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The poor cobbler was dismayed at this speech; but knowing there was no hope of changing his wife's resolution, he resigned himself to his fate. “ Well,” said he, “ your will shall be obeyed. All I desire is, to pass the few remaining days of my life as comfortably as I can. You know I am no scholar, and have little skill in reckoning; so, there are forty dates; give me one every night after I have said my prayers, that I may put them in a jar, and, by counting them, may always see how many of the few days I have to live are gone.”
The lady, pleased at carrying her point, took the dates, and promised to be punctual in doing what her husband desired.
Meanwhile the thieves who had stolen the king's treasure, having been kept from leaving the city by fear of detection and pursuit, had received accurate information of every measure taken to discover them. One of them was among the crowd before the palace on the day the king sent for Ahmed; and, hearing that the cobbler had immediately declared their exact number, he ran in a fright to his - comrades, and exclaimed, “ We are all found out ! Ahmed, the new astrologer, has told the king that there are forty of us."
“ There needed no astrologer to tell that,” said the captain of the gang. . “ This Ahmed, with all his simple good-nature, is a shrewd fellow. Forty chests having been stolen, he naturally guessed that there must be forty thieves; and he has made a good hit, that is all: still, it is prudent to watch him; for he certainly has made some strange discoveries. One of us must go to-night, after dark, to the terrace of this cobbler's house, and listen to his conversation with his handsome wife; for he is said to be very fond of her, and will, no doubt, tell her what success he has had in his endeavours to detect us.”
Every body approved of this scheme; and, soon after nightfall, one of the thieves repaired to the terrace. He arrived there just as the cobbler had finished his evening
prayers, and his wife was giving him the first date. “Ah!” said Ahmed, as he took it, “ there is one of the forty.”
The thief, hearing these words, hastened in consternation to the gang, and told them that the moment he took his post, he had been perceived by the supernatural knowledge of Ahmed, who immediately told his wife that one of them was there. The spy's tale was not believed by his hardened companions; something was imputed to his fears; he might have been mistaken; in short, it was determined to send two men the next night at the same hour. They reached the house just as Ahmed, having finished his prayers, had received the second date, and heard him exclaim, “ My dear wife, to-night there are two of them.”
The astonished thieves Aed, and told their still incredulous comrades what they had heard. Three men were consequently sent the third night, four the fourth, and so on. Being afraid of venturing during the day, they always came as evening closed in, and just as Ahmed was receiving his date: hence they all in turn heard him say that which convinced them he was aware of their presence. On the last night they all went, and Ahmed ex. claimed aloud, “ The number is complete! To-night the whole forty are here!”
All doubts were now removed. It was impossible that Ahmed should have discovered them by any natural means. How could he ascertain their exact number, and, night after night, without ever once being mistaken ? He must have learned it by his skill in astrology. Even the captain now yielded, in spite of his incredulity, and declared his opinion that it was hopeless to elude a man thus gifted; he therefore advised that they should make a friend of the cobbler, by confessing every thing to him, and bribing him to secrecy by a share of the booty.
His advice was approved of; and, an hour before dawn, they knocked at Ahmed's door. The poor man jumped out of bed, and supposing the soldiers were come to lead
him to execution, cried out, “ Have patience! I know what you are come for. It is a very unjust and wicked deed."
“ Most wonderful man!" said the captain, as the door was opened, “ we are fully convinced that thou knowest why we are come, nor do we mean to justify the action of which thou speakest. Here are two thousand pieces of gold, which we will give thee, provided thou wilt swear to say nothing more about the matter."
“ Say nothing about it!” said Ahmed. “Do you think it possible I can suffer such gross wrong and injustice without complaining, and making it known to all the world ?”
“ Have mercy upon us !” exclaimed the thieves, falling on their knees, “only spare our lives, and we will restore the royal treasure.”
The cobbler started, rubbed his eyes to see if he were asleep or awake; and being satisfied that he was awake, and that the men before him were really the thieves, he assumed a solemn tone, and said" Guilty men! ye are persuaded that ye cannot escape from my penetration, which reaches unto the sun and moon, and knows the position and aspect of every star in the heavens. Your timely repentance has saved you. But ye must immediately restore all that ye have stolen. Go straightway, and carry the forty chests, exactly as ye found them, and bury them a foot deep under the southern wall of the old ruined Hemmam, beyond the king's palace. If ye do this punctually, your lives are spared; but if ye fail in the slightest degree, destruction will fall upon you and your families.”
The thieves promised obedience to his commands, and departed. Ahmed then fell on his knees, and returned thanks to God for this signal mark of his favour. About two hours after, the royal guards came, and desired Ahmed to follow them. He said he would attend them as soon as he had taken leave of his wife, to whom he determined not to impart what had occurred until he saw the result. He bade her farewell very affectionately; she supported herself with great fortitude on this trying occasion, exhorting her husband to be of good cheer, and said a few words about the goodness of Providence.
The decrees of heaven are just: a reward suited to their merits awaited Ahmed and his wife. The good man stood with a cheerful countenance before the king, who was impatient for his arrival, and immediately said, “ Ahmed, thy looks are promising ; hast thou discovered my treasure?”
“ Does your majesty require the thieves or the treasure? The stars will only grant one or the other,” said Ahmed, looking at his table of astrological calculations. Your majesty must make your choice. I can deliver up either, but not both.”
“ I should be sorry not to punish the thieves," answered the king; “ but if it must be so, I choose the treasure."
“ And you give the thieves a full and free pardon?” “ I do, provided I find my treasure untouched.”
“ Then,” said Ahmed, “ if your majesty will follow me, the treasure shall be restored to you."
The king and all his nobles followed the cobbler to the ruins of the old Hemmam. There, casting his eyes toward heaven, Ahmed muttered some sounds, which were supposed by the spectators to be magical conjurations, but which were, in reality, the prayers and thanksgivings of a sincere and pious heart to God, for his wonderful deliverance. When his prayer was finished, he pointed to the southern wall, and requested that his majesty would order his attendants to dig there. The work was hardly begun, when the whole forty chests were found in the same state as when stolen, with the treasurer's seal upon them still unbroken.
The king's joy knew no bounds : he embraced Ahmed, and immediately appointed him his chief astrologer, as
signed to him an apartment in the palace, and declared that he should marry his only daughter, * as it was his duty to promote the man whom God had so singularly favoured, and had made instrumental in restoring the treasures of his kingdom. The young princess who was more beautiful than the moon, was not dissatisfied with her father's choice; for her mind was stored with religion and virtue, and she had learned to value, beyond all earthly qualities, that piety and learning which she believed Ahmed to possess. The royal will was carried into execution as soon as formed. The wheel of fortune had taken a complete turn. The morning had found Ahmed in a wretched hovel, rising from a sorry bed, in the expectation of losing his life; in the evening, he was lord of a rich palace, and married to the only daughter of a powerful king. But this change did not alter his character. As he had been meek and humble in adversity, he was modest and gentle in prosperity. Conscious of his own ignorance, he continued to ascribe his good fortune solely to the favour of Providence. He became daily more attached to the beautiful and virtuous princess whom he had married; and he could not help contrasting her character with that of his former wife, whom he had divorced, and of whose unreasonable and unfeeling vanity he was now fully sensible.
LYRIC POET, BERANGER.
For pleasure, life's true purpose, knows :
And autumn, when the vintage flows.
* It is very common in the East for the daughters of monarchs to be married to men eminent for piety or learning, however low their origin.