DUTY AND OTHER IRISH COMEDIES
DUTY AND OTHER IRISH COMEDIES
DUTY JURISPRUDENCE MAGNANIMITY MATCHMAKERS RETRIBUTION
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
HEAD CONSTABLE MULLIGAN A Member of the Royal Irish Constabulary SERGEANT DOOLEY A Member of the R.I.C. CONSTABLE HUGGINS A Member of the R.I.C. MICUS GOGGIN PADNA SWEENEY MRS. ELLEN COTTER A public-house keeper
DUTY was produced for the first time at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, December 17, 1913, with the following cast:
Head Constable Mulligan, R.I.C. ARTHUR SINCLAIR Sergeant Dooley, R.I.C. FRED O'DONOVAN Constable Huggins, R.I.C. SYDNEY J. MORGAN Micus Goggin J.M. KERRIGAN Padna Sweeney J.A. O'ROURKE Mrs. Ellen Cotter UNA O'CONNOR
Back kitchen of a country public house. Micus and Padna seated at a table drinking from pewter pints. Mrs. Cotter enters in response to a call.
PADNA (pointing to pint measures) Fill 'em again, ma'am, please.
MRS. COTTER (taking pints, and wiping table) Fill 'em again, is it? Indeed I won't do any such thing.
MICUS Indeed you will, Mrs. Cotter.
MRS. COTTER Don't you know that 'tis Sunday night, an' that the police might call any minute?
MICUS (disdainfully) The police!
PADNA Bad luck to them!
MRS. COTTER This will be the last drink that any one will get in this house to-night. [Exit.
MICUS 'Tis a nice state of affairs to think that dacent men, after a hard week's work, can't have a drink in pace and quietness in the town they were born and reared in, without bein' scared out o' their senses by the police!
PADNA 'Tis the hell of a thing, entirely! I don't see what's gained be closin' the pubs at all, unless it be to give the police somethin' to do.
MICUS The overfed and undertaught bla'gards!
PADNA As far as I can see, there's as much drink sold as if the pubs were never closed.
MICUS There is, an' more; for if it wasn't forbidden to drink porter, it might be thought as little about as water.
PADNA I don't believe that, Micus. Did you ever hear of a pint or even a gallon of water makin' any one feel like Napoleon?
[Mrs. Cotter enters and places drinks on table.
PADNA (handing money) There ye are, ma'am.
MRS. COTTER (takes money) Hurry now like good boys, for forty shillin's is a lot to pay for a pint o' porter, an' that's what 'twill cost ye if the police comes in an' finds ye here. An' I'll lose me license into the bargain. [Exit.
MICUS One would think be the way the police are talked about that they had charge of the whole Universe!
PADNA An' who else has charge of it but themselves an' the magistrates, or justices o' the pace, as they're called?
MICUS They're worse than the police.
PADNA They're as bad anyway, an' that's bad enough.
MICUS (scornfully) Justices o' the pace!
PADNA (thoughtfully) There's no justice in the world.
MICUS Damn the bit! Sure 'tisn't porter we should be drinkin' a cold night like this!
PADNA (as he sips from pint) 'Tis well to have it these times.
MICUS The world is goin' to the dogs, I'm afraid.
PADNA 'Tisn't goin' at all, but gone.
MICUS An' nobody seems to care.
PADNA Some pretend they do, like the preachers, but they're paid for it. I do be often wonderin' after readin' the newspapers if God has forgotten about the world altogether.
MICUS I wouldn't be surprised, for nothin' seems to be right. There's the police, for instance. They can do what they like, an' we must do what we're told, like childer.
PADNA Isn't the world a star, Micus?
MICUS (with pint to his mouth) Of course it is.
PADNA Then it must be the way that it got lost among all the other stars one sees on a frosty night.
MICUS Are there min in the other stars too?
PADNA So I believe.
MICUS That's queer.
PADNA Sure, everythin' is queer.
MICUS If the min in the other stars are like the peelers, there won't be much room in Hell after the good are taken to Heaven on the last day.
PADNA The last day! I don't like to think about the last day.
MICUS Why so?
PADNA Well, 'tis terrible to think that we might be taken to Heaven, (pauses) an' our parents an' childer might be sent (points towards the floor) with the Protestants.
MICUS If the Protestants will be as well treated in the next world as they are in this, I wouldn't mind goin' with 'em meself.
PADNA I wouldn't like to be a Protestant after I'm dead, Micus.
MICUS (knocks with his pint on the table and Mrs. Cotter enters; he points to pints) The same again, Mrs. Cotter.
MRS. COTTER Indeed, ye won't get another drop.
MICUS This will be our last, ma'am. Don't be hard on us. 'Tis only a night of our lives, an' we'll be all dead one day.
MRS. COTTER (as she leaves the room with measures in hand) Ye ought to be ashamed o' yerselves to be seen in a public house a night like this.
MICUS We're ashamed o' nothin,' ma'am. We're only ourselves an' care for nobody.
MRS. COTTER (turning round) Well, this is the very last drink ye'll get then. [Exit.
PADNA Women are all alike.
MICUS They are, God forgive them.
PADNA They must keep talkin'.
MICUS An' 'tis only a fool that 'ud try to prevent 'em.
MRS. COTTER (entering and placing measures on table) Hurry up, now, an' don't have me at the next Petty Sessions. [Exit.
MICUS (after testing drink) Nothin' like a good pint o' "Dundon's."
PADNA 'Tis great stuff.
MICUS May the Lord spare them long, an' they buildin' houses for the poor an' churches for God!
PADNA An' all out o' the beer money?
MICUS Of course. What else could ye make money at in a country like this?
PADNA 'Tis a thirsty climate!
MICUS If all those who made money built houses for the poor an' gave employment, there 'ud soon be no poor at all.
PADNA You're talkin' what's called socialism now, an' that's too delicate a plant, like Christianity, to thrive in a planet like this. So I heard one o' them preacher chaps sayin' the other evenin'.
MICUS Well, be all accounts, we're no better off than those who heard St. Peter himself preachin'. The poor still only get the promise of Heaven from the clergy.
PADNA That's all they'll ever get.
MICUS The world must surely be lost, Padna.
PADNA Nothin' surer!
MICUS If God ever goes rummagin' among the stars an' finds it again, there'll be bad work, I'm thinkin'.
PADNA I wonder will it be a great fire or another flood?
MICUS Tis hard to tell!
[A loud knocking is heard at the door.
MRS. COTTER (from the shop) Who's there?
PADNA May ye freeze there!
MICUS Or trip over the threshold and break ye'r neck!
MRS. COTTER (rushing into kitchen) Quick! quick! quick! (Points to a door) This way, boys!
[Micus and Padna enter a small room off the kitchen. Mrs. Cotter locks the door and opens the street door for the policeman, the knocking getting louder meanwhile.
MRS. COTTER Wait a minit! Wait a minit! I'm comin', I'm comin'.
[Opens door. Enter Head Constable Mulligan, R.I.C.
HEAD You took a long time to open the door, ma'am.
MRS. COTTER I know I did, but it wasn't me fault, Head. I had the house locked up for the night, an' couldn't find where I left the kay.
HEAD 'Tis all right, ma'am. I can lose things meself. (Looks carefully around) 'Tis a lonesome thing to see the house so empty.
MRS. COTTER 'Tis Sunday night, Head.
HEAD Of course, of course! All the same I'd prefer to see it full—of bona-fide travellers, I mean.
MRS. COTTER Thank ye, Head. How's Mrs. Mulligan an' the childer?
HEAD Wisha, purty fair. How's the world usin' yourself?
MRS. COTTER Only for the rheumatics I'd have no cause to grumble.
HEAD 'Tis well to be alive at all these times. An' Ballyferris isn't the best place to keep any one alive in winter time.
MRS. COTTER Or summer time ayther. Whin the weather is good trade is bad.
HEAD That's always the way in this world. We're no sooner, out o' one trouble before another commences. I always admire the way you bear your troubles, though, Mrs. Cotter.
MRS. COTTER I does me best, Head.
HEAD Just like meself! Just like meself! The Government makes laws an' I must see that they're not broken. (Rubbing his hands together) 'Tis a cold night, an' no doubt about it.
MRS. COTTER Bad weather is due to us now.
HEAD Everythin' bad is due to some of us. Only for that shark of an Inspector 'tis little trouble I'd be givin' a dacent woman like yourself a night like this.
MRS. COTTER He's very strict, I hear.
HEAD He's strict, disagreeable, a Protestant, a teetotaler, an' a Cromwellian to boot!
MRS. COTTER The Lord protect us! 'Tis a wonder you're alive at all!
HEAD Wisha, I'm only half alive. The cold never agrees with me. (Looking at fire) That's not a very dangerous fire, an' I'm as cold as a snowball.
MRS. COTTER (with her back to the door behind which Padna and Micus are hiding) There's a fine fire up-stairs in the sittin'-room.
HEAD (draws a chair and sits down) Thank ye, ma'am, but 'tisn't worth me while goin' up-stairs. As I said before, I wouldn't trouble you at all only for the Inspector, an' like Nelson, he expects every one to do their duty.
MRS. COTTER 'Tis a hard world.
HEAD An' a cold world too. I often feels cold on a summer day.
MRS. COTTER That's too bad! Is there no cure for it?
HEAD They say there's a cure for everything.
MRS. COTTER I wonder if ye took a drop o' "Wise's" ten-year-old! It might help to warm ye, if ye sat be the fire up-stairs.
HEAD (brightening up) Now, 'pon me word, but that's strange! I was just thinkin' o' the same thing meself. That's what's called telepattery or thought transference.
MRS. COTTER Tella—what, Head?
HEAD (with confidence) Telepattery, ma'am. 'Tis like this: I might be in America—
MRS. COTTER I wish you were—
HEAD (with a look of surprise) What's that, ma'am?
MRS. COTTER I wish for your own sake that you were in a country where you would get better paid for your work.
HEAD (satisfied) Thank ye, ma'am. I suppose min like meself must wait till we go to the other world to get our reward.
MRS. COTTER Very likely!
HEAD Well, as I was sayin', I might be in America, or New York, Boston, Chicago, or any o' thim foreign places, an' you might be in this very house, or up in your sister's house, or takin' a walk down the town, an' I'd think o' some thought, an' at that very second you'd think o' the same thought, an' nayther of us would know that we were both thinkin' o' the same thing. That's tellepattery, ma'am.
MRS. COTTER 'Tis a surprisin' thing, surely! Is it hot or cold you'll have the whiskey, Head?
HEAD Cold, if ye please.
[Exit Mrs. Cotter. While she is away, he walks up and down whistling some popular air. Enter Mrs. Cotter.
MRS. COTTER Will I bring it up-stairs for you?
HEAD Indeed, I'm givin' you too much trouble as it is. I'll try an' take it where I am. (Takes glass and tastes) That is good stuff.
MRS. COTTER I'm glad you like it.
HEAD Who wouldn't like it?
MRS. COTTER I don't know the taste of it.
HEAD (as he finishes contents of glass) May ye be always so, though there's nothin' like it all the same. (Handing coin) I think I'll have a little drop from meself this time.
MRS. COTTER (as she takes the money) Will I bring it up-stairs?
HEAD Erra, don't bother! I'm beginnin' to feel meself again.
[Fills his pipe until she returns.
MRS. COTTER (entering and handing drink) Did you bring your overcoat with you, Head?
HEAD Why so, ma'am?
MRS. COTTER Because the cold o' the rain is there. I wouldn't make any delay but go home immediately. You might get a wettin'.
HEAD (feeling his tunic) This wouldn't leave in a drop o' rain in a hundred years, ma'am.
[Knock at door.
MRS. COTTER Who's there?
HEAD Police, did I hear?
MRS. COTTER 'Tis the Sergeant's voice.
HEAD Glory to be God! I'm ruined! If he finds the smell o' whiskey from me, he'll tell the Inspector, an' then Head Constable Mulligan is no more!
MRS. COTTER Is he as bad as that?
HEAD He has no conscience at all. He's a friend o' the Inspector's. (Knocking continues at door) Don't open that door till I tell you—that's if you don't want to find a corpse on the floor.
MRS. COTTER Sure, I must open the door.
HEAD Time enough. He's paid for waitin'. Have you such a thing as an onion in the house?
MRS. COTTER I didn't see an onion for the last three weeks.
HEAD (scratching his head) What the blazes will I do? (Looking towards coal hole) Whist! I'm saved. I'll go in here until he's gone. (Goes in and puts out his head) You can open now, but get rid of him as soon as you can.
[Exit Mrs. Cotter. Enter the Sergeant.
SERGEANT So you opened at last. Well, better late than never!
MRS. COTTER I'm sorry for keepin' you waitin', Sergeant. I don't open the door for any one on Sunday nights, an' whin you said "Police," I thought it was one o' the boys tryin' to desaive me.
SERGEANT I see! I see! There's a lot o' desaitful people in the town, ma'am.
MRS. COTTER There are, Sergeant.
SERGEANT There are indeed. (Coughs) I'm sick an' tired o' the place altogether.
MRS. COTTER I thought it agreed with you. You're lookin' very well, anyway.
SERGEANT I'm not feelin' well at all thin. (Coughs) There's nothin' more deceptive than looks at times. (Coughs)
MRS. COTTER True.
SERGEANT 'Tis in me bed I should be instead of troublin' dacent people like yourself a night like this. (Coughs) But duty is duty, an' it must be done. If I didn't do what I'm told, that bla'gard of a Head Constable would soon have another an' maybe a worse man in my place.
MRS. COTTER The Lord save us!
SERGEANT But as herself says: There's no use in the Government makin' laws if the people don't keep them.
MRS. COTTER That's so.
SERGEANT Keepin' the world in order is no aisy business, ma'am.
MRS. COTTER 'Tis a great responsibility.
SERGEANT (drawing a chair to the fire and sitting down) 'Pon me word I'm tired an' cold too.
MRS. COTTER Wouldn't ye go home and go to bed, Sergeant?
SERGEANT If I went to bed at this hour, the Head would send a report to his chum the Inspector, statin' that I was drunk. (Coughs)
MRS. COTTER That's a bad cough. How long is it troublin' ye?
SERGEANT Only since supper time. I was eatin' a bit o' cold meat, an' a bone or somethin' stuck there. (Points at his throat)
MRS. COTTER An' what did ye do for it?
SERGEANT What could I do for it?
MRS. COTTER Ye could take a drink o' somethin' an' wash it down.
SERGEANT I tried some cold tea. (Coughs)
MRS. COTTER I wonder would a bottle of stout do any good.
SERGEANT 'Twould be no harm to try.
MRS. COTTER Will ye have a bottle?
SERGEANT To tell ye the truth, I don't like bein' disobligin', ma'am. (Coughs)
[Exit Mrs. Cotter. While she is away, he walks up and down, whistling the while.
MRS. COTTER (at door) Ye might as well come up-stairs, Sergeant. There's a fine fire in the sitting-room.
SERGEANT I'm first rate where I am. Thank you all the same.
[Takes stout and finishes it without withdrawing it from his mouth. Coughs.
MRS. COTTER How do you feel now?
SERGEANT (wiping his mouth with a large old handkerchief) 'Tis gone! I mean the bone. I feel meself again.
MRS. COTTER I'm glad of that. (Looking at clock) 'Tis gone half-past ten, Sergeant.
SERGEANT Plenty o' time. We'll be a long time dead, an' happy I hope.
MRS. COTTER Amen!
SERGEANT 'Tis my belief that we should all try to do good while we're alive.
MRS. COTTER There's a lot o' good people in the world, Sergeant.
SERGEANT There is, ma'am, but nearly every one o' them thinks that they're better than what they are. That's what annoys me.
MRS. COTTER Sure 'tis imagination that keeps the world movin'.
SERGEANT Yes, an' ambition. All the same, 'tis a good job that people can't see themselves as they really are.
MRS. COTTER They wouldn't believe that they were themselves if they could.
SERGEANT I suppose not.
MRS. COTTER Won't ye come up to the fire in the sittin'-room?
SERGEANT Don't be worryin' about me. I'm all right. That was good stout.
MRS. COTTER The best!
SERGEANT 'Tis a cure for nearly everythin'. Only for takin' a little now an' again, I'd never be able to stand all the hardships o' me profession.
MRS. COTTER Hard work isn't easy.
SERGEANT True! But a good drop o' stout, or better still "spirits" makes many things easy. 'Tis the seed o' pluck, so to speak. I'm feelin' just a little queer about the nerves. I think I'll have a drop o' "Wise's."
[Exit Mrs. Cotter. While she is away he fills his pipe.
MRS. COTTER (entering with drink) That's like the noise of a row down the road.
SERGEANT Erra, let 'em row away! The Head is prowlin' about. Let him separate 'em. 'Tis about time he did somethin' for his livin'. 'Tis a damn shame to have the poor rate payers supportin' the likes of him.
MRS. COTTER I wouldn't be talkin' like that, Sergeant.
SERGEANT Why wouldn't I talk? There's as many Head Constables as clergy in the country, an' only for the sergeants an' an odd constable 'tis unknown what 'ud happen!
MRS. COTTER The Head is a dacent gentleman.
SERGEANT You don't know anythin' about him. Grumblin' about havin' to shave himself he does be now, an' only for havin' a bald patch on one side of his face, he'd let his whiskers grow altogether.
[The Head sneezes in the coal hole.
SERGEANT What noise is that?
MRS. COTTER (startled) That's only the cat in the coal hole.
SERGEANT (leaving his chair and moves toward it) He must be suffocatin'. I'll open the door an' let him out. Under the grate he should be a cold night like this. (Opens the door and sees the Head) Heavens be praised! 'Tis the Head himself!
[The Head comes out, arranges his cap, and is not aware that he has a black spot on his nose.
HEAD 'Tis the Head an' every inch an' ounce of him too that stands before ye.
SERGEANT I thought 'twas y'er ghost I saw.
HEAD (angrily) What the blazes would me ghost be doin' in a coal hole?
SERGEANT What I'd like to know is what y'erself have been doin' there.
HEAD That won't take me long to tell. Waitin' and watchin' to catch the likes o' you is what took me there.
SERGEANT Now, Head, with all due respects, I'd try an' tell the truth if I were you.
HEAD Sergeant Dooley, sir, anythin' you'll say or be likely to say 'll be used in evidence against you.
SERGEANT An' anythin' that you say or don't say may be used in evidence against you.
HEAD (enraged) Sergeant Dooley!
SERGEANT (coolly) Yes, Head.
HEAD Do you know that y'er addressin' y'er superior officer?
SERGEANT The less said about superiority the better.
HEAD You can't deny that I found you drinkin' on these licensed premises while on duty.
SERGEANT I might as well tell you candidly that you have no more chance o' frightenin' me or desaivin' me than you have of catchin' whales in Casey's duck-pond.
HEAD (passionately) I'll—I'll—I—
SERGEANT You'll have a drink from me, an' we'll say no more about the matter. I wouldn't blame any man for takin' a drop a cold night like this. I suppose 'twill be "Wise's" the same as the last? That's if me sense o' smell isn't out of order.
HEAD (crestfallen, blows his breath on the palm of his hand and looks at the Sergeant) Is it as bad as that?
SERGEANT I smelt it the instant I came in, an' wondered where 'twas comin' from.
HEAD I only took it to avoid catchin' cold.
SERGEANT Just like meself. We must avoid catchin' cold at any cost. (To Mrs. Cotter) Two glasses o' "Wise's," ma'am."
[Exit Mrs. Cotter.
SERGEANT (to Head) Wait, an' I'll wipe that black spot off ye'r nose.
[He does so. Enter Mrs. Cotter.
MRS. COTTER (handing drinks) The fire up-stairs is blazing away, an' there's no one sittin' by it.
HEAD We're all right. (Holding glass) Here's long life to us!
SERGEANT Health an' prosperity!
HEAD (after finishing drink) We must have another, for I'm not feelin' too well, an' 'tis better be on the safe side. 'Twas through neglect that some o' the best min died.
SERGEANT We must not forget that!
HEAD (to Mrs. Cotter) The same again, Mrs. Cotter.
[Exit Mrs. Cotter with glasses.
HEAD I saw be the papers last night that the Royal Irish Constabulary are the finest in the world.
SERGEANT Sure every one knows that!
HEAD I wonder what kind are all the others?
SERGEANT That's what I'd like to know.
MRS. COTTER (at door) Will I bring them up to the sittin'-room, gentlemen?
HEAD We're first class as we are, ma'am.
[Mrs. Cotter hands the glasses and a loud knock is heard at the door.
MRS. COTTER Who's there?
HEAD 'Tis the constable!
SERGEANT The bla'gard surely!
HEAD What'll we do?
SERGEANT Take the drinks first, an' consider after.
[They finish drinks and hand back the glasses to Mrs. Cotter.
HEAD I suppose we had better hide in the coal hole. He has a better nose than yourself, an' one word from him to the Inspector would soon deprive us o' both stripes an' pensions.
SERGEANT I suppose the coal hole is the best place, though it does offend me dignity to go there.
HEAD Wisha, bad luck to you an' ye'r dignity. Come on here!
[The Head enters, and the Sergeant follows. Mrs. Cotter opens the street door and the Constable enters.
CONSTABLE (sarcastically) Thanks very much for openin' the door, ma'am.
MRS. COTTER I'm sorry for keepin' you waitin', Constable. I was sayin' me prayers up-stairs before goin' to bed.
CONSTABLE If I had known that, I wouldn't have disturbed you. I hope you said one for me.
MRS. COTTER Of course I did. I always ses a prayer for the police.
CONSTABLE An' right too, ma'am, for 'tis little time we have for prayin'. There's no rest for a man once he joins the Force. Whin y're not kept busy thinkin' o' one thing, y're kept busy thinkin' o' somethin' else.
MRS. COTTER Thinkin' is worse than workin'.
CONSTABLE A hundred times. (Looking at his watch) 'Tis a long time since first Mass this mornin'. Saturday! Sunday! Monday! 'Tis all the same whin y're in the Force. On y'er feet all day, an' kep' awake be the childer all night. An' whin pay day comes, all y'er hard earnin's goes to keep the wolf from the door.
MRS. COTTER God help us!
CONSTABLE Say what ye will, but life is an awful bother.
MRS. COTTER We must go through it.
CONSTABLE Well, 'tis a good job we don't live as long as the alligators. We might have to support our grandchilder if we did, an' I may tell you it gives me enough to do to support me own.
MRS. COTTER How many have you now, Constable?
CONSTABLE Seven, an' the wife's mother.
MRS. COTTER I thought she was dead.
CONSTABLE (disgusted) Dead! There's five years more in her!
MRS. COTTER You seem to be in a very bad humor to-night.
CONSTABLE An' why not? When I have to put up with that bla'gard of a Sergeant—not to mention the Head-constable!
MRS. COTTER We all have our troubles.
CONSTABLE Some of us get more than our share. An' 'tis far from troublin' a dacent woman like you I'd be, only for the Sergeant, ma'am.
MRS. COTTER Excuse me, Constable. I can't keep me eyes open with the sleep.
CONSTABLE I'm sorry for troublin' you. But duty is duty, an' it must be done whether we give offence to our best friends or not. Sure, 'tis well I know that you have no one on the premises.
MRS. COTTER We can't please everybody.
CONSTABLE (as he draws a chair to the fire and sits down) Who would try? I wonder is it snow we're goin' to have?
MRS. COTTER If you're cold, come up to the fire in the sittin'-room. Or if I were you, I'd take a good walk.
CONSTABLE I'm tired o' walkin', an' the cold gives me no trouble. 'Tis the pains I have here (placing his hand on his heart) that affects me.
MRS. COTTER What sort are they?
CONSTABLE Cramps—of the worst kind.
MRS. COTTER Gracious me! Have you taken anythin' for them?
CONSTABLE What would be good for 'em?
MRS. COTTER Hot milk an' pepper.
CONSTABLE I tried that.
MRS. COTTER Anythin' else?
CONSTABLE Nothin' except a smoke.
MRS. COTTER Maybe a little drop o' "Wise's" would do some good?
CONSTABLE I'd try anythin' that 'ud lessen the pain, though I'd rather not be troublin' ye.
MRS. COTTER 'Tis no trouble at all.
[Exit. While she is away, something falls in the room where Micus and Padna are. The Constable fails to open the door, and returns to his chair before Mrs. Cotter comes back with the drink.
MRS. COTTER (handing glass) Drink that up, go straight home, bathe ye'r feet in mustard an' water, an' ye'll be as strong as a Protestant in the mornin'!
CONSTABLE (taking glass) Thank ye, ma'am.
[Drinks it off. The Head in the coal hole sneezes, and the Sergeant shouts "God bless us!"
CONSTABLE What's that?
MRS. COTTER Oh, that's nothin'.
[Another sneeze and "God bless us!"
CONSTABLE Well, if that nothin' isn't somethin', I'm dotin'.
[Opens door and Head and Sergeant fall out on the floor.
SERGEANT 'Tis all your fault with your blasted sneezin'.
HEAD Now, maybe you'll believe that I've a cold.
SERGEANT Don't be botherin' me. I can't believe meself not to mind a liar like you.
HEAD (to the Constable, after he has got on his feet) Now, sir, what have you got to say for yourself? 'Twill be useless for you to deny that meself an' the Sergeant here (points to the Sergeant who is still on the floor) have caught you drinkin' on these licensed premises durin' your hours o' duty.
CONSTABLE An' what about me catchin' the pair o' ye hidin' in the coal hole o' the same licensed premises, an' a strong smell o' whiskey from ye?
HEAD 'Tis from yourself that, you smells the whiskey.
CONSTABLE (takes an onion from his pocket, peels it, and eats it slowly) I defy you or any one else to find the smell o' whiskey from me.
HEAD (to the Sergeant) Well, don't that beat Banagher?
SERGEANT The Devil himself couldn't do better.
CONSTABLE Well, gentlemen, I'm sorry for troublin' ye, but duty is duty. I'll now place ye under arrest an' send for the Inspector.
HEAD (in a rage) No more o' this nonsense! You'll pay for this night's work, believe me.
CONSTABLE (smiling) I'll pay for a drink for both o' ye for the sake of old times, an' the less said about this night's work the better. (All remain silent for a short time) Well, are ye goin' to have the drink?
SERGEANT (to Head) We might as well take it, for 'tis the first time he ever offered to stand, an' it may be the last.
HEAD (after much consideration) Very well, then, I'll have a drop o' the best.
SERGEANT An' I'll have the same.
CONSTABLE Three glasses o' "Wise's," Mrs. Cotter.
MRS. COTTER (from the bar) Certainly, Constable.
[The Head and Sergeant remain silent, and the Constable paces up and down with his hands in his pockets, whistling some popular tune, until Mrs. Cotter brings in the drinks.
MRS. COTTER (as she places the drinks on the table) I don't like to see ye in this cold kitchen, gentlemen. Can't ye come up-stairs to the sitting-room?
CONSTABLE 'Tisn't worth our while, ma'am. We have our work to do. (Taking glass in hand) Slainthe!
[Drinks half the quantity of whiskey. The Head and Sergeant do likewise. A noise like the falling of furniture is heard from the room where Padna and Micus are.
HEAD (startled) What's that?
[There is silence for a while, then Micus is heard singing.
MICUS "We are the boys of Wexford Who fought with heart an' hand To burst in twain the galling chain, An' free our native land."
HEAD (to Mrs. Cotter who has come from the bar) I'll have the kay of that door, ma'am.
MRS. COTTER What kay, Head?
HEAD The kay o' that door, ma'am. [Strikes door with his fist.
MRS. COTTER Erra, Head, what's the matter with ye? That door is nailed up this seven years. That singin' comes from the next house.
HEAD Glory be to God! Do any one alive tell the truth? (Catches hold of chair by the back) If you don't give me the kay, I'll burst open the door.
MRS. COTTER I have no kay, Head.
HEAD (holding chair over his head) Once more I demand the kay in the name of His Majesty the King, before I puts the legs o' the chair flyin' through the ledges.
MRS. COTTER (crying, hands key) Oh, wisha, what'll I do at all?
HEAD (taking key) You'll be told that later on, ma'am.
MRS. COTTER They are only two neighbors like y'erselves. Can't ye go away an' lave 'em alone?
HEAD (placing key) Not a word now, ma'am, for anythin' that you will say or won't say must be used in evidence ag'inst ye.
PADNA (singing) "Who fears to speak of Ninety-eight? Who blushes at the name? When cowards mock the patriots' fate, Who hangs his head for shame? He's all a knave or half a slave, Who slights his country thus: But true men, like you, men, Will drink your glass with us."
HEAD (to Mrs. Cotter) That's a nice song to be singin' on a licensed premises, ma'am. 'Twould cause a riot if there was enough o' people about. No less than raidin' the police barracks would satisfy the likes o' that songster if he was left at large. (Opens door. Padna and Micus stagger on to the floor. They fall but get on their feet again) What are ye doin' here?
PADNA What the devil is that to you?
MICUS Or to any one else either?
HEAD Do ye know that this is a licensed premises?
PADNA (looking at Micus) Of course we do.
HEAD An' do ye know that this is Sunday night an' that I'm the Head Constable, an' that one o' these min here is the Sergeant an' the other is the Constable?
PADNA (buttons his coat and looks defiantly at them) An' do ye know that I'm Padna Sweeney from Clashbeg?
MICUS (also buttons his coat and looks aggressively at Head) An' that I'm his old pal Micus Goggin from Castleclover?
PADNA (as he staggers) Don't mind him, Micus. He's drunk.
HEAD What's that you're sayin'? Who's drunk?
PADNA Be jaikus, ye're all drunk.
MICUS Come on away home, Padna, an' don't mind them. They're a bad lot.
PADNA The smell o' drink from 'em is awful.
MICUS 'Tis disgustin'. I wouldn't be seen in their company. Padna. Come on away.
HEAD (to Sergeant and Constable) Arrest these min!
PADNA Do ye hear that, Micus?
MICUS (opening his coat) I do, but I won't be insulted be the likes o' them.
PADNA (opening his coat also) Nayther will I!
HEAD (indignantly) Why don't ye arrest these min, I say?
PADNA and MICUS (together) Arrest us, is it? (They take off their coats, throw them on the ground, and take their stand like pugilists) Come on, now, and arrest us!
PADNA I'll take the best man.
MICUS An' I'll take the lot.
[The police try to arrest them, and a desperate struggle ensues. The police lose their caps and belts, but eventually succeed in overpowering them.
MRS. COTTER (rushes to the rescue) O boys, for my sake, an' for the sake o' ye'r wives an' families, have no crossness but lave the house quietly.
PADNA (as he struggles with the Sergeant) Don't fret, ma'am. We'll have no crossness. All we want is to wipe the police from the face o' the earth altogether.
MICUS That's all. We'll have no crossness.
[Handcuffs are placed on Micus and Padna.
HEAD (shouts) Take these min to the Barrack.
[They struggle violently, and sing as they leave the house.
PADNA and MICUS (together) "When boyhood's fire was in my blood, I read of ancient freemen For Grace and Rome who bravely stood, Three hundred men and three men. And then I prayed I yet might see Our fetters rent in twain, And Ireland, long a province, be A Nation once again."
[Mrs. Cotter follows them to the door, and while the Head is alone, he writes in his notebook, talking aloud as he does so.
HEAD "Found drunk an' disorderly on the licensed premises o' Mrs. Cotter, Ballyferris, during prohibited hours. Using bad an' offensive language. Resistin' arrest, assaultin' the police, an' doin' sayrious damage to their garments. Singin' songs of a nature likely to cause rebellion an' threatenin' to exterminate the whole Royal Irish Constabulary." (Places book back in pocket)
[There is a little whiskey in each of the three glasses that were placed on the mantleshelf. The Head pours
the contents of each into one and drinks it before Mrs. Cotter returns. Enter Mrs. Cotter.
MRS. COTTER Oh, Head, you won't be hard on a lone widow, will ye? Don't prosecute thim poor min. Sure, they have done no more harm than y'erselves.
HEAD (as he stands at door) Mrs. Cotter, ma'am! I'm surprised at you.
MRS. COTTER For what, Head?
HEAD To think that you'd dare attempt to interfere with me in the discharge o' me duty!
MRS. COTTER DUTY!
* * * * *
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
MARTIN O'FLYNN A Resident Magistrate CORNELIUS JOHN MICHAEL O'CROWLEY A New Justice of the Peace PHELAN DUFFY A Barrister-at-Law BRENNAN CASSIDY A Solicitor PETER DWYER Clerk of the Petty Sessions Court RICHARD FENNELL MARGARET FENNELL Wife of Richard Fennell SERGEANT HEALY A Member of the Royal Irish Constabulary CONSTABLE O'RYAN A Member of the R.I.C. CONSTABLE MCCARTHY A Member of the R.I.C.
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
Scene: Room in courthouse at Ballybraggan. Magistrates and clerk of court seated on the Bench. Barristers, townspeople, and police in body of the court.
MARTIN O'FLYNN (rises and wipes his brow with a red handkerchief) Members of the Munster Bar, Members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and—gentlemen (pauses), and ladies also, before the Court opens for the dispensation of justice, I would like to say a few short words about a matter that concerns not only ourselves here present, and the town of Ballybraggan in particular, but everybody alive to their own interests and the whole world in general. We have with us to-day one who is no stranger to the people of this historic town, and it is with feelings of the highest regard that I stand before you in my privileged capacity as resident magistrate to perform what seems to me to be the most pleasing and likewise the most joyous of duties that could fall to the lot of any man, whether he might come from where the waves of the tumultuous Pacific wash the shores of the great Western world or from the town of Mallow itself. And that is to have the honor and glorification of introducing to you our new and worthy magistrate, Mr. Cornelius John Michael O'Crowley. (Applause) Far be it from me indeed to flatter any man, but there are times when we must tell the truth. (Applause) And when I say that there is no one more humble for a man of his achievements from here to Honolulu than Mr. O'Crowley himself, I am only telling the truth in a plain and unadorned form. Every effort put forth by Mr. O'Crowley for the welfare of mankind has been characterised by success, and what greater proof of his ability could we have than the fact that he is one of the largest wine merchants and hotel proprietors in the length and breadth of Munster? Indeed, if Mr. O'Crowley wasn't fully qualified for upholding and sustaining the dignity of the coveted title, Justice of the Peace, His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, who is both a scholar, a gentleman, and a Scotchman to boot, would not be so pleased and delighted to confer on him an honor only worthy of a man of his attainments, sentiments, and quality of character. (Applause)
PHELAN DUFFY On behalf of the legal profession of which I have the honor of being the oldest member, I am not only desirous but extremely overjoyed to have the golden opportunity of congratulating our worthy townsman Mr. Cornelius John Michael O'Crowley on the great distinction that has befallen him. We all have heard of that Englishman who said one time, with all the cleverness of an Irishman and a native of Ballybraggan at that: "Some are born great, others acquire greatness, and more have greatness thrust upon them." Now to say that Mr. O'Crowley had greatness thrust upon him would not be a fact, and whether or not he was born great we don't know, but one thing is certain, and that is, he has acquired greatness. And when I say so, I wish it to be distinctly understood that I am not talking idly or glibly, but with all the sincerity of my heart. With the same sincerity that has characterised all my actions since I was first called to the Bar, and made of me what I am to-day. With the same sincerity that characterises every successful member of the legal profession, be he Irish, Scotch, or American. Let critics say what they will, but the fact remains that success is the best answer to adverse criticism. A man's true worth may not always be appreciated in a cold and heartless world like ours, but there will ever be found a few who can always sympathise with us in our sorrows and rejoice with us in our triumphs. And Mr. O'Crowley has the rare gift which enables him to do both. (Applause) He is a man of large and noble ideals, of sterling qualities and knows human nature in all its many phases. He knows the wants of the people and what's more, he knows how to satisfy them. He would not allow any man's light to be hidden under a bushel, so to speak, and why should we allow the bushel to bide his? (Applause) Let credit be given where credit is due, was ever his motto. And only one month has elapsed since he said to me, after defending his own brother on a breach of the Sunday Closing Act in this very courthouse, "My heartiest thanks and warmest congratulations for your splendid victory. There isn't another man in the whole country, not even Tim Healy himself, who could win that case."
SERGEANT HEALY On behalf of the Royal Irish Constabulary, I wish to be associated with the hearty and unanimous welcome extended to Mr. O'Crowley, whom I have known since the first night I came to the town. And my only regret is that I did not know him before, because men with his rare traits of character are not to be met with every day. His genial and kindly disposition has endeared him to us all. His doors are never closed on either Saturday, Sunday, Christmas Day, or any other day. Friend or foe, stranger or native of Ballybraggan, are all the same to Mr. O'Crowley. Each and every one is received with the same hearty welcome. He is a man whom we think of in our hours of suffering, whether it be on the scorching heat of a summer's day or the blighting cold of a winter's night. It is my earnest wish, and I am sure that I am only expressing the sentiments of the whole of Munster, that the success which has attended Mr. O'Crowley in all the ventures of his useful life will be doubled in his capacity as Justice of the Peace. (Applause)
PETER DWYER In all the long years that I have acted as clerk of this court, I never felt more pleased at the coming of a new magistrate than when I heard of the discretion of His Excellency in selecting Mr. O'Crowley for this most exalted position. All that I might say in my congratulations and welcome has already been said, and I can only concur in the good wishes that have been offered, and though a lot more might have been said of one so praiseworthy, I know that Mr. O'Crowley will understand, it is not that we like him less but that we respect him more. Mr. O'Crowley is a man who is above pride and does not want the walls of Rome or the stones of the Munster roads to know what he does for mankind. So I will now conclude by wishing him all the success that he deserves, in the future and hereafter.
MR. C. J. M. O'CROWLEY Brother magistrates, members of the Bar, members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and gentlemen: From the bottom of my heart I thank you for all the high compliments you have paid me this day, and I only hope that I will be long spared to be a source of comfort and consolation to the men and women of Ballybraggan. I know, of course, that I am not a pararagom of perfection, but I have the wonderful satisfaction of knowing that I have been appreciated in my own time, and that's more than some of the world's best poets, philosophers, and other servants of mankind could have said. The superdalliance of some and the pomposity and congential insufficiency of others have always been a warning to me, and when opportunity sallied forth from her hiding place I never failed to recognise her queenly presence and extend a cead-mile-failte, and make of her my own, so to speak. Such was the way of Wellington and his contemporary Hannibal, and such must be the way of every man who must serve his country and himself. And believe me, much as the people of Ballybraggan think about me, I think every bit as much about them. It is hardly necessary for me to say that we only get what we deserve in this world, and sometimes a little more or a little less as the case may be. The desirable propensities of the people of the town have endeared me to them with a spirit as strong as that which makes the ivy cling to the oak, and as we see the ivy fondly clinging to that monarch of trees, whether it sprouts its green leaves in the glorious sunshine or falls to the ground with decay, so will I cling to the people of Ballybraggan. Once again, I thank you, but in conclusion I must say that I will do all in my power to prove worthy of the reliance and confidence placed in me. (Applause)
PETER DWYER The court is now open for the dispensation of justice. The only case before us to-day is one of house-breaking, drunkenness from excessive use of poteen, which is an illegal drink, and resisting arrest by the police. The charge is laid against one Richard Fennell, and cross-summonses have been issued to Mr. and Mrs. Fennell.
PHELAN DUFFY On behalf of my client, Mrs. Fennell, I wish to impress upon the Bench the gravity of the offence with which the accused Richard Fennell is charged, namely, drunkenness from excessive use of an illegal intoxicant known as poteen, house-breaking, terrorizing and almost paralyzing with fear his highly strung and sensitive wife, and adding insult to injury in resisting arrest by his Majesty's guardian of law and order, Sergeant Healy. These are grave charges indeed, and who will gainsay that a man gifted with the spirit of destruction like Mr. Fennell is a menace to the peace-abiding town of Ballybraggan? Not since the heartless barbarians made their ruthless descent upon the Roman Empire was there such havoc wrought in any one house, or did any individual member of society suffer so much from nervous prostration as Mrs. Fennell.
MR. FENNELL (interrupting) Can't a man dust his own furniture and chastise his own wife if he feels like doing so?
MR. O'CROWLEY Order! order! There must be no interruptions in this court of justice.
PHELAN DUFFY (continuing) You can well imagine how poor Mrs. Fennell thought that the end of the world was coming when she saw every bit of ware on the kitchen dresser smashed in pieces no larger than threepenny bits on the floor. And the alarm clock that woke Mr. Fennell every morning and reminded him that it was time to get up and make his wife's breakfast, which she always got in bed, struck dumb for ever with its works battered beyond recognition. Think of this poor woman's feelings at such an awful moment.
MR. FENNELL (interrupting) Feelings! She has no more feelings than a tombstone.
PHELAN DUFFY (continuing) Think of this decent, self-respecting, loving wife and mother, who has had no less than three husbands.
MRS. FENNELL (interrupting) An' I'll have another too, please God!
PHELAN DUFFY Think, I say, of three husbands, and ten children. Six resting in the little churchyard at Ennisbeg, and four resting in the Royal Irish Constabulary. That Mr. Fennell was what we would call a model husband, before he touched this poteen goes without saying. Everything that his wife told him to do was done, and done to her satisfaction, and done whether he liked the doing of it or no.
MRS. FENNELL (interrupting) I always made my husbands do what they were told.
PHELAN DUFFY Mr. Fennell is no doubt guilty of a serious offence, but whoever sold him the base liquor is far more guilty in the eyes of the law, as well as the public. Needless to state, this fact does not in any way lessen the gravity of Mr. Fennell's offence, and I would ask the Bench not to allow any feelings of sentiment to interfere with the discharge of their duty. I would ask that the severest penalty allowed be inflicted on the accused for his unwarranted, unmanly, and blackguardly conduct.
MRS. FENNELL (to Phelan Duffy) Wisha, bad luck to your impudence to call my husband a bla'gard. A dacent man that never went to the likes of you or any one else for anything.
MR. O'CROWLEY Order, order.
MRS. FENNELL 'Tis only the likes of lawyers that have the insolence to insult dacent people. Sure when they aren't ignorant they're consated, and their wives and daughters are no better than themselves.
MR. O'CROWLEY Order, order. Unless you behave yourself, you must be placed under arrest.
MRS. FENNELL Sure, you don't think I can stand here with a tongue in me head and listen to me husband being insulted, do you?
PETER DWYER Order, order, Mrs. Fennell, please.
[She attempts to speak again, and the sergeant places his hand over her mouth. She resents this action, and in a struggle which ensues the sergeant falls to the floor. He is helped to his feet by Mrs. Fennell, and both look at each other in a scornful way.
SERGEANT HEALY (to Mrs. Fennell) 'Tis a good job for you that you're not Mrs. Healy.
MRS. FENNELL And 'tis a blessing for you that you're not Mr. Fennell.
MR. O'CROWLEY Order, order. This conduct is scandalous, Mrs. Fennell, and you must keep quiet.
MR. FENNELL You might as well be asking a whale to whistle "The Last Rose of Summer" or asking the Kaiser to become a Trappist monk.
PETER DWYER Order, order. Now please, Mrs. Fennell, come forward and give your evidence.
MRS. FENNELL All I have to say is that my husband got the delirium tramens from drinking poteen and broke every bit of furniture in the house, an' he might have killed myself.
MR. FENNELL (very disgusted) I wish I knew how.
MRS. FENNELL (continuing) Only for having the good sense of rushing to the front door and shouting for the police. I'm an orphan, your Worship, and that's why I'm here to seek protection from the court. All the same, I haven't a word to say to my husband, the cowardly ruffian, only for his love of poteen, bad temper, and contrary ways.
MR. O'CROWLEY That will do, Mrs. Fennell.
MRS. FENNELL Thanks, your Worship.
SERGEANT HEALY (takes out his notebook. A day pipe, box of snuff, and handkerchief fall to the floor. The snuff falls on the handkerchief. He replaces the snuff box and the pipe in his pocket, and wipes his face with the snuffy handkerchief. He then opens his notebook for reference and begins) On the night of December third sneezes and says: God bless us!) I was on me rounds doin' beat duty in Market Square in the town of Ballybraggan (Sneezes)—God bless us!—and all of a sudden without a moment's notice, I was disturbed from me reverie of pious thought, be a great disturbance like the falling of porter barrels from the top floor of a brewery, and without saying as much as the Lord protect me, I swung to me left from whence the noise came and beheld Mrs. Fennell (Sneeze)—God bless us!—rushing out of her own house the way you'd see a wild Injun rushing in the moving pictures and shouting like a circus lion before his breakfast: "Police! police! police!" An' as though it was the will of Providence, I was in the very place where me presence was required.
MRS. FENNELL Accidents will happen, Sergeant.
SERGEANT They will, and disasters too, if you don't hold your tongue.
PETER DWYER Order, order.
SERGEANT HEALY (continuing) Well, in with me to the house without a moment's delay, and what did I see but Richard Fennell sitting in an easy chair and smoking a cigar and looking as happy an' contented as a Protestant after a meal of corn beef and cabbage on a Friday. An' the house, the Lord save us!—one would think that 'twas struck be a cyclone. The only thing that remained whole was the chair that he sat in and the decanter that fed the broken glass from which he drank the poteen. "What brings you here?" ses he, to me. An' only I had the presence of mind of clapping the handcuffs on him before I had time to answer such an impertinent question, there might be one more above in the old churchyard and one less in this court of justice. (Sneezes) God bless us! The story is nearly ended. (Sneezes) God bless us! I—(Sneezes) God bless us! I—(Waits for an expected sneeze and when disappointed he says "Thank God!") I brought the prisoner to the barrack and have here the poteen that changed him from a law-abiding townsman into a fiend incarnate. (The sergeant then places the bottle of poteen on the counter, looks very hard at it, pretends to faint from sudden weakness, and asks for a drink of water) Can I have a little water, if you please? [Several rush to assist him. There is no water in the court, and the clerk gets the kind of inspiration that the sergeant desires and fetches the poteen. He pours some out in a glass and gives it to the sergeant.
PETER DWYER (to the sergeant) Try a little drop of the spirits, Sergeant, as there isn't a drop of water to be had. The plumbers are working at the pipes.
SERGEANT (softly) Bad luck to them for plumbers. They are always a nuisance. (Before putting glass to his lips) I suppose I must take it, because I am dry as a bona-fide traveller. (He finishes it all in one drink) It doesn't taste too bad after all, and water at its best isn't much good for one who must do a lot of talking. I'll have a little more, if you please.
MR. O'CROWLEY You can't have any more, Sergeant. That would be abusing your privilege.
SERGEANT HEALY (softly) Alright, your Worship. When a man's as full of the law as meself, 'tis hard to remember when he's privileged. [The sergeant recovers and the case proceeds.
BRENNAN CASSIDY (for Mr. Fennell) On behalf of my client, Mr. Fennell, I wish to point out the absurdity of the charges brought against him. For no reason whatever and without a moment's warning, the sergeant rushed into his house without an invitation or observing the laws of common propriety by ringing the bell, and ruthlessly placed handcuffs on Mr. Fennell and marched him off to prison like a common felon. And not a shadow of evidence as to misbehavior against him except the statements of his wife about the breaking of some furniture. Now, let us suppose that Mr. Fennell did break the furniture. Was not that his own affair? The furniture was his property, and he could do with it as he pleased. Perhaps he did not like the manner in which it was designed, and Mr. Fennell, mistaking his aversion for things not in keeping with his artistic ideals, came to the conclusion that he was only on a voyage of destruction when he merely was proving how little of the philistine there was in his nature by removing from his home such articles as did not harmonize with his conception of the beautiful. The fact that the whole affair happened so hastily only goes to prove that Mr. Fennell has the artistic temperament.
MRS. FENNELL The artistic temperament, my dear! What next!
MR. CASSIDY The idea of doing away with the furniture, which Mr. Fennell emphatically states he disliked,—and what greater proof of the fact could we have than his action in destroying it?—came to him like an inspiration, and being a true artist he seized the opportunity, and the world was made all the lovelier by the riddance of ugly things. I think, in fact, I know that I have proved that the charge of house-breaking is absurd. (Takes out his watch, holds it in the palm of his left hand) This watch is mine, and if I should choose to smash it into a thousand fragments, who is there to prevent me? What power has the law over such matters? None whatever. Well, it would be just as ridiculous and absurd to punish my client for smashing his own furniture, which he purchased with his own hard earned money, as to punish me for smashing this watch if I should feel like doing so. (Applause, which is suppressed) To charge Mr. Fennell with drinking poteen is equally absurd. He does not know what poteen tastes like. The idea of taking a decanter and a bottle of whiskey out of any gentleman's house without his permission is tyranny of the very worst kind. It is a grievous offence in the eyes of the law as well as a breach of etiquette. What, might I ask, would happen if any of us were to break into His Worship's hotel and steal, or take if you will, some choice samples of his wines? Would we not find ourselves in a prison cell? Most assuredly we would, and what's more, our good name would be gone forever. The finger of scorn would be pointed at our children and our children's children, and posterity would never forget us.
MRS. FENNELL 'Tis only worse he's getting.
PETER DWYER Order, order.
MR. CASSIDY There is only one course for the Bench to adopt, and that is to discharge Mr. Fennell. He has already suffered enough and any one with such a ballyragging, unreasonable, unladylike, and headstrong wife deserves our sympathy.
MR. FENNELL (with indignation) Mr. Cassidy, sir. How dare you stand up there in my presence and insult my wife! You're no gentleman, sir. Remember when you offend my wife, you offend me. Do you hear that?
MR. O'CROWLEY This conduct is obstreperonious, Mr. Fennell. Mr. Cassidy is a gentleman, and he must not be either insulted or interrupted, while he is judiciously discharging the duties of his high office.
MRS. FENNELL (sighs) Oh, God help us! The world must be turned upside down when a lawyer can be a gentleman.
MR. O'CROWLEY Hold your tongue, woman, or I'll order you to be arrested for contempt of court.
MR. FENNELL The next man who says a word to my wife must fight me.
[Buttons his coat.
PHELAN DUFFY (to the magistrates) The Bench must make due allowances for the excitement of the moment.
MR. O'CROWLEY Of course, of course, Mr. Duffy, but we must not have a reoccurrence of such conduct.
MR. FENNELL Meself and herself pulled together all these long years, and I'll be damned if I'll allow any one to say a word to her.
[Mrs. Fennell places a handkerchief to her eyes and commences to cry.
MR. O'CROWLEY Order, order, this is a court of justice, and the case must proceed without further interruption or the strictest measures of the law will be adhered to. (Pauses, speaks to the police) Any one who interrupts me while I'm speaking must be ejected from the court.
SERGEANT HEALY Your Worship's orders will be obeyed.
MR. O'CROWLEY Now, it was with the greatest of interest that I have listened to the speeches pro and con for the prisoner and never before or since have I heard such logic and eloquence as was used in this court of justice to-day. I am nearly sure, in fact I'm certain, that since the days when Marcus Anthony delivered his matchless orations before the proud and haughty Egyptians, did such wisdom flow from the lips of any man. By the judicious application of words and logic we have learnt what uses can be made of the law of the land, and though our reason may convince us and our conscience too, that right is right and wrong is wrong, yet, the law's the law for all that, and we are Justices of the Peace and must respect the law and abide by it. Mr. Duffy has clearly proved to us how drink, especially bad and illegal drink, like poteen, can change a man from a law-abiding, self-respecting, and obedient husband into a demon and a housebreaker. And Mr. Cassidy has also clearly proven on the other hand how that same drink can change a man from the ordinary humdrum things of life and turn his mind to noble ideals, and make of him an artist and an inspired one at that. Now science has proved to us that in every one man there are two men,—the artist, if I might be permitted to use the term, and the house-breaker. But as the two men are only one man, and the artist is the better of the two, then to the artist let us pay our respects, and dismiss the charge of house-breaking.
MRS. FENNELL (sadly) Ah, God help us! The town will be full of artists when the militia comes home.
MR. O'CROWLEY The charge of house-breaking then will be dismissed, but I must impose a heavy fine and sentence for using the illegal intoxicant, poteen.
MR. CASSIDY Will your Worship be good enough before passing sentence to make sure that the liquor is poteen?
MR. O'CROWLEY We have it on the testimony of the sergeant that it is poteen.
MR. CASSIDY But with all due respect to the court, we cannot convict any one on such evidence. What does the sergeant know about poteen?
SERGEANT HEALY (indignantly) What do I know about poteen, is it? How dare you, sir? Was there a better maker of poteen in the County Cork than my own father, rest his soul!
MR. O'CROWLEY Now, isn't that evidence enough for you? Does the sergeant look like a man who doesn't know the difference between a good and a bad drop of whiskey?
MR. CASSIDY (sarcastically) I beg your Worship's pardon. But my client states that the evidence is insufficient, and if he should be convicted, he will bring the case before the Four Courts of Dublin.
SERGEANT HEALY He can bring it to the four courts of—Jericho, if he likes, but that stuff in the bottle is poteen all the same.
MARTIN O'FLYNN As Mr. Fennel is so dogmatic about this liquor not being poteen, why does he not tell us where and from whom he purchased it? (To the sergeant) Are you sure, Sergeant Healy, that this liquor is poteen?
SERGEANT HEALY As well as I remember the taste of it, your Worship, it is. But perhaps 'twould be better to make sure and try again.
MARTIN O'FLYNN Try again, then.
SERGEANT HEALY Very well.
[Pours out a little and drinks it, smacks his lips, but says nothing.
MR. O'CROWLEY Well, Sergeant, what is it?
MARTIN O'FLYNN Is it or is it not poteen?
SERGEANT HEALY I don't get the flavor of it yet.
[Takes another drop.
MR. O'CROWLEY What is it, Sergeant, poteen or just bad whiskey?
SERGEANT HEALY Bedad, 'tis hard to tell. Sometimes I think 'tis poteen, and sometimes I think it isn't. But whatever it is, it isn't so good as the stuff me poor father used to brew. Maybe the constable could tell us. He comes from Castletownballymacreedy, where they make the best poteen in Ireland.
[Hands a glassful to the constable.
CONSTABLE O'RYAN (after drinking) There's not a shadow of a doubt about it being poteen, your Worship, and as fine a drop as I have tasted for many a long day.
MR. O'CROWLEY Are you satisfied now, Mr. Cassidy?
MR. CASSIDY I think it would be as well to have the opinion of some one else.
MR. O'CROWLEY Constable McCarthy, let you take a toothful out of that decanter and tell us what it is.
CONSTABLE MCCARTHY Though I am a League of the Cross man, I suppose as a matter of duty I must break me pledge.
[Pours out a glassful and drinks.
MR. O'CROWLEY Well, what is it?
CONSTABLE MCCARTHY Poteen, your Worship.
MR. O'CROWLEY Now we have conclusive evidence that this liquor is poteen, and no more serious charge could be brought against any man than to be found guilty of using such obnoxious stuff by a court of justice. As with the law of nature, so with the law of the land. He who transgresses any of nature's laws gets duly punished according to the nature of his offence. And so also with the law of the country. Mr. Fennell must be punished, and his punishment must serve as an example to others and—
MR. CASSIDY I beg your Worship's pardon. We do not always get punished for disobeying the laws of nature. Nature's strongest force is self-assertion, and excessive self-assertion is vanity, and vanity is sinful, and—
MARTIN O'FLYNN You must excuse me interrupting you, Mr. Cassidy, but that train of argument cannot be followed here.
We have proved that poteen was found in the prisoner's house, and if he did not make it himself, where then did he get it from?
MR. CASSIDY Mr. Fennel emphatically denies having anything to do with the making of the liquor found on his premises. And so far it has not been proved to either his or my satisfaction that the intoxicant is poteen.
MR. O'CROWLEY Does your client mean for a moment to cast a reflection on the police of this town, and insinuate that they don't know what poteen is?
MR. CASSIDY We are not satisfied with the decision of the police, your Worship.
MR. O'CROWLEY Very well then, we'll give it a further test.
[Gives the decanter to the clerk, Peter Dwyer.
PETER DWYER (after tasting it) If that's not poteen, may I never wet my lips with it again.
MR. O'CROWLEY (to Mr. Cassidy) Perhaps you are satisfied now.
MR. CASSIDY No, I am not.
MARTIN O'FLYNN Well, taste it yourself and tell us what it is.
MR. CASSIDY (tastes it) Whatever it is, it is not poteen.
MARTIN O'FLYNN (pours out some in a glass) I'll soon settle the question. (Drinks) That's poteen, and good poteen too.
MR. CASSIDY I beg to disagree with your Worship.
MARTIN O'FLYNN How dare you disagree with me, sir, and I drinking poteen every day of my life. I'd resign my seat on the Bench rather than suffer to be insulted in such a manner again.
MR. CASSIDY I apologise. Nothing could be further from my thought than offence.
MARTIN O'FLYNN I'm glad to hear you say so, because when I said that the liquor in the decanter was poteen, I knew what I was talking about. Unless the prisoner tells us how he procured this illegal drink, he will be imprisoned for six months.
MR. FENNELL For six months, is it?
MARTIN O'FLYNN Yes, for six long months, and you must find bail for your good behavior at the end of the term for a period of twelve months.
MR. FENNELL Well, as you are so anxious to know where I procured the stuff that you have certified to be poteen, I have great pleasure in telling you that it was purchased at Mr. Cornelius John Michael O'Crowley's establishment under the name of Scotch whiskey, and if there is any doubt about the matter, I can show you some of his own sealed bottles with the same stuff in them.
MR. O'CROWLEY The saints protect us! What a vile fabrication!
MRS. FENNELL Ah, you old hypocrite, 'tis about time that you were found out.
MR. O'CROWLEY Place that woman under arrest for contempt of court. (Mrs. Fennell is placed in the dock) Now, Mrs. Fennell, anything that you will say will be used in evidence against you, so I warn you to hold your tongue and keep quiet.
MRS. FENNELL I'll try and keep quiet, your Worship.
MR. O'CROWLEY Gentlemen, I regret to state that a mistake has occurred somewhere, and there's nothing more plentiful than mistakes. They commenced long ago in the Garden of Eden, and they are as inevitable as the day and night, as inevitable, I might say, as America itself. Yes, some one has blundered, as Napoleon said when he woke up and found himself a prisoner on St. Helena. Mr. Fennell, alas! has erred, but to err is human, and to forgive is divine. We are reasonable people, and we must treat this matter in a reasonable manner. The prisoner has stated that he purchased poteen at my premises, but what reliance can we place on the word of a man who is addicted to drinking poteen? None whatever. We have only the prisoner's word that the poteen was purchased at my establishment, but the probability is that he was only suffering from its ill effects when he imagined that I was the one who supplied it. Though I'm very sorry indeed to have anything to say against Mr. Fennell, his word cannot be taken as evidence, and the case will be dismissed. (Applause, which is suppressed) The dignity of the court must be upheld, and the next person who applauds will be ejected.
[Mr. Fennett is dismissed and Mrs. Fennett placed in the dock. She goes through the usual ordeal of swearing, and Mr. O'Crowley tries her case.
MR. O'CROWLEY For contempt of court, Mrs. Fennell, you will be fined ten pounds, and you will be bound to the peace for twelve months, and you must give two securities of fifty pounds each, or go to jail for a term of six months with hard labor. And anything that you may say after the sentence of the court has been passed, of a disparaging nature to the Bench, will be considered as a necessity for further punishment. I hope that I have made myself perfectly clear.
MRS. FENNELL Yes, your Worship, you have made yourself perfectly clear. (Starts to cry) Oh, what will I do at all? Is there no one to go bail for me? (Mr. Fennell looks like one who is trying to come to a decision, and Mrs. Fennell starts to cry again) Is it the way that ye'll be having me taken to the county jail for doing nothing at all? Oh, wisha, who's going to go bail for me? Maybe 'tis yourself, Mr. O'Crowley.
MR. FENNELL (walking up to the dock) And I here, is it? Not for likely. I'll go bail for you, of course.
* * * * *
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
WILLIAM DRISCOLL A public-house keeper DENNIS LOGAN BERNARD FALVEY GARRET DEVLIN BARRY NAGLE POLICE AND TOWNSPEOPLE
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
Scene: Back parlor of a country public house. The proprietor, William Driscoll, a man of about fifty with a very dour expression, sings as he sweeps the floor:
"Oh, the days are gone, when Beauty bright My heart's chain wove; When the dream of life from morn till night Was love, still love. New hope may bloom, And days may come Of milder, calmer beam, But there's nothing half so sweet in life As love's young dream. No, there's nothing half so sweet in life As love's young dream."
[Logan, a stranger, enters.
LOGAN Good mornin'.
DRISCOLL Good mornin' and good luck. What can I do for you?
LOGAN I'll have a glass of the best whiskey.
DRISCOLL All right, my good man. You shall get it.
LOGAN (takes up the morning paper, sits on the table, and speaks aloud) Be the pipers that played the dead march for Moses, but I'm twice as big a fool as I thought I was. And knowledge of that sort is cold comfort for any man. What's this I see here? "Daring burglary in the town of Castlemorgan. During the early hours of the morning, the house of Michael Cassily was broken into, and five pound notes, a gentleman's watch and a pair of silver candlesticks were stolen. So far, no arrests have been made, but the police have every hope of bringing those who committed the offence to justice, because Mr. Cassily states that he saw two men leaving by the back entrance, and found a piece of a coat-tail hanging from a nail on the porch."
[He lifts up his coat, and discovers a piece missing from the tail, and is about to take it off for a closer inspection when the publican enters with the whiskey.
DRISCOLL (as he places the whiskey upon the table) This is your drink, stranger, and believe me, you couldn't get a better drop of whiskey in the whole United Kingdom, not even if you went to the King's palace itself for it.
LOGAN 'Tis good, you say.
DRISCOLL None better, and wonderful stuff to put heart into a man.
LOGAN (drinks it off) 'Tis the good flavor it has surely. (Pauses awhile) I think I'll have another, for 'tis plenty of heart I'll be wantin' before the day goes to its close.
DRISCOLL 'Tis easy to feel plucky in the mornin', but 'tis a brave man who can feel happy at the heel of day, especially if he has an uneasy conscience and an empty stomach.
LOGAN Hunger plays the devil with us all. A man with an empty stomach, an empty purse, and an empty house, except for a scoldin' wife, can never be happy.
DRISCOLL That's so, but if that's all you have to contend with, you haven't much to worry about. Sure I thought by your looks and the way you spoke that you might have killed a man and had the bloodhounds after you.
LOGAN A man's conscience is worse than having bloodhounds after him, if he has to spend months in idleness through no fault of his own, and no one to look for sympathy from but a scoldin' wife.
DRISCOLL The Lord protect us from scoldin' wives, anyway. They're the scourge of Hell. But there are worse things than being married to a wife with no control over her temper. You might be like the thief who broke into the house of Michael Cassily and stole his grandfather's watch and chain and silver candlestick.
LOGAN And when did all this happen?
DRISCOLL During the small hours of the mornin'.
LOGAN That was a damnable thing to do.
DRISCOLL 'Twas more foolish than anythin' else, because, if Michael Cassily should ever lay hands upon the man who stole his belongings, he'd shoot at him the way you'd shoot at a rabbit in a ditch and kill him as dead as one of Egypt's kings.
LOGAN The Lord save us! You don't mean what you say.
DRISCOLL I do, and every word of it. And a sure shot he is too. Indeed 'tis said that nothing in the sky or on the land could escape him when he has a gun in his hand.
LOGAN I heard before comin' to this town that he was a very quiet and inoffensive man.
DRISCOLL And so he is a quiet man when he's left alone. But when his temper is up, the devil himself is a gentleman to him.
LOGAN I'll have another glass of whiskey. [Exit the publican. While he is away, Logan looks at the torn part of his coat, and a stranger enters.
BARNARD FALVEY (saunters into the back kitchen, picks a piece of wet paper off the floor, and tries to light it at the fire for the purpose of lighting his pipe, and after several unsuccessful attempts, he turns to Logan) Good mornin', and God bless you, stranger.
LOGAN Good mornin', kindly.
FALVEY It looks as though we were goin' to have a spell of fine weather.
LOGAN Judgin' by the way the wind is, it would seem so.
FALVEY 'Tis splendid weather for walkin' or tillin' the land.
LOGAN 'Tis good weather for anythin'.
FALVEY All the same, 'tis a long stretch of a road from here to Ballinore. How far is it, I wonder?
LOGAN Twenty miles at least.
FALVEY Every step of it, and a long road for a man with the rheumatics and bronchitis too.
LOGAN And what brought you from Ballinore?
FALVEY And what would bring any poor man from his native town but lookin' for work. And that's a hard thing to be doin' when a man hasn't a friend to help him towards a job.
LOGAN A man can always make friends if he wants to.
FALVEY 'Tis no easy thing for a man who hasn't a sleutherin' tongue and the takin' way with him to make friends, stranger.
LOGAN 'Tis easy enough to make fine weather friends. But I suppose a friend isn't worth a damn unless he can help a man when he's in trouble.
FALVEY To have a lot of money is the easiest way of makin' friends. But when a man hasn't either money or the sleutherin' tongue, he can't expect to have any more of the world's goods than myself.
LOGAN And have you no friends at all among all the millions of people on the face of the earth?
FALVEY The devil a one ever bothers their head about me but myself. And what I can do for myself is hardly worth doin' for any one.
LOGAN After all, when a man has his health and enough to eat, he should be contented.
FALVEY But how could you expect the likes of me to be contented when I didn't break my fast this blessed day yet, and all I have in the world is the bit of tobacco you see in my old pipe, and unless you're not as dacent as you look, 'tis hungry maybe I'll be until I find a turnip field before the fall of night.
LOGAN Would you drink a pint of porter and eat a penny bun?
FALVEY Indeed I would, and remember the one in my prayers who'd give them to me.
LOGAN (knocks and the publican enters) Bring this man a pint of porter and give him one of the penny buns or two that you have on the porter barrel in the shop.
DRISCOLL Indeed I will and much good may they do him.
[Places pint of porter and bread in front of Falvey who begins to eat and drink.
FALVEY God bless your noble soul and may you be long spared to do good in the world. (As he eats) There's no sauce like hunger, and no friend like the friend in need.
LOGAN That's true. Now tell me, do you expect to get work in this town?
FALVEY 'Tis my intention to try.
LOGAN You'd have as much chance of slippin' into heaven with your soul as black as a skillet from mortal sins, unknownst to St. Peter, as you'd have of gettin' a job with an old coat like that.
FALVEY And what can I do, God help me, when I have no other?
LOGAN I'll swap with you, and then you'll have some chance, but otherwise you might as well walk back to where you came from.
FALVEY But I couldn't take a coat from a strange gentleman like yourself and have an easy conscience. Sure, this old coat of mine is only fit to be used for a scarecrow.
LOGAN You're a fool to be talkin' like that, stranger. Don't you know that you must take all you can get and give away as little as you can if you want to be successful in life?
FALVEY And why, then, should you be givin' me your coat when you want it yourself?
LOGAN You had better say no more, lest I might change my mind. Sure, 'tis sorry I may be to-night when I'm facing the cold winds on the lonely roads that I exchanged my fine warm coat for an old threadbare garment that a rag man wouldn't give a child a lump of candy for.
FALVEY Sure, St. Francis himself couldn't do more, and he that tore his coat in two and shared it with the beggars.
LOGAN 'Tis easy for a saint of God to be good, when he feels that he'll be rewarded for his self-sacrifice, but have no more old talk and give me that old coat of yours, or if you don't I might change my mind, and then you'll have plenty of time to regret your foolishness.
FALVEY Very well, stranger, very well. (They exchange coats) May the Lord spare you all the days you want to live, and may you never want for anythin' but the ill wishes of your enemies.
LOGAN That coat makes you look like a gentleman, and if you only had a better hat, and a good shave, you might get some old widow with a small farm to marry you, if you are a bachelor.
FALVEY Of course I'm a bachelor. Who'd be bothered with the likes of me for a husband. Sure, I wouldn't raise my hand to a woman in a thousand years, and what do women care about a man unless he can earn lots of money and leather the devil out of them when they don't behave themselves?
LOGAN That's true. And when a man hasn't any money to give his wife, the next best thing to do is to give her a good beatin'.
FALVEY That's what my father used to say. But 'tis the lucky thing for me all the same that I'm not married, an' that I strayed into a house like this to-day. Yet I don't think 'tis a bit fair for me to be wearin' your fine coat and you wearin' mine. You don't look a bit comfortable in it.
LOGAN I feel comfortable, and far more comfortable than you can imagine; and after all that's what matters. Every eye forms its own beauty, and when the heart is young, it doesn't matter how old you are.
FALVEY That's true! That's true! But 'tis the dacent man you are, nevertheless, and 'tisn't the likes of you that a poor man like myself meets every day.
LOGAN No, and it may be a long time again before you will meet another like me. But be that as it may, I must be going now, so here's a shillin' for you and go to the barber's next door and have a shave before startin' to look for work. (Hands shilling) Good-by.
FALVEY Good-by, God bless you and long life to you.
[Exit Logan. Enter an old friend.
GARRET DEVLIN (walks slowly and takes the newspaper from the table, looks at the clock) Only half-past ten, and damn the bit to do. Ah, me! ah, me! One bloody day like another!
[Sits on the chair and yawns. Knocks for the publican. Enter Driscoll.
DRISCOLL Good mornin', Garret. Anythin' new to-day?
DEVLIN Yes, I have good news this mornin'.
DRISCOLL An' what is it?
DEVLIN Oh, not much, only that a grand-uncle of mine is after dyin' in America and leavin' me a fortune of a hundred thousand pounds.
DRISCOLL (sceptically) That's a terrible responsibility for a poor man to have thrust upon him. What are you going to do with it at all?
DEVLIN Well, I was thinkin' of buyin' a new suit of clothes and dividin' what's left between the poor of the town, the Sisters of Charity, and the Salvation Army.
DRISCOLL Wisha, I'm sick and tired of hearin' old yarns like that. I suppose 'tis the way that you want a half a glass of whiskey and haven't the price of it.
DEVLIN How dare you insinuate such a thing. (Places a sovereign on the table) Give me a half a whiskey and no more old talk out of you.
DRISCOLL And where did you get all that money?
DEVLIN That's my business. I got it from the captain in the Salvation Army when I told him how much money I was goin' to give him by and by.
DRISCOLL Well, that's the first and last donation you'll ever get from the Salvation Army. Sure, if you got all the money that was to be left to you since I knew you first, you'd be buildin' libraries all over the world like Carnegie to advertise your vanity.
DEVLIN 'Tis nothin' to you whether I will build libraries or public houses for the poor when I'll get all the money that's comin' to me.
DRISCOLL Ah, wisha, I'm about sick and tired of hearin' all the things you're going to do.
DEVLIN (crossly) I don't give a damn whether you are or not. Go and get me the whiskey, or I'll get it elsewhere.
DRISCOLL (plausibly) Very well, very well! I'll get you the whiskey.
DEVLIN (to Falvey, who is still eating his loaf of bread) Good mornin', stranger.
FALVEY Good mornin' and good luck, sir.
DEVLIN 'Tis a fine mornin'.
FALVEY A glorious mornin', thank God.
DEVLIN Is that your breakfast that you're eatin'?
FALVEY Indeed it is, stranger, and maybe my dinner and supper too.
DEVLIN 'Tis the hell of a thing to be poor.
FALVEY Sure 'tis myself that knows it.
DEVLIN And 'tis as bad to be rich and not to be able to get any of your money like myself.
FALVEY There's trouble in everythin', but no respect for the poor.
DEVLIN None whatever! none whatever! And no greater misfortune could befall a man than to be poor and honest at the same time. But all the same I'll be a millionaire when my money comes from America.
FALVEY America must be a great country. One man is as good as another there, I believe.
DEVLIN So they say, when both of them have nothin'. (Looking hard at the stranger) Tell me, haven't I seen you somewhere before? What's that your name is?
FALVEY My name is Bernard Falvey, and I come from Ballinore.
DEVLIN Well, well, to be sure, and I'm Garret Devlin, your mother's first cousin! Who'd ever think of meetin' you here. The world is a small place after all!
FALVEY It must be fifteen or more years since last we met.
DEVLIN Every day of it. And what have you been doing since? I'd hardly know you at all, the way you have changed.
FALVEY Workin' when I wasn't idle and idle when I wasn't workin', but in trouble all the time.
DEVLIN You're like myself. I too only exchange one kind of trouble for another. When I got married I had to live with the wife's mother for two years, and when she died, I had to support my widowed sister-in-law's three children. And when they were rared and fit to be earnin' for themselves and be a help to me, they got drowned. Then my poor wife lost her senses, and I haven't had peace or ease ever since. She thinks that she is the Queen of England, and that I'm the King.
FAVLEY An' have you no children?
DEVLIN One boy.
FALVEY An' what does he do for a livin'?
DEVLIN He's a private in the militia, and his mother thinks he's the Prince of Wales.
FALVEY God help us all, but 'tis the queer things that happen to the poor.
DEVLIN An' what are you doin' in these parts?
FALVEY Lookin' for work.
DEVLIN An' that itself is the worst kind of hardship. I don't think that there's much doin' these times for the natives, not to mention the strangers, though 'tis the strangers get the pickings wherever they go. We'll have a look at the newspaper and see what's doin' anyway. (Reads from the advertisement columns) "Wanted a respectable man, to act as a coachman to His Lordship the Bishop. He must have a good appearance, have sober habits, and a knowledge of horses and the ways of the clergy." That won't do.
"Wanted, a young man of dashing appearance, with a good vocabulary to act as travelling salesman, must be well recommended, and have a thorough knowledge of the dry goods business." That won't do either.
"Wanted, a middle-aged man to act as companion to an invalid. He must have a knowledge of French and German, and be able to play the violin." That won't do.
"Wanted a man to make himself generally useful at an undertaker's establishment. Apply to Michael Cassily. William O'Brien St." Bedad, but that's the very job for you.
FALVEY But how am I to get it?
DEVLIN I'll give you a letter of introduction to Micky Cassily. He's an old friend of mine.
FALVEY Sure, that would be a great thing entirely.
DEVLIN Wait now, and I'll make a man of you, and if you should ever become Lord Mayor of Cork or Dublin, you must not forget me.
FALVEY Indeed, I'll never be able to forget this blessed day, and the kindness of the people I have met in Castlemorgan.
[Knocks for the publican, and walks up and down; when the publican enters, he assumes an air of great importance.
DRISCOLL What's the matter?
DEVLIN I want you to oblige me with a few sheets of note paper, a bottle of ink, and a writin' pen.
DRISCOLL And what do you want them for?
DEVLIN To write a letter of introduction for this poor man here. He's lookin' for work, and I want to help him to get it.
DRISCOLL Then I'll give them to you with pleasure.
DEVLIN You needn't worry any more. I'll get a job for you. Micky and myself are old friends. He buried my father and mother and all belongin' to me. And although I do say it myself, there isn't a better undertaker from here to Dublin. He's as good a judge of a dead man as any one you ever met, and could measure the size of a coffin without using the tape at all. [Enter Driscoll.
DRISCOLL (as he places writing materials on the table) Here's the writing material, and may good luck attend you.
DEVLIN Thank you, very much. (To Falvey) Now to business.
[They both sit at the table, and Devlin commences to write.
Deadwoman's Hill, Goulnaspurra.
Dear Mr. Cassily:
I have the hon—how's that you spell honour?—h-o-n-n-o-u-r, of course. Yes, that's right. I have the honour, and likewise the (pauses) unprecedented—that's not an easy word to spell—u-n-p-r-ee-s-c-ee-d-e-n-t-e-d—that wasn't such a hard word after all, and it looks fine in print (repeats) unprecedented and the great pleasure—that spells p-l-e-a-s-u-r—of introducing, that's a stumbler of a word,—i-n-t-r-d—(to Falvey) Can you spell the rest of it?
DEVLIN No. That's not right. We had better call Bill Driscoll. Are you there, Bill? [Enter Driscoll.
DRISCOLL What's the matter?
DEVLIN We want you to spell "introducing."
DRISCOLL (wiping a pint measure) With pleasure. (Confidently) i-n-t-u-r-d-e-w-c-i-n-g.
DEVLIN Are you sure that is right?
DRISCOLL Of course I am. What do you think I went to school for?
DEVLIN Very well, I'll take your word for it. But stay here awhile, because we may want your assistance soon again. This is an important matter, and we must give all our attention to it. I have the honor and likewise the unprecedented and the great pleasure of introducing to you a cousin of my own on my mother's side, one Barney Falvey. He is a man of many and n-e-w-m-e-r-o-w-s. (To Driscoll) Isn't that right?
DRISCOLL That's all right. Proceed.
DEVLIN —numerous a-c-o-m-p-l-i-s-h-m-e-n-t-s. That sounds wrong, doesn't it?
DRISCOLL It sounds wrong, but let it go. No one will ever notice the mistake, when we can't find it out ourselves.
DEVLIN He has an i-n-g-a-n-o-s turn of mind, and can do all kinds of hard or easy work. He can p-l-o-w a field, milk a cow, mind childer, and make nearly every thing from a bird cage, a mousetrap, or a snuff box, to a coffin. He is w-i-l-i-n, o-b-l-i-g-i-n, and can put up with all kinds of abuse. He can look i-n-o-s-c-e-n-t or guilty, as the occasion may require and will, I'm sure, and certain, taking his accomplishments all round, prove to be the very man you are lookin' for to fill the v-a-k-a-n-c-y in your highly respected e-s-t-a-b-1-i-shment. Anythin' you can do for him will be considered a personal f-a-v-o-u-r by your old and e-s-t-e-a-m-ed friend,
[He reads it over again aloud.
"Deadwoman's Hill, Goulnaspurra.
"Dear Mr. Cassily:
"I have the honour and likewise the unprecedented and great pleasure of introducin' to you a cousin of my own on my mother's side, one Barney Falvey. He is a man of many parts and numerous accomplishments. He has an ingenious turn of mind and can do all kinds of hard and easy work. He can plow a field, milk a cow, mind childer, and make nearly everythin' from a bird cage, a mousetrap, or a snuff box, to a coffin. He is willin' and obligin' and can put up with all kinds of abuse. He can look innocent or guilty as the occasion may require, and will, I am certain and confident, taking his accomplishments all round, prove to be the very man you are lookin' for to fill the vacancy in your highly respected establishment. Anythin' that you can do for him will be considered a personal favour by your old and esteemed friend,
That's a great letter. Be God, sure 'twould nearly get the job for myself. But it would never do for one of my social standin' to take such a position in this town.
FALVEY 'Tis a great thing to be able to put so many words together on paper. And 'tis the wonderful gift to have surely. A man that could write like you should be a secretary to the Lord Lieutenant himself, or writin' sermons for the Pope of Rome.
DEVLIN Now, no more old palaver, talk is cheap, but it takes money to buy whiskey. Look as smart as you can (hands letter), and deliver this letter before it's too late. There's nothin' like doin' things with despatch when you're in a hurry. Wait, your face is none too clean. Where's your handkerchief? (Hands him an old dirty handkerchief. He drains the dregs of a pewter pint on the handkerchief, and wipes his face with it. Then he looks at Falvey's boots) Glory be to God! but you're a very careless man! When did you clean these boots last?
FALVEY Wisha, who could keep boots clean upon the dirty roads.
[Takes off his old hat and wipes his boots with it
DEVLIN That's better. Now take off that old tie, and I'll give you mine. But you must return it to me when you get the job. It belonged to my grandfather, and it always brought luck to the family.
[They exchange ties, and Devlin's toilet is completed by brushing the legs of his old trousers with a sweeping brush.
DEVLIN (looking at him approvingly) If you always kept yourself as respectable lookin' as that, you would never want for work, I'm thinkin'.
FALVEY (looking at himself in an old mirror) There's somethin' in what you say. Sure my mother always told me I was the best lookin' in the family.
DEVLIN That may be, but your beauty isn't of the fatal kind. (Shaking hands with him) Good luck now, and I'll wait here until you'll return.
FALVEY God bless you, God bless you, I'll be back as soon as I can.
DEVLIN (knocks and orders another half of whiskey) Another half one. That letter took a lot out of me.
DRISCOLL Literature, they say, is always a great strain on a man's vitality. I was offered a job as proof reader on a newspaper one time, but my friends advised me not to take it.
DEVLIN Your friends were wise. Stayin' up at night is bad for any man. 'Tis hard enough to be up in the mornin' without bein' up at night as well.
DRISCOLL (places drink on table) That's true.
[Exit. A man of about forty-five enters, with a pint of porter in his hand. He sits near Devlin.
BARRY NAGLE Good mornin', stranger.
DEVLIN Good mornin'.
NAGLE 'Tis a fine day for this time of year.
DEVLIN This would be a fine day for any part of the year.
NAGLE Fine weather is the least of the good things that the poor is entitled to.
DEVLIN The poor have their wants, of course, but the rich, bad luck and misfortune to them one and all, have their troubles also, because they don't know what they want, the discontented, lazy, good-for-nothin' varmints. May they all perish be their own folly before the world or their money comes to an end.
NAGLE 'Tis only the poor who knows how bad the rich are. And only the rich that can be hard on the poor. Have you a match, if you please?
DEVLIN (handing a box) You'll find plenty in that.
NAGLE All the comfort some of us have in this world is a smoke, that's when we have the tobacco, of course.
DEVLIN There'll be smokin' enough in the next world, they say, but that's cold comfort to a man without the fillin's of a pipe or a match to light it.
NAGLE 'Tis a great misfortune to be born at all.
DEVLIN That's what I've often been thinkin'. And many's the time I've cursed the day that my father met my mother. (Sadly) 'Twould be better for us all in spite of what the clergy say that we were all Protestants, or else died before we came to the use of reason. But things might be worse.
NAGLE Trouble comes to us all, and 'tis a consolation to know that the King must die as well as the beggar. Think of me, and I after losin' my return ticket to Carlow, and I must be there to-night even if I have to walk every step of the way.
DEVLIN And haven't you the price of your ticket?
NAGLE The devil a penny at all have I, and unless I can sell my watch to buy my ticket with, I'll lose my job, and then my wife and family must go to the workhouse.
DEVLIN God himself seems to be no friend of the poor. That was a terrible calamity to befall a stranger. How much will your ticket cost?
NAGLE Ten shillin's, and I'm willin' to part with my watch for that triflin' sum, though 'twas my poor father's, rest his soul. (Holds watch in his hand) Look at it, 'tis as fine a timepiece as eyes ever rested on. A solid silver watch, and a chain of solid gold, and all for ten shillin's. And history enough attached to it to write a book.
DEVLIN 'Tis a bargain surely.
NAGLE A man wearin' a watch and chain like that would get credit anywhere he'd be known, though 'twould be no use to a stranger.
DEVLIN Leave me see how 'twould look on me. (The stranger hands him the watch, and Devlin adjusts it to his vest front, walks up and down the room, and looks in the glass) Bedad, but you're right. It does make a man feel good, and maybe better than he is.
NAGLE A man walkin' into a friend's house with ornamentation on him like that would get the lend of anythin'.
DEVLIN (confidently) I believe he would.
NAGLE Indeed you may say so.
DEVLIN And you'll sell it for ten shillin's.
NAGLE Yes, if you'll be quick about it, because I must catch the train and get home as soon as I can.
DEVLIN Does it keep good time?
NAGLE 'Tis the best timekeeper that ever was.
DEVLIN (places watch to his ear) It has a good strong tick, anyway. I'll give you the ten shillin's for it. Here you are.
NAGLE (takes the money) Thank you kindly, though it nearly breaks my heart to part with it.
DEVLIN Life is made up of comin' and goin', and what we lose to-day we may gain to-morrow, and lose again the next day.
NAGLE One man's loss is another man's profit, and that's how the world keeps movin'.
DEVLIN True. And there's no use in being alive unless we can help each other. Sure 'tis for each other, and not by each other, that we should live.
NAGLE 'Pon my word, but to know how to live is the greatest problem of all.
DEVLIN That's so. Sometimes 'tis foolish to be wise and other times 'tis wise to be foolish, but the sensible man will always look out for himself and let his friends look after his enemies.