There was an aged couple who lived in a pair of houses. And four thieves used to prowl round their houses, seeking to steal. And the old man set to work to contrive devices to disappoint them. And first he filled a joint of bamboo with cow dung and dirty water and rice-chaff1, and hung it up in the rafters of the dhenki-shed. And when at nightfall the thieves began prowling round and listening to hear if the inmates were asleep, the old people overheard them, and the old man said to his wife "Old woman, old woman; where have you hung up the molasses2 and milk and chira3?" And the old woman replied "A nice business! I have been and gone and hung them up in the dhenki-shed, where the thieves can get at them." And the thieves, hearing this, slipped off to the shed, and, getting the bamboo-joint, gathered plantain leaves for plates, and divided the spoil and sat down to eat. And one of them, smelling at the stuff, said to the others "Smells rather strong, doesn't it?" Then one of them took his mess in his hand and smelled it, and, seeing what had happened, they all burst out laughing. Then the old man came out with his big stick, and the four thieves ran away. Another day, the old man, hearing the thieves prowling about, said to his wife "Where have you hung the packet of salt?" And the old woman replied "A fine affair! I have hung it up on south wall of our sleeping-house, where the thieves can easily get it." And so one of the thieves thrust his hand in, and began feeling about for the bundle, on which the old man took his knife and cut his hand. But he only said "I can't find it," and went away.
On which the other three felt about, and one got his finger cut, and another his ear, and the fourth his nose. Then they looked about in the yard for something to ease the pain, and the first, finding a cooking pot in which acrid plantain ashes had been steeped, plunged his hand in, and, getting more pain than before, only said
"Ah! That’s good." On which the others followed his example. And, while they were hopping about in pain, the old man came out and took his stick, and drove them away.
Another day, the old people found a wasps' nest on a chili plant under a plantain tree. And when the thieves came, the old man said to his wife "Old woman, old woman, where have you put the lota with our money in it?" And the old woman answered "Today's luck is the worst of all. I have left the lota under the plantain tree in the garden, by the chili bush, and no doubt the thieves will get it." Hearing this, the thieves went and disturbed the wasps' nest, and the wasps flew out and stung them. And when they cried in pain and ran away, the old man ran after them with his stick and beat them soundly.
Again, another day, when the old man went out to cut reeds for his fence, he found the four thieves asleep under an O tree (the fruit of which is hard and heavy), and the old man, climbing quietly into the tree, cut four of the fruits, with the stalks attached, and tied them to the thieves' hair. Then he suddenly cried out "Thief! thief!" And the more they ran, the more the heavy fruit bumped on their backs, so that they thought the old man was running after them and beating them. And they ran a very long way before they discovered their mistake, and unloosed the fruit from their hair.
And, again, the old man climbed into the mat receptacle in which the paddy was stored; but, before doing so, he instructed his wife to imitate his voice and ask where the brass plates and cups had been put; and to answer in her own voice that they had been put into the paddy receptacle in the dhenki-shed. And when the thieves heard all this, they hurried to the dhenki-shed, and, lifting up the paddy receptacle, said with one accord: "My! Isn’t it heavy?" And so they tied it to poles and carried it away on their shoulders.
Presently, they came to a deep river, and as they were wading across, the old man cried "Look here! I am getting wet, carry it higher." On which they said to one another "Surely, someone spoke?" But, thinking it was a mistake, they went on, and came to deeper water. On this the old man called out again "Stupid brutes! Sons of slaves! Can't you see your way? I am getting wet through." And the thieves were frightened, and, dropping the old man in the water, ran clean away. That's all!
1. The dry, scaly protective casings of the seeds of cereal grain
2. A thick sweet black liquid in cooking
3. Type of Indian food