The Noblest Deed
Once there was an old man in Guadalajara who was about to die. He wanted to leave a diamond, the only wealth he had, to one of his three sons. But he could not decide which one. He called the three sons into his room, and this is what he told them:
My sons, I am not a rich man. The only thing I have that is worth much is this diamond. It has been in our family for generations, and I would not want it sold. Because it cannot be divided, I can give it to only one of you. The diamond will go to whichever of you accomplishes the noblest deed in a week's time. Go now. Return in a week to tell me what you have done.
A week passed, and the sons returned. They found their father even weaker than before and unable to leave his bed. He asked each in turn to tell his story.
My father, said the first son, "I thought and thought of a deed that would be worthy. Finally, this is what I did. I gathered together all of my property, divided it in half, and gave one half to the poor people of the city."
The old man shook his head. "Ah, that is a good deed," he said, "but not truly noble. After all, it is our duty to be as generous as we can to the poor."
When I was returning home from work one day, said the second son, "I saw a little girl caught in the swift current of the river. Though I can hardly swim myself, I jumped into the river and pulled her out. The current was so swift; I almost drowned."
That, too, is a good deed, and yet not noble, said the father. "All should be willing to risk their lives for the sake of a child."
Then the third son told his story.
Father, a wonderful thing happened to me. I was walking high up in the mountains very early one morning. There I saw a man, wrapped tight in a blanket, sleeping at the very edge of a cliff! I could hardly believe my eyes. For if he turned this way or that, if he moved at all in his sleep, the man would be certain to fall over the cliff - thousands of feet to the valley below! I crept closer, as quietly as I could, for I didn't want to startle him. And guess who the man was? Sancho, my bitterest enemy! Many times he had threatened to kill me if he got the chance.
I moved as close to this man as I could. Gently I put my arms around him. Suddenly his eyes opened and looked into mine. I saw he was afraid. 'Do not fear,' I said. With that I pulled him toward me and rolled with him, away from the cliff."
We both stood up, and he said, 'I came this way last night. It was so dark that I could not see my own feet! I was too tired to go on, so I stepped off the path to sleep. I had no idea where I was! I see now that if I had walked a little farther, or turned in my sleep, I would have become food for the vultures in the valley. You have saved my life, amigo - I, who have threatened to kill you!'
We threw ourselves into each other's arms and swore to be friends forever. We wept for joy. Each of us found a friend, where before there had been an enemy!"
Ah, my son! exclaimed the old man. "That is a beautiful story, and a truly noble deed. It is a rare person who risks his life for the sake of his enemy. A noble person. The diamond is yours!"