Who Is The Thief?

While King Prasenjit was ruling the city of Stavasthi, a destitute Brahman came to that city in search of livelihood. Fortunately for him, he found favour with the wealthy merchants there. Besides enough food and clothing, he accumulated a good deal of money. He converted all this money into a thousand gold pieces and secretly buried it at a specific place in the woods.

Every day he used to go to the woods and ensure that no one touched his treasure.

But one day, the Brahman went to the spot as usual and found to his horror, that someone had made away with his heard of gold. At once, the poor Brahman went crazy with sorrow. He ran to the city crying loudly, beating his chest and telling everyone his gold had been stolen. Seeing no one to share his great regret, the Brahman decided to fall into the river and end his wretched life.

King Prasenajit, returning from a bath in the river, met him and learnt about the tragedy that befell the Brahman.

“Why do you want to kill yourself, O Brahman?” said the King. “I am here to inquire into any theft committed in this kingdom. I shall restore your lost treasure or compensate you from my treasury. Now, tell me whether there was any mark to indicate the spot where you buried the gold.”

“Yes, sire. There was a wild cucumber plant over my treasure; now that too is gone,” replied the Brahman.

“There may be many such plants in the woods. How can that be a good mark?” said the King.

“No, sire. This was the only wild cucumber plant in the entire vicinity,” the Brahman replied.

“Now, tell me, could anyone have known that you have hidden your gold in the woods?” asked the king

“Not a soul. Nor did anyone ever follow me to the woods,” the Brahman replied.

The King went to his palace and thought over the problem till he found a way to catch the man who took the gold.

He called his minister and said, “I do not feel quite well. I should like to see some doctors. Can you please arrange to bring me every doctor in the city?”

It was soon done. All the doctors assembled outside the King’s private chamber. As each doctor was ushered in, the King asked, “Who are your present patients? What medicines have you given them?” The doctors answered these questions, and the King sent them away.

At last, one doctor said, “Sire, yesterday I gave the juice of a wild cucumber plant to the rich merchant, Matri-Dutt.”

The King immediately got interested and said, “I see. Where could you get this plant?”

“Sire, this is not a common plant in these parts. My servant found it in the woods after much searching,” replied the doctor.

“We would like your servant to present himself before us at once,” the King told the doctor; soon, the doctor’s servant was standing before the King.

“What did you do with the gold you found when you dug up the wild cucumber plant?” the King asked.

The doctor’s servant turned pale at this question. Shivering with fear, he replied, “I kept it safe in my house. Your Majesty.”

“That is fine, said the King. “That gold belongs to such and such a Brahman. Restore it to him at once.”

The servant took leave, feeling like he had been saved from the gallows.

Now, the minister was watching the entire proceedings without understanding a thing. He was very impressed with the ease with which the King laid his hands on the real culprit. He wanted to know how the King could do it.

The King smiled at the minister’s question and said.

“My job was to find out which one out of the city’s entire population could have dug up that gold. According to Brahman, nobody knew that gold was under the plant. So whoever thought of digging at that spot must have done so for the plant but not for the gold. There was no such plant anywhere else in the neighbourhood. So if anyone did need the plant, he had to dig only where the gold was hidden; he would have thrown the plant away if anyone had dug only for the gold. Unless the man came for the plant, Both the plant and the gold need not have disappeared.”

“Now, who would need a wild cucumber plant except a doctor? All I had to do was call all the doctors in the city and find out which of them used this plant for medical purposes.”

The minister was amazed at the powers of deduction displayed by King Prasenajit.

Chandamama July 1955 | R. Krishnan

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