by Anonymous

"Ugh!" grunted the big Hippopotamus. "I think I shall have a bath. Oh, dear me, I feel so sleepy!" And he opened his mouth and gave a tremendous yawn.

"Well!" said a deep, gruff voice from the other side of the railings. "Well! If I had a mouth as large and as ugly as that I would keep it shut, at any rate."

It was the Rhinoceros, next door. The Hippopotamus and he didn't get on very well together; indeed, they were always quarreling, so that it was just as well that there were bars between them.

The Hippopotamus turned round angrily. "Ugly?" he said. "Who are you calling ugly? I am sure I'm just as pretty as you are, with that great horn sticking out of your nose. I don't think it looks at all nice."

"H'm!" said the Rhinoceros. "I don't care if it doesn't. It's been very useful to me, all the same."

"Well," returned the Hippopotamus, "and so has my mouth, so there! If it had been any smaller, I shouldn't have been able to get it round, for it was rather a large boat."

"Whatever are you talking about?" demanded the Rhinoceros. "Look here! Let's stop quarreling for a bit, and you shall tell me your story and I'll tell you mine. Fire away!"

"Ah, that's just what the men did," said the Hippopotamus. "We were all swimming in the river, when they came down in their boat. It was what they call a canoe (so the Flamingoes told me), and most of the men in it were black; but there was one white man who had a curious stick in his hand, which he every now and then would point at some bird or animal, and then he made tire come out of the stick, and the bird or animal generally got hurt.

"I lay in the water watching them, when, all at once, the white man pointed his stick at my brother, and before you could say 'crocodile,' my brother was floating away down the stream with a bullet in his head. The men in the boat paddled away after him, but that was more than I could stand, so I went after them. I saw the white man point his stick at me, but I dived in time and came up just beside them; then it was that my mouth came in so handy. I just opened it quite wide and then I closed it again, and, well, somehow the boat was upset and the men were all kicking about in the water, splashing and shouting and making no end of a fuss. But I let them go that time, I only wanted to give them a lesson. Now, it's your turn. How did your horn come in useful?"

"Oh, my adventure was on land, of course," said the Rhinoceros, who had been much interested in the Hippo's story. "I was snoozing, one afternoon, at home, when I heard a curious noise, and I saw some of those black men you talked about, followed by a white one on a horse. Well, before I had time to do or say anything, the white man pointed his gun at me (that's what they call the stick that the fire comes out of), and the next moment I felt a bullet knock against my side. Of course, it didn't hurt me—that's the advantage of having a skin like mine; but it made me very angry. So I just got up and ran at the gentleman of the horse; he was very much surprised, and so was the horse, especially when I gave him a prod with this horn of mine. He turned right round and galloped away as fast as he could go, with the black men after him. Of course, I didn't take the trouble to run after them. But, you see, my horn does come in useful sometimes."

"Ugh!" grunted the Hippopotamus. "I suppose it does. But it isn't pretty, all the same."

"Well, anyway it's better than your mouth," replied the Rhinoceros, getting angry again.

"But I can swim!" said the Hippopotamus.

"But you haven't got such a tough skin as I have," replied the Rhinoceros. And they went on quarreling until the keeper came with their dinner.