Scene. Interior of the Cafe Krischka in Budapest. It is a small rather inferior cafe in a poor quarter of the city. There are small tables and common chairs. An opening C leads into the interior of the house. A door L communicates with the street. A bell rings when anyone enters this door. The stage is empty: there is a sound of sawing off C. The bell rings and Krasnovik enters; he is a young Klovenian politician. In answer to the bell, Marevski enters C: he is a small hunchback, black hair, sallow complexion, frail appearance, Hungarian. He carries a saw in his hand.
Kras. Where’s Pezuin?
Mar. (calling off) You’re wanted.
Kras. Your work done?
Kras. You’ve only got half an hour to finish it.
(Enter Pezuin C. He is a big, black-bearded man, with the air of a bully: Klovenian. He is the proprietor of the cafe.)
Kras. Meeting’s fixed for eight o’clock.
Pez. Who’s coming?
Kras. Zovescu, Moneskin and the professor.
Pez. You’ll be here?
Kras. Naturally. We’re bringing the cylinder.
Kras. It always was to be tonight.
Pez. (to Marewski) Is your work done?
Mar. It will be.
Kras. Where’s it going?
Pez. In the panelling of my room. Marevski’s making a sliding panel.
Kras. Won’t it be too obvious?
Pez. It had better not be. (threateningly).
Mar. It won’t show?
Kras. I’m bringing the cylinder myself. Be on the look out for me. (Pez. nods. Exit Kras. L.)
Pez. Why aren’t you back at work?
Mar. The thing’s almost done.
Pez. It ought to have been finished yesterday.
Kras. It would have been if you hadn’t interfered.
Pez. I don’t want any lip from you. I’m taking no risks: if you want to hide a cylinder of poison gas, you can’t leave it where the police would be bound to spot it.
Mar. They’re more likely to spot it now – since you butted into a good job.
Pez. You’re here to obey my orders.
Mar. Then I wish I had someone with brains to give them.
Pez. (who is carrying a thick strap, brings it down heavily on Marevski’s hunchback. Mar. gives a sharp cry of pain.) Shut your mouth! (He strikes him again. Marevski bares his teeth but says nothing. Enter Joseph, an English waiter. He is a tall powerfully built man, who looks as if he had seen better days.)
Pez. (to Jos.) Clear out. (He raises the strap to hit Mar. again.)
Jos. If you touch him again, I’ll lay you out.
Pez. It’s no business of yours.
Jos. We won’t argue about that.
Pez. If you don’t get out –
Pez. Clear out, I tell you.
Jos. Listen to me, Pezuin, You’re proprietor of this cafe and I’m your waiter; you can discharge me when and how you like. But while I’m here you’re not going to bully – and you’re not going to touch Marevski.
Pez. I shall do as I like.
Jos. If you lay another finger on Marevski, I shall call in the police. (Pez. looks up quickly.) That wouldn’t suit you, eh? Very well: now we know where we are.
Pez. I’ll get even with you for this. (Exit Pez. C.)
Mar. That was clever.
Mar. About the police. He doesn’t want the police nosing round here.
Mar. No. Not till tomorrow. He’ll be gone then.
Jos. Gone? Where?
Mar. Listen. You saved me just now; when that brute Pezuin loses his temper he sees red; he would have pretty near killed me. I’m grateful.
Jos. My dear fellow
Mar. Don’t stop to explain. Listen; I’m on a very dirty job here. Oh, they pay me well enough, and they think money and fear will keep my mouth shut. And I would have held my tongue if Pezuin hadn’t thrashed me. You’re not allowed into his room. DO you know why?
Mar. I’m doing some repairs in there: making an invisible sliding panel. My work will be finished tomorrow. Then we’re off.
Jos. Where to?
Mar. Klovenia. But the panel won’t be empty when we go.
Jos. Oh – do they mean to put me in there?
Mar. In that panel there’ll be a cylinder of poison gas.
Pez. (Calls outside). Marevski.
Mar. Coming. They’re meeting here tonight and bringing the cylinder with them.
Jos. Why have you told me this?
Mar. I hate Pezuin; I hate them all: I hate the whole business. It’s devilish – I want to get out of it. You an help me. (Enter Pezuin.)
Pez. (to Jos.) Close down in 20 minutes. I shall be in by then; I have some friends coming in at eight. (To Mar.) Your work must be done before I’m back. (Exit Pez. L.)
Jos. Now, Marevski, how can I help you?
Mar. Tell the police: I know that it means three or for years for me, but I don’t mind that. I’ve been in quod more than once – crook work you know. But I didn’t know what I was in for when I got in with this lot.
Jos. What’s their game?
Mar. Wholesale murder – by poison gas. They don’t tell me much, but I know that’s what they’re after. I don’t hold with it.
Jos. Why don’t you go to the police yourself?
Mar. I daren’t. They’d kill me.
Jos. You’d be under police protection.
Mar. I should die all the same. They wouldn’t suspect you.
(Enter von Armstadt L. He is an efficient looking German, quietly but rather shabbily dressed. He sits down at a table and Joseph approaches him politely.)
Arm. A large Pilsner, please.
Jos. Thank you, sir. (He crosses to the bar to get the beer: as he is pouring it he speaks to Marevski.) Better finish your work in the back room, Marevski. (Mar. nods & exit C.)
Arm. (as Jos. hands the beer.) Who’s that fellow?
Jos. He may be very useful to us. He’s one of them, but wants to chuck it up; by a lucky chance I saved him from a thrashing just now. He’s been confiding in me.
(the door bell rings.)
Arm. You’ve told him nothing?
Jos. Certainly not. (Enter L. van der Vogt and Marta Losch.)
(Van is a Dutchman of portly build, with a shrewd and benevolent face. Marta is about 35, an efficient-looking woman. Both are inconspicuously dressed. They sit down at the table next to Armstadt’s.)
Van. Two Benedictines, waiter.
Jos. Thank you, sir. ( He goes to get them.)
Arm. Oh, waiter?
Arm. Is the proprietor in?
Jos. No, sir; I’m expecting him back in about a quarter of an hour, sir. (he puts the liqueurs in Van’s table and alters his tone.) Till then, all’s safe.
Arm. Your crippled friend can’t overhear us?
Jos. No, sir. He’s in a room at the back of the house and the door’s shut.
Arm. Then we’d better get to business. I’ll give you the facts as far as we have them at present; when I gave you all your orders five months ago, all we knew was that a plot was being hatched in Klovenia to overthrow the League of Nations and to establish Klovenia as the dominant power in Europe. Of the details of the plot we knew nothing, but we had strong suspicions that two men well known in Klovenian politics were mixed up in it. One was Baron Zovescu and the other Count Vlastin; as Van der Vogt was at the time our principal agent in Klovenia, I sent for him and asked him to keep an eye on both of the.
Van. And a poor job I made of it, I’m afraid; Zovescu was easy enough. He’s been openly making a tour of the European capitals and I’ve had no difficulty in keeping an eye on his movements. But before Zovescu left Klovenia, the other fellow, Vlastin, disappeared completely and I’ve heard nothing of him from that day to this.
Arm. Wilkinson can give you news of Vlastin. A soon as I got your report of his disappearance, I told off Wilkinson to trace him: after two months of fruitless work we got onto his trail.
Jos. And I’ve been waiter in this stinking hole ever since. Vlastin is the proprietor of this cafe: he calls himself Pezuin – one of the nastiest brutes I’ve met for some time.
Arm. Everything seems to point to the fact that the cafe Krischka is the temporary headquarters of the conspirators. It’s safer than Klovenia and within easy distance of there by air. Wilkinson reports meetings here twice a week.
Jos. But has overheard hardly anything of importance; they are careful of that.
Van. But you know the gang by sight?
Jos. There are four who meet here regularly; a blond old Hungarian professor, named Slovenski; a young Klovenian politician called Krasnovik; a fellow whom I take to be an engineer of some kind – his name is Moneskin – and Pezuin himself. They are coming here tonight. Zovescu hasn’t appeared yet.
Van. No – he’s been otherwise engaged. I’ll tell you about his activities in a moment.
Arm. As soon as I got wind of the plot, I sent Fraulein Losch with a report to our Secret Service Headquarters at Geneva. The Chief got busy at once and our agents have gleaned information all over Europe. For obvious reasons I couldn’t bring the papers here this evening but Fraulein Losch carries most of the facts in her head.
Marta. The first thing of any importance was the discovery that a cylinder of poison gas had been concealed in a private house in Madrid which had been rented for the summer by some Klovenians. This happened towards the end of May. Baron Zovescu was known to be in Madrid at the time –
Van. That’s right. May 26th to June 2nd.
Arm. But there’s no evidence that he was mixed up in it.
Marta. About the second week of July an almost exactly similar discover was reported by our agent in Stockholm. In both cases our people had gained access to the house as servants: they knew exactly where the cylinders were concealed.
Arm. But didn’t tamper with them for fear of exciting suspicion.
Marta. The Chief sent me to Berlin; there I found that a popular restaurant, which is only open in the summer months, was being run this season by a Klovenian and his wife. I got work there as a barmaid and in that way overheard a good deal of the conversation of the place. I gleaned a certain amount of useful information which I have handed on to Herr von Armstadt. And on one occasion at the end of July I saw my employer in conversation with a distinguished looking stranger at one of the tables; on some pretext or other I crossed the room and as I passed the table I caught the words “bringing it tonight;” some quite unnecessary repairs were being done to the kitchen floor at the time – and two boards had been left out when the workmen went away that evening. I remember Tamovin, the proprietor cursing their slackness in going off without finishing their work. Of course I slept out, so I couldn’t keep a watch on what happened inside; but that night I had the house under observation and between 1 and 2 o’clock a couple of men drove up in a car, lifted out a large cylinder and were at once admitted by Tamovin. The next morning the floor boards had been replaced and there was no trace of their having been removed.
Van. What was your distinguished-looking stranger like?
Marta. A thin man of middle height with a small pointed grey beard.
Van. Zovescu again. He was in Berlin from July 26th to 30th. Stockholm July 7th to 10th. He has visited all the European capitals during the summer, and where he’s gone, I’ve followed. We have reached Budapest today.
Jos. And the cylinder’s being brought here tonight.
Arm. You know that?
Arm. Then that gives us the position of four of the cylinders. It is only reasonable to suppose that others have been hidden in all the capitals which Zovescu has visited. I have received van der Vogt’s reports from time to time, giving minute details of Zovescu’s movements; but to all appearances they have been above suspicion.
Van. That’s the worst of it: he’s so confoundedly clever. His engagement list reads something like this: lunch with the French Premier: dinner with the British Ambassador, and so on.
Arm. To cut a long story short, the plot in outline appears to be this; on a given date some time this month Klovenia is to make her bid for world supremacy. Since the general disarmament in 1944 she has been steadily developing an efficient fleet of aeroplanes for peaceful purposes; but last year there was a sudden increase in her output of planes and now she possesses the most efficient air force in Europe, which could be turned at a moment’s notice into an offensive weapon of great efficacy against her unprotected neighbours. Last month it was discovered that she is secretly constructing bombs contrary to all the laws of the Disarmament Treaty.
Jos. Can’t these be seized by the International Police?
Arm. Out agents in Klovenia have made arrangements to blow up the bomb factory at any moment if they get instructions from me. They are also ready to set fire to the aeroplane sheds, if that seems necessary. But that part of their programme is not a very serious menace. The real danger lies in the cylinders of poison gas; and the trouble is that we have only located four of them – and we don’t know exactly how they are to be used. The curious thing is that in every case which has come to our knowledge the Klovenian tenants have made arrangements to leave their houses on or about Oct. 7th, leaving the cylinders in position. And we have certain knowledge that the coup is to take place later than that, though the exact date is not yet known to us.
Marta. Is the nature of the gas known?
Arm. No. But there is some reason to believe that it is something as yet unknown to scientists and that the inventor is your blind professor Slovenski. (to Jos.) But what use is a sealed cylinder of poison gas in an empty house, with no one to release it? At present we’re in the dark.
Van. Are you intending to seize the four cylinders you know about, when the houses are vacated.
Arm. That is for the chief to decide. Probably not. If they are left intact, they may give us some line as to the intentions and movements of the conspirators.
Arm. Of course the empty house will be kept under strict observation.
Van. Quite so
Arm. That’s about all we know at present –little enough, but sufficient to be very disquieting. The peace and prosperity of the world are threatened by the criminal ambitions of a handful of unscrupulous politicians in a petty Balkan state: and they are clever enough to have baffled, up to the present, the whole Secret Service of the League of Nations. But thanks to Van der Vogt we hope that we are now on the eve of very important discoveries. I think it would be wiser to tell the others. (to Van.)
Van. Oh, certainly.
Arm. Well – early in September Van der Vogt found that Zovescu was arranging a number of interviews with well-known financial firms. This led him to the conclusion that the funds of the conspirators were beginning to run short and that Zovescu was trying to raise a considerable loan. Van der Vogt hit on the brilliant idea of getting an introduction to him as a member of a prominent firm of financiers and lending him a large sum of money from the fund of the League of Nations in order to get into his confidence and obtain information. of course he consulted me before taking any action – and I referred his suggestion to Headquarters. The Chief was impressed; we felt that the risk was worth taking and authorised Van der Vogt to draw on the League’s funds up to ten million marks.
Marta. So the plot against the peace of the world is being financed by the League of Nations.
Van. It isn’t quite so crude as that. I got my introduction to Zovescu without difficulty, said I heard he was trying to negotiate a loan and offered my services. He started on a long story of the impoverished condition of Klovenia: it was obvious that he meant to give nothing away. So I decided on a bold stroke; I hinted that I knew something of the Klovenian conspiracy; that rattled him of course: but I smoothed him down by expressing my admiration for Klovenia and wishing him well in his enterprise. The long and short of it is that I have offered him an immediate loan of five million marks, with another five million to follow, on condition that I am enrolled as a member of the conspiracy, am admitted to all its secrets and, to make my proposal more plausible, that I receive cent per cent interest in the event of the plot being successful.
Jos. Very ingenious. Did he agree?
Van. I am to go round this evening to hear his decision; if it is favourable I am to be his guest at his Klovenian home for the next fortnight. If I can’t get to the bottom of it there I ought to be shot. I think there is no doubt he will accept the terms; they are in desperate straits for money. I have an appointment with him at a quarter to eight: I ought to be moving.
Arm. Assuming that your interview is successful, when do you go to Klovenia?
Arm. Then you’ll let me know tonight?
Van. Of course.
Arm. Then we shan’t be able all to meet again – so we must arrange about the immediate future. (to Van.) Your movements naturally depend on your interview with Zovescu. You. Wilkinson, will decide after the meeting here tonight, whether you are still needed in Budapest. I give you a free hand – but I expect you will have to make your way to Klovenia too.
Van. Is that wise, Sir? Mightn’t we be unintentionally running counter to one another?
Arm. I don’t see how. Wilkinson knows what your game is; he won’t interfere with that. But two heads are often better than one – and though you will be acting independently, you may be able to help one another considerably.
Van. Very good, sir. I ought to be getting along now – for my appointment with the Baron.
Arm. There’s just one more thig. Have any of you in the course of your investigations come across the expression “The Great Unknown?”
Jos. Yes. I overheard Pezuin use the phrase to Krasnovik tjhe other day. In the context it sounded like a ‘nom de guerre.’
Marta. I have heard it more than once.
Arm. Then that tallies with my reports from several other agents. My theory is that there is some big brain at work behind Zovescu and his gang.
Van. Isn’t it more likely to be a name adopted by Zovescu himself to conceal his own identity?
Arm. Possibly, but I think not. The evidence points in the other direction. We must keep an open mind. But I want to impress on you all, that if there is such a master mind controlling the plot, the peace of the word depends on our discovering “The Great Unknown.” ( a short pause) Well, that’s all; I needn’t keep you longer, Van der Vogt. Keep me in touch with your movements.
Van. Then “au revoir,” all.
Arm. Good bye.
Marta. Au revoir.
Jos. So Long. (together.)
Van. (to Jos.) Perhaps we shall meet again in Klovenia. (Exit Van. L)
Jos. Able fellow, that.
Marta. Have you any further orders for me, Sir?
Arm. Yes. You are to take your orders from Wilkinson. I am off to Belgrade tomorrow to keep in closer touch with events in Klovenia. From there I can be in the Klovenian capital within half an hour by air. I shall have my own plane with me of course. Hold yourself in readiness to start anywhere at any moment at Wilkinson’s direction.
Marta. Very good, sir. Then I’ll be off: but may I ask you one question?
Arm. What is it?
Marta. Why did you call us together here in the lair of the conspirators?
Arm. Partly because it is easier to meet Wilkinson here than anywhere else – and partly because I want to have a look at this fellow Pezuin – or Vlastin, as I ought to call him.
Marta. Thank you, sir. Forgive my curiosity. Good night.
Both. Good night. (Exit Marta L.)
Jos. Pezuin ought to be back in a few minutes. The meeting is arranged for eight o’clock.
Jos. I’m afraid so. They generally call for drinks and then send me upstairs.
Arm. You know, Wilkinson, the position is pretty desperate; I daren’t depend too much on Van der Vogt’s success. If he fails –! (a gesture of despair) here we are at the 6th of October; we have reason to think that things are coming to a head about the middle of the month, but we don’t know the exact date. It is of vital importance to discover that.
Jos. Anything else?
Arm. Of course it would be useful to know the formula for the poison gas.
Jos. Do you think they’re likely to be carrying any papers!
Arm. Possibly. Why?
Jos. I might try doping the drinks – and search them.
Arm. It’s worth trying. Anything to discover the date – and the identity of “The Great Unknown.” (Enter Pezuin.) My bill, waiter.
Jos. Very good, sir.
Arm. Good evening. (To Pez.)
Pez. Evening. (To Jos.) I told you to close down before eight.
Jos. It’s hardly that yet, sir. (To Arm., who has tipped him.) Thank you very much, sir. (Exit Pez. C.)
Arm. So that’s Vlastin. Unpleasant looking fellow. I shall be watching the house tonight; if you have anything to report after they’re gone, open the window curtains – if it can be done without too much risk.
(Enter Pez.) Well, good night, waiter. (Exit L.)
Jos. Good night, sir; thank you, sir.
Pez. Who was that?
Jos. Just a customer.
Pez. Been here before?
Jos. I don’t remember him. Shall I lock up now?
Pez. Yes. And take the bell off the door. (Jos. does so.) Marevski. (Enter Marevski C.) Finished?
Pez. I’m going to look. Stop here and let me know when the others come. Joseph, you’re not wanted: bring the usual drinks when I call. (Exit Pez. C.)
Jos. Marevski, I think I can help you. But I want your help first.
Mar. I’m your man. You can trust me.
Jos. If I’m to do anything about this, I must know my facts. What’s the exact date for the plot to be carried out?
Mar. I don’t know.
Jos. Shall you be at the meeting tonight?
Mar. They might send for me.
Jos. If so, keep your ears open. I must know that date; and report anything else of importance to me afterwards. (Mar. nods.) One thing more; if they give you a drink, don’t touch it.
Jos. No, I don’t want to swing yet. Dope. Pretend to drink, but don’t; then go to sleep with your eyes open. I may need your help. (Knock off L.) Here they are. I’m off. (Exit Jos. R. Mar. opens door L. Enter Slovenski, an old blind man with a mop of white hair; he is led by Moneskin, an able, practical man of about 32.)
Slov. (talks in a slow, impressive voice.) Are the others here?
Mon. Not yet, Professor; come and sit down – and wit for them. (He leads Slov. to chair, where he sits C.)
Slov. Has Krasnovik brought the cylinder?
Mar. Not yet. (Exit Mar. C.)
Slov. Didn’t he fetch it before we started?
Mon. Yes, about five minutes before.
Slov. Can anything have happened to him?
(A knock L. Mon. opens the door.)
Mon. That you, Krasnovik?
Kras. (Looking in) Yes. Give me a hand with this thing. It’s heavy. (Enter Pez. and Mar. C. Exit Mon. L.)
Slov. Is that Krasnovik?
Pez. I think so. (Goes to door L.)
Slov. Has he got the cylinder safe?
Pez. They’re lifting it out of the car.
Slov. Thank heaven it has not miscarried.
Pez. (To those outside.) Steady. That’s right I’ll hold the door for you.
(Kras. and Mon. stagger in under the weight of a heavy cylinder. They carry it out C. Pez. follows.)
Pez. (To Mar.) Lock the door again. (Mar. does so. Exit Pez. C.)
Slov. Marevski: is that you?
Slov. Is the place ready?
Mar. For the cylinder? (Slov. nods) Yes.
(Enter Pez. C.)
Pez. They’ve got it in position. Go and board it up, Marevski.
Slov. One minute. Is Moneskin there?
Pez. In the back room. Do you want him?
Slov. I must speak to him before it’s closed up.
Pez. (calls off.) Moneskin!
Mon. Hullo! (Enter Mon. and Kras. C. rubbing dirt off hands.) What is it?
Slov. Moneskin, have you examined the contacts?
Mon. Yes, they’re all in order.
Slov. Then my work’s completed. That’s the last.
Pez. Is the piano finished?
Mon. Despatched to Klovenia this afternoon.
Pez. To Zovescu’s country house?
Mon. That’s right: Castle Driznov. Lucky for us the League of Nations has abolished the customs.
Pez. Marevski, go and board up the hole. (Mar. nods and exit C.)
Slov. Now we must possess our souls in patience.
Pez. Till the 14th. Only eight days more.
Slov. The day for which I lived and worked.
Kras. What are the arrangements for tomorrow?
Pez. Zovescu and I go by air.
Kras. In his plane?
Pez. Yes. Moneskin takes the Professor by road; they could give you a lift.
Mon. Isn’t it better to travel separately?
Kras. I can go by rail.
Pez. You’d better take Marevski with you.
Kras. Marevski? He’s not coming?
Slov. Moneskin. Go and overlook Marevski’s work.
Mon. That’ll be all right.
Slov. We can take no risks. (Mon. shrugs shoulders and exit C.)
Kras. Why do you want to take Marevski?
Pez. I have my reasons.
Kras. The workmen from the other cities aren’t coming.
Pez. But Marevski is.
Kras. Why? I don’t trust the little brute.
Pez. Nor do I. That’s why he’s coming.
Kras. That’s all very well, but –
Pez. He can do no harm there. Here he might give us away. He must go with you – and don’t let him out of your sight. (Enter Mon. C.)
Mon. He’s making a good job of it, Professor. (Slov. nods.)
Kras. Zovescu’s late.
Pez. He had an important appointment at a quarter to eight.
Kras. About the money?
Pez. Yes – about the money.
Kras. I hope there’s no hitch.
Pez. There’s not likely to be. (Knock L. Pez. opens door.)
(Enter Zovescu. He is a distinguished and striking man; short pointed grey beard. He speaks in an abrupt, but not unpleasant manner.)
Zov. I’m sorry to be late. I was detained.
Kras. Is everything all right?
Zov. Most satisfactory. Is the cylinder here?
Mon. Marevski’s boarding it up.
Zov. Piano sent off?
Mon. Went today.
Mon. No – lorry.
Zov. Perhaps that’s safer. Now, gentlemen, we’d better get to business. I have just seen Herr Van der Vogt, the Dutch financier; I have arranged with him for an immediate loan of five million marks.
Kras. That’s not enough.
Zov. He has also promised a further advance of another five million in a week’s time.
Zov. But – there is a condition attached. He wishes to be enrolled as one of us and to be admitted to all our secrets and council meetings.
Zov. I have agreed to his conditions.
Mon. How do we know he’s not a spy
Zov. I am prepared to pledge my credit for him.
Kras. It’s not safe.
Mon. How can you tell. (Together>)
Zov. We must have the money. (Others remain silent). Very well; we can have it on those terms.
Kras. Yes, but-
Zov. I have agreed to them.
Kras. That’s all very well, but –
Pez. Don’t be a fool, Krasnovik. We can do nothing else. We must have the money.
Kras. I don’t like it.
Zov. It’s not a question of what we like. Ten Million marks will just see us through. I have invited Van der Vogt to come down with us tomorrow to Castle Driznov. We shall take him completely into our confidence. Now to another point; we have a cylinder concealed in very capital in Europe. The piano should be in Klovenia tomorrow.
Slov. The instrument of death. Havoc and destruction are to be let loose upon the world. My dream is to be fulfilled.
Zov. All our plans are complete. We have nothing to do now but await the day.
Slov. The day of At. In war I lost my eyes; through war they will be avenged – a war of my creation.
(Mar. appears unseen by others in door C.)
Mon. When does Prince Karyl come?
Zov. On the day after. There’s no point in his being with us on the day itself. His job is to act as the popular leader. He has no part in the great scheme. None of us have ever met him: we shall tell him as little as possible.
Kras. Will the Great Unknown be with us on that day?
Kras. There’s no harm –Pez. There is harm. You know its contrary to our rules to ask questions about the Great Unknown. You have all – we have all sworn allegiance to the Great Unknown – but we have also sworn not to try to discover who he is or what are his plans. We take our orders fro him and follow blindly.
Mar. My work’s\ finished.
Zov. I must see it. (Exit Zov. X)
Pez. We must drink to our success. (Goes to door and calls) Joseph, six vodkas.
Mon. Who is Prince Karyl.
Pez. The lawful claimant to the throne of Klovenia. The republic has never been popular with the common folk, as you know. The Great Unknown believes that to gain popular support, we must re-establish the Monarchy and place Prince Karyl on the throne; they will follow the new King anywhere.
Mon. Where is he now? (Joseph appears with drinks R.)
Pez. Prince Karyl? Oh, in Paris; he married a Frenchwoman – he’ll arrive by air. But he’s a mere pawn in the game: none of us have ever seen him.
Kras. (Who has just seen Jos.) St!
(Joseph places tray on table in absolute silence and exit R.)
Pez. Did he hear anything?
Kras. Can’t have – not more than a word or two. He’d only just come in. (Enter Zov. C.)
Zov. A magnificent piece of work. There is no trace of the boards being removed. So, gentlemen, our preparations are complete.
Slov. The train is laid – the invisible train of death. They will die by their hundreds – by their thousands; and it is my old worn-out hand which will strike them down – my sightless eyes which will aim the shaft of destruction.
Pez. (A little excited.) Take your glasses! Followers of the Great Unknown, I propose a toast! The fourteenth!
All. (excitedly) The Fourteenth! (They drain their glasses except Pez., who has not finished speaking. Marevski, standing apart from the others, raises his glass & pours the contents into a plant on the table R.)
Pez. (continuing>) And success to the Great Unknown.
(Pez. is about to drink, when he stops suddenly.) Don’t drink! This stuff’s doped.
(The rest look at him in alarm, except Slov. who has sat down again in prophetic mood.)
Slov. The day of vengeance is at hand; the unseen vapour rises and the cities are doomed. The man going to his daily work fall dead in the street; the child playing in the gutter rolls over lifeless as his toy; the woman baking her bread coughs and reels – what is it that has her in its grip? The driver falters at his wheel and his car rushes madly on unsteered. The dead hang from the windows and lie heaped about in the streets; the vapour envelopes the city, destroying, suffocating – it rises to the clouds: the pilot falters and his plane crashes to the ground. And it is I – I, the blind old Slovenski – this is my vengeance – my vengeance on mankind – this is my vengeance – my vengeance – (his voice trails off as he falls asleep) vengeance –
(By this time the others have been overcome by the drug and are gradually falling asleep – Marevski pretending in the background. Pez. Stands worried and uncertain, watching them. He shakes Zovescu.)
Pez. Zovescu! Zovescu! Wake up!
Zov. (falling asleep.) It’s – the Great – Unknown. (Sleeps.)
(There is a slight sound off R. Pez. glides quietly to the nearest chair by R. table and pretends to be asleep.)
(Very cautiously Joseph enters R. He looks round carefully & then quickly and efficiently begins turning out their pockets. He takes several papers from Slov. and Mon. and begins on Zov. His back is turned to Pez. who takes a revolver from his pocket and covers him.)
Pez. Hands up! (Jos. wheels round.)
Jos. Hullo! (He puts up his hands.)
Pez. So that’s your game?
Jos. Yes. I thought you were asleep.
Pez. You meant me to be, eh?
Jos. To be perfectly frank, I did.
Pez. Put all those papers on the table. (Jos. does so.)
Jos. The one’s in my pocket too?
Pez. No. Hands up. (Mar. makes a sudden spring from behind Pez. and has him by the throat. Jos. whips a sponge out of his pocket and holds it to Pezuin’s nose. He gradually stops struggling, and his limbs relax.)
Jos. Good for you Marevski. Take his gun and stand by in case I want you. (Jos. quickly turns out remaining pockets and rams all papers in his own.)
Jos. Any information?
Mar. Hardly anything.
Jos. Not got the date?
Jos. Who is this Prince Karyl they were talking about?
Mar. Heir to the throne. He’s to be crowned.
Jos. When does he go to Klovenia?
Mar. All thy said was “on the day after.”
Jos. Wait a minute. (He draws back the window curtains.) Anything about the Great Unknown?”
Mar. They spoke of him – nothing to help.
(There is a gentle tap door L.)
Jos. All right. Wait for me in the back room.
(Exit Mar. C. Jos. admits von Armstadt, door L.)
Arm. (Taken aback at seeing them all.) Good –!
Jos. All safe. They’re there for six hours at least.
Arm. Discovered anything?
Jos. Don’t know: we must go through these papers.
Arm. The data?
Jos. Not yet (He is looking at papers.) List of towns where cylinders are hid. No addresses. Useless – we know that already. Bill for vests and pants. Curse. Nothing. Nothing. Invoice for despatch of piano. Love letter. Hullo, what’s this? Here’s the formula for the gas. (Hands it to Arm., who looks at it and puts it in his pocket.) That’s all, I’m afraid.
Arm. Then we’ve not got the date.
Arm. Nor the addresses for the cylinders.
Jos. I wonder if Marevski knows that.
Jos. The cripple.
Arm. Is he safe?
Jos. I’ve proved his loyalty tonight.
Arm. We’ll have him in.
Jos. One thing first. Who and what is Prince Karyl?
Arm. Grandson of the deposed King; lives in Paris.
Jos. They mean to crown him. Is he married?
Arm. Yes. His wife’s French. Why?
Jos. If only we knew the date!
Arm. What has that to do with the Prince?
Jos. He joins them on the day after.
Jos. He could arrive just as well on the day itself.
Arm. My dear fellow, are you?
Jos. Not a bit. I’m going to Klovenia disguised as Prince Karyl.
Arm. But they must know him.
Jos. Not one of them.
Arm. It’s very risky.
Jos. It’s the only safe game. And Marta Losch shall be the Princess.
Arm. It’s worth considering.
Jos. You approve?
Arm. I approve – but it depends on our knowing the date.
Jos. Yes. And we don’t.
Arm. Now for Marevski.
Jos. (Calls off C.) Marevski! (To Arm. handing papers.) You’d better go through these later, in case I’ve overlooked anything. (Enter Mar. C.)
Jos. Marevski, this is a friend of mine. He wants to ask you some questions.
Arm. Where is the cylinder concealed in this house?
Mar. In the back room. Seventh and eighth panels to the left of the door. (Arm. making notes.)
Arm. You’re certain of that?
Mar. I did the work myself.
Arm. Have you done the same work anywhere else?
Mar. In Vienna and Prague.
Mar. Vienna. Friedrichstrasse 17: in the back of the kitchen chimney.
Mar. The Dragon Inn. Inside the bar counter.
Arm. Do you know where the others are?
Arm. Thank you. That’s all.
Mar. (Holding out hand to Joseph.) Goodbye, Joseph.
Jos. But I’m coming to Klovenia. We shall meet there.
Mar. How can I go?
Jos. You’re going with them tomorrow, aren’t you?
Mar. After attacking Pezuin?
Jos. But he can’t suspect you. He never saw you.
Mar. He knows I was behind him.
Jos. And believes you were doped – like the others. He’ll know I had an accomplice, that’s all.
Mar. But when he wakes up – I can’t sham all night.
Arm. No need to sham – it can be real.
Jos. You’ve hit it, sir. There’s Pezuin’s untouched glass. Drink that – and fall asleep in the chair you were in before.
Mar. (taking it as a joke.) I’ll do it in style and drink the toast. (Holds up glass.) The fourteenth!
Arm. & Jos. What’s that?
Mar. That’s their toast. I don’t know what it means. The Fourteenth – and death to the Great Unknown! (Arm. and Jos. look at one another in triumph. Marevski hobbles over to the chair and sits.) Goodnight – hope you sleep as well as I do. (Drowsy.)
Jos. The fourteenth.
Arm. The date. We’ve got it.
(Both move to door left as curtain falls.)