John Millington Synge, The Playboy of the Western World: A Comedy in Three Acts
SCENE: As before. Later in the day. Jimmy comes in, slightly drunk.
JIMMY [calls.] Pegeen! [Crosses to inner door.] Pegeen Mike! [Comes back again into the room.] Pegeen! [Philly comes in in the same state.] [To Philly.] Did you see herself?
PHILLY. I did not; but I sent Shawn Keogh with the ass cart for to bear him home. [Trying cupboards which are locked.] Well, isn’t he a nasty man to get into such staggers at a morning wake? and isn’t herself the divil’s daughter for locking, and she so fussy after that young gaffer, you might take your death with drought and none to heed you?
JIMMY. It’s little wonder she’d be fussy, and he after bringing bankrupt ruin on the roulette man, and the trick-o’-the-loop man, and breaking the nose of the cockshot-man, and winning all in the sports below, racing, lepping, dancing, and the Lord knows what! He’s right luck, I’m telling you.
PHILLY. If he has, he’ll be rightly hobbled yet, and he not able to say ten words without making a brag of the way he killed his father, and the great blow he hit with the loy.
JIMMY. A man can’t hang by his own informing, and his father should be rotten by now. [Old Mahon passes window slowly.]
PHILLY. Supposing a man’s digging spuds in that field with a long spade, and supposing he flings up the two halves of that skull, what’ll be said then in the papers and the courts of law?
JIMMY. They’d say it was an old Dane, maybe, was drowned in the flood. [Old Mahon comes in and sits down near door listening.] Did you never hear tell of the skulls they have in the city of Dublin, ranged out like blue jugs in a cabin of Connaught?
PHILLY. And you believe that?
JIMMY [pugnaciously.] Didn’t a lad see them and he after coming from harvesting in the Liverpool boat? “They have them there,” says he, “making a show of the great people there was one time walking the world. White skulls and black skulls and yellow skulls, and some with full teeth, and some haven’t only but one.”
PHILLY. It was no lie, maybe, for when I was a young lad there was a graveyard beyond the house with the remnants of a man who had thighs as long as your arm. He was a horrid man, I’m telling you, and there was many a fine Sunday I’d put him together for fun, and he with shiny bones, you wouldn’t meet the like of these days in the cities of the world.
MAHON [getting up.] You wouldn’t is it? Lay your eyes on that skull, and tell me where and when there was another the like of it, is splintered only from the blow of a loy.
PHILLY. Glory be to God! And who hit you at all?
MAHON [triumphantly.] It was my own son hit me. Would you believe that? JIMMY. Well, there’s wonders hidden in the heart of man!
PHILLY [suspiciously.] And what way was it done?
MAHON [wandering about the room.] I’m after walking hundreds and long scores of miles, winning clean beds and the fill of my belly four times in the day, and I doing nothing but telling stories of that naked truth. [He comes to them a little aggressively.] Give me a supeen and I’ll tell you now. [Widow Quin comes in and stands aghast behind him. He is facing Jimmy and Philly, who are on the left.]
JIMMY. Ask herself beyond. She’s the stuff hidden in her shawl.
WIDOW QUIN [coming to Mahon quickly.] you here, is it? You didn’t go far at all?
MAHON. I seen the coasting steamer passing, and I got a drought upon me and a cramping leg, so I said, “The divil go along with him,” and turned again. [Looking under her shawl.] And let you give me a supeen, for I’m destroyed travelling since Tuesday was a week.
WIDOW QUIN [getting a glass, in a cajoling tone.] Sit down then by the fire and take your ease for a space. You’ve a right to be destroyed indeed, with your walking, and fighting, and facing the sun [giving him poteen from a stone jar she has brought in.] There now is a drink for you, and may it be to your happiness and length of life.
MAHON [taking glass greedily and sitting down by fire.] God increase you!
WIDOW QUIN [taking men to the right stealthily.] Do you know what? That man’s raving from his wound to-day, for I met him a while since telling a rambling tale of a tinker had him destroyed. Then he heard of Christy’s deed, and he up and says it was his son had cracked his skull. O isn’t madness a fright, for he’ll go killing someone yet, and he thinking it’s the man has struck him so?
JIMMY [entirely convinced.] It’s a fright, surely. I knew a party was kicked in the head by a red mare, and he went killing horses a great while, till he eat the insides of a clock and died after.
PHILLY [with suspicion.] Did he see Christy?
WIDOW QUIN. He didn’t. [With a warning gesture.] Let you not be putting him in mind of him, or you’ll be likely summoned if there’s murder done. [Looking round at Mahon.] Whisht! He’s listening. Wait now till you hear me taking him easy and unravelling all. [She goes to Mahon.] And what way are you feeling, mister? Are you in contentment now?
MAHON [slightly emotional from his drink.] I’m poorly only, for it’s a hard story the way I’m left to-day, when it was I did tend him from his hour of birth, and he a dunce never reached his second book, the way he’d come from school, many’s the day, with his legs lamed under him, and he blackened with his beatings like a tinker’s ass. It’s a hard story, I’m saying, the way some do have their next and nighest raising up a hand of murder on them, and some is lonesome getting their death with lamentation in the dead of night.
WIDOW QUIN [not knowing what to say.] To hear you talking so quiet, who’d know you were the same fellow we seen pass to-day?
MAHON. I’m the same surely. The wrack and ruin of three score years; and it’s a terror to live that length, I tell you, and to have your sons going to the dogs against you, and you wore out scolding them, and skelping them, and God knows what.
PHILLY [to Jimmy.] He’s not raving. [To Widow Quin.] Will you ask him what kind was his son?
WIDOW QUIN [to Mahon, with a peculiar look.] Was your son that hit you a lad of one year and a score maybe, a great hand at racing and lepping and licking the world?
MAHON [turning on her with a roar of rage.] Didn’t you hear me say he was the fool of men, the way from this out he’ll know the orphan’s lot with old and young making game of him and they swearing, raging, kicking at him like a mangy cur. [A great burst of cheering outside, someway off.]
MAHON [putting his hands to his ears.] What in the name of God do they want roaring below?
WIDOW QUIN [with the shade of a smile.] They’re cheering a young lad, the champion Playboy of the Western World. [More cheering.]
MAHON [going to window.] It’d split my heart to hear them, and I with pulses in my brain-pan for a week gone by. Is it racing they are?
JIMMY [looking from door.] It is then. They are mounting him for the mule race will be run upon the sands. That’s the playboy on the winkered mule.
MAHON [puzzled.] That lad, is it? If you said it was a fool he was, I’d have laid a mighty oath he was the likeness of my wandering son [uneasily, putting his hand to his head.] Faith, I’m thinking I’ll go walking for to view the race.
WIDOW QUIN [stopping him, sharply.] You will not. You’d best take the road to Belmullet, and not be dilly-dallying in this place where there isn’t a spot you could sleep.
PHILLY [coming forward.] Don’t mind her. Mount there on the bench and you’ll have a view of the whole. They’re hurrying before the tide will rise, and it’d be near over if you went down the pathway through the crags below.
MAHON [mounts on bench, Widow Quin beside him.] That’s a right view again the edge of the sea. They’re coming now from the point. He’s leading. Who is he at all?
WIDOW QUIN. He’s the champion of the world, I tell you, and there isn’t a hop’orth isn’t falling lucky to his hands to-day.
PHILLY [looking out, interested in the race.] Look at that. They’re pressing him now.
JIMMY. He’ll win it yet.
PHILLY. Take your time, Jimmy Farrell. It’s too soon to say.
WIDOW QUIN [shouting.] Watch him taking the gate. There’s riding.
JIMMY [cheering.] More power to the young lad!
MAHON. He’s passing the third.
JIMMY. He’ll lick them yet!
WIDOW QUIN. He’d lick them if he was running races with a score itself.
MAHON. Look at the mule he has, kicking the stars.
WIDOW QUIN. There was a lep! [catching hold of Mahon in her excitement.] He’s fallen! He’s mounted again! Faith, he’s passing them all!
JIMMY. Look at him skelping her!
PHILLY. And the mountain girls hooshing him on!
JIMMY. It’s the last turn! The post’s cleared for them now!
MAHON. Look at the narrow place. He’ll be into the bogs! [With a yell.] Good rider! He’s through it again!
JIMMY. He neck and neck!
MAHON. Good boy to him! Flames, but he’s in! [Great cheering, in which all join.]
MAHON [with hesitation.] What’s that? They’re raising him up. They’re coming this way. [With a roar of rage and astonishment.] It’s Christy! by the stars of God! I’d know his way of spitting and he astride the moon. [He jumps down and makes for the door, but Widow Quin catches him and pulls him back.]
WIDOW QUIN. Stay quiet, will you. That’s not your son. [To Jimmy.] Stop him, or you’ll get a month for the abetting of manslaughter and be fined as well.
JIMMY. I’ll hold him.
MAHON [struggling.] Let me out! Let me out, the lot of you! till I have my vengeance on his head to-day.
WIDOW QUIN [shaking him, vehemently.] That’s not your son. That’s a man is going to make a marriage with the daughter of this house, a place with fine trade, with a license, and with poteen too.
MAHON [amazed.] That man marrying a decent and a moneyed girl! Is it mad yous are? Is it in a crazy-house for females that I’m landed now?
WIDOW QUIN. It’s mad yourself is with the blow upon your head. That lad is the wonder of the Western World.
MAHON. I seen it’s my son.
WIDOW QUIN. You seen that you’re mad. [Cheering outside.] Do you hear them cheering him in the zig-zags of the road? Aren’t you after saying that your son’s a fool, and how would they be cheering a true idiot born?
MAHON [getting distressed.] It’s maybe out of reason that that man’s himself. [Cheering again.] There’s none surely will go cheering him. Oh, I’m raving with a madness that would fright the world! [He sits down with his hand to his head.] There was one time I seen ten scarlet divils letting on they’d cork my spirit in a gallon can; and one time I seen rats as big as badgers sucking the life blood from the butt of my lug; but I never till this day confused that dribbling idiot with a likely man. I’m destroyed surely.
WIDOW QUIN. And who’d wonder when it’s your brain-pan that is gaping now?
MAHON. Then the blight of the sacred drought upon myself and him, for I never went mad to this day, and I not three weeks with the Limerick girls drinking myself silly, and parlatic from the dusk to dawn. [To Widow Quin, suddenly.] Is my visage astray?
WIDOW QUIN. It is then. You’re a sniggering maniac, a child could see.
MAHON [getting up more cheerfully.] Then I’d best be going to the union beyond, and there’ll be a welcome before me, I tell you [with great pride], and I a terrible and fearful case, the way that there I was one time, screeching in a straightened waistcoat, with seven doctors writing out my sayings in a printed book. Would you believe that?
WIDOW QUIN. If you’re a wonder itself, you’d best be hasty, for them lads caught a maniac one time and pelted the poor creature till he ran out, raving and foaming, and was drowned in the sea.
MAHON [with philosophy.] It’s true mankind is the divil when your head’s astray. Let me out now and I’ll slip down the boreen, and not see them so.
WIDOW QUIN [showing him out.] That’s it. Run to the right, and not a one will see. [He runs off.]
PHILLY [wisely.] You’re at some gaming, Widow Quin; but I’ll walk after him and give him his dinner and a time to rest, and I’ll see then if he’s raving or as sane as you.
WIDOW QUIN [annoyed.] If you go near that lad, let you be wary of your head, I’m saying. Didn’t you hear him telling he was crazed at times?
PHILLY. I heard him telling a power; and I’m thinking we’ll have right sport, before night will fall. [He goes out.]
JIMMY. Well, Philly’s a conceited and foolish man. How could that madman have his senses and his brain-pan slit? I’ll go after them and see him turn on Philly now. [He goes; Widow Quin hides poteen behind counter. Then hubbub outside.]
VOICES. There you are! Good jumper! Grand lepper! Darlint boy! He’s the racer! Bear him on, will you! [Christy comes in, in Jockey’s dress, with Pegeen Mike, Sara, and other girls, and men.]
PEGEEN [to crowd.] Go on now and don’t destroy him and he drenching with sweat. Go along, I’m saying, and have your tug-of-warring till he’s dried his skin.
CROWD. Here’s his prizes! A bagpipes! A fiddle was played by a poet in the years gone by! A flat and three-thorned blackthorn would lick the scholars out of Dublin town!
CHRISTY [taking prizes from the men.] Thank you kindly, the lot of you. But you’d say it was little only I did this day if you’d seen me a while since striking my one single blow.
TOWN CRIER [outside, ringing a bell.] Take notice, last event of this day! Tug-of-warring on the green below! Come on, the lot of you! Great achievements for all Mayo men!
PEGEEN. Go on, and leave him for to rest and dry. Go on, I tell you, for he’ll do no more. [She hustles crowd out; Widow Quin following them.]
MEN [going.] Come on then. Good luck for the while!
PEGEEN [radiantly, wiping his face with her shawl.] Well, you’re the lad, and you’ll have great times from this out when you could win that wealth of prizes, and you sweating in the heat of noon!
CHRISTY [looking at her with delight.] I’ll have great times if I win the crowning prize I’m seeking now, and that’s your promise that you’ll wed me in a fortnight, when our banns is called.
PEGEEN [backing away from him.] You’ve right daring to go ask me that, when all knows you’ll be starting to some girl in your own townland, when your father’s rotten in four months, or five.
CHRISTY [indignantly.] Starting from you, is it? [He follows her.] I will not, then, and when the airs is warming in four months, or five, it’s then yourself and me should be pacing Neifin in the dews of night, the times sweet smells do be rising, and you’d see a little shiny new moon, maybe, sinking on the hills.
PEGEEN [looking at him playfully.] And it’s that kind of a poacher’s love you’d make, Christy Mahon, on the sides of Neifin, when the night is down?
CHRISTY. It’s little you’ll think if my love’s a poacher’s, or an earl’s itself, when you’ll feel my two hands stretched around you, and I squeezing kisses on your puckered lips, till I’d feel a kind of pity for the Lord God is all ages sitting lonesome in his golden chair.
PEGEEN. That’ll be right fun, Christy Mahon, and any girl would walk her heart out before she’d meet a young man was your like for eloquence, or talk, at all.
CHRISTY [encouraged.] Let you wait, to hear me talking, till we’re astray in Erris, when Good Friday’s by, drinking a sup from a well, and making mighty kisses with our wetted mouths, or gaming in a gap or sunshine, with yourself stretched back unto your necklace, in the flowers of the earth.
PEGEEN [in a lower voice, moved by his tone.] I’d be nice so, is it?
CHRISTY [with rapture.] If the mitred bishops seen you that time, they’d be the like of the holy prophets, I’m thinking, do be straining the bars of Paradise to lay eyes on the Lady Helen of Troy, and she abroad, pacing back and forward, with a nosegay in her golden shawl.
PEGEEN [with real tenderness.] And what is it I have, Christy Mahon, to make me fitting entertainment for the like of you, that has such poet’s talking, and such bravery of heart?
CHRISTY [in a low voice.] Isn’t there the light of seven heavens in your heart alone, the way you’ll be an angel’s lamp to me from this out, and I abroad in the darkness, spearing salmons in the Owen, or the Carrowmore?
PEGEEN. If I was your wife, I’d be along with you those nights, Christy Mahon, the way you’d see I was a great hand at coaxing bailiffs, or coining funny nick-names for the stars of night.
CHRISTY. You, is it? Taking your death in the hailstones, or in the fogs of dawn.
PEGEEN. Yourself and me would shelter easy in a narrow bush, [with a qualm of dread] but we’re only talking, maybe, for this would be a poor, thatched place to hold a fine lad is the like of you.
CHRISTY [putting his arm round her.] If I wasn’t a good Christian, it’s on my naked knees I’d be saying my prayers and paters to every jackstraw you have roofing your head, and every stony pebble is paving the laneway to your door.
PEGEEN [radiantly.] If that’s the truth, I’ll be burning candles from this out to the miracles of God that have brought you from the south to-day, and I, with my gowns bought ready, the way that I can wed you, and not wait at all.
CHRISTY. It’s miracles, and that’s the truth. Me there toiling a long while, and walking a long while, not knowing at all I was drawing all times nearer to this holy day.
PEGEEN. And myself, a girl, was tempted often to go sailing the seas till I’d marry a Jew-man, with ten kegs of gold, and I not knowing at all there was the like of you drawing nearer, like the stars of God.
CHRISTY. And to think I’m long years hearing women talking that talk, to all bloody fools, and this the first time I’ve heard the like of your voice talking sweetly for my own delight.
PEGEEN. And to think it’s me is talking sweetly, Christy Mahon, and I the fright of seven townlands for my biting tongue. Well, the heart’s a wonder; and, I’m thinking, there won’t be our like in Mayo, for gallant lovers, from this hour, to-day. [Drunken singing is heard outside.] There’s my father coming from the wake, and when he’s had his sleep we’ll tell him, for he’s peaceful then. [They separate.]
MICHAEL [singing outside] The jailor and the turnkey They quickly ran us down, And brought us back as prisoners Once more to Cavan town. [He comes in supported by Shawn.] There we lay bewailing All in a prison bound. . . . [He sees Christy. Goes and shakes him drunkenly by the hand, while Pegeen and Shawn talk on the left.]
MICHAEL [to Christy.] The blessing of God and the holy angels on your head, young fellow. I hear tell you’re after winning all in the sports below; and wasn’t it a shame I didn’t bear you along with me to Kate Cassidy’s wake, a fine, stout lad, the like of you, for you’d never see the match of it for flows of drink, the way when we sunk her bones at noonday in her narrow grave, there were five men, aye, and six men, stretched out retching speechless on the holy stones.
CHRISTY [uneasily, watching Pegeen.] Is that the truth?
MICHAEL. It is then, and aren’t you a louty schemer to go burying your poor father unbeknownst when you’d a right to throw him on the crupper of a Kerry mule and drive him westwards, like holy Joseph in the days gone by, the way we could have given him a decent burial, and not have him rotting beyond, and not a Christian drinking a smart drop to the glory of his soul?
CHRISTY [gruffly.] It’s well enough he’s lying, for the likes of him.
MICHAEL [slapping him on the back.] Well, aren’t you a hardened slayer? It’ll be a poor thing for the household man where you go sniffing for a female wife; and [pointing to Shawn] look beyond at that shy and decent Christian I have chosen for my daughter’s hand, and I after getting the gilded dispensation this day for to wed them now.
CHRISTY. And you’ll be wedding them this day, is it?
MICHAEL [drawing himself up.] Aye. Are you thinking, if I’m drunk itself, I’d leave my daughter living single with a little frisky rascal is the like of you?
PEGEEN [breaking away from Shawn.] Is it the truth the dispensation’s come?
MICHAEL [triumphantly.] Father Reilly’s after reading it in gallous Latin, and “It’s come in the nick of time,” says he; “so I’ll wed them in a hurry, dreading that young gaffer who’d capsize the stars.”
PEGEEN [fiercely.] He’s missed his nick of time, for it’s that lad, Christy Mahon, that I’m wedding now.
MICHAEL [loudly with horror.] You’d be making him a son to me, and he wet and crusted with his father’s blood?
PEGEEN. Aye. Wouldn’t it be a bitter thing for a girl to go marrying the like of Shaneen, and he a middling kind of a scarecrow, with no savagery or fine words in him at all?
MICHAEL [gasping and sinking on a chair.] Oh, aren’t you a heathen daughter to go shaking the fat of my heart, and I swamped and drownded with the weight of drink? Would you have them turning on me the way that I’d be roaring to the dawn of day with the wind upon my heart? Have you not a word to aid me, Shaneen? Are you not jealous at all?
SHANEEN [In great misery.] I’d be afeard to be jealous of a man did slay his da.
PEGEEN. Well, it’d be a poor thing to go marrying your like. I’m seeing there’s a world of peril for an orphan girl, and isn’t it a great blessing I didn’t wed you, before himself came walking from the west or south?
SHAWN. It’s a queer story you’d go picking a dirty tramp up from the highways of the world.
PEGEEN [playfully.] And you think you’re a likely beau to go straying along with, the shiny Sundays of the opening year, when it’s sooner on a bullock’s liver you’d put a poor girl thinking than on the lily or the rose?
SHAWN. And have you no mind of my weight of passion, and the holy dispensation, and the drift of heifers I am giving, and the golden ring?
PEGEEN. I’m thinking you’re too fine for the like of me, Shawn Keogh of Killakeen, and let you go off till you’d find a radiant lady with droves of bullocks on the plains of Meath, and herself bedizened in the diamond jewelleries of Pharaoh’s ma. That’d be your match, Shaneen. So God save you now! [She retreats behind Christy.]
SHAWN. Won’t you hear me telling you. . . ?
CHRISTY [with ferocity.] Take yourself from this, young fellow, or I’ll maybe add a murder to my deeds to-day.
MICHAEL [springing up with a shriek.] Murder is it? Is it mad yous are? Would you go making murder in this place, and it piled with poteen for our drink to-night? Go on to the foreshore if it’s fighting you want, where the rising tide will wash all traces from the memory of man. [Pushing Shawn towards Christy.]
SHAWN [shaking himself free, and getting behind Michael.] I’ll not fight him, Michael James. I’d liefer live a bachelor, simmering in passions to the end of time, than face a lepping savage the like of him has descended from the Lord knows where. Strike him yourself, Michael James, or you’ll lose my drift of heifers and my blue bull from Sneem.
MICHAEL. Is it me fight him, when it’s father-slaying he’s bred to now? [Pushing Shawn.] Go on you fool and fight him now.
SHAWN [coming forward a little.] Will I strike him with my hand?
MICHAEL. Take the loy is on your western side.
SHAWN. I’d be afeard of the gallows if I struck him with that.
CHRISTY [taking up the loy.] Then I’ll make you face the gallows or quit off from this. [Shawn flies out of the door.]
CHRISTY. Well, fine weather be after him, [going to Michael, coaxingly] and I’m thinking you wouldn’t wish to have that quaking blackguard in your house at all. Let you give us your blessing and hear her swear her faith to me, for I’m mounted on the spring-tide of the stars of luck, the way it’ll be good for any to have me in the house.
PEGEEN [at the other side of Michael.] Bless us now, for I swear to God I’ll wed him, and I’ll not renege.
MICHAEL [standing up in the centre, holding on to both of them.] It’s the will of God, I’m thinking, that all should win an easy or a cruel end, and it’s the will of God that all should rear up lengthy families for the nurture of the earth. What’s a single man, I ask you, eating a bit in one house and drinking a sup in another, and he with no place of his own, like an old braying jackass strayed upon the rocks? [To Christy.] It’s many would be in dread to bring your like into their house for to end them, maybe, with a sudden end; but I’m a decent man of Ireland, and I liefer face the grave untimely and I seeing a score of grandsons growing up little gallant swearers by the name of God, than go peopling my bedside with puny weeds the like of what you’d breed, I’m thinking, out of Shaneen Keogh. [He joins their hands.] A daring fellow is the jewel of the world, and a man did split his father’s middle with a single clout, should have the bravery of ten, so may God and Mary and St. Patrick bless you, and increase you from this mortal day.
CHRISTY AND PEGEEN. Amen, O Lord!
[Old Mahon rushes in, followed by all the crowd, and Widow Quin. He makesa rush at Christy, knocks him down,and begins to beat him.]
PEGEEN [dragging back his arm.] Stop that, will you. Who are you at all?
MAHON. His father, God forgive me!
PEGEEN [drawing back.] Is it rose from the dead?
MAHON. Do you think I look so easy quenched with the tap of a loy? [Beats Christy again.]
PEGEEN [glaring at Christy.] And it’s lies you told, letting on you had him slitted, and you nothing at all.
CHRISTY [clutching Mahon’s stick.] He’s not my father. He’s a raving maniac would scare the world. [Pointing to Widow Quin.] Herself knows it is true.
CROWD. You’re fooling Pegeen! The Widow Quin seen him this day, and you likely knew! You’re a liar!
CHRISTY [dumbfounded.] It’s himself was a liar, lying stretched out with an open head on him, letting on he was dead.
MAHON. Weren’t you off racing the hills before I got my breath with the start I had seeing you turn on me at all?
PEGEEN. And to think of the coaxing glory we had given him, and he after doing nothing but hitting a soft blow and chasing northward in a sweat of fear. Quit off from this.
CHRISTY [piteously.] You’ve seen my doings this day, and let you save me from the old man; for why would you be in such a scorch of haste to spur me to destruction now?
PEGEEN. It’s there your treachery is spurring me, till I’m hard set to think you’re the one I’m after lacing in my heart-strings half-an-hour gone by. [To Mahon.] Take him on from this, for I think bad the world should see me raging for a Munster liar, and the fool of men.
MAHON. Rise up now to retribution, and come on with me.
CROWD [jeeringly.] There’s the playboy! There’s the lad thought he’d rule the roost in Mayo. Slate him now, mister.
CHRISTY [getting up in shy terror.] What is it drives you to torment me here, when I’d asked the thunders of the might of God to blast me if I ever did hurt to any saving only that one single blow.
MAHON [loudly.] If you didn’t, you’re a poor good-for-nothing, and isn’t it by the like of you the sins of the whole world are committed?
CHRISTY [raising his hands.] In the name of the Almighty God. . . .
MAHON. Leave troubling the Lord God. Would you have him sending down droughts, and fevers, and the old hen and the cholera morbus?
CHRISTY [to Widow Quin.] Will you come between us and protect me now?
WIDOW QUIN. I’ve tried a lot, God help me, and my share is done.
CHRISTY [looking round in desperation.] And I must go back into my torment is it, or run off like a vagabond straying through the Unions with the dusts of August making mudstains in the gullet of my throat, or the winds of March blowing on me till I’d take an oath I felt them making whistles of my ribs within?
SARA. Ask Pegeen to aid you. Her like does often change.
CHRISTY. I will not then, for there’s torment in the splendour of her like, and she a girl any moon of midnight would take pride to meet, facing southwards on the heaths of Keel. But what did I want crawling forward to scorch my understanding at her flaming brow?
PEGEEN [to Mahon, vehemently, fearing she will break into tears.] Take him on from this or I’ll set the young lads to destroy him here.
MAHON [going to him, shaking his stick.] Come on now if you wouldn’t have the company to see you skelped.
PEGEEN [half laughing, through her tears.] That’s it, now the world will see him pandied, and he an ugly liar was playing off the hero, and the fright of men.
CHRISTY [to Mahon, very sharply.] Leave me go!
CROWD. That’s it. Now Christy. If them two set fighting, it will lick the world.
MAHON [making a grab at Christy.] Come here to me.
CHRISTY [more threateningly.] Leave me go, I’m saying.
MAHON. I will maybe, when your legs is limping, and your back is blue. CROWD. Keep it up, the two of you. I’ll back the old one. Now the playboy.
CHRISTY [in low and intense voice.] Shut your yelling, for if you’re after making a mighty man of me this day by the power of a lie, you’re setting me now to think if it’s a poor thing to be lonesome, it’s worse maybe to go mixing with the fools of earth. [Mahon makes a movement towards him.]
CHRISTY [almost shouting.] Keep off . . . lest I do show a blow unto the lot of you would set the guardian angels winking in the clouds above. [He swings round with a sudden rapid movement and picks up a loy.]
CROWD [half frightened, half amused.] He’s going mad! Mind yourselves! Run from the idiot!
CHRISTY. If I am an idiot, I’m after hearing my voice this day saying words would raise the topknot on a poet in a merchant’s town. I’ve won your racing, and your lepping, and . . .
MAHON. Shut your gullet and come on with me.
CHRISTY. I’m going, but I’ll stretch you first. [He runs at old Mahon with the loy, chases him out of the door, followed by crowd and Widow Quin. There is a great noise outside, then a yell, and dead silence for a moment. Christy comes in, half dazed, and goes to fire.]
WIDOW QUIN [coming in, hurriedly, and going to him.] They’re turning again you. Come on, or you’ll be hanged, indeed.
CHRISTY. I’m thinking, from this out, Pegeen’ll be giving me praises the same as in the hours gone by.
WIDOW QUIN [impatiently.] Come by the back-door. I’d think bad to have you stifled on the gallows tree.
CHRISTY [indignantly.] I will not, then. What good’d be my life-time, if I left Pegeen?
WIDOW QUIN. Come on, and you’ll be no worse than you were last night; and you with a double murder this time to be telling to the girls.
CHRISTY. I’ll not leave Pegeen Mike.
WIDOW QUIN [impatiently.] Isn’t there the match of her in every parish public, from Binghamstown unto the plain of Meath? Come on, I tell you, and I’ll find you finer sweethearts at each waning moon.
CHRISTY. It’s Pegeen I’m seeking only, and what’d I care if you brought me a drift of chosen females, standing in their shifts itself, maybe, from this place to the Eastern World?
SARA [runs in, pulling off one of her petticoats.] They’re going to hang him. [Holding out petticoat and shawl.] Fit these upon him, and let him run off to the east.
WIDOW QUIN. He’s raving now; but we’ll fit them on him, and I’ll take him, in the ferry, to the Achill boat.
CHRISTY [struggling feebly.] Leave me go, will you? when I’m thinking of my luck to-day, for she will wed me surely, and I a proven hero in the end of all. [They try to fasten petticoat round him.]
WIDOW QUIN. Take his left hand, and we’ll pull him now. Come on, young fellow.
CHRISTY [suddenly starting up.] You’ll be taking me from her? You’re jealous, is it, of her wedding me? Go on from this. [He snatches up a stool, and threatens them with it.]
WIDOW QUIN [going.] It’s in the mad-house they should put him, not in jail, at all. We’ll go by the back-door, to call the doctor, and we’ll save him so. [She goes out, with Sara, through inner room. Men crowd in the doorway. Christy sits down again by the fire.]
MICHAEL [in a terrified whisper.] Is the old lad killed surely?
PHILLY. I’m after feeling the last gasps quitting his heart. [They peer in at Christy.]
MICHAEL [with a rope.] Look at the way he is. Twist a hangman’s knot on it, and slip it over his head, while he’s not minding at all.
PHILLY. Let you take it, Shaneen. You’re the soberest of all that’s here.
SHAWN. Is it me to go near him, and he the wickedest and worst with me? Let you take it, Pegeen Mike.
PEGEEN. Come on, so. [She goes forward with the others, and they drop the double hitch over his head.]
CHRISTY. What ails you?
SHAWN [triumphantly, as they pull the rope tight on his arms.] Come on to the peelers, till they stretch you now.
MICHAEL. If we took pity on you, the Lord God would, maybe, bring us ruin from the law to-day, so you’d best come easy, for hanging is an easy and a speedy end.
CHRISTY. I’ll not stir. [To Pegeen.] And what is it you’ll say to me, and I after doing it this time in the face of all?
PEGEEN. I’ll say, a strange man is a marvel, with his mighty talk; but what’s a squabble in your back-yard, and the blow of a loy, have taught me that there’s a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed. [To Men.] Take him on from this, or the lot of us will be likely put on trial for his deed to-day.
CHRISTY [with horror in his voice.] And it’s yourself will send me off, to have a horny-fingered hangman hitching his bloody slip-knots at the butt of my ear.
MEN [pulling rope.] Come on, will you? [He is pulled down on the floor.]
CHRISTY [twisting his legs round the table.] Cut the rope, Pegeen, and I’ll quit the lot of you, and live from this out, like the madmen of Keel, eating muck and green weeds, on the faces of the cliffs.
PEGEEN. And leave us to hang, is it, for a saucy liar, the like of you? [To men.] Take him on, out from this.
SHAWN. Pull a twist on his neck, and squeeze him so.
PHILLY. Twist yourself. Sure he cannot hurt you, if you keep your distance from his teeth alone.
SHAWN. I’m afeard of him. [To Pegeen.] Lift a lighted sod, will you, and scorch his leg.
PEGEEN [blowing the fire, with a bellows.] Leave go now, young fellow, or I’ll scorch your shins.
CHRISTY. You’re blowing for to torture me [His voice rising and growing stronger.] That’s your kind, is it? Then let the lot of you be wary, for, if I’ve to face the gallows, I’ll have a gay march down, I tell you, and shed the blood of some of you before I die.
SHAWN [in terror.] Keep a good hold, Philly. Be wary, for the love of God. For I’m thinking he would liefest wreak his pains on me.
CHRISTY [almost gaily.] If I do lay my hands on you, it’s the way you’ll be at the fall of night, hanging as a scarecrow for the fowls of hell. Ah, you’ll have a gallous jaunt I’m saying, coaching out through Limbo with my father’s ghost.
SHAWN [to Pegeen.] Make haste, will you? Oh, isn’t he a holy terror, and isn’t it true for Father Reilly, that all drink’s a curse that has the lot of you so shaky and uncertain now?
CHRISTY. If I can wring a neck among you, I’ll have a royal judgment looking on the trembling jury in the courts of law. And won’t there be crying out in Mayo the day I’m stretched upon the rope with ladies in their silks and satins snivelling in their lacy kerchiefs, and they rhyming songs and ballads on the terror of my fate? [He squirms round on the floor and bitesShawn’s leg.]
SHAWN [shrieking.] My leg’s bit on me. He’s the like of a mad dog, I’m thinking, the way that I will surely die.
CHRISTY [delighted with himself.] You will then, the way you can shake out hell’s flags of welcome for my coming in two weeks or three, for I’m thinking Satan hasn’t many have killed their da in Kerry, and in Mayo too. [Old Mahon comes in behind on all fours and looks on unnoticed.]
MEN [to Pegeen.] Bring the sod, will you?
PEGEEN [coming over.] God help him so. [Burns his leg.]
CHRISTY [kicking and screaming.] O, glory be to God! [He kicks loose from the table, and they all drag him towards the door.]
JIMMY [seeing old Mahon.] Will you look what’s come in? [They all drop Christy and run left.]
CHRISTY [scrambling on his knees face to face with old Mahon.] Are you coming to be killed a third time, or what ails you now?
MAHON. For what is it they have you tied?
CHRISTY. They’re taking me to the peelers to have me hanged for slaying you.
MICHAEL [apologetically.] It is the will of God that all should guard their little cabins from the treachery of law, and what would my daughter be doing if I was ruined or was hanged itself?
MAHON [grimly, loosening Christy.] It’s little I care if you put a bag on her back, and went picking cockles till the hour of death; but my son and myself will be going our own way, and we’ll have great times from this out telling stories of the villainy of Mayo, and the fools is here. [To Christy, who is freed.] Come on now.
CHRISTY. Go with you, is it? I will then, like a gallant captain with his heathen slave. Go on now and I’ll see you from this day stewing my oatmeal and washing my spuds, for I’m master of all fights from now. [Pushing Mahon.] Go on, I’m saying.
MAHON. Is it me?
CHRISTY. Not a word out of you. Go on from this.
MAHON [walking out and looking back at Christy over his shoulder.] Glory be to God! [With a broad smile.] I am crazy again! [Goes.]
CHRISTY. Ten thousand blessings upon all that’s here, for you’ve turned me a likely gaffer in the end of all, the way I’ll go romancing through a romping lifetime from this hour to the dawning of the judgment day. [He goes out.]
MICHAEL. By the will of God, we’ll have peace now for our drinks. Will you draw the porter, Pegeen?
SHAWN [going up to her.] It’s a miracle Father Reilly can wed us in the end of all, and we’ll have none to trouble us when his vicious bite is healed.
PEGEEN [hitting him a box on the ear.] Quit my sight. [Putting her shawl over her head and breaking out into wild lamentations.] Oh my grief, I’ve lost him surely. I’ve lost the only Playboy of the Western World.