The Love of Life

81. The Third Fox


Wang Honan was a rich man in Huainan. His family made their fortune running a pawnshop. Business was great. They needed more warehouse space, so they bought up some of the empty houses around their pawnshop to use as warehouses. In one of the empty houses, they surprised a litter of three little foxes. The workmen chased them away, but that wouldn’t do for Wang Honan.

“There’ll be no end of trouble if we let them get away! Kill them all!” They killed two of the little foxes, but one of them escaped.

From then on, the Wangs never had a day’s peace. Things disappeared, other things broke mysteriously, nothing could be found where it belonged. Everybody said the third fox was behind all of this.

In the winter of 1815, a fire broke out, in their warehouses, for no apparent reason. Fortunately, it was discovered in time so the damage was not too serious. Wang Honan had a sorcerer exorcise the property, but a few months later there was another fire. Everybody knows how tricky foxes are, and if one sets its mind to mischief, there’s no end of trouble.

Finally, some years and endless trouble later, Wang decided to sell the warehouses and be done with it. Chen, a local rich man who also needed warehouses, inspected the property. They agreed on a fair price, 40,000 pieces of gold, and on a date to sign the contract and close the deal.

The day before they were to sign the contract, the Chens heard a voice telling them, “This is a feud between Wang and me. It doesn’t have anything to do with you, so you’d better keep out of it.” They couldn’t tell where the voice was coming from, but Mr. Chen was convinced that he ought to look elsewhere for a warehouse.

“All my wealth is going up in flames!” This is the cry that woke up the rest of the Wangs one night during March, 1841. He rushed out of his bedroom without even putting on his pants or shoes.

Somehow, a fire had started in the kitchen and spread to the warehouses. By the time the family was awake, all of the warehouses were on fire, and by morning, they had burned to the ground.

The third fox had finally taken its revenge.

Animals may not have the intelligence of human beings, but they remember who has been nice to them, and who has hurt them. Clever animals like foxes may even plot revenge with single-minded determination. They cannot be persuaded by reason, and even a skillful sorcerer may not be able to quell them.

The only way to reach such a soul is through penitence and mercy. Wang should have repented killing those foxes, and proved his sincerity by doing good deeds and killing nothing, Then, if he had been able to tell the fox the Buddhist dharmas that explain the balance and nature of the universe, they could have patched up their quarrel and become friends and avoided this disaster.

In the end, revenge doesn’t do anybody any good.

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