One cold winter's day, a farmer was carrying a bucket of rotten eggs, mouldy cabbage, and smelly fish bones to his pigs. He tripped up on an uneven pavement and the contents spilt all over the front of a tailor's shop.
The tailor came storming out. "Pooh! Clear up that mess," he shouted.
"Sorry," said the farmer, "I'll go and fetch a mop."
"It smells so bad I demand you clear it up right away, with your coat."
"Please, no," said the farmer. "It's the only one I own."
"Too bad!" said the tailor.
At that moment, a judge was passing by. He ordered his chauffeur to stop his car and stepped out onto the street. "What a stink!
Why don't you clear it up, farmer?" he asked.
The farmer explained. "Without my coat, I'll freeze to death," he said.
"Never mind. Use it," commanded the judge.
Muttering unhappily, the farmer obeyed.
The tailor laughed unkindly.
"Happy now?" the judge asked him.
"So your case is closed," said the judge. "But the farmer's case is now open."
"What?!" The tailor's eyes nearly popped out of his head.
"Look at him," said the judge. "He is shivering with cold. That cold could develop into pneumonia, which could kill him. If that happens, you could be accused of murder."
"Oh, no," said the tailor. "What can I do?"
"Settle it out of court," said the judge, "by giving him a new coat right away. Go back inside your shop and pick the warmest coat you can find."
The warmest coat was the most expensive. The farmer was delighted with it. "Thank you," he said, before going on his way.
The judge smiled at the tailor. "Didn't I handle that case well?"
"Yes," mumbled the tailor.
"You can't be too careful with troublemakers," said the judge.
The idea for this story was borrowed from a legend called 聰明判官 about 羅貫中 (1330-1400) who wrote the famous historical novel三國演義.
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