Now he had a friend, who pretended to quickwittedness and understanding; so he came up to him privily and said to him, ’Let me do, so I may put the change on this trickster, for I know him to be a liar and thou art near upon having to pay the money; but I will turn suspicion from thee and say to him, “The deposit is with me and thou erredst in imagining that it was with other than myself,” and so divert him from thee.’ ‘Do so,’ replied the merchant, ‘and rid the folk of their [false] debts.’
So the friend turned to the sharper and said to him, ’O my lord, O such an one, thou goest under a delusion. The purse is with me, for it was with me that thou depositedst it, and this elder is innocent of it.’ But the sharper answered him with impatience and impetuosity, saying, ’Extolled be the perfection of God! As for the purse that is with thee, O noble and trusty man, I know that it is in the warrant of God and my heart is at ease concerning it, for that it is with thee as it were with me; but I began by demanding that which I deposited with this man, of my knowledge that he coveteth the folk’s good.’ At this the friend was confounded and put to silence and returned not an answer; [and the] only [result of his interference was that] each of them [FN#52] paid a thousand dinars.
So the sharper took the two thousand dinars and made off; and when he was gone, the merchant said to his friend, the [self-styled] man of wit and intelligence, ’Harkye, such an one! Thou and I are like unto the hawk and the locust.’ ’What was their case?’ asked the other; and the merchant said,
STORY OF THE HAWK AND THE LOCUST.
’There was once, of old time, a hawk who made himself a nest hard by that of a locust, and the latter gloried in his neighbourhood and betaking herself to him, saluted him and said, “O my lord and chief of the birds, indeed the nearness unto thee delighteth me and thou honourest me with thy neighbourhood and my soul is fortified with thee.” The hawk thanked her for this and there ensued friendship between them. One day, the locust said to the hawk, “O chief of the birds, how cometh it that I see thee alone, solitary, having with thee no friend of thy kind of the birds, to whom thou mayst incline in time of easance and of whom thou mayst seek succour in time of stress? Indeed, it is said, ’Man goeth about seeking the ease of his body and the preservation of his strength, and in this there is nought more necessary to him than a friend who shall be the completion of his gladness and the mainstay of his life and on whom shall be his dependence in his stress and in his ease.’ Now I, albeit I ardently desire thy weal in that which beseemeth thy condition, yet am I weak [and unable] unto that which the soul craveth; but, if thou wilt give me leave, I will seek out for thee one of the birds who shall be conformable unto thee in thy body and thy strength.” And the hawk said, “I commit this to thee and rely upon thee therein.”