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Turtle and his bride.

From The Brown Fairy book by Andrew Lang.
Age Rating 6 to 8.

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At this all the dancers grew so frightened that they burst through the ring of their captors, and ran back to the village, the turtles following--very slowly. On the way the chief turtle met a man, who said to him: 'That woman who was to have been your wife has married another man!' 'Is that true?' said the turtle. 'Then I must see him.' But as soon as the villager was out of sight the turtle stopped, and taking a bundle containing fringes and ornaments from his back, he hung them about him, so that they rattled as he walked. When he was quite close to the hut where the woman lived, he cried out: 'Here I am to claim the woman who promised to be my wife.' 'Oh, here is the turtle,' whispered the husband hurriedly; 'what is to be done now?' 'Leave that to me; I will manage him,' replied the wife, and at that moment the turtle came in, and seized her by the wrist. 'Come with me,' he said sternly. 'You broke your promise,' answered she. 'You said you would be back soon, and it is more than a year since you went! How was I to know that you were alive?'

At her words the husband took courage, and spoke hastily: 'Yes, you promised you would go to war and bring back some prisoners, and you have not done it.' 'I DID go, and made many prisoners,' retorted the turtle angrily, drawing out his knife. 'Look here, if she won't be MY wife, she sha'n't be YOURS. I will cut her in two; and you shall have one half, and I the other.' 'But half a woman is no use to me,' answered the man. 'If you want her so much you had better take her.' And the turtle, followed by his relations, carried her off to his own hut. Now the woman saw she would gain nothing by being sulky, so she pretended to be very glad to have got rid of her husband; but all the while she was trying to invent a plan to deliver herself from the turtle. At length she remembered that one of her friends had a large iron pot, and when the turtle had gone to his room to put away his fringes, she ran over to her neighbour's and brought it back. Then she filled it with water and hung it over the fire to boil. It was just beginning to bubble and hiss when the turtle entered. 'What are you doing there?' asked he, for he was always afraid of things that he did not understand. 'Just warming some water,' she answered. 'Do you know how to swim?'

'Yes, of course I do. What a question! But what does it matter to you?' said the turtle, more suspicious than ever. 'Oh, I only thought that after your long journey you might like to wash. The roads are so muddy, after the winter's rains. I could rub your shell for you till it was bright and shining again. 'Well, I AM rather muddy. If one is fighting, you know, one cannot stop to pick one's way. I should certainly be more comfortable if my back was washed.' The woman did not wait for him to change his mind. She caught him up by his shell and popped him straight into the pot, where he sank to the bottom, and died instantly. The other turtles, who were standing at the door, saw their leader disappear, and felt it was their duty as soldiers to follow him; and, springing into the pot, died too. All but one young turtle, who, frightened at not seeing any of his friends come out again, went as fast as he could to a clump of bushes, and from there made his way to the river. His only thought was to get away as far as possible from that dreadful hut; so he let the river carry him where it was going itself, and at last, one day, he found himself in the warm sea, where, if he is not dead, you may meet him still.


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