A Tale of Two Friends

You know the Chinese proverb, “It is on road that determines the strength of the horse.’ Well, let me tell you a tale of two good friends.

Let us call the friends Leu Yao [long road] and Ma Lih [horse strength]. The words Leu and Ma happen to be surnames, you know. Leu Yao was a young man of considerable means. Ma Lih went in for gambling, and was often in difficulties, from which his generous friend helped him out several times. He at length followed his friend’s advice, and reformed, passed his examinations, and became a mandarin.

Leu Yao, however, had bad luck, lost all his relatives except his mother, and was so reduced in means that he had to live in a mat hut. Hearing of his friend’s good fortune, he determined to go and visit him, a journey of some hundreds of li. He left all the cash he had with his mother, and begged his way to his friend’s yamun. Ma Lih received him heartily, but took no notice of his tale of sorrow, merely bidding him to eat, drink, and be merry.

At last he became angry at his friend’s disregard of his mother, and said he must return. He asked for two thousand cash. Would he not like a horse as well ? his friend suggested. But he only gave him a lame donkey. He went off cut to the heart. Ma Lih then ordered one of his retainers to mount a fine horse, overtake Leu Yao, and offer him both the horse and three hundred taels, blaming Ma Lih when he had heard his tale. This he did, and exchanged beasts, for he said he did not live far off, and wanted to do some good deeds. Leu Yao thanked him profusely, and galloped away home.

Arriving at the place where his hut used to be, he found a fine house. He did not know where his mother was. She was within, living in great comfort. Ma Lih had sent swift messengers to order its erection directly he saw his old friend. Then Leu Yao knew the heart of his friend.

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