The Post Office/Act II

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Post Office  (1914)  by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Devabrata Mukherjee
Act II

Act II of the play

THE POST OFFICE

ACT II

[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'U 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 5 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 ——

Gajfer

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 saree; 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.

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, 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'U 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 Bang's ears?

{[c|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 every-thing; 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 win- dow ? 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 AmaVs 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 '11 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.

[Svdha 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.


CURTAIN