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- John Bull's Other Island - 10/25 -


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?

BROADBENT. Never.

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.


John Bull's Other Island - 10/25

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