The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan, by James Justinian Morier

Chapter xvii

He puts on new clothes, goes to the bath, and appears in a new character.

I now looked upon myself as clear of this unpleasant business, which I had entirely brought on my own head, and congratulated myself that I had got off at so cheap a rate. I again made my way to the cloth bazaar, and going to the first shop near the gate of it, I inquired the price of red cloth, of which it was my ambition to make a barûni, or cloak; because I thought that it would transfer to me that respect which I always felt for those who wore it. The shopkeeper, upon looking at me from head to foot, said ‘A barûni indeed! and for whom do you want it, and who is to pay for it?’

‘For myself, to be sure,’ answered I.

‘And what does such a poor devil as you want with such a coat? Mirzas and Khans only wear them, and I am sure you are no such personage.’

I was about to answer in great wrath, when a dalal or broker went by, loaded with all sorts of second-hand clothes, which he was hawking about for sale, and to him I immediately made application, in spite of the reiterated calls of the shopkeeper, who now too late repented of having driven me off in so hasty a manner. We retreated to a corner in the gateway of the adjacent mosque, and there the dalal, putting his load down, spread his merchandise before me. I was struck by a fine shot silk vest, trimmed in front with gold lace and gold buttons, of which I asked the price. The dalal extolled its beauty and my taste; swore that it had belonged to one of the king’s favourite Georgians, who had only worn it twice, and having made me try it on, walked around and around me, exclaiming all the while, ’Mashallah, Mashallah!‘ Praise be to God! I was so pleased with this, that I must needs have a shawl for my waist to match, and he produced an old Cashmerian shawl full of holes and darns, which he assured me had belonged to one of the ladies in the king’s harem, and which, he said, he would let me have at a reasonable price. My vanity made me prefer this commodity to a new Kermân shawl, which I might have had for what I was about to pay for the old worn-out Cashmere, and adjusting it so as to hide the defects, I wound it about my waist, which only wanted a dagger stuck into it, to make my dress complete. With this the dalal also supplied me, and when I was thus equipped I could not resist expressing my satisfaction to the broker, who was not backward in assuring me, that there was not a handsomer nor better-dressed man in Tehran.

When we came to settle our accounts, the business wore a more serious aspect. The dalal began by assuring me of his honesty, that he was not like other dalals, who asked a hundred and then took fifty, and that when he said a thing, I might depend upon its veracity. He then asked me five tomauns for the coat, fifteen for the shawl, and four for the dagger, making altogether twenty-four tomauns.

Upon hearing this, my delight subsided, for I had barely twenty tomauns in my pocket, and I was about stripping myself of my finery, and returning again to my old clothes, when the dalal stopped me, and said, ‘You may perhaps think that price a little too much, but, by my head and by your soul, I bought them for that — tell me what you will give?’ I answered, that it was out of the question dealing with him upon such high terms, but that if he would give them to me for five tomauns I would be a purchaser. This he rejected with disdain, upon which I stripped, and returned him his property. When he had collected his things again, and apparently when all dealings between us were at an end, he said, ‘I feel a friendship for you, and I will do for you, what I would not do for my brother — you shall have them for ten tomauns.’ I again refused, and we stood higgling, until we agreed that I should pay him six, and one by way of a dress for himself. This was no sooner said than done.

He then left me, and I packed up my bargain, with the intention of first going to the bath, and there equipping myself. On my road, I bought a pair of high-heeled green slippers, a blue silk shirt, and a pair of crimson silk trousers, and having tied up the whole in my handkerchief, I proceeded to the bath.

No one took notice of me as I entered, for one of my mean appearance could create no sensation, and I comforted myself by the reflection, that the case would be changed as soon as I should put on my new clothes. I deposited my bundle in a corner, where I also undressed, and having wrapt myself round with a towel, I entered the bath.

Hajji Baba at the Bath.

(By a Persian artist, painted for this work.)

Here all ranks were on a level, in appearance at least, and I now flattered myself that my fine form, my broad chest, and narrow waist, would make me an object of admiration. I called to one of the dalâks (bathing men) to wait upon me, and to go through the different operations of rubbing with the hand, and of the friction with the hair bag, and I also ordered him to shave my head, to get ready the necessary materials for dying my beard, moustaches, and curls, as well as my hands and the soles of my feet, and also to prepare the depilatory; in short, I announced my intention of undergoing a complete lustration.

The dalâk, as soon as he began rubbing me, expressed his admiration at my broad chest by his repeated exclamations; and bearing in mind the influence which new clothes were likely to create, I behaved like one who had been accustomed to this sort of praise and attention. He said that I could not have come at a luckier hour, for that he had just operated upon a Khan, who having received a dress of honour from the Shah, upon the occasion of bringing the first melons from Ispahan, had been sent to the bath by the astrologers at this particular time, as the most fortunate for putting on a new dress.

As soon as all was over, the dalâk brought me some dry linen, and conducted me to the spot where I had left my clothes. With what pleasure I opened my bundle and inspected my finery! It appeared that I was renovated in proportion as I put on each article of dress. I had never yet been clothed in silk. I tied on my trousers with the air of a man of fashion, and when I heard the rustling of my vest, I turned about in exultation to see who might be looking at me. My shawl was wound about me in the newest style, rather falling in front, and spread out large behind, and when the dagger glittered in my girdle, I conceived that nothing could exceed the finish of my whole adjustment. I indented the top of my cap in the true Kajari or royal style, and placed it on my head considerably on one side. When the bathing man at length brought me the looking-glass, as a signal for paying the bath, I detained him for the purpose of surveying myself, arranging my curls to twist up behind the ear, and pulling my moustaches up towards my eyes. I then paid him handsomely, and leaving my old clothes under his charge, I made my exit with the strut of a man of consequence.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58