Bedtime Stories in English - The Thief Guest

 The Thief Guest

A thousand years ago the capital of a small Chinese kingdom was haunted by a notorious thief. Such was his expertise that far from being caught he had never ever been seen by anyone. The harassed townfolk had complained to the king time and again. The thief had a unique trait. He used to always write-behind 'The Guest' on the wall of the house he robbed. Therefore he was known as the Guest. The king summoned his commander. "Are all our guards and sentinels sleeping? A common thief is on the prowl and none of you can catch him! Shame on you! People are laughing at us. You have to catch him by any means," ordered the king. The commander called a meeting of the guards and sentinels and conveyed to them the king's urgent message. It was decided that all efforts would be made to catch the thief as soon as possible. One day the guards caught a young man and brought him to the commander and said, "Sir, this is the thief who signs as The Guest". The young man looked and said,"Sir, I'm an ordinary businessman. I come from another kingdom. Because the thief was ordered to be caught and because I'm a stranger to this town, these guards have dragged me here. But I'm innocent!" The commander asked the chief guard, "How do know that this man is the Guest?" "Sir, we've kept an eye on him for some time and from his movements we know that he is the thief," replied the guard.

"All right, lock him up for the moment. We'll look into the matter later," said the commander. The young fellow was thrown into a prison cell. That evening when the prison officer passed by his cell, the young man said, "Good sir, it is a habit with me to give a gift to a great man the first time I meet him. But alas! it is my misfortune that I am unable to give anything. It isn't that I don't have money, but.." The officer was a greedy fellow. "But what?" he immediately asked. "I'm an ordinary trader. One day I hope to build a house, get married, and settle down. That's why I've hidden some money here and there. But if I tell this to the commander he'll think it is stolen money," said the young man letting out a deep sigh. "Where have you kept the money?" asked the officer eagerly. "At the back of the monastery, under a triangular stone. If you don't mind the trouble you can go and get the money and keep it for yourself. I'll be very happy," said the young man. At first, the officer did not believe the prisoner's story. "But there's no harm in going once just to check, is there?" the officer asked himself. Towards evening the officer went to the back of the monastery, found the triangular stone, and when he removed the stone, indeed there lay a pouch! The pouch contained gold coins. The officer was extremely pleased with the young man. He did everything to make the prisoner as comfortable in his cell as possible.

A big festival was just around the corner. The young man said to the officer, "Sir if you would fetch two bags hidden under the rocks under the bridge, you could keep one for your family and could kindly send the other to my aged parents. They don't know about my present condition. If they get the money they'll take that I'm fine and the money will help them meet the expenses of the festivity." The officer's greed had increased after his first discovery of the pouchful of money. In the evening he went to the bridge and after looking under the rocks for quite some time found only one bag. He came back to the young man and said, "I found only one bag. Here it is. Now how do I deliver it to your parents?" "My good sir, as you have found only one bag keep it for yourself. It is my misfortune that I cannot make my parents happy. But.. If you don't mistrust me, then let me out of this cell some time. I won't run away. Why should I? I am going to be proved innocent and I'll get back my freedom with respect. I'll just go and find the other bag and give it to my father and mother. I'll keep back some money from the bag so that we can eat, drink and make merry on the day of the festival." The officer, greedy at the thought of more money, agreed to let the young man out for some time. But as soon as the man left the officer was filled with doubt. What if the young man didn't return? He would have to pay the penalty with his own head. Letting a prisoner go off like this was a great offense. The poor officer could not sleep a wink that night. But the prisoner true to this word returned to his cell in the middle of the night.

He gave a small pouch full of money to the officer who immediately embraced him with joy and relief. The next morning the commander came to the prison and in a grave tone told the officer, "the young man who was suspected to be the Guest is not really a thief. Set him free. It hasn't been right on our part to imprison an innocent man." With great enthusiasm, the officer said,"Sir, you are right. This young man is extremely well mannered and truthful." "You should have told me this earlier. Last night the Guest struck again and in the same handwriting wrote behind, Guest. So this young man cannot be the thief," said the commander. While the officer unlocked the prisoner's door, the commander said, "My friend! I have a piece of bad news for you. Last night's theft took place at your house. Your wife informed a passing sentinel about it who reported it to me early this morning." The officer stood speechless with grief. The young man bade farewell to the commander and the officer went away. The officer went home to find the hard-earned money that he had saved over the years, all gone. But his wife showed him a bag full of money and in a low voice said, "I found this note in it. It says, 'Thank you for your kind cooperation.' I haven't told anyone about it. What does the thief mean? Who cooperated with him?" The officer stood mute, dumbly staring into space.

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