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鸟鸣溪谷柳鸣春,万类和融释醉痕。骚客登楼临曲水,金威雅集胜兰亭。

 
 
 

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红 狗(四)  

2016-10-31 10:45:06|  分类: 译著 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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红 狗(四)

【英】鲁迪亚德·吉卜林 著

熊良銋 译

 

薄暮时分,小族民们就已经入睡了,因为现在不是晚花开放季节;可是当莫格里的脚步声在谷地上刚刚回荡时,他就听见了一种声音,仿佛整个大地都在嗡嗡鸣响。于是,他以平生前所未有的速度奔跑起来,一连把三堆石头踢到旁边那黑乎乎、甜酸气的水沟里去了;他听见了一阵咆哮,就象在岩洞里听到大海的咆哮声;他用自己的眼角一扫,发现身后的天空黑沉沉的了;还看见远处温贡加河在下面奔流,水里有一个扁平的钻石状脑袋;他使尽全力往外一跃,那只没了尾巴的咄儿突然扑向他在半空中的肩膀,而他的双脚却早已安全降落河中,他气喘吁吁,却得意洋洋。他一下都没有被叮咬,因为他在小族民之中的瞬间,野蒜的气味把他们遏制住了。当他浮起来时,喀阿那盘卷的身躯把他稳稳地托住了,有些东西从悬崖上弹跳下来——一簇一簇的蜂群,铅垂般坠落下来;可是在他们碰到水面之前,那些野蜂就飞了上去,一只咄儿的身体也旋转着顺流而下。他们能听见头顶上狂怒短促的吠叫声,淹没在象是怒涛拍岸发出的咆哮声里——那是岩石小族民拍翅的轰鸣声。还有些咄儿已经掉进了与地下岩洞相通的水沟,在那些滚落下来的蜂房中间喘不过气来,拼命挣扎,胡乱撕咬,最后,即使死了,也被下面浪涛般起伏的蜂群抬起,从河水面上某个窟窿里冒出来,一直滚进那些黑色的垃圾堆。有些咄儿突然往悬崖上的树丛跳去,野蜂便沾满了他们的全身;可是更多的咄儿被叮咬得发了狂,自己跳进了河里;正如喀阿所说,温贡加河是一股饿水。

喀阿紧紧地搂住莫格里,直到这男孩的呼吸恢复了正常。

“我们不可留在这儿了,”他说道。“那些小族民确实都被招惹起来了。走吧!”

莫格里象往常那样,在水里一边往低处游,一边潜水,手里拿着刀子,顺流而下。

“慢,慢,”喀阿说道。“一颗牙咬不死一百个敌手,除非那是眼镜蛇的牙,而且许多咄儿一看见小族民起来,就会迅速钻进水里。”

“那么说来,我的刀子更能发挥作用了。呸!小族民怎么跟上来了!”莫格里说着,又沉入水中了。水面上密密麻麻地布满了野蜂,发出愤怒的嗡嗡声,见到什么就叮咬什么。

“不吭声就不会有任何损失。”喀阿说道,言外之意,任何蜂刺都穿不透他的鳞甲。“那样你就有漫长的通宵捕猎了。听他们狂吠去吧!”

大约有半数的咄儿看见了自己的同伴冲进去的陷阱,于是快速转到一边,在峡谷陡岸断裂处还是掉进了水中。他们对那使他们蒙受耻辱的树猿愤怒的呐喊声和威胁声,还有那些受到小族民惩罚的野狗的嗥叫声和狂吠声,全都混杂在一起。停留在岸上就意味着死亡,每一只咄儿都明白这个道理。他们这群野狗沿着水流席卷而下,一直冲进和平池深深的漩涡里,可是即便在那里,愤怒的小族民仍然紧追不舍,又把他们逼进了水里。莫格里还能听见那个没了尾巴的头领在命令他的部下坚持到底,把希翁夷狼群斩尽杀绝的喊声。但是他不去浪费时间听了。

“有个家伙在我们背后捕杀!”一只咄儿猛然叫道。“这儿的水都脏了!”

莫格里象水獭一样向前潜游,一只正在挣扎的咄儿还没来得及张嘴,就被他猛地拉到了水底下,当尸体侧转着浮起来时,水面上升起了一个个黑乎乎的圆圈。那些咄儿试图掉转头,可是激流阻止了他们,小族民们猛叮他们的脑袋和耳朵,他们还能听到希翁夷狼群的挑战声在渐浓的夜色中越来越大、越来越深沉。莫格里又一次潜入水中,就有一只咄儿沉没水下,浮上来却是死的,狗群的后部又一次爆发出喧嚷声;有的嗥叫着说最好还是上岸去,有的则要求他们的头领带他们回到德坎高原去,还有的叫莫格里现身,出来受死。

“他们是带着两个胃和好几个喉咙来作战的,”喀阿说道。“剩下的事就由那边下面你的兄弟们来处理了。小族民们回去睡觉了。他们已经追了我们好远。现在我也要转回去,因为我跟狼没有同样的皮肤。打猎顺利,小兄弟,记住,咄儿咬人悄不出声。”

一只三条腿的狼沿着河岸跑过来,上下跳跃,把脑袋偏向一侧,贴近地面,背部弓着,突然往空中一扑,仿佛在和自己的崽子玩耍。他就是群外者闻陀拉,他一直不吭声,但是在那些咄儿们旁边继续恶搞。这时他们在水里时间长了,还在精疲力竭地游着,毛皮被浸透了,沉甸甸的,毛茸茸的尾巴象海绵似的拖着,他们都太疲累,浑身直打颤,默不作声,注视着那一双并排前行的火辣辣的眼睛。。

“这可绝对不是一次顺利的捕猎,”一只野狗喘着粗气说道。

“捕猎顺利!”莫格里说着,大胆地浮到了那畜生的旁边,就把他的长刀子从野狗的肩后直捅进去,拼命向前捅着,以防被那只垂死的野狗反过来猛咬一口。

“那是你吗,人娃?”闻陀拉在河对面问道。

“你问问那死鬼吧,群外者,”莫格里答道。“没有顺水游下来的吗?我已经给这些野狗的嘴里塞满了泥土;我还在大白天把他们耍弄了一场,他们的统领丢了尾巴,不过这里还给你留了几只。我该把他们赶到哪儿去呢?”

“我会等着的,”闻陀拉说道。“黑夜就在我面前。”

希翁夷狼群的吠叫声越来越近了。“为了狼群,为了正规的狼群,抓住机遇!”河里的一道汇水弯把那些咄儿卷到了狼窝对岸的沙滩上。

这时,他们才发现自己犯了错误。它们本该在往上游再走半英哩的地方上岸,把那群狼赶到干地上去的。现在已经太晚了。河岸上排满了愤怒的眼睛,而且,除了那可怕的吠尔声从日落以后就没停过之外,丛林里再也没有别的声音了。好象是闻陀拉在哄着他们上岸似的;“转身上岸!”那只咄儿统领命令道。整个狗群全都向岸上扑去,摇摆着蹚过浅水,弄得温贡加河白浪飞溅,水波从河这边推到河那边,仿佛是船头劈开的冲浪。当那些咄儿挤成一团,一下子涌向河滩时,莫格里就紧随其后,猛戳着,抽砍着。

于是,一场持久的激烈搏斗开始了,沿着湿漉漉的血红沙滩上,在那纠结的树根上和树根间,灌木丛里,草簇内外,双方拼力厮杀,有进有退,有松有紧,时聚时散,时缩时张;就是在这时,咄儿们还是占有二对一的优势。但是,他们遇到的是要为狼群的全体成员而战的那些狼,不仅仅是那些身材矮的。个子高的、阔胸膛、白尖牙的狼群猎手,而且还有眼含焦虑的辣喜妮——正如俗话所说,就是守窝的母狼——要为自己的幼崽而战,间或有一只皮上的新毛尚未出齐的一龄狼,也在她们身边扭打着,撕咬着。你们必须明白,狼扑上去不是咬喉咙,就是咬侧腹,而咄儿偏喜欢咬肚子;所以咄儿们从水里挣扎出来时,不得不仰起头,这就对狼有利了。在旱地上,狼就要吃亏了;可是不论在水里还是在岸上,莫格里的长刀都会不停地左右开弓。那四兄弟一路撕咬着来到莫格里的身边。灰哥蹲在那男孩的两膝间,保护着他的肚子,其余三位防卫着他的后背和身体两侧,或者站在他的周围,以防咄儿尖叫着跳起来扑到坚固的刀锋上把他撞倒。对于其他的狼和狗来说,这纯粹是一场混战——一群打得难解难分、摇来晃去的乌合之众,沿着河岸移动,一会儿从右向左,一会儿从左向右;并且还兜着圈子缓慢地向中心挤压。有的地方会出现一个起伏的圆丘,很象漩涡中的水泡,也会象水泡一样破裂,把四五只血肉模糊的野狗抛出来,每一只都拼命想回到中心地带去;有的地方会有一只狼被两三只咄儿压住,仍在费劲地拖着他们往前冲,很快就倒了下去;有的地方一只一龄狼虽然早已被杀死,却因周围的挤压被举了起来,而他的妈妈气疯了,便来回翻滚着,尖叫着冲了过去;或许,在最密集的混战之中,有一只狼和一只咄儿,他们都不顾一切地想要先抓住对方,却被突然闯来的一群凶猛的斗兽裹走了。有一次莫格里从阿克拉的身边经过,尽管他两侧各有一只咄儿在夹攻,可他那牙齿几乎掉光了的嘴巴紧紧咬住了第三只咄儿的腰部;还有一次,他看见了法奥,他的牙齿咬进了一只咄儿的喉咙,并把那只无可奈何的畜生往前拽去,直到那些一龄狼结果了他的性命。但是,大多数战斗是在黑暗中盲目惊慌中进行的,显得非常混乱;在他的周围,在他的后面,在他的上方,到处是一片猛击,摔倒,翻滚,嗥叫,呻吟,以及撕咬、撕咬、再撕咬的惨象。随着黑夜渐渐离去,那瞬息万变、令人头晕目眩的激战更加剧烈了。咄儿们胆怯了,不敢去攻击那些比自己更强大的恶狼,却也不敢逃跑。这时,莫格里感到战斗很快就要结束了,便满足于只有伤残的野狗让自己攻击。那些一龄狼越来越胆大了;偶尔还有时间喘口气,跟朋友说句话,那把刀子有时仅仅是忽闪一下,也会把一只野狗掀到一旁。

“肉离骨头很近了,”灰哥尖叫道。他身上受了一二十处伤,鲜血直流。

“不过骨头还没断呢,”莫格里说道。“哟哇哇!在丛林里我们就是这么干的!”那血红的刀锋象火焰一样沿着一只咄儿的腹侧划下去,那咄儿的后肢被一只紧抱不放的狼压在身子底下。

“我杀死的猎物!”那只狼皱起鼻孔哼唧道。“把他交给我吧。”

“你的肚子还空着吗,群外者?”莫格里说道。闻陀拉伤得很厉害,可是他那一掐使那只咄儿瘫倒了,所以没法转身反扑。

“凭赎买我的那头公牛起誓,”莫格里苦笑着说道。“这正是那只丢了尾巴的野狗!”这确确实实是那只栗色的大头领。

杀害幼崽和母狼辣喜妮是不明智的,莫格里富有哲理味地继续说道,一边抹去眼角上的血。“除非一只狗也杀死了群外者;而我在肚子里觉得,这个闻陀拉早晚会杀死你的。”

这时,一只咄儿跳了出来援救自己的头领;可是没等到他的牙齿触及闻陀拉的腹侧,莫格里的刀子就刺进了他的喉咙,而灰哥就接着干剩下的事了。

“我们在丛林里就是这么干的!”莫格里说道。

闻陀拉一声不吭,只是用嘴巴紧紧地咬着那只野狗的背脊骨,尽管他自己也已经精疲力竭。野狗突然颤动了一下,脑袋垂了下来,躺倒不动了,闻陀拉也倒在了他身上。

“哈!血债终于偿还了,”莫格里说道。“把那支歌唱起来吧,闻陀拉。”

“他再也不会捕猎了,”灰哥说道。“阿克拉这阵子也好久没吭声了。”

“那骨头咔嚓一声断了!”法奥纳的儿子法奥雷鸣般吼叫道。“他们走了!追杀吧,杀光,啊,自由兽民的猎手们!”

咄儿们纷纷从那黑暗的血污的沙滩向大河逃窜,想钻进莽林,有的向上游,有的向下游,只要看见有路可走就行。

“血债!血偿!”莫格里喊叫道。“要讨还血债!他们杀死了孤狼!不要放走一只野狗!”

他手拿长刀飞奔到河边,把任何胆敢下水的咄儿拦截住,这时,从摞在一起的九只死狗下面露出了阿克拉的头和前腿,莫格里跪在了孤狼的身边。

“我不是说过,这是我的最后一战吗?”阿克拉喘着粗气说道。“你怎么样啦,小兄弟?”

“我还活着,已经杀死了许多红狗。”

“这样也好。我要死了,而且,我乐意,我乐意死在你身边,小兄弟。”

莫格里把那伤痕累累、惨不忍睹的头放在自己的双膝上,用双臂搂着那被撕破了的脖子。

“现在早已不是谢尔汗称霸的那个时代了,你也不是那个在泥土里光着身子打滚的人娃了。”

“非也,非也,我是一只狼。我跟自由兽民有同一种皮肤,”莫格里大声喊道。“我并不认为我是一个人。”

“你是人,小兄弟,我照看着的狼崽。你是一个人,否则。整个狼群就会被咄儿追得仓皇逃遁。我的命是你救的,今天你又救了狼群,就象我当初救了你一样。你忘记了吗?现在,所有的债现在都还清了。回到你自己的同胞那儿去吧。我再对你说一遍,我的心肝宝贝,这次捕猎结束了。回到你自己的同胞那儿去吧。”

“我决不走的。我要一个人在丛林里捕猎。我已经说过了。”

“夏天过后就是雨季,雨季过后就是春天。回去吧,免得你被赶走。”

 “谁会赶走我?”

“莫格里会赶走莫格里的。回去你的同胞那儿去吧。回到人间去。”

“什么时候莫格里赶莫格里了,我就走。”莫格里答道。

“再没有什么可说的了,”阿克拉说道。“小兄弟,你能扶我站起来吗?我也曾是自由兽民的首领呢。”

莫格里小心翼翼地轻轻地挪开了那些尸体,然后用双臂把阿克拉抱住,扶着他站起来,于是孤狼深深地吸了一口气,开始唱起了狼群首领临终时应该唱的死亡之歌。他越唱越有劲,声音渐渐升高,远远地回响在河对岸,直唱到最后一句“捕猎顺利!”突然间阿克拉挣脱了莫格里,往空中一跳,背朝地跌下来就死了,落在了他杀死的最后一个,也是最凶猛的一个猎物上面。

莫格里坐着,把头伏在膝盖上,别的什么都不在乎了,这时候那些仓皇逃窜的残余咄儿们被毫不留情的母狼辣喜妮追上并扑倒了。叫喊声渐渐沉寂了,那些狼伤口结了痂,都一走一瘸地回来清点损失。狼群中共死了十五只狼和六只辣喜妮,都还躺在河边,其余的狼没有一只不留伤痕的。莫格里一直坐到寒冷的黎明,法奥那湿漉漉、红殷殷的鼻口部低垂到他的手上,莫格里却缩了回来,指着阿克拉那瘦骨嶙峋的尸体。

“捕猎顺利!”法奥说道,仿佛阿克拉还活着一样,然后,他扭转头隔着自己那被咬伤的肩膀,对其余的狼说道:“嗥叫吧,野狗们!今晚一只大狼死了!”

不过,那群有两百条好斗的咄儿们曾吹嘘说,所有的丛林都是他们的丛林,还说没有活着的动物能与他们抗衡,现在。竟然没有一条把这句话带回到德坎高原去了。

 

契尔的歌

 

下面是契尔唱的歌。莽林大战结束后,老鹰们一个接一个地飞临河床。契尔对大家很友好,但在心里他却是一种冷血动物。因为他知道:几乎所有的莽林居民都要排长队到他那儿来报到。

 

这些都是我夜里出来的伙伴——

(找契尔!寻找你呀,契尔!)

我现在大声告诉他们仗已打完。

(契尔呀!契尔的先锋!)

他们在刚杀死的猎物头上捎过口信给我,,

我在平原上的雄鹿脚下捎过口信给他们,。

踪迹都在此消失——他们再也不会说话!

 

他们呼唤着捕猎——他们紧紧追随——

(找契尔!寻找你呀,契尔!)

他们叫大鹿旋转,否则在路过时把他包围——

(契尔呀!契尔的先锋!)

他们落在臭迹后面——他们在前面奔跑。

他们避开直撞的角——他们的子女过于繁茂。

踪迹在此消失——他们再也不会追剿!

 

这些都是我的伙伴。可惜他们已经完蛋!

(找契尔!寻找你呀,契尔!)

我,他们睥睨一切时的相识,现在特地赶来问安。

(契尔呀!契尔的先锋!)

破烂的肚皮,深陷的眼睛,张开的嘴巴红惨惨,

他们一个个躺着,身子扭曲,又瘦又孤单,尸积鈤山。

踪迹在此消失——我的大军在这儿饱餐!

 

附录:原文

 

Red DogIV

Written by Rudyard Kipling

Translated by William Xiong

 

The Little People had gone to sleep in the early twilight, for it was not the season of late blossoming flowers; but as Mowgli’s first foot-falls rang hollow on the hollow ground he heard a sound as though all the earth were humming. Then he ran as he had never run in his life before, spurned aside one — two — three of the piles of stones into the dark, sweet-smelling gullies; heard a roar like the roar of the sea in a cave; saw with the tail of his eye the air grow dark behind him; saw the current of the Waingunga far below, and a flat, diamond-shaped head in the water; leaped outward with all his strength, the tailless dhole snapping at his shoulder in mid-air, and dropped feet first to the safety of the river, breathless and triumphant. There was not a sting upon him, for the smell of the garlic had checked the Little People for just the few seconds that he was among them. When he rose Kaa’s coils were steadying him and things were bounding over the edge of the cliff — great lumps, it seemed, of clustered bees falling like plummets; but before any lump touched water the bees flew upward and the body of a dhole whirled down-stream. Overhead they could hear furious short yells that were drowned in a roar like breakers — the roar of the wings of the Little People of the Rocks. Some of the dholes, too, had fallen into the gullies that communicated with the underground caves, and there choked and fought and snapped among the tumbled honeycombs, and at last, borne up, even when they were dead, on the heaving waves of bees beneath them, shot out of some hole in the river-face, to roll over on the black rubbish-heaps. There were dholes who had leaped short into the trees on the cliffs, and the bees blotted out their shapes; but the greater number of them, maddened by the stings, had flung themselves into the river; and, as Kaa said, the Waingunga was hungry water.

Kaa held Mowgli fast till the boy had recovered his breath.

“We may not stay here,” he said. “The Little People are roused indeed. Come!”

Swimming low and diving as often as he could, Mowgli went down the river, knife in hand.

“Slowly, slowly,” said Kaa. “One tooth does not kill a hundred unless it be a cobra’s, and many of the dholes took water swiftly when they saw the Little People rise.”

“The more work for my knife, then. Phai! How the Little People follow!” Mowgli sank again. The face of the water was blanketed with wild bees, buzzing sullenly and stinging all they found.

“Nothing was ever yet lost by silence,” said Kaa — no sting could penetrate his scales —“and thou hast all the long night for the hunting. Hear them howl!”

Nearly half the pack had seen the trap their fellows rushed into, and turning sharp aside had flung themselves into the water where the gorge broke down in steep banks. Their cries of rage and their threats against the “tree-ape” who had brought them to their shame mixed with the yells and growls of those who had been punished by the Little People. To remain ashore was death, and every dhole knew it. Their pack was swept along the current, down to the deep eddies of the Peace Pool, but even there the angry Little People followed and forced them to the water again. Mowgli could hear the voice of the tailless leader bidding his people hold on and kill out every wolf in Seeonee. But he did not waste his time in listening.

“One kills in the dark behind us!” snapped a dhole. “Here is tainted water!”

Mowgli had dived forward like an otter, twitched a struggling dhole under water before he could open his mouth, and dark rings rose as the body plopped up, turning on its side. The dholes tried to turn, but the current prevented them, and the Little People darted at the heads and ears, and they could hear the challenge of the Seeonee Pack growing louder and deeper in the gathering darkness. Again Mowgli dived, and again a dhole went under, and rose dead, and again the clamour broke out at the rear of the pack; some howling that it was best to go ashore, others calling on their leader to lead them back to the Dekkan, and others bidding Mowgli show himself and be killed.

“They come to the fight with two stomachs and several voices,” said Kaa. “The rest is with thy brethren below yonder, The Little People go back to sleep. They have chased us far. Now I, too, turn back, for I am not of one skin with any wolf. Good hunting, Little Brother, and remember the dhole bites low.”

A wolf came running along the bank on three legs, leaping up and down, laying his head sideways close to the ground, hunching his back, and breaking high into the air, as though he were playing with his cubs. It was Won-tolla, the Outlier, and he said never a word, but continued his horrible sport beside the dholes. They had been long in the water now, and were swimming wearily, their coats drenched and heavy, their bushy tails dragging like sponges, so tired and shaken that they, too, were silent, watching the pair of blazing eyes that moved abreast.

“This is no good hunting,” said one, panting.

“Good hunting!” said Mowgli, as he rose boldly at the brute’s side, and sent the long knife home behind the shoulder, pushing hard to avoid his dying snap.

“Art thou there, Man-cub?” said Won-tolla across the water.

“Ask of the dead, Outlier,” Mowgli replied. “Have none come down-stream? I have filled these dogs’ mouths with dirt; I have tricked them in the broad daylight, and their leader lacks his tail, but here be some few for thee still. Whither shall I drive them?”

“I will wait,” said Won-tolla. “The night is before me.”

Nearer and nearer came the bay of the Seeonee wolves. “For the Pack, for the Full Pack it is met!” and a bend in the river drove the dholes forward among the sands and shoals opposite the Lairs.

Then they saw their mistake. They should have landed half a mile higher up, and rushed the wolves on dry ground. Now it was too late. The bank was lined with burning eyes, and except for the horrible pheeal that had never stopped since sundown, there was no sound in the Jungle. It seemed as though Won-tolla were fawning on them to come ashore; and “Turn and take hold!” said the leader of the dholes. The entire Pack flung themselves at the shore, threshing and squattering through the shoal water, till the face of the Waingunga was all white and torn, and the great ripples went from side to side, like bow-waves from a boat. Mowgli followed the rush, stabbing and slicing as the dholes, huddled together, rushed up the river-beach in one wave.

Then the long fight began, heaving and straining and splitting and scattering and narrowing and broadening along the red, wet sands, and over and between the tangled tree-roots, and through and among the bushes, and in and out of the grass clumps; for even now the dholes were two to one. But they met wolves fighting for all that made the Pack, and not only the short, high, deep-chested, white-tusked hunters of the Pack, but the anxious-eyed lahinis — the she-wolves of the lair, as the saying is — fighting for their litters, with here and there a yearling wolf, his first coat still half woolly, tugging and grappling by their sides. A wolf, you must know, flies at the throat or snaps at the flank, while a dhole, by preference, bites at the belly; so when the dholes were struggling out of the water and had to raise their heads, the odds were with the wolves. On dry land the wolves suffered; but in the water or ashore, Mowgli’s knife came and went without ceasing. The Four had worried their way to his side. Gray Brother, crouched between the boy’s knees, was protecting his stomach, while the others guarded his back and either side, or stood over him when the shock of a leaping, yelling dhole who had thrown himself full on the steady blade bore him down. For the rest, it was one tangled confusion — a locked and swaying mob that moved from right to left and from left to right along the bank; and also ground round and round slowly on its own centre. Here would be a heaving mound, like a water-blister in a whirlpool, which would break like a water-blister, and throw up four or five mangled dogs, each striving to get back to the centre; here would be a single wolf borne down by two or three dholes, laboriously dragging them forward, and sinking the while; here a yearling cub would be held up by the pressure round him, though he had been killed early, while his mother, crazed with dumb rage, rolled over and over, snapping, and passing on; and in the middle of the thickest press, perhaps, one wolf and one dhole, forgetting everything else, would be manoeuvring for first hold till they were whirled away by a rush of furious fighters. Once Mowgli passed Akela, a dhole on either flank, and his all but toothless jaws closed over the loins of a third; and once he saw Phao, his teeth set in the throat of a dhole, tugging the unwilling beast forward till the yearlings could finish him. But the bulk of the fight was blind flurry and smother in the dark; hit, trip, and tumble, yelp, groan, and worry-worry-worry, round him and behind him and above him. As the night wore on, the quick, giddy-go-round motion increased. The dholes were cowed and afraid to attack the stronger wolves, but did not yet dare to run away. Mowgli felt that the end was coming soon, and contented himself with striking merely to cripple. The yearlings were growing bolder; there was time now and again to breathe, and pass a word to a friend, and the mere flicker of the knife would sometimes turn a dog aside.

“The meat is very near the bone,” Gray Brother yelled. He was bleeding from a score of flesh-wounds.

“But the bone is yet to be cracked,” said Mowgli. “Eowawa! THUS do we do in the Jungle!” The red blade ran like a flame along the side of a dhole whose hind-quarters were hidden by the weight of a clinging wolf.

“My kill!” snorted the wolf through his wrinkled nostrils. “Leave him to me.”

“Is thy stomach still empty, Outlier?” said Mowgli. Won-tolla was fearfully punished, but his grip had paralysed the dhole, who could not turn round and reach him.

“By the Bull that bought me,” said Mowgli, with a bitter laugh, “it is the tailless one!” And indeed it was the big bay-coloured leader.

“It is not wise to kill cubs and lahinis,” Mowgli went on philosophically, wiping the blood out of his eyes, “unless one has also killed the Outlier; and it is in my stomach that this Won-tolla kills thee.”

A dhole leaped to his leader’s aid; but before his teeth had found Won-tolla’s flank, Mowgli’s knife was in his throat, and Gray Brother took what was left.

“And thus do we do in the Jungle,” said Mowgli.

Won-tolla said not a word, only his jaws were closing and closing on the backbone as his life ebbed. The dhole shuddered, his head dropped, and he lay still, and Won-tolla dropped above him.

“Huh! The Blood Debt is paid,” said Mowgli. “Sing the song, Won-tolla.”

“He hunts no more,” said Gray Brother; “and Akela, too, is silent this long time.”

“The bone is cracked!” thundered Phao, son of Phaona. “They go! Kill, kill out, O hunters of the Free People!”

Dhole after dhole was slinking away from those dark and bloody sands to the river, to the thick Jungle, up-stream or down-stream as he saw the road clear.

“The debt! The debt!” shouted Mowgli. “Pay the debt! They have slain the Lone Wolf! Let not a dog go!”

He was flying to the river, knife in hand, to check any dhole who dared to take water, when, from under a mound of nine dead, rose Akela’s head and fore-quarters, and Mowgli dropped on his knees beside the Lone Wolf.

“Said I not it would be my last fight?” Akela gasped. “It is good hunting. And thou, Little Brother?”

“I live, having killed many.”

“Even so. I die, and I would — I would die by thee, Little Brother.”

Mowgli took the terrible scarred head on his knees, and put his arms round the torn neck.

“It is long since the old days of Shere Khan, and a Man-cub that rolled naked in the dust.”

“Nay, nay, I am a wolf. I am of one skin with the Free People,” Mowgli cried. “It is no will of mine that I am a man.”

“Thou art a man, Little Brother, wolfling of my watching. Thou art a man, or else the Pack had fled before the dhole. My life I owe to thee, and today thou hast saved the Pack even as once I saved thee. Hast thou forgotten? All debts are paid now. Go to thine own people. I tell thee again, eye of my eye, this hunting is ended. Go to thine own people.”

“I will never go. I will hunt alone in the Jungle. I have said it.”

“After the summer come the Rains, and after the Rains comes the spring. Go back before thou art driven.”

“Who will drive me?”

“Mowgli will drive Mowgli. Go back to thy people. Go to Man.”

“When Mowgli drives Mowgli I will go,” Mowgli answered.

“There is no more to say,” said Akela. “Little Brother, canst thou raise me to my feet? I also was a leader of the Free People.”

Very carefully and gently Mowgli lifted the bodies aside, and raised Akela to his feet, both arms round him, and the Lone Wolf drew a long breath, and began the Death Song that a leader of the Pack should sing when he dies. It gathered strength as he went on, lifting and lifting, and ringing far across the river, till it came to the last “Good hunting!”and Akela shook himself clear of Mowgli for an instant, and, leaping into the air, fell backward dead upon his last and most terrible kill.

Mowgli sat with his head on his knees, careless of anything else, while the remnant of the flying dholes were being overtaken and run down by the merciless lahinis. Little by little the cries died away, and the wolves returned limping, as their wounds stiffened, to take stock of the losses. Fifteen of the Pack, as well as half a dozen lahinis, lay dead by the river, and of the others not one was unmarked. And Mowgli sat through it all till the cold daybreak, when Phao’s wet, red muzzle was dropped in his hand, and Mowgli drew back to show the gaunt body of Akela.

“Good hunting!” said Phao, as though Akela were still alive, and then over his bitten shoulder to the others: “Howl, dogs! A Wolf has died to-night!”

But of all the Pack of two hundred fighting dholes, whose boast was that all jungles were their Jungle, and that no living thing could stand before them, not one returned to the Dekkan to carry that word.


Chil’s Song


 [This is the song that Chil sang as the kites dropped down one after another to the river-bed, when the great fight was finished. Chil is good friends with everybody, but he is a cold-blooded kind of creature at heart, because he knows that almost everybody in the Jungle comes to him in the long-run.]

 

These were my companions going forth by night —

(For Chil! Look you, for Chil!)

Now come I to whistle them the ending of the fight.

(Chil! Vanguards of Chil!)

Word they gave me overhead of quarry newly slain,

Word I gave them underfoot of buck upon the plain.

Here’s an end of every trail — they shall not speak again!

 

They that called the hunting-cry — they that followed fast —

(For Chil! Look you, for Chil!)

They that bade the sambhur wheel, or pinned him as he passed —

(Chil! Vanguards of Chil!)

They that lagged behind the scent — they that ran before,

They that shunned the level horn — they that overbore.

Here’s an end of every trail — they shall not follow more.

 

These were my companions. Pity ’twas they died!

(For Chil! Look you, for Chil!)

Now come I to comfort them that knew them in their pride.

(Chil! Vanguards of Chil!)

Tattered flank and sunken eye, open mouth and red,

Locked and lank and lone they lie, the dead upon their dead.

Here’s an end of every trail — and here my hosts are fed.

 

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