The narrator rents a bed and a window seat to Astafi an retired former soldier who turns out to be a good story teller. When the narrator’s coat is stolen in broad daylight by a stranger, Astafi tells the story of an “honest thief,” Emelian, a man whose only occupation was drinking. Emelian drank because he could not do anything else that was more productive. And so he drank. One day Astafi’s breeches were stolen, but it was not until Emelian was on his death bed that Emelian admitted to having stolen them.
Fifty Great European Short Stories. Ed. Edward and Elizabeth Huberman. New York: Bantam Books. 1971.