THEN all night long, he slept profoundly on his bed of leaves, and rose only when the sun had arisen. And when he went out, he found the chétí standing waiting for him on the edge of the pool, with a red lotus in her hand. And she seemed in his eyes like the peace of his own mind embodied in a visible form. And as he went towards her, she looked up, and said: My mistress sends her lord, by these unworthy hands, a flower, and if his slumbers have been sweet, it is well with her.
Then the King said: Dear chétí, he sleeps well who regains his tranquillity: and by thy favour I have slept this night as I have not slept for many. And she said: Whence has come this new tranquillity? And the King laughed, and said: A skilful physician administered to me yesterday a drowsy drug. Then she said: They are fortunate,
who possess skilful physicians, for they are few. Then he said: The drug that brought me sleep was compounded of the murmur of thy voice and the nectar of the sight of thee. And I begin to hope that a cure may be effected, for formerly I thought my case desperate. Then Madhupamanjarí began to laugh. And she exclaimed: O King, beware! Was it not but a day or two ago that thou wast bringing charges of variability against the whole race of woman? And now art thou not becoming amenable to the same charge? Then the King said: Thou malicious chétí, thou knowest well that thou art saying what is not the truth, solely to torment me. Then she said: Nay, but thou appearest to me closely to resemble the fisherman, who lived formerly, in another age and country, by catching fish. And one day he threw his net into the sea, and there came up in it a beautiful fish of gold. Then he drew it up, filled with joy. But just as he was going to take it into his hand, it jumped back into the sea. Then he shed tears of despair, and abandoning the sea, was ready to abandon the body. And he exclaimed: Alas! my life is over, for it was wrapped up in that fish of gold. Nevertheless, after a while, he went back to the sea, and threw in his net again:
and there came up a fish of silver. And instantly he forgot his fish of gold, and eagerly stretched out his hand to take the fish of silver. But that also slid from his hand into the sea. And again he gave himself up to despair, and quitted the shore, and spent his time in bewailing his loss. Yet after awhile, he came back again to the sea. And he threw in his net, and to! there came up a common fish, made of the ordinary flesh of fish; and he took it in his hand and carried it away, and was perfectly happy, and he utterly forgot the fish of gold, and the fish of silver, as if they had never been.
Then the King said: Dear chétí, I would be angry with thee, if I could, for thy roguery in comparing me to such a vile fisherman. And she said: O King, beware! lest the parallel should turn out to be exact. Then the King said: Thou mayst liken me rather to a fire which was all but extinguished, and could not be rekindled, disdaining as it did every species of common fuel: till they offered it a piece of heavenly sandal, of which even that that grows on Malaya is but a poor copy. And then it blazed up from its ashes with a pure flame, such as it had never put forth before.
Then she said: King, it is time for me to go.
[paragraph continues] And she laid the lotus at his feet, and went away; but she turned and looked back at him, before she disappeared among the trees. And the King picked up the lotus, and said: Lotus, said I well, that I was fire, and she the fuel? Or is it not rather I that am the fuel, and she that is the fire? For certainly she burns me like a flame, even more, now that she is absent, than when she was here. Therefore, O thou red lotus, I will carry thee about all day, since thou resemblest a piece of herself that she has left behind, to cool me in the hot noon of her absence like a lump of snow. And he went back to the temple, with the lotus in his hand, feeding on the future, and forgetful of the past.