ACT II

 

The queenís library, at Krantz. It is a large room full of books on shelves and tables. Upstage, a wooden staircase rises, wide and face-on, to the upper gallery, also filled with books and ornamented with horsesí heads. At the top of this inclined stairway with its brass-ball ornamentation, a tiny landing and a large window opened to the sky above the park. To left and right of this window, busts of Minerva and Socrates.

Downstage right, a big circular table with an astrolabe and a candelabra. Large armchair and divan nearby. Upstage, to the rear of the table, a sort of shooting gallery targets are suspended on. On the stagefloor, going from the shooting gallery to a bookcase door at the extreme left, a row of linoleum tiles. Around the targets, a rifle and pistol rack. Left and right, doors amid the books. Between the door and downstage left, the wall is covered with an immense geographical map above a white faience stove. In front of the stove, comfortable divan and arm-chairs. Shining parquet and red carpets. Afternoon light.

At the curtain, Felix de Willenstein, aided by Tony, loads the rifles and pistols and arranges them on their rack. He presses a button to advance the targets which come and go on rails and support into a recess the audience cannot see. Willenstein is handed targets by the deaf-mute, places them on the support.

 

Scene 1

 

FELIX: (Comporting himself so that Tony cannot see his mouth, for he can read lips.) Here filthy creature, rub the weapons. (He hands him a chamois.) And make them shining.

The Duke of Willenstein at the orders of an ape! And the queen tolerates that. And the queen encourages it. And the queen shows you her face. It is true that she shows it to an ape. Do not imagine itís a privilege. Itís the perfect expression of her disdain.

(While he finishes checking and sorting the weapons, Edith enters the gallery right and comes down the staircase.)

 

Scene 2

 

EDITH:Talking to yourself?

FELIX:I profit by Tonyís inability to understand me in order to speak some kind words to him

EDITH: (Reaching the floor.) On guard, Felix. He understands from he way your lips move.

FELIX:I sort myself so that he cannot see me.

EDITH:He is capable of understanding with his flesh.

FELIX:So he understands, let him. It matters little.

DITH:The queen requires that he be respected.

FELIX:But I respect him, Edith, I respect him. Look. (He bows to Tony.) You may go off, ordure. I have seen enough of you.

(Tony bows gravely, takes one last look at the weapons and departs. He mounts the staircase and disappears through the gallery left. Sound of a door.)

 

Scene 3

 

EDITH:(Low.) You know what has happened...

FELIX:I know that the castle is topsy-turvy after the scare the other night. They have not found the man?

EDITH: The man is in the castle.

FELIX:(Jolted.) What did you say?

EDITH:Felix, it is an unbelievable story. The man is in the castle. He lives here. And it is the queen who has brought it to pass.

FELIX:You are insane.

EDITH:One might have been at least. That supper for the king, that will to remain alone, throughout that unquiet night, it is one of Her Majestyís comedies.

FELIX:How do you know this?

EDITH:She told me this morning. She broke out laughing. She told me that she would never forget my face. That it was altogether too funny. That Krantz was sinister. That she had every right to amuse herself a little.

FELIX:I understand nothing,

EDITH:I do not, either.

FELIX:The queen knows that you are afraid. She wished to make fun of you.

EDITH:The queen never tells a lie. The man is within Krantz. She is hiding him. He was wounded in the park. There is blood on the floor.

FELIX:I believe I am dreaming. You tell me the queen has given entry to the castle to an anarchist after her life?

EDITH:A comedy. The queen considers me as having the worst reading voice there is in the world. She wanted a man to read to her and already knew which one. When the queen decides a matter, not for me to apprise you she is not influenced by anyone and she always arrives at what she wishes.

FELIX: (With an angry gesture.) Who is the man?

EDITH:You say that very well. Now, Felix, you shall have to quiet your wrath and keep yourself calm. The queen requests me to give you her orders. That man has come here, entered Krantz by a whim of the queenís. He is her guest and she requests you to consider him in that way.

FELIX:But who? Who? Who?

EDITH:There are several more surprises I have in store for you, The man is the author of the scandalous poem of which she sang us praises. How is it I did not divine that such extravagant admiration included a bravado and that her highness did not mean it?

FELIX:The person with the nom de plume Azrael is at Krantz? Lives within Krantz?

EDITH:The queen was attacked. It was necessary to conquer him. At least, so much I suppose. You know her. She gave me not one detail. ďHer fair resolveĒ all along the line. Poets are down-and-outs at the orders of whoever pays them. She wasted no time getting information and hiring this poet. Except, as she imagined her court, the police and the whole castle increased the obstacles, she has found it fascinating to move on the sly.

FELIX:And the brigade! What about the brigade!

EDITH:Count de FoŽhn, was he there? No. And so? The chief brigade commandant is of the queenís party. The alarm was a false alarm. There was shouting and firing, but there were orders to miss. Once in the castle, your graceful Tony had only to take the person by the hand and conduct him into the presence of Her Majesty.

FELIX:Time to warn the archduchess and for her to intervene, anything might happen.

EDITH:The principal thing is not to lose your head. You lose it only too quickly,I advise you to have the greatest prudence. You know with what alacrity the queen passes from laughter to choler. We are the only people of Krantz with whom the secret is shared out. Whatever revolt it raises in us, our part is to keep ourselves calm and to copy her pose. I will do the rest.

FELIX:And Her Majesty will place me in the presence of that person.

EDITH:Doubt not. And I save you the best for the last. That person is the double of His Majesty.

FELIX:The kingís likeness!

EDITH:I was leaving the queenís chamber when she recalled me. ďEdith you will receive a shock without doubt when you see my new reader. It is a charity that I prepare you and that you warn Felix. You will think you are seeing the king. It is a resemblance quite prodigious.Ē And as I stood right there, stupefied... she added ďThe king looked like a local peasant. It is not at all so extraordinary that a local peasant looks quite like him. It is moreover that resemblance that has decided me.Ē

FELIX:But itís unmentionable!

EDITH:Felix! I am not accustomed to judging Her Majesty.

FELIX:Lord save us. Except, Edith, it makes one dizzy.

EDITH:I grant you that.

FELIX:A peasant! Which peasant? What could there be in common between a peasant and an official who replaces the Countess of Berg? The queenís reader?

EDITH:Do not be absurd. A peasant of Krantz can have studied in town and know more of it than we.

FELIX:It remains nevertheless true that we must protect the sovereign, that this caprice is a threat with every minute.

EDITH:Quite.

FELIX:What to do?

EDITH:Hold your tongue and let me operate. You do not suppose a new reader could take my place without my feeling some bitterness.

FELIX:You will keep your post?

EDITH:You further do not suppose that the queen will admit this new reader in her intimate regard and that he might come in at any hour by day or by night to her. The protocol envisages no supplemental reader and I do not believe any such innovation of Her Majestyís will burn for very long.

FELIX:Her Majesty even wished to appoint the filthy Tony governor of Oberwald castle.

EDITH:Quite exactly, Felix. She was not able to bring it off. (Edith has cocked an ear and, with the same voice she says, lower.) Be quiet!

The queen appears, on the gallery at left. As she is seen, followed by Tony, at the top of the stairs, Edith faces her and curtsies. Felix, to one side, with his back to the audience, brings his heels together and bows with that dry bow of the head which is the courtly bow. The queen wears an afternoon outfit, including a wide skirt. A veil hides her face.

 

Scene 4

 

THE QUEEN: (Veiled, descends the steps.) Hello, Felix. Edith, have you given him the news?

EDITH:Yes, Maíam.

THE QUEEN: (At the bottom of the staircase.) Come here, Felix.

(Felix goes to the banister.) óEdith must have told you what I expect from you. For reasons that are my own, I have brought to Krantz a new reader I have every reason to believe is of the first order. This reader is a young student, a native of Krantz. His similarity to the king is most curious. More than any reference it finally convinced me. He is poor. He has no title. Iím wrong. He has the finest of all: he is a poet. One of his poems is known to you. Under the pseudonym of Azrael, which I retain for him, he printed a text insulting me personally and that pleased me. Youth is anarchistic. It uprises against habitual existence. It dreams up something new and desires to be its cause. If I were not queen, I would be an anarchist. In short I am an anarchist queen. That is why the court deprecates me and the people love me. Itís why this young man so quickly came to an understanding.

I owed you an explanation. You manage my servants and I would not have you for the world misunderstand my decisions. That is why I will ask you kindly to give him to know that elegance of soul exists here.

The targets are in place? The rifles are clean? Tony must have given you the new bullets. You may go.

(Felix bows, makes for the door right, opens it; then turns toward Edith.)

EDITH: (Immobile.) Your Majesty will perhaps have need of me.

THE QUEEN:No, Edith. I have told you you may go. And donít enter without ringing first.

(Edith curtsies, steps back and goes out before Felix who closes the door.)

 

Scene 5

 

(Once the door is closed, the queen strikes Tony on the shoulder. He bows, climbs the stairs, and disappears left. The queen is alone. She raises away her faceveil. She takes out a rifle, moves away from the targets on the linoleum tile, stops at the extreme left, aims. Fires. She goes over to the targets, inspects, exchanges her rifle for another, returns to the firing line and shoots a second time. Same action. Except this time, she takes out a pistol and returns to the firing line. She lowers the weapon as Stanislas enters at the top of the stairs. Tony stops on the landing and turns back. Stanislas comes down. He wears a town outfit, dark, with a little highbuttoned jacket. A royal costume.)

THE QUEEN: (who is to the left of the staircase, invisible to Stanislas and raising the weapon...) Is it you, my dear sir?

(Stanislas takes the last three steps and sees the queen coming toward him, her weapon still lifted in her hand.)

Donít be surprised to see me with a weapon. I shoot at targets. Hunting pleases me less and less. But I love shooting. Are you a good shot?

STANISLAS:I think Iím a good shot.

The Queen;Have a try. (She goes to the large table, lays down her pistol, goes to the gunrack, takes out a rifle and brings it to him.) Go over there where I stood. It is a bad spot for people coming down the stairs. Tony watches out usually. I do have very fine ears. I hear the servants listening at my doors even. I hear everything. Shoot!

(Stanislas shoots. The queen makes for the targets and presses the lever. The target-trestle comes up out of the shadows. The queen unhooks the target.)

Center. Congratulations. I shot a little bit left and a little bit high.

(Stanislas replaces the rifle. The queen holds the target in her hand, using it like a fan.)

Be seated. (She points to an armchair before the stove. She sits near the large table, fanning herself still with the target and playing with the pistol.)

I hope that your knee is better and Tonyís bandage doesnít annoy you. Were you able to sleep in Krantz?

STANISLAS:Yes, Maíam. I slept very well and my knee does not hurt.

THE QUEEN:Wonderful. One sleeps well at twenty. You are?...

STANISLAS:I am twenty-five.

THE QUEEN:Six years separate use. I am an old lady beside you. You have been to school?

STANISLAS:I have worked alone, or almost alone. I did not have enough money to go to school.

THE QUEEN:Not only a lack of money obliges one to work by oneself. The very first time my father shot an eagle, he was greatly disappointed it did not have two heads like the one on our coat of arms. There you have my father. A simple, charming man. My mother wished to make a queen of me. And they never taught me how to spell. Miss de Berg can hardly read her own language. I donít lose by this change of readers. I should like to hear you read, now that you have become my reader.

STANISLAS:I am at your command. (He rises.)

(The queen stands up and goes to grasp a book on the table. She places the target nearby the pistol.)

THE QUEEN:Come, sit there. (She points to the armchair she has just risen from, near the table. Stanislas stays standing. She hands him the book she has taken. Then she sits down in the armchair Stanislas has just left. Stanislas sits down. He opens the book on the table and pushes aside the pistol.)

Careful itís loaded.

Just open it and read. Shakespeare anywhere is a good read.

(Stanislas selects a page and reads.)

STANISLAS: (reading.)

Scene 4. Another of the castleís rooms.

Enter the queen and Polonius.

Polonius: ĎA will come straight. Look you lay home to him.
Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with.
And that your grace hath screened and stood between
Much heat and him. Iíll silence me even here.
Pray you be round with him.

The Queen: Iíll warrant you; fear not. Withdraw, I hear him coming.

(Polonius hides. Enter Hamlet.)

Hamlet: Now, mother , whatís the matter?

The Queen: Hamlet. thou hast thy father much offended.

Hamlet: Mother, you have my father much offended.

The Queen: Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.

Hamlet: Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.

The Queen: Why, how now. Hamlet?

Hamlet:††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Whatís the matter now?

The Queen: Have you forgot me?

Hamlet:††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† No, by the rood, not so!
You are the queen, your husbandís brother's wife,
And (would it were not so) you are my mother.

The Queen: Nay, then Iíll set those to you that can speak.

Hamlet: Come, come, and sit you down. You shall not budge.
You go not till I set you up a glass
Where you may see the inmost part of you.

The Queen: What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murther me? Help, ho!

Polonius: What ho! help!

Hamlet: How now? a rat? Dead for a ducat, (He stabs Polonius through the arras.) dead!

THE QUEEN: (Rising.) I canít stand blood and Hamlet is too much like a prince of my family. Read something different. (She shifts some books, takes out a pamphlet and hands it over to him, after having opened it.) Here... you cannot refuse me the reading of your poem. I know it by heart. But I should like to hear your voice. (Stanislas takes the pamphlet. The queen wanders to the extreme left and a geographical map.) Read. (The queen turns her back on Stanislas. She seems to look at the map. Stanislas still pauses.)

I am listening.

STANISLAS: (He begins reading in a dull voice.) Maíam, said the archbishop, prepare yourself, death is knocking.

After many long faces, the queen confessed.

The archbishop heard a series of murders, incests, treasons at the least... (Pause. The queen continues to look at the map. She recites.)

THE QUEEN:Death entered, mouth and nose covered, wearing high skates.

STANISLAS:Wearing high skates, sewn into black oilcloth. Endless session! Twenty times she begins again and misses her tricks. The throng of courtesans, of princesses, ladies-in-waiting, clergymen, the archbishop even, slept on their feet. Fatigue tore their limbs. Under this torture, faces relaxed, spoke. And death returned. (Stanislas halts. He looks toward the queen. He continues.) And while it made its greetings, the stink, the candles in the windows, made the announcement that it was over. So the fireworks exploded in the heavens, wine poured out in the little stands of accordion-dances and heads of drunkards rolled in every direction joyously.

(Stanislas stands up brusquely, hurls the pamphlet with rage into the library.)

Thatís enough!

THE QUUEN: (Turning at once.) Could you be a coward?

STANISLAS:A coward? You treat me like a coward because I donít take this pistol from this table and because I donít shoot you in the back cowardly.

THE QUEEN:We have made a pact.

STANISLAS:What pact? Iím asking you. You decided, as you decide everything, that I was your fate. These are the big words you get tipsy on. You decided I was a machine for killing and that my role on earth was to dispatch you to heaven, Meaning: in the heaven of legend and history you call yours. You no longer dare commit suicide, you are not sublime enough for that, and you wished to have me commit your suicide. And what do I get in exchange? An inestimable gift. To be the instrument of a cause cťlŤbre. To share the dazzling glory of a fatal and mysterious crime.

THE QUEEN:You came to Krantz for my murder.

STANISLAS:You wondered just one minute if I was a man, where I was from and why I came. You understood nothing at all of my silence. It was terrible. My heart was beating so loudly I could scarcely hear you. And you could speak! You could speak! How could you understand that there are people, who think, who suffer, who live. You only think of yourself.

THE QUEEN:I forbid you...

STANISLAS:And I forbid you to interrupt me. Did I interrupt you that night? I left the darkness, a darkness you know nothing about, you guess nothing. You think doubtlessly my life began in the window of Krantz castle. I never existed before that. There existed a poem that stimulated you and then there existed a specter that was your death. So what? Your chamber was heated, opulent, hanging above empty space. You played with madness in there. And me, I arrive. Where do you suppose I come from? Out of the shadows which arenít you. And who sought me out of the shadows, who dispatched waves quicker than orders, who made of me that somnambulist creeping, exhausted, hearing only the dogs and the bullets and the blows struck in his heart? Who drew me from boulder to boulder, from crevasse to crevasse, from scrubwood to scrubwood, who lifted me up almost with a rope into this accursed window where you found me hurt? You. You. For you are not a woman whom hazard visits. You told me so. You dreamed of being a masterpiece, but a masterpiece has Godís work in it. No. You decree, you order, you maneuver, you build, you incite what happens. And even where you decide to do nothing, it still happens. Itís you who gave me without realizing it a spirit of revolt. Itís you who led me, without realizing it, to know the men I hoped to find violence and liberty with. Without realizing it, you it was who commanded my comradesí votes, itís you who led me into a trap! óTruth to tell, these are things no court would admit, but the poets know them and I tell you them.

I was fifteen, I came down from the mountains. Everything was pure there, ice and fire. In your capital, I found misery, lies, plots, hate, police, thievery. I dragged from shame to shame. I met men all this shame disgusted and who attributed it to your reign. Where were you? In clouds. There you lived your dream. You spent fortunes there, there you built temples for yourself. Magnificently you kept clear of our misfortunes. They killed your king for you. Is that my fault? Your job has those risks.

THE QUEEN:When they killed the king, they killed me.

STANISLAS:They so little killed you that you wish fate would kill you. You adored the king. What kind of love is that? Since your childhood, they trained you for the throne. You were educated for it. They made you a monster of pride. You were led before a man you did not know the previous evening, who occupied the throne. You found him agreeable. You would have found him disagreeable if that had been so helpful and useful. And you were engaged, and you hunted together, and you rode together, and you were married and they killed him.

As for me, from childhood on, I was suffocating with love. I never looked for it from anyone. By dint of keeping watch for it and never beholding it, I ran out to meet it. Not for me to be ravaged by a face. To be ravaged by a struggle, forget myself, dissolve.

When I came into your room, I was an idea, a madmanís idea, a foolís idea. I was an idea up against an idea. I made the mistake of passing out.

When I came to my senses, I was a man in a womanís house. And the more this man became a man, the more this woman persisted in being an idea. The more I gave in to all this opulence I was not accustomed to in the least, the more this woman treated me as an idea, as a machine of death.

I was drunk upon fatigue and hunger. Drunk upon the thunderstorm. Drunk upon anguish. Drunk upon my silence that tore me up beyond shouting. And I was courageous enough to correct myself, to become again the idťe fixe I was asked to be, that I should never have stopped being. I could have killed someone. That chamber would become my bridal chamber and I would splatter it with blood.

I did not count on your tricks. Scarcely did I cease to be a man when you became a woman again. Youíre very knowledgeable in witchcraft and fairy spells! In order to make me a hero with all the weapons a woman employs to make a man in love.

Whatís worse, you managed it. I no longer understood anything, I knew nothing, I fell into the unending sleeps that last a second, I said to myself: How can anyone endure such suffering and yet not die?

THE QUEEN: (With all her hauteur.) I order you to be quiet.

STANISLAS:I thought you had decidedóamong a few other thingsóto do away with the protocol and that we should treat each other as an equal.

THE QUEEN:It was a pact between myself and death. It was not a pact between a queen and a young man who climbs windows.

STANISLAS:I climbed through your window! What a scandal! Oh yes!... Call out... Ring for someone... Call for help... have me taken by your guards. Give me in to the police. You still have queenly feelings.

THE QUEEN:You are shouting and bringing out the castle.

STANISLAS:Bring out the castle. Getting arrested, executed, I couldnít care less. You donít see Iím going mad!

THE QUEEN: (Behind the table. She grabs the pistol and hands it to Stanislas.) Shoot.

STANISLAS: (Jumps back. The queen holds the pistol.) Donít tempt me.

THE QUEEN:In a few seconds, it will be too late.

STANISLAS: (Eyes closed, facing front.) All the love that urged me to murder you swells up in me like the ocean. I am lost.

THE QUEEN:Must I repeat myself? If you do not crush me, Iíll crush you.

(She moves rapidly to the bottom of the stairs.)

STANISLAS: (Shouting toward her.) Kill me then! Finish me. Finish it. You canít stand the sight of blood? I should at least have had the pleasure of seeing you sickened by the sight of my blood.

(The queen lowers the pistol. She turns and shoots at the targets. This happens in the blink of an eye. Prolonged ringing. The queen still holding the pistol goes toward Stanislas. She slams the Shakespeare volume in his hands.)

THE QUEEN:Be seated. Read to me. Read and give your reading the same intensity you gave your last insults.

(The ringing intensifies.)

Read. Quickly read. (She pulls him by the hair, as one does a horse by its mane, and obliges him to be seated.) You must do it.

STANISLAS: (Falls into the chair, snatches the pamphlet and shouts the Hamlet scene.)

Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
I took thee for thy better. Take thy fortune.
Thou findíst to be too busy is some danger.

(He stops and closes his eyes.)

THE QUEEN: (Shaking him.) Continue.

(Stanislas goes on with his outrť reading.)

STANISLAS: (Reading Hamlet.)

Leave wringing of your hands. Peace, sit you down
And let me wring your heart, for so I shall
If it be made of penetrable stuff,
If damnťd custom have not brazed it so
That it is proof and bulwark against sense.

The Queen: What have I done that thou daríst wag thy tongue
In noise so rude against me?

(The door right opens. Edith de Berg is seen.)

 

Scene 6

 

THE QUEEN: (She is back on the firing line and has relowered her veil.) Whatís the matter, Edith?

EDITH:Pardon me, Maíam... But I was in the park and I heard so much shouting... and a shot... I was afraid... (She stops.)

THE QUEEN:What is this you were afraid? Whenever do you not feel afraid? What is there to fear? I am target-shooting, and if you had dared to come closer you would have heard how readers who know how to read, read. (To Stanislas who has stood up at Edithís entrance and stays with the book in his hands by the table.) Please do pardon Miss de Berg. Sheís not accustomed to it. She speaks so softly, sometimes I think Iíve gone deaf. (To Edith:) Edith, it royally displeases meóthatís the wordówhen people listen at doors or even windows. (On this. Tony enters through the little door left by the shooting-targets, where the linoleum tiles end. The queen sees him and turns to Edith.) May I?ó (Tony speaks with his fingers. The Queen answers. Tony goes out.) I am extremely cross, Edith. These actions showing such a lack of discretion put me where I am forced to punish you. You are under house arrest. Everything you require,Tony will bring you.

(Edith curtsies and climbs the staircase. She goes out left. Door closing.)

 

Scene 7

 

THE QUEEN: (to Stanislas.) And now, dear sir, hide. A visitor is coming and I want you to hear every word we say. I ask you for an armistice. We shall talk later. This gallery is the most convenient observation post.

(Stanislas walks slowly before the queen, climbs the steps and goes out left. As he goes, the little door left opens. Tony enters, asks the queen something with a look; the queen bows her head. Tony bows deeply and effects the entrance of Count de FoŽhn. He then leaves and the door shuts behind him. Count de FoŽhn is in traveling clothes. He is a man forty-five years old. An elegant, deceitful man. A man of the court.)

 

Scene 8

 

THE QUEEN:Hello, my dear count.

THE COUNT: (He bows his head at the door and takes several steps forward.) I greet Your Majesty. And ask forgiveness for appearing before her dressed this way. The road is long and difficult.

THE QUEEN:Itís ages now since Iíve asked them to repair it. But I find it natural that the expenditure is placed in the national budget. Our ministers think itís incumbent on me. The road stays as it is.

THE COUNT:The State is poor, Maíam, we are in a regime of austerity measures.

THE QUEEN:You talk to me the way my finance minister does. I look the other way. He juggles the books. He imagines I see and hear nothing.

THE COUNT:Itís extremely simple. Wolmar is on a peak. Labor is hard. Itís said that that gem cost Your Majesty a fortune.

THE QUEEN:Look, FoŽhn, you are neither the archduchess with her infallible pride, nor the minister who takes me for a crazy woman.

THE COUNT:Maíam, it is possible the archduchess deplores, lovingly, Your Majestyís debts and is sad to be unable to come to her aid, but itís everywhere known that these debts only affect Your Majesty, that these expenses only concern her allowance and that the people have never suffered by them.

THE QUEEN:Everywhere known! You amuse me, my dear count. And where do, Iím asking you now, the absurd rumors unceasingly passed concerning me, come from? I have been so many times told by the archduchess: ďStand, up straightĒ, Iíve gotten the habit of it, as you may imagine. And in spite of that, of what am I not accused? I whip my grooms. I smoke a pipe with my servants. I let myself go and be taken advantage of by a circus gymnast for whom I have a trapeze set up in the very throne room, to speak nothing of the unamusing tidbits that are too ignoble to dwell on. I have contempt for the people, I ruin them. There you have the kind of fables allowed to circulate on my behalf, that stir minds up.

THE COUNT: (Bows.) Itís the converse of the legend.

THE QUEEN:The legend! Once the legend put an age to striking medallions. Struck in bronze. Now itís printed pell-mell and helter-skelter on the dirtiest paper.

THE COUNT:Oh, Maíam... the press would never allow itself...

THE QUEEN:It goes out of its way. Things are said in the form of advice. What do you make of the innumerable clandestine papers soiling me the police put up with. You are the head of my police. My Lord de FoŽhn.

THE COUNT:Maíam... Maíam... The archduchess is the first to deplore that state of things and if she had not deplored it, I would not have had the honor of being at Krantz and of presenting my lowly service to Your Majesty.

THE QUEEN: (Changing tone of voice.) There we are. I was quite sure. You are scolding me.

THE COUNT:Your Majesty is jesting.

THE QUEEN:It concerns my yearly ceremony.

THE COUNT:Your Majesty divines everything before it is formulated, It is the best proof that the archduchess is in despair over this... lack of rapport between the queen and her people. If the queen were to make herself visible, this deplorable lack of rapport were quickly evaporated.

THE QUEEN:For me to be absent in my yearly ceremony has produced, if I may employ the style of the press, the worst effect.

THE COUNT:I came posthaste, but Your Majesty may be sure of it. The mob must be distressed at this empty coach. The archduchess believes, if I dare repeat her words, that the queen owed that effort to her sonís memory.

THE QUEEN: (Standing up.) My Lord de FoŽhn, is she ignorant that the motive of my willful exile is precisely my sadness for the death of her son and my way of mourning does not consist in parading in a coach.

THE COUNT:The archduchess knows all that. She knows all that. She is exploding, if I may say so, but she does have second sight, and she is a great hand at politics.

THE QUEEN:I detest politics.

THE COUNT:Too bad! Maíam... Politics is the craft of kings as mine is spying on the kingdom, holding inquests and carrying out disagreeable requests.

THE QUEEN:What does the archduchess wish?

THE COUNT:She does not wish... she advises. She advises Your break Majesty to break somewhat the habits of reclusiveness which risk, among imbeciles... and imbeciles are a large number... resembling disdain.

THE QUEEN:You canít break somewhat. My Lord. Either you hide or you do not. I have removed the word ďa littleĒ from my vocabulary. Itís by doing ďa littleĒ you end up by doing nothing. If my motto werenít ďResolved to the utmostĒ I should have chosen the words of a chief who was reprimanded for eating too much at a peace conference: ďToo much, he responded, is quite enough for me!Ē

THE COUNT:Will Your Majesty grant me permission to repeat these words to the archduchess?

THE QUEEN:That will give you my answer.

THE COUNT: (Changing tone of voice.) Krantz is marvelous... marvelous! Your Majesty arrived here yesterday?

THE QUEEN:In the morning.

THE COUNT:Your Majesty arrived from Wolmar. The trip must have seemed endless. And what a storm! I fear it forced the queen to pass a very bad night.

THE QUEEN:Me? I adore storms. Furthermore, I was dead weary and went to sleep in one of the chambers of the north tower. I heard nothing.

THE COUNT:Thatís splendid. I greatly feared my search for the man had brought some disorder and disturbed Your Majestyís sleep.

THE QUEEN:Have I lost my head, dear count? Quite so. Miss de Berg came to ask me if I had authorized your police to scour the park. But... were you not there?

THE COUNT:Always forgotten is how brave Your Majesty is and how she fears nothing. One has not to watch out for her nerves like those of other princes. Nevertheless, I should have been ashamed to give to this affair, by arriving at the castle at night, an importance it does not have. I had arrived the night before. I stayed in the village, at an inn.

THE QUEEN:FoŽhn! Itís not polite to come to Krantz and not stay here. Did you catch your man? A man who wanted to kill me, if I am not mistaken.

THE COUNT:My police are chatty. I see how my agents have been talking at the castle.

THE QUEEN:I do not know if your police are chatty. I know that Miss de Berg is chatty and likes to mix in with things that donít concern her.

THE COUNT:We tracked the man since the previous night. How did he come knowingóI really mean how did his group knowóthat Your Majesty was staying at Krantz, I ask myself. I didnít know myself. Anyway we lost him in the village where he has family. He took off or someone got him to take off. We got together a thorough manhunt. Unfortunately, as it caused us to disrupt the solitude of Your Majesty. I am happy to discover that Your Majesty did not suffer too much by it.

THE QUEEN: And though you beat the bushes, your man is still on the run...

THE COUNT:My brigade has not earned Your Majestyís reproach. The man has been captured.

THE QUEEN:But thatís thrilling!

THE COUNT:At sunup, he tried to escape through the gorges. He must have been exhausted. He turned himself in.

THE QUEEN:What sort of man was it?

THE COUNT:A brainless youth attached to one of those groups whose clandestine activity Your Majesty was just deploring. Your Majesty sees that her chief of police has not remained criminally inactive.

THE QUEEN:Was he interrogated?

THE COUNT:I interrogated him myself.

THE QUEEN:He is a worker?

THE COUNT:A poet.

THE QUEEN:What?

THE COUNT:Your Majesty is very wrong to be interested in poets. They introduce their disorder finally into the wheels of society.

THE QUEEN:FoŽhn! You say a poet wanted to kill me?

THE COUNT:Itís their way of answering Your Majestyís praises.

THE QUEEN:What praises?

THE COUNT:Your Majesty, if I am not deceived, I suppose with something of a spirit of heroic contradiction, exhibits an extraordinary indulgence in what concerns a subversive poem published by one of the papers she reproves, justly. That man, that young man, is the author of it.

THE QUEEN:You mean itís Azrael? How stunning!

THE COUNT:He was not very lofty. In five minutes he was eating at table, as my tipsters say. I really mean he confessed everything. A hothead, but not a revolutionary. He gave me the names of his accomplices, their center address. When I get back, a nice haul.

THE QUEEN: (Was sitting, stands.) My Lord de FoŽhn, it remains for me to wish you felicitations and to thank you for this capture. I was astonished, yesterday, by your absence. And I could have wondered, this afternoon, if you had not come to establish if I were dead.

THE COUNT: (Smiling.) Your Majesty is terrible.

THE QUEEN:I am that way. Especially to myself. (She holds out her hand.) My dear count...

THE COUNT: (Is about to kiss her hand, the queen withdraws it and places her hand on his shoulder.) Excuse me for this excessive visit which must seem quite fastidious to the queen, in this atmosphere of meditation and labor. (He bows.) May I ask the queen for news of Miss de Berg?

THE QUEEN:She is ill. Nothing serious. She is keeping to her room. I shall tell her that you were thinking of her. Tony will show you back out. (She makes for the door and opens it, Tony appears.) Give the archduchess my deepest gratitude for the care she takes over my popularity. Goodbye.

(The count bows, passes before Tony and goes out. Tony regards the queen. He follows the count and shuts the door.)

 

Scene 9

 

(The queen unveils slowly and thoughtfully.)

THE QUEEN:You may come down.

(Stanislas turns the gallery from stage right and descends the stairway in silence. He walks up to the round table leans on it and drops his head. The queen faces him before the stove, standing up.)

There you have it.

STANISLAS:Itís monstrous.

THE QUEEN:Itís the court. I disturb the archduchess. FoŽhn favors a murder. You fail. FoŽhn forsakes you. Do you understand? If you had not hidden in the castle, his personnel would not have been long to make you disappear. Itís even because the count is sure of making you disappear that he did not hesitate to speak to me of you. (Pause.)

STANISLAS:I shall give myself up to the police.

THE QUEEN:Do not be absurd. Stay here. Take this chair.

(Stanislas hesitates. The queen sits.)

Take this chair. (Stanislas sits.)

FoŽhn is searching for you. The aim of his visit was to observe me and observe the castle. And even though I had taken my precautions to keep him from encountering Miss de Berg, he seemed to suspect something. I am sure of Willensteinís silence.

The circumstances in which we find ourselves are beyond all the police in the world. I brought you here by force. Itís for me to try to see them clearly.

STANISLAS:I am an object of shame.

THE QUEEN:You are a solitude faced with a solitude. Thatís all.

(She turns away toward the fire of the stove. It lights her face. The evening begins to come on.)

It is the beauty of tragedy, its terrestrial and supernatural interest, that it puts on stage only beings who live beyond the laws. Who were we that night? I quote you: An idea faced with an idea. And now what are we? A woman and a man they are hunting. Equals.

(She stirs the fire.)

Your mother lives in the village?

STANISLAS:I donít have a mother any longer. The peasant in Krantz is my stepmother. She drove me from her home. I was sixteen. Last evening, I returned to her on my own account. I hid some papers. I had to burn them.

THE QUEEN:Have you any friends?

STANISLAS:None. I only know the men who lured me into a net. If there exist any honest ones in their group. God save them from blindness.

THE QUEEN:FoŽhn will not arrest anyone. Be calm. He will content himself with making them believe that you have betrayed them, To get rid of you, theyíre the ones he will count on.

STANISLAS:All the same to me.

THE QUEEN:Could you see Count de FoŽhn from the gallery, could you see his expression?

STANISLAS:I saw his expression.

THE QUEEN:Had you seen it before? I mean, you have been in his presence before?

STANISLAS:A man of that type is far too clever to let his innumerable lackeys even think about it.

THE QUEEN:I only know you at all because I was calm.

STANISLAS:I was afraid as I was that night, that he could hear my heart. It took every bit of strength I had not to jump from the gallery. I could have choked him.

THE QUEEN:You would not have surprised him in the least. He was on his guard. This man considers me a madwoman and you a fool. Last night, at that inn in Krantz, he must have smiled and said to himself: ďThe queen thinks herself a poem. The murderer thinks himself a poet. How extremely bizarre!Ē Observe that your comrades must not be far from sharing that point of view. I speak of the most honest,A lot of people gossip. Few do anything. Nothing is as conventional as an environment, whatever it may be.

(Increasingly the light is dimming. The queen turns again to the fire which has become very bright.)

Why were you to burn your papers in Krantz, last evening?

STANISLAS:I was afraid of being searched.

THE QUEEN:They were poems?

STANISLAS:Yes, Maíam.

THE QUEEN:What a pity.

STANISLAS:I could not have burned them yesterday if I could not bum them now. (Pause.)

THE QUEEN:And after having burned these poems, what were your marching orders?

STANISLAS: (Rising.) Maíam!

THE QUEEN:I thought scruples, manners and hypocrisy existed no more between ourselves.

STANISLAS: (Sitting down again and in a low voice.) I had to assassinate the queen at Wolmar.

THE QUEEN:One must assassinate quickly and out of doors, assassinate quickly and be stoned by the mob. Or the drama falls back to earth and everything that falls back to earth is terrible. (Long pause.)

The newspapers would have said: ďThe queen victim of a savage assassination.Ē The archduchess and Count de FoŽhn would have attended your execution and headed the procession. There would have been wakes. Bells would have been rung. A Regency would have been instituted as the constitution now in force prescribes. The prince regent is ready, in the archduchessís big pocket. The game would have been over. The archduchess would have been in power, that is Count de FoŽhn. Thatís politics.

STANISLAS:The wretches!

THE QUEEN:And so you had to kill the queen at Wolmar. Fine! you have executed your orders at Krantz. You had to kill the queen, Stanislas. It is true, you have killed her.

STANISLAS:I, Maíam?

THE QUEEN:Does a queen allow one to come into her chamber and faint there? A queen allow herself to hide the man who climbed into her window one night? Allow one not to answer when she asks questions? Allow herself not to be addressed in the third person and to be insulted? If this is allowed, she is no longer a queen. I say to you again, Stanislas, there is no longer a queen at Krantz, you have killed her.

STANISLAS:I understand, Maíam. You say politeness no longer functions between us and you wish, by royal politeness, to raise my solitude to yours. I am not a dupe.

THE QUEEN:You think I will admit your failure. If I admitted it, youíd have been sent packing long ago.

STANISLAS:I am nothing. The queen stays the queen. A queen whose court is jealous of her because she eclipses them. A queen millions of subjects venerate in her hiding,A queen in mourning for her king.

(The queen sits in an armchair near the fire, facing the public. Nearly nothing is distinguishable but the stovefire lighting their faces. The library is full of darkness. Stanislas slips behind the queenís armchair and stays there, standing.)

THE QUEEN:You have killed that queen, Stanislas, more certainly than you could have proposed to do. When I was a little girl, I was tormented to make me capable on the throne. It was my school and I hated it. King Frederick was a great surprise. I thought of nothing but love,I wanted to live. I wanted to be a woman. I never succeeded. Iíve never lived. Frederick was dead on the eve of that miracle. I buried myself alive in my castles. One stormy night you entered through my window and you have destroyed this fine balance. (Long pause.)

STANISLAS:What calm after the storms. The night falls with an extraordinary silence. You cannot even hear the sheep.

THE QUEEN: Here you cannot hear anything, you feel as though you are separated from the world. I didnít use to like this calm. Now it makes me happy.

STANISLAS:You do not want me to ask for lights?

THE QUEEN:Stay here. I do not want anything. I want night to stop deepening, the moon and the sun to stay their course. I want this castle to be fixed at this moment and live that way, struck by a spell. (Pause.)

STANISLAS:Some balances arrive from so many unknown details that you ask yourself if theyíre possible, if the least breath of air wouldnít upset them.

THE QUEEN:Letís be quiet a bit. (Pause.)

Stanislas, pride is an evil fairy. It must not come hither, and touch this moment with its wand, to change it into a statue.

STANISLAS:Pride?

THE QUEEN:Itís a woman talking to you, Stanislas. Do you know that? (Long pause.)

STANISLAS: (He closes his eyes.) My God... Let me know that. We are on flotsam in the wide ocean. Luck, chance, the waves, the storm have flung us together on this bit of wreckage the Krantz library is, floating aimlessly on eternity. We are alone in the world, at the knife-edge of insolubility, at the extreme border of easy breathing as I thought and I never suspected it. A discomfort so terrifying, the discomfort of the sick in agony, the poor bursting with distress, the imprisoned covered with vermin, explorers who die amid polar ices is a comfort by comparison. There are no more up, or down, or right, or left. We no longer know where to set our souls, our glances, our words, our feet, our hands. Light my way, o God. Let an Apocalyptic angel appear and sound the trumpet, the world collapse around us.

THE QUEEN:My God, save us from this shapeless birdlime. Take away the supports that force me to walk in a straight line. Destroy the protocols and especially prudence which I took for modesty. Give me the strength to confess my lies. Abase the monsters of habit and pride. Give me to say what I do not want to say. Deliver us.

(Pause. The queen lowers her veil, with a simple clumsiness.)

Stanislas, I love you.

STANISLAS: (Same expression.) I love you.

THE QUEEN:The rest is insignificant.

STANISLAS:I could kill you now and never lose you.

THE QUEEN:Little man, close to me, come here gently... Come.

(Stanislas kneels beside her.) Put your head on my knees. Donít ask me anything, I entreat you. My knees are beneath your head and my hand there. Your head is very heavy. They would call it a chopped head. Itís a moment without anything on either side. Moonlight in the heart. I have loved you since you came into my room.I admit to being ashamed of this. I have loved you since your hand dropped with fatigue like a stone. I admit to being ashamed of this. I have loved you since I grasped your hair to force you to read. I admit to being ashamed of this. (Pause.)

STANISLAS:Some dreams are too intense. They wake up the sleepers. Let us be on our guard. We are the dream of a sleeper who is sleeping so deeply he doesn't even know heís dreaming us.

(At this moment of silence and darkness lit by the fire, there are several knocks at the little door. Stanislas stands up.)

THE QUEEN: (Quickly and low.) Itís Tony. Donít move.

(The queen goes over to the little door, opens it, Tony. He holds a candle in his right hand and speaks to her with his left. He puts the candle on the table.)

Miss de Berg has thrown from her window a letter to FoŽhn. By now he knows everything.

(Tony goes out by the little door.)

For tonight, you have nothing to be afraid of. Until I give notice, Miss de Berg stays under arrest. No one except her has permission to enter my chamber. You will stay here under my protection. In the morning Tony will take you over the mountains to my former hunting lodge. This lodge commands a farm with caretakers I can be sure of... Afterwards...

STANISLAS:There will be nothing afterwards.

THE QUEEN:Stanislas!

STANISLAS:Listen. I prayed God would hear me and he has sent me an angel. Here weíve been a night and a day worked by his thunder. We are wrought together now. Do not think that I take back my words, nor that I put yours down to the confusion of our souls and a minute of darkness. I believe you as you say, and you must believe me. Tomorrow, you will no longer love a poor devil who disguised himself and stole in here. An assassin is something else. Youíve lived outside of life. Itís for me to help you. I shall save you as you saved me. A phantom killed you and kept you from living. I have killed it. I havenít killed the queen. The queen must leave the shadows. Be a queen who rules and who accepts the weight of her power.

Plots are made against you. It is simple, you donít answer them. Your ministers know. Answer them. In a twinkling change your way of life. Go back to your capital. Twinkle, speak to the archduchess like a queenónot a daughter-in-law. Get rid of FoŽhn. Appoint the Duke of Willenstein generalissimo. Count on his troops. Review them on horseback. Dazzle them. You wonít even have to dissolve the houses and name new ministers. They obey a fist. I know yours. I saw you, last night, hold your fan like a scepter and hit the furniture with it. Hit the old furniture until it gives out paperwork. Sweep away that and all the dust. Your least step will be enough to make the people fall to its knees. Take away your veil. Show yourself. Reveal yourself. No one will ever touch you. I am sure of that. I shall contemplate your labor. I shall live in your mountains. I have always known them. The police wonít find me there. And when my queen is victorious, she will set off cannonfire. Iíll know she is telling me of her victory. And when the queen wishes to call me, she will cry like a hawk, I shall come to abase myself on the peaks where she builds her castles. I do not offer you happiness, itís a dishonored word. I offer you us being, you and I, a two-headed eagle like the one on your coat of arms. Your castles await this eagle. You shall build them for its nests.

All that falls back to earth is terrifying. You asked God if he was going to save us. Hear an angel speaking through my voice.

(The queen pulls the bell-cord, three times.)

Now, repeat what I shall tell you.

My God, admit us into the realm of your enigmas. Preserve our love from contact with the eyes of men. Marry us in heaven.

THE QUEEN: (Softly.) My God, admit us into the realm of your enigmas. Preserve our love from contact with the eyes of men. Marry us in heaven.

(The door right opens. Felix de Willenstein is seen, closes the door behind him and stands stiffly erect at attention.)

 

Scene 10

 

THE QUEEN:So! Felix, you certainly cut a figure. What is so astounding? Ah! yes... I forgot. I am showing myself entirely naked to two men. Iím leaving the veil, Felix, and Iíve had ten years too much. I have to, for you. I have orders to give you.

I am returning to the court. The two of us are leaving at one tomorrow. Arrange the coaches and the post chaise. I am only leaving the castle staff here.

Miss de Berg is leaving the staff. The archduchess is taking her as a lady-in-waiting.

Once you arrive in the city, you shall take command of the forts. Organize the trip and the rest-stages immediately. I shall not allow any slackness. You shall go before me into the capital with a hundred and fifty men and fire a hundred cannon.

Tomorrow, at twelve noon, you shall assemble my light cavalry behind the pond in the park. You shall keep your eyes on this window. (She designates the window dominating the stairway.) As soon as you see me there, with my face unveiled, the marching band will play the royal hymn.

It will be the beginning of my rule.

I count on your attachment to my person and your loyalty to my cause.

You may go.

(Felix de Willenstein clicks his heels, bows and leaves.)

 

Scene 11

 

THE QUEEN: (she goes to Stanislas, puts her hands on his shoulders and gazes deeply into his eyes.)

Stanislas... Are you happy with your pupil?

(Stanislas closes his eyes, sheds tears.)

You are weeping?

STANISLAS:Yes. With joy.

 

CURTAIN