Lo-Sun, the Blind Boy
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Lo-Sun was a blind boy and, like many others thus afflicted in China, he had no home, for his hard-hearted parents had driven him forth to beg his living. From morning till night he wandered along the city streets and country lanes, always carrying with him a blind man's staff. With the help of this stick he seldom missed his footing, and he learned to go from one part of the city to another, and to find his way around in the near-by villages very well.
Lo-Sun had one companion, a faithful dog named Fan, who helped him to many a stray copper. Whenever the little master snapped his fingers three times, the well-trained animal went down at once upon her knees and touched her head to the ground, thus making what is called in China a kotow, or mark of respect. So pleased were many passers-by with this polite trick on the part of a dog, that they often paused to hand the blind lad a bit of money. After a time he made many friends in the city, and not a few men spoke to him as he tapped his way about the narrow streets.
One evening as Lo-Sun and his dog were strolling along a country road they were overtaken by nightfall, and it became necessary for them to sleep out-of-doors. As this was nothing unusual for either, they had no fear, but at once began to search for a good spot in which to make their bed. It did not take Fan long to discover a large, leafy tree under which they might rest in comfort. She barked the good news to her master, who understood several words of the dog language, and led him to the haven of rest. Soon, curled up together like two kittens, the tired pair fell fast asleep.
In the night Lo-Sun had a strange dream. Someone addressed him softly, saying, “Lo-Sun, Lo-Sun, do you see me?”
“Alas!” answered the boy sadly, “I am blind.”
“My poor little fellow, that is indeed a sore affliction, but perhaps I may be of some service to you.”
“Oh,” said Lo-Sun, his face brightening, “kind sir, can you, will you restore my sight?”
“No, my lad, I will not, but I shall make it possible for you to do it for yourself. Heed well what I say and then become your own healer. Henceforth each time you do a good action, no matter how small it may be, a little light shall enter your poor blind eyes. As the deeds of virtue multiply, greater and greater shall be the change which you will notice; until at last the scales that have hindered you from seeing shall fall off completely and your sight be entirely restored. But, mark well my words. If, instead of doing deeds of kindness and of love, you should so far forget my promise as to soil your heart by a bad act, then shall your eyes be sealed the tighter and you shall lose twice as much as you are allowed to profit by a deed of virtue.”
The strange voice was silent, and Lo-Sun, with a start, awoke from his slumber. The sun was shining in his face, and the whole world seemed brighter than it had ever been before. Fan also seemed happy, and licked her little master's hand in silent sympathy.
“Shall we do it, Fan?” asked Lo-Sun, speaking as if Fan had heard and understood the dream’s words as well as he.
The dog barked joyously at hearing her master's voice.
“All right, if you agree, I think I can get back my eyesight. You know I can't do much without your help, old fellow.” Lo-Sun threw his arms about the great dog's shaggy neck and hugged her in a tight embrace.
The two then set out for the city, and Lo-Sun could think of nothing but the words of the good fairy in the dream. Oh, if he might only have back his eyesight, how happy he would be! He would like to show the cruel father who had cast him out of house and home that he would amount to something in the world, that he would rise above the lowly station which his parents occupied. Just outside the city wall, as he was about to enter by the large gate, he came near stumbling over an old beggar who was lying at the side of the road.
“Give a poor blind man a penny,” mumbled the pauper; “for the love of mercy, do not pass me by.”
“But we are both in the same boat, my friend,” laughed Lo-Sun, “for I too am blind.”
“Alas! Kind youth, I am much more unfortunate than you; I am a cripple also.”
With a cry of sympathy, and with no thought of the fairy's promise, Lo-Sun drew out the only coin he had, a tiny bit of copper, and handed it to the lame man, saying, “Take it; this is all I have.”
Suddenly there seemed to come a flash of light before his eyes; the blackness that had so long robbed him of sight seemed to grow less dense.
“The dream was really true!” he exclaimed joyfully, and the people who heard him thus talking to himself, thinking the lad crazy, drew the garments aside as he passed by. Never had Lo-Sun been so light-hearted, as he was that day. The whole world seemed to smile at him and fill his heart with summer.
That night he slept in the Beggars' Temple, an old tumble-down building just outside the North Gate, long since deserted by the priests, all given over by general consent for the use of homeless creatures who had no other place of shelter. In one corner lay an aged woman, weak from starvation. Lo-Sun gave her willingly the stale bread which was to have served for his supper, and again to his surprise and delight noticed a faint glow which lightened up his vision. But as a consequence, he and Fan were compelled to go to bed hungry.
Awakened early in the morning by the cravings of an empty stomach the blind boy set out along the dusty highway. It was yet too soon for travelers, and he was still puzzling his brains as to how he should satisfy his hunger when Fan solved the question by running down a fat hen which chanced to cross her pathway. Here was luck for a blind boy! No one in the neighborhood, apparently, not even the sound of a distant cartwheel! Lo-Sun took the hen from the dog's mouth, and as the animal barked in noisy joy, praised her for showing such ability as a hunter. In twenty minutes he was at the market-place by the river, where he had very little trouble in selling his fowl at a good price.
No sooner, however, had the money been counted into his hands than the lad felt a dark veil descend over his eyes. The reward he had receive for his two good deeds was thus in a moment snatched away, and he found his condition the same as when he had left the tree under which the dream had come to him.
Lo-Sun was not easily discouraged. Readily admitting the wrong of which he had been guilty, he resolved to retrace his steps and find the owner of the stolen hen. Throughout that whole day he trudged up and down the highway, which passed by the Beggars' Temple, vainly inquiring of every passer-by if he knew of anyone who had lost a fowl. By evening his little legs were weary, and his face, usually sunny, was covered with a veil of dust. The pangs of hunger which had annoyed him a daybreak now made him ravenous, yet sturdily he resisted the temptation to spend the ill-gotten gains. The next morning when he awoke he found to his great delight that his eyesight had improved once more as by magic. Evidently his sincere sorrow for wrong-doing had not been without avail.
For a number of weeks, by a succession of good, deeds Lo-Sun advanced so rapidly on his journey toward the goal of restored sight that at last he could tell when some one was coming toward him in the road, not only by hearing, but by the actual power of vision, and he even fancied he could distinguish the glory of the sunset. When he had reached this stage of his healing, he was overjoyed, and at once resolved to save every cent possible, to supply himself with the glasses which he had been told people with weak eyesight sometimes wore.
But one day he again met the old lame man to whom he had once given his last money.
“Alas! I have nothing,” said he to the latter's plea, although he was now quite well supplied with coppers, “nothing that I can give you.”
“But I am starving,” implored the beggar.
“I too,” answered Lo-Sun.
A sudden twitch, a darkening shadow, and lo! the glory of the sunlight was denied him. Now Lo-Sun was in despair. He had tried, oh, so hard, to lead a sinless life! He had denied himself many things. And for what reward?
“As fast as I gain,” he reflected bitterly, “I lose, and thus go backward.” He was discouraged. What could a blind boy do in China, a country where there are no schools for the afflicted, where those thus suffering are cast out upon the street?
Angry with the world, his neighbors, the evil fortune that had placed him at so great a disadvantage, he made his way finally to the bank of a roaring river. It was the rainy season, and a vast torrent of angry waters was rushing down a channel which usually was calm. He sat down on the bank of the noisy stream and pictured himself as a stick swept along by the raging flood, sometimes cast high upon the shore, and then again, as the level of the waters rose, picked up and dashed onward. Was not the only real friend he had in all the world a faithful dog? And do the best she might, what could such an ally do to bring her master back the visual powers denied him by the gods? Without sight, he could not hope to strive among men for money and position.
“Poor Fan!” he cried, “you do all for me that you can, and yet you cannot save me.” The grateful animal licked her master's face. “You are all that I have; nothing shall ever separate us, for without you I should die.”
Just at this moment a cry was raised along the river, “A man is drowning! See! within the rapids. His boat is capsized; he cannot swim!”
From all directions came the rush of hurrying footsteps. A crowd of excited people gathered in an instant. All were looking curiously at the struggling man, and yet no man dared to lift a hand of rescue.
“See! He is losing strength,” they shouted. “His, boat is swept away, and with it his last chance of reaching shore. Soon he will go down for the last time!”
The blind boy listened to the uproar with a sense of sadness in his heart. How could this crowd of strong men stand by and make no effort to save another from perishing before their very eyes? If he were only in their position, how quickly would he leap to the rescue, how quickly would he show the others they were cowards!
Suddenly his breast thrilled with emotion. Would it be possible? Yes, he would undertake it, he the blind boy would try to do what all those heartless people were failing to perform.
“Fan can do it!” he shouted wildly, springing to his feet. “My dog will save him!”
“Stop!” said one of the bystanders who had seen the boy on several occasions and who out of sympathy for him wished to do him a friendly turn.
“Stop! It is too late. You will only lose your dog, and do no good. Let the fellow drown; he is only a worthless beggar.”
“That's all I am,” was Lo-Sun's quick reply, “and like helps like, you know.”
Quick as a wink he seized his dog by the neck and dragged her to the brink of the stream. “Fetch, Fan, fetch!” he shouted, as he pushed her into the torrent.
With a bark of intelligence, the animal seemed to take in the situation at a glance, and struck out with powerful strokes toward the struggler. The excitement on the bank grew intense. “It is too late,” they said. “The man can't hold out a minute longer, and the dog will never reach him.”
Never had Lo-Sun felt the need of sight so keenly as at that moment when his one friend was in danger of being swept away from him forever. In his mind's eye he seemed to see the whole picture.
A shout from the idlers at last told him plainly that the swimmer had seen the effort being made in his behalf, and was redoubling his own attempts to hold up until the dog had reached him. Nearer and nearer Fan fought her way through the foaming whitecaps. Her master had commanded; it was hers but to obey. With acute foresight did she make allowance for the distance which the swimmer would be carried downstream before she could reach him, and the crowd on shore shouted wildly as they saw the noble animal close her teeth in his ragged garments just as he was sinking. Now came the most heroic struggle of the dog, existence, a fight against the elements for her own life and that of him whom she had seized. Back she struggled, her great eyes fixed upon her master, who all the while running along the river bank with the crowd, was madly cheering her on to victory.
At length a man on shore, who was carrying a boat-hook, was able to fix the barb in the drowning man's clothing. The dog, seeing that her life-saving work was over, released her hold, and the half-drowned beggar was drawn in to a place of safety. But, alas! Poor Fan! At that very moment an undercurrent caught her and dragged her down. She was too weak to struggle and sank at once.
The cry of the crowd told the boy of this sad fate, and with a moan of anguish, Lo-Sun fell upon the sand and buried his face in the dirt. The curious onlookers eyed the grief-stricken little boy for a few moments, and then as the night began to fall, one by one departed.
When morning dawned and Lo-Sun awoke, there was no devoted friend to lick his hands and bark his joyous welcome back to wakefulness. But to his astonishment, as he raised his head, his eyes were dazzled with a glorious light. He looked around and saw the things about him, was able to distinguish the outlines of the river, the willows fringing the banks, and behind, the walls of the city. True, he could not take in the smaller objects, but oh, how delightful it was to see these marvelous sights that had for so long a time been denied him. As he pondered the wonder of it all, he knew full well that his willing sacrifice of Fan for the drowning beggar had given him this priceless blessing.
As Lo-Sun thus sat upon the ground rejoicing in his new strength, he saw a man coming toward him. He could see the figure of the man but not his features. Closer and closer came the stranger, until at last he was standing directly over the boy.
“My lad, it was you who saved my life yesterday.”
Lo-Sun looked up eagerly, trying to make out the features of the one for whom he had lost his all.
“What! Is it you?” exclaimed the other. “Is it Lo-Sun, the boy whom I turned out from house and home?”
With a moan of bitterness, Lo-Sun covered his face with his hands. So it was his father, the man whom he had hated for his cruelty—his father for whom he had given up his faithful dog! Angry words welled up within his breast, and in another minute he would have cursed the man who had mistreated him so shamefully. But just then a soft voice warned him and stretching out his hands, he said, “Father, I forgive you.”
The man, touched to the quick by what had happened, clasped the little fellow in his arms and held him tightly to his breast. “The gods be merciful!” he cried, “for I have sinned most foully. My son, my son, I cast you off, and you have been the one to save my life.”
And as Lo-Sun returned his father's embrace, the last scale fell from his eyes, and he looked freely out upon the whole beautiful world.
“Lo-Sun, the Blind Boy.” Originally published in Chinese Fairy Tales by Norman Hinsdale Pitman by Thomas Y. Crowell Co, 1910.