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Dialogue following No. 4


Ko-Ko. (going up to Nanki-Poo) My poor boy, I'm really very sorry for you.

Nanki-Poo. Thanks, old fellow. I'm sure you are.

Ko-Ko. You see I'm quite helpless.

Nanki-Poo. I quite see that.

Ko-Ko. I can't conceive anything more distressing than to have one's marriage broken off at the last moment. But you shan't be disappointed of a wedding — you shall come to mine.

Nanki-Poo. It's awfully kind of you, but that's impossible.

Ko-Ko. Why so?

Nanki-Poo. To-day I die.

Philip Potter as Nanki-Poo & John Reed as Ko-Ko, 1966

Ko-Ko. What do you mean?

Nanki-Poo. I can't live without Yum-Yum. This afternoon I perform the Happy Despatch.

Ko-Ko. No, no — pardon me — I can't allow that.

Nanki-Poo. Why not?

Ko-Ko. Why, hang it all, you're under contract to die by the hand of the Public Executioner in a month's time! If you kill yourself, what's to become of me? Why, I shall have to be executed in your place!

Nanki-Poo. It would certainly seem so!

Enter Pooh-Bah.

Ko-Ko. Now then, Lord Mayor, what is it?

Pooh-Bah.The Mikado and his suite are approaching the city, and will be here in ten minutes.

Ko-Ko. The Mikado! He's coming to see whether his orders have been carried out! (to Nanki-Poo) Now look here, you know — this is getting serious — a bargain's a bargain, and you really mustn't frustrate the ends of justice by committing suicide. As a man of honour and a gentleman, you are bound to die ignominiously by the hands of the Public Executioner.

Nanki-Poo. Very well, then — behead me.

Ko-Ko. What, now?

Nanki-Poo. Certainly; at once.

Pooh-Bah. Chop it off! Chop it off!

Ko-Ko. My good sir, I don't go about prepared to execute gentlemen at a moment's notice. Why, I never even killed a blue-bottle!

Pooh-Bah. Still, as Lord High Executioner —

Ko-Ko. My good sir, as Lord High Executioner, I've got to behead him in a month. I'm not ready yet. I don't know how it's done. I'm going to take lessons. I mean to begin with a guinea pig, and work my way through the animal kingdom till I come to a Second Trombone. Why, you don't suppose that, as a humane man, I'd have accepted the post of Lord High Executioner if I hadn't thought the duties were purely nominal? I can't kill you — I can't kill anything! I can't kill anybody! (weeps)

Nanki-Poo. Come, my poor fellow, we all have unpleasant duties to discharge at times; after all, what is it? If I don't mind, why should you? Remember, sooner or later it must be done.

Ko-Ko. (springing up suddenly) Must it? I'm not so sure about that!

Nanki-Poo. What do you mean?

Ko-Ko. Why should I kill you when making an affidavit that you've been executed will do just as well? Here are plenty of witnesses — the Lord Chief Justice, Lord High Admiral, Commander-in-Chief, Secretary of State for the Home Department, First Lord of the Treasury, and Chief Commissioner of Police.

Nanki-Poo. But where are they?

Ko-Ko. There they are. They'll all swear to it — won't you? (to Pooh-Bah)

Pooh-Bah. Am I to understand that all of us high Officers of State are required to perjure ourselves to ensure your safety?

Ko-Ko. Why not! You'll be grossly insulted, as usual.

Pooh-Bah. Will the insult be cash down, or at a date?

Ko-Ko. It will be a ready-money transaction.

Pooh-Bah. (aside) Well, it will be a useful discipline. (aloud) Very good. Choose your fiction, and I'll endorse it! (aside) Ha! ha! Family Pride, how do you like that, my buck?

Nanki-Poo. But I tell you that life without Yum-Yum —

Ko-Ko. Oh, Yum-Yum, Yum-Yum! Bother Yum-Yum! Here, Commissionaire (to Pooh-Bah), go and fetch Yum-Yum. (Exit Pooh-Bah.) Take Yum-Yum and marry Yum-Yum, only go away and never come back again. (Enter Pooh-Bah with Yum-Yum.) Here she is. Yum-Yum, are you particularly busy?

Yum-Yum. Not particularly.

Ko-Ko. You've five minutes to spare?

Yum-Yum. Yes.

Ko-Ko. Then go along with his Grace the Archbishop of Titipu; he'll marry you at once.

Yum-Yum.But if I'm to be buried alive?

Ko-Ko. Now, don't ask any questions, but do as I tell you, and Nanki-Poo will explain all.

Nanki-Poo. But one moment —

Ko-Ko. Not for worlds. Here comes the Mikado, no doubt to ascertain whether I've obeyed his decree, and if he finds you alive I shall have the greatest difficulty in persuading him that I've beheaded you. (Exeunt Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum, followed by Pooh-Bah.) Close thing that, for here he comes!

Exit Ko-Ko.

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