(Blount is half lying down and Jollivet is busy caring for him.)
Blount: (pushing him away) Mister Jollivet, I pray you, leave me in peace!
Jollivet: Monsieur Blount, I will care for you all the same, and I will cure you, despite yourself, if necessary.
Blount: Good care from you is odious.
Jollivet: Odious, but healthy! And, if I abandon you, who would care for you in this Tartar camp!
Blount: I warn you, that I won’t be grateful for all you are doing.
Jollivet: Am I asking you for gratitude?
Blount: You’ve stolen my carriage, my luggage, my donkey, and my place at the gate of the telegraph. I was your mortal enemy, and I intend—
Jollivet: And you intend to kill me, that’s understood! But, for you to be able to kill me, first I must cure you.
Blount: Ah, it was a great misfortune that the shell was for me.
Jollivet: It wasn’t a shell, it was a biscayen.
Blount: With a k?
Jollivet: No, with a c. It’s a kind of grapeshot.
Blount: With a c. Oh, it was bad all the same.
Jollivet: Look, take my arm and walk a little.
Blount: (fiercely) No! I won’t walk.
Jollivet: Take my arm, I tell you, or I will put you on my shoulders like a sack of wheat!
Blount: Oh, a sack of wheat! You insult me again!
Jollivet: Don’t talk stupid.
(Jollivet wants to lead Blount, but a Tartar enters and stops them.)
Tartar: Hold! Lord Ivan Ogareff wants to question you.
Jollivet: Question us? Here, Ogareff? That traitor!
Blount: That brigand! That bandit wants to question me!
(Ivan, dressed magnificently as a Tartar officer appears, stopping at the entrance to the tent and speaking low to two Tartar officers who accompany him and then leave.)
Jollivet: What do I see? The man who brutally insulted the merchant Korpanov.
Blount: That was Colonel Ogareff! Oh, I felt a gross indignation!
Ivan: (seated at a small table) Approach and answer me. Who are you?
Jollivet: Alcide Jollivet, French citizen that no one has the right to keep prisoner.
Ivan: Perhaps. (to Blount) And you?
Blount: Harry Blount. An honest man, do you understand? A faithful subject of England, do you understand? A loyal servant of his country, do you hear?
Ivan: They say you were taken among our enemies.
Jollivet: (with irony) No—they misled you.
Ivan: You dare say—
Jollivet: I say we cannot be among the enemies of a Russian Colonel, since it was in the midst of his compatriots, among the Russians themselves, that they arrested us. You see quite well, sir, they misled you.
Blount: (aside) Very well! Very fine response!
Ivan: What motive led you to the theatre of war?
Jollivet: We are journalists, see. Two reporters.
Ivan: (scornfully) Ah, yes, I know—reporters—meaning a kind of spy.
Blount: (furious) Spy! Us—spies!
Jollivet: (forcefully) Sir, what you say is infamous, and I take as witness all Europe.
Ivan: What does the opinion of Europe matter to me? I will treat you as I please, because they took you among the Russians, who are my enemies, as you know quite well.
Jollivet: I was unaware that the Fatherland ever became an enemy of a loyal soldier.
Blount: It’s the disloyal soldier who becomes the enemy of his Fatherland.
Jollivet: And that one is a traitor.
Ivan: (with rage) Be careful, and remember that I am all powerful here.
Jollivet: You ought to try to hide that.
Ivan: (with force) Sir! (calming down) Insult from a man of your sort cannot reach me.
Jollivet: That’s natural enough, Colonel Ogareff. The voice doesn’t descend, it rises.
Ivan: (seizing and threatening Jollivet with his dagger) That’s too much!
Blount: (aside) It wasn’t satisfactory at all.
Ivan: (after having replaced his dagger in his belt) You will pay me for this new outrage, and you will pay double. (calling) Guards! Let this man be taken out of the camp within the hour—and within the hour, let him be shot.
(Ivan leaves with the Tartar Guard.)
Blount: (with terror) Shot! Shot! Shot!
Jollivet: I can’t master my indignation!
Blount: Shot! That wretched rascal is going to have you shot.
Jollivet: Alas, yes! Nothing can save me, and the best thing is to resign myself courageously.
Blount: Ah, Jollivet!
Jollivet: You will be rid of your rival, of your enemy.
Blount: (exclaiming) Rid of my enemy!
Jollivet: It was written that our duel would never take place.
Blount: (moved) Our duel! Did you thing that I would ever fight with you, Jollivet?
Jollivet: I know that in you it was more passion than hate.
Blount: Ah, no! I didn’t hate you. Jollivet, and if you were a little mocking, you defended me in the battle. You cared for my wound, you saved me, like a good and brave gentleman, Jollivet.
Jollivet: (smiling sadly) Hold on! You’re not calling me Joly−vet any more, Monsieur Blount.
Blount: And I ask your pardon for that nasty joke.
Jollivet: Then, here we are friends, suddenly.
Blount: Oh, yes, friends until——
Jollivet: Until death. That won’t be long, alas. And I would like, before dying, to ask a service of you, friend Blount.
Blount: (excitedly) A service! Oh! I promise, I swear to it in advance.
Jollivet: We are here, my friend, like two lost sentinels, and charged to enlighten our respective countries with the grave events which are taking place. Well, the duty I can no longer fulfill, I ask you to fulfill in my stead.
Blount: (very moved) Oh, yes, yes.
Jollivet: Will you promise me, Blount, that after having sent each of your despatches to England, you will then send them to France?
Blount: No, Jollivet, no, not then. I will replace you completely, and as you were more clever than I, you always sent your news first. Well, I promise I will send them to France first!
Jollivet: At the same time, Blount, at the same time. I insist.
Blount: Yes! At the same time—only just— Are you satisfied Jollivet?
Jollivet: Yes, but that’s not all, Blount.
Blount: Speak, I am listening to you.
Jollivet: My friend, I left a wife down there.
Blount: A wife!
Jollivet: A young wife and a little child! She’s good like a saint, he’s beautiful as an angel.
Blount: (reproachfully) Oh! You had a wife and a little baby and you left them! Oh! Jollivet, Jollivet!
Jollivet: (sadly) What do you want? We were poor, my friend.
Blount: (weeping) Poor! And then you were forced to abandon them, and as for me, I reproached you, I accused you. Oh, my friend, my dear friend! I am a very bad man, your pardon for having spoken as I have done. I ask your pardon, Jollivet, yes, I demand pardon, and when the war is over, I swear that I will go to France. I’ll find your family, and I will act as a father to your little baby and as a husband—no!—as a brother to your good, pretty wife. I promise, I swear, I—
(Blount shakes his head and embraces Jollivet. A noise of fanfare can be heard.)
Jollivet: What’s that?
A Tartar: (entering) It’s the arrival of the Emir Feofar. All the prisoners must prostrate themselves before him—come.
Blount: Prostrate! I don’t prostrate, I’ll never prostrate.
(They go out.)
The stage represents a square ornamented with columns covered with a splendid awning. To the right, a magnificently ornamented throne. To the left, a tent. There is a great to do of trumpets and drums and a superb cortege, which marches to the throne. Feofar, accompanied by Ivan and all his military household, arrives in the camp. Solemn reception.
Ivan: Glory to you, powerful Emir, who are coming to personally command this triumphant army.
All: Glory to Feofar! Glory to the Emir!
Ivan: The provinces of Siberia are now in your power. You can push your victorious columns equally towards where the sun rises or where it sets.
Feofar: And, if I march with the sun?
Ivan: That’s to throw yourself against Europe and to rapidly conquer the country up to the Ural Mountains.
Feofar: And, if I go towards the torch of light?
Ivan: That is to submit to your domination Irkutsk and the richest provinces of Central Asia.
Feofar: What does your devotion to our cause inspire you to suggest?
Ivan: Take Irkutsk, the capital, and with that precious hostage, whose possession is worth more than a province, even the Grand Duke must fall into our hands.
Feofar: It will so be done.
Ivan: What day will the Emir leave this camp?
Feofar: Tomorrow, for today is the celebration for the conquerors.
All: Glory to the Emir.
(Blount and Jollivet enter.)
Blount: The Emir! I wish to speak to the Emir.
Feofar: What’s this?
Ivan: What do you want?
Blount: I want to speak to the Emir.
Blount: Emir Feofar, I beg—no! I advise you to listen to me.
Blount: I demand that powerful Feofar prevent the shooting of a gentleman.
Feofar: What’s this about?
Ivan: A foreigner who dared to insult me, and whose punishment I have ordered.
Emir: Let them bring this man.
(Jollivet is led forward and placed near Blount.)
Blount: And, if I advised you, great Feofar, to render his freedom to Mr. Jollivet, it was in the interest of you and your serenity, for if a single hair falls from his head, it puts your head in danger.
Feofar: And, who would I have to worry about?
Blount: Yes, France, which will not let go unpunished the murder of a child of its own! And, I warn you, that if his freedom is not returned to him, I will remain a prisoner with him, and instead of France alone, you’ll have England, too. That’s what I have to tell you, Emir Feofar. Now kill us if you like!
Feofar: Ivan, let the words of that man efface themselves from your memory, and spare his life.
Ivan: But he insulted me!
Feofar: I wish it.
Ivan: So be it! Let them kick him out of the camp this very instant.
Jollivet: You foresee my desire, Monsieur Ogareff! I hasten to be no longer in your honorable company. Blount, I will never forget what you have done for me.
Blount: We are quits and very good friends, Jollivet.
Jollivet: And, we will continue the campaign together.
Blount: All right!
(The two men leave by the back. Feofar and his officers enter under a tent at the right.)
Ivan: (seeing Sangarre enter) You see, Sangarre! The task I’ve imposed on myself will soon be finished.
Sangarre: Are you speaking of your vengeance?
Ivan: Yes, yes—by a vengeance that is now certain.
Sangarre: It will escape you, if the Grand Duke is warned in time, if a Russian courier gets to him.
Ivan: How will a courier pass through our armies?
Sangarre: There is one who, but for me, could at this moment be on the route to Irkutsk.
Ivan: Speak. Explain yourself.
Sangarre: Ivan, I am more near than you to the end each of us wishes to attain. The Grand Duke is not yet in our hands, while I have in my power that Marfa Strogoff whose death I have vowed.
Sangarre: The old Siberian has been talking at the Kolyvan post with many others. But, at that post, Marfa was not the only one who bore the name Strogoff.
Ivan: What do you mean?
Sangarre: Yesterday, a man refused to recognize Marfa who called him her son. He denied her publicly. But a mother is never deceived by a pretended resemblance. That man, who didn’t wish to be recognized was indeed Michael Strogoff, a courier of the Czar.
Ivan: Where is he? What’s become of him? Have they been able to seize him?
Sangarre: After the victory, all those fleeing the field of battle have been taken. Not one of the fugitives was able to escape and Michael Strogoff must be among the prisoners.
Ivan: Would you recognize him? Could you point him out?
Ivan: I need this man! He must be the bearer of some important message. Who can make him known to me?
Sangarre: His mother.
Ivan: His mother?
Sangarre: She will refuse to speak, but—
Ivan: But I shall know quite well how to force her to do so. Let her be brought. (Sangarre goes toward the back) A courier evidently sent to the Grand Duke. He’s bearer of a message! I shall have that message.
(Nadia, Marfa, and several prisoners are brought in by soldiers.)
Nadia: (low) Why are they bringing us here?
Marfa: (low) To interrogate me. Doubtless, on account of my son, but I’ve understood he doesn’t want to be recognized. He’s already far away. They won’t tear the secret from me.
Sangarre: Look at me, Marfa, look at me carefully! Do you know who I am?
Marfa: (looking at Sangarre) Yes. The Tartar spy I had punished.
Sangarre: And, who in her turn, holds you in her power.
Nadia: (taking her hand) Marfa!
Marfa: (low) Don’t fear for me, my child!
Ivan: (to Marfa) Your name?
Marfa: Marfa Strogoff.
Ivan: You have a son?
Ivan: Where is he now?
Marfa: In Moscow, I suppose.
Ivan: You are without news of him?
Marfa: Without news.
Ivan: Who is that man, then, you called your son yesterday, at the Kolyvan post?
Marfa: A Siberian that I took for him. He’s the second I thought was my son. Kolyvan is full of strangers.
Ivan: So, this young man wasn’t Michael Strogoff?
Marfa: It wasn’t him.
Ivan: And, you don’t know what has become of your son?
Marfa: I am unaware of it.
Ivan: And, since yesterday, you haven’t seen him among the prisoners?
Ivan: Listen. Your son is here, for none of the fugitives was able to escape our soldiers who encircled the post of Kolyvan. All of these prisoners are going to pass before your eyes. And, if you don’t designate Michael Strogoff to me, I will cause you to perish under the knout.
Nadia: Great God!
Marfa: Whenever you wish, Ivan Ogareff. I am waiting.
Nadia: Poor Marfa.
Marfa: (to Nadia) I will be courageous. I have nothing to fear from him.
Ivan: Let them lead out the prisoners. (to Sangarre) And you, observe carefully to see if one of them betrays himself.
(The prisoners file by. Michael Strogoff is among them, but when he passes before Marfa, she does not budge.)
Ivan: Well? Your son?
Marfa: My son is not among these prisoners.
Ivan: You lie! Point him out—speak—I order you.
Marfa: (resolutely) I have nothing to tell you.
Sangarre: (low) Oh, I know her, this woman! Under the whip, even expiring, she will say nothing.
Ivan: She won’t speak, you say? Well, he will speak to her. Seize this woman and have her whipped until she is dying.
(Marfa is seized by one of two soldiers and thrown to her knees on the ground. A soldier carrying the knout places himself behind her.)
Ivan: (to soldier) Strike!
(The knout is raised over Marfa. Strogoff hurls himself on the soldier, tears away the knout, and strikes Ivan in the face with it.)
Strogoff: Blow for blow, Ogareff.
Marfa: What have you done, wretch?
Ivan: The man from the relay!
Sangarre: Michael Strogoff.
Strogoff: Myself! Yes, I, who you insulted, outraged. I, whose mother you intend to murder.
All: Death! Death!
Ivan: Don’t kill this man! Let them inform the Emir.
Marfa: My son! Ah, why did you give yourself away?
Strogoff: ′ was able to contain myself when this traitor struck me. But, the whip raised against you, my mother—oh, it was impossible.
Ivan: Take this woman away! And let that one be searched.
(The soldiers execute these orders.)
Strogoff: (resisting) Search me! Coward! Wretch!
(The soldiers take Ivan the letter which Strogoff wore next to his chest. He reads it.)
Ivan: Oh! It was just in time. This letter would ruin everything. Now the Grand Duke is mine.
(Feofar enters with his suite.)
Ivan: Emir Feofar, you have an act of justice to accomplish.
Feofar: Against this man?
Ivan: Against him.
Feofar: Who is he?
Ivan: A Russian spy.
All: A spy!
Marfa: No, no—my son is not a spy! That man lied!
Ivan: This letter, found on him, indicates the day a relief army must arrive in sight of Irkutsk. The day when, making a sortie, the Grand Duke would have taken us between tow fires.
All: Death! Death!
Nadia: Mercy for him.
Marfa: You shall not kill him!
All: Death! Death!
Ivan: (to Strogoff) You hear them?
Strogoff: (to Ivan) I will die, but your traitorous face, Ivan, will, nevertheless and forever, bear the infamous mark of the knout.
Ivan: Emir, we await your justice to be pronounced.
Feofar: Let them bring the Koran.
All: The Koran, the Koran!
Feofar: This Holy Book has punishments for traitors and it will pronounce the sentence itself.
(The Tartar priests bring the sacred book and present it to Feofar.)
Feofar: (to one of the priests) Open this book to the place where it decrees pains and punishments. My finger will touch one of the verses and this verse will contain the sentence.
(The Koran is opened and Feofar places his finger on one of the pages. A priest reads the verse touched by the Emir.)
Priest: (reading) “His eyes will cloud up like stars under a cloud—and he will no longer see the things of this earth.”
Feofar: (to Strogoff) You came to see what was happening in the Tartar camp! Look! Now our triumphant army is celebrating and the feast is taking place the must celebrate our victories!
All: Glory! Glory!
Feofar: (taking his place on his throne) And you, spy, for the last time in your life, look with your eyes.
(Strogoff is escorted to the foot of the platform. Marfa is half lying on the ground. Nadia is kneeling near her.)
(After the first movement, the voice of a priest is heard repeating the words of the Emir.)
Priest: Look with both your eyes! Look!
(After the second movement, the voice of the priest makes itself heard again.)
Priest: Look with both your eyes! Look!
(The ballet ends. Strogoff is led to the midst of the stage. A tripod carrying burning coals is brought near him, and the sabre of the executioner is laid across it. On a sign from Feofar, the executioner approaches Strogoff. He takes the sabre which is heated white hot.)
Feofar: God had condemned this man. He says that a spy must be deprived of light. Let his sight be burned by the burning blade.
Nadia: Michael! Michael!
Strogoff: (turning towards Ivan) Ivan! Ivan, the traitor! The last threat of my eyes will be for you.
Marfa: (rushing towards her son) My son! My son!
Strogoff: Mother! Mother! Yes, yes, toward you my final glance—remain there in front of me! Let me see once more your beloved face. Let my eyes shut looking at you.
Ivan: (to Strogoff) Ah! You are weeping! You are weeping like a woman.
Strogoff: (controlling himself) No, like a son.
Ivan: Executioner, finish your work!
(Strogoff’s arms are pinioned by the soldiers, he is held kneeling so he cannot move. The incandescent blade passes before his eyes.)
Strogoff: (uttering a terrible scream) Ahhh!
(Marfa falls in a faint. Nadia rushes towards her.)
Ivan: To death! Now, to death with the spy.
All: Death! Death!
(Soldiers throw themselves on Strogoff to massacre him.)
Feofar: Stop! Stop! Priest, finish the verse begun.
Priest: (reading) “And blessed he will be, like a child, and like a being deprived of reason, sacred to all.”