Magpies

Magpies
by J. J. Kneen

1st March 1927

One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a wedding, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told.

Characters

John Dawson: Brother of Henry.
Henry Dawson: Brother of John.
Ysbal Boyd: Their Maid.
Mary Quaye: Ysbal’s friend.
William Craine: Friend of the Dawson’s
Parson Radcliffe.

Scenes

1. Home of the Dawsons.
2. Home of the Dawsons.

Scene 1

Dawson’s Kitchen. Very untidy, littered with paper etc., a pot here, a kettle there, a bucket somewhere else. John busy washing the dishes in a slovenly manner, lets fall an occasional spoon, also a cracked plate. Henry sitting smoking. They are talking, Henry criticising John and the washing of the dishes. John retorts.

HENRY: It’s not use, John. We’ll have to be gettin’ a woman in the house.

JOHN: We’ll naver get a woman like poor Maa at all.

HENRY: The house is gone to the divil since Maa died.

JOHN: Aw, there wasn’ another woman like Maa in the Island.

HENRY: Deed and it’s truth thou’re tellin’, John. I’m thinkin’ that one of us will have to be lookin’ for a wife.

JOHN (terrified, drops a plate): Henry?

HENRY: There now, there won’t be a plate lef’ to ate off soon.

JOHN: What did thou say about lookin’ for a wife, Henry? Thou’re makin’ gamman of coorse.

HENRY: It’s the divil the gamman I’m makin’. One of us will have to get a wife.

JOHN: Thou’re mad,1 Henry. Stark staring mad.

HENRY: And why?

JOHN: To be sure thou are.

HENRY: An’ why, I’m axin’?

JOHN: Thou knows well enough that no other woman could take the place of Maa.

HENRY: An’ Maa’s dead an’ we can’t get her back.

JOHN: I don’t think she’d be plazed if she knew we were puttin’ another woman in her place.

HENRY: An’ wasn’ she only sayin’ that one of us would have to be takin’ a wife?

JOHN: Did she though? I naver hard it.

HENRY: The very words she said to me wor: “One of yer will have to be lookin’ for a wife, for I’ll not be always with yer.”

JOHN: She naver said nothin’ to me.

HENRY: An’ I says to Maa, says I, an’ which one of us are yer thinkin’ of?

JOHN (anxiously): An’ what did she say?

HENRY (rubbing his eyes with a dirty handkerchief, almost crying): Maa says… poor Maa says… “I’m thinkin’ that John, may’ve, would be the best.”

John drops the frying pan which is he holding, in horror.

JOHN: Me?

HENRY: Yes, thee. Maa says… poor Maa… “I’m thinkin’ that John would know how to manage a wife bather than thee.”

JOHN: I don’t believe Maa said nothin’ of the sort.

HENRY (in an injured tone): John, don’t thou believe me?

JOHN: Thou’re not sayin’ a word of truth. I can do the carthags about the house, but all thou can do is sit smookin’ an’ critikisin’. So I’m thinkin’ a wife would be the boss thing for thee.

HENRY: Boghnit. Boghnit.

JOHN: An’ anyways, it’s a bogh of a women that would marry gawbies like me.

HENRY (indignantly): I hope thou’re spakin’ for theeself, John.

JOHN: Well, it’s thee that ought to be takin’ a wife anyways.

HENRY: Don’t be a toot, man. I’m not the marryin’ sort. But there’s thee a slick at the housework as any woman.

JOHN: Well that shows I can do without a woman. But a useless crayther like thee –

HENRY: Don’t thee be makin’ nasty skits now.

JOHN: Thou naver do a han’s turn to help a fella. Look at the place, the dirty it is. Thou naver saw such a flure when Maa was with us, an’ thou’re too lazy to put a brush on it.2

HENRY: How can I brush the flure with pots and pans an’ things all over it?

JOHN: Can’t thou shift them?

HENRY: It’s thee that makes the flure in a mess. Look at that dirty sooty pot in Maa’s best hearthrug. It’s a wonder she’s not comin’ back to torture thee.

JOHN (removing pot): Aw well, Henry, men are only moal craythers at housework. But if I didn’ do anything there’d be nothin’ at all done.

HENRY: I was naver for doin’ work of that kin’.

JOHN: Don’t thou think thou might be makin’ a start then?

HENRY: Well if thou’re goin’ to be cughtee about it, I suppose I’ll have to try and put a runn of clanin’ on the flure. Where’s the brush?

JOHN: Haven’t thou got eyes as well as meself?

HENRY: Thou don’t expec’ me to know where thou keep everything?

JOHN: Then thou’ll have to learn.

Henry goes out grumbling. John hums a song whilst he is siding the table. Henry comes back with the brush.

HENRY: Do thou know where thou lef’ the brush?

JOHN: I’m not quite sure at all.

HENRY: In the mucklagh. Thou’ve been brushin’ the pigstye out with it, an’ the pigs have been chewin’ the bristles.

JOHN: Bless me now, Henry. That was stupid of me for all.

HENRY: I had to wash it under the pump.

JOHN: Iss like thou would. It woudn’ be smellin’ too sweet ither.

HENRY: An’ how can I sweep the floor with a wet brush anyways?

JOHN: The wet’ll keep the dirt down, man.

Henry starts weeping, scattering papers etc. all over the place.

HENRY: I’ll soon brush the flure. It’s as aisy as spoonin’ porridge.

JOHN: Houl’ on, houl’ on, Henry. I’ve had enough trouble washin’ the dishes an’ things, an’ there’s thee thryin’ to dirty them all over again.

HENRY: Washin’ dishes. Humph. The washin’ thou’re putting on them is middlin’ maul. Now when Maa used to wash them…

JOHN: I’m not a woman, an’ if thou think thou can do them betther than me, thou’re welcome to do them in the future.

HENRY: Well, well, bhoy there’s no use fallin’ out.

JOHN: It’s not me that’s wantin’ to do the fallin’ out.

Henry leans on the brush and points his finger at John.

HENRY: John, thou’ll have to get married.

JOHN: Naver. Thou’re ravin’, I’m tellin’ thee.

HENRY: An’ why not?

JOHN: An’ why? An’ why not theeself?

HENRY: I’ve got no use for a woman.

JOHN: Nither have I.

HENRY: I think thou’d be bather considerin’ it anyways.

JOHN: I’ve done all the considerin’ I’m goin’ to do about it.

HENRY: But thou’d be more comfortabler married like.

JOHN: An’ so would thou.

HENRY: Well if one of us got married, iss like the one wife would do for the two of us.

JOHN: Henry, thou’re as mad as a hatter. Thou’re queer in the head. Thou want me to be a convenience for thee, do thou? I’ve got to tend the bees an’ get all the atings, when thou suits on thee backside an’ ates the honey. Thou’re wastin’ thy time here, Henry. It’s in the Kays thou aought to be. (Knock at door). Come in.

Enter Parson Radcliffe.

PARSON: Good morning.

BOTH BROTHERS: Good Morning.

HENRY (dusting his chair with a handkerchief): Sit down, Parson.

PARSON (examining his chair suspiciously): Oh thanks, I’m not goin’ to stay long.

JOHN: What driss is there on yer, Parson? It’s not often yer puttin’ a sight on us.

PARSON (seating himself): Now I want to have a heart-to-heart talk with you, my friends.

HENRY: I’m hopin’ it’s nothin’ sayrious.

PARSON: Not at all. Not at all. I’m thinking about your future welfare.

Brothers exchange glances.

JOHN: We wor at church on Easta Sunday.

PARSON: I wasn’ thinkin’ about your future when you discard this house of clay.

HENRY: Well me gran’father an’ me great gran’father lived in this house, an’ I’m thinkin’ it’ll do for us as long as we’re in.

PARSON (shrugging his shoulders): Now your mother was a good Christian woman.

BOTH BROTHERS: She was, Parson. She was.

PARSON: And she justified her existence here on earth.

HENRY: Well, I suppose she did her best.

PARSON: But I’m sorry to see her sons are not following in her footsteps.

JOHN: Is it wantin’ us to come to church oftener you are?

PARSON: Well I should like to see you there, of course. But that is not why I’m here to-day. I want to talk about something that concerns the welfare of the human race. Do you ever read the Bible?

HENRY: Do you, John?

JOHN: Maa used to read a chapter now an’ then.

PARSON: Have you read Genesis?

HENRY: I’ve read Jefferson’s Almanack.

PARSON: No. No. Genesis in the Bible. What did the Almighty say to Adam?

HENRY: Do thou know, John?

JOHN: If I do it’s forgot at me.

HENRY: Houl’ on. I remember it now. An’ it was yourself, Parson, I hard sayin’ they very words in your sermon.

PARSON: How interesting. I am so glad to know my words fell on fertile soil. Tell me what you remember.

HENRY: The very words you said were “Eat, drink, and be merry for termorrer you die.”

PARSON: Dear me, dear me. No.

HENRY: But you did though. I remember it as well as if it were yesterday.

PARSON: Well, perhaps I did. But those are not the words I have in mind now. The words spoken were: “Be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth.” Have you brothers done so?

They look at each other in alarm.

JOHN: We don’t know what you mane, Parson.

PARSON: I mean that you should be married.

HENRY: There now, an’ jus’ as yer were comin’ through the door them is the very words I was sayin’ to John.

JOHN: Oh yis, thou’re always wantin’ me to do the dirty work.

PARSON: Dear me, John, what a distorted idea of marriage you have.

JOHN: Yer not married yerself, Parson.

PARSON: But that is my misfortune.

JOHN: An’ it’s my fortune without a miss.

PARSON: You see my affianced died young.

JOHN: But my affianced was naver born, so I was even luckier till you.

PARSON (sternly): Now look here. You must not let things go on in this slipshod manner. You must have a woman in the house. Why not have one in to do the cleaning if you are not inclined to marry?

HENRY: Yiss. I’m thinkin’ tha’s what we’ll have to do.

JOHN: Clane extravagance.

PARSON: The look of your house certainly shows it needs a woman about.

JOHN: If Henry did a bit, the place wouldn’t look so bad at all.

PARSON: But what’s the sense of doing this kind of work at all, when you can afford to pay a woman to do it.

JOHN: Afford it, can we? Yer might think we were findin’ gool growin’ on the goss bushes an’ pickin’ sov’rans off the rocks like flitters.

PARSON: Now look here, John, I was one of the witnesses to your Mother’s will, so I know something about your affairs.

HENRY: The parson is right, John. We’ll have to get a woman in the house.

JOHN: We can’t afford it. An’ women are extravagant craythers anyway.

PARSON: Was your mother extravagant?

JOHN: She was one in a thousand.

PARSON: But there are many in the world like her.

JOHN: They’re mighty hard to find then…

PARSON: Have you ever looked for them?

JOHN: No. I’m not goin’ to ither.

HENRY: Divil a bit has he ever looked, Parson.

PARSON: Henry, such language is not becoming. Pray be more respectful. What about it now? (The brothers look at each other in alarm). John, I think you would make the better husband.

Henry looks knowingly at John.

JOHN: Ever since Mother died, Parson, it’s me tha’s had to do the dirty work. Iss like I’ll have to keep on doin’ it.

PARSON: John, John. Your outlook on marriage is strange. You must get married. You are transgressing the laws of God by remaining single.

HENRY: Thou’d bather be takin’ the Parson’s advice.

PARSON: This applies to you too, Henry. You must get married too.

John looks at Henry.

HENRY: Deed, and I’ll never get married.

JOHN: An’ I’m sure I won’t.

PARSON: What a strange pair you are. The only solution is to hire a woman.

JOHN: A woman in the house is dangerous. Iss like she’ll be makin’ eyes at us.

PARSON: Now look here, go to the May Fair at St. John’s and hire a woman.

JOHN: An’ what age do yer think she ought to be now?

PARSON: Well… something about your own age.

JOHN: Don’t you think now, Parson, one a lil bit younger might be bather.

PARSON: W… e… ll, ah, perhaps so, perhaps so. Youth has a special charm of its own. But an older woman might be more staid.

JOHN: She might be too staid.

HENRY: Yis, I think we might manage a younger one bather.

PARSON: Well, I’m glad you can see the matter in the right spirit. (Rising to go). And I hope when I call again, you will have a home like a King’s palace. Good-day.

Exit Parson.

HENRY: Well perhaps we’d bather both go.

JOHN: I’ll go with thee if tha’s what you’re wantin’.

HENRY: We’ll have to look out our Sunday Clothes too.

JOHN: I haven’t had mine on for ages. I’m hopin’ the moths won’t be in them.

HENRY: When is May Fair?

JOHN: I’m not sure, but we’ll ax oul Tom Nelly, he’ll know what day of the month it is, because he was at Church on Sunday.

Enter William Craine.

WILLIAM: Hello, bhoys, how is things? Was the Parson puttin’ a sight on yer?

JOHN: Yiss now, he was.

WILLIAM: He kep’s talking up the road yandher for about half an hour.

JOHN: An’ it’s like thou needed a talkin’ too.

WILLIAM: I’m as good as thee anyway.

JOHN: May’ve, an’ may’ve not. Do yer know what the parson advised us to do?

WILLIAM: Go to church more reglar, iss like.

JOHN: No, nawthin’ of the sort. He wants us to get a servint.

WILLIAM: A sarvint? What kind of a sarvint?

JOHN: An’ how many kinds of sarvints are there in?

WILLIAM: Manservants, and maidservants. Tha’s two kinds, but he naver meant a maidservant. An’ yer don’t want a manservant.

JOHN: It’s a maidservant he wants us to get.

WILLIAM: Bannee mee. A maidservant.

JOHN: Yiss, a maidservant.

WILLIAM: The parson is gone clicky.

HENRY: An’ why whouldn’ we have one, I’d like to know.

WILLIAM: I’d like to know why you should have one. A woman in the house is clane ruination.

HENRY: What nonsense there’s at thee.

WILLIAM: Did thou naver hear the “Carval of the Bad Woman.”

HENRY: I’ve hard it sung at the Oie’ll Veirree.

WILLIAM: An’ what do thou think of it?

HENRY: All boghnit.

WILLIAM: It’s all true… for it’s taken out of the Bible.

HENRY: I don’t believe the like is in the Bible. An’ how do thou know anyway? Thou naver reads the Bible.

WILLIAM: I read it as much as thee anyway.

JOHN: I suppose there was good women in the Bible too… as well as bad ones.

HENRY: To be sure there were. There’s always good ones and bad ones in.

WILLIAM: Well, if yer take my advice, ye’ll avoid the women like the plague. Look at Jem Cowla. A year or two ago he was happy without a care in the worl’, but look at him now. Tied to a woman’s apron strings. If he’s wantin’ to go to Peel, he’s got to go to her an’ says, “Jane, I’d like to go to Peel this everin’,” and Jane says “All right, Jem, I’ll put me hat on an’ come with thee.” Now I ax thee, can yer enjoy an’ everin’ in Peel an’ a wife danglin’ at yer heels?

JOHN: A maidservant will hardly come to Peel with us, lah.

WILLIAM: There’s no tellin’ what she’ll want to do. Take my advice an’ drop the idea, for if yer don’t, yer’ll3 sup sorra.

HENRY: We’ve decided on goin’ to May Fair an’ hire a servant, anyway.

WILLIAM: Well, ya’ll be sorry for it. But I don’t want to poke me nose in yer affairs. To show there’s no ill feelin’ I’ll come with yer, an’ we’ll have a day out. An’ may’ve we’ll find a maidservint.

JOHN: There’s strength in numbers, ther’re sayin’.

HENRY: We’ll all go together like Brown’s cows.

JOHN: When is May Fair?

WILLIAM: A week on Monday, I’m hearin’.

JOHN: That’ll jus’ give us time to purra slick of clanin’ on the house.

HENRY: We’d battha whitewash the outside too.

JOHN: An’ the thatch mendin’ too.

HENRY: Man alive, it’ll take us al our time to get the house reddied up.

WILLIAM: Ghraih Vannaght. What capers there’s at yer. Yer might think it was the Governor yer were expectin’. Whatwash indade, an’ the house jus’ beginning to look nice an’ mella. It was only las’ week I hard one of them painter fellas sayin’ how nice the house was lookin’.4

JOHN: Did he now? Well now, well now.

HENRY: But we’d battha be clanin’ it for all.

JOHN: Them painter fellas ought to be good judges, an’ it seems a mortal wase of money to be doin’ it. Clane waste.

HENRY: When a man sees patches of green moss on a wall an’ cushags sproutin’ out through the thatch he’s admirin’ it.

JOHN: An’ quite natural too.

HENRY: But a woman mus’ have everything spick an’ span. The walls shinin’ like snow, an’ the roof without a weed on it.

WILLIAM: Thou’ll get lave, that’s the surt the women are. I mus’ be goin’ though. I’ll see yer at the feer iss like.

JOHN: To be sure.

WILLIAM: So long, bhoys.

BOTH: So long, William.

Scene 2

Dawsons’ kitchen, tidy and clean. John, with an apron on, is washing the dishes while Henry is busy peeling potatoes.

JOHN: This is all thy fault. We’re wuss off now than we aver were before with a woman in the house.

HENRY: Tha’s right. Put all the blame on me, and who went to the fair anyway?

JOHN: An’ wasn’ it thee that was always on about getting’ a sarvint. I wish I had never listened to thee an’ all thee boghnit, we managed alright before.

HENRY: Well I’m wuss off than thee. She gives me all the dirty work to do.

JOHN: Serve thee right. Thou naver knew what it was to work.

HENRY: Thank thee for nothin’.

JOHN: I’m washin’ dishes, an’ scrubbin’ pans all day long (slight pause) an’ what is more, dramin’ about it all night.

HENRY: What about peelin’ spuds then? I naver had such a dirty job in me life before. They’re far handier boiled in their jackets like we used to do, an’ far less trouble.

JOHN: I knew this trouble was comin’ the day we were at the fair.

HENRY: How did thou know that?

JOHN: I saw a magpie on the roof of St. John’s Chapel.

HENRY: What boghnit there’s at yer.

Noise of someone coming.

JOHN: Hush. She’s comin’.

Enter Ysbal.

YSBAL: I hope yer getting’ yer work done proper. I hard yer talkin’ a lot… about me, I suppose.

JOHN: I was jus’ tellin’ Henry I saw a magpie on the Fair Day.

YSBAL: Where did thou see it?

JOHN: On the roof of St. John’s Chapel?

YSBAL: An’ what about it anyway? I suppose there’s nothin’ to prevent a magpie from goin’ there if it wants to.

JOHN: Maa always said that one mapie meant sorra.

YSBAL: But there was more than one. I saw two. That manes joy ther’re sayin’. An’ deed I would thrust I saw three… an’ that manes a weddin’.

John drops a cup.

JOHN: There now, I knew it meant trouble.

YSBAL: There’ll be trouble alright if thou’re not careful. There won’t be a cup left.

JOHN: Thou haven’t got to pay for them.

YSBAL: No, thank goodness, I haven’t. But gettin’ money from thee is like thryin’ to squeeze blood from a stone. (Examines dishes). Thou’re not particular clane over the dishes yit, John. Look at the scoothin’ of dirt roun’ the handle of this cup. Thou’ll have to wash them over again. An’ look at the dirty wathers that’s at thee. Bless me sowl, thou could stan’ on it an’ not sink. Get some clane wather an’ do them over again.

JOHN: The dishes are clane enough, woman.

YSBAL (holding one up): Do thou call that clane? Look at it. Thou’ll naver get a wife if thou don’t do battha than that.

JOHN: Then I don’t want to do any bettha.

YSBAL: An’ thou call thyself a man. Thou ought to be ashamed of thyself. Just get some clane wather an’ do them proper.

John obeys.

YSBAL (to Henry): An’ how are thou getting’ on? Thou’re peelin’ half the spuds away, man. Clane waste, I call it.

HENRY: The pigs is wantin’ fed,5 woman.

YSBAL: Tha’s no excuse for peelin’ them so thick. Lave the pigs to me. I’ll attend to them. The pair of yer had got into such filthy dirty habits that yer can’t get rid of them. But yer’ll improve with time. Heaven only knows how yer managed so long without a woman in the house. Yer mother only made a pair of boghs of yer.

JOHN: We were managin’ alright before thou came.

YSBAL: Aye, pigs manage middlin’ well too, to feed themselves an’ cover themselves with muck. An’ men are not much different, the craythers. An’ now I’m goin’ into town to get groceries an’ I want ten shillin’s from thee, John.

JOHN (aghast): Ten shillin’s, Ysbal. What in the name of fortune are thou goin’ to do with all that money? Thou’ll have us all ruinated.

YSBAL: Thou’re an’ old skinflint, John. Thou knows quite well I’m not extravagant with the money.

HENRY: Thou’re managin’ all right, Ysbal.

JOHN: Oh thou mus’ stick up for her, of course. Iss like thou’ll be maryin’ her nex’.

HENRY: May’ve it’s jealous thou are.

JOHN: An’ may’ve it’s not too.

YSBAL: I’ll plaze myself who I’ll marry, an’ if I take a notion of one of yer, I might consider it. But it’s a big might though. Ye’re such boghs.

HENRY: Well, I’ll allow our mate is batthe cooked than it used to be.

YSBAL: Tha’s all men think of, their prinjaigs.

JOHN (handing her the money): Don’t waste any now, mind that.

YSBAL: Waste any? Bah! Thou’re fit to make a person sick.

Knock at the door.

YSBAL: Come in.

Enter Parson.6

PARSON: Good morning.

ALL: Good morning.

PARSON: Miss Boyd, I must congratulate you on effecting such a change in this household. The place looks so nice and clean, and the men appear so happy. (John and Henry look at each other commiserately). It really is wonderful. Wonderful.

YSBAL: Well, I’m tryin’ to do me bes’, an’ one can’t do more.

PARSON (teasingly): I suppose the next thing that’ll be is that one of these happy men will be fightin’ to see which of them will lead thee to the altar.

YSBAL (coyly): Oh Parson. (Brothers look at each other in despair). I saw three magpies the other day.

PARSON: And what is the significance of that, may I ask?

YSBAL: Have yer naver hard, Pazon, that seein’ three magpies is the sign of a weddin’.

PARSON: What gross superstition. Dear me.

YSBAL: It’s true though, Pazon. Rale true.

PARSON: And have you seen three magpies too, Henry?

HENRY: No. An’ I don’t want to either. Show me three rooks pies.

JOHN: Now thou’re talkin’, Henry.

YSBAL: These men think about nothin’ but their stomachs, Pazon.

PARSON: I’m afraid it is a masculine failing, Miss Boyd. Well my dears, it will give me the greatest pleasure to unite a pair of you in Holy Matrimony. Who will be the lucky man, eh? Probably John. (John drops a plate). You have nothing to say to that, have you?

Parson digs John playfully in the side.

JOHN: Aye, I suppose if there is any dirty work to be done, it’s me that’ll have to do it.

PARSON: My dear John, what extra-ordinary ideas you have about Holy Matrimony. I never heard the like before. Never in my life.

YSBAL: They’ll come to, Pazon.

PARSON: I was glad to see the three of you at church on Sunday evening.

YSBAL: I’m afraid these men had fallen from grace for a long time, Pazon.

PARSON: I’m afraid so, my dear.

YSBAL: And if I wasn’t about they’d fall away again middlin’ handy.

PARSON: Ah well, it’s a good job they’ve got someone to look after them. Men are poor frail creatures without a woman’s guidance.

YSBAL: Useless craythers most of them are.

PARSON: Well, I shouldn’t go as far as that. I must defend my own sex. All of us, male and female, have a certain duty to perform here on earth. Each of us has an allotted niche. Sometimes we fall into a niche which is much too large for us, and sometimes the niche is much too small, and we’ve got to make the best of it.

YSBAL: And how can we fall into a niche which is several sizes too small, Pazon?

PARSON: Well, of course, I was only speaking figuratively.

YSBAL: Yes, and yer doin’ the same in yer sarmons. If yer’d speak plain, people might be understandin’ yer bather.

PARSON (pompously): Miss Boyd, I have always prided myself on my simple sermons. I am quite sure that even a child could follow them.

YSBAL: He might, but he’d have to ear a dictionary first.

PARSON: What a strange creature you are, Miss Boyd.

JOHN: They are all the same, Pazon.

YSBAL: Shut thee gob, an’ attend to thee work. Now talkin’ about niches, Pazon, some never fall into a niche at all, but fall between two niches. An’ what’s goin’ to happen to them, Pazon?

PARSON: Miss Boyd, you’ve given me a conundrum which I fear is impossible for me to elucidate.

YSBAL: There you are again with your big jaw breakers. What does col-en-derum an lucy-date mean? – Is it spakin’ in parables yer are?

PARSON: A conun-drum is something we cannot understand.

JOHN: Thou’d bather tack that on to thee name, Ysbal. Colerunderum Ysbal. Colerunderum Ysbal Boyd would look mighty fine in a book.

YSBAL: Is thee gob open again? An’ what does a lucy date mane, Pazon?

PARSON: To throw light upon, or to explain.

YSBAL: H’m. Sounds more like a woman’s name to me… Lucy.

PARSON (looking at his watch): Dear me, I must be going. Are you keeping well, John?

JOHN: Tough, Pazon.

PARSON: An’ you, Henry?

HENRY: All right, Pazon.

PARSON: Dear me, how nice to see you all so happy together.

YSBAL: Which way are yer goin’, Pazon?

PARSON: I’m going into Peel.

YSBAL: I’m goin’ that way too, so I’ll come with you.

PARSON: Very well then. Come along. Goodbye boys.

YSBAL: I’ll be back as soon as I can.

JOHN: Don’t hurry.

HENRY: If we’re gone to bed, yer know where to find the kay.

YSBAL: I’ll be back in good time for dinner. I wouldn’t trust you ones to get it ready.

PARSON (poking his head in at the door): Are you coming, Miss Boyd? I really must be going.

YSBAL: Coming now, Pazon. (To the brothers) Now see that you’ve got all the work done by the time I get back, an’ don’t go blatherin’ to Craine an’ wastin’ yer time.

Exit Ysbal after Parson.

JOHN: Gone at last.

John sits down and heaves a long sigh.

HENRY: She’s not such a bad surt for all, John.

JOHN: Bad enough. I hates all the women. It’s them cussed magpies tha’s done all the jeel.

HENRY: What boghnit is there at thee?

JOHN: I believe yer fallin’ in love with the woman.

HENRY: An’ supposed I am. What’s it got to thee anyway?

JOHN: Oh, if yer wanting her, yer can have her, me boy. I don’t want her at all.

Door opens. William peeps in.

WILLIAM (in a half whisper): Is herself out?

JOHN: Aye, were thou wantin’ her?

WILLIAM (coming in): No, lah, no I don’t want to crayther at all. She seems to be putting you through yer paces though. Deed, and she do though. The place is lookin’ mighty clane though. Too clane to be comfible, I’m thinkin’. It’s a wonder yer not afraid to sit down for fear of dirtyin’ the cushions and antimacassers with her workin’ trousers.

Goes to sit down. Henry goes to William hurriedly.

HENRY: Don’t sit on that cheer till I take the antimacassar off, an’ put something under thee. There’s a clane scoothon of dirt on thee britches, man. Thou look as if thou had been rowlin’ in the muchlagh. It’s a wonder yer not getting’ them washed, yer a shockin’ sight altogether. (Henry takes off antimacassar and puts some old paper on the chair). There now, sit thee down now. If yer dirty them antimacassars it’ll be clane murder.

William sits down.

WILLIAM: The woman have got yer between her finger an’ thumb alright.

JOHN: She haven’t got me, but she’s got Henry.

HENRY: She’s got thee as much as anyone.

WILLIAM: I wouldn’ let any woman get at me.

HENRY: It’s afraid of the women thou are.

WILLIAM: No fear, bhoy. No fear. Divil a bit am I afraid of any woman.

Footsteps heard outside.

JOHN: There’s Ysbal back again.

HENRY: She can’t be back already.

JOHN: I’m thinkin’ it’s her footsteps tha’s in.

WILLIAM: Bannee mee. Don’t let her find me here. Hide me bhoys.

HENRY: I thought yer said yer weren’t afraid of any woman.

WILLIAM: Nither am I. (Knock at door). Hide me bhoys, quick.

HENRY: Get in here. (Henry bundles William into a small closet). Go an’ open the door, John, an’ see who’s in.

JOHN: Go theeself.

Henry goes to the door.

HENRY: Bless me sowl, what a bleih of a man thou are.

Henry opens the door.

MARY (remaining outside, offstage): Is Miss Boyd in?

HENRY: No, she’s not though.

MARY: But she lives here, doesn’t she?

HENRY: Yes, she does though.

MARY: When will she be back?

HENRY: Sometime before dinner iss like.

MARY: I’m very tired. Can I come in for a little rest?

HENRY: To be sure, an’ welcome. Come in, gel.

Enter Mary Quaye.

HENRY: Houl’ on an’ I’ll put a cushion on the cheer for thee an’ be more comfible. There now, sit theeself down. This is me brother John, a dacent fella, but jus’ the shy.

Mary and John shake hands.

MARY: You are Mr. John Dawson?

JOHN: No, Miss, jus’ John Dawson. Mister John Dawson is dead. That was me father.

MARY: And you are Henry?

HENRY: The very same. That’s me – Henry. How did yer know our names?

MARY: I’ve heard Ysbal talking about you.

JOHN: She’d have nothin’ good to say about us, I’ll be bound.

MARY: Indeed, she had nothing but good to say.

HENRY: There now, I knew. She’s a decent sowl is Ysbal.

MARY: I’ve walked a long way to see her, so I’d like a little cooish with her before I go. We went to school together, but I’ve been in England for a few years.

HENRY: I though yer had a polish on thee. But sit down, Miss… Miss.

MARY: Mary Quaye is my name.

Mary sits down.

HENRY: The Quaye’s of Ballaquaye iss like.

MARY: Yes.

Noise in the closet.

MARY: What’s that?

HENRY: Rates.

MARY: Rats?

HENRY: H-m-m. They come after the pigs mate an’ stuff.

MARY: Horrible things.

HENRY: M’yes. Yer’d better stay and have a bite of dinner with us.

Anguished groans from William. Mary gets up and clutches John who is standing near.

MARY: What’s that?

HENRY: Pigs.

MARY: Pigs?

HENRY: M-m-m.

MARY: In the house?

HENRY: M-m-m. No-o-o.

MARY: The sound came from over there. It was like somebody in agony.

HENRY: Did it though? There’s only rubbish there.

JOHN (still clutching Mary): Will yer let go of me, woman?

MARY: I’m very sorry, John Dawson.

HENRY: Don’t mind our John at all. He’s not for himself. He’s shy. He can’t help it.

JOHN: Shut up.

MARY: A man can be excused for being shy, but not for being rude.

JOHN: I’m mighty sorry if I’ve offended thee, Misthress, but I’m not used to woman houlin’ on to me like that.

MARY: Well, I’m sorry too. But I don’t like ungallant men. I think your brother is so nice.

JOHN: dear me, I’m afraid he’s hooked at last.

MARY: What on earth are you talkin’ about?

JOHN: It’s a woman tha’s got her hook in him.

HENRY: No fear.

JOHN: Fear enough. And it’s sorry I am for him, for he’s me own flesh and blood. He was always a bit wake under the thatch.

HENRY: Thou’ve got as much sense as a motherless lamb, John.

MARY: There now, don’t squabble. Let’s all be happy.

HENRY (pointing at John): How can anyone be happy lookin’ at a face like that.

John scowls but says nothing. Alarming groans from William. Mary clutches Henry this time.

MARY: There’s that noise again. What is it?

HENRY: Whatever is it, John?

JOHN: Gho’ses may’ve.

HENRY: Don’t be ridiklis. The like is not in.

MARY: You are both ridiculous. The noise is over there, and I do believe you both know what it is.

HENRY: Divil a bit do I know. Do thou, John?

JOHN: How do I know, any more than thee?

MARY: It may be a burglar.

HENRY: Wha’s that?

MARY: A thief then.

HENRY: There’s no thieves in Gordon. All as hones’ as gool.

MARY: Go an’ see what it is then.

HENRY: Deed and I won’t then.

MARY: You go, John.

HENRY: Yis, you go, John.

JOHN: Wantin’ me to do they dirty work again.

MARY: You’re a pair of cowards. I’ll go myself.

Mary goes towards the door, but John steps in front of it.

JOHN: There’s nothin’ for thee in there, an’ it’s none of thy business anyways.

MARY: Poor John. I’ll go an’ leave you.

Mary goes towards the outside door. Henry gets before her at the door.

HENRY: Don’t be rash. When you’ve waited so long, you might wait a bit longer. Ysbal will be in any minute now. (Footsteps heard). Listen. There she is.

Enter Ysbal.

YSBAL: Hello, Mary. Where on earth did you come from? I thought you were across the water.

MARY: I came home a few weeks ago.

YSBAL: The Manx air will do you good. You’re lookin’ as treih as a skate.

MARY: I feel much better already.

YSBAL: And you’ll be looking better still when you’ve been home a bit longer.

MARY: I hope so.

YSBAL: These are my masters, Mary. I see there’s no need to introduce you, as you seem to have got on well together so far. They were terrible boghs of things when I cam here. But they’re improving, slow but sure.

MARY: Indeed, indeed.

JOHN: Are we, fiddlesticks.

YSBAL: John, the martyr. He’s always grumbling.

JOHN: And well I might.

HENRY: Aw lave him alone. He’ll come toe in time.

JOHN: We’re not masters in our own house.

YSBAL: Fine masters yer were when I came here. You should have seen the place, Mary.

MARY: Better draw a veil over it. (Noises from cupboard). There’s some person over there, Ysbal.

YSBAL: Nonsense.

MARY: I’ve heard a noise several times, and what is more, groans too.

YSBAL: We’ll soon find out.

Ysbal goes towards the door. Henry stands in front of her.

HENRY: Don’t go in there, Ysbal… It might be something evil.

YSBAL (pushing Henry aside): Evil or no evil, I’ll soon find out. It looks as if you are trying to hide something. (Ysbal opens the door and pulls out William Craine). Here’s the evil then. You boys know something about this?

HENRY: How the divil did he get in there? Do thou know anything about this, John?

JOHN: Ax theeself that question.

YSBAL: Now tell the truth, Craine. How did you get in the place?

WILLIAM: I was pushed in. These Dawsons were tryin’ to murder me, I think.

YSBAL: That wouldn’t have been much loss. Go on, get out.

William goes off, muttering to himself.

YSBAL: You boys know something about this?

HENRY: How on earth did the fella get in? I never thought he was much good. He must have slipped in when we were out.

YSBAL: Well, that’s what yer get for not keeping your eye on the house, we’ll all be murdered in our beds next.

HENRY: Bannee mee, Ysbal, what unholy thoughts there’s at thee.

JOHN: Well, it’s our house anyway. And if we like to have a friend in, it’s no business of yours.

YSBAL: Thou’re not going to do what you like while I’m in the house, whether it’s yours or not.7 Remember that, John Dawson.

HENRY: Remember that now, John Dawson.

JOHN: Shut up, the pair of you.

MARY: Calm yourself, Mr. Dawson.

JOHN: I’m not Mr. Dawson. I’m John Dawson.

MARY: Well what about it?

JOHN: What about it?

MARY: About you.

JOHN: What about me?

MARY: Can’t you be civil and act like a gentleman?

JOHN: I’m not a gentleman. I’m only a man.

MARY: Well act like a man, and not like a spoiled child.

JOHN: No wonder, with all the capers tha’s goin’ on in this house.

HENRY: You’d better take him in hand, and give him a few lessons in manners, Miss Quaye.

MARY: He’s hopeless.

JOHN: I want nothin’ to do with any of yer. I’m tired of the whole of yer. Yer can all go to the divil in yer own way.

Enter the Parson very quietly.

PARSON: John, did I hear you mention the devil?8

JOHN: I did, Pazon. An’ I’ve heard you mention him many a time too.

PARSON: Possibly you have. Possibly you have. But you never heard me say anything good for him, I’ll warrant.

JOHN: An’ you never heard me say anything good either.

PARSON: But why discuss him?

JOHN: He always disgusted me.

PARSON: No. No. Why talk about him?

JOHN: It was you that started talking about him, Pazon, not me.

PARSON: We had better change the subject. I think.

YSBAL: I think so too, Pazon, or yer’ll be fallin’ between the niches again.

PARSON (laughing): What a girl you are, Ysbal.

YSBAL: And what a boy you are, Pazon.

PARSON: I’m afraid I’m getting to be an old boy now.

YSBAL: Not a bit of it, Pazon. You’ll be getting married yet.

PARSON (in simulated horror): Oh dear no.

YSBAL: Time will tell.

PARSON: I’m afraid time has already told its story.

YSBAL: Cheer up, Pazon. It’s hard to tell.

PARSON: But what about yourself, Ysbal? Has there been any further moves on the matrimonial chess board?

YSBAL: There yer are, with yer big talk.

PARSON: There hasn’t been a wedding in the parish for a long time.

YSBAL: How sad.

PARSON: It is sad indeed. I don’t know what the young men are thinking of these days.

YSBAL: I know though.

PARSON: What?

YSBAL: The men of these days think exactly the same as the first man when he took the apple from Eve.

PARSON: What’s that?

YSBAL: Stuffin’ themselves. What else?

PARSON: Oh dear, oh dear. You are incorrigible. Such a shocking remark to make. Most shocking.

YSBAL: An’ it’s easy shocked yer are then, Pazon.

PARSON: Not usually, not usually. But you always seem to get me at a disadvantage.

YSBAL: Well, I’ll let yer down lightly next time.

PARSON: But you haven’t introduced me to this young lady.

YSBAL: She’s an old friend of mine, and her name is Mary Quaye.

Parson shakes Mary’s hand.

PARSON: I’m sure I’m very glad to make your acquaintance, Miss Quaye. Are you staying here long?

YSBAL: She’s staying here a bit.

John looks alarmed.

MARY: I didn’t intend staying here, but if they insist on it, I suppose I shall.

JOHN: Bannee mee. How can she stay here? One woman in the house is bad enough, but two.

PARSON: Your house is quite big enough anyway.

JOHN: Yes, Pazon, but do yer think it’s right for two –

YSBAL: Innocent young ladies.

JOHN (glaring at Ysbal): Young men to be left alone in the house with a pair of designin’ young women? It’s not safe, let alone right, I tell yer, Pazon.

PARSON: Well, well, perhaps you are right. I’m sure I never looked at it in that way. I have had so little experience in these matters.

YSBAL: You’re like all the rest of the Pazons. You know nothin’ about the things that matter.

PARSON: On the contrary, Miss Boyd, I can assure you I am well versed in the affairs of life. If I were not, I should be ashamed of my cloth.

YSBAL: And you have just told us that you have no experience.

PARSON: But I was referring to other matters, Ysbal – men and women.

YSBAL: Well, Mary is going to stay here for a few days anyway, and I don’t care what anybody says.

HENRY: Bravo, Ysbal.

JOHN: Yes, you stick up for her made tricks.

PARSON: Well, among yourselves be it. I must not interfere.

YSBAL: Well whatever you do, Mary is goin’ to stay.

PARSON: Well, you know what you are doing, and perhaps, who knows, we might hear the weddin’ bells ring.

YSBAL: You might and again you might not.

HENRY: The Pazon is always right. An’ isn’ he paid for being right?

YSBAL: To be sure he is.

PARSON: Well, young people, think well, and all will be well, that is my advice. Why not have a day out and enjoy yourselves.

YSBAL: A good idea, Pazon.

HENRY: Splendid.

MARY: That would be lovely.

JOHN: Fiddlesticks.

YSBAL: The wet blanket speaks.

JOHN: I’m not a wet blanket.

YSBAL: Show me a wetter.

JOHN: Now to show you I’m not, I’ll come with you.

PARSON: Brave John.

YSBAL: What do you think, Pazon, I saw three magpies again this morning.

PARSON: And may I ask what does that mean?

YSBAL: A wedding, of course.

PARSON (holding up his hands in horror): What gross superstition to find in this day and age.

JOHN: I saw magpies too, but there were more than three.

YSBAL: How many did you see?

JOHN: I saw six. That’s gold, not for a wedding.

YSBAL: That’s where you are mistaken, John. Six is double three, and that means a double wedding.

JOHN: Bannee mee. Then it’s ruinated we are.

PARSON: It seems, John, you’ll have to give in.

JOHN: I can see thee being the Archdeacon yet, Pazon.

PARSON: You flatter me, John. Now what about fixing up for your day out?

Exit Parson.

JOHN: I don’t know what you are all doin’, but I’m not goin’ stravaigin’ over the country side jus’ for nothin’. I’m stayin’ home. Yer can all do what yer like.

HENRY: Come on, Ysbal, I want to show yer something in the garden. Come on, woman.

Exit Ysbal and Henry.

MARY: Perhaps I’d better see what they are up to.

JOHN: There’s no need but if yer want to go it’s alright with me. Off yer go.

Exit Mary.

JOHN: I wouldn’ thrus’ but what Henry an’ yander one will make it up out there. I think I’ll be9 thryin’ Mary out. After all she’s the heiress of Ballaquayle, and there’ll be a nice slyuck of money comin’ to her. I’ll see what’s doin’. A farm an’ money wants some consideration. I’ll be askin’ her.

Enter Mary.

MARY: There’s no sign of those two, so I’ve come back.

JOHN: Come in lass, an’ sit down. I’ve something very important to say to thee.

MARY: John, I’ve just seen six magpies again.

JOHN: Six for gold.

MARY: Gold is not everything. I would rather the gold of the cushag and the gorse than all the gold in the world.

JOHN: Gold is right enough in its own place.

MARY: But it won’t buy everything.

JOHN: There’s not much it won’t buy.

MARY: It won’t buy love.

JOHN: I’m not too sure about it. It’ll buy women anyway.

MARY: That’s not love, John. All the pearls and rubies and gold of the whole world won’t buy true love.

JOHN: I believe you are right, Mary.

MARY: But don’t you think may’ve that six magpies might mean a double wedding and not just gold?

JOHN: An’ what double wedding would that be?

MARY: Henry and Ysbal for one.

JOHN: An’ who for the other?

MARY: You are such a big toot, John.

JOHN: An’ why for then?

MARY: Now, you know well enough, John, surely.

JOHN: No, I don’t though. Do you think we ought to be getting’ married?

MARY: And doesn’t your heart tell you?

JOHN (putting his hand to his heart): It’s fluttering a bit, Mary. Is that a good sign?

MARY: Don’t act so silly, John.

JOHN: Well then, Mary, I’m only a rough an’ ready fella, but if yer think I’m good enough for yer, I’d be honoured.

MARY: You’re still a bit shy, John. But you’re coming on well. There’s one thing forgotten at you10 though.

JOHN: What’s that?

MARY: What do lovers usually do when they are betrothed?

JOHN: I’m sure I don’t know. I’ll have to ax Henry. He’ll know.

MARY: Oh John, you are dense. Surely they seal the engagement with a kiss.

John and Mary embrace. Enter Ysbal and Henry.

YSBAL and HENRY: What’s goin’ on?

MARY and JOHN: We are goin’ to get married. That’s what.

YSBAL and HENRY: Congratulations. So are we.

JOHN: It’s them cussed magpies tha’s done the jeel.

ALL: We’ll have a rale double wedding to celebrate.

ALL (reciting): One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a wedding, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, and seven for a secret never to be told.

All kiss.

CURTAIN.

Notes

  1. In the original manuscript this is “Thou’re made.” This has been assumed to be a mistake.
  2. The original manuscript is missing the final word in the sentence because the line runs off the page. “It” has been assumed to be the missing word.
  3. In the original manuscript this is “her’ll.” This has been assumed to be a mistake.
  4. In the original manuscript “saying’ how nice the home was lookin’” has been written onto the typewritten manuscript in pen.
  5. This is “ged” in the original manuscript. This has been assumed to be a mistake.
  6. In the original manuscript this and the following stage names are frequently given as “Pazon,” in contrast to the first scene.
  7. This sentence runs off the edge of the page in the original manuscript. The final word has been assumed to be “not.”
  8. The final word is spelt “divil” in the original manuscript here. This has been assumed to be a mistake for this character.
  9. This sentence runs off the edge of the page in the original manuscript. The final word has been assumed to be “be.”
  10. “You” is missing in the original manuscript. This has been assumed to be a mistake.

I’m thinkin’ that one of us will have to be lookin’ for a wife.

Things have not been going well for the Dawson brothers since their mother died – the place is a mess and the housework never seems to be done – perhaps it is time they get a woman in the house…

Skilfully based on the saying about magpies which heads the play, this two-act comic play by J. J. Kneen was written in March 1927 and first performed in December 1928 by members of the London Manx Society. Its first performance in the Isle of Man came on 6 February 1929 by the Purt Iern Cushags, at The Pavilion in Port Erin. Both of these performances, and many which came subsequently, were in aid of the Yn Çheshaght Ghailckagh publication fund, which was working to achieve publication of Kneen’s, The Place Names of the Isle of Man.

J.J. Kneen was the greatest Manx linguist of his generation, one of the most important scholars of Manx subjects, and the most prolific playwright that the Isle of Man has ever known.