(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Three workmen are standing languidly in a large. gloomy room that once had been the living room of a ruined Elizabethan mansion. The three ponder the wisdom of two English gentlemen, Cyril Poges and Basil Stoke, in coming to live in such a decaying old house. Although the fresh paint had brightened things up a bit, it covers, for the most part, rotting wood. The sudden appearance of the sixty-five-year-old Poges and the serious Basil—who is in his thirties—followed by their mistresses, Souhaun and Avril, respectively, confirms the workmen’s suspicions that the owners are slightly awry in their thinking. The group dances in, boisterously singing of the joys of country living. The handsome foreman, Jack O’Killigain, explains to the workmen that these are people who see historical loveliness in decaying ruins, and who take foolish delight in any locale with a story behind it. With the reappearance of the pretty Avril, Stokes’s mistress, O’Killigain exerts his poetic Irish charm to entice her into a rendezvous later that night.

Poges, Basil, and Souhaun return from a walk in the fields. Poges and Basil talk excitedly about the glories of past history and its better times, much to the disgust of O’Killigain, who firmly believes that life in its present state is far more worth living. His philosophy is lost on the other two, who go about their comic business of hanging pictures and discovering aspects of country living—new business for them, but common enjoyment for the hardy Irish workmen.

Although Poges wants to forget the outside world and its ways, his reverie is constantly interrupted by prosaic occurrences: arguments with Basil and the women, altercations with his butler over men outside who wish to know if he desires roosters and hens, and interruptions by one of the workmen, who informs him of an excellent buy in a cow. Poges rages that he will get in touch with the department of agriculture. At Poges’s displeasure over the disconnected telephone, another workman loses his temper. Poges hears himself scorned as a man who thinks that the glory of the world could be stuffed into a purse, a man who is patronizing toward the Irish, a mighty race a thousand years older than his own.

Basil and Avril leave for a horseback ride, in spite of warnings that Irish horses are true horses, instead of English animals. The predictions are accurate; a battered Basil appears shortly afterward and announces that his horse indeed had become wild and ungovernable, and that, when last seen, Avril was riding...

(The entire section is 1038 words.)