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The Lost Brother (1)

In Honan there lived a man named Chang, who originally belonged to Shantung. His wife had been seized and carried off by the soldiery during the period when Ching Nan's troops were overrunning the latter province; and as he was frequently in Honan on business, he finally settled there and married a Honan wife, by whom he had a son named Na. By-and-by this wife died, and he took another, who bore him a son named Cheng. The last-mentioned lady was from the Niu family, and a very malicious woman. So jealous was she of Na, that she treated him like a slave or a beast of the field, giving him only the coarsest food, and making him cut a large bundle of wood every day, in default of which she would beat and abuse him in a most shameful manner. On the other hand, she secretly reserved all the tit-bits for Cheng, and also sent him to school. As Cheng grew up, and began to understand the meaning of filial piety and fraternal love,' he could not bear to see this treatment of his elder brother, and spoke privately to his mother about it; but she would pay no heed to what he said.

One day, when Na was on the hills performing his task, a violent storm came on, and he took shelter under a cliff. However, by the time it was over the sun had set, and he began to feel very hungry. So, shouldering his bundle, he wended his way home, where his stepmother, displeased with the small quantity of wood he had brought, refused to give him anything to eat. Quite over- come with hunger, Na went in and lay down; and when Cheng came back from school, and saw the state he was in, he asked him if he was ill. Na replied that he was only hungry, and then told his brother the whole story; whereupon Cheng colored up and went away, returning shortly with some cakes, which he offered to Na.

"Where did you get them ?" asked the latter.

"Oh," replied Cheng, "I stole some flour and got a neighbor's wife to make them for me. Eat away, and don't talk."

Na ate them up; but begged his brother not to do this again, as he might get himself into trouble. "I shan't die," added he, "if I only get one meal a day."

"You are not strong," rejoined Cheng, "and shouldn't cut so much wood as you do."

Next day, after breakfast, Cheng slipped away to the hills, and arrived at the place where Na was occupied with his usual task, to the great astonishment of the latter, who inquired what he was going to do. "To help you cut wood," replied Cheng.

"And who sent you ?" asked his brother. "No one," said he; "I came of my own accord."

"Ah," cried Na, "you can't do this work; and even if you can you must not. Run along home again." Cheng, however, remained, aiding his brother with his hands and feet alone, but declaring that on the morrow he would bring an axe. Na tried to stop him, and found that he had already hurt his finger and worn his shoes into holes; so he began to cry, and said, "If you don't go home directly, I'll kill myself with my axe."

Cheng then went away, his brother seeing him half-way home, and going back to finish his work by himself. He also called in the evening at Cheng's school, and told the master his brother was a delicate boy, and should not be allowed to go on the hills, where, he said, there were fierce tigers and wolves. The master replied that he didn't know where Cheng had been all the morning, but that he had caned him for playing truant. Na further pointed out to Cheng that by not doing as he had told him, he had let himself in for a beating. Cheng laughed, and said he hadn't been beaten; and the very next day off he went again, and this time with a hatchet. "I told you not to come," cried Na, much alarmed; "why have you done so ?" Cheng made no reply, but set to work chopping wood with such energy that the perspiration poured down his face; and when he had cut about a bundle he went away without saying a word.

The master caned him again, and then Cheng told him how the matter stood, at which the former became full of admiration for his pupil's kind behavior, and no longer prevented him from going. His brother, however, frequently urged him not to come, though without the slightest success; and one day, when they went with a number of others to cut wood, a tiger rushed down from the hills upon them. The woodcutters hid themselves, in the greatest consternation; and the tiger, seizing Cheng, ran off with him in his mouth. Cheng's weight caused the tiger to move slowly; and Na, rushing after them, hacked away at the tiger's flanks with his axe. The pain only made the tiger hurry off, and in a few minutes they were out of sight. Overwhelmed with grief, Na went back to his comrades, who tried to soothe him; but he said, "My brother was no ordinary brother, and, besides, he died for me; why, then, should I live ?" Here, seizing his hatchet, he made a great chop at his own neck, upon which his companions prevented him from doing himself any more mischief.

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