Yii woke from his violent dream, sweating with fear and the effort of running for the steps, frustrated at not reaching them. Disoriented at first, then gradually becoming aware of being trapped in the strange place and the events of yesterday – the tiger, the deafening noise, the white people with crowns, the amazing structures, the cage; wondering, as he still wondered, where he was, and what was happening. Was he in a heaven, or somewhere else? He wasn’t afraid, but he was deeply puzzled.
And the stone. He felt in his arm band, and again that extraordinary sense of something beyond him, utterly mysterious.
The tall white figure came by with several other people, including a female. Yii thought she was very strangely dressed – a long white spreading skirt, a white top, and a very odd adornment on her head. If he weren’t in a heaven but somewhere else, he couldn’t imagine how she could tend a fire, cook food, make clothes from leather skins, or any of the other things the females did in his tribe. The others were mostly white figures like the first one, but not wearing their crowns.
They seemed to have come to look at Yii, who watched them talking to each other and pointing at him. Were they discussing his destiny? Puzzled, he could understand nothing of what they said. He watched, part fearful, part puzzled and part curious.
‘Well Doctor, what do you think?’ The Colonel was saying, indicating the boy in the cage. ‘Do you think he is a wolf boy?’
They were outside the cage in the grounds of the Colonel’s house, for that is where Yii had landed up, in a time many, many centuries removed from his own time. In the 1880s India was part of theBritish Empire. The Colonel and his regiment were General Roberts’ support system for defence of the infamous North West frontier of India from attack by Afghanistan. Out hunting he had been wearing his white uniform and on his head the traditional white toupee – which Yii had taken to be a crown.
‘I think he might be a wolf boy. How did you find him?’ asked Dr Raybourne.
The Colonel explained how he had been out to shoot a tiger, a known man-eater which had been raiding the native villages, had already taken two women. As they tracked it through the jungle, the beast suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and was just springing at its prey – this young boy. He had managed to shoot the tiger as it leapt at the boy, trapped in a curved rock face.
‘He was crouching down with his hands over his ears. We noticed the bites on his arms, and he growled at one of the servants – quite ferociously; poor chap leapt a mile. So we concluded that he must be wolf boy.’
‘What about you, Kipling – you’ve travelled enough; do you think he’s a wolf boy, or just someone from a village somewhere?’
The Colonel had introduced Rudyard Kipling to the Doctor the previous evening: ‘We were at the same school,’ he had said.
Kipling looked at the boy, intrigued. ‘Well, I’ve never seen anything quite like him, but I can’t pretend to know what he is. How do they become wolf boys, these fellows?’
‘No one really knows,’ said the doctor. ‘A baby may just crawl away from its hut and a wolf mother finds it – if the tiger hasn’t eaten it.- and takes it to her lair thinking it’s a cub, raising it with her own cubs. If they survive they find it really hard to be human again and learn human speech’
‘I’ll tell you what,’ said Kipling, ‘that’s given me a marvellous idea for a story, a simply wonderful idea: Jungle Book story about a wolf boy and his life with the wolf pack in the jungle. Lots of other animals can come into it, a bear, a black panther, a big snake, and the arch enemy will have to be the tiger. I must start making notes at once. He’s a bit like a frog squatting down like that. I’ll call him Mowgli,the frog.’