One evening when the tortoise was crawling slowly home, he met the
baboon on his path. "Hello, old fellow," said the baboon heartily. "Have
you found much to eat today?"
'No,' replied Tortoise sadly. "Very little
The baboon danced up and down, chortling with laughter at an idea
which had just come to him. "Follow me, poor old Tortoise," he exclaimed,
"and when you reach my home I will have supper all ready for you."
you. Thank you," said the grateful Tortoise, as the baboon turned round
and bounced gaily along the path that led to his home.
as fast as he could, which was very slow indeed, especially when he went
uphill. Once or twice he stopped to rest, when the ground became so bumpy
that he got disheartened, but holding in his mind the picture of a wonderful
feast, he plodded on. At last he reached the place in the bush that the
baboon called his home.
There he was, leaping about and grinning to himself,
and as soon as he caught sight of Tortoise he exclaimed: "Bless my tail!
What a long time you have taken to get here. I declare it must be tomorrow
"I'm so sorry," said Tortoise, puffing a little after his long
journey. "But I'm sure you have had plenty of time to get the supper ready,
so do not grumble at me."
"0h, yes, indeed!" replied the baboon, rubbing
his hands together. "Supper's all ready. All you have to do is to climb
up and get it. Look!" he said, pointing to the top of a tree. "Three pots
of millet-beer, brewed especially for you."
The poor tortoise looked up
at the pots which the baboon had wedged in the branches high above his
head. He knew he could never reach them, and the baboon knew that too.
"Bring one down for me, there's a good friend," begged Tortoise, but the
baboon climbed the tree in the twinkling of an eye and shouted down to
him: "0h, no! Anybody who wants supper with me must climb up to get it."
So poor Tortoise could only begin his long homeward journey with a very
empty stomach, cursing at his inability to climb trees. But as he went
he worked out a splendid plan for getting his own back on the unkind baboon.
A few days later the baboon had an invitation to eat with Tortoise. He
was very surprised, but knowing how slow and good-natured the tortoise
was, the baboon said to himself: "0h, well, the fellow evidently saw the
joke and bears me no malice. I'll go along and see what I can get out of
him." At the appointed time the baboon set out along the track that led
to Tortoise's home.
Now it was the dry season, when many bush fires occur
which leave the ground scorched and black. Just beyond the river the baboon
found a wide stretch of burnt and blackened grass, over which he bounded
towards Tortoise, who stood waiting beside a cooking pot from which issued
the most savory of smells. "Ah, it's my friend the baboon!" said Tortoise.
"I'm very pleased to see you. But did your mother never teach you that
you must wash your hands before meals? Just look at them! They're as black
as soot." The baboon looked at his hands, which were indeed very black
from crossing the burnt patch of ground.
"Now run back to the river and
wash," said Tortoise, "and when you are clean I will give you some supper."
The baboon scampered across the black earth and washed himself in the river,
but when he came to return to Tortoise he found he had to cross the burnt
ground again and so arrived as dirty as before.
"That will never do! I
told you that you could only eat with me if you were clean. Go back and
wash again! And you had better be quick about it because I have started
my supper already," said Tortoise, with his mouth full of food.
baboon went back to the river time and again, but try as he would he got
his hands and feet black each time he returned, and Tortoise refused to
give him any of the delicious food that was fast disappearing.
swallowed the last morsel, the baboon realized he had been tricked and
with a cry of rage he crossed the burnt ground for the last time and ran
all the way home. "That will teach you a lesson, my friend," said the Tortoise,
smiling, as, well-fed and contented, he withdrew into his shell for a long