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Dialogue following No. 19
Frederic. Upon my word, this is most curious – most absurdly whimsical. Five-and-a-quarter! No one would think it to look at me!
Ruth. You are glad now, I’ll be bound, that you spared us. You would never have forgiven yourself when you discovered that you had killed two of your comrades.
Frederic. My comrades?
King. (rises) I’m afraid you don’t appreciate the delicacy of your position: You were apprenticed to us –
Frederic. Until I reached my twenty-first year.
King. No, until you reached your twenty-first birthday (producing document), and, going by birthdays, you are as yet only five-and-a-quarter.
Frederic.You don’t mean to say you are going to hold me to that?
King. No, we merely remind you of the fact, and leave the rest to your sense of duty.
Ruth. Your sense of duty!
Frederic. (wildly) Don’t put it on that footing! As I was merciful to you just now, be merciful to me! I implore you not to insist on the letter of your bond just as the cup of happiness is at my lips!
Ruth. We insist on nothing; we content ourselves with pointing out to you your duty.
King. Your duty!
Frederic. (after a pause) Well, you have appealed to my sense of duty, and my duty is only too clear. I abhor your infamous calling; I shudder at the thought that I have ever been mixed up with it; but duty is before all – at any price I will do my duty.
King. Bravely spoken! Come, you are one of us once more.
Frederic. Lead on, I follow. (suddenly) Oh, horror!
Ruth & King. What is the matter?
Frederic. Ought I to tell you? No, no, I cannot do it; and yet, as one of your band –
King. Speak out, I charge you by that sense of conscientiousness to which we have never yet appealed in vain.
Frederic. General Stanley, the father of my Mabel –
Ruth & King. Yes, yes!
Frederic. He escaped from you on the plea that he was an orphan?
King. He did.
Frederic. It breaks my heart to betray the honoured father of the girl I adore, but as your apprentice I have no alternative. It is my duty to tell you that General Stanley is no orphan!
Ruth & King. What!
Frederic. More than that, he never was one!
King. Am I to understand that, to save his contemptible life, he dared to practise on our credulous simplicity? (FREDERIC nods as he weeps.) Our revenge shall be swift and terrible. We will go and collect our band and attack Tremorden Castle this very night.
Frederic.But stay –King. Not a word! He is doomed!
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