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ali baba
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♪1øø1~Ali Baba and Forty Robbers (2)♪

1001 NIGHTS

The History of Ali Baba, and of the Forty Robbers Who Were Killed by One Slave Part Two

"Leaving Ali Baba to enjoy his newly acquired fortune, we will now return to the forty thieves. They came back to their retreat in the forest when the time they had agreed to be absent had expired; but their astonishment was indescribable when they found the body of Cassim gone, and it was greatly increased on perceiving a visible diminution of their treasure. 'We are discovered,' said the captain, 'and entirely ruined if we are not very careful, or neglect to take immediate measures to remedy the evil; we shall by degrees lose all these riches which our ancestors, as well as we, have amassed with so much trouble and fatigue. All that we can at present judge concerning the loss we have sustained is, that the thief whom we surprised at the fortunate moment, when he was going to make his escape, knew the secret of opening the door. But he was not the only one who possessed that secret: another must have the same knowledge. The removal of his body and the diminution of our treasure are incontestable proofs of the fact. And, as we have no reason to suppose that more than two people are acquainted with the secret, having destroyed one, we must not suffer the other to escape. What say you, my brave comrades? Are you not of my opinion?'

"This proposal of the captain's was thought so reasonable that the whole troop approved it, and agreed that it would be advisable to relinquish every other enterprise, and occupy themselves solely with this affair, which they should not abandon until they had succeeded in detecting the thief.

"'I expected this decision, from your own courage and bravery,' resumed the captain; 'but the first thing to be done is, that one of you who is bold, courageous, and cunning, should go to the city unarmed and in the dress of a traveller and employ all his art to discover if the singular death we inflicted on the culprit whom we destroyed is the common topic of conversation. Then he must find out who this man was, and where he lived. It is absolutely necessary we should be acquainted with this, that we may not do anything of which we may have to repent, by making ourselves known in a country where we have been so long forgotten, and where it is so much to our interest to remain undisturbed. But in order to inspire with ardour him who shall undertake this commission, and to prevent his bringing us a false report, which might occasion our total ruin, I propose that he should consent to submit to the penalty of death in case of failure.'

"Without waiting till his companions should speak, one of the robbers said: 'I willingly agree to these terms, and glory in exposing my life in the execution of such a commission. If I should fail, you will at least remember that I have displayed both courage and readiness in my offer to serve the whole troop.'

"Amid the commendations of the captain and his companions, the robber disguised himself in such a way that no one could have suspected him of belonging to the nefarious trade he followed. He set off at night, and entered the city just as day was beginning to appear. He went towards the public bazaar, where he saw only one shop open, and that was the shop of Baba Mustapha.

"The Jovial cobbler was seated on his stool ready to begin work. The robber went up to him, and wished him a good morning, saying, 'My good man, you rise betimes to your work; how is it possible that an old man like you can see clearly at this early hour? Even if it were broad day, I doubt whether your eyes are good enough to see the stitches you make.'

"'Whoever you are,' replied Baba Mustapha, 'you do not know much about me. Notwithstanding my age, I have excellent eyes; and you would have confessed as much, had you known that not long since I sewed up a dead body in a place where there was not more light than we have here.'

"The robber felt greatly elated at having on his arrival addressed himself to a man who of his own accord entered upon the very subject on which he ardently wished to gain information. 'A dead body!' replied he with feigned astonishment, to induce the other to proceed. 'Why should you want to sew up a dead body? I suppose you mean that you sewed the shroud in which he was buried.' 'No, no,' said Baba Mustapha, 'I know what I mean: you want me to tell you more about it, but you shall not hear another syllable.'

"The robber required no further proof to be fully convinced that he was on the right road to discover what he wished to know. He produced a piece of gold, and putting it into Baba Mustapha's hand, he said: 'I have no desire to cheat you of your secret, although I can assure you I should not divulge it even if you entrusted me with it. The only favour I beg is that you will have the goodness to direct me to the house where you sewed up the dead body or that you will come with me, and show me the way.'

"'Should I feel inclined to grant your request,' replied Baba Mustapha, holding the piece of money in his hand as if ready to return it, 'I assure you that I could not do it. And I will tell you why I must refuse. My employers took me to a particular place, and there they bound my eyes; and from thence I suffered myself to be led to the house; and when I had finished what I had to do I was brought back to my own house in the same manner. You see, therefore, how impossible it is that I should serve you in this matter.' 'But at least,' resumed the robber, 'you must nearly remember the way you went after your eyes were bound. Pray come with me: I will put a bandage over your eyes at the place where you were blindfolded, and we will walk together along the same streets, and follow the same turnings, which you will probably recollect to have taken; and, as all labour deserves a reward, here is another piece of gold. Come, grant me this favour.' And as he spoke he put another piece of money into the cobbler's hand.

"The two pieces of gold were a sore temptation to Baba Mustapha. At length he drew his purse from his bosom, and putting the gold into it, replied: 'I cannot positively assure you that I remember exactly the way they took me ; but since you will have it so, come along ; I will do my best to satisfy you.'

"To the great satisfaction of the robber, Baba Mustapha conducted the robber to the spot where Morgiana had put the bandage over his eyes. 'This is the place,' said he, 'where my eyes were bound; and then my face was turned in this direction.' The robber, who had his handkerchief ready, tied it over Mustapha's eyes, and walked by his side, partly leading him, and partly led by him, till Baba Mustapha stopped.

"'I think,' said he, 'I did not go farther than this'; and he was in fact exactly before the house which had once belonged to Cassim, and where Ali Baba now resided. Before taking the bandage from the cobbler's eyes, the robber quickly made a mark on the door with some chalk he had brought for the purpose; and when he had taken the handkerchief off, he asked Baba Mustapha if he knew to whom the house belonged. The cobbler replied that he did not live in that quarter of the town, and therefore could not tell. As the robber found that he could gain no further intelligence from Baba Mustapha, he thanked him for the trouble he had taken; and when he had seen the cobbler turn away to go to his shop, he took the road to the forest, where he felt certain he should be well received.

"Soon after the robber and Baba Mustapha had separated, Morgiana had occasion to go out on some errand; and when she returned she observed the mark which the robber had made on the door of Ali Baba's house. She stopped to examine it. 'What can this mark signify?' thought she. 'Has any one a spite against my master, or has it been made only for diversion? Be the motive what it may, I may as well use precautions against the worst that may happen.' She therefore took some chalk; and as several of the doors on each side of her master's house were of the same appearance, she marked them in the same manner, and then went in, without saying anything of what she had done either to her master or mistress.

"In the meantime the thief made the best of his way back into the forest, where he rejoined his companions. He related the success of his journey. They all listened to him with great satisfaction, and the captain, after praising his diligence, thus addressed the rest: 'Comrades,' said he, 'we have no time to lose: let us arm ourselves and depart; and when we have entered the city (whither we had best go separately, not to create suspicion), let us all assemble in the great square, some on one side of it, some on the other; and I will go and find out the house with our companion who has brought us this good news, and then I shall be able to judge what method will be most advantageous to pursue.'

"The robbers all applauded their captain's proposal, and they were very soon equipped for their departure. They went in small parties of two or three together; and, walking at a certain distance from each other, they entered the city without occasioning any suspicion. The captain and the robber who had been there in the morning were the last to enter it; and the latter conducted the captain to the street in which he had marked the house of AH Baba. When they reached the first door that had been marked by Morgiana, the thief pointed it out, saying that was the one he had marked. But as they continued walking, the captain perceived that the next door was marked in the same manner, and pointed out this circumstance to his guide, inquiring whether this was the house, or the one they had passed? His guide was quite confused, and knew not what to answer; and his embarrassment increased, when, on proceeding with the captain, he found that four or five doors successively had the same mark. He assured the captain, with an oath, that he had marked but one. 'I cannot conceive,' added he, 'who can have imitated my mark with so much exactness; but I cannot now distinguish my mark from the others.'

"The captain, who found that his design was frustrated, returned to the great square, where he told the first of his people whom he met to inform the rest that they had made a fruitless expedition, and that now there was nothing to be done but to return to their place of retreat. He set the example, and they all followed.

"When the troop had reassembled in the forest, the captain explained to them the reason why he had ordered them to return. The spy was unanimously declared deserving of death, and he acquiesced in his condemnation, owning that he should have been more cautious in taking his measures; and advancing with a serene countenance, he submitted to the stroke of a companion who was ordered to strike his head from his body.

"As it was ...
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