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THERE was a famine in the land, and everyone longed for food. Each day Tortoise went into the forest to see if he could p. 81 find anything to eat, but in the evenings he came home discouraged with only a few herbs and dried-up nut-kernels for his family.
One day, as he walked through a grove, he saw two trees close together—a small stunted tree and a big tree with thick foliage and spreading branches. “What sort of tree are you?” he asked the little tree.
“I am the Chop-tree,” was the reply.
“Well, Chop-tree, what can you produce?” asked Tortoise. And at the words the little tree waved its branches and a shower of food fell to the ground. Tortoise ate until nothing remained, and then turned to the tall and handsome tree.
“And what tree are you?” he asked, thinking that such a splendid tree must produce rich fruit. The tree told him that its name was Whip-tree, to which Tortoise replied: “Whip-tree, what can you produce?”
At these words the Whip-tree bent its p. 82 branches and beat Tortoise until he cried for mercy. When the beating ceased, Tortoise went home, but, being of a greedy nature, he said nothing of the two trees, and showed his wife only a few poor nuts which he had found.
After that he went every day to the Chop-tree and feasted to his heart’s content. While his family and all the people, even to the King, became thin and meagre, Tortoise appeared daily fatter and more prosperous, until Nyanribo, his wife, began to suspect.
One day Nyanribo resolved to follow him into the forest, and great was her surprise when she saw her husband stand under the little tree and say: “Tree, do your duty!” The branches waved, and rich titbits fell to the ground.
Nyanribo cried out in astonishment and reproached her husband for his greediness. She hastened back to the town and returned with the whole family of children and cousins. She stood under the Chop-tree and said: “Tree, do your duty!” p. 83 When the food fell down, they all partook of the feast.
But spiteful Tortoise was displeased, and exclaimed:
“I wish you would stand under the other tree and receive your proper reward!”
Hearing this, they all went to stand under the Whip-tree, and Nyanribo again cried: “Tree, do your duty!” Alas! The branches began to beat them all soundly until they died.
Tortoise was alarmed at this and hastily returned to his house, but the neighbours soon noticed that his wife and family were absent, and the King ordered Tortoise to account for their disappearance.
Tortoise therefore led the King and all the nobles and the people into the forest, and when they were gathered under the Chop-tree he cried out: “Tree, do your duty!” and, as before, a feast appeared, which the hungry people soon devoured.
Tortoise then asked them to stand underneath the othet tree, and this they were p. 84 eager to do. The King himself was the one to cry out: “Tree, do your duty!” and the branches began to beat all those who stood below until they cried out with pain.
In a great rage the people hunted for Tortoise, desiring to kill him; but he hid inside his shell, in a secret place, and they could not harm him.
He stayed in concealment until the King died and a new King was found, and then he thought it safe to appear in the town. But whenever he hears the two words “Chop” and “Whip,” he hides in his shell, thinking himself in danger.