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Burton: Tale of the Wolf and the Fox (cont.)

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Quoth the wolf, "Spare me this discourse nor saws and tales enforce, and remind me not of my former ill course, for sufficeth me the sorry plight I endure perforce, seeing that I am fallen into a place, in which even my foe would pity me, much more a true friend. Rather find some trick to deliver me and be thou thereby my saviour. If this cause thee trouble, remember that a true friend will undertake the sorest travail for his true friend's sake and will risk his life to deliver him from evil; and indeed it hath been said, 'A leal friend is better than a real brother.' So if thou stir thyself to save me and I be saved, I will forsure gather thee such store as shall be a provision for thee against want however sore; and truly I will teach thee rare tricks whereby to open whatso bounteous vineyards thou please and strip the fruit-laden trees." Rejoined the fox, laughing, "How excellent is what the learned say of him who aboundeth in ignorance like unto thee!" Asked the wolf, "What do the wise men say?" And the fox answered, "They have observed that the gross of body are gross of mind, far from intelligence and nigh unto ignorance. As for thy saying, O thou stupid, cunning idiot! that a true friend should undertake sore travail for his true friend's sake, it is sooth as thou sayest, but tell me, of thine ignorance and poverty of intelligence, how can I be a true friend to thee, considering thy treachery. Dost thou count me thy true friend? Nay, I am thy foe who joyeth in thy woe; and couldst thou trow it, this word were sorer to thee than slaughter by shot of shaft. As for thy promise to provide me a store against want however sore and teach me tricks, to plunder whatso bounteous vineyards I please, and spoil fruit-laden trees, how cometh it, O guileful traitor, that thou knowest not a wile to save thyself from destruction? How far art thou from profiting thyself and how far am I from accepting thy counsel! If thou have any tricks, make shift for thyself to save thee from the risk, wherefrom I pray Allah to make thine escape far distant! So look, O fool, if there be any trick with thee; and therewith save thyself from death ere thou lavish instruction upon thy neighbours. But thou art like a certain man attacked by a disease, who went to another diseased with the same disease, and said to him, 'Shall I heal thee of thy disease?' Replied the sick man, 'Why dost thou not begin by healing thyself?' So he left him and went his way. And thou, O ignorant wolf, art like this; so stay where thou art and under what hath befallen thee be of good heart!" When the wolf heard what the fox said, he knew that from him he had no hope of favour; so he wept for himself, saying, "Verily, I have been heedless of my weal; but if Allah deliver me from this ill I will assuredly repent of my arrogance towards those who are weaker than I, and will wear woollens and go upon the mountains, celebrating the praises of Almighty Allah and fearing His punishment. And I will withdraw from the company of other wild beasts and forsure will I feed the poor fighters for the Faith." Then he wept and wailed, till the heart of the fox softened when he heard his humble words and his professions of penitence for his past insolence and arrogance. So he took pity upon him and sprang up joyfully and, going to the brink of the breach, squatted down on his hind quarters and let his tail hang in the hole; whereupon the wolf arose and putting out his paw, pulled the fox's tail, so that he fell down in the pit with him. Then said the wolf, "O fox of little mercy, why didst thou exult in my misery, thou that wast my companion and under my dominion? Now thou art fallen into the pit with me and retribution hath soon overtaken thee. Verily, the sages have said, 'If one of you reproach his brother with sucking the dugs of a bitch, he also shall suck her.' And how well quoth the poet,

'When Fortune weighs heavy on some of us, * And makes camel kneel by some other one,
Say to those who rejoice in our ills: --Awake! * The rejoicer shall suffer as we have done!'

And death in company is the best of things; wherefore I will certainly and assuredly hasten to slay thee ere thou see me slain." Said the fox to himself, "Ah! Ah! I am fallen into the snare with this tyrant, and my case calleth for the use of craft and cunning; for indeed it is said that a woman fashioneth her jewellery for the day of display, and quoth the proverb, 'I have not kept thee, O my tear, save for the time when distress draweth near.' And unless I make haste to circumvent this prepotent beast I am lost without recourse; and how well saith the poet,

'Make thy game by guile, for thou'rt born in a Time * Whose sons are lions in forest lain;
And turn on the leat of thy knavery * That the mill of subsistence may grind thy grain;
And pluck the fruits or, if out of reach, * Why, cram thy maw with the grass on plain.'"

Then said the fox to the wolf, "Hasten not to slay me, for that is not the way to pay me and thou wouldst repent it, O thou valiant wild beast, lord of force and exceeding prowess! An thou accord delay and consider what I shall say, thou wilt ken what purpose I proposed; but if thou hasten to kill me it will profit thee naught and we shall both die in this very place." Answered the wolf "O thou wily trickster, what garreth thee hope to work my deliverance and thine own, that thou prayest me to grant thee delay? Speak and propound to me thy purpose." Replied the fox, "As for the purpose I proposed, it was one which deserveth that thou guerdon me handsomely for it; for when I heard thy promises and thy confessions of thy past misdeeds and regrets for not having earlier repented and done good; and when I heard thee vowing, shouldst thou escape from this strait, to leave harming thy fellows and others; forswear the eating of grapes and of all manner fruits; devote thyself to humility; cut thy claws and break thy dog-teeth; don woollens and offer thyself as an offering to Almighty Allah, then indeed I had pity upon thee, for true words are the best words. And although before I had been anxious for thy destruction, whenas I heard thy repenting and thy vows of amending should Allah vouchsafe to save thee, I felt bound to free thee from this thy present plight. So I let down my tail, that thou mightest grasp it and be saved. Yet wouldest thou not quit thy wonted violence and habit of brutality; nor soughtest thou to save thyself by fair means, but thou gavest me a tug which I thought would sever body from soul, so that thou and I are fallen into the same place of distress and death. And now there is but one thing can save us and, if thou accept it of me, we shall both escape; and after it behoveth thee to fulfil the vows thou hast made and I will be thy veritable friend." Asked the wolf, "What is it thou proposest for mine acceptance?" Answered the fox, "It is that thou stand up at full height till I come nigh on a level with the surface of the earth. Then will I give a spring and reach the ground; and, when out of the pit, I will bring thee what thou mayst lay hold of, and thus shalt thou make thine escape." Rejoined the wolf, "I have no faith in thy word, for sages have said, 'Whoso practiseth trust in the place of hate, erreth;' and, 'Whoso trusteth in the untrustworthy is a dupe; he who re-trieth him who hath been tried shall reap repentance and his days shall go waste; and he who cannot distinguish between case and case, giving each its due, and assigneth all the weight to one side, his luck shall be little and his miseries shall be many.' How well saith the poet,

'Let thy thought be ill and none else but ill; * For suspicion is best of the worldling's skill:
Naught casteth a man into parlous place * But good opinion and (worse) good-will!'

And the saying of another,

'Be sure all are villains and so bide safe; * Who lives wide awake on few Ills shall light:
Meet thy foe with smiles and a smooth fair brow, * And in heart raise a host for the battle dight!'

And that of yet another,

'He thou trusted most is thy worst unfriend; * 'Ware all and take heed with whom thou wend:
Fair opinion of Fortune is feeble sign; * So believe her ill and her Ills perpend!'"

Quoth the fox, "Verily mistrust and ill opinion of others are not to be commended in every case; nay trust and confidence are the characteristics of a noble nature and the issue thereof is freedom from stress of fear. Now it behoveth thee, O thou wolf, to devise some device for thy deliverance from this thou art in, and our escape will be better to us both than our death: so quit thy distrust and rancour; for if thou trust in me one of two things will happen; either I shall bring thee something whereof to lay hold and escape from this case, or I shall abandon thee to thy doom. But this thing may not be, for I am not safe from falling into some such strait as this thou art in, which, indeed, would be fitting punishment of perfidy. Of a truth the adage saith, 'Faith is fair and faithlessness is foul.' So it behoveth thee to trust in me, for I am not ignorant of the haps and mishaps of the world; and delay not to contrive some device for our deliverance, as the case is too close to allow further talk." Replied the wolf, "For all my want of confidence in thy fidelity, verily I knew what was in thy mind and that thou wast moved to deliver me whenas thou heardest my repentance, and I said to myself, 'If what he asserteth be true, he will have repaired the ill he did; and if false, it resteth with the Lord to requite him.' So, look'ee, I have accepted thy proposal and, if thou betray me, may thy traitorous deed be the cause of thy destruction!" Then the wolf stood bolt upright in the pit and, taking the fox upon his shoulders, raised him to the level of the ground, whereupon Reynard gave a spring from his back and lighted on the surface of the earth. When he found himself safely out of the cleft he fell down senseless and the wolf said to him, "O my friend! neglect not my case and delay not to deliver me." The fox laughed with a loud haw-haw and replied, "O dupe, naught threw me into thy hands save my laughing at thee and making mock of thee; for in good sooth when I heard thee profess repentance, mirth and gladness seized me and I frisked about and made merry and danced, so that my tail hung low into the pit and thou caughtest hold of it and draggedst me down with thee. And the end was that Allah Almighty delivered me from thy power. Then why should I be other than a helper in thy destruction, seeing that thou art of Satan's host? I dreamt yesterday that I danced at thy wedding and I told my dream to an interpreter who said to me, 'Verily thou shalt fall into imminent deadly danger and thou shalt escape therefrom.' So now I know that my falling into thy hand and my escape are the fulfillment of my dream, and thou, O imbecile, knowest me for thy foe; so how couldest thou, of thine ignorance and unintelligence, nurse desire of deliverance at my hands, after all thou hast heard of harsh words from me; and wherefore should I attempt thy salvation whenas the sages have said, 'In the death of the wicked is rest for mankind and a purge for the earth'? But, were it not that I fear to bear more affliction by keeping faith with thee than the sufferings which follow perfidy, I had done mine endeavour to save thee." When the wolf heard this, he bit his forehand for repentance. --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the One Hundred and Fiftieth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the wolf heard the fox's words he bit his forehand for repentance. Then he gave the fox fair words, but this availed naught and he was at his wits' end for what to do; so he said to him in soft, low accents, "Verily, you tribe of foxes are the most pleasant people in point of tongue and the subtlest in jest, and this is but a joke of thine; but all times are not good for funning and jesting." The fox replied, "O ignoramus, in good sooth jesting hath a limit which the jester must not overpass; and deem not that Allah will again give thee possession of me after having once delivered me from thy hand." Quoth the wolf, "It behoveth thee to compass my release, by reason of our brotherhood and good fellowship; and, if thou release me, I will assuredly make fair thy recompense." Quoth the fox, "Wise men say, 'Take not to brother the wicked fool, for he will disgrace thee in lieu of gracing thee; nor take to brother the liar for, if thou do good, he will conceal it; and if thou do ill he will reveal it.' And again, the sages have said, 'There is help for everything but death: all may be warded off, except Fate.' As for the reward thou declarest to be my due from thee, I compare thee herein with the serpent which fled from the charmer. A man saw her affrighted and said to her, 'What aileth thee, O thou serpent?' Replied she, 'I am fleeing from the snake-charmer, for he seeketh to trap me and, if thou wilt save me and hide me with thee, I will make fair thy reward and do thee all manner of kindness.' So he took her, incited thereto by lust for the recompense and eager to find favour with Heaven, and set her in his breastpocket. Now when the charmer had passed and had wended his way and the serpent had no longer any cause to fear, he said to her, 'Where is the reward thou didst promise me? Behold, I have saved thee from that thou fearedest and soughtest to fly.' Replied she, 'Tell me in what limb or in what place shall I strike thee with my fangs, for thou knowest we exceed not that recompense.' So saying, she gave him a bite whereof he died. And I liken thee, O dullard, to the serpent in her dealings with that man. Hast thou not heard what the poet saith?

'Trust not to man when thou hast raised his spleen * And wrath, nor that 'twill cool do thou misween:
Smooth feels the viper to the touch and glides * With grace, yet hides she deadliest venene.'"

Quoth the wolf, "O thou glib of gab and fair of face, ignore not my case and men's fear of me; and well thou weetest how I assault the strongly walled place and uproot the vines from base. Wherefore, do as I bid thee, and stand before me even as the thrall standeth before his lord." Quoth the fox, "O stupid dullard who seekest a vain thing, I marvel at thy folly and thy front of brass in that thou biddest me serve thee and stand up before thee as I were a slave bought with thy silver; but soon shalt thou see what is in store for thee, in the way of cracking thy sconce with stones and knocking out thy traitorous dog-teeth." So saying the fox clomb a hill overlooking the vineyard and standing there, shouted out to the vintagers; nor did he give over shouting till he woke them and they, seeing him, all came up to him in haste. He stood his ground till they drew near him and close to the pit wherein was the wolf; and then he turned and fled. So the folk looked into the cleft and, spying the wolf, set to pelting him with heavy stones, and they stinted not smiting him with stones and sticks, and stabbing him with spears, till they killed him and went away. Thereupon the fox returned to that cleft and, standing over the spot where his foe had been slain, saw the wolf dead: so he wagged his head for very joyance and began to recite these couplets,

"Fate the Wolf's soul snatched up from wordly stead; * Far be from bliss his soul that perished!
Abu Sirhan! how sore thou sought'st my death; * Thou, burnt this day in fire of sorrow dread:
Thou'rt fallen into pit, where all who fall * Are blown by Death-blast down among the dead."

Thenceforward the aforesaid fox abode alone in the vineyard unto the hour of his death secure and fearing no hurt. And such are the adventures of the wolf and the fox. But men also tell a...

[Go to Tale of the Mouse and the Ichneumon]

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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