THE WATER-FOWL AND THE TORTOISE
"A water-fowl flew high up into the air and alighted on rock in the midst of a running water. As it sat, behold, the water floated up a carcase, that was swollen and rose high out of the water, and lodged it against the rock. The bird drew near and examining it, found that it was the dead body of a man and saw in it spear and sword wounds. So he said in himself, 'Belike, this was some evil-doer, and a company of men joined themselves together against him and slew him and were at peace from him and his mischief.' Whilst he was marvelling at this, vultures and eagles came down upon the carcase from all sides; which when the water-fowl saw, he was sore affrighted and said, 'I cannot endure to abide here longer.' So he flew away in quest of a place where he might harbour, till the carcase should come to an end and the birds of prey leave it, and stayed not in his flight, till he came to a river with a tree in its midst. He alighted on the tree, troubled and distraught and grieved for his separation from his native place, and said to himself, 'Verily grief and vexation cease not to follow me: I was at my ease, when I saw the carcase, and rejoiced therein exceedingly, saying, "This is a gift of God to me;" but my joy became sorrow and my gladness mourning, for the lions of the birds (3) took it and made prize of it and came between it and me. How can I trust in this world or hope to be secure from misfortune therein? Indeed, the proverb says, "The world is the dwelling of him who hath no dwelling: he who hath no understanding is deceived by it and trusteth in it with his wealth and his child and his family and his folk; nor doth he who is deluded by it leave to rely upon it, walking proudly upon the earth, till he is laid under it and the dust is cast over him by him who was dearest and nearest to him of all men; but nought is better for the noble than patience under its cares and miseries." I have left my native place, and it is abhorrent to me to quit my brethren and friends and loved ones.' Whilst he was thus devising with himself, behold, a tortoise descended into the water and approaching the bird, saluted him, saying, 'O my lord, what hath exiled thee and driven thee afar from thy place?' 'The descent of enemies thereon,' replied the water-fowl; 'for the understanding cannot brook the neighbourhood of his enemy; even as well says the poet:Whenas on any land the oppressor doth alight, There's nothing left for those, that dwell therein, but flight.'
Quoth the tortoise, 'If the case be as thou sayest, I will not leave thee nor cease to be before thee, that I may do thy need and fulfil thy service; for it is said that there is no sorer desolation than that of him who is an exile, cut off from friends and country; and also that no calamity equals that of severance from virtuous folk; but the best solace for the understanding is to seek companionship in his strangerhood and be patient under adversity. Wherefore I hope that thou wilt find thine account in my company, for I will be to thee a servant and a helper.' 'Verily, thou art right in what thou sayest,' answered the water-fowl; 'for, by my life, I have found grief and pain in separation, what while I have been absent from my stead and sundered from my friends and brethren, seeing that in severance is an admonition to him who will be admonished and matter of thought for him who will take thought. If one find not a companion to console him, good is cut off from him for ever and evil stablished with him eternally; and there is nothing for the wise but to solace himself in every event with brethren and be instant in patience and constancy; for indeed these two are praiseworthy qualities, that uphold one under calamities and shifts of fortune and ward off affliction and consternation, come what will.' 'Beware of sorrow,' rejoined the tortoise, 'for it will corrupt thy life to thee and do away thy fortitude.' And they gave not over converse, till the bird said, 'Never shall I leave to fear the strokes of fortune and the vicissitudes of events.' When the tortoise heard this, he came up to him and kissing him between the eyes, said to him, 'Never may the company of the birds cease to be blest in thee and find good in thy counsel! How shalt thou be burdened with inquietude and harm?' And he went on to comfort the water-fowl and soothe his disquiet, till he became reassured. Then he flew to the place, where the carcase was, and found the birds of prey gone and nothing left of the body but bones; whereupon he returned to the tortoise and acquainted him with this, saying, 'I wish to return to my stead and enjoy the society of my friends; for the wise cannot endure separation from his native place.' So they both went thither and found nought to affright them; whereupon the water-fowl repeated the following verses:Full many a sorry chance doth light upon a man and fill His life with trouble, yet with God the issue bideth still.
So they abode there in peace and gladness, till one day fate led thither a hungry hawk, which drove its talons into the bird's belly and killed him, nor did caution stand him in stead seeing that his hour was come. Now the cause of his death was that he neglected to praise God, and it is said that his form of adoration was as follows, 'Glory be to our Lord in that He ordereth and ordaineth, and glory be to our Lord in that He maketh rich and maketh poor!'"
"O Shehrzad," said the Sultan, "verily, thou overwhelmest me with admonitions and salutary instances! Hast thou any stories of beasts?" "Yes," answered she. "Know, O King, that