That is—oh, it cannot be—the kitchen?
Not exactly—but hardly much better. It is, I have the honor to inform you, the Royal Prussian Laundry. Yes, Prince, the sister of the Prussian Crown Prince is permitted to remain in that room for an hour or two if she will, to look on at the washing, the starching, the ironing, the sorting-out of body and house linen—
This—for a Princess?
Do you see the little window with the flower pots and the bird in a tiny cage? The wife of our silver-cleaner lives there, and occasionally, when the poor daughter of a King is supposed to be busied, like any serving-maid, among the steaming pots and boilers, this same poor Princess slips in secretly to the good woman’s little room. Ah! there, behind those flower-pots, I can laugh freely and merrily—there I can let the little linnet feed from my hand, and I can say to myself that with all my troubles, with all my sorrows, I am still happier than the poor little singer in his cage. For he will never regain his freedom no matter how sweetly he may sing ... in all the tongues of earth.
She is charming. [Aloud.] And Laharpe?
If I must dare it—send the learned gentleman to me down there, Prince. In that little room I will obey my brother’s command to perfect my French style. Among many other things I should really like to learn to say, in most elegant and modern French, these words: “Yes I will dare to begin a new life. Remain my brother’s friend—and my protector!” But for the moment—goodby.
[She hurries out.]
Where am I? Was that a scene from the Arabian Nights? Or am I really on the banks of that homely river Spree which flows into the Havel? Of a truth this Prussian Court with its queer pigtails and gaiters is more romantic than I had thought. Laharpe down there behind the flower-pots! Laharpe tete-a-tete with a Princess who visits the kitchen and with a linnet which—happy bird—is privileged to bite her fingers. How beautiful she is—much fairer than the miniature Frederick wears next his heart! And yet I had fallen in love with this miniature. [Looks about him.] There is a spell that seems to hold me in these rooms, through which she glides like the Genius of the bower. [Goes to the window.] Down there in the square, the bayonets of the parading troops flash in the sunlight—and that door over yonder leads to the apartments of a Princess whose possession would mean the highest bliss earth can afford. And there—whither leads that door through which the kind guardian of this paradise disappeared?
[He turns toward the second door at the back, to his right.]
SONNSFELD (comes in quickly, excitedly).