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Burton: The Mouse and the Cat

[Go back to King Jali'ad of Hind and His Wazir Shimas: Followed by the History of King Wird Khan, son of King Jali'ad with His Women and Wazirs]

A grimalkin, that is to say, a Cat, went out one night to a certain garden, in search of what she might devour, but found nothing and became weak for the excess of cold and rain that prevailed that night. So she sought for some device whereby to save herself. As she prowled about in search of prey, she espied a nest at the foot of a tree, and drawing near unto it, sniffed thereat and purred till she scented a Mouse within and went round about it, seeking to enter and seize the inmate. When the Mouse smelt the Cat, he turned his back to her and scraped up the earth with his forehand, to stop the nest-door against her; whereupon she assumed a weakly voice and said, "Why dost thou thus, O my brother? I come to seek refuge with thee, hoping that thou wilt take pity on me and harbour me in thy nest this night; for I am weak because of the greatness of my age and the loss of my strength, and can hardly move. I have ventured into thy garden tonight, how many a time have I called upon death, that I might be at rest from this pain! Behold, here am I at thy door, prostrate for cold and rain and I beseech thee, by Allah, take of thy charity my hand and bring me in with thee and give me shelter in the vestibule of thy nest; for I am a stranger and wretched and 'tis said, 'Whoso sheltereth a stranger and a wretched one in his home, his shelter shall be Paradise on the Day of Doom.' And thou, O my brother, it behoveth thee to earn eternal reward by succouring me and suffering me abide with thee this night till the morning, when I will wend my way."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and First Night,

She pursued: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth the Cat to the Mouse, "So suffer me to night with thee this night, after which I will wend my way." Hearing these words the Mouse replied, "How shall I suffer thee enter my nest seeing that thou art my natural foe and thy food is of my flesh? Indeed I fear lest thou false me, for that is of thy nature and there is no faith in thee, and the byword saith, 'It befitteth not to entrust a lecher with a fair woman nor a moneyless man with money nor fire with fuel.' Neither cloth it behove me to entrust myself to thee; and 'tis said, 'Enmity of kind, as the enemy himself groweth weaker groweth stronger.' " The Cat made answer in the faintest voice, as she were in most piteous case, saying, "What thou advancest of admonitory instances is the truth and I deny not my offenses against thee; but I beseech thee to pardon that which is past of the enmity of kind between me and thee, for 'tis said, 'Whoso forgiveth a creature like himself, his Creator will forgive him his sins.' 'Tis true that whilome I was thy foe but here am I a suitor for thy friendship, and they say, 'An thou wilt have thy foe become thy friend, do with him good.' O my brother, I swear to thee by Allah and make a binding covenant with thee that I will hurt thee nevermore and for the best of reasons, to wit, that I have no power thereto; wherefore place thy trust in Allah and do good and accept my oath and covenant." Quoth the Mouse, "How can I accept the covenant of one between whom and me there is a rooted enmity, and whose wont it is to deal treacherously by me? Were the feud between us aught but one of blood, this were light to me; but it is an enmity of kind between souls, and it is said, 'Whoso trusteth himself to his foe is as one who thrusteth hand into a serpent's mouth.'" Quoth the Cat, full of wrath, "My breast is strait and my soul is faint: indeed I am in articulo mortis and ere long I shall die at thy door and my blood will be on thy head, for that thou hadst it in thy power to save me in mine extremity: and this is my last word to thee." Herewith the fear of Allah Almighty overcame the Mouse and ruth get hold upon his heart and he said in himself, "Whoso would have the succour of Allah the Most High against his foe, let him entreat him with compassion and kindness show. I rely upon the Almighty in this matter and will deliver this Cat from this her strait and earn the divine reward for her." So he went forth and dragged into his nest the Cat, where she abode till she was rested and somewhat strengthened and restored, when she began to bewail her weakness and wasted strength and want of gossips. The Mouse entreated her in friendly guise and comforted her and busied himself with her service; but she crept along till she got command of the issue of the nest, lest the Mouse should escape. So when the nest-owner would have gone out after his wont, he drew near the Cat; whereupon she seized him and taking him in her claws, began to bite him and shake him and take him in her mouth and lift him up and cast him down and run after him and cranch him and torture him. The Mouse cried out for help, beseeching deliverance of Allah and began to upbraid the Cat, saying, "Where is the covenant thou madest with me and where are the oaths thou swarest to me? Is this my reward from thee? I brought thee into my nest and trusted myself to thee: but sooth he speaketh that saith, 'Whoso relieth on his enemy's promise desireth not salvation for himself.' And again, 'Whoso confideth himself to his foe deserveth his own destruction.' Yet do I put my trust in my Creator, for He will deliver me from thee." Now as he was in this condition, with the Cat about to pounce on him and devour him, behold, up came a huntsman, with hunting dogs trained to the chase. One of the hounds passed by the mouth of the nest and hearing a great scuffling, thought that within was a fox tearing somewhat; so he crept into the hole, to get at him, and coming upon the Cat, seized on her. When she found herself in the dog's clutches, she was forced to take thought anent saving herself and loosed the Mouse alive and whole without wound. Then the hound brake her neck and dragging her forth of the hole, threw her down dead: and thus was exemplified the truth of the saying, "Who hath compassion shall at the last be compassionated. Whoso oppresseth shall presently be oppressed." "This, then, O King," added the interpreter, "is what befel the Mouse and the Cat and teacheth that none should break faith with those who put trust in him; for who ever cloth perfidy and treason, there shall befal him the like of that which befel the Cat. As a man meteth, so shall it be meted unto him, and he who betaketh himself to good shall gain his eternal reward. But grieve thou not, neither let this trouble thee, O King, for that assuredly thy son, after his tyranny and oppression, shall return to the goodliness of thy policy. And I would that yon learned man, thy Wazir Shimas, had concealed from thee naught in that which he expounded unto thee; and this had been well advised of him, for 'tis said, 'Those of the folk who most abound in fear are the amplest of them in knowledge and the most emulous of good.'" The King received the interpreter's speech with submission and gifted him and his fellows with rich gifts; then, dismissing them he arose and withdrew to his own apartments and fell to pondering the issue of his affair. When night came, he went in to one of his women, who was most in favour with him and dearest to him of them all, and lay with her: and ere some four months had passed over her, the child stirred in her womb, whereat she rejoiced with joy exceeding and told the King. Quoth he, "My dream said sooth, by Allah the Helper!"; and he lodged her in the goodliest of lodgings and entreated her with all honour, bestowing on her store of rich gifts and manifold boons. Then he sent one of his pages to fetch his Wazir Shimas and as soon as he was in the presence told the Minister what had betided, rejoicing and saying, "My dream is come true and I have won my wish. It may be this burthen will be a man child and inherit the Kingship after me; what sayest thou of this, O Shimas?" But he was silent and made no reply, whereupon cried the King, "What aileth thee that thou rejoicest not in my joy and returnest me no answer? Doth the thing mislike thee, O Shimas?" Hereat the Wazir prostrated himself before him and said, ' O King, may Allah prolong thy life! What availeth it to sit under the shade of a tree, if there issue fire therefrom, and what is the delight of one who drinketh pure wine, if he be choked thereby, and what cloth it profit to quench one's thirst with sweet cool water, if one be drowned therein? I am Allah's servant and thine, O King; but there are three things whereof it besitteth not the understanding to speak, till they be accomplished; to wit, the wayfarer, till he return from his way, the man who is in fight, till he have overcome his foe, and the pregnant woman, till she have cast her burthen."----And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Second Night,

She resumed: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that after Shimas had enumerated to the King the three things whereof it besitteth not the understanding to speak save after they are done, he continued, "For know, O King, that he, who speaketh of aught before its accomplishment is like the Fakir who had hung over his head the jar of clarified butter." "What is the story of the Fakir," asked the King, "and what happened to him?" Answered the Wazir, "O King, they tell this tale anent...

[Go to The Fakir and His Jar of Butter]

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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