Karabhaka (approaching and bowing low). Victory to your Majesty. The queen-mother sends her commands——
King. What are her commands?
Karabhaka. She plans to end a fasting ceremony on the fourth day from to-day. And on that occasion her dear son must not fail to wait upon her.
King. On the one side is my duty to the hermits, on the other my mother’s command. Neither may be disregarded. What is to be done?
Clown (laughing). Stay half-way between, like Trishanku.
King. In truth, I am perplexed.
Two inconsistent duties sever
My mind with cruel shock,
As when the current of a river
Is split upon a rock.
(He reflects.) My friend, the queen-mother has always felt toward you as toward a son. Do you return, tell her what duty keeps me here, and yourself perform the offices of a son.
Clown. You don’t think I am afraid of the devils?
King (smiling). O mighty Brahman, who could suspect it?
Clown. But I want to travel like a prince.
King. I will send all the soldiers with you, for the pious grove must not be disturbed. Clown (strutting). Aha! Look at the heir-apparent!
King (to himself). The fellow is a chatterbox. He might betray my longing to the ladies of the palace. Good, then! (He takes the clown by the hand. Aloud.) Friend Madhavya, my reverence for the hermits draws me to the hermitage. Do not think that I am really in love with the hermit-girl. Just think:
A king, and a girl of the calm hermit-grove,
Bred with the fawns, and a stranger to love!
Then do not imagine a serious quest;
The light words I uttered were spoken in jest.
Clown. Oh, I understand that well enough. (Exeunt ambo.)
(Enter a pupil, with sacred grass for the sacrifice.)
Pupil (with meditative astonishment). How great is the power of King Dushyanta! Since his arrival our rites have been undisturbed.
He does not need to bend the bow;
For every evil thing,
Awaiting not the arrow, flees
From the twanging of the string.
Well, I will take this sacred grass to the priests, to strew the altar. (He walks and looks about, then speaks to some one not visible.) Priyamvada, for whom are you carrying this cuscus-salve and the fibrous lotus-leaves? (He listens.) What do you say? That Shakuntala has become seriously ill from the heat, and that these things are to relieve her suffering? Give her the best of care, Priyamvada. She is the very life of the hermit-father. And I will give Gautami the holy water for her. (Exit. Enter the lovelorn king.)