THIS, O Best Beloved, is another story of the High and Far-Off Times. In the very middle of those times was a Stickly- Prickly Hedgehog, and he lived on the banks of the turbid Amazon, eating shelly snails and things. And he had a friend, a Slow- Solid Tortoise, who lived on the banks of the turbid Amazon, eating green lettuces and things. And so that was all right, Best Beloved. Do you see?
But also, and at the same time, in those High and Far-Off Times, there was a Painted Jaguar, and he lived on the banks of the turbid Amazon too; and he ate everything that he could catch. When he could not catch deer or monkeys he would eat frogs and beetles; and when he could not catch frogs and beetles he went to his Mother Jaguar, and she told him how to eat hedgehogs and tortoises.
She said to him ever so many times, graciously waving her tail, ‘My son, when you find a Hedgehog you must drop him into the water and then he will uncoil, and when you catch a Tortoise you must scoop him out of his shell with your paw.’ And so that was all right, Best Beloved.
One beautiful night on the banks of the turbid Amazon, Painted Jaguar found Stickly-Prickly Hedgehog and Slow-Solid Tortoise sitting under the trunk of a fallen tree. They could not run away, and so Stickly-Prickly curled himself up into a ball, because he was a Hedgehog, and Slow-Solid Tortoise drew in his head and feet into his shell as far as they would go, because he was a Tortoise; and so that was all right, Best Beloved. Do you see?
‘Now attend to me,’ said Painted Jaguar, ‘because this is very important. My mother said that when I meet a Hedgehog I am to drop him into the water and then he will uncoil, and when I meet a Tortoise I am to scoop him out of his shell with my paw. Now which of you is Hedgehog and which is Tortoise? because, to save my spots, I can’t tell.’
‘Are you sure of what your Mummy told you?’ said Stickly-Prickly Hedgehog. ‘Are you quite sure? Perhaps she said that when you uncoil a Tortoise you must shell him out the water with a scoop, and when you paw a Hedgehog you must drop him on the shell.’
‘Are you sure of what your Mummy told you?’ said Slow-and-Solid Tortoise. ‘Are you quite sure? Perhaps she said that when you water a Hedgehog you must drop him into your paw, and when you meet a Tortoise you must shell him till he uncoils.’
‘I don’t think it was at all like that,’ said Painted Jaguar, but he felt a little puzzled; ‘but, please, say it again more distinctly.’
‘When you scoop water with your paw you uncoil it with a Hedgehog,’ said Stickly-Prickly. ‘Remember that, because it’s important.’
‘But,’ said the Tortoise, ‘when you paw your meat you drop it into a Tortoise with a scoop. Why can’t you understand?’
‘You are making my spots ache,’ said Painted Jaguar; ‘and besides, I didn’t want your advice at all. I only wanted to know which of you is Hedgehog and which is Tortoise.’
‘I shan’t tell you,’ said Stickly-Prickly. ‘but you can scoop me out of my shell if you like.’
‘Aha!’ said Painted Jaguar. ‘Now I know you’re Tortoise. You thought I wouldn’t! Now I will.’ Painted Jaguar darted out his paddy-paw just as Stickly-Prickly curled himself up, and of course Jaguar’s paddy-paw was just filled with prickles. Worse than that, he knocked Stickly-Prickly away and away into the woods and the bushes, where it was too dark to find him. Then he put his paddy-paw into his mouth, and of course the prickles hurt him worse than ever. As soon as he could speak he said, ‘Now I know he isn’t Tortoise at all. But’–and then he scratched his head with his un-prickly paw–’how do I know that this other is Tortoise?’