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

Part 7 out of 11

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[_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?

[Illustration: KING FREDERICK WILLIAM I AND HIS "TOBACCO COLLEGIUM"
ADOLPH VON MENZEL]

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.

KING.

Well--well--by his own fault!

SECKENDORF (_aside_).

The young man must indeed have been drinking heavily.

PRINCE.

His vivacity of spirit kept him in a continual unrest which was as
painful to others as to himself. When fatigued he could not conceal his
desire for pleasant recreation, but his tastes were sufficiently simple
to let him prefer satisfying this desire in the bosom of his own family.

EVERSMANN.

There'll be a misfortune, surely!

PRINCE.

But even here, where he might have reposed on a couch of roses, this
unfortunate sovereign made for himself a bed of thorns. His son's
unhappy history is so well known that I can pass over it in silence....

KING.

In silence--?

PRINCE.

Friedrich Wilhelm could not understand the freedom of the human will. He
would have grafted stem to stem, son on father, youth on age. In
planning to bestow the hand of his charming daughter, now here, now
there, it never came to his mind that her heart might have a right to
choose--it never occurred to him to ask: "Does my choice make you happy,
child?"

KING.

Eversmann, take this pipe.

PRINCE.

Now he is departed. Those minions who during his lifetime came between
the heart of the mother and the heart of the husband and father, those
minions tremble now. It remains to be seen how the misunderstood son
will dispose of them. The father's deeds will remain the foundation of
this state. But a milder spirit will reign in the land; the arts and
sciences will outdistance the fame of cannon and bullet. And the soaring
eagle of Prussia will now truly fulfil his device, _Nec Soli
Cedis_--or, to put it in German, "Even the sun's glance shall not
dazzle thee! Even the sun shall stand aside from out thy path!" [_He
recollects himself, and after a pause returns to the table, again
pretending drunkenness_.] Hotham, give me something to drink.

KING (_after a pause_).

What hour is it?

EVERSMANN.

Eleven past, Your Majesty. (_Aside_.) If we should meet the Prince of
Wales now, woe unto him.

KING (_taking a tankard from the table_).

Prince, when you have come to your senses tomorrow, let them tell you
that the King touched glasses with you.

PRINCE.

At Your Majesty's service.

KING.

He doesn't understand, Hotham. Translate it into sober language for him.
Good night, gentlemen. [_He turns again and looks at the_ PRINCE
_thoughtfully, repeating the words_.] "Does my choice make you happy,
child?" [_Looking at the_ PRINCE.] Pity he's only a bookish man.

[EVERSMANN _takes up a candlestick with officious haste, brushes angrily
past the triumphant_ HOTHAM _and throws a glance of suppressed rage at
the_ PRINCE.]

EVERSMANN.

May I light Your Majesty--on your visit to--

KING (_interrupts him with the_ PRINCE'S _words_).

"These minions tremble--" [_After a pause, during which he glances over
them all_] I would be alone. [_He goes out_.]

ACT V

_A drawing-room in the_ QUEEN's _apartments. A window to the right.
Three doors, centre, right, and left. Tables and chairs. Candles on the
tables, playing-cards, and tea service_.

SCENE I

KAMKE _stands on a step-ladder fastening a large curtain over the
window. Two lackeys are assisting him_.

KAMKE (_on the ladder_).

There! And now be ready to receive the ladies at the little side
stairway. They will arrive in sedan chairs. No noise, do you
hear--softly--softly. [_The lackeys go out_.]

SONNSFELD (_comes in from the left_).

Ah, at last a festival of which the Prussian Court need not be ashamed.
Kamke, why are you draping that window?

KAMKE.

So that our festival may not be observed. [_Coming down off the
ladder_.] Then you too are concerned in this conspiracy?

SONNSFELD.

The Queen has taken all responsibility. She risks her own freedom for
that of her daughter, and will receive the Prince of Wales tonight in
strictest incognito. Is everything in readiness?

KAMKE.

You're planning to free the Princess from her imprisonment? That is high
treason, remember.

SONNSFELD.

It must succeed, at whatever cost. The Queen wishes to see the Princess
amid the circle of friends whom she has invited this evening for a
secret purpose. The Princess has been instructed. She knows that I will
come to her room and remain there in her place to deceive the sentry.
She will meet you in the Blue Room.

KAMKE.

The Blue Room--where--for the last few nights the White Lady has been
seen?

SONNSFELD.

She will meet you there--

KAMKE (_horrified_).

Me?

SONNSFELD.

She will speak to you--

KAMKE.

Me?

SONNSFELD (_pulling him to the door at the right_).

Yes, me--I mean you--and you will lead her from the Blue Room--you will
take her hand and bring her safely hither by the surest and quickest
route.

KAMKE.

My lady--whom--whom? The Princess Wilhelmine?

SONNSFELD (_going out_).

No, no, Kamke, the White Lady--but come quickly now, quickly.

[_They both go out_.]

SCENE II

FRAU VON VIERECK, FRAU VON HOLZENDORF, _and about six more ladies enter
cautiously, one by one, through the centre door_.

VIERECK.

Hush! Step cautiously!

HOLZENDORF (_whispering_).

It's all quiet here--if only these wretched shoes of mine didn't creak
so.

VIERECK (_whispering_).

What can Her Majesty the Queen be planning for tonight?

HOLZENDORF.

Has His Majesty the King gone from home?

VIERECK.

I heard it said, at the French Embassy, that His Highness, the Crown
Prince, had come from Rheinsberg--

HOLZENDORF.

Doubtless at the same time with His Highness, the Prince of Wales

VIERECK (_low_).

At the moment both are at the King's Smoker.--They say the Crown Prince
has again disagreed with his father on questions concerning the future
administration of the state.

HOLZENDORF.

Is it possible?

VIERECK.

And they say that the Prince of Baireuth tried to bring about a
reconciliation, but that the Prince of Wales took the part of the Crown
Prince.

HOLZENDORF.

The Prince of Wales? Then he has been received?

VIERECK.

And the King, so they say, in the heat of the argument, commanded that
Princess Wilhelmine, the cause of the quarrel, be sent to Kuestrin at
once.

HOLZENDORF.

Good Heavens, ladies! There are cards on the table. Hush! I hear a
noise.

VIERECK.

It is the Queen.

[_The_ QUEEN _comes in in full toilet. She is excited and yet timorous.
The ladies bow_.]

QUEEN.

Welcome, ladies. I am happy to have about me once again the circle of
those who, I know, are devoted to me. Pray sit down. I have decided to
be more sociable in future and to have you with me oftener than I have
done of late. Will you have a game of cards, Frau von Viereck?

VIERECK.

Cards, Your Majesty? For eighteen years now I cannot recall having seen
a card in the palace.

QUEEN.

We will change all that. Ladies, you have not yet heard my plans, you do
not yet know what surprises this evening has in store for you--

HOLZENDORF.

Surprises, Your Majesty?

QUEEN (_indicating a card-table near the window_).

Sit down there, my dear Holzendorf. Try your luck with Frau von Viereck.

VIERECK (_aside_).

Heavens--play cards there? When every outline of my shadow can plainly
be seen through that curtain?

QUEEN (_sitting_).

Why do you hesitate?

VIERECK.

Have we Your Majesty's permission to draw the tables nearer together?
There--there is so much air at this window.

[_The lackeys place the table farther from the window_.]

QUEEN.

Yes, ladies, this evening a new era begins for our monarchy. I will
break at last with the established etiquette. [_Lackeys come in with
trays_.] Order what pleases you. The beverages of China and the Levant
shall from now on no longer be strangers to our court.

HOLZENDORF.

What is this? Tea?

VIERECK.

And coffee? These forbidden beverages?

HOLZENDORF.

If His Majesty the King--

QUEEN.

Have no fear. Give your feelings full sway--express yourself without
fear, in assurance of perfect safety--[_There is a knock at the door,
right_.] Was not that a knock?

VIERECK (_aside, trembling_).

What does this mean?

[_The knock is repeated. The ladies all rise as if frightened_.]

QUEEN.

Be calm, ladies. There is no danger. The evening will offer one surprise
after another. Who, do you imagine, is at that door now?

[_The knock is repeated. The ladies all rise as if frightened_.]

HOLZENDORF.

The hand seems none of the most delicate.

QUEEN.

And yet it is. That knock expresses the impetuous longing of a being
whom my courage has freed from a humiliating situation. You may resume
your seats, ladies. Do not allow yourselves to be disturbed by anything
that may occur, not even by any surprise. This is but the beginning of
many things that will come to pass this evening. And so I cry--in
overflowing emotion--[_There is another knock_.] "Moderate your
impatience, beloved being; you shall find here what you seek--your
mother!" [_She opens the door_.]

SCENE III

_The_ KING _steps in. He is wrapped in a white cloak, his hat pulled
down over his face_.

KING.

Yes, your mother.

[_The ladies all rise with exclamations of horror. The_ KING _removes
his hat_.]

QUEEN (_aside, crushed_).

The King!

KING (_angry, but forcing himself to be affable_).

On my word, how fine we are here, very fine indeed! And how nice it does
look with so many lights burning. [_He blows out several_.] Why are you
hiding yourselves, ladies? Did you expect such a visitor?

QUEEN.

Your Majesty

[_The ladies place themselves so that they screen the table. They hide
the cards quickly_.]

KING.

Do not let me disturb you, ladies. What is your particular entertainment
this evening? Enjoying a cup of soup, Frau von Holzendorf? [_Comes
nearer_.] Oho--the silver service? [_He looks into cups_.] What's that?
Tea? Chocolate? Coffee?

QUEEN.

Your Majesty will surely--permit us--to keep pace with our age.

KING.

Frau von Viereck, you, I imagine, have been keeping pace with your age
long enough. About thirty years ago you'd give an old boy like myself a
handshake occasionally.

[_Slyly he holds out his hand to her_.]

VIERECK (_tries to hide the cards behind her back_).

Your Majesty--such graciousness--

[_She holds out one hand_.]

KING.

Both, Fran von Viereck--let me have both.

[VIERECK _lets the cards fall behind her back_.]

KING.

What's that? Did you not drop something? My God! Cards! [_He stands as
if speechless_.] Playing-cards! [_To the_ QUEEN.] Cards, madam--a
Christian court--and cards! I am sure, Frau von Viereck, you were merely
prophesying from those cards. I know, ladies, that you were only telling
your fortunes from the cards. I am quite sure, Frau von Viereck, that
you were merely endeavoring to ascertain whether you would bury your
fifth husband also. Surely--or--is it possible? Money on the tables!
[_He clasps his hands in horror_.] You--have-been-playing?--at my
court?--playing-cards? [_There is a knock at the door to the left_.] Who
knocks there?

QUEEN (_aside_).

It is Wilhelmine or the Prince of Wales! I am lost!

[_Another gentle knock is heard_.]

KING.

You are awaiting more visitors? Come in!

[_He goes to the door himself and opens it_.]

SCENE IV

WILHELMINE, _wearing a white veil and domino, comes in cautiously_.

KING.

A veiled lady! And such mysterious visitors are received here? [_He
lifts the veil_.] What do I see! Wilhelmine!

WILHELMINE (_throwing herself at his feet_).

Father! Forgive me!

KING.

Forgive you! This invasion of the State Prison--this attack on my
sovereign will?

WILHELMINE (_rising, aside_).

This is a nice reception.

[_There is a knock from the left_.]

KING.

Was that not another knock? [_A stronger knock_.] This castle is
haunted, I do believe. And I have indeed been fortunate enough to
prevent the outbreak of a conspiracy! [_A louder knock_.] Who is there
at that door? You will not answer? Then I must open it myself.

QUEEN (_steps before him_).

No, you will not.

KING.

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