Home  »  The Playboy of the Western World  »  Act Two

J.M. Synge (1861–1909). The Playboy of the Western World. 1911.

Act Two

SCENE, (as before. Brilliant morning light. CHRISTY, looking bright and cheerful, is cleaning a girl’s boots.)

CHRISTY(to himself, counting jugs on dresser).Half a hundred beyond. Ten there. A score that’s above. Eighty jugs. Six cups and a broken one. Two plates. A power of glasses. Bottles, a school-master’d be hard set to count, and enough in them, I’m thinking, to drunken all the wealth and wisdom of the County Clare. (He puts down the boot carefully) There’s her boots now, nice and decent for her evening use, and isn’t it grand brushes she has? (He puts them down and goes by degrees to the looking-glass) Well, this’d be a fine place to be my whole life talking out with swearing Christians, in place of my old dogs and cat, and I stalking around, smoking my pipe and drinking my fill, and never a day’s work but drawing a cork an odd time, or wiping a glass, or rinsing out a shiny tumbler for a decent man. (He takes the looking-glass from the wall and puts it on the back of a chair; then sits down in front of it and begins washing his face) Didn’t I know rightly I was handsome, though it was the divil’s own mirror we had beyond, would twist a squint across an angel’s brow; and I’ll be growing fine from this day, the way I’ll have a soft lovely skin on me and won’t be the like of the clumsy young fellows do be ploughing all times in the earth and dung. (He starts) Is she coming again? (He looks out) Stranger girls. God help me, where’ll I hide myself away and my long neck nacked to the world? (He looks out) I’d best go to the room maybe till I’m dressed again. (He gathers up his coat and the looking-glass, and runs into the inner room. The door is pushed open, and Susan Brady looks in, and knocks on door.)

SUSAN.There’s nobody in it. (Knocks again.)

NELLY(pushing her in and following her, with HONOR BLAKE and SARA TANSEY).It’d be early for them both to be out walking the hill.

SUSAN.I’m thinking Shawn Keogh was making game of us and there’s no such man in it at all.

HONOR(pointing to straw and quilt).Look at that. He’s been sleeping there in the night. Well, it’ll be a hard case if he’s gone off now, the way we’ll never set our eyes on a man killed his father, and we after rising early and destroying ourselves running fast on the hill.

NELLY.Are you thinking them’s his boots?

SARA(taking them up).If they are, there should be his father’s track on them. Did you never read in the papers the way murdered men do bleed and drip?

SUSAN.Is that blood there, Sara Tansey?

SARAH(smelling it).That’s bog water, I’m thinking, but it’s his own they are surely, for I never seen the like of them for whity mud, and red mud, and turf on them, and the fine sands of the sea. That man’s been walking, I’m telling you. (She goes down right, putting on one of his boots.)

SUSAN(going to window).Maybe he’s stolen off to Belmullet with the boots of Michael James, and you’d have a right so to follow after him, Sara Tansey, and you the one yoked the ass cart and drove ten miles to set your eyes on the man bit the yellow lady’s nostril on the northern shore. (She looks out.)

SARA(running to window with one boot on).Don’t be talking, and we fooled to-day. (Putting on other boot.) There’s a pair do fit me well, and I’ll be keeping them for walking to the priest, when you’d be ashamed this place, going up winter and summer with nothing worth while to confess at all.

HONOR(who has been listening at the door).Whisht! there’s someone inside the room. (She pushes door a chink open) It’s a man.

(Sara kicks off boots and puts them where they were. They all stand in a line looking through chink.)

SARA.I’ll call him. Mister! Mister! (He puts in his head) Is Pegeen within?

CHRISTY(coming in as meek as a mouse, with the looking-glass held behind his back).She’s above on the cnuceen, seeking the nanny goats, the way she’d have a sup of goat’s milk for to colour my tea.

SARA.And asking your pardon, is it you’s the man killed his father?

CHRISTY(sidling toward the nail where the glass was hanging).I am, God help me!

SARA(taking eggs she has brought).Then my thousand welcomes to you, and I’ve run up with a brace of duck’s eggs for your food today. Pegeen’s ducks is no use, but these are the real rich sort. Hold out your hand and you’ll see it’s no lie I’m telling you.

CHRISTY(coming forward shyly, and holding out his left hand).They’re a great and weighty size.

SUSAN.And I run up with a pat of butter, for it’d be a poor thing to have you eating your spuds dry, and you after running a great way since you did destroy your da.

CHRISTY.Thank you kindly.

HONOR. And I brought you a little cut of cake, for you should have a thin stomach on you, and you that length walking the world.

NELLY.And I brought you a little laying pullet—boiled and all she is—was crushed at the fall of night by the curate’s car. Feel the fat of that breast, Mister.

CHRISTY.It’s bursting, surely. (He feels it with the back of his hand, in which he holds the presents.)

SARA.Will you pinch it? Is your right hand too sacred for to use at all? (She slips round behind him) It’s a glass he has. Well, I never seen to this day a man with a looking-glass held to his back. Them that kills their fathers is a vain lot surely.

(Girls giggle.)

CHRISTY(smiling innocently and piling presents on glass).I’m very thankful to you all to-day…

WIDOW QUIN(coming in quickly, at door).Sara Tansey, Susan Brady, Honor Blake! What in glory has you here at this hour of day?

GIRLS(giggling).That’s the man killed his father.

WIDOW QUIN(coming to them).I know well it’s the man; and I’m after putting him down in the sports below for racing, leaping, pitching, and the Lord knows what.

SARA(exuberantly).That’s right, Widow Quin. I’ll bet my dowry that he’ll lick the world.

WIDOW QUIN.If you will, you’d have a right to have him fresh and nourished in place of nursing a feast. (Taking presents.) Are you fasting or fed, young fellow?

CHRISTY.Fasting, if you please.

WIDOW QUIN(loudly).Well, you’re the lot. Stir up now and give him his breakfast. (To CHRISTY) Come here to me (she puts him on bench beside her while the girls make tea and get his breakfast) and let you tell us your story before Pegeen will come, in place of grinning your ears off like the moon of May.

CHRISTY(beginning to be pleased).It’s a long story; you’d be destroyed listening.

WIDOW QUIN.Don’t be letting on to be shy, a fine, gamey, treacherous lad the like of you. Was it in your house beyond you cracked his skull?

CHRISTY(shy but flattered).It was not. We were digging spuds in his cold, sloping, stony, divil’s patch of a field.

WIDOW QUIN.And you went asking money of him, or making talk of getting a wife would drive him from his farm?

CHRISTY.I did not, then; but there I was, digging and digging, and “You squinting idiot,” says he, “let you walk down now and tell the priest you’ll wed the Widow Casey in a score of days.”

WIDOW QUIN.And what kind was she?

CHRISTY(with horror).A walking terror from beyond the hills, and she two score and five years, and two hundredweights and five pounds in the weighing scales, with a limping leg on her, and a blinded eye, and she a woman of noted misbehaviour with the old and young.

GIRLS(clustering round him, serving him).Glory be.

WIDOW QUIN.And what did he want driving you to wed with her? (She takes a bit of the chicken.)

CHRISTY(eating with growing satisfaction).He was letting on I was wanting a protector from the harshness of the world, and he without a thought the whole while but how he’d have her hut to live in and her gold to drink.

WIDOW QUIN.There’s maybe worse than a dry hearth and a widow woman and your glass at night. So you hit him then?

CHRISTY(getting almost excited).I did not. “I won’t wed her,” says I, “when all know she did suckle me for six weeks when I came into the world, and she a hag this day with a tongue on her has the crows and seabirds scattered, the way they wouldn’t cast a shadow on her garden with the dread of her curse.”

WIDOW QUIN(teasingly).That one should be right company.

SARA(eagerly).Don’t mind her. Did you kill him then?

CHRISTY.“She’s too good for the like of you,” says he, “and go on now or I’ll flatten you out like a crawling beast has passed under a dray.” “You will not if I can help it,” says I. “Go on,” says he, “or I’ll have the divil making garters of your limbs tonight.” “You will not if I can help it,” says I. (He sits up, brandishing his mug.)

SARA.You were right surely.

CHRISTY(impressively).With that the sun came out between the cloud and the hill, and it shining green in my face. “God have mercy on your soul,” says he, lifting a scythe; “or on your own,” says I, raising the loy.

SUSAN.That’s a grand story.

HONOR.He tells it lovely.

CHRISTY(flattered and confident, waving bone).He gave a drive with the scythe, and I gave a lep to the east. Then I turned around with my back to the north, and I hit a blow on the ridge of his skull, laid him stretched out, and he split to the knob of his gullet. (He raises the chicken bone to his Adam’s apple.)

GIRLS(together).Well, you’re a marvel! Oh, God bless you! You’re the lad surely!

SUSAN.I’m thinking the Lord God sent him this road to make a second husband to the Widow Quin, and she with a great yearning to be wedded, though all dread her here. Lift him on her knee, Sara Tansey.

WIDOW QUIN.Don’t tease him.

SARA(going over to dresser and counter very quickly, and getting two glasses and porter).You’re heroes surely, and let you drink a supeen with your arms linked like the outlandish lovers in the sailor’s song. (She links their arms and gives them the glasses) There now. Drink a health to the wonders of the western world, the pirates, preachers, poteen-makers, with the jobbing jockies; parching peelers, and the juries fill their stomachs selling judgments of the English law. (Brandishing the bottle.)

WIDOW QUIN.That’s a right toast, Sara Tansey. Now Christy.

(They drink with their arms linked, he drinking with his left hand, she with her right. As they are drinking, PEGEEN MIKE comes in with a milk can and stands aghast. They all spring away from CHRISTY. He goes down left. WIDOW QUIN remains seated.)

PEGEEN(angrily, to Sara).What is it you’re wanting?

SARA(twisting her apron).An ounce of tobacco.

PEGEEN.Have you tuppence?

SARA.I’ve forgotten my purse.

PEGEEN.Then you’d best be getting it and not fooling us here. (To the WIDOW QUIN, with more elaborate scorn.) And what is it you’re wanting, Widow Quin?

WIDOW QUIN(insolently).A penn’orth of starch.

PEGEEN(breaking out).And you without a white shift or a shirt in your whole family since the drying of the flood. I’ve no starch for the like of you, and let you walk on now to Killamuck.

WIDOW QUIN(turning to CHRISTY, as she goes out with the girls).Well, you’re mighty huffy this day, Pegeen Mike, and, you young fellow, let you not forget the sports and racing when the noon is by.

(They go out.)

PEGEEN(imperiously).Fling out that rubbish and put them cups away. (CHRISTY tidies away in great haste) Shove in the bench by the wall. (He does so.) And hang that glass on the nail. What disturbed it at all?

CHRISTY(very meekly).I was making myself decent only, and this a fine country for young lovely girls.

PEGEEN(sharply).Whisht your talking of girls. (Goes to counter—right.)

CHRISTY.Wouldn’t any wish to be decent in a place…

PEGEEN.Whisht I’m saying.

CHRISTY(looks at her face for a moment with great misgivings, then as a last effort, takes up a loy, and goes towards her, with feigned assurance) It was with a loy the like of that I killed my father.

PEGEEN(still sharply).You’ve told me that story six times since the dawn of day.

CHRISTY(reproachfully).It’s a queer thing you wouldn’t care to be hearing it and them girls after walking four miles to be listening to me now.

PEGEEN(turning round astonished).Four miles.

CHRISTY(apologetically).Didn’t himself say there were only four bona fides living in the place?

PEGEEN.It’s bona fides by the road they are, but that lot came over the river lepping the stones. It’s not three perches when you go like that, and I was down this morning looking on the papers the post-boy does have in his bag. (With meaning and emphasis) For there was great news this day, Christopher Mahon. (She goes into room left.)

CHRISTY(suspiciously).Is it news of my murder?

PEGEEN(inside).Murder, indeed.

CHRISTY(loudly).A murdered da?

PEGEEN(coming in again and crossing right).There was not, but a story filled half a page of the hanging of a man. Ah, that should be a fearful end, young fellow, and it worst of all for a man who destroyed his da, for the like of him would get small mercies, and when it’s dead he is, they’d put him in a narrow grave, with cheap sacking wrapping him round, and pour down quicklime on his head, the way you’d see a woman pouring any frish-frash from a cup.

CHRISTY(very miserably).Oh, God help me. Are you thinking I’m safe? You were saying at the fall of night, I was shut of jeopardy and I here with yourselves.

PEGEEN(severely).You’ll be shut of jeopardy no place if you go talking with a pack of wild girls the like of them do be walking abroad with the peelers, talking whispers at the fall of night.

CHRISTY(with terror).And you’re thinking they’d tell?

PEGEEN(with mock sympathy).Who knows, God help you.

CHRISTY(loudly).What joy would they have to bring hanging to the likes of me?

PEGEEN.It’s queer joys they have, and who knows the thing they’d do, if it’d make the green stones cry itself to think of you swaying and swiggling at the butt of a rope, and you with a fine, stout neck, God bless you! the way you’d be a half an hour, in great anguish, getting your death.

CHRISTY(getting his boots and putting them on).If there’s that terror of them, it’d be best, maybe, I went on wandering like Esau or Cain and Abel on the sides of Neifin or the Erris plain.

PEGEEN(beginning to play with him).It would, maybe, for I’ve heard the Circuit Judges this place is a heartless crew.

CHRISTY(bitterly).It’s more than Judges this place is a heartless crew. (Looking up at her) And isn’t it a poor thing to be starting again and I a lonesome fellow will be looking out on women and girls the way the needy fallen spirits do be looking on the Lord?

PEGEEN.What call have you to be that lonesome when there’s poor girls walking Mayo in their thousands now?

CHRISTY(grimly).It’s well you know what call I have. It’s well you know it’s a lonesome thing to be passing small towns with the lights shining sideways when the night is down, or going in strange places with a dog nosing before you and a dog nosing behind, or drawn to the cities where you’d hear a voice kissing and talking deep love in every shadow of the ditch, and you passing on with an empty, hungry stomach failing from your heart.

PEGEEN.I’m thinking you’re an odd man, Christy Mahon. The oddest walking fellow I ever set my eyes on to this hour to-day.

CHRISTY.What would any be but odd men and they living lonesome in the world?

PEGEEN.I’m not odd, and I’m my whole life with my father only.

CHRISTY(with infinite admiration).How would a lovely handsome woman the like of you be lonesome when all men should be thronging around to hear the sweetness of your voice, and the little infant children should be pestering your steps I’m thinking, and you walking the roads.

PEGEEN.I’m hard set to know what way a coaxing fellow the like of yourself should be lonesome either.


PEGEEN.Would you have me think a man never talked with the girls would have the words you’ve spoken to-day? It’s only letting on you are to be lonesome, the way you’d get around me now.

CHRISTY.I wish to God I was letting on; but I was lonesome all times, and born lonesome, I’m thinking, as the moon of dawn. (Going to door.)

PEGEEN(puzzled by his talk).Well, it’s a story I’m not understanding at all why you’d be worse than another, Christy Mahon, and you a fine lad with the great savagery to destroy your da.

CHRISTY.It’s little I’m understanding myself, saving only that my heart’s scalded this day, and I going off stretching out the earth between us, the way I’ll not be waking near you another dawn of the year till the two of us do arise to hope or judgment with the saints of God, and now I’d best be going with my wattle in my hand, for hanging is a poor thing (turning to go), and it’s little welcome only is left me in this house to-day.

PEGEEN(sharply).Christy! (He turns round) Come here to me. (He goes towards her) Lay down that switch and throw some sods on the fire. You’re pot-boy in this place, and I’ll not have you mitch off from us now.

CHRISTY.You were saying I’d be hanged if I stay.

PEGEEN(quite kindly at last).I’m after going down and reading the fearful crimes of Ireland for two weeks or three, and there wasn’t a word of your murder. (Getting up and going over to the counter) They’ve likely not found the body. You’re safe so with ourselves.

CHRISTY(astonished, slowly).It’s making game of me you were (following her with fearful joy), and I can stay so, working at your side, and I not lonesome from this mortal day.

PEGEEN.What’s to hinder you from staying, except the widow woman or the young girls would inveigle you off?

CHRISTY(with rapture).And I’ll have your words from this day filling my ears, and that look is come upon you meeting my two eyes, and I watching you loafing around in the warm sun, or rinsing your ankles when the night is come.

PEGEEN(kindly, but a little embarrassed).I’m thinking you’ll be a loyal young lad to have working around, and if you vexed me a while since with your leaguing with the girls, I wouldn’t give a thraneen for a lad hadn’t a mighty spirit in him and a gamey heart.

(SHAWN KEOGH runs in carrying a cleeve on his back, followed by the WIDOW QUIN.)

SHAWN(to PEGEEN).I was passing below, and I seen your mountainy sheep eating cabbages in Jimmy’s field. Run up or they’ll be bursting surely.

PEGEEN.Oh, God mend them! (She puts a shawl over her head and runs out.)

CHRISTY(looking from one to the other. Still in high spirits).I’d best go to her aid maybe. I’m handy with ewes.

WIDOW QUIN(closing the door).She can do that much, and there is Shaneen has long speeches for to tell you now. (She sits down with an amused smile.)

SHAWN(taking something from his pocket and offering it to CHRISTY).Do you see that, mister?

CHRISTY(looking at it).The half of a ticket to the Western States!

SHAWN(trembling with anxiety).I’ll give it to you and my new hat (pulling it out of hamper); and my breeches with the double seat (pulling it off); and my new coat is woven from the blackest shearings for three miles around (giving him the coat); I’ll give you the whole of them, and my blessing, and the blessing of Father Reilly itself, maybe, if you’ll quit from this and leave us in the peace we had till last night at the fall of dark.

CHRISTY(with a new arrogance).And for what is it you’re wanting to get shut of me?

SHAWN(looking to the WIDOW for help).I’m a poor scholar with middling faculties to coin a lie, so I’ll tell you the truth, Christy Mahon. I’m wedding with Pegeen beyond, and I don’t think well of having a clever fearless man the like of you dwelling in her house.

CHRISTY(almost pugnaciously).And you’d be using bribery for to banish me?

SHAWN(in an imploring voice).Let you not take it badly, mister honey, isn’t beyond the best place for you where you’ll have golden chains and shiny coats and you riding upon hunters with the ladies of the land. (He makes an eager sign to the WIDOW QUIN to come to help him.)

WIDOW QUIN(coming over).It’s true for him, and you’d best quit off and not have that poor girl setting her mind on you, for there’s Shaneen thinks she wouldn’t suit you though all is saying that she’ll wed you now.

(CHRISTY beams with delight.)

SHAWN(in terrified earnest).She wouldn’t suit you, and she with the divil’s own temper the way you’d be strangling one another in a score of days. (He makes the movement of strangling with his hands) It’s the like of me only that she’s fit for, a quiet simple fellow wouldn’t raise a hand upon her if she scratched itself.

WIDOW QUIN(putting SHAWN’S hat on CHRISTY).Fit them clothes on you anyhow, young fellow, and he’d maybe loan them to you for the sports. (Pushing him towards inner door) Fit them on and you can give your answer when you have them tried.

CHRISTY(beaming, delighted with the clothes).I will then. I’d like herself to see me in them tweeds and hat. (He goes into room and shuts the door.)

SHAWN(in great anxiety).He’d like herself to see them. He’ll not leave us, Widow Quin. He’s a score of divils in him the way it’s well nigh certain he will wed Pegeen.

WIDOW QUIN(jeeringly).It’s true all girls are fond of courage and do hate the like of you.

SHAWN(walking about in desperation).Oh, Widow Quin, what’ll I be doing now? I’d inform again him, but he’d burst from Kilmainham and he’d be sure and certain to destroy me. If I wasn’t so God-fearing, I’d near have courage to come behind him and run a pike into his side. Oh, it’s a hard case to be an orphan and not to have your father that you’re used to, and you’d easy kill and make yourself a hero in the sight of all. (Coming up to her) Oh, Widow Quin, will you find me some contrivance when I’ve promised you a ewe?

WIDOW QUIN.A ewe’s a small thing, but what would you give me if I did wed him and did save you so?

SHAWN(with astonishment).You?

WIDOW QUIN.Aye. Would you give me the red cow you have and the mountainy ram, and the right of way across your rye path, and a load of dung at Michaelmas, and turbary upon the western hill?

SHAWN(radiant with hope).I would surely, and I’d give you the wedding-ring I have, and the loan of a new suit, the way you’d have him decent on the wedding-day. I’d give you two kids for your dinner, and a gallon of poteen, and I’d call the piper on the long car to your wedding from Crossmolina or from Ballina. I’d give you…

WIDOW QUIN.That’ll do so, and let you whisht, for he’s coming now again.

(CHRISTY comes in very natty in the new clothes. WIDOW QUIN goes to him admiringly.)

WIDOW QUIN.If you seen yourself now, I’m thinking you’d be too proud to speak to us at all, and it’d be a pity surely to have your like sailing from Mayo to the Western World.

CHRISTY(as proud as a peacock).I’m not going. If this is a poor place itself, I’ll make myself contented to be lodging here.

(WIDOW QUIN makes a sign to SHAWN to leave them.)

SHAWN.Well, I’m going measuring the race-course while the tide is low, so I’ll leave you the garments and my blessing for the sports to-day. God bless you! (He wriggles out.)

WIDOW QUIN(admiring CHRISTY).Well, you’re mighty spruce, young fellow. Sit down now while you’re quiet till you talk with me.

CHRISTY(swaggering).I’m going abroad on the hillside for to seek Pegeen.

WIDOW QUIN.You’ll have time and plenty for to seek Pegeen, and you heard me saying at the fall of night the two of us should be great company.

CHRISTY.From this out I’ll have no want of company when all sorts is bringing me their food and clothing (he swaggers to the door, tightening his belt), the way they’d set their eyes upon a gallant orphan cleft his father with one blow to the breeches belt. (He opens door, then staggers back) Saints of glory! Holy angels from the throne of light!

WIDOW QUIN(going over).What ails you?

CHRISTY.It’s the walking spirit of my murdered da?

WIDOW QUIN(looking out).Is it that tramper?

CHRISTY(wildly).Where’ll I hide my poor body from that ghost of hell?

(The door is pushed open, and old MAHON appears on threshold. CHRISTY darts in behind door.)

WIDOW QUIN(in great amusement).Cod save you, my poor man.

MAHON(gruffly).Did you see a young lad passing this way in the early morning or the fall of night?

WIDOW QUIN.You’re a queer kind to walk in not saluting at all.

MAHON.Did you see the young lad?

WIDOW QUIN(stiffly).What kind was he?

MAHON.An ugly young streeler with a murderous gob on him, and a little switch in his hand. I met a tramper seen him coming this way at the fall of night.

WIDOW QUIN.There’s harvest hundreds do be passing these days for the Sligo boat. For what is it you’re wanting him, my poor man?

MAHON.I want to destroy him for breaking the head on me with the clout of a loy. (He takes off a big hat, and shows his head in a mass of bandages and plaster, with some pride) It was he did that, and amn’t I a great wonder to think I’ve traced him ten days with that rent in my crown?

WIDOW QUIN(taking his head in both hands and examining it with extreme delight).That was a great blow. And who hit you? A robber maybe?

MAHON.It was my own son hit me, and he the divil a robber, or anything else, but a dirty, stuttering lout.

WIDOW(letting go his skull and wiping her hands in her apron).You’d best be wary of a mortified scalp, I think they call it, lepping around with that wound in the splendour of the sun. It was a bad blow surely, and you should have vexed him fearful to make him strike that gash in his da.

MAHON.Is it me?

WIDOW QUIN(amusing herself).Aye. And isn’t it a great shame when the old and hardened do torment the young?

MAHON(raging).Torment him is it? And I after holding out with the patience of a martyred saint till there’s nothing but destruction on, and I’m driven out in my old age with none to aid me.

WIDOW QUIN(greatly amused).It’s a sacred wonder the way that wickedness will spoil a man.

MAHON.My wickedness, is it? Amn’t I after saying it is himself has me destroyed, and he a liar on walls, a talker of folly, a man you’d see stretched the half of the day in the brown ferns with his belly to the sun.

WIDOW QUIN.Not working at all?

MAHON.The divil a work, or if he did itself, you’d see him raising up a haystack like the stalk of a rush, or driving our last cow till he broke her leg at the hip, and when he wasn’t at that he’d be fooling over little birds he had—finches and felts—or making mugs at his own self in the bit of glass we had hung on the wall.

WIDOW QUIN(looking at CHRISTY).What way was he so foolish? It was running wild after the girls may be?

MAHON(with a shout of derision).Running wild, is it? If he seen a red petticoat coming swinging over the hill, he’d be off to hide in the sticks, and you’d see him shooting out his sheep’s eyes between the little twigs and the leaves, and his two ears rising like a hare looking out through a gap. Girls, indeed!

WIDOW QUIN.It was drink maybe?

MAHON.And he a poor fellow would get drunk on the smell of a pint. He’d a queer rotten stomach, I’m telling you, and when I gave him three pulls from my pipe a while since, he was taken with contortions till I had to send him in the ass cart to the females’ nurse.

WIDOW QUIN(clasping her hands).Well, I never till this day heard tell of a man the like of that!

MAHON.I’d take a mighty oath you didn’t surely, and wasn’t he the laughing joke of every female woman where four baronies meet, the way the girls would stop their weeding if they seen him coming the road to let a roar at him, and call him the looney of Mahon’s.

WIDOW QUIN.I’d give the world and all to see the like of him. What kind was he?

MAHON.A small low fellow.

WIDOW QUIN.And dark?

MAHON.Dark and dirty.

WIDOW QUIN(considering).I’m thinking I seen him.

MAHON(eagerly).An ugly young blackguard.

WIDOW QUIN.A hideous, fearful villain, and the spit of you.

MAHON.What way is he fled?

WIDOW QUIN.Gone over the hills to catch a coasting steamer to the north or south.

MAHON.Could I pull up on him now?

WIDOW QUIN.If you’ll cross the sands below where the tide is out, you’ll be in it as soon as himself, for he had to go round ten miles by the top of the bay. (She points to the door). Strike down by the head beyond and then follow on the roadway to the north and east.

(MAHON goes abruptly.)

WIDOW QUIN(shouting after him).Let you give him a good vengeance when you come up with him, but don’t put yourself in the power of the law, for it’d be a poor thing to see a judge in his black cap reading out his sentence on a civil warrior the like of you. (She swings the door to and looks at CHRISTY, who is cowering in terror, for a moment, then she bursts into a laugh.)

WIDOW QUIN.Well, you’re the walking Playboy of the Western World, and that’s the poor man you had divided to his breeches belt.

CHRISTY(looking out: then, to her).What’ll Pegeen say when she hears that story? What’ll she be saying to me now?

WIDOW QUIN.She’ll knock the head of you, I’m thinking, and drive you from the door. God help her to be taking you for a wonder, and you a little schemer making up the story you destroyed your da.

CHRISTY(turning to the door, nearly speechless with rage, half to himself).To be letting on he was dead, and coming back to his life, and following after me like an old weazel tracing a rat, and coming in here laying desolation between my own self and the fine women of Ireland, and he a kind of carcase that you’d fling upon the sea…

WIDOW QUIN(more soberly).There’s talking for a man’s one only son.

CHRISTY(breaking out).His one son, is it? May I meet him with one tooth and it aching, and one eye to be seeing seven and seventy divils in the twists of the road, and one old timber leg on him to limp into the scalding grave. (Looking out) There he is now crossing the strands, and that the Lord God would send a high wave to wash him from the world.

WIDOW QUIN(scandalised).Have you no shame? (Putting her hand on his shoulder and turning him round) What ails you? Near crying, is it?

CHRISTY(in despair and grief).Amn’t I after seeing the love-light of the star of knowledge shining from her brow, and hearing words would put you thinking on the holy Brigid speaking to the infant saints, and now she’ll be turning again, and speaking hard words to me, like an old woman with a spavindy ass she’d have, urging on a hill.

WIDOW QUIN.There’s poetry talk for a girl you’d see itching and scratching, and she with a stale stink of poteen on her from selling in the shop.

CHRISTY(impatiently).It’s her like is fitted to be handling merchandise in the heavens above, and what’ll I be doing now, I ask you, and I a kind of wonder was jilted by the heavens when a day was by.

(There is a distant noise of girls’ voices. WIDOW QUIN looks from window and comes to him, hurriedly.)

WIDOW QUIN.You’ll be doing like myself, I’m thinking, when I did destroy my man, for I’m above many’s the day, odd times in great spirits, abroad in the sunshine, darning a stocking or stitching a shift; and odd times again looking out on the schooners, hookers, trawlers is sailing the sea, and I thinking on the gallant hairy fellows are drifting beyond, and myself long years living alone.

CHRISTY(interested).You’re like me, so.

WIDOW QUIN.I am your like, and it’s for that I’m taking a fancy to you, and I with my little houseen above where there’d be myself to tend you, and none to ask were you a murderer or what at all.

CHRISTY.And what would I be doing if I left Pegeen?

WIDOW QUIN.I’ve nice jobs you could be doing, gathering shells to make a whitewash for our hut within, building up a little goose-house, or stretching a new skin on an old curragh I have, and if my hut is far from all sides, it’s there you’ll meet the wisest old men, I tell you, at the corner of my wheel, and it’s there yourself and me will have great times whispering and hugging.…

VOICES(outside, calling far away).Christy! Christy Mahon! Christy!

CHRISTY.Is it Pegeen Mike?

WIDOW QUIN.It’s the young girls, I’m thinking, coming to bring you to the sports below, and what is it you’ll have me to tell them now?

CHRISTY.Aid me for to win Pegeen. It’s herself only that I’m seeking now. (WIDOW QUIN gets up and goes to window) Aid me for to win her, and I’ll be asking God to stretch a hand to you in the hour of death, and lead you short cuts through the Meadows of Ease, and up the floor of Heaven to the Footstool of the Virgin’s Son.

WIDOW QUIN.There’s praying.

VOICES(nearer).Christy! Christy Mahon!

CHRISTY(with agitation).They’re coming. Will you swear to aid and save me for the love of Christ?

WIDOW QUIN(looks at him for a moment).If I aid you, will you swear to give me a right of way I want, and a mountainy ram, and a load of dung at Michaelmas, the time that you’ll be master here?

CHRISTY.I will, by the elements and stars of night.

WIDOW QUIN.Then we’ll not say a word of the old fellow, the way Pegeen won’t know your story till the end of time.

CHRISTY.And if he chances to return again?

WIDOW QUIN.We’ll swear he’s a maniac and not your da. I could take an oath I seen him raving on the sands to-day.

(Girls run in.)

SUSAN.Come on to the sports below. Pegeen says you’re to come.

SARA TANSEY.The lepping’s beginning, and we’ve a jockey’s suit to fit upon you for the mule race on the sands below.

HONOR.Come on, will you?

CHRISTY.I will then if Pegeen’s beyond.

SARA.She’s in the boreen making game of Shaneen Keogh.

CHRISTY.Then I’ll be going to her now. (He runs out followed by the girls.)

WIDOW QUIN.Well, if the worst comes in the end of all, it’ll be great game to see there’s none to pity him but a widow woman, the like of me, has buried her children and destroyed her man. (She goes out.)