered into the Seeonee Wolf Pack for the price o_ bull and on Baloo’s good word.
Now you must be content to skip ten or eleven whole years, and only guess a_ll the wonderful life that Mowgli led among the wolves, because if it wer_ritten out it would fill ever so many books. He grew up with the cubs, thoug_hey, of course, were grown wolves almost before he was a child. And Fathe_olf taught him his business, and the meaning of things in the jungle, til_very rustle in the grass, every breath of the warm night air, every note o_he owls above his head, every scratch of a bat’s claws as it roosted for _hile in a tree, and every splash of every little fish jumping in a pool mean_ust as much to him as the work of his office means to a business man. When h_as not learning he sat out in the sun and slept, and ate and went to slee_gain. When he felt dirty or hot he swam in the forest pools; and when h_anted honey (Baloo told him that honey and nuts were just as pleasant to ea_s raw meat) he climbed up for it, and that Bagheera showed him how to do.
Bagheera would lie out on a branch and call, “Come along, Little Brother,” an_t first Mowgli would cling like the sloth, but afterward he would flin_imself through the branches almost as boldly as the gray ape. He took hi_lace at the Council Rock, too, when the Pack met, and there he discovere_hat if he stared hard at any wolf, the wolf would be forced to drop his eyes, and so he used to stare for fun. At other times he would pick the long thorn_ut of the pads of his friends, for wolves suffer terribly from thorns an_urs in their coats. He would go down the hillside into the cultivated land_y night, and look very curiously at the villagers in their huts, but he had _istrust of men because Bagheera showed him a square box with a drop gate s_unningly hidden in the jungle that he nearly walked into it, and told hi_hat it was a trap. He loved better than anything else to go with Bagheer_nto the dark warm heart of the forest, to sleep all through the drowsy day, and at night see how Bagheera did his killing. Bagheera killed right and lef_s he felt hungry, and so did Mowgli–with one exception. As soon as he was ol_nough to understand things, Bagheera told him that he must never touch cattl_ecause he had been bought into the Pack at the price of a bull’s life. “Al_he jungle is thine,” said Bagheera, “and thou canst kill everything that tho_rt strong enough to kill; but for the sake of the bull that bought thee tho_ust never kill or eat any cattle young or old. That is the Law of th_ungle.” Mowgli obeyed faithfully.
And he grew and grew strong as a boy must grow who does not know that he i_earning any lessons, and who has nothing in the world to think of excep_hings to eat.
Mother Wolf told him once or twice that Shere Khan was not a creature to b_rusted, and that some day he must kill Shere Khan. But though a young wol_ould have remembered that advice every hour, Mowgli forgot it because he wa_nly a boy–though he would have called himself a wolf if he had been able t_peak in any human tongue.
Shere Khan was always crossing his path in the jungle, for as Akela grew olde_nd feebler the lame tiger had come to be great friends with the younge_olves of the Pack, who followed him for scraps, a thing Akela would neve_ave allowed if he had dared to push his authority to the proper bounds. The_here Khan would flatter them and wonder that such fine young hunters wer_ontent to be led by a dying wolf and a man’s cub. “They tell me,” Shere Kha_ould say, “that at Council ye dare not look him between the eyes.” And th_oung wolves would growl and bristle.
Bagheera, who had eyes and ears everywhere, knew something of this, and onc_r twice he told Mowgli in so many words that Shere Khan would kill him som_ay. Mowgli would laugh and answer: “I have the Pack and I have thee; an_aloo, though he is so lazy, might strike a blow or two for my sake. Wh_hould I be afraid?”
It was one very warm day that a new notion came to Bagheera– born of somethin_hat he had heard. Perhaps Ikki the Porcupine had told him; but he said t_owgli when they were deep in the jungle, as the boy lay with his head o_agheera’s beautiful black skin, “Little Brother, how often have I told the_hat Shere Khan is thy enemy?”
“As many times as there are nuts on that palm,” said Mowgli, who, naturally, could not count. “What of it? I am sleepy, Bagheera, and Shere Khan is al_ong tail and loud talk–like Mao, the Peacock.”
“But this is no time for sleeping. Baloo knows it; I know it; the Pack kno_t; and even the foolish, foolish deer know. Tabaqui has told thee too.”
“Ho! ho!” said Mowgli. “Tabaqui came to me not long ago with some rude tal_hat I was a naked man’s cub and not fit to dig pig-nuts. But I caught Tabaqu_y the tail and swung him twice against a palm-tree to teach him bette_anners.”
“That was foolishness, for though Tabaqui is a mischief-maker, he would hav_old thee of something that concerned thee closely. Open those eyes, Littl_rother. Shere Khan dare not kill thee in the jungle. But remember, Akela i_ery old, and soon the day comes when he cannot kill his buck, and then h_ill be leader no more. Many of the wolves that looked thee over when tho_ast brought to the Council first are old too, and the young wolves believe, as Shere Khan has taught them, that a man-cub has no place with the Pack. In _ittle time thou wilt be a man.”
“And what is a man that he should not run with his brothers?" said Mowgli. “_as born in the jungle. I have obeyed the Law of the Jungle, and there is n_olf of ours from whose paws I have not pulled a thorn. Surely they are m_rothers!”
Bagheera stretched himself at full length and half shut his eyes. “Littl_rother,” said he, “feel under my jaw.”
Mowgli put up his strong brown hand, and just under Bagheera’s silky chin, where the giant rolling muscles were all hid by the glossy hair, he came upo_ little bald spot.
“There is no one in the jungle that knows that I, Bagheera, carry tha_ark–the mark of the collar; and yet, Little Brother, I was born among men, and it was among men that my mother died–in the cages of the king’s palace a_odeypore. It was because of this that I paid the price for thee at th_ouncil when thou wast a little naked cub. Yes, I too was born among men. _ad never seen the jungle. They fed me behind bars from an iron pan till on_ight I felt that I was Bagheera–the Panther– and no man’s plaything, and _roke the silly lock with one blow of my paw and came away. And because I ha_earned the ways of men, I became more terrible in the jungle than Shere Khan.
Is it not so?”
“Yes,” said Mowgli, “all the jungle fear Bagheera–all except Mowgli.”
“Oh, thou art a man’s cub,” said the Black Panther very tenderly. “And even a_ returned to my jungle, so thou must go back to men at last–to the men wh_re thy brothers–if thou art not killed in the Council.”
“But why–but why should any wish to kill me?” said Mowgli.
“Look at me,” said Bagheera. And Mowgli looked at him steadily between th_yes. The big panther turned his head away in half a minute.
“That is why,” he said, shifting his paw on the leaves. “Not even I can loo_hee between the eyes, and I was born among men, and I love thee, Littl_rother. The others they hate thee because their eyes cannot meet thine; because thou art wise; because thou hast pulled out thorns from thei_eet–because thou art a man.”
“I did not know these things,” said Mowgli sullenly, and he frowned under hi_eavy black eyebrows.
“What is the Law of the Jungle? Strike first and then give tongue. By thy ver_arelessness they know that thou art a man. But be wise. It is in my hear_hat when Akela misses his next kill–and at each hunt it costs him more to pi_he buck–the Pack will turn against him and against thee. They will hold _ungle Council at the Rock, and then–and then–I have it!" said Bagheera, leaping up. “Go thou down quickly to the men’s huts in the valley, and tak_ome of the Red Flower which they grow there, so that when the time comes tho_ayest have even a stronger friend than I or Baloo or those of the Pack tha_ove thee. Get the Red Flower.”
By Red Flower Bagheera meant fire, only no creature in the jungle will cal_ire by its proper name. Every beast lives in deadly fear of it, and invents _undred ways of describing it.
“The Red Flower?” said Mowgli. “That grows outside their huts in the twilight.
I will get some.”
“There speaks the man’s cub,” said Bagheera proudly. "Remember that it grow_n little pots. Get one swiftly, and keep it by thee for time of need.”
“Good!” said Mowgli. “I go. But art thou sure, O my Bagheera"–he slipped hi_rm around the splendid neck and looked deep into the big eyes–"art thou sur_hat all this is Shere Khan’s doing?”
“By the Broken Lock that freed me, I am sure, Little Brother.”
“Then, by the Bull that bought me, I will pay Shere Khan full tale for this, and it may be a little over,” said Mowgli, and he bounded away.
“That is a man. That is all a man,” said Bagheera to himself, lying dow_gain. “Oh, Shere Khan, never was a blacker hunting than that frog-hunt o_hine ten years ago!”
Mowgli was far and far through the forest, running hard, and his heart was ho_n him. He came to the cave as the evening mist rose, and drew breath, an_ooked down the valley. The cubs were out, but Mother Wolf, at the back of th_ave, knew by his breathing that something was troubling her frog.
“What is it, Son?” she said.
“Some bat’s chatter of Shere Khan,” he called back. “I hunt among the plowe_ields tonight,” and he plunged downward through the bushes, to the stream a_he bottom of the valley. There he checked, for he heard the yell of the Pac_unting, heard the bellow of a hunted Sambhur, and the snort as the buc_urned at bay. Then there were wicked, bitter howls from the young wolves:
"Akela! Akela! Let the Lone Wolf show his strength. Room for the leader of th_ack! Spring, Akela!”
The Lone Wolf must have sprung and missed his hold, for Mowgli heard the sna_f his teeth and then a yelp as the Sambhur knocked him over with hi_orefoot.
He did not wait for anything more, but dashed on; and the yells grew fainte_ehind him as he ran into the croplands where the villagers lived.
“Bagheera spoke truth,” he panted, as he nestled down in some cattle fodder b_he window of a hut. “To-morrow is one day both for Akela and for me.”
Then he pressed his face close to the window and watched the fire on th_earth. He saw the husbandman’s wife get up and feed it in the night wit_lack lumps. And when the morning came and the mists were all white and cold, he saw the man’s child pick up a wicker pot plastered inside with earth, fil_t with lumps of red-hot charcoal, put it under his blanket, and go out t_end the cows in the byre.
“Is that all?” said Mowgli. “If a cub can do it, there is nothing to fear.” S_e strode round the corner and met the boy, took the pot from his hand, an_isappeared into the mist while the boy howled with fear.
“They are very like me,” said Mowgli, blowing into the pot as he had seen th_oman do. “This thing will die if I do not give it things to eat"; and h_ropped twigs and dried bark on the red stuff. Halfway up the hill he me_agheera with the morning dew shining like moonstones on his coat.
“Akela has missed,” said the Panther. “They would have killed him last night, but they needed thee also. They were looking for thee on the hill.”
“I was among the plowed lands. I am ready. See!” Mowgli held up the fire-pot.
“Good! Now, I have seen men thrust a dry branch into that stuff, and presentl_he Red Flower blossomed at the end of it. Art thou not afraid?”
“No. Why should I fear? I remember now–if it is not a dream–how, before I wa_ Wolf, I lay beside the Red Flower, and it was warm and pleasant.”
All that day Mowgli sat in the cave tending his fire pot and dipping dr_ranches into it to see how they looked. He found a branch that satisfied him, and in the evening when Tabaqui came to the cave and told him rudely enoug_hat he was wanted at the Council Rock, he laughed till Tabaqui ran away. The_owgli went to the Council, still laughing.
Akela the Lone Wolf lay by the side of his rock as a sign that the leadershi_f the Pack was open, and Shere Khan with his following of scrap-fed wolve_alked to and fro openly being flattered. Bagheera lay close to Mowgli, an_he fire pot was between Mowgli’s knees. When they were all gathered together, Shere Khan began to speak–a thing he would never have dared to do when Akel_as in his prime.
“He has no right,” whispered Bagheera. “Say so. He is a dog’s son. He will b_rightened.”
Mowgli sprang to his feet. “Free People,” he cried, “does Shere Khan lead th_ack? What has a tiger to do with our leadership?”
“Seeing that the leadership is yet open, and being asked to speak–” Shere Kha_egan.
“By whom?” said Mowgli. “Are we all jackals, to fawn on this cattle butcher?
The leadership of the Pack is with the Pack alone.”
There were yells of “Silence, thou man’s cub!” “Let him speak. He has kept ou_aw"; and at last the seniors of the Pack thundered: “Let the Dead Wol_peak.” When a leader of the Pack has missed his kill, he is called the Dea_olf as long as he lives, which is not long.
Akela raised his old head wearily:–
“Free People, and ye too, jackals of Shere Khan, for twelve seasons I have le_e to and from the kill, and in all that time not one has been trapped o_aimed. Now I have missed my kill. Ye know how that plot was made. Ye know ho_e brought me up to an untried buck to make my weakness known. It was cleverl_one. Your right is to kill me here on the Council Rock, now. Therefore, _sk, who comes to make an end of the Lone Wolf? For it is my right, by the La_f the Jungle, that ye come one by one.”
There was a long hush, for no single wolf cared to fight Akela to the death.
Then Shere Khan roared: “Bah! What have we to do with this toothless fool? H_s doomed to die! It is the man-cub who has lived too long. Free People, h_as my meat from the first. Give him to me. I am weary of this man-wolf folly.
He has troubled the jungle for ten seasons. Give me the man-cub, or I wil_unt here always, and not give you one bone. He is a man, a man’s child, an_rom the marrow of my bones I hate him!”
Then more than half the Pack yelled: “A man! A man! What has a man to do wit_s? Let him go to his own place.”
“And turn all the people of the villages against us?” clamored Shere Khan.
“No, give him to me. He is a man, and none of us can look him between th_yes.”
Akela lifted his head again and said, “He has eaten our food. He has slep_ith us. He has driven game for us. He has broken no word of the Law of th_ungle.”
“Also, I paid for him with a bull when he was accepted. The worth of a bull i_ittle, but Bagheera’s honor is something that he will perhaps fight for,” said Bagheera in his gentlest voice.
“A bull paid ten years ago!” the Pack snarled. “What do we care for bones te_ears old?”
“Or for a pledge?” said Bagheera, his white teeth bared under his lip. “Wel_re ye called the Free People!”
“No man’s cub can run with the people of the jungle,” howled Shere Khan. “Giv_im to me!”
“He is our brother in all but blood,” Akela went on, “and ye would kill hi_ere! In truth, I have lived too long. Some of ye are eaters of cattle, and o_thers I have heard that, under Shere Khan’s teaching, ye go by dark night an_natch children from the villager’s doorstep. Therefore I know ye to b_owards, and it is to cowards I speak. It is certain that I must die, and m_ife is of no worth, or I would offer that in the man-cub’s place. But for th_ake of the Honor of the Pack,–a little matter that by being without a leade_e have forgotten,–I promise that if ye let the man-cub go to his own place, _ill not, when my time comes to die, bare one tooth against ye. I will di_ithout fighting. That will at least save the Pack three lives. More I canno_o; but if ye will, I can save ye the shame that comes of killing a brothe_gainst whom there is no fault–a brother spoken for and bought into the Pac_ccording to the Law of the Jungle.”
“He is a man–a man–a man!” snarled the Pack. And most of the wolves began t_ather round Shere Khan, whose tail was beginning to switch.
“Now the business is in thy hands,” said Bagheera to Mowgli. "We can do n_ore except fight.”
Mowgli stood upright–the fire pot in his hands. Then he stretched out hi_rms, and yawned in the face of the Council; but he was furious with rage an_orrow, for, wolflike, the wolves had never told him how they hated him.
“Listen you!” he cried. "There is no need for this dog’s jabber. Ye have tol_e so often tonight that I am a man (and indeed I would have been a wolf wit_ou to my life’s end) that I feel your words are true. So I do not call ye m_rothers any more, but sag [dogs], as a man should. What ye will do, and wha_e will not do, is not yours to say. That matter is with me; and that we ma_ee the matter more plainly, I, the man, have brought here a little of the Re_lower which ye, dogs, fear.”
He flung the fire pot on the ground, and some of the red coals lit a tuft o_ried moss that flared up, as all the Council drew back in terror before th_eaping flames.
Mowgli thrust his dead branch into the fire till the twigs lit and crackled, and whirled it above his head among the cowering wolves.
“Thou art the master,” said Bagheera in an undertone. “Save Akela from th_eath. He was ever thy friend.”
Akela, the grim old wolf who had never asked for mercy in his life, gave on_iteous look at Mowgli as the boy stood all naked, his long black hair tossin_ver his shoulders in the light of the blazing branch that made the shadow_ump and quiver.
“Good!” said Mowgli, staring round slowly. “I see that ye are dogs. I go fro_ou to my own people–if they be my own people. The jungle is shut to me, and _ust forget your talk and your companionship. But I will be more merciful tha_e are. Because I was all but your brother in blood, I promise that when I a_ man among men I will not betray ye to men as ye have betrayed me." He kicke_he fire with his foot, and the sparks flew up. “There shall be no war betwee_ny of us in the Pack. But here is a debt to pay before I go.” He strod_orward to where Shere Khan sat blinking stupidly at the flames, and caugh_im by the tuft on his chin. Bagheera followed in case of accidents. “Up, dog!” Mowgli cried. “Up, when a man speaks, or I will set that coat ablaze!”
Shere Khan’s ears lay flat back on his head, and he shut his eyes, for th_lazing branch was very near.
“This cattle-killer said he would kill me in the Council because he had no_illed me when I was a cub. Thus and thus, then, do we beat dogs when we ar_en. Stir a whisker, Lungri, and I ram the Red Flower down thy gullet!” H_eat Shere Khan over the head with the branch, and the tiger whimpered an_hined in an agony of fear.
“Pah! Singed jungle cat–go now! But remember when next I come to the Counci_ock, as a man should come, it will be with Shere Khan’s hide on my head. Fo_he rest, Akela goes free to live as he pleases. Ye will not kill him, becaus_hat is not my will. Nor do I think that ye will sit here any longer, lollin_ut your tongues as though ye were somebodies, instead of dogs whom I driv_ut–thus! Go!” The fire was burning furiously at the end of the branch, an_owgli struck right and left round the circle, and the wolves ran howling wit_he sparks burning their fur. At last there were only Akela, Bagheera, an_erhaps ten wolves that had taken Mowgli’s part. Then something began to hur_owgli inside him, as he had never been hurt in his life before, and he caugh_is breath and sobbed, and the tears ran down his face.
“What is it? What is it?” he said. “I do not wish to leave the jungle, and _o not know what this is. Am I dying, Bagheera?”
“No, Little Brother. That is only tears such as men use," said Bagheera. “No_ know thou art a man, and a man’s cub no longer. The jungle is shut indeed t_hee henceforward. Let them fall, Mowgli. They are only tears.” So Mowgli sa_nd cried as though his heart would break; and he had never cried in all hi_ife before.
“Now,” he said, “I will go to men. But first I must say farewell to m_other.” And he went to the cave where she lived with Father Wolf, and h_ried on her coat, while the four cubs howled miserably.
“Ye will not forget me?” said Mowgli.
“Never while we can follow a trail,” said the cubs. “Come to the foot of th_ill when thou art a man, and we will talk to thee; and we will come into th_roplands to play with thee by night.”
“Come soon!” said Father Wolf. “Oh, wise little frog, come again soon; for w_e old, thy mother and I.”
“Come soon,” said Mother Wolf, “little naked son of mine. For, listen, chil_f man, I loved thee more than ever I loved my cubs.”
“I will surely come,” said Mowgli. “And when I come it will be to lay ou_here Khan’s hide upon the Council Rock. Do not forget me! Tell them in th_ungle never to forget me!”
The dawn was beginning to break when Mowgli went down the hillside alone, t_eet those mysterious things that are called men.