Bedtime Stories in English - Wild Oranges And The Tortoise Shell

 Wild Oranges And The Tortoise Shell

Ben's father was a moneylender, but after his father's death, Ben did not know how to carry on the family business. He was a boy rather innocent in nature. His father used to write down the names of the people who borrowed money from him along with the amount they took, in a notebook. But when Ben followed the notebook and went round in a bid to recover the amounts borrowed by different people, most of them said that they had already settled their accounts with his father! Those who admitted to having owed his father any money only promised to pay but did not pay. Ben did not know what to do. Soon he had nothing to eat. Luckily for him, nobody depended on him, his mother having died earlier, and he being the only child of his parents. He took to roaming about in the forest. He satisfied his hunger by eating whatever fruits he got. One day he got nothing even in the forest. He was very hungry. At last, he located a solitary orange hanging from the topmost branch of a tree. He plucked it and was about to eat it when his eyes fell on an old man, seated under the tree, looking at him wishfully. "Can I help you?" Ben asked. "Yes, if you can sacrifice that orange for me," said the man who looked like a hermit. "In fact, I am dying. I shall die even if you give me your orange, but I can die at least with some satisfaction," he added. Ben peeled the orange for the old man who ate it with great relish.

"It will take you very far, my boy," said the old man. "What will take me far, please?" asked Ben. "This orange that you gave me," replied the old man. Ben thought that the old man did not know what he was saying. How can an orange which had been eaten take him anywhere? He moved away in search of some other fruit. He did not find any. He was tired Soon he found a deserted hut and lay down inside it. Sleep overtook him. He dreamt that an orange was jumping like a ball in front of him. He was following it. The orange went forth and jumped into the sea. He continued to chase it on the waters. Suddenly he found himself riding a huge tortoise. It was bringing him back to the shore he had left. The tortoise reached the shore and entered a castle. Ben too entered it, seated on the tortoise. Ben's sleep terminated. Though hungry, he was no longer tired. He began walking and soon reached the end of the forest. There he saw some people cleaning an orchard and pruning the trees. They were throwing away some wild oranges which grew in abundance, much more than they would care to gather. Ben helped them in their work and in exchange asked them to give him some bamboo containers. He collected the oranges thrown away by them in the containers and carried them to the port which was nearby. A ship was about to sail for some distant lands. Ben asked the master of the ship who was a merchant to let him board it. The merchant laughed when Ben showed his merchandise, which was wild oranges.

But it turned out that Ben's father was known to him. He let Ben board his ship, but said, "You can come only up to our first destination. If you can make any money, then you can be with us till the next destination." The very first island they reached the next week was a prosperous kingdom. No sooner had the ship touched the island than the king's men met the merchant and asked him if by any chance he had in his ship any oranges. "Our king is seriously ill. The physician can save him only if he gets some oranges. He can prepare the necessary medicine." The merchant was surprised and happy. He called Ben and told him how lucky he was. Ben supplied the oranges to the king's men and received a thousand gold coins as a reward. Needless to say, Ben was allowed to accompany the merchant till the next and the final destination of the ship which was a big town. "Why don't you buy something here which you can sell at home?" the merchant and the others told Ben. But Ben showed no inclination to buy anything. He spent his time freely wandering here and there. On the last day of their stay near the town, Ben suddenly saw unusual stuff, the shell of a giant tortoise lying near a lake. He dragged it aboard the ship. "Are you crazy, Ben? What will you do with a tortoiseshell?" asked the merchant. "I don't know. But I have a feeling that it will carry me far just as the orange did," said Ben. The ship began its homeward journey. But a storm obliged the merchant to take a diversion.

They reached another port. The port was the capital of a king. He welcomed the merchant and his party and treated them to dinner. He also asked the merchant for a list of precious things he had which he would like to sell. The king visited the ship the next day. The merchant gave a list of valuable items he had in the ship. The king read the list. Suddenly his eyes fell on the tortoiseshell. He looked at the list again and then looked at the shell. "Why is this not enlisted?" he asked the merchant with great surprise. The merchant faltered in his speech because he never thought it to be of any worth. "I understand. You thought that I may not be in a position to buy the costliest thing you have! Maybe, you have promised it to some other buyer," said the king. He went near the shell and examined it. "Yes, I know, it is the giant tortoiseshell that contains gems inside. How much do you expect for it? Will twenty-five thousand gold coins do?" the king asked. The merchant looked at Ben. Both remained speechless. "I understand. You expect more. All right. I will pay forty thousand. I cannot pay more, and I am sure, the price I quote is quite just," said the king. "Very well, your Majesty," said the merchant. So, Ben returned home a rich man. He built a palatial house and knew the meaning of his dream.

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