Scene: The Study at Castle Driznov, Baron Zovescu’s country house about five miles form Botreznik, the capital of Klovenia. It is a small but comfortable room; bookcases line the walls at the back; there is a door C. leading to front hall; another door L leads to Library. French window R. On the left side of the stage the most prominent article of furniture is a piano, from which Moneskin and Marevski are taking the last wrappings. It is the afternoon of October 14th.
Mon. Well, there she is; isn’t she a beauty?
Mar. I’m not musical.
Mon. You don’t need to be musical to appreciate this instrument. I built very inch of her with my own hands.
Mar. I didn’t know you were a piano maker.
Mon. Spent all last year in a piano factory – on purpose to build this one.
Mar. This is the first you’ve made?
Mon. The first – and last.
Mar. Then it’s probably a bad one.
Mon. It’ll serve its purpose,
Mar. It’s been here a week. Why wasn’t it unpacked before?
Mon. (Looking round cautiously) Too dangerous.
Mar. Is the Baroness a bad player?
Mon. When I say dangerous I mean dangerous. This is the instrument for discharging the poison gas from all the cylinders concealed about Europe. It works by wireless. (Mar. whistles) But that’s not all: take my advice and don’t meddle with it.
Mar. Might damage it, eh?
Mon. Might damage yourself, old man.
Mar. How does it work?
Mon. No, I can’t tell you that. And’ don’t try to find out for yourself – or we may be bothered with a premature funeral.
(Enter Baroness Zovescu, leading Slovenski C. The Baroness is a tall striking woman with a hard, merciless face.)
Bar. So you’ve got the Professor’s toy unpacked, Moneskin.
Mon. yes. Would you care to see it?
Bar. When the others come in. My husband wants you to explain the mechanism to Herr Van der Vogt.
Mon. Willingly. The professor and I are rather proud of this instrument. It’s his invention and my handiwork, you know.
Bar. So I understand. Marevski, let the Baron know it is ready for his inspection.
(Exit Mar. C.)
Slov. Will you lead me to it, Baroness? (She leads him: he touches it lovingly.) This is the child of my old age, Baroness; I love it as a mother loves her son.
Bar. And you have given it to us for the glory of Klovenia.
Slov. You are mistaken. Klovenia is nothing to me – nothing but an instrument for the destruction of mankind. That has been my one aim for the past sixty years. War – a War of annihilation. You cannot remember the Great War of 1914, Baroness?
Bar. No, it was before I was born.
Slov. Yes – when the War broke out I was nineteen years of age. I was a Science student in Prague and all my professors foretold a brilliant future for me. Then came the War. In the first month there was an air raid. A bomb exploded a few yards from me. For months I lay in anguish and darkness: the doctors despaired of my life. But they nursed me back to convalescence, and then they told me that my sight was gone. I could never see again. My happiness was gone; my career was gone. In that hour I vowed vengeance on mankind: I swore that before the next war came I would invent a poison gas which would destroy all the civilised world. That was to be my revenge.
Bar. And now it’s coming.
Slov. For twenty years I worked and starved. My eyes were gone – but I still had my brains. Then I was ready: in 1943 I offered my invention to the Hungarian War Office. They accepted it and paid me well. I was almost a rich man; but I cared for the money only because it enabled me to make further researches. I waited for war – for the war which must destroy mankind. But in the next year came the decision of the League of Nations that all the world should disarm. Universal Peace. My invention was useless; I had laboured for 30 years in vain. Mankind still lived and laughed – and I still hated.
Bar. And continued your work?
Slov. And continued my work. I did not give up hope: I knew the evil of man; I knew that sooner or later war must come again – and I worked at this (touching piano). Forty more years have been spent in bringing it to perfection and tonight comes the consummation of my hopes – the reward of my labours – the suffocation of mankind.
Bar. (more to herself than to him) And the triumph of Klovenia.
(Enter Zovescu, Van der Vogt and Krasnovik, C)
Zov. Ah, there it is. Professor, we have come for a lesson in the working of your marvellous invention.
Slov. Moneskin will explain it. I will wait for tonight.
Mon. I’ll avoid technical details as far as I can; but I must first explain the general idea, before I actually show you the mechanism. As you know we have one cylinder of an exceptionally powerful poison gas concealed in every capital in Europe. The head of each cylinder is fitted with what I may describe as a kind of wireless receiver and each one is differently tuned. Now the piano itself is a relaying instrument and if a particular chord is played upon it, it sets up wireless contact with the corresponding cylinder, which is perhaps a thousand miles away. This produces an electric current which melts the metal stopper of the cylinder, thus allowing the gas, which is under immense pressure, to escape very slowly.
Slov. You must understand, gentlemen, that it is not the sound of the chord which causes the waves, but the actual contact of the hammers with the wires.
Mon. I might also mention that the contact of one hammer with the wires will produce no effect; but when a combination of notes are struck, thus forming a particular chord, then contact is established with the cylinder tuned to that combination. For instance, if I strike E, so, (does so) it is absolutely harmless; whereas if I strike this chord (they look alarmed, and he smiles) – it’s alright, it’s switched off – and then all the inhabitants of London would be dead of asphyxiation within half an hour.
Zov. The Professor reckons that one cylinder of gas is sufficient to kill every living creature within a radius of five miles.
Van. And you have a cylinder in every European capital?
Bar. Except, of course, Botreznik.
Mon. The chords are so designed that by playing one well-known piece of music, we can within one minute discharge all the cylinders and asphyxiate at least twelve million people.
Van. And the piece of music?
Slov. Rachmaninov’s Prelude. You know it, I expect.
Van. Very well.
Slov. Play it, Herr Van der Vogt. I shall enjoy it in anticipation of tonight.
Van. It’s switched off, you say.
Van. It’s as harmless as an ordinary piano.
(Van. plays the Prelude. Slov. interjects names, thus:)
Slov. Paris – Bucharest – Rome – Stockholm – Brussels – Leningrad – Madrid – Copenhagen – Warsaw – London – Geneva. (A pause.)
Kras. Geneva? I thought it was only the political capitals.
Zov. We asked the Professor to arrange the final chord for Geneva.
Bar. Have you forgotten that there is a plenary session of the League of Nations at Geneva today, Krasnovik? The leading politicians form all over the world are there. Wasn’t it the League which insulted and disgraced Klovenia last year? It is fitting that the final blow should be aimed at Geneva. The great coup was arranged to coincide with this session of the League.
Mon. I ought to warn you that the piano itself is protected against interference by a device which makes it extremely dangerous for anyone not intimately acquainted with its mechanism to tamper with it. (To Zov.) Am I right in explaining this, Baron?
Zov. Certainly. Everyone here is in our confidence.
(Mar. appears in doorway C, unobserved by the others, who are clustered round the piano. Mon. opens piano.)
Mon. Very well. If you will look inside, you will see two small cylinders, one to the right of the treble strings, the other to the left of the bass. The left hand cylinder contains a comparatively harmless gas, which merely causes temporary insensibility; the right hand cylinder is filled with a special poison gas, which is so heavy that it cannot spread to a greater distance than four feet from the piano; if it is released from the cylinder it therefore forms an invisible belt of deadly poison round the instrument. (They all draw back in alarm.) Don’t be alarmed – there’s no possibility of it being discharged now. If anyone were to inhale one breath of this gas, he would be dead in less than five minutes.
Van. It’s a humane invention.
Mon. Now I will close the keyboard and I must ask you all to be careful not to open it, or there will be an accident. If you will come round here, I will show you the control switch. It’s now in neutral – you’ll see it stands at 0. When I switch on to 1, so, it operates the left hand cylinder – and if you were to open the keyboard, you would become insensible for roughly half an hour, but without suffering any serious effects. This is of course intended as a protection against the idle curiosity of inquisitive people; they are detected tampering with the instrument and get a wholesome fright. The opening of the keyboard also rings an alarm in my room. I now switch on to 2; if the keyboard were open now, we should all be dead in under five minutes. With the switch at 3 the piano is pout to its proper use and if Herr Van der Vogt were to give another rendering now of Rachmaninov’s Prelude he would kill twelve million people about six hours before their appointed time. Well, that’s all: I’ll put her back into neutral.
(Mar. comes forward. He has been listening hard. He has a slip of paper in his hand.)
Mar. A wireless message from Prince Karyl. (Gives it to Zov.)
Zov. When did it come?
Mar. Just now.
Bar. What does he say?
Zov. (Reads.) “Propose arriving about eight this evening – Karyl.”
Bar. Where was it handed in?
Zov. All right, Marevski; you can go. (Exit Mar.)
Bar. That complicates things.
Zov. Yes, the Rachmaninov prelude is timed for nine o’clock.
Kras. Then the prince will be here?
Bar. How much are we going to tell him?
Zov. Well, as little as possible. His duties only begin tomorrow. We shall have to explain them fully.
Bar. Is he to know about the piano?
Zov. No; we know too little about him. He might jib at destruction on so big a scale.
Bar. Yes – he mustn’t know – till afterwards.
(Enter Pez. hurriedly C.)
Pez. Prince Karyl has come.
Zov. (Together.) Already?
Pez. Yes, curse him. And he has brought his wife with him.
Zov. His wife?
Mon. (Together.) But we can’t have her here. How can we explain things to her?
Zov. I must have a word with him first – without the Princess.
Pez. Baroness, keep her out of this room, if only for five minutes.
Zov. We must go and meet them.
(Exeunt Zov. and Bar. C. Greetings heard outside.)
Kras. Why couldn’t he have left his wife in Paris?
Slov. He would have been a widower tomorrow if he had done so.
Kras. I never thought of that – yes. Perhaps it’s just as well. He might have cut up rough if we had suffocated his wife.
Slov. I shall not remain here to meet him now; I want to be alone – to think about tonight. Moneskin, lead me to the library. (Exeunt Slov. and Mon. L.)
Pez. Now be careful. Tell him just what is necessary and no more. And don’t put his back up.
(Enter Zovescu and Joseph, disguised. He has black hair brushed straight back from his forehead, a small black moustache and black eyebrows; the general effect is of a dissipated young man with a certain appearance of dignity. He wears a lounge suit.)
Zov. Let me present my colleagues, Sir. Count Vlastin, Herr Van der Vogt, M. Krasnovik, – Prince Karyl of Klovenia.
(All bow rather stiffly. Van looks searchingly at Jos. and is a little puzzled.)
Jos. (Formally) I am glad to meet you, gentlemen.
Pez. We are surprised, Sir, at your bringing the Princess with you. As you know, the work we are undertaking is a little dangerous.
Jos. The Princess will not shrink from danger. As you are well aware, my life has been one of ups and downs. She has shared the downs as well as the ups.
Pez. It’s not merely the danger, Sir. We are on the eve of the most destructive war in history; it is not woman’s work.
Jos. Yet I notice that the Baroness Zovescu is here.
Zov. She has grown up in Klovenia. She has smarted, as we all have, under the insults heaped upon us by the League of Nations. She has no pity for our oppressors. With the Princess it is different; she is not a Klovenian.
Jos. She is my wife.
Kras. She may not approve of our methods –
Jos. They’re a bit shady, eh?
Pez. (nettled) Shady, Sir? What we are doing is for the glory of Klovenia.
Zov. (suavely) I think what my young friend Krasnovik means is that the Princess may have too soft a heart to realise the necessity for some of the steps we are taking.
Pez. War is cruel, Sir. And we cannot make war on the world without inflicting much suffering.
Jos. The Princess is accustomed to looking facts in the face.
Zov. At least you will agree, Sir, that it is wiser for us not to discuss the details in her presence.
Jos. I should prefer her to hear everything.
Kras. But –
Jos. That is enough. She will share all our counsels. I insist.
Zov. (shrugs his shoulders) In that case, Sir, there’s no more to be said.
(Enter C. Mart and Baroness. Marta is dressed simply but well in a coat and skirt. She comes forward. Zov. joins Bar. in the background.)
Jos. Let me present you to my wife, gentlemen. Count Vlastin, M. Krasnovik, Herr – I am afraid I did not quite catch your name, Sir.
Van. Van der Vogt.
Jos. Ah yes – Herr Van der Vogt. (Jos. turns away to speak to Pez. but overhears the following dialogue.)
Van. I think we have had the pleasure of meeting before, Madam.
Marta. Oh – have we? I’m afraid I cannot recollect where.
Jos. (coming to the rescue) Your face seemed familiar to me. Let me see – wasn’t in connection with some financial matter that we met?
Van. I had the honour of doing your Highness a trifling service: I hope I may be able to render you many more.
Jos. (laughing) Herr van der Vogt is assuming that the royal exchequer of Klovenia is likely to be empty.
Pez. Not when the wealth of the world is poured into it.
Zov. (coming forward) I imagine our agent in Botreznik met you at the aerodrome.
Jos. No. (all look surprised)
Zov. He had instructions to do so.
Jos. We arrived earlier than we expected.
Bar. Your Marconigram mentioned eight o’clock.
Jos. Marconigram? Yes. When did it arrive?
Bar. Just before your car drove up.
Jos. It must have been delayed in transit.
Marta. When my husband said eight o’clock he was allowing for possible delays en route.
Zov. Quite, quite. But I can’t understand your not being met.
Jos. Well, it’s of no consequence. I hired a car.
Zov. Your pilot had strict instructions to hand you over to our agent on landing. I suppose the pilot met you in Lausanne as arranged.
Jos. Yes, he seemed to expect me. He was a little surprised that I wished to start before the scheduled time.
Pez. If I am not presuming too far, Sir, why did you wish to do so?
Jos. I was anxious to be here before the operations began, Count Vlastin – not to be made use of after the main blow was struck.
Marta. Is there any reason why we should all remain standing up?
Bar. It is for you to make the first move, madam.
Marta. I am so sorry. How you must all hate me. I mean for keeping you all standing. (They all sit down: Jos. C.)
Jos. I am very anxious before we are in the thick of events to hear every detail of the arrangements –
Zov. Surely our Paris representative – Stineljik – has given you a full account?
Jos. Certainly. ( A minute pause) But there may be possible changes of plan –
Zov. None, I think.
Jos. And you will see that it is essential for me, as leader of the movement, (others glance at one another) to be absolutely in touch with the course of events – and to give my sanction to the preparations. Begin from the beginning, please: omit nothing. And you must forgive me if I occasionally put a question or make some criticism.
Zov. Well – your Highness is aware that cylinders of poison gas have been concealed in all the European capitals.
Jos. Yes. Filled with PH3S2O12.
Pez. (Suddenly) How did you know the formula, Sir?
Jos. Stineskin, your Paris man, gave it me.
Pez. He didn’t know it.
Jos. You are evidently mistaken, Count Vlastin. At any rate that was the formula he told me.
Pez. (to Zov.) Could Slovenski have sent it to him?
Zov. Must have. Now the gas from these cylinders is liberated by a method of wireless control.
Jos. I should like to inspect the apparatus.
Pez. Is that necessary? It is surely more important for you, Sir, to go into the arrangements in which you are concerned.
Jos. Very well; we will leave that point for the moment.
Zov. The discharging of the poison gas is intended to cause confusion in the various countries. Then they will be at the mercy of a numerically small armed force, commanded we hope, Sir, by yourself in person.
Jos. And the military dispositions?
Zov. Count Vlastin is responsible for those.
Jos. Then he shall give me the information.
Pez. The principle arm is the Air Force. Every aeroplane in the country has been secretly requisitioned for military purposes. Bombs have been manufactured on the quiet for the last year in enormous quantities in one of our steel factories; they have all been transferred during the past week to the various aeroplane sheds all over the country. As soon as the poison gas has been liberated in the capitals tonight, I shall send out a wireless signal and our planes will fly north, south, east and west, spreading destruction and panic in the other towns of Europe.
Jos. What about artillery?
Pez. That is unnecessary. The air force can protect the infantry. Rifle shooting, as no doubt you are aware, Sir, has always been a national sport. Large numbers of long range rifles are concealed in every town and will be served out to all volunteers tomorrow evening.
Jos. And you wish me to take command of the army?
Zov. (rather too hurriedly) With Count Vlastin as your Chief-of-Staff.
Jos. In fact, while I prance about gallantly in a horse and inspire the troops with my royal presence, Count Vlastin takes sole command of the campaign.
Zov. The Count has worked out the strategy in great detail, Sir.
Jos. No doubt, no doubt. Have you any other duties for me?
Zov. We hope you will address an open air meeting in Botreznik tomorrow morning, Sir.
Kras. You will find immense enthusiasm, Sir, for the restoration of the monarchy: the people as a whole have never been in sympathy with the Republic which was forced upon us by the League of Nations –
Jos. In consequence of my royal grandfather’s enormities –
Zov. Let us say indiscretions, Sir –
Jos. Baron, King Petrozin was the worst monarch who ever ruled a Balkan state. And that’s saying a good deal.
Kras. In spite of that the people are longing for a return to the old order of things. You will find yourself a national idol.
Jos. The national idler, I’m afraid, for all the responsibility you mean to place in my hands.
Kras. Immediately after the meeting we shall form a procession and march to the Cathedral.
Jos. Am I to be crowned out of hand?
Kras. You’re laughing at us, Sir.
Jos. Not a bit – not a bit. but why are we going to the Cathedral?
Kras. To offer up prayers for the triumph of Klovenia.
Jos. And the destruction of the rest of the world.
Kras. It will create a good impression.
Pez. The people are very superstitious, Sir.
Jos. Yes, I see. and what’s the next move?
Kras. We then repair to the town hall.
Jos. You are very pat with all this.
Kras. The civil arrangements are all in my hands, Sir.
Jos. Well, what do we do at the town hall?
Kras. You will be proclaimed king.
Jos. And my wife queen.
Kras. Well, we hadn’t arranged for that. you see, we didn’t know.
Marta. Of course not. but it will give you something else to arrange before tomorrow.
Jos. Then I suppose we shall drive in state through the city, bowing gracefully to the cheering populace.
Kras. Quite so, Sir. you will then return here and request Baron Zovescu to form a cabinet.
Jos. Ah – you are to be my prime minister, Baron.
Bar. My husband has such an intimate knowledge of Klovenian politics, Sir.
Jos. Exactly. and when does the army get a move on?
Pez. The forces will be mobilised and armed tomorrow afternoon and will open the campaign on the following day by marching into Jugoslavia.
Jos. And what do they do when they get there? Jugoslavia has no army, any more than any other country.
Pez. It will be more in the nature of a hostile demonstration. If we meet with any opposition, we shall of course open fire.
Jos. I see. Now let me be quite clear as to my duties. I am to be crowned; to make myself popular by my affable smile and majestic bows; to appoint a Prime Minister; and finally to ride at the head of an amateur army into a defenceless country and inspire my brave troops to shoot down its unarmed inhabitants. Meanwhile the civil power is in the hands of M.Krasnovik: the political power passes to Baron Zovescu: and the conduct of the air and military forces is entrusted to Count Vlastin. Is that so?
Zov. Your Highness is laughing at us.
Jos. Not in the least. I was never more serious in my life. But what I don’t understand is, where does the Great Unknown come in?
Pez. The Great Unknown?
Jos. Come, Count Vlastin, don’t try to throw dust in my eyes. Your friend in Paris made it clear to me that behind your organisation is someone who prefers to keep his identity secret, but who is really responsible for the whole plan of campaign.
Pez. He had no right to tell you anything of the kind.
Jos. Perhaps he was being more open with me than you are being, Count Vlastin. Baron, I appeal to you to take me into your confidence.
Zov. We are all under a solemn oath not to reveal the secret, Sir.
Jos. Then I am to be left to draw my own conclusions. I assume the Great Unknown is one of you three, unless it is Herr van der Vogt, who appears at present to be a Minister without portfolio.
Zov. Herr van der Vogt is here as our financial adviser.
Jos. Very well: I am to be left in the dark. There is only one more point I wish to clear up. The wireless machine for operating the cylinders, (all look uncomfortable) is it in the house? (a short pause.)
Zov. Yes, it is in the house.
Jos. I should like to have it explained to me.
Zov. But why, Sir? It is a most complicated piece of machinery which we who are initiated are content to leave to our scientific and mechanical experts.
Jos. Kindly ask your chief expert to demonstrate the mechanism to me.
Zov. But surely, Sir, it is quite immaterial.
Jos. So, gentlemen, I see I am to be a mere pawn in your game.
Zov. Your Highness, nothing is further from our thoughts.
Jos. You have asked me here to serve as a figure head: I am to have no power; I am not even to be trusted with your secrets. You thought I should swallow your bait of a trumpery crown. Understand then (he rises, so do all except Marta) I decline absolutely to take any part in the proceedings – and I propose to leave the house immediately. Kindly order me a car.
(Jos. walks out of the room, C., with dignity. The others for a moment stand, forgetful of Marta’s presence, gazing after him in blank consternation.)
Pez. Who would have expected him to take that line?
Bar. He thinks nothing about his duty to Klovenia.
Kras. But the whole scheme falls to pieces without him; there will be no popular support without a King.
(Van and Marta exchange glances.)
Pez. And without the nation behind us we shall be branded as outcasts and murderers instead of being hailed as inspired patriots.
Van. Has it struck you that in his present mood, he may disclose the whole plot to the international police?
Kras. xxxxx There is a line missing here Xxxxx.
Marta. Have your forgotten, gentlemen, that the Prince asked you to order him a car?
Zov. I beg your pardon, Madam: we had forgotten your presence. Don’t you think you could persuade His Highness to reconsider his rash decision? It is in the interests of his country that we ask it.
Marta. (rising) My feelings are exactly the same as my husbands’s. You wish to make use of him –
Pez. We have offered him the crown.
Marta. Which he would much prefer to be without. You want his help; the least you can do in return is to give him your confidence.
Kras. That’s impossible.
Van. Is there any reason why he shouldn’t know everything?
Pez. About –? (checks himself)
Zov. It is better than his withdrawing like this.
Bar. It is our only hope for the triumph of our beloved country.
Kras. (sulkily) I suppose you’re right.
Zov. What do you say, Vlastin? (a long pause)
Pez. I agree.
Zov. Who’s to explain to him?
Van. Would you like me to. He rather lost confidence in you three gentlemen. I have been sitting silent.
Zov. Thank you, van der Vogt.
Van. I’ll go and find him.
Zov. Let me apologise to him first. I will bring him back here. (Exit Zov. C)
Van. It would perhaps be easier for me to see him alone.
Pez. Very well. We’ll go to the library.
Bar. Will you come Madam?
Marta. No, thank you. I’ll remain here. (Bar. glances at Van.)
Van. It will be a privilege to let Your Highness into our secrets. (Exeunt Bar., Pez. and Kras. L. On his way out Pez. walks round the piano and deliberately alters the control switch.) Well done, Marta. Things are going splendidly. Joseph’s disguise is admirable; he had me guessing until you came in and confirmed my suspicions.
Marta. Have you found out everything?
Van. Sh. (Enter Zov. and Jos. C)
Jos. I am glad you have thought better of it, Baron; it is not my wish to back out. But feel that I have the right to your full confidence.Zov. Herr van der Vogt will put you in possession of all the facts.
Jos. In that case we shall not require your presence. (Zov. bows rather stiffly and exit L.)
Van. My congratulations, Joseph. You handled a difficult situation with great skill. You got everything you wanted.
Jos. Now for news. Do you really know everything?
Van. Yes, I’ve got the situation well in hand.
Jos. But why have you sent no word to von Armstadt?
Van. I have. Three long cypher messages.
Jos. Then they must have been intercepted.
Van. Good Heavens. That’s bad.
Jos. Well, give me the news. I have a method of direct communication with him.
Van. One thing first – did you have a Marconigram sent this morning from Lausanne?
Van. Then you have put your foot in it.
Jos. What do you mean.
Van. The real prince is arriving this evening. I must take immediate steps to prevent his getting here (going to door.)
Jos. What do you mean to do?
Van. (smiling) Kidnap him if necessary. He mustn’t get here till after nine. I shan’t be long: meanwhile I commend the piano to your attention; the wireless apparatus is concealed in it. (exit Van. C.)
Jos. Quick. Marta, before they return. I must communicate with Von Armstadt. (Takes pocket wireless from pocket and puts on earphones.)
Marta. What on earth’s that?
Jos. Wireless – tuned in to Von Armstadt’s.
Marta. But someone may pick up your message.
Jos. Can’t. Latest invention, only used for a few weeks in our service. Keep a look out, and warn me if anyone’s coming. Hullo, is that Von Armstadt – we’re here – all’s well so far. I’ve found out a certain amount, – no it’s too long to tell you now. Van der Vogt? Yes, he’s here; says he has the whole thing taped – he has: message must have been intercepted – well I can’t understand that. I’m hot on the trail of the apparatus controlling the cylinders.
Marta. Look out.
Jos. Wait a minute (puts wireless in pocket. Enter Mar. C.) Hullo, Mareski, any news?
Mar. Why, it’s –
Jos. Yes. Don’t speak so loud. I want to have a talk with you, but not here. It’s not safe. Come up to my room in ten minutes. (Mar. nods and exit C. Jos. puts on earphones.) Hullo, Von Armstadt; all’s safe again; your plans going well? Where are you? – good – no. I’ve not discovered the Great Unknown; hope to be onto him before long; van der Vogt knows, I think. – Come round to the French window this evening – one minute: Marta, what time’s dinner?
Marta. The Baroness said eight.
Jos. About 8.30 – I’ll slip away from the dinner table for a minute or two – right, good-bye. (Replaces wireless.) Von Armstadt’s coming round this evening: he’s got the house surrounded by police. But that’s no good if the cylinders can be controlled by wireless. And we must get the Great Unknown. Now for the piano: and for Heaven’s sake keep a sharp lookout. (He opens the keyboard – then the top. Coughs slightly – continues his examination: coughs again. Enter Marevski.)
Mar. Don’t touch the piano.
Jos. Too late, Marevski. I’m done for. (Marta springs forward.) Keep away: – it’s poison gas – don’t come near – you must – carry on – clear out – never mind me.
(Exit Marta C. Marevski ties handkerchief round face and alters control switch, then comes to help Jos. Enter Mon. running in a gas-mask. Joseph with a last gasp takes revolver from pocket but collapses and the revolver goes off, not harming Moneskin. Mar. and Mon. kneel beside his lifeless body. Pez. Kras. Zov. appear in doorway L.)
Pez. Keep back. It’s the gas. (They disappear.)