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Dialogue following No. 20
Robin. I recognize you now – you are the picture that hangs at the end of the gallery.
Sir Roderic. In a bad light. I am.
Robin. Are you considered a good likeness?
Sir Roderic. Pretty well. Flattering.
Robin. Because as a work of art you are poor.
Sir Roderic. I am crude in colour, but I have only been painted ten years. In a couple of centuries I shall be an Old Master, and then you will be sorry you spoke lightly of me.
Robin. And may I ask why you have left your frames?
Sir Roderic. It is our duty to see that our successors commit their daily crimes in a conscientious and workmanlike fashion. It is our duty to remind you that you are evading the conditions under which you are permitted to exist.
Robin. Really, I don't know what you'd have. I've only been a bad baronet a week, and I've committed a crime punctually every day.
Sir Roderic. Let us inquire into this. Monday?
Robin. Monday was a Bank Holiday.
Sir Roderic. True. Tuesday?
Robin. On Tuesday I made a false income-tax return.
All. Ha! ha!
Sir Rupert. That's nothing.
Sir Jasper. Nothing at all.
Sir Conrad. Everybody does that.
Sir Gilbert. It's expected of you.
Sir Roderic. Wednesday?
Robin. (melodramatically) On Wednesday I forged a will.
Sir Roderic. Whose will?
Robin. My own.
Sir Roderic. My good sir, you can't forge your own will!
Robin. Can't I, though! I like that! I did! Besides, if a man can't forge his own will, whose will can he forge?
Sir Mervyn. There's something in that.
Sir Desmond. Yes, it seems reasonable.
Sir Lionel. At first sight it does.
Sir Rupert. Fallacy somewhere, I fancy!
Robin. A man can do what he likes with his own!
Sir Roderic. I suppose he can.
Robin. Well, then, he can forge his own will, stoopid! On Thursday I shot a fox.
All. Hear, hear!
Sir Roderic. That's better (addressing Ghosts) Pass the fox, I think? (they assent) Yes, pass the fox. Friday?
Robin. On Friday I forged a cheque.
Sir Roderic. Whose cheque?
Robin. Old Adam's.
Sir Roderic. But Old Adam hasn't a banker.
Robin. I didn't say I forged his banker – I said I forged his cheque. On Saturday I disinherited my only son.
Sir Roderic. But you haven't got a son.
Robin. No – not yet. I disinherited him in advance, to save time. You see – by this arrangement – he'll be born ready disinherited.
Sir Roderic. I see. But I don't think you can do that.
Robin. My good sir, if I can't disinherit my own unborn son, whose unborn son can I disinherit?
Sir Roderic. Humph! These arguments sound very well, but I can't help thinking that, if they were reduced to syllogistic form, they wouldn't hold water. Now quite understand us. We are foggy, but we don't permit our fogginess to be presumed upon. Unless you undertake to – well, suppose we say, carry off a lady? (addressing Ghosts) Those who are in favour of his carrying off a lady? (All hold up their hands except a Bishop.) Those of the contrary opinion? (Bishop holds up his hands.) Oh, you're never satisfied! Yes, unless you undertake to carry off a lady at once – I don't care what lady – any lady – choose your lady – you perish in inconceivable agonies.
Robin. Carry off a lady? Certainly not, on any account. I've the greatest respect for ladies, and I wouldn't do anything of the kind for worlds! No, no. I'm not that kind of baronet, I assure you! If that's all you've got to say, you'd better go back to your frames.
Sir Roderic. Very good – then let the agonies commence.
Ghosts make passes. Robin begins to writhe in agony.
Robin. Oh! Oh! Don't do that! I can't stand it!
Sir Roderic. Painful, isn't it? It gets worse by degrees.
Robin. Oh! Oh! Stop a bit! Stop it, will you? I want to speak.
Sir Roderick makes signs to Ghosts, who resume their attitudes.
Sir Roderic. Better?
Robin. Yes – better now! Whew!
Sir Roderic. Well, do you consent?
Robin. But it's such an ungentlemanly thing to do!
Sir Roderic. As you please. (to Ghosts) Carry on!
Robin. Stop – I can't stand it! I agree! I promise! It shall be done!
Sir Roderic. To-day?
Sir Roderic. At once?
Robin. At once! I retract! I apologize! I had no idea it was anything like that!
Page Created 26 August, 2011