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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From ‘The Playboy of the Western World’
By John Millington Synge (1871–1909)
 
        
  
  [At Pegeen Mike’s.  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 devil’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 to 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 naked 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.]
  1
  Susan—There’s nobody in it.  [Knocks again.]  2
  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.  3
  Susan—I’m thinking Shawn Keogh was making game of us and there’s no such man in it at all.  4
  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.  5
  Nelly—Are you thinking them’s his boots?  6
  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?  7
  Susan—Is that blood there, Sara Tansey?  8
  Sara  [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.]
  9
  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.]  10
  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.  11
  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.]
  12
  Sara—I’ll call him. Mister! Mister!  [He puts in his head.]  Is Pegeen within?  13
  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 color my tea.  14
  Sara—And asking your pardon, is it you’s the man killed his father?  15
  Christy  [sidling toward the nail where the glass was hanging]—I am, God help me!  16
  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 to-day. 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.  17
  Christy  [coming forward shyly, and holding out his left hand]—They are a great and weighty size.  18
  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.  19
  Christy—Thank you kindly.  20
  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.  21
  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.  22
  Christy—It’s bursting, surely.
[He feels it with the back of his hand, in which he holds the presents.]
  23
  Sara—Will you pinch it? Is your right hand too sacred for you 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.]  24
  Christy  [smiling innocently and piling presents on glass]—I’m very thankful to you all to-day …  25
  Widow Quin  [coming in quickly at door]—Sara Tansey, Susan Brady, Honor Blake! What in glory has you here at this hour of day?  26
  Girls  [giggling]—That’s the man killed his father.  27
  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.  28
  Sara  [exuberantly]—That’s right, Widow Quin. I’ll bet my dowry that he’ll lick the world.  29
  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?  30
  Christy—Fasting, if you please.  31
  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.  32
  Christy  [beginning to be pleased]—It’s a long story; you’d be destroyed listening.  33
  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?  34
  Christy  [shy but flattered]—It was not. We were digging spuds in his cold, sloping, stony, divil’s patch of a field.  35
  Widow Quin—And you went asking money of him, or making talk of getting a wife would drive him from his farm?  36
  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.”  37
  Widow Quin—And what kind was she?  38
  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 misbehavior with the old and young.  39
  Girls  [clustering round him, serving him]—Glory be.  40
  Widow Quin—And what did he want driving you to wed with her?  [She takes a bit of chicken.]  41
  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.  42
  Widow Quin—There’s maybe worse than a dry hearth and a widow woman and your glass at night. So you hit him then?  43
  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.”  44
  Widow Quin  [teasingly]—That one should be right company.  45
  Sara  [eagerly]—Don’t mind her. Did you kill him then?  46
  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 to-night.” “You will not if I can help it,” says I.  [He sits up, brandishing his mug.]  47
  Sara—You were right surely.  48
  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.  49
  Susan—That’s a grand story.  50
  Honor—He tells it lovely.  51
  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.]
  52
  Girls  [together]—Well, you’re a marvel! Oh, God bless you! You’re the lad surely!  53
  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.  54
  Widow Quin—Don’t tease him.  55
  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.]
  56
  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.]
  57
  Pegeen  [angrily to Sara]—What is it you’re wanting?  58
  Sara  [twisting her apron]—An ounce of tobacco.  59
  Pegeen—Have you tuppence?  60
  Sara—I’ve forgotten my purse.  61
  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?  62
  Widow Quin  [insolently]—A penn ’orth of starch.  63
  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.  64
  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 moon is by.  [They go out.]  65
  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?  66
  Christy  [very meekly]—I was making myself decent only, and this is a fine country for young lovely girls.  67
  Pegeen  [sharply]—Whisht your talking of girls.  [Goes to counter—right.]  68
  Christy—Wouldn’t any wish to be decent in a place …  69
  Pegeen—Whisht I’m saying.  70
  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.  71
  Pegeen  [still sharply]—You’ve told me that story six times since the dawn of day.  72
  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.  73
  Pegeen  [turning round astonished]—Four miles.  74
  Christy  [apologetically]—Didn’t himself say there were only four bona fides living in the place?  75
  Pegeen—It’s bona fides by the road they are, but that lot came over the river leaping 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.]  76
  Christy  [suspiciously]—Is it news of my murder?  77
  Pegeen  [inside]—Murder, indeed.  78
  Christy  [loudly]—A murdered da?  79
  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.  80
  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.  81
  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.  82
  Christy  [with terror]—And you’re thinking they’d tell?  83
  Pegeen  [with mock sympathy]—Who knows, God help you!  84
  Christy  [loudly]—What joy would they have to bring hanging to the likes of me?  85
  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.  86
  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.  87
  Pegeen  [beginning to play with him]—It would, may be, for I’ve heard the Circuit Judges this place is a heartless crew.  88
  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 looking out on women and girls the way the needy fallen spirits do be looking on the Lord?  89
  Pegeen—What call have you to be that lonesome when there’s poor girls walking Mayo in their thousands now?  90
  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 light shining sideways when the night is down, or going in strange places with a dog noising before you and a dob noising 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.  91
  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.  92
  Christy—What would any be but odd men and they living lonesome in the world?  93
  Pegeen—I’m not odd, and I’m my whole life with my father only.  94
  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.  95
  Pegeen—I’m hard set to know what way a coaxing fellow the like of yourself should be lonesome either.  96
  Christy—Coaxing?  97
  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.  98
  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.]  99
  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.  100
  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.  101
  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.  102
  Christy—You were saying I’d be hanged if I stay.  103
  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.  104
  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.  105
  Pegeen—What’s to hinder you from staying, except the widow woman or the young girls inveigle you off?  106
  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.  107
  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.  108
 
 
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