One warm spring day, a young man was out walking. As he walked, the sun rose higher and higher. The young man was tired and hot, and he wished he could find a nice cool spot to rest.

As if he had conjured it in his imagination, he suddenly came upon that very spot. A patch of grass was shaded by a tall Zelkova tree that grew in the yard of a wealthy merchant’s house. The tree was tall, its branches long, and now, at noon, it spread shade outside the garden gates, into a tiny park beside the merchant’s house.

The young man smiled and sat in that sweet pool of shade. He sighed with delight. “This must be heaven,” he said aloud, but at that same time the merchant was arriving home. When he saw the young man sitting there in the shade of his Zelkova tree, he stopped before him.

“Excuse me, you can’t stay here,” he said.

The young man squinted up at him. “I beg your pardon. Why is that?” he asked.

“You’re sitting in my shade,” said the merchant.

“Your shade?” the young man asked. He could not believe what he was hearing. “But I am not sitting inside your gate.”

“The Zelkova tree belongs to me,” the merchant said. “My grandfather planted it, and I own the tree and its shade! If you want to remain where you are, you’ll have to pay me for its use.”

The young man was a clever fellow. He thought about this briefly. He had heard that the merchant was a greedy, selfish man. Perhaps he needed to learn a lesson. After some moments the young man said, “I’ll pay you for your shade, but you’ll have to sign a contract that explains I have purchased the use of your shade.”

The merchant smiled. “Of course,” he said, and he offered an outrageous sum, hoping to end this conversation.

The young man smiled. “Glad to pay,” he said. “So long as you’ll sign the agreement,” and with that he wrote out a brief agreement on a piece of paper, giving him the right to use the shade of the Zelkova tree whenever he wished.

Happy to end the conversation, the merchant signed the agreement and took the money. As he walked inside, he shook his head and muttered, “Fool.”

The young man fell asleep, and when he woke, he hurried home to tell his friends of his marvelous purchase.

The next day was sunny again. The young man waited until late in the afternoon when the sun had moved across the sky and the shade of the Zelkova tree extended into the merchant’s yard.

He and his best friend, carrying a basket, walked to the merchant’s house. They stepped inside the gate, sat upon the merchant’s lawn and unpacked their picnic.

When the merchant looked out his window and saw the young men eating lunch, he stormed outside. “This is my property!” he said. “You can’t sit here.”

The young man laughed and pulled the contract from his pocket. “You sold me the shade of your Zelkova tree, and as you can see, we are simply sitting in its shade.”

“That’s not what I meant!” the merchant raged.

“But it is our agreement,” the young man said. Now the sun moved farther west, and the shadow moved toward the porch. The young men walked to the porch and made themselves quite comfortable.

“I’ll return your money,” the merchant said. “Just leave my property.”

“No, thank you,” said the young man. “I quite like my purchase.”

“I’ll pay you double then,” the merchant sputtered, and just then he saw the shadow slide into his house, and the two young men opened the door and walked inside.

The merchant followed them. “Triple, I’ll pay you triple!” he cried.

Once again the young man shook his head.

“What do you want?” the merchant wailed.

Once again the young man thought a while. If he had a great deal of money, he could be helpful to the poor. He looked at the merchant. He had no wish to destroy anyone. “Give me half your fortune and I’ll sign back my rights to your shade,” he said.

The merchant agreed, and so it was that everyone in the village lived happily ever after.

“TELL ME A STORY 3: Women of Wonder,” the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, visit

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