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    Act II

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    Chapter 2
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    [AMAL in Bed]

    AMAL. Can't I go near the window to-day, Uncle? Would the
    doctor mind that too?

    MADHAV. Yes, darling, you see you've made yourself worse
    squatting there day after day.

    AMAL. Oh, no, I don't know if it's made me more ill, but I
    always feel well when I'm there.

    MADHAV. No, you don't; you squat there and make friends with the
    whole lot of people round here, old and young, as if they are
    holding a fair right under my eaves--flesh and blood won't stand
    that strain. Just see--your face is quite pale.

    AMAL. Uncle, I fear my fakir'll pass and not see me by the
    window.

    MADHAV. Your fakir, whoever's that?

    AMAL. He comes and chats to me of the many lands where he's
    been. I love to hear him.

    MADHAV. How's that? I don't know of any fakirs.

    AMAL. This is about the time he comes in. I beg of you, by your
    dear feet, ask him in for a moment to talk to me here.

    [GAFFER Enters in a FAKIR'S Guise]

    AMAL. There you are. Come here, Fakir, by my bedside.

    MADHAV. Upon my word, but this is--

    GAFFER. [Winking hard] I am the fakir.

    MADHAV. It beats my reckoning what you're not.

    AMAL. Where have you been this time, Fakir?

    FAKIR. To the Isle of Parrots. I am just back.

    MADHAV. The Parrots' Isle!

    FAKIR. Is it so very astonishing? Am I like you, man? A
    journey doesn't cost a thing. I tramp just where I like.

    AMAL. [Clapping] How jolly for you! Remember your promise to take
    me with you as your follower when I'm well.

    FAKIR. Of course, and I'll teach you such secrets too of
    travelling that nothing in sea or forest or mountain can bar your
    way.

    MADHAV. What's all this rigmarole?

    GAFFER. Amal, my dear, I bow to nothing in sea or mountain; but
    if the doctor joins in with this uncle of yours, then I with all
    my magic must own myself beaten.

    AMAL. No. Uncle shan't tell the doctor. And I promise to lie
    quiet; but the day I am well, off I go with the Fakir and nothing
    in sea or mountain or torrent shall stand in my way.

    MADHAV. Fie, dear child, don't keep on harping upon going! It
    makes me so sad to hear you talk so.

    AMAL. Tell me, Fakir, what the Parrots' Isle is like.

    GAFFER. It's a land of wonders; it's a haunt of birds. There's
    no man; and they neither speak nor walk, they simply sing and
    they fly.

    AMAL. How glorious! And it's by some sea?

    GAFFER. Of course. It's on the sea.

    AMAL. And green hills are there?

    GAFFER. Indeed, they live among the green hills; and in the time
    of the sunset when there is a red glow on the hillside, all the
    birds with their green wings flock back to their nests.

    AMAL. And there are waterfalls!

    GAFFER. Dear me, of course; you don't have a hill without its
    waterfalls. Oh, it's like molten diamonds; and, my dear, what
    dances they have! Don't they make the pebbles sing as they rush
    over them to the sea. No devil of a doctor can stop them for a
    moment. The birds looked upon me as nothing but a man, quite a
    trifling creature without wings--and they would have nothing to
    do with me. Were it not so I would build a small cabin for
    myself among their crowd of nests and pass my days counting the
    sea waves.

    AMAL. How I wish I were a bird! Then--

    GAFFER. But that would have been a bit of a job; I hear you've
    fixed up with the dairyman to be a hawker of curds when you grow
    up; I'm afraid such business won't flourish among birds; you
    might land yourself into serious loss.

    MADHAV. Really this is too much. Between you two I shall turn
    crazy. Now, I'm off.

    AMAL. Has the dairyman been, Uncle?

    MADHAV. And why shouldn't he? He won't bother his head running
    errands for your pet fakir, in and out among the nests in his
    Parrots' Isle. But he has left a jar of curd for you saying that
    he is rather busy with his niece's wedding in the village, and he
    has got to order a band at Kamlipara.

    AMAL. But he is going to marry me to his little niece.

    GAFFER. Dear me, we are in a fix now.

    AMAL. He said she would find me a lovely little bride with a
    pair of pearl drops in her ears and dressed in a lovely red
    sâree; and in the morning she would milk with her own hands the
    black cow and feed me with warm milk with foam on it from a brand
    new earthen cruse; and in the evenings she would carry the lamp
    round the cow-house, and then come and sit by me to tell me tales
    of Champa and his six brothers.

    [Transcriber's note: In act 1, Amal mentions to Sudha about Champa
    and his seven brothers. In this act, Amal mentions to Gaffer about
    Champa and his six brothers. Translator error?]

    GAFFER. How delicious! The prospect tempts even me, a hermit!
    But never mind, dear, about this wedding. Let it be. I tell you
    when you wed there'll be no lack of nieces in his household.

    MADHAV. Shut up! This is more than I can stand. [Exit]

    AMAL. Fakir, now that Uncle's off, just tell me, has the King
    sent me a letter to the Post Office?

    GAFFER. I gather that his letter has already started; but it's
    still on the way.

    AMAL. On the way? Where is it? Is it on that road winding
    through the trees which you can follow to the end of the forest
    when the sky is quite clear after rain?

    GAFFER. That's so. You know all about it already.

    AMAL. I do, everything.

    GAFFER. So I see, but how?

    AMAL. I can't say; but it's quite clear to me. I fancy I've
    seen it often in days long gone by. How long ago I can't tell.
    Do you know when? I can see it all: there, the King's postman
    coming down the hillside alone, a lantern in his left hand and on
    his back a bag of letters climbing down for ever so long, for
    days and nights, and where at the foot of the mountain the
    waterfall becomes a stream he takes to the footpath on the bank
    and walks on through the rye; then comes the sugarcane field and
    he disappears into the narrow lane cutting through the tall stems
    of sugarcanes; then he reaches the open meadow where the cricket
    chirps and where there is not a single man to be seen, only the
    snipe wagging their tails and poking at the mud with their bills.
    I can feel him coming nearer and nearer and my heart becomes
    glad.

    GAFFER. My eyes aren't young; but you make me see all the same.

    AMAL. Say, Fakir, do you know the King who has this Post Office?

    GAFFER. I do; I go to him for my alms every day.

    AMAL. Good! When I get well, I must have my alms too from him,
    mayn't I?

    GAFFER. You won't need to ask, my dear, he'll give it to you of
    his own accord.

    AMAL. No, I would go to his gate and cry, "Victory to thee,
    O King!" and dancing to the tabor's sound, ask for alms.
    Won't it be nice?

    GAFFER. It would be splendid, and if you're with me, I shall
    have my full share. But what'll you ask?

    AMAL. I shall say, "Make me your postman, that I may go about
    lantern in hand, delivering your letters from door to door.
    Don't let me stay at home all day!"

    GAFFER. What is there to be sad for, my child, even were you to
    stay at home?

    AMAL. It isn't sad. When they shut me in here first I felt the
    day was so long. Since the King's Post Office I like it more and
    more being indoors, and as I think I shall get a letter one day,
    I feel quite happy and then I don't mind being quiet and alone.
    I wonder if I shall make out what'll be in the King's letter?

    GAFFER. Even if you didn't wouldn't it be enough if it just bore
    your name?

    [MADHAV enters]

    MADHAV. Have you any idea of the trouble you've got me into,
    between you two?

    GAFFER. What's the matter?

    MADHAV. I hear you've let it get rumored about that the King has
    planted his office here to send messages to both of you.

    GAFFER. Well, what about it?

    MADHAV. Our headman Panchanan has had it told to the King
    anonymously.

    GAFFER. Aren't we aware that everything reaches the King's ears?

    MADHAV. Then why don't you look out? Why take the King's name
    in vain? You'll bring me to ruin if you do.

    AMAL. Say, Fakir, will the King be cross?

    GAFFER. Cross, nonsense! And with a child like you and a fakir
    such as I am. Let's see if the King be angry, and then won't I
    give him a piece of my mind.

    AMAL. Say, Fakir, I've been feeling a sort of darkness coming
    over my eyes since the morning. Everything seems like a dream.
    I long to be quiet. I don't feel like talking at all. Won't the
    King's letter come? Suppose this room melts away all on a
    sudden, suppose--

    GAFFER. [Fanning AMAL] The letter's sure to come to-day, my boy.

    [DOCTOR enters]

    DOCTOR. And how do you feel to-day?

    AMAL. Feel awfully well to-day, Doctor. All pain seems to have
    left me.

    DOCTOR. [Aside to MADHAV] Don't quite like the look of that smile.
    Bad sign that, his feeling well! Chakradhan has observed--

    MADHAV. For goodness sake, Doctor, leave Chakradhan alone. Tell
    me what's going to happen?

    DOCTOR. Can't hold him in much longer, I fear! I warned you
    before--This looks like a fresh exposure.

    MADHAV. No, I've used the utmost care, never let him out of
    doors; and the windows have been shut almost all the time.

    DOCTOR. There's a peculiar quality in the air to-day. As I came
    in I found a fearful draught through your front door. That's
    most hurtful. Better lock it at once. Would it matter if this
    kept your visitors off for two or three days? If someone happens
    to call unexpectedly--there's the back door. You had better shut
    this window as well, it's letting in the sunset rays only to keep
    the patient awake.

    MADHAV. Amal has shut his eyes. I expect he is sleeping. His
    face tells me--Oh, Doctor, I bring in a child who is a stranger
    and love him as my own, and now I suppose I must lose him!

    DOCTOR. What's that? There's your headman sailing in!--What a
    bother! I must be going, brother. You had better stir about and
    see to the doors being properly fastened. I will send on a
    strong dose directly I get home. Try it on him--it may save him
    at last, if he can be saved at all. [Exeunt MADHAV and DOCTOR.]

    [The HEADMAN enters]

    HEADMAN. Hello, urchin!

    GAFFER. [Rising hastily] 'Sh, be quiet.

    AMAL. No, Fakir, did you think I was asleep? I wasn't. I can
    hear everything; yes, and voices far away. I feel that mother
    and father are sitting by my pillow and speaking to me.

    [MADHAV enters]

    HEADMAN. I say, Madhav, I hear you hobnob with bigwigs nowadays.

    MADHAV. Spare me your jests, Headman, we are but common people.

    HEADMAN. But your child here is expecting a letter from the
    King.

    MADHAV. Don't you take any notice of him, a mere foolish boy!

    HEADMAN. Indeed, why not! It'll beat the King hard to find a
    better family! Don't you see why the King plants his new Post
    Office right before your window? Why there's a letter for you
    from the King, urchin.

    AMAL. [Starting up] Indeed, really!

    HEADMAN. How can it be false? You're the King's chum. Here's
    your letter [showing a blank slip of paper]. Ha, ha, ha! This
    is the letter.

    AMAL. Please don't mock me. Say, Fakir, is it so?

    GAFFER. Yes, my dear. I as Fakir tell you it is his letter.

    AMAL. How is it I can't see? It all looks so blank to me. What
    is there in the letter, Mr. Headman?

    HEADMAN. The King says, "I am calling on you shortly; you had
    better arrange puffed rice offerings for me.--Palace fare is
    quite tasteless to me now." Ha! ha! ha!

    MADHAV. [With folded palms] I beseech you, headman, don't you joke
    about these things--

    GAFFER. Cutting jokes indeed, dare he!

    MADHAV. Are you out of your mind too, Gaffer?

    GAFFER. Out of my mind, well then I am; I can read plainly that
    the King writes he will come himself to see Amal, with the state
    physician.

    AMAL. Fakir, Fakir, 'sh, his trumpet! Can't you hear?

    HEADMAN. Ha! ha! ha! I fear he won't until he's a bit more
    off his head.

    AMAL. Mr. Headman, I thought you were cross with me and didn't
    love me. I never could think you would fetch me the King's
    letter. Let me wipe the dust off your feet.

    HEADMAN. This little child does have an instinct of reverence.
    Though a little silly, he has a good heart.

    AMAL. It's hard on the fourth watch now, I suppose--Hark the
    gong, "Dong, dong, ding," "Dong, dong, ding." Is the evening
    star up? How is it I can't see--

    GAFFER. Oh, the windows are all shut, I'll open them.

    [A knocking outside]

    MADHAV. What's that?--Who is it--what a bother!

    VOICE. [From outside] Open the door.

    MADHAV Say, Headman--Hope they're not robbers.

    HEADMAN. Who's there?--It's Panchanan, the headman, calls--Aren't
    you afraid of the like of me? Fancy! The noise has ceased!
    Panchanan's voice carries far.--Yes, show me the biggest robbers!

    MADHAV. [Peering out of the window] I should think the noise has
    ceased. they've smashed the door.

    [THE KING'S HERALD enters]

    HERALD. Our Sovereign King comes to-night!

    HEADMAN. My God!

    AMAL. At what hour of the night, Herald?

    HERALD. On the second watch.

    AMAL. When from the city gates my friend the watchman will
    strike his gong, "ding dong ding, ding dong ding"--then?

    HERALD. Yes, then. The King sends his greatest physician to
    attend on his young friend.

    [STATE Physician enters]

    STATE PHYSICIAN. What's this? How close it is here! Open wide
    all the doors and windows. [Feeling AMAL'S body] How do you
    feel, my child?

    AMAL. I feel very well, Doctor, very well. All pain is gone.
    How fresh and open! I can see all the stars now twinkling from
    the other side of the dark.

    PHYSICIAN. Will you feel well enough to leave your bed with the
    King when he comes in the middle watches of the night?

    AMAL. Of course, I'm dying to be about for ever so long. I'll
    ask the King to find me the polar star.--I must have seen it
    often, but I don't know exactly which it is.

    PHYSICIAN. He will tell you everything. [To MADHAV] Will you go
    about and arrange flowers through the room for the King's visit?
    [Indicating the HEADMAN] We can't have that person in here.

    AMAL. No, let him be, Doctor. He is a friend. It was he who
    brought me the King's letter.

    PHYSICIAN. Very well, my child. He may remain if he is a friend
    of yours.

    MADHAV [Whispering into AMAL'S ear] My child, the King loves you.
    He is coming himself. Beg for a gift from him. You know our
    humble circumstances.

    AMAL. Don't you worry, Uncle.--I've made up my mind about it.

    MADHAV. What is it, my child?

    AMAL. I shall ask him to make me one of his postmen that I may
    wander far and wide, delivering his message from door to door.

    MADHAV. [Slapping his forehead] Alas, is that all?

    AMAL. What'll be our offerings to the King, Uncle, when he
    comes?

    HERALD. He has commanded puffed rice.

    AMAL. Puffed rice! Say, Headman, you're right. You said so.
    You knew all we didn't.

    HEADMAN. If you send word to my house then I could manage for
    the King's advent really nice--

    PHYSICIAN. No need at all. Now be quiet all of you. Sleep is
    coming over him. I'll sit by his pillow; he's dropping into
    slumber. Blow out the oil-lamp. Only let the star-light stream
    in. Hush, he slumbers.

    MADHAV. [Addressing GAFFER] What are you standing there for like
    a statue, folding your palms.--I am nervous.--Say, are they good
    omens? Why are they darkening the room? How will star-light
    help?

    GAFFER. Silence, unbeliever.

    [SUDHA enters]

    SUDHA. Amal!

    PHYSICIAN. He's asleep.

    SUDHA. I have some flowers for him. Mayn't I give them into his
    own hand?

    PHYSICIAN. Yes, you may.

    SUDHA. When will he be awake?

    PHYSICIAN. Directly the King comes and calls him.

    SUDHA. Will you whisper a word for me in his ear?

    PHYSICIAN. What shall I say?

    SUDHA. Tell him Sudha has not forgotten him.


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