JOHN BULL'S OTHER ISLAND
Great George Street, Westminster, is the address of Doyle and Broadbent, civil engineers. On the threshold one reads that the firm consists of Mr Lawrence Doyle and Mr Thomas Broadbent, and that their rooms are on the first floor. Most of their rooms are private; for the partners, being bachelors and bosom friends, live there; and the door marked Private, next the clerks' office, is their domestic sitting room as well as their reception room for clients. Let me describe it briefly from the point of view of a sparrow on the window sill. The outer door is in the opposite wall, close to the right hand corner. Between this door and the left hand corner is a hatstand and a table consisting of large drawing boards on trestles, with plans, rolls of tracing paper, mathematical instruments and other draughtsman's accessories on it. In the left hand wall is the fireplace, and the door of an inner room between the fireplace and our observant sparrow. Against the right hand wall is a filing cabinet, with a cupboard on it, and, nearer, a tall office desk and stool for one person. In the middle of the room a large double writing table is set across, with a chair at each end for the two partners. It is a room which no woman would tolerate, smelling of tobacco, and much in need of repapering, repainting, and recarpeting; but this is the effect of bachelor untidiness and indifference, not want of means; for nothing that Doyle and Broadbent themselves have purchased is cheap; nor is anything they want lacking. On the walls hang a large map of South America, a pictorial advertisement of a steamship company, an impressive portrait of Gladstone, and several caricatures of Mr Balfour as a rabbit and Mr Chamberlain as a fox by Francis Carruthers Gould.
At twenty minutes to five o'clock on a summer afternoon in 1904, the room is empty. Presently the outer door is opened, and a valet comes in laden with a large Gladstone bag, and a strap of rugs. He carries them into the inner room. He is a respectable valet, old enough to have lost all alacrity, and acquired an air of putting up patiently with a great deal of trouble and indifferent health. The luggage belongs to Broadbent, who enters after the valet. He pulls off his overcoat and hangs it with his hat on the stand. Then he comes to the writing table and looks through the letters which are waiting for him. He is a robust, full-blooded, energetic man in the prime of life, sometimes eager and credulous, sometimes shrewd and roguish, sometimes portentously solemn, sometimes jolly and impetuous, always buoyant and irresistible, mostly likeable, and enormously absurd in his most earnest moments. He bursts open his letters with his thumb, and glances through them, flinging the envelopes about the floor with reckless untidiness whilst he talks to the valet.
BROADBENT [calling] Hodson.
HODSON [in the bedroom] Yes sir.
BROADBENT. Don't unpack. Just take out the things I've worn; and put in clean things.
HODSON [appearing at the bedroom door] Yes sir. [He turns to go back into the bedroom.
BROADBENT. And look here! [Hodson turns again]. Do you remember where I put my revolver?
HODSON. Revolver, sir? Yes sir. Mr Doyle uses it as a paper-weight, sir, when he's drawing.
BROADBENT. Well, I want it packed. There's a packet of cartridges somewhere, I think. Find it and pack it as well.
HODSON. Yes sir.
BROADBENT. By the way, pack your own traps too. I shall take you with me this time.
HODSON [hesitant]. Is it a dangerous part you're going to, sir? Should I be expected to carry a revolver, sir?
BROADBENT. Perhaps it might be as well. I'm going to Ireland.
HODSON [reassured]. Yes sir.
BROADBENT. You don't feel nervous about it, I suppose?
HODSON. Not at all, sir. I'll risk it, sir.
BROADBENT. Have you ever been in Ireland?
HODSON. No sir. I understand it's a very wet climate, sir. I'd better pack your india-rubber overalls.
BROADBENT. Do. Where's Mr Doyle?
HODSON. I'm expecting him at five, sir. He went out after lunch.
BROADBENT. Anybody been looking for me?
HODSON. A person giving the name of Haffigan has called twice to-day, sir.
BROADBENT. Oh, I'm sorry. Why didn't he wait? I told him to wait if I wasn't in.
HODSON. Well Sir, I didn't know you expected him; so I thought it best to—to—not to encourage him, sir.
BROADBENT. Oh, he's all right. He's an Irishman, and not very particular about his appearance.
HODSON. Yes sir, I noticed that he was rather Irish....
BROADBENT. If he calls again let him come up.
HODSON. I think I saw him waiting about, sir, when you drove up. Shall I fetch him, sir?
BROADBENT. Do, Hodson.
HODSON. Yes sir [He makes for the outer door].
BROADBENT. He'll want tea. Let us have some.
HODSON [stopping]. I shouldn't think he drank tea, sir.
BROADBENT. Well, bring whatever you think he'd like.
HODSON. Yes sir [An electric bell rings]. Here he is, sir. Saw you arrive, sir.
BROADBENT. Right. Show him in. [Hodson goes out. Broadbent gets through the rest of his letters before Hodson returns with the visitor].
HODSON. Mr Affigan.
Haffigan is a stunted, shortnecked, smallheaded, redhaired man of about 30, with reddened nose and furtive eyes. He is dressed in seedy black, almost clerically, and might be a tenth-rate schoolmaster ruined by drink. He hastens to shake Broadbent's hand with a show of reckless geniality and high spirits, helped out by a rollicking stage brogue. This is perhaps a comfort to himself, as he is secretly pursued by the horrors of incipient delirium tremens.
HAFFIGAN. Tim Haffigan, sir, at your service. The top o the mornin to you, Misther Broadbent.
BROADBENT [delighted with his Irish visitor]. Good afternoon, Mr Haffigan.
TIM. An is it the afthernoon it is already? Begorra, what I call the mornin is all the time a man fasts afther breakfast.
BROADBENT. Haven't you lunched?
TIM. Divil a lunch!
BROADBENT. I'm sorry I couldn't get back from Brighton in time to offer you some; but—
TIM. Not a word, sir, not a word. Sure it'll do tomorrow. Besides, I'm Irish, sir: a poor ather, but a powerful dhrinker.
BROADBENT. I was just about to ring for tea when you came. Sit down, Mr Haffigan.
TIM. Tay is a good dhrink if your nerves can stand it. Mine can't.
Haffigan sits down at the writing table, with his back to the filing cabinet. Broadbent sits opposite him. Hodson enters emptyhanded; takes two glasses, a siphon, and a tantalus from the cupboard; places them before Broadbent on the writing table; looks ruthlessly at Haffigan, who cannot meet his eye; and retires.
BROADBENT. Try a whisky and soda.
TIM [sobered]. There you touch the national wakeness, sir. [Piously] Not that I share it meself. I've seen too much of the mischief of it.
BROADBENT [pouring the whisky]. Say when.
TIM. Not too sthrong. [Broadbent stops and looks enquiringly at him]. Say half-an-half. [Broadbent, somewhat startled by this demand, pours a little more, and again stops and looks]. Just a dhrain more: the lower half o the tumbler doesn't hold a fair half. Thankya.
BROADBENT [laughing]. You Irishmen certainly do know how to drink. [Pouring some whisky for himself] Now that's my poor English idea of a whisky and soda.
TIM. An a very good idea it is too. Dhrink is the curse o me unhappy counthry. I take it meself because I've a wake heart and a poor digestion; but in principle I'm a teetoatler.
BROADBENT [suddenly solemn and strenuous]. So am I, of course. I'm a Local Optionist to the backbone. You have no idea, Mr Haffigan, of the ruin that is wrought in this country by the unholy alliance of the publicans, the bishops, the Tories, and The Times. We must close the public-houses at all costs [he drinks].
TIM. Sure I know. It's awful [he drinks]. I see you're a good Liberal like meself, sir.
BROADBENT. I am a lover of liberty, like every true Englishman, Mr Haffigan. My name is Broadbent. If my name were Breitstein, and I had a hooked nose and a house in Park Lane, I should carry a Union Jack handkerchief and a penny trumpet, and tax the food of the people to support the Navy League, and clamor for the destruction of the last remnants of national liberty—
TIM. Not another word. Shake hands.
BROADBENT. But I should like to explain—
TIM. Sure I know every word you're goin to say before yev said it. I know the sort o man yar. An so you're thinkin o comin to Ireland for a bit?
BROADBENT. Where else can I go? I am an Englishman and a Liberal; and now that South Africa has been enslaved and destroyed, there is no country left to me to take an interest in but Ireland. Mind: I don't say that an Englishman has not other duties. He has a duty to Finland and a duty to Macedonia. But what sane man can deny that an Englishman's first duty is his duty to Ireland? Unfortunately, we have politicians here more unscrupulous than Bobrikoff, more bloodthirsty than Abdul the Damned; and it is under their heel that Ireland is now writhing.
TIM. Faith, they've reckoned up with poor oul Bobrikoff anyhow.
BROADBENT. Not that I defend assassination: God forbid! However strongly we may feel that the unfortunate and patriotic young man who avenged the wrongs of Finland on the Russian tyrant was perfectly right from his own point of view, yet every civilized man must regard murder with abhorrence. Not even in defence of Free Trade would I lift my hand against a political opponent, however richly he might deserve it.
TIM. I'm sure you wouldn't; and I honor you for it. You're goin to Ireland, then, out o sympithy: is it?
BROADBENT. I'm going to develop an estate there for the Land Development Syndicate, in which I am interested. I am convinced that all it needs to make it pay is to handle it properly, as estates are handled in England. You know the English plan, Mr Haffigan, don't you?
TIM. Bedad I do, sir. Take all you can out of Ireland and spend it in England: that's it.
BROADBENT [not quite liking this]. My plan, sir, will be to take a little money out of England and spend it in Ireland.
TIM. More power to your elbow! an may your shadda never be less! for you're the broth of a boy intirely. An how can I help you? Command me to the last dhrop o me blood.
BROADBENT. Have you ever heard of Garden City?
TIM [doubtfully]. D'ye mane Heavn?
BROADBENT. Heaven! No: it's near Hitchin. If you can spare half an hour I'll go into it with you.
TIM. I tell you hwat. Gimme a prospectus. Lemme take it home and reflect on it.
BROADBENT. You're quite right: I will. [He gives him a copy of Mr Ebenezer Howard's book, and several pamphlets]. You understand that the map of the city—the circular construction—is only a suggestion.
TIM. I'll make a careful note o that [looking dazedly at the map].
BROADBENT. What I say is, why not start a Garden City in Ireland?
TIM [with enthusiasm]. That's just what was on the tip o me tongue to ask you. Why not? [Defiantly] Tell me why not.
BROADBENT. There are difficulties. I shall overcome them; but there are difficulties. When I first arrive in Ireland I shall be hated as an Englishman. As a Protestant, I shall be denounced from every altar. My life may be in danger. Well, I am prepared to face that.
TIM. Never fear, sir. We know how to respict a brave innimy.
BROADBENT. What I really dread is misunderstanding. I think you could help me to avoid that. When I heard you speak the other evening in Bermondsey at the meeting of the National League, I saw at once that you were—You won't mind my speaking frankly?
TIM. Tell me all me faults as man to man. I can stand anything but flatthery.
BROADBENT. May I put it in this way?—that I saw at once that you were a thorough Irishman, with all the faults and all, the qualities of your race: rash and improvident but brave and goodnatured; not likely to succeed in business on your own account perhaps, but eloquent, humorous, a lover of freedom, and a true follower of that great Englishman Gladstone.
TIM. Spare me blushes. I mustn't sit here to be praised to me face. But I confess to the goodnature: it's an Irish wakeness. I'd share me last shillin with a friend.
BROADBENT. I feel sure you would, Mr Haffigan.
TIM [impulsively]. Damn it! call me Tim. A man that talks about Ireland as you do may call me anything. Gimme a howlt o that whisky bottle [he replenishes].
BROADBENT [smiling indulgently]. Well, Tim, will you come with me and help to break the ice between me and your warmhearted, impulsive countrymen?
TIM. Will I come to Madagascar or Cochin China wid you? Bedad I'll come to the North Pole wid you if yll pay me fare; for the divil a shillin I have to buy a third class ticket.
BROADBENT. I've not forgotten that, Tim. We must put that little matter on a solid English footing, though the rest can be as Irish as you please. You must come as my—my—well, I hardly know what to call it. If we call you my agent, they'll shoot you. If we call you a bailiff, they'll duck you in the horsepond. I have a secretary already; and—
TIM. Then we'll call him the Home Secretary and me the Irish Secretary. Eh?
BROADBENT [laughing industriously]. Capital. Your Irish wit has settled the first difficulty. Now about your salary—
TIM. A salary, is it? Sure I'd do it for nothin, only me cloes ud disgrace you; and I'd be dhriven to borra money from your friends: a thing that's agin me nacher. But I won't take a penny more than a hundherd a year. [He looks with restless cunning at Broadbent, trying to guess how far he may go].
BROADBENT. If that will satisfy you—
TIM [more than reassured]. Why shouldn't it satisfy me? A hundherd a year is twelve-pound a month, isn't it?
BROADBENT. No. Eight pound six and eightpence.
TIM. Oh murdher! An I'll have to sind five timme poor oul mother in Ireland. But no matther: I said a hundherd; and what I said I'll stick to, if I have to starve for it.
BROADBENT [with business caution]. Well, let us say twelve pounds for the first month. Afterwards, we shall see how we get on.
TIM. You're a gentleman, sir. Whin me mother turns up her toes, you shall take the five pounds off; for your expinses must be kep down wid a sthrong hand; an—[He is interrupted by the arrival of Broadbent's partner.]
Mr Laurence Doyle is a man of 36, with cold grey eyes, strained nose, fine fastidious lips, critical brown, clever head, rather refined and goodlooking on the whole, but with a suggestion of thinskinedness and dissatisfaction that contrasts strongly with Broadbent's eupeptic jollity.
He comes in as a man at home there, but on seeing the stranger shrinks at once, and is about to withdraw when Broadbent reassures him. He then comes forward to the table, between the two others.
DOYLE [retreating]. You're engaged.
BROADBENT. Not at all, not at all. Come in. [To Tim] This gentleman is a friend who lives with me here: my partner, Mr Doyle. [To Doyle] This is a new Irish friend of mine, Mr Tim Haffigan.
TIM [rising with effusion]. Sure it's meself that's proud to meet any friend o Misther Broadbent's. The top o the mornin to you, sir! Me heart goes out teeye both. It's not often I meet two such splendid speciments iv the Anglo-Saxon race.
BROADBENT [chuckling] Wrong for once, Tim. My friend Mr Doyle is a countryman of yours.
Tim is noticeably dashed by this announcement. He draws in his horns at once, and scowls suspiciously at Doyle under a vanishing mark of goodfellowship: cringing a little, too, in mere nerveless fear of him.
DOYLE [with cool disgust]. Good evening. [He retires to the fireplace, and says to Broadbent in a tone which conveys the strongest possible hint to Haffigan that he is unwelcome] Will you soon be disengaged?
TIM [his brogue decaying into a common would-be genteel accent with an unexpected strain of Glasgow in it]. I must be going. Ivnmportnt engeegement in the west end.
BROADBENT [rising]. It's settled, then, that you come with me.
TIM. Ish'll be verra pleased to accompany ye, sir.
BROADBENT. But how soon? Can you start tonight—from Paddington? We go by Milford Haven.
TIM [hesitating]. Well—I'm afreed—I [Doyle goes abruptly into the bedroom, slamming the door and shattering the last remnant of Tim's nerve. The poor wretch saves himself from bursting into tears by plunging again into his role of daredevil Irishman. He rushes to Broadbent; plucks at his sleeve with trembling fingers; and pours forth his entreaty with all the brogue be can muster, subduing his voice lest Doyle should hear and return]. Misther Broadbent: don't humiliate me before a fella counthryman. Look here: me cloes is up the spout. Gimme a fypounnote—I'll pay ya nex choosda whin me ship comes home—or you can stop it out o me month's sallery. I'll be on the platform at Paddnton punctial an ready. Gimme it quick, before he comes back. You won't mind me axin, will ye?
BROADBENT. Not at all. I was about to offer you an advance for travelling expenses. [He gives him a bank note].
TIM [pocketing it]. Thank you. I'll be there half an hour before the thrain starts. [Larry is heard at the bedroom door, returning]. Whisht: he's comin back. Goodbye an God bless ye. [He hurries out almost crying, the 5 pound note and all the drink it means to him being too much for his empty stomach and overstrained nerves].
DOYLE [returning]. Where the devil did you pick up that seedy swindler? What was he doing here? [He goes up to the table where the plans are, and makes a note on one of them, referring to his pocket book as he does so].
BROADBENT. There you go! Why are you so down on every Irishman you meet, especially if he's a bit shabby? poor devil! Surely a fellow-countryman may pass you the top of the morning without offence, even if his coat is a bit shiny at the seams.
DOYLE [contemptuously]. The top of the morning! Did he call you the broth of a boy? [He comes to the writing table].
BROADBENT [triumphantly]. Yes.
DOYLE. And wished you more power to your elbow?
BROADBENT. He did.
DOYLE. And that your shadow might never be less?
DOYLE [taking up the depleted whisky bottle and shaking his head at it]. And he got about half a pint of whisky out of you.
BROADBENT. It did him no harm. He never turned a hair.
DOYLE. How much money did he borrow?
BROADBENT. It was not borrowing exactly. He showed a very honorable spirit about money. I believe he would share his last shilling with a friend.
DOYLE. No doubt he would share his friend's last shilling if his friend was fool enough to let him. How much did he touch you for?
BROADBENT. Oh, nothing. An advance on his salary—for travelling expenses.
DOYLE. Salary! In Heaven's name, what for?
BROADBENT. For being my Home Secretary, as he very wittily called it.
DOYLE. I don't see the joke.
BROADBENT. You can spoil any joke by being cold blooded about it. I saw it all right when he said it. It was something—something really very amusing—about the Home Secretary and the Irish Secretary. At all events, he's evidently the very man to take with me to Ireland to break the ice for me. He can gain the confidence of the people there, and make them friendly to me. Eh? [He seats himself on the office stool, and tilts it back so that the edge of the standing desk supports his back and prevents his toppling over].
DOYLE. A nice introduction, by George! Do you suppose the whole population of Ireland consists of drunken begging letter writers, or that even if it did, they would accept one another as references?
BROADBENT. Pooh! nonsense! He's only an Irishman. Besides, you don't seriously suppose that Haffigan can humbug me, do you?
DOYLE. No: he's too lazy to take the trouble. All he has to do is to sit there and drink your whisky while you humbug yourself. However, we needn't argue about Haffigan, for two reasons. First, with your money in his pocket he will never reach Paddington: there are too many public houses on the way. Second, he's not an Irishman at all.
BROADBENT. Not an Irishman! [He is so amazed by the statement that he straightens himself and brings the stool bolt upright].
DOYLE. Born in Glasgow. Never was in Ireland in his life. I know all about him.
BROADBENT. But he spoke—he behaved just like an Irishman.
DOYLE. Like an Irishman!! Is it possible that you don't know that all this top-o-the-morning and broth-of-a-boy and more-power-to-your-elbow business is as peculiar to England as the Albert Hall concerts of Irish music are? No Irishman ever talks like that in Ireland, or ever did, or ever will. But when a thoroughly worthless Irishman comes to England, and finds the whole place full of romantic duffers like you, who will let him loaf and drink and sponge and brag as long as he flatters your sense of moral superiority by playing the fool and degrading himself and his country, he soon learns the antics that take you in. He picks them up at the theatre or the music hall. Haffigan learnt the rudiments from his father, who came from my part of Ireland. I knew his uncles, Matt and Andy Haffigan of Rosscullen.
BROADBENT [still incredulous]. But his brogue!
DOYLE. His brogue! A fat lot you know about brogues! I've heard you call a Dublin accent that you could hang your hat on, a brogue. Heaven help you! you don't know the difference between Connemara and Rathmines. [With violent irritation] Oh, damn Tim Haffigan! Let's drop the subject: he's not worth wrangling about.
BROADBENT. What's wrong with you today, Larry? Why are you so bitter?
Doyle looks at him perplexedly; comes slowly to the writing table; and sits down at the end next the fireplace before replying.
DOYLE. Well: your letter completely upset me, for one thing.
LARRY. Your foreclosing this Rosscullen mortgage and turning poor Nick Lestrange out of house and home has rather taken me aback; for I liked the old rascal when I was a boy and had the run of his park to play in. I was brought up on the property.
BROADBENT. But he wouldn't pay the interest. I had to foreclose on behalf of the Syndicate. So now I'm off to Rosscullen to look after the property myself. [He sits down at the writing table opposite Larry, and adds, casually, but with an anxious glance at his partner] You're coming with me, of course?
DOYLE [rising nervously and recommencing his restless movements]. That's it. That's what I dread. That's what has upset me.
BROADBENT. But don't you want to see your country again after 18 years absence? to see your people, to be in the old home again? To—
DOYLE [interrupting him very impatiently]. Yes, yes: I know all that as well as you do.
BROADBENT. Oh well, of course [with a shrug] if you take it in that way, I'm sorry.
DOYLE. Never you mind my temper: it's not meant for you, as you ought to know by this time. [He sits down again, a little ashamed of his petulance; reflects a moment bitterly; then bursts out] I have an instinct against going back to Ireland: an instinct so strong that I'd rather go with you to the South Pole than to Rosscullen.
BROADBENT. What! Here you are, belonging to a nation with the strongest patriotism! the most inveterate homing instinct in the world! and you pretend you'd rather go anywhere than back to Ireland. You don't suppose I believe you, do you? In your heart—
DOYLE. Never mind my heart: an Irishman's heart is nothing but his imagination. How many of all those millions that have left Ireland have ever come back or wanted to come back? But what's the use of talking to you? Three verses of twaddle about the Irish emigrant "sitting on the stile, Mary," or three hours of Irish patriotism in Bermondsey or the Scotland Division of Liverpool, go further with you than all the facts that stare you in the face. Why, man alive, look at me! You know the way I nag, and worry, and carp, and cavil, and disparage, and am never satisfied and never quiet, and try the patience of my best friends.
BROADBENT. Oh, come, Larry! do yourself justice. You're very amusing and agreeable to strangers.
DOYLE. Yes, to strangers. Perhaps if I was a bit stiffer to strangers, and a bit easier at home, like an Englishman, I'd be better company for you.
BROADBENT. We get on well enough. Of course you have the melancholy of the Celtic race—
DOYLE [bounding out of his chair] Good God!!!
BROADBENT [slyly]—and also its habit of using strong language when there's nothing the matter.
DOYLE. Nothing the matter! When people talk about the Celtic race, I feel as if I could burn down London. That sort of rot does more harm than ten Coercion Acts. Do you suppose a man need be a Celt to feel melancholy in Rosscullen? Why, man, Ireland was peopled just as England was; and its breed was crossed by just the same invaders.
BROADBENT. True. All the capable people in Ireland are of English extraction. It has often struck me as a most remarkable circumstance that the only party in parliament which shows the genuine old English character and spirit is the Irish party. Look at its independence, its determination, its defiance of bad Governments, its sympathy with oppressed nationalities all the world over! How English!
DOYLE. Not to mention the solemnity with which it talks old-fashioned nonsense which it knows perfectly well to be a century behind the times. That's English, if you like.
BROADBENT. No, Larry, no. You are thinking of the modern hybrids that now monopolize England. Hypocrites, humbugs, Germans, Jews, Yankees, foreigners, Park Laners, cosmopolitan riffraff. Don't call them English. They don't belong to the dear old island, but to their confounded new empire; and by George! they're worthy of it; and I wish them joy of it.
DOYLE [unmoved by this outburst]. There! You feel better now, don't you?
BROADBENT [defiantly]. I do. Much better.
DOYLE. My dear Tom, you only need a touch of the Irish climate to be as big a fool as I am myself. If all my Irish blood were poured into your veins, you wouldn't turn a hair of your constitution and character. Go and marry the most English Englishwoman you can find, and then bring up your son in Rosscullen; and that son's character will be so like mine and so unlike yours that everybody will accuse me of being his father. [With sudden anguish] Rosscullen! oh, good Lord, Rosscullen! The dullness! the hopelessness! the ignorance! the bigotry!
BROADBENT [matter-of-factly]. The usual thing in the country, Larry. Just the same here.
DOYLE [hastily]. No, no: the climate is different. Here, if the life is dull, you can be dull too, and no great harm done. [Going off into a passionate dream] But your wits can't thicken in that soft moist air, on those white springy roads, in those misty rushes and brown bogs, on those hillsides of granite rocks and magenta heather. You've no such colors in the sky, no such lure in the distances, no such sadness in the evenings. Oh, the dreaming! the dreaming! the torturing, heartscalding, never satisfying dreaming, dreaming, dreaming, dreaming! [Savagely] No debauchery that ever coarsened and brutalized an Englishman can take the worth and usefulness out of him like that dreaming. An Irishman's imagination never lets him alone, never convinces him, never satisfies him; but it makes him that he can't face reality nor deal with it nor handle it nor conquer it: he can only sneer at them that do, and [bitterly, at Broadbent] be "agreeable to strangers," like a good-for-nothing woman on the streets. [Gabbling at Broadbent across the table] It's all dreaming, all imagination. He can't be religious. The inspired Churchman that teaches him the sanctity of life and the importance of conduct is sent away empty; while the poor village priest that gives him a miracle or a sentimental story of a saint, has cathedrals built for him out of the pennies of the poor. He can't be intelligently political, he dreams of what the Shan Van Vocht said in ninety-eight. If you want to interest him in Ireland you've got to call the unfortunate island Kathleen ni Hoolihan and pretend she's a little old woman. It saves thinking. It saves working. It saves everything except imagination, imagination, imagination; and imagination's such a torture that you can't bear it without whisky. [With fierce shivering self-contempt] At last you get that you can bear nothing real at all: you'd rather starve than cook a meal; you'd rather go shabby and dirty than set your mind to take care of your clothes and wash yourself; you nag and squabble at home because your wife isn't an angel, and she despises you because you're not a hero; and you hate the whole lot round you because they're only poor slovenly useless devils like yourself. [Dropping his voice like a man making some shameful confidence] And all the while there goes on a horrible, senseless, mischievous laughter. When you're young, you exchange drinks with other young men; and you exchange vile stories with them; and as you're too futile to be able to help or cheer them, you chaff and sneer and taunt them for not doing the things you daren't do yourself. And all the time you laugh, laugh, laugh! eternal derision, eternal envy, eternal folly, eternal fouling and staining and degrading, until, when you come at last to a country where men take a question seriously and give a serious answer to it, you deride them for having no sense of humor, and plume yourself on your own worthlessness as if it made you better than them.
BROADBENT [roused to intense earnestness by Doyle's eloquence]. Never despair, Larry. There are great possibilities for Ireland. Home Rule will work wonders under English guidance.
DOYLE [pulled up short, his face twitching with a reluctant smile]. Tom: why do you select my most tragic moments for your most irresistible strokes of humor?
BROADBENT. Humor! I was perfectly serious. What do you mean? Do you doubt my seriousness about Home Rule?
DOYLE. I am sure you are serious, Tom, about the English guidance.
BROADBENT [quite reassured]. Of course I am. Our guidance is the important thing. We English must place our capacity for government without stint at the service of nations who are less fortunately endowed in that respect; so as to allow them to develop in perfect freedom to the English level of self-government, you know. You understand me?
DOYLE. Perfectly. And Rosscullen will understand you too.
BROADBENT [cheerfully]. Of course it will. So that's all right. [He pulls up his chair and settles himself comfortably to lecture Doyle]. Now, Larry, I've listened carefully to all you've said about Ireland; and I can see nothing whatever to prevent your coming with me. What does it all come to? Simply that you were only a young fellow when you were in Ireland. You'll find all that chaffing and drinking and not knowing what to be at in Peckham just the same as in Donnybrook. You looked at Ireland with a boy's eyes and saw only boyish things. Come back with me and look at it with a man's, and get a better opinion of your country.
DOYLE. I daresay you're partly right in that: at all events I know very well that if I had been the son of a laborer instead of the son of a country landagent, I should have struck more grit than I did. Unfortunately I'm not going back to visit the Irish nation, but to visit my father and Aunt Judy and Nora Reilly and Father Dempsey and the rest of them.
BROADBENT. Well, why not? They'll be delighted to see you, now that England has made a man of you.
DOYLE [struck by this]. Ah! you hit the mark there, Tom, with true British inspiration.
BROADBENT. Common sense, you mean.
DOYLE [quickly]. No I don't: you've no more common sense than a gander. No Englishman has any common sense, or ever had, or ever will have. You're going on a sentimental expedition for perfectly ridiculous reasons, with your head full of political nonsense that would not take in any ordinarily intelligent donkey; but you can hit me in the eye with the simple truth about myself and my father.
BROADBENT [amazed]. I never mentioned your father.
DOYLE [not heeding the interruption]. There he is in Rosscullen, a landagent who's always been in a small way because he's a Catholic, and the landlords are mostly Protestants. What with land courts reducing rents and Land Acts turning big estates into little holdings, he'd be a beggar this day if he hadn't bought his own little farm under the Land Purchase Act. I doubt if he's been further from home than Athenmullet for the last twenty years. And here am I, made a man of, as you say, by England.
BROADBENT [apologetically]. I assure you I never meant—
DOYLE. Oh, don't apologize: it's quite true. I daresay I've learnt something in America and a few other remote and inferior spots; but in the main it is by living with you and working in double harness with you that I have learnt to live in a real world and not in an imaginary one. I owe more to you than to any Irishman.
BROADBENT [shaking his head with a twinkle in his eye]. Very friendly of you, Larry, old man, but all blarney. I like blarney; but it's rot, all the same.
DOYLE. No it's not. I should never have done anything without you; although I never stop wondering at that blessed old head of yours with all its ideas in watertight compartments, and all the compartments warranted impervious to anything that it doesn't suit you to understand.
BROADBENT [invincible]. Unmitigated rot, Larry, I assure you.
DOYLE. Well, at any rate you will admit that all my friends are either Englishmen or men of the big world that belongs to the big Powers. All the serious part of my life has been lived in that atmosphere: all the serious part of my work has been done with men of that sort. Just think of me as I am now going back to Rosscullen! to that hell of littleness and monotony! How am I to get on with a little country landagent that ekes out his 5 per cent with a little farming and a scrap of house property in the nearest country town? What am I to say to him? What is he to say to me?
BROADBFNT [scandalized]. But you're father and son, man!
DOYLE. What difference does that make? What would you say if I proposed a visit to YOUR father?
BROADBENT [with filial rectitude]. I always made a point of going to see my father regularly until his mind gave way.
DOYLE [concerned]. Has he gone mad? You never told me.
BROADBENT. He has joined the Tariff Reform League. He would never have done that if his mind had not been weakened. [Beginning to declaim] He has fallen a victim to the arts of a political charlatan who—
DOYLE [interrupting him]. You mean that you keep clear of your father because he differs from you about Free Trade, and you don't want to quarrel with him. Well, think of me and my father! He's a Nationalist and a Separatist. I'm a metallurgical chemist turned civil engineer. Now whatever else metallurgical chemistry may be, it's not national. It's international. And my business and yours as civil engineers is to join countries, not to separate them. The one real political conviction that our business has rubbed into us is that frontiers are hindrances and flags confounded nuisances.
BROADBENT [still smarting under Mr Chamberlain's economic heresy]. Only when there is a protective tariff—
DOYLE [firmly] Now look here, Tom: you want to get in a speech on Free Trade; and you're not going to do it: I won't stand it. My father wants to make St George's Channel a frontier and hoist a green flag on College Green; and I want to bring Galway within 3 hours of Colchester and 24 of New York. I want Ireland to be the brains and imagination of a big Commonwealth, not a Robinson Crusoe island. Then there's the religious difficulty. My Catholicism is the Catholicism of Charlemagne or Dante, qualified by a great deal of modern science and folklore which Father Dempsey would call the ravings of an Atheist. Well, my father's Catholicism is the Catholicism of Father Dempsey.
BROADBENT [shrewdly]. I don't want to interrupt you, Larry; but you know this is all gammon. These differences exist in all families; but the members rub on together all right. [Suddenly relapsing into portentousness] Of course there are some questions which touch the very foundations of morals; and on these I grant you even the closest relationships cannot excuse any compromise or laxity. For instance—
DOYLE [impatiently springing up and walking about]. For instance, Home Rule, South Africa, Free Trade, and the Education Rate. Well, I should differ from my father on every one of them, probably, just as I differ from you about them.
BROADBENT. Yes; but you are an Irishman; and these things are not serious to you as they are to an Englishman.
DOYLE. What! not even Home Rule!
BROADBENT [steadfastly]. Not even Home Rule. We owe Home Rule not to the Irish, but to our English Gladstone. No, Larry: I can't help thinking that there's something behind all this.
DOYLE [hotly]. What is there behind it? Do you think I'm humbugging you?
BROADBENT. Don't fly out at me, old chap. I only thought—
DOYLE. What did you think?
BROADBENT. Well, a moment ago I caught a name which is new to me: a Miss Nora Reilly, I think. [Doyle stops dead and stares at him with something like awe]. I don't wish to be impertinent, as you know, Larry; but are you sure she has nothing to do with your reluctance to come to Ireland with me?
DOYLE [sitting down again, vanquished]. Thomas Broadbent: I surrender. The poor silly-clever Irishman takes off his hat to God's Englishman. The man who could in all seriousness make that recent remark of yours about Home Rule and Gladstone must be simply the champion idiot of all the world. Yet the man who could in the very next sentence sweep away all my special pleading and go straight to the heart of my motives must be a man of genius. But that the idiot and the genius should be the same man! how is that possible? [Springing to his feet] By Jove, I see it all now. I'll write an article about it, and send it to Nature.
BROADBENT [staring at him]. What on earth—
DOYLE. It's quite simple. You know that a caterpillar—
BROADBENT. A caterpillar!!!
DOYLE. Yes, a caterpillar. Now give your mind to what I am going to say; for it's a new and important scientific theory of the English national character. A caterpillar—
BROADBENT. Look here, Larry: don't be an ass.
DOYLE [insisting]. I say a caterpillar and I mean a caterpillar. You'll understand presently. A caterpillar [Broadbent mutters a slight protest, but does not press it] when it gets into a tree, instinctively makes itself look exactly like a leaf; so that both its enemies and its prey may mistake it for one and think it not worth bothering about.
BROADBENT. What's that got to do with our English national character?
DOYLE. I'll tell you. The world is as full of fools as a tree is full of leaves. Well, the Englishman does what the caterpillar does. He instinctively makes himself look like a fool, and eats up all the real fools at his ease while his enemies let him alone and laugh at him for being a fool like the rest. Oh, nature is cunning, cunning! [He sits down, lost in contemplation of his word-picture].
BROADBENT [with hearty admiration]. Now you know, Larry, that would never have occurred to me. You Irish people are amazingly clever. Of course it's all tommy rot; but it's so brilliant, you know! How the dickens do you think of such things! You really must write an article about it: they'll pay you something for it. If Nature won't have it, I can get it into Engineering for you: I know the editor.
DOYLE. Let's get back to business. I'd better tell you about Nora Reilly.
BROADBENT. No: never mind. I shouldn't have alluded to her.
DOYLE. I'd rather. Nora has a fortune.
BROADBENT [keenly interested]. Eh? How much?
DOYLE. Forty per annum.
BROADBENT. Forty thousand?
DOYLE. No, forty. Forty pounds.
BROADBENT [much dashed.] That's what you call a fortune in Rosscullen, is it?
DOYLE. A girl with a dowry of five pounds calls it a fortune in Rosscullen. What's more 40 pounds a year IS a fortune there; and Nora Reilly enjoys a good deal of social consideration as an heiress on the strength of it. It has helped my father's household through many a tight place. My father was her father's agent. She came on a visit to us when he died, and has lived with us ever since.
BROADBENT [attentively, beginning to suspect Larry of misconduct with Nora, and resolving to get to the bottom of it]. Since when? I mean how old were you when she came?
DOYLE. I was seventeen. So was she: if she'd been older she'd have had more sense than to stay with us. We were together for 18 months before I went up to Dublin to study. When I went home for Christmas and Easter, she was there: I suppose it used to be something of an event for her, though of course I never thought of that then.
BROADBENT. Were you at all hard hit?
DOYLE. Not really. I had only two ideas at that time, first, to learn to do something; and then to get out of Ireland and have a chance of doing it. She didn't count. I was romantic about her, just as I was romantic about Byron's heroines or the old Round Tower of Rosscullen; but she didn't count any more than they did. I've never crossed St George's Channel since for her sake—never even landed at Queenstown and come back to London through Ireland.
BROADBENT. But did you ever say anything that would justify her in waiting for you?
DOYLE. No, never. But she IS waiting for me.
BROADBENT. How do you know?
DOYLE. She writes to me—on her birthday. She used to write on mine, and send me little things as presents; but I stopped that by pretending that it was no use when I was travelling, as they got lost in the foreign post-offices. [He pronounces post-offices with the stress on offices, instead of on post].
BROADBENT. You answer the letters?
DOYLE. Not very punctually. But they get acknowledged at one time or another.
BROADBENT. How do you feel when you see her handwriting?
DOYLE. Uneasy. I'd give 50 pounds to escape a letter.
BROADBENT [looking grave, and throwing himself back in his chair to intimate that the cross-examination is over, and the result very damaging to the witness] Hm!
DOYLE. What d'ye mean by Hm!?
BROADBENT. Of course I know that the moral code is different in Ireland. But in England it's not considered fair to trifle with a woman's affections.
DOYLE. You mean that an Englishman would get engaged to another woman and return Nora her letters and presents with a letter to say he was unworthy of her and wished her every happiness?
BROADBENT. Well, even that would set the poor girl's mind at rest.
DOYLE. Would it? I wonder! One thing I can tell you; and that is that Nora would wait until she died of old age sooner than ask my intentions or condescend to hint at the possibility of my having any. You don't know what Irish pride is. England may have knocked a good deal of it out of me; but she's never been in England; and if I had to choose between wounding that delicacy in her and hitting her in the face, I'd hit her in the face without a moment's hesitation.
BROADBENT [who has been nursing his knee and reflecting, apparently rather agreeably]. You know, all this sounds rather interesting. There's the Irish charm about it. That's the worst of you: the Irish charm doesn't exist for you.
DOYLE. Oh yes it does. But it's the charm of a dream. Live in contact with dreams and you will get something of their charm: live in contact with facts and you will get something of their brutality. I wish I could find a country to live in where the facts were not brutal and the dreams not unreal.
BROADBENT [changing his attitude and responding to Doyle's earnestness with deep conviction: his elbows on the table and his hands clenched]. Don't despair, Larry, old boy: things may look black; but there will be a great change after the next election.
DOYLE [jumping up]. Oh get out, you idiot!
BROADBENT [rising also, not a bit snubbed]. Ha! ha! you may laugh; but we shall see. However, don't let us argue about that. Come now! you ask my advice about Miss Reilly?
DOYLE [reddening]. No I don't. Damn your advice! [Softening] Let's have it, all the same.
BROADBENT. Well, everything you tell me about her impresses me favorably. She seems to have the feelings of a lady; and though we must face the fact that in England her income would hardly maintain her in the lower middle class—
DOYLE [interrupting]. Now look here, Tom. That reminds me. When you go to Ireland, just drop talking about the middle class and bragging of belonging to it. In Ireland you're either a gentleman or you're not. If you want to be particularly offensive to Nora, you can call her a Papist; but if you call her a middle-class woman, Heaven help you!
BROADBENT [irrepressible]. Never fear. You're all descended from the ancient kings: I know that. [Complacently] I'm not so tactless as you think, my boy. [Earnest again] I expect to find Miss Reilly a perfect lady; and I strongly advise you to come and have another look at her before you make up your mind about her. By the way, have you a photograph of her?
DOYLE. Her photographs stopped at twenty-five.
BROADBENT [saddened]. Ah yes, I suppose so. [With feeling, severely] Larry: you've treated that poor girl disgracefully.
DOYLE. By George, if she only knew that two men were talking about her like this—!
BROADBENT. She wouldn't like it, would she? Of course not. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves, Larry. [More and more carried away by his new fancy]. You know, I have a sort of presentiment that Miss Really is a very superior woman.
DOYLE [staring hard at him]. Oh you have, have you?
BROADBENT. Yes I have. There is something very touching about the history of this beautiful girl.
DOYLE. Beau—! Oho! Here's a chance for Nora! and for me! [Calling] Hodson.
HODSON [appearing at the bedroom door]. Did you call, sir?
DOYLE. Pack for me too. I'm going to Ireland with Mr Broadbent.
HODSON. Right, sir. [He retires into the bedroom.]
BROADBENT [clapping Doyle on the shoulder]. Thank you, old chap. Thank you.
Rosscullen. Westward a hillside of granite rock and heather slopes upward across the prospect from south to north, a huge stone stands on it in a naturally impossible place, as if it had been tossed up there by a giant. Over the brow, in the desolate valley beyond, is a round tower. A lonely white high road trending away westward past the tower loses itself at the foot of the far mountains. It is evening; and there are great breadths of silken green in the Irish sky. The sun is setting.
A man with the face of a young saint, yet with white hair and perhaps 50 years on his back, is standing near the stone in a trance of intense melancholy, looking over the hills as if by mere intensity of gaze he could pierce the glories of the sunset and see into the streets of heaven. He is dressed in black, and is rather more clerical in appearance than most English curates are nowadays; but he does not wear the collar and waistcoat of a parish priest. He is roused from his trance by the chirp of an insect from a tuft of grass in a crevice of the stone. His face relaxes: he turns quietly, and gravely takes off his hat to the tuft, addressing the insect in a brogue which is the jocular assumption of a gentleman and not the natural speech of a peasant.
THE MAN. An is that yourself, Misther Grasshopper? I hope I see you well this fine evenin.
THE GRASSHOPPER [prompt and shrill in answer]. X.X.
THE MAN [encouragingly]. That's right. I suppose now you've come out to make yourself miserable by admyerin the sunset?
THE GRASSHOPPER [sadly]. X.X.
THE MAN. Aye, you're a thrue Irish grasshopper.
THE GRASSHOPPER [loudly]. X.X.X.
THE MAN. Three cheers for ould Ireland, is it? That helps you to face out the misery and the poverty and the torment, doesn't it?
THE GRASSHOPPER [plaintively]. X.X.
THE MAN. Ah, it's no use, me poor little friend. If you could jump as far as a kangaroo you couldn't jump away from your own heart an its punishment. You can only look at Heaven from here: you can't reach it. There! [pointing with his stick to the sunset] that's the gate o glory, isn't it?
THE GRASSHOPPER [assenting]. X.X.
THE MAN. Sure it's the wise grasshopper yar to know that! But tell me this, Misther Unworldly Wiseman: why does the sight of Heaven wring your heart an mine as the sight of holy wather wrings the heart o the divil? What wickedness have you done to bring that curse on you? Here! where are you jumpin to? Where's your manners to go skyrocketin like that out o the box in the middle o your confession [he threatens it with his stick]?
THE GRASSHOPPER [penitently]. X.
THE MAN [lowering the stick]. I accept your apology; but don't do it again. And now tell me one thing before I let you go home to bed. Which would you say this counthry was: hell or purgatory?
THE GRASSHOPPER. X.
THE MAN. Hell! Faith I'm afraid you're right. I wondher what you and me did when we were alive to get sent here.
THE GRASSHOPPER [shrilly]. X.X.
THE MAN [nodding]. Well, as you say, it's a delicate subject; and I won't press it on you. Now off widja.
THE GRASSHOPPER. X.X. [It springs away].
THE MAN [waving his stick] God speed you! [He walks away past the stone towards the brow of the hill. Immediately a young laborer, his face distorted with terror, slips round from behind the stone.
THE LABORER [crossing himself repeatedly]. Oh glory be to God! glory be to God! Oh Holy Mother an all the saints! Oh murdher! murdher! [Beside himself, calling Fadher Keegan! Fadher Keegan]!
THE MAN [turning]. Who's there? What's that? [He comes back and finds the laborer, who clasps his knees] Patsy Farrell! What are you doing here?
PATSY. O for the love o God don't lave me here wi dhe grasshopper. I hard it spakin to you. Don't let it do me any harm, Father darlint.
KEEGAN. Get up, you foolish man, get up. Are you afraid of a poor insect because I pretended it was talking to me?
PATSY. Oh, it was no pretending, Fadher dear. Didn't it give three cheers n say it was a divil out o hell? Oh say you'll see me safe home, Fadher; n put a blessin on me or somethin [he moans with terror].
KEEGAN. What were you doin there, Patsy, listnin? Were you spyin on me?
PATSY. No, Fadher: on me oath an soul I wasn't: I was waitn to meet Masther Larry n carry his luggage from the car; n I fell asleep on the grass; n you woke me talkin to the grasshopper; n I hard its wicked little voice. Oh, d'ye think I'll die before the year's out, Fadher?
KEEGAN. For shame, Patsy! Is that your religion, to be afraid of a little deeshy grasshopper? Suppose it was a divil, what call have you to fear it? If I could ketch it, I'd make you take it home widja in your hat for a penance.
PATSY. Sure, if you won't let it harm me, I'm not afraid, your riverence. [He gets up, a little reassured. He is a callow, flaxen polled, smoothfaced, downy chinned lad, fully grown but not yet fully filled out, with blue eyes and an instinctively acquired air of helplessness and silliness, indicating, not his real character, but a cunning developed by his constant dread of a hostile dominance, which he habitually tries to disarm and tempt into unmasking by pretending to be a much greater fool than he really is. Englishmen think him half-witted, which is exactly what he intends them to think. He is clad in corduroy trousers, unbuttoned waistcoat, and coarse blue striped shirt].
KEEGAN [admonitorily]. Patsy: what did I tell you about callin me Father Keegan an your reverence? What did Father Dempsey tell you about it?
PATSY. Yis, Fadher.
PATSY [desperately]. Arra, hwat am I to call you? Fadher Dempsey sez you're not a priest; n we all know you're not a man; n how do we know what ud happen to us if we showed any disrespect to you? N sure they say wanse a priest always a priest.
KEEGAN [sternly]. It's not for the like of you, Patsy, to go behind the instruction of your parish priest and set yourself up to judge whether your Church is right or wrong.
PATSY. Sure I know that, sir.
KEEGAN. The Church let me be its priest as long as it thought me fit for its work. When it took away my papers it meant you to know that I was only a poor madman, unfit and unworthy to take charge of the souls of the people.
PATSY. But wasn't it only because you knew more Latn than Father Dempsey that he was jealous of you?
KEEGAN [scolding him to keep himself from smiling]. How dar you, Patsy Farrell, put your own wicked little spites and foolishnesses into the heart of your priest? For two pins I'd tell him what you just said.
PATSY [coaxing] Sure you wouldn't—
KEEGAN. Wouldn't I? God forgive you! You're little better than a heathen.
PATSY. Deedn I am, Fadher: it's me bruddher the tinsmith in Dublin you're thinkin of. Sure he had to be a freethinker when he larnt a thrade and went to live in the town.
KEEGAN. Well, he'll get to Heaven before you if you're not careful, Patsy. And now you listen to me, once and for all. You'll talk to me and pray for me by the name of Pether Keegan, so you will. And when you're angry and tempted to lift your hand agen the donkey or stamp your foot on the little grasshopper, remember that the donkey's Pether Keegan's brother, and the grasshopper Pether Keegan's friend. And when you're tempted to throw a stone at a sinner or a curse at a beggar, remember that Pether Keegan is a worse sinner and a worse beggar, and keep the stone and the curse for him the next time you meet him. Now say God bless you, Pether, to me before I go, just to practise you a bit.
PATSY. Sure it wouldn't be right, Fadher. I can't—
KEEGAN. Yes you can. Now out with it; or I'll put this stick into your hand an make you hit me with it.
PATSY [throwing himself on his knees in an ecstasy of adoration]. Sure it's your blessin I want, Fadher Keegan. I'll have no luck widhout it.
KEEGAN [shocked]. Get up out o that, man. Don't kneel to me: I'm not a saint.
PATSY [with intense conviction]. Oh in throth yar, sir. [The grasshopper chirps. Patsy, terrified, clutches at Keegan's hands] Don't set it on me, Fadher: I'll do anythin you bid me.
KEEGAN [pulling him up]. You bosthoon, you! Don't you see that it only whistled to tell me Miss Reilly's comin? There! Look at her and pull yourself together for shame. Off widja to the road: you'll be late for the car if you don't make haste [bustling him down the hill]. I can see the dust of it in the gap already.
PATSY. The Lord save us! [He goes down the hill towards the road like a haunted man].
Nora Reilly comes down the hill. A slight weak woman in a pretty muslin print gown [her best], she is a figure commonplace enough to Irish eyes; but on the inhabitants of fatter-fed, crowded, hustling and bustling modern countries she makes a very different impression. The absence of any symptoms of coarseness or hardness or appetite in her, her comparative delicacy of manner and sensibility of apprehension, her thin hands and slender figure, her travel accent, with the caressing plaintive Irish melody of her speech, give her a charm which is all the more effective because, being untravelled, she is unconscious of it, and never dreams of deliberately dramatizing and exploiting it, as the Irishwoman in England does. For Tom Broadbent therefore, an attractive woman, whom he would even call ethereal. To Larry Doyle, an everyday woman fit only for the eighteenth century, helpless, useless, almost sexless, an invalid without the excuse of disease, an incarnation of everything in Ireland that drove him out of it. These judgments have little value and no finality; but they are the judgments on which her fate hangs just at present. Keegan touches his hat to her: he does not take it off.
NORA. Mr Keegan: I want to speak to you a minute if you don't mind.
KEEGAN [dropping the broad Irish vernacular of his speech to Patsy]. An hour if you like, Miss Reilly: you're always welcome. Shall we sit down?
NORA. Thank you. [They sit on the heather. She is shy and anxious; but she comes to the point promptly because she can think of nothing else]. They say you did a gradle o travelling at one time.
KEEGAN. Well you see I'm not a Mnooth man [he means that he was not a student at Maynooth College]. When I was young I admired the older generation of priests that had been educated in Salamanca. So when I felt sure of my vocation I went to Salamanca. Then I walked from Salamanca to Rome, an sted in a monastery there for a year. My pilgrimage to Rome taught me that walking is a better way of travelling than the train; so I walked from Rome to the Sorbonne in Paris; and I wish I could have walked from Paris to Oxford; for I was very sick on the sea. After a year of Oxford I had to walk to Jerusalem to walk the Oxford feeling off me. From Jerusalem I came back to Patmos, and spent six months at the monastery of Mount Athos. From that I came to Ireland and settled down as a parish priest until I went mad.
NORA [startled]. Oh dons say that.
KEEGAN. Why not? Don't you know the story? how I confessed a black man and gave him absolution; and how he put a spell on me and drove me mad.
NORA. How can you talk such nonsense about yourself? For shame!
KEEGAN. It's not nonsense at all: it's true—in a way. But never mind the black man. Now that you know what a travelled man I am, what can I do for you? [She hesitates and plucks nervously at the heather. He stays her hand gently]. Dear Miss Nora: don't pluck the little flower. If it was a pretty baby you wouldn't want to pull its head off and stick it in a vawse o water to look at. [The grasshopper chirps: Keegan turns his head and addresses it in the vernacular]. Be aisy, me son: she won't spoil the swing-swong in your little three. [To Nora, resuming his urbane style] You see I'm quite cracked; but never mind: I'm harmless. Now what is it?
NORA [embarrassed]. Oh, only idle curiosity. I wanted to know whether you found Ireland—I mean the country part of Ireland, of course—very small and backwardlike when you came back to it from Rome and Oxford and all the great cities.
KEEGAN. When I went to those great cities I saw wonders I had never seen in Ireland. But when I came back to Ireland I found all the wonders there waiting for me. You see they had been there all the time; but my eyes had never been opened to them. I did not know what my own house was like, because I had never been outside it.
NORA. D'ye think that's the same with everybody?
KEEGAN. With everybody who has eyes in his soul as well as in his head.
NORA. But really and truly now, weren't the people rather disappointing? I should think the girls must have seemed rather coarse and dowdy after the foreign princesses and people? But I suppose a priest wouldn't notice that.
KEEGAN. It's a priest's business to notice everything. I won't tell you all I noticed about women; but I'll tell you this. The more a man knows, and the farther he travels, the more likely he is to marry a country girl afterwards.
NORA [blushing with delight]. You're joking, Mr Keegan: I'm sure yar.
KEEGAN. My way of joking is to tell the truth. It's the funniest joke in the world.
NORA [incredulous]. Galong with you!
KEEGAN [springing up actively]. Shall we go down to the road and meet the car? [She gives him her hand and he helps her up]. Patsy Farrell told me you were expecting young Doyle.
NORA [tossing her chin up at once]. Oh, I'm not expecting him particularly. It's a wonder he's come back at all. After staying away eighteen years he can harly expect us to be very anxious to see him, can he now?
KEEGAN. Well, not anxious perhaps; but you will be curious to see how much he has changed in all these years.
NORA [with a sudden bitter flush]. I suppose that's all that brings him back to look at us, just to see how much WE'VE changed. Well, he can wait and see me be candlelight: I didn't come out to meet him: I'm going to walk to the Round Tower [going west across the hill].
KEEGAN. You couldn't do better this fine evening. [Gravely] I'll tell him where you've gone. [She turns as if to forbid him; but the deep understanding in his eyes makes that impossible; and she only looks at him earnestly and goes. He watches her disappear on the other side of the hill; then says] Aye, he's come to torment you; and you're driven already to torment him. [He shakes his head, and goes slowly away across the hill in the opposite direction, lost in thought].
By this time the car has arrived, and dropped three of its passengers on the high road at the foot of the hill. It is a monster jaunting car, black and dilapidated, one of the last survivors of the public vehicles known to earlier generations as Beeyankiny cars, the Irish having laid violent tongues on the name of their projector, one Bianconi, an enterprising Italian. The three passengers are the parish priest, Father Dempsey; Cornelius Doyle, Larry's father; and Broadbent, all in overcoats and as stiff as only an Irish car could make them.
The priest, stout and fatherly, falls far short of that finest type of countryside pastor which represents the genius of priesthood; but he is equally far above the base type in which a strongminded and unscrupulous peasant uses the Church to extort money, power, and privilege. He is a priest neither by vocation nor ambition, but because the life suits him. He has boundless authority over his flock, and taxes them stiffly enough to be a rich man. The old Protestant ascendency is now too broken to gall him. On the whole, an easygoing, amiable, even modest man as long as his dues are paid and his authority and dignity fully admitted.
Cornelius Doyle is an elder of the small wiry type, with a hardskinned, rather worried face, clean shaven except for sandy whiskers blanching into a lustreless pale yellow and quite white at the roots. His dress is that of a country-town titan of business: that is, an oldish shooting suit, and elastic sided boots quite unconnected with shooting. Feeling shy with Broadbent, he is hasty, which is his way of trying to appear genial.
Broadbent, for reasons which will appear later, has no luggage except a field glass and a guide book. The other two have left theirs to the unfortunate Patsy Farrell, who struggles up the hill after them, loaded with a sack of potatoes, a hamper, a fat goose, a colossal salmon, and several paper parcels.
Cornelius leads the way up the hill, with Broadbent at his heels. The priest follows; and Patsy lags laboriously behind.
CORNELIUS. This is a bit of a climb, Mr. Broadbent; but it's shorter than goin round be the road.
BROADBENT [stopping to examine the great stone]. Just a moment, Mr Doyle: I want to look at this stone. It must be Finian's die-cast.
CORNELIUS [in blank bewilderment]. Hwat?
BROADBENT. Murray describes it. One of your great national heroes—I can't pronounce the name—Finian Somebody, I think.
FATHER DEMPSEY [also perplexed, and rather scandalized]. Is it Fin McCool you mean?
BROADBENT. I daresay it is. [Referring to the guide book]. Murray says that a huge stone, probably of Druidic origin, is still pointed out as the die cast by Fin in his celebrated match with the devil.
CORNELIUS [dubiously]. Jeuce a word I ever heard of it!
FATHER DEMPSEY [very seriously indeed, and even a little severely]. Don't believe any such nonsense, sir. There never was any such thing. When people talk to you about Fin McCool and the like, take no notice of them. It's all idle stories and superstition.
BROADBENT [somewhat indignantly; for to be rebuked by an Irish priest for superstition is more than he can stand]. You don't suppose I believe it, do you?
FATHER DEMPSEY. Oh, I thought you did. D'ye see the top o the Roun Tower there? That's an antiquity worth lookin at.
BROADBENT [deeply interested]. Have you any theory as to what the Round Towers were for?
FATHER DEMPSEY [a little offended]. A theory? Me! [Theories are connected in his mind with the late Professor Tyndall, and with scientific scepticism generally: also perhaps with the view that the Round Towers are phallic symbols].
CORNELIUS [remonstrating]. Father Dempsey is the priest of the parish, Mr Broadbent. What would he be doing with a theory?
FATHER DEMPSEY [with gentle emphasis]. I have a KNOWLEDGE of what the Roun Towers were, if that's what you mean. They are the forefingers of the early Church, pointing us all to God.
Patsy, intolerably overburdened, loses his balance, and sits down involuntarily. His burdens are scattered over the hillside. Cornelius and Father Dempsey turn furiously on him, leaving Broadbent beaming at the stone and the tower with fatuous interest.
CORNELIUS. Oh, be the hokey, the sammin's broke in two! You schoopid ass, what d'ye mean?
FATHER DEMPSEY. Are you drunk, Patsy Farrell? Did I tell you to carry that hamper carefully or did I not?
PATSY [rubbing the back of his head, which has almost dented a slab of granite] Sure me fut slpt. Howkn I carry three men's luggage at wanst?
FATHER DEMPSEY. You were told to leave behind what you couldn't carry, an go back for it.
PATSY. An whose things was I to lave behind? Hwat would your reverence think if I left your hamper behind in the wet grass; n hwat would the masther say if I left the sammin and the goose be the side o the road for annywan to pick up?
CORNELIUS. Oh, you've a dale to say for yourself, you, butther-fingered omadhaun. Wait'll Ant Judy sees the state o that sammin: SHE'LL talk to you. Here! gimme that birdn that fish there; an take Father Dempsey's hamper to his house for him; n then come back for the rest.
FATHER DEMPSEY. Do, Patsy. And mind you don't fall down again.
PATSY. Sure I—
CORNELIUS [bustling him up the bill] Whisht! heres Ant Judy. [Patsy goes grumbling in disgrace, with Father Dempsey's hamper].
Aunt Judy comes down the hill, a woman of 50, in no way remarkable, lively and busy without energy or grip, placid without tranquillity, kindly without concern for others: indeed without much concern for herself: a contented product of a narrow, strainless life. She wears her hair parted in the middle and quite smooth, with a fattened bun at the back. Her dress is a plain brown frock, with a woollen pelerine of black and aniline mauve over her shoulders, all very trim in honor of the occasion. She looks round for Larry; is puzzled; then stares incredulously at Broadbent.
AUNT JUDY. Surely to goodness that's not you, Larry!
CORNELIUS. Arra how could he be Larry, woman alive? Larry's in no hurry home, it seems. I haven't set eyes on him. This is his friend, Mr Broadbent. Mr Broadbent, me sister Judy.
AUNT JUDY [hospitably: going to Broadbent and shaking hands heartily]. Mr. Broadbent! Fancy me takin you for Larry! Sure we haven't seen a sight of him for eighteen years, n he only a lad when he left us.
BROADBENT. It's not Larry's fault: he was to have been here before me. He started in our motor an hour before Mr Doyle arrived, to meet us at Athenmullet, intending to get here long before me.
AUNT JUDY. Lord save us! do you think he's had n axidnt?
BROADBENT. No: he's wired to say he's had a breakdown and will come on as soon as he can. He expects to be here at about ten.
AUNT JUDY. There now! Fancy him trustn himself in a motor and we all expectn him! Just like him! he'd never do anything like anybody else. Well, what can't be cured must be injoored. Come on in, all of you. You must be dyin for your tea, Mr Broadbent.
BROADBENT [with a slight start]. Oh, I'm afraid it's too late for tea [he looks at his watch].
AUNT JUDY. Not a bit: we never have it airlier than this. I hope they gave you a good dinner at Athenmullet.
BROADBENT [trying to conceal his consternation as he realizes that he is not going to get any dinner after his drive] Oh—er—excellent, excellent. By the way, hadn't I better see about a room at the hotel? [They stare at him].
CORNELIUS. The hotel!
FATHER DEMPSEY. Hwat hotel?
AUNT JUDY. Indeedn you'e not goin to a hotel. You'll stay with us. I'd have put you into Larry's room, only the boy's pallyass is too short for you; but we'll make a comfortable bed for you on the sofa in the parlor.
BROADBENT. You're very kind, Miss Doyle; but really I'm ashamed to give you so much trouble unnecessarily. I shan't mind the hotel in the least.
FATHER DEMPSEY. Man alive! There's no hotel in Rosscullen.
BROADBENT. No hotel! Why, the driver told me there was the finest hotel in Ireland here. [They regard him joylessly].
AUNT JUDY. Arra would you mind what the like of him would tell you? Sure he'd say hwatever was the least trouble to himself and the pleasantest to you, thinkin you might give him a thruppeny bit for himself or the like.
BROADBENT. Perhaps there's a public house.
FATHER DEMPSEY [grimly.] There's seventeen.
AUNT JUDY. Ah then, how could you stay at a public house? They'd have no place to put you even if it was a right place for you to go. Come! is it the sofa you're afraid of? If it is, you can have me own bed. I can sleep with Nora.
BROADBENT. Not at all, not at all: I should be only too delighted. But to upset your arrangements in this way—
CORNELIUS [anxious to cut short the discussion, which makes him ashamed of his house; for he guesses Broadbent's standard of comfort a little more accurately than his sister does] That's all right: it'll be no trouble at all. Hweres Nora?
AUNT JUDY. Oh, how do I know? She slipped out a little while ago: I thought she was goin to meet the car.
CORNELIUS [dissatisfied] It's a queer thing of her to run out o the way at such a time.
AUNT JUDY. Sure she's a queer girl altogether. Come. Come in, come in.
FATHER DEMPSEY. I'll say good-night, Mr Broadbent. If there's anything I can do for you in this parish, let me know. [He shakes hands with Broadbent].
BROADBENT [effusively cordial]. Thank you, Father Dempsey. Delighted to have met you, sir.
FATHER DEMPSEY [passing on to Aunt Judy]. Good-night, Miss Doyle.
AUNT JUDY. Won't you stay to tea?
FATHER DEMPSEY. Not to-night, thank you kindly: I have business to do at home. [He turns to go, and meets Patsy Farrell returning unloaded]. Have you left that hamper for me?
PATSY. Yis, your reverence.
FATHER DEMPSEY. That's a good lad [going].
PATSY [to Aunt Judy] Fadher Keegan sez—
FATHER DEMPSEY [turning sharply on him]. What's that you say?
PATSY [frightened]. Fadher Keegan—
FATHER DEMPSEY. How often have you heard me bid you call Mister Keegan in his proper name, the same as I do? Father Keegan indeed! Can't you tell the difference between your priest and any ole madman in a black coat?
PATSY. Sure I'm afraid he might put a spell on me.
FATHER DEMPSEY [wrathfully]. You mind what I tell you or I'll put a spell on you that'll make you lep. D'ye mind that now? [He goes home].
Patsy goes down the hill to retrieve the fish, the bird, and the sack.
AUNT JUDY. Ah, hwy can't you hold your tongue, Patsy, before Father Dempsey?
PATSY. Well, what was I to do? Father Keegan bid me tell you Miss Nora was gone to the Roun Tower.
AUNT JUDY. An hwy couldn't you wait to tell us until Father Dempsey was gone?
PATSY. I was afeerd o forgetn it; and then maybe he'd a sent the grasshopper or the little dark looker into me at night to remind me of it. [The dark looker is the common grey lizard, which is supposed to walk down the throats of incautious sleepers and cause them to perish in a slow decline].
CORNELIUS. Yah, you great gaum, you! Widjer grasshoppers and dark lookers! Here: take up them things and let me hear no more o your foolish lip. [Patsy obeys]. You can take the sammin under your oxther. [He wedges the salmon into Patsy's axilla].
PATSY. I can take the goose too, sir. Put it on me back and gimme the neck of it in me mouth. [Cornelius is about to comply thoughtlessly].
AUNT JUDY [feeling that Broadbent's presence demands special punctiliousness]. For shame, Patsy! to offer to take the goose in your mouth that we have to eat after you! The master'll bring it in for you. [Patsy, abashed, yet irritated by this ridiculous fastidiousness, takes his load up the hill].
CORNELIUS. What the jeuce does Nora want to go to the Roun Tower for?
AUNT JUDY. Oh, the Lord knows! Romancin, I suppose. Props she thinks Larry would go there to look for her and see her safe home.
BROADBENT. I'm afraid it's all the fault of my motor. Miss Reilly must not be left to wait and walk home alone at night. Shall I go for her?
AUNT JUDY [contemptuously]. Arra hwat ud happen to her? Hurry in now, Corny. Come, Mr Broadbent. I left the tea on the hob to draw; and it'll be black if we don't go in an drink it.
They go up the hill. It is dark by this time.
Broadbent does not fare so badly after all at Aunt Judy's board. He gets not only tea and bread-and-butter, but more mutton chops than he has ever conceived it possible to eat at one sitting. There is also a most filling substance called potato cake. Hardly have his fears of being starved been replaced by his first misgiving that he is eating too much and will be sorry for it tomorrow, when his appetite is revived by the production of a bottle of illicitly distilled whisky, called pocheen, which he has read and dreamed of [he calls it pottine] and is now at last to taste. His good humor rises almost to excitement before Cornelius shows signs of sleepiness. The contrast between Aunt Judy's table service and that of the south and east coast hotels at which he spends his Fridays-to-Tuesdays when he is in London, seems to him delightfully Irish. The almost total atrophy of any sense of enjoyment in Cornelius, or even any desire for it or toleration of the possibility of life being something better than a round of sordid worries, relieved by tobacco, punch, fine mornings, and petty successes in buying and selling, passes with his guest as the whimsical affectation of a shrewd Irish humorist and incorrigible spendthrift. Aunt Judy seems to him an incarnate joke. The likelihood that the joke will pall after a month or so, and is probably not apparent at any time to born Rossculleners, or that he himself unconsciously entertains Aunt Judy by his fantastic English personality and English mispronunciations, does not occur to him for a moment. In the end he is so charmed, and so loth to go to bed and perhaps dream of prosaic England, that he insists on going out to smoke a cigar and look for Nora Reilly at the Round Tower. Not that any special insistence is needed; for the English inhibitive instinct does not seem to exist in Rosscullen. Just as Nora's liking to miss a meal and stay out at the Round Tower is accepted as a sufficient reason for her doing it, and for the family going to bed and leaving the door open for her, so Broadbent's whim to go out for a late stroll provokes neither hospitable remonstrance nor surprise. Indeed Aunt Judy wants to get rid of him whilst she makes a bed for him on the sofa. So off he goes, full fed, happy and enthusiastic, to explore the valley by moonlight.
The Round Tower stands about half an Irish mile from Rosscullen, some fifty yards south of the road on a knoll with a circle of wild greensward on it. The road once ran over this knoll; but modern engineering has tempered the level to the Beeyankiny car by carrying the road partly round the knoll and partly through a cutting; so that the way from the road to the tower is a footpath up the embankment through furze and brambles.
On the edge of this slope, at the top of the path, Nora is straining her eyes in the moonlight, watching for Larry. At last she gives it up with a sob of impatience, and retreats to the hoary foot of the tower, where she sits down discouraged and cries a little. Then she settles herself resignedly to wait, and hums a song—not an Irish melody, but a hackneyed English drawing-room ballad of the season before last—until some slight noise suggests a footstep, when she springs up eagerly and runs to the edge of the slope again. Some moments of silence and suspense follow, broken by unmistakable footsteps. She gives a little gasp as she sees a man approaching.
NORA. Is that you, Larry? [Frightened a little] Who's that?
[BROADBENT's voice from below on the path]. Don't be alarmed.
NORA. Oh, what an English accent you've got!
BROADBENT [rising into view] I must introduce myself—
NORA [violently startled, retreating]. It's not you! Who are you? What do you want?
BROADBENT [advancing]. I'm really so sorry to have alarmed you, Miss Reilly. My name is Broadbent. Larry's friend, you know.
NORA [chilled]. And has Mr Doyle not come with you?
BROADBENT. No. I've come instead. I hope I am not unwelcome.
NORA [deeply mortified]. I'm sorry Mr Doyle should have given you the trouble, I'm sure.
BROADBENT. You see, as a stranger and an Englishman, I thought it would be interesting to see the Round Tower by moonlight.
NORA. Oh, you came to see the tower. I thought—[confused, trying to recover her manners] Oh, of course. I was so startled—It's a beautiful night, isn't it?
BROADBENT. Lovely. I must explain why Larry has not come himself.
NORA. Why should he come? He's seen the tower often enough: it's no attraction to him. [Genteelly] An what do you think of Ireland, Mr Broadbent? Have you ever been here before?
NORA. An how do you like it?
BROADBENT [suddenly betraying a condition of extreme sentimentality]. I can hardly trust myself to say how much I like it. The magic of this Irish scene, and—I really don't want to be personal, Miss Reilly; but the charm of your Irish voice—
NORA [quite accustomed to gallantry, and attaching no seriousness whatever to it]. Oh, get along with you, Mr Broadbent! You're breaking your heart about me already, I daresay, after seeing me for two minutes in the dark.
BROADBENT. The voice is just as beautiful in the dark, you know. Besides, I've heard a great deal about you from Larry.
NORA [with bitter indifference]. Have you now? Well, that's a great honor, I'm sure.
BROADBENT. I have looked forward to meeting you more than to anything else in Ireland.
NORA [ironically]. Dear me! did you now?
BROADBENT. I did really. I wish you had taken half as much interest in me.
NORA. Oh, I was dying to see you, of course. I daresay you can imagine the sensation an Englishman like you would make among us poor Irish people.
BROADBENT. Ah, now you're chaffing me, Miss Reilly: you know you are. You mustn't chaff me. I'm very much in earnest about Ireland and everything Irish. I'm very much in earnest about you and about Larry.
NORA. Larry has nothing to do with me, Mr Broadbent.
BROADBENT. If I really thought that, Miss Reilly, I should—well, I should let myself feel that charm of which I spoke just now more deeply than I—than I—
NORA. Is it making love to me you are?
BROADBENT [scared and much upset]. On my word I believe I am, Miss Reilly. If you say that to me again I shan't answer for myself: all the harps of Ireland are in your voice. [She laughs at him. He suddenly loses his head and seizes her arms, to her great indignation]. Stop laughing: do you hear? I am in earnest—in English earnest. When I say a thing like that to a woman, I mean it. [Releasing her and trying to recover his ordinary manner in spite of his bewildering emotion] I beg your pardon.
NORA. How dare you touch me?
BROADBENT. There are not many things I would not dare for you. That does not sound right perhaps; but I really—[he stops and passes his hand over his forehead, rather lost].
NORA. I think you ought to be ashamed. I think if you were a gentleman, and me alone with you in this place at night, you would die rather than do such a thing.
BROADBENT. You mean that it's an act of treachery to Larry?
NORA. Deed I don't. What has Larry to do with it? It's an act of disrespect and rudeness to me: it shows what you take me for. You can go your way now; and I'll go mine. Goodnight, Mr Broadbent.
BROADBENT. No, please, Miss Reilly. One moment. Listen to me. I'm serious: I'm desperately serious. Tell me that I'm interfering with Larry; and I'll go straight from this spot back to London and never see you again. That's on my honor: I will. Am I interfering with him?
NORA [answering in spite of herself in a sudden spring of bitterness]. I should think you ought to know better than me whether you're interfering with him. You've seen him oftener than I have. You know him better than I do, by this time. You've come to me quicker than he has, haven't you?
BROADBENT. I'm bound to tell you, Miss Reilly, that Larry has not arrived in Rosscullen yet. He meant to get here before me; but his car broke down; and he may not arrive until to-morrow.
NORA [her face lighting up]. Is that the truth?
BROADBENT. Yes: that's the truth. [She gives a sigh of relief]. You're glad of that?
NORA [up in arms at once]. Glad indeed! Why should I be glad? As we've waited eighteen years for him we can afford to wait a day longer, I should think.
BROADBENT. If you really feel like that about him, there may be a chance for another man yet. Eh?
NORA [deeply offended]. I suppose people are different in England, Mr Broadbent; so perhaps you don't mean any harm. In Ireland nobody'd mind what a man'd say in fun, nor take advantage of what a woman might say in answer to it. If a woman couldn't talk to a man for two minutes at their first meeting without being treated the way you're treating me, no decent woman would ever talk to a man at all.
BROADBENT. I don't understand that. I don't admit that. I am sincere; and my intentions are perfectly honorable. I think you will accept the fact that I'm an Englishman as a guarantee that I am not a man to act hastily or romantically, though I confess that your voice had such an extraordinary effect on me just now when you asked me so quaintly whether I was making love to you—
NORA [flushing] I never thought—
BROADHHNT [quickly]. Of course you didn't. I'm not so stupid as that. But I couldn't bear your laughing at the feeling it gave me. You—[again struggling with a surge of emotion] you don't know what I— [he chokes for a moment and then blurts out with unnatural steadiness] Will you be my wife?
NORA [promptly]. Deed I won't. The idea! [Looking at him more carefully] Arra, come home, Mr Broadbent; and get your senses back again. I think you're not accustomed to potcheen punch in the evening after your tea.
BROADBENT [horrified]. Do you mean to say that I—I—I—my God! that I appear drunk to you, Miss Reilly?
NORA [compassionately]. How many tumblers had you?
BROADBENT [helplessly]. Two.
NORA. The flavor of the turf prevented you noticing the strength of it. You'd better come home to bed.
BROADBENT [fearfully agitated]. But this is such a horrible doubt to put into my mind—to—to—For Heaven's sake, Miss Reilly, am I really drunk?
NORA [soothingly]. You'll be able to judge better in the morning. Come on now back with me, an think no more about it. [She takes his arm with motherly solicitude and urges him gently toward the path].
BROADBENT [yielding in despair]. I must be drunk—frightfully drunk; for your voice drove me out of my senses [he stumbles over a stone]. No: on my word, on my most sacred word of honor, Miss Reilly, I tripped over that stone. It was an accident; it was indeed.
NORA. Yes, of course it was. Just take my arm, Mr Broadbent, while we're goin down the path to the road. You'll be all right then.
BROADBENT [submissively taking it]. I can't sufficiently apologize, Miss Reilly, or express my sense of your kindness when I am in such a disgusting state. How could I be such a bea— [he trips again] damn the heather! my foot caught in it.
NORA. Steady now, steady. Come along: come. [He is led down to the road in the character of a convicted drunkard. To him there it something divine in the sympathetic indulgence she substitutes for the angry disgust with which one of his own countrywomen would resent his supposed condition. And he has no suspicion of the fact, or of her ignorance of it, that when an Englishman is sentimental he behaves very much as an Irishman does when he is drunk].
Next morning Broadbent and Larry are sitting at the ends of a breakfast table in the middle of a small grass plot before Cornelius Doyle's house. They have finished their meal, and are buried in newspapers. Most of the crockery is crowded upon a large square black tray of japanned metal. The teapot is of brown delft ware. There is no silver; and the butter, on a dinner plate, is en bloc. The background to this breakfast is the house, a small white slated building, accessible by a half-glazed door. A person coming out into the garden by this door would find the table straight in front of him, and a gate leading to the road half way down the garden on his right; or, if he turned sharp to his left, he could pass round the end of the house through an unkempt shrubbery. The mutilated remnant of a huge planter statue, nearly dissolved by the rains of a century, and vaguely resembling a majestic female in Roman draperies, with a wreath in her hand, stands neglected amid the laurels. Such statues, though apparently works of art, grow naturally in Irish gardens. Their germination is a mystery to the oldest inhabitants, to whose means and taste they are totally foreign.
There is a rustic bench, much roiled by the birds, and decorticated and split by the weather, near the little gate. At the opposite side, a basket lies unmolested because it might as well be there as anywhere else. An empty chair at the table was lately occupied by Cornelius, who has finished his breakfast and gone in to the room in which he receives rents and keeps his books and cash, known in the household as "the office." This chair, like the two occupied by Larry and Broadbent, has a mahogany frame and is upholstered in black horsehair.
Larry rises and goes off through the shrubbery with his newspaper. Hodson comes in through the garden gate, disconsolate. Broadbent, who sits facing the gate, augurs the worst from his expression.
BROADBENT. Have you been to the village?
HODSON. No use, sir. We'll have to get everything from London by parcel post.
BROADBENT. I hope they made you comfortable last night.
HODSON. I was no worse than you were on that sofa, sir. One expects to rough it here, sir.
BROADBENT. We shall have to look out for some other arrangement. [Cheering up irrepressibly] Still, it's no end of a joke. How do you like the Irish, Hodson?
HODSON. Well, sir, they're all right anywhere but in their own country. I've known lots of em in England, and generally liked em. But here, sir, I seem simply to hate em. The feeling come over me the moment we landed at Cork, sir. It's no use my pretendin, sir: I can't bear em. My mind rises up agin their ways, somehow: they rub me the wrong way all over.
BROADBENT. Oh, their faults are on the surface: at heart they are one of the finest races on earth. [Hodson turns away, without affecting to respond to his enthusiasm]. By the way, Hodson—
HODSON [turning]. Yes, sir.
BROADBENT. Did you notice anything about me last night when I came in with that lady?
HODSON [surprised]. No, sir.
BROADBENT. Not any—er—? You may speak frankly.
HODSON. I didn't notice nothing, sir. What sort of thing ded you mean, sir?
BROADBENT. Well—er—er—well, to put it plainly, was I drunk?
HODSON [amazed]. No, sir.
BROADBENT. Quite sure?
HODSON. Well, I should a said rather the opposite, sir. Usually when you've been enjoying yourself, you're a bit hearty like. Last night you seemed rather low, if anything.
BROADBENT. I certainly have no headache. Did you try the pottine, Hodson?
HODSON. I just took a mouthful, sir. It tasted of peat: oh! something horrid, sir. The people here call peat turf. Potcheen and strong porter is what they like, sir. I'm sure I don't know how they can stand it. Give me beer, I say.
BROADBENT. By the way, you told me I couldn't have porridge for breakfast; but Mr Doyle had some.
HODSON. Yes, sir. Very sorry, sir. They call it stirabout, sir: that's how it was. They know no better, sir.
BROADBENT. All right: I'll have some tomorrow.
Hodson goes to the house. When he opens the door he finds Nora and Aunt Judy on the threshold. He stands aside to let them pass, with the air of a well trained servant oppressed by heavy trials. Then he goes in. Broadbent rises. Aunt Judy goes to the table and collects the plates and cups on the tray. Nora goes to the back of the rustic seat and looks out at the gate with the air of a woman accustomed to have nothing to do. Larry returns from the shrubbery.
BROADBENT. Good morning, Miss Doyle.
AUNT JUDY [thinking it absurdly late in the day for such a salutation]. Oh, good morning. [Before moving his plate] Have you done?
BROADBENT. Quite, thank you. You must excuse us for not waiting for you. The country air tempted us to get up early.
AUNT JUDY. N d'ye call this airly, God help you?
LARRY. Aunt Judy probably breakfasted about half past six.
AUNT JUDY. Whisht, you!—draggin the parlor chairs out into the gardn n givin Mr Broadbent his death over his meals out here in the cold air. [To Broadbent] Why d'ye put up with his foolishness, Mr Broadbent?
BROADBENT. I assure you I like the open air.
AUNT JUDY. Ah galong! How can you like what's not natural? I hope you slept well.
NORA. Did anything wake yup with a thump at three o'clock? I thought the house was falling. But then I'm a very light sleeper.
LARRY. I seem to recollect that one of the legs of the sofa in the parlor had a way of coming out unexpectedly eighteen years ago. Was that it, Tom?
BROADBENT [hastily]. Oh, it doesn't matter: I was not hurt—at least—er—
AUNT JUDY. Oh now what a shame! An I told Patsy Farrll to put a nail in it.
BROADBENT. He did, Miss Doyle. There was a nail, certainly.
AUNT JUDY. Dear oh dear!
An oldish peasant farmer, small, leathery, peat faced, with a deep voice and a surliness that is meant to be aggressive, and is in effect pathetic—the voice of a man of hard life and many sorrows—comes in at the gate. He is old enough to have perhaps worn a long tailed frieze coat and knee breeches in his time; but now he is dressed respectably in a black frock coat, tall hat, and pollard colored trousers; and his face is as clean as washing can make it, though that is not saying much, as the habit is recently acquired and not yet congenial.
THE NEW-COMER [at the gate]. God save all here! [He comes a little way into the garden].
LARRY [patronizingly, speaking across the garden to him]. Is that yourself, Mat Haffigan? Do you remember me?
MATTHEW [intentionally rude and blunt]. No. Who are you?
NORA. Oh, I'm sure you remember him, Mr Haffigan.
MATTHEW [grudgingly admitting it]. I suppose he'll be young Larry Doyle that was.
MATTHEW [to Larry]. I hear you done well in America.
LARRY. Fairly well.
MATTHEW. I suppose you saw me brother Andy out dhere.
LARRY. No. It's such a big place that looking for a man there is like looking for a needle in a bundle of hay. They tell me he's a great man out there.
MATTHEW. So he is, God be praised. Where's your father?
AUNT JUDY. He's inside, in the office, Mr Haffigan, with Barney Doarn n Father Dempsey.
Matthew, without wasting further words on the company, goes curtly into the house.
LARRY [staring after him]. Is anything wrong with old Mat?
NORA. No. He's the same as ever. Why?
LARRY. He's not the same to me. He used to be very civil to Master Larry: a deal too civil, I used to think. Now he's as surly and stand-off as a bear.
AUNT JUDY. Oh sure he's bought his farm in the Land Purchase. He's independent now.
NORA. It's made a great change, Larry. You'd harly know the old tenants now. You'd think it was a liberty to speak t'dhem—some o dhem. [She goes to the table, and helps to take off the cloth, which she and Aunt Judy fold up between them].
AUNT JUDY. I wonder what he wants to see Corny for. He hasn't been here since he paid the last of his old rent; and then he as good as threw it in Corny's face, I thought.
LARRY. No wonder! Of course they all hated us like the devil. Ugh! [Moodily] I've seen them in that office, telling my father what a fine boy I was, and plastering him with compliments, with your honor here and your honor there, when all the time their fingers were itching to beat his throat.
AUNT JUDY. Deedn why should they want to hurt poor Corny? It was he that got Mat the lease of his farm, and stood up for him as an industrious decent man.
BROADBENT. Was he industrious? That's remarkable, you know, in an Irishman.
LARRY. Industrious! That man's industry used to make me sick, even as a boy. I tell you, an Irish peasant's industry is not human: it's worse than the industry of a coral insect. An Englishman has some sense about working: he never does more than he can help—and hard enough to get him to do that without scamping it; but an Irishman will work as if he'd die the moment he stopped. That man Matthew Haffigan and his brother Andy made a farm out of a patch of stones on the hillside—cleared it and dug it with their own naked hands and bought their first spade out of their first crop of potatoes. Talk of making two blades of wheat grow where one grew before! those two men made a whole field of wheat grow where not even a furze bush had ever got its head up between the stones.
BROADBENT. That was magnificent, you know. Only a great race is capable of producing such men.
LARRY. Such fools, you mean! What good was it to them? The moment they'd done it, the landlord put a rent of 5 pounds a year on them, and turned them out because they couldn't pay it.
AUNT JUDY. Why couldn't they pay as well as Billy Byrne that took it after them?
LARRY [angrily]. You know very well that Billy Byrne never paid it. He only offered it to get possession. He never paid it.
AUNT JUDY. That was because Andy Haffigan hurt him with a brick so that he was never the same again. Andy had to run away to America for it.
BROADBENT [glowing with indignation]. Who can blame him, Miss Doyle? Who can blame him?
LARRY [impatiently]. Oh, rubbish! What's the good of the man that's starved out of a farm murdering the man that's starved into it? Would you have done such a thing?
BROADBENT. Yes. I—I—I—I—[stammering with fury] I should have shot the confounded landlord, and wrung the neck of the damned agent, and blown the farm up with dynamite, and Dublin Castle along with it.
LARRY. Oh yes: you'd have done great things; and a fat lot of good you'd have got out of it, too! That's an Englishman all over! make bad laws and give away all the land, and then, when your economic incompetence produces its natural and inevitable results, get virtuously indignant and kill the people that carry out your laws.
AUNT JUDY. Sure never mind him, Mr Broadbent. It doesn't matter, anyhow, because there's harly any landlords left; and ther'll soon be none at all.
LARRY. On the contrary, ther'll soon be nothing else; and the Lord help Ireland then!
AUNT JUDY. Ah, you're never satisfied, Larry. [To Nora] Come on, alanna, an make the paste for the pie. We can leave them to their talk. They don't want us [she takes up the tray and goes into the house].
BROADBENT [rising and gallantly protesting] Oh, Miss Doyle! Really, really—
Nora, following Aunt Judy with the rolled-up cloth in her hands, looks at him and strikes him dumb. He watches her until she disappears; then comes to Larry and addresses him with sudden intensity.
LARRY. What is it?
BROADBENT. I got drunk last night, and proposed to Miss Reilly.
LARRY. You HWAT??? [He screams with laughter in the falsetto Irish register unused for that purpose in England].
BROADBENT. What are you laughing at?
LARRY [stopping dead]. I don't know. That's the sort of thing an Irishman laughs at. Has she accepted you?
BROADBENT. I shall never forget that with the chivalry of her nation, though I was utterly at her mercy, she refused me.
LARRY. That was extremely improvident of her. [Beginning to reflect] But look here: when were you drunk? You were sober enough when you came back from the Round Tower with her.
BROADBENT. No, Larry, I was drunk, I am sorry to say. I had two tumblers of punch. She had to lead me home. You must have noticed it.
LARRY. I did not.
BROADBENT. She did.
LARRY. May I ask how long it took you to come to business? You can hardly have known her for more than a couple of hours.
BROADBENT. I am afraid it was hardly a couple of minutes. She was not here when I arrived; and I saw her for the first time at the tower.
LARRY. Well, you are a nice infant to be let loose in this country! Fancy the potcheen going to your head like that!
BROADBENT. Not to my head, I think. I have no headache; and I could speak distinctly. No: potcheen goes to the heart, not to the head. What ought I to do?
LARRY. Nothing. What need you do?
BROADBENT. There is rather a delicate moral question involved. The point is, was I drunk enough not to be morally responsible for my proposal? Or was I sober enough to be bound to repeat it now that I am undoubtedly sober?