PAPHNUTIUS. I am bewildered in this town. I cannot find my way. Now I shut my eyes, and I am back in the desert. I can hear my children’s voices praising God. Good children, I know you are praying for me! I fear to speak. I fear to ask my way. O God, come to my help! I see some young men in the marketplace. They are coming this way. I will go up to them and ask where she is to be found.
THE YOUNG MEN. That stranger seems to want to speak to us.
YOUNG MAN. Let us go and find out.
PAPHNUTIUS. Your pardon, gentlemen. Am I speaking to citizens of this town?
YOUNG MAN. You are. Can we do anything for you?
PAPHNUTIUS. My salutations!
YOUNG MAN. And ours, whether you are a native or a foreigner.
PAPHNUTIUS. I am a stranger.
YOUNG MAN. What brings you here? Have you come for pleasure, business, or learning? This is a great city for learning. Which is it?
PAPHNUTIUS. I cannot say.
YOUNG MAN. Why?
PAPHNUTIUS. That is my secret.
YOUNG MAN. It would be wiser to tell us your secret. It will be difficult for you, a stranger, to do your business here without the advice of us citizens.
PAPHNUTIUS. But if I tell you, you may try to hinder me from carrying out my plans.
YOUNG MAN. You can trust us. We are men of honour!
PAPHNUTIUS. I believe it. I will trust in your loyalty and tell you my secret.
YOUNG MAN. We are not traitors. No harm shall come to you.
PAPHNUTIUS. I am told that there lives in this town a woman who loves all who love her. She is kind to all men; she’ll not deny them anything.
YOUNG MAN. Stranger, you must tell us her name. There are many women of that kind in our city. Do you know her name?
PAPHNUTIUS. Yes, I know it.
YOUNG MAN. Who is she?
YOUNG MAN. Thais! She is the flame of this land! She sets all hearts on fire.
PAPHNUTIUS. They say she is beautiful. The most exquisite woman of her kind in the world!
YOUNG MAN. They have not deceived you.
PAPHNUTIUS. For her sake I have made a long and difficult journey. I have come here only to see her.
YOUNG MAN. Well, what should prevent you? You are young and handsome.
PAPHNUTIUS. Where does she live?
YOUNG MAN. Over there. Her house is quite near this place.
PAPHNUTIUS. That house?
YOUNG MAN. Yes, to the left of the statue.
PAPHNUTIUS. I will go there.
YOUNG MAN. If you like, we will come with you.
PAPHNUTIUS. I thank you for the courtesy, but I would rather go alone.
YOUNG MAN. We understand. Have you money in your purse, stranger? Thais loves a handsome face, but she loves a full purse more.
PAPHNUTIUS. Gendemen, I am rich. I have a rare present to offer her.
YOUNG MAN. To our next meeting, then! Farewell. May Thais be kind!