The Jungle Book

By Rudyard Kipling
1894
189 pages

‘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 knows it.

‘The fool!’ said Father Wolf. ‘To begin a night’s work with that noise! Does he think that our buck are like his fat Waingunga bullocks?’

‘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?’ …

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