He said, ‘They have related that in the wilderness of Bard’a, there was a tree, which in height surpassed all trees, and was pre-eminent in the forest by its size and firmness.

Trees that bear fruit best decorate
The garden, and enrich its state.

And under the tree was the hole of a Rat of greedy nature and subtle disposition, sagacious and sharp-witted, who by a single deliberation could loose a thousand knots of difficulty, and in a half-instant could devise a hundred various artifices.

Rich in expedients and in juggling lore,
That rat saw schemes a hundred years before.

And in the neighbourhood of that tree, a Cat, too, had its abode, and sportsmen used very frequently to resort thither and spread their nets in the vicinity. One day a hunter spread his net close to that tree, and fastened a little flesh in the front of it. The greedy Cat, unaware of that circumstance, came on the scent towards the flesh, and, before its teeth could reach it, its neck was caught in the meshes of the net.

’Tis greed that does enmesh all living; greed
That makes us follow most unrighteous gain;
Greed robs all creatures of the rest they need,
And steeps their being in perpetual pain.

In short, the Rat, too, in quest of food, came from its hole, and cast its eyes cautiously all around, and looked to the right and left, and down and up. Suddenly its eyes lighted on the Cat; but although its sight waxed dim on beholding it and its hope of old age and continued existence was attenuated, it was nevertheless not dismayed,* and looked well in that direction. It then observed that the Cat was entangled in the bonds of calamity, and returned heartfelt thanks to the sportsman, and expressed its gratitude for the captivity of the Cat. All at once it perceived an ichneumon crouching in ambush, and with the arrow of attack fitted to the bow of preparation. It then turned towards a tree and beheld a raven, which from the top of the tree meditated pouncing upon it. So the Rat was overpowered with terror and fear, and dismay and dread got the mastery over it.

Ah! for my hapless fortune! onward, still,
It leads me where I find a greater* ill.

The Rat bethought himself, ‘If I advance, the Cat will seize me, and if I go back the ichneumon will fasten on me, and if I stop where I am, the raven will pounce on me. What shall I do, then, in this calamitous position? and by what stratagem avert this danger? To whom shall I tell my distressful story? and from whom seek a medicine for my irremediable woe?

I have no confidant from whom to ask advice in my affairs,
No sympathiser whom to tell my weary bosom’s cares.

Now the doors of calamity are open, and the road to the halting-place of safety very far and distant. Various perils have unveiled their face, and the path of retreat is closed. Yet, notwithstanding all this, I must keep up my heart and fix my eyes on the road of liberation, for the cup-bearer, fortune, if he sometimes gives us to taste a draught of the beverage of our desire, at other times mixes the poison of his wrath with the sharbat of happiness.

Fate’s cup-bearer changes often, thou thy sorrows then assuage,
Now he gives the wine of favor, now the bitter dregs of rage.

A man of firm courage is he who does not suffer his lip to laugh with joy when arraying himself in the robe of good-fortune, nor permits the eye of grief to shed the tear of regret at drinking the draught of trouble.

Grieve not, nor let thy heart be glad at this world’s joy or sorrow,
For know! the scene that now seems fixed, aye changes on the morrow.

Now, there is no better refuge for me in this whirlpool of calamity, than the shade of good sense, nor any kinder friend than the teacher of wisdom. And whoever possesses a strong mind, does not allow terror to find access to it, nor suffers dread and alarm to encompass his heart. And from the saying of the sages, it is to be learned that the minds of men of understanding should be like the sea, the measure of the depth of which cannot be known, and whose bottom can only be reached by divers of experience. And whatever secret or confidential things fall into it, they never reappear, and, however vast the torrent of calamity and disaster which flows into it, its capacity is sufficient to contain it, and the signs of discoloration are not perceptible in it. For if trouble reach such a point as to obscure the understanding, and despondency affect the mind to such a degree that the intellect is overpowered, men become incapable of deliberation, and the advantageous influences of experience and sagacity fail them.

That man is firm whose will no shocks can break,
Though round the earth he wander like the sky.
Him, like the Símurgh, tempests cannot shake,
His stubborn thoughts the hurricane defy.
Nor like the sparrow at the feeble breath
Of puny blow-pipe will he sink to death.

But whoever permits a variety of doubts to find way to him, and suffers the suggestions of ‘Perhaps’ and ‘Perchance’ to agitate his bosom, the basis of his counsel is ruined, and the market of his deliberations and reflections is marred. Let him look as much as he will into the mirror of his heart, inasmuch as it is disturbed and darkened by the rust of doubt, he cannot see in it the face of his desired object, and however much he peruses the tablet of reflection, as the eye of his vision is dimmed by the ophthalmia of vain fancies, he cannot read from it the writing of his wish. And on this head an eminent authority has said,

‘Strive to be resolute; half measures shun:
For from weak doubts, a hundred dangers rise.
A firm mind mirrors clear what’s to be done,
But troubled waters cheat the gazers’ eyes.’

No measure will suit me better than to make peace with the Cat, for in the extremity of danger he stands in need of my assistance; and just as I see a prospect of being delivered from these perils by his aid, so he, too, will be rescued from that imprisonment by my help and friendly offices. Now if the Cat will listen to my words with the ear of understanding, and will make use of a wise discrimination, and place confidence in the sincerity of what I say, and not impute it to cunning hypocrisy and deceit, and believe it pure of the evil mixture of wiliness and imposture, and the disgrace of dissimulation and interested motives, we may both effect our escape through the blessing of uprightness and unanimity, and my other enemies, being disappointed of their expectations, will go, each of them, about his business.*

When friends are with us, bid our foemen wait.’

Then, after these reflections, the Rat approached the Cat, and asked him what was the matter? The Cat answered in a doleful voice,

‘We grieve,—bear witness to our inward pangs,
Parched lip, and drop that from our eyelid hangs.

I have a body imprisoned in the fetters of distress, and a heart consumed with the flame of suffering and affliction.’ The Rat replied,

‘I have a secret, but to tell thee it,*
Time presses, and I find no season fit.’

The Cat said, with the utmost humility, ‘Utter without ceremony whatever occurs to thy mind, and it behoves thee not to admit of any delay by sup­pressing it.’ The Rat answered, ‘Never did any hearer hear aught from me but the truth, and falsehoods meet with no acceptance in men’s hearts.* Know, therefore, that I have always rejoiced at thy distress, and have ever regarded thy disappointment as the source of my own happiness; and my prayers have always been expended for thy loss and ruin. To-day, however, I am thy partner in misfortune, and I have projected a means of escape for myself, which involves thy release also; and for this cause I am now thy friend, and knock at the door of reconciliation.

This friendship mingles selfish ends, ’tis true;
Yet ends that good to thee, not harm, will do.

And it cannot remain hidden from thy understanding and sagacity that I am now speaking the truth, and that in speaking thus I can have no feeling of treachery, nor any bad intention. Moreover I will produce two witnesses to the sincerity of my purpose; one is the ichneumon, which is crouching in ambush behind me, and the other the raven, which is on the look-out for me at the top of the tree, and both of them have the same object, that is my destruction.* As soon, however, as I draw nigh to thee their hopes will be averted from me, and the desire of each of them will be altogether cut off. If thou wilt set my mind at ease, and give me a solemn promise sufficient to tranquilize my heart, I will escape under the shadow of thy good-fortune. Thus both my object will be attained and thy bonds too will be severed.

This fact will benefit both me and thee.’

The Cat, after hearing these words, fell into thought, and was immersed in a sea of reflection, wishing to measure all the sides and parts of this discourse with the step of consideration, and to test the purity of this pro-position with the touchstone of deliberation. The Rat saw that time pressed excessively, and that the Cat was busying himself with prudential con­siderations. He therefore called out, ‘Listen to my words, and rely on the goodness of my disposition, and the purity of my intentions, and, accepting my kindness, no longer delay. For a wise man does not suffer himself to hesitate in action, and regards procrastination in important matters as inadmissible.

Be not remiss, but prize the time to act.

Just as I rejoice in thy fidelity, do thou also be pleased [at the opportunity of] prolonging my existence; for the deliverance of each of us is dependant on the surviving of the other; and my case and thine is exactly like that of the boat and the boatman, for the boat reaches the shore by the exertions of the boatman, and the boatman performs his business with the aid of the boat. Now, my sincerity will be shewn by trying it, and my haste is simply lest the opportunity be lost.

I fear that fate will give no respite more.

And I think that it is clear to thy heart that my words are not wanting in corresponding deeds, and that my actions preponderate over my promises. Now I have given a promise of friendship, and I will faithfully perform it, and do thou also nod thy head in assent, and declare thy compliance.

Sign, for our eyes attend expectant now,
Upon the corners of that archèd brow.’

The Cat hearkened to the words of the Rat, and beholding the beauty of truth on the pages of his condition, rejoiced, and said to the Rat, ‘Thy words seem true, and from the tenor of thy discourse comes the odor of sincerity. I therefore accept this compact, and listen with the ear of my soul to the word of God, (may His Name be glorified!) who said, ‘Peace is good,’ and I will not overstep the purport of this saying,

‘While peace is possible, so long, knock not
Upon war’s door, and while thou mayest seek
For honor, shun an ignominious lot.
Break not love’s ewer, but to all be meek.’

And I hope that by the auspicious influence of sincere friendship both parties will be liberated, and I take upon myself the duty of requiting and recompensing this favour, and accept the obligation of being thankful to all time for this kindness. And I, too, after the same fashion that thou hast promised, plight my troth, and my hope is,

To quite fulfil this promise I have made.

Now, say what I must do, and how I must conduct myself towards thee?’ The Rat replied, ‘When I approach thee thou must observe towards me the utmost reverence and becoming respect, that my foes, by observing that, may be acquainted with the confirmation of the ties of social converse and sincere friendship between us, and may so retire baffled and discomfited. Then I, with my mind free from care, will remove the bonds from thy feet.’ The Cat assented to this arrangement, and the Rat advanced with the utmost confidence. Then the Cat displayed all the forms of friendly and respectful salutation, and addressed him most cordially, and observed towards him a variety of courtesies and ingratiating and flattering ceremonies. When the ichneumon and raven beheld this state of things, they abandoned all thoughts of making prey of the Rat and departed. As soon as the Rat, owing to the protection of the Cat, was delivered from those two perilous enemies, he began to sever the bonds, and fell into reflection how to escape from the mesh of a third calamity, and he commenced his work slowly. The Cat sagaciously discerned that the Rat had fallen into long and protracted thought. He feared lest he should make off without severing the meshes, and leave him tied by the leg. He therefore began to expostulate with him in a friendly manner, and said, ‘Thou hast soon become weary, and my confidence in the fervor of thy professions and the goodness of thy disposition was very opposite to this. Now that thou hast gained thy object, and hast been successful in the wish of thy heart, thou seemest to be lax in fulfilling thy engagements, and art meditating some means of evading the discharge of thy obligations. For my part, I have long known that fidelity is a medicine not to be found in the shop of the druggists of this age; and that sincerity is a gain not to be met with in the treasures of the present time; and that good faith is a second Símurgh, of which but the name exists; and that gratitude resembles the philosopher’s stone, the truth of which no one has ever ascertained.

Seek not fidelity. From none thou wilt now hear its name:
To search for the elixir or the Símurgh were the same.’

The Rat answered, ‘God forbid that I should mark the face of my con­dition with the brand of infidelity, and enter the good name, which I have through so long an interval acquired, in the volume of the breakers of promises. I well know that fidelity is the ladder of ambition, and the provision for the road of happiness. It is an elixir which transmutes black earth into gold, and a collyrium which imparts sight to the eye of the blind. The nostril of every soul which has not snuffed up the scent of faithfulness has no share in the perfumes of the odoriferous plants of good qualities, and the eye of every heart which has not beheld sincerity, is devoid of participating in the sight of the rays of amiable natures.

Dirt fill the head, void of the brain of faith!’

The Cat said, ‘As thou art thus sensible that good faith is the tire-woman of the bride of affection, and the mole of the cheek of beauty and comeliness, it behoves thee, too, to adorn the cheek of thy condition with this cosmetic. For no bird of the heart will warble among the branches of the affection of that garden, in which the plant of fidelity does not grow, and no cheek which is destitute of the mole of good faith will receive a single glance from any intelligent person. And hence they have said,

‘She who combines not love with constancy,
Delights me not, though Eden’s nymph she be.’

And whoever is not clothed with the garment of fidelity, and does not fulfil the promise which he plights, will meet with what that Farmer’s Wife met with!’ The Rat asked, ‘How was that?’