Inspirational Stories from Jataka Tales for Kids (Project Aakaar)
The Young man who sold the dead mouse
Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares in Kasi,
the Bodhisatta was born into the Treasurer's family, and growing up, was made Treasurer, being called Treasurer Little.
A wise and clever man was he, with a keen eye for signs and omens.
One day on his way to wait upon the king, he came on a dead mouse lying on the road ; ]
and, taking note of the position of the stars at that moment,
he said, "Any decent young fellow with his wits about him has only to pick that mouse up, and he might start a business and keep a wife."
His words were overheard by a young man of good family but reduced circumstances,
who said to himself, "That's a man who has always got a reason for what he says."
And accordingly he picked up the mouse, which he sold for a farthing at a tavern
for their cat.
With the farthing he got molasses and took drinking water in a water- pot.
Coming on flower-gatherers returning from the forest, he gave each a tiny quantity of the molasses and ladled the water out to them.
Each of them gave him a handful of flowers, with the proceeds of which, next day,
he came back again to the flower grounds provided with more molasses
and a pot of water. That day the flower-gatherers, before they went,
gave him flowering plants with half the flowers left on them ;
and thus in a little while he obtained eight pennies.
Later, one rainy and windy day, the wind blew down a quantity of rotten branches
and boughs and leaves in the king's pleasaunce, and the gardener did not see how to clear them away.
Then up came the young man with an offer to remove the lot, if the wood and leaves might be his. The gardener closed with the offer on the spot.
Then this apt pupil of Treasurer Little repaired to the children's playground and
in a very little while had got them by bribes of molasses to collect every stick and leaf
in the place into a heap at the entrance to the pleasaunce.
Just then the king's potter was on the look out for fuel to fire bowls for the palace,
and coming on this heap, took the lot off his hands. The sale of his wood brought
in sixteen pennies to this pupil of Treasurer Little, as well as five bowls and other vessels. Having now twenty-four pennies in all, a plan occurred to him. He went to the vicinity of tlie city-gate with a jar full of water and supplied 500 mowers with water to drink.
Said they, "You've done us a good turn, friend. What can we do for you'
"Oh, I'll tell you when I want your aid," said he; and as he went about, he struck up an intimacy with a land-trader and a sea-trader. Said the former to him, "To-morrow there will come to town a horse-dealer with 500 horses to sell." On hearing this piece of news, he said to the mowers, " I want each of you to-day to give me a bundle of grass and not to sell your own grass till mine is sold." "Certainly," said they, and delivered the 500 bundles of grass at his house. Unable to get grass for his horses
elsewhere, the dealer purchased our friend's grass for a thousand pieces.
Only a few days later his sea-trading friend brought him news of the arrival of a large ship in port; and another plan struck him. He hired for eight pence a well appointed carriage which plied for hire by the hour, and went in great style down to the port. Having bought the ship on credit and deposited his signet-ring as secui'ity, he had a pavilion pitched hard by and said to his people as he took his seat inside, "When merchants are being shewn in, let them be passed on by tln-ee successive ushers into
my presence.Hearing that a ship had arrived in port, about a hundred merchants came down to buy the cargo; only to be told that they could not have it as a great merchant had already made a payment on account. So away they all went to the young man ; and the footmen duly announced them by three successive ushers, as had been arranged before- hand. Each man of the hundred severally gave him a thousand pieces to buy a share in the ship and then a further thousand each to buy him out altogether. So it was with 200,000 pieces that this pupil of Treasurer Little returned to Benares.
Actuated by a desire to shew his gratitude, he went with one hundred thousand pieces to call on Treasurer Little. " How did you come by all this wealth?" asked the Treasurer. "In four short months, simply by following your advice," replied the young man ; and he told him the whole story, starting with the dead mouse. Thought Lord High Treasurer Little, on hearing all this, " I must see that a young fellow of these parts does not fall into anybody else's hands." So he married him to his own grown-up daughter and settled all the family estates on the young man. And at the Treasurer's death, he became Treasurer in that city. And the Bodhisatva passed away to fare according to his deserts.
His lesson ended, the Supreme Buddha, the All-Knowing One him- self, repeated this stanza : —
With humblest start and trifling capital
A shrewd and able man will rise to wealth.E'en as his breath can nurse a tiny flame.