ONCE upon a time there was a man and he wished to marry. So he went to the Seers and asked them to foretell his future.
The Seers looked at their books and said to him, "If you marry you will certainly have a child, a very beautiful boy, but with one blemish; he will be a thief, the biggest thief that ever was."
So that man said, "Never mind, even if he be a thief; I should like to have a son."
So he married, and in due time a child was born, a beautiful boy.
The child was carefully brought up till he was old enough to have a teacher. Then the father engaged a professor to come and teach him every day. He built a house a little distance from the town and put him in it, and that professor came every morning and taught him during the day, and in the evening returned home. Now the father ordered the professor never to let his son see any other soul but himself, and he thought by that means that his son would escape the fate that had been decreed by the Seers; for if he never saw any other person he could have no one to teach him to steal.
One day the professor came, and he told the lad about a horse of the Sultan's, which used to go out to exercise by itself and return by itself, and was of great strength and speed.
Then that youth asked where was the Sultan's palace, and his professor took him up on to the flat roof and pointed out to him the palace and its neighbourhood.
That night, after the professor left, the youth slipped out and came to the Sultan's stables, stole the horse, and returned home with it.
Next day the professor was a little late in coming, so the lad asked him, "Sheikh, why have you delayed to-day?" The professor said, "I stayed to hear the news. Behold, some one has stolen the Sultan's horse which I told you about yesterday."
Then that lad asked, "What does the Sultan propose to do?"
The old man replied, "He thought of sending out his soldiers, but then he heard of a seer who is able to detect a thief by looking at his books, so he is going to ask him first."
So the youth asked, "Where does that seer live?"
The professor then pointed out the seer's house and its neighbourhood.
That night the youth slipped out and came to the seer's house and found that the seer was out. He saw his wife and said to her--
"My mistress, the seer has sent me to fetch his box of books."
So the wife brought out the box containing all his books of magic and gave them to him, and he took them and returned with them to his house.
Next day his professor was late, and when he came he said to him, "Father, why have you delayed?"
The old man said, "I stopped to hear the news. Do you remember the seer of whom I told you yesterday, who was to find out the thief for the Sultan? Well, he has now been robbed of his books of magic."
The youth asked, "What does the Sultan intend to do?"
The old man replied, "He was about to send out his soldiers, and then he heard that there was a magician who is able to detect a thief by casting charms, so he is going to consult him."
Then the youth asked, "Where does the magician live?"
So the old man took him on the roof and pointed out the magician's house and its neighbourhood.
That night, after the professor had gone, the youth went out and came to the house of the magician. He found him out, but saw his wife and said to her, "Mother, I fear to ask you, for was not the seer robbed in like manner yesterday? but the magician has sent me to fetch his bag of charms."
That woman said, "Have no fear; the thief's not you, my child;" and she gave him the bag of charms, and he took them and went to his house.
Next day, when the professor came, he asked for the news, and he said, "Did I not tell you yesterday that the Sultan was going to get a magician to tell him the thief by casting his charms? Well, last night the magician had his bag of charms stolen."
Then the youth asked, "What is the Sultan going to do?"
The old man answered, "He was going to send out his soldiers to catch the thief, but he heard that a certain woman said she knew who the thief was, and so he is going to pay her to tell him."
The youth asked where the woman lived, and the old man pointed out her house to him.
That evening the youth went out, and came to the house of that woman and found her outside, and he said to her, "Mother, I am thirsty; give me a drink of water."
So she went to the well to draw some water, and the youth came behind her and pushed her in. Then he went into the house and took her clothes and jewellery and brought them back to his house.
Next day, when the professor came, he asked the news, and he said, "My son, I told you yesterday that there was a woman who said that she could tell the Sultan the name of the thief. Well, last night the thief came and pushed her into the well and stole her things."
Then that youth asked, "What does the Sultan propose to do?"
The old man replied, "He is sending his soldiers out to look for the thief."
That night, after the professor had gone, the youth dressed up as a soldier, and went out and met the soldiers of the Sultan looking for the thief.
He said to them, "That is not the way to look for a thief. The way to look for a thief is to sit down very quietly in a place, and then perhaps you will see or hear him."
So he brought them all to one place and made them sit down, and one by one they all fell asleep. When they were all asleep he took their weapons and all their clothes he could carry and came with them to his house.
Next day, when the professor came, he asked him the news, and he said, "Last night the Sultan sent his soldiers out to look for the thief and behold, the thief stole their arms and their clothes, so that they returned naked."
Then the youth asked, "And now, what does the Sultan propose to do?"
The old man said, "To-night the Sultan goes himself to look for the thief."
The youth said, "That is good, for the wisdom of Sultans is great."
That night the youth dressed up as a woman and scented himself and went out. He saw in the distance a lamp, and knew that it was the Sultan looking for the thief, so he passed near. When the Sultan smelt those goodly scents he turned round to see whence they came, and he saw a very beautiful woman.
He asked, "Who are you?"
The lad replied, "I was just returning home when I saw your light, so I stepped aside to let you pass."
The Sultan said, "You must come and talk with me a little."
That lad said, "No, I must go home."
They were just outside the prison, so at last the youth consented to go in and talk for a little while with the Sultan.
When they got inside the courtyard, the youth took a pair of leg-irons and asked the Sultan, "What are these?"
The Sultan replied, "Those are the leg-irons with which we fasten our prisoners."
Then that youth said, "Oh, fasten them on me, that I may see how they work."
The Sultan said, "No, you are a woman, but I will put them on to show you," and he put them on.
The youth looked up and saw a gang-chain and asked, "What is that?"
The Sultan said, "That is what we put round their necks, and the end is fastened to the wall."
So the youth said, "Oh, put it on my neck, that I may see what it is like."
The Sultan replied, "No, you are a woman, but I will put it on my neck to show you;" so he put it on.
Then the youth took the key of the leg-irons and of the gang-chain, and looked up and saw a whip and said, "What is that?"
"That," said the Sultan, "is a whip with which we whip our prisoners if they are bad."
So the youth picked up the whip and began beating the Sultan. After the first few strokes the Sultan said, "Stop, that is enough fun-making."
But the youth went on and beat him soundly, and then went out, leaving the Sultan in chains and chained to the wall, and he also locked the door of the prison and took the key and went home. Next day the Sultan was found to be in the prison, and they could not get in to let him out or free him.
So a crier was sent round the town to cry, "Any one who can deliver the Sultan from prison will be given a free pardon for any offence he has committed."
So, when the cries came to that youth's house, he said, "Oho, I want that as a certificate in writing before I will say what I know."
When these words were brought to the Wazir, he had a document drawn up, giving a free pardon to any one who would deliver the Sultan. Then he brought it round to the prison for the Sultan's signature, and as they could not get it in they pushed it through the window on the end of a long pole. Then the Sultan signed it, and it was given to that youth, who handed over the key of the prison and of the chains and fetters. After the Sultan had been released he called that youth to his palace, and the youth took the horse, and the sage's books of magic, and the magician's bag of charms, and the woman's clothes and jewellery, and the soldiers' arms and clothes, and came to the palace.
When the Sultan heard his story he said that he was indeed a very clever youth, so he made him his Wazir.
This is the story of the man who would have a child, even though he should be a thief.