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- John Bull's Other Island - 20/25 -

BROADBENT. Of course. Don't you?

KEEGAN [from the very depths of his nature]. No.

BROADBENT [breezily]. Try phosphorus pills. I always take them when my brain is overworked. I'll give you the address in Oxford Street.

KEEGAN [enigmatically: rising]. Miss Doyle: my wandering fit has come on me: will you excuse me?

AUNT JUDY. To be sure: you know you can come in n nout as you like.

KEEGAN. We can finish the game some other time, Miss Reilly. [He goes for his hat and stick.

NORA. No: I'm out with you [she disarranges the pieces and rises]. I was too wicked in a former existence to play backgammon with a good man like you.

AUNT JUDY [whispering to her]. Whisht, whisht, child! Don't set him back on that again.

KEEGAN [to Nora]. When I look at you, I think that perhaps Ireland is only purgatory, after all. [He passes on to the garden door].

NORA. Galong with you!

BROADBENT [whispering to Cornelius]. Has he a vote?

CORNELIUS [nodding]. Yes. An there's lots'll vote the way he tells them.

KEEGAN [at the garden door, with gentle gravity]. Good evening, Mr Broadbent. You have set me thinking. Thank you.

BROADBENT [delighted, hurrying across to him to shake hands]. No, really? You find that contact with English ideas is stimulating, eh?

KEEGAN. I am never tired of hearing you talk, Mr Broadbent.

BROADBENT [modestly remonstrating]. Oh come! come!

KEEGAN. Yes, I assure you. You are an extremely interesting man. [He goes out].

BROADBENT [enthusiastically]. What a nice chap! What an intelligent, interesting fellow! By the way, I'd better have a wash. [He takes up his coat and cap, and leaves the room through the inner door].

Nora returns to her chair and shuts up the backgammon board.

AUNT JUDY. Keegan's very queer to-day. He has his mad fit on him.

CORNELIUS [worried and bitter]. I wouldn't say but he's right after all. It's a contrairy world. [To Larry]. Why would you be such a fool as to let him take the seat in parliament from you?

LARRY [glancing at Nora]. He will take more than that from me before he's done here.

CORNELIUS. I wish he'd never set foot in my house, bad luck to his fat face! D'ye think he'd lend me 300 pounds on the farm, Larry? When I'm so hard up, it seems a waste o money not to mortgage it now it's me own.

LARRY. I can lend you 300 pounds on it.

CORNELIUS. No, no: I wasn't putn in for that. When I die and leave you the farm I should like to be able to feel that it was all me own, and not half yours to start with. Now I'll take me oath Barney Doarn's goin to ask Broadbent to lend him 500 pounds on the mill to put in a new hweel; for the old one'll harly hol together. An Haffigan can't sleep with covetn that corner o land at the foot of his medda that belongs to Doolan. He'll have to mortgage to buy it. I may as well be first as last. D'ye think Broadbent'd len me a little?

LARRY. I'm quite sure he will.

CORNELIUS. Is he as ready as that? Would he len me five hunderd, d'ye think?

LARRY. He'll lend you more than the land'll ever be worth to you; so for Heaven's sake be prudent.

CORNELIUS [judicially]. All right, all right, me son: I'll be careful. I'm goin into the office for a bit. [He withdraws through the inner door, obviously to prepare his application to Broadbent].

AUNT JUDY [indignantly]. As if he hadn't seen enough o borryin when he was an agent without beginnin borryin himself! [She rises]. I'll bory him, so I will. [She puts her knitting on the table and follows him out, with a resolute air that bodes trouble for Cornelius].

Larry and Nora are left together for the first time since his arrival. She looks at him with a smile that perishes as she sees him aimlessly rocking his chair, and reflecting, evidently not about her, with his lips pursed as if he were whistling. With a catch in her throat she takes up Aunt Judy's knitting, and makes a pretence of going on with it.

NORA. I suppose it didn't seem very long to you.

LARRY [starting]. Eh? What didn't?

NORA. The eighteen years you've been away.

LARRY. Oh, that! No: it seems hardly more than a week. I've been so busy--had so little time to think.

NORA. I've had nothin else to do but think.

LARRY. That was very bad for you. Why didn't you give it up? Why did you stay here?

NORA. Because nobody sent for me to go anywhere else, I suppose. That's why.

LARRY. Yes: one does stick frightfully in the same place, unless some external force comes and routs one out. [He yawns slightly; but as she looks up quickly at him, he pulls himself together and rises with an air of waking up and getting to work cheerfully to make himself agreeable]. And how have you been all this time?

NORA. Quite well, thank you.

LARRY. That's right. [Suddenly finding that he has nothing else to say, and being ill at ease in consequence, he strolls about the room humming a certain tune from Offenbach's Whittington].

NORA [struggling with her tears]. Is that all you have to say to me, Larry?

LARRY. Well, what is there to say? You see, we know each other so well.

NORA [a little consoled]. Yes: of course we do. [He does not reply]. I wonder you came back at all.

LARRY. I couldn't help it. [She looks up affectionately]. Tom made me. [She looks down again quickly to conceal the effect of this blow. He whistles another stave; then resumes]. I had a sort of dread of returning to Ireland. I felt somehow that my luck would turn if I came back. And now here I am, none the worse.

NORA. Praps it's a little dull for you.

LARRY. No: I haven't exhausted the interest of strolling about the old places and remembering and romancing about them.

NORA [hopefully]. Oh! You DO remember the places, then?

LARRY. Of course. They have associations.

NORA [not doubting that the associations are with her]. I suppose so.

LARRY. M'yes. I can remember particular spots where I had long fits of thinking about the countries I meant to get to when I escaped from Ireland. America and London, and sometimes Rome and the east.

NORA [deeply mortified]. Was that all you used to be thinking about?

LARRY. Well, there was precious little else to think about here, my dear Nora, except sometimes at sunset, when one got maudlin and called Ireland Erin, and imagined one was remembering the days of old, and so forth. [He whistles Let Erin Remember].

NORA. Did jever get a letter I wrote you last February?

LARRY. Oh yes; and I really intended to answer it. But I haven't had a moment; and I knew you wouldn't mind. You see, I am so afraid of boring you by writing about affairs you don't understand and people you don't know! And yet what else have I to write about? I begin a letter; and then I tear it up again. The fact is, fond as we are of one another, Nora, we have so little in common--I mean of course the things one can put in a letter-- that correspondence is apt to become the hardest of hard work.

NORA. Yes: it's hard for me to know anything about you if you never tell me anything.

LARRY [pettishly]. Nora: a man can't sit down and write his life day by day when he's tired enough with having lived it.

NORA. I'm not blaming you.

LARRY [looking at her with some concern]. You seem rather out of spirits. [Going closer to her, anxiously and tenderly] You haven't got neuralgia, have you?

John Bull's Other Island - 20/25

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