3. The Lady and the Unjust Magistrate
It is in Constantinople, the custom of the refuse-gatherer to go about the streets with a basket on his back, and a wooden shovel in his hand, calling out ‘refuse removed.’
A certain refuse-collector, had, over five years of hard work, amassed the sum of five hundred piasters. He was afraid to keep this money on him; so hearing the Magistrate of Stamboul highly and reverently spoken of, he decided to entrust his hard-earned savings to the Magistrate’s keeping.
Going to the Magistrate, he said, “Oh learned and righteous man, for five long years have I labored, carrying the dregs and dross of rich and poor alike, and I have saved a sum of five hundred piasters. In another two years I shall have saved a further sum of at least one hundred piasters, when I shall return to my country and be with my wife and children again. In the meantime you will be granting a favour to your servant, if you will consent to keep this money for me until the time for departure has come.”
The Magistrate replied, “You have done well, my son; the money will be kept and given to you when required.”
The poor refuse-collector, well satisfied, departed. But after a very short time he learned that several of his friends were about to return to their province, and he decided to join them, thinking that his five hundred piasters were ample for the time being, ‘Besides,’ said he, ‘who knows what may or may not happen in the next two years?’ So he decided to depart with his friends at once.
He went to the Magistrate, explained that he had changed his mind, that he was going to leave for his country immediately, and asked for his money. The Magistrate called him a dog and ordered him to be whipped out of the place by his servants. Alas! What could the poor refuse-collector do! He wept in despair, as he counted the number of years he must yet work before seeing his loved ones.
One day, while moving the dirt from the house of a wealthy family, his soul uttered a sigh which reached the ears of the lady of the house, and from the window she asked him why he sighed so deeply. He replied that he sighed for something that could in no way interest her. The ladie’s sympathy was excited, and after much persuasion, he finally, with tears in his eyes, related to her his great misfortune. The lady thought for a few minutes and then told him to go the following day to the Magistrate at a certain hour and again ask for the money as if nothing had happened.
The lady in the meantime gathered together a quantity of jewelry, to the value of several hundred pounds, and instructed her favorite slave to come with her to the Magistrate and remain outside whilst she went in, instructing her that when she saw the refuse-collector come out and learned that he had gotten his money, to come in the Magistrate’s room hurriedly and say to her, “your husband has arrived from Egypt, and is waiting for you at home.”
The lady then went to the Magistrate, carrying in her hand a bag containing the jewelry. With a profound bow she said, “Oh Magistrate, my husband, who is in Egypt and who has been there for several years, has at last asked me to come and join him there; these jewels are of great value, and I hesitate to take them with me on so long and dangerous a journey. If you would kindly consent to keep them for me until my return, or if I never return to keep them as a token of my esteem, I will think of you with lifelong gratitude.”
The Lady then began displaying the rich jewelry. Just then the refuse-collector entered, and bowing low, said, “Oh master, your servant has come for his savings in order to return to his country.”
“Ah, welcome,” said the Magistrate, “So you are going already!” and immediately ordered the treasurer to pay the five hundred piasters to the refuse-collector.
“You see,” said the Magistrate to the lady, “what confidence the people have in me. This money I have held for some time without receipt or acknowledgment; but immediately it is asked for it is paid.”
No sooner had the refuse-collector gone out of the door, than the lady’s slave came rushing in, crying, “Madam! Madam! Your husband has arrived from Egypt, and is anxiously awaiting you at home.”
The Lady, in well-feigned excitement, gathered up her jewelry and, wishing the Magistrate a thousand years of happiness, departed.
The Magistrate was thunderstruck, and thoughtfully said, “Allah! Allah! For forty years have I been judge, but never has this happened before.”