Sunday, February 22, 2009

Juan, the Student

There was once a poor couple who lived happily in a quiet place. They
had one son, named Juan, whom at first they loved very much; but
afterwards, either because their extreme poverty made it difficult
for them to support him, or because of his wickedness and waywardness,
they began to hate him, and made plans to kill him.

In order to carry out this purpose, the father called his son to him
one evening, and said: "My son, to-morrow we will go to the mountain to
get some lumber with which to repair our house. I want you to prepare
our breakfast very early, so that we may set out before the sun rises."

On the next morning they arose very early and ate their breakfast. As
it consisted only of rice and a few small fishes, it was soon finished,
and they set out for the mountain. When they had arrived at a lonely
spot, the man seized his son and fastened him to a large tree. Then
he took his bolo and cut down the tree in such a way as to cause it
to fall on the boy and kill him. Then he returned home, thinking that
he should have no more trouble on account of his son.

Early the next morning, the man heard a noise as of some one
approaching the house. On opening a window he perceived his son,
whom he supposed he had killed on the previous day, coming towards
the house and bearing a heavy load of wood. When the boy had come
near he asked where he should put the wood. At first the father was
too much frightened to reply, but at last he told his son to put the
wood down near the house.

For a long time Juan lived at home, but his parents hated him
continually, and at last decided to give him poison. One day they sent
him on a long trip, giving him seven pieces of poisoned bread for his
food along the way. When he had become weary and hungry from walking,
he sat down under a tree and began to open the handkerchief to get from
it some of the bread to eat. Suddenly a number of crows flew down from
the tree, seized the bread, ate it, and almost immediately died. The
boy at once perceived the intention of his parents and returned
home. As soon as he arrived there, he declared to his father and
mother his intention of leaving them and going elsewhere to live. As
soon as they heard him, they were full of joy, and readily gave him
the desired permission.

He went to a distant town, and decided to study. He made such progress
that his teachers were charmed with his diligence. He was very fond
of debates with his schoolmates, and one day asked them the following
riddle: "Two tried to kill one, one killed seven, two were left, and
one went away." They searched through the books for the answer to the
riddle, but as they were unable to find it, they agreed that Juan was
the cleverest one among them, since they could not answer his riddle.

One day the student met a young lady to whom he gave the riddle. She
asked for a little time in which to study it, and this being granted,
went home, disguised herself as a young man and, returning, asked
Juan to tell the answer to the riddle. "For I know," she said,
"that many students have tried to find the solution of this riddle,
but have not been successful." Juan finally granted her request,
and told her the answer to the riddle, which was the story of his life.

Then the young lady returned home, put on her own clothes, and went
back to the student's house, to give him the answer to his riddle. When
Juan heard her answer, he thought her a very clever young woman,
since she had succeeded where so many young men had failed, so he
fell in love with the young lady and married her.

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