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Eleanor L. Skinner

The Monkey and the Crocodile

Jataka Tale

I T is no use trying to live here any longer," thought the monkey, looking down, from his home in the tree, at a big crocodile sleeping on the sunlit bank of the river. "Whenever that creature opens his great mouth, I shudder to think what might happen if I were near."

Just then the crocodile yawned. Wider and wider and wider he opened his mouth. Away whisked the monkey to the topmost branch of the tree.

"This very day I shall move farther down the river!" he said.

So the monkey slipped away to a tree about half a mile distant. There he lived peaceably for some time. He was delighted with his new home. The water was cool and clear. In the middle of the stream was an island covered with fruit trees.

It was very easy to reach the little island. One leap from his tree brought the monkey to the end of a large rock which jutted out into the river; another leap brought him to the island, where he could get a fine feast and frisk about all the day long. In the evening he went back to his home in the great tree on the river's bank.

One day he stayed later than usual on the island. When he came to the water's edge, he looked and blinked and looked and blinked! "How strange that rock looks!" he said to himself. "Surely it was never so high before! What can be the matter with it?" Suddenly the monkey's heart beat very fast. The crocodile was lying on the top of that rock!

"Oho! Mr. Crocodile," thought the monkey, "I see I must put my wits to work very, very quickly indeed if I am to escape from you!"

"Good evening, Big Rock," he called.

The crocodile lay very still.

"This is a fine evening, Big Rock!" called the monkey.

The crocodile lay very, very still.

"What is the matter, Big Rock? You have always been a good friend of mine. Why are you so silent this evening?"

Then the crocodile thought, "Now I see I must pretend to be the rock, or the monkey may not come this way to-night." So with his mouth shut he mumbled as best he could, "Good evening, Mr. Monkey."

"Oh! Is that you, Mr. Crocodile?" said the monkey, pleasantly. "I'm afraid I have awakened you!"

"Never mind that," said the crocodile, raising his head. "Come, make your leap! You cannot escape me this time."

"No, I'm afraid not," said the monkey, meekly.

And all the time he was thinking, "Crocodiles shut their eyes when they open their mouths wide."

"Come along and make haste, Monkey," said the crocodile.

"I'm caught, that is sure, for I must leap your way. Well, as you say, I cannot escape you, Crocodile. Open your mouth. Oh, wider than that, please, if I am to leap into it. Wider! There! Here I go! Ready!"

Before the crocodile knew what was happening, the monkey gave three bounds—first to the top of the crocodile's head,—then to the bank,—then to his tree. Away he whisked to the topmost branch.

"Thank you, Mr. Crocodile," he called.