The lioness said, ‘In times gone by there was a king, by the ornament of whose justice the throne of empire was adorned and ennobled, and the splendor of whose unstinted bounties shone over all the provinces of his realm.

In pomp Farídún, and Jamshíd in state,
Like Dárá watchful, like Sikandar great.

One day he had gone out to hunt, and at a time when the hunting-ground* was close at hand, and every one was engaged in conducting the business which belonged to his post, he said to his Equerry, ‘I wish to race my horse with thine, for I have for a long time desired to know whether the speed of this black, on which I am mounted, is greater than that of the pie-bald which thou art riding.’ The Equerry, in accordance with the command of his prince, began to put his horse to its speed, and the king gave the rein to his fleet courser. As soon as they had got to a distance from the chase, the king pressed down his stirrups and reined in his horse, and said, ‘O Equerry! my intention in coming this distance, is, that at this moment a thing has entered my mind, and an anxiety has overpowered my heart, and of all the special attendants of our presence, no one is fit to be the confidant of this secret, wherefore I wished to retire to this privacy, and—in such way that none should suspect—tell this secret to thee.’ The Equerry made the obeisance due, and said,

‘O Khusrau! may heaven’s sun thy servant be,
And happy fortune shine serene on thee!

Although this despicable atom perceives not himself to be meet for this, but as the brilliancy of the hue of the royal favor has condescended to bestow on me the shade of fortune, I hope that the morning zephyr, which is the confidant of the secrets of the truths of spring, will not scent a portion of the fragrance of this parterre; and the heart, notwithstanding that it is the treasury of this coin, will not be able to advance to the limits of this intelligence.

Just as the soul lies hid within the frame,
Thy secret in my soul shall lurk the same.’

The King commended him, and said, ‘I am exceedingly in dread of my brother, and I have this day read, from the page of his movements, the writing of injurious designs,* and I have clearly observed that he has girt up the loins of malice for my destruction, and I have determined* that, before he can do mischief, I will remove the stone of his existence from my road, and clear the garden of the realm from the affliction of his thorn.

The feeble fox, whose dog is he?
To do the lion injury.

Thou must keep a constant watch on his actions, and perform all that vigilance requires for my safeguard and protection.’ The Equerry bowed, and having taken upon himself the business of guarding and concealing the matter, confirmed this by many assurances, and he had as yet not reached his place, when he inscribed the writing of faithlessness on the volume of his transactions, and turning aside from the path of loyalty and confidence, set his foot in the wilderness of perfidy and ingratitude.

Give thy heart little to the love of friends;
For in this world’s flower-grounds,
The scent that faith and friendship lends,
Is in no comrade found.
I told the secret which my heart had nursed,
Full sore it made me weep:
Would that my simple heart had known, at first,
None can a secret keep.

The Equerry, having sought an opportunity, threw himself at the feet of the sulṭán’s brother, and exposed to his gaze the story in the way that he had heard it. The king’s brother received this favor from him with prompt payment, and with many promises and innumerable gifts, bestowed on him advancements, and, by judicious counsel, secured himself from injury from his brother. In a short time, as is the wonted vicissitude of fortune and the uncertainty of position, the spring of the fortunes of that brother to the king changed to the autumn of ruin, and the bud of his prosperity on the plant of his life shed its leaves.

What breeze of spring e’er blew beneath the sky,
Unfollowed by the autumn of mishap?
Hope not from mother fortune for a constancy,
That she will nurse thee gently on her lap;
There, the true scent of kindness does not lie.

And when the royal cushion and imperial throne was emptied of the adorn­ment of the regal splendour of the elder brother, the younger set his foot on the step of the throne of sovereignty, and exalted the crown of royalty by placing it on the head of success.

In the land of fortune’s garden bloomed the bud of happiness,
And new beauties every sapling in dominion’s orchard dress.

The first order that passed the lips of the king, and the earliest mandate for the delivery of which the imperial signal was given, was for the death of that Equerry. The unfortunate wretch loosed the tongue of supplication, saying,

‘Great king! auspicious rule be thine!
And may thy star serenely shine!

What is my crime save that of affection and loyalty to thee?’

The meed due to my actions is not this.’

The king pronounced this fiat, ‘The worst of crimes is to divulge secrets, and that crime has been committed by thee, and after that thou hast failed to keep the secret of my brother, who selected thee for his confidant from all his attendants, what reliance can I have in thee?

Better to part with an unfaithful friend.

However much the Equerry bemoaned himself, it was unavailing, and he was overtaken by the regal chastisement, and forfeited his head for the betrayal of the secret.*

Is thy tongue ever to its secret true?
What has the sabre with thy head to do?

And the moral for the king to draw from the invention of this story is, that the divulging secrets has a bad result, and to disclose men’s secret matters yields not the fruit of happiness.’ The Lion said, ‘Kind mother! he who betrays his own secret, intends that it should go abroad, otherwise he ought to be his own confidant; and after he has made known to another what was hidden in his mind, he should not be hurt if that other should disclose it to a third; for when one cannot draw one’s own load, it is no wonder if another also cannot support the burthen.

To thine own secret thou art unfaithful,—then
Canst thou expect more faith in other men?

And, moreover, when a person by disclosing a secret makes known what it is right should be known; in that case, though they may account the disclosure a fault, still the revealing what ought to be known may serve to cover that fault. I trust that thou wilt oblige me by stating what it is right to state and thus remove the load of grief from my heart; and if thou canst not tell it openly, thou wilt let me understand its nature by hints, and though thou wilt not detail it in plain language, thou wilt at least not withhold it from me by signs.’ The lion’s mother replied, ‘On condition that thou wilt bring to punishment that evil-doer who has stirred up the dust of this mischief, and that thou wilt conceal the beauty of forgiveness from his audacious eye, which is blinded to the path of truthfulness and rectitude. And although the learned in the faith and those versed in the knowledge of the true God, have used the strongest expressions as to the excellence of mercy and the pre-eminence of beneficence, and have stimulated and urged men to the adoption of that habit, still, in the case of crimes whose effect may extend to the mischief of the world, and the detriment of which may be diffused through the natures of mankind, punishment is better than mercy. And in requital of this offence—the injury of which has fallen on the king’s mind, and has stained the skirt of his purity and good faith with the defilement of perfidy and treachery—should no vengeance be taken, it would serve to embolden other incendiaries, and the pretence* of the tyrannical would be confirmed, and everyone would regard it as a license to be relied on, and a pattern on which dependence could be placed for cruelty and wicked acts. Wherefore, in this place, pardon and connivance must not be allowed scope and in accordance with the irrefragable mandate, ‘And in this law of retalia­tion ye have life,’* the remedy must be regarded as one of things requisite.

Whoever bids thee vex thy subjects, them
As public enemies to death condemn.

The drift of this preamble is that the perfidious Damnah, who persuaded the king of the world to this deed, is a sycophant and a slanderer, and wicked, and a villain.’ The Lion said, ‘I understand; thou must return, in order that I may deliberate on his punishment.’ The lioness returned to her own abode, and the Lion, after long deliberation, gave command to summon his army; and having sent for his nobles and Pillars of the state, and ministers, and chief officers into his presence, besought the attendance of his mother, and after the assembling of all the nobles and people, delivered his royal order, so that they brought Damnah to the foot of the imperial throne, and the king, turning his back upon him, plunged into a long reverie. Damnah looked round, and found the door of calamity open, and the way of escape closed. He turned to one of the king’s intimates, and said softly to him, ‘What is the cause of this assemblage, and what has happened, that the king has fallen into meditation and reflection?’ The lion’s mother overheard, and said aloud, ‘It is thy life on which the king deliberates, and since thy treason has become known and the villany of thy harmful acts manifest, and the falsehood which thou didst utter in relation to his attached friend, is patent,* and the curtain has been removed from the face of thy machinations and artifices; it is not fit that the king should leave thee one instant alive, or keep such a manifester of depravity in the expanse of ‘Existence, which is the chief good.’ Damnah said, ‘The wise of past ages have left no particle of wisdom unsaid, and, for the convenience of those to come after them, have prepared clear ways, and one of their sagacious sayings is this, that whoever is unceasingly zealous in the service of the king, quickly reaches the rank of admission to his favour, and whoever has become the intimate of the sulṭán, all the friends and foes of the monarch become his enemies; the friends, through envy of his post and dignity; and the foes, by reason of his advising the king sincerely in matters of state and religion.

The greater nearness to the king,
Will aye the greater danger bring.

And those who are intimate are in great peril, and hence it is that men of true piety have set their backs against the wall of security and rest, and have turned their faces from the fleeting, faithless, untrustworthy world, and have chosen the worship of the Creator in preference to the service of the creature, for with the glorious Lord* neither error nor neglect are admissible, nor are cruelty or tyranny allowed. To requite good with evil and to recompence obedience with punishment, is what cannot occur, and there can be no swerving from the path of justice in the commands of the king of kings.

God’s justice moves in uniform career,
All others’ tenderness* is cruelty.
There is no wrongful dealing, such as here
Is found, nor man’s mistakings there can be.

In general the actions of creatures, in contrast to the character of the Creator, are stained with a variety of contradictions and inconsistencies, and in devia­tion from an exact observance of what is due, men at one time bestow on offenders deserving of chastisement, the reward meet for the conduct of friends; and, at another time, visit upright councillors, who deserve encouragement, with the punishment which befits the sins of traitors. For vain desires have the mastery over their actions, and error is evident in what they do. In their words they display self-interest, and in their deeds their hypo-crisy is palpable. Good and evil are to them alike, and gain and loss in their sight are equal. One man may hand over to the treasurer of the king all the treasures upon earth’s surface, and he will not feel a grain of gratitude towards him, but will exalt the head of another who abuses him to the pinnacle of honor.

Behold their proud ingratitude, and their thankless coldness see!
They care not whether minstrel or mourner thou mayst be.

I ought not, from the first, to have hovered round the royal service, nor to have stepped out of the cell of retirement, and beyond the corner of privacy, nor to have accepted the duty of attendance on the king, which resembles consuming fire; for whoever does not appreciate freedom from care, and prefers the service of the creature to that of the Creator, meets with what befell the solitary Devotee.’ The lioness asked, ‘How was that?’