On my word, how fine we are here, very fine indeed! And how nice it does look with so many lights burning. [He blows out several.] Why are you hiding yourselves, ladies? Did you expect such a visitor?
[The ladies place themselves so that they screen the table. They hide the cards quickly.]
Do not let me disturb you, ladies. What is your particular entertainment this evening? Enjoying a cup of soup, Frau von Holzendorf? [Comes nearer.] Oho—the silver service? [He looks into cups.] What’s that? Tea? Chocolate? Coffee?
Your Majesty will surely—permit us—to keep pace with our age.
Frau von Viereck, you, I imagine, have been keeping pace with your age long enough. About thirty years ago you’d give an old boy like myself a handshake occasionally.
[Slyly he holds out his hand to her.]
VIERECK (tries to hide the cards behind her back).
Your Majesty—such graciousness—
[She holds out one hand.]
Both, Fran von Viereck—let me have both.
[VIERECK lets the cards fall behind her back.]
What’s that? Did you not drop something? My God! Cards! [He stands as if speechless.] Playing-cards! [To the QUEEN.] Cards, madam—a Christian court—and cards! I am sure, Frau von Viereck, you were merely prophesying from those cards. I know, ladies, that you were only telling your fortunes from the cards. I am quite sure, Frau von Viereck, that you were merely endeavoring to ascertain whether you would bury your fifth husband also. Surely—or—is it possible? Money on the tables! [He clasps his hands in horror.] You—have-been-playing?—at my court?—playing-cards? [There is a knock at the door to the left.] Who knocks there?
It is Wilhelmine or the Prince of Wales! I am lost!
[Another gentle knock is heard.]
You are awaiting more visitors? Come in!
[He goes to the door himself and opens it.]
WILHELMINE, wearing a white veil and domino, comes in cautiously.
A veiled lady! And such mysterious visitors are received here? [He lifts the veil.] What do I see! Wilhelmine!
WILHELMINE (throwing herself at his feet).
Father! Forgive me!
Forgive you! This invasion of the State Prison—this attack on my sovereign will?
WILHELMINE (rising, aside).
This is a nice reception.
[There is a knock from the left.]
Was that not another knock? [A stronger knock.] This castle is haunted, I do believe. And I have indeed been fortunate enough to prevent the outbreak of a conspiracy! [A louder knock.] Who is there at that door? You will not answer? Then I must open it myself.