Kárshinás said, ‘They have related that in the city of Kashmír there was a King, who had placed the reins of subjugation upon the head of the bay courser of the sky, and had cast the lasso of possession over the neck of refractory fortune. From fear of the gleam of his lightning-like scymitar, the wind had not the boldness to blow contrary to the straight direction, and through dread of his life-ravishing shafts, whose effects resembled those of the thunderbolt, water had not the power to flow tortuously on the earth.

He o’er the world a robe of safety threw,
That freed the sword from shameful nudity.
His justice such,—oppressed spirits grew
Forgetful of their groans’ sad archery.*

And this potent King had in the unviolated sanctuary of his Ḥaram and behind the curtain of enjoyment,* a beautiful mistress, whose dark ringlets lent assistance to the longest winter-night, and whose life-bestowing countenance outvied the full moon in perfect loveliness. If the vigil-keeping recluse had beheld in a dream the image of her beauty, he would—like the chaste-skirted morn—from attachment to her features, have rent the collar of his religious garb.

Of stately aspect and of stature tall,
Her eyebrows arched, her locks in nooses fall.
Just so the cypress finds in the parterre,
Jasmines for cheeks, and violets for hair.

The king’s heart was bound to that delicate fair one, so that he regarded the survey of her beauty as the sum of existence, and counted gazing on her ringlets and mole as the principal of life. Every moment the attraction of the love of his mistress drew his soul towards herself, and the curl of her heart-delighting ringlets snatched away the coin of patience from the pocket of his heart.

It is not of my own free choice I follow her pursuing still,
But lasso-like her ringlets draw me on and on against my will.

And that playful and mischief-exciting fair one, when she saw the bird of the King’s heart prisoned in the snare of her fascinating locks, drew the bow of her eye-brow to behind her ear, and let fly the shaft of her glances at the target of his breast; and each hour, with her wily coquetry and sweet blandishments, she tried a new trip* against the foot of his heart.

The art of winning* lovers, and the wont of causing feud,
Were like a robe that o’er her form by nature had been sewed.

And through the capricious haughtiness inseparable from beauty, she was not content simply with the attentions of the King, but made other conquests in all directions, and cast the lasso of her fascinations over the neck of the unfortunate wanderers in the deserts of passion; and finally commenced operations with a youth of graceful form, who was one of the attendants on the king, and a stripling of kind disposition, one of the court favorites, whose tender beard had arrived, like Khiẓr, on the brink of the water of life, and the down of whose cheek shewed itself like a hyacinth of Paradise on the margin of the river Kauar.

The downy hairs by coral lips appear,
Like heliotropes that grow life’s water near.

And the youth too was overpowered by love, so that on the scroll of his feeling there remained not a character from the volume of patience, nor was there a breath of life’s impression left on the page of his fortunes.

He that becomes with love acquainted nought will chase his pain away.
He feeds his grief, nor leech nor physic e’er can make his love decay.*

The lover and the lady continually carried on question and answer with their eyes and brows, and conversed by gestures and nods. One day the King was seated on the cushion of enjoyment, and had fixed his heart on union with his fascinating mistress, and the youth was standing in attendance, and all the requisites for entertainment were at hand. The King gazed on the bewitching beauty of his fair one, and perused on the page of her cheek the writing, ‘In the most perfect symmetry.’ The lady, careless of the King’s regards, cast her eyes upon the youth, and displayed on her lips a smile which filled Time’s lap with sugar.

Smile, and the lap of pleasure fill with sweets!

The youth too, from the corner of his enchanting eye, responded with a glance, which would have excited in the world a thousand troubles.

Half-oped the gay narcissus of his eye,
And half looked forth, and half was coquetry.

When the King observed that circumstance, the fire of jealousy began to blaze in his heart, and now that he had discovered their attachment, he at once withdrew his affections from association with his mistress.

‘Touch not the tree,’ such rule the wise have made,
Which o’er another garden casts its shade.

He then thought to himself, ‘To be precipitate in this matter seems far from the path of reason, and to be over hasty in removing these two persons, who, in point of fact, are my enemies, is not agreeable to prudence, and a due regard for consequences.

Patience, for man, transcends all things that are.

He then passed over that thing as if he had not observed it, and finished his interview according to his established custom, and passed the night until day with the light of the taper of the beauty of his beloved, but his heart burned moth-like in the flame of the fire of inquietude.

King, lover, drunken and a love so fair,
How could he see her mark another there?

In short, the next day, when the Jamshíd of the sun set up on the dome of the turquoise-coloured heaven the banner of victory and triumph, and the monarch of the planets removed from before the portico of the reclining place of the blue sky the curtain of darkness.

When at the tell-tale morning’s chilly spell*
The golden bason from the terrace fell.
The fair-cheeked bride, the sun, with maiden grace,
From the sky’s purple curtain shewed her face.

The king came forth [and seated himself] on the throne of his glory, and having proclaimed a summons to appellants, himself decided their suits.

Kings, who to justice favoringly incline,
Of God’s own mercy are the shade divine.

And after he had finished transacting business and giving sentence on the suits, he held a private council with the vazír who was his prime minister. The executioner, Anger, importuned him to state to the vazír the occurrence of the night, and, with his advice, to make the offenders taste of the beverage of punishment; and the president, Reason, bade him conceal his secret, and put in execution the command which his heart required. In the end anger prevailed, and he imparted some hints of what lay hid in his heart to the vazír, and asked advice of him on that head. The vazír too gave sentence for putting them to death, and agreed with the opinion of the king, whereupon the destruction of those two persons was determined, and it was resolved to make each of them drink deadly poison, and so plunge them from the shore of existence into the whirlpool of annihilation, and in a way known only to the king and the vazír, carry the affair to its conclusion; so that the curtain of dishonor* should not be rent, nor the thread of reputation severed.

Such things as these ’tis better to conceal,
Thou wilt repent if thou shouldst them reveal.

The vazír came home from the presence of the king and found his daughter very sad and discomfited. On asking her the reason, he learned that his daughter had been that day in the seraglio of the king, and that she had been treated by the royal lady discourteously in a variety of ways, and had received from her much indignity in the midst of her equals and associates. The vazír was vexed at this circumstance, and said, to soothe his daughter,

‘The messenger, the morning-breeze, last night did whispering say
That the day of trouble and of grief was fleeting fast away.

Grieve not, for in these two or three days the lamp of her life will be extinct, and the flower of her existence will be withered.’ The girl in order to ascertain this circumstance, made inquiries into the facts of the case. The vazír recounted somewhat* of what had passed between him and the king, and enjoined her most strictly to keep it secret. The girl, pleased at this good news, came out from her father’s presence, and shortly after, one of the attendants of the seraglio and servants of the Haram came to apologise to her and comfort her. When the preliminary excuses had been made, the vazír’s daughter said, ‘It matters not. If the king’s lady has for no reason given me pain, she will nevertheless soon get her punishment and reward.

Soon will my foe be taken from my sight.’

The attendant, too, displayed much gratification and delight at this, and asked, ‘Whence dost thou say this? and when will it be that we shall be released from her tyranny and cruelty?’ The vazír’s daughter said, ‘If thou art able to keep my secret, I will disclose to thee this matter and will not conceal a particle from thee.’ The attendant swore an oath to her, and the vazír’s daughter detailed the whole affair exactly as it stood. Hereupon the attendant hurried back and acquainted the royal lady with the circumstance, and the latter sending for the youth to a private consultation, informed him of the secret, and they together induced others to become their accomplices; and before the King could hear of it, they came to his pillow and plunged the bark of his life into the whirlpool of destruction. Thus by disclosing his secret to the vazír, he fell from the post of successful fortune; nay, also from the place of existence, to the narrow strait of ruin and the prison of extinction.

And the moral of this story is, that if kings consult with vazírs, and reap the advantage of their experience and sagacity; nevertheless, it behoves them not to acquaint any one with the secret of their heart, since when they themselves—notwithstanding their divine rank and aid from heaven, and their lofty spirit and noble character—are unable to keep their secrets, how can others who are lower in position and inferior in reason and understanding, preserve it?

When thine own secret thou canst not conceal,
Why art thou vexed if others it reveal?’

When Kárshinás had recounted this story and had perforated a gem of this beauty with the diamond of fascinating style, another of those present in the assembly, loosed the tongue of objection, saying, ‘According to what thou hast said, we must throw up the practice of taking advice, and content ourselves with our own plans and judgment; yet to abandon counsel is not approved by reason and wisdom, and the wise saying, ‘And consult them in the affair [of war]’* proves that an affair ought not to be undertaken without consultation.

Unless on counsel thou thy actions base,
Nor law nor reason find in them their place.*

And the verse of God’s word which enjoins his own Chosen one, the Prophet, to take counsel with the attendants of the court of the prophetical office, is a proof that consultation is a divine command, nay, rather an absolute decree.

Since counsel is the Prophet’s high behoof;
Why from that method dost thou keep aloof?’

Kárshinás said, ‘God Most High commanded the Prophet (on whom be the divine blessing!) to consult with others—not that his judgment might be aided by theirs, since the luminous mind of the Lord of Prophecy, (may benedictions and peace be upon him!) which was assisted by the inspiration of God and was adorned with the help of the supreme favor, is a world-displaying mirror, such that the true state of things appears evident and distinct in it—but [the command was given] to attest the advantages of counsel, and to corroborate its benefits, in order that mankind might array themselves with this admirable quality, and turn from self-deceit and opinionatedness towards asking advice of others and sober deliberation; and support their own weak judgment with the aid of that of others; like the light of a lamp, which is augmented by the substance of grease; and the rays of fire, which are increased by the help of wood. Now my words did not imply that we ought to give up consultation, but the meaning which they developed was, that we must conceal the conclusion which we come to from consultation, and keep close our resolve. For the concealment of secrets and the withholding our intentions, contain two most important advantages:—the first is, that it has been proved by experience, that every affair which is kept concealed, is most quickly brought to a successful issue, and the direction, ‘Seek ye help in your momentous affairs,’ alludes to this. The second is, that if that plan should not be in accordance with destiny, and the mind should be unable to perform its purpose, at least the rejoicing of enemies and the mischief-making remarks of detractors will not follow.

That I fail to win thee does not on my soul so darkly weigh,
As the sarcasms of my rivals, who against me aye inveigh.’

Pírúz said, ‘O kind counsellor! I have perfect confidence in thy excessive attachment and loyalty, and of all the vazírs and ministers who wait at this court, I know thee to excel in ability and judgment; whatever then, enters thy mind, of the nature of advice and loyal recommendation, allow not thyself to fail in declaring it.’ Kárshinás made obeisance, and said,

‘O thou! beneath whose sheltering justice beasts and birds in safety live,
Whose wisdom’s rays to man sweet rest, and to the race primæval* give.

It is incumbent on every servant, when he sees his master devising a measure, to declare that which he sees to approximate nearest to the right; and if he find the royal purpose associated with error, to display the way in which mischief will result from it; and to speak with respectful gentleness; and until he observes his plans and counsels to be thoroughly sound, not to desist. And every counsellor who neglects his benefactor and does not observe what is due from an adviser, nor discharge the requirements of uprightness and confidence, must be regarded as an enemy; and the custom of asking advice of him must be abandoned; and whenever a king thus values and conceals his secrets, and secures a competent minister and an upright counsellor in whom reliance can be placed; and considers the remu­neration of those who are serviceable as an obligation according to the laws of princely rule; and recognizes the rebuking and chastisement of offenders as an intimate part of king-craft; it is most probable that his kingdom will remain permanent and his fortunes unshaken, and the hand of the vicissitudes of time will not quickly snatch from him the gifts of favorable destiny.

On faith and justice that thy throne may rest,
Be all thy labor in their culture spent:
And let the world be with thy riches blest,
That thou be glad, and God with thee content.’

The King asked, ‘How must secrets be kept hid and from whom?’ Kárshinás replied, ‘The secrets of kings are of different degrees. Some are of such a nature that the king must keep them concealed—even from himself; that is to say, he must carry his concealment of them to such excess that, as one might say, he himself is not to be the confidant of them, how then could he give even a hint of them to others? And a sage has said, on this head,

‘That which should not be mentioned, in thy mind
Keep hidden, and that so rigidly,
That should thy heart long seek the thought to find,
The search may vain and unsuccessful be.’

And there are a few other secret matters in which the position of confidant may be imparted to two persons, and in others it may be extended to three, and it is allowable to go as far as four and five persons. But a secret which the mind may have conceived in the matter of the owls, admits not of being confided to more than four ears and two heads.’ After the King had heard these words he turned his face towards his cabinet, and having sent for his vazír Kárshinás, introduced the subject, and inquired, first, ‘What has been the cause of the hostility and what the reason of the enmity and spirit of rivalry between us and the owls?’ He replied, ‘In ancient times a crow uttered a speech, and the owls nourished a spite in their hearts on that account, and laid the foundation of hostility, and that quarrel and feud have continued to this day.’ The King asked, ‘How was that?’