The Golden Nugget – Pre-Intermediate Level

Once upon a time many, many years ago, there lived in China two friends named Ki-wu and Pao-shu. These two young men loved each other like brothers and were always together. No angry words ever passed between them; no unkind thoughts ever entered their minds. Many an interesting story might be told of their friendship. One story alone, however, will be enough to show how much they cared for each other. And also how the fairies rewarded them for their goodness.

It was a bright beautiful day in early spring when Ki-wu and Pao-shu set out for a walk together. They were tired of the city and its noises. “Let us go into the heart of the pine forest,” said Ki-wu. “There we can forget the things that worry us. There we can enjoy the sweet smell of the trees and flowers, and lie on the soft ground.”

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

Happy as can be, they walked together along the long country road, their eyes on the distant tree-tops. As they drew nearer and nearer to the forest, their hearts beat faster with child-like excitement.

“For thirty days I have worked over my books,” said Ki-wu. “For thirty days I have not had a rest. My poor head is packed so full of wisdom, that it feels like it will explode. Oh, to feel fresh country air blowing through the pine trees.”

“And I,” added Pao-shu sadly, “have worked like a slave at my job and am just as tired of it as you are of your books. My manager treats me badly. It feels really good to get away from him for a day.”

They came to the edge of the trees, crossed a little stream, and followed a pathway through the trees and bushes. For many an hour they walked on, talking and laughing happily. Suddenly, on passing some flower-covered bushes, they saw something shining on the pathway directly in front of them. It was a gold nugget.

“Look!” said both, speaking at the same time, and pointing toward the treasure.

Ki-wu, picked it up. The piece of gold was nearly as large as a lemon, and very beautiful. “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 after this that the good fairies have not rewarded you for all your long hours of study.”

“Rewarded 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: you must take it. Think of your weeks of hard work – of the unkind manager! Here is something far better. Take it,” he said, laughing. “Let it be a nest egg from which you may one day become very rich.”

They spoke like this for some minutes. Each said that he would not to take the gold for himself, and that the other should have it. At last, they decided to leave the gold where they had found it. The two friends then walked on. They had turned their backs on something that may have become a cause of argument between them. Each was happy, because he had shown that he cared more for his friend than riches.

“We did not leave the city to look for gold,” said Ki-wu warmly.

“No,” answered his friend, “One day in this forest is better than a thousand pieces of gold.”

“Let us follow the path to the spring where the cool water comes out of the ground and sit down on the rocks,” suggested Ki-wu. “It is the best place to relax in the forest.”

When they reached the spring they were sorry to find there was already someone there. A man from a nearby farm was lying down sleeping in the place they wanted to sit.

“You there! Wake up!” cried Pao-shu. “There is money for you near by. A golden apple is waiting up that path for some man to go and pick it up.”

Then they carefully described to the stranger the place where they had found the gold. They were happy to see him greedily set off to look for it.

For an hour they enjoyed each other’s company. They talked of all the hopes and plans they had for the future. Then they sat quietly and listened to the music of the birds as they jumped about in the trees above them.

Suddenly the peace was broken by the loud voice of the man who had gone after the gold. “What trick is this you have played on me? Why do you make a poor man like me run his legs off for nothing on a hot day?”

“What do you mean?” asked Ki-wu, surprised. “Did you not find the fruit we told you about?”

“No,” he answered, in an angry voice, “but in its place was a monster snake. I had to cut in two with my sword. Now the gods will bring me bad luck for killing something in this forest. If you thought you could drive me from this place by such a trick, you’ll find you were wrong. I was first to sit here, and you have no right to tell me what to do.”

“Stop your silly talk, you foolish man,” said Ki-wu. “Take this coin for your trouble. We thought we were doing you a favour. When we left, the treasure was in the place we told you. It was right in the middle of the pathway. Don’t be angry with us if your eyes cannot see what we know to be there. Come, Pao-shu, let us go back and have a look at this wonderful snake that has been hiding in a golden nugget.”

Laughing happily, the two friends left the farmer and turned back in search of the gold.

“If I a remember correctly,” said the student, “the gold lies on the other side of that fallen tree.”

“Quite true; we shall soon see the dead snake.”

They quickly walked towards the tree, with their eyes looking carefully at the ground. When they reached the place where they had left the shining treasure, they could not believe their eyes. For they did not see their golden nugget, or the dead snake described by the farmer. In their place were two other golden nuggets, each larger and more beautiful than the one they had seen at first.

Each friend happily picked up one of these and handed it to other.

“Look!” said Ki-wu, as he handed his piece of gold to Pao-shu. “The fairies have rewarded you for not being selfish with the first gold!”

“Yes,” answered Pao-shu, “by giving me a way to reward you for your unselfishness.”