Part 2 out of 4
muttered. With the money I can buy a horse. We are too bruised
to walk far, and the village will follow us in an hour."
"I say they will NOT follow till I choose; but a horse is
well thought of, for Messua is tired." Her husband stood up
and knotted the last of the rupees into his waist-cloth.
Mowgli helped Messua through the window, and the cool night
air revived her, but the Jungle in the starlight looked very dark
"Ye know the trail to Khanhiwara?" Mowgli whispered.
'Good. Remember, now, not to be afraid. And there is no need to
go quickly. Only--only there may be some small singing in the
Jungle behind you and before."
"Think you we would have risked a night in the Jungle through
anything less than the fear of burning? It is better to be
killed by beasts than by men," said Messua's husband; but Messua
looked at Mowgli and smiled.
"I say," Mowgli went on, just as though he were Baloo repeating
an old Jungle Law for the hundredth time to a foolish cub--
"I say that not a tooth in the Jungle is bared against you;
not a foot in the Jungle is lifted against you. Neither man
nor beast shall stay you till you come within eye-shot of
Khanhiwara. There will be a watch about you." He turned quickly
to Messua, saying, "HE does not believe, but thou wilt believe?"
"Ay, surely, my son. Man, ghost, or wolf of the Jungle,
"HE will be afraid when he hears my people singing. Thou wilt
know and understand. Go now, and slowly, for there is no need of
any haste. The gates are shut."
Messua flung herself sobbing at Mowgli's feet, but he lifted her
very quickly with a shiver. Then she hung about his neck and
called him every name of blessing she could think of, but her
husband looked enviously across his fields, and said: "IF we
reach Khanhiwara, and I get the ear of the English, I will bring
such a lawsuit against the Brahmin and old Buldeo and the others
as shall eat the village to the bone. They shall pay me twice
over for my crops untilled and my buffaloes unfed. I will have
a great justice."
Mowgli laughed. "I do not know what justice is, but--come next
Rains. and see what is left."
They went off toward the Jungle, and Mother Wolf leaped from her
place of hiding.
"Follow!" said Mowgli; "and look to it that all the Jungle knows
these two are safe. Give tongue a little. I would call
The long, low howl rose and fell, and Mowgli saw Messua's
husband flinch and turn, half minded to run back to the hut.
"Go on," Mowgli called cheerfully. "I said there might be
singing. That call will follow up to Khanhiwara. It is Favour
of the Jungle."
Messua urged her husband forward, and the darkness shut down on
them and Mother Wolf as Bagheera rose up almost under Mowgli's
feet, trembling with delight of the night that drives the Jungle
"I am ashamed of thy brethren," he said, purring. "What? Did
they not sing sweetly to Buldeo?" said Mowgli.
"Too well! Too well! They made even ME forget my pride, and,
by the Broken Lock that freed me, I went singing through the
Jungle as though I were out wooing in the spring! Didst thou
not hear us?"
"I had other game afoot. Ask Buldeo if he liked the song. But
where are the Four? I do not wish one of the Man-Pack to leave
the gates to-night."
"What need of the Four, then?" said Bagheera, shifting from foot
to foot, his eyes ablaze, and purring louder than ever. "I can
hold them, Little Brother. Is it killing at last? The singing
and the sight of the men climbing up the trees have made me very
ready. Who is Man that we should care for him--the naked brown
digger, the hairless and toothless, the eater of earth? I have
followed him all day--at noon--in the white sunlight. I herded
him as the wolves herd buck. I am Bagheera! Bagheera! Bagheera!
As I dance with my shadow, so danced I with those men. Look!"
The great panther leaped as a kitten leaps at a dead leaf
whirling overhead, struck left and right into the empty air,
that sang under the strokes, landed noiselessly, and leaped
again and again, while the half purr, half growl gathered head
as steam rumbles in a boiler. "I am Bagheera--in the jungle--
in the night, and my strength is in me. Who shall stay my
stroke? Man-cub, with one blow of my paw I could beat thy head
flat as a dead frog in the summer!"
"Strike, then!" said Mowgli, in the dialect of the village, NOT
the talk of the Jungle, and the human words brought Bagheera to
a full stop, flung back on haunches that quivered under him, his
head just at the level of Mowgli's. Once more Mowgli stared, as
he had stared at the rebellious cubs, full into the beryl-green
eyes till the red glare behind their green went out like the
light of a lighthouse shut off twenty miles across the sea;
till the eyes dropped, and the big head with them--dropped
lower and lower, and the red rasp of a tongue grated on
"Brother--Brother--Brother!" the boy whispered, stroking
steadily and lightly from the neck along the heaving back.
"Be still, be still! It is the fault of the night, and no
fault of thine."
"It was the smells of the night," said Bagheera penitently.
"This air cries aloud to me. But how dost THOU know?"
Of course the air round an Indian village is full of all kinds
of smells, and to any creature who does nearly all his thinking
through his nose, smells are as maddening as music and drugs are
to human beings. Mowgli gentled the panther for a few minutes
longer, and he lay down like a cat before a fire, his paws
tucked under his breast, and his eyes half shut.
"Thou art of the Jungle and NOT of the Jungle," he said at
last. "And I am only a black panther. But I love thee,
"They are very long at their talk under the tree," Mowgli said,
without noticing the last sentence. "Buldeo must have told many
tales. They should come soon to drag the woman and her man out
of the trap and put them into the Red Flower. They will find
that trap sprung. Ho! ho!"
"Nay, listen," said Bagheera. "The fever is out of my blood now.
Let them find ME there! Few would leave their houses after
meeting me. It is not the first time I have been in a cage;
and I do not think they will tie ME with cords."
"Be wise, then," said Mowgli, laughing; for he was beginning to
feel as reckless as the panther, who had glided into the hut.
"Pah!" Bagheera grunted. "This place is rank with Man, but here
is just such a bed as they gave me to lie upon in the King's
cages at Oodeypore. Now I lie down." Mowgli heard the strings of
the cot crack under the great brute's weight. "By the Broken
Lock that freed me, they will think they have caught big game!
Come and sit beside me, Little Brother; we will give them 'good
"No; I have another thought in my stomach. The Man-Pack shall
not know what share I have in the sport. Make thine own hunt.
I do not wish to see them."
"Be it so," said Bagheera. "Ah, now they come!"
The conference under the peepul-tree had been growing noisier
and noisier, at the far end of the village. It broke in wild
yells, and a rush up the street of men and women, waving clubs
and bamboos and sickles and knives. Buldeo and the Brahmin were
at the head of it, but the mob was close at their heels, and
they cried, "The witch and the wizard! Let us see if hot coins
will make them confess! Burn the hut over their heads! We will
teach them to shelter wolf-devils! Nay, beat them first!
Torches! More torches! Buldeo, heat the gun-barrels!"
Here was some little difficulty with the catch of the door.
It had been very firmly fastened, but the crowd tore it away
bodily, and the light of the torches streamed into the room
where, stretched at full length on the bed, his paws crossed and
lightly hung down over one end, black as the Pit, and terrible
as a demon, was Bagheera. There was one half-minute of desperate
silence, as the front ranks of the crowd clawed and tore their
way back from the threshold, and in that minute Bagheera raised
his head and yawned--elaborately, carefully, and ostentatiously
--as he would yawn when he wished to insult an equal. The
fringed lips drew back and up; the red tongue curled; the lower
jaw dropped and dropped till you could see half-way down the hot
gullet; and the gigantic dog-teeth stood clear to the pit of the
gums till they rang together, upper and under, with the snick of
steel-faced wards shooting home round the edges of a safe.
Next instant the street was empty; Bagheera had leaped back
through the window, and stood at Mowgli's side, while a yelling,
screaming torrent scrambled and tumbled one over another in their
panic haste to get to their own huts.
"They will not stir till day comes," said Bagheera quietly.
The silence of the afternoon sleep seemed to have overtaken the
village; but, as they listened, they could hear the sound of
heavy grain-boxes being dragged over earthen floors and set down
against doors. Bagheera was quite right; the village would not
stir till daylight. Mowgli sat still, and thought, and his face
grew darker and darker.
"What have I done?" said Bagheera, at last coming to his
"Nothing but great good. Watch them now till the day. I sleep."
Mowgli ran off into the Jungle, and dropped like a dead man
across a rock, and slept and slept the day round, and the night
When he waked, Bagheera was at his side, and there was a newly-
killed buck at his feet. Bagheera watched curiously while Mowgli
went to work with his skinning-knife, ate and drank, and turned
over with his chin in his hands.
"The man and the woman are come safe within eye-shot of
Khanhiwara," Bagheera said. "Thy lair mother sent the word back
by Chil, the Kite. They found a horse before midnight of the
night they were freed, and went very quickly. Is not that well?"
"That is well," said Mowgli.
"And thy Man-Pack in the village did not stir till the sun was
high this morning. Then they ate their food and ran back quickly
to their houses."
"Did they, by chance, see thee?"
"It may have been. I was rolling in the dust before the gate at
dawn, and I may have made also some small song to myself. Now,
Little Brother, there is nothing more to do. Come hunting with me
and Baloo. He has new hives that he wishes to show, and we
all desire thee back again as of old. Take off that look which
makes even me afraid! The man and woman will not be put into the
Red Flower, and all goes well in the Jungle. Is it not true?
Let us forget the Man-Pack."
"They shall he forgotten in a little while. Where does Hathi
"Where he chooses. Who can answer for the Silent One? But why?
What is there Hathi can do which we cannot?"
"Bid him and his three sons come here to me."
"But, indeed, and truly, Little Brother, it is not--it is not
seemly to say 'Come,' and 'Go,' to Hathi. Remember, he is the
Master of the Jungle, and before the Man-Pack changed the look
on thy face, he taught thee the Master-words of the Jungle."
"That is all one. I have a Master-word for him now. Bid him come
to Mowgli, the Frog: and if he does not hear at first, bid him
come because of the Sack of the Fields of Bhurtpore."
"The Sack of the Fields of Bhurtpore," Bagheera repeated two or
three times to make sure. "I go. Hathi can but be angry at the
worst, and I would give a moon's hunting to hear a Master-word
that compels the Silent One."
He went away, leaving Mowgli stabbing furiously with his
skinning-knife into the earth. Mowgli had never seen human blood
in his life before till he had seen, and--what meant much more
to him--smelled Messua's blood on the thongs that bound her.
And Messua had been kind to him, and, so far as he knew anything
about love, he loved Messua as completely as he hated the rest
of mankind. But deeply as he loathed them, their talk, their
cruelty, and their cowardice, not for anything the Jungle had to
offer could he bring himself to take a human life, and have that
terrible scent of blood back again in his nostrils. His plan was
simpler, but much more thorough; and he laughed to himself when
he thought that it was one of old Buldeo's tales told under the
peepul-tree in the evening that had put the idea into his head.
"It WAS a Master-word," Bagheera whispered in his ear.
"They were feeding by the river, and they obeyed as though
they were bullocks. Look where they come now!"
Hathi and his three sons had arrived, in their usual way,
without a sound. The mud of the river was still fresh on their
flanks, and Hathi was thoughtfully chewing the green stem of a
young plantain-tree that he had gouged up with his tusks.
But every line in his vast body showed to Bagheera, who could
see things when he came across them, that it was not the Master
of the Jungle speaking to a Man-cub, but one who was afraid
coming before one who was not. His three sons rolled side by
side, behind their father.
Mowgli hardly lifted his head as Hathi gave him "Good hunting."
He kept him swinging and rocking, and shifting from one foot to
another, for a long time before he spoke; and when he opened his
mouth it was to Bagheera, not to the elephants.
"I will tell a tale that was told to me by the hunter ye hunted
to-day," said Mowgli. "It concerns an elephant, old and wise,
who fell into a trap, and the sharpened stake in the pit scarred
him from a little above his heel to the crest of his shoulder,
leaving a white mark." Mowgli threw out his hand, and as Hathi
wheeled the moonlight showed a long white scar on his slaty
side, as though he had been struck with a red-hot whip.
"Men came to take him from the trap," Mowgli continued, "but he
broke his ropes, for he was strong, and went away till his wound
was healed. Then came he, angry, by night to the fields of those
hunters. And I remember now that he had three sons. These things
happened many, many Rains ago, and very far away--among the
fields of Bhurtpore. What came to those fields at the next
"They were reaped by me and by my three sons," said Hathi.
"And to the ploughing that follows the reaping?" said Mowgli.
"There was no ploughing," said Hathi.
"And to the men that live by the green crops on the ground?"
"They went away."
"And to the huts in which the men slept?" said Mowgli.
"We tore the roofs to pieces, and the Jungle swallowed up the
walls," said Hathi.
"And what more?" said Mowgli.
"As much good ground as I can walk over in two nights from the
east to the west, and from the north to the south as much as I
can walk over in three nights, the Jungle took. We let in the
Jungle upon five villages; and in those villages, and in their
lands, the grazing-ground and the soft crop-grounds, there is
not one man to-day who takes his food from the ground. That was
the Sack of the Fields of Bhurtpore, which I and my three sons
did; and now I ask, Man-cub, how the news of it came to thee?"
"A man told me, and now I see even Buldeo can speak truth.
It was well done, Hathi with the white mark; but the second time
it shall be done better, for the reason that there is a man to
direct. Thou knowest the village of the Man-Pack that cast me
out? They are idle, senseless, and cruel; they play with their
mouths, and they do not kill the weaker for food, but for sport.
When they are full-fed they would throw their own breed into the
Red Flower. This I have seen. It is not well that they should
live here any more. I hate them!"
"Kill, then," said the youngest of Hathi's three sons, picking
up a tuft of grass, dusting it against his fore-legs, and
throwing it away, while his little red eyes glanced furtively
from side to side.
"What good are white bones to me?" Mowgli answered angrily.
"Am I the cub of a wolf to play in the sun with a raw head?
I have killed Shere Khan, and his hide rots on the Council Rock;
but--but I do not know whither Shere Khan is gone, and my
stomach is still empty. Now I will take that which I can see
and touch. Let in the Jungle upon that village, Hathi!"
Bagheera shivered, and cowered down. He could understand, if the
worst came to the worst, a quick rush down the village street,
and a right and left blow into a crowd, or a crafty killing of
men as they ploughed in the twilight; but this scheme for
deliberately blotting out an entire village from the eyes of man
and beast frightened him. Now he saw why Mowgli had sent for
Hathi. No one but the long-lived elephant could plan and carry
through such a war.
"Let them run as the men ran from the fields of Bhurtpore,
till we have the rain-water for the only plough, and the noise
of the rain on the thick leaves for the pattering of their
spindles--till Bagheera and I lair in the house of the Brahmin,
and the buck drink at the tank behind the temple! Let in the
"But I--but we have no quarrel with them, and it needs the red
rage of great pain ere we tear down the places where men sleep,"
said Hathi doubtfully.
"Are ye the only eaters of grass in the Jungle? Drive in your
peoples. Let the deer and the pig and the nilghai look to it.
Ye need never show a hand's-breadth of hide till the fields are
naked. Let in the Jungle, Hathi!"
"There will be no killing? My tusks were red at the Sack of the
Fields of Bhurtpore, and I would not wake that smell again."
"Nor I. I do not wish even their bones to lie on the clean
earth. Let them go and find a fresh lair. They cannot stay here.
I have seen and smelled the blood of the woman that gave me
food--the woman whom they would have killed but for me. Only the
smell of the new grass on their door-steps can take away that
smell. It burns in my mouth. Let in the Jungle, Hathi!"
"Ah!" said Hathi. "So did the scar of the stake burn on my hide
till we watched the villages die under in the spring growth. Now
I see. Thy war shall he our war. We will let in the jungle!"
Mowgli had hardly time to catch his breath--he was shaking all
over with rage and hate before the place where the elephants had
stood was empty, and Bagheera was looking at him with terror.
"By the Broken Lock that freed me!" said the Black Panther at
last. "Art THOU the naked thing I spoke for in the Pack when all
was young? Master of the Jungle, when my strength goes, speak
for me--speak for Baloo--speak for us all! We are cubs before
thee! Snapped twigs under foot! Fawns that have lost their doe!"
The idea of Bagheera being a stray fawn upset Mowgli altogether,
and he laughed and caught his breath, and sobbed and laughed
again, till he had to jump into a pool to make himself stop.
Then he swam round and round, ducking in and out of the bars of
the moonlight like the frog, his namesake.
By this time Hathi and his three sons had turned, each to one
point of the compass, and were striding silently down the
valleys a mile away. They went on and on for two days' march--
that is to say, a long sixty miles--through the Jungle; and
every step they took, and every wave of their trunks, was known
and noted and talked over by Mang and Chil and the Monkey People
and all the birds. Then they began to feed, and fed quietly for
a week or so. Hathi and his sons are like Kaa, the Rock Python.
They never hurry till they have to.
At the end of that time--and none knew who had started it--a
rumour went through the Jungle that there was better food and
water to be found in such and such a valley. The pig--who, of
course, will go to the ends of the earth for a full meal--moved
first by companies, scuffling over the rocks, and the deer
followed, with the small wild foxes that live on the dead and
dying of the herds; and the heavy-shouldered nilghai moved
parallel with the deer, and the wild buffaloes of the swamps
came after the nilghai. The least little thing would have turned
the scattered, straggling droves that grazed and sauntered and
drank and grazed again; but whenever there was an alarm some one
would rise up and soothe them. At one time it would be Ikki the
Porcupine, full of news of good feed just a little farther on;
at another Mang would cry cheerily and flap down a glade to show
it was all empty; or Baloo, his mouth full of roots, would
shamble alongside a wavering line and half frighten, half romp
it clumsily back to the proper road. Very many creatures broke
back or ran away or lost interest, but very many were left to go
forward. At the end of another ten days or so the situation was
this. The deer and the pig and the nilghai were milling round
and round in a circle of eight or ten miles radius, while the
Eaters of Flesh skirmished round its edge. And the centre of
that circle was the village, and round the village the crops
were ripening, and in the crops sat men on what they call
machans--platforms like pigeon-perches, made of sticks at the
top of four poles--to scare away birds and other stealers.
Then the deer were coaxed no more. The Eaters of Flesh were
close behind them, and forced them forward and inward.
It was a dark night when Hathi and his three sons slipped down
from the Jungle, and broke off the poles of the machans with
their trunks; they fell as a snapped stalk of hemlock in bloom
falls, and the men that tumbled from them heard the deep
gurgling of the elephants in their ears. Then the vanguard of
the bewildered armies of the deer broke down and flooded into
the village grazing-grounds and the ploughed fields; and the
sharp-hoofed, rooting wild pig came with them, and what the
deer left the pig spoiled, and from time to time an alarm of
wolves would shake the herds, and they would rush to and fro
desperately, treading down the young barley, and cutting flat
the banks of the irrigating channels. Before the dawn broke the
pressure on the outside of the circle gave way at one point.
The Eaters of Flesh had fallen back and left an open path to
the south, and drove upon drove of buck fled along it. Others,
who were bolder, lay up in the thickets to finish their meal
But the work was practically done. When the villagers looked in
the morning they saw their crops were lost. And that meant death
if they did not get away, for they lived year in and year out as
near to starvation as the Jungle was near to them. When the
buffaloes were sent to graze the hungry brutes found that the
deer had cleared the grazing-grounds, and so wandered into the
Jungle and drifted off with their wild mates; and when twilight
fell the three or four ponies that belonged to the village lay
in their stables with their heads beaten in. Only Bagheera could
have given those strokes, and only Bagheera would have thought of
insolently dragging the last carcass to the open street.
The villagers had no heart to make fires in the fields that
night, so Hathi and his three sons went gleaning among what was
left; and where Hathi gleans there is no need to follow. The men
decided to live on their stored seed-corn until the rains had
fallen, and then to take work as servants till they could catch
up with the lost year; but as the grain-dealer was thinking of
his well-filled crates of corn, and the prices he would levy at
the sale of it, Hathi's sharp tusks were picking out the corner
of his mud-house, and smashing open the big wicker chest, leeped
with cow-dung, where the precious stuff lay.
When that last loss was discovered, it was the Brahmin's turn to
speak. He had prayed to his own Gods without answer. It might
be, he said, that, unconsciously, the village had offended some
one of the Gods of the Jungle, for, beyond doubt, the Jungle was
against them. So they sent for the head-man of the nearest tribe
of wandering Gonds--little, wise, and very black hunters, living
in the deep Jungle, whose fathers came of the oldest race in
India--the aboriginal owners of the land. They made the Gond
welcome with what they had, and he stood on one leg, his bow in
his hand, and two or three poisoned arrows stuck through his
top-knot, looking half afraid and half contemptuously at the
anxious villagers and their ruined fields. They wished to know
whether his Gods--the Old Gods--were angry with them and what
sacrifices should be offered. The Gond said nothing, but picked
up a trail of the Karela, the vine that bears the bitter wild
gourd, and laced it to and fro across the temple door in the
face of the staring red Hindu image. Then he pushed with his
hand in the open air along the road to Khanhiwara, and went back
to his Jungle, and watched the Jungle People drifting through
it. He knew that when the Jungle moves only white men can hope
to turn it aside.
There was no need to ask his meaning. The wild gourd would grow
where they had worshipped their God, and the sooner they saved
themselves the better.
But it is hard to tear a village from its moorings. They stayed
on as long as any summer food was left to them, and they tried
to gather nuts in the Jungle, but shadows with glaring eyes
watched them, and rolled before them even at mid-day; and when
they ran back afraid to their walls, on the tree-trunks they had
passed not five minutes before the bark would be stripped and
chiselled with the stroke of some great taloned paw. The more
they kept to their village, the bolder grew the wild things that
gambolled and bellowed on the grazing-grounds by the Waingunga.
They had no time to patch and plaster the rear walls of the
empty byres that backed on to the Jungle; the wild pig trampled
them down, and the knotty-rooted vines hurried after and threw
their elbows over the new-won ground, and the coarse grass
bristled behind the vines like the lances of a goblin army
following a retreat. The unmarried men ran away first, and
carried the news far and near that the village was doomed.
Who could fight, they said, against the Jungle, or the Gods of
the Jungle, when the very village cobra had left his hole in the
platform under the peepul-tree? So their little commerce with
the outside world shrunk as the trodden paths across the open
grew fewer and fainter. At last the nightly trumpetings of Hathi
and his three sons ceased to trouble them; for they had no more
to be robbed of. The crop on the ground and the seed in the
ground had been taken. The outlying fields were already losing
their shape, and it was time to throw themselves on the charity
of the English at Khanhiwara.
Native fashion, they delayed their departure from one day to
another till the first Rains caught them and the unmended roofs
let in a flood, and the grazing-ground stood ankle deep, and all
life came on with a rush after the heat of the summer. Then they
waded out--men, women, and children--through the blinding hot
rain of the morning, but turned naturally for one farewell look
at their homes.
They heard, as the last burdened family filed through the gate,
a crash of falling beams and thatch behind the walls. They saw a
shiny, snaky black trunk lifted for an instant, scattering
sodden thatch. It disappeared, and there was another crash,
followed by a squeal. Hathi had been plucking off the roofs of
the huts as you pluck water-lilies, and a rebounding beam had
pricked him. He needed only this to unchain his full strength,
for of all things in the Jungle the wild elephant enraged is the
most wantonly destructive. He kicked backward at a mud wall that
crumbled at the stroke, and, crumbling, melted to yellow mud
under the torrent of rain. Then he wheeled and squealed, and
tore through the narrow streets, leaning against the huts right
and left, shivering the crazy doors, and crumpling up the caves;
while his three sons raged behind as they had raged at the Sack
of the Fields of Bhurtpore.
"The Jungle will swallow these shells," said a quiet voice in
the wreckage. "It is the outer wall that must lie down," and
Mowgli, with the rain sluicing over his bare shoulders and arms,
leaped back from a wall that was settling like a tired buffalo.
"All in good time," panted Hathi. "Oh, but my tusks were red
at Bhurtpore; To the outer wall, children! With the head!
The four pushed side by side; the outer wall bulged, split, and
fell, and the villagers, dumb with horror, saw the savage,
clay-streaked heads of the wreckers in the ragged gap. Then they
fled, houseless and foodless, down the valley, as their village,
shredded and tossed and trampled, melted behind them.
A month later the place was a dimpled mound, covered with soft,
green young stuff; and by the end of the Rains there was the
roaring jungle in full blast on the spot that had been under
plough not six months before.
MOWGLI'S SONG AGAINST PEOPLE
I will let loose against you the fleet-footed vines--
I will call in the Jungle to stamp out your lines!
The roofs shall fade before it,
The house-beams shall fall,
And the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall cover it all!
In the gates of these your councils my people shall sing,
In the doors of these your garners the Bat-folk shall cling;
And the snake shall be your watchman,
By a hearthstone unswept;
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall fruit where ye slept!
Ye shall not see my strikers; ye shall hear them and guess;
By night, before the moon-rise, I will send for my cess,
And the wolf shall he your herdsman
By a landmark removed,
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall seed where ye loved!
I will reap your fields before you at the hands of a host;
Ye shall glean behind my reapers, for the bread that is lost,
And the deer shall be your oxen
By a headland untilled,
For the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall leaf where ye build!
I have untied against you the club-footed vines,
I have sent in the Jungle to swamp out your lines.
The trees--the trees are on you!
The house-beams shall fall,
And the Karela, the bitter Karela,
Shall cover you all!
When ye say to Tabaqui, "My Brother!" when ye call the
Hyena to meat,
Ye may cry the Full Truce with Jacala--the Belly that runs
on four feet.
"Respect the aged!"
"It was a thick voice--a muddy voice that would have made you
shudder--a voice like something soft breaking in two. There was
a quaver in it, a croak and a whine.
"Respect the aged! O Companions of the River--respect the aged!"
Nothing could be seen on the broad reach of the river except a
little fleet of square-sailed, wooden-pinned barges, loaded with
building-stone, that had just come under the railway bridge, and
were driving down-stream. They put their clumsy helms over to
avoid the sand-bar made by the scour of the bridge-piers, and as
they passed, three abreast, the horrible voice began again:
"O Brahmins of the River--respect the aged and infirm!"
A boatman turned where he sat on the gunwale, lifted up his
hand, said something that was not a blessing, and the boats
creaked on through the twilight. The broad Indian river, that
looked more like a chain of little lakes than a stream, was as
smooth as glass, reflecting the sandy-red sky in mid-channel,
but splashed with patches of yellow and dusky purple near and
under the low banks. Little creeks ran into the river in the wet
season, but now their dry mouths hung clear above water-line.
On the left shore, and almost under the railway bridge, stood a
mud-and-brick and thatch-and-stick village, whose main street,
full of cattle going back to their byres, ran straight to the
river, and ended in a sort of rude brick pier-head, where people
who wanted to wash could wade in step by step. That was the
Ghaut of the village of Mugger-Ghaut.
Night was falling fast over the fields of lentils and rice and
cotton in the low-lying ground yearly flooded by the river;
over the reeds that fringed the elbow of the bend, and the
tangled jungle of the grazing-grounds behind the still reeds.
The parrots and crows, who had been chattering and shouting over
their evening drink, had flown inland to roost, crossing the
out-going battalions of the flying-foxes; and cloud upon cloud
of water-birds came whistling and "honking" to the cover of the
reed-beds. There were geese, barrel-headed and black-backed,
teal, widgeon, mallard, and sheldrake, with curlews, and here
and there a flamingo.
A lumbering Adjutant-crane brought up the rear, flying as though
each slow stroke would be his last.
"Respect the aged! Brahmins of the River--respect the aged!"
The Adjutant half turned his head, sheered a little in the
direction of the voice, and landed stiffly on the sand-bar below
the bridge. Then you saw what a ruffianly brute he really was.
His back view was immensely respectable, for he stood nearly six
feet high, and looked rather like a very proper bald-headed
parson. In front it was different, for his Ally Sloper-like head
and neck had not a feather to them, and there was a horrible
raw-skin pouch on his neck under his chin--a hold-all for the
things his pick-axe beak might steal. His legs were long and
thin and skinny, but he moved them delicately, and looked at
them with pride as he preened down his ashy-gray tail-feathers,
glanced over the smooth of his shoulder, and stiffened into
"Stand at attention."
A mangy little Jackal, who had been yapping hungrily on a low
bluff, cocked up his ears and tail, and scuttered across the
shallows to join the Adjutant.
He was the lowest of his caste--not that the best of jackals are
good for much, but this one was peculiarly low, being half a
beggar, half a criminal--a cleaner-up of village rubbish-heaps,
desperately timid or wildly bold, everlastingly hungry, and full
of cunning that never did him any good.
"Ugh!" he said, shaking himself dolefully as he landed. "May the
red mange destroy the dogs of this village! I have three bites
for each flea upon me, and all because I looked--only looked,
mark you--at an old shoe in a cow-byre. Can I eat mud?"
He scratched himself under his left ear.
"I heard," said the Adjutant, in a voice like a blunt saw going
through a thick board--"I HEARD there was a new-born puppy in
that same shoe."
"To hear is one thing; to know is another," said the Jackal, who
had a very fair knowledge of proverbs, picked up by listening to
men round the village fires of an evening.
"Quite true. So, to make sure, I took care of that puppy while
the dogs were busy elsewhere."
"They were VERY busy," said the Jackal. "Well, I must not go to
the village hunting for scraps yet awhile. And so there truly
was a blind puppy in that shoe?"
"It is here," said the Adjutant, squinting over his beak at his
full pouch. "A small thing, but acceptable now that charity is
dead in the world."
"Ahai! The world is iron in these days," wailed the Jackal.
Then his restless eye caught the least possible ripple on the
water, and he went on quickly: "Life is hard for us all, and
I doubt not that even our excellent master, the Pride of the
Ghaut and the Envy of the River----"
"A liar, a flatterer, and a Jackal were all hatched out of the
same egg," said the Adjutant to nobody in particular; for he
was rather a fine sort of a liar on his own account when he
took the trouble.
"Yes, the Envy of the River," the Jackal repeated, raising his
voice. "Even he, I doubt not, finds that since the bridge has
been built good food is more scarce. But on the other hand,
though I would by no means say this to his noble face, he is so
wise and so virtuous--as I, alas I am not----"
"When the Jackal owns he is gray, how black must the Jackal be!"
muttered the Adjutant. He could not see what was coming.
"That his food never fails, and in consequence----"
There was a soft grating sound, as though a boat had just
touched in shoal water. The Jackal spun round quickly and faced
(it is always best to face) the creature he had been talking
about. It was a twenty-four-foot crocodile, cased in what looked
like treble-riveted boiler-plate, studded and keeled and
crested; the yellow points of his upper teeth just overhanging
his beautifully fluted lower jaw. It was the blunt-nosed Mugger
of Mugger-Ghaut, older than any man in the village, who had
given his name to the village; the demon of the ford before the
railway bridge, came--murderer, man-eater, and local fetish in
one. He lay with his chin in the shallows, keeping his place by
an almost invisible rippling of his tail, and well the Jackal
knew that one stroke of that same tail in the water would carry
the Mugger up the bank with the rush of a steam-engine.
"Auspiciously met, Protector of the Poor!" he fawned, backing
at every word. "A delectable voice was heard, and we came in
the hopes of sweet conversation. My tailless presumption, while
waiting here, led me, indeed, to speak of thee. It is my hope
that nothing was overheard."
Now the Jackal had spoken just to be listened to, for he knew
flattery was the best way of getting things to eat, and the
Mugger knew that the Jackal had spoken for this end, and the
Jackal knew that the Mugger knew, and the Mugger knew that
the Jackal knew that the Mugger knew, and so they were all
very contented together.
The old brute pushed and panted and grunted up the bank,
mumbling, "Respect the aged and infirm!" and all the time his
little eyes burned like coals under the heavy, horny eyelids
on the top of his triangular head, as he shoved his bloated
barrel-body along between his crutched legs. Then he settled
down, and, accustomed as the Jackal was to his ways, he could
not help starting, for the hundredth time, when he saw how
exactly the Mugger imitated a log adrift on the bar. He had
even taken pains to lie at the exact angle a naturally stranded
log would make with the water, having regard to the current of
he season at the time and place. All this was only a matter of
habit, of course, because the Mugger had come ashore for
pleasure; but a crocodile is never quite full, and if the Jackal
had been deceived by the likeness he would not have lived to
philosophise over it.
"My child, I heard nothing," said the Mugger, shutting one eye.
"The water was in my ears, and also I was faint with hunger.
Since the railway bridge was built my people at my village have
ceased to love me; and that is breaking my heart."
"Ah, shame!" said the Jackal. "So noble a heart, too! But men
are all alike, to my mind."
"Nay, there are very great differences indeed," the Mugger
answered gently. "Some are as lean asboat-poles. Others again
are fat as young ja--dogs. Never would I causelessly revile men.
They are of all fashions, but the long years have shown me that,
one with another, they are very good. Men, women, and children--
I have no fault to find with them. And remember, child, he who
rebukes the World is rebuked by the World."
"Flattery is worse than an empty tin can in the belly. But that
which we have just heard is wisdom," said the Adjutant, bringing
down one foot.
"Consider, though, their ingratitude to this excellent one,"
began the Jackal tenderly.
"Nay, nay, not ingratitude!" the Mugger said. They do not think
for others; that is all. But I have noticed, lying at my station
below the ford, that the stairs of the new bridge are cruelly
hard to climb, both for old people and young children. The old,
indeed, are not so worthy of consideration, but I am grieved--
I am truly grieved--on account of the fat children. Still,
I think, in a little while, when the newness of the bridge has
worn away, we shall see my people"s bare brown legs bravely
splashing through the ford as before. Then the old Mugger will
be honoured again."
"But surely I saw Marigold wreaths floating off the edge of the
Ghaut only this noon," said the Adjutant.
Marigold wreaths are a sign of reverence all India over.
"An error--an error. It was the wife of the sweetmeat-seller.
She loses her eyesight year by year, and cannot tell a log from
me--the Mugger of the Ghaut. I saw the mistake when she threw
the garland, for I was lying at the very foot of the Ghaut, and
had she taken another step I might have shown her some little
difference. Yet she meant well, and we must consider the spirit
of the offering."
"What good are marigold wreaths when one is on the rubbish-
heap?" said the Jackal, hunting for fleas, but keeping one wary
eye on his Protector of the Poor.
"True, but they have not yet begun to make the rubbish-heap that
shall carry ME. Five times have I seen the river draw back from
the village and make new land at the foot of the street. Five
times have I seen the village rebuilt on the banks, and I shall
see it built yet five times more. I am no faithless, fish-
hunting Gavial, I, at Kasi to-day and Prayag to-morrow, as the
saying is, but the true and constant watcher of the ford. It is
not for nothing, child, that the village bears my name, and "he
who watches long," as the saying is, "shall at last have his
"_I_ have watched long--very long--nearly all my life, and my
reward has been bites and blows," said the Jackal.
"Ho! ho! ho!" roared the Adjutant.
"In August was the Jackal born;
The Rains fell in September;
"Now such a fearful flood as this,"
Says he, "I can"t remember!""
There is one very unpleasant peculiarity about the Adjutant.
At uncertain times he suffers from acute attacks of the fidgets
or cramp in his legs, and though he is more virtuous to behold
than any of the cranes, who are all immensely respectable,
he flies off into wild, cripple-stilt war-dances, half opening
his wings and bobbing his bald head up and down; while for
reasons best known to himself he is very careful to time his
worst attacks with his nastiest remarks. At the last word of
his song he came to attention again, ten times adjutaunter
The Jackal winced, though he was full three seasons old, but you
cannot resent an insult from a person with a beak a yard long,
and the power of driving it like a javelin. The Adjutant was a
most notorious coward, but the Jackal was worse.
"We must live before we can learn," said the Mugger, "and there
is this to say: Little jackals are very common, child, but such
a mugger as I am is not common. For all that, I am not proud,
since pride is destruction; but take notice, it is Fate, and
against his Fate no one who swims or walks or runs should say
anything at all. I am well contented with Fate. With good luck,
a keen eye, and the custom of considering whether a creek or a
backwater has an outlet to it ere you ascend, much may be done."
"Once I heard that even the Protector of the Poor made a
mistake," said the Jackal viciously.
"True; but there my Fate helped me. It was before I had come to
my full growth--before the last famine but three (by the Right
and Left of Gunga, how full used the streams to be in those
days!). Yes, I was young and unthinking, and when the flood
came, who so pleased as I? A little made me very happy then.
The village was deep in flood, and I swam above the Ghaut and
went far inland, up to the rice-fields, and they were deep in
good mud. I remember also a pair of bracelets (glass they were,
and troubled me not a little) that I found that evening. Yes,
glass bracelets; and, if my memory serves me well, a shoe.
I should have shaken off both shoes, but I was hungry. I learned
better later. Yes. And so I fed and rested me; but when I was
ready to go to the river again the flood had fallen, and I
walked through the mud of the main street. Who but I? Came out
all my people, priests and women and children, and I looked upon
them with benevolence. The mud is not a good place to fight in.
Said a boatman, "Get axes and kill him, for he is the Mugger of
the ford." "Not so," said the Brahmin. "Look, he is driving the
flood before him! He is the godling of the village." Then they
threw many flowers at me, and by happy thought one led a goat
across the road."
"How good--how very good is goat!" said the Jackal.
"Hairy--too hairy, and when found in the water more than likely
to hide a cross-shaped hook. But that goat I accepted, and went
down to the Ghaut in great honour. Later, my Fate sent me the
boatman who had desired to cut off my tail with an axe. His boat
grounded upon an old shoal which you would not remember."
"We are not ALL jackals here," said the Adjutant. Was it the
shoal made where the stone-boats sank in the year of the great
drouth--a long shoal that lasted three floods?"
"There were two," said the Mugger; "an upper and a lower shoal."
"Ay, I forgot. A channel divided them, and later dried up
again," said the Adjutant, who prided himself on his memory.
"On the lower shoal my well-wisher"s craft grounded. He was
sleeping in the bows, and, half awake, leaped over to his
waist--no, it was no more than to his knees--to push off.
His empty boat went on and touched again below the next reach,
as the river ran then. I followed, because I knew men would
come out to drag it ashore."
"And did they do so?" said the Jackal, a little awe-stricken.
This was hunting on a scale that impressed him.
"There and lower down they did. I went no farther, but that gave
me three in one day--well-fed manjis (boatmen) all, and, except
in the case of the last (then I was careless), never a cry to
warn those on the bank."
"Ah, noble sport! But what cleverness and great judgment it
requires!" said the Jackal.
"Not cleverness, child, but only thought. A little thought in
life is like salt upon rice, as the boatmen say, and I have
thought deeply always. The Gavial, my cousin, the fish-eater,
has told me how hard it is for him to follow his fish, and how
one fish differs from the other, and how he must know them all,
both together and apart. I say that is wisdom; but, on the other
hand, my cousin, the Gavial, lives among his people. MY people
do not swim in companies, with their mouths out of the water, as
Rewa does; nor do they constantly rise to the surface of the
water, and turn over on their sides, like Mohoo and little
Chapta; nor do they gather in shoals after flood, like Batchua
"All are very good eating," said the Adjutant, clattering
"So my cousin says, and makes a great to-do over hunting them,
but they do not climb the banks to escape his sharp nose.
MY people are otherwise. Their life is on the land, in the
houses, among the cattle. I must know what they do, and what
they are about to do; and adding the tail to the trunk, as the
saying is, I make up the whole elephant. Is there a green branch
and an iron ring hanging over a doorway? The old Mugger knows
that a boy has been born in that house, and must some day come
down to the Ghaut to play. Is a maiden to be married?
The old Mugger knows, for he sees the men carry gifts back and
forth; and she, too, comes down to the Ghaut to bathe before
her wedding, and--he is there. Has the river changed its
channel, and made new land where there was only sand before?
The Mugger knows."
"Now, of what use is that knowledge?" said the Jackal.
"The river has shifted even in my little life." Indian rivers
are nearly always moving about in their beds, and will shift,
sometimes, as much as two or three miles in a season, drowning
the fields on one bank, and spreading good silt on the other.
"There is no knowledge so useful," said the Mugger, "for new
land means new quarrels. The Mugger knows. Oho! the Mugger
knows. As soon as the water has drained off, he creeps up the
little creeks that men think would not hide a dog, and there he
waits. Presently comes a farmer saying he will plant cucumbers
here, and melons there, in the new land that the river has given
him. He feels the good mud with his bare toes. Anon comes
another, saying he will put onions, and carrots, and sugar-cane
in such and such places. They meet as boats adrift meet, and
each rolls his eye at the other under the big blue turban.
The old Mugger sees and hears. Each calls the other "Brother,"
and they go to mark out the boundaries of the new land.
The Mugger hurries with them from point to point, shuffling very
low through the mud. Now they begin to quarrel! Now they say
hot words! Now they pull turbans! Now they lift up their lathis
(clubs), and, at last, one falls backward into the mud, and the
other runs away. When he comes back the dispute is settled, as
the iron-bound bamboo of the loser witnesses. Yet they are not
grateful to the Mugger. No, they cry "Murder!" and their
families fight with sticks, twenty a-side. My people are good
people--upland Jats--Malwais of the Bet. They do not give blows
for sport, and, when the fight is done, the old Mugger waits
far down the river, out of sight of the village, behind the
kikar-scrub yonder. Then come they down, my broad-shouldered
Jats--eight or nine together under the stars, bearing the dead
man upon a bed. They are old men with gray beards, and voices as
deep as mine. They light a little fire--ah! how well I know that
fire!--and they drink tobacco, and they nod their heads together
forward in a ring, or sideways toward the dead man upon the
bank. They say the English Law will come with a rope for this
matter, and that such a man"s family will be ashamed, because
such a man must be hanged in the great square of the Jail.
Then say the friends of the dead, "Let him hang!" and the talk
is all to do over again--once, twice, twenty times in the long
night. Then says one, at last, "The fight was a fair fight.
Let us take blood-money, a little more than is offered by the
slayer, and we will say no more about it." Then do they haggle
over the blood-money, for the dead was a strong man, leaving
many sons. Yet before amratvela (sunrise) they put the fire to
him a little, as the custom is, and the dead man comes to me,
and HE says no more about it. Aha! my children, the Mugger
knows--the Mugger knows--and my Malwah Jats are a good people!"
"They are too close--too narrow in the hand for my crop,"
croaked the Adjutant. "They waste not the polish on the
cow"s horn, as the saying is; and, again, who can glean
after a Malwai?"
"Ah, I--glean--THEM," said the Mugger.
"Now, in Calcutta of the South, in the old days," the Adjutant
went on, "everything was thrown into the streets, and we picked
and chose. Those wore dainty seasons. But to-day they keep their
streets as clean as the outside of an egg, and my people fly
away. To be clean is one thing; to dust, sweep, and sprinkle
seven times a day wearies the very Gods themselves."
"There was a down-country jackal had it from a brother, who told
me, that in Calcutta of the South all the jackals were as fat as
otters in the Rains," said the Jackal, his mouth watering at the
bare thought of it.
"Ah, but the white-faces are there--the English, and they bring
dogs from somewhere down the river in boats--big fat dogs--to
keep those same jackals lean," said the Adjutant.
"They are, then, as hard-hearted as these people? I might have
known. Neither earth, sky, nor water shows charity to a jackal.
I saw the tents of a white-face last season, after the Rains,
and I also took a new yellow bridle to eat. The white-faces
do not dress their leather in the proper way. It made me
"That was better than my case," said the Adjutant. "When I was
in my third season, a young and a bold bird, I went down to the
river where the big boats come in. The boats of the English are
thrice as big as this village."
"He has been as far as Delhi, and says all the people there walk
on their heads," muttered the Jackal. The Mugger opened his left
eye, and looked keenly at the Adjutant.
"It is true," the big bird insisted. "A liar only lies when he
hopes to be believed. No one who had not seen those boats COULD
believe this truth."
"THAT is more reasonable," said the Mugger. "And then?"
"From the insides of this boat they were taking out great pieces
of white stuff, which, in a little while, turned to water.
Much split off, and fell about on the shore, and the rest they
swiftly put into a house with thick walls. But a boatman,
who laughed, took a piece no larger than a small dog, and threw
it to me. I--all my people--swallow without reflection, and that
piece I swallowed as is our custom. Immediately I was afflicted
with an excessive cold which, beginning in my crop, ran down to
the extreme end of my toes, and deprived me even of speech,
while the boatmen laughed at me. Never have I felt such cold.
I danced in my grief and amazement till I could recover my
breath and then I danced and cried out against the falseness of
this world; and the boatmen derided me till they fell down.
The chief wonder of the matter, setting aside that marvellous
coldness, was that there was nothing at all in my crop when I
had finished my lamentings!"
The Adjutant had done his very best to describe his feelings
after swallowing a seven-pound lump of Wenham Lake ice, off an
American ice-ship, in the days before Calcutta made her ice by
machinery; but as he did not know what ice was, and as the
Mugger and the Jackal knew rather less, the tale missed fire.
"Anything," said the Mugger, shutting his left eye again--
"ANYTHING is possible that comes out of a boat thrice the size
of Mugger-Ghaut. My village is not a small one."
There was a whistle overhead on the bridge, and the Delhi Mail
slid across, all the carriages gleaming with light, and the
shadows faithfully following along the river. It clanked away
into the dark again; but the Mugger and the Jackal were so well
used to it that they never turned their heads.
"Is that anything less wonderful than a boat thrice the size of
Mugger-Ghaut?" said the bird, looking up.
"I saw that built, child. Stone by stone I saw the bridge-piers
rise, and when the men fell off (they were wondrous sure-footed
for the most part--but WHEN they fell) I was ready. After the
first pier was made they never thought to look down the stream
for the body to burn. There, again, I saved much trouble.
There was nothing strange in the building of the bridge," said
"But that which goes across, pulling the roofed carts! That is
strange," the Adjutant repeated. "It is, past any doubt, a new
breed of bullock. Some day it will not be able to keep its
foothold up yonder, and will fall as the men did. The old Mugger
will then be ready."
The Jackal looked at the Adjutant and the Adjutant looked at the
Jackal. If there was one thing they were more certain of than
another, it was that the engine was everything in the wide world
except a bullock. The Jackal had watched it time and again from
the aloe hedges by the side of the line, and the Adjutant had
seen engines since the first locomotive ran in India. But the
Mugger had only looked up at the thing from below, where the
brass dome seemed rather like a bullock"s hump.
"M--yes, a new kind of bullock," the Mugger repeated
ponderously, to make himself quite sure in his own mind;
and "Certainly it is a bullock," said the Jackal.
"And again it might be----" began the Mugger pettishly.
"Certainly--most certainly," said the Jackal, without waiting
for the other to finish.
"What?" said the Mugger angrily, for he could feel that the
others knew more than he did. "What might it be? _I_ never
finished my words. You said it was a bullock."
"It is anything the Protector of the Poor pleases. I am HIS
servant--not the servant of the thing that crosses the river."
"Whatever it is, it is white-face work," said the Adjutant;
"and for my own part, I would not lie out upon a place so near
to it as this bar."
"You do not know the English as I do," said the Mugger. "There
was a white-face here when the bridge was built, and he would
take a boat in the evenings and shuffle with his feet on the
bottom-boards, and whisper: "Is he here? Is he there? Bring me
my gun." I could hear him before I could see him--each sound
that he made--creaking and puffing and rattling his gun, up and
down the river. As surely as I had picked up one of his workmen,
and thus saved great expense in wood for the burning, so surely
would he come down to the Ghaut, and shout in a loud voice that
he would hunt me, and rid the river of me--the Mugger of Mugger-
Ghaut! ME! Children, I have swum under the bottom of his boat
for hour after hour, and heard him fire his gun at logs; and
when I was well sure he was wearied, I have risen by his side
and snapped my jaws in his face. When the bridge was finished he
went away. All the English hunt in that fashion, except when
they are hunted."
"Who hunts the white-faces?" yapped the Jackal excitedly.
"No one now, but I have hunted them in my time."
"I remember a little of that Hunting. I was young then," said
the Adjutant, clattering his beak significantly.
"I was well established here. My village was being builded for
the third time, as I remember, when my cousin, the Gavial,
brought me word of rich waters above Benares. At first I would
not go, for my cousin, who is a fish-eater, does not always know
the good from the bad; but I heard my people talking in the
evenings, and what they said made me certain."
"And what did they say?" the Jackal asked.
"They said enough to make me, the Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut,
leave water and take to my feet. I went by night, using the
littlest streams as they served me; but it was the beginning of
the hot weather, and all streams were low. I crossed dusty
roads; I went through tall grass; I climbed hills in the
moonlight. Even rocks did I climb, children--consider this well.
I crossed the tail of Sirhind, the waterless, before I could
find the set of the little rivers that flow Gungaward. I was a
month"s journey from my own people and the river that I knew.
That was very marvellous!"
"What food on the way?" said the Jackal, who kept his soul in
his little stomach, and was not a bit impressed by the Mugger"s
"That which I could find--COUSIN," said the Mugger slowly,
dragging each word.
Now you do not call a man a cousin in India unless you think you
can establish some kind of blood-relationship, and as it is only
in old fairy-tales that the Mugger ever marries a jackal, the
Jackal knew for what reason he had been suddenly lifted into
the Mugger"s family circle. If they had been alone he would
not have cared, but the Adjutant"s eyes twinkled with mirth
at the ugly jest.
"Assuredly, Father, I might have known," said the Jackal.
A mugger does not care to be called a father of jackals, and the
Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut said as much--and a great deal more which
there is no use in repeating here.
"The Protector of the Poor has claimed kinship. How can I
remember the precise degree? Moreover, we eat the same food.
He has said it," was the Jackal"s reply.
That made matters rather worse, for what the Jackal hinted at
was that the Mugger must have eaten his food on that land-march
fresh and fresh every day, instead of keeping it by him till it
was in a fit and proper condition, as every self-respecting
mugger and most wild beasts do when they can. Indeed, one of the
worst terms of contempt along the River-bed is "eater of fresh
meat." It is nearly as bad as calling a man a cannibal.
"That food was eaten thirty seasons ago," said the Adjutant
quietly. "If we talk for thirty seasons more it will never
come back. Tell us, now, what happened when the good waters were
reached after thy most wonderful land journey. If we listened to
the howling of every jackal the business of the town would stop,
as the saying is.
The Mugger must have been grateful for the interruption, because
he went on, with a rush:
"By the Right and Left of Gunga! when I came there never did I
see such waters!"
"Were they better, then, than the big flood of last season?"
said the Jackal.
"Better! That flood was no more than comes every five years--
a handful of drowned strangers, some chickens, and a dead
bullock in muddy water with cross-currents. But the season
I think of, the river was low, smooth, and even, and, as the
Gavial had warned me, the dead English came down, touching each
other. I got my girth in that season--my girth and my depth.
>From Agra, by Etawah and the broad waters by Allahabad----"
"Oh, the eddy that set under the walls of the fort at
Allahabad!" said the Adjutant. "They came in there like
widgeon to the reeds, and round and round they swung--thus!"
He went off into his horrible dance again, while the Jackal
looked on enviously. He naturally could not remember the
terrible year of the Mutiny they were talking about.
The Mugger continued:
"Yes, by Allahabad one lay still in the slack-water and let
twenty go by to pick one; and, above all, the English were not
cumbered with jewellery and nose-rings and anklets as my women
are nowadays. To delight in ornaments is to end with a rope for
a necklace, as the saying is. All the muggers of all the rivers
grew fat then, but it was my Fate to be fatter than them all.
The news was that the English were being hunted into the
rivers, and by the Right and Left of Gunga! we believed it
was true. So far as I went south I believed it to he true;
and I went down-stream beyond Monghyr and the tombs that look
over the river."
"I know that place," said the Adjutant. "Since those days
Monghyr is a lost city. Very few live there now."
"Thereafter I worked up-stream very slowly and lazily, and a
little above Monghyr there came down a boatful of white-faces--
alive! They were, as I remember, women, lying under a cloth
spread over sticks, and crying aloud. There was never a gun
fired at us, the watchers of the fords in those days. All the
guns were busy elsewhere. We could hear them day and night
inland, coming and going as the wind shifted. I rose up full
before the boat, because I had never seen white-faces alive,
though I knew them well--otherwise. A naked white child kneeled
by the side of the boat, and, stooping over, must needs try to
trail his hands in the river. It is a pretty thing to see how a
child loves running water. I had fed that day, but there was yet
a little unfilled space within me. Still, it was for sport and
not for food that I rose at the child"s hands. They were so
clear a mark that I did not even look when I closed; but they
were so small that though my jaws rang true--I am sure of that--
the child drew them up swiftly, unhurt. They must have passed
between tooth and tooth--those small white hands. I should have
caught him cross-wise at the elbows; but, as I said, it was only
for sport and desire to see new things that I rose at all.
They cried out one after another in the boat, and presently
I rose again to watch them. The boat was too heavy to push over.
They were only women, but he who trusts a woman will walk on
duckweed in a pool, as the saying is: and by the Right and Left
of Gunga, that is truth!"
"Once a woman gave me some dried skin from a fish," said
the Jackal. "I had hoped to get her baby, but horse-food is
better than the kick of a horse, as the saying is. What did
thy woman do?"
"She fired at me with a short gun of a kind I have never seen
before or since. Five times, one after another" (the Mugger must
have met with an old-fashioned revolver); "and I stayed open-
mouthed and gaping, my head in the smoke. Never did I see such
a thing. Five times, as swiftly as I wave my tail--thus!"
The Jackal, who had been growing more and more interested in
the story, had just time to leap back as the huge tail swung by
like a scythe.
"Not before the fifth shot," said the Mugger, as though he had
never dreamed of stunning one of his listeners--" not before the
fifth shot did I sink, and I rose in time to hear a boatman
telling all those white women that I was most certainly dead.
One bullet had gone under a neck-plate of mine. I know not if it
is there still, for the reason I cannot turn my head. Look and
see, child. It will show that my tale is true."
"I?" said the Jackal. "Shall an eater of old shoes, a bone-
cracker, presume, to doubt the word of the Envy of the River?
May my tail be bitten off by blind puppies if the shadow of such
a thought has crossed my humble mind! The Protector of the Poor
has condescended to inform me, his slave, that once in his life
he has been wounded by a woman. That is sufficient, and I will
tell the tale to all my children, asking for no proof."
"Over-much civility is sometimes no better than over-much
discourtesy, for, as the saying is, one can choke a guest with
curds. I do NOT desire that any children of thine should know
that the Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut took his only wound from a
woman. They will have much else to think of if they get their
meat as miserably as does their father."
"It is forgotten long ago! It was never said! There never
was a white woman! There was no boat! Nothing whatever happened
The Jackal waved his brush to show how completely everything was
wiped out of his memory, and sat down with an air.
"Indeed, very many things happened," said the Mugger, beaten in
his second attempt that night to get the better of his friend.
(Neither bore malice, however. Eat and be eaten was fair law
along the river, and the Jackal came in for his share of plunder
when the Mugger had finished a meal.) "I left that boat and went
up-stream, and, when I had reached Arrah and the back-waters
behind it, there were no more dead English. The river was empty
for a while. Then came one or two dead, in red coats, not
English, but of one kind all--Hindus and Purbeeahs--then five
and six abreast, and at last, from Arrah to the North beyond
Agra, it was as though whole villages had walked into the water.
They came out of little creeks one after another, as the logs
come down in the Rains. When the river rose they rose also in
companies from the shoals they had rested upon; and the falling
flood dragged them with it across the fields and through the
Jungle by the long hair. All night, too, going North, I heard
the guns, and by day the shod feet of men crossing fords, and
that noise which a heavy cart-wheel makes on sand under water;
and every ripple brought more dead. At last even I was afraid,
for I said: "If this thing happen to men, how shall the Mugger
of Mugger-Ghaut escape?" There were boats, too, that came up
behind me without sails, burning continually, as the cotton-
boats sometimes burn, but never sinking."
"Ah!" said the Adjutant. "Boats like those come to Calcutta of
the South. They are tall and black, they beat up the water
behind them with a tail, and they----"
"Are thrice as big as my village. MY boats were low and white;
they beat up the water on either side of them" and were no
larger than the boats of one who speaks truth should be.
They made me very afraid, and I left water and went back to this
my river, hiding by day and walking by night, when I could not
find little streams to help me. I came to my village again, but
I did not hope to see any of my people there. Yet they were
ploughing and sowing and reaping, and going to and fro in their
fields, as quietly as their own cattle."
"Was there still good food in the river?" said the Jackal.
"More than I had any desire for. Even I--and I do not eat mud--
even I was tired, and, as I remember, a little frightened of
this constant coming down of the silent ones. I heard my people
say in my village that all the English were dead; but those that
came, face down, with the current were NOT English, as my people
saw. Then my people said that it was best to say nothing at all,
but to pay the tax and plough the land. After a long time the
river cleared, and those that came down it had been clearly
drowned by the floods, as I could well see; and though it was
not so easy then to get food, I was heartily glad of it.
A little killing here and there is no bad thing--but even the
Mugger is sometimes satisfied, as the saying is."
"Marvellous! Most truly marvellous!" said the Jackal. "I am
become fat through merely hearing about so much good eating.
And afterward what, if it be permitted to ask, did the Protector
of the Poor do?"
"I said to myself--and by the Right and Left of Gunga! I locked
my jaws on that vow--I said I would never go roving any more.
So I lived by the Ghaut, very close to my own people, and I
watched over them year after year; and they loved me so much
that they threw marigold wreaths at my head whenever they saw it
lift. Yes, and my Fate has been very kind to me, and the river
is good enough to respect my poor and infirm presence; only----"
"No one is all happy from his beak to his tail," said the
Adjutant sympathetically. "What does the Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut
"That little white child which I did not get," said the Mugger,
with a deep sigh. "He was very small, but I have not forgotten.
I am old now, but before I die it is my desire to try one new
thing. It is true they are a heavy-footed, noisy, and foolish
people, and the sport would be small, but I remember the old
days above Benares, and, if the child lives, he will remember
still. It may be he goes up and down the bank of some river,
telling how he once passed his hands between the teeth of the
Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut, and lived to make a tale of it. My Fate
has been very kind, but that plagues me sometimes in my dreams--
the thought of the little white child in the bows of that boat."
He yawned, and closed his jaws. "And now I will rest and think.
Keep silent, my children, and respect the aged."
He turned stiffly, and shuffled to the top of the sand-bar,
while the Jackal drew back with the Adjutant to the shelter of
a tree stranded on the end nearest the railway bridge.
"That was a pleasant and profitable life," he grinned, looking
up inquiringly at the bird who towered above him. "And not once,
mark you, did he think fit to tell me where a morsel might have
been left along the banks. Yet I have told HIM a hundred times
of good things wallowing down-stream. How true is the saying,
"All the world forgets the Jackal and the Barber when the news
has been told!" Now he is going to sleep! Arrh!"
"How can a jackal hunt with a Mugger?" said the Adjutant
coolly. "Big thief and little thief; it is easy to say who
gets the pickings."
The Jackal turned, whining impatiently, and was going to curl
himself up under the tree-trunk, when suddenly he cowered, and
looked up through the draggled branches at the bridge almost
above his head.
"What now?" said the Adjutant, opening his wings uneasily.
"Wait till we see. The wind blows from us to them, but they are
not looking for us--those two men."
"Men, is it? My office protects me. All India knows I am holy."
The Adjutant, being a first-class scavenger, is allowed to go
where he pleases, and so this one never flinched.
"I am not worth a blow from anything better than an old shoe,"
said the Jackal, and listened again. "Hark to that footfall!"
he went on. "That was no country leather, but the shod foot of
a white-face. Listen again! Iron hits iron up there! It is a
gun! Friend, those heavy-footed, foolish English are coming to
speak with the Mugger."
"Warn him, then. He was called Protector of the Poor by some one
not unlike a starving Jackal but a little time ago."
"Let my cousin protect his own hide. He has told me again and
again there is nothing to fear from the white-faces. They must
be white-faces. Not a villager of Mugger-Ghaut would dare to
come after him. See, I said it was a gun! Now, with good luck,
we shall feed before daylight. He cannot hear well out of water,
and--this time it is not a woman!"
A shiny barrel glittered for a minute in the moonlight on the
girders. The Mugger was lying on the sand-bar as still as his
own shadow, his fore-feet spread out a little, his head dropped
between them, snoring like a--mugger.
A voice on the bridge whispered: "It's an odd shot--straight
down almost--but as safe as houses. Better try behind the neck.
Golly! what a brute! The villagers will be wild if he's shot,
though. He's the deota [godling] of these parts."
"Don't care a rap," another voice answered; he took about
fifteen of my best coolies while the bridge was building,
and it's time he was put a stop to. I've been after him in
a boat for weeks. Stand by with the Martini as soon as I've
given him both barrels of this."
"Mind the kick, then. A double four-bore's no joke."
"That's for him to decide. Here goes!"
There was a roar like the sound of a small cannon (the biggest
sort of elephant-rifle is not very different from some
artillery), and a double streak of flame, followed by the
stinging crack of a Martini, whose long bullet makes nothing of
a crocodile's plates. But the explosive bullets did the work.
One of them struck just behind the Mugger's neck, a hand's-
breadth to the left of thle backbone, while the other burst
a little lower down, at the beginning of the tail. In ninety-
nine cases out of a hundred a mortally-wounded crocodile can
scramble to deep water and get away; but the Mugger of Mugger-
Ghaut was literally broken into three pieces. He hardly moved
his head before the life went out of him, and he lay as flat
as the Jackal.
"Thunder and lightning! Lightning and thunder!" said that
miserable little beast. "Has the thing that pulls the covered
carts over the bridge tumbled at last?"
"It is no more than a gun," said the Adjutant, though his
very tail-feathers quivered. "Nothing more than a gun. He is
certainly dead. Here come the white-faces."
The two Englishmen had hurried down from the bridge and across
to the sand-bar, where they stood admiring the length of the
Mugger. Then a native with an axe cut off the big head, and four
men dragged it across the spit.
"The last time that I had my hand in a Mugger's mouth," said one
of the Englishmen, stooping down (he was the man who had built
the bridge), "it was when I was about five years old--coming
down the river by boat to Monghyr. I was a Mutiny baby, as they
call it. Poor mother was in the boat, too, and she often told me
how she fired dad's old pistol at the beast's head."
"Well, you've certainly had your revenge on the chief of the
clan--even if the gun has made your nose bleed. Hi, you boatmen!
Haul that head up the bank, and we'll boil it for the skull.
The skin's too knocked about to keep. Come along to bed now.
This was worth sitting up all night for, wasn't it?"
Curiously enough, the Jackal and the Adjutant made the very same
remark not three minutes after the men had left.
A RIPPLE SONG
Once a ripple came to land
In the golden sunset burning--
Lapped against a maiden's hand,
By the ford returning.
Dainty foot and gentle breast--
Here, across, be glad and rest.
"Maiden, wait," the ripple saith.
"Wait awhile, for I am Death!"
"Where my lover calls I go--
Shame it were to treat him coldly--
'Twas a fish that circled so,
Turning over boldly."
Dainty foot and tender heart,
Wait the loaded ferry-cart.
"Wait, ah, wait!" the ripple saith;
"Maiden, wait, for I am Death!"
"When my lover calls I haste-
Dame Disdain was never wedded!"
Ripple-ripple round her waist,
Clear the current eddied.
Foolish heart and faithful hand,
Little feet that touched no land.
Far away the ripple sped,
THE KING'S ANKUS
These are the Four that are never content, that have never
been filled since the Dews began--
Jacala's mouth, and the glut of the Kite, and the hands of the
Ape, and the Eyes of Man.
Kaa, the big Rock Python, had changed his skin for perhaps the
two-hundredth time since his birth; and Mowgli, who never forgot
that he owed his life to Kaa for a night's work at Cold Lairs,
which you may perhaps remember, went to congratulate him.
Skin-changing always makes a snake moody and depressed till the
new skin begins to shine and look beautiful. Kaa never made fun
of Mowgli any more, but accepted him, as the other Jungle People
did, for the Master of the Jungle, and brought him all the news
that a python of his size would naturally hear. What Kaa did not
know about the Middle Jungle, as they call it,--the life that
runs close to the earth or under it, the boulder, burrow, and
the tree-bole life,--might have been written upon the smallest
of his scales.
That afternoon Mowgli was sitting in the circle of Kaa!s great
coils, fingering the flaked and broken old skin that lay all
looped and twisted among the rocks just as Kaa had left it.
Kaa had very courteously packed himself under Mowgli's broad,
bare shoulders, so that the boy was really resting in a
"Even to the scales of the eyes it is perfect," said Mowgli,
under his breath, playing with the old skin. "Strange to see the
covering of one's own head at one's own feet!"
"Ay, but I lack feet," said Kaa; "and since this is the custom
of all my people, I do not find it strange. Does thy skin never
feel old and harsh?"
"Then go I and wash, Flathead; but, it is true, in the great
heats I have wished I could slough my skin without pain, and
"I wash, and ALSO I take off my skin. How looks the new coat?"
Mowgli ran his hand down the diagonal checkerings of the immense
back. "The Turtle is harder-backed, but not so gay," he said
judgmatically. "The Frog, my name-bearer, is more gay, but not
so hard. It is very beautiful to see--like the mottling in the
mouth of a lily."
"It needs water. A new skin never comes to full colour before
the first bath. Let us go bathe."
"I will carry thee," said Mowgli; and he stooped down, laughing,
to lift the middle section of Kaa's great body, just where the
barrel was thickest. A man might just, as well have tried to
heave up a two-foot water-main; and Kaa lay still, puffing with
quiet amusement. Then the regular evening game began--the Boy in
the flush of his great strength, and the Python in his sumptuous
new skin, standing up one against the other for a wrestling
match--a trial of eye and strength. Of course, Kaa could have
crushed a dozen Mowglis if he had let himself go; but he played
carefully, and never loosed one-tenth of his power. Ever since
Mowgli was strong enough to endure a little rough handling,
Kaa had taught him this game, and it suppled his limbs as
nothing else could. Sometimes Mowgli would stand lapped almost
to his throat in Kaa's shifting coils, striving to get one arm
free and catch him by the throat. Then Kaa would give way
limply, and Mowgli, with both quick-moving feet, would try to
cramp the purchase of that huge tail as it flung backward
feeling for a rock or a stump. They would rock to and fro,
head to head, each waiting for his chance, till the beautiful,
statue-like group melted in a whirl of black-and-yellow coils
and struggling legs and arms, to rise up again and again.
"Now! now! now!" said Kaa, making feints with his head that
even Mowgli's quick hand could not turn aside. "Look! I touch
thee here, Little Brother! Here, and here! Are thy hands numb?
The game always ended in one way--with a straight, driving blow
of the head that knocked the boy over and over. Mowgli could
never learn the guard for that lightning lunge, and, as Kaa
said, there was not the least use in trying.
"Good hunting!" Kaa grunted at last; and Mowgli, as usual, was
shot away half a dozen yards, gasping and laughing. He rose with
his fingers full of grass, and followed Kaa to the wise snake's
pet bathing-place--a deep, pitchy-black pool surrounded with
rocks, and made interesting by sunken tree-stumps. The boy
slipped in, Jungle-fashion, without a sound, and dived across;
rose, too, without a sound, and turned on his back, his arms
behind his head, watching the moon rising above the rocks,
and breaking up her reflection in the water with his toes.
Kaa's diamond-shaped head cut the pool like a razor, and came
out to rest on Mowgli's shoulder. They lay still, soaking
luxuriously in the cool water.
"It is VERY good," said Mowgli at last, sleepily. Now, in the
Man-Pack, at this hour, as I remember, they laid them down upon
hard pieces of wood in the inside of a mud-trap, and, having
carefully shut out all the clean winds, drew foul cloth over
their heavy heads and made evil songs through their noses.
It is better in the Jungle."
A hurrying cobra slipped down over a rock and drank, gave them
"Good hunting!" and went away.
"Sssh!" said Kaa, as though he had suddenly remembered
something. "So the Jungle gives thee all that thou hast ever
desired, Little Brother?"
"Not all," said Mowgli, laughing; "else there would be a new and
strong Shere Khan to kill once a moon. Now, I could kill with my
own hands, asking no help of buffaloes. And also I have wished
the sun to shine in the middle of the Rains, and the Rains to
cover the sun in the deep of summer; and also I have never gone
empty but I wished that I had killed a goat; and also I have
never killed a goat but I wished it had been buck; nor buck but
I wished it had been nilghai. But thus do we feel, all of us."
"Thou hast no other desire?" the big snake demanded.
"What more can I wish? I have the Jungle, and the favour of the
Jungle! Is there more anywhere between sunrise and sunset?"
"Now, the Cobra said----" Kaa began. What cobra? He that went
away just now said nothing. He was hunting."
"It was another."
"Hast thou many dealings with the Poison People? I give them
their own path. They carry death in the fore-tooth, and that
is not good--for they are so small. But what hood is this thou
hast spoken with?"
Kaa rolled slowly in the water like a steamer in a beam sea.
"Three or four moons since," said he, "I hunted in Cold Lairs,
which place thou hast not forgotten. And the thing I hunted fled
shrieking past the tanks and to that house whose side I once
broke for thy sake, and ran into the ground."
"But the people of Cold Lairs do not live in burrows." Mowgli
knew that Kaa was telling of the Monkey People.
"This thing was not living, but seeking to live," Kaa replied,
with a quiver of his tongue. "He ran into a burrow that led
very far. I followed, and having killed, I slept. When I
waked I went forward."
"Under the earth?"
"Even so, coming at last upon a White Hood [a white cobra],
who spoke of things beyond my knowledge, and showed me many
things I had never before seen."
"New game? Was it good hunting?" Mowgli turned quickly on
"It was no game, and would have broken all my teeth; but the
White Hood said that a man--he spoke as one that knew the
breed--that a man would give the breath under his ribs for only
the sight of those things."
"We will look," said Mowgli. "I now remember that I was
once a man."
"Slowly--slowly. It was haste killed the Yellow Snake that ate
the sun. We two spoke together under the earth, and I spoke of
thee, naming thee as a man. Said the White Hood (and he is
indeed as old as the Jungle): 'It is long since I have seen a
man. Let him come, and he shall see all these things, for the
least of which very many men would die.'"
"That MUST be new game. And yet the Poison People do not tell us
when game is afoot. They are an unfriendly folk."
"It is NOT game. It is--it is--I cannot say what it is."
"We will go there. I have never seen a White Hood, and I wish to
see the other things. Did he kill them?"
"They are all dead things. He says he is the keeper of
"Ah! As a wolf stands above meat he has taken to his own lair.
Let us go."
Mowgli swam to bank, rolled on the grass to dry himself, and the
two set off for Cold Lairs, the deserted city of which you may
have heard. Mowgli was not the least afraid of the Monkey People
in those days, but the Monkey People had the liveliest horror of
Mowgli. Their tribes, however, were raiding in the Jungle, and
so Cold Lairs stood empty and silent in the moonlight. Kaa led
up to the ruins of the queens' pavilion that stood on the
terrace, slipped over the rubbish, and dived down the half-
choked staircase that went underground from the centre of the
pavilion. Mowgli gave the snake-call,--"We be of one blood,
ye and I,"--and followed on his hands and knees. They crawled
a long distance down a sloping passage that turned and twisted
several times, and at last came to where the root of some great
tree, growing thirty feet overhead, had forced out a solid stone
in the wall. They crept through the gap, and found themselves
in a large vault, whose domed roof had been also broken away
by tree-roots so that a few streaks of light dropped down into
"A safe lair," said Mowgli, rising to his firm feet, "but
over-far to visit daily. And now what do we see?"
"Am I nothing?" said a voice in the middle of the vault;
and Mowgli saw something white move till, little by little,
there stood up the hugest cobra he had ever set eyes on--a
creature nearly eight feet long, and bleached by being in
darkness to an old ivory-white. Even the spectacle-marks of his
spread hood had faded to faint yellow. His eyes were as red as
rubies, and altogether he was most wonderful.
"Good hunting!" said Mowgli, who carried his manners with his
knife, and that never left him.
"What of the city?" said the White Cobra, without answering the
greeting. "What of the great, the walled city--the city of a
hundred elephants and twenty thousand horses, and cattle past
counting--the city of the King of Twenty Kings? I grow deaf
here, and it is long since I heard their war-gongs."
"The Jungle is above our heads," said Mowgli. I know only Hathi
and his sons among elephants. Bagheera has slain all the horses
in one village, and--what is a King?"
"I told thee," said Kaa softly to the Cobra,--"I told thee, four
moons ago, that thy city was not."
"The city--the great city of the forest whose gates are guarded
by the King's towers--can never pass. They builded it before my
father's father came from the egg, and it shall endure when my
son's sons are as white as I! Salomdhi, son of Chandrabija,
son of Viyeja, son of Yegasuri, made it in the days of Bappa
Rawal. Whose cattle are YE?"
"It is a lost trail," said Mowgli, turning to Kaa. "I know not
"Nor I. He is very old. Father of Cobras, there is only the
Jungle here, as it has been since the beginning."
"Then who is HE," said the White Cobra, "sitting down before
me, unafraid, knowing not the name of the King, talking our
talk through a man's lips? Who is he with the knife and the
"Mowgli they call me," was the answer. "I am of the Jungle.
The wolves are my people, and Kaa here is my brother. Father
of Cobras, who art thou?"
"I am the Warden of the King's Treasure. Kurrun Raja builded the
stone above me, in the days when my skin was dark, that I might
teach death to those who came to steal. Then they let down the
treasure through the stone, and I heard the song of the Brahmins
"Umm!" said Mowgli to himself. "I have dealt with one Brahmin
already, in the Man-Pack, and--I know what I know. Evil comes
here in a little."
"Five times since I came here has the stone been lifted, but
always to let down more, and never to take away. There are no
riches like these riches--the treasures of a hundred kings.
But it is long and long since the stone was last moved, and
I think that my city has forgotten."
"There is no city. Look up. Yonder are roots of the great trees
tearing the stones apart. Trees and men do not grow together,"
"Twice and thrice have men found their way here," the White
Cobra answered savagely; "but they never spoke till I came upon
them groping in the dark, and then they cried only a little
time. But ye come with lies, Man and Snake both, and would have
me believe the city is not, and that my wardship ends. Little do
men change in the years. But I change never! Till the stone is
lifted, and the Brahmins come down singing the songs that
I know, and feed me with warm milk, and take me to the light
again, I--I--_I_, and no other, am the Warden of the King's
Treasure! The city is dead, ye say, and here are the roots of
the trees? Stoop down, then, and take what ye will. Earth has no
treasure like to these. Man with the snake's tongue, if thou
canst go alive by the way that thou hast entered it, the lesser
Kings will be thy servants!"
"Again the trail is lost," said Mowgli coolly. "Can any jackal
have burrowed so deep and bitten this great White Hood? He is
surely mad. Father of Cobras, I see nothing here to take away."
"By the Gods of the Sun and Moon, it is the madness of death
upon the boy!" hissed the Cobra. "Before thine eyes close I will
allow thee this favour. Look thou, and see what man has never
"They do not well in the Jungle who speak to Mowgli of favours,"
said the boy, between his teeth; "but the dark changes all, as I
know. I will look, if that please thee."
He stared with puckered-up eyes round the vault, and then lifted
up from the floor a handful of something that glittered.
"Oho!" said he, "this is like the stuff they play with in the
Man-Pack: only this is yellow and the other was brown."
He let the gold pieces fall, and move forward. The floor of the
vault was buried some five or six feet deep in coined gold and
silver that had burst from the sacks it had been originally
stored in, and, in the long years, the metal had packed and
settled as sand packs at low tide. On it and in it and rising
through it, as wrecks lift through the sand, were jewelled
elephant-howdahs of embossed silver, studded with plates of
hammered gold, and adorned with carbuncles and turquoises.
There were palanquins and litters for carrying queens, framed
and braced with silver and enamel, with jade-handled poles and
amber curtain-rings; there were golden candlesticks hung with
pierced emeralds that quivered on the branches; there were
studded images, five feet high, of forgotten gods, silver with
jewelled eyes; there were coats of mail, gold inlaid on steel,
and fringed with rotted and blackened seed-pearls; there were
helmets, crested and beaded with pigeon's-blood rubies; there
were shields of lacquer, of tortoise-shell and rhinoceros-hide,
strapped and bossed with red gold and set with emeralds at the
edge; there were sheaves of diamond-hilted swords, daggers, and
hunting-knives; there were golden sacrificial bowls and ladles,
and portable altars of a shape that never sees the light of day;
there were jade cups and bracelets; there were incense-burners,
combs, and pots for perfume, henna, and eye-powder, all in
embossed gold; there were nose-rings, armlets, head-bands,
finger-rings, and girdles past any counting; there were belts,
seven fingers broad, of square-cut diamonds and rubies, and
wooden boxes, trebly clamped with iron, from which the wood had
fallen away in powder, showing the pile of uncut star-sapphires,
opals, cat's-eyes, sapphires, rubies, diamonds, emeralds, and
The White Cobra was right. No mere money would begin to pay the
value of this treasure, the sifted pickings of centuries of war,
plunder, trade, and taxation. The coins alone were priceless,
leaving out of count all the precious stones; and the dead
weight of the gold and silver alone might be two or three
hundred tons. Every native ruler in India to-day, however poor,
has a hoard to which he is always adding; and though, once in
a long while, some enlightened prince may send off forty or
fifty bullock-cart loads of silver to be exchanged for
Government securities, the bulk of them keep their treasure
and the knowledge of it very closely to themselves.
But Mowgli naturally did not understand what these things meant.
The knives interested him a little, but they did not balance so
well as his own, and so he dropped them. At last he found
something really fascinating laid on the front of a howdah half
buried in the coins. It was a three-foot ankus, or elephant-
goad--something like a small boat-hook. The top was one round,
shining ruby, and eight inches of the handle below it were
studded with rough turquoises close together, giving a most
satisfactory grip. Below them was a rim of jade with a flower-
pattern running round it--only the leaves were emeralds, and the
blossoms were rubies sunk in the cool, green stone. The rest of
the handle was a shaft of pure ivory, while the point--the spike
and hook--was gold-inlaid steel with pictures of elephant-
catching; and the pictures attracted Mowgli, who saw that they
had something to do with his friend Hathi the Silent.
The White Cobra had been following him closely.
"Is this not worth dying to behold?" he said. Have I not done
thee a great favour?"
"I do not understand," said Mowgli. "The things are hard and
cold, and by no means good to eat. But this"--he lifted the
ankus--"I desire to take away, that I may see it in the sun.
Thou sayest they are all thine? Wilt thou give it to me, and
I will bring thee frogs to eat?"
The White Cobra fairly shook with evil delight. "Assuredly
I will give it," he said. "All that is here I will give thee--
till thou goest away."
"But I go now. This place is dark and cold, and I wish to take
the thorn-pointed thing to the Jungle."
"Look by thy foot! What is that there?" Mowgli picked up
something white and smooth. "It is the bone of a man's head,"
he said quietly. "And here are two more."
"They came to take the treasure away many years ago. I spoke to
them in the dark, and they lay still."
"But what do I need of this that is called treasure? If thou
wilt give me the ankus to take away, it is good hunting. If not,
it is good hunting none the less. I do not fight with the Poison
People, and I was also taught the Master-word of thy tribe."
"There is but one Master-word here. It is mine!"
Kaa flung himself forward with blazing eyes. "Who bade me bring
the Man?" he hissed.
"I surely," the old Cobra lisped. "It is long since I have seen
Man, and this Man speaks our tongue."
"But there was no talk of killing. How can I go to the Jungle
and say that I have led him to his death?" said Kaa.
"I talk not of killing till the time. And as to thy going or
not going, there is the hole in the wall. Peace, now, thou fat
monkey-killer! I have but to touch thy neck, and the Jungle will
know thee no longer. Never Man came here that went away with the
breath under his ribs. I am the Warden of the Treasure of the