17。 How Mehmet Ali Pasha of Egypt Administered Justice

An Egyptian merchant was in the habit of borrowing, and sometimes of lending money to an Armenian merchant of Cairo. Receipts were never exchanged, but at the closing of an old account or the opening of a new one they would simply say to each other, I have debited or credited you in my books, as the case might be, with so much.

On one occasion the Armenian lent the Egyptian the sum of twenty-five thousand piasters, and after the usual acknowledgment the Armenian made his entry. A reasonable time having passed, the Armenian sent his greetings to the Egyptian. This, in Eastern etiquette, meant, ‘Kindly pay me what you owe.’ The Egyptian, however, did not take the hint but returned greetings to the Armenian. This was repeated several times. Finally, the Armenian sent a message requesting the Egyptian to call upon him. The Egyptian, however, told the messenger to inform the Armenian merchant, that if he wished to see him, he must come to his house. The Armenian called upon the Egyptian, and requested payment of the loan. The Egyptian brought out his books and showed the Armenian that he was both credited and debited with the sum of twenty-five thousand piasters. The Armenian protested, but in vain; the Egyptian maintained that the debt had been paid.

In the hope of recovering his money, the Armenian had the case brought before Mehmet Ali Pasha of Egypt, a clever and learned judge. No witnesses, however, could be found to prove that the money had either been borrowed or repaid. It was thought that perhaps the Armenian had forgotten. Before dismissing the case, however, Mehmet Ali Pasha called in the Public Weigher and ordered that both the Armenian and Egyptian merchants be weighed. This done, Mehmet Ali Pasha took note of their respective weights. The Egyptian weighed one hundred and fifty pounds and the Armenian one hundred and eighty pounds. He then dismissed them, saying that he would send for them later on.

The Armenian waited patiently for a month or two, but no summons came from the Pasha. Every Friday he tried to meet the Pasha so as to remind him of the case, but with no avail; for the Pasha, seeing him from a distance, would turn away his head or otherwise purposely avoid catching his eye. At last, after about eight months of anxious waiting, the Armenian and the Egyptian were summoned to appear before the court. Mehmet Ali Pasha, in opening the case, called in the Public Weigher and had them weighed again. On this occasion it was found that the Armenian had decreased, now only weighing one hundred and twenty pounds, for worry makes a man grow thin; but the Egyptian, on the contrary, had put on several pounds. These facts were gravely considered, and the Pasha accused the Egyptian of having received the money and at once ordered the brass pot to be heated and placed on his head to force a confession. The Egyptian did not care to submit to this fearful ordeal, so he confessed that he had not repaid the debt, and had to do so then and there.