Key words£ºRomania, dishonesty, merchant, peasant, coin  
¡¡ ¡¡ ¡¡
Genre£ºfolklore Topic£ºhonesty Words:650
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¡°If your bag contained one thousand coins
and this bag has only nine hundred,
then how do you know this is your bag?¡±

The dishonest merchant

Author£º David Roper Source£º 
Nation£ºRomania Date£º2008-8-21

(Illustrated by Allan Eitzen)

Once upon a time, a prince known for his intolerance of dishonesty ruled in Romania. During his reign, a greedy merchant from another country traveled through the land.

During one journey, the merchant lost a bag containing one thousand Romanian coins called lei. Each time the merchant came to a crossroads, he told everyone that he would give one hundred lei to anyone who found the money.

Not long afterward, a peasant found the bag. He was an honest man, and he hastened to find the merchant.

¡°I found this bag behind the fish market at the crossroads near my home,¡± the peasant said to the merchant.

The merchant trusted no one, so he went aside to count the money. To his surprise, all one thousand coins were still in the bag. He was happy to have his money back, but he was also saddened by the thought of giving some of it away. He wondered how he could get out of his promise and still appear to be fair.

At last he went back to the peasant. ¡°I thank you for returning my money,¡± he said. ¡°I notice that you have already taken your reward, for there were only nine hundred coins in the bag.¡±

The peasant protested. ¡°But I did not even open the bag before I gave it to you!¡±

The merchant ignored the peasant¡¯s words. ¡°I hope you enjoy your reward,¡± he said. ¡°Thank you again and good-bye.¡± He quickly departed.

The peasant was upset¡ªnot just because he had received no reward but because he had been accused of taking money without permission. He hurried to the palace and requested to see the prince. He told his sad story, and the prince promised that he would uncover the truth.

The prince sent word for the merchant and the peasant to appear before him on a certain day. He told the merchant to bring the bag of money.

When the day arrived, the merchant told his side of the story and the peasant told his. As the prince listened, it became obvious to him that the peasant was telling the truth.

When they had finished, the prince said to the merchant, ¡°You lost a bag with one thousand coins. Is that correct?¡±

 ¡°Yes,¡± said the merchant.

The prince took the money bag, which now held only nine hundred lei. ¡°And when you were handed this bag, it contained only nine hundred coins?¡±

¡°That is true,¡± said the merchant, trying to look sincere.

¡°I am sure that you are telling the truth,¡± said the prince, ¡°for nothing is punished so severely in this court as dishonesty. However, these facts present me with a problem.¡±

The prince held up the bag for all to see. It was an ordinary leather bag, like thousands of others. He asked the merchant, ¡°If your bag contained one thousand coins and this bag has only nine hundred, then how do you know this is your bag?¡±

The merchant had trouble speaking. ¡°I . . . I,¡± he stammered. Then he was silent.

The prince continued. ¡°It is obvious that this is not your bag. My verdict therefore is that you should continue to inquire at crossroads until you find your bag with one thousand lei. I wish you well in your quest.¡±

The prince turned to the peasant. ¡°And I decree that you take care of this bag of nine hundred coins until the rightful owner comes forth. If we do not find the owner within three months, then the money will be yours as a reward for your honesty.¡±

There was nothing more to say, since there could be no appeal regarding the prince¡¯s verdict.

The dishonest merchant and the honest peasant left the prince¡¯s chamber, the first very sad and the other very happy.

Thus was dishonesty treated in the days of the prince.



1. What was the merchant's promise?

2. What did the merchant do after he received his money bag from the peasant?

3. How did the prince punish the dishonest merchant?


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