Tales of Chinese Children
The Candy That is Not Sweet
 

Grandfather Ghan was dozing in a big red chair. Beside him stood the baby's cradle, a thick basket held in a stout framework of wood. Inside the cradle lay the baby. He was very good and quiet and fast asleep.

The cottage door was open. On the green in front played Yen. Mother Chan, who was taking a cup of afternoon tea with a neighbor, had said to him when she bade him goodbye, "Be a good little son and take good care of the baby and your honorable grandfather."

Yen wore a scarlet silk skullcap, a gaily embroidered vest, and purple trousers. He had the roundest and smoothest of faces and the brightest of eyes. Some pretty stones which he had found heaped up in a corner of the green were affording him great delight and joy, and he was rubbing his fat little hands over them, when there arose upon the air the cry of Bo Shuie, the candy man. Yen gave a hop and a jump. In a moment he was at the corner of the street where stood the candy man, a whole hive of little folks grouped around him. Never was there such a fascinating fellow as this candy man. What a splendid big pole was that he had slung over his broad shoulders, and, oh, the baskets of sweetmeats which depended from it on either side!

Yen gazed wistfully at the sugared almonds and limes, the ginger and spice cakes, and the barley sugar and cocoanut.

"I will take that, honorable candy man," said he, pointing to a twisted sugar stick of many colors.

"Cash!" said the candy man holding out his hand.

"Oh!" exclaimed Yen. He had thought only of sugar and forgotten he had no cash.

"Give it to me, honorable peddler man,," said Han Yu. "I have a cash."

The peddler man transferred from his basket to the eager little hands of Han Yu the sugar stick of many colors.

Quick as his chubby legs could carry him, Yen ran back to the cottage. His grandfather was still dozing.

"Grandfather, honorable grandfather," cried Yen. But his grandfather did not hear.

Upon a hook on the wall hung a long string of cash. Mother Chan had hung it there, for her use when passing peddlers called.

Yen had thought to ask his grandfather to give him one of the copper coins which were strung on the string, but as his grandfather did not awaken at his call, he changed his mind. You see, he had suddenly remembered that the day before he had felt a pain, and when he had cried, his mother had said: "No more candy for Yen."

For some moments Yen stood hesitating and looking at the many copper coins on the bright red string. It hung just low enough to be reached, and Yen knew how to work the cash over the knot at the end. His mother had shown him how so that he could hand them over to her for the peddlers.

Ah, how pleasant, how good that smelt! The candy man, who carried with his baskets a tin saucepan and a little charcoal stove, had set about making candy, and the smell of the barley sugar was wafted from the corner to Yen's little nose.

Yen hesitated no longer. Grabbing the end of the string of cash, he pulled therefrom three coins, and with a hop and a jump was out in the street again.

"I will take three sticks of twisted candy of many colors," said he to the candy man.

With his three sticks of candy Yen returned to the green. He had just bitten a piece off the brightest stick of all when his eyes fell on a spinning top which his mother had given him that morning. He crunched the candy, but somehow or other it did not taste sweet.

"Yen! Yen!" called his grandfather, awaking from his sleep.

Yen ran across to him.

"Honorable grandfather," said he, "I have some beautiful candy for you!"

He put the three sticks of candy upon his grandfather's knees.

"Dear child!" exclaimed the old man, adjusting his spectacles. "How did you come to get the candy?"

Yen's little face became very red. He knew that he had done wrong, so instead of answering his grandfather, he hopped three times.

"How did you get the candy?" again inquired Grandfather Chan.

"From the candy man," said Yen, "from the candy man. Eat it, eat it."

Now Grandfather Chan was a little deaf, and taking for granted that Yen had explained the candy all right, he nibbled a little at one of the sticks, then put it down.

"Eat some more, eat all, honorable grandfather," urged Yen.

The old man laughed and shook his Head.

"I cannot eat any, more," said he. "The old man is not the little, boy."

"But — but," puffed Yen, becoming red in the face again, "I want you to eat it, honorable grandfather."

But Grandfather Chan would not eat any more candy, and Yen began to puff and blow and talk very loud because he would not. Indeed, by the time Mother Chan returned, he was as red as a turkeycock and chattering like a little magpie.

"I do not know what is the matter with the little boy," said Grandfather Chan. "He is so vexed because I cannot eat his candy."

Mother Chan glanced at the string of cash and then at her little son's flushed face.

"I know," said she. "The candy is not sweet to him, so he would have his honorable grandfather eat it."

Yen stared at his mother. How did she know! How could she know! But he was glad that she knew, and at sundown he crept softly to her side and said, "Honorable mother, the string of cash is less than at morn, but the candy, it was not sweet."