In the western United States there is a small town called Fort Hedley. The people of this town have always been known for their honesty. This good reputation has been maintained for three generations, and everyone in the town is proud of it, and they value this honor more than anything else.
There was a highly respected Mr. Richards in town. One day he had to go out, Mrs. Richards was alone in the house. Suddenly, a very tall-looking stranger, carrying a large pocket, came in and said politely to Mrs. Richards: “Hello, ma’am. I am a passing stranger, and have come to Fort Hedley to fulfill a wish I have had for many years.” With that, the stranger put the bag on the ground, “Please hide it from the others. Now it is time for me to go on my way, and you may never see me again, but never mind, there is a note tied to the bag, and everything is written on it.” With that, the stranger walked out of the house and left.
Mrs. Richards was surprised to see a note tied to the bag, so she untied it and read it, and it said.
I used to be a gambler, once I lost money in gambling and was desperate, when passing through your town, a kind man saved me, he gave me 20 dollars. Now, I want to repay the person who gave me money, but I don’t know who he is. I only remember one thing he said to me, and I’m sure he remembers that too. Right now I’m asking you to help me find it by publicly publishing it in the newspaper. Whoever can say the content of that sentence is my benefactor, and the gold coins in the bag will belong to him. I will write the words in a sealed envelope in the bag and ask the Reverend Bergers of your town to verify them publicly at the town hall on Friday a month from now.
Mrs. Richards’ heart pounded as she read the note. Gold coins, a whole bag of gold coins, she and her husband had never dreamed of seeing so much money! But who was the benefactor? She thought how wonderful it would be if it was her husband. She hid the bag and hoped that her husband would come home soon.
That night, when Mr. Richards came home, his wife told him what had happened. Richards listened with great amazement. When he saw the gold coins with his own eyes, he believed it. He excitedly touched those gold coins and muttered: “It’s worth almost 40,000!”
Suddenly, a thought flashed through his mind: burn the note and the envelope in the bag, and then if strangers come after us, we’ll just say it didn’t happen. But this bad idea only flashed through his mind, and he finally decided to go to Kirkus, the editor-in-chief and publisher of the town’s newspaper.
The next day, the newspaper went on sale and the whole town was in an uproar. People were talking about it and were eagerly awaiting developments: people wanted to see who really owned the bag of gold coins. Many journalists came to cover the story, and in time, the name of the town of Hedleyburg was known all over the world. The town’s 19 leading figures were all smiles, and they were all over the place. They were proud to have such an honest man as Richards in town.
However, 3 weeks passed and no one came out to claim the bag of gold coins. That day, Mr. and Mrs. Richards were sitting at home sulking, when the letter carrier brought them a letter. They lazily opened it and shouted with joy: “My God, we’re going to be rich!” The letter reads.
I am a foreigner and I don’t know you at all. I read the news in the newspaper, and I am the only one who knows the secret. Let me tell you that the man who gave the money was Goodson. I was walking with him on the road that day, and I met the unlucky foreigner, and Goodson gave him $20 and said a word to him. Remember, the words were, “You’re not a bad person, go repent.” Perhaps you wonder why I am telling you this secret, because Goodson once mentioned to me that you had done him a great favor and he had always wanted to repay you. Now that he is dead, the money that should have belonged to him should go to you.
Mr. and Mrs. Richards read the letter over and over again, and although neither of them could remember how they had helped Goodson, they clung to each other in excitement.
However, poor Mr. and Mrs. Richards never thought that on the same day they received this letter, 18 other leading figures in the town also received the same letter. The content of the letter is the same, the handwriting is the same, only the name of the recipient on the envelope is different.
Friday finally arrived. This day, the town hall was dressed up, early in the morning, the town hall, the aisles are filled with people. Some of the leading figures were invited to sit on the podium, and journalists from all over the world were sitting under the podium.
Pastor Bergers came to the podium and gave a talk about the glorious history of Hedleyburg and the value of honesty, and then he announced a public test. At this point the room was silent and people were wide-eyed. He opened the bag full of gold coins, took out the letter from the sealed envelope and read aloud, “The words are: ‘You are not a bad person, go and repent.'”
Then Pastor Bergers took a letter out of his shirt pocket. He held up the letter and said, “We will soon know the truth. This is a letter from Mr. Bilson to me, and now let us see what he has written.” Bergers opened the envelope, took out the letter, and read it aloud: “The words I said to the stricken outlander were: ‘You are not a bad man; go and repent.'”
“Wow–” a roar went through the room, and people looked at Bilson with envious eyes. Everyone thought Bergers should announce that the bag of gold coins belonged to Bilson, so everyone crowded forward to see this great scene with their own eyes.
He said to them, “I can’t announce it yet, because I still have a dozen letters in my pocket that I haven’t read yet.” At this statement, everyone was confused: “What, a dozen more letters?” So one after another shouted, “Read it, read it.”
So Bergers read them one by one, and each letter read, “You are not a bad person, go and repent.” These letters were signed by banker Binkerton, newspaper editor-in-chief Kirkus, mint owner Harkness, etc., all of the town’s well-known leading figures. People finally understood that it was a farce of greed for money.
Sitting in the field, Richards was nervous, seeing that Bergers had already read 18 letters, and could not help but think: “God, the next one should be my turn!” He saw that Bergers was reaching into his coat pocket, and could not help but close his eyes in fear.
However, Bergers felt in the pocket for half a day, and suddenly said to the group: “Sorry, no more letters.” Mr. and Mrs. Richards were more excited to hear this than the gospel: “God forbid, Bergers lost the letter we gave him!” The couple was so surprised that they even went weak.
At that moment, a man on the stage stood up and said, “I think this money should belong to the most honest and clean person in town, the only one who was not tempted by that bag of gold coins – Mr. Richards.” As soon as he said that, the audience applauded, which made the Richards couple almost embarrassed.
Bergers took out a handful of gold coins from his money bag and looked at them, suddenly his face changed and he lowered his head to examine them carefully, and took a piece of gold coin and put it in his mouth and bit it, then raised his head and said to everyone: “God, this is no gold coin, it’s all gold-plated lead cake! The whole room became silent again, and then someone cursed: “Damned foreigner, damned gambler, he is cheating us, fooling us!” The meeting hall was in chaos.
“Quiet, quiet.” Bergers was busy tapping the table with his gavel, “There is a piece of paper under the money bag, let’s see what is written on it.” With that, he unfolded the note with both hands and read aloud.
Citizens of Fort Hedley, there is really no such thing as an outlander, nor is there any twenty dollars or gold coins. One day I passed by your place and was insulted by you, and I swore to take revenge on you and on your whole town. Later, I found out that you are not as honest as the legend says, but hide hypocrisy and fraud everywhere, so I deliberately set up this trap in order to make a fool of the most reputable person in your town and make a fool of this so-called honest town in the country.
When Bergers read this, he couldn’t help but bow his head and say, “He won, and his bag of fake gold coins defeated our whole town!”
“No, there is one man he did not defeat, and that is Mr. Richards.”
As soon as the speaker spoke, the people of Fort Hedley suddenly shouted together as if they had been given a shot in the arm: “Long live Richards, long live Richards!” They were proud to have such a citizen in town who was not tempted by gold coins. People crowded over and carried Mr. Richards on their shoulders.
Bergers also snapped out of his heavy blow and said, “Yes, we should celebrate Mr. Richards. I suggest that we immediately auction this bag of fake gold coins in public and give all the money from the auction to Mr. Richards!” His suggestion was immediately approved by everyone. The auction started from 1 dollar, 12, 20, 100 …… Finally the bag of fake gold coins was bought by the mint owner Harkness for 40,000.
Mr. and Mrs. Richards never dreamed that the bag of lead cakes, which was not worth a few dollars, could be sold for $40,000, and the money still belonged to them. After the meeting, people sang songs and sent the Richardses home, along with the $40,000 cash check, of course.
Mr. and Mrs. Richards got the money, but instead of sleeping and eating well. That day, Bergers sent a letter. Richards hurriedly closed the door of the room, opened the letter to read.
I was saving you that day, your letter I did not lose. The reason I did this is to repay you for having saved my honor. I am a man who knows how to repay a kindness.
Richards finished reading the letter and felt that the sky was spinning. He thought, “It’s over, he’s in the hands of Bergers. Didn’t he say, “I’m a man who repays what he owes”? This was a clear implication that I should repay him. God, the damn money, the damn temptation!
From then on, Mr. and Mrs. Richards suffered from a combination of remorse and fear of revelation, and soon became seriously ill and died. The people of Fort Hedley could not help but sigh: “Alas, the poor Richardses were not blessed, they were the most honest people in our town!”