The Only Son lay down again and dreamed that he dreamed a dream.
The last ash dropped from the dying fire with the click of a falling spark,
And the Only Son woke up again and called across the dark:-
'Now, was I born of womankind and laid in a mother's breast?
For I have dreamed of a shaggy hide whereon I went to rest.
And was I born of womankind and laid on a father's arm?
For I have dreamed of long white teeth that guarded me from harm.
Oh, was I born of womankind and did I play alone?
For I have dreamed of playmates twain that bit me to the bone.
And did I break the barley bread and steep it in the tyre?
For I have dreamed of a youngling kid new riven from the byre.
An hour it lacks and an hour it lacks to the rising of the moon-
But I can see the black roof-beams as plain as it were noon!
'Tis a league and a league to the Lena Falls where the trooping sambhur go,
But I can hear the little fawn that bleats behind the doe!
'Tis a league and a league to the Lena Falls where the crop and the upland meet,
But I can smell the warm wet wind that whispers through the wheat!'
-The Only Son.
OF the wheels of public service that turn under the Indian Government,
there is none more important than the Department of Woods and Forests. The
reboisement of all India is in its hands; or will be when Government has
the money to spend. Its servants wrestle with wandering sand-torrents and
shifting dunes wattling them at the sides, damming them in front, and
pegging them down atop with coarse grass and spindling pine after the
rules of Nancy. They are responsible for all the timber in the State
forests of the Himalayas, as well as for the denuded hillsides that the
monsoons wash into dry gullies and aching ravines; each cut a mouth crying
aloud what carelessness can do. They experiment with battalions of foreign
trees, and coax the blue gum to take root and, perhaps, dry up the Canal
fever. In the plains the chief part of their duty is to see that the belt
fire-lines in the forest reserves are kept clean, so that when drought
comes and the cattle starve, they may throw the reserve open to the
villager's herds and allow the man himself to gather sticks. They poll and
lop for the stacked railway-fuel along the lines that burn no coal; they
calculate the profit of their plantations to five points of decimals; they
are the doctors and midwives of the huge teak forests of Upper Burma, the
rubber of the Eastern Jungles, and the gall-nuts of the South; and they
are always hampered by lack of funds. But since a Forest Officer's
business takes him far from the beaten roads and the regular stations, he
learns to grow wise in more than wood-lore alone; to know the people and
the polity of the jungle; meeting tiger, bear, leopard, wild-dog, and all
the deer, not once or twice after days of beating, but again and again in
the execution of his duty. He spends much time in saddle or under
canvas-the friend of newly-planted trees, the associate of uncouth rangers
and hairy trackers-till the woods, that show his care, in turn set their
mark upon him, and he ceases to sing the naughty French songs he learned
at Nancy, and grows silent with the silent things of the underbrush.
Gisborne of the Woods and Forests had spent four years in the service.
At first he loved it without comprehension, because it led him into the
open on horseback and gave him authority. Then he hated it furiously, and
would have given a year's pay for one month of such society as India
affords. That crisis over, the forests took him back again, and he was
content to serve them, to deepen and widen his fire-lines, to watch the
green mist of his new plantation against the older foliage, to dredge out
the choked stream, and to follow and strengthen the last struggle of the
forest where it broke down and died among the long pig-grass. On some
still day that grass would be burned off, and a hundred beasts that had
their homes there would rush out before the pale flames at high noon.
Later, the forest would creep forward over the blackened ground in orderly
lines of saplings, and Gisborne, watching, would be well pleased. His
bungalow, a thatched white-walled cottage of two rooms, was set at one end
of the great rukh and overlooking it. He made no pretence at keeping a
garden, for the rukh swept up to his door, curled over in a thicket of
bamboo, and he rode from his verandah into its heart without the need of
Abdul Gafur, his fat Mohammedan butler, fed him when he was at home,
and spent the rest of the time gossiping with the little band of native
servants whose huts lay behind the bungalow. There were two grooms, a
cook, a water-carrier, and a sweeper, and that was all. Gisborne cleaned
his own guns and kept no dog. Dogs scared the game, and it pleased the man
to be able to say where the subjects of his kingdom would drink at
moonrise, eat before dawn, and lie up in the day's heat. The rangers and
forest-guards lived in little huts far away in the rukh, only appearing
when one of them had been injured by a falling tree or a wild beast. There
Gisborne was alone.
In spring the rukh put out few new leaves, but lay dry and still
untouched by the finger of the year, waiting for rain. Only there was then
more calling and roaring in the dark on a quiet night; the tumult of a
battle-royal among the tigers, the bellowing of arrogant buck, or the
steady wood-chopping of an old boar sharpening his tushes against a bole.
Then Gisborne laid aside his little-used gun altogether, for it was to him
a sin to kill. In summer, through the furious May heats, the rukh reeled
in the haze, and Gisborne watched for the first sign of curling smoke that
should betray a forest fire. Then came the Rains with a roar, and the rukh
was blotted out in fetch after fetch of warm mist, and the broad leaves
drummed the night through under the big drops; and there was a noise of
running water, and of juicy green stuff crackling where the wind struck
it, and the lightning wove patterns behind the dense matting of the
foliage, till the sun broke loose again and the rukh stood with hot flanks
smoking to the newly-washed sky. Then the heat and the dry cold subdued
everything to tiger-colour again. So Gisborne learned to know his rukh and
was very happy. His pay came month by month, but he had very little need
for money. The currency notes accumulated in the drawer where he kept his
homeletters and the recapping-machine. If he drew anything, it was to make
a purchase from the Calcutta Botanical Gardens, or to pay a ranger's widow
a sum that the Government of India would never have sanctioned for her
Payment was good, but vengeance was also necessary, and he took that
when he could. One night of many nights a runner, breathless and gasping,
came to him with the news that a forest-guard lay dead by the Kanye
stream, the side of his head smashed in as though it had been an eggshell.
Gisborne went out at dawn to look for the murderer. It is only travellers
and now and then young soldiers who are known to the world as great
hunters. The Forest Officers take their shikar as part of the day's work,
and no one hears of it. Gisborne went on foot to the place of the kill:
the widow was wailing over the corpse as it lay on a bedstead, while two
or three men were looking at footprints on the moist ground. 'That is the
Red One,' said a man. 'I knew he would turn to man in time, but surely
there is game enough even for him. This must have been done for
'The Red One lies up in the rocks at the back of the sal trees,' said
Gisborne. He knew the tiger under suspicion.
'Not now, Sahib, not now. He will be raging and ranging to and fro.
Remember that the first kill is a triple kill always. Our blood makes them
mad. He may be behind us even as we speak.'
'He may have gone to the next hut,' said another. 'It is only four
koss. Wallah, who is this?'
Gisborne turned with the others. A man was walking down the dried bed
of the stream, naked except for the loin-cloth, but crowned with a wreath
of the tasselled blossoms of the white convolvulus creeper. So noiselessly
did he move over the little pebbles, that even Gisborne, used to the
soft-footedness of trackers, started.
'The tiger that killed,' he began, without any salute, 'has gone to
drink, and now he is asleep under a rock beyond that hill.' His voice was
clear and bell-like, utterly different from the usual whine of the native,
and his face as he lifted it in the sunshine might have been that of an
angel strayed among the woods. The widow ceased wailing above the corpse
and looked round-eyed at the stranger, returning to her duty with double
'Shall I show the Sahib?' he said simply.
'If thou art sure-' Gisborne began.
'Sure indeed. I saw him only an hour ago-the dog. It is before his time
to eat man's flesh. He has yet a dozen sound teeth in his evil head.'
The men kneeling above the footprints slunk off quietly, for fear that
Gisborne should ask them to go with him, and the young man laughed a
little to himself.
'Come, Sahib,' he cried, and turned on his heel, walking before his
'Not so fast. I cannot keep that pace,' said the white man. 'Halt
there. Thy face is new to me.'
'That may be. I am but newly come into this forest.'
'From what village?'
'I am without a village. I came from over there.' He flung out his arm
towards the north.
'A gipsy then?'
'No, Sahib. I am a man without caste, and for matter of that without a
'What do men call thee?'
'Mowgli, Sahib. And what is the Sahib's name?'
'I am the warden of this rukh-Gisborne is my name.'
'How? Do they number the trees and the blades of grass here?'
'Even so; lest such gipsy fellows as thou set them afire.'
'I! I would not hurt the jungle for any gift. That is my home.'
He turned to Gisborne with a smile that was irresistible, and held up a
'Now, Sahib, we must go a little quietly. There is no need to wake the
dog, though he sleeps heavily enough. Perhaps it were better if I went
forward alone and drove him down wind to the Sahib.'
'Allah! Since when have tigers been driven to and fro like cattle by
naked men?' said Gisborne, aghast at the man's audacity.
He laughed again softly. 'Nay, then, come along with me and shoot him
in thy own way with the big English rifle.'
Gisborne stepped in his guide's track, twisted, crawled, and clomb and
stooped and suffered through all the many agonies of a jungle-stalk. He
was purple and dripping with sweat when Mowgli at the last bade him raise
his head and peer over a blue baked rock near a tiny hill pool. By the
waterside lay the tiger extended and at ease, lazily licking clean again
an enormous elbow and fore paw. He was old, yellow-toothed, and not a
little mangy, but in that setting and sunshine, imposing enough.
Gisborne had no false ideas of sport where the man-eater was concerned.
This thing was vermin, to be killed as speedily as possible. He waited to
recover his breath, rested the rifle on the rock and whistled. The brute's
head turned slowly not twenty feet from the rifle-mouth, and Gisborne
planted his shots, business-like, one behind the shoulder and the other a
little below the eye. At that range the heavy bones were no guard against
the rending bullets.
'Well, the skin was not worth keeping at any rate,' said he, as the
smoke cleared away and the beast lay kicking and gasping in the last
'A dog's death for a dog,' said Mowgli quietly. 'Indeed there is
nothing in that carrion worth taking away.'
'The whiskers. Dost thou not take the whiskers?' said Gisborne, who
knew how the rangers valued such things.
'I? Am I a lousy shikarri of the jungle to paddle with a tiger's
muzzle? Let him lie. Here come his friends already.'
A dropping kite whistled shrilly overhead, as Gisborne snapped out the
empty shells, and wiped his face.
'And if thou art not a shikarri, where didst thou learn thy knowledge
of the tiger-folk?' said he. 'No tracker could have done better.'
'I hate all tigers,' said Mowgli curtly. 'Let the Sahib give me his gun
to carry. Arre, it is a very fine one. And where does the Sahib go
'To my house.'
'May I come? I have never yet looked within a white man's house.'
Gisborne returned to his bungalow, Mowgli striding noiselessly before
him, his brown skin glistening in the sunlight.
He stared curiously at the verandah and the two chairs there, fingered
the split bamboo shade curtains with suspicion, and entered, looking
always behind him. Gisborne loosed a curtain to keep out the sun. It
dropped with a clatter, but almost before it touched the flagging of the
verandah Mowgli had leaped clear, and was standing with heaving chest in
'It is a trap,' he said quickly.
Gisborne laughed. 'White men do not trap men. Indeed thou art
altogether of the jungle.'
'I see,' said Mowgli, 'it has neither catch nor fall. I-I never beheld
these things till today.'
He came in on tiptoe and stared with large eyes at the furniture of the
two rooms. Abdul Gafur, who was laying lunch, looked at him with deep
'So much trouble to eat, and so much trouble to lie down after you have
eaten!' said Mowgli with a grin. 'We do better in the jungle. It is very
wonderful. There are very many rich things here. Is the Sahib not afraid
that he may be robbed? I have never seen such wonderful things.' He was
staring at a dusty Benares brass plate on a rickety bracket.
'Only a thief from the jungle would rob here,' said Abdul Gafur,
setting down a plate with a clatter. Mowgli opened his eyes wide and
stared at the white-bearded Mohammedan.
'In my country when goats bleat very loud we cut their throats,' he
returned cheerfully. 'But have no fear, thou. I am going.'
He turned and disappeared into the rukh. Gisborne looked after him with
a laugh that ended in a little sigh. There was not much outside his
regular work to interest the Forest Officer, and this son of the forest,
who seemed to know tigers as other people know dogs, would have been a
'He's a most wonderful chap,' thought Gisborne; 'he's like the
illustrations in the Classical Dictionary. I wish I could have made him a
gunboy. There's no fun in shikarring alone, and this fellow would have
been a perfect shikarri. I wonder what in the world he is.'
That evening he sat on the verandah under the stars smoking as he
wondered. A puff of smoke curled from the pipebowl. As it cleared he was
aware of Mowgli sitting with arms crossed on the verandah edge. A ghost
could not have drifted up more noiselessly. Gisborne started and let the
'There is no man to talk to out there in the rukh,' said Mowgli; 'I
came here, therefore.' He picked up the pipe and returned it to
'Oh,' said Gisborne, and after a long pause, 'What news is there in the
rukh? Hast thou found another tiger?'
'The nilghai are changing their feeding-ground against the new moon, as
is their custom. The pig are feeding near the Kanye river now, because
they will not feed with the nilghai, and one of their sows has been killed
by a leopard in the long grass at the water-head. I do not know any
'And how didst thou know all these things?' said Gisborne, leaning
forward and looking at the eyes that glittered in the starlight.
'How should I not know? The nilghai has his custom and his use, and a
child knows that pig will not feed with him.'
'I do not know this,' said Gisborne.
'Tck! Tck! And thou art in charge-so the men of the huts tell me-in
charge of all this rukh.' He laughed to himself.
'It is well enough to talk and to tell child's tales,' Gisborne
retorted, nettled at the chuckle. 'To say that this and that goes on in
the rukh. No man can deny thee.'
'As for the sow's carcase, I will show thee her bones tomorrow,' Mowgli
returned, absolutely unmoved. 'Touching the matter of the nilghai, if the
Sahib will sit here very still I will drive one nilghai up to this place,
and by listening to the sounds carefully, the Sahib can tell whence that
nilghai has been driven.'
'Mowgli, the jungle has made thee mad,' said Gisborne. 'Who can drive
'Still-sit still, then. I go.'
'Gad, the man's a ghost!' said Gisborne; for Mowgli had faded out into
the darkness and there was no sound of feet. The rukh lay out in great
velvety folds in the uncertain shimmer of the stardust-so still that the
least little wandering wind among the tree-tops came up as the sigh of a
child sleeping equably. Abdul Gafur in the cook-house was clicking plates
'Be still there!' shouted Gisborne, and composed himself to listen as a
man can who is used to the stillness of the rukh. It had been his custom,
to preserve his self-respect in his isolation, to dress for dinner each
night, and the stiff white shirtfront creaked with his regular breathing
till he shifted a little sideways. Then the tobacco of a somewhat foul
pipe began to purr, and he threw the pipe from him. Now, except for the
nightbreath in the rukh, everything was dumb.
From an inconceivable distance, and drawled through immeasurable
darkness, came the faint, faint echo of a wolf's howl. Then silence again
for, it seemed, long hours. At last, when his legs below the knees had
lost all feeling, Gisborne heard something that might have been a crash
far off through the undergrowth. He doubted till it was repeated again and
'That's from the west,' he muttered; 'there's something on foot there.'
The noise increased-crash on crash, plunge on plunge-with the thick
grunting of a hotly pressed nilghai, flying in panic terror and taking no
heed to his course.
A shadow blundered out from between the tree-trunks, wheeled back,
turned again grunting, and with a clatter on the bare ground dashed up
almost within reach of his hand. It was a bull nilghai, dripping with
dew-his withers hung with a torn trail of creeper, his eyes shining in the
light from the house. The creature checked at sight of the man, and fled
along the edge of the rukh till he melted in the darkness. The first idea
in Gisborne's bewildered mind was the indecency of thus dragging out for
inspection the big blue bull of the rukh-the putting him through his paces
in the night which should have been his own.
Then said a smooth voice at his ear as he stood staring:
'He came from the water-head where he was leading the herd. From the
west he came. Does the Sahib believe now, or shall I bring up the herd to
be counted? The Sahib is in charge of this rukh.'
Mowgli had reseated himself on the verandah, breathing a little
quickly. Gisborne looked at him with open mouth. 'How was that
accomplished?' he said.
The Sahib saw. The bull was driven-driven as a buffalo is. Ho! ho! He
will have a fine tale to tell when he returns to the herd.'
'That is a new trick to me. Canst thou run as swiftly as the nilghai,
'The Sahib has seen. If the Sahib needs more knowledge at any time of
the movings of the game, I, Mowgli, am here. This is a good rukh, and I
'Stay then, and if thou hast need of a meal at any time my servants
shall give thee one.'
'Yes, indeed, I am fond of cooked food,' Mowgli answered quickly. 'No
man may say that I do not eat boiled and roast as much as any other man. I
will come for that meal. Now, on my part, I promise that the Sahib shall
sleep safely in his house by night, and no thief shall break in to carry
away his so rich treasures.'
The conversation ended itself on Mowgli's abrupt departure. Gisborne
sat long smoking, and the upshot of his thoughts was that in Mowgli he had
found at last that ideal ranger and forest-guard for whom he and the
Department were always looking.
'I must get him into the Government service somehow. A man who can
drive nilghai would know more about the rukh than fifty men. He's a
miracle-a lusus naturæ-but a forest-guard he must be if he'll only settle
down in one place,' said Gisborne.
Abdul Gafur's opinion was less favourable. He confided to Gisborne at
bedtime that strangers from God-knew-where were more than likely to be
professional thieves, and that he personally did not approve of naked
outcastes who had not the proper manner of addressing white people.
Gisborne laughed and bade him go to his quarters, and Abdul Gafur
retreated growling. Later in the night he found occasion to rise up and
beat his thirteen-year-old daughter. Nobody knew the cause of dispute, but
Gisborne heard the cry.
Through the days that followed Mowgli came and went like a shadow. He
had established himself and his wild house-keeping close to the bungalow,
but on the edge of the rukh, where Gisborne, going out on to the verandah
for a breath of cool air, would see him sometimes sitting in the
moonlight, his forehead on his knees, or lying out along the fling of a
branch, closely pressed to it as some beast of the night. Thence Mowgli
would throw him a salutation and bid him sleep at ease, or descending
would weave prodigious stories of the manners of the beasts in the rukh.
Once he wandered into the stables and was found looking at the horses with
'That,' said Abdul Gafur pointedly, 'is sure sign that some day he will
steal one. Why, if he lives about this house, does he not take an honest
employment? But no, he must wander up and down like a loose camel, turning
the heads of fools and opening the jaws of the unwise to folly.' So Abdul
Gafur would give harsh orders to Mowgli when they met, would bid him fetch
water and pluck fowls, and Mowgli, laughing unconcernedly, would obey.
'He has no caste,' said Abdul Gafur. He will do anything. Look to it,
Sahib, that he does not do too much. A snake is a snake, and a
jungle-gipsy is a thief till the death.'
'Be silent, then,' said Gisborne. 'I allow thee to correct thy own
household if there is not too much noise, because I know thy customs and
use. My custom thou dost not know. The man is without doubt a little
'Very little mad indeed,' said Abdul Gafur. 'But we shall see what
A few days later on his business took Gisborne into the rukh for three
days. Abdul Gafur being old and fat was left at home. He did not approve
of lying up in rangers' huts, and was inclined to levy contributions in
his master's name of grain and oil and milk from those who could ill
afford such benevolences. Gisborne rode off early one dawn a little vexed
that his man of the woods was not at the verandah to accompany him. He
liked him-liked his strength, fleetness, and silence of foot, and his
ever-ready open smile; his ignorance of all forms of ceremony and
salutations, and the childlike tales that he would tell (and Gisborne
would credit now) of what the game was doing in the rukh. After an hour's
riding through the greenery, he heard a rustle behind him, and Mowgli
trotted at his stirrup.
'We have a three days' work toward,' said Gisborne, 'among the new
'Good,' said Mowgli. 'It is always good to cherish young trees. They
make cover if the beasts leave them alone. We must shift the pig
'Again? How?' Gisborne smiled.
'Oh, they were rooting and tusking among the young sal last night, and
I drove them off. Therefore I did not come to the verandah this morning.
The pig should not be on this side of the rukh at all. We must keep them
below the head of the Kanye river.'
'If a man could herd clouds he might do that thing; but, Mowgli, if as
thou sayest, thou art herder in the rukh for no gain and for no pay-'
'It is the Sahib's rukh,' said Mowgli, quickly looking up. Gisborne
nodded thanks and went on: 'Would it not be better to work for pay from
the Government? There is a pension at the end of long service.'
'Of that I have thought,' said Mowgli, 'but the rangers live in huts
with shut doors, and all that is all too much a trap to me. Yet I
'Think well then and tell me later. Here we will stay for
Gisborne dismounted, took his morning meal from his home-made
saddle-bags, and saw the day open hot above the rukh. Mowgli lay in the
grass at his side staring up to the sky.
Presently he said in a lazy whisper: 'Sahib, is there any order at the
bungalow to take out the white mare today.'
'No, she is fat and old and a little lame beside. Why?'
'She is being ridden now and not slowly on the road that runs to the
'Bah, that is two koss away. It is a woodpecker.'
Mowgli put up his forearm to keep the sun out of his eyes.
'The road curves in with a big curve from the bungalow. It is not more
than a koss, at the farthest, as the kite goes; and sound flies with the
birds. Shall we see?'
'What folly! To run a koss in this sun to see a noise in the
'Nay, the pony is the Sahib's pony. I meant only to bring her here. If
she is not the Sahib's pony, no matter. If she is, the Sahib can do what
he wills. She is certainly being ridden hard.'
'And how wilt thou bring her here, madman?'
'Has the Sahib forgotten? By the road of the nilghai and no other.'
'Up then and run if thou art so full of zeal.'
'Oh, I do not run!' He put out his hand to sign for silence, and still
lying on his back called aloud thrice-with a deep gurgling cry that was
new to Gisborne.
'She will come,' he said at the end. 'Let us wait in the shade.' The
long eyelashes drooped over the wild eyes as Mowgli began to doze in the
morning hush. Gisborne waited patiently Mowgli was surely mad, but as
entertaining a companion as a lonely Forest Officer could desire.
'Ho! ho!' said Mowgli lazily, with shut eyes. 'He has dropped off.
Well, first the mare will come and then the man.' Then he yawned as
Gisborne's pony stallion neighed. Three minutes later Gisborne's white
mare, saddled, bridled, but riderless, tore into the glade where they were
sitting, and hurried to her companion.
'She is not very warm,' said Mowgli, 'but in this heat the sweat comes
easily. Presently we shall see her rider, for a man goes more slowly than
a horse-especially if he chance to be a fat man and old.'
'Allah! This is the devil's work,' cried Gisborne leaping to his feet,
for he heard a yell in the jungle.
'Have no care, Sahib. He will not be hurt. He also will say that it is
devil's work. Ah! Listen! Who is that?'
It was the voice of Abdul Gafur in an agony of terror, crying out upon
unknown things to spare him and his gray hairs.
'Nay, I cannot move another step,' he howled. 'I am old and my turban
is lost. Arré! Arré! But I will move. Indeed I will hasten. I will run!
Oh, Devils of the Pit, I am a Mussulman!'
The undergrowth parted and gave up Abdul Gafur, turbanless, shoeless,
with his waist-cloth unbound, mud and grass in his clutched hands, and his
face purple. He saw Gisborne, yelled anew, and pitched forward, exhausted
and quivering, at his feet. Mowgli watched him with a sweet smile.
'This is no joke,' said Gisborne sternly. 'The man is like to die,
'He will not die. He is only afraid. There was no need that he should
have come out of a walk.'
Abdul Gafur groaned and rose up, shaking in every limb.
'It was witchcraft-witchcraft and devildom! ' he sobbed, fumbling with
his hand in his breast. 'Because of my sin I have been whipped through the
woods by devils. It is all finished. I repent. Take them, Sahib!' He held
out a roll of dirty paper.
'What is the meaning of this, Abdul Gafur?' said Gisborne, already
knowing what would come.
'Put me in the jail-khana-the notes are all here-but lock me up safely
that no devils may follow. I have sinned against the Sahib and his salt
which I have eaten; and but for those accursed wood-demons, I might have
bought land afar off and lived in peace all my days.' He beat his head
upon the ground in an agony of despair and mortification. Gisborne turned
the roll of notes over and over. It was his accumulated back-pay for the
last nine months-the roll that lay in the drawer with the home-letters and
the recapping machine. Mowgli watched Abdul Gafur, laughing noiselessly to
himself. 'There is no need to put me on the horse again. I will walk home
slowly with the Sahib, and then he can send me under guard to the
jail-khana. The Government gives many years for this offence,' said the
Loneliness in the rukh affects very many ideas about very many things.
Gisborne stared at Abdul Gafur, remembering that he was a very good
servant, and that a new butler must be broken into the ways of the house
from the beginning, and at the best would be a new face and a new
'Listen, Abdul Gafur,' he said. 'Thou hast done great wrong, and
altogether lost thy izzat and thy reputation. But I think that this came
upon thee suddenly.'
'Allah! I had never desired the notes before. The Evil took me by the
throat while I looked.'
'That also I can believe. Go then back to my house, and when I return I
will send the notes by a runner to the Bank, and there shall be no more
said. Thou art too old for the jail-khana. Also thy household is
For answer Abdul Gafur sobbed between Gisborne's cowhide
'Is there no dismissal then?' he gulped.
'That we shall see. It hangs upon thy conduct when we return. Get upon
the mare and ride slowly back.'
'But the devils! The rukh is full of devils.'
'No matter, my father. They will do thee no more harm unless, indeed,
the Sahib's orders be not obeyed,' said Mowgli. 'Then, perchance, they may
drive thee home-by the road of the nilghai.'
Abdul Gafur's lower jaw dropped as he twisted up his waist-cloth,
staring at Mowgli.
'Are they his devils? His devils! And I had thought to return and lay
the blame upon this warlock!'
'That was well thought of, Huzrut; but before we make a trap we see
first how big the game is that may fall into it. Now I thought no more
than that a man had taken one of the Sahib's horses. I did not know that
the design was to make me a thief before the Sahib, or my devils had haled
thee here by the leg. It is not too late now.'
Mowgli looked inquiringly at Gisborne; but Abdul Gafur waddled hastily
to the white mare, scrambled on her back and fled, the woodways crashing
and echoing behind him.
'That was well done,' said Mowgli. 'But he will fall again unless he
holds by the mane.'
'Now it is time to tell me what these things mean,' said Gisborne a
little sternly. 'What is this talk of thy devils? How can men be driven up
and down the rukh like cattle? Give answer.'
'Is the Sahib angry because I have saved him his money?'
'No, but there is trick-work in this that does not please me.'
'Very good. Now if I rose and stepped three paces into the rukh there
is no one, not even the Sahib, could find me till I choose. As I would not
willingly do this, so I would not willingly tell. Have patience a little,
Sahib, and some day I will show thee everything, for, if thou wilt, some
day we will drive the buck together. There is no devil-work in the matter
at all. Only...I know the rukh as a man knows the cooking-place in his
Mowgli was speaking as he would speak to an impatient child. Gisborne,
puzzled, baffled, and a great deal annoyed, said nothing, but stared on
the ground and thought. When he looked up the man of the woods had
'It is not good,' said a level voice from the thicket, 'for friends to
be angry. Wait till the evening, Sahib, when the air cools.'
Left to himself thus, dropped as it were in the heart of the rukh,
Gisborne swore, then laughed, remounted his pony, and rode on. He visited
a ranger's hut, overlooked a couple of new plantations, left some orders
as to the burning of a patch of dry grass, and set out for a
camping-ground of his own choice, a pile of splintered rocks roughly
roofed over with branches and leaves, not far from the banks of the Kanye
stream. It was twilight when he came in sight of his resting-place, and
the rukh was waking to the hushed ravenous life of the night.
A camp-fire flickered on the knoll, and there was the smell of a very
good dinner in the wind.
'Um,' said Gisborne, 'that's better than cold meat at any rate. Now the
only man who'd be likely to be here'd be Muller, and, officially, he ought
to be looking over the Changamanga rukh. I suppose that's why he's on my
The gigantic German who was the head of the Woods and Forests of all
India, Head Ranger from Burma to Bombay, had a habit of flitting batlike
without warning from one place to another, and turning up exactly where he
was least looked for. His theory was that sudden visitations, the
discovery of shortcomings and a word-of-mouth upbraiding of a subordinate
were infinitely better than the slow processes of correspondence, which
might end in a written and official reprimand-a thing in after years to be
counted against a Forest Officer's record. As he explained it: 'If I only
talk to my boys like a Dutch uncle, dey say, "It was only dot damned old
Muller," and dey do better next dime. But if my fat-head clerk he write
and say dot Muller der Inspecdor-General fail to onderstand and is much
annoyed, first dot does no goot because I am not dere, and, second, der
fool dot comes after me he may say to my best boys: "Look here, you haf
been wigged by my bredecessor." I tell you der big brass-hat pizness does
not make der trees grow.'
Muller's deep voice was coming out of the darkness behind the firelight
as he bent over the shoulders of his pet cook. 'Not so much sauce, you son
of Belial! Worcester sauce he is a gondiment and not a fluid. Ah,
Gisborne, you haf come to a very bad dinner. Where is your camp?' and he
walked up to shake hands.
'I'm the camp, sir,' said Gisborne. 'I didn't know you were about
Muller looked at the young man's trim figure. 'Goot! That is very goot!
One horse and some cold things to eat. When I was young I did my camp so.
Now you shall dine with me. I went into Headquarters to make up my rebort
last month. I haf written half-ho! ho!-and der rest I haf leaved to my
glerks and come out for a walk. Der Government is mad about dose reborts.
I dold der Viceroy so at Simla.'
Gisborne chuckled, remembering the many tales that were told of
Muller's conflicts with the Supreme Government. He was the chartered
libertine of all the offices, for as a Forest Officer he had no equal.
'If I find you, Gisborne, sitting in your bungalow and hatching reborts
to me about der blantations instead of riding der blantations, I will
dransfer you to der middle of der Bikaneer Desert to reforest him. I am
sick of reborts and chewing paper when we should do our work.'
'There's not much danger of my wasting time over my annuals. I hate
them as much as you do, sir.'
The talk went over at this point to professional matters. Muller had
some questions to ask, and Gisborne orders and hints to receive, till
dinner was ready. It was the most civilised meal Gisborne had eaten for
months. No distance from the base of supplies was allowed to interfere
with the work of Muller's cook; and that table spread in the wilderness
began with devilled small fresh-water fish, and ended with coffee and
'Ah!' said Muller at the end, with a sigh of satisfaction as he lighted
a cheroot and dropped into his much worn campchair. 'When I am making
reborts I am Freethinker und Atheist, but here in der rukh I am more than
Christian. I am Bagan also.' He rolled the cheroot-butt luxuriously under
his tongue, dropped his hands on his knees, and stared before him into the
dim shifting heart of the rukh, full of stealthy noises; the snapping of
twigs like the snapping of the fire behind him; the sigh and rustle of a
heat-bended branch recovering her straightness in the cool night; the
incessant mutter of the Kanye stream, and the undernote of the
many-peopled grass uplands out of sight beyond a swell of hill. He blew
out a thick puff of smoke, and began to quote Heine to himself.
'Yes, it is very goot. Very goot. "Yes, I work miracles, and, by Gott,
dey come off too." I remember when dere was no rukh more big than your
knee, from here to der plough-lands, and in drought-time der cattle ate
bones of dead cattle up und down. Now der trees haf come back. Dey were
planted by a Freethinker, because he know just de cause dot made der
effect. But der trees dey had der cult of der old gods-"und der Christian
Gods howl loudly." Dey could not live in der rukh, Gisborne.'
A shadow moved in one of the bridle-paths-moved and stepped out into
'I haf said true. Hush! Here is Faunus himself come to see der
Insbector-General. Himmel, he is der god! Look!'
It was Mowgli, crowned with his wreath of white flowers and walking
with a half-peeled branch-Mowgli, very mistrustful of the fire-light and
ready to fly back to the thicket on the least alarm.
'That's a friend of mine,' said Gisborne. ' He's looking for me. Ohé,
Muller had barely time to gasp before the man was at Gisborne's side,
crying: 'I was wrong to go. I was wrong, but I did not know then that the
mate of him that was killed by this river was awake looking for thee. Else
I should not have gone away. She tracked thee from the back-range,
'He is a little mad,' said Gisborne, 'and he speaks of all the beasts
about here as if he was a friend of theirs.'
'Of course-of course. If Faunus does not know, who should know?' said
Muller gravely. 'What does he say about tigers-dis god who knows you so
Gisborne relighted his cheroot, and before he had finished the story of
Mowgli and his exploits it was burned down to moustache-edge. Muller
listened without interruption. 'Dot is not madness,' he said at last when
Gisborne had described the driving of Abdul Gafur. 'Dot is not madness at
'What is it, then? He left me in a temper this morning because I asked
him to tell how he did it. I fancy the chap's possessed in some way.'
'No, dere is no bossession, but it is most wonderful. Normally they die
young-dese beople. Und you say now dot your thief-servant did not say what
drove der poney, and of course der nilghai he could not speak.'
'No, but, confound it, there wasn't anything. I listened, and I can
hear most things. The bull and the man simply came headlong-mad with
For answer Muller looked Mowgli up and down from head to foot, then
beckoned him nearer. He came as a buck treads a tainted trail.
'There is no harm,' said Muller in the vernacular. 'Hold out an
He ran his hand down to the elbow, felt that, and nodded. 'So I
thought. Now the knee.' Gisborne saw him feel the knee-cap and smile. Two
or three white scars just above the ankle caught his eye.
'Those came when thou wast very young?' he said.
'Ay,' Mowgli answered with a smile. 'They were love-tokens from the
little ones.' Then to Gisborne over his shoulder. 'This Sahib knows
everything. Who is he?'
'That comes after, my friend. Now where are they?' said Muller.
Mowgli swept his hand round his head in a circle.
'So! And thou canst drive nilghai? See! There is my mare in her
pickets. Canst thou bring her to me without frightening her?'
'Can I bring the mare to the Sahib without frightening her!' Mowgli
repeated, raising his voice a little above its normal pitch. 'What is more
easy if the heel-ropes are loose?'
'Loosen the head and heel-pegs,' shouted Muller to the groom. They were
hardly out of the ground before the mare, a huge black Australian, flung
up her head and cocked her ears.
'Careful! I do not wish her driven into the rukh,' said Muller.
Mowgli stood still fronting the blaze of the fire-in the very form and
likeness of that Greek god who is so lavishly described in the novels. The
mare whickered, drew up one hind leg, found that the heel-ropes were free,
and moved swiftly to her master, on whose bosom she dropped her head,
'She came of her own accord. My horses will do that,' cried
'Feel if she sweats,' said Mowgli.
Gisborne laid a hand on the damp flank.
'It is enough,' said Muller.
'It is enough,' Mowgli repeated, and a rock behind him threw back the
'That's uncanny, isn't it?' said Gisborne.
'No, only wonderful-most wonderful. Still you do not know,
'I confess I don't.'
'Well then, I shall not tell. He says dot some day he will show you
what it is. It would be gruel if I told. But why he is not dead I do not
understand. Now listen thou.' Muller faced Mowgli, and returned to the
vernacular. 'I am the head of all the rukhs in the country of India and
others across the Black Water. I do not know how many men be under
me-perhaps five thousand, perhaps ten. Thy business is this,- to wander no
more up and down the rukh and drive beasts for sport or for show, but to
take service under me, who am the Government in the matter of Woods and
Forests, and to live in this rukh as a forest-guard; to drive the
villagers' goats away when there is no order to feed them in the rukh; to
admit them when there is an order; to keep down, as thou canst keep down,
the boar and the nilghai when they become too many; to tell Gisborne Sahib
how and where tigers move, and what game there is in the forests; and to
give sure warning of all the fires in the rukh, for thou canst give
warning more quickly than any other. For that work there is a payment each
month in silver, and at the end, when thou hast gathered a wife and cattle
and, may be, children, a pension. What answer?'
'That's just what I-' Gisborne began.
'My Sahib spoke this morning of such a service. I walked all day alone
considering the matter, and my answer is ready here. I serve, if I serve
in this rukh and no other; with Gisborne Sahib and with no other.'
'It shall be so. In a week comes the written order that pledges the
honour of the Government for the pension. After that thou wilt take up thy
hut where Gisborne Sahib shall appoint.'
'I was going to speak to you about it,' said Gisborne.
'I did not want to be told when I saw that man. Dere will never be a
forest-guard like him. He is a miracle. I tell you, Gisborne, some day you
will find it so. Listen, he is blood-brother to every beast in der
'I should be easier in my mind if I could understand him.'
'Dot will come. Now I tell you dot only once in my service, and dot is
thirty years, haf I met a boy dot began as this man began. Und he died.
Sometimes you hear of dem in der census reports, but dey all die. Dis man
haf lived, and he is an anachronism, for he is before der Iron Age, and
der Stone Age. Look here, he is at der beginnings of der history of
man-Adam in der Garden, and now we want only an Eva! No! He is older than
dot child-tale, shust as der rukh is older dan der gods. Gisborne, I am a
Bagan now, once for all.'
Through the rest of the long evening Muller sat smoking and smoking,
and staring and staring into the darkness, his lips moving in multiplied
quotations, and great wonder upon his face. He went to his tent, but
presently came out again in his majestic pink sleeping-suit, and the last
words that Gisborne heard him address to the rukh through the deep hush of
midnight were these, delivered with immense emphasis:-
'Dough we shivt und bedeck und bedrape us.
Dou art noble und nude und andeek;
Libidina dy moder, Briapus
Dy fader, a God und a Greek.
Now I know dot, Bagan or Christian, I shall nefer know der inwardness
of der rukh!'
. . . . .
It was midnight in the bungalow a week later when Abdul Gafur, ashy
gray with rage, stood at the foot of Gisborne's bed and whispering bade
'Up, Sahib,' he stammered. 'Up and bring thy gun. Mine honour is gone.
Up and kill before any see.'
The old man's face had changed, so that Gisborne stared stupidly.
'It was for this, then, that that jungle outcaste helped me to polish
the Sahib's table, and drew water and plucked fowls. They have gone off
together for all my beatings, and now he sits among his devils dragging
her soul to the Pit. Up, Sahib, and come with me!'
He thrust a rifle into Gisborne's half-wakened hand and almost dragged
him from the room on to the verandah.
'They are there in the rukh; even within gunshot of the house. Come
softly with me.'
'But what is it? What is the trouble, Abdul?'
'Mowgli, and his devils. Also my own daughter,' said Abdul Gafur.
Gisborne whistled and followed his guide. Not for nothing, he knew, had
Abdul Gafur beaten his daughter of nights, and not for nothing had Mowgli
helped in the housework a man whom his own powers, whatever those were,
had convicted of theft. Also, a forest wooing goes quickly.
There was the breathing of a flute in the rukh, as it might have been
the song of some wandering wood-god, and, as they came nearer, a murmur of
voices. The path ended in a little semicircular glade walled partly by
high grass and partly by trees. In the centre, upon a fallen trunk, his
back to the watchers and his arm round the neck of Abdul Gafur's daughter,
sat Mowgli, newly crowned with flowers, playing upon a rude bamboo flute,
to whose music four huge wolves danced solemnly on their hind legs.
'Those are his devils,' Abdul Gafur whispered. He held a bunch of
cartridges in his hand. The beasts dropped to a longdrawn quavering note
and lay still with steady green eyes, glaring at the girl.
'Behold,' said Mowgli, laying aside the flute. 'Is there anything of
fear in that? I told thee, little Stout-heart, that there was not, and
thou didst believe. Thy father said-and oh, if thou couldst have seen thy
father being driven by the road of the nilghai!-thy father said that they
were devils; and by Allah, who is thy God, I do not wonder that he so
The girl laughed a little rippling laugh, and Gisborne heard Abdul
grind his few remaining teeth. This was not at all the girl that Gisborne
had seen with a half-eye slinking about the compound veiled and silent,
but another-a woman full blown in a night as the orchid puts out in an
hour's moist heat.
'But they are my playmates and my brothers, children of that mother
that gave me suck, as I told thee behind the cookhouse,' Mowgli went on.
'Children of the father that lay between me and the cold at the mouth of
the cave when I was a little naked child. Look'-a wolf raised his gray
jowl, slavering at Mowgli's knee-'my brother knows that I speak of them.
Yes, when I was a little child he was a cub rolling with me on the
'But thou hast said that thou art human-born,' cooed the girl, nestling
closer to the shoulder. 'Thou art human-born?'
'Said! Nay, I know that I am human born, because my heart is in thy
hold, little one.' Her head dropped under Mowgli's chin. Gisborne put up a
warning hand to restrain Abdul Gafur, who was not in the least impressed
by the wonder of the sight.
'But I was a wolf among wolves none the less till a time came when
Those of the jungle bade me go because I was a man.'
'Who bade thee go? That is not like a true man's talk.'
'The very beasts themselves. Little one, thou wouldst never believe
that telling, but so it was. The beasts of the jungle bade me go, but
these four followed me because I was their brother. Then was I a herder of
cattle among men, having learned their language. Ho! ho! The herds paid
toll to my brothers, till a woman, an old woman, beloved, saw me playing
by night with my brethren in the crops. They said that I was possessed of
devils, and drove me from that village with sticks and stones, and the
four came with me by stealth and not openly. That was when I had learned
to eat cooked meat and to talk boldly. From village to village I went,
heart of my heart, a herder of cattle, a tender of buffaloes, a tracker of
game, but there was no man that dared lift a finger against me twice.' He
stooped down and patted one of the heads. 'Do thou also like this. There
is neither hurt nor magic in them. See, they know thee.'
'The woods are full of all manner of devils,' said the girl with a
'A lie. A child's lie,' Mowgli returned confidently. 'I have lain out
in the dew under the stars and in the dark night, and I know. The jungle
is my house. Shall a man fear his own roof-beams or a woman her man's
hearth? Stoop down and pat them.'
'They are dogs and unclean,' she murmured, bending forward with averted
'Having eaten the fruit, now we remember the Law!' said Abdul Gafur
bitterly. 'What is the need of this waiting, Sahib? Kill!'
'H'sh, thou. Let us learn what has happened,' said Gisborne.
'That is well done,' said Mowgli, slipping his arm round the girl
again. 'Dogs or no dogs, they were with me through a thousand
'Ahi, and where was thy heart then? Through a thousand villages. Thou
hast seen a thousand maids. I-that am-that am a maid no more, have I thy
'What shall I swear by? By Allah, of whom thou speakest?'
'Nay, by the life that is in thee, and I am well content. Where was thy
heart in those days?'
Mowgli laughed a little. 'In my belly, because I was young and always
hungry. So I learned to track and to hunt, sending and calling my brothers
back and forth as a king calls his armies. Therefore I drove the nilghai
for the foolish young Sahib, and the big fat mare for the big fat Sahib,
when they questioned my power. It were as easy to have driven the men
themselves. Even now,' his voice lifted a little-'even now I know that
behind me stand thy father and Gisborne Sahib. Nay, do not run, for no ten
men dare move a pace forward. Remembering that thy father beat thee more
than once, shall I give the word and drive him again in rings through the
rukh?' A wolf stood up with bared teeth.
Gisborne felt Abdul Gafur tremble at his side. Next, his place was
empty, and the fat man was skimming down the glade.
'Remains only Gisborne Sahib,' said Mowgli, still without turning; 'but
I have eaten Gisborne Sahib's bread, and presently I shall be in his
service, and my brothers will be his servants to drive game and carry the
news. Hide thou in the grass.'
The girl fled, the tall grass closed behind her and the guardian wolf
that followed, and Mowgli turning with his three retainers faced Gisborne
as the Forest Officer came forward.
'That is all the magic,' he said, pointing to the three. 'The fat Sahib
knew that we who are bred among wolves run on our elbows and our knees for
a season. Feeling my arms and legs, he felt the truth which thou didst not
know. Is it so wonderful, Sahib?'
'Indeed it is all more wonderful than magic. These then drove the
'Ay, as they would drive Eblis if I gave the order. They are my eyes
and feet to me.'
'Look to it, then, that Eblis does not carry a double rifle. They have
yet something to learn, thy devils, for they stand one behind the other,
so that two shots would kill the three.'
'Ah, but they know they will be thy servants as soon as I am a
'Guard or no guard, Mowgli, thou hast done a great shame to Abdul
Gafur. Thou hast dishonoured his house and blackened his face.'
'For that, it was blackened when he took thy money, and made blacker
still when he whispered in thy ear a little while since to kill a naked
man. I myself will talk to Abdul Gafur, for I am a man of the Government
service, with a pension. He shall make the marriage by whatsoever rite he
will, or he shall run once more. I will speak to him in the dawn. For the
rest, the Sahib has his house and this is mine. It is time to sleep again,
Mowgli turned on his heel and disappeared into the grass, leaving
Gisborne alone. The hint of the wood-god was not to be mistaken; and
Gisborne went back to the bungalow, where Abdul Gafur, torn by rage and
fear, was raving in the verandah.
'Peace, peace,' said Gisborne, shaking him, for he looked as though he
were going to have a fit. 'Muller Sahib has made the man a forest-guard,
and as thou knowest there is a pension at the end of that business, and it
is Government service.'
'He is an outcaste-a mlech-a dog among dogs; an eater of carrion! What
pension can pay for that?'
'Allah knows; and thou hast heard that the mischief is done. Wouldst
thou blaze it to all the other servants? Make the shadi swiftly, and the
girl will make him a Mussulman. He is very comely. Canst thou wonder that
after thy beatings she went to him?'
'Did he say that he would chase me with his beasts?'
'So it seemed to me. If he be a wizard, he is at least a very strong
Abdul Gafur thought awhile, and then broke down and howled, forgetting
that he was a Mussulman:-
'Thou art a Brahmin. I am thy cow. Make thou the matter plain, and save
my honour if it can be saved!'
A second time then Gisborne plunged into the rukh and called Mowgli.
The answer came from high overhead, and in no submissive tones.
'Speak softly,' said Gisborne, looking up. 'There is yet time to strip
thee of thy place and hunt thee with thy wolves. The girl must go back to
her father's house tonight. To-morrow there will be the shadi, by the
Mussulman law, and then thou canst take her away. Bring her to Abdul
'I hear.' There was a murmur of two voices conferring among the leaves.
'Also, we will obey-for the last time.'
. . . . .
A year later Muller and Gisborne were riding through the rukh together,
talking of their business. They came out among the rocks near the Kanye
stream; Muller riding a little in advance. Under the shade of a thorn
thicket sprawled a naked brown baby, and from the brake immediately behind
him peered the head of a gray wolf. Gisborne had just time to strike up
Muller's rifle, and the bullet tore spattering through the branches
'Are you mad?' thundered Muller. 'Look!'
'I see,' said Gisborne quietly. 'The mother's somewhere near. You'll
wake the whole pack, by Jove!'
The bushes parted once more, and a woman unveiled snatched up the
'Who fired, Sahib?' she cried to Gisborne.
'This Sahib. He had not remembered thy man's people.'
'Not remembered? But indeed it may be so, for we who live with them
forget that they are strangers at all. Mowgli is down the stream catching
fish. Does the Sahib wish to see him? Come out, ye lacking manners. Come
out of the bushes, and make your service to the Sahibs.'
Muller's eyes grew rounder and rounder. He swung himself off the
plunging mare and dismounted, while the jungle gave up four wolves who
fawned round Gisborne. The mother stood nursing her child and spurning
them aside as they brushed against her bare feet.
'You were quite right about Mowgli,' said Gisborne. 'I meant to have
told you, but I've got so used to these fellows in the last twelve months
that it slipped my mind.'
'Oh, don't apologise,' said Muller. 'It's nothing. Gott in Himmel! "Und
I work miracles-und dey come off too!"'