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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Jungle Book - Mowgli's Song
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The Jungle Book - Mowgli's Song Post by :mememememe Category :Long Stories Author :Rudyard Kipling Date :May 2011 Read :2899

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The Jungle Book - Mowgli's Song

Mowgli's Song


The Song of Mowgli--I, Mowgli, am singing. Let the jungle
listen to the things I have done.

Shere Khan said he would kill--would kill! At the gates in the
twilight he would kill Mowgli, the Frog!

He ate and he drank. Drink deep, Shere Khan, for when wilt thou
drink again? Sleep and dream of the kill.

I am alone on the grazing-grounds. Gray Brother, come to me!
Come to me, Lone Wolf, for there is big game afoot!

Bring up the great bull buffaloes, the blue-skinned herd bulls
with the angry eyes. Drive them to and fro as I order.

Sleepest thou still, Shere Khan? Wake, oh, wake! Here come I,
and the bulls are behind.

Rama, the King of the Buffaloes, stamped with his foot. Waters of
the Waingunga, whither went Shere Khan?

He is not Ikki to dig holes, nor Mao, the Peacock, that he should
fly. He is not Mang the Bat, to hang in the branches. Little
bamboos that creak together, tell me where he ran?

Ow! He is there. Ahoo! He is there. Under the feet of Rama
lies the Lame One! Up, Shere Khan!

Up and kill! Here is meat; break the necks of the bulls!

Hsh! He is asleep. We will not wake him, for his strength is
very great. The kites have come down to see it. The black
ants have come up to know it. There is a great assembly in his

Alala! I have no cloth to wrap me. The kites will see that I am
naked. I am ashamed to meet all these people.

Lend me thy coat, Shere Khan. Lend me thy gay striped coat that I
may go to the Council Rock.

By the Bull that bought me I made a promise--a little promise.
Only thy coat is lacking before I keep my word.

With the knife, with the knife that men use, with the knife of the
hunter, I will stoop down for my gift.

Waters of the Waingunga, Shere Khan gives me his coat for the love
that he bears me. Pull, Gray Brother! Pull, Akela! Heavy is
the hide of Shere Khan.

The Man Pack are angry. They throw stones and talk child's talk.
My mouth is bleeding. Let me run away.

Through the night, through the hot night, run swiftly with me, my
brothers. We will leave the lights of the village and go to
the low moon.

Waters of the Waingunga, the Man-Pack have cast me out. I did
them no harm, but they were afraid of me. Why?

Wolf Pack, ye have cast me out too. The jungle is shut to me and
the village gates are shut. Why?

As Mang flies between the beasts and birds, so fly I between the
village and the jungle. Why?

I dance on the hide of Shere Khan, but my heart is very heavy. My
mouth is cut and wounded with the stones from the village, but
my heart is very light, because I have come back to the jungle.

These two things fight together in me as the snakes fight in the
spring. The water comes out of my eyes; yet I laugh while it
falls. Why?

I am two Mowglis, but the hide of Shere Khan is under my feet.

All the jungle knows that I have killed Shere Khan. Look--look
well, O Wolves!

Ahae! My heart is heavy with the things that I do not understand.

The White Seal

Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,

And black are the waters that sparkled so green.

The moon, o'er the combers, looks downward to find us

At rest in the hollows that rustle between.

Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow,

Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!

The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,

Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas!

Seal Lullaby

All these things happened several years ago at a place called
Novastoshnah, or North East Point, on the Island of St. Paul, away
and away in the Bering Sea. Limmershin, the Winter Wren, told me
the tale when he was blown on to the rigging of a steamer going to
Japan, and I took him down into my cabin and warmed and fed him
for a couple of days till he was fit to fly back to St. Paul's
again. Limmershin is a very quaint little bird, but he knows how
to tell the truth.

Nobody comes to Novastoshnah except on business, and the only
people who have regular business there are the seals. They come
in the summer months by hundreds and hundreds of thousands out of
the cold gray sea. For Novastoshnah Beach has the finest
accommodation for seals of any place in all the world.

Sea Catch knew that, and every spring would swim from whatever
place he happened to be in--would swim like a torpedo-boat
straight for Novastoshnah and spend a month fighting with his
companions for a good place on the rocks, as close to the sea as
possible. Sea Catch was fifteen years old, a huge gray fur seal
with almost a mane on his shoulders, and long, wicked dog teeth.
When he heaved himself up on his front flippers he stood more than
four feet clear of the ground, and his weight, if anyone had been
bold enough to weigh him, was nearly seven hundred pounds. He was
scarred all over with the marks of savage fights, but he was
always ready for just one fight more. He would put his head on
one side, as though he were afraid to look his enemy in the face;
then he would shoot it out like lightning, and when the big teeth
were firmly fixed on the other seal's neck, the other seal might
get away if he could, but Sea Catch would not help him.

Yet Sea Catch never chased a beaten seal, for that was against
the Rules of the Beach. He only wanted room by the sea for his
nursery. But as there were forty or fifty thousand other seals
hunting for the same thing each spring, the whistling, bellowing,
roaring, and blowing on the beach was something frightful.

From a little hill called Hutchinson's Hill, you could look
over three and a half miles of ground covered with fighting seals;
and the surf was dotted all over with the heads of seals hurrying
to land and begin their share of the fighting. They fought in the
breakers, they fought in the sand, and they fought on the
smooth-worn basalt rocks of the nurseries, for they were just as
stupid and unaccommodating as men. Their wives never came to the
island until late in May or early in June, for they did not care
to be torn to pieces; and the young two-, three-, and
four-year-old seals who had not begun housekeeping went inland
about half a mile through the ranks of the fighters and played
about on the sand dunes in droves and legions, and rubbed off
every single green thing that grew. They were called the
holluschickie--the bachelors--and there were perhaps two or
three hundred thousand of them at Novastoshnah alone.

Sea Catch had just finished his forty-fifth fight one spring
when Matkah, his soft, sleek, gentle-eyed wife, came up out of the
sea, and he caught her by the scruff of the neck and dumped her
down on his reservation, saying gruffly: "Late as usual. Where
have you been?"

It was not the fashion for Sea Catch to eat anything during
the four months he stayed on the beaches, and so his temper was
generally bad. Matkah knew better than to answer back. She
looked round and cooed: "How thoughtful of you. You've taken the
old place again."

"I should think I had," said Sea Catch. "Look at me!"

He was scratched and bleeding in twenty places; one eye was
almost out, and his sides were torn to ribbons.

"Oh, you men, you men!" Matkah said, fanning herself with her
hind flipper. "Why can't you be sensible and settle your places
quietly? You look as though you had been fighting with the Killer

"I haven't been doing anything but fight since the middle of
May. The beach is disgracefully crowded this season. I've met at
least a hundred seals from Lukannon Beach, house hunting. Why
can't people stay where they belong?"

"I've often thought we should be much happier if we hauled out
at Otter Island instead of this crowded place," said Matkah.

"Bah! Only the holluschickie go to Otter Island. If we went
there they would say we were afraid. We must preserve
appearances, my dear."

Sea Catch sunk his head proudly between his fat shoulders and
pretended to go to sleep for a few minutes, but all the time he
was keeping a sharp lookout for a fight. Now that all the seals
and their wives were on the land, you could hear their clamor
miles out to sea above the loudest gales. At the lowest counting
there were over a million seals on the beach--old seals, mother
seals, tiny babies, and holluschickie, fighting, scuffling,
bleating, crawling, and playing together--going down to the sea
and coming up from it in gangs and regiments, lying over every
foot of ground as far as the eye could reach, and skirmishing
about in brigades through the fog. It is nearly always foggy at
Novastoshnah, except when the sun comes out and makes everything
look all pearly and rainbow-colored for a little while.

Kotick, Matkah's baby, was born in the middle of that
confusion, and he was all head and shoulders, with pale, watery
blue eyes, as tiny seals must be, but there was something about
his coat that made his mother look at him very closely.

"Sea Catch," she said, at last, "our baby's going to be

"Empty clam-shells and dry seaweed!" snorted Sea Catch.
"There never has been such a thing in the world as a white seal."

"I can't help that," said Matkah; "there's going to be now."
And she sang the low, crooning seal song that all the mother seals
sing to their babies:

You mustn't swim till you're six weeks old,

Or your head will be sunk by your heels;

And summer gales and Killer Whales

Are bad for baby seals.

Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,

As bad as bad can be;

But splash and grow strong,

And you can't be wrong.

Child of the Open Sea!

Of course the little fellow did not understand the words at
first. He paddled and scrambled about by his mother's side, and
learned to scuffle out of the way when his father was fighting
with another seal, and the two rolled and roared up and down the
slippery rocks. Matkah used to go to sea to get things to eat,
and the baby was fed only once in two days, but then he ate all he
could and throve upon it.

The first thing he did was to crawl inland, and there he met
tens of thousands of babies of his own age, and they played
together like puppies, went to sleep on the clean sand, and played
again. The old people in the nurseries took no notice of them,
and the holluschickie kept to their own grounds, and the babies
had a beautiful playtime.

When Matkah came back from her deep-sea fishing she would go
straight to their playground and call as a sheep calls for a lamb,
and wait until she heard Kotick bleat. Then she would take the
straightest of straight lines in his direction, striking out with
her fore flippers and knocking the youngsters head over heels
right and left. There were always a few hundred mothers hunting
for their children through the playgrounds, and the babies were
kept lively. But, as Matkah told Kotick, "So long as you don't
lie in muddy water and get mange, or rub the hard sand into a cut
or scratch, and so long as you never go swimming when there is a
heavy sea, nothing will hurt you here."

Little seals can no more swim than little children, but they
are unhappy till they learn. The first time that Kotick went down
to the sea a wave carried him out beyond his depth, and his big
head sank and his little hind flippers flew up exactly as his
mother had told him in the song, and if the next wave had not
thrown him back again he would have drowned.

After that, he learned to lie in a beach pool and let the wash
of the waves just cover him and lift him up while he paddled, but
he always kept his eye open for big waves that might hurt. He was
two weeks learning to use his flippers; and all that while he
floundered in and out of the water, and coughed and grunted and
crawled up the beach and took catnaps on the sand, and went back
again, until at last he found that he truly belonged to the water.

Then you can imagine the times that he had with his
companions, ducking under the rollers; or coming in on top of a
comber and landing with a swash and a splutter as the big wave
went whirling far up the beach; or standing up on his tail and
scratching his head as the old people did; or playing "I'm the
King of the Castle" on slippery, weedy rocks that just stuck out
of the wash. Now and then he would see a thin fin, like a big
shark's fin, drifting along close to shore, and he knew that that
was the Killer Whale, the Grampus, who eats young seals when he
can get them; and Kotick would head for the beach like an arrow,
and the fin would jig off slowly, as if it were looking for
nothing at all.

Late in October the seals began to leave St. Paul's for the
deep sea, by families and tribes, and there was no more fighting
over the nurseries, and the holluschickie played anywhere they
liked. "Next year," said Matkah to Kotick, "you will be a
holluschickie; but this year you must learn how to catch fish."

They set out together across the Pacific, and Matkah showed
Kotick how to sleep on his back with his flippers tucked down by
his side and his little nose just out of the water. No cradle is
so comfortable as the long, rocking swell of the Pacific. When
Kotick felt his skin tingle all over, Matkah told him he was
learning the "feel of the water," and that tingly, prickly
feelings meant bad weather coming, and he must swim hard and get

"In a little time," she said, "you'll know where to swim to,
but just now we'll follow Sea Pig, the Porpoise, for he is very
wise." A school of porpoises were ducking and tearing through the
water, and little Kotick followed them as fast as he could. "How
do you know where to go to?" he panted. The leader of the school
rolled his white eye and ducked under. "My tail tingles,
youngster," he said. "That means there's a gale behind me. Come
along! When you're south of the Sticky Water (he meant the
Equator) and your tail tingles, that means there's a gale in front
of you and you must head north. Come along! The water feels bad

This was one of very many things that Kotick learned, and he
was always learning. Matkah taught him to follow the cod and the
halibut along the under-sea banks and wrench the rockling out of
his hole among the weeds; how to skirt the wrecks lying a hundred
fathoms below water and dart like a rifle bullet in at one
porthole and out at another as the fishes ran; how to dance on the
top of the waves when the lightning was racing all over the sky,
and wave his flipper politely to the stumpy-tailed Albatross and
the Man-of-war Hawk as they went down the wind; how to jump three
or four feet clear of the water like a dolphin, flippers close to
the side and tail curved; to leave the flying fish alone because
they are all bony; to take the shoulder-piece out of a cod at full
speed ten fathoms deep, and never to stop and look at a boat or a
ship, but particularly a row-boat. At the end of six months what
Kotick did not know about deep-sea fishing was not worth the
knowing. And all that time he never set flipper on dry ground.

One day, however, as he was lying half asleep in the warm
water somewhere off the Island of Juan Fernandez, he felt faint
and lazy all over, just as human people do when the spring is in
their legs, and he remembered the good firm beaches of
Novastoshnah seven thousand miles away, the games his companions
played, the smell of the seaweed, the seal roar, and the fighting.
That very minute he turned north, swimming steadily, and as he
went on he met scores of his mates, all bound for the same place,
and they said: "Greeting, Kotick! This year we are all
holluschickie, and we can dance the Fire-dance in the breakers off
Lukannon and play on the new grass. But where did you get that

Kotick's fur was almost pure white now, and though he felt
very proud of it, he only said, "Swim quickly! My bones are
aching for the land." And so they all came to the beaches where
they had been born, and heard the old seals, their fathers,
fighting in the rolling mist.

That night Kotick danced the Fire-dance with the yearling
seals. The sea is full of fire on summer nights all the way down
from Novastoshnah to Lukannon, and each seal leaves a wake like
burning oil behind him and a flaming flash when he jumps, and the
waves break in great phosphorescent streaks and swirls. Then they
went inland to the holluschickie grounds and rolled up and down in
the new wild wheat and told stories of what they had done while
they had been at sea. They talked about the Pacific as boys would
talk about a wood that they had been nutting in, and if anyone had
understood them he could have gone away and made such a chart of
that ocean as never was. The three- and four-year-old
holluschickie romped down from Hutchinson's Hill crying: "Out of
the way, youngsters! The sea is deep and you don't know all
that's in it yet. Wait till you've rounded the Horn. Hi, you
yearling, where did you get that white coat?"

"I didn't get it," said Kotick. "It grew." And just as he
was going to roll the speaker over, a couple of black-haired men
with flat red faces came from behind a sand dune, and Kotick, who
had never seen a man before, coughed and lowered his head. The
holluschickie just bundled off a few yards and sat staring
stupidly. The men were no less than Kerick Booterin, the chief of
the seal-hunters on the island, and Patalamon, his son. They came
from the little village not half a mile from the sea nurseries,
and they were deciding what seals they would drive up to the
killing pens--for the seals were driven just like sheep--to be
turned into seal-skin jackets later on.

"Ho!" said Patalamon. "Look! There's a white seal!"

Kerick Booterin turned nearly white under his oil and smoke,
for he was an Aleut, and Aleuts are not clean people. Then he
began to mutter a prayer. "Don't touch him, Patalamon. There has
never been a white seal since--since I was born. Perhaps it is
old Zaharrof's ghost. He was lost last year in the big gale."

"I'm not going near him," said Patalamon. "He's unlucky. Do
you really think he is old Zaharrof come back? I owe him for some
gulls' eggs."

"Don't look at him," said Kerick. "Head off that drove of
four-year-olds. The men ought to skin two hundred to-day, but
it's the beginning of the season and they are new to the work. A
hundred will do. Quick!"

Patalamon rattled a pair of seal's shoulder bones in front of
a herd of holluschickie and they stopped dead, puffing and
blowing. Then he stepped near and the seals began to move, and
Kerick headed them inland, and they never tried to get back to
their companions. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of seals
watched them being driven, but they went on playing just the same.
Kotick was the only one who asked questions, and none of his
companions could tell him anything, except that the men always
drove seals in that way for six weeks or two months of every year.

"I am going to follow," he said, and his eyes nearly popped
out of his head as he shuffled along in the wake of the herd.

"The white seal is coming after us," cried Patalamon. "That's
the first time a seal has ever come to the killing-grounds alone."

"Hsh! Don't look behind you," said Kerick. "It is Zaharrof's
ghost! I must speak to the priest about this."

The distance to the killing-grounds was only half a mile, but
it took an hour to cover, because if the seals went too fast
Kerick knew that they would get heated and then their fur would
come off in patches when they were skinned. So they went on very
slowly, past Sea Lion's Neck, past Webster House, till they came
to the Salt House just beyond the sight of the seals on the beach.
Kotick followed, panting and wondering. He thought that he was at
the world's end, but the roar of the seal nurseries behind him
sounded as loud as the roar of a train in a tunnel. Then Kerick
sat down on the moss and pulled out a heavy pewter watch and let
the drove cool off for thirty minutes, and Kotick could hear the
fog-dew dripping off the brim of his cap. Then ten or twelve men,
each with an iron-bound club three or four feet long, came up, and
Kerick pointed out one or two of the drove that were bitten by
their companions or too hot, and the men kicked those aside with
their heavy boots made of the skin of a walrus's throat, and then
Kerick said, "Let go!" and then the men clubbed the seals on the
head as fast as they could.

Ten minutes later little Kotick did not recognize his friends
any more, for their skins were ripped off from the nose to the
hind flippers, whipped off and thrown down on the ground in a
pile. That was enough for Kotick. He turned and galloped (a seal
can gallop very swiftly for a short time) back to the sea; his
little new mustache bristling with horror. At Sea Lion's Neck,
where the great sea lions sit on the edge of the surf, he flung
himself flipper-overhead into the cool water and rocked there,
gasping miserably. "What's here?" said a sea lion gruffly, for as
a rule the sea lions keep themselves to themselves.

"Scoochnie! Ochen scoochnie!" ("I'm lonesome, very
lonesome!") said Kotick. "They're killing all the holluschickie
on all the beaches!"

The Sea Lion turned his head inshore. "Nonsense!" he said.
"Your friends are making as much noise as ever. You must have
seen old Kerick polishing off a drove. He's done that for thirty

"It's horrible," said Kotick, backing water as a wave went
over him, and steadying himself with a screw stroke of his
flippers that brought him all standing within three inches of a
jagged edge of rock.

"Well done for a yearling!" said the Sea Lion, who could
appreciate good swimming. "I suppose it is rather awful from your
way of looking at it, but if you seals will come here year after
year, of course the men get to know of it, and unless you can find
an island where no men ever come you will always be driven."

"Isn't there any such island?" began Kotick.

"I've followed the poltoos (the halibut) for twenty years, and
I can't say I've found it yet. But look here--you seem to have
a fondness for talking to your betters--suppose you go to Walrus
Islet and talk to Sea Vitch. He may know something. Don't
flounce off like that. It's a six-mile swim, and if I were you I
should haul out and take a nap first, little one."

Kotick thought that that was good advice, so he swam round to
his own beach, hauled out, and slept for half an hour, twitching
all over, as seals will. Then he headed straight for Walrus
Islet, a little low sheet of rocky island almost due northeast
from Novastoshnah, all ledges and rock and gulls' nests, where the
walrus herded by themselves.

He landed close to old Sea Vitch--the big, ugly, bloated,
pimpled, fat-necked, long-tusked walrus of the North Pacific, who
has no manners except when he is asleep--as he was then, with
his hind flippers half in and half out of the surf.

"Wake up!" barked Kotick, for the gulls were making a great

"Hah! Ho! Hmph! What's that?" said Sea Vitch, and he struck
the next walrus a blow with his tusks and waked him up, and the
next struck the next, and so on till they were all awake and
staring in every direction but the right one.

"Hi! It's me," said Kotick, bobbing in the surf and looking
like a little white slug.

"Well! May I be--skinned!" said Sea Vitch, and they all
looked at Kotick as you can fancy a club full of drowsy old
gentlemen would look at a little boy. Kotick did not care to hear
any more about skinning just then; he had seen enough of it. So
he called out: "Isn't there any place for seals to go where men
don't ever come?"

"Go and find out," said Sea Vitch, shutting his eyes. "Run
away. We're busy here."

Kotick made his dolphin-jump in the air and shouted as loud as
he could: "Clam-eater! Clam-eater!" He knew that Sea Vitch never
caught a fish in his life but always rooted for clams and seaweed;
though he pretended to be a very terrible person. Naturally the
Chickies and the Gooverooskies and the Epatkas--the Burgomaster
Gulls and the Kittiwakes and the Puffins, who are always looking
for a chance to be rude, took up the cry, and--so Limmershin
told me--for nearly five minutes you could not have heard a gun
fired on Walrus Islet. All the population was yelling and
screaming "Clam-eater! Stareek (old man)!" while Sea Vitch rolled
from side to side grunting and coughing.

"Now will you tell?" said Kotick, all out of breath.

"Go and ask Sea Cow," said Sea Vitch. "If he is living still,
he'll be able to tell you."

"How shall I know Sea Cow when I meet him?" said Kotick,
sheering off.

"He's the only thing in the sea uglier than Sea Vitch,"
screamed a Burgomaster gull, wheeling under Sea Vitch's nose.
"Uglier, and with worse manners! Stareek!"

Kotick swam back to Novastoshnah, leaving the gulls to scream.
There he found that no one sympathized with him in his little
attempt to discover a quiet place for the seals. They told him
that men had always driven the holluschickie--it was part of the
day's work--and that if he did not like to see ugly things he
should not have gone to the killing grounds. But none of the
other seals had seen the killing, and that made the difference
between him and his friends. Besides, Kotick was a white seal.

"What you must do," said old Sea Catch, after he had heard his
son's adventures, "is to grow up and be a big seal like your
father, and have a nursery on the beach, and then they will leave
you alone. In another five years you ought to be able to fight
for yourself." Even gentle Matkah, his mother, said: "You will
never be able to stop the killing. Go and play in the sea,
Kotick." And Kotick went off and danced the Fire-dance with a
very heavy little heart.

That autumn he left the beach as soon as he could, and set off
alone because of a notion in his bullet-head. He was going to
find Sea Cow, if there was such a person in the sea, and he was
going to find a quiet island with good firm beaches for seals to
live on, where men could not get at them. So he explored and
explored by himself from the North to the South Pacific, swimming
as much as three hundred miles in a day and a night. He met with
more adventures than can be told, and narrowly escaped being
caught by the Basking Shark, and the Spotted Shark, and the
Hammerhead, and he met all the untrustworthy ruffians that loaf up
and down the seas, and the heavy polite fish, and the scarlet
spotted scallops that are moored in one place for hundreds of
years, and grow very proud of it; but he never met Sea Cow, and he
never found an island that he could fancy.

If the beach was good and hard, with a slope behind it for
seals to play on, there was always the smoke of a whaler on the
horizon, boiling down blubber, and Kotick knew what that meant.
Or else he could see that seals had once visited the island and
been killed off, and Kotick knew that where men had come once they
would come again.

He picked up with an old stumpy-tailed albatross, who told him
that Kerguelen Island was the very place for peace and quiet, and
when Kotick went down there he was all but smashed to pieces
against some wicked black cliffs in a heavy sleet-storm with
lightning and thunder. Yet as he pulled out against the gale he
could see that even there had once been a seal nursery. And it
was so in all the other islands that he visited.

Limmershin gave a long list of them, for he said that Kotick
spent five seasons exploring, with a four months' rest each year
at Novastoshnah, when the holluschickie used to make fun of him
and his imaginary islands. He went to the Gallapagos, a horrid
dry place on the Equator, where he was nearly baked to death; he
went to the Georgia Islands, the Orkneys, Emerald Island, Little
Nightingale Island, Gough's Island, Bouvet's Island, the Crossets,
and even to a little speck of an island south of the Cape of Good
Hope. But everywhere the People of the Sea told him the same
things. Seals had come to those islands once upon a time, but men
had killed them all off. Even when he swam thousands of miles out
of the Pacific and got to a place called Cape Corrientes (that was
when he was coming back from Gough's Island), he found a few
hundred mangy seals on a rock and they told him that men came
there too.

That nearly broke his heart, and he headed round the Horn back
to his own beaches; and on his way north he hauled out on an
island full of green trees, where he found an old, old seal who
was dying, and Kotick caught fish for him and told him all his
sorrows. "Now," said Kotick, "I am going back to Novastoshnah,
and if I am driven to the killing-pens with the holluschickie I
shall not care."

The old seal said, "Try once more. I am the last of the Lost
Rookery of Masafuera, and in the days when men killed us by the
hundred thousand there was a story on the beaches that some day a
white seal would come out of the North and lead the seal people to
a quiet place. I am old, and I shall never live to see that day,
but others will. Try once more."

And Kotick curled up his mustache (it was a beauty) and said,
"I am the only white seal that has ever been born on the beaches,
and I am the only seal, black or white, who ever thought of
looking for new islands."

This cheered him immensely; and when he came back to
Novastoshnah that summer, Matkah, his mother, begged him to marry
and settle down, for he was no longer a holluschick but a
full-grown sea-catch, with a curly white mane on his shoulders, as
heavy, as big, and as fierce as his father. "Give me another
season," he said. "Remember, Mother, it is always the seventh
wave that goes farthest up the beach."

Curiously enough, there was another seal who thought that she
would put off marrying till the next year, and Kotick danced the
Fire-dance with her all down Lukannon Beach the night before he
set off on his last exploration. This time he went westward,
because he had fallen on the trail of a great shoal of halibut,
and he needed at least one hundred pounds of fish a day to keep
him in good condition. He chased them till he was tired, and then
he curled himself up and went to sleep on the hollows of the
ground swell that sets in to Copper Island. He knew the coast
perfectly well, so about midnight, when he felt himself gently
bumped on a weed-bed, he said, "Hm, tide's running strong
tonight," and turning over under water opened his eyes slowly and
stretched. Then he jumped like a cat, for he saw huge things
nosing about in the shoal water and browsing on the heavy fringes
of the weeds.

"By the Great Combers of Magellan!" he said, beneath his
mustache. "Who in the Deep Sea are these people?"

They were like no walrus, sea lion, seal, bear, whale, shark,
fish, squid, or scallop that Kotick had ever seen before. They
were between twenty and thirty feet long, and they had no hind
flippers, but a shovel-like tail that looked as if it had been
whittled out of wet leather. Their heads were the most
foolish-looking things you ever saw, and they balanced on the ends
of their tails in deep water when they weren't grazing, bowing
solemnly to each other and waving their front flippers as a fat
man waves his arm.

"Ahem!" said Kotick. "Good sport, gentlemen?" The big things
answered by bowing and waving their flippers like the Frog
Footman. When they began feeding again Kotick saw that their
upper lip was split into two pieces that they could twitch apart
about a foot and bring together again with a whole bushel of
seaweed between the splits. They tucked the stuff into their
mouths and chumped solemnly.

"Messy style of feeding, that," said Kotick. They bowed
again, and Kotick began to lose his temper. "Very good," he said.
"If you do happen to have an extra joint in your front flipper you
needn't show off so. I see you bow gracefully, but I should like
to know your names." The split lips moved and twitched; and the
glassy green eyes stared, but they did not speak.

"Well!" said Kotick. "You're the only people I've ever met
uglier than Sea Vitch--and with worse manners."

Then he remembered in a flash what the Burgomaster gull had
screamed to him when he was a little yearling at Walrus Islet, and
he tumbled backward in the water, for he knew that he had found
Sea Cow at last.

The sea cows went on schlooping and grazing and chumping in
the weed, and Kotick asked them questions in every language that
he had picked up in his travels; and the Sea People talk nearly as
many languages as human beings. But the sea cows did not answer
because Sea Cow cannot talk. He has only six bones in his neck
where he ought to have seven, and they say under the sea that that
prevents him from speaking even to his companions. But, as you
know, he has an extra joint in his foreflipper, and by waving it
up and down and about he makes what answers to a sort of clumsy
telegraphic code.

By daylight Kotick's mane was standing on end and his temper
was gone where the dead crabs go. Then the Sea Cow began to
travel northward very slowly, stopping to hold absurd bowing
councils from time to time, and Kotick followed them, saying to
himself, "People who are such idiots as these are would have been
killed long ago if they hadn't found out some safe island. And
what is good enough for the Sea Cow is good enough for the Sea
Catch. All the same, I wish they'd hurry."

It was weary work for Kotick. The herd never went more than
forty or fifty miles a day, and stopped to feed at night, and kept
close to the shore all the time; while Kotick swam round them, and
over them, and under them, but he could not hurry them up one-half
mile. As they went farther north they held a bowing council every
few hours, and Kotick nearly bit off his mustache with impatience
till he saw that they were following up a warm current of water,
and then he respected them more.

One night they sank through the shiny water--sank like
stones--and for the first time since he had known them began to
swim quickly. Kotick followed, and the pace astonished him, for
he never dreamed that Sea Cow was anything of a swimmer. They
headed for a cliff by the shore--a cliff that ran down into deep
water, and plunged into a dark hole at the foot of it, twenty
fathoms under the sea. It was a long, long swim, and Kotick badly
wanted fresh air before he was out of the dark tunnel they led him

"My wig!" he said, when he rose, gasping and puffing, into
open water at the farther end. "It was a long dive, but it was
worth it."

The sea cows had separated and were browsing lazily along the
edges of the finest beaches that Kotick had ever seen. There were
long stretches of smooth-worn rock running for miles, exactly
fitted to make seal-nurseries, and there were play-grounds of hard
sand sloping inland behind them, and there were rollers for seals
to dance in, and long grass to roll in, and sand dunes to climb up
and down, and, best of all, Kotick knew by the feel of the water,
which never deceives a true sea catch, that no men had ever come

The first thing he did was to assure himself that the fishing
was good, and then he swam along the beaches and counted up the
delightful low sandy islands half hidden in the beautiful rolling
fog. Away to the northward, out to sea, ran a line of bars and
shoals and rocks that would never let a ship come within six miles
of the beach, and between the islands and the mainland was a
stretch of deep water that ran up to the perpendicular cliffs, and
somewhere below the cliffs was the mouth of the tunnel.

"It's Novastoshnah over again, but ten times better," said
Kotick. "Sea Cow must be wiser than I thought. Men can't come
down the cliffs, even if there were any men; and the shoals to
seaward would knock a ship to splinters. If any place in the sea
is safe, this is it."

He began to think of the seal he had left behind him, but
though he was in a hurry to go back to Novastoshnah, he thoroughly
explored the new country, so that he would be able to answer all

Then he dived and made sure of the mouth of the tunnel, and
raced through to the southward. No one but a sea cow or a seal
would have dreamed of there being such a place, and when he looked
back at the cliffs even Kotick could hardly believe that he had
been under them.

He was six days going home, though he was not swimming slowly;
and when he hauled out just above Sea Lion's Neck the first person
he met was the seal who had been waiting for him, and she saw by
the look in his eyes that he had found his island at last.

But the holluschickie and Sea Catch, his father, and all the
other seals laughed at him when he told them what he had
discovered, and a young seal about his own age said, "This is all
very well, Kotick, but you can't come from no one knows where and
order us off like this. Remember we've been fighting for our
nurseries, and that's a thing you never did. You preferred
prowling about in the sea."

The other seals laughed at this, and the young seal began
twisting his head from side to side. He had just married that
year, and was making a great fuss about it.

"I've no nursery to fight for," said Kotick. "I only want to
show you all a place where you will be safe. What's the use of

"Oh, if you're trying to back out, of course I've no more to
say," said the young seal with an ugly chuckle.

"Will you come with me if I win?" said Kotick. And a green
light came into his eye, for he was very angry at having to fight
at all.

"Very good," said the young seal carelessly. "If you win,
I'll come."

He had no time to change his mind, for Kotick's head was out
and his teeth sunk in the blubber of the young seal's neck. Then
he threw himself back on his haunches and hauled his enemy down
the beach, shook him, and knocked him over. Then Kotick roared to
the seals: "I've done my best for you these five seasons past.
I've found you the island where you'll be safe, but unless your
heads are dragged off your silly necks you won't believe. I'm
going to teach you now. Look out for yourselves!"

Limmershin told me that never in his life--and Limmershin
sees ten thousand big seals fighting every year--never in all
his little life did he see anything like Kotick's charge into the
nurseries. He flung himself at the biggest sea catch he could
find, caught him by the throat, choked him and bumped him and
banged him till he grunted for mercy, and then threw him aside and
attacked the next. You see, Kotick had never fasted for four
months as the big seals did every year, and his deep-sea swimming
trips kept him in perfect condition, and, best of all, he had
never fought before. His curly white mane stood up with rage, and
his eyes flamed, and his big dog teeth glistened, and he was
splendid to look at. Old Sea Catch, his father, saw him tearing
past, hauling the grizzled old seals about as though they had been
halibut, and upsetting the young bachelors in all directions; and
Sea Catch gave a roar and shouted: "He may be a fool, but he is
the best fighter on the beaches! Don't tackle your father, my
son! He's with you!"

Kotick roared in answer, and old Sea Catch waddled in with his
mustache on end, blowing like a locomotive, while Matkah and the
seal that was going to marry Kotick cowered down and admired their
men-folk. It was a gorgeous fight, for the two fought as long as
there was a seal that dared lift up his head, and when there were
none they paraded grandly up and down the beach side by side,

At night, just as the Northern Lights were winking and
flashing through the fog, Kotick climbed a bare rock and looked
down on the scattered nurseries and the torn and bleeding seals.
"Now," he said, "I've taught you your lesson."

"My wig!" said old Sea Catch, boosting himself up stiffly, for
he was fearfully mauled. "The Killer Whale himself could not have
cut them up worse. Son, I'm proud of you, and what's more, I'll
come with you to your island--if there is such a place."

"Hear you, fat pigs of the sea. Who comes with me to the Sea
Cow's tunnel? Answer, or I shall teach you again," roared Kotick.

There was a murmur like the ripple of the tide all up and down
the beaches. "We will come," said thousands of tired voices. "We
will follow Kotick, the White Seal."

Then Kotick dropped his head between his shoulders and shut
his eyes proudly. He was not a white seal any more, but red from
head to tail. All the same he would have scorned to look at or
touch one of his wounds.

A week later he and his army (nearly ten thousand
holluschickie and old seals) went away north to the Sea Cow's
tunnel, Kotick leading them, and the seals that stayed at
Novastoshnah called them idiots. But next spring, when they all
met off the fishing banks of the Pacific, Kotick's seals told such
tales of the new beaches beyond Sea Cow's tunnel that more and
more seals left Novastoshnah. Of course it was not all done at
once, for the seals are not very clever, and they need a long time
to turn things over in their minds, but year after year more seals
went away from Novastoshnah, and Lukannon, and the other
nurseries, to the quiet, sheltered beaches where Kotick sits all
the summer through, getting bigger and fatter and stronger each
year, while the holluschickie play around him, in that sea where
no man comes.


End of Mowgli's Song (A story from Kipling's The Jungle Book)

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