The kite said, ‘In former times there was an old woman in a state of extreme debility. She possessed a cot more narrow than the heart of the ignorant, and darker than the miser’s grave; and a cat was her companion, which had never seen even in the mirror of imagination, the face of a loaf, nor had heard from friend or stranger the name of meat. It was content if occasionally it smelt the odour of a mouse from its hole, or saw the print of the foot of one on the surface of a board, and if, on some rare occasion, by the aid of good-fortune and the assistance of happy destiny, one fell into its claws,

Like a poor wretch who finds out buried gold,

its cheek lighted up with joy, and it consumed its past sorrow with the flame of its natural heat, and a whole week, more or less, it subsisted on that amount of food, and used to say,

In slumber see I this, my God! or with my waking eyes?
Myself in plenty* such as this, after such agonies?

And inasmuch as the house of the old woman was the famine-year of that cat, it was always miserable and thin, and from a distance appeared like an idea. One day, through excessive weakness, it had, with the utmost difficulty, mounted on the top of the roof; thence it beheld a cat which walked proudly on the wall of a neighbouring house, and after the fashion of a destroying lion, advanced with measured steps, and from excessive fat, lifted its feet slowly. When the cat of the old woman, saw one of its own species in that state of freshness and fat, it was astonished, and cried out, saying,

‘Truly with pride thou advancest, then wilt thou not tell me from whence?

Thou, whose state is thus pleasant, whence art thou? and since it appears that thou comest from the banquet-chamber of the Khán of Khaṭá,* whence is this sleekness of thine, and from what cause this thy grandeur and strength?’ The neighbour-cat replied, ‘I am the crumb-eater of the tray of the sulṭán. Every morning I attend on the court of the king, and when they spread the tray of invitation, I display boldness and daring, and in general I snatch off some morsels of fat meats, and of loaves made of the finest flour; and I pass my time happy and satisfied till the next day.’ The cat of the old woman, inquired ‘What sort of a thing may fat meat be? and what kind of relish has bread, made of fine flour? I, during my whole life, have never seen nor tasted aught save the old woman’s broths, and mouse’s flesh.’ The neighbour-cat laughed, and said, ‘Therefore it is, that one cannot distinguish thee from a spider, and this form and appearance that thou hast, is a reproach to our whole race; and the shape and character which thou hast brought from the house to the desert, is an eternal* disgrace.

Cat, by thy tail and ears, one might thee deem,
Yet, in all else, a spider thou wouldst seem.

And if thou shouldst see the court of the sulṭán, and smell the odour of those delicious viands and agreeable meats, it is probable that the mystery, ‘Who shall restore bones to life when they are rotten,’* may come forth from the curtain of what is hidden, to the plain of manifestation, and thou mayst acquire a fresh form.’

The scent of the beloved one passed o’er the lovers’ grave,*
What marvel if to those dry bones the breath of life it gave.

The cat of the old woman, said, most beseechingly, ‘O brother! thou art bound to me by the rights of neighbourship and the link of homogeneousness, why not perform what is due to courtesy and fraternity, and this time, when thou goest, take me with thee; perchance, by thy good fortune, I may obtain food, and by the blessing of thy society, I may acquire a place.

From pious company withdraw thou not,
Nor those unclasp who share a prosperous lot.’*

The heart of the neighbour-cat melted at his lamentable position, and he resolved that he would not attend the feast without him. The cat of the old woman, from the happy tidings of this promise, felt new life, and descending from the roof, stated the case to her. The old dame began to advise the cat, saying, ‘O kind companion, be not deceived by the words of worldly people, and abandon not the corner of content, for the vessel of covetousness is not filled save with the dust of the grave; and the eye of lust is not stitched but with the needle of annihilation and the thread of death.’

Contentment makes man wealthy—Tell it then
To the unsatisfied and world-o’er-wandering men,—
They ne’er knew God, nor paid Him worship due,
Since with their lot they no contentment knew.

The cat had not taken into its head a longing for the table of the delicacies of the sulṭán, to such an extent only as that the medicine of advice could be profitable to it.

’Tis but to cage the wind advice to give
To lovers, ’tis but water in a sieve.

In short the next day, along with its neighbour, the old woman’s cat, with tottering steps conveyed itself to the court of the sulṭán, and before that helpless one could arrive* there, ill-fortune had poured the water of disappoint­ment on the fire of its crude wish, and the reason was as follows:—The day before, the cats had made a general onslaught on the table, and raised a clamour and uproar beyond bounds, and had annoyed, to the last degree, the guests and their host. Wherefore, on this day, the sulṭán had commanded that a band of archers, with swiftly impelling notches, standing in ambush,* should watch, so that for every cat, who holding before its face the buckler of impudence, should enter the plain of audacity, the very first morsel that it ate, should be a liver-piercing shaft. The old woman’s cat, ignorant of this circumstance, as soon as it smelt the odour of the viands, without the power of checking itself, turned its face like a falcon, to the hunting-ground of the table, and the scale of the balance of appetite had not yet been weighted by heavy mouthfuls, when the heart-piercing arrow quivered in its breast.

From the bone trickling flowed the sanguine tide,
In terror of its life it fled and cried:
‘Could I escape this archer’s hand, I’d dwell
Content with mice and the old woman’s cell.
Dear friend! the honey pays not for the sting,
Content with syrup is a better thing.’

‘And I have introduced this apologue, that thou, too, mayest regard the secluded corner of my nest as a blessing, and mayest understand the value of the food and morsels, which reach thee, untoiled for by thee; and showing thyself contented with a little, mayest not seek for more, lest, God forbid! thou arrive not at the condition thou seekest, and this place, too, depart from thy hand.’ The hawk said, ‘What thou hast been pleased to say, is the essence of good advice and kindness, nevertheless, to stoop to trifles is the business of the mean, and to show content with mere eating and drink­ing, is the disposition of brutes. Every one who would sit on the throne of greatness must rise up in pursuit of high things, and he who wishes to put on his head the crown of exaltation, must belt himself with the girdle of search. A lofty spirit is not satisfied with low things, and a noble intellect approves not of base positions.

None ever found the way on high to rise,
Till he obtained the step of high emprise.
Seek rank, that to the moon thou mayest mount,
None drink cloud-water from a well’s low fount,’

The kite said, ‘This idea that thou hast taken into thy head, will not be realised by mere imagining; and this cauldron of desire, will not reach the boiling point by vain longing. No affair makes progress, unless the means are ready; and no result manifests itself, unless men first take order for the pre-requisites.

Boasts will not pillow thee where great men sit,
Wouldst thou have greatness, greatly strive for it.’

The hawk said, ‘The strength of my claws is the best means of procuring the blessings of fortune, and the power of my beak the best way of obtaining the grades of high rank. But, perhaps, thou hast not heard the story of that swordsman who sought kingship and rule by the help of the arm of courage, and, finally, the robe of his noble spirit was adorned with the fringe of sovereignty?’ The kite inquired ‘How was this matter?’