Prison cell at St Lazaire. It is extremely small and extremely dark. A thin shaft of light shines through the bars of a tiny window above the prison bed on which Zelle reclines with one arm dangling. She is gazing up at the ceiling and humming softly to herself. Clunet is ushered in by the guard and approaches Zelle with reverence. He gently lifts her hand to his lips. Zelle turns her face toward him and smiles.
Zelle: Ah my valiant Monsieur Clunet. How does my case go? I can just see the look on Bouchardon’s cretinous face when you showed him the letters. He must be suitably embarrassed by now.
Clunet: It breaks my heart to see you brought so low. The letters have been destroyed and the evidence dismissed. Bouchardon does not want the truth. He wants only to calm the masses. They laughed at me. Laughed! ..Oh it was deplorable madame… most deplorable. He will not accept there is any proof whatsoever that will proclaim your innocence.
( Zelle rises from the bed and moves toward who has turned to face the door of the cell. She slowly turns him round to face her. )
Zelle: They destroyed all my letters? How many were there?
Clunet: There were …. now let me see … two …. three and four from the battlefield at Verdun …. three from Vittele …. that makes ….
Zelle: Twelve. He sent me twelve letters? They never told me. This proves that I am not and have never been a spy. All those beautiful letters gone? Can they not see that I am just a woman in love? Can’t they see that those letters were just an undying declaration of love …. of hope …. of desperation? My poor Vadime. Did he understand why I could not return to Vittele? Does he forgive me?
Clunet: My dear … just as you did not receive his letters …. he did not receive yours. His letters from Verdun were intercepted and sent to Scotland Yard while those from Vitele were sent to British Intelligence. Your own letters Madame were kept in Bouchardon’s office and never sent. I am so sorry to tell you this ….
Zelle: Yet my Vadim was there in court to testify on my behalf.
Clunet: Yes Madame he was in court
Zelle: Surely he defended my honour.
Clunet: No Madame …. he did not.
Zelle: I don’t understand …..
Clunet: Please don’t make me speak of it.
Zelle: Speak! … what is it? … Tell me …. TELL ME!
Clunet: Please …. calm yourself …
Zelle: Alright. ( Sighs and unclenches her fists.) Really my dear Clunet…. I’m a strong woman … I can take it … it’s not your fault. What a monster you must think me … screaming at you like this.
Clunet: There’s no need to apologise. It is I who must ….
Zelle: Must tell me what happened in court.
Clunet: Yes you are quite right … Quite right … I will tell you. They asked him if he knew you…. To which eh replied yes. They asked him if he would testify on your behalf to which he replied … no. I know that he was torn and he would have taken the stand if …
Zelle: If he had been stronger. My poor dear love having to face such an ordeal. He is still suffering from his wounds and by now he must be near total collapse. If there was one shred of strength left in his frail body he would not have turned away from me.
Clunet: Indeed madame he is still suffering but I think it is his conscience that is causing him such pain. You see … if he had testified …. his career would have been lost and he would have been the subject of ridicule for many years to come.
Zelle: What of the others? I had many lovers. Surely one of them would have risen to my defence?
Clunet: None. At least Vadim admitted to loving you. The others, I’m afraid, would not even admit to that much. Some are married, some are in high positions and all are frightened for their very lives.
Zelle: So they have abandoned me. It is all probably for the best. Oh don’t look so sad my dear friend. I have no regrets. My life has been full and happy. I have really lived Clunet. There are not many who can say that.
( Clunet exits. Zelle sinks back onto the bed and resumes humming as lights fade. )
©’Eye Of The Dawn’ by Renee Dallow
( Hybiscus Bloom )