THE THIEF AND THE MERCHANT



There was once a thief who repented to Almighty Allah with sincere penitence; so he opened himself a shop for the sale of stuffs, where he continued to trade awhile. It so chanced one day that he locked his shop and went home, and in the night there came to the bazar an artful thief disguised in the habit of the merchant, and pulling out keys from his sleeve, said to the watchman of the market, “Light me this wax-candle.”  The watchman took the taper and went to light it, -- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Ninety-ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the watchman took the taper and went to light it, whilst the thief opened the shop and lit another candle he had by him.  When the watchman came back, he found him seated in the shop, account-books inhand, and reckoning with his fingers; nor did he cease to do thus till point of day, when he said to the man, “Fetch me a camel-driver and his camel, to carry some goods for me.”  So the man fetched him a camel, and the thief took four bales [FN#157] of stuffs and gave them to the cameleer, who loaded them on his beast.  Then he gave the watchman two dirhams and went away after the camel-driver, leaving the watchman believing him to be the owner of the shop.  Now when the morning dawned and day broke the merchant came and the watchman began greeting him with blessings, because of the two dirhams; but the shop-keeper wondered at his words as one not knowing what he meant.  When he opened his shop, he saw the droppings of the wax and the account-book lying on the floor, and looking round, found four bales of stuffs missing.  So he asked the watchman what had happened and he told him what has passed in the night and what had been said to the cameleer, whereupon the merchant bade him fetch the man and asked him, “Whither didst thou carry the stuffs this morning?”  Answered the driver, “To such a landing-place, and I stowed them on board such a vessel.”  Said the merchant, “Come with me thither;” so the camel-driver carried him to the landing-place and said to him, “This be the barque and this be her owner.”  Quoth the merchant to the seaman, “Whither didst thou carry the merchant and the stuff?”  Answered the boat-master, “To such a place, where he fetched a camel-driver and, setting the bales on the camel, went his ways I know not whither.”  “Fetch me the cameleer who carried the goods,” said the merchant; so he fetched him and the merchant said to him, “Whither didst thou carry the bales of goods from the ship?”  “To such a Khan,” answered he; and the merchant rejoined, “Come thither with me and show it to me.”  So the camel-man went with him to a place far distant from the shore and showed him the Khan where he had set down the stuffs, and at the same time the false merchant’s magazine, which he opened and found therein his four bales bound up as they had been packed.  The thief had laid his cloak over them; so the merchant took the cloak as well as the bales and delivered them to the camel-driver, who laid them on his camel; after which he locked the magazine and went away with the cameleer.  On the way, he was confronted with the thief who followed him, till he had shipped the bales, when he said to him, “O my brother (Allah have thee in His holy keeping!), thou hast indeed recovered thy goods and naught of them is lost; so give me back my cloak.”  The merchant laughed and, giving him back his cloak, let him go unhindered; whereupon both went their ways.  And they tell a tale of



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