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Good Stories for Great Holidays by  Frances Jenkins Olcott


 

 

HOFUS THE STONE-CUTTER

A JAPANESE LEGEND
FROM THE RIVERSIDE THIRD READER (ADAPTED)

ONCE upon a time in Japan, there was a poor stone-cutter, named Hofus, who used to go every day to the mountain-side to cut great blocks of stone. He lived near the mountain in a little stone hut, and worked hard and was happy.

One day he took a load of stone to the house of a rich man. There he saw so many beautiful things that when he went back to his mountain he could think of nothing else. Then he began to wish that he too might sleep in a bed as soft as down, with curtains of silk, and tassels of gold. And he sighed:—

"Ah me! Ah me!

If Hofus only were rich as he!"

To his surprise, the voice of the Mountain Spirit answered:—

"Have thou thy wish!"

When Hofus returned home that evening his little hut was gone, and in its place stood a great palace. It was filled with beautiful things, and the best of all was a bed of down, with curtains of silk and tassels of gold.

Hofus decided to work no more. But he was [187] not used to being idle, and time passed slowly,—the days seemed very long.

One day as he sat by the window he saw a carriage dash past. It was drawn by snow-white horses. In it sat a prince, while before and behind were servants in suits of blue and white. One was holding a golden umbrella over the prince.

When the stone-cutter saw this, he began to feel unhappy, and he sighed:—

"Ah me! Ah me!

If Hofus only a prince might be!"

And again the same voice that he had heard on the mountain answered:—

"Be thou a prince!"

Straightway Hofus was a prince. He had servants dressed in crimson and gold, and he rode in a carriage with a golden umbrella over his head.

For a short time he was happy, but one day, as he walked in the garden, he saw that the flowers were drooping, the grass was dry and brown. And when he rode out he felt the hot sun burn him in spite of his umbrella.

"The sun is mightier than I," thought he, and then he sighed:—

"Ah me! Ah me!

If Hofus only the sun might be!"

And the voice answered:—

"Be thou the sun!"

[188] Straightway the great sun he became. He burned the grass and rice fields. he dried up the streams. Rich and poor alike suffered from the terrible heat.

One day a cloud came and rested in front of him, and hid the earth from his sight. He was angry and cried:—

"Ah me! Ah me!

If Hofus only a cloud might be!"

And the voice answered:—

"Be thou a cloud!"

Straightway a cloud he became. He floated before the face of the sun, and hid the earth from it.

Then day after day the cloud dropped rain. The rivers overflowed, and the rice-fields were covered with water. Towns were swept away. Only the great rocks on the mountain-side stood unmoved midst the flood.

The cloud looked at them in wonder, then he sighed:—

"Ah me! Ah me!

If Hofus only a rock might be!"

And the voice answered:—

"Be thou a rock!"

Straightway a rock he became. Proudly he stood. The sun could not burn him and the rain could not move him.

[189] "Now, at last," he said, "no one is mightier than I."

But one day he was waked from his dreams by a noise,—tap! tap! tap!—down at his feet. He looked and there was a stone-cutter driving his tool into the rock. Another blow and the great rock shivered; a block of stone broke away.

"That man is mightier than I!" cried Hofus, and he sighed:—

"Ah me! Ah me!

If Hofus only the man might be!"

And the voice answered:—

"Be thou thyself!"

And straightway Hofus was himself again,—a poor stone-cutter, working all day upon the mountain-side, and going home at night to his little hut. But he was content and happy, and never again did he wish to be other than Hofus the stone-cutter.


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