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ALI BABA, OR, THE FORTY THIEVES
N a town of Persia there lived two brothers, the sons of a poor man; the one was named Cassim, and the other Ali Baba. Cassim, the elder, married a wife with a considerable fortune, and lived at his ease, in a handsome house, with plenty of servants; but the wife of Ali Baba was as poor as himself; they dwelt in a mean cottage in the suburbs of the city, and he maintained his family by cutting wood in a neighbouring forest. One day, when Ali Baba was in the forest, and preparing to load his asses with the wood he had cut, he saw a troop of horsemen approaching towards him. He had often heard of robbers who infested that forest, and, in a great fright, he hastily climbed a large thick tree, which stood near the foot of a rock, and hid himself among the branches. The horsemen soon galloped up to the rock, where they all dismounted. Ali Baba counted forty of them, and he could not doubt but they were thieves, by their ill-looking countenances. They each took a loaded portmanteau from his horse; and he who seemed to be their captain, turning to the rock, said, open Sesame, and immediately a door opened in the rock, and all the robbers passed in, when the door shut of itself. In a short time the door opened again, and the forty robbers came out, followed by their captain, who said, shut Sesame. The door instantly closed; and the troop mounting their horses, were presently out of sight.
THEIR CAPTAIN . . . SAID, “OPEN SESAME”
Ali Baba remained in the tree a longtime, and seeing that the robbers did not return, he ventured down, and, approaching close to the rock, said, open Sesame. Immediately the door flew open, and Ali Baba beheld a spacious cavern, very light, and filled withall sorts of provisions, merchandise, rich stuffs, and heaps of gold and silver coin, which these robbers had taken from merchants and travellers. Ali Baba then went in search of his asses, and having brought them to the rock, took as many bags of gold coin as they could carry, and put them on their backs, covering them with some loose fagots of wood; and afterwards (not forgetting to say shut Sesame) he drove the asses back to the city, and having unloaded them in the stable belonging to his cottage, carried the bags into the house, and spread the gold coin out upon the floor before his wife. His wife, delighted with possessing so much money, wanted to count it; but finding it would take up too much time, she was resolved to measure it, and running to the house of Ali Baba’s brother, she entreated them to lend her a small measure. Cassim’s wife was very proud and envious: ‘I wonder,’ she said to herself, ‘what sort of grain such poor people can have to measure; but I am determined I will find out what they are doing.’ So before she gave the measure, she artfully rubbed the bottom with some suet.
Away ran Ali Baba’s wife, measured her money; and having helped her husband to bury it in the yard, she carried back the measure to her brother‑in-law’s house, without perceiving that a piece of gold was left sticking to the bottom of it. ‘Fine doings, indeed!’ cried Cassim’s wife to her husband, after examining the measure, ‘your brother there, who pretends to be so poor, is richer than you are, for he does not count his money, but measures it.’ Cassim, hearing these words, and seeing the piece of gold, grew as envious as his wife, and hastening to his brother, threatened to inform the Cadi of his wealth, if he did not confess to him how he came by it. Ali Baba, without hesitation, told him the history of the robbers, and the secret of the cave, and offered him half his treasure; but the envious Cassim disdained so poor a sum, resolving to have fifty times more than that out of the robber’s cave. Accordingly, he rose early the next morning, and set out with ten mules loaded with great chests. He found the rock easily enough by Ali Baba’s description; and having said open Sesame, he gained admission into the cave, where he found more treasure than he even had expected to behold from his brother’s account of it. He immediately began to gather bags of gold and pieces of rich brocades, all which he piled close to the door; but when he had got together as much, or even more than his ten mules could possibly carry, and wanted to get out to load them, the thoughts of his wonderful riches had made him entirely forget the word which caused the door to open. In vain he tried Bame, Fame, Lame, Tetame, and a thousand others; the door remained as immovable as the rock itself, notwithstanding Cassim kicked and screamed till he was ready to drop with fatigue and vexation. Presently he heard the sound of horses’ feet, which he rightly concluded to be the robbers, and he trembled lest he should now fall a victim to his thirst of riches. He resolved, however, to make one effort to escape; and when he heard Sesame pronounced, and saw the door open, he sprang out, but was instantly put to death by the swords of the robbers.
The thieves now held a council, but not one of them could possibly guess by what means Cassim had got into the cave. They saw the heaps of treasure he had piled ready to take away, but they did not miss what Ali Baba had secured before. At length they agreed to cut Cassim’s body into four quarters, and hang the pieces within the cave, that it might terrify any one from further attempts; and also determined not to return themselves for some time to the cave, for fear of being watched and discovered. When Cassim’s wife saw night come on, and her husband not returned, she became greatly terrified; she watched at her window till daybreak, and then went to tell Ali Baba of her fears. Cassim had not informed him of his design of going to the cave; but Ali Baba, now hearing of his journey thither, went immediately in search of him.
He drove his asses to the forest without delay. He was alarmed to see blood near the rock; and on entering the cave, he found the body of his unfortunate brother cut to pieces, and hung up within the door. It was now too late to save him; but he took down the quarters, and put them upon one of his asses, covering them with fagots of wood; and, weeping for the miserable end of his brother, he regained the city. The door of his brother’s house was opened by Morgiana, an intelligent, faithful female slave, who Ali Baba knew was worthy to be trusted with the secret.
He therefore delivered the body to Morgiana, and went himself to impart the sad tidings to the wife of Cassim. The poor woman was deeply afflicted, and reproached herself with her foolish envy and curiosity, as being the cause of her husband’s death; but Ali Baba having convinced her of the necessity of being very discreet, she checked her lamentations, and resolved to leave every thing to the management of Morgiana.
Morgiana having washed the body, hastened to an apothecary’s and asked for some particular medicine; saying it was for her master Cassim, who was dangerously ill. She took care to spread the report of Cassim’s illness throughout the neighbourhood; and as they saw Ali Baba and his wife going daily to the house of their brother in great affliction, they were not surprised to hear shortly that Cassim had died of his disorder. The next difficulty was to bury him without discovery; but Morgiana was ready to contrive a plan for that also. She put on her veil, and went to a distant part of the city very early in the morning, where she found a poor cobbler just opening his stall. She put a piece of gold into his hand, and told him he should have another, if he would suffer himself to be led blind‑folded and go with her, carrying his tools with him. Mustapha the cobbler hesitated at first; but the gold tempted him, and he consented; when Morgiana, carefully covering his eyes, so that he could not see a step of the way, led him to Cassim’s house, and taking him to the room where the body was lying, removed the bandage from his eyes, and bade him sew the mangled limbs together. Mustapha obeyed her order; and having received two pieces of gold, was led blindfold the same way back to his own stall. Morgiana then covering the body with a winding sheet, sent for the undertaker to make preparations for the funeral; and Cassim was buried with all due solemnity the same day. Ali Baba now removed his few goods, and all the gold coin that he had brought from the cavern, to the house of his deceased brother, of which he took possession; and Cassim’s widow received every kind attention both from Ali Baba and his wife.
After an interval of some months, the troop of robbers again visited their retreat in the forest, and were completely astonished to find the body taken away from the cave, and everything else remaining in its usual order. ‘We are discovered,’ said the captain, and shall certainly be undone if you do not adopt speedy measures to prevent our ruin. Which of you, my brave comrades, will undertake to search out the villain who is in possession of our secret?’ One of the boldest of the troop advanced, and offered himself; and was accepted on the following conditions; namely, that if he succeeded in his enterprise, he was to be made second in command of the troop; but that if he brought false intelligence, he was immediately to be put to death. The bold robber readily agreed to the conditions; and having disguised himself, he proceeded to the city. He arrived there about daybreak, and found the cobbler Mustapha in his stall, which was always open before any other shop in the town. ‘Good morrow, friend,’ said the robber, as he passed the stall, ‘you rise betimes; I should think old as you are, you could scarcely see to work by this light.’ — ‘Indeed, sir,’ replied the cobbler, ‘old as I am, I do not want for good eyesight; as you must needs believe, when I tell you I sewed a dead body together the other day, where I had not so good a light as I have now.’ — ‘A dead body!’ exclaimed the robber, ‘you mean, I suppose, that you sewed up the winding sheet for a dead body.’ — ‘I mean no such thing,’ replied Mustapha; ‘I tell you that I sewed the four quarters of a man together.’
This was enough to convince the robber he had luckily met with the very man who could give him the information he was in search of. However, he did not wish to appear eager to learn the particulars, lest he should alarm the cobbler. ‘Ha! ha!’ said he, ‘I find, good Mr. Cobbler, that you perceive I am a stranger here, and you wish to make-me believe that the people of your city do impossible things.’ — ‘I tell you,’ said Mustapha, in a loud and angry tone, ‘I sewed a dead body together with my own hands.’ — ‘Then I suppose you can tell me also where you performed this wonderful business.’ Upon this, Mustapha related every particular of his being led blindfold to the house, &c. ‘Well, my friend,’ said the robber, ‘‘tis a fine story, I confess, but not very easy to believe: however, if you will convince me by showing me the house you talk of, I will give you four pieces of gold to make amends for my unbelief.’ — ‘I think,’ said the cobbler, after considering a while, ‘that if you were to blindfold me, I should remember every turning we made; but with my eyes open I am sure I should never find it.’ Accordingly the robber covered Mustapha’s eyes with his handkerchief, who led him through most of the principal streets, and stopping by Cassim’s door, said, ‘Here it is, I went no further than this house.’
The robber immediately marked the door with a piece of chalk; and giving Mustapha his four pieces of gold, dismissed him. Shortly after the thief and Mustapha had quitted the door, Morgiana coming home from market, perceived the little mark of white chalk on the door: suspecting something was wrong, directly marked four doors on one side and five on the other of her master’s, in exactly the same manner, without saying a word to any one. The robber meantime rejoined his troop, and boasted greatly of his success. His captain and comrades praised his diligence; and being well armed, they proceeded to the town in different disguises, and in separate parties of three and four together. It was agreed among them, that they were to meet in the market-place at the dusk of the evening, and that the captain and the robber who had discovered the house, were to go there first, to find out to whom it belonged. Accordingly being arrived in the street, and having a lantern with them, they began to examine the doors, and found to their confusion and astonishment, that ten doors were marked exactly alike. The robber, who was the captain’s guide, could not say one word in explanation of this mystery; and when the disappointed troop got back to the forest, his enraged companions ordered him to be put to death.
Another now offered himself upon the same conditions as the former; and having bribed Mustapha, and discovered the house, he made a mark with a dark red chalk upon the door, in a part that was not in the least conspicuous; and carefully examined the surrounding doors, to be certain that no such mark was upon any of them. But nothing could escape the prying eyes of Morgiana; scarcely had the robber departed, when she discovered the red mark; and getting some red chalk, she marked seven doors on each side, precisely in the same place and in the same manner. The robber, valuing himself highly upon the precautions he had taken, triumphantly conducted his captain to the spot: but great indeed was his confusion and dismay, when he found it impossible to say which among fifteen houses marked exactly alike, was the right one. The captain furious with his disappointment, returned again with the troop to the forest; and the second robber was also condemned to death.
The captain having lost two of his troop, judged that their hands were more active than their heads in such services; and he resolved to employ no other of them, but to go himself upon the business. Accordingly here paired to the city, and addressed himself to the cobbler Mustapha, who for six pieces of gold, readily performed the services for him he had done for the two other strangers; and the captain, much wiser than his men, did not amuse himself with setting a mark upon the door, but attentively considered the house, counted the number of windows, and passed by it very often, to be certain that he should know it again. He then returned to the forest, and ordered his troop to go into the town, and buy nineteen mules and thirty-eight large jars, one full of oil, and the rest empty. In two or three days the jars were brought, and all things in readiness; and the captain having put a man into each jar, properly armed, the jars being rubbed on the outside with oil, and the covers having holes bored’ in them for the men to breathe through, loaded his mules, and in the habit of an oil-merchant, entered the town in the dusk of the evening. He proceeded to the street where Ali Baba dwelt, and found him sitting in the porch of his house. ‘Sir,’ said he to Ali Baba, ‘I have brought this oil a great way to sell, and am too late for this day’s market. As I am quite a stranger in this town, will you do me the favour to let me put my mules into your court-yard, and direct me where I may lodge to-night.’
Ali Baba, who was a good-natured man, welcomed the pretended oil-merchant very kindly, and offered him a bed in his own house; and having ordered the mules to be unloaded in the yard, and properly fed, he invited his guest in to supper. The captain, having seen the jars placed ready in the yard, followed Ali Baba into the house, and after supper was shown to the chamber where he was to sleep. It happened that Morgiana was obliged to sit up later that night than usual, to get ready her master’s bathing linen for the following morning: and while she was busy about the fire, her lamp went out, and there was no more oil in the house. After considering what she could possibly do for a light, she recollected the thirty-eight oil jars in the yard, and determined to take a little oil out of one of them for her lamp. She took her oil pot in her hand, and approaching the first jar, the robber within said, ‘Is it time captain?’ Any other slave on hearing a man in an oil jar, would have screamed out; but the prudent Morgiana instantly recollected herself, and replied softly, ‘No, not yet; be still till I call you.’ She passed on to every jar, receiving the same question, and making the same answer, till she came to the last, which was really filled with oil. Morgiana was now convinced that this was a plot of the robbers to murder her master Ali Baba; so she ran back to the kitchen, and brought out a large kettle, which she filled with oil, and set it on a great wood fire; and as soon as it boiled she went and poured into the jars sufficient of the boiling oil to kill every man within them. Having done this, she put out her fire and her lamp, and crept softly to her chamber. The captain of the robbers, finding everything quiet in the house, and perceiving no light anywhere, arose and went down into the yard to assemble his men. Coming to the first jar, he felt the steams of the boiled oil; he ran hastily to the rest, and found every one of his troop put to death in the same manner. Full of rage and despair at having failed in his design, he forced the lock of a door that led into the garden and made his escape over the walls.
On the following morning, Morgiana related to her master Ali Baba his wonderful deliverance from the pretended oil-merchant and his gang of robbers. Ali Baba at first could scarcely credit her tale; but when he saw the robbers dead in the jars, he could not sufficiently praise her courage and sagacity: and without letting any one else into the secret, he and Morgiana the next night, buried the thirty-seven thieves in a deep trench at the bottom of the garden. The jars and mules, as they had no use for them, were sent from time to time to the different markets and sold. While Ali Baba took these measures to prevent his and Cassim’s adventures in the forest from being known, the captain returned to his cave and for sometime abandoned himself to grief and despair. At length however he determined to adopt a new scheme for the destruction of Ali Baba. He removed by degrees all the valuable merchandise from the cave to the city, and took a shop exactly opposite to Ali Baba’s house. He furnished this shop with everything that was rare and costly, and went by the name of the merchant Cogia Hassan. Many persons made acquaintance with the stranger; among others, Ali Baba’s son went every day to the shop. The pretended Cogia Hassan soon appeared to be very fond of Ali Baba’s son, offered him many presents, and often detained him to dinner, on which occasions he treated him in the handsomest manner.
Ali Baba’s son thought it was necessary to make some return to these civilities, and pressed his father to invite Cogia Hassan to supper. Ali Baba made no objection, and the invitation was accordingly given. The artful Cogia Hassan would not too hastily accept this invitation, but pretended he was not fond of going into company, and that he had business which demanded his presence at home. These excuses only made Ali Baba’s son the more eager to take him to his father’s house; and after repeated solicitations the merchant consented to sup at Ali Baba’s house the next evening. A most excellent supper was provided, which Morgiana cooked in the best manner, and as was her usual custom, she carried in the first dish herself. The moment she looked at Cogia Hassan, she knew it was the pretended oil‑merchant. The prudent Morgiana did not say a word to any one of this discovery, but sent the other slaves into the kitchen, and waited at table herself; and while Cogia Hassan was drinking, she perceived he had a dagger hid under his coat. When supper was ended, and the dessert and wine on the table, Morgiana went away and dressed herself in the habit of a dancing-girl: she next called Abdalla, a fellow slave, to play on his tabor while she danced. As soon as she appeared at the parlour door, her master, who was very fond of seeing her dance, ordered her to come in to entertain his guest with some of her best dancing. Cogia Hassan was not very well satisfied with this entertainment, yet was compelled, for fear of discovering himself, to seem pleased with the dancing, while in fact he wished Morgiana a great way off, and was quite alarmed, lest he should lose his opportunity of murdering Ali Baba and his son.
Morgiana danced several dances with the utmost grace and agility; and then drawing a poinard from her girdle, she performed many surprising things with it, sometimes presenting the point to one and sometimes to another, and then seemed to strike it into her own bosom. Suddenly she paused, and holding the poinard in the right hand, presented her left to her master as if begging some money; upon which Ali Baba and his son each gave her a small piece of money. She then turned to the pretended Cogia Hassan, and while he was putting his hand into his purse she plunged the poinard into his heart.
‘Wretch!’ cried Ali Baba, ‘thou hast ruined me and my family.’ ‘No, sir,’ replied Morgiana, ‘I have preserved, and not ruined you, and your son. Look well at this traitor, and you will find him to be the pretended oil-merchant who came once before to rob and murder you.’ Ali Baba, having pulled off the turban and the cloak which the false Cogia Hassan wore, discovered that he was not only the pretended oil-merchant, but the captain of the forty robbers who had slain his brother Cassim; nor could he doubt that his perfidious aim had been to destroy him, and probably his son, with the concealed dagger. Ali Baba, who felt the new obligation he owed to Morgiana for thus saving his life a second time, embraced her and said, ‘my dear Morgiana, I give you your liberty; but my gratitude must not stop there: I will also marry you to my son, who can esteem and admire you no less than does his father.’ Then turning to his son, he added, ‘you, my son, will not refuse the wife I offer; for, in marrying Morgiana, you take to wife the preserver and benefactor of yourself and family. The son, far from showing any dislike, readily and joyfully accepted his proposed bride, having long entertained an affection for the good slave Morgiana.
Having rejoiced in their deliverance, they buried the captain that night with great privacy, in the trench along with his troop of robbers; and a few days afterwards, Ali Baba celebrated the marriage of his son and Morgiana with a sumptuous entertainment; and every one who knew Morgiana said she was worthy of her good fortune, and highly commended her master’s generosity toward her. During a twelvemonth Ali Baba forbore to go near the forest, but at length his curiosity incited him to make another journey. When he came to the cave, he saw no footsteps of either men or horses; and having said open Sesame, he went in, and judged by the state of things deposited in the cavern, that no one had been there since the pretended Cogia Hassan had removed the merchandise to his shop in the city. Ali Baba took as much gold home as his horse would carry; and afterwards he carried his son to the cave, and taught him the secret. This secret they handed down to their posterity; and using their good fortune with moderation, they lived in honour and splendour, and served with dignity some of the chief offices in the city.