jungle book chapter 5



Mowgli knew that he had enemies now and he went far away. He ran until he came to a village in a place with many rocks and narrow valleys. Everywhere Mowgli could see cows and buffaloes. Some little boys were looking after the cows, but when they saw Mowgli, they shouted and ran away. Mowgli walked on until he came to the village.

He sat down by the gate. When a man came out of the village, Mowgli opened his mouth to show that he wanted food. The man ran back into the village and came back with a hundred other people. They all looked at Mowgli and saw the bite-marks on his arms and legs.

‘Look,’ said a man, ‘those are the bite-marks of wolves. He is a wolf-child who has run away from the jungle.’

‘He is a good-looking boy,’ said one of the women. ‘Messua, he looks like your little boy that was taken by the tiger.’

‘Let me look,’ said Messua. ‘Yes, he is thin, but he looks like my son.’

‘Take him to your house, Messua,’ the villagers said. ‘The jungle took your boy, and the jungle has given you this one back.’

The woman called Messua took Mowgli to her house and gave him milk and bread. This was Mowgli’s first time in a house, and he did not like it. It felt like a prison.

‘But I am a man now,’ he thought, ‘and I must do what men do. I must also learn to speak like men.’ He knew all the many languages of the jungle, and so it was easy for him to learn the sounds of men. That first evening he learnt many words from Messua.

But that night he did not want to sleep inside the house. So he climbed out of the window, and went to sleep in a field near the village. Before he went to sleep, a soft grey nose touched his face. It was Grey Brother, the eldest of Mother Wolf’s cubs.

‘Wake, Little Brother,’ he said. ‘I bring news. Shere Khan has gone away. You burnt his coat with the Red Flower. But he says that, when he comes back, he will kill you.’

‘I remember also what I said about Shere Khan,’ said Mowgli. ‘But it is good to have news. Will you always bring me news, Grey Brother?’

‘Yes, Little Brother. But you will not forget that you are a wolf? You will not forget us when you are with men?’

‘Never,’ replied Mowgli. ‘I will always remember that I love you all.’

For three months Mowgli learnt how to be like a man. He had to wear clothes, learn how to use money, and how to work in the fields. In the evenings he sat with the villagers under a great tree, while the men told stories about the jungle and the animals. Once, when Buldeo, the village hunter, told a story about a tiger, Mowgli had to hide his face because he was laughing. At the end he said, ‘Buldeo’s stories are stupid. He knows nothing about the jungle.’

The villagers did not like this, and after that they sent Mowgli out every day with the other boys, to look after the herds of cows and buffaloes while they ate. Mowgli enjoyed this work, and usually went on alone, with a big group of cows and buffaloes.

One day he saw Grey Brother under a tree near the jungle. ‘Shere Khan has come back, but he is hiding for a while. Then he is coming to kill you,’ said Grey Brother.

‘Very good,’ said Mowgli. ‘Tell me when he comes. Meet me at the river, by the big dhak-three with golden flowers. I will watch for you there every day.’

Day after day Mowgli went out with the herds, but there was nobody at the dhak-tree. Then at last the day came when Grey Brother was waiting for him.

‘Shere Khan has waited for a month, and is hoping that you have now forgotten about him,’ said the wolf. ‘He’s going to wait for you at the village gate this evening. But now he is hiding in the big dry ravine of the Waingunga. I met Tabaqui this morning-‘ here

Grey Brother showed his teeth a little ‘-and before I broke his back, he told me all about Shere Khan’s plan.’

‘Has Shere Khan eaten today, or does he hunt empty?’ The answer was life or death for Mowgli.

‘He killed and ate this morning. And he has drunk, too.’

‘How stupid he is!’ said Mowgli. ‘Does he think that I shall wait until he has slept?’ He stood and thought for a while. ‘The ravine of Waingunga! I can take the buffaloes round to the top end and chase Shere Khan down the ravine. After a meal, he cannot fight or climb easily. But I need a big group of cows at the bottom end of the ravine, to stop him escaping. Then we will catch him between the buffaloes and the cows. Can you help me, Grey Brother?’

‘Not I alone,’ said Grey Brother, ‘but I have someone who will help me.’ And the big grey head of Akela came out from the trees.

‘Akela! Akela!’ said Mowgli. ‘I knew you would not forget me.’ The two wolves ran here and there among the herd, and soon the cows and buffaloes were in two groups. Already, they were getting excited and dangerous. The other herd-boys, who were watching a long way away, ran back to the village with the news.

‘Keep the cows together, Grey Brother,’ called Mowgli. ‘Drive them into the bottom end of the ravine and keep them there until we come down. Akela, you and I will take the buffaloes round to the top.’


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