The Jungle Book

Lukannon This is the great deep-sea song that all the St. Paul seals sing when they are heading back to their beaches in the summer. It is a sort of very sad seal National Anthem.

I met my mates in the morning (and, oh, but I am old!) Where roaring on the ledges the summer ground-swell rolled; I heard them lift the chorus that drowned the breakers’ song— The Beaches of Lukannon—two million voices strong.

The song of pleasant stations beside the salt lagoons, The song of blowing squadrons that shuffled down the dunes, The song of midnight dances that churned the sea to flame— The Beaches of Lukannon—before the sealers came!

I met my mates in the morning (I’ll never meet them more!); They came and went in legions that darkened all the shore. And o’er the foam-flecked offing as far as voice could reach We hailed the landing-parties and we sang them up the beach.

The Beaches of Lukannon—the winter wheat so tall— The dripping, crinkled lichens, and the sea-fog drenching all! The platforms of our playground, all shining smooth and worn! The Beaches of Lukannon—the home where we were born!

I met my mates in the morning, a broken, scattered band. Men shoot us in the water and club us on the land; Men drive us to the Salt House like silly sheep and tame, And still we sing Lukannon—before the sealers came.

Wheel down, wheel down to southward; oh, Gooverooska, go! And tell the Deep-Sea Viceroys the story of our woe; Ere, empty as the shark’s egg the tempest flings ashore, The Beaches of Lukannon shall know their sons no more!

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“Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” At the hole where he went in Red-Eye called to Wrinkle-Skin. Hear what little Red-Eye saith: “Nag, come up and dance with death!”

Eye to eye and head to head, (Keep the measure, Nag.) This shall end when one is dead; (At thy pleasure, Nag.) Turn for turn and twist for twist— (Run and hide thee, Nag.) Hah! The hooded Death has missed! (Woe betide thee, Nag!)

This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bath-rooms of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment. Darzee, the Tailorbird, helped him, and Chuchundra, the musk-rat, who never comes out into the middle of the floor, but always creeps round by the wall, gave him advice, but Rikki-tikki did the real fighting.

He was a mongoose, rather like a little cat in his fur and his tail, but quite like a weasel in his head and his habits. His eyes and the end of his restless nose were pink. He could scratch himself anywhere he pleased with any leg, front or back, that he chose to use. He could fluff up his tail till it looked like a bottle brush, and his war cry as he scuttled through the long grass was: “Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!”

One day, a high summer flood washed him out of the burrow where he lived with his father and mother, and carried him, kicking and clucking, down a roadside ditch. He found a little wisp of grass floating there, and clung to it till he lost his senses. When he revived, he was lying in the hot sun on the middle of a garden path, very draggled indeed, and a small boy was saying, “Here’s a dead mongoose. Let’s have a funeral.”

“No,” said his mother, “let’s take him in and dry him. Perhaps he isn’t really dead.”

They took him into the house, and a big man picked him up between his finger and thumb and said he was not dead but half choked. So they wrapped him in cotton wool, and warmed him over a little fire, and he opened his eyes and sneezed.

“Now,” said the big man (he was an Englishman who had just moved into the bungalow), “don’t frighten him, and we’ll see what he’ll do.”

It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity. The motto of all the mongoose family is “Run and find out,” and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose. He looked at the cotton wool, decided that it was not good to eat, ran all round the table, sat up and put his fur in order, scratched himself, and jumped on the small boy’s shoulder.

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