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The finest thing in the world

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What would you like to be when you grow up? Do you hope to be a rich merchant, a doctor, a writer,
a priest in a church, a captain of soldiers, a leader of the nation, or will you be content to serve as an
ordinary worker, a man who does his duty to his family and his country?
Perhaps you have not thought at all about this question. Then read this and ask yourselves whether
you agree with this story about what is the finest thing in the world.

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The finest thing in the world

  1. 1. The Finest Thing in The WorldWhat would you like to be when you grow up? Do you hope to be a rich merchant, a doctor, a writer,a priest in a church, a captain of soldiers, a leader of the nation, or will you be content to serve as anordinary worker, a man who does his duty to his family and his country?Perhaps you have not thought at all about this question. Then read this and ask yourselves whetheryou agree with this story about what is the finest thing in the world.When a king dies his kingdom usually passes to one of his sons. This did not happen, however, whenthe King of Benares, in India, died. The captain of the army took the kingdom for himself and droveout the three sons of his dead master.The three princes crossed the mountains in the north of India and arrived at the edge of a greatdesert. This was a large, open place which stretched for miles and miles as far as the eye could see.There were no fields, no houses, and no roads. But there were several ways across the desert wheretravellers had passed. One led to the north, another to the east and a third to the west. At the spotwhere the three ways joined there was an inn for travellers.Here the brothers stayed for the night. Although they were rather tired after their long journey, theydid not go to bed. They wanted to make plans for the future, so they sat and talked. They talked allthrough the night, and they were still talking when the innkeeper’s pretty daughter came in toprepare the morning meal.Prince Deva, the eldest brother, was speaking. "Tell me this,” he said. “What is the finest thing in theworld?”“It is power,” said Prince Sanka, the second brother.“Why was the captain Him able to take away our kingdom from us? Because he was the head of thearmy. This made him the most powerful man in the country.”“I don’t agree,” said Prince Deva. "The finest thing in the world is money. Money is the real power.Why did the soldiers follow the captain? Not because he was their leader, but because he gave themmoney. Men will do anything for money.”“Let us ask Ananda what he thinks,” said Sanka. They turned to their youngest brother and saw thathe was watching the innkeeper’s pretty daughter. He looked very thoughtful. 1 Page“Ananda,” they said “are you listening? What is the finest thing in the world? ”Yapa Wijeratne
  2. 2. “I do not know,” he replied.When the meal was over the brothers paid for their room and their food and rode out into thedesert.“I will take the way to the east and come back with the power of money,” said Prince Deva.“I will go westward and try to become the captain of a large army,” said Prince Sanka; “ and Anandamay go north or south and do whatever he desires.”“But when shall we meet again? ” asked Ananda.“Let us meet here,” replied Sanka, “at this inn, on the first day of spring, in ten years from now. Thenwe can decide which of us has been able to get the finest thing in the world. Even if we do notaltogether succeed, we ought to be able to get back our father’s kingdom.”The three brothers agreed and then separated.Prince Deva joined a band of merchants who were on their way to China. Prince Sanka set out alonetowards the wild lands of the north-west. He was the first to disappear over the sky-line of the wide,brown desert. Then the band of merchants with Prince Deva among them grew smaller and smallerin the distance.Prince Ananda was now alone. There were tears in his eyes as he watched his brothers until theydisappeared from sight. He wanted to say good-bye to Saki, the innkeeper’s daughter, but she didnot come out. Very slowly and sadly he at last rode away.The ten years passed by. It was the first day of spring. The little inn at the edge of the desert hadgrown lovelier with the passing years. Red roses climbed to the top of the walls, and all the roof washidden by the beautiful flowers.In the doorway of the inn, among the roses all around, stood Saki. She had grown from a pretty girlinto a beautiful woman. She held a little baby girl in her arms, and two red-cheeked little boys werepulling at her skirt as they stood at her side and watched the stretch of sandy desert before them. 2Two great armies were coming towards the inn, one from the east and one from the north-west. PageAlong the way from China there slowly appeared an endless line of camels and horses and men inYapa Wijeratne
  3. 3. long blue shirts. At the head of this large army of merchants and servants was a great elephant witha kind of little house on its back. In it sat a dark-faced man, with the marks of care and poor healthon his face. His skin was like old leather, dry and hard and full of deep lines. But his eyes were brightand sharp. The army that came from the north-west was terrible to look at. There were about ahundred thousand wild horsemen. All carried heavy iron swords and long guns.They shouted to one another with loud, strange cries. Their faces were yellow, & their dark, crueleyes shone with wild joy.Out of the centre of this great army rode a tall, powerful man in an iron suit of clothes and with along sword in his hand.“Deva ! ” he shouted to the man on the elephant.“Sanka ! ” shouted the other.The two brothers got off at the door of the inn and shook hands together.“How old and thin you have grown, Deva ! ” said his brother. “Are you in good health?”“I have worked hard night and day for ten whole years,” said Deva proudly; “ but I am not sorry forit. I desired to become a rich man and I have succeeded. Look at all this. There is not a camel orhorse that is not carrying gold and silk goods.”"Yes, you are very rich indeed,” said Sanka. “But are you still certain that wealth is the finest thing inthe world ? Look at the army I have collected. It took me ten years to collect it, and a hundred ormore battles.”“But how can you feed and pay a hundred thousand men ? ” asked Deva.“I tell you again, money is the finest thing in the world. I have only to promise your soldiers moremoney than you give them and they would leave you and follow me.”“You are wrong ! ” said Sanka in an angry voice. “ And I can prove it to you. I have only to raise myarm and give the order, and my men would attack all your servants, and all your wonderful wealthwould be mine in less than five minutes.”Prince Deva’s face grew pale. He looked at his brother in a strange way. “Perhaps you are right,” hesaid at last; but his eyes grew more thoughtful as he said it.“But where is little Ananda ? he added.“I wonder what he thinks is the finest thing in the world.”"I am afraid the poor, simple little fellow."I will be of no use to us,” said Sanka. “I have power andyou have wealth. What else do we need to help us to succeed ? ”Just then a tall, healthy-looking young man, with bright, smiling eyes, came out of the inn. The suithe wore was that of a workman, and on his feet were thick leather boots. 3 Page“It is poor Ananda ! ” said Deva.Yapa Wijeratne
  4. 4. “Well,” he added, as his brother ran up and kissed him, “ you do not look as if you have succeeded inlife. I am certain that you have not found the finest thing in the world.”“But I have,” said Ananda, with a happy smile. “And I did not go far away for it. Instead I turned back,and I have never since left the inn. There is my wife at the door, and our three little children.”“Just like a foolish boy,” said Prince Deva, “ to think that love is everything in life.”“It was not love that made me turn back,” said Ananda very softly. “Love came afterwards, withother blessings. I found here, at the edge of the desert, something without which love and wealthand power and even health are but dust and sand.”“What was that ? ” said the two elder brothers. “Tell us what it was.”“The finest thing in the world is contentment” replied Ananda.The two elder brothers were silent. They looked at each other and at their armies; and then theywalked slowly up to the inn where Ananda’s wife and children stood. Suddenly Prince Deva got holdof Sanka’s hand.“The boy is right! ” he cried. “ The boy is right! I can prove that he is right. Do you know, Sanka, I wasnot even content with all my wealth, and I was making plans to buy your army and get your poweraway from you.”“And I had made up my mind to attack you tonight, and take away all your wealth,” said Sanka.“I don’t understand why you wanted to make plans against each other,” said Prince Ananda.“I must have an army of soldiers to win back our father’s kingdom,” said Prince Deva.“And I must get money to pay my soldiers and lead them against the captain who drove us out of ourcountry,” said Sanka.“The captain ? ” said Ananda. “ Why, he died nine years ago. Since then many messages have cometo me from Benares. All ask me to return and be king. But I am too contented here to think of that.” 4 PageOh, how Deva and Sanka laughed! All their work and troubles had been for nothing.Yapa Wijeratne
  5. 5. In the end they had to give a great part of Deva’s wealth to Sanka’s army of wild fighters in order toget them to go back to their own land.Deva had now decided not to become a king; he was content to be a merchant and to live at the innwith Ananda and his family.It was Sanka who at last returned to Benares and became king. Though he lived a long and happylife, he often said that it was Ananda who had really found the finest thing in the world. 5 PageYapa Wijeratne

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