As Tortoise was returning home after a day spent foraging for food he came across Baboon.
"Greetings, Tortoise!” Baboon grinned. “How was your day? Did you find food today?”
'No,' replied Tortoise sadly. "Very little food and I’m hungry."
Baboon burst out laughing, and jumped up and down with excitement. An excellent idea had popped into his mischievous brain.
“Well that’s not fair! Why don’t you come to my house, my friend? By the time you get there my dinner will be ready and you can share it with me.”
Because he was starving Tortoise gratefully accepted the invitation. Baboon hurried off down the road, giggling with excitement.
Unfortunately Baboon’s house was at the top of a hill, so Tortoise’s pace was even slower than usual. He kept stopping to rest, especially when he encountered a rock or a dip in the path. But he was so hungry he was determined to share what he knew would be a great meal – Baboon’s culinary skills were legendary.
When he eventually reached Baboon’s home he smelt the aroma of what was surely a delicious dinner. Baboon was giggling and chuckling to himself. When he saw Tortoise he burst out laughing.
“What happened to you? Dinner’s been ready for ages! You’ve taken so long to get here I thought you had become Ground Hornbill’s dinner!”
“My apologies,” Tortoise gasped, out of breath from his long difficult walk. “Hills are not easy for me. I hope I have not delayed your dinner.”
"Of course not,” Baboon grinned. “Dinner is ready. I decided to eat up in the baobab. Care to join me?”
Two dinner pots were hanging in the lowest branches of a gigantic old baobab tree. Baboon bounded up the tree trunk with ease.
Tortoise sighed. There was no way he could climb the tree.
“Why can’t we eat down here, Baboon? You know I cannot climb trees. Or would you be kind enough to bring my pot down here to me? After all, you said I was your friend.”
Baboon burst out laughing: “Anyone who eats dinner with me must eat here in this tree. So, I guess you’re going to have to go home hungry!”
Tortoise sadly set off home, his stomach grumbling with hunger. Baboon’s mocking laugh followed him all the way to his pathway. When Tortoise reached his home he snacked on some grass as he worked out a way to teach Baboon a lesson.
The following week Tortoise invited Baboon to dinner. Baboon didn’t have many friends, and he knew that Tortoise might be slow but he was renowned for his kindness. He accepted the invitation, thinking Tortoise had probably forgiven him for his naughty prank.
As the crossed the stream near Tortoise’s home he noticed the ground had been burned black and was covered with soot.
Baboon arrived at Tortoise’s residence, finding him standing beside a pot containing a very delicious meal.
“I am starving,” Baboon greeted Tortoise. “I have not eaten all day. Shall we start?”
“When you have washed your paws,” Tortoise pointed at Baboon’s filthy hands. “Where are your manners? Surely your mother taught you to wash your paws before eating?”
The baboon looked at his paws, turning them over to inspect the black soot from the burned ground.”
"Now run back to the stream and wash," said Tortoise, "and when you are clean I will give you some supper."
Baboon hurried back to the stream and carefully washed his paws. He returned to Tortoise who refused to dish up his meal because his paws were still dirty. He had to walk across the burnt ground to get to Tortoise’s home.
“Those paws are as filthy as before!” Tortoise shook his head in disgust. “Go back and wash them again because I don’t share my meals with dirty guests. And you’d better hurry, because dinner is getting cold. I’ve already started eating.”
Baboon returned to the stream several times, unable to get his paws clean. No matter how carefully he washed them they got covered in dirt and soot each time he went back to Tortoise.
Finally Baboon returned to find Tortoise cleaning up his table because he’d eaten all the food. Realising he had been tricked, Baboon screamed in rage. Embarrassed, he rushed back over the burned ground, crossed the stream and ran home to sulk.
"Well, that’ll teach you to be cruel, my friend," Tortoise smiled to himself. His dinner over, his table clean, Tortoise settled into his shell for a good night’s sleep.