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- John Bull's Other Island - 5/25 -
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.
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