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
(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.
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
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
¡°That is true,¡± said the merchant, trying to look sincere.
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
2. What did the merchant
do after he received his money bag from the peasant?
3. How did the prince
punish the dishonest merchant?