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THE SNEEZING COLOSSUS
One day, his wife, tired of trying to feed hungry children from empty dishes, gave her husband a good scolding and bade him begone and get something for the household. This consisted of father, mother, and four little folks, whose faces were not often washed, besides a little dog. This puppy, when danger was near, always ran into the house through a little square hole cut in the door, and when safely within barked lustily.
So Mr. Kim went out to the mountains to find something — a root of ginseng, a nugget of gold, or some precious stone, perhaps, if he were lucky. If not, some berries, wild grapes or pears might do. Meanwhile at home, his wife pounded the grain that was left in the larder for the children's dinner.
Mr. Kim rambled over the rocks a long time without seeing anything worth carrying away. When it was about noon, he came to one of the mighty miryeks, or colossal stone Buddhas, cut out of the solid mountain. It rose in the air many yards high. Ages ago in the days of Buddhism, when monasteries covered the land and Buddhist friars and nuns chanted Sanscrit hymns to the praise of Lord Buddha, devout men, laboring many months, chiseled this towering colossus into human form. Its nose stood out three feet, its mouth was four feet wide and each of its nostrils was large enough to let a fat man's body inside. On its flat head was a cap, made of a slab of granite and shaped like a student's mortar-board, on which ten men could stand without crowding one another.
Long ago gone away and forgotten were the monks and the monastery had fallen to ruins. The forest had grown up around the great stone image, until it was nearly hidden by the tall trees surrounding it. In front, from the ground up, the wild grape-vines had gripped the stone with their tendrils and spread their matted branches and greenery until they nearly covered the image up to its neck.
But out of a crevice in the head of the figure grew a pear tree, sprung from a seed dropped long ago by the great-grandfather of one of the birds singing and chirping near by. And, oh joy! at the end of the outer branch was growing a ripe, luscious pear nearly as big as a man's head. What a prize! It would, when cut up, make a dessert for the whole family. Happy Kim! He blessed his lucky star.
Seizing hold of the bushes and wild grapevines, by dint of great effort Mr. Kim climbed upward and got as far as the chin of the great stone face. Above him protruded the big nose, the nostrils of which gaped like caverns. Yet although he was standing with his foot on the stone lips and holding on to the nose, he could nevertheless, despite all his exertions, get no further up the granite face. He was at his wit's end. Far above hung the delicious looking pear as if to tantalize him. A gentle breeze was swaying the fruit to and fro, and it seemed to say "take me if you can."
But the nose, being polished, was slippery and the ears were too smooth to climb. What could he take hold of? Surely to shin up any further was impossible. Must he give up the pear?
A bright thought entered his head. He would crawl up into the right nostril and hope for an exit to the top. So, thinking he might find his way he began like an insect to enter the hole and soon the man Kim disappeared from sight, as with hands and feet he climbed into the darkness.
Wasn't it dangerous to tickle the nostrils of the great stone man in this way?
But whatever Kim may have thought he kept on, determined to get that pear, come what might.
Suddenly a blast, loud enough to rend the mountain, was heard. Hash-ho! Had an earthquake or tempest taken place? Was this rolling thunder?
No, the colossus had sneezed. Thus the stone man got rid of the intruder. The first thing Mr. Kim knew, he was flying through the air, and he tumbled upon the bushes. His wits were gone. He knew nothing. This was about one o'clock in the afternoon.
Mr. Kim lay asleep or unconscious till near sundown. Then he woke up and realized what had happened. There was the stone nose beetling over him far up toward the sky.
But in sneezing so hard, the colossus had shaken its head also and the big pear had dropped off. Kim found it lying by his side, and picking it up, went on his way rejoicing.
At home, the little dog, looking through the square hole, saw him, barked welcome, and a right merry supper they had over the big pear cut into slices, as Mr. Kim told the story of his adventures.