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A number of tortoises dwelt once in a certain island, abounding in trees and fruits and streams, and it chanced, one day, that a heathcock passing over the island, was overcome with heat and weariness and stayed his flight there. Presently, looking about for a cool place, he espied the resort of the tortoises and lighted down therein. Now they were then abroad in quest of food and when they returned from their feeding-places to their dwelling, they found the heathcock there. His beauty pleased them and God made him fair in their eyes, so that they extolled their Creator and loved the heathcock with an exceeding love and rejoiced in him, saying one to another, "Assuredly this is of the goodliest of the birds." And they began to caress him and entreat him with kindness. When he saw that they looked on him with eyes of affection, he inclined to them and made friends with them and took up his abode with them, Eying away in the morning whither he would and returning at eventide to pass the night with them.
After awhile, the tortoises, seeing that his [daylong] absence from them desolated them and finding that they saw him not but by night, (for at break of day he still took flight in haste and they knew not what came of him, for all their love to him,) said to each other, "Indeed, we love this heathcock and he is become our friend and we cannot brook parting from him; so how shall we do to make him abide with us always? For he flies away at daybreak and is absent from us all day and we see him not save by night." Quoth one of them, "Be easy, O my sisters. I will bring him not to leave us for the twinkling of an eye." And the rest answered, saying, "An thou do this, we will all be thy slaves."
So, when the heathcock came back from his feeding-place and sat down amongst them, the wily tortoise drew near unto him and called down blessings on him, giving him joy of his safe return and saying, "O my lord, know that God hath vouchsafed thee our love and hath in like manner set in thy heart the love of us, so that thou art become to us a familiar friend and a comrade in this desert place. Now the goodliest of times for those who love each other is when they are in company and the sorest of afflictions for them is absence and separation. But thou leavest us at peep of day and returnest not to us till sundown, wherefore there betideth us sore desolation. Indeed this is exceeding grievous unto us and we abide in sore longing by reason thereof."
"Indeed," answered the bird, "I love you also and yearn for you yet more than you for me, nor is it easy for me to leave you; but I have no help for this, seeing that I am a bird with wings and may not abide with you always, because that is not of my nature. For a bird, being a winged creature, may not remain still, except it be for the sake of sleep at night; but, as soon as it is day, he flies away and seeks his food in what place soever pleases him." "True," answered the tortoise. "Nevertheless he who hath wings hath no repose at most seasons, for that the good he getteth is not a fourth part of the trouble that betideth him, and the best of all the things for which one striveth is ease of life and contentment. Now God hath appointed love and fellowship between us and thee and we fear for thee, lest some of thine enemies catch thee and thou perish and we be denied the sight of thy face." "Thou sayst sooth," rejoined the heathcock; "but how dost thou counsel me to do?" Quoth the tortoise, "My advice is that thou pluck out thy wing- feathers, wherewith thou speedest thy flight, and abide with us in peace, eating of our meat and drinking of our drink in this pasturage, that aboundeth in trees laden with ripe fruits, and thou and we, we will sojourn in this fruitful place and enjoy each other's company."
The heathcock inclined to her speech, seeking ease for himself, and plucked out his wing-feathers, one by one, in accordance with the tortoise's counsel; then he took up his abode with them and contented himself with the little ease and passing pleasure he enjoyed. Presently up came a. weasel and looking at the heathcock, saw that his wings were plucked so that he could not fly, whereat he was mightily rejoiced and said in himself, "Verily yonder heathcock is fat and scant of feather." So he went up to him and seized him, whereupon the heathcock called out to the tortoises for help; but, when they saw the weasel seize him, they drew apart from him and huddled together, choked with weeping for him, for they saw the beast torture him. Quoth the heathcock, "Is there aught but weeping with you?" And they answered, saying, "O our brother, we have neither strength nor power nor resource against a weasel." At this the heathcock was grieved and gave up hope of life; and he said to them, "The fault is not yours, but mine own, in that I hearkened to you and plucked out my wing-feathers, wherewith I used to fly. Indeed, I deserve death for having hearkened to you, and I blame you not in aught."
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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