69. Thug and Master-Thug
In a certain town lived two rival thieves, called Thug and Master-Thug. Thug was a strong man, a wrestler. Master-Thug was very clever. Thug couldn't bear the fact that the other fellow, thin as a reed, should be known as Master-Thug. One blow and this fellow would reel seven reels and fall to the floor—but he has this title!
Once they both went to a town like Belgaum to rob houses. Master-Thug broke into a rich man's house and stole ten thousand rupees. On the way, he met Thug, who knew right away by the looks of his pockets that the other thief had a lot of money. So Thug decided to rob Master-Thug. He stuck to him like a leech and engaged him in casual conversation. Night fell and they both went to a public hostel, found a place to sleep, and spread their blankets for the night. Master-Thug soon fell asleep. Thug got up silently and searched the sleeping man's pockets, his bag, and even his bedclothes. But he couldn't find a trace of the ten thousand rupees. Disappointed, he too fell asleep, wondering where the other man could have hidden it. But when he woke up in the morning, Master-Thug was up already, his pockets bulging obviously with the money. Again, they talked of this and that, and resumed their journey.
It was evening again and they found a hostel in another town, found a place to spread their blankets, and went to bed. Master-Thug, as before, was the first to fall asleep. Thug kept awake and deftly, silently, searched his rival's belongings for the money. He didn't find any trace of it. He even searched the corners and cracks of the room. He didn't find it. He slid his hand into the rafters and poked in the bushes outside. The money wasn't anywhere to be found. He too fell asleep, quite nonplussed.
Next morning, Master-Thug employed two muscular men as his bodyguards and started out with them. Thug joined them. When they reached the outskirts of their hometown, Thug stopped and asked his rival, “Where did you keep your money the last two nights? I'm curious.”
“Ah,” said Master-Thug with a laugh. “That's where the art of thuggery lies. I know why you have been following me. So, every night, I hid the money right under your bed. How would you find it by looking into my clothes, my pillow, my bed?”
Thug saluted him and said, “No wonder you're called Master-Thug,” and went home.
[NKTT, but cf. AT 1525, The Master Thief.]