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Payne: The Wolf and the Fox (cont.)

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'Spare me this talk and these moral instances,' said the wolf, 'and remind me not of my former ill deeds, for the sorry plight I am in suffices me, seeing that I am fallen into a place, in which even my enemy would pity me, to say nothing of my friend. So make thou some shift to deliver me and be thou thereby my saviour. If this cause thee aught of hardship, think that a true friend will endure the sorest travail for his friend's sake and risk his life to deliver him from perdition; and indeed it hath been said, "A tender friend is better than an own brother." So if thou bestir thyself and help me and deliver me, I will gather thee such store of gear, as shall be a provision for thee against the time of want, and teach thee rare tricks to gain access to fruitful vineyards and strip the fruit-laden trees.' 'How excellent,' rejoined the fox, laughing, 'is what the learned say of those who are past measure ignorant, like unto thee!' 'What do they say?' asked the wolf; and the fox answered, 'They say that the gross of body are gross of nature, far from understanding and nigh unto ignorance. As for thy saying, O perfidious, stupid self-deceiver, that a friend should suffer hardship to succour his friend, it is true, as thou sayest: but tell me, of thine ignorance and poverty of wit, how can I be a true friend to thee, considering thy treachery? Dost thou count me thy friend? Behold, I am thine enemy, that exulteth in thy misfortune; and couldst thou understand it, this word were sorer to thee than slaughter and arrow-shot. As for thy promise to provide me a store against the time of want and teach me tricks to enter vineyards and spoil fruit-trees, how comes it, O crafty traitor, that thou knowest not a trick to save thyself from destruction? How far art thou from profiting thyself and how far am I from lending ear to thy speech! If thou have any tricks, make shift for thyself to save thee from this peril, wherefrom I pray God to make thine escape distant! So look, O idiot, if there be any trick with thee and save thyself from death therewith, before thou lavish instruction on others. But thou art like a certain sick man, who went to another, suffering from the same disease, and said to him, "Shall I heal thee of thy disease?" "Why dost thou not begin by healing thyself?" answered the other; so he left him and went his way. And thou, O ignorant wolf, art like this; so stay where thou art and be patient under what hath befallen thee.' When the wolf heard what the fox said, he knew he had no hope from him; so he wept for himself, saying, 'Verily, I have been heedless of mine affair; but if God deliver me from this scrape, I will assuredly repent of my arrogance towards those who are weaker than I and will put on wool and go upon the mountains, celebrating the praises of God the Most High and fearing His wrath. Yea, I will sunder myself from all the other wild beasts and feed the poor and those who fight for the Faith.' Then he wept and lamented, till the heart of the fox was softened and he took pity on him, whenas he heard his humble words and his professions of repentance for his past arrogance and tyranny. So he sprang up joyfully and going to the brink of the pit, sat down on his hind quarters and let his tail fall therein; whereupon the wolf arose and putting out his paw, pulled the fox's tail, so that he fell down into the pit with him. Then said the wolf, 'O fox of little ruth, why didst thou exult over me, 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 wise have said, "If one of you reproach his brother with sucking the teats of a bitch, he also shall suck her," and how well saith the poet:

When fortune's blows on some fall hard and heavily, With others of our kind as friend encampeth she. So say to those who joy in our distress, "Awake; For those who mock our woes shall suffer even as we."

And death in company is the best of things; wherefore I will make haste to kill thee, ere thou see me killed.' 'Alas! Alas!' said the fox in himself. 'I am fallen in with this tyrant, and my case calls for the use of craft and cunning; for indeed it is said that a woman fashions her ornaments for the festival day, and quoth the proverb, "I have kept thee, O my tear, against the time of my distress!" Except I make shift to circumvent this overbearing beast, I am lost without recourse; and how well says the poet:

Provide thee by craft, for thou liv'st in a time Whose folk are as lions that lurk in a wood, And set thou the mill-stream of knavery abroach, That the mill of subsistence may grind for thy food, And pluck the fruits boldly; but if they escape From thy grasp, then content thee with hay to thy food.'

Then said he to the wolf, 'Hasten not to slay me, for that is not my desert and thou wouldst repent it, O valiant beast, lord of might and exceeding prowess! If thou hold thy hand and consider what I shall tell thee, thou wilt know that which I purpose; but if thou hasten to kill me, it will profit thee nothing and we shall both die here.' 'O wily deceiver,' answered the wolf, 'how hopest thou to work my deliverance and thine own, that thou wouldst have me grant thee time? Speak and let me know thy purpose.' 'As for my purpose,' replied the fox, 'it was such as deserves that thou reward me handsomely for it; for when I heard thy promises and thy confession of thy past ill conduct and regrets for not having earlier repented and done good and thy vows, shouldst thou escape from this thy stress, to leave harming thy fellows and others and forswear eating grapes and other fruits and devote thyself to humility and cut thy claws and break thy teeth and don wool and offer thyself as a sacrifice to God the Most High,--when (I say), I heard thy repentance and vows of amendment, compassion took me for thee, though before I was anxious for thy destruction, and I felt bound to save thee from this thy present plight. So I let down my tail, that thou mightest grasp it and make thine escape. Yet wouldst thou not put off thy wonted violence and brutality nor soughtest to save thyself by fair means, but gavest me such a tug that I thought my soul would depart my body, so that thou and I are become involved in the same stead of ruin and death. There is but one thing can deliver us, to which if thou agree, we shall both escape; and after it behoves thee to keep the vows thou hast made, and I will be thy friend.' 'What is it thou hast to propose?' asked the wolf. 'It is,' answered the fox, 'that thou stand up, and I will climb up on to thy head and so bring myself nigh on a level with the surface of the earth. Then will I give a spring and as soon as I reach the ground, I will fetch thee what thou mayst lay hold of and make thine escape.' 'I have no faith in thy word,' rejoined the wolf, 'for the wise have said, "He who practices trust in the place of hate, errs," and "He who trusts in the faithless is a dupe; he who tries those that have been [already] tried (and found wanting) shall reap repentance and his days shall pass away without profit; and he who cannot distinguish between cases, giving each its due part, his good fortune will be small and his afflictions many." How well saith the poet:

Be thy thought ever ill and of all men beware; Suspicion of good parts the helpfullest was e'er. For nothing brings a man to peril and distress As doth the doing good (to men) and thinking fair.

And another:

Be constant ever in suspect; 'twill save thee aye anew; For he who lives a wakeful life, his troubles are but few. Meet thou the foeman in thy way with open, smiling face; But in thy heart set up a host shall battle with him do.

And yet another:

Thy worst of foes is thy nearest friend, in whom thou puttest trust; So look thou be on thy guard with men and use them warily aye. 'Tis weakness to augur well of fate; think rather ill of it. And be in fear of its shifts and tricks, lest it should thee bewray.'

'Verily,' said the fox, 'distrust is not to be commended in every case; on the contrary, a confiding disposition is the characteristic of a noble nature and its issue is freedom from terrors. Now it behoves thee, O wolf, to put in practice some device for thy deliverance from this thou art in and the escape of us both will be better than our death: so leave thy distrust and rancour; for if thou trust in me, one of two things will happen; either I shall bring thee whereof to lay hold and escape, or I shall play thee false and save myself and leave thee; and this latter may not be, for I am not safe from falling into some such strait as this thou art in, which would be fitting punishment of perfidy. Indeed the adage saith, "Faith is fair and perfidy foul." It behoves thee, therefore, to trust in me, for I am not ignorant of the vicissitudes of Fortune: so delay not to contrive some device for our deliverance, for the case is too urgent for further talk.' 'To tell thee the truth,' replied the wolf, 'for all my want of confidence in thy fidelity, I knew what was in thy mind and that thou wast minded to deliver me, whenas thou heardest my repentance, and I said in myself, "If what he asserts be true, he will have repaired the ill he did: and if false, it rests with God to requite him." So, behold, I accept thy proposal, and if thou betray me, may thy perfidy be the cause of thy destruction!' Then he stood upright in the pit and taking the fox upon his shoulders, raised him to the level of the ground, whereupon the latter gave a spring and lighted on the surface of the earth. When he found himself in safety, 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 derisively and replied, 'O dupe, it was but my laughing at thee and making mock of thee that threw me into thy hands: for when I heard thee profess repentance, mirth and gladness seized me and I frisked about and danced and made merry, so that my tail fell down into the pit and thou caughtest hold of it and draggedst me down with thee. Why should I be other than a helper in thy destruction, seeing that thou art of the host of the devil! I dreamt yesterday that I danced at thy wedding and related my dream to an interpreter, who told me that I should fall into a great danger and escape from it. So now I know that my falling into thy hand and my escape are the fulfilment of my dream, and thou, O ignorant dupe, knowest me for thine enemy; so how canst thou, of thine ignorance and lack of wit, hope for deliverance at my hands, after all thou hast heard of harsh words from me, and wherefore should I endeavour for thy deliverance, whenas the wise have said, "In the death of the wicked is peace for mankind and purgation for the earth?" Yet, but that I fear to reap more affliction by keeping faith with thee than could follow perfidy, I would do my endeavour to save thee.' When the wolf heard this, he bit his paws for despite and was at his wit's end what to do. Then he gave the fox fair words, but this availed nought; so he said to him softly, 'Verily, you foxes are the most pleasant spoken of folk and the subtlest in jest, and this is but a jest of thine; but all times are not good for sport and jesting.' 'O dolt,' answered the fox, 'jesting hath a limit, that the jester overpasses not, and deem not that God will again give thee power over me, after having once delivered me from thee.' Quoth the wolf, 'It behoves thee to endeavour for my release, by reason of our brotherhood and fellowship, and if thou deliver me, I will assuredly make fair thy reward.' 'The wise say,' rejoined the fox,' "Fraternize not with the ignorant and wicked, for he will shame thee and not adorn thee,--nor with the liar, for if thou do good, he will hide it, and if evil, he will publish it;" and again, "There is help for everything but death: all may be mended, save natural depravity, and everything may be warded off, except Fate." As for the reward thou promisest me, I liken thee therein to the serpent that fled from the charmer. A man saw her affrighted and said to her, "What ails thee, O serpent?" Quoth she, "I am fleeing from the serpent-charmer, who is in chase of me, and if thou wilt save me and hide me with thee, I will make fair thy recompense and do thee all manner of kindness." So he took her, moved both by desire of the promised recompense and a wish to find favour with God, and hid her in his bosom. When the charmer had passed and gone his way and the serpent had no longer any reason to fear, he said to her, "Where is the recompense thou didst promise me? Behold, I have saved thee from that thou dreadest." "Tell me where I shall bite thee," replied she, "for thou knowest we overpass not that recompense." So saying, she gave him a bite, of which he died. And I liken thee, O dullard, to the serpent in her dealings with the man. Hast thou not heard what the poet says?

Trust not in one in whose heart thou hast made wrath to abide And thinkest his anger at last is over and pacified. Verily vipers, though smooth and soft to the feel and the eye And graceful of movements they be, yet death-dealing venom they hide.'

'O glib-tongue, lord of the fair face,' said the wolf, 'thou art not ignorant of my case and of men's fear of me and knowest how I assault the strong places and root up the vines. Wherefore, do as I bid thee and bear thyself to me as a servant to his lord.' 'O stupid dullard,' answered the fox, 'that seekest a vain thing, I marvel at thy stupidity and effrontery, in that thou biddest me serve thee and order myself towards thee as I were a slave bought with thy money; but thou shalt see what is in store for thee, in the way of breaking thy head with stones and knocking out thy traitor's teeth.' So saying, he went up to a hill that gave upon the vineyard and standing there, called out to the people of the place, nor did he give over crying, till he woke them and they, seeing him, came up to him in haste. He held his ground till they drew near him and near the pit, when he turned and fled. So they looked into the pit and spying the wolf, fell to pelting him with heavy stones, nor did they leave smiting him with sticks and stones and piercing him with lances, till they killed him and went away; whereupon the fox returned to the pit and looking down, saw the wolf dead: so he wagged his head for excess of joy and chanted the following verses:

Fate took the soul o' the wolf and snatched it far away; Foul fall it for a soul that's lost and perished aye! How oft, O Gaffer Grim, my ruin hast thou sought! But unrelenting bale is fallen on thee this day. Thou fellst into a pit, wherein there's none may fall Except the blasts of death blow on him for a prey.

Then he abode alone in the vineyard, secure and fearing no hurt.

[Go to The Mouse and the Weasel]

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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