Chí-Quân-Tử (Noble Mind)

and

Đại-Trượng-Phu (Heroic Attitude)

 

Collected and Told by Thoai Lien

 

        Once upon a time, there were two scholars named Chí-Quân-Tử and Đại-Trượng-Phu.  The two were good friends.  But their family conditions were far different from each other.  Chí-Quân-Tử was very poor whereas Đại-Trượng-Phu was endowed with large property.  Knowing his friend’s financial problem, Đại-Trượng-Phu often offered help, but mostly Chí-Quân-Tử only welcomed books being read and recommended by his rich friend.

 

            One day, Chí-Quân-Tử went fishing and got a big fish that he decided to give to his friend, who had helped him in many ways.  When he arrived, Đại-Trượng-Phu greeted him with great joy.  He invited his friend to stay overnight.  At dinner, Đại-Trượng-Phu showed his friend,

            “I have something to show you.”  Then, he brought to the dining table a gold turtle that his wife and he had just purchased.

            “Oh!  It’s a nice piece of art.” Chí-Quân-Tử commented.

            “It’s quite expensive!  It weighs 10 ounces.  And the craftsman said that it was only the second one he had carved in his life.”  Đại-Trượng-Phu proudly added.

            “It certainly is clever!” Chí-Quân-Tử held the turtle in hand and observed it.

They then finished the dinner and moved to the living room to have tea.  After that they went to the study room.  There, they started writing poems, singing them aloud, and sleeping there as usual.

 

            In the following morning, Chí-Quân-Tử bid farewell with Đại-Trượng-Phu’s family.  When he disappeared at a distance, Đại-Trượng-Phu’s wife asked him,

            “Did you put away the turtle?”

            “No.”  Đại-Trượng-Phu replied.

            “When I returned from the tea room, I did not see the turtle there.”

            “Well, maybe Chí-Quân-Tử brought it home to show his wife.”  Đại-Trượng-Phu calmly told his wife.

            “Did he ask you at all?” Đại-Trượng-Phu’s wife inquired.

            “Honey!  Chí-Quân-Tử and I are like brothers.  I know him very well.  You don’t have to worry about that.  I assure you he will return the turtle on his next visit.”

            Đại-Trượng-Phu trusted his friend so much that he did not bother rushing after him to ask whether he had borrowed it.  This trust cost Chí-Quân-Tử a fortune when he returned to visit this wealthy man later.  That time, after exchanging a few greetings, Đại-Trượng-Phu asked,

            “How did your wife like the turtle?”

Chí-Quân-Tử was shocked by the question.  He knew right away that the turtle was lost.  He looked at his friend for a short pause, then said,

            “Oh!  She said that it looked very nice.  But it also looked old.  So, she suggested me to bring it to a goldsmith to have him polish it.  I will return it next time.”

            “You see!  I told you.  There’s nothing to worry.” Đại-Trượng-Phu turned to his wife and so commented.

            That visit had given Chí-Quân-Tử such discomfort.  He did not stay overnight, but excused himself shortly after that.

 

            When Chí-Quân-Tử got home, he cried and told his wife,

            “Darling, I am sorry to bring you and our son the trouble!”

            “What’s going on?”  His wife asked.

            “Last time, when I visited Đại-Trượng-Phu, he showed me a gold turtle.  This time, I came to see him, he thought that I had brought the turtle home to show you.  I realized that they had lost it.  So, if I told them I did not take it, it was but to hurt my friendship with him because no one would believe us!  We are too poor to prove our innocence.”

            “So?  What did you tell him?”  His wife asked.

            “When he asked, how you liked the turtle, I had to lie to him that you liked it very much and that you suggested to have it polished because it looked old.”

            “Oh!  You are killing us all.  How on earth can we find the money to buy that expensive turtle?” Chí-Quân-Tử’s wife lamented.

            “On my way home, I have thought of it over and over.  The only way to get enough money to have another turtle made is to sell ourselves to the wealthy family.  That’s why I said I brought home trouble.”  As Chí-Quân-Tử finished his words, he and his wife embraced each other and cried for a long time.  They then prepared to go to see another wealthy man in town and told them the story.

            “How do you think about being sold to be our servant, Mrs. Chí?”  The old man asked Chí-Quân-Tử’s wife.

            “Well, my husband has made the right decision to protect our family’s honor.  I have no reason not to support him.”  Mrs. Chí answered.  So, they signed a paper to sell themselves for enough gold to make another turtle to return to Đại-Trượng-Phu.

 

            As the turtle was finished, Chí-Quân-Tử brought it to Đại-Trượng-Phu’s home. Đại-Trượng-Phu was happy to see the shining turtle.  He called for his wife,

            “Honey, come see the turtle!  It was like new.”

Đại-Trượng-Phu’s wife was indeed pleased to see the returned turtle.  While they were chatting in the living room, Đại-Trượng-Phu’s son came.  He immediately asked,

            “Who brought this turtle out here?  I had put it away.”

Đại-Trượng-Phu was shocked.  He asked his son,

            “Where did you put your turtle?”

            “In my toy box.”  The boy answered as he ran back to his room.  The three adults followed.

            “No!  My turtle is still here.”  The boy said it aloud as he held up an old turtle. Đại-Trượng-Phu immediately turned to his friend,

            “My turtle is still here!  How did you manage to get me that shiny turtle?”

Chí-Quân-Tử’s tears rolled down on his cheeks as he told his friends,

            “You know that I don’t have the kind of money to buy you another turtle.  The only way for me to get it is to sell my whole family to the wealthy family in my town.”

            “My Goodness!  Why didn’t you tell me that you had not taken it?” Đại-Trượng-Phu interrupted him.

            “There wasn’t anyone else around on the day you showed me the turtle.  If I had told you I had not taken it, it would have been hard for you to believe me, my friend.” Chí-Quân-Tử shook his head, then continued, “On the other hand, you trusted me so much that you did not go after me for that valuable item...”

            “Let’s go see the wealthy man.” Đại-Trượng-Phu impatiently told his wife.  “This is our fault.  We cannot let Chí-Quân-Tử’s take the blame like that.”

Đại-Trượng-Phu went to the barn to get the horse carriage while his wife got dressed.  Together with Chí-Quân-Tử, they went to see the tycoon.

 

            The wealthy man was happy with Đại-Trượng-Phu’s visit.  He invited all into the guest room.  When everyone was seated, he lit his kerosene lamp to boil up the tea kettle.  Slowly he started the conversation,

            “Ever since your father passed away and I retired from the shipping business, we haven’t seen each other much.  What kind of wind could possibly blow you here today, Junior Đại?”

            “Sir, I still continue my father’s trade and the business is as busy as usual.  My visit here today is to beg you to allow me to buy off the contract that Chí-Quân-Tử has signed with you.” Đại-Trượng-Phu replied.

            The old man glanced at Chí-Quân-Tử, then Đại-Trượng-Phu’s wife.  They all seemed to wait for his comment, but he remained quiet. Đại-Trượng-Phu was obliged to repeat,

            “Will you please allow me to buy off the contract, Sir?”

            “What do you want to offer me for that?”  The old man asked.

            “Anything you want...  including our property.” Đại-Trượng-Phu replied.

            “Money doesn’t mean much to me at this age.”  The old man slowly analyzed the situation.  “What I really need is a reliable person to take care of me and my wife if some mishap befalls us.  I don’t think I would trade them with your assets.”

            “Well, if you only want someone to serve you, I can find you as many as you name it.  Just give me a figure.” Đại-Trượng-Phu offered.  The old man laughed,

            “You don’t seem to understand my point.  If I simply want a servant, I can find as many as I want.  But to find a person with Chí-Quân-Tử’s background and sincerity, it is like diving in the deep sea to find a dropping needle.”  He then poured the tea to serve the guests. Đại-Trượng-Phu had a sip of tea, thinking.

            “Sir. Chí-Quân-Tử sold his family to you mainly because of our fault.”

            “Yes.  He told me the story when he came to borrow the money.  And your being here today tells me that I have found a trust-worthy person to work for me.”  The old man happily commented.

            “Sir.  You have refused my assets and my servants.  I don’t seem to have any other choice but to beg you to allow me, my wife, and my son to take their places.  I cannot stand still to watch Chí-Quân-Tử’s family pay for our mistake.” Đại-Trượng-Phu cried as he put it that way.

            Chí-Quân-Tử was deeply moved to see that his friend agreed to give up everything on his account.  He tapped on Đại-Trượng-Phu’s shoulder and said,

            “My friend, I have witnessed your effort to help save my family from trouble.  I am glad to have a friend like you.  But you don’t have to give up everything for us.  We have been born with poverty.  We will overcome the hardships.”

            “No.  I can’t turn my back on this.” Đại-Trượng-Phu insisted.  He and his wife then got out of their seats and knelt on the floor begging.  The old man had another sip of tea, put the cup down, then walked over to pull Đại-Trượng-Phu and his wife up.

            “You two return to your seats and listen to me carefully.”  He said, “In my whole life, I have only seen people helping people to some extent.  In this case, the two of you sacrifice everything to defend each other.  This kind of friendship is very unusual and admirable.”

            Chí-Quân-Tử and the Đại couple were happy to hear the comments, but they remained quiet and listened attentively as the old man continued,

            “Now, let me put it this way...”  He then turned to Chí-Quân-Tử,  “Since I don’t have any children, I would like to adopt you.  What’s your opinion?”

Surprised by the offer, Chí-Quân-Tử knelt down and said,

            “I have sold myself to be your servant.  You have all the rights to possess me.  I will do whatever you command me to do.  But to be your adopted son... Are you not making fun of me?”

            “No.”  The old man said it gently, “My decision is based on your scholarly manner and your heroic attitude.  And I think I am right to adopt a person like you.  Don’t try to belittle yourself, sonny.”

            “Well.  What are you hesitating for Chí-Quân-Tử?  Why don’t you kowtow and call ‘Dad’?” Đại-Trượng-Phu elbowed his friend. Chí-Quân-Tử then bowed to the old man two times as he acknowledged the offer.

 

            After moving in with the old man as an adopted son, Chí-Quân-Tử was able to concentrate more time in his study. Soon, he passed the scholastic exam and was appointed to a high-ranking position. Everybody was happy with his success. The adopted parents, on the other hand, were proud that they had made the right decision.

 

 

Published in Nguoi-Dep-Magazine (NYC), May 2006 issue

Also, http://k7dhnnct.musiczonevn.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=2063  

and  http://forum.ctu.edu.vn/viewtopic.php?t=4206