"Never while we can follow a trail," said the cubs. "Come to the foot of the hill when thou art a man, and we will talk to thee; and we will come into the croplands to play with thee by night."
For, listen, child of man, I loved thee more than ever I loved my cubs."
The cub is mine, and to my teeth he will come in the end, O bush-tailed thieves!"
Akela never raised his head from his paws, but went on with the monotonous cry: "Look well!" A muffled roar came up from behind the rocks--the voice of Shere Khan crying: "The cub is mine.
There was a chorus of deep growls, and a young wolf in his fourth year flung back Shere Khan's question to Akela: "What have the Free People to do with a man's cub?" Now, the Law of the Jungle lays down that if there is any dispute as to the right of a cub to be accepted by the Pack, he must be spoken for by at least two members of the Pack who are not his father and mother.
"O Akela, and ye the Free People," he purred, "I have no right in your assembly, but the Law of the Jungle says that if there is a doubt which is not a killing matter in regard to a new cub, the life of that cub may be bought at a price.
Then Shere Khan would flatter them and wonder that such fine young hunters were content to be led by a dying wolf and a man's cub. "They tell me," Shere Khan would say, "that at Council ye dare not look him between the eyes." And the young wolves would growl and bristle.
"Tabaqui came to me not long ago with some rude talk that I was a naked man's cub and not fit to dig pig-nuts.
It was because of this that I paid the price for thee at the Council when thou wast a little naked cub. Yes, I too was born among men.
"Oh, thou art a man's cub," said the Black Panther very tenderly.
"There speaks the man's cub," said Bagheera proudly.