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Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves

from Favorite Fairy Tales





In a town in Persia there dwelt two brothers, one named Cassim, the
other Ali Baba. Cassim was married to a rich wife and lived in plenty,
while Ali Baba had to maintain his wife and children by cutting wood
in a neighboring forest and selling it in the town. One day, when Ali
Baba was in the forest, he saw a troop of men on horseback coming
towards him in a cloud of dust. He was afraid they were robbers, and
climbed into a tree for safety. When they came up to him and
dismounted, he counted forty of them. They unbridled their horses and
tied them to trees. The finest man among them, whom Ali Baba took to
be their captain, went a little way among some bushes, and said:
"Open, Sesame!"[1] so plainly that Ali Baba heard him. A door opened
in the rocks, and having made the troop go in, he followed them, and
the door shut again of itself. They stayed some time inside, and Ali
Baba, fearing they might come out and catch him, was forced to sit
patiently in the tree. At last the door opened again, and the Forty
Thieves came out. As the Captain went in last he came out first, and
made them all pass by him; he then closed the door, saying: "Shut,
Sesame!" Every man bridled his horse and mounted, the Captain put
himself at their head, and they returned as they came.

[1] Sesame is a kind of grain.

Then Ali Baba climbed down and went to the door concealed among the
bushes, and said: "Open, Sesame!" and it flew open. Ali Baba, who
expected a dull, dismal place, was greatly surprised to find it large
and well lighted, and hollowed by the hand of man in the form of a
vault, which received the light from an opening in the ceiling. He saw
rich bales of merchandise--silk, stuff-brocades, all piled together,
and gold and silver in heaps, and money in leather purses. He went in
and the door shut behind him. He did not look at the silver, but
brought out as many bags of gold as he thought his asses, which were
browsing outside, could carry, loaded them with the bags, and hid it
all with fagots. Using the words: "Shut, Sesame!" he closed the door
and went home.

Then he drove his asses into the yard, shut the gates, carried the
money-bags to his wife, and emptied them out before her. He bade her
keep the secret, and he would go and bury the gold. "Let me first
measure it," said his wife. "I will go borrow a measure of some one
while you dig the hole." So she ran to the wife of Cassim and borrowed
a measure. Knowing Ali Baba's poverty, the sister was curious to find
out what sort of grain his wife wished to measure, and artfully put
some suet at the bottom of the measure. Ali Baba's wife went home and
set the measure on the heap of gold, and filled it and emptied it
often, to her great content. She then carried it back to her sister,
without noticing that a piece of gold was sticking to it, which
Cassim's wife perceived directly her back was turned. She grew very
curious, and said to Cassim when he came home: "Cassim, your brother
is richer than you. He does not count his money, he measures it." He
begged her to explain this riddle, which she did by showing him the
piece of money and telling him where she found it. Then Cassim grew so
envious that he could not sleep, and went to his brother in the
morning before sunrise. "Ali Baba," he said, showing him the gold
piece, "you pretend to be poor and yet you measure gold." By this Ali
Baba perceived that through his wife's folly Cassim and his wife knew
their secret, so he confessed all and offered Cassim a share. "That I
expect," said Cassim; "but I must know where to find the treasure,
otherwise I will discover all, and you will lose all." Ali Baba, more
out of kindness than fear, told him of the cave, and the very words to
use. Cassim left Ali Baba, meaning to be beforehand with him and get
the treasure himself. He rose early next morning, and set out with ten
mules loaded with great chests. He soon found the place, and the door
in the rock. He said: "Open, Sesame!" and the door opened and shut
behind him. He could have feasted his eyes all day on the treasures,
but he now hastened to gather together as much of it as possible; but
when he was ready to go he could not remember what to say for
thinking of his great riches. Instead of "Sesame," he said: "Open,
Barley!" and the door remained fast. He named several different sorts
of grain, all but the right one, and the door still stuck fast. He was
so frightened at the danger he was in that he had as much forgotten
the word as if he had never heard it.

About noon the robbers returned to their cave, and saw Cassim's mules
roving about with great chests on their backs. This gave them the
alarm; they drew their sabres, and went to the door, which opened on
their Captain's saying: "Open, Sesame!" Cassim, who had heard the
trampling of their horses' feet, resolved to sell his life dearly, so
when the door opened he leaped out and threw the Captain down. In
vain, however, for the robbers with their sabres soon killed him. On
entering the cave they saw all the bags laid ready, and could not
imagine how any one had got in without knowing their secret. They cut
Cassim's body into four quarters, and nailed them up inside the cave,
in order to frighten any one who should venture in, and went away in
search of more treasure.



As night drew on Cassim's wife grew very uneasy, and ran to her
brother-in-law, and told him where her husband had gone. Ali Baba did
his best to comfort her, and set out to the forest in search of
Cassim. The first thing he saw on entering the cave was his dead
brother. Full of horror, he put the body on one of his asses, and bags
of gold on the other two, and, covering all with some fagots, returned
home. He drove the two asses laden with gold into his own yard, and
led the other to Cassim's house. The door was opened by the slave
Morgiana, whom he knew to be both brave and cunning. Unloading the
ass, he said to her: "This is the body of your master, who has been
murdered, but whom we must bury as though he had died in his bed. I
will speak with you again, but now tell your mistress I am come." The
wife of Cassim, on learning the fate of her husband, broke out into
cries and tears, but Ali Baba offered to take her to live with him and
his wife if she would promise to keep his counsel and leave everything
to Morgiana; whereupon she agreed, and dried her eyes.

Morgiana, meanwhile, sought an apothecary and asked him for some
lozenges. "My poor master," she said, "can neither eat nor sleep, and
no one knows what his distemper is." She carried home the lozenges and
returned next day weeping, and asked for an essence only given to
those just about to die. Thus, in the evening, no one was surprised to
hear the wretched shrieks and cries of Cassim's wife and Morgiana
telling every one that Cassim was dead. The day after, Morgiana went
to an old cobbler near the gates of the town who opened his stall
early, put a piece of gold in his hand, and bade him follow with his
needle and thread. Having bound his eyes with a handkerchief, she took
him to the room where the body lay, pulled off the bandage, and bade
him sew the quarters together, after which she covered his eyes again
and led him home. Then they buried Cassim, and Morgiana his slave
followed him to the grave, weeping and tearing her hair, while
Cassim's wife stayed at home uttering lamentable cries. Next day she
went to live with Ali Baba, who gave Cassim's shop to his eldest son.

The Forty Thieves, on their return to the cave, were much astonished
to find Cassim's body gone and some of their money-bags. "We are
certainly discovered," said the Captain, "and shall be undone if we
cannot find out who it is that knows our secret. Two men must have
known it; we have killed one, we must now find the other. To this end
one of you who is bold and artful must go into the city dressed as a
traveller, and discover whom we have killed, and whether men talk of
the strange manner of his death. If the messenger fails he must lose
his life, lest we be betrayed." One of the thieves started up and
offered to do this, and after the rest had highly commended him for
his bravery he disguised himself, and happened to enter the town at
daybreak, just by Baba Mustapha's stall. The thief bade him good-day,
saying: "Honest man, how can you possibly see to stitch at your age?"
"Old as I am," replied the cobbler, "I have very good eyes, and you
will believe me when I tell you that I sewed a dead body together in a
place where I had less light than I have now." The robber was
overjoyed at his good-fortune, and, giving him a piece of gold,
desired to be shown the house where he stitched up the dead body. At
first Mustapha refused, saying that he was blindfolded; but when the
robber gave him another piece of gold he began to think he might
remember the turnings if blindfolded as before. This means succeeded;
the robber partly led him, and was partly guided by him, right in
front of Cassim's house, the door of which the robber marked with a
piece of chalk. Then, well pleased, he bade farewell to Baba Mustapha
and returned to the forest. By and by Morgiana, going out, saw the
mark the robber had made, quickly guessed that some mischief was
brewing, and, fetching a piece of chalk, marked two or three doors on
each side, without saying anything to her master or mistress.

The thief, meantime, told his comrades of his discovery. The Captain
thanked him, and bade him show him the house he had marked. But when
they came to it they saw that five or six of the houses were chalked
in the same manner. The guide was so confounded that he knew not what
answer to make, and when they returned he was at once beheaded for
having failed. Another robber was despatched, and, having won over
Baba Mustapha, marked the house in red chalk; but Morgiana being again
too clever for them, the second messenger was put to death also. The
Captain now resolved to go himself, but, wiser than the others, he did
not mark the house, but looked at it so closely that he could not fail
to remember it. He returned, and ordered his men to go into the
neighboring villages and buy nineteen mules, and thirty-eight leather
jars, all empty, except one which was full of oil. The Captain put one
of his men, fully armed, into each, rubbing the outside of the jars
with oil from the full vessel. Then the nineteen mules were loaded
with thirty-seven robbers in jars, and the jar of oil, and reached
the town by dusk. The Captain stopped his mules in front of Ali Baba's
house, and said to Ali Baba, who was sitting outside for coolness: "I
have brought some oil from a distance to sell at to-morrow's market,
but it is now so late that I know not where to pass the night, unless
you will do me the favor to take me in." Though Ali Baba had seen the
Captain of the robbers in the forest, he did not recognize him in the
disguise of an oil merchant. He bade him welcome, opened his gates for
the mules to enter, and went to Morgiana to bid her prepare a bed and
supper for his guest. He brought the stranger into his hall, and after
they had supped went again to speak to Morgiana in the kitchen, while
the Captain went into the yard under pretence of seeing after his
mules, but really to tell his men what to do. Beginning at the first
jar and ending at the last, he said to each man: "As soon as I throw
some stones from the window of the chamber where I lie, cut the jars
open with your knives and come out, and I will be with you in a
trice." He returned to the house, and Morgiana led him to his chamber.
She then told Abdallah, her fellow-slave, to set on the pot to make
some broth for her master, who had gone to bed. Meanwhile her lamp
went out, and she had no more oil in the house. "Do not be uneasy,"
said Abdallah; "go into the yard and take some out of one of those
jars." Morgiana thanked him for his advice, took the oil-pot, and went
into the yard. When she came to the first jar the robber inside said
softly: "Is it time?"

Any other slave but Morgiana, on finding a man in the jar instead of
the oil she wanted, would have screamed, and made a noise; but she,
knowing the danger her master was in, bethought herself of a plan, and
answered quietly: "Not yet, but presently." She went to all the jars,
giving the same answer, till she came to the jar of oil. She now saw
that her master, thinking to entertain an oil merchant, had let
thirty-eight robbers into his house. She filled her oil-pot, went back
to the kitchen, and, having lit her lamp, went again to the oil-jar
and filled a large kettle full of oil. When it boiled she went and
poured enough oil into every jar to stifle and kill the robber inside.
When this brave deed was done she went back to the kitchen, put out
the fire and the lamp, and waited to see what would happen.

In a quarter of an hour the Captain of the robbers awoke, got up, and
opened the window. As all seemed quiet, he threw down some little
pebbles which hit the jars. He listened, and as none of his men seemed
to stir he grew uneasy, and went down into the yard. On going to the
first jar and saying, "Are you asleep?" he smelled the hot boiled
oil, and knew at once that his plot to murder Ali Baba and his
household had been discovered. He found all the gang were dead, and,
missing the oil out of the last jar, became aware of the manner of
their death. He then forced the lock of a door leading into a garden,
and climbing over several walls made his escape. Morgiana heard and
saw all this, and, rejoicing at her success, went to bed and fell
asleep.

At daybreak Ali Baba arose, and, seeing the oil-jars there still,
asked why the merchant had not gone with his mules. Morgiana bade him
look in the first jar and see if there was any oil. Seeing a man, he
started back in terror. "Have no fear," said Morgiana; "the man cannot
harm you: he is dead." Ali Baba, when he had recovered somewhat from
his astonishment, asked what had become of the merchant. "Merchant!"
said she, "he is no more a merchant than I am!" and she told him the
whole story, assuring him that it was a plot of the robbers of the
forest, of whom only three were left, and that the white-and-red
chalk-marks had something to do with it. Ali Baba at once gave
Morgiana her freedom, saying that he owed her his life. They then
buried the bodies in Ali Baba's garden, while the mules were sold in
the market by his slaves.

The Captain returned to his lonely cave, which seemed frightful to him
without his lost companions, and firmly resolved to avenge them by
killing Ali Baba. He dressed himself carefully, and went into the
town, where he took lodgings in an inn. In the course of a great many
journeys to the forest he carried away many rich stuffs and much fine
linen, and set up a shop opposite that of Ali Baba's son. He called
himself Cogia Hassan, and as he was both civil and well dressed he
soon made friends with Ali Baba's son, and through him with Ali Baba,
whom he was continually asking to sup with him. Ali Baba, wishing to
return his kindness, invited him into his house and received him
smiling, thanking him for his kindness to his son. When the merchant
was about to take his leave Ali Baba stopped him, saying: "Where are
you going, sir, in such haste? Will you not stay and sup with me?" The
merchant refused, saying that he had a reason; and on Ali Baba's
asking him what that was, he replied: "It is, sir, that I can eat no
victuals that have any salt in them." "If that is all," said Ali Baba,
"let me tell you that there shall be no salt in either the meat or the
bread that we eat to-night." He went to give this order to Morgiana,
who was much surprised. "Who is this man," she said, "who eats no salt
with his meat?" "He is an honest man, Morgiana," returned her master;
"therefore do as I bid you." But she could not withstand a desire to
see this strange man, so she helped Abdallah to carry up the dishes,
and saw in a moment that Cogia Hassan was the robber Captain, and
carried a dagger under his garment. "I am not surprised," she said to
herself, "that this wicked man, who intends to kill my master, will
eat no salt with him; but I will hinder his plans."

She sent up the supper by Abdallah, while she made ready for one of
the boldest acts that could be thought on. When the dessert had been
served, Cogia Hassan was left alone with Ali Baba and his son, whom he
thought to make drunk and then to murder them. Morgiana, meanwhile,
put on a head-dress like a dancing-girl's, and clasped a girdle round
her waist, from which hung a dagger with a silver hilt, and said to
Abdallah: "Take your tabor, and let us go and divert our master and
his guest." Abdallah took his tabor and played before Morgiana until
they came to the door, where Abdallah stopped playing and Morgiana
made a low courtesy. "Come in, Morgiana," said Ali Baba, "and let
Cogia Hassan see what you can do." And, turning to Cogia Hassan, he
said: "She's my slave and my housekeeper." Cogia Hassan was by no
means pleased, for he feared that his chance of killing Ali Baba was
gone for the present; but he pretended great eagerness to see
Morgiana, and Abdallah began to play and Morgiana to dance. After she
had performed several dances, she drew her dagger and made passes with
it, sometimes pointing it at her own breast, sometimes at her
master's, as if it were part of the dance. Suddenly, out of breath,
she snatched the tabor from Abdallah with her left hand, and, holding
the dagger in her right, held out the tabor to her master. Ali Baba
and his son put a piece of gold into it, and Cogia Hassan, seeing that
she was coming to him, pulled out his purse to make her a present;
but while he was putting his hand into it, Morgiana plunged the dagger
into his heart.

"Unhappy girl!" cried Ali Baba and his son, "what have you done to
ruin us?" "It was to preserve you, master, not to ruin you," answered
Morgiana. "See here," opening the false merchant's garment and showing
the dagger; "see what an enemy you have entertained! Remember, he
would eat no salt with you, and what more would you have? Look at him!
he is both the false oil merchant and the Captain of the Forty
Thieves."

Ali Baba was so grateful to Morgiana for thus saving his life that he
offered her to his son in marriage, who readily consented, and a few
days after the wedding was celebrated with great splendor. At the end
of a year Ali Baba, hearing nothing of the two remaining robbers,
judged they were dead, and set out to the cave. The door opened on
his saying: "Open, Sesame!" He went in, and saw that nobody had been
there since the Captain left it. He brought away as much gold as he
could carry, and returned to town. He told his son the secret of the
cave, which his son handed down in his turn, so the children and
grandchildren of Ali Baba were rich to the end of their lives.

By the courtesy of Messrs. Longmans, Green & Co.,
publishers of "The Blue Fairy Book," edited by Andrew
Lang.





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