The Widow's Son.

There was a certain Roman king once advancing with his army against his enemies, who had seized a very large part of his kingdom; and it happened that his army passed through a certain village. There a poor widow, with an only son, had a little house, one only of the many in the world. She had a little hen; and as the army passed before the house, the king's son, a mere boy, let fly the hawk, which, after the manner of the nobles, was perched on his hand, at the widow's hen. The hawk was choking the wretched little creature with its crooked claws, when the widow's son ran to aid the little bird, and killed the hawk with a stroke from a stick. On this account the king's son was indignant, and raging in his fury, in revenge for the hawk, he thrust through and killed the widow's son. What then could the poor widow do, deprived of her only son, and her only property? In her excitement, she ran after the king, followed him with tears, and demanded with her voice and sobs that her son unjustly slain should be avenged. The king, being of a mild and pitying disposition, was greatly affected. Stopping, there­fore, he pleasantly and quietly advised the widow to await his return from the enemy, saying: “Then, as you wish, I shall avenge your son.” But the widow said: “And what will happen if you fall in war? Who will avenge my son?” “I shall entrust that to him who shall succeed me in the kingdom.” “And what reward,” said she, “wilt thou receive, if another avenge him who was slain when you were alive and reigning?” “None,” said he. Then said the widow: “Do you, there­fore, what you would command to others, so that you may acquire praise from men and reward from the gods.” The king, moved as well by the argument of the widow as by pity, put off the war, and returned to the city. When it was known that his son was the murderer of the widow's son, “Thy hen,” said he, “as I think, was fully compensated for by the death of the hawk. But for the dead son, I give thee choice of two things: For either, if you wish, I will slay my son, or, if you rather decree that he should live, I give you him in place of the dead son, that he may cherish you as his mother, adore you as queen, honour you as lady, and may serve you all the days of your life.” So she, deeming it more useful for her that the king's son should live than die, took him instead of the dead one, and was transferred from the hut to the palace, and ex­changed her rags and apron for purple robes.

“See, O king,” adds the sage, “imitate the action of this most just and pious monarch; consider how you can hold to the rigour of justice, and yet by your prudence save your son. But if you do not wish to alter the sentence of your chiefs, this at least I may obtain from you, that you allow him the space of this day. For to-morrow, as to-day, you can easily find woo and fire with which to burn your son.”

A similar tale to this last is related of more than one Oriental potentate. Several of the khalīfs are represented by historians as being equally strict dispensers of justice, and the incident is probably a historical fact.

On the Sixth Morning, the prince is once more about to be thrown into the fire, when “a certain old man of venerable hoariness, dressed in a Roman toga, passing with gentle step through the centre of the crowd of men and women, and admired of many, came to the king.” After learning the occasion of such a large assemblage of people, he related to the king and his grandees the story of