Part 6 out of 7
The Princess. Both my sanctity and any good fortune I enjoy. It
is nothing but my relationship to your Majesty that induces the
tradespeople to give me unlimited credit.
The King. You don't feel any awkwardness about it, then?
The Princess. Not a bit! The good folk have to maintain many worse
parasites than me!--By the way, talking of parasites, is it true
that you have pensioned off all your lords-in-waiting and their
The King. Yes.
The Princess. Ha, ha, ha! But why did you make the special
stipulation that they should live in Switzerland?
The King. Because there is no court in Switzerland, and--
The Princess. And so they could not fall into temptation again!
I have had many a good laugh at the thought of it. But it has its
serious side too, you know; because your Majesty cannot dispense
with a court.
The King. Why not?
The Princess. Well, suppose some day you are "joined in the bonds
of holy matrimony," as the parsons so beautifully put it?
The King. If I were, it would be for the sake of knowing what
family life is.
The Princess. Like any other citizen?
The King. Precisely.
The Princess. Are you going to keep no servants?
The King. As many as are necessary--but no more.
The Princess. Then I must secure a place as chambermaid in your
Majesty's household as soon as possible. Because if my financial
circumstances are inquired into there will be nothing else left for
me but that!
The King. You have too sacred a vocation for that, Princess!
The Princess. How pretty! Your Majesty is a poet, and poets are
allowed to be enthusiastic about ideals. But the people are poets
too, in their way; they like their figure-head to be well gilded,
and don't mind paying for it. That is their poetry.
The King. Are you certain of that?
The Princess. Absolutely certain! It is a point of honour with
The King. Then I have to weigh my honour against theirs! And
my honour forbids me--for the honour of my people and their
poetry--to keep up my palaces, my guards, and my court any
longer! _Voila tout_!
The Princess. My dear King, certain positions carry with them
The King. Then I know higher duties than those!--But, Princess,
here are we two seriously discussing--
The Princess. Yes, but there is something at the bottom of it that
is not to be laughed away. All tradition and all experience
proclaim it to be the truth that a king--the kingly majesty--should
be a dignity apart; and should be the ultimate source of law,
surrounded with pomp and circumstance, and secure behind the
fortified walls of wealth, rank, and hereditary nobility. If he
steps out of that magic circle, the law's authority is weakened.
The King. Has your Royal Highness breakfasted yet?
The Princess. No. (Bursts out laughing.)
The King. Because, if you had, I should have had great pleasure
is giving you a lesson in history; but on an empty stomach that
would be cruel.
The Princess. Do you know--you used to be such an entertaining
king, but this last year you have become so tedious!
The King. Most beautiful of princesses! Do you really mean to say
that I rise and fall in your estimation according as I have my
pretty royal gew-gaws on or not?
The Princess. In my estimation?
The King. Or in any one's? You know the story of "The Emperor's New
The Princess. Yes.
The King. We don't keep up that pretence any longer.
The Princess. But will every one understand?
The King. You understand, don't you?
The Princess. The people or I--that is all the same, I suppose!
You are very flattering.
The King. Heaven forbid that I should lump your Royal Highness
together with the common herd; but--
The Princess. We have already had proof of the fact that your
Majesty does not hold the same place in _every one's_ estimation
that you do in mine, at all events!
The King. If I occupy a place of honour in your Royal Highness's
heart, your Royal Highness may be certain that--
The Princess. I will interrupt you to save you from speaking an
untruth! Because the way to attain to a place of honour in your
Majesty's heart is not to admire you as I do, but, on the contrary,
to shout out: "I despise you!"--Au revoir!
The King. You wicked, terrifying, dangerous--
The Princess. --omniscient and ubiquitous Princess! (Makes a deep
curtsey, and goes away.)
The King (calling after her). In spite of everything, my heart goes
The Princess. --to show me the door! I know all about that! (To
the COUNTESS.) Come, Countess! (Goes out. FALBE, an old gentleman
in civilian dress, has come in from the side to which the KING'S
back is turned.)
The King. How the devil did she--?
Falbe (coming up behind him). Your Majesty!
The King (turning quickly). Ah, there you are!
Falbe. Yes, sir--we have been walking about in the park for some
time; your Majesty was engaged.
The King. Not engaged--I was only deadening thoughts by gossiping.
My anxiety was too much for me. So they have come?--both of them?
Falbe. Both of them.
The King. Can I believe it! (Appears overcome.) But--you must wait
a moment! I can't, just at this moment--. I don't know what has
come over me!
Falbe. Are you unwell, sir? You look so pale.
The King My nerves are not what they should be. Is there any water
Falbe (pointing, in astonishment). Why, there is the fountain,
The King. Of course! Of course!--I don't seem able to collect my
thoughts. And my mouth is as dry as--. Look here, I am going that
way (points); and then you can--you can bring the ladies here.--She
is here! She is here! (Goes out to the left, and turns round as he
goes.) Don't forget to lock the gates of the inner park!
Falbe. Of course not, Sir. (Goes out to the right, and returns
bringing in the BARONESS MARC and CLARA.) His Majesty will be
here in a moment. (Goes out to the right.)
Clara. You must stay near enough for me to be able to call you.
Baroness. Of course, my dear. Compose yourself; nothing can happen.
Clara. I am so frightened.
Baroness. Here is the King! (The KING comes in and bows to them.)
The King. Excuse me, ladies, for having kept you waiting. I am
very grateful to you both for coming.
Baroness. We only came upon your Majesty's solemn promise--
The King. --which shall be inviolable.
Baroness. I understand that you wish to speak to Miss Ernst alone?
The King. Your ladyship need only go up to the top of that little
slope. (Points.) I can recommend the view from there.
Baroness. The interview will not be a long one, I suppose?
The King. If it is, I give your ladyship permission to come and
interrupt us. (The BARONESS goes out. The KING turns to CLARA.) May
I be permitted to thank you again--you especially--for having been
so good as to grant me this interview?
Clara. It will be the only one.
The King. I know that. You have not condescended to answer one
of my letters--
Clara. I have not read them.
The King. --so there was nothing left for me but to address myself
to the Baroness. She was _obliged_ to listen to me, Miss Ernst.
Clara (trembling). What has your Majesty to say to me?
The King. Indeed, I can't tell it you in a single sentence. Won't
you sit down? (CLARA remains standing.) You must not be afraid
of me. I mean you no harm; I never could mean you any harm.
Clara (in tears). Then what do you call the persecution that I
have endured for more than a year?
The King. If you had condescended to read a single one of my long
and many letters you would have known I call it a passion that is
stronger than--. (CLARA turns to go. The KING continues anxiously.)
No, Miss Ernst, by everything you hold dear, I beg you not to leave
Clara. Then you must not insult me!
The King. If that is an insult your terms are very hard.
Clara. Hard? No, but what you have done to me is hard! (Bursts into
The King. Don't cry, Miss Ernst! You don't know how you hurt me!
Clara (angrily). Do you know what it means to try and ruin a young
The King. I repeat that you are doing me an injustice
Clara. An injustice?--Good God! Do you know who I am?
The King (taking of his hat respectfully). You are the woman I
Clara (quietly and with dignity). Your Majesty has solemnly
promised not to insult me.
The King. As sure as there is a heaven above us I will not, and
could not, insult you! But I will obey your wishes.
Clara. When a king says such a thing as--as you did just now, to a
poor little governess, it is more than an insult! It is so
cowardly, so base! And to think that you could have the heart to do
it after what you have done to my father!
The King. Your father?--I?
Clara. Do you really not know who I am?
The King I don't understand--
Clara. Whose daughter I am, I mean?
The King. I only know that your father's name is Ernst. (Suddenly.)
Surely your father is not--?
Clara. Professor Ernst.
The King. The republican?
Clara (slowly). Yes. (A pause.) I may remind your Majesty that he
was sentenced for high treason. And why? Because he warned the
young men at the university against the bad example set by the
King! (A pause.) He was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment.
In escaping from his prison he broke both his legs; and now he
lives in exile--a cripple--supported by what money I am able to
earn. (A pause.) You have ruined his life--and now you are trying
to ruin mine too!
The King. I beg of you--!
Clara. I am ashamed of my tears. It is not compassion for myself
or for my father that makes them flow; it is the heartless
injustice of it all that overcomes me.
The King. God knows, if only I could atone for the injustice--!
But what can I do?
Clara. You can let me alone, so that I may do my work in peace;
that is what you can do! Neither he nor I ask for more than that--
The King. I must do more than that!
Clara. No! Can you not understand that a girl who is persecuted
by the king's attentions cannot be a governess? All you will
achieve will be to rob me and my father of our bread!--Oh, God!
The King. But my intention is not to--
Clara (interrupting him). And you are not even man enough to be
ashamed of yourself!
The King. Yes, you may say what you please to me!
Clara. I have nothing more to say to you. I have said what I have
to say. (Turns to go.)
The King. No, don't go! You have not even heard me yet. You don't
even know what I want to beg of you!
Clara. My dishonour.
The King (vehemently). You misunderstand me utterly! If you had
only read a single one of my letters you would have known that
there is standing before you a man whom you have humbled. Ah, don't
look so incredulous! It is true, if there is any truth in anything.
You don't believe me? (Despairingly.) How am I to--! A man who has
risked your contempt for more than a year, and has been faithful to
you without even being allowed to see you or exchange a word with
you--who has had no thought for anything or any one else--is not
likely to be doing that out of mere idleness of heart! Do you not
believe that, either?
The King. Well, then, there must surely be some general truths that
you, as Ernst's daughter, cannot refuse to believe! Let me ask you
if you can understand how a man becomes what I was at the time when
I repeatedly insulted you. You must know, from your father's books,
in what an unnatural atmosphere a king is brought up, the soul-destroying
sense of self-importance which all his surroundings foster, until,
even in his dreams, he thinks himself something more than human;
the doubtful channels into which his thoughts are forced, while any
virtues that he has are trumpeted abroad, and his vices glossed
over with tactful and humorous tolerance. Don't you think that a
young king, full of eager life, as I was, may plead something in
excuse of himself that no other man can?
Clara. Yes, I admit that.
The King. Then you must admit that the very position he has to
assume as a constitutional monarch is an acted lie. Think what a
king's vocation is; _can_ a vocation of that sort be hereditary?
Can the finest and noblest vocation in the world be that?
The King. Then suppose that he realises that himself; suppose that
the young king is conscious, however dimly and partially, of the
lie he is living--and suppose that, to escape from it, he rushes
into a life of pleasure. Is it not conceivable that he may have
some good in him, for all that? And then suppose that one morning,
after a night of revelling, the sun shines into his room; and he
seems to see upon the wall, in letters of fire, some words that
were said to him the night before--true words (CLARA looks up at
him in surprise)--the words: "I despise you!" (CLARA gives a
start.) Words like that can burn out falsehood. And he, to whom
they are said, may long to hear again the tones of the voice that
spoke them. No man has ever hated what has given him new life. If
you had read a single one of the letters which I felt impelled to
write even if they were refused acceptance--you would not have
called it persecution. (CLARA does not answer.) And, as for my
persecution of your father--I am not going to make any excuses for
myself; I will only ask you to remember that a king has no control
over the law and its judgments. I feel the sincerest respect for
Clara. Thank you.
The King. And it is just part of the falsehood I was speaking of,
that he should be condemned for saying of me what I have said a
thousand times of myself!
Clara (softly). Dare I believe that?
The King. Ah, if only you had read one of my letters! Or even the
little book of poems I sent you last! I thought that, if you would
not receive my letters, perhaps a book--
Clara. I do not accept anonymous gifts.
The King. I see you are on your guard--although I don't admit that
the poems were mine! May I read it to you?
Clara. I don't understand--.
The King. One that I marked--for you. It will prove to you what
you refuse to believe.
Clara. But if the poem is not yours?
The King. The fact that I have marked it shows that its sentiments
apply to me. Will you let me read it to you? (CLARA looks up.) Do
not be too much surprised, Miss Ernst! (Takes a slim volume from
his pocket.) I found this somewhere. (Turns over the leaves.) It
won't take long to read. May I?
Clara. If only I understood--
The King. --why I want to read it? Simply for the reason that you
have forbidden me to speak to you--or to write to you; but not, as
yet, to read to you! (CLARA smiles. A pause.) Do you know--a little
event has just happened in my life?--and yet not such a little one,
Clara. What is that?
The King. I have seen you smile for the first time.
Clara. Your Majesty!
The King. But, Miss Ernst, is it an insult, too, to see you smile?
Clara (smiling). If I consent to hear the poem, shall not the
The King. --hear it also? With pleasure; but not at the same time!
Please! Because I am a very bad reader. You can show it to the
Baroness afterwards, if you like. (CLARA smiles.) May I?
Clara. You are sure there is nothing in it that--
The King. You can interrupt me, if you think fit. It is called "The
Young Prince;" and it is about--no, I won't tell you what it is
about unless you will be so good as to sit down, so that I can sit
down too. If I stand up I shall be sure to begin declaiming, and I
do that shockingly badly!--You can get up again when you like, you
know! (CLARA smiles and sits down. The KING sits down beside her.)
Now, then! "The Young Prince." (To himself.) I can scarcely
breathe. (He begins to read.)
Full fed with early flattery and pride--
(Breaks off.) Excuse me, Miss Ernst! I don't feel--
Clara. Is your Majesty not well?
The King. Quite well! It is only--. Now, then!
Full fed with early flattery and pride,
His sated soul was wearied all too young;
Honour and kingly pomp seemed naught to him
But whimsies from the people's folly sprung.
From such pretence he fled to what was real--
Fair women's arms, laughter and love and pleasure,
All the mad joy of life; whate'er he craved,
He found was given him in double measure.
Whate'er he craved--until one day a maiden
To whom he whispered, like a drunken sot,
"I'd give my life to make thee mine, my sweeting!"
Turned from him silently and answered not.
He sought by every means to win her to him;
But when his love with cold _contempt_ was met,
It was as if a judgment had been spoken
Upon his life, and doom thereon were set.
His boon companions left him; in his castles
None seemed to be awake but he alone,
Racked with remorse, enshrouded in the darkness
Of dull despair, yet longing to atone.
Then through the darkness she appeared! and humbly,
Emboldend by her gentleness of mien,
He sued once more: "If only thou wouldst listen!
If still 'twere not too late--"
(His emotion overcomes him, and he stops suddenly, gets up, and
walks away from CLARA. She gets up, as he comes back to her.)
Excuse me! I had no intention of making a scene. But it made me
think of--. (Breaks of again overcome by emotion, and moves a
little way from her. There is a pause as he collects himself before
returning to her.) As you can hear, Miss Ernst, it is nothing much
of a poem--not written by a real poet, that is to say; a real poet
would have exalted his theme, but this is a commonplace--
Clara. Has your Majesty anything more to say to me? (A pause.)
The King. If I have anything more to say to any one, it is to you.
Clara. I beg your pardon.
The King. No, it is I should beg yours. But I am sure you do not
wish me to lie to you.
Clara (turning her head away). No.
The King. You have no confidence in me. (Control, his emotion.)
Will you ever, I wonder, come to under stand that the only thing I
crave for now is--one person's confidence!
Clara. Any one who speaks as your Majesty has done to-day surely
craves for more than that.
The King. More than that, yes; but, first of all, one person's
Clara (turning away). I don't understand--
The King (interrupting her, with emotion). Your life has not been
as empty and artificial as mine.
Clara. But surely you have your task here to fill it with?
The King. I remember reading once about the way a rock was
undermined, and the mine filled with gunpowder with an electric
wire leading to it. Just a slight pressure on a little button and
the great rock was shattered into a thousand pieces. And in the
same way everything is ready here; but the little pressure--to
cause the explosion--is what I am waiting for!
Clara. The metaphor is a little forced.
The King. And yet it came into my mind as unconsciously as you
broke off that twig just now. If I do not get what I lack, nothing
can be accomplished--there can be no explosion! I shall abandon the
whole thing and let myself go under.
Clara. Go under?
The King. Well, not like the hero of a sensational novel--not
straight to the bottom like a stone--but like a dreamer carried off
by pixies in a wood, with one name ever upon my lips! And the world
would have to look after itself.
Clara. But that is sheer recklessness.
The King. I know it is; but I am reckless. I stake everything upon
one throw! (A pause.)
Clara. Heaven send you may win.
The King. At least I am daring enough to hope that I may--and there
are moments when I almost feel certain of victory!
Clara (embarrassed). It is a lovely morning--
The King. --for the time of year; yes. And it is lovelier here than
it is anywhere else!
Clara. I cannot really understand a course of action which implies
a want of all sense of responsibility--
The King. Every one has their own point of view. A scheme of life,
to satisfy me, must have its greatest happiness hidden away at its
core; in my case that would be to have a house of my own--all to
myself, like any other citizen--from which I should go away to my
work, and come back to as to a safe refuge. That is the button on
the electric wire, do you understand? It is the little pressure on
it that I am waiting for. (A pause.)
Clara. Have you read my father's book, _Democratic Monarchy_?
The King. Yes.
Clara. He wrote it when I was a child; and so I may say that I grew
up amongst ideas like--like those I have heard from you to-day. All
the friends that came to our house used to talk to me about it.
The King. Then no doubt you heard the crown prince talked about,
Clara. I think I heard his name oftener mentioned at home than any
one's. I believe the book was written expressly for you.
The King. I can feel that when I read it. If only I had been
allowed to read it in those days! Do you remember how in it your
father maintains, too, that all reform depends on the beating down
of the hedge that surrounds royalty?--on a king's becoming, as he
says, "wedded to his people" in the fullest sense of the word, not
irregularly or surreptitiously? No king can share his people's
thoughts if he lives apart from them in a great palace, married to
a foreign princess. There is no national spirit behind a
complicated court life of outlandish ceremonial.
Clara (turning away her head). You should have heard how vehemently
my father used to assert those ideas.
The King. And yet he abandoned them.
Clara. Became a republican, you mean?
The King. Yes.
Clara. He was so disappointed. (A pause.)
The King. I sometimes wonder every one isn't a republican! It must
come to that in the end; I can see that. If only royalties nowadays
thought seriously enough about it to realise it!
Clara. It is made so difficult for them by those who surround them.
The King. Yes, you see, that is another reason why any such reform
must begin at home. Do you think that a king, who went every day to
his work from a home that was in every respect like that of one of
his people, could fail in the long run?
Clara. There are so many different kinds of homes.
The King. I mean a home that holds love instead of subservience--
comfort instead of ceremony-truth instead of flattery; a home
where--ah, well, I need not teach a woman what a home means.
Clara. We make them what they are.
The King. Surely; but they are especially what women make them. (A
Clara. The sun is quite strong now.
The King. But it can scarcely pierce through the screen of leaves
Clara. When the sun shines down like this and the leaves tremble--
The King. The sunshine seems to tremble too.
Clara. Yes, but it makes one feel as if everything were trembling--
even deep down into our hearts!
The King. That is true.--Yes, its homes are the most precious
things a nation makes. Their national characteristics mean
reverence for their past and possibilities for their future.
Clara. I understand better now what you meant.
The King. When I said I wanted to begin at the beginning?
Clara. Yes. (A pause.)
The King. I cannot do otherwise. My heart must be in my work.
Clara (smiling). My father had his heart in his work, too.
The King. Forgive me--but don't you think it was just the want of
an object in his life that led your father to push his theories too
far?--an object outside himself, I mean?
Clara. Perhaps. If my mother had lived--. (Stops.)
The King. --he might have taken it differently; don't you think so?
Clara. I have sometimes thought so. (A pause.)
The King. How still it is! Not a sound!
Clara. Yes, there is the fountain.
The King. That is true; but one ends by hardly hearing a continuous
sound like that.
Clara. There is a tremulousness in _that_ too. (Looks round her.)
The King. What are you looking for?
Clara. It is time to look for the Baroness.
The King. She is up on that slope. Shall I call her? Or--perhaps
you would like to see a fine view?
The King. Then let us go up to her together! (They go.)
(SCENE. An open place in the town. It is evening, and the square is
badly lit. On the right is the club, a large building, standing
alone; lights are shining from all its windows. Steps lead from the
door, above which is a balcony. The square is full of people. In
the background, standing on the lowest step of the pedestal of an
equestrian statue, is a BALLAD SINGER, singing to the accompaniment
of his guitar. Cigars, oranges, and other wares are being sold by
hawkers. The singer's voice is heard before the curtain rises. The
crowd gradually joins him in the refrain which he repeats after
each verse of his ballad.)
The Ballad Singer (sings).
The Princeling begged and begged and begged
Her love, on bended knee.
The Maid said craftily, "Nay, nay,
I doubt your high degree!"
She knew the might, the might, the might
Of love's distracting hour;
How royalty, with all its pomp,
Will curtsey to its power.
The Princeling said: "Consent, my dear,
And you shall marry me."
The Maiden answered mockingly,
"Over the left, maybe!"
"Nay, as my Queen, enchanting maid,
And that this very day!"
The Maiden answered him, "Gadzooks!"
And fainted right away.
Recovering, she sighed, "My Lord,
Princesses will be wroth;
On every side they sit and wait
To plight to you their troth."
He answered, "Bosh!"--"But what of those
Who counselled you before?"
"Whom do you mean?"--"Your ministers!"
"I'll show them to the door!"
"But think, my dear--your generals,
Your nobles, court, and priest;
They'll try to drag you from my side
Or shun us as the pest."
"Nay, be not feared! I'll make you more
By dozens at a word,
Who'll bow and grovel if they be
To rank and place preferred."
"But think of the republicans!
My father!--what if he--?"
"The cock that crows the loudest, then,
Prime minister shall be!"
"Suppose the people stoutly swear
They'll none of me?"--"Nay, nay,
An order here, a title there,
And all will homage pay."
"Then I am yours!"--"Hurrah!" He holds
Her tight his arms between;
"Nay, not so fast, my kingly love!
Not till I am your Queen!"
She knew the might, the might, the might
Of love's distracting hour;
How royalty, with all its pomp,
Will curtsey to its power.
An Old Gentleman (to another). What is going on here?
Second Old Gentleman. I don't know. I have only just come.
A Workman. Why, the King is coming past here with her!
First Old Gentleman. Coming past here with her? To hold a court
at the palace?
The Workman. Yes.
Second Old Gentleman (taking a pinch of snuff). And I suppose those
fellows in the club mean to make a demonstration?--hiss them, or
something of that sort?
The Workman. So they say.
First Old Gentleman. Have they decided not to attend the court
A Dandy. Unanimously decided.
A Woman. It's filthy!
The Dandy. I beg your pardon?
The Woman. I say that those fellows in there will condescend to
seduce our daughters, right enough; but they won't condescend to
marry them. But, you see, the King does.
The Workman. I am not sure it wouldn't be better if he didn't.
The Woman. Well, I know people who say that she is quite a
The Dandy. I imagine that you have not read the newspapers?
First Old Gentleman. Hm!--one has to be a little careful as to how
far one believes the newspapers.
Second Old Gentleman (offering him his snuff-box). I am delighted
to hear you say that! There is such a lot of slander flying about.
That bawdy ballad just now; for instance.
The Woman. Yes, that's poking fun at _him_--I know that.
The Dandy. You had better take care what you are saying, my good
The Woman. Ah, I only say what I know.
(FLINK appears on the steps of the statue beside the BALLAD
Flink. Stop your stupid songs! I want to speak!
Voice in the Crowd. Who is that?
Flink. You don't know me. I have never made public speeches--and
least of all to street mobs.
Voice in the Crowd. Why are you doing it now, then?
Flink. Because I have been charged with a message to you! (The
members of the club rush to the windows and on to the balcony
and steps. Uproar.)
Voice in the Crowd. Be quiet! Let us hear him!
Flink. Listen to me, good people! You don't know me. But you used
to know a tall chap, with long white hair and a big hat, who often
made speeches to you. I mean Professor Ernst.
Voice in the Crowd. Three cheers for Professor Ernst. (Cheers.)
Flink. He was sent to prison, as you know, for high treason;
escaped from prison, but broke his legs. Now he is living in exile,
Voice in the Crowd. He got a pardon.
Another. No one knows where he is.
Flink. I know where he is. He has charged me to deliver a message
to you to-day.
Voices from the Club. Bravo!
Voices from the Crowd. Has he! Bravo, Ernst!
Voices from the Club. Be quiet, down there!
Flink. He made me promise that, on the day on which his daughter
was to be presented at the palace as the King's betrothed, I would
stand up in some public place where she would pass by, and say that
it was being done against her father's will and in spite of his
urgent entreaties and commands. (Loud cries of "Bravo!" from the
club. A voice in the crowd: "That is just what we thought!") I am
charged to announce publicly that he despises her for it and sends
her his curse! (Fresh cries of "Bravo!" from the club. Voices in
the crowd: "That's shocking!"--"No, he was quite right;" etc., etc.
Uproar.) Quiet, good people!
A Young Man in the Crowd. May I be allowed to ask a question?
(Shouts of "Yes!" and "No!" and laughter are heard.)
Flink. By all means.
The Young Man. Did not Professor Ernst himself advocate a king's
doing just what our King has done?
Voices in the Crowd. Hear, hear!
Flink. Yes, and in return was thrown into prison and is now an
incurable cripple. No one has been more cruelly treated by the
King's hirelings. And now here is his daughter willing to become
Count Platen (from the club balcony). I don't see why you want to
blame her! No; what I say is, that it is our dissolute King's fault
altogether! (Renewed uproar. Cries of: "Turn him out!" from the
Flink. I had something more to say about those who--. But make
those fellows at the club be quiet first.
A Voice. They are fighting over there! (Laughter. Wild uproar is
heard from the club, amidst which COUNT PLATEN'S voice is heard
shouting: "Let me be! Let me alone!"--and other voices: "Don't let
him go out!"--"He is drunk!" Eventually COUNT PLATEN comes out on
to the steps, hatless and dishevelled.)
Count Platen. I'm going to make a speech to you! I am better than
that crew in there! (Cries of "Bravo!") What I say is, that the
King is coming past here directly with a woman. (Applause, and
laughter. Every one crowds towards him. The police try to pull him
down. A free fight ensues.) Hiss them when they come! (Cries of
"Throw him down!"--"Bravo!"--"Hurrah!") I, Count Platen, tell you
to do so! Hiss him, howl at him, make a regular hullabaloo when he
comes! I, Count Platen, tell you to! (Cries of "Three cheers for
Count Platen!" are mingled with cries of "Three cheers for the
King!" There is a general tumult. COUNT PLATEN is hustled up and
down the steps, and tries to go on making his speech every time he
comes up.) He is defiling the throne!--He wants to marry a
traitor's daughter! Shame! I, Count Platen, say so! Here I stand--!
(A trumpet-call is heard; then cries of "Here is the King!"--"No,
it's the cavalry!"--"The cavalry are coming!"--"Clear the square!"
A shot is heard, followed by a scream; the people take to their
heels as another trumpet-call is heard. Curtain.)
(SCENE.--A room in the BARONESS' house. The BARONESS is sitting
reading. A MAID enters and brings her a card.)
Baroness (looking at the card). The Minister of the Interior!--
Show him in! (GRAN comes in.) I am glad to see you back, your
Excellency!--You have found him, then?
Gran. Yes, we have discovered him.
Baroness. And spoken to him?
Baroness. May I send for his daughter?
Gran. For heaven's sake
Baroness. What is the matter?
Gran. He is a dying man.
Gran. The King desires me to tell you that he has ordered a special
train to be ready at 10 o'clock, so that as soon as the court is
over she can go to her father. The King will accompany her.
Baroness. That is kind of him!
Gran. Then you will get ready everything that she needs for a
Gran. And without her being aware of it? The King does not wish her
to know anything of her father's condition till after the court.
Baroness. The court is to be held, then?
Gran. The court is to be held. After it is over, His Majesty will
tell her the news himself.
Baroness. I am thankful for that.--But what did Professor Ernst
say? Why has he not answered his daughter's letter? Why has he
hidden from her? Is he really irreconcilable?
Gran. Irreconcilable? He hates her!
Baroness. Good heavens!
Gran. And not only her, but every one that has made common cause
with the King--every one!
Baroness. I suppose it was to be expected.--But won't you sit down?
Gran (bows, but remains standing). I had a talk with his doctor
before I saw him. He had some hesitation about letting me in. It
was a fortnight since his patient had been able to move. But when I
told him my errand, and that I had come from the King, he let me
Baroness. How did he look? He was a fine man once.
Gran. He was sitting in a big chair, a mere paralysed wreck of a
man. But when he saw me and realised who I was--and probably, too,
what my errand was--he found the strength not only to move, but to
seize both his crutches and raise himself on them! I shall never
forget his gaunt ashen-grey face, the feverish gleam in his sunken
eyes, his unkempt hair and beard--
Baroness. He must have looked terrible!
Gran. He was like a creature from beyond the grave--with an
eternity of hatred in his eyes!
Baroness. Oh, my God!
Gran. When at last I could find my voice, I gave him his daughter's
greeting, and asked if she might come and see him. A dark look came
into his eyes, and his face flushed for a moment, as he gasped out:
"May she be--." He could not finish the sentence. His crutches
slipped from his grasp and he fell down, blood pouring from his
mouth. The doctor rushed to him; and for a long time we thought he
Baroness. But he came round?
Gran. I waited an hour or two before I started back. Then the
doctor told me that he had recovered consciousness, but that the
end could certainly not be far off--perhaps not twenty-four hours.
Baroness. It must have been a shock to you.
Gran. It was.
Baroness. But what did he mean by: "May she be--"
Gran. That is what I have been wondering.
Baroness. He cannot do her any harm, can he?
Grad. He may give her the same reception that he gave me; if she
Baroness, Even if the King is with her?
Gran. All the more then!
Baroness. Oh, that would be horrible! But it won't prevent her
Gran. Let us hope so!
Baroness. I am certain of it! She has extraordinary strength of
character--just like her father's.
Gran. Yes, that is the one thing I rely on.
Baroness. What do you mean? Your words sound so despondent!
Gran. I mean what is perfectly true--that everything will depend
upon her strength of character.
Baroness. What about the King, then?
Gran. I could say a great deal on that topic, Baroness; but (bows)
you must excuse me--I haven't time now.
Baroness. How are the elections going?
Gran. They are going well--if nothing happens now?
Baroness. What could happen?
Gran. The situation is very strained; one must expect anything.
Baroness. Are you anxious, your Excellency?
Gran. I must beg leave to retire now. (A MAID comes in.)
Maid (to GRAN). The Inspector of Police, who came with your
Excellency, wishes to know if he may speak to your Excellency.
Gran. I will come at once. (To the BARONESS.) There is rioting
going on in the town, not far from here--in front of the club.
Baroness (in alarm). What?--Isn't the King coming along that way?
Gran. Don't be afraid! We have taken our precautions--Good-bye!
Baroness. --He has quite alarmed me--everything seems to come at
the same time! She has had a suspicion that there was something
amiss with her father; I have noticed that, but she hasn't wanted
to speak about it. (CLARA comes in, dressed for the court.) Ah,
there you are, my dear! Quite ready?
Baroness (looking at her). Well, I daresay there have been royal
brides more elaborately dressed, but I am sure there has never
been one more charming. (Kisses her.)
Clara. I think I hear a carriage?
Baroness. I expect it is the King!
Clara. I am afraid it is too early yet--but all the same I hope it
Baroness. Do you feel afraid?
Clara. No, no--it is not that at all; it is something--something
that you don't--a kind of feeling as if--as if some one were
haunting me; and I know who it is. I only feel secure when the King
is with me. I hope it may be he coming. (Goes to the window.)
(The MAID comes in.)
Maid. A lady wishes to speak to you, Miss Ernst--
Baroness. A lady?
Clara. Didn't she give her name?
Maid. She is veiled--and very handsomely dressed.
Clara (with decision). No! I can see no one.
Baroness. No one that we do not know. (To the MAID.) You ought
to know that.
Maid (hesitatingly). But I think it is--. (The door opens and the
PRINCESS comes in.)
Baroness. What does this mean? Clara! leave us, my dear.
Princess (drawing aside her veil). Do you know me?
Clara and Baroness. The Princess!
Princess. Are you Clara Ernst?
Princess (haughtily, to the BARONESS). Leave us alone! (The
BARONESS goes out.) Before going to the palace I wanted to come
here--even at the risk of meeting the King.
Clara. He has not come yet. (A long pause.)
Princess. Have you thought well over what you are going to do?
Clara. I think so.
Princess. I don't think you have. Have you read what the papers say
about it--every one of them--to-day?
Clara. No. The King has advised me not to.
Princess. But the letters that have been sent to you? I know
letters have been written to you.
Clara. The King has advised me not to read them either. He takes
all the letters.
Princess. Do you know that they are rioting in the streets close to
Clara (in alarm). No!
Princess. You will be received with hisses, hooting--perhaps with
stone throwing. You didn't expect anything like that, did you?
Princess. What shall you do?
Clara (after a moment, quietly). I shall go with the King.
Princess. A nice road you are dragging him along, truly! And I
assure you that the farther you go along it, the worse it will
become. You cannot possibly have prepared yourself for all that you
will have to go through.
Clara. I think I have.
Princess (in surprise). What do you mean? How?
Clara (bending her head). I have prayed to God.
Princess. Pshaw! I mean that you cannot have considered the misery
into which you are dragging the King--and the disgrace and trouble
you are bringing upon all his people. (CLARA is silent.) You are
young still; your heart cannot be altogether hardened yet, whatever
your past may have been.
Clara (proudly). I have no reason to be ashamed of my past.
Princess. Indeed? What sort of a past has it been, then?
Clara. One full of suffering, princess--and of work. (A pause.)
Princess. Do you know what the King's past has been?
Clara (drooping her head). Ah, yes.
Princess. Yours will be tarred with the same brush--no matter what
it really has been.
Clara. I know that. He has told me so.
Princess. Really!--After all, is it a sacrifice you are making for
his sake? Do you love the King?
Clara (faintly). Yes.
Princess. Then listen to me. If you loved the King, you would have
made a _real_ sacrifice for him. We are women, you and I; we can
understand these things without many words. But such a sacrifice
does not consist in consenting to be his queen.
Clara. It is not I that wished it.
Princess. You have allowed yourself to be persuaded?--Well, you are
either deceiving yourself, my girl, or you are deceiving him.
Perhaps you began with the one and are ending with the other.
Anyway, it is time you had your eyes opened as to which of you it
is that is making the sacrifice. Do you not know that, on your
account, he is already the target for general contempt? (CLARA
bursts into tears.) If that makes you repent, show it--show it by
Clara. I repent of nothing.
Princess (in astonishment). What state of mind are you in, then?
Clara. I have suffered terribly. But I pray God for strength to
Princess. Don't talk nonsense! The whole thing is a horrible
confusion of ideas--half remorse and half cant--the one so mixed up
with the other in your mind that you cannot disentangle them. But,
believe me, others feel very sure that sacred things and--and what
I won't call bluntly by its name, go very ill together! So don't
waste those airs on me; they only irritate me!
Clara. Princess, don't be cruel to me. I _am_ suffering, all the
Princess. Why on earth do you want to go any farther with the
affair? If you aren't clear about it, take advice! Your father is
opposed to it, isn't he?
Clara. Yes. (Throws herself into a chair.)
Princess. He has hidden himself away from you. You don't know where
he is, or how he is--though you know he is crippled and ill. And,
meanwhile, here you are in full dress, with a rose in your hair,
waiting to set out to a court at the palace! Are you willing to
pass through contemptuous rioting crowds, and over your sick
father's body, to become queen? What callous levity! What a
presumptuous mixture of what you think is love, duty, sacrifice,
trial--with an unscrupulous ambition--! The King? Are you depending
on him? He is a poet. He loves anything unusual or sensational.
Resistance stimulates him; and that is what drives him into
believing that his love will be unending. When you have been
married a week, it will be all over. If he had not met with
resistance, it would have been all over before this. I know the
King better than you; for I know his faithlessness. It is like his
love--unending! It hurts you to hear that, does it? Well, it hurts
one's eyes to look at the sun. But I can tell you about these
things. The only reason I had for coming was to tell you what I
know. And now that I have seen you, I can tell you that I know one
thing more--and I will tell you what it is. If you actually allow
the King, with his ardent temperament, to stray into a path which
will lead to the ruin of his career, your action will, in the
fullness of time, recoil so appallingly upon your own head that it
will kill you. I know you are one of those that faithlessness,
remorse and contempt _would_ kill.--Don't look so beseechingly at
me; I cannot retract a word of what I have said. But I can tell you
now what I had decided upon before I came. _I_ will look after your
future. I am not rich; but, as sure as I stand here before you, you
shall live free from care--you shall have everything that you need--
for the rest of your life. I want no thanks! I do it for the sake
of the King, and for the sake of the country to which I belong.
It is my duty. Only get up now and come with me to my carriage.
(Offers CLARA her hand.)
Clara. If it were as easy as that, I should have done it long, long
Princess (turns away. Then comes back). Get up. (Pulls her on to
her feet.) Do you love the King?
Clara. Do I love him? I am a motherless child, and have lived alone
with a father who has been constantly persecuted on account of his
principles; I shared his ideals from a very early age, and I have
never abandoned them since. Then one day I was given the chance of
making these ideals real. "What _I_ long to do, _you_ shall
accomplish!" he said. There is something great about that,
Princess--something all-powerful--a call from God Himself. Of that
I am certain.
Princess. It is merely a rhapsody of the King's--nothing else!
Clara. Then I will make it real and live it! I have given my whole
soul to it, and have strengthened his to the same end. It has been
my ideal all my life.
Princess. And you believe that it will last?
Princess. Then let me beg you to believe this, too--it will last
until he has attained his end.
Clara. If you mean our marriage, let me tell you that _that_ is not
Princess (in surprise). What is, then?
Clara. Our end is to accomplish something together. That task shall
be consecrated and ennobled by our love. Yes, you may look at me!
Those were his own words.
Princess. That answer!--That thought!--But what certainty have you?
Clara. Of what?
Princess. That you did not put the thought into his mind?--and that
the fire in his soul may not flicker out?
Clara. If I needed any assurance, I should find it in the fact that
he changed his whole life for my sake; he waited for me for more
than a year. Has he ever done that for any one before? I am sure
he has never needed to! (The PRINCESS winces.) It is those who have
seduced that "ardent" temperament of his--you called it that
yourself--that are to blame, and not I, Princess! (A pause.) I
checked him to the best of my power when he came to me as he was
wont to go to others. (A pause.) Indeed it is no sacrifice to
become his wife. When one loves, there is no question of sacrifice.
But the position in which I now stand exposes me to more suspicion
than the humblest of his subjects, to more scorn than if I were his
mistress. Think how you have spoken to me to-day yourself,
Princess! (A pause.) It is no sacrifice to endure such things for
the man one loves. It was not I that used the word "sacrifice,"
either; and as for the sacrifice you implied that I ought to have
made, I don't wish to understand what you meant by that, even
though I am a woman as well as you! But if you knew, Princess, how
hard a fight I have been through before I found the strength to
cast in my lot with his, against my father's wish and against you
all--you would not have spoken to me about making a sacrifice. At
all events you would not have spoken to me as you have done to-day;
because you are not cruel, and I know that at bottom you mean me
well. (A longer pause.)
Princess. This is more serious than I knew.--Poor child, your
disappointment will be all the more serious.
Clara. Not with him!
Princess (half to herself). Is it possible he can be so changed?
Was that what was needed to secure a hold on him--? (To CLARA.)
Is he coming here to fetch you?
Princess. What does he want to hold this court for? What is the
good of throwing down this challenge to all the dignitaries of his
kingdom?--especially if, after all, he means to live the life of an
Clara. He wished it.
Princess. An exciting episode in his rhapsody! Why did you not
Clara. Because I agree with him.
Princess. Perhaps you don't fully realise what it means?--what
humiliation the King will have to undergo?
Clara. I only know that it seems to me that these things should
be done openly, and that he has plenty of courage.
Princess. That is mere bravado. Are you going in that dress?--to
court in that dress? (CLARA is silent.) I say it is mere bravado.
Clara. I have no better dress.
Princess. What do you mean? Surely the King can--? Are you jesting?
Clara (shyly). I do not allow the King to give me anything; not
Princess. Doesn't he pay your expenses here, then? (Looks round the
Princess. It is the Baroness?
Clara. She and I. We are both poor.
Princess. Ah, yes--she has lost her post now, hasn't she?
Clara. On my account--yes. And you, Princess, who have known her--
for she was once your governess--can you really suppose that she
would have been faithful to me if she did not trust me and feel
that this was right? You treated her so contemptuously when you
Princess. I seem to have broken in upon the most incomprehensible
romance!--Then you love the King? (CLARA nods her head.) He knows
how to love, and make a woman happy! He is a dazzling creature!--We
shall see now whether you are to suffer for all the hearts he has
broken. You are not the first woman he has loved.
Princess. Yes, let that sink into your mind! Your happiness is
embroidered with tears!
Clara. It is cruel of you to reproach me with it.
Princess. Forgive me! I really did not mean that.--But there is
still time to put on a more suitable dress. If you dare accept no
gifts from the King--you might from some one else? A King's bride
is a King's bride after all, you know!
Clara. He told me I should not need anything more than this.
Princess. Not in his eyes, I dare say. But we women know a little
better!--If it were only a necklace? Will you accept this one?
(Begins to unfasten hers.)
Clara. I knew you were kind.--But I daren't.
Princess. Why not?
Clara. Because--because people would think that--. (Bursts into
tears. A pause.)
Princess. Listen, my child. The whole thing is sheer lunacy; but--
as it cannot be altered--as soon as the court assembles I shall
take my place at your side and not leave you till it is all over.
Tell the King that! Good-bye!
Clara (going towards her). Princess!
Princess (kisses her, and whispers). Haven't you allowed him to
kiss you, either?
Clara (in a whisper). Yes, I have.
Princess (kissing her once snore). Love him! (The sound of carriage
wheels is heard. The BARONESS comes in.)
Baroness. I hear the King's carriage.
Princess. I don't wish to meet him. (Stretches out her hand to the
BARONESS.) Baroness! (Points to the door through which the BARONESS
has come in.) Can I get out that way?
Baroness. Yes. (She takes the PRINCESS out. A moment later the MAID
ushers in the KING, who is dressed in plain clothes and wearing no
The King. Clara!
Clara. My friend! (They embrace.)
The King. What does it mean?
The King. The Princess' carriage here?
Clara. She told me to greet you. She has just gone, and--
The King. And--?
Clara. She said as soon as the court assembled she would take her
place beside me and stay there till we left the palace.
The King. Is it possible?
Clara. It is _true_.
The King. You have conquered her! I know she could be conquered--
she has a heart, as well as a head! It is a good omen!--So she
offered to do _that_! What will our precious nobility have to say
Clara. They are about the streets, aren't they?
The King. Ah, then you know?
Clara. I know, too, that there has been rioting outside the club.
The King. You know that too?--and are not afraid?
Clara. Perhaps I might have been--but there is something else that
I am more afraid of. (Draws closer to the KING.)
The King. What is that?
Clara. You know. (A pause.)
The King. Have you been uneasy about him to-day too?
Clara. All day--incessantly. Something must have happened.
The King. Well, now I can tell you where he is.
Clara (eagerly). At last! Have you found him?
The King. Gran has been to see him.
Clara. Thank God! Is it far from here?
The King. This evening, immediately after the court, you and I
will both start for there in a special train. We shall be there
Clara (throwing her arms round his neck). Thanks, thanks! How
good you are! Thanks! How is he? Is he ill!
The King. Yes.
Clara. I knew it? And implacable?
The King. Yes.
Clara. I feel it! (Nestles closer in his arms.)
The King. Are you afraid?
The King. Dear, when you see him perhaps your fear will go.
Clara. Yes, only let me see him! Whatever he says, let me see him!
The King. Within twelve hours from now you shall! And I shall be
Clara. The finest thing about you is your kindness. Oh, I am so
glad you have come! I could not endure my fears any longer.
The King. There are dissensions going on about you!
Clara. Oh!--(Nestles in his arms again.)
The King. Bear up!--It will soon be over.
Clara. I believe it will. Yes, I know it will.--Let me walk about a
little! (The KING walks up and down with her.)
The King. And turn our thoughts to something else! Do you know
where I have come from?
The King. From our little house in the park.
Clara. Why, we drove past it yesterday!
The King. You will feel only _one_ person's presence there!
Wherever you go, you will be surrounded by the thoughts I have had
of you there. If you look out of the window, or go out on to the
balcony--on every rock, by each turn of the stream--on the lawns,
under the trees, among the bushes--everywhere you will find a
thousand thoughts of you hidden. Breathe the words "my darling
girl," and they will all come clustering round you!--Let us sit
Clara. It is all like a fairy tale.
The King. And I am the latest fairy prince! (He sits down and draws
her on to his knee.) And you are the little maid who comes, led by
good fairies, to the enchanted castle to wake him. He has been kept
asleep by wicked spells for many, many years.
Clara. For many, many years!
The King. I am not really _I_, nor you _you_. The monarch was
bewitched long ago. He was turned into a wild beast who gave reign
to his passion by night and slept by day. And now the maiden of
humble degree has become a woman and freed him from the spells.
Clara. Really! Ah, you are so clever at inventing things to cheat
my fears away from me. And you always succeed. But after all, you
know, I have no strength and no courage; I am so weak.
The King. You have more strength than I!--more than any one I
have ever known.
Clara. No, don't say that; but--you may be sure of this!--if I did
not feel that I had _some_ strength I would never try to throw in
my lot with yours.
The King. I will explain to you what you are! Some people are
tremendously more spiritual, more delicately constituted than
others; and they are a hundred times more sensitive. And they
fancy that is weakness. But it is just they who draw their strength
from _deeper_ sources, through a thousand imperceptible channels.
You will often find them with heads erect and valiant when others
have gone under; they merely bend before the storm, with supple
strength, when others break under it. You are like that!
Clara. You are very ingenious when you start explaining me!
The King. Well, listen to this! At the time when I was behaving so
badly to you, your terror, every time I approached you, was so
piteous that it was always before my eyes and rang in my ears
like a cry of agony from a wounded heart. It is true! It filled me
with terror, too. Do you call that weakness, to feel things so
intensely that another person is influenced by your feelings
against his will?
The King. And then, when I found you again--the way you listened to
Clara (stopping him with a kiss). Don't let us talk about it now!
The King. What shall we talk about, then? It is a little too early
to start yet.--Ah, I have it! We will talk about the impression you
will make this evening when you come forward through the brightly
lit rooms, radiant against the background of ugly calumny! That was
prettily put, wasn't it? "Is _that_ she?" they will think. And then
something will come into their eyes that will cheat them into
thinking that pearls and gold are strewn over your hair, over your
dress, over your--
Clara (putting her hand over his mouth). No, no, no! Now I am
going to tell you a little story!
The King. Tell away!
Clara. When I was a child, I saw a balloon being filled one day,
and there was a horrible smell from the gas. Afterwards, when I
saw the gleaming balloon rising in the air, I thought to myself:
"Ah, that horrid smell was something burning; they had to burn it
for the balloon to be able to rise." And after that, every time I
heard anything horrid said about my father, I felt as if something
was burning inside me, and I thought of the balloon and imagined I
could smell the smell. And then all at once I imagined I saw it
rising; the horrid part was burnt, and it was able to mount aloft!
I assure you that balloon was a good genius to me. And now, years
afterwards, when I have been a target for calumny myself--and
you for my sake--I have felt just the same thing. Every word has
burned; but I have got over it in a moment, and risen high, high
above it all! I never seem to breathe so pure an atmosphere as a
little while after something cruel has been said of me.
The King. I shall certainly set to work and abuse you at once, if
it has such delightful results! I will begin with a selection from
to-day's papers: "You Aspasia! You Messalina! You Pompadour! You
Phylloxera, that are eating into our whole moral vine-crop! You
blue-eyed curse of the country, that are causing panics in the
money-market, overthrowing ministries, and upsetting all
calculations in the elections! You mischievous hobgoblin, who are
pouring gall into the printers' ink and poison into the people's
coffee, filling all the old ladies' heads with buzzing flies, and
the King's Majesty with a million lover's follies!" Do you know
that, besides all the harm you are doing to-day, you are hastening
a revolution by ten years? You are! And no one can be sure whether
you haven't been pursuing the same wicked courses for the last
hundred years or more! All our royal and noble ancestors are
turning in their graves because of you! And if our deceased queens
have any noses left--
Clara (interrupting him). The Baroness! (They get up. The BARONESS
comes in wearing a cloak over her court dress and carrying CLARA'S
cloak over her arm.)
Baroness. I must take the liberty of disturbing you. Time is up!
The King. We have been killing it by talking nonsense.
Baroness. And that has put you in a good humour?
The King (taking his hat). In the best of humours! Here, my darling
(fastens CLARA'S cloak about her shoulders), here is the last
scandalous bit of concealment for you! When we take it off again,
you shall stand radiant in the light of your own truth. Come!
(Gives her his arm, and they go trippingly up to the back of the
room. Suddenly the phantom of an emaciated figure leaning on
crutches appears in their path, staring at them. His hair and
beard are in wild disorder, and blood is pouring from his mouth.
CLARA gives a terrified scream.)
The King. In Heaven's name, what is it?
Clara. My father!
The King. Where? (To the BARONESS.) Go and see! (The BARONESS
opens the doors at the back and looks out).
Baroness. I can see no one.
The King. Look down the corridor!
Baroness. No--no one there, either! (CLARA has sunk lifelessly into
the KING'S arms. After one or two spasmodic twitchings of her
hands, her arms slip away from him and her head falls back.)
The King. Help, help!
The Baroness (rushing to him with a shriek). Clara!
(SCENE.--A room in GRAN's house; the same as in Act I, Scene II.
GRAN is standing at his desk on the right. FLINK comes in carrying
a pistol-case, which he puts down upon the table.)
Flink. As you see. (Walks up and down for a little without
Gran. I haven't seen you since the day the King was here.
Flink. No.--Have you taken your holidays?
Gran. Yes; but, anyway, I am likely to have perpetual holidays
now! The elections are going against us.
Flink (walking about). So I hear. The clerical party and the
reactionaries are winning.
Gran. That would not have been so, but for her unhappy death--.
(Breaks off, and sighs.)
Flink. A judgment from heaven--that is what the parsons say, and
the women, and the reactionaries--
Gran. --and the landlords. And they really believe it.
Flink (stopping). Well, don't you believe it?
Gran (after a pause). At all events I interpret it differently from--
Flink. --from the parson? Naturally. But can any one doubt the fact
that it was the finger of fate?
Gran. Then fate assumed her father's shape?
Flink. Whether her father appeared to her at the moment of his
death or not (shrugs his shoulders) is a matter in which I am not
interested. I don't believe in such things. But that she was
suffering pangs of conscience, I do believe. I believe it may have
brought painful visions before her eyes.
Gran. I knew her pretty well, and I will answer for it she had no
guilty conscience. She was approaching her task with enthusiasm.
Any one that knew her will tell you the same. With her the King was
first and foremost.
Flink. What did she die of, then? Of enthusiasm?
Gran. Of being overwrought by the force of her emotions. Her task
was too great for her. The time was not ripe for it. (Sadly.) Our
experiment was bound to fail.
Flink. You condemn it when you say that!--But with her last breath
she called out: "My father!" And, just at that moment, he died,
fifty miles away from her. Either she _saw_ him, or she _imagined_
she saw him, standing before her. But his bloodstained, maltreated,
crippled form standing in the way of her criminal advance towards
the throne--is that not a symbol of maltreated humanity revolting
against monarchy at the very moment when monarchy wishes to atone!
Its guilt through thousands of years is too black. Fate is
Gran. But with what result? Are we rid of monarchy yet?
Flink. We are rid of that treacherous attempt to reconcile it with
modern conditions. Thank God it emerges, hand in glove with the
parsons and reactionaries, none the worse for its temporary
Gran. So everything is all right, I suppose?
Flink. For the moment--yes. But there used to exist here a strong
republican party, which enjoyed universal respect, and was making
extraordinary progress. Where is it now?
Gran. I knew that was why you came.
Flink. I have come to call you to account.
Gran. If I had been in your place I would not have acted so,
towards a defeated and wounded friend.
Flink. The republican party has often been defeated--but never
despised till now. Who is to blame for that?
Gran. None of us ever think we deserve contempt.
Flink. A traitor always deserves it.
Gran. It is but a step from the present state of things to a
republic; and we shall have to take that step in the end.
Flink. But at least we can do so without treachery.
Gran. I honestly believe that what we did was right. It may have
miscarried the first time, and may miscarry a second and a third;
but it is the only possible solution.
Flink. You pronounced your doom in those words.
Gran (more attentively). What do you mean by that?
Flink. We must make sure that such an attempt will not be made
Gran. So that is it.--I begin to understand you now.
Flink. The republican party is broken up. For a generation it will
be annihilated by contempt. But a community without a republican
party must be one without ideals and without any aspirations
towards truth in its political life--and in other respects as well!
That is what you are responsible for.
Gran. You pay me too great a compliment.
Flink. By no means! Your reputation, your personal qualities and
associations are what have seduced them.
Gran. Listen to me for a moment! You used to overrate me in the
hopes you had of me. You are overrating me now in your censure. You
are overrating the effects of our failure--you never seem to be
able to do anything but overshoot your mark. For that reason you
are a danger to your friends. You lure them on. When things go well
you lure them on to excess of activity; when things go ill, you
turn their despondency into despair. Your inordinate enthusiasm
obscures your wits. _You_ are not called upon to sit in judgment
upon any one; because you draw the pure truths that lie hidden in
your soul into such a frenzied vortex of strife that you lose sight
of them; and then they have so little of truth left in them that in
your hands they can be answerable for crimes.
Flink. Oh, spare me your dialectics!--because any skill you have in
them, _I_ taught you! You cannot excuse your own sins by running
over the list of mine; that is the only answer I have to make to
you! I don't stand before you as the embodiment of truth; I am no
braggart. No; but simply as one who has loved you deeply and now is
as deeply offended by you, I ask this question of your conscience:
What have you done with the love we had for one another? Where is
the sacred cause we both used to uphold? Where is our honour--our
Gran. I feel respect for your sorrow. Can you not feel any for
mine? Or do you suppose that I am not suffering?
Flink. You cannot act as you have done without bringing unhappiness
upon yourself. But there are others to be considered besides you,
and we have the right to call you to account. Answer me!
Gran. And is it really you--you, my old friend--that propose to do
Flink. God knows I would sooner some one else did it! But none can
do it so fitly as I--because no one else has loved you as I have. I
expected too much of you, you say? The only thing I wanted of you
was that you should be faithful! I had so often been disappointed;
but in you and your quiet strength I thought I had splendid
security that, as long as you lived, our cause would bear itself
proudly and confidently. It was your prestige that brought it into
being; your wealth that supported it. It did not cry aloud for the
blood of martyrs!--You were the happiness of my life; my soul
renewed its strength from yours.
Gran. Old friend--!
Flink. I was old, and you were young! Your nature was a harmonious
whole--it was what I needed to lean upon.
Gran. Flink, my dear old friend--!
Flink. And now, here you stand--a broken man, and our whole cause
broken with you; all our lives broken--at least mine is--
Gran. Don't say that!
Flink. You have destroyed my faith in mankind--and in myself, for I
see what a mistake I made; but it will be the last I shall make! I
took you to my heart of hearts--and now, the only thing I can do is
to call you to account!
Gran. What do you want me to do? Tell me!
Flink. We must stand face to face--armed! You must die! (A pause.)
Gran (without seeming greatly surprised). Of the two of us, it will
go hardest with you, old friend.
Flink. You think your aim will be the surer of the two? (Goes
towards the table.)
Gran. I was not thinking of that--but of what your life would be
afterwards. I know you.
Flink (opening the pistol-case). You need not be anxious! My life
afterwards will not be a long one. What you have done has robbed me
of anything to live for in this generation, and I don't aspire to
live till the next. So it is all over and done with! (Takes up the
Gran. Do you mean _here_--?
Flink. Why not? We are alone here.
Gran. The King is asleep in the next room. (Points to the door near
Flink. The King here?
Gran. He came here to-night.
Flink. Well, it will wake him up; he will have to wake up some
time, any way.
Gran. It would be horrible! No!
Flink. Indeed? It is for his sake you have betrayed me. You did
that as soon as ever you met him again. He has bewitched you. Let
him hear and see what he has done! (Holds out the pistols.) Here!
Gran. Wait. What you have just said brings a doubt into my mind. Is
not revenge, after all, the motive for what you are doing?
Gran. Yes. Don't misunderstand me; I am not trying to shuffle out
of it. If I were free to choose, I would choose death rather than
anything else. The King knows that, too. But I ask because there
ought to be some serious reason for anything that may happen. I am
not going to stand up and face a sentiment of revenge that is so
Flink (laying the pistols down). I hate the man who has led you
astray--that is true. When I was giving you the reasons why I took
upon myself the task of calling you to account, perhaps I forgot
that. I hate him. But the instrument that carries out a sentence is
one thing; the sentence itself is quite another. You arc sentenced
to death because you have betrayed our cause--and because you say
that you were right to do so. The world shall learn what that
costs. It costs a man's life.
Gran. So be it!
Flink. The pistols are loaded. I loaded them myself. I imagine that
you still have trust in my honour?
Gran (with a smile). Indeed I have.
Flink. One of them has a blank cartridge in it; the other is fully
Gran. But what do you mean? Suppose I were to--?
Flink. Don't be afraid! Heaven will decide! _You_ will not choose
the fully loaded one!--We shall stand face to face.
Gran. You are settling everything--the sentence, the challenge, the
choice of weapons, the regulations for the duel--!
Flink. Are you dissatisfied with that?
Gran. By no means! You are quite welcome! We are to have no
seconds? So be it. But the place?
Flink. The place? Here!
Flink. Why? (Holds out the two pistols to him. The door to the left
is opened softly. ANNA looks in, sees what is going on, and rushes
with a pitiful attempt at a scream to GRAN, putting her arms round
him protectingly, and caressing him with every sign of the utmost
Gran (bending down and kissing her). She is right! Why should I die
for the sake of dull theories, when I can hold life in my arms as I
do now? A man who is loved has something left, after all. I won't
Flink. If you were not loved, my friend, you might be allowed to
live. A cry of sorrow will be heard throughout the land, from the
King's palace to the meanest hovel, when you have been shot. And
that is just why I must do it! The louder the cry of sorrow, the
greater will be the silence afterwards. And in that silence is to
be found the answer to the question "Why?" The people will not
allow themselves to be cheated any longer.
Gran. Horrible! I won't do it! (Lifts ANNA in his arms as if she
were a child.)
Flink (going up to him). It is no mere theory that you are facing.
Look at me!
Gran. Old friend--_must_ it be?
Flink. It _must_. I have nothing else left to do.
Gran. But not here.
Flink. Since it cannot be here, then come out into the park. (Puts
the pistols into their case.) You owe me that.
Gran (to ANNA). You must go, my dear!
Flink (putting the pistol-case under his arm). No, let her stay
here. But you come! (They all three move towards the door. ANNA
will not let GRAN go, and there is a struggle until he, half
commanding and half entreating, persuades her to stay behind. The
two men go out, shutting the door after them. She throws herself
against the door, but it has been locked on the outside. She sinks
down to the floor in despair, then gets up, as if struck by a
sudden idea, rushes into the room on the right, and almost
immediately re-appears, dragging the KING after her. He is only
half-dressed and has no shoes on.)
The King. What is it? (A shot is heard.) What is it? (ANNA pulls
him to the door. He tries to open it, but in vain. She rushes to
the window, with the KING after her. Meanwhile the door is opened
from outside, and FALBE comes in, evidently overcome with emotion.)
What is it, Falbe? (ANNA runs out.)