Once there was a very rich king who was very, very proud of his wealth. None of his fellow kings in the surrounding kingdoms were as rich as this particular king, and he used to enjoy showing off his wealth to all of them. Quite often, he would hold exhibits where he would display his collection of diamonds and other most expensive and most valuable treasures for all to see.
On one such occasion, all of the king’s friends and colleagues were assembled to view the king’s wealth, including his most expensive diamond, which was prominently displayed on a plate of gold. All of a sudden, the unthinkable happened: the diamond disappeared. The minister had to report to the king that his most expensive diamond was gone. Upon hearing the news, the king was sad, mad and furious. “I cannot understand it!” he exclaimed. “I consider all these people to be my friends! How could they steal from me?”
The king’s minister was a very, very wise man. He replied, “O King, let us not embarrass them. Let us simply say to them, ‘Please, please, we do not want to search you. You are our friends. It would be an unbearable embarrassment. The best thing for us to do is to turn off the lights. Then, whoever has taken the diamond will kindly put it back on the plate.’ These people are kings, after all!”
The king agreed to the minister’s plan. They turned off the lights, certain that the culprit would place the diamond back on the golden plate. But alas, when the lights came back on, to their great surprise, they saw that the plate itself had now disappeared!
The king said to his minister, “I cannot believe it! In the dark, the same person who took the diamond has now removed the plate, and he himself has disappeared!”
The majority of the kings attending the exhibit were very, very honest. They were so embarrassed by what had taken place. Some of them left the palace to try to chase the thief. Others felt it was beneath their dignity to be in such bad company, so they, too, left the palace. But some of the kings remained out of sheer curiosity, hoping to see the thief when he was caught. They were such stupid fellows! Two groups of kings had already gone and the culprit had fled, yet they remained.
After some time, the thief was found and caught by a small group of the kings. “I will not surrender this diamond or this golden plate unless you pay me for them,” he declared shamelessly. He quoted a price that was considerably higher than that which the very rich king had originally paid. One of the kings offered to pay the thief the sum. “Fine!” said the thief. “But I will only relinquish the diamond and plate on the condition that none of you will reveal my identity.” All of the kings assured the thief that they would keep it a secret amongst themselves. Then he took the money and ran away.
This thief was such a rogue. He began informing his friends that it was not he who had stolen the diamond and plate, but that he had seen these expensive things in the hands of the very king who had bought them from him! So they all went off in search of the other king.
Meanwhile, the very rich king came to learn who the first thief was. He had him arrested and thrown into jail. The thief told the king, “I have neither the diamond nor the plate. I sold them to somebody else for a higher price than even you paid for them.” So the rich king sent his guards to search for the second culprit.
With great difficulty they found the king who had bought the treasures. Unfortunately, he no longer was in possession of them. His son, who was very greedy, had taken both the diamond and the plate and disappeared. The father was caught and thrown into jail, but the son was nowhere to be found. “If in one week your son does not come back on his own and return my valuables, you will be hanged,” the very rich king declared.
The poor fellow did not know where his son had gone. He was crying and crying in his jail cell. His wife was praying and praying to God for their son’s return by the appointed day. Otherwise, she would lose her husband.
The son was quite far from the scene, but somehow he felt his mother’s heart-rending cries. So he came to the rescue of his father, returning the diamond and the plate to the very rich king. “Please, please, release my father!” he said. “I am the one who stole these belongings of yours. Do anything you want with my life. My father is innocent.”
“Your father is innocent?” the very rich king replied. “Who bought these things when they had been stolen from me? True, your father did not steal them, but was he not the culprit who bought them from the thief? He knew quite well that they were mine. Why did he buy them, instead of telling me where they were?”
The son replied, “O King, I was the last person to have them in my possession. Therefore, I am the one who is guilty. I am giving them back to you — both the plate and the diamond. Please, please, punish me any way you see fit, but release my father.”
When the very rich king saw his plate and diamond returned in excellent condition, he was simply thrilled and overjoyed. He said to the son, “Do not worry, I do not want to kill anyone. I just wanted to get back my most precious treasures. You and your father are free to go and do whatever you like. I am releasing you both. You will not be punished because both of you have kept my precious possessions in such good condition.”