Once upon a time there was a time when there was no one but God.

There was a Fox who went one day into a reed-brake to play, and in playing he broke one of the reeds. He took it and put it over his shoulder like a pilgrim's staff and walked off. A Cock happened to be standing on the edge of a wall, busy praising God by reciting His name aloud. When he caught sight of the Fox, he cried: "Hullo, Master Fox! What play-acting is this? What have you put a pilgrim's staff on your shoulder for?"

The Fox replied: "Nay, then, thou Muezzin of God, who callest the Faithful to prayer, this is no playacting nor conjuring trick. Those evil deeds which you saw and which I used to do of old, I have renounced them all. I am now going on a pilgrimage to Mecca:

XX The Story Of The Fox s Pilgrimage To Mecca 24

To the House of God I make my way, There to worship and there to pray. Though of old I did evil and went astray, I repent, and turn from the world away. Never again shall I steal or thieve Or plunder the hen-roosts as long as I live. The estate of my father lies in my hand, In peace and in virtue I'll live on my land."

The silly idiot of a cock was taken in by these pious words, and said: "O, Master Sheikh, I long to go with you on your pilgrimage." "Very well," said the Fox, "you will be most welcome. Pray come, and let us set out." So the Cock flew down and started off in company with the Fox.

When they had travelled some little distance they came to the bank of a river. A Waterfowl was swimming about in the river, and when she saw the Cock coming along with the Fox she made her voice heard from the water: "O, thou Muezzin of God, hast thou forgotten to chant the praise of God that thou art thus fallen into the power of that base-born Fox?" The Cock replied: "Nay, it is not as you think:

To the House of God he makes his way, There to worship and there to pray. Though of old he did evil and went astray, He repents and turns from the world away. Never again will he steal or thieve Or plunder the hen-roosts while he shall live. The estate of his father lies in his hand, In peace and in virtue he'll live on his land."

The Waterfowl cried: "If that is the state of affairs, I should like to go with you both on this pilgrimage," and she came out of the water and joined them, and they travelled on all three together.

After they had gone some little way they came to a garden where a Hoopoe was sitting on the branch of a tree. When she saw the Cock and the Waterfowl coming along with the Fox she made her voice heard from the tree: "What extraordinary fools you are! I wonder what sin you have committed to have fallen into the clutches of the base-born Fox!" But the Waterfowl said: "Nay, thou Messenger of the Prophet Suleman, things are not as you think:

To the House of God he makes his way, There to worship and there to pray. Though of old he did evil and went astray, He repents and turns from the world away. Never again will he steal or thieve Or plunder the hen-roosts while he shall live. The estate of his father lies in his hand, In peace and in virtue he'll live on his land."

"Then," cried the Hoopoe, "if that is so, I should like to come with you all on your pilgrimage." "Welcome in the name of God!" said they. So the Hoopoe flew down and started off with them.

On and on they travelled till they reached the door of the Fox's hole. When they caught sight of the hole they saw feet and paws and birds' feathers scattered about and piled into heaps, and they all began to tremble with terror. The Fox saw this and said: "Nay, do not fear, since I renounced the evil of the world I have not harmed a single bird. Come now and sleep here, be my guests to-night, and we shall start out early to-morrow morning." So they went into the Fox's earth and passed the night as best they might.

As soon as it was day the Fox rose up and first called the Cock. He came, and the Fox addressed him: "Do you remember when you were on the roof-top what curses you hurled at me and how you made fun of me?" The Cock began to beg and implore: "O, Master Sheikh, I am God's Muezzin, calling the Faithful to prayer; I pray thee overlook my fault!" "Very well, then," said the Fox, "but what right have you to climb up on to men's roof-tops, and, in the pretence that you are going to sound the Call to Prayer, cast your eyes upon their women-folk?" "O, Master Sheikh, God created me for this sole purpose, that I should wake each dawn and sing to waken men that they should rise and pray." The Fox cried: "Even if you yourself are one of the Faithful, at any rate your mother was no better than she should be!" And with that he ran in, and, seizing the Cock by the throat, strangled and ate him.

As soon as he had finished eating the Cock he called the Waterfowl. She also came. "Do you remember, when you made your voice heard from the water, what you said about me?" The poor bird began with apologies and tears to beg and implore him. "Very well, I'll pass over that fault," said the Fox, "but how can I overlook this great sin? You go into the water and swim about and beat up the waters and defile them. Then comes a believer and wants to perform his ablutions before prayer, and finds the water all dirty and impure." As he spoke he darted at the Waterfowl, and, seizing her throat, strangled and ate her.

Then he called up the Hoopoe: "Do you remember, when you were sitting on the branch of the tree, what senseless words you uttered? Whence do you get this fine name of yours, 'Messenger of the Prophet Suleman'? And how can you boast of the love which exists between you and the sons of men?" "Well," said the poor Hoopoe, "you must admit that I was in charge of the water-wheels for the holy Suleman's army, and that I used to fly in the van and find water and camping - grounds for them." "O, you son of a burnt father!" said the Fox, "if in very truth you have skill in finding water, let us see it now: find me some." The Hoopoe alighted on the ground and began to peck at the earth with her beak to make water come forth, thereupon the Fox pounced on her from behind and made one mouthful of her.

But from out of the Fox's mouth the Hoopoe raised her voice and said: "Master Fox, I have one piece of good advice to give you. Open your ears to it." The Fox wanted to say: "Say on," but when he opened his mouth wide like a water-jar the Hoopoe flew off.

As she was hurrying off she happened to pass an approaching army, and a Royal Falcon was flying in the van above them. The Hoopoe flew up to the Falcon and said: "Where are you off to?" The Falcon answered: "O, Messenger of the Prophet Suleman, this army is marching forth on business." "What business?" asked she.

"Our great King's daughter lies very ill, And crowds of doctors surround her still. This they prescribe with thought and with care: The Gall of a Fox and the Heart of a Hare, and now for three days we have been searching and have only just caught a hare, but so far we haven't lighted on a fox."

"That's all right," said the Hoopoe, "I've got a fox's earth close at hand. Come along and I'll show you."

Then the Hoopoe flew ahead and the Falcon and the horsemen followed behind till they came near the Fox's hole. The Hoopoe went to the mouth of it and called out: "Master Fox, you have shown me such great kindness that I am overwhelmed. Now I have come back to make you some return for it. There's a huge army coming along, and they'll certainly wreck your home. If you have any wish to save your life you must fly at once."

The Fox came to the door of his hole and saw that the Hoopoe was speaking the truth: the army was there all right. He tried to escape, but the horsemen saw him and loosed their hounds on him. He fled till he was weary, but at last the hounds overtook him and tore him to pieces. Then the horsemen came up and took his gall-bladder for the King's daughter.

And now my story has come to an end, but the sparrow never got home.