FORTY-FIVE -- [Zuhrah of Egypt disappears from the roof of the fort, and comes before Asman Pari.]

Now please hear a few sentences of the dastan of that afflicted victim of separation, utterly given over to longing, Princess Mihr Nigar, who night and day spent herself in weeping and lamentation over the Amir’s absence.  She ate nothing but pieces of her own torn heart, she drank nothing but her own heart’s blood.  She lay dishevelled and disarrayed on her canopied bed.  If Zuhrah of Egypt or Tarrar-e Khuban/1/ or some other companion told her to wash her face, she washed it in bloody tears.  And if someone told her to adorn herself, she strung tear-drop pearls on her eyelashes.

Her companions were afraid that she would gradually go mad.  Each one wanted to divert her sad heart in some way, to distract her with some game or entertainment.  They all used to join in persuading her and promising her, “Princess, so much time has passed, and only a little is left!  In a matter of days the Amir will come; all your grief and sorrow, thanks to the Lord’s grace, is coming to an end.  Please change your clothes, please eat and be of good cheer.  If you grieve yourself to death, then what’s the point?  Then when the Amir comes, whom will he see, and who will see him?  Come along, please take a little stroll on the roof, and enjoy the fresh air.  For the Lord’s sake, don’t cause us any more grief!”

In short, after much persuasion they took Mihr Nigar up to the roof of the palace, and began showing her the beauties of the flourishing forest greenery, and diverting her mind with casual conversation.  Before very much time had passed, a spot of cloud appeared; a black cloud arose in the sky, and slowly, slowly that cloud moved over the palace and spread around it on all sides.  Dazzling lightning began to flash, thunder began to rumble.  Suddenly and without warning a hand took shape from within the cloud, a hand appeared from the Unseen.  It picked up Zuhrah of Egypt, who was standing next to Mihr Nigar, and bore her away; in the blink of an eye it seized her and carried her off.

Some of the ladies sat with their eyes shut in terror, others ran and fell on their faces in the stairway.  There was an extraordinary confusion--no one was aware of anyone else, everyone was stupefied and stunned.  When finally they regained their senses, they saw that Zuhrah of Egypt was missing.  A great tumult broke out; it was as though Doomsday had come to the palace.

Now please hear a little about Zuhrah of Egypt.  She saw that she was sitting on a throne, and the throne was being borne through the sky.  The whole world looked black below her, she couldn’t distinguish a thing.  She asked the throne-bearers, “Who are you, and where are you taking me?”  They replied, “Asman Pari, Hamzah’s wife, ordered us to bring Mihr Nigar, the daughter of Naushervan, and not to waste any time about it.  So we are taking you to her, we will convey you to Asman Pari.”

Zuhrah of Egypt realized, “Hamzah has married in Qaf.  So his wife has sent for Mihr Nigar, in order to kill her and thus remove the fever of jealousy in her own heart.  These people didn’t recognize her, they didn’t know who she really was.  Taking me for Mihr Nigar, they’ve carried me off.  It’s good that I alone have been sacrificed, to ward off this peril from Mihr Nigar’s head.  The Lord has saved her from this calamity, and brought me here in her place.”  Finally, when Zuhrah of Egypt arrived in Garden of Iram, the Kohl of Solomon was put in her eyes, so that she would be able to see everyone--no Dev, Pari, or Jinn would remain hidden from her sight.  Eventually she was brought before Asman Pari.

Asman Pari, seeing her beauty and radiance, was thunderstruck; seeing her face and form, she was astonished.  She said, “Hamzah had right on his side.  How should he not suffer in his separation from her, in her absence how should he not be wretched?”  Then looking toward Zuhrah of Egypt and addressing her, she asked, “Are you Mihr Nigar, the daughter of Naushervan, are you the one whose beauty is renowned in the universe and celebrated with admiration by young and old?”

Zuhrah of Egypt, saluting her respectfully, said, “I am the daughter of ‘Abdul ‘Aziz, King of Egypt, and the wife of a slave of Hamzah’s named Muqbil the Faithful.  How could I possibly presume to be the equal of Mihr Nigar?  My name is Zuhrah of Egypt.  Mihr Nigar has among her maidservants four hundred daughters of the kings of Arabia, Persia, China, Central Asia, etc., each one of them more beautiful than I; they are proud to serve her, and are always ready to bear her company.”

Asman Pari, seeing Zuhrah of Egypt’s courtesy and refinement, was very pleased.  And she asked, “Tell the truth, Zuhrah of Egypt, I adjure you by Hamzah’s head--am I more beautiful, or is Mihr Nigar more beautiful?”  Zuhrah of Egypt, with hands respectfully folded, said, “It is impolite to say it, but there’s not as much beauty in you as in the soles of the feet of Mihr Nigar’s maidservants.  How can the sun be compared to a dull grain of dust!”  Asman Pari, hearing Zuhrah of Egypt’s words, grew angry and ordered, “Indeed!  Give her into the custody of the executioners, and let them strike off her head!  She is utterly mischievous and rude, how could this boor be fit for my company?”  The executioners took Zuhrah of Egypt to the execution-ground.

It happened that Quraishah, carrying a dagger, was going into the court.  She was seven years old at the time, but her loveliness and radiance would have caused a fourteen-year-old beauty to pale with envy, and the *Houris of Paradise, seeing her, would have blushed with shame.  Seeing a crowd of people, she went toward Zuhrah of Egypt.  She asked the executioner, “Who is this, and what offense has she committed, that you want to kill her?  Why do you raise a knife to the neck of this innocent one?”  The executioner said, “I don’t know anything of who she is or what offense she’s committed.  But the Ruler of the Paris has given the order.”

Quraishah asked Zuhrah of Egypt about her situation; Zuhrah of Egypt told her in detail.  Quraishah began to tremble with anger.  And taking Zuhrah of Egypt with her into the court, she said to Asman Pari, “What has she done to you, that you brought her here from the Realm of the World and gave the order to kill her?  It seems clear that if Mihr Nigar had come, you would have had her killed as well!  You wouldn’t have spared a thought for the Sahib-qiran, or feared the wrath of the Lord!  Listen:  Mihr Nigar too is a part of the Sahib-qiran’s honor, and is hundreds of thousands of ranks above you in honor and purity, for she is the Sahib-qiran’s first wife, and superior to you in every way.  What can I do?  You’re my mother!  Otherwise, for this misdeed I’d cut you in half with a dagger, I wouldn’t be afraid of anyone!”

Asman Pari, seeing Quraishah’s fury, trembled.  She was silent, and made no reply; she did not open her mouth at all.  Finally Quraishah mounted Zuhrah of Egypt on a throne that very moment, and ordered the Devs who had brought it, “Take her back exactly where you brought her from, do just as I say!”  The bearers, lifting the throne, set out.

However, it happened that the throne passed over the house of the Dev Samandun the Thousand-armed, which lay along the route.  It happened that at that time Samandun Dev, with his friends, was drinking wine.  When his glance fell on the throne, he ordered the Devs, “Bring that throne here.  Who is this, and where are you taking her?  Bring her before me!”

When they brought the throne to him, he asked Zuhrah of Egypt, “Who are you, and where are you going?  Are you of such a rank that you have Devs to bear your throne?”  She told him the whole story in detail.  Samandun Dev had the throne-bearing Parizads killed, and said to Zuhrah of Egypt, “You are to rock my little son’s cradle, you are always to lull him to sleep very gently.”  Zuhrah of Egypt, having no choice, began to rock his son’s cradle; the revolving of the times brought her this new trouble to endure.

Please hear about Khvajah ‘Amar.  When he heard the noise and confusion, he went into the palace.  He was informed that a hand had appeared from the sky, picked up Zuhrah of Egypt, and carried her off.  Trembling with anger, he said to Mihr Nigar, “I’ve explained to you a hundred thousand times, and told you over and over, not to do anything without asking me!  But my words had no effect.  If that hand had picked you up and carried you off, what could I have said to Hamzah, and how could I have found you again?  My twelve years of labor would have been wasted, and I would have been disgraced and humiliated in everyone’s eyes!  With these words, he struck Mihr Nigar three blows on the back with his whip, so hard that she suffered great pain.  From the force of the whip-lashes, she moaned and sobbed, and began to writhe in pain on the ground like a ground-tumbler pigeon.

This misdeed of ‘Amar’s angered Mihr Nigar very much, she was extremely disgusted with ‘Amar.  She said to herself, “If I hadn’t fallen in love with the Amir, I would never have been whipped by some petty son of a camel-driver, I would never have endured such sufferings!  There are slaves in my house higher in rank than he is, they have a good reputation in every kind of service.”  At that time she said nothing.  But when half the night was over, she lowered a rope and let herself down from the fort, and went toward her brothers’ camp.  Then she reflected that she ought not to go to her brothers, she ought not to show her face to them.  A horse of Hurmuz’s was tethered by the guard-post, standing ready, saddled and bridled, and the groom, whose fortune was asleep, was deep in slumber.  Putting on men’s attire and veiling her face, she mounted the horse and set out for the forest; she went beyond the range of ‘Amar’s sight.

Please hear about ‘Amar.  After whipping Mihr Nigar, he left the palace, and that night, out of shame, he did not go back to it.  He decided that he would go in the morning and placate Mihr Nigar and obtain her forgiveness.  Toward the end of the night, the Amir came to him in a dream and said, “Well, ‘Amar, is that any way to behave--the way you’ve treated Mihr Nigar, and caused her so much pain?  Because of this misdeed of yours she has set out into the wilderness, she’s involved in thousands of difficulties!”  When ‘Amar, after this troubled dream, grew anxious and entered the palace, he was that indeed Mihr Nigar was not in her bed.  He searched here, he searched there, but found no trace of her.  Then, not seeing Mihr Nigar anywhere, he grew very worried.

When he mounted the wall of the fort, on one side a dangling rope caught his eye:  ‘Amar found a clue to her departure.  He realized that Mihr Nigar had gone down this way, but he couldn’t discover in which direction she had gone.  ‘Amar too let himself down by the rope, and followed Mihr Nigar’s footprints.  He followed them to Hurmuz’s camp, and looked around for some sign of Mihr Nigar.  He saw a groom asleep with reins in his hand--but there was no horse to be seen, only the snoring groom.  Waking him, ‘Amar asked, “Where is the horse?”  Anxiously the groom began to look around, he looked in all directions.  ‘Amar realized that Mihr Nigar had come here, mounted the horse, and gone off; she had been disgusted by his misdeed and had gone off.  He followed the horse’s hoof-prints, thinking that he would track Mihr Nigar and find some clue to her whereabouts.

/1/ Tarrar-e Khuban [:tarraar-e ;xuubaan], “Sauciest of Beauties,” is one of Mihr Nigar’s ladies in waiting.

== on to Chapter 46 ==

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