The translator is not credited in this extract From The Bibliophile Library of Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Vol. VI, compiled and arranged by Nathan Haskell Dole, Forrest Morgan, and Caroline Ticknor; The International Bibliophile Society, New York-London; 1904; pp. 1765-1785.
[PILPAY: The reputed author of a widely circulated collection of fables, known as the “Fables of Pilpay,” which originated from an old Indian collection in Sanskrit, entitled “Panchatantra.” It was first translated into Pahlavi about 550 A. D., and subsequently through the Arabic was transmitted to all the peoples of Europe. Versions are found even in the Malay, Mongol, and Afghan languages.]
“YOU have now told me,” said the King, “to my infinite satisfaction, the story of a knave who, under the false appearances 1766 of friendship, occasioned the death of an innocent person. I desire you next to inform me, what benefit may be made of honest men and real friends in civil life.”
“Your Majesty,” answered the Brahmin, “is to know that honest men esteem and value nothing so much in this world as a real friend. Such a one is as it were another self, to whom we impart our most secret thoughts, who partakes of our joy, and comforts us in our affliction: add to this, that his company is an everlasting pleasure to us. But nothing can, perhaps, give your Majesty a clearer or nobler idea of the pleasures of a reciprocal friendship than the following Fable.”
Near adjoining to Odorna there was once a most delightful place, which was extremely full of wildfowl, and was therefore much frequented by the sportsmen and fowlers. A Raven one day accidentally espied in this place, at the foot of a tree, on the top of which she had built her nest, a certain Fowler with a net in his hand. The poor Raven was afraid at first, imagining it was herself that the Fowler aimed at; but her fears ceased when she observed the motions of the person, who. after he had spread his net upon the ground, and scattered some corn about it to allure the birds, went and his himself behind a hedge, where he was no sooner lain down, but a flock of pigeons threw themselves upon the corn, without hearkening to their chieftain, who would fain have hindered them, telling them that they were not so rashly to abandon themselves to their passions. This prudent leader, who was an old Pigeon called Montivaga, perceiving them so obstinate, had many times a desire to separate himself from them; but fate, that imperiously controls all living creatures, constrained him to follow the fortune of the rest, so that he alighted upon the ground with his companions. It was not long after this before they all saw themselves under the net, and just ready to fall into the Fowler’s hands.
“Well,” said Montivaga on this, mournfully to them, “what think you now; will you believe me another time, if it be possible that you may get away from this destruction? I see,” continued he, perceiving how they fluttered to get loose, “that 1767 every one of you minds his own safety only, never regarding what becomes of his companions; and, let me tell you, that this is not only an ungrateful but a foolish way of acting; we ought to make it our business to help one another, and it may be so charitable an action may save us all: let us all together strive to break the net.” On this they all obeyed Montivaga, and so well bestirred themselves, that they tore the net up from the ground, and carried it up with them into the air. The Fowler, on this, vexed to lose so fair a prey, followed the Pigeons, in hopes that the weight of the net would tire them.
In the mean time the Raven, observing all this, said to herself: “This is a very pleasant adventure, I am resolved to see the issue of it;” and accordingly she took wing and followed them. Montivaga observing that the Fowler was resolved to pursue them, “This man,” said he to his companions, “will never give over pursuing us till he has lost sight of us; therefore, to prevent our destruction, let us bend our flight to some thick wood or some ruined castle, to the end that, when we are protected by some forest or thick wall, despair may force him to retire.” This expedient had the desired success; for, having secured themselves among the boughs of a thick forest, where the Fowler lost sight of them, he returned home, full sorely afflicted for the loss of his game and his net to boot.
As for the Raven, she followed them still, out of curiosity to know how they got out of the net, that she might make use of the same secret upon the like occasion.
The Pigeons, thus quit of the Fowler, were overjoyed: however, they were still troubled with the entanglements of the net, which they could not get rid of: but Montivaga, who was fertile in inventions, soon found a way for that.
“We must address ourselves,” said he, “to some intimate friend, who, setting aside all treacherous and by-ends, will go faithfully to work for our deliverance. I know a Rat,” continued he, “that lives not far from hence, a faithful friend of mine, whose name is Zirac; he, I know, will gnaw the net, and set us at liberty.” The Pigeons, who desired nothing more, all entreated to fly to his friend; and soon after they arrived at the Rat’s hole, who came forth upon the fluttering of their wings; and, astonished and surprised to see Montivaga so entangled in the net, “O! my dear friend,” said he, “how came you in this condition?”
To whom Montivaga replied, “I desire you, my most faithful 1768 friend, first of all to disengage my companions.” But Zirac, more troubled to see his friend bound than for all the rest, would needs pay his respects to him first; but Montivaga cried out, “I conjure you once more, by our sacred friendship, to set my companions at liberty before me; for that besides being their chieftain I ought to take care for them in the first place, I am afraid the pains thou wilt take to unbind me will slacken thy good offices to the rest; whereas the friendship thou hast for me will excite thee to hasten their deliverance, that thou mayest be sooner in a condition to give me my freedom.” The Rat, admiring the solidity of these arguments, applauded Montivaga’s generosity, and fell to unloosening the strangers; which was soon done, and then he performed the same kind office for his friend.
Montivaga, thus at liberty, together with his companions, took his leave of Zirac, returning him a thousand thanks for his kindness. And when they were gone, the Rat returned to his hole.
The Raven, having observed all this, had a great desire to be acquainted with Zirac. To which end she went to his hole, and called him by his name. Zirac, frighted to hear a strange voice, asked who she was. To which the Raven answered, “It is a Raven who has some business of importance to impart to thee.”
“What business,” replied the Rat, “can you and I have together? We are enemies.” Then the Raven told him, she desired to list herself in the number of a Rat’s acquaintance whom she knew to be so sincere a friend.
“I beseech you,” answered Zirac, “find out some other creature, whose friendship agrees better with your disposition. You lose you time in endeavouring to persuade me to such an incompatible reconciliation.”
Never stand upon incompatibilities,” said the Raven, “but do a generous action, by affording an innocent person your friendship and acquaintance, when she desires it at your hands.”
“You may talk to me of generosity till your lungs ache,” replied Zirac, “I know your tricks too well: in a word, we are creatures of so different species that we can never be either friends or acquaintances. The example which I remember of the Partridge, that overhastily granted her friendship to a Falcon, is a sufficient warning to make me wiser.”
“A Partridge,” said Zirac, keeping close to his hole, but very obligingly pursuing his discourse, “was promenading at the foot of a hill, and tuning her throat, in her coarse way, so delightfully, that a Falcon flying that way, and hearing her voice, came towards her, and very civilly was going to ask her acquaintance. ‘Nobody,’ said he to himself, ‘can live without a friend; and it is the saying of the wise that they who want friends labor under perpetual sickness.’ With these thoughts he would fain have accosted the Partridge; but she, perceiving him, escaped into a hole, all over in a cold sweat for fear.
“The Falcon followed her, and presenting himself at the entrance of the hole, ‘My dear Partridge,’ said he, ‘I own that I never had hitherto any great kindness for you, because I did not know your merit; but since my good fortune now has made me acquainted with your merry note, be pleased to give me leave to speak with you, that I may offer you my friendship, and that I may beg of you to grant me yours.”
“ ‘Tyrant,’ answered the Partridge, ‘let me alone, and labor not in vain to reconcile the fire and water.’
“ ‘Most amiable Partridge,’ replied the Falcon, ‘banish these idle fears, and be convinced that I love you, and desire that we may enter into a familiarity together: had I any other design, I would not trouble myself to court you with such soft language out of your hole. Believe me, I have such good pounces, that I would have seized a dozen other Partridges in the time that I have been courting your affection. I am sure you will have reasons enough to be glad of my friendship; first, because no other Falcon shall do you any harm while you are under my protection; secondly, because that being in my nest, you will be honored by the world; and lastly, I will procure you a male to keep you company, and give you all the delights of love and a young progeny.’
“ ‘It is impossible for me to think that you can have so much kindness for me,’ replied the Partridge: ‘but, indeed, should this be true, I ought not to accept your proposal; for you being the prince of birds, and of the greatest strength, and I a poor weak Partridge, whenever I shall do anything that displeases you, you will not fail to tear me to pieces.’1770
“ ‘No, no,’ said the falcon, ‘set your heart at rest for that; the faults that friends commit are easily pardoned.’ Much other discourse of this kind passed between them, and many doubts were started and answered satisfactorily, so that at length the Falcon testified such an extraordinary friendship for the Partridge, that she could no longer refuse to come out of her hole. And no sooner was she come forth, than the Falcon tenderly embraced her, and carried her to his nest, where for two or three days, he made it his whole business to divert her. The Partridge, overjoyed to see herself so caressed, gave her tongue more liberty than she had done before, and talked much of the cruelty and savage temper of the birds of prey. This began to offend the Falcon; though for the present he dissembled it. One day, however, he unfortunately fell ill, which hindered him from going abroad in search of prey, so that he grew hungry; and wanting victuals, he soon became melancholy, morose, and churlish. His being out of humor quickly alarmed the Partridge, who kept herself, very prudently, close in a corner, with a very modest countenance. But the Falcon, soon after, no longer able to endure the importunities of his stomach, resolved to pick a quarrel with the poor Partridge. To which purpose, “it is not proper,’ said he, ‘that you should lie lurking there in the shade, while all the world is exposed to the heat of the sun.’
“The Partridge, trembling every joint of her, replied, ‘King of birds, it is now night, and all the world is in the shade as well as I, nor do I know what sun you mean.’ ‘Insolent baggage,’ replied the Falcon, ‘then you will make me either a liar or mad: ‘and so saying, he fell upon her, and tore her to pieces.
“Do not believe,” pursued the Rat, “that upon the faith of your promises, I will lay myself at your mercy.”
“Recollect yourself,” answered the Raven, “and consider that it is not worth my while to fool my stomach with such a diminutive body as thine; it is therefore with no such intent I am talking with thee, but I know they friendship may be beneficial to me; scruple not, therefore, to grant me this favor.”
“The sages of old,” replied the Rat, “admonish us to take care of being deluded by the fair words of our enemies, as was a certain unfortunate Man, whose story, if you please, I will related to you.”
A Man mounted upon a Camel once rode into a thicket, and went to rest himself in that part of it from whence a caravan was just departed, and where the people having left a fire, some sparks of it, being driven by the wind, had set a bush, wherein lay an Adder, all in a flame. The fire environed the Adder in such a manner that he knew not how to escape, and was just giving himself over to destruction, when he perceived the Man already mentioned, and with a thousand mournful conjurations begged of him to save his life. The Man, on this, being naturally compassionate, said to himself, “it is true these creatures are enemies to mankind; however, good actions are of great value, even of the very greatest when done to our enemies; and whoever sows the seed of good works, shall reap the fruit of blessings.” After he had made this reflection, he took a sack, and tying it to the end of his lance, reached it over the flame to the Adder, who flung himself into it; and when he was safe in, the Adder, the Traveler pulled back the bag, and gave the Adder leave to come forth, telling him he might go about his business; but hoped he would have the gratitude to make him a promise, never to do any more harm to men, since a man had done him so great a piece of service.
To this the ungrateful creature answered, “You much mistake both yourself and me: think not that I intend to be gone so calmly; no, my design is first to leave thee a parting blessing, and throw my venom upon thee and thy Camel.”
“Monster of ingratitude!” replied the Traveler, “desist a moment at least, and tell me whether it be lawful to recompense good with evil.”
“No,” replied the Adder, “it certainly is not’ but in acting in that manner I shall do no more than what yourselves to every day; that is to say, retaliate good deeds with wicked actions, and requite benefits with ingratitude.”
“You cannot prove this slanderous and wicked aspersion,” replied the Traveler: “nay, I will venture to say that if you can show me any one other creature in the world that is of your opinion, I will consent to whatever punishment you think fit to inflict on me for the faults of my fellow-creatures.”
“I agree to this willingly,” answered the Adder; and at 1772 the same time spying a Cow, “Let us propound our question,” said he, “to this creature before us, and we shall see what answer she will make.” The Man consented: and so both of them accosting the Cow, the Adder put the question to her, how a good turn was to be requited. “By its contrary,” replied the Cow, “if you mean according to the custom of men; and this I know by sad experience. I belong,” said she, “to a man, to whom I have long been several ways extremely beneficial: I have been used to bring him a calf every year, and to supply his house with milk, butter, and cheese; but now I am grown old, and no longer in a condition to serve him as formerly I did, he has put me in this pasture to fat me, with a design to sell me to a butcher, who is to cut y throat, and he and his friends are to eat my flesh: and is not his requiting good with evil?”
On this, the Adder, taking upon him to speak, said to the Man, “What say you now? are not your own customs a sufficient warrant for me to treat you as I intend to do?”
The Traveler, not a little confounded at this ill-timed story, was cunning enough, however, to answer, “This is a particular case only, and give me leave to say, one witness is not sufficient to convict me; therefore pray let me have another.”
“With all my heart,” replied the Adder; “let us address ourselves to this Tree that stands here before us.” The Tree, having heard the subject of their dispute, gave his opinion in the following words: “Among men, benefits are never requited but with ungrateful actions. I protect travelers from the heat of the sun, and yield them fruit to eat, and a delightful liquor to drink; nevertheless, forgetting the delight and benefit of my shade, they barbarously cut down my branches to make sticks, and handles for hatchets, and saw my body to make planks and rafters. Is not this requiting good with evil?”
The Adder, on this, looking upon the Traveler, asked if he was satisfied. But he was in such a confusion that he knew not what to answer. However, in hopes to free himself from the danger that threatened him, he said to the Adder, “I desire only one favor more; let us be judged by the next beast we meet; give me but that satisfaction, it is all I crave: you know life is sweet; suffer me therefore to beg for the means of continuing it.” While they were thus parleying together, a Fox passing by was stopped by the Adder, who conjured him to put an end to their controversy.1773
The Fox, upon this, desiring to know the subject of their dispute, said the Traveler, “I have done this Adder a signal piece of service, and he would fain persuade me that, for my reward, he ought to do me a mischief.’ “If he means to act by you as you men do by others, he speaks nothing but wheat is true,” replied the Fox; “but, that I may be better able to judge between you, let me understand what service it is that you have done him.”
The Traveler was very glad of this opportunity of speaking for himself, and recounted the whole affair to him: he told him after what manner he had rescued him out of the flames with that little sack, which he showed him.
“How!” said the Fox, laughing outright, “would you pretend to make me believe that so large an Adder as this could get not such a little sack? It is impossible!” Both the Man and the Adder, on this, assured him of the truth of that part of the story; but the Fox positively refused to believe it. At length said he, “Words will never convince me of this monstrous improbability; but if the Adder will go into it again, to convince me of the truth of what you say, I shall then be able to judge of the rest of this affair.”
“That I will do most willingly,” replied the Adder; and, at the same time, put himself into the sack.
Then said the Fox to the Traveler, “now you are the master of your enemy’s life: and, I believe, you need not be long In resolving what treatment such a monster of ingratitude deserves of you.” With that the Traveler tied up the mouth of the sack, and, with a great stone, never left off beating it till he had pounded the Adder to death; and, by that means, put an end to his fears and the dispute at once.
“This Fable, “ pursued the Rat, “informs us that there is no trusting to the fair words of an enemy, for fear of falling into the like misfortunes.”
“you say very true,” replied the Raven, “in all this; but what I have to answer to it is that we ought to understand how to distinguish friends from enemies: and, when you have learned that art, you will know I am no terrible or treacherous foe, but a sincere and hearty friend; for I protest to thee, in the most solemn manner, that what I have seen thee do for thy friend the Pigeon and his companions has taken such root in me that I cannot live without an acquaintance with thee; 1774 and I swear I will not depart from hence till thou hast granted me thy friendship.”
Zirac perceiving, at length, that the Raven really dealt frankly and cordially with him, replied, “I am happy to find that you are sincere in all this; pardon my fears, and now hear me acknowledge that I think it is an honor for me to wear the title of thy friend; and, if I have so long withstood thy importunities, it was only to try thee, and to show thee that I want neither wit nor policy, that thou mayst know hereafter how far I may be able to serve thee.” And so saying, he came forward; but even now he did not venture fairly out, but stopped at the entrance of his hole.
“Why dost thou not come boldly forth?’ demanded the Raven, “Is it because thou art not yet assured of my affection?”
“That is not the reason,” answered the Rat; “but I am afraid of thy companions upon the trees.”
“Set thy heart at rest for that,” replied the Raven; “They shall respect thee as their friend: for it is a custom among us that, when on e of us enters into a league of friendship with a creature of another species, we all esteem and love that creature.” The Rat, upon the faith of these words, cam out to the Raven, who caressed him with extraordinary demonstrations of friendship, swearing to him an inviolable amity, and requesting him to go and live with him near the habitation of a certain neighboring Tortoise, of whom he gave a very noble character.
“Command me henceforward in all things,” replied Zirac, “for I have so great an inclination for you, that from henceforward I will forever follow you as your shadow: and, to tell you the truth, this is not the proper place of my residence; I was only compelled some time since to take sanctuary in this hole, by reason of an accident, of which I would give you the relation, if I thought it might not be offensive to you.”
“My dear friend,” replied the Raven, “can you have any such fears? or rather are you not convinced that I share in all your concerns? But the Tortoise,” added he, “whose friendship is a very considerable acquisition, which you cannot fail of, will be no less glad to hear the recital of you’re adventures: come, therefore, away with me to her,” continued she; and, at the same time, he took the rat in his bill, and carried him to the Tortoise’s dwelling, to whom he related what he had seen 1775 Zirac do. She congratulated the Raven for having acquired so perfect a friend, and caressed the Rat at a very high rate; who, for his part, was too much a courtier not to testify how sensible he was of all her civilities. After many compliments on all sides, they went all three to walk by the banks of a purling rivulet; and, having made choice of a place somewhat distant from the highway, the Raven desired Zirac there to relate his adventures, which he did in the following manner.
“ ‘Heaven forbid!’ replied the Dervise, altogether surprised, ‘that I should make a fool of a person of your merit: I beg your pardon for interrupting you, but there is in this place a nest of rats that will eat me up to the very ears before they have done; and there is one above the rest so bold, that he even has the impudence to come and bite me by the toes as I lie asleep, and I know not how to catch the felonious devil.’ The Traveler, on this, was satisfied with the Dervise’s excuses; and replied, ‘Certainly there is some mystery in this: this accident brings to my mind a remarkable story, which I will relate to you, provided you will hearken to me with a little better attention.’ ”
“One day,” continued the Traveler, “as I was on my journey, the bad weather constrained me to stop at a town where I had several acquaintances of different ranks; and, being unable to proceed on my journey for the continuance of the rain, I went to lodge with one of my friends, who received me very civilly. After supper he put me to bed in a chamber that was parted from his won by a very thin wainscot only; sot that, in despite of my ears, I heard all his private conversation with his Wife.
“ ‘To-morrow,’ said he, ‘I intend to invite the principal burghers of the town to divert my friend who has done me the honor to come and see me.’
“ ‘You have not sufficient wherewithal to support your family,’ answered his Wife, ‘and yet you talk of being at great expenses: rather think of sparing that little you have for the good of your children, and let feasting alone.’
“ ‘This is a man of great religion and piety,’ replied the Husband; ‘and I ought to testify my joy on seeing him, and 1777 to give my other friends an opportunity of hearing his pious conversation; nor be you in care for the small expense that will attend this. The providence of God is very great; and we ought not to take too much care for to-morrow, lest what befell the Wolf befall us.’ ”
“One day,” continued the Husband, “a great Hunter, returning from the chase of a deer, which he had killed, unexpectedly espied a wild boar coming out of a wood, and making directly towards him. ‘Very good,’ cried the Hunter, ‘this beast comes very opportunely; he will not a little augment my provision.’ With that he bent his bow, and let fly his arrow with so good an aim that he wounded the boar to death. Such, however, are the unforeseen events that attend too covetous a care for the necessaries of life, that this fair beginning was but a prelude to a very fatal catastrophe. For he beast, feeling himself wounded, ran with so much fury at the Hunter, that he ripped up his belly with his tusks in such a manner they both fell dead upon the place.
“At the very moment when this happened, there passed by a Wolf, half-famished, who, seeing so much victuals lying upon the ground, was in an ecstasy of joy. ‘However,’ said he to himself, ‘I must not be so prodigal of all this good food; but it behooves me to husband my good fortune, to make my provision hold out the longer.’ Being very hungry, however, he very prudently resolved to fill his belly first, and make his store for the future afterwards. Now willing, however, to waste any part of his treasure, he was for eating his meat, and, if possible, having it too; he therefore resolved to fill his belly with what was least delicate, and accordingly began with the string of the bow, which was made of gut; but he had no sooner snapped the string, but the bow, which was highly bent, gave him such a terrible thump upon the breast that he fell stone-dead upon the other bodies.
“ ‘This Fable,’ said the Husband, pursuing his discourse, ‘instructs us that we ought not to be too greedily covetous.’
“ ‘Nay,’ said the Wife, ‘if this be the effect of saving, even invite whom you please to-morrow.’1778
“The company was accordingly invited; but the next day, as the Wife was getting the dinner ready, and making a sort of sauce with honey, she saw a rat fall into the honey pot, which turned her stomach, and stopped the making of that part of the entertainment. Unwilling, therefore, to make use of the honey, she carried it to the market, and when she parted with it, took pitch in exchange. I was then, by accident, by her, and asked her why she made such a disadvantageous exchange for her honey.
“ ‘Because, said she, in my ear, ‘it is not worth so much to me as the pitch.’ Then I presently perceived there was some mystery in the affair, which was beyond my comprehension. It is the same with this rat: he would never be so bold, had he not some reason for it which we are ignorant of. The rats,” continued he, ‘in this part of the world, are a cunning, covetous, and proud generation; they heap money as much as the misers of our own species; and when one of them is possessed of a considerable sum, he becomes a prince among them, and has his set of comrades, who would die to serve him, as they live by him; for he disburses money for their purchases of food, etc., of one another, and they live his slaves in perfect idleness. And for my part, I am apt to believe that this is the case with this impudent rat; that he has a number of slaves of his own species at command, to defend and uphold him in his audacious tricks, and that there is money hidden in his hole.”
The Dervise no sooner heard the Traveler talk of money, than he took a hatchet, and so bestirred himself, that having cleft the wall, he soon discovered my treasure, to the value of a thousand deniers in gold, which I had heaped together with great labor and toil. These had long been my whole pleasure; I told them every day; I took delight to handle them, and tumble upon them, placing all my happiness in that exercise. But to return to the story. When the gold tumbled out, ‘Very good,’ said the Traveler; ‘had I not reason to attribute the insolence of these rats to some unknown cause?”
“I leave you to judge in what a desperate condition I was, when I saw my habitation ransacked after this manner. I resolved on this to change my lodging; but all my companions left me; so that I had a thorough experience of the truth of the proverb, ‘No money, no friend.’ Friends, nowadays, love us no longer than our friendship turns to their advantage. I 1779 have heard among men, that one day a wealthy and a witty man was asked how many friends he had. ‘As for friends alamode,’ said he, “I have as many as I have crowns; but as for real friends, I must stay till I come to be in want, and then I shall know.’
“While I was pondering, however, upon the accident that had befallen me, I saw a rat pass along, who had been heretofore used to profess himself so much devoted to my service, that you would have thought he could not have lived a moment out of my company. I called to him, and asked him why he shunned me like the rest.
“ ‘Thinkest thou,’ said the ungrateful and impudent villain, ‘that we are such fools as to serve thee for nothing? When thou wast rich, we were thy servants; but not thou art poor, believe me, we will not be the companions of thy poverty.’
“ ‘Alas! thou oughtest not to despise the poor,’ said I, ‘because they are the beloved of Providence.’
“ ‘It is very true,’ answered he; ‘but not such poor as thou art. For Providence takes care of those among men who have, for the sake of religion, forsaken the world; not those whom the world has forsaken.’ Miserably angry was I with myself for my former generosities to such a wretch; but I could not tell what to answer to such a cutting expression. I stayed, however, notwithstanding my misfortunes, with the Dervise, to see how he would dispose of the money he had taken from me; and I observed that he gave one half to his friend, and that each of them laid their shares under their pillows. On seeing this, an immediate thought came in to my mind to go and regain this money. To this purpose I stole softly to the Dervise’s bedside, and was just going to carry back my treasure; but unfortunately his friend, who, unperceived by me, observed all my actions, threw his bed staff at me with so good a will that he had almost broke my foot, which obliged me to recover my hole with all the speed I could, thought not without some difficulty. About an hour after, I crept out again, believing by this time the Traveler might be asleep also. But he was too diligent a sentinel, and too much afraid of losing his good fortune. However, I plucked up a good heart, went forward, and was already got to the Dervise’s bed’s head, when my rashness had like to have cost me my life. For the Traveler gave me a second blow upon the head, that stunned me in such a manner that I could hardly find my hole again. At the same instant he also threw 1780 his bed staff at me a third time; but missing me, I recovered my sanctuary; where I was no sooner set down in safety, than I protested that I would never more pursue the recovery of a thing which had cost me so much pains and jeopardy. In pursuance of this resolution, I left the Dervise’s habitation, and retired to that place where you saw me with the Pigeon.”
The Tortoise was extremely well pleased with the recital of the Rat’s adventures; and at the same time embracing him, “You have done well,” said she, “to quit the world, and the intrigues of it, since they afford us no perfect satisfaction. All those who are turmoiled with avarice and ambition do but labor for their own ruin, like a certain Cat which I once knew, whose adventures you will not be displeased to hear.”
“A certain Person whom I have often seen,” continued the Tortoise, “bred up a Cat very frugally in his own house. He gave her enough to suffice nature, though nothing superfluous: and she might, if she pleased, have lived very happily with him; but she was very ravenous, and, not content with her ordinary food, hunted about in every corner for more. One day, passing by a dove house, she saw some young pigeons that were hardly fledged; and presently her teeth watered for a taste of those delicate viands. With this resolution, up she boldly mounted into the dove house, never minding whether the master were there or no, and was presently with great joy preparing to satisfy her voluptuous desires. But the master of the place no sooner saw the epicure of a Cat enter, than he shut up the doors, and stopped up all the holes at which it was possible for her to get out again, and so bestirred himself that he caught the felonious baggage, and hanged her up at the corner of the pigeon house. Soon after this, the owner of the Cat passing that way, and seeing his Cat hanged, ‘Unfortunate greedy-gut,’ said he, ‘hast thou been contented with thy meaner food, thou hadst not been now in this condition! Thus,’ continued he, moralizing on the spectacle, ‘insatiable gluttons are the procurers of their own untimely ends. Alas! the felicities of this world are uncertain, and of no continuance. Wise men, I well remember, say there is no reliance 1781 upon these six things, nor anything of fidelity to be expected from them: —
“ ‘1. From a cloud; for it disperses in an instant.
“ ‘2. From feigned friendship for it passes away like a flash of lightning.
“ ‘3. From a woman’s love; for it changes upon every frivolous fancy.
“ ‘4. From beauty; for the least injury of time, misfortune, or disease destroys it.
“ ‘5. From false prayers; for they are but smoke.
“ ‘6. And from the enjoyments of the world; for they all vanish in a moment.’ ”
“Men of judgment,” replied the Rat, “are all of this opinion: they never labor after these vain things; there is nothing but the acquisition of a real friend can tempt us to the expectation of a lasting happiness.”
The Raven then spoke in his turn: “There is no earthly pleasure or advantage,” said he, “like a true friend; which I shall endeavor to prove, by the recital of the following story.”
A certain Person, of a truly noble and generous disposition, once heard, as he lay in bed, somebody knocking at his door at an unseasonable hour. Somewhat surprised at it, he, without stirring out of his place, first asked who was there. But when by the answer he understood that it was one of his best friends, he immediately rose, put on his clothes, and ordering his servants to light a candle, went and opened the door.
So soon as he saw him, “Dear Friend,” said he, “I at all times rejoice to see you, but doubly now, because I promise myself, from this extraordinary visit, that I can be of some service to you. I cannot imagine your coming so late to be for any other reason, but either to borrow money, or to desire me to be your second, and I am very happy in that I can assure you that I am provided to serve you in either of these requests. If you want money, my purse is full, and it is open to all your occasions. If you are to meet with your enemy, my arm and sword are at your service.” “There is nothing I have less 1782 occasion for,” answered his Friend, “than these things which you proffer me. I only came to understand the condition of your health, fearing the truth of an unlucky and disastrous dream.”
While the Raven was reciting this Fable, our set of friends beheld at a distance a little wild Goat making towards them with an incredible swiftness.
They all took it for granted, by her speed, that she was pursued by some hunter; and they immediately without ceremony separated, every one to take care of himself. The Tortoise slipped into the water, the Rat crept into a hole which he accidentally found there, and the Raven hid himself among the boughs of a very high tree. In the mean time the Goat stopped all of a sudden, and stood to rest itself by the side of the fountain; when the Raven, who looked about every way, perceiving nobody, called to the Tortoise, who immediately peeped up above the water; and seeing the Goat afraid to drink, “Drink boldly,” said the Tortoise, “for the water is very clear:” which the Goat having done, “Pray tell me,” cried the Tortoise, “what is the reason you seem to be in such a fright?” “Reason enough,” replied the Goat, “for I have just made my escape from the hands of a Hunter, who pursued me with an eager chase.”
“Come,” said the Tortoise, “I am glad you are safe, and I have an offer to make you: if you can like our company, stay here, and be one of our friends; you will find, I assure you, our hearts honest and our conversation beneficial. Wise men,” continued she, “say that the number of friends lessens trouble: and that if a man had a thousand friends, he ought to reckon them no more than as one; but, on the other side, if a man has but one enemy, he ought to reckon that one for a thousand, so dangerous and so desperate a thing is an avowed enemy.” After this discourse, the Raven and the Rat entered into company with the Goat, and showed her a thousand civilities; with which she was so taken that she promised to stay there as long as she lived.
These four friends, after this, lived in perfect harmony a long while, and spent their time very pleasantly together. But one day, as the Tortoise, the Rat, and the Raven had met, as they used to do, by the side of the fountain, the Goat was missing; this very much troubled the other friends, as they knew not what accident might have befallen her. They soon 1783 came to a resolution, however, to seek for and assist her; and presently the Raven mounted up into the air, to see what discoveries he could make, and looking round about him, at length, to his great sorrow, saw at a distance the poor Goat entangled in a Hunter’s net. He immediately dropped down, on this, to acquaint the Rat and Tortoise with what he had seen; and you may be well assured these ill tidings extremely afflicted all the three friends.
“We have professed a strict friendship together, and long lived happily in it,” said the Tortoise; “and it will be shameful now to break through it, and leave our innocent and good-natured friend to destruction: no, we must fins dome way,” continued she, “to deliver the poor Goat out of captivity.”
On this, said the Raven to the Rat, “Remember now, O excellent Zirac! thy own talents, and exert them for the public good: there is none but you can set our friend at liberty; and the business must be quickly done, for fear the Huntsman lay his clutches upon her.”
“Doubt not but I will gladly do my endeavor,” replied the Rat; “therefore let us go immediately, lest we lose time.” The Raven, on this, took up Zirac in his bill, and carried him to the place; where being arrived, he fell without delay to gnawing the meshes that held the Goat’s foot, and had almost set him at liberty by the time the Tortoise arrived. So soon as the Goad perceived this slow-moving friend, she sent forth a loud cry: “O!” said she, “why have you ventured yourself to come hither?”
“Alas,” replied the Tortoise, “I could not longer endure your absence.”
Dear Friend,” said the Goat, “your coming to this place troubles me more than the loss of my own liberty; for if the Hunter should happen to come at this instant, what will you do to make your escape? For my part I am almost unbound, and my swift heels will prevent me from falling into his hands; the Raven will find his safety in his wings; the Rat will run into any hole; only you, that are so slow of foot, will become the Hunter’s prey.”
No sooner had the Goat spoken the words than the Hunter appeared; but the Goat being loosened ran away; the Raven mounted into the sky; the Rat slipped into a hole; and, as the Goat had said, only the slow-paced Tortoise remained without help.1784
When the Hunter arrived, he was not a little surprised to find his net broken. This was no small vexation to him, and made him look narrowly about, to see if he could discover who had done him the injury; and, unfortunately, in searching, he spied the Tortoise. “O!” said he, “very well, I am very glad to see you here; I find I shall not go home empty-handed, however, at last: here’s a plump Tortoise, and that’s worth something, I’m sure.” With that he took the Tortoise up, put it in his sack, threw the sack over his shoulder, and so was trudging home.
When he was gone, the three friends came from their several places, and met together, when, missing the Tortoise, they easily judged what was become of her. Then sending forth a thousand sighs, they made most doleful lamentations, and shed a torrent of tears. At length the Raven, interrupting this sad harmony, “Dear Friends,” said he, “our moans and sorrows do the Tortoise no good; we ought, instead of this, if it be possible, to think of a way to save her life. The sages of former ages have informed us that there are four sorts of persons that are never known but upon the proper occasions: men of courage in fight; men of honesty in business; a wife in her husband’s misfortunes; and a true friend in extreme necessity. We find, alas! our dear friend the Tortoise is in a sad condition; and therefore we must, if possible, succor her.”
“It is well advised,” replied the Rat, “and now I think on’t, an expedient is come into my head. Let the Goat go and show herself in the Hunter’s eye, who will then be sure to lay down his sack to run after her.”
“Very well advised,” replied the Goat, “I will pretend to be lame, and run limping at a little distance before him, which will encourage him to follow me, and so draw him a good way from his sack, which will give the Rat time to set our friend at liberty.” This stratagem had so good a face that it was soon approved by them all; and immediately the Goat ran halting before the Hunter, and seemed to be so feeble and faint that he thought he had her safe in his clutches; and so laying down his sack, ran after the Goat with all his might. That cunning creature suffered him ever and anon almost to come up to her, and then led him another green-goose chase, till in short she had fairly dragged him out of sight; which the Rat perceiving, came and gnawed the string that tied the sack, and let out the Tortoise, who went and hid herself in a thick bush.1785
At length the Hunter, tired with running in vain after his prey, left off the chase, and returned to his sack. “Here,” said he, “I have something safe however: thou art not quite so swift of foot as this plaguy Goat; and if thou wert, art too fast here to find the way to make thy legs of any use to thee.” So saying, he went to the bag, but there missing the Tortoise, he was in amaze, and thought himself in a region of hobgoblins and spirits. He could not but stand and bless himself, that a Goat should free herself out of his nets, and by and by run hopping before him, and make a fool of him; and that in the mean while a Tortoise, a poor feeble creature, should break the string of a sack, and make its escape. All these considerations struck him with such a panic of fear, that he ran home as if a thousand robin goodfellows or rawhead and bloody bones had been at his heels. After which the four friends met together again, congratulated each other on their escapes, made new protestations of friendship, and swore never to separate till death parted them.