One day the king went for a long walk in the woods. When he came back to his own garden, he sent for his family to come down to the lake for a swim.
When they were all ready to go into the water, the queen and her ladies left their jewels in charge of the servants, and then went down into the lake.
As the queen put her string of pearls away in a box, she was watched by a Girl Monkey who sat in the branches of a tree near-by. This Girl Monkey wanted to get the queen's string of pearls, so she sat still and watched, hoping that the servant in charge of the pearls would go to sleep.
At first the servant kept her eyes on the jewel-box. But by and by she began to nod, and then she fell fast asleep.
As soon as the Monkey saw this, quick as the wind she jumped down, opened the box, picked up the string of pearls, and quick as the wind she was up in the tree again, holding the pearls very carefully. She put the string of pearls on, and then, for fear the guards in the garden would see the pearls, the Monkey hid them in a hole in the tree. Then she sat near-by looking as if nothing had happened.
By and by the servant awoke. She looked in the box, and finding that the string of pearls was not there, she cried, "A man has run off with the queen's string of pearls."
Up ran the guards from every side.
The servant said: "I sat right here beside the box where the queen put her string of pearls. I did not move from the place. But the day is hot, and I was tired. I must have fallen asleep. The pearls were gone when I awoke."
The guards told the king that the pearls were gone.
"Find the man who stole the pearls," said the king. Away went the guards looking high and low for the thief.
After the king had gone, the chief guard said to himself:
"There is something strange here. These pearls," thought he, "were lost in the garden. There was a strong guard at the gates, so that no one from the outside could get into the garden. On the other hand, there are hundreds of Monkeys here in the garden. Perhaps one of the Girl Monkeys took the string of pearls."
Then the chief guard thought of a trick that would tell whether a Girl Monkey had taken the pearls. So he bought a number of strings of bright-colored glass beads.
After dark that night the guards hung the strings of glass beads here and there on the low bushes in the garden. When the Monkeys saw the strings of bright-colored beads the next morning, each Monkey ran for a string.
But the Girl Monkey who had taken the queen's string of pearls did not come down. She sat near the hole where she had hidden the pearls.
The other Monkeys were greatly pleased with their strings of beads. They chattered to one another about them. "It is too bad you did not get one," they said to her as she sat quietly, saying nothing. At last she could stand it no longer. She put on the queen's string of pearls and came down, saying proudly: "You have only strings of glass beads. See my string of pearls!"
Then the chief of the guards, who had been hiding near-by, caught the Girl Monkey. He took her at once to the king.
"It was this Girl Monkey, your Majesty, who took the pearls."
The king was glad enough to get the pearls, but he asked the chief guard how he had found out who took them.
The chief guard told the king that he knew no one could have come into the garden and so he thought they must have been taken by one of the Monkeys in the garden. Then he told the king about the trick he had played with the beads.
"You are the right man in the right place," said the king, and he thanked the chief of the guards over and over again.
This story is taken from More Jataka Tales, as retold by Ellen C. Babbitt, New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1922. This text is now in the public domain in the United States. All illustrations are by Ellsworth Young.