INDIAN writers say, that there was a city called Amarnagar, whose inhabitants were immortal, the king of which, named Indra,* passed his days and nights in joyful festivities, and the food of his soul was song and dancing. His sway extended over all the world of the jinn, and his court was constantly attended by the parís, who danced before him. One night Indra observed that Bakáwalí, the daughter of Fírúz Sháh, had not been present for some time, and demanded to know the reason. “It is,” replied one of the parís, “because she has been caught in the net of love by a man, and, intoxicated with this passion, she is constantly with him and has no longer any dislike for his race.” On hearing this Indra was greatly enraged, and directed several fairies to bring her instantly. By an aërial chariot they were carried to the garden of Táj ul-Mulúk, where they awoke Bakáwalí, told her of the wrath of Indra and intimated his command. She was therefore compelled to accom­pany them to Amarnagar, and, trembling, came before the king, and with folded hands paid her dutiful respects; but the king, casting on her a look of anger, reprimanded her with great severity, and ordered that she should be thrown into the fire, so that her body might lose the odour which the contact with a mortal had imparted to it. The fairies put her accordingly into a furnace where she was reduced to ashes; after which they recited a charm over a basin of water, and sprinkling it on the ashes restored her to life. Thus purified, she came before Indra, and began to dance. With her first motion, she trod upon the hearts of the spectators, and in one turn threw the beholders out of themselves: every mouth applauded her, every tongue commended her. When she had ended, she saluted the assembly and returned in the same chariot to her garden. After bathing in rose-water she rejoined her lord. On the morrow she rose up according to her custom, and conducted herself all day in her usual manner till night came, when she again ascended to the court of Indra to repeat the proceedings of the preceding night; and thus she continued for some time, Táj ul-Mulúk suspecting nothing.

One night, however, while she was at the court of Indra, the prince awoke, and finding her not by his side sought her in vain both on the terrace and in the garden. He went to sleep again, and, meanwhile, Bakáwalí returned and lay down on the marital couch. The prince was much astonished, on awaking in the morning, to find her by his side, but, feigning to know nothing of her absence, he determined to discover the secret. Before lying down on his couch next night, he cut his finger and put salt on the wound to prevent him from dropping asleep. At midnight the flying chariot appeared, and just as Bakáwalí was about to mount it the prince, without being perceived, fastened himself firmly to one of the corners, and they were speedily at the gate of Indra. There the prince saw what he had never before seen as regards immortal beauties; and heard what he had never before heard with respect to musical sounds. But when he beheld the terrible purification of Bakáwalí, and saw her reduced to ashes, he could no longer contain himself, and struck his head with both hands. Presently, boundless was his astonishment when he saw his beloved rise up again from her ashes and advance towards Indra. As the crowd was numerous, he followed her without attracting any attention. It chanced that the musician attending Bakáwalí was very old, and could not, from infirmity, perform his duties properly.* The prince approached the musician, and said in a whisper: “If you are tired with playing, I will take your place for a short time with much pleasure, as I am considered skilful in this exercise.” The old man accepted the proposal and handed him the instrument. No sooner had the prince struck the first note than the movements of Bakáwalí grew animated and ravishing. Indra was so delighted that he took from his neck a collar, of the value of nine lakhs of rupís, and cast it before Bakáwalí, who, in a retrograde movement, gave it in charge of the clever musician. When the festivities were over Bakáwalí returned home, and went as usual to bathe in the tank of rose-water. Meanwhile Táj ul-Mulúk gained his couch and feigned to be fast asleep.

When morning dawned the prince related to Baká-walí his adventure of the previous night, confirming the truth of his narrative by showing her the necklace of Indra. She expressed her fears lest a repetition of the adventure should cause them distress, but said she would that night try her fate by taking him with her. Accordingly the prince accompanied her to the court of Indra, and was presented by her to the king as a skilled musician; and as soon as the prince began to play and Bakáwalí to dance, the assembly were overcome with astonishment, and Indra exclaimed: “Ask what thou desirest, and I will give it to thee.”* Bakáwalí replied: “Great king, I am in want of nothing, save that you will give me this musician and let me go.” At these words Indra, in anger, and regarding Bakáwalí as a courtesan, said that as he had given his word he must not draw back from it; but for twelve years the lower half of her body should be of marble.*

Fate, alas! ordaineth still,
Grief and joy are twin-born here:
Now 'tis spring with laughing flowers,
Now 'tis autumn bleak and sere!
A crown adorns the head to-day,
In the grave it lies to-morrow!
Now like flowers the heart expands,
Now 'tis spotted all with sorrow!
Pleasures vanish fast away,
Short-lived is the sunny day!

It is related that Bakáwalí immediately after her transformation disappeared, and Táj ul-Mulúk rolled on the ground through excess of grief; but the fairies, pitying his condition, took him up and cast him in a forest on earth. For three days he remained there without sense or motion. On the fourth he opened his eyes, and found, instead of his beloved, nothing but thorns in his arms. He wandered on every side, calling upon Bakáwalí, and asking every tree to direct him to her. One day he arrived on the banks of a pond. Beautiful stairs were on each side and trees loaded with fruits were planted everywhere. The prince waited for a moment, then bathed, and laid himself down under the shade of a tree, and thinking of his beloved he fell asleep. It happened that a number of fairies alighted there, and after bathing in the pond, sat down to dry their hair. The eyes of one falling on the prince, she observed to her companions: “There is the musician of Bakáwalí.” The moment that these words were heard by Táj ul-Mulúk he opened his eyes, arose, came before the fairies, and, weeping, inquired if they knew where Bakáwalí was. Their hearts melted within them. They said they had not seen her, but had heard that she was in a temple in Ceylon, the gates of which remained closed during the day and were open during the night; adding that Bakáwalí's body was changed to stone from her waist downward. The prince inquired in what direction was her present abode, and how far it was from the place where they were standing. They answered: “Leaving out the inconvenience of travel, if a person were to journey all his life he would never reach it.” Táj ul-Mulúk despaired on hearing this, and then, bidding adieu to life, commenced dashing his head against the stones. The fairies, compassion­ating his case, consulted among themselves, with a view of devising such measures as would enable them to carry him to the desired quarter, and there leave him to the fate that might befall him. They removed him instantly, and, in the saying of a word, placed him in the land of Ceylon.

After a moment his despair was somehow cheered with hope. He gazed upon a city which rivalled Paradise in loveliness, surrounded as it was with every surprising object. Not one of the men or women appeared to be ugly there. Nay, the very trees were so symmetrical as to strike the beholder with wonder. Rambling about, he at last found himself in the public thoroughfare, where he met a Bráhman, who was a devotee. Of him he inquired: “In what shrines do you offer up your prayers?” The Bráhman answered: “In that of Rájá Chitrasan,* who governs this country.” The prince next asked: “How many temples are there in this city?” The Bráhman satisfied his inquiries, and then added, that lately a new temple had been discovered in the south, the doors of which were never opened during the day, and no one knew what it contained. The prince was delighted at this intelligence, and took his way as pointed out, until he reached the building and sat down patiently. In the night one of its doors suddenly opened. He entered and found Bakáwalí half in her original form and half petrified, reclining against the wall. On beholding him she was much astonished, and inquired how he had come thither. The prince gave a faithful account of his adventures. The night was then passed in conversation. And when morning was about to dawn Bakáwalí bade him depart, “for,” said she, “if the sunbeams find you here you will be changed into a shape like mine.” She then pulled out a pearl from her earring and gave it to the prince, and desired him to sell it and use the proceeds for his own subsistence for a few days. The prince took it to the city and sold it for some thousands of rupís. He then bought a house, and having furnished it, engaged a number of servants. It was usual with him to pass his nights with Bakáwalí and return home in the morning, and thus several years rolled away.

In the meantime the prince had become acquainted with many of the inhabitants, who generally undertook to escort him through the city. In one of his walks he came upon a party of naked creatures, on whom every mark of poverty was visible. He observed that these men, although in the garb of beggars, had still some tokens of nobility in their features, and inquired: “What may be the cause of this?” His friends an­swered that some of those individuals were actually princes, and some the sons of nobles, but they were all the victims of love.* “The Rájá Chitrasan has a daughter named Chitrawat,* who is as bright as the moon—nay, more, she is a star in the heaven of love­liness. Amongst women she is perfectly unrivalled. Grace is visible in her steps and magic in her eyes.* Thousands die before her arching eyebrows, and hun­dreds of thousands are entrapped in her raven tresses: those tresses that are darker than night—nay, darker than the fate of her lovers. Her eyes teem with nectar and poison. In one moment they can kill, in another, restore to life. In her love there is nothing but suffer­ing, sorrow, and loss of reputation.* In brief, she is really a fairy, whose charms enslave both infidels and Muslims. But what is worse, she has two companions whose beauty has also wrecked the peace of many. One is the daughter of a betel-seller* and is called Nirmalá;* the other is the child of a gardener and is called Chapalá.* All three are sincerely attached to each other. Sitting or rising, in all concerns of life, they are inseparable companions. Moreover, each is at liberty to choose her own husband. But hitherto none has proved so fortunate as to be honoured with the favour of either of those beauties.”

Some time after this the prince found himself under the balcony of the Princess Chitrawat, and beheld thousands gazing longingly on her bright features, even as the bulbul regards the blushing beauties of the rose. Like maniacs, they were blubbering amongst themselves, while she, the proud beauty, sat on her balcony exulting at the view of their sufferings. It was at this moment that Táj ul-Mulúk appeared. Their eyes met. The shaft of love passed at once through her heart. She was wounded. Her patience was lost, and sense forsook her for the time. Down she fell, and her attendants ran and lifted her up. They sprinkled rose-water on her face, put a scent-bottle to her nostrils, and she presently revived. She was, however, still motionless and speechless, and al­though several inquired the cause of her indisposition, she returned not a word in answer, but continued gazing steadfastly in the same direction. Then it was that Nirmalá looked down from the window and dis­covered the prince; and after hearing all the circum­stances of the case from Chitrawat, comforted her friend thus: “O princess, your sufferings distract me, and make me lose my equanimity. Why are you anxious? Your father has already made you mistress of your own hand, and it depends upon your choice to marry any one you may love. Be comforted: the youth on the black charger shall be thine, though he should be even an angel. Depend on me; I will entrap him in such a way that escape will be altogether impossible.” She then deputed a female go-between to undertake the work.

Boldly did this woman come forward, and seizing the reins of the prince's horse, “Knowest thou,” she asked him, “that the poor are sacrificed and lovers impaled here? The fair lady of this palace can bind the hearts of all in her glossy tresses, and at one glance cast them dead upon the earth. Whence is thy bold­ness, that thou castest thy glance on the mansions of kings? Art thou a spark able to melt the hearts of the fair ones, and to dissolve their stony nature? Whence art thou? What country dost thou inhabit? Where is thy native land? And what is thy family?” Táj ul-Mulúk at once divined that she was sent by some one, and answered: “Silence! Do not re-open my wounds. My native land is brighter than the sun, and the name of it is known to emperors. Tell the person who has deputed you, not to cast a glance on such a distressed traveller as myself, nor harbour any thoughts in her heart that may have the slightest reference to love:

Go to him who will approve thee;
Love him only who can love thee.”

The artful go-between then ascertained that he was a prince of the East, that his name was Táj ul-Mulúk, and that his connections were high. These particulars she communicated to Chitrawat.

After this the prince frequently passed along the same road, so that he might have an opportunity of looking up at the balcony. Even as the moon wanes from her fourteenth night, so did the health and spirits of the princess, who pined inwardly for him. She tried long to keep the secret to herself, but her attempt was in vain. In a few days even her parents came to know of her sufferings. Her father, the king, employed an accomplished dame to repair to Táj ul-Mulúk, and try all her arts to bring about a marriage between him and his daughter; at all events, to endeavour by every means to gain his heart. The woman faithfully performed her mission and dwelt long on commendations of the charms of the princess. Táj ul-Mulúk returned his respects to the king, and said that he was a wanderer from his country, that he had exchanged the robes of royalty for the troubles of travelling, and that he had alienated himself from relations and friends; therefore, to propose an alliance with him was like tracing figures on water and tying the wind in a napkin.

When this message was delivered to the rájá it made him sadly thoughtful, and drove him to ask counsel of his minister, who assured him that it was not a difficult matter for the king to bring a houseless stranger into subjection. He even offered to under­take such measures as should ultimately entrap him; and his plan was to bring a charge of theft against the prince. Now it so happened that the pecuniary resources of Táj ul-Mulúk were altogether exhausted, and, as he was purposing applying to Bakáwalí, he recollected the jewel which he had taken from the serpent and concealed in his thigh.* He sent for a surgeon and had the jewel taken out, afterwards curing the wound by means of his wonderful oint­ment. When he had fully recovered, he took the gem to the bazár; but every jeweller was struck with surprise, and declared himself unable to pay the price. They informed the vazír that a stranger had come into the city, wishing to dispose of a jewel which none but the king could purchase. The minister on hear­ing this caused the stranger to be arrested and brought before him, and knowing him to be the prince with whom Chitrawat was in love, he lost no time in bring­ing a charge of robbery against him and committing him to prison. He then told the king that the bird that had flown away from the cage was ensnared again, and would doubtless comply with the wishes of the sovereign.