BAKAWALI, who had heard the story of Táj ul-Mulúk, could no longer doubt but that he was the ravisher of her Rose and her ring. And when the king had returned to his capital she obtained permission to leave his service, and at once returned to her own palace, where she wrote a letter to her well-beloved, with her ring, and entrusted the packet to a fairy named Saman-rú,* who was her confidante, desiring her to deliver it to Prince Táj ul-Mulúk when she found him alone and free from the cares of the world. The fairy spread her wings and in the twinkling of an eye appeared before the prince and delivered the letter of her mistress. The prince at once recog­nised the ring, opened the letter with the greatest eagerness, and read as follows:

“I begin in the name of God, who has no equal in the universe. He it is who placed the stars in the heavens and created both genii and men. To the fairy he has given beauty; and yet has he granted superiority to men over fairies, for even they are struck by the darts of love. Cast but thy eyes on the countenance of Laylá, and she will become Majnún for thee. And if the reflex of thy beauty shine on Shírín, she will become her own Farhád.* The sun and the atoms that dance in his beams are equally enamoured of thee. The light of love thou hast lightened, and like a moth is burned in the flame.

“After my compliments to thee, O king of beauty and grace, let me tell thee that the arrows which sprang from the bows of thine eyebrows have wounded my heart to its core; and thy raven locks, descending luxuriantly, have enchained and enfettered me. Love has triumphed over me; he is my master both ex­ternally and internally. It is wrong to think that one heart is apprised of the feelings of another; but here am I burning, suffering, and no impression is made on thee. Without thee, my house is a scene of woe, and even heaven is hell. I am panting for the life-bestowing elixir of thy kisses. Thy love has deprived me of my heart; I should not wonder if I find no portion of it within my breast. Do thou accept my virgin love! Thou art the river, and I am dying of thirst; come at once and slake it. If you come not, I shall die of a broken heart; but on rising at the day of resurrection, I shall call thee to account. What wilt thou answer me then, when I ask thee why thou didst kill me? But this is enough. My feelings will be apparent from this.”*

On reading Bakáwalí's letter the fire of love which was concealed in the heart of Táj ul-Mulúk was fiercely kindled. Impatient as mercury, he wished at once to behold her who had charmed him and whom he had himself inspired with love. Meanwhile he took the pen in his hand and thus replied:

“O thou, who knowest well how to burn the heart of thy lover, the whole style of thy letter shows that thou art fully inclined to oppress my suffering bosom. Thou art beautiful; thou art indeed the robber that waits for his prey in the path of love. Thine eye­brows are like swords, and in thine eyes lurk enchant­ments and lightnings to captivate and burn the soul. The rose-bud is ashamed before thy countenance, and the ruby colourless before thy lips. I am an atom; thou art the sun indeed. O thou charming beauty, and lovelier than the idols of China!* every word of thy letter has made a lasting impression on my heart. I have passed my nights in sighs and groans. The impress of thy countenance will never be erased from the tablet of my memory. As long as the moon shall retain her light, so long shall my heart retain thy love. Never think that I shall forget thee; not for a moment shall my heart lose the idea of thy en­chanting charms. Thy name fills me with impatience. When first I heard it I undertook to endure every trouble. I made friendship with the dívs to induce them to convey me to thy fairy-land. I saw thee, and the wound of my heart was terribly enlarged. Is it that a spark from my heart has fallen on thine, or has the lightning of desire struck thee? Yet I ought not to confide any more of my secrets to the pen; as it is said: ‘The pen should not be admitted into the secrets of lovers.’ Enough now.”

Táj ul-Mulúk applied to this letter, as a seal, his moist eye tinted with surma,* and handed it to Samán­rú, charging the fairy to say many things from him to Bakáwalí which he could not express in writing, and the fairy, taking her leave, soon discharged her commission.

When Bakáwalí saw that the love of Táj ul-Mulúk was still more violent than her own, and that union alone could calm their mutual impatience, she sum­moned Hammála at once, who presently appeared before the princess, trembling at the peremptory com­mand like the willow of Egypt; but finding her in tears, she expressed her concern. “Wretched go-between,” said Bakáwalí, in anger, “it is thou who hast kindled the fire which consumes me and caused my present condition, by giving to thy son-in-law the means of coming here. Wherefore, in order to repair thy fault, do thou bring quickly to me this dearly beloved being.” “Is it for such a trifle,” replied Hammála, with a smile, “that your cheeks are wet and your beauty disfigured? Rise and wash yourself, and let the smile return to your lips, for I will at once bring Táj ul-Mulúk to you—nothing is easier.” Swiftly flew Hammála and came to the prince. “Arise, thou moth,” said she smilingly, “thy candle invites thee.” On hearing these welcome words the prince fell at her feet. Hammála raised him, pressed him in her arms, and placing him on her shoulder carried him to the realm of Bakáwalí.

In the meantime Jamíla Khatún* was informed that her daughter Bakáwalí was in love with a human being. She flew into a violent rage, and severely scolded her, saying that she was a disgrace to the fairies. Bakáwalí, laying her fingers on her ears, denied the assertion, and declared that she was still ignorant of the meaning of love, and that only in a dream had she seen a human being. It was after this scene that Hammála arrived with the prince, and when Saman-rú came, and privately informed Bakáwalí that her lover was in the garden; she told her to keep him concealed in some place of safety, as she had, much against her will, to remain with her mother till the greater part of the night was past.

Jamíla Khatún at last fell asleep, and Bakáwalí arose without disturbing her mother, and with pal­pitating bosom, alternating between fear and desire, she proceeded to the place where her lover was hidden. So violent were the feelings of Táj ul-Mulúk on beholding Bakáwalí that he swooned. She ran up to him, and placed his head on her knees, when her sweet breath had the effect of the essence of roses on the prince, who soon recovered consciousness, and on opening his eyes and seeing all her concern for him, he considered himself as the personification of happiness. Unfortunately, Jamíla Khatún awoke about the middle of the night and arose; and, seeing the garden lit up by the rays of the moon, walked out in front of the very spot where the lovers were reposing in each other's arms, believing themselves in perfect security. On seeing them the flames of anger broke out in her heart, and taking up Táj ul-Mulúk she hurled him like a stone from a sling into the regions of magic, and then slapped Bakáwalí until the hue of her cheeks was equal to that of the reddest tulip. After this she conveyed her to the garden of Iram, the residence of her father, Fírúz Sháh,* to whom she disclosed all she had witnessed. Fírúz Sháh appointed a number of fairies to divert his daughter's heart from human love. But in vain did they busy themselves with this object night and day without intermission: the more they spoke the more she loved; the more they tried to extinguish the flame the more it blazed. They saw plainly that love had made a home in her heart, so at last they told Fírúz Sháh that all their efforts were of no avail, and he, finding her deaf to all good counsel, threw a talismanic influence over her, and Bakáwalí found herself con­fined in golden fetters.

When Jamíla Khatún had hurled Táj ul-Mulúk up in the air, he fell into an unknown sea, the waves of which tossed him to and fro. Now like a pearl he would sink to the bottom, and now like a bubble rise to the surface. After remaining some days in this con­dition he at last reached the shore of a green island: so true it is that even death cannot lay his hand on the life of lovers. The heat of the sun reanimating his body, he regained his strength and could rise up and walk. Eager to get away from this island, he collected the branches of trees, and having joined them together in the form of a raft, invoked the name of God,* cast it into the sea and placed himself on it. After drifting on the sea for several days he reached a shore which skirted a frightful desert. At night, through fear of wild beasts, he climbed a tree, but ere long he heard a rumbling sound on the south side of the desert, and presently perceived a monstrous dragon approach and place itself at the foot of the tree into the branches of which he had climbed. The dragon brought from its mouth a serpent which emitted a gem so brilliant that it lighted up the jungle for many miles. The wild beasts and birds came to dance before the dragon; they were soon rendered senseless and all devoured by the monster, after which the ser­pent swallowed the gem and re-entered the mouth of the dragon, who departed the way it had come. The prince wished he could obtain possession of the gem, for which purpose he long remained in thought, devis­ing a plan, but morning dawned before he came to any determination. He then walked towards the shore and brought away from there a heavy lump of clay. In the evening he again climbed the tree and sat patiently. When the dragon came and repeated the scene of the previous evening, the prince threw the lump of clay down on the gem, and having thus covered it the whole forest was plunged into darkness, so that the dragon and the serpent knocked their heads against the stones and died.* On the morrow Táj ul-Mulúk came down from the tree, and taking the precious gem from beneath the clay placed it in his girdle, and set out in hopes of finding some in­habited spot. He walked on for several days without success, sleeping at night among the branches of trees.

It happened one night, as he had secured himself in a tree where a maina* had its nest, he heard the little ones ask their mother what treasures there were in the jungle. She replied: “As you proceed towards the south there is on the edge of a lake a tree of enor­mous height. Any one placing a piece of its bark on his head will become invisible to all, while everything is visible to him; but no person can go to that tree, because it is guarded by a huge dragon, which neither sword nor arrow can wound.” The young ones in­quired: “How, then, could any one reach there?” The maina answered: “If a courageous and prudent man should go to the border of the lake, he must leap into it, when the dragon will attack him, and he will be changed into a raven, and must then place himself on one of the western branches of that tree, where he will find green and red fruits. Should he eat one of the red fruits, he will regain his original form; and by eating a green fruit he will become invulnerable, and by placing one in his girdle he could travel through the air. The leaves will heal wounds, and its wood open the strongest locks and break the most solid bodies.” Táj ul-Mulúk listened most attentively to this conversation, and resolved to profit by it.*

In the morning he went to the lake, and the dragon darted forth to attack him. The prince leaped into the water, and was changed into a raven; then flying to the tree, he ate of the red fruit, and recovering his proper form plucked some green fruits and placed them in his girdle; of one of the branches he made a staff, and, taking some of the healing leaves and a piece of the bark sufficient to make an invisible cap, he flew away. He soon left the jungle and arrived at an inhabited place. He cut open a part of his thigh, placed the gem in it, and by aid of the leaves healed the wound in a moment.

After proceeding a short distance he came to the marble border of a lake, around which grew the most beautiful flowers. On seeing the clear and cool water he felt a strong desire to bathe in it, so he at once undressed himself and dived into the pond; but when he came to the surface again he saw neither the lake nor the place where he was before, but found himself near a strange city, and, what was stranger still, he felt that he was no longer a man, but metamorphosed into a beautiful young woman, with cheeks like the jasmine flower. Táj ul-Mulúk was greatly concerned at this wonderful change, but in the meantime he saw no remedy but patience. He sat down, quite ashamed, when a young man, passing by, saw, as he supposed, the features of a húrí, and asked by what accident he came there. Táj ul-Mulúk replied: “My father was a merchant, and it was his custom to take me with him on his trading journeys. We came into this forest with a caravan, and at midnight robbers attacked us, pillaged all our goods, and killed my father and several others. The rest fled, and I only am left in the midst of this solitude, without shelter, or strength to go farther.” “If you take me as your husband,” said the young man, “I will lead you to my house, in which you may rule as mistress.” With the form of a woman the prince was also endowed with her nature, and becoming at once enamoured of the youth he followed him and duly became his wife. In course of time a son was born, and on the fortieth day he went to bathe in a lake which was near the house.* When he with­drew his head from the water, he saw nothing of what surrounded him a moment before, but found himself changed into a young Abyssinian. Presently a hideous negress appeared before him, and seizing him by the girdle exclaimed: “O man without feeling! for three days have thy children suffered from hunger, and I have never ceased searching for you! Where hast thou been hiding thyself? But never mind—what is done is done. Come now, where is the wood which thou hast collected? Give it to me, that I may sell it and procure food for our starving children.” “Great God!” cried Táj ul-Mulúk, turning his eyes towards heaven, “how long wilt thou keep me in this state of affliction? From the day when the mother of Baká-walí tossed me into the sea, I have not breathed a single moment free from the clutches of misfortune.” In short, that sable hag pulled him, nolens volens, to her dwelling. Arrived there, a crowd of children sur­rounded him, crying: “Father! father! what hast thou brought for us?” Then the negress gave him an axe, and told him to go into the forest and cut some wood for the support of his family. The prince quitted the cottage, and as he went along called to mind that it was by plunging into a lake that his form had been twice changed, and he resolved to make a third trial. Accordingly he dived into the waters of the first lake on his way, lifted up his head, and found himself restored to his original shape, and on the border of the lake where he had taken his first plunge. He returned thanks to God, and determined never again to bathe in any lake. His magical cap and stick he found lying on the very spot where he had placed them before leaping into the lake which changed his sex, and taking them up he departed thence.

My friends,* those very lakes which Táj ul-Mulúk should have avoided are the pleasures of this world, which, like the mirage, deceive man. It was not necessary for him to fill his pitcher from every stream, nor to smell the flowers of every garden. Thorns have often the appearance of roses, and seem to be even more beautiful. If you enter into the world to lay hold of the pearl of pleasure, you will lose your hat and stick,—images of the goodness and power of God, and so, like Táj ul-Mulúk, you will cease to have the noble form of men. When you return to yourself you go to the brink of the stream of the remembrance of God and plunge into it; and draw­ing out your head, you again find the hat and stick of grace.