The boy Ah Niew was an orphan whose mother died when he was two years old. His grandmother brought him up by selling cakes cooked in oil. He carried the cakes in the basket lined with oily paper and peddled these in the streets. One day, Ah Niew was especially lucky. He had sold the three hundred cakes very fast. He was about to go home home when he saw an old woman crossing the street with a basketful of fruits. In her haste, she stumbled and her fruits rolled in the streets. Ah Niew put down his basket with the money in it and came to the woman’s rescue. He gathered the fruits, rubbed off the dust from them, and returned them in the basket. When he turned to get his own basket, it was gone. He looked around and saw it beside a big stone. But the money was gone. Ah Niew cried so loud that the people came to see what was the matter. “Oh!Oh! My money is gone…” Ah Niew wailed. “What will my grandmother say? She work so hard baking all those dakes in oil – and I sold them all. But the money is gone. Paw Kong, a Mandarin who was a kindhearted judge, happened to be passing by. Ah Niew ran to him for help. Paw Kong scrutinized the faces of the onlookers. He said to a young man, “Did you take the boy’s money?” “No,” replied the young man.
“Did you take it?” he asked a stout man.
“No,” he replied.
All the people around whom he had asked denied that they had taken the money. Paw Kong said, “I have asked all of you and none would admit theft. The only remaining object nearby is this stone, so it must be the thief. Servants, take that stone to the court. I shall try it for taking the boy’s money. The people laughed but they were curious to see the trial of the stone, so they went with Paw Kong to the court. “You must each pay twenty cents to enter the court,” Paw Kong told them. The judge instructed the servants to put a pot of water at the entrance to the court. “Each person must put twenty cents in the pot of water before he enters the court,” he told the people. Paw Kong stood by the pot of water, looking intently at the water as each man dropped in hid twenty cents. The pot was nearly full of money. At last, the man with a big nose put in twenty cents.
“That is the man who took the money,” said Paw Kong. “Servants, take him! Look in his bag and you will find the money.” The mandarin’s servants seized the man, opened his bag, and true enough! They found two hundred eighty cents. “That is my money,” shouted Ah Niew.
“Yes, that is your money,” agreed Paw Kong.
“How did you know that is the boy’s money?” asked the people. “Look!” said Paw Kong. “Look at the water. Ah Niew put his money under the paper lining of the basket. I saw the paper. So his money has oil in it. There is oil on the water, which appeared only when the man put his twenty cents in the pot.” Then Paw Kong told his servants, “Give Ah Niew his money, plus all the money in the pot.” Turning to Ah Niew, he said, “Your grandmother makes very delicious cakes. You may ask her to make twenty of them, and you bring them to me.” “Thank you, thank you, Sir,” replied the grateful Ah Niew as he skipped gaily home to his grandmother.