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Book 1. The Loss of Friends

The Mice That Ate Iron

In a certain town lived a merchant named Naduk, who lost his money and determined to travel abroad. For

The meanest of mankind is he

Who, having lost his money, can [193}

Inhabit lands or towns where once

He spent it like a gentleman.

And again:

The neighbour gossips blame

His poverty as shame

Who long was wont to play

Among them, proud and gay.

In his house was an iron balance-beam inherited from his ancestors, and it weighed a thousand pals. This he put in pawn with Merchant Lakshman before he departed for foreign countries.

Now after he had long travelled wherever business led him through foreign lands, he returned to his native city and said to Merchant Lakshman: "Friend Lakshman, return my deposit, the balance-beam." And Lakshman said: "Friend Naduk, your balance beam has been eaten by mice."

To this Naduk replied: "Lakshman, you are in no way to blame, if it has been eaten by mice. Such is life. Nothing in the universe has any permanence. However, I am going to the river for a bath. Please send your boy Money-God with me, to carry my bathing things."

Since Lakshman was conscience-stricken at his own theft, he said to his son Money-God: "My dear boy, let me introduce Uncle Naduk, who is going to the river to bathe. You must go with him and carry his bathing things." Ah, there is too much truth in the saying: [194}

There is no purely loving deed

Without a pinch of fear or greed

Or service of a selfish need.

And again:

Wherever there is fond attention

That does not seek a service pension,

Was there no timid apprehension?

So Lakshman's son took the bathing things and delightedly accompanied Naduk to the river. After Naduk had taken his bath, he thrust Lakshman's son Money-God into a mountain cave, blocked the entrance with a great rock, and returned to Lakshman's house. And when Lakshman said: "Friend Naduk, tell me what has become of my son Money-God who went with you," Naduk answered: "My good Lakshman, a hawk carried him off from the river-bank."

"Oh, Naduk!" cried Lakshman. "You liar! How could a hawk possibly carry off a big boy like Money-God?"

"But, Lakshman," retorted Naduk, "the mice could eat a balance-beam made of iron. Give me my balance-beam, if you want your son." Finally, they carried their dispute to the palace gate, where Lakshman cried in a piercing tone: "Help! Help! A ghastly deed! This Naduk person has carried off my son his name is Money-God."

Thereupon the magistrates said to Naduk: "Sir, restore the boy to Lakshman." But Naduk pleaded: "What am I to do? Before my eyes a hawk carried him from the river-bank."

"Come, Naduk!" said [195} they, "you are not telling the truth. How can a hawk carry off a fifteen-year-old boy?"

Then Naduk laughed outright and said: "Gentlemen, listen to my words.

Where mice eat balance-beams of iron

A thousand pals in weight,

A hawk might steal an elephant;

A boy is trifling freight."

"How was that?" they asked, and Naduk told them the story of the balance-beam. At this they laughed and caused the restoration of balance-beam and boy to the respective owners.

"And that is why I say:

Where mice eat balance-beams of iron, . . .

and the rest of it." And Cheek continued: "Dunderhead! You have done this because you could not cheerfully see Rusty's favour bestowed on Lively. Yes, yes, there is wisdom in the saying:

Cowards reproach the hero here on earth;

Base-born rascals blame the man of birth;

Misers, him who gives whatever he can;

Misfit lovers blame the ladies' man;

Rogues, the righteous; cripples blame the straight;

Those unlucky blame the fortunate;

Last, the scholar - it's the wretched rule -

Listens to reproaches from the fool.


Learnèd men from fools have hate;

Rich, from those less fortunate; [196}

Men of virtue, from the vicious;

Wives, from creatures meretricious.

Yet, after all:

Wise men, even, carry through

What their nature bids them do:

Nature ever will direct;

What can punishment effect?

"Instruction has value only for him who grasps what has been said once. But you are like a stone - brainless, immovable. Why waste effort to instruct you? More than that, O fool! it is a mistake even to live beside you. A disaster might someday befall me from mere association with you. As the proverb says:

To live beside a dunderhead

In house or village, town or nation,

Is evil pure and simple, though

One may escape all litigation.

Better plunge in sea or fire,

Hell or deepest pit,

Than associate with one

Quite devoid of wit.

With the bad or good consort,

Vice or virtue clings;

Just as when the breezes in

Distant wanderings

Carry odours foul or sweet

On their restless wings.

"Indeed, there is wisdom in the old story:

Two birds were we. I and the other

One father had; we had one mother. [197}

But I was taught by hermits, while

Beef-eaters gave him training vile.

Beef-eaters' speech, O King, he heard;

I listened to the hermits' word,

Our education, good and bad,

The obvious consequences had."

"How was that?" asked Victor. And Cheek told the story of

The Results of Education

On a part of a mountain a hen-parrot brought two chicks into the world. These chicks were caught by a hunter when the mother had left the nest to search for food. One of them - since fate decreed it - contrived to escape, while the other was kept in a cage and taught to speak. Meanwhile, the first chick encountered a wandering holy man, who caught him, took him to his own hermitage, and gave him kindly care.

While time was passing in this manner, a certain king, whose horse ran away and separated him from his guard, came to that part of the forest where the hunters lived. The moment he perceived the king's approach, the parrot straightway began to chuckle from his cage: "Come, come, my masters! Here comes somebody riding a horse. Bind him, bind him! Kill him, kill him!" And when the king heard the parrot's words, he quickly spurred his horse in another direction.

Now when the king came to another wood far [198} away, he saw a hermitage of holy men, and in it a parrot who addressed him from a cage: "Enter, O King, and find repose. Taste our cool water and our sweet fruit. Come, hermits! Pay him honour. Give him water to wash his feet in the cool shade of this tree."

When he heard this, the king's eyes blossomed wide, and he wonderingly pondered what it might mean. And he said to the parrot: "In another part of the forest I met another parrot who looked like you, but who had a cruel disposition. 'Bind him, bind him!' he cried; 'kill him, kill him!'

" And the parrot replied to the king by giving a precise relation of the course of his life.

"And that is why I say:

Our education, good and bad,

The obvious consequences had.

Thus mere association with you is an evil. As the proverb says:

To foes of sense, not foolish friends,

It's wiser far to cling:

The robber for his victims died;

The monkey killed the king."

"How was that?" asked Victor. And Cheek told two stories, called

The Sensible Enemy

There was once a prince who made friends with a merchant's son and the son of a man of learning. [199} Every day the three found entertainment in various diversions, flirtations, and pastimes in public squares, parks, and gardens. Every day the prince showed his aversion to the science of archery, to equitation and elephant-riding, to driving and hunting. At last, when his father one day gave him a wigging, telling him that he showed no aptitude for kingly pursuits, he disclosed to his two friends the injury inflicted on his self-esteem.

And they rejoined: "Our fathers, too, are continually talking nonsense when we show our aversion to their business. This tribulation, however, we have not noticed for many days because of the pleasure we took in your friendship. But now that we see you also grieved with the same grief, we are grieved exceedingly." Thereupon the prince said: "It would be unmanly to remain here after being insulted. Let us depart together, all grieved with the same grief, and go somewhere else. For

The truly self-respecting man

Discovers what he is, and can,

Deserves, and dares, and understands

By travelling in foreign lands."

So much being determined, they considered where it was advisable to go. And the merchant's son said: "You know that no desire is anywhere attained without money. Let us therefore go to Climbing Mountain, where we may find precious gems and enjoy [200} every heart's desire." The truth of this presentation they all recognized, so started for Climbing Mountain.

There, as fate decreed, each of them found a priceless, magnificent gem, whereupon they debated as follows: "How are we to guard these gems when we leave this spot by a forest trail thick with peril?" Then the son of the man of learning said: "You know I am the son of a counsellor, and I have consequently thought out an appropriate plan, namely, that we swallow our gems and carry them in our stomachs. Thus we shall not be an object of interest to merchants, highwaymen, and other such people."

Having adopted this plan, each inserted his gem. in a mouthful of food at dinner time, and swallowed it. But while they were doing so, a fellow who was resting unperceived on the mountain slope, observed them and reflected: "Look here! I, too, have tramped Climbing Mountain for many days, searching for gems. But I had no luck. I found nothing. So I will travel with them and wherever they grow weary and go to sleep, I will cut their stomachs open and take all three gems."

With this in mind, he came down the slope and overtook them, saying: "Good masters, I cannot pierce the frightful forest alone and reach my home. Let me join your caravan and travel with you." To this they assented, for they desired the increase of friendliness, and the four continued their journey. [201}

Now in that forest, near the trail, was a Bhil village, nestling in a rugged bit of jungle. As the travellers passed through its outskirts, an old bird in a cage began to sing - this bird belonging to a numerous aviary kept as pets in the hut of the village chief.

This chief understood the meaning that all kinds of birds express in their song. He therefore comprehended the old bird's intention, and cried with great delight to his men: "Listen to what this bird tells us. He says that there are precious gems in the possession of yonder travellers on the trail, and that we ought to stop them. Catch them, and bring them here."

When the robbers had done so, the chief stripped the travellers with his own hand, but found nothing. So he set them free to resume their journey, clad in loincloths only. But the bird sang the same story, so that the village chief had them brought back, and freed them only after a most particular and minute inspection.

Once more they started, but when the bird impatiently screamed the same song, the chief recalled them once more and questioned them, saying: "I have tested this bird time and again, and he never tells a lie. Now he says there are gems in your possession. Where are they?" And they replied: "If there are gems in our possession, how did your most careful search fail to reveal them?"

But the chief retorted: "If this bird says the thing [202} over and over, the gems are certainly there, in your stomachs. It is now evening. At dawn I am determined to cut your stomachs open for gems." After this scolding, he had them thrust into a dungeon.

Then the captive thief reflected: "In the morning, when their stomachs are cut open and the chief finds such splendid gems, the greedy villain will be quite certain to slash my belly too. So my death is a certainty, whatever happens. What am I to do? Well, the proverb says:

When that last hour arrives, that none,

However shrewd, may miss,

A noble spirit serves his kind,

And death itself is bliss.

It is best, then, to offer my own stomach first to the knife, saving the very men I had planned to kill. For when my stomach is cut open first of all and that villain finds nothing, grub as he may, then he will cease to suspect the existence of gems and, heartless though he be, will yet have mercy enough to renounce the cutting of the stomachs of those others. Thus, by giving them life and wealth I shall gain the glory of a generous deed in this world, and a rebirth in purity hereafter. This is, so to speak, a wise man's death, though I did not seek the opportunity." And so the night passed.

At dawn the village chief was preparing to cut open their stomachs when the thief clasped his hands and humbly entreated him. "I cannot," he said, [203} "behold the cutting of the stomachs of these my brothers. Pray be gracious, and cut my stomach first."

To this the chief mercifully agreed, but he found no sign of a gem in the stomach, cut as he would. Thereupon he penitently cried: "Woe, woe is me! Swelling with greed at the mere interpretation of a bird's song, I have done a ghastly deed. I infer that no more gems will be found in the other stomachs than in this." The three were therefore set free uninjured, and hastening through the forest, they reached a civilized spot.

"And that is why I say:

The robber for his victims died.

Better the sensible enemy than

[the foolish friend.]

The Foolish Friend

In this spot they sold all three gems, the merchant's son serving as their agent. The considerable capital thus obtained he laid before the prince, who, having appointed the son of the man of learning his prime minister, planned to seize the kingdom of the monarch of that country, and made the merchant's son his secretary of the treasury. He then, by offering double pay, assembled an army of picked elephants, horse, and infantry, began hostilities with a prime minister intelligent in the six expedients, killed the king in battle, seized his kingdom, and himself became king. Next he delegated all burdensome [204} administrative functions to his two friends and consulted his ease in a life of graceful luxury.

After a time, as he dallied now and then in the ladies' apartments, he made a pet and constant companion of a monkey from the stable nearby. For it is a well-known fact that kings take naturally to parrots, partridges, pigeons, rams, monkeys, and such creatures. In course of time the monkey, regaled with a variety of dainties from the royal hand, grew to be a big fellow, and became an object of respect to the entire court. The king, indeed, felt such confidence in the monkey and such affection that he made him his personal sword-bearer.

Now the king had near his palace a pleasure-grove made charming by clumps of trees of various species. When springtime came, he perceived how delightful was this grove, since it advertised the glory of Love in the humming of swarms of bees, and was fragrant with the perfumes of crowding blossoms. He therefore entered it with his queen in a passion of love, and all his human retinue were left behind at the entrance.

After a period of delighted wandering and gazing, the king grew weary and said to the monkey: "I shall rest and sleep a moment in this arbour. You must keep careful watch to prevent anyone from disturbing me." With this he went to sleep.

Presently a bee, drawn by the fragrance of flowers, of musk, and other perfumes, hovered over him and alighted on his head. On seeing this, the monkey [205} angrily thought: "What! Under my very eyes this wretched creature looks upon the king!" And he undertook to drive him away.

But when the bee, for all his efforts, continued to approach the king, the monkey went blind with rage, drew his sword, and fetched a blow at the bee a blow that split the king's head.

And the queen, who was sleeping beside him, started up in terror, screaming when she beheld the incomprehensible fact: "You fool! You monkey! The king trusted you. How could you do it?"

Then the monkey told what had happened, after which everybody, by common consent, scolded him and shunned him.

"So there is reason in saying that one should not make friends with a fool, inasmuch as the monkey killed the king. Indeed, that is why I say:

To foes of sense, not foolish friends,

It's wiser far to cling:

The robber for his victims died;

The monkey killed the king."

And Cheek continued:

"Where your sort have the final word,

By whom friends' enmities are stirred,

Whose wisdom lies in tricky traps,

All efforts end in sad mishaps.

And again:

The saint, however deep his need,

Still shuns the guilt of evil deed; [206}

Still does the deeds that bring no shame

To honourable name and fame.


The wise in need still does the deed

That keeps his honour bright:

The shell a peacock ate and dropped,

Remains a pearly white.

And the proverb says:

Wrong is wrong; the wise man never

Wrong as right will treat:

None would drink, however thirsty,

Water in the street.

To sum it all up:

Do the right, the right, the right,

Till the breath of death;

Shun the wrong, although the right

Lead to death of breath."

Hereupon, being a tortuous-minded creature to whom a sermon advocating such moral standards was sheer poison, Victor slunk away.

At this moment Rusty and Lively, their minds blinded by rage, renewed the battle. But when Rusty had killed Lively, his wrath subsided into pity at the memory of past affection. He wiped his weeping eyes with a blood-smeared paw and penitently said: "Ah, me! It was very wrong. Lively was almost my second life. In killing him, I have only hurt myself. For the proverb says:

When bits are lost of royal land

Or servants true who understand, [207}

The servants' loss is deadly pain;

Lost lands are quickly won again."

But Victor, the impudent, perceiving that Rusty was mastered by irresolution, slowly crept near and said: "Master, what conduct is this - to show yourself irresolute after slaying a rival? For the saying runs:

None leaves a father, brother, son,

Or bosom-friend alive

Who treasonably threatens him,

If he desires to thrive.


A king compassionate,

A careless magistrate,

A wilful wife, a friend

Whose thoughts to treason tend,

A guzzling Brahman, or

A sulky servitor,

With all who do not know

Their business - let them go.

Go however far to find

Honest joy;

Learn from any who is wise,

Though a boy;

Give your life, the altruist's

Bliss to win;

Cut your very arm away,

If it sin.

"And the morality of kings has nothing in common with that of ordinary men. As the proverb says:

To ruling monarchs let no trace

Of common nature cling; [208}

For what is vice in other men,

Is virtue in a king.

And once more:

Kings' policy is fickle, like

A woman of the town:

For now it hoards its money up,

Now flings it careless down;

It's rough and flattering by turns;

'It's kind, and cruel too;

Exacting much and giving much,

At once it's false and true."

Hereupon Cheek, since Victor did not return, drew near, sat down beside the lion, and said to Victor: "Sir, you know nothing of the business of administration, since the stirring of strife means the destruction of those who had enjoyed mutual friendship. It is not the practice of genuine counsellors, when objects of ambition are attainable through conciliation, bribery, or intrigue, to advise the master to fight his own servant, so bringing him into deadly danger. As the proverb says:

The god of wealth, the god of war,

The god of water, and

The god of fire have planned to win,

Then lost the fights they planned;

For victory is not a thing

That men or gods command.

And besides:

No wisdom lies in fighting, since

It is the fools who fight; [209}

The wise discover in wise books

What course is wise and right,

And wise books in the course that is

Not violent, delight.

"Therefore a counsellor should under no circumstances advise his master to fight. And there is another wise saying:

Where the palace harbours servants

Kindly, modest, pure,

Death to enemies, and deaf to

Avarice's lure,

Foes may struggle, but the royal

Honour is secure.


Speak the truth, though harsh it be:

Blarney is true enmity.

And again:

Where royal servants, asked or not,

Indulge in pleasant lies

That lead the royal mind astray,

The royal glory dies.

"Furthermore, counsellors should be consulted severally by the master, who should thereupon make his own decision concerning the advice given by each, as tending to the king's loss or profit. For it happens at times that even an established fact seems otherwise to a wandering judgement. As the proverb says:

The firefly seems a fire, the sky looks flat;

Yet sky and fly are neither this nor that. [210}

And again:

The true seem often false, the false seem true;

Appearances deceive, so think it through.

"Consequently, a master should not implicitly rely on the advice of a servant who lacks the administrative sense, inasmuch as rascally servants, for their personal profit, present matters to the master in a false light, and with bewildering eloquence. Hence, a master should undertake a matter only after full reflection. As the proverb says:

Let fit and friendly counsel first,

And more than once, be heard;

Then ponder on the plan proposed

From first to final word;

Then act, and harvest fame and wealth,

Avoiding the absurd.

"Finally, let no master suffer his mind to be twitched aside by others' counsel. Let him always be mindful of the differences in men, let him fully consider the ultimate issue, whether favourable or the reverse, of various counsels, answers, and times of action. Let him be the master, a wise master, ever cognizant of the multiform complexities of duty."

Here ends Book 1, called "The Loss of Friends." The first verse runs:

The forest lion and the bull

Were linked in friendship, growing, full;

A jackal then estranged the friends

For greedy and malicious ends.


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