FORTY-SIX -- [Mihr Nigar runs away in anger and has various adventures, until ‘Amar placates her and brings her back.]

Please hear about Mihr Nigar.  By morning she had gone a hundred miles.  It happened that King Ilyas, an infidel and worshiper of Lat, passed by that way, with a falcon on his wrist.  Mihr Nigar, going behind a tree-trunk, concealed herself from his gaze.  He saw from a distance that a veiled figure had taken shelter behind a tree at his approach.  Coming near, he asked, “You there--who are you, and where are you from?  What is your name, and why have you come into this forest?”  Mihr Nigar said, “I’m a traveler.  The revolving of the heavens has brought me here, fate has placed me in this distress.”  The king said, “Will you enter my service?”  She answered, “I am not in need of employment.”

From her voice, the king suspected that it might be a woman.  When he reached out his hand and drew back the veil from her face, he saw that it was an utterly beautiful woman:  if the sun were to look her in the eye, it would be dazzled, it would be unable to bear the sight of her.  At once he helped her down from her horse and placed her in a palanquin, he reassured her very much.  Taking her to his palace, he provided every kind of luxury, and did everything to please her.  When he wanted to approach her, and to lay hands upon her, Mihr Nigar said, “Beware!  If you take one step forward, you’ll suffer a great injury at my hands!”  The king, fearful, went off to his own house.  He was very miserable and angry:  “Alas, that I should have such a Pari in my hands, and she should escape untouched!”

It happened that that same day *Khvajah Nihal the merchant--who in former times had been a companion of Naushervan’s, and had held Mihr Nigar as a child in his lap, and had made much profit through this connection--presented himself, with gifts and rarities, in the service of that king.  Seeing the king downcast, he asked the cause of his unhappiness, he inquired about his low spirits.  The king told him the secret of his heart, he disclosed his hidden feelings:  “I’ve found a Pari in the forest, but she doesn’t accept me, she doesn’t favor me, and I am pining for her!”  Khvajah Nihal said, “If I can see her, I’ll recite a spell and make her willing; in one moment I’ll make her obedient to you.”  The king at once took Khvajah Nihal with him and showed him the house from a distance:  “She’s in that house.”

When Khvajah Nihal looked through a crack in the door, he recognized her, and impulsively called her by name.  Mihr Nigar too recognized Khvajah Nihal; she opened the door and told him to come inside.  The Khvajah, after learning her circumstances, quietly reassured the princess, and advised her, “Don’t worry at all.  I’ll get you out of here and take you away, I’ll rescue you from the hands of this evil-hearted boor.”  Having comforted the princess, he went to the king, and petitioned, “Let the guards be ordered to allow me access to that woman at any hour of the day or night, with no hindrance.  Through your ascendant fortune, two days from now I will make her willing, I will make her favorably inclined to you.”  The king, pleased, gave him a robe of honor, and gratified him with many gifts.

The Khvajah, when he left the king’s presence, went and looked in the horse-traders’ stables in the city.  Finally, choosing two swift and strong horses, he bought them, and brought them to the door of the house in which Mihr Nigar was living.  And that same night he mounted the princess on one, and himself mounted the other, and left the city; they rode the whole night.  In the morning, the king summoned the Khvajah.  He did not find him at his camping-place.  In the meantime, the guards came and informed him, “That woman whom Your Excellency kept in the house is not to be seen; the house lies empty.  We are very much surprised that she has gotten out.”  The king realized that Khvajah Nihal had taken her and run off.  At once, taking a fierce army, he set off in pursuit.

At about noon, the princess, seeing a cloud of dust, said to Khvajah Nihal, “Oh Khvajah, give your horse his head!  Look, the king has arrived, that shameless wretch has come!”  The Khvajah began looking at the cloud of dust.  But Mihr Nigar rode into the depths of the forest, to be hidden from that worthless one’s gaze, so that he wouldn’t capture her.  In the meantime, the king and his retinue reached the Khvajah.  Khvajah Nihal stood rooted to the spot, in shock.  The king killed him, he took his revenge on him; and he began to search for Mihr Nigar.  But Mihr Nigar’s trail, like that of the ‘anqa, was not to be found, although he took a good deal of trouble searching for her.  He searched and searched until, losing hope, he had no choice but to go home.

Mihr Nigar, by the next day, had gone a number of days’ journey away from there.  She was faint with hunger--when just then she saw a melon-field.  Then she felt comforted.  She asked the melon-farmer for a cantaloupe.  He brought a number of cantaloupes and placed them before her.  Mihr Nigar began to eat the cantaloupes, and recovered her strength.  She was so hungry that she ate them all.  And that despicable bastard, who couldn’t have been less than ninety years old, began saying to Mihr Nigar, “Oh sweetheart, if you’ll stay with me, I’ll keep you in wonderful style, I’ll give you whatever you ask for!”  Mihr Nigar was astonished:  “What is this buffoon jabbering about?”

When she had eaten her fill of the cantaloupes and felt her hunger assuaged, she asked him, “Don’t you have any family?”  He replied, “I have ten sons and eleven daughters and a wife.”  Mihr Nigar said, “When you already have a wife, how can I stay with you, how could I be happy here?”  The old bastard replied, “I’ll divorce her, for your sake I’ll make her live separately.”  Mihr Nigar said, “All right, go and divorce her; I’ll sit here and wait for you.”  That simpleton went to divorce his wife, and Mihr Nigar, leaving the price of his cantaloupes, mounted her horse and went on.

When the old melon-farmer, having divorced his wife, returned to the melon-field, he found no Mihr Nigar.  He began to shriek, “Oh Pari, alas Pari, where have you gone?  You’ve left me miserable!”  His wife, bringing the landlord along to the field to make her husband see reason, came and found him saying “Oh Pari, alas Pari!” and weeping.  They all concluded that his mind was clouded, that the Jinns had possessed him./1/

As Mihr Nigar traveled on from there, evening found her in a jungle.  Wherever she looked, she saw beasts of prey like the tiger, the cheetah, the hyena, the wolf, the bison, the rhinoceros, the bear, the langur, and the monkey, which devour everything they find.  Leaving her horse, she climbed a tree and settled herself in its branches.  In the morning a tiger appeared,  killed Mihr Nigar’s horse, and went back where it had come from.  Mihr Nigar, climbing down from the tree, tied the horse’s saddle to the tree.  She felt very sad at the loss of her horse, and set out from there on foot.

In the evening she came to a very large artificial pond, just beyond some fields near a village.  Next to the pond she saw a splendid big tree.  The princess climbed into the tree and settled herself there.  In the morning, the village headman, wanting to bathe, sent his maidservant to bring water from the pond.  The maidservant saw Mihr Nigar’s face reflected in the pond, and thought it was the image of her own.  With great conceit, she took the empty pots and went back to the house.  The headman asked, “Have you brought the water?”  She replied, “Ha!  As beautiful and radiant as I am, am I to carry water?  Am I to do chores for you like a maidservant?”  The headman, beating her quite sufficiently with his shoe, said, “Go, you whore, bring water at once--and don’t dawdle even a moment!  For I want to bathe, I’m tired of feeling dirty, I’ll have a good bath!”

Again she took the pot and went to the pond.  Mihr Nigar was still there, and again she saw Mihr Nigar’s reflection and was extremely excited.  Without bringing water, she went back to the house, and repeated just what she had said before.  Again the headman punished her and sent her back to bring the water.  The third time too, she saw Mihr Nigar’s reflection, and went back to the house with an empty pot; she was so overcome with pride that she had lost all regard for everyone else.  Mihr Nigar realized that if the girl returned to the pond once more, there would be mischief afoot, some new danger would surely come about.  Climbing down from the tree, she set out, with no particular direction in mind.

When the maidservant again spoke in such a way to her master, he, having no choice, showed her a mirror and said, “Look at your face, you bitch!  Is this what you’re so proud of?”  When she looked in the mirror, she saw a repulsive face.  Then, after thinking hard, she replied, “Come to the pond and look at my face in the water, and see whether I’m telling the truth or not!”  Grudgingly, the landlord, taking some more men along, went with her to the pond.  Although she saw that her face, in the water too, was just as she had seen it in the mirror, she shamelessly kept on saying, “With such beauty and radiance I won’t carry water, I absolutely won’t do such a lowly task!”  People said that perhaps some Pari had disturbed her mind,/2/ and she ought to be given treatment.

Mihr Nigar, who had climbed down from that tree and gone on, arrived the next day at the abode of a faqir.  That faqir was the chief of a group of four hundred, he was the headman of a large number.  Seeing Mihr Nigar, he inquired about her.  Mihr Nigar said, “I am a weaver’s daughter.  My father married a second time in his old age, and my stepmother threw me out.  So I wander, wretched and homeless, troubled and distressed by my stepmother’s harshness and lack of affection.”  The faqir was quite soft-hearted.  Hearing Mihr Nigar’s story, he replied, “I adopt you as my child, I take you as my own daughter!  I like your good manners.  Share out the alms among the faqirs, do this task every day.”  He entrusted all the management of the house to her, he gave her entire authority over the whole household.  Mihr Nigar, offering thanks to God, began to live there; night and day she gave thanks for the faqir’s kindness and affection.

Now please hear about the ‘Ayyar and King of ‘Ayyars.  When he went out searching and searching for Mihr Nigar, after many days he arrived in the city of that king who had taken Mihr Nigar from the forest.  Picking up the hints and rumors there, he went on, and came upon the melon-farmer in his field:  hearing “Oh Pari, alas Pari!” on the farmer’s lips, he knew that it could only have been she, her fate had brought her to all these places.  From there he reached the jungle where the tiger had killed her horse, and Mihr Nigar had tied the saddle to a tree and passed on from there.  ‘Amar untied the saddle from the tree, and confided it to Zanbil.  And from there he arrived in the village where the headman’s crazed maidservant lived.

From there he reached the abode of the faqir with many followers; after all his wanderings he found himself where he wanted to be.  From far off he saw that Mihr Nigar was sharing out the alms among the faqirs.  He too, taking on the appearance of an old man, drew near.  Mihr Nigar began to give him food as well.  The Khvajah, with tears in his eyes, said, “Oh Princess, I’m not a faqir, I’m your slave ‘Amar.  I repent of my offense.  I’m your old servant, and I’ve combed so many lands in search of you!”  When the princess saw ‘Amar, she flung her arms around him and began to weep.

The faqir, hearing the sound of weeping, came running, saying, “My child, is everything all right?  Why are you weeping so bitterly?”  Mihr Nigar replied, “Everything is fine.  This is my father!”  The faqir began to reason with him:  “Oh my dear brother, is this how you should treat your daughter?”  ‘Amar replied, “What can I do, I’m penniless!  How can I get her married, where will I get all the property and goods?”  The faqir gave ‘Amar five hundred rupees and said, “Arrange her marriage quickly, gain the merit of performing this task.”  ‘Amar, taking the money and Mihr Nigar, set out from there.  While on the road, he deposited the rupees in Zanbil.  And making Mihr Nigar unconscious, he tied her into a bundle, slung her onto his back, and headed for the fort, so that he could get her into the fort quickly, and feel relieved.

Hurmuz and Faramarz too had been informed by their ‘ayyars that in the night Mihr Nigar had come as far as their camp, and had dressed as a man, mounted the guard-post horse, and gone no one knew where.  And ‘Amar had gone in search of her, and had set out to find her.  They took counsel together:  “Except for this mountain pass, there’s no other way of coming in; on the other side there isn’t the scope to enter.  Our ‘ayyars will wait in ambush.  When ‘Amar comes, and brings Mihr Nigar with him, we’ll snatch Mihr Nigar away from him--we’ll never let her get into the fort!  And if we can overpower him, we’ll kill him too; and if we could capture him alive--what words could be sufficient?  From then on we’d always be safe from his clutches!”

Four hundred ‘ayyars hid themselves at the foot of the mountain.  Hurmuz and Faramarz posted ‘ayyars in relays as runners, so that when ‘Amar arrived, and the ‘ayyars emerged from their ambush to surround him, they themselves could at once be informed, and could bring some picked men to the ‘ayyars’ aid, so that none of the ‘ayyars should feel fearful or be put to flight.  And they ordered the people they planned to take with them, not to undress, and to have relays of fresh horses available.  Thus when ‘Amar, with the bundle slung on his back, reached the mountain pass, four hundred ‘ayyars emerged from ambush and surrounded him, they encircled him from all four sides and pressed him very hard.

‘Amar too seized his sword and shield, he drew his well-tempered sword from its scabbard.  Hurmuz and Faramarz were informed that ‘Amar had been surrounded, they heard about his encirclement.  At once, with their chosen troops, they rushed at him.  ‘Amar, seeing the princes, was very frightened, and felt fearful at heart:  “They have so many men with them, there’s a great number of the enemy!  I’m alone, and loaded down as well; carrying this bundle makes me even more helpless and vulnerable.”  He began to pray.

In the space of a moment the Veiled One Dressed in Orange, with forty thousand horsemen, arrived; at God’s command, he came to ‘Amar’s aid.  Killing Jahandar of Kabul and Jahangir of Kabul, Zhopin’s brothers, he scattered Hurmuz and Faramarz’s whole party, and put all their companions to confusion.  Many infidels were killed; only those who preferred flight over fighting survived, they escaped the circle of the slain.  Hurmuz and Faramarz, defeated, low in spirits, mourning for Jahandar of Kabul and Jahangir of Kabul, went back to their camp; they had suffered a great shock.

The Veiled One, escorting ‘Amar to his fort, set out for his own dwelling.  ‘Amar, entering the fort, brought Mihr Nigar into her palace, and felt free of concern about her.  Again begging her forgiveness, he was pardoned for his fault; through attentive service he made her forget all her grief and distress.

/1/ Possession by Jinns is the cause of many forms of erratic behavior, according to an Arab folk belief that goes back to pre-Islamic days.
/2/ Paris do not possess people, but can disturb their minds by revealing themselves in all their bewitching beauty.

== on to Chapter 47 ==

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