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HE same night. The home of the Chinese wizard Hip Loong by the river, a place filled with Chinese things. Dragons of gold with eyes of jade gleam from out dim corners, Buddhas of gigantic size fashioned of priceless metals, with heads that move, swinging banners, with fringe of many colored stones, lanterns with glass sides on which are painted grotesque figures. The air is full of the scent of joss-sticks. The wizard reclines on a divan inhaling opium, slowly, clothed with the subdued gorgeousness of China; blue and tomato-red dominate. He has the appearance of a wrinkled walnut. His forehead is a latticework of wrinkles. pigtail, braided with red, is twisted round his head. His hands are as claws. The effect is weird, unearthly. Enter Mah Phru.
The wizard silently motions her to some piled-up cushions at a little distance. He listens to what she has to tell him. He appears unmoved at a recital apparently so tragic. Only the eyes of the dragons move, and the heads of the Buddhas go slowly, like pendulums. When she has finished speaking, Hip Loong answers:
"This is how love always ends. I have lived for a thousand years, and on this planet it is always the same."
Mah Phru is not listening.
"How can I go to my children?" she demands once again.
"I can turn you into a bird," the wizard says. "You can travel to the palace and watch ever in that terrace in the rose gardens above the sea."
"What bird?" she asks, trembling.
"You shall take the form of a white paddy-bird, because, although a woman, and foolish as women ever are, you are pure, ivory daughter of man and of love." To this Mah Phru dissents..
"Transform me into a peacock; they are more beauti
The wizard, leaning on his elbow, smiles, and the smile is a wondrous revelation of a mocking comprehension.
THE Gardens of the Palace of the King. Time: late afternoon. Colonnades of roses stretch away on every side. Fountains play, throwing a shower on waterlilies of monstrous size. Peacocks walk with stately tread across the green turf. Only one, larger and more beautiful than the rest, is perched alone, with drooping head and folded tail, on the broad-pillared terrace that overhangs the sea. The scene is aglow with light and color, yet holds a shadowed silence.
NTER Some courtiers, who converse in perturbed fashion. as they go toward the palace.
Enter Moung Pho Mhin and U. Rai Gyan Thoo accompanied by the court physicians and astrologers.
The king cannot live beyond the night, the physicians say. The sudden mysterious illness that has attacked him defies their skill.
The astrologers declare that the stars in their courses fight against his recovery; unless a miracle should happen, the new day will see him dead.
The ministers regard each other in consternation, then walk the terrace with bent heads.
The peacock on the wall spreads its tail and utters a melancholy cry of poignant pain. The listeners start in superstitious horror. The peacock folds its tail and resumes its meditations.
"That bird is not as other birds," one astrologer declares. "I have watched it for years past. It is ever alone; the others all avoid it. I think it has a soul." "You mistake," replies his colleague; "it is but an evil [ ? ]. Observe its eyes; they are not those of a bird; they are those of a spirit in prison." They pass on in the wake of the ministers. The peacock closes its eyes.
Enter the two young Princes accompanied by two great Pegu hounds. They converse in subdued tones, strolling slowly. They are followed by two pages of honor carrying grain, which the young men proceed to distribute among the birds, which rapidly come to them. The peacock on the wall never stirs; its watches the young men always. Then the elder one comes with a handful of grain and proffers it, but the peacock does
"I shall never understand you, 'Queen of the King
dom of Birds,"" he says, and strokes her feathers. At his touch the plumage scintillates with brighter, more exquisite sheen.
E converses with the bird in soft tones and mythical language. He tells her that the fear of all is that the king is mortally stricken, for he lies yonder in most strange and evil agony; that the hearts of himself and his brother are numb with the sorrow that knows no language. The bird listens eagerly. And if the king should go, he, the speaker, will reign in his stead. The prospect fills him with fear. He desires, if the king must die, to return to dwell in the forest with the mother, who he knows awaits him there.
The peacock spreads its wings as if for flight, then crouches down once more, and over it watches the young prince.
The sun envelops them both in a sudden shaft of rose and purple and gold. A servant descends, and he stops and crosses the grass. He shikoes profoundly to the two young men, lifting up his hands in the deepest reverence of Burmah.
"The Lord of the Earth and the Sky desires his sons; he nears the great unknown."
HE retreat of Hip Loong the wizard. Time: the same night. The curtain discovers Mah Phru, who has returned to human form, and the wizard together.
He tells her that he has restored her to her former state only because she has implored him to do so; that her life is measured by hours as a consequence of such insensate folly in breaking the vow of five years back. "But the king will live," she murmurs.
"The king will live. He will find happiness with some one fairer than you. That is well. Your life for his."
"The price is nothing. Have I not gazed on my heart's beloved, heard his voice, trembled with joy at his footstep? Have I not waited and watched? Have I not looked on my sons and seen their royal bearing and known their touch?"
"You are, then, content?"
"You are a wizard; you can read."
"It is not I that am a wizard; it is Love."