49. The White Squash
In a little bamboo house in front of a big garden lived a man and his wife all alone. They had always been kind and good to everyone, but still they were not happy, because the child for which they longed had never come to them. Each day for many years they had prayed for a son or a daughter, but their prayers had been unanswered. Now that they were growing old they believed that they must always live alone.
In the garden near their house this couple grew fine white squash, and as the vines produced fruit the year around, they had never been in need of food. One day, however, they discovered that no new squash had formed to take the place of those they had picked, and for the first time in many seasons they had no vegetables.
Each day they examined the vines, and though the big, yellow flowers continued to bloom and fade, no squash grew on the stems. Finally, one morning after a long wait, the woman cried out with delight, for she had discovered a little green squash. After examining it, they decided to let it ripen that they might have the seeds to plant. They eagerly watched it grow, and it became a beautiful white vegetable, but by the time it was large enough for food they were so hungry that they decided to eat it.
They brought a large knife and picked it, but scarcely had they started to open it when a voice cried out from within, “Please be careful that you do not hurt me.”
The man and woman stopped their work, for they thought that a spirit must have spoken to them. But when the voice again called and begged them to open the squash, they carefully opened it, and there inside was a nice baby boy. He could already stand alone and could talk. And the man and his wife were overjoyed.
Presently the woman went to the spring for a jar of water, and when she had brought it she spread a mat on the floor and began to bathe the baby. As the drops of water fell off his body, they were immediately changed to gold, so that when the bath was finished gold pieces covered the mat. The couple had been so delighted to have the baby that it had seemed as if there was nothing more to wish for, but now that the gold had come to them also they were happier than ever.
The next morning the woman gave the baby another bath, and again the water turned to gold. They now had enough money to build a large house. The third morning she brought water for his bath again, but he grew very sad and flew away. At the same time all the gold disappeared also, and the man and his wife were left poor and alone.