Story of the King of the Monkeys.*

WHEN you have quitted Nihāwand, going out by the Lion's Gate, there lies beyond it a village called Būzīna-Gard,* the neighbourhood of which is thickly inhabited by monkeys. There, amid the trees laden with fruit, and by a running stream, the monkeys used to congregate. The surrounding forest was full of them; and there reigned over them a sage monarch, named Rūz-i-bih,* who, in magnanimity and generosity, was no monkey, but a lion, and who, although aged, had all the vigour of youth. His cheek like the ruddy rose, his beard white; he was ever fresh and gay, like the red willow. Much had he experienced of the world's red and white; much of its hot and cold. His subjects were all obedient and loyal, secure and happy. Their granaries were well stored with figs and walnuts; and they had herds of goats browsing in the forest— a paradise—rather, the model of the Garden of Iram* —a place where pleasure was rife and pain unknown! In the forest was a mountain as high as Alwand.* Thither this king having on one occasion gone to hunt, and looking towards the town and market which were on it, he saw, at the corner of a street, a goat constantly butting at an old woman. Calling to him the leaders of his army, he desired them to look in that direction, and observe what was going on. The king was himself of opinion that, as the flocks were all his own subjects, it was his duty to interfere; but the general of the army thought the matter too trifling to be noticed. The dispute waxed high, and, as the officers of the army sided with their general, the monarch abdicated, and withdrew to another country, and they chose a new king.

The goat still continued its practice of butting at the old woman; and one day that she had been to ask fire from a neighbour, the goat struck her so violently with his horns when she was off her guard as to draw blood. Enraged at this, she applied the fire which she held to the goat's fleece, which kindled, and the animal ran to the stables of the elephant-keeper, and rubbed his sides against the reeds and willows. They caught fire, which the wind soon spread, and the head and face of the warlike elephants were scorched. When the news reached the sovereign to whom the elephants belonged, he sent for the chief-keeper, and asked him what was best to be done for the cure of the elephants. “I have heard one skilled in such matters affirm,” replied he, “on the authority of an ancient leech, that when elephants are scorched, the best remedy is the fat of monkeys rubbed gently over them with the hand.” Upon this the king gave orders that horsemen should go forth and scour the whole forest, hunting down every animal they should find of the monkey tribe. Accordingly, an innumerable band issued forth, searching mountain and forest; and the general of the monkeys was made prisoner. He inquired: “Whose are these troops, and why is this night attack and slaughter of our race?” He was told the circumstances in detail, and he then recollected, but too late, the words of his sage and foreseeing monarch.

When the eldest vazīr had ended, all the others applauded him, and acknowledged the wisdom of his counsel. It was therefore agreed that every morning one of their number should repair into the presence of the king, and relate tales illustrative of the craft and deceitfulness of women, in the hope that when one week had thus passed the fortunes of the prince would have become prosperous.

Accordingly, the First Vazīr, after having gone to the executioner and desired him to delay till further orders, waited upon his Majesty, and after humble prostration, complimented him on his justice, but warned him of the cunning of women, and cautioned him to avoid precipitation. “The word,” said he, “which has once escaped the lips, the arrow which has once left the bow, have ceased to be under your control.* Perhaps you may one day repent your rashness, and grieve for what you have done, like the foolish man who slew his parrot without a crime.” The king desired him to relate the story, and he began: