A room of the Tchernaia gate at Irkutsk. Door at the rear, side doors, large window at the right lit by the reflection of the conflagration The Tocsin sounds.
Grand Duke: It must have required the hand of a barbarian to spread a sheet of naphtha on the surface of the river.
Voronzoff: Doubtless, the soldiers of the Emir have overturned the wall of the immense reservoir at Baikal.
Grand Duke: And one spark sufficed to set ablaze this naphtha and engulf in flames the houses whose piles stand in the river. The wretches, to employ such means of destruction.
Voronzoff: It’s a war of savagery they intend to give us, Highness. They have sworn the extermination of the city.
Grand Duke: They are not yet masters of Irkutsk, General. Has the fire caused numerous victims?
Voronzoff: Almost all the inhabitants are successfully escaping.
Grand Duke: Let them help these poor people. Let them be lodged in my palace, in public establishments, in the homes of all those the holocaust has spared.
Voronzoff: All will come to their aid, Highness, and they will lack nothing. The devotion of our people equals its patriotism.
Grand Duke: Fine! Fine! This conflagration must be a means of diversion. Once the fire is contained, let all defenders return to the ramparts.
Voronzoff: On that subject, Highness, I have to make known to you a petition for which my intervention has been invoked.
Grand Duke: By whom is it addressed to me?
Voronzoff: By all the political exiles who, at the beginning of the invasion, received orders to return to the city. Your Highness knows they have already fought bravely and that their patriotism can be counted on.
Grand Duke: I know it. What do they demand?
Voronzoff: They ask that Your Highness deign to do them the honor of receiving a deputation from them.
Grand Duke: Who is the head of this deputation?
Voronzoff: An exile who has positively distinguished himself since the siege of the city.
Grand Duke: His name?
Voronzoff: Vassily Fedov. A man of valor and courage. His influence over his companions has always been very great.
Grand Duke: Have the deputation enter.
(Vassily Fedov and his companions are brought in.)
Grand Duke: Vassily Fedov, you and your companions have been fighting bravely since the beginning of the siege. Your patriotism has never failed. Russia won’t forget it.
Fedov: We’ve come to ask Your Highness to permit us to do even more for the health of the country.
Grand Duke: What do you wish?
Fedov: The authorization to form a special corps and the right to march in the first rank.
Grand Duke: So be it! But, an elite corps must have a leader worthy to command it. Who will be chief?
All: Vassily Fedov.
All: Yes! Yes!
Grand Duke: You hear them. It’s you they have chosen. Do you accept?
Fedov: Yes, if the good of the country demands it. Love of country is always strong in the heart of an exile, and we ask you to march in the forefront, with the first sortie.
All: Yes! Yes! In the forefront
Grand Duke: Vassily Fedov, your companions are courageous and strong. I will double their courage and strength. I will give them the most potent of all weapons: liberty.
Grand Duke: Dating from this moment, there are no more proscribed in Siberia.
All: Hurrah for the Grand Duke! Hurrah for Russia.
Fedov: Highness, I will not be alone in my family to bless your name. I have my daughter, Nadia, who at this moment is returning a thousand versts to reach me.
Grand Duke: And, instead of finding a proscribed, your daughter will find a free man.
An Aide de Camp: (entering hurriedly) Highness—a courier from the Czar.
All: A courier!
Grand Duke: A courier has finally reached us! At last! Let him enter. Let him enter.
Grand Duke: Who are you? Speak! Speak quickly.
Ivan: (dressed like a Siberian peasant) Michael Strogoff, courier of the Czar.
Grand Duke: Where are you coming from?
Ivan: From Moscow.
Grand Duke: You left Moscow?
Ivan: The 22nd of August.
Grand Duke: And what proves to me that you are indeed a courier of the Czar and that you’ve been sent to me from Russia?
Ivan: (presenting a paper) This permit which is signed by the Governor of Moscow and which assures my passage across Siberia.
Grand Duke: But, this permit bears the name of Nicolas Korpanov?
Ivan: I traveled under that name in the character of a Siberian merchant.
Grand Duke: You have a letter for me?
Ivan: I had a letter written in the hand of the Governor of Moscow, but I was obliged to destroy it to protect it from the Tartars who had taken me prisoner.
Grand Duke: Approach. What did the letter contain?
Ivan: This: A relief army will arrive from the northern provinces on the 29th of September.
Grand Duke: The 29th of September!
Ivan: May His Highness act, on that day, for that day only, a vigorous sortie, and the Tartars will be crushed!
Grand Duke: So, what we ought to attempt today, tomorrow, and every day, can only be fatal to us? It’s in only four days. Well, whatever happens, we shall try until then.
Ivan: (aside) And tomorrow the Tartars will be masters of Irkutsk.
Grand Duke: Is that all that was contained in that letter from the Governor of Moscow?
Ivan: No. There was also the question of a man Your Highness must be on guard against—a Russian officer.
Grand Duke: A Russian! An officer! What is the name of this traitor?
Ivan: Ivan Ogareff, now the lieutenant of Feofar and the organizer of this invasion.
Grand Duke: Ivan Ogareff was previously condemned by me to degradation.
Ivan: He’s sworn to avenge himself on Your Highness and to deliver the city to the Tartars.
Grand Duke: Let him come, I’ll be waiting for him. Ah! He indeed deserves, that wretch, the punishment which befell him, he who was later to provoke the Tartar invasion of his country.
Ivan (coldly): He deserved it!
Grand Duke: But, tell me, what did you do to get into Irkutsk?
Ivan: During the last engagement, which just took place, I mingled with the defenders of the city. I announced my name, and they conducted me forthwith to Your Highness.
Grand Duke: You’ve shown great courage, Michael Strogoff. What do you demand as reward for your services?
Ivan: The right to fight for the defense of Irkutsk.
Grand Duke: You will command one of the gates of the city.
Ivan: The Tchernaia Gate, Highness, that which the Tartars threaten the most.
Grand Duke: So be it! The Tchernaia Gate.
Voronzoff: (coming from a window) Highness.
Grand Duke: What’s the matter?
Voronzoff: It seems that the enemy is trying to get close to our ramparts.
Grand Duke: They’ll find us ready to receive them. Come, gentlemen.
(All leave except Ivan.)
Ivan: (alone) Yes, yes, noble defenders of the country. Go, invincible heroes. The hour of defeat and death will soon sound for you. And you, cursed city, burn—may your palaces be decimated by fire. Let nothing remain of your houses but ashes. It’s not a city the Tartars want, it’s a pile of ruins. Burn then, Irkutsk, and perish with you all that bears the detested name of Russia and Siberia.
(An officer and Strogoff enter front of stage.)
Officer: (to Strogoff) Wait here. I am going to inform His Highness, the Grand Duke of your arrival.
Strogoff: I’ll wait. But, hurry.
Ivan: (aside, at back) Michael Strogoff! (the officer leaves) How could he, blind, be able to get here?
Strogoff: There’s not a moment to lose.
Ivan: Oh, no! Not an instant. (leaning his hand on Strogoff’s shoulder) Michael Strogoff, do you recognize my voice?
Strogoff: Yes, it’s the voice of a traitor! It’s the voice of Ivan Ogareff.
Ivan: Ogareff, whom you won’t escape this time. Ogareff, who won’t be stopped by the vain command of the Koran that protects the blind. Ah, you were rejoicing, weren’t you, at having arrived on time to accomplish your mission, and save Irkutsk and the Grand Duke at the same time?
Ivan: You still hope! But know, we are alone here. Before anyone can come, my dagger will enter your breast, will tear up your heart.
Strogoff: (frigidly) Try.
Ivan: You dare brave me—when I hold you alone and defenseless. When I have only to choose the place to strike you. Ah! Now, indeed, I am going to kill you.
Strogoff: I’m waiting
(Ivan approaches Strogoff, dagger raised, but the blow is deflected and Strogoff twists his arm.)
Strogoff: Well, I’m still waiting.
Ivan: Is this a dream? A blind man hasn’t been able to make this defense.
Strogoff: (advancing on him and taking his arm) Then, why are you trembling?
Ivan: (trying to pull away) No—it’s impossible.
Strogoff: Ivan Ogareff, your final hour has come. And, with both your eyes, look.
Ivan: Mercy! He can see! He can see! He can see!
Strogoff: Yes, I see on your traitor’s face pallor and terror! I see the trace of the knout, the stigmata of shame with which I marked your face. I see the place where I am indeed going to strike you, wretch. Ah, how I am going to kill you!
Ivan: (straightening up) So be it! but you will strike me standing. At least I will die as a soldier.
Strogoff: As a soldier, you? No, you are going to die as a traitor must die, on your knees. Come, on your knees, to expiate the outrage you inflicted on me. On your knees, for having shamefully had my mother knouted. On your knees, for having betrayed your country. On your knees, wretch, on your knees! (Ivan tries to seize the dagger to strike Strogoff, and almost gets it from him. But Strogoff seizes his hand and forces it back so Ivan strikes himself and falls.) (The Grand Duke enters with officers, Jollivet, Blount, Marfa, Nadia, Fedov, etc.)
Grand Duke: Seize that man! (to Strogoff) Who are you? You who have assassinated a courier of the Czar?
Strogoff: Michael Strogoff, Highness, and this is Ivan Ogareff.
Marfa: Yes! Michael Strogoff, my child. Highness, you have before you devotion and treason.
Jollivet: (pointing to Strogoff) And devotion is here.
Blount: (pointing to Ivan) And that is treason.
Grand Duke: Who are these men?
Jollivet: (designating Blount) I have the honor to present to Your Highness, Monsieur Blount, a courageous Englishman.
Blount: (designating Jollivet) Mister Jollivet, a Frenchman—as courageous, indeed, more courageous.
Grand Duke: And you affirm?
Blount: That that one was Ivan Ogareff.
Jollivet: And this one is Michael Strogoff.
Fedov: The saviors of my daughter, Highness.
(Cannon fire approaching.)
Strogoff: Listen! It’s cannons thundering.
Grand Duke: Yes. Enemy columns are attacking the city. We must defend the ramparts.
Strogoff: No! Listen again! To the cannon which growls beneath our walls, a cannon further off is responding. Today is the 24th of September! That’s the relief army arriving.
All: The relief army!
Strogoff: Let Your Highness make a general sortie and the Tartar army will be annihilated.
Grand Duke: Come on, my friends—to battle.
All: To battle!
The stage represents a plain under the walls of Irkutsk. The Tartars have been crushed, dead. The whole Russian army is on stage.
Grand Duke: Soldiers, thanks to the courage and devotion of Michael Strogoff, our troops have been able to effect the protection with the relief army. The Tartars are in flight. The Emir Feofar is a prisoner and Irkutsk is saved.
All: Hurrah! Hurrah!
Grand Duke: Michael Strogoff, what reward do you ask?
Strogoff: I want none. Highness, I have only done my duty as a soldier, for God, for Czar, for Country.
(Fanfares blaze and Russian flags stand tall in the breeze amidst hurrahs.)