A certain hermit worshipped on a certain mountain, whither resorted a pair of pigeons; and the worshipper was wont to make two parts of his daily bread,-- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the One Hundred and Forty-eighth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the worshipper was wont to make two parts of his daily bread, eating one half himself and giving the other to the pigeon pair. He also prayed for them both that they might be blest with issue so they increased and multiplied greatly. Now they resorted only to that mountain where the hermit was, and the reason of their fore-gathering with the holy man was their assiduity in repeating "Praised be Allah!" for it is recounted that the pigeon [FN#145] in praise, "Praised be the Creator of all Creatures, the Distributor of daily bread, the Builder of the heavens and Dispreader of the earths!" And that couple ceased not to dwell together in the happiest of life, they and their brood till the holy man died, when the company of the pigeons was broken up and they dispersed among the towns and villages and mountains. Now it is told that on a certain other mountain there dwelt a shepherd, a man of piety and good sense and chastity; and he had flocks of sheep which he tended, and he made his living by their milk and wool. The mountain which gave him a home abounded in trees and pasturage and also in wild beasts, but these had no power over his flocks; so he ceased not to dwell upon that highland in full security, taking no thought to the things of the world, by reason of his beatitude and his assiduity in prayer and devotion, till Allah ordained that he should fall sick with exceeding sickness. Thereupon he betook himself to a cavern in the mountain and his sheep used to go out in the morning to the pasturage and take refuge at night in the cave. But Allah Almighty, being minded to try him and prove his patience and his obedience, sent him one of His angels, who came in to him in the semblance of a fair woman and sat down before him. When the shepherd saw that woman seated before him, his flesh shuddered at her with horripilation [FN#146] and he said to her, 'O thou woman, what was it invited thee to this my retreat? I have no need of thee, nor is there aught betwixt me and thee which calleth for thy coming in to me." Quoth she, "O man, cost thou not behold my beauty and loveliness and the fragrance of my breath; and knowest thou not the need women have of men and men of women? So who shall forbid thee from me when I have chosen to be near thee and desire to enjoy thy company? Indeed, I come to thee willingly and do not withhold myself from thee, and near us there is none whom we need fear; and I wish to abide with thee as long as thou sojournest in this mountain, and be thy companion and thy true friend. I offer myself to thee, for thou needest the service of woman: and if thou have carnal connection with me and know me, thy sickness shall be turned from thee and health return to thee; and thou wilt repent thee of the past for having foresworn the company of women during the days that are now no more. In very sooth, I give thee good advice: so incline to my counsel and approach me." Quoth the shepherd, "Go out from me, O woman deceitful and perfidious! I will not incline to thee nor approach thee. I want not thy company nor wish for union with thee; he who coveteth the coming life renounceth thee, for thou seducest mankind, those of past time and those of present time. Allah the Most High lieth in wait for His servants and woe unto him who is cursed with thy company!" Answered she, "O thou that errest from the truth and wanderest from the way of reason, turn thy face to me and look upon my charms and take thy full of my nearness, as did the wise who have gone before thee. Indeed, they were richer than thou in experience and sharper of wit; withal they rejected not, as thou rejectest, the enjoyment of women; nay, they took their pleasure of them and their company even as thou renouncest them, and it did them no hurt in things temporal or things spiritual. Wherefore do thou recede from thy resolve and thou shalt praise the issue of thy case." Rejoined the shepherd, "All thou sayest I deny and abhor, and all thou offerest I reject: for thou art cunning and perfidious and there is no honesty in thee nor is there honour. How much of foulness hidest thou under thy beauty, and how many a pious man hast thou seduced from his duty and made his end penitence and perdition? Avaunt from me, O thou who devotest thyself to corrupt others!" Thereupon, he threw his goat's hair cloak over his head that he might not see her face, and betook himself to calling upon the name of his Lord. And when the angel saw the excellence of his submission to the Divine Will, he went out from him and ascended to heaven. Now hard by the hermit's hill was a village wherein dwelt a pious man, who knew not the other's station, till one night he heard in a dream a Voice saying to him, "In such a place near to thee is a devout man: go thou to him and be at his command!" So when morning dawned he set out to wend thither, and what time the heat was grievous upon him, he came to a tree which grew beside a spring of running water. So he sat down to rest in the shadow of that tree and behold, he saw beasts and birds coming to that fount to drink, but when they caught sight of the devotee sitting there, they took fright and fled from before his face. Then said he, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah! I rest not here but to the hurt of these beasts and fowls." So he arose, blaming him self and saying, "Verily my tarrying here this day hath wronged these animals, and what excuse have I towards my Creator and the Creator of these birds and beasts for that I was the cause of their flight from their drink and their daily food and their place of pasturage? Alas for my shame before my Lord on the day when He shall avenge the hornless sheep on the sheep with horns!'' [FN#147] And he wept and began repeating these couplets,
"Now an, by Allah, unto man were fully known * Why he is made, in careless sleep he ne'er would wone:
First Death, then cometh Wake and dreadful Day of Doom, * Reproof with threats sore terror, frightful malison.
Bid we or else forbid we, all of us are like * The Cave companions [FN#148] when at length their sleep was done."
Then he again wept for that he had driven the birds and beasts from the spring by sitting down under the tree, and he fared on till he came to the shepherd's dwelling and going in, saluted him. The shepherd returned his salutation and embraced him, weeping and saying, "What hath brought thee to this place where no man hath ever yet come to me." Quoth the other devotee, "I saw in my sleep one who described to me this thy stead and bade me repair to thee and salute thee: so I came, in obedience to the commandment." The shepherd welcomed him, rejoicing in his company and the twain abode upon that mountain, worshipping Allah with the best of worship; and they ceased not serving their Lord in the cavern and living upon the flesh and milk of their sheep, having clean put away from them riches and children and what not, till the Certain, the Inevitable became their lot. And this is the end of their story. Then said King Shahyrar, "O Shahrazad, thou wouldst cause me to renounce my kingdom and thou makest me repent of having slain so many women and maidens. Hast thou any bird stories?" "Yes," replied she, and began to tell the