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Dialogue following No. 9

Enter Ko-Ko.

Ko-Ko. (looking after Yum-Yum) There she goes! To think how entirely my future happiness is wrapped up in that little parcel! Really, it hardly seems worth while! Oh, matrimony! — (Enter Pooh-Bah and Pish-Tush.) Now then, what is it? Can't you see I'm soliloquizing? You have interrupted an apostrophe, sir!

Pish-Tush. I am the bearer of a letter from his Majesty the Mikado.

Ko-Ko. (taking it from him reverentially) A letter from the Mikado! What in the world can he have to say to me? (Reads letter.) Ah, here it is at last! I thought it would come sooner or later! The Mikado is struck by the fact that no executions have taken place in Titipu for a year, and decrees that unless somebody is beheaded within one month the post of Lord High Executioner shall be abolished, and the city reduced to the rank of a village!

Pish-Tush (Leslie Rands), Ko-Ko (Henry Lytton) & Pooh-Bah (Sydney Granville), 1932
Click on picture to enlarge

Pish-Tush. But that will involve us all in irretrievable ruin!

Ko-Ko. Yes. There is no help for it, I shall have to execute somebody at once. The only question is, who shall it be?

Pooh-Bah. Well, it seems unkind to say so, but as you're already under sentence of death for flirting, everything seems to point to you.

Ko-Ko. To me? What are you talking about? I can't execute myself.

Pooh-Bah. Why not?

Ko-Ko. Why not? Because, in the first place, self decapitation is an extremely difficult, not to say dangerous, thing to attempt; and, in the second, it's suicide, and suicide is a capital offence.

Pooh-Bah. That is so, no doubt.

Pish-Tush. We might reserve that point.

Pooh-Bah. True, it could be argued six months hence, before the full Court.

Ko-Ko. Besides, I don't see how a man can cut off his own head.

Pooh-Bah. A man might try.

Pish-Tush. Even if you only succeeded in cutting it half off, that would be something.

Pooh-Bah. It would be taken as an earnest of your desire to comply with the Imperial will.

Ko-Ko. No. Pardon me, but there I am adamant. As official Headsman, my reputation is at stake, and I can't consent to embark on a professional operation unless I see my way to a successful result.

Pooh-Bah. This professional conscientiousness is highly creditable to you, but it places us in a very awkward position.

Ko-Ko. My good sir, the awkwardness of your position is grace itself compared with that of a man engaged in the act of cutting off his own head.

Pish-Tush. I am afraid that, unless you can obtain a substitute —

Ko-Ko. A substitute? Oh, certainly — nothing easier. (To Pooh-Bah.) Pooh-Bah, I appoint you Lord High Substitute.

Pooh-Bah. I should be delighted. Such an appointment would realize my fondest dreams. But no, at any sacrifice, I must set bounds to my insatiable ambition!

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