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Ages Ago

Dialogue Following No. 12


Dame C.:
(from frame). If there's any question as to whom you all belong, I think I can set it at rest, Lord Carnaby.
Lord C.:
You know me then?
Dame Cherry (Mrs. Reed) steps down from her frame.
Dame C.:
Perfectly, you are Lord Carnaby Poppytop who came quite unexpectedly into possession of this castle on the 13th July, 1669; you died in 1716, and the castle remained uninhabited and unclaimed until the 13th July, 1769,Dame Cherry (Mrs. Reed) steps down from her frame. when I, Dame Cherry Maybud, quite as unexpectedly found the title deeds in my possession and entered on the property accordingly. (Comes down from picture.) Now, allow me to settle the question that you were discussing when I interfered. You will abide by my decision?
All.:
With pleasure.
Dame C.:
Very well then. You, Lady Maud de Bohun are clearly the property of Sir Cecil Blount, the gentleman who succeeded to the property after your death. Have you any objection to that?
Lady M.:
None whatever. Cecil, I am yours.
Dame C.:
By the same rule, Sir Cecil, and you, Lady Maud, are both of you the property of Lord Carnaby Poppytop, who after Sir Cecil's death succeeded to the castle and all that it contained.
Sir C.:
But allow me to protest.
Lord C.:
It is useless, Sir, both of you are clearly my property, and a man may do what he likes with his own. Lady Maud, come here; Sir Cecil, go there. (Separates Lady Maud and Sir Cecil, placing himself between them. They are much annoyed and make signs to each other behind his back.) Lady Maud, I think I shall marry you.
Sir C.:
You! But Lord Carnaby Poppytop -
Lady M.:
Oh! I protest against anything of the kind. Dame Cherry Maybud, please be careful how you make your award.
Lord C.:
My valued Leonardo da Vinci, expostulation is useless.
Lady M.:
This marriage is out of the question, Sir.
Sir C.:
It's out of the question, Sir.
Lady M.:
It's impossible, Sir.
Lord C.:
Why? Why?
Lady M.:
Because a man may not marry his grandmother.
Dame C.:
I think it is unnecessary to discuss that at present. Let me go on. We have decided that Lady Maud belongs to Sir Cecil; that Lady Maud and Sir Cecil belong to Lord Carnaby Poppytop. It follow, therefore, that Lady Maud, Sir Cecil and Lord Carnaby Poppytop all belong to me.
All.:
To you?
Dame C.:
To me. You are all mine, and as Lord Carnaby Poppytop says, I can do what I like with my own. Now I'm going to dispose of my property. Lord Carnaby, let the young people alone. Sir Cecil, take Lady Maud.
Lord C.:
And if I refuse?
Dame C.:
If you refuse, my Lord, my course is clear. I shall sell you to the Nation. You will be hung up in the National Gallery, where nobody will go to see you, and you will spend an ignominious existence in the society of sham Rubenses, fictitious Raphaels, and other impostors of every degree.
Lord C.:
But they won't buy me - I'm genuine.
Dame C.:
Won't they? Don't be too sure of that. If you don't take care I'll have you so restored that there won't be a trace of the original work left. They'll snap you up directly.

(The veil before Brown's portrait is withdrawn.)

Brown:
You're settling all this very coolly and comfortably, but don't it occur to you that it is a matter in which I am entitled to be consulted?
All.:
You?
Dame C.:
And who in the world are you, Sir?
Brown:
I'm no other than the maternal grandfather of the present possessor of this castle, Mr. Alderman Tare.
Dame C.:
Who are you by?
Brown:
I don't know.
Lord C.:
When were you painted?
Brown:
I was finished yesterday and hung up yesterday afternoon.
Dame C.:
You're a dreadful daub.
Brown:
I'm afraid I am, but that's my misfortune, not my fault, you know. We don't paint ourselves.
Lord C.:
Are you considered like?
Brown:
Like, like whom?
Lord C.:
Like whom? Why like Mr. Alderman Tare's maternal grandfather, of course.
Brown:
Ho! ho! ho! ho!
Dame C.:
What is the man laughing at?
Brown:
Ho! ho! ho! ho! ho!
Lord C.:
How dare you laugh in my face, Sir! Explain yourself. I insist upon it.
Brown:
My dear fellow, don't excite yourself, but the question is really so absurd that you must excuse my merriment. Like his maternal grandfather! Ho! ho! ho! Why, my dear friend, old Tare never had a maternal grandfather.
Dame C.:
Never had a maternal grandfather!
Brown:
Never had a grandfather of any kind whatever. And what is more, he never will have.
Lord C.:
Oh, this is too absurd. Then who are you?
Brown:
I tell you, I'm the portrait of old Tare's maternal grandfather.
Dame C.:
But bless the man, you say he never had a maternal grandfather.
Brown:
Never, but what has that to do with it?
Lord C.:
You're an impostor, Sir!
Brown:
Not at all; or if I am we're all impostors.
Lord C.:
Explain yourself, Sir!
Brown:
With pleasure. Tare says I'm his maternal grandfather.
Dame C.:
But you know you're not?
Brown:
Of course.
Lord C.:
Then you're lending yourself to an imposture. A picture with any sense of decency would have rubbed himself out rather than be party to such an imposition.
Brown:
But Tare's assurance don't stop there; he says that you're his great, great-grandmother, and you his great, great, great, great-grandfather!
Lord C.:
He does? Oh, it's monstrous!
Dame C.:
What an infamous fabrication!
Lord C.:
I never had any family at all.
Dame C.:
And I died a spinster.
Brown:
But Tare declares it's true.
Dame C.:
But we know that it's impossible.
Brown:
Then rub yourselves out without loss of time. A picture with any sense of decency would take steps rather than be a party to such an imposition.
Lord C.:
(in a great rage). Come down, Sir, and I'll teach you to bandy words with me. Come down!
Brown:
I can't!
Lord C.:
Why not?
Brown:
Because I'm only a half-length, besides I'm not dry, and I might rub.
Lord C.:
Coward! But who could expect nobility of soul in such a misshapen frame!
Brown:
(Looking at frame of his picture.) Oh, my frame is very good - very good indeed. Well-made, and solid. A good piece of work.
Lord C.:
I'm alluding to your body, Sir, not your setting.
Dame C.:
There now, Lord Carnaby, let the poor man alone. He's a wretched daub, but he can't help that, you know. Besides, you mustn't quarrel in the presence of a lady - you won't, I know.
Lord C.:
Oh, won't I -
Dame C.:
No, I'm sure you won't - if I ask prettily (making eyes at Lord Carnaby). You won't, you won't, you won't, now will you?
Lord C.:
(gradually relaxing). No, I won't, indeed. (To Brown.) Miserable signboard, your life is spared. (Coquets with Dame Cherry.)
Lord C.:
But, I say; where have they gone?
Dame C.:
Who?
Lord C.:
Sir Cecil and Lady Maud. This won't do, you know.
Dame C.:
There they are, in the next corridor.
Lord C.:
It's very disgusting. So young, and yet so lost to all sense of propriety. I shall go and call them back.
Dame C.:
Stop! - reflect one moment. They are two or three hundred years older that we are. Would it be delicate to interfere?
Lord C.:
It's rather a difficult point. Are we to judge of their age by their years or their personal appearance?
Dame C.:
Oh, my dear Lord Carnaby! If you judge a lady's age by her personal appearance, there'll be no end to the mistakes you'll make. Be content with the fact that they are our ancestors, and let well alone.
Lord C.:
I suppose there's no alternative. I say, he's kissing her!
Dame C.:
Well, let him kiss her. Young people will be young people.
Lord C.:
But you just said they were old!
Dame C.:
Well, then, there are no fools like old ones. If they are young, we've been young too; if they are old, we've no right to interfere. Anyway, it's no business of ours.
Lord C.:
Yes, we've been young; but we haven't been young together. If we had -
Dame C.:
If we had, we should have make ourselves very ridiculous, I dare say. Now, sit down and leave them alone, do.
Lord C.:
Do you think we should have made ourselves very ridiculous? Very - very ridiculous?
Dame C.:
I don't know. I was very thoughtless, and extremely pretty.
Lord C.:
And I was very thoughtless and remarkably handsome.
Dame C.:
Ah! time works wonders! Now, there (pointing to picture of a pretty young girl) is myself at the age of nineteen.
Lord C.:
Exquisite! And there (pointing to picture of young man) am I at the age of twenty-three.

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