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The Heart Of A Monkey

from The Lilac Fairy Book





A long time ago a little town made up of a collection of low huts
stood in a tiny green valley at the foot of a cliff. Of course
the people had taken great care to build their houses out of
reach of the highest tide which might be driven on shore by a
west wind, but on the very edge of the town there had sprung up a
tree so large that half its boughs hung over the huts and the
other half over the deep sea right under the cliff, where sharks
loved to come and splash in the clear water. The branches of the
tree itself were laden with fruit, and every day at sunrise a big
grey monkey might have been seen sitting in the topmost branches
having his breakfast, and chattering to himself with delight.

After he had eaten all the fruit on the town side of the tree the
monkey swung himself along the branches to the part which hung

over the water. While he was looking out for a nice shady place
where he might perch comfortably he noticed a shark watching him
from below with greedy eyes.

'Can I do anything for you, my friend?' asked the monkey
politely.

'Oh! if you only would thrown me down some of those delicious
things, I should be so grateful,' answered the shark. 'After you
have lived on fish for fifty years you begin to feel you would
like a change. And I am so very, very tired of the taste of
salt.'

'Well, I don't like salt myself,' said the monkey; 'so if you
will open your mouth I will throw this beautiful juicy kuyu into
it,' and, as he spoke, he pulled one off the branch just over his
head. But it was not so easy to hit the shark's mouth as he
supposed, even when the creature had turned on his back, and the
first kuyu only struck one of his teeth and rolled into the
water. However, the second time the monkey had better luck, and
the fruit fell right in.

'Ah, how good!' cried the shark. 'Send me another, please.' And
the monkey grew tired of picking the kuyu long before the shark
was tired of eating them.

'It is getting late, and I must be going home to my children,' he
said, at length, 'but if you are here at the same time to-morrow
I will give you another treat.'

'Thank you, thank you,' said the shark, showing all his great
ugly teeth as he grinned with delight; 'you can't guess how happy
you have made me,' and he swam away into the shadow, hoping to
sleep away the time till the monkey came again.

For weeks the monkey and the shark breakfasted together, and it
was a wonder that the tree had any fruit left for them. They
became fast friends, and told each other about their homes and
their children, and how to teach them all they ought to know. By
and bye the monkey became rather discontented with his green
house in a grove of palms beyond the town, and longed to see the
strange things under the sea which he had heard of from the
shark. The shark perceived this very clearly, and described
greater marvels, and the monkey as he listened grew more and more
gloomy.

Matters were in this state when one day the shark said: 'I really
hardly know how to thank you for all your kindness to me during
these weeks. Here I have nothing of my own to offer you, but if
you would only consent to come home with me, how gladly would I
give you anything that might happen to take your fancy.'

'I should like nothing better,' cried the monkey, his teeth
chattering, as they always did when he was pleased. 'But how
could I get there? Not by water. Ugh! It makes me ill to think of
it!'

'Oh! don't let that trouble you,' replied the shark, 'you have
only to sit on my back and I will undertake that not a drop of
water shall touch you.'

So it was arranged, and directly after breakfast next morning the
shark swam close up under the tree and the monkey dropped neatly
on his back, without even a splash. After a few minutes--for at
first he felt a little frightened at his strange position--the
monkey began to enjoy himself vastly, and asked the shark a
thousand questions about the fish and the sea-weeds and the
oddly-shaped things that floated past them, and as the shark
always gave him some sort of answer, the monkey never guessed
that many of the objects they saw were as new to his guide as to
himself.

The sun had risen and set six times when the shark suddenly said,
'My friend, we have now performed half our journey, and it is
time that I should tell you something.'

'What is it?' asked the monkey. 'Nothing unpleasant, I hope, for
you sound rather grave?'

'Oh, no! Nothing at all. It is only that shortly before we left I
heard that the sultan of my country is very ill, and that the
only thing to cure him is a monkey's heart.'

'Poor man, I am very sorry for him,' replied the monkey; 'but you
were unwise not to tell me till we had started.'

'What do you mean?' asked the shark; but the monkey, who now
understood the whole plot, did not answer at once, for he was
considering what he should say.

'Why are you so silent?' inquired the shark again.

'I was thinking what a pity it was you did not tell me while I
was still on land, and then I would have brought my heart with
me.'

'Your heart! Why isn't your heart here?' said the shark, with a
puzzled expression.

'Oh, no! Of course not. Is it possible you don't know that when
we leave home we always hang up our hearts on trees, to prevent
their being troublesome? However, perhaps you won't believe that,
and will just think I have invented it because I am afraid, so
let us go on to your country as fast as we can, and when we
arrive you can look for my heart, and if you find it you can kill
me.'

The monkey spoke in such a calm, indifferent way that the shark
was quite deceived, and began to wish he had not been in such a
hurry.

'But there is no use going on if your heart is not with you,' he
said at last. 'We had better turn back to the town, and then you
can fetch it.'

Of course, this was just what the monkey wanted, but he was
careful not to seem too pleased.

'Well, I don't know,' he remarked carelessly, 'it is such a long
way; but you may be right.'

'I am sure I am,' answered the shark, 'and I will swim as quickly
as I can,' and so he did, and in three days they caught sight of
the kuyu tree hanging over the water.

With a sigh of relief the monkey caught hold of the nearest
branch and swung himself up.

'Wait for me here,' he called out to the shark. 'I am so hungry I
must have a little breakfast, and then I will go and look for my
heart,' and he went further and further into the branches so that
the shark could not see him. Then he curled himself up and went
to sleep.

'Are you there?' cried the shark, who was soon tired of swimming
about under the cliff, and was in haste to be gone.

The monkey awoke with a start, but did not answer.

'Are you there?' called the shark again, louder than before, and
in a very cross voice.

'Oh, yes. I am here,' replied the monkey; 'but I wish you had not
wakened me up. I was having such a nice nap.'

'Have you got it?' asked the shark. 'It is time we were going.'

'Going where?' inquired the monkey.

'Why, to my country, of course, with your heart. You CAN'T have
forgotten!'

'My dear friend,' answered the monkey, with a chuckle, 'I think
you must be going a little mad. Do you take me for a washerman's
donkey?'

'Don't talk nonsense,' exclaimed the shark, who did not like
being laughed at. 'What do you mean about a washerman's donkey?
And I wish you would be quick, or we may be too late to save the
sultan.'

'Did you really never hear of the washerman's donkey?' asked the
monkey, who was enjoying himself immensely. 'Why, he is the beast
who has no heart. And as I am not feeling very well, and am
afraid to start while the sun is so high lest I should get a
sunstroke, if you like, I will come a little nearer and tell you
his story.'

'Very well,' said the shark sulkily, 'if you won't come, I
suppose I may as well listen to that as do nothing.'

So the monkey began.

'A washerman once lived in the great forest on the other side of
the town, and he had a donkey to keep him company and to carry
him wherever he wanted to go. For a time they got on very well,
but by and bye the donkey grew lazy and ungrateful for her
master's kindness, and ran away several miles into the heart of
the forest, where she did nothing but eat and eat and eat, till
she grew so fat she could hardly move.

'One day as she was tasting quite a new kind of grass and
wondering if it was as good as what she had had for dinner the
day before, a hare happened to pass by.

'"Well, that is a fat creature," thought she, and turned out of
her path to tell the news to a lion who was a friend of hers. Now
the lion had been very ill, and was not strong enough to go
hunting for himself, and when the hare came and told him that a
very fat donkey was to be found only a few hundred yards off,
tears of disappointment and weakness filled his eyes.

'"What is the good of telling me that?" he asked, in a weepy
voice; "you know I cannot even walk as far as that palm."

'"Never mind," answered the hare briskly. "If you can't go to
your dinner your dinner shall come to you," and nodding a
farewell to the lion she went back to the donkey.

'"Good morning," said she, bowing politely to the donkey, who
lifted her head in surprise. "Excuse my interrupting you, but I
have come on very important business."

'"Indeed," answered the donkey, "it is most kind of you to take
the trouble. May I inquire what the business is?"

'"Certainly," replied the hare. "It is my friend the lion who has
heard so much of your charms and good qualities that he has sent
me to beg that you will give him your paw in marriage. He regrets
deeply that he is unable to make the request in person, but he
has been ill and is too weak to move."

'"Poor fellow! How sad!" said the donkey. "But you must tell him
that I feel honoured by his proposal, and will gladly consent to
be Queen of the Beasts."

'"Will you not come and tell him so yourself?" asked the hare.

'Side by side they went down the road which led to the lion's
house. It took a long while, for the donkey was so fat with
eating she could only walk very slowly, and the hare, who could
have run the distance in about five minutes, was obliged to creep
along till she almost dropped with fatigue at not being able to
go at her own pace. When at last they arrived the lion was
sitting up at the entrance, looking very pale and thin. The
donkey suddenly grew shy and hung her head, but the lion put on
his best manners and invited both his visitors to come in and
make themselves comfortable.

'Very soon the hare got up and said, "Well, as I have another
engagement I will leave you to make acquaintance with your future
husband," and winking at the lion she bounded away.

'The donkey expected that as soon as they were left alone the
lion would begin to speak of their marriage, and where they
should live, but as he said nothing she looked up. To her
surprise and terror she saw him crouching in the corner, his eyes
glaring with a red light, and with a loud roar he sprang towards
her. But in that moment the donkey had had time to prepare
herself, and jumping on one side dealt the lion such a hard kick
that he shrieked with the pain. Again and again he struck at her
with his claws, but the donkey could bite too, as well as the
lion, who was very weak after his illness, and at last a well-
planted kick knocked him right over, and he rolled on the floor,
groaning with pain. The donkey did not wait for him to get up,
but ran away as fast as she could and was lost in the forest.

'Now the hare, who knew quite well what would happen, had not
gone to do her business, but hid herself in some bushes behind
the cave, where she could hear quite clearly the sounds of the
battle. When all was quiet again she crept gently out, and stole
round the corner.

'"Well, lion, have you killed her?" asked she, running swiftly up
the path.

'"Killed her, indeed!" answered the lion sulkily, "it is she who
has nearly killed me. I never knew a donkey could kick like that,
though I took care she should carry away the marks of my claws."

'"Dear me! Fancy such a great fat creature being able to fight!"
cried the hare. "But don't vex yourself. Just lie still, and your
wounds will soon heal," and she bade her friend, good bye, and
returned to her family.

'Two or three weeks passed, and only bare places on the donkey's
back showed where the lion's claws had been, while, on his side,
the lion had recovered from his illness and was now as strong as
ever. He was beginning to think that it was almost time for him
to begin hunting again, when one morning a rustle was heard in
the creepers outside, and the hare's head peeped through.

'"Ah! there is no need to ask how you are," she said. "Still you
mustn't overtire yourself, you know. Shall I go and bring you
your dinner?"

'"If you will bring me that donkey I will tear it in two," cried
the lion savagely, and the hare laughed and nodded and went on
her errand.

'This time the donkey was much further than before, and it took
longer to find her. At last the hare caught sight of four hoofs
in the air, and ran towards them. The donkey was lying on a soft
cool bed of moss near a stream, rolling herself backwards and
forwards from pleasure.

'"Good morning," said the hare politely, and the donkey got
slowly on to her legs, and looked to see who her visitor could
be.

'"Oh, it is you, is it?" she exclaimed. "Come and have a chat.
What news have you got?"

'"I mustn't stay," answered the hare; "but I promised the lion to
beg you to pay him a visit, as he is not well enough to call on
you."

'"Well, I don't know," replied the donkey gloomily, "the last
time we went he scratched me very badly, and really I was quite
afraid."

'"He was only trying to kiss you," said the hare, "and you bit
him, and of course that made him cross."

'"If I were sure of that," hesitated the donkey.

'"Oh, you may be quite sure," laughed the hare. "I have a large
acquaintance among lions. But let us be quick," and rather
unwillingly the donkey set out.

'The lion saw them coming and hid himself behind a large tree. As
the donkey went past, followed by the hare, he sprang out, and
with one blow of his paw stretched the poor foolish creature dead
before him.

'"Take this meat and skin it and roast it," he said to the hare;
"but my appetite is not so good as it was, and the only part I
want for myself is the heart. The rest you can either eat
yourself or give away to your friends."

'"Thank you," replied the hare, balancing the donkey on her back
as well as she was able, and though the legs trailed along the
ground she managed to drag it to an open space some distance off,
where she made a fire and roasted it. As soon as it was cooked
the hare took out the heart and had just finished eating it when
the lion, who was tired of waiting, came up.

'"I am hungry," said he. "Bring me the creature's heart; it is
just what I want for supper."

'"But there is no heart," answered the hare, looking up at the
lion with a puzzled face.

'"What nonsense!" said the lion. "As if every beast had not got a
heart. What do you mean?"

'"This is a washerman's donkey," replied the hare gravely.

'"Well, and suppose it is?"

'"Oh, fie!" exclaimed the hare. "You, a lion and a grown-up
person, and ask questions like that. If the donkey had had a
heart would she be here now? The first time she came she knew you
were trying to kill her, and ran away. Yet she came back a second
time. Well, if she had had a heart would she have come back a
second time? Now would she?"

'And the lion answered slowly, "No, she would not."

'So you think I am a washerman's donkey?' said the monkey to the
shark, when the story was ended. 'You are wrong; I am not. And as
the sun is getting low in the sky, it is time for you to begin
your homeward journey. You will have a nice cool voyage, and I
hope you will find the sultan better. Farewell!' And the monkey
disappeared among the green branches, and was gone.

From 'Swahili Tales,' by Edward Steere, LL.D.





Next: The Fairy Nurse

Previous: The Jogi's Punishment



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