Honesty

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
May/June 2001

By Zhang He, Illustrated by Natalie Chin

It was a freezing cold winter day in China. My family and I were visiting my beloved paternal grandmother who lives in ZhengZhou, a city in China. And this time we were celebrating the Chinese New Year with her.

It was said that eating oranges during the special occasion is meant for good luck. Being superstitious, my father and I went to the market to buy a few before the big day. The market in China is different. It’s usually a street with small booths. These booths sell fresh vegetables, fruits and even meat. People who have farms in the countryside always come to the market to sell their goods.

When my father and I arrived, the market was crowded with people, and of course, oranges. We looked around in the crowd of people and stopped at the sight of a small booth. This small booth was quite different; it was just a big piece of cloth on the ground with a few fresh-looking oranges. But I wondered why there were no customers. Unable to stop my curiosity, I persuaded my father to take a look at the oranges. We walked toward the booth and saw a young girl sitting on a stool, reading next to the booth. Her mind seemed to have whirled into the story, because she didn’t even notice us when we walked toward her.

Honesty in a marketplace

My father cleared his throat and asked, “How much are the oranges?”

My father cleared his throat and asked, “How much are the oranges?”

The girl heard him and jumped up as though her stool had just been electrified. “Oh . . . ah . . . what?” the girl stammered.

“How much are the oranges?” my father repeated patiently.

“Oh . . . three for one yuan,” the girl answered politely. “They are not totally ripe . . . a bit sour,” she added, when my father was examining the oranges carefully.

After a while he looked up and said, “I don’t mind if they are sour . . . I’ll buy twenty of them.” Both the girl and I looked at him with surprise; I never thought my father could be so generous. Then the girl put the oranges in a bag and gave them to him. My father carelessly stuffed some money into her hand and we walked out of the busy street.

“Why did you buy so many oranges from her?” I asked my father as we walked toward the bus stop.

“Well, she was so truthful and even told me that her own oranges are sour; besides, she really enjoys studying. And look at her book, it’s so old; maybe she can use the money she earned to buy some books!”

I nodded my head vigorously after hearing my father’s words. Just then, I felt somebody tugging my arm; I turned and recognized the person as the girl whom we bought the oranges from. “Ran . . . ran all the . . . way here, never . . . thought you walked so fast . . . here’s . . . your change . . .” she panted, and stuffed the money in my hand. “Got to go and . . . look after my booth, bye!” Before I could mutter a thanks, she had already turned a corner and was out of sight. I stared at the coins in my hand; although it was only a few coins, the girl and her act of honesty will be etched in my memory forever . . .

Honesty Zhang He

Zhang He, 11
Singapore

Honesty Natalie Chin

Natalie Chin, 9
Bellevue, Washington

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One Comment
 
  1. Emily August 11, 2017 at 11:03 am Reply

    Amazing story!

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