Damer's Gold by Lady Augusta Gregory
A COMEDY IN TWO ACTS
Patrick Kirwan CALLED DAMER
Staffy Kirwan HIS BROTHER
Delia Hessian HIS SISTER
Ralph Hessian HER HUSBAND
Simon Niland THEIR NEPHEW
Scene: The kitchen in Damer's house. Outer door at back. Door
leading to an inner room to right. A dresser, a table, and a
of chairs. An old coat and hat hanging on the wall. A knocking
heard at door at back. It is unlatched from outside. Delia comes
Delia: (Looking round cautiously and going back to door.) You
may come in, Staffy and Ralph. There would seem to be no person here.
Staffy: Take care would Damer ask us to cross the threshold
at all. I would not ask to go pushing on him, but to wait till he would
call to us himself. He is not an easy led man.
Delia: (Crossing and knocking at inner door.) He is not in it.
He is likely slipped out unknownst.
Ralph: Herself that thought to find him at the brink of death
and nearing his last leap, after what happened him with the jennet. We
heard tell of it as far as we were.
Delia: What ailed him to go own a jennet, he that has means
to stable a bay horse would set the windows rattling on the public
road, and it sparkling over the flintstones after dark?
Staffy: Sure he owns no fourfooted beast only the dog abroad
in its box. To make its way into the haggard the jennet did, the time
it staggered him with a kick. To forage out some grazing it thought to
do, beyond dirt and scutchgrass among the stones. Very cross jennets do
be, as it is a cross man it met with.
Delia: A queer sort of a brother he is. To go searching
Ireland you wouldn't find queerer. But as soon as I got word what
happened I bade Ralph to put the tacklings on the ass. We must have
nature about us some way. There was silence between us long enough.
Ralph: She was thinking it might be the cause of him getting
his death sooner than God has it promised to him, and that it might
turn his mind more friendly like towards us, he knowing us to be at
hand for to settle out his burying.
Delia: Why wouldn't it, and we being all the brothers and
sisters ever he had, since Jane Niland, God rest her soul, went out
last Little Christmas from the troubles and torments of the world.
Staffy: There is nothing left of that marriage now, only one
young lad is said to be mostly a fool.
Delia: It is ourselves can bear witness to that, where he
came into the house ere yesterday, having no way of living, since death
and misfortune scattered him, but as if he was left down out of the
Ralph: He has not, unless the pound piece the mother put into
his hand at the last. It is much she had that itself. The time Tom
Niland died from her, he didn't leave her hardly the cat.
Staffy: The lad to have any wit around him he would have come
travelling hither along with yourselves, to see would he knock any
kindness out of Damer.
Ralph: It is what herself was saying, it would be no
advantage to him to be coming here at all, he being as he is half
light, where there is nothing only will or wit could pick any profit
out of Damer. She did not let on to him what side were we facing, and
we travelling out from Loughtyshassy.
Staffy: It is likely he will get tidings as good as yourself.
It is said, and said largely, Damer has a full gallon jar of gold.
Ralph: There is no one could lift it—God bless it—they were
telling me. Filled up it is and brimmed to the very brink.
Staffy: His heart and his soul gone into it. He is death on
that gallon of gold.
Delia: He would give leave to the poorhouse to bury him, if
he could but put in his will they should leave it down with his bones.
Staffy: A man could live an easy life surely and that much
being in the house.
Delia: There is no more grasping man within the four walls of
the world. A strange thing he turning to be so ugly and prone to
misery, where he was reared along with myself. I have the first
covetous person yet to meet I would like! I never would go thrusting
after gold, I to get all Lord Clanricarde's estate.
Ralph: She never would, only at a time she might have her own
means spent and consumed.
Staffy: The house is very racked beside what it was. The
hungriest cabin in the whole ring of Connemara would not show out so
empty and so bare.
Delia: (Taking up a jug.) No sign in this vessel of anything
that would leave a sign. I'll go bail he takes his tea in a black
state, and the milk to be rotting in the churn.
Ralph: (Handling a coat and hat hanging on a nail.) That's a
queer cut of a hat. That now should have been a good top-coat in its
Delia: For pity's sake! That is the top-coat and the hat he
used to be wearing and he riding his long-tailed pony to every
racecourse from this to the Curragh of Kildare. A good class of cloth
it should be to last out through seventeen years.
Staffy: The time he was young and fundless he had not a bad
reaching hand. He never was thrifty but lavish till he came into the
ownership of the land. It is as if his luck left him, he growing timid
at the time he had means to lose.
Delia: Every horse he would back at that time it would surely
win all before it. I saw the people thronging him one time, taking him
in their arms for joy, and the winnings coming into his hand. It is
likely they ran out through the fingers as swift nearly as they flowed
Staffy: He grew to be very dark and crabbed from the time of
the father's death. His mind was on his halfpenny ever since.
Delia: (Looking at dresser.) Spiders' webs heaped in ridges
the same as windrows in a bleach of hay. What now is that there above
on the upper shelf?
Ralph: (Taking it from top shelf.) It is but a pack of cards.
Staffy: They should maybe be the very same that brought him
profit in his wild days. He always had a lucky hand.
Delia: (Dusting them.) You would give your seven oaths the
dust to have been gathering on them since the time of the Hebrews'
Flood. I'll tell you now a thing to do. We being here before him in the
house, why wouldn't we ready it and put some sort of face upon it, the
way he would be in humour with us coming in.
Ralph: And the way he might incline to put into our hand some
good promise or some gift.
Delia: (Dusting.) I would wish no gift from any person at all,
but that my mind is set at this time on a fleet of white goats and a
guinea-hen are to be canted out from the Spanish woman at Lisatuwna
cross by reason of the hanging gale.
Staffy: That was the way with you, Delia, from the time you
could look out from the half-door, to be coveting pictures and
fooleries, that would shape themselves in your mind.
Delia: There is no sin coveting things are of no great use or
profit, but would show out good and have some grandeur around them.
Those goats now! Browsing on the blossoms of the bushes they would be,
or the herbs that give out a sweet smell. Stir yourself, Staffy, and
throw your eye on that turf beyond in the corner. It is that wet you
could wring from it splashes and streams. Let you rise the ashes from
the sods are on the hearth and redden them with a goosewing, if there
is a goosewing to be found. There is no greater beauty to be met with
than the leaping of a little yellow flame.
Staffy: In my opinion there will no pay-day come for this
work, but only a thank-you job; a County Clare payment, 'God spare you
Delia: Let you do it, Ralph so. (Takes potatoes from a
sieve.) A roasted potato would be a nice thing to put before him, in
the place of this old crust of a loaf. Put them in now around the sods,
the way they will be crispy before him.
Ralph: (Taking them.) And the way he will see you are a good
housekeeper and will mind well anything he might think fit to give.
Delia: (At clock.) I'll set to the right time of day the two
hands of the clock are pointing a full hour before the sun. Take,
Staffy, that pair of shoes and lessen from them the clay of the land.
That much of doing will not break your heart. He will be as proud as
the fallen angels seeing the way we have all set out before him.
(A harsh laugh is heard at inner door. They turn and see Damer
Ralph: Glory be to God!
Delia: It is Damer was within all the time!
Staffy: What are you talking about, Delia? It is Patrick you
were meaning to say.
Damer: Let her go on prattling out Damer to my face, as it is
often she called it behind my shoulders. Damer the chandler, the miser
got the spoil of the Danes, that was mocked at since the time of the
Danes. I know well herself and the world have me christened with that
Ralph: Ah, it is not to dispraise you they put it on you, but
to show you out so wealthy and so rich.
Damer: I am thinking it is not love of my four bones brings
you on this day under my thatch?
Staffy: We heard tell you were after being destroyed with a
Damer: Picking up newses and tidings of me ye do be. It is
short the delay was on you coming.
Delia: And I after travelling through the most of the day on
the head of you being wounded and hurt, thinking you to be grieving to
see one of your own! And I in dread of my life stealing past your
Damer: My joy he is, scaring you with his bark! If it wasn't
for him you would have me clogged and tormented, coming in and
bothering me every whole minute.
Delia: There is no person in Ireland only yourself but would
have as much welcome for me to-day as on the first day ever they saw
Damer: What's that you are doing with my broom?
Delia: To do away with the spider's webs I did, where the
shelves were looped with them and smothered. Look at all that came off
of that pack of cards.
Damer: What call had you to do away with them, and they
belonging to myself? Is it to bleed to death I should and I to get a
tip of a billhook or a slasher? You and your vagaries to have left me
bare, that I would be without means to quench the blood, and it to rise
up from my veins and to scatter on every side!
Delia: Is it that you are without e'er a rag, and that
ancient coat to be hanging on the wall?
Damer: The place swept to flitters! What is that man of yours
doing and he handling my turf?
Ralph: It was herself thought to be serviceable to you,
setting out the fuel that was full of dampness where it would get an
air of the fire.
Damer: To dry it is it? (Seizes sods and takes them from the
hearth.) And what length would it be without being burned and
consumed and it not to be wet putting it on? (Pours water over it.)
And I after stacking it purposely in the corner where there does be a
drip from the thatch.
Ralph: She but thought it would be more answerable to you
Damer: What way could I bear the expense of a fire on the
hearth and it to leave smouldering and to break out into a blaze? A
month's cutting maybe to go to ashes within three minutes, and into
wisps of smoke. And the price of turf in this year gone wild out of
measure, and it packed so roguish you could read the printed speeches
on the paper through the sods you do be buying in the creel.
Staffy: I was saying myself not to meddle with it. It is
hurry is a worse friend than delay.
Damer: Where did you get those spuds are roasting there upon
Ralph: Herself that brought them out from the sieve, thinking
to make ready your meal.
Damer: My seed potatoes! Samples I got from the guardians and
asked in the shops and in stores till I'd gather enough to set a few
ridges in the gardens would serve me through the length of the year!
Delia: Let you be satisfied so with your mouldy bit of loaf.
(Breaks a bit from it and hands it to him.)
Damer: Do not be breaking it so wasteful! The mice to have
news there was as much as that of crumbs in the house, they would be
running the same as chickens around the floor!
Ralph: Thinking to be comfortable to you she was, the way you
would make us welcome from this out.
Damer: Which of ye is after meddling with my clock?
Delia: It was a full hour before its time.
Darner: It to be beyond its time, wouldn't that save fire and
candles sending me to my bed early in the night? Leave down those
boots! (Takes them from Staffy.) Is it that you are wearing out the
uppers with scraping at them and scratching! Is it to rob me ye are
come into this place?
Delia: I tell you we only came in getting word that you were
done and dying.
Damer: Ha! Is it to think I was dying ye did? Well, I am not.
I am not so easy quenched. Strength and courage I have, to keep a fast
grip of what I own.
Delia: Let you not be talking that way! We are no grabbers
and no thieves!
Damer: I have it in my mind that ye are. Very ravenous to run
through my money ye are.
Delia: The world knows I am not ravenous! I never gave my
heart to silver or to gold but only to the thing it would bring in. But
to hold from me the thing my heart is craving after, you might as well
blacken the hearth.
Damer: Striving to scare me out of my courage and my wits,
the way I'll give in to go making my will.
Ralph: She would not be wishful you to do that the time your
mind would be vexed.
Damer: I'll make it, sick or sound, if I have a mind to make
Delia: Little thanks you'll get from me if you make it or do
not make it. That is the naked truth.
Damer: The whole of ye think yourselves to be very managing
and very wise!
Delia: Let you go will it so to an asylum for fools.
Damer: Why wouldn't I? It is in the asylums all the sense is
these times. There is only the fools left outside.
Delia: You to bestow it outside of your own kindred for to
benefit and comfort your soul, all the world will say it is that you
had it gathered together by fraud.
Staffy: Do not be annoying him now.
Delia: I will not. But the time he will be lying under the
flagstone, it is holly rods and brambles will spring up from out of his
Damer: A hasty, cranky woman in the house is worse than you
to lay your hand upon red coals! I know well your tongue that is as
sharp as the sickle of the moon!
Delia: The character you will leave after you will be worse
out and out than Herod's!
Damer: The devil upon the winds she is! That one was born
into the world having the use of the bow and arrows!
Delia: You not to give fair play to your own, it is a pitiful
ghost will appear in your image, questing and craving our prayers!
Damer: I know well what is your aim and your drift!
Delia: I say any man has a right to give thanks to the
heavens, and he having decent people to will his means to, in place of
people having no call to it.
Damer: Whoever I'll will it to will have call to it!
Delia: Or to part with it to low people and to mean people,
and you having it to give.
Damer: Having it to give is it? Do you see that lock on the
Delia: I do see it and have eyes to see it.
Damer: Can you make any guess what is inside of it?
Delia: It is likely it is what there is so much talk about,
your own full gallon of gold.
(Ralph takes off his hat.)
Damer: Lay now your eye to that lock hole.
Ralph: (Looking through keyhole.) It is all dusky within. It
fails me to see any shining thing.
(Staffy and Delia put their eyes to keyhole but draw back
Darner: If you cannot see it, try can you get the smell of
it. Take a good draw of it now; lay your head along the hinges of the
door. So now ye may quit and scamper out of this, the whole throng of
ye, robbers and hangmen and bankbreakers, bargers and bad characters,
and you may believe me telling you that is the nearest ye ever will
come to my gold!
(He bangs back into room locking door after him.)
Delia: He has no more nature than the brutes of the field,
hunting and howling after us.
Staffy: Yourself that rose him out of his wits and his
senses. We will sup sorrow for this day's work where he will put curses
after us. It is best for us go back to my place. It may be to-morrow
that his anger will be cured up.
Ralph: I thought it was to lay him out with candles we were
brought here. I declare I came nearer furnishing out a corpse myself
with the start I got.
Delia: There is no dread on me. When he gets in humour I will
tackle up again to him. It is too far I came to be facing back to
Loughtyshassy and I fasting from the price of my goats! Little collars
I was thinking to buckle around their neck the same as a lady's lapdog,
and maybe so far as a small clear-sounding bell.
(They go out, Damer comes back. He puts on clock, rakes out fire,
picks up potatoes and puts them back in sieve, takes bread into
room. There is a knock at the door. Then it is cautiously opened
Simon Niland comes in, and stands near the hearth. Damer comes
and sees him.)
Damer: What are you looking for?
Simon: For what I won't get seemingly, that is a welcome.
Damer: Maybe it's for fists you are looking?
Simon: It is not, before I will get my rest. I couldn't box
to-night if I was the Queen of England.
Damer: Have you any traffic with that congregation is after
Simon: I seen no person good or bad, but a dog and it on the
Damer: You to have in you any of the breed of the Kirwans
that is my own, I'd rise the tongs and pitch you out from the door!
Simon: I suppose you would not begrudge me to rest myself for
a while, (Sits down.)
Damer: I'll give leave to no strolling vagabond to sit in any
place at all.
Simon: All right so.
(Tosses a coin he takes from his pocket, tied in a spotted
Damer: What's that you're doing?
Simon: Pitching a coin I was to see would it bid me go west
Damer: Go toss outside so.
Simon: (Stooping and groping.) I will after I will find it.
Damer: Hurry on now.
Simon: Wait till I'll kindle a match.
(Lights one and picks up coin.)
Damer: What is that in your hand?
Simon: You should know.
Damer: Is it gold it is?
Simon: It is all I have of means in the world. I never
handled a coin before it, but my bite to be given me and my bed.
Damer: You'll mind it well if you have sense.
Simon: It is towards the east it bade me go. I'll travel as
far as the races of Knockbarron to-morrow.
Damer: You'll be apt to lose it going to races.
Simon: I'll go bet with it, and see what way will it turn
Damer: You to set all you own upon a horse that might fail at
the leaps! It is a very foolish thing doing that.
Simon: It might not. Some have luck and are born lucky and
more have run through their luck. If I lose it, it is lost. It would
not keep me long anyway. I to win, I will have more and plenty.
Damer: You will surely lose it.
Simon: If I do I have nothing to get or to fall back on. It
is some other one must take my charges.
Damer: A great pity to go lose a gold sovereign to some
schemer you never saw before.
Simon: Sure you must take some risk. You cannot put your
hands around the world.
Damer: It to be swept by a trick of the loop man!
Simon: It is not with that class I will make free.
Damer: To go lose the whole of it in one second of time!
Simon: I will make four divides of it.
Damer: To go change it into silver and into copper! That
would be the most pity in the world.
Simon: I'll chance it all upon the one jock so.
Damer: Gold! Believe me it is a good thing to hold and a very
heartbreak the time it is lost. (Takes it in his hand.) Pure gold!
There is not a thing to be got with it as worthy as what it is itself!
There is no comfort in any place and it not in it. The Queen's image on
it and her crown. Solid between the fingers; weighty in the palm of the
hand; as beautiful as ever I saw.
Simon: It is likely it is the same nearly as any other one.
Damer: Gold! My darling it is! From the hollows of the world
to the heights of the world there is no grander thing to be found. My
bone and my marrow! Let me have the full of my arms of it and I'll not
ask the flowers of field or fallow or the dancing of the Easter sun!
Simon: I am thinking you should be Damer. I heard said Damer
has a full crock of gold.
Damer: He has not! He has not!
Simon: That is what the world says anyway. I heard it as far
as the seaside.
Damer: I wish to my God it was true!
Simon: Full and brimming to the brink. That is the way it was
Damer: It is not full! It is not! Whisper now. It is many a
time I thought it to be full, full at last, full at last!
Simon: And it wasn't after?
Damer: To take it and to shake it I do. It is often I gave
myself a promise the time there will be no sound from it, I will give
in to nourish myself, I will rise out of misery. But every time I will
try it, I will hear a little clatter that tells me there is some space
left; some small little hole or gap.
Simon: What signifies that when you have so much in it?
Damer: Weightier it gets and weightier, but there will always
be that little sound. I thought to stop it one time, putting in a
fistful of hayseed; but I felt in my heart that was not dealing fair
and honest with myself, and I rose up and shook it out again, rising up
from my bed in the night time. I near got my death with the cold and
the draught fell on me doing that.
Simon: It is best for me be going on where I might find my
Damer: Hearken now. I am old and the long road behind me. You
are young and in your strength. It is you is rich, it is I myself that
is poor. You know well, you to get the offer, you would not change your
lot with my own.
Simon: I suppose I might not. I'd as lief keep my countenance
and my run.
Darner: Isn't it a great pity there to be that hollow within
in my gallon, and the little coin that would likely just fill it up, to
be going out of the house?
Simon: Is it that you are asking it of me?
Damer: You might never find so good a way to open Heaven to
yourself with a charity. To be bringing peace to an old man that has
not long to live in the world! You wouldn't think now how quiet I would
sleep, and the good dreams would be going through me, and that gallon
jar to be full and to make no sound the time I would roll it on the
floor. That would be a great deed for one little pound piece to do!
Simon: I'll toss you for it.
Damer: I would not dare put anything at all upon a chance.
Simon: Leave it alone so. (Turns away.)
Damer: (Seizing him.) It would make such a good appearance in
the little gap!
Simon: Head or harp?
Damer: No, I'm in dread I might lose.
Simon: Take your chance or leave it.
Damer: I to lose, you may kill me on the moment! My heart is
driven down in the sole of my shoe!
Simon: That is poor courage.
Damer: There is some shiver forewarning me I will lose! I
made a strong oath I never would give in again to try any sort of
Simon: You didn't make it but with yourself.
Damer: It was through my luck leaving me I swore against
betting and gaming.
Simon: It might turn back fresh and hearty where you gave it
so long a rest.
Simon: Here now.
Damer: I dare not.
Simon: (Going to door.) I'll make my bet so according to a
dream I had. It is on a red horse I will put it to-morrow.
Damer: No—stop—wait a minute.
Simon: I'll win surely following my dream.
Damer: I might not lose.
Simon: I'm in dread of that. All turns to the man is rich.
Damer: I'll chance it!
Simon: You said no and I'll take no.
Damer: You cannot go back of your word.
Simon: Let me go out from you tempting me.
Damer: (Seizing him.) Heads! I say heads!
Simon: Harps it is. I win.
Damer: My bitter grief! Ochone!
Simon: I'll toss you for another.
Damer: You will not. What's tosses? Look at here what is put
in my way! (Holds up pack of cards.)
Simon: Where's the stakes?
Damer: Wait a second. (Goes into room.)
Simon: Hurry on or I won't stop.
Damer: Let you not stir out of that!
(Comes back and throws money on table.)
Simon: Come on so.
Darner: Give me the pack. (Cuts.) I didn't feel a card
between my fingers this seven and a half-score years!
Simon: Spades are trumps.
Darner: (Lighting candle.) I'll win it back! I won't begrudge
spending a penny candle, no, or two penny candles! I'll play you to the
brink of day!
The next morning. The same kitchen. Simon Niland is lying
on the hearth. Ralph and Staffy are looking at him.
Staffy: Who is it at all is in it?
Ralph: Who would it be but Simon Niland, that is come
following after us.
Staffy: Stretched and sleeping all the same as if there was a
pin of slumber in his hair, as in the early times of the world. The day
passing without anything doing. That one will never win to a fortune.
Ralph: It would be as well for ourselves maybe he not to be
too great with Damer.
Staffy: Will Delia make any headway I wonder. She had good
courage to go face him, and he abroad on the land, sitting stooped on
the bent body of a bush.
Ralph: I wonder what way did that lad make his way into this
place. Wait now till I'll waken and question him.
Simon: (Drowsily.) Who is that stirring me?
Ralph: Rouse yourself up now.
Simon: Do not be rousing me, where I am striving to catch a
hold of the tail of my last dream.
Staffy: Is it seeking for a share of Damer's wealth you are
Simon: I never asked and never looked for it.
Staffy: You are going the wrong road to reach to it.
Simon: A bald cat there was in the dream, was keeping watch
over jewelleries in a cave.
Staffy: No person at all would stretch out his hand to a lad
would be rambling and walking the world, and it in its darkness and
sleep, and be drowsing and miching from labour through the hours the
sun has command of.
Delia: (At the door). Is it that ye are within, Staffy and
Ralph: We are, and another along with us.
Delia: Put him out the door!
Ralph: Ah, there's no danger of him coming around Damer. He
is simple and has queer talk too.
Delia: Put him out I say! (Pushes Simon to door.) Let him
drowse out the day in the car shed! I tell you Damer is at hand!
Ralph: Has he the frown on him yet?
Staffy: Did his anger anyway cool down?
Delia: He is coming I say. I am partly in dread of him. I am
afeard and affrighted!
Ralph: He should be in terrible rages so. There was no dread
on you yesterday, and he cursing and roaring the way he was.
Delia: He is mad this time out and out. Wait now till you'll
(She goes behind dresser. Damer comes to the door. Staffy goes
behind a chair. Ralph seizes a broom.)
Damer: (At door.) Are you acquainted with any person, Ralph
Hessian, is in need of a savage dog?
Staffy: Is it that you are about to part Jubair your dog?
Damer: I have no use for him presently.
Staffy: Is it that you are without dread of robbers coming
for to knock in your skull with a stone? Or maybe out in the night it
is to burn you out of the house they would.
Damer: What signifies, what signifies? All must die, all must
die. The longest person that will live in the world, he is bound to go
in the heel. Life is a long road to travel and a hard rough track under
Staffy: Mike Merrick the huckster has an apple garden bought
against the harvest. He should likely be seeking for a dog. There do be
little lads passing to the school.
Damer: He might want him, he might want him.
(He leans upon half-door.)
Staffy: Is it that you are tired and wore out carrying the
load of your wealth?
Damer: It is a bad load surely. It was the love of money
destroyed Buonaparte where he went robbing a church, without the men of
learning are telling lies.
Staffy: I would never go so far as robbery, but to bid it
welcome I would, and it coming fair and easy into my hand.
Damer: There was a king out in Foreign went astray through
the same sin. His people that made a mockery of him after his death,
filling up his jaws with rendered gold. Believe me, any person goes
coveting after riches puts himself under a bad master.
Staffy: That is a master I'd be willing to engage with, he to
give me my victuals and my ease.
Damer: In my opinion it was to keep temptation from our path
the gold of the world was covered under rocks and in the depths of the
streams. Believe me it is best leave it where it is, and not to meddle
with the Almighty.
Staffy: You'd be best without it. It is the weight of it is
bowing you to your grave. When things are vexing your mind and you are
trouble minded they'll be going through your head in the night time.
There is a big shift and a great change in you since yesterday. There
is not the half of you in it. You have the cut of the misfortune.
Damer: I am under misfortune indeed.
Staffy: Give over now your load to myself before the coming
of the dusk. The way you are there'll be nothing left of you within
three days. There is no way with you but death.
Delia: (To Ralph.) Let you raise your voice now, and come
around him on my own behalf.
Ralph: It is what herself is saying, you to be quitting the
world as it seems, it is as good for you make over to her your crock of
Damer: I would not wish, for all the glories of Ireland, to
leave temptation in the path of my own sister or my kin, or to twist a
gad for their neck.
Delia: (To Ralph.) Tell him I'll chance it.
Damer: At the time of the judgment of the mountain, when the
sun and moon will be all one with two blackberries, it is not being
pampered with plenty will serve you, beside being great with the
Delia: (Shrinking back.) I would as soon nearly not get it
at all, where it might bring me to the wretched state of Damer!
(Dog heard barking.)
Damer: I'll go bring my poor Jubair out of this. A great sin
and a great pity to be losing provision with a dog, and the image of
the saints maybe to be going hungry and bare. How do I know what troop
might be bearing witness against me before the gate of heaven? To be
cherishing a ravenous beast might be setting his teeth in their limbs!
To give charity to the poor is the best religion in Ireland. Didn't our
Lord Himself go beg through three and thirty years? (He goes.)
Delia: (Coming forward.) Will you believe me now telling you
he is gone unsteady in the head?
Staffy: I see no other sign. He is a gone man surely. His
understanding warped and turned backward. To see him blighted the way
he is would stir the heart of a stone.
Ralph: He surely got some vision or some warning, or there
lit on him a fit or a stroke.
Staffy: Twice a child and only once a man. He is turned to be
innocent with age.
Ralph: It would be a bad thing he to meet with his death
unknown to us.
Delia: It would be worse again he that is gone out of his
latitude to be brought away to the asylum.
Ralph: I don't know.
Delia: But I know. He to die, and to make no will, it is
ourselves, by rule and by right, that would lay claim to his wealth.
Staffy: So we could do that, and he to come to his end in the
bad place, God save the mark!
Delia: Would you say there would be no fear the Government
might stretch out and take charge of it, saying him to be outside of
Ralph: That would be the worst of all. We to be forced to
hire an attorney against them, till we would break one another at law.
Delia: He to be stopping here, and being light in the brain,
it is likely some thief travelling the road might break his way in and
Ralph: It would be right for us keep some sort of a watch on
Staffy: What way would we be sitting here watching it, the
same as a hen on a pebble of flint, through a quarter or it might be
three quarters of a year? He might drag for a good while yet, and live
and linger into old days.
Delia: To take some cross turn he might, and to come at us
violent and maybe tear the flesh from our bones.
Staffy: It is best for us do nothing so, but to leave it to
the foreknowledge of God.
Delia: There is but the one thing to do. To bring it away out
of this and to lodge it within in my own house. We can settle out a
place under the hearth.
Staffy: We can make a right division of it at such time as
the end will come.
Ralph: What way now will we bring away the crock?
Delia: Let you go outside and be watching the road while
Staffy will be bringing out the gold.
Staffy: Ah, I'm not so limber as what Ralph is. There does be
giddiness and delay in my feet. It might fail me to heave it to a
hiding place and to bring it away unknownst.
Delia: Let you go out so and be keeping a watch, and Ralph
will put it on the ass-car under sacks.
Ralph: Do it you. I am not of his own kindred and his family.
Any person to get a sketch of me bringing it away they might nearly
take myself to be a thief.
Delia: We are doing but what is fair and is right.
Ralph: Maybe so. But any neighbour to be questioning me, it
might be hard put a skin on the story.
Delia: There is no person to do it but the one. (Calls from
the door.) Come in here from the shed, Simon Niland, if the
sluggishness is banished from your eyesight and from your limbs.
Simon: (At door) I was thinking to go travel my road.
Delia: Have you any desire to reach out your hand for to save
a mortal life?
Simon: (Coming in.) Whose life is that?
Staffy: The man of this house that is your uncle and is owner
of wealth closed up in a jar. We now being wittier than himself, that
has lost his wits, have our mind made up to bring it away.
Simon: Outside of his knowledge is it?
Staffy: It will be safe and well minded and lodged in loyal
keeping, it being no profit to him that is at this time shook and
blighted, but only a danger to his days.
Delia: The seven senses to be going astray on him, what would
ail any tramp or neuk that would be passing the road, not to rob him
and to lay him stone dead?
Staffy: Go in now and bring out from the room and to such
place as we will command, that gallon jar of gold.
Ralph: It being certain it will be brought away from him, it
is best it to be kept in the family, and not to go nourishing lawyers
Simon: Is it to steal it I should?
Staffy: What way will it be stealing, and the whole of us to
be looking on at your deed?
Simon: Ah, what call have I to do that much and maybe put
myself in danger of the judge, for the sake of a man is without sense.
Delia: Let you do it for my own sake so. You heard me giving
out news on yesterday of the white goats are on the bounds of being
sold. The neighbours will give me no more credit, where they loaned me
the price of a crested side car was auctioned out at a quality sale.
Ralph: Picking the eyes out of my own head they are, to pay
the little bills they have against her.
Delia: I am no way greedy, I would ask neither food or bite,
I would not begrudge turning Sunday into Friday if I could but get my
heart's desire. Such a thing now as a guinea-hen would be bringing
fashion to the door, throwing it a handful of yellow meal, and it in
its speckled plumage giving out its foreign call!
Simon: I have no mind to be brought within the power of the
Delia: You that are near in blood to refuse me so small an
asking, what chance would I have sending requests to Heaven that is
beyond the height of the clouds!
Staffy: That's the way with them that are reared poor, they
are the hardest after to humour, striving to bring everything to their
own way. But there's a class of people in the world wouldn't do a
hand's turn, no more than the bird upon the tree.
Ralph: I wonder you not to give in to us, when all the world
knows God formed young people for to be giving aid to elder people, and
beyond all to them that are near to them in blood.
Staffy: Look now, Simon, let you be said and led by me. You
having no great share of wisdom we are wishful to make a snug man of
you and to put you on a right road. Go in now and you will not be kept
out of your own profit and your share, and a harbour of plenty beyond
Simon: It might be guarded by a serpent in a tree, or by
unnatural things would be in the similitude of cats.
Staffy: Ah, that class is done away with this good while.
Ralph: There is no person having sense, but would take means,
by hook or by crook, to make his pocket stiff and he to be given his
fair chance. It is to save you from starvation we are wishful to do, as
much as to bring profit to ourselves.
Staffy: You not to follow our say you will be brought to burn
green ferns to boil your victuals, or to devour the berries of the
Simon: I would not wish a head to follow me and leap up on
the table and wrestle me, or to drink against me with its gory mouth.
Staffy: You that have not the substance of a crane's marrow,
to go shrink from so small a bidding, let you go on the shaughraun or
to the workhouse, where you would not take our advice.
Simon: I'll go do your bidding so. I will go bring out the
Staffy: There is my whiteheaded boy! I'll keep a watch, the
way Damer will not steal in on us without warning.
Ralph: He should have the key in some secret place. It is
best for you give the lock a blow of your foot.
Simon: I'll do that.
(He gives door a kick. It opens easily.)
Delia: Was I right now saying Damer is turned innocent? Sure
the door was not locked at all.
Simon: (Dragging out jar.) Here it is now.
Ralph: So it is and no mistake.
Staffy: There should be great weight in it.
Ralph: I am in dread it might work a hole down through the
timber of the car.
Delia: Why wouldn't we open it here? It would be handier
bringing it away in small divides.
Ralph: The way we would make sure of getting our own share at
Delia: Let you draw out the cork from it.
Ralph: I don't know can I lift it. (Stoops and lifts it
easily.) The Lord protect and save us! There is no weight in it at
Staffy: (Seizing and shaking it.) Not a one penny in it but
clean empty. That beats all.
Delia: It is with banknotes it is stuffed that are deaf and
do be giving out no sound. (She pokes in a knitting pin.) Nothing in
it at all, but as bare as the canopy of heaven!
Ralph: There being nothing within in it, where now is the
Staffy: Some person should have made away with it.
Delia: Some robber or some great rogue. A terrible thing such
ruffians to be around in the world! To turn and rob a poor man of all
he had spared and had earned.
Staffy: They have done him a great wrong surely, taking from
him all he had of comfort in his life.
Ralph: My grief it is there being no more hangings for
thieves, that are worse again than murderers that might do their deed
out of heat. It is thieving is the last crime.
Staffy: We to lay our hand on that vagabond we'll give him
cruelty will force him to Christian habits.
Ralph: Take care might he be nearer than what you think!
(He points at Simon. All look at him.)
Staffy: Sure enough it is with himself only we found him on
the hearth this morning.
Delia: He hasn't hardly the intellect to be the thief.
Simon: I tell you I never since the day I was born could be
charged with the weight of a brass pin!
Staffy: It is to Damer, my fine boy, you will have to make
out your case.
Simon: So I will make it out. Where now is Damer?
Staffy: He is gone down the road, where he brought away
Jubair the dog.
Simon: What are you saying? The dog gone is it? (Goes to
Ralph: (Taking hold of him.) What makes you go out in such a
Simon: What is that to you?
Delia: What cause has he to be making a run?
Simon: Let me mind my own business.
Staffy: It is maybe our own business.
Simon: To make a search I must in that dog's kennel of straw.
Delia: Go out, Ralph, till you will bring it in.
(Ralph goes out.)
Staffy: (Seizing him) A man to go rush out headlong and money
after being stolen, I have no mind to let him make his escape.
Delia: If you are honest let you stop within and not to put a
bad appearance upon yourself making off.
Simon: Let me out! I tell you I have a thing concealed in the
Staffy: A strange place to go hiding things and a queer story
Delia: Do not let go your hold. He to go out into the street,
he has the wide world before him.
Ralph: (Dragging kennel in.) Here now is the box.
Simon: (Breaking away and searching it) Where at all is it
Staffy: It is lies he was telling. There is nothing at all
within in it only a wisp of barley straw.
Simon: Where at all is it?
Staffy: What is it is gone from you?
Simon: Not a one pound left!
Delia: Why would you look to find coins of money down in
Simon: It is there I hid it.
Staffy: What is it you hid?
Simon: All that was in the crock and that I took from it.
Where now is my bag of gold?
Staffy: Do you hear what he is after saying?
Ralph: A lad of that sort will not be safe but in the gaol.
Let us give him into the grip of the law.
Delia: No, but let the man owned it do that.
Staffy: So he can task him with it, and he drawing to the
Delia: (Going to it.) It is time for you, Patrick, come in.
(Damer comes in dragging a sack.)
Ralph: You are after being robbed and left bare.
Delia: Not a one penny left of all you have cast into its
Ralph: Herself made a prophecy you would be robbed with the
weakening of your wits, and sure enough it has come about.
Delia: Not a tint of it left. What now do you say, hearing
Damer: (Sitting down by the hearth and laying down sack.) If
it should go it must go. That was allotted to me in the skies.
Delia: Is it that you had knowledge ere this of it being
swept and lost?
Damer: If I had not, why would I have been setting my mind
upon eternity and striving to bring to mind a few prayers? And to have
parted with my wicked dog?
Delia: Let you turn around till you will see before you the
man that is the robber and the thief!
Simon: Thief yourself! You that had a plan made up to bring
Damer: Delia, Delia, what was I laying down a while ago? It
is the love of riches has twisted your heart and your mind.
Delia: Is it that you are contented to be made this one's
Damer: It was foretold for me, I to go stint the body till I
near put myself to death without the Lord calling on me, and to lose
every whole pound after in one night's card playing.
Delia: Is it at cards you lost it?
Damer: With that same pack of cards you laid out under my
hand, I lost all I had gathered to that one.
Staffy: Well, there is nothing so certain in the world as the
running of a fool to a fool.
Delia: Is it taking that lad you are to be a fool? I thinking
him to be as simple as you'd see in the world, and he putting bread
upon his own butter as we slept!
Ralph: We to have known all then we know now, we need not
have wasted on him our advice.
Damer: Give me, boy, one answer. What in the world wide put
venture into you that made you go face the dog?
Simon: Ah, what venture? And he being as he is without teeth?
Damer: You know that, what no one in the parish or out of it
ever found out till now! You should have put your hand in his jaw to
know that much! A right lad you are and a lucky lad. I would nearly
wish you of my own blood and of my race.
Delia: Of your own blood is it?
Damer: That is what I would wish.
Delia: Is it that you are taking Simon Niland to be a
Damer: What Simon Niland?
Delia: Your own nephew and only son to your sister Sarah.
Damer: Do you tell me so! What way did it fail me to
recognise that, and he having daring and spirit the same as used to be
rising up in myself in my early time?
Delia: He was born the very year of you coming into
possession of this place.
Damer: The same year my luck turned against me, and every
horse I would back would get the staggers on the course, or would fail
to rise at the leaps. All the strength of fortune went from me at that
time, it is into himself it flowed and ran. The dead spit and image of
myself he is. Stop with me here through the winter season and through
the summer season! You to be in the house it is not an unlucky house
will be in it. The Royalty of England and of Spain cannot touch upon
yourself. I am prouder of you than if you wrote the wars of Homer or
put down Turgesius of the Danes! You are a lad that can't be beat. It
is you are the Lamb of Luck!
Staffy: What call has he or any of us to be stopping under
Damer's roof and he owning but the four walls presently and a poor
little valley of land?
Ralph: There is nothing worth while in his keeping, and all
he had gathered after being robbed.
Damer: Is that what you are saying? Well, I am not so easy
robbed as you think! (Takes bag from the sack and shakes it.) Is
that what you call being robbed?
Simon: That is my treasure and my bag!
Staffy: I thought it was after being brought away from the
two of you.
Damer: You are out of it! It is Jubair did that much for me.
Jubair, my darling, it is tonight I'll bring him back to the house! It
is not in the box he will be any more but alongside the warmth of the
hearth. The time I went unloosing his chain, didn't he scrape with his
paw till he showed me all I had lost hid in under the straw, and it in
a spotted bag! (Opens and pours out money.)
Simon: It is as well for you have it back where it stopped so
short with myself.
Damer: Is it that I would keep it from you where it was won
fair? It is a rogue of a man would do that. Where would be the use, and
I knowing you could win it back from me at your will, and the five
trumps coming into your hand? It is to share it we will and share
alike, so long as it will not give out!
Delia: A little handsel to myself would do the both of you no
harm at all.
Damer: Delia, my darling, I'll go as far as that on this day
of wonders. I'll handsel you and welcome. I'll bestow on you the empty
jar. (Gives it to her.)
Delia: I'll take it. I'll let on it to be weighty and I
facing back into Loughtyshassy.
Ralph: The neighbours seeing it and taking you to be his heir
you might come to your goats yet.
Delia: Ah, what's goats and what is guinea-hens? Did ever you
see yoked horses in a coach, their skin shining out like shells, rising
their steps in tune the same as a patrol of police? There are peacocks
on the lawns of Lough Cutra they were telling me, having each of them a
hundred eyes. (Goes to door.)
Simon: (Putting his hand on the jar.) I don't know. (To
Damer) It might be a nice thing for the two of us to start
gathering the full of it again.
Damer: Not a fear of me. Where heaping and hoarding that much
has my years withered and blighted up to this, it is not to storing
treasure in any vessel at all I will give the latter end of my days, or
to working the skin off my bones. Give me here that coat. (Puts it
on.) If I was tossed and racked a while ago I'll show out good from
this out. Come on now, out of this, till we'll face to the races of
Loughrea and of Knockbarron. I was miserable and starved long enough.
(Puts on hat.) I'm thinking as long as I'll be living I'll take my
view of the world, for it's long I'll be lying when my eyes are closed
and seeing nothing at all!
(He seizes a handful of gold and puts it in Simon's pocket and
another in his own. They turn towards the door.)
In a lecture I gave last year on playwriting I said I had
been forced to write comedy because it was wanted for our theatre, to put on at
the end of the verse plays, but that I think tragedy is easier. For, I said,
tragedy shows humanity in the grip of circumstance, of fate, of what our people
call “the thing will happen,” “the Woman in the Stars that does all.” There is a
woman in the stars they say, who is always hurting herself in one way or other,
and according to what she is doing at the hour of your birth, so will it happen
to you in your lifetime, whether she is hanging herself or drowning herself or
burning herself in the fire. “And,” said an old man who was telling me this, “I
am thinking she was doing a great deal of acting at the time I myself made my
start in the world.” Well, you put your actor in the grip of this woman, in the
claws of the cat. Once in that grip you know what the end must be. You may let
your hero kick or struggle, but he is in the claws all the time, it is a mere
question as to how nearly you will let him escape, and when you will allow the
pounce. Fate itself is the protagonist, your actor cannot carry much character,
it is out of place. You do not want to know the character of a wrestler you see
trying his strength at a show.
In writing a little tragedy, The Gaol Gate, I made the
scenario in three lines, “He is an informer; he is dead; he is hanged.” I wrote
that play very quickly. My two poor women were in the clutch of the Woman in the
Stars.... I knew what I was going to do and I was able to keep within those
three lines. But in comedy it is different. Character comes in, and why it is so
I cannot explain, but as soon as one creates a character, he begins to put out
little feet of his own and take his own way.
I had been meditating for a long time past on the mass of
advice that is given one by friends and well-wishers and relations, advice that
would be excellent if the giver were not ignorant so often of the one essential
in the case, the one thing that matters. But there is usually something out of
sight, of which the adviser is unaware, it may be something half mischievously
hidden from him, it may be that “secret of the heart with God” that is called
religion. In the whole course of our work at the theatre we have been I may say
drenched with advice by friendly people who for years gave us the reasons why we
did not succeed.... All their advice, or at least some of it, might have been
good if we had wanted to make money, to make a common place of amusement. Our
advisers did not see that what we wanted was to create for Ireland a theatre
with a base of realism, with an apex of beauty. Well, last summer I made a fable
for this meditation, this emotion, at the back of my mind to drive.
I pictured to myself, for I usually first see a play as a
picture, a young man, a mere lad, very sleepy in the daytime. He was surrounded
by people kind and wise, who lamented over his rags and idleness and assured him
that if he didn't get up early and do his work in the daytime he would never
know the feel of money in his hand. He listens to all their advice, but he does
not take it, because he knows what they do not know, that it is in the night
time precisely he is filling his pocket, in the night when, as I think, we
receive gifts from the unseen. I placed him in the house of a miser, an old man
who had saved a store of gold. I called the old man Damer, from a folk-story of
a chandler who had bought for a song the kegs of gold the Danes had covered with
tallow as a disguise when they were driven out of Ireland, and who had been rich
and a miser ever after. I did not mean this old man, Damer, to appear at all. He
was to be as invisible as that Heaven of which we are told the violent take it
by force. My intention at first was that he should be robbed, but then I saw
robbery would take too much sympathy from my young lad, and I decided the money
should be won by the lesser sin of cardplaying, but still behind the scenes.
Then I thought it would have a good stage effect if old Damer could just walk
once across the stage in the background. His relations might have come into the
house to try and make themselves agreeable to him, and he would appear and they
would vanish. ... Damer comes in, and contrary to my intention, he begins to
find a tongue of his own. He has made his start in the world, and has more than
a word to say. How that play will work out I cannot be sure, or if it will ever
be finished at all. But if ever it is I am quite sure it will go as Damer wants,
not as I want.
That is what I said last winter, and now in harvest time the
play is all but out of my hands. But as I foretold, Damer has taken possession
of it, turning it to be as simple as a folk-tale, where the innocent of the
world confound the wisdom of the wise. The idea with which I set out has not
indeed quite vanished, but is as if “extinct and pale; not darkness, but light
that has become dead.”
As to Damer's changes of mood, it happened a little time ago,
when the play was roughly written, but on its present lines, that I took up a
volume of Montaigne, and found in it his justification by high examples:
“Verilie it is not want but rather plentie that causeth
avarice. I will speake of mine owne experience concerning this subject. I have
lived in three kinds of condition since I came out of my infancie. The first
time, which continued well nigh twentie yeares, I have past it over as one who
had no other means but casual without any certaine maintenance or regular
prescription. My expenses were so much the more carelessly laid out and lavishly
employed, by how much more they wholly depended on fortunes rashnesse and
exhibition. I never lived so well at ease.... My second manner of life hath been
to have monie: which when I had once fingred, according to my condition I sought
to hoorde up some against a rainy day.... My minde was ever on my halfe-penny;
my thoughts ever that way. Of commoditie I had little or nothing.... And after
you are once accustomed, and have fixed your thoughts upon a heape of monie, it
is no longer at your service; you dare not diminish it; it is a building which
if you touch or take any part from it, you will think it will all fall. And I
should sooner pawne my clothes or sell a horse, with lesse care and compulsion
than make a breach into that beloved purse which I kept in store.... I was some
yeares of the same humour: I wot not what good Demon did most profitably remove
me from it, like to the Siracusan, and made me to neglect my sparing.... I live
from hand to mouth, from day to day, and have I but to supplie my present and
ordinarie needs I am satisfied.... And I singularly gratifie myself this
correction came upon me in an age naturally inclined to covetousnesse, and that
I am free from that folly so common and peculiar to old men, and the most
ridiculous of all humane follies. Feraulez who had passed through both fortunes
and found that encrease of goods was no encrease of appetite to eat, to sleepe
or to embrace his wife; and who on the other side felt heavily on his shoulders
the importunitie of ordering and directing his Oeconomicall affairs as it doth
on mine, determined with himselfe to content a poore young man, his faithfull
friend, greedily gaping after riches, and frankly made him a present donation of
all his great and excessive riches, always provided hee should undertake to
entertaine and find him, honestly and in good sort, as his guest and friend. In
which estate they lived afterwards most happily and mutually content with the
change of their condition.”
And so I hope it may come to pass with the remaining years of
Simon and of Damer.