A parent sent his children forth one day into a fertile land to gather fruits, flowers, and whatever was beautiful to adorn their homes. They wandered till nightfall, gathering their treasures, while their joyous laughter filled the air, and made music to the listening laborers in the fields.
Just as the shadows of evening came on they approached an open field: it was barren of verdure, but the ground was covered with golden stones, which glittered strangely in the setting sun. They gathered as many as they could with their other treasures, and then all but one of the group began to prepare for home, while he lingered, eager to gather the shining pebbles.
“We must return,” they all said in chorus to him. They disliked to leave without him; but darkness was fast coming on, and they must obey their parents’ command and return before the shades of evening had covered the earth. One voice after another died away on the air as they pleaded vainly for him to go with them, but he heeded them not: the golden stones were far more precious in his eyes than kindred, home, or friends; and they departed sorrowfully without him, while he remained and added stone to stone, till he was obliged at last, from exhaustion, to lie down on the damp ground.
It was not like his warm bed in his pleasant home; and he missed the cheerful voices of his brothers, and more than all his parents’ fond goodnight, after the evening prayer. He slept; but his dreams were wild and feverish, and there was no atmosphere of love about him to soothe the weary brain.
The next day at noon his parents sent a messenger to him, bidding him return. But the love of his golden stones was paramount to the wishes of kindred, and the unnumbered comforts of a happy home; and his reply to the messenger was, “I will return, when I have enough of these,” pointing to a large collection which was already higher than his head. At nightfall hunger seized him. He felt too weary to go in search of food, but the demand of nature asserted its claim, and he dragged himself to a field near by, where grew berries and fruits in abundance. His spirits rose after the cravings of hunger were satisfied, and he lay down again by his precious pile of stones.
The days glided into weeks, and still he fed upon the berries and gathered the golden pebbles. His father had ceased to send messengers to him, knowing that nothing but a long experience would teach his child the value of life’s many blessings, and that gold alone has no power to bless us. The father suffered much in knowing and realizing that his son must learn the truths of life through such severe lessons; but wisdom told him it could not be otherwise.
The chill air of autumn came, and no longer could the fruits and berries ripen for him. He saw some laborers one day in a field near by, eating their meal which they had brought from their homes. Oh; what would he not now give for some of their meat and bread! “I will go to them,” he said, “and offer some of my golden stores in exchange for just a few morsels.”
He did so; and they only smiled at his offer, saying, “What would then refresh and fit us for the rest of our day’s labor? Surely your gold would not.”
“But it would help you to buy more,” he replied.
“Yes, to-morrow: but we cannot spare a morsel to-day, for we need all our supply to strengthen us for our work.”
He turned away in deep thought. Was he not losing all of life’s joys and comforts in living thus alone only to amass such quantities of gold? But as he looked again on the shining treasures his ambition arose with increased power; and he forgot, for a time, his hunger in his toil. Then a new thought came to him. “Now that the fruits are gone I can go to the forest and gather nuts. They will be better food, too, for these chilly autumn days. Surely I am provided for, at least till winter,” and he left his labor and repaired to the woods, where he feasted and gathered enough for many days.