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The Wonderful Mallet

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - JAPANESE AND OTHER ORIENTAL TALES]





Once upon a time there were two brothers. The elder was an honest and
good man, but he was very poor, while the younger, who was dishonest and
stingy, had managed to pile up a large fortune. The name of the elder
was Kane, and that of the younger was Cho.

Now, one day Kane went to Cho's house, and begged for the loan of some
seed-rice and some silkworms' eggs, for last season had been
unfortunate, and he was in want of both.

Cho had plenty of good rice and excellent silkworms' eggs, but he was
such a miser that he did not want to lend them. At the same time, he
felt ashamed to refuse his brother's request, so he gave him some
worm-eaten musty rice and some dead eggs, which he felt sure would never
hatch.

Kane, never suspecting that his brother would play him such a shabby
trick, put plenty of mulberry leaves with the eggs, to be food for the
silkworms when they should appear. Appear they did, and throve and grew
wonderfully, much better than those of the stingy brother, who was angry
and jealous when he heard of it.

Going to Kane's house one day, and finding his brother was out, Cho took
a knife and killed all the silkworms, cutting each poor little creature
in two; then he went home without having been seen by anybody.

When Kane came home he was dismayed to find his silkworms in this state,
but he did not suspect who had done him this bad trick, and tried to
feed them with mulberry leaves as before. The silkworms came to life
again, and doubled the number, for now each half was a living worm. They
grew and throve, and the silk they spun was twice as much as Kane had
expected. So now he began to prosper.

The envious Cho, seeing this, cut all his own silkworms in half, but,
alas! they did not come to life again, so he lost a great deal of money,
and became more jealous than ever.

Kane also planted the rice-seed which he had borrowed from his brother,
and it sprang up, and grew and flourished far better than Cho's had
done.

The rice ripened well, and he was just intending to cut and harvest it
when a flight of thousands upon thousands of swallows came and began to
devour it. Kane was much astonished, and shouted and made as much noise
as he could in order to drive them away. They flew away, indeed, but
came back immediately, so that he kept driving them away, and they kept
flying back again.

At last he pursued them into a distant field, where he lost sight of
them. He was by this time so hot and tired that he sat down to rest. By
little and little his eyes closed, his head dropped upon a mossy bank,
and he fell fast asleep.

Then he dreamed that a merry band of children came into the field,
laughing and shouting. They sat down upon the ground in a ring, and one
who seemed the eldest, a boy of fourteen or fifteen, came close to the
bank on which he lay asleep, and, raising a big stone near his head,
drew from under it a small wooden Mallet.

Then in his dream Kane saw this big boy stand in the middle of the ring
with the Mallet in his hand, and ask the children each in turn, "What
would you like the Mallet to bring you?" The first child answered, "A
kite." The big boy shook the Mallet, upon which appeared immediately a
fine kite with tail and string all complete. The next cried, "A
battledore." Out sprang a splendid battledore and a shower of
shuttlecocks. Then a little girl shyly whispered, "A doll." The Mallet
was shaken, and there stood a beautifully dressed doll. "I should like
all the fairy-tale books that have ever been written in the whole
world," said a bright-eyed intelligent maiden, and no sooner had she
spoken than piles upon piles of beautiful books appeared. And so at last
the wishes of all the children were granted, and they stayed a long time
in the field with the things the Mallet had given them. At last they got
tired, and prepared to go home; the big boy first carefully hiding the
Mallet under the stone from whence he had taken it. Then all the
children went away.

Presently Kane awoke, and gradually remembered his dream. In preparing
to rise he turned round, and there, close to where his head had lain,
was the big stone he had seen in his dream. "How strange!" he thought,
expecting he hardly knew what; he raised the stone, and there lay the
Mallet!

He took it home with him, and, following the example of the children he
had seen in his dream, shook it, at the same time calling out, "Gold" or
"Rice," "Silk" or "Sake." Whatever he called for flew immediately out of
the Mallet, so that he could have everything he wanted, and as much of
it as he liked.

Kane being now a rich and prosperous man, Cho was of course jealous of
him, and determined to find a magic mallet which would do as much for
him. He came, therefore, to Kane and borrowed seed-rice, which he
planted and tended with care, being impatient for it to grow and ripen
soon.

It grew well and ripened soon, and now Cho watched daily for the
swallows to appear. And, to be sure, one day a flight of swallows came
and began to eat up the rice.

Cho was delighted at this, and drove them away, pursuing them to the
distant field where Kane had followed them before. There he lay down,
intending to go to sleep as his brother had done, but the more he tried
to go to sleep the wider awake he seemed.

Presently the band of children came skipping and jumping, so he shut his
eyes and pretended to be asleep, but all the time watched anxiously what
the children would do. They sat down in a ring, as before, and the big
boy came close to Cho's head and lifted the stone. He put down his hand
to lift the Mallet, but no mallet was there.

One of the children said, "Perhaps that lazy old farmer has taken our
Mallet." So the big boy laid hold of Cho's nose, which was rather long,
and gave it a good pinch, and all the other children ran up and pinched
and pulled his nose, and the nose itself got longer and longer; first it
hung down to his chin, then over his chest, next down to his knees, and
at last to his very feet.

It was in vain that Cho protested his innocence; the children pinched
and pummeled him to their hearts' content, then capered round him,
shouting and laughing, and making game of him, and so at last went away.

Now Cho was left alone, a sad and angry man. Holding his long nose
painfully in both hands, he slowly took his way toward his brother
Kane's house. Here he related all that had happened to him from the very
day when he had behaved so badly about the seed-rice and silkworms'
eggs. He humbly begged his brother to pardon him, and, if possible, do
something to restore his unfortunate nose to its proper size.

The kind-hearted Kane pitied him, and said: "You have been dishonest
and mean, and selfish and envious, and that is why you have got this
punishment. If you promise to behave better for the future, I will try
what can be done."

So saying, he took the Mallet and rubbed Cho's nose with it gently, and
the nose gradually became shorter and shorter until at last it came back
to its proper shape and size. But ever after, if at any time Cho felt
inclined to be selfish and dishonest, as he did now and then, his nose
began to smart and burn, and he fancied he felt it beginning to grow. So
great was his terror of having a long nose again that these symptoms
never failed to bring him back to his good behavior.





Next: The Selfish Sparrow And The Houseless Crows

Previous: Chin-chin Kobakama



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