The train pulled in to Carnforth station, and hissed. It didn’t usually stop here, this was a request stop for the express from London Marylebone to Glasgow. The third northern route was more flexible, more responsive to customer needs. At Carnforth, Lady Greystoke stood on the platform, eyeing up each tousled headed boy to judge whether this was the one she was to meet. Out of the steam, a boy and an Indian servant appeared. There was one suitcase. Mowgli travelled light.
“Lady Greystoke it is?” asked the servant, she nodded, and before she could speak, the servant had put the suitcase down, bowed low, and re-boarded the train. He was going to Glasgow to visit his relations who had opened the first Oriental Restaurant in Scotland. He did not want to miss the train.
A porter took the single bag and the three walked to Platform 2 where they waited for the slow train. This train would continue on the same route to Penrith, then branch towards Keswick. At Greystoke Station they would disembark. To call it a station was to promote Greystoke to deniable heights, it was a halt really, but old Lord Greystoke had insisted that it should be called Greystoke Station, and since the railway wanted to pass over his land, it was a small price to pay. It wasn’t that Lord Greystoke had had delusions or plans, he had no intention of allowing building on his land, the village would remain a village; but a village with a large, ornate station building, comprising waiting room, male and female facilities, a station master’s house (occupied by a railway employee who considered himself very lucky to have such a large house – in practice he caught the first train to Penrith in the morning, and the last train back, for he was senior porter for the Cumbria and Westmoreland Railway at Penrith, where it joined the main line from and to the south), and a bridge from one platform to the unused platform two. All trains stopped on platform one, there was never, and never would be, a need for two platforms. There were eight trains a day from Penrith to Keswick and beyond.
The journey from Carnforth seemed very slow to both passengers. Lady Greystoke could make hardly any conversation with Mowgli. His grasp of English was minimal. He knew ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’, but very little else. He would point at something and say ‘please?’ and understand little of the explanation, though he would nod and smile. To Mowgli it was boring because he had enough of steam and metal and noise. He craved the peace of the jungle. He had travelled on steam trains to the coast, steam ship, steam trains again. All was noise and bustle and shouting and anger and confusion and chaos. He little knew that this was much what people thought of his jungle home; but the noise there had meaning. The call of a monkey, the trumpet of an elephant, the dying shriek of a deer; all were different and each told a story to those who had ears to hear. To Mowgli it was peace. The calls of nighttime that drove Europeans mad with the incessant insect chirrupings were just a bedtime story to him.
At last the journey concluded. To anyone else but this couple, it would have seemed an idyllically beautiful journey through countryside that Miss Potter would soon make famous; but both travellers could not wait to arrive and be free of the reserved carriage in which they were imprisoned.
At the station, Mycroft waited with the horse and carriage. The luggage was loaded and Jane, Lady Greystoke was handed in by the footman. They had a small male staff, for reasons that will become clear. Mycroft was footman, carriage driver, and part-time stable man. At fifty, he was the youngest of the males in the estate employ. Mowgli looked in and said ‘please? No?’ which would have made little sense to most people. Jane was used to interpreting minimal words, it had taken some time before her husband had managed to make sentences. She looked imperturbable as she simple looked and smiled. She already knew what Mycroft did not. She signalled to go on, and Mowgli trotted beside, then in front, then behind when something caught his interest. At the village, a large guard dog from that horrible man Mr Smythe, came running out. Mycroft regularly had to whip it away, and several letters protesting had been sent to Mr Smythe. This time the dog rushed at Mowgli. It never actually attacked people, but it could scare the horses, and, of course, Mowgli had no knowledge that the dog was really not a killer. He turned to face the huge dog, dropped to a crouch and let out a growl of a ferocity and determination that caused the dog to hesitate. That was a mistake, as Mowgli launched over the dog, kicking it hard as he passed. The dog turned and fled. Villagers who saw, were able to weave a new, complex story of an epic battle between the killer dog and the jungle boy; it is a tale still told in the village pub.
Lady Greystoke allowed a small expletive to escape her red lips. She was still attractive, a fact that she assigned to living so much in the country. Her skin had not been assailed by the dust and smog of the polluted city. Her husband, like Mowgli, preferred the outdoors, the wide views. When they had ‘returned’ to Greystoke, he had been delighted to find the woods and forests of the valleys; and fascinated to explore the wide open vistas of the uplands. These had been largely missing from the land of his child-and-early-adult-hood; savannah was usually drier, dustier than the moorlands above this new home. He had been born here, taken as a baby to Africa, and lost there for many years.
His mother had retreated to a gatehouse, and had rarely appeared after losing husband and son. When he had finally returned, with a young wife in tow, she had been initially delighted, but then reverted to the archetypal mother-in-law of many stories. She had wanted Tarzan (as she still called him, the only word he had known when found by Jane, a mother’s love-name for her perfect baby boy) for herself, and now he had grown up and found a partner who offered many more attractions than an ageing woman could offer. She had disliked Jane for her curvy figure (“my dear, are you sure you should be disporting that bust quite so lasciviously?”), her clear skin (“no doubt you will lose that when you have children”), her sexy walk (“we aren’t used to such sexualised displays in these parts. No doubt we are very provincial, compared to your London upbringing. I am sure you miss it”), her title (“of course, I am a lady in my own right; I do not rely on my husband”), and her intellect (“do you not find that men resent the attempt of a woman to meet them on equal terms”). What she could not compete with, was the fact that Jane was even lovelier nude than dressed.
Tarzan was the living embodiment of proof that there was something sexually alluring in the shape of a woman. He had not learnt from the fashions of the day; when he first set eyes on her, she was nearly naked in any case – Western clothing not coping well with the African climate – and he had been immediately, and very visibly, attracted to her. He was entirely naked when she first met him. Apes did not wear clothes, the loin cloth was only introduced by her to help protect his family jewels which were more prominent than the gorilla’s. On seeing her shapely thighs leading to her nearly exposed sexual organs, and her naked left breast rising and falling with fear and exhaustion, he had immediately responded with a very prominent erection. If his tackle was impressive, unaroused, once raised to its full stature, it would put a blanch on the most experience woman’s face. It was large of girth, and fully ten inches long, at least.
Jane was not unfamiliar with the theory of sex, though, of course, untouched at that time; but she feared that such a tool might tear her unexplored body asunder. She was very aware that she was exposed to his view and exposed in lacking any protection from him if he chose to attack her. But he was patient, waiting three days. In fact he was trying to work out why he had the feelings he had. His naked ape brain had never found the furry bodies of his adopted siblings attractive, which was as well since the silverback would have beaten him if he had attempted to mate with any of the clan’s females. Now he had a naked ape of his own and, after three days, he finally worked out what he wished from her. She had been expecting to be raped at any moment, but had come to terms with it; most marriages were legalised rape, after all; as her friends Lulu and Camilla could attest. Both had found their wedding nights and subsequent bedroom ‘responsibilities’ painful, discomforting and unpleasant. Her other friend, Sarah, on the other hand, had told her privately of her adventures with her uncle and two cousins which, whilst still exceedingly messy, were pleasurable for all concerned.
Jane had awaited Tarzan’s approach with mixed emotions, then. She had not been surprised when he lifted the small skirt she had fashioned to ‘cover her embarrassment’. She had been surprised when he had turned her and entered her from behind. Later she realised that that was all he had seen, few animals mate face to face, she mused, as she bathed her sore and bleeding place. She finally forced herself to name it. She named it Canute, for no other reason than she thought it was incapable of turning away his waves of attention. Later she used the Danish spelling Cnut, and later still, transposed the n and u; little realising she had now named Cunt with a word that was never heard in polite circles. At his next expression of interest, barely an hour later, she opted to demonstrate to him how to enter her from the front, so she could kiss him (he liked that) and he could feel her breasts (she liked that). She mused that her mother’s friends would be appalled that she was not just failing to protect her maidenhood or the sanctity of womenhood, but, instead, was providing instruction to this uncivilised man in how to do it better, rather than simply lying back and accepting her unpleasant lot.
So she had become his partner long before they were able to marry, and this was something that caused considerable scandal when they arrived in England. Her mother had insisted on sequestering her until the rapidly arranged wedding could take place, and then had politely died to leave Jane’s father’s fortune intact to Jane, the only surviving child. The level of riches inherited from her financier father was another reason the Dowager Lady Greystoke disliked Jane. The gossip and tittle-tattle that followed her in London, was another reason for being happier away from the city.
They turned into the drive towards the impressive grey stone pile at the end. She sighed, she could see that Greystoke, her husband was not waiting to greet them. She hadn’t really expected he would be, but she always hoped that he would fulfil some of the expectations of a respectable host. They were half way down the drive when a noise attracted her attention, and that of Mowgli. Racing towards them were her beloved dogs, the two Irish wolfhounds in the lead. A small fear began to grow in her breast. Would Mowgli think he was under attack again?
Mowgli turned and watched the dogs impassively. How did he know these were not a threat? What subtle body language in canine form alerted him to this? Their backs weren’t up, their tales wagged as they ran, and their tongues hung out of their open mouths; these weren’t the actions of a pack intent on immediate death. At 50 yards, Mowgli crouched and when they were closer he leapt and twisted and so did the dogs. They had been running to greet their mistress, but changed their minds willingly for a human willing to play robustly. The five dogs ran and circled and jumped and play-growled. Whoever this new human was, he was more fun than almost anyone here. Even the man only played sometimes, and would leap into trees, which was unfair to a dog. The boy played for fifteen minutes before, by some unseen signal, all agreed it was enough, the dogs trotted over to greet their lady, and Mowgli followed. At the carriage, the two wolfhounds circled to smell him, he let them, and then returned the favour.
“Oh dear.” said Lady Greystoke, as her young guest dropped to his hands and knees to sniff the dogs at the base of their tails. Humans assumed they were smelling each others anuses, which they were, but only partly. The smell from the anus indicated the health of the animal. The smell from the scent glands told so much more, and Mowgli had learnt this where as the dogs and wolves he grew up with knew by instinct. He learnt that the female was coming near to oestrous, and, being half wolf by nature if not genetics, he started to plan to copulate when the time was right. The leader of the pack – the male wolfhound – wouldn’t allow it, of course. There would be a fight if necessary. The other leader in this odd pack – the female human – would also have none of it. She wouldn’t allow Mowgli to mate with her bitch. No matter that the dog could take it, and no matter that there could be no chance of offspring. It was simply not allowed to mate with animals. She knew her dog was coming close to being in season. She would have to talk to Tarzan to see if he could help distract the boy.
Lord Greystoke was down in the valley, amongst the trees. Despite the fact that he loved the open, high moors; and enjoyed the semi-wild cattle coming to him as a friend in the fields when they would charge any other person approaching them; his first joy was that trees. He would walk down to those in tweeds (and bare feet), and then strip off – sometimes completely – and swung amongst them. If the dogs were with him, they would race from tree to tree, barking furiously at this unfair advantage. Sometimes he would be there alone. His farm employees knew he appreciated his privacy there; they did not question his right, as their lord and master, to swing naked through his trees if he chose. He had, on occasion, swung through to the pond and balled himself into a huge splash before surfacing to face incredulous middle class families, come for a picnic. Knowing his penchant for nakedness in privacy (or not so much privacy), it may be that the females, young and old, gained some titillation by the shocking arrival of his muscular form.
Lady Greystoke walked with her charge down to the trees, and heard him above her. Before she could speak, Mowgli had shinned up tree and was heading to the source of the noise. There then followed joyous whoops and cries in what she took to be African and Indian animal tongues, as the two relished a true three dimensional game of chase. Both could still use their feet to grip. In Africa, she had practiced and practiced. She could still pick up an orange and peel it with her feet, but she could never trust herself to grip a branch fifty feet or more up in the air and stand on one leg surrounded by space.
She heard them heading towards the pond, and wondered if there were any visitors about to get a soaking and a shock. She had been known to join her husband in the pond if there was no-one around. She had once worn her shift, found it tangled her feet and gone ‘native’; relishing the cool water reaching all the parts of her body normally never allowed to see the light of day. Not today, though, even if there were no visitors. A splash, a scream, a second splash and a louder scream. The family – a young mother and her mother in law – had both hoped to be shocked and dismayed at the view of a naked man falling from the trees. What they had not expected, as they stood on the bank hoping to be further shocked by the view of his manly buttocks as he struck out for the shore, was a second naked individual falling and splashing them both thoroughly. For once the tables were turned as the linen blouses turned translucent and the water soaked further and revealed more of their bodies. Only their upper bodies, and the younger of the two was not averse to the frank viewing both naked men had given her. The mother in law had not intended to display her mammary wares and was genuinely appalled, now. From behind them, Jane’s voice shocked them into action, suggesting that if they stayed the wildmen might ravish them both. This wasn’t true, of course, Tarzan was not a rapist; though what was true was that a young woman, presented with an idyllic image of a man, made flesh, with barely a loin cloth (and sometimes not that) might find the lie to the theory that women had no sexual desire. She might find herself easily overcome by needs; she might even be curious, if concerned, to know if such a large tool could fit within her delicate space. So, perhaps the younger woman was at risk, but only from herself. They gathered up their things, allowing themselves a last look at the two naked men on the far bank, before pretending to scurry away. People with a real need to rush do not allow lingering looks at the naked men.
“You two should be ashamed of yourselves.” shouted Jane “Scaring them like that.”
“Baby thought it fun.” replied Tarzan, which was true; the young child had gurgled with delight at being suddenly sprayed with water.
“Come on, home!” she said. Both obeyed. They walked back in cheerful silence, walking into the house still as naked as they were born. The female staff were not unused to this from Lord Greystoke, though they still giggled when it happened. Now there two of them. Mowgli was smaller, slighter at fourteen, but no less attractive in being firm and lithe and handsome. His hair was dark, his features carried the natural dark skin of a partial native of the sub-continent. His mother had been a native, and his father an English subaltern, on being born, both families had been appalled. The Indian family because the girl was not married, the Englishman’s family (whose father was Colonel Gregor Fisher) because she was a native. It had been the Indians who had decreed that the baby should be got rid of; the English family were willing to ignore the infanticide, if they knew nothing of it. The girl had balked at this, fled to the jungle and, unfortunately, been bitten by a King Cobra. So she died, and the baby cried, and the story is better told by Mowgli’s official biography: R Kipling.
Tarzan led the lad up to a room, their clothes had already been laid out in each room for them to dress. Jane had learnt to fight the battles she could win, when she had arrived in Greystoke, she had won the battle with her mother in law; but she would never win Tarzan over to the idea of wearing clothes all the time. He knew it was nicer to be naked much of the time (except in Winter, he didn’t like the Winter cold), and he knew that she knew that too. If she was more hesitant than he, it was because of her upbringing and because her naked body so often resulted in him insisting on coupling with her. Not that she didn’t enjoy that too; but there had to be limits.
When Mowgli was brought to England, to meet the Queen, it was obvious that he would prefer wild places than cities. He had run through the grounds of Windsor with abandon. Her Majesty’s younger children had delighted in such a wild child as their temporary playmate, and even Albert had been found swimming, one morning, with Mowgli in the Thames. That was a story sensibly kept from the newspapers. Victoria was far calmer and easier in those days. She had barely blushed to meet the young man riding her pony, naked, one morning. She had laughed at the discomfort of her Indian servants, who found this wild illiterate Indian an offence to their sense of civilisation. She had even arranged for a private visit to Regents’ Park Zoological Gardens for the boy; and then blanched when he jumped into the cat enclosure, the panther walked to him as if they were old friends. Only the tigers elicited a growl from the boy. An escape to meet the other wildman of the empire was a sensible plan as an interlude between meeting scientists to test his intelligence, psychologists to establish how his psyche had been altered by being brought up by wolves, politicians for the publicity it gave them.
Stupid people made the same mistake with Mowgli and Tarzan, they assumed that lack of civilised skills meant they were unintelligent. But what use was the ability to read in the jungle? As much use as a knowledge of the deadly venom of the pit viper was to a lawyer in Lincoln’s Inn. Tarzan and Mowgli had both benefited by a good diet and a lucky early life keeping them alive. They were strong, fast, and able to accept civilised life easier than a civilised man might adapt to being in the jungle. Mowgli had simply accepted the steam engine and the camera, the gun and the fork. He had learnt rapidly to use a fork to eat. As a wolf, he had learnt to fit in with the dog-rules, now as a human, he accepted the human rules.
In the jungle, he had followed the pack rules. Only the pack leader – Akela – had the right to mate with the females. Other males had to take the opportunity to snatch a copulation when they had the chance. In time, Sabre had challenged Akela for the pack leadership, and lost. He had not minded, he had tried and failed; he was still part of the pack, and supported Akela in everything. Mowgli had only twice managed to snatch a copulation with a female of the pack. Both accepted him as another wolf, and let him mount them; both were past their in season time and simply carried the smell still. Akela knew of such matings and ignored them, they would not result in puppies because the females were no longer fertile.
Tarzan had been a loose associate of his band of gorillas. The silverback could have broken Tarzan’s back with ease, so Tarzan never challenged him. When Jane was discovered, she joined him. Silverback had no desire to claim such an ugly, hairless, gorilla for himself, so Tarzan was welcome to her. When Jane had understood that Tarzan would have given her up without a fight to the Silverback, she was offended at first; but she came to understand the rules and laws of the jungle in time, and then simply considered herself lucky that Tarzan had taken a fancy to another naked ape rather than one of the hairy female apes who associated with them. She could not have stopped even the youngest male ape from mating with her, and she still shuddered at the thought.
Now she understood that Mowgli had immediately identified that Tarzan’s ape band in Greystoke did not include the pack of dogs. Since Mowgli saw himself as a dog-man, and Tarzan as an ape-man, there should be no conflict, the dogs were fair game. The female wolfhound would be in season soon, and the male was unlikely to give her up without a fight. All of this was circling round in Jane’s mind. She had seen Mowgli mount the dogs in play a couple of times. When they were in season, it would not be in play and her male wolfhound would kill him.
Greystoke was an unusual establishment for two reasons. The local village accepted both as ‘what the better folk think is best’. Firstly, very few men worked for the estate, and even fewer lived in. The farrier, for example, lived in the village and made a little extra for being farrier to the other farmers too. Normally, an estate like Greystoke would have had its own; it was an early form of outsourcing.