Bedtime Stories in English - A Kind Thief

 A Kind Thief

"My lord! Here is a thief. This daredevil young man had the audacity to enter a nobleman's house last night during the rains. Luckily he was caught," the police officer told the Emir of Bassora. The Emir looked at the youth with scorn. But his scorn soon changed into surprise. The young man looked dignified and intelligent. "Did you enter the house in order to steal?" asked the Emir. "Yes, my lord," replied the young man calmly. "Do you know what is the punishment for your crime? Your arms are to be chopped off!" said the Emir. The young man nodded. It became clear that he had no desire to claim that he was innocent. "All right, throw him in jail. Tomorrow he will receive the punishment," said the Emir. He had punished hundreds of culprits and criminals in his life. But he felt very unhappy with this case. He did not want to punish the young man, but he had no other go. Law must take its course when the accused himself confesses to his crime.

At night the Emir strolled towards the prison. He heard an extremely sweet song coming from prison. He advanced slowly and found out that the singer was none other than the young man waiting to be punished the next day. The Emir ordered the young man to be brought before him. "My boy," he said when the prisoner was led to his presence, "even now there is time for you to escape the terrible punishment. You have confessed to your crime before others. All you have to do is to withdraw your confession before all. Tomorrow you will be led to the park. But before giving orders for chopping off your hands, I will ask you if you had entered the house for some other reason. You can give some reasons. I'll then suspend the punishment. People will soon forget about it and I will release you after some days. I say this because I cannot believe that you are a thief! Do you understand me?" "I do understand you. You are very kind. Thank you, sir," said the young man. The Emir was happy. He was sure that the prisoner will do as advised by him. It was the custom in those days to announce in the public when someone was to receive a major punishment. People gathered in the park to witness the punishment, particularly when the culprit was to lose his head or arms or eyes. Almost the whole city of Bassora turned up at the park the next day, in the afternoon, hearing the announcement in the morning. 

The prisoner, his hands bound and legs in fetters was led up a platform on which the Emir and his officers were already present. "Young man, did you enter the house for some purpose other than stealing? Did you have someone familiar to you in that house, with whom you had some urgent business?" the Emir asked loudly. The prisoner cast a serene look at the silent multitude and then lowering his head, said, "No my lord, I had no other business in that house!" There were waves of murmur from the crowd. People were full of pity for the young man who looked innocent and who was of aristocratic bearing. Over that, he's giving up the chance to claim innocence moved them to their hearts. Only the Emir looked annoyed and grave. What a fool this young man was! He totally ignored his tutoring! "Let him forfeit his arms!" he gave the command. The executioner brandished his sword and advanced towards the prisoner. Suddenly there was a commotion in the crowd. A young lady was seen pushing her way forward. She climbed the platform at great speed and stood, in front of the prisoner, in order to protect him from the sword. "Chop off my hands if you must! This young man has spoken a lie, at my behest, and to safeguard my dignity." 

All were stunned, "Come down, my daughter, come down! Are you mad?" shouted an elderly man making his way towards the platform. But the Emir signed the man to stop. He asked the young lady, "What have you to say, my daughter, Will you come out with the full story?" Between her sobs the young lady narrated all that had happened. Years ago, when she and her parents lived in another town they had a rich neighbor. The young man was their son. The neighbors were so friendly that they had even thought of marrying her to the young man. But the situation changed. The girl's parents shifted to Bassora. The young man's parents became so poor, there was no connection between the two families. The young man was on a visit to Bassora. He was returning to his inn at night when a terrible storm broke out. He climbed the verandah of a house little knowing that it belonged to his old neighbors. Through the window, the girl saw him. In frequent flashes of lightning, she recognized him. He was drenched. She opened the door and gave him a towel to wipe himself. It was past midnight and all were asleep. The two talked for an hour. The girl informed the young man that her parents had decided to marry her off to a merchant's son. In fact, the merchant was lodged in that very house that night, he had come to finalize the arrangements for the wedding. The young man asked jokingly, "What will happen if I am found inside your room at this hour?."

"Well, I have to cry that a thief had entered the house and you too have to declare yourself a thief for sake of my dignity!" replied the girl, also in joke. It so happened that the girl's uncle saw the young man when he was leaving her room. "A thief, a thief!" he shouted. Soon the young man was chased and caught. The girl's parents knew who the young man was. But they were afraid of identifying him. They did not wish their would-be son-in-law's father to suspect their daughter. Tears drizzled in the Emir's eyes when he heard the story. "Here is a brave young man, who would not let any suspicion be cast on an innocent girl even if he were to lose his arms! What an example of sacrifice! If I had a daughter I would have married her to this young man!" the Emir said. The girl's father came upon the platform and greeted the Emir and said, "My lord, allow me to give my daughter in marriage to this young man. I feel ashamed for my conduct in refusing to recognize him." The Emir smiled. The crowd applauded. The marriage took place under the loving supervision of the Emir himself. 

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