In the depths of the forest the ascetic practiced penance with fast-closed eyes; he intended to deserve Paradise. But the girl who gathered twigs brought him fruits in her skirt, and water from the stream in cups made of leaves. The days went on, and his penance grew harsher till the fruits remained untasted, the water untouched: and the girl who gathered twigs was sad.
The Lord of Paradise heard that a man had dared to aspire to be as the Gods…and he planned a temptation to decoy this creature of dust away from his adventure. A breath from Paradise kissed the limbs of the girl who gathered twigs, and her youth ached with a sudden rapture of beauty, and her thoughts hummed like the bees of a rifled hive.
The time came when the ascetic should leave the forest for a mountain cave, to complete the rigor of his penance.When he opened his eyes in order to start on this journey, the girl appeared to him like a verse familiar, yet forgotten, and which an added melody made strange. But the ascetic rose from his seat and told her that it was time he left the forest.
…For years he sat alone till his penance was complete. The Lord of the Immortals came down to tellhim that he had won Paradise. “I no longer need it,” said he. The God asked him what greater reward he desired.“I want the girl who gathers twigs.”