Great Catherine HTML version
The Second Scene
The Empress's petit lever. The central doors are closed. Those who enter
through them find on their left, on a dais of two broad steps, a magnificent
curtained bed. Beyond it a door in the panelling leads to the Empress's cabinet.
Near the foot of the bed, in the middle of the room, stands a gilt chair, with the
Imperial arms carved and the Imperial monogram embroidered.
The Court is in attendance, standing in two melancholy rows down the side of the
room opposite to the bed, solemn, bored, waiting for the Empress to awaken.
The Princess Dashkoff, with two ladies, stands a little in front of the line of
courtiers, by the Imperial chair. Silence, broken only by the yawns and whispers
of the courtiers. Naryshkin, the Chamberlain, stands by the head of the bed.
A loud yawn is heard from behind the curtains.
NARYSHKIN [holding up a warning hand]. Ssh!
The courtiers hastily cease whispering: dress up their lines: and stiffen. Dead
silence. A bell tinkles within the curtains. Naryshkin and the Princess solemnly
draw them and reveal the Empress.
Catherine turns over on her back, and stretches herself.
CATHERINE [yawning]. Heigho--ah--yah--ah--ow--what o'clock is it? [Her accent
NARYSHKIN [formally]. Her Imperial Majesty is awake. [The Court falls on its
ALL. Good morning to your Majesty.
NARYSHKIN. Half-past ten, Little Mother.
CATHERINE [sitting up abruptly]. Potztausend! [Contemplating the kneeling
courtiers.] Oh, get up, get up. [All rise.] Your etiquette bores me. I am hardly
awake in the morning before it begins. [Yawning again, and relapsing sleepily
against her pillows.] Why do they do it, Naryshkin?
NARYSHKIN. God knows it is not for your sake, Little Mother. But you see if you
were not a great queen they would all be nobodies.
CATHERINE [sitting up]. They make me do it to keep up their own little dignities?