Chinese Fairy Tales (H. Giles, 1920)/8
THEFT OF A DUCK
In a country village, there lived an honest old farmer, named Chang, who had a large flock of fine fat ducks. One day, a good-for-nothing fellow named Lin who lived near by, stole one of these ducks and carried it off to his home and ate it for supper. In the middle of the night he began to itch violently all over; and when morning came, he found to his horror that he was entirely covered with feathers which were growing out of his skin and now began to smart terribly. He was in great pain all day but at night he managed to get off to sleep, and then he dreamt that a man appeared to him and said, "You are being punished for stealing that duck; and you will never get well until you go to Mr. Chang and make him say, "You dirty thief!" Lin was very much troubled at this, but he soon thought of a plan by which he hoped to escape. He went to see Mr. Chang and said to him, "Sir, I have something to tell you privately. Your duck was stolen by old Wang who lives down the road; he doesn't like being called bad names, and if you go and say to him 'You dirty thief!'" he will be sure to pay you for the duck and will take care never to steal any more." At this, Mr. Chang laughed loudly, and said, "I haven't got time to go about calling people bad names, all for the loss of a duck; I won't do anything of the kind." Just then Lin's skin began to smart so dreadfully that he had nothing left but to fall on his knees and own that he himself had stolen the duck, and implore Mr. Chang to say "You dirty thief!" to him. To this Mr. Chang replied, that he had never been in the habit of using bad language and that he certainly was not going to begin doing so. However, when Lin opened his shirt and showed Mr. Chang the feathers which had grown all over his body, and told him with tears in his eyes what pain he was suffering, Mr. Chang at last consented, and said to him, "You dirty thief!" From that moment the feathers disappeared from his body, and he took care never to steal ducks again.