Ali Baba or the 40 Thieves
THERE once lived in a town of Persia two brothers, one named Cassim, and the other Ali Baba. Cassim had married a rich wife, but Ali Baba was poor, and made his living by cutting wood, which he brought upon three asses into the town to sell.
One day when he was in the forest cutting wood, he saw a troop of horsemen coming toward him. Fearing they might be robbers, he climbed a tree to hide. Near the tree there was a steep bank formed of solid rock. When the horsemen came up, Ali Baba counted them, and found they were forty in number. They dismounted in front of the rock, and one, who seemed to be captain, said the words, “Open, Sesame,” when instantly a door opened in the rock. Then they all passed through, and the door closed after them.
Ali Baba stayed in the tree, and after awhile the door opened again, and the robbers came out. Then the captain closed the door by saying, “Shut, Sesame,” and all rode away.
When they were out of sight Ali Baba came down, and, going up said, “Open, Sesame.” The door at once opened, and Ali Baba, entering, found himself in a large cave, lighted from a hole in the top, and full of all kinds of treasure rich silks and carpets, gold and silver ware, and great bags of money. He loaded his three asses with as many of the bags of gold as they could carry; and, after closing the door by saying “Shut Sesame,” made his way home.
When he came there and told his wife of their good luck, she was delighted, and wished to count the gold to see how rich they were. “No,” said Ali Baba, “that will take too long; I must dig a hole and bury it at once.” “You are right,” said she, “but at least let us form some idea how much there is. Let me measure it while you dig the hole.”
But as she had no measure of her own, she ran to Cassim’s wife to borrow one. Now, Cassim’s wife was very inquisitive, and wished to find out what they were to use the measure for, so she covered the bottom of it with suet. When Ali Baba’s wife had done with it, she carried it back , but did not notice that a piece of gold had stuck to the suet. When Cassim’s wife saw the gold she wondered greatly-knowing Ali Baba to be so poor-and told her husband about it. He went to Ali Baba and persuaded him to explain how he had become so rich as to have to measure his money, and when he heard the story, he made up his mind that he, too, would get some of the treasure.
So he started for the forest with a lot of mules the next morning. He opened the door by saying “Open Sesame,” and when he went in it closed after him. He began to pile up bags of gold near the door, but when he was ready to go he found that he had forgotten the magic words which opened it, and before he could recall them, the robbers returned. The moment they caught sight of him, they rushed upon him with their swords and killed him, and then cut his body in four quarters, and hung them in up in the cave.
When night fell, and Cassim had not returned, his wife was greatly alarmed and went to confer with Ali Baba. He tried to comfort her, but when morning came, and Cassim did not yet appear, he set out for the cave with his three asses. When he reached there and saw his brother’s body, he was struck with horror at the sight ; but he quickly wrapped up the pieces and carried them home on one of the asses, loading the other two again with gold.
He now wished to get Cassim buried without letting any one know that he had not died a natural death. Cassim’s wife had a slave named Morgiana, who was very quick-witted, and Ali Baba took her into his confidence, and got her to assist him.
She went next morning to a druggist near by and asked for a medicine which is used only in case of the most serious sickness. The druggist inquired who was ill.
“Alas!” said Morgiana, sighing, “my master, Cassim himself and he is so sick that we are in great anxiety about him.”
Late in the same day she went again to the druggist to obtain some more of the medicine and in answer to his inquiries about her master’s condition, said, with tears in her eyes: “Oh, he is much worse. The medicine appears to do him no good, and I greatly fear that I am going to lose my good master.”
In addition to this Ali Baba and his wife made a point of being often seen passing back and forth between Cassim’s house and their own during the day, and took care to tell as many of the neighbors as possible that Cassim was dangerously ill. So no one was surprised when cries and lamentations were heard issuing from Cassim’s house in the evening, and Morgiana spread the news about that her master was dead.
Very early the next morning she went to an old cobbler named Baba Mustapha, whose custom she knew it was to open his stall at daybreak, and, looking around carefully to see that she was not observed, approached him, and putting a piece of gold in his hand, whispered: “Baba Mustapha, I have a task for you for which you will be well paid. But I must make it a condition that you shall be blindfolded while I am taking you to the place and bringing you back.”
Baba Mustapha hesitated a little at this, fearing he might be led into danger, but Morgiana named a price for his services which caused him to set aside his doubts, and when he had received a portion of the money down, he allowed her to bind a handkerchief about his eyes, and lead him where she would. She brought him to her master’s house, and when he was in the room where the body was, she removed the bandage from his eyes, and told him to sew the pieces of the body together.
When he had done the work put she the handkerchief over his eyes, after giving him the rest of his money, then conducted him back to his stall.
Then the funeral was held, with the usual ceremonies, and Cassim was buried
without any suspicion being excited. The customs of the country allowed a man to have more than one wife, and it was also usual when a husband died that his brother should marry his widow. So in order that he might enjoy his good fortune, and live as a loan of wealth, without causing remarks to be made about his sudden rise in life, Ali Baba married Cassim’s widow, who was known to be rich, and went to live in her house.
Meanwhile, the robbers had again visited their cave, and finding that the body had been removed saw that somebody knew their secret, and resolved not to rest till they found out who it was. One of them proposed to go into the town to see if he could find a clue, and the captain allowed him to do so. He fell in, by accident, with Baba Mustapha, who told him of how he had been hired to sew up a dead body. The robber at once felt that he was on the track of the one he was looking for, so he offered the old man a large piece of gold to show him the house where he had done the sewing. Baba Mustapha explained that his eyes had been covered on the way, but the robber thought that if he were again blindfolded he might remember the turns he had made, and so find the place. They tried this plan. Baba Mustapha walked on and at last stopped before a house which was indeed, Ali Baba’s. The robber marked the door with chalk, and returned to his comrades.
Shortly after, Morgiana came out of the house and saw the mark and thinking it might mean mischief, she marked two or three doors on each side in the same way.
The robber, in the meantime, had reported his success, and the captain ordered all to go into the town, separately, and meet together at a certain place, where he would join them. He took the robber who had found the house, and went with him to look at it, and see what had best be done. The robber led him into the street where Ali Baba lived, and when they came to one of the doors which Morgiana had marked, he pointed to it ; but the captain noticed that the next house was marked in the same way, and on looking further, found five or six more. He saw that they were foiled, and ordered his men to return to the forest. When they got there, they put to death the robber who, they thought, had deceived them a fate which he admitted he deserved for not taking more pains.
Another of the troop then said he would try the task. He went and engaged Baba Mustapha to lead him as he had the first one, and when he stopped at the house, put a mark with red chalk in a place where he thought it would not be seen.
But it did not escape the eyes of Morgiana, and she marked the other houses in the same place and manner.
The robbers went to the town as before, but when the captain and the robber came to the street they found that they were baffled again. So all returned, and the second robber was put to death for his failure as the first had been.
Then the captain went himself and got Baba Mustapha to conduct him in the same way that he had the others; but he did not put any mark on the house. Instead, he looked at it so carefully that he would know it when he saw it again. He then sent his men to buy nineteen mules and thirty-eight leather oil-jars, one full of oil and the rest empty. When they had brought them to the cave, he put a man in each of the empty jars, and loaded all the jars on the mules, and set out for the town so as to reach it about evening.
He led his mules through the streets till he came to the house of Ali Baba, to whom he applied for lodging, saying that he was an oil merchant who had just arrived and could not find a place to stay. Ali Baba was hospitable, and allowed him to drive his mules into the yard, where he unloaded them, and set the jars in rows, whispering to his men that when they should hear him throw a stone out of the window, they must come out of the jars, and he would join them. He then went into the house and was shown to a room.
Morgiana needed some oil, and as it was too late to buy any, she thought she would take a little out of the jars in the yard. So she went out with her oil-pot, drew near one of the jars to help herself when, to her great surprise, she heard a man’s voice within it say, softly, “Is it time?” Startled as she was, she did not lose her presence of mind, but answered, “Not yet, but presently.” She went in this way to all of the jars, answering the same, until she came, last of all, to the jar of oil.
She saw at once the danger to which her master was exposed, and laid a plan to avert it. She filled a great kettle from the jars of oil, and set it on the fire till the oil was boiling. Then she took it and poured enough into each jar to kill the robber inside. After that she went into the house, and putting out her light,
watched through a window to see what would happen. She had not waited long before the captain, hearing no one stirring, opened his window and began throwing stones at the jars. But as no movement followed, he became alarmed, and stole down into the yard, where he found that all of his men were dead. Full of rage and despair, he climbed over the wall of the yard and made his way off to the cave.
When Morgiana saw him go, she went to bed well pleased to have succceded in saving her master and his family.
The next morning Ali Baba arose early to go to the baths. Upon his return, he was surprised to see the jars still in the yard. He questioned Morgiana, who opened the door, in regard to it.
For answer she led him to the nearest jar, and asked him to look into it. He did so and started back in alarm when he saw the dead robber within.
“Morgiana,” said he, “what does this mean? Explain what has happened.”
“I will,” said she, “but first look in the other jars.”
So Ali Baba passed from one jar, to another, finding a body in each, until he came to the oil-jar which was very much sunk. He stood speechless with astonishment for some moments, and then he again requested Morgiana to tell how this had come to pass. She led him into the house, and related all that had occurred from the time she had first noticed the mark upon the door to the flight of the captain.
On hearing the story Ali Baba said to her: “We all owe our lives to your wit and courage. As a first token of my gratitude, I give you your freedom, and in due time, I will add still further to your reward.”
Then, at the extreme end of the garden, under the shade of some large trees, he and one of his slaves dug a trench in which they buried the bodies of the robbers. The jars and weapons they hid, while the mules were sent to the market, at different times, to be sold.
But the captain now hated Ali Baba worse than ever, and swore that he would have revenge for the death of his comrades. He resolved that he would go to the
town to live, so that he might watch for a chance to carry out his purpose. So he rented a warehouse, to which he took a lot of silks and other stuffs, and set up as a merchant under the name of Cogia Hassan.
Now, as it happened, the warehouse which the captain rented was near that of Ali Baba’s son, who was also a merchant. Naturally, they soon became acquainted; and Cogia Hassan, although not yet aware of the young man’s relationship to Ali Baba, cultivated his friendship as being likely to be of use to him in obtaining the information necessary to carry out his designs. But it was not very long before Ali Baba came one day to his son’s warehouse, and was seen and recognized by Cogia Hassan, who soon found out that he was the father of his neighbor. After this, of course, he became doubly attentive to the son, making him presents, and often asking him to dine or sup with him. Ali Baba’s son felt obliged to return these courtesies, and so it soon came to pass that Cogia Hassan was invited to Ali Baba’s house to supper.
He went and carried, concealed, a dagger with which he intended to kill Ali Baba as soon as he saw a chance of doing it with certainty. Ali Baba received him very cordially, and thanked him for the kindness he had shown towards his son, saying that to an inexperienced young man such an acquaintance was, in itself, a valuable advantage.
After further friendly conversation, they sat down to supper. At the meal Cogia Hassan was careful to abstain from the use of salt, for amongst the Persians even the wickedest think it wrong to kill a man whose salt they have eaten. Morgiana, who was serving, noticed this, and it caused her to suspect him. She inspected Cogia Hassan closely, and soon became satisfied that he was none other than the false oil merchant; and when she saw that he had a dagger concealed under his garment, she perceived in what peril her master was placed. With her usual quickness she conceived a plan to thwart the robber’s purpose, and she boldly determined to put it into execution at once.
She was a very fine dancer, and often entertained Ali Baba and his guests with exhibitions of her skill. As soon as the principal portion of the meal was over, she retired and arrayed herself in a pretty dancing costume, and then, accompanied by a fellow-servant
who sung and played upon the tambourine, she returned and proposed giving a performance, while Ali Baba, and his son, and their guest, were enjoying the dessert and smoking.
Cogia Hassan, of course, politely expressed his pleasure; although, secretly, he was annoyed at the intrusion as likely to interfere with his evil intent. Morgiana carried in her hand a jeweled dagger, and as she danced she would point it first to her own breast and then to those of the others in succession, in a playful way, and as though it were part of the dance. Then, at last, she took the tambourine and went from one to another, presenting it for a reward after the custom of street performers. Ali Baba and his son each put in a piece of gold, and Cogia Hassan when she came to him, pulled out his purse to do the same. But as he reached his hand, Morgiana raised aloft her dagger, and plunged it with all her strength into his heart, and he fell dead.
Ali Baba cried out with horror; but when Morgiana told him who his guest was, and, opening his garment, showed him the concealed dagger; his feelings changed to joy at his escape, and admiration for Morgiana’s shrewdness, courage, and fidelity, and it seemed to him that he could not say nor do enough to thank her.
They soon disposed of the captain’s body by burying it in the garden with those of his comrades, and, as the robbers were now all dead, they were free from further danger. After awhile, Ali Baba’s son married Morgiana, and they lived long in peace and happiness.