I carefully fastened the inside of my door as soon as I was left to myself, and put my candle in so remote a corner of the room, that if any one was curious to look through the painted glass window, they could never discover that I was not the mollah bashi.
Having done this, it then struck me that something more might be elicited from this adventure than I had at first imagined. ‘Let me inspect the good man’s pockets,’ said I, ‘and the roll of paper in his girdle; perhaps they may contain the history of my future plans.’ In his right-hand pocket were two notes, a rosary, and his seals. In the left his ink-stand, a small looking-glass, and a comb. His watch was kept in the breast of his coat, and in another small pocket, nearly under his arm-pit, was his purse.
The purse first came under inspection, and there I found five tomauns in gold and two pieces of silver. The watch was gold, and of English manufacture. His inkstand, beautifully painted, was also valuable, and contained a penknife, scissors, and pens. All these and the other trinkets I duly looked upon as my own (for I was determined to play the whole game), and I replaced them in their proper places on my person. The notes then came under inspection. One was to this purpose, without a seal.
‘O friend! my intimate! my brother!’ (‘O,’ said I, ‘this is from an equal!’) ‘You know the affection that the friend who addresses you entertains for that bright star of the age, the shadow of our blessed Prophet, and his only wish is, that their intimacy should daily increase and strengthen. He sends him six choice Ispahan melons, such as are not to be found every day, and requests him, as he values his beard, to give him an unlimited permission to drink wine; for the doctors assure him if he does not take it in abundance, he will not have long to be the scourge and extirpator of the enemies of the true faith.’
‘This can only be from the chief executioner,’ said I immediately. ‘Who else in Persia could express in such few words his own character, namely, flatterer, drunkard, and braggart? I will make something of this; but let me look at the other note. I opened it, and read as follows:
‘O my lord and master, ‘The humble inferior who presumes to address the prop of the true faith, the terror of infidels, and the refuge of the sinner, begs leave to lay before him, that after having encountered a thousand difficulties, he has at length succeeded in getting from the peasantry of his villages one hundred tomauns in ready money, besides the fifty kherwars, or ass loads of grain: that the man, Hossein Ali, could or would not pay anything, although he had bastinadoed him twice, and he had in consequence taken possession of his two cows: that he would go on beating and exerting himself to the best of his abilities; and if some one was sent for the money which he had now in hand, he would deliver it over upon receiving a proper order.’
The note then finished with the usual form of words from an inferior to his master, and was sealed with a small seal, upon which was impressed Abdul Kerim, the name of the writer.
‘Ah,’ said I, ‘may my lucky stars still protect me, and I will discover who this Abdul Kerim is, and where the village from whence he writes, and then the hundred tomauns become mine. However, I let that matter rest for the moment, to think of the good account to which I might turn the note from the chief executioner. After due reflection I wrote as follows:—
‘O my friend! my soul! ‘The note of that friend without compare has been received, and its contents understood. When the sacred standard of Islâm runs the risk of losing that lion of lions, that double-bladed sword, that tower of strength, when he may be saved and preserved, who can doubt what is to be done? Drink, O friend, drink wine, and copiously too; and let the enemies of all true believers tremble. May thy house prosper, for the melons; but add one more favour to the many already conferred; lend thy friend a horse, duly caparisoned, for he has pressing business on hand, and he will return it safe and sound, as soon as the star of his destiny shall direct him home again.’
This I impressed with the seal of the deceased, and determined to present it myself very early in the morning.
To the other note I wrote the following answer:
‘To the well-beloved Abdul Kerim. ‘We have received your note, and have understood its contents. This will be delivered to you by our confidential Hajji Baba Beg, to whom you will deliver whatever money you have in hand for us. On other subjects you will hear from us soon; but in the meanwhile go on with the bastinado, and we pray Allah to take you into his holy keeping.’
Having duly accomplished this, I waited for a proper hour to make my escape from a place where I was in momentary danger of a discovery, which perhaps might bring me to an ignominious end. It was past midnight, and I was preparing to issue in great secrecy from my room, when the door was gently pressed as if some one wanted admittance. My fright may better be imagined than described. I expected to see, at least, the daroga (police magistrate) and all his officers rush in and seize me; and I waited in agony for the result of the intrusion, when I heard the sound of a female voice whispering words which my agitation prevented my understanding. Whatever might have been the object of the visit, I had but one answer to give, and that was a loud and heavy snore, which sufficiently proclaimed that the occupant of the apartment was in no humour to be disturbed.
I waited for some time until I thought that everything was hushed throughout the mansion, then made my way quietly to the principal entrance, which having easily opened, I fled as if pursued. I watched the best opportunities to steal along the streets without meeting the police, and without being discovered by the sentinels on duty. The day at length dawned, and the bazaars, little by little, began to open. Dressed as I was in the mollah bashi’s clothes, my first care was to make such alterations in them that they should not hold me up to suspicion, and this I did for a trifling expense at an old clothes’ shop, although, at the same time, I took care not to part with any of the valuable articles which had fallen into my possession.
I then proceeded to the house of the chief executioner, where I presented my note to a servant, an utter stranger to me, saying, that the mollah bashi requested an immediate answer, as he was about going from the city on important business.
To my delight, I was informed that the great personage was in his anderûn, and that he must for the present delay sending a written answer; but that in the meanwhile he had ordered one of his horses to be delivered to me.
O how I eyed the beast as I saw him led out of the stable, with the gold-pommelled and velvet-seated saddle, with the gold chain dangling over his head, and the bridle inlaid with enamelled knobs. I almost dreaded to think that all this was about to become my property, and that such luck could not last long. So strong was this apprehension that I was about asking for trappings less gaudy and more serviceable; but again, I thought that any delay might be my ruin; so without mincing the matter I mounted him, and in a very short time had passed the gates of the city, and was far advanced into the country.
I rode on, without stopping or once looking behind, until I had got among some of the broken ground produced by the large and undefined bed of the river Caraj, and there I made a halt. I recollected to have heard that the village of the mollah bashi lay somewhere in the direction of Hamadan, and consequently I directed my course thither. But, to say the truth, when pausing to breathe, I was so alarmed at the extraordinary turn which my fortunes had taken, that, like one dizzy on the brink of a precipice, invaded by a sort of impulse to precipitate himself, it was with some difficulty that I could persuade myself not to return and deliver up my person to justice. ‘I am,’ said I, ‘nothing more nor less than a thief, and, if caught, should duly be blown from the mouth of a mortar. But then, on the other hand, who made me so? Surely, if takdeer (destiny) will work such wonderful effects, it can be no fault of mine. I sought not the death of the mollah bashi; but if he chooses to come and breathe his last in my lap, and if, whether I will or no, I am to be taken for him, then it is plain that fate has made me his vakeel, his representative; and whatever I do so long as I remain in that character is lawful — then his clothes are my clothes, his hundred tomauns are my hundred tomauns, and whatever I have written in his name is lawfully written.’
Revived by these conclusions, I again mounted and proceeded to the nearest village, to inquire where the property of the chief priest was situated, and if a person of the name of Abdul Kerim was known in the neighbourhood. As if the dice were determined to keep turning up in my favour, I found that the very next village, about one parasang distant, was the one in question, and Abdul Kerim a priest of that name who superintended the interests and collected the revenues of his deceased master. ‘Ho,’ said I, ‘a priest! I must change the tone of the letter and insert his proper titles.’ I immediately sat clown on the ground, taking the inkstand from my pocket, and cutting off a slip of paper from the roll in my girdle I framed my note anew, and then proceeded on my errand, determined, if I obtained possession of the hundred tomauns, to take the shortest road to the nearest Persian frontier.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:12