Fruit of Labour

In a particular country, there was a poor Brahman. His entire property consisted of a small cottage and a small backyard. He maintained himself and his wife by going out and begging for rice, just enough for both of them. The wife cooked the rice and prepared some vegetables that grew in the yard.

Things continued like this until the Brahman became too feeble with age to go out begging. His wife, one day, said to him, “You never thought of the tomorrow. They say that the King is a great helper to the poor. If you see him, he will be able to eradicate our poverty.”

So the Brahman went to see the King. “What can I do for you?” the King asked him.

“Sire,” the Brahman replied, “you possess endless wealth, but I cannot ask for a share. But I can accept the fruit of your labours, whether it is much or little.”

The King was surprised at this request. He had plenty of wealth but hadn’t earned a pie by his labour. If he wanted to give the Brahman anything, he had to make it first. So he told the Brahman to see him the following evening. The Brahman took the leave of the King and went away.

The following day, the King dressed like a working man and started in search of work. In the artisan quarter, he saw a potter about to begin working.

“Brother,” the King said, “can you give me work?”

“That I can,” said the potter. “You can prepare the clay while I attend to the wheel. Work till evening, and you shall have four silver coins.”

The King agreed. But he was not accustomed to labour. His feet ached intolerably while he trod the clay. Soon he was so tired that he had to stop working to regain his breath. “You are unfit for work, my man!” said the potter. “Since I promised you, I am giving you the four coins. I warn you; you shall never get work from me again.”

In the evening, the Brahman went to see the King. The King gave him the four coins and said, “This was all I could earn with my effort.”

“O King,” replied the Brahman, “I do not ask for more.” He blessed the King and took leave of him.

Meanwhile, the Brahman’s wife imagined the King’s gifts arriving at her house in numberless carts. She was sorely disappointed to see her husband return without anything. “What happened?” she asked the Brahman. “Did the king postpone the gift again?”

“No,” said the Brahman, “I got the gift. Here are the four coins.” He put the coins in his wife’s hand.

The wife was both disappointed and fiercely angry. “You go to the King himself, and this is all you bring! Are you not ashamed to accept this pittance from him?” She flung the coins into the yard indignantly.

It was already too dark to search for the coins, and the Brahman thought of finding them the next morning. But when he looked for the next day, he couldn’t find them. He saw only four strange plants instead.

These plants grew up into trees and overbore fruit in a short time. Brahman did not know what fruit they were or what they were suitable for. His wife cut one of them to see how it tasted, and she was stunned to see lots of pearls inside it. The poor couple were amazed. When the pearls were shown to the merchant and the goldsmith, they said they were genuine pearls of very high value.

At last, the couple were rid of poverty. The four trees bore so many fruits that the Brahman could distribute pearls to all the persons in the village.

Soon the King came to hear about the riches of the Brahman. He could never understand how this Brahman could make gifts of pearls to everyone in the village. To clear this doubt, the King came to see the Brahman in his house one day.

“Sire,” the Brahman said to the King, “I never spent the four coins you had given me. My wife got wild with me for bringing them and throwing them in the yard. The next day I couldn’t find the coins, but I found these strange trees. These trees have made me rich.”

The King realised how precious the fruit of labour was. That day he proclaimed that everyone in his kingdom should live by the fruit of their work, and he did likewise.

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