The old man said, ‘I used once to be in the service of a great personage. As, however, I knew the fickleness of the world, and was on my guard against the wiles of that fraudful hag, and knew that that husband-killing bride—the world—has, by disappointing many of those enamoured of her, reduced them to despair; and that that perfidious mistress of evil deeds, has overthrown, headlong, many a lover; I said to myself, ‘O simple one! thou art fixing thy heart on the friendship of one who has struck the hand of rejection on the breasts of a hundred thousand prosperous kings, and given to the winds of annihilation the stacks of the peace of mind of innumerable renowned princes. Abandon this pursuit and build not thy house at a place of passage, whence every moment thou must be prepared to set out.

Who the world’s customs well appreciate,
Build not therein that they may dwell in it.
This ruined inn why should we renovate,
When we so soon to others must it quit?

Awake from the slumber of supineness, for the time is short, and the steed of action lame; and carry with thee a provision for thy journey from thy brief existence here, for the way is long and protracted, and the heat of the fire of the desert such as to melt life.

In every corner make good search to-day,
That for the morrow thou mayst have supplies.
Distant thy halting-place and long the way,
Then in providing for them both be wise.

At last, by using these reflections my refractory passions were rebuked, and with the utmost delight and real eagerness, I turned my face from the affairs of the world and the society of worldlings. One day I saw in the bázár that a fowler was offering for sale two hoopoes; and they expressed to one another by the language of their behaviour, the grief of heart which they experienced, and drooping at their imprisonment, supplicated God for the good tidings of release. I felt pity for them, and wished to buy them with a view to my own final salvation, and that by releasing them from their bonds, I might look for the blessing of liberation from the prison of the Divine wrath. The price the fowler set on them was two dirams—and that was all I had in my possession. I felt irresolute, therefore, and my mind would not permit me to expend those two dirams, and yet my inclination, was to liberate the birds. At last I placed my reliance on God, and having bought the two, I carried them outside the city, and let them go. They came and settled on a wall, and called out to me, and, as is the custom of the grateful, returned me thanks, and said, ‘At present our hands fall short of requiting and recompensing thee. However, beneath this wall is a casket full of jewels of great value. Break down to it and take it up.’ I was amazed at their words, and said, ‘It is a wondrous thing that ye see a little box of jewels under the ground, and fail to observe the gem which is on the surface.’* They replied, ‘When fate issues its decree, the eye of reason is darkened, and the day of understanding, which descries the minutest things, becomes obscured. The demands of destiny are in no wise to be set aside; and when they take place, neither has the prudent man any vision left, nor does the sight of the sagacious avail. And all this has taken place because the execution of the Divine decree was involved in it.

And this story bears just testimony to the speech of the king which he delivered on the subject of fate and predestination. Moreover, in corroboration of these sentiments, sages have said,

‘If thy affairs go ill, thou ’rt not to blame;
If well, it is not owing to thy skill.
Have faith, and live on happy through the same,
Since nought that happens, happens by thy will.’

The old man added, ‘O king! I dug under that wall and secured the box, and I make it known in order that the king may issue his august commands for it to be conveyed to the public treasury.’ The Prince responded, ‘Thou hast sown the seed and hast reaped the fruit. It is not right that any should share in this with thee; and these jewels of wisdom, which in this assembly thou hast arranged on the string of recitation, are for me sufficient. For no gem can be more beautiful than good words, and by the philosopher’s stone of language, the copper of bad money may be transmuted into sterling gold.

Say! language! whence is given thy wondrous magic power?
And who the alchymist that turns thee into gold?
Whence spring thy countless images? while, to this hour,
None can thy full resources ever hope t’ unfold.
What bird art thou of so much beauty? We,
Our sole memorial leave behind in thee.’

Those present applauded the genius of the Prince, and at once bound their hearts in fealty to him; and having placed their heads on the line of his command, committed the reins of authority to the grasp of his option, and passed their lives in the shade of his munificence.

Until the time when their turn, too, went by.’