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Rudyard Kipling >> The Jungle Book (page 7)


''Take him away. He dances like Mao the Peacock. He will crush our young,'' said the cobras inside.

''Hah!'' said Kaa with a chuckle, ''he has friends everywhere, this manling. Stand back, manling. And hide you, O Poison People. I break down the wall.''

Kaa looked carefully till he found a discolored crack in the marble tracery showing a weak spot, made two or three light taps with his head to get the distance, and then lifting up six feet of his body clear of the ground, sent home half a dozen full-power smashing blows, nose-first. The screen-work broke and fell away in a cloud of dust and rubbish, and Mowgli leaped through the opening and flung himself between Baloo and Bagheera-an arm around each big neck.

''Art thou hurt?'' said Baloo, hugging him softly.

''I am sore, hungry, and not a little bruised. But, oh, they have handled ye grievously, my Brothers! Ye bleed.''

''Others also,'' said Bagheera, licking his lips and looking at the monkey-dead on the terrace and round the tank.

''It is nothing, it is nothing, if thou art safe, oh, my pride of all little frogs!'' whimpered Baloo.

''Of that we shall judge later,'' said Bagheera, in a dry voice that Mowgli did not at all like. ''But here is Kaa to whom we owe the battle and thou owest thy life. Thank him according to our customs, Mowgli.''

Mowgli turned and saw the great Python's head swaying a foot above his own.

''So this is the manling,'' said Kaa. ''Very soft is his skin, and he is not unlike the Bandar-log. Have a care, manling, that I do not mistake thee for a monkey some twilight when I have newly changed my coat.''

''We be one blood, thou and I,'' Mowgli answered. ''I take my life from thee tonight. My kill shall be thy kill if ever thou art hungry, O Kaa.''

''All thanks, Little Brother,'' said Kaa, though his eyes twinkled. ''And what may so bold a hunter kill? I ask that I may follow when next he goes abroad.''

''I kill nothing,-I am too little,-but I drive goats toward such as can use them. When thou art empty come to me and see if I speak the truth. I have some skill in these he held out his hands, and if ever thou art in a trap, I may pay the debt which I owe to thee, to Bagheera, and to Baloo, here. Good hunting to ye all, my masters.''

''Well said,'' growled Baloo, for Mowgli had returned thanks very prettily. The Python dropped his head lightly for a minute on Mowgli's shoulder. ''A brave heart and a courteous tongue,'' said he. ''They shall carry thee far through the jungle, manling. But now go hence quickly with thy friends. Go and sleep, for the moon sets, and what follows it is not well that thou shouldst see.''

The moon was sinking behind the hills and the lines of trembling monkeys huddled together on the walls and battlements looked like ragged shaky fringes of things. Baloo went down to the tank for a drink and Bagheera began to put his fur in order, as Kaa glided out into the center of the terrace and brought his jaws together with a ringing snap that drew all the monkeys' eyes upon him.

''The moon sets,'' he said. ''Is there yet light enough to see?''

From the walls came a moan like the wind in the tree-topsЦ ''We see, O Kaa.''

''Good. Begins now the dance-the Dance of the Hunger of Kaa. Sit still and watch.''

He turned twice or thrice in a big circle, weaving his head from right to left. Then he began making loops and figures of eight with his body, and soft, oozy triangles that melted into squares and five-sided figures, and coiled mounds, never resting, never hurrying, and never stopping his low humming song. It grew darker and darker, till at last the dragging, shifting coils disappeared, but they could hear the rustle of the scales.

Baloo and Bagheera stood still as stone, growling in their throats, their neck hair bristling, and Mowgli watched and wondered.

''Bandar-log,'' said the voice of Kaa at last, ''can ye stir foot or hand without my order? Speak!''

''Without thy order we cannot stir foot or hand, O Kaa!''

''Good! Come all one pace nearer to me.''

The lines of the monkeys swayed forward helplessly, and Baloo and Bagheera took one stiff step forward with them.

''Nearer!'' hissed Kaa, and they all moved again.

Mowgli laid his hands on Baloo and Bagheera to get them away, and the two great beasts started as though they had been waked from a dream.

''Keep thy hand on my shoulder,'' Bagheera whispered. ''Keep it there, or I must go back-must go back to Kaa. Aah!''

''It is only old Kaa making circles on the dust,'' said Mowgli. ''Let us go.'' And the three slipped off through a gap in the walls to the jungle.

''Whoof!'' said Baloo, when he stood under the still trees again. ''Never more will I make an ally of Kaa,'' and he shook himself all over.

''He knows more than we,'' said Bagheera, trembling. ''In a little time, had I stayed, I should have walked down his throat.''

''Many will walk by that road before the moon rises again,'' said Baloo. ''He will have good hunting-after his own fashion.''

''But what was the meaning of it all?'' said Mowgli, who did not know anything of a python's powers of fascination. ''I saw no more than a big snake making foolish circles till the dark came. And his nose was all sore. Ho! Ho!''

''Mowgli,'' said Bagheera angrily, ''his nose was sore on thy account, as my ears and sides and paws, and Baloo's neck and shoulders are bitten on thy account. Neither Baloo nor Bagheera will be able to hunt with pleasure for many days.''

''It is nothing,'' said Baloo; ''we have the man-cub again.''

''True, but he has cost us heavily in time which might have been spent in good hunting, in wounds, in hair-I am half plucked along my back-and last of all, in honor. For, remember, Mowgli, I, who am the Black Panther, was forced to call upon Kaa for protection, and Baloo and I were both made stupid as little birds by the Hunger Dance. All this, man-cub, came of thy playing with the Bandar-log.''

''True, it is true,'' said Mowgli sorrowfully. ''I am an evil man-cub, and my stomach is sad in me.''

''Mf! What says the Law of the Jungle, Baloo?''

Baloo did not wish to bring Mowgli into any more trouble, but he could not tamper with the Law, so he mumbled: ''Sorrow never stays punishment. But remember, Bagheera, he is very little.''

''I will remember. But he has done mischief, and blows must be dealt now. Mowgli, hast thou anything to say?''

''Nothing. I did wrong. Baloo and thou are wounded. It is just.''

Bagheera gave him half a dozen love-taps from a panther's point of view (they would hardly have waked one of his own cubs), but for a seven-year-old boy they amounted to as severe a beating as you could wish to avoid. When it was all over Mowgli sneezed, and picked himself up without a word.

''Now,'' said Bagheera, ''jump on my back, Little Brother, and we will go home.''

One of the beauties of Jungle Law is that punishment settles all scores. There is no nagging afterward.

Mowgli laid his head down on Bagheera's back and slept so deeply that he never waked when he was put down in the home-cave.

Road-Song of the Bandar-Log

Here we go in a flung festoon,
Half-way up to the jealous moon!
Don't you envy our pranceful bands?
Don't you wish you had extra hands?

Wouldn't you like if your tails were-so-
Curved in the shape of a Cupid's bow?
Now you're angry, but-never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

Here we sit in a branchy row,
Thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,
All complete, in a minute or two-

Something noble and wise and good,
Done by merely wishing we could.
We've forgotten, but-never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

All the talk we ever have heard
Uttered by bat or beast or bird-
Hide or fin or scale or feather-
Jabber it quickly and all together!

Excellent! Wonderful! Once again!
Now we are talking just like men!
Let's pretend we are Е never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

This is the way of the Monkey-kind.
Then join our leaping lines that scumfish through the pines,
That rocket by where, light and high, the wild grape swings.
By the rubbish in our wake, and the noble noise we make,
Be sure, be sure, we're going to do some splendid things!

''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.''

Title: The Jungle Book
Author: Rudyard Kipling
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