The Jungle Book

“Hah!” said Kaa with a chuckle, “he has friends everywhere, this manling. Stand back, manling. And hide you, O Poison People. I break down the wall.”

Kaa looked carefully till he found a discolored crack in the marble tracery showing a weak spot, made two or three light taps with his head to get the distance, and then lifting up six feet of his body clear of the ground, sent home half a dozen full-power smashing blows, nose-first. The screen-work broke and fell away in a cloud of dust and rubbish, and Mowgli leaped through the opening and flung himself between Baloo and Bagheera—an arm around each big neck.

“Art thou hurt?” said Baloo, hugging him softly.

“I am sore, hungry, and not a little bruised. But, oh, they have handled ye grievously, my Brothers! Ye bleed.”

“Others also,” said Bagheera, licking his lips and looking at the monkey-dead on the terrace and round the tank.

“It is nothing, it is nothing, if thou art safe, oh, my pride of all little frogs!” whimpered Baloo.

“Of that we shall judge later,” said Bagheera, in a dry voice that Mowgli did not at all like. “But here is Kaa to whom we owe the battle and thou owest thy life. Thank him according to our customs, Mowgli.”

Mowgli turned and saw the great Python’s head swaying a foot above his own.

“So this is the manling,” said Kaa. “Very soft is his skin, and he is not unlike the Bandar-log. Have a care, manling, that I do not mistake thee for a monkey some twilight when I have newly changed my coat.”

“We be one blood, thou and I,” Mowgli answered. “I take my life from thee tonight. My kill shall be thy kill if ever thou art hungry, O Kaa.”

“All thanks, Little Brother,” said Kaa, though his eyes twinkled. “And what may so bold a hunter kill? I ask that I may follow when next he goes abroad.”

“I kill nothing,—I am too little,—but I drive goats toward such as can use them. When thou art empty come to me and see if I speak the truth. I have some skill in these [he held out his hands], and if ever thou art in a trap, I may pay the debt which I owe to thee, to Bagheera, and to Baloo, here. Good hunting to ye all, my masters.”

“Well said,” growled Baloo, for Mowgli had returned thanks very prettily. The Python dropped his head lightly for a minute on Mowgli’s shoulder. “A brave heart and a courteous tongue,” said he. “They shall carry thee far through the jungle, manling. But now go hence quickly with thy friends. Go and sleep, for the moon sets, and what follows it is not well that thou shouldst see.”

The moon was sinking behind the hills and the lines of trembling monkeys huddled together on the walls and battlements looked like ragged shaky fringes of things. Baloo went down to the tank for a drink and Bagheera began to put his fur in order, as Kaa glided out into the center of the terrace and brought his jaws together with a ringing snap that drew all the monkeys’ eyes upon him.

“The moon sets,” he said. “Is there yet light enough to see?”

From the walls came a moan like the wind in the tree-tops—”We see, O Kaa.”

“Good. Begins now the dance—the Dance of the Hunger of Kaa. Sit still and watch.”

He turned twice or thrice in a big circle, weaving his head from right to left. Then he began making loops and figures of eight with his body, and soft, oozy triangles that melted into squares and five-sided figures, and coiled mounds, never resting, never hurrying, and never stopping his low humming song. It grew darker and darker, till at last the dragging, shifting coils disappeared, but they could hear the rustle of the scales.

Baloo and Bagheera stood still as stone, growling in their throats, their neck hair bristling, and Mowgli watched and wondered.

“Bandar-log,” said the voice of Kaa at last, “can ye stir foot or hand without my order? Speak!”

“Without thy order we cannot stir foot or hand, O Kaa!”

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