The Armenian youth here finished his narrative, and left me in astonishment and admiration at all he had related. With my permission he then quitted me to visit his wife, and promised to return immediately with the report of her present state, and how she felt after her repose.
‘He surely cannot have been inventing lies to my face all this time,’ said I when left to myself, ‘for a bleeding woman is here in evidence to corroborate what he has advanced; but then should I permit him to proceed, and the serdar was to hear that I had done so, what would become of me? I should certainly lose my place, and perhaps my ears. No; compassion does not suit me; for if it did, I ought not to remain a nasakchi. I will stick to what the sage Locman, I believe, once said on this occasion, which runs something to this purpose: “If you are a tiger, be one altogether; for then the other beasts will know what to trust to: but if you wear a tiger’s skin, and long ears are discovered to be concealed therein, they will then treat you even worse than if you walked about in your own true character, an undisguised ass."’
I kept turning over in my mind whether I should release him or not; and was fluctuating in great perplexity between the ass and the tiger, when Yûsûf returned. He told me that his Mariam was considerably refreshed by repose; but, weak from loss of blood, and stiff by the violence of the contusions which she had received (in particular, one upon her leg, which was of consequence), it would be impossible for her to move for several days; ‘except indeed we were pursued by the serdar,’ added he, ‘when I believe nothing but force could hinder us from proceeding.’ He said that not until now had she found strength enough to relate her own adventures from the time she had left him at Gavmishlû.
It appears that the instant she had darted from the nuptial chamber, only covered by her veil, she had been seized by a Persian, who, discovering by the glare of the lightning that she was young and handsome, ran off with her to some distance, and there detained her until, with the assistance of another, she was mounted on a horse and taken forcibly away; that these two men carried her straight to the camp at Aberan, and offered her for sale to the serdar; who, having agreed to take her, ordered her to be conducted to his seraglio at Erivan, and there put into service; that the horrid plight in which she stood, when exhibited to the serdar, her disfigured looks, and her weak and drooping state, made her hope that she would remain unnoticed and neglected; particularly when she heard what was his character, and to what extent he carried his cruelties on the unfortunate victims of his selfishness. Mariam, alluding to herself, then said, ‘Hoping, by always talking of myself as a married woman, that I should meet with more respect in the house of a Mussulman, than if I were otherwise, I never lost an opportunity of putting my husband’s name forward, and this succeeded, for little or no notice was taken of me, and I was confounded with the other slaves, and performed the different tasks of servitude which were set me. But, unfortunately, I did not long keep my own counsel; I confided my story to a Persian woman, who pretended to be my friend; hoping by that means to soften her heart so much as to induce her to help me in regaining my freedom; but she proved treacherous; she made a merit of relating it to the serdar, who immediately forced me to confirm her words with my own lips, and then the extent of my imprudence became manifest. He announced his intention to avail himself of my situation, and ordered me to prepare for receiving him. Conceive then what were the horrors of my position. I turned over in my mind every means of escape, but all avenues to it were shut. I had never before thought of looking over the precipice upon which the windows of our prison opened; but now I seriously thought of precipitating myself, rather than submit to the tyrant. But a few hours after I had had the blessing to discover you on the bridge, I had been ordered to hold myself in readiness to receive him; and it was then that I had positively determined in my own mind to throw myself headlong out, either once more to bejoined to you, or to die in the attempt. When I shut the lattices in haste, several women had just come into the room to conduct me to the hot bath previously to being dressed; and when I had made some excuse for delaying it, and had sent them out of the room, it was then that I opened the lattice a second time, and put my resolution into practice.’
Yûsûf having finished the recital of his and his wife’s adventures, was very anxious to know what part I would take, and earnestly entreated me to befriend him by my advice and assistance. The morning was far spent. My men were already mounted, and ready to proceed on our reconnoitring expedition, and my horse was waiting for me, when a thought struck me, which would settle every difficulty with regard to the young Armenian and his wife.
I called him to me, and said, ‘After what you have related, it will be impossible to leave you at liberty. You have, by your own account, run off with a woman from the serdar’s seraglio, a crime which you perhaps do not know, in a Mussulman country, is punished with death, so sacred is the harem held in our estimation. If I were to act right, I ought not to lose a moment in sending you both back to Erivan; but that I will not do, provided you agree to join us in our present expedition, and to serve us as guide in those parts of the country with which you are best acquainted.’ I then explained to him the nature of my office, and what was the object of the expedition.
‘If you are zealous in our cause,’ said I, ‘you will then have performed a service which will entitle you to reward, and thus enable me to speak in your favour to the serdar and to my chief, and, Inshallah! please God, to procure your release. In the meanwhile, your wife may remain here, in all safety, in the hands of the good folks of this village; and by the time we return, she will, I hope, have been restored to health.’
The youth, upon hearing this language, took my hand and kissed it, agreed to everything I had said, and having girt on his arms, he was ready to attend us. I permitted him to go to his wife, to give her an account of this arrangement, and to console her, with proper assurances, that they would soon be restored to each other. He again thanked me; and, with the agility of an antelope, had already gained the summit of the first hill before we had even begun to ascend it.
(From a Persian painting.)
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:53