To him she had been a snake-woman, possessed of a fascination which, to him, was monstrous and wholly incomprehensible. She had worn a strange striped dress of green tight-fitting, hideous he had deemed it. Her face had been painted. He had been too near the stage, and she had revolted him. Her dance had certainly been wonderful, sinuous, gliding, suggestive a perfectly conceived scheme of evil.
But as it was, all she could do was to bound up and down, whilst the King and the Jogi piled fuel on to the fire, and the oven grew hotter and hotter. So it went on from four o'clock one afternoon to four o'clock the next, when the Snake-woman ceased to bound, and all was quiet.
They waited until the oven grew cold, and then opened it, when not a trace of the Snake-woman was to be seen, only a tiny heap of ashes, out of which the Jogi took a small round stone, and gave it to the King, saying, 'This is the real essence of the Snake-woman, and whatever you touch with it will turn to gold.
Now, if a Snake-woman goes out at night, she must resume her own loathsome form; so, as King Ali Mardan lay feigning sleep, he saw the beautiful form in his arms change to a deadly slimy snake, that slid from the bed out of the door into the garden. He followed it softly, watching it drink of every fountain by the way, until it reached the Dal lake, where it drank and bathed for hours.
Then, just as she stooped over the oven's mouth, to turn the loaves, the King, seizing his opportunity, pushed her in, and clapping down the cover, locked and double-locked it. Now, when the Snake-woman found herself caught in the scorching oven, she bounded so, that had it not been for the strong chains, she would have bounded out of the garden, oven and all!
Therefore, that same evening he ordered two kinds of khichri to be made ready for supper, and placed in one dish, so that one half was sweet khichri, and the other half salt. Now, when as usual the King sat down to eat out of the same dish with the Snake-woman, he turned the salt side towards her and the sweet side towards himself.
This they placed in a shady corner of the garden, fastening it securely to the ground by strong chains. When all was ready, the King said to the Snake-woman, 'My heart's beloved! let us wander in the gardens alone to-day, and amuse ourselves by cooking our own food,
She, nothing loath, consented, and so they wandered about in the garden; and when dinner-time came, set to work, with laughter and mirth, to cook their own food. The King heated the oven very hot, and kneaded the bread, but being clumsy at it, he told the Snake-woman he could do no more, and that she must bake the bread.
But when they had retired to rest, and the King, obeying the Jogi's orders, had feigned sleep, the Snake-woman became so dreadfully thirsty, in consequence of all the salt food she had eaten, that she longed for a drink of water; and as there was none in the room, she was obliged to go outside to get some.