Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
IN former days there lived in a town of Persia two brothers, one named Kasim, and the other Ali Baba. Their father divided a small inheritance equally between them. Kasim married a rich wife, and became a wealthy merchant. Ali Baba married a woman as poor as himself, and lived by cutting wood and bringing it upon three asses into the town to sell.
One day, when Ali Baba was in the forest, and had just cut wood enough to load his asses, he saw at a distance a great cloud of dust approaching him. He observed it with attention, and distinguished soon after a body of horsemen, whom he suspected to be robbers. He determined to leave his asses in order to save himself; so climbed up a large tree, planted on a high rock, the branches of which were thick enough to conceal him, and yet enabled him to see all that passed without being discovered.
The troop, to the number of forty, well mounted and armed, came to the foot of the rock on which the tree stood, and there dismounted. Every man unbridled his horse, tied him to some shrub, and hung about his neck a bag of corn which they carried behind them. Then each took off his saddle-bag, which from its weight seemed to Ali Baba to be full of gold and silver. One, whom he took to be their captain, came under the tree in which he was concealed, and making his way through some shrubs, pronounced the words: Open, Simsim!1 A door opened in the rock; and after he had made all his troop enter before him, he followed them, when the door shut again of itself.
At last the door opened again, and as the captain went in last, so he came out first, and stood to see them all pass by him; when Ali Baba heard him make the door close by pronouncing the words: Shut, Simsim! Every man at once went and bridled his horse, fastened his wallet, and mounted again; and when the captain saw them all ready, he put himself at their head, and returned the way they had come.
Ali Baba followed them with his eyes as far as he could see them, and afterward waited a long time before he descended. Remembering the words the captain of the robbers used to cause the door to open and shut, he wished to try if his pronouncing them would have the same effect. Accordingly he went among the shrubs, and, receiving the door concealed behind them, stood before it, and said, Open, Simsim Whereupon the door instantly flew wide open.
Now Ali Baba expected a dark, dismal cavern, but was surprised to see a well-lighted and spacious chamber, lighted from an opening at the top of the rock, and filled with all sorts of provisions, rich bales of silk, embroideries, and valuable tissues, piled upon one another, gold and silver ingots in great heaps, and money in bags. The sight of all these riches made him suppose that this cave must have been occupied for ages by robbers, who had succeeded one another.
Ali Baba went boldly into the cave, and collected as much of the gold coin, which was in bags, as his three asses could carry. When he had loaded them with the bags, he laid wood over them so that they could not be seen. Then he stood before the door, and pronouncing the words, Shut, Simsim! the door closed of itself; and he made the best of his way to the town.
When he got home, he drove his asses into a little yard, shut the gates carefully, threw off the wood that covered the panniers, carried the bags into his house, and ranged them in order before his wife. He then emptied the bags, which raised such a heap of gold as dazzled his wifes eyes, and then he told her the whole adventure from beginning to end, and, above all, recommended her to keep it secret.
The wife rejoiced greatly at their good fortune, and would count all the gold piece by piece. Wifey, replied Ali Baba, you do not know what you undertake, when you pretend to count the money; you will never have done. I will dig a hole, and bury it. There is no time to be lost. You are in the right, husband, replied she, but let us know, as nigh as possible, how much we have. I will borrow a small measure, and measure it, while you dig the hole.
So the wife ran to her brother-in-law Kasim, who lived hard by, and addressing herself to his wife desired her to lend her a measure for a little while. The sister-in-law did so, but as she knew Ali Babas poverty, she was curious to know what sort of grain his wife wanted to measure, and artfully put some suet at the bottom of the measure.
Ali Babas wife went home, set the measure upon the heap of gold, filled it, and emptied it often upon the divan, till she had done, when she was very well satisfied to find the number of measures amounted to so many as they did, and went to tell her husband, who had almost finished digging hole. While Ali Baba was burying the gold, his wife carried the measure back again to her sister-in-law, but without taking notice that a piece of gold had stuck to the bottom. Sister, said she, giving it to her again, you see that I have not kept your measure long. I am obliged to you for it, and return it with thanks.
As soon as she was gone, Kasims wife looked at the bottom of the measure, and was amazed to find a piece of gold sticking to it. Envy immediately possessed her breast. What! Said she, has Ali Baba gold so plentiful as to measure it? Whence has he all this wealth?
Kasim, her husband, was at his shop. When he came home, his wife said to him: Kasim, I know you think yourself rich, but Ali Baba is infinitely richer than you. He does not count his money, he measures it. Then she told him the stratagem she had used to make the discovery, and shewed him the piece of money, which was so old that they could not tell in what princes reign it was coined.
Now Kasim, after he had married the rich widow, had never treated Ali Baba as a brother, but neglected him; and now, instead of being pleased, he conceived a base envy at his brothers prosperity. He could not sleep all that night, and went to him in the morning before sunrise. Ali Baba, said he, I am surprised at you; you pretend to be miserably poor, and yet you measure gold. My wife found this at the bottom of the measure you borrowed yesterday.
By this discourse, Ali Baba perceived that Kasim and his wife, through his own wifes folly, knew what they had so much reason to conceal; but what was done could not be undone. Therefore, without showing the least surprise or trouble, he confessed all, and offered his brother part of his treasure to keep the secret.
Kasim rose the next morning long before the sun, and set out for the forest with ten mules bearing great chests, which he intended to fill, and followed the road which Ali Baba had indicated. He was not long before he reached the rock, and found the place, by the tree and other marks which his brother had given him. When he reached the entrance of the cavern, he pronounced the words, Open Simsim! The door immediately opened, and when he was in, closed upon him. In examining the cave, he was rejoiced to find much more riches than he had expected. He quickly laid as many bags of gold as he could carry at the door of the cavern; but his thoughts were so full of the great riches he should possess, that he could not think of the word to make it open, but instead of Simsim, said, Open, Barley! and was much amazed to find that the door remained fast shut. He named several sorts of grain, but still the door would not open, and the more he endeavoured to remember the word Simsim, the more his memory was confounded, and he had as much forgotten it as if he had never heard it mentioned. He threw down the bags he had loaded himself with, and walked distractedly up and down the cave, without having any regard to the riches around him.
About noon the robbers visited their cave. At some distance they saw Kasims mules straggling about the rock, with great chests on their backs. Alarmed at this, they galloped full speed to the cave. They drove away the mules, who strayed through the forest so far, that they were soon out of sight, and then, with naked sabres in their hands, they approached the door, which, on their captain pronouncing the proper words, immediately opened.
Kasim, who heard the noise of the horses feet, at once guessed the arrival of the robbers, and resolved to make one effort for his life. He rushed to the door, and no sooner saw the door open, than he ran out and threw the leader down; but he could not escape the other robbers, who, with their scimitars, soon deprived him of life.
The first care of the robbers after this was to examine the cave. They found all the bags which Kasim had brought to the door, to be ready to load his mules, and carried them back to their places, but they did not miss what Ali Baba had taken away before. Then holding a council, and deliberating upon this occurrence, they guessed that Kasim, why he was in, could not get out again, but could not imagine how he had learned the secret words by which alone he could enter. So to terrify any person who should attempt the same thing, they cut Kasims body into four quarters and hung two on one side, and two on the other, within the door of the cave. Then they mounted their horses, and went to beat the roads again, and to attack the caravans they might meet.
In the meantime, Kasims wife was very uneasy, when night came, and her husband was not returned. She ran to Ali Baba in great alarm, and said: I believe, brother-in-law, that you know Kasim is gone to the forest, and upon what account; it is now night, and he has not returned; I am afraid some misfortune has happened to him. So after midnight, Ali Baba departed with his three asses, and went to the forest, and when he came near the rock, having seen neither his brother nor the mules in his way, was alarmed at finding some blood spilt near the door, which he took for an ill omen; but when he had pronounced the word, and the door had opened, he was struck with horror at the dismal sight of his brothers body. He went into the cave, however, to find something to enshroud the remains; and having loaded one of his assess with them, covered them over with wood. The other two asses he loaded with bags of gold, covering them with wood also as before; and then bidding the door shut came away. When he came home, he drove the two asses loaded with gold into his yard, and left the care of unloading them to his wife, while he led the other to his sister-in-laws house.
There he knocked at the door, which was opened by Marjaneh, a clever slave-girl, who was fruitful in inventions to meet the most difficult circumstances. When he came into the court, he unloaded the ass, and taking Marjaneh aside, said to her: You must observe an inviolable secrecy. Your masters body is contained in these two panniers. We must bury him as if he had died a natural death. Go now and tell your mistress. I leave the matter to your wit and skilful devices.
Marjaneh went out early the next morning to a druggist, and asked for a sort of lozenge which was considered efficacious in the most dangerous disorders. The apothecary inquired who was ill. She replied, with a sigh: Her good master Kasim himself; and that he could neither eat nor speak. In the evening Marjaneh went to the same druggists again, and with tears in her eyes, asked for an essence which they used to give to sick people only when at the last extremity. Alas! said she, taking it from the apothecary, I am afraid that this remedy will have no better effect than the lozenges, and that I shall lose my good master.
All that day Ali Baba and his wife were seen going between Kasims and their own house, and nobody was surprised in the evening to hear the lamentable shrieks and cries of Kasims wife and Marjaneh, who gave out everywhere that her master was dead. The next morning, at daybreak, Marjaneh went to an old cobbler whom she knew to be always early at his stall, and bidding him goodmorrow, put a piece of gold into his hand, saying: Baba Mustafa, you must bring with you your sewing tackle, and come with me; but I must tell you, I shall blindfold you when you come to such a place.
Baba Mustafa seemed to hesitate a little at these words. Oh! oh! replied he, you would have me do something against my conscience or against my honour? God forbid! said Marjaneh, putting another piece of gold into his hand, that I should ask anything that is contrary to your honour! only come along with me and fear nothing.
Baba Mustafa went with Marjaneh, who, after she had bound his eyes with a handkerchief at the place she had mentioned, conveyed him to her deceased masters house, and never uncovered his eyes till he had entered the room where she had put the corpse together. Baba Mustafa, said she, you must make haste and sew the parts of this body together; and when you have done, I will give you another piece of gold.
After Baba Mustafa had finished his task, she blindfolded him again, gave him the third piece of gold as she had promised, and recommending secrecy to him, carried him back to the place where she first bound his eyes, pulled off the bandage, and let him go home, but watched him that he returned towards his stall, till he was quite out of sight, for fear he should have the curiosity to return and follow her. She then went home, and, on her return, warmed some water to wash the body, and at the same time Ali Baba perfumed it with incense, and wrapped it in the grave-clothes with the accustomed ceremonies. Not long after, they brought the bier, and the Imam and the other ministers of the mosque arrived. Four neighbours carried the corpse to the burying-ground, following the Imam, who recited the prayers. Ali Baba came after, and Marjaneh followed in the procession, weeping, beating her breast, and tearing her hair. Kasims wife stayed at home mourning, uttering lamentable cries with the women of the neighbourhood, who came, according to custom, during the funeral, and, joining their lamentations with hers, filled the quarter far and near with sounds of grief.
Three or four days after the funeral, Ali Baba removed his few goods openly to his sister-in-laws house, in which he would in future live; but the money he had taken from the robbers he conveyed thither by night. As for Kasims shop, he intrusted it entirely to the management of his eldest son.
While these things were being done, the forty robbers again visited their retreat in the forest. Great, then, was their surprise to find Kasims body taken away, with some of their bags of gold. We are certainly discovered, said the captain. The removal of the body, and the loss of some of the money, plainly shews that the man whom we killed had an accomplice; and for our own lives sake we must try and find him. What say you, my sons?
Well, said the captain, one of you, the boldest and most skilful among you, must go into the town, disguised as a traveller and a stranger, to try if he can hear any talk of the man whom we have killed, and endeavour to find out who he was, and where he lived. This is a matter of the first importance, and for fear of any treachery, I propose that whoever undertakes this business without success, even though the failure arises only from an error of judgment, shall suffer death.
Without waiting for the sentiments of his companions, one of the robbers started up, and said: I submit to this condition, and deem it an honour to expose my life to serve the troop. He then disguised himself and went into the town just at daybreak, and walked up and down, till accidentally he came to Baba Mustafas stall, which was always open before any of the shops. Baba Mustafa was seated with an awl in his hand, just going to work. The robber gave him good-morrow, and perceiving that he was old, said: O Uncle, you begin to work very early. Is it possible that one of your age can see so well? I question, even if it were somewhat lighter, whether you could see to stitch.
You do not know me, replied Baba Mustafa; for old as I am, I have extraordinary good eyes; and you will not doubt it when I tell you that I sewed the body of a dead man together in a place where I had not so much light as I have now.
The robber felt sure that he had discovered what he sought. He pulled out a piece of gold, and putting it into Baba Mustafas hand, said to him: I do not want to learn your secret, though you might safely trust me with it. The only thing I desire of you is to shew me the house where you stitched up the dead body.
If I were disposed to do you that favour, replied Baba Mustafa, I could not. I was taken to a certain place, whence I was led blindfold to the house, and afterwards brought back again in the same manner; it is therefore impossible for me again to do what you wish.
Perhaps, said the robber, you may remember a little of the way that you were led blindfold. Come, let me blind your eyes at the same place. We will walk together: perhaps you may recognize some part; and as everybody ought to be paid for their trouble, there is another piece of gold for you; gratify me in what I ask you. So saying, he put another piece of gold into his hand.
I cannot promise, said Baba Mustafa, that I can remember the way exactly; but since you wish it, I will try what I can do. At these words he arose, to the great joy of the robber, and led him to the place where Marjaneh had bound his eyes. It was here, said Baba Mustafa, I was blindfolded; and I turned this way. The robber tied his handkerchief over his eyes, and walked by him till he stopped at Kasims house, where Ali Baba then lived. The thief, before he pulled off the band, marked the door with a piece of chalk which he had ready in his hand, and then asked him if he knew whose house that was; to which Baba Mustafa replied, that as he did not live in that neighbourhood, he could not tell. The robber thanked him for the trouble he had taken, and left him to go back to his stall, while he returned to the forest.
A little after the robber and Baba Mustafa had parted, Marjaneh went out of Ali Babas house upon an errand, and upon her return, seeing the mark the robber had made, stopped to observe it. What can be the meaning of this mark? she said to herself; somebody intends my master no good; however, with whatever intention it was done, it is advisable to guard against the worst. Accordingly, she fetched a piece of chalk, and marked two or three doors on each side, in the same manner, without saying a word to her master or mistress.
In the meantime, the robber rejoined his troop in the forest, and recounted to them his success; expatiating upon his good fortune in meeting so soon with the only person who could inform him of what he wanted to know. All the robbers listened to him with the utmost satisfaction, when the captain, after commending his diligence, addressing himself to them all, said: Comrades, we have no time to lose; let us set off well armed, without its appearing who we are; but that we may not excite any suspicion, let only one or two go into the town together, and join at our rendezvous, which shall be the great square. In the meantime, our comrade who brought us the good news and I will go and find out the house, that we may consult what had best be done.
This was approved by all, and they filed off in parties of two each, after some interval of time, and got into the town without being suspected. The captain and he who had visited the town in the morning as spy came in the last. He led the captain into the street where he had marked Ali Babas residence; and when they came to the first of the houses which Marjaneh had marked, he pointed it out. But the Captain observed that the next door was chalked in the same manner, and in the same place; and shewing it to his guide, asked him what house it was, that, or the first. The guide was so confounded, that he knew not what answer to make, but still more puzzled, when he and the captain saw five or six houses similarly marked. He assured the captain, with an oath, that he had marked but one, and could not tell who had chalked the rest, so that he could not distinguish the house which the cobbler had stopped at.
The captain, finding that their design had proved abortive, went directly to the place of rendezvous, and told his followers that they had lost their labour and must return to the cave. So they all returned as they had come.
When the troop was all got together, the captain told them the reason of their returning; and presently the conductor was declared by all worthy of death. But as the safety of the troop required the discovery of the second intruder into the cave, another of the gang, who promised himself that he should succeed better, came forward, and his offer being accepted, he went and corrupted Baba Mustafa, as the other had done; and being shewn the house, marked it in a place more remote from sight, with red chalk. Not long after, Marjaneh, whose eyes nothing could escape, went out, and seeing the red chalk, and arguing with herself as she had done before, marked the other neighbours houses in the same place and manner. Accordingly, when the robber and his captain came to the street, they found the same difficulty; at which the captain was enraged, and the robber in as great confusion as his predecessor. Thus the captain and his troop were forced to retire a second time, and much more dissatisfied; while the robber, who had been the author of the mistake, underwent the same punishment.
The captain, having lost two brave fellows of his troop, was afraid of diminishing it too much by pursuing this plan to get information of the residence of their plunderer; and therefore resolved to take upon himself the important commission. Accordingly, he addressed himself to Baba Mustafa, who did him the same service he had done to the other robbers. He had not set any particular mark on the house, but examined and observed it so carefully, by passing often by it, that it was impossible for him to mistake it. Well satisfied with his attempt, and informed of what he wanted to know, he returned to the forest; and when he came into the cave, where the troop waited for him, said: Now, comrades, nothing can prevent our full revenge, as I am certain of the house; and in my way hither I have thought how to put it into execution; but if any one can form a better expedient, let him communicate it. He then told them his contrivance; and as they approved of it, ordered them to go into the villages about, and buy nineteen mules, with thirty-eight large leather jars, one full of oil, and the others empty.
In two or three days time the robbers had purchased the mules and jars, and as the mouths of the jars were rather too narrow for his purpose, the captain caused them to be widened; and after having put one of his men into each, with the weapons which he thought fit, leaving open the seam which had been undone to leave them room to breathe, he rubbed the jars on the outside with oil from the full vessel.
When the nineteen mules were loaded with thirty-seven robbers in jars, and the jar of oil, the captain set out with them, and reached the town by the dusk of the evening. He led them through the streets till he came to Ali Babas door where he was sitting after supper to take the air. He stopped his mules, addressed himself to him, and said: I have brought some oil a great way, to sell at tomorrows market; and it is now so late that I do not know where to lodge. If I should not be troublesome to you, do me the favour to let me pass the night with you.
Though Ali Baba had seen the captain of the robbers in the forest, and had heard him speak, it was impossible to know him in the disguise of an oil-merchant. He told him he should be welcome, and immediately opened his gates for the mules to go into the yard. At the same time he called to a slave, and ordered him, when the mules were unloaded, to put them into the stable, and to feed them; and then went to Marjaneh, to bid her make a good supper for his guest. After they had finished supper, Ali Baba, charging Marjaneh afresh to take care of his guest, said to her: to-morrow morning I am going to the bath before daybreak; take care my bathing linen be ready, give them to Abd-Allah, and make me some good broth against I return.
In the meantime the captain of the robbers went into the yard, and took off the lid of each jar, and gave his people orders what to do. Beginning at the first jar, and so on to the last, he said to each man: As soon as I throw some stones out of the chamber window where I sleep, do not fail to come out, and I will immediately join you. After this he returned into the house, when Marjaneh, taking up a light, conducted him to his chamber.
Marjaneh, remembering Ali Babas orders, got his bathing linen ready, and ordered Abd-Allah to set on the pot for the broth; but while it was preparing the lamp went out, and there was no more oil in the house. So she took the oil-pot, and went into the yard; when as she came nigh the first jar, the robber within said softly, Is it time? Without showing her amazement, she answered, Not yet, but presently. She went quietly in this manner to all the jars, giving the same answer, till she came to the jar of oil.
By this means Marjaneh found that her master Ali Baba had admitted thirty-eight robbers into his house, and that this pretended oil-merchant was their captain. She made what haste she could to fill her oil-pot, and returned into her kitchen, where, as soon as she had lighted her lamp, she took a great kettle, went again to the oil-jar, filled the kettle, set it on a large wood fire, and as soon as it boiled, went and poured enough into every jar to stifle and destroy the robber within. When she had done this, she returned into the kitchen; and having put out the great fire she had made to boil the oil, and leaving just enough to make the broth, put out the lamp also, and remained silent, resolving not to go to rest till she had observed what might follow through a window of the kitchen, which opened into the yard. She had not waited long before the captain of the robbers got up, opened the window, and finding no light, and hearing no noise, or anyone stirring in the house, gave the appointed signal, by throwing little stones at the jars. He then listened, but not hearing or perceiving anything, he began to grow uneasy, threw stones again a second and also a third time, and could not comprehend the reason that none of them should answer his signal. Much alarmed, he went softly down into the yard, and going to the first jar, whilst asking the robber, whom he thought alive, if he was in readiness, smelt the hot boiled oil, which sent forth a steam out of the jar. Hence he suspected that his plot to murder Ali Baba, and plunder his house, was discovered. Examining all the jars, one after another, he found that all his gang were dead; and, enraged to despair at having failed in his design, he forced the lock of a door that led from the yard to the garden, and climbing over the walls, made his escape.
Ali Baba rose before day, and, followed by his slave, went to the bath, entirely ignorant of the important event which had happened at home. When he returned he was much surprised to see the oil-jars, and that the merchant was not gone with the mules, and asked Marjaneh the reason of it. O my master, answered she, God preserve you and your family. You will be better informed of what you wish to know when you have seen what I have to shew you, if you will follow me. Then she bade him look into the first jar, and see if there was any oil. Ali Baba did so, and seeing a man, started back in alarm, and cried out, Be not afraid, said Marjaneh, the man you see there can neither do you nor any one else any harm. He is dead. O Marjaneh, said Ali Baba, what is it you shew me? Moderate your astonishment, replied Marjaneh, and do not excite the curiosity of the neighbours; for it is of great importance to keep this affair secret. Look into all the other jars.
Ali Baba examined all the other jars, one after another; and when he came to that which had the oil in, found it prodigiously sunk, and stood for some time motionless, sometimes looking at the jars, and sometimes at Marjaneh, without saying a word, so great was his surprise. Marjaneh then told him all she had done, from the first observing the mark upon the house, to the destruction of the robbers, and the flight of their captain.
On hearing of these brave deeds from the lips of Marjaneh, Ali Baba said to her: God, by your means, has delivered me from the snares these robbers laid for my destruction. I owe my life to you; and, for the first token of my acknowledgment, give you your liberty from this moment, till I can complete your recompense as I intend.
Ali Babas garden was very long, and shaded at the further end by a great number of large trees. Near these he and the slave Abd-Allah dug a trench, long and wide enough to hold the bodies of the robbers; and as the earth was light, they were not long in doing it. When this was done, Ali Baba hid the jars and weapons; and as he had no occasion for the mules, he sent them at different times to be sold in the market by his slave.
Meanwhile the captain returned to the forest with inconceivable mortification. He did not stay long; the loneliness of the gloomy cavern became frightful to him. He determined, however, to avenge the fate of his companions, and to accomplish the death of Ali Baba. For this purpose he returned to the town, and took a lodging in a Khan, and disguised himself as a merchant in silks. Under this assumed character he gradually conveyed a great many sorts of rich stuffs and fine linen to his lodging from the cavern, with all necessary precaution to conceal the place whence he brought them. In order to dispose of the merchandise, when he had thus amassed them together, he took a warehouse, which happened to be opposite to Kasims, which Ali Babas son had occupied since the death of his uncle.
He took the name of Khoja Hoseyn, and, as a new-comer, was, according to custom, extremely civil and complaisant to all the merchants his neighbours. Ali Babas son was, from his vicinity, one of the first to converse with Khoja Hoseyn, who strove to cultivate his friendship more particularly. Two or three days after he was settled, Ali Baba came to see his son, and the captain of the robbers recognised him at once, and soon learned from his son who he was. After this he increased his assiduities, caressed him in the most engaging manner, made him some small presents, and often asked him to dine and sup with him.
One day Ali Babas son and Khoja Hoseyn met by appointment, took their walk, and as they returned, Ali Babas son led Khoja Hoseyn through the street where his father lived, and when they came to the house, stopped and knocked at the door. This, said he, is my fathers house, who, from the account I have given him of your friendship, charged me to procure him the honour of your acquaintance; and I desire you to add this pleasure to those for which I am already indebted to you.
Though it was the sole aim of Khoja Hoseyn to introduce himself into Ali Babas house, that he might kill him, yet he excused himself, and offered to take his leave; but a slave having opened the door, Ali Babas son took him by the hand and led him in. Ali Baba received Khoja Hoseyn with a smiling countenance, and in the most obliging manner he could wish. He thanked him for all the favours he had done his son; adding withal, the obligation was the greater as he was a young man, not much acquainted with the world, and that he might contribute to his information. After a little more conversation, he offered again to take his leave, when Ali Baba, stopping him, said: Where are you going in so much haste? I beg you would do me the honour to sup with me; though my entertainment may not be worthy your acceptance, such as it is, I heartily offer it. O my master, replied Khoja Hoseyn, I am thoroughly persuaded of your good-will; but the truth is, I can eat no victuals that have any salt in them; therefore judge how I should feel at your table. If that is the only reason, said Ali Baba, it ought not to deprive me of the honour of your company; for there is no salt ever put into my bread, and as to the meat we shall have to-night, I promise you there shall be none in that. Therefore do me the favour to stay.
Then Ali Baba went into the kitchen, and ordered Marjaneh to put no salt to the meat that was to be dressed that night; and to make quickly two or three dishes besides what he had ordered, but to be sure to put no salt in them. Now Marjaneh, who was always ready to obey her master, could not help being surprised at this order. Who is this strange man, said she, who eats no salt with his meat? Your supper will be spoiled if I keep it back so long. Do not be angry, Marjaneh, replied Ali Baba. He is an honest man; therefore do as I bid you.
Marjaneh obeyed, though with no little reluctance, and had a curiosity to see this man who ate no salt. To this end, when she had finished what she had to do in the kitchen, she helped Abd-Allah to carry up the dishes; and, looking at Khoja Hoseyn, knew him at first sight, notwithstanding his disguise, to be the captain of the robbers, and examining him very carefully, perceived that he had a dagger under his garment. I am not in the least amazed, said she to herself, that this wicked man, who is my masters greatest enemy, would eat no salt with him, since he intends to assassinate him; but I will prevent him.
When Abd-Allah had put the service of fruit with the wine before Ali Baba, Marjaneh retired, dressed herself neatly, with a suitable head-dress, like a dancer, girded her waist with a silver-gilt girdle, to which were hung a poniard with a hilt and guard of the same metal, and put a handsome veil on her face. When she had thus attired herself, she said to Abd-Allah: Take your tabor, and let us go and divert our master and his sons friend, as we do sometimes when he is alone.
Abd-Allah took his tabor and played all the way into the hall before Marjaneh, who, when she came to the door, made a low obeisance by way of asking leave to exhibit her skill. Come in, Marjaneh, said Ali-Baba, and let Khoja Hoseyn see what you can do, that he may tell us what he thinks of your performance.
After she had danced several dances with much grace, she drew the poniard and, holding it in her hand, began a dance, in which she outdid herself, by the many different figures, light movements, and the surprising leaps and wonderful exertions with which she accompanied it. Sometimes she presented the poniard to one breast, sometimes to another, and oftentimes seemed to strike her own. At last, she snatched the tabor from Abd-Allah with her left hand, and holding the dagger in her right, presented the other side of the tabor, after the manner of those who get a livelihood by dancing, and solicit the liberality of the spectators.
Ali Baba put a piece of gold into the tabor, as did also his son; and Khoja Hoseyn, seeing that she was coming to him, had pulled his purse out of his bosom to make her a present; but while he was putting his hand into it, Marjaneh plunged the poniard into his heart.
Ali Baba and his son, shocked at this action, cried out aloud. Ill-omened woman! exclaimed Ali Baba, what have you done to ruin me and my family? It was to preserve, not to ruin you, answered Marjaneh; for see here, continued she, opening the pretended Khoja Hoseyns garment, and shewing the dagger, what an enemy you had entertained! Look well at him, and you will find him to be both the pretended oil-merchant and the captain of the gang of forty robbers. Remember, too, that he would eat no salt with you; and what would you have more to persuade you of his wicked design? Before I saw him, I suspected him as soon as you told me you had such a guest. I knew him, and you now find that my suspicion was not groundless.
Then Ali Baba, seeing that Marjaneh had saved his life a second time, embraced her. O Marjaneh, said he, I gave you your liberty, and then promised you that my gratitude should not stop there, but that I would soon give you higher proofs of its sincerity; which I now do by making you my daughter-in-law. Then addressing himself to his son, he said: I believe you, son, to be so dutiful a child, that you will not refuse Marjaneh for your wife. You see that Khoja Hoseyn sought your friendship with a treacherous design to take away my life: and if he had succeeded, there is no doubt but he would have sacrificed you also to his revenge. Consider that by marrying Marjaneh you marry the preserver of our family.
A few days afterwards, Ali Baba celebrated the nuptials of his son and Marjaneh with great solemnity, a sumptuous feast, and the usual dancing and spectacles; and had the satisfaction to see that his friends and neighbours, whom he invited, had no knowledge of the true motives of the marriage; but that those who were not unacquainted with Marjanehs good qualities commended his generosity and goodness of heart. Ali Baba did not visit the robbers cave for a whole year, as he supposed the other two, whom he could get no account of, might be alive.
At the years end, when he found they had not made any attempt to disturb him, he resolved to make another journey. He mounted his horse, and when he came to the cave he alighted, tied his horse to a tree, then approaching the entrance, pronounced the words, Open, Simsim! whereupon the door opened. He entered the cavern, and by the condition he found things in, judged that nobody had been there since the captain had fetched the goods for his shop. From this time he believed he was the only person in the world who had the secret of opening the cave, and that all the treasure was at his sole disposal. He put as much gold into his saddle-bags as his horses would carry, and returned to the town. Some years later he carried his son to the cave and taught him the secret, which he handed down to his posterity, who, using their good fortune with moderation, lived in great honour and splendour till they were visited by the terminator of delights and the separator of companions.
Note 1. This talismanic word, though it is the Arabic name of sesamè (Sesamum orientale, a plant producing oil-grain much used in the East), must have some other meaning. A German folk-tale, Simeliberg, beginning in something of the same way with the magical opening of a rock, has the phrase Open Simsi, which the Grimms explain as an old German word for mountain (Hartland, Inst. Folklore Congress, 1891. There is nothing to prove that Ali Baba is not a European folk-tale turned into Arabic by Gallands Syrian munshi. [back]