Any one know where this tale comes from?
MAY '06 Money or Wealth?
retold by Norah Dooley © 2006
An old widow woman lived by herself on the side of a mountain. She collected and sold herbs and plants for healing of body and soul. Often she traveled far from her home, collecting rare flowers and roots. Sometimes she was lost but never for too long.
One day, while she was traveling deep in the forest below the mountain she stopped to rest and she dangled her tired toes in a small stream. She saw in the water a bright and surely precious stone. She plunged her hand into the cold water and pulled the stone to her. She held it in the light and enjoyed it’s color and brilliance. She looked at it for quite a while, and then put it in her food bag where she forgot about it completely.
The next day, as she traveled deeper into the forest, the old woman met a traveler. He was young, lost and more than a little hungry. They spoke of their ventures and then the old woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone. He said in a harsh voice-- “Leave off the food woman, will you not give me the stone?”.
The woman looked up in surprise but immediately handed the stone to the man.
“Gladly I will, “ she said, “It is no more mine than yours and I have enjoyed its beauty already.” The man grasped it and turned to leave,
“Would not like some tea or to eat?” she called after him.
The traveler did not answer, just waved the woman off but he was smiling and marveling at his good fortune. He thought the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. Inside his head he heard a small far away voice question taking such wealth from such a shabby old woman. This voice he waved away also. With his stone clutched in his hand he headed straight away for the capital.
After a few bitterly disappointing days in the city where he was almost swindled, was in fact arrested for the theft of his own stone and then released and nearly killed by robbers, he found himself retracing his steps. At last he found the cottage of the old woman.
Her home was very small and had one or at most two of everything -- cups, plates, chairs. Though neat and clean, all was worn and threadbare save for the abundant flowers and plants that grew inside and out.
“ That seals it!” he said out loud but as if to himself.
“Ah, you have come back for some tea?” said the old woman and she stopped sorting dried flower heads and ladled water from an earthen ware jar.
The man reached inside his shirt and took a bag from round his neck.
"I've been thinking," he said to the woman,
"I know now exactly how valuable that stone is.”
“Really?” said the woman putting the kettle on the hearth for tea.
“Really. “ And he told of his misadventures in the city while she clucked and nodded appreciatively.
“I'll give this gem back to you in the hope that you can give me something even more precious.” he looked hopeful as he finally sat down as he had been asked.
“Dear me,” said the woman , sitting across from him in a rickety straight backed chair. “ That stone and I, we were but a happenstance. You see -- here, all my worldly goods in one glance -- ah, do take me in also, my cloak and dress and shoes. What you see is all that there is”
“Yes,” said the man. “I can clearly see that. But I also see your wealth. That is what I want .”
“Really?” she said , looking puzzled.
“If I give you this stone, can you give me what you have that allowed you to give me the stone."
“Oh!, “ she exclaimed. This made her laugh out loud - a loud and throaty laugh.
“Oh, do sit down.” she ordered. Seeing her mirth caused the man distress she stopped laughing at once. “Sit and have some tea and we will talk.”
The traveler pulled the stone from the bag.
“Oh no," said the woman. " Do not give me that troublesome pebble! I have everything I need, all the joys and all the sorrows.” said the woman.
The man still looked puzzled.
“I gave it to you.” said the widow, in a matter of fact tone. “When you are finished --pass it along. Then you will have everything you need. Really, it is that simple.”