The lynx said, ‘They have related that in a city of Fárs there was a venerable old man who had carried off the reed of superiority from the horse­men of the circus of sanctity,* while the peak of his crown of abnegation of worldly pleasures touched the summit of the celestial sphere.

In saintship’s realm imperial state had he,
He crowned himself, while he abandoned all.
The circus of his steed—eternity:
And with the Infinite he played at ball.*

They used to call him the Saint of radiant mind. The echoing rumour of his miraculous gifts pervaded the provinces of Rúm and the countries of the west, and the hubbub* of his séances reached the inhabitants of Egypt and Syria and Arabia Petræa and Felix. The wise men of ’Iráḳ, as well as the refined of Khurásán, placed their heads on the line of attachment to him; and the pious people of Turkistán, as well as those transported with divine love in Hindústán, laid the hands of sincerity on the skirt of discipleship to him. One day a darvesh from Transoxiana, resolved on going as a pilgrim to the holy shrine of that Saint, and, with many toils, conveyed himself from the environs of Samarḳand to the capital of Fárs: and truly until one has wounded the foot of search in the thorny brake of trouble, the hand of attainment will not reach the collar of the rose of desire.

The nightingale, that cannot bear the woes
Of the sharp thorn, must speak not of the rose.

The darvesh who had thus traveled, after crossing the waste of despond,* alighted at the K’abah of peace and safety, and having made the dust of the threshold of the Saint a kissing-place for the lips of respect, put in motion the knocker of eagerness. The attendant of the monastery, after inquiring into his case and informing himself of the circumstances of his fatiguing journey, pronounced these words, ‘O darvesh! rest a little, for his highness the shekh has gone to wait on the reigning monarch, and the hour for his return is by-and-bye.’ When the darvesh heard talk of waiting on the king, he exclaimed, ‘Fie on the toilsome journey and the wasting of my time! A shekh who goes to wait on a king and finds pleasure in visiting and dis­coursing with him, what can he do to aid me? or how point out to me the right way?

Dog-like, to perish at his feet was once my wish, my trust:
Alas! those hopes all suddenly have crumbled into dust.’

He then came forth from the monastery, and took his way to the bázár, and through the impurity of his deceitful heart, which had not been tempered in the furnace of austerity, he impressed on the coin of the shekh’s career the stamp of short measure; and ignorant of his true condition, gave vent to unreasonable censures.

Boaster! thou walkest by the water’s brink,
How canst thou know the state of us who sink!

Suddenly the police-magistrate of the city caught sight of him, and it hap­pened that a thief, who resembled him in appearance, had, on the previous night, escaped from prison, and the king had severely reprimanded the magistrate and the watch, and had given the strictest injunctions to catch the thief and to cut off his hands. The magistrate saw the darvesh, and imagining him to be the runaway thief, had him straightway conveyed to the place of punish­ment. In vain the darvesh showed his safe-conduct* and gave a true account of himself, he gained nothing thereby, and there was nothing at hand for him but to have his hand* cut off. At the instant that the pitiless execu­tioner had placed a sharp knife on the hand of the darvesh, and was about to sever it, there arose the shouts of the retinue of the Saint of radiant mind, as they called out to clear the way; and the shekh with a grand cavalcade,* arrived where that crowd was assembled, and having inquired into the circumstances, was informed of the position in which the darvesh was placed. He told the magistrate, ‘This is one of the darveshes belonging to my place, and the suspicion thrown upon him is contrary to the facts—release him.’ The magistrate kissed the shekh’s horse’s hoof, and expressed himself under a vital obligation; he then apologized to the darvesh and went about his business. The poor darvesh finding himself set free from the snare of destruction and from the merciless hands of the executioner, proceeded with the shekh’s retinue as one of his attendants, and as they were going, the shekh laid his hand on the shoulder of the darvesh and whispered to him, ‘Brother! to forswear fellowship with darveshes is not right, for did we not wait upon the king, ill-used persons like thyself would find no escape from the hands of their oppressors.’ The darvesh perceived that his repudiation of the shekh had sprung from ignorance and folly, and that whatever is done by the thoroughly righteous is sure not to be wrong; because the intentions of a perfect saint melt into unison with those of God himself, wherefore not a single action will spring from him which will not be in accordance with the divine will, nor will anything he does, though apparently unreasonable and improper, be in reality unadvisable.

The child whose throat is cut by Khiẓr’s knife,*
A people could not render back to life.
And should his ship be wrecked in open sea,
A hundred hopes in Khiẓr’s wreck will be.
Be sure that where his healing hands restore
The breach, it will be there perceived no more.
And should he one decapitate, e’en then
He’d give a hundred thousand heads again.
Earth that the true saint touches turns to gold,
And this to ashes in the trifler’s hold.

And the moral of this story is that eminently holy men have voluntarily taken upon themselves the service of kings and have thought it no harm to frequent royal courts.

Who then art thou, to be accounted of?’

Damnah said, ‘With regard to what thou hast said, that the excellent have sought eminence in the service of kings, it is true they have done so, but with a view to an advantage of the highest consequence, and they have not entered upon this measure without divine inspiration, nor have they suffered the smallest worldly or carnal motive to blend itself therewith; and whoever has such a bent as this, whatever he may do or say, none may be so bold as to blame him; but when will the like of us reach this dignity? or how can we justify our pretension to a rank so high? And as to what thou hast further said, that a king is the shadow of God, I admit that too; but it is the temper of true kings to make their actions run parallel to the right way and keep them far removed from the path of wrong; not to patronise one for a temporary selfish motive, and, then, without just occasion, order him to be punished: and the most praiseworthy of all royal qualities is to hold dear those of their servants who exhibit commendable dispositions, and to degrade their faithless and perfidious ministers.

The rose-plant of the righteous man’s estate,
With mercy’s rain he does invigorate.
The wicked, like the wound-inflicting thorn,
Are by his terror from the roots uptorn.’

The lioness said, ‘What thou sayest is true, but thy case appears the very opposite of this, since the collective voice of this assembly pronounces that Shanzabah was a worthy minister of the king, and of an amiable temper, and the common report is, that the harvest of his promise was consumed by the fire of thy calumny, and that the pedestal of the king’s faith was over­turned by the disastrous influence of thy mischievous meddling.

Thy envy has a conflagration lit,
And a whole universe consumes in it.’

Damnah said, ‘It is not concealed from the irradiated mind of the king, and all who are present know, that between me and the ox none of the materials of contention and enmity existed, how then can hostility as anciently entertained by us, be thought of? And he too, although he had the power to attack me, and the opportunity of injuring me, and strength to get rid of me, nevertheless observed towards me only the path of kindness and bene-volence; and I too was not contemptible and unimportant in the king’s sight, that I should exert myself to get rid of the ox through envy and hatred, but I gave the king a piece of advice and disinterestedly conveyed to his ears a speech that I had heard and the traces of which I had observed; and it was my duty to be grateful for the king’s kindness, and to exhibit with truthfulness the apparent treachery and dangerous intentions of the ox; and as to what I said, the king too, himself, made investigation, and discovered that which verified my words and confirmed the charge I brought, and, at the call of his own judgment, carried out the measure; and now there are many persons, who were in league with Shanzabah, and partners of his perfidy and hostile intentions, who are afraid of me since I have adopted the habit of telling the truth. It is a true and just saying, that ‘Truth is bitter.’

All to whom I truth have spoken have become my enemies.
Since the truth may not be said, the best course in silence lies.

And, assuredly, a party of hypocrites will exert themselves to get me put to death, and I did not suspect that the recompense of my advice and the result of my service would be this, that my continuing to live should be a cause of anxiety and disturbance to the king.’ When Damnah had spoken thus far and the day had waned, the Lion said, ‘He must be delivered over to the judges, in order that they may inquire into his case, since in penal sentences and judicial proceedings, without adducing clear evidence and conviction on certain proof,

It is not right commands to execute.’

Damnah said, ‘What judge is more righteous than the reason of the prince, and what magistrate more equitable than the fair justice of the fortunate king? and, praise be to God! the luminous mind of the sulṭán is a clear mirror, or rather a world-displaying goblet, and the condition of every one of his attendants is therein clearly displayed.

Be, and it was!* thy wisdom said to the mysterious scroll;
And at thy word e’en fate’s decrees their destinies unroll.

And I know of a certainty that in removing the veil of doubt, and undoing the wimple of uncertainty and surmise, nought equals the sagacity of the king and his discernment, and, assuredly, when the mirror of his command is purified from the rust of self-interest and bias, I am convinced that if proper investigation is made my immunity* will in all respects be established, and the honesty of my mind, like the dawning of the light of the real morning, will shine luminously to all.*

No secret’s hidden ’neath thy wisdom’s light.’

The Lion said, ‘O Damnah! this matter shall be investigated to the utmost possible extent, and this affair shall be inquired into with all imagi-nable care.

In sifting this affair I’ll labour so,
That forth I’ll drag it as a hair from dough.
Thyself dost know that every hidden thing
Of heaven itself, my mind’s light forth can bring?

Damnah said, ‘I am the more anxious for this excessive strictness* by reason of my innocence, for I know that in this scrutiny my loyalty will be more abundantly evident, and had I been guilty in this affair, I should not have continued in attendance at the king’s court, nor sat tamely waiting for misfortune; but I should have repeated to myself the purport [of this injunc­tion] ‘Go through the earth,’* and have gone to another region.

For wide and ample is the plain of earth.’

The lioness said, ‘O Damnah! thy vehement desire for inquiry appears to be not devoid of mental alarm, but thou hopest by cunning to bring thyself out innocent; but to look for escape from this strait without thy case being investigated is an impossible thought and a vain desire.’ Damnah replied, ‘I have many enemies, and those who bear malice towards me are infinitely numerous. What I look for is that my case may be entrusted to a judge who may be clear from interested feelings and from suspicion, and who will truthfully convey to the royal ears whatever is said or heard; and that the king will refer this to his world-adorning judgment, which is the mirror of victory and triumph, so that I may not be put to death on a mere suspicion and that in the day of retribution no blame may accrue on account of that innocent blood.

I fear not death,—but may it never be:
My blood [accusing] should entangle thee.*

The Lion said, ‘I have never in any command deviated from the path of justice, and, save in the way of equity, is is impossible for me to tread; and if this perfidious act has proceeded from thee, thou shalt meet the punishment which is thy due.

What in life’s field thou sowest, thou shalt reap?’

Damnah replied, ‘Why should I imagine such treason? and by what means suffer the desire of high affairs and the longing for offices of dignity to pass through my mind? and for my part I know well the king’s justice, and have surveyed the tokens of his righteous dealing, and I feel certain that he will not prevent my participating in his world-adorning justice, nor cut off from me the hope of the blessings of the due which he dispenses to all.

For justice God did thee create, O king!
From a just Lord, no unjust act can spring.’

One of the by-standers said, ‘What Damnah says is not intended in honor of the king, but by these words he hopes to avert calamity from himself.’ Damnah rejoined, ‘Who is more tender of me than I myself am, and who my truer friend than myself? and whoever permits himself to remain in a difficulty, and takes no thought for his own preservation, what hope can others place in him?

Since thou neglectest e’en thine own affair,
How canst thou for another’s business care?

Thy speech is a proof of a want of understanding and judgment, and of an abundance of ignorance and error; and think not that this circumstance will remain hid from the king’s sagacity, [not so!] but after due reflection he will distinguish between thy reproach and salutary advice, since his luminous mind can deliberate in a single night on the affairs of a whole life, and subdue vast armies by a thought.

In one short breath his thought—far-sighted, world-subduing too—
Can things effect, which none beside could in a life-time do?’

The lynx said, ‘I am not so much astonished at thy former tricks and perfidiousness, as at thy declamation in thy present condition, and thy display of maxims, and quaint sayings, and saws.’ Damnah rejoined, ‘Aye! it is the place for admonition if it alights in the spot of acceptance, and it is the season for uttering maxims if they gain a hearing from the ear of under­standing.’ The lioness said, ‘O traitor! art thou still in hopes of escaping by thy juggles and deceit?’ Damnah answered, ‘If one return evil for good, and think injury a just recompence for benefit, [I am, then, indeed, without hope]. Yet I, at least, have fully discharged my engagements as a servant, and have been faithful to my duty as a counsellor. The king well knows that no false accuser would dare to utter his calumnies before him, and if he think fit to deal cruelly with me, the infamy thereof will recoil on himself, and if he act precipitately with regard to me, and neglect the advantages of deliberation and the blessings of proof and patient investigation, he will repent in the end; as they have said,

They who in action too great rashness show,
Will their own reason’s structure overthrow.

And whoever deprives himself of the excellent quality of patience by acting precipitately, meets with what that woman met with, who, displaying over­haste in her proceedings, could not discriminate between her friend and the slave.’ The Lion, who was listening to what Damnah said, when he heard this shrewd remark, asked, ‘How was that?’