He said, ‘They have related that a lion had become afflicted with the mange. Together with constant fever, he was worn out with itchy torments, and at last by reason of the irritation, the numberless thorns of disquietude pierced his heart and his vigor flagged, and abandoning all motion, he relinquished the pleasures of the chase. Now in this lion’s service was a fox, who used to gather up the scraps from his table, and the remnants of his repast, and who gained strength and food from the blessing of his leavings. When the lion was unable to pursue the chase, the affairs of the fox came to distress. One day from the meagreness of the supplies and the overpowering violence of hunger, he began to reproach the lion, and said, ‘O king of beasts! anxiety for thy indisposition, has made the beasts of this jungle sad, and the lassitude of thy state and the impression of thy despondency, pervade all thy attendants, nay, the whole body of thy subjects.

A hundred thousand beings tremble for thy life,
Shocked at thy failing strength, a world with care is rife.

Wherefore dost thou not apply some remedy to this disease, and direct attention to the cure of this heart-tormenting pain?’ The lion, groaning with pain, said,

‘A thorn lies buried in my heart, no needle can remove it thence;
And lo! my heart is changed to blood, and nought can dull its aching sense.*

O fox! I have now a long time suffered agonies* from this cruel disease, and from this itching I waste away daily. My body from attenuation has become like a hair, and not a hair is left upon it; and I know not how to cure this illness, or how to allay these sufferings. A physician, in whose words I have complete confidence, has, indeed, lately pronounced that I must eat the ears and heart of an Ass, and that all other remedies will be unavailing. Since then I have been rendered anxious by the thought how this wish can be accomplished, and by what stratagem of my friends I can obtain this desired object.’ The fox replied, ‘If the royal command is condescendingly uttered, I that am the nearest of the attendants of the court will gird up the waist of inquiry and step forward on the road of search, and my hope is that by the blessing of the imperial auspices and the happy influence of the perpetual fortune of the king, what is desired will be gained.’ The lion asked, ‘What kind of artifice hast thou imagined? and what device hast thou read from the volume of imposture?’ The fox answered, ‘O king! it occurs to me that it is impossible for you to issue forth from this jungle; since, after your body has been denuded of hair, and the gloriousness of your beauty, and the majesty of your appearance, have suffered some deterioration; to move out and exhibit yourself to friends and strangers would be injurious to the royal dignity and kingly awe. Wherefore, the advisable course appears to me to be this, that I should bring the object of your desire into this jungle, in order that the king of the beasts may tear him to pieces, and at pleasure eat that which he may desire.’ The lion replied, ‘Whence wilt thou bring him?’ The fox answered, ‘In the vicinity of this wilderness there is a spring of water, which from its abundance resembles the sea of ’Umán,* and by its sweetness and purity represents the fountain of life.

Its ripples pure as beauty’s cheek,
Its waves of life’s own sweetness speak.

And a washerman comes there every day to wash clothes, and an Ass, which carries burthens for him, grazes daily around that spring. Perhaps I may, by a stratagem, lead him to this jungle. Let the king, however, vow that, after eating his heart and ears, he will bestow the rest as alms on the other beasts.’ The lion vowed and promised accordingly, and confirmed his words with an oath; and the fox, in hopes of a plentiful feast, directed his steps towards the spring of water, and as soon as he saw the Ass at a distance he performed the customary salutations, and began to address him in a soft voice, and politely opened the path of conversation.

With honied tongue, and language soft and fair,
Thou mayst conduct a mammoth* with a hair.

He then asked, ‘What is the cause that I see thee suffering and lean?’ The Ass replied, ‘This washerman is constantly imposing work on me, and neglects to take care of me; I perish of distress for forage, and he cares not a grain for it; and the harvest of my life is almost carried away by the wind of extinction, and he takes not so much account of it as of a blade of grass.

I’ve got no kind friend to supply my famine;
Of hay and barley I ne’er heard the name e’en.
Under this load each day my blood devouring,
I with my tongue, all night, the walls am scouring.
Reproach me not, then, if I’m lean and wasted.
For blood and dirt are all the food I’ve tasted.’

The fox replied, ‘O simpleton! thou hast feet and the power of moving; why, then, dost thou choose this drudgery, and why tarry thus miserably beset?’ The Ass rejoined, ‘I am a notorious bundle-carrier, and go where I will there is no getting free of this toil. Besides, I am not the only ass especially devoted to this labor: all my brethren are overtaken in the same troubles, and groan under the like burthens.

Each has of pain his fated portion: none
Can by free passport this allotment shun.

And after much consideration I have come to the firm conclusion that since the cup of trouble is to be quaffed everywhere, and the garment of vexation and endurance of suffering to be put on in all places, I must rest quiet in the house of some one, and not endure the reproach of fickleness for a life which, as it passes, disappoints our expectations.

‘Tis naught to wander on from door to door.’

The fox said, ‘Thou art wrong,

Thou canst not die of famine, for I’m here.

In accordance with the text, ‘Verily God’s earth is spacious,’* to the earth’s plain ample space has been given; and the royal mandate, ‘Go through the earth,’* was sent down for those who suffer oppression and endure tyranny.

Go! travel, should thy station please thee not,
Thither to move from hence is no disgrace.
And if too narrow be on earth thy lot,
The earth God made is no contracted space.’

The Ass said, ‘Let one go where he will, he will obtain no more than what is destined. Wherefore, to choose to be covetous, and on the top of other loads to undertake voluntarily the hardships of travel, is far removed from what is reasonable.

The allotted portion reaches every seeker. So
Our own impatience is our trouble’s spring.
God’s blessings freely to all creatures flow;
His hands to all the destined bounty bring.’

The fox said, ‘These words have reference to an exalted state of reliance on God, and every one is not able to attain this rank. The command of the Lord God (may His name be glorified!) was on that account issued, that in this world of causes, subsistence should be conveyed to each by the inter­vention of some means, and the Causer of Causes, in respect to each one of those who subsist by Him, displays in a different manner the means of supply.

Strive thou to earn—all earners are God’s friends.

And if thou art content I will take thee to a meadow, the ground of which, like the houses of the vendors of jewels, is adorned and lustrous with the radiance of a variety of gems, while its air, like the tray of the perfumer, is aromatized and scented by its fragrant breeze with the odor of the purest musk.*

Its air delightsome, and its plains wide-spread,
Its trees fruit-burthened, and their branches green:
The rose breathes fragrant, and the dove o’erhead,
Murmurs its wooings soft;—as when, between
Two lovers, vows are pledged, where parting long has been.

And before to-day I have given advice to another ass, and led him to that Eden-like spot, and at this moment he walks proudly, at perfect ease, in the expanse of freedom from care, and feeds in happiness and health in the garden of security and peace.’ In short, the fox, employing his subtle language, used such wheedlings, and uttered such cajolings, that the bread of his deceit was baked in the oven of imposture, and the cauldron of the Ass’s desire began to boil with vain longing, and he said, ‘It is not right to turn aside from thy directions, which spring from pure friendship and compassion, nor allowable to disregard thy injunctions, which are the essence of kindness and commiseration.

Whate’er thou biddest, with my life I’ll do.’

The fox went first, and brought him near the lion, who, from excessive eagerness, sprang at him at once, and inflicted a wound on him, but owing to excessive weakness, failed of his object. The Ass turned to flight, and the fox, astonished at the feebleness of the lion, began to reproach him, saying, ‘Well now! what was the advantage of uselessly tormenting an animal? and what end has been served from being hasty in a matter, the opportunity for commencing which was not fleeting away? Prudence required thee to restrain thyself, and firmness of purpose pointed out to thee not to relinquish the hold on the reins of option, so as not to repent in the end.

Of what avail repentance now, when things have passed beyond thy power?’

These words annoyed the lion, and he thought to himself, ‘If I admit that I have not kept a guard on my actions, I shall lay myself open to the charge of unsteadiness and want of fixed purpose; and if I shall have recourse* to the temptations of appetite as my apology, I shall be branded with greediness and levity and rashness; and if I acknowledge my want of strength, the imputation of weakness and impotence follows, and sundry bad consequences, which are not for the public good, will result therefrom. My advisable course is not to reply to the fox, save roughly and with asperity, and to prohibit him from speaking thus in future.’ He then said, ‘It is exces­sively disrespectful for subjects to inquire into, or pry after, the recondite intention of what kings do, whatever that may be.

Submissive bow thy head; why meddle thou with this or that?
What has the poor faḳír to do with mandates of the autocrat?

And the real circumstances of the actions of kings cannot be known to every one of their servants. The capacity of subjects is unable to comprehend that which the judgment of monarchs requires, [as it is said] ‘None but their beasts carry their burthens.’

Not to poor quails the falcon’s craw belongs.

Cease this questioning, and employ some stratagem that the Ass may come back, and thus the sincerity of thy faith and the excess of thy friendship will be manifest to me, and thou wilt be distinguished by my favorable notice and favor above thy peers and fellows.’ Thereupon the fox went again to the Ass, and with the utmost courtesy went through the customary benedictions and salutations. The Ass turned away his face and said,

‘’Twere shame to suffer for a friend like thee,
Who, faithless, dost but aim at treachery.

O worthless deceiver! thou didst begin by promising me my freedom; and in the end thou broughtest me into the claws of the lion.

This action could arise from none but thee.’

The fox replied, ‘O simple one! what fancy hast thou formed, and what thought hast thou suffered to pass through thy mind? The instant thou sawest the talisman, thou wast scared from the pursuit of the treasure; and, before thou didst behold the asperity of the thorn, thou didst relinquish the spectacle of the garden. Know that what thou sawest is a talisman, which sages have made and excogitated by way of caution, on account of the beasts and reptiles which repose in this spot; because this meadow is adorned with a variety of delicious viands, and a diversity of exquisite fruits. And did this magic spell not exist, wherever there is a beast in the world, it would come to this place, and the affairs of the inhabitants of this wilderness would become embarrassed; and now, on account of this talisman, a great variety of animals do not resort to this secluded haunt; but each one that comes hither, and beholds this shape and appearance which thou sawest, hovers no more about this meadow. Thus the inhabitants of this wilderness pass their time in freedom from care, and in happiness. And we impart to every one, for whom we have a friendship, the mystery of this talisman; and we make known the true state of this enchantment, which is nothing but mere show, to him, in order that, without fear of distraction, he may attain to these incalculable blessings.

‘What,’ quoth the Fox, ‘a lion seems to be,
Is but a talisman and witchery;
For I, of weaker frame than thou art, still
There night and day feed safely at my will.
And, but for that vain phantom’s groundless fear,
Each suffering wretch would fly for refuge here.

And I intended to warn thee beforehand, that if thou shouldest see any­thing of the kind thou shouldest not be afraid. But I was so transported at meeting thee that it escaped my memory. Now that thou hast full know-ledge of that empty form, come back, since my directions will issue only in thy honor.’ In this manner he tempted and cajoled the unfortunate Ass till he trod again the path of folly; and, beguiled by his seductive persuasions, proceeded towards that jungle. The fox went before him, and having con­veyed to the lion the good tidings of the Ass’s approach, besought him not to move from his place, and not to step beyond the circle of dignified repose. Nay, he desired him not to heed the Ass at all, however near he might pass by him until he should get full power and a good opportunity to accomplish his purpose. The lion heartily assented to the fox’s advice, which was so loyally given, and stood on his feet in a corner of the jungle like a magical figure without life. Then the fox said to the Ass, ‘Come here! that thou mayest see the real truth of this enchantment, and mayest know that it is altogether incapable of motion, and devoid of all idea of doing mischief. The Ass advanced boldly, and however near he grazed to the lion he did not see him move in the least. By gentle degrees he became accustomed to him, and gradually grew familiar with him; and being altogether at his ease, with reference to him, fell to work with the grass. Then the luckless Ass, who had suffered a long time from insatiable hunger, on now beholding the table of invitation spread before him, and on finding the tray of dainties ready, began to eat, and did not pull the rein until he reached the boundary of repletion. When he was quite full he lay down before the enchanted lion in the middle of the meadow. Thereupon the lion, finding him off his guard, made a spring and tore open his belly. This done, he said to the fox, ‘Keep watch! till I go to the spring of water and perform my ablutions, after which I will eat the heart and ears of the Ass, since the physicians have prescribed them as the remedy of this disease.’ The lion accordingly turned in the direction of the fountain, and the fox ate up the heart and ears of the Ass, which were the daintiest parts of him. When the lion had finished the requisite ablutions, and had returned, however much he searched for the heart and ears, he could not find a trace of them. He then said to the fox, ‘Where are these two parts, which are to cure me, gone? and who has taken them away?’ The fox replied, ‘May the king live for ever! this Ass had neither ears nor heart, for had he had a heart, which is the place of the reason, he would not have been deceived by my artifices; and had he had ears, which are the organs of hearing, he would, after having had ocular demonstration of the terrors of your majesty, have distinguished my false words from the truth, and would not have come with his own feet to the edge of the grave.’

And I have adduced this story in order that thou mayest know that I am not without heart and ears; and thou hast not omitted any refinement of artifice, but by my own penetration and sagacity I have found thee out, and I have exerted myself much, so that when affairs had become perilous, they were smoothed again; and life which had reached the lip, again shed the radiance of animation over my frame.

Wounded, ’twas not my fate by thee to die;
Else thy stern heart failed nought in cruelty.

And hereafter hope not for companionship with me, and relinquish the idea of my return, which belongs to the impossibilities, and rest assured that,

Wert thou the moon, I’d gaze less on the sky;
The cypress wert thou, I’d the garden quit:
Hung it on thee, I’d life itself not buy;
Thy name I’ll ne’er recall, nor think of it.’

The Tortoise answered, ‘Thou sayest the truth, and it is all one whether I protest or deny. I own I have inflicted on thy heart a wound, which, as long as existence lasts, cannot be salved. And the brand of perfidy and cruelty has so set its stamp on my countenance, that its erasion enters not into the area of possibility. I feel that I must make up my mind to quaff the bitter beverage of separation, and must oppose my body like a shield, to the poisoned sword of parting.

’Twere fit that I in bloody tears should lie,
That I so true a friend have cast away;
Whoe’er himself so wrecked his hopes as I?
Who thus his ruin did himself assay?
Though all my life I would forgiveness win,
I could not purchase pardon for this sin.’

Thus he spake and downcast and shame-stricken turned back, and during the rest of his life he bewailed his separation from such a friend, and said,

Fate wrote this cruel treatment in my loved companion’s lot,
Else, heaven forbid!—the thought of wrong in my breast harbored not.

This is the history of one who, having acquired wealth or secured a friend, loses him through folly or neglect, and so falls into perpetual remorse; and however much he beats his head on a stone, or a stone on his head, it is all in vain. It behoves men of understanding to make the instructions of this story the guide of their conduct, and to set a high value on a desired object when it is gained, whether it be worldly substance or a soul-bound friend. Whatever of this nature is let slip is not to be re-acquired by wishing, and regret and chagrin will prove unavailing.

Prize high a wished-for object, when ’tis won;
Nor let it slip, lest thou shouldst feel regret.
Full many a spendthrift, when his gold is done,
Must under want’s stern trials, cashless, fret.
For by-gone treasures back shall ne’er return,
Though clothes be rent and hearts with anguish burn.