The Second Jungle Book HTML version

Mowgli, who had never known what real hunger meant, fell back on
stale honey, three years old, scraped out of deserted rock-hivesÑhoney
black as a sloe, and dusty with dried sugar. He hunted, too, for deep-bor-
ing grubs under the bark of the trees, and robbed the wasps of their new
broods. All the game in the jungle was no more than skin and bone, and
Bagheera could kill thrice in a night, and hardly get a full meal. But the
want of water was the worst, for though the Jungle People drink seldom
they must drink deep.
And the heat went on and on, and sucked up all the moisture, till at
last the main channel of the Waingunga was the only stream that carried
a trickle of water between its dead banks; and when Hathi, the wild ele-
phant, who lives for a hundred years and more, saw a long, lean blue
ridge of rock show dry in the very centre of the stream, he knew that he
was looking at the Peace Rock, and then and there he lifted up his trunk
and proclaimed the Water Truce, as his father before him had pro-
claimed it fifty years ago. The deer, wild pig, and buffalo took up the cry
hoarsely; and Chil, the Kite, flew in great circles far and wide, whistling
and shrieking the warning.
By the Law of the Jungle it is death to kill at the drinking-places when
once the Water Truce has been declared. The reason of this is that drink-
ing comes before eating. Every one in the Jungle can scramble along
somehow when only game is scarce; but water is water, and when there
is but one source of supply, all hunting stops while the Jungle People go
there for their needs. In good seasons, when water was plentiful, those
who came down to drink at the WaingungaÑor anywhere else, for that
matterÑdid so at the risk of their lives, and that risk made no small part
of the fascination of the night's doings. To move down so cunningly that
never a leaf stirred; to wade knee-deep in the roaring shallows that
drown all noise from behind; to drink, looking backward over one
shoulder, every muscle ready for the first desperate bound of keen ter-
ror; to roll on the sandy margin, and return, wet-muzzled and well
plumped out, to the admiring herd, was a thing that all tall-antlered
young bucks took a delight in, precisely because they knew that at any
moment Bagheera or Shere Khan might leap upon them and bear them
down. But now all that life-and-death fun was ended, and the Jungle
People came up, starved and weary, to the shrunken river,Ñtiger, bear,
deer, buffalo, and pig, all together,Ñdrank the fouled waters, and hung
above them, too exhausted to move off.
The deer and the pig had tramped all day in search of something bet-
ter than dried bark and withered leaves. The buffaloes had found no