354 THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
' Stop a moment! ' said the little Cadi, ' before we come to oaths, I should like to examine the vase with the olives. Ali Cogia,' he added, ' have you got the vase with you ?' and finding he had not, the Cadi continued, ' Go and get it, and bring it to me.'
So Ali Cogia disappeared for an instant, and then pretended to lay a vase at the feet of the Cadi, declaring it was his vase, which he had given to the accused for safe custody; and in order to be quite correct, the Cadi asked the merchant if he recognised it as the same vase. By his silence the merchant admitted the fact, and the Cadi then commanded to have the vase opened. Ali Cogia made a movement as if he was taking off the lid, and the little Cadi on his part made a pretence of peering into a vase.
' What beautiful olives!' he said, ' I should like to taste one,' and pretending to put one in his mouth, he added, ' they are really excellent!
' But,' he went on, ' it seems to me odd that olives seven years old should be as good as that ! Send for some dealers in olives, and let us hear what they say!'
Two children were presented to him as olive merchants, and the Cadi addressed them. ' Tell me,' he said, ' how long can olives be kept so as to be pleasant eating?'
' My lord,' replied the merchants, ' however much care is taken to preserve them, they never last beyond the third year. The}7 lose both taste and colour, and are only fit to be thrown away.'
' If that is so,' answered the little Cadi, ' examine this vase, and tell me how long the olives have been in it.'
The olive merchants pretended to examine the olives and taste them; then reported to the Cadi that they were fresh and good.
' You are mistaken,' said he, ' Ali Cogia declares he put them in that vase seven years ago.'
' My lord,' returned the olive merchants, ' we can assure you that the olives are those of the present year.