The Grand Duke

   

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Dialogue following No. 17


Baroness. But this is most unexpected. He was well enough at a quarter to twelve yesterday.

Ludwig. Yes. He died at half-past eleven.

Baroness. Bless me, how very sudden!

Ludwig. It was sudden.

Baroness. But what in the world am I to do? I was to have been married to him today!

All. (singing and dancing)
For any disappointment we are sorry unaffectedly,
But yesterday that nobleman expired quite un­expectedly –
Tol the riddle lol!

Baroness. Is this Court Mourning or a Fancy Ball?

Ludwig. Well, it’s a delicate combination of both effects. It is intended to express inconsolable grief for the decease of the late Duke and ebullient joy at the accession of his successor. I am his successor. Permit me to present you to my Grand Duchess. (Indicating Julia.)

Baroness. Your Grand Duchess? Oh, your Highness! (Curtseying profoundly.)

Julia. (sneering at her) Old frump!

Baroness. Humph! A recent creation, probably?

Ludwig. We were married only half an hour ago.

Baroness. Exactly. I thought she seemed new to the position.

Julia. Ma’am, I don’t know who you are, but I flatter myself I can do justice to any part on the very shortest notice.

Baroness. My dear, under the circumstances you are doing admirably – and you’ll improve with practice. It’s so difficult to be a lady when one isn’t born to it.

Julia. (in a rage, to Ludwig) Am I to stand this? Am I not to be allowed to pull her to pieces?

Ludwig. (aside to Julia) No, no – it isn’t Greek. Be a violet, I beg.

Baroness. And now tell me all about this distressing circumstance. How did the Grand Duke die?

Ludwig. He perished nobly – in a Statutory Duel.

Baroness. In a Statutory Duel? But that’s only a civil death! – and the Act expires tonight, and then he will come to life again!

Ludwig. Well, no. Anxious to inaugurate my reign by conferring some inestimable boon on my people, I signalized this occasion by reviving the law for another hundred years.

Baroness. For another hundred years? Then set the merry joybells ringing! Let festive epithalamia resound through these ancient halls! Cut the satisfying sandwich – broach the exhilarating Marsala – and let us rejoice today, if we never rejoice again!

Ludwig. But I don’t think I quite understand. We have already rejoiced a good deal.

Baroness. Happy man, you little reck of the extent of the good things you are in for. When you killed Rudolph you adopted all his overwhelming responsibilities. Know then that I, Caroline von Krakenfeldt, am the most overwhelming of them all!

Ludwig. But stop, stop – I’ve just been married to somebody else!

Julia. Yes, ma’am, to somebody else, ma’am! Do you understand, ma’am? To somebody else!

Baroness. Do keep this young woman quiet; she fidgets me!

Julia. Fidgets you!

Ludwig. (aside to Julia) Be a violet – a crushed, despairing violet.

Julia.Do you suppose I intend to give up a magnificent part without a struggle?

Ludwig. My good girl, she has the law on her side. Let us both bear this calamity with resignation. If you must struggle, go away and struggle in the seclusion of your chamber.

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