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A peacock once abode with his mate on the sea-shore, in a place that abounded in trees and streams, but was infested with lions and all manner other wild beasts, and for fear of these latter, the two birds were wont to roost by night upon a tree, going forth by day in quest of food. They abode thus awhile, till, their fear increasing on them, they cast about for some other place wherein to dwell, and in the course of their search, they happened on an island abounding in trees and streams. So they alighted there and ate of its fruits and drank of its waters. Whilst they were thus engaged, up came a duck, in a state of great affright, and stayed not till she reached the tree on which the two peacocks were perched, when she seemed reassured. The peacock doubted not but that she had some rare story; so he asked her of her case and the cause of her alarm, to which she replied, 'I am sick for sorrow and my fear of the son of Adam: beware, O beware of the sons of Adam!' 'Fear not,' rejoined the peacock, 'now that thou hast won to us.' 'Praised be God,' cried the duck, 'who hath done away my trouble and my concern with your neigbourhood! For indeed I come, desiring your friendship.' Thereupon the peahen came down to her and said, 'Welcome and fair welcome! No harm shall befall thee: how can the son of Adam come at us and we in this island midmost the sea? From the land he cannot win to us, neither can he come up to us out of the sea. So be of good cheer and tell us what hath betided thee from him. 'Know then, O peahen,' answered the duck, 'that I have dwelt all my life in this island in peace and safety and have seen no disquieting thing, till one night, as I was asleep, I saw in a dream the semblance of a son of Adam, who talked with me and I with him. Then I heard one say to me, "O duck, beware of the son of Adam and be not beguiled by his words nor by that he may suggest to thee; for he aboundeth in wiles and deceit; so beware with all wariness of his perfidy, for he is crafty and guileful, even as saith of him the poet:
He giveth thee honeyed words with the tip of his tongue, galore. But sure he will cozen thee, as the fox cloth, evermore.
For know that the son of Adam beguileth the fish and draweth them forth of the waters and shooteth the birds with a pellet of clay and entrappeth the elephant with his craft. None is safe from his mischief, and neither beast nor bird escapeth him. Thus have I told thee what I have heard concerning the son of Adam." I awoke, fearful and trembling (continued the duck), and from that time to this my heart hath not known gladness, for fear of the son of Adam, lest he take me unawares by his craft or trap me in his snares. By the time the end of the day overtook me, I was grown weak and my strength and courage failed me; so, desiring to eat and drink, I went forth, troubled in spirit and with a heart ill at ease. I walked on, till I reached yonder mountain, where I saw a tawny lion-whelp at the door of a cave. When he saw me, he rejoiced greatly in me, for my colour pleased him and my elegant shape: so he cried out to me, saying "Draw nigh unto me." So I went up to him and he said to me, "What is thy name and thy kind?" Quoth I, "My name is 'duck,' and I am of the bird-kind; but thou, why tarriest thou in this place till now?" "My father the lion," answered he, "has bidden me many a day beware of the son of Adam, and it befell this night that I saw in my sleep the semblance of a son of Adam." And he went on to tell me the like of that I have told you. When I heard this, I said to him, "O lion, I resort to thee, that thou mayst kill the son of Adam and steadfastly address thy thought to his slaughter; for I am greatly in fear for myself of him, and fear is added to my fear, for that thou also fearest the son of Adam, and thou the Sultan of the beasts. Then, O my sister, I ceased not to bid him beware of the son of Adam and urge him to slay him, till he rose of a sudden from his stead and went out, lashing his flanks with his tail. He fared on, and I after him, till we came to a place, where several roads met, and saw cloud of dust arise, which, presently clearing away, discovered a naked runaway ass, and now running and galloping and now rolling in the dust. When the lion saw the ass, he cried out to him, and he came up to him submissively. Then said the lion, "Harkye, crack-brain! What is thy kind and what brings thee hither?" "O, son of the Sultan," answered the ass, "I am by kind an ass, and the cause of my coming hither is that I am fleeing from the son of Adam." "Dost thou fear then that he will kill thee?" asked the lion-whelp. "Not so, O son of the Sultan," replied the ass; "but I fear lest he put a cheat on me; for he hath a thing called the pad, that he sets on my back, and a thing called the girth, that he binds about my belly, and a thing called the crupper, that he puts under my tail, and a thing called the bit, that he places in my mouth; and he fashions me a goad and goads me with it and makes me run more than my strength. If I stumble, he curses me, and if I bray, he reviles me; and when I grow old and can no longer run, he puts a wooden pannel on me and delivers me to the water-carriers, who load my back with water from the river, in skins and other vessels, such as jars, and I wear out my life in misery and abasement and fatigue till I die, when they cast me on the rubbish-heaps to the dogs. So what misery can surpass this, and what calamities can be greater than these?" When, O peahen, I heard the ass's words, my skin shuddered at the son of Adam and I said to the lion-whelp, "Of a verity, O my lord, the ass hath excuse, and his words add terror to my terror." Then said the lion to the ass, "Whither goest thou?" "Before the rising of the sun" answered he, "I espied the son of Adam afar off and fled from him, and now I am minded to flee forth and run without ceasing, for the greatness of my fear of him, so haply I may find a place to shelter me from the perfidious son of Adam." Whilst he was thus discoursing, seeking the while to take leave of us and go away, behold, another cloud of dust arose, at sight of which the ass brayed and cried out and let fly a great crack of wind. Presently, the dust lifted and discovered a handsome black horse of elegant shape, with white feet and fine legs and a brow-star like a dirhem, which made towards us, neighing, and stayed not till he stood before the whelp, the son of the lion, who, when he saw him, marvelled at his beauty and said to him, "What is thy kind, O noble wild beast, and wherefore fleest thou into this vast and wide desert?" "O lord of the beasts," answered he, "I am of the horse-kind, and I am fleeing from the son of Adam." The whelp wondered at the horse's words and said to him, "Say not thus; for it is shame for thee, seeing that thou art tall and stout. How comes it that thou fearest the son of Adam, thou, with thy bulk of body and thy swiftness of running, when I, for all my littleness of body, am resolved to find out the son of Adam, and rushing on him, eat his flesh, that I may allay the affright of this poor duck and make her to dwell in peace in her own place. But now thou hast wrung my heart with thy talk and turned me back from what I had resolved to do, in that, for all thy bulk, the son of Adam hath mastered thee and feared neither thy height nor thy breadth, though, wert thou to kick him with thy foot, thou wouldst kill him, nor could he prevail against thee, but thou wouldst make him drink the cup of death." The horse laughed, when he heard the whelp's words, and replied, "Far, far is it from my power to overcome him, O king's son! Let not my length and my breadth nor yet my bulk delude thee, with respect to the son of Adam; for he, of the excess of his guile and his cunning, fashions for me a thing called a hobble and hobbles my four legs with ropes of palm-fibres, bound with felt, and makes me fast by the head to a high picket, so that I remain standing and can neither sit nor lie down, being tied up. When he hath a mind to ride me, he binds on his feet a thing of iron called a stirrup and lays on my back another thing called a saddle, which he fastens by two girths, passed under my armpits. Then he sets in my mouth a thing of iron he calls a bit, to which he ties a thing of leather called a rein; and when he mounts on the saddle on my back, he takes the rein in his hand and guides me with it, goading my flanks the while with the stirrups, till he makes them bleed: so do not ask, O king's son, what I endure from the son of Adam. When I grow old and lean and can no longer run swiftly, he sells me to the miller, who makes me turn in the mill, and I cease not from turning night and day, till I grow decrepit. Then he in turn sells me to the knacker, who slaughters me and flays off my hide, after which he plucks out my tail, which he sells to the sieve-makers, and melts down my fat for tallow." At this, the young lion's anger and vexation redoubled, and he said to the horse, "When didst thou leave the son of Adam?" "At mid-day," replied the horse; "and he is now on my track." Whilst the whelp was thus conversing with the horse, there arose a cloud of dust and presently subsiding, discovered a furious camel, which made toward us, braying and pawing the earth with his feet. When the whelp saw how great and lusty he was, he took him to be the son of Adam and was about to spring at him, when I said to him, "O king's son, this is not the son of Adam, but a camel, and me seems he is fleeing from the son of Adam." As I spoke, O my sister, the camel came up and saluted the lion-whelp, who returned his greeting and said to him, "What brings thee hither?" Quoth he, "I am fleeing from the son of Adam." "And thou," said the whelp, "with thy huge frame and length and breadth, how comes it that thou fearest the son of Adam, seeing that one kick of thy foot would kill him?" "O son of the Sultan," answered the camel, "know that the son of Adam has wiles, which none can withstand, nor can any but Death prevail against him; for he puts in my nostrils a twine of goat's-hair he calls a nose-ring and over my head a thing he calls a halter; then he delivers me to the least of his children, and the youngling draws me along by the nose-ring, for all my size and strength. Then they load me with the heaviest of burdens and go long journeys with me and put me to hard labours all hours of the day and night. When I grow old and feeble, my master keeps me not with him, but sells me to the knacker, who slaughters me and sells my hide to the tanners and my flesh to the cooks: so do not ask what I suffer from the son of Adam." "When didst thou leave the son of Adam?" asked the young lion. "At sundown," replied the camel; "and I doubt not but that, having missed me, he is now in search of me: wherefore, O son of the Sultan, let me go, that I may flee into the deserts and the wilds." "Wait awhile, O camel," said the whelp, "till thou see how I will rend him in pieces and give thee to eat of his flesh, whilst I crunch his bones and drink his blood." "O king's son," rejoined the camel, "I fear for thee from the son of Adam, for he is wily and perfidious." And he repeated the following verse:
Whenas on any land the oppressor cloth alight, There's nothing left for those, that dwell therein, but flight.
Whilst the camel was speaking, there arose a cloud of dust, which opened and showed a short thin old man, with a basket of carpenters' tools on his shoulder and a branch of a tree and eight planks on his head. He had little children in his hand, and came on at a brisk pace, till he drew near us. When I saw him, O my sister, I fell down for excess of affright; but the young lion rose and went to meet the carpenter, who smiled in his face and said to him, with a glib tongue, "O illustrious king and lord of the long arm, may God prosper shine evening and shine endeavour and increase thy velour and strengthen thee! Protect me from that which hath betided me and smitten me with its mischief, for I have found no helper save only thee." And he stood before him, weeping and groaning and lamenting. When the whelp heard his weeping and wailing, he said, "I will succour thee from that thou fearest. Who hath done thee wrong and what art thou, O wild beast, whose like I never saw in my life nor saw I ever one goodlier of form or more eloquent of tongue than thou? What is thy case?" "O lord of the beasts," answered the man, "I am a carpenter; he who hath wronged me is a son of Adam, and by break of dawn he will be with thee in this place." When the lion heard this, the light in his face was changed to darkness and he roared and snorted and his eyes cast forth sparks. Then he said, "By Allah, I will watch this night till the dawn, nor will I return to my father till I have compassed my intent. But thou," continued he, addressing the carpenter, "I see thou art short of step, and I would not wound thy feelings, for that I am generous of heart; yet do I deem thee unable to keep pace with the wild beasts: tell me then whither thou goest." "Know," answered the carpenter, "that I am on my way to thy father's Vizier, the Lynx; for when he heard that the son of Adam had set foot in this country, he feared greatly for himself and sent one of the beasts for me, to make him a house, wherein he should dwell, that it might shelter him and hold his enemy from him, so not one of the sons of Adam should come at him." When the young lion heard this, he envied the lynx and said to the carpenter, "By my life, thou must make me a house with these planks, ere thou make one for the lynx! When thou hast done my work, go to the lynx and make him what he wishes." "O lord of the beasts," answered the carpenter, "I cannot make thee aught, till I have made the lynx what he desires: then will I return to thy service and make thee a house, to ward thee from shine enemy." "By Allah," exclaimed the whelp, "I will not let thee go hence, till thou make me a house of these planks!" So saying, he sprang upon the carpenter, thinking to jest with him, and gave him a cuff with his paw. The blow knocked the basket off the man's shoulder and he fell down in a swoon, whereupon the young lion laughed at him and said, "Out on thee, O carpenter! Of a truth thou art weak and hast no strength; so it is excusable in thee to fear the son of Adam." Now the carpenter was exceeding wroth; but he dissembled his anger, for fear of the whelp, and sat up and smiled in his face, saying, "Well, I will make thee the house." With this, he took the planks, and nailing them together, made a house in the form of a chest, after the measure of the young lion. In this he cut a large opening, to which he made a stout cover and bored many holes therein, leaving the door open. Then he took out some nails of wrought iron and a hammer and said to the young lion, "Enter this opening, that I may fit it to thy measure." The whelp was glad and went up to the opening, but saw that it was strait; and the carpenter said to him, "Crouch down and so enter." So the whelp crouched down and entered the chest, but his tail remained outside. Then he would have drawn back and come out; but the carpenter said to him, "Wait till I see if there be room for thy tail with thee." So saying, he twisted up the young lion's tail, and stuffing it into the chest, whipped the lid on to the opening and nailed it down; whereat the whelp cried out and said, "O carpenter, what is this narrow house thou hast made me? Let me out." But the carpenter laughed and answered, "God forbid! Repentance avails nothing for what is passed, and indeed thou shalt not come out of this place. Verily thou art fallen into the trap and there is no escape for thee from duresse, O vilest of wild beasts!" "O my brother," rejoined the whelp, "what manner of words are these?" "Know, O dog of the desert," answered the man, "that thou hast fallen into that which thou fearedst; Fate hath overthrown thee, nor did thought-taking profit thee." When the whelp heard these words, he knew that this was indeed the very son of Adam, against whom he had been warned by his father on wake and by the mysterious voice in sleep; and I also, O my sister, was certified that this was indeed he without doubt; wherefore there took me great fear of him for myself and I withdrew a little apart and waited to see what he would do with the young lion. Then I saw the son of Adam dig a pit hard by the chest and throwing the latter therein, heap brushwood upon it and burn the young lion with fire. At this sight, my fear of the son of Adam redoubled, and in my affright I have been these two days fleeing from him.'"
When the peahen heard the duck's story, she wondered exceedingly and said to her, 'O my sister, thou art safe here from the son of Adam, for we are in one of the islands of the sea, whither there is no way for him; so do thou take up shine abode with us, till God make easy shine and our affair.' Quoth the duck, 'I fear lest some calamity come upon me by night, for no runaway can rid him of fate.' 'Abide with us,' rejoined the peahen, 'and be even as we;' and ceased not to persuade her, till she yielded, saying, 'O my sister, thou knowest how little is my fortitude: had I not seen thee here, I had not remained.' 'That which is written on our foreheads,' said the peahen, 'we must indeed fulfil, and when our appointed day draws near, who shall deliver us? But not a soul passes away except it have accomplished its predestined term and fortune.' As they talked, a cloud of dust appeared, at sight of which the duck shrieked aloud and ran down into the sea, crying out, 'Beware, beware, albeit there is no fleeing from Fate and Fortune!' After awhile, the dust subsided and discovered an antelope; whereat the duck and the peahen were reassured and the latter said to her companion, 'O my sister, this thou seest and wouldst have me beware of is an antelope, and he is making for us. He will do us no hurt, for the antelope feeds upon the herbs of the earth, and even as thou art of the bird-kind, so is he of the beast-kind. So be of good cheer and leave care-taking; for care-taking wasteth the body.' Hardly had the peahen done speaking, when the antelope came up to them, thinking to shelter under the shade of the tree, and seeing the two birds, saluted them and said, 'I came to this island to-day, and I have seen none richer in herbage nor more pleasant of habitance.' Then he besought them of company and amity, and they, seeing his friendly behaviour to them, welcomed him and gladly accepted his offer. So they swore friendship one to another and abode in the island in peace and safety, eating and drinking and sleeping in common, till one day there came thither a ship, that had strayed from its course in the sea. It cast anchor near them, and the crew landing, dispersed about the island. They soon caught sight of the three animals and made for them, whereupon the peahen flew up into the tree and the antelope fled into the desert, but the duck abode paralysed (by fear). So they chased her, till they caught her and carried her with them to the ship, whilst she cried out and said, 'Caution availed me nothing against Fate and destiny!' When the peahen saw what had betided the duck, she came down from the tree, saying, 'I see that misfortunes lie in wait for all. But for yonder ship, parting had not befallen between me and this duck, for she was one of the best of friends. Then she flew off and rejoined the antelope, who saluted her and gave her joy of her safety and enquired for the duck, to which she replied, 'The enemy hath taken her, and I loathe the sojourn of this island after her.' Then she wept for the loss of the duck and repeated the following verses:
The day of severance broke my heart in tway. God do the like unto the severance-day!
And also these:
I pray that we may yet foregather once again. That I may tell her all that parting wrought of pain.
The antelope was greatly moved at hearing of their comrade's fate, but dissuaded the peahen from her resolve to leave the island. So they abode there together, eating and drinking in peace and safety, save that they ceased not to mourn for the loss of the duck, and the antelope said to the peahen, 'Thou seest, O my sister, how the folk who came forth of the ship were the means of our severance from the duck and of her destruction; so do thou beware of them and guard thyself from them and from the craft of the son of Adam and his perfidy.' But the peahen replied, 'I am assured that nought caused her death but her neglect to celebrate the praises of God, and indeed I said to her, "Verily I fear for thee, because thou art not careful to praise God; for all things that He hath made do glorify Him, and if any neglect to do so, it leadeth to their destruction."' When the antelope heard the peahen's words, he exclaimed, 'May God make fair thy face!' and betook himself to the celebration of the praises of the Almighty, never after slackening therefrom. And it is said that his form of adoration was as follows: 'Glory be to the Requiter of good and evil, the Lord of glory and dominion!'
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Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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