18 The Little Clay Cart – Act IV
Act, the Fourth
MADANIKA AND SHARVILAKA
[Enter a maid.]
I am entrusted with a message for my mistress by her mother. Here is my mistress. She is gazing at a picture and is talking with Madanikā. I will go to her. [She walks about. Then enter Vasantasenā as described, and Madanikā.]
Vasantasenā. Madanikā girl, is this portrait really like Chārudatta?
Madanikā. Very like.
Vasantasenā. How do you know?
Madanikā. Because my mistress’ eyes are fastened so lovingly upon it.
Vasantasenā. Madanikā girl, do you say this because courtezan courtesy demands it?
Madanikā. But mistress, is the courtesy of a girl who lives in a courtezan’s house, necessarily false?
Vasantasenā. Girl, courtezans meet so many kinds of men that they do learn a false courtesy.
Madanikā. But when the eyes of my mistress find such delight in a thing, and her heart too, what need is there to ask the reason?
Vasantasenā. But I should not like to have my friends laugh at me.
Madanikā. You need not be afraid. Women understand women.
Maid. [Approaching.] Mistress, your mother sends word that a covered cart is waiting at the side-door, and that you are to take a drive.
Vasantasenā. Tell me, is it Chārudatta who invites me?
Vasantasenā. Is who?
Maid. Is the king’s brother-in-law, Sansthānaka.
Vasantasenā. [Indignantly.] Go! and never come again on such an errand.
Maid. Do not be angry, mistress. I was only sent with the message.
Vasantasenā. But it is the message which makes me angry.
Maid. But what shall I tell your mother?
Vasantasenā. Tell my mother never to send me another such message, unless she wishes to kill me.
Maid. As you will. [Exit.][Enter Sharvilaka.]
I conquered sleep and watchmen of the king;
But darkness wanes, and in the sun’s clear light
My light is like the moon’s—a faded thing.1
Or neared me, anxious, as they quickly ran,
All such my laden soul for foes mistook;
For sin it was wherein man’s fear began.2
Well, it was for Madanikā’s sake that I did the deed of sin.
I paid no heed to any one who talked with serving-men;
The houses ruled by women-folk—these I avoided most;
And when policemen seemed to have me almost in their ken,
I stood stock-still and acted just exactly like a post.
A hundred such manoeuvres did I constantly essay,
And by such means succeeded in turning night to day.3
[He walks about.]
Vasantasenā. Girl, lay this picture on my sofa and come back at once with a fan.
Madanikā. Yes, mistress.[Exit with the picture.
I wonder where I can find Madanikā. [Enter Madanikā with the fan. Sharvilaka discovers her.] Ah, it is Madanikā
She seems the bride of Love, in human guise;
Even while my heart the flames of passion harm,
She brings a sandal coolness to my eyes.4
Madanikā. [Discovers Sharvilaka.] Oh, oh, oh, Sharvilaka! I am so glad, Sharvilaka. Where have you been?
Sharvilaka. I will tell you. [They gaze at each other passionately.]
Vasantasenā. How Madanikā lingers! I wonder where she is. [She looks through a bull’s-eye window.] Why, there she stands, talking with a man. Her loving glance does not waver, and she gazes as if she would drink him in. I imagine he must be the man who wishes to make her free. Well, let her stay, let her stay. Never interrupt anybody’s happiness. I will not call her.
Madanikā. Tell me, Sharvilaka. [Sharvilaka looks about him uneasily.] What is it, Sharvilaka? You seem uneasy.
Sharvilaka. I will tell you a secret. Are we alone?
Madanikā. Of course we are.
Vasantasenā. What! a deep secret? I will not listen.
Sharvilaka. Tell me, Madanikā. Will Vasantasenā take a price for your freedom?
Vasantasenā. The conversation has to do with me? Then I will hide behind this window and listen.
Madanikā. I asked my mistress about it, Sharvilaka, and she said that if she could have her way, she would free all her servants for nothing. But Sharvilaka, where did you find such a fortune that you can think of buying my freedom from my mistress?
And your sweet love to win,
For you, my timid maid, last night
I did the deed of sin.5
Vasantasenā. His face is tranquil. It would be troubled, if he had sinned.
Madanikā. Oh, Sharvilaka! For a mere nothing—for a woman—you have risked both things!
Sharvilaka. What things?
Madanikā. Your life and your character.
Sharvilaka. My foolish girl, fortune favors the brave.
Madanikā. Oh, Sharvilaka! Your character was without a stain. You didn’t do anything very bad, did you, when for my sake you did the deed of sin?
As flowers the creeping plant, I do not harm.
I do not rob the Brahman of his pelf,
Nor seize the sacrificial gold myself.
I do not steal the baby from the nurse,
Simply because I need to fill my purse.
Even as a thief, I strive with main and might
For just distinction ‘twixt the wrong and right.6
And so you may tell Vasantasenā this:
Or so it seems to me;
But as you love me, never put them on
Where other folks may see.7
Madanikā. But Sharvilaka, ornaments that nobody may see, and a courtezan—the two things do not hang together. Give me the jewels. I want to see them.
Sharvilaka. Here they are. [He gives them to her with some uneasiness.]
Sharvilaka. What does that matter to you, Madanikā? Take them.
Madanikā. [Angrily.] If you can’t trust me, why do you wish to buy my freedom?
Sharvilaka. Well, this morning I heard in the merchants’ quarter that the merchant Chārudatta—
[Vasantasenā and Madanikā swoon.]
Sharvilaka. Madanikā! Come to yourself! Why is it that now
Your figure seems to melt in limp despair,
Your eyes are wildly rolling here and there?
That when I come, sweet girl, to make you free,
You fall to trembling, not to pitying me?8
Madanikā. [Coming to herself.] O you reckless man! When you did what you ought not to have done for my sake, you didn’t kill anybody or hurt anybody in that house?
Sharvilaka. Madanikā, Sharvilaka does not strike a terrified man or a man asleep. I did not kill anybody nor hurt anybody.
Vasantasenā. [Recovering consciousness.] Ah, I breathe again.
Madanikā. Thank heaven!
Sharvilaka. [Jealously.] What does this “Thank heaven” mean, Madanikā?
I sinned for you, when love had made me pine,
Although my house was good since time began;
Love took my virtue, but my pride is mine.
You call me friend and love another man?9
His wealth, the fruit so fair;
The courtezan is like a bird; for she
Pecks him and leaves him bare.10
Whose fuel is gallantry,
Wherein our youth and riches must
Thus sacrificèd be.11
Vasantasenā. [With a smile.] His excitement is a little out of place.
Who trust to women or to gold;
For gold and girls, ’tis plain to see.
Are false as virgin snakes and cold.12
She mocks at you, and plays the gay deceiver:
Yet if she loves you, you may love her too;
But if she doesn’t, leave her.13
Too true it is that
She trusts you not, but waits your trustful hour.
If virtue and a name are yours, then hold!
Avoid her as you would a graveyard flower.14
Glowing no longer than the evening sky,
A woman takes your gold, then leaves you free;
You’re worthless, like cosmetics, when you’re dry.15
Yes, women are indeed fickle.
She lures another with coquettish eyes,
Sports with another in unseemly lust,
Another yet her body satisfies.16
As some one has well said:
The horse’s yoke no ass will ever bear;
Rice never springs from seeds of barley sown;
A courtezan is not an honest fair.17
Accursèd Chārudatta, you shall not live! [He takes a few steps.]
Madanikā. [Seizing the hem of his garment.] O you foolish man! Your anger is so ridiculous.
Sharvilaka. Ridiculous? how so?
Madanikā. Because these jewels belong to my mistress.
Sharvilaka. And what then?
Madanikā. And she left them with that gentleman.
Sharvilaka. What for?
Madanikā. [Whispers.] That’s why.
Sharvilaka. [Sheepishly.] Confound it!
The sun was hot one summer day;
I sought the shadow, there to stay:
Poor fool! the kindly branch to pay,
I stole its sheltering leaves away.18
Vasantasenā. How sorry he seems. Surely, he did this thing in ignorance.
Sharvilaka. What is to be done now, Madanikā?
Madanikā. Your own wit should tell you that.
Sharvilaka. No. For you must remember,
Nature herself gives women wit;
Men learn from books a little bit.19
Madanikā. Sharvilaka, if you will take my advice, restore the jewels to that righteous man.
Sharvilaka. But Madanikā, what if he should prosecute me?
Madanikā. No cruel heat comes from the moon.
Vasantasenā. Good, Madanikā, good!
For what I did, I feel no grief nor fear:
Why tell me of this good man’s virtues high?
Shame for my baseness touches me more near;
What can this king do to such rogues as I?20
Nevertheless, your suggestion is inconsistent with prudence. You must discover some other plan.
Madanikā. Yes, there is another plan.
Vasantasenā. I wonder what it will be.
Madanikā. Pretend to be a servant of that gentleman, and give the jewels to my mistress.
Sharvilaka. And what then?
Madanikā. Then you are no thief, Chārudatta has discharged his obligation, and my mistress has her jewels.
Sharvilaka. But isn’t this course too reckless?
Madanikā. I tell you, give them to her. Any other course is too reckless.
Vasantasenā. Good, Madanikā, good! Spoken like a free woman.
Because I followed after you;
When clouds obscure the moon by night,
‘Tis hard to find a guide so true.21
Madanikā. Then you must wait here a moment in Kāma’s shrine, while I tell my mistress that you have come.
Sharvilaka. I will.
Madanikā. [Approaches Vasantasenā.] Mistress, a Brahman has come from Chārudatta to see you.
Vasantasenā. But girl, how do you know that he comes from Chārudatta?
Madanikā. Should I not know my own, mistress?
Vasantasenā. [Shaking her head and smiling. Aside.] Splendid! [Aloud.] Bid him enter.
Madanikā. Yes, mistress. [Approaching Sharvilaka.] Enter, Sharvilaka.
Vasantasenā. I salute you, sir. Pray be seated.
Sharvilaka. The merchant sends this message: “My house is so old that it is hard to keep this casket safe. Pray take it back.” [He gives it to Madanikā, and starts to leave.]
Vasantasenā. Sir, will you undertake a return commission of mine?
Sharvilaka. [Aside.] Who will carry it? [Aloud.] And this commission is—
Vasantasenā. You will be good enough to accept Madanikā.
Sharvilaka. Madam, I do not quite understand.
Vasantasenā. But I do.
Sharvilaka. How so?
Vasantasenā. Chārudatta told me that I was to give Madanikā to the man who should return these jewels. You are therefore to understand that he makes you a present of her.
Sharvilaka. [Aside.] Ah, she sees through me. [Aloud.] Good, Chārudatta, good!
The righteous poor attain to heights whereto
The wicked wealthy never may aspire.22
To virtue nothing serves as check or let
The moon, attaining unattainable, is led
By virtue to her seat on Shiva’s head.23
Vasantasenā. Is my driver there? [Enter a servant with a bullock-cart.]
Servant. Mistress, the cart is ready.
Vasantasenā. Madanikā girl, you must show me a happy face. You are free. Enter the bullock-cart. But do not forget me.
Madanikā. [Weeping.] My mistress drives me away. [She falls at her feet.]
Sharvilaka. Heaven bless you! and you, Madanikā,
Turn upon her a happy face,
And hail with bended head the grace
That gives you now the name of wife.
As a veil to keep you safe through life.24
[He enters the bullock-cart with Madanikā, and starts away.]
A voice behind the scenes. Men! Men! We have the following orders from the chief of police: “A soothsayer has declared that a young herdsman named Aryaka is to become king. Trusting to this prophecy, and alarmed thereat, King Pālaka has taken him from his hamlet, and thrown him into strict confinement. Therefore be watchful, and every man at his post.”
Sharvilaka. [Listening.] What! King Pālaka has imprisoned my good friend Aryaka? And here I am, a married man. Confound it! But no,
Deserve man’s love below;
A hundred brides may forfeit life
Ere he should suffer so.25
Good! I will get out [He does so.]
Madanikā. [Folding her hands. Tearfully.] My lord, if you must, at least bring me first to your parents.
Sharvilaka. Yes, my love. I will. I had the same thought in mind. [To the servant.] My good fellow, do you know the house of the merchant Rebhila?
Sharvilaka. Bring my wife thither.
Servant. Yes, sir.
Madanikā. If you desire it, dear. But dear, you must be very careful.[Exit.
Sharvilaka. Now as for me,
Those high in fame by strength of good right arm,
And those who with the king’s contempt have met,
And royal slaves, to save my friend from harm:
Like old Yaugandharāyana
For the good king Udayana.26
By wicked foes of timid kind;
I fly, I fly to free him soon,
Like the eclipse-oppressèd moon.[Exit.] 27
Maid. [Entering.] Mistress, I congratulate you. A Brahman has come with a message from Chārudatta.
Vasantasenā. Ah, this is a joyful day. Show him every mark of respect, girl, and have him conducted hither by one of the pages.
Maid. Yes, mistress.[Exit.
[Enter Maitreya with a page.]
Maitreya. Well! Rāvana, the king of the demons, travels with his chariot that they call the “Blossom.” He earned it by his penances. Now I am a Brahman, and though I never performed any penances, I travel with another sort of a blossom—a woman of the town.
Maid. Sir, will you inspect our gateway.
Maitreya. [Gazes admiringly.] It has just been sprinkled and cleaned and received a coat of green. The threshold of it is pretty as a picture with the offerings of all sorts of fragrant flowers. It stretches up its head as if it wanted to peep into the sky. It is adorned with strings of jasmine garlands that hang down and toss about like the trunk of the heavenly elephant. It shines with its high ivory portal. It is lovely with any number of holiday banners that gleam red as great rubies and wave their coquettish fingers as they flutter in the breeze and seem to invite me to enter. Both sides are decorated with holiday water-jars of crystal, which are charming with their bright-green mango twigs, and are set at the foot of the pillars that sustain the portal. The doors are of gold, thickly set with diamonds as hard to pierce as a giant’s breast. It actually wearies a poor devil’s envy. Yes, Vasantasenā’s house-door is a beautiful thing. Really, it forcibly challenges the attention of a man who doesn’t care about such things.
Maid. Come, sir, and enter the first court.
Maitreya. [Enters and looks about.] Well! Here in the first court are rows of balconies brilliant as the moon, or as sea-shells, or as lotus-stalks; whitened by handfuls of powder strewn over them; gleaming with golden stairways inlaid with all sorts of gems: they seem to gaze down on Ujjayinī with their round faces, the crystal windows, from which strings of pearls are dangling. The porter sits there and snoozes as comfortably as a professor. The crows which they tempt with rice-gruel and curdled milk will not eat the offering, because they can’t distinguish it from the mortar. Show me the way, madam.
Maid. Come, sir, and enter the second court.
Maitreya. [Enters and looks about.] Well! Here in the second court the cart-bullocks are tied. They grow fat on mouthfuls of grass and pulse-stalks which are brought them, right and left, by everybody. Their horns are smeared with oil. And here is another, a buffalo, snorting like a gentleman insulted. And here is a ram having his neck rubbed, like a prize-fighter after the fight. And here are others, horses having their manes put in shape. And here in a stall is another, a monkey, tied fast like a thief. [He looks in another direction.] And here is an elephant, taking from his drivers a cake of rice and drippings and oil. Show me the way, madam.
Maid. Come, sir, and enter the third court.
Maitreya. [Enters and looks about.] Well! Here in the third court are these seats, prepared for young gentlemen to sit on. A half-read book is lying on the gaming-table. And the table itself has its own dice, made out of gems. And here, again, are courtezans and old hangers-on at court, past masters in the war and peace of love, wandering about and holding in their fingers pictures painted in many colors. Show me the way, madam.
Maid. Come, sir, and enter the fourth court.
Maitreya. [Enters and looks about.] Well! Here in the fourth court the drums that maiden fingers beat are booming like the thunder; the cymbals are falling, as the stars fall from heaven when their merit is exhausted; the pipe is discoursing music as sweet as the humming of bees. And here, again, is a lute that somebody is holding on his lap like a girl who is excited by jealousy and love, and he is stroking it with his fingers. And here, again, are courtezan girls that sing as charmingly as honey-drunken bees, and they are made to dance and recite a drama with love in it. And water-coolers are hanging in the windows so as to catch the breeze. Show me the way, madam.
Maid. Come, sir, and enter the fifth court.
Maitreya. [Enters and looks about.] Well! Here in the fifth court the overpowering smell of asafetida and oil is attractive enough to make a poor devil’s mouth water. The kitchen is kept hot all the time, and the gusts of steam, laden with all sorts of good smells, seem like sighs issuing from its mouth-like doors. The smell of the preparation of all kinds of foods and sauces makes me smack my lips. And here, again, is a butcher’s boy washing a mess of chitterlings as if it were an old loin-cloth. The cook is preparing every kind of food. Sweetmeats are being constructed, cakes are being baked. [To himself.] I wonder if I am to get a chance to wash my feet and an invitation to eat what I can hold. [He looks in another direction.] There are courtezans and bastard pages, adorned with any number of jewels, just like Gandharvas and Apsarases. Really, this house is heaven. Tell me, who are you bastards anyway?
Pages. Why, we are bastard pages—
Petted in a stranger’s court.
Fed on stranger’s food,
Stranger’s money makes us sport—
Not so very good.
Stranger women gave us birth.
Stranger men begot;
Baby elephants in mirth,
We’re a bastard lot.28
Maitreya. Show me the way, madam.
Maid. Come, sir, and enter the sixth court.
Maitreya. [Enters and looks about.] Well! Here in the sixth court they are working in gold and jewels. The arches set with sapphires look as if they were the home of the rainbow. The jewelers are testing the lapis lazuli, the pearls, the corals, the topazes, the sapphires, the cat’s-eyes, the rubies, the emeralds, and all the other kinds of gems. Rubies are being set in gold. Golden ornaments are being fashioned. Pearls are being strung on a red cord. Pieces of lapis lazuli are being cleverly polished. Shells are being pierced. Corals are being ground. Wet bundles of saffron are being dried. Musk is being moistened. Sandalwood is being ground to make sandal-water. Perfumes are being compounded. Betel-leaves and camphor are being given to courtezans and their lovers. Coquettish glances are being exchanged. Laughter is going on. Wine is being drunk incessantly with sounds of glee. Here are men-servants, here are maid-servants, and here are men who forget child and wife and money. When the courtezans, who have drunk the wine from the liquor-jars, give them the mitten, they—drink. Show me the way, madam.
Maid. Come, sir, and enter the seventh court.
Maitreya. [Enters and looks about.] Well! Here in the seventh court the mated doves are sitting comfortably in their snug dovecotes, billing and cooing and nothing else, and perfectly happy. And there is a parrot in a cage, chanting like a Brahman with a bellyful of curdled milk and rice. And here, again, is a talking thrush, chattering like a housemaid who spreads herself because somebody noticed her. A cuckoo, her throat still happy from tasting all sorts of fruit-syrups, is cooing like a procuress. Rows of cages are hanging from pegs. Quails are being egged on to fight. Partridges are being made to talk. Caged pigeons are being provoked. A tame peacock that looks as if he was adorned with all sorts of gems is dancing happily about, and as he flaps his wings, he seems to be fanning the roof which is distressed by the rays of the sun. [He looks in another direction.] Here are pairs of flamingos like moonbeams rolled into a ball, that wander about after pretty girls, as if they wanted to learn how to walk gracefully. And here, again, are tame cranes, walking around like ancient eunuchs. Well, well! This courtezan keeps a regular menagerie of birds. Really, the courtezan’s house seems to me like Indra’s heaven. Show me the way, madam.
Maid. Come, sir, and enter the eighth court.
Maitreya. [Enters and looks about.] Madam, who is this in the silk cloak, adorned with such astonishingly tautologous ornaments, who wanders about, stumbling and stretching his limbs?
Maid. Sir, this is my mistress’ brother.
Maitreya. What sort of ascetic exercises does a man have to perform, in order to be born as Vasantasenā’s brother? But no,
[He looks in another direction.] But madam, who is that in the expansive garment, sitting on the throne? She has shoes on her greasy feet.
Maid. Sir, that is my mistress’ mother.
Maitreya. Lord! What an extensive belly the dirty old witch has got! I suppose they couldn’t put that superb portal on the house till after they had brought the idol in?
Maid. Rascal! You must not make fun of our mother so. She is pining away under a quartan ague.
Maitreya. [Bursts out laughing.] O thou blessèd quartan ague! Look thou upon a Brahman, even upon me, with this thy favor!
Maid. Rascal! May death strike you.
Maitreya. [Bursts out laughing.] Why, wench, a pot-belly like that is better dead.
Drinking brandy, rum, and wine,
Mother fell extremely ill.
If mother now should peak and pine,
A jackal-pack would have its fill.30
Well, I have seen Vasantasenā’s palace with its many incidents and its eight courts, and really, it seems as if I had seen the triple heaven in a nut-shell. I haven’t the eloquence to praise it. Is this the house of a courtezan, or a piece of Kubera’s palace? Where’s your mistress?
Maid. She is here in the orchard. Enter, sir.
Maitreya. [Enters and looks about.] Well! What a beautiful orchard! There are any number of trees planted here, and they are covered with the most wonderful flowers. Silken swings are hung under the thick-set trees, just big enough for a girl to sit in. The golden jasmine, the shephālikā, the white jasmine, the jessamine, the navamallikā, the amaranth, the spring creeper, and all the other flowers have fallen of themselves, and really, it makes Indra’s heaven look dingy. [He looks in another direction.] And the pond here looks like the morning twilight, for the lilies and red lotuses are as splendid as the rising sun. And again:
And crimson flowers have just appeared,
Seems like a battling mercenary,
With clotting crimson gore besmeared.31
Good! Now where’s your mistress?
Maid. If you would stop star-gazing, sir, you would see her.
Maitreya. [Perceives Vasantasenā and approaches.] Heaven bless you!
Vasantasenā. [Speaking in Sanskrit. Ah, Maitreya! [Rising.] You are very welcome. Here is a seat. Pray be seated.
Maitreya. When you are seated, madam. [They both seat themselves.]
Vasantasenā. Is the merchant’s son well?
Maitreya. Well, madam.
Vasantasenā. Tell me, good Maitreya,
Do friends, like birds, yet seek a shelter free
Beneath the modest boughs of this fair tree,
Whose leaves are virtues, confidence its root,
Its blossoms honor, good its precious fruit?32
Maitreya. [Aside.] A good description by a naughty woman. [Aloud.] They do, indeed.
Vasantasenā. Tell me, what is the purpose of your coming?
Maitreya. Listen, madam. The excellent Chārudatta folds his hands and requests—
Vasantasenā. [Folding her hands.] And commands—
Maitreya. He says he imagined that that golden casket was his own and gambled it away. And nobody knows where the gambling-master has gone, for he is employed in the king’s business.
Maid. Mistress, I congratulate you. The gentleman has turned gambler.
Vasantasenā. [Aside.] It was stolen by a thief, and he is so proud that he says he gambled it away. I love him for that.
Maitreya. He requests that you will therefore be good enough to accept in its place this necklace of pearls.
Vasantasenā. [Aside.] Shall I show him the jewels? [Reflecting.] No, not yet.
Maitreya. Why don’t you take this necklace?
Vasantasenā. [Laughs and looks at her friend.] Why should I not take the necklace, Maitreya? [She takes it and lays it away. Aside.] How is it possible that drops of honey fall from the mango-tree, even after its blossoms are gone? [Aloud.] Sir, pray tell the worthy gambler Chārudatta in my name that I shall pay him a visit this evening.
Maitreya. [Aside.] What else does she expect to get out of a visit to our house? [Aloud.] Madam, I will tell him—[Aside] to have nothing more to do with this courtezan.[Exit.
Vasantasenā. Take these jewels, girl. Let us go and bring cheer to Chārudatta.
Maid. But mistress, see! An untimely storm is gathering.
The night may blacken in the sky above;
For this I care not, nor I will not waver;
My heart is journeying to him I love.33
Take the necklace, girl, and come quickly.