W. S. (William Schwenck) Gilbert.

Ruddigore : or, The witch's curse online

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Here is a flag that none dare defy [all kneel], and while this
glorious rag floats over Rose Maybud's head, the man does not
live who would dare to lay unlicensed hand upon her!

Rob, Foiled and by a Union Jack! But a time will come and

Rose. Nay, let me plead with him. [To ROBIN.] Sir Ruthven, have
pity. In my book of etiquette the case of a maiden about to be
wedded to one who unexpectedly turns out to be a baronet with
a curse on him, is not considered. Time was when you loved
me madly. Prove that this was no selfish love by according
your consent to my marriage with one who, if he be not your-
self, is the next best thing your dearest friend!

Rose. In bygone days I had thy love

Thou hadst my heart.
But Fate, all human vows above,

Our lives did part!
By the old love thou hadst for me
By the fond heart that beat for thee
By joys that never now can be,
Grant thou my prayer!

All. [Kneeling.~\ Grant thou her prayer!

Rob. [Recit.] Take her I yield.

A II. [Recit. ] Oh raptu re !

Away to the parson we go

Say we're solicitous very
That he will turn two into one

Singing hey, derry down derry!


Rich. For she is such a smart little craft

Rose. Such a neat little, sweet little craft
Rich. Such a bright little

Rose. Tight little

Rich. Slight little

Rose. Light little

Both. Trim little, slim little craft!

For she is such a smart little craft, etc.

[Exeunt all but ROBIN.

Rob. For a week I have fulfilled my accursed doom ! I have duly
committed a crime a-day ! Not a great crime, I trust, but still
in the eyes of one as strictly regulated as I used to be, a crime.
But will my ghostly ancestors be satisfied with what I have
done, or will they regard it as an unworthy subterfuge?
[Addressing Pictures.] Oh, my forefathers, wallowers in blood,
there came at last a day when, sick of crime, you, each and
every, vowed to sin no more, and so, in agony, called welcome
Death to free you from your cloying guiltiness. Let the sweet
psalm of that repentant hour soften your long-dead hearts, and
tune your souls to mercy on your poor posterity ! [Kneeling.

[The stage darkens for a moment. It becomes light again,
and the Pictures are seen to have become animated.

Painted emblems of a race

All accurst in days of yore,
Each from his accustomed place

Steps into the world once more.

[The Pictures step from their frames and
march round the stage.

Baronet of Ruddigore,

Last of our accursed line,
Down upon the oaken floor

Down upon those knees of thine.



Coward, poltroon, shaker, squeamer,
Blockhead, sluggard, dullard, dreamer,
Shirker, shuffler, crawler, creeper,
Sniffler, snuffler, wailer, weeper,
Earthworm, maggot, tadpole, weevil!
Set upon thy course of evil
Lest the King of Spectre-Land
Set on thee his grisly hand!

The spectre of Sir Roderic descends from his frame.

Sir Rod. By the curse upon our race

Chorus. Dead and hearsed

All accursed !

Sir Rod. Each inheriting this place

Chorus. Sorrows shake it!

Devil take it!

Sir Rod. Must, perforce, or yea or nay

Chorus. Yea or naying

Be obeying!

Sir Rod. Do a deadly crime each day!

Cliorus. Fire and thunder,

We knocked under
Some atrocious crime committed
Daily ere the world we quitted !

Sir Rod. Beware! beware! beware!

Rob. Gaunt vision, who art thou

That thus, with icy glare
And stern relentless brow,
Appearest, who knows how?

Sir Rod. I am the spectre of the late

Sir Roderic Murgatroyd.
Who comes to warn thee that thy fate
Thou canst not now avoid.

Rob. Alas, poor ghost !

Sir Rod. The pity you

Express, for nothing goes:


We spectres are a jollier crew
Than you, perhaps, suppose!

Chorus. Yes! yes!

We spectres are a jollier crew

Than you, perhaps, suppose!
Ha! ha!

When the night wind howls in the chimney cowls, and the bat in

the moonlight flies,

And inky clouds, like funeral shrouds, sail over the midnight skies
When the footpads quail at the night-bird's wail, and black dogs

bay the moon,
Then is the spectre's holiday then is the ghosts' high noon !

Ha! ha!
Then is the ghosts' high noon!

As the sob of the breeze sweeps over the trees and the mists lie low

on the fen,
From gray tomb-stones are gathered the bones that once were

women and men,
And away they go, with a mop and a mow, to the revel that ends

too soon,
For cockcrow limits our holiday the dead of the night 's high noon!

Ha! ha!
The dead of the night 's high noon!

And then each ghost with his ladye-toast to their churchyard beds

takes flight,
With a kiss, perhaps, on her lantern chaps, and a grisly, grim

" good-night " ;
Till the welcome knell of the midnight bell rings forth its jolliest

And ushers our next high holiday the dead of the night's high



Ha! ha!
The dead of the night's high noon!

Rob. I recognize you now you are the Picture that hangs at the

end of the gallery.
Sir Rod. In a bad light. I am.
Rob. Are you considered a good likeness?
Sir Rod. Pretty well. Flattering.
Rob. Because as a work of art you are poor.
Sir Rod. 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.
Rob. And may I ask why you have left your frames?
Sir Rod. 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.
Rob. 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


Sir Rod. Let us inquire into this. Monday?
Rob. Monday was a Bank Holiday.
Sir Rod. True. Tuesday?

Rob. On Tuesday I made a false income tax return.
All. Ha! ha!

First Ghost. That 's nothing.
Second Ghost. Nothing at all.
Third Ghost. Everybody does that.
Fourth Ghost. It 's expected of you.
Sir Rod. Wednesday?

Rob. [Melodramatically.] On Wednesday I forged a will.
Sir Rod. Whose will?
Rob. My own.

Sir Rod. My good sir, you can't forge your own will!
Rob. Can't I though! I like that! I did\ Besides, if a man can't

forge his own will, whose will can he forge?
First Ghost. There 's something in that.
Second Ghost. Yes, it seems reasonable.


Third Ghost. At first sight it does.

Fourth Ghost. Fallacy somewhere, I fancy!

Rob. A man can do what he likes with his own?

Sir Rod. I suppose he can.

Rob. Well then, he can forge his own will, stoopid! On Thursday
I shot a fox.

First Ghost. Hear, hear!

Sir Rod. That 's better. {Addressing Ghosts.} Pass the fox, I think?
[They assent.} Yes, pass the fox. Friday?

Rob. On Friday I forged a cheque.

Sir Rod. Whose cheque?

Rob. Old Adam's.

Sir Rod. But Old Adam hasn't a banker.

Rob. I didn't say I forged his banker I said I forged his cheque.
On Saturday I disinherited my only son.

Sir Rod. But you haven't got a son.

Rob. No not yet. I disinherited him in advance, to save time.
You see by this arrangement he'll be born ready dis-

Sir Rod. I see. But I don't think you can do that.

Rob. My good sir, if I can't disinherit my own unborn son, whose
unborn son can I disinherit?

Sir Rod. 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 liolds
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

Rob. 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 Rod. Very good then let the agonies commence.

[Ghosts make passes. ROBIN begins to -writhe in agony.
Rob. Oh! Oh! Don't do that! I can't stand it!
Sir Rod. Painful, isn't it? It gets worse by degrees.
Rob. Oh Oh! Stop a bit! Stop it, will you? I want to speak.

[SiR RODERIC makes signs to Ghosts, wlio resume their

Sir Rod. Better?
Rob. Yes better now! Whew!
Sir Rod. Well, do you consent?
Rob. But it 's such an ungentlemanly thing to do!
Sir Rod. As you please. [To Ghosts.] Carry on!
Rob. Stop I can't stand it! I agree! I promise! It shall be


Sir Rod. To-day?
Rob. To-day!
Sir Rod. At once?
Rob. At once! I retract! I apologize! I had no idea it was anything

like that!


He yields! He answers to our call!

We do not ask for more.
A sturdy fellow, after all,

This latest Ruddigore!
All perish in unheard of woe
Who dare our wills defy;
We want your pardon, ere we go,
For having agonized you so
So pardon us
So pardon us
So pardon us
Or die!

Rob. I pardon you!

I pardon you!

All. He pardons us

[The Ghosts return to their frames.



Painted emblems of a race,

All accurst in days of yore,
Each to his accustomed place

Steps unwillingly, once more!

[By this time the Ghosts have changed to pictures again.
ROBIN is overcome by emotion.

Enter ADAM

Adam. My poor master, you are not well

Rob. Gideon Crawle, it won't do I've seen 'em all my ancestors
they're just gone. They say that I must do something des-
perate at once, or perish in horrible agonies. Go go to
yonder village carry off a maiden bring her here at once
anyone I don't care which

Adam. But

Rob. Not a word, but obey! Fly! [Exit ADAM.

Robin. Away, Remorse!

Compunction, hence!
Go, Moral Force!

Go, Penitence!
To Virtue's plea

A long farewell

I ring your knell!
Come guiltiness of deadliest hue,
Come desperate deeds of derring do!

Henceforth all the crimes that I find in the "Times "

I've promised to perpetrate daily;
To-morrow I start, with a petrified heart,

On a regular course of Old Bailey.
There 's confidence tricking, bad coin, pocket-picking,

And several other disgraces
There's postage-stamp prigging, and then, thimble-rigging,

The three-card delusion at races!


Oh! a Baronet's rank is exceedingly nice,
But the title 's uncommonly dear at the price!

Ye well-to-do squires, who live in the shires,

Where petty distinctions are vital,
Who found Athenaeums and local museums,

With views to a baronet's title
Ye butchers and bakers and candlestick makers

Who sneer at all things that are tradey
Whose middle-class lives are embarrassed by wives

Who long to parade as " My Lady,"
Oh ! allow me to offer a word of advice,
The title 's uncommonly dear at the price!

Ye supple M.P.'s, who go down on your knees,

Your precious identity sinking,
And vote black or white as your leaders indite

(Which saves you the trouble of thinking),
For your country's good fame, her repute, or her shame,

You don't care the snuff of a candle
But you're paid for your game when you're told that your name

Will be graced by a baronet's handle
Oh! allow me to give you a word of advice
The title 's uncommonly dear at the price ! [Exit ROBIN.

Enter SIR DESPARD and MARGARET. They are both dressed in sober
black of formal cut, and present a strong contrast to their appear-
ance in Act I.


Des. I once was a very abandoned person

Mar. Making the most of evil chances.

Des. Nobody could conceive a worse 'un

Mar. Even in all the old romances.

Des. I blush for my wild extravagances,

But be so kind
To bear in mind
Mar. We were the victims of circumstances!

That is one of our blameless dances.


Mar. I was an exceedingly odd young lady

Des. Suffering much from spleen and vapours.

Mar. Clergymen thought my conduct shady

Des. She didn't spend much upon linendrapers.

Mar. It certainly entertained the gapers.

My ways were strange

Beyond all range
Des. And paragraphs got into all the papers.

We only cut respectable capers.

Des. I've given up all my wild proceedings.

Mar. My taste for a wandering life is waning.

Des. Now I'm a dab at penny readings.

Mar. They are not remarkably entertaining.

Des. A moderate livelihood we're gaining.

Mar. In fact we rule

A National School.
Des. The duties are dull, but I'm not complaining.

This sort of thing takes a deal of training!

Des. We have been married a week.

Mar. One happy, happy week !

Des. Our new life

Mar. Is delightful indeed!

Des. So calm !

Mar. So unimpassioned! {Wildly.} Master, all this I owe to you!

See, I am no longer wild and untidy. My hair is combed. My

face is washed. My boots fit!
Des. Margaret, don't. Pray restrain yourself. Remember, you

are now a district visitor.
Mar. A gentle district visitor!
Des. You are orderly, methodical, neat; you have your emotions

well under control.
Mar. I have! [Wildly,} Master, when I think of all you have done

for me, I fall at your feet. I embrace your ankles. I hug your

knees! [Doing so.

Des. Hush. This is not well. This is calculated to provoke

remark. Be composed, I beg!
Mar. Ah! you are angry with poor little Mad Margaret!


Des. No, not angry ; but a district visitor should learn to eschew
melodrama. Visit the poor, by all means, and give them tea
and barley-water, but don't do it as if you were administer-
ing a bowl of deadly nightshade. It upsets them. Then when
you nurse sick people, and find them not as well as could be
expected, why go into hysterics?

Mar. Why not?

Des. Because it 's too jumpy for a sick room.

Mar. How strange! Oh, Master! Master! how shall I express
the all-absorbing gratitude that

[About to throw herself at his feet.

Des. Now ! [ Warningly.

Mar. Yes, I know, dear it sha'n't occur again. [He is seated
she sits on the ground by him.] Shall I tell you one of poor
Mad Margaret's odd thoughts? Well, then, when I am lying
awake at night, and the pale moonlight streams through the
latticed casement, strange fancies crowd upon my poor mad
brain, and I sometimes think that if we could hit upon some
word for you to use whenever I am about to relapse some
word that teems with hidden meaning like " Basingstoke"
it might recall me to my saner self. For, after all, I am only
Mad Margaret! Daft Meg! Poor Peg! He! he! he!

Des. Poor child, she wanders! But soft someone comes Mar-
garet pray recollect yourself Basingstoke, I beg! Margaret,
if you don't Basingstoke at once, I shall be seriously angry.

Mar. {Recovering herself .~\ Basingstoke it is!

Des. Then make it so.

Enter ROBIN. He starts on seeing them

Rob. Despard! And his young wife! This visit is unexpected.

Mar. Shall I fly at him? Shall I tear him limb from limb? Shall
I rend him asunder? Say but the word and

Des. Basingstoke!

Mar. [Suddenly demure.] Basingstoke it is!

Des. [Aside.] Then make it so. [Aloud.] My brother I call you
brother, still, despite your horrible profligacy We have come
to urge you to abandon the evil courses to which you have
committed yourself, and at any cost to become a pure and
blameless ratepayer.


Rob. But I've done no wrong yet.

Mar. {Wildly.} No wrong! He has done no wrong! Did you hear

Des. Basingstoke!

Mar. [Recovering herself .] Basingstoke it is!

Des. My brother I still call you brother, you observe you for-
get that you have been, in the eye of the law, a Bad Baronet
of Ruddigore for ten years and you are therefore responsible
in the eye of the law for all the misdeeds committed by the
unhappy gentleman who occupied your place.

Rob. I see ! Bless my heart, I never thought of that! Was I very bad?

Des. Awful. Wasn't he? [To MARGARET.]

Rob. And I've been going on like this for how long?

Des. Ten years! Think of all the atrocities you have committed
by attorney, as it were during that period. Remember how
you trifled with this poor child's affections how you raised
her hopes on high (don't cry my love Basingstoke, you know),
only to trample them in the dust when they were at the very
zenith of their fullness. Oh fie, sir, fie she trusted you!

Rob. Did she? What a scoundrel I must have been! There,
there don't cry, my dear [to MARGARET, who is sobbing on
ROBIN'S breast], it's all right now. Birmingham, you know

Mar. [Sobbing.] It's Ba Ba Basingstoke!

Rob. Basingstoke! Of course it is Basingstoke.

Mar. Then make it so !

Rob. There, there it 's all right he 's married you now that is,
Pve married you [Turning to DESPARD] I say, which of us
has married her?

Des. Oh, fve married her.

Rob. [Aside.] Oh, I'm glad of that. [To MARGARET.] Yes, he's
married you now [passing her over to DESPARD], and anything
more disreputable than my conduct seems to have been I've
never even heard of. But my mind is made up I will defy my
ancestors. I will refuse to obey their behests, and thus, by court-
ing death, atone in some degree for the infamy of my career!

Mar. I knew it I knew it God bless you [Hysterically.

Des. Basingstoke!

Mar. Basingstoke it is ! [Recovers herself.




My eyes are fully open to my awful situation
I shall go at once to Roderic and make him an oration.
I shall tell him I've recovered my forgotten moral senses,
And I don't care two-pence halfpenny for any consequences.
Now I do not want to perish by the sword or by the dagger,
But a martyr may indulge a little pardonable swagger,
And a word or two of compliment my vanity would flatter,
But I've got to die to-morrow, so it really doesn't matter!
Des. So it really doesn't matter

Mar. So it really doesn't matter

All. So it really doesn't matter, matter, matter, matter, matter!


If I were not a little mad and generally silly
I should give you my advice upon the subject, willy nilly;
I should show you in a moment how to grapple with the question,
And you'd really be astonished at the force of my suggestion.
On the subject I shall write you a most valuable letter,
Full of excellent suggestions when I feel a little better,
But at present I'm afraid I am as mad as any hatter,
So I'll keep 'em to myself, for my opinion doesn't matter!
Des. Her opinion doesn't matter

Rob. Her opinion doesn't matter

All. Her opinion doesn't matter, matter, matter, matter, matter!


If I had been so lucky as to have a steady brother
Who could talk to me as we are talking now to one another
Who could give me good advice when he discovered I was erring,
(Which is just the very favour which on you I am conferring),
My story would have made a rather interesting idyll,
And I might have lived and died a very decent indiwiddle.
This particularly rapid, unintelligible patter
Isn't generally heard, and if it is it doesn't matter!
Rob. If it is it doesn't matter

Mar. If it ain't it doesn't matter

All. If it is it doesn't matter, matter, matter, matter, matter!



Enter ADAM

Adam. [Guiltily.} Master the deed is done!

Rob. What deed?

Adam. She is here alone, unprotected

Rob. Who?

Adam. The maiden. I've carried her off I had a hard task, for
she fought like a tiger-cat!

Rob. Great heaven, I had forgotten her! I had hoped to have died
unspotted by crime, but I am foiled again and by a tiger-cat!
Produce her and leave us!
[ADAM introduces OLD HANNAH, -very much excited, and exit.

Rob. Dame Hannah! This is this is not what I expected.

Han. Well sir, and what would you with me? Oh, you have begun
bravely bravely indeed! Unappalled by the calm dignity of
blameless womanhood, your minion has torn me from my
spotless home, and dragged me, blindfold and shrieking,
through hedges, over stiles, and across a very difficult country,
and left me, helpless and trembling at your mercy! Yet not
helpless, coward sir, for approach one step nay, but the
twentieth part of one poor inch and this poniard [produces a
very small dagger] shall teach ye what it is to lay unholy hands
on old Stephen Trusty's daughter!

Rob. Madam, I am extremely sorry for this. It is not at all what
I intended anything more correct more deeply respectful
than my intentions towards you, it would be impossible for
anyone however particular to desire.

Han. Bah, I am not to be tricked by smooth words, hypocrite!
But be warned in time, for there are, without, a hundred
gallant hearts whose trusty blades would hack him limb from
limb who dared to lay unholy hands on old Stephen Trusty's
daughter !

Rob. And this is what it is to embark upon a career of unlicensed
pleasure !

[HANNAH, who has taken a formidable dagger from one of
the armed figures, throws her small dagger to ROBIN.

Han. Harkye, miscreant, you have secured me, and I am your
poor prisoner; but if you think I cannot take care of myself


(p. .61)


you are very much mistaken. Now then, it 's one to one, and
let the best man win ! [Making for him.

Rob. [In an agony of terror.} Don't! don't look at me like that!
I can't bear it! Roderic! Uncle! Save me!

RODERIC enters, from his picture. He comes down the stage

Rod. What is the matter? Have you carried her off?

Rob. I have she is there look at her she terrifies me! Come
quite up and save me!

Rod. [Looking at HANNAH.] Little Nannikin!

Han. [Amazed.] Roddy-doddy!

Rod. My own old love! Why how cameyozi here?

Han. This brute he carried me off ! Bodily! But I'll show him !

[About to rush at ROBIN.

Rod. Stop! [To ROB.] What do you mean by carrying off this
lady? Are you aware that once upon a time she was en-
gaged to be married to me? I'm very angry very angry

Rob. Now I hope this will be a lesson to you in future, not

Rod. Hold your tongue, sir.

Rob. Yes, uncle.

Rod. Have you given him any encouragement?

Han. [To ROB.] Have I given you any encouragement? Frankly
now, have I?

Rob. No. Frankly, you have not. Anything more scrupulously
correct than your conduct, it would be impossible to desire.

Rod. You go away.

Rob. Yes, uncle. [Exit ROBIN.

Rod. This is a strange meeting after so many years!

Han. Very. I thought you were dead.

Rod. I am. I died ten years ago.

Han. And are you pretty comfortable?

Rod. Pretty well that is yes, pretty well.

Han. You don't deserve to be, for I loved you all the while, dear,
and it made me dreadfully unhappy to hear of all your goings
on, you bad, bad boy !




Han. There grew a little flower

'Neath a great oak tree:
When the tempest 'gan to lower

Little heeded she:
No need had she to cower,
For she dreaded not its power
She was happy in the bower
Of her great oak tree !
Sing hey,
Lackaday !

Let the tears fall free
For the pretty little flower and the great oak tree!

Both. Sing hey,

Lackaday, etc.

Han. When she found that he was fickle,

Was that great oak tree,
She was in a pretty pickle,

As she well might be
But his gallantries were mickle,
For Death followed with his sickle,
And her tears began to trickle
For her great oak tree !
Sing hey,
Lackaday! etc.

Said she, " He loved me never,

Did that great oak tree,
But I'm neither rich nor clever,

And so why should he?
But though fate our fortunes sever,
To be constant I'll endeavour,
Aye, for ever and for ever,
To my great oak tree! "
Sing hey,
Lackaday! etc.
[Falls weeping on RODERIC'S bosom.


Enter ROBIN, excitedly, followed by all the characters and

Chorus of Bridesmaids
Rob. Stop a bit both of you.
Rod. This intrusion is unmannerly.
Han. I'm surprised at you.
Rob. I can't stop to apologize an idea has just occurred to me. A

Baronet of Ruddigore can only die through refusing to commit

his daily crime.
Rod. No doubt.
Rob. Therefore, to refuse to commit a daily crime is tantamount

to suicide !

Rod. It would seem so.
Rob. But suicide is, itself, a crime and so, by your own showing,

you ought never to have died at all !
Rod. I see I understand! Then I'm practically alive!
Rob. Undoubtedly! [SiR RODERIC embraces HANNAH.] Rose,

when you believed that I was a simple farmer, I believe you

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