Once upon a time there was a little boy named Ping. Ping lived with his mother and father and sister and brother on a house boat on the Yangtze River. He had *a barrel on his back which was tied to a rope from the boat.*
One day when Ping was standing at the edge of the house boat, he saw in the distance a beautiful yellow duck.
"That duck would make a nice pet," Ping thought to himself.
He went to get a rice cake, and he began scattering the crumbs on the river.
As Ping had hoped, the duck came closer and closer, eating the rice-cake crumbs. And when the duck was close enough, Ping jumped into the river.
He held out the rice cake, and the little yellow duck snatched it out of his hand. Ping grabbed the duck and held him tight.
*"Quack-quack-quack-quack!" cried* the duck.
*"OH!-Ohh-ooo!" yelled* Ping.
The boy and the duck made so much noise that the family came running. They pulled Ping and the duck onto the house boat by the rope.
Ping's father said, *"Ah! A duck dinner has come to us!"*
His mother said that she would cook him with rice at sunset.
*"NO-NO! My nice duck is too beautiful to eat!"*
But Ping's father put a basket over the duck.
All the rest of that day, Ping could think of nothing except that poor yellow duck trapped under the basket. He knew, now, that he never should have tried to catch him.
"Now he is going to be killed and eaten," Ping reproached himself, "and it is all my fault."
But wait a minute! That duck didn't have to be killed and eaten. Ping could set him free, couldn't he? But Ping knew that if he let the duck go, his father would spank him, and his father spanked very hard.
*Ping did not want to be spanked*, but he knew what he had to do, and he must do it now. The sky was already turning rose-colored as the sun set.
Quickly, quietly, he went over to the basket, lifted it up, took the duck in his hands, and released him into the water.
A few minutes later, Ping's father came to get the duck. When he saw that the basket had been moved, and the duck was gone, he was very angry.
"Who did this?" he demanded, looking with suspicion at Ping. "Who let the duck go?"
Ping spoke up, "I did, Father. I did not want him to be killed."
"You had no right," his father said, "to do that. That duck was supposed to be our dinner." Then he commanded, very sternly, "Come here!"
The boy obeyed.
His father lifted him up and turned him over, and *SPANK came the* first spank on Ping's backside.
A week later, Ping was standing at the edge of the house boat. He saw, at a safe distance, a beautiful yellow duck.
"I wonder," he thought, "if that is the same duck."
And then, "Quack, quack!" the duck called.
Ping understood that he was saying, "Thank you."
They saw each other from time to time after that, but always at a safe distance.
Neither Ping ever knew that the other was also named Ping.