“The Bandar-log have shifted their grounds,” he said quietly. “When I came up into the sun today I heard them whooping among the tree-tops.”
“It—it is the Bandar-log that we follow now,” said Baloo, but the words stuck in his throat, for that was the first time in his memory that one of the Jungle-People had owned to being interested in the doings of the monkeys.
“Beyond doubt then it is no small thing that takes two such hunters—leaders in their own jungle I am certain—on the trail of the Bandar-log,” Kaa replied courteously, as he swelled with curiosity.
“Indeed,” Baloo began, “I am no more than the old and sometimes very foolish Teacher of the Law to the Seeonee wolf-cubs, and Bagheera here—”
“Is Bagheera,” said the Black Panther, and his jaws shut with a snap, for he did not believe in being humble. “The trouble is this, Kaa. Those nut-stealers and pickers of palm leaves have stolen away our man-cub of whom thou hast perhaps heard.”
“I heard some news from Ikki (his quills make him presumptuous) of a man-thing that was entered into a wolf pack, but I did not believe. Ikki is full of stories half heard and very badly told.”
“But it is true. He is such a man-cub as never was,” said Baloo. “The best and wisest and boldest of man-cubs—my own pupil, who shall make the name of Baloo famous through all the jungles; and besides, I—we—love him, Kaa.”
“Ts! Ts!” said Kaa, weaving his head to and fro. “I also have known what love is. There are tales I could tell that—”
“That need a clear night when we are all well fed to praise properly,” said Bagheera quickly. “Our man-cub is in the hands of the Bandar-log now, and we know that of all the Jungle-People they fear Kaa alone.”
“They fear me alone. They have good reason,” said Kaa. “Chattering, foolish, vain—vain, foolish, and chattering, are the monkeys. But a man-thing in their hands is in no good luck. They grow tired of the nuts they pick, and throw them down. They carry a branch half a day, meaning to do great things with it, and then they snap it in two. That man-thing is not to be envied. They called me also—`yellow fish’ was it not?”
“Worm—worm—earth-worm,” said Bagheera, “as well as other things which I cannot now say for shame.”
“We must remind them to speak well of their master. Aaa-ssp! We must help their wandering memories. Now, whither went they with the cub?”
“The jungle alone knows. Toward the sunset, I believe,” said Baloo. “We had thought that thou wouldst know, Kaa.”
“I? How? I take them when they come in my way, but I do not hunt the Bandar-log, or frogs—or green scum on a water-hole, for that matter.”
“Up, Up! Up, Up! Hillo! Illo! Illo, look up, Baloo of the Seeonee Wolf Pack!”
Baloo looked up to see where the voice came from, and there was Rann the Kite, sweeping down with the sun shining on the upturned flanges of his wings. It was near Rann’s bedtime, but he had ranged all over the jungle looking for the Bear and had missed him in the thick foliage.
“What is it?” said Baloo.
“I have seen Mowgli among the Bandar-log. He bade me tell you. I watched. The Bandar-log have taken him beyond the river to the monkey city—to the Cold Lairs. They may stay there for a night, or ten nights, or an hour. I have told the bats to watch through the dark time. That is my message. Good hunting, all you below!”
“Full gorge and a deep sleep to you, Rann,” cried Bagheera. “I will remember thee in my next kill, and put aside the head for thee alone, O best of kites!”
“It is nothing. It is nothing. The boy held the Master Word. I could have done no less,” and Rann circled up again to his roost.
“He has not forgotten to use his tongue,” said Baloo with a chuckle of pride. “To think of one so young remembering the Master Word for the birds too while he was being pulled across trees!”