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The Stolen Ax

A Taoist Tale from China by Lieh Tzu

A woodcutter went out one morning to cut some firewood and discovered that his favorite ax was missing. He couldn't find it anywhere. Then he noticed his neighbor's son standing near the woodshed. The woodcutter thought, "Aha! That boy must have stolen my ax. I see how he lurks about the shed, shifting uneasily from foot to foot, greedy hands stuffed in his pockets, a guilty look on his face. I can't prove it, but he MUST have stolen my ax."

A few days later the woodcutter was surprised and happy to come upon the ax under a pile of firewood. "I remember now," he said, "Just where I'd left it!"

The next time he saw his neighbor's son, the woodcutter looked intently at the boy, scrutinizing him from head to toe. How odd, he thought, somehow this boy has lost his guilty look . . .

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