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[Turret of the Royal Palace. SUDARSHANA and her friend ROHINI]
SUDARSHANA. You may make mistakes, Rohini, but I cannot be
mistaken: am I not the Queen? That, of course, must be my King.
ROHINI. He who has conferred such high honour upon you cannot be
long in showing himself to you.
SUDARSHANA. His very form makes me restless like a caged bird.
Did you try well to ascertain who he is?
ROHINI. Yes, I did. Every one I asked said that he was the
SUDARSHANA. What country is he the King of?
ROHINI. Our country, King of this land.
SUDARSHANA. Are you sure that you are speaking of him who has a
sunshade made of flowers held over his head?
ROHINI. The same: he whose flag has the Kimshuk flower
painted on it.
SUDARSHANA. I recognised him at once, of course, but it is you
who had your doubts.
ROHINI. We are apt to make mistakes, my Queen, and we are afraid
to offend you in case we are wrong.
SUDARSHANA. Would that Surangama were here! There would remain
no room for doubt then.
ROHINI. Do you think her cleverer than any of us?
SUDARSHANA. Oh no, but she would recognise him instantly.
ROHINI. I cannot believe that she would. She merely pretends to
know him. There is none to test her knowledge if she professes
to know the King. If we were as shameless as she is, it would
not have been difficult for us to boast about our acquaintance
with the King.
SUDARSHANA. But no, she never boasts.
ROHINI. It is pure affectation, the whole of it: which often
goes a longer way than open boasting. She is up to all manner of
tricks: that is why we could never like her.
SUDARSHANA. But whatever you may say, I should have liked to ask
her if she were here.
ROHINI. Very well, Queen. I shall bring her here. She must be
lucky if she is indispensable for the Queen to know the King.
SUDARSHANA. Oh no--it isn't for that--but I would like to hear
it said by every one.
ROHINI. Is not every one saying it? Why, just listen, the
acclamations of the people mount up even to this height!
SUDARSHANA. Then do one thing: put these flowers on a lotus
leaf, and take them to him.
ROHINI. And what am I to say if he asks who sends them?
SUDARSHANA. You will not have to say anything--he will know. He
thought that I would not be able to recognise him: I cannot let
him off without showing that I have found him out.
[ROHINI goes out with the flowers.]
SUDARSHANA. My heart is all a-quiver and restless to-night: I
have never felt like this before. The white, silver light of the
full moon is flooding the heavens and brimming over on every side
like the bubbling foam of wine, ... It seizes on me like a
yearning, like a mantling intoxication. Here, who is here?
[Enter a SERVANT]
SERVANT. What is your pleasure, your Majesty?
SUDARSHANA. Do you see those festive boys singing and moving
through the alleys and avenues of the mango trees? Call them
hither, bring them to me: I want to hear them sing. [SERVANT
goes out and enters with the boys.] Come, living emblems of
youthful spring, begin your festive song! All my mind and body
is song and music to-night--but the ineffable melody escapes my
tongue: do you then sing for my sake!
My sorrow is sweet to me in this spring night.
My pain smites at the chords of my love and softly sings.
Visions take birth from my yearning eyes and flit in the
The smells from the depths of the woodlands have lost their way
in my dreams.
Words come in whispers to my ears, I know not from where,
And bells in my anklets tremble and jingle in time with my
SUDARSHANA. Enough, enough--I cannot bear it any more! Your
song has filled my eyes with tears.... A fancy comes to me--that
desire can never attain its object--it need never attain it.
What sweet hermit of the woods has taught you this song? Oh that
my eyes could see him whose song my ears have heard! Oh, how I
wish--I wish I could wander rapt and lovely in the thick woodland
arbours of the heart! Dear boys of the hermitage! how shall I
reward you? This necklace is but made of jewels, hard stones--
its hardness will give you pain--I have got nothing like the
garlands of flowers you have on. [The boys bow and go out.]
SUDARSHANA. I have not done well--I have not done well, Rohini.
I feel ashamed to ask you what happened. I have just realised
that no hand can really give the greatest of gifts. Still, let
me hear all.
ROHINI. When I gave the King those flowers, he did not appear to
SUDARSHANA. You don't say so? He did not understand
ROHINI. No; he sat there like a doll, without uttering a single
word. I think he did not want to show that he understood
nothing, so he just held his tongue.
SUDARSHANA. Fie on me! My shamelessness has been justly
punished. Why did you not bring back my flowers?
ROHINI. How could I? The King of Kanchi, a very clever man, who
was sitting by him, took in everything at a glance, and he just
smiled a bit and said, "Emperor, the Queen Sudarshana sends your
Majesty her greetings with these blossoms--the blossoms that
belong to the God of Love, the friend of Spring." The King
seemed to awake with a start, and said, "This is the crown of all
my regal glory to-night." I was coming back, all out of
countenance, when the King of Kanchi took off this necklace of
jewels from the King's person, and said to me, "Friend, the
King's garland gives itself up to you, in return for the happy
fortune you have brought."
SUDARSHANA. What, Kanchi had to make the King understand all
this! Woe is me, to-night's festival has opened wide for me the
doors of ignominy and shame! What else could I expect? Leave me
alone, Rohini; I want solitude for a time. [ROHINI goes out.] A
great blow has shattered my pride to atoms to-day, and yet ... I
cannot efface from my mind that beautiful, fascinating figure!
No pride is left me--I am beaten, vanquished, utterly helpless....
I cannot even turn away from him. Oh, how the wish comes back to
me again and again--to ask that garland of Rohini! But what
would she think! Rohini!
ROHINI. What is your wish?
SUDARSHANA. What reward do you deserve for your services to-day?
ROHINI. Nothing from you--but I had my reward from the King as
it should be.
SUDARSHANA. That is no free gift, but an extortion, of reward.
I do not like to see you put on what was given in so indifferent
a manner. Take it off--I give you my bracelets if you leave it
here. Take these bracelets, and go now. [ROHINI goes out.]
Another defeat! I should have thrown this necklace away,--but I
could not! It is pricking me as if it were a garland of thorns--
but I cannot throw it away. This is what the god of the festival
has brought me to-night--this necklace of ignominy and shame!
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