THE STORY OF ALI GOOIA 351
the olives. Perhaps you may have taken a loan of them for your business purposes; if that is so you are most welcome. I will only ask you to give me a receipt, and you can pay the money at your leisure.'
The merchant, who had expected something of the sort, had his reply all ready. ' Ali Cogia,' he said, ' when you brought me the vase of olives did I ever touch it? I gave you the key of my shop and you put it yourself where you liked, and did you not find it in exactly the same spot and in the same state ? If you placed any gold in it, it must be there still. I know nothing about that; you only told me there were olives. You can believe me or not, but I have not laid a finger on the vase.'
Ali Cogia still tried every means to persuade the merchant to admit the truth. 'I love peace,' he said, ' and shall deeply regret having to resort to harsh measures. Once more, think of your reputation. I shall be in despair if you oblige me to call in the aid of the law.'
' Ali Cogia,' answered the merchant, ' you allow that it was a vase of olives you placed in my charge. You fetched it and removed it yourself, and now you tell me it contained a thousand pieces of gold, and that I must restore them to you! Did you ever say anything about them before ? Why, I did not even know that the vase had olives in it! You never showed them to me. I wonder you have not demanded pearls or diamonds. Retire, I pray you, lest a crowd should gather in front of my shop.'
By this time not only the casual passers-by, but also the neighbouring merchants, were standing round, listening to the dispute, and trying every now and then to smooth matters between them. But at the merchant's last words Ali Cogia resolved to lay the cause of the quarrel before them, and told them the whole story. They heard him to the end, and inquired of the merchant what he had to say.
The accused man admitted that he had kept Ali