She said, ‘They have related that a pious man had a house in the vicinity of a merchant, and lived happily through favor of his neighborly kindness. The merchant continually sold honey and oil, and made his profits by that traffic in unctuous and sweet commodities. Inasmuch as the pious man lived a blameless life, and ever sowed in the field of his guileless heart the seed of the love of God, the merchant reposed implicit confidence in him, and took the supply of his wants upon himself. And in this very thing is the use of riches,—to win over the hearts of the poor, and to raise up a perpetual provision from perishable wealth.

Win, O rich man! the heart’s love of the poor,
For golden treasures are a fleeting store.

The merchant, too, considering the opportunity of doing good a blessing, sent every day somewhat from the stock, in the buying and selling of which he was occupied, for the support of the Devotee. The latter used somewhat of this and stored up the rest in a corner. In a short time a jar was filled by these means. One day the pious man looked into that jar, and thought thus to himself, ‘Well, now! what quantity of honey and oil is collected in this vessel?’ At last he conjectured ten mans to be there, and said, ‘If I can sell these for ten dirams, I can buy for that sum five ewes, and these five will each have young every six months, and each will have two lambs. Thus in a year there will be twenty-five, and in ten years from their progeny there will be herds upon herds. So by these means I shall have an abundant supply, and will sell some, and lay in a handsome stock of furniture, and wed a wife of a noble family. After nine months, I shall have a son born to me, who will study science and polite manners. However, when the weakness of infancy is exchanged for the strength of youth, and that graceful cypress grows up in the garden of manhood, it is probable that he may transgress my orders, and begin to be refractory, and in that case it will be necessary for me to correct him, and I will do so with this very staff which I hold in my hand. He then lifted up his staff, and was so immersed in thought, that, fancying the head and neck of his rebellious son before him, he brought down the staff, and struck it on the jar of honey and oil. It happened that the jar was placed on a shelf, beneath which he sate with it facing him. As soon as his staff reached the jar, it broke it, and let out the honey and oil all over the head and face and vest and hair of the pious man.

And all these schemes at once dissolved away.

And I have adduced this tale in order that thou mayest know that with­out positive certainty it does not do to plunge into such projects as these, nor is it right to be led on by ‘Would that!’ and ‘Perhaps,’ and ‘Haply,’ and ‘It may be.’ They have said, too, that when any one takes ‘If,’ and ‘Perchance,’ for his partner, the offspring will be sure to be ‘Would that I had not!’

‘If,’ was to ‘It may be,’ in wedlock given,
The child that sprung from them, was, ‘Would to heaven!’

It behoves a wise man not to base his proceedings on mere imagination, nor to admit into his heart vain thoughts, which resemble the ill-omened temptations of the devil.

Long years we schemed that in time’s onward course,
Or thus, or thus, should be the issue—Then,
Our rule in such a region should have force,
Or gold or silver treasures meet our ken;
At length we learned that this was idle thought,
God’s will alone is to existence brought.’

The Devotee received this advice with the ear of his soul, and was roused from the sleep of self-deceit, and abandoning those words, no longer indulged in unwarrantable expectations. But when the time of gestation was con­cluded, and the period of the imprisonment of the fœtus in the womb was finished; a son of fair visage and lovely form was born, such that the tokens of beauty and accomplishments bespoke his perfection, and the signs of admir-able gifts shone and gleamed on the forehead of his condition. The Devotee beheld the morn of hope begin to smile from the dawning-place of desire, and the nightingale of his pleasure commenced singing on the rose-shrub of joy.

A fair gem from the boundless sea of Grace, was brought to light,
Upon the sky of Law divine a new star glittered bright.

The Devotee indulged in raptures at the beauty of his son, and fulfilled a variety of vows which he had made; and girding up his loins in attendance on his son’s cradle night and day, drew through other matters the pen of oblivion, and expended all his energies in [promoting] his growth and strength, and grace and freshness and vigor.

How long shall I on thee bestow my breath like morn’s young breeze?
That thou mayest blossom like a rose, to gladden and to please.

One day the mother of the child desiring to take a warm bath committed him, with many injunctions, to the care of his father, who, besides, had nothing else then to do. Some time passed, and a confidential person, sent by the king of the country, came to request his attendance, and there was no possibility of delay. He was, of necessity, compelled to go out of the house. Now they had an Ichneumon, in whose charge they left the house, and through him their minds were altogether set at ease; and he used to display the utmost exertion in ridding them of noxious reptiles, and beasts that bite or sting. The Devotee came out and left the Ichneumon with his son. To be short, no sooner had he left the house than a large snake shewed itself near the cradle. When the Ichneumon saw that dart-like, armour-wearing snake, and that malignant creature swift to wrath, which, when quiescent, assumes the shape of circle—that arrowy-paced reptile, which at times, like a curved bow, joins its extremities,*

Straight as a dart, anon, like buckler, round;
Anon in noose-like circles flows its form*;
No cloud within, two lightnings forked are found,*
No sea, but waves roll there—a mimic storm,

making for the cradle, and intending to kill the child, it leapt up, and seizing his throat, imprisoned him in the ring of the noose of death; and, by the blessed influence of its defence, the boy escaped from that whirlpool of destruction. Shortly after, the Devotee returned, and the Ichneumon, smeared with blood, ran to meet him, in exultation at having done a good deed. The Devotee imagined that it had killed his son, and that these stains were from his blood. The fire of wrath was kindled in the stove of his heart, and the smoke of precipitation entered the aperture of his brain; and his reason, through the murkiness of the fumes of rashness;—which like the cloud of tyranny, is the cause of darkening the world,—covered its face with the veil of concealment. Before inquiring into the matter, or examining into the real state of the case, he smote down his staff on the Ichneumon, and broke the vertebræ of its back, and knocked its head into the casket of its chest. But when he entered the house he beheld the child sleeping in safety in the cradle, and a huge serpent lying there torn in pieces. Then the smoke of remorse ascended from his heart, and he began to smite his breast with the stone of regret, and complaining and lamenting said,

Hereafter, I and grief are one, and every man this well must see,
For me to have a cheerful heart, impossible and strange would be.

Alas! that the fire of this distressing accident cannot be extinguished by the water of excuses, and that the dart of the shame of this troublous transaction will not be repelled by the shield of extenuation. What unjust action is this that I have committed! and what unsuitable act is this that my hands have done!

’Tis right that I my blood should drink, in shame for this distress,
’Tis fit that I my life resign for this unhappiness.

Would to God that this son had never come into existence from nonentity, and that I had not set my love and affections upon him! so that this innocent blood would not have been shed on this account, and I should not have happened to embark in this unholy business. And what answer shall I give to my Creator for this, that I have causelessly destroyed one that dwelt in the same house with me; and have slain the guardian of my home, and the protector of my beloved son, without reason? And what excuse can I offer to my fellow-creatures for this? And, hereafter, the chain of censure will not be removed from my neck, and the writing of infamy will never be obliterated from the page of my affairs.

My name an ensign is for all reproach and calumny,
Would that that name was lost, nor sign nor trace remained of me.’

The Devotee writhed under these thoughts, and wept piteously at this distress and affliction; and when his wife returned and beheld this state of things, she loosed the tongue of reproach and said,

‘These cruelties I never knew thee use.

Pray, is this thy thankfulness for the divine blessing in bestowing on thee thus, by an unusual mercy, a son in thine old age? and oughtest thou thus to show thy gratitude for God’s grace in delivering thy darling from the deadly wound of the snake?’ The Devotee, with a loud exclamation of sorrow, replied, ‘Dear friend! speak not to me thus,

For questions pang me, and replies abash.

I, too, am aware that I have been neglectful in the performance of the thanks due to God, and in the recognition of the value of His inestimable benefits; and that I have swerved from the straight path of patience, which is the road of those who travel in the way of ‘Let God alone be thy stay!’ And now, by reason of my impatience and unthankfulness, I am neither named in the register of the enduring, nor inscribed in the page of the grateful, and thy reproach at the present moment is like a sting inflicted on a part already wounded; or using salt as the ointment for a sore.

When lovers’ hearts are rent in pieces, tauntings, added to their woe,
Are like wounds with sabre given, which with the needle’s point they sew.’

The wife said, ‘Thou speakest truth, there is no advantage, now, in reproaches, and from this action that thou hast done, there is this experience to be gleaned, that the conclusion of rashness is repentance and shame; that levity and instability, in all matters, is reprehensible; and that he who acts precipitately, is sure to be excluded from his object.

From Ahraman* ill deeds and rashness came;
These pang the spirit and afflict the frame.

And thou art not the only one that has fallen into this snare and opened this door of mischief upon himself; for ere this, many such occurrences have happened, and innumerable similar incidents have taken place. Thus I have heard that a King put his unoffending Hawk to death, and for years his heart was consumed with the fire of regret, and his breast inflamed with the burning of repentance.’ The devotee asked, ‘How was that?’