THE SHARPER OF ALEXANDRIA AND THE CHIEF OF POLICE.



There was once in the coast-fortress of Alexandria, a Chief of Police, Husám al-Din highs, the sharp Scymitar of the Faith. Now one night as he sat in his seat of office, behold, there came in to him a trooper-wight who said, "Know, O my lord the Chief, that I entered your 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 sliced open and a purse of a thousand gold pieces stolen from them." No sooner had he done speaking than the Chief summoned his chief officials and bade them lay hands on all in the khan and clap them in limbo till the morning; and on the morrow, he caused bring the rods and whips used in punishment, and, sending for the prisoners, was about to flog them till they confessed in the presence of the owner of the stolen money when, lo! a man broke through the crowd till he came up to the Chief of Police,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Forty-second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Chief was about to flog them when lo! a man broke through the crowd till he came up to the Chief of Police and the trooper and said; "Ho! Emir, let these folk go, for they are wrongously accused. It was I who robbed this trooper, and see, here is the purse I stole from his saddle-bags." So saying, he pulled out the purse from his sleeve and laid it before Husam al-Din, who said to the soldier, "Take thy money and pouch it; thou now hast no ground of complaint against the people of the khan." Thereupon these folk and all who were present fell to praising the thief and blessing him; but he said, "Ho! Emir, the skill is not in that I came to thee in person and brought thee the purse; the cleverness was in taking it a second time from this trooper." Asked the Chief, "And how didst thou do to take it, O sharper?"; and the robber replied, "O Emir, I was standing in the Shroff's [FN#396] bazar at Cairo, when I saw this soldier receive the gold in change and put it in yonder purse; so I followed him from by-street to by-street, but found no occasion of stealing it. Then he travelled from Cairo and I followed him from town to town, plotting and planning by the way to rob him, but without avail, till he entered this city and I dogged him to the khan. I took up my lodging beside him and watched him till he fell asleep and I heard him sleeping; when I went up to him softly, softly; and I slit open his saddle-bags with this knife, and took the purse in the way I am now taking it." So saying, he put out his hand and took the purse from before the Chief of Police and the trooper, both of whom, together with the folk, drew back watching him and thinking he would show them how he took the purse from the saddle-bags. But, behold! he suddenly broke into a run and threw himself into a pool of standing water [FN#397] hard by. So the Chief of the Police shouted to his officers, "Stop thief!" and many made after him; but before they could doff their clothes and descend the steps, he had made off; and they sought for him, but found him not; for that the by-streets and lanes of Alexandria all communicate. So they came back without bringing the purse; and the Chief of Police said to the trooper, "Thou hast no demand upon the folk; for thou fondest 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 Police, and all this was of the favour of Almighty Allah. [FN#398] And they also tell the tale of