THEY relate that a king named Zayn ul-Mulúk* reigned over a city in the eastern part of Hin­dústán. He had already four sons who were well trained in all the arts and sciences of the time and for courage compared to Rustam,* when Providence bestowed on him a fifth, who was beautiful as the moon in her fourteenth night, which scatters the dark­ness of the world. Zayn ul-Mulúk, full of joy, gave on this occasion a grand feast, and by the advice of the astrologers called the newly born Táj ul-Mulúk.* The same astrologers, having cast the horoscope* of the infant prince, declared that he would be endowed with courage far superior to any other mortal, and that genii and men would be subservient to him; but if unfortunately his father should look on him, that very instant he would be deprived of his sight. The king, with mixed sensations of pleasure and grief, gave order to his chief vazír to put the child and his mother in a palace at some distance from the court, which was done accordingly. After several years the prince became accomplished in every science. Being a lover of sport, it chanced one day that he went far into the thick of a forest in pursuit of a deer. True it is that what is written by Fate can never be erased. It so happened that the king was also hunting in the same forest that very day, and encountered the prince. There is a well-known saying to the effect that the wounded part is always sore, notwithstanding our efforts not to be hurt again, and the fugitive slave, fly wherever he will, is sure to be overtaken by his pursuer. The moment that the eyes of the king fell upon his son he was struck blind. His minister at once divined the cause of his blindness. The king observed, that the sight of a son generally increases the light of his father's eyes, but in his case the reverse had occurred. Hence it was proper that such a son should be expelled the realm, and the queen, his mother, made to sweep the apartments of his haram.

Then physicians equal to Avicenna* in learning and skill were called to remove the king's blindness, and they all declared that the only remedy was the Rose of Bakáwalí. Zayn ul-Mulúk despatched messengers throughout the land to proclaim that whosoever should procure that wonderful flower, or tell where it was to be found, should be handsomely rewarded; but without success. Thus year followed year, the king passing all his time lamenting and weeping, like Jacob when he mourned for Joseph, and like the prophet Job, waiting with impatient anxiety.* At last his four sons besought him that they should be allowed to go in quest of the Rose of Bakáwalí. The king at first refused, not wishing that the bright lamps of his house should be exposed to dangers, but was ultimately prevailed upon to yield to their entreaties, and gave order to his vazír to prepare everything needful for their journey—money, beasts of burden, tents, and attendants. The princes departed and traversed many miles at random.

By accident they met their brother, Táj ul-Mulúk, who was dragging his weary feet far away from his native land. He enquired who they were and whither they were going. In reply they told him how Zayn ul-Mulúk, their father, had lost his sight, and that they were journeying in search of the Rose of Bakáwalí, prescribed for the removal of his blindness. The prince on hearing this said to himself: “I must try my fortune and experience on the touchstone of the gold of my fate. Perchance I shall succeed in filling the skirt of my gown with the roses of my desire.” Having thus resolved, he went to a nobleman named Syíd, who on looking at him perceived that the light of his countenance surpassed the glory, of the sun, and the dark cluster of his locks, falling upon the fairness of his forehead, resembled the gloom of the clouds passing over the lustre of the moon. He asked him: “Who are you, and whence have you come?” Táj ul-Mulúk answered: “I am a traveller far away from my country, with no one to sympathise with me in my misfortunes, and none to cheer me with the soothing music of the voice of a friend. There is no one to assist and comfort me.” Syíd on hearing the words of this second Joseph* was highly affected and agreed to befriend him.

It is related that Táj ul-Mulúk after a long journey reached the city of Firdaus,* which was then governed by King Rizwán. It was evening. Standing on the bank of a river, he intended to take up his abode in that town for some time. When the sun had finished his diurnal travel, and the moon, riding on her sable charger, had commenced her ramble in the east, the four princes, mounted on their swift-footed horses, entered the city. Their eyes fell on a splendid palace, every window of which was hung with screens of the richest brocade. They asked one of the citizens: “Whose palace is this?” He answered: “The owner of this mansion is Dilbar Lakhí.”* The princes asked: “How has she obtained such a palace?” And the man replied: “This lady is unequalled. In beauty and grace she has no rival on this earth. The sun even would sacrifice himself on her charms as the moth does on the light of the taper;* and the moon would hide her diminished glory before the lustre of her charms. For those who court her society she keeps a drum hung on the door, on beating which, should they be rich enough to pay a lakh of rupís, they will have the happiness of meeting her.” At these words, the young princes, proud of their social position and wealth, wished to gratify their love of pleasure, so they approached the door and loudly beat the drum. When Dilbar heard the sound she could not contain her joy. “Well, well!” she said, “since the prey seeks to enter my net, it must be caught. Women of my trade are always in hopes that some one void of sense and with a full purse will fall into their hands.” She quickly adorned herself with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls and sat down to receive the sons of Zayn ul-Mulúk. She made them sit on a golden seat, and then rosy-cheeked slave-girls came and presented them with wine in cups of gold, and with different kinds of food in dishes of silver. When half of the night had passed in drinking and talking, this artful woman proposed to them that they should play at backgammon by way of amusement, and the princes assented with pleasure. The board was brought, and she placed a lamp on the head of a cat, which she had taken great pains to train up to her designs, and staked a lakh of rupís on the first game. Before the night was over the princes lost fifteen lakhs of rupís. In the morning they took leave of Dilbar and returned to their tents. The following night they again went to the mansion of Dilbar, and that designing woman won from them not only all their money but also their horses, elephants, and camels. Then she said to them: “Young men, seeing that nothing now remains to you, I think you had better go home.” “No,” said they; “allow us once more to hang on the scale of experiment the gold of our fortune. If the scale incline to our side, we depart with all our pro­perty; if it fall to your side, we lose everything and become your slaves.” Dilbar accepted this proposal and in the twinkling of an eye won the game, and thus became absolute mistress of the goods and persons of the sons of Zayn ul-Mulúk, who were sent at once to keep company with many others in the same predica­ment. The attendants of the four princes, on learning their fate, like the petals of the rose which fall in autumn, were in great trouble and excitement.