Scene selection from J.M. Synge’s Riders to the Sea
Age Range: 15+
[[MAURYA] goes out slowly. NORA goes over to the ladder.]
CATHLEEN: Wait, Nora, maybe she’d turn back quickly. She’s that sorry, God help her, you wouldn’t know the thing she’d do.
NORA: Is she gone round by the bush?
CATHLEEN: (looking out) She’s gone now. Throw it down quickly, for the Lord knows when she’ll be out of it again.
NORA: (getting the bundle from the loft) The young priest said he’d be passing to-morrow, and we might go down and speak to him below if it’s Michael’s they are surely.
CATHLEEN: (taking the bundle) Did he say what way they were found?
NORA: (coming down) “There were two men,” says he, “and they rowing round with poteen before the cocks crowed, and the oar of one of them caught the body, and they passing the black cliffs of the north.”
CATHLEEN: (trying to open the bundle) Give me a knife, Nora; the string’s perished with the salt water, and there’s a black knot on it you wouldn’t loosen in a week.
NORA: (giving her a knife) I’ve heard tell it was a long way to Donegal.
CATHLEEN: (cutting the string) It is surely. There was a man in here a while ago–the man sold us that knife–and he said if you set off walking from the rocks beyond, it would be seven days you’d be in Donegal.
NORA: And what time would a man take, and he floating?
[CATHLEEN opens the bundle ad takes out a bit of a stocking. They look at them eagerly.]
CATHLEEN: (in a low voice) The Lord spare us, Nora! Isn’t it a queer hard thing to say if it’s his they are surely?
NORA: I’ll get his shirt off the hook the way we can put the one flannel on the other. (She looks through some clothes hanging in the corner) It’s not with them, Cathleen, and where will it be?
CATHLEEN: I’m thinking Bartley put it on him in the morning, for his own shirt was heavy with the salt in it. (Pointing to the corner) There’s a bit of a sleeve was of the same stuff. Give me that and it will do.
[NORA brings it to her and they ompare the flannel.]
CATHLEEN: It’s the same stuff, Nora; but if it is itself, aren’t there great rolls of it in the shops of Galway, and isn’t it many another man may have a shirt of it as well as Michael himself?
NORA: (who has taken up the stocking and counted the stitches, crying out) It’s Michael, Cathleen, it’s Michael; God spare his soul and what will herself say when she hears this story, and Bartley on the sea?
CATHLEEN: (taking the stocking) It’s a plain stocking.
NORA: It’s the second one of the third pair I knitted, and I put up three score stitches, and I dropped four of them.
CATHLEEN: (counts the stitches) It’s that number is in it. (Crying out) Ah, Nora, isn’t it a bitter thing to think of him floating that way to the far north, and no one to keen him but the black hags that do be flying on the sea?
NORA: (swinging herself round, and throwing out her arms on the clothes) And isn’t it a pitiful thing when there is nothing left of a man who was a great rower and fisher, but a bit of an old shirt and a plain stocking?
CATHLEEN: (after an instant) Tell me is herself coming, Nora? I hear a little sound on the path.
NORA: (looking out) She is, Cathleen. She’s coming up to the door.
CATHLEEN: Put these things away before she’ll come in. Maybe it’s easier she’ll be after giving her blessing to Bartley, and we won’t let on we’ve heard anything the time he’s on the sea.
NORA: (helping CATHLEEN to close the bundle) We’ll put them here in the corner.
[They put them into a hole in the chimney corner. CATHLEEN goes back to the spinning wheel.]
NORA: Will she see it was crying I was?
CATHLEEN: Keep your back to the door the way the light’ll not be on you.
[NORA sits down at the chimney corner, with her back to the door. MAURYA comes in very slowly, without looking at the girls, and goes over to her stool at the other side of the fire.].