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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 bush.

LADY DELAHUNTY
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?

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

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

LADY DELAHUNTY
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.

SIR DENIS
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.

LADY DELAHUNTY
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 cigars.

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

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

LADY DELAHUNTY
Listen now, Donal, and be reasonable. When–

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

LADY DELAHUNTY
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–“

DONAL
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.

SIR DENIS
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.

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

SIR DENIS
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.

DONAL
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.

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

DONAL
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.

LADY DELAHUNTY
I’m surprised at you to speak like that to Sir Denis.

DONAL
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?

SIR DENIS
What isn’t the matter would be a better question. ‘Twas a mistake, Anastatia, a sad and sorry mistake!

LADY DELAHUNTY
What’s a mistake?

SIR DENIS
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 again.

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–

DONAL
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–

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

DONAL
Plain Statia Delahunty, if you please.

LADY DELAHUNTY (_to Kitty_)
If you were worth the weight of yourself in gold and could sing like a lark, I wouldn’t give Finbarr to you now.

KITTY
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.

CURTAIN

* * * * *

RETRIBUTION

A COMEDY IN ONE ACT

CHARACTERS

PATCHA CREMIN (_nicknamed_ NAPOLEON) _A carpenter_ NEDSERS BROPHY (_nicknamed_ BOULANGER) _A mason_ DANNUX TOUHY (_nicknamed_ THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON) _A mason_ MRS. FENNESSEY _A lodging-house keeper_

RETRIBUTION

A COMEDY IN ONE ACT

_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, Ellie?

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

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

MRS. FENNESSEY
‘Tis me.

PATCHA (_angrily_)
And who the blazes are you?

MRS. FENNESSEY
Mrs. Fennessey, your landlady.

PATCHA
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.

MRS. FENNESSEY
Are you in bed yet?

PATCHA
I am, ma’am.

MRS. FENNESSEY
When are you going to get up?

PATCHA
Why?

MRS. FENNESSEY
I want to say a few words to you.

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

MRS. FENNESSEY
Don’t you, indeed?

PATCHA
No, I don’t, ma’am.

MRS. FENNESSEY
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?

PATCHA
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’.

MRS. FENNESSEY
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.

PATCHA
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.

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

PATCHA
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.

MRS. FENNESSEY
‘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!

PATCHA
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.

MRS. FENNESSEY
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.

PATCHA
You’re losin’ all your dacency, Mrs. Fennessey.

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.

PATCHA
You should feel ashamed of yourself, Mrs. Fennessey.

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.

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

MRS. FENNESSEY
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?

PATCHA
Yes, I’m Napoleon.

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

PATCHA
Did he say who he was?

MRS. FENNESSEY
He said he was an old friend of yours.

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

MRS. FENNESSEY
Touhy! Touhy! That’s the name. Will I send him up?

PATCHA
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?

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

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

PATCHA
Not in the body, thank God, but in the mind and heart.

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

PATCHA
I can’t.

DANNUX
Why?

PATCHA
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.

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

PATCHA
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.

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

PATCHA
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.

DANNUX
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.

PATCHA
God help us all!

DANNUX
And where’s Boulanger now, might I ask?

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

DANNUX
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.

PATCHA
And when will you get paid?

DANNUX
The instant the job is finished.

PATCHA
How much will the tools cost?

DANNUX
Three shillin’s, at least.

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

DANNUX
Was it to the pawnshop you sent him?

PATCHA
‘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.

DANNUX
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?

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

DANNUX
That’s the queerest story I ever heard.

PATCHA
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.

DANNUX
‘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.

NEDSERS
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?

PATCHA
What am I to do at all!

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

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

PATCHA
Don’t be botherin’ me. I’m more than disgusted with you.

DANNUX
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.

PATCHA
‘Twas the Lord Himself that sent you in the door to us!

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

PATCHA
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.

NEDSERS
That’s right, that’s the way I like to hear a man talkin’.

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.

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

DANNUX
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_.

NEDSERS
Only for the time he’ll be away!

PATCHA
What’s the matter with you, at all?

NEDSERS
I think I did a foolish thing.

PATCHA
What’s that you’re sayin’, I say?

NEDSERS
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!

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

NEDSERS
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 him_)
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!

CURTAIN