The Fourth Scene
A triangular recess communicating by a heavily curtained arch with the huge
ballroom of the palace. The light is subdued by red shades on the candles. In the
wall adjoining that pierced by the arch is a door. The only piece of furniture is a
very handsome chair on the arch side. In the ballroom they are dancing a
polonaise to the music of a brass band.
Naryshkin enters through the door, followed by the soldiers carrying Edstaston,
still trussed to the pole. Exhausted and dogged, he makes no sound.
NARYSHKIN. Halt. Get that pole clear of the prisoner. [They dump Edstaston on
the floor and detach the pole. Naryshkin stoops over him and addresses him
insultingly. Well! are you ready to be tortured? This is the Empress's private
torture chamber. Can I do anything to make you quite comfortable? You have
only to mention it.
EDSTASTON. Have you any back teeth?
NARYSHKIN [surprised]. Why?
EDSTASTON. His Majesty King George the Third will send for six of them when
the news of this reaches London; so look out, damn your eyes!
NARYSHKIN [frightened]. Oh, I assure you I am only obeying my orders.
Personally I abhor torture, and would save you if I could. But the Empress is
proud; and what woman would forgive the slight you put upon her?
EDSTASTON. As I said before: Damn your eyes!
NARYSHKIN [almost in tears]. Well, it isn't my fault. [To the soldiers, insolently.]
You know your orders? You remember what you have to do when the Empress
gives you the word? [The soldiers salute in assent.]
Naryshkin passes through the curtains, admitting a blare of music and a strip of
the brilliant white candlelight from the chandeliers in the ballroom as he does so.
The white light vanishes and the music is muffled as the curtains fall together
behind him. Presently the band stops abruptly: and Naryshkin comes back
through the curtains. He makes a warning gesture to the soldiers, who stand at
attention. Then he moves the curtain to allow Catherine to enter. She is in full
Imperial regalia, and stops sternly just where she has entered. The soldiers fall
on their knees.