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Duty, and other Irish Comedies by Seumas O'Brien

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SIR DENIS (_searches in his pocket and pulls out a cigar_)
Wisha the devil a taste can I get from one of them.
I might as well be tryin' to smoke a piece of furze

Taste or no taste, put that pipe back in your pocket.
What would the King and his daughters think if they
saw you suckin' an old dudeen like that?

'Tis little bother any of us are to the King or his
daughters, either, I'm thinking.

I'll put a padlock on that mouth of yours, if you don't
hold your tongue.

Well, as I was sayin', when His Majesty so graciously
honoured Sir Dinny and myself, we held a long and
lengthy consultation and came to the conclusion after
a good deal of consideration, that it might be as well
not to hurry Finbarr's marriage. We were thinkin'
of sendin' him across to England to finish his education:
so that he may be able to take his place with
the foreign aristocracy.

Of course, we all know that there is no better hurler
in the whole country, and no finer man ever cracked
a whip, and no better man ever stood behind a plough,
or turned cows out of a meadow, but the devil a bit
at all he knows about the higher accomplishments of
the nobility.

Such as playin' cricket and polo, and drinkin' afternoon
tea with a napkin on his knee, like one of the
gentry themselves. And between ourselves, he cares
no more about cigarettes than his father does about

Notwithstanding all that, 'tis my belief that after
six months in England, he would be fit company for
the best people in the land.

What the blazes does he want learnin' to play polo
for, when he must make his livin' as a farmer?

Listen now, Donal, and be reasonable. When--

Is it the way you want to break off the match? The
truth now, and nothin' else.

Of course, we don't want the match to be broken off.
But now that Finbarr is heir to a title--well, we all
know that Kitty is a very nice and good girl; but as
Sir Denis says: "'Tis a pity that we should force
people to marry against their will, and--"

The long and short of it is that my daughter isn't
good enough for your damn, flat-footed clodhopper of
a son. Though 'twas Dinny himself that forced the
match on me.

LADY DELAHUNTY (_indignantly_)
Sir Denis, if you please.

Donal, Donal, be reasonable and agreeable, man.
You should know that people are never the same after
royal favours have been conferred on them. And
though I am perfectly satisfied with myself and my
social standin', such as it is, yet, as you know, we
must look to the future of our children.

Well, of all the old mollycoddlin' bladderskites that
ever I listened to, you beat them all.

Restrain yourself, Donal, and leave me finish. Well,
I was about to say, when you interrupted, that when
Finbarr has learnt how to behave like a real gentleman,
and can hold a cup of afternoon tea on his knee
without spillin' it all over himself, then he may aspire
to higher things, and want a wife who can play the
violin as well as the piano, and speak all the languages
in the world also.

Wisha bad luck and misfortune to your blasted impudence,
to cast a reflection on my daughter, and
she that can play twenty-one tunes on the piano, all
by herself and from the music too. And she can play
the typewriter as well, and that's more than any one
belongin' to you can do. 'Tis well you know there's
no more music in the Delahunty family than there
would be in an old cow or a mangy jackass that you'd
find grazin' by the roadside.

Tell him all I know about Irish, French, and German
too, father.

The next thing I will tell him is to take himself and
his bloody tall hat out of my house and never show
his face here again.

I'm surprised at you to speak like that to Sir Denis.

Sir Denis be damned, ma'am.

SIR DENIS (_as he rises to go and requests Lady Delahunty
to do likewise_)
Lady Delahunty, if you please.

[_A loud knocking is heard at the door. Kitty opens and
Constable Dunlea enters. As he stands by the door, he
takes a letter from his pocket._

CONSTABLE (_to Sir Denis_)
This is a message for you, sir, from the editor of the
_Examiner_. The postman couldn't find you at home
and asked me to deliver it, as he knew I was coming
here to-night.

[_Sir Denis excitedly opens the letter and Lady Delahunty
looks on with apparent satisfaction, as she thinks
it is a personal letter of congratulation for Sir Denis.
Sir Denis borrows Mrs. Corcoran's spectacles and reads
the letter hurriedly and looks very crestfallen._

LADY DELAHUNTY (_with a look of surprise_)
What's the matter, Sir Denis?

What isn't the matter would be a better question.
'Twas a mistake, Anastatia, a sad and sorry mistake!

What's a mistake?

Ourselves! I mean we weren't knighted at all. The
editor of the _Examiner_ sends his personal regrets and
apology for printin' an unofficial telegram that was
sent by some malicious person about myself being
created a baronet.

LADY DELAHUNTY (_grabs the letter and spectacles. Adjusts
the spectacles on her nose and reads. Swoons and
falls into Sir Denis's arms_)
The saints protect us all! 'Tis the truth, surely!

MRS. CORCORAN (_gets a glass of water and gives it to
Lady Delahunty_)
Here, now, take this, and you will be soon all right

LADY DELAHUNTY (_as she recovers, turns to Kitty_)
I suppose 'twas at your instigation that all this happened.
You impudent, prevaricatin', philanderin'
galavanter. Now we will be the laughin' stock of
the whole country. If Sir Denis--

Plain Denis, if you please, ma'am.

LADY DELAHUNTY (_to her husband_)
If you had only the good sense of refusin' the title
itself, but--

We'll never be able to live down the shame and disgrace
of it, Lady Delahunty.

Plain Statia Delahunty, if you please.

If you were worth the weight of yourself in gold and
could sing like a lark, I wouldn't give Finbarr to you

I never asked for him, ma'am. I told you all that I
would marry only my own man, and here he is.
(_Calls Constable Dunlea to her side and takes his arm_)
We are to be married next month, and then what
need I care about titles or the aristocracy when I will
have himself to support and protect me while he lives,
and his pension if he should die, and the law of the
land at my back all the time.


* * * * *




PATCHA CREMIN (_nicknamed_ NAPOLEON) _A carpenter_
NEDSERS BROPHY (_nicknamed_ BOULANGER) _A mason_
MRS. FENNESSEY _A lodging-house keeper_



_Scene: Bedroom in a country lodging house. There is
one narrow bed and two chairs in the room, and a picture
of Robert Emmet hangs on the wall. Patcha Cremin is
lying in bed with his head covered. A loud knocking is
heard at the door_.

PATCHA (_startled, uncovers his head and looks about him.
The knocking continues_)
Who's there? (_Thinking for a moment that he is at
home and that his wife is calling_) Oh, is that you,

MRS. FENNESSEY (_from without_)
It is not Ellie, then.

PATCHA (_not yet properly awake_)
And who is it?

'Tis me.

PATCHA (_angrily_)
And who the blazes are you?

Mrs. Fennessey, your landlady.

Oh, yes! Of course, Mrs. Fennessey, excuse me,
ma'am. I thought I was at home and that my wife
was callin' me to get up to go to work.

Are you in bed yet?

I am, ma'am.

When are you going to get up?


I want to say a few words to you.

I'm not feelin' too well, at all, to-day, and don't
know when I'll be able to get up, ma'am.

Don't you, indeed?

No, I don't, ma'am.

Well then, if you're in bed and covered up, may I
come in?

PATCHA (_draws the clothes about him_)
You can, ma'am.

MRS. FENNESSEY (_enters, stands in front of the bed and
looks at Patcha_)
And might I ask what's the matter with you?

Oh, I don't exactly know, at all. I have a queer
shaky feelin' runnin' down the spine and all over
me. It must be the 'fluenza or maybe appendicitis,
I'm thinkin'.

Well, if that's the case, you'll get up this very instant
and clear out of my house, for I don't want a sick
man on my hands. And you that didn't pay me a
farthin' of rent for this last six weeks.

Didn't I promise to pay you a week over and above
when I'd get a job? And this is the gratitute you're
showin' me now for my kindness.

What a lot of good your promises would do for any
one. I want my rent, and you can keep your promises.

Is it the way you'd be after turnin' a sick man from
your door a cold freezin' day like this? And the snow
thirty inches thick on the Galtee Mountains, and the
air itself nearly frozen hard.

'Tis you're the nice sick man, indeed, with muscles
on you like a statue or a prize fighter, and an appetite
like an elephant. God knows then, you should
be ashamed of yourself for nearly eating me out of
house and home, and I a poor widow dependin' on
the likes of you for a livin.' 'Tis I that wouldn't like
to be the mother of a man such as yourself, God
forgive you!

I'm surprised at a dacent woman like you, Mrs. Fennessey,
to stand there abusin' me for my misfortune
instead of bringin' me up a good warm breakfast to
nourish my wastin' frame, and encourage the good
spirits to come back to my heart.

I'm sick and tired of listenin' to you and your excuses,
but I'm not goin' to listen to them any longer. So
pack up and get out, or if you don't I'll get my brother
Mike to fling you out, and believe me he won't take
long to do it, either.

You're losin' all your dacency, Mrs. Fennessey.

Thank God for it, if I am then! But I'm gettin' back
my good sense, and I won't talk or argue any more
with you.

You should feel ashamed of yourself, Mrs. Fennessey.

Indeed then, I should, for puttin' up with the likes of
you. You've got to be out of this house before twelve
o'clock to-morrow and remember I mean what I say.

[_She walks out and slams the door. Patcha sits up in
bed, rearranges the bedclothes, then places his hand under
his chin, and wrinkles his brow. Remains that way
until he is disturbed by a knock at the door_

MRS. FENNESSEY (_opens, and holds the door ajar_)
There's a gentleman wants to see you.

Who is he? What is he like, and where does he come

How do I know where he comes from? He wanted to
know if Napoleon lived here and I told him there was
no one livin' here at present but one Patcha Cremin.
Sure, that's who I mean, says he. Are you Napoleon?

Yes, I'm Napoleon.

Glory be to the Lord! What a purty name they got
for you!

Did he say who he was?

He said he was an old friend of yours.

I wonder can it be the Duke of Wellington? Dannux
Touhy, I mean.

Touhy! Touhy! That's the name. Will I send him

Do if you please, ma'am.

[_Mrs. Fennessey leaves the room, and in a short time
Dannux Touhy enters._

DANNUX (_as he shakes hands with Patcha_)
Well, well! 'Tis real glad that I am to see you. Sure
I didn't expect to find my old friend Napoleon in the
town of Ballinflask this blessed day. And I've heard
that Boulanger is here also. Is that so?

It is so, then. And he'll be as surprised as myself to
find the Duke of Wellington here before him when he

What makes you be in bed at this hour of the day? Is
it the way that you're sick?

Not in the body, thank God, but in the mind and

And why don't you get up and dress yourself, and
go for a good long country walk?

I can't.


Sit down and I'll tell you. (_Dannux sits on a chair_)
Last night as I was goin' to sleep, a knock came to the
door, and when I said: "Who's there?" a voice
answered back and said: "Boulanger." "Come in,"
says I. And lo and behold, who should walk in the
door but Nedsers Brophy, himself. And of course,
he had the usual poor mouth. He couldn't get a job
in the town because he is such a poor mechanic no one
would be bothered with him.

I'm not surprised at it. Sure he was never more than
a botch at his best.

Well, he said, he hadn't a penny in his pocket, or the
price of a night's lodgin'; so I invited him to sleep
with me in this bit of a bed. And of course, he accepted.
The same man never refused anythin' he
could get for nothin' in his life.

I know him of old, the good-for-nothin' humbug.

The bed as you can see isn't very large, so when he
turned in the middle of the night, I fell out on the
floor, and when I turned he fell out. And there we
were, fallin' in and fallin' out like two drunken sailors
all night long. And when mornin' came, every bone
in my body was as sore as a carbuncle.

And sure 'tis myself that didn't close an eye or stretch
my limbs upon a bed at all last night, or eat a bit for
two long days, but kept walkin' the roads until I
struck this town at daybreak.

God help us all!

And where's Boulanger now, might I ask?

He's gone out on a little message for me. He should
be here any minute.

I suppose there's no use askin' you for that one pound
two and sixpence that you borrowed from my brother,
Lord Pebble, some time ago. I'm after gettin' a job
from the parish priest to set a range in his kitchen,
but I haven't either a trowel or a hammer, and unless
I can raise the price of them, I'll lose the contract.

And when will you get paid?

The instant the job is finished.

How much will the tools cost?

Three shillin's, at least.

I don't know if I could spare that amount, but I
might be able to give you a shillin' when Boulanger
comes back.

Was it to the pawnshop you sent him?

'Twas indeed, then. And with the only suit of clothes
I had too. We were both dead broke, and my landlady
stopped the grub yesterday mornin', And I
haven't broken my fast since. So here I am now without
a bit in the world but the shirt on my back.

The birds of the air or the fish in the sea couldn't be
worse off, themselves. Why didn't you make Boulanger
stay in bed and pawn his clothes instead of
your own, you fool?

That would be the devil's own strange way to entertain
your guest, wouldn't it?

That's the queerest story I ever heard.

Sure we must get a bit to eat somehow. 'Tis famished
I am with the hunger, as it is.

[_Brophy staggers into the room slightly intoxicated._

NEDSERS (_putting out his hand to Dannux_)
Well, well, well! How's my old pal Wellington?
Who'd ever think of finding you here! (_As they shake
hands_) There are no friends like the old ones. The
world is a small place after all. Twas in Cork we
met the last time and in Fermoy before that.

'Pon my word but I believe you're right.

PATCHA (_excitedly, to Nedsers_)
Where's the food I sent you for?

NEDSERS (_staggers to the side of the bed and sits down_)
Wait and I'll tell you what happened to me. All I
got on your old suit of clothes was five shillin's, and
if you don't believe me look at the ticket. (_Hands
ticket_) Well, I went into a pub to get a drop of grog,
and asked for a half shot of the best, put the five bob
on the counter, got my drink, put the change in my
pocket, and lo and behold, when I went to look for it
again, I couldn't find a trace of it high or low. Only
for that I'd have brought you somethin' to eat.
There's no use cryin' over spilt milk, is there, Dannux?
Wellington, I should have said. Well, how are you,
anyway? 'Tis a long time since we worked together.
Isn't it?

PATCHA (_catching him by the back of the neck_)
Glory be to the Lord! Is it the way you are takin'
leave of your senses? There's my only suit of clothes
in pawn, and the money you raised on them gone, and
you here with your belly full of dirty drink, and I with
my belly empty and my guts rattlin' in want of food.
'Tis you that should feel ashamed of yourself to have
me in such a condition and all on your account too.

What should I feel ashamed about? Didn't I do my
best? Blame the bla'gard who stole the money out
of my pocket. What old talk you have. Didn't I
disgrace myself by goin' into a pawnshop for you?

What am I to do at all!

'Tis a bad way to be in, surely. But I think I can
see a way out of the difficulty.

Good old Wellington! Good old Wellington! That's
what your namesake said before he put the comether
on Napoleon. What say, Patcha?

Don't be botherin' me. I'm more than disgusted with

Now, there must be no quarrelin'. We are all friends
and we must stand by, and help each other, because
there is only the loan of ourselves in the world. I
have a job to go to, but I have no tools to work with.
And I haven't a bit on my person that would be taken
in the pawn, so I propose that Boulanger will give
me his boots and that I will pawn them, and buy the
tools I want. Then I will go to work, and when the
job, which will only take me a few hours, is finished,
I'll share the one pound one that his reverence said
he'd give me. And as he said himself, 'twas little
enough, but as times were bad he couldn't afford
any more.

'Twas the Lord Himself that sent you in the door to

Nothin' could be fairer. But look at my old boots, you
wouldn't get a lump of candy from a rag man for

But why not give him your coat and vest? You'd
easily get eight or nine shillin's on them and that
much would buy the tools and get us all a bite to eat
as well.

NEDSERS (_taking off his coat and vest_)
Enough said! Enough said!

DANNUX (_as he wraps them up in an old newspaper_)
I wouldn't be surprised if I'd get ten shillin's on them.
And sure they can be released again as soon as I get
paid for the job.

That's right, that's the way I like to hear a man

DANNUX (_as he takes the laces from Patcha's boots lying
near the bed, and ties up the parcel_)
What else are we here for, but to be a help and a comfort
to each other? Sure 'tis by each other we live.
(_Places the parcel under his arm, puts on his hat and
walks towards the door. Looks from one to the other_)
Good-by, Napoleon--Good-by, Boulanger. May God
bless you both.

What's that I hear? Aren't you comin' back with the
money and the bit to eat for us?

Of course I am. I only mean good-by for the time
I'll be away.

[_Exit Dannux. After he has gone Nedsers looks soberly
at Patcha_.

Only for the time he'll be away!

What's the matter with you, at all?

I think I did a foolish thing.

What's that you're sayin', I say?

I did a foolish thing! I know I did. But that's just
like me. I brought my dacent impulses from my
mother. God forgive her!

Is it the way you are afraid he won't return?

I'm sure of it. I know he'll never return. He's the
biggest bloody liar in the whole country and the
biggest rogue too.

PATCHA (_as he jumps out of bed with the blanket around
The saints and angels protect us all! Sure I forgot
that the parish priest is away in England on his vacation.
And we are to be flung out on the roadside
to-morrow, and in our shirts too!


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