Once upon a time, in a certain lake, there lived a turtle and a pair of swans. The turtle and the swans were friends. They would spend all their free time together telling each other stories, and exchanging news and gossip. The turtle especially loved to talk and chatter, and always had something to say.
One year, the rains did not come, and the lake began to dry up. The swans became worried. Supposing it did not rain at all, and the lake dried up completely? Where would they live in that case? But the turtle had a plan. She suggested that the swans fly in search of a lake that still had plenty of water. Once they found such a lake, all three of them could move there.
The swans agreed and flew off. After flying for several hours they the perfect lake. They returned to the turtle with the good news. But now another problem arose: the new lake was too far for the turtle to walk. How was the turtle to get there? The swans did not want to leave their friend behind.
The turtle thought for a while and came up with another plan. She asked the swans to find a strong stick that they could hold in their beaks. The turtle would then hang on to the stick with her mouth, and the swans could fly with her to the new lake.
The swans liked the idea, though they were worried that the turtle might begin talking and fall off the stick. ‘You must be careful not to open your mouth while we are flying with you,’ they warned her. ‘Do you think you will be able to be quiet for such a long time?’
‘Of course,’ said the turtle. ‘I will be careful – I know when to stop talking.’
So the swans did as she asked. They found a strong stick and each swan held one end of it in its beak. The turtle held on to the middle with her mouth, and away they flew, all three of them.
It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to the turtle. She was amazed at the way the world looked so far above the ground. She was longing to say something, but remembered in time to keep quiet.
At last they reached the lake the swans had found. It was a beautiful lake, large and blue, with plenty of water. ‘Oh look!’ the turtle began in excitement, remembering much too late to keep quiet. The stick slipped from her mouth and down she fell from the sky onto the rocks below. The swans were sad to see the end of their friend – the turtle did not live to enjoy the lake, only because she did not know when to stop talking.