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 The Hare and the Porcupine


Once upon a time . . . an old porcupine lived in a large wood with his twin
sons. Apples were their favourite dish, but the youngsters sometimes raided a
neighbouring vegetable plot for the turnips Dad loved to munch. One day, one
of the young porcupines set off as usual to fetch the turnips. Like all
porcupines, he was a slow walker, and he had just reached a large cabbage,
when from behind the leaves, out popped a hare.
"So you have arrived at last!" said the hare. "I've been watching you for
half an hour. Do you always dawdle? I hope you're quicker at eating, or it
will take you a year to finish the turnips!" Instead of going into a huff at
being teased, the porcupine decided to get his own back by being very crafty.
Slow on his feet but a quick thinker, he rapidly hit on a plan. So the hare
sneered at the slow porcupine, did he? Well, the hare's own turn of speed would
be his downfall!
"I can run faster than you if I try," said the porcupine "Ha! Ha!" the hare
shrieked with laughter, raising a large paw. "You can't compete with this! My
grandad was the speediest hare of his day. He even won a gold penny. He used
to be my coach. And you tell me you can run faster than me? Well, I bet my
grandad's gold penny that I can win without even trying!"
The porcupine paid little heed to the hare's boastful words and quietly
accepted the challenge. "I'll meet you tomorrow down at the ploughed field.
We'll race in parallel furrows. And see wins!"
The hare went away laughing.
"Better stay here all night! You'll never get home and back in time for the
race!" he told the porcupine. The porcupine, however, had a bright idea. When
he arrived home, he told his twin brother what had happened. Just before dawn
next day, he gave his instructions, and off they set for the field. Hare
appeared, rudely remarking: "I'll take off my jacket so I can run faster!"
Ready! Steady! Go! And in a flash, the hare streaked to the other end of
the field. There, waiting for him was a porcupine, which teasingly said:
"Rather late, aren't you? I've been here for ages!" Gasping and so
breathless his throat was dry, the hare whispered: "Let's try again!"
"All right," agreed the porcupine, "we'll run the race again." Never in all
his life had the hare run so fast. Not even with the hounds snapping at his
heels. But every time he reached the other end of the ploughed field, what did
he find but the porcupine, who laughingly exclaimed: "What? Late again? I
keep on getting here first!" Racing up and down the field the hare sped,
trying to beat the porcupine. His legs grew terribly tired and he began to
sag. And every time he came to the end of the field there stood a porcupine
calling himself the winner.
"Perhaps I ought to mention, friend hare, that my grandad was the fastest
porcupine of his day. He didn't win a gold penny, but he won apples, and after
the race, he ate them. But I don't want apples. I'd rather have the nice gold
penny you promised me!" said one of the porcupine twins.
The hare slid to the ground, dead tired. His head was spinning and his legs
felt like rubber.
"This race is the end of me! I shall die here in this field, where I really
believed I was a sprinter! The shame of it! What a disgrace!" The hare
staggered home, hot and sticky, to fetch the gold penny that he had never for
a moment ever imagined he would lose. His eyes brimming with tears, he handed
it over to the porcupines.
"Thank goodness my grandad isn't alive to see this!" he said. "Whatever
would he say? After all his coaching, here I am, beaten by a porcupine!"
That evening, a party was held at the porcupines' house. The twins danced
triumphantly in turn, waving aloft the gold penny. Father Porcupine brought
out his old accordion for the special occasion, and the fun went on all night.
As luck would have it, the hare never did find out the secret of how the race
had been rigged. Which was just as well! . . .

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