Then the king went back under the sissoo tree, took the goblin on his shoulder, and set out in haste. And as he walked along, the goblin on his shoulder said: “O King, I will tell you a story about a great love. Listen.”
The Man, his Wife, and her Lover, who all died for Love. Which was the most foolish?
There is a city called Ujjain, which seems like a divine city made by the Creator for the pious who have fallen from heaven. In this city there was a famous king named Lotus-belly. He delighted the good, and defeated the king of the demons.
While he was king, a merchant named Fortune, richer than the god of wealth, lived in the city. He had one daughter named Love-cluster, who seemed the model from whom the Creator had made the nymphs of heaven. This merchant gave his daughter to a merchant named Jewel-guard from Copper City.
As he was a tender father and had no other children, the merchant stayed with his daughter Love-cluster and her husband. Now Love-cluster came to hate Jewel-guard as a sick man hates a pungent, biting medicine. But the beautiful woman was dearer than life to her husband, dear as long-gathered wealth to a miser.
One day Jewel-guard started for Copper City to pay a loving visit to his parents. Then the hot summer came, and the roads were blocked for travellers by the sharp arrows of the sun. The winds blew soft with the fragrance of jasmine and trumpet-flower, like sighs from the mouths of mountains separated from the spring-time. And wind-swept dust-clouds flew to the sky like messengers from the burning earth begging for clouds. And the feverish days moved slowly like wayfarers who cling to the shade of trees. And the nights clad in pale yellow moonlight became very feeble without the invigorating embrace of winter.
At this time Love-cluster, anointed with cooling sandal, and clad in thin garments, stood at her lattice-window. And she saw a handsome youth with a friend whom he trusted. He seemed the god of love born anew and seeking his bride. He was the son of the king’s priest, and his name was Lotus-lake.
And when Lotus-lake saw the lovely girl, he expanded with delight as lotuses in a lake expand at the sight of the moon. When the two young people saw each other, their hearts embraced each other at the bidding of Love, their teacher.
So Lotus-lake was smitten with love, and was led home with difficulty by his friend. And Love-cluster was equally maddened by love. First she learned from her friend his name and home, then slowly withdrew to her room. There she thought of him and became feverish with love, simply tossing on her couch, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.
After two or three days spent in this way, she felt bashful and fearful, pale and thin from the separation, and hopeless of union with her lover. So, as if drawn on by the moonbeam which shone through her window, she went out at night when her people were asleep, determined to die. And she came to a pool under a tree in her garden.
There stood a family image of the goddess Gauri, set up by her father. She drew near to this image, bowed before the goddess, praised her, and said: “O Goddess, since I could not have Lotus-lake as my husband in this life, may he be my husband in some other life!” And she made a noose of her garment, and tied it to the ashoka tree before the goddess.
At that moment her trusty friend awoke, and not finding her in the room, hunted about and came luckily into the garden. There she saw the girl fastening the noose about her neck, and she cried, “No, no!” And running up, she cut the noose.
When Love-cluster saw that it was her own friend who had run up and taken the noose away, she fell to the ground in great agony. But her friend comforted her and asked the reason of her sorrow. Then she arose and said: “Jasmine, my friend, I cannot be united with him I love. I am dependent on my father and other people. Death is the happiest thing for me.”
And as she spoke, she was terribly scorched by the fiery darts of love, and determined to feel no more hope, and fainted. And her friend Jasmine lamented: “Alas! Love is a hard master. It has reduced her to this condition.” But she gradually brought her back to life with cool water and fans and things. She made an easy bed of lotus-leaves. She put pearls cool as snow on her heart.
Then Love-cluster came to herself and slowly said to her weeping friend: “My dear, the fire within me cannot be quenched by such things as pearls. If you want to save my life, be clever enough to bring my lover to me.”
And the loving Jasmine said: “My dear, the night is almost over. In the morning I will bring your lover here to meet you. Be brave and go now to your room.”
Love-cluster was contented. She took the pearls from her neck and gave them to her friend as a present. And she said: “Let us go now. Then in the morning you must keep your promise.” So she went to her room.
In the morning Jasmine crept out without being seen to hunt for the house of Lotus-lake. When she got there, she found Lotus-lake under a tree in the garden. He was lying on a couch of lotus-leaves moistened with sandal, and the friend who knew his secret was fanning him with plantain-leaf fans, for he was tortured by the flames of love. And Jasmine hid, to find out whether this was lovesickness for her friend or not.
Then the friend said to Lotus-lake: “My friend, comfort your heart by glancing a moment at this charming garden. Do not be so troubled.”
But he said to his friend: “My heart has been stolen by Love-cluster. It is no longer in my body. How can I comfort it? Love has made an empty quiver of me. So invent some plan by which I may meet the thief of my heart.”
Then Jasmine came out joyfully and without fear and showed herself. And she said: “Sir, Love-cluster has sent me to you, and I am the bearer of a message to you. Is it good manners to enter the heart of an innocent girl by force, steal her thoughts, and run away? It is strange, but the sweet girl is ready to give her person and her life to you, her charmer. For day and night she heaves sighs hot as the smoke from the fire of love that burns in her heart. And teardrops carry her rouge away and fall, like bees longing for the honey of her lotus-face. So, if you wish it, I will tell you what is good for both of you.”
And Lotus-lake said: “My good girl, the words which tell me that my love is lonely and longing, frighten me and comfort me. You are our only refuge. Devise a plan.”
And Jasmine answered: “This very night I will bring Love-cluster secretly to the garden. You must be outside. Then I will cleverly let you in, and so you two will be united.” Thus Jasmine delighted the Brahman’s son, and went away successful to please Love-cluster with the news.
Then the sun and the daylight fled away, pursuing the twilight. And the East adorned her face with the moon. And the white night-blooming lotuses laughed, their faces expanding at the thought of the glory that was coming to them. At that hour the lover Lotus-lake came secretly, adorned and filled with longing, to the garden-gate of his belovèd. And Jasmine led Love-cluster secretly into the garden, for she had lived through the day somehow.
Then Jasmine made her sit down under the mango trees, while she went and let Lotus-lake in. So he entered and looked upon Love-cluster as the traveller looks upon the shade of trees with thick foliage. And as he drew near, she saw him and ran to him, for love took away her modesty, and she fell on his neck. “Where would you go? I have caught you, thief of my heart!” she cried. Then excessive joy stopped her breathing, and she died. She fell on the ground like a vine broken by the wind. Strange are the mysterious ways of Love.
When Lotus-lake saw that terrible fall, he cried: “Oh, what does it mean?” And he fainted and fell down. Presently he came to himself, and took his darling on his lap. He embraced her and kissed her and wept terribly. He was so borne down by the terrible burden of grief that his own heart broke. And when they were both dead, the night seemed to die away in shame and fear.
In the morning the relatives heard the story from the gardeners, and came there filled with timidity and wonder and grief and madness. They did not know what to do, but stood a long time with downcast eyes. Unfaithful women disgrace a family.
Presently the husband Jewel-guard came back from his father’s house in Copper City, filled with love for Love-cluster. When he came to his father-in-law’s house and saw the business, he was blinded by tears and went thoughtfully into the garden. There he saw his wife dead in another man’s arms, and his body was scorched by the flames of grief, and he died immediately.
Then the whole household shouted and screamed so that all the citizens heard the story and came there. The demi-gods themselves were filled with pity and prayed to the goddess Gauri whose image had been set up there before by Love-cluster’s father: “Oh, Mother, the merchant who set up this statue was always devoted to you. Show mercy to him in his affliction.”
And the gracious goddess heard their prayer. She said: “All three shall live again, and shall forget their love.” Then through her grace they all arose like people waking from sleep. They were alive, and their love was gone. While all the people there rejoiced at what had happened, Lotus-lake went home, bending his head in shame. And the merchant took his shamefaced daughter and her husband and went into the house and made a feast.
When the goblin had told this story on the road in the night, he said: “O King, which was the most foolish among those who died for love? If you know and do not tell, you must remember the curse I spoke of before.”
Then the king answered: “O magic creature, Jewel-guard was the most foolish of them. When he saw that his wife had died for love of another man, he should have been angry. Instead, he was loving, and died of grief.”
Then the goblin slipped from the king’s shoulder and quickly set out for his home. And the king ran after him again, eager as before.