Read ACT II of For Love of the King a Burmese Masque , free online book, by Oscar Wilde, on


The jungle once more. Timenoonday. In place of the hut is a building, half Burmese, half Italian villa, of white Chunam, with curled roofs rising on roofs, gilded and adorned with spiral carvings and a myriad golden and jewel-encrusted bells. On the broad verandahs are thrown Eastern carpets, rugs, embroideries.

The world is sun-soaked. The surrounding trees stand sentinel-like in the burning light. Burmese servants squat motionless, smoking on the broad white steps that lead from the house to the garden. The crows croak drowsily at intervals. Parrots scream intermittently. The sound of a guitar playing a Venetian love-song can be heard coming from the interior. Otherwise life apparently sleeps. Two elderly retainers break the silence.

“When will the Thakin tire of this?” one asks the other in kindly contempt.

“The end is already at hand.  I read it at dawn to-day.”

“Whence will it come?”

“I know not.  It is written that one heart will break.”

“He will leave her?”

“He will leave her.  He will have no choice ­who can war with Fate?”

The sun shifts a little; a light breeze kisses the motionless palm leaves ­they quiver gracefully. Attendants appear R. and L. bearing a great Shamiana (tent), silver poles, carved chairs, foot supports, fruit, flowers, embroidered fans. Three musicians in semi-Venetian-Burmese costume follow with their instruments. The tent erected, enter (C.) MENG BENG and MAH PHRU, followed by two Burmese women carrying two tiny children in Burmese fashion on their hips.

The servants retire to a distance.  MENG BENG and MAH PHRU seat themselves on carven chairs; the children are placed at their feet and given coloured glass balls to play with.  MENG BENG and MAH PHRU gaze at them with deep affection and then at each other.

The musicians play light, zephyr-like airs.  MENG BENG and MAH PHRU talk together.  MENG BENG smokes a cigar, MAH PHRU has one of the big yellow cheroots affected by Burmese women to-day.

“It wants but two days to the two years,” he tells her sadly.

“And you are happy?”

“As a god.”

She smiles radiantly. She suspects nothing. She is more beautiful than before. Her dress is of the richest Mandalay silks. She wears big nadoungs of rubies in her ears.

Presently MENG BENG arranges a set of ivory chessmen on a low table between them. The sun sinks slowly. The sound of approaching wheels is heard.

Enter (C.) U. RAI GYAN THOO, preceded by two servants.  MENG BENG looks up in surprise ­in alarm. He rises, etc., and goes forward.  U. RAI GYAN THOO presents a letter written on palm leaves.  MENG BENG does not open it.

The curtains at the opening of the tent are, Oriental fashion, dropped. The music ceases.

MENG BENG and the GRAND VIZIER converse apart. The Minister explains that the Princess of Ceylon’s ship and its great convoy have already been sighted. The Court and city wait in eager expectancy. The King has worshipped long enough at the Pagoda of Golden Flowers ­his subjects and his bride call to him.  U. RAI GYAN THOO has come to take him to them.

MENG BENG is terribly distressed.

“You can return one day,” the Vizier tells him.  “The Pagoda will remain.  I also, once, in years long dead, Lord of the Sea and Moon, worshipped at a Pagoda.”

MENG BENG seeks MAH PHRU to explain that he goes on urgent affairs, that he will come back to her and to his sons, perhaps before the waning of the new moon. Their parting is sad with the pensive sadness of look and gesture peculiar to Eastern people.

MENG BENG goes (C.) with U. RAI GYAN THOO.  MAH PHRU mounts to the verandah to watch them go from behind the curtains. Then, slowly sinking across the heaped-up cushions, she faints.

The sun has set. The music ceases. The melancholy cry of the peacocks fills the silence.