FIFTY -- [The Amir is joyfully reunited with Mihr Nigar and all his old companions.]

After some days of travel, one day the Amir learned from ‘Adi that ‘Amar, with his army, had his quarters in the fort of Western Dominion, he was settled there with all his followers.  The Amir confided Zuhrah of Egypt, etc., to ‘Adi’s care and commanded, “Bring them along with you at a slow pace.  I’ll discover what lies ahead, I’ll learn all about the state of affairs there.”  With these words, he mounted Ashqar.  In a very brief time he arrived at the fort.  Before the fort there was a hillock; standing atop it, he began to examine the fort.

He saw that the fort was smallish, but there were twelve battlements and the walls were well manned.  If even a bird sought to fly over, it would be hunted down.  On one side of the fort was a mountain, on the second side a river, and on the third side a forest.  For many miles marigolds in full bloom could be seen, the number of which was absolutely beyond imagining.  Here and there attractive fruit-bearing trees could be seen; everyone who even looked at their fruit--much less ate it--felt refreshed and restored to life.  On the fourth side, where the main gate was, was a dry wasteland.  Safely out of range of the fort, Naushervan with his large army was camped; all the officers’ tents stood in their proper places.

And ‘Amar, atop the Elephant-proof Gate, was sitting under a pavilion of gold and Chinese brocade, on a jewel-adorned chair, so arrogantly that even the King of the Seven Realms was nothing compared to him; he was so imposing and overbearing that no one was bold enough to speak a word to him.  To his right stood kings and companion princes, alert and attentive; to his left stood Muqbil the Faithful, with twelve hundred archers.  The Amir, seeing ‘Amar in such lavish splendor, laughed very much.  He spread his wolf-skin beneath the walls of the fort and sat down, using the wall itself as a backrest; he seated himself as faqirs do.  And he commanded Ashqar Devzad, in the language of the Jinns, “Go into the forest below the fort and have something to eat.  Eat whatever you can find.  But don’t fall into anyone’s hands!”  Ashqar set out for the forest.

Please hear about the ‘Ayyar and King of ‘Ayyars.  That day he went to Mihr Nigar, whom he found in a very bad state, grieving over the Amir.  He sat down with her, and himself wept very much, and made her weep very much as well.  He said, “Princess, remember the Lord; trust in the mercy of God, and be of good cheer.  Look at what He does:  His name is Uniter of the Separated, He is the True Mover who fulfills the longings of those in despair.  He will certainly bring Hamzah to you; someday the one you desire will certainly come to you.”  Mihr Nigar said, “Oh Khvajah, patience too must come to an end sometime!  How long can I be patient, how can I calm my heart?  Today the Amir has been gone for eighteen full years!”

‘Amar replied, “It’s still a long time till evening.  If by evening the Amir should come, and arrive safe and well, that wouldn’t be at all beyond the Lord’s power!  Princess, just go up on the roof of the fort and look out at the forest--look at how the marigolds are blooming, and how a green velvet carpet of grass is spread out for miles.  Divert yourself somehow--for the Lord’s sake, for my sake, go up on the roof!”  Mihr Nigar too somehow at the time felt like it, ‘Amar’s appeal pleased her.  She lifted her eyes and began to enjoy the sight of the forest all around her; going to the roof of the fort, she began to admire the power of the Lord as it displayed itself in the forest.

It happened that three or four wild geese flew past, they came flying by from somewhere.  Mihr Nigar shot an arrow, and said, “I will consult the omens.  If I hit the middle goose, then today I’ll certainly see the Amir; after such a long time, I’ll have the joy of seeing him and being with him.”  And indeed the arrow pierced through the middle goose’s wing, and that goose fell near the Amir.  The Amir, slaughtering the goose, put it down nearby.  And finding Mihr Nigar’s name on the arrowhead, he began to kiss it, he began to make the gesture of warding off evil from the arrow onto himself.

From above, ‘Amar saw this.  Angrily he went to the Amir and said, “Oh vicious mendicant, you don’t know whose honor is bound up in the name on the arrow you are kissing!  Well, give me the arrow.  This time, knowing you’re a faqir, I pardon you.  But if you show such disrespect again, you’ll be punished for it, you’ll leave this transitory realm for the realm of eternity!”  The Amir replied, “Oh, be off with you, I’ve seen a lot of ‘ayyars like you!  Go and threaten somebody who’ll be afraid of you--I’ve seen a lot of tricksters and cheats like you!  I consider the King of the Seven Realms to be less than a grain of dust.  And you’re a petty ‘ayyar--how could you be of any account?”

‘Amar, who was furious, brought down his sling from his headgear, put a chiselled and chased stone into its pouch, and whirled it at the Amir.  The Amir kept his eye on the stone.  When it neared his breast, he caught it between his two hands, and called out in challenge, “Oh ‘ayyar, you can’t escape me now!  Be on your guard--this faqir is going to show you his art!”  He threw the same stone at ‘Amar.  ‘Amar saw that the stone was coming with great force.  He bounded upward, and avoided it, and slung another stone at the Amir.  The Amir blocked it as well, and threw the same stone back at ‘Amar.  ‘Amar at once sprang aside; the stone passed over his head.

‘Amar saw that the faqir seemed to be extremely accomplished, with very advanced powers, such that he could not defeat him.  He decided to appeal to his greed, and thus take the arrow from him.  Approaching him, ‘Amar said, “Oh faqir, I’ll give you five hundred rupees; give me the arrow.”  The Amir did not agree.  ‘Amar again said, “Take a thousand rupees, give me the arrow.”  The Amir said, “In Qaf, thanks to Hamzah’s generosity, I have given such sums of money to the poor and lowly--and you want to appeal to my greed, you flourish your gold before me!”

‘Amar, hearing this, sat down.  He asked, “How long has it been since you’ve seen Hamzah?”  The Amir said, “It’s been just six months since he and I were in the same place.”  ‘Amar said, “The Amir must have given you some message?”  The Amir said, “As we parted, he only said that when I reached Mecca I was to salute his father on his behalf and assure him that the Amir was well.”  ‘Amar said, “He must have said something more?”  He replied, “Yes, he also said that if I saw his companions, I was to ask how they were.”  ‘Amar said, “He must have given you some other message for somebody?”  The Amir said, “He told me one thing with great earnestness to be told to Mihr Nigar.”

‘Amar asked, “What was that?  In the Lord’s name, tell me quickly!”  The Amir replied, “I won’t tell you, I won’t go against his order.  I will say it in Mihr Nigar’s ear, because that’s what the Amir commanded me to do.”  ‘Amar said, “Hazrat, what is this that you are pleased to command, what words are these that you bring to your lips?  How could Mihr Nigar appear before you?  She lives in retirement!”  The Amir said, “If she doesn’t, then I won’t say it.”  ‘Amar said, “Oh faqir, take five hundred tumans of gold, and tell the Amir’s message!”  The Amir said, “I’ve told you once, and made it very clear to you, that if Mihr Nigar wants to hear it she must send for me and hear it in her ear.  And if she doesn’t, then what’s the point of arguing?  It will be her own fault if she doesn’t hear the message!”

‘Amar, having no choice, entered the palace.  He saw that everyone in it was extraordinarily happy, they could hardly contain themselves, every single person seemed extremely joyful and delighted.  ‘Amar asked, “Why is everyone so happy?  Has someone given you good news?”  Princess Mihr Nigar said, “In order to test the omens, I shot an arrow at a goose, I tried my fortune.  The arrow pierced the goose’s wing and lodged there.  But the arrow, and the goose, fell outside the wall of the fort.  Please go and bring it to me, do me this favor.  And Khvajah, this omen is a very reliable one, I have tested it a number of times.  There’s still a lot left of the day.  It’s most certain and sure that evening will not fall before the Amir comes!”

‘Amar saw that there was an extraordinary confusion.  Some ladies looked into the clouds in the sky, and said that the Amir’s throne must surely be hidden among them; others climbed to the roof and looked out into the wilderness, thinking that if the Amir came by land he would come that way.  ‘Amar said to himself, “Well, this is not so bad--Mihr Nigar went up on the roof and at least she diverted herself!”  Meanwhile Mihr Nigar said again, “Khvajah, my arrow and bird have fallen below the wall of the fort.  Have them picked up and brought to me, or you yourself go and bring them.”

The Khvajah said, “Today a mendicant faqir has come and seated himself under the wall of the fort.  The goose and arrow fell near him.  He slaughtered the goose, and put it down nearby.  The arrow is in his hands.  He says that he has come from Qaf, and has brought some message from Hamzah for Princess Mihr Nigar, and that he will say it only into her ear, he will do just as the Amir has instructed him.  Although I tried to bribe him, and insisted, and threatened him, he replied, ‘Thanks to Hamzah I spent lots of money in Qaf!’  He won’t give me the arrow, nor will he tell me Hamzah’s message.”  Mihr Nigar was agitated, and said, “Khvajah, for the Lord’s sake, bring that faqir here at once!”

‘Amar went again and said to the Amir, “Oh mendicant, I’ll give you a thousand gold tumans, if you’ll tell me Hamzah’s message, if you’ll do as I say.”  The Amir said, “What’s the point of talking nonsense?  Take me before Mihr Nigar, if you and she want to hear the message.  I’ve told you not once but a thousand times, that I won’t tell it to anyone but Mihr Nigar, I will never disobey my instructions.”  ‘Amar, having no choice, said, “All right, please come along.”  The Amir gave the goose to ‘Amar, and taking up the arrow and the wolf-skin, he went along.

‘Amar took the Amir into the palace, seated him near the pardah-screen, and said, “Oh mendicant, Mihr Nigar is sitting right behind this screen.  Deliver the Amir’s message.”  The Amir said, “Hamzah made me swear by his own head to say it into Mihr Nigar’s ear.  So how can I go against my oath?  If she wants to hear it, then let Mihr Nigar come before me, and hear her husband’s message.  If not, then I’ll go.”  With these words, the Amir rose and began to leave.

Having no choice, ‘Amar went behind the screen, wrapped Fitnah Bano, the daughter of Mihr Nigar’s nurse, in a large shawl, and seated her there; instead of Mihr Nigar he brought this girl before the Amir, and said, “There, darvesh--here is Mihr Nigar!  Say whatever you have to say, break your silence.”  The Amir said, “Show me her face, so I can see whether it’s Mihr Nigar or someone else.”  When ‘Amar pulled aside the shawl from Fitnah’s face, when he showed her face to the Amir the Amir said, “This is not Mihr Nigar, this is Fitnah!  Hamzah told me how to recognize her as well, he told me all about her.”

Then, since there was no choice, Mihr Nigar herself came before the Amir; unwillingly, she showed him her face.  The Amir saw that she was in a strange condition:  with a pale face, dry lips, and wet eyes, wearing dirty clothing.  Tears came into the Amir’s eyes, but he averted his face and suppressed them, so his hidden secret would not be revealed, and no one would see him weep and guess it.  ‘Amar said, “There, darvesh--this indeed is Mihr Nigar; now speak.”  The Amir said, “I still say the same thing:  I will say Hamzah’s message into Mihr Nigar’s ear, I will do just as I have previously said.”  ‘Amar, growing furious, sent for Muqbil, etc.--some of the officers--and said, “All of you stand ready with swords drawn.  With this faqir leaves, kill him, cut this insolent wretch into pieces!”

In the meantime, Mihr Nigar inclined her ear, she brought her head near him.  The Amir said softly, “Oh my dearest, I am Hamzah, I am no faqir!”  With these words, he removed the turban from his head.  Mihr Nigar could see the dark mole and the Hashimite vein and the lock of hair of Abraham.  On seeing them, Mihr Nigar shrieked, and the Amir gave a loud groan.  Both fainted; from extreme passion they lost consciousness.  When ‘Amar looked attentively at the Amir’s forehead, he recognized him, and knew for sure that this was Hamzah himself, and repeatedly made the gesture of warding off evil from the Amir onto himself.

Everyone learned that the Amir had come.  They sprinkled rose-water and musk-willow perfume on the faces of Mihr Nigar and the Amir, and began to fan them from all directions.  Both the senseless ones gradually came to themselves.  The Amir pressed ‘Amar and Muqbil to his breast, and treated everyone with kindness.  And he began to weep uncontrollably, they all began to weep and sob aloud.  From one end of the palace to the other, that day was like the festival of ‘Id./1/

At once Mihr Nigar ordered that celebrations be prepared;  she  bathed, dressed in bridal costume, and adorned herself in every way.  The Amir went out and embraced every officer one by one, and honored each one with a resplendent robe of honor.  There was no one who did not give away gold and jewels that day in charity for the Amir’s sake, and prepare offerings for the poor in his name--to the point that even ‘Amar gave away two pennies in charity!  Since jesting ran so deep in ‘Amar’s nature, he gave a sum like that.  At once ‘Amar sent the order to the drum-house for the drums of celebration to be sounded.

When the sound of congratulations and rejoicing and celebration reached Naushervan’s ears, he asked his ‘ayyars, “What is the tumult?”  They submitted, “The noise and tumult are from the fort.  We hear that Hamzah has come back from Qaf.”  Bakhtak said, “Your Majesty, once again ‘Amar must have thought of some ‘ayyari!”  The king asked Buzurchmihr, “What do you think?”  Buzurchmihr said, “From my calculations it appears that Hamzah has come.  I too have come from Basra with this thought:  to see the Amir, and hear about his time in Qaf from his own lips.”

Now please hear about Ashqar Devzad.  When he went to graze in the forest, Naushervan’s horses were grazing there too.  This displeased Ashqar.  He killed many of the horses with his hooves; he pulverized every horse that came to confront him.  Those that escaped ran off toward evening to their own camp.  Ashqar followed them.  When the panicky horses entered the camp, many tent-ropes were broken, the ropes slipped out of people’s hands.  People ran to seize Ashqar.  Those whom Ashqar attacked with his teeth, he tore apart and flung aside; he ripped open stomachs with a single hoof-stroke.  Those whom he struck in the head with a hoof had their skulls flung away with a loud crash, they fell prone on the ground.  Those whom he grabbed by the neck and violently shook, had their heads pulled off from their bodies.  In this way Ashqar killed thousands of infidels.

Naushervan’s army thought that the Muslims had launched a surprise night-attack, but in the early evening instead of the night.  Arming themselves, they took their own soldiers for the enemy, and slashed and killed each other all night; they fought continually among themselves.  In the morning, they saw that all the dead were from their own army, they didn’t find even one outsider among the slain.  Naushervan, when he saw Ashqar, fell in love with him.  He ordered them to seize the horse somehow, and capture him in any way they could.  Whoever went to seize him suffered a fierce blow, and yielded up his life.

The Amir said to ‘Amar, “Since last night there’s been noise and confusion in Naushervan’s camp.  Go and find out what’s going on, and why all the tumult and confusion.”  Just then, an ‘ayyar came and told them the whole story.  The Sahib-qiran said to ‘Amar, “That horse is mine.  Go and say to him, ‘Oh son of Arna’is and Lanisah, the Sahib-qiran has sent for you, this servant has come to call you.’  He will at once go with you.  Bring him here; don’t be at all afraid.”  When ‘Amar, as the Amir had ordered, gave the message to the horse, and informed that he had been summoned, Ashqar went with ‘Amar.  The Amir came out of the fort and embraced Ashqar.  Presenting ‘Amar, he commanded, “Oh Ashqar, ‘Amar will always serve you, he will make you comfortable in every way.”  And he ordered ‘Amar, “Treat Ashqar as first among all the horses, and you yourself attend to his food and water.”

The next day ‘Adi, with Zuhrah of Egypt and Khvajahs Ashob and Bahlol, arrived.  The Amir sent Zuhrah of Egypt into the palace, to Mihr Nigar, and arranged for her to live there.  Sending for Khvajahs Ashob and Bahlol, he kept them with him.  ‘Adi himself quietly called ‘Amar and took him aside.  Giving him that box,/2/ he said, “In this box is a great deal of gold and jewelry.  I have kept it just as it came to me, holding it in trust for you.  Please take the box, and make use of the jewelry.  ‘Amar, taking the box, was very pleased with ‘Adi.  Carrying it into another room, he locked himself in, and opened the box.

The moment the box was opened, a Dev came out of it and wrapped himself around ‘Amar, he clung to him and could not be dislodged.  ‘Amar blew his white conch, and made a commotion.  The Amir at that time was with Mihr Nigar, enjoying her delightful company.  When suddenly the sound of the white conch fell on his ear, he leaped up and rushed out; very disturbed and anxious, he ran out:  “What has happened to ‘Amar, that he’s blowing the white conch?  He must be caught in some calamity, that he’s arousing me with this noise!”  With Mihr Nigar, he went out into the courtyard.  Muqbil too was talking affectionately with Zuhrah of Egypt.  Hearing the Amir coming, he too emerged, he too was very anxious.

When the Amir cocked his ear and listened, it seemed that the sound of the white conch was coming from a certain room, and the noise was from that direction.  The Amir went to that room.  The door was locked from the inside.  He gave it a kick, and the door broke.  He saw that it was the same Dev which he had seized and given into ‘Adi’s custody, for ‘Adi to keep in captivity.  The Dev was standing in one corner, intent upon attacking ‘Amar.  In another corner stood ‘Amar, blowing the white conch so that the Amir would come to his aid, so that he could arouse the Amir with the noise.  The Amir, seizing the Dev’s belt, dragged him before the princess, and he ripped him to pieces like old clothes before the princess, he tore his liver out of his stomach.  Everyone praised the Amir’s strength, they applauded his courage.  Mihr Nigar gave away much wealth in charity for the Amir’s sake.

Since ‘Amar had fainted from the shock, when they revived him by sprinkling rose-water on him he said to ‘Adi, “All right, you with the pot-belly!  You’ve done this misdeed to me, you’ve tormented me very much.  But just wait and see what revenge I take on you, what shock I give to you too!”  ‘Adi laughed and said, “Khvajah, by your wish I was shut up alive in a grave/3/--should I not sometime have my wish too?”  At length the Amir reconciled the two, he made peace between them.  And he commanded, “’Amar, be of good cheer.  Asman Pari will bring you many gifts from Qaf; when you see them you’ll be greatly delighted.  ‘Amar was quite pleased, and began to call down blessings on the Amir, with extreme love and affection he began making the gesture of warding off evil from the Amir onto himself.

/1/ ‘Id, the most important Muslim festival, is the day of celebration that follows the annual month of dawn-to-dusk fasting.
/2/ It was a box ‘Adi had found floating down the river.  As soon as he opened it a Dev leaped out, seized him tightly, and refused to let go.  Hamzah dislodged the Dev and forced it back into the box.  Since then, ‘Adi had been saving the box to use on ‘Amar.
/3/ The reference must be to the way ‘Amar tacitly encouraged ‘Adi to leave the fort and thus to fall into various perils, culminating in the prospect of being buried alive from which Hamzah rescued him.  But ‘Amar seems to be (for once) relatively innocent of the charge ‘Adi actually makes.

== on to Chapter 51 ==

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