John Bull's Other Island
George Bernard Shaw
Part 3 out of 3
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?
LARRY [reassured]. I get a touch of it sometimes when I am below
par. [absently, again strolling about] Yes, yes. [He begins to
hum again, and soon breaks into articulate melody].
Though summer smiles on here for ever,
Though not a leaf falls from the tree,
Tell England I'll forget her never,
[Nora puts dawn the knitting and stares at him].
0 wind that blows across the sea.
[With much expression]
Tell England I'll forget her ne-e-e-e-ver
O wind that blows acro-oss--
[Here the melody soars out of his range. He continues falsetto,
but changes the tune to Let Erin Remember]. I'm afraid I'm boring
you, Nora, though you're too kind to say so.
NORA. Are you wanting to get back to England already?
LARRY. Not at all. Not at all.
NORA. That's a queer song to sing to me if you're not.
LARRY. The song! Oh, it doesn't mean anything: it's by a German
Jew, like most English patriotic sentiment. Never mind me, my
dear: go on with your work; and don't let me bore you.
NORA [bitterly]. Rosscullen isn't such a lively place that I am
likely to be bored by you at our first talk together after
eighteen years, though you don't seem to have much to say to me
LARRY. Eighteen years is a devilish long time, Nora. Now if it
had been eighteen minutes, or even eighteen months, we should be
able to pick up the interrupted thread, and chatter like two
magpies. But as it is, I have simply nothing to say; and you seem
to have less.
NORA. I--[her tears choke her; but the keeps up appearances
LARRY [quite unconscious of his cruelty]. In a week or so we
shall be quite old friends again. Meanwhile, as I feel that I am
not making myself particularly entertaining, I'll take myself
off. Tell Tom I've gone for a stroll over the hill.
NORA. You seem very fond of Tom, as you call him.
LARRY [the triviality going suddenly out of his voice]. Yes I'm
fond of Tom.
NORA. Oh, well, don't let me keep you from him.
LARRY. I know quite well that my departure will be a relief.
Rather a failure, this first meeting after eighteen years, eh?
Well, never mind: these great sentimental events always are
failures; and now the worst of it's over anyhow. [He goes out
through the garden door].
Nora, left alone, struggles wildly to save herself from
breaking down, and then drops her face on the table and gives way
to a convulsion of crying. Her sobs shake her so that she can
hear nothing; and she has no suspicion that she is no longer
alone until her head and breast are raised by Broadbent, who,
returning newly washed and combed through the inner door, has
seen her condition, first with surprise and concern, and then
with an emotional disturbance that quite upsets him.
BROADBENT. Miss Reilly. Miss Reilly. What's the matter? Don't
cry: I can't stand it: you mustn't cry. [She makes a choked
effort to speak, so painful that he continues with impulsive
sympathy] No: don't try to speak: it's all right now. Have your
cry out: never mind me: trust me. [Gathering her to him, and
babbling consolatorily] Cry on my chest: the only really
comfortable place for a woman to cry is a man's chest: a real
man, a real friend. A good broad chest, eh? not less than
forty-two inches--no: don't fuss: never mind the conventions:
we're two friends, aren't we? Come now, come, come! It's all
right and comfortable and happy now, isn't it?
NORA [through her tears]. Let me go. I want me hankerchief.
BROADBENT [holding her with one arm and producing a large silk
handkerchief from his breast pocket]. Here's a handkerchief. Let
me [he dabs her tears dry with it]. Never mind your own: it's too
small: it's one of those wretched little cambric handkerchiefs--
NORA [sobbing]. Indeed it's a common cotton one.
BROADBENT. Of course it's a common cotton one--silly little
cotton one--not good enough for the dear eyes of Nora Cryna--
NORA [spluttering into a hysterical laugh and clutching him
convulsively with her fingers while she tries to stifle her
laughter against his collar bone]. Oh don't make me laugh: please
don't make me laugh.
BROADBENT [terrified]. I didn't mean to, on my soul. What is it?
What is it?
NORA. Nora Creena, Nora Creena.
BROADBENT [patting her]. Yes, yes, of course, Nora Creena, Nora
acushla [he makes cush rhyme to plush].
NORA. Acushla [she makes cush rhyme to bush].
BROADBENT. Oh, confound the language! Nora darling--my Nora--the
Nora I love--
NORA [shocked into propriety]. You mustn't talk like that to me.
BROADBENT [suddenly becoming prodigiously solemn and letting her
go]. No, of course not. I don't mean it--at least I do mean it;
but I know it's premature. I had no right to take advantage of
your being a little upset; but I lost my self-control for a
NORA [wondering at him]. I think you're a very kindhearted man,
Mr Broadbent; but you seem to me to have no self-control at all
[she turns her face away with a keen pang of shame and adds] no
more than myself.
BROADBENT [resolutely]. Oh yes, I have: you should see me when I
am really roused: then I have TREMENDOUS self-control. Remember:
we have been alone together only once before; and then, I regret
to say, I was in a disgusting state.
NORA. Ah no, Mr Broadbent: you weren't disgusting.
BROADBENT [mercilessly]. Yes I was: nothing can excuse it:
perfectly beastly. It must have made a most unfavorable
impression on you.
NORA. Oh, sure it's all right. Say no more about that.
BROADBENT. I must, Miss Reilly: it is my duty. I shall not detain
you long. May I ask you to sit down. [He indicates her chair with
oppressive solemnity. She sits down wondering. He then, with the
same portentous gravity, places a chair for himself near her;
sits down; and proceeds to explain]. First, Miss Reilly, may I
say that I have tasted nothing of an alcoholic nature today.
NORA. It doesn't seem to make as much difference in you as it
would in an Irishman, somehow.
BROADBENT. Perhaps not. Perhaps not. I never quite lose myself.
NORA [consolingly]. Well, anyhow, you're all right now.
BROADBENT [fervently]. Thank you, Miss Reilly: I am. Now we shall
get along. [Tenderly, lowering his voice] Nora: I was in earnest
last night. [Nora moves as if to rise]. No: one moment. You must
not think I am going to press you for an answer before you have
known me for 24 hours. I am a reasonable man, I hope; and I am
prepared to wait as long as you like, provided you will give me
some small assurance that the answer will not be unfavorable.
NORA. How could I go back from it if I did? I sometimes think
you're not quite right in your head, Mr Broadbent, you say such
BROADBENT. Yes: I know I have a strong sense of humor which
sometimes makes people doubt whether I am quite serious. That is
why I have always thought I should like to marry an Irishwoman.
She would always understand my jokes. For instance, you would
understand them, eh?
NORA [uneasily]. Mr Broadbent, I couldn't.
BROADBENT [soothingly]. Wait: let me break this to you gently,
Miss Reilly: hear me out. I daresay you have noticed that in
speaking to you I have been putting a very strong constraint on
myself, so as to avoid wounding your delicacy by too abrupt an
avowal of my feelings. Well, I feel now that the time has come to
be open, to be frank, to be explicit. Miss Reilly: you have
inspired in me a very strong attachment. Perhaps, with a woman's
intuition, you have already guessed that.
NORA [rising distractedly]. Why do you talk to me in that
unfeeling nonsensical way?
BROADBENT [rising also, much astonished]. Unfeeling! Nonsensical!
NORA. Don't you know that you have said things to me that no man
ought to say unless--unless--[she suddenly breaks down again and
hides her face on the table as before] Oh, go away from me: I
won't get married at all: what is it but heartbreak and
BROADBENT [developing the most formidable symptoms of rage and
grief]. Do you mean to say that you are going to refuse me? that
you don't care for me?
NORA [looking at him in consternation]. Oh, don't take it to
heart, Mr Br--
BROADBENT [flushed and almost choking]. I don't want to be petted
and blarneyed. [With childish rage] I love you. I want you for my
wife. [In despair] I can't help your refusing. I'm helpless: I
can do nothing. You have no right to ruin my whole life. You--[a
hysterical convulsion stops him].
NORA [almost awestruck]. You're not going to cry, are you? I
never thought a man COULD cry. Don't.
BROADBENT. I'm not crying. I--I--I leave that sort of thing to
your damned sentimental Irishmen. You think I have no feeling
because I am a plain unemotional Englishman, with no powers of
NORA. I don't think you know the sort of man you are at all.
Whatever may be the matter with you, it's not want of feeling.
BROADBENT [hurt and petulant]. It's you who have no feeling.
You're as heartless as Larry.
NORA. What do you expect me to do? Is it to throw meself at your
head the minute the word is out o your mouth?
BROADBENT [striking his silly head with his fists]. Oh, what a
fool! what a brute I am! It's only your Irish delicacy: of
course, of course. You mean Yes. Eh? What? Yes, yes, yes?
NORA. I think you might understand that though I might choose to
be an old maid, I could never marry anybody but you now.
BROADBENT [clasping her violently to his breast, with a crow of
immense relief and triumph]. Ah, that's right, that's right:
That's magnificent. I knew you would see what a first-rate thing
this will be for both of us.
NORA [incommoded and not at all enraptured by his ardor]. You're
dreadfully strong, an a gradle too free with your strength. An I
never thought o whether it'd be a good thing for us or not. But
when you found me here that time, I let you be kind to me, and
cried in your arms, because I was too wretched to think of
anything but the comfort of it. An how could I let any other man
touch me after that?
BROADBENT [touched]. Now that's very nice of you, Nora, that's
really most delicately womanly [he kisses her hand chivalrously].
NORA [looking earnestly and a little doubtfully at him]. Surely
if you let one woman cry on you like that you'd never let another
BROADBENT [conscientiously]. One should not. One OUGHT not, my
dear girl. But the honest truth is, if a chap is at all a
pleasant sort of chap, his chest becomes a fortification that has
to stand many assaults: at least it is so in England.
NORA [curtly, much disgusted]. Then you'd better marry an
BROADBENT [making a wry face]. No, no: the Englishwoman is too
prosaic for my taste, too material, too much of the animated
beefsteak about her. The ideal is what I like. Now Larry's taste
is just the opposite: he likes em solid and bouncing and rather
keen about him. It's a very convenient difference; for we've
never been in love with the same woman.
NORA. An d'ye mean to tell me to me face that you've ever been in
BROADBENT. Lord! yes.
NORA. I'm not your first love?
BROADBENT. First love is only a little foolishness and a lot of
curiosity: no really self-respecting woman would take advantage
of it. No, my dear Nora: I've done with all that long ago. Love
affairs always end in rows. We're not going to have any rows:
we're going to have a solid four-square home: man and wife:
comfort and common sense--and plenty of affection, eh [he puts
his arm round her with confident proprietorship]?
NORA [coldly, trying to get away]. I don't want any other woman's
BROADBENT [holding her]. Nobody asked you to, ma'am. I never
asked any woman to marry me before.
NORA [severely]. Then why didn't you if you're an honorable man?
BROADBENT. Well, to tell you the truth, they were mostly married
already. But never mind! there was nothing wrong. Come! Don't
take a mean advantage of me. After all, you must have had a fancy
or two yourself, eh?
NORA [conscience-stricken]. Yes. I suppose I've no right to be
BROADBENT [humbly]. I know I'm not good enough for you, Nora. But
no man is, you know, when the woman is a really nice woman.
NORA. Oh, I'm no better than yourself. I may as well tell you
BROADBENT. No, no: let's have no telling: much better not. I
shan't tell you anything: don't you tell ME anything. Perfect
confidence in one another and no tellings: that's the way to
NORA. Don't think it was anything I need be ashamed of.
BROADBENT. I don't.
NORA. It was only that I'd never known anybody else that I could
care for; and I was foolish enough once to think that Larry--
HROADBENT [disposing of the idea at once]. Larry! Oh, that
wouldn't have done at all, not at all. You don't know Larry as I
do, my dear. He has absolutely no capacity for enjoyment: he
couldn't make any woman happy. He's as clever as be-blowed; but
life's too earthly for him: he doesn't really care for anything
NORA. I've found that out.
BROADBENT. Of course you have. No, my dear: take my word for it,
you're jolly well out of that. There! [swinging her round against
his breast] that's much more comfortable for you.
NORA [with Irish peevishness]. Ah, you mustn't go on like that. I
don't like it.
BROADBENT [unabashed]. You'll acquire the taste by degrees. You
mustn't mind me: it's an absolute necessity of my nature that I
should have somebody to hug occasionally. Besides, it's good for
you: it'll plump out your muscles and make em elastic and set up
NORA. Well, I'm sure! if this is English manners! Aren't you
ashamed to talk about such things?
BROADBENT [in the highest feather]. Not a bit. By George, Nora,
it's a tremendous thing to be able to enjoy oneself. Let's go off
for a walk out of this stuffy little room. I want the open air to
expand in. Come along. Co-o-o-me along. [He puts her arm into his
and sweeps her out into the garden as an equinoctial gale might
sweep a dry leaf].
Later in the evening, the grasshopper is again enjoying the
sunset by the great stone on the hill; but this time he enjoys
neither the stimulus of Keegan's conversation nor the pleasure
of terrifying Patsy Farrell. He is alone until Nora and
Broadbent come up the hill arm in arm. Broadbent is still
breezy and confident; but she has her head averted from him
and is almost in tears].
BROADBENT [stopping to snuff up the hillside air]. Ah! I like
this spot. I like this view. This would be a jolly good place for
a hotel and a golf links. Friday to Tuesday, railway ticket and
hotel all inclusive. I tell you, Nora, I'm going to develop this
place. [Looking at her] Hallo! What's the matter? Tired?
NORA [unable to restrain her tears]. I'm ashamed out o me life.
BROADBENT [astonished]. Ashamed! What of?
NORA. Oh, how could you drag me all round the place like that,
telling everybody that we're going to be married, and
introjoocing me to the lowest of the low, and letting them shake
hans with me, and encouraging them to make free with us? I little
thought I should live to be shaken hans with be Doolan in broad
daylight in the public street of Rosscullen.
BROADBENT. But, my dear, Doolan's a publican: a most influential
man. By the way, I asked him if his wife would be at home
tomorrow. He said she would; so you must take the motor car round
and call on her.
NORA [aghast]. Is it me call on Doolan's wife!
BROADBENT. Yes, of course: call on all their wives. We must get a
copy of the register and a supply of canvassing cards. No use
calling on people who haven't votes. You'll be a great success as
a canvasser, Nora: they call you the heiress; and they'll be
flattered no end by your calling, especially as you've never
cheapened yourself by speaking to them before--have you?
NORA [indignantly]. Not likely, indeed.
BROADBENT. Well, we mustn't be stiff and stand-off, you know. We
must be thoroughly democratic, and patronize everybody without
distinction of class. I tell you I'm a jolly lucky man, Nora
Cryna. I get engaged to the most delightful woman in Ireland; and
it turns out that I couldn't have done a smarter stroke of
NORA. An would you let me demean meself like that, just to get
yourself into parliament?
BROADBENT [buoyantly]. Aha! Wait till you find out what an
exciting game electioneering is: you'll be mad to get me in.
Besides, you'd like people to say that Tom Broadbent's wife had
been the making of him--that she got him into parliament--into
the Cabinet, perhaps, eh?
NORA. God knows I don't grudge you me money! But to lower meself
to the level of common people
BROADBENT. To a member's wife, Nora, nobody is common provided
he's on the register. Come, my dear! it's all right: do you think
I'd let you do it if it wasn't? The best people do it. Everybody
NORA [who has been biting her lip and looking over the hill,
disconsolate and unconvinced]. Well, praps you know best what
they do in England. They must have very little respect for
themselves. I think I'll go in now. I see Larry and Mr Keegan
coming up the hill; and I'm not fit to talk to them.
BROADBENT. Just wait and say something nice to Keegan. They tell
me he controls nearly as many votes as Father Dempsey himself.
NORA. You little know Peter Keegan. He'd see through me as if I
was a pane o glass.
BROADBENT. Oh, he won't like it any the less for that. What
really flatters a man is that you think him worth flattering. Not
that I would flatter any man: don't think that. I'll just go and
meet him. [He goes down the hill with the eager forward look of a
man about to greet a valued acquaintance. Nora dries her eyes,
and turns to go as Larry strolls up the hill to her].
LARRY. Nora. [She turns and looks at him hardly, without a word.
He continues anxiously, in his most conciliatory tone]. When I
left you that time, I was just as wretched as you. I didn't
rightly know what I wanted to say; and my tongue kept clacking to
cover the loss I was at. Well, I've been thinking ever since; and
now I know what I ought to have said. I've come back to say it.
NORA. You've come too late, then. You thought eighteen years was
not long enough, and that you might keep me waiting a day longer.
Well, you were mistaken. I'm engaged to your friend Mr Broadbent;
and I'm done with you.
LARRY [naively]. But that was the very thing I was going to
advise you to do.
NORA [involuntarily]. Oh you brute! to tell me that to me face.
LARRY [nervously relapsing into his most Irish manner]. Nora,
dear, don't you understand that I'm an Irishman, and he's an
Englishman. He wants you; and he grabs you. I want you; and I
quarrel with you and have to go on wanting you.
NORA. So you may. You'd better go back to England to the animated
beefsteaks you're so fond of.
LARRY [amazed]. Nora! [Guessing where she got the metaphor] He's
been talking about me, I see. Well, never mind: we must be
friends, you and I. I don't want his marriage to you to be his
divorce from me.
NORA. You care more for him than you ever did for me.
LARRY [with curt sincerity]. Yes of course I do: why should I
tell you lies about it? Nora Reilly was a person of very little
consequence to me or anyone else outside this miserable little
hole. But Mrs Tom Broadbent will be a person of very considerable
consequence indeed. Play your new part well, and there will be no
more neglect, no more loneliness, no more idle regrettings and
vain-hopings in the evenings by the Round Tower, but real life
and real work and real cares and real joys among real people:
solid English life in London, the very centre of the world. You
will find your work cut out for you keeping Tom's house and
entertaining Tom's friends and getting Tom into parliament; but
it will be worth the effort.
NORA. You talk as if I were under an obligation to him for
LARRY. I talk as I think. You've made a very good match, let me
NORA. Indeed! Well, some people might say he's not done so badly
LARRY. If you mean that you will be a treasure to him, he thinks
so now; and you can keep him thinking so if you like.
NORA. I wasn't thinking o meself at all.
LARRY. Were you thinking of your money, Nora?
NORA. I didn't say so.
LARRY. Your money will not pay your cook's wages in London.
NORA [flaming up]. If that's true--and the more shame for you to
throw it in my face if it IS true--at all events it'll make us
independent; for if the worst comes to the worst, we can always
come back here an live on it. An if I have to keep his house for
him, at all events I can keep you out of it; for I've done with
you; and I wish I'd never seen you. So goodbye to you, Mister
Larry Doyle. [She turns her back on him and goes home].
LARRY [watching her as she goes]. Goodbye. Goodbye. Oh, that's so
Irish! Irish both of us to the backbone: Irish, Irish, Irish--
Broadbent arrives, conversing energetically with Keegan.
BROADBENT. Nothing pays like a golfing hotel, if you hold the
land instead of the shares, and if the furniture people stand in
with you, and if you are a good man of business.
LARRY. Nora's gone home.
BROADBENT [with conviction]. You were right this morning, Larry.
I must feed up Nora. She's weak; and it makes her fanciful. Oh,
by the way, did I tell you that we're engaged?
LARRY. She told me herself.
BROADBENT [complacently]. She's rather full of it, as you may
imagine. Poor Nora! Well, Mr Keegan, as I said, I begin to see my
way here. I begin to see my way.
KEEGAN [with a courteous inclination]. The conquering Englishman,
sir. Within 24 hours of your arrival you have carried off our
only heiress, and practically secured the parliamentary seat. And
you have promised me that when I come here in the evenings to
meditate on my madness; to watch the shadow of the Round Tower
lengthening in the sunset; to break my heart uselessly in the
curtained gloaming over the dead heart and blinded soul of the
island of the saints, you will comfort me with the bustle of a
great hotel, and the sight of the little children carrying the
golf clubs of your tourists as a preparation for the life to
BROADBENT [quite touched, mutely offering him a cigar to console
him, at which he smiles and shakes his head]. Yes, Mr Keegan:
you're quite right. There's poetry in everything, even [looking
absently into the cigar case] in the most modern prosaic things,
if you know how to extract it [he extracts a cigar for himself
and offers one to Larry, who takes it]. If I was to be shot for
it I couldn't extract it myself; but that's where you come in,
you see [roguishly, waking up from his reverie and bustling
Keegan goodhumoredly]. And then I shall wake you up a bit. That's
where I come in: eh? d'ye see? Eh? eh? [He pats him very
pleasantly on the shoulder, half admiringly, half pityingly].
Just so, just so. [Coming back to business] By the way, I believe
I can do better than a light railway here. There seems to be no
question now that the motor boat has come to stay. Well, look at
your magnificent river there, going to waste.
KEEGAN [closing his eyes]. "Silent, O Moyle, be the roar of thy
BROADBENT. You know, the roar of a motor boat is quite pretty.
KEEGAN. Provided it does not drown the Angelus.
BROADBENT [reassuringly]. Oh no: it won't do that: not the least
danger. You know, a church bell can make a devil of a noise when
KEEGAN. You have an answer for everything, sir. But your plans
leave one question still unanswered: how to get butter out of a
KEEGAN. You cannot build your golf links and hotels in the air.
For that you must own our land. And how will you drag our acres
from the ferret's grip of Matthew Haffigan? How will you persuade
Cornelius Doyle to forego the pride of being a small landowner?
How will Barney Doran's millrace agree with your motor boats?
Will Doolan help you to get a license for your hotel?
BROADBENT. My dear sir: to all intents and purposes the syndicate
I represent already owns half Rosscullen. Doolan's is a tied
house; and the brewers are in the syndicate. As to Haffigan's
farm and Doran's mill and Mr Doyle's place and half a dozen
others, they will be mortgaged to me before a month is out.
KEEGAN. But pardon me, you will not lend them more on their land
than the land is worth; so they will be able to pay you the
BROADBENT. Ah, you are a poet, Mr Keegan, not a man of business.
LARRY. We will lend everyone of these men half as much again on
their land as it is worth, or ever can be worth, to them.
BROADBENT. You forget, sir, that we, with our capital, our
knowledge, our organization, and may I say our English business
habits, can make or lose ten pounds out of land that Haffigan,
with all his industry, could not make or lose ten shillings out
of. Doran's mill is a superannuated folly: I shall want it for
LARRY. What is the use of giving land to such men? they are too
small, too poor, too ignorant, too simpleminded to hold it
against us: you might as well give a dukedom to a crossing
BROADBENT. Yes, Mr Keegan: this place may have an industrial
future, or it may have a residential future: I can't tell yet;
but it's not going to be a future in the hands of your Dorans and
Haffigans, poor devils!
KEEGAN. It may have no future at all. Have you thought of that?
BROADBENT. Oh, I'm not afraid of that. I have faith in Ireland,
great faith, Mr Keegan.
KEEGAN. And we have none: only empty enthusiasms and patriotisms,
and emptier memories and regrets. Ah yes: you have some excuse
for believing that if there be any future, it will be yours; for
our faith seems dead, and our hearts cold and cowed. An island of
dreamers who wake up in your jails, of critics and cowards whom
you buy and tame for your own service, of bold rogues who help
you to plunder us that they may plunder you afterwards. Eh?
BROADBENT [a little impatient of this unbusinesslike view]. Yes,
yes; but you know you might say that of any country. The fact is,
there are only two qualities in the world: efficiency and
inefficiency, and only two sorts of people: the efficient and the
inefficient. It don't matter whether they're English or Irish. I
shall collar this place, not because I'm an Englishman and
Haffigan and Co are Irishmen, but because they're duffers and I
know my way about.
KEEGAN. Have you considered what is to become of Haffigan?
LARRY. Oh, we'll employ him in some capacity or other, and
probably pay him more than he makes for himself now.
BROADBENT [dubiously]. Do you think so? No no: Haffigan's too
old. It really doesn't pay now to take on men over forty even for
unskilled labor, which I suppose is all Haffigan would be good
for. No: Haffigan had better go to America, or into the Union,
poor old chap! He's worked out, you know: you can see it.
KEEGAN. Poor lost soul, so cunningly fenced in with invisible
LARRY. Haffigan doesn't matter much. He'll die presently.
BROADBENT [shocked]. Oh come, Larry! Don't be unfeeling. It's
hard on Haffigan. It's always hard on the inefficient.
LARRY. Pah! what does it matter where an old and broken man
spends his last days, or whether he has a million at the bank or
only the workhouse dole? It's the young men, the able men, that
matter. The real tragedy of Haffigan is the tragedy of his wasted
youth, his stunted mind, his drudging over his clods and pigs
until he has become a clod and a pig himself--until the soul
within him has smouldered into nothing but a dull temper that
hurts himself and all around him. I say let him die, and let us
have no more of his like. And let young Ireland take care that it
doesn't share his fate, instead of making another empty grievance
of it. Let your syndicate come--
BROADBENT. Your syndicate too, old chap. You have your bit of the
LARRY. Yes, mine if you like. Well, our syndicate has no
conscience: it has no more regard for your Haffigans and Doolans
and Dorans than it has for a gang of Chinese coolies. It will use
your patriotic blatherskite and balderdash to get parliamentary
powers over you as cynically as it would bait a mousetrap with
toasted cheese. It will plan, and organize, and find capital
while you slave like bees for it and revenge yourselves by paying
politicians and penny newspapers out of your small wages to write
articles and report speeches against its wickedness and tyranny,
and to crack up your own Irish heroism, just as Haffigan once
paid a witch a penny to put a spell on Billy Byrne's cow. In the
end it will grind the nonsense out of you, and grind strength and
sense into you.
BROADBENT [out of patience]. Why can't you say a simple thing
simply, Larry, without all that Irish exaggeration and
talky-talky? The syndicate is a perfectly respectable body of
responsible men of good position. We'll take Ireland in hand, and
by straightforward business habits teach it efficiency and
self-help on sound Liberal principles. You agree with me, Mr
Keegan, don't you?
KEEGAN. Sir: I may even vote for you.
BROADBENT [sincerely moved, shaking his hand warmly]. You shall
never regret it, Mr Keegan: I give you my word for that. I shall
bring money here: I shall raise wages: I shall found public
institutions, a library, a Polytechnic [undenominational, of
course], a gymnasium, a cricket club, perhaps an art school. I
shall make a Garden city of Rosscullen: the round tower shall be
thoroughly repaired and restored.
KEEGAN. And our place of torment shall be as clean and orderly as
the cleanest and most orderly place I know in Ireland, which is
our poetically named Mountjoy prison. Well, perhaps I had better
vote for an efficient devil that knows his own mind and his own
business than for a foolish patriot who has no mind and no
BROADBENT [stiffly]. Devil is rather a strong expression in that
connexion, Mr Keegan.
KEEGAN. Not from a man who knows that this world is hell. But
since the word offends you, let me soften it, and compare you
simply to an ass. [Larry whitens with anger].
BROADBENT [reddening]. An ass!
KEEGAN [gently]. You may take it without offence from a madman
who calls the ass his brother--and a very honest, useful and
faithful brother too. The ass, sir, is the most efficient of
beasts, matter-of-fact, hardy, friendly when you treat him as a
fellow-creature, stubborn when you abuse him, ridiculous only in
love, which sets him braying, and in politics, which move him to
roll about in the public road and raise a dust about nothing. Can
you deny these qualities and habits in yourself, sir?
BROADBENT [goodhumoredly]. Well, yes, I'm afraid I do, you know.
KEEGAN. Then perhaps you will confess to the ass's one fault.
BROADBENT. Perhaps so: what is it?
KEEGAN. That he wastes all his virtues--his efficiency, as you
call it--in doing the will of his greedy masters instead of doing
the will of Heaven that is in himself. He is efficient in the
service of Mammon, mighty in mischief, skilful in ruin, heroic in
destruction. But he comes to browse here without knowing that the
soil his hoof touches is holy ground. Ireland, sir, for good or
evil, is like no other place under heaven; and no man can touch
its sod or breathe its air without becoming better or worse. It
produces two kinds of men in strange perfection: saints and
traitors. It is called the island of the saints; but indeed in
these later years it might be more fitly called the island of the
traitors; for our harvest of these is the fine flower of the
world's crop of infamy. But the day may come when these islands
shall live by the quality of their men rather than by the
abundance of their minerals; and then we shall see.
LARRY. Mr Keegan: if you are going to be sentimental about
Ireland, I shall bid you good evening. We have had enough of
that, and more than enough of cleverly proving that everybody who
is not an Irishman is an ass. It is neither good sense nor good
manners. It will not stop the syndicate; and it will not interest
young Ireland so much as my friend's gospel of efficiency.
BROADBENT. Ah, yes, yes: efficiency is the thing. I don't in the
least mind your chaff, Mr Keegan; but Larry's right on the main
point. The world belongs to the efficient.
KEEGAN [with polished irony]. I stand rebuked, gentlemen. But
believe me, I do every justice to the efficiency of you and your
syndicate. You are both, I am told, thoroughly efficient civil
engineers; and I have no doubt the golf links will be a triumph
of your art. Mr Broadbent will get into parliament most
efficiently, which is more than St Patrick could do if he were
alive now. You may even build the hotel efficiently if you can
find enough efficient masons, carpenters, and plumbers, which I
rather doubt. [Dropping his irony, and beginning to fall into the
attitude of the priest rebuking sin] When the hotel becomes
insolvent [Broadbent takes his cigar out of his mouth, a little
taken aback], your English business habits will secure the
thorough efficiency of the liquidation. You will reorganize the
scheme efficiently; you will liquidate its second bankruptcy
efficiently [Broadbent and Larry look quickly at one another; for
this, unless the priest is an old financial hand, must be
inspiration]; you will get rid of its original shareholders
efficiently after efficiently ruining them; and you will finally
profit very efficiently by getting that hotel for a few shillings
in the pound. [More and more sternly] Besides those efficient
operations, you will foreclose your mortgages most efficiently
[his rebuking forefinger goes up in spite of himself]; you will
drive Haffigan to America very efficiently; you will find a use
for Barney Doran's foul mouth and bullying temper by employing
him to slave-drive your laborers very efficiently; and [low and
bitter] when at last this poor desolate countryside becomes a
busy mint in which we shall all slave to make money for you, with
our Polytechnic to teach us how to do it efficiently, and our
library to fuddle the few imaginations your distilleries will
spare, and our repaired Round Tower with admission sixpence, and
refreshments and penny-in-the-slot mutoscopes to make it
interesting, then no doubt your English and American shareholders
will spend all the money we make for them very efficiently in
shooting and hunting, in operations for cancer and appendicitis,
in gluttony and gambling; and you will devote what they save to
fresh land development schemes. For four wicked centuries the
world has dreamed this foolish dream of efficiency; and the end
is not yet. But the end will come.
BROADBENT [seriously]. Too true, Mr Keegan, only too true. And
most eloquently put. It reminds me of poor Ruskin--a great man,
you know. I sympathize. Believe me, I'm on your side. Don't
sneer, Larry: I used to read a lot of Shelley years ago. Let us
be faithful to the dreams of our youth [he wafts a wreath of
cigar smoke at large across the hill].
KEEGAN. Come, Mr Doyle! is this English sentiment so much more
efficient than our Irish sentiment, after all? Mr Broadbent
spends his life inefficiently admiring the thoughts of great men,
and efficiently serving the cupidity of base money hunters. We
spend our lives efficiently sneering at him and doing nothing.
Which of us has any right to reproach the other?
BROADBENT [coming down the hill again to Keegan's right hand].
But you know, something must be done.
KEEGAN. Yes: when we cease to do, we cease to live. Well, what
shall we do?
BROADBENT. Why, what lies to our hand.
KEEGAN. Which is the making of golf links and hotels to bring
idlers to a country which workers have left in millions because
it is a hungry land, a naked land, an ignorant and oppressed
BROADBENT. But, hang it all, the idlers will bring money from
England to Ireland!
KEEGAN. Just as our idlers have for so many generations taken
money from Ireland to England. Has that saved England from
poverty and degradation more horrible than we have ever dreamed
of? When I went to England, sir, I hated England. Now I pity it.
[Broadbent can hardly conceive an Irishman pitying England; but
as Larry intervenes angrily, he gives it up and takes to the bill
and his cigar again]
LARRY. Much good your pity will do it!
KEEGAN. In the accounts kept in heaven, Mr Doyle, a heart
purified of hatred may be worth more even than a Land Development
Syndicate of Anglicized Irishmen and Gladstonized Englishmen.
LARRY. Oh, in heaven, no doubt! I have never been there. Can you
tell me where it is?
KEEGAN. Could you have told me this morning where hell is? Yet
you know now that it is here. Do not despair of finding heaven:
it may be no farther off.
LARRY [ironically]. On this holy ground, as you call it, eh?
KEEGAN [with fierce intensity]. Yes, perhaps, even on this holy
ground which such Irishmen as you have turned into a Land of
BROADBENT [coming between them]. Take care! you will be
quarrelling presently. Oh, you Irishmen, you Irishmen! Toujours
Ballyhooly, eh? [Larry, with a shrug, half comic, half impatient,
turn away up the hill, but presently strolls back on Keegan's
right. Broadbent adds, confidentially to Keegan] Stick to the
Englishman, Mr Keegan: he has a bad name here; but at least he
can forgive you for being an Irishman.
KEEGAN. Sir: when you speak to me of English and Irish you forget
that I am a Catholic. My country is not Ireland nor England, but
the whole mighty realm of my Church. For me there are but two
countries: heaven and hell; but two conditions of men: salvation
and damnation. Standing here between you the Englishman, so
clever in your foolishness, and this Irishman, so foolish in his
cleverness, I cannot in my ignorance be sure which of you is the
more deeply damned; but I should be unfaithful to my calling if I
opened the gates of my heart less widely to one than to the
LARRY. In either case it would be an impertinence, Mr Keegan, as
your approval is not of the slightest consequence to us. What use
do you suppose all this drivel is to men with serious practical
business in hand?
BROADBENT. I don't agree with that, Larry. I think these things
cannot be said too often: they keep up the moral tone of the
community. As you know, I claim the right to think for myself in
religious matters: in fact, I am ready to avow myself a bit of
a--of a--well, I don't care who knows it--a bit of a Unitarian;
but if the Church of England contained a few men like Mr Keegan,
I should certainly join it.
KEEGAN. You do me too much honor, sir. [With priestly humility to
Larry] Mr Doyle: I am to blame for having unintentionally set
your mind somewhat on edge against me. I beg your pardon.
LARRY [unimpressed and hostile]. I didn't stand on ceremony with
you: you needn't stand on it with me. Fine manners and fine words
are cheap in Ireland: you can keep both for my friend here, who
is still imposed on by them. I know their value.
KEEGAN. You mean you don't know their value.
LARRY [angrily]. I mean what I say.
KEEGAN [turning quietly to the Englishman] You see, Mr Broadbent,
I only make the hearts of my countrymen harder when I preach to
them: the gates of hell still prevail against me. I shall wish
you good evening. I am better alone, at the Round Tower, dreaming
of heaven. [He goes up the hill].
LARRY. Aye, that's it! there you are! dreaming, dreaming,
KEEGAN [halting and turning to them for the last time]. Every
dream is a prophecy: every jest is an earnest in the womb of
BROADBENT [reflectively]. Once, when I was a small kid, I dreamt
I was in heaven. [They both stare at him]. It was a sort of pale
blue satin place, with all the pious old ladies in our
congregation sitting as if they were at a service; and there was
some awful person in the study at the other side of the hall. I
didn't enjoy it, you know. What is it like in your dreams?
KEEGAN. In my dreams it is a country where the State is the
Church and the Church the people: three in one and one in three.
It is a commonwealth in which work is play and play is life:
three in one and one in three. It is a temple in which the priest
is the worshipper and the worshipper the worshipped: three in one
and one in three. It is a godhead in which all life is human and
all humanity divine: three in one and one in three. It is, in
short, the dream of a madman. [He goes away across the hill].
BROADBENT [looking after him affectionately]. What a regular old
Church and State Tory he is! He's a character: he'll be an
attraction here. Really almost equal to Ruskin and Carlyle.
LARRY. Yes; and much good they did with all their talk!
BROADBENT. Oh tut, tut, Larry! They improved my mind: they raised
my tone enormously. I feel sincerely obliged to Keegan: he has
made me feel a better man: distinctly better. [With sincere
elevation] I feel now as I never did before that I am right in
devoting my life to the cause of Ireland. Come along and help me
to choose the site for the hotel.
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