The Grand Duke


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Dialogue following No. 5

Julia. Well, a nice mess you’ve got us into! There’s an end of our precious plot! All up – pop – fizzle – bang – done for!

Ludwig. Yes, but – ha! ha! – fancy my choosing the Grand Duke’s private detective, of all men, to make a confidant of! When you come to think of it, it’s really devilish funny!

Ernest.(angrily) When you come to think of it, it’s extremely injudicious to admit into a conspiracy every pudding-headed baboon who presents himself!

Ludwig. Yes – I should never do that. If I were chairman of this gang, I should hesitate to enrol any baboon who couldn’t produce satisfactory credentials from his last Zoological Gardens.

Lisa. Ludwig is far from being a baboon. Poor boy, he could not help giving us away – it’s his trusting nature – he was deceived.

Julia. (furiously) His trusting nature! (To Ludwig.) Oh, I should like to talk to you in my own language for five minutes – only five minutes! I know some good, strong, energetic English remarks that would shrivel your trusting nature into raisins – only you wouldn’t understand them!

Ludwig. Here we perceive one of the disadvantages of a neglected education!

Ernest. (to Julia) And I suppose you’ll never be my Grand Duchess now!

Julia. Grand Duchess? My good friend, if you don’t produce the piece how can I play the part?

Ernest. True. (To Ludwig.) You see what you’ve done.

Ludwig. But, my dear sir, you don’t seem to understand that the man ate three sausage-rolls. Keep that fact steadily before you. Three large sausage-rolls.

Julia. Bah! – Lots of people eat sausage-rolls who are not conspirators.

Ludwig. Then they shouldn’t. It’s bad form. It’s not the game. When one of the Human Family proposes to eat a sausage-roll, it is his duty to ask himself, “Am I a conspirator?” And if, on examination, he finds that he is not a conspirator, he is bound in honour to select some other form of refreshment.

Lisa. Of course he is. One should always play the game. (To Notary,who has been smiling placidly through this.) What are you grinning at, you greedy old man?

Notary. Nothing – don’t mind me. It is always amusing to the legal mind to see a parcel of laymen bothering themselves about a matter which to a trained lawyer presents no difficulty whatever.

All. No difficulty!

Notary. None whatever! The way out of it is quite simple.

All. Simple?

Notary. Certainly! Now attend. In the first place, you two men fight a Statutory Duel.

Ernest. A Statutory Duel?

Julia. A Stat-tat-tatutory Duel! Ach! what a crack-jaw language this German is!

Ludwig. Never heard of such a thing.

Notary. It is true that the practice has fallen into abeyance through disuse. But all the laws of Pfennig Halbpfennig run for a hundred years, when they die a natural death, unless, in the meantime, they have been revived for another century. The Act that institutes the Statutory Duel was passed a hundred years ago, and as it has never been revived, it expires tomorrow. So you’re just in time.

Julia. But what is the use of talking to us about Statutory Duels when we none of us know what a Statutory Duel is?

Notary. Don’t you? Then I’ll explain.

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