Once there was a timid little hare who was always afraid something dreadful was going to happen.
She was always saying, “What if the earth should fall in? What would happen to me then?”
One day, after she had been saying this to herself many times, a great coconut fell from a tree.
“What was that!” said the hare.
She jumped as if she had been shot.
“The earth must be falling in!” she cried.
So she ran and she ran as fast as she could run.
Soon she met another hare.
“O Brother Hare,” she said, “run for your life! The earth is falling in!”
“What is that you say!” cried the other hare. “Then I will run, too.”
This hare told another hare, and the other hare told other hares, and soon all the hares were running as fast as they could run, and crying:
“The earth is falling in! O, the earth is falling in!”
The big beasts heard them, and they too began to run and to cry:
“O, the earth is falling in! Run for your life!”
A wise old lion saw them running and heard them crying.
“I cannot see that the earth is falling in,” he said.
Then he cried out to the poor frightened beasts to stop.
“What are you saying?” he asked.
“We said the earth is falling in,” answered the elephants.
“What makes you think so?” asked the lion.
“The tigers told us,” said the elephants.
“What makes the tigers think so?”
“The bears told us,” said the tigers.
“What makes the bears think so?”
“The buffaloes told us,” said the bears.
“Why do the buffaloes think so?”
“The deer told us,” said the buffaloes.
“Why do the deer think so?”
“The monkeys told us so,” said the deer.
“And how did the monkeys know?”
“The jackals said so,” said the monkeys.
“And how did the jackals know?”
“The hares said it was so,” said the jackals.
“And how did the hares know?”
One of the hares then said that another hare told him, and the other hare said that another told him, and so it went on until at last they came to the first little hare.
“Little hare,” said the lion, “why did you say that the earth was falling in?”
“I saw it,” said the little hare.
“Where?” asked the lion.
“I saw it there, under that big coconut tree,” said the little hare.
“Come and show me,” said the lion.
“O, no, no!” said the little hare. “I am so frightened. I couldn’t go.”
“Jump on my back,” said the lion.
The little hare at last jumped up on the lion’s back, and the lion took her back to the big tree.
Just then another coconut fell with a great noise among the leaves.
“O, run, run!” cried the timid hare. “There is that dreadful thing again!”
“Stop and look,” said the lion.
As the hare could not get down from the lion’s back, she had to stop and look.
“Now what do you think it is?” asked the lion.
“I think it must be a coconut,” said the little hare.
“Then I think you had better go and tell the other beasts,” said the lion.
So the little hare told the other beasts that the earth was not falling in, after all. It was a coconut that was falling.