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- Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress - 2/4 -


STRAMMFEST [snatching the telephone and listening for the answer]. Speak louder, will you: I am a General I know that, you dolt. Have you captured the officer that was with her?... Damnation! You shall answer for this: you let him go: he bribed you. You must have seen him: the fellow is in the full dress court uniform of the Panderobajensky Hussars. I give you twelve hours to catch him or...what's that you say about the devil? Are you swearing at me, you...Thousand thunders! [To Schneidekind.] The swine says that the Grand Duchess is a devil incarnate. [Into the telephone.] Filthy traitor: is that the way you dare speak of the daughter of our anointed Panjandrum? I'll--

SCHNEIDEKIND [pulling the telephone from his lips]. Take care, sir.

STRAMMFEST. I won't take care: I'll have him shot. Let go that telephone.

SCHNEIDEKIND. But for her own sake, sir--

STRAMMFEST. Eh?--

SCHNEIDEKIND. For her own sake they had better send her here. She will be safe in your hands.

STRAMMFEST [yielding the receiver]. You are right. Be civil to him. I should choke [he sits down].

SCHNEIDEKIND [into the telephone]. Hullo. Never mind all that: it's only a fellow here who has been fooling with the telephone. I had to leave the room for a moment. Wash out: and send the girl along. We'll jolly soon teach her to behave herself here...Oh, you've sent her already. Then why the devil didn't you say so, you--[he hangs up the telephone angrily]. Just fancy: they started her off this morning: and all this is because the fellow likes to get on the telephone and hear himself talk now that he is a colonel. [The telephone rings again. He snatches the receiver furiously.] What's the matter now?...[To the General.] It's our own people downstairs. [Into the receiver.] Here! do you suppose I've nothing else to do than to hang on to the telephone all day?...What's that? Not men enough to hold her! What do you mean? [To the General.] She is there, sir.

STRAMMFEST. Tell them to send her up. I shall have to receive her without even rising, without kissing her hand, to keep up appearances before the escort. It will break my heart.

SCHNEIDEKIND [into the receiver]. Send her up...Tcha! [He hangs up the receiver.] He says she is halfway up already: they couldn't hold her.

The Grand Duchess bursts into the room, dragging with her two exhausted soldiers hanging on desperately to her arms. She is enveloped from head to foot by a fur-lined cloak, and wears a fur cap.

SCHNEIDEKIND [pointing to the bench]. At the word Go, place your prisoner on the bench in a sitting posture; and take your seats right and left of her. Go.

The two soldiers make a supreme effort to force her to sit down. She flings them back so that they are forced to sit on the bench to save themselves from falling backwards over it, and is herself dragged into sitting between them. The second soldier, holding on tight to the Grand Duchess with one hand, produces papers with the other, and waves them towards Schneidekind, who takes them from him and passes them on to the General. He opens them and reads them with a grave expression.

SCHNEIDEKIN. Be good enough to wait, prisoner, until the General has read the papers on your case.

THE GRAND DUCHESS [to the soldiers]. Let go. [To Strammfest]. Tell them to let go, or I'll upset the bench backwards and bash our three heads on the floor.

FIRST SOLDIER. No, little mother. Have mercy on the poor.

STRAMMFEST [growling over the edge of the paper he is reading]. Hold your tongue.

THE GRAND DUCHESS [blazing]. Me, or the soldier?

STRAMMFEST [horrified]. The soldier, madam.

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Tell him to let go.

STRAMMFEST. Release the lady.

The soldiers take their hands off her. One of them wipes his fevered brow. The other sucks his wrist.

SCHNEIDKIND [fiercely]. 'ttention!

The two soldiers sit up stiffly.

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Oh, let the poor man suck his wrist. It may be poisoned. I bit it.

STRAMMFEST [shocked]. You bit a common soldier!

GRAND DUCHESS. Well, I offered to cauterize it with the poker in the office stove. But he was afraid. What more could I do?

SCHNEIDEKIND. Why did you bite him, prisoner?

THE GRAND DUCHESS. He would not let go.

STRAMMFEST. Did he let go when you bit him?

THE GRAND DUCHESS. No. [Patting the soldier on the back]. You should give the man a cross for his devotion. I could not go on eating him; so I brought him along with me.

STRAMMFEST. Prisoner--

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Don't call me prisoner, General Strammfest. My grandmother dandled you on her knee.

STRAMMFEST [bursting into tears]. O God, yes. Believe me, my heart is what it was then.

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Your brain also is what it was then. I will not be addressed by you as prisoner.

STRAMMFEST. I may not, for your own sake, call you by your rightful and most sacred titles. What am I to call you?

THE GRAND DUCHESS. The Revolution has made us comrades. Call me comrade.

STRAMMFEST. I had rather die.

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Then call me Annajanska; and I will call you Peter Piper, as grandmamma did.

STRAMMFEST [painfully agitated]. Schneidekind, you must speak to her: I cannot--[he breaks down.]

SCHNEIDEKIND [officially]. The Republic of Beotia has been compelled to confine the Panjandrum and his family, for their own safety, within certain bounds. You have broken those bounds.

STRAMMFEST [taking the word from him]. You are I must say it--a prisoner. What am I to do with you?

THE GRAND DUCHESS. You should have thought of that before you arrested me.

STRAMMFEST. Come, come, prisoner! do you know what will happen to you if you compel me to take a sterner tone with you?

THE GRAND DUCHESS. No. But I know what will happen to you.

STRAMAIFEST. Pray what, prisoner?

THE GLAND DUCHESS. Clergyman's sore throat.

Schneidekind splutters; drops a paper: and conceals his laughter under the table.

STRAMMFEST [thunderously]. Lieutenant Schneidekind.

SCHNEIDEKIND [in a stifled voice]. Yes, Sir. [The table vibrates visibly.]

STRAMMFEST. Come out of it, you fool: you're upsetting the ink.

Schneidekind emerges, red in the face with suppressed mirth.

STRAMMFEST. Why don't you laugh? Don't you appreciate Her Imperial Highness's joke?

SCHNEIDEKIND [suddenly becoming solemn]. I don't want to, sir.

STRAMMFEST. Laugh at once, sir. I order you to laugh.

SCHNEIDEKIND [with a touch of temper]. I really can't, sir. [He sits down decisively.]

STRAMMFEST [growling at him]. Yah! [He turns impressively to the Grand Duchess.] Your Imperial Highness desires me to address you as comrade?

THE GRAND DUCHESS [rising and waving a red handkerchief]. Long live the Revolution, comrade!

STRAMMFEST [rising and saluting]. Proletarians of all lands, unite. Lieutenant Schneidekind, you will rise and sing the Marseillaise.

SCHNEIDEKIND [rising]. But I cannot, sir. I have no voice, no ear.

STRAMMFEST. Then sit down; and bury your shame in your typewriter. [Schneidekind sits down.] Comrade Annajanska, you have eloped with a young officer.

THE GRAND DUCHESS [astounded]. General Strammfest, you lie.


Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress - 2/4

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