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The Hidden Treasure.

LI YÜEHSHÊNG was the second son of a rich old man who used to bury his money, and who was known to his fellow townsmen as “Old Crocks.” One day the father fell sick, and summoned his sons to divide the property between them. He gave four fifths to the elder and only one fifth to the younger, saying to the latter, “It is not that I love your brother more than I love you: I have other money stored away, and when you are alone I will hand that over to you.” A few days afterwards the old man grew worse, and Yüehshêng, afraid that his father might die at any moment, seized an opportunity of seeing him alone to ask about the money that he himself was to receive. “Ah,” replied the dying man, “the sum of our joys and of our sorrows is determined by fate. You are now happy in the possession of a virtuous wife, and have no right to an increase of wealth.” For, as a matter of fact, this second son was married to a lady from the Ch‘ê family whose virtue equalled that of any of the heroines of history: hence his father’s remark. Yüehshêng, however, was not satisfied, and implored to be allowed to have the money; and at length the old man got angry and said, “You are only just turned twenty; you have known none of the trials of life, and were I to give a thousand ounces of gold, it would soon be all spent. Go! and, until you have drunk the cup of bitterness to its dregs, expect no money from me.” Now Yüehshêng was a filial son, and when his father spoke thus he did not venture to say any more, and hoped for his speedy recovery that he might have a chance of coaxing him to comply with his request. But the old man got worse and worse, and at length died; whereupon the elder brother took no trouble about the funeral ceremonies, leaving it all to the younger, who, being an openhanded fellow, made no difficulties about the expense. The latter was also fond of seeing a great deal of company at his house, and his wife often had to get three or four meals a day ready for guests; and, as her husband did very little towards looking after his affairs, and was further sponged upon by all the needy ones of the neighbourhood, they were soon reduced to a state of poverty. The elder brother helped them to keep body and soul together, but he died shortly afterwards, and this resource was cut off from them. Then, by dint of borrowing in the spring and repaying in the autumn, they still managed to exist, until at last it came to parting with their land, and they were left actually destitute. At that juncture their eldest son died, followed soon after by his mother; and Yüehshêng was left almost by himself in the world. He now married the widow of a sheep dealer, who had a little capital; and she was very strict with him, and wouldn’t let him waste time and money with his friends. One night his father appeared to him and said, “My son, you have drained your cup of bitterness to the dregs. You shall now have the money. I will bring it to you.” When Yüehshêng woke up, he thought it was merely a poor man’s dream; but the next day, while laying the foundations of a wall, he did come upon a quantity of gold. And then he knew what his father had meant by “when you are alone;” for of those about him at that time, more than half were gone.




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