Excerpt from Act I, Scene I of a play inspired by Jorge Borges’s “The Secret Miracle”
Setting: in Hradcany, in the library of BARON RÖMERSTADT (hereafter “BARON”), on one of the last evenings of the nineteenth century*.
BARON, dressed in a smoking jacket, sits reading in a leather chair while sipping a hot cup of tea. A clock strikes seven, a vehemence of last sunlight exalts the windowpanes, on a breeze float the ecstatic notes of a familiar Hungarian melody*.
A knock is heard at the door. Shortly after, a SERVANT brings in a SOLICITOR (“SOL”) and then retreats.
SOL: Good evening, Baron Römerstadt. (bows) It is a delight to see you in such exceptional health. I am dreadfully sorry to disturb you at this hour, but, friend, I assure you it is for your own just cause.
BARON: What business do you bring before me at such an hour? (under his breath) Cannot a man take leave from his daily annoyances for one moment of peace? Come now, what is it that must be so urgent?
SOL: Urgent indeed, Baron. But first, I must entreat you, where is your fair fiancée on this eve?
BARON: Miss de Weidenau is away for the evening. For she spends this night at a friend’s estate on the opposite side of town. Why? What sort of business could you bring this night that may concern her?
SOL: Then all may yet be well. For I warn you, danger lies in the streets of Prague tonight for you and for your darling Julia. Jaroslav Kublin was seen wandering the market place earlier today.
BARON: Kublin!? Is he back then from Paris? What does he have here to come back to except madness?
SOL: You, more so than I, know the perils that stem from his arrival. I can only venture to guess that he has returned to pursue his unrequited love. I know that your wisdom far surpasses mine and thus I do not come to annoy you with ignorant suggestions, only to inform you of what is at hand. (pause) Yet, I cannot help but plead that you send a messenger to your fair bride to ensure her safety.
BARON: I agree. I shall send one of my best men immediately.
SOL: Sir, I beg you, have pity on the man who has
begun to settle down for the evening. Let me be your
servant. I am already dressed for the trip and I have a carriage waiting outside. I implore you, give me the location of the maiden and I shall go to her with haste.
BARON: (aside) The face of this stranger is familiar. And yet, I feel an eerie comfort and fellowship in his words. His image comes back to me like a vision in the morning. No, I do not know this man. I cannot trust him with my precious Julia.
BARON: (to SOL) Be that as it may, I cannot
encroach on you further. (signals for the SERVANT) You have delivered
the news that was your purpose and thus be gone. I have no need of your
services for I have men who are more properly suited in cases such as this.
Petre, escort this man to his carriage. (to SOL) Once again, I thank you for your report.
SOL: The only thanks I can ask for is the protection of God over this household.
Exeunt SOL and SERVANT.