In the Cold Lairs the Monkey-People were not thinking of Mowgli's friends
at all. They had brought the boy to the Lost City, and were very much
pleased with themselves for the time. Mowgli had never seen an Indian city
before, and though this was almost a heap of ruins it seemed very
wonderful and splendid. Some king had built it long ago on a little hill.
You could still trace the stone causeways that led up to the ruined gates
where the last splinters of wood hung to the worn, rusted hinges. Trees
had grown into and out of the walls; the battlements were tumbled down and
decayed, and wild creepers hung out of the windows of the towers on the
walls in bushy hanging clumps.
A great roofless palace crowned the hill, and the marble of the courtyards
and the fountains was split, and stained with red and green, and the very
cobblestones in the courtyard where the king's elephants used to live had
been thrust up and apart by grasses and young trees. From the palace you
could see the rows and rows of roofless houses that made up the city
looking like empty honeycombs filled with blackness; the shapeless block
of stone that had been an idol in the square where four roads met; the
pits and dimples at street corners where the public wells once stood, and
the shattered domes of temples with wild figs sprouting on their sides.
The monkeys called the place their city, and pretended to despise the
Jungle-People because they lived in the forest. And yet they never knew
what the buildings were made for nor how to use them. They would sit in
circles on the hall of the king's council chamber, and scratch for fleas
and pretend to be men; or they would run in and out of the roofless houses
and collect pieces of plaster and old bricks in a corner, and forget where
they had hidden them, and fight and cry in scuffling crowds, and then
break off to play up and down the terraces of the king's garden, where
they would shake the rose trees and the oranges in sport to see the fruit
and flowers fall. They explored all the passages and dark tunnels in the
palace and the hundreds of little dark rooms, but they never remembered
what they had seen and what they had not; and so drifted about in ones and
twos or crowds telling each other that they were doing as men did. They
drank at the tanks and made the water all muddy, and then they fought over
it, and then they would all rush together in mobs and shout: "There is no
one in the jungle so wise and good and clever and strong and gentle as the
Bandar-log." Then all would begin again till they grew tired of the city
and went back to the tree-tops, hoping the Jungle-People would notice
Mowgli, who had been trained under the Law of the Jungle, did not like or
understand this kind of life. The monkeys dragged him into the Cold Lairs
late in the afternoon, and instead of going to sleep, as Mowgli would have
done after a long journey, they joined hands and danced about and sang
their foolish songs. One of the monkeys made a speech and told his
companions that Mowgli's capture marked a new thing in the history of the
Bandar-log, for Mowgli was going to show them how to weave sticks and
canes together as a protection against rain and cold. Mowgli picked up
some creepers and began to work them in and out, and the monkeys tried to
imitate; but in a very few minutes they lost interest and began to pull
their friends' tails or jump up and down on all fours, coughing.
"I wish to eat," said Mowgli. "I am a stranger in this part of the jungle.
Bring me food, or give me leave to hunt here."
Twenty or thirty monkeys bounded away to bring him nuts and wild pawpaws.
But they fell to fighting on the road, and it was too much trouble to go
back with what was left of the fruit. Mowgli was sore and angry as well as
hungry, and he roamed through the empty city giving the Strangers' Hunting
Call from time to time, but no one answered him, and Mowgli felt that he
had reached a very bad place indeed. "All that Baloo has said about the
Bandar-log is true," he thought to himself. "They have no Law, no Hunting
Call, and no leaders—nothing but foolish words and little picking
thievish hands. So if I am starved or killed here, it will be all my own
fault. But I must try to return to my own jungle. Baloo will surely beat
me, but that is better than chasing silly rose leaves with the
No sooner had he walked to the city wall than the monkeys pulled him back,
telling him that he did not know how happy he was, and pinching him to
make him grateful. He set his teeth and said nothing, but went with the
shouting monkeys to a terrace above the red sandstone reservoirs that were
half-full of rain water. There was a ruined summer-house of white marble
in the center of the terrace, built for queens dead a hundred years ago.
The domed roof had half fallen in and blocked up the underground passage
from the palace by which the queens used to enter. But the walls were made
of screens of marble tracery—beautiful milk-white fretwork, set with
agates and cornelians and jasper and lapis lazuli, and as the moon came up
behind the hill it shone through the open work, casting shadows on the
ground like black velvet embroidery. Sore, sleepy, and hungry as he was,
Mowgli could not help laughing when the Bandar-log began, twenty at a
time, to tell him how great and wise and strong and gentle they were, and
how foolish he was to wish to leave them. "We are great. We are free. We
are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all
say so, and so it must be true," they shouted. "Now as you are a new
listener and can carry our words back to the Jungle-People so that they
may notice us in future, we will tell you all about our most excellent
selves." Mowgli made no objection, and the monkeys gathered by hundreds
and hundreds on the terrace to listen to their own speakers singing the
praises of the Bandar-log, and whenever a speaker stopped for want of
breath they would all shout together: "This is true; we all say so."
Mowgli nodded and blinked, and said "Yes" when they asked him a question,
and his head spun with the noise. "Tabaqui the Jackal must have bitten all
these people," he said to himself, "and now they have madness. Certainly
this is dewanee, the madness. Do they never go to sleep? Now there is a
cloud coming to cover that moon. If it were only a big enough cloud I
might try to run away in the darkness. But I am tired."
That same cloud was being watched by two good friends in the ruined ditch
below the city wall, for Bagheera and Kaa, knowing well how dangerous the
Monkey-People were in large numbers, did not wish to run any risks. The
monkeys never fight unless they are a hundred to one, and few in the
jungle care for those odds.
"I will go to the west wall," Kaa whispered, "and come down swiftly with
the slope of the ground in my favor. They will not throw themselves upon
my back in their hundreds, but—"
"I know it," said Bagheera. "Would that Baloo were here, but we must do
what we can. When that cloud covers the moon I shall go to the terrace.
They hold some sort of council there over the boy."
"Good hunting," said Kaa grimly, and glided away to the west wall. That
happened to be the least ruined of any, and the big snake was delayed
awhile before he could find a way up the stones. The cloud hid the moon,
and as Mowgli wondered what would come next he heard Bagheera's light feet
on the terrace. The Black Panther had raced up the slope almost without a
sound and was striking—he knew better than to waste time in biting—right
and left among the monkeys, who were seated round Mowgli in circles fifty
and sixty deep. There was a howl of fright and rage, and then as Bagheera
tripped on the rolling kicking bodies beneath him, a monkey shouted:
"There is only one here! Kill him! Kill." A scuffling mass of monkeys,
biting, scratching, tearing, and pulling, closed over Bagheera, while five
or six laid hold of Mowgli, dragged him up the wall of the summerhouse and
pushed him through the hole of the broken dome. A man-trained boy would
have been badly bruised, for the fall was a good fifteen feet, but Mowgli
fell as Baloo had taught him to fall, and landed on his feet.
"Stay there," shouted the monkeys, "till we have killed thy friends, and
later we will play with thee—if the Poison-People leave thee alive."
"We be of one blood, ye and I," said Mowgli, quickly giving the Snake's
Call. He could hear rustling and hissing in the rubbish all round him and
gave the Call a second time, to make sure.
"Even ssso! Down hoods all!" said half a dozen low voices (every ruin in
India becomes sooner or later a dwelling place of snakes, and the old
summerhouse was alive with cobras). "Stand still, Little Brother, for thy
feet may do us harm."
Mowgli stood as quietly as he could, peering through the open work and
listening to the furious din of the fight round the Black Panther—the
yells and chatterings and scufflings, and Bagheera's deep, hoarse cough as
he backed and bucked and twisted and plunged under the heaps of his
enemies. For the first time since he was born, Bagheera was fighting for
"Baloo must be at hand; Bagheera would not have come alone," Mowgli
thought. And then he called aloud: "To the tank, Bagheera. Roll to the
water tanks. Roll and plunge! Get to the water!"
Bagheera heard, and the cry that told him Mowgli was safe gave him new
courage. He worked his way desperately, inch by inch, straight for the
reservoirs, halting in silence. Then from the ruined wall nearest the
jungle rose up the rumbling war-shout of Baloo. The old Bear had done his
best, but he could not come before. "Bagheera," he shouted, "I am here. I
climb! I haste! Ahuwora! The stones slip under my feet! Wait my coming, O
most infamous Bandar-log!" He panted up the terrace only to disappear to
the head in a wave of monkeys, but he threw himself squarely on his
haunches, and, spreading out his forepaws, hugged as many as he could
hold, and then began to hit with a regular bat-bat-bat, like the flipping
strokes of a paddle wheel. A crash and a splash told Mowgli that Bagheera
had fought his way to the tank where the monkeys could not follow. The
Panther lay gasping for breath, his head just out of the water, while the
monkeys stood three deep on the red steps, dancing up and down with rage,
ready to spring upon him from all sides if he came out to help Baloo. It
was then that Bagheera lifted up his dripping chin, and in despair gave
the Snake's Call for protection—"We be of one blood, ye and I"—for
he believed that Kaa had turned tail at the last minute. Even Baloo, half
smothered under the monkeys on the edge of the terrace, could not help
chuckling as he heard the Black Panther asking for help.
Kaa had only just worked his way over the west wall, landing with a wrench
that dislodged a coping stone into the ditch. He had no intention of
losing any advantage of the ground, and coiled and uncoiled himself once
or twice, to be sure that every foot of his long body was in working
order. All that while the fight with Baloo went on, and the monkeys yelled
in the tank round Bagheera, and Mang the Bat, flying to and fro, carried
the news of the great battle over the jungle, till even Hathi the Wild
Elephant trumpeted, and, far away, scattered bands of the Monkey-Folk woke
and came leaping along the tree-roads to help their comrades in the Cold
Lairs, and the noise of the fight roused all the day birds for miles
round. Then Kaa came straight, quickly, and anxious to kill. The fighting
strength of a python is in the driving blow of his head backed by all the
strength and weight of his body. If you can imagine a lance, or a
battering ram, or a hammer weighing nearly half a ton driven by a cool,
quiet mind living in the handle of it, you can roughly imagine what Kaa
was like when he fought. A python four or five feet long can knock a man
down if he hits him fairly in the chest, and Kaa was thirty feet long, as
you know. His first stroke was delivered into the heart of the crowd round
Baloo. It was sent home with shut mouth in silence, and there was no need
of a second. The monkeys scattered with cries of—"Kaa! It is Kaa!
Generations of monkeys had been scared into good behavior by the stories
their elders told them of Kaa, the night thief, who could slip along the
branches as quietly as moss grows, and steal away the strongest monkey
that ever lived; of old Kaa, who could make himself look so like a dead
branch or a rotten stump that the wisest were deceived, till the branch
caught them. Kaa was everything that the monkeys feared in the jungle, for
none of them knew the limits of his power, none of them could look him in
the face, and none had ever come alive out of his hug. And so they ran,
stammering with terror, to the walls and the roofs of the houses, and
Baloo drew a deep breath of relief. His fur was much thicker than
Bagheera's, but he had suffered sorely in the fight. Then Kaa opened his
mouth for the first time and spoke one long hissing word, and the far-away
monkeys, hurrying to the defense of the Cold Lairs, stayed where they
were, cowering, till the loaded branches bent and crackled under them. The
monkeys on the walls and the empty houses stopped their cries, and in the
stillness that fell upon the city Mowgli heard Bagheera shaking his wet
sides as he came up from the tank. Then the clamor broke out again. The
monkeys leaped higher up the walls. They clung around the necks of the big
stone idols and shrieked as they skipped along the battlements, while
Mowgli, dancing in the summerhouse, put his eye to the screenwork and
hooted owl-fashion between his front teeth, to show his derision and
"Get the man-cub out of that trap; I can do no more," Bagheera gasped.
"Let us take the man-cub and go. They may attack again."
"They will not move till I order them. Stay you sssso!" Kaa hissed, and
the city was silent once more. "I could not come before, Brother, but I
think I heard thee call"—this was to Bagheera.
"I—I may have cried out in the battle," Bagheera answered. "Baloo,
art thou hurt?
"I am not sure that they did not pull me into a hundred little bearlings,"
said Baloo, gravely shaking one leg after the other. "Wow! I am sore. Kaa,
we owe thee, I think, our lives—Bagheera and I."
"No matter. Where is the manling?"
"Here, in a trap. I cannot climb out," cried Mowgli. The curve of the
broken dome was above his head.
"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
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
"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
"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
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-tops—"We see, O
"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
"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
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 ... 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!