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A monologue from the dialogues of Lucian (Adapted for the stage by Baudelaire Jones)
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You remember Lord Carlsbad? Lonely old bugger. Lots of money. No children. Well, I’d spoken kindly to him on occasion—even took him out to dinner once or twice.
He was so grateful that one day, quite out of the blue, he promised to make me his sole heir. His sole heir! He’s worth millions, you understand! I couldn’t believe my luck.
I hadn’t asked for it—never thought of it, really—but from that day forward, in order to show my appreciation, you know, I began to spend practically every waking moment in his company.
I’d drop by first thing in the morning. We’d play checkers. Shuffleboard. At first, it wasn’t so bad—not terribly exciting, but I’d just think of the money, and that would keep me going.
After a few weeks, though, I began to run out of steam. He liked to tell war stories—never actually fought in the war, mind you—spent most of the war typing in some office in Liverpool.
Try to imagine, if you will, war stories that involve mostly typing—an occasional flirtation with the frumpy secretary or a heated debate over the proper use of the semicolon.
It was interminable! I knew I couldn’t keep it up much longer. Still, the inheritance! I couldn’t stop thinking about it! I’d already spent most of it in my head!
I began thinking up ways to hurry him along, if you know what I mean. Little things, at first. I convinced him to take up cricket—thought the exertion might be too much for his heart.
But it only made him healthier! Suddenly he looked ten years younger! I took him boating—thought he might fall in and drown—I even went so far as to rock the boat a little.
But the old bugger had impeccable balance, and, worse luck, he always wore a lifejacket. I began to get desperate. Finally, I decided to approach the butler. He was an unhappy little man—bitter that he had himself been overlooked for the inheritance.
Together, we concocted a plan. Are you familiar with ricin? No? It’s a powerful poison—extracted from castor beans, of all things—twice as deadly as cobra venom!
The butler agreed to administer the poison the next time his master called for wine—which he did constantly. He was a drunken sot. In return, I promised to reward the poor fellow for all his years of loyal service—something his master had never done.
The next evening, after our usual activities, the servant brought two cups—the poisoned one for Carlsbad—and the other for me. Unfortunately, the incompetent oaf got nervous,
switched the cups somehow—gave me the poisoned cup, and a few minutes later, much to my surprise, there I was—dead on the floor and cheated out of my inheritance.
[LORD MARLBOROUGH laughs.] I suppose you think it’s very funny. So did the old man. After he got over the initial shock, he put it all together, I guess, and laughed hysterically at his butler’s mistake.