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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. VII.
Author: Various
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PRINCE (in despair).

No, Your Majesty—but my imagination is smoking like any volcano already.

A LACKEY (coming in).

The Privy Councilors urgently pray Your Majesty to receive them.

KING.

Gad, but they must be eaten up by curiosity! Bring them in. [The lackey goes out.] Well, as I was saying—an allegorical marriage masque—that's what. Not quite in the style of Versailles. And yet I want the pre-marital feast to be fine enough to compare favorably with the one they rigged up in Dresden. Now—as for Holland. Put in some verses about the colonies, Prince, about the land where tobacco grows. You know—it's the land where the—

PRINCE (beside himself).

Where the Bong-tree grows! [He goes out.]

SCENE VI

GRUMBKOW and SECKENDORF come in. Each carries under his arm a small bundle of red-bound books.

GRUMBKOW.

Forgive us, Your Majesty—but it is incredible that such unprecedented crimes should occur in the very bosom of the Royal Family!

KING.

What's the matter now?

GRUMBKOW.

Your Majesty has already been informed about the Frenchman who was found wandering through the streets of Berlin without any proper passport or identification, the man who had the temerity to say he had come to teach Princess Wilhelmine his language.

KING.

It was only a wigmaker from Orleans.

SECKENDORF.

Oh, but we have discovered further complications, Your Majesty! Books were found in this man's possession, books which point to a dangerous connection with Rheinsberg.

GRUMBKOW.

Convince yourself, Your Majesty. These immoral French writings are all marked with the initials of His Highness the Crown Prince.

SECKENDORF.

F.P.R.

GRUMBKOW.

Frederic, Prince Royal.

[The KING starts in anger, takes up one of the books and then touches the bell. EVERSMANN comes in.]

KING.

Eversman [with conscious impressiveness], my spectacles! [EVERSMANN goes out and returns again with a big pair of glasses.] The Attorney-General must make a thorough examination of this vagrant's papers.... I will not have these French clowns in my country. [He looks through one of the books.] The Crown Prince's seal—But no—no ... the vagabond must have stolen it from him.

GRUMBKOW.

Or else the books were intended for the Princess' instruction.

KING.

This sort of book? These French—hold! hold! what have we here—is this not the disgusting novel written by the hunchback Scarron, the husband of the fine Madame Maintenon—his notorious satire upon our Court?

GRUMBKOW AND EVERSMANN (together).

Our Court?

KING (turning the leaves).

A satire on us all—on me—on Seckendorf, Grumbkow, Eversmann.

EVERSMANN.

On me, too? KING (serious).

The Crown Prince has underscored most of it, that it may be better understood. Here is a Marshal with the nickname le chicaneur. You know that's meant for you, Grumbkow.

GRUMBKOW.

Outrageous!

KING.

The Ambassador, Vicomte de la Rancune, otherwise le petit combinateur. That's you, Seckendorf.

SECKENDORF.

It's—it's an international insult.

KING.

And he called Eversmann la rapiniere, or, as we would say, Old Rapacity!

EVERSMANN.

The rogue! And such books find their way into the country—marked properly by the Crown Prince at that!

KING.

Can Wilhelmine be a party to this? That would indeed be scandalous. The Attorney-General must make a thorough investigation. [In extreme anger.] Isn't it possible for me to have a single quiet moment?

EVERSMANN.

Your Majesty, shall I take these ungodly books to the executioner, to have them burned?

KING.

No. I wouldn't use them even to light my pipe—not even as bonfires for our festivities. Gentlemen, shake this matter off, as I have done. This evening, over our glowing pipes, and in the enjoyment of a glass of good German beer, we also can be just as witty at the expense of Versailles and the entire French cabinet.

GRUMBKOW AND SECKENDORF (together, aside).

Bonfires for the festivities?

EVERSMANN.

But the books are to be burned, Your Majesty?

KING.

Yes, in another manner. Send them out to the powder mills by the Oranienburger gate. They can make cartridges for my grenadiers out of them. [He goes out.]

GRUMBKOW, SECKENDORF, EVERSMANN (aside). Festivities?

[They go out.]

SCENE VII

The scene changes to the room of Act I.

BARONET HOTHAM comes in cautiously through the centre door, followed by KAMKE.

HOTHAM.

A hall with four doors? Quite right. The Princess' room there? And the Queen's here? Thanks, good friend. [KAMKE goes out.] Baronet Hotham is preserving his incognito to the extent of becoming entirely invisible. I've smuggled myself into the country from London—by way of Hanover—as if I were a bale of prohibited merchandise. [Wipes his forehead.] The deuce take this equestrian official business, where a man needs have the manners of a dandy with the unfeeling bones of a postilion. For four days I've scarcely been out of the saddle. [He throws himself into a chair.] Gad! if the nations knew how a man has to win his way through to the Foreign Office by years of courier-riding, they'd not think it strange that their statesmen, grown mature, seem disinclined to trip the light fantastic. Faith, it weighs one's pocket heavily, this carrying a kingdom about with one. [He slaps his right coat-pocket.] Here lies the crown of England. [Now the left coat-pocket.] Here the crown of Scotland—and here, in my waistcoat pocket, is Ireland. What shall I take from herein exchange? [He looks about.] Is the gilding real? It looks deuced niggardly and close-fisted. There's space enough in these great halls, but I'll wager there are many mice here. It's as quiet as an English Sunday. [Rises.] There's some one coming.

[Rises PRINCE opens the centre door, then halts on the threshold as if in despair.]

HOTHAM (in surprise).

Well?

[The PRINCE comes down a step and claps his hand to his forehead.]

HOTHAM.

I believe he's writing verses.

[The PRINCE moves as before, toward the PRINCESS' door, then sees HOTHAM.]

PRINCE.

What? Who—who is this I see?

HOTHAM (surprised).

Do my eyes deceive me?

PRINCE.

Hotham! Is it possible? You here in Berlin, friend?

HOTHAM.

Why, what is the matter, Prince?

PRINCE.

Think of meeting you—you dear, excellent fellow—and just at the very moment when my despair threatened to overcome me! Is it really true? Where do you come from? From Paris?

HOTHAM.

I've just come from England, Prince, with the very best greetings from our mutual friends and a special commission to capture you and bring you back to the race-track, to the hunting field, and the boxing ring, which you so enjoyed.

PRINCE.

Alas, Hotham—all those pleasures are over for me!

HOTHAM.

Has your father cut you off from the succession?

PRINCE.

Ah, do not touch that sensitive wound! Fetch me, instead, the Empire of Morocco.

HOTHAM.

You are ill of a fever, Prince, or else you need a friend to aid you with his sane mind.

PRINCE.

Hotham, you are a genius—many an intrigue of your country's foes will be shattered against that brain of yours. But you cannot help me.

HOTHAM.

I wish that I could, Prince. I am so deeply in your debt for a hundred good services rendered me during your sojourn in England. It was your influence that put me in touch with our leading statesmen; you opened the diplomatic career to me. To you I owe all that I am and have—my brain is at your service, let it think for you; my arm is at your service, let it act for you.

PRINCE.

Hotham, I'm in a most peculiar situation—

HOTHAM.

I will devote my very life to your service. What would I be without you? To you I owe this flattering mission, to you I owe my very presence here.

PRINCE.

Yes—why are you here?

HOTHAM (looks about).

It is an affair of the greatest secrecy. But if you desire I shall not hesitate to tell you what it is.

PRINCE. (absently).

I am not curious. Will it keep you here long?

HOTHAM.

That depends upon circumstances—circumstances of a most delicate nature.

PRINCE.

An affair of honor?

HOTHAM (low).

It concerns a possible marriage contract—between Princess Wilhelmine and the Prince of Wales.

PRINCE (as if beside himself).

You? You are the ambassador of whom the King spoke to me just now?

HOTHAM.

Has the King been informed already?

PRINCE.

Then you—you are that irresistibly clever diplomat whom they are awaiting with open arms?

HOTHAM.

Does the King really look with favor upon this marriage with the Prince of Wales?

PRINCE.

Horrible! I picked this man for a genius from among a thousand others. I took him from Paris, and put him into English diplomacy and now I must suffer because he does honor to my judgment. Let me tell you, then, my friend, that the King and the Queen, quite ignorant of their mutual agreement, are both heartily desirous of this marriage and all of its implications. But you are to know also that Princess Wilhelmine, the unhappy sacrifice of your political ambitions, is loved by a prince who cannot compete in power or position with your Prince of Wales, but who in devotion, love, passion so far outdistances all and any crowned suitors for the hand of this angel as heaven, nay, as paradise, outdistances earth—and that this prince is—myself.

HOTHAM.

This is indeed a discovery I did not dream of, and I must, unhappily, add not a pleasant one. But if you ask in due form, why should they not grant you the hand of the Princess?

PRINCE.

Grant it to me? A petty German sovereign When they have the choice of future Kings and Emperors? Speak of me to the Queen and you will discover that she invariably confuses Baireuth with Ansbach.

HOTHAM.

The discovery is all the less pleasing in that I, as envoy of my government, must do all I can to bring about the marriage.

PRINCE.

Of course, you must justify my recommendation.

HOTHAM.

And yet I take the liberty of suggesting that possibly—under certain conditions—this marriage with England might not come about. Of a truth, Prince, take courage! Circumstances might arise which would not only give me the right, but would even make it my duty to give up all thoughts of the match.

PRINCE.

You revive my very soul.

HOTHAM.

Your Highness, it is not the Prince of Wales whom I represent here. The English nation, the cabinet, the Houses of Parliament send me. You are aware, Prince, your sojourn in England must have made it plain to you that the house of Hanover was called to the throne of England under conditions which make it the duty of that house to subordinate its own personal desires to the general welfare of the nation. Whether or not the Prince of Wales feels any personal interest in his cousin is of little moment. Parliament takes no cognizance of whether they love each other or not. The Prince of Wales, as future King of England, will contract any matrimonial alliance that is suggested to him as necessary to the national welfare. An alliance with the dynasty of the rising young kingdom of Prussia seems, under the present political constellation, to be the most favorable.

PRINCE.

And this holds out some hope for me?

HOTHAM.

There lies no hope in this unfortunate mission of mine, but in one of its clauses which states that the marriage, if all else be favorable, may be concluded only on this condition [looking about cautiously]: that certain English manufacturers shut out by Prussia be readmitted into the country [softly] on acceptable terms.

PRINCE.

And into this—this mercantile scheming you would mingle a question of love—an affair of the heart?

HOTHAM.

I am here to speak for the hearts of our merchants, hearts that beat warmly for the throne, but still more warmly for their balance-sheets. If our factories have nothing to hope for, then, Prince [takes his hands], my protector, my patron, then I am all yours. And you shall see that I have other talents besides those of diplomacy.

PRINCE.

Talents to awaken a hope on which the bitterest disappointment must follow.

HOTHAM.

Wait, Prince, wait and trust—

PRINCE.

To the counting-room?

HOTHAM.

Why not? And when, in case the King will not agree to the new treaties, I have devoted myself entirely to your cause, when you under stand that my heart beats high in gratitude to a Prince whom I met by mere chance and who has been my benefactor—when you have finally won the heart and hand of the Princess, then all I shall ask of Your Highness, as a German sovereign at the Diet of Regensburg, in Germany's very heart, is merely your assistance in obtaining from the German Empire some little concession for our harmless, innocent—manufactures.

KAMKE (opens the door to the right).

HOTHAM.

Everything else later. For the present—trust me. Over there are the Queen's apartments. Farewell. [He goes out.]

SCENE VIII

PRINCE (alone).

Land! Land in sight! Something, surely, can be done now! With Hotham at my right hand, I need only some female reinforcement at my left. The moment seems favorable. I will try to draw little Sonnsfeld, the Princess' lady-in-waiting, into the plot. She is waiting in the anteroom. I'll knock. [He goes softly to the PRINCESS' door and knocks]. I hear a sound. [He knocks again.] The rustle of a gown—it is she. [He draws back a step and turns.] First one must take these little outposts and then—to the main battle.

[WILHELMINE comes in.]

PRINCE (startled).

Ah, it is you—yourself!

WILHELMINE.

Oh, then it was you, Prince? I have reason to be very angry with you.

PRINCE.

With me, Your Highness? Why with me?

WILHELMINE.

As if you did not know the insult you have offered me.

PRINCE.

Princess, would you drive me mad? I offer you an insult?

WILHELMINE.

Have you not heard what sort of a person this learned Laharpe of yours really is?

PRINCE.

Princess, Laharpe is one of the most intelligent of men and possessed of a pretty wit. One might search long among your scholars here in Berlin before finding his equal in cultivation.

WILHELMINE.

He is a wigmaker from Orleans!

PRINCE.

But I assure you, Princess, he is not a wigmaker. It is true Laharpe does understand the splitting of hairs, but only in scientific controversy; it is true he does use paint and powder, in that he paints his thoughts in words of elegance, and lays on them the powder of ingenious sophistry—an art that is better understood in France than here. It is unfortunate enough, Your Highness, that your royal father's kingdom should be in such bad repute that foreigners of wit, poetry, and cultivation can be admitted only when they come bearing the passport of wigmakers.

WILHELMINE.

But our plan has come to naught; Laharpe has been banished.

PRINCE.

A weak reflection of his brilliancy has remained, Princess. Do not think me quite unworthy of taking his place. Grant me the blessed consciousness of having aided you to escape a situation which passes all bounds of filial obedience.

WILHELMINE.

Prince—this language—

PRINCE.

It is the language of a feeling I can no longer control, of an indignation I can no longer suppress. Princess, do you know that you are destined as a sacrifice to political and commercial intrigue? That you are to be sent to England in exchange for the produce of English factories?

WILHELMINE (in indignation).

Who says that?

PRINCE.

Far be it from me to pass judgment on your desires—far be it from me to inquire if it may not surprise, perhaps even please your ambitions when you hear that you might win even an Imperial crown—but, if you love the Prince of Wales—

WILHELMINE.

The Prince of Wales? Who says that I love him?

PRINCE.

Your mother, who presupposes it—your father, who commands it.

WILHELMINE.

The Prince of Wales? My cousin, whom I have never seen? Who has never betrayed the slightest interest in me? A Prince whose loose living has made me despise him!

PRINCE.

Then you do not love the Prince?

WILHELMINE.

My heart is free. And no power on earth can force me to give it to any man but to him whom I shall choose myself.

PRINCE.

Do I hear aright?

WILHELMINE.

I have been obedient and dutiful from the very first stirring of my personal consciousness. I have never had a will of my own, or dared, if I had that will, to give it expression. But when they would take the one thing from me, the one thing that is still mine after all these years of humiliation, my own inalienable possession, my heart's free choice—then indeed the bottomless depths of my obedience will be found exhausted. I feel that my brother was justified in throwing off such a yoke—and I will show the world that I am indeed his sister.

PRINCE.

Princess! [Aside.] What can I do—it is too much joy—too much bliss! [Aloud.] Princess! the green garlands on the little window down there, the potted flowers offer a secret retreat—the little linnet in his cage is impatient for the return of his beautiful and benign mistress.

WILHELMINE (drawing her hand from his).

You would—

PRINCE.

I would take the place of that misjudged and slandered scholar. And down there, alone with you, not worried by threatening footfalls in the corridors, undisturbed by [noise of drums outside] those cruel guardians of your freedom, I would tell the most charming Princess of Europe that—

WILHELMINE.

You have nothing to tell me—nothing at all.

PRINCE (throws himself at her feet).

I would tell her that there is one Prince who, although he will one day reign over no more than a tiny plot of German earth, still can gather from the spell of her beauty, the kindness of her heart, the courage to say to her—I love you—I worship you.

WILHELMINE.

Prince, what are you doing—please arise—some one is coming!

PRINCE.

Not until you promise me you will meet me there.

WILHELMINE.

Oh—if we should be surprised like this! Please get up!

PRINCE.

You will promise? You will meet me?

WILHELMINE.

Where? [He points to the window.] There? But I am not alone even there.

PRINCE.

Those simple people are overjoyed when their Princess consents to linger an hour with them in their poverty. I have much to say to you, Princess, very much. I will tell you of the plans concerning England or Austria of which you are the central figure. And you must tell me again—in the very best style of Versailles, which I know thoroughly—that you hate me—that you detest me—

WILHELMINE.

Prince, you torture me—I hear voices. Some one is approaching—Please get up.

PRINCE.

Will you promise?

WILHELMINE.

Cruel one! You won't get up—

PRINCE.

Not until you promise—

WILHELMINE.

If you promise to talk only about the plans that concern me—and about French grammar—

PRINCE (springing up).

You promise? You will come? By every star in the firmament I swear I will begin with the verb J'aime—I love—and you shall see how, in comparison with the language of a devoted heart, in comparison with the art which unadorned nature can practise, even Voltaire is only—a wigmaker. [He goes out.]

SCENE IX

The noise of drums in the distance is no longer heard. WILHELMINE left alone, starts as if to follow the PRINCE. Then she turns back hesitating, and walks with uncertain steps to the table. She rings the bell. SONNSFELD comes in, looks at the Princess as if surprised, speaks after a pause.

SONNSFELD.

Your Highness commands?

WILHELMINE (as if awakening from a dream).

I? Nothing.

SONNSFELD.

Your Highness rang?

WILHELMINE.

Yes, I did. My mantilla—my fan—the veil.

SONNSFELD.

Your Highness is going out?

WILHELMINE.

I am going out.

SONNSFELD.

Has Your Highness permission?

WILHELMINE.

Permission? Are you beginning to take that tone, too? Fetch the things I want.

[SONNSFELD looks at her, astounded, then goes out.]

WILHELMINE (alone).

I am tired of all this. I am beginning to be conscious of myself, now that I know there is some one who recognizes my meagre worth. The situation here is unbearable. I am weary of this unworthy subordination, this barrack-room service.

[SONNSFELD comes back with mantilla, fan and veil.]

WILHELMINE.

You might have chosen the mantilla with the Brussels lace.

SONNSFELD.

Your Highness—what is your purpose?

WILHELMINE.

Throw the veil about my head. Don't question everything I do. Must I give you an accounting for every trifle?

SONNSFELD.

Good Heavens—have you joined your mother in her revolutionary ideas?

WILHELMINE.

I have joined no one. I want to show the world that a Princess of Prussia has at least the right to pass from one court of the palace to another of her own free will. I am tired of being tyrannized in this way. The Grand Elector lived for me as well as for the others—the Hohenzollerns are what they are for my sake also. Adieu. [Holds out her hand.] You may kiss my hand. And do not forget that I am the daughter of a king who is forming great and important plans for his child's future, and that this child, even though she should be stubborn enough to refuse to acquiesce in his plans, will still be none the less a Princess of Prussia.

[She turns to go. The centre door opens and ECKHOF comes in, followed by three grenadiers. The door remains open.]

ECKHOF.

Halt!

SONNSFELD.

Are you to have a Guard of Honor, Princess?

ECKHOF.

Grenadiers—front!

[Three more men come in without their muskets. The first carries a Bible, the second a soup tureen, the third a half-knitted stocking.]

ECKHOF (comes forward and salutes the PRINCESS).

May it please your Royal Highness graciously to forgive me, if by reason of a special investigation commanded by His Majesty the King, in consequence of forbidden communication with Castle Rheinsberg, I ask Your Highness to graciously submit to a strict room-arrest, as ordered by His Majesty the King.

SONNSFELD.

What's that? Princess!

ECKHOF.

Likewise, His Majesty the King has graciously pleased to make the following dispositions First grenadier, front! [The first grenadier marches forward with the Bible.] Your Royal Highness is to learn chapters three to five of the Song of Solomon so thoroughly that the Court Chaplain can examine Your Highness in the same tomorrow morning at five o'clock. Second grenadier, front! [The second grenadier comes forward with the soup tureen.] The food ordered for Your Highness will be brought up from the garrison kitchen punctually every day.

SONNSFELD (opens the tureen).

Dreadful stuff! Boiled beans!

ECKHOF.

Third grenadier, front! [The third grenadier comes forward with the half-knitted stocking.] And, finally, His Majesty the King pleases to command Your Highness to knit, every two days, a pair of woolen stockings for the worthy Foundling Asylum of Berlin. May it please Your Royal Highness—this ends my orders.

SONNSFELD (in a tone of despair).

Princess, are these the King's plans for your future?

WILHELMINE (trembling in excitement).

Calm yourself, dear friend. Yes, this is the beginning of a new life for me. The battle is on! Go to my father and tell him—

SONNSFELD.

Go to the King and tell him—[To the PRINCESS.] What are they to tell him?

WILHELMINE (with tragic decision).

Tell him that I—

SONNSFELD.

Tell him that we—

WILHELMINE.

That I—[Her courage begins to fail.] That although we will learn the chapters—

SONNSFELD.

And although we will eat the beans—

WILHELMINE.

It will not be our fault if [with renewed courage] if in the despair of our hearts—

SONNSFELD (tragically).

We let fall the stitches in the orphan's stockings—

WILHELMINE.

And wish that we were merely the Princess of Reuss—

SONNSFELD.

Schleiz—

WILHELMINE.

Greiz and Lobenstein!

[They go out angrily.]



ACT III



The PRINCESS' room. Attractive, cozy apartment. An open window to the right. Doors centre, right and left. A cupboard, a table.

SCENE I

PRINCESS WILHELMINE leans against the window-casing, deep in thought. SONNSFELD sits on the left side of the room, knitting a child's stocking.

WILHELMINE (aside).

Hour after hour passes! What will the Prince think of me? Or can he have learned my fate already?

SONNSFELD.

Did Your Highness speak?

WILHELMINE.

No, I—I merely sighed.

SONNSFELD.

It seemed as if you were talking to yourself. Don't be too melancholy. You'll soon learn the Bible verses and I'll relieve you of most of the knitting.

WILHELMINE.

You are too good—you are kinder to me than I have deserved of you today. That work is tiring you—give it to me.

SONNSFELD.

No, let me have it. You take the other one that is started. In this way we will gain time to rest later.

WILHELMINE (listening toward the door).

And we aren't even allowed a word with each other in freedom.

SONNSFELD (rises and looks toward the door).

It is cruel to let soldiers see a Princess humiliated to the extent of knitting stockings.

WILHELMINE.

Why complain? It is—of itself, quite nicely domestic. [She knits.]

SONNSFELD.

What would the Prince of Baireuth say if he could see you now?

WILHELMINE.

The Prince? What made you think of the Prince?

SONNSFELD.

You cannot deny that his attentions to you might be called almost—tender—

WILHELMINE.

Almost—

SONNSFELD.

Such eyes! Such burning glances! I am very much mistaken or it was Your Royal brother's intention, in sending this young Prince to you, to send you at the same time the most ardent lover under the sun.

WILHELMINE.

Lovers hold more with the moon.

SONNSFELD.

And he shows so great an admiration for you that I am again mistaken if our sentry outside the door there has not already in his pocket a billet-doux addressed to Your Highness—a billet-doux written by the Prince.

WILHELMINE.

Sonnsfeld! What power of combination!

SONNSFELD.

Almost worthy of a Seckendorf, isn't it? I'll question the man, in any case.

WILHELMINE.

Are you crazy?

SONNSFELD (at the door).

Hey, there, grenadier!

ECKHOF (comes in).

At your service, madam. SONNSFELD. Have you a letter for us?

ECKHOF.

Please Your Honor, yes.

SONNSFELD (to the PRINCESS).

There you are! [To ECKHOF.] From the Prince of Baireuth?

ECKHOF.

Please Your Honor, yes.

WILHELMINE.

Where is it? Did you take it?

ECKHOF.

Please Your Honor, no. [Wheels and goes out.]

SONNSFELD.

What a dreadful country! The general heartlessness penetrates even to the uneducated classes.

WILHELMINE.

But how dare the Prince imagine that our sentry could forget all—all sense of propriety in this way?

SONNSFELD.

Would you not have accepted it?

WILHELMINE.

Never!

[A letter, attached to a little stone, is thrown in at the window.]

SONNSFELD.

A letter? Through the window! Oh, how it frightened me!

WILHELMINE.

Pick it up.

SONNSFELD (doing so).

But you won't accept it, you say. It can only be from the Prince—and it is addressed to Your Highness.

[Gives her the letter.]

WILHELMINE.

To me? Why, then—why shouldn't I accept it? [She opens the letter.] It is—it is from the Prince. [She reads, aside.] "Adored one! Is there to be no end to these cruelties? Have they begun to torture you with England yet? They will come to you and will try to force you into this marriage. But Baronet Hotham, the English Envoy, is my friend and your friend, and will work for you while he seems to be working against you. It is a dangerous game, but it means your freedom and my life. Love comprehends—Love."

SONNSFELD.

May I hear?

WILHELMINE.

It is a little message of sympathy—from—from one of our faithful servants.

SONNSFELD.

The good people are all so fond of you. You must answer it, I suppose?

WILHELMINE. Just a word or two-it is really of no importance whatever.

SONNSFELD. But we need not offend any one. [Aside.] What clever pretending! [Aloud.] Let me try if our grenadier is still as stubborn as before.

WILHELMINE.

What are you thinking of?

SONNSFELD.

We'll make the trial. [She goes to the door.] Here you—stern warrior—

ECKHOF (in the door).

At your service.

SONNSFELD.

Why didn't you take the letter?

ECKHOF.

It would mean running the gauntlet for me.

SONNSFELD.

We would compensate you for any such punishment.

ECKHOF.

You could not.

SONNSFELD.

Would money be no compensation?

ECKHOF.

Even if shame could be healed by money, that would be the one remedy you couldn't apply.

WILHELMINE.

And why?

ECKHOF.

Because Your Highness hasn't any money.

SONNSFELD.

Dreadful creature!

WILHELMINE (aside).

He knows our situation only too well. We must give up all thought of sending an answer.

ECKHOF.

May I go now?

SONNSFELD.

Impertinent creature! What is your name?

ECKHOF.

Eckhof.

SONNSFELD.

Where were you born?

ECKHOF. Hamburg.

SONNSFELD.

What have you learned?

ECKHOF. Nothing.

WILHELMINE.

Nothing? That is little enough.

SONNSFELD.

What did you want to make of yourself?

ECKHOF.

Everything.

WILHELMINE (aside).

A strange man! Let us cross-examine him. It will afford us a little amusement at least.

SONNSFELD (to ECKHOF).

We are not clever enough to understand such witty answers. How do you reconcile nothing with everything.

ECKHOF.

I grew up in a theatre, but all I ever learned there was to clean the lamps. Our manager discharged his company and I was compelled to take service with a secretary in the post office. But when my new master's wife demanded that I should climb up behind her carriage, as her footman, I took to wandering again. I begged my way to Schwerin and a learned man of the law made me his clerk. The post office and the courtroom were just two new sorts of theatre for me. The addresses on the letters excited my imagination, the lawsuits gave my brain exercise. The desire to create, upon the stage, true pictures of human greatness and human degradation, to depict vice and virtue in reality's own colors, still inspired me, but I saw no opportunity to satisfy it. Then, in a reckless moment, when I had sought to drown my melancholy in drink, fate threw me into the hands of the Prussian recruiting officers. I was dazzled by the handful of silver they offered me; for its sake I bartered away my golden freedom. Since that day I carry the musket. The noisy drums drown the longing that awakens a thousand times a day, the longing for an Art that still calls me as to a sacred mission; the uniform smothers the impulse to create human nobility; and in these drilled, unnatural motions of my limbs, my free will and my sense of personal dignity will perish at last. From such a fate there is no release for the poor bought soldier—no release but death.

WILHELMINE (aside, sadly).

It is a picture of my own sorrow.

SONNSFELD.

That is all very well, but you really should be glad that now you are something—as you were nothing before and had not learned any trade.

ECKHOF.

I learned little from books but much from life. I understand something of music.

SONNSFELD.

Of music? Ah, then you can entertain this poor imprisoned Princess. Your Highness, where is the Crown Prince's flute?

ECKHOF.

I play the violin.

SONNSFELD.

We have a violin, too. We have the Crown Prince's entire orchestra hidden here. [She goes to the cupboard and brings out a violin.] Here, now play something for us and we will dance.

WILHELMINE.

What are you thinking of? With the Queen's room over there? And the King may surprise us at any moment from the other side.

SONNSFELD.

Just a little Francaise shall be a rehearsal for the torchlight dance at your wedding.

WILHELMINE.

You know the King's aversion toward music and dancing.

SONNSFELD.

Here, Eckhof, take the violin-and now begin.

ECKHOF (looks about timidly).

But if I—[much moved] Heavens—it is three years since I have touched that noble, that magical instrument.

SONNSFELD.

Come now! I'm the cavalier, Princess, and you are the lady.

[ECKHOF plays one of the simple naive dance tunes of the day. The two ladies dance.]

SONNSFELD.

Bravo, Eckhof! This is going nicely—ah, what joy to dance once more! This way now la—la—la! [She hums the melody.]

SCENE II

During the dance the KING comes in softly through the door to the right. He starts when he sees the dancers and the grenadier playing the violin. They do not notice him. He comes-nearer and attempts to join the dance unobserved.

WILHELMINE.

Sonnsfeld, that's not right! Now it's the gentleman's turn. [Holds her hand out behind her back]—Like this.

[The KING takes her hand gently with one finger and dances a few steps.]

WILHELMINE.

How clumsy, dear friend. [Dancing.] And your hand is strangely rough today.

[She turns and sees the KING, who had begun to hum the tune in a gruff voice. The three start in alarm. ECKHOF salutes with the violin.]

KING (angry).

Very nice—very pretty indeed! Are these the sayings of Solomon? Music and dancing in my castle by broad daylight? And a Prussian grenadier playing the violin to the prisoner he is set to watch?

SONNSFELD.

Pardon, Your Majesty—it was we who forced him.

KING.

Forced him? Forced a soldier? Forced him to violate his duty in this devilish manner? I'll have to invent a punishment for him such as the Prussian army has never yet seen.

WILHELMINE.

Have mercy, Your Majesty—have mercy!

KING.

I'll talk to you later. As for you, Conrad Eckhof, I know that is your name—I will tell you what your punishment shall be. You are discharged from the army that serves under my glorious flag, discharged in disgrace. But you are not to be honored by being sent to a convict company or into the worthy station of a subject. Listen to the fate I have decreed for you. A troop of German comedians has taken quarters in the Warehouse in the Cloister street. These mountebanks—histriones—are in straits because their clown—for whom they sent to Leipzig, has not arrived. You are to take off the honorable Prussian uniform and to join this group of mountebanks, sent there by me, as a warning to every one. You are to become an actor, a clown of clowns-and henceforth amuse the German nation with your foolish and criminal jokes and quips. Shame upon you!

ECKHOF (with a grateful glance to heaven, trying to conceal his joyful excitement).

An actor! Oh, I thank Your Majesty for this most gracious sentence. Conrad Eckhof will endeavor to do honor to himself and his despised new profession.

[Goes out.]

KING.

And as for you, my Lady Sonnsfeld, you may, the sooner the better, pack up your belongings and be off to Dresden where my cousin, the Elector of Saxony, has need of just such nymphs and graces for his court fireworks and his ballets.

SONNSFELD (going out, speaks aside).

In his anger he chooses punishments that can only delight any person of refinement. [She goes out.]

KING.

Wilhelmine!

WILHELMINE.

Your Majesty, what have I done that I am so unhappy as always to arouse your displeasure?

KING.

You call me "Majesty" because you lack a daughter's heart for your father. I have brought up my children in the good old German fashion; I have tried to keep all French vanities and French follies far from their childish hearts; on my throne I have tried to prove that Kings may set an example to their subjects, an example of how the simplest honest household may be ruled. Have I succeeded in this?

WILHELMINE.

You have punished us severely enough for our faults.

KING.

This wigmaker—who was to instruct you in all the ambiguities of the French language—

WILHELMINE.

He was not a wigmaker.

KING. He was.

WILHELMINE.

Well, if he was, then you dislike him simply because you are so fond of your horrid pigtail.

KING.

The pigtail is a man's best adornment. In that braided hair lies concentrated power. A pigtail is not a wild fluttering mass of disorder about one's head—the seat of the human soul—such as our Hottentot dandies of today show in their long untidy hair. It expresses, instead, a simple, pious and well-brushed order, entwined obedience, falling gently down over the shoulders, fit symbol for a Christian gentleman. But I am tired of this eternal quarreling with you. This present arrest shall be the last proof of my fatherly affection. You will soon be free and mistress of your own actions. I announce herewith that you will shortly be able to come and go at your own discretion.

WILHELMINE.

Father!

KING.

Is that tone sincere?

WILHELMINE.

It comes from a heart that will never cease to revere the best of men.

KING.

Then you realize that I desire only your happiness? Yes, Wilhelmine, you will soon be able to do whatever you like, you may read French books, dance the minuet, keep an entire orchestra of musicians. I have arranged all things for your happiness and for your freedom.



WILHELMINE. How may I understand this, father?

KING.

You will have horses and carriages, and footmen, as becomes a future Queen.

WILHELMINE.

Queen?

KING.

You will see that I do in very truth deserve the name you gave me, the name of the best of fathers. But still—I hear your mother.

WILHELMINE.

What—what is going to happen—

KING.

Prepare yourself for a weighty moment—the moment of your betrothal.

SCENE III

The QUEEN comes in, leaning on the arm of the PRINCE OF BAIREUTH. HOTHAM and several lackeys follow.

WILHELMINE (aside, surprised).

The Prince!

[The QUEEN bows coldly to the KING.]

KING (equally coldly).

Good morning.

QUEEN (to the PRINCESS).

My dear child, I here present to you the Envoy of the King of England, Baronet Hotham.

WILHELMINE (bows, speaks aside).

The Prince's friend? How am I to understand all this?

KING.

Pardon me, wife, the Prince of Baireuth should take precedence. My dear child, I present to you here the Prince Hereditary of Baireuth.

PRINCE (bows, speaks aside to WILHELMINE).

Do not lose courage. It will all work out for the best.

QUEEN.

Have you good news from Ansbach, dear Prince?

PRINCE. (aside).

This eternal mistake of hers. [Aloud.] Your Majesty, I hear there is a plan on foot to transplant Ansbach to Baireuth.

KING. (has been only half listening).

Hush! Let us cast aside all these earthly thoughts and plans and prepare ourselves for a work of sacred import. Sit down by your mother, Wilhelmine.

WILHELMINE.

What is going to happen?

KING.

You, Prince, as my natural aide—here! Baronet Hotham, you are in the centre.

[The lackeys place the table in the centre of the room and then go off.]

PRINCE (aside).

Hotham—the commercial treaties—

[HOTHAM sits down at the centre of the table, opens the portfolio which he has brought with him, lays out sheets of paper, and examines his pen.]

KING (folding his hands).

In God's name—[After a pause] If I should ask you, my faithful spouse, companion of my life, what a happy marriage is—

QUEEN.

Has that anything to do with our daughter's wedding-contract?

KING.

Do not interrupt me. You may not be conscious of it—but I am fully aware of how much this solemn moment imports.

HOTHAM.

Please Your Majesty—I have already written "In God's name."

KING (looks surprised and pleased).

Did you really write that?

HOTHAM.

It is customary to print it at the head of these and similar contracts.

KING.

Printing is not as good—the letter killeth, saith the Scriptures; but you may begin now.

HOTHAM.

We are concerned here with an affiliation between two nations which, although differing in language, manners, and customs, still have so many points of contact that they should seize every opportunity to come closer to each other.

KING.

Couldn't you weave in something there about the English being really descended from the Germans?

HOTHAM.

That would lead us too far afield.

KING.

Oh, very well, as you say. It was a good beginning.

HOTHAM.

Such an opportunity now offers in the mutually expressed wish of the dynasties of England and Prussia, to unite in the bonds of holy matrimony two of their illustrious scions. The Prince of Wales sues for the hand of Princess Wilhelmine.

WILHELMINE.

The Prince of Wales?

HOTHAM.

His suit is accepted attendant upon the conditions here following.

WILHELMINE. Accepted?

KING.

Hush! Do not disturb this solemn procedure by idle chatter.

WILHELMINE.

But—but how is this possible—

PRINCE (to the PRINCESS).

Your Highness, the conditions are but just being drawn up.

QUEEN (aside to the PRINCESS).

Do not interrupt. What must the envoy of the elegant court of St. James think of the manners of our Prussian Princesses!

KING.

These chattering women! Very good, Baronet Hotham; the beginning was excellent. Don't you think so, Prince?

PRINCE.

Certainly, Your Majesty. [Aside] It was odious.

QUEEN.

And the conditions? [Aside] I am eager to hear about the dowry.

HOTHAM.

First paragraph—

KING.

Pardon me, I can tell you that in fewer words. I give my daughter as dowry, forty thousand thalers, and a yearly pin-money of two thousand thalers. I will bear the expense of the wedding. But that is all.

QUEEN (rising).

I trust that this is not Your Majesty's real intention. Baronet Hotham, I beg you will not include such a declaration in the protocol.

KING (seated).

Not include it in the protocol? H'm—h'm—forty thousand thalers in cash—too little?

HOTHAM.

The question of dowry will offer but little difficulty to a country as rich as England. Far more important are the political matters which, in the case of so intimate an alliance, must come up for especial consideration.

KING.

Political matters?

HOTHAM.

I mean—certain questions and points of discussion which, with your gracious permission, I would now like to present to you.

KING.

Questions? Points of discussion? Do you see anything to object to in my daughter? [He rises.]

HOTHAM.

Your Majesty, there are certain—advantages for both nations—

KING.

Advantages for Prussia? [He sits down again.] You may speak then.

HOTHAM.

To take up one point. For this marriage England will confirm without hindrance Your Majesty's investiture of the Duchies Juelich and Berg.

KING.

Very decent; thanks.

PRINCE (aside).

Hotham, you fox!

HOTHAM.

And furthermore Parliament declares itself willing—

KING.

Declares itself willing—

WILHELMINE.

What has Parliament to do with it? Am I marrying the two houses of Parliament?

QUEEN (half aloud).

Be quiet. You don't understand. In England, all political parties have something to say in such matters.

KING (half aside). Yes, child, that would be the country for your mother, wouldn't it? Well?

HOTHAM.

Parliament declares itself willing, in case Your Majesty wishes to complete the conquest of Swedish Pommerania, to let the matter pass without an interpellation.

QUEEN (pleased and excited).

Very polite indeed. I should not have believed Parliament would be so amiable. Just think, Wilhelmine, Parliament promises not to interpellate.

WILHELMINE.

What sort of a new political torture is that?

KING (to the PRINCESS).

To interpellate means to harass and embarrass the government by continual contradictions, interruptions, and objections. That's why your mother understood it at once. Much obliged, my gear Hotham. My kindest greetings to Parliament. But continue—continue!

PRINCE (aside).

I am on tenter-hooks.

HOTHAM.

For these many tokens of unselfish cordiality, for further manifold proofs of political complaisance, to be reviewed by me in detail later, proofs of a sincere desire to be enduringly united with a brother nation—

KING.

Well?

HOTHAM.

For all this we ask but one little concession, which would make this marriage a true blessing for both countries.

KING.

Out with it!

HOTHAM.

Prussian industry has now reached a standard which renders England desirous of testing its products under certain conditions of importation. For this—

KING.

For this?

HOTHAM.

England would feel grateful if the former friendly understanding, interrupted somewhat since Your Majesty's illustrious accession to the throne, if the former friendly commercial understanding—

KING.

Understanding?

HOTHAM. Could be restored; and if Your Majesty would graciously decide, on the occasion of this auspicious union, welcomed in England with such rejoicing, to repeal, in part, the present—prohibitive regulations—

KING.

What?

HOTHAM.

In a word, England asks for a new commercial treaty.

KING.

New commercial treaty? Commercial—[He rises, there is a slight pause.] The meeting is adjourned.

QUEEN.

What's that?

KING.

Is it for this then, that I have sought to raise and ennoble the civilization of my country, that I have furthered commerce and industry, promoted shipping, given an asylum within the state to thousands of religious refugees from France—for this, that now, as the price for the honor of an alliance with England, I should open the door and let in the forbidden English merchandise—to the ruin of my own subjects?

[He goes to the table and rings. A lackey appears.]

KING.

My ministers!

QUEEN.

What? You would sacrifice your daughter's happiness?

SCENE IV

GRUMBKOW, SECKENDORF and three generals come in.

KING.

Step nearer, gentlemen. I have allowed you to remain in uncertainty concerning a dispatch which arrived this morning from Hanover. You shall now hear my formal answer to it. Prince, poet, do not be alarmed. Our festivities will take place for all that, our cannon will thunder, our lanterns will blaze through the night. Prince, do you want to put me under eternal obligation to you?

PRINCE (misunderstanding).

Your Majesty! Can it be possible?

KING.

Do you want to make me your debtor forever?

PRINCE (joyfully).

I? Wilhel—!

KING.

Take to horse, Prince, and ride off within the hour, as my special envoy to Vienna.

PRINCE, GRUMBKOW AND SECKENDORF (together).

To Vienna?

KING.

My daughter's hand is promised to Vienna. Within a fortnight a scion of the illustrious Imperial House will enter the walls of our capital.

HOTHAM.

Your Majesty compels me, in the eventuality of an Arch-Duke's arrival, to make a certain declaration herewith—

KING.

And that is?

HOTHAM.

The Prince of Wales—is already here.

ALL.

The Prince of Wales—in Berlin?

HOTHAM.

The Prince of Wales arrived three hours ago.

GRUMBKOW AND SECKENDORF.

Impossible!

QUEEN (triumphant).

I breathe again.

KING (in real consternation, but controling himself).

Baronet Hotham, I confess that this news surprises, nay, moves me greatly. But you can lay it to the account of your own egotistical politics if I declare to you that no stranger in Berlin exists for me, until he has been properly registered at the gates of the capital. If you will drive me to the last stand, if you would make the ground of my own country too hot for me—then tell the Prince of Wales that although I am deeply touched by his affection for my family, still, under conditions threatening the peace of my country, the welfare of my subjects—I must beg of him to return whence he came. Prince, you ride to Vienna as envoy of this monarchy. Wilhelmine, the Imperial Crown will console you. And as for you, Madame [aside to the Queen], has not your pride found its limits at last?

QUEEN.

I have pledged my word to England.

KING (good-naturedly).

But if it isn't possible—

[Comes nearer cordially, holds out his hand.]

QUEEN (touched, hesitating).

An hour ago, possibly—[firm and decided again], but now—the personal presence of the Prince of Wales has taken the decision out of our hands.

KING.

Very well—he who will have war—[To HOTHAM] Have you any other instructions than those we have already heard?

HOTHAM.

None, Your Majesty.

KING.

Then come to me, Prince, for the contract with Vienna. A German state in England's stead! 'Tis better so, gentlemen, better so. I will cleave to Germany with all my soul. Foreign egotism shall teach German peoples and Princes how to be truly united. [He goes out into his study. GRUMBKOW, SECKENDORF and the generals follow.]

QUEEN (to HOTHAM).

Sir, you have been witness to a scene which confirms for you the truth as to my position here, the truth that is not yet credited in England. Wilhelmine, the news of the arrival of the Prince of Wales gives me fresh hope. Ride to Vienna, Prince—become, if you must, a traitor to a cause which will conquer, despite the intrigues of my enemies. Give me your arm, Lord Hotham. The Prince of Wales in Berlin! I can hardly realize it. Bring him to me and prepare him for everything—but no—do not mention to him—those revolting forty thousand thalers.

[She goes out with OTHAM.]

SCENE V

WILHELMINE.

What do you say to your friend now? The Prince of Wales in Berlin!

PRINCE.

I do not know where I am in all this tangle. Hotham is a traitor, an ingrate who has betrayed me, betrayed us all.

WILHELMINE.

Be more cautious in the future when you talk of friendship—and love. Farewell.

[She turns to follow the QUEEN.]

PRINCE.

Princess, is this your farewell—while I prepare to meet death or despair?

WILHELMINE.

It's not so easy to die in Vienna.

PRINCE.

And you believe that I will leave you now, when the glamour of the personal presence of a Prince of Wales may dazzle your eye—perhaps even your heart?

WILHELMINE.

I must, I realize it now, begin to consider my heart only from the political point of view.

PRINCE.

You doubt my sincerity, Princess? You distrust a heart which has truly loved but once—once and for all time—loved you, Wilhelmine!

WILHELMINE (aside).

Can such language be deception?

PRINCE.

I realize what I owe to you, Princess. Frankness before the world, an honest suit for your hand—even in face of the danger of losing you forever. I will go to the King. I will tell him, yes, I will tell him now that I cannot do as he wishes. I will throw myself at his feet and confess with honest sincerity that I love you. Do you wish it?

WILHELMINE (hesitating).

No—never, no.

PRINCE.

You are trembling, Princess. Oh, I know your dutiful heart shudders at the thought of defying your parents, of following the call of your own inclination. But—tell me, do you trust your father's heart?

WILHELMINE.

It is full of kindness and love.

PRINCE.

Very well, then. He has honored me, he has shown confidence in me; the arrival of the Prince of Wales provokes him to rebuke such hardiness. I will show him what is in my heart, and then, Wilhelmine—then? If he refuse the hand I ask—

WILHELMINE (turning from him).

You will—find consolation?

PRINCE.

And if he grant it?

WILHELMINE (overcome by her emotion, allows her heart full sway, but is still roguish and maidenly).

Then—I fear that you will not keep your word—to punish me for torturing you so cruelly.

[She goes out quickly.]

SCENE VI

PRINCE (alone).

She loves me. Then one thing is sure! I will now take the straight road into the very jaws of the lion. What else remains? Betrayed by Hotham, there is naught but Wilhelmine's love—and my own courage.

[He goes toward the KING'S door.]

SCENE VII

EVERSMANN comes from the KING'S room.

EVERSMANN.

Whither, Your Highness?

PRINCE.

To the King.

EVERSMANN.

You will find him very angry.

PRINCE.

Angry at whom?

EVERSMANN.

Angry at you, Prince.

PRINCE.

You are joking!

EVERSMANN.

The Duke of Weissenfels is to undertake the mission to Vienna.

PRINCE.

What does that mean?

EVERSMANN.

Investigation by the Attorney-General—just come to the King's ears. The man was a wigmaker.

PRINCE.

You are quite mad. I must speak to the King. It concerns the most important affair of my whole life. [Starts for the door again.]

EVERSMANN.

Pardon me, Prince, His Majesty sends you this letter.

PRINCE (takes the letter).

"To my son, the Crown Prince of Prussia, to be delivered personally in Rheinsberg within twenty-four hours; kindness of the Prince of Baireuth." Why this—this is a formal decree of banishment from Berlin! How could it happen just now?

EVERSMANN.

It's merely a polite hint. Everything is discovered—and not only the matter of Rapiniere. His Majesty knows you now as the emissary of the Crown Prince, sent to stir up a revolution here in Berlin and in the palace. The wigmaker confessed it all. I suspected Your Highness from the first. Wish you a pleasant journey to Rheinsberg.

[He goes out.]

PRINCE.

Betrayed—forsaken by all—

HOTHAM (coming hastily from the QUEEN'S room).

Good news, Prince. The Princess is under arrest again.

PRINCE.

And you call that good news, traitor!

HOTHAM.

There is more, Prince. The traitor is pleased to hear that you also have fallen under the ban of the royal displeasure.

PRINCE.

You are pleased to hear that?

HOTHAM.

The traitor assures you on his honor that there could be no better means of fulfilling your heart's desire.

PRINCE.

Would you drive me mad?

HOTHAM.

To throw a preliminary cold shower on your doubt [looks about cautiously] kindly read this portion of a letter I have but just received.

PRINCE.

A billet-doux from your Prince of Wales?

HOTHAM.

Read it, please.

PRINCE (reads).

"London, June the fifth—"

HOTHAM (indicating a line lower down).

There—read there.

PRINCE (reads).

"You ask for news from court. We are very poor in such news just now. The Prince of Wales is still hunting wild boars in the Welsh mountains." The Prince is—not in Berlin?

HOTHAM (still cautious, but smiling).

Just as little as you are in the Palace of St. James at this moment.

PRINCE.

But what am I to think? What am I to believe?

HOTHAM.

You are to believe that you could well afford to place more confidence in Hotham's friendship, devotion—and cleverness.

PRINCE.

The Prince of Wales is not in Berlin?

HOTHAM.

H'st! We know he is not here—but he is here for all the others. The Prince of Wales is here, there, behind the screen, up the chimney, in the air, under the earth, nowhere where he would be in our way, but anywhere where we might need him for the merriest comedy in all the world.

PRINCE.

Hotham! Then I am not deceived in your friendship?

HOTHAM.

Just as little, since our commercial treaty is doomed, as I am mistaken in your chances, despite arrest and displeasure. But come now, come to that friendly goblin who will work for us—to the mysterious spirit on whose account we will keep this corner of the world in anxiety and terror—your doughty rival but your still doughtier ally.

PRINCE (in laughing surprise).

You mean?

HOTHAM.

The Prince of Wales. [They both go out.]



ACT IV



Anteroom in the KING'S apartments. The same as in SCENE I of ACT II. Writing materials on the table.

SCENE I

EVERSMANN comes from the KING'S room.

SECKENDORF (puts his head in at another door).

Pst! Eversmann! Have you seen him yet?

EVERSMANN.

Seen whom, Count?

SECKENDORF. The Prince of Wales. He is indeed in Berlin—he has been seen everywhere. Unter den Linden—by the river—even beyond Treptow—a frail figure of a man, stooping slightly—his left shoulder higher than the right. When he speaks you see that one eye-tooth is missing—

EVERSMANN.

The King will not recognize the presence of the Prince of Wales.

SECKENDORF.

We are being deceived, Eversmann. The King has recognized it. [Low.] Or can it be that you have not heard of that most strange—most remarkable command that has gone out to the Castle Guards—a command which upsets all our deductions and plans? All sentries have orders to let a white domino, if such a one should appear at night about the castle, pass unhindered and even unchallenged. Do you not see the thoughtfulness for the Prince of Wales in that? It is he who is to visit His Majesty secretly in disguise. Eversmann, all our pro-Austrian plans are in danger. [There is a knock at the door.] Every noise startles me these days.

EVERSMANN.

It is the court tailor most likely, pardon me. [He goes to the door.] Ha, ha! the white domino!

SECKENDORF.

The court tailor? What can the court tailor be doing here? And a white domino? Vienna's interests are in danger. The King does favor England. I must have certainty. This is the moment when I must show my whole power.

SCENE II

HOTHAM (comes in, bows).

His Majesty graciously consented to give me a farewell audience.

[EVERSMANN returns with a little package which he opens, drawing out a white domino.]

EVERSMANN (to HOTHAM).

I will announce you at once, sir. [To SECKENDORF, smiling.] Now, Count Seckendorf, if you wish to see the Prince of Wales [Pointing to the domino] here he is.

[He goes out into the KING'S room.]

SECKENDORF (aside).

That the Prince of Wales?

HOTHAM (aside).

A white domino the Prince of Wales?

SECKENDORF (aside).

What's the key to this new riddle?

HOTHAM (aside).

Can there be some secret doings here?

SECKENDORF (aside).

I will question Baronet Hotham cautiously.

HOTHAM (aside).

Mayhap this much-decorated gentleman can give me some information.

SECKENDORF (clearing his throat).

May I ask—how His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, is enjoying himself in Berlin? I am Count Seckendorf.

HOTHAM. Most happy to meet you. As Your Excellency perceives, he is at this moment in the very best hands. [Points after EVERSMANN.]

SECKENDORF (startled, aside).

In the best hands? Is he mocking me or is he deceived himself? It looks as though he too were in the conspiracy.

HOTHAM (aside).

This misunderstanding whets my curiosity.

SECKENDORF.

You are in error, Baronet, if you believe that we have opposed the suit of the Prince of Wales. Procure me an opportunity to speak to the Prince, and I will consider it an honor to be allowed to repeat this assurance in his own presence.

HOTHAM (pointing to the KING's door).

The door of His Majesty's Cabinet is, I am told, always open to the Imperial Envoy.

SECKENDORF (aside).

The King's Cabinet! Where the Court tailor has just taken the white domino [Aloud.] H'm! Baronet Hotham, do you happen to be acquainted with the legend of the White Lady, connected for centuries with the history of the House of Brandenberg?

HOTHAM.

I am, Your Excellency. And I hear that the White Lady has been seen again recently.

SECKENDORF (aside).

Recently? It is a conspiracy. They are deceiving us under cloak of the mystery of the White Lady. The Prince of Wales and the King have a thorough understanding with each other. [Aloud.] Baronet Hotham, this is double-dealing. Be honest! Confess that the Prince is not only here, but that he is received by the King at any hour.

HOTHAM.

What grounds have you for your belief?

SECKENDORF.

It was neatly done, to bring up the talk about the White Lady just at this time.

HOTHAM.

The King may have his own reasons for that.

SECKENDORF.

The King? The King has his—ha, ha! And you believe that no one sees through this fine game? You do not realize that there are eyes which even at night can see certain persons stealing across the courtyards of the Royal Palace? That there are ears which can hear plainly how such persons are let pass unchallenged because—ha, ha, ha!—because these persons wear white dominos? My dear sir, you must lay your plans more carefully if you would not have them patent to the simplest deductions. But do not trust too much to the King's indulgence toward the Prince of Wales. He is his nephew; he may not wish him compromised. Therefore he allows him to pass in and out in disguise. But, believe me, that is all the Prince has to hope for here. And I at least should be very sorry for a young diplomat, just beginning his career as you are, who cannot profit by a direct hint from a statesman of twenty years' experience, whose power of diplomatic manipulation has not yet been excelled. [He goes out.]

SCENE III

HOTHAM (alone).

Then the sentries let the white domino pass unchallenged, out of consideration for a Prince of Wales who does not exist? And the white domino is taken into the King's study? Here are two definite facts. The King himself plans some midnight adventure, and does not wish interference on the part of his sentries. His favorites, prying into everything, but winning only imperfect knowledge, connect the sentry order with the ghost of the Prince of Wales, and presuppose a tender thoughtfulness for the young adventurer on family or political grounds. Delicious! [He sits down to write on a paper he has taken from his portfolio.] Why, then—with the excuse of introducing the Prince of Wales, I might bring the poor Prince of Baireuth, banished from the palace and from the city, back again quite unhindered to his captive princess—and even to the Queen. The sun shines once more—but there is another storm to conquer first. The King approaches. [The KING comes an, dressed for the street. GRUMBKOW and EVERSMANN follow.]

KING (still outside).

Who is it, you say?

GRUMBKOW.

Baronet Hotham.

KING (coming in).

Tell him that I send my regards to him and his English price-lists. We in Berlin are not cottonwards inclined just at present.

GRUMBKOW (designating the bowing HOTHAM).

Baronet Hotham desires to pay his respects to Your Majesty personally.

KING.

Tell him Prussia is putting her best foot forward. German manufacturers need a chance to catch up with what the English already know about spinning and weaving.

GRUMBKOW.

Baronet Hotham is about to ask Your Majesty in person for his dismissal.

KING (paying no attention).

The incident is closed. My ministers can attend to it now. I prefer the customary procedure. [He sits down.]

GRUMBKOW (in the centre).

You see, Baronet Hotham—

HOTHAM (to GRUMBKOW).

General, will you say to His Majesty that I deeply regret having failed in my mission? Tell him—

GRUMBKOW.

His Majesty is present.

HOTHAM.

Tell him that a country's industries need centuries of preparation to be able to sell at the low prices quoted by English merchants. Tell him—

GRUMBKOW.

Will you not address His Majesty in person?

HOTHAM.

I prefer the customary procedure.

KING (sitting, absorbed in his note-book).

Very good. And now, Grumbkow, tell him, for the account of the Prince of Wales—that I'm planning to build a couple of new gates in Berlin, but for the present he'll have to put up with the old ones through which to leave the city.

GRUMBKOW. Very good.

HOTHAM.

And kindly add, General von Grumbkow, that as one may suppose the Princess Wilhelmine to cherish the same feeling for her cousin, the Prince of Wales, as—

KING.

Pay no attention to that, Grumbkow. But announce to the gentleman that my children are accustomed to obey my wishes, and that the affair with Vienna is as good as settled. Understand?

GRUMBKOW.

Very well, Your Majesty.

HOTHAM.

And you might add, General von Grumbkow, that I have a favor to beg of His Majesty before departing.

KING.

Grumbkow, you might casually inquire what sort of a favor it is he wants.

HOTHAM.

General—

GRUMBKOW.

Baronet Hotham.

HOTHAM.

If His Majesty should seem inclined, out of the nobility of his heart, to make amends for the cruel manner in which he has just dismissed an ardent admirer of his military greatness, then tell him that I know of a finely-built, strong young man, a close friend of mine, of good family, who would deem it an honor to serve up from the ranks under His Majesty's glorious flag.

KING.

Grumbkow, you may tell Baronet Hotham that his personality and manner have pleased me greatly, and that I most heartily wish all Englishmen were of his sort. In the matter of the young man, you may ask him if the recruit will furnish his own equipment.

HOTHAM.

Kindly state, General, that the young man will take service in His Majesty's army, fully equipped according to regulations, his hair and his heart in the right place, and that he furthermore brings with him a neat little inheritance of his own.

KING (more and more pleased).

Quite what one might expect from a born Englishman. Grumbkow, ask the Baronet whether the young man, who is doubtless destined to introduce Prussian tactics into England, would serve better on foot or to horse.

HOTHAM.

He begs for a place with the Dragoons of the Guard in Potsdam.

KING.

Potsdam? That won't do. They all want to serve in the Guard. No—no.... But he can—for a while, at least—join the Glasenapp Musketiers in Pasewalk. That's a fine regiment, too.

HOTHAM.

Please express my sincere thanks to His Majesty. The young recruit will have the honor to present himself personally to His Majesty in a few days.

KING.

Grumbkow, suppose we offered Baronet Hotham, as a sign of our friendship, a position as recruiting officer?

HOTHAM.

He would decline this honor, but he would beg another favor.

KING.

And that is—?

HOTHAM.

In all journals, in all records of travel, we read of a certain gathering in Berlin which goes beyond anything an Englishman can imagine in the way of clubs or private affairs.

KING.

Dear me—our police permit that sort of thing in Berlin? Really, I am most curious.

HOTHAM.

A certain genial personage gathers around him several times weekly, in a small, low-ceilinged room in the palace, a small but select circle of men on whom be bestows his confidence. Sitting on wooden stools, often in their shirt-sleeves, beer tankards before them on the great open table, Dutch clay pipes in their mouths, they entertain each other in the most unrestrained manner in spite of the exalted position held by most of these men. Some who do not smoke hold cold pipes between their teeth, that they may not mar the harmony of the picture. One member of the circle is singled out nightly as an object for mirth, and the choice is made by lot. Each and every one can in turn become the butt of merry satire. To have been present at a meeting of this oddest of all court gatherings would furnish me with the most notable memory I could carry away from Berlin.

KING.

Egad, Grumbkow! I believe he means our Smoker.

HOTHAM.

The world-renowned Prussian "tobacco-conference."

KING.

And you have—the gentleman has—no. [He rises.] I shan't use the customary procedure any more. Baronet Hotham, you have heard of my Smokers? You have said nice things about them. That reconciles me—can you smoke?

HOTHAM.

Yes, Your Majesty, the light Dutch Varinas, at least.

KING.

I have that—and the Porto-Rican and Hungarian tobaccos as well. In fact, I'm having quite a good sort grown here in the Mark Brandenberg now.

HOTHAM.

I fear I should have to decline trying that.

KING.

Give me your hand, Baronet. Come to our conference tonight. We will wash down our diplomatic disagreement with a good drink of beer, and blue clouds of smoke from our pipes shall waft away all the intrigues, plots and counter-plots.

GRUMBKOW.

But—Your Majesty, who is to furnish the source of amusement tonight?

HOTHAM.

Will Your Majesty take me as the scapegoat?

KING.

Oho, Baronet! it will be a hot skirmish. He who has been under fire from a dozen such old soldiers needs a week or two to recover from the experience.

HOTHAM (aside).

A pleasing fate indeed, to play the fox to such hounds!

KING.

We'll find some one to be the central figure this evening. You must be among the laughers, and then you can tell us something of the cock-fights and the boxing-bouts in England. That sort of amusement pleases me mightily, and I would permit it to come into this country without excise or other duty. Very well, then, the Smoker is at eight o'clock. Your pardon for this queer audience of dismissal. Bring a brave thirst with you. For in the matter of drinking we pay no attention to the customary procedure.

[He goes out, followed by all except HOTHAM.]

SCENE IV

HOTHAM (alone).

Excellent! We adapt ourselves to circumstances and circumstances adapt themselves to us. Now for my letter to the Queen. [He sits down, takes a partly written letter from his portfolio and reads it.] "Exalted Lady: Your wish to see the Prince of Wales is a command for your devoted servant. Unless all plans should go awry I will have the honor to lead the Prince of Wales this very night into the presence of his Royal Aunt. He hopes not only for the happiness of pressing a kiss on Your Majesty's hand, but desires, with all the longing of an ardent heart, finally to look upon his dear affianced, the Princess Wilhelmine. Use all your power to free the Princess from her imprisonment for this evening." [He begins to write.] "I would suggest that you advise the Princess to wrap herself in a white domino. This disguise will carry her safely past the palace sentries." There—the young people can see each other again, can storm the fortress of the mother's heart, and can win for themselves the support of public opinion, as represented by the invited guests. [He seals the letter.] Now if I could find the Prince—Ah, there he is!

PRINCE (looking in cautiously).

Hotham, I've been looking for you everywhere. What do you think has just happened to me?

HOTHAM.

Another Royal mission?

PRINCE.

I can scarce believe it myself. Disconsolate, I was preparing for the journey, and stopped to cast one last look up to the windows behind which my beloved sits captive—a lackey of the King's suite approached me. I anticipated some new humiliation. But imagine my astonishment at the surprise in store for me. You know the value the King sets on his nightly smoking-bouts. He invites to these gatherings only persons for whom he has especial plans. Now picture my amazement when I learned that His Majesty begs me, before my departure tonight, to do him the pleasure to attend his Smoker!

HOTHAM.

You have an invitation?

PRINCE.

You're—you're laughing. [HOTHAM laughs heartily.] What are you laughing at?

HOTHAM.

It's unspeakably comical.

PRINCE.

Comical? I should consider it rather tragical, when a sovereign first humiliates us and then suddenly heaps amiabilities upon us. What is the matter with you.

HOTHAM.

Stand up straight-breast thrown out—head up—hands at your side—no, more to the back—

PRINCE.

What do you mean?

HOTHAM (pulling his hair).

Fine growth—fine strong growth.

PRINCE.

What are you doing to my hair? And you're still laughing!

HOTHAM.

As a consequence of a most droll diplomatic transaction, I also have been honored with an invitation to the Smoker. And that I may enjoy the true savor of the customary and, methinks, sometimes strongly realistic entertainment of such occasions, those in charge have bestirred themselves to find royal game for the baiting.

PRINCE.

And I am to be—the game? This is too much! I will be there, Hotham; I will take my place humbly at the foot of the great table, but I warn you that my patience is exhausted. I will show them that I have weapons to parry the jibes of rough soldiers, weapons I have not yet brought into play. I will be there, I will listen with apparent calm to what they are planning to do to me—but then—then I will draw from my quiver! I will send arrow after arrow at this brutal despotism—and should the shafts be too weak to penetrate their leathern harness, then, Hotham, then out with my sword and at them!

HOTHAM.

Bravo, Prince! Excellent! That's the right mood! That is the language one must use in this court. The hour draws near. It would take us too far a-field were I to detail my plans to you now. I will first dispatch this letter to the Queen. Then, as we set out for the Smoker—but I see you are in no mood for explanations. Cherish this noble anger, Prince! Rage as much as you will—snort like an angry tiger. [Takes him by the arm and leads him out.] More—more—heap it up—there, now you are ready to aid my plan, which is none other than to have you win the King by forcing him to respect you. [They go out.]

SCENE V

_A plain low-ceilinged room in the palace. The walls are gray. The main entrance is in the centre. One door at the left, a small window at the right.

Lackeys carry in an oaken table and place a number of wooden stools around it. Then they bring tankards on wooden platters and set them in a circle on the table. A brazier with live coals is also brought in. The lackeys go out.

The_ KING _comes from the door on the left in easy, undress house uniform. He has a short Dutch pipe in his mouth, he shuts the door carefully behind him._

KING.

Are they gathering already

EVERSMANN.

There's noise enough outside there.

KING.

My only recreation! While I may keep this little diversion, I am willing to bear the burdens and cares of government. Are the clay cannons loaded?

EVERSMANN.

Aye—and some are fuming already outside there.

KING.

Is the beer right fresh? And a little bitter, eh?

EVERSMANN.

It might be better.

KING.

Those Bernau brewers had best have a care—I may pay an unexpected visit to their brewery. How about the white smock I ordered?

EVERSMANN.

Ready, at hand.

KING.

When the meeting is over—you know what I have planned

EVERSMANN.

Everything is ready for Your Majesty.

KING.

You may go now. The door is to be opened at the stroke of ten.

EVERSMANN.

Yes, Your Majesty. [He goes out.]

[The KING walks to the window, remaining there for a few moments. There is a pause.]

KING.

Light in my wife's apartments again! Three rooms illuminated where one would have been enough—and tallow so expensive now. A dozen women have been invited there tonight, and a great conspiracy is going forward, with the Prince of Wales received incognito—all to defy me. But wait a bit—I'll be with you. This day has begun weightily and shall end weightily.

SCENE VI

A small clock strikes ten. The door to the right is thrown open and the members of the Tobacco-Conference come in, led by GRUMBKOW and SECKENDORF. There are about ten of them besides the principal actors. They come in solemnly, wearing their hats, carrying pipes in their mouths. Passing the KING they touch their hats and remove their pipes for a moment. HOTHAM and the PRINCE of BAIREUTH come last of all. The KING stands to the left and lets the procession move past him toward the right of the room.

GRUMBKOW (with the prescribed greeting).

Good evening, Your Majesty.

KING.

Good evening, Grumbkow.

SECKENDORF.

Good evening, Your Majesty.

KING.

Good evening, Seckendorf.

COUNT SCHWERIN.

Good evening, Your Majesty.

KING.

Good evening, Schwerin. Does it taste good?

SCHWERIN.

Fine! Thanks, Your Majesty.

COUNT WARTENSLEBEN.

Good evening, Your Majesty.

KING.

Good evening, Wartensleben. Pipe draw well?

WARTENSLEBEN.

Yes. Thanks, Your Majesty. [He moves past the KING . The others pass one after the other, or sometimes several at once, with similar greetings.]

KING.

Take your seats, gentlemen—no formalities—free choice—the smoke of war levels all rank.

GRUMBKOW.

But the subject, Your Majesty, the subject promised for this evening?

KING.

Ha, ha! The target? There it comes.

[HOTHAM and the PRINCE OF BAIREUTH come in.]

ALL.

The Prince of Baireuth?

PRINCE.

Good evening.

KING.

Right, oh! Prince, that you are come. Now, at least, you will have something good about my family to tell them in Rheinsberg. [Aside.] Spy! [Aloud.] But your pipe is cold.

PRINCE (with suppressed anger).

I am hoping that I may find fire enough here.

[The company sit down, the KING and GRUMBKOW at one end of the table, HOTHAM and the PRINCE at the other.]

KING.

Lay on, gentlemen—there stand the care-chasers.

SECKENDORF.

To His Majesty's health!

KING.

No, let us rather drink, after such a day of annoyance and sorrow—let us rather drink to cheer, jollity, and a happy turn of wit!

[They touch glasses with one another. EVERMANN moves about, serving the guests, passing coal for the pipes, and so forth.]

KING (aside).

Grumbkow, I wager it will be right jolly tonight.

GRUMBKOW (aside).

We'll soon begin to tap the Prince.

KING (aside).

Be merciful. His brow is already bedewed with the sweat of anxiety. [Aloud.] Tell me. Prince, since you have windbagged yourself about so much of the world—do they smoke tobacco in Versailles also?



PRINCE.

No. Your Majesty, but I've seen sailors in London who chew it.

KING.

Brr! Grumbkow, we'll not introduce that fashion here. It's not because of the taste, but such meals would be right costly.

HOTHAM.

Our sailors use tobacco as a remedy for scurvy.

SECKENDORF.

What is scurvy?

PRINCE.

The scurvy, Count, is a disease which begins with an evil tongue.

KING (aside).

Take notice, Grumbkow, he's pricked. On with the attack.

GRUMBKOW.

Eversmann, have the newest Dutch journals arrived?

EVERSMANN.

Yes, Your Excellency; full of lies, as usual.

KING.

Lies? Then, according to the proverb, that explains why our beer is so sour.

GRUMBKOW.

Tell me, Eversmann, is there no news from Ansbach in the journals?

HOTHAM (aside to PRINCE).

Arm yourself.

EVERSMANN (impertinently).

Why should there be news from such a little country?

KING.

Be quiet! Prussia also was once a little country. Tell me rather, what do the Dutch write about Prussia?

EVERSMANN.

Outrageous things. They say that many deserters have again fled from Potsdam.

KING.

That's not a lie, unfortunately.

PRINCE.

But they express themselves with more politeness in Holland.

KING.

How then, Prince?

PRINCE.

They say that Your Majesty's Guards consist mostly of men who suffer from an abnormal growth. These giants, so they say, have periods where they shoot up to such an extent that they grow and grow beyond the tree-tops and disappear altogether from human ken.

KING.

Ha, ha! Wittily expressed. But drink, Prince, drink.

GRUMBKOW.

I imagined that Your Highness read only French journals.

PRINCE.

I would rather read Prussian newspapers. But, thanks to General von Grumbkow's policies, no newspaper dare appear in Prussia.

KING.

Ha, ha! There you have it! [Aside.] See, see, he's not afraid to speak his mind. 'Twill be a merry night.

HOTHAM (aside to PRINCE).

Not too sharp—be milder at first.

GRUMBKOW (aside).

Seckendorf, it's time to exercise your wit.

SECKENDORF (aside).

Hush—I'm getting something ready. I will choose my own time.

KING.

But you're not drinking, Prince. You're expected to drink here. [Aside.] Eversmann, keep his glass well filled—

HOTHAM (aside).

They want to make you drunk. Push your tankard nearer my place.

KING.

You know the old Dessauer, Prince?

PRINCE (surprised).

Why, Your Majesty—

KING.

But do you know for what great invention mankind is indebted to the old Dessauer?

PRINCE (aside).

Do you know that, Hotham?

HOTHAM.

Damn their cross questioning—say it was gaiters.

PRINCE.

Your Majesty wishes to know what—what the old Dessauer invented?

KING.

Yes, what did the old Dessauer invent?

SECKENDORF (aside).

Aha, you see, now we have caught him.

PRINCE.

It can't be gunpowder, because Count Seckendorf has already discovered that. [All laugh.]

SECKENDORF (aside).

Never mind, Grumbkow, I'll wait the fitting moment.

KING.

He invented iron ramrods. Now, you see, my son in Rheinsberg, for all his Homers and Voltaires, and whatever their heathen names may be, that he gathers round him, couldn't think of anything like that. [Aside.] Is he drinking, Eversmann?

HOTHAM (to PRINCE).

Don't let slip your advantage.

PRINCE.

Who the devil could think of iron ramrods!

GRUMBKOW (rising).

We'll drink a pleasant journey to His Highness, the Prince Hereditary of Baireuth. [They all rise except the KING.]

ALL.

A pleasant journey.

HOTHAM (aside).

You're done for—you've lost everything.

PRINCE (aside).

It was shameful perfidy!

HOTHAM (aside).

Make him respect you—be as brutal as he is—pretend to be drunk. [They all sit down after having touched glasses amid laughter.]

PRINCE (rises, his tankard in his hand. Speaks as if slightly intoxicated).

Gentlemen—

KING (aside).

I believe he's hipped.

PRINCE.

And—and—and—I thank you. [He sits down. They all laugh.]

KING.

Bravo, Prince, you are a most excellent speaker.

GRUMBKOW.

He's done for, Your Majesty: we must have him make a speech now.

KING.

Yes. Give us a speech, Prince.

ALL.

A speech—speech!

[The PRINCE rests his head in his hands and does not rise.]

HOTHAM.

The question is—what shall he talk about?

KING.

About anything—whatever he chooses.

HOTHAM.

I could suggest an interesting subject.

KING.

Out with it.

HOTHAM.

What if he were to discuss some member of this merry company?

KING.

'Tis done! And that we need waste no time in choice—let him discuss—me.

ALL (startled).

Your Majesty?

KING.

It's very warm here. [Opens his coat.] Let's make ourselves comfortable, Eversmann. Well, Prince—begin. Give us a speech about me.

HOTHAM.

Please—

KING.

No hesitation—let it be as if I had just died—

HOTHAM.

Your Majesty—

KING.

Quiet! Silence all. The Prince of Baireuth will give us a speech about me. [Aside.] In vino veritas. I am curious to know whether such a French windbag is composed entirely of falsehoods.

HOTHAM (aside).

This is the decisive moment.

PRINCE (steps forward, he staggers slightly then controls himself).

Merry company!

KING.

Merry? I'm dead.

PRINCE.

No matter, they're merry just the same.

KING.

Gad! is that true?

PRINCE.

Merry company—cheerful mourners—permit me to interrupt your enjoyment by a few painful remarks on the qualities of the deceased.

KING.

Painful remarks? That's a good beginning.

PRINCE.

Friedrich Wilhelm I., King of Prussia, was a great man, in whose character were united the strangest contradictions.

KING.

Contradictions!

PRINCE.

As with all those who owe their education to their own efforts, so his mind, noble in itself, fell under the influence of disturbing emotions, the saddest of which was distrust.

KING.

These are nice things I hear.

PRINCE.

He brought his country to a high degree of prosperity, he simplified administration, he improved judicial procedure. But the enjoyment of all these blessings was spoiled for him by his own fault.

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