A prince is returning home after completing his studies in India. Resting for a moment by the gate of his hometown, he is approached by a poor water seller, who tells him how he comes every day to the town to sell water to eke out a living. The man goes his own way, and a girl, another water seller, arrives, who is even poorer than the first water seller. As the girl leaves, the prince enters the town, where he is crowned king.
Around noon the two water sellers meet, fall in love, and decide to get married. The maiden wishes to have a proper wedding, and they decide to pool their meagre savings. The man goes off to find a silver half-penny which he has hidden in a crevice in a wall. Defying the hot midday sun, he goes to his cache.
The king looks out of his palace window and notices the water seller rushing by in the heat. He calls the man to him and asks where he is going. After hearing about the marriage plans, the king offers the man a silver half-penny, but the man still wants to find his own coin. The king then offers a hundred, a thousand, and finally a million coins. The man still wants to recover his own tiny savings, for he regards earned money as more valuable than anything else.
The king takes a liking to the water seller, offering him the rank of crown prince and half of the kingdom, and the offer is accepted. The water seller’s bride, and princess-to-be, is summoned to the palace. In the evening the king wishes to rest in his forest garden and invites the crown prince and princess to accompany him. The king falls asleep, and the crown prince hits upon the idea of killing him in order to gain the whole kingdom. But he is torn between the conflict of his own greed and his gratitude towards his benefactor.
The crown prince’s better nature prevails, and when the king awakes he confesses his devious aims. Instead of punishing him, the king is pleased by his honesty and offers him the throne. Upon hearing this, the crown prince is even more ashamed and begs the king to allow him to retire to the woods as a hermit, for he has learned that power and luxury corrupt the good in man. The princess arrives and, after hearing the events, decides to follow her husband. They go off into the woods to begin new life as ascetics.