Damnah said, ‘They have related that in the city of Kashmír there was a merchant possessed of great wealth and opulence, and many servants, and a great establishment. He had a wife of moon-like face and musky ringlets, such that heaven’s eye had never beheld a luminary like her, nor had so fair a figure ever come into the hand of Time. Her cheek was bright and radiant like the day when lovers meet, and her tresses dark, and long as the day of separation.

Her beauty like the mid-day glorious sun,
Like the narcissus, half in sleep, her eye.
Her cheek the rose and rose-juice, blent in one,
Her waist was slender and her bosom high.
Sweeter than honey or rose-conserves taste,
Softer than budding roses when embraced.

And in close vicinity lived a painter, who, by his expertness, had acquired a world-wide notoriety,* and was admired by all for his pictures. The souls of the painters of China wandered distracted in the desert of jealousy at the brush of his portraiture, and the heart of the artists of Cathay were bewildered in the waste of envy at the skill of his delineation.

That skilful master could, with science rare,
His paintings, like the wind,* on water trace.
And when the cheeks and tresses of the fair—
The heart consuming with their magic grace—
He showed; it seemed as though he did pourtray
The hue of night upon the board of day.*
When he his reed upon the tablet drew,
Reason, like pictured things, insensate grew.

In short there arose between him and the wife of the merchant a mutual attachment, and the painter began to feel a blind and uncontrollable love for that graceful form, and the monarch, Love, overcame the territory of his heart, the metropolis of the affections; and the forces of desire commenced their ravages over the seven regions of his body.

King Love his heart, his faith’s domain, subdued.

The visual organs of the young lover, like the heart of the pious, became watchful, and the eyes of his vigils, like April clouds, began to rain down tears.

Taper-like with inward burning, nightly where my love doth sleep,
Now from scorching pain I suffer, now from sorrow sadly weep.

The merchant’s wife, too, had beheld the youth and surrendered her heart to him, and had placed the volume of patience and forbearance in the niche of oblivion.

My heart is gone, my bosom, too, of life is void and leer,
Patience, away! for now for thee no place continues here.

The attraction of love exerting its influence on both sides, they found the means of meeting without the intervention of a go-between, and the path of intercourse between them was clear from the dust of rivals. The woman said to her lover, ‘Thou art ever* favoring me with thy presence and adorning and shedding light upon my humble dwelling, and no doubt delay takes place until thou callest out and castest a pebble. If by thy skill in painting—in which thou art the phœnix of the age and the leader of the time—thou wouldest take thought and paint something, and make a thing which might be a token between me and thee, it would not be unwise, and rather conformable to judicious counsel.’

The young artist replied, ‘I will make a mantle of two colors, which shall be white on one side, like a star shining in the water; and black on the other, like an Æthiop’s hair gleaming on the lobe of the ear of a fair beauty. When thou beholdest that signal, come out quickly.’ While they were making this agreement, a slave of that painter was standing behind the wall, and overheard them.

Ope not thy lips, if thou hast joys in hand,
For many a listener near the wall may stand.

Several days passed and the mantle was finished and the visits agreed upon took place. One day the painter had gone out on important business, and stopped away late. The slave borrowed that mantle of the painter’s daughter, on pretence of studying the manner in which the colors were mixed, and having put it on, came to the house of the lady. She, without reflection, from the excessive transports of joy which she felt at her lover’s visit, did not distinguish between her paramour and his rival, nor observed the difference between her friend and this stranger.

Her body to his clasp she gave, and did love’s writing trace,
The slave beheld the fair and shared her kisses and embrace.

The slave, by means of this robe obtained his wish; and after he had done with it, gave back the mantle. It happened that at the very same time, the painter returned, and having rent the garment of patience, from desire to behold his mistress, he threw the mantle over his shoulders and went towards the merchant’s house, and the lady running forth to him, again said, with many endearments, ‘Is it well with thee, my friend, that thou hast in this same instant come back again?’ The young man saw how matters stood, and having made some excuse for coming, returned forthwith, and finding out the whole affair, chastised the slave and his daughter severely, burnt the mantle, and gave up the connection with the lady: and if she had not acted precipitately, she would not have been contaminated by the foul embraces of the slave, nor have been deprived of the visits of her darling lover and the conversation of a friend dear to her as her life.

When thou the tree of haste hast planted, know,
That on it the sad fruit of grief will grow.

And I have brought forward this example that the king may perceive that he ought not to act precipitately with reference to me; and the real fact is, that I do not utter these words from fear of torture, and terror of his majesty; for although death is a sleep not to be coveted, and a rest little to be desired, nevertheless, come it will, and many mighty ones, driven to extremity at its hands, have learned that it is impossible for any one to evade the circle of annihilation and extinction. Whoever sets foot in the world of existence, must needs quaff the potion of death and clothe himself in the vestments of decay.

Ne’er did heaven place one in the sunny ray
Of safety, but at the last it made
Him, like the twilight of false morn, decay.
And when the sempstress, Fortune, has o’erlaid
One’s stature with the coat of being, she
Uncloaks* him in the end, assuredly.

And had I a thousand lives, and knew that in expending them I should benefit the king, I would surrender them all in an instant, and regard that as equivalent to perfect happiness in both worlds.

Life is dear, but were it asked by one dearer far, like thee,
Who would grudge his life, since love more precious than his life would be!

But it is the bounden duty of the king to look to the end of this matter, for he cannot preserve his dominions without the swords [of his officers], and he must not assail the lives of his useful servants on a vain surmise.

Thou wilt be sole, if many friends thou slay.

And it is not possible to find at all times a servant who will show himself equal to the administration of affairs, nor to lay hands upon a minister worthy of one’s confidence and deserving of promotion.

The sun must gild it many a year, ere that which first has been a stone
A ruby turns, in Badakhshán—in Yaman, a carnelion.

When the lioness observed that the speeches of Damnah were honored by attention from the ear of acceptance, she was overcome with alarm lest the Lion should give his belief to these gold-washed, counterfeit coins, and specious truth-resembling pretences and insinuating falsehoods of his; and lest the grace of his language and oily talk should cause the Lion to neglect the investigation of this history. She, therefore, turned towards the Lion, and said, ‘Thy silence would indicate that what Damnah says is true, and what the rest say is false, and I did not think that thou, notwithstanding thy sagacity and acuteness and understanding and intellect, wouldest be deaf to the language of truth, and be deceived and shaken by vain and delusive prating.

How can the Bulbul sweet to thee appear?
Thou who to babbling birds dost lend thine ear.’

She then rose in wrath and went to her own abode. The Lion commanded them to keep Damnah bound in prison, till the judges should investigate his case, and declare what was right to be done with him. The court of inquiry* broke up, and the lioness came to the lion and said, ‘O son! I have long heard of the marvelous cleverness of Damnah, and now I know to demon­stration that he is the wonder of the age and the phœnix of the time. How, I pray, could he utter all these false sentiments apparently so magnanimous, and how arrange those rare excuses and honeyed sayings? So fine are the extenuations which he chooses, that if the king should give him an opportunity to speak, he would, by a single word, extricate himself from this calamity; and, at the present moment, both the king and the army, in a body, would rejoice exceedingly at his being put to death, and, therefore, the best way is to relieve thy mind at once with regard to him, and not to give him oppor­tunity to speak nor the chance of a reply.

Haste is not good save in a good affair.’

The Lion said, ‘The business of those who surround monarchs is envy and variance, and the employment of the high officers of state, malevolence* and strife. Day and night they pursue each other and search out one another’s merits and demerits, and whoever has most of the former, they assail him the more vehemently, and the deserving are the greatest objects of envy and malice; and they never feel jealous of one who has no merit, and Damnah is adorned with many accomplishments, and possesses my most intimate favour. It is possible that the envious have combined and wish to get rid of him by treachery.’ The lioness replied, ‘How can envy be carried so far as to cast one into the place of destruction?’* The Lion answered, ‘Envy is a fire which, once kindled, burns up the green and the dry, and when carried to excess, it impels a man not to desire good even to himself, as was the case in the matter of those three envious persons.’ The lioness asked, ‘How was that?’