Discovering thieves hidden in oil barrels frightens Marjina to death.
Could one literally die from fear?
Previous Story: Ali Baba And 40 Thieves 11
The merchant supervised the easing of his beasts and unloading and hauling of his drums, making sure they were all stowed upright in the alcove.
He thanked them for the offer of dinner, but declined it apologetically, saying he was full, having already dined not too long ago.
Slaves scurried about with their chores, preparing the guest quarters for the night, tending to his beasts, cooking their own dinner, and doing dishes.
Alibaba joined the trader before retiring to his own rest, to see if he needed anything else. He didn't.
"Shab bekheir," said Ali Baba. "May Allah keep you safe in the night."
"Shab bekheir," the merchant responded. "May Allah keep you safe in the night too."
Leading the way with a lamp, Marjina led the trader to the prepared guest quarters.
"I will get a slave-boy to sleep outside your door, just in case you need something in the night," Marjina said to him.
"Just leave a lamp here," he answered. "No slave-boy is needed."
"Do you need anything else?" she asked him again.
"Not just yet," he responded. "I will tell you, when I do."
She nodded and handed him her lamp.
"I can find my way back," she said, then turned and left, leaving him alone.
'Is she the one who cost me two of my men?' the captain wondered, staring at her back receding in the dark until long after he could see her no more.
'Soon it would matter no more,' he sighed, and shortened the wick to dim the light in the guest room. 'Vengeance would be mine.'
He lay down upon his bed to try and sleep a little. All he had to do now was wait. Soon, it would be time to rouse his men and finish off their work.
Their plan had been that in the dark hours before the next morning, when he determined that it was safe and the whole household was still sound asleep, he would arise and free his men who were waiting in their vessels in ambush. Then together, they would fall upon the sleeping household and slay them all.
They would then thoroughly search the house and plunder it. It was really important that they find at least some of the gold and treasures stolen from their cave, as it would confirm that they had found the culprits and ransacked the correct house.
They could bring it all back in the barrels upon their mules, before the next day dawned.
He had a long night ahead of him, and so much to do.
'Patience,' he told himself as he closed his eyes. Sleep overtook him quickly.
Marjina returned from the guest quarters to finish off her chores. She took out a suit of clean white clothes and gave them to the slave-boy Abdullah.
"Go to bed after dinner," she instructed him. "You will need to rise early morning tomorrow and accompany the master to the Hammam. Take these clothes with you."
Then going into the kitchen, she put a pot on the dying embers to cook the broth for her master, and blew the fire till it was burning briskly.
Other slaves reported to her intermittently that they had finished their chores, and she permitted them to retire for the night. Surplus lamps were put out, and others dimmed when they were no longer needed. Shadows lengthened in the house, and darkness slowly started winning over light.
Marjina walked about yawning, finishing her last jobs before she retired for the night herself. It had been a long day, and way past her usual bedtime.
Finally alone, as she trundled along in the semi-darkness tidying this and finishing that, her foot accidentally brushed off against one of the foremost oil barrels, which stood in the kitchen alcove ahead of various other similar shapes.
Instantly, a gruff voice whispered softly, from inside the barrel, "Is it time now, Captain?"
She almost died with fright.
"Can you really die from fright, Pa?" asked Josh. "Or is it another figure of speech?"
"It's a Simile," Hosh answered for his father, "because it uses 'almost'. It would have been a Metaphor, had Pa said that she was frightened to death. Both Simile and Metaphor are figures of speech for making comparisons. Simile uses like and as to compare, Metaphor doesn't."
"Would be a Metaphor only if, she didn't literally died of fear," Rosh added. "Both animals and humans can literally die of fright, you know. Fortunately, she didn't. But had someone really died of fear, and I said that they had been frightened to death, I would be saying the literal truth and not be a Metaphor."
When Josh didn't probe further, Rosh continued retelling the Arabian Nights tale:
"Marjina stared at the barrel with disbelief," he said, "frozen for an instant, her mind battling for control over her nerves. There, that's twice I've used the same figure of speech in the last sentence. Which one?"
"Metaphor!" Josh tried.
"Great!" said Rosh, and continued the tale:
'These drums are traps,' she thought quickly.
"What's that?" Hosh interrupted. "That's another figure of speech! Figure of speech just means a manner of speaking. It would be Simile had Pa said 'these drums are like traps', but he didn't use the word 'like'. So that make it a ...?"
"Metaphor!" Josh grew more confident.
"Great!" Rosh said again, and continued with the tale:
The hoarse male voice, hissed louder from within the barrel, more insistent this time, "Is it time for us to sally forth, Captain?"
"Not just yet," Marjina blurted, in the tenor of the oil merchant she had served tonight.
'Danger!' her mind shrieked. 'This is some treacherous plot against us by that impostor sleeping in the guest house... Ya Allah! The Merciful. The Compassionate. Protect us from his evil snares!'
Turning away in blind fright, her foot bumped into another barrel beside the one she had kicked earlier, and yet another unseen whisper croaked up, "Is it time already?"
"Not just yet!" she intoned again as their Captain, frozen in her mid-turn.
Breath constricted her breast. Butterflies fluttered in her belly. Fear throbbed in her temples. Her ears burnt. Her heart raced...
Next Story: Ali Baba And 40 Thieves 13