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A GOLDSMITH in a small village had ten sons, to all of whom he taught his trade. In time they became skilful craftsmen, p. 52 and when the old man was dying he called the ten around him and addressed them thus:
“My sons, in this small village there is certainly not enough work for ten goldsmiths. I have therefore decided that the most skilful of you shall remain here in my place, while the rest must go out into the world and seek their fortunes elsewhere.”
At this all the sons exclaimed that the plan was good, but who was to say which of them was the most skilful? The old man smiled and answered:
“I have thought of this also. I shall allow you all a month in which to make some article of gold, and at the end of that time I will judge which has been most skilfully executed.”
The ten sons immediately set to work to fashion some article, and all displayed great industry during the allotted space of time. At the end of the month they came to their father, as he lay dying on the ground, and placed before him the articles they had made.
One had made a chain of fine gold, every link of which was the perfect shape of an elephant; another had made a knife, beautifully ornamented; another a little casket; another a ring representing serpents twisted together, with shining scales; another a water-pot of pleasing shape; and so on.
The old man smiled with pleasure to see what the industry of his sons had accomplished, but when he counted the articles before him, he found there were only nine. When he found that one of his sons had produced nothing, he was angered, especially when this proved to be the eldest son, whom he had secretly thought to be more skilful than his brothers. After bitterly reproaching this son, whose name was Ayo, for his laziness, the father prepared to give his decision on the work of the other brothers; but Ayo suddenly stepped forward and begged him to wait for another hour before making his choice.
“Meanwhile, Father,” said he, “let us sit round the fire all together for the last time, parching corn and telling stories.”
This was how the family spent their time in the rainy season, and all gladly consented.
As they seated themselves upon the ground, the father took up a full ripe ear of corn which lay near him. What was his astonishment when he tried to pick the grains to discover that it was made of gold!
For this was what Ayo had made, and he had prepared a little trick to test the perfection of his work. So skilfully was it executed that all had been deceived, thinking it a real ear of corn, and on this account the father and nine brothers all agreed that Ayo’s work was certainly the best.
Thus Ayo took his father’s place, and the rest set out in different directions to seek their fortune.