The adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan/15
Chapter XV: Hajji Baba reaches Tehran, and goes to the poet's house
I entered Tehran early in the morning by the Shah Abdul Azîm gate, just as it was opened, and immediately exhibited my horse for sale at the market, which is daily held there, for that purpose. I had proved it to be a good beast, from the rate at which I had travelled since taking my hasty leave of the courier; but a horse-dealer, to whom I showed it, made out so clearly that it was full of defects, that I thought myself in luck, if I got anything at all for it. It was chup—it had the ableh—it was old, and its teeth had been burnt;—in short, it seemed to have every quality that a horse ought not to have. I was therefore surprised when he offered me five tomauns for it, provided I threw him the bridle and saddle into the bargain; and he seemed as surprised when I took him at his word, and accepted of his offer. He paid me down one half of the money, and then offered me a half-starved ass in payment of the remainder; but this I refused, and he promised to pay me in full when we met again. I was too much in haste to continue bargaining any longer; so going straightway to the bazaar, I bought a black cap, laid by my dervish's tiara, and having equipped myself in a manner to be taken for one come from off a journey, I inquired my way to the house of the poet.
It was situated in a pleasant quarter of the town, surrounded by gardens filled with poplars and pomegranate trees, and in a street through which ran a stream of water, bordered by beautiful chenars. But the house itself seemed indeed to speak the absence of its master: the gate was half closed; there was no stir about it; and when I entered the first court, I could perceive but few indications of an inhabitant. This looked ill for my promised reward. At length, making my way to the upper room, that was situated over the gate, I there saw a man of about fifty years old, seated on a felt carpet, smoking his kaliân, whom I found to be the very person I was in search of, viz. the Nazir or steward.
I immediately exclaimed, 'Good news! the khan is coming.'
'Yani cheh? what do you mean?' said he; 'which khan? where? when?'
When I had explained myself, and had presented the letter addressed to him, he seemed to be thrown into a mixed state of feigned joy and real sorrow, amazement, and apprehension.
'But are you very sure,' said he, 'that the khan is alive?'
'Very sure,' returned I; 'and before to-morrow is over, you will receive another courier, who will give you many more particulars of his safety, and who will bring letters to the king, viziers, and others.'
He then began to make all sorts of incoherent exclamations; 'This is a wonderful business! What dust has fallen upon our heads? Where shall I go? What shall I do?'
When he had a little recovered himself, I endeavoured to persuade him to give me an explanation of his emotions on this occasion, and tell me why he felt so agitated, and apparently distressed, at what ought only to be a matter of joy. All I could hear from him was, 'He must be dead; everybody says he is dead; his wife dreamt that she had lost her largest tooth—the one that gave her such aching pain, and therefore he is dead; besides the king has settled it so. He cannot be alive; he must not be alive.'
'Well,' said I, 'if he is dead, be it so; all I can say is, that he was one of the true believers at Asterabad, not six days ago; and that he will soon prove in person, by showing himself at Tehran, in the course of another week.'
After the Nazir had sat, and wondered, and ruminated for some time, he said, 'You will not be surprised at my perplexity when I tell you of the state of things here, in consequence of the report of my master's death. In the first place, the Shah has seized all his property: his house, furniture, and live stock, including his Georgian slaves, are to be given to Khur Ali Mirza, one of the king's younger sons: his village now belongs to the prime vizier: his place is about to be bestowed upon Mirza Fûzûl; and, to crown all, his wife has married his son's tutor. Say, then, whether or no I have not a right to be astonished and perplexed?'
I agreed that there was no disputing his right; 'but, in the meanwhile,' said I, 'what becomes of my reward?'
'O, as for that,' answered the Nazir, 'you cannot expect anything from me; for you have brought me no joyful tidings: you may claim it from my master, when he comes, if you choose, but I can give you nothing.'
Upon which, promising to return on some future day, I left the Nazir to his own reflections, and quitted the house.
- The Persians have a particular aversion to horses which have white legs on one side, which they call chup; and they also very much undervalue a horse that has the ableh, which consists of white leprous marks on its nose, round the eyes, and under the tail.
- The chenar tree is a species of sycamore.