O'Bannion's Gold by Jean Goodman
ACT I- SCENE I
(In front of traveler curtain, a cave dimly lit A large bat lies
motionless in corner, with a witch sitting, holding and talking to a
FIRST WITCH: (Laughs horribly) Aaaaaah, Hahahah! Sooo, me fine little
pet! Ye say ye want t' be a little boy again? (holds the snake near
her ear and cocks her head to listen). Aaaah, hahaha! Ye want to go
home t'yer mother. She's wondrin' what happened to ye? Well,
now, lad, stop yer frettin'. She's long since stopped worryin'
about ye. It's only YOU who have lived for twelve hundred years!
She's nowhere around, me boy.
(Enter 2nd witch)
SECOND WITCH: Sure, I don't know why he minds not bein' a little
boy like he was. Ye treat him so grand! He's got more rats to eat
than any other pet in Ireland.
FIRST WITCH: (Looking at the other) My, it's lovely yer lookin'
this day! Something agreeable must have happened.
SECOND WITCH: (Cackling weirdly) Oh, it's agreeable beyond me
tellin'! (laughs) There's this widow and her three children and
they're wastin' away from lack of food (laughs)! There's a cold
winter comin' on and they've nothing to burn to keep themselves
warm (cackles). They're overworked and sickly. Hahahahahaha!
FIRST WITCH: (lets out a scream of delight) What a good piece of news!
Sure, it's a grand country, this Ireland! Never a dull century!
SECOND WITCH: We'll just keep our eyes on 'em. Twill be
(They both cackle and laugh. The light dims, flickers. They both
stop laughing abruptly and get very serious. The bat rises, flaps its
wings slowly, almost like a dance without music.)
ACT I SCENE II
(O'Malley cottage, Agnes at hearth, stirring pot. Sheila is putting
cups on table, one by one)
DIERDRE: Sheila, whatever are ye settin' the table for? There's
nothing t'eat. (sighs) And I'm soooo hungry!
MAUREEN: Mother's cookin' SOMETHIN', see?
AGNES: Ye poor darlin's! it's the same bone I've cooked every
day for two weeksbut it'll flavor some soup still.
SHEILA: Sure, the evil eye of poverty is on us. Since father's gone
to heaven, we've hardly been able to scrape up a decent meal.
AGNES: 'Tis a sad thing to be so poor as I am when my children be
needin' food to grow on. (Wipes tear from eye with corner of apron,
starts ladling out soup) Come have some soup, now.
DIERDRE: (Sips) It tastes just like hot water.
SHEILA: Don't say it, Dierdre. Mother feels bad enough as it is.
AGNES: (trying to appear cheerful) There's a potato for each of
Dierdre, you can have mine. I'm not in the mood for it.
MAUREEN: Mother, she doesn't want to eat your food. You eat. You
need it, too.
AGNES: But not as much as a little growing girl. (sweetly smiles,
tries to change subject) Isn't it grand, though, how the storm last
night blew away? 'Twas a bad one, sure.
SHEILA: (Resolutely) Now, I've got to tell you this! I can't
stop thinkin' about it. I got the most marvelous signs last night.
Straight from heaven they came, with the lightening flashing and the
MAUREEN: Signs of what, Sheila?
SHEILA: Hold yer tongue, ye silly baby! Talkin' o'signs at yer
tender age. Now, then, three hoot owls on the big tree outside were
blinkin' and hootin'
and three fat black crows came and scared away the owls.
DIERDRE: I didn't see or hear anything like that.
SHEILA: And what would a baby like you be seeing' and hearin'
signs for? Baby sisters are meant to sleep at night and big sisters
are meant to worry about them.
AGNES: Well, Sheila, what makes you think owls and crows have any
special meanin' this day? Although your darlin' Aunt Agnes
O'Shaugnessy, who I was named for, may the saints in heaven keep
her, she did used to put a lot o'meaning into owls' and crows'
SHEILA: Now, mother, yer getting' the idea of it! Well, soon the
crows flew off straight over the roof. That ought to mean something!
AGNES: There was an owls' nest in Aunt Agnes' shade tree, as I
DIERDRE: What about the crows?
MAUREEN: —and the sea gulls?
SHEILA: Now I'm comin' to that! I'm comin' to that! Aunt
Agnes used to tell stories about black crows and didn't she live
near the sea, where the gulls were always flying around her house?
AGNES: She did that, indeed! A thousand times she told us of the
black crows that flew double-fast in a rainstorm and how she took a
stout stick to beat off the sea gulls when they settled on her porch!
Oh, she put a lot o'meaning in that!
SHEILA: Oh, mother. I believe darlin' Aunt O'Shaugnessy, dead
and lyin' in the churchyard these five years past, is seein' our
troubles, angel that she is, and sendin' us signs from heaven.
AGNES: Well, now, supposin' all yer sayin' is true? We haven't
an inkling what the signs are supposed to mean.
SHEILA: Ah, that's just it! But we've got to use our heads and
think! Think hard!
MAUREEN: (earnestly) I'm thinkin', Sheila.
SHEILA: Maureen, hush! Go rock yer dolly! (Slowly and thoughtfully)
Mother, all the days of my life ye've been tellin' me tales about
the leprechauns who live in the deep forest and who guard a huge pot
that's filled to the brim with gold.
AGNES: —and tellin' ye as well about the curse o' the place with
the wee men and their mystic spells!
SHEILA: Maybe the signs from heaven are meant to help us. Perhaps
I'd be safe goin' in the forest to look for the leprechaun's
gold. If I could find some, I'd bring it home and we could HIRE a
man to farm the potatoes and the children wouldn't have to go hungry
as they now do. The land is just too hard for us to till alone.
AGNES: Bein' hungry is better than bein' bewitched.
SHEILA: But time and again ye've told me the ways o' the little
men and theand the. (she gulps, afraid to say what she's
thinking)others. I'd be careful and Aunt O'Shaugnessy and
Father, why they'd be watchin' me from up in heaven and
AGNES: Ah, Sheila, yer a grand girl! Ye'd go off riskin' yer
precious self to help yer sisters! (looks straight up to heaven) Did
ye hear that now! (looks back at Sheila) But I couldn't allow it,
darlin'. I'd never rest if anything bad happened to you! And yer
father, may his dear soul be playin' a harp this very minute, he
always warned us against goin' into the land of the leprechauns.
The saints preserve us from their tricks.
SHEILA: Well, I won't say I'm not afraidbut I'm more afraid
of stayin' here and watchin' my mother and sisters starvin'.
We've only one bushel of potatoes left and a long cold winter ahead.
We've got to do something.
MAUREEN: Oh, if only Farmer Fitzgerald hadn't moved away. He was
so kind to us. And his children were such fun to play with. That
Ferguson Fitzgerald! He was so funny! Now we have no neighbors at
DIERDRE: If you do go into the forest, Sheila, you may get hungry. I
want to give you all the potatoes that I would eat while you're
gone. You mustn't starve to death in that scary place.
SHEILA: You sweet lamb! Bless you! I'll not starvebut I would
like to have a few extra potatoes with me and my warm blanket. (Gets
AGNES: (Takes Sheila around the shoulder and leads her down center
away from small ones) Now, Sheila, I'd never consider lettin' ye
go on account o' the Great Banshee that wanders through the air and
in the forest.it's that afraid I am of his terrible spellsbut
according to the stories my grandfather used to tell me, and I've no
reason to doubt his word, now is the time of year for the Great
Banshee to be half-way across Ireland in the mists of the Bog of
SHEILA: Then I can go search in the forest?
AGNES: With yer sainted aunt protectin' ye, yes, my darlin', but
ye'll look out for the Great Banshee anyway. There's really no
tellin' where they may take themselves.
SHEILA: Well, what'll I do if I meet the Great Banshee?
AGNES: MEET HIM! (Slaps her head) Ye'd better not meet him!
Ye'll hear such a howlin' and screechin' as'll curl your
toenails! But the second ye hear it, ye must fling yourself flat on
yer back and kick yer feet in the air as fast as ye can. (Knowingly)
That's what they can't stand.
SHEILA: Oh, bless you, mother. I know I'll be all right now.
Goodbye, darlin'! (She hugs mother, kisses each child.) Pray for
ACT I SCENE III
(Cottage down left. Similar family scene. Father sitting in big chair,
sewing laboriously with large needle. Donald peeling potatoes.
Little brothers, Rory and Shawn, are whittling.)
FATHER: (Sticks finger) Ow! Owww! It's a miserable mother I'm
bein' to ye, boys! For every hole I sew up in yer socks, I put a
hole in my fingers while sewin' it! Why yer sainted mother left us
to go to heaven I'll never understand. She knew how we needed her!
I can build a barn or cupboard but not darn a sock!
DONALD: Now Father, don't carry on so. Mother wouldn't have gone
to heaven if she wasn't called. And sewin' is easier than
peelin' these! I'd feed 'em to the pigs without bein' peeled,
if I had my way.
FATHER: The pigs'll get the peelin's, boy, and ye know ye like
yer stew complete with pork, cabbage, turnips AND potatoes.
SHAWN: Stew, did ye say? It's good cabbage and turnips and pork
all right. But it doesn't taste good when Donald puts it together
and calls it stew.
RORY: When are we goin' to get that hired woman to come and cook
and clean and sew for us? Ye've been tellin' us for ages we're
goin' to get a woman from Dublin.
SHAWN: (Thoughtfully) I hate your cookin', Donald.
FATHER: Shawn! Keep a civil tongue in yer head when ye address yer
big brother. Shame on ye both! How can ye be so ungrateful? Yer
brother works all day on the farm and does a man's work same as I do
and cooks as best he can. Now ye both praise the saints this minute
for providin' ye with enough food and a good brother.
SHAWN and RORY: (Together, contritely) Yes, Father, I'm sorry, etc.
(They pray on their knees, mumbling up to ceiling) Thank you, heavenly
Father for the (Their voices fade as they silently pray)
DONALD: They're right, Father. It's terrible, the mess I make of
the good meat and vegetables our farm provides.
I try, but I can't get the knack of it.
FATHER: Like me with the sewin'and the washin'. It's fair
tired I am o' seein' us in torn, dirty clothes. But ye know as
well as I that there's isn't a drop o' money to hire a woman.
Who'd come to cook and clean and sew with never a drop o' payment?
DONALD: It's sorry I am for the little boys, with no mother or any
woman to say a soft word to them.
FATHER: (Nodding in agreement, sadly) You at least can
rememberbut they don't know what it is to have a good woman's
SHAWN: I'd like us to hire a fat lady with jolly red cheeks and
laughing all the time and smelling of cookies she just baked.
RORY: I'd like us to have a very beautiful lady who'd let me sit
in her lap and she'd tell me stories.
SHAWN: Do you suppose a hired woman could be beautiful and be a good
RORY: (Considering the idea) I don't imagine she could be beautiful
and be a good cook but wouldn't it be wonderful? Think of it,
Shawn! A beautiful lady who smelled of cookies! (They sit transfixed
by this marvelous dream)
DONALD: It's pitiful! That's all they talk about lately, hiring
a woman from Dublin to come here
FATHER: Don't I hear it? It's fair breakin' my heart. But
I'm just a poor farmer. I'll never have money enough to hire a
woman for the boys.
DONALD: And it's their only wish! (pauses thoughtfully) Father, all
my life ye've been tellin' about the leprechauns who live in the
forest and about how they keep a huge pot filled with gold.
FATHER: True, every word of it!
DONALD: Well, if you could spare me from the farm for a few days,
I'd be willin' to go into the forest and try to find the pot o'
gold. I'd bring some back to you so's you could hire a woman to
keep house for us.
FATHER: (Electrified) Glory be to God! That I should hear my own
son make an offer so fine as that! Would ye now sacrifice yerself to
the wee folk to help your brothers? What a splendid lad! But I
couldn't allow it, dear boy. Too dangerous entirely!
DONALD: I'm well aware of the wee men's traps and foolery and
such, but I'd be on guard the whole time. Certainly, I'm bigger
and stronger than a whole bunch of them put together!
FATHER: (Speaking straight to heaven) Hah! Listen to my poor addled
boy! (to his son) Donald, yer no match against faery magic and the
likes now are ye, son?
DONALD: (Thoughtfully) No-oo, but I'd go very slow and if it looks
too dangerous, I'd come straight back home.
RORY: Let him go, Father. I don't think I can stand one more of
his meals. I've lost eighty pounds since mother went to cook in
SHAWN: Lost eighty pounds, ye loon, when ye never weighed more than
sixty! Still, I agree with ye. It's fair tired I am o' muffins
that sit in my stomach like so many stones! (Rubs stomach as if
aching) D'ye think the muffins'll ever melt so's I can forget
'em? (Rolls eyes and groans)
DONALD: That settles it! I'm after poisoning me darling' baby
brothers! It's go for the leprechaun gold I must! And it's yer
prayers I'll be needing.
FATHER: Oh, son, d'ye know what yer saying? A human being is frail
and perishable and the curiosity of a thousand generations hasn't
uncovered a true secret o'safety in the forest.
DONALD: The little boys are so unhappy, father. I believe the saints
that are watching over them will watch over me. They'd help me find
the gold and get home safe.
FATHER: Of course, ye well know that the leprechauns keep the gold
hid at the end of the rainbow.
RORY: Which end, father?
SHAWN: Suren it isn't this end, so it must be t' other.
FATHER: "This end! That end!" That's just it! No one knows
DONALD: According t'yer teaching, if I should catch but one
leprechaun, the others will pay a pot o'gold in order to get him
back. Is that right?
FATHER: That's the rule they go by. But Donald, about the Great
DONALD: (Shudders) The Great Banshee! I'd not go NOW if I thought
the Great Banshee was in THIS part of Ireland! You always told us it
stayed in the Bog of Allen come wintertime.
FATHER: Reliable as my information is, I still want ye t'keep in
mind what ye must do at the first instant ye may hear the wailing and
the horrible shrieking. Ye must hop on yer toes, stamp up and down
and clap, clap yer hands loud at the first instant ye hear him.
It's the only chance ye have t'save yerself.
[End of Extract]