The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling Page A

Book: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rudyard Kipling
from the jungle where the tiger had taken him. So she said: “Nathoo, O Nathoo!” Mowgli did not show that he knew the name. “Dost thou not remember the day when I gave thee thy new shoes?” She touched his foot, and it was almost as hard as horn. “No,” she said, sorrowfully, “those feet have never worn shoes, but thou art very like my Nathoo, and thou shalt be my son.”
    Mowgli was uneasy, because he had never been under a roof before; but as he looked at the thatch, he saw that hecould tear it out anytime if he wanted to get away, and that the window had no fastenings. “What is the good of a man,” he said to himself at last, “if he does not understand man’s talk? Now I am as silly and dumb as a man would be with us in the jungle. I must speak their talk.”
    He had not learned while he was with the wolves to imitate the challenge of bucks in the jungle and the grunt of the little wild pig for fun. So, as soon as Messua pronounced a word Mowgli would imitate it almost perfectly, and before dark he had learned the name of many things in the hut.
    There was a difficulty at bedtime, because Mowgli would not sleep under anything that looked so like a panther trap as that hut, and when they shut the door he went through the window. “Give him his will,” said Messua’s husband. “Remember he can never till now have slept on a bed. If he is indeed sent in the place of our son he will not run away.”
    So Mowgli stretched himself in some long clean grass at the edge of the field, but before he had closed his eyes a soft gray nose poked him under the chin.
    “Phew!”
said Gray Brother (he was the eldest of Mother Wolf’s cubs). “This is a poor reward for following thee twenty miles. Thou smellest of wood smoke and cattle—altogether like a man already. Wake, Little Brother; I bring news.”
    “Are all well in the jungle?” said Mowgli, hugging him.
    “All except the wolves that were burned with the Red Flower. Now, listen. Shere Khan has gone away to hunt far off till his coat grows again, for he is badly singed. When he returns he swears that he will lay thy bones in the Wainganga.”
    “There are two words to that. I also have made a little promise. But news is always good. I am tired tonight—very tired with new things, Gray Brother—but bring me the news always.”
    “Thou wilt not forget that thou art a wolf? Men will not make thee forget?” said Gray Brother, anxiously.
    “Never. I will always remember that I love thee and all in our cave, but also I will always remember that I have been cast out of the pack.”
    “And that thou mayest be cast out of another pack. Men are only men, Little Brother, and their talk is like the talk of frogs in a pond. When I come down here again, I will wait for thee in the bamboos at the edge of the grazing ground.”
    For three months after that night Mowgli hardly ever left the village gate, he was so busy learning the ways and customs of men. First he had to wear a cloth round him, which annoyed him horribly; and then he had to learn about money, which he did not in the least understand, and about plowing, of which he did not see the use. Then the little children in the village made him very angry. Luckily, the Law of the Junglehad taught him to keep his temper, for in the jungle, life and food depend on keeping your temper; but when they made fun of him because he would not play games or fly kites, or because he mispronounced some word, only the knowledge that it was unsportsmanlike to kill little naked cubs kept him from picking them up and breaking them in two. He did not know his own strength in the least. In the jungle he knew he was weak compared with the beasts, but in the village, people said that he was as strong as a bull. He certainly had no notion of what fear was, for when the village priest told him that the god in the temple would be angry with him if he ate the priest’s mangoes, he picked up the image, brought it over to the priest’s

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