NINE -- [‘Amar humiliates Bakhtak, and the Amir is stricken with love.]

Frightened, Khvajah Alfalfa-robe got up.  Taking some gardeners with spades, he went and stood against the garden wall by the gutter.  The moment Bakhtak emerged from the gutter, the gardeners fell on him and seized him.  However much he said, “I’m Bakhtak!”, no one believed him.  Tying him up to a tree-branch, they all began to thrash him: they were most attentive and took care of him really thoroughly.  When Bakhtak’s bones had been well tenderized, and his ribs and back were swollen, ‘Amar called out to Khvajah Alfalfa-robe and asked, “Khvajah Alfalfa-robe, what is it, is everything all right?  Why are you making all this noise and commotion?”  Khvajah Alfalfa said, “Everything’s fine.  We’ve captured a thief and tied him to a tree.”

When Bakhtak heard ‘Amar’s voice, when the sound of it fell on his ear, he called out to ‘Amar and said in ‘ayyari-language, “Khvajah ‘Amar, rescue me from the hands of these brutes, release me from the clutches of these gardeners!  I’ll be grateful to you all my life, I’ll never disobey you in anything!”  ‘Amar went up to Khvajah Alfalfa-robe and vouched for Bakhtak, saying, “In truth, this is Bakhtak, the king’s vazir.  What a disaster the Lord has ensnared him in!  Release him right now, let him go at once!”

All the gardeners began bursting open like buds, they began clamoring, “Khvajah Sahib, what are you saying, this is an extraordinary thing you’re saying!  How could Bakhtak be so ill-fortuned as to come here crawling naked through the gutter?  He is one of those close to the king--how could he turn himself into a thief?  This is definitely some thieving ruffian, this bastard who has been rash enough to venture in here!  He must be punished for his rashness, he must taste the fruit of his entry into the garden!  And even supposing that it’s indeed Bakhtak, that it’s he himself who is caught in this disaster, still we won’t release him now, we won’t let him out of the garden till morning.  When we go before the king, then whatever will be, will be.”

Bakhtak said to ‘Amar, “If you gave me my clothes, I could put them on.”  ‘Amar said, “I know nothing about your clothes. Even if these people have taken them, I’m not on such good terms with them that I could have the clothes given to you to put on!  I don’t know who’s made off with them, or which gardener has spirited them away.”  After saying this, ‘Amar presented himself before the king, and all night long he kept pouring the wine.

When full dawn came, ‘Amar recited to the king a verse by Sabir Bilgrami:/1/
       “’The garden is fragrant, now that it’s spring,
       How the flowers have bloomed!  How the nightingales sing!’
The breeze is cool and crisp, the dawn breeze is gusty, the dawn has broken; it’s time for a stroll.  Sweet-voiced birds are twittering, the roses are smiling, the buds are bursting, the dust has been settled by a fall of dew, the earth is wet with dewdrops.”  The king too felt the mood, he seized the Amir’s hand and went out with all the company toward the gardens to refresh himself.  ‘Amar, beguiling the king, led him toward the spot where Bakhtak, completely naked, was tied to a tree.

Bakhtak, seeing the king, began to clamor, “Oh my Lord and Guide, look what the gardeners have done to me!”  And from the other side Khvajah Alfalfa-robe presented himself and said, “During the night a thief entered the garden through the gutter, so this slave tied him to a tree.  When he was thoroughly beaten, then he said, ‘I am Bakhtak, the king’s vazir; chance and foolishness have led me into this trap!’”  When the king and the Amir looked carefully, they saw that it was indeed Bakhtak, tied to a tree.

‘Amar came forward and said, “Well here’s a rose of a different color!  Bakhtak is very intelligent and alert, a gentlemen of courage and dignity; what kind of ill fortune could have caused him to come here and ensnare himself in such a disaster?  Perhaps some ghost/2/ has come in the guise of Bakhtak, and is staging this trick for Your Majesty’s entertainment!  Probably after a while he’ll vanish into thin air, and nobody here will see him any more.”  While ‘Amar was saying this, and the king was approaching, Hamzah realized, “Beyond a doubt, ‘Amar is mixed up in this, that refined gentleman has certainly had a hand in this!”

Looking at Bakhtak, the king burst out laughing, as a rose laughs when it opens.  All those present were so overcome with laughter that they impolitely guffawed in the king’s face.  The Amir had Bakhtak freed, he delivered him from this untimely disaster.  He saw that Bakhtak was wounded all over, and dripping blood from various places; the crown of his head had been stripped of hair.  The king, growing furious, said, “Turn him out, just as he is!  Remove him at once from our presence!”  The Amir persuaded the king to pardon Bakhtak.  Buying Bakhtak’s clothes back from ‘Amar for three hundred tumans, he bestowed them on him, and took Bakhtak along and comforted and soothed him.

The king set out for the Garden of Eight Heavens, which was located in the center of the Garden of Justice like a precious jewel, and entered that garden together with the Amir, Buzurchmihr, and Crown Prince Hurmuz, also Muqbil, Bakhtak, and other chiefs and companions.  In fact that garden’s name was true to its character:  it was an exemplar of the high garden of Heaven.

‘Amar had written Bakhtak’s name on the first page of the Notebook of Stupidity, in the File of Foolishness he had entered Bakhtak’s name at the top.  He began to joke and jest before the king, and to display his mischievousness:  “Oh Center of the World, the gardeners have pulverized poor Bakhtak’s bones with spade-blows, and his head is completely stripped of hair.  His scalp is quite clean, it’s shining like a silver coin:  they’ve turned it entirely into crystal!  If Your Majesty were to bestow your sovereign ointment,/3/ it would be a signal honor for him.  It’s true that he’s been at fault, since he disobeyed Your Majesty’s order and entered the garden without permission.  Now that he’s tasted the fruit of his deeds, he won’t repeat such a fault; this brainless one will never be guilty of disobedience again!”  With these words, he turned to Bakhtak and said, “Fold your hands and repent, say ‘I won’t do such an improper thing again, I’ll never be so rash again.’”  In short, ‘Amar turned Bakhtak into a figure of fun, and made all the court laugh at him.

The king said, “Call ‘Adi, bring him into our presence at once.” When ‘Adi presented himself, the king said, “Well now, ‘Adi!  We made you guardian of the door, and considered you reliable, and entrusted a task to you.  But you were so negligent, and took our command so lightly, that Bakhtak found a way into the garden, and you didn’t have even the least idea of it:  he entered here without permission, and you remained ignorant of it.”  ‘Adi pleaded, “Center of the World, could Bakhtak possibly dare to set foot in Your Majesty’s garden without permission, or even reach the boundary without leave from Your Majesty?  He came to me saying ‘Take these presents, and let me into the garden.’  I rebuffed him, and he went shamefacedly home.”

The king said, “Take a look:  who is that sitting there, is it Bakhtak or somebody else?”  ‘Adi looked at Bakhtak and grew angry; taking him by the scruff of the neck, he said, “When you get out of here you’ll see how I serve you, how I give you what you deserve!”  The Amir stopped ‘Adi, and prevented him from scolding and rebuking Bakhtak:  “Don’t meddle with Bakhtak.  The king has pardoned his fault, and forgiven his foolishness.  Go back to your post, and sit where you were sitting.”  ‘Adi went back to the gate of the garden, while wine-cups began to be passed around in the gathering.

When the peacock of the sun went to nest in the western mountains, and the red crane of the moon began to strut and preen itself on the bank of the green river of the heavens, the lamplighters lit camphor-white candles in the chandelier, the dancing girls presented themselves, and the joyous and elegant party began afresh.  All night ‘Amar was pouring out pure wine for the company, and entertaining them with jests. 

When morning came, the king brightened the Palace of Forty Pillars with his appearance; the Amir, seeing the masterful craftsmanship of that palace, was enraptured.  In short, every day the king took the Amir to a new palace, and decreed joyful and luxurious gatherings, and delighted the Amir in all kinds of ways.

Since for five days and nights the king had had not a wink of sleep, finally he dozed off.  The Amir too left the Palace of Forty Pillars in order to change his dress, and his companions and friends went with him.  As they were strolling along, they entered one corner of the garden and saw a water-channel so delicate that the mirror of the moon would look dingy beside it; its water ran through lattices into the palace.  The Amir said to Muqbil, “I will bathe and change my dress.”  Muqbil helped the Amir remove his clothes, and at once sent for new clothing for him to change into.  The Amir began to bathe and enjoy his bath.

It happened that Princess Mihr Nigar, daughter of Naushervan the Most Just, was sitting in a screened balcony in the upper story of the palace, enjoying the gardens.  She was looking this way and that, when her glance fell on the Amir; the arrow of love for him passed straight through her heart, and she fainted.  Pierced by the arrow of love, she said to herself, “The arched bow of his eyebrow has wounded me; just casually sitting there, he has dealt me the wound of love and the scar of passion.  It’s not right that he should escape unscathed; it does not suit me for him to get clean away!”  Taking off her necklace, she flung it at the Amir.  It fell on the Amir’s shoulder.

When the Amir looked that way, the glory of the creative power of the Absolute Creator appeared before him.  He could not restrain himself:
        “I saw an idol--uniquely elegant, with a rare style and a fairy face,
        Only ten years old, but a fierce disaster sent by God to the human race!”/4/
The Amir collapsed and fell flat in the water.  Muqbil jumped in and supported him, and took him in his lap and lifted him out of the water-channel.  The Amir heaved such a burning sigh that the golden harvest of pleasure caught fire and burned up, the flame of love began to blaze in his heart, tears of sadness began to fall from his eyes.  Muqbil exhorted him, “This is not the occasion for self-abandonment!  Please change into your new clothes and join the party.”  At length the Amir heeded Muqbil’s advice:  he changed his dress and betook himself to the Palace of Forty Pillars.  But his mind was elsewhere, he was quite distracted.

And on her part Princess Mihr Nigar was in miserable shape.  Her nurse and her ladies surrounded her.  One gave her water to drink from a consecrated bowl, another recited the “Verse of the Throne” and blew it over her, another recited a praise of ‘Ali and blew on her./5/  She could not eat or drink or sleep.  Someone massaged her hands and feet.  When the princess recovered somewhat, she said to herself, “The secret must not be revealed, Love must not sow thorns in my garden.”  She said to her ladies, “There’s no cause for alarm, I somehow just felt dizzy.  But now I’m fine, I’m perfectly all right; don’t make such a fuss, don’t be anxious.”

Now please hear how it was on the other side:  The Amir kept waiting, moment by moment, hour by hour, for the day to be over, so that he could find some cure for his heart’s restlessness; and for the evening to come, so that his heart could be calmed.  Finally somehow or other he got through the day, and sat keeping hold of himself until the first watch of the night.  At length his agitation guided him, he couldn’t endure it any longer.  He petitioned the king, “Tonight is the sixth night, your humble servant has not even closed his eyes.  If the command is given I will rest a bit, I will go into some corner of the garden and sleep.”  The king said, “Go in the name of God, I confide you to the Lord’s care.”

The Amir, with Muqbil the Faithful, at last came away from the gathering, and then made his way to a spot beneath the screened balcony, but didn’t find any means of climbing up.  But then he saw a splendid big tree right by the wall of the palace; its branches spread out over the roof and touched the parapets.  Stationing Muqbil under this tree, he himself climbed the tree and reached the roof of the palace.

/1/ Sabir Bilgrami [.saabir bilgraamii], an extremely obscure poet, was perhaps a friend of the author, ‘Abdullah Bilgrami.  Both came from Bilgram, a small town northwest of Lucknow.
/2/ In Indic folk tradition, a ghost [bhuut] is a spirit returned from the dead; it often appears dirty and disheveled.
/3/ In Perso-Arabic folk tradition, this sovereign ointment [mar;hamat-e momiyaa))ii] is capable of curing all wounds, and even of mending broken bones.
/4/ A verse by Nazir Akbarabadi [na:ziir akbaraabaadii] (1735-1830).  She is called a disaster because of the devastating effects of her beauty.
/5/ All these pious practices were current in nineteenth-century Lucknow.  In the first, a bowl [chahal kunjii] inscribed with prayers and containing forty tiny keys was filled with water which the sick person drank; it was thought to guard against supernatural afflictions.  In the second, the famous Qur’anic “Verse of the Throne” [aayat ul-kursii] (2:255) was recited, then the reciter blew with the same breath over the sick person.  In the third, a prayer in praise of ‘Ali was recited and used in the same way.

== on to Chapter 10 ==

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