(Enter the chief of police, two policemen, and a man with his hands bound behind his back.)
The two policemen (striking the man). Now, pickpocket, tell us where you found this ring. It is the king's ring, with letters engraved on it, and it has a magnificent great gem.
Fisherman (showing fright). Be merciful, kind gentlemen. I am not guilty of such a crime.
First policeman. No, I suppose the king thought you were a pious Brahman, and made you a present of it.
Fisherman. Listen, please. I am a fisherman, and I live on the Ganges, at the spot where Indra came down.
Second policeman. You thief, we didn't ask for your address or your social position.
Chief. Let him tell a straight story, Suchaka. Don't interrupt.
The two policemen. Yes, chief. Talk, man, talk.
Fisherman. I support my family with things you catch fish with--nets, you know, and hooks, and things.
Chief (laughing). You have a sweet trade.
Fisherman. Don't say that, master.
Chief. Go on. Go on.
Fisherman. Well, one day I was cutting up a carp. In its maw I see this ring with the magnificent great gem. And then I was just trying to sell it here when you kind gentlemen grabbed me. That is the only way I got it. Now kill me, or find fault with me.
Chief (smelling the ring). There is no doubt about it,
Januka. It has been in a fish's maw. It has the real perfume of raw meat. Now we have to find out how he got it. We must go to the palace.
The two policemen (to the fisherman). Move on, you cutpurse, move on. (They walk about.)
Chief. Suchaka, wait here at the big gate until I come out of the palace. And don't get careless.
The two policemen. Go in, chief. I hope the king will be nice to you.
Chief. Good-bye. (Exit.)
Suchaka. Januka, the chief is taking his time.
Januka. You can't just drop in on a king.
Suchaka. Januka, my fingers are itching (indicating the fisherman) to kill this cutpurse.
Fisherman. Don't kill a man without any reason, master.
Januka (looking ahead). There is the chief, with a written order from the king. (To the fisherman.) Now you will see your family, or else you will feed the crows and jackals. (Enter the chief.)
Chief. Quick! Quick! (He breaks off.)
Fisherman. Oh, oh! I'm a dead man. (He shows dejection.)
Chief. Release him, you. Release the fishnet fellow. It is all right, his getting the ring. Our king told me so himself.
Suchaka. All right, chief. He is a dead man come back to life. (He releases the fisherman.)
Fisherman (bowing low to the chief). Master, I owe you my life. (He falls at his feet.)
Chief. Get up, get up! Here is a reward that the king was kind enough to give you. It is worth as much as the ring. Take it. (He hands the fisherman a bracelet.)
Fisherman (joyfully taking it). Much obliged.
Januka. He is much obliged to the king. Just as if he had been taken from the stake and put on an elephant's back.
Suchaka. Chief, the reward shows that the king thought a lot of the ring. The gem must be worth something.
Chief. No, it wasn't the fine gem that pleased the king. It was this way.
The two policemen. Well?
Chief. I think, when the king saw it, he remembered
somebody he loves. You know how dignified he is usually. But as soon as he saw it, he broke down for a moment.
Suchaka. You have done the king a good turn, chief.
Januka. All for the sake of this fish-killer, it seems to me. (He looks enviously at the fisherman.)
Fisherman. Take half of it, masters, to pay for something to drink.
Januka. Fisherman, you are the biggest and best friend I've got. The first thing we want, is all the brandy we can hold. Let's go where they keep it. (Exeunt omnes.)
(Enter MISHRAKESHI, flying through the air.)
Mishrakeshi. I have taken my turn in waiting upon the nymphs. And now I will see what this good king is doing. Shakuntala is like a second self to me, because she is the daughter of Menaka. And it was she who asked me to do this. (She looks about.) It is the day of the spring festival. But I see no preparations for a celebration at court. I might learn the reason by my power of divination. But I must do as my friend asked me. Good! I will make myself invisible and stand near these girls who take care of the garden. I shall find out that way. (She descends to earth. Enter a maid, gazing at a mango branch, and behind her, a second.)
Second maid. What are you chirping about to yourself, little cuckoo?
First maid. Why, little bee, you know that the cuckoo goes crazy with delight when she sees the mango-blossom.
Second maid (joyfully). Oh, has the spring really come?
First maid. Yes, little bee. And this is the time when you too buzz about in crazy joy.
Second maid. Hold me, dear, while I stand on tiptoe and offer this blossom to Love, the divine.
First maid. If I do, you must give me half the reward of the offering.
Second maid. That goes without saying, dear. We two are one. (She leans on her friend and takes the mango-blossom.) Oh, see! The mango-blossom hasn't opened, but it has broken the sheath, so it is fragrant. (She brings her hands together.) I worship mighty Love,
(She throws the twig. Enter the chamberlain.)
Chamberlain (angrily). Stop, silly girl. The king has strictly forbidden the spring festival. Do you dare pluck the mango-blossoms?
The two maids (frightened). Forgive us, sir. We did not know.
Chamberlain. What! You have not heard the king's command, which is obeyed even by the trees of spring and the creatures that dwell in them. See!
The amaranth-bud is formed, and yet
Its power of growth is gone;
The love-god timidly puts by
The arrow he has drawn.
Mishrakeshi. There is no doubt of it. This good king has wonderful power.
First maid. A few days ago, sir, we were sent to his Majesty by his brother-in-law Mitravasu to decorate the garden. That is why we have heard nothing of this affair.
Chamberlain. You must not do so again.
The two maids. But we are curious. If we girls may know about it, pray tell us, sir. Why did his Majesty forbid the spring festival?
Mishrakeshi. Kings are fond of celebrations. There must be some good reason.
Chamberlain (to himself). It is in everybody's mouth. Why should I not tell it? (Aloud.) Have you heard the gossip concerning Shakuntala's rejection?
The two maids. Yes, sir. The king's brother-in-law told us, up to the point where the ring was recovered.
Chamberlain. There is little more to tell. When his Majesty saw the ring, he remembered that he had indeed contracted a secret marriage with Shakuntala, and had rejected her under a delusion. And then he fell a prey to remorse.
Mishrakeshi. I am glad to hear it.
Chamberlain. His Majesty's sorrow has forbidden the festival.
The two maids. It is only right.
A voice behind the scenes. Follow me.
Chamberlain (listening). Ah, his Majesty approaches. Go, and attend to your duties. (Exeunt the two maids. Enter the king, wearing a dress indicative of remorse; the clown, and the portress.)
Chamberlain (observing the king). A beautiful figure charms in whatever state. Thus, his Majesty is pleasing even in his sorrow. For
Mishrakeshi (observing the king). No wonder Shakuntala pines for him, even though he dishonoured her by his rejection of her.
King (walks about slowly, sunk in thought).
Mishrakeshi. That is the poor girl's fate.
Clown (to himself). He has got his Shakuntala-sickness again. I wish I knew how to cure him.
Chamberlain (advancing). Victory to your Majesty. I have examined the garden. Your Majesty may visit its retreats.
King. Vetravati, tell the minister Pishuna in my name that a sleepless night prevents me from mounting the throne of judgment. He is to investigate the citizens' business and send me a memorandum.
Portress. Yes, your Majesty. (Exit.)
King. And you, Parvatayana, return to your post of duty.
Chamberlain. Yes, your Majesty. (Exit.)
Clown. You have got rid of the vermin. Now amuse yourself in this garden. It is delightful with the passing of the cold weather.
King (sighing). My friend, the proverb makes no mistake. Misfortune finds the weak spot. See!
No sooner did the ring recall
My banished maiden dear,
No sooner do I vainly weep
For her, than spring is here.
Clown. Wait a minute, man. I will destroy Love's arrow with my stick. (He raises his stick and strikes at the mango branch.)
King (smiling). Enough! I see your pious power. My friend, where shall I sit now to comfort my eyes with the vines? They remind me somehow of her.
Clown. Well, you told one of the maids, the clever painter,
that you would spend this hour in the bower of spring-creepers. And you asked her to bring you there the picture of the lady Shakuntala which you painted on a tablet.
King. It is my only consolation. Lead the way to the bower of spring-creepers.
Clown. Follow me. (They walk about. MISHRAKESHI follows.) Here is the bower of spring-creepers, with its jewelled benches. Its loneliness seems to bid you a silent welcome. Let us go in and sit down. (They do so.)
Mishrakeshi. I will hide among the vines and see the dear girl's picture. Then I shall be able to tell her how deep her husband's love is. (She hides.)
King (sighing). I remember it all now, my friend. I told you how I first met Shakuntala. It is true, you were not with me when I rejected her. But I had told you of her at the first. Had you forgotten, as I did?
Mishrakeshi. This shows that a king should not be separated a single moment from some intimate friend.
Clown. No, I didn't forget. But when you had told the whole story, you said it was a joke and there was nothing in it. And I was fool enough to believe you. No, this is the work of fate.
Mishrakeshi. It must be.
King (after meditating a moment). Help me, my friend.
Clown. But, man, this isn't right at all. A good man never lets grief get the upper hand. The mountains are calm even in a tempest.
King. My friend, I am quite forlorn. I keep thinking of her pitiful state when I rejected her. Thus:
Mishrakeshi. How his fault distresses him!
Clown. Well, I don't doubt it was some heavenly being that carried her away.
King. Who else would dare to touch a faithful wife? Her friends told me that Menaka was her mother. My heart
persuades me that it was she, or companions of hers, who carried Shakuntala away.
Mishrakeshi. His madness was wonderful, not his awakening reason.
Clown. But in that case, you ought to take heart. You will meet her again.
King. How so?
Clown. Why, a mother or a father cannot long bear to see a daughter separated from her husband.
King. My friend,
Clown. Don't talk that way. Why, the ring shows that incredible meetings do happen.
King (looking at the ring). This ring deserves pity. It has fallen from a heaven hard to earn.
Mishrakeshi. If it were worn on any other hand, it would deserve pity. My dear girl, you are far away. I am the only one to hear these delightful words.
Clown. Tell me how you put the ring on her finger.
Mishrakeshi. He speaks as if prompted by my curiosity.
King. Listen, my friend. When I left the pious grove for the city, my darling wept and said: "But how long will you remember us, dear?"
Clown. And then you said------
King. Then I put this engraved ring on her finger, and said to her-------
Clown. Well, what?
[paragraph continues] Then, through my madness, it fell out cruelly.
Mishrakeshi. It was too charming an agreement to be frustrated by fate.
Clown. But how did it get into a carp's mouth, as if it had been a fish-hook?
King. While she was worshipping the Ganges at Shachitirtha, it fell.
Clown. I see.
Mishrakeshi. That is why the virtuous king doubted his marriage with poor Shakuntala. Yet such love does not ask for a token. How could it have been?
King. Well, I can only reproach this ring.
Clown (smiling). And I will reproach this stick of mine. Why are you crooked when I am straight?
King (not hearing him).
[paragraph continues] And yet
Mishrakeshi. He has given the answer which I had ready.
Clown. But that is no reason why I should starve to death.
King (not heeding). O my darling, my heart burns with repentance because I abandoned you without reason. Take pity on me. Let me see you again. (Enter a maid with a tablet.)
Maid. Your Majesty, here is the picture of our lady. (She produces the tablet.)
King (gazing at it). It is a beautiful picture. See!
Clown (looking at it). The sketch is full of sweet meaning. My eyes seem to stumble over its uneven surface. What
more can I say? I expect to see it come to life, and I feel like speaking to it.
Mishrakeshi. The king is a clever painter. I seem to see the dear girl before me.
King. My friend,
Mishrakeshi. This is natural, when love is increased by remorse.
Clown. There are three figures in the picture, and they are all beautiful. Which one is the lady Shakuntala?
Mishrakeshi. The poor fellow never saw her beauty. His eyes are useless, for she never came before them.
King. Which one do you think?
Clown (observing closely). I think it is this one, leaning against the creeper which she has just sprinkled. Her face is hot and the flowers are dropping from her hair; for the ribbon is loosened. Her arms droop like weary branches; she has loosened her girdle, and she seems a little fatigued. This, I think, is the lady Shakuntala, the others are her friends.
King. You are good at guessing. Besides, here are proofs of my love.
[paragraph continues] Chaturika, I have not finished the background. Go, get the brushes.
Maid. Please hold the picture, Madhavya, while I am gone.
King. I will hold it. (He does so. Exit maid.)
Clown. What are you going to add?
Mishrakeshi. Surely, every spot that the dear girl loved.
King. Listen, my friend.
Clown (aside). To hear him talk, I should think he was going to fill up the picture with heavy-bearded hermits.
King. And another ornament that Shakuntala loved I have forgotten to paint.
Mishrakeshi. Something natural for a girl living in the forest.
Clown. But why does she cover her face with fingers lovely as the pink water-lily? She seems frightened. (He looks more closely.) I see. Here is a bold, bad bee. He steals honey, and so he flies to her lotus-face.
King. Drive him away.
Clown. It is your affair to punish evil-doers.
King. True. O welcome guest of the flowering vine, why do you waste your time in buzzing here?
Mishrakeshi. A gentlemanly way to drive him off!
Clown. This kind are obstinate, even when you warn them.
King (angrily). Will you not obey my command? Then listen:
Clown. Well, he doesn't seem afraid of your dreadful punishment. (Laughing. To himself.) The man is crazy, and I am just as bad, from associating with him.
King. Will he not go, though I warn him?
Mishrakeshi. Love works a curious change even in a brave man.
Clown (aloud). It is only a picture, man.
King. A picture?
Mishrakeshi. I too understand it now. But to him, thoughts are real experiences.
King. You have done an ill-natured thing.
Mishrakeshi. Fate plays strangely with him.
King. My friend, how can I endure a grief that has no respite?
Mishrakeshi. My friend, you have indeed atoned--and in her friend's presence--for the pain you caused by rejecting dear Shakuntala. (Enter the maid CHATURIKA.)
Maid. Your Majesty, I was coming back with the box of paint-brushes
Maid. I met Queen Vasumati with the maid Pingalika. And the queen snatched the box from me, saying: "I will take it to the king myself."
Clown. How did you escape?
Maid. The queen's dress caught on a vine. And while her maid was setting her free, I excused myself in a hurry.
A voice behind the scenes. Follow me, your Majesty.
Clown (listening). Man, the she-tiger of the palace is making a spring on her prey. She means to make one mouthful of the maid.
King. My friend, the queen has come because she feels touched in her honour. You had better take care of this picture.
Clown. "And yourself," you might add. (He takes the picture and rises.) If you get out of the trap alive, call for me at the Cloud Balcony. And I will hide the thing there so that nothing but a pigeon could find it. (Exit on the run.)
Mishrakeshi. Though his heart is given to another, he is courteous to his early flame. He is a constant friend. (Enter the portress with a document.)
Portress. Victory to your Majesty.
King. Vetravati, did you not meet Queen Vasumati?
Portress. Yes, your Majesty. But she turned back when she saw that I carried a document.
King. The queen knows times and seasons. She will not interrupt business.
Portress. Your Majesty, the minister sends word that in the press of various business he has attended to only one citizen's suit. This he has reduced to writing for your Majesty's perusal.
King. Give me the document. (The portress does so.)
King (reads). "Be it known to his Majesty. A seafaring merchant named Dhanavriddhi has been lost in a shipwreck. He is childless, and his property, amounting to several millions, reverts to the crown. Will his Majesty take action?" (Sadly.) It is dreadful to be childless. Vetravati, he had great riches. There must be several wives. Let inquiry be made. There may be a wife who is with child.
Portress. We have this moment heard that a merchant's daughter of Saketa is his wife. And she is soon to become a mother.
King. The child shall receive the inheritance. Go, inform the minister.
Portress. Yes, your Majesty. (She starts to go.)
King. Wait a moment.
Portress (turning back). Yes, your Majesty.
King. After all, what does it matter whether he have issue or not?
Portress. The proclamation shall be made. (She goes out and soon returns.) Your Majesty, the royal proclamation was welcomed by the populace as is a timely shower.
King (sighing deeply). Thus, when issue fails, wealth passes, on the death of the head of the family, to a stranger. When I die, it will be so with the glory of Puru's line.
Portress. Heaven avert the omen!
King. Alas! I despised the happiness that offered itself to me.
Mishrakeshi. Without doubt, he has dear Shakuntala in mind when he thus reproaches himself.
Mishrakeshi. She will not long be forsaken.
Maid (to the portress). Mistress, the minister's report has doubled our lord's remorse. Go to the Cloud Balcony and bring Madhavya to dispel his grief.
Portress. A good suggestion. (Exit.)
King. Alas! The ancestors of Dushyanta are in a doubtful case.
Mishrakeshi. He is screened from the light, and is in darkness.
Maid. Do not give way to grief, your Majesty. You are in the prime of your years, and the birth of a son to one of your other wives will make you blameless-before your ancestors. (To herself.) He does not heed me. The proper medicine is needed for any disease.
King (betraying his sorrow). Surely,
Maid (in distress). Oh, sir, come to yourself.
Mishrakeshi. Shall I make him happy now? No, I heard the mother of the gods consoling Shakuntala. She said that the gods, impatient for the sacrifice, would soon cause him to welcome his true wife. I must delay no longer. I will comfort dear Shakuntala with my tidings. (Exit through the air.)
A voice behind the scenes. Help, help!
King (comes to himself and listens). It sounds as if Madhavya were in distress.
Maid. Your Majesty, I hope that Pingalika and the other maids did not catch poor Madhavya with the picture in his hands.
King. Go, Chaturika. Reprove the queen in my name for not controlling her servants.
Maid. Yes, your Majesty. (Exit.)
The voice. Help, help!
King. The Brahman's voice seems really changed by fear. Who waits without? (Enter the chamberlain.)
Chamberlain. Your Majesty commands?
King. See why poor Madhavya is screaming so.
Chamberlain. I will see. (He goes out, and returns trembling.)
King. Parvatayana, I hope it is nothing very dreadful.
Chamberlain. I hope not.
King. Then why do you tremble so? For
Chamberlain. Save your friend, O King!
King. From what?
Chamberlain. From great danger.
King. Speak plainly, man.
Chamberlain. On the Cloud Balcony, open to the four winds of heaven------
King. What has happened there?
King (rising quickly). My very palace is invaded by evil creatures. To be a king, is to be a disappointed man.
The voice. Hurry, hurry!
King (hears the voice and quickens his steps). Have no fear, my friend.
The voice. Have no fear! When something has got me by the back of the neck, and is trying to break my bones like a piece of sugar-cane!
King (looks about). A bow! a bow! (Enter a Greek woman with a bow.)
Greek woman. A bow and arrows, your Majesty. And here are the finger-guards. (The king takes the bow and arrows.)
Another voice behind the scenes.
King (angrily). He scorns me, too! In one moment, miserable demon, you shall die. (Stringing his bow.) Where is the stairway, Parvatayana?
Chamberlain. Here, your Majesty. (All make haste.)
King (looking about). There is no one here.
The Clown's voice. Save me, save me! I see you, if you can't see me. I am a mouse in the claws of the cat. I am done for.
King. You are proud of your invisibility. But shall not my arrow see you? Stand still. Do not hope to escape by clinging to my friend.
(He takes aim. Enter MATALI and the clown.)
Matali. O King, as Indra, king of the gods, commands,
King (hastily withdrawing the arrow). It is Matali. Welcome to the charioteer of heaven's king.
Clown. Well! He came within an inch of butchering me. And you welcome him.
Matali (smiling). Hear, O King, for what purpose Indra sends me to you.
King. I am all attention.
Matali. There is a host of demons who call themselves Invincible--the brood of Kalanemi.
King. So Narada has told me.
[paragraph continues] Take your bow at once, enter my heavenly chariot, and set forth for victory.
King. I am grateful for the honour which Indra shows me. But why did you act thus toward Madhavya?
Matali. I will tell you. I saw that you were overpowered by some inner sorrow, and acted thus to rouse you. For
King. Friend Madhavya, I must obey the bidding of heaven's king. Go, acquaint the minister Pishuna with the matter, and add these words of mine:
Clown. Very well. (Exit.)
Matali. Enter the chariot. (The king does so. Exeunt omnes.)