THE DUTIFUL SON

A Chinese Story

translated by George Souliť

 

At the foot of the Oriental-Perfume-Mountain, in one of the most beautiful places of this celebrated district, the passers-by could see a small lodge. Chou The-favourable lived there with his mother. He was still young, being only thirty years old, and earned his living in the way so highly praised by the ancient Classics; he cultivated a small field by his house, and every week went to the next market to exchange what he had for what he wanted.

Both were very happy, when a calamity befell them; the old mother one morning felt a pain in her right leg. Two or three days afterwards she had there an ulcer that no remedies could cure; everything was tried and everything failed. Day and night she was moaning, turning over in her hard wooden bed.

The-favourable forgot to drink and eat, in his anxiety to give his mother the medicines the doctor advised.

Several months wore on; the ulcer did not heal. The despair of the son was greater every day; at last, overcome by his fatigue, he fell asleep and dreamt that he saw his father. The old man told him:

"You have been a dutiful son. But I must tell you that your mother will not recover if you can't apply to her ulcer a piece of man's fat."

Then everything was dissolved like a smoke in the wind.

The-favourable awoke and, thinking over his dream, he found it very strange.

"What can I do?" thought he. "Man's fat is not easily found in the market. My father would not have appeared to me if this extraordinary medicine was not really the only thing that will cure my mother. Well, I will take a piece of fat of my own body; I have nothing else to do."

Then, rising from his bed, he took a sharp knife, and, pulling the skin of his side, he cut a large piece off. His pain was not so great as he had expected it to be, and, what seemed more extraordinary to him, no blood flowed from the wound.

He could not see that, from the heaven above, a messenger had come on a cloud, was recording this noble feat on his life's register, and helped him by averting all ordinary sufferance.

The-favourable hastened to put the piece of flesh on his mother's ulcer; the pain disappeared immediately, and a few days after the old woman could walk as she used to do; on her leg there remained only a red scar.

When she asked what medicine had been employed, The-favourable eluded the answer. But somehow the truth was known in the neighbourhood; the prefect sent a report to the Throne and came himself with a decree of the Emperor, giving a title and an allowance to the dutiful son.