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THE CLEVER TURTLE
A turtle lay upon a large rock sunning himself. His eyes were turned toward the palace of the king which overlooked the beautiful river. He could hear the merry voices of the little princes playing in the royal courtyard.

“What happy times they have!” thought the turtle. “I have heard that there is a lovely little lake in the princes’ playground, where they have fine fun, swimming and sailing tiny boats. How dull it is living out here on the rocks! I’m sure I should be happier if I lived in a royal courtyard.”

At that moment the turtle was startled by the voices of two men who were carrying fishing nets and large buckets to the river. 80He slipped under the rock and lay very still and listened.

“You see,” said one of the men, “we are to put the fishes into the courtyard lake and surprise the young princes. His majesty, the king, heard them wish that fishes swam in their lake, and he decided to surprise them.”

“How happy they will be in the morning!” replied the other man. “Come, let us climb to the edge of these rocks and throw our nets into the river. Then we will draw them in, empty the fishes into those buckets, and carry them to the courtyard lake this evening.”

When the turtle heard that some of his neighbors were to live in the royal courtyard, he was very jealous indeed!

“Fishes are such stupid creatures!” he said to himself. “How much more delight a turtle would give those young princes. I’ll not live on this rock any longer. I’ll slip very quietly into one of those buckets, and the men will carry me into the royal courtyard. They will never notice me. Fishes for the delight of royalty! It is absurd!”

81The next morning the little princes took their sailboats and ran to the lake in the courtyard.

“See, see!” cried one of them. “Our wish has come true! There are fishes swimming about in the water. Oh, what fun?”

“Come away! Come, come, brother!” shouted the other little prince in terror. “See, there is a demon on the bank! Perhaps the fishes belong to him! Come!”

To the turtle’s great surprise off ran the lads, crying out, “A demon has come to live on the bank of our lake!”

When the king saw how frightened the princes were, he ordered an attendant to capture the demon and bring him to the palace. So, before the poor turtle could make up his mind what to do, he was caught and brought before the king.

“How shall we kill him?” asked an attendant.

“Throw him into the fire,” said one.

“drop a large rock on his head and crush him,” said another.

82“Oh, that would not do,” said one of the princes. “See! He has pulled his head inside that shell back of his. Perhaps his back is too strong to be crushed by a rock.”

“I have it,” said an old servant who was afraid of the water, “let us fling him over the rocks into the river. Then he will be swept away into the sea and drowned.”

In a twinkling out came the turtle’s head.

“My friends,” he said, “pray do not throw me into the river that flows to the great wide sea! Of all your plans to punish me, that is the worst! Burn me, or crush me if you will, but do not throw me into the river that flows to the great wide sea! I shudder at the thought of it.”

“Take the demon to the rocks and throw him into the river,” said the king.

“Ha! ha! ha!” laughed the turtle when he whirled about in the water and swam back to the friendly rocks where he had lived so long.


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