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The Tinker's Wedding by J. M. Synge

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Note: I have omitted the running heads, and I have marked with * possible typos.




BOSTON : : : : : : : : : 1911

Copyright 1904
By J. M. Synge


THE drama is made serious -- in the French
sense of the word -- not by the degree in
which it is taken up with problems that are
serious in themselves, but by the degree in
which it gives the nourishment, not very easy
to define, on which our imaginations live. We
should not go to the theatre as we go to a
chemist's, or a dram-shop, but as we go to
a dinner, where the food we need is taken
with pleasure and excitement. This was
nearly always so in Spain and England and
France when the drama was at its richest --
the infancy and decay of the drama tend to
be didactic -- but in these days the playhouse
is too often stocked with the drugs of many


seedy problems, or with the absinthe or ver-
mouth of the last musical comedy.
The drama, like the symphony, does not
teach or prove anything. Analysts with their
problems, and teachers with their systems, are
soon as old-fashioned as the pharmacopœia of
Galen, -- look at Ibsen and the Germans -- but
the best plays of Ben Jonson and Molière can
no more go out of fashion than the black-
berries on the hedges.
Of the things which nourish the imagination
humour is one of the most needful, and it is
dangerous to limit or destroy it. Baudelaire
calls laughter the greatest sign of the Satanic
element in man; and where a country loses
its humor, as some towns in Ireland are doing,
there will be morbidity of mind, as Baude-
laire's mind was morbid.
In the greater part of Ireland, however,
the whole people, from the tinkers to the
clergy, have still a life, and view of life, that


are rich and genial and humorous. I do not
think that these country people, who have so
much humor themselves, will mind being
laughed at without malice, as the people in
every country have been laughed at in their
own comedies.

J. M. S.

December 2nd, 1907

[page intentionally blank]


MICHAEL BYRNE, a tinker.
MARY BYRNE, an old woman, his mother.
SARAH CASEY, a young tinker woman.

[page intentionally blank]



SCENE: A Village roadside after nightfall.
A fire of sticks is burning near the ditch a
little to the right. Michael is working beside
it. In the background, on the left, a sort of
tent and ragged clothes drying on the hedge.
On the right a chapel-gate.

SARAH CASEY -- coming in on right,
-- We'll see his reverence this place,
Michael Byrne, and he passing backward to
his house to-night.
MICHAEL -- grimly. -- That'll be a sacred
and a sainted joy!
SARAH -- sharply. -- It'll be small joy for
yourself if you aren't ready with my wedding
ring. (She goes over to him.) Is it near
done this time, or what way is it at all?
MICHAEL. A poor way only, Sarah
Casey, for it's the divil's job making a ring,
and you'll be having my hands destroyed in
a short while the way I'll not be able to make
a tin can at all maybe at the dawn of day.
SARAH -- sitting down beside him and
throwing sticks on the fire.
-- If it's the divil's


job, let you mind it, and leave your speeches
that would choke a fool.
MICHAEL -- slowly and glumly. -- And
it's you'll go talking of fools, Sarah Casey,
when no man did ever hear a lying story even
of your like unto this mortal day. You to
be going beside me a great while, and rearing
a lot of them, and then to be setting off with
your talk of getting married, and your driv-
ing me to it, and I not asking it at all.
[Sarah turns her back to him and ar-
ranges something in the ditch.

MICHAEL -- angrily. -- Can't you speak
a word when I'm asking what is it ails you
since the moon did change?
SARAH -- musingly. -- I'm thinking there
isn't anything ails me, Michael Byrne; but
the spring-time is a queer time, and its* queer
thoughts maybe I do think at whiles.
MICHAEL. It's hard set you'd be to think
queerer than welcome, Sarah Casey; but what
will you gain dragging me to the priest this
night, I'm saying, when it's new thoughts
you'll be thinking at the dawn of day?
SARAH -- teasingly. -- It's at the dawn of
day I do be thinking I'd have a right to be
going off to the rich tinker's do be travelling
from Tibradden to the Tara Hill; for it'd be
a fine life to be driving with young Jaunting


Jim, where there wouldn't be any big hills
to break the back of you, with walking up and
walking down.
MICHAEL -- with dismay. -- It's the like
of that you do be thinking!
SARAH. The like of that, Michael Byrne,
when there is a bit of sun in it, and a kind
air, and a great smell coming from the thorn
trees is above your head.
MICHAEL -- looks at her for a moment
with horror, and then hands her the ring.
Will that fit you now?
SARAH -- trying it on. -- It's making it
tight you are, and the edges sharp on the tin.
MICHAEL -- looking at it carefully. --
It's the fat of your own finger, Sarah Casey;
and isn't it a mad thing I'm saying again
that you'd be asking marriage of me, or mak-
ing a talk of going away from me, and you
thriving and getting your good health by the
grace of the Almighty God?
SARAH -- giving it back to him. -- Fix it
now, and it'll do, if you're wary you don't
squeeze it again.
MICHAEL -- moodily, working again. --
It's easy saying be wary; there's many things
easy said, Sarah Casey, you'd wonder a fool
even would be saying at all. (He starts vio-


lently.) The divil mend you, I'm scalded
SARAH -- scornfully. -- If you are, it's a
clumsy man you are this night, Michael Byrne
(raising her voice); and let you make haste
now, or herself will be coming with the porter.
MICHAEL -- defiantly, raising his voice.*
Let me make haste? I'll be making haste
maybe to hit you a great clout; for I'm think-
ing on the day I got you above at Rathvanna,
and the way you began crying out and say-
ing, "I'll go back to my ma," and I'm thinking
on the way I came behind you that time, and
hit you a great clout in the lug, and how quiet
and easy it was you came along with me from
that hour to this present day.
SARAH -- standing up and throwing all
her sticks into the fire.
-- And a big fool I was
too, maybe; but we'll be seeing Jaunting Jim
to-morrow in Ballinaclash, and he after get-
ting a great price for his white foal in the
horse-fair of Wicklow, the way it'll be a great
sight to see him squandering his share of gold,
and he with a grand eye for a fine horse, and
a grand eye for a woman.
MICHAEL -- working again with impa-


tience. -- The divil do him good with the two
of them.
SARAH -- kicking up the ashes with her
-- Ah, he's a great lad, I'm telling you,
and it's proud and happy I'll be to see him,
and he the first one called me the Beauty of
Ballinacree, a fine name for a woman.
MICHAEL -- with contempt. -- It's the
like of that name they do be putting on the
horses they have below racing in Arklow. It's
easy pleased you are, Sarah Casey, easy
pleased with a big word, or the liar speaks it.
SARAH. Liar!
MICHAEL. Liar, surely.
SARAH -- indignantly. -- Liar, is it?
Didn't you ever hear tell of the peelers fol-
lowed me ten miles along the Glen Malure,
and they talking love to me in the dark night,
or of the children you'll meet coming from
school and they saying one to the other, "It's
this day we seen Sarah Casey, the Beauty of
Ballinacree, a great sight surely."
MICHAEL. God help the lot of them!
SARAH. It's yourself you'll be calling
God to help, in two weeks or three, when
you'll be waking up in the dark night and
thinking you see me coming with the sun on
me, and I driving a high cart with Jaunting


Jim going behind. It's lonesome and cold
you'll be feeling the ditch where you'll be
lying down that night, I'm telling you, and
you hearing the old woman making a great
noise in her sleep, and the bats squeaking in
the trees.
MICHAEL. Whist. I hear some one
coming the road.
SARAH -- looking out right. -- It's some
one coming forward from the doctor's door.
MICHAEL. It's often his reverence does
be in there playing cards, or drinking a sup, or
singing songs, until the dawn of day.
SARAH. It's a big boast of a man with a
long step on him and a trumpeting voice.
It's his reverence surely; and if you have the
ring done, it's a great bargain we'll make now
and he after drinking his glass.
MICHAEL -- going to her and giving her
the ring.
-- There's your ring, Sarah Casey;
but I'm thinking he'll walk by and not stop to
speak with the like of us at all.
SARAH -- tidying herself, in great excite-
-- Let you be sitting here and keeping
a great blaze, the way he can look on my face;
and let you seem to be working, for it's great
love the like of him have to talk of work.
MICHAEL -- moodily, sitting down and


beginning to work at a tin can. -- Great love
SARAH -- eagerly. -- Make a great blaze
now, Michael Byrne.
[The priest comes in on right; she comes
forward in front of him.

SARAH -- in a very plausible voice. --
Good evening, your reverence. It's a grand
fine night, by the grace of God.
PRIEST. The Lord have mercy on us!
What kind of a living woman is it that you
are at all?
SARAH. It's Sarah Casey I am, your
reverence, the Beauty of Ballinacree, and it's
Michael Byrne is below in the ditch.
PRIEST. A holy pair, surely! Let you
get out of my way. [He tries to pass by.
SARAH -- keeping in front of him. -- We
are wanting a little word with your reverence.
PRIEST. I haven't a halfpenny at all.
Leave the road I'm saying.
SARAH. It isn't a halfpenny we're ask-
ing, holy father; but we were thinking maybe
we'd have a right to be getting married; and
we were thinking it's yourself would marry
us for not a halfpenny at all; for you're a
kind man, your reverence, a kind man with
the poor.


PRIEST -- with astonishment. -- Is it mar-
ry you for nothing at all?
SARAH. It is, your reverence; and we
were thinking maybe you'd give us a little
small bit of silver to pay for the ring.
PRIEST -- loudly. -- Let you hold your
tongue; let you be quiet, Sarah Casey. I've
no silver at all for the like of you; and if you
want to be married, let you pay your pound.
I'd do it for a pound only, and that's making
it a sight cheaper than I'd make it for one
of my own pairs is living here in the place.
SARAH. Where would the like of us get
a pound, your reverence?
PRIEST. Wouldn't you easy get it with
your selling asses, and making cans, and your
stealing east and west in Wicklow and Wex-
ford and the county Meath? (He tries to
pass her.)
Let you leave the road, and not
be plaguing me more.
SARAH -- pleadingly, taking money from
her pocket.
-- Wouldn't you have a little mercy
on us, your reverence? (Holding out money.)
Wouldn't you marry us for a half a sovereign,
and it a nice shiny one with a view on it of
the living king's mamma?
PRIEST. If it's ten shillings you have,
let you get ten more the same way, and I'll
marry you then.


SARAH -- whining. -- It's two years we
are getting that bit, your reverence, with our
pence and our halfpence and an odd three-
penny bit; and if you don't marry us now,
himself and the old woman, who has a great
drouth, will be drinking it to-morrow in the
fair (she puts her apron to her eyes, half sob-
, and then I won't be married any time,
and I'll be saying till I'm an old woman:
"It's a cruel and a wicked thing to be bred
PRIEST -- turning up towards the fire. --
Let you not be crying, Sarah Casey. It's a
queer woman you are to be crying at the like
of that, and you your whole life walking the
SARAH -- sobbing. -- It's two years we
are getting the gold, your reverence, and now
you won't marry us for that bit, and we
hard-working poor people do be making cans
in the dark night, and blinding our eyes with
the black smoke from the bits of twigs we
do be burning.
[An old woman is heard singing tipsily
on the left.

PRIEST -- looking at the can Michael is
-- When will you have that can done,
Michael Byrne?
MICHAEL. In a short space only, your


reverence, for I'm putting the last dab of
solder on the rim.
PRIEST. Let you get a crown along with
the ten shillings and the gallon can, Sarah
Casey, and I will wed you so.
MARY -- suddenly shouting behind, tip-
-- Larry was a fine lad, I'm saying; Larry
was a fine lad, Sarah Casey --
MICHAEL. Whist, now, the two of you.
There's my mother coming, and she'd have us
destroyed if she heard the like of that talk
the time she's been drinking her fill.
MARY -- comes in singing* --
And when we asked him what way he'd die,
And he hanging unrepented,
"Begob," says Larry, "that's all in my eye,
By the clergy first invented."
SARAH. Give me the jug now, or you'll
have it spilt in the ditch.
MARY -- holding the jug with both her
hands, in a stilted voice.
-- Let you leave me
easy, Sarah Casey. I won't spill it, I'm saying.
God help you; are you thinking it's frothing
full to the brim it is at this hour of the night,
and I after carrying it in my two hands a long
step from Jemmy Neill's?
MICHAEL -- anxiously. -- Is there a sup
left at all?


SARAH -- looking into the jug. -- A little
small sup only I'm thinking.
MARY -- sees the priest, and holds out jug
towards him.
-- God save your reverence. I'm
after bringing down a smart drop; and let
you drink it up now, for it's a middling
drouthy man you are at all times, God forgive
you, and this night is cruel dry.
[She tries to go towards him. Sarah
holds her back.

PRIEST -- waving her away. -- Let you
not be falling to the flames. Keep off, I'm
MARY -- persuasively. -- Let you not be
shy of us, your reverence. Aren't we all
sinners, God help us! Drink a sup now, I'm
telling you; and we won't let on a word about
it till the Judgment Day.
[She takes up a tin mug, pours some
porter into it, and gives it to him.

MARY -- singing, and holding the jug in
her hand*
A lonesome ditch in Ballygan
The day you're beating a tenpenny can;
A lonesome bank in Ballyduff
The time . . . [She breaks off.
It's a bad, wicked song, Sarah Casey; and
let you put me down now in the ditch, and I
won't sing it till himself will be gone; for


it's bad enough he is, I'm thinking, without
ourselves making him worse.
SARAH -- putting her down, to the priest,
half laughing.
-- Don't mind her at all, your
reverence. She's no shame the time she's a
drop taken; and if it was the Holy Father
from Rome was in it, she'd give him a little
sup out of her mug, and say the same as she'd
say to yourself.
MARY -- to the priest. -- Let you drink it
up, holy father. Let you drink it up, I'm say-
ing, and not be letting on you wouldn't do
the like of it, and you with a stack of pint
bottles above, reaching the sky.
PRIEST -- with resignation. -- Well, here's
to your good health, and God forgive us all.
[He drinks.
MARY. That's right now, your reverence,
and the blessing of God be on you. Isn't it
a grand thing to see you sitting down, with
no pride in you, and drinking a sup with the
like of us, and we the poorest, wretched,
starving creatures you'd see any place on the
PRIEST. If it's starving you are itself,
I'm thinking it's well for the like of you that
do be drinking when there's drouth on you,
and lying down to sleep when your legs are
stiff. (He sighs gloomily.) What would


you do if it was the like of myself you were,
saying Mass with your mouth dry, and run-
ning east and west for a sick call maybe, and
hearing the rural people again and they saying
their sins?
MARY -- with compassion. -- It's destroy-
ed you must be hearing the sins of the rural
people on a fine spring.
PRIEST -- with despondency. -- It's a hard
life, I'm telling you, a hard life, Mary Byrne;
and there's the bishop coming in the morning,
and he an old man, would have you destroyed
if he seen a thing at all.
MARY -- with great sympathy. -- It'd
break my heart to hear you talking and sigh-
ing the like of that, your reverence. (She
pats him on the knee.)
Let you rouse up,
now, if it's a poor, single man you are itself,
and I'll be singing you songs unto the dawn
of day.
PRIEST -- interrupting her. -- What is it
I want with your songs when it'd be better
for the like of you, that'll soon die, to be down
on your two knees saying prayers to the
Almighty God?
MARY. If it's prayers I want, you'd have
a right to say one yourself, holy father; for
we don't have them at all, and I've heard tell
a power of times it's that you're for. Say


one now, your reverence, for I've heard a
power of queer things and I walking the
world, but there's one thing I never heard any
time, and that's a real priest saying a prayer.
PRIEST. The Lord protect us!
MARY. It's no lie, holy father. I often
heard the rural people making a queer noise
and they going to rest; but who'd mind the
like of them? And I'm thinking it should be
great game to hear a scholar, the like of you,
speaking Latin to the saints above.
PRIEST -- scandalized. -- Stop your talk-
ing, Mary Byrne; you're an old flagrant
heathen, and I'll stay no more with the lot of
you. [He rises.
MARY -- catching hold of him. -- Stop till
you say a prayer, your reverence; stop till you
say a little prayer, I'm telling you, and I'll
give you my blessing and the last sup from the
PRIEST -- breaking away. -- Leave me go,
Mary Byrne; for I have never met your like
for hard abominations the score and two years
I'm living in the place.
MARY -- innocently. -- Is that the truth?
PRIEST. --* It is, then, and God have mercy
on your soul.
[The priest goes towards the left, and
Sarah follows him.


SARAH -- in a low voice. -- And what
time will you do the thing I'm asking, holy
father? for I'm thinking you'll do it surely,
and not have me growing into an old wicked
heathen like herself.
MARY -- calling out shrilly. -- Let you be
walking back here, Sarah Casey, and not be
talking whisper-talk with the like of him in the
face of the Almighty God.
SARAH -- to the priest. -- Do you hear her
now, your reverence? Isn't it true, surely,
she's an old, flagrant heathen, would destroy
the world?
PRIEST -- to Sarah, moving off. -- Well,
I'll be coming down early to the chapel, and let
you come to me a while after you see me pas-
sing, and bring the bit of gold along with you,
and the tin can. I'll marry you for them two,
though it's a pitiful small sum; for I wouldn't
be easy in my soul if I left you growing into
an old, wicked heathen the like of her.
SARAH -- following him out. -- The bles-
sing of the Almighty God be on you, holy
father, and that He may reward and watch
you from this present day.
MARY -- nudging Michael. -- Did you see
that, Michael Byrne? Didn't you hear me
telling you she's flighty a while back since the
change of the moon? With her fussing for


marriage, and she making whisper-talk with
one man or another man along by the road.
MICHAEL. --* Whist now, or she'll knock
the head of you the time she comes back.
MARY. --* Ah, it's a bad, wicked way the
world is this night, if there's a fine air in it
itself. You'd never have seen me, and I a
young woman, making whisper-talk with the
like of him, and he the fearfullest old fellow
you'd see any place walking the world.
[Sarah comes back quickly.
MARY -- calling out to her. -- What is it
you're after whispering above with himself?
SARAH -- exultingly. -- Lie down, and
leave us in peace. She whispers with Michael.
MARY -- poking out her pipe with a straw,
She'd whisper with one, and she'd whisper
with two --
She breaks off coughing. -- My singing voice
is gone for this night, Sarah Casey. (She
lights her pipe.)
But if it's flighty you are
itself, you're a grand handsome woman, the
glory of tinkers, the pride of Wicklow, the
Beauty of Ballinacree. I wouldn't have you
lying down and you lonesome to sleep this
night in a dark ditch when the spring is coming
in the trees; so let you sit down there by the
big bough, and I'll be telling you the finest


story you'd hear any place from Dundalk to
Ballinacree, with great queens in it, making
themselves matches from the start to the end,
and they with shiny silks on them the length
of the day, and white shifts for the night.
MICHAEL -- standing up with the tin can
in his hand.
-- Let you go asleep, and not have
us destroyed.
MARY -- lying back sleepily. -- Don't mind
him, Sarah Casey. Sit down now, and I'll be
telling you a story would be fit to tell a woman
the like of you in the springtime of the year.
SARAH -- taking the can from Michael,
and tying it up in a piece of sacking.
-- That'll
not be rusting now in the dews of night. I'll
put it up in the ditch the way it will be handy
in the morning; and now we've that done,
Michael Byrne, I'll go along with you and
welcome for Tim Flaherty's hens.
[She puts the can in the ditch.
MARY -- sleepily. -- I've a grand story of
the great queens of Ireland with white necks
on them the like of Sarah Casey, and fine
arms would hit you a slap the way Sarah
Casey would hit you.
SARAH -- beckoning on the left. -- Come
along now, Michael, while she's falling asleep.


[He goes towards left. Mary sees that
they are going, starts up suddenly, and
turns over on her hands and knees.

MARY -- piteously. -- Where is it you're
going? Let you walk back here, and not be
leaving me lonesome when the night is fine.
SARAH. Don't be waking the world with
your talk when we're going up through the
back wood to get two of Tim Flaherty's hens
are roosting in the ash-tree above at the well.
MARY. And it's leaving me lone you are?
Come back here, Sarah Casey. Come back
here, I'm saying; or if it's off you must go,
leave me the two little coppers you have, the
way I can walk up in a short while, and get
another pint for my sleep.
SARAH. It's too much you have taken.
Let you stretch yourself out and take a long
sleep; for isn't that the best thing any woman
can do, and she an old drinking heathen like
[She and Michael go out left.
MARY -- standing up slowly. -- It's gone
they are, and I with my feet that weak under
me you'd knock me down with a rush, and
my head with a noise in it the like of what


you'd hear in a stream and it running between
two rocks and rain falling. (She goes over to
the ditch where the can is tied in sacking, and
takes it down.)
What good am I this night,
God help me? What good are the grand
stories I have when it's few would listen to
an old woman, few but a girl maybe would
be in great fear the time her hour was come,
or a little child wouldn't be sleeping with the
hunger on a cold night? (She takes the can
from the sacking and fits in three empty bottles
and straw in its place, and ties them up.)

Maybe the two of them have a good right to
be walking out the little short while they'd be
young; but if they have itself, they'll not
keep Mary Byrne from her full pint when
the night's fine, and there's a dry moon in the
sky. (She takes up the can, and puts the
package back in the ditch.)
Jemmy Neill's a
decent lad; and he'll give me a good drop for
the can; and maybe if I keep near the peelers
to-morrow for the first bit of the fair, herself
won't strike me at all; and if she does itself,
what's a little stroke on your head beside
sitting lonesome on a fine night, hearing the


dogs barking, and the bats squeaking, and you
saying over, it's a short while only till you die.
[She goes out singing "The night before
Larry was stretched."




SCENE: The same. Early morning. Sarah
is washing her face in an old bucket; then
plaits her hair. Michael is tidying himself
also. Mary Byrne is asleep against the ditch.

SARAH -- to Michael, with pleased excite-
-- Go over, now, to the bundle beyond,
and you'll find a kind of a red handkerchief
to put upon your neck, and a green one for
MICHAEL -- getting them. -- You're after
spending more money on the like of them.
Well, it's a power we're losing this time, and
we not gaining a thing at all. (With the
Is it them two?
SARAH. It is, Michael. (She takes one
of them.)
Let you tackle that one round under
your chin; and let you not forget to take your
hat from your head when we go up into the
church. I asked Biddy Flynn below, that's
after marrying her second man, and she told
me it's the like of that they do.
[Mary yawns, and turns over in her

SARAH -- with anxiety. -- There she is
waking up on us, and I thinking we'd have the
job done before she'd know of it at all.


MICHAEL. She'll be crying out now, and
making game of us, and saying it's fools we
are surely.
SARAH. I'll send her to sleep again, or
get her out of it one way or another; for it'd
be a bad case to have a divil's scholar the like
of her turning the priest against us maybe
with her godless talk.
MARY -- waking up, and looking at them
with curiosity, blandly.
-- That's fine things
you have on you, Sarah Casey; and it's a great
stir you're making this day, washing your
face. I'm that used to the hammer, I wouldn't
hear it at all, but washing is a rare thing, and
you're after waking me up, and I having a
great sleep in the sun.
[She looks around cautiously at the
bundle in which she has hidden the

SARAH -- coaxingly. -- Let you stretch
out again for a sleep, Mary Byrne, for it'll
be a middling time yet before we go to the
MARY -- with suspicion. -- That's a sweet
tongue you have, Sarah Casey; but if sleep's
a grand thing, it's a grand thing to be waking
up a day the like of this, when there's a warm
sun in it, and a kind air, and you'll hear the


cuckoos singing and crying out on the top of
the hills.
SARAH. If it's that gay you are, you'd
have a right to walk down and see would you
get a few halfpence from the rich men do be
driving early to the fair.
MARY. When rich men do be driving
early, it's queer tempers they have, the Lord
forgive them; the way it's little but bad words
and swearing out you'd get from them all.
SARAH -- losing her temper and breaking
out fiercely.
-- Then if you'll neither beg nor
sleep, let you walk off from this place where
you're not wanted, and not have us waiting
for you maybe at the turn of day.
MARY -- rather uneasy, turning to Mi-
-- God help our spirits, Michael; there
she is again rousing cranky from the break
of dawn. Oh! isn't she a terror since the
moon did change (she gets up slowly)? And
I'd best be going forward to sell the gallon
[She goes over and takes up the bundle.
SARAH -- crying out angrily. -- Leave
that down, Mary Byrne. Oh! aren't you the
scorn of women to think that you'd have that
drouth and roguery on you that you'd go
drinking the can and the dew not dried from
the grass?


MARY -- in a feigned tone of pacification,
with the bundle still in her hand.
-- It's not a
drouth but a heartburn I have this day, Sarah
Casey, so I'm going down to cool my gullet
at the blessed well; and I'll sell the can to the
parson's daughter below, a harmless poor
creature would fill your hand with shillings
for a brace of lies.
SARAH. Leave down the tin can, Mary
Byrne, for I hear the drouth upon your tongue
MARY. There's not a drink-house from
this place to the fair, Sarah Casey; the way
you'll find me below with the full price, and
not a farthing gone.
[She turns to go off left.
SARAH -- jumping up, and picking up the
hammer threateningly.
-- Put down that can,
I'm saying.
MARY -- looking at her for a moment in
terror, and putting down the bundle in the
-- Is it raving mad you're going, Sarah
Casey, and you the pride of women to destroy
the world?
SARAH -- going up to her, and giving her
a push off left.
-- I'll show you if it's raving
mad I am. Go on from this place, I'm saying,
and be wary now.
MARY -- turning back after her. -- If I


go, I'll be telling old and young you're a
weathered heathen savage, Sarah Casey, the
one did put down a head of the parson's cab-
bage to boil in the pot with your clothes (the
priest comes in behind her, on the left, and
, and quenched the flaming candles on
the throne of God the time your shadow fell
within the pillars of the chapel door.
[Sarah turns on her, and she springs
round nearly into the Priest's arms.
When she sees him, she claps her shawl
over her mouth, and goes up towards
the ditch, laughing to herself.

PRIEST -- going to Sarah, half terrified
at the language that he has heard.
-- Well,
aren't you a fearful lot? I'm thinking it's only
humbug you were making at the fall of night,
and you won't need me at all.
SARAH -- with anger still in her voice. --
Humbug is it! would you be turning back upon
your spoken promise in the face of God?
PRIEST -- dubiously. -- I'm thinking you
were never christened, Sarah Casey; and it
would be a queer job to go dealing Christian
sacraments unto the like of you. (Persuasive-
ly feeling in his pocket.)
So it would be best,
maybe, I'd give you a shilling for to drink
my health, and let you walk on, and not
trouble me at all.


SARAH. That's your talking, is it? If
you don't stand to your spoken word, holy
father, I'll make my own complaint to the
mitred bishop in the face of all.
PRIEST. You'd do that!
SARAH. I would surely, holy father, if
I walked to the city of Dublin with blood and
blisters on my naked feet.
PRIEST -- uneasily scratching his ear. --
I wish this day was done, Sarah Casey; for
I'm thinking it's a risky thing getting mixed
up in any matters with the like of you.
SARAH. Be hasty then, and you'll have
us done with before you'd think at all.
PRIEST -- giving in. -- Well, maybe it's
right you are, and let you come up to the chapel
when you see me looking from the door.
[He goes up into the chapel.
SARAH -- calling after him. -- We will,
and God preserve you, holy father.
MARY -- coming down to them, speaking
with amazement and consternation, but with-
out anger.
-- Going to the chapel! It's at mar-
riage you're fooling again, maybe? (Sarah
turns her back on her.)
It was for that you
were washing your face, and you after sending
me for porter at the fall of night the way I'd
drink a good half from the jug? (Going


round in front of Sarah.) Is it at marriage
you're fooling again?
SARAH -- triumphantly. -- It is, Mary
Byrne. I'll be married now in a short while;
and from this day there will no one have a
right to call me a dirty name and I selling cans
in Wicklow or Wexford or the city of Dublin
MARY -- turning to Michael. -- And it's
yourself is wedding her, Michael Byrne?
MICHAEL -- gloomily. -- It is, God spare
MARY -- looks at Sarah for a moment,
and then bursts out into a laugh of derision.
Well, she's a tight, hardy girl, and it's no lie;
but I never knew till this day it was a black
born fool I had for a son. You'll breed asses,
I've heard them say, and poaching dogs, and
horses'd go licking the wind, but it's a hard
thing, God help me, to breed sense in a son.
MICHAEL -- gloomily. -- If I didn't mar-
ry her, she'd be walking off to Jaunting Jim
maybe at the fall of night; and it's well your-
self knows there isn't the like of her for getting
money and selling songs to the men.
MARY. And you're thinking it's paying
gold to his reverence would make a woman
stop when she's a mind to go?
SARAH -- angrily. -- Let you not be de-


stroying us with your talk when I've as good
a right to a decent marriage as any speckled
female does be sleeping in the black hovels
above, would choke a mule.
MARY -- soothingly. -- It's as good a right
you have surely, Sarah Casey, but what good
will it do? Is it putting that ring on your
finger will keep you from getting an aged
woman and losing the fine face you have, or
be easing your pains, when it's the grand ladies
do be married in silk dresses, with rings of
gold, that do pass any woman with their share
of torment in the hour of birth, and do be
paying the doctors in the city of Dublin a great
price at that time, the like of what you'd pay
for a good ass and a cart?
[She sits down.
SARAH -- puzzled. -- Is that the truth?
MARY -- pleased with the point she has
-- Wouldn't any know it's the truth?
Ah, it's a few short years you are yet in the
world, Sarah Casey, and it's little or nothing
at all maybe you know about it.
SARAH -- vehement but uneasy. -- What
is it yourself knows of the fine ladies when
they wouldn't let the like of you go near them
at all?
MARY. If you do be drinking a little sup
in one town and another town, it's soon you


get great knowledge and a great sight into
the world. You'll see men there, and women
there, sitting up on the ends of barrels in the
dark night, and they making great talk would
soon have the like of you, Sarah Casey, as
wise as a March hare.
MICHAEL -- to Sarah. -- That's the truth
she's saying, and maybe if you've sense in you
at all, you'd have a right still to leave your
fooling, and not be wasting our gold.
SARAH -- decisively. -- If it's wise or fool
I am, I've made a good bargain and I'll stand
to it now.
MARY. What is it he's making you give?
MICHAEL. The ten shillings in gold, and
the tin can is above tied in the sack.
MARY -- looking at the bundle with sur-
prise and dread.
-- The bit of gold and the
tin can, is it?
MICHAEL. The half a sovereign, and the
gallon can.
MARY -- scrambling to her feet quickly. --
Well, I think I'll be walking off the road to
the fair the way you won't be destroying me
going too fast on the hills. (She goes a few
steps towards the left, then turns and speaks
to Sarah very persuasively.
-- Let you not take
the can from the sack, Sarah Casey; for the
people is coming above would be making game


of you, and pointing their fingers if they seen
you do the like of that. Let you leave it safe
in the bag, I'm saying, Sarah darling. It's
that way will be best.
[She goes towards left, and pauses for a
moment, looking about her with em-

MICHAEL -- in a low voice. -- What ails
her at all?
SARAH -- anxiously. -- It's real wicked
she does be when you hear her speaking as
easy as that.
MARY -- to herself. -- I'd be safer in the
chapel, I'm thinking; for if she caught me
after on the road, maybe she would kill me
[She comes hobbling back towards the

SARAH. Where is it you're going? It
isn't that way we'll be walking to the fair.
MARY. I'm going up into the chapel to
give you my blessing and hear the priest
saying his prayers. It's a lonesome road is
running below to Greenane, and a woman
would never know the things might happen
her and she walking single in a lonesome place.
[As she reaches the chapel-gate, the
Priest comes to it in his surplice.

PRIEST -- crying out. -- Come along now.


It is the whole day you'd keep me here saying
my prayers, and I getting my death with not
a bit in my stomach, and my breakfast in ruins,
and the Lord Bishop maybe driving on the
road to-day?
SARAH. We're coming now, holy father.
PRIEST. Give me the bit of gold into my
SARAH. It's here, holy father.
[She gives it to him. Michael takes the
bundle from the ditch and brings it
over, standing a little behind Sarah.
He feels the bundle, and looks at Mary
with a meaning look.

PRIEST -- looking at the gold. -- It's a
good one, I'm thinking, wherever you got it.
And where is the can?
SARAH -- taking the bundle. -- We have
it here in a bit of clean sack, your reverence.
We tied it up in the inside of that to keep it
from rusting in the dews of night, and let you
not open it now or you'll have the people
making game of us and telling the story on
us, east and west to the butt of the hills.
PRIEST -- taking the bundle. -- Give it
here into my hand, Sarah Casey. What is it
any person would think of a tinker making a
can. [He begins opening the bundle.
SARAH. It's a fine can, your reverence.


for if it's poor simple people we are, it's fine
cans we can make, and himself, God help him,
is a great man surely at the trade.
[Priest opens the bundle; the three empty
bottles fall out.

SARAH. Glory to the saints of joy!
PRIEST. Did ever any man see the like
of that? To think you'd be putting deceit
on me, and telling lies to me, and I going to
marry you for a little sum wouldn't marry a
SARAH -- crestfallen and astonished. --
It's the divil did it, your reverence, and I
wouldn't tell you a lie. (Raising her hands.)
May the Lord Almighty strike me dead if the
divil isn't after hooshing the tin can from the
PRIEST -- vehemently. -- Go along now,
and don't be swearing your lies. Go along
now, and let you not be thinking I'm big fool
enough to believe the like of that, when it's
after selling it you are or making a swap for
drink of it, maybe, in the darkness of the night.
MARY -- in a peacemaking voice, putting
her hand on the Priest's left arm.
-- She
wouldn't do the like of that, your reverence,
when she hasn't a decent standing drouth on
her at all; and she's setting great store on her
marriage the way you'd have a right to be


taking her easy, and not minding the can.
What differ would an empty can make with
a fine, rich, hardy man the like of you?
SARAH -- imploringly. -- Marry us, your
reverence, for the ten shillings in gold, and
we'll make you a grand can in the evening --
a can would be fit to carry water for the holy
man of God. Marry us now and I'll be saying
fine prayers for you, morning and night, if
it'd be raining itself, and it'd be in two black
pools I'd be setting my knees.
PRIEST -- loudly. -- It's a wicked, thiev-
ing, lying, scheming lot you are, the pack of
you. Let you walk off now and take every
stinking rag you have there from the ditch.
MARY -- putting her shawl over her head.*
Marry her, your reverence, for the love of
God, for there'll be queer doings below if you
send her off the like of that and she swearing
crazy on the road.
SARAH -- angrily. -- It's the truth she's
saying; for it's herself, I'm thinking, is after
swapping the tin can for a pint, the time she
was raging mad with the drouth, and our-
selves above walking the hill.
MARY -- crying out with indignation. --
Have you no shame, Sarah Casey, to tell lies
unto a holy man?
SARAH -- to Mary, working herself into


a rage. -- It's making game of me you'd be,
and putting a fool's head on me in the face
of the world; but if you were thinking to be
mighty cute walking off, or going up to hide
in the church, I've got you this time, and
you'll not run from me now.
[She seizes up one of the bottles.
MARY -- hiding behind the priest. -- Keep
her off, your reverence, keep her off for the
love of the Almighty God. What at all would
the Lord Bishop say if he found me here
lying with my head broken across, or the two
of yous maybe digging a bloody grave for
me at the door of the church?
PRIEST -- waving Sarah off. -- Go along,
Sarah Casey. Would you be doing murder at
my feet? Go along from me now, and wasn't
I a big fool to have to do with you when it's
nothing but distraction and torment I get
from the kindness of my heart?
SARAH -- shouting. -- I've bet a power of
strong lads east and west through the world,
and are you thinking I'd turn back from a
priest? Leave the road now, or maybe I
would strike yourself.
PRIEST. You would not, Sarah Casey.
I've no fear for the lot of you; but let you
walk off, I'm saying, and not be coming where


you've no business, and screeching tumult and
murder at the doorway of the church.
SARAH. I'll not go a step till I have her
head broke, or till I'm wed with himself. If
you want to get shut of us, let you marry us
now, for I'm thinking the ten shillings in gold
is a good price for the like of you, and you
near burst with the fat.
PRIEST. I wouldn't have you coming in
on me and soiling my church; for there's
nothing at all, I'm thinking, would keep the
like of you from hell. (He throws down the
ten shillings on the ground.)
Gather up your
gold now, and begone from my sight, for if
ever I set an eye on you again you'll hear me
telling the peelers who it was stole the black
ass belonging to Philly O'Cullen, and whose
hay it is the grey ass does be eating.
SARAH. You'd do that?
PRIEST. I would, surely.
SARAH. If you do, you'll be getting all
the tinkers from Wicklow and Wexford, and
the County Meath, to put up block tin in the
place of glass to shield your windows where
you do be looking out and blinking at the girls.
It's hard set you'll be that time, I'm telling
you, to fill the depth of your belly the long
days of Lent; for we wouldn't leave a laying
pullet in your yard at all.


PRIEST -- losing his temper finally. -- Go
on, now, or I'll send the Lords of Justice a
dated story of your villainies -- burning,
stealing, robbing, raping to this mortal day.
Go on now, I'm saying, if you'd run from
Kilmainham or the rope itself.
MICHAEL -- taking off his coat. -- Is it
run from the like of you, holy father? Go up
to your own shanty, or I'll beat you with the
ass's reins till the world would hear you roar-
ing from this place to the coast of Clare.
PRIEST. Is it lift your hand upon myself
when the Lord would blight your members
if you'd touch me now? Go on from this.
[He gives him a shove.
MICHAEL. Blight me is it? Take it
then, your reverence, and God help you so.
[He runs at him with the reins.
PRIEST -- runs up to ditch crying out. --
There are the peelers passing by the grace of
God -- hey, below!
MARY -- clapping her hand over his
-- Knock him down on the road; they
didn't hear him at all.
[Michael pulls him down.
SARAH. Gag his jaws.
MARY. Stuff the sacking in his teeth.
[They gag him with the sack that had
the can in it.


SARAH. Tie the bag around his head,
and if the peelers come, we'll put him head-
first in the boghole is beyond the ditch.
[They tie him up in some sacking.
MICHAEL -- to Mary. -- Keep him quiet,
and the rags tight on him for fear he'd
screech. (He goes back to their camp.)
Hurry with the things, Sarah Casey. The
peelers aren't coming this way, and maybe
we'll get off from them now.
[They bundle the things together in
wild haste, the priest wriggling and
struggling about on the ground, with
old Mary trying to keep him quiet.

MARY -- patting his head. -- Be quiet,
your reverence. What is it ails you, with
your wrigglings now? Is it choking maybe?
(She puts her hand under the sack, and feels
his mouth, patting him on the back.)
only letting on you are, holy father, for your
nose is blowing back and forward as easy as
an east wind on an April day. (In a soothing
There now, holy father, let you stay
easy, I'm telling you, and learn a little sense
and patience, the way you'll not be so airy
again going to rob poor sinners of their scraps
of gold. (He gets quieter.) That's a good
boy you are now, your reverence, and let you
not be uneasy, for we wouldn't hurt you at


all. It's sick and sorry we are to tease you;
but what did you want meddling with the
like of us, when it's a long time we are going
our own ways -- father and son, and his son
after him, or mother and daughter, and her
own daughter again -- and it's little need we
ever had of going up into a church and swear-
ing -- I'm told there's swearing with it -- a
word no man would believe, or with drawing
rings on our fingers, would be cutting our
skins maybe when we'd be taking the ass from
the shafts, and pulling the straps the time
they'd be slippy with going around beneath
the heavens in rains falling.
MICHAEL -- who has finished bundling
up the things, comes over to Sarah.
-- We're
fixed now; and I have a mind to run him in
a boghole the way he'll not be tattling to the
peelers of our games to-day.
SARAH. You'd have a right too, I'm
MARY -- soothingly. -- Let you not be
rough with him, Sarah Casey, and he after
drinking his sup of porter with us at the fall
of night. Maybe he'd swear a mighty oath
he wouldn't harm us, and then we'd safer
loose him; for if we went to drown him,
they'd maybe hang the batch of us, man and
child and woman, and the ass itself.


MICHAEL. What would he care for an
MARY. Don't you know his like do live
in terror of the wrath of God? (Putting her
mouth to the Priest's ear in the sacking.)

Would you swear an oath, holy father, to
leave us in our freedom, and not talk at all?
(Priest nods in sacking.) Didn't I tell you?
Look at the poor fellow nodding his head off
in the bias of the sacks. Strip them off from
him, and he'll be easy now.
MICHAEL -- as if speaking to a horse. --
Hold up, holy father.
[He pulls the sacking off, and shows the
priest with his hair on end. They free
his mouth.

MARY. Hold him till he swears.
PRIEST -- in a faint voice. -- I swear
surely. If you let me go in peace, I'll not
inform against you or say a thing at all, and
may God forgive me for giving heed unto
your like to-day.
SARAH -- puts the ring on his finger. --
There's the ring, holy father, to keep you
minding of your oath until the end of time;
for my heart's scalded with your fooling; and
it'll be a long day till I go making talk of
marriage or the like of that.
MARY -- complacently, standing up slow-


ly. -- She's vexed now, your reverence; and
let you not mind her at all, for she's right
surely, and it's little need we ever had of the
like of you to get us our bit to eat, and our
bit to drink, and our time of love when we
were young men and women, and were fine
to look at.
MICHAEL. Hurry on now. He's a great
man to have kept us from fooling our gold;
and we'll have a great time drinking that bit
with the trampers on the green of Clash.
[They gather up their things. The priest
stands up.

PRIEST -- lifting up his hand. -- I've
sworn not to call the hand of man upon your
crimes to-day; but I haven't sworn I wouldn't
call the fire of heaven from the hand of the
Almighty God.
[He begins saying a Latin malediction in
a loud ecclesiastical voice.

MARY. There's an old villain.
All -- together. -- Run, run. Run for
your lives.
[They rush out, leaving the Priest master
of the situation.


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