Folk tale From Romania - Zed The Burglar

 Zed The Burglar

In the olden days, the capital city of Romania had many parks and gardens. A well-dressed man spotted a young man near a park and smiled at him. It was a moonlit night. "Who are you?" asked the young man who had just come to the town from his home in a distant village. "Whoever I may be, I know who you are. You are a burglar!" said the well-dressed man. "No, never!" protested the young man vehemently. The other man laughed. "Look here, young man, from the manner you looked this way and that way, from your voice and from your movements, I could easily know that you are a burglar. Do not fear. I am Zed the Robber!" Now, all the people of the land had heard of Zed the Robber. Zed never injured anybody, but he burgled houses and robbed people in such a clever manner that he was never caught. The young man saluted Zed. "Let me see how accomplished you are. Can you steal an egg from the crow's nest in this tree without scaring the crow?" asked Zed. The young man climbed the tree like a lizard and stealthily transferred an egg from the nest to his pocket. But, on coming down, he found the egg missing from his pocket. The laughing Zed showed it to him.

"I accept you as my master," said the young man, bowing down to Zed. "You are a worthy pupil. I was looking for a trainee like you. I want to retire from the business. But I should teach my art to somebody before retiring!" said Zed. Zed led the young man into the town. They were near the king's palace. Zed knew where the royal treasury was. He tied his pupil to the end of a rope and lowered him into the right room, himself standing on the wall. The pupil filled a bag with gold coins from a jar. Zed knew that the king supervised his treasury only once every month. What he did not know was that the very next day was the day for the supervision. The king found out about the theft, but could not understand how a thief entered the room. He had detained an old thief in the prison close to his palace. He asked him about it. "My lord," said the old prisoner, "since a man could enter the room, there must be an entry. Fill the room with smoke and observe where it is leaking out." The king did as advised. He saw a column of smoke going out through a hidden gap between the wall and the roof. He met the old prisoner again and sought his advice for capturing the thief. "My lord, do not let it be known that you have found out the theft. Since the thief has got gold coins, he will feel tempted to try to steal once again, probably tonight. Keep a large jar filled with gum exactly on the spot below the gap. The column of the jar should be dark," said the old prisoner.

It was done. It happened as the old prisoner had thought. Zed, hoping to get more, lowered his assistant right into the jar. The assistant realized that he had been caught in a pool of gum from which it was impossible to get out. He told Zed, "Master, I do not want to be caught alive. Please pass on a little poison." "Not necessary," said Zed. "I have with me a potion that would make you appear dead, but you won't die. Your captors, taking you to be dead, would not punish you. I shall manage to free you tomorrow." Zed treated his assistant with the potion and slipped away. In the morning the king was happy to find the thief caught. But coming closer, he got the impression that the culprit was dead. The king reported the matter to the old prisoner. "My lord, the thief has an accomplice," said the old prisoner. "How do you know?" "Who killed the thief otherwise? One does not die when caught up in gum!" observed the old man. "What is to be done now?" asked the king. "Let the corpse be placed outside the palace. Let some guards be posted nearby, but not very close to it. The thief's accomplice is likely to steal the corpse. The guards can pounce upon him when he does so," said the old man. The king ordered the corpse to be put in a chair outside the palace. He also posted guards to keep an eye on it. Late at night, Zed drove a carriage that way. He managed to topple the carriage himself, and coming out of it, told the guards who were looking on, "My brothers, won't you help me to set my carriage right? Wine might flow out of all the four vials I'm carrying if there is a delay in putting the carriage straight."

"We'll help you if you give us one vial," the guards said. "Happily, friends, happily," said Zed and he gave them a vial. The guards began drinking at once. Now, Zed had mixed with the wine a potion to induce sleep. "Who is he?" Zed asked, pointing his hand at his assistant. "A thief," replied the guards. "Good you told me. He might steal my horse if I become unmindful!" The guards laughed. "He is dead," they informed him. That is no guarantee that he won't steal my horse!" commented Zed. The guards laughed and laughed, but not for long. Sleep overtook them. Zed approached his assistant and treated him to another potion. The assistant came to his senses soon. "Do not delay, Detach my horse from my carriage and flee," Zed told the young man. After his assistant rode away Zed woke up the guards and shouted at them, saying, "Had I not said that the thief might escape with my horse? That is what he has done! I did not pay attention to him because you assured me that he was dead! What do I do now? I must complain to the king in the morning!" The guards requested him not to do so. They paid him a hundred coins as compensation for the horse. In the morning the king heard that the corpse had sprung to life and escaped!

He was puzzled. He reported the matter to the old prisoner who said, "My lord, the two thieves are extremely clever. Why don't you declare on oath that you will not punish them if they surrender?" The king made a declaration accordingly. Zed was already thinking of giving up burglary. He surrendered to the king along with his assistant. The king took both of them in his service.

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