ARJUNA: Was I dreaming or was what I saw by the lake truly there? Sitting on the mossy turf, I mused over bygone years in the sloping shadows of the evening, when slowly there came out from the folding darkness of foliage an apparition of beauty in the perfect form of a woman, and stood on a white slab of stone at the water's brink. It seemed that the heart of the earth must heave in joy under her bare white feet. Methought the vague veilings of her body should melt in ecstasy into air as the golden mist of dawn melts from off the snowy peak of the eastern hill. She bowed herself above the shining mirror of the lake and saw the reflection of her face. She started up in awe and stood still; then smiled, and with a careless sweep of her left arm unloosed her hair and let it trail on the earth at her feet. She bared her bosom and looked at her arms, so flawlessly modeled, and instinct with exquisite caress. Bending her head she saw the sweet blossoming of her youth and the tender bloom and blush of her skin. She beamed with a glad surprise. So, of the white lotus bud on opening her eyes in the morning were to arch her neck and see her shadow in the water, would she wonder at herself the livelong day. But a moment after the smile passed from her face and a shade of sadness crept into her eyes. She bound up her tresses, drew her veil over her arms, and sighing slowly, walked away like a beauteous evening fading into the night. To me the supreme fulfilment of desire seemed to have been revealed in a flash and then to have vanished. . . . But who is it that pushes the door? [Enter CHITRA, dressed as a woman.] Ah! It is she. Quiet, my heart! . . . Fear me not, lady! I am a Kshatriya.
CHITRA: Honoured sir, you are my guest. I live in this temple. I know not in what way I can show you hospitality.
ARJUNA: Fair lady, the very sight of you is indeed the highest hospitality. If you will not take it amiss I would ask you a question.
CHITRA: You have permission.
ARJUNA: What stern vow keeps you immured in this solitary temple, depriving all mortals of a vision of so much loveliness?
CHITRA: I harbour a secret desire in my heart, for the fulfilment of which I offer daily prayers to Lord Shiva.
ARJUNA: Alas, what could you desire, you who are the desire of the whole world! From the easternmost hill on whose summit the morning sun first prints his fiery foot to the end of the sunset land have I travelled. I have seen whatever is most precious, beautiful and great on the earth. My knowledge shall be yours, only say for what or for whom you seek.
CHITRA: He whom I seek is known to all.
ARJUNA: Indeed! Who may this fabourite of the gods be, whose fame has captured your heart?
CHITRA: Sprung from the highest of all royal houses, the greatest of all heroes is he.
ARJUNA: Lady, offer not such wealth of beauty as is yours on the altar of false reputation. Spurious fame spreads from tongue to tongue like the fog of the early dawn before the sun rises. Tell me who in the highest of kingly lines is the supreme hero?
CHITRA: Hermit, you are jealous of other men's fame. Do you not know that all over the world the royal house of Kurus is the most famous?
ARJUNA: The house of Kurus!
CHITRA: And have you never heard of the greatest name of that far-famed house?
ARJUNA: From your own lips let me hear it.
CHITRA: Arjuna, the conqueror of the world. I have culled from the mouths of the multitude that imperishable name and hidden it with care in my maiden heart. Hermit, why do you look perturbed? Has that name only a deceitful glitter? Say so, and I will not hesitate to break this casket of my heart and throw the false gem to the dust.
ARJUNA: By his name and fame, his bravery and prowess false or true, for mercy's sake do not banish him from your heart--for he kneels at your feet even now.
CHITRA: You, Arjuna!
ARJUNA: Yes, I am he, the love-hungered guest at your door.
CHITRA: Then it is not true that Arjuna has taken a vow of chastity for twelve long years?
ARJUNA: But have dissolved my vow even as the moon dissolves the night's vow of obscurity.
CHITRA: Oh, shame upon you! What have you seen in me that makes you false to yourself? Whom do you seek in these dark eyes, in these milk-white arms, if you are ready to pay for her the price of your probity? Not my true self, I know. Surely this cannot be love, this is not man's highest homage to woman! Alas, that this frail disguise, the body, should make one blind to the light of the deathless spirit! Yes, now indeed, I know, Arjuna, the fame of your heroic manhood is false.
ARJUNA: Ah, I feel how vain is fame, the pride of prowess! Everything seems to me a dream. You alone are perfect; you are the wealth of the world, the end of all poverty, the goal of all efforts, the one woman! Other there are who can be but slowly known. While to see you for a moment is to see perfect completeness once and for ever.
CHITRA: Alas, it is not I, not I, Arjuna! It is the deceit of a god. Go, go, my hero, go. Woo not falsehood, offer not your great heart to an illusion. Go.