Story of the Poisoned Guests.*

[THERE was of old time an ocean-hearted (i.e. bounti-tiful) one, by whose hands mines would have been emptied; a noble, of auspicious step and lofty purpose, who never kept his door shut upon guests; to whose mansion was neither door, lock, nor porter. If a poor man asked him for a dirham, he gave him a dīnar; if one asked him for a scrap, he gave him an ass-load. Once a party of his friends, great men, relations and companions of his, came to him as guests, as of wont; came to his house and table. He received them after the fashion of the generous, for this was ever his custom. A slave-girl went to fetch milk, that he might feast his guests with sugar and milk—two very good things. She covered not the top of the milk-dish. Hearken to these words, and take warning: A stork was passing in the air, having snatched up an old snake from the desert. Poison was dropping through the air from that snake. How can one fly from the decrees of fate? Saliva dropped from the mouth of that viper, and that milk was mixed with poison; and whoever took any of that milk fell down, and there died forthwith.]*

“Who was guilty in this instance?” asked the prince; “and who ought to have been punished?” One said: “Doubtless, the female slave, because she did not cover up the milk.” Another said: “The stork was to blame for having the snake in its mouth.” Another said: “The snake, for dropping its venom in the milk.” “Nay, nay,” said a fourth; “but the giver of the enter­tainment, who left it to his slave to bring the milk.”— The prince said: “All these opinions are mistaken. No one was to blame; it was the decree of God.”

“There are four things,” continued the prince, “about which the wise do not distress themselves: First—One's daily bread; for however scant it may be, it will undoubtedly suffice to conduct one to his grave. Second—Death, which none can avert or retard, and which ought, therefore, to be met with resignation. Third—One's destiny, which will not cease to attend a man, notwithstanding all his exertions. Fourth—Dis­tress, which neither the wise nor the foolish can remedy.

“One is constantly engaged in devotion; another is for ever in the tavern. Who leads the one to the street of the tavern?—who draws the other to the practice of devotion?

“Many a man, though immersed in the water, has reached the shore, while the sailor has not seen it: many an alchemist has gone to his grave poor and naked as he first entered the world; many a grave­digger has found unexpectedly the treasure of Farīdūn.* The one and the other events are alike the ordinance of God. Whatever he decrees inevitably happens. If a man undergoes imprisonment and chains, it is not the order of any one, but the decree of destiny.”

When the king heard this address of his son, he was filled with admiration of his wisdom; he kissed his face, and took him to his bosom, and all his former love for him returned. He opened the doors of his treasury, and enriched the poor and needy. He set the prisoners free, and the debtors from their confine­ment. He now turned his thoughts to the philosopher Sindibād; and when he reflected how he had hazarded his life, his esteem for him increased, and he resolved to reward him munificently. He sent for him, and bestowed ample benefactions on the sage himself, his sons, and dependants.

He then inquired of Sindibād how it happened that the prince was at first averse to learning, and after­wards made such proficiency: how he was at first silent, and afterwards had his mouth opened. Sindi-bād kissed the hand of his Majesty, and after offering vows for his prosperity, replied: “Your Majesty is aware that everything is restricted to its appointed season. The winds of winter come not in spring. The tree while it is yet but a sapling bears no fruit, but yields it when it has grown tall and affords a shade. The business was at first beset with difficulties. Much did I labour, and the seed which I sowed has sprung up and yielded increase. The prince, O king, has now no equal in this age. On whatever science you question him he will answer with correctness.”

The king commended the exertions of Sindibād, and, addressing the prince, requested him to explain his former backwardness. The Prince replies by relating the