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How The King Of Pagan Caught The Thief
by [?]

Many, many years ago there lived near the old city of Pagan a famous robber chief who was so fierce and cruel that he made all men fear his name. He stole and killed and burned till the mothers used to frighten their disobedient children by saying, “Boh Lek Byah will get thee.” He was a very brave and clever thief, and he became so strong that the headmen and elders of all the towns and villages throughout the country were obliged to fee him with money and goods, and if by any chance they did not pay this blackmail immediately it was demanded, that very night the followers of the robber chief would assuredly burn down their village and kill every man, woman, and child within it, for this was Shan and Burmese custom.

Boh Lek Byah entered every house in Pagan. None was too big, none too small. He stole from the whon’s house as easily as from the hut of the poor man; it made no difference to him, till at last the palace where the great king lived was the only place whence he had not gotten booty. Several of his followers were caught and crucified, but that did not stop his bad actions or frighten him. In the old days, when a robber was caught he was taken to the jungle where the tigers are. All the tigers knew the place of execution as well as a dog knows worship days when the women offer rice and curry at the pagodas. They used to tie the thieves fast to the cross by their feet, hands, and hair, and when they had jeered at them and the women and children had pelted them with stones and beaten them with bamboos, everybody went home and left them for the tigers to eat, and thus they did to the followers of Maung Lek Byah, but they could never catch the robber chief himself.

At last the people of Pagan city came to the Amat Loeng, who was next in rank to the king himself, and said:

“Our lord, for long thy slaves have been in great and sore trouble, and unless our lord takes pity upon his servants we shall all arrive at destruction.”

“What can I do?” cried the amat, in a loud, angry voice, “has he not stolen from me? Did I not pay him two whole ticcals of pure silver as protection money no later than the last Water Feast, and yet did he not rob me as I was coming home in my boat yesternight, and when I told him that I was the Amat Loeng, did he not laugh in my face and yet rob me just the same. What can I do?”

“Our lord can go to the Ruler of the Golden Palace and plead for his slaves,” suggested one of the suppliants.

Now, the Amat Loeng was a very cunning man, and he knew that if the king heard that Boh Lek Byah had stolen so much from his subjects he would be very angry, and might perhaps even deprive him of his rank as chief amat, for it was his duty to see that all robbers were caught and punished, therefore after thinking for a while, he said:

“My friends, listen to me; let us each give silver, as much as we can afford; it is better to give part of our possessions than to have everything taken from us. Dost hear? This silver we will give to the boh, and he will then not trouble us any more, but will go to towns where the people are poorer and cannot afford to give as much as we, the citizens of this royal city of Pagan; then shall we have peace.”