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- John Bull's Other Island - 6/25 -


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.

ACT II

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.


John Bull's Other Island - 6/25

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