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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 215 pages of information about The Talking Beasts.

And this instance is given that thou mayest know that every one who labours to repel an enemy, though he be small and weak, and his foe great and strong, may yet hope for victory and triumph.

The Hermit, the Thief, and the Demon

It is related that a Hermit of pure disposition, abstemious and virtuous, had made his cell in one of the environs of Baghdad, and passed his morning and evening hours in the worship of the All-wise King, and by these means had shaken his skirt clear from the dust of worldly affairs.  He had bowed his head in the corner of contentment under the collar of freedom from care, and rested satisfied with the portion that was supplied to him from the invisible world.

One of his sincere disciples got knowledge of the poverty and fastings of the Holy Man, and by way of offering, brought to the hermitage a she buffalo, young and fat, with whose delicious milk the palate of desire was oiled and sweetened.

A thief beheld the circumstance, and his hungry appetite was excited; and he set off for the cell of the recluse.  A demon, too, joined him in the likeness of a man.  The thief asked him:  “Who art thou, and whither goest thou?” He replied:  “I am a demon, who have assumed this shape, and, putting on this guise, am going to the hermitage of the recluse, for many of the people of this country, through the blessing of his instruction, have begun to repent and to be converted and the market of our temptations has become flat.  I wish to get an opportunity and kill him.  This is my story which thou hast heard; now, tell me, who art thou and what is thy story?” The thief replied: 

“I am a man whose trade is roguery, and I am occupied night and day with thinking how to steal some one’s goods and impose the scar of affliction on his heart.  I am now going, as the recluse has got a fat buffalo, to steal it and use it for my own wants.”  The demon said;

“Praise be to God that the bond of kinship is strong between us, and this alone is sufficient to ally us, since the object of both is to assail him.”

They then proceeded on their way, and at night reached the cell of the recluse.  The latter had finished the performance of his daily worship, and had gone to sleep, just as he was, on his prayer-carpet.  The thief bethought himself, that if the demon attempted to kill him he would probably awake and make an outcry; and the other people who were his neighbours, would be alarmed, and in that case it would be impossible to steal the buffalo.  The demon, too, reflected that if the thief carried off the buffalo from the house, he must of course open the door.  Then the noise of the door would very likely awaken the recluse, and he should have to postpone killing him.  He then said to the thief:  “Do thou wait and give me time to kill the hermit, and then do thou steal the buffalo.”  The thief rejoined:  “Stop thou till I steal the buffalo, and then kill the hermit.”

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