Baronet Hotham, I confess that this news surprises, nay, moves me greatly. But you can lay it to the account of your own egotistical politics if I declare to you that no stranger in Berlin exists for me, until he has been properly registered at the gates of the capital. If you will drive me to the last stand, if you would make the ground of my own country too hot for me—then tell the Prince of Wales that although I am deeply touched by his affection for my family, still, under conditions threatening the peace of my country, the welfare of my subjects—I must beg of him to return whence he came. Prince, you ride to Vienna as envoy of this monarchy. Wilhelmine, the Imperial Crown will console you. And as for you, Madame [aside to the Queen], has not your pride found its limits at last?
I have pledged my word to England.
But if it isn’t possible—
[Comes nearer cordially, holds out his hand.]
QUEEN (touched, hesitating).
An hour ago, possibly—[firm and decided again], but now—the personal presence of the Prince of Wales has taken the decision out of our hands.
Very well—he who will have war—[To HOTHAM] Have you any other instructions than those we have already heard?
None, Your Majesty.
Then come to me, Prince, for the contract with Vienna.
A German state in
England’s stead! ’Tis better so, gentlemen, better so. I will cleave to
Germany with all my soul. Foreign egotism shall teach German peoples and
Princes how to be truly united. [He goes out into his study. GRUMBKOW,
SECKENDORF and the generals follow.]
QUEEN (to HOTHAM).
Sir, you have been witness to a scene which confirms for you the truth as to my position here, the truth that is not yet credited in England. Wilhelmine, the news of the arrival of the Prince of Wales gives me fresh hope. Ride to Vienna, Prince—become, if you must, a traitor to a cause which will conquer, despite the intrigues of my enemies. Give me your arm, Lord Hotham. The Prince of Wales in Berlin! I can hardly realize it. Bring him to me and prepare him for everything—but no—do not mention to him—those revolting forty thousand thalers.
[She goes out with OTHAM.]
What do you say to your friend now? The Prince of Wales in Berlin!
I do not know where I am in all this tangle. Hotham is a traitor, an ingrate who has betrayed me, betrayed us all.
Be more cautious in the future when you talk of friendship—and
[She turns to follow the QUEEN.]