THE SHARPER OF ALEXANDRIA AND THE MASTER OF POLICE

There was once, in the coast-fortress of Alexandria, a Master of Police, Husameddin by name, who was one night sitting in his seat of office, when there came in to him a trooper, who said to him, 'Know, O my lord, that I entered the city this night and alighted at such a khan and slept there, till a third part of the night was past, when I awoke and found my saddle-bags cut open and a purse of a thousand dinars stolen from them.' No sooner had he done speaking than the magistrate called his officers and bade them lay hands on all in the khan and clap them in prison till the morning; and on the morrow, he caused bring the instruments of torment and sending for the prisoners, was about to torture them, [to make them confess], in the presence of the owner of the stolen money, when, behold, a man pressed through the crowd and coming up to the chief of the police, said, 'O Amir, let these folk go, for they are wrongly accused. It was I who robbed the trooper, and here is the purse I stole from his saddle-bags.' So saying, he pulled out the purse from his sleeve and laid it before Husameddin, who said to the soldier, 'Take thy money; thou hast no ground of complaint now against the people of the khan.' Thereupon the latter and all who were present fell to blessing the thief and praising him; but he said, 'O Amir, the skill is not in that I came to thee and brought thee the purse, but in taking it a second time from the trooper.' 'And how didst thou take it, O sharper?' asked Husameddin.

'O Amir,' replied the thief, 'I was standing in the money-changers' bazaar at Cairo, when I saw yonder man receive the gold and put it in his purse; so I followed him from street to street, but found no occasion of stealing it from him. Then he left Cairo and I followed him from place to place, casting about by the way to rob him, but without avail, till he entered this city and I followed him to the khan. I took up my lodging beside him and watched him till he fell asleep and I heard him snoring, when I went softly up to him and cutting open his saddlebags with this knife, took the purse thus--'

So saying, he put out his hand and took the purse from before the chief of the police, whilst the latter and the trooper and the folk drew back, watching him and thinking he would show them how he took the purse from the saddle-bags; but, of a sudden, he broke into a run and threw himself into a reservoir hard by. The chief of the police called to his officers to pursue him, but before they could put off their clothes and descend the steps, he had made off; and they sought for him, but found him not; for the streets of Alexandria all communicate one with another. So they came back, empty-handed, and the chief of the police said to the trooper, 'Thou hast no recourse against the folk; for thou foundest him who robbed thee and receivedst back thy money, but didst not keep it.' So the trooper went away, having lost his money, whilst the folk were delivered from his hands and those of the chief of the police; and all this was of the favour of God the Most High.




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