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The Ghee Merchants and the Gold Mohur
|by Minal Saran & G.F. Wear|
A Birbal Story
One day a ghee merchant came to Birbal. ‘Your honor,’ he said, ‘some time ago I lent a thousand rupees to a friend when he was in need of money. Now he refuses to pay me the sum.’
‘Have you no receipt in writing?’ asked Birbal. ‘Or was no one present when you lent the money?’
‘No answered the man. ‘I have nothing to prove it. We merchants often help each other without a written agreement, but God knows I am telling you the truth. This time my own friend has not been true to me.’
‘Write down what you say, and sign it,’ said Birbal. ‘I shall think over the matter, and tell you later what must be done.’
After the merchant had written down and signed his statement, he went away. Birbal sent for the other merchant.
‘What a lucky day it is for me!’ began the merchant, but he changed his mind when Birbal showed him the statement. ‘ What a bad world this is!’ he said. ‘Even my friend does not tell the truth about me.’
‘It seems to me that it is a good world,’ said Birbal. ‘Then this man never lent you the money?’
‘No; I have helped him many times, and this is how he thanks me. It must be because my shop has succeeded and his has not.’
You say there is no truth in this statement?’
‘None at all, sir. I have not touched any of his money. If he had lent me such a large sum, he would surely have the receipt.’
‘There is no receipt and no proof,’ said Birbal quietly.
‘It is clear then, sir, that this statement is not true. It has been made only to harm me.’
‘That is what I thought,’ said Birbal. ‘But as the statement was made, I had to make sure. I am sorry you have been troubled.’
The second merchant then left.
The next day Birbal bought two large tins of ghee. He then sent one to the first merchant and asked him to sell it for him as it was not quite pure. ‘Bring me the money later,’ he said. Birbal sent the other tin to the second merchant with the same request.
As soon as the two merchants reached their shops, they poured the ghee into a pot to heat it. In doing so they discovered a gold mohur at the bottom of the tin. The first merchant took the piece of money immediately to Birbal.
‘This gold mohur,’ he said, ‘was left in the tin by mistake.’
Birbal thanked him. He was now sure that this man was honest.
The second merchant picked up the gold mohur, and decided to keep it. He called his son and said: ‘I have found a gold mohur in this tin. Keep it carefully. When I want it I shall ask you for it.’
Having sold the ghee, both merchants came to Birbal to give him the money from the sale.
Birbal thanked the first and let him go, but he said to the second:
‘The tin contained one and a half maunds* of ghee. You have given me the money for only one maund.’
‘No, your Honour,’ replied the man, ‘the tin had only one maund. I weighed it before pouring it out to heat it. My son was there at the time.’
‘Perhaps I was mistaken,’ said Birbal. ‘Please wait while I make sure.’
Birbal went into another room, called his servant and gave him the second merchant’s address. ‘Call the man’s son,’ he said. ‘Tell him to come here. His father wants him to bring the gold mohur which he found in the tin.’
After a short time the servant returned with the boy. The merchant was naturally surprised to see his son.
‘Have you the gold mohur?’ asked Birbal. ‘Yes, your Honor, here it is.’ The boy brought it out of his pocket.
‘Only one? said Birbal. ‘Did not your father say there were two in the tin?’
‘Why did you say that, Father?’ asked the boy. ‘When did you find two? You gave me only one to keep for you.’
The merchant moved from one foot to another. He understood that he had been caught, but he still tried to save himself.
‘You are a fool,’ he said angrily. ‘Who in the world would put a gold mohur in a tin of ghee?’
The son was even more surprised, but he said patiently:
‘How can you say such a thing, Father? That day when you were going to heat the ghee you picked a gold mohur from the tine. Don’t you remember that you asked me to keep it for you?’
‘You must have dreamt it,’ said the merchant. ‘I remember now that I did give you a gold mohur to keep, but I got it from a man who came into the shop.’
‘It was no dream,’ said Birbal, who was listening. Then, turning to the merchant, he added: ‘ I put the mohur in the tin myself to test you, to see if you are honest.’
‘Perhaps I forgot what actually happened,’ said the merchant. Why should I keep someone’s money? Boy give Lord Birbal the gold mohur.’
Birbal took the piece of money from the boy, then said quietly, ‘You have returned my mohur. What of the thousand rupees you borrowed from your friend?’
Hearing the first merchant’s name, the boy broke in:
‘Haven’t you returned the money yet, Father?’
“You keep quiet,’ shouted the merchant angrily, but Birbal told the boy to tell all he knew. The boy then described how his father had borrowed a thousand rupees from the first merchant, and had said that he would soon pay the money back.
‘It seems,’ said Birbal, ‘that your son is more honest than you. Take a lesson from him. If you were ready to steal one gold mohur, you would be more ready to steal a much larger sum. Come, tell the truth.’
Seeing that he was caught at last, the merchant agreed that he owed a thousand rupees to his friend. He had to pay. It was in this way that Birbal became famous for discovering who was honest and who was not.
Birbal Brings a Princess from Heaven
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