Red-Eye called to Wrinkle-Skin.
Hear what little Red-Eye saith:
Nag, come up and dance with death!
(Keep the measure, Nag.)
This shall end when one is dead;
(At thy pleasure, Nag.)
Turn for turn and twist for twist)
(Run and hide thee, Nag.)
Hah! The hooded Death has missed!
(Woe betide thee, Nag!)
This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bathrooms of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment. Darzee, the tailor-bird, helped him, and Chuchundra, the musk- rat, who never comes out into the middle of the floor, but always creeps round by the wall, gave him advice; but Rikki-tikki did the real fighting.
He was a mongoose, rather like a little cat in his fur and his tail, but quite like a weasel in his head and his habits. His eyes and the end of his restless nose were pink; he could scratch himself anywhere he pleased, with any leg, front or back, that he chose to use; he could fluff up his tail till it looked like a bottle- brush, and his war-cry, as he scuttled through the long grass, was: Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!
One day, a high summer flood washed him out of the burrow where he lived with his father and mother, and carried him, kicking and clucking, down a roadside ditch. He found a little wisp of grass floating there, and clung to it till he lost his senses. When he revived, he was lying in the hot sun on the middle of a garden path, very draggled indeed, and a small boy was saying, Heres a dead mongoose. Lets have a funeral.
No, said his mother; lets take him in and dry him. Perhaps he isnt really dead.
They took him into the house, and a big man picked him up between his finger and thumb, and said he was not dead but half choked; so they wrapped him in cottonwool, and warmed him, and he opened his eyes and sneezed.
Now, said the big man (he was an Englishman who had just moved into the bungalow) dont frighten him, and well see what hell do.
It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity. The motto of all the mongoose family is, Run and find out; and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose. He looked at the cottonwool, decided that it was not good to eat, ran all round the table, sat up and put his fur in order, scratched himself, and jumped on the small boys shoulder.
Dont be frightened, Teddy, said his father. Thats his way of making friends.
Ouch! Hes tickling under my chin, said Teddy.
Rikki-tikki looked down between the boys collar and neck, snuffed at his ear, and climbed down to the floor where he sat rubbing his nose.
Good gracious, said Teddys mother, and thats a wild creature! I suppose hes so tame because weve been kind to him.
All mongooses are like that, said her husband. If Teddy doesnt pick him up by the tail, or try to put him in a cage, hell run in and out of the house all day long. Lets give him something to eat.
They gave him a little piece of raw meat. Rikki-tikki liked it immensely, and when it was finished he went out into the veranda and sat in the sunshine and fluffed up his fur to make it dry to the roots. Then he felt better.
There are more things to find out about in this house, he said to himself, than all my family could find out in all their lives. I shall certainly stay and find out.
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