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The Forty Thieves

from The Blue Fairy Book





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 toward 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,
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 someone, 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 for 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 anyone 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 anyone
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 speak, 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 everyone 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 her 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 traveler, 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
will you 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 had been 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
dispatched, 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 pretense
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 smelt 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 was 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
still there, 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 hand, 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 greatest 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.





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