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Enter BARNS.

Barns. Your Grace, a gentleman is below who desires to speak with her ladyship.

Duke. (seizing him by the throat, with startling energy). His name — his name! Do not deceive me, varlet, or I'll throttle you!

Barns. I have known your Grace, man and boy, these eighteen months, and I have never
told you a lie yet. The gentleman declines to give his name, but he says that he wrote to her ladyship this morning.

Duke. It is he — the falsetto — the supreme Nisnardi! Show him up, and treat him with the
utmost courtesy. He can touch an upper G!

Barns. An upper G! Gad bless me, what a gift. (Exit in amazement.)

Enter WOODPECKER timidly.

Woodpecker. (mistaking the DUKE for a servant). I say — Chawles, come here, my man. Half-a-crown for you. (Gives him money.) Now then, just give this note to her ladyship
(gives him a note), there's a good fellow.

Duke. (pocketing the coin). In one moment; the Marchioness will be here directly. In the
meantime, permit me to introduce myself — the Duke of Turniptopshire!

Woodpecker. The what!

Duke. The Duke —

Woodpecker. Go on, you're joking!

Duke. Not at all — observe — (Twirls round and postures.) Are you convinced?

Woodpecker. I am! (Aside.) And I took him for a flunkey! I've given a live Duke half-a-crown — and I'm going to ask a live Marchioness how much she wants for her hat! I shall
never be able to do it!

Duke. (aside). He speaks English very well, but he's clearly an Italian, he has such a rummy waistcoat. I'll draw him out a bit. (Aloud.) Princess — pretty feet — old slippers —
ah, you dog!

Woodpecker. Pretty feet?

Duke. Yes, pretty feet — pretty little tootsicums! I've heard all about you, you see.

Woodpecker. (aside). The upper circles appear to have a method of expressing themselves which is entirely and absolutely their own. (Aloud). Could I see the Marchioness?

Duke. Yes. I'll send word to her. Ha! ha! (with deep meaning). Songs — old slippers —
flower from a bouquet — three thousand guineas! My dear sir, you're delicious — you're simply delicious! [Exit DUKE R.

Woodpecker. It's quite clear to me that I shall never be equal to the intellectual pressure of
aristocratic conversation. So I'm married at last — really and truly married. On leaving Bella's, we started for the Church — Maria and I were made one — and now if I can only get the hat from the Marchioness, everything will end happily. (Looking out of window.) There's the wedding party — in eight cabs — waiting patiently until I come down. I told them — ha! ha! — that this was St. James's Hall, and that I would go up and make arrangements for the wedding breakfast! and they believed it! Oh, yes, they believe it! I hear the Marchioness. I hope she got
my note.

Enter MARCHIONESS R. She approaches him melodramatically.

Marchioness. Stop — don't move! Let me gaze upon you until I have drunk you in. Oh! thank you. (WOODPECKER, much astonished, exhibits symptoms of nervousness —
buttoning his coat, putting on his hat and taking it off again
Ah, you are cold —
cold — cold! You are unaccustomed to the rigour of our detestable climate.

Woodpecker. As you say, it's a beast of a climate —

Marchioness. Ah, sir, I can offer you a hospitable welcome and an appreciative company, but I cannot — alas! I cannot offer you an Italian sky!

Woodpecker. Pray don't name it — it's not of the least consequence. (Aside.) I shall never
understand the aristocracy!

Marchioness. Ah, Bella Italia! It's a lovely country!

Woodpecker. It's a dooced lovely country! Oh, I beg pardon!

Marchioness. What a wealth of Southern emphasis! What Italian fervour of expression.

Woodpecker. I — I did myself the honour of writing a note to your ladyship —

Marchioness. A most delightful note, and one that I shall always carry about with me as long as I live.

Woodpecker. Thank you. (Aside.) She's very polite. (Aloud.) In that note I ventured to ask you to grant me a slight favour.

Marchioness. Oh, of course — how extremely dull of me! Well, you shall have what you want.

Woodpecker. Really?

Marchioness. Really — though you are a bold bad man! (Turns to bouquet.)

Woodpecker. At last, at last the hat is mine! I wonder how much she wants for it. Shall I beat her down? No, no, you can't beat down a Marchioness! She shall have her price.

Marchioness. (giving him a flower). There is the flower you asked for — bold bad man!

Woodpecker. A flower? There's some mistake — I want an article of attire.

Marchioness. An article of attire?

Woodpecker. Yes; didn't you get my note?

Marchioness. Yes, here it is. (Taking note from her bosom.) "My terms are — a flower from your bouquet — Nisnardi."

Woodpecker. Nisnardi? What's that?

Marchioness. Hush, eccentric creature — my guests are arriving.

Enter BARNS.

Barns. (announcing.) Lord and Lady Popton, Colonel Coketown, the Marquis of Barnsbury, Lady Pentwhistle, the Archbishop of Bayswater, and the Duke and Duchess of
Deal. (Exit door L.)

Enter LORD and LADY POPTON, COLONEL COKETOWN, and other guests.

Marchioness. My dear Duke — my dear Lady Popton allow me to present to you the
incomparable Nisnardi! (All bow reverentially to WOODPECKER.)

Lady Popton. (crossing to him). And are you really Nisnardi?

Woodpecker. (aside). I must brazen it out. (Aloud.) I am!

Lady Popton. Incomparable falsettist!

Woodpecker. (aside). Good heavens, I'm a singer — a falsettist! Why, I'm a bad baritone!

Lady Popton. And are you really about to favour us with a specimen of your marvellous talent?

Marchioness. Signor Nisnardi is most kindly going to sing three songs.

  How delightful!
All. Charming!
  What a treat!

Woodpecker. (aside). I must get out of this fix at once. (Aloud.) Marchioness, I have a most extraordinary and — I am afraid you will say — unreasonable request to make.

Marchioness. Oh name it, name it!

Woodpecker. But it's a secret!

Marchioness. Oh, but I'm sure our friends will excuse us. [Guests bow, and exeunt R. and L.]

Woodpecker. Marchioness, I am the slave of impulse!

Marchioness. I know you are.

Woodpecker. Eh? Oh! Well, it's a most remarkable thing, but when a whim enters my head, I lose my voice until it is gratified. A whim has just entered my head, and listen!

Marchioness. Heavens, what is to be done?

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