The Grand Duke


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Dialogue following No. 9

Rudolph. My Lord Chamberlain, as you are aware, my marriage with the wealthy Baroness von Krakenfeldt will take place tomorrow, and you will be good enough to see that the rejoicings are on a scale of unusual liberality. Pass that on. (Chamberlain whispers to Vice-Chamberlain, who whispers to the next, and so on.) The sports will begin with a Wedding Breakfast Bee. The leading pastry-cooks of the town will be invited to compete, and the winner will not only enjoy the satisfaction of seeing his breakfast devoured by the Grand Ducal pair, but he will also be entitled to have the Arms of Pfennig Halbpfennig tattoo'd between his shoulder-blades. The Vice-Chamberlain will see to this. All the public fountains of Speisesaal will run with Gingerbierheim and Currantweinmilch at the public expense. The Assistant Vice-Chamberlain will see to this. At night, everybody will illuminate; and as I have no desire to tax the public funds unduly, this will be done at the inhabitants' private expense. The Deputy Assistant Vice-Chamberlain will see to this. All my Grand Ducal subjects will wear new clothes, and the Sub-Deputy Assistant Vice-Chamberlain will collect the usual commission on all sales. Wedding presents (which, on this occasion, should be on a scale of extraordinary magnificence) will be received at the Palace at any hour of the twenty-four, and the Temporary Sub-Deputy Assistant Vice-Chamberlain will sit up all night for this purpose. The entire population will be commanded to enjoy themselves, and with this view the Acting Temporary Sub-Deputy Assistant Vice-Chamberlain will sing comic songs in the Market Place from noon to nightfall. Finally, we have composed a Wedding Anthem, with which the entire population are required to provide themselves. It can be obtained from our Grand Ducal publishers at the usual discount price, and all the Chamberlains will be expected to push the sale. (Chamberlains bow and exeunt.) I don't feel at all comfortable. I hope I'm not doing a foolish thing in getting married. After all, it's a poor heart that never rejoices, and this wedding of mine is the first little treat I've allowed myself since my christening. Besides, Caroline's income is very considerable, and as her ideas of economy are quite on a par with mine, it ought to turn out well. Bless her tough old heart, she's a mean little darling! Oh, here she is, punctual to her appointment!

(Enter Baroness Von Krakenfeldt.)

Baroness. Rudolph! Why, what's the matter?

Rudolph. Why, I'm not quite myself, my pet. I'm a little worried and upset. I want a tonic. It's the low diet, I think. I am afraid, after all, I shall have to take the bull by the horns and have an egg with my breakfast.

Baroness. I shouldn't do anything rash, dear. Begin with a jujube. (Gives him one.)

Rudolph. (about to eat it, but changes his mind) I'll keep it for supper. (He sits by her and tries to put his arm round her waist.)

Baroness. Rudolph, don't! What in the world are you thinking of?

Rudolph. I was thinking of embracing you, my sugar-plum. Just as a little cheap treat.

Baroness. What, here? In public? Really, you appear to have no sense of delicacy.

Rudolph. No sense of delicacy, Bon-bon!

Baroness. No. I can't make you out. When you courted me, all your courting was done publicly in the Market Place. When you proposed to me, you proposed in the Market Place. And now that we're engaged you seem to desire that our first tête-à-tête shall occur in the Market Place! Surely you've a room in your Palace – with blinds – that would do?

Rudolph. But, my own, I can't help myself. I'm bound by my own decree.

Baroness. Your own decree?

Rudolph. Yes. You see, all the houses that give on the Market Place belong to me, but the drains (which date back to the reign of Charlemagne) want attending to, and the houses wouldn't let – so, with a view to increasing the value of the property, I decreed that all love episodes between affectionate couples should take place, in public, on this spot, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, when the band doesn't play.

Baroness. Bless me, what a happy idea! So moral too! And have you found it answer?

Rudolph. Answer? The rents have gone up fifty per cent, and the sale of opera-glasses (which is a Grand Ducal monopoly) has received an extraordinary stimulus! So, under the circumstances, would you allow me to put my arm round your waist? As a source of income. Just once!

Baroness. But it's so very embarrassing. Think of the opera-glasses!

Rudolph. My good girl, that's just what I am thinking of. Hang it all, we must give them something for their money! What's that?

Baroness. (unfolding paper, which contains a large letter, which she hands to him). It's a letter which your detective asked me to hand to you. I wrapped it up in yesterday's paper to keep it clean.

Rudolph. Oh, it's only his report! That'll keep. But, I say, you've never been and bought a newspaper?

Baroness. My dear Rudolph, do you think I'm mad? It came wrapped round my breakfast.

Rudolph. (relieved) I thought you were not the sort of girl to go and buy a newspaper! Well, as we've got it, we may as well read it. What does it say?

Baroness. Why – dear me – here's your biography! "Our Detested Despot!"

Rudolph. Yes – I fancy that refers to me.

Baroness. And it says – Oh, it can't be!

Rudolph. What can't be?

Baroness. Why, it says that although you're going to marry me tomorrow, you were betrothed in infancy to the Princess of Monte Carlo!

Rudolph. Oh yes – that's quite right. Didn't I mention it?

Baroness. Mention it! You never said a word about it!

Rudolph. Well, it doesn't matter, because, you see, it's practically off.

Baroness. Practically off?

Rudolph. Yes. By the terms of the contract the betrothal is void unless the Princess marries before she is of age. Now, her father, the Prince, is stony-broke, and hasn't left his house for years for fear of arrest. Over and over again he has implored me to come to him to be married – but in vain. Over and over again he has implored me to advance him the money to enable the Princess to come to me – but in vain. I am very young, but not as young as that; and as the Princess comes of age at two tomorrow, why at two tomorrow I'm a free man, so I appointed that hour for our wedding, as I shall like to have as much marriage as I can get for my money.

Baroness. I see. Of course, if the married state is a happy state, it's a pity to waste any of it.

Rudolph. Why, every hour we delayed I should lose a lot of you and you'd lose a lot of me!

Baroness. My thoughtful darling! Oh, Rudolph, we ought to be very happy!

Rudolph. If I'm not, it'll be my first bad investment. Still, there is such a thing as a slump even in Matrimonials.

Baroness. I often picture us in the long, cold, dark December evenings, sitting close to each other and singing impassioned duets to keep us warm, and thinking of all the lovely things we could afford to buy if we chose, and, at the same time, planning out our lives in a spirit of the most rigid and exacting economy!

Rudolph. It's a most beautiful and touching picture of connubial bliss in its highest and most rarefied development!

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