_ Mowgli's Brothers
Now Rann the Kite brings home the night
That Mang the Bat sets free--
The herds are shut in byre and hut
For loosed till dawn are we.
This is the hour of pride and power,
Talon and tush and claw.
Oh, hear the call!--Good hunting all
That keep the Jungle Law!
Night-Song in the Jungle
It was seven o'clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills
when Father Wolf woke up from his day's rest, scratched himself,
yawned, and spread out his paws one after the other to get rid of
the sleepy feeling in their tips. Mother Wolf lay with her big
gray nose dropped across her four tumbling, squealing cubs, and
the moon shone into the mouth of the cave where they all lived.
"Augrh!" said Father Wolf. "It is time to hunt again." He was
going to spring down hill when a little shadow with a bushy tail
crossed the threshold and whined: "Good luck go with you, O Chief
of the Wolves. And good luck and strong white teeth go with noble
children that they may never forget the hungry in this world."
It was the jackal--Tabaqui, the Dish-licker--and the
wolves of India despise Tabaqui because he runs about making
mischief, and telling tales, and eating rags and pieces of leather
from the village rubbish-heaps. But they are afraid of him too,
because Tabaqui, more than anyone else in the jungle, is apt to go
mad, and then he forgets that he was ever afraid of anyone, and
runs through the forest biting everything in his way. Even the
tiger runs and hides when little Tabaqui goes mad, for madness is
the most disgraceful thing that can overtake a wild creature. We
call it hydrophobia, but they call it dewanee--the madness--
"Enter, then, and look," said Father Wolf stiffly, "but there
is no food here."
"For a wolf, no," said Tabaqui, "but for so mean a person as
myself a dry bone is a good feast. Who are we, the Gidur-log [the
jackal people], to pick and choose?" He scuttled to the back of
the cave, where he found the bone of a buck with some meat on it,
and sat cracking the end merrily.
"All thanks for this good meal," he said, licking his lips.
"How beautiful are the noble children! How large are their eyes!
And so young too! Indeed, indeed, I might have remembered that
the children of kings are men from the beginning."
Now, Tabaqui knew as well as anyone else that there is nothing
so unlucky as to compliment children to their faces. It pleased
him to see Mother and Father Wolf look uncomfortable.
Tabaqui sat still, rejoicing in the mischief that he had made,
and then he said spitefully:
"Shere Khan, the Big One, has shifted his hunting grounds. He
will hunt among these hills for the next moon, so he has told me."
Shere Khan was the tiger who lived near the Waingunga River,
twenty miles away.
"He has no right!" Father Wolf began angrily--"By the Law
of the Jungle he has no right to change his quarters without due
warning. He will frighten every head of game within ten miles,
and I--I have to kill for two, these days."
"His mother did not call him Lungri [the Lame One] for
nothing," said Mother Wolf quietly. "He has been lame in one foot
from his birth. That is why he has only killed cattle. Now the
villagers of the Waingunga are angry with him, and he has come
here to make our villagers angry. They will scour the jungle for
him when he is far away, and we and our children must run when the
grass is set alight. Indeed, we are very grateful to Shere Khan!"
"Shall I tell him of your gratitude?" said Tabaqui.
"Out!" snapped Father Wolf. "Out and hunt with thy master.
Thou hast done harm enough for one night."
"I go," said Tabaqui quietly. "Ye can hear Shere Khan below
in the thickets. I might have saved myself the message."
Father Wolf listened, and below in the valley that ran down to
a little river he heard the dry, angry, snarly, singsong whine of
a tiger who has caught nothing and does not care if all the jungle
"The fool!" said Father Wolf. "To begin a night's work with
that noise! Does he think that our buck are like his fat
"H'sh. It is neither bullock nor buck he hunts to-night,"
said Mother Wolf. "It is Man."
The whine had changed to a sort of humming purr that seemed to
come from every quarter of the compass. It was the noise that
bewilders woodcutters and gypsies sleeping in the open, and makes
them run sometimes into the very mouth of the tiger.
"Man!" said Father Wolf, showing all his white teeth. "Faugh!
Are there not enough beetles and frogs in the tanks that he must
eat Man, and on our ground too!"
The Law of the Jungle, which never orders anything without a
reason, forbids every beast to eat Man except when he is killing
to show his children how to kill, and then he must hunt outside
the hunting grounds of his pack or tribe. The real reason for
this is that man-killing means, sooner or later, the arrival of
white men on elephants, with guns, and hundreds of brown men with
gongs and rockets and torches. Then everybody in the jungle
suffers. The reason the beasts give among themselves is that Man
is the weakest and most defenseless of all living things, and it
is unsportsmanlike to touch him. They say too--and it is true
--that man-eaters become mangy, and lose their teeth.
The purr grew louder, and ended in the full-throated "Aaarh!"
of the tiger's charge.
Then there was a howl--an untigerish howl--from Shere
Khan. "He has missed," said Mother Wolf. "What is it?"
Father Wolf ran out a few paces and heard Shere Khan muttering
and mumbling savagely as he tumbled about in the scrub.
"The fool has had no more sense than to jump at a woodcutter's
campfire, and has burned his feet," said Father Wolf with a grunt.
"Tabaqui is with him."
"Something is coming uphill," said Mother Wolf, twitching one
ear. "Get ready."
The bushes rustled a little in the thicket, and Father Wolf
dropped with his haunches under him, ready for his leap. Then, if
you had been watching, you would have seen the most wonderful
thing in the world--the wolf checked in mid-spring. He made his
bound before he saw what it was he was jumping at, and then he
tried to stop himself. The result was that he shot up straight
into the air for four or five feet, landing almost where he left
"Man!" he snapped. "A man's cub. Look!"
Directly in front of him, holding on by a low branch, stood a
naked brown baby who could just walk--as soft and as dimpled a
little atom as ever came to a wolf's cave at night. He looked up
into Father Wolf's face, and laughed.
"Is that a man's cub?" said Mother Wolf. "I have never seen
one. Bring it here."
A Wolf accustomed to moving his own cubs can, if necessary,
mouth an egg without breaking it, and though Father Wolf's jaws
closed right on the child's back not a tooth even scratched the
skin as he laid it down among the cubs.
"How little! How naked, and--how bold!" said Mother Wolf
softly. The baby was pushing his way between the cubs to get
close to the warm hide. "Ahai! He is taking his meal with the
others. And so this is a man's cub. Now, was there ever a wolf
that could boast of a man's cub among her children?"
"I have heard now and again of such a thing, but never in our
Pack or in my time," said Father Wolf. "He is altogether without
hair, and I could kill him with a touch of my foot. But see, he
looks up and is not afraid."
The moonlight was blocked out of the mouth of the cave, for
Shere Khan's great square head and shoulders were thrust into the
entrance. Tabaqui, behind him, was squeaking: "My lord, my lord,
it went in here!"
"Shere Khan does us great honor," said Father Wolf, but his
eyes were very angry. "What does Shere Khan need?"
"My quarry. A man's cub went this way," said Shere Khan.
"Its parents have run off. Give it to me."
Shere Khan had jumped at a woodcutter's campfire, as Father
Wolf had said, and was furious from the pain of his burned feet.
But Father Wolf knew that the mouth of the cave was too narrow for
a tiger to come in by. Even where he was, Shere Khan's shoulders
and forepaws were cramped for want of room, as a man's would be if
he tried to fight in a barrel.
"The Wolves are a free people," said Father Wolf. "They take
orders from the Head of the Pack, and not from any striped
cattle-killer. The man's cub is ours--to kill if we choose."
"Ye choose and ye do not choose! What talk is this of
choosing? By the bull that I killed, am I to stand nosing into
your dog's den for my fair dues? It is I, Shere Khan, who speak!"
The tiger's roar filled the cave with thunder. Mother Wolf
shook herself clear of the cubs and sprang forward, her eyes, like
two green moons in the darkness, facing the blazing eyes of Shere
"And it is I, Raksha [The Demon], who answers. The man's cub
is mine, Lungri--mine to me! He shall not be killed. He shall
live to run with the Pack and to hunt with the Pack; and in the
end, look you, hunter of little naked cubs--frog-eater--
fish-killer--he shall hunt thee! Now get hence, or by the
Sambhur that I killed (I eat no starved cattle), back thou goest
to thy mother, burned beast of the jungle, lamer than ever thou
camest into the world! Go!"
Father Wolf looked on amazed. He had almost forgotten the
days when he won Mother Wolf in fair fight from five other wolves,
when she ran in the Pack and was not called The Demon for
compliment's sake. Shere Khan might have faced Father Wolf, but
he could not stand up against Mother Wolf, for he knew that where
he was she had all the advantage of the ground, and would fight to
the death. So he backed out of the cave mouth growling, and when
he was clear he shouted:
"Each dog barks in his own yard! We will see what the Pack
will say to this fostering of man-cubs. The cub is mine, and to
my teeth he will come in the end, O bush-tailed thieves!"
Mother Wolf threw herself down panting among the cubs, and
Father Wolf said to her gravely:
"Shere Khan speaks this much truth. The cub must be shown to
the Pack. Wilt thou still keep him, Mother?"
"Keep him!" she gasped. "He came naked, by night, alone and
very hungry; yet he was not afraid! Look, he has pushed one of my
babes to one side already. And that lame butcher would have
killed him and would have run off to the Waingunga while the
villagers here hunted through all our lairs in revenge! Keep him?
Assuredly I will keep him. Lie still, little frog. O thou Mowgli
--for Mowgli the Frog I will call thee--the time will come when
thou wilt hunt Shere Khan as he has hunted thee."
"But what will our Pack say?" said Father Wolf.
The Law of the Jungle lays down very clearly that any wolf
may, when he marries, withdraw from the Pack he belongs to. But
as soon as his cubs are old enough to stand on their feet he must
bring them to the Pack Council, which is generally held once a
month at full moon, in order that the other wolves may identify
them. After that inspection the cubs are free to run where they
please, and until they have killed their first buck no excuse is
accepted if a grown wolf of the Pack kills one of them. The
punishment is death where the murderer can be found; and if you
think for a minute you will see that this must be so.
Father Wolf waited till his cubs could run a little, and then
on the night of the Pack Meeting took them and Mowgli and Mother
Wolf to the Council Rock--a hilltop covered with stones and
boulders where a hundred wolves could hide. Akela, the great gray
Lone Wolf, who led all the Pack by strength and cunning, lay out
at full length on his rock, and below him sat forty or more wolves
of every size and color, from badger-colored veterans who could
handle a buck alone to young black three-year-olds who thought
they could. The Lone Wolf had led them for a year now. He had
fallen twice into a wolf trap in his youth, and once he had been
beaten and left for dead; so he knew the manners and customs of
men. There was very little talking at the Rock. The cubs tumbled
over each other in the center of the circle where their mothers
and fathers sat, and now and again a senior wolf would go quietly
up to a cub, look at him carefully, and return to his place on
noiseless feet. Sometimes a mother would push her cub far out
into the moonlight to be sure that he had not been overlooked.
Akela from his rock would cry: "Ye know the Law--ye know the
Law. Look well, O Wolves!" And the anxious mothers would take up
the call: "Look--look well, O Wolves!"
At last--and Mother Wolf's neck bristles lifted as the time
came--Father Wolf pushed "Mowgli the Frog," as they called him,
into the center, where he sat laughing and playing with some
pebbles that glistened in the moonlight.
Akela never raised his head from his paws, but went on with
the monotonous cry: "Look well!" A muffled roar came up from
behind the rocks--the voice of Shere Khan crying: "The cub is
mine. Give him to me. What have the Free People to do with a
man's cub?" Akela never even twitched his ears. All he said was:
"Look well, O Wolves! What have the Free People to do with the
orders of any save the Free People? Look well!"
There was a chorus of deep growls, and a young wolf in his
fourth year flung back Shere Khan's question to Akela: "What have
the Free People to do with a man's cub?" Now, the Law of the
Jungle lays down that if there is any dispute as to the right of a
cub to be accepted by the Pack, he must be spoken for by at least
two members of the Pack who are not his father and mother.
"Who speaks for this cub?" said Akela. "Among the Free People
who speaks?" There was no answer and Mother Wolf got ready for
what she knew would be her last fight, if things came to fighting.
Then the only other creature who is allowed at the Pack
Council--Baloo, the sleepy brown bear who teaches the wolf cubs
the Law of the Jungle: old Baloo, who can come and go where he
pleases because he eats only nuts and roots and honey--rose upon
his hind quarters and grunted.
"The man's cub--the man's cub?" he said. "I speak for the
man's cub. There is no harm in a man's cub. I have no gift of
words, but I speak the truth. Let him run with the Pack, and be
entered with the others. I myself will teach him."
"We need yet another," said Akela. "Baloo has spoken, and he
is our teacher for the young cubs. Who speaks besides Baloo?"
A black shadow dropped down into the circle. It was Bagheera
the Black Panther, inky black all over, but with the panther
markings showing up in certain lights like the pattern of watered
silk. Everybody knew Bagheera, and nobody cared to cross his
path; for he was as cunning as Tabaqui, as bold as the wild
buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant. But he had a
voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree, and a skin
softer than down.
"O Akela, and ye the Free People," he purred, "I have no right
in your assembly, but the Law of the Jungle says that if there is
a doubt which is not a killing matter in regard to a new cub, the
life of that cub may be bought at a price. And the Law does not
say who may or may not pay that price. Am I right?"
"Good! Good!" said the young wolves, who are always hungry.
"Listen to Bagheera. The cub can be bought for a price. It is
"Knowing that I have no right to speak here, I ask your
"Speak then," cried twenty voices.
"To kill a naked cub is shame. Besides, he may make better
sport for you when he is grown. Baloo has spoken in his behalf.
Now to Baloo's word I will add one bull, and a fat one, newly
killed, not half a mile from here, if ye will accept the man's cub
according to the Law. Is it difficult?"
There was a clamor of scores of voices, saying: "What matter?
He will die in the winter rains. He will scorch in the sun. What
harm can a naked frog do us? Let him run with the Pack. Where is
the bull, Bagheera? Let him be accepted." And then came Akela's
deep bay, crying: "Look well--look well, O Wolves!"
Mowgli was still deeply interested in the pebbles, and he did
not notice when the wolves came and looked at him one by one. At
last they all went down the hill for the dead bull, and only
Akela, Bagheera, Baloo, and Mowgli's own wolves were left. Shere
Khan roared still in the night, for he was very angry that Mowgli
had not been handed over to him.
"Ay, roar well," said Bagheera, under his whiskers, "for the
time will come when this naked thing will make thee roar to
another tune, or I know nothing of man."
"It was well done," said Akela. "Men and their cubs are very
wise. He may be a help in time."
"Truly, a help in time of need; for none can hope to lead the
Pack forever," said Bagheera.
Akela said nothing. He was thinking of the time that comes to
every leader of every pack when his strength goes from him and he
gets feebler and feebler, till at last he is killed by the wolves
and a new leader comes up--to be killed in his turn.
"Take him away," he said to Father Wolf, "and train him as
befits one of the Free People."
And that is how Mowgli was entered into the Seeonee Wolf Pack
for the price of a bull and on Baloo's good word.
Now you must be content to skip ten or eleven whole years, and
only guess at all the wonderful life that Mowgli led among the
wolves, because if it were written out it would fill ever so many
books. He grew up with the cubs, though they, of course, were
grown wolves almost before he was a child. And Father Wolf taught
him his business, and the meaning of things in the jungle, till
every rustle in the grass, every breath of the warm night air,
every note of the owls above his head, every scratch of a bat's
claws as it roosted for a while in a tree, and every splash of
every little fish jumping in a pool meant just as much to him as
the work of his office means to a business man. When he was not
learning he sat out in the sun and slept, and ate and went to
sleep again. When he felt dirty or hot he swam in the forest
pools; and when he wanted honey (Baloo told him that honey and
nuts were just as pleasant to eat as raw meat) he climbed up for
it, and that Bagheera showed him how to do. Bagheera would lie
out on a branch and call, "Come along, Little Brother," and at
first Mowgli would cling like the sloth, but afterward he would
fling himself through the branches almost as boldly as the gray
ape. He took his place at the Council Rock, too, when the Pack
met, and there he discovered that if he stared hard at any wolf,
the wolf would be forced to drop his eyes, and so he used to stare
for fun. At other times he would pick the long thorns out of the
pads of his friends, for wolves suffer terribly from thorns and
burs in their coats. He would go down the hillside into the
cultivated lands by night, and look very curiously at the
villagers in their huts, but he had a mistrust of men because
Bagheera showed him a square box with a drop gate so cunningly
hidden in the jungle that he nearly walked into it, and told him
that it was a trap. He loved better than anything else to go with
Bagheera into the dark warm heart of the forest, to sleep all
through the drowsy day, and at night see how Bagheera did his
killing. Bagheera killed right and left as he felt hungry, and so
did Mowgli--with one exception. As soon as he was old enough to
understand things, Bagheera told him that he must never touch
cattle because he had been bought into the Pack at the price of a
bull's life. "All the jungle is thine," said Bagheera, "and thou
canst kill everything that thou art strong enough to kill; but for
the sake of the bull that bought thee thou must never kill or eat
any cattle young or old. That is the Law of the Jungle." Mowgli
And he grew and grew strong as a boy must grow who does not
know that he is learning any lessons, and who has nothing in the
world to think of except things to eat.
Mother Wolf told him once or twice that Shere Khan was not a
creature to be trusted, and that some day he must kill Shere Khan.
But though a young wolf would have remembered that advice every
hour, Mowgli forgot it because he was only a boy--though he
would have called himself a wolf if he had been able to speak in
any human tongue.
Shere Khan was always crossing his path in the jungle, for as
Akela grew older and feebler the lame tiger had come to be great
friends with the younger wolves of the Pack, who followed him for
scraps, a thing Akela would never have allowed if he had dared to
push his authority to the proper bounds. Then Shere Khan would
flatter them and wonder that such fine young hunters were content
to be led by a dying wolf and a man's cub. "They tell me," Shere
Khan would say, "that at Council ye dare not look him between the
eyes." And the young wolves would growl and bristle.
Bagheera, who had eyes and ears everywhere, knew something of
this, and once or twice he told Mowgli in so many words that Shere
Khan would kill him some day. Mowgli would laugh and answer: "I
have the Pack and I have thee; and Baloo, though he is so lazy,
might strike a blow or two for my sake. Why should I be afraid?"
It was one very warm day that a new notion came to Bagheera--
born of something that he had heard. Perhaps Ikki the Porcupine
had told him; but he said to Mowgli when they were deep in the
jungle, as the boy lay with his head on Bagheera's beautiful black
skin, "Little Brother, how often have I told thee that Shere Khan
is thy enemy?"
"As many times as there are nuts on that palm," said Mowgli,
who, naturally, could not count. "What of it? I am sleepy,
Bagheera, and Shere Khan is all long tail and loud talk--like
Mao, the Peacock."
"But this is no time for sleeping. Baloo knows it; I know it;
the Pack know it; and even the foolish, foolish deer know.
Tabaqui has told thee too."
"Ho! ho!" said Mowgli. "Tabaqui came to me not long ago with
some rude talk that I was a naked man's cub and not fit to dig
pig-nuts. But I caught Tabaqui by the tail and swung him twice
against a palm-tree to teach him better manners."
"That was foolishness, for though Tabaqui is a mischief-maker,
he would have told thee of something that concerned thee closely.
Open those eyes, Little Brother. Shere Khan dare not kill thee in
the jungle. But remember, Akela is very old, and soon the day
comes when he cannot kill his buck, and then he will be leader no
more. Many of the wolves that looked thee over when thou wast
brought to the Council first are old too, and the young wolves
believe, as Shere Khan has taught them, that a man-cub has no
place with the Pack. In a little time thou wilt be a man."
"And what is a man that he should not run with his brothers?"
said Mowgli. "I was born in the jungle. I have obeyed the Law of
the Jungle, and there is no wolf of ours from whose paws I have
not pulled a thorn. Surely they are my brothers!"
Bagheera stretched himself at full length and half shut his
eyes. "Little Brother," said he, "feel under my jaw."
Mowgli put up his strong brown hand, and just under Bagheera's
silky chin, where the giant rolling muscles were all hid by the
glossy hair, he came upon a little bald spot.
"There is no one in the jungle that knows that I, Bagheera,
carry that mark--the mark of the collar; and yet, Little
Brother, I was born among men, and it was among men that my mother
died--in the cages of the king's palace at Oodeypore. It was
because of this that I paid the price for thee at the Council when
thou wast a little naked cub. Yes, I too was born among men. I
had never seen the jungle. They fed me behind bars from an iron
pan till one night I felt that I was Bagheera--the Panther--
and no man's plaything, and I broke the silly lock with one blow
of my paw and came away. And because I had learned the ways of
men, I became more terrible in the jungle than Shere Khan. Is it
"Yes," said Mowgli, "all the jungle fear Bagheera--all
"Oh, thou art a man's cub," said the Black Panther very
tenderly. "And even as I returned to my jungle, so thou must go
back to men at last--to the men who are thy brothers--if thou
art not killed in the Council."
"But why--but why should any wish to kill me?" said Mowgli.
"Look at me," said Bagheera. And Mowgli looked at him
steadily between the eyes. The big panther turned his head away
in half a minute.
"That is why," he said, shifting his paw on the leaves. "Not
even I can look thee between the eyes, and I was born among men,
and I love thee, Little Brother. The others they hate thee
because their eyes cannot meet thine; because thou art wise;
because thou hast pulled out thorns from their feet--because
thou art a man."
"I did not know these things," said Mowgli sullenly, and he
frowned under his heavy black eyebrows.
"What is the Law of the Jungle? Strike first and then give
tongue. By thy very carelessness they know that thou art a man.
But be wise. It is in my heart that when Akela misses his next
kill--and at each hunt it costs him more to pin the buck--the
Pack will turn against him and against thee. They will hold a
jungle Council at the Rock, and then--and then--I have it!"
said Bagheera, leaping up. "Go thou down quickly to the men's
huts in the valley, and take some of the Red Flower which they
grow there, so that when the time comes thou mayest have even a
stronger friend than I or Baloo or those of the Pack that love
thee. Get the Red Flower."
By Red Flower Bagheera meant fire, only no creature in the
jungle will call fire by its proper name. Every beast lives in
deadly fear of it, and invents a hundred ways of describing it.
"The Red Flower?" said Mowgli. "That grows outside their huts
in the twilight. I will get some."
"There speaks the man's cub," said Bagheera proudly.
"Remember that it grows in little pots. Get one swiftly, and keep
it by thee for time of need."
"Good!" said Mowgli. "I go. But art thou sure, O my
Bagheera"--he slipped his arm around the splendid neck and
looked deep into the big eyes--"art thou sure that all this is
Shere Khan's doing?"
"By the Broken Lock that freed me, I am sure, Little Brother."
"Then, by the Bull that bought me, I will pay Shere Khan full
tale for this, and it may be a little over," said Mowgli, and he
"That is a man. That is all a man," said Bagheera to himself,
lying down again. "Oh, Shere Khan, never was a blacker hunting
than that frog-hunt of thine ten years ago!"
Mowgli was far and far through the forest, running hard, and
his heart was hot in him. He came to the cave as the evening mist
rose, and drew breath, and looked down the valley. The cubs were
out, but Mother Wolf, at the back of the cave, knew by his
breathing that something was troubling her frog.
"What is it, Son?" she said.
"Some bat's chatter of Shere Khan," he called back. "I hunt
among the plowed fields tonight," and he plunged downward through
the bushes, to the stream at the bottom of the valley. There he
checked, for he heard the yell of the Pack hunting, heard the
bellow of a hunted Sambhur, and the snort as the buck turned at
bay. Then there were wicked, bitter howls from the young wolves:
"Akela! Akela! Let the Lone Wolf show his strength. Room for
the leader of the Pack! Spring, Akela!"
The Lone Wolf must have sprung and missed his hold, for Mowgli
heard the snap of his teeth and then a yelp as the Sambhur knocked
him over with his forefoot.
He did not wait for anything more, but dashed on; and the
yells grew fainter behind him as he ran into the croplands where
the villagers lived.
"Bagheera spoke truth," he panted, as he nestled down in some
cattle fodder by the window of a hut. "To-morrow is one day both
for Akela and for me."
Then he pressed his face close to the window and watched the
fire on the hearth. He saw the husbandman's wife get up and feed
it in the night with black lumps. And when the morning came and
the mists were all white and cold, he saw the man's child pick up
a wicker pot plastered inside with earth, fill it with lumps of
red-hot charcoal, put it under his blanket, and go out to tend the
cows in the byre.
"Is that all?" said Mowgli. "If a cub can do it, there is
nothing to fear." So he strode round the corner and met the boy,
took the pot from his hand, and disappeared into the mist while
the boy howled with fear.
"They are very like me," said Mowgli, blowing into the pot as
he had seen the woman do. "This thing will die if I do not give
it things to eat"; and he dropped twigs and dried bark on the red
stuff. Halfway up the hill he met Bagheera with the morning dew
shining like moonstones on his coat.
"Akela has missed," said the Panther. "They would have killed
him last night, but they needed thee also. They were looking for
thee on the hill."
"I was among the plowed lands. I am ready. See!" Mowgli
held up the fire-pot.
"Good! Now, I have seen men thrust a dry branch into that
stuff, and presently the Red Flower blossomed at the end of it.
Art thou not afraid?"
"No. Why should I fear? I remember now--if it is not a
dream--how, before I was a Wolf, I lay beside the Red Flower,
and it was warm and pleasant."
All that day Mowgli sat in the cave tending his fire pot and
dipping dry branches into it to see how they looked. He found a
branch that satisfied him, and in the evening when Tabaqui came to
the cave and told him rudely enough that he was wanted at the
Council Rock, he laughed till Tabaqui ran away. Then Mowgli went
to the Council, still laughing.
Akela the Lone Wolf lay by the side of his rock as a sign that
the leadership of the Pack was open, and Shere Khan with his
following of scrap-fed wolves walked to and fro openly being
flattered. Bagheera lay close to Mowgli, and the fire pot was
between Mowgli's knees. When they were all gathered together,
Shere Khan began to speak--a thing he would never have dared to
do when Akela was in his prime.
"He has no right," whispered Bagheera. "Say so. He is a
dog's son. He will be frightened."
Mowgli sprang to his feet. "Free People," he cried, "does
Shere Khan lead the Pack? What has a tiger to do with our
"Seeing that the leadership is yet open, and being asked to
speak--" Shere Khan began.
"By whom?" said Mowgli. "Are we all jackals, to fawn on this
cattle butcher? The leadership of the Pack is with the Pack
There were yells of "Silence, thou man's cub!" "Let him
speak. He has kept our Law"; and at last the seniors of the Pack
thundered: "Let the Dead Wolf speak." When a leader of the Pack
has missed his kill, he is called the Dead Wolf as long as he
lives, which is not long.
Akela raised his old head wearily:--
"Free People, and ye too, jackals of Shere Khan, for twelve
seasons I have led ye to and from the kill, and in all that time
not one has been trapped or maimed. Now I have missed my kill.
Ye know how that plot was made. Ye know how ye brought me up to
an untried buck to make my weakness known. It was cleverly done.
Your right is to kill me here on the Council Rock, now.
Therefore, I ask, who comes to make an end of the Lone Wolf? For
it is my right, by the Law of the Jungle, that ye come one by
There was a long hush, for no single wolf cared to fight Akela
to the death. Then Shere Khan roared: "Bah! What have we to do
with this toothless fool? He is doomed to die! It is the man-cub
who has lived too long. Free People, he was my meat from the
first. Give him to me. I am weary of this man-wolf folly. He
has troubled the jungle for ten seasons. Give me the man-cub, or
I will hunt here always, and not give you one bone. He is a man,
a man's child, and from the marrow of my bones I hate him!"
Then more than half the Pack yelled: "A man! A man! What has
a man to do with us? Let him go to his own place."
"And turn all the people of the villages against us?" clamored
Shere Khan. "No, give him to me. He is a man, and none of us can
look him between the eyes."
Akela lifted his head again and said, "He has eaten our food.
He has slept with us. He has driven game for us. He has broken
no word of the Law of the Jungle."
"Also, I paid for him with a bull when he was accepted. The
worth of a bull is little, but Bagheera's honor is something that
he will perhaps fight for," said Bagheera in his gentlest voice.
"A bull paid ten years ago!" the Pack snarled. "What do we
care for bones ten years old?"
"Or for a pledge?" said Bagheera, his white teeth bared under
his lip. "Well are ye called the Free People!"
"No man's cub can run with the people of the jungle," howled
Shere Khan. "Give him to me!"
"He is our brother in all but blood," Akela went on, "and ye
would kill him here! In truth, I have lived too long. Some of ye
are eaters of cattle, and of others I have heard that, under Shere
Khan's teaching, ye go by dark night and snatch children from the
villager's doorstep. Therefore I know ye to be cowards, and it is
to cowards I speak. It is certain that I must die, and my life is
of no worth, or I would offer that in the man-cub's place. But
for the sake of the Honor of the Pack,--a little matter that by
being without a leader ye have forgotten,--I promise that if ye
let the man-cub go to his own place, I will not, when my time
comes to die, bare one tooth against ye. I will die without
fighting. That will at least save the Pack three lives. More I
cannot do; but if ye will, I can save ye the shame that comes of
killing a brother against whom there is no fault--a brother
spoken for and bought into the Pack according to the Law of the
"He is a man--a man--a man!" snarled the Pack. And most
of the wolves began to gather round Shere Khan, whose tail was
beginning to switch.
"Now the business is in thy hands," said Bagheera to Mowgli.
"We can do no more except fight."
Mowgli stood upright--the fire pot in his hands. Then he
stretched out his arms, and yawned in the face of the Council; but
he was furious with rage and sorrow, for, wolflike, the wolves had
never told him how they hated him. "Listen you!" he cried.
"There is no need for this dog's jabber. Ye have told me so often
tonight that I am a man (and indeed I would have been a wolf with
you to my life's end) that I feel your words are true. So I do
not call ye my brothers any more, but sag [dogs], as a man should.
What ye will do, and what ye will not do, is not yours to say.
That matter is with me; and that we may see the matter more
plainly, I, the man, have brought here a little of the Red Flower
which ye, dogs, fear."
He flung the fire pot on the ground, and some of the red coals
lit a tuft of dried moss that flared up, as all the Council drew
back in terror before the leaping flames.
Mowgli thrust his dead branch into the fire till the twigs lit
and crackled, and whirled it above his head among the cowering
"Thou art the master," said Bagheera in an undertone. "Save
Akela from the death. He was ever thy friend."
Akela, the grim old wolf who had never asked for mercy in his
life, gave one piteous look at Mowgli as the boy stood all naked,
his long black hair tossing over his shoulders in the light of the
blazing branch that made the shadows jump and quiver.
"Good!" said Mowgli, staring round slowly. "I see that ye are
dogs. I go from you to my own people--if they be my own people.
The jungle is shut to me, and I must forget your talk and your
companionship. But I will be more merciful than ye are. Because
I was all but your brother in blood, I promise that when I am a
man among men I will not betray ye to men as ye have betrayed me."
He kicked the fire with his foot, and the sparks flew up. "There
shall be no war between any of us in the Pack. But here is a debt
to pay before I go." He strode forward to where Shere Khan sat
blinking stupidly at the flames, and caught him by the tuft on his
chin. Bagheera followed in case of accidents. "Up, dog!" Mowgli
cried. "Up, when a man speaks, or I will set that coat ablaze!"
Shere Khan's ears lay flat back on his head, and he shut his
eyes, for the blazing branch was very near.
"This cattle-killer said he would kill me in the Council
because he had not killed me when I was a cub. Thus and thus,
then, do we beat dogs when we are men. Stir a whisker, Lungri,
and I ram the Red Flower down thy gullet!" He beat Shere Khan
over the head with the branch, and the tiger whimpered and whined
in an agony of fear.
"Pah! Singed jungle cat--go now! But remember when next I
come to the Council Rock, as a man should come, it will be with
Shere Khan's hide on my head. For the rest, Akela goes free to
live as he pleases. Ye will not kill him, because that is not my
will. Nor do I think that ye will sit here any longer, lolling
out your tongues as though ye were somebodies, instead of dogs
whom I drive out--thus! Go!" The fire was burning furiously at
the end of the branch, and Mowgli struck right and left round the
circle, and the wolves ran howling with the sparks burning their
fur. At last there were only Akela, Bagheera, and perhaps ten
wolves that had taken Mowgli's part. Then something began to hurt
Mowgli inside him, as he had never been hurt in his life before,
and he caught his breath and sobbed, and the tears ran down his
"What is it? What is it?" he said. "I do not wish to leave
the jungle, and I do not know what this is. Am I dying,
"No, Little Brother. That is only tears such as men use,"
said Bagheera. "Now I know thou art a man, and a man's cub no
longer. The jungle is shut indeed to thee henceforward. Let them
fall, Mowgli. They are only tears." So Mowgli sat and cried as
though his heart would break; and he had never cried in all his
"Now," he said, "I will go to men. But first I must say
farewell to my mother." And he went to the cave where she lived
with Father Wolf, and he cried on her coat, while the four cubs
"Ye will not forget me?" said Mowgli.
"Never while we can follow a trail," said the cubs. "Come to
the foot of the hill when thou art a man, and we will talk to
thee; and we will come into the croplands to play with thee by
"Come soon!" said Father Wolf. "Oh, wise little frog, come
again soon; for we be old, thy mother and I."
"Come soon," said Mother Wolf, "little naked son of mine.
For, listen, child of man, I loved thee more than ever I loved my
"I will surely come," said Mowgli. "And when I come it will
be to lay out Shere Khan's hide upon the Council Rock. Do not
forget me! Tell them in the jungle never to forget me!"
The dawn was beginning to break when Mowgli went down the
hillside alone, to meet those mysterious things that are called
End of Mowgli's Brothers [A story from Kipling's The Jungle Book] _
Read next: Hunting-Song of the Seeonee Pack
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