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قراءة كتاب Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress

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‏اللغة: English
Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress

Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 5

was traced to Potterdam, where you rejoined him and went alone to Premsylople. What have you done with that unhappy young man? Where is he?

THE GRAND DUCHESS [pretending to whisper an important secret]. Where he has always been.

STRAMMFEST [eagerly]. Where is that?

THE GRAND DUCHESS [impetuously]. In your imagination. I came alone. I am alone. Hundreds of officers travel every day from Hakonsburg to Potterdam. What do I know about them?

STRAMMFEST. They travel in khaki. They do not travel in full dress court uniform as this man did.

SCHNEIDEKIND. Only officers who are eloping with grand duchesses wear court uniform: otherwise the grand duchesses could not be seen with them.

STRAMMFEST. Hold your tongue. [Schneidekind, in high dudgeon, folds his arms and retires from the conversation. The General returns to his paper and to his examination of the Grand Duchess.] This officer travelled with your passport. What have you to say to that?

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Bosh! How could a man travel with a woman's passport?

STRAMMFEST. It is quite simple, as you very well know. A dozen travellers arrive at the boundary. The official collects their passports. He counts twelve persons; then counts the passports. If there are twelve, he is satisfied.

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Then how do you know that one of the passports was mine?

STRAMMFEST. A waiter at the Potterdam Hotel looked at the officer's passport when he was in his bath. It was your passport.

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Stuff! Why did he not have me arrested?

STRAMMFEST. When the waiter returned to the hotel with the police the officer had vanished; and you were there with your own passport. They knouted him.

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Oh! Strammfest, send these men away. I must speak to you alone.

STRAMMFEST [rising in horror]. No: this is the last straw: I cannot consent. It is impossible, utterly, eternally impossible, that a daughter of the Imperial House should speak to any one alone, were it even her own husband.

THE GRAND DUCHESS. You forget that there is an exception. She may speak to a child alone. [She rises.] Strammfest, you have been dandled on my grandmother's knee. By that gracious action the dowager Panjandrina made you a child forever. So did Nature, by the way. I order you to speak to me alone. Do you hear? I order you. For seven hundred years no member of your family has ever disobeyed an order from a member of mine. Will you disobey me?

STRAMMFEST. There is an alternative to obedience. The dead cannot disobey. [He takes out his pistol and places the muzzle against his temple.]

SCHNEIDEKIND [snatching the pistol from him]. For God's sake, General—

STRAMMFEST [attacking him furiously to recover the weapon]. Dog of a subaltern, restore that pistol and my honor.

SCHNEIDEKIND [reaching out with the pistol to the Grand Duchess]. Take it: quick: he is as strong as a bull.

THE GRAND DUCHESS [snatching it]. Aha! Leave the room, all of you except the General. At the double! lightning! electricity! [She fires shot after shot, spattering the bullets about the ankles of the soldiers. They fly precipitately. She turns to Schneidekind, who has by this time been flung on the floor by the General.] You too. [He scrambles up.] March. [He flies to the door.]

SCHNEIDEKIND [turning at the door]. For your own sake, comrade—

THE GRAND DUCHESS [indignantly]. Comrade! You!!! Go. [She fires two more shots. He vanishes.]

STRAMMFEST [making an impulsive movement towards her]. My Imperial Mistress—

THE GRAND DUCHESS. Stop. I have one bullet left, if you attempt to take this from me [putting the pistol to her temple].

STRAMMFEST [recoiling, and covering his eyes with his hands]. No no: put it down: put it down. I promise everything: I swear anything; but put it down, I implore you.

THE GRAND DUCHESS [throwing it on the table]. There!

STRAMMFEST [uncovering his eyes]. Thank God!

THE GRAND DUCHESS [gently]. Strammfest: I