Story of the Foolish Hermit.

AT the time of the rising of the Sun of Prophecy, the glance of an angel of the Court of Unity* chanced to alight on the hermitage of an ascetic, whom he be­held sedulously engaged in all the duties of religion; and he was so pleased that he was curious to know what should be the reward of all this piety. Then the allocution reached him from the Lord of Omni­science: “Angel, pray that this mystery be revealed to thee.” Accordingly the angel made his supplica­tion and was informed that the reward of the ascetic should be very inconsiderable; whereat he was so astonished that he said: “O God! how can this be the reward of a whole life of piety? I consider it as insufficient for a single day. What wisdom is con­cealed in this matter?” Then he heard this order: “Visit him in human form, and learn the state of the case.” The angel obeyed, and, after being by the power of the Most High transformed into a man, he visited the hermit and became so intimate with him that he lived for several days in his cell, which being situated in a pleasant and fertile region, with abundance of springs and flowers, the angel said one day to the hermit: “Arise, let us enjoy a walk in this delightful place.” Accordingly they went out to­gether, and when they entered a paradise-like meadow, and beheld the freshness of the parti-coloured vege­tation, they praised the Almighty. Said the angel: “Hermit, be grateful to God for having adorned the neighbourhood of your cell like a paradise with springs and flowers and crowned every blade of grass with the diadem of loveliness and fertility.” The ascetic replied: “My dear brother, I always enjoy the pleasantness of this locality because it abounds in grass and water, so that many animals might be fattened here. But I am constantly burning with grief that God has no ass whom I might comfort and feed in this place, and might for his sake acquire a higher merit in the next world.” When the angel was thus made aware of the littleness of the hermit's mind, by this silly wish, he left him, and resuming his proper form the divine allocution reached him: “Have you seen the intelligence and wisdom of the hermit?”*

The vazír continued: “A sovereign must also use very great care in the choice of his ministers, other­wise he may fare like the king of Basra, who had a very ambitious and wicked vazír.” Quoth the king of Egypt: “How was that?” and the minister began to relate the