4. Hadji and his Wife

Hadji was a married man, but even Turkish married men are not invulnerable to the charms of other women. It happened one day that a charming lady came to his shop to purchase some spices. After she had left, Hadji could not drive from his mind’s eye, either her image, or her attractive power. He was further greatly puzzled by a tiny black bag containing twelve grains of wheat, which the Lady had evidently forgotten.

Hadji remained in his shop until late that night, in the hope that either the Lady or one of her servants would come for the bag, and thus give him the excuse for seeing her again or at least of learning where she lived. But Hadji was doomed to disappointment, and, much preoccupied, he returned to his home. There he sat, unresponsive to his wife’s conversation, thinking, and no doubt making mental comparisons between her and his visitor.

Hadji remained downcast day after day, and at last, giving way to his wife’s pleading to share his troubles, he frankly told her what had happened, and that ever since that day his soul was in his visitor’s bondage.

“Oh husband,” replied his wife, “do you not understand what that black bag containing the twelve grains of wheat means?”

“Alas! No,” replied Hadji.

“Why, my husband, it is plain, plain as if it had been told. She lives in the Wheat Market, at house No. 12, with a black door.”

Much excited, Hadji rushed off and found that there was a No. 12 in the Wheat Market, with a black door, so he promptly knocked. The door opened, and who should he behold but the lady in question. She, however, instead of speaking to him, threw a basin of water out into the street and then shut the door. Hadji, with mingled feelings of gratitude to his wife for having so accurately directed him, but none the less surprised at his reception, lingered about the doorway for a time and then returned home. He greeted his wife more pleasantly than he had for many days, and told her of his strange reception.

“Why,” said his wife, “don’t you understand what the basin of water thrown out of the door means?”

“Alas! No,” said Hadji.

It means that at the back of the house there is a running stream, and that you must go to her that way.”

Off rushed Hadji and found that his wife was right; there was a running stream at the back of the house, so he knocked at the back door. The Lady, however, instead of opening it, came to the window, showed a mirror, reversed it and then disappeared. Hadji lingered at the back of the house for a long time, but seeing no further sign of life, he returned to his home much dejected. On entering the house, his wife greeted him with: “Well, was it not as I told you?”

“Yes,” said Hadji. “You are truly a wonderful woman! But I do not know why she came to the window and showed me a mirror both in front and back, instead of opening the door.”

“Oh,” said his wife, “that is very simple; she means that you must go when the face of the moon has reversed itself, about ten o’clock.” The hour arrived, Hadji hurried off, and so did his wife; the one to see his love, and the other to inform the police.

Whilst Hadji and his charmer were talking in the garden the police seized them and carried them both off to prison, and Hadji’s wife, having accomplished her mission, returned home.

The next morning she baked a quantity of cakes, and taking them to the prison, begged entrance of the guards and permission to distribute these cakes to the prisoners, for charities sake. This being a request which could not be denied, she was allowed to enter. Finding the cell in which the lady who had infatuated her husband was confined, she offered to save her the disgrace of the exposure, provided she would agree never again to look upon Hadji, the merchant, with envious or loving eyes. The conditions were gratefully accepted, and Hadji’s wife changed places with the prisoner.

When they were brought before the judge, Hadji was thunderstruck to see his wife, but being a wise man he held his peace, and left her to do the talking, which she did most vigorously, vehemently protesting against the insult inflicted on both her and her husband in bringing them to prison, because they chose to converse in a garden, being lawfully wedded people. As witnesses, she called upon the watchman and the priest of the district and several of her neighbors.

Poor Hadji was dumfounded, and, accompanied by his better half, left the prison, where he had expected to stay at least a year or two, saying: “Truly you are a wonderful woman.”