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The Second Jungle Book


It began when the winter Rains failed almost entirely, and Ikki, the
Porcupine, meeting Mowgli in a bamboo-thicket, told him that the wild
yams were drying up. Now everybody knows that Ikki is ridiculously
fastidious in his choice of food, and will eat nothing but the very best
and ripest. So Mowgli laughed and said, "What is that to me?"
"Not much NOW," said Ikki, rattling his quills in a stiff, uncomfortable
way, "but later we shall see. Is there any more diving into the deep rock-
pool below the Bee-Rocks, Little Brother?"
"No. The foolish water is going all away, and I do not wish to break
my head," said Mowgli, who, in those days, was quite sure that he knew
as much as any five of the Jungle People put together.
"That is thy loss. A small crack might let in some wisdom." Ikki
ducked quickly to prevent Mowgli from pulling his nose-bristles, and
Mowgli told Baloo what Ikki had said. Baloo looked very grave, and
mumbled half to himself: "If I were alone I would change my hunting-
grounds now, before the others began to think. And yetÑhunting
among strangers ends in fighting; and they might hurt the Man-cub. We
must wait and see how the mohwa blooms."
That spring the mohwa tree, that Baloo was so fond of, never
flowered. The greeny, cream-coloured, waxy blossoms were heat-killed
before they were born, and only a few bad-smelling petals came down
when he stood on his hind legs and shook the tree. Then, inch by inch,
the untempered heat crept into the heart of the Jungle, turning it yellow,
brown, and at last black. The green growths in the sides of the ravines
burned up to broken wires and curled films of dead stuff; the hidden
pools sank down and caked over, keeping the last least footmark on their
edges as if it had been cast in iron; the juicy-stemmed creepers fell away
from the trees they clung to and died at their feet; the bamboos withered,
clanking when the hot winds blew, and the moss peeled off the rocks
deep in the Jungle, till they were as bare and as hot as the quivering blue
boulders in the bed of the stream.
The birds and the monkey-people went north early in the year, for
they knew what was coming; and the deer and the wild pig broke far
away to the perished fields of the villages, dying sometimes before the
eyes of men too weak to kill them. Chil, the Kite, stayed and grew fat, for
there was a great deal of carrion, and evening after evening he brought
the news to the beasts, too weak to force their way to fresh hunting-
grounds, that the sun was killing the Jungle for three days' flight in every
direction.
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