The Grand Duke

   

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Dialogue following No. 2


Martha. Oh, bother the secret sign! I’ve eaten it until I’m quite uncomfortable! I’ve given it six times already to-day – and (whimpering) I can’t eat any breakfast!

Bertha. And it’s so unwholesome. Why, we should all be as yellow as frogs if it wasn’t for the make-up!

Ludwig. All this is rank treason to the cause. I suffer as much as any of you. I loathe the repulsive thing – I can’t contemplate it without a shudder – but I’m a conscientious conspirator, and if you won’t give the sign I will. (Eats sausage-roll with an effort.)

Lisa. Poor martyr! He’s always at it, and it’s a wonder where he puts it!

Notary. Well now, about Troilus and Cressida. What do you play?

Ludwig. (struggling with his feelings) If you’ll be so obliging as to wait until I’ve got rid of this feeling of warm oil at the bottom of my throat, I’ll tell you all about it. ( Lisa gives him some brandy.) Thank you, my love; it’s gone. Well, the piece will be produced upon a scale of unexampled magnificence. It is confidently predicted that my appearance as King Agamemnon, in a Louis Quatorze wig, will mark an epoch in the theatrical annals of Pfennig Halbpfennig. I endeavoured to persuade Ernest Dummkopf, our manager, to lend us the classical dresses for our marriage. Think of the effect of a real Athenian wedding procession cavorting through the streets of Speisesaal! Torches burning – cymbals banging – flutes tootling – citharae twanging – and a throng of fifty lovely Spartan virgins capering before us, all down the High Street, singing “Eloia! Eloia! Opoponax, Eloia!” It would have been tremendous!

Notary. And he declined?

Ludwig. He did, on the prosaic ground that it might rain, and the ancient Greeks didn’t carry umbrellas! If, as is confidently expected, Ernest Dummkopf is elected to succeed the dethroned one, mark any words, he will make a mess of it.

(Exit Ludwig with Lisa.)

Olga. He’s sure to be elected. His entire company has promised to plump for him on the understanding that all the places about the Court are filled by members of his troupe, according to professional precedence.

(Ernest enters in great excitement.)

Bertha. (looking off) Here comes Ernest Dummkopf. Now we shall know all about it!

All. Well – what’s the news? How is the election going?

Ernest. Oh, it’s a certainty – a practical certainty! Two of the candidates have been arrested for debt, and the third is a baby in arms – so, if you keep your promises, and vote solid, I’m cocksure of election!

Olga. Trust to us. But you remember the conditions?

Ernest. Yes – all of you shall be provided for, for life. Every man shall be ennobled – every lady shall have un­limited credit at the Court Milliner’s, and all salaries shall be paid weekly in advance!

Gretchen. Oh, it’s quite clear he knows how to rule a Grand Duchy!

Ernest. Rule a Grand Duchy? Why, my good girl, for ten years past I’ve ruled a theatrical company! A man who can do that can rule anything!

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