The King of Ant

The King of Ant

A long time ago, there was a man named Chou who lived in Nan Tze. He was a merchant and he travelled all over Taiwan selling his goods. One day, he was crossing a river. As helooked down at the water, he saw a huge ant on a leaf floating near the boat. It was running backwards and forwards butthere was water all round and there was nowhere it could go.
Chou felt sorry for it. He picked up the leaf and allowed the ant to jump into the boat.
"What are you doing?" the other passengers asked. "That is a big, dirty ant. It will bite us or try to cat our goods in the bot­tom of the boat. You must throw it overboard."
"If you are afraid of it, I will hold it in my hand until wecross the river."
"No. We don't want it in the boat. If you don't wish to throw it back into the river, let us do it."
Chou then thought of an idea. He placed the ant on a leaf. He tied a long string to the leaf and pulled the leaf along on the water behind the boat.
The other passengers could say nothing.
Then the boat reached the other side of the river, he took the leaf gently out of the water and placed the ant on the ground.
Many months afterwards, he was working late in his shop. Suddenly, an old man with a long white beard appeared.
"Don't you know who I am?" he said. "I have come to thank you for saving my life. I am the ant you picked up from theriver. Actually, I am king of the ants. I was stupid enough to climb on a leaf. The leaf was blown into the river by the wind. Without your help, I would have drowned. If I can ever do any­thing to help you, please let me know."
Before Chou could say any more, the old man changed into a large, magnificent looking ant. He disappeared into a hole in the wall.
Soon afterwards, Chou found out that his clerk had been cheating him. He had been stealing goods from his shop. Chou dismissed him. But he gave him his wages and even added an extra month's pay.
However, the man could not find another job. Everyone knew he was dishonest and no one wanted to employ him. Then the clerk became a thief. One day, he led a gang of rob­bers to rob a rich man's house. But there were many guards there and he was caught. He was handed over to the police.
"I have not done anything wrong," the clerk said. "I was told to do this by Chou. He was going to share half the goods with me."
The police arrested Chou. When he was tried in court, he said that he knew nothing about what the clerk had said. How­ever, the judge did not believe him. "You know that you have done wrong," the judge said. "You had better confess. "
He thought Chou was stubborn so he had him put inprison.
After Chou had been in prison for several weeks, he felt very sad and miserable. He suddenly remembered what the king of the ants had told him. "0 King!" he cried. "Please help me. I am innocent." He made such a loud noise that the other prisoners thought he must be mad. However, the king of the ants did not come.
Chou then caught some of the ants on the flour and told them to call their king. That night, the king of the ants ap­peared and asked how he could help him.
"Please help me to escape," said Chou.
"All right," said the king of the ants. "My people are not powerful but there are many of us. We will find a way to save you."
The king of the ants called together all the ants. He decided to divide them into three groups.
One group entered the prison and gnawed through the ropes binding Chou's hands and feet. Another group was busy at the same time gnawing a hole in the wall.
They worked tremendously fast. Before long, the hole was big enough for Chou to crawl through. When Chou got outside, he found another group of ants waiting for him. They led him into the mountains and showed him a cave where he could hide. It was very pleasant living there. The air was fresh, there was plenty of water, and the ants brought him food every day.
A few months later, the king of that country died. When the new king came to the throne, all prisoners were set free, except the very bad ones.
Chou was delighted. He returned from the mountains and went on keeping his shop. He lived happily until the end of his life. He never needed the help of the king of the ants again. The clerk, -who had been freed also, was soon arrested again by the police for stealing some money, and was sent back to prison.

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