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Love and Intrigue

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Friedrich Schiller

Act Four

Texte intégral

Ferdinand with a pistol attacks Chamberlain von Kalb. Engraving by Wilhelm Hecht from a woodcut by Heinrich Lossow, Schillers Werke illustrirt von ersten deutschen Künstlern (Leipzig and Stuttgart, 1877). University of Virginia. Image in the public domain.

Reception room in the First Minister’s suite

Scene One

Ferdinand von Walter, an open letter in his hand, storms through one door, an Attendant enters through another.

1FERDINAND. The Chamberlain’s not been here?

2ATTENDANT. Major, sir, his Lordship the First Minister has been asking for you.

3FERDINAND. Blast it all! I ask if the Chamberlain’s not been here.

4ATTENDANT. His Lordship is upstairs at the faro table.

5FERDINAND. His Lordship should, in hell’s own name, present himself.

6(The Attendant goes off.)

Scene Two

Ferdinand alone, rapidly rereading the letter, standing frozen then raging through the room by turns.

7It is not possible. Not possible. This heavenly exterior doesn’t hide a heart so devilish. And nonetheless! If all the angels should descend, vouch for her innocence, if heaven and earth, Creation and Creator came together to vouch for her innocence—it is her hand. An unheard of, monstrous deception, like none known to humankind. So that is why we so stubbornly resisted fleeing! That is why— Oh, God! Now I wake up, now everything comes clear! That’s why we so heroically gave up all claim upon my love! And soon, quite soon this heavenly greasepaint would have fooled even me!

8(He rushes more rapidly through the room, then stands still, reflecting.)

9To have seen me so clearly! To return every bold feeling, every timid tremor, every fiery emotion. To grasp my soul on the indescribable fineness of a sound half-uttered. To take my measure in a tear. To accompany me up every sheer peak of passion, meet me on the brink of every staggering descent— Oh, God! Oh, God! And that was all no more than mugging, pulling faces? If lies have such fast color, how is it that no devil has yet lied his way into heaven?

10When I told her the danger of our love, how persuasively the deceiver blanched. With what triumphant dignity she struck down my father’s impudent contempt. And at that moment the woman knew herself guilty? Indeed! Did she not even withstand truth’s trial by fire—she fainted. What language will you now speak, Feeling? Coquettes faint, too. How will you justify yourself, Innocence? Trollops, too, fall fainting.

11She knows what she has made of me. She has seen my whole soul. My heart showed in my eyes in the blush of our first kiss. And she felt nothing? Perhaps felt only the triumph of her art? While my happy madness imagined that it embraced all heaven in her, that my wildest wishes were stilled? No thought appeared before me but eternity and this girl—and she felt nothing? Only the success of her attack? Only felt her charms soothed and stroked? Death and destruction! Only that I’d been fooled?

Scene Three

The Chamberlain and Ferdinand

12CHAMBERLAIN (tripping into the room). You let the wish be glimpsed, my dear—

13FERDINAND (to himself). To break a scoundrel’s neck. (Aloud.) Chamberlain, this letter must have slipped out of your pocket on the parade ground. I (laughing angrily) was the lucky finder.

14CHAMBERLAIN. You?

15FERDINAND. By happy chance. Say your prayers.

16CHAMBERLAIN. You see how I am startled, Baron.

17FERDINAND. Read it! Read it! (Walking away.) If I’m not good enough to be a lover, perhaps I’ll fare that much better as a pander. (While the Chamberlain reads, he goes to the wall and takes down two pistols.)

  • 1 The original is Verflucht! Deeply alarmed, the Chamberlain reverts to German expletive.

18CHAMBERLAIN (tosses the letter on a table and heads for the door). Damnation !1

19FERDINAND (leading him back by the arm). Patience, dear Chamberlain. This seems good news to me. I’ll have my finder’s fee. (Showing him the pistols.)

20CHAMBERLAIN (recoiling). You’ll not do anything rash, , dear friend.

21FERDINAND (in a terrible voice). More than enough to send such a rascal into the next world. (He presses one of the pistols on the Chamberlain as he takes out his handkerchief.) Take it! And catch one end of this handkerchief! I have it from that tramp.

  • 2 At point-blank range, and indoors: a particularly savage form of dueling.

22CHAMBERLAIN. The length of a handkerchief?2 Have you lost your mind?

23FERDINAND. Take hold of the corner, I say. Otherwise you’ll shoot wide of the mark, you coward. How the coward trembles! You should thank God: for the first time in life you’ll get something into your head.

24(The Chamberlain again takes to his heels.)

25Easy now! Such is the request— (He overtakes the Chamberlain and bars the door.)

26CHAMBERLAIN. In the room here, Baron?

27FERDINAND. As if a trip before the walls were worth the trouble with the likes of you. Sweetheart, this way it’ll crack all the louder—the first noise you have ever made in this world. At the ready!

28CHAMBERLAIN (mopping his brow). You’d expose your precious life this way, you promising young man?

29FERDINAND. Take aim, I say. I’ve no further business in this world.

30CHAMBERLAIN. And I that much more, my dearest.

31FERDINAND. You, fellow? How so you? To fill an empty place at table when there is no one else? To go seven times long and seven times short every twenty seconds, like a salted snail? To keep a careful record of your master’s stools and be a rented nag to peddle his jokes around town? Equally useful. I’ll take you with me like the organ grinder’s monkey, to prance to the howling of the damned, to fetch and dance attendance, and, with your courtly arts, relieve the permanent despair down there.

32CHAMBERLAIN. Whatever you command, sir; exactly as you please. Just no pistols!

33FERDINAND. There he stands, the man of sorrows. A disgrace to the sixth day of Creation. As if a Tübingen book dealer had pirated him from the Almighty! The ounce of brain that goes to waste in this thankless skull would have been enough to make a baboon human; in him it’s no more than a scrap. To share her heart with him? Monstrous! Irresponsible! More suited to discourage sin than to make it alluring.

34CHAMBERLAIN. God be praised! He’s turning witty.

35FERDINAND. I’ll let him be. The tolerance that spares the caterpillar is good enough for him. One can only shrug at such as this—and admire an economy that feeds its creatures also on lees and dregs. But (raging again) this vermin shall not crawl onto my flower or I shall (shaking the Chamberlain roughly) smash it so and so and so again.

  • 3 Ancient Parisian charity hospital.

36CHAMBERLAIN (sighing to himself). Oh, my God! To be a hundred leagues from here, in Paris at Bicȇtre!3

37FERDINAND. Rascal! If she’s no longer pure? If you’ve enjoyed where I adored? (More furious.) Feasted where I felt myself a god. (After a silence.) Better you had fled to hell than met my rage in heaven! How far did you get with the girl? Confess!

38CHAMBERLAIN. Let me go! I’ll tell all. Just have a moment’s patience. You’ve been deceived.

39FERDINAND. You tell me that, you rascal? How far did you get with her? (Pressing the pistol against his heart.) Confess, or I’ll shoot.

  • 4 The German possessive pronoun is Ihr (or ihr). The Chamberlain intends "your father" (Ihr), exposin (...)

40CHAMBERLAIN. Mon Dieu! I’ll talk. Just listen. Your father, your very own father—4

41FERDINAND (fiercer). Coupled his daughter with you?

42CHAMBERLAIN. You’re mad. You’re not listening. I’ve never seen her. I don’t know her, don’t know anything about her.

43FERDINAND (stepping back). You’ve never seen her? Don’t know her? Know nothing about her? The Miller girl is ruined because of you and you deny her three times in one breath? Out! (He swats him with the pistol and pushes him out of the room.) Gunpowder wasn’t invented for the likes of you.

Scene Four

Ferdinand, after a long silence in which his features show development of a terrible thought.

44Lost! Yes, unhappy creature! I am. You are, too. By God, if I am lost, then you are, too. Judge of the World! Don’t require her of me. The girl is mine. I gave up your whole world for the girl, renounced all your magnificent Creation. Leave me the girl. Judge of the World, over there millions of souls wail for you. Turn your merciful eye on them. Let me act alone, Judge of the World. (Folding his hands; terrible.) Would the rich, all-powerful Creator covet one soul, the least in all his Creation? The girl is mine! Mine—once her god, now her devil. (Staring wildly to one side.)

45To be lashed with her to the wheel of damnation in all eternity, eye rooted in eye, hair against hair standing on end, even our hollow whimpering melted into one— And there to repeat my endearments, to chant her vows to her— God! God! To be wedded so is terrible, but eternal.

46(He is about to leave quickly. The First Minister enters.)

Scene Five

47The First Minister and Ferdinand

48FERDINAND (dropping back). Oh! My father!

49FIRST MINISTER. Good that we meet, my son. I have news for you. Something that surely will surprise you, dear Son. Shall we sit down?

50FERDINAND (stares at him at length). My father! (Goes to him, much moved, and takes his hand.) My father! (Kissing his hand and falling to his knees.) Oh, my father!

51FIRST MINISTER. What is it, my son? Stand up. Your hand is trembling.

52FERDINAND (with wild feeling). Forgive my ingratitude, my father. I was contemptible. I mistook your goodness. Your intentions were so fatherly. You saw so clearly. Now it’s too late. Forgive me! And give me your blessing, Father!

53FIRST MINISTER (assuming an innocent air). Stand up, Son! You’re talking in riddles.

54FERDINAND. This Miller girl, Father. Oh, you know men. Your anger was so just, so noble, so fatherly— It just found the wrong way— This Miller girl!

55FIRST MINISTER. Don’t torment me, Son. I was too harsh. I’ve come to beg your pardon.

56FERDINAND. My pardon? You were right to disapprove. You were harsh in order to spare me. This Miller girl, Father—

57FIRST MINISTER. Is a fine girl and a dear one. My suspicion of her was hasty. She has won my respect.

58FERDINAND (leaping up). What? You, too? You, too, Father? — But isn’t she, though—a creature like pure innocence. And it’s so human to love this girl?

59FIRST MINISTER. It would be a crime not to love her.

60FERDINAND. Unheard of! Monstrous! You who see through everyone! And you hated her! What hypocrisy! This Miller girl, Father—

61FIRST MINISTER. Is worthy to become my daughter. I count her virtue as ancestry and her beauty as wealth. My principles give way before your love. She shall be yours!

62FERDINAND (plunging from the room, frightful). This is too much! Farewell, my father! (Exit.)

63FIRST MINISTER (following). Stay! Stay! Where are you storming off to? (Exit.)

Scene Six

A magnificent salon in the Lady’s palace The Lady and Sophie enter.

64LADY. You saw her then? Is she coming?

65SOPHIE. This minute. She was still in house dress and wanted to change quickly.

66LADY. Don’t tell me any more. Quiet. I’m trembling like a criminal at the thought of seeing the lucky one whose feelings match my own. How did she behave at the invitation?

67SOPHIE. She seemed startled, then became thoughtful, looked at me wide-eyed and said nothing. I was prepared for her excuses when, with a glance that surprised me, she answered: Your Lady orders what I was going to beg of her tomorrow.

68LADY (very uneasy). Leave me, Sophie. Pity me. I shall be shamed if she’s just an ordinary woman and I’ll lose heart if she’s more.

69SOPHIE. But, my Lady— That’s no mood to receive a rival in. Remember who you are. Appeal to your birth, your rank, your power. A prouder heart will make you more imposing.

70LADY (distracted). What’s this foolishness?

71SOPHIE (malicious). Or is it by chance that just today your rarest diamonds sparkle on you and you wear your richest fabrics? That your antechamber swarms with footmen and pages, and a girl of burgher’s rank is awaited in your most princely salon?

72LADY (walking up and down; bitterly). Insupportable! That women should have hawk eyes for women’s weaknesses. That such a one should be able to see through me! How deep have I sunk?

73ATTENDANT (entering). Mamsell Miller—

74LADY (to Sophie). Away with you! Remove yourself! (Threatening when Sophie hesitates.) Away with you! It’s an order!

75(Sophie goes off. The Lady takes a turn through the room.)

  • 5 The Lady’s use of the definite article carries a note of haughty condescension.

76Good! Yes, good that I’m now stirred up. That’s how I wanted to be. (To the Attendant.) The Mamsell5 may enter.

77(The Attendant goes off. She throws herself on the sofa and assumes a carelessly haughty attitude.)

Scene Seven

Luisa Miller enters timidly and remains standing at some distance. The Lady has turned her back and observes her carefully in a mirror opposite. Pause.

78LUISA. My Lady, I await your orders.

79LADY (turns toward Luisa and nods briefly, cold and reserved). Oh! Are you here? It’s the Mamsell—a certain— What was your name?

80LUISA (taking offense). Miller is my father’s name and your Ladyship sent for his daughter.

81LADY. Oh, yes. Quite right. Now I remember. The poor fiddler’s daughter they were talking about. (Pause. To herself.) Rather interesting, but no beauty. (Aloud.) Come closer, my child. (To herself.) Eyes practiced in weeping. How I love them, those eyes. (Aloud.) Still closer—right here. Dear child, I believe you are afraid of me?

82LUISA (grand and resolute). No, my Lady. I’ve no use for what people say.

83LADY (to herself). Look at that! Headstrong. That she learned from him. (Aloud.) You’ve been recommended to me, Mamsell. As someone who has skills and knows good form. Well, yes. I’m pleased to believe it. Not for the world would I doubt so warm a sponsor.

84LUISA. But I don’t know anyone, my Lady, who’d go to the trouble to find a patroness for me.

85LADY (stilted). Trouble for the client or the patron?

86LUISA. I don’t understand, my Lady.

87LADY (to herself). More roguery than this open countenance would lead you to believe! (To Luisa.) Luisa is your name? And how young, may I ask?

88LUISA. Just turned sixteen.

89LADY (stands up quickly). There you have it! Sixteen? The first throb of passion! On the untouched keyboard, the first silvery tone! Nothing more seductive. (To Luisa.) Sit down. I quite like you, dear girl. (To herself.) He, too, loves for the first time. No wonder these two beams meet in a single dawn. (Taking her hand, very friendly.) For sure, I want to make you happy, dear. (To herself.) It’s nothing, nothing but the usual sweet, swiftly passing fantasies. (Patting Luisa’s cheek.) My Sophie is about to marry. You shall have her place. (To herself.) Sixteen! It can’t last.

90LUISA (kisses her hand respectfully). I thank you for this kindness, my Lady, no less than were I able to accept it.

91LADY (sitting back, incensed). Well, look at the great lady! Young girls of your origin usually think themselves lucky to find a mistress— What are you saying, my precious? Are these fingers too delicate to work? Is it that bit of face you have that makes you so difficult?

92LUISA. My face, my Lady, is as little mine are my origins.

93LADY. Or do you perhaps believe that all this will never end? Poor thing, whoever put that in your head—be he who he may—he’s fooled you both. These cheeks aren’t solid gold. What your mirror would sell you as massive and eternal is but a thin film of gold leaf that will come off on your admirer’s hand sooner or later. What shall we do then?

94LUISA. Regret the admirer, my Lady, who bought a diamond because it seemed to be mounted in gold.

95LADY (ignoring her meaning). A girl your age always has two mirrors, a true one and her admirer. The one finds fault with a smallpox scar, the other says, "No, wrong. It’s a dimple of the Graces." You good children believe of that one only what this one has said, and so back and forth, till you no longer know— Why are you staring at me so?

96LUISA. Pardon, my Lady. I was about to feel sorry for that glowing ruby that seems not to know how its mistress denounces vanity.

97LADY (reddening). No evasions, my pert one! If it’s not the prospects of your figure, what in the world could keep you from choosing the one station where you can learn good manners and polite society and rid yourself of your burgher’s prejudices?

98LUISA. Also of my burgher’s innocence, my Lady?

99LADY. Silly objection! The most unbridled rascal is too timid to tarnish us if we don’t meet him halfway. Show who you are. Take on an air of honor and dignity and I’ll guarantee your young years against all temptation.

100LUISA. Allow me to presume to doubt that, my Lady. The palaces of certain ladies are often the preserve of the most insolent amusement. Who would credit the poor fiddler’s daughter with the heroic courage to throw herself into the midst of this pestilence and resist it? Who would ever dream that Lady Milford is keeping a scorpion for her conscience, that she’s paying good money for the privilege of turning red with shame every moment? I’ll be frank, my Lady. Would the sight of me amuse you as you went out in search of pleasure? Could you bear it on your return? Oh, better that you let whole worlds divide us, whole seas run between us! Beware, my Lady. Moments of sobriety, of exhaustion could come, moments of regret, and then, what a torment for you to see in your maid’s face the serene calm that innocence rewards a pure heart with. (Taking a step backward.) Once again, my Lady, I earnestly beg your pardon.

101LADY (moving about in ever greater agitation). Insupportable that she says these things to me! Even more insupportable that she is right! (Going to Luisa and looking her straight in the face.) You’ll not outwit me, girl. Mere opinions are not expressed with such heat. There’s a fiery interest lurking behind these maxims that makes you think my service particularly revolting, that made your talk so heated, and (threatening) that I shall uncover.

102LUISA (calm and noble). And if you uncovered it? I have no fear of your revenge, my Lady. Condemned and standing on the scaffold, one laughs to see the world go under. My wretchedness is such that even forthrightness can’t make it worse. (After a pause, very earnestly.) You want to lift me out of my humble origins. I’ll not dissect this suspect kindness. I’ll only ask what could lead my Lady to think me the fool to be ashamed of those origins? What gives her the right to style herself the author of my happiness without first knowing if I wish to receive my happiness from her? I had torn up my title to worldly happiness, forgiven good fortune its untimeliness—why remind me of it now? When even the Godhead hides its beams so as not to blind the angels. And how is it, my Lady, that your vaunted happiness so eagerly seeks envy and admiration from my wretchedness? Does your great happiness require despair as a foil? Just grant me the blindness that alone can reconcile me to my barbarous lot. For the insect in a drop of water is content until it hears of the great ocean where fleets sail and whales play! And you want to make me happy? (After a pause, she goes to the Lady and asks her point-blank.) Are you happy, my Lady?

103(The Lady moves away abruptly, Luisa follows; indicating the Lady’s bosom.)

104Does this heart have the smiling face that becomes your rank? And if we were now to exchange heart for heart and fate for fate, and if I asked you innocently, asked you upon your conscience and as my mother, would you urge me to make the exchange?

105LADY (throwing herself on the sofa). Unheard of! Beyond belief! Oh, no, my girl, this kind of greatness you weren’t born with. And for a father it’s too youthful. I hear another speaking—

106LUISA (looking her sharply in the eye). I should be surprised, my Lady, if you’d thought of this other only now and yet offered me a situation when I entered.

107LADY (leaping up). This can’t be stood! Yes, in fact! Since I can’t evade you. I know him. I know everything. Know more than I want to know. (She stops suddenly, then, with mounting vehemence.) But dare, just dare to love him now, unhappy creature, or to be loved by him. What am I saying? Dare to think of him or to be one of his thoughts. I am powerful, you unhappy creature, and terrible. As God lives, you’re lost!

108LUISA (stoutly). Beyond rescue, my Lady, as soon as you compel his loving you.

109LADY. I understand you. But he is not to love me. I’ll conquer this disgraceful passion, suppress my heart and crush yours. I’ll throw mountains and crevasses between the two of you. Like a Fury, I’ll cut straight through your heaven; my name shall frighten your embraces apart; in his arms your blossoming figure shall wither like a mummy. With him I cannot find happiness—and you shall not either. Just know this, you wretch: to destroy a great happiness is also a great happiness.

110LUISA. A great happiness you’ve forfeited, my Lady. Do not abuse your own heart. You are not capable of doing what you would bring down on me—of tormenting a creature who has done you no harm except to have felt as you did. And I love you for this feeling, my Lady.

111LADY (now more composed). Where was I? What have I betrayed? Who— Did she notice? Oh, Luisa, noble soul, forgive my ravings. I’ll not harm a hair of your head, my child. Make a wish! Ask what you like! I’ll carry you on the palm of my hand. I want to be your friend, your sister. You are poor. Look! (Unfastening a few diamonds.) I’ll sell these gems—and my wardrobe, my horses and carriages. It’s all to be yours. Just give him up!

  • 6 Luisa had suspected that the Lady was complicit in Wurm’s plot.

112LUISA (stepping back, astonished). Is she mocking my despair? Or did she have no part in this barbarous business?6 In that case I could style myself a heroine and dress up my helplessness to look like a good deed. (She reflects a moment, then goes to the Lady, takes her hand and looks at her with meaning.) Take him, then, my Lady. Of my own free will I give up the man ripped from my heart with hell’s own hooks. You may not know it, my Lady, but you have razed the heaven of two lovers, pulled apart two hearts that God himself bound to one another, and destroyed a creature who mattered to Him as you mattered, who praised Him as you did and will praise Him no more. Now he is yours, my Lady. Take him! Run into his arms! Snatch him away to the altar. But remember: The ghost of a suicide will come between you in your bridal kiss. God is merciful. I cannot do otherwise. (She plunges off.)

Scene Eight

The Lady alone

113She stands shaken and beside herself, her eyes riveted to the door the Miller girl has hurried through. Finally she emerges from her stunned state.

114What did that unhappy creature say? The damning words still ring in my ear: Take him! Who, you unhappy creature? The gift of your dying breath? The legacy of your despair? God! God! Have I sunk so from all the thrones of my pride that I thirst for the bounty that a beggar girl will toss to me in the throes of death? Take him! Spoken in a tone, accompanied by a look— Ha! Emilia! Was it for this you stepped beyond the bounds of your kind? Did you cultivate the splendid name of a great British woman only to see the edifice of your honor sink beside the higher virtue of an abandoned burgher girl? No, indeed! Emilia Milford lets herself be shamed, but disgraced—no, never. I, too, have the strength to renounce.

115(Walking up and down majestically.) Be gone now, weak and suffering woman. Farewell, golden images of love. Magnanimity alone now be my guide! This loving pair is lost if Milford does not renounce her claim, if her flame is not extinguished in the Prince’s heart. (After a pause, vivid.) It is done! The terrible obstacle removed, all bonds between me and the Duke now broken, this raging love torn from my breast! Virtue, I throw myself into your arms! Take up your contrite daughter Emilia! Ha! How relieved I feel, how much lighter, how lifted up! Great like a falling sun, I’ll sink today from the peak of my highness; let my grandeur die out with my love and nothing go with me into this proud exile but my heart! (Going to her writing desk, resolved.) Now, right away, before the charms of this dear young man renew the struggle in my heart. (She sits down and begins to write.)

Scene Nine

Lady. An Attendant. Sophie. Then the Chamberlain. Finally, Servants.

116ATTENDANT. His Lordship Chamberlain von Kalb is waiting in the antechamber with a message from the Duke.

117LADY (in the heat of writing). He will reel, this princely marionette! Yes, indeed! The idea is droll enough to split his serene skull! His sycophants will spin like dervishes! The whole land will come into ferment.

118ATTENDANT and SOPHIE. His Lordship the Chamberlain, my Lady—

119LADY (turning around). Who? What? So much the better! Creatures like that were put here to fetch and carry. I await him.

120(The Attendant goes off.)

121SOPHIE (approaching anxiously). I fear it’s a liberty, my Lady— (The Lady goes on writing furiously.) The Miller girl rushed through the antechamber quite beside herself— You are all alight— You’re talking to yourself— (The Lady goes on writing.) It’s frightening. What can have happened?

122(The Chamberlain enters and bows a thousand times to the Lady’s back. When she does not notice, he comes closer, stands behind her chair and tries to catch a corner of her gown and kiss it.)

123CHAMBERLAIN (whispering timidly). Serenissimus—

124LADY (scattering sand and scanning her writing). He’ll charge me with black ingratitude. I was a waif. He lifted me out of my misery. Misery? Detestable exchange! Tear up your account, seducer! My eternal shame will pay it, pay with interest.

  • 7 The choice of entertainment for the evening is between an imitation of the famous English pleasure (...)

125CHAMBERLAIN (having attempted to approach the Lady from every side). My Lady seems to be distrait. I’ll have to be so bold. (Very loud.) Serenissimus, my Lady, sends me to ask if it will be Vauxhall this evening or a German comedy?7

126LADY (standing up with a laugh). One or the other, my angel. Meanwhile, bring your Duke this card as dessert! (To Sophie.) You, Sophie, order the carriage. And assemble all my staff here in the hall.

127SOPHIE (going off, dismayed). Oh, heavens! What’s coming now?

  • 8 Heated, stirred up. The Wife, Act One, scene one, rendered the same thought in the language of her (...)

128CHAMBERLAIN. You are échauffée,8 my Lady?

129LADY. That much less need for lying anymore. Hurrah, my Lord Chamberlain! A vacancy is opening. Good weather for panders. (She sees the Chamberlain peering at the letter.) Read it, read it! I make no secret of the content.

130(While the Chamberlain reads, the Lady’s staff gather in the background.)

131CHAMBERLAIN (reading aloud). "My Lord, a contract that you broke so lightheartedly cannot bind me anymore. The happiness of your land was the condition of my love. The deception has lasted two years. My eyes are opened. I abhor favors wet with your subjects’ tears. Give the love I can return no longer to your weeping land instead and learn from a British princess mercy toward your German people. In one hour I shall be over the border. Johanna Norfolk."

132ALL SERVANTS (murmuring among themselves). Over the border?

133CHAMBERLAIN (laying the note on the table, stunned). God forbid, my most esteemed and gracious Lady! The bearer would feel his neck tingle no less than the writer.

134LADY. That’s your problem, precious boy. Sadly, I know all too well that you and your likes choke in reciting what others have done. My advice would be to bake the note in a pâté so Serenissimus would find it on his plate—

135CHAMBERLAIN. Ciel! The audacity! Do consider how you put yourself in disgrâce, my Lady.

136LADY (turns to the assembled Servants and speaks as follows, very moved): You stand dismayed, good people, wait anxiously to see how this riddle will turn out? Come closer, my dears. You served me honestly and well, looked into my eyes more often than into my purse; obedience was your passion and your pride—and a blessing for me! That remembrance of your loyalty should be at the same time recall of my humiliation! A sad fate that my blackest days were your happiest! (With tears in her eyes.) I dismiss you, my children. Lady Milford is no more and Johanna of Norfolk is too poor to pay her debts. My treasurer is to empty my casket among you. This palace remains the Duke’s. The poorest among you will go from here richer than your mistress. (She offers her hand, which all kiss fervently.) I understand you, good people. Farewell! Farewell forever! (Recovering her composure.) I hear the carriage before the door. (She tears herself away, moves to go out; the Chamberlain blocks her way.) Wretched creature, are you still here?

137CHAMBERLAIN (who has been staring, witless, at the note). This billet I’m to put into His Serene Highness’s very own hands?

  • 9 A pilgrimage of penance.

138LADY. Wretched man! Into his very own hands and announce to his very own ears that I, unable to go barefoot to Loreto,9 shall labor instead for the daily wage of cleansing myself of the blot of having ruled over him.

139(She goes off. All others go their separate ways, much moved.)

Notes

1 The original is Verflucht! Deeply alarmed, the Chamberlain reverts to German expletive.

2 At point-blank range, and indoors: a particularly savage form of dueling.

3 Ancient Parisian charity hospital.

4 The German possessive pronoun is Ihr (or ihr). The Chamberlain intends "your father" (Ihr), exposing the First Minister’s plot. Ferdinand understands "her father" (ihr) and concludes the Chamberlain is denying responsibility.

5 The Lady’s use of the definite article carries a note of haughty condescension.

6 Luisa had suspected that the Lady was complicit in Wurm’s plot.

7 The choice of entertainment for the evening is between an imitation of the famous English pleasure garden and a German play, with a sly reference to the German play before us.

8 Heated, stirred up. The Wife, Act One, scene one, rendered the same thought in the language of her class: approximately, as "all het up."

9 A pilgrimage of penance.

Table des illustrations

Légende Ferdinand with a pistol attacks Chamberlain von Kalb. Engraving by Wilhelm Hecht from a woodcut by Heinrich Lossow, Schillers Werke illustrirt von ersten deutschen Künstlern (Leipzig and Stuttgart, 1877). University of Virginia. Image in the public domain.
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