A pedestrian, naked from head to foot, left Cufah with the caravan of pilgrims for Hijaz, or Mecca, and came along with us. I looked at and saw him destitute of every necessary for the journey; yet he was cheerfully pushing on, and bravely remarking:—“I am neither mounted on a camel nor a mule under a burden. I am neither the lord of vassals nor the vassal of a lord. I think not of present sorrows or past vanities, but breathe the breath of ease and live the life of freedom!”
A gentleman mounted on a camel said to him, “O dervish, whither are you going? return, or you must perish miserably.” He did not heed what he said, but entered the desert on foot and proceeded. On our reaching the palm plantation of Mahmud, fate overtook the rich man, and he died. The dervish went up to his bier and said, “I did not perish amidst hardship on foot, and you expired on a camel’s back.” A person sat all night weeping by the side of a sick friend. Next day he died, and the invalid recovered!—Yes! many a fleet horse perished by the way, and that lame ass reached the end of the journey. How many of the vigorous and hale did they put underground, and that wounded man recovered!
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In the territory of the Greeks a caravan was attacked by robbers, and plundered of much property. The merchants set up a lamentation and complaint, and besought the intercession of God and the prophet; but all to no purpose.—When the gloomy-minded robber is flushed with victory, what will he feel for the traveller’s despair.
Lucman, the fabulist and philosopher, happened to be among them. One of the travellers spoke to him, saying, “Direct some maxims of wisdom and admonition to them; perhaps they may restore a part of our goods; for it were a pity that articles of such value should be cast away.” He answered: “It were a pity to cast away the admonitions of wisdom upon them!” From that iron which the rust has corroded thou canst not eradicate the canker with a file. What purpose will it answer to preach to the gloomy-minded infidel? A nail of iron cannot penetrate into a piece of flint.
Perhaps the fault has been on our part (in not being charitable), as they have said:—“On the day of thy prosperity remember the bankrupt and needy, for by visiting the hearts of the poor with charity thou shalt divert calamity. When the beggar solicits alms from thee, bestow it with a good grace; otherwise the tyrant may come and take it by force.”
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They asked Lucman, the fabulist, “From whom did you learn manners?” He answered, “From the unmannerly, for I was careful to avoid whatever part of their behavior seemed to me bad.” They will not speak a word in joke from which the wise cannot derive instruction; let them read a hundred chapters of wisdom to a fool, and they will all seem but a jest to him.