He said, ‘They have related that an abstemious devotee purchased a fat sheep* for sacrifice, and having tied a string round its neck, was leading it towards his hermitage. On the way a party of thieves, observing the sheep, opened the eye of covetousness, and bound the loins* of trickery* and deceit, and stood in the recluse’s way. The Gurgání rogues felt their hungry appetites excited, but were unable to rush like tigers to clutch the prey; consequently, they had recourse to fox-like stratagem, and resolved to put the recluse in a hare’s sleep.* After much consideration, the opinions of all were unanimously given for a particular kind of trick, and they agreed that they would, by that trick, deceive the simple-minded and innocent devotee, and so get possession of the sheep. One of them then advanced to the recluse, and said, ‘O shekẖ! whence bringest thou this dog?’ And another passed by and said, ‘Whither art thou taking this canine animal?’ A third met him in front and exclaimed, ‘O shekh! what, dost thou intend to go hunting, that thou hast got a dog in thy hand?’ Another accomplice came up behind and asked, ‘O shekh! for how much didst thou purchase this dog?’ In the same way one after another, from every quarter and direction,—they came up to the shekh, and all agreed in saying the same words. One said, ‘This is a shepherd-dog.’ Another, ‘This is a herdsman’s dog.’ Another sneeringly cried, ‘And this man is in a religious garb; why does he pollute his hands and clothes with this dog?’ And another rebuked him, saying, ‘The holy man is leading this dog to educate him and show him honor for the sake of God.’ In this manner all the rogues uttered their wily remarks and all harped on the same string.*

His eyes they closed with their cajolings, while each a different tale repeats:
Thus of his heart the simple lover each by a different method cheats.

From the multiplication of these speeches doubt was engendered in the heart of the pious man, and he said, ‘Heaven forbid that the seller of this animal was a sorcerer, and by magic made a dog appear to me like a sheep! My best course is to let this dog go, and run after the seller and get back the money which I gave him as the price of the sheep.’ The unfortunate recluse then, from excessive simplicity, let go the sheep and started off after the seller, and that gang seized it and carried it off to their house, and without loss of time, forthwith slaughtered it. Thus, by means of that trick, the poor recluse lost the sheep and did not recover his money.

And I have brought forward this story, to show that we, too, should employ stratagem, since it is only by deceit and artifice that we can get the better of them.

When thou canst not in prowess match thy foe,
Do not aside, then, craft and shrewdness fling:
For if too strong for thee the mighty bow,
Thou mayest at least, by cunning, snap the string.’

King Pírúz said, ‘Bring forward what thou hast to suggest.’ Kárshínás replied, ‘I will devote myself to this enterprise. And they have decided that the destruction of one individual, which secures the existence and survival of a large number, is in accordance with reason and precept.* I think it advisable that the king, in the general assembly and meeting in which both high and low are convened, should be wroth with me and command them to pluck out my feathers and to cast me, smeared with blood and wounded, beneath that same tree, on the boughs of which are our nests. And let the king go with his whole army and encamp in such a place, and await my coming, in order that I may spread the net of deceit in their way, and having arranged my stratagem, may come and unfold whatever the crisis may require to be done.’ The king then issued from his cabinet, filled with wrath, and all his courtiers were in expectation as to what announcement would proceed from the private consultation of the king and the vazír, and to what initiatory measures their counsel and deliberation would give rise. When they found the king wrathful, they hung down their heads and pondered; and king Pírúz commanded that they should pluck out the feathers and tail of Kárshínás, and stain his head and feet with blood, and cast him underneath the tree. And the king himself with his army and retinue, set off for the place which had been appointed and agreed upon. By the time these things were done, the sun had set and the tire-woman of omni-potence had brought forward and displayed the brides of the stars upon the platform of the gem-ornamented heavens.

When the bright sun had vanished from the eye,
Dark night her squadrons marshaled in the sky.

Shabáhang, the king of the owls, was all day consulting with his vazírs to the effect that, ‘Since we have become acquainted with the crows’ abode, and have wounded and overthrown many of them, if this night another night-attack be made upon them, the day of their existence will be exchanged for the evening of death, and we shall pass two or three days in the corner of our cots in peace.

When foes are dead, one can live sweetly then.

But when night, which is the day of the market of the power and might of the owls, had robed itself with the garment of darkness and the apparel of sable hue, and had gained possession of the throne of dominion over the world, and the leader of the hosts of Zanzabár,* set up his black banner with the purpose of making an onslaught, by night, on the horsemen and tribe of the Tátárs,

An amber* mist was o’er earth’s surface spread,
And all Heaven’s cells with smoke were tenanted,

the king of the owls, with all his troops and followers, put to the vote the matter of the night-attack, and, as the assembly were unanimous for it, they marched towards the abode of the crows.

A conflict-seeking, mischief-stirring band,
All cruel, fearless, and athirst for blood;
Girding the loins of malice, fierce they stand,
And turn their hearts to stone in martial mood.

And when the army of the owls reached the abode of the crows, there was no trace to be found, nor intelligence got of them. The owls moved about in all directions in perplexity, and Kárshinás writhed beneath the tree, and uttered faint groans. An owl, hearing his voice, informed the king, and Shabáhang, with some owls who were his favorite courtiers, and the confidants of the secrets of the king, came to where he lay, and asked, ‘Who art thou? and what has befallen thee?’ Kárshinás declared his name, and that of his father,* and announced his office as vazír, and the nature of his abilities. The King said, ‘I know and have often heard accounts of thee. Now inform us where the crows are?’ He replied, ‘My state is a proof that I cannot possibly be in their secrets.’ Shabáhang demanded, ‘Since thou wast the vazír of the king of the crows, and master of his secrets, and consulted and confided in by him, through what perfidy has this disgrace been inflicted on thee? and by what crime hast thou deserved this punishment?’ Kárshinás replied, ‘My master became suspicious of me, and the envious found an opportunity of slandering me, until that happened to me which has happened, and my former services and previous devotion passed all at once into the expanse of annihilation.

For all my service, no reward, no thanks, were given to me,
O God! may never one beneath a thankless master be!’

Shabáhang inquired, ‘What was the cause of the king’s suspicion?’ He answered, ‘King Pírúz, after your night-attack, summoned his ministers and demanded counsel of each one of them as to this event which had happened, and the turn came to me. He said, ‘Point out a remedy for these circumstances which have happened, and devise some stratagem for averting this misfortune.’ I replied, ‘We have not strength to encounter the owls, for their valor in war exceeds that of ourselves, and their might and terribleness is greater than our prowess and the awe which we inspire. Moreover the reins of the steed of fortune are in the hands of the will of the owl-king, and the step of the throne of success is adorned with the star-reaching foot of their monarch, and to grapple in war with the possessor of happy auspices betokens disaster; and to boast of encountering the lord of prosperity which daily augments, forebodes an approaching downfall.

He who would battle to the prosperous give,
Strikes his own head off, as one fells a tree.
Elks that would in the haunt of lions live,
Will in their homes soon make a vacancy.

The advisable course is to despatch an envoy. If they light the torch of war, we must consume our houses with the flames of dispersion, and wander scattered in the corners of the world; and if they make peaceful advances, we will agree to any tax or tribute they may claim from us, and be grateful to them.

Would’st keep thy head from tribute, turn not back,
Else thou wilt both thy head and crown too lack.’

Our king was troubled and said, ‘What word is this that thou speakest? and how dost thou display all this boldness? Thou wouldest frighten me from making war upon the owls, and thou representest my army as of no weight compared with his followers!

Does the foe wish to draw the glittering steel?
Sharp will he find the point too of my dart.
If I the burning thirst for battle feel,
I’ll wring with anguish every foeman’s heart.’

I again loosed the tongue of advice and loyally and faithfully urged my remonstrances, saying, ‘O king! swerve not from the right path, nor plunge inconsiderately and without reflection into an affair, led on by the passions of thine own heart. Adopt a spirit of conciliation, for a powerful enemy may be soothed by courtesy and submission, and a refractory quarry may be netted by suavity and gentleness.

Fair words ensure in either world a peaceful blest repose,
Be kind and courteous to your friends and humble to your foes.*

And in accordance with this sentiment is the operation of a furious wind, from which the feeble grass escapes safely on account of its humility, while the tree of many branches, on account of its roughness and obstinacy is torn up by the roots.

Strive not, for heaven with stubbornness is rife,
And to the stubborn stops the road of strife.

The crows were incensed at my admonitions, and accused me of cherishing a partiality for the owls, and of deserting my own race. The king, led by the words of my enemies, turned aside from my counsel and wounded me in the manner ye behold, and I observed that their purpose was war, and in preparing a stratagem to repel you.’ When the king of the owls had heard the words of Kárshinás, he asked one of his vazírs, saying, ‘What thinkest thou should be done with this crow?’ He replied, ‘There is no occasion to think about it. We must clear the face of the earth as soon as possible from the foulness of his principles,* and consider it a vast pleasure and complete gain, and we must not let slip the opportunity of slaying him, viewing it as a blessing than which we shall obtain no greater; and in these half-extinct embers I see a fire whose flame it would be impossible to quench.

God save us from this flame if it should once more gather strength.

And whoever lets slip an opportunity; after he has once lost the power, never recovers it again, and it is most probable that his regrets will be afterwards unavailing. And he who finds his enemy weak and alone, will do well to free himself of him; for if his foe escape from that peril, he will gather strength and provide means, and lie in wait for vengeance.

If thy foe scape thee, thou art lost, be sure;
His freedom from thy chain will thee enthrall.
Would’st thou from his annoyance be secure,
Then spare him not, if in thy power he fall.

Forbid it Heaven! that the king should heed his words or listen to his soul-consuming spell, for the wise have said, ‘To rely on an untried friend is far removed from a rational procedure; what confidence, then, should be placed in a deceitful and malicious enemy?

Since e’en on friends we cannot here depend,
To a foe’s words what credit can we lend!’

Kárshinás having overheard somewhat of this discourse, wept sadly, and exclaimed,

‘My heart e’en now is sad and wounded sore,
Then on my wound make not one puncture more.’

These words made an impression on the heart of the owl-king, and he turned away his face from that vazír and demanded of another, ‘What sayest thou?’ He replied, ‘I cannot give my sentence for his execution, for a magnanimous man, when he finds his enemy weak and helpless, ought mercifully to alleviate his distress, and display to mankind his own virtues by the manifestation of pardon and beneficence; and quarter ought to be shown to a panic-stricken suppliant, and the hand reached out to a miserable and fallen being.

No barrier to the good man’s path oppose,
And, if thou standest, raise thy fallen foes.

And there are certain things which soften a man towards his enemy, as the fear of the thief made the Merchant’s Wife kind to her husband.’ The king inquired, ‘How was that?’