Luis and Isco were intimate friends. They lived in a country called Bagdad. Though these two friends had been brought up together in the same school, their ideas were different. Luis believed that gentleness and kindness were the second heaven, while Isco’s belief was that wealth was the source of happiness and peace in life.
One day, while they were eating, Isco said, “Don’t you believe, my friend, that a rich man, however cruel he may be, is known everywhere and has great power over all his people? A poor man may be gentle and kind, but then he is disdainfully looked upon by his neighbors.”
“Oh,” answered Luis, “I know it, but to me everybody is the same. I love them all, and I am not enchanted by anything that glisters.”
“My friend,” said Isco, “our conversation is becoming serious. Let us take a walk this afternoon and see how these theories work out in the lives of men.”
That afternoon Luis and Isco went to a town called Cohija. On their way they saw a rope-maker, Lucas by name, who by his condition showed his great suffering from poverty. He approached Lucas and gave him a roll of paper money, saying, “Now, Lucas, take this money and spend it judiciously.”
Lucas was overjoyed: he hardly knew what to do. When he reached home, he related to his wife Zelima what had happened to him. As has been said, Lucas was very poor and was a rope-maker. He had six little children to support; but he had no money with which to feed them, nor could he get anything from his rope-making. Some days he could not sell even a yard of rope. When Lucas received the money from Luis, and had gone home and told his wife, he immediately went out again to buy food. He had one hundred pesos in paper money. He bought two pounds of meat, and a roll of cañamo; and as there was some more money left, he put it in one of the corners of his hat. Unfortunately, as he was walking home, an eagle was attracted by the smell of the meat, and began flying about his head. He frightened the bird away; but it flew so fast that its claws became entangled in his hat, which was snatched off his head and carried away some distance. When he searched for the money, it was gone. He could not find it anywhere.
Lucas went home very sad. When his wife learned the cause of his sorrow, she became very angry. She scolded her husband roundly. As soon as the family had eaten the meat Lucas bought, they were as poor as before. They were even pale because of hunger.
One day Luis and Isco decided to visit Lucas and see how he was getting along. It happened that while they were passing in the same street as before, they saw Lucas weeping under a mango-tree near his small house. “What is the matter?” said Luis. “Why are you crying?”
Poor Lucas told them all that had happened to him,—how the money was lost, and how his wife had scolded him. At first Luis did not believe the rope-maker’s story, and became angry at him. At last, however, when he perceived that Lucas was telling the truth, he pardoned him and gave him a thousand pesos.
Lucas returned home with delight, but his wife and children were not in the house. They were out asking alms from their neighbors. Lucas then hid the bulk of the money in an empty jar in the corner of the room, and then went out to buy food for his wife and children. While he was gone, his wife and children returned. They had not yet eaten anything.
Not long afterward a man came along selling rice. Zelima said to him, “Sir, can’t you give us a little something to appease our hunger? I’ll give you some darak in exchange.”
“Oh, yes!” said the man, “I’ll give you some rice, but you do not need to give me anything.”
Zelima took the rice gladly; and as she was looking for something with which to repay the man, she happened to see the empty jar in which her husband had secretly put his money. She filled the jar with darak and gave it to the rice-seller.
When Lucas came home, he was very happy. He told his wife about the money he had hidden. But when he found out that the money was gone, he was in despair: he did not know what to do. He scolded his wife for her carelessness. As he could not endure to see the suffering of his children, he tried to kill himself, but his children prevented him. At last he concluded to be quiet; for he thought, “If I hurt my wife, and she becomes sick, I can’t stand it. I must take care of her.”
Two months passed by, and Luis and Isco again visited their friend Lucas. While they were walking in the street, Luis found a big piece of lead. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. When they reached Lucas’s house, they were astonished to see him in a more wretched condition than before. Luis asked what was the matter. Lucas related to him all that had occurred; but Luis just said, “Oh, no! you are fooling us. We will not believe you.” Lucas was very sad. He asked pardon of Luis for his carelessness, and said, “Don’t increase the burden of my suffering by your scolding!”
Now, Luis was by nature gentle and pitiful. He could not endure to see his friend suffering. So he gave him the lead he had found in the street, saying, “Now, take care of that! Maybe your wealth will come from it.” Luis accepted the lead unwillingly, for he thought that Luis was mocking him.
When Lucas went into the house, he threw the lead away in the corner, and went to sleep. During the night a neighbor knocked at their door, asking for a piece of lead for her husband. The neighbor said, “My husband is going fishing early in the morning, and he asked me to buy him some lead for his line, but I forgot it. I know he will scold me if I don’t have some ready for him.” Lucas, who was wakened by the talk, told his wife to get the lead he had thrown in the corner. When Zelima found it, she gave it to their neighbor, who went away happy, promising that she would bring them the first fish her husband should catch.
The next morning Lucas woke very late. The neighbor was already there with a big fish, and Zelima was happy at having so much to eat. While she was cleaning the fish, she found a bright stone inside it. As she did not know of the value of the stone, she gave it to her youngest son to play with; but when the other children saw it, they quarrelled with their brother, and tried to take it away from him. Lucas, too, was ignorant of the fact that the stone was worth anything.
In front of their house lived a rich man named Don Juan. When he heard the noise of his neighbor’s children quarrelling, he sent his wife to see what was the matter. Don Juan’s wife saw the stone, and wanted to have it very much. She asked Zelima to sell it to her, but Zelima said that she would wait and ask her husband. The rich man’s wife went home and told her husband about the jewel. He went to Lucas’s house, and offered the rope-maker a thousand pesos for the stone; but Lucas refused, for now he suspected that it was worth more than that. At last he sold it for twenty thousand pesos.
Lucas was now a rich man. He bought clothes for his wife and children, renewed his house, which was falling to pieces, and bought a machine for making rope. As his business increased, he bought another machine. But although Lucas was the richest man in town, he was very kind. His house was open to every comer. He supported crippled persons, and gave alms to the poor.
When Luis and Isco visited Lucas the last time, they were surprised and at the same time delighted to see him so rich. Lucas did not know how to thank them. He gave a banquet in honor of these two men. After the feast was over, Lucas told his friends every detail of all that had happened to him, how he had lent the lead, how his wife had found the stone in the fish, and how a rich man had bought it for twenty thousand pesos.
Luis was now convinced that Lucas was honest, and had told the truth on former occasions. Lucas lived in his big house happily and in peace with his wife and children.