Story type: Essay
He says “Shure” and “Bedad” and in moments of exultation “Beghorra.” That is all the Irish he knows.
He is very poor, but scrupulously honest. His great ambition is to pay his rent, and he is devoted to his landlord.
He is always cheerful and always good. We never knew a bad Irishman on the stage. Sometimes a stage Irishman seems to be a bad man–such as the “agent” or the “informer”–but in these cases it invariably turns out in the end that this man was all along a Scotchman, and thus what had been a mystery becomes clear and explicable.
The stage Irishman is always doing the most wonderful things imaginable. We do not see him do those wonderful things. He does them when nobody is by and tells us all about them afterward: that is how we know of them.
We remember on one occasion, when we were young and somewhat inexperienced, planking our money down and going into a theater solely and purposely to see the stage Irishman do the things he was depicted as doing on the posters outside.
They were really marvelous, the things he did on that poster.
In the right-hand upper corner he appeared running across country on all fours, with a red herring sticking out from his coat-tails, while far behind came hounds and horsemen hunting him. But their chance of ever catching him up was clearly hopeless.
To the left he was represented as running away over one of the wildest and most rugged bits of landscape we have ever seen with a very big man on his back. Six policemen stood scattered about a mile behind him. They had evidently been running after him, but had at last given up the pursuit as useless.
In the center of the poster he was having a friendly fight with seventeen ladies and gentlemen. Judging from the costumes, the affair appeared to be a wedding. A few of the guests had already been killed and lay dead about the floor. The survivors, however, were enjoying themselves immensely, and of all that gay group he was the gayest.
At the moment chosen by the artist, he had just succeeded in cracking the bridegroom’s skull.
“We must see this,” said we to ourselves. “This is good.” And we had a bob’s worth.
But he did not do any of the things that we have mentioned, after all–at least, we mean we did not see him do any of them. It seems he did them “off,” and then came on and told his mother all about it afterward.
He told it very well, but somehow or other we were disappointed. We had so reckoned on that fight.
By the bye, we have noticed, even among the characters of real life, a tendency to perform most of their wonderful feats “off.”
It has been our privilege since then to gaze upon many posters on which have been delineated strange and moving stage events.
We have seen the hero holding the villain up high above his head, and throwing him about that carelessly that we have felt afraid he would break something with him.
We have seen a heroine leaping from the roof of a house on one side of the street and being caught by the comic man standing on the roof of a house on the other side of the street and thinking nothing of it.
We have seen railway trains rushing into each other at the rate of sixty miles an hour. We have seen houses blown up by dynamite two hundred feet into the air. We have seen the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the destruction of Pompeii, and the return of the British army from Egypt in one “set” each.
Such incidents as earthquakes, wrecks in mid-ocean, revolutions and battles we take no note of, they being commonplace and ordinary.
But we do not go inside to see these things now. We have two looks at the poster instead; it is more satisfying.
The Irishman, to return to our friend, is very fond of whisky–the stage Irishman, we mean. Whisky is forever in his thoughts–and often in other places belonging to him, besides.
The fashion in dress among stage Irishmen is rather picturesque than neat. Tailors must have a hard time of it in stage Ireland.
The stage Irishman has also an original taste in hats. He always wears a hat without a crown; whether to keep his head cool or with any political significance we cannot say.