Saved by presence of mind

This is another story about presence of mind. A husband and wife finished their evening meal and went to bed. In an hour or two, both of them were fast asleep. In the middle of the night, a thief entered the house. The wife happened to hear a noise and woke up.

"Please, please, get up, get up, get up, get up! Catch the thief!" she urged her husband.

"We have nothing very valuable," he replied.

"We have so many things! We are quite rich," his wife protested.

Then the husband said, "Oh, let him take! We have so much. Let him take a little. I do not want them."

"No, you have to get up," insisted his wife.

Then the husband went on, "Who knows if the thief has a knife or a gun? I do not want to approach him. The best thing is for him to take whatever he wants to."

Unfortunately, at that moment the thief entered their bedroom. He was brandishing a knife. "Give me everything that you have," he said to the poor husband and wife.

The husband answered, "I have kept things at different places in the house. You tell me where to take you first."

The thief said, "Take me to the place where you have kept most of your valuables — your money, jewellery, silver and so on." "All right," said the husband calmly. "I am ready to give you those things because I do not need them. I have so much. No matter how much you take, there will still be plenty for my wife and me."

The husband was all ready to show the thief where he kept all his precious things when suddenly the thief got scared and started trembling.

"What is this?" said the husband in a puzzled tone. "You wanted our valuables and I am giving them to you." "Oh no,"said the thief, "it is not that. I am hearing a noise."

"What kind of noise?" asked the husband.

The thief stammered, "Outside the house, a gang of robbers — they are after me. They want to catch me and kill me. They think that I am very lucky, I am smart. I steal from so many people and then they do not get the things they want. There is nothing left for them to steal. So they have come after me. I can hear them. They will come inside and kill me!"

"What are you saying?" said the husband. "I cannot hear anything. It is all your imagination!"

"Yes, I can hear them! I know they are going to kill me. Please, please save me!" begged the thief.

"Save you? How will I save you?" asked the husband. He thought for a moment and then said, "All right, here is our bed. You hide under the bed and then if the gang of robbers comes in here I will say that there is no other thief in the house, there is nobody else here, nobody."

Gratefully, the thief crawled under the bed. The husband whispered something to his wife for a few moments. Then, through the back door, the husband went away.

The poor wife was alone in the room with a thief under the bed. So they waited. Before long, the gang of robbers burst through the door and started shouting, "Where is the thief? Where is the thief?"

The wife began crying, "I do not know where the thief is."

"Now tell us, where is your husband?" demanded the leader of the gang.

"I do not know where my husband is," she continued.

"You do not know where your husband is?" echoed the robbers in disbelief.

"I do not know where he has gone!" she sobbed.

Then the leader of the gang started to get angry with the wife. "Look, we saw a thief coming here. We saw him entering this house. We were at a distance, but we know that he did not come out again. Now you are saying that you do not know where the thief is and, what is more, your husband is not here. How can we believe it? If you do not tell us where your husband is and where the thief is, then we are going to kill you."

"But we promised the thief that we would help him hide," said the wife, pitifully. "How can I tell the truth now? If I tell you where he is, then I will be breaking my promise. And if I do not tell you, you will kill me! Which one is better?"

The leader of the gang said, "You decide! Either your life is more important or your stupid promise."

"Oh no," said the wife, "now I see that my life is more important. My husband will come home soon and if he sees that I am no longer alive, he will die of grief. So I am telling you where the thief is. The thief is under the bed."

The gang of robbers hauled the thief out from under the bed and began beating him ruthlessly. In the meantime, the husband had gone to the police station. He returned with the police and they arrested the gang of robbers.

Look at the intelligence and presence of mind of the husband! First, he offered the thief all his valuables. He said, "You take, take!" But when the thief heard a noise and got frightened, the husband gave him a safe place under their bed. Then, as he was leaving the house to go and inform the police, he whispered to his wife, "When the gang of robbers comes, you tell them where that fellow is hiding." In this way the thief's hiding place was revealed and he was ruthlessly beaten by the robbers.

When we start doing wrong things, like the thief in this story, we continue and continue. But there comes a time when we are caught and punished. Hopefully, at that time, illumination dawns in our lives.

From:Sri Chinmoy,The Master and the circus clown, Agni Press, 2005
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