Now Rann the Kite brings home the night
That Mang the Bat sets free -
The herds are shut in byre and hut
For loosed till dawn are we.
This is the hour of pride and power,
Talon and tush and claw.
Oh, hear the call! - Good hunting all
That keep the Jungle Law!
Night-Song in the Jungle
It was seven o'clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills when Father
Wolf woke up from his day's rest, scratched himself, yawned, and spread out his
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 all lived. ''Augrh!'' said
Father Wolf. ''It is time to hunt again.'' He was going to spring down hill when
a little shadow with a bushy tail crossed the threshold and whined: ''Good luck
go with you, O Chief of the Wolves. And good luck and strong white teeth go with
noble children that they may never forget the hungry in this world.''
It was the jackal-Tabaqui, the Dish-licker-and the wolves of India despise Tabaqui
because he runs about making mischief, and telling tales, and eating rags and pieces
of leather from the village rubbish-heaps. But they are afraid of him too, because
Tabaqui, more than anyone else in the jungle, is apt to go mad, and then he forgets
that he was ever afraid of anyone, and runs through the forest biting everything
in his way. Even the tiger runs and hides when little Tabaqui goes mad, for madness
is the most disgraceful thing that can overtake a wild creature. We call it hydrophobia,
but they call it dewanee-the madness– and run.
''Enter, then, and look,'' said Father Wolf stiffly, ''but there is no food here.''
''For a wolf, no,'' said Tabaqui, ''but for so mean a person as myself a dry
bone is a good feast. Who are we, the Gidur-log the jackal people, to
pick and choose?'' He scuttled to the back of the cave, where he found the bone
of a buck with some meat on it, and sat cracking the end merrily.
''All thanks for this good meal,'' he said, licking his lips. ''How beautiful
are the 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 the beginning.''
Now, Tabaqui knew as well as anyone else that there is nothing so unlucky as
to compliment children to their faces. It pleased him to see Mother and Father Wolf
Tabaqui sat still, rejoicing in the mischief that he had made, and then he said
''Shere Khan, the Big One, has shifted his hunting grounds. He will hunt among
these hills for the next moon, so he has told me.''
Shere Khan was the tiger who lived near the Waingunga River, twenty miles away.
''He has no right!'' Father Wolf began angrily-''By the Law of the Jungle he
has no right to change his quarters without due warning. He will frighten every
head 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 fornothing,'' said Mother
Wolf quietly. ''He has been lame in one foot from his birth. That is why he has
only killed cattle. Now the villagers of the Waingunga are angry with him, and he
has come here to make our villagers angry. They will scour the jungle for him when
he is far away, and we and our children must run when the grass is set 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
harm enough for one night.''
''I go,'' said Tabaqui quietly. ''Ye can hear Shere Khan below in the thickets.
I might have saved myself the message.''
Father Wolf listened, and below in the valley that ran down to a little river
he heard the dry, angry, snarly, singsong whine of a tiger who has caught nothing
and does not care if all the jungle knows it.
''The fool!'' said Father Wolf. ''To begin a night's work with that noise! Does
he 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 every
quarter of the compass. It was the noise that bewilders woodcutters and gypsies
sleeping in the open, and makes them run sometimes into the very mouth of the tiger.
''Man!'' said Father Wolf, showing all his white teeth. ''Faugh! Are there not
enough beetles and frogs in the tanks that he must eat Man, and on our ground too!''
The Law of the Jungle, which never orders anything without a reason, forbids
every beast to eat Man except when he is killing to show his children how to kill,
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, the arrival of white
men on elephants, with guns, and hundreds of brown men with gongs and rockets and
torches. Then everybody in the jungle suffers. The reason the beasts give among
themselves is that Man is the weakest and most defenseless of all living things,
and it is unsportsmanlike to touch him. They say 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's
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 mumbling savagely
as he tumbled about in the scrub.
''The fool has had no more sense than to jump at a woodcutter's campfire, and
has burned his feet,'' said Father Wolf with a grunt. ''Tabaqui is with him.''
''Something is coming uphill,'' said Mother Wolf, twitching one ear. ''Get ready.''
The bushes rustled a little in the thicket, and Father Wolf dropped with his
haunches under him, ready for his leap. Then, if you had been watching, you would
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, and then he tried
to stop himself. The result was that he shot up straight into the 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 baby
who could just walk-as soft and as dimpled a little atom as ever came to a wolf'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 it
A Wolf accustomed to moving his own cubs can, if necessary, mouth an egg without
breaking it, and though Father Wolf's jaws closed right on the child's back 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 was
pushing his way between the cubs to get close to the warm hide. ''Ahai! He is taking
his meal with the others. And so this is a man's cub. Now, was there ever 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 my
time,'' said Father Wolf. ''He is altogether without hair, and I could kill him
with 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 great
square 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 very
angry. ''What does Shere Khan need?''
''My quarry. A man's cub went this way,'' said Shere Khan. ''Its parents have
run off. Give it to me.''
Shere Khan had jumped at a woodcutter's campfire, as Father Wolf had said, and
was furious from the pain of his burned feet. But Father Wolf knew that the mouth
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's would be if he
tried to fight in a barrel.
''The Wolves are a free people,'' said Father Wolf. ''They take orders from the
Head of the Pack, and not from any striped cattle-killer. The man's cub is ours-to
kill if we choose.''
''Ye choose and ye do not choose! What talk is this of choosing? By the bull
that I killed, am I to stand nosing into your dog's den for my fair dues? It is
I, Shere Khan, who speak!''
The tiger's roar filled the cave with thunder. Mother Wolf shook herself clear
of the cubs and sprang forward, her eyes, like two green moons in the darkness,
facing the blazing eyes of Shere Khan. ''And it is I, Raksha The Demon,
who answers. The man's cubis mine, Lungri-mine to me! He shall not be killed. He
shall live to run with the Pack and to hunt with the Pack; and in the end, look
you, hunter of little naked cubs-frog-eater- fish-killer-he shall hunt thee! Now
get hence, or by the Sambhur that I killed (I eat no starved cattle), back thou
goest to thy mother, burned beast of the jungle, lamer than ever thou camest into
the world! Go!''
Father Wolf looked on amazed. He had almost forgotten the days when he won Mother
Wolf in fair fight from five other wolves, when she ran in the Pack and was not
called The Demon for compliment's sake. Shere Khan might have faced Father Wolf,
but he could not stand up against Mother Wolf, for he knew that where he was she
had all the advantage of the ground, and would fight to the death. So he backed
out of the cave mouth growling, and when he was clear he shouted:
''Each dog barks in his own yard! We will see what the Pack will say to this
fostering of man-cubs. The cub is mine, and to my teeth he will come in the end,
O bush-tailed thieves!''
Mother Wolf threw herself down panting among the cubs, and Father Wolf said to
''Shere Khan speaks this much truth. The cub must be shown to the Pack. Wilt
thou still keep him, Mother?''
''Keep him!'' she gasped. ''He came naked, by night, alone and very hungry; yet
he 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 the Waingunga
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 hunt Shere 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 he marries,
withdraw from the Pack he belongs to. But as soon as his cubs are old enough to
stand on their feet he must bring them to the Pack Council, which is generally held
once a month at full moon, in order that the other wolves may identify them. After
that inspection the cubs are free to run where they please, and until they have
killed their first buck no excuse is accepted if a grown wolf of the Pack kills
one of them. The punishment is death where the murderer can be found; and if you
think for a minute you will see that this must be so.
Father Wolf waited till his cubs could run a little, and then on the night of
the Pack Meeting took them and Mowgli and Mother Wolf to the Council Rock-a hilltop
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 of every size and color, from
badger-colored veterans who could handle a buck alone to young black three-year-olds
who thought they could. The Lone Wolf had led 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 and customs of men. There was very little talking at the
Rock. The cubs tumbled over each other in the center of the circle where their mothers
and fathers sat, and now and again a senior wolf would go quietly up to a cub, look
at him carefully, and return to his place on noiseless feet. Sometimes a mother
would push her cub far out into the moonlight to be sure that he had not been overlooked.
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 Wolf pushed
''Mowgli the Frog,'' as they called him, into the center, where he sat laughing
and playing with some pebbles that glistened in the moonlight.
Akela never raised his head from his paws, but went on with the monotonous cry:
''Look well!'' A muffled roar came up from behind the rocks-the voice of Shere Khan
crying: ''The cub is mine. Give him to me. What have the Free People to 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 any save the Free People?
There was a chorus of deep growls, and a young wolf in his fourth year flung
back Shere Khan's question to Akela: ''What have the Free People to do with a man's
cub?'' Now, the Law of the Jungle lays down that if there is any dispute as to the
right of a cub to be accepted by the Pack, he must be spoken for by at least two
members of the Pack who are not his father and mother.