I had passed ten long and tedious days in my hiding-place without the smallest tidings from the mollah Nadân. I was suspicious that his star was still glancing obliquely at him, and that matters had not gone quite so well as he had expected. Little communication existed between the city and the village; and I began to despair of ever again hearing of my horse, my rich trappings and clothes, when, one evening a peasant, who had gone to the market-place of Hamadan for the purpose of hiring himself as a labourer in the fields, and who had returned disappointed, by his discourse threw some light upon my apprehension.
He said that a great stir had been excited by the arrival of a nasakchi, who had seized the son of their Aga (the owner of the village), taken away his horse, and carried him off prisoner to the capital, under the accusation of being the murderer of the mollah bashi of Tehran.
I leave the gentle reader to judge of my feelings upon hearing this intelligence. I soon became satisfied of the reason of the mollah’s silence; and although I felt myself secure for the present, yet I was far from certain how long I might remain so. I immediately declared that I was perfectly restored to health, and taking a hasty leave of my hospitable villagers, made the best of my way to Hamadan, in order to ascertain the truth of the peasant’s intelligence.
Nadân’s father was well known in the city, and I found no difficulty in discovering where he lived. I abstained from entering his house, and making any direct inquiries concerning the fate of my friend; but I stopped at the shop of a barber in the neighbourhood, both because I wanted his assistance in giving a decent appearance to my head and face, and because I knew that he would be the most likely person to inform me of the real state of the case.
I found him as talkative and as officious as I could wish. When I had asked him the news of the day, and had pleaded my ignorance of the recent occurrence that had filled everybody with astonishment, he stepped back two paces, and exclaimed, ‘Whence do you come, that the iniquities of that dog the mollah Nadân are unknown to you? He was not satisfied with killing the chief priest, but he must needs dress himself in his very clothes; and, not content with that, he also has stolen one of the chief executioner’s best horses and furniture. Wondrous dirt has he been eating!’
I entreated my informant to relate all the particulars of a story of which I pretended to be totally ignorant; and without waiting for a second request, he spoke as follows:—
‘About ten days ago this Nadân arrived at the gate of his father’s house, mounted on a superb horse, caparisoned in a style more fitting a khan and a man of the sword than a poor servant of God. He was dressed in shawls of the finest quality, and looked indeed like the high priest himself. His appearance in this fashion of dress and equipage created an extraordinary sensation; because a very short time before it was reported that he had incurred the Shah’s displeasure, and had been turned out of Tehran in the most ignominious manner. He gave himself all sorts of airs upon alighting; and when questioned concerning his expulsion from the capital, he appeared to make very light of it, and said that he had been made to understand, in a secret manner, that his disgrace was only temporary; and that, by way of softening it, he had been presented with the horse which he then rode.
‘This tale was believed by every one, and he was received at his father’s house with great honours; but most unfortunately, the next day, when about mounting his horse to show himself in the city, a nasakchi passed the gate of the house, having just arrived from Tehran. He stopped, and looked at the animal very earnestly; inspected the bridle and gold-pommelled saddle, and then cried out, La Allah il Allah! there is but one God! He inquired of the bystanders to whom the horse belonged, and was informed that it was the property of the mollah Nadân.
‘“The Mollah Nadân!” exclaimed he in a great rage: “whose dog is he? That horse is the property of my master, the chief executioner; and whoever says it is not is a liar, whoever he may be, mollah or no mollah!”
‘At this interval appeared the delinquent himself, who, upon seeing what was going on, endeavoured to hide himself from the observation of the nasakchi; for it so happened that he was one of the officers who had paraded him through the capital on the day of his disgrace.
‘Wearing the garments and turbaned cap of the deceased chief priest, the dangers of his situation immediately stared him in the face, and he would have decamped on the spot, had he not been recognized by the nasakchi, who as soon as he saw him cried out, “Seize him, take his soul, that is he — the very man. Well done, my happy stars! By the head of Ali, by the beard of the Prophet, that is the bankrupt rogue who killed the chief priest and stole my master’s horse.”
‘By this time the nasakchi had dismounted, and, with the assistance of his own attendant, and of the bystanders (who soon discovered that he was acting under authority), he secured the mollah, who, in his defence, made oath upon oath that he was neither thief nor murderer, and that he was ready to swear his innocence upon the Koran.’
The barber related very faithfully the whole conversation which took place between Nadân and the nasakchi, the result of which was that the latter took the former with him to Tehran, notwithstanding all the interest made in his favour by the mollah’s father and friends.
Never was breast torn by so many contending feelings as mine, upon hearing the fate that had befallen my companion, as related to me by the barber. In the first place, I bemoaned the loss of my horse and his rich trappings, and of my fine shawl dresses; but in the next I enjoyed a feeling of security when I considered, that if poor Nadân should happen to lose his head, no account would ever be asked from me of my late iniquities. I still could not help looking upon myself as one under the protection of a good star, whilst the mollah, I concluded, was inevitably doomed to be unfortunate: else why should we have exchanged clothes, and he taken my horse from me at a time when I was in no way inclined to accede to his proposals? But, notwithstanding there was every likelihood that he would suffer the punishment due to me, still, for the present, I could not feel myself secure so long as I remained in Persia, and therefore determined to proceed upon my original intention, and quit it without further delay. I consoled myself for the loss of the horse and clothes, by the possession of the remaining ninety-five tomauns, which would be sufficient for my present wants; and then those powerful words, Khoda buzurg est! God is great, stood me in lieu (as they do many a poor wretch besides) of a provision for the future, and of protection against all the unforeseen misfortunes preparing for us by the hand of fate.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:12