A woman made pancakes every day. She always made one extra, which she left by the window so that hungry passers-by could take it if they needed to. Whenever the woman put the pancakes on the windowsill, she prayed for her son. Her son was away from home doing business for many years, and occasionally he would send a letter back home, but in recent months there had been no news. The woman was worried about her son’s safety. She often prayed to the heavens, hoping that her son could return safely.
There was an old hunchback beggar who came to take the pancake every day, but he never expressed any gratitude. When leaving, the beggar always muttered to himself: “The evil done stays with oneself; the good deed done comes back to oneself.” He came to get pancakes every day, and then repeated that sentence day after day. The woman didn’t understand the meaning of the beggar’s words, and she ignored it. But later, she became annoyed and complained: “He doesn’t even have a word of thanks, and only says something inexplicable!”
One day, she couldn’t bear it any longer, and the idea of completely getting rid of the beggar came into her mind, so she poisoned the pancake. But when she put the poisonous pancake on the windowsill, her hands began to tremble, and she thought: “What am I doing? How can I do this!” She was ashamed of the evil thoughts she had entertained because she had determined to do at least one good deed a day. How could a reasonable person have such evil thoughts and vicious ideas? She immediately threw the poisonous pancake away, made a new one, put it on the windowsill, and the old beggar took it away as usual.
That night, not long after she fell asleep, she was awakened by a knock on the door. She was taken aback, quickly got up, walked to the window to check, and found that her son, who she missed day and night, had returned. As soon as she opened the door, her son, who was thin and weak, fell to the ground. She stepped forward quickly and helped her son to get into the house. Her son looked so skinny that she was deeply distressed. She hurried to the kitchen to take a glass of water to him and then asked him what had happened in the past few months.
The son said intermittently: “Mother, it’s a miracle that I can come back… a thief robbed me of all my money… I was hungry on the side of the road and almost died…” He paused and continued: “An old man with a hunchback passed by and gave me a pancake… He said that it was his daily food, and he gave it to me because he said I needed it more.”
After the woman heard her son’s words, her face instantly turned pale, and she understood what was going on. She was thankful that she had thrown away the poisonous pancake and rejected her evil thoughts; otherwise, her son would have died today. Only then did she understand the meaning of the words repeated by the old beggar every day: “The evil done stays with oneself; the good deed done comes back to oneself.”
Translated by Joseph Wu and edited by Helen