DURING the reign of the Abbaside Khalífs there lived in the city of Baghdád a merchant called Khoja* Humáyún, who was very rich, highly respected, and prosperous in all his dealings. The caravan of his good fortune had for a long time travelled in the lands of success; the hand of detriment was never extended towards the skirts of his wealth; nor did the simúm of loss and misfortune ever blow in the gardens of his prosperity; so that he passed all his days in the cradle of happiness and content. One day he happened to repose in a retired part of his mansion on the couch of gladness, when he beheld suddenly two kites overhead contending for some­thing. After the Khoja had been looking at them for some time, he perceived that from the claws of one something was hanging which the other wanted to snatch away. Whilst he was wondering the object fell to the ground, and on examining it he found it to be a small bundle which contained three rubies, a diamond, and four pearls, all of unequalled beauty and price. The Khoja was at first highly pleased at this occurrence, and joyfully considered it as an additional sign of his good fortune, and recited this distich:

Whom prosperity favours,
Jewels rain upon his head.

But, as he was a man of great discernment and experience, he looked at this affair in another light, on second thoughts, and considered it as a mystery, which made him uneasy. He had a grown and intelligent son, called Nassar, whom he privately addressed thus: “My beloved son, it is well-nigh eighty years since I began to navigate the ocean of life in the skiff of prosperity, and it has never deserted me, nor have the autumnal blasts of reverse ever withered the freshness of my affluence. But as the splendour of every morn of happiness is followed by the darkness and night of decrease and misfortune, and the leaves of the rosy volume of comfort are scattered by the whirlwind of distress; and as

Fate has not lit a lamp of content
Which the storm of adversity has not extinguished;

I conclude from this incident that as the humái* of my good success has reached the zenith, the caravan of my prosperity will soon deflect from the path of my destiny: the ship of my happiness may become wrecked in the ocean of adversity; and, for all I know, the treasure I possess may become a prey to the whale of reverse, poverty and misery. This anti­cipation may be realised very soon, but as I have spent a life of happiness and content, and have gratified all the desires of a man, I wish for nothing more; therefore, if misfortune beset me, I trust I shall be able patiently to endure its bitterness. But since you have not seen the ups and downs of life, or experienced any reverse, I do not think it fitting that you should continue to live with me, and it is in conformity with the dictates of prudence that you spend some time in travelling; for wise men have said that travel is a polish which rubs off the rust of carelessness from the speculum of a man's mind and a sovereign cure for inexperience:

Travel lights the lamp of perfection in a man;
When a pearl is taken out of the sea it is appreciated.*

In Shíráz, the seat of learning,” continued the Khoja, “I have a friend named Khayrandísh, who was my companion in several journeys, and to whom I have done some good. You must go to him and say: ‘I wish you to surrender to me the deposit my father entrusted you with when you were companions on the road of Bahrayn.’ After receiving that article from Khayrandísh, take prudence and caution for your guide and go to the Maghrabí country,* because there is much chance of acquiring worldly goods there, and no one ever returned from it empty-handed. Consider that precious object as a means to procure you a livelihood, for by presenting it to one of the kings or grandees of those parts it will soon ensure you attention; and I for my part shall make over all I possess to my relatives and friends, and shall devote myself solely to the worship of God.”

Nassar made his preparations and departed for Shíráz, the seat of learning; but he had scarcely proceeded two stages in that direction when a eunuch in the Khalíf's service, intending to abscond, had at midnight absented himself from the royal haram with a casket of jewels which he had abstracted. He walked with great apprehension through the streets in search of the dwelling of his accomplice, whence he intended to proceed farther at the break of day; but as the night was very dark he missed the house, and, by the decree of Fate, entered the mansion of Khoja Humáyún, which happened to be open. On looking round he soon discovered his mistake, so he wandered about the house trying to find his way out, but the Khoja's slaves having in the meantime locked the entrance as usual, he had no alternative but to conceal him­self in a corner and there remain till morning.

But the Khalíf's treasurer soon discovered that the eunuch had decamped with the casket, and caused proclamation to be made, that any person harbouring the culprit should at once hand him over to the police, failing which his property should be confis­cated. The royal officials made fruitless search all night, but at break of day, when the eunuch of night had retired and the prince of morn established himself in the palace of the horizon, one of the attendants of the court, who was a mortal enemy of Khoja Humáyún, passing his house, perceived the eunuch and took him before the Khalíf; and, considering this a good opportunity of avenging him­self on his foe, he said: “Khoja Humáyún, who trusted in his wealth and dignity, has committed this crime by instigating the eunuch to the deed and afterwards secreting him in his house.” The Khalíf well knew the Khoja's loyalty and honesty, had often bestowed favours upon him, and was aware that such an act was not at all consistent with his disposition; but as the sun of prosperity, in consequence of the celestial rotations, had deflected from him and set in the west of misfortune;* and the night of distress was intent on obscuring the precincts of his comfort and destroying the volume of his happiness with the scissors of extinction; and as the stratagems of enemies have results like the bites of snakes and scorpions, the insidious words of the adversary so inflamed the Khalíf's wrath that he ordered Khoja Humáyún's property to be confiscated, his house razed, and him­self expelled from the city without giving him the least opportunity of uttering a word in his own defence.

On the same day when the simúm of this cata­strophe destroyed Khoja Humáyún's rose-garden of prosperity, Nassar's courser of safety also met with an accident on his journey. In the vicinity of Shíráz a party of robbers fell upon him and deprived him of everything he possessed; and, exchanging the robes of affluence and wealth for poverty and nudity, he arrived in the city in great distress, and having found the dwelling of Khayrandísh, he made him acquainted with his father's injunction. Khayrandísh received him in the most friendly manner possible, and said: “Dear youth, I am entirely at your service, and was desirous to be honoured by a message from your father, whose casket with his seal upon it is in my charge. But the laws of hospitality require that a guest who adorns my poor hut with the light of his presence should abide with me during three days, in order that I may entertain him to the best of my ability;* and this applies especially to you, whose presence I consider as a great blessing. After the expiration of three days I shall deliver the deposit into your hands.” To this proposal Nassar agreed, and Khayrandísh rejoiced him with his amity, and provided him with a very handsome wardrobe.

When the golden lamp of the glorious sun entered the lantern of the west, and the amber-haired belle of evening removed the veil from her face, Khayr-andísh placed the best food and drink on the table of intimacy, and after conversing on various subjects with his guest, he spoke to him as follows: “Friend, it appears that worldly prosperity has left Khoja Humáyún, and that he has sent you in pursuit of it; for I have lately had a fearful dream and was very uneasy about his circumstances. So tell me now what you intend to do with the deposit.” Nassar acquainted him with his intention to go to the Maghrabí country, and with the injunctions of his father. Khayrandísh replied: “As the travellers in the path of rectitude and probity ought to guide those who wander in the desert of error and in­experience, and as I am under great obligations to your father, I consider it my duty to be useful to you. Since you have never before been from home and have spent all your days in affluence, I fear you will not be able to perform the journey satisfactorily:

Travel is not easy—its dangers are boundless;
Difficulties accompany it in all directions.

But as divine grace is the escort of all who intend to journey in the path of trust in God, I leave you to the guardianship of divine mercy to protect you from all dangers. I shall, however, give you three counsels, and hope you will profit by them.” Nassar rejoined: “It is the first duty of young men to listen to the counsels of intelligent and upright men; therefore speak, for I shall follow them.” Khayrandísh then spake thus:


“Though the deceitful bride of the world may look at you from the corner of her eye, and may try to bias your mind by her coquettish movements, lose not the reins of self-possession from your hands, because worldly prosperity is unsubstantial as the mirage, and the honey of its favour leaves only the bitterness of deception.

Give not thy heart to the love of the world,
For it has destroyed thousands like thee.

When the humái of worldly prosperity spreads its wings over you, covet not its favours, for it will change at last and regret only will remain.

Be not intent on riches and dignity;
For, like henna, they are not lasting.*

Prosperity is fickle, and when it has turned its back, all efforts to recall it are futile. The favours and frowns of the world are the harbingers of the caravan of prosperity and adversity, for both depend in every individual case from the propitious or unpropitious consequences of the rotation of the stars of the times, and are connected with them like the sun with shadows;* nor can they be altered by the fore­sight of Lukman, or by the wisdom of a thousand Platos. And such efforts may be compared to the vain longings of procuring spring in the depth of winter, or for the light of day at midnight. Thus all the struggles of Shah Manssur were fruitless, and he reaped only sorrow from them.” Nassar asked: “What is the story of Shah Manssur?” Khayrandísh thereupon related the