330 TALE OF A TORTOISE AND A MONKEY
the tortoise heaped the earth round, promising to return every day or two with a nice young bird for his dinner. ' Well, how are you getting on ?' he would ask cheerfully when he paid his visits.
' Oh, all right; only I wish you had brought a bird with you,' answered the fox.
I have been so unlucky, I have never been able to catch one,' replied the tortoise. " However, I shall be more fortunate to-morrow, I am sure.'
But not many to-morrows after, when the tortoise arrived with his usual question : ' Well, how are you getting on ? ' he received no answer, for the fox was lying in his hole quite still, dead of hunger.
By this time the tortoise was grown up, and was looked up to throughout the forest as a person to be feared for his strength and wisdom. But he was not considered a very swift runner, until an adventure with a deer added to his fame.
One day, when he was basking in the sun, a stag passed by, and stopped for a little conversation. ' Would you care to see which of us can run fastest ? ' asked the tortoise, after some talk. The stag thought the question so silly that he only shrugged his shoulders. ' Of course, the victor would have the right to kill the other,' went on the tortoise. ' Oh, on that condition I agree,' answered the deer; 'but I am afraid you are a dead man.'
' It is no use trying to frighten me,' replied the tortoise. ' But I should like three days for training ; then I shall be ready to start when the sun strikes on the big tree at the edge of the great clearing.'
The first thing the tortoise did was to call his brothers and his cousins together, and he posted them carefully under ferns all along the line of the great clearing, making a sort of ladder which stretched for many miles. This done to his satisfaction, he went back to the starting place.
The stag was quite punctual, and as soon as the sun's