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Rudyard Kipling >> The Jungle Book (page 18)


But, since native children have no nerves worth speaking of, in two hours he was lying very contentedly in Petersen Sahib's hammock with Petersen Sahib's shooting-coat under his head, and a glass of warm milk, a little brandy, with a dash of quinine, inside of him, and while the old hairy, scarred hunters of the jungles sat three deep before him, looking at him as though he were a spirit, he told his tale in short words, as a child will, and wound up with:

''Now, if I lie in one word, send men to see, and they will find that the elephant folk have trampled down more room in their dance-room, and they will find ten and ten, and many times ten, tracks leading to that dance-room. They made more room with their feet. I have seen it. Kala Nag took me, and I saw. Also Kala Nag is very leg-weary!''

Little Toomai lay back and slept all through the long afternoon and into the twilight, and while he slept Petersen Sahib and Machua Appa followed the track of the two elephants for fifteen miles across the hills. Petersen Sahib had spent eighteen years in catching elephants, and he had only once before found such a dance-place. Machua Appa had no need to look twice at the clearing to see what had been done there, or to scratch with his toe in the packed, rammed earth.

''The child speaks truth,'' said he. ''All this was done last night, and I have counted seventy tracks crossing the river. See, Sahib, where Pudmini's leg-iron cut the bark of that tree! Yes; she was there too.''

They looked at one another and up and down, and they wondered. For the ways of elephants are beyond the wit of any man, black or white, to fathom.

''Forty years and five,'' said Machua Appa, ''have I followed my lord, the elephant, but never have I heard that any child of man had seen what this child has seen. By all the Gods of the Hills, it is-what can we say?'' and he shook his head.

When they got back to camp it was time for the evening meal. Petersen Sahib ate alone in his tent, but he gave orders that the camp should have two sheep and some fowls, as well as a double ration of flour and rice and salt, for he knew that there would be a feast.

Big Toomai had come up hotfoot from the camp in the plains to search for his son and his elephant, and now that he had found them he looked at them as though he were afraid of them both. And there was a feast by the blazing campfires in front of the lines of picketed elephants, and Little Toomai was the hero of it all. And the big brown elephant catchers, the trackers and drivers and ropers, and the men who know all the secrets of breaking the wildest elephants, passed him from one to the other, and they marked his forehead with blood from the breast of a newly killed jungle-cock, to show that he was a forester, initiated and free of all the jungles.

And at last, when the flames died down, and the red light of the logs made the elephants look as though they had been dipped in blood too, Machua Appa, the head of all the drivers of all the Keddahs-Machua Appa, Petersen Sahib's other self, who had never seen a made road in forty years: Machua Appa, who was so great that he had no other name than Machua Appa, - leaped to his feet, with Little Toomai held high in the air above his head, and shouted: ''Listen, my brothers. Listen, too, you my lords in the lines there, for I, Machua Appa, am speaking! This little one shall no more be called Little Toomai, but Toomai of the Elephants, as his great-grandfather was called before him. What never man has seen he has seen through the long night, and the favor of the elephant-folk and of the Gods of the Jungles is with him. He shall become a great tracker. He shall become greater than I, even I, Machua Appa! He shall follow the new trail, and the stale trail, and the mixed trail, with a clear eye! He shall take no harm in the Keddah when he runs under their bellies to rope the wild tuskers; and if he slips before the feet of the charging bull elephant, the bull elephant shall know who he is and shall not crush him. Aihai! my lords in the chains,'' - he whirled up the line of pickets - ''here is the little one that has seen your dances in your hidden places,-the sight that never man saw! Give him honor, my lords! Salaam karo, my children. Make your salute to Toomai of the Elephants! Gunga Pershad, ahaa! Hira Guj, Birchi Guj, Kuttar Guj, ahaa! Pudmini,-thou hast seen him at the dance, and thou too, Kala Nag, my pearl among elephants!-ahaa! Together! To Toomai of the Elephants. Barrao!''

And at that last wild yell the whole line flung up their trunks till the tips touched their foreheads, and broke out into the full salute-the crashing trumpet-peal that only the Viceroy of India hears, the Salaamut of the Keddah.

But it was all for the sake of Little Toomai, who had seen what never man had seen before - the dance of the elephants at night and alone in the heart of the Garo hills!

Shiv and the Grasshopper

(The song that Toomai's mother sang to the baby)

Shiv, who poured the harvest and made the winds to blow,
Sitting at the doorways of a day of long ago,
Gave to each his portion, food and toil and fate,
From the King upon the guddee to the Beggar at the gate.

All things made he-Shiva the Preserver.

Mahadeo! Mahadeo! He made all,-

Thorn for the camel, fodder for the kine,

And mother's heart for sleepy head, O little son of mine!

Wheat he gave to rich folk, millet to the poor,
Broken scraps for holy men that beg from door to door;
Battle to the tiger, carrion to the kite,
And rags and bones to wicked wolves without the wall at night.
Naught he found too lofty, none he saw too low Ц
Parbati beside him watched them come and go;
Thought to cheat her husband, turning Shiv to jest Ц
Stole the little grasshopper and hid it in her breast.

So she tricked him, Shiva the Preserver.

Mahadeo! Mahadeo! Turn and see.

Tall are the camels, heavy are the kine,

But this was Least of Little Things, O little son of mine!

When the dole was ended, laughingly she said,
Master, of a million mouths, is not one unfed?''
Laughing, Shiv made answer, ''All have had their part,
Even he, the little one, hidden 'neath thy heart.''
From her breast she plucked it, Parbati the thief,
Saw the Least of Little Things gnawed a new-grown leaf!
Saw and feared and wondered, making prayer to Shiv,
Who hath surely given meat to all that live.

All things made he-Shiva the Preserver.

Mahadeo! Mahadeo! He made all,-

Thorn for the camel, fodder for the kine,

And mother's heart for sleepy head, O little son of mine!

Her Majesty's Servants

You can work it out by Fractions or by simple Rule of Three,

But the way of Tweedle-dum is not the way of Tweedle-dee.

You can twist it, you can turn it, you can plait it till you drop,

But the way of Pilly Winky's not the way of Winkie Pop!

It had been raining heavily for one whole month-raining on a camp of thirty thousand men and thousands of camels, elephants, horses, bullocks, and mules all gathered together at a place called Rawal Pindi, to be reviewed by the Viceroy of India. He was receiving a visit from the Amir of Afghanistan-a wild king of a very wild country. The Amir had brought with him for a bodyguard eight hundred men and horses who had never seen a camp or a locomotive before in their lives-savage men and savage horses from somewhere at the back of Central Asia. Every night a mob of these horses would be sure to break their heel ropes and stampede up and down the camp through the mud in the dark, or the camels would break loose and run about and fall over the ropes of the tents, and you can imagine how pleasant that was for men trying to go to sleep. My tent lay far away from the camel lines, and I thought it was safe. But one night a man popped his head in and shouted, ''Get out, quick! They're coming! My tent's gone!''

I knew who ''they'' were, so I put on my boots and waterproof and scuttled out into the slush. Little Vixen, my fox terrier, went out through the other side; and then there was a roaring and a grunting and bubbling, and I saw the tent cave in, as the pole snapped, and begin to dance about like a mad ghost. A camel had blundered into it, and wet and angry as I was, I could not help laughing. Then I ran on, because I did not know how many camels might have got loose, and before long I was out of sight of the camp, plowing my way through the mud.

At last I fell over the tail-end of a gun, and by that knew I was somewhere near the artillery lines where the cannon were stacked at night. As I did not want to plowter about any more in the drizzle and the dark, I put my waterproof over the muzzle of one gun, and made a sort of wigwam with two or three rammers that I found, and lay along the tail of another gun, wondering where Vixen had got to, and where I might be.

Just as I was getting ready to go to sleep I heard a jingle of harness and a grunt, and a mule passed me shaking his wet ears. He belonged to a screw-gun battery, for I could hear the rattle of the straps and rings and chains and things on his saddle pad. The screw-guns are tiny little cannon made in two pieces, that are screwed together when the time comes to use them. They are taken up mountains, anywhere that a mule can find a road, and they are very useful for fighting in rocky country.

Behind the mule there was a camel, with his big soft feet squelching and slipping in the mud, and his neck bobbing to and fro like a strayed hen's. Luckily, I knew enough of beast language-not wild-beast language, but camp-beast language, of course-from the natives to know what he was saying.

He must have been the one that flopped into my tent, for he called to the mule, ''What shall I do? Where shall I go? I have fought with a white thing that waved, and it took a stick and hit me on the neck.'' (That was my broken tent pole, and I was very glad to know it.) ''Shall we run on?''

''Oh, it was you,'' said the mule, ''you and your friends, that have been disturbing the camp? All right. You'll be beaten for this in the morning. But I may as well give you something on account now.''

I heard the harness jingle as the mule backed and caught the camel two kicks in the ribs that rang like a drum. ''Another time,'' he said, ''you'll know better than to run through a mule battery at night, shouting `Thieves and fire!' Sit down, and keep your silly neck quiet.''

The camel doubled up camel-fashion, like a two-foot rule, and sat down whimpering. There was a regular beat of hoofs in the darkness, and a big troop-horse cantered up as steadily as though he were on parade, jumped a gun tail, and landed close to the mule.

''It's disgraceful,'' he said, blowing out his nostrils. ''Those camels have racketed through our lines again-the third time this week. How's a horse to keep his condition if he isn't allowed to sleep. Who's here?''

''I'm the breech-piece mule of number two gun of the First Screw Battery,'' said the mule, ''and the other's one of your friends. He's waked me up too. Who are you?''

''Number Fifteen, E troop, Ninth Lancers-Dick Cunliffe's horse. Stand over a little, there.''

''Oh, beg your pardon,'' said the mule. ''It's too dark to see much. Aren't these camels too sickening for anything? I walked out of my lines to get a little peace and quiet here.''

''My lords,'' said the camel humbly, ''we dreamed bad dreams in the night, and we were very much afraid. I am only a baggage camel of the 39th Native Infantry, and I am not as brave as you are, my lords.''

''Then why didn't you stay and carry baggage for the 39th Native Infantry, instead of running all round the camp?'' said the mule.

''They were such very bad dreams,'' said the camel. ''I am sorry. Listen! What is that? Shall we run on again?''

''Sit down,'' said the mule, ''or you'll snap your long stick-legs between the guns.'' He cocked one ear and listened. ''Bullocks!'' he said. ''Gun bullocks. On my word, you and your friends have waked the camp very thoroughly. It takes a good deal of prodding to put up a gun-bullock.''

I heard a chain dragging along the ground, and a yoke of the great sulky white bullocks that drag the heavy siege guns when the elephants won't go any nearer to the firing, came shouldering along together. And almost stepping on the chain was another battery mule, calling wildly for ''Billy.''

''That's one of our recruits,'' said the old mule to the troop horse. ''He's calling for me. Here, youngster, stop squealing. The dark never hurt anybody yet.''

The gun-bullocks lay down together and began chewing the cud, but the young mule huddled close to Billy.

''Things!'' he said. ''Fearful and horrible, Billy! They came into our lines while we were asleep. D'you think they'll kill us?''

''I've a very great mind to give you a number-one kicking,'' said Billy. ''The idea of a fourteen-hand mule with your training disgracing the battery before this gentleman!''

''Gently, gently!'' said the troop-horse. ''Remember they are always like this to begin with. The first time I ever saw a man (it was in Australia when I was a three-year-old) I ran for half a day, and if I'd seen a camel, I should have been running still.''

Nearly all our horses for the English cavalry are brought to India from Australia, and are broken in by the troopers themselves.

''True enough,'' said Billy. ''Stop shaking, youngster. The first time they put the full harness with all its chains on my back I stood on my forelegs and kicked every bit of it off. I hadn't learned the real science of kicking then, but the battery said they had never seen anything like it.''

Title: The Jungle Book
Author: Rudyard Kipling
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