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

Chapter lxxiii

In endeavouring to gain satisfaction from his enemies he acquires a friend — Some account of Mirza Firouz.

Upon inquiry I found that the ambassador had been provided with a residence at Scutari, and thither I immediately bent my course, happy to have the time which I should pass in the boat at my disposal, in order to arrange my ideas for the purpose of making out a clear and strong case of complaint.

Having landed, I inquired the way to his house, the avenues of which were thronged by his numerous servants, who reminded me of my country (so different from that in which we were) by their loquaciousness and quick gesticulation.

They soon found by my discourse, that I was one of them, although disguised by a Turkish dress, and without any difficulty I was promised immediately to be ushered into the presence of their master. But previously to this, I was anxious to acquire some little insight into his character, in order that I might shape my discourse accordingly; and therefore entered into conversation with one of his valets, who did not scruple to talk fully and unreservedly upon every topic upon which I required information.

The result of my inquiries was as follows:— The ambassador, by name Mirza Firouz, was by birth a Shirazi, of respectable though not of high parentage, excepting in the instance of his mother, who was sister to a former grand vizier of great power, who, in fact, had been the means of placing the Shah upon his throne. The Mirza married his cousin, a daughter of the said vizier; and this led to his being employed in the government, though he had previously undergone many vicissitudes, which had caused him to travel into various countries. This circumstance, however, was one of the reasons of his being selected by the Shah to transact his business at foreign courts. ‘He is a man of a quick and penetrating mind,’ said my informant: ‘irascible, but easy to soothe, of a tender and forgiving nature, although in his first anger led to commit acts of violence. He is gifted with the most overwhelming powers of speech, which always are sure to get him out of the scrapes into which his indiscreet use of them very frequently leads him. To his servants and followers he is kind and the contrary, by turns. Sometimes he permits them to do and say everything which they choose, at others, he keeps them at a most chilling distance. But, on the whole, he is easy of access, of agreeable commerce, of most fascinating manners, and of a joyous and sociable nature.’

Mirza Firouz.

(From a drawing by James Morier.)

Such was the man into whose presence I was conducted. He was seated in a corner, after the manner of Persia; therefore I could not ascertain what his height might be, but his bust was extremely fine. His head was symmetrically placed on his shoulders, which were blended in an easy curve with his neck; whilst his tight dress helped to give great breadth to his breast. His face was one of the handsomest I had ever seen amongst my countrymen, his nose aquiline, his eyes large and sparkling, his teeth and mouth exquisite, and his beard the envy of all beholders. In short, as a specimen of the country he represented, none could have been better selected.

When we had interchanged our greetings as true believers, he said to me, ‘Are you an Irani?’

‘Yes,’ said I, ‘so please you.’

‘Then why in looks an Osmanli?’ said he. ‘Praise be to Allah, that we have a king and a country of whom no one need be ashamed.’

‘Yes,’ answered I, ‘your ordonnances are truth, and I am become less than a dog, since I have put on the airs of a Turk. My days have been passed in bitterness, and my liver has melted into water, since I have entangled myself by a connexion with this hated people; and my only refuge is in God and you.’

‘How is this?’ said he: ‘speak. Has a child of Ispahan (for such you are by your accent) been taken in by a Turk? This is wonderful indeed! We travel all this way to make them feed upon our abomination, not to learn to eat theirs.’

I then related the whole of my adventures from the beginning to the end. As I proceeded he seemed wonderfully interested. When I got to my marriage he became much amused, and roared with laughter at the settlements I had made on my wife. The account I gave of the entertainment, the respect with which I was treated, my magnificence and grandeur, afforded him great delight; and the more I descanted upon the deception which I had practised upon the cows of Turks, as he called them, the more interest he took in my narrative, which he constantly interrupted by his exclamations, ‘Aye, well done, oh Ispahani! Oh! thou bankrupt! By Allah! You did well! If I had been there, I could not have done better.’

But when I informed him of the manner I had been served by my envious countrymen, of the finishing scene in my own house, of the screams of my women, of the speeches of my wife’s relations — and when I represented the very words, look, and attitude with which I made my exit, far from having produced the sympathy I expected, his mirth was excited to such a degree, that I thought the veins in his forehead would have burst; and he actually rolled himself on his sofa in the convulsions of laughter.

‘But may it please you to consider,’ said I, ‘oh my aga! the situation in which I am now placed. Instead of the bed of roses upon which I slept, I have not even a pillow whereon to lay my head. As for the horses and velvet which I used to bestride, happy should I now be could I claim even an ass for my own. And when I call to mind the luxuries in which I revelled, my rich dresses, my splendid horses, my train of servants, my marble baths, my pipes, my coffee-cups — in short, what shall I say, my everything a man could wish for, and now find myself a beggar — conceive the bitter recollections which prey upon me, and which excite anything but laughter in my breast, whatever they may do in yours.’

‘But those Turks, those heavy buffaloes of Turks,’ roared he, still screaming with laughter; ‘praise be to Allah! I can see them now with their long beards, their great caps, and their empty heads, believing all that the sharp-witted madman of Persia chose to tell them, and they would have gone on believing, had they not been undeceived by a similar species of madman.

‘But what have I to do in the business?’ said he to me. ‘I am neither your father nor your uncle, to interfere and make it up with your wife’s relations; nor am I a cadi, or a mufti, who can judge the case between you.’

‘No,’ answered I; ‘but you are my refuge here, and the representative of God’s vicegerent upon earth; and you can see justice done me, and not let a poor unfriended stranger be oppressed.’

‘But would you get back possession of your wife,’ said he, ‘and stand a chance of being murdered? Of what good would all your riches be, if the day after repossessing them you were found dead in your bed? No, no; lend me your ear, and hearken to good council. Throw off your Turkish clothes, and be a Persian again; and when in your proper character, I will keep you in mind, and see what may be done for you. Your story has interested me, your wit and manner are agreeable, and believe me that many better things are to be done in the world than to smoke a long pipe all day, with no other object in life than to sleep upon a bed of roses, and to ride a fat horse. In the meanwhile, take up your quarters here; look upon yourself as one of my suite for the present, and whenever I wish to be merry you shall come and relate your story over again.’

Upon this I went up to him, kissed his knee in token of acknowledgement, and retired, scarcely knowing what steps to take in this unsettled posture of my affairs.

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