Can Wilhelmine be a party to this? That would indeed be scandalous. The Attorney-General must make a thorough investigation. [In extreme anger.] Isn’t it possible for me to have a single quiet moment?
Your Majesty, shall I take these ungodly books to the executioner, to have them burned?
No. I wouldn’t use them even to light my pipe—not even as bonfires for our festivities. Gentlemen, shake this matter off, as I have done. This evening, over our glowing pipes, and in the enjoyment of a glass of good German beer, we also can be just as witty at the expense of Versailles and the entire French cabinet.
GRUMBKOW AND SECKENDORF (together, aside).
Bonfires for the festivities?
But the books are to be burned, Your Majesty?
Yes, in another manner. Send them out to the powder mills by the Oranienburger gate. They can make cartridges for my grenadiers out of them. [He goes out.]
GRUMBKOW, SECKENDORF, EVERSMANN (aside). Festivities?
[They go out.]
The scene changes to the room of Act I.
BARONET HOTHAM comes in cautiously through the centre door, followed by KAMKE.
A hall with four doors? Quite right. The Princess’ room there? And the Queen’s here? Thanks, good friend. [KAMKE goes out.] Baronet Hotham is preserving his incognito to the extent of becoming entirely invisible. I’ve smuggled myself into the country from London—by way of Hanover—as if I were a bale of prohibited merchandise. [Wipes his forehead.] The deuce take this equestrian official business, where a man needs have the manners of a dandy with the unfeeling bones of a postilion. For four days I’ve scarcely been out of the saddle. [He throws himself into a chair.] Gad! if the nations knew how a man has to win his way through to the Foreign Office by years of courier-riding, they’d not think it strange that their statesmen, grown mature, seem disinclined to trip the light fantastic. Faith, it weighs one’s pocket heavily, this carrying a kingdom about with one. [He slaps his right coat-pocket.] Here lies the crown of England. [Now the left coat-pocket.] Here the crown of Scotland—and here, in my waistcoat pocket, is Ireland. What shall I take from herein exchange? [He looks about.] Is the gilding real? It looks deuced niggardly and close-fisted. There’s space enough in these great halls, but I’ll wager there are many mice here. It’s as quiet as an English Sunday. [Rises.] There’s some one coming.
[Rises PRINCE opens the centre door, then halts on the threshold as if in despair.]
HOTHAM (in surprise).