The Whale and the Grasshopper

When Standish McNeill started talking to his friend Felix O’Dowd as they walked at a leisurely pace towards the town of Castle-gregory on a June morning, what he said was: “The world is a wonderful place when you come to think about it, an’ Ireland is a wonderful place an’ so is America, an’ though there are lots of places like each other there’s no place like Ballysantamalo. When there’s not sunshine there, there’s moonshine, an’ the handsomest women in the world live there, an’ nowhere else except in Ireland or the churchyards could you find such decent people.”

“Decency,” said Felix, “when you’re poor is extravagance, and bad example when you’re rich.”

“And why?” said Standish.

“Well,” said Felix, “because the poor imitate the rich an’ the rich give to the poor an’ when the poor give to each other they have nothing of their own.”

“That’s communism you’re talking,” said Standish, “an’ that always comes from education an enlightenment. Sure if the poor weren’t dacent they’d be rich an’ if the rich were dacent they’d be poor an’ if every one had a conscience they’d be less millionaires.”

“’Tis a poor bird that can’t pick for himself.”

“But suppose a bird had a broken wing an’ couldn’t fly to where the pickings were?” said Felix.

“Well, then bring the pickings to him. That would be charity.”

“But charity is decency and wisdom is holding your tongue when you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“If the people of Ballysantamalo are so decent, how is it that there are so many bachelors there? Do you think it right to have all the young women worrying their heads off reading trashy novels an’ doin’ all sorts of silly things like fixin’ their hair in a way that was never intended by nature an’ doin’ so for years an’ years an’ havin’ nothin’ in the end but the trouble of it all.”

“Well, ’tis hard blamin’ the young men, because every young lady you meet looks better to you than the last until you meet the next, an’ so you go on to another until you’re so old that on one would marry you at all unless you had lots of money, a bad liver, an’ a shaky heart.”

“An old man without any sense, lots of money, a bad liver, an’ a shaky heart can always get a young lady to marry him,” said Felix, “though rheumatics, gout, an’ a wooden leg are just as good in such a case.”

“Every bit,” said Standish, “but there’s nothin’ like a weak constitution, a cold climate, an’ a tendency to pneumonia.”

“Old men are quare,” said Felix.

“They are,” said Standish, “an if they were all only half as wise as they think they are then they’d be only young fools in the world. I don’t wonder a bit at the suffragettes. An’ a time will come when we won’t know men from women unless some one tells us so.”

“Wisha, ’tis my belief that there will be a great reaction some day, because women will never be able to stand the strain of doin’ what they please without encountering opposition. When a man falls in love he falls into trouble likewise, an’ when a women isn’t in trouble you may be sure that there’s something wrong with her.”

“Well,” said Standish, “I think we will leave the women where the devil left St. Peter—”

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