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

Chapter li

Of the diviner’s success in making discoveries, and of the resolution which Hajji Baba takes in consequence.

I must own that I began now to look upon the restoration of my property as hopeless. The diviner’s skill had certainly discovered that money had been buried in my father’s house, and he had succeeded in raising ugly suspicions in my mind against two persons whom I felt it to be a sin to suspect; but I doubted whether he could do more.

However, he appeared again on the following morning, accompanied by the capiji, and by several of those who had been present at the former scene. The âkhon, however, did not appear, and my mother was also absent, upon pretext of being obliged to visit a sick friend. We proceeded in a body to the mound, and the dervish having made a holy invocation, he approached it with a sort of mysterious respect.

‘Now we shall see,’ said he, ‘whether the Gins and the Peris have been at work this night’; and exclaiming ‘Bismillah! he dug into the earth with his dagger.

Having thrown off some of the soil, a large stone appeared, and having disengaged that, to the astonishment of all, and to my extreme delight, a canvas bag well filled was discovered.

‘Oh my soul! oh my heart!’ exclaimed the humpback, as he seized upon the bag, ‘you see that the Dervish Teez Negah is not a man to lose a hair of his beard. There, there,’ said he, putting it into my hand, ‘there is your property: go, and give thanks that you have fallen into my hands, and do not forget my hak sai, or my commission.’

Everybody crowded round me, whilst I broke open the wax that was affixed to the mouth of the bag, upon which I recognized the impression of my father’s seal; and eagerness was marked on all their faces as I untied the twine with which it was fastened. My countenance dropped woefully when I found that it only contained silver, for I had made up my mind to see gold. Five hundred reals85 was the sum of which I became the possessor; out of which I counted fifty, and presented them to the ingenious discoverer of them. ‘There,’ said I, ‘may your house prosper! If I were rich I would give you more: and although this is evidently but a small part of what my father (God be with him!) must have accumulated, still again I say, may your house prosper, and many sincere thanks to you.’

The dervish was satisfied with my treatment of him, and took his leave, and I was soon after left by the rest of the company — the capiji alone remaining. ‘Famous business we have made of it this morning,’ said he. ‘Did I not say that these diviners performed wonders?’

‘Yes,’ said I, ‘yes, it is wonderful, for I never thought his operations would have come to anything.’

Impelled by a spirit of cupidity, now that I had seen money glistening before me, I began to complain that I had received so little, and again expressed to Ali Mohamed my wish of bringing the case before the cadi; ‘for,’ said I, ‘if I am entitled to these five hundred reals, I am entitled to all my father left; and you will acknowledge that this must be but a very small part of his savings.’

‘Friend,’ said he, ‘listen to the words of an old man. Keep what you have got, and be content. In going before the cadi, the first thing you will have to do will be to give of your certain, to get at that most cursed of all property, the uncertain. Be assured that after having drained you of your four hundred and fifty reals, and having got five hundred from your opponents, you will have the satisfaction to hear him tell you both to “go in peace, and do not trouble the city with your disputes.” Have you not lived long enough in the world to have learnt this common saying —“Every one’s teeth are blunted by acids, except the cadi’s, which are by sweets”?

‘The cadi who takes five cucumbers as a bribe, will admit any evidence for ten beds of melons.’

After some deliberation, I determined to take the advice of the capiji; for it was plain that if I intended to prosecute any one, it could only be my mother and the âkhon; and to do that, I should raise such a host of enemies, and give rise to such unheard-of scandal, that perhaps I should only get stoned by the populace for my pains.

‘I will dispose of everything I have at Ispahan,’ said I to my adviser, ‘and, having done that, will leave it never to return, unless under better circumstances. It shall never see me more,’ exclaimed I, in a vapouring fit, ‘unless I come as one having authority.’

Little did I think, when I made this vain speech, how diligently my good stars were at work to realize what it had expressed.

The capiji applauded my intention; the more so, as he took some little interest that my resolutions should be put into practice; for he had a son, a barber, whom he wished to set up in business; and what could be more desirable, in every respect, than to see him installed in the shop in which my poor father had flourished so successfully, close to his post at the caravanserai?

He made proposals that I should dispose of the shop and all its furniture to him, which I agreed to do, upon the evaluation of some well-known brother of the strap, and thus I was relieved of one of my remaining cares.

As for my father’s house and furniture, notwithstanding my feelings at the recent conduct of my mother, I determined, by way of acquiring a good name (of which I was very much in want), to leave her in full possession of them, reserving to myself the temesoûts, or deeds, which constituted me its lawful owner.

All being settled and agreed upon, I immediately proceeded to work. I received five hundred piastres from the capiji for my shop; for he also had been a great accumulator of his savings, and everybody allowed that money was never laid out to better advantage, since the shop was sure to enjoy a great run of business, owing to its excellent situation. I therefore became worth in all about one hundred and ten tomauns in gold, a coin into which I changed my silver, for the greater facility which it gave me of carrying it about my person. Part of this I laid out in clothes, and part in the purchase of a mule with its necessary furniture. I gave the preference to a mule, because, after mature deliberation, I had determined to abandon the character of a sahib shemshir, or a man of the sword, in which, for the most part, I had hitherto appeared in life, and adopt that of a sahib calem, or a man of the pen, for which, after my misfortunes, and the trial which I had in some measure made of it at Kom, I now felt a great predilection.

‘It will not suit me, now, to be bestriding a horse,’ said I to myself, ‘armed, as I used to be, at all points, with sword by my side, pistols in my girdle, and a carbine at my back. I will neither deeply indent my cap, and place it on one side, as before, with my long curls dangling behind my ears, but wind a shawl round it, which will give me a new character; and, moreover, clip the curls, which will inform the world that I have renounced it and its vanities. Instead of pistols, I will stick a roll of papers in my girdle; and, in lieu of a cartouche-box, sling a Koran across my person. Besides, I will neither walk on the tips of my toes, nor twist about my body, nor screw up my waist, nor throw my shoulders forward, nor swing my hands to and fro before me, nor in short take upon myself any of the airs of a kasheng, of a beau, in which I indulged when sub-deputy to the chief executioner. No; I will, for the future, walk with my back bent, my head slouching, my eyes looking on the ground, my hands stuck either in front of my girdle, or hanging perpendicular down my sides, and my feet shall drag one after the other, without the smallest indication of a strut. Looking one’s character is all in all; for if, perchance, I happen to say a foolish thing, it will be counted as wisdom, when it comes from a mortified looking face, and a head bound round with a mollah’s shawl, particularly when it is accompanied with a deep sigh, and an exclamation of Allah ho Akbar! or Allah, Allah il Allah! and if, perchance, I am brought face to face with a man of real learning, and am called upon to sustain my character, I have only to look wise, shut my lips, and strictly keep my own counsel. Besides, I can read; and, with the practice that I intend to adopt, it will not be long before I shall be able to write a good hand — that alone, by enabling me to make a copy of the Koran, will entitle me to the respect of the world.’

A Youth of the Middle Class.

(From a Persian drawing.)
With reflections such as these I passed my time until it was necessary to decide whither I should bend my steps. Everything told me that I ought to make the most of the good impression which I had left behind me, on the minds of the mûshtehed of Kom and his disciples, for he was the most likely person to help me in my new career: he might recommend me to some mollah of his acquaintance, who would take me as his scribe or his attendant, and teach me the way that I should go. Besides, I left him so abruptly when through his means I had been released from my confinement in the sanctuary, that I felt I had a debt of gratitude still to pay. ‘I will take him a present,’ said I; ‘he shall not say that I am unmindful of his goodness.’ Accordingly I turned over in my thoughts what I ought to present, when I again determined upon a praying-carpet, which I forthwith purchased; reflecting, at the same time, that it would make a comfortable seat, when duly folded, on the top of my mule’s pad.

I had now nearly finished all that I had to do, previous to my departure. I was equipped ready for my journey, and I flattered myself that my outward appearance was that of a rigid mollah. I did not take upon myself the title of one, but rather left that to circumstances; but, in the meanwhile, the epithet of Hajji, which had been given to me as a pet name when I was a child, now came very opportunely to my assistance, to aid me to sustain my new character.

One duty I still had to accomplish, and that was to pay the expenses of my father’s funeral. I do own that, cheated as I had been of my lawful patrimony, I felt it hard that such an expense should fall upon me; and several times had planned a departure from Ispahan unknown to anybody, in order that the burden might fall upon the âkhon and my mother, to whom I had intended the honour of payment; but my better feelings got the mastery, and reflecting that by acting thus I should render myself fully entitled to the odious epithet peder sukhtéh86 (one whose father is burnt) without further combat, I went round to each of the attendants, namely, mollahs, mourners, and washers of the dead, and paid them their dues.

85 [ A real is about two shillings — eight reals one tomaun.]

86 [ Peder sukhteh is the most common term of abuse in a Persian’s mouth. It implies “one whose father is burning in eternal fires.”

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