ACT III

 

Same dťcor as in Act II,It should be eleven oíclock in the morning. The library window is wide open onto the park. At the curtain, Stanislas is seated on one of the library ladders, alone, There are books under his left arm. In his right hand. he is holding a book and reading it. After a moment. Miss de Berg crosses the gallery from the left and comes close to Stanislas who does not see her, absorbed in his reading.

 

Scene 1

 

EDITH:Good morning, Sir.

STANISLAS: (Jumps up and closes the book.) Forgive me, madam.

(He puts the book under his arm and takes others.)

EDITH:I am disturbing you?

STANISLAS:The queen wishes to bring certain books, and, instead of making a pile, I was reading them.

EDITH:It's a readerís job.

STANISLAS:My job is to read to the queen and not for myself.

EDITH:The queen has gone riding?

STANISLAS:When the queen left her instructions, she was in riding dress. She had Pollux saddled. I believe that she is riding in the forest. She does not expect to be back before noon.

EDITH:Wonderful... you know even the horsesí names. Thatís superb.

STANISLAS:I heard the queen pronounce the name of the horse before me. You have not yet seen Her Majesty?

EDITH:I was in prison, good sir. Tony only condescended to open my door around ten. I know nothing of the extraordinary trip preparing here in the castle.

STANISLAS:Yes, I think the queen is going back to the capital...

EDITH:You think so?

STANISLAS:I think I understood the queen would leave Krantz this afternoon.

EDITH:For a young man, it must be splendid to follow the queen to her court. You must be very happy.

STANISLAS:Her Majesty has not given me the honor of taking me with her. I shall stay at Krantz.

Her Majesty doubtless proposes to tell you when she returns.

(He takes still more books and places them on the table.)

EDITH:True, we have begun to get into the habit of living on the road and going from place to place. It is rare for Her Majesty to remain more than two weeks in the same place.

STANISLAS:Two weeks in the city could only give you pleasure.

EDITH:If we stay there two weeks. I know Her Majesty. After three days, we shall leave for Oberwald or for the lakes.

STANISLAS:Alas, I too little know Her Majesty to answer.

(Pause. Stanislas sorts books.)

EDITH:Do you know Count de FoŽhn?

STANISLAS:No, madam.

EDITH:He is an extraordinary man,

STANISLAS:I donít doubt that. His duties require it.

EDITH:I understand you. A police chief could never be very sympathetic to a free spirit like yours. I presume that, at least.

STANISLAS:You are not deceived. His post is not to me very sympathetic to begin with.

EDITH:He protects the queen.

STANISLAS:I certainly hope so. (He bows his head. Pause.)

EDITH:Good sir, whatever shock it may give you, I have a little mission to fulfill concerning you for the count.

STANISLAS:Concerning me?

EDITH:Concerning you.

STANISLAS:I thought he had left Krantz.

EDITH:He was supposed to leave Krantz at dawn. Without a doubt he has been surprised by what is happening here. I am accused of being curious. But the countís curiosity is without limits. He is still at Krantz. I have just come from seeing him. He is looking for you.

STANISLAS:I donít understand why a man like me would interest My Lord de FoŽhn.

EDITH:He didnít tell me that. But heís looking for you. He asked me if it was possible for me to arrange an interview, with you.

STANISLAS:It is a very great honor, madam. Is Her Majesty aware of your doing so?

EDITH:It is, because... My Lord de FoŽhn does not want Her Majesty to be disturbed for a simple inquest. He prefers that she not even be told.

STANISLAS:I am at Her Majestyís service. I only take orders from her.

EDITH:My Lord de FoŽhn would be the first to understand your attitude. He would admire it. Except that, his service requires him sometimes to violate protocol. He circulates in the shadows and directs all. Furthermore, he guessed your reaction. He has commanded me to tell you he asked for the interview as a friend and that Her Majestyís repose depends upon it.

STANISLAS:I am not acquainted with the court, madam. Is it so the police chief formulates an order?

EDITH: (smiling.) Almost.

STANISLAS:Now, madam, I can only obey and invite you to conduct me to My Lord de FoŽhn. I imagine he is not afraid of our... interviewóas you call itórisking a sudden return by the queen?

EDITH:The queen is riding, good sir. And when she rides, she rides very far. Pollux is a real beast. This library is still the serenest and safest place. Tony has gone riding with Her Majesty. The Duke of Willenstein rings three times to announce himself. For the rest, I shall keep watch to keep any trouble away.

STANISLAS:I can see, madam, that you are entirely devoted to My Lord de FoŽhn.

EDITH:To the queen, good sir. That is the same.

STANISLAS: (Bowing.) I am at the orders of the police chief.

EDITH:Of Count de FoŽhn. You speak of the police chief? It is the minister, Count de FoŽhn, who desires to see you.

STANISLAS:I am his servant.

(Miss de Berg goes to open the little door, leaves it open and disappears.)

 

Scene 2

 

(Count de FoŽhn enters by the little door and closes it behind him. He is in boots as in Act II. He carries his hat in his hand.)

THE COUNT:Excuse me, good sir, for disturbing you without notice.

In my position, one never knows what one is to do, five minutes ahead of time. My job, as odd as it might seem, has a certain poetry. It rests upon the imponderable... the unforeseeable. In short, you are a poet, if I do not erróand you must be more apt to understand than anyone.

(The count goes to sit near the table.)

You are a poet? I am not deceived?

STANISLAS:I have written some poems.

THE COUNT:One of these poems, if in every case the term can be applied to a... text written in prose (please note that thatís your affairóI do not wish to bore you with matters of syntax)... one of these poems, I say, appeared in a small left-wing paper. The queen, who is somewhat anti-authoritarian, found it droll, had a great number of copies printed and, thanks to her, those copies were distributed to the whole court.

STANISLAS:I did not know...

THE COUNT:Donít interrupt. The queen may do as she likes. These are the farces that amuse her. Only, she doesnít take into account the disorder provoked by forces that seem to her, from a distance, only whims, which take on a meaning much more grave in public when they appear.

You did not know that the queen honored this text with her grace? Answer.

STANISLAS:As far as Iím concerned, I attach no importance to these odd lines. I was very surprised to learn, from Her Majesty herself, that she had read that text, that she did not consider it an offense, that she only retained a certain way of combining words that was more or less new.

THE COUNT:The combining of these words thus is so badóor so good, everything depends on the point of viewóthat it results in a subversive work whose scandal is greater than it deserves. This scandal is immense. Do you know of it?

STANISLAS:I have not heard of it, My Lord, and I regret it. Her Majesty has not thought it necessary to tell me.

THE COUNT:It is not important to me now to know how Her Majesty came into contact with you, since as I have said, she may do as she likes. I shall find out after my return. What matters, is to know what role you have played at Krantz and by what technique it was possible for you to obtain a change of mind within her that none of us has been able to effect. (Pause.) I am waiting.

STANISLAS:You greatly astonish me. My Lord. What role do you mean? The queenís whim was to audition a poor poet from the town as her reader. Thatís my role. I cannot pretend to another.

THE COUNT:Thatís true. I donít insist. But since your presence in Krantz counts for nothing in Her Majestyís change of mind, do you refuse to explain yours to me?

STANISLAS:I donít understand you.

THE COUNT:I mean, do you refuse to explain to me by what prodigy a young opposition writer accepts overnight being placed in service to the regime. What? Jumping the entire hierarchical structure and landing here in the queenís library, at the top of a mountain, with both feet. That exercise represents a strength and an agility that are not very common.

STANISLAS:Sometimes chance places a young person in inconvenient situations. A young man rises quickly and is as quickly fatigued. I arrived at the age when our ideas convince us no longer. Nothing sadder in the world, My Lord. The queen was accused of a number of turpitudes. I have decided to accept her offer and judge for myself. I saw in a glance the error I had been living in. The real drama is distance. People do not know each other. If they knew each other sorrow and crimes would be lessened.

For the rest, you said so yourself, My Lord, if the queen showed herself, there would no longer be a lack of rapport between her and the people.

(Hardly has Stanislas spoken when he perceives he has made a mistake. He turns his head away. Count de FoŽhn pulls his chair forward.)

THE COUNT:Where the devil have I said that?

STANISLAS:Please overlook this, My Lord. I let myself get carried away down the slope of my own stories. I thought...

THE COUNT:You thought what?

(He underlines the what with his hat, on the arm of the chair.)

STANISLAS: (Extremely red.) I thought Her Majesty, speaking of you, My Lord, told me that.

THE COUNT:Her Majesty is too amiable, remembering the humblest of her servantsí least words. I think that in fact I did say something like that to her. Anyway itís a commonplace and is perfectly obvious. Congratulations, by the way, on being so advanced into her confidences. Her Majesty is not communicative. She must highly esteem you. (Pause.) She spoke about me to you!

STANISLAS:I was sorting the books. Her Majesty was talking to herself no doubt.I had the bad taste to listen and to tell you what I heard.

THE COUNT:And it was after I left that you were sorting the books and that Her Majesty spoke to herself and that you heard her speaking of me?

STANISLAS:Yes, My Lord.

THE COUNT:Very, very strange.

(He rises and looks at the books on the shelves. Then he turns, leaning against the shelves.)

Step forward. (Stanislas steps forward.) Stop.

(Stanislas stops.)

Ex-tra-or-dinary likeness.

What does the queen think of it?

STANISLAS:I suppose that my likeness, as far as a man of my class may permit himself to resemble the king, has better pleaded my cause to the queen than any of my personal merits.

THE COUNT:I understand! A physique like that of our late King Frederick is not found in the streets. And I do not want it to be found there. The devil! In certain hands this astonishing resemblance could serve to strike peopleís imaginations and create various legends. We die of legends, good sir. They strangle us. The queenís legend causes many ravages. It irritates some against her, others for. It's disorderly. My nature does not agree with it. That is the reason why I insist on giving you thanks for the decision that she has made, which is wisdom. I thought you were responsible. I was deceived, let us no longer speak of it. (Pause. Count de FoŽhn goes to sit in the armchair again.)

Good sir, I am going to give you an example of my frankness. Take a chair. You look tired. Please, sit down, you are not in the office of the police chief. We are talking. Moreover here you are in some way among friends. (Gesturing to the library.)

(Stanislas takes a chair and. goes to sit as far as possible from FoŽhnís chair.)

Cone here, come here.

(Stanislas brings his seat closer.)

I am going to give you an example of my frankness and the liberty with which I express myself in your presence. (A beat.) Good sir, to say truth, when I visited the queen, I believedóexcuse meóyou were listening, invisibly, to our conversation.

(Stanislas stands up.)

There! There! He has been offended. Calm yourself. I did not say you were listening to our conversation, I said I believed it. A minister for the police must always be on his guard. We are always having tricks played on us.

(Stanislas sits down again.)

Your romantic fashion of rejoining your regiment has not awakened my suspicions. You have diddled FoŽhn. And thatís not easy! I should have recognized one of those picturesque tableaux of which Her Majesty possesses the secret. I have only seen it by hearthlight, I confess. The next day, in the library, I employed, in your case, an old ruse that rarely fails to hit the mark. I told Her Majesty that my men had caught you, I had interrogated you, that you had confessed to me a criminal design and sold out your accomplices.

STANISLAS: (Rising.) Sir!

THE COUNT:Calm. Calm. I hoped to get you excited, to make you fly off the handle. The queen was veiled. I could not see her face. She is very strong, Her Majesty. As far as you are concerned, one of two things. Either you were not hidden in the library, or you were hidden there, and good sir, you have given proof of a self-mastery I take off my hat before.

STANISLAS:What is it you want?

THE COUNT:I shall tell you. (The count rises and leans on Stanislasí chair.)

I donít believe one traitorous word of what you have been trying to make me believe, but I like your trying to make me believe it, and that further pleads your cause. You please me. The queen has decided to break with her funereal custom and resume her standing in the court. She decided it through the intermediary of your enthusiasmóat least that is what I could believeóand I would bet I am not deceived. Let me speak.

But what purpose could this fabulous trip serve, if itís not just fireworks?

What is the archduchessí dream? To see her daughter-in-law guarantee the power of the throne and to die tranquilly. In place of that dream, what happens? The queen divests herself of the duties incumbent upon her. She holds them in contempt and accuses her mother-in-law of conspiracy. Conspiracy! Where could she find the strength? There is never a day when she does not entreat me to try convincing the queen.

No. It is important that this trip serves something or other. It is important that the queen not make an attempt in the capital that fails. It is important that she take without disgust the routines which consist of piling up paperwork between the sovereignís will and its execution, of convincing old ministers, hearing their complaints. The archduchess has gotten used to it. She has chosen the bad part. She bears it heroically.

What is going to happen tomorrow? I am asking you. They will excite the queen to take her prerogatives. They will tell her the archduchess governs in her stead and refuses to cede here the ground. She will govern. She will be bored. She will be disgusted. She will leave.

What will we ask Her Majesty? To be an idol. To conceal, beneath her splendor, the filthy realities to which a woman of her measure will never bend. When the queen is absent, the people see them. That is the whole problem. We should need a man of the heart who is not a man of the courts.A man who agrees to save the queen. A man who could prove to her that she is not to perform an ungrateful task, that the archduchess loves her like her own daughter and only asks to take upon herself the mortal ennui of that obscure work. Do you begin to understand me?

STANISLAS:You surprise me, My Lord. How could a man of your importance deceive himself for a moment about the political aptitudes of a poor student like me?

THE COUNT:You persist in this pose?

STANISLAS:It is no pose, I swear to you. I fear all that only comes from the great imagination of Miss de Berg.

THE COUNT:Miss de Berg does not enter into this affair at all. I am in the habit of trusting my eyes and acting alone.

STANISLAS:She must have told you then that I am not attached to Her Majestyís person and will not be going with her household.

THE COUNT:Good sir, time is passing and the queen could surprise us any minute. Let us play with cards on the table. You were successful, donít deny it, in obtaining in one day from Her Majesty what none of us, for ten years, was able to. Iím not asking you either to confess it or to reveal the mystery of it. I admire your reserve. Iím only asking you this, that your hidden influence help us to prevent the queen from heading into a failure. I ask you to sort yourself to follow her into the capital and prevent the frightful disorder that is sure to be caused by an open hostility of the queenís toward the archduchess, the ministers, the crown council, the assembly and the congress. Have I been clear?

STANISLAS:My Lord, I understand you worse and worse. Beyond my inability to accept or refuse to render a service I am not in a position to render, I think a court that is a cutthroat back alley would be quick to consider the influence of the least of the realmís subjects upon the queen as a scandal and find strength in it for a new attempt to destroy Her Majesty.

THE COUNT:There is no opposition to the queen adding to her person a reader by whim. There is no opposition provided that the archduchess considers it advisable. Your likeness to the king could align the court in one way or another. Disapproved by us, you are out of the question. Aided by the archduchess and by her ministers, you cease to be so and that resemblance will charm the court. The might of a queen has its limits, good sir. That of a police chief has none.

STANISLAS: And if I stay in Krantz?

THE COUNT:The devil! Do not imagine your intervention will remain a secret. The court is a back alley, I give you that. It will, after its manner, which is not polite, interpret that. You do not disembarrass yourself from the court with the breeze of a fan. Weíre not living in a fairy tale. They will besmirch the queen.

STANISLAS: (Stiffly.) Sir!

THE COUNT:They will besmirch the queen and you will be the cause of it. Come along, good sir, be reasonable. Help us.

STANISLAS:And... what do you offer in exchange?

THE COUNT:The greatest thing in this world. Liberty.

(Long pause. Stanislas rises and walks into the library. The count leans on the back of his chair. Stanislas walks over to him.)

STANISLAS:You mean, in clear terms, that if my mysterious influence were real, if I use it, if I manipulate the queen and deliver her to you bound hand and foot. Count de FoŽhn promises to erase my name from the police blacklist.

THE COUNT:You are so romantic! Who speaks of delivering over the queen? And to whom, great God? And why? You are only being asked to prevent deplorable commotion and to act as a liaison between two camps fighting the same cause, thinking themselves opponents.

(Pause.)

STANISLAS:My Lord, I was hidden in the library. I heard all.

THE COUNT:I never had any doubt of it.

STANISLAS:The queen needed the opinion of one of the people. It happens that I am one. Iíve nothing to lose. Protocols do not exist for me. The queen inquired of me. I answered what I thought.

THE COUNT:And may one know what it is you think?

STANISLAS:I think that the archduchess fears the reach of an invisible queen and not satisfied to cover her with ordure, to finance underground papers which attack her, to excite our groups, to urge them on to crime, you all want to draw her to the capital, destroy her, humiliate her, wear her out, press her to a finish, put her outside herself, make her pass for a madwoman, to obtain from the Senate her interdiction and from the Minister of Finances a lien on her estates.

THE COUNT:Sir!

STANISLAS:And I didnít imagine worse. The scandal was admirable. The queen would have brought to the court one of the people, a reader without a position, a double for the king!

THE COUNT:Be quiet.

STANISLAS:Take care! The queen no longer used to reign. She now reigns. Sheíll burn up your papers. Sheíll sweep away your dust. She will hurl thunderbolts onto your court.

You talk of fairy tales. This is one of them. One sweep of her fan and your edifice will be destroyed. I wouldnít give much for your skin.

THE COUNT:You are accused of criminal complicity in the attempted assassination of Her Majesty. The warrant is in my pocket. You are under arrest. You may explain it before a tribunal.

STANISLAS:I am under the queenís protection.

THE COUNT:The duty of my commission, for me, is to protect the queen even against her own person, in her own dwelling.

STANISLAS:You dare arrest me in the queenís chamber!

THE COUNT:Iím putting myself out!

STANISLAS:Youíre a beast.

THE COUNT:The queen is a chimera. You have flown to her help like a hippogriff. There are some charming monsters.

STANISLAS:What if I solicited a last request.

THE COUNT:Go on, go. My patience is famous. Here Iíve been one quarter of an hour trying to save your head from the scaffold.

STANISLAS:The queen leaves Krantz at one oíclock. Never mind the reasons for my telling you this. Theyíre not mine. Now you know. I would give my life and I give it to you provided this trip works out. Furthermore, it is of capital importance that Her Majesty know nothing about this conversation. Let me go free until one oíclock,

THE COUNT:You speak as a poet.

STANISLAS:It is in your interest not to disturb Her Majestyís preparations by the disorder of my arrest here in the castle.

THE COUNT:That is less ideological... You ask me for two hours of grace. I grant them to you... The castle is surrounded with police.

STANISLAS:The police may leave their posts. The queen leaves by carriage at one oíclock. At ten minutes past, I shall be at your service, in the stable porchway. You can take me through the outbuildings without our being seen.

THE COUNT:Itís a pity we could not reach an understanding.

STANISLAS:A pity for you.

(The bell rings three times.)

THE COUNT: (Leaps up.) Who is it?... Miss de Berg?

STANISLAS:No. Itís the Duke of Willensteinís signal.

THE COUNT. That's quite a boon. (He goes to the little door, left.) I'm leaving. See you there. (At the door.) Don't bother showing me out.

(He goes. Count de FoŽhn has hardly vanished, when Felix de Willenstein opens the door right and comes in. Stanislas faces upstage almost, standing downstage.)

 

 

Scene 3

 

FELIX: (He looks for the queen and perceives Stanislas.) I thought Her Majesty was expecting me here.

(He leaps and steps back.)

Ah!

(A truly strangled cry he shouts.)

STANISLAS:What is the matter, Your Grace?

FELIX:Great God! Yesterday, I saw the queen and it was so dark here, I didnít see you.

STANISLAS:My likeness to the king, then, is quite strong?

FELIX:It is frightful, sir, thatís how it is. How is such a likeness possible?

STANISLAS:Pardon me for having caused you this shock.

FELIX:It is I, sir, who beg pardon for having controlled my nerves so ill.

(Miss de Berg appears at the head of the staircase.)

 

Scene 4

 

EDITH: (She has descended the steps. To Stanislas.) I congratulate you, sir. Her Majesty has just told me I shall no longer be a part of her household. I return to the archduchess.

STANISLAS:I donít see, madam, how that action of Her Majestyís has to do with me.

EDITH:I suppose my dismissal means that you are to take my position.

FELIX: (Calming her) Edith!...

EDITH:Oh, you! Leave me in peace! (To Stanislas.) Is that so?

STANISLAS:I am sorry, madam, Her Majesty, who does not concern herself with me at all has without a doubt forgotten to say to you I am not following her to the court.

EDITH:You are staying at Krantz?

STANISLAS:Neither at Krantz, nor at the court. Iím going to disappear.

EDITH:Well now, if no one is taking my place, can you explain my humiliation?

FELIX:Edith! Edith! I beg you, we ought not to let a stranger meddle in our own affairs.

EDITH: (Crying.) As if he were not meddling?

STANISLAS:Madam!

EDITH: (Walking straight at him and beside herself.) I know one thing for certain. I was reader to the queen. You arrive. I am no longer.

STANISLAS:My slender personality could not enter into it.

EDITH:What did you insinuate to the queen? What did you say to her?

STANISLAS:I have known Her Majesty since yesterday.

EDITH: (Under his nose.) What did you say to her?

FELIX: (Softly.) Her Majesty!

(The queen is at the head of the stairs, coming from the gallery, left. She descends. She is in riding habit, holding her crop in one hand.)

 

Scene 5

 

THE QUEEN: (Without her veil.) Was it you. Miss de Berg, shouting so loudly? (She comes down the last step.) I donít very much like to hear shouting. Will you spend your life arguing with poor Willenstein here? Hello, Felix. (Saluting Stanislas with her crop.) Sir! Miss de Berg was worried yesterday hearing your voice all the way in the park. I could hear hers from the other end of the main hall. Itís true that she was not reading. When she reads, you canít hear her.

EDITH: (Bowing her head.) Maíam...

THE QUEEN:Leave us. You must have a heap of things to do and to say before our departure.

(Edith curtsies and disappears by the little door, left.)

Well, Felix, Edith de Berg still bothering you? I called you here to finalize the preparations for our escort. But I have things to do first and first of all with my books. I leave you free to supervise your men. I shall ring for you in a minute.

(Felix bows and goes out by the door, right.)

 

Scene 6

 

THE QUEEN:I could no longer bear the presence of anyone at all. (She takes off her top hat and throws it on a chair. She only keeps her crop in her hand.) Willenstein looks at me round-eyed and to Edith de Berg I was somewhat hard. They shall have to put my nervousness down to our departure. The truth is that I couldnít live any longer without being alone, with you.

(She lets herself drop into a chair near the stove.)

STANISLAS: (He kneels beside her as in Act II.) As soon as you left, I thought the sleeper who is dreaming us woke up. Not at all. He was turning over in his sleep. I see you and he goes on dreaming.

THE QUEEN:My dear.

STANISLAS:Say it again.

THE QUEEN:My dear.

STANISLAS:Again, say it again, again...

(He shuts his eyes.)

THE QUEEN: (She kisses him on the top of the head.)

My dear, my dear, my dear, my dear.

STANISLAS:Thatís magic.

THE QUEEN:I rode like the wind. Pollux thundered. We jabbed at the glacier like a swallow on a mirror. The glacier attracted me. It cast white lightnings toward me. It glittered! Tony followed riding his Arabian.I felt he wanted to cry out, stop me, but he cries out with his fingers, and they were holding the reins. Once I turned around and he gesticulated. I whipped Pollux. I drove him straight toward the lake. The lake was shimmering down there. Between the lake and the mountain eagles were flying. I was sure Pollux could jump, fly, swim in the air as they were, put me on the other side. He sprinkled me with foam. But he grew calm. He pulled up cleanly right at a precipice. He was being reasonable. Poor Pollux... He is not in love.

STANISLAS:Mad...

THE QUEEN:And you were sorting my books. Do you forgive me? A rage for life, braving death told me to gallop into no longer a queen, nor a woman, to be a gallop. And to think I considered happiness an ugly and sordid thing. I thought only unhappiness was worth the pain of living. Making happiness glisten, that is the tour de force. Happiness is ugly, Stanislas, if it is absence of sorrow, but if happiness is as terrible as grief, it is magnificent!

I was deaf and blind. Iím discovering the mountains, the glaciers, the forest. Iím discovering the world. What profit can there be in storms? I am a thunderstorm myself, when I ride.

STANISLAS:Nor I, I heard nothing, saw nothing. In two days I discovered many things.

THE QUEEN:Come and see my neck. This morning, my medallion danced and flew hitting me on my shoulderblades on its chain. It wanted to strangle me! Death shouted in my ears from it: ďYou wish to live, daughter; what else is new!Ē In my chamber I took it off. May it never leave there! Until I find it again when I am as old as the archduchess and when you love me no longer.

STANISLAS:Let us fling it in the lake, with my poem.

THE QUEEN:Stanislas, thatís the poem which brought you to me.

STANISLAS:How could I have been that man who dared to write those and a thousand other verses I burned in Krantz.

THE QUEEN:So those poems you burned in Krantz concerned me, too?

STANISLAS:They all concerned you... yes, too.

THE QUEEN:And you burned them because you were afraid of being arrested and their being found.

STANISLAS:Exactly.

THE QUEEN:No one would find them after my death?

STANISLAS:And make use of them after mine. Yes.

THE QUEEN:After your death and mine, nothing will have very much importance, Stanislas.

STANISLAS:I did not wish my victim to be dirtied, nor to be dirtied myself. They would have made you into a heroine, but made me into a hero.

THE QUEEN:These are such insults?

STANISLAS:Yes, my dear,

THE QUEEN:You thought of me without ceasing.

STANISLAS:I was obsessed with you. My idťe fixe! And as I could not come to you, I hated you. I strangled you in my sleep. I bought your portraits and tore them to pieces. I tore them up, I burned them, I watched them writhe in the flames. I saw on the walls the negative of the image. In the town streets, it defied me in every window. One evening, I broke one with a stone. As they chased me, I slipped through a basement window. I stayed there for two days. I was dying of hunger, of cold and shame. And you, you sparkled on the mountains, a twirling chandelier, as indifferent as the stars. Whatever lies passed around degrading you served to ornament my hatreds. Nothing seemed abject enough to me.

The text you know is an old one. My comrades would not have dared to publish the others. They egged me on to write. And I wrote, I wrote, without allowing myself to realize that it was a way of writing to you. I did not write. I wrote you letters.

THE QUEEN:My dear one...

STANISLAS:Do you know what it is to accumulate letters that are unanswered, to abuse an idol of India with a cruel sneer that smiles at you.

THE QUEEN:I wrote you letters also. My father constructed kites and allowed me to send messages on them. Put a hole in a piece of paper and it slides up to the kite along the string. I would kiss the paper and say to it: ďFind in the sky the one I love.ĒI loved no one. It was you.

STANISLAS:Your kites, were princes...

THE QUEEN:They were for my father and mother perhaps. They were not for me.

STANISLAS:You must not hold it against me. I still burn with revolt. I shall direct it against the ones who would do you harm.

THE QUEEN:Against you, Stanislas? I am a savage. Never abandon your revolt. That is what I admire in you most of all.

STANISLAS:Violent beings lose themselves in calmness. I should have killed you there in your room on the first night and killed myself next. That is without doubt a definitive method of making love.

(The queen gets up, walks away from Stanislas and then back to him.)

THE QUEEN:Stanislas, you think I should go away from Krantz.

STANISLAS:I begged you to leave.

THE QUEEN:Itís not the same. You think I should, now, go away from Krantz.

STANISLAS:If you stay at Krantz, I shall have to go.

THE QUEEN:If I stay at Krantz for you, for a life with you, if I renounced taking the crown again, for you, you would leave Krantz, you would leave me?

STANISLAS:Everything that falls back to earth is terrifying. Those are your own words. It was not long before I understood the intrigues of the court, the traps of protocol and etiquette.

Behind your back, that abominable spirit poisons your residences. We should quickly be a spectacle here. Letís get out as quickly as we can, my queen, as quickly as we can, you one side and me the other, and weíll meet in a hidingplace, like thieves.

THE QUEEN:All morning my head has been filled with every feminine wildness.

STANISLAS:And mine with every masculine wildness.

THE QUEEN:I shall be in the capital tomorrow. There I shall try to force the issue. God help me and let it succeed. I shall try by you and for you. Do you know my hunting lodge? It will be our place. Youíll wait for the news there. I shall send Willenstein. I shall come to Krantz within two weeks. If I come to Wolmar, I shall let you know. You shall come and join me here.

STANISLAS:Yes, my dear...

THE QUEEN:Donít regard anyone else, for whatever reason. I shall send Willenstein to you.

STANISLAS:Yes, my dear.

THE QUEEN:The day before yesterday, the task seemed repugnant to me and past my strength. Today I am amused by it and nothing could keep me from it. That is your work.

STANISLAS:Yes, my dear.

THE QUEEN:Stanislas, make me a queen.

(She spreads her arms to welcome him.)

STANISLAS:Yes, my dear...

(He kisses her for a very long time, pressing her in his arms. The queen, as if stunned, leaves him and leans against the stove, left.)

THE QUEEN:Felix still has to be given his orders. Go to my rooms. You will find Tony there. I will rejoin you there before we leave. It is necessary that I learn how to be away from you, It is hard.

STANISLAS:What we both have undertaken is hard. Lend me courage. my queen. It may be that I am less brave than you.

THE QUEEN: (Standing very tall.) A two-headed eagle.

STANISLAS:A two-headed eagle.

THE QUEEN: (She rushes to him, taking his head between her hands.) And if they cut one off, the eagle dies.

STANISLAS: (He clasps her for a long time.) I am going. Give your orders. Do not be too long. Which chamber shall I wait for you in?

THE QUEEN:At Krantz, I stay in no other chamber than the one in which we met.

(Stanislas climbs the steps rapidly and disappears through the gallery, left. The queen follows him with her eyes.)

 

Scene 7

 

(The queen, while Stanislas exits, rings thrice for Willenstein, pulling the bellrope near the stove. Then she strolls about the room, looks over everything and flicks the furniture with her crop. Then, she rests her foot on the chair next to which Stanislas was kneeling. The door, right, opens. Felix de Willenstein enters and bows.)

THE QUEEN:Come in, Felix, Iím alone.

FELIX: (He walks into the center of the room.) I obey Your Majesty.

THE QUEEN:Are we ready? The horses? The coaches? The post chaise?

FELIX:At one oíclock. Your Majesty will have only to climb into a carriage and go.

THE QUEEN: (She points to the table with her crop.) Tony shall bring you these books. I am bringing them along. I want there to be no servant in the library before I leave.

FELIX:Your Majesty will travel in the post chaise?

THE QUEEN: I had decided to travel in the post chaise. But Iíve changed my mind. I shall ride there on horseback.

FELIX:Your Majesty wishes to enter the city on horseback?

THE QUEEN:I donít like that post chaise. It makes me remember the tragedy of the king. Do you see any inconvenience if I travel on horseback? Since I shall be seen, itís just as well to be seen by as many people as possible. (Felix does not speak.)

Say what you have in your head. Donít be afraid.

FELIX:Itís just that... Does Your Majesty know that Count de FoŽhn is traveling with us?

THE QUEEN: (Brutally.) FoŽhn? I thought heíd left Krantz this morning?

FELIX:He must have learned what Your Majesty has decided. He is at Krantz. I have seen him. He told me he counted on arranging the escort himself.

THE QUEEN:Let him, let him. I shall arrange it too, there it is. How many men do you have?

FELIX:One hundred-and-fifty guardsmen and one hundred light cavalry.

THE QUEEN:Then I shall go by carriage until we reach the last stop. I shall dine on the journey. Make preparations. You shall accompany the post chaise with fifty men. When we reach the last stop, I shall mount my horse. The light cavalry will form my escort... You... how many men are in My Lord de FoŽhnís brigade?

FELIX:There are only twenty men in his brigade.

THE QUEEN:You, Felix, there at the last stop, you will arrest My Lord de FoŽhn. (Reaction of Felix.) You shall take the fifty guardsmen from around the post chaise. You will arrest My Lord de FoŽhn and his men. Thatí s an order. You will precede us into the town. You will lead our prisoner as far as the citadel. I give you another command. You are to release the political prisoners in the citadel. They are free. This will be the first act of my sovereignty. And you will fire off one hundred cannon. Why do you look so glum? You liked very much My Lord de FoŽhn?

FELIX:No, Maíam, but I would like... that is, it would be preferable ...

THE QUEEN:Speak... Speak...

FELIX:If Your Majesty will permit me, in circumstances so grave, I would prefer not to leave for one second Your Majesty.

THE QUEEN:Quite right. It is quite normal for you to make that solemn entry with myself. The captain of the cavalry is your cousin?

FELIX:Yes, Maíam,

THE QUEEN:Are you certain of him?

FELIX:As sure of him as myself.

THE QUEEN:I have seen him jumping his horse. He rides very well and is very graceful. You shall give him the task of My Lord FoŽhn and brigades. That little astonishment being my arrival gift to the archduchess, I entrust them to him like the apple of my eye. Naturally, you shall not tell him of this command until the last stop.

FELIX:And I accompany the queen?

THE QUEEN: (Saying ďyesĒ as to a willful child.) Yes! You and the rest of the battalion. I repeat to you, I donít care for post chaises and foot-boards,I shall return to my home on horseback, with my face uncovered and in an officerís uniform. Do we have it straight?

FELIX:I shall punctually conform to Your Majestyís orders.

THE QUEEN:Ah! Felix!... you wonít forget that the battalion and the marching band must be facing this window at noon, behind the pond.

When your men are set out in order in the park, you shall sound two trumpetcalls. That will be a signal that I may show myself to the soldiers.

(Felix lowers his head.)

Miss de Berg shall travel in a coach with My Lord de FoŽhn. They are the ideal couple. After the last stop. Miss de Berg shall have it all to herself. She will find it more comfortable for thought.

(Tony appears running, through the gallery left and descends the staircase at top speed. The queen looks at him astonished. He signs. The queen signs, answering. Felix moves away toward the door, right and stands looking straight ahead. Tony climbs the stairs precipitately and disappears.

The queen hesitates and suddenly rushes up the staircase. Halfway, she stops and looks back, her face transformed, pale, terrible. Willenstein, having recoiled to the door, looks at her the way he must have from behind the statue of Achilles.)

Willenstein!

Lord only knows when this journey I am making will end. In order to make it, I must at first commit an act so wild, so strange, so contrary to nature, that any woman would look at it with horror. The sovereignty I dream of costs so much. My destiny looks me in the face, eye to eye. Hypnotizing me. And see... making me sleepy.

FELIX:Maíam!

THE QUEEN:Donít speak. Donít wake me. Because truly to do what I am going to do I must sleep and act while Iím dreaming. Donít attempt to understand me any farther. I had to talk to someone. You were the only friend of the king and I speak to you. I ask that you never forget my words, Willenstein. And to bear witness before men that, whatever happens, I wished it.

(Stanislas appears at the head of the stairs. He wears his Act I costume.)

You may go. Go now.

 

Scene 8

 

(Stanislas slowly descends the staircase and crosses before the queen like a sleepwalker. When he reaches the middle of the library, the queen follows him. She is hard, brutal, terrifying. This scene must give the illusion she has become a fury.)

THE QUEEN: (Wildly.) Youíve done WHAT? (Stanislas is silent.) Answer me. Answer me at once. (Pause.)

Tony has just told me something unbelievable. Where is that medallion? Where is it? Give it to me or youíll be whipped.

STANISLAS: (With calm.) It is in your chamber.

THE QUEEN:You opened it?

STANISLAS:I opened it.

THE QUEEN:Swear to it.

STANISLAS:I swear it.

THE QUEEN: (Crying out.) Stanislas!

STANISLAS:You told me what happens when you swallow that capsule. I have one moment of life. I want to look at you before you go.

THE QUEEN: (Controlling herself.) Donít be familiar with me. There are police everywhere.

STANISLAS: I knew that.

THE QUEEN:You knew the police were surrounding the castle?

STANISLAS:Iím a dead man speaking to you. I consider myself freed from my promises. While you were away this morning, Count de FoŽhn told me he would arrest me. I obtained from him grace until one oíclock. The police are at every door so I donít escape.

THE QUEEN:The queen protected you. You had nothing to fear.

STANISLAS:I did not act out of fear. Like a lightningbolt, I realized nothing was possible between us, that I must make you free and go while I am happy.

THE QUEEN:Coward!

STANISLAS:Maybe.

THE QUEEN:Coward! You counseled me, urged me, dragged me from my gloom.

STANISLAS:I shall protect you much better where Iím going.

THE QUEEN:I ask no one to protect me!

STANISLAS: (Bursting out.) My dear...

(He tries to approach her. She leaps away.)

THE QUEEN:Donít come near me!

STANISLAS:You say that to me?

THE QUEEN:Donít come near me. (She is pale, erect, frightening.) Youíre a dead man and you fill me with horror.

STANISLAS:You say that to me! You?

THE QUEEN:You are in the presence of your queen, forget it no more.

STANISLAS:This poison should have acted like lightning. Is it dying when you think you live and are in hell? (He walks like a madman into the library.) I am in hell! I am in hell!

THE QUEEN:Youíre still alive. You are at Krantz. And you have betrayed me.

STANISLAS:We are at Krantz. There is the chair and the table, the books... (He touches each.)

THE QUEEN:You were supposed to kill me and you have not killed me.

STANISLAS:If I offend you, pardon me. Speak to me as you spoke yesterday, as you spoke this morning. Do you still love me?

THE QUEEN:Love you? Have you lost your head? I repeat and I command you to speak to me in another tone of voice.

STANISLAS: (Aggrieved.) You donít love me any more?

THE QUEEN:My movements are as quick as yours. You have robbed me... Donít make a face. Donít convulse yourself. Be calm. I am going to say what I did not wish to say and what you deserve to hear spoken to you.

What do you suppose? What is your conception of this? Be aware that Count de FoŽhn doesnít permit himself to move without my orders. All this is mere intrigue. I would have thought youíd seen that. Bothersome to trail you around, have you meddling in governmental affairs... If the police surround the castle, if Count de FoŽhn is waiting for you at my door, I have ordered it so. Only ordered it myself. My good pleasure.

STANISLAS:Youíre lying!

THE QUEEN:Sir, you forget your place, what you are and who I am.

STANISLAS:Youíre lying!

THE QUEEN:Must I call Count de FoŽhnís policemen?

STANISLAS:Here, right here (He slams his hand on the chair.) you confessed you loved me.

THE QUEEN: Then I was lying. You did not know that queens lie? Go over your verse. There you described queens as they area.

STANISLAS:God!...

THE QUEEN:I shall reveal to you their secrets and mine, since it is a dead man listening to me. I had decided, decided, for I decideóI had decided to seduce you, to ensnare you, to destroy you. Itís funny! Everything worked out wondrously. The comedy was excellent. You believed it all.

STANISLAS:You! You!...

THE QUEEN: I. And other queens have given me the example. I had only to do the same. Queens have not changed much since Cleopatra. When they are threatened, they wheedle. They choose a slave. They use him. They have a bedmate, they kill him.

(Stanislas wavers, as in Act I. He raises his hands to his breast. He nearly falls. The queen scarcely can restrain herself.)

Stanislas!

(She is about to rush. to him. She stays herself, lashes a piece of furniture.)

STANISLAS: (recovering little by little.) Youíre lying, I know. I felt the pain, you could not help it, you called out to me. You attempt I do not know what terrible experiment on me. You wish to know if my love were the enthusiasm of a young man, if it was true?

THE QUEEN:In what way do you suppose it concerns me to know if your love was the enthusiasm of a young man? It no more concerns you to know if my indulgence toward you were a whim. You have other problems before you.

STANISLAS:What? I remove a poison you carry about you like a menace. I suppress it. I kill myself with it. I avoid a trial your enemies would not have failed to exploit for a scandal to besmirch you with. I pray to God the poison will not act in front of you. I happily give you my honor, my chastity, my work, my love and my life. I give you... (Suddenly he stops.)

But, Iíve just thought of it! What horror! Isnít it you who pointed out this delayed suicide of mine, with all its advantages? Isnít it you who said to me that you removed the medallion from your neck in your room? Tell me!

THE QUEEN:I am not in the habit of being interrogated, nor of answering interrogations. I have nothing to say to you. I profited by your presence. And donít imagine Iím talking about affairs of state. I pretended to let you think so. You did not enter at all into the decision Iíve taken. I made use of your authorís vanity. What a good play! First act: The queen is to be killed. Second act: convincing the queen to resume her throne. Third act: ridding her of an indiscreet hero.

How did you not understand that your likeness to the king was the gravest of insults? How could you think that I would not have my revenge for being the dupe? You are naive. I led you where I wished. I did not think you would outdistance the police and take it upon yourself to give the death sentence. I had to turn you over to Count de FoŽhn. You decided it otherwise. You took poison. You have escaped. Good luck! Die then. Before I kept that capsule, I tried the experiment on my dogs. They were carried out of my sight. You will be carried out like them.

(Stanislas has fallen to his knees in the armchair beside which he listened in Act I.)

STANISLAS:God! Stop this torture.

THE QUEEN:God does not love cowards. You were not supposed to betray your comrades. They had confidence in you.. You were their weapon. And not only have you betrayed them, you have gotten them arrested. Because FoŽhn has spoken of your group to me. He knows all about it. When you were hidden in the library, I was afraid you would become aware of his signals. You thought we were such idiots. How, Iím asking you, could I have had the least confidence in an unknown who betrays and who shows it off? On what do you base your belief in my sincerity, since you change your tune before my own eyes?

(Stanislas has slowly gotten up from the chair in which we saw him from the back. He faces the audience, unrecognizable, with his hair disarranged, expressionless.)

Perhaps you never guessed what I have just told you. I would have deceived you until the last minute. You would have seen my escort leaving. FoŽhn would have arrested you. He would have taken you away. You would have been judged and you would have been executed. You are escaping my justice. You prefer your own. As you say. But I had a duty to become your tribunal.

(She walks toward him.)

Have you an answer? You keep silent. You drop your chin. I was correct to treat you like a coward. I have contempt for you. (She raises her crop.) And Iím going to lash you.

(She whips him. At that instant, a trumpetcall is heard in the park, Stanislas has not moved.)

Theyíre calling me. I shall no doubt miss the joy of watching you die.

(The queen turns her back and moves toward the foot of the stairs. She stops, placing her foot on the first step, Stanislas watches her. He brings his hand to his hunting knife. He draws it from its sheath. Again a trumpetcall. Stanislas leaps toward the queen. He stabs her between the shoulders. The queen totters, pulls herself up and climbs three stairs, with the knife stuck in her back, as Queen Elizabeth did. Stanislas has fallen back into the downstage area.

The queen turns around and speaks with an immense tenderness.)

THE QUEEN:Forgive me, little man. It was necessary to drive you mad. You would not have struck me ever.

(She climbs four stairs and turns again.)

I shall love you forever.

(The royal hymn can now be heard. Stanislas remains where he stands as if dumbstruck. The queen climbs the stairs like an automaton. She reaches the landing. She grasps the curtain in front of the window to hold herself up and show herself there. She turns her head toward him and extends her hand.)

Stanislas...

(He rushes forward, reaches the landing, but he is struck down by the poison just when he is about to touch the queen. Stanislas falls backwards, rolls down the stairs and dies below, separated from the queen by the entire height of the stairway. The queen collapses tearing down one of the window curtains. The royal hymn continues.)

 

CURTAIN