The King said, ‘I have heard the story of the calumniator and traducer, who, with consummate craft, clothed the beauty of truth with the guise of suspicion, and having caused his benefactor to swerve from the path of generous feeling, led him to incur the stigma of ingratitude and bad faith; and, after his words, mingled with guile, had made an impression, induced the Lion to exert himself to ruin the pillar of his state and crush the support of his own imperial sway. At the present time, should the eloquent sage see it to be advisable, let him recount the termination of Damnah’s career, and set forth in what manner the Lion, when, after the occurrence of that event, he had returned to his senses and become suspicious with regard to Damnah, sought to remedy what had happened, and how he obtained information of the circumstances of his perfidy, and by what shifts Damnah contrived to hold on,* and what stratagem his friend devised, and what was the issue of his affairs at last. The sage said,

‘O king! be thou of fate and realm the stay!
And wisdom’s lamp illuminate thy way!

In truth, prudence and foresight require that kings should not stir the instant they hear anything, nor despatch a mandate with reference thereto, until they have been informed of the certainty of the affair by clear proof and lucid demonstration.

Not thou to interested folk give heed,
Lest if thou act thou shouldst repent thy deed.

But after that the words of designing persons have chanced to persuade, and an unpraiseworthy action or speech which cannot be commended has actually gone forth, the remedy and amends would be to punish the calumniating sycophant in such wise as might serve for a warning to others; and, from dread of that chastisement, no one would pursue the same conduct in future, and thus it would be a duty to warn all to abstain from the like behaviour.

The plant that yields but thorns uproot,
Conserve the tree that gives the fruit.
The lamp of an incendiary
Is better quenched. That one should die
And fiery torments undergo,
Is better than all mankind’s woe.

And the story of the Lion and Damnah verifies this dictum, for when the former got intelligence of the perfidy of the latter, and was apprised of his deceit and wickedness, he inflicted on him such a punishment that the eye of heedfulness in the others was enlightened, so that they made the verse, Wherefore take example from them, O ye who have eyes!’* the continual task of recitation of their tongue. And the manner of this event was in this wise: when the Lion had finished the business of the Ox, he repented of the precipitancy he had shown in that affair, and bit the finger of contrition with the tooth of reproach, and laid the head of regret on the knee of amazement.

Cold sighs of sorrow and remorse he drew,
Deeds such as mine did ever mortal do?

He was ever musing, pensively saying, ‘Why did I act precipitately in this matter,’ and continually reflected, ‘Wherefore did I not manage this affair with caution and deliberation?’

The reins of will to passion’s grasp I threw,
Sinned against reason and discretion too.
What ’vails it now that ‘I have known or know,’
What use repeating ‘Wherefore did I so?’

The Lion passed a long time in this manner in grief and chagrin, and in consequence of his dejection of mind and distracted feelings, the enjoyment of the beasts was suspended and the state of his subjects became one of distress, and the deep saying, ‘People follow the faith of their kings,’ diffused its influence through the inhabitants of that forest, so that all of them became melancholy and sad.

My heart is like a tulip scorched; and by my sighing’s flame
In all thou seest their hearts too are scorched and scarred the same.

And he was incessantly recalling to mind the meritorious services, aid and former devotion of Shanzabah; and as his sorrow grew, confusion and distress overpowered him, and he was wont to find consolation in talking of his sayings or acts, or in hearing him spoken of.

I’m not one moment negligent of thee,
Thy name is ever said or heard by me.

He continually gave private audiences to each one of the beasts, and required them to narrate. One day he was conversing with a leopard on this subject, and was describing his heart-burnings and the disquietude of his soul. The leopard said, ‘O, King! to brood much over a business in which the hand of counsel falls short of the skirt of remedy, leads to madness, and to seek a cure for a matter which is inscribed in the circle of impossibilities, lies not in the centre of reason and understanding; and sages have said,

Back to thy hand no power can bring
The shaft that once has left the string.

And whoever exerts himself in searching for a thing which it is impossible to gain, may possibly, without obtaining what he is in quest of, let slip that too which he already has; just as the fox desired to get possession of the fowl, and lost the piece of skin of which he had boasted.’ The Lion inquired, ‘How was that?’