This section is from the book "Stories From The Thousand And One Nights", by Edward William Lane and Stanley Lanepoole. Also available from Amazon: Stories From Thousand And One Nights: The Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
In the meantime, the robber rejoined his troop in the forest, and recounted to them his success; expatiating upon his good fortune in meeting so soon with the only person who could inform him of what he wanted to know. All the robbers listened to him with the utmost satisfaction, when the captain, after commending his diligence, addressing himself to them all, said: " Comrades, we have no time to lose; let us set off well armed, without its appearing who we are; but that we may not excite any suspicion, let only one or two go into the town together, and join at our rendezvous, which shall be the great square. In the meantime, our comrade who brought us the good news and I will go and find out the house, that we may consult what had best be done".
This was approved by all, and they filed off in parties of two each, after some interval of time, and got into the town without being suspected. The captain and he who had visited the town in the morning a9 spy came in the last.
He led the captain into the street where he had marked *Ali Baba's residence; and when they came to the first of the houses which Marjaneh had marked, he pointed it out. But the Captain observed that the next door was chalked in the same manner, and in the same place; and shewing it to his guide, asked him what house it was, that, or the first. The guide was so confounded, that he knew not what answer to make, but still more puzzled, when he and the captain saw five or six houses similarly marked. He assured, the captain, with an oath, that he had marked but one, and could not tell who had chalked the rest, so that he could not distinguish the house which the cobbler had stopped at.
The captain, finding that their design had proved abortive, went directly to the place of rendezvous, and told his followers that they had lost their labour and must return to the cave. So they all returned as they had come. I When the troop was all got together, the captain told them the reason of their returning; and presently the conductor was declared by all worthy of death. But as the safety of the troop required the discovery of the second intruder into the cave, another of the gang, who promised himself that he should succeed better, came forward, and his offer being accepted, he went and corrupted Baba Mustafa, as the other had done; and being shewn the house, marked it in a place more remote from sight, with red chalk. Not long after, Marjaneh, whose eyes nothing could escape, went out, and seeing the red chalk, and arguing with herself as she had done before, marked the other neighbours' houses in the same place and manner. Accordingly, when the robber and his captain came to the street, they found the same difficulty; at which the captain was enraged, and the robber in as great confusion as his predecessor. Thus the captain and his troop were forced to retire a second time, and much more dissatisfied; while the robber, who had been the author of the mistake, underwent the same punishment.
The captain, having lost two brave fellows of his troop, was afraid of diminishing it too much by pursuing this plan to get information of the residence of their plunderer; and therefore resolved to take upon himself the important commission. Accordingly, he addressed himself to Baba Mustafa, who did him the same service he had done to the other robbers. He had not set any particular mark on the house, but examined and observed it so carefully, by passing often by it, that it was impossible for him to mistake it Well satisfied with his attempt, and informed of what he wanted to know, he returned to the forest; and when he came into the cave, where the troop waited for him, said: " Now, comrades, nothing can prevent our full revenge, as I am certain of the house; and in my way hither I have thought how to put it into execution; but if any one can form a better expedient, let him communicate it" He then told them his contrivance; and as they approved of it, ordered them to go into the villages about, and buy nineteen mules, with thirty-eight large leather jars, one full of oil, and the others empty.
In two or three days' time the robbers had purchased the mules and jars, and as the mouths of the jars were rather . too narrow for his purpose, the captain caused them to be " widened; and after having put one of his men into each, : with the weapons which he thought fit, leaving open the seam which had been undone to leave them room to breathe, he rubbed the jars on the outside with oil from the full vessel.
When the nineteen mules were loaded with thirty-seven robbers in jars, and the jar of oil, the captain set out with them, and reached the town by the dusk of the evening.
He led them through the streets till he came to 'Ali Baba's door where he was sitting after supper to take the air. He stopped his mules, addressed himself to him, and said: "I have brought some oil a great way, to sell at to-morrow's market; and it is now so late that I do not know where to lodge. If I should not be troublesome to you, do me the favour to let me pass the night with you".
Though 'Ali Baba had seen the captain of the robbers in the forest, and had heard him speak, it was impossible to know him in the disguise of an oil-merchant. He told him he should be welcome, and immediately opened his gates for the mules to go into the yard. At the same time he called to a slave, and ordered him, when the mules were unloaded, to put them into the stable, and to feed them; and then went to Marjaneh, to bid her make a good supper for his guest. After they had finished supper, 'Ali Baba, charging Marjaneh afresh to take care of his guest, said to her: "To-morrow morning I am going to the bath before daybreak; take care my bathing linen be ready, give them to 'Abd-Allah, and make me some good broth against I return".
After this he went to bed.
In the meantime the captain of the robbers went into the yard, and took off the lid of each jar, and gave his people orders what to do. Beginning at the first jar, and so on to the last, he said to each man: " As soon as I throw some stones out of the chamber window where I sleep, do not fail to come out, and I will immediately join you." After this he returned into the house, when Marj aneh, taking up a light, conducted him to his chamber.