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Full Online Book HomePlaysDuty: A Comedy In One Act
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Duty: A Comedy In One Act Post by :gabby Category :Plays Author :Unknown Date :November 2011 Read :3032

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Duty: A Comedy In One Act

CHARACTERS


HEAD CONSTABLE MULLIGAN A Member of the Royal Irish Constabulary
SERGEANT DOOLEY A Member of the R.I.C.
CONSTABLE HUGGINS A Member of the R.I.C.
MICUS GOGGIN
PADNA SWEENEY
MRS. ELLEN COTTER A public-house keeper

 


DUTY was produced for the first time at the Abbey
Theatre, Dublin, December 17, 1913, with the following
cast:


Head Constable Mulligan, R.I.C. ARTHUR SINCLAIR
Sergeant Dooley, R.I.C. FRED O'DONOVAN
Constable Huggins, R.I.C. SYDNEY J. MORGAN
Micus Goggin J.M. KERRIGAN
Padna Sweeney J.A. O'ROURKE
Mrs. Ellen Cotter UNA O'CONNOR

 


DUTY


Back kitchen of a country public house. Micus and Padna seated at a table drinking from pewter pints. Mrs. Cotter enters in response to a call.

PADNA
(pointing to pint measures)

Fill 'em again, ma'am, please.

MRS. COTTER
(taking pints, and wiping table)

Fill 'em again, is it? Indeed I won't do any such thing.

MICUS
Indeed you will, Mrs. Cotter.

MRS. COTTER
Don't you know that 'tis Sunday night, an' that the police
might call any minute?

MICUS
(disdainfully)

The police!

PADNA
Bad luck to them!

MICUS Amen!

MRS. COTTER
This will be the last drink that any one will get in
this house to-night.

(Exit.)

MICUS
'Tis a nice state of affairs to think that dacent men,
after a hard week's work, can't have a drink in pace
and quietness in the town they were born and reared
in, without bein' scared out o' their senses by the
police!

PADNA
'Tis the hell of a thing, entirely! I don't see what's
gained be closin' the pubs at all, unless it be to give
the police somethin' to do.

MICUS
The overfed and undertaught bla'gards!

PADNA
As far as I can see, there's as much drink sold as if
the pubs were never closed.

MICUS
There is, an' more; for if it wasn't forbidden to drink
porter, it might be thought as little about as water.

PADNA
I don't believe that, Micus. Did you ever hear of a
pint or even a gallon of water makin' any one feel
like Napoleon?

(Mrs. Cotter enters and places drinks on table.)

PADNA
(handing money)

There ye are, ma'am.

MRS. COTTER
(takes money)

Hurry now like good boys, for forty shillin's is a lot
to pay for a pint o' porter, an' that's what 'twill cost
ye if the police comes in an' finds ye here. An' I'll
lose me license into the bargain.

(Exit.)

MICUS
One would think be the way the police are talked
about that they had charge of the whole Universe!

PADNA
An' who else has charge of it but themselves an' the
magistrates, or justices o' the pace, as they're called?

MICUS
They're worse than the police.

PADNA
They're as bad anyway, an' that's bad enough.

MICUS
(scornfully)

Justices o' the pace!

PADNA
Micus!

MICUS
What?

PADNA
(thoughtfully)

There's no justice in the world.

MICUS
Damn the bit! Sure 'tisn't porter we should be drinkin'
a cold night like this!

PADNA
(as he sips from pint)

'Tis well to have it these times.

MICUS
The world is goin' to the dogs, I'm afraid.

PADNA
'Tisn't goin' at all, but gone.

MICUS
An' nobody seems to care.

PADNA
Some pretend they do, like the preachers, but they're
paid for it. I do be often wonderin' after readin' the
newspapers if God has forgotten about the world
altogether.

MICUS
I wouldn't be surprised, for nothin' seems to be right.
There's the police, for instance. They can do what
they like, an' we must do what we're told, like childer.


PADNA
Isn't the world a star, Micus?

MICUS
(with pint to his mouth)

Of course it is.

PADNA
Then it must be the way that it got lost among all
the other stars one sees on a frosty night.

MICUS
Are there min in the other stars too?

PADNA
So I believe.

MICUS
That's queer.

PADNA
Sure, everythin' is queer.

MICUS
If the min in the other stars are like the peelers, there
won't be much room in Hell after the good are taken
to Heaven on the last day.

PADNA
The last day! I don't like to think about the last day.

MICUS
Why so?

PADNA
Well, 'tis terrible to think that we might be taken to
Heaven, (pauses) an' our parents an' childer might
be sent (points towards the floor) with the Protestants.

MICUS
If the Protestants will be as well treated in the next
world as they are in this, I wouldn't mind goin' with
'em meself.

PADNA
I wouldn't like to be a Protestant after I'm dead, Micus.


MICUS
(knocks with his pint on the table
and Mrs. Cotter enters; he points to pints
)

The same again, Mrs. Cotter.

MRS. COTTER
Indeed, ye won't get another drop.

MICUS
This will be our last, ma'am. Don't be hard on us.
'Tis only a night of our lives, an' we'll be all dead
one day.

MRS. COTTER
(as she leaves the room with measures in hand)

Ye ought to be ashamed o' yerselves to be seen in
a public house a night like this.

MICUS
We're ashamed o' nothin,' ma'am. We're only ourselves
an' care for nobody.

MRS. COTTER
(turning round)

Well, this is the very last drink ye'll get then.

(Exit.)

PADNA
Women are all alike.

MICUS
They are, God forgive them.

PADNA
They must keep talkin'.

MICUS
An' 'tis only a fool that 'ud try to prevent 'em.

MRS. COTTER
(entering and placing measures on table)

Hurry up, now, an' don't have me at the next Petty Sessions.

(Exit.)

MICUS
(after testing drink)

Nothin' like a good pint o' "Dundon's."

PADNA
'Tis great stuff.

MICUS
May the Lord spare them long, an' they buildin'
houses for the poor an' churches for God!

PADNA
An' all out o' the beer money?

MICUS
Of course. What else could ye make money at in a
country like this?

PADNA
'Tis a thirsty climate!

MICUS
If all those who made money built houses for the poor
an' gave employment, there 'ud soon be no poor at all.

PADNA
You're talkin' what's called socialism now, an' that's
too delicate a plant, like Christianity, to thrive in a
planet like this. So I heard one o' them preacher
chaps sayin' the other evenin'.

MICUS
Well, be all accounts, we're no better off than those
who heard St. Peter himself preachin'. The poor still
only get the promise of Heaven from the clergy.

PADNA
That's all they'll ever get.

MICUS
The world must surely be lost, Padna.

PADNA
Nothin' surer!

MICUS
If God ever goes rummagin' among the stars an' finds
it again, there'll be bad work, I'm thinkin'.

PADNA
I wonder will it be a great fire or another flood?

MICUS
Tis hard to tell!

(A loud knocking is heard at the door.

MRS. COTTER (from the shop)
Who's there?

VOICE
Police.

PADNA
May ye freeze there!

MICUS
Or trip over the threshold and break ye'r neck!

MRS. COTTER
(rushing into kitchen)

Quick! quick! quick!

(Points to a door)
This way, boys!

(Micus and Padna enter a small room off the kitchen.
Mrs. Cotter locks the door and opens the street door for
the policeman, the knocking getting louder meanwhile
.)

MRS. COTTER
Wait a minit! Wait a minit! I'm comin', I'm comin'.

(Opens door. Enter Head Constable Mulligan, R.I.C.)

HEAD
You took a long time to open the door, ma'am.

MRS. COTTER
I know I did, but it wasn't me fault, Head. I had
the house locked up for the night, an' couldn't find
where I left the kay.

HEAD
'Tis all right, ma'am. I can lose things meself.

(Looks carefully around)
'Tis a lonesome thing to see the house so empty.

MRS. COTTER
'Tis Sunday night, Head.

HEAD
Of course, of course! All the same I'd prefer to see it
full--of bona-fide travellers, I mean.

MRS. COTTER
Thank ye, Head. How's Mrs. Mulligan an' the
childer?

HEAD
Wisha, purty fair. How's the world usin' yourself?

MRS. COTTER
Only for the rheumatics I'd have no cause to grumble.

HEAD
'Tis well to be alive at all these times. An' Ballyferris
isn't the best place to keep any one alive in
winter time.

MRS. COTTER
Or summer time ayther. Whin the weather is good
trade is bad.

HEAD
That's always the way in this world. We're no sooner,
out o' one trouble before another commences. I always
admire the way you bear your troubles, though,
Mrs. Cotter.

MRS. COTTER
I does me best, Head.

HEAD
Just like meself! Just like meself! The Government
makes laws an' I must see that they're not broken.
(Rubbing his hands together)

'Tis a cold night, an' no doubt about it.

MRS. COTTER
Bad weather is due to us now.

HEAD
Everythin' bad is due to some of us. Only for that
shark of an Inspector 'tis little trouble I'd be givin'
a dacent woman like yourself a night like this.

MRS. COTTER
He's very strict, I hear.

HEAD
He's strict, disagreeable, a Protestant, a teetotaler,
an' a Cromwellian to boot!

MRS. COTTER
The Lord protect us! 'Tis a wonder you're alive at all!

HEAD
Wisha, I'm only half alive. The cold never agrees
with me. (Looking at fire) That's not a very dangerous
fire, an' I'm as cold as a snowball.

MRS. COTTER
(with her back to the door behind which
Padna and Micus are hiding
)

There's a fine fire up-stairs
in the sittin'-room.

HEAD
(draws a chair and sits down)

Thank ye, ma'am, but 'tisn't worth me while goin'
up-stairs. As I said before, I wouldn't trouble you at
all only for the Inspector, an' like Nelson, he expects
every one to do their duty.

MRS. COTTER
'Tis a hard world.

HEAD
An' a cold world too. I often feels cold on a summer
day.

MRS. COTTER
That's too bad! Is there no cure for it?

HEAD
They say there's a cure for everything.

MRS. COTTER
I wonder if ye took a drop o' "Wise's" ten-year-old!
It might help to warm ye, if ye sat be the fire up-stairs.

HEAD
(brightening up)

Now, 'pon me word, but that's strange! I was just
thinkin' o' the same thing meself. That's what's
called telepattery or thought transference.

MRS. COTTER
Tella--what, Head?

HEAD
(with confidence)

Telepattery, ma'am. 'Tis like this: I might be in
America--

MRS. COTTER
I wish you were--

HEAD
(with a look of surprise)

What's that, ma'am?

MRS. COTTER
I wish for your own sake that you were in a country
where you would get better paid for your work.

HEAD
(satisfied)

Thank ye, ma'am. I suppose min like meself must
wait till we go to the other world to get our reward.

MRS. COTTER
Very likely!

HEAD
Well, as I was sayin', I might be in America, or New
York, Boston, Chicago, or any o' thim foreign places,
an' you might be in this very house, or up in your
sister's house, or takin' a walk down the town, an'
I'd think o' some thought, an' at that very second
you'd think o' the same thought, an' nayther of us
would know that we were both thinkin' o' the same
thing. That's tellepattery, ma'am.

MRS. COTTER
'Tis a surprisin' thing, surely! Is it hot or
cold you'll have the whiskey, Head?

HEAD
Cold, if ye please.

(Exit Mrs. Cotter. While she is away, he walks
up and down whistling some popular air. Enter Mrs.
Cotter.
)

MRS. COTTER
Will I bring it up-stairs for you?

HEAD
Indeed, I'm givin' you too much trouble as it is. I'll
try an' take it where I am.

(Takes glass and tastes)
That is good stuff.

MRS. COTTER
I'm glad you like it.

HEAD
Who wouldn't like it?

MRS. COTTER
I don't know the taste of it.

HEAD
(as he finishes contents of glass)

May ye be always so, though there's nothin' like it
all the same. (Handing coin) I think I'll have a
little drop from meself this time.

MRS. COTTER
(as she takes the money)

Will I bring it up-stairs?

HEAD
Erra, don't bother! I'm beginnin' to feel meself again.

(Fills his pipe until she returns.)

MRS. COTTER
(entering and handing drink)

Did you bring your overcoat with you, Head?

HEAD
Why so, ma'am?

MRS. COTTER
Because the cold o' the rain is there. I wouldn't
make any delay but go home immediately. You
might get a wettin'.

HEAD
(feeling his tunic)

This wouldn't leave in a drop o' rain in a hundred
years, ma'am.

(Knock at door.

MRS. COTTER
Who's there?

VOICE
Police!

HEAD
Police, did I hear?

MRS. COTTER
'Tis the Sergeant's voice.

HEAD
Glory to be God! I'm ruined! If he finds the smell o'
whiskey from me, he'll tell the Inspector, an' then
Head Constable Mulligan is no more!

MRS. COTTER
Is he as bad as that?

HEAD
He has no conscience at all. He's a friend o' the Inspector's.

(Knocking continues at door)
Don't open that door till I tell you--that's if
you don't want to find a corpse on the floor.

MRS. COTTER
Sure, I must open the door.

HEAD
Time enough. He's paid for waitin'. Have you such
a thing as an onion in the house?

MRS. COTTER
I didn't see an onion for the last three weeks.

HEAD
(scratching his head)

What the blazes will I do?

(Looking towards coal hole)
Whist! I'm saved. I'll go in here until he's gone.

(Goes in and puts out his head)
You can open now,
but get rid of him as soon as you can.

(Exit Mrs. Cotter. Enter the Sergeant.

SERGEANT
So you opened at last. Well, better late than never!

MRS. COTTER
I'm sorry for keepin' you waitin', Sergeant. I don't
open the door for any one on Sunday nights, an' whin
you said "Police," I thought it was one o' the boys
tryin' to desaive me.

SERGEANT
I see! I see! There's a lot o' desaitful people in the
town, ma'am.

MRS. COTTER
There are, Sergeant.

SERGEANT
There are indeed.

(Coughs)
I'm sick an' tired o' the place altogether.

MRS. COTTER
I thought it agreed with you. You're lookin' very
well, anyway.

SERGEANT
I'm not feelin' well at all thin. (Coughs) There's
nothin' more deceptive than looks at times. (Coughs)

MRS. COTTER
True.

SERGEANT
'Tis in me bed I should be instead of troublin' dacent
people like yourself a night like this. (Coughs) But
duty is duty, an' it must be done. If I didn't do
what I'm told, that bla'gard of a Head Constable
would soon have another an' maybe a worse man in
my place.

MRS. COTTER
The Lord save us!

SERGEANT
But as herself says: There's no use in the Government
makin' laws if the people don't keep them.

MRS. COTTER
That's so.

SERGEANT
Keepin' the world in order is no aisy business, ma'am.

MRS. COTTER
'Tis a great responsibility.

SERGEANT
(drawing a chair to the fire and sitting down)

'Pon me word I'm tired an' cold too.

MRS. COTTER
Wouldn't ye go home and go to bed, Sergeant?

SERGEANT
If I went to bed at this hour, the Head would send a
report to his chum the Inspector, statin' that I was
drunk.

(Coughs)

MRS. COTTER
That's a bad cough. How long is it troublin' ye?

SERGEANT
Only since supper time. I was eatin' a bit o' cold
meat, an' a bone or somethin' stuck there.

(Points at his throat)

MRS. COTTER
An' what did ye do for it?

SERGEANT
What could I do for it?

MRS. COTTER
Ye could take a drink o' somethin' an' wash it down.

SERGEANT
I tried some cold tea.

(Coughs)

MRS. COTTER
I wonder would a bottle of stout do any good.

SERGEANT
'Twould be no harm to try.

MRS. COTTER
Will ye have a bottle?

SERGEANT
To tell ye the truth, I don't like bein' disobligin', ma'am.

(Coughs)

(Exit Mrs. Cotter. While she is away, he walks up
and down, whistling the while
.

MRS. COTTER
(at door)

Ye might as well come up-stairs, Sergeant. There's a
fine fire in the sitting-room.

SERGEANT
I'm first rate where I am. Thank you all the same.

(Takes stout and finishes it without withdrawing
it from his mouth. Coughs
.)

MRS. COTTER
How do you feel now?

SERGEANT
(wiping his mouth with a large old handkerchief)

'Tis gone! I mean the bone. I feel meself
again.

MRS. COTTER
I'm glad of that.

(Looking at clock)

'Tis gone half-past ten, Sergeant.

SERGEANT
Plenty o' time. We'll be a long time dead, an' happy I hope.

MRS. COTTER
Amen!

SERGEANT
'Tis my belief that we should all try to do good while
we're alive.

MRS. COTTER
There's a lot o' good people in the world, Sergeant.

SERGEANT
There is, ma'am, but nearly every one o' them thinks
that they're better than what they are. That's what
annoys me.

MRS. COTTER
Sure 'tis imagination that keeps the world movin'.

SERGEANT
Yes, an' ambition. All the same, 'tis a good job that
people can't see themselves as they really are.

MRS. COTTER
They wouldn't believe that they were themselves if
they could.

SERGEANT
I suppose not.

MRS. COTTER
Won't ye come up to the fire in the sittin'-room?

SERGEANT
Don't be worryin' about me. I'm all right. That was
good stout.

MRS. COTTER
The best!

SERGEANT
'Tis a cure for nearly everythin'. Only for takin' a
little now an' again, I'd never be able to stand all the
hardships o' me profession.

MRS. COTTER
Hard work isn't easy.

SERGEANT
True! But a good drop o' stout, or better still "spirits"
makes many things easy. 'Tis the seed o' pluck,
so to speak. I'm feelin' just a little queer about the
nerves. I think I'll have a drop o' "Wise's."

(Exit Mrs. Cotter. While she is away he fills his pipe.)

MRS. COTTER
(entering with drink)

That's like the noise of a row down the road.

SERGEANT
Erra, let 'em row away! The Head is prowlin' about.
Let him separate 'em. 'Tis about time he did somethin'
for his livin'. 'Tis a damn shame to have the
poor rate payers supportin' the likes of him.

MRS. COTTER
I wouldn't be talkin' like that, Sergeant.

SERGEANT
Why wouldn't I talk? There's as many Head Constables
as clergy in the country, an' only for the sergeants
an' an odd constable 'tis unknown what 'ud
happen!

MRS. COTTER
The Head is a dacent gentleman.

SERGEANT
You don't know anythin' about him. Grumblin' about
havin' to shave himself he does be now, an' only for
havin' a bald patch on one side of his face, he'd let
his whiskers grow altogether.

(The Head sneezes in the coal hole.)

SERGEANT
What noise is that?

MRS. COTTER
(startled)

That's only the cat in the coal hole.

SERGEANT
(leaving his chair and moves toward it)

He must be suffocatin'. I'll open the door an' let
him out. Under the grate he should be a cold night
like this.

(Opens the door and sees the Head)
Heavens be praised! 'Tis the Head himself!

(The Head comes out, arranges his cap, and is not aware
that he has a black spot on his nose
.

HEAD
'Tis the Head an' every inch an' ounce of him too
that stands before ye.

SERGEANT
I thought 'twas y'er ghost I saw.

HEAD
(angrily)

What the blazes would me ghost be doin' in a coal hole?

SERGEANT
What I'd like to know is what y'erself have been doin'
there.

HEAD
That won't take me long to tell. Waitin' and watchin'
to catch the likes o' you is what took me there.

SERGEANT
Now, Head, with all due respects, I'd try an' tell the
truth if I were you.

HEAD
Sergeant Dooley, sir, anythin' you'll say or be likely
to say 'll be used in evidence against you.

SERGEANT
An' anythin' that you say or don't say may be used
in evidence against you.

HEAD
(enraged)

Sergeant Dooley!

SERGEANT
(coolly)

Yes, Head.

HEAD
Do you know that y'er addressin' y'er superior officer?

SERGEANT
The less said about superiority the better.

HEAD
You can't deny that I found you drinkin' on these
licensed premises while on duty.

SERGEANT
I might as well tell you candidly that you have no
more chance o' frightenin' me or desaivin' me than
you have of catchin' whales in Casey's duck-pond.

HEAD
(passionately)

I'll--I'll--I--

SERGEANT
You'll have a drink from me, an' we'll say no more
about the matter. I wouldn't blame any man for
takin' a drop a cold night like this. I suppose 'twill
be "Wise's" the same as the last? That's if me sense
o' smell isn't out of order.

HEAD
(crestfallen, blows his breath on the palm
of his hand and looks at the Sergeant
)

Is it as bad as that?

SERGEANT
I smelt it the instant I came in, an' wondered where
'twas comin' from.

HEAD
I only took it to avoid catchin' cold.

SERGEANT
Just like meself. We must avoid catchin' cold at any
cost.

(To Mrs. Cotter)
Two glasses o' "Wise's," ma'am."

(Exit Mrs. Cotter.)

SERGEANT
(to Head)

Wait, an' I'll wipe that black spot off ye'r nose.

(He does so. Enter Mrs. Cotter.

MRS. COTTER
(handing drinks)

The fire up-stairs is blazing away, an' there's no one
sittin' by it.

HEAD
We're all right.

(Holding glass)
Here's long life to us!

SERGEANT
Health an' prosperity!

HEAD
(after finishing drink)

We must have another, for I'm not feelin' too well,
an' 'tis better be on the safe side. 'Twas through
neglect that some o' the best min died.

SERGEANT
We must not forget that!

HEAD
(to Mrs. Cotter)

The same again, Mrs. Cotter.

(Exit Mrs. Cotter with glasses.

HEAD
I saw be the papers last night that the Royal Irish
Constabulary are the finest in the world.

SERGEANT
Sure every one knows that!

HEAD
I wonder what kind are all the others?

SERGEANT
That's what I'd like to know.

MRS. COTTER (at door)
Will I bring them up to the sittin'-room, gentlemen?

HEAD
We're first class as we are, ma'am.

(Mrs. Cotter hands the glasses and a loud knock is
heard at the door
.)

MRS. COTTER
Who's there?

VOICE
Police!

HEAD
'Tis the constable!

SERGEANT
The bla'gard surely!

HEAD
What'll we do?

SERGEANT
Take the drinks first, an' consider after.

(They finish drinks and hand back the glasses to Mrs. Cotter.)

HEAD
I suppose we had better hide in the coal hole. He has
a better nose than yourself, an' one word from him to
the Inspector would soon deprive us o' both stripes
an' pensions.

SERGEANT
I suppose the coal hole is the best place, though it
does offend me dignity to go there.

HEAD
Wisha, bad luck to you an' ye'r dignity. Come on here!

(The Head enters, and the Sergeant follows. Mrs. Cotter
opens the street door and the Constable enters.
)

CONSTABLE
(sarcastically)

Thanks very much for openin' the door, ma'am.

MRS. COTTER
I'm sorry for keepin' you waitin', Constable. I was
sayin' me prayers up-stairs before goin' to bed.

CONSTABLE
If I had known that, I wouldn't have disturbed you.
I hope you said one for me.

MRS. COTTER
Of course I did. I always ses a prayer for the police.

CONSTABLE
An' right too, ma'am, for 'tis little time we have for
prayin'. There's no rest for a man once he joins the
Force. Whin y're not kept busy thinkin' o' one thing,
y're kept busy thinkin' o' somethin' else.

MRS. COTTER
Thinkin' is worse than workin'.

CONSTABLE
A hundred times.

(Looking at his watch)
'Tis a long
time since first Mass this mornin'. Saturday! Sunday!
Monday! 'Tis all the same whin y're in the
Force. On y'er feet all day, an' kep' awake be the
childer all night. An' whin pay day comes, all y'er
hard earnin's goes to keep the wolf from the door.

MRS. COTTER
God help us!

CONSTABLE
Say what ye will, but life is an awful bother.

MRS. COTTER
We must go through it.

CONSTABLE
Well, 'tis a good job we don't live as long as the
alligators. We might have to support our grandchilder
if we did, an' I may tell you it gives me enough
to do to support me own.

MRS. COTTER
How many have you now, Constable?

CONSTABLE
Seven, an' the wife's mother.

MRS. COTTER
I thought she was dead.

CONSTABLE (disgusted)
Dead! There's five years more in her!

MRS. COTTER
You seem to be in a very bad humor to-night.

CONSTABLE
An' why not? When I have to put up with that
bla'gard of a Sergeant--not to mention the Head-constable!

MRS. COTTER
We all have our troubles.

CONSTABLE
Some of us get more than our share. An' 'tis far
from troublin' a dacent woman like you I'd be, only
for the Sergeant, ma'am.

MRS. COTTER
Excuse me, Constable. I can't keep me eyes open
with the sleep.

CONSTABLE
I'm sorry for troublin' you. But duty is duty, an' it
must be done whether we give offence to our best
friends or not. Sure, 'tis well I know that you have
no one on the premises.

MRS. COTTER
We can't please everybody.

CONSTABLE
(as he draws a chair to the fire and sits down)

Who would try? I wonder is it snow we're goin' to have?

MRS. COTTER
If you're cold, come up to the fire in the sittin'-room.
Or if I were you, I'd take a good walk.

CONSTABLE
I'm tired o' walkin', an' the cold gives me no trouble.
'Tis the pains I have here
(placing his hand on his heart)
that affects me.

MRS. COTTER
What sort are they?

CONSTABLE
Cramps--of the worst kind.

MRS. COTTER
Gracious me! Have you taken anythin' for them?

CONSTABLE
What would be good for 'em?

MRS. COTTER
Hot milk an' pepper.

CONSTABLE
I tried that.

MRS. COTTER
Anythin' else?

CONSTABLE
Nothin' except a smoke.

MRS. COTTER
Maybe a little drop o' "Wise's" would do some good?

CONSTABLE
I'd try anythin' that 'ud lessen the pain, though I'd
rather not be troublin' ye.

MRS. COTTER
'Tis no trouble at all.

(Exit. While she is away, something falls in the room
where Micus and Padna are. The Constable fails to
open the door, and returns to his chair before Mrs.
Cotter comes back with the drink
.)

MRS. COTTER
(handing glass)

Drink that up, go straight home, bathe ye'r feet in
mustard an' water, an' ye'll be as strong as a Protestant
in the mornin'!

CONSTABLE
(taking glass)

Thank ye, ma'am.

(Drinks it off. The Head in the coal hole sneezes, and
the Sergeant shouts
"God bless us!")

CONSTABLE
What's that?

MRS. COTTER
Oh, that's nothin'.

(Another sneeze and "God bless us!"

CONSTABLE
Well, if that nothin' isn't somethin', I'm dotin'.

(Opens door and Head and Sergeant fall out on the floor.)

SERGEANT
'Tis all your fault with your blasted sneezin'.

HEAD
Now, maybe you'll believe that I've a cold.

SERGEANT
Don't be botherin' me. I can't believe meself not to
mind a liar like you.

HEAD
(to the Constable, after he has got on his feet)

Now, sir, what have you got to say for yourself?
'Twill be useless for you to deny that meself an' the
Sergeant here
(points to the Sergeant who is still on the floor)
have caught you drinkin' on these licensed
premises durin' your hours o' duty.

CONSTABLE
An' what about me catchin' the pair o' ye hidin' in
the coal hole o' the same licensed premises, an' a
strong smell o' whiskey from ye?

HEAD
'Tis from yourself that, you smells the whiskey.

CONSTABLE
(takes an onion from his pocket, peels it, and
eats it slowly
)
I defy you or any one else to find the smell o' whiskey
from me.

HEAD
(to the Sergeant)

Well, don't that beat Banagher?

SERGEANT
The Devil himself couldn't do better.

CONSTABLE
Well, gentlemen, I'm sorry for troublin' ye, but duty
is duty. I'll now place ye under arrest an' send for
the Inspector.

HEAD (in a rage)
No more o' this nonsense! You'll pay for this night's
work, believe me.

CONSTABLE
(smiling)

I'll pay for a drink for both o' ye for the sake of old
times, an' the less said about this night's work the
better. (All remain silent for a short time) Well, are
ye goin' to have the drink?

SERGEANT
(to Head)

We might as well take it, for 'tis the first time he
ever offered to stand, an' it may be the last.

HEAD
(after much consideration)

Very well, then, I'll have a drop o' the best.

SERGEANT
An' I'll have the same.

CONSTABLE
Three glasses o' "Wise's," Mrs. Cotter.

MRS. COTTER
(from the bar)

Certainly, Constable.

(The Head and Sergeant remain silent, and the Constable
paces up and down with his hands in his pockets,
whistling some popular tune, until Mrs. Cotter brings
in the drinks
.)

MRS. COTTER
(as she places the drinks on the table)

I don't like to see ye in this cold kitchen, gentlemen.
Can't ye come up-stairs to the sitting-room?

CONSTABLE
'Tisn't worth our while, ma'am. We have our work to do.

(Taking glass in hand)
Slainthe!

(Drinks half the quantity of whiskey. The Head and
Sergeant do likewise. A noise like the falling of furniture
is heard from the room where Padna and Micus are.
)

HEAD
(startled)

What's that?

_(There is silence for a while, then Micus is heard singing.)

MICUS
"We are the boys of Wexford
Who fought with heart an' hand
To burst in twain the galling chain,
An' free our native land."

HEAD
(to Mrs. Cotter who has come from the bar)

I'll have the kay of that door, ma'am.

MRS. COTTER
What kay, Head?

HEAD
The kay o' that door, ma'am.

(Strikes door with his fist.)

MRS. COTTER
Erra, Head, what's the matter with ye? That door
is nailed up this seven years. That singin' comes from
the next house.

HEAD
Glory be to God! Do any one alive tell the truth?

(Catches hold of chair by the back)
If you don't give me the kay, I'll burst open the door.

MRS. COTTER
I have no kay, Head.

HEAD
(holding chair over his head)

Once more I demand the kay in the name of His
Majesty the King, before I puts the legs o' the chair
flyin' through the ledges.

MRS. COTTER
(crying, hands key)

Oh, wisha, what'll I do at all?

HEAD
(taking key)

You'll be told that later on, ma'am.

MRS. COTTER
They are only two neighbors like y'erselves. Can't
ye go away an' lave 'em alone?

HEAD
(placing key)

Not a word now, ma'am, for anythin' that you will
say or won't say must be used in evidence ag'inst ye.

PADNA
(singing)

"Who fears to speak of Ninety-eight?
Who blushes at the name?
When cowards mock the patriots' fate,
Who hangs his head for shame?
He's all a knave or half a slave,
Who slights his country thus:
But true men, like you, men,
Will drink your glass with us."

HEAD
(to Mrs. Cotter)

That's a nice song to be singin' on a licensed premises,
ma'am. 'Twould cause a riot if there was enough
o' people about. No less than raidin' the police
barracks would satisfy the likes o' that songster if he
was left at large.

(Opens door. Padna and Micus stagger on to the floor.
They fall but get on their feet again
)

What are ye doin' here?

PADNA
What the devil is that to you?

MICUS
Or to any one else either?

HEAD
Do ye know that this is a licensed premises?

PADNA
(looking at Micus)

Of course we do.

HEAD
An' do ye know that this is Sunday night an' that
I'm the Head Constable, an' that one o' these min
here is the Sergeant an' the other is the Constable?

PADNA
(buttons his coat and looks defiantly at them)

An' do ye know that I'm Padna Sweeney from Clashbeg?

MICUS
(also buttons his coat and looks aggressively at Head)

An' that I'm his old pal Micus Goggin from Castleclover?

PADNA
(as he staggers)

Don't mind him, Micus. He's drunk.

HEAD
What's that you're sayin'? Who's drunk?

PADNA
Be jaikus, ye're all drunk.

MICUS
Come on away home, Padna, an' don't mind them.
They're a bad lot.

PADNA
The smell o' drink from 'em is awful.

MICUS
'Tis disgustin'. I wouldn't be seen in their company.
Padna. Come on away.

HEAD
(to Sergeant and Constable)

Arrest these min!

PADNA
Do ye hear that, Micus?

MICUS
(opening his coat)

I do, but I won't be insulted be the likes o' them.

PADNA
(opening his coat also)

Nayther will I!

HEAD
(indignantly)

Why don't ye arrest these min, I say?

PADNA and MICUS
(together)

Arrest us, is it?

(They take off their coats, throw them
on the ground, and take their stand like pugilists
)
Come on, now, and arrest us!

PADNA
I'll take the best man.

MICUS
An' I'll take the lot.

(The police try to arrest them, and a desperate struggle
ensues. The police lose their caps and belts, but eventually
succeed in overpowering them.
)

MRS. COTTER
(rushes to the rescue)

O boys, for my sake, an' for the sake o' ye'r wives
an' families, have no crossness but lave the house
quietly.

PADNA
(as he struggles with the Sergeant)

Don't fret, ma'am. We'll have no crossness. All we
want is to wipe the police from the face o' the earth
altogether.

MICUS
That's all. We'll have no crossness.

(Handcuffs are placed on Micus and Padna.

HEAD
(shouts)

Take these min to the Barrack.

(They struggle violently, and sing as they leave the house.)

PADNA and MICUS
(together)

"When boyhood's fire was in my blood,
I read of ancient freemen
For Grace and Rome who bravely stood,
Three hundred men and three men.
And then I prayed I yet might see
Our fetters rent in twain,
And Ireland, long a province, be
A Nation once again."

(Mrs. Cotter follows them to the door, and while the
Head is alone, he writes in his notebook, talking aloud
as he does so
.)

HEAD
"Found drunk an' disorderly on the licensed premises
o' Mrs. Cotter, Ballyferris, during prohibited hours.
Using bad an' offensive language. Resistin' arrest,
assaultin' the police, an' doin' sayrious damage to their
garments. Singin' songs of a nature likely to cause rebellion
an' threatenin' to exterminate the whole Royal
Irish Constabulary."

(Places book back in pocket)

(There is a little whiskey in each of the three glasses
that were placed on the mantleshelf. The Head pours

the contents of each into one and drinks it before Mrs.
Cotter returns. Enter Mrs. Cotter.


MRS. COTTER
Oh, Head, you won't be hard on a lone widow, will
ye? Don't prosecute thim poor min. Sure, they
have done no more harm than y'erselves.

HEAD
(as he stands at door)

Mrs. Cotter, ma'am! I'm surprised at you.

MRS. COTTER
For what, Head?

HEAD
To think that you'd dare attempt to interfere with
me in the discharge o' me duty!

MRS. COTTER
DUTY!


CURTAIN.


(The end)
Seumas O'Brien's play: Duty: A Comedy In One Act

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