The Princess’s Pearl Necklace
Once upon a time, a long time ago, when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, the Bodhisattva, having perfected his education, became captain of the king’s guards.
One day, the princess and her friends were walking in the palace gardens. Since it was a very hot summer day they decided to swim in the royal pool. Taking off all their clothes, everybody jumped into the water except the princess, who was wearing her favorite pearl necklace. Taking the necklace off, she gave it to her maidservant for safekeeping before jumping in herself. The girl put the necklace in a little box and sat down under a tree to watch.
A group of monkeys lived in the fruit trees around the water. A little girl monkey was watching as the princess put the necklace in the box. She thought the necklace was very pretty and imagined how it would look around her own neck. So she waited around hoping to catch the girl off her guard and get the necklace.
The maidservant, tired of watching the princess playing with her coterie, began to nod in the heat of the day, and finally fast asleep, let go of the box.
Quick as the wind the girl monkey jumped down and grabbed the necklace and scampered back up the tree. With the pearls around her neck she climbed around and sat and admired herself for a while. Then not wanting the other monkeys to see it, she hid the string of pearls in a hollow of the tree.
Soon the poor maidservant woke up with a start, saw that the necklace was gone and screamed, ” A man has run off with the princess’s pearl necklace!”
The palace guards came from all around. They searched high and low for a thief in the garden. A wandering oaf outside the walls heard the commotion, and sure of being accused, took to his heels. This made the guards on the wall suspicious.
” There he goes.” they cried. And they caught up with him, beat him and then questioned him.
” Where have you put the pearls?” they demanded. ” How dare you steal from the princess?”
He thought they would probably beat him to death if he denied it, so he confessed to the theft and was dragged off and brought before the king.
The captain of the guards was there and listened to the account of the theft and the capture of the thief outside the walls. He knew that no man could have entered the garden with his men on guard.
” If he is the thief, then why didn’t the guards see him?” asked the Bodhisattva.
” I don’t know, but if he didn’t do it, then why was he running away?” wondered one of the guards. So they searched him again.
” What did you do with the pearl necklace? asked the king.
The man was bewildered. He pleaded. “Please your majesty, I’ve never in my life owned anything of value, not even a bed or a chair much less a valuable necklace. It was the Treasurer who made me take the necklace; I took it and gave it to him. He knows all about it.”
Then the king sent for the Treasurer, and asked whether the ragged fellow had passed the necklace to him.
“Yes, sire,” was his answer.
“Where is it then?”
“I gave it to your majesty’s Chaplain.”
So they sent for the Chaplain who was questioned in the same way. And he said he had given it to the Chief Musician who in turn said he had given it to a courtesan as a present. But she, being brought before the King, utterly denied ever having received it.
Well, the captain of the guard didn’t believe any of it.
“I don’t see how anyone, whether inside or out, could have managed to get to the necklace without being seen by my guards. The truth is this poor wretched fellow must have said he gave it to the Treasurer merely in order to save his own skin; and the Treasurer must have said he gave it to the Chaplain, in the hope that he would get off if he could mix the Chaplain up in the matter, and the Chaplain must have thought that at least the Chief Musician would make the time pass merrily in prison; While the Chief Musician obviously thought that the courtesan would be some solace to him if she were arrested too. I don’t think one of the whole five had anything to do with the theft. Who could have been in the garden without being noticed? The monkeys swarm in the trees of the garden. Nobody would have seen a girl monkey steal it if she were fast and hid it somewhere right away.”
So the Bodhisattva had a number of glass bead necklaces made. He then went to the garden and passed them out to all of the monkeys. All but one. She kept sitting in the tree watching her treasure. The Captain of the Guards hid behind a large rock and waited. All the monkeys were prancing around showing off their necklaces. Until finally the little girl monkey pulled out her treasure put it around her neck. “see, you all have the same glass bead necklaces, but mine is made of pearls.”
At that moment the Bodhisattva came out, caught the monkey by the arm and took back the necklace. The mystery solved, he gave the little monkey a glass bead necklace and let her go.
The King was well pleased with the Bodhisattva’s ingenuity, and rewarded him generously, reciting this poem in his praise:
In war men prize the hero’s might
In peacetime council, wise insight
A jolly friend is often needed
But in a dilemma judgment succeeded