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Caramel. Three days late! It’s not much, and even now my wedding present is not finished! (showing slippers.)

Jacquier. Nor mine!

Floss. Nor mine!

Caramel. Late as we are, they don’t seem to be ready for us. The town is empty; not a soul to be seen! Not a guard of honour, no sentries, no band, no people! It’s most extraordinary!

Re-enter ZAPETER.

Jacquier. (seeing ZAPETER.) Ha! here is a person at last! Sir, will you kindly inform us whom we have the honour of addressing?

Zapeter. (aside.) A skilful diplomatist never commits himself to a statement. (aloud.) You ask me who I am? Who shall say? Know thyself, said the philosopher; and he was right. (aside.) Neatly parried.

Caramel. The Princess, I trust, is well?

Zapeter. Well and ill are relative terms. Of three individuals – A, B and C – A may be singularly robust as compared with C, but a confirmed invalid as compared with B. These are momentous questions. (aside.) Well fenced.

Floss. Is her Highness engaged?

Zapeter. It may be that she is engaged. It may even be that she is married. (aside.) The thin end of the wedge!

Caramel. I do not understand you. Her Highness is a single lady.

Zapeter. Single and double are relative terms of people. Of three people, A, B and C, B may be single as compared with A, but double as compared with C. Some people are more single than others; some people, on the other hand, are more double than others. A wedding! What is it? A ceremony! Why stand upon ceremony? The Princess desires that there may be no ceremony between you. (aside.) The ice is broken.

Caramel. Oh, sir, I am a plain man who does not understand wily talk. That your words are wise, I feel sure, for I cannot make head or tail of them. It seems to me that you wish to express some idea. If you would kindly translate it into words of two syllables and under, I think I should succeed in grasping it more readily.

Zapeter. (aside.) Brought to bay. It is not possible to express oneself diplomatically in two syllables. (aloud.) Sir, the Princess waited for you until she could wait no longer.

Caramel. Yes, I follow you.

Zapeter. So another potentate –

Caramel. That’s three syllables.

Zapeter. True: I apologise.

Jacquier. That’s four!

Zapeter. I beg your pardon. They are being married now. (aside.) Ruined; he winces.

Caramel. But, goodness me! You don’t mean to say that I’m jilted?

Zapeter. I didn’t mean to say it, but you made me. If you had let me run on in polysyllables, I would have broken it more delicately; but you would have it in two syllables, and I’m a ruined diplomatist.

Floss. But is there no way?

Zapeter. None, they’re at the church now.

Caramel. We will go to the church, and protest.

Zapeter. (in great terror.) No, no, don’t do that, for mercy’s sake; I shall lose my head if you do.

Caramel. But what am I to do? You can’t expect that I am going to submit quietly to such an insult. I can bear a good deal, but I can’t stand that.

Floss & Jacquier. We can’t stand that, you know.

Zapeter. Stop! An idea occurs to me. Work upon her emotions; trade on her impulses; make capital out of her eccentricities. The Princess had no memory; and acts always on the spur of the moment. Just now she can talk and think of nothing but the brigand Barberini. Her romantic mind is fascinated by the account she has heard of his personal beauty and his picturesque exploits. Disguise yourself as the brigand, catch her alone after the ceremony, declare yourself, she will forget all about her recent marriage, she will propose to join you, yield an unwilling assent – off you go with her.

Caramel. But where?

Zapeter. To the Rocky Pass. Send your friends and relations on ahead disguised as the brigand’s band; keep up the illusion for a day or two; then, when she is thoroughly tired of robber life, undeceive her, have a clergyman in readiness, and marry her straight off. (aside.) I ought to be ashamed of myself.

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