Duty, and other Irish Comedies
Seumas O'Brien

Part 2 out of 3

This conduct is obstreperonious, Mr. Fennell. Mr.
Cassidy is a gentleman, and he must not be either
insulted or interrupted, while he is judiciously discharging
the duties of his high office.

MRS. FENNELL (_sighs_)
Oh, God help us! The world must be turned upside
down when a lawyer can be a gentleman.

Hold your tongue, woman, or I'll order you to be
arrested for contempt of court.

The next man who says a word to my wife must fight

[_Buttons his coat_.

PHELAN DUFFY (_to the magistrates_)
The Bench must make due allowances for the excitement
of the moment.

Of course, of course, Mr. Duffy, but we must not
have a reoccurrence of such conduct.

Meself and herself pulled together all these long years,
and I'll be damned if I'll allow any one to say a word
to her.

[_Mrs. Fennell places a handkerchief to her eyes and
commences to cry_.

Order, order, this is a court of justice, and the case
must proceed without further interruption or the
strictest measures of the law will be adhered to.
(_Pauses, speaks to the police_) Any one who interrupts
me while I'm speaking must be ejected from the

Your Worship's orders will be obeyed.

Now, it was with the greatest of interest that I have
listened to the speeches pro and con for the prisoner
and never before or since have I heard such logic
and eloquence as was used in this court of justice
to-day. I am nearly sure, in fact I'm certain, that
since the days when Marcus Anthony delivered his
matchless orations before the proud and haughty
Egyptians, did such wisdom flow from the lips of any
man. By the judicious application of words and logic
we have learnt what uses can be made of the law of
the land, and though our reason may convince us
and our conscience too, that right is right and wrong
is wrong, yet, the law's the law for all that, and we
are Justices of the Peace and must respect the law
and abide by it. Mr. Duffy has clearly proved to us
how drink, especially bad and illegal drink, like poteen,
can change a man from a law-abiding, self-respecting,
and obedient husband into a demon and a housebreaker.
And Mr. Cassidy has also clearly proven
on the other hand how that same drink can change a
man from the ordinary humdrum things of life and
turn his mind to noble ideals, and make of him an
artist and an inspired one at that. Now science has
proved to us that in every one man there are two
men,--the artist, if I might be permitted to use the
term, and the house-breaker. But as the two men are
only one man, and the artist is the better of the two,
then to the artist let us pay our respects, and dismiss
the charge of house-breaking.

MRS. FENNELL (_sadly_)
Ah, God help us! The town will be full of artists
when the militia comes home.

The charge of house-breaking then will be dismissed,
but I must impose a heavy fine and sentence for using
the illegal intoxicant, poteen.

Will your Worship be good enough before passing
sentence to make sure that the liquor is poteen?

We have it on the testimony of the sergeant that it is

But with all due respect to the court, we cannot convict
any one on such evidence. What does the sergeant
know about poteen?

SERGEANT HEALY (_indignantly_)
What do I know about poteen, is it? How dare you,
sir? Was there a better maker of poteen in the
County Cork than my own father, rest his soul!

Now, isn't that evidence enough for you? Does the
sergeant look like a man who doesn't know the difference
between a good and a bad drop of whiskey?

MR. CASSIDY (_sarcastically_)
I beg your Worship's pardon. But my client states
that the evidence is insufficient, and if he should be
convicted, he will bring the case before the Four
Courts of Dublin.

He can bring it to the four courts of--Jericho, if he
likes, but that stuff in the bottle is poteen all the

As Mr. Fennel is so dogmatic about this liquor not
being poteen, why does he not tell us where and from
whom he purchased it? (_To the sergeant_) Are you
sure, Sergeant Healy, that this liquor is poteen?

As well as I remember the taste of it, your Worship,
it is. But perhaps 'twould be better to make sure
and try again.

Try again, then.

Very well.

[_Pours out a little and drinks it, smacks his lips, but
says nothing_.

Well, Sergeant, what is it?

Is it or is it not poteen?

I don't get the flavor of it yet.

[_Takes another drop_.

What is it, Sergeant, poteen or just bad whiskey?

Bedad, 'tis hard to tell. Sometimes I think 'tis poteen,
and sometimes I think it isn't. But whatever it is, it
isn't so good as the stuff me poor father used to brew.
Maybe the constable could tell us. He comes from
Castletownballymacreedy, where they make the best
poteen in Ireland.

_[Hands a glassful to the constable._

CONSTABLE O'RYAN (_after drinking_)
There's not a shadow of a doubt about it being
poteen, your Worship, and as fine a drop as I have
tasted for many a long day.

Are you satisfied now, Mr. Cassidy?

I think it would be as well to have the opinion of some
one else.

Constable McCarthy, let you take a toothful out of
that decanter and tell us what it is.

Though I am a League of the Cross man, I suppose as
a matter of duty I must break me pledge.

[_Pours out a glassful and drinks._

Well, what is it?

Poteen, your Worship.

Now we have conclusive evidence that this liquor is
poteen, and no more serious charge could be brought
against any man than to be found guilty of using such
obnoxious stuff by a court of justice. As with the law
of nature, so with the law of the land. He who transgresses
any of nature's laws gets duly punished according
to the nature of his offence. And so also
with the law of the country. Mr. Fennell must be
punished, and his punishment must serve as an
example to others and--

I beg your Worship's pardon. We do not always get
punished for disobeying the laws of nature. Nature's
strongest force is self-assertion, and excessive self-assertion
is vanity, and vanity is sinful, and--

You must excuse me interrupting you, Mr. Cassidy,
but that train of argument cannot be followed here.

We have proved that poteen was found in the prisoner's
house, and if he did not make it himself, where
then did he get it from?

Mr. Fennel emphatically denies having anything to
do with the making of the liquor found on his premises.
And so far it has not been proved to either his
or my satisfaction that the intoxicant is poteen.

Does your client mean for a moment to cast a reflection
on the police of this town, and insinuate that they
don't know what poteen is?

We are not satisfied with the decision of the police,
your Worship.

Very well then, we'll give it a further test.

[_Gives the decanter to the clerk, Peter Dwyer._

PETER DWYER (_after tasting it_)
If that's not poteen, may I never wet my lips with it

MR. O'CROWLEY (to _Mr. Cassidy_)
Perhaps you are satisfied now.

No, I am not.

Well, taste it yourself and tell us what it is.

MR. CASSIDY (_tastes it_)
Whatever it is, it is not poteen.

MARTIN O'FLYNN (_pours out some in a glass_)
I'll soon settle the question. (_Drinks_) That's poteen,
and good poteen too.

I beg to disagree with your Worship.

How dare you disagree with me, sir, and I drinking
poteen every day of my life. I'd resign my seat on
the Bench rather than suffer to be insulted in such a
manner again.

I apologise. Nothing could be further from my
thought than offence.

I'm glad to hear you say so, because when I said that
the liquor in the decanter was poteen, I knew what I
was talking about. Unless the prisoner tells us how
he procured this illegal drink, he will be imprisoned
for six months.

For six months, is it?

Yes, for six long months, and you must find bail for
your good behavior at the end of the term for a period
of twelve months.

Well, as you are so anxious to know where I procured
the stuff that you have certified to be poteen, I have
great pleasure in telling you that it was purchased at
Mr. Cornelius John Michael O'Crowley's establishment
under the name of Scotch whiskey, and if there
is any doubt about the matter, I can show you some
of his own sealed bottles with the same stuff in them.

The saints protect us! What a vile fabrication!

Ah, you old hypocrite, 'tis about time that you were
found out.

Place that woman under arrest for contempt of court.
(_Mrs. Fennell is placed in the dock_) Now, Mrs. Fennell,
anything that you will say will be used in evidence
against you, so I warn you to hold your tongue and
keep quiet.

I'll try and keep quiet, your Worship.

Gentlemen, I regret to state that a mistake has occurred
somewhere, and there's nothing more plentiful
than mistakes. They commenced long ago in the
Garden of Eden, and they are as inevitable as the day
and night, as inevitable, I might say, as America itself.
Yes, some one has blundered, as Napoleon said
when he woke up and found himself a prisoner on St.
Helena. Mr. Fennell, alas! has erred, but to err is
human, and to forgive is divine. We are reasonable
people, and we must treat this matter in a reasonable
manner. The prisoner has stated that he purchased
poteen at my premises, but what reliance can we
place on the word of a man who is addicted to drinking
poteen? None whatever. We have only the prisoner's
word that the poteen was purchased at my
establishment, but the probability is that he was only
suffering from its ill effects when he imagined that I
was the one who supplied it. Though I'm very sorry
indeed to have anything to say against Mr. Fennell,
his word cannot be taken as evidence, and the case
will be dismissed. (_Applause, which is suppressed_)
The dignity of the court must be upheld, and the
next person who applauds will be ejected.

[_Mr. Fennett is dismissed and Mrs. Fennett placed in
the dock. She goes through the usual ordeal of swearing,
and Mr. O'Crowley tries her case._

For contempt of court, Mrs. Fennell, you will be
fined ten pounds, and you will be bound to the peace
for twelve months, and you must give two securities
of fifty pounds each, or go to jail for a term of six
months with hard labor. And anything that you
may say after the sentence of the court has been
passed, of a disparaging nature to the Bench, will be
considered as a necessity for further punishment. I
hope that I have made myself perfectly clear.

Yes, your Worship, you have made yourself perfectly
clear. (_Starts to cry_) Oh, what will I do at all? Is
there no one to go bail for me? (_Mr. Fennell looks
like one who is trying to come to a decision, and Mrs.
Fennell starts to cry again_) Is it the way that ye'll
be having me taken to the county jail for doing nothing
at all? Oh, wisha, who's going to go bail for me?
Maybe 'tis yourself, Mr. O'Crowley.

MR. FENNELL (_walking up to the dock_)
And I here, is it? Not for likely. I'll go bail for you,
of course.


* * * * *




WILLIAM DRISCOLL _A public-house keeper_



_Scene: Back parlor of a country public house. The
proprietor, William Driscoll, a man of about fifty with a
very dour expression, sings as he sweeps the floor:_

"Oh, the days are gone, when Beauty bright
My heart's chain wove;
When the dream of life from morn till night
Was love, still love.
New hope may bloom,
And days may come
Of milder, calmer beam,
But there's nothing half so sweet in life
As love's young dream.
No, there's nothing half so sweet in life
As love's young dream."

[_Logan, a stranger, enters._

Good mornin'.

Good mornin' and good luck. What can I do for you?

I'll have a glass of the best whiskey.

All right, my good man. You shall get it.


LOGAN (_takes up the morning paper, sits on the table, and
speaks aloud_)
Be the pipers that played the dead march for Moses,
but I'm twice as big a fool as I thought I was.
And knowledge of that sort is cold comfort for any
man. What's this I see here? "Daring burglary in
the town of Castlemorgan. During the early hours
of the morning, the house of Michael Cassily was
broken into, and five pound notes, a gentleman's
watch and a pair of silver candlesticks were stolen.
So far, no arrests have been made, but the police
have every hope of bringing those who committed
the offence to justice, because Mr. Cassily states
that he saw two men leaving by the back entrance,
and found a piece of a coat-tail hanging from a nail
on the porch."

[_He lifts up his coat, and discovers a piece missing from
the tail, and is about to take it off for a closer inspection
when the publican enters with the whiskey._

DRISCOLL (_as he places the whiskey upon the table_)
This is your drink, stranger, and believe me, you
couldn't get a better drop of whiskey in the whole
United Kingdom, not even if you went to the King's
palace itself for it.

'Tis good, you say.

None better, and wonderful stuff to put heart into a

LOGAN (_drinks it off_)
'Tis the good flavor it has surely. (_Pauses awhile_)
I think I'll have another, for 'tis plenty of heart I'll
be wantin' before the day goes to its close.

'Tis easy to feel plucky in the mornin', but 'tis a
brave man who can feel happy at the heel of day,
especially if he has an uneasy conscience and an
empty stomach.

Hunger plays the devil with us all. A man with an
empty stomach, an empty purse, and an empty house,
except for a scoldin' wife, can never be happy.

That's so, but if that's all you have to contend with,
you haven't much to worry about. Sure I thought
by your looks and the way you spoke that you might
have killed a man and had the bloodhounds after

A man's conscience is worse than having bloodhounds
after him, if he has to spend months in idleness through
no fault of his own, and no one to look for sympathy
from but a scoldin' wife.

The Lord protect us from scoldin' wives, anyway.
They're the scourge of Hell. But there are worse
things than being married to a wife with no control
over her temper. You might be like the thief who
broke into the house of Michael Cassily and stole his
grandfather's watch and chain and silver candlestick.

And when did all this happen?

During the small hours of the mornin'.

That was a damnable thing to do.

'Twas more foolish than anythin' else, because, if
Michael Cassily should ever lay hands upon the man
who stole his belongings, he'd shoot at him the way
you'd shoot at a rabbit in a ditch and kill him as dead
as one of Egypt's kings.

The Lord save us! You don't mean what you say.

I do, and every word of it. And a sure shot he is too.
Indeed 'tis said that nothing in the sky or on the land
could escape him when he has a gun in his hand.

I heard before comin' to this town that he was a very
quiet and inoffensive man.

And so he is a quiet man when he's left alone. But
when his temper is up, the devil himself is a gentleman
to him.

I'll have another glass of whiskey.
[_Exit the publican. While he is away, Logan looks at
the torn part of his coat, and a stranger enters._

BARNARD FALVEY (_saunters into the back kitchen, picks a
piece of wet paper off the floor, and tries to light it at the
fire for the purpose of lighting his pipe, and after several
unsuccessful attempts, he turns to Logan_)
Good mornin', and God bless you, stranger.

Good mornin', kindly.

It looks as though we were goin' to have a spell of
fine weather.

Judgin' by the way the wind is, it would seem so.

'Tis splendid weather for walkin' or tillin' the land.

'Tis good weather for anythin'.

All the same, 'tis a long stretch of a road from here
to Ballinore. How far is it, I wonder?

Twenty miles at least.

Every step of it, and a long road for a man with the
rheumatics and bronchitis too.

And what brought you from Ballinore?

And what would bring any poor man from his native
town but lookin' for work. And that's a hard thing
to be doin' when a man hasn't a friend to help him
towards a job.

A man can always make friends if he wants to.

'Tis no easy thing for a man who hasn't a sleutherin'
tongue and the takin' way with him to make friends,

'Tis easy enough to make fine weather friends. But
I suppose a friend isn't worth a damn unless he can
help a man when he's in trouble.

To have a lot of money is the easiest way of makin'
friends. But when a man hasn't either money or the
sleutherin' tongue, he can't expect to have any more
of the world's goods than myself.

And have you no friends at all among all the millions
of people on the face of the earth?

The devil a one ever bothers their head about me but
myself. And what I can do for myself is hardly worth
doin' for any one.

After all, when a man has his health and enough to
eat, he should be contented.

But how could you expect the likes of me to be contented
when I didn't break my fast this blessed day
yet, and all I have in the world is the bit of tobacco
you see in my old pipe, and unless you're not as dacent
as you look, 'tis hungry maybe I'll be until I find a
turnip field before the fall of night.

Would you drink a pint of porter and eat a penny bun?

Indeed I would, and remember the one in my prayers
who'd give them to me.

LOGAN _(knocks and the publican enters)_
Bring this man a pint of porter and give him one of
the penny buns or two that you have on the porter
barrel in the shop.

Indeed I will and much good may they do him.

[_Places pint of porter and bread in front of Falvey who
begins to eat and drink_.

God bless your noble soul and may you be long spared
to do good in the world. (_As he eats_) There's no
sauce like hunger, and no friend like the friend in need.

That's true. Now tell me, do you expect to get work
in this town?

'Tis my intention to try.

You'd have as much chance of slippin' into heaven
with your soul as black as a skillet from mortal sins,
unknownst to St. Peter, as you'd have of gettin' a
job with an old coat like that.

And what can I do, God help me, when I have no

I'll swap with you, and then you'll have some chance,
but otherwise you might as well walk back to where
you came from.

But I couldn't take a coat from a strange gentleman
like yourself and have an easy conscience. Sure, this
old coat of mine is only fit to be used for a scarecrow.

You're a fool to be talkin' like that, stranger. Don't
you know that you must take all you can get and give
away as little as you can if you want to be successful
in life?

And why, then, should you be givin' me your coat
when you want it yourself?

You had better say no more, lest I might change my
mind. Sure, 'tis sorry I may be to-night when I'm
facing the cold winds on the lonely roads that I exchanged
my fine warm coat for an old threadbare
garment that a rag man wouldn't give a child a lump
of candy for.

Sure, St. Francis himself couldn't do more, and he
that tore his coat in two and shared it with the beggars.

'Tis easy for a saint of God to be good, when he feels
that he'll be rewarded for his self-sacrifice, but have
no more old talk and give me that old coat of yours,
or if you don't I might change my mind, and then
you'll have plenty of time to regret your foolishness.

Very well, stranger, very well. (_They exchange coats_)
May the Lord spare you all the days you want to
live, and may you never want for anythin' but the
ill wishes of your enemies.

That coat makes you look like a gentleman, and if
you only had a better hat, and a good shave, you
might get some old widow with a small farm to marry
you, if you are a bachelor.

Of course I'm a bachelor. Who'd be bothered with
the likes of me for a husband. Sure, I wouldn't raise
my hand to a woman in a thousand years, and what
do women care about a man unless he can earn lots
of money and leather the devil out of them when they
don't behave themselves?

That's true. And when a man hasn't any money to
give his wife, the next best thing to do is to give her a
good beatin'.

That's what my father used to say. But 'tis the lucky
thing for me all the same that I'm not married, an'
that I strayed into a house like this to-day. Yet I
don't think 'tis a bit fair for me to be wearin' your
fine coat and you wearin' mine. You don't look a
bit comfortable in it.

I feel comfortable, and far more comfortable than you
can imagine; and after all that's what matters. Every
eye forms its own beauty, and when the heart is
young, it doesn't matter how old you are.

That's true! That's true! But 'tis the dacent man
you are, nevertheless, and 'tisn't the likes of you that
a poor man like myself meets every day.

No, and it may be a long time again before you will
meet another like me. But be that as it may, I must
be going now, so here's a shillin' for you and go to the
barber's next door and have a shave before startin'
to look for work. (_Hands shilling_) Good-by.

Good-by, God bless you and long life to you.

[_Exit Logan. Enter an old friend._

GARRET DEVLIN (_walks slowly and takes the newspaper
from the table, looks at the clock_)
Only half-past ten, and damn the bit to do. Ah,
me! ah, me! One bloody day like another!

[_Sits on the chair and yawns. Knocks for the publican.
Enter Driscoll._

Good mornin', Garret. Anythin' new to-day?

Yes, I have good news this mornin'.

An' what is it?

Oh, not much, only that a grand-uncle of mine is
after dyin' in America and leavin' me a fortune of a
hundred thousand pounds.

DRISCOLL (_sceptically_)
That's a terrible responsibility for a poor man to have
thrust upon him. What are you going to do with it at

Well, I was thinkin' of buyin' a new suit of clothes and
dividin' what's left between the poor of the town, the
Sisters of Charity, and the Salvation Army.

Wisha, I'm sick and tired of hearin' old yarns like
that. I suppose 'tis the way that you want a half
a glass of whiskey and haven't the price of it.

How dare you insinuate such a thing. (_Places a sovereign
on the table_) Give me a half a whiskey and no
more old talk out of you.

And where did you get all that money?

That's my business. I got it from the captain in the
Salvation Army when I told him how much money I
was goin' to give him by and by.

Well, that's the first and last donation you'll ever
get from the Salvation Army. Sure, if you got all
the money that was to be left to you since I knew you
first, you'd be buildin' libraries all over the world like
Carnegie to advertise your vanity.

'Tis nothin' to you whether I will build libraries or
public houses for the poor when I'll get all the money
that's comin' to me.

Ah, wisha, I'm about sick and tired of hearin' all the
things you're going to do.

DEVLIN (_crossly_)
I don't give a damn whether you are or not. Go and
get me the whiskey, or I'll get it elsewhere.

DRISCOLL (_plausibly_)
Very well, very well! I'll get you the whiskey.


DEVLIN (_to Falvey, who is still eating his loaf of bread_)
Good mornin', stranger.

Good mornin' and good luck, sir.

'Tis a fine mornin'.

A glorious mornin', thank God.

Is that your breakfast that you're eatin'?

Indeed it is, stranger, and maybe my dinner and
supper too.

'Tis the hell of a thing to be poor.

Sure 'tis myself that knows it.

And 'tis as bad to be rich and not to be able to get
any of your money like myself.

There's trouble in everythin', but no respect for the

None whatever! none whatever! And no greater
misfortune could befall a man than to be poor and
honest at the same time. But all the same I'll be a
millionaire when my money comes from America.

America must be a great country. One man is as
good as another there, I believe.

So they say, when both of them have nothin'. (_Looking
hard at the stranger_) Tell me, haven't I seen
you somewhere before? What's that your name is?

My name is Bernard Falvey, and I come from Ballinore.

Well, well, to be sure, and I'm Garret Devlin, your
mother's first cousin! Who'd ever think of meetin'
you here. The world is a small place after all!

It must be fifteen or more years since last we met.

Every day of it. And what have you been doing
since? I'd hardly know you at all, the way you have

Workin' when I wasn't idle and idle when I wasn't
workin', but in trouble all the time.

You're like myself. I too only exchange one kind of
trouble for another. When I got married I had to
live with the wife's mother for two years, and when
she died, I had to support my widowed sister-in-law's
three children. And when they were rared and fit
to be earnin' for themselves and be a help to me, they
got drowned. Then my poor wife lost her senses, and I
haven't had peace or ease ever since. She thinks that
she is the Queen of England, and that I'm the King.

An' have you no children?

One boy.

An' what does he do for a livin'?

He's a private in the militia, and his mother thinks
he's the Prince of Wales.

God help us all, but 'tis the queer things that happen
to the poor.

An' what are you doin' in these parts?

Lookin' for work.

An' that itself is the worst kind of hardship. I don't
think that there's much doin' these times for the
natives, not to mention the strangers, though 'tis
the strangers get the pickings wherever they go.
We'll have a look at the newspaper and see what's
doin' anyway. (_Reads from the advertisement columns_)
"Wanted a respectable man, to act as a coachman to
His Lordship the Bishop. He must have a good appearance,
have sober habits, and a knowledge of
horses and the ways of the clergy."
That won't do.

"Wanted, a young man of dashing appearance, with
a good vocabulary to act as travelling salesman, must
be well recommended, and have a thorough knowledge
of the dry goods business."
That won't do either.

"Wanted, a middle-aged man to act as companion to
an invalid. He must have a knowledge of French and
German, and be able to play the violin."
That won't do.

"Wanted a man to make himself generally useful at
an undertaker's establishment. Apply to Michael
Cassily. William O'Brien St."
Bedad, but that's the very job for you.

But how am I to get it?

I'll give you a letter of introduction to Micky Cassily.
He's an old friend of mine.

Sure, that would be a great thing entirely.

Wait now, and I'll make a man of you, and if you
should ever become Lord Mayor of Cork or Dublin,
you must not forget me.

Indeed, I'll never be able to forget this blessed day,
and the kindness of the people I have met in Castlemorgan.

[_Knocks for the publican, and walks up and down;
when the publican enters, he assumes an air of great

What's the matter?

I want you to oblige me with a few sheets of note
paper, a bottle of ink, and a writin' pen.

And what do you want them for?

To write a letter of introduction for this poor man
here. He's lookin' for work, and I want to help him
to get it.

Then I'll give them to you with pleasure.


You needn't worry any more. I'll get a job for you.
Micky and myself are old friends. He buried my
father and mother and all belongin' to me. And
although I do say it myself, there isn't a better undertaker
from here to Dublin. He's as good a judge of a
dead man as any one you ever met, and could measure
the size of a coffin without using the tape at all.
[_Enter Driscoll._

DRISCOLL (_as he places writing materials on the table_)
Here's the writing material, and may good luck attend

Thank you, very much. (_To Falvey_) Now to business.

[_They both sit at the table, and Devlin commences to

Deadwoman's Hill,

Dear Mr. Cassily:

I have the hon--how's that you spell honour?--h-o-n-n-o-u-r,
of course. Yes, that's right. I have the
honour, and likewise the _(pauses)_ unprecedented--that's
not an easy word to spell--u-n-p-r-ee-s-c-ee-d-e-n-t-e-d--that
wasn't such a hard word after all,
and it looks fine in print _(repeats)_ unprecedented and
the great pleasure--that spells p-l-e-a-s-u-r--of introducing,
that's a stumbler of a word,--i-n-t-r-d--_(to
Falvey)_ Can you spell the rest of it?


No. That's not right. We had better call Bill
Driscoll. Are you there, Bill?
[_Enter Driscoll._

What's the matter?

We want you to spell "introducing."

DRISCOLL (_wiping a pint measure_)
With pleasure. _(Confidently)_ i-n-t-u-r-d-e-w-c-i-n-g.

Are you sure that is right?

Of course I am. What do you think I went to school

Very well, I'll take your word for it. But stay here
awhile, because we may want your assistance soon
again. This is an important matter, and we must
give all our attention to it. I have the honor and
likewise the unprecedented and the great pleasure of
introducing to you a cousin of my own on my mother's
side, one Barney Falvey. He is a man of many and
n-e-w-m-e-r-o-w-s. _(To Driscoll)_ Isn't that right?

That's all right. Proceed.

--numerous a-c-o-m-p-l-i-s-h-m-e-n-t-s. That sounds
wrong, doesn't it?

It sounds wrong, but let it go. No one will ever notice
the mistake, when we can't find it out ourselves.

He has an i-n-g-a-n-o-s turn of mind, and can do all
kinds of hard or easy work. He can p-l-o-w a field,
milk a cow, mind childer, and make nearly every
thing from a bird cage, a mousetrap, or a snuff box,
to a coffin. He is w-i-l-i-n, o-b-l-i-g-i-n, and can put
up with all kinds of abuse. He can look i-n-o-s-c-e-n-t
or guilty, as the occasion may require and will, I'm
sure, and certain, taking his accomplishments all
round, prove to be the very man you are lookin' for
to fill the v-a-k-a-n-c-y in your highly respected
e-s-t-a-b-1-i-shment. Anythin' you can do for him
will be considered a personal f-a-v-o-u-r by your old
and e-s-t-e-a-m-ed friend,

Garret Devlin.

_[He reads it over again aloud_.

"Deadwoman's Hill,

"Dear Mr. Cassily:

"I have the honour and likewise the unprecedented
and great pleasure of introducin' to you a cousin of
my own on my mother's side, one Barney Falvey. He
is a man of many parts and numerous accomplishments.
He has an ingenious turn of mind and can do
all kinds of hard and easy work. He can plow a field,
milk a cow, mind childer, and make nearly everythin'
from a bird cage, a mousetrap, or a snuff box, to
a coffin. He is willin' and obligin' and can put up
with all kinds of abuse. He can look innocent or
guilty as the occasion may require, and will, I am
certain and confident, taking his accomplishments all
round, prove to be the very man you are lookin' for
to fill the vacancy in your highly respected establishment.
Anythin' that you can do for him will be considered
a personal favour by your old and esteemed

"Garret Devlin."

That's a great letter. Be God, sure 'twould nearly
get the job for myself. But it would never do for one
of my social standin' to take such a position in this

'Tis a great thing to be able to put so many words
together on paper. And 'tis the wonderful gift to
have surely. A man that could write like you should
be a secretary to the Lord Lieutenant himself, or
writin' sermons for the Pope of Rome.

Now, no more old palaver, talk is cheap, but it takes
money to buy whiskey. Look as smart as you can
(_hands letter_), and deliver this letter before it's too
late. There's nothin' like doin' things with despatch
when you're in a hurry. Wait, your face is none too
clean. Where's your handkerchief? _(Hands him an
old dirty handkerchief. He drains the dregs of a pewter
pint on the handkerchief, and wipes his face with it.
Then he looks at Falvey's boots_) Glory be to God!
but you're a very careless man! When did you clean
these boots last?

Wisha, who could keep boots clean upon the dirty

[_Takes off his old hat and wipes his boots with it_

That's better. Now take off that old tie, and I'll
give you mine. But you must return it to me when
you get the job. It belonged to my grandfather, and
it always brought luck to the family.

[_They exchange ties, and Devlin's toilet is completed by
brushing the legs of his old trousers with a sweeping

DEVLIN _(looking at him approvingly)_
If you always kept yourself as respectable lookin' as
that, you would never want for work, I'm thinkin'.

FALVEY _(looking at himself in an old mirror_)
There's somethin' in what you say. Sure my mother
always told me I was the best lookin' in the family.

That may be, but your beauty isn't of the fatal kind.
(_Shaking hands with him_) Good luck now, and I'll
wait here until you'll return.

God bless you, God bless you, I'll be back as soon
as I can.


DEVLIN (_knocks and orders another half of whiskey_)
Another half one. That letter took a lot out of me.

Literature, they say, is always a great strain on a
man's vitality. I was offered a job as proof reader on
a newspaper one time, but my friends advised me not
to take it.

Your friends were wise. Stayin' up at night is bad
for any man. 'Tis hard enough to be up in the mornin'
without bein' up at night as well.

DRISCOLL _(places drink on table_)
That's true.

[_Exit. A man of about forty-five enters, with a pint of
porter in his hand. He sits near Devlin_.

Good mornin', stranger.

Good mornin'.

'Tis a fine day for this time of year.

This would be a fine day for any part of the year.

Fine weather is the least of the good things that the
poor is entitled to.

The poor have their wants, of course, but the rich,
bad luck and misfortune to them one and all, have
their troubles also, because they don't know what
they want, the discontented, lazy, good-for-nothin'
varmints. May they all perish be their own folly
before the world or their money comes to an end.

'Tis only the poor who knows how bad the rich are.
And only the rich that can be hard on the poor. Have
you a match, if you please?

DEVLIN (_handing a box_)
You'll find plenty in that.

All the comfort some of us have in this world is a
smoke, that's when we have the tobacco, of course.

There'll be smokin' enough in the next world, they
say, but that's cold comfort to a man without the
fillin's of a pipe or a match to light it.

'Tis a great misfortune to be born at all.

That's what I've often been thinkin'. And many's
the time I've cursed the day that my father met my
mother. (_Sadly_) 'Twould be better for us all in spite
of what the clergy say that we were all Protestants,
or else died before we came to the use of reason.
But things might be worse.

Trouble comes to us all, and 'tis a consolation to
know that the King must die as well as the beggar.
Think of me, and I after losin' my return ticket to
Carlow, and I must be there to-night even if I have
to walk every step of the way.

And haven't you the price of your ticket?

The devil a penny at all have I, and unless I can sell
my watch to buy my ticket with, I'll lose my job, and
then my wife and family must go to the workhouse.

God himself seems to be no friend of the poor. That
was a terrible calamity to befall a stranger. How
much will your ticket cost?

Ten shillin's, and I'm willin' to part with my watch
for that triflin' sum, though 'twas my poor father's,
rest his soul. (_Holds watch in his hand_) Look at it,
'tis as fine a timepiece as eyes ever rested on. A solid
silver watch, and a chain of solid gold, and all for ten
shillin's. And history enough attached to it to write
a book.

'Tis a bargain surely.

A man wearin' a watch and chain like that would get
credit anywhere he'd be known, though 'twould be
no use to a stranger.

Leave me see how 'twould look on me. (_The stranger
hands him the watch, and Devlin adjusts it to his vest
front, walks up and down the room, and looks in the
glass_) Bedad, but you're right. It does make a man
feel good, and maybe better than he is.

A man walkin' into a friend's house with ornamentation
on him like that would get the lend of anythin'.

DEVLIN (_confidently_)
I believe he would.

Indeed you may say so.

And you'll sell it for ten shillin's.

Yes, if you'll be quick about it, because I must catch
the train and get home as soon as I can.

Does it keep good time?

'Tis the best timekeeper that ever was.

DEVLIN (_places watch to his ear_)
It has a good strong tick, anyway. I'll give you the
ten shillin's for it. Here you are.

NAGLE (_takes the money_)
Thank you kindly, though it nearly breaks my heart
to part with it.

Life is made up of comin' and goin', and what we lose
to-day we may gain to-morrow, and lose again the
next day.

One man's loss is another man's profit, and that's how
the world keeps movin'.

True. And there's no use in being alive unless we
can help each other. Sure 'tis for each other, and
not by each other, that we should live.

'Pon my word, but to know how to live is the greatest
problem of all.

That's so. Sometimes 'tis foolish to be wise and other
times 'tis wise to be foolish, but the sensible man will
always look out for himself and let his friends look
after his enemies.

Every word you say is true, but I must be goin' or I'll
lose the train. So I'll bid you good-by and good luck.

Good day and good luck to you also. (_Exit Nagle_)
The stranger was right. A man with a watch and
chain like this, and able to tell every one the time of
day, could get as much on his word as he'd want.

[_Buttons his coat and takes up the newspaper, sits in
the chair and commences to read. He is soon disturbed
by the entrance of Bernard Falvey, Michael Cassily,
two policemen, and several of the townspeople_.

FIRST POLICEMAN (_pointing to Devlin_)
Is this the man who gave you the letter of introduction?

That's the man who has brought all this trouble on
me, but I'm as innocent as the babe unborn of the
charge of burglary.

Hold your tongue, I say. What greater proof could
we have than the torn coat which you're wearin'?

I tell you that I got this coat from a stranger I met
in this house, this mornin'.

And sure you're the one who can look innocent, believe
me. But this won't be much good to you when
you go before the magistrates. Now we'll deal with
your partner. (_Places his hand on Devlin's shoulder_)
I must arrest you on suspicion for being an accomplice
of this strange man here who broke into Mr. Michael
Cassily's establishment last night, and stole five pound
notes, two silver candlesticks and a silver watch and
golden chain.

Is it madness that has come upon the crowd of you?
Me that never stole anythin' in my life, to be accused
of robbin' from a dacent man like Michael Cassily!

Search him, constable.

Of course, I will. (_He opens his coat, finds the watch
and chain, takes it off, hands it to Michael Cassily_)
Is that yours?

Yes, constable, that's the watch and chain that was
stolen from my house this mornin'.

What have you to say for yourself now?

Nothin', only that I paid ten shillin's to a stranger
less than half an hour ago.

And where did you get the ten shillin's, you that
haven't had ten shillin's of your own altogether for
ten years, but always borrowin' money and tellin' the
people that you are goin' to inherit a fortune from

Tis the truth I'm tellin' you.

Nonsense, nonsense. What greater proof could we
have of your guilt? This man here who you gave the
letter of introduction is a stranger to the town and
the piece of cloth that Mr. Cassily found hangin' on
a nail in his back porch after the burglary was committed,
is the piece of cloth that is missin' from this
man's coat. (_Fits the piece of cloth_) And we have
found the identical watch and chain on your own

'Twas a clever scheme of the pair of them and no
doubt about it.

I never thought that any one could add insult to
injury in such a manner. I was always a friend to
you, Garret Devlin, and you tried to get this man
who had already robbed me, a position in my establishment
so that he could rob me all the more.

As sure as my great-grandfather is dead and gone, I
tell you that I got this coat from a stranger in this
very house.

And as sure as the devil has paid a visit this blessed
day to Castlemorgan, I tell you I bought that watch
and chain from a stranger also. William Driscoll
will prove that there were two such men in his

If William Driscoll says a word in your defence, he'll
be arrested on suspicion also. (_To the publican_) What
have you to say?

Not a word, constable, not a word. I know nothin'
at all about the matter except readin' the account of
the dreadful affair in the mornin' paper.
[_First policeman places the handcuffs on both, and
walks them towards the door_.

What's goin' to happen to us at all, at all?

The judge will tell you that at the next assizes.


* * * * *




MARY ELLEN CORCORAN _Wife of Donal Corcoran_
KITTY CORCORAN _Daughter of Ellen and Donal Corcoran_
ANASTATIA DEALHUNTY _Wife of Denis Delahunty_
CONSTABLE DUNLEA _A member of the R. I. C._



_Place: An island off the West coast of Ireland_.

_Scene: Interior of Donal Corcoran's house. Donal and
his wife seated in two comfortable armchairs by the parlour
fire. The parlour is well furnished, and Kitty is busy dusting,
as visitors are expected. Donal is a man of about
fifty-six years, and his wife is a little younger. Donal is
reading a copy of the Galway Examiner, and his wife is
knitting a stocking_.

DONAL (_as he stretches the paper in front of him. With a
look of surprise_)
Glory be to God!

MRS. CORCORAN (_who does not notice his attitude or expression_)

DONAL (_holds the paper with one hand, and brushes the
hair from his forehead with the other_)
Is it the way that I'm dreamin', or losin' my senses?
Or is it the way I have no senses to lose?

MRS. CORCORAN _(looking up from her knitting_)
Wisha, what's the matter, at all? Did any one die and
leave you a fortune?

Who the devil would die and leave me anything?
when I have no one belongin' to me but poor relations.
Bad luck to them, and they only waitin' for myself
to die, so that they could have what I worked and
slaved for all those long and weary years. But 'tisn't
much there will be for any one after Kitty gets her
dowry. What's left will be little enough for ourselves,
I'm thinkin'.

But what have you seen in the newspaper?

DONAL (_reads_)
Baronetcy for the chairman of the Innismore Board
of Guardians. His Majesty the King has been
pleased to confer a Royal favour on the worthy and
exemplary Denis Delahunty, who in future will be
known as Sir Denis Delahunty, Bart., in recognition
of his services to the people of Innismore. It was
with a feelin' of pride and admiration that--

MRS. CORCORAN (_as she drops the stocking on the floor,
lifts the spectacles from her nose, and places them on
her brow_)
The Lord protect and save us all! Is it the truth,
I wonder?

DONAL (_handing paper_)
See for yourself, woman.

MRS. CORCORAN (_grabs the paper and scans it with interest_)
Sure enough, there it is, then, with five lines of large
black letters and two columns of small letters besides,
and his photograph as well. (_To Kitty_) Look Kitty,
darlin', look. There 'tis all. Sit down and read it
aloud for us. 'Twill sound better that way.

KITTY (_takes the paper and smiles. Falls on a chair nearly
overcome with laughter. The parents look on in amazement_)
Sir Denis Delahunty! (_Laughs heartily_)

What are you laughin' at? You impudent hussy!

KITTY (_still laughing_)
Sir Denis Delahunty, Bart., my dear!

Yes, yes, Sir Denis Delahunty. And what about it?

Dinny Delahunty, the old caubogue, a baronet, and
no less! (_Laughs_)

I'll have no more of this laughin', I say. What at all,
are you amused at, I'd like to know?

Oh, father, sure 'tis a blessing that some one has a
sense of humour, like myself and the King. And
'twas the great laugh he must have had to himself,
when he made a baronet of Dinny Delahunty. Not
to mention all the other shoneens and huxters, from
here to Bantry.

How dare you speak to me like that, miss, when 'tis
yourself that will be Lady Delahunty one of these
fine days. Dinny, I mean, Sir Denis himself, is
comin' here to-night to make a match with his son,

Wisha, indeed, now! And who told you I am going
to wed Finbarr Delahunty? And he a more miserable
shoneen than his old crawthumping humbug of a

If you'll speak as disrespectfully as that again about
any of my friends you'll be sorry for it. 'Tis I'm
tellin' you that you are to wed Finbarr Delahunty and
that's information enough for you, my damsel.

I'll spare you the trouble of picking a man for me,

Don't be disobedient, Kitty. You must remember
that I never laid eyes on your father until the mornin'
I met him at the altar rails.

You should be ashamed to acknowledge the like,

Ashamed of me, is it? The father that rared and
schooled you!

I have said nothing at all to offend you, father. But
I have already told you that I am going to pick a
husband for myself.

You are goin' to pick a husband for yourself! Are
you, indeed? Ah, sure 'tis the stubbornness of your
mother's people that's in you.

MRS. CORCORAN (_as she keeps knitting_)
And her father's, too.

What's that you're saying, woman?

I said that 'twas from your side of the family that
she brought the stubbornness.

How dare you say that, and in my presence, too?
The devil blast the one belongin' to me was ever
stubborn. She's her mother's daughter, I'm tellin'

Whatever is gentle in her comes from me, and what's
stubborn and contrary comes from you and yours.

DONAL (_in a rage_)
God be praised and glorified! What's gentle in her,
will you tell me? She that pleases herself in everythin'.
(_To Kitty_) I'll knock the stubbornness out of you,
my young lady, before we will have another full moon.

Indeed and you won't, then, nor in ten full moons,

DONAL (_as he walks up and down the kitchen_)
Woman! woman! woman! You are all alike! Every
damn one of you, from the Queen to the cockle picker.

You have no right to marry me to any one against
my will.

And is it the way I'd be leavin' you marry some good-for-nothing
idle jackeen, who couldn't buy a ha'porth
of bird seed for a linnet or a finch, let alone to
keep a wife? That's what a contrary, headstrong,
uncontrollable whipster like you would do, if you had
your own way. But, be God, you will have little of
your own way while I am here and above ground.

If stubbornness was a virtue, you'd be a saint, father,
and they'd have your picture in all the stained glass
windows in every church in the country, like St.
Patrick or St. Columkille, himself.

MRS. CORCORAN (_laughs at Kitty's answer_)
Well, well, well, to be sure! You are your father's
daughter, Kitty.

She's the devil's daughter, I'm thinkin'.

[_A loud knocking is heard at the door. Kitty opens it
and Denis Delahunty enters. He is dressed in a new
frock coat and top hat_.

MRS. CORCORAN AND DONAL (_as he enters_)
Welcome, Sir Denis, welcome. (_They both shake hands
with him_) Our heartiest congratulations, and warmest

DONAL (_pointing to his own chair_)
Take my own chair, the best in the house, that I
wouldn't offer to the Bishop or the Lord Lieutenant
himself, if either of them called to see me.
[_Sir Denis sits down, but forgets to remove his hat,
which is much too small, and tilted to one side. When
Kitty sees the strange figure he cuts, she laughs outright,
at which her father gets very angry_.

DONAL (_to Kitty_)
What are you laughin' at? You brazen creature!

KITTY (_laughing_)
Sir Denis has on some one else's tall hat.

SIR DENIS (_looks very bored, removes the hat and says
rather sadly_)
You are mistaken, my child. Badly mistaken! 'Tis
my own hat. 'Twas the only one in the town that I
could get that came near fittin' me, and herself, I mean
Lady Delahunty, wouldn't leave me out without it.

I hope that you feel more comfortable than you
look, Sir Denis.

To tell the truth, Kitty, I don't know whether 'tis on
my head or my heels I'm standin'. The devil a one of
me was ever aware that His Majesty the King knew
or thought so much about me. If I was only made a
mere knight inself, it wouldn't be so bad; but think
of bein' made a whole baronet all of a sudden like
that, and not knowin' a bit about it beforehand.

You are the lucky man, Sir Denis, but don't know it.

I suppose I am, Donal. At one stroke of his sword,
so to speak, the King of, well, we might say of half
the whole world, put an unbridgeable gulf between
herself, I mean Lady Delahunty, and myself, and
the common people forever and forever!

KITTY (_laughing_)
May the Lord forgive him.

I suppose you must present yourself at Court and
have tea with the Queen herself?

Sure, of course, he must be presented at Court, and
the Queen with a crown of glitterin' jewels on her
head will bow to him, the same as if he was the Rajah
of Ballyslattery, himself, and he with his ten thousand
wives and numerous attendants. And for all we know,
maybe 'tis the way he'll be invitin' the whole Royal
Family to spend the summer with himself and Lady
Delahunty at Innismore.

'Tis the great responsibility that has been thrust upon
herself, I mean Lady Delahunty, and myself surely.
But we have made no plans, so far, for the entertainment
of Royalty, and their conspicuous aide-de-camps.

Aides-de-camp, you mean, I suppose, Sir Denis.

How dare you correct Sir Denis?

However, I suppose in time we will get accustomed to
our new surroundin's and environment. The Prince
of Wales, they say, is hard to please, but I have no
doubt that he will be glad to meet Lady Delahunty
and myself.

I have no doubt whatever but he will be delighted to
meet Lady Delahunty and yourself. But, of course,
every man's trouble appears greater to himself, than
to his neighbours. And as we all think more about
ourselves than any one else, and as you have now partially
recovered from the unexpected stroke of royal
generosity, we might as well get down to business and
fix up that match with Kitty and your son Finbarr.

With reference to the royal favour, Donal, I might as
well be candid and say, that it wasn't altogether unexpected,
because I knew somethin' was going to
happen. I felt it in my bones.

Nonsense, Sir Denis; it must have been the rheumatics
you felt.

That's all well and good, but what about the match?

Spare yourself the trouble of trying to make a match
for me.

If you don't hold your tongue, I'll be put to the bother
of lockin' you up in your own room, and feedin' you
on promises until your spirit is broken. That's the
only way to treat a contrary, impudent creature like

Let there be no crossness on my account, Donal.

Well, I have carefully considered what we were discussin'
last week, and I have decided to give three
hundred pounds, twenty acres of rich loamy soil,
without a rock, a furze bush, or a cobble stone in it,
five milch cows, six sheep, three clockin' hens and a
clutch of ducklin's. Provided, of course, that you
will give the same. That much should be enough to
give my daughter and your son a start in life. And
I may tell you that's much more than herself and
myself started out with. Well, Sir Denis, is it a
bargain or is it not?

No two people could get a better start, Donal. But it
isn't in my power to come to any settlement until herself,
I mean Lady Delahunty, arrives. She is up at the
dressmaker's, and should be here in a minute or two.
[_Knock at the door. Kitty opens and Lady Delahunty
enters. She is dressed in a new sealskin coat, black
dress, and white petticoat and a badly fitting bonnet.
Mrs. Corcoran is greatly impressed with her appearance
and offers her a chair_.

Congratulations, Lady Delahunty, congratulations.
Be seated, be seated.

[_Mrs. Corcoran draws her chair near Lady Delahunty
and while Donal and Sir Denis are talking, in an
undertone, Mrs. Corcoran speaks_.

That's a beautiful new coat, Lady Delahunty.

LADY DELAHUNTY (_proudly_)
Fifty-five guineas.

'Tis worth more.

So Sir Denis says.

MRS. CORCORAN (_stoops and feels the edge of the lace petticoat,
which is well exposed_)
That's the nicest piece of lace I have seen for many
a long day.

Two pounds ten, and a bargain at that. And three
pounds five for my bonnet makes sixty pounds, fifteen
shillin's. Not to mention what I had to pay for
Dinny's, I mean Sir Denis's new suit and tall hat.

You could build a house or buy two fine horses for
that much.

Indeed, and you could then.

Now ladies, we must get our business finished, and
we can talk after. I am offerin' three hundred pounds,
twenty acres of land, five cows, six sheep, three clockin'
hens, and a clutch of ducklin's, and want to know
without any palaverin' or old gab, whether or not
yourself and Sir Denis are prepared to do likewise.

One would think that I was a cow or a sheep, myself,
going to be sold to the highest bidder. But, thank
God, I'm neither one nor the other. I have a mind
and a will of my own, and I may as well tell you all
that I will only marry the man who I will choose for

Every one of the women in ten generations of your
family, on both sides, said the same, but they all did
what they were told in the end, and you will do it,
too. You will marry the man that I will choose for
you, or go to the convent or America. And believe
me, 'tisn't much of your own way you will get in either

I will marry the man I want to marry and no one else.

Maybe 'tis the way she is only teasin' you.

No, 'tis her mother's contrary spirit that's in her.

Not her mother's, but her father's, contrary spirit.

Enough now, I say. I'm boss here yet, and I'm not
goin' to let my daughter, whom I have rared, fed,
clad and educated, and all that cost me many a pound
of my hard earned money, have a privilege that the
kings, queens, royal princesses and grand duchesses
themselves haven't.

Wisha, don't be losin' your temper, Donal.

'Tis enough to make any one lose their temper. If
that sort of thing was permitted, every dacent father
and mother in the country would be supportin' some
useless son-in-law, and his children, maybe. The man
who marries my daughter must be able to support her
as I have supported you.

Erra, hold your tongue. I never ate a loaf of idle
bread in my life, and always supported myself, and
earned enough to support you as well.

I'll have no more of this tyranny in my own house, I

Well, well, for goodness sake! What is all this nonsense
about? I have already told you that I will
marry my own man and no one else.

Now, Donal, when we come to consider the matter,
perhaps, after all is said and done, maybe Kitty is
right. You know, of course, that we all like to have
our own way.

Do we, indeed? Maybe 'tis the way you are tryin' to
back out of your bargain.

He isn't tryin' to back out of anythin', Donal. But
as we were sayin' to-day when we heard that His
Majesty, the King of Great Britain and Ireland,
Australia, Canada, and India, as well.--(_Looks at Sir
Denis who is trying to light a clay pipe_) Ahem! ahem!
Sir Denis, Sir Denis.

SIR DENIS (_bored_)
Alright, alright.

Didn't I tell you never to leave me see you with a clay
pipe in your gob again? Where are the cigars I bought
for you this morning?


Back to Full Books