Damnah said, ‘A Tortoise had a friendship with a Scorpion, and they always reciprocated the breathings of attachment, and practised unanimity.

From morn till eve allies, associates they;
Companions, friends—till night gave place to day.

Once on a time it so happened that in obedience to an exigency, they were compelled to migrate from their country, and in companionship with one another, sought a more secure abode. By chance their way lay across a mighty stream, and a vast river intercepted their passage, and as it was impossible for the Scorpion to cross water, he remained aghast. The Tortoise said, ‘Dear friend! what has come to thee that thou hast given the collar of the robe of life into the hand of grief, and snatched the skirt of thy heart from gladness and mirth?’ The Scorpion replied, ‘O brother! anxiety how to pass this water hast cast me into the whirlpool of dismay. It is neither possible to cross the water, nor can the separation from my friend be endured.

Thou goest on, and I alone all sorrowful am left:
Strange that I tarry and survive at all of thee bereft!

The Tortoise said, ‘Do not distress thyself, for I will convey thee without inconvenience across the water and bring thee to the shore; and making a vessel of my back will shield thee from calamity with my breast, for it would be a pity to gain a friend with difficulty, and let him slip with indifference.’

Go! and with all thou hast a friend secure,
And let not aught to sell him thee allure.

Then the Tortoise having taken the Scorpion on his back, breasted the water, and set off. In the middle of the swim a sound reached the ear of the Tortoise and he perceived a tapping made by the Scorpion.* He asked, ‘What noise is this that I hear? and what operation is this in which thou art employing thyself?’ The Scorpion replied, ‘I am trying the sharp point of my sting against the armour of thy body.’* The Tortoise was thunder-struck, and exclaimed, ‘O unfeeling wretch! I, for thy sake, have cast my life into the whirlpool of danger, and by the aid of the barque of my back thou art crossing this water; if thou dost not feel obliged for the favor, and allowest no weight to our old companionship, what at least is the reason for stinging, when moreover it is positively certain that no injury will reach me from this action, and that thy heart-lacerating sting will have no effect upon my marble-like back?

’Tis like that he his hands and heart will pang,
Who in blind anger strives a wall to bang.’

The Scorpion answered, ‘God forbid that sentiments like these should approach my mind in the whole course of my life or should have ever done so! It is nothing more than this, that my nature instigates me to sting, whether I wound the back of a friend or the breast of a foe.

He that becomes inured to doing ill,
His bent will shew itself against his will.
The scorpion powerless against a stone,
Will make e’en there his stinging habit known.’

The tortoise reflected thus, ‘Truly have the sages said that to cherish a base character is to give one’s own honor to the wind, and to involve one’s own self in embarrassment.*

We may not grudge perhaps to strew the mire with gems and gold,
But from the base our kindness we and favour should withhold.

It is a saying of the ancients, that hope has no portion in the man who has no nobility in his descent, since it would be inadmissible for the scion of a corrupt stock to leave the world without requiting with evil the parties who have benefited him.

How can one base by nature be instructed? Why
Foster a serpent in one’s house? No pains nor care
Will the cane’s flavour to harsh colocynth supply:
Who sows the thorn will not reap roses there.

And by citing this story, it will have crossed the enlightened mind of the king, that Shanzabah’s lack of noble descent, and the baseness of his nature, ought to cause him apprehension, and that he ought to listen with the ear of attention to the advice of his attached dependants. Whoever gives no heed to the words of councillors, though they be harsh and undeferential, the issue of his transactions, and the termination of his affairs, will not be devoid of regret and reproach: as when an invalid looks contemptuously on the directions of the physician, and eats and drinks according to his inclination, most certainly weakness and debility will every moment prevail more and more over him.

What harm, though stern and rough thy Mentor’s tongue;
To bitter patience* sweetest fruits belong.

And it must be understood that the weakest of princes is he who is careless of the issues of affairs, and who despises the concerns of the kingdom, and, whenever an event of importance occurs, lays aside caution and circum­spection, and after opportunity has expired, and the enemy has got the mastery, casts suspicion on those about him, and imputes* to them indis­criminately the then state of things.

Why to another’s care consign
Schemes that thine own exertions claim?
And when thou hast been thus supine,
Why on another hang the blame?’

The Lion said, ‘Right roughly hast thou spoken and hast overstepped the limits of respect, yet the words of a councillor should not be rejected because they are harsh. On the supposition that Shanzabah be my enemy, the extent of his power is clear enough, and in point of fact, he is my food, and his material energies* derive their existence from herbs, while the support of my strength is drawn from flesh, and vegetable natures are always subdued by animal, and I do not make such account of him as to suppose that the thought of encountering me would pass through his mind, or that the insane idea of slaying me should find place in his heart’s core.’*

When shall a foeman boast of waging war with one like me?
Shall fierce elephants matched in contest with weak midges be?

And if Shanzabah should pretend, like the moon, to rival the sun of my splendour, which shines from the horizon of the divine favor, he will wane and fail; and if, like the sun, he array* himself against the crescent on my august and phœnix-like canopy, which is a symbol of that of heaven, he will in the end sink.’

The empty-handed, who would imitate
The rich, is like a limping palfrey, whose
Pace affects an amble. I made him great,
And I, too, can soon o’er him cast the noose.*

Damnah said, ‘The king should not be misled by what he says as to Shanzabah’s being his food, or that he is able to overcome him, since, although, in his own person, he may not have power for the encounter, he may by the aid of a number of his allies advance towards his object, or by dissimulation and fraud, and lying tales, and perfidy, excite mischievous delusions;* and I fear lest when he has implanted in the beasts a zeal of opposition to the king, they may act in unison with him, and a single person, however strong-bodied and powerful he may be, cannot make head against many.

Gnats will an elephant o’ercome, if they
Unite against their foe so huge and grim.
And ants collected in one dense array,
Though fierce the lion be, will vanquish him.*

The Lion said, ‘Thy words have made an impression on my heart, and I perceive the sincerity of thy advice, but nevertheless this person is [in the sacred character of] a suppliant* to me, for I have raised him up, and it is I who have set up the banner of his power and advancement, and have uttered encomiums of him in assemblies and meetings, and have poured from my tongue statements of his intelligence, and loyalty, and sincerity, and uprightness. If then I allow myself to declare the contrary of this, I shall be charged with breaking my word, and personal levity, and weakness of judgment, and all hearts will hold my words in reprobation, and all minds disregard my promises.’

The head thou didst with glory crown,
Whilst thou art able cast not down.

Damnah replied, ‘Right judgment and prudence lies in withdrawing one’s business and plucking the skirt of friendship and companionship from a friend the instant he shews signs of enmity, and from a servant as soon as he displays the airs of a prince, and before an enemy can find opportunity for breakfast, to have his supper ready for him; and though a tooth be man’s old comrade, and a source of various benefits and advantages to him, when it begins to ache he can find no cure for the torment of it, save by extraction; and food which supplies the waste* [of our corporeal frame], and is the support of the material of life, after it has become corrupt in the belly, must be expelled in order that one may be quit of its injurious effects.

He who to thy afflicted heart no gladness now supplies,
Forsake him, though thou, as thy life, didst him once love and prize.’

The insidious whispers of Damnah having made an impression on the Lion, he said, ‘I am disgusted with the society of Shanzabah, and for me to meet him again is of the number of impossibilities. The best way is to send some one to him and declare to him how matters stand, and give him permission to go where he likes.’ Damnah was afraid that if these words should reach Shanzabah, he would presently make known to the Lion his letters of indemnity,* and that his (Damnah’s) deceit and artifice would come from the hidden chamber of concealment into the expanse of manifestation. He said [therefore], ‘O king! this method is far from prudent, and so long as a word has not been spoken there is room for option left, but after declaration, the remedy has gone beyond the confines of ability.

Thou canst the unsaid or say, or else abstain,
Once spoken no concealment will remain.

The word which has issued from the mouth, and the arrow from the bow, return not, either the one to the option,* or the other to the string;* and it has passed into a proverb, that whatever comes to the lip may prove a slip,* and, a sage has said, ‘The tongue is the interpreter of the heart, and the heart the ruler of the dominion of the body, and speech is the displayer of the jewels of existence.’ As long as the door of the casket of speech is fastened with the bolt of silence, and the seal of taciturnity is placed on the lid of the repertory of discourse, all the sweet herbs in the garden of life grow safely, and the young tree of existence yields all the fruit of security and enjoyment; but, when the rose-bud of eloquence unfolds its smiles, and the nightingale of oratory begins to warble, one cannot be safe, for the perfume of the rose-garden of language will be the source of gladness to the heart, and invigo­ration to the brain, or the cause of the display of the material* of the defluxion of the brain and the occasion of megrims; for tongues which had been bound, have by one approved and clever speech solved many difficult knots; and mischievous words have by a single inopportune allusion, bound the neck of the speaker with heavy chains.

If language with the eye of sense you scan,
Its stuff combines a blessing and a ban:
Yes! for the meed of wit unspoke before,
May make an outcast or to life restore;*
And oft the utterance of a word—though slight—
Has crushed the speaker in eternal night.’*

O king! if these words should reach Shanzabah, and he should discover the nature of his situation and ascertain his disgrace, it is possible that he may attempt to resist, and begin to fight or excite rebellion: and masters of prudence have not thought secret punishment suitable for a public offence, nor assigned public punishment to secret crimes. The advisable course is to meet his concealed offence with a hidden retribution.’ The Lion said, ‘To banish and remove my intimates on mere suspicion, and, without a palpable certainty, to endeavour to ignore all their claims, is with one’s own hand to strike an axe against one’s own foot, and to turn suddenly aside from the path of generous conduct and the road of good faith.

Nor law, nor reason, could to this agree,
That without proof, kings should their judgment give;
For their high mandate, like heaven’s own decree,
Now snatches life away—now grants to live.’

Damnah replied, ‘There is no evidence that rulers can have better than their own discernment. When this perfidious traitor approaches, let the king cast a scrutinizing glance upon him, and the foulness of his principles will be exhibited in his graceless visage, and the deformity of his purpose in his repulsive appearance, and the crookedness of his heart will be shewn by his changing color,* and his emotion as he advances, and by his looking to the left and right, and before and behind him, and by his being prepared for a struggle and collected for an encounter.’ The Lion said, ‘Thou hast well said, and if any of these signs be observable, of course the dust of doubt will be removed from the path of certainty, and the anxiety of suspicion will be changed for a state of absolute conviction.’ When Damnah perceived that by his mischief-exciting insinuations, the fire of calamity had begun to blaze on that side, he wished to see the Ox, and on his part, too, to kindle the flame of disastrous results.

Like fire is strife betwixt two enemies,
The luckless mischief-maker wood supplies.*

He bethought himself that his interview with Shanzabah ought also to spring from the Lion’s suggestion and advice, that he might avoid suspicion. He said [therefore], ‘O king! if the high command obtains the honor of being issued, I will see Shanzabah, and having ascertained somewhat of the secrets of his mind and of his hoarded intentions, I will respectfully state it.’ The Lion gave his permission, and Damnah approached Shanzabah like one grief-stricken and visited by calamity, and performed the required salutations and compliments. Shanzabah, after shewing him suitable respect, thus, with courtesy and affection, addressed him; ‘O Damnah!

Bethink thee ever thou forgettest me!

It is many days since thou hast enlightened the eyes of thy intimates with the rays of thy beauty, or converted the cottage of thy friends into a rose-garden with the flowers of the plants of social and kindly intercourse.

Through ages thou—one moment e’en—thy friend recallest not,
Yet not one moment is by him the thought of thee forgot.’

Damnah said, ‘Though personally I have been excluded from the honor of an interview, yet in thought and spirit I have constantly kept company with the idea of thy heart-enlivening beauty, and have unceasingly sown the seed of friendship and affection in the ground of the heart.

To thee my soul! I from my heart have secret windows made,
Unknown to thee, and yet with thee, full oft in love I’ve played.

And in the cell of retirement and the corner of solitude, I have been engaged in the daily duties of prayer and praise, which may be to thee the cause of increasing fortune; and I shall continue so occupied.’ The Ox said, ‘What is the cause of this retirement?’ Damnah replied, ‘When a person cannot be master of his own will, and is captive to the authority of another, and draws not a single breath without fear and danger, and does not pass a moment without dread and trembling for his life and body, and when he cannot utter a word without terror and alarm, wherefore not choose the corner of his cot and close the door in retirement against both stranger and acquaintance?

From the mischief of this troublous [false and fickle] world [of pain],
Up, [my friend!] and some asylum—where thou canst it find—obtain;
But if thou no foot to flee hast, then at least thy hand extend!
Grasp the skirt of safe retirement [and there let thy sorrow end].’

The Ox answered, ‘O Damnah! develope thy statement more clearly, and explain, in detail, the matter to which thou hast briefly alluded, in order that the advantage of thy counsels may be more general, and the benefit of thy discourse more complete.’ Damnah responded, ‘Six things in this world are impossible without six things, viz.:—worldly wealth without pride, and* the pursuit of the objects of desire without difficulty, and to sit with women without calamity, and to expect* aught from the sordid without disgrace, and association with the wicked without regret, and attendance on kings without misfortune. To no one do they give a draught from the wine-cellar of the world, but he becomes intoxicated and presumptuous, and raises up the head of rebellion from the collar of contumacy and pride. And no one moves a step in pursuit of lust that he does not fall into a state of ruin; and no man sits with women but he becomes calamitously involved in a variety of mischievous results; and no person enters into friendship with wicked and depraved men, but eventually loads himself with remorse; and no one applies to mean and low people who does not become contemptible and dishonored; and not an individual chooses to attend on princes without finding it impossible to escape from that cruel vortex.

Wouldst thou judge right of princes’ company?
Then view it as a vast and shoreless sea.
To such an ocean full of risk and fear,
Most wretched aye the man that is most near.

And on the same subject they have said,

Upon the sea ’tis true is boundless gain
Wouldst thou be safe?—upon the shore remain.’*

Shanzabah said, ‘Thy words indicate that thou hast met with something offensive from the Lion, and that thou art overcome with dread and alarm of his terrors.’ Damnah replied, ‘I do not speak these words with reference to my own person, nor am I distressed on my own account, but I am thinking more of my friends than of myself in this matter, and this grief and chagrin which has overwhelmed me is for thy sake, and thou knowest how the ante­cedents of friendship and early ties of attachment have existed between us, and the promises and compacts which we formed at the first, and which during this interval have been mainly fulfilled with good faith; and I have no alternative but to convey to thee information of whatever may have occurred, whether good or bad, beneficial or injurious.’ Shanzabah quaked inwardly, and rejoined, ‘O kind comrade and sympathising friend! acquaint me, with all speed, as to the true state of the case, and fail in no particular of the minutiæ of kind feeling and attachment.’ Damnah answered, ‘I have heard from an authentic source, that the Lion has spoken with his august tongue to this effect, ‘Shanzabah has become excessively fat, and he is not wanted at this court, and it is no matter whether he be absent or present. I shall give an entertainmeut to the beasts with his flesh, and I will make of his body, one day, the royal repast and a banquet for the public.’ I, when I heard this speech—being aware of his violence and injustice—came hither, that, having warned thee, I might establish the good­ness of my faith by a clear proof, and might fulfil what is incumbent on me by the law of honor and the rules of right feeling and generosity.

I tell thee all that he who sent me bade,
Whether my words thee warn or make thee sad.

At present it appears to me that thy advisable course is to devise a plan, and with the utmost expedition to turn thy attention to the preparation of some expedient, and the encountering this crisis; if peradventure, a means of escape from this vortex should appear, and by some ingenious device salvation from this peril be attainable.’ When Shanzabah had heard the words of Damnah, and resolved in his mind the promises and covenants of the Lion, he said, ‘O Damnah! It is impossible that the Lion should play me false, and now moreover I have displayed no perfidy, and my firm step has not slipped from the path of true service, and again I have a belief of the sincerity of thy words, and an opinion of thy good intentions. The conclusion is therefore that [some parties] have concocted falsehoods against me, and by imposture and deceit have moved the Lion to wrath, and in his service there is a faction of worthless persons all profound masters of slander, and bold and audacious in treason and violence, and them he has oft proved, and has observed a variety of treacherous acts and foul deeds, and of course whatever they say, on that head, of others he believes and judges accordingly, and assuredly through the evil influence of the society of the wicked, evil suspicions arise with regard to the good, and by these groundless doubts the right course becomes concealed, and the story of the Goose and his false impressions from experience, is a proof of what I have said quite sufficient, and bears ample testimony to this state of things.’ Damnah inquired, ‘How was that?’