Man-Child & the Talking Stone

‘Excuse me!’ said Alligator. Her long, scaly snout bumped into the side of Tiger as he lay on his back, splashing in the clear, warm, sunlit water of the river.
‘Oh! Sorry,’ said Tiger, scrambling up the bank, ‘Just thought I’d have a bath.’
‘This is the part of the river where I live,’ said Alligator, politely, ‘but of course, you are welcome any time.’
‘Thank you,’ said Tiger, ‘but next time I’ll make sure to ask.’

Along the beach, Antelope was trying to run and spring and dance in the sand where Turtle was sunning herself.
‘Oh! Sorry,’ said Antelope, as she accidentally stepped on Turtle.
‘Be careful of my eggs,’ said Turtle, ‘Can’t you play on the grass in the meadow?’
‘I could,’ replied Antelope, ‘but Monkey is having a race there today.’
‘All right, then,’ said Turtle, ‘but please be careful.’

Habiba the Great Parrot watched them all from the top of the tallest palm tree on The Island and shook her head in disbelief. The animals were so polite to each other that nothing was ever getting done properly. They were far too busy making excuses for each other.

The Island on which they lived was small and oval, with a high mountain set right in the middle. The top of the mountain was cup-shaped, like the crater of a Volcano, and so high that it was tipped always with a white cap of snow.

Habiba had been blown to The Island on the winds of The Greatest Storm The Ocean Had Ever Seen. She had been blown so far and so hard that she knew she would never have the strength to return. Being a wise parrot, Habiba soon learnt all the different ways in which the animals spoke. The strangest thing was, they all seemed to understand each other with no trouble, even though their voices were very different.  

This was unlike any island Habiba had ever lived on before. Eagle told her that it was because of the Talking Stone. It had fallen out of a clear night sky and landed in the crater at the top of the mountain. Eagle herself had seen it one day, when the east wind had lifted her so high that she had soared above the clouds themselves. The Stone, she said, was a brilliant jewel the same size and shape as a coconut, but the power of it’s light shone out across The Island, helping all the animals to understand each other.

One day as Habiba flew around the tops of the trees, watching Tiger ask Eagle, ever so politely, if she would move over so that he could sit on his favourite warm sunny rock, she noticed a wooden canoe drawn up on the beach. The canoe had a long pole laid in the bottom. There was a large white cloth inside it and an oar laid on the sand.

Habiba was afraid. She knew this boat had been made by Man. She had seen Man before and knew what he could do. She knew how cruel he could be about things he did not understand. A trail of footsteps led across the sand from the canoe to the edge of the jungle....


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