The Tortoise and the Geese
When the Tortoise heard that they were going, he trembled with fear, and besought them by their friendship not to desert him.
"Alas," the Geese replied, there is no help for it. If we stay here, we shall all three die, and we cannot take you with us, for you cannot fly."
Still the Tortoise begged so hard not to be left behind that the Geese finally said, "Dear Friend, if you will promise not to speak a word on the journey, we will take you with us. But know beforehand, that if you open your mouth to say one single word, you will be in instant danger of losing your life."
"Have no fear," replied the Tortoise, "but that I will be silent until you give me leave to speak again. I would rather never open my mouth again than be left to die alone here in the dried-up pond."
So the Geese brought a stout stick and bade the Tortoise grasp it firmly in the middle by his mouth. Then they took hold of either end and flew off with him.
They had gone several miles in safety, when their course lay over a village. As the country people saw this curious sight of a Tortoise being carried by two Geese, they began to laugh and cry out, "Oh, did you ever see such a funny sight in all your life!" And they laughed loud and long.
The Tortoise grew more and more indignant. At last he could stand their jeering no longer. "You stupid . . . " he snapped, but before he could say more, he had fallen to the ground and was dashed to pieces.
The Scorpion and the Tortoise
They had traveled only a short distance when they came to a wide river. The Scorpion was now greatly troubled.
"Alas," he said, "you, my friend, can easily swim, but how can a poor Scorpion like me ever get across this stream?"
"Never fear," replied the Tortoise; "only place yourself squarely on my broad back and I will carry you safely over.
No sooner was the Scorpion settled on the Tortoise's broad back than the Tortoise crawled into the water and began to swim. Halfway across, he was startled by a strange rapping on his back, which made him ask the Scorpion what he was doing.
"Doing?" answered the Scorpion. "I am whetting my sting to see if it is possible to pierce your hard shell."
"Ungrateful friend," responded the Tortoise, "it is well that I have it in my power both to save myself and to punish you as you deserve." And straightway he sank his back below the surface and shook off the Scorpion into the water.
Next: The Crane and the Crab