By Leo Tolstoy
Two brothers set out on a journey together. At noon they lay down in a forest to rest. When they woke up they saw a stone lying next to them. There was something written on the stone, and they tried to make out what it was.
“Whoever find this stone,” they read, “let him go straight into the forest at sunrise. In the forest a river will appear; let him swim across the river to the other side. There he will find a she-bear and her cubs. Let him take the cubs from her and run up the mountain with them, without once looking back. On the top of the mountain he will see a house, and in that house he will find happiness.”
When they had read what was written on the stone, the younger brother said: “Let us go together. We can swim across the river, carry off the bear cubs, take them to the house on the mountain, and together find happiness.
“I am not going into the forest after bear cubs,” said the elder brother, “and I advise you not to go. In the first place, no one can know whether what is written on this stone is the truth –perhaps it was written in jest. It is even possible that we have not read it correctly.
In the second place, even if what is written here is the truth — suppose we go into the forest and night comes, and we cannot find the river. We shall be lost. And if we do find the river, how are we going to swim across it? It may be broad and swift.
In the third place, even if we swim across the river, do you think it is an easy thing to take her cubs away from the she-bear? She will seize us, and, instead of finding happiness, we shall perish, and all for nothing. In the fourth place, even if we succeeded in carrying off the bear cubs, we could not run up a mountain without stopping to rest.
And, most important of all, the stone does not tell us what kind of happiness we should find in that house. it may be that the happiness awaiting us there is not at all the sort of happiness we would want.”
“In my opinion,” said the younger brother, “you are wrong. What is written on the stone could not have been put there without reason. And it is all perfectly clear. In the first place, no harm will come to us if we try.
In the second place, if we do not go, someone else will read the inscription on the stone and find happiness, and we shall have lost it all.
In the third place, if you do not make an effort and try hard, nothing in the world will succeed. In the fourth place, I should not want it thought that I was afraid of anything.”
The elder brother answered him by saying, “The proverb says: ‘In seeking great happiness small pleasures may be lost.’ And also: ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.’”
The younger brother replied, “I have heard: ‘He who is afraid of the leaves must not go into the forest.’ And also: ‘Beneath a stone no water flows.
The younger brother set off, and the elder remained behind.
No sooner had the younger brother gone into the forest, than he found the river, swam across it, and there on the other side was the she-bear, fast asleep.
He took her cubs, and ran up the mountain without looking back. When he reached the top of the mountain the people came out to meet him with a carriage to take him into the city, where they made him their king.
He ruled for five years. In the sixth year, another king, who was stronger than he, waged war against him. The city was conquered, and he was driven out.
Again the younger brother became a wanderer, and he arrived one day at the house of the elder brother. The elder brother was living in a village and had grown neither rich nor poor. The two brothers rejoiced at seeing each other, and at once began telling of all that had happened to them.
“You see, said the elder brother, “I was right. Here I have lived quietly and well, while you, though you may have been a king, have seen a great deal of trouble,”
“I do not regret having gone into the forest and up the mountain,’ replied the younger brother. “I may have nothing now, but I shall always have something to remember, while you have no memories at all.”