THIRTY -- [‘Amar pretends that he will give Mihr Nigar to Zhopin in marriage, and thus acquires from him fresh provisions for the fort.]

The next day ‘Amar tore open his collar, rubbed dust on his face, and came barefooted and bareheaded, beating his breast and head, out of the fort.  Going in that condition to Zhopin’s tent, he said to the heralds, “Brother, tell the Prince of Kabul of my arrival, inform him that I’ve come to attend upon him.”  The heralds went and told Zhopin, “’Amar is standing with his collar torn open, with dust on his face, barefooted and bareheaded, at the door of the tent, weeping and imploring.  He seems extremely distraught, worn, distressed, and anxious at heart.  He says, ‘Tell the Prince of Kabul of my arrival, do a small kindness for this miserable and afflicted wretch.’”  Zhopin said, “Call him in, give him leave to enter.”

‘Amar, entering the tent, fell at Zhopin’s feet.  Zhopin said, “’Amar, are you well?  Say something!  What’s the matter?  What calamity has overtaken you?”  ‘Amar said, with a hundred sobs and laments, “What can I say--I’ve lost my master, the source of all joy and pleasure is gone!  Five days have passed since the Parizads came and told me about it--as though they made me, a living man, look into the grave!  Hamzah was slain in Qaf, at the hands of the Dev ‘Ifrit; his head was struck off from his body.  For four days I kept this news a secret, and hid it from everyone.  But yesterday, on the fifth day, everyone found it out; small and great, all learned of this event.  There is turmoil in the fort, everyone is distraught over this calamity, every single one is shedding tears.

“So I’ve presented myself before you, because I don’t have the nerve to face the princes.  I know in my heart that because of my friendship with Hamzah there’s no rudeness I haven’t been guilty of, no impudence or improper mischief that I haven’t done!  But now, after returning Mihr Nigar to Your Excellency, I’ll go to the mountains and bash my head against the rocks and die, and free myself from this distasteful life.  Where could I find another judge of my merits like Hamzah, whom I could serve, and to whom I could feel heartfelt gratitude night and day for his understanding of my worth?”

Zhopin pressed ‘Amar’s head to his breast, and said with the greatest affection, “Oh ‘Amar, where is your good sense, and why are you so grieved?  I will cherish you as the amulet around my neck--I’ll never neglect to show esteem for you!”  ‘Amar replied, “I expected no less from you, for you’re of the royal family, and you’re the most peerless scion of the noble families on the face of the earth.  But I’m afraid of the maliciousness of Bakhtak and Bakhtyarak; I’m fearful of their interference.  I’m worried that they might misguide you, and make you angry at me--they might turn you toward hostility, and engage in their tricks.”

Zhopin replied, “Who are they to dare to look askance at you, or inflict any sort of humiliation on you, or come between you and me, or show enmity toward you?  If by chance they ever speak harshly to you, I’ll cut them down to size that very moment, I’ll crush them and their helpers underfoot!  You go and bring Mihr Nigar.”  ‘Amar said, “I’d bring Mihr Nigar at once, but I’m worried, for how will the officers of the army allow me to?  They will say, ‘At your instigation, we’ve committed much rudeness against the princes, and given them much trouble.  You’ll give Mihr Nigar back and be fine--we’ll be condemned, and everyone will call us fools!’”

Zhopin said, “I will maintain them all with more respect and honor than Hamzah did, and give each one a rank according to his worth.  You go and persuade them and bring them to me, explain all this and reassure them.”  ‘Amar said, “They won’t believe I’m speaking the truth, they’ll never take my word for it.  If Your Excellency would write a letter to them, then I can bring them, otherwise they’ll never listen, they’ll think I’m talking nonsense.”  Zhopen replied, “Only one letter?  Why, I’ll write ten!”  At once sending for his pen-case, he wrote a letter of assurance to all the officers of the army, and confided it to ‘Amar with his seal on it.

‘Amar, taking the letter, went back to his fort.  Showing the letter to the officers of the army, he said, “The harvest is ready, a reaper is needed!  Come along--first come to a feast, enjoy dining on many fine dishes.  After that, we’ll see what happens next; we’ll act as the occasion warrants.”  All the officers went with ‘Amar.  But Muqbil the Faithful, with forty thousand horsemen, remained stationed there to protect the fort, and took responsibility for watching over everyone.

Please hear about Zhopin.  He told Hurmuz and Faramarz about the matter.  Bakhtyarak, hearing his words, replied, “If Lat and Manat are gracious, it will be a great thing--we’ll be free of all grief and care.  Not just one or two, but the whole group of Muslim officers will come and live peacefully in this fort!  But my heart says that their capacity for mischief is almost infinite.”  With these words, he began trying to explain to Zhopin, “Oh Zhopin, ‘Amar is an ‘ayyar--he’s very tricky and deceitful!  Don’t fall for his ruse, don’t be deceived by his wiles!  Why have you gone mad?  You can count on it for sure:  the food is exhausted in the fort, so he’s done this ‘ayyari--so he can trick you and get what he wants, and get us all in trouble.”

Zhopin, with a mighty frown, replied, “Oh Bakhtyarak, don’t meddle in this business, it’s between me and ‘Amar.  Why should anyone believe a dolt like you?  ‘Amar said beforehand, ‘Bakhtyarak will poison the trust between you and me, and move in to ruin this business.’”  Bakhtyarak replied, “Why wouldn’t he say that?  He and I are the same at heart!  Well, that’s fine, I won’t say a word.  From now on I absolutely won’t open my mouth about this matter, it’s between you and ‘Amar.  What can anyone say to someone who won’t listen?  When I see something suspicious, I’ll just go on my way!”

Zhopin, entering his tent, made preparations for a feast, and arranged heaps of various different kinds of food; he sent ‘ayyars to see whether ‘Amar was coming or not, and whether he was bringing Mihr Nigar with him or not.  When the ‘ayyars left the camp, they saw ‘Amar coming with four hundred powerful champions, whose awesome appearance would petrify the beholder.  The ‘ayyars ran head over heels back and informed Zhopin, “Four hundred champions are coming with ‘Amar to ennoble themselves by attending upon you.”

Zhopin went and said to the princes, “’Amar seems to be sincere.  The ‘ayyars say that he’s coming with four hundred champions, and bringing them all to enter our service.”  Bakhtyarak was stunned into silence, thinking, “Let’s see what comes of it, the thing is fraught with risk.  ‘Amar is arriving with this body of troops, it’s a catastrophe!”

In the meantime ‘Amar, with the officers of the army, reached Zhopin’s tent.  Zhopin, welcoming them, brought the officers into the tent, greeted each one of them personally, and showed them much kindness.  Embracing every one, he presented them to the princes.  He seated them in decorated chairs, and treated them all with complete courtesy.  He arranged a chair for ‘Amar beside his own, and was more gracious to him than to all the others.  After friendly conversation, he ordered the radiant cupbearers called, and commanded them to start the cup and flagon circulating, and to serve them all, high and low, great and small, with fine wines of every kind.

‘Adi said, “Oh Prince, the maxim is well known, ‘Eat first, speak later’!  First you should feed us, then after dinner serve us wine, so the wine can be savored, and everyone can enjoy it fully.”  The moment the order was given, the tray-bearer spread the dining-cloth, and placed delicate and elegant dishes before them, and the server began to bear the dishes around and serve them.

‘Adi said to the server, with each dish, “Set it here!”  Constantly hearing this, the server grew annoyed; in anger he let the words fall from his lips, “Your Excellency, shall I set it before anyone else, or place it only before you?”  ‘Adi replied, “First I’ll satisfy myself.  Then set the dishes before anyone you want--go right ahead and serve others, or you yourself eat.”   The server began to set the dishes before ‘Adi, and placed all the dishes of food before him alone.  ‘Adi began to eat.  With the result that no sort of food remained on the dining-cloth:  ‘Adi had finished it all off.

Zhopin, who sat and watched, said, “Let something more be brought, so that you can be thoroughly satisfied.”  ‘Adi said, “Whatever I eat does me good./1/  I’ve been blessed by a faqir:  through serving faqirs I’ve been granted the marvelous power that however much I eat, I’m never satisfied, I never turn away from food.”  Zhopin ordered another round of dishes, and had them all set before ‘Adi.  ‘Adi consumed them all too, and didn’t even drink any water.  Zhopin then asked, “Are you satisfied, or should something more be brought, so that you can eat your fill and not leave my house hungry?  ‘Adi said, “If some bread and curried meat appeared, I wouldn’t mind.  Please order some, and feed them to your servant.”  Immediately Zhopin ordered bread made from many maunds of flour, and curry.  ‘Adi graciously dined on that also.

Zhopin wanted to order even more, and let everyone enjoy the spectacle of ‘Adi’s eating.  But Bakhtyarak said to him, “Oh Zhopin, do you think you can ever fill up this champion’s stomach?  You’ll never be able to satisfy him!  ‘Amar devised this scheme just so that you’d feed him the food of the whole camp, and you wouldn’t even be left with enough for one meal.  When they don’t get fed, the soldiers will be oppressed by hunger, and will go their own ways.”

Hurmuz gave him a meaningful look, and said to ‘Adi, “Oh champion, the pots full of food are on the fire, every chef is cooking.  While that food is being prepared, whatever food you wish will be brought from the bazaar, so you won’t suffer from hunger.”  ‘Adi replied, “Your Excellency, I’m not such a glutton that I’d give you the trouble of ordering food from the bazaar.”  With these words he washed his hands, went to his bed and fell comfortably asleep.

Then, having the dining-cloth spread a second time, Zhopin had dinner served to all the officers, and ordered more food for them all.  When they had all finished eating, cups of rose-red wine began to circulate.  The party changed its nature:  singers and dancers presented themselves, musicians tuned their instruments for melodies, cries of ‘Drink up!’ and ‘Cheers!’ were raised by the guests.  All those present were in a joyous mood--they began talking together with warm friendship, glasses of wine began washing away the malice from their hearts.

In the midst of this Zhopin said to ‘Amar, “Why do you hesitate to bring Mihr Nigar?  Your delay in this matter is now improper.”  ‘Amar replied, “The officers of Islam say, ‘It doesn’t look nice to hand the princess over like this, it does you no kind of credit.’  Please make preparations in your camp for your wedding to her, and set the marriage ceremonies going; invite the army as well to a feast in the fort.  Let the marriage be celebrated fittingly, so that everyone can enjoy the merrymaking.”  Zhopin said, “What could be better?  This idea of yours is quite suitable.”  ‘Amar said, “Then some money must be spent on this.  In such a festival money has a part--how could things ever come to fruition without money?”  Zhopin replied, “That’s no problem.  Whatever you need is available and at your service; please arrange this function as suits you best.”

The officers of the army of Islam remained Zhopin’s guests for three days and nights; outwardly they remained grateful for the kindness.  ‘Amar, taking from Zhopin as much treasure and as many soldiers as he wished, went to his fort, and told everyone the good news of obtaining so much gold.  Stocking the fort with a six months’ supply of food, he went to Zhopin:  “Now please prepare in your camp for the marriage procession, and honor the occasion with the extravagant joy it deserves.  I too will go back to the fort and make preparations.”  Zhopin saw ‘Amar off, together with the officers of the army of Islam, and to them too he gave much gold, and cash, and princely gifts.

‘Amar prepared the fort four times more than before, and informed everyone of what he had done.  Zhopin had his body rubbed with cosmetic paste for seven days, and ate refined foods to improve the condition and coloring of his body.  He remained absorbed in dance and celebration, and had the whole army as his guests, and delighted himself with the hope of union with Mihr Nigar.  When seven days passed, and ‘Amar didn’t come even once to see him, Zhopin grew anxious and fearful.

Bakhtyarak asked Zhopin, “Please tell me, a week has already passed, when will you set out with the marriage procession, and when will you enjoy the nuptial pleasures?”  Zhopin, ashamed and angry, insulted Bakhtyarak freely, and gave him many curses.  And he sent ‘ayyars to ‘Amar to say, “Seven days have already passed, now why do you delay the marriage?  Here every kind of preparation has been made, and luxurious adornments of all kinds have been collected.”  The ‘ayyars went, and saw that the fort was four times as well-prepared as before, and every officer was alert at his proper post.

‘Amar, as usual, seated in a jewel-adorned chair under a pavilion outside the main gate of the fort, was discharging his functions, and delegating tasks to his subordinates.  The ‘ayyars, saluting ‘Amar respectfully from afar, gave him Zhopin’s message.  Whatever words Zhopin had charged them to say, they said them all.  ‘Amar sent this message:  “Now for some months I make light of you and Hurmuz and Faramarz, and I don’t feel threatened by your army and troops.  If Jamshed himself should rise from the grave and return, and presume to confront me, I’d bury him in the earth.  But he’s nothing.  If it were even Afrasiyab himself, I’d overthrow him in the first wrestling-hold!”

The ‘ayyars turned around and ran back from there, and told Zhopin everything ‘Amar had said, and described to him ‘Amar’s situation.  The bird of Zhopin’s senses flew away, his complexion paled; learning of this state of affairs made him very distraught.  He began biting his lips and feeling agitated:  “This ‘ayyar has outwitted me badly, he has deceived me badly.  He has disgraced me from here to Ctesiphon!”  But what else could he do except keep quiet?  For to requite the wrong, and to punish him, was most difficult.

/1/ This phrase is in Arabic.

== on to Chapter 31 ==

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