ECKHOF (looks about timidly).
But if I—[much moved] Heavens—it is three years since I have touched that noble, that magical instrument.
Come now! I’m the cavalier, Princess, and you are the lady.
[ECKHOF plays one of the simple naive dance tunes of the day. The two ladies dance.]
Bravo, Eckhof! This is going nicely—ah,
what joy to dance once more!
This way now la—la—la! [She hums the melody.]
During the dance the KING comes in softly through the door to the right. He starts when he sees the dancers and the grenadier playing the violin. They do not notice him. He comes-nearer and attempts to join the dance unobserved.
Sonnsfeld, that’s not right! Now it’s the gentleman’s turn. [Holds her hand out behind her back]—Like this.
[The KING takes her hand gently with one finger and dances a few steps.]
How clumsy, dear friend. [Dancing.] And your hand is strangely rough today.
[She turns and sees the KING, who had begun to hum the tune in a gruff voice. The three start in alarm. ECKHOF salutes with the violin.]
Very nice—very pretty indeed! Are these the sayings of Solomon? Music and dancing in my castle by broad daylight? And a Prussian grenadier playing the violin to the prisoner he is set to watch?
Pardon, Your Majesty—it was we who forced him.
Forced him? Forced a soldier? Forced him to violate his duty in this devilish manner? I’ll have to invent a punishment for him such as the Prussian army has never yet seen.
Have mercy, Your Majesty—have mercy!
I’ll talk to you later. As for you, Conrad Eckhof, I know that is your name—I will tell you what your punishment shall be. You are discharged from the army that serves under my glorious flag, discharged in disgrace. But you are not to be honored by being sent to a convict company or into the worthy station of a subject. Listen to the fate I have decreed for you. A troop of German comedians has taken quarters in the Warehouse in the Cloister street. These mountebanks—histriones—are in straits because their clown—for whom they sent to Leipzig, has not arrived. You are to take off the honorable Prussian uniform and to join this group of mountebanks, sent there by me, as a warning to every one. You are to become an actor, a clown of clowns-and henceforth amuse the German nation with your foolish and criminal jokes and quips. Shame upon you!
ECKHOF (with a grateful glance to heaven, trying to conceal his joyful excitement).