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The Golden Nugget

from A Chinese Wonder Book





Once upon a time many, many years ago, there lived in China two friends
named Ki-wu and Pao-shu. These two young men, like Damon and Pythias,
loved each other and were always together. No cross words passed between
them; no unkind thoughts marred their friendship. Many an interesting
tale might be told of their unselfishness, and of how the good fairies
gave them the true reward of virtue. One story alone, however, will be
enough to show how strong was their affection and their goodness.

It was a bright beautiful day in early spring when Ki-wu and Pao-shu set
out for a stroll together, for they were tired of the city and its
noises.

"Let us go into the heart of the pine forest," said Ki-wu lightly.
"There we can forget the cares that worry us; there we can breathe the
sweetness of the flowers and lie on the moss-covered ground."

"Good!" said Pao-shu, "I, too, am tired. The forest is the place for
rest."

Happy as two lovers on a holiday, they passed along the winding road,
their eyes turned in longing toward the distant tree-tops. Their hearts
beat fast in youthful pleasure as they drew nearer and nearer to the
woods.

"For thirty days I have worked over my books," sighed Ki-wu. "For thirty
days I have not had a rest. My head is stuffed so full of wisdom, that I
am afraid it will burst. Oh, for a breath of the pure air blowing
through the greenwood."

"And I," added Pao-shu sadly, "have worked like a slave at my counter
and found it just as dull as you have found your books. My master treats
me badly. It seems good, indeed, to get beyond his reach."

Now they came to the border of the grove, crossed a little stream,
and plunged headlong among the trees and shrubs. For many an hour they
rambled on, talking and laughing merrily; when suddenly on passing round
a clump of flower-covered bushes, they saw shining in the pathway
directly in front of them a lump of gold.

"See!" said both, speaking at the same time, and pointing toward the
treasure.


THEM, A LUMP OF GOLD."]

Ki-wu, stooping, picked up the nugget. It was nearly as large as a
lemon, and was very pretty. "It is yours, my dear friend," said he, at
the same time handing it to Pao-shu; "yours because you saw it first."

"No, no," answered Pao-shu, "you are wrong, my brother, for you were
first to speak. Now, you can never say hereafter that the good fairies
have not rewarded you for all your faithful hours of study."

"Repaid me for my study! Why, that is impossible. Are not the wise men
always saying that study brings its own reward? No, the gold is yours:
I insist upon it. Think of your weeks of hard labour--of the masters that
have ground you to the bone! Here is something far better. Take it,"
laughing. "May it be the nest egg by means of which you may hatch out a
great fortune."

Thus they joked for some minutes, each refusing to take the treasure
for himself; each insisting that it belonged to the other. At last, the
chunk of gold was dropped in the very spot where they had first spied
it, and the two comrades went away, each happy because he loved his
friend better than anything else in the world. Thus they turned their
backs on any chance of quarrelling.

"It was not for gold that we left the city," exclaimed Ki-wu warmly.

"No," replied his friend, "One day in this forest is worth a thousand
nuggets."

"Let us go to the spring and sit down on the rocks," suggested Ki-wu.
"It is the coolest spot in the whole grove."

When they reached the spring they were sorry to find the place already
occupied. A countryman was stretched at full length on the ground.

"Wake up, fellow!" cried Pao-shu, "there is money for you near by. Up
yonder path a golden apple is waiting for some man to go and pick it
up."

Then they described to the unwelcome stranger the exact spot where the
treasure was, and were delighted to see him set out in eager search.

For an hour they enjoyed each other's company, talking of all the hopes
and ambitions of their future, and listening to the music of the birds
that hopped about on the branches overhead.

At last they were startled by the angry voice of the man who had gone
after the nugget. "What trick is this you have played on me, masters?
Why do you make a poor man like me run his legs off for nothing on a
hot day?"

"What do you mean, fellow?" asked Ki-wu, astonished. "Did you not find
the fruit we told you about?"

"No," he answered, in a tone of half-hidden rage, "but in its place a
monster snake, which I cut in two with my blade. Now, the gods will
bring me bad luck for killing something in the woods. If you thought you
could drive me from this place by such a trick, you'll soon find you
were mistaken, for I was first upon this spot and you have no right to
give me orders."

"Stop your chatter, bumpkin, and take this copper for your trouble. We
thought we were doing you a favour. If you are blind, there's no one but
yourself to blame. Come, Pao-shu, let us go back and have a look at this
wonderful snake that has been hiding in a chunk of gold."

Laughing merrily, the two companions left the countryman and turned back
in search of the nugget.

"If I am not mistaken," said the student, "the gold lies beyond that
fallen tree."

"Quite true; we shall soon see the dead snake."

Quickly they crossed the remaining stretch of pathway, with their eyes
fixed intently on the ground. Arriving at the spot where they had left
the shining treasure, what was their surprise to see, not the lump of
gold, not the dead snake described by the idler, but, instead, two
beautiful golden nuggets, each larger than the one they had seen at
first.

Each friend picked up one of these treasures and handed it joyfully to
his companion.

"At last the fairies have rewarded you for your unselfishness!" said
Ki-wu.

"Yes," answered Pao-shu, "by granting me a chance to give you your
deserts."





Next: The Man Who Would Not Scold

Previous: The Wooden Tablet



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