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University of Toronto · Academic Electronic Journal in Slavic Studies

Toronto Slavic Quarterly

Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska

A Woman of Wonder

(A Tragicomedy in Three Acts)

Introduction to A Woman of Wonder

Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, née Kossak, (1891-1945) is remembered as the "queen of lyrical poetry," as the Polish Sappho, and as a woman whose grace and poetic charm made her a legend during her lifetime. She was born and raised in Krakow. Her grandfather, Juliusz Kossak, and her father, Wojciech, were famous for their historical paintings of military leaders and battle scenes. Her brother followed in their father's footsteps, while her younger sister, Magdalena, became a popular writer under the pen name Samozwaniec. Coming from a famous artistic family, Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska grew up surrounded by artists, writers, and intellectuals such as Antoni Słonimski, Andrzej Pronaszko, Leon Chwistek, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy), and many others. She became fluent in French, English, and German and her world travels later in life greatly affected her imagination.

At first Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska painted as often as she wrote poetry but during her second marriage to Jan Pawlikowski, who was also from a well-known artistic family, her literary interests began to prevail. The young couple's frequent discussions about literature, as well as her own poetic works, became part of a passionate relationship based on mutual love and shared interests. However, the marriage eventually ended in divorce. Maria Pawlikowska- Jasnorzewska's poetic talent was then nourished by the poets from the Warsaw-based Skamander group, especially Julian Tuwim, Jan Lechoń, and Kazimierz Wiezyński, as well as by writers such as Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Irena Krzywicka, Kazimiera Iłłakowicz, and by the critic Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński. During the inter-war period Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska published twelve volumes of poetry and established herself as an innovative poet of the era.

In 1924, after her first farce, Archibald the Chauffeur, was successfully produced in Warsaw, Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska's career as a playwright took off. She was compared by critics to her female predecessor, Gabriela Zapolska, as well as to Molière, Marivaux, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and Witkacy. By 1939 she had completed over fifteen plays whose open treatment of taboo topics such as abortion, extra-marital affairs, and incest provoked scandals. Her dramatic works also depicted unconventional approaches to motherhood, which she understood not as the natural continuation of a love relationship, but as a painful obligation that ends mutual passion. The treatment of motherhood throughout Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska's plays was not an indictment against motherhood per se, but support for a woman's right to choose according to her own feelings and preferences.

In 1939 she followed her third husband, Stefan Jasnorzewski, to England where the Polish allies were stationed. She was diagnosed with cancer in 1944, became semi-paralysed, and on 9 July 1945 died in Manchester, cared for by her beloved "Lotek," as she called her husband.

In a letter to émigré scholar Tyman Terlecki dated 14 June 1945, Pawlikowska- Jasnorzewska asked, "Could you remind Poland of my plays one day?" Although he did so, her wish was better fulfilled by Anna Bolecka, who compiled a two-volume edition of Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska's plays under the title Dramaty. It was published in 1986 in Warsaw with an introduction by the distinguished drama and theatre critic, Stefan Treugutt. This translation of A Woman of Wonder (Baba-dziwo) is based on the version of the play included in this collection. The play, probably written in 1937, was produced twice before the Second World War. The first production was performed repeatedly and successfully in 1938 in Krakow, while the second production opened on 2 September 1939 in front of an audience of fourteen. In post-war Poland the first production of A Woman of Wonder occurred in 1967 and the play has since had approximately nine productions, including one for Polish television.

A Woman of Wonder depicts the ruthless dictatorship of Valida Vrana in a country called Ritonia. Under Valida, people are ranked according to the number of children they have, with boys being the preferred sex. In Ritonia motherhood is not only a compulsory duty but also a tribute to "Her Motherly Highness." Thus the lives of women are reduced to a basic procreative function. The plot centres on the way a childless couple, Petronika and Norman, cope with this regime. Petronika is a chemist and Norman is a former governmental minister who lost his job because of his wife's insubordination. Unlike Petronika, Norman maintains the illusion of being Valida's faithful follower, even though he despises her. This difference in attitude creates tension in the marriage and even though Petronika asks for a divorce, the couple eventually remains together. While Norman waits passively for better times, Petronika prepares a secret weapon in her laboratory. Knowing Valida's weakness for perfume, she creates an intoxicating substance that eventually renders the vicious ruler powerless. The Ritonians are both happy and panic-stricken at their leader's confinement to a mental institution and they demand to see their liberator. In the final scene, Petronika pushes Norman in front of her and the mob greets him enthusiastically.

The traditional reading of A Woman of Wonder presents the play as a political and grotesque tragicomedy containing indirect references to the Nazi regime. There is sufficient textual evidence in the play to support this interpretation. The female dictatorship is an Übermensch who is greeted with raised arms and celebrated with a "plaid banner," which is a metaphor for the Nazi flag. Some less obvious, yet equally suggestive allusions are the affinity between the Nazi political slogan "Kinder, Küche, Kirche" and Valida's order to "cook with love" and her decree making motherhood compulsory. Therefore, it is not surprising that after the Krakow premiere, the German Embassy protested the play. Polish critics have also maintained for a long time that Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska changed the sex of Valida Vrana as a last-minute attempt to avoid political charges. However, none of the earlier manuscripts of the play, in which the female leader's name is Milda Hegedus, confirms this claim. Elżbieta Hurnikowa in her latest monograph Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska also dismisses this possibility. Thus it can be concluded that as far as her biological sex is concerned, Valida Vrana was meant to be a woman, not a man.

If we insist on perceiving the characters in terms of biological sex, the play could be treated as a grotesque fairy tale. Within this framework, the play is a duel between a wicked and a good witch, the first surrounded by her "court," the second locked in her laboratory with mysterious and magical substances. This fairy tale provides a happy ending in which, predictably, evil is conquered. As reductive as this reading might sound, it is widely accepted and competes in popularity with the interpretation of the play as an anti-feminist. In other words, the message drawn from this reading would be that women in power either are or become evil and that feminism should be avoided at all costs; women should keep silent and know their place. Yet, this simplistic anti-feminist interpretation collapses as soon as gender is considered.

The title of the play can be applied to both female characters, as they are both "women of wonder" who manifest their womanhood differently. This exercise reveals that unlike gender, which is understood as a cultural and historical construct, the category of biological sex is no longer a useful classification tool. Therefore, in this reading of the play and with regard to the country's leadership, Valida Vrana has the right sex but the wrong gender. Petronika, however, embodies the right sex and gender, even though she is not interested in being either a traditional wife or a leader. Norman presents a third alternative, but his careerist behaviour and deep hatred of Valida, no matter how well justified, do not promise a stable and democratic leader. Is there then a way out of this trap?

The play offers no easy answer. It reveals that even though gender errors lead to disastrous outcomes they are also inevitable. Valida as a woman is supposed to be a gentle ruler and supporter of women; she is instead a vicious misogynist. She acts like a man but, ironically, enough, a very feminine feature, a weakness for perfume, causes her downfall. Norman, being a man, is supposed to be strong; but it is Petronika who has this attribute. Her strength and wisdom sustain Norman; her actions liberate him both politically and psychologically. In the end Petronika tells her husband what to do and how to act, even though the opposite is commonly believed to be true. On one hand, the play seems to suggest that women who wish to be like men lack ambition. On the other hand, through Petronika's desire for self-fulfillment and self-realization outside of the norms of traditional gender roles, the stereotypical notion of femininity is challenged.

Petronika's psychological make-up is also quite unusual as compared to other female characters peopling Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska's literary world. It is commonly believed that women in her world exist solely as the objects of their partners' loving looks. Consequently, the view that women must breathe love like oxygen in order to function is understood to be Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska's entire philosophy of life. However, the certainty of this claim is challenged when we juxtapose Petronika with an important episode from the writer's own life. As the result of an accident in her teenage years, Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska was slightly, but visibly, disfigured. From that time on, her need for full acceptance and boundless love became very strong and to a large extent, probably more unconsciously than consciously, affected her self-esteem and creative thinking. At the time when Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska wrote A Woman of Wonder, her accomplishments and love life had confirmed not only the full acceptance of her deformity, but also the victory of her spirit and talent over it. Thus one could argue that the creation of Petronika confirms a significant change in Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska's attitude toward relationships between the sexes. Viewed from this vantage point, the play indicates a significant shift in the author's artistic and philosophical views, one that takes into account both the existence of assertive and emotionally independent women as well as those whose lives are rooted in traditionally gendered relationships.

Translation, especially of a play, can never produce a perfect clone of the original. Aware of the complexity of the task, we, the translators, worked on the current version of the play over a period of three years. The first draft of our translation was the most faithful to the original Polish text. The second version of our translation was aided by the editorial suggestions of Robert Bartoszynski, Michael Naydan, and Daniel Gerould. We then presented the edited and polished second version to playwright Stephen Grecco who made the final revisions with a modern English-speaking audience in mind. The play owes its current pace and cogency to his thoughtful amendments. Still, the plot developments, all the major characters, and the crucial scenes faithfully follow the original text.

Elwira M. Grossman and Paul J. Kelly


Hurnikowa, Elżbieta. Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska. Katowice: Slask, 1999.

Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, Maria. Dramaty. Ed. Anna Bolecka. 2 vols. Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1986.


Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska

A Woman of Wonder

Translated by Elwira M. Grossman & Paul J. Kelly
in collaboration with Stephen Grecco


PETRONIKA SELEN-GONDOR, aged 28, an attractive, self-controlled woman who is occasionally fiery and erratic.

NORMAN GONDOR, aged 35, her husband. He wears a mask of elegance and refinement to disguise a sombre personality.

MARIATA, The Gondors' maid, aged 50.

HALIMA, a friend of the Gondors, aged 17. Beautiful but reserved.

KOLOPUK GENOR, her fiance, aged 25. Impetuous to a fault.

AGATHA KORMOR, neighbor of the Gondors, aged 40.

MUK KORMOR, her husband, aged 45.

NINIKA, sister of Petronika, aged 18.

VALIDA VRANA, aged 60, a mannish woman who wears a military-type uniform with medals and boots laced up to the knees.

BARONESS LELIKA QUACKSTON, aged 30, Valida's unattractive but elegant and charming sidekick.








The action takes place in the capital of Ritonia in the late 1930's.


(The scene is a well-appointed third-floor flat in the capital city on an afternoon in early June. Norman and Petronika have just finished eating lunch. Their maid, Mariata, is taking away the plates.)

MARIATA: Would you like some coffee?

NORMAN: Please. And bring me today's newspaper.

MARIATA: There's no paper today. The kiosk's closed. It's Her Highness's birthday.

NORMAN: Of course; the Grand Holiday.

PETRONIKA: (picking up a newspaper.) Do you want to hear something funny from yesterday's Gazette? (reading.) "On Our Matriarch's birthday tomorrow the heart of every citizen will beat with the rhythm of the heart that beats for the nation. All eyes will be on her, all feelings directed toward her. . . ."

NORMAN: What, may I ask, is so funny about that?

PETRONIKA: All hearts? All eyes? Please. My heart and my eyes have much better things to do.

NORMAN: (indicating MARIATA.) Not so loud. . . .

PETRONIKA: You sweat too much, Norman. We can trust her. Isn't that so, Mariata?

(MARIATA smiles benignly. She serves the coffee.)

MARIATA: There are so many banners in the city. Ours is the only window that hasn't stuck its tongue out.

NORMAN: It's such a pointless gesture, really. (Short pause.) Then again, why didn't anybody think about it.

PETRONIKA: (ironically.) I guess it must have slipped my mind. Mariata, go to the attic and fetch the banner, and make sure you don't bring down the one for mourning.

MARIATA: You think I can't tell black from plaid?

(MARIATA exits.)

NORMAN: The attic isn't the proper place for items that should be kept close by.

PETRONIKA: Right. From now on we'll store all things honoring The Matriarch in the bathroom. How can you take such silliness so seriously? It's a bad joke, this phoney nationalism. Is there one human being in Ritonia who actually loves Valida. I mean, besides Baroness Quackston.

NORMAN: Oh, sure - lots of people. Anyway, Valida's not trying to win a popularity contest. She's trying to run the country. (Takes a letter from his breast pocket.) Speaking of which--a letter for you from the Bureau of Family Planning. (He hands it to her.)

PETRONIKA: It's the third letter from them this month.

NORMAN: What do you expect when you don't write back. (Pause.) We haven't been invited to the Palace today. Everybody who's anybody will be there. (Pause.) We're on the Black List, thanks to you and your independent ways.

PETRONIKA: (putting the letter away.) I have to report to them by the end of the month. To "explain" to them why I'm not yet a mother. Only an idiot could have written a letter like this.

NORMAN: The Matriarch is a persistent woman.

PETRONIKA: That bitch will be the ruin of us.

NORMAN: (seeing MARIATA enter) You're absolutely right, Petra. The Matriarch uses all of her creative energy to love and embrace her people.

PETRONIKA: Don't be so paranoid. Mariata is not a mole.

NORMAN: Probably not, but one can never be too careful.

(MARIATA fastens the banner to the balcony window and exits.)

PETRONIKA: What has happened to you, Norman? You used to be so liberal.

NORMAN: It's true, once upon a time I was quite close to you in my political opinions, but today I think a man must follow his country, and like his country he must undergo certain evolutionary phases. . .

PETRONIKA: (interrupting.) They don't want you in the Propaganda Ministry anymore, Norman, nor do they want you in the Social Welfare Department. You're nothing more to them now than stale air.

NORMAN: (theatrically.) How dare you! Ritonia's air is first-class and mountain-fresh!

PETRONIKA: Well, at least you haven't lost your sense of humour. (Pause) I love my country, Norman, but I hate Valida. Don't look so shocked. I do hate her. I hate her with all my heart.

NORMAN: Well, I prefer Valida to anarchy, no matter how repressive her government is.

PETRONIKA: (smiles.) I don't believe you believe that, not for a moment.

NORMAN: Your smile is both innocent and dangerous, and not a little illogical, given the fact that you still wear your medals.

PETRONIKA: I don't wear these out of vanity or stupidity. They're constant reminders of the good old days, when. . .

NORMAN: Quieter, please, I'm not deaf.

PETRONIKA: (even louder.) . . . when SHE HERSELF had no idea to what heights her movement would catapult her.

NORMAN: You're jealous because she made it to the top.

PETRONIKA: Yes, by appealing to the basest instincts of the people. She pandered endlessly, mercilessly. She never stopped talking.

NORMAN: And who's talking now? (He stops by the wall.) Do you know that by putting your ear to this radiator you can hear everything they're saying upstairs.


NORMAN: One floor above us there's undoubtedly a similar radiator and very likely they can hear everything we're saying.

(The doorbell rings. MARIATA enters.)

MARIATA:(to NORMAN) Mr. Kormor is asking to see you.

MUK: (entering, pushing MARIATA aside.) Who said anything about asking? Of course my dear neighbor will see me. (Salutes) Valida!

NORMAN: (mechanically) Valida - the Wonderful and Powerful! What can I do for you?

MUK: Dear ex-Vice Minister. I know you're aware that my wife had twins three months ago. Unfortunately both were girls. Still, multiple births do move you up the ladder faster. And I was given a gold medal. (He proudly points to it.)

NORMAN: (examining it.) Very nice.

MUK: It looks heavy but it's not. That's because it's hollow. . . . We keep hearing that the birth rate is falling drastically, and that we must all do our duty. On the other hand it's becoming harder and harder to find an apartment with sufficient room for a growing family. Which brings me to the point of my visit. Can you let us have one of your rooms? I'll pay you whatever you say, within limits of course.

NORMAN: (quietly, but decisively.) I wish we could help you, but unfortunately we have only two bedrooms.

MUK: (shaking his head.) You mean you don't sleep together in the same room?

PETRONIKA: That's really none of your business.

NORMAN: Petra, please. Leave this to me.

MUK: I was certain you would say yes. After all, I am a father. Twice over.

PETRONIKA: No. Categorically, no.

NORMAN: I apologize for my wife's bad mood. You see, when a woman is highly educated. . . .

MUK: I'm not impressed by women with degrees who happen to be childless.

PETRONIKA: It wasn't my intention to impress you. Norman, please show our distinguished neighbor to the door.

NORMAN: (taking MUK's arm.) Perhaps the best thing to do now is to say goodbye.

MUK: Then you're not going to rent me a room?

NORMAN: I'm afraid not. Our space is as cramped as yours.

MUK: Sometimes a man says no, but a higher force screams yes. (Salutes.) Valida! (NORMAN returns the salute.)

NORMAN: A woman of wonder!

(MUK exits.)

PETRONIKA: How could you let him speak to me that way? You're not the Norman I used to know. . . .(Sighs.) In ludicrous moments like this, work is the only remedy. (Lies down on sofa.) Sumac. Poisonous sumac. (Pause) I'm dreaming of poisonous sumac . . .

NORMAN: (attempting to be humorous.) Is sumac a snake?

PETRONIKA: (dreamily.) Not necessarily. Sometimes it can be a tiny plant. Or a tree with bitter berries. But where can I get one? You have no idea how hard it is to get anything now that we have this blockade.

NORMAN: You create enough poison without the sumac. When you're angry you're as venomous as a cobra. The Matriarch is at least partly right in wanting to cure you beautiful women. (PETRONIKA smiles.) Look. Let's make a deal. I'll move further to the left if you agree to move further to the right.(PETRONIKA yawns theatrically. NORMAN turns on the radio. A waltz is about to end. NORMAN checks his watch.)It's almost four o'clock. Your friend Martha the Aviatrix will be on soon, regaling us with her adventurous tales of flying into the wild blue yonder. Another liberated soul, destined to. . .

(The waltz ends and the cracked voice of MARTHA is heard in words that come with great effort. PETRONIKA sits up suddenly in surprise.)

MARTHA'S VOICE: I am . . . honored . . . to be able to . . . speak to you today . . . on the . . . occasion of the parade . . . honoring Her Highness . . . The Matriarch. . . .

PETRONIKA: What happened to her voice?

MARTHA'S VOICE: Valida Vrana has . . . granted permission . . . to speak to you. To all women of Ritonia. Please . . . pay attention.

PETRONIKA: They're forcing her to read something, I can tell.

MARTHA'S VOICE: Please, sisters, don't follow in my footsteps. . . . The Air Force is a man's domain. . . . I am just a freakish exception. I fly only because I have been . . . awarded the honor of flight by our government. But is this what . . . a woman should be doing? No. And why? Because a woman's exclusive destiny is . . . motherhood. Her proper place is . . . hearth and home. And kitchen. (Long pause.)

NORMAN: Something seems to be caught in her throat.

MARTHA'S VOICE: Sisters . . . Join me in wishing . . . a life of one-hundred years . . . for our great leader . . . Valida . . . The . . .

(PETRONIKA turns off the radio.)

PETRONIKA: . . . The Strangler! And this is how women rule! God save us from the Matriarchy. This is not Feminism.

NORMAN: Have you ever seen a real feminist? I've observed only feminised men. Sad to say, I'm one of them.

MARIATA: (peeking in the door.) A young couple is here: a Mr. Kolopuk and a Miss Halima.

PETRONIKA: (dryly.) Just what we need. . . .

(KOLOPUK enters with a bouquet of flowers, followed by HALIMA. He hands PETRONIKA a huge bouquet of blue roses.)

KOLOPUK: The fruits of my labour.

PETRONIKA: They're beautiful. Thank you. Blue roses! So you finally succeeded in creating a rose of the purest aquamarine. (Calls.) Mariata. A vase for my roses. (To KOLOPUK.) What have you named this variety?

KOLOPUK: (sheepishly looking at HALIMA.) I wanted to call it Halima Azula . . . but I listed it at the Floral Exhibition as Valida Vrana. I know that was the only way to get a prominent location on the floor.

(KOLOPUK looks at his audience helplessly. PETRONIKA takes a vase from MARIATA's hands and arranges the roses.)

KOLOPUK: Halima, you look like you want to say something. Speak up. You can talk freely here.

HALIMA: No, I have nothing to say.

KOLOPUK: You can see that Halima takes Valida's order quite literally. "Limit your speech; use words with the utmost care."

PETRONIKA: Pity that blabbermouth doesn't practice what she preaches. Unfortunately, no one will say this to her face. All I hear are compliments.

(MARIATA enters with a tray and begins to serve tea. PETRONIKA helps her. NORMAN appears to be annoyed by PETRONIKA's outspokenness.)

KOLOPUK: What's worse, she's constantly interfering with the private lives of citizens, especially married couples; which is why we've yet to tie the knot. Maybe one day when Valida loosens her iron grip on us. . . .

NORMAN: Neither of you is being fair. Our leader is in the process of creating a great nation. We may not approve of her methods, but we should make a sincere effort to understand them. Especially women.

KOLOPUK: If women delivered as many babies as our great leader demands we'd soon be confronting overpopulation, starvation and war.

NORMAN: What we have today is a race against the greatest of imperialist nations, a marathon to elevate our country above all others.

PETRONIKA: Yes, a race of rocking cradles. They're moving back and forth like crazy, but they're not travelling very far.

(HALIMA bursts into approving laughter.)

NORMAN: You don't know how lucky you are, Kolopuk, having a silent partner. If someone were to ask me to name the greatest feature of the Mona Lisa I would answer without hesitation her locked lips.

PETRONIKA: Well, at least Halima agrees with me, don't you? (Pause.)Never mind. Save your words for the right moment.

HALIMA: (suddenly speaks.) Forget about your disagreements with Norman. Venus has been shining in the heavens since the dawn of creation. To live in separate worlds because of political differences makes no sense. (Pause.) Forgive me. I had no right to say that.

(HALIMA turns her head, embarrassed. NORMAN is delighted. MARIATA brings in a plate of fruit biscuits.)

NORMAN: (taking HALIMA's hand and kissing it.) My dear poetic Halima. Are we still under the light of Venus? I certainly hope so because as time goes on that light will soften Petra's sharp edges and . . . well, as we all know . . . every childless woman is a bit difficult.

(NORMAN checks his watch and switches the radio back on. The National Anthem is heard ending.)

SPEAKER'S VOICE: Men and women of Ritonia. To celebrate the precise moment exactly sixty years ago today when at 4:16 p.m. Valida Vrana came into this world . . . the nation will observe three minutes of silent meditation. (Pause)

PETRONIKA: (deliberately breaking the silence) Who wants lemon and who wants sugar?(PETRONIKA walks around with the serving tray.)

NORMAN: Petronika! (He grabs her hand. A tea-cup falls and breaks.) Be quiet, please!

(Silence. All look at each other stupidly. It is obvious PETRONIKA is embarrassed for NORMAN. NORMAN looks at his watch nervously.)

PETRONIKA: "She" can't hear us - and the tea's getting cold.

(The radio plays a loud march. KOLOPUK seems relieved. The music is suddenly interrupted.)

SPEAKER'S VOICE: This just in to Radio Ritonia. There's been a catastrophe at the national airport involving Martha Nella's plane. Just as it was coming in for a landing, Martha's plane went into a sudden tailspin and crashed into the runway. Stay tuned for further details.

(Music again. NORMAN turns off the radio.)

PETRONIKA: That was no accident. Martha deliberately killed herself. She had it up to here with non-stop humiliation and barbarism.

NORMAN: There are far easier ways of committing suicide. Leaping from a third-floor window, for example.

PETRONIKA: Easier - but not braver.

HALIMA: (crying softly.) Poor Martha; another beautiful life gone to waste.

(Cries and shouts are heard in the street below. NORMAN goes to the window.)

NORMAN: Valida is coming. The crowd is forming into two rows. . . . Policemen on horseback. . . .

(All go to the window except PETRONIKA.)

KOLOPUK: Would you look at that. Valida is driving the convertible.

HALIMA: Boy, is she ugly.

NORMAN: How can you say that? Her Roman profile reminds me of Minerva.

(PETRONIKA rolls her eyes.)

KOLOPUK: They're showering her with flowers. Your neighbor upstairs threw a big bouquet of daisies.

NORMAN: Muk tossed flowers straight from a vase and splashed a policeman. They're all looking up at him; he's cringing in fear. Petra, do we have any flowers handy? Quickly - Valida is looking this way.

PETRONIKA: I refuse to give her my blue roses. Don't you touch them.

(NORMAN grabs the roses and proudly tosses them to VALIDA.)

KOLOPUK: Look, the Baroness has caught them. She's enchanted by them. Obviously Baroness Quackston is not as stupid as she looks.

NORMAN: I knew I did the right thing.

KOLOPUK: The Baroness is pointing at our window. And the adjutant is jumping out of the car. Valida is getting out, too.

NORMAN: (nervously.) That means they're probably coming up here.

PETRONIKA: I'm in no mood for a "visit." I'm getting the hell out of here.

(She tries to leave, but NORMAN holds her by the arm.)

NORMAN: Think of what this means, Petra. To be honored by a social call from The Matriarch. . .

KOLOPUK: Come to think of it, maybe Halima and I should make ourselves scarce, too.

NORMAN: (stopping KOLOPUK.) They've already seen you. How will it look if you're not here? (Calls.) Mariata!

(MARIATA enters.)

NORMAN: Help me straighten up. They'll be here any second.

(NORMAN and MARIATA feverishly make the room presentable. A knocking on the door. MARIATA admits the ADJUTANT. He speaks cheerfully.)

ADJUTANT: I beg your pardon, sir. Did the blue roses come from your window?

NORMAN: Indeed. I threw them myself.

ADJUTANT: (pleased.) Her Highness wants to thank you in person immediately. She'll be here presently.

NORMAN: We are all deeply moved. Permit me to introduce myself. I am Norman Gondor. I once had the pleasure, in the palace. . .

ADJUTANT: I know who you are. I recognized you at once.

(The ADJUTANT moves to the door.)

NORMAN: (quietly, to PETRONIKA.) Behave yourself, O.K.?

PETRONIKA: Trust me.

(NORMAN looks dubious.)

HALIMA: Should I curtsy or what?

NORMAN: Simply stand ramrod-straight, like a soldier, and look her directly in the eye. She likes that.

(The ADJUTANT re-enters with VALIDA. The BARONESS follows closely behind, gazing rapturously at VALIDA.)

VALIDA: (panting heavily.) The elevator is out of order. Why hasn't it been fixed? (All are speechless.) Doesn't matter. What I really want to know is, who tossed these blue weeds at us, eh?

NORMAN: (upright, looking directly into her eyes.) I did, Your Highness.

VALIDA: (smiling, sitting down.) How very kind of you. But a flower without fragrance is as worthless as a beautiful woman without any brains. Did you grow them yourself?

KOLOPUK: (uneasy.) No, Your Highness. I did.

VALIDA: In the future, don't waste your time engaging in these mindless pursuits. The country gains nothing from this. And, as a result, you won't either. What's your name?

KOLOPUK: Kolopuk, Genor.

VALIDA: Well, Kolopuk Genor, are you aware of what is happening in the world around us? What kind of times we are living in? Tell me.

KOLOPUK: We are living in serious times . . . great times. And some would even say, highly unusual times.

VALIDA: Voila! The boy has a real brain.

KOLOPUK: But, Your Highness, even in times of great seriousness we all need a bit of beauty - beauty to please the senses.

VALIDA: Beauty is weakness, young man. Beauty means decay . . . danger. Your blue roses please my senses as much as a cheap paper carnation. Go, Kolopuk, and sin no more. (To the BARONESS.) Lelika, return these scentless flowers to him.

BARONESS: They're not scentless. They smell of morning dew, of blue sky. (Presents them to the ADJUTANT) Take a whiff.

ADJUTANT: (agreeing with VALIDA) I smell nothing.

VALIDA: I need such full-bodied fragrances as would make weak people faint. Intenseness is the only type of beauty I respect. (Looks at NORMAN.) Your face is familiar. . .

NORMAN: I am Norman Gondor. I used to be a senator and a vice-minister.

VALIDA: Ah, yes. I remember now. The light-blond hair. . . .

BARONESS: Once upon a time he was a famous statesman, too.

VALIDA: You don't say.

NORMAN: I was well-known because I worked scrupulously, regardless of my position. And that was possible only because of my faith in justice and the unerring judgment of Your Highness, whom I love. But I have suffered harm these past weeks and months. Enemies slander me behind my back, misleading you intentionally about the true character of your faithful servant.

VALIDA: If that's true--and I doubt that it is--it's because Ritonia doesn't need "famous statesmen" anymore. We need the common man, not exceptionally talented people who love their careers more than they love us.

(PETRONIKA, pale from hatred, draws nearer and looks VALIDA straight in the eye.)

PETRONIKA: Ritonia will never be a great country unless it rewards its hard-working, talented citizens.

NORMAN: Petra!

VALIDA: Well - who might you be?

NORMAN: My wife, Your Highness. The chemist, Petronika Selen-Gondor.

BARONESS: (impressed; rising, stretching out her hand.) A pleasure to meet such a famous scientist.

VALIDA: Lelika, sit down. (looking at PETRONIKA while speaking to NORMAN.) A chemist? And so pretty. Which is undoubtedly more important to you, Gondor, than her being a scientist. (to PETRONIKA.) Do you love your husband?(PETRONIKA is silent. VALIDA speaks to all present.)She's too shy to declare her love in public. (She speaks to PETRONIKA.) You dress beautifully, but you haven't tweezed your eyebrows the way so many of today's "beauties" do. (Short pause) Are you raising obedient children?

PETRONIKA: We don't have any children.


PETRONIKA: I don't know.

VALIDA: You must do your best to cure yourself of this barrenness as soon as possible. Otherwise, you will cheat me out of additional loyal subjects. Nothing would please me more than to receive an invitation to the baptism of your triplets.

(PETRONIKA bursts out laughing.)

So you know how to laugh. That's good. Laughter is a sign of fertility.

(Pointing to PETRONIKA's medals and ribbons)

Tell me, Gondor, do you think your wife deserves these? She talks about talents and rewards, but the larger question is, Can she cook? If she can't, I'm taking my medals away.

NORMAN: She's an excellent cook, and she's getting better all the time. Why, uh, last week she made scrambled eggs Š.

(The ADJUTANT laughs discreetly.)

VALIDA: Why she's practically a master chef. (To PETRONIKA.) Do you recall how many eggs I allow per person per week?

PETRONIKA: I have a notoriously bad memory.

NORMAN: Of course, she remembers. Five eggs per person per week. A generous number, by anyone's count.

VALIDA: (to PETRONIKA.) Then march right into your kitchen and make me some potato pancakes. "Crepes a la Vrana." (To HALIMA.) You go, too. Make yourself useful. And wash your hands first.

BARONESS: (jumping up from her seat.) I'll check to see that everything is done properly. Do you want the frying pan smeared with garlic?

VALIDA: Absolutely. (to PETRONIKA, pointing.) Chemist - the kitchen is in that direction. Discover something spectacular in the Woman's Laboratory.

NORMAN: (quietly, to the motionless PETRONIKA.) Go, my dearest Petra. Do it. For me.

(PETRONIKA, sighing, leaves with the BARONESS, HALIMA, and KOLOPUK.)

VALIDA: Well, my dear Norman. Give me a smile - come on. Not like that. You're not doing it right. You're smiling involuntarily on one side of your mouth like a basset hound. (Short pause) If you're unable to smile properly, at least make some attempt to produce me some sons. Help build something beyond yourself. By the way, is it true that you asked the Church for asylum last year?

NORMAN: Your Highness, it was all a misunderstanding. . . .

VALIDA: Mother knows all, Norman. Sometimes she only pretends to be absent-minded. I tell you, I loathe what is commonly called religious feeling.

NORMAN: So do I, but. . .

VALIDA: But what? The Motherland has its own religion, one that requires love, hard work, and forgiveness. You have fallen away from the flock because you are not a true believer.

(MARIATA enters with plates. VALIDA looks at her and pauses momentarily as MARIATA nervously sets the table. NORMAN is wondering how to answer VALIDA.)

NORMAN: Your Highness. . .

VALIDA: (to MARIATA) O.K., now where's the pancakes?

MARIATA: (in a choked voice) Everything good takes time. . . .

(NORMAN waves MARIATA away.)

NORMAN: Your Highness, I can explain everything.

VALIDA: Quiet or I'll slap you. You must listen, not speak. And sit up straight. You hunch your shoulders and pose like a dandy. And get rid of those shoulder pads.

(HALIMA, PETRONIKA, KOLOPUK and the BARONESS return from the kitchen, the latter carrying a frying pan full of pancakes. VALIDA grabs a greasy pancake in her hands and devours it.)

VALIDA:(licking her fingers)Not bad! (to PETRONIKA) Congratulations, scientist. Give one to my adjutant.

(With her fingers, PETRONIKA gives a pancake to the ADJUTANT.)

ADJUTANT: (eating) Delicious. This dish will go down in history.

VALIDA: You see, Norman, your wife is a better cook than you could have possibly imagined.

(The BARONESS notices a grease stain on VALIDA's uniform.)

BARONESS: Once again you have soiled your uniform. A pancake is legless and won't try to run away, so there's no need to eat it so quickly.

(She wipes the front of VALIDA's uniform with her handkerchief.)

VALIDA: A greasy pancake may dirty my uniform but it cannot stain my honor. (abruptly.) Well, it's time to rejoin the parade. Give me your hand, Petronika. Now look into my eyes. If you must be a chemist, then create me a perfume, invent an undiscovered essence.

PETRONIKA: (attentively) Your wish is my command, Your Highness. When I develop such a perfume I will send you a sample for your approval.

VALIDA: Yes, you do that, though I think it's only fair to tell you that your fragrance will first be tested by the noses of my censors. Norman, take to heart what I have told you. And you, Kolopuk, keep your fingers out of the rose garden. And take some iron pills. Your soul looks anemic. (To no one in particular) Nothing quickens the blood like the whistle of shrapnel. The eye gets sharper, life has more value. Since we love only what we can lose at any moment. (to HALIMA) You at least know how to keep quiet. So carry on, Mademoiselle. (To the other, significantly) Carry on.

(Valida and her party exit. The others look after her, somewhat dumbfounded.)



(NORMAN's disorderly workroom on an afternoon in late June. Scattered about are mattresses, piles of books, and a white kitchen table holding a microscope and a slide rule. PETRONIKA is seen at a separate table built into a corner of the room. On her table is a small autoclave. She wears an apron and protective glasses. NORMAN enters, looking sad and discouraged.)

PETRONIKA: Norman, come here. I want to show you something. Two poisons that don't cancel each other out.

NORMAN: (listlessly.) Fascinating. Now if I could only find something equally fascinating to do with my time.

PETRONIKA: Why not go back to your study of economics?

NORMAN: What for? The government will never hire me.

PETRONIKA: Be patient. Valida won't be in power forever.

NORMAN: Better give me something to cheer me up.

PETRONIKA: No way. The most innocent drug on this table is opium. Send Mariata out to get some Valarian.

NORMAN: Do you have any curare? I don't have much to lose now.

PETRONIKA: I have Cicuta Virosa, Aqua Toffana, Lachesis, Datura-Stramonium . . . and, yes, I have curare, which you are not getting.

NORMAN: You continue to dabble in poisons. What you should be doing is cooking in the kitchen.

PETRONIKA: (following a train of thought.) I can't quite find that one particular element used in the Eighteenth Century to soak flowers . . . imbue handkerchiefs . . . saturate gloves with. . . .

NORMAN: (approaches and looks at the vials.) Little murderers for the peace and goodness of the masses.

PETRONIKA: I'm hoping to create a special substance that will transport us all into another world entirely, something that will swiftly remove us from this pitiful plateau we're languishing on. Tell me, why can't we have just rulers like they have in Sarmatia?

NORMAN: (sarcastically) Go ahead, keep saying things like that, only louder and by the open window, O.K.?

(PETRONIKA gets up and closes the window, then sits next to NORMAN.)

PETRONIKA: Aren't you ever going to say anything bad about our Matriarch? She gave your position to somebody else. She sentenced you to unemployment. And what do you do about it? You mope and whine.

NORMAN: Are you aware that there are women in this world who instinctively help their husbands, who go out of their way to bring happiness into their homes. But not you, with your capricious tongue and your college-girl mentality.

PETRONIKA: Last night you shouted in your sleep: "Valida! This monster! This ogress!" I heard you in my room and ran over to see what was going on. (coyly.) And what if the radiator were listening?

NORMAN: No one can be held responsible for what he dreams. At least I dream safely at night in my sleep, whereas you dream openly and tactlessly during your waking hours.

PETRONIKA: Your dream tells me that you still have hope but that you have no pride.

NORMAN: (wearily) You may be right, but don't shove it in my face.

(She embraces him, sincerely and sympathetically.)

PETRONIKA: My poor Norman. . .

NORMAN: Why can't you be like this more often. When will you be my Petra again?

PETRONIKA: I wish I knew. Perhaps when we rid ourselves of these dreams . . .of these nightmares, really. As long as they haunt us, happiness is impossible.

NORMAN: So you still love me a little bit? Don't wear your hair like this. Push it back from your temples. Your hands are etched by those acids. Be careful. Don't ruin my tiny, beautiful hands. . . .(He kisses them)

PETRONIKA: Darling, you are the love of my life, and I wish you the best that the world has to offer. But, really, sometimes you are so shamefully dishonest. Even with me. Why?

NORMAN: You know why. Because that witch can see through everybody. She can read your mind, she can x-ray your thoughts. . . . Right now I don't want to think. I just want to live and work.

MARIATA: (peeking in) Dear master and mistress, the police are on the stairway. If they knock on our door shall I say that you are not at home?

NORMAN: (quickly) No, Mariata. Greet these gentlemen as if they were our honored guests.

MARIATA: As you wish, sir.

(The doorbell rings. MARIATA exits hastily to answer it.)

NORMAN: (to PETRONIKA) What did I just tell you.

(The FIRST POLICEMAN enters; the SECOND POLICEMAN stands in the doorway.)

FIRST POLICEMAN: Mrs. Petronika Gondor?

PETRONIKA: How may I help you?

FIRST POLICEMAN: I have a written order to transport you to the Office of Family Affairs. You missed your appointment last month, ma'am, even though you received a subpoena several times. You must come with us now. A car is waiting.

PETRONIKA: I can't. I don't have time. And I don't feel like it.

FIRST POLICEMAN: I'm only following orders, ma'am.

PETRONIKA: This is ridiculous. It's out of the question. It's ludicrous.

FIRST POLICEMAN: I must warn you. You'll have to pay a fine for every rude word you say. That is the law.

PETRONIKA: Don't those people understand that I am a working woman, a chemist by profession, and that my name means something in scientific circles. I think I have a right to a little peace and respect, instead of being taken away like a common criminal.

NORMAN: (trying to reassure her.) It may be nothing more than a simple misunderstanding. Go there and explain to them. . .

FIRST POLICEMAN: (interrupting.) We've already waited long enough.

PETRONIKA: If I have to go, I will not go voluntarily. Can't you see how laughable all of this is?

FIRST POLICEMAN: My duty is to carry out an order, not to stop and analyze it.

(The SECOND POLICEMAN continues to write down her words.)

PETRONIKA: You can write as much as you want in your silly notebook, but that won't change the brutal and farcical nature of what you're about to do.

NORMAN: (to SECOND POLICEMAN) I see you are a married man, so naturally you understand how on occasion a wife will chatter aimlessly with no real malicious intent. . . .

SECOND POLICEMAN: Quiet. I'm counting the number of rude words she's spoken so far.

PETRONIKA: I can assure you that the total will be much higher by the time I'm finished.

FIRST POLICEMAN: Beyond two-hundred, and the rate begins to double.

NORMAN: Petra, you know we can't afford such a fine.

FIRST POLICEMAN: If you won't go willingly. . . .

(He attempts to put handcuffs on PETRONIKA, who struggles to remain free.)

NORMAN: Petra - don't make a scene. Gentlemen, wait. I'll get her coat. Mariata!

PETRONIKA: Forget it. I'd prefer to go naked. Let the whole city see that I'm being taken by force. I'm not ashamed.

(PETRONIKA ceases to resist. MARIATA enters, is aghast, retreats to the hallway. PETRONIKA glowers at NORMAN.)

NORMAN: Why are you looking at me like that. Is any of this my fault?

(PETRONIKA exits with the policemen. NORMAN picks up a vase and deliberately smashes it. He looks out the window, observing PETRONIKA getting into the car. MARIATA returns, wringing her hands.)

MARIATA: Mother of God! Our "honored guests" took away the mistress. Did you forget to pay your taxes?

NORMAN: (a sad smile) Something like that, Mariata.

MARIATA: Mrs. Kormer came by twice. I asked her to come back later because the police were here. She wanted to know what was going on. I had a hard time getting rid of her. I don't like that woman; something fishy about her.

NORMAN: Try to be more generous, Mariata. We have enough enemies as it is.

(The doorbell rings once, then a second time.)If that's her, let her in.

(MARIATA goes to open the door. AGATHA KORMER enters, a huge woman with a bundle under her arm, pushing a baby carriage, and pulling some bed sheets behind her.)

MARIATA: Good God! What's all this?

AGATHA: Isn't it obvious? (She drops the bed linen on the couch.)

MARIATA: Don't put your dirty laundry on the furniture.

AGATHA: I'll put my linens wherever I please.

(She dumps a second bundle on the chair by PETRONIKA's table.)

MARIATA: Watch it. You're liable to break something.

AGATHA: And what if I do? Accidents happen. (to NORMAN) Mr. Vice Minister. That is, Mr. Former Vice Minister. I'd like to call your attention to the rude behavior of your domestic servant. (She hands him papers)

NORMAN: What's this?

AGATHA: Orders stipulating that since you are childless, I am entitled to one of your bedrooms.

NORMAN: (reading.) This must be a joke.

AGATHA: It's up to you which one but I must move in immediately.

MARIATA: I knew something bad was going to happen.

NORMAN: Quiet, Mariata. (to AGATHA) My wife isn't home. I'm afraid you'll have to wait until she returns.

AGATHA: A mother is not made for waiting.

MARIATA: The rooms are full of personal belongings.

AGATHA: Don't worry. I won't steal anything. So which room is mine?

MARIATA: You heard what the master said. The mistress is away. I won't let you touch a thing until she gets back.

AGATHA: That could be a while. I saw who she left with. Now get out of my way.

MARIATA: Holy Mary!

AGATHA: (bending over the baby carriage) If you continue to scream my twins will start to scream.(She pushes the baby carriage into one of the bedrooms and throws the bed sheets in on the floor. She barks an order to MARIATA.)Make the bed! And hang this portrait of The Matriarch--carefully.

MARIATA: (following orders) Mother of God!

(Shouts are heard in the streets, and the sounds of a riot: whistles, remote gunshots, hysterical cries.)

VOICE OF NEWSPAPER BOY: Special edition! Latest Decree of the Matriarch. Special edition!

NORMAN: (tossing a coin) I'll take one.

(A newspaper flies into the third floor window. NORMAN catches it.)

AGATHA: What's going on? What's all this screaming and yelling?

NORMAN: We'll find out soon enough.

(NORMAN attempts to read the paper, but AGATHA pulls it out of his hands.)

AGATHA: (reads) A woman is now government prosperity. . . .

NORMAN: (correcting her.) Property.

AGATHA: Government property. Two-year compulsory population training. Draft notices have been issued this afternoon to all childless women. (Pleased with herself) I didn't need compulsory population training, now did I?

(MARIATA enters.)

MARIATA: Your room is ready, ma'am.

NORMAN: (dryly) Make yourself comfortable, neighbor. My home is now your castle.

(Suddenly a young woman bursts into the room. She wears a pink ballet costume with two long wings, one of which is torn and broken. Her face is pale and her eyes are full of tears. All are startled by the intrusion, AGATHA more so than the others.)

AGATHA: You scared the hell out of me! Who gave you permission to enter this apartment unannounced? If I were pregnant I might have miscarried. You're a very odd-looking person.

NINIKA: (her arms wide, rushing to NORMAN) My dear brother-in-law. . . .

NORMAN: Ninika - what has happened?

NINIKA: (trying to catch her breath) I jumped over fences . . . ran through gardens . . . to get here. We had a dress rehearsal . . . at the School for Ballet . . . a fairy tale. That's why my costume is in tatters. (She tries to tear off her wings) The Drafting Committee . . . for compulsory population training . . . walked right into our school . . . and began rounding up the girls.

AGATHA: They can't draft you; you're too young.

NINIKA: I'm over eighteen. That's old enough for them. Oh, Norman. They want to assign a lover to me. And the baby will be taken away by the government. They took dancers from the stage . . . out of hallways. They're out there right now, looking for me. Help me, Norman. Please.

NORMAN: Don't panic, Ninika. You'll write a petition. After all, Valida is a woman. We'll compose the letter together. I know what Valida likes to hear.

NINIKA: It won't do any good. She'll put us in prison if we try to get around the law. To be eighteen and in prison - oh, I couldn't stand it.

NORMAN: It's always sad to be imprisoned, darling, regardless of one's age.

NINIKA: I want to be a dancer, and you can't do pirouettes in a jail cell.

AGATHA: Little Miss no doubt prefers dance halls. But just keep in mind that it is a woman who has stopped the music.

NINIKA: Valida is not a woman. A real woman would not persecute her sisters.

AGATHA: Doesn't Miss know that criticism of The Matriarch is strictly prohibited.

NORMAN: Agatha, no one is criticising anyone here.

(The cries outside become louder. Mixed voices shout "Down with Valida." Then several shots are heard followed by more cries and a general tumult.)

AGATHA:(at the window)Can't see a thing from here. (To NORMAN) Why don't you go down and see what's happening.(NORMAN makes a dismissive gesture.)What a weakling you are. A woman and a mother has to go herself. ( She exits.)

NINIKA: I'm afraid for Petronika. Where is she? There are riots around the government buildings.

NORMAN: No need to worry. She left here with protective escort.

NINIKA: Norman, your face looks haggard. You've aged ten years since I last saw you. What have they done to you?

NORMAN: Nothing, darling. It's just the lighting in here, that's all. It's bad.

AGATHA: (returning in a hurry, panting) The gunfire . . . two women shot themselves. One of them is still alive. . . . A medic is trying to save her.

NINIKA: My God, it's terrible!

AGATHA: I don't think this is what The Matriarch had in mind when she decided to play matchmaker. I'm going back out to find out what else is happening. (She exits.)

NINIKA: Those women had the courage to kill themselves. My heart feels like it's racing; my pulse must be up to two-hundred beats a minute.

(She sits next to PETRONIKA's work table and examines the vials with her eyes.)

NORMAN: Please don't touch anything. Petronika doesn't allow it, and besides there are concoctions here that are absolutely dangerous.

NINIKA: (reads the labels on the vials) Agricus Muscatis. Amylum Nitrosum. Rana Moebida. (Pause) Tell me, honestly. Petronika is deeply depressed, isn't she.

NORMAN: Not in front of me she's not.

NINIKA: The two of you have been fired. . . .

NORMAN: That's correct. At least they treat us both equally.

NINIKA: My poor sister, who has so much to offer the world.

NORMAN: True, but as far as life is concerned, she's even more of a child than you.

(PETRONIKA has slipped in unobserved. She stops and looks at her table, showing no surprise at seeing NINIKA. NORMAN is taken aback.) Petra. You're back already.

PETRONIKA: (indifferently.) How are you, Ninika?

NINIKA: I'm frightened. They're trying to draft me.

PETRONIKA: Ah. . . .

NORMAN: Uh . . . listen, Petra. Try not to be upset, but while you were out . . . Mrs. Kormor moved in with us - with her twins.

PETRONIKA: Why would I be upset. She is such a charming person. (Suddenly, with determination.) Help me put my vials away. We've got to hide them and lock them up. Hurry. I've had it up to here with this stupidity.(NORMAN and NINIKA help PETRONIKA clear the table and lock up her laboratory.)Careful. Try not to break anything. (to NORMAN) By the way, which room did you give away?

NORMAN: My own, of course.

PETRONIKA: Thank you. (PETRONIKA stops at the doorway to her bedroom. She turns and speaks to NINIKA.) Pity you weren't with me now at the Bureau for Family Planning. You should have heard the bureaucrats blaming professional women for the destruction of the family. They informed me that I would make a wonderful mother were it not for my obsession with science. It was very funny; the problem was, I found it hard to laugh. (Pause.) You look quite nice dressed in wings and flowers. You should go around like this all the time. . .

(She exits into the bedroom. NINIKA nervously examines her broken wing.)

NINIKA: This is what happens when you try to fly the coop.

NORMAN: Ninika, we can't keep you here. They'll arrest us, too.

NINIKA: (tearfully.) I can't go back home. They'll find me there and haul me away. Oh, Norman, you've always been so good to me, please don't throw me out. I beg you.

NORMAN: Calm down. Let me think for a second. I need to figure this out.

(AGATHA reenters.)

AGATHA: I have lots of new information.

NORMAN: I don't want to hear any of it.

(PETRONIKA enters from the bedroom.)

PETRONIKA: Ninika, why are you crying? (Sees AGATHA) Well, hello. . . .

AGATHA: Ah! You've returned. That was fast.

PETRONIKA: Ninika. Tell me what's wrong.

NINIKA: Norman doesn't know if I can stay here. Instead of just smiling to yourself, why don't you say something. Help me - or poison me!

PETRONIKA: No, Ninika, my chemicals were not designed to solve your little problems. They are far more ambitious than that.

AGATHA: (to NINIKA) Stop crying; you'll wake the twins. (Short pause) Wait. I know. I'll hide you at my place.

NORMAN: You would do that?

AGATHA: Not in our flat, but at our place in the country. They'll never suspect a mother of four. My brother owns a taxi and I'll get him to take you out to the village. You'll stay put until the situation changes.

NORMAN: Which might not be anytime soon.

AGATHA: Eventually it will. (to NINIKA) Right now we've got to dress you up as a boy.

NINIKA: (suddenly very cheerful.)Oh, that's wonderful. I love dressing up in drag. Help me get my wings off.

NORMAN: (to PETRONIKA) Remember what it was like to be young?

PETRONIKA: (embracing AGATHA.) So you're not a monster after all.

AGATHA: It wasn't my idea to take your room; my husband ordered me to do it. So afraid of the Matriarch, you know. (Tearing off NINIKA's wings) These don't come off easily.

(MARIATA, sees AGATHA pulling on NINIKA's costume.)

MARIATA: Holy Mary, that nasty woman is stripping down that poor girl--she's stealing her wings. What next!

(The doorbell rings. AGATHA leaves with the wings. MARIATA goes to answer the door. KOLOPUK enters, pale and perturbed. PETRONIKA makes a quick exit to her room, closes the door behind her.)

KOLOPUK: Norman, I can't stand it. I've had enough. What is the point of all this rioting? (NORMAN shrugs) Look. I picked up a stone in the park. I have no idea why I'm still carrying it. It must be an impulse inherited from our cave man ancestors. Am I supposed to go around breaking windows? What exactly does one do in moments like this?

(He puts the stone on the table.)

NORMAN: Wait. Drink tea. Watch what happens.

KOLOPUK: And what about our women? Should we allow the government goons to drag them away without a fight? (Sees NINIKA) Sorry. Didn't mean to ignore you.

NINIKA: (offering her hand.) I want to thank you with my entire soul for your noble indignation.

NORMAN: Go back to your botany, Kolopuk. And when you're watering the garden don't forget to water your head also.

AGATHA: (rushing in.) The Committee is coming for Ninika. The concierge told them where she was.

NINIKA: Don't let them take me away. Hide me.

(She moves to the window, as if to jump. KOLOPUK grabs her.)

KOLOPUK: What do you think you're doing? We're on the third floor.

NINIKA: Norman, help me.

KOLOPUK: (holding her hand) Calm down, my little rose. . . .

(The Drafting Committee enters, consisting of three civil servants. An ugly old woman speaks for the group.)

OLD WOMAN: I understand there is a person here of draft age who is avoiding registration. (To NINIKA) It's got to be you, judging from the description.

NORMAN: You've got to give us citizens some time to get used to this new but very noble decree. Only a few hours have passed since it was announced. No one was quite ready for this.

OLD WOMAN: There's no time. We've been ordered to act swiftly before large numbers of women decide to flee the country. (Mock sweetness, to NINIKA) Without further delay, would you kindly fill out this registration form?

NINIKA: No, that won't be necessary. Because, you see, I already have a lover. (She clutches KOLOPUK's arm)

NORMAN: (a warning) Ninika!

OLD WOMAN: Really? (To KOLOPUK) What does she see in you? (Shoving the registration papers at NINIKA) Enough of these theatrics. Sign here, please.

KOLOPUK: It's true. This young woman is under my exclusive care.

OLD WOMAN: Since when?

KOLOPUK: Since . . . since it was none of your business.

OLD WOMAN: Your word is not good enough.

AGATHA: Well, as a mother of four, mine should be. I vow that this woman and this man are genuine lovebirds.

OLD WOMAN: Well, why didn't you say so in the first place. We're obviously wasting our time here. Hail Valida!

(The OLD WOMAN leaves with her party. AGATHA bursts into laughter. All seem relieved except NORMAN.)

NORMAN: Kolopuk, have you lost your mind? Openly lying to the authorities like that.

KOLOPUK: But I didn't lie. When I confirmed that we were lovers, it was true, wasn't it, Ninika? We've loved each other for years in secret; we needed this wave of human madness to finally openly express the depths of our love.

NINIKA: I want to live with you forever.

NORMAN: Not so fast. What about Halima?

NINIKA: Oh, that's right. Halima.

KOLOPUK: (picking up the stone and waving it.) Forget about her. The world has gone crazy and so have I. I just want to live with the woman I love. And as for anybody else . . . well, God help the rest of you poor people, help yourselves as best you can.

NINIKA: Let's go; let's get out of here before the Committee has second thoughts.

KOLOPUK: We'll go to the cafe or to the park - wherever you want.

NINIKA: I am the happiest woman in the world.

(KOLOPUK and NINIKA run out wildly and joyfully.)

NORMAN: (shouting after them.) You're a bunch of maniacs. (Mostly to himself) Halima was such a quiet girl. He wouldn't have had any trouble with her. (AGATHA suppresses a yawn. NORMAN speaks to her, not unkindly.) I suppose mother needs a nap.

AGATHA: How did you guess? I need to relax a little now that we've rescued Ninika. If Muk comes with the rest of my things, please show him to my room.

(She exits. Pause. NORMAN walks over to PETRONIKA's door, knocks, turns the knob, only to discover that the door is locked.)

NORMAN: Petra. Open up. You haven't had anything to eat. Petra, why have you locked the door? (After a pause, PETRONIKA comes out, dressed in a beautiful negligee with her hair loose and a scarf around her head. Norman hesitates, then embraces her tenderly and leads her to an armchair. He kneels in front of her and kisses her hands.) Your hands are cold, Petra.

PETRONIKA: Want to know something, Norman. I would not have come back here if it weren't for my laboratory. . . .

NORMAN: Don't talk that way. You know divorce is out of the question. Try to be a little understanding as to why . . . I must appear . . . when others are around . . . diplomatic . . .

(MUK KORMOR stands in the doorway, carrying the rest of his wife's belongings: a candle holder, slippers, a chamber pot, etc. Seeing him, NORMAN rapidly gets up from his kneeling position.)

MUK: (saluting, the chamber pot in his right hand.) Hail, Valida!

NORMAN: (returns salute) Valida - a woman of wonder!

(MUK goes into AGATHA's bedroom. NORMAN kneels again, kisses PETRONIKA's hands. She appears unmoved. Fade to black.)



(An office at the Radio Station, its windows hidden behind a heavy acoustical curtain. There is a microphone by a couch and a row of chairs for musicians. Valida enters, followed by the Adjutant, the Station Manager, and the Program Director. The Baroness directs her to the couch.)

VALIDA: Yes, I'll rest here. In fact, I think I'll lie down momentarily. This lightheadedness will pass shortly.

STATION MANAGER: How can I help Your Highness? Some tea? Maybe some mocha?

ADJUTANT: Considering her heart condition, mocha might be a better choice.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: I insist we call a doctor. For my own peace of mind, anyway.

VALIDA: Who dares to mention doctors in my presence?

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: I do, Your Highness, motivated by the knowledge that our reception and modest dinner made you ill.

BARONESS: Bring me a glass of seltzer. Her Highness needs to sip a little soda.

STATION MANGER: For her heart? Baroness!

BARONESS: (stamping her feet.) Now!


VALIDA: (moans.) My stomach is doing somersaults.

ADJUTANT: May I make a suggestion, Your Highness. Maybe you should return home. If you feel better later we can put a microphone in your office, like we usually do.

VALIDA: (gloomily.) Leave the Mother of the Nation alone.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: How about camomile tea?

VALIDA: I told you, stop bugging me!

(The ADJUTANT and the PROGRAM DIRECTOR bow and leave.)

BARONESS: They all think it's your heart. But we both know you ate too much and far too quickly.

VALIDA: I ate only seven pierogies. Obviously they didn't mix well with the flapjacks and the strudel.

(The STATION MANAGER enters with a glass of seltzer and a spoon on a tray. The PROGRAM DIRECTOR is behind him.)

BARONESS: Thank you. I'll give it to her myself.

VALIDA: When is my speech supposed to begin?

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Exactly twenty minutes from now, at five o'clock, Your Highness, if we are to be granted this honor.

VALIDA: (after drinking the seltzer.) You will not be disappointed, though I still feel weak after my attack.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: This is wonderful news. The whole country is waiting. People live for your broadcasts. Call us if we can be of further service.

(The DIRECTOR and MANAGER leave. The BARONESS drinks some of the seltzer.)

VALIDA: Lelika, where is my speech?

BARONESS: Here it is, but I'm afraid it will make a bad impression. Every second week Your Highness bombards society with another new decree.

VALIDA: How dare you speak to me that way. Who put these words in your mouth, eh?

BARONESS: (kissing her hands.) I speak as a loyal friend and as a great admirer.

VALIDA: (moved, sits up.) Lelika, you know why I like you? Because nature humiliated you; you are even uglier than I am. I exalt you, nevertheless, because you help me to appreciate asymmetry and disharmony.

BARONESS: Will you abandon me if an uglier woman comes along?

VALIDA: That, my dear Lelika, is not likely to happen. . . .

BARONESS: I don't know whether to laugh or to cry.

VALIDA: (lighting a cigarette.) Do whatever you want, but first order those lackeys to play a little music.(The BARONESS goes into the hallway and returns immediately. Soft music is heard in the background.) Dance, Lelika. Artistically demonstrate your admiration for the Mother of the Nation. Dance as repulsively as you can.

BARONESS: First I must remove my hat and fox pieces.

(The BARONESS begins to dance in the strangest and most fantastic way, a dance macabre. Soon the curious faces of the station people appear at the door.)

VALIDA: Lelika, my precious ugly duckling! My grotesque Salome! What reward shall I grant you for this wonderful dance?

(The BARONESS stops dancing, slams the door and kneels in front of VALIDA.)

BARONESS: I have only one request, Your Highness. Abolish the death penalty by decapitation.

VALIDA: But, my dear, have you no respect for tradition?

BARONESS: Not this one. Hardly anyone favors it. . . .

VALIDA: You are being repulsively sentimental, Lelika. You must learn to stay out of national affairs.

BARONESS: (disappointed.) Here is your speech, Your Highness. Maybe you should review it before you go on the air--which will be in just a few minutes. (She hands her a small silver candy box.) A lozenge, for your voice, and your stomach, too. (A knock on the door. The BARONESS goes to answer it. She speaks to someone, then turns to VALIDA.) Your Highness, Agent 201 has asked to see you.

VALIDA: 201? He's such an amusing man. We still have time before my address. Let him in.

AGENT 201: (enters, bows.) Your Highness. . . .

VALIDA: Don't tell me. Somebody is planning an assassination.

AGENT 201: They wouldn't dare. It's off with their heads if they do. No, I have only one small incident to report regarding the speech you are about to make to the nation.

BARONESS: This is not the time. . . . You are going to upset her.

VALIDA : Nonsense.

AGENT 201: I was in the Central Cafe, where I overheard a couple of citizens claim they would turn off the radio when Your Highness began to speak. I wouldn't dare repeat the filthy language they used.

VALIDA: Really? How dirty was it?

BARONESS: Stop this. Her stomach is already irritated. You've provoked her enough for today.

(AGENT 201 prepares to leave.)

VALIDA: Wait. I have a small assignment for you. You're familiar with former Vice Minister Gondor?

AGENT 201: Norman? I know him well.

VALIDA: I'm curious to learn what he says about me now that I've canned him.

AGENT 201: According to the carpenter, Muk Kormor, Gondor shouts "Hail, Valida the Great" up to ten times a day. Seems he's remained your faithful servant, in spite of the fact that he . . . no longer works for the government.

VALIDA: (amused.) Maybe the man's in love with me. What would you say to that, Lelika? Seems I have a special something that drives certain men wild. (To 201) And what about Mrs. Gondor, his proud chemist wife? Does she also sing my praises?

AGENT 201: Uh, not exactly. Mostly mumbles a lot of harmless slogans. It appears she's pressing Norman for a divorce.

VALIDA: The Ritonian court system no longer grants divorces. My people must understand that obstacles perfect the noble and destroy the worthless.

(The PROGRAM DIRECTOR appears after discreetly knocking on the door.)

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: One minute, Your Highness. Would you be kind enough to take your place in front of the microphone.

VALIDA: (to AGENT 201) Keep your eyes and ears open.

(AGENT 201 leaves. VALIDA moves to the microphone and prepares to speak in a strong, enthusiastic voice. When she reads, she pretends to improvise.)

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: (speaking into the microphone.)Citizens of Ritonia, the Mother of the Nation, Valida Vrana, will now address the nation.

VALIDA: (into the microphone) My people - particularly the women of this country -I speak to you today from the depths of my heart. By now you are all familiar with my latest decree regarding the dropping birth rate in recent years. The drafting of childless women and girls is in response to an immediate danger that is confronting our nation. Simply put, we need more babies and this is the best way to achieve that result. Now it is true that for a period of two years your bodies will cease to be your own, but the thought of serving your nation in this unique fashion should bring you immense happiness. Unfortunately, it has been reported to us that instead of singing and dancing in the streets, there have been incidents of dissatisfaction resulting from a misunderstanding about this noble mission. A dissatisfaction created by bourgeois types who want to promote a medieval morality. Naturally, I will put an immediate end to such insane protestations. This new decree may appear coercive to you now, but soon it will look as if it was inspired by greatness. In no time you will all feel proud that Ritonia was the first nation to put this great experiment into action. (She sips a little seltzer) A wise gardener who wants to speed up the blossoming of his fruit trees will tie some of the branches to the trunk. A wise leader will likewise use metaphorical ropes for similar purposes. And if you doubt the wisdom of such a course of action, just say to yourself, "Such is the will of Valida"--the way you used to say, "Such is the will of God."

(VALIDA indicates to the PROGRAM DIRECTOR that her speech has ended. She gasps for breath, sits down and lights a cigarette.)

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: (into the microphone) Her Highness has honored us with her awe-inspiring address to the nation. I call upon all to now raise your arms as a sign of tribute to the overflowing heart of Her Motherly Highness. Hail, Valida. Hail, a woman of wonder! (The PROGRAM DIRECTOR turns off the microphone and addresses Valida.) Your Highness, I'm not a man easily moved to tears. . . . (He wipes his eyes.)

VALIDA: Not bad, eh? Now get out of here. Man the telephones and find out what kind of impression my words have made. And tell my protective escorts that I will leave the studio right after I finish my cigarette. (The PROGRAM DIRECTOR leaves)

BARONESS: I'm sure the women will be impressed. But what about the men? After all, everything depends on their willingness to sleep with virgins.

VALIDA: I wouldn't worry about the men. In instances like these, their patriotism knows no bounds.

(A knock on the door. The BARONESS opens the door and talks to someone offstage.)

BARONESS: Flowers for Her Highness? How wonderful. She'll be so pleased.

(She returns with an armful of flowers. One is a huge bouquet wrapped in white gauze, immediately calling attention to itself. She unwraps the bouquet and begins to read the cards.)

As I suspected, Your Highness was a hit with the women. Teachers Union, Women's Club - this bouquet is anonymous. The woman who delivered it asked the porter to hand it to you personally and to pay special attention to its unique fragrance. (Pause) Wait - I'll check first to see if there's a bomb in it. No. It's safe. (Sniffs the bouquet) Oh, she was so right. They smell wonderful.

VALIDA: What's so special about such a stupid bouquet? Roses can't smell that good.

BARONESS: (dreamily.) See for yourself, Your Highness. The smell travels directly to the heart.

VALIDA: You're right. You can't tear yourself away from this scent. I wonder what it is.

BARONESS: It reminds me of almonds. . . .

VALIDA: This fragrance pleases me like none ever has before. This is the essence that I have been longing for. It makes me dream, Lelika, and excites me. Sit down next to me and let's sniff together.

BARONESS: (sits, laughs.) I feel like I've been changed into a floating cloud. Soon I will disappear altogether.

VALIDA:(dreamily.)I must find out more about the history of this fragrance. Somebody! Anybody! (Her voice is weak) They can't hear me. Never mind.

(VALIDA tries to get up, but can't.)

BARONESS:(laughing.)I'm tired of calling you "Your Highness." It's so ridiculous. From now on it's going to be Valida. . . .

VALIDA: You're right. These formalities are just plain silly. But why has it taken me so long to recognize this?(VALIDA tries to get up again, collapses into her chair, and has a sudden thought.)Put the woman who sent me this bouquet into prison! Don't let her escape! (Pause) On the other hand, why not let her go. (She is becoming drowsy.) Oh, Lelika, I feel so good. I've been searching for happiness all of my life but I could never find it. And now here it is. . . .

BARONESS:(half asleep.)Bless this wonderful woman for the nirvana she has bestowed upon us.

VALIDA : (struggling with her enveloping weakness.)Yet instinct tells me I must preserve myself. Lelika, call my bodyguards.

BARONESS: Call them yourself.

VALIDA: I gave you an order.

BARONESS:(smiling capriciously)Go to hell.

(VALIDA rises with great effort and walks unsteadily until she finds a bell and rings.)

BARONESS:(groggy and giddy.)Round and round she goes and where she stops. . .

(VALIDA returns to the couch and buries her face in the roses. A knock on the door.)

VALIDA: Enter.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: You rang, Your Highness?

VALIDA: I don't know. Did I? Do you remember if I rang, Lelika?

BARONESS: Don't bother me with those boring questions. I want to forget about the world. I'm flying away from it smoothly and beautifully. . . .

(The PROGRAM DIRECTOR is alarmed.)

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: What's going on here?

VALIDA:(her eyes nearly closed.)I would like you to tell me who sent us these beautifully fragrant roses. This sweet woman deserves a medal.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: I . . . I didn't notice. One of your many female admirers. (Pause) I can see Your Highness doesn't feel well.

VALIDA: Don't talk nonsense. And stop bowing. Come over here and sit next to me. Move over, Lelika. It's fun to be squeezed together like so many sardines. (Looks closer to the BARONESS) You look so strange, Lelika. Your eyes are like saucers.

(The PROGRAM DIRECTOR sits on the couch between the two women. He appears nervous and unsure. VALIDA's face is buried once again in the roses. The BARONESS tries to take the bouquets from her.)

BARONESS: Don't be such a hog. Share and share alike.

VALIDA: (to the PROGRAM DIRECTOR)Sit still, you fat pig. Why are you looking at me like that? Say something?

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Your Highness . . . I think it must be a great joy to be the leader of souls. . . .

VALIDA: My real name is Franika Mruk, but I was reborn as Valida Vrana. (Looks him in the eye) If you weren't afraid of me, would you call me an ugly bitch?

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Your Highness is teasing her devoted servant. Playing a little joke. (He attempts to laugh) Perhaps I should go out and bring you some more seltzer. For your heart.

BARONESS: What you ought to do is pull that bouquet away from her.

VALIDA: You think my heart is a small rock, don't you, you lousy bastard.

(She slaps him on the back of the head.)

PROGRAM DIRECTOR:(kneeling.)Your Highness, not for a moment . . . would I entertain . . .

(He wipes his forehead.)

VALIDA: You can't fool me with this doubletalk. I know what's on your mind. (She sniffs the roses) And yet you understand nothing. So I'll paint a picture for you. A dance. A young girl standing against the wall. So ugly no one would ask her to dance. Always against the wall. When the revolution came, I saw to it that it was the young, beautiful people who were now against the wall. Ha, ha, ha. Lined up right against the wall.

BARONESS:(in a sing-song voice)Grab the bouquet. Take it away from her. But be careful. Be very careful. It . . . stinks.

(The PROGRAM DIRECTOR puts a handkerchief to his mouth and cautiously removes the bouquet from VALIDA's hands. He throws it into a far corner of the room.)

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: I'm going to get help.

VALIDA: Stop. Where are you going. I haven't finished yet.

BARONESS: It seems to me, Franika, you have said too much already. (weakly) But it doesn't matter. The world has turned into a honeycomb and I am the happiest bee in the hive.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Your Highness, I must seek the advice of your adjutant.

VALIDA: Don't you dare. Get the microphone ready. I want to speak to my people again. Immediately. Hurry up - while I'm still breathing.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: As you wish, Your Highness.

(The PROGRAM DIRECTOR flips several switches and indicates to VALIDA that they are ready to broadcast.)

VALIDA: (moves to microphone, speaks.)Attention, kind listeners. Franika Mruk, not The Mother of the Nation, wishes to speak to you again. So pay close attention. The Revolution swept me to the top like a wave. And I completed my triumph by issuing death warrants, an unbeatable system to conquer the hearts of resistance. I was called a political genius, but half of my genius came from the stupidity of the masses.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: (imploringly)Your Highness! Your words are being heard all over the nation.

VALIDA: I was guided not by a love for my country but by my hatred for beautiful women and my hatred for the men who loved them and were loved in return. I want you to know that I personally longed to take part in the compulsory draft that I just ordered for you. I would have given up everything if someone would have forced a lover and a child on me. (She gasps for air) I have come a long way, ladies and gentlemen. Cleaning woman, seamstress, teacher, member of Parliament, advancing finally to the highest office. (She gasps for air)

(The ADJUTANT and the STATION MANAGER rush in.)

STATION MANAGER: (to PROGRAM DIRECTOR)Switch off the microphone. This can't be allowed.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Not in a million years. I like what I'm hearing.

VALIDA:(to those in the room)Be quiet--all of you. Get out of here. (Into the microphone) Yes, a long way. Still, I would have preferred to have given birth to at least six sons. (Pause) I'm quickly running out of breath, so let me leave you with a final thought: drown all ugly girls the minute they are born. Or, better still, decapitate all beautiful women and let ugliness reign supreme.

(She collapses into an armchair, her eyes wide open, a smile of contentment on her face.)

ADJUTANT:(to the PROGRAM DIRECTOR)What have you done to her? Call an ambulance.

STATION MANAGER: For God's sake, Baroness, wake up. Tell me you both are merely drunk.

ADJUTANT: Her Majesty needs fresh air. Open the windows.

(The PROGRAM DIRECTOR draws the curtain and opens a window. Street cries that had been muffled are now heard sharply.)

STATION MANAGER:(looking out the window)The entire building is surrounded by a mob.

ADJUTANT: Word has been spread that The Mother of the Nation has gone mad. I wonder what is going to happen to us. The smell of revolution is in the air.

(A PHYSICIAN enters. He sniffs the air in the room.)

STATION MANAGER: Doctor. At last.

ADJUTANT: What took you so long?

DOCTOR: The air is putrid in here. Smells of arsenic--or cyanide. Your Highness, permit me to examine your heart.

(As the PHYSICIAN attempts to unbutton VALIDA's uniform, VALIDA suddenly punches him in the chest and kicks him with unpredictable force.)

VALIDA: I hate doctors most of all.

DOCTOR:(picking himself up.)She needs a psychiatrist, not a medical doctor. Open up all the windows before we're all poisoned. And while you're at it, open up our country's windows. This nation is in dire need of fresh air.

(He exits as the station people open the remaining windows.)

PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Can this really be the end of the nightmare?

(PETRONIKA enters, throwing off a black veil from her face. After her comes NORMAN, who goes to VALIDA and stares at her, his arms folded, his head slowly nodding. VALIDA, as if coming to, stares back at him with owl-like eyes. PETRONIKA prepares some vials.)

VALIDA: Oh, it's you. The eternally sinned-against one. You finally have the guts to look at me with hate-filled eyes.

(PETRONIKA, having treated the BARONESS first, moves NORMAN aside and bends over VALIDA, putting a vial close to her nose. The ADJUTANT tries to restrain VALIDA, who is swinging her arms wildly.)

NORMAN: (to PETRONIKA)Why would you want to save her?

VALIDA:(fiercely trying to protect herself)Go away. Let me remain in my dream. I order you to sit over there in that chair until I tell you otherwise.

PETRONIKA: I no longer want to kill her. In effect, she's already dead, politically speaking.

VALIDA:(to PETRONIKA, somewhat dreamily)I've forgotten your first name, but I know who you are. Sit down next to me and let's talk. I like you because this fragrance is your invention. Very clever. Like something out of the middle ages.

PETRONIKA: That's good, coming from you - you who have dragged this country back into medieval darkness.(PETRONIKA responds to VALIDA's patheticness. She speaks calmly, patting VALIDA on the shoulder.)Everything is going to be all right. You're going to the mountains to get some rest and good care. Others will now have the burden of running the country.

NORMAN: (looking at VALIDA.)The beast. She's smiling. I would have done something to make her cry.

VALIDA:(to NORMAN)I liked you once. I have a weakness for blonds. (to PETRONIKA) I'm surprised you haven't poisoned him yet. I admire your patience.

(NORMAN glowers at VALIDA.)

BARONESS:(still not fully conscious.)Have mercy on us. We are living on the threshold of unheard-of miracles. Just push this heavy door for us because we lack the strength to do it ourselves. I want to die. . . .

(PETRONIKA administers more of the antidote to the BARONESS, who revives.)

VALIDA: Lelika. . . . I should have been a great actress. What you see before you is a major dramatic talent stepping down from the world stage.

NORMAN: (bitterly)Yes, end of the comedy.

VALIDA:(to NORMAN)Gondor, my pathetic Gondor. Don't talk so much. Just take out your gun and shoot me. Cowards like you always carry a gun.(VALIDA rises, speaks to the ADJUTANT.)Let's go home. I took a short nap, like a tired lioness. But I must have the names of those who dared to smile if I snored by accident.

(She begins to laugh uncontrollably. Psychiatric nurses surround her and the Baroness and take them away. The group in the hall off breaks into jeers, cheers, and cries of laughter.)

PETRONIKA:(looking after VALIDA)And may you rest in peace.

(Cries from the outside are heard: The ruler has abdicated! Coup d'etat! The monster has been sent to an asylum!)

STATION MANAGER:(rushing in)The people want to see the hero who rendered the ruler powerless. (He pulls NORMAN toward the window) Come on. Show yourself to the crowd.(PETRONIKA moves toward the window.)Not you, madam. Him.

NORMAN: (resisting)But it wasn't me. It was her.

STATION MANAGER: It doesn't matter. Everybody knows that a husband always tells his wife what to do. Besides, this country is in no mood to pledge its allegiance to another woman of wonder.

(NORMAN looks to PETRONIKA. She smiles, looks him straight in the eye.)

PETRONIKA: He who hesitates is lost, Norman. I'll do nothing to stand in your way.

(He does not move.)

One can't continue to live in the past, you know. Come on, Norman. Be brave. Be assertive. (Long pause) Be like me.

(NORMAN slowly walks to the window, shows himself to the crowd. The mob greets him enthusiastically. PETRONIKA smiles enigmatically.)


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