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Payne: The Cat and the Mouse

[Go back to King Jelyaad of Hind and His Vizier Shimas: Whereafter Ensueth the History of King Wird Khan, Son of King Jelyaad, With His Women and Viziers]

A grimalkin, that is to say, a cat, went out one night to a certain garden, in quest of what she might devour, but found nothing and became weak for the excess of cold and rain that prevailed that night. As she prowled about in search of prey, she espied a nest at the foot of a tree, and drawing near unto it, sniffed and purred about it till she scented a mouse within and went round about it, seeking to enter and take the mouse. When the latter smelt the cat, it turned its back to her and scraped up the earth with its paws, to stop the door against her; whereupon she counterfeited a weak 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 shelter 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 this garden to-night, and how many a time have I prayed for death, that I might be at rest from this misery! Behold, here am I at thy door, prostrate for cold and wet, and I beseech thee, by Allah, take my hand of thy charity and bring me in with thee and give me shelter in the vestibule of thy nest; for I am a stranger and wretched and it is said, 'Whoso shelters a stranger and a wretched one in his dwelling, his shelter shall be Paradise on the Day of Reckoning.' And thou, O my brother, it behoves thee to earn a recompense [from God] by succouring me and suffering me abide with thee this night till the morning, when I will go my way." "How shall I suffer thee enter my nest," answered the mouse, "seeing that thou art my natural enemy and thy food is of my flesh? Indeed I fear lest thou play me false, for that is of thy nature and there is no faith in thee, and the byword says, 'It befits not to entrust a whoremonger with a fair woman nor a needy man with money nor fire with firewood.' Neither doth it behove me to entrust myself to thee; and it is said, 'Enmity of kind grows stronger, as the enemy himself grows weaker.'"

The cat made answer in a very faint voice, as she were in the most piteous case, saying, "What thou sayest of admonitory instances is the truth and I deny not my offences against thee; but I beseech thee to forgive that which is past of the enmity of kind between thee and me; for it is said, 'Whoso forgiveth a creature like himself, his Creator will forgive him his sins.' It is true that I was thy sometime enemy, but today I am a suitor for thy friendship, and it is said, 'If thou wilt have thine enemy be 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 never do thee hurt, more by token that I have no power unto this; wherefore do thou trust in God and do good and accept my oath and covenant." "How can I accept the covenant of one between whom and me there is a rooted enmity," rejoined the mouse, "and whose wont it is to deal treacherously by me? Were the feud between us aught but one of blood, this were easy to me; but it is an enmity of kind between souls, and it is said, 'He who trusts himself to his enemy is as one who puts his hand into a viper's mouth.'" Quoth the cat, full of wrath, "My breast is straitened and my soul faints within me: indeed I am in extremity 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: and this is my last word to thee."

With this the fear of God the Most High overcame the mouse and pity took hold upon his heart and he said in himself, "Whoso would have the succour of God the Most High against his enemy, let him entreat him with compassion and kindness. I commit myself to God in this matter and will deliver this cat from this her strait and earn the reward [of God] for her." So he went forth and dragged the cat into his nest, where she abode till she was rested and somewhat restored, when she began to bewail her weakness and loss of strength and lack of friends. The mouse entreated her friendly 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 latter 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 throw him down and run after him and crunch him and torture him.

The mouse cried out for help, beseeching God of deliverance, and began to upbraid the cat, saying, "Where is the covenant thou madest with me and where are the oaths thou sworest to me? Is this my reward from thee? I brought thee into my nest and trusted myself to thee: but he speaks sooth who says, 'He who relies on his enemy's promise desireth not salvation for himself.' And again, 'Whoso trusts himself to his enemy merits his own destruction.' Yet do I put my trust in my Creator, for He will deliver me from thee.' The cat was about to pounce on him and devour him, when up came a huntsman, with hunting dogs trained to the chase. One of the dogs passed by the mouth of the nest and hearing a great scuffing within, thought there was a fox there, tearing somewhat; so he thrust 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 to herself and loosed the mouse alive and whole of wound. Then the dog broke her neck and dragging her forth of the hole, threw her down dead: and thus was exemplified the truth of the saying, "He who hath compassion, compassion shall be shown him at the last; and he who oppresseth shall presently be oppressed."

This, then, O king,' added the interpreter, 'is what befell the cat and the mouse and teaches that none should break faith with those who put trust in him; for whoso doth perfidy and treason, there shall befall him the like of that which befell the cat. As a man meteth, so shall it be meted unto him, and he who betaketh himself unto good shall gain his reward [in the world to come]. But grieve thou not, neither let this trouble thee, O king, for that most like thy son, after his tyranny and oppression, will return to the goodliness of thy policy. And I would that learned man, thy Vizier Shimas, had concealed from thee nought in that which he expounded unto thee; and this had been well-advised of him, for it is 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 dismissing him and his fellow with rich presents, withdrew to his own apartments and fell to musing over the issue of his affair. When the 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 before four months had passed over her, the child stirred in her belly, whereat she rejoiced with an exceeding joy and told the king. Quoth he, 'My dream said sooth, by God the Helper!' And he lodged her in the goodliest of lodgings and bestowed on her store of rich gifts and entreated her with all honour. Then he sent for his Vizier Shimas and told him what had betided, rejoicing and saying, 'My dream is come true and I have attained my hope. It may be this child will be a son and inherit the kingship after me; what sayst thou of this, O Shimas?' But he was silent and made no reply. Quoth the king, 'What ails thee that thou rejoicest not in my joy and returnest me no answer? Doth the thing mislike thee, O Shimas?'

Thereupon the vizier prostrated himself before him and said, 'O king, may God 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 withal, and what doth it profit to quench one's thirst with sweet cool water, if one be drowned therein? I am God's servant and thine, O king; but there are three things whereof it beats not the understanding to speak till they be accomplished; to wit, the traveller, till he return from his journey: the man who is at war, till he have overcome his enemy, and the pregnant woman, till she have cast her burden. For know, O king, that he, who speaks of aught before it be accomplished, is like the fakir and the pot of butter.' 'What is the story of the fakir,' asked the king, 'and what happened to him?' 'O king,' answered the vizier,...

[Go to The Fakir and His Pot of Butter]

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

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