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How Mehmet Ali Pasha of Egypt Administered Justice

A JEWISH 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 Jew the sum of twenty-five thousand piasters, and after the usual verbal acknowledgment the Armenian made his entry. A reasonable time having elapsed, the Armenian sent his greetings to the Jew. This, in Eastern etiquette, meant, 'Kindly pay me what you owe.' The Jew, however, did not take the hint but returned complimentary greetings to the Armenian. This was repeated several times. Finally, the Armenian sent a message requesting the Jew to call upon him. The Jew, 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 Jew, and requested payment of the loan. The Jew 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 Jew 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 cited to prove that the money had either been borrowed or repaid. The entries were verified, and 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 Jewish merchants be weighed. This done, Mehmet Ali Pasha took note of their respective weights. The Jew weighed fifty okes and the Armenian sixty okes. He then discharged 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 endeavored to meet the Pasha so as to bring the case to his mind, but without avail; for the Pasha, perceiving 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 Jew 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 fifty okes, for worry makes a man grow thin; but the Jew, on the contrary, had put on several okes. These facts were gravely considered, and the Pasha accused the Jew of having received the money and at once ordered the brass pot to be heated and placed on his head to force confession. The Jew 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.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: How Mehmet Ali Pasha of Egypt Administered Justice
Tale Author/Editor: Adler, Cyrus & Ramsay, Allan
Book Title: Told in the Coffee House: Turkish Tales
Book Author/Editor: Adler, Cyrus & Ramsay, Allan
Publisher: Macmillan & Co.
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1898
Country of Origin: Turkey
Classification: ATU 926C: Cases Solved in a Manner Worthy of Solomon

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