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Dialogue following No. 5
King: (putting on his crown again) It's all very well. I always like to look on the humorous side of things; but I do not think I ought to be required to write libels on my own moral character. Naturally, I see the joke of it — anybody would — but Zara's coming home today; she's no longer a child, and I confess I should not like her to see my Opera — though it's uncommonly well written; and I should be sorry if the Palace Peeper got into her hands — though it's certainly smart — very smart indeed. It is almost a pity that I have to buy up the whole edition, because it's really too good to be lost. And Lady Sophy — that blameless type of perfect womanhood! Great Heavens, what would she say if the Second Housemaid business happened to meet her pure blue eye!
Enter Lady Sophy.
Lady Sophy: My monarch is soliloquizing. I will withdraw. (going)
King: No — pray don't go. Now I'll give you fifty chances, and you won't guess whom I was thinking of.
Lady Sophy: Alas, sir, I know too well. Ah! King, it's an old, old story, and I'm well nigh weary of it! Be warned in time — from my heart I pity you, but I am not for you! (going)
King: But hear what I have to say.
Lady Sophy: It is useless. Listen. In the course of a long and adventurous career in the principal European Courts, it has been revealed to me that I unconsciously exercise a weird and supernatural fascination over all Crowned Heads. So irresistible is this singular property, that there is not a European Monarch who has not implored me, with tears in his eyes, to quit his kingdom, and take my fatal charms elsewhere. As time was getting on it occurred to me that by descending several pegs in the scale of Respectability I might qualify your Majesty for my hand. Actuated by this humane motive and happening to possess Respectability enough for Six, I consented to confer Respectability enough for Four upon your two younger daughters — but although I have, alas, only Respectability enough for Two left, there is still, as I gather from the public press of this country (producing the Palace Peeper), a considerable balance in my favour.
King: (aside) Damn! (aloud) May I ask how you came by this?
Lady Sophy: It was handed to me by the officer who holds the position of Public Exploder to your Imperial Majesty.
King: And surely, Lady Sophy, surely you are not so unjust as to place any faith in the irresponsible gabble of the Society press!
Lady Sophy: (referring to paper) I read on the authority of Senex Senior that your Majesty was seen dancing with your Second Housemaid on the Oriental Platform of the Tivoli Gardens. That is untrue?
King: Absolutely. Our Second Housemaid has only one leg.
Lady Sophy: (suspiciously) How do you know that?
King: Common report. I give you my honour.
Lady Sophy: It may be so. I further read — and the statement is vouched for by no less an authority that Mephistopheles Minor — that your Majesty indulges in a bath of hot rum-punch every morning. I trust I do not lay myself open to the charge of displaying an indelicate curiosity as to the mysteries of the royal dressing-room when I ask if there is any foundation for this statement?
King: None whatever. When our medical adviser exhibits rum-punch it is as a draught, not as a fomentation. As to our bath, our valet plays the garden hose upon us every morning.
Lady Sophy: (shocked) Oh, pray — pray spare me these unseemly details. Well, you are a Despot — have you taken steps to slay this scribbler?
King: Well, no — I have not gone so far as that. After all, it's the poor devil's living, you know.
Lady Sophy: It is the poor devil's living that surprises me. If this man lies, there is no recognized punishment that is sufficiently terrible for him.
King: That's precisely it. I — I am waiting until a punishment is discovered that will exactly meet the enormity of the case. I am in constant communication with the Mikado of Japan, who is a leading authority on such points; and, moreover, I have the ground plans and sectional elevations of several capital punishments in my desk at this moment. Oh, Lady Sophy, as you are powerful, be merciful!
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