Story of the Two Partridges.

ONCE upon a time two partridges dwelt together in the closest intimacy—like two souls in one body, or like two bodies in one shirt; and between them was neither duality nor separation. In their vicinity lived a hawk, that from morning to night preyed on young partridges, and that occasioned the male bird constant apprehension, for he was a troublesome and meddle­some neighbour. When you buy a house anywhere, first take care to examine well its neighbourhood. This hawk was ever on the watch, and never allowed a young bird to escape, while the parents were in continual terror, and scarcely ventured to thrust their heads out of the nest. One night the male partridge proposed to his wedded partner that they should leave their home, saying: “I will go to the confines of Ray to escape the oppression of this bird of evil omen. There will I provide a home, and collect corn and grain. I have there two relations, who are my friends. Do thou, too, follow me thither, for this is no home, but a prison—a net.” His mate shed tears, while he continued: “Follow after me to those friends; for no one would, for the sake of his own ease, expose his family to destruction.”

While they were thus conversing, the hoopoe paid them an unexpected visit. “What has happened,” inquired he; “and why is the good-wife weeping?” They detailed to him their circumstances, the annoy­ance occasioned by their neighbour, and their resolu­tion of removing. The hoopoe observed: “In Ray there prevails a pestilence; it is the abode of plague, of misery, and woe. I have visited the most distant confines of the earth, and have seen something of every country you can mention. Do not imagine that there is in the whole earth a spot of security and peace like Shīrāz—whose very rubbish and thorns are pleasanter than roses; whose every pebble is a ruby, and whose dust is gold! Musalla,* with the stream of Ruknābād flowing through it, is a paradise, with Kauthar* in the midst. Sweet, too, is the air of its Ja'farābād,* whose breezes perform the work of the Messiah.* In the environs of that amber-scented city* there is a pleasure-ground like Paradise, in which is a delightful fountain, resembling the Fountain of Life. There partridges are abundant, hence it is called the Fountain of Partridges. Beyond it is another fountain, which you might suppose to be that of Kauthar. In that quarter a single ear of corn yields two stacks. A cousin of mine is the shaykh of the district. Still further on is the City of the Peacock, where you might stop a few days.”

When the partridge heard this, he smiled, and said to the hoopoe: “O bird, full of understanding! in this desert of grief you are the Khizar* of my path; well have you spoken, and you are indeed my friend!” Then embracing him closely, he bade him adieu, and set out on his journey, accompanied by his spouse. The delighted partridge ceased not smiling with joy at his escape from his bad neighbour. He ate not— drank not—but travelled on from morn to night—from even till morn. Thus he proceeded till he reached the place of security, and beheld from the top of a mountain the Stream of Birds. Then did his mate exclaim to him: “Gratitude and praise! thanks without bound or limit! It is indeed a blessed abode—a charming spot! In this delightful retreat they fixed their habitation, and sorrow had now given place to happiness. The joy of youth—the season of spring— an affectionate mistress, and the margin of a stream; this is the new-wine of life—and more needs not— happy he who has this within his reach!

The happy day on which the pair arrived at that spot was the night of the middle of the month Āzar (i.e. vernal month). On every bush roses were blow­ing; on every branch a nightingale was plaintively warbling. The tall cypress was dancing in the garden; and the poplar never ceased clapping its hands with joy! With loud voice, from the top of every bough of the willow, the turtle-dove was proclaiming the glad advent of spring! The diadem of the narcissus shone with such splendour, that you would have said it was the crown of the emperor of China! On this side, the north wind, on that, the west were, in token of affec­tion, scattering dirhams at the feet of the rose. The earth was musk-scented; the air musk-laden!*

Two affectionate and loving friends find themselves at home wherever they go. The relations of the male partridge and the neighbours heard of his arrival, and hastened to visit him. One kissed his face, another brushed from his plumage the dust of the journey. Such affection did they conceive for each other, that they were never apart: all day, wandering about desert and country; all the year, roaming joyously without a care. I need not say that no cultivated fields or houses were there; that there was no night attack, or plunder, or ravaging; for not even a land-measurer passed that way; no burner of (the herb) alkali came there to give any one a headache. As the father did not wrong the son, the son sought not to take his father's life. As the daughter used not violence towards her mother, brother did not deprive brother of eyesight. Happy that time, those days, that age! when none had a quarrel with his neighbour. The world being then free from the ills of strife, the eye of the arrow saw not the face of the bow.

Thus passed some years over them, during which care or grief visited them not. But triumph not, O friend, in prosperity; still look forward to the evening and the night of grief. Bid the young think of the sorrows of age; let the aged reflect on the sufferings of death. There chanced to come on such a year of drought, that it was impossible to procure a drop of water from the fountains, and a hundred ears of corn yielded not a single grain. Locusts drank from the cup of every one. Not merely the store of the poor was exhausted, but even the granary of kings was empty. People went to Egypt and to Syria to procure corn, as in the time of Joseph (on whom be peace!). When the eye of the partridge awoke from sleep, he found himself destitute of provision. His mate said: “It matters not; let us practise devotion, and be satisfied with what little there may be. It is better to be content with barley-bread than to carry one's request before the king.” The male partridge replied: “You pass your days in difficulty; yet sorrow not, for grief as well as joy will pass away. Six days' journey off is the City of the Peacock; there, perhaps, corn may be procured. I have there a friend, by name Durrāj,* from whom I can borrow something.” He thus spoke, and, embracing his mate, went forth, and took the way of the mountains.

The male partridge departed; the female remained behind, and sang her sad songs. The master is the stay of the house; when he leaves it, it falls. He was absent about five months, for he loitered long upon the road. When winter came, and the cloud rained camphor from the sky, and ice closed fast the eye of the fountain, suddenly the male partridge returned from his journey, and entered to take his spouse to his bosom. He beheld her changed; her neck slender, her body swollen. When he saw her thus apparently pregnant, all his affection for her was at an end. “I see,” said he, “that I have involved myself in calamity. I have left a giddy wife at home! Fine housekeeping this! A rare husband I! In my absence you were about your own affairs;—tell me from whose granary is this grain?” His mate vowed by 'Isa and by Maryam* that he suspected her wrongfully. “No one has seen my face since you left; no one has beheld a feather of me. You are my only treasure in life; you are father, relation, every tie of my soul.” The enraged husband, however, gave her no credit, but tore off the head of his helpless mate. With her blood they wrote on her tomb: “Shed not innocent blood; if you wish not your own disgrace, do it not! He acts wisely who acts with reflection.” The partridge repented of what he had done, and that he had acted on mere suspicion. “Where,” said he, “can I meet with a companion like her?—one who was ever contented and accordant, and who bore patiently with my reproaches!”

The birds of that quarter, hearing of his return, waited on him to congratulate him on his arrival. When they saw his wretched mate weltering in her blood, their hearts burned with compassion for her. One asked: “Why have you slain your mate? No one entered this house. I will answer for it that this poor wretch had no crime.” The husband told the whole story with tears. They assured him with one voice that he had acted precipitately; that he was mistaken grievously; that in that city a disease had been raging for some time, by which the crop was swollen; but that a certain grass was a cure for it. “Why,” said they, “did you not tell your case to any one?” The male bird was distracted at hearing this, and reproached himself bitterly. He lit up a fire, and burnt his house and home. He procured poison, which he took, and died. If he deprived another of life, he saved not his own! [6]

“Hence,” remarks the vazīr, “your Majesty may see the danger of precipitation.” He then relates, in further illustration of the cunning of women, the