Who Can Plant the Seeds?

By Paul Wharton

A man once stole a piece of food and was ordered by the king to be hanged. When asked if he had any last words, the thief replied, "Know, o king, that I kept some seeds which when planted in the ground will grow and become mature plants overnight. It is a secret that my grandfather gave me and I thought it would be a pity if it died with me."

A time was appointed the following day for planting the seeds. The thief dug a hole and said, "These seeds can only be planted by someone who has never stolen or taken anything which did not belong to him. But since I had stolen some food, I cannot, of course, do it."

The king asked his prime minister to plant the seeds, but he hesitated and said, "Your majesty, when I was young, I recall keeping an article that did not belong to me. I cannot plant the seeds."

The treasurer, when told to plant the seeds, begged the king's pardon, saying that he may have cheated someone out of some money. The king, in his turn, recalled that once he took and kept a precious object belonging to his father.

The thief turned to them and said, "You are all mighty and powerful persons. You are not in want of anything, yet you cannot plant the seeds. Yet I, who stole a little food to stay alive, am to be hanged."

The king, pleased with the wisdom, spared the man's life.