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."
It was not for fun that he had learned while he was with the wolves to
imitate the challenge of bucks in the jungle and the grunt of the little
wild pig. So, as soon as Messua pronounced a word Mowgli would imitate it
almost perfectly, and before dark he had learned the names of many things
in the hut.
There was a difficulty at bedtime, because Mowgli would not sleep under
anything that looked so like a panther trap as that hut, and when they
shut the door he went through the window. "Give him his will," said
Messua's husband. "Remember he can never till now have slept on a bed. If
he is indeed sent in the place of our son he will not run away."
So Mowgli stretched himself in some long, clean grass at the edge of the
field, but before he had closed his eyes a soft gray nose poked him under
"Phew!" said Gray Brother (he was the eldest of Mother Wolf's cubs). "This
is a poor reward for following thee twenty miles. Thou smellest of wood
smoke and cattle—altogether like a man already. Wake, Little
Brother; I bring news."
"Are all well in the jungle?" said Mowgli, hugging him.
"All except the wolves that were burned with the Red Flower. Now, listen.
Shere Khan has gone away to hunt far off till his coat grows again, for he
is badly singed. When he returns he swears that he will lay thy bones in
"There are two words to that. I also have made a little promise. But news
is always good. I am tired to-night,—very tired with new things,
Gray Brother,—but bring me the news always."
"Thou wilt not forget that thou art a wolf? Men will not make thee
forget?" said Gray Brother anxiously.
"Never. I will always remember that I love thee and all in our cave. But
also I will always remember that I have been cast out of the Pack."
"And that thou mayest be cast out of another pack. Men are only men,
Little Brother, and their talk is like the talk of frogs in a pond. When I
come down here again, I will wait for thee in the bamboos at the edge of
For three months after that night Mowgli hardly ever left the village
gate, he was so busy learning the ways and customs of men. First he had to
wear a cloth round him, which annoyed him horribly; and then he had to
learn about money, which he did not in the least understand, and about
plowing, of which he did not see the use. Then the little children in the
village made him very angry. Luckily, the Law of the Jungle had taught him
to keep his temper, for in the jungle life and food depend on keeping your
temper; but when they made fun of him because he would not play games or
fly kites, or because he mispronounced some word, only the knowledge that
it was unsportsmanlike to kill little naked cubs kept him from picking
them up and breaking them in two.
He did not know his own strength in the least. In the jungle he knew he
was weak compared with the beasts, but in the village people said that he
was as strong as a bull.
And Mowgli had not the faintest idea of the difference that caste makes
between man and man. When the potter's donkey slipped in the clay pit,
Mowgli hauled it out by the tail, and helped to stack the pots for their
journey to the market at Khanhiwara. That was very shocking, too, for the
potter is a low-caste man, and his donkey is worse. When the priest
scolded him, Mowgli threatened to put him on the donkey too, and the
priest told Messua's husband that Mowgli had better be set to work as soon
as possible; and the village head-man told Mowgli that he would have to go
out with the buffaloes next day, and herd them while they grazed. No one
was more pleased than Mowgli; and that night, because he had been
appointed a servant of the village, as it were, he went off to a circle
that met every evening on a masonry platform under a great fig-tree. It
was the village club, and the head-man and the watchman and the barber,
who knew all the gossip of the village, and old Buldeo, the village
hunter, who had a Tower musket, met and smoked. The monkeys sat and talked
in the upper branches, and there was a hole under the platform where a
cobra lived, and he had his little platter of milk every night because he
was sacred; and the old men sat around the tree and talked, and pulled at
the big huqas (the water-pipes) till far into the night. They told
wonderful tales of gods and men and ghosts; and Buldeo told even more
wonderful ones of the ways of beasts in the jungle, till the eyes of the
children sitting outside the circle bulged out of their heads. Most of the
tales were about animals, for the jungle was always at their door. The
deer and the wild pig grubbed up their crops, and now and again the tiger
carried off a man at twilight, within sight of the village gates.
Mowgli, who naturally knew something about what they were talking of, had
to cover his face not to show that he was laughing, while Buldeo, the
Tower musket across his knees, climbed on from one wonderful story to
another, and Mowgli's shoulders shook.
Buldeo was explaining how the tiger that had carried away Messua's son was
a ghost-tiger, and his body was inhabited by the ghost of a wicked, old
money-lender, who had died some years ago. "And I know that this is true,"
he said, "because Purun Dass always limped from the blow that he got in a
riot when his account books were burned, and the tiger that I speak of he
limps, too, for the tracks of his pads are unequal."
"True, true, that must be the truth," said the gray-beards, nodding
"Are all these tales such cobwebs and moon talk?" said Mowgli. "That tiger
limps because he was born lame, as everyone knows. To talk of the soul of
a money-lender in a beast that never had the courage of a jackal is
Buldeo was speechless with surprise for a moment, and the head-man stared.
"Oho! It is the jungle brat, is it?" said Buldeo. "If thou art so wise,
better bring his hide to Khanhiwara, for the Government has set a hundred
rupees on his life. Better still, talk not when thy elders speak."
Mowgli rose to go. "All the evening I have lain here listening," he called
back over his shoulder, "and, except once or twice, Buldeo has not said
one word of truth concerning the jungle, which is at his very doors. How,
then, shall I believe the tales of ghosts and gods and goblins which he
says he has seen?"
"It is full time that boy went to herding," said the head-man, while
Buldeo puffed and snorted at Mowgli's impertinence.
The custom of most Indian villages is for a few boys to take the cattle
and buffaloes out to graze in the early morning, and bring them back at
night. The very cattle that would trample a white man to death allow
themselves to be banged and bullied and shouted at by children that hardly
come up to their noses. So long as the boys keep with the herds they are
safe, for not even the tiger will charge a mob of cattle. But if they
straggle to pick flowers or hunt lizards, they are sometimes carried off.
Mowgli went through the village street in the dawn, sitting on the back of
Rama, the great herd bull. The slaty-blue buffaloes, with their long,
backward-sweeping horns and savage eyes, rose out their byres, one by one,
and followed him, and Mowgli made it very clear to the children with him
that he was the master. He beat the buffaloes with a long, polished
bamboo, and told Kamya, one of the boys, to graze the cattle by
themselves, while he went on with the buffaloes, and to be very careful
not to stray away from the herd.
An Indian grazing ground is all rocks and scrub and tussocks and little
ravines, among which the herds scatter and disappear. The buffaloes
generally keep to the pools and muddy places, where they lie wallowing or
basking in the warm mud for hours. Mowgli drove them on to the edge of the
plain where the Waingunga came out of the jungle; then he dropped from
Rama's neck, trotted off to a bamboo clump, and found Gray Brother. "Ah,"
said Gray Brother, "I have waited here very many days. What is the meaning
of this cattle-herding work?"
"It is an order," said Mowgli. "I am a village herd for a while. What news
of Shere Khan?"
"He has come back to this country, and has waited here a long time for
thee. Now he has gone off again, for the game is scarce. But he means to
"Very good," said Mowgli. "So long as he is away do thou or one of the
four brothers sit on that rock, so that I can see thee as I come out of
the village. When he comes back wait for me in the ravine by the dhak tree
in the center of the plain. We need not walk into Shere Khan's mouth."
Then Mowgli picked out a shady place, and lay down and slept while the
buffaloes grazed round him. Herding in India is one of the laziest things
in the world. The cattle move and crunch, and lie down, and move on again,
and they do not even low. They only grunt, and the buffaloes very seldom
say anything, but get down into the muddy pools one after another, and
work their way into the mud till only their noses and staring china-blue
eyes show above the surface, and then they lie like logs. The sun makes
the rocks dance in the heat, and the herd children hear one kite (never
any more) whistling almost out of sight overhead, and they know that if
they died, or a cow died, that kite would sweep down, and the next kite
miles away would see him drop and follow, and the next, and the next, and
almost before they were dead there would be a score of hungry kites come
out of nowhere. Then they sleep and wake and sleep again, and weave little
baskets of dried grass and put grasshoppers in them; or catch two praying
mantises and make them fight; or string a necklace of red and black jungle
nuts; or watch a lizard basking on a rock, or a snake hunting a frog near
the wallows. Then they sing long, long songs with odd native quavers at
the end of them, and the day seems longer than most people's whole lives,
and perhaps they make a mud castle with mud figures of men and horses and
buffaloes, and put reeds into the men's hands, and pretend that they are
kings and the figures are their armies, or that they are gods to be
worshiped. Then evening comes and the children call, and the buffaloes
lumber up out of the sticky mud with noises like gunshots going off one
after the other, and they all string across the gray plain back to the
twinkling village lights.
Day after day Mowgli would lead the buffaloes out to their wallows, and
day after day he would see Gray Brother's back a mile and a half away
across the plain (so he knew that Shere Khan had not come back), and day
after day he would lie on the grass listening to the noises round him, and
dreaming of old days in the jungle. If Shere Khan had made a false step
with his lame paw up in the jungles by the Waingunga, Mowgli would have
heard him in those long, still mornings.
At last a day came when he did not see Gray Brother at the signal place,
and he laughed and headed the buffaloes for the ravine by the dhk tree,
which was all covered with golden-red flowers. There sat Gray Brother,
every bristle on his back lifted.
"He has hidden for a month to throw thee off thy guard. He crossed the
ranges last night with Tabaqui, hot-foot on thy trail," said the Wolf,
Mowgli frowned. "I am not afraid of Shere Khan, but Tabaqui is very
"Have no fear," said Gray Brother, licking his lips a little. "I met
Tabaqui in the dawn. Now he is telling all his wisdom to the kites, but he
told me everything before I broke his back. Shere Khan's plan is to wait
for thee at the village gate this evening—for thee and for no one
else. He is lying up now, in the big dry ravine of the Waingunga."
"Has he eaten today, or does he hunt empty?" said Mowgli, for the answer
meant life and death to him.
"He killed at dawn,—a pig,—and he has drunk too. Remember,
Shere Khan could never fast, even for the sake of revenge."
"Oh! Fool, fool! What a cub's cub it is! Eaten and drunk too, and he
thinks that I shall wait till he has slept! Now, where does he lie up? If
there were but ten of us we might pull him down as he lies. These
buffaloes will not charge unless they wind him, and I cannot speak their
language. Can we get behind his track so that they may smell it?"
"He swam far down the Waingunga to cut that off," said Gray Brother.
"Tabaqui told him that, I know. He would never have thought of it alone."
Mowgli stood with his finger in his mouth, thinking. "The big ravine of
the Waingunga. That opens out on the plain not half a mile from here. I
can take the herd round through the jungle to the head of the ravine and
then sweep down—but he would slink out at the foot. We must block
that end. Gray Brother, canst thou cut the herd in two for me?"
"Not I, perhaps—but I have brought a wise helper." Gray Brother
trotted off and dropped into a hole. Then there lifted up a huge gray head
that Mowgli knew well, and the hot air was filled with the most desolate
cry of all the jungle—the hunting howl of a wolf at midday.
"Akela! Akela!" said Mowgli, clapping his hands. "I might have known that
thou wouldst not forget me. We have a big work in hand. Cut the herd in
two, Akela. Keep the cows and calves together, and the bulls and the plow
buffaloes by themselves."
The two wolves ran, ladies'-chain fashion, in and out of the herd, which
snorted and threw up its head, and separated into two clumps. In one, the
cow-buffaloes stood with their calves in the center, and glared and pawed,
ready, if a wolf would only stay still, to charge down and trample the
life out of him. In the other, the bulls and the young bulls snorted and
stamped, but though they looked more imposing they were much less
dangerous, for they had no calves to protect. No six men could have
divided the herd so neatly.
"What orders!" panted Akela. "They are trying to join again."
Mowgli slipped on to Rama's back. "Drive the bulls away to the left,
Akela. Gray Brother, when we are gone, hold the cows together, and drive
them into the foot of the ravine."
"How far?" said Gray Brother, panting and snapping.
"Till the sides are higher than Shere Khan can jump," shouted Mowgli.
"Keep them there till we come down." The bulls swept off as Akela bayed,
and Gray Brother stopped in front of the cows. They charged down on him,
and he ran just before them to the foot of the ravine, as Akela drove the
bulls far to the left.
"Well done! Another charge and they are fairly started. Careful, now—careful,
Akela. A snap too much and the bulls will charge. Hujah! This is wilder
work than driving black-buck. Didst thou think these creatures could move
so swiftly?" Mowgli called.
"I have—have hunted these too in my time," gasped Akela in the dust.
"Shall I turn them into the jungle?"
"Ay! Turn. Swiftly turn them! Rama is mad with rage. Oh, if I could only
tell him what I need of him to-day."
The bulls were turned, to the right this time, and crashed into the
standing thicket. The other herd children, watching with the cattle half a
mile away, hurried to the village as fast as their legs could carry them,
crying that the buffaloes had gone mad and run away.
But Mowgli's plan was simple enough. All he wanted to do was to make a big
circle uphill and get at the head of the ravine, and then take the bulls
down it and catch Shere Khan between the bulls and the cows; for he knew
that after a meal and a full drink Shere Khan would not be in any
condition to fight or to clamber up the sides of the ravine. He was
soothing the buffaloes now by voice, and Akela had dropped far to the
rear, only whimpering once or twice to hurry the rear-guard. It was a
long, long circle, for they did not wish to get too near the ravine and
give Shere Khan warning. At last Mowgli rounded up the bewildered herd at
the head of the ravine on a grassy patch that sloped steeply down to the
ravine itself. From that height you could see across the tops of the trees
down to the plain below; but what Mowgli looked at was the sides of the
ravine, and he saw with a great deal of satisfaction that they ran nearly
straight up and down, while the vines and creepers that hung over them
would give no foothold to a tiger who wanted to get out.
"Let them breathe, Akela," he said, holding up his hand. "They have not
winded him yet. Let them breathe. I must tell Shere Khan who comes. We
have him in the trap."