8 WHAT THE ROSE DID TO THE CYPRESS
done to death many men who had had no pleasure in life nor tasted its charms. God forbid that your spring also should be ravaged by the autumn winds of martyrdom.' All his urgency, however, had no effect in making the prince withdraw. At length it was settled between them that three days should be given to pleasant hospitality and that then should follow what had to be said and done. Then the prince went to his own quarters and was treated as became his station.
King Quimus now sent for his daughter and for her mother, Gulrukh,1 and talked to them. He said to Mihr-afruz: ' Listen to me, you cruel flirt! Why do you persist in this folly ? Now there has come to ask your hand a prince of the east, so handsome that the very sun grows modest before the splendour of his face ; he is rich, and he has brought gold and jewels, all for you, if you will marry him. A better husband you will not find.'
But all the arguments of father and mother were wasted, for her only answer was : ' 0 my father ! I have sworn to myself that I will not marry, even if a thousand years go by, unless someone answers my riddle, and that I will give myself to that man only who does answer it.'
The three days passed ; then the riddle was asked : ' What did the rose do to the cypress ? ' The prince had an eloquent tongue, which could split a hair, and without hesitation he replied to her with a verse : ' Only the Omnipotent has knowledge of secrets; if any man says, " I know " do not believe him.'
Then a servant fetched in the polluted, blue-eyed headsman, who asked : ' Whose sun of life has come near its setting ? ' took the prince by the arm, placed him upon the cloth of execution, and then, all merciless and stonyhearted, cut his head from his body and hung it on the battlements.
The news of the death of Prince Tahmasp plunged his father into despair and stupefaction. He mourned for