Blind Justice

Three blind beggars of Baghdad begged in the streets all day, spent some of their earnings on their food, and hoarded the rest in a shared pool. They lived together, and their savings were worth twelve hundred silver dirhams.

One day, one of these blind beggars knocked on the door of a house on a particular street.

“Who is it?” the master of the house asked from within.

But the beggar repeated his knock without replying. For he knew that the door would not be opened to a beggar.

“Who is it?” the master of the house inquired again. Getting no reply to his query, he opened the door, saw the beggar, and asked him, “Who are you?”

“Pity a blind beggar, master!” the beggar said.

“Take hold of my hand and follow me in!” said the master of the house, extending his hand.

The beggar was overjoyed and followed the master of the house right up to the third storey.

“Now,” said the master of the house, sit down and tell me what you want.”

“I am hungry, master,” said the beggar. “Give me some food or money to buy food with.”

“So?” said the master of the house. “You have come to the wrong house, my friend. You won’t get any alms here.”

“You could have told this to me in the street,” the beggar grumbled, “instead of making me come up all those steps!”

“Why did you not tell me who you were when I asked you?” the master of the house retorted.

“Well, what is your pleasure?” the beggar asked.

“I have nothing to offer you,” the other said.

“In that case,” said the beggar, “kindly lead me out.”

“Certainly not,” said the master of the house. “Find your way out yourself.”

The beggar heaved a sigh and got up. He groped to the top of the stairs and began to descend. He slipped on the steps many times and finally found the street, moaning and grumbling.

His companions also came to that spot just at that moment. They recognised their comrade and asked him, “What happened?”

The first beggar told his companions what transpired and said, “I cannot go the rounds today. Give me a dirham, and I shall buy some food.”

“We fared no better,” the others replied. “We earned nothing. Let us go home.”

Now, the master of the house heard every word that passed between them. He was a notorious thief. He had followed the blind beggar into the street and overheard the conversation. Then he followed them to their house.

The beggars opened the door of their house, went in and bolted the door on the inside. But the Thief managed to slip in before they closed the door.

The beggars brought out their chests and counted their savings which amounted to twelve hundred dirhams. Out of these, they took one, and one of the blind men went out and returned with food. As the three beggars ate the food, the Thief joined them and helped himself.

“I can hear four mouths munching,” one of the blind men exclaimed. “Who is the fourth man? A thief!” At once, the other two shouted, “Thief! Thief!”

These cries attracted many persons, and a crowd gathered outside the house. As people came in to discover what had happened, the Thief closed his eyes and pretended to be one of the blind men. “Good people,” he said, “take us to the Superintendent. I have a secret to tell him.”

So the four men were marched off to the Superintendent.

“Who are these men ?” the officer inquired. “What are they doing here?”

“Your highness,” one of the beggars said, “we are three blind beggars. But a thief has sneaked into our house to rob us of our savings.”

“Who is that thief?” the Superintendent asked. “Speak the truth!”

“Who would speak the truth,” said the Thief, “unless he feels the lash on his back?”

“All right,” said the Superintendent to his guards, “whip this blind fellow until he speaks the truth.”

But before the whip lashed him even twice, the Thief opened his eyes and said, “I beg your pardon, master. I shall tell you the truth. The four of us have been begging in the city, pretending to be blind, and we have hoarded twelve hundred dirhams. Since I have told the truth, let me have my share and go away. If you use the whip properly, they, too, will confess!”

The Superintendent believed the Thief. He gave him three hundred dirhams and let him go. Then he had the three blind men whipped mercilessly till they fainted. Finding that they did not open their eyes even then, the Superintendent appropriated the rest of their savings.

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