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Mr Jericho

Opening Dialogue

SCENE. Clematis Collage, near Kensal Green. Rustic landscape, with houses in distance. Cottage right, with small garden, enclosed by wooden palings, in front. MICHAEL DE VERE is discovered gardening as curtain rises.

MICHAEL (pausing in his work and leaning on gate). And so it has come to this, that Michael de Vere — eighteenth Earl of Margate — must bend his aristocratic back and ply the implements of the common gardener! Little did I dream, as I squandered the wealth of my ancestors amidst the grandeurs of Grosvenor Square, that the impertinent interference of the Official Receiver in Bankruptcy would one day reduce me to a four roomed cottage, where I should have to rear my own roses in my old age! (Enter HORACE.) Why, Horace, my boy, back at this time of day! What does it mean?

HORACE. It means, father. that I have had an accident with the 'bus.

MICHAEL. An accident with the 'bus, Horace! Oh, you have forgotten my constant warnings — you have raced a pirate along Edgware Road!

HORACE. Do not speak harshly to me, father! It was at the Marble Arch. I was driving a pair of young and restive horses.

MICHAEL. Forgive me, Horace! I know the temper of young horses. They were not the best of friends at starting; working together in harness irritated them still more — they fell out.

HORACE. No father, the passengers did that!

MICHAEL. The passengers?

HORACE. Yes, the 'bus turned right over. The offside is completely stove in.
MICHAEL. And it was only repainted the week before last (Groans.)

HORACE. My heart aches when I think of my beautiful 'bus bounding along the Harrow Road, full inside and out! How could I guess that the Marble Arch would see it a quivering mass of wreckage — the outside fares scattered far and wide upon the wooden pavement — the inside ones fighting with each other in the crushed interior, mad with terror!

MICHAEL. Poor boy! And so you have come back to spend the day with your old father?

HORACE. There was nothing else for me to do. Come, father, let me help you.

MICHAEL. I think I have made everything tidy, Horace. I was up betimes, and our estate is not a large one.

HORACE. Oh, if only we had three hundred thousand acres to keep tidy instead of this small patch!

MICHAEL. You yearn to be wealthy, Horace. My heart is heavy when I think that my extravagance has brought you to this lowly position — you, who should bear the proud title of Viscount Ramsgate!

HORACE. Hush, father! Not a soul must suspect our identity! You have dragged the House of Lords into the Bankruptcy Court, but there are lower depths still; and when the eldest son of an Earl is reduced to driving a Paddington Yellow, I think that even a Socialist might shudder!

MICHAEL. Oh, Horace, I like to whisper to myself occasionally, "I am Michael, eighteenth Earl of Margate, and Lord Warden of the Jetty."

HORACE. Well, I've no objection to your doing that, but it is useless sighing over what is past. Let us talk of the present. What are my prospects?

MICHAEL. You have none, except that of being dismissed from the Company's service for careless driving.

HORACE. Then my case is hopeless! And yet how passionately I love her!

MICHAEL. You are alluding to the lovely daughter of Lady Bushey.

HORACE. Alas, yes! Oh, my little sweetheart, I wonder if you ever give a thought to your unhappy Horace — if you ever pity the man who presides over the conveyance you patronise so frequently?

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