The Love of Life

56. Wild Geese

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In 1613, General Ch’ien of Chenchiang, Chiangsu, was leading his troops back to the city in boats. They were out in the middle of the gigantic Yangtze River, the longest in China. General Ch’ien was in his cabin with a book in his hand. You just don’t come out and say that a general was snoozing, but he seemed to agree with the book a lot, because he kept nodding his head.

Above the boat, a wild goose was calling, crying sadly. It had followed this boat for a hundred miles. It wouldn’t go away. That was because there was another wild goose, trapped in a cage by one of General Ch’ien’s soldiers. That was its mate. They called to each other, but the one was trapped, and the other couldn’t do anything but follow and call.

But the hard-hearted soldier who trapped her was not moved at all by this,even though some of the nicer soldiers told him he ought to let her go. “No way! It’s goose soup for me this evening, after we reach the shore!”

When the boat had almost reached the dock, the goose in the cage looked up and called especially loudly to the goose in the air. Immediately, the free goose zipped down to the deck and stood by the cage with his mate. The goose in the cage stuck out her head, and the two wild geese hugged each other around the neck, just like human couples meeting after a long separation.

“Aww, ain’t that cute?” one of the old soldiers watching said.

“Cute? It’d be a waste of heaven-sent food not to do something now,” said a mean soldier. He grabbed his sword and with one slash chopped off both of the geese’s heads.

General Ch’ien had heard a commotion and came out to see what was going on, but he was too late to stop the soldier from killing those poor geese. He hit the roof.

“Put that man under arrest! Who trapped that wild goose in the first place? You? You’re under arrest, too!” The general was furious. “Guards! I will not tolerate such cruelty among my men. Give each of these savages thirty strokes with the bamboo poles, to teach them a lesson about pain!”

When those two soldiers had been beaten, they knew that nobody likes to suffer, and you should do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Not long after that, both of these hard-hearted soldiers came down with some strange sickness the doctors couldn’t cure, and before the next migration of the wild geese, both men were dead and buried.


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