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Burton: The Hedgehog and the Wood Pigeons

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A hedgehog once too up his abode by the side of a date-palm, whereon roosted a wood-pigeon and his wife that had built their next there and lived a life of ease and enjoyment. So he said to himself, "This pigeon-pair eateth of the fruit of the date tree and I have no means of getting at it; but needs must I find some fashion of tricking them. Upon this he dug a hole at the foot of the palm tree and took up his lodgings there, he and his wife; moreover, he built an oratory beside the hole and went into retreat there and made a show of devotion and edification and renunciation of the world. The male pigeon saw him praying and worshipping, and his heart was softened towards him for his excess of devoutness; so he said to him, "How many years hast thou been thus?" Replied the hedgehog, "During the last thirty years." "What is thy food?" "That which falleth from the palm- tree." "And what is thy clothing?" "Prickles! and I profit by their roughness." "And why hast thou chosen this for place rather than another?" "I chose it and preferred it to all others that I might guide the erring into the right way and teach the ignorant!" "I had fancied thy case," quoth the wood-pigeon, "other than this, but now I yearn for that which is with thee." Quoth the hedgehog, "I fear lest thy deed contradict thy word and thou be even as the husbandman who, when the seed-season came, neglected to sow, saying, 'Verily I dread lest the days bring me not to my desire and by making hast to sow I shall only waste my substance!' When harvest-time came and he saw the folk earing their crops, he repented him of what he had lost by his tardiness and he died of chagrin and vexation." Asked the wood-pigeon, "What then shall I do that I may be freed from the bonds of the world and cut myself loose from all things save the service of my Lord?" Answered the hedgehog, "Betake thee to preparing for the next world and content thyself with a pittance of provision." Quoth the pigeon, "How can I do this, I that am a bird and unable to go beyond the date-tree whereon is my daily bread? And even could I do so, I know of no other place wherein I may wone." Quoth the hedgehog, "Thou canst shake down of the fruit of the date-tree what shall suffice thee and thy wife for a year's provaunt; then do ye take up your abode in a nest under the trunk, that ye may prayerfully seek to be guided in the right way, and then turn thou to what thou hast shaken down and transport it all to thy home and store it up against what time the dates fail; and when the fruits are spent and the delay is longsome upon you, address thyself to total abstinence." Exclaimed the pigeon, "Allah requite thee with good for the righteous intention wherewith thou hast reminded me of the world to come and hast directed me into the right way!" Then he and his wife worked hard at knocking down the dates, till nothing was left on the palm-tree, whilst the hedgehog, finding whereof to eat, rejoiced and filled his den with the fruit, storing it up for his subsistence and saying in his mind, "When the pigeon and his wife have need of their provision, they will seek it of me and covet what I have, relying upon thy devoutness and abstinence; and, from what they have heard of my counsels and admonitions, they will draw near unto me. Then will I make them my prey and eat them, after which I shall have the place and all that drops from the date-tree to suffice me." presently, having shaken down the fruits, the pigeon and his wife descended from the tree-top and finding that the hedgehog had removed all the dates to his own place, said to him, "O hedgehog! thou pious preacher and of good counsel, we can find no sign of the dates and know not on what else we shall feed." Replied the hedgehog, "Probably the winds have carried them away; but the turning from the provisions to the Provider is of the essence of salvation, and He who the mouth-corners cleft, the mouth without victual hath never left." And he gave not over improving the occasion to them on this wise, and making a show of piety and cozening them with fine words and false until they put faith in him and accepted him and entered his den and had no suspicion of his deceit. Thereupon he sprang to the door and gnashed his teeth, and the wood-pigeon, seeing his perfidy manifested, said to him, "What hath to-night to do with yester-night? Knowest thou not that there is a Helper for the oppressed? Beware of craft and treachery, lest that mishap befal thee which befel the sharpers who plotted against the merchant." "What was that?" asked the hedgehog. Answered the pigeon:--I have heard tell this tale of...

[Go to The Merchant and the Two Sharpers]

Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

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