Sean O’Casey (1880–1964)
The living room of a two room tenancy occupied by the Boyle family in a tenement house in Dublin. Left, a door leading to another part of the house; left of door a window looking into the street; at back a dresser; farther to right at back, a window looking into the back of the house. Between the window and the dresser is a picture of the Virgin; below the picture, on a bracket, is a crimson bowl in which a floating votive light is burning. Farther to the right is a small bed partly concealed by cretonne hangings strung on a twine. To the right is the fireplace; near the fire place is a door leading to the other room. Beside the fireplace is a box containing coal. On the mantelshelf is an alarm clock lying on its face. In a corner near the window looking into the back is a galvanized bath. A table and some chairs. On the table are breakfast things for one. A teapot is on the hob and a frying-pan stands inside the fender. There are a few books on the dresser and one on the table. Leaning against the dresser is a long-handled shovel—the kind invariably used by labourers when turning concrete or mixing mortar. Johnny Boyle is sitting crouched beside the fire. Mary with her jumper off—it is lying on the back of a chair—is arranging her hair before a tiny mirror perched on the table. Beside the mirror is stretched out the morning paper, which she looks at when she isn’t gazing into the mirror. She is a well-made and good-looking girl of twenty-two. Two forces are working in her mind—one, through the circumstances of her life, pulling her back; the other, through the influence of books she has read, pushing her forward. The opposing forces are apparent in her speech and her manners, both of which are degraded by her environment, and improved by her acquaintance—slight though it be—with literature. The time is early forenoon.
Mary: (looking at the paper). On a little by-road, out beyant Finglas,, he was found.
[Mrs. Boyle enters by the door on right; she has been shopping and carries a small parcel in her hand. She is forty-five years of age, and twenty years ago she must have been a pretty woman; but her face has now assumed that look which ultimately settles down upon the faces of the women of the working-class; a look of listless monotony and harassed anxiety, blending with an expression of mechanical resistance. Were circumstances favourable, she would probably be a handsome, active and clever woman.]
Mrs. Boyle: Isn’t he come in yet?
Mary: No, mother.
Mrs. Boyle: Oh, he’ll come in when he likes; struttin’ about the town like a paycock with Joxer, I suppose. I hear all about Mrs. Tancred’s son is in this mornin’s paper.
Mary: The full details are in it this mornin’; seven wounds he had — one entherin’ the neck, with an exit wound beneath the left shoulder-blade; another in the left breast penethratin’ the heart, an’…
Johnny: (springing up from the fire). Oh, quit that readin’ for God’s sake! Are yous losin’ all your feelin’s? It’ll soon be that none of you’ll read anythin’ that’s not about butcherin’! [He goes quickly into the room on left.
Mary: He’s gettin’ very sensitive, all of a sudden!
Mrs. Boyle: I’ll read it myself, Mary, by an’ by, when I come home. Everybody’s sayin’ that he was a Diehard — thanks be to God that Johnny had nothin’ to do with him this long time….(Opening the parcel and taking out some sausages, which she places on a plate) Ah, then, if that father o’ yours doesn’t come in soon for his breakfast, he may go without any; I’ll not wait much longer for him.
Mary: Can’t you let him get it himself when he comes in?
Mrs. Boyle: Yes, an’ let him bring in Joxer Daly along with him? Ay, that’s what he’d like an’ that’s what he’s waitin’ for — till he thinks I’m gone to work, an’ then sail in with the boul’ Joxer, to burn all the coal an’ dhrink all the tea in the place, to show them what a good Samaritan he is! But I’ll stop here till he comes in, if I have to wait till tomorrow mornin’.
Voice of Johnny inside. Mother!
Mrs. Boyle: Yis?
Johnny: Bring us in a dhrink o’ wather.
Mrs. Boyle: Bring in that fella a dhrink o’ wather, for God’s sake, Mary.
Mary: Isn’t he big an’ able enough to come out an’ get it himself?
Mrs. Boyle: If you weren’t well yourself you’d like somebody to bring you in a dhrink o’ wather. [She brings in drink and returns.]
Mrs. Boyle: Isn’t it terrible to have to be waitin’ this way! You’d think he was bringin’ twenty poun’s a week into the house the way he’s going on. He wore out the Health Insurance long ago, he’s afther wearin’ out the unemployment dole, an’, now, he’s thryin’ to wear out me! An’ constantly singin’, no less, when he ought always to be on his knees offerin’ up a Novena for a job!
Mary (trying a ribbon fillet-wise around her head): him I don’t like this ribbon, ma; I think I’ll wear the green — it looks better than the blue.
Mrs. Boyle: Ah, wear whatever ribbon you like, girl, only don’t be botherin’ me. I don’t know what a girl on strike wants to be wearin’ a ribbon round her head for, or silk stockin’s on her legs either; it’s wearin’ them things that make the employers think they’re givin’ yous too much money.
Mary: The hour is past now when we’ll ask the employers’ permission to wear what we like.
Mrs. Boyle: I don’t know why you wanted to walk out for Jennie Claffey; up to this you never had a good word for her.
Mary: What’s the use of belongin’ to a Trades Union if you won’t stand up for your principles? Why did they sack her? It was a clear case of victimization. We couldn’t let her walk the streets, could we?
Mrs. Boyle: No, of course yous couldn’t — yous wanted to keep her company. Wan victim wasn’t enough. When the employers sacrifice wan victim, the Trades Union go wan betther be sacrificin’ a hundred.
Mary: It doesn’t matther what you say, ma — a principle’s a principle.
Mrs. Boyle: Yis; an’ when I go into oul’ Murphy’s tomorrow, an’ he gets to know that, instead o’ payin’ all, I’m goin’ to borry more, what’ll he say when I tell him a principle’s a principle? What’ll we do if he refuses to give us any more on tick?
Mary: He daren’t refuse — if he does, can’t you tell him he’s paid?
Mrs. Boyle: It’s lookin’ as if he was paid, whether he refuses or no.
[Johnny appears at the door on left. He can be plainly seen now; he is a thin, delicate fellow, something younger than Mary. He has evidently gone through a rough time. His face is pale and drawn; there is a tremulous look of indefinite fear in his eyes. The left sleeve of his coat is empty, and he walks with a slight halt.]
Johnny: I was lyin’ down; I thought yous were gone. Oul’ Simon Mackay is thrampin’ about like a horse over me head, an’ I can’t sleep with him — they’re like thunder-claps in me brain! The curse o’ — God forgive me for goin’ to curse!
Mrs. Boyle: There, now; go back an’ lie down again an’ I’ll bring you in a nice cup o’ tay.
Johnny: Tay, tay, tay! You’re always thinkin’ o’ tay. If a man was dyin’, you’d thry to make him swally a cup o’ tay! [He goes back.
Mrs. Boyle: I don’t know what’s goin’ to be done with him. The bullet he got in the hip in Easter Week was bad enough; but the bomb that shatthered his arm in the fight in O’Connell Street put the finishin’ touch on him. I knew he was makin’ a fool of himself. God knows I went down on me bended knees to him not to go agen the Free State.
Mary: He stuck to his principles, an’, no matther how you may argue, ma, a principle’s a principle.
Voice of Johnny: Is Mary goin’ to stay here?
Mary: No, I’m not goin’ to stay here; you can’t expect me to be always at your beck an’ call, can you?
Johnny: I won’t stop here be meself!
Mrs. Boyle: Amn’t I nicely handicapped with the whole o’ yous! I don’t know what any o’ yous ud do without your ma. (To Johnny) Your father’ll be here in a minute, an’ if you want anythin’, he’ll get it for you.
Johnny: I hate assin’ him for anythin’ — He hates to be assed to stir — Is the light lightin’ before the picture o’ the Virgin?
Mrs. Boyle: Yis, Yis! The wan inside to St. Anthony isn’t enough, but he must have another wan to the Virgin here!
[Jerry Devine enters hastily. He is about twenty-five, well set, active and earnest. He is a type, becoming very common now in the Labour Movement, of a mind knowing enough to make the mass of his associates, who know less, a power, and too little to broaden that power for the benefit of all. Mary seizes her jumper and runs hastily into room left.]
Jerry: (breathless) Where’s the Captain, Mrs. Boyle, where’s the Captain?
Mrs. Boyle: You may well ass a body that: he’s wherever Joxer Daly is — dhrinkin’ in some snug or another.
Jerry: Father Farrell is just afther stoppin’ to tell me to run up an’ get him to go to the new job that’s goin’ on in Rathmines; his cousin is foreman o’ the job, an’ Father Farrell was speakin’ to him about poor Johnny an’ his father bein’ idle so long, an’ the foreman told Father Farrell to send the Captain up an’ he’d give him a start — I wondher where I’d find him?
Mrs. Boyle: You’ll find he’s ayther in Ryan’s or Foley’s.
Jerry: I’ll run round to Ryan’s — I know it’s a great house o’ Joxer’s. [He rushes out.
Mrs. Boyle: (piteously) There now, he’ll miss that job, or I know for what! If he gets win’ o’ the word, he’ll not come back till evenin’, so that it’ll be too late. There’ll never be any good got out o’ him so long as he goes with that shouldher-shruggin’ Joxer. I killin’ meself workin’, an’ he sthruttin’ about from mornin’ till night like a paycock!
[The steps of two persons are heard coming up a fight of stairs. They are the footsteps of Captain Boyle and Joxer. Captain Boyle is singing in a deep, sonorous, self‑honouring voice.]
The Captain: Sweet Spirit, hear me prayer! Hear — oh — hear — me prayer — hear , oh, hear — Oh, he…ar — oh, he…ar — me — pray…er!
Joxer: (outside) Ah, that’s a darlin’ song, a daaarlin’ song!
Mrs. Boyle: (viciously). Sweet spirit hear his prayer! Ah, then, I’ll take me solemn affeydavey, it’s not for a job he’s prayin’! [She sits down on the bed so that the cretonne hangings hide her from the view of those entering.
[The Captain comes in. He is a man of about sixty; stout, grey‑haired and stocky. His neck is short, and his head looks like a stone ball that one sometimes sees on top of a gate‑post. His cheeks, reddish‑purple, are puffed out, as if he were always repressing an almost irrepressible ejaculation. On his upper lip is a crisp, tightly cropped moustache; he carries himself with the upper part of his body slightly thrown back, and his stomach slightly thrust forward. His walk is a slow, consequential strut. His clothes are dingy, and he wears a faded seaman’s‑cap with a glazed peak.]
Boyle: (to Joxer, who is still outside). Come on, come on in, Joxer; she’s gone out long ago, man. If there’s nothing else to be got, we’ll furrage out a cup o’ tay, anyway. It’s the only bit I get in comfort when she’s away. ‘Tisn’t Juno should be her pet name at all, but Deirdre of the Sorras, for she’s always grousin’.
[Joxer steps cautiously into the room. He may be younger than the Captain but he looks a lot older. His face is like a bundle of crinkled paper; his eyes have a cunning twinkle; he is spare and loosely built; he has a habit of constantly shrugging his shoulders with a peculiar twitching movement, meant to be ingratiating. His face is invariably ornamented with a grin.]
Joxer: It’s a terrible thing to be tied to a woman that’s always grousin’. I don’t know how you stick it — it ud put years on me. It’s a good job she has to be so ofen away, for (with a shrug) when the cat’s away, the mice can play!
Boyle: (with a commanding and complacent gesture). Pull over to the fire, Joxer, an’ we’ll have a cup o’ tay in a minute.
Joxer: Ah, a cup o’ tay’s a darlin’ thing, a daaarlin’ thing — the cup that cheers but doesn’t… [Joxer’s rhapsody is cut short by the sight of Juno coming forward and confronting the two cronies. Both are stupefied.]
Mrs. Boyle: (with sweet irony—poking the fire, and turning her head to glare at Joxer). Pull over to the fire, Joxer Daly, an’ we’ll have a cup o’ tay in a minute! Are you sure, now, you wouldn’t like an egg?
Joxer: I can’t stop, Mrs. Boyle; I’m in a desperate hurry, a desperate hurry.
Mrs. Boyle: Pull over to the fire, Joxer Daly; people is always far more comfortable here than they are in their own place.
[Joxer makes hastily for the door. Boyle stirs to follow him; thinks of something to relieve the situation—stops, and says suddenly]: Joxer!
Joxer: (at door ready to bolt). Yis?
Boyle: You know the foreman o’ that job that’s goin’ on down in Killesther, don’t you, Joxer?
Joxer: (puzzled). Foreman — Killesther?
Boyle: (with a meaning look). He’s a butty o’ yours, isn’t he?
Joxer: (the truth dawning on him). The foreman at Killesther — oh yis, yis. He’s an oul’ butty o’ mine — oh, he’s a darlin’ man, a daarlin’ man.
Boyle: Oh, then, it’s a sure thing. It’s a pity we didn’t go down at breakfast first thing this mornin’ — we might ha’ been working now; but you didn’t know it then.
Joxer: (with a shrug). It’s betther late than never.
Boyle: It’s nearly time we got a start, anyhow; I’m fed up knockin’ round, doin’ nothin’. He promised you — gave you the straight tip?
Joxer: Yis. “Come down on the blow o’ dinner,” says he, “an’ I’ll start you, an’ any friend you like to brin’ with you.” “Ah,” says I, “you’re a darlin’ man, a daaarlin’ man.”
Boyle: Well, it couldn’t have come at a betther time — we’re a long time waitin’ for it.
Joxer: Indeed we were — but it’s a long lane that has no turnin’.
Boyle: The blow up for dinner is at one — wait till I see what time it ’tis.
[He goes over to the mantelpiece, and gingerly lifts the clock.]
Mrs. Boyle: Min’ now, how you go on fiddlin’ with that clock — you know the least thing sets it asthray.
Boyle: The job couldn’t come at a betther time; I’m feelin’ in great fettle, Joxer. I’d hardly believe I ever had a pain in me legs, an’ last week I was nearly crippled with them.
Joxer: That’s betther an’ betther; ah, God never shut wan door but He opened another!
Boyle: It’s only eleven o’clock; We’ve lashin’s o’ time. I’ll slip on me oul’ moleskins afther breakfast, an’ we can saunther down at our ayse. (Putting his hand on the shovel) I think, Joxer, we’d betther bring our shovels?
Joxer: Yis, Captain, yis; it’s betther to go fully prepared an’ ready for all eventualities. You bring your long-tailed shovel, an’ I’ll bring me navvy. We mighten’ want them, an’, then agen, we might : for want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, an’ for want of a horse the man was lost — aw, that’s a darlin’ proverb, a daarlin’… [As Joxer is finishing his sentence, Mrs. Boyle approaches the door and Joxer retreats hurriedly. She shuts the door with a bang.]
Boyle: (suggestively). We won’t be long pullin’ ourselves together agen when I’m working for a few weeks. [Mrs. Boyle takes no notice.]
Boyle: The foreman on the job is an oul’ butty o’ Joxer’s; I have an idea that I know him meself – (Silence) There’s a button off the back o’ me moleskin trousers — If you leave out a needle an’ thread I’ll sew it on meself — Thanks be to God, the pains in me legs is gone, anyhow!
Mrs. Boyle: (with a burst). Look here, Mr. Jacky Boyle, them yarns won’t go down with Juno. I know you an’ Joxer Daly of an oul’ date, an’ if you think you’re able to come it over me with them fairy tales, you’re in the wrong shop.
Mrs. Boyle: Butty o’ Joxer’s! Oh, you’ll do a lot o’ good as long as you continue to be a butty o’ Joxer’s!
Boyle: (coughing subduedly to relieve the tenseness of the situation). U-u-u-ugh!
Mrs. Boyle: Shovel! Ah, then, me boyo, you’d do far more work with a knife an’ fork than ever you’ll do with a shovel! If there was e’er a genuine job goin’ you’d be dh’other way about — not able to lift your arms with the pains in your legs! Your poor wife slavin’ to keep the bit in your mouth, an’ you gallivantin’ about all the day like a paycock!
Boyle: It ud betther for a man to be dead, betther for a man to be dead.
Mrs. Boyle: (ignoring the interruption). Everybody callin’ you ‘Captain’, an’ you only wanst on the wather, in an oul’ collier from here to Liverpool, when anybody, to listen or look at you, ud take you for a second Christo For Columbus!
Boyle: Are you never goin’ to give us a rest?
Mrs. Boyle: Oh, you’re never tired o’ lookin’ for a rest.
Boyle: D’ye want to drive me out o’ the house?
Mrs. Boyle: It ud be easier to dhrive you out o’ the house than to dhrive you into a job. Here, sit down an’ take your breakfast — it may be the last you’ll get, for I don’t know where the next is goin’ to come from.
Boyle: If I get this job we’ll be all right.
Mrs. Boyle: Did ye see Jerry Devine?
Boyle: (testily). No, I didn’t see him.
Mrs. Boyle: No, but you seen Joxer. Well, he was here lookin’ for you.
Boyle: Well, let him look!
Mrs. Boyle: Oh, indeed, he may well look, for it ud be hard for him to see you, an’ you stuck in Ryan’s snug.
Boyle: I wasn’t in Ryan’s snug — I don’t go into Ryan’s.
Mrs. Boyle: Oh, is there a mad dog in there? Well, if you weren’t in Ryan’s you were in Foley’s.
Boyle: I’m telling you for the last three weeks I haven’t tasted a dhrop of intoxicatin’ liquor. I wasn’t in ayther wan snug or dh’other — I could swear that on a prayer-book — I’m as innocent as the child unborn!
Mrs. Boyle: Well, if you’d been in for your breakfast you’d ha’ seen him.
Boyle: (suspiciously). What does he want me for?
Mrs. Boyle: He’ll be back any minute an’ then you’ll soon know.
Boyle: I’ll dhrop out an’ see if I can meet him.
Mrs. Boyle: You’ll sit down an’ take your breakfast, an’ let me go to me work, for I’m an hour late already waitin’ for you.
Boyle: You needn’t ha’ waited, for I’ll take no breakfast — I’ve a little spirit left in me still!
Mrs. Boyle: Are you goin’ to have your breakfast — yes or no?
Boyle: (too proud to yield). I’ll have no breakfast — yous can keep your breakfast. (Plaintively) I’ll knock out a bit somewhere, never fear.
Mrs. Boyle: Nobody’s goin’ to coax you — don’t think that. [She vigorously replaces the pan and the sausages in the press.
Boyle: I’ve a little spirit left in me still.
[Jerry Devine enters hastily.]
Jerry: Oh, here you are at last! I’ve been searchin’ for you everywhere. The foreman in Foley’s told me you hadn’t left the snug with Joxer ten minutes before I went in.
Mrs. Boyle: An’ he swearin’ on the holy prayer-book that he wasn’t in no snug!
Boyle: What business is it o’ yours whether I was in a snug or no? what do you want to be gallopin’ about afther me for? Is a man not to be allowed to leave his house for a minute without havin’ a pack o’ spies, pimps an’ informers cantherin’ at his heels?
Jerry: Oh, you’re takin’ a wrong view of it, Mr. Boyle; I simply was anxious to do you a good turn. I have a message for you from Father Farrell : He says that if you go to the job that’s on in Rathmines, an’ ask for Foreman Managan, you’ll get a start.
Boyle: That’s all right, but I don’t want the motions of me body to be watched the way an asthronomer ud watch a star. If you’re folleyin’ Mary aself, you’ve no pereeogative to be folleyin’ me. (Suddenly catching his thigh) U-ugh, I’m afther gettin’ a terrible twinge in me right leg!
Mrs. Boyle: Oh, it won’t be very long now till it travels into your left wan. It’s miraculous that whenever he scents a job in front of him, his legs begin to fail him! Then, me bucko, if you lose this chance, you may go an’ furrage for yourself!
Jerry: This job’ll last for some time too, Captain, an’ as soon as the foundations are in, it’ll be cushy enough.
Boyle: Won’t it be a climbin’ job? How d’ye expect me to be able to go up a ladder with these legs? An’, if I get up aself, how am I goin’ to get down agen?
Mrs. Boyle: (viciously). Get wan o’ the labourers to carry you down in a hod! You can’t climb a laddher, but you can skip like a goat into a snug!
Jerry: I wouldn’t let myself be let down that easy, Mr. Boyle; a little exercise, now, might do you all the good in the world.
Boyle: It’s a docthor you should have been, Devine — maybe you know more about the pains in me legs than meself that has them?
Jerry: (irritated). Oh, I know nothin’ about the pains in your legs; I’ve brought the message that Father Farrell gave me, an’ that’s all I can do.
Mrs. Boyle: Here, sit down an’ take your breakfast, an’ go an’ get ready; an’ don’t be actin’ as if you couldn’t pull a wing out of a dead bee.
Boyle: I want no breakfast, I tell you; it ud choke me afther all that’s been said. I’ve a little spirit left in me still.
Mrs. Boyle: Well, let’s see your spirit, then, an’ go in at wanst an’ put on your moleskin trousers!
Boyle: (moving towards the door on left) It ud be betther for a man to be dead! U-ugh! There’s another twinge in me other leg! Nobody but meself knows the sufferin’ I’m goin’ through with the pains in these legs o’ mine! [He goes into the room on left as Mary comes out with her hat in her hand.]
Mrs. Boyle: I’ll have to push off now, for I’m terrible late already, but I was determined to stay an’ hunt that Joxer this time. [She goes off.]
Jerry: Are you going out, Mary?
Mary: It looks like it when I’m putting on my hat, doesn’t it?
Jerry: The bitther word agen, Mary.
Mary: You won’t allow me to be friendly with you; if I thry, you deliberately misundherstand it.
Jerry: I didn’t always misundherstand it; you were often delighted to have the arms of Jerry around you.
Mary: If you go on talkin’ like this, Jerry Devine, you’ll make me hate you!
Jerry: Well, let it be either a weddin’ or a wake! Listen, Mary, I’m standin’ for the Secretaryship of our Union. There’s only one opposin’ me; I’m popular with all the men, an’ a good speaker — all are sayin’ that I’ll get elected.
Jerry: The job’s worth three hundred an’ fifty pounds a year, Mary. You an’ I could live nice an’ cosily on that; it would lift you out o’ this place an’…
Mary: I haven’t time to listen to you now — I have to go. [She is going out, when Jerry bars the way.
Jerry: (appealingly). Mary, what’s come over you with me for the last few weeks? You hardly speak to me, an’ then only a word with a face o’ bittherness on it. Have you forgotten, Mary, all the happy evenin’s that were as sweet as the scented hawthorn that sheltered the sides o’ the road as we saunthered through the country?
Mary: That’s all over now. When you get your new job, Jerry, you won’t be long findin’ a girl far betther than I am for your sweetheart.
Jerry: Never, never, Mary! No matther what happens, you’ll always be the same to me.
Mary: I must be off; please let me go, Jerry.
Jerry: I’ll go a bit o’ the way with you.
Mary: You needn’t, thanks; I want to be by meself.
Jerry: (catching her arm). You’re goin’ to meet another fella; you’ve clicked with someone else, me lady!
Mary: That’s no concern o’ yours, Jerry Devine; let me go!
Jerry: I saw yous comin’ our o’ the Cornflower Dance Class, an’ you hangin’ on his arm — a thin, lanky strip of a Micky Dazzler, with a walkin’-stick an’ gloves!
Voice of Johnny (loudly): What are you doin’ there — pullin’ about everything!
Voice of Boyle: (loudly and viciously). I’m puttin’ on me moleskin trousers!
Mary: You’re hurtin’ me arm! Let me go, or I’ll scream, an’ then you’ll have the oul’ fella out on top of us!
Jerry: Don’t be so hard on a fella, Mary, don’t be so hard.
Boyle: (appearing at the door). What’s the meanin’ of all this hillabaloo?
Mary: Let me go, let me go!
Boyle: D’ye hear me — what’s all this hillabaloo about?
Jerry: (plaintively) Will you not give us one kind word, one kind word, Mary?
Boyle: D’ye hear me talkin’ to yous? What’s all this hillabaloo for?
Jerry: Let me kiss your hand, your little, tiny, white hand!
Boyle: Your little, tiny, white hand — are you takin’ leave o’ your senses, man?
[Mary breaks away and rushes out.]
Boyle: This is nice goin’s on in front of her father!
Jerry: Ah, dhry up, for God’s sake! [He follows Mary.
Boyle: Chiselurs don’t care a damn now about their parents, they’re bringin’ their fathers’ grey hairs down with sorra to the grave, an’ laughin’ at it, laughin’ at it. Ah, I suppose it’s just the same everywhere — the whole worl’s in a state o’ chassis! (He sits by the fire). Breakfast! Well, they can keep their breakfast for me. Not if they went down on their bended knees would I take it — I’ll show them I’ve a little spirit left in me still! (He goes over to the press, takes out a plate and looks at it) Sassige! Well, let her keep her sassige. (He returns to the fire, takes up the teapot and gives it a gentle shake)
The tea’s wet right enough. [A pause; he rises, goes to the press, takes out the sausage, puts it on the pan, and puts both on the fire. He attends the sausage with a fork.]
When the robins nest agen,
And the flowers are in bloom,
When the Springtime’s sunny smile seems to banish all sorrow an’ gloom;
Then me bonny blue‑ey’d lad, if me heart be true till then—
He’s promised he’ll come back to me,
When the robins nest agen!
[He lifts his head at the high note, and then drops his eyes to the pan.]
Boyle: (singing) When the…
[Steps are heard approaching; he whips the pan off the fire and puts it under the bed, then sits down at the fire. The door opens and a bearded man looking in says]:
Bearded man: You don’t happen to want a sewin’ machine?
Boyle: (furiously). No, I don’t want e’er a sewin’ machine! [He returns the pan to the fire, and commences to sing again.]
Boyle: When the robins nest agen,
And the flowers they are in bloom,
He’s… [A thundering knock is heard at the street door.]
Boyle: There’s a terrible tatheraraa — that’s a stranger — that’s nobody belongin’ to the house. [Another loud knock.]
Joxer: (sticking his head in at the door). Did ye hear them tatherarahs?
Boyle: Well, Joxer, I’m not deaf.
Johnny: (appearing in his shirt and trousers at the door on left; his face is anxious and his voice is tremulous). Who’s that at the door; who’s that at the door? Who gave that knock — d’ye yous hear me — are yous deaf or dhrunk or what?
Boyle: (to Johnny). How the hell do I know who ’tis? Joxer, stick your head out o’ the window an’ see.
Joxer: An’ mebbe get a bullet in the kisser? Ah, none o’ them thricks for Joxer! It’s betther to be a coward than a corpse!
Boyle: (looking cautiously out of the window). It’s a fella in a thrench coat.
Johnny: Holy Mary, Mother o’ God, I…
Boyle: He’s goin’ away — he must ha’ got tired knockin’.
[Johnny returns to the room on left.]
Boyle: Sit down an’ have a cup o’ tay, Joxer.
Joxer: I’m afraid the missus ud pop in on us agen before we’d know where we are. Somethin’s tellin’ me to go at wanst.
Boyle: Don’t be superstitious, man; we’re Dublin men, an’ not boyos that’s only afther comin’ up from the bog o’ Allen — though if she did come in, right enough, we’d be caught like rats in a thrap.
Joxer: An’ you know the sort she is — she wouldn’t listen to reason — an’ wanse bitten twice shy.
Boyle: (going over to the window at back). If the worst came to the worst, you could dart out here, Joxer; it’s only a dhrop of a few feet to the roof of the return room, an’ the first minute she goes into dh’other room I’ll give you the bend, an’ you can slip in an’ away.
Joxer: (yielding to the temptation). Ah, I won’t stop very long anyhow. (Picking up a book from the table) Whose is the buk?
Boyle: Aw, one o’ Mary’s; she’s always readin’ lately — nothin’ but thrash, too. There’s one I was lookin’ at dh’other day : three stories, The Doll’s House, Ghosts, an’ The Wild Duck — buks only fit for chiselurs!
Joxer: Didja ever rade Elizabeth, or Th’ Exile o’ Sibayria? — Ah, it’s a darlin’ story, a daarlin’ story!
Boyle: You eat your sassige, an’ never min’ Th’ Exile o’ Sibayria. [Both sit down; Boyle fills out tea, pours gravy on Joxer’s plate, and keeps the sausage for himself.
Joxer: What are you wearin’ your moleskin trousers for?
Boyle: I have to go to a job, Joxer. Just afther you’d gone, Devine kem runnin’ in to tell us that Father Farrell said if I went down to the job that’s goin’ on in Rathmines I’d get a start.
Joxer: Be the holy, that’s good news!
Boyle: How is it good news? I wonder if you were in my condition, would you call it good news?
Joxer: I thought…
Boyle: You thought! You think too sudden sometimes, Joxer. D’ye know, I’m hardly able to crawl with the pains in me legs!
Joxer: Yis, yis; I forgot the pains in your legs. I know you can do nothin’ while they’re at you.
Boyle: You forgot; I don’t think any of yous realize the state I’m in with the pain in my legs. What ud happen if I had to carry a bag o’ cement?
Joxer: Ah, any man havin’ the like of them pains id be down an’ out, down an’ out.
Boyle: I wouldn’t mind if he had said it to meself; but, no, oh no, he rushes in an’ shouts it out in front o’ Juno, an’ you know what Juno is, Joxer. We all know Devine knows a little more than the rest of us, but he doesn’t act as if he did; he’s a good boy, sober, able to talk an’ all that, but still…
Joxer: Oh ay; able to argufy, but still…
Boyle: If he’s runnin’ afther Mary, aself, he’s not goin’ to be runnin’ afther me. Captain Boyle’s able to take care of himself. Afther all, I’m not gettin’ brought up on Virol. I never heard him usin’ a curse; I don’t believe he was ever dhrunk in his life — sure he’s not like a Christian at all!
Joxer: You’re afther takin’ the word out o’ me mouth — afther all, a Christian’s natural, but he’s unnatural.
Boyle: His oul’ fella was just the same — a Wicklow man.
Joxer: A Wicklow man! That explains the whole thing. I’ve met many a Wicklow man in me time, but I never met wan that was any good.
Boyle: ‘Father Farrell,’ says he, ‘sent me down to tell you.’ Father Farrell! — D’ye know, Joxer, I never like to be beholden to any o’ the clergy.
Joxer: It’s dangerous, right enough.
Boyle: If they do anything for you, they’d want you to be livin’ in the Chapel. — I’m goin’ to tell you somethin’, Joxer, that I wouldn’t tell to anybody else — the clergy always had too much power over the people in this unfortunate country.
Joxer: You could sing that if you had an air to it!
Boyle: (becoming enthusiastic). Didn’t they prevent the people in ’47 from seizin’ the corn, an’ they starvin’; didn’t they down Parnell; didn’t they say that hell wasn’t hot enough nor eternity long enough to punish the Fenians? We don’t forget, we don’t forget them things, Joxer. If they’ve taken everything else from us, Joxer, they’ve left us our memory.
Joxer: (emotionally). For mem’ry’s the only friend that grief can call its own, that grief — can — call — its own!
Boyle: Father Farrell’s beginnin’ to take a great intherest in Captain Boyle; because of what Johnny did for his country, says he to me wan day. It’s a curious way to reward Johnny be makin’ his poor oul’ father work. But that’s what the clergy want, Joxer — work, work, work for me an’ you; betther fettle when they come hoppin’ round for their dues! Job! Well, let him give his job to wan of his hymn-singin’, prayer-spoutin’, craw-thumpin’ Confraternity men!
[The voice of a coal-block vendor is heard chanting in the street.]
Voice of Coal Vendor: Blocks — coal-blocks! Blocks — coal-blocks!
Joxer: God be with the young days when you were steppin’ the deck of a manly ship, with the win’ blowin’ a hurricane through the masts, an’ the only sound you’d hear was, “Port your helm!” an’ the only answer, “Port it is, sir!”
Boyle: Them was days, Joxer, them was days. Nothin’ was too hot or too heavy for me then. Sailin’ from the Gulf o’ Mexico to the Antanartic Ocean. I seen things, I seen things, Joxer, that no mortal man should speak about that knows his Catechism. Ofen, an’ ofen, when I was fixed to the wheel with a marlin-spike, an’ the win’s blowin’ fierce an’ the waves lashin’ an’ lashin’, till you’d think every minute was goin’ to be your last, an’ it blowed, an’ blowed — blew is the right word, Joxer, but blowed is what the sailors use…
Joxer: Aw, it’s a darlin’ word, a daarlin’ word.
Boyle: An’, as it blowed an’ blowed, I ofen looked up at the sky an’ assed meself the question — what is the stars, what is the stars?
Voice of Coal Vendor: Any blocks, coal-blocks; blocks, coal-blocks!
Joxer: Ah, that’s the question, that’s the question — what is the stars?
Boyle: An’ then, I’d have another look, an’ I’d ass meself — what is the moon?
Joxer: Ah, that’s the question — what is the moon, what is the moon?
[Rapid steps are heard coming towards the door. Boyle makes desperate efforts to hide everything; Joxer rushes to the window in a frantic effort to get out; Boyle begins to innocently lilt, ‘Oh, me darlin’ Jennie, I will be thrue to thee’, when the door is opened, and the black face of the Coal Vendor appears. ]
The Coal Vendor: D’yez want any blocks?
Boyle: (with a roar). No, we don’t want any blocks!
Joxer: (coming back with a sigh of relief). That’s afther puttin’ the heart across me — I could ha’ sworn it was Juno. I’d betther be goin’, Captain; you couldn’t tell the minute Juno’d hop in on us.
Boyle: Let her hop in; we may as well have it out first as at last. I’ve made up me mind — I’m not goin’ to do only what she damn well likes.
Joxer: Them sentiments does you credit, Captain; I don’t like to say anythings as between man an’ wife, but I say as a butty, as a butty, Captain, that you’ve stuck it too long, an’ that it’s about time you showed a little spunk.
How can a man die betther than facin’ fearful odds,
For th’ ashes of his fathers an’ the temples of his gods?
Boyle: She has her rights — there’s no one denyin’ it, but haven’t I me rights too?
Joxer: Of course you have — the sacred rights o’ man!
Boyle: Today, Joxer, there’s goin’ to be issued a proclamation be me, establishin’ an independent Republic, an’ Juno’ll have to take an oath of allegiance.
Joxer: Be firm, be firm, Captain; the first few minutes’ll be the worst: if you gently touch a nettle it’ll sting you for your pains; grasp it like a lad of mettle, an’ as soft as silk remains!
Voice of Juno outside: Can’t stop, Mrs. Madigan — I haven’t a minute!
Joxer: (flying out of the window). Holy God, here she is!
Boyle: I knew that fella ud stop till she was in on top of us!
[He sits down by the fire.]
[Juno enters hastily; she is flurried and excited.]
Juno: Oh, you’re in — you must have been only afther comin’ in?
Boyle: No, I never went out.
Juno: It’s curious, then, you never heard the knockin’. [She puts her coat and hat on bed.] Boyle: Knockin’? Of course I heard the knockin’.
Juno: An’ why didn’t you open the door, then? I suppose you were so busy with Joxer that you hadn’t time.
Boyle: I haven’t seen Joxer since I seen him before. Joxer! What ud bring Joxer here?
Juno: D’ye mean to tell me that the pair of yous wasn’t collogin’ together here when me back was turned?
Boyle: What ud we be collogin’ about? I have somethin’ else to think of besides collogin’ with Joxer. I can swear on all the holy prayer-books…
Mrs. Boyle: That you weren’t in no snug! Go on in at wanst now, an’ take off that moleskin trousers o’ yours, an’ put on a collar an’ tie to smarten yourself up a bit. There’s a visitor comin’ with Mary in a minute, an’ he has great news for you.
Boyle: A job, I suppose; let us get wan first before we start lookin’ for another.
Mrs. Boyle: That’s the thing that’s able to put the win’ up you. Well, it’s no job, but news that’ll give you the chance o’ your life.
Boyle: What’s all the mysthery about?
Mrs. Boyle: G’win an’ take off the moleskin trousers when you’re told! [Boyle goes into room on left.
[Mrs. Boyle tidies up the room, puts the shovel under the bed, and goes to the press.
Mrs. Boyle: Oh, God bless us, looka the way everything’s thrun about! Oh, Joxer was here, Joxer was here!
[Mary enters with Charlie Bentham; he is a young man of twenty‑five, tall, good‑looking, with a very high opinion of himself generally. He is dressed in a brown coat, brown knee‑breeches, grey stockings, a brown sweater, with a deep blue tie; he carries gloves and a walking‑stick.]
Mrs. Boyle: (fussing round). Come in, Mr. Bentham; sit down, Mr. Bentham, in this chair; it’s more comfortabler than that, Mr. Bentham. Himself’ll be here in a minute; he’s just takin’ off his trousers.
Bentham: Please don’t put yourself to any trouble, Mrs. Boyle — I’m quite all right here, thank you.
Mrs. Boyle: An’ to think of you knowin’ Mary, an’ she knowin’ the news you had for us, an’ wouldn’t let on; but it’s all the more welcomer now, for we were on our last lap!
Voice of Johnny inside: What are you kickin’ up all the racket for?
Boyle: (roughly). I’m takin’ off me moleskin trousers!
Johnny: Can’t you do it, then, without lettin’ th’ whole house know you’re takin’ off your trousers? What d’ye want puttin’ them on an’ takin’ them off again?
Boyle: Will you let me alone, will you let me alone? Am I never goin’ to be done thryin’ to please th’ whole o’ yous?
Mrs. Boyle: (to Bentham).You must excuse th’ state o’ th’ place, Mr. Bentham; th’ minute I turn me back that man o’ mine always makes a litther o’ th’ place, a litther o’ th’ place.
Bentham: Don’t worry, Mrs. Boyle; it’s all right, I assure…
Boyle: (inside). Where’s me braces; where in th’ name o’ God did I leave me braces? — Ay, did you see where I put me braces?
Johnny: (inside, calling out). Ma, will you come in here an’ take da away ou’ o’ this or he’ll dhrive me mad.
Mrs. Boyle: (going towards the door) Dear, dear, dear, that man’ll be lookin’ for somethin’ on th’ day o’ Judgement. Look at your braces, man, hangin’ round your neck!
Boyle: (inside). Aw, Holy God!
Mrs. Boyle: (calling). Johnny, Johnny, come out here for a minute.
Johnny: Ah, leave Johnny alone, an’ don’t be annoyin’ him!
Mrs. Boyle: Come on, Johnny, till I inthroduce you to Mr. Bentham. (To Bentham) My son, Mr. Bentham; he’s afther goin’ through the mill. He was only a chiselur of a Boy Scout in Easter Week, when he got hit in the hip; and his arm was blew off in the fight in O’Connell Street. (Johnny comes in.) Here he is, Mr. Bentham; Mr. Bentham, Johnny. None can deny he done his bit for Irelan’, if that’s goin’ to do him any good.
Johnny: (boastfully). I’d do it agen, ma, I’d do it agen; for a principle’s a principle.
Mrs. Boyle: Ah, you lost your best principle, me boy, when you lost your arm; them’s the only sort o’ principle that’s any good to a workin’ man.
Johnny: Ireland only half free’ll never be at peace while she has a son left to pull a trigger.
Mrs. Boyle: To be sure, to be sure — no bread’s a lot betther than half a loaf. (Calling loudly in to Boyle) Will you hurry up there?
[Boyle enters in his best trousers, which aren’t too good, and looks very uncomfortable in his collar and tie.]
Mrs. Boyle: This is my husband; Mr. Boyle, Mr. Bentham.
Bentham: Ah, very glad to know you, Mr. Boyle. How are you?
Boyle: Ah, I’m not too well at all; I suffer terrible with pains in me legs. Juno can tell you there what…
Mrs. Boyle: You won’t have many pains in your legs when you hear what Mr. Bentham has to tell you.
Bentham: Juno! What an interesting name! It reminds one of Homer’s glorious story of ancient gods and heroes.
Boyle: Yis, doesn’t it? You see, Juno was born an’ christened in June; I met her in June; we were married in June, an’ Johnny was born in June, so wan day I says to her, ‘You should ha’ been called Juno,’ an’ the name stuck to her ever since.
Mrs. Boyle: Here, we can talk o’ them things agen; let Mr. Bentham say what he has to say now.
Bentham: Well, Mr. Boyle, I suppose you’ll remember a Mr. Ellison of Santry — he’s a relative of yours, I think.
Boyle: (viciously). Is it that prognosticator an’ procrastinator! Of course I remember him.
Bentham: Well, he’s dead, Mr. Boyle…
Boyle: Sorra many’ll go into mournin’ for him.
Mrs. Boyle: Wait till you hear what Mr. Bentham has to say, an’ then, maybe, you’ll change your opinion.
Bentham: A week before he died he sent for me to write his will for him. He told me that there were two only that he wished to leave his property to : his second cousin, Michael Finnegan of Santry, and John Boyle, his first cousin, of Dublin.
Boyle: (excitedly). Me, is it me, me?
Bentham: You, Mr. Boyle; I’ll read a copy of the will that I have here with me, which has been duly filed in the Court of Probate. [He takes a paper from his pocket and reads:
6th February 1922
This is the last Will and Testament of William Ellison, of Santry, in the County of Dublin. I hereby order and wish my property to be sold and divided as follows: £20 to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. £60 for Masses for the repose of my soul (5s. for each Mass). The rest of my property to be divided between my first and second cousins. I hereby appoint Timothy Buckly, of Santry, and Hugh Brierly, of Coolock, to be my Executors. William Ellison. Hugh Brierly. Timothy Buckly. Charles Bentham, N.T.
Boyle: (eagerly). An’ how much’ll be comin’ out of it, Mr. Bentham?
Bentham: The Executors told me that half of the property would be anything between 1500 and 2000 pounds.
Mary: A fortune, father, a fortune!
Johnny: We’ll be able to get out o’ this place now, an’ go somewhere we’re not known.
Mrs. Boyle: You won’t have to trouble about a job for awhile, Jack.
Boyle: (fervently). I’ll never doubt the goodness o’ God agen.
Bentham: I congratulate you, Mr. Boyle. [They shake hands.]
Boyle: An’ now, Mr. Bentham, you’ll have to have a wet.
Bentham: A wet?
Boyle: A wet — a jar — a boul!
Mrs. Boyle: Jack, you’re speakin’ to Mr. Bentham, an’ not to Joxer.
Boyle: (solemnly). Juno — Mary — Johnny — we’ll have to go into mournin’ at wanst — I never expected that poor Bill ud die so sudden — Well, we all have to die some day — you, Juno, to-day — an’ me, maybe, to-morrow — It’s sad, but it can’t be helped — Requiescat in pace — or, usin’ our oul’ tongue like St. Patrick or St. Bridget, Guh sayeree jeea ayera!
Mary: Oh, father, that’s not Rest in Peace; that’s God save Ireland.
Boyle: U-u-ugh, it’s all the same — isn’t it a prayer? — Juno, I’m done with Joxer; he’s nothin’ but a prognosticator an’ a…
Joxer: (climbing angrily through the window and bounding into the room). You’re done with Joxer, are you? Maybe you thought I’d stop on the roof all the night for you! Joxer out on the roof with the win’ blowin’ through him was nothin’ to you an’ your friend with the collar an’ tie!
Mrs. Boyle: What in the name o’ God brought you out on the roof; what were you doin’ there?
Joxer: (ironically). I was dhreamin’ I was standin’ on the bridge of a ship, an’ she sailin’ the Antartic Ocean, an’ it blowed, an’ blowed, an’ I lookin’ up at the sky an’ sayin’, what is the stars, what is the stars?
Mrs. Boyle: (opening the door and standing at it). Here, get ou’ o’ this, Joxer Daly; I was always thinkin’ you had a slate off.
Joxer: (moving to the door). I have to laugh every time I look at the deep-sea sailor; an’ a row on a river ud make him seasick!
Boyle: Get ou’ o’ this before I take the law into me own hands!
Joxer: (going out). Say aw rewaeawr, but not good-bye. Lookin’ for work, an’ prayin’ to God he won’t get it! [He goes.
Mrs. Boyle: I’m tired tellin’ you what Joxer was; maybe now you see yourself the kind he is.
Boyle: He’ll never blow the froth off a pint o’ mine agen, that’s a sure thing. Johnny — Mary — you’re to keep yourselves to yourselves for the future. Juno, I’m done with Joxer — I’m a new man from this out. [Clasping Juno’s hand, and singing emotionally]:
— O, me darlin’ Juno, I will be thrue to thee;
Me own, me darlin’ Juno, you’re all the world to me.
- A cardigan sweater. ↵
- Beyant Finglas. Beyond Finglas, a suburb on Dublin’s northside. ↵
- A member of the IRA who rejected the treaty creating the Irish Free State in 1922. ↵
- See Luke 10: 30-36. The stranger who helped the man who had fallen among thieves; thus an exemplar of Christian charity. ↵
- In Roman Catholic devotions, a prayer for some special object or occasion extended over nine days. ↵
- Reference to The Easter Rebellion of 1916 led by Padraic Pearse and James Connolly. ↵
- In 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. ↵
- Name of the former state of southern Ireland 1922–37, established as a result of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921). It was replaced by Eire in 1937 and the Republic of Ireland in 1949. ↵
- Small drinking area in a public-house. ↵
- A suburb on the southside of Dublin. ↵
- From the romantic opera Lurline (1860) by Irish composer William Vincent Wallace (1812-1865). ↵
- Juno’s rendering of "affidavit," a written statement confirmed by oath. ↵
- Roman goddess of women and childbirth, queen of the gods and of heaven. The peacock drove her chariot. ↵
- Deirdre of the Sorrows. In Irish myth, the beautiful Deirdre deserted King Conchubar to run off with Naoise, as prophesied, thus bringing ruin upon Ulster. ↵
- A small suburb of Dublin on the northside. ↵
- A ship used to transport coal. ↵
- Forage, look out for. ↵
- A tray or trough with a pole handle and that is borne on the shoulder for carrying bricks, mortar, or similar loads. ↵
- Children. ↵
- Chaos. ↵
- Trench coats were commonly worn by members of the IRA. ↵
- An extensive area of bog, now partially reclaimed, 25 miles west-southwest of Dublin. ↵
- Three tragedies by Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), mistakenly considered by Boyle to be children’s books ↵
- Elizabeth, or the Exile of Siberia, a popular tale by Madame Sophil Cottin (1770-1807). ↵
- A malt-extract given to children as a health food. ↵
- A county and town in the mid-east region of Ireland. ↵
- The height of the Great Famine in 1847. ↵
- Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891). Irish Nationalist politician. He became president of the Home Rule Party in 1877, but his career was ruined when his affair with Katherine O’Shea was exposed in 1890. ↵
- The Irish Republican Brotherhood, founded in 1858 as a radical, militarist form of nationalism. ↵
- Roman Catholic organization of lay people created for the purpose of promoting special works of Christian charity or piety, and approved by the Church hierarchy. ↵
- Lines from Thomas Macaulay (1800-1859) Lays of Ancient Rome, “Horatius at the Bridge” (1842). ↵
- Here Boyle alludes to the Easter Rebellion of 1916, in which Irish republicans declared an independent Irish republic and hoisted the tricolour flag on the roof of the Dublin Post Office. ↵
- Conspiring. ↵
- A reference to the Treaty of 1921, which resulted in the partition of Ireland. ↵
- A Dublin suburb on the northside. ↵
- Sorra many. Not many. ↵
- National-school teacher. ↵
- Latin. Rest in peace. ↵
- Phonetic spelling for prayer, “God Save Ireland”. ↵