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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. VII. by Various

Part 6 out of 11

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fate rests on the Genius of Love--on chance, which may be even kinder to
me than I expect. Her parents are of divided minds--thereby do I gain
time to win Wilhelmine's heart--for myself. The King is coming. Now I
can listen to his favorable opinions regarding--Austria.

SCENE V

_The_ KING _comes in, in dress uniform, with the grand cordon_.

PRINCE (_looking at him_).

Is that not--

KING.

You are surprised? It was a slight mistake in identity.

PRINCE (_embarrassed_).

Your Majesty--I am a stranger--

KING.

It's of no consequence. You were deucedly insolent--but my people are
thick-skinned. Well--I want to speak to you, my dear Prince of Baireuth.
Are you just come from Baireuth?

PRINCE.

Yes, Your Majesty--that is, I left Baireuth three years ago.

KING.

And where were you all this time?

PRINCE.

In--in England.

KING.

Ah--you spent much time in England?

PRINCE (_aside_).

I suppose he wants me to help him with Austria, and to disparage
England. [_Aloud_.] In England? Yes, quite time enough to learn all
about that unmannerly and extremely ridiculous country and its ways.

KING:

What's that? England ridiculous? Here, here, young friend--_we_ have
some distance to go yet before we reach the point where England stands
today. H'm--have you been in Italy? Or in Austria--or thereabouts?

PRINCE (_aside_).

Does he favor England? I thought it was Austria--yes, he favors Austria.
[_Aloud_.] Austria? Surely; a wonderful country--such development of
industry--and commerce--such life and activity in all directions!

KING.

Activity? H'm! The activity in Austria isn't dangerous yet!

PRINCE (_aside_).

Then he does not favor Austria. I fancy I'm not ingratiating myself at
all.

KING (_aside_).

Has Seckendorf, or any of the others, been talking to him? Is he trying
to please me? [_Aloud_.] A nice little country, that Baireuth of yours.
Soil somewhat stony, though!--doesn't yield your father much revenue, I
dare say!

PRINCE.

We're learning to improve the soil. [_Aside_.] These geographical
prejudices!

KING.

Trying to improve it by the pleasure palaces your father is building?
What's got into the man? Puts up one gimcrack after another, as if he
were Louis Quatorze--and runs his country into debt meanwhile. About how
much debt does your country carry?

PRINCE (_aside_).

I don't know that myself. [_Aloud, saucily_.] Ten millions.

KING.

Ten millions?

PRINCE.

More or less.

KING.

Good heavens! Who is to pay that debt eventually? And with such a state
of things in the exchequer you're traveling about Europe, taking money
out of the country?

PRINCE.

I'm completing my education, sire.

KING.

In Versailles? In Rheinsburg? Well, never mind, we've had enough of
that. [_He whistles the_ _first bars of the Dessauer March_.] Tell me,
you've taken part in those heathenish performances--at my son's Court, I
mean?

PRINCE.

The part of a confidant, Your Majesty.

KING.

Good! It was about these heathenish performances that I wanted to speak
to you. Prince, they tell me you are a man of taste, a man who is well
acquainted with those godless Greek and Roman doings. As it is in my
mind to celebrate my daughter's wedding with all pomp worthy of my
crown--I want to ask you--to consult with my son--as to how most
gracefully and amusingly to entertain the Courts of Poland, Saxony,
Brunswick and Mecklenburg, who will all be here for an entire week--in a
word, how we can win much honor and glory by this wedding.

PRINCE.

Wedding? The Princess--your daughter's wedding?

KING.

Yes, Prince. My artillery will furnish the salutes, and I will see to the
reviews and parades my self. But it is in the evening that our guests grow
weary in Berlin--they go to sleep in their chairs. Beer drinking and pipe
smoking is not yet to every one's taste. We'll have to swim with the
stream, therefore, and provide suitable amusements--illumination, operas,
allegorical presentations, and such fol-da-rol--all about Prussia and
England.

PRINCE.

England?

KING (_rises_).

Zounds! that ran over my tongue like a hare hurrying across
the highway. H'm--I mean a sort of spectacle--oh, say
unicorn--eagle--eagle--unicorn--leopard--intermingled--Prussia and
England--and it must be in rhyme--in verse, as it were.

PRINCE.

England? This news comes with such a surprise! The whole country,
Europe--the world--will wonder how England came to deserve such honor.

KING.

Oh, ho! don't flatter the old--lackey! It's an old affair, this one with
England; my wife has been working at it for years.

PRINCE.

The Queen? Why, I fancied--that Her Majesty the Queen was much more in
favor of Austria--

KING. Austria? [_Aside_.]

I might have known she would want to put her own will through. [_Aloud
with decision_.] No. I received today a dispatch from our Ambassador,
who assures me that England is thinking seriously of this plan, of this
marriage arranged in all secrecy. The Prince of Wales has taken ship
from England; it is supposed that he is already landed on the Hanoverian
coast. Meanwhile, a plenipotentiary has left London, in strictest
_incognito_, on his way to treat with me concerning all the details of
the marriage. The envoy is likely to arrive at any moment. You would
place me under obligations to you, therefore--

PRINCE (_in despair_).

Shall it be a pastoral masque?

KING.

Yes. And the Crown Prince can play the flute for it, since he has
learned that art behind my back.

PRINCE (_turns to go, but comes back_).

And the ladies and gentlemen of the Court are to act in it?

KING.

Surely. Give every one of them something to say, only not me. But
Grumbkow must act in it. Yes, Grumbkow must be in it--and the ladies
Viereck and Sonnsfeld--and Seckendorf--and--

PRINCE (_as above_).

Must it be in English or in French?

KING.

Neither. In German, good, pure, fiery German--High German, you
understand, not the Berlin flavor. [_Confidentially_.] And if you could
bring in a little Dutch somewhere--certain considerations of commerce
would render that very pleasing to me; it will be spoken of in the
papers and the Ambassador of Holland will be there--you see, it's about
the importation of tobacco. [_Makes gestures as of smoking and whispers
into the_ PRINCE'S _ear_.] But I suppose a fine young gentleman like
yourself doesn't smoke.

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.

[Illustration: KING FREDERICK WILLIAM I OF PRUSSIA R. SIEMERING]

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?

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