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The Little Clay Cart, by Shudraka, tr. Arthur William Ryder, [1905], at

p. 27



[Enter a maid.]


I AM sent with a message to my mistress by her mother. I must go in and find my mistress. [She walks about and looks around her.] There is my mistress. She is painting a picture, and putting her whole heart into it. I must go and speak to her.

[Then appear the love-lorn Vasantasenā, seated, and Madanikā.]

Vasantasenā. Well, girl, and then—

Madanikā. But mistress, you were not speaking of anything. What do you mean?

Vasantasenā. Why, what did I say?

Madanikā. You said, "and then"—

Vasantasenā. [Puckering her brows.] Oh, yes. So I did.

Maid. [Approaching.] Mistress, your mother sends word that you should bathe and then offer worship to the gods.

Vasantasenā. You may tell my mother that I shall not take the ceremonial bath to-day. A Brahman must offer worship in my place.

Maid. Yes, mistress.


Madanikā. My dear mistress, it is love, not naughtiness, that asks the question—but what does this mean?

Vasantasenā. Tell me, Madanikā. How do I seem to you?

Madanikā. My mistress is so absent-minded that I know her heart is filled with longing for somebody.

Vasantasenā. Well guessed. My Madanikā is quick to fathom another's heart.

Madanikā. I am very, very glad. Yes, Kāma is indeed mighty, and

p. 28

his great festival is welcome when one is young. But tell me, mistress, is it a king, or a king's favorite, whom you worship?

Vasantasenā. Girl, I wish to love, not to worship.

Madanikā. Is it a Brahman that excites your passion, some youth distinguished for very particular learning?

Vasantasenā. A Brahman I should have to reverence.

Madanikā. Or is it some young merchant, grown enormously wealthy from visiting many cities?

Vasantasenā. A merchant, girl, must go to other countries and leave you behind, no matter how much you love him. And the separation makes you very sad.

Madanikā. It isn't a king, nor a favorite, nor a Brahman, nor a merchant. Who is it then that the princess loves?

Vasantasenā. Girl! Girl! You went with me to the park where Kāma's temple stands?

Madanikā. Yes, mistress.

Vasantasenā. And yet you ask, as if you were a perfect stranger.

Madanikā. Now I know. Is it the man who comforted you when you asked to be protected?

Vasantasenā. Well, what was his name?

Madanikā. Why, he lives in the merchants’ quarter.

Vasantasenā. But I asked you for his name.

Madanikā. His name, mistress, is a good omen in itself. His name is Chārudatta.

Vasantasenā. [Joyfully.] Good, Madanikā, good. You have guessed it.

Madanikā. [Aside.] So much for that. [Aloud.] Mistress, they say he is poor.

Vasantasenā. That is the very reason why I love him. For a courtezan who sets her heart on a poor man is blameless in the eyes of the world.

p. 29

Madanikā. But mistress, do the butterflies visit the mango-tree when its blossoms have fallen?

Vasantasenā. That is just why we call that sort of a girl a butterfly.

Madanikā. Well, mistress, if you love him, why don't you go and visit him at once?

Vasantasenā. Girl, if I should visit him at once, then, because he can't make any return—no, I don't mean that, but it would be hard to see him.

Madanikā. Is that the reason why you left your jewels with him?

Vasantasenā. You have guessed it.


A voice 1 behind the scenes. Oh, sir, a shampooer owes me ten gold-pieces, and he got away from us. Hold him, hold him! [To the fleeing shampooer.] Stop, stop! I see you from here. [Enter hurriedly a frightened shampooer.]

Shampooer. Oh, confound this gambling business!

Freed from its tether, the ace—
I might better say "ass"—how it kicks me!
And the cast of the dice called the "spear"
Proves true to its name; for it sticks me.1
The keeper's whole attention
Was busy with the score;
So it took no great invention
To vanish through the door.
But I cannot stand forever
In the unprotected street.
Is there no one to deliver?
I would fall before his feet.2

While the keeper and the gambler are looking somewhere else for me, I'll just walk backwards into this empty temple and turn goddess. [He makes all sorts of gestures, takes his place, and waits. Enter Māthura and the gambler.]

p. 30

Māthura. Oh, sir, a shampooer owes me ten gold-pieces, and he got away from us. Hold him, hold him! Stop, stop! I see you from here.

Gambler. You may run to hell, if they'll take you in;

  With Indra, the god, you may stay:
For there's never a god can save your skin,
  While Māthura wants his pay.3

Māthura. Oh, whither flee you, nimble rambler,

You that cheat an honest gambler?
You that shake with fear and shiver,
All a-tremble, all a-quiver;
You that cannot trip enough,
On the level ground and rough;
You that stain your social station,
Family, and reputation!4

Gambler. [Examining the footprints.] Here he goes. And here the tracks are lost.

Māthura. [Gazes at the footprints. Reflectively.] Look! The feet are turned around. And the temple hasn't any image. [After a moment's thought.] That rogue of a shampooer has gone into the temple with his feet turned around.

Gambler. Let's follow him.

Māthura. All right. [They enter the temple and take a good look, then make signs to each other.]

Gambler. What! a wooden image?

Māthura. Of course not. It's stone. [He shakes it with all his might, then makes signs.] What do we care? Come, let's have a game. [He starts to gamble as hard as he can.]

Shampooer. [Trying with all his might to repress the gambling fever. Aside.] Oh, oh!

Oh, the rattle of dice is a charming thing,
  When you haven't a copper left; p. 31
It works like a drum on the heart of a king,
  Of all his realm bereft.5

For gamblers leap down a mountain steep—
  I know I shall not play.
Yet the rattle of dice is as sweet as the peep
  Of nightingales in May.6

Gambler. My turn, my turn!

Māthura. Not much! it's my turn.

Shampooer. [Coming up quickly from behind.] Isn't it my turn?

Gambler. We've got our man.

Māthura. [Seizing him.] You jail-bird, you're caught. Pay me my ten gold-pieces.

Shampooer. I'll pay you this very day.

Māthura. Pay me this very minute!

Shampooer. I'll pay you. Only have mercy!

Māthura. Come, will you pay me now?

Shampooer. My head is getting dizzy. [He falls to the ground. The others beat him with all their might.]

Māthura. There [drawing the gamblers’ ring] you're bound by the gamblers’ ring.

Shampooer. [Rises. Despairingly.] What! bound by the gamblers’ ring? Confound it! That is a limit which we gamblers can't pass. Where can I get the money to pay him?

Māthura. Well then, you must give surety.

Shampooer. I have an idea. [He nudges the gambler.] I'll give you half, if you'll forgive me the other half.

Gambler. All right.

Shampooer. [To Māthura.] I'll give you surety for a half. You might forgive me the other half.

Māthura. All right. Where's the harm?

Shampooer. [Aloud.] You forgave me a half, sir?

p. 32

Māthura. Yes.

Shampooer. [To the gambler.] And you forgave me a half?

Gambler. Yes.

Shampooer. Then I think I'll be going.

Māthura. Pay me my ten gold-pieces! Where are you going?

Shampooer. Look at this, gentlemen, look at this! Here I just gave surety to one of them for a half, and the other forgave me a half. And even after that he is dunning me, poor helpless me!

Māthura. [Seizing him.] My name is Māthura, the clever swindler, and you're not going to swindle me this time. Pay up, jail-bird, every bit of my money, and this minute, too.

Shampooer. How can I pay?

Māthura. Sell your father and pay.

Shampooer. Where can I get a father?

Māthura. Sell your mother and pay.

Shampooer. Where can I get a mother?

Māthura. Sell yourself and pay.

Shampooer. Have mercy! Lead me to the king's highway.

Māthura. Go ahead.

Shampooer. If it must be. [He walks about.] Gentlemen, will you buy me for ten gold-pieces from this gambling-master? [He sees a passer-by and calls out.] What is that? You wish to know what I can do? I will be your house-servant. What! he has gone without even answering. Well, here's another. I'll speak to him. [He repeats his offer.] What! this one too takes no notice of me. He is gone. Confound it! I've had hard luck ever since Chārudatta lost his fortune.

Māthura. Will you pay?

Shampooer. How can I pay? [He falls down. Māthura drags him about.] Good gentlemen, save me, save me! [Enter Darduraka.]

Darduraka. Yes, gambling is a kingdom without a throne.

p. 33

You do not mind defeat at all;
Great are the sums you spend and win;
While kingly revenues roll in,
Rich men, like slaves, before you fall.7

And again:

You earn your coin by gambling,
Your friends and wife by gambling,
Your gifts and food by gambling;
Your last cent goes by gambling.8

And again:

My cash was taken by the trey;
The deuce then took my health away;
The ace then set me on the street;
The four completed my defeat.9

[He looks before him.] Here comes Māthura, our sometime gambling-master. Well, as I can't escape, I think I'll put on my veil. [He makes any number of gestures with his cloak, then examines it.]

This cloth is sadly indigent in thread;
  This lovely cloth lets in a lot of light;
This cloth's protective power is nearly fled;
  This cloth is pretty when it's rolled up tight.10

Yet after all, what more could a poor saint do? For you see,

One foot I've planted in the sky,
The other on the ground must lie. 1
The elevation's rather high,
But the sun stands it. Why can't I?11

Māthura. Pay, pay!

Shampooer. How can I pay? [Māthura drags him about.]

Darduraka. Well, well, what is this I see? [He addresses a bystander.] What did you say, sir? "This shampooer is being maltreated by the gambling-master, and no one will save him"? I'll save him myself. [He presses forward.] Stand back, stand back!

p. 34

[He takes a look.] Well, if this isn't that swindler Māthura. And here is the poor saintly shampooer; a saint to be sure,

Who does not hang with bended head
  Rigid till set of sun,
Who does not rub his back with sand
  Till boils begin to run,
Whose shins dogs may not browse upon,
  As they pass him in their rambling. 1
Why should this tall and dainty man
  Be so in love with gambling?12

Well, I must pacify Māthura. [He approaches.] How do you do, Māthura? [Māthura returns the greeting.]

Darduraka. What does this mean?

Māthura. He owes me ten gold-pieces.

Darduraka. A mere bagatelle!

Māthura. [Pulling the rolled-up cloak from under Darduraka's arm.] Look, gentlemen, look! The man in the ragged cloak calls ten gold-pieces a mere bagatelle.

Darduraka. My good fool, don't I risk ten gold-pieces on a cast of the dice? Suppose a man has money—is that any reason why he should put it in his bosom and show it? But you,

You'll lose your caste, you'll lose your soul,
For ten gold-pieces that he stole,
To kill a man that's sound and whole,
  With five good senses in him.13

Māthura. Ten gold-pieces may be a mere bagatelle to you, sir. To me they are a fortune.

Darduraka. Well then, listen to me. Just give him ten more, and let him go to gambling again.

Māthura. And what then?

Darduraka. If he wins, he will pay you.

p. 35

Māthura. And if he doesn't win?

Darduraka. Then he won't pay you.

Māthura. This is no time for nonsense. If you say that, you can give him the money yourself. My name is Māthura. I'm a swindler and I play a crooked game, and I'm not afraid of anybody. You are an immoral scoundrel.

Darduraka. Who did you say was immoral?

Māthura. You're immoral.

Darduraka. Your father is immoral. [He gives the shampooer a sign to escape.]

Māthura. You cur! That is just the way that you gamble.

Darduraka. That is the way I gamble?

Māthura. Come, shampooer, pay me my ten gold-pieces.

Shampooer. I'll pay you this very day. I'll pay at once. [Māthura drags him about.]

Darduraka. Fool! You may maltreat him when I am away, but not before my eyes.

[Māthura seizes the shampooer and hits him on the nose. The shampooer bleeds, faints, and falls flat. Darduraka approaches and interferes. Māthura strikes Darduraka, and Darduraka strikes back.]

Māthura. Oh, oh, you accursèd hound! But I'll pay you for this.

Darduraka. My good fool, I was walking peaceably along the street, and you struck me. If you strike me to-morrow in court, then you will open your eyes.

Māthura. Yes, I'll open my eyes.

Darduraka. How will you open your eyes?

Māthura. [Opening his eyes wide.] This is the way I'll open my eyes. [Darduraka throws dust in Māthura's eyes, and gives the shampooer a sign to escape. Māthura shuts his eyes and falls down. The shampooer escapes.]

p. 36

Darduraka. [Aside.] I have made an enemy of the influential gambling-master Māthura. I had better not stay here. Besides, my good friend Sharvilaka told me that a young herdsman named Aryaka has been designated by a soothsayer as our future king. Now everybody in my condition is running after him. I think I will join myself to him.



Shampooer. [Trembles as he walks away and looks about him.] Here is a house where somebody has left the side-door open. I will go in. [He enters and perceives Vasantasenā.] Madam, I throw myself upon your protection.

Vasantasenā. He who throws himself upon my protection shall be safe. Close the door, girl. [The maid does so.]

Vasantasenā. What do you fear?

Shampooer. A creditor, madam.

Vasantasenā. You may open the door now, girl.

Shampooer. [To himself.] Ah! Her reasons for not fearing a creditor are in proportion to her innocence. The proverb is right:

The man who knows his strength and bears a load
  Proportioned to that strength, not more nor less,
  Is safe from stumbling and from sore distress,
Although he wander on a dreary road.14

That means me.


Māthura. [Wiping his eyes. To the gambler.] Pay, pay!

Gambler. While we were quarreling with Darduraka, sir, the man escaped.

Māthura. I broke that shampooer's nose for him with my fist. Come on! Let's trace him by the blood. [They do so.]

Gambler. He went into Vasantasenā's house, sir.

Māthura. Then that is the end of the gold-pieces.

Gambler. Let's go to court and lodge a complaint.

p. 37

Māthura. The swindler would leave the house and escape. No, we must besiege him and so capture him.


[Vasantasenā gives Madanikā a sign.]

Madanikā. Whence are you, sir? or who are you, sir? or whose son are you, sir? or what is your business, sir? or what are you afraid of?

Shampooer. Listen, madam. My birthplace is Pātaliputra, madam. I am the son of a householder. I practise the trade of a shampooer. Vasantasenā. It is a very dainty art, sir, which you have mastered.

Shampooer. Madam, as an art I mastered it. It has now become a mere trade.

Madanikā. Your answers are most disconsolate, sir. Pray continue.

Shampooer. Yes, madam. When I was at home, I used to hear travelers tell tales, and I wanted to see new countries, and so I came here. And when I had come here to Ujjayinī, I became the servant of a noble gentleman. Such a handsome, courteous gentleman! When he gave money away, he did not boast; when he was injured, he forgot it. To cut a long story short: he was so courteous that he regarded his own person as the possession of others, and had compassion on all who sought his protection.

Madanikā. Who may it be that adorns Ujjayinī with the virtues which he has stolen from the object of my mistress’ desires?

Vasantasenā. Good, girl, good! I had the same thought in mind.

Madanikā. But to continue, sir

Shampooer. Madam, he was so compassionate and so generous that now—

Vasantasenā. His riches have vanished?

Shampooer. I didn't say it. How did you guess it, madam?

Vasantasenā. What was there to guess? Virtue and money seldom keep company. In the pools from which men cannot drink there is so much the more water.

Madanikā. But sir, what is his name?

p. 38

Shampooer. Madam, who does not know the name of this moon of the whole world? He lives in the merchants’ quarter. He whose name is worthy of all honor is named Chārudatta.

Vasantasenā. [Joyfully rising from her seat.] Sir, this house is your own. Give him a seat, girl, and take this fan. The gentleman is weary. [Madanikā does as she is bid.]

Shampooer. [Aside.] What! so much honor because I mentioned Chārudatta's name? Heaven bless you, Chārudatta! You are the only man in the world who really lives. All others merely breathe. [He falls at Vasantasenā's feet.] Enough, madam, enough. Pray be seated, madam.

Vasantasenā. [Seating herself.] Where is he who is so richly your creditor, sir?

Shamp. The good man's wealth consists in kindly deeds;

  All other wealth is vain and quickly flies.
The man who honors not his neighbor's needs,
  Does that man know what honor signifies?15

Vasantasenā. But to continue—

Shampooer. So I became a servant in his employ. And when his wealth was reduced to his virtue, I began to live by gambling. But fate was cruel, and I lost ten gold-pieces.

Māthura. I am ruined! I am robbed!

Shampooer. There are the gambling-master and the gambler, looking for me. You have heard my story, madam. The rest is your affair.

Vasantasenā. Madanikā, the birds fly everywhither when the tree is shaken in which they have their nests. Go, girl, and give the gambling-master and the gambler this bracelet. And tell them that this gentleman sends it. [She removes a bracelet from her arm, and gives it to Madanikā.]

Madanikā. [Receiving the bracelet.] Yes, mistress. [She goes out.]

p. 39

Māthura. I am ruined! I am robbed!

Madanikā. Inasmuch as these two are looking up to heaven, and sighing, and chattering, and fastening their eyes on the door, I conclude that they must be the gambling-master and the gambler. [Approaching.] I salute you, sir.

Māthura. May happiness be yours.

Madanikā. Sir, which of you is the gambling-master?

Māth. O maiden, fair but something less than shy,

  With red lip wounded in love's ardent play,
On whom is bent that sweet, coquettish eye?
  For whom that lisp that steals the heart away?16

I haven't got any money. You'll have to look somewhere else.

Madanikā. You are certainly no gambler, if you talk that way. Is there any one who owes you money?

Māthura. There is. He owes ten gold-pieces. What of him?

Madanikā. In his behalf my mistress sends you this bracelet. No, no! He sends it himself.

Māthura. [Seizing it joyfully.] Well, well, you may tell the noble youth that his account is squared. Let him come and seek delight again in gambling.

[Exeunt Māthura and the gambler.

Madanikā. [Returning to Vasantasenā.] Mistress, the gambling-master and the gambler have gone away well-pleased.

Vasantasenā. Go, sir, and comfort your kinsfolk.

Shampooer. Ah, madam, if it may be, these hands would gladly practise their art in your service.

Vasantasenā. But sir, he for whose sake you mastered the art, who first received your service, he should have your service still.

Shampooer. [Aside.] A very pretty way to decline my services. How shall I repay her kindness? [Aloud.] Madam, thus dishonored as a gambler, I shall become a Buddhist monk. And so,

p. 40

madam, treasure these words in your memory: "He was a shampooer, a gambler, a Buddhist monk."

Vasantasenā. Sir, you must not act too precipitately.

Shampooer. Madam, my mind is made up. [He walks about.]

I gambled, and in gambling I did fall,
  Till every one beheld me with dismay.
Now I shall show my honest face to all,
  And walk abroad upon the king's highway.17

[Tumultuous cries behind the scenes.]

Shampooer. [Listening.] What is this? What is this? [Addressing some one behind the scenes.] What did you say? "Post-breaker, Vasantasenā's rogue elephant, is at liberty!" Hurrah! I must go and see the lady's best elephant. No, no! What have I to do with these things? I must hold to my resolution.


[Then enter hastily Karnapūraka, highly delighted, wearing a gorgeous mantle.]

Karnapūraka. Where is she? Where is my mistress?

Madanikā. Insolent! What can it be that so excites you? You do not see your mistress before your very eyes.

Karnapūraka. [Perceiving Vasantasenā.] Mistress, my service to you.

Vasantasenā. Karnapūraka, your face is beaming. What is it?

Karnapūraka. [Proudly.] Oh, mistress! You missed it! You didn't see Karnapūraka's heroism to-day!

Vasantasenā. What, Karnapūraka, what?

Karnapūraka. Listen. Post-breaker, my mistress’ rogue elephant, broke the stake he was tied to, killed his keeper, and ran into the street, making a terrible commotion. You should have heard the people shriek,

Take care of the babies, as quick as you can,
  And climb up a roof or a tree! p. 41
The elephant rogue wants the blood of a man.
  Escape! Run away! Can't you see?18


How they lose their ankle-rings!
Girdles, set with gems and things,
Break away from fastenings!

As they stumble, trip, and blunder,
See the bracelets snap asunder,
Each a tangled, pearly wonder!19

And that rogue of an elephant dives with his trunk and his feet and his tusks into the city of Ujjayinī, as if it were a lotus-pond in full flower. At last he comes upon a Buddhist monk. 1 And while the man's staff and his water jar and his begging-bowl fly every which way, he drizzles water over him and gets him between his tusks. The people see him and begin to shriek again, crying "Oh, oh, the monk is killed!"

Vasantasenā. [Anxiously.] Oh, what carelessness, what carelessness!

Karnapūraka. Don't be frightened. Just listen, mistress. Then, with a big piece of the broken chain dangling about him, he picked him up, picked up the monk between his tusks, and just then Karnapūraka saw him, I saw him, no, no! the slave who grows fat on my mistress' rice-cakes saw him, stumbled with his left foot over a gambler's score, grabbed up an iron pole out of a shop, and challenged the mad elephant—

Vasantasenā. Go on! Go on!

Karnap. I hit him—in a fit of passion, too—

  He really looked like some great mountain peak.
And from between those tusks of his I drew
  The sacred hermit meek.20

Vasantasenā. Splendid, splendid! But go on!

Karnapūraka. Then, mistress, all Ujjayinī tipped over to one side,

p. 42

like a ship loaded unevenly, and you could hear nothing but "Hurrah, hurrah for Karnapūraka!" Then, mistress, a man touched the places where he ought to have ornaments, and, finding that he hadn't any, looked up, heaved a long sigh, and threw this mantle over me.

Vasantasenā. Find out, Karnapūraka, whether the mantle is perfumed with jasmine or not.

Karnapūraka. Mistress, the elephant perfume is so strong that I can't tell for sure.

Vasantasenā. Then look at the name.

Karnapūraka. Here is the name. You may read it, mistress. [He hands her the mantle.]

Vasantasenā. [Reads.] Chārudatta. [She seizes the mantle eagerly and wraps it about her.]

Madanikā. The mantle is very becoming to her, Karnapūraka.

Karnapūraka. Oh, yes, the mantle is becoming enough.

Vasantasenā. Here is your reward, Karnapūraka. [She gives him a gem.]

Karnapūraka. [Taking it and bowing low.] Now the mantle is most wonderfully becoming.

Vasantasenā. Karnapūraka, where is Chārudatta now?

Karnapūraka. He started to go home along this very street.

Vasantasenā. Come, girl! Let us go to the upper balcony and see Chārudatta.

[Exeunt omnes.


27:1 Perhaps masseur would be more accurate.

29:1 That of Māthura, the keeper of the gambling-house.

33:1 A humorously exaggerated reference to Indian ascetic practices.

34:1 See note on page 33.

41:1 The shampooer, whose transformation is astonishingly sudden.

Next: Act the Third: The Hole in the Wall