The Love of Life

60. A Kind Official

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P’an was a county magistrate. He was honest and kind. He was always nice to the people in his county and to the animals there as well. He made a law that nobody in the county could make a living by fishing in the rivers and lakes there. Anybody who got caught doing that would be arrested for committing a crime. Even though a lot of people there had made their living that way before, they knew that their magistrate was a kind man, so they didn’t complain at all. They obeyed his law, and everything went well in his county.

Everything went so well that when another, bigger county needed a magistrate, the government decided to send P’an to take over. When the people in his old county heard P’an was being promoted, they were happy for him, and proud, too, but they also felt sorry. Would their new magistrate be as nice?

When the time finally came for P’an to leave, the road was crowded with all the people who had come to see him off. There were men and women and boys and girls. There were old folks so aged that they had to be held up by their grandchildren. There were babies so little that they had to be carried by their parents. They had all come to say goodbye to P’an.

One man stepped forward from the crowd and knelt down before P’an. Very formally, with both hands, he presented P’an with ten ounces of silver. “This is a small token of my sincere appreciation. I hope that your honor will accept.”

“I will do no such thing,” huffed P’an. “I told you all that you shouldn’t prepare any gifts for me. Didn’t you get that straight?”

“This is different. I used to be a thief, but then I got caught. I thought I was doomed, because thieves usually get their heads chopped off. But you didn’t put me to death. Instead, you told me to change my ways.

“I really did change my ways. I was so touched by your kindness that I decided not to do bad things anymore. I learned a trade. I even got married, and now I’m raising a family. “Everything I have today is due to your kindness. If you hadn’t been so kind, now I would be a headless corpse, rotting in the grave. This is why I have come to show my gratitude.”

Of course P’an wouldn’t think of accepting his gift, but this shows what a kind official he was.

People living near the lakes and rivers of the county heard sobbing and crying coming from the water. The fish knew their good days were over, and once again they would be caught and tortured to feed people.

Even a fish or a crab values its life, and feels sorry when its protector leaves it.


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