The Mouse said, ‘They have related that a Camel-rider, as he was journeying, arrived at a place where the people of a caravan had made a fire, and after their departure the fan of the wind stirred it and set it in a blaze, and the sparks leaping forth from it, fell among the wood in all parts, and in every corner of the desert a dreadful conflagration* arose, and in the midst of those flames a large snake—a huge venomous serpent was left, and being intercepted could not find a way to escape in any direction, nor any path to get free. He was on the point of being fried like a fish in a frying-pan, and like a roasted partridge on the fire, his blood was about to drop from his poison-scattering eyes—when he beheld that rider, and calling for help, exclaimed,

‘What if thou should’st take pity on my lot,
And of these difficulties solve the knot?’

The Camel-rider was a merciful and kind man. When he heard the snake’s supplication and beheld its distress and trouble, he thought to himself, ‘It is true that snakes are the enemies of men, but he is now helpless and dismayed. My best course is to take pity on him and sow in the soil of action the seed of kindness, which can bear no other fruit than happiness in this world and exaltation in that to come.’ He then fixed the huntsman’s-bag* that he had with him to the point of a spear and reached it thither. The snake, too happy to avail himself of it, crept into the bag, and the rider thinking it a good act drew him out from the midst of the fire. He then opened the mouth of the bag and said to the snake, ‘Go whithersoever thou wilt, and in gratitude for thy escape from this calamity, withdraw into solitude nor hereafter put thyself into a position to injure man; for he that injures God’s creatures, is disgraced in this world and miserable* in that to come.

Fear God, nor any living thing distress,
This is the one sole road to happiness.’

The snake replied, ‘Cease from these words, young man! for I will not depart till I have bitten thee and thy camel.’ The rider answered, ‘Have I not done thee a kindness and brought thee out of the fire? is this my recompense, and such the reward I am to receive?

On my part is the kindly deed,
From thee shall cruel acts proceed?’

The snake rejoined, ‘True! thou hast done a kind action, but it was shown to an undeserving object; and thou hast been clement, but thy clemency was mis-placed. Thou knowest that I am a vehicle of mischief and that no benefit to men can be anticipated from me. Wherefore when thou didst exert thyself to release me and showedst kindness to one with whom thou oughtedst to have dealt roughly; of course it is necessary, in requital, to cause thee distress, for showing kindness to the bad is equivalent to injuring the good.

The canons of the law and prudence too,
Bid us not harm the good and pure.
And so we should not kindly actions do
To those from whom men wrongs endure.

And moreover in accordance with that verse of the Ḳur’án, ‘The one of you shall be an enemy unto the other,’* an ancient enmity exists between us and you, and prudence requires that we should bruise the head of an enemy, and agreeably to the command, ‘Kill ye the two black things,’* you ought to get rid of us, and while it is decreed that man should not permit us to go unscathed, thou hast in this matter abandoned the lawful and prudent course and chosen to be merciful, and I will assuredly inflict a wound on thee for a warning to others.’ The rider said, ‘O snake! let justice be appealed to, for in what creed is it deemed right to requite good with evil? and in what sect is it admissible to give the foulness of wrong in exchange for the purity of advantage?’ The snake replied, ‘Such is the custom of you men, and I, too, do but practice what you pronounce; and I sell to you what I have bought from you in the mart of recompense.

Buy for one instant what whole years you sell.’

In vain the man protested, the snake exclaimed, ‘Decide with all speed whether I shall wound thee first, or commence with the camel.’ The young man replied, ‘Desist from this idea, for it is not fortunate to requite good with evil.’ The snake answered, ‘This is the custom of men, and I do but act in the same manner as they.’ The rider denied this accusation, and said, ‘If thou canst prove this by clear testimony, and wilt bring evidence to establish thy charge that men are wont to requite actions in this manner, I will purchase thy wound with my life, and will acquiesce in my own destruction.’ The snake looked about him and saw at a distance a buffalo, which was feeding in the plain. ‘Come,’ he said, ‘let us ask the truth of my assertion from this buffalo.’ The man and the snake then approached the buffalo, and the snake addressed it saying, ‘O buffalo! what is the reward of good?’ The buffalo replied, ‘If thou inquirest what it is among men, [I answer] the reward of good is evil. Lo! I was for a long time with one of them, and every year I brought forth a young one, and filled his house with milk and butter, and supplied the means on which his marriage and his subsistence were based. When I grew old, and became unable to bear young, he gave up attending to me, and turning me out of his house set me loose in the plain. After that I grazed for a long time here, and passed my time without work, according to my own wish. I began to grow somewhat fat, and yesterday my master came by here, and thought I looked fat. Hereupon he brought a butcher, and sold me to him; and to-day they are going to take me to the slaughter-house, and mean to kill me. Behold! such is the reward of all the good that I have recounted.

Such, friends, my state! to whom can I it tell?’

The snake replied ‘Lo! thou hast heard. Prepare thyself quickly for the wound.’ The Camel-rider replied, ‘In legal trials they do not pronounce sentence upon the evidence of one witness. Bring another, and do what thou wilt.’ The snake looked about him, and seeing a tree said, ‘Come, and I will ask this tree.’ They then came together to the foot of the tree, and the snake inquired of it, ‘What is the reward of good?’ It replied, ‘Among men the reward of good is evil, and the return for benefit, injury; and the proof is this: I am a tree that have sprung up in this wilderness, and I stand on one leg in the service of every comer and goer. When a child of Adam comes here oppressed with heat, and weary from the desert, he rests for an hour under my shade, and for a time indulges in repose. When he opens his eyes he says, ‘Such a bough will do for the handle of an axe, and such a bit is fit and proper for a spade. One might cut some good planks out of its trunk, and of them make some fine doors;’ and if they had saws or hatchets they would cut out of my branches and trunk whatever they fancied, and in spite of the enjoyment derived from me, would think fit to inflict all this suffering on me.

I thinking how he best might shaded be,
He pondering how to mar and uproot me.’

The snake said, ‘Lo! two witnesses have been brought; yield up thy body, that I may wound it.’ The man replied, ‘Life is very dear, and it is difficult to tear away the heart from the things of life, as long as it is possible to retain it. If one other person testifies in this matter, I will, without scruple, yield my body to this calamity, and acquiesce in God’s decree.’ Now, through a strange coincidence, a fox was standing by, observing their proceedings, and listening to their words with the ear of attention. The snake exclaimed, ‘See there! Ask this fox what answer he would give.’ Before the rider could put the question to him, the fox bawled out to the man, ‘Dost thou not know that the return for good is evil? What good hast thou done to this snake, that has made thee worthy of being punished in requital?’ The young man recounted the particulars; whereupon the fox said, ‘Thou appearest to be a sensible man, how is it that thou speakest what is contrary to the truth?

When will a man of sense himself to speak untruths permit?
For wise men to belie the fact, in truth, can ne’er be fit.’

The snake said, ‘He speaks the truth, and behold! here, hanging to the saddle-strap, is the bag in which he brought me out of the fire!’ The fox expressed his surprise, saying, ‘How can one believe this story, that a snake of this size could be contained in a bag so small?’ The snake answered, ‘If thou dost not credit it, I will go again into the bag, that thou mayst see it with thine own eyes.’ The fox rejoined, ‘If I behold the thing, and have ocular demonstration of it, and find that these words are true, I will pronounce sentence between you in such wise as not to infringe justice, and to be wholly void of fraud and self-interest.’ The man opened the mouth of the bag, and the snake, confiding in what the fox had said, entered the bag. The fox then cried out, ‘O young man! when thou hast got thy enemy fast, shew him no mercy.

Is thy foe captive and o’ercome by thee?
Reason commands thou shouldst not set him free.’

The man tied the mouth of the bag and dashed it against the ground till the snake was killed and the malice of his evil nature was extinguished, so that creation was emancipated from his power of injury.

One who so badly lives is better slain.

And the moral of this story is, that it behoves a wise man not to abandon the path of caution nor to rely on the humble words of an enemy, and never to be led to trust in him, so as not to be overwhelmed by his attack.

Whoe’er upon a foeman’s word relies,
The lamp of sense with him has lost its light.
Then will true friends from former foes arise,
When darkness separating leaves the night.’

The Crow replied, ‘These words which thou with perfect wisdom hast uttered, I have heard, and I have irradiated my mental vision with these bright gems which thou hast brought forth from the mines of sense, and it would be more in accordance with thy beneficence and generosity, and magnanimity and courtesy, to forego these excessive scruples, and, believing my words, throw open the path of friendship. And the wise have said, ‘Fly to the beneficent and shun the niggardly, for the beneficent is willing, upon the acquaintance of an hour, to impart a variety of kindnesses and good offices, and putting off the coldness of a stranger, to assume, with the utmost cordiality, the part of a friend and a companion. While the niggard, forgetting the obligations of ancient communion, will efface from his memory, in the twinkling of an eye, the friendship of a hundred years. And hence it is that the pious who have shaken themselves free from the world, are prone to friendship and slow to enmity—like a vessel of gold, which it takes long to break and but a short time to mend; while the base are slow to become friends and their friendship is soon overturned—like a vessel of earth, which is easily broken and can never be mended; and how finely have they said,

Seek such a friendship for thyself to gain,
As may through endless years endure.
Houses of unbaked bricks, a few days rain
Will level with the earth; be sure.

And I am of the number of those whose friendship may be depended upon and moreover, I am in want of thy companionship, and now that I have planted myself in waiting at this court, I will go back to no other door, and I will assuredly not taste food nor take rest until thou admit me as a friend into thy intimacy.

From the skirt of one so fair as thou I’ll ne’er consent to part,
For with many a flood of tears thou hast been purchased by this heart.

The Mouse responded, ‘I am willing to purchase with my life thy affection and regard, and all this denial is simply that I may be excusable in the sight of reason, shouldest thou intend perfidy; and that thou mayest not say, that thou hast obtained a dull and facile* friendship; else from the beginning of our discourse I have found my heart pre-disposed to intimacy with thee, and my mind intensely inclined to communion with thee.

Since friendship’s love-light in this heart has beamed,
Know that that heart too is with friendship fraught.
For lover ne’er, unsought, for union schemed,
But by his loved one’s seeking love was taught.’

He then came forth and stood before his hole. The Crow said, ‘What prevents thee from advancing still further, and in my presence seeking to become intimate with me? but thou still feelest a trembling in thy soul.’ The Mouse replied, ‘Whenever one grudges not his own life for his friend, and devotes his own dear self for his comrade, he may be called a true friend and a brother to one’s mind. And if one displays the same cordiality in worldly matters and does not neglect to aid his friend with the wealth he possesses, he is a mediocre friend inclining to the mean [between warmth and indifference]. And they have said, ‘He who is pledged* to his friend on account of his temporary requirements as to money and station, is like a fowler who scatters grain to benefit himself not to feed the birds;’ and since this friendship is mixed up with interested motives, it is probable it will terminate in enmity.

When selfish motives lead to friendship’s tie,
That friend will soon become an enemy.

But he who in the path of amity withholds not his life and is ready to sacrifice his own existence, is an incomparable friend; and the rank of a friend who bestows his life is far higher than that of him who expends only his wealth.

Life-generous* is most generous of all.
Those, who are generous with coin, are rife.
’Tis hard to find the liberal of life.

And let it not be coneealed that in accepting thy overtures of friendship and in opening the way to our meeting, I risk my life, and notwithstanding that in the path of amity this point has been reached, that,

Though life be risked I would e’en life resign.

And had I entertained suspicion, I should never have shown this eagerness nor have come forth from the corner of my humble dwelling, but I confide in thy friendship and the sincerity of thy desire to be my companion has passed the limits of doubt and distrust; and on my side, also, regard and attachment has been produced to a two-fold and multifold extent. Thou hast, however, friends who differ from thee in being hostile to me, and do not accord with thee in thy kindly feeling towards me. I fear lest one of these should see me and attack me.’ The Crow answered, ‘I have a compact with my friends that they shall be the friends of my friend and the foes of my foe.’ The Mouse rejoined, ‘Undoubtedly, whoever contracts alliance with the friend of one’s enemy, or unites himself with the enemy of one’s friend, is most fitly enumerated among one’s foes.

From these two ranks the heart aside should wend,
Who love our foes, and those who hate our friend.

And hence it is that the wise have said, ‘Friends are of three kinds: genuine friends, friends of our friend, and foes of our foe. And enemies too are of three sorts: avowed enemies, enemies of our friend, and friends of our enemy.’

Of my own foe my fears are not so great,
As of foes’ friends and those who my friends hate.’

The Crow replied, ‘I understand the drift of thy discourse, and, praise be to God! the ground of friendship and rules of amity have this day been so disposed between me and thee, and have been so ratified, that I shall regard as my friend whoever is friendly to thee, and esteem as my ally all who endeavour to conciliate thee, and whoever unites himself with thee, it is right that I too should unite with him, though he should be altogether hostile to me; and whoever separates from thee it behoves me to part from him, though he were altogether akin to me.

He on whose cheek there is no mark of servitude to thee,
Were he my sire, yet still would seem my foe and cnemy.

And my eager desire for sincere amity and my resolve to prove a faithful friend is such, that should I find any opposition to thee even in my eyes and tongue, which are the sentinels of the body and the interpreters of the heart, I would, with an instantaneous motion, hurl both from the shore of existence into the whirlpool of destruction.

Should of thy limbs a single one be leaguing with thy foe,
Then think him doubled, draw two swords and strike a double blow.’*

The Mouse, emboldened by these words, advanced, and cordially accosted the Crow, and after embracing one another, they spread out the carpet of rejoicing.

For pleasant converse now prepare, thy friend in thy embrace is fast.

After some days had passed in this manner, and the Mouse, to the extent of his power, had performed the rites of entertainment and the duties of hospitality, he said, ‘O brother! if thou wouldst prepare to reside here and transport thy wife and children to this place it would be an extreme favour, and the obligation which I feel in my soul for the blessing of meeting with thee would be doubled, for this region in which my dwelling is, is a cheerful spot and an exhilarating abode.’ The Crow replied, ‘There is no question as to the excellence of this place, the extent of its plain, and the refreshing air. It is, however, near the highway, and close to the public road. There is ever reason to expect some calamity from the coming and going of passengers, and to anticipate something odious from the attacks of travelers. Now, in such a place there is a meadow, from its exceeding brightness, full of light as the garden of Paradise; and from the clearness of its atmosphere, a place of delight and goodness, like the orchard of Iram.

Fresh grass upsprang the streamlet’s bank beside,
The morning breeze brought odors from each bower.
And hyacinths the captive violets tied,
And lassoed with their locks each humbler flower.

There a Tortoise, who is one of my friends, has his home, and in that neigh­borhood food is procurable for me in abundance, and little mischief is to be apprehended. If thou art inclined, I will go there with thee, and pass the rest of my life in ease and enjoyment.

Till round me buried they the shroud shall fold,
Think not that of thy skirt I’ll loose my hold.

I know no wish equal to the honor of having thee for a neighbor, nor any hope brighter than the happiness of being with thee. Wherever thou advancest, like the sun I follow thee shadow-like, and through whatever land thou passest, shedding thy favors,* I hang at thy feet like a skirt, and so long as the collar of life does not fall into the grasp [of death] the destroyer of delights, I will not draw back my hand from the hem of thy society.

The border of unchanging fortune and the collar too of hope,
’Twere shame indeed if I should seize them, and again should let them drop.

And this region where I am now abiding is not my original fatherland, but I was led hither without my willing it; and my story, although long, comprises many extraordinary things, and whenever our resting-place is fixed, if thy illustrious mind desires it,

I will of much some little part recount.’

The conversation here ended, and the Crow took hold of the tail of the Mouse and turned in the desired direction. By chance a Tortoise was wandering round the margin of the fountain which was to be their permanent residence. When he beheld from a distance the blackness of the Crow, fear overcame him, and he plunged down in the water. The Crow softly deposited the Mouse from the air upon the ground, and called out to the Tortoise, who, when he heard the familiar voice, came up from the water, and beholding the face of his valued friend, raised to heaven the exclamations of his joy.

My friend long-lost has come in peace again,
And wayward fortune has its promise crowned.
How long sit anguished by the thorn of pain?
To hail this smiling rose, let joy abound.’

They then warmly accosted one another, and the Tortoise inquired, Where hast thou been this long time? and how camest thou to pass this way now?’* The Crow then detailed at length his own history from the time when the pigeons fell into the net to the period of their release, and his desire to obtain the friendship of the Mouse, and his ratifying the bonds of amity with him, down to his arrival at his familiar abode.’ The Tortoise having learned the particulars of the case, showed the utmost pleasure at seeing the Mouse, and said,

To this glad-omened place thou hast arrived auspiciously,
Well hast thou come, and on thee peace and benediction be!

My happy fate drew thee to these precincts, and the strength of my fortune raised the star of thy beauty above the horizon of this neighborhood.’ The Mouse said, ‘How can I sufficiently acknowledge these kindnesses which thou shewest to me? and with what tongue can I repeat thanks for the gracious manner in which thou condescendest to encourage me. It is from the burning heat of the sun of accidents, that I have sought refuge in the shade of thy clemency, estimating the acquisition of the happiness of communion with thee as the goal of my wishes and desires.

It was favor from above made me ask my way of thee,
And by the eternal guidance I was led thy face to see.’

After they had rested from the toils of the way and had reposed themselves in that abode, which was a place of perfect safety:—secure from the assaults of the army of mischief, and unsullied by the dust of perturbation of rivals; the Crow, turning his face towards Zírak, requested that, if he thought good, he would narrate to the Tortoise the tales and adventures which he had promised the Crow to recount, in order to strengthen the friendship between them, and that they might derive all imaginable gratification from the recital.

Open thy lips, thy pleasant story tell,
And our heart’s mouth with sugar fill as well.’

The Mouse, commencing his story, said to the Tortoise,* ‘O brother! my birth-place and native country was in a city of the country of Hind, which they call Nádút; and in that city I had taken up my abode in the cell of a solitary recluse, and in the corner of his hermitage had made a cell for myself, and I had several mice as attendants, and every day the numbers of my dependants increased. Now, a devoted disciple brought every morning for the holy man a tray of viands, a small portion of which the recluse used to take for his breakfast, and store up the rest for the evening; while I used to be on the watch for his going out of the house, in order that I might immediately leap on the table, and after eating such dainty bits as I liked, scatter the rest among the other mice. The holy man employed many stratagems to get rid of me, but in vain; and devised various schemes to kill me, but they were all to no purpose; until one day a friend came as guest to the abode of the recluse. After they had finished the usual salutations and the requisite repast, and had spread out the beneficial table of discourse, the recluse inquired of his guest the news at home, and his destination, and the cause of his journey, and motive for his change of place. Now, the stranger was a man of experience, who had tasted the sweets and bitters of fortune,

One who for years had ranged o’er land and sea,
And proved the change of varied destiny.

He replied to the recluse in a pleasing manner, and recounted with capti­vating eloquence what strange cities and marvelous countries he had beheld, and, during his discourse, the recluse kept every moment clapping his hands, in order that the mice might be scared by the sound. The guest was annoyed at this circumstance, which bore the appearance of an indignity, and enraged at an action which was so removed from due respect, and said, ‘O recluse! to clap the hands when one is speaking appears like turning the speaker into ridicule, and I do not think that the character of a jester or the part of a mocker accords with thy position, nor that it is consistent with thy profession to deviate from the highway of good manners towards sarcasm and jokes.

Incline not thou to mockery and jeers,
For ill do these the pious man befit.
Who always as a vain buffoon appears,
Will reap dishonor for his scurril wit.’

The holy man replied, ‘Heaven forbid that the thorn of jesting should ever be fastened in the skirt of my condition, and that the dust of raillery should be mingled with the atmosphere of the purity of my heart! This action which thou noticest, is to drive away a host of mice, who have over­run the realm of my board and table, and extending the hand of plunder and spoliation to all that I store up, leave not even a crust on my table safe from their assaults, nor permit me to preserve from their injuries any food in my house.

Like me a hundred could not drive away,
Their bands descending to bear off the prey.’

The guest asked, ‘Are they all bold and blindly audacious, or do some show more temerity than others?’ The recluse answered, ‘One of them is so hardy that in my presence he will carry off a thing from the board, and before my very eyes will display his audacity in plundering my viands.’ The guest replied, ‘There must be some reason for his boldness, and his story has a similar complexion to that of the man who insisted to the wife of the host, that there must surely be some cause why she should barter husked sesamum on equal terms for unhusked.’ The recluse said, ‘If thou seest fit, tell me, how was that?’