The Alchemist

In the olden days, there lived a man whose profession was that of those who call themselves alchemists. This man boasted that he could make gold. Now, when the king of his country heard about this, he had the man come before his throne to tell him about his secret. It was in vain that the man asserted that he did not know anything about it. “So then I will imprison you as a liar and an impostor”, the king said. “For this is what you are – either because you have publicly claimed that you can produce gold although you cannot, or because you claim today that you cannot do it although you can. Just tell us what you need for making gold. You shall have it in your dungeon. As soon as you have completed your work you shall tell us, and if you reveal to us how you have accomplished your task, you shall be released.”

Now the poor man had plenty of time to try out his alchemist skills. One day he reported to the jailor: “I have discovered something.” “So what have you discovered?” “I have discovered the secret of how the Chinese produce their porcelain which they sell for gold at our royal court.” The jailor reported this to the king, and the king asked his prisoner to be brought before him once again. After the alchemist had reported his discovery to the king, the king exclaimed: “You have not discovered how to produce gold, but something which is worth more than gold.” With these words, he asked the guards to set the man free, to clothe him like a nobleman and send him home with precious gifts.

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