* 2007

KO. This is simply appalling! I, who allowed myself to be respited at the last moment, simply in order to benefit my native town, am now required to die within a month, and that by a man whom I have loaded with honours! Is this public gratitude? Is this--- (Enter Nanki-Poo, with a rope in his hands.) Go away, sir! How dare you? Am I never to be permitted to soliloquize?

NANK. Oh, go on--don't mind me.

KO. What are you going to do with that rope?

NANK. I am about to terminate an unendurabIe existence.

KO. Terminate your existence? Oh, nonsense! What for?

NANK. Because you are going to marry the girl I adore.

KO. Nonsense, sir. I won't permit it. I am a humane man, and if you attempt anything of the kind I shall order your instant arrest. Come, sir, desist at once or I summon my guard.

NANK. That's absurd. If you attempt to raise an alarm, I instantly perform the Happy Despatch with this dagger.

KO. No, no, don't do that. This is horrible! (Suddenly.) Why, you cold-blooded scoundrel, are you aware that, in taking your life, you are committing a crime which--which--which is---- Oh! (Struck by an idea.) Substitute!

NANK. What's the matter?

KO. Is it absolutely certain that you are resolved to die?

NANK. Absolutely!

KO. Will nothing shake your resolution?

NANK. Nothing.

KO. Threats, entreaties, prayers--all useless?

NANK. All! My mind is made up.

KO. Then, if you really mean what you say, and if you are absolutely resolved to die, and if nothing whatever will shake your determination--don't spoil yourself by committing suicide, but be beheaded handsomely at the hands of the Public Executioner!

NANK. I don't see how that would benefit me.

KO. You don't? Observe: you'll have a month to live, and you'll live like a fighting-cock at my expense. When the day comes there'll be a grand public ceremonial--you'll be the central figure--no one will attempt to deprive you of that distinction. There'll be a procession--bands--dead march--bells tolling--all the girls in tears--Yum-Yum distracted--then, when it's all over, general rejoicings, and a display of fireworks in the evening. You won't see them, but they'll be there all the same.

NANK. Do you think Yum-Yum would really be distracted at my death?

KO. I am convinced of it. Bless you, she's the most tender-hearted little creature alive.

NANK. I should be sorry to cause her pain. Perhaps, after all, if I were to withdraw from Japan, and travel in Europe for a couple of years, I might contrive to forget her.

KO. Oh, I don't think you could forget Yum-Yum so easily; and, after all, what is more miserable than a love-blighted life?

NANK. True.

KO. Life without Yum-Yum--why, it seems absurd!

NANK. And yet there are a good many people in the world who have to endure it.

KO. Poor devils, yes! You are quite right not to be of their number.

NANK. (suddenly). I won't be of their number!

KO. Noble fellow!

NANK. I'll tell you how we'll manage it. Let me marry Yum-Yum to-morrow, and in a month you may behead me.

KO. No, no. I draw the line at Yum-Yum.

NANK. Very good. If you can draw the line, so can I. (Preparing rope.)

KO. Stop, stop--listen one moment--be reasonable. How can I consent to your marrying Yum-Yum if I'm going to marry her myself?

NANK. My good friend, she'll be a widow in a month, and you can marry her then.

KO. That's true, of course. I quite see that. But, dear me! my position during the next month will be most unpleasant--most unpleasant.

NANK. Not half so unpleasant as my position at the end of it.

KO. But--dear me!--well--I agree--after all, it's only putting off my wedding for a month. But you won't prejudice her against me, will you? You see, I've educated her to be my wife; she's been taught to regard me as a wise and good man. Now I shouldn't like her views on that point disturbed.

NANK. Trust me, she shall never learn the truth from me.

[ mikado ]

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