IT is related that a rich man in the city of Balkh possessed a garden pleasant to behold as the roses on the cheeks of fairies, adorned with various fragrant plants, blossoming flowers, and fruit-bearing trees. In that garden a little bird took up its abode and amused itself by casting the fruits, whether they were ripe or not, on the ground. Whenever the gardener entered and beheld the damage thus occasioned, the bottom of his heart was stung with the thorn of grief, and the blooming verdure of the spring of his joy became withered by the cold blasts of the autumn of that event. Though he rubbed the hands of regret much on each other, he could not remedy the evil until he had spread a net in the haunts of the bird, which was soon made a prisoner. When the gardener discovered his good fortune he joyfully leaped from his ambush, caught hold of the little bird, intending to despatch it to the regions of non-existence. In its extremity the feathered captive thus spoke to the gardener: “Ornament of the world of intelligence! may the paradise of your good wishes always be the recipient of various divine favours! Consider that if you destroy me, your loss cannot be repaired, and that he who dies is saved from all the troubles of this world. But as I am to be killed for acts which you deem improper, the love of life impels me to make a statement, if you will permit me, after which you may do as you choose; but remember that patience is a virtue of the high-minded, and hastiness a failing of foolish men.”* The gardener, whose wrath had some­what abated during the address of the little bird, replied: “Before the whirlwind of death blows in the field of your life, you are at liberty to say what you desire to say.”

The little bird then said: “Wise gardener, be aware that in the west there is an oasis which my tribe inhabits, but I left my relatives and came to this spot. The pleasantness of this garden attracted me, and for some time I reposed myself on the branch of a tree. A nightingale and a lapwing were sitting together on the top of a date-tree, and a locust was flying towards them which both of them wished to catch. The nightingale was fortunate enough to seize it, but the lapwing snatched it from its captor's beak. Hereon the nightingale said: ‘O lapwing, are you not ashamed to possess yourself of my prey? If you are able, why do you not catch your own game?’ The lapwing replied: ‘Silence! To get the prey is no honour, but it is so to deprive the hunter of his prey.’ Said the nightingale: ‘This may be true; so I give it up. But, lapwing, I have heard the other birds speak a great deal about you, and now that we have met, and as your species has in the service of the Lord Sulayman (salutation to our Prophet and to him!) enjoyed greater proximity to him than has been the lot of any other kind of birds, I wish to know what gifts or rewards you have obtained from him for the account which you furnished him of the city of Saba and your help in other matters.’* The lapwing replied: ‘King Sulayman bestowed on our species three gifts: (1) Whenever the earth is being dug up for water, we are able to tell at what depth it may be found; (2) our heads have been adorned with the crest of nobility; and (3) we are acquainted with the qualities of fruits, and know that this year the garden in which we are at present has been subjected to a visitation of God, so that whosoever should eat of any of its fruits must immediately die.’ Then the lapwing asked: ‘Has your species been favoured with any other gifts?’ And the nightingale answered: ‘We have also been granted three favours: (1) a very melodious voice, which is pleasing to all hearers; (2) we possess the property of being awake during the night, which we enjoy in common with ascetics and pious men; and (3) we have been invested with the gaudy robes of love, and roses have been assigned for our spouses, whose society we enjoy without let or hindrance, and in the aspect of whose heart-ravishing cheeks we per­petually delight.’

“O most intelligent gardener,” the little bird con­tinued, “when I heard from the lapwing that the fruits of this garden were become deleterious, I made haste to pluck and to throw them down, lest any person should eat of them and be injured. And now if you will promise to liberate me, I will communicate to you three maxims, by means of which you may be happy in this world and the next, and friends and foes will alike obey you.” The gardener said: “Speak!” And the little bird proceeded: “First, never trust persons of a low and uncongenial disposition; secondly, never believe impossibilities; and thirdly, never repent of anything that cannot be remedied.” So the gardener relaxed his hold, and the little bird flew away, perched on a tree, and stretching out its neck, exclaimed: “O gardener, if you knew what a treasure you have allowed to slip from your hand, you would end your own life. Verily, I have deceived you!” Said the gardener: “How?” “In my body is a gem as large as a duck's egg, the like of which has never been discovered by the diver into the region of imagination. Had you obtained possession of this jewel you might have lived happily during your whole earthly existence.” When the gardener heard these words he tore his robe from top to bottom, strewed the ashes of repentance upon his head, and the brambles of confusion and uneasiness sprouted in the wilderness of his heart. As he looked to the right and the left how he might again get hold of the little bird, it flew to a high tree and said: “Having now by my cunning escaped from your grasp, I shall take care not to fall into it again. Do not flatter yourself that you will get hold of me a second time.” The gardener began to weep and heaved every moment deep sighs from the bottom of his heart, but the little bird said jeeringly: “It is a pity that the name of man should be applied to a silly fellow like yourself. I just communicated to you three maxims, all of which you have already forgotten. I advised you not to be deceived by mean and uncongenial persons;—why, then, have you believed my words and set me free? I farther told you not to believe impossibilities;—then why do you put faith in my words, seeing that nothing could be more absurd than the idea of a weak little bird like myself having in its body a gem as large as a duck's egg? Lastly, I advised you not to repent of anything which is irreparable, nevertheless you now moan and lament.” After uttering these words the little bird disappeared from the sight of the gardener.