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tale of a tortoise and of a mischievous monkey.
Start of Story
The stag was quite punctual, and as soon as the sun's rays struck the
trunk of the tree the stag started off, and was soon far out of the
sight of the tortoise. Every now and then he would turn his head as
he ran, and call out: 'How are you getting on?' and the tortoise who
happened to be nearest at that moment would answer: 'All right, I am
close up to you.'
Full of astonishment, the stag would redouble his efforts, but it was no
use. Each time he asked: 'Are you there?' the answer would come: 'Yes,
of course, where else should I be?' And the stag ran, and ran, and ran,
till he could run no more, and dropped down dead on the grass.
And the tortoise, when he thinks about it, laughs still.
But the tortoise was not the only creature of whose tricks stories were
told in the forest. There was a famous monkey who was just as clever and
more mischievous, because he was so much quicker on his feet and
with his hands. It was quite impossible to catch him and give him the
thrashing he so often deserved, for he just swung himself up into a
tree and laughed at the angry victim who was sitting below. Sometimes,
however, the inhabitants of the forest were so foolish as to provoke
him, and then they got the worst of it. This was what happened to the
barber, whom the monkey visited one morning, saying that he wished to be
shaved. The barber bowed politely to his customer, and begging him to
be seated, tied a large cloth round his neck, and rubbed his chin with
soap; but instead of cutting off his beard, the barber made a snip
at the end of his tail. It was only a very little bit and the monkey
started up more in rage than in pain. 'Give me back the end of my tail,'
he roared, 'or I will take one of your razors.' The barber refused to
give back the missing piece, so the monkey caught up a razor from the
table and ran away with it, and no one in the forest could be shaved for
days, as there was not another to be got for miles and miles.
As he was making his way to his own particular palm-tree, where the
cocoanuts grew, which were so useful for pelting passers-by, he met a
woman who was scaling a fish with a bit of wood, for in this side of the
forest a few people lived in huts near the river.
'That must be hard work,' said the monkey, stopping to look; 'try my
knife--you will get on quicker.' And he handed her the razor as he
spoke. A few days later he came back and rapped at the door of the hut.
'I have called for my razor,' he said, when the woman appeared.
'I have lost it,' answered she.
'If you don't give it to me at once I will take your sardine,' replied
the monkey, who did not believe her. The woman protested she had not got
the knife, so he took the sardine and ran off.
A little further along he saw a baker who was standing at the door,
eating one of his loaves. 'That must be rather dry,' said the monkey,
'try my fish'; and the man did not need twice telling. A few days later
the monkey stopped again at the baker's hut. 'I've called for that
fish,' he said.
'That fish? But I have eaten it!' exclaimed the baker in dismay.
'If you have eaten it I shall take this barrel of meal in exchange,'
replied the monkey; and he walked off with the barrel under his arm.
As he went he saw a woman with a group of little girls round her,
teaching them how to dress hair. 'Here is something to make cakes for
the children,' he said, putting down his barrel, which by this time he
found rather heavy. The children were delighted, and ran directly to
find some flat stones to bake their cakes on, and when they had made and
eaten them, they thought they had never tasted anything so nice. Indeed,
when they saw the monkey approaching not long after, they rushed to meet
him, hoping that he was bringing them some more presents. But he took
no notice of their questions, he only said to their mother: 'I've called
for my barrel of meal.'
'Why, you gave it to me to make cakes of!' cried the mother.
'If I can't get my barrel of meal, I shall take one of your children,'
answered the monkey. 'I am in want of somebody who can bake my bread
when I am tired of fruit, and who knows how to make cocoanut cakes.'
'Oh, leave me my child, and I will find you another barrel of meal,'
wept the mother.
'I don't WANT another barrel, I want THAT one,' answered the monkey
sternly. And as the woman stood wringing her hands, he caught up the
little girl that he thought the prettiest and took her to his home in
the palm tree.
She never went back to the hut, but on the whole she was not much to
be pitied, for monkeys are nearly as good as children to play with,
and they taught her how to swing, and to climb, and to fly from tree to
tree, and everything else they knew, which was a great deal.
Now the monkey's tiresome tricks had made him many enemies in the
forest, but no one hated him so much as the puma. The cause of their
quarrel was known only to themselves, but everybody was aware of the
fact, and took care to be out of the way when there was any chance
of these two meeting. Often and often the puma had laid traps for the
monkey, which he felt sure his foe could not escape; and the monkey
would pretend that he saw nothing, and rejoice the hidden puma's heart
by seeming to walk straight into the snare, when, lo! a loud laugh would
be heard, and the monkey's grinning face would peer out of a mass of
creepers and disappear before his foe could reach him.
This state of things had gone on for quite a long while, when at last
there came a season such as the oldest parrot in the forest could never
remember. Instead of two or three hundred inches of rain falling, which
they were all accustomed to, month after month passed without a cloud,
and the rivers and springs dried up, till there was only one small pool
left for everyone to drink from. There was not an animal for miles round
that did not grieve over this shocking condition of affairs, not one at
least except the puma. His only thought for years had been how to get
the monkey into his power, and this time he imagined his chance had
really arrived. He would hide himself in a thicket, and when the monkey
came down to drink--and come he must--the puma would spring out and
seize him. Yes, on this occasion there could be no escape!
And no more there would have been if the puma had had greater patience;
but in his excitement he moved a little too soon. The monkey, who was
stooping to drink, heard a rustling, and turning caught the gleam of two
yellow, murderous eyes. With a mighty spring he grasped a creeper which
was hanging above him, and landed himself on the branch of a tree;
feeling the breath of the puma on his feet as the animal bounded from
is cover. Never had the monkey been so near death, and it was some time
before he recovered enough courage to venture on the ground again.
Up there in the shelter of the trees, he began to turn over in his head
plans for escaping the snares of the puma. And at length chance helped
him. Peeping down to the earth, he saw a man coming along the path
carrying on his head a large gourd filled with honey.