AND they hovered before him, as he slept all night on his bed of leaves, and in the morning he rose before the sun, and went out and stood on the brink of the pool. And as he gazed at its surface, which was dotted with lotuses like a panther's skin, there entered into his heart a doubt, like the shadow of the bats that were taking their last flight over the water before the dawn. And he said to himself: O, she is beautiful, but alas! she is a woman: have I done well in allowing her to steal entrance like these bats, into my heart. And that instant, he saw her coming towards him, with a shirísha flower in her hand. And she came to him, and said: My mistress sends her lord, by these unworthy hands, a flower, and if he has enjoyed sweet slumbers, it is well with her.
And the King looked for a moment at the smile that sat like sunlight on her lips; and he said with a sigh: Dear chétí, how can he sleep well, who doubts and fears? For I am about to put out again upon the sea, on which I have already made shipwreck. Blue, blue is the sea, and soft and calm its waves, and smiling, and yet so it was before, when it betrayed me. And shall I trust my little
bark on it again? Then she looked at him awhile, with sorrow and reproach in her eyes. And she said: Doomed is the double mind, and he that can-not venture, for want of courage or of trust, can never win return. Not for him the treasures that lurk in the bosom of the sea, where monsters roam, and jewels lie, and sea nymphs dwell. For once upon a time, there was a merchant's son, who set out in a ship to go on a trading journey to a distant land. And he sailed for many a yojana over the billowy waves, till at length he came to the very middle of the sea. Then suddenly the wind fell, and the sails hung idle on the yards, and the ship stopped. And out of the green and heaving sea there rose before him a tree of coral; and on a branch of that tree there sat a maiden of the sea: and the foam of the sea dripped from her limbs, and sat like pearls upon her breasts, and fell like cream into the water, and her long hair lay on the waves that surged beneath her like her own breast. And she called to the merchant's son: Jump into the sea, and come and live with me, and I will give thee jewels such as no merchant ever saw, and surfeit thee with pleasures such as never mortal tasted yet. Then that coward merchant's soul was balanced between his longing for that heavenly maiden and
his fear of the waves. And he looked and longed to jump, but did not dare. And then in a moment that fair tree and its lovely burden sank back into the sea and disappeared, and he was left alone, with the water and the sky. Then he continued his journey, filled with unavailing regret, and presently there arose a storm, and it sank his ship into the sea, and he was drowned. Thus he lost his treasure, and yet for all that did not even save his worthless life from the very danger that he feared. And, O King, this life is fleeting, and more unstable than the waves of ocean that it resembles. And what does it contain that should make it worth a hero's while to balance for a moment between losing it, and winning what fortune only offers once in any life, and often not at all?
Then she laid the Shirísha flower at the King's feet, and turned and went away, slowly, and was lost among the trees. And the King stooped and picked up the flower. And he said: O Shirísha, woe to thee, lovely as thou art, for thou art the bringer of unhappiness. Now have I offended my beloved chétí by betraying unworthy suspicion. But ah! she is a woman. Why did not Maheshwara lift her out of the category of women, and place her in a species by herself, that I might not remember
when I gaze at her imperfections that are inseparable from all her sex but her? And he went back to the temple, with the flower in his hand, angry with himself, and more in love with the chétí than before.