FORTY-TWO -- [‘Amar’s fort is treacherously attacked through a tunnel, but the plot is discovered and the invaders defeated.]
        Naushervan reproached Bakhtak for failing to arrange ‘Amar’s capture throughout nine full years.  Bakhtak wrote to his son Bakhtyarak, who was in the field with Hurmuz and the army, urging immediate action.  Bakhtyarak forged a letter from Naushervan to the son of the newly converted king ‘Antar of Devdad, urging him to let the army into the fort of Devdad, and promising all manner of rewards if he did so.  The son, *Khvajah Arbab, agreed, and contrived a suitable plan.  He slipped out of the fort to tell it to Hurmuz.

Khvajah Arbab said, “Inside your tent will be one end of the tunnel; please have it dug out.  The other end will be in my mansion; I will go and have it dug.  During the rest of the night, and all of tomorrow, the heat will go out of it, and the breeze will blow through it.  Please come early tomorrow evening, through the tunnel, to my humble home, and honor it with your presence; by means of your inherently auspicious footsteps, please provide me with a resplendent and impressive robe of honor.  Be pleased to eat dinner, and enjoy the sights of the place.  And when two watches of the night have passed, kill the Muslims and seize ‘Amar as well; when you have him in your power, then do as you wish with him.  Please take away Mihr Nigar also, and enjoy the pleasure of her company.  But choose many great champions to bring with you, and please enjoin them to show courage and bravery.”  Hurmuz and Faramarz, giving Khvajah Arbab a robe of honor, allowed him to depart, and ordered their people to perform those tasks.

Khvajah Arbab went back into the fort the same way he had come out of it, and at once brought the diggers to his house and had them start digging the end of the tunnel.  Thus as morning dawned, the tunnel was opened up, and Khvajah Arbab made preparations for the princes’ dinner; he ordered the requisites for the feast to be collected.  It chanced that his daughter, named Dilavez, asked him, “What is all this hustle and bustle today?  Please tell me what kind of preparations are going on.”  Khvajah Arbab, trusting his daughter, told her in detail about his plans for the night; since he had confidence in her, he revealed his deep secret to her.

Dilavez was inwardly very downcast:  “That wretch with his futile greed is going to take the blood of so many Muslims onto his head!”  Immediately she wrote an account of the whole thing, and sent it by the hand of her old nurse to ‘Amar.  She enjoined the nurse, “Go quickly and put this letter into ‘Amar’s hands, and return.  He’ll give you a great reward; with cash and valuables he’ll make you very happy.”  The nurse at once went and gave the letter into ‘Amar’s hands, and told him something orally as well.  ‘Amar gave the nurse a great reward, and sent congratulations to Dilavez and praised her sympathetic feelings very highly.

Seating himself on his throne, ‘Amar summoned the officers of his army.  First he said to ‘Adi, “There’s a religious feast somewhere, and I’ll have you fed a great deal of food, I’ll take all of you with me.  But you’ll have to do some work as well, and if you whine or shirk, I’ll pull every grain you’ve eaten right out your nose!”  ‘Adi replied, “I’m ready to obey you in everything.  Look, since the Amir went away I get only twenty-one maunds of flour and rice per day--and in one single meal I eat this much, while at dinnertime I suffer the pangs of hunger, and not even half my stomach is filled!  But this servant, out of respect for you, patiently endures everything; nevertheless, until the Amir comes back I’m somehow keeping myself alive on a starvation diet!  If you’ll feed me until my stomach is filled, then why would I object to working?  When you see my industry you’ll be delighted.  The saying is well known, ‘Fill the stomach, then get what you want.’”

When four hours were left in the day, ‘Amar, taking the officers with him, set out for Khvajah Arbab’s house.  Khvajah Arbab heard that King ‘Amar and his entourage were coming toward his house.  The color fled from his face, and he was very anxious and fearful; his face grew dead pale and his helpers began to lose their nerve.  In the meantime, ‘Amar’s entourage arrived, with the whole party from the fort.  Khvajah Arbab, coming out of his house, saluted ‘Amar; in outward appearance, he treated him with great respect and honor, and presented formal gifts.

‘Amar, taking the gifts, said, “I’ve heard that today, in honor of Hazrat Abraham, you’ve had food cooked, and have made arrangements for feasting the Muslims./1/  Accordingly, I’ve come to your house, and I’ve brought a lot of Muslims along with me, so they can have some of the consecrated food to eat.”  Khvajah Arbab, when he heard this, was even more stupefied; when he heard all this he was very much worried.  But what could he do?  He couldn’t even deny it, for all the preparations were right there.

He replied, “In truth, Your Excellency is a holy man, a knower of secrets both small and large!  It’s true that I’ve been busy since this morning arranging to have the food cooked, and for this reason I haven’t been able to present myself to inform you--I just haven’t had a moment free from all the arrangements!  I had intended to go and inform Your Excellency after everything was prepared, and have the honor of falling at Your Excellency’s feet at my ease.  It’s very fine that you yourself have come along--I haven’t even had to make the trip!”

With these words, he led them into the hall where an elegant dining-cloth had been spread, and thrones had been placed for the princes; he had had that hall decorated most elaborately.  He led ‘Amar in and seated him on a throne, and behaved with great warmth and fellow-feeling.  He gave the officers chairs and wrought-iron seats to sit on, and treated them all properly in accordance with their rank.  ‘Amar, sending for the food, first served the champion ‘Adi until he was stuffed to the throat; afterwards, he had the other champions eat.  In short, they all ate their fill of the dinner, in style.

When evening drew near, and the sun’s setting left the world in darkness, ‘Amar ordered, “Bind Khvajah Arbab hand and foot; confine him quickly.”  The moment he gave the order, Khvajah Arbab was bound.  Khvajah Arbab said, “What sin have I committed, that you’ve bound me?  Is this the recompense for my courtesy and hospitality, that you make me a captive?”  Khvajah ‘Amar said, “You haven’t committed any sin--but we’re just discharging our debt for the food you’ve given us.  Whatever we’ve done, we’ve done prudently and rightly.”  In short, ‘Amar shut him up like this in a small room, and ordered that no one should be admitted to it.

And he said to ‘Adi, “The time has come for work--and let there be no fault to be found with your work!”  ‘Adi replied, “I’m here in attendance upon you, with all my heart, to work.  Whatever orders you give, I’ll carry out.”  ‘Amar, searching out the opening of the tunnel, sat ‘Adi down beside it and said, “Whoever sticks his head out, squeeze his throat with both hands and pull him out, so that not a sound escapes from his lips, and he is absolutely unable to speak.  All the other champions will be standing near you, they won’t budge from this spot.  You keep on seizing the men and passing them on to the others; they’ll keep their mouths covered as you have done, and will keep sending them along into confinement; they’ll do just as I have said.  And be warned--if anyone should slip through your fingers, then just the way I’ve fed you, I’ll rip open your stomach!”  ‘Adi squatted down by the hole like a bread-baker, on his haunches, so that when anybody stuck a head through, he could pull it out deftly, all light and puffy like a fluffy roll, and do just as ‘Amar had ordered.

Now please hear a bit about Hurmuz and Faramarz.  When two hours remained in the day, Hurmuz and Faramarz, taking with them ten thousand horsemen and four hundred renowned champions, casually entered the tunnel, just the way someone enters his own house, or the house of his host; they were quite unaware of ‘Amar’s cleverness and adroitness.  When they came near, ‘Adi said to ‘Amar, “I hear the sound of men’s footsteps.”  ‘Amar replied, “Be warned--let no one escape, absolutely no one must go free!”

In the meantime, someone stuck his head out of the hole.  ‘Adi was sitting like the Angel of Death to cut off his breath:  he seized his throat and pulled him upward, and passed him on to the other officers.  They took him in this choked condition and locked him up.  When the second man stuck his head out, the same thing happened to him.  In short, in no time at all ‘Adi seized four hundred champions and passed them on to the officers.  All those captured were given over to the warders to be confined in prison; with their feet in iron shackles, they were kept under the closest guard.

Zhopin was the last of them all.  He thought to himself, “Four hundred champions have gone out of the tunnel, and not even one has come back to report.  Why is this?  It’s a strange thing!”  He had just stuck his head slightly out of the tunnel and begun to look around, when ‘Adi seized his head.  Since he hadn’t put his neck out, ‘Adi couldn’t grab it, nor could he get his hands around his head; he couldn’t get a good grip on Zhopin to capture him.  ‘Adi couldn’t pull him out.  Zhopin thought, “What kind of disaster is this--is it a friendly dinner, or a hostile encounter?  Khvajah Arbab has cooked up a scheme:  he’s offered us food, but the hope of eating it has almost cost us our lives!”

Bracing his feet inside the tunnel, Zhopin began to call out to his friends, exhorting each one by name, “Run, brother, run!  Somebody has gripped my head and is pulling me upward--who can this demon be?”  Bechun Kamran,/2/ seizing both Zhopin’s feet, pulled them down forcefully, so that Zhopin’s head was jerked out of ‘Adi’s grasp.  But Zhopin’s ears were ripped off, and remained in ‘Adi’s hands, while Zhopin himself escaped.  All those waiting to enter the tunnel realized what had happened, and turned back and ran away.  ‘Adi gave the ears to ‘Amar.  ‘Amar saw that the enemy had been alerted, and had realized what was going on.  He began to throw explosive bottles into the tunnel.  Ten thousand soldiers who had entered with Zhopin were scorched and trapped there; none of them were saved.  Hurmuz and Faramarz, along with some of their men, escaped and ran away.

In the morning, ‘Amar had the four hundred chiefs of the enemy army who had been seized, together with Khvajah Arbab, hanged on a scaffold; he didn’t leave even one alive.  And he closed up the end of the tunnel with lead, so that there was absolutely no way to come or go.  Hurmuz and Faramarz wrote down all these events too in a letter, and sent it off to Naushervan by the hand of Sabir the Felt-robed; they entered the whole story in their petition.

/1/ In this common Muslim ceremony, food is cooked, then the Fatihah and other Qur’anic verses are recited over it, then the donor prays that the merit of the food and verses may go to such-and-such a recipient.  Then the food is distributed in the recipient’s name.  This is often done in the Prophet’s name; the dastan treats Abraham as the forerunner and surrogate of the Prophet.
/2/ Bechun Kamran [bechun kaamraan] is Zhopin’s brother.

== on to Chapter 43 ==

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