Part 2 out of 5
suspected he had a bit of stuff put by.
Nearly the half-hour! She stood up and surveyed herself in the
pier-glass. The decisive expression of her great florid face satisfied
her and she thought of some mothers she knew who could not get
their daughters off their hands.
Mr. Doran was very anxious indeed this Sunday morning. He had
made two attempts to shave but his hand had been so unsteady that
he had been obliged to desist. Three days' reddish beard fringed his
jaws and every two or three minutes a mist gathered on his glasses
so that he had to take them off and polish them with his
pocket-handkerchief. The recollection of his confession of the
night before was a cause of acute pain to him; the priest had drawn
out every ridiculous detail of the affair and in the end had so
magnified his sin that he was almost thankful at being afforded a
loophole of reparation. The harm was done. What could he do now
but marry her or run away? He could not brazen it out. The affair
would be sure to be talked of and his employer would be certain to
hear of it. Dublin is such a small city: everyone knows everyone
else's business. He felt his heart leap warmly in his throat as he
heard in his excited imagination old Mr. Leonard calling out in his
rasping voice: "Send Mr. Doran here, please."
All his long years of service gone for nothing! All his industry and
diligence thrown away! As a young man he had sown his wild oats,
of course; he had boasted of his free-thinking and denied the
existence of God to his companions in public- houses. But that was
all passed and done with... nearly. He still bought a copy of
Reynolds's Newspaper every week but he attended to his religious
duties and for nine-tenths of the year lived a regular life. He had
money enough to settle down on; it was not that. But the family
would look down on her. First of all there was her disreputable
father and then her mother's boarding house was beginning to get a
certain fame. He had a notion that he was being had. He could
imagine his friends talking of the affair and laughing. She was a
little vulgar; some times she said "I seen" and "If I had've known."
But what would grammar matter if he really loved her? He could
not make up his mind whether to like her or despise her for what
she had done. Of course he had done it too. His instinct urged him
to remain free, not to marry. Once you are married you are done
for, it said.
While he was sitting helplessly on the side of the bed in shirt and
trousers she tapped lightly at his door and entered. She told him
all, that she had made a clean breast of it to her mother and that
her mother would speak with him that morning. She cried and
threw her arms round his neck, saying:
"O Bob! Bob! What am I to do? What am I to do at all?"
She would put an end to herself, she said.
He comforted her feebly, telling her not to cry, that it would be all
right, never fear. He felt against his shirt the agitation of her
It was not altogether his fault that it had happened. He
remembered well, with the curious patient memory of the celibate,
the first casual caresses her dress, her breath, her fingers had given
him. Then late one night as he was undressing for she had tapped
at his door, timidly. She wanted to relight her candle at his for hers
had been blown out by a gust. It was her bath night. She wore a
loose open combing- jacket of printed flannel. Her white instep
shone in the opening of her furry slippers and the blood glowed
warmly behind her perfumed skin. From her hands and wrists too
as she lit and steadied her candle a faint perfume arose.
On nights when he came in very late it was she who warmed up his
dinner. He scarcely knew what he was eating feeling her beside
him alone, at night, in the sleeping house. And her thoughtfulness!
If the night was anyway cold or wet or windy there was sure to be
a little tumbler of punch ready for him. Perhaps they could be
They used to go upstairs together on tiptoe, each with a candle,
and on the third landing exchange reluctant goodnights. They used
to kiss. He remembered well her eyes, the touch of her hand and
But delirium passes. He echoed her phrase, applying it to himself:
"What am I to do?" The instinct of the celibate warned him to hold
back. But the sin was there; even his sense of honour told him that
reparation must be made for such a sin.
While he was sitting with her on the side of the bed Mary came to
the door and said that the missus wanted to see him in the parlour.
He stood up to put on his coat and waistcoat, more helpless than
ever. When he was dressed he went over to her to comfort her. It
would be all right, never fear. He left her crying on the bed and
moaning softly: "O my God!"
Going down the stairs his glasses became so dimmed with
moisture that he had to take them off and polish them. He longed
to ascend through the roof and fly away to another country where
he would never hear again of his trouble, and yet a force pushed
him downstairs step by step. The implacable faces of his employer
and of the Madam stared upon his discomfiture. On the last flight
of stairs he passed Jack Mooney who was coming up from the
pantry nursing two bottles of Bass. They saluted coldly; and the
lover's eyes rested for a second or two on a thick bulldog face and
a pair of thick short arms. When he reached the foot of the
staircase he glanced up and saw Jack regarding him from the door
of the return-room.
Suddenly he remembered the night when one of the musichall
artistes, a little blond Londoner, had made a rather free allusion to
Polly. The reunion had been almost broken up on account of Jack's
violence. Everyone tried to quiet him. The music-hall artiste, a
little paler than usual, kept smiling and saying that there was no
harm meant: but Jack kept shouting at him that if any fellow tried
that sort of a game on with his sister he'd bloody well put his teeth
down his throat, so he would.
Polly sat for a little time on the side of the bed, crying. Then she
dried her eyes and went over to the looking-glass. She dipped the
end of the towel in the water-jug and refreshed her eyes with the
cool water. She looked at herself in profile and readjusted a
hairpin above her ear. Then she went back to the bed again and sat
at the foot. She regarded the pillows for a long time and the sight
of them awakened in her mind secret, amiable memories. She
rested the nape of her neck against the cool iron bed-rail and fell
into a reverie. There was no longer any perturbation visible on her
She waited on patiently, almost cheerfully, without alarm. her
memories gradually giving place to hopes and visions of the
future. Her hopes and visions were so intricate that she no longer
saw the white pillows on which her gaze was fixed or remembered
that she was waiting for anything.
At last she heard her mother calling. She started to her feet and ran
to the banisters.
"Come down, dear. Mr. Doran wants to speak to you."
Then she remembered what she had been waiting for.
A LITTLE CLOUD
EIGHT years before he had seen his friend off at the North Wall
and wished him godspeed. Gallaher had got on. You could tell that
at once by his travelled air, his well-cut tweed suit, and fearless
accent. Few fellows had talents like his and fewer still could
remain unspoiled by such success. Gallaher's heart was in the right
place and he had deserved to win. It was something to have a
friend like that.
Little Chandler's thoughts ever since lunch-time had been of his
meeting with Gallaher, of Gallaher's invitation and of the great city
London where Gallaher lived. He was called Little Chandler
because, though he was but slightly under the average stature, he
gave one the idea of being a little man. His hands were white and
small, his frame was fragile, his voice was quiet and his manners
were refined. He took the greatest care of his fair silken hair and
moustache and used perfume discreetly on his handkerchief. The
half-moons of his nails were perfect and when he smiled you
caught a glimpse of a row of childish white teeth.
As he sat at his desk in the King's Inns he thought what changes
those eight years had brought. The friend whom he had known
under a shabby and necessitous guise had become a brilliant figure
on the London Press. He turned often from his tiresome writing to
gaze out of the office window. The glow of a late autumn sunset
covered the grass plots and walks. It cast a shower of kindly
golden dust on the untidy nurses and decrepit old men who
drowsed on the benches; it flickered upon all the moving figures--
on the children who ran screaming along the gravel paths and on
everyone who passed through the gardens. He watched the scene
and thought of life; and (as always happened when he thought of
life) he became sad. A gentle melancholy took possession of him.
He felt how useless it was to struggle against fortune, this being
the burden of wisdom which the ages had bequeathed to him.
He remembered the books of poetry upon his shelves at home. He
had bought them in his bachelor days and many an evening, as he
sat in the little room off the hall, he had been tempted to take one
down from the bookshelf and read out something to his wife. But
shyness had always held him back; and so the books had remained
on their shelves. At times he repeated lines to himself and this
When his hour had struck he stood up and took leave of his desk
and of his fellow-clerks punctiliously. He emerged from under the
feudal arch of the King's Inns, a neat modest figure, and walked
swiftly down Henrietta Street. The golden sunset was waning and
the air had grown sharp. A horde of grimy children populated the
street. They stood or ran in the roadway or crawled up the steps
before the gaping doors or squatted like mice upon the thresholds.
Little Chandler gave them no thought. He picked his way deftly
through all that minute vermin-like life and under the shadow of
the gaunt spectral mansions in which the old nobility of Dublin
had roystered. No memory of the past touched him, for his mind
was full of a present joy.
He had never been in Corless's but he knew the value of the name.
He knew that people went there after the theatre to eat oysters and
drink liqueurs; and he had heard that the waiters there spoke
French and German. Walking swiftly by at night he had seen cabs
drawn up before the door and richly dressed ladies, escorted by
cavaliers, alight and enter quickly. They wore noisy dresses and
many wraps. Their faces were powdered and they caught up their
dresses, when they touched earth, like alarmed Atalantas. He had
always passed without turning his head to look. It was his habit to
walk swiftly in the street even by day and whenever he found
himself in the city late at night he hurried on his way
apprehensively and excitedly. Sometimes, however, he courted the
causes of his fear. He chose the darkest and narrowest streets and,
as he walked boldly forward, the silence that was spread about his
footsteps troubled him, the wandering, silent figures troubled him;
and at times a sound of low fugitive laughter made him tremble
like a leaf.
He turned to the right towards Capel Street. Ignatius Gallaher on
the London Press! Who would have thought it possible eight years
before? Still, now that he reviewed the past, Little Chandler could
remember many signs of future greatness in his friend. People used
to say that Ignatius Gallaher was wild Of course, he did mix with a
rakish set of fellows at that time. drank freely and borrowed
money on all sides. In the end he had got mixed up in some shady
affair, some money transaction: at least, that was one version of his
flight. But nobody denied him talent. There was always a certain...
something in Ignatius Gallaher that impressed you in spite of
yourself. Even when he was out at elbows and at his wits' end for
money he kept up a bold face. Little Chandler remembered (and
the remembrance brought a slight flush of pride to his cheek) one
of Ignatius Gallaher's sayings when he was in a tight corner:
"Half time now, boys," he used to say light-heartedly. "Where's my
That was Ignatius Gallaher all out; and, damn it, you couldn't but
admire him for it.
Little Chandler quickened his pace. For the first time in his life he
felt himself superior to the people he passed. For the first time his
soul revolted against the dull inelegance of Capel Street. There
was no doubt about it: if you wanted to succeed you had to go
away. You could do nothing in Dublin. As he crossed Grattan
Bridge he looked down the river towards the lower quays and
pitied the poor stunted houses. They seemed to him a band of
tramps, huddled together along the riverbanks, their old coats
covered with dust and soot, stupefied by the panorama of sunset
and waiting for the first chill of night bid them arise, shake
themselves and begone. He wondered whether he could write a
poem to express his idea. Perhaps Gallaher might be able to get it
into some London paper for him. Could he write something
original? He was not sure what idea he wished to express but the
thought that a poetic moment had touched him took life within
him like an infant hope. He stepped onward bravely.
Every step brought him nearer to London, farther from his own
sober inartistic life. A light began to tremble on the horizon of his
mind. He was not so old--thirty-two. His temperament might be
said to be just at the point of maturity. There were so many
different moods and impressions that he wished to express in
verse. He felt them within him. He tried weigh his soul to see if it
was a poet's soul. Melancholy was the dominant note of his
temperament, he thought, but it was a melancholy tempered by
recurrences of faith and resignation and simple joy. If he could
give expression to it in a book of poems perhaps men would listen.
He would never be popular: he saw that. He could not sway the
crowd but he might appeal to a little circle of kindred minds. The
English critics, perhaps, would recognise him as one of the Celtic
school by reason of the melancholy tone of his poems; besides
that, he would put in allusions. He began to invent sentences and
phrases from the notice which his book would get. "Mr. Chandler
has the gift of easy and graceful verse." ... "wistful sadness
pervades these poems." ... "The Celtic note." It was a pity his name
was not more Irish-looking. Perhaps it would be better to insert his
mother's name before the surname: Thomas Malone Chandler, or
better still: T. Malone Chandler. He would speak to Gallaher about
He pursued his revery so ardently that he passed his street and had
to turn back. As he came near Corless's his former agitation began
to overmaster him and he halted before the door in indecision.
Finally he opened the door and entered.
The light and noise of the bar held him at the doorways for a few
moments. He looked about him, but his sight was confused by the
shining of many red and green wine-glasses The bar seemed to him
to be full of people and he felt that the people were observing him
curiously. He glanced quickly to right and left (frowning slightly to
make his errand appear serious), but when his sight cleared a little
he saw that nobody had turned to look at him: and there, sure
enough, was Ignatius Gallaher leaning with his back against the
counter and his feet planted far apart.
"Hallo, Tommy, old hero, here you are! What is it to be? What will
you have? I'm taking whisky: better stuff than we get across the
water. Soda? Lithia? No mineral? I'm the same Spoils the
flavour.... Here, garcon, bring us two halves of malt whisky, like a
good fellow.... Well, and how have you been pulling along since I
saw you last? Dear God, how old we're getting! Do you see any
signs of aging in me--eh, what? A little grey and thin on the top--
Ignatius Gallaher took off his hat and displayed a large closely
cropped head. His face was heavy, pale and cleanshaven. His eyes,
which were of bluish slate-colour, relieved his unhealthy pallor
and shone out plainly above the vivid orange tie he wore. Between
these rival features the lips appeared very long and shapeless and
colourless. He bent his head and felt with two sympathetic fingers
the thin hair at the crown. Little Chandler shook his head as a
denial. Ignatius Galaher put on his hat again.
"It pulls you down," be said, "Press life. Always hurry and scurry,
looking for copy and sometimes not finding it: and then, always to
have something new in your stuff. Damn proofs and printers, I say,
for a few days. I'm deuced glad, I can tell you, to get back to the
old country. Does a fellow good, a bit of a holiday. I feel a ton
better since I landed again in dear dirty Dublin.... Here you are,
Tommy. Water? Say when."
Little Chandler allowed his whisky to be very much diluted.
"You don't know what's good for you, my boy," said Ignatius
Gallaher. "I drink mine neat."
"I drink very little as a rule," said Little Chandler modestly. "An
odd half-one or so when I meet any of the old crowd: that's all."
"Ah well," said Ignatius Gallaher, cheerfully, "here's to us and to
old times and old acquaintance."
They clinked glasses and drank the toast.
"I met some of the old gang today," said Ignatius Gallaher. "O'Hara
seems to be in a bad way. What's he doing?"
"Nothing, said Little Chandler. "He's gone to the dogs."
"But Hogan has a good sit, hasn't he?"
"Yes; he's in the Land Commission."
"I met him one night in London and he seemed to be very flush....
Poor O'Hara! Boose, I suppose?"
"Other things, too," said Little Chandler shortly.
Ignatius Gallaher laughed.
"Tommy," he said, "I see you haven't changed an atom. You're the
very same serious person that used to lecture me on Sunday
mornings when I had a sore head and a fur on my tongue. You'd
want to knock about a bit in the world. Have you never been
anywhere even for a trip?"
"I've been to the Isle of Man," said Little Chandler.
Ignatius Gallaher laughed.
"The Isle of Man!" he said. "Go to London or Paris: Paris, for
choice. That'd do you good."
"Have you seen Paris?"
"I should think I have! I've knocked about there a little."
"And is it really so beautiful as they say?" asked Little Chandler.
He sipped a little of his drink while Ignatius Gallaher finished his
"Beautiful?" said Ignatius Gallaher, pausing on the word and on
the flavour of his drink. "It's not so beautiful, you know. Of course,
it is beautiful.... But it's the life of Paris; that's the thing. Ah, there's
no city like Paris for gaiety, movement, excitement...."
Little Chandler finished his whisky and, after some trouble,
succeeded in catching the barman's eye. He ordered the same
"I've been to the Moulin Rouge," Ignatius Gallaher continued when
the barman had removed their glasses, "and I've been to all the
Bohemian cafes. Hot stuff! Not for a pious chap like you,
Little Chandler said nothing until the barman returned with two
glasses: then he touched his friend's glass lightly and reciprocated
the former toast. He was beginning to feel somewhat disillusioned.
Gallaher's accent and way of expressing himself did not please
him. There was something vulgar in his friend which he had not
observed before. But perhaps it was only the result of living in
London amid the bustle and competition of the Press. The old
personal charm was still there under this new gaudy manner. And,
after all, Gallaher had lived, he had seen the world. Little Chandler
looked at his friend enviously.
"Everything in Paris is gay," said Ignatius Gallaher. "They believe
in enjoying life--and don't you think they're right? If you want to
enjoy yourself properly you must go to Paris. And, mind you,
they've a great feeling for the Irish there. When they heard I was
from Ireland they were ready to eat me, man."
Little Chandler took four or five sips from his glass.
"Tell me," he said, "is it true that Paris is so... immoral as they
Ignatius Gallaher made a catholic gesture with his right arm.
"Every place is immoral," he said. "Of course you do find spicy
bits in Paris. Go to one of the students' balls, for instance. That's
lively, if you like, when the cocottes begin to let themselves loose.
You know what they are, I suppose?"
"I've heard of them," said Little Chandler.
Ignatius Gallaher drank off his whisky and shook his had.
"Ah," he said, "you may say what you like. There's no woman like
the Parisienne--for style, for go."
"Then it is an immoral city," said Little Chandler, with timid
insistence--"I mean, compared with London or Dublin?"
"London!" said Ignatius Gallaher. "It's six of one and half-a-dozen
of the other. You ask Hogan, my boy. I showed him a bit about
London when he was over there. He'd open your eye.... I say,
Tommy, don't make punch of that whisky: liquor up."
"O, come on, another one won't do you any harm. What is it? The
same again, I suppose?"
"Well... all right."
"Francois, the same again.... Will you smoke, Tommy?"
Ignatius Gallaher produced his cigar-case. The two friends lit their
cigars and puffed at them in silence until their drinks were served.
"I'll tell you my opinion," said Ignatius Gallaher, emerging after
some time from the clouds of smoke in which he had taken refuge,
"it's a rum world. Talk of immorality! I've heard of cases--what
am I saying?--I've known them: cases of... immorality...."
Ignatius Gallaher puffed thoughtfully at his cigar and then, in a
calm historian's tone, he proceeded to sketch for his friend some
pictures of the corruption which was rife abroad. He summarised
the vices of many capitals and seemed inclined to award the palm
to Berlin. Some things he could not vouch for (his friends had told
him), but of others he had had personal experience. He spared
neither rank nor caste. He revealed many of the secrets of religious
houses on the Continent and described some of the practices which
were fashionable in high society and ended by telling, with details,
a story about an English duchess--a story which he knew to be
true. Little Chandler as astonished.
"Ah, well," said Ignatius Gallaher, "here we are in old jog- along
Dublin where nothing is known of such things."
"How dull you must find it," said Little Chandler, "after all the
other places you've seen!"
Well," said Ignatius Gallaher, "it's a relaxation to come over here,
you know. And, after all, it's the old country, as they say, isn't it?
You can't help having a certain feeling for it. That's human
nature.... But tell me something about yourself. Hogan told me you
had... tasted the joys of connubial bliss. Two years ago, wasn't it?"
Little Chandler blushed and smiled.
"Yes," he said. "I was married last May twelve months."
"I hope it's not too late in the day to offer my best wishes," said
Ignatius Gallaher. "I didn't know your address or I'd have done so
at the time."
He extended his hand, which Little Chandler took.
"Well, Tommy," he said, "I wish you and yours every joy in life,
old chap, and tons of money, and may you never die till I shoot
you. And that's the wish of a sincere friend, an old friend. You
"I know that," said Little Chandler.
"Any youngsters?" said Ignatius Gallaher.
Little Chandler blushed again.
"We have one child," he said.
"Son or daughter?"
"A little boy."
Ignatius Gallaher slapped his friend sonorously on the back.
"Bravo," he said, "I wouldn't doubt you, Tommy."
Little Chandler smiled, looked confusedly at his glass and bit his
lower lip with three childishly white front teeth.
"I hope you'll spend an evening with us," he said, "before you go
back. My wife will be delighted to meet you. We can have a little
"Thanks awfully, old chap," said Ignatius Gallaher, "I'm sorry we
didn't meet earlier. But I must leave tomorrow night."
"I'm awfully sorry, old man. You see I'm over here with another
fellow, clever young chap he is too, and we arranged to go to a
little card-party. Only for that..."
"O, in that case..."
"But who knows?" said Ignatius Gallaher considerately. "Next year
I may take a little skip over here now that I've broken the ice. It's
only a pleasure deferred."
"Very well," said Little Chandler, "the next time you come we
must have an evening together. That's agreed now, isn't it?"
"Yes, that's agreed," said Ignatius Gallaher. "Next year if I come,
"And to clinch the bargain," said Little Chandler, "we'll just have
one more now."
Ignatius Gallaher took out a large gold watch and looked a it.
"Is it to be the last?" he said. "Because you know, I have an a.p."
"O, yes, positively," said Little Chandler.
"Very well, then," said Ignatius Gallaher, "let us have another one
as a deoc an doruis--that's good vernacular for a small whisky, I
Little Chandler ordered the drinks. The blush which had risen to
his face a few moments before was establishing itself. A trifle
made him blush at any time: and now he felt warm and excited.
Three small whiskies had gone to his head and Gallaher's strong
cigar had confused his mind, for he was a delicate and abstinent
person. The adventure of meeting Gallaher after eight years, of
finding himself with Gallaher in Corless's surrounded by lights and
noise, of listening to Gallaher's stories and of sharing for a brief
space Gallaher's vagrant and triumphant life, upset the equipoise of
his sensitive nature. He felt acutely the contrast between his own
life and his friend's and it seemed to him unjust. Gallaher was his
inferior in birth and education. He was sure that he could do
something better than his friend had ever done, or could ever do,
something higher than mere tawdry journalism if he only got the
chance. What was it that stood in his way? His unfortunate timidity
He wished to vindicate himself in some way, to assert his
manhood. He saw behind Gallaher's refusal of his invitation.
Gallaher was only patronising him by his friendliness just as he
was patronising Ireland by his visit.
The barman brought their drinks. Little Chandler pushed one glass
towards his friend and took up the other boldly.
"Who knows?" he said, as they lifted their glasses. "When you
come next year I may have the pleasure of wishing long life and
happiness to Mr. and Mrs. Ignatius Gallaher."
Ignatius Gallaher in the act of drinking closed one eye expressively
over the rim of his glass. When he had drunk he smacked his lips
decisively, set down his glass and said:
"No blooming fear of that, my boy. I'm going to have my fling first
and see a bit of life and the world before I put my head in the sack
--if I ever do."
"Some day you will," said Little Chandler calmly.
Ignatius Gallaher turned his orange tie and slate-blue eyes full
upon his friend.
"You think so?" he said.
"You'll put your head in the sack," repeated Little Chandler stoutly,
"like everyone else if you can find the girl."
He had slightly emphasised his tone and he was aware that he had
betrayed himself; but, though the colour had heightened in his
cheek, he did not flinch from his friend's gaze. Ignatius Gallaher
watched him for a few moments and then said:
"If ever it occurs, you may bet your bottom dollar there'll be no
mooning and spooning about it. I mean to marry money. She'll
have a good fat account at the bank or she won't do for me."
Little Chandler shook his head.
"Why, man alive," said Ignatius Gallaher, vehemently, "do you
know what it is? I've only to say the word and tomorrow I can have
the woman and the cash. You don't believe it? Well, I know it.
There are hundreds--what am I saying?--thousands of rich
Germans and Jews, rotten with money, that'd only be too glad....
You wait a while my boy. See if I don't play my cards properly.
When I go about a thing I mean business, I tell you. You just wait."
He tossed his glass to his mouth, finished his drink and laughed
loudly. Then he looked thoughtfully before him and said in a
"But I'm in no hurry. They can wait. I don't fancy tying myself up
to one woman, you know."
He imitated with his mouth the act of tasting and made a wry face.
"Must get a bit stale, I should think," he said.
Little Chandler sat in the room off the hall, holding a child in his
arms. To save money they kept no servant but Annie's young sister
Monica came for an hour or so in the morning and an hour or so in
the evening to help. But Monica had gone home long ago. It was a
quarter to nine. Little Chandler had come home late for tea and,
moreover, he had forgotten to bring Annie home the parcel of
coffee from Bewley's. Of course she was in a bad humour and gave
him short answers. She said she would do without any tea but
when it came near the time at which the shop at the corner closed
she decided to go out herself for a quarter of a pound of tea and
two pounds of sugar. She put the sleeping child deftly in his arms
"Here. Don't waken him."
A little lamp with a white china shade stood upon the table and its
light fell over a photograph which was enclosed in a frame of
crumpled horn. It was Annie's photograph. Little Chandler looked
at it, pausing at the thin tight lips. She wore the pale blue summer
blouse which he had brought her home as a present one Saturday.
It had cost him ten and elevenpence; but what an agony of
nervousness it had cost him! How he had suffered that day, waiting
at the shop door until the shop was empty, standing at the counter
and trying to appear at his ease while the girl piled ladies' blouses
before him, paying at the desk and forgetting to take up the odd
penny of his change, being called back by the cashier, and finally,
striving to hide his blushes as he left the shop by examining the
parcel to see if it was securely tied. When he brought the blouse
home Annie kissed him and said it was very pretty and stylish; but
when she heard the price she threw the blouse on the table and said
it was a regular swindle to charge ten and elevenpence for it. At
first she wanted to take it back but when she tried it on she was
delighted with it, especially with the make of the sleeves, and
kissed him and said he was very good to think of her.
He looked coldly into the eyes of the photograph and they
answered coldly. Certainly they were pretty and the face itself was
pretty. But he found something mean in it. Why was it so
unconscious and ladylike? The composure of the eyes irritated
him. They repelled him and defied him: there was no passion in
them, no rapture. He thought of what Gallaher had said about rich
Jewesses. Those dark Oriental eyes, he thought, how full they are
of passion, of voluptuous longing!... Why had he married the eyes
in the photograph?
He caught himself up at the question and glanced nervously round
the room. He found something mean in the pretty furniture which
he had bought for his house on the hire system. Annie had chosen
it herself and it reminded hi of her. It too was prim and pretty. A
dull resentment against his life awoke within him. Could he not
escape from his little house? Was it too late for him to try to live
bravely like Gallaher? Could he go to London? There was the
furniture still to be paid for. If he could only write a book and get
it published, that might open the way for him.
A volume of Byron's poems lay before him on the table. He opened
it cautiously with his left hand lest he should waken the child and
began to read the first poem in the book:
Hushed are the winds and still the evening gloom,
Not e'en a Zephyr wanders through the grove,
Whilst I return to view my Margaret's tomb
And scatter flowers on tbe dust I love.
He paused. He felt the rhythm of the verse about him in the room.
How melancholy it was! Could he, too, write like that, express the
melancholy of his soul in verse? There were so many things he
wanted to describe: his sensation of a few hours before on Grattan
Bridge, for example. If he could get back again into that mood....
The child awoke and began to cry. He turned from the page and
tried to hush it: but it would not be hushed. He began to rock it to
and fro in his arms but its wailing cry grew keener. He rocked it
faster while his eyes began to read the second stanza:
Within this narrow cell reclines her clay,
That clay where once...
It was useless. He couldn't read. He couldn't do anything. The
wailing of the child pierced the drum of his ear. It was useless,
useless! He was a prisoner for life. His arms trembled with anger
and suddenly bending to the child's face he shouted:
The child stopped for an instant, had a spasm of fright and began
to scream. He jumped up from his chair and walked hastily up and
down the room with the child in his arms. It began to sob
piteously, losing its breath for four or five seconds, and then
bursting out anew. The thin walls of the room echoed the sound.
He tried to soothe it but it sobbed more convulsively. He looked at
the contracted and quivering face of the child and began to be
alarmed. He counted seven sobs without a break between them and
caught the child to his breast in fright. If it died!...
The door was burst open and a young woman ran in, panting.
"What is it? What is it?" she cried.
The child, hearing its mother's voice, broke out into a paroxysm of
"It's nothing, Annie ... it's nothing.... He began to cry..."
She flung her parcels on the floor and snatched the child from him.
"What have you done to him?" she cried, glaring into his face.
Little Chandler sustained for one moment the gaze of her eyes and
his heart closed together as he met the hatred in them. He began to
"It's nothing.... He ... he began to cry.... I couldn't ... I didn't do
Giving no heed to him she began to walk up and down the room,
clasping the child tightly in her arms and murmuring:
"My little man! My little mannie! Was 'ou frightened, love?...
There now, love! There now!... Lambabaun! Mamma's little lamb
of the world!... There now!"
Little Chandler felt his cheeks suffused with shame and he stood
back out of the lamplight. He listened while the paroxysm of the
child's sobbing grew less and less; and tears of remorse started to
THE bell rang furiously and, when Miss Parker went to the tube, a
furious voice called out in a piercing North of Ireland accent:
"Send Farrington here!"
Miss Parker returned to her machine, saying to a man who was
writing at a desk:
"Mr. Alleyne wants you upstairs."
The man muttered "Blast him!" under his breath and pushed back
his chair to stand up. When he stood up he was tall and of great
bulk. He had a hanging face, dark wine-coloured, with fair
eyebrows and moustache: his eyes bulged forward slightly and the
whites of them were dirty. He lifted up the counter and, passing by
the clients, went out of the office with a heavy step.
He went heavily upstairs until he came to the second landing,
where a door bore a brass plate with the inscription Mr. Alleyne.
Here he halted, puffing with labour and vexation, and knocked.
The shrill voice cried:
The man entered Mr. Alleyne's room. Simultaneously Mr. Alleyne,
a little man wearing gold-rimmed glasses on a cleanshaven face,
shot his head up over a pile of documents. The head itself was so
pink and hairless it seemed like a large egg reposing on the papers.
Mr. Alleyne did not lose a moment:
"Farrington? What is the meaning of this? Why have I always to
complain of you? May I ask you why you haven't made a copy of
that contract between Bodley and Kirwan? I told you it must be
ready by four o'clock."
"But Mr. Shelley said, sir----"
"Mr. Shelley said, sir .... Kindly attend to what I say and not to
what Mr. Shelley says, sir. You have always some excuse or
another for shirking work. Let me tell you that if the contract is not
copied before this evening I'll lay the matter before Mr. Crosbie....
Do you hear me now?"
"Do you hear me now?... Ay and another little matter! I might as
well be talking to the wall as talking to you. Understand once for
all that you get a half an hour for your lunch and not an hour and a
half. How many courses do you want, I'd like to know.... Do you
mind me now?"
Mr. Alleyne bent his head again upon his pile of papers. The man
stared fixedly at the polished skull which directed the affairs of
Crosbie & Alleyne, gauging its fragility. A spasm of rage gripped
his throat for a few moments and then passed, leaving after it a
sharp sensation of thirst. The man recognised the sensation and felt
that he must have a good night's drinking. The middle of the month
was passed and, if he could get the copy done in time, Mr. Alleyne
might give him an order on the cashier. He stood still, gazing
fixedly at the head upon the pile of papers. Suddenly Mr. Alleyne
began to upset all the papers, searching for something. Then, as if
he had been unaware of the man's presence till that moment, he
shot up his head again, saying:
"Eh? Are you going to stand there all day? Upon my word,
Farrington, you take things easy!"
"I was waiting to see..."
"Very good, you needn't wait to see. Go downstairs and do your
The man walked heavily towards the door and, as he went out of
the room, he heard Mr. Alleyne cry after him that if the contract
was not copied by evening Mr. Crosbie would hear of the matter.
He returned to his desk in the lower office and counted the sheets
which remained to be copied. He took up his pen and dipped it in
the ink but he continued to stare stupidly at the last words he had
written: In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be... The evening
was falling and in a few minutes they would be lighting the gas:
then he could write. He felt that he must slake the thirst in his
throat. He stood up from his desk and, lifting the counter as before,
passed out of the office. As he was passing out the chief clerk
looked at him inquiringly.
"It's all right, Mr. Shelley," said the man, pointing with his finger
to indicate the objective of his journey.
The chief clerk glanced at the hat-rack, but, seeing the row
complete, offered no remark. As soon as he was on the landing the
man pulled a shepherd's plaid cap out of his pocket, put it on his
head and ran quickly down the rickety stairs. From the street door
he walked on furtively on the inner side of the path towards the
corner and all at once dived into a doorway. He was now safe in
the dark snug of O'Neill's shop, and filling up the little window
that looked into the bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark
wine or dark meat, he called out:
"Here, Pat, give us a g.p.. like a good fellow."
The curate brought him a glass of plain porter. The man drank it at
a gulp and asked for a caraway seed. He put his penny on the
counter and, leaving the curate to grope for it in the gloom,
retreated out of the snug as furtively as he had entered it.
Darkness, accompanied by a thick fog, was gaining upon the dusk
of February and the lamps in Eustace Street had been lit. The man
went up by the houses until he reached the door of the office,
wondering whether he could finish his copy in time. On the stairs a
moist pungent odour of perfumes saluted his nose: evidently Miss
Delacour had come while he was out in O'Neill's. He crammed his
cap back again into his pocket and re-entered the office, assuming
an air of absentmindedness.
"Mr. Alleyne has been calling for you," said the chief clerk
severely. "Where were you?"
The man glanced at the two clients who were standing at the
counter as if to intimate that their presence prevented him from
answering. As the clients were both male the chief clerk allowed
himself a laugh.
"I know that game," he said. "Five times in one day is a little bit...
Well, you better look sharp and get a copy of our correspondence
in the Delacour case for Mr. Alleyne."
This address in the presence of the public, his run upstairs and the
porter he had gulped down so hastily confused the man and, as he
sat down at his desk to get what was required, he realised how
hopeless was the task of finishing his copy of the contract before
half past five. The dark damp night was coming and he longed to
spend it in the bars, drinking with his friends amid the glare of gas
and the clatter of glasses. He got out the Delacour correspondence
and passed out of the office. He hoped Mr. Alleyne would not
discover that the last two letters were missing.
The moist pungent perfume lay all the way up to Mr. Alleyne's
room. Miss Delacour was a middle-aged woman of Jewish
appearance. Mr. Alleyne was said to be sweet on her or on her
money. She came to the office often and stayed a long time when
she came. She was sitting beside his desk now in an aroma of
perfumes, smoothing the handle of her umbrella and nodding the
great black feather in her hat. Mr. Alleyne had swivelled his chair
round to face her and thrown his right foot jauntily upon his left
knee. The man put the correspondence on the desk and bowed
respectfully but neither Mr. Alleyne nor Miss Delacour took any
notice of his bow. Mr. Alleyne tapped a finger on the
correspondence and then flicked it towards him as if to say: "That's
all right: you can go."
The man returned to the lower office and sat down again at his
desk. He stared intently at the incomplete phrase: In no case shall
the said Bernard Bodley be... and thought how strange it was that
the last three words began with the same letter. The chief clerk
began to hurry Miss Parker, saying she would never have the
letters typed in time for post. The man listened to the clicking of
the machine for a few minutes and then set to work to finish his
copy. But his head was not clear and his mind wandered away to
the glare and rattle of the public-house. It was a night for hot
punches. He struggled on with his copy, but when the clock struck
five he had still fourteen pages to write. Blast it! He couldn't finish
it in time. He longed to execrate aloud, to bring his fist down on
something violently. He was so enraged that he wrote Bernard
Bernard instead of Bernard Bodley and had to begin again on a
He felt strong enough to clear out the whole office singlehanded.
His body ached to do something, to rush out and revel in violence.
All the indignities of his life enraged him.... Could he ask the
cashier privately for an advance? No, the cashier was no good, no
damn good: he wouldn't give an advance.... He knew where he
would meet the boys: Leonard and O'Halloran and Nosey Flynn.
The barometer of his emotional nature was set for a spell of riot.
His imagination had so abstracted him that his name was called
twice before he answered. Mr. Alleyne and Miss Delacour were
standing outside the counter and all the clerks had turn round in
anticipation of something. The man got up from his desk. Mr.
Alleyne began a tirade of abuse, saying that two letters were
missing. The man answered that he knew nothing about them, that
he had made a faithful copy. The tirade continued: it was so bitter
and violent that the man could hardly restrain his fist from
descending upon the head of the manikin before him:
"I know nothing about any other two letters," he said stupidly.
"You--know--nothing. Of course you know nothing," said Mr.
Alleyne. "Tell me," he added, glancing first for approval to the
lady beside him, "do you take me for a fool? Do you think me an
The man glanced from the lady's face to the little egg-shaped head
and back again; and, almost before he was aware of it, his tongue
had found a felicitous moment:
"I don't think, sir," he said, "that that's a fair question to put to me."
There was a pause in the very breathing of the clerks. Everyone
was astounded (the author of the witticism no less than his
neighbours) and Miss Delacour, who was a stout amiable person,
began to smile broadly. Mr. Alleyne flushed to the hue of a wild
rose and his mouth twitched with a dwarf s passion. He shook his
fist in the man's face till it seemed to vibrate like the knob of some
"You impertinent ruffian! You impertinent ruffian! I'll make short
work of you! Wait till you see! You'll apologise to me for your
impertinence or you'll quit the office instanter! You'll quit this, I'm
telling you, or you'll apologise to me!"
He stood in a doorway opposite the office watching to see if the
cashier would come out alone. All the clerks passed out and finally
the cashier came out with the chief clerk. It was no use trying to
say a word to him when he was with the chief clerk. The man felt
that his position was bad enough. He had been obliged to offer an
abject apology to Mr. Alleyne for his impertinence but he knew
what a hornet's nest the office would be for him. He could
remember the way in which Mr. Alleyne had hounded little Peake
out of the office in order to make room for his own nephew. He
felt savage and thirsty and revengeful, annoyed with himself and
with everyone else. Mr. Alleyne would never give him an hour's
rest; his life would be a hell to him. He had made a proper fool of
himself this time. Could he not keep his tongue in his cheek? But
they had never pulled together from the first, he and Mr. Alleyne,
ever since the day Mr. Alleyne had overheard him mimicking his
North of Ireland accent to amuse Higgins and Miss Parker: that
had been the beginning of it. He might have tried Higgins for the
money, but sure Higgins never had anything for himself. A man
with two establishments to keep up, of course he couldn't....
He felt his great body again aching for the comfort of the
public-house. The fog had begun to chill him and he wondered
could he touch Pat in O'Neill's. He could not touch him for more
than a bob--and a bob was no use. Yet he must get money
somewhere or other: he had spent his last penny for the g.p. and
soon it would be too late for getting money anywhere. Suddenly,
as he was fingering his watch-chain, he thought of Terry Kelly's
pawn-office in Fleet Street. That was the dart! Why didn't he think
of it sooner?
He went through the narrow alley of Temple Bar quickly,
muttering to himself that they could all go to hell because he was
going to have a good night of it. The clerk in Terry Kelly's said A
crown! but the consignor held out for six shillings; and in the end
the six shillings was allowed him literally. He came out of the
pawn-office joyfully, making a little cylinder, of the coins between
his thumb and fingers. In Westmoreland Street the footpaths were
crowded with young men and women returning from business and
ragged urchins ran here and there yelling out the names of the
evening editions. The man passed through the crowd, looking on
the spectacle generally with proud satisfaction and staring
masterfully at the office-girls. His head was full of the noises of
tram- gongs and swishing trolleys and his nose already sniffed the
curling fumes punch. As he walked on he preconsidered the terms
in which he would narrate the incident to the boys:
"So, I just looked at him--coolly, you know, and looked at her.
Then I looked back at him again--taking my time, you know. 'I
don't think that that's a fair question to put to me,' says I."
Nosey Flynn was sitting up in his usual corner of Davy Byrne's
and, when he heard the story, he stood Farrington a half-one,
saying it was as smart a thing as ever he heard. Farrington stood a
drink in his turn. After a while O'Halloran and Paddy Leonard
came in and the story was repeated to them. O'Halloran stood
tailors of malt, hot, all round and told the story of the retort he had
made to the chief clerk when he was in Callan's of Fownes's Street;
but, as the retort was after the manner of the liberal shepherds in
the eclogues, he had to admit that it was not as clever as
Farrington's retort. At this Farrington told the boys to polish off
that and have another.
Just as they were naming their poisons who should come in but
Higgins! Of course he had to join in with the others. The men
asked him to give his version of it, and he did so with great
vivacity for the sight of five small hot whiskies was very
exhilarating. Everyone roared laughing when he showed the way in
which Mr. Alleyne shook his fist in Farrington's face. Then he
imitated Farrington, saying, "And here was my nabs, as cool as you
please," while Farrington looked at the company out of his heavy
dirty eyes, smiling and at times drawing forth stray drops of liquor
from his moustache with the aid of his lower lip.
When that round was over there was a pause. O'Halloran had
money but neither of the other two seemed to have any; so the
whole party left the shop somewhat regretfully. At the corner of
Duke Street Higgins and Nosey Flynn bevelled off to the left while
the other three turned back towards the city. Rain was drizzling
down on the cold streets and, when they reached the Ballast
Office, Farrington suggested the Scotch House. The bar was full of
men and loud with the noise of tongues and glasses. The three men
pushed past the whining matchsellers at the door and formed a
little party at the corner of the counter. They began to exchange
stories. Leonard introduced them to a young fellow named
Weathers who was performing at the Tivoli as an acrobat and
knockabout artiste. Farrington stood a drink all round. Weathers
said he would take a small Irish and Apollinaris. Farrington, who
had definite notions of what was what, asked the boys would they
have an Apollinaris too; but the boys told Tim to make theirs hot.
The talk became theatrical. O'Halloran stood a round and then
Farrington stood another round, Weathers protesting that the
hospitality was too Irish. He promised to get them in behind the
scenes and introduce them to some nice girls. O'Halloran said that
he and Leonard would go, but that Farrington wouldn't go because
he was a married man; and Farrington's heavy dirty eyes leered at
the company in token that he understood he was being chaffed.
Weathers made them all have just one little tincture at his expense
and promised to meet them later on at Mulligan's in Poolbeg
When the Scotch House closed they went round to Mulligan's.
They went into the parlour at the back and O'Halloran ordered
small hot specials all round. They were all beginning to feel
mellow. Farrington was just standing another round when
Weathers came back. Much to Farrington's relief he drank a glass
of bitter this time. Funds were getting low but they had enough to
keep them going. Presently two young women with big hats and a
young man in a check suit came in and sat at a table close by.
Weathers saluted them and told the company that they were out of
the Tivoli. Farrington's eyes wandered at every moment in the
direction of one of the young women. There was something
striking in her appearance. An immense scarf of peacock-blue
muslin was wound round her hat and knotted in a great bow under
her chin; and she wore bright yellow gloves, reaching to the elbow.
Farrington gazed admiringly at the plump arm which she moved
very often and with much grace; and when, after a little time, she
answered his gaze he admired still more her large dark brown eyes.
The oblique staring expression in them fascinated him. She
glanced at him once or twice and, when the party was leaving the
room, she brushed against his chair and said "O, pardon!" in a
London accent. He watched her leave the room in the hope that she
would look back at him, but he was disappointed. He cursed his
want of money and cursed all the rounds he had stood, particularly
all the whiskies and Apolinaris which he had stood to Weathers. If
there was one thing that he hated it was a sponge. He was so angry
that he lost count of the conversation of his friends.
When Paddy Leonard called him he found that they were talking
about feats of strength. Weathers was showing his biceps muscle
to the company and boasting so much that the other two had called
on Farrington to uphold the national honour. Farrington pulled up
his sleeve accordingly and showed his biceps muscle to the
company. The two arms were examined and compared and finally
it was agreed to have a trial of strength. The table was cleared and
the two men rested their elbows on it, clasping hands. When Paddy
Leonard said "Go!" each was to try to bring down the other's hand
on to the table. Farrington looked very serious and determined.
The trial began. After about thirty seconds Weathers brought his
opponent's hand slowly down on to the table. Farrington's dark
wine-coloured face flushed darker still with anger and humiliation
at having been defeated by such a stripling.
"You're not to put the weight of your body behind it. Play fair," he
"Who's not playing fair?" said the other.
"Come on again. The two best out of three."
The trial began again. The veins stood out on Farrington's
forehead, and the pallor of Weathers' complexion changed to
peony. Their hands and arms trembled under the stress. After a
long struggle Weathers again brought his opponent's hand slowly
on to the table. There was a murmur of applause from the
spectators. The curate, who was standing beside the table, nodded
his red head towards the victor and said with stupid familiarity:
"Ah! that's the knack!"
"What the hell do you know about it?" said Farrington fiercely,
turning on the man. "What do you put in your gab for?"
"Sh, sh!" said O'Halloran, observing the violent expression of
Farrington's face. "Pony up, boys. We'll have just one little smahan
more and then we'll be off."
A very sullen-faced man stood at the corner of O'Connell Bridge
waiting for the little Sandymount tram to take him home. He was
full of smouldering anger and revengefulness. He felt humiliated
and discontented; he did not even feel drunk; and he had only
twopence in his pocket. He cursed everything. He had done for
himself in the office, pawned his watch, spent all his money; and
he had not even got drunk. He began to feel thirsty again and he
longed to be back again in the hot reeking public-house. He had
lost his reputation as a strong man, having been defeated twice by
a mere boy. His heart swelled with fury and, when he thought of
the woman in the big hat who had brushed against him and said
Pardon! his fury nearly choked him.
His tram let him down at Shelbourne Road and he steered his great
body along in the shadow of the wall of the barracks. He loathed
returning to his home. When he went in by the side- door he found
the kitchen empty and the kitchen fire nearly out. He bawled
His wife was a little sharp-faced woman who bullied her husband
when he was sober and was bullied by him when he was drunk.
They had five children. A little boy came running down the stairs.
"Who is that?" said the man, peering through the darkness.
"Who are you? Charlie?"
"No, pa. Tom."
"Where's your mother?"
"She's out at the chapel."
"That's right.... Did she think of leaving any dinner for me?"
"Yes, pa. I --"
"Light the lamp. What do you mean by having the place in
darkness? Are the other children in bed?"
The man sat down heavily on one of the chairs while the little boy
lit the lamp. He began to mimic his son's flat accent, saying half to
himself: "At the chapel. At the chapel, if you please!" When the
lamp was lit he banged his fist on the table and shouted:
"What's for my dinner?"
"I'm going... to cook it, pa," said the little boy.
The man jumped up furiously and pointed to the fire.
"On that fire! You let the fire out! By God, I'll teach you to do that
He took a step to the door and seized the walking-stick which was
standing behind it.
"I'll teach you to let the fire out!" he said, rolling up his sleeve in
order to give his arm free play.
The little boy cried "O, pa!" and ran whimpering round the table,
but the man followed him and caught him by the coat. The little
boy looked about him wildly but, seeing no way of escape, fell
upon his knees.
"Now, you'll let the fire out the next time!" said the man striking at
him vigorously with the stick. "Take that, you little whelp!"
The boy uttered a squeal of pain as the stick cut his thigh. He
clasped his hands together in the air and his voice shook with
"O, pa!" he cried. "Don't beat me, pa! And I'll... I'll say a Hail Mary
for you.... I'll say a Hail Mary for you, pa, if you don't beat me....
I'll say a Hail Mary...."
THE matron had given her leave to go out as soon as the women's
tea was over and Maria looked forward to her evening out. The
kitchen was spick and span: the cook said you could see yourself
in the big copper boilers. The fire was nice and bright and on one
of the side-tables were four very big barmbracks. These
barmbracks seemed uncut; but if you went closer you would see
that they had been cut into long thick even slices and were ready to
be handed round at tea. Maria had cut them herself.
Maria was a very, very small person indeed but she had a very long
nose and a very long chin. She talked a little through her nose,
always soothingly: "Yes, my dear," and "No, my dear." She was
always sent for when the women quarrelled Over their tubs and
always succeeded in making peace. One day the matron had said to
"Maria, you are a veritable peace-maker!"
And the sub-matron and two of the Board ladies had heard the
compliment. And Ginger Mooney was always saying what she
wouldn't do to the dummy who had charge of the irons if it wasn't
for Maria. Everyone was so fond of Maria.
The women would have their tea at six o'clock and she would be
able to get away before seven. From Ballsbridge to the Pillar,
twenty minutes; from the Pillar to Drumcondra, twenty minutes;
and twenty minutes to buy the things. She would be there before
eight. She took out her purse with the silver clasps and read again
the words A Present from Belfast. She was very fond of that purse
because Joe had brought it to her five years before when he and
Alphy had gone to Belfast on a Whit-Monday trip. In the purse
were two half-crowns and some coppers. She would have five
shillings clear after paying tram fare. What a nice evening they
would have, all the children singing! Only she hoped that Joe
wouldn't come in drunk. He was so different when he took any
Often he had wanted her to go and live with them;-but she would
have felt herself in the way (though Joe's wife was ever so nice
with her) and she had become accustomed to the life of the
laundry. Joe was a good fellow. She had nursed him and Alphy
too; and Joe used often say:
"Mamma is mamma but Maria is my proper mother."
After the break-up at home the boys had got her that position in the
Dublin by Lamplight laundry, and she liked it. She used to have
such a bad opinion of Protestants but now she thought they were
very nice people, a little quiet and serious, but still very nice
people to live with. Then she had her plants in the conservatory
and she liked looking after them. She had lovely ferns and
wax-plants and, whenever anyone came to visit her, she always
gave the visitor one or two slips from her conservatory. There was
one thing she didn't like and that was the tracts on the walks; but
the matron was such a nice person to deal with, so genteel.
When the cook told her everything was ready she went into the
women's room and began to pull the big bell. In a few minutes the
women began to come in by twos and threes, wiping their
steaming hands in their petticoats and pulling down the sleeves of
their blouses over their red steaming arms. They settled down
before their huge mugs which the cook and the dummy filled up
with hot tea, already mixed with milk and sugar in huge tin cans.
Maria superintended the distribution of the barmbrack and saw
that every woman got her four slices. There was a great deal of
laughing and joking during the meal. Lizzie Fleming said Maria
was sure to get the ring and, though Fleming had said that for so
many Hallow Eves, Maria had to laugh and say she didn't want any
ring or man either; and when she laughed her grey-green eyes
sparkled with disappointed shyness and the tip of her nose nearly
met the tip of her chin. Then Ginger Mooney lifted her mug of tea
and proposed Maria's health while all the other women clattered
with their mugs on the table, and said she was sorry she hadn't a
sup of porter to drink it in. And Maria laughed again till the tip of
her nose nearly met the tip of her chin and till her minute body
nearly shook itself asunder because she knew that Mooney meant
well though, of course, she had the notions of a common woman.
But wasn't Maria glad when the women had finished their tea and
the cook and the dummy had begun to clear away the tea- things!
She went into her little bedroom and, remembering that the next
morning was a mass morning, changed the hand of the alarm from
seven to six. Then she took off her working skirt and her
house-boots and laid her best skirt out on the bed and her tiny
dress-boots beside the foot of the bed. She changed her blouse too
and, as she stood before the mirror, she thought of how she used to
dress for mass on Sunday morning when she was a young girl; and
she looked with quaint affection at the diminutive body which she
had so often adorned, In spite of its years she found it a nice tidy
When she got outside the streets were shining with rain and she
was glad of her old brown waterproof. The tram was full and she
had to sit on the little stool at the end of the car, facing all the
people, with her toes barely touching the floor. She arranged in her
mind all she was going to do and thought how much better it was
to be independent and to have your own money in your pocket.
She hoped they would have a nice evening. She was sure they
would but she could not help thinking what a pity it was Alphy and
Joe were not speaking. They were always falling out now but when
they were boys together they used to be the best of friends: but
such was life.
She got out of her tram at the Pillar and ferreted her way quickly
among the crowds. She went into Downes's cake-shop but the shop
was so full of people that it was a long time before she could get
herself attended to. She bought a dozen of mixed penny cakes, and
at last came out of the shop laden with a big bag. Then she thought
what else would she buy: she wanted to buy something really nice.
They would be sure to have plenty of apples and nuts. It was hard
to know what to buy and all she could think of was cake. She
decided to buy some plumcake but Downes's plumcake had not
enough almond icing on top of it so she went over to a shop in
Henry Street. Here she was a long time in suiting herself and the
stylish young lady behind the counter, who was evidently a little
annoyed by her, asked her was it wedding-cake she wanted to buy.
That made Maria blush and smile at the young lady; but the young
lady took it all very seriously and finally cut a thick slice of
plumcake, parcelled it up and said:
She thought she would have to stand in the Drumcondra tram
because none of the young men seemed to notice her but an elderly
gentleman made room for her. He was a stout gentleman and he
wore a brown hard hat; he had a square red face and a greyish
moustache. Maria thought he was a colonel-looking gentleman and
she reflected how much more polite he was than the young men
who simply stared straight before them. The gentleman began to
chat with her about Hallow Eve and the rainy weather. He
supposed the bag was full of good things for the little ones and
said it was only right that the youngsters should enjoy themselves
while they were young. Maria agreed with him and favoured him
with demure nods and hems. He was very nice with her, and when
she was getting out at the Canal Bridge she thanked him and
bowed, and he bowed to her and raised his hat and smiled
agreeably, and while she was going up along the terrace, bending
her tiny head under the rain, she thought how easy it was to know a
gentleman even when he has a drop taken.
Everybody said: "0, here's Maria!" when she came to Joe's house.
Joe was there, having come home from business, and all the
children had their Sunday dresses on. There were two big girls in
from next door and games were going on. Maria gave the bag of
cakes to the eldest boy, Alphy, to divide and Mrs. Donnelly said it
was too good of her to bring such a big bag of cakes and made all
the children say:
But Maria said she had brought something special for papa and
mamma, something they would be sure to like, and she began to
look for her plumcake. She tried in Downes's bag and then in the
pockets of her waterproof and then on the hallstand but nowhere
could she find it. Then she asked all the children had any of them
eaten it--by mistake, of course--but the children all said no and
looked as if they did not like to eat cakes if they were to be
accused of stealing. Everybody had a solution for the mystery and
Mrs. Donnelly said it was plain that Maria had left it behind her in
the tram. Maria, remembering how confused the gentleman with
the greyish moustache had made her, coloured with shame and
vexation and disappointment. At the thought of the failure of her
little surprise and of the two and fourpence she had thrown away
for nothing she nearly cried outright.
But Joe said it didn't matter and made her sit down by the fire. He
was very nice with her. He told her all that went on in his office,
repeating for her a smart answer which he had made to the
manager. Maria did not understand why Joe laughed so much over
the answer he had made but she said that the manager must have
been a very overbearing person to deal with. Joe said he wasn't so
bad when you knew how to take him, that he was a decent sort so
long as you didn't rub him the wrong way. Mrs. Donnelly played
the piano for the children and they danced and sang. Then the two
next-door girls handed round the nuts. Nobody could find the
nutcrackers and Joe was nearly getting cross over it and asked how
did they expect Maria to crack nuts without a nutcracker. But
Maria said she didn't like nuts and that they weren't to bother about
her. Then Joe asked would she take a bottle of stout and Mrs.
Donnelly said there was port wine too in the house if she would
prefer that. Maria said she would rather they didn't ask her to take
anything: but Joe insisted.
So Maria let him have his way and they sat by the fire talking over
old times and Maria thought she would put in a good word for
Alphy. But Joe cried that God might strike him stone dead if ever
he spoke a word to his brother again and Maria said she was sorry
she had mentioned the matter. Mrs. Donnelly told her husband it
was a great shame for him to speak that way of his own flesh and
blood but Joe said that Alphy was no brother of his and there was
nearly being a row on the head of it. But Joe said he would not
lose his temper on account of the night it was and asked his wife to
open some more stout. The two next-door girls had arranged some
Hallow Eve games and soon everything was merry again. Maria
was delighted to see the children so merry and Joe and his wife in
such good spirits. The next-door girls put some saucers on the
table and then led the children up to the table, blindfold. One got
the prayer-book and the other three got the water; and when one of
the next-door girls got the ring Mrs. Donnelly shook her finger at
the blushing girl as much as to say: 0, I know all about it! They
insisted then on blindfolding Maria and leading her up to the table
to see what she would get; and, while they were putting on the
bandage, Maria laughed and laughed again till the tip of her nose
nearly met the tip of her chin.
They led her up to the table amid laughing and joking and she put
her hand out in the air as she was told to do. She moved her hand
about here and there in the air and descended on one of the
saucers. She felt a soft wet substance with her fingers and was
surprised that nobody spoke or took off her bandage. There was a
pause for a few seconds; and then a great deal of scuffling and
whispering. Somebody said something about the garden, and at
last Mrs. Donnelly said something very cross to one of the
next-door girls and told her to throw it out at once: that was no
play. Maria understood that it was wrong that time and so she had
to do it over again: and this time she got the prayer-book.
After that Mrs. Donnelly played Miss McCloud's Reel for the
children and Joe made Maria take a glass of wine. Soon they were
all quite merry again and Mrs. Donnelly said Maria would enter a
convent before the year was out because she had got the
prayer-book. Maria had never seen Joe so nice to her as he was
that night, so full of pleasant talk and reminiscences. She said they
were all very good to her.
At last the children grew tired and sleepy and Joe asked Maria
would she not sing some little song before she went, one of the old
songs. Mrs. Donnelly said "Do, please, Maria!" and so Maria had
to get up and stand beside the piano. Mrs. Donnelly bade the
children be quiet and listen to Maria's song. Then she played the
prelude and said "Now, Maria!" and Maria, blushing very much
began to sing in a tiny quavering voice. She sang I Dreamt that I
Dwelt, and when she came to the second verse she sang again:
I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls
With vassals and serfs at my side,
And of all who assembled within those walls
That I was the hope and the pride.
I had riches too great to count; could boast
Of a high ancestral name,
But I also dreamt, which pleased me most,
That you loved me still the same.
But no one tried to show her her mistake; and when she had ended
her song Joe was very much moved. He said that there was no time
like the long ago and no music for him like poor old Balfe,
whatever other people might say; and his eyes filled up so much
with tears that he could not find what he was looking for and in the
end he had to ask his wife to tell him where the corkscrew was.
A PAINFUL CASE
MR. JAMES DUFFY lived in Chapelizod because he wished to
live as far as possible from the city of which he was a citizen and
because he found all the other suburbs of Dublin mean, modern
and pretentious. He lived in an old sombre house and from his
windows he could look into the disused distillery or upwards along
the shallow river on which Dublin is built. The lofty walls of his
uncarpeted room were free from pictures. He had himself bought
every article of furniture in the room: a black iron bedstead, an
iron washstand, four cane chairs, a clothes- rack, a coal-scuttle, a
fender and irons and a square table on which lay a double desk. A
bookcase had been made in an alcove by means of shelves of
white wood. The bed was clothed with white bedclothes and a
black and scarlet rug covered the foot. A little hand-mirror hung
above the washstand and during the day a white-shaded lamp stood
as the sole ornament of the mantelpiece. The books on the white
wooden shelves were arranged from below upwards according to
bulk. A complete Wordsworth stood at one end of the lowest shelf
and a copy of the Maynooth Catechism, sewn into the cloth cover
of a notebook, stood at one end of the top shelf. Writing materials
were always on the desk. In the desk lay a manuscript translation
of Hauptmann's Michael Kramer, the stage directions of which
were written in purple ink, and a little sheaf of papers held
together by a brass pin. In these sheets a sentence was inscribed
from time to time and, in an ironical moment, the headline of an
advertisement for Bile Beans had been pasted on to the first sheet.
On lifting the lid of the desk a faint fragrance escaped--the
fragrance of new cedarwood pencils or of a bottle of gum or of an
overripe apple which might have been left there and forgotten.
Mr. Duffy abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental
disorder. A medival doctor would have called him saturnine. His
face, which carried the entire tale of his years, was of the brown
tint of Dublin streets. On his long and rather large head grew dry
black hair and a tawny moustache did not quite cover an
unamiable mouth. His cheekbones also gave his face a harsh
character; but there was no harshness in the eyes which, looking at
the world from under their tawny eyebrows, gave the impression of
a man ever alert to greet a redeeming instinct in others but often
disappointed. He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding
his own acts with doubtful side-glasses. He had an odd
autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from
time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in
the third person and a predicate in the past tense. He never gave
alms to beggars and walked firmly, carrying a stout hazel.
He had been for many years cashier of a private bank in Baggot
Street. Every morning he came in from Chapelizod by tram. At
midday he went to Dan Burke's and took his lunch--a bottle of
lager beer and a small trayful of arrowroot biscuits. At four o'clock
he was set free. He dined in an eating-house in George's Street
where he felt himself safe from the society o Dublin's gilded youth
and where there was a certain plain honesty in the bill of fare. His
evenings were spent either before his landlady's piano or roaming
about the outskirts of the city. His liking for Mozart's music
brought him sometimes to an opera or a concert: these were the
only dissipations of his life.
He had neither companions nor friends, church nor creed. He lived
his spiritual life without any communion with others, visiting his
relatives at Christmas and escorting them to the cemetery when
they died. He performed these two social duties for old dignity's
sake but conceded nothing further to the conventions which
regulate the civic life. He allowed himself to think that in certain
circumstances he would rob his hank but, as these circumstances
never arose, his life rolled out evenly--an adventureless tale.
One evening he found himself sitting beside two ladies in the
Rotunda. The house, thinly peopled and silent, gave distressing
prophecy of failure. The lady who sat next him looked round at the
deserted house once or twice and then said:
"What a pity there is such a poor house tonight! It's so hard on
people to have to sing to empty benches."
He took the remark as an invitation to talk. He was surprised that
she seemed so little awkward. While they talked he tried to fix her
permanently in his memory. When he learned that the young girl
beside her was her daughter he judged her to be a year or so
younger than himself. Her face, which must have been handsome,
had remained intelligent. It was an oval face with strongly marked
features. The eyes were very dark blue and steady. Their gaze
began with a defiant note but was confused by what seemed a
deliberate swoon of the pupil into the iris, revealing for an instant
a temperament of great sensibility. The pupil reasserted itself
quickly, this half- disclosed nature fell again under the reign of
prudence, and her astrakhan jacket, moulding a bosom of a certain
fullness, struck the note of defiance more definitely.
He met her again a few weeks afterwards at a concert in Earlsfort
Terrace and seized the moments when her daughter's attention was
diverted to become intimate. She alluded once or twice to her
husband but her tone was not such as to make the allusion a
warning. Her name was Mrs. Sinico. Her husband's
great-great-grandfather had come from Leghorn. Her husband was
captain of a mercantile boat plying between Dublin and Holland;
and they had one child.
Meeting her a third time by accident he found courage to make an
appointment. She came. This was the first of many meetings; they
met always in the evening and chose the most quiet quarters for
their walks together. Mr. Duffy, however, had a distaste for
underhand ways and, finding that they were compelled to meet
stealthily, he forced her to ask him to her house. Captain Sinico
encouraged his visits, thinking that his daughter's hand was in
question. He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery
of pleasures that he did not suspect that anyone else would take an
interest in her. As the husband was often away and the daughter
out giving music lessons Mr. Duffy had many opportunities of
enjoying the lady's society. Neither he nor she had had any such
adventure before and neither was conscious of any incongruity.
Little by little he entangled his thoughts with hers. He lent her
books, provided her with ideas, shared his intellectual life with
her. She listened to all.
Sometimes in return for his theories she gave out some fact of her
own life. With almost maternal solicitude she urged him to let his
nature open to the full: she became his confessor. He told her that
for some time he had assisted at the meetings of an Irish Socialist
Party where he had felt himself a unique figure amidst a score of
sober workmen in a garret lit by an inefficient oil-lamp. When the
party had divided into three sections, each under its own leader
and in its own garret, he had discontinued his attendances. The
workmen's discussions, he said, were too timorous; the interest
they took in the question of wages was inordinate. He felt that they
were hard-featured realists and that they resented an exactitude
which was the produce of a leisure not within their reach. No
social revolution, he told her, would be likely to strike Dublin for
She asked him why did he not write out his thoughts. For what, he
asked her, with careful scorn. To compete with phrasemongers,
incapable of thinking consecutively for sixty seconds? To submit
himself to the criticisms of an obtuse middle class which entrusted
its morality to policemen and its fine arts to impresarios?
He went often to her little cottage outside Dublin; often they spent
their evenings alone. Little by little, as their thoughts entangled,
they spoke of subjects less remote. Her companionship was like a
warm soil about an exotic. Many times she allowed the dark to fall
upon them, refraining from lighting the lamp. The dark discreet
room, their isolation, the music that still vibrated in their ears
united them. This union exalted him, wore away the rough edges
of his character, emotionalised his mental life. Sometimes he
caught himself listening to the sound of his own voice. He thought
that in her eyes he would ascend to an angelical stature; and, as he
attached the fervent nature of his companion more and more
closely to him, he heard the strange impersonal voice which he
recognised as his own, insisting on the soul's incurable loneliness.
We cannot give ourselves, it said: we are our own. The end of
these discourses was that one night during which she had shown
every sign of unusual excitement, Mrs. Sinico caught up his hand
passionately and pressed it to her cheek.
Mr. Duffy was very much surprised. Her interpretation of his
words disillusioned him. He did not visit her for a week, then he
wrote to her asking her to meet him. As he did not wish their last
interview to be troubled by the influence of their ruined
confessional they meet in a little cakeshop near the Parkgate. It
was cold autumn weather but in spite of the cold they wandered up
and down the roads of the Park for nearly three hours. They agreed
to break off their intercourse: every bond, he said, is a bond to
sorrow. When they came out of the Park they walked in silence
towards the tram; but here she began to tremble so violently that,
fearing another collapse on her part, he bade her good-bye quickly
and left her. A few days later he received a parcel containing his
books and music.
Four years passed. Mr. Duffy returned to his even way of life. His
room still bore witness of the orderliness of his mind. Some new
pieces of music encumbered the music-stand in the lower room
and on his shelves stood two volumes by Nietzsche: Thus Spake
Zarathustra and The Gay Science. He wrote seldom in the sheaf of
papers which lay in his desk. One of his sentences, written two
months after his last interview with Mrs. Sinico, read: Love
between man and man is impossible because there must not be
sexual intercourse and friendship between man and woman is
impossible because there must be sexual intercourse. He kept away
from concerts lest he should meet her. His father died; the junior
partner of the bank retired. And still every morning he went into
the city by tram and every evening walked home from the city after
having dined moderately in George's Street and read the evening
paper for dessert.
One evening as he was about to put a morsel of corned beef and
cabbage into his mouth his hand stopped. His eyes fixed
themselves on a paragraph in the evening paper which he had
propped against the water-carafe. He replaced the morsel of food
on his plate and read the paragraph attentively. Then he drank a
glass of water, pushed his plate to one side, doubled the paper
down before him between his elbows and read the paragraph over
and over again. The cabbage began to deposit a cold white grease
on his plate. The girl came over to him to ask was his dinner not
properly cooked. He said it was very good and ate a few mouthfuls
of it with difficulty. Then he paid his bill and went out.
He walked along quickly through the November twilight, his stout
hazel stick striking the ground regularly, the fringe of the buff Mail
peeping out of a side-pocket of his tight reefer overcoat. On the
lonely road which leads from the Parkgate to Chapelizod he
slackened his pace. His stick struck the ground less emphatically
and his breath, issuing irregularly, almost with a sighing sound,
condensed in the wintry air. When he reached his house he went
up at once to his bedroom and, taking the paper from his pocket,
read the paragraph again by the failing light of the window. He
read it not aloud, but moving his lips as a priest does when he
reads the prayers Secreto. This was the paragraph:
DEATH OF A LADY AT SYDNEY PARADE
A PAINFUL CASE
Today at the City of Dublin Hospital the Deputy Coroner (in the
absence of Mr. Leverett) held an inquest on the body of Mrs.
Emily Sinico, aged forty-three years, who was killed at Sydney
Parade Station yesterday evening. The evidence showed that the
deceased lady, while attempting to cross the line, was knocked
down by the engine of the ten o'clock slow train from Kingstown,
thereby sustaining injuries of the head and right side which led to
James Lennon, driver of the engine, stated that he had been in the
employment of the railway company for fifteen years. On hearing
the guard's whistle he set the train in motion and a second or two
afterwards brought it to rest in response to loud cries. The train
was going slowly.
P. Dunne, railway porter, stated that as the train was about to start
he observed a woman attempting to cross the lines. He ran towards
her and shouted, but, before he could reach her, she was caught by
the buffer of the engine and fell to the ground.
A juror. "You saw the lady fall?"
Police Sergeant Croly deposed that when he arrived he found the
deceased lying on the platform apparently dead. He had the body
taken to the waiting-room pending the arrival of the ambulance.
Constable 57 corroborated.
Dr. Halpin, assistant house surgeon of the City of Dublin Hospital,
stated that the deceased had two lower ribs fractured and had
sustained severe contusions of the right shoulder. The right side of
the head had been injured in the fall. The injuries were not
sufficient to have caused death in a normal person. Death, in his
opinion, had been probably due to shock and sudden failure of the
Mr. H. B. Patterson Finlay, on behalf of the railway company,
expressed his deep regret at the accident. The company had always
taken every precaution to prevent people crossing the lines except
by the bridges, both by placing notices in every station and by the
use of patent spring gates at level crossings. The deceased had
been in the habit of crossing the lines late at night from platform to
platform and, in view of certain other circumstances of the case,
he did not think the railway officials were to blame.
Captain Sinico, of Leoville, Sydney Parade, husband of the
deceased, also gave evidence. He stated that the deceased was his
wife. He was not in Dublin at the time of the accident as he had
arrived only that morning from Rotterdam. They had been married
for twenty-two years and had lived happily until about two years
ago when his wife began to be rather intemperate in her habits.
Miss Mary Sinico said that of late her mother had been in the habit
of going out at night to buy spirits. She, witness, had often tried to
reason with her mother and had induced her to join a League. She
was not at home until an hour after the accident. The jury returned
a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence and exonerated
Lennon from all blame.
The Deputy Coroner said it was a most painful case, and expressed
great sympathy with Captain Sinico and his daughter. He urged on
the railway company to take strong measures to prevent the
possibility of similar accidents in the future. No blame attached to
Mr. Duffy raised his eyes from the paper and gazed out of his
window on the cheerless evening landscape. The river lay quiet
beside the empty distillery and from time to time a light appeared
in some house on the Lucan road. What an end! The whole
narrative of her death revolted him and it revolted him to think that
he had ever spoken to her of what he held sacred. The threadbare
phrases, the inane expressions of sympathy, the cautious words of
a reporter won over to conceal the details of a commonplace
vulgar death attacked his stomach. Not merely had she degraded
herself; she had degraded him. He saw the squalid tract of her vice,
miserable and malodorous. His soul's companion! He thought of
the hobbling wretches whom he had seen carrying cans and bottles
to be filled by the barman. Just God, what an end! Evidently she
had been unfit to live, without any strength of purpose, an easy
prey to habits, one of the wrecks on which civilisation has been
reared. But that she could have sunk so low! Was it possible he
had deceived himself so utterly about her? He remembered her
outburst of that night and interpreted it in a harsher sense than he
had ever done. He had no difficulty now in approving of the course
he had taken.
As the light failed and his memory began to wander he thought her
hand touched his. The shock which had first attacked his stomach
was now attacking his nerves. He put on his overcoat and hat
quickly and went out. The cold air met him on the threshold; it
crept into the sleeves of his coat. When he came to the
public-house at Chapelizod Bridge he went in and ordered a hot
The proprietor served him obsequiously but did not venture to talk.
There were five or six workingmen in the shop discussing the
value of a gentleman's estate in County Kildare They drank at
intervals from their huge pint tumblers and smoked, spitting often
on the floor and sometimes dragging the sawdust over their spits
with their heavy boots. Mr. Duffy sat on his stool and gazed at
them, without seeing or hearing them. After a while they went out
and he called for another punch. He sat a long time over it. The
shop was very quiet. The proprietor sprawled on the counter
reading the Herald and yawning. Now and again a tram was heard
swishing along the lonely road outside.
As he sat there, living over his life with her and evoking
alternately the two images in which he now conceived her, he
realised that she was dead, that she had ceased to exist, that she
had become a memory. He began to feel ill at ease. He asked
himself what else could he have done. He could not have carried
on a comedy of deception with her; he could not have lived with
her openly. He had done what seemed to him best. How was he to
blame? Now that she was gone he understood how lonely her life
must have been, sitting night after night alone in that room. His
life would be lonely too until he, too, died, ceased to exist, became
a memory--if anyone remembered him.
It was after nine o'clock when he left the shop. The night was cold
and gloomy. He entered the Park by the first gate and walked along
under the gaunt trees. He walked through the bleak alleys where
they had walked four years before. She seemed to be near him in
the darkness. At moments he seemed to feel her voice touch his
ear, her hand touch his. He stood still to listen. Why had he
withheld life from her? Why had he sentenced her to death? He
felt his moral nature falling to pieces.
When he gained the crest of the Magazine Hill he halted and
looked along the river towards Dublin, the lights of which burned
redly and hospitably in the cold night. He looked down the slope
and, at the base, in the shadow of the wall of the Park, he saw
some human figures lying. Those venal and furtive loves filled him
with despair. He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he felt that he
had been outcast from life's feast. One human being had seemed to
love him and he had denied her life and happiness: he had
sentenced her to ignominy, a death of shame. He knew that the
prostrate creatures down by the wall were watching him and
wished him gone. No one wanted him; he was outcast from life's
feast. He turned his eyes to the grey gleaming river, winding along
towards Dublin. Beyond the river he saw a goods train winding out
of Kingsbridge Station, like a worm with a fiery head winding
through the darkness, obstinately and laboriously. It passed slowly
out of sight; but still he heard in his ears the laborious drone of the
engine reiterating the syllables of her name.
He turned back the way he had come, the rhythm of the engine
pounding in his ears. He began to doubt the reality of what
memory told him. He halted under a tree and allowed the rhythm
to die away. He could not feel her near him in the darkness nor her
voice touch his ear. He waited for some minutes listening. He
could hear nothing: the night was perfectly silent. He listened
again: perfectly silent. He felt that he was alone.
IVY DAY IN THE COMMITTEE ROOM
OLD JACK raked the cinders together with a piece of cardboard
and spread them judiciously over the whitening dome of coals.
When the dome was thinly covered his face lapsed into darkness
but, as he set himself to fan the fire again, his crouching shadow
ascended the opposite wall and his face slowly reemerged into
light. It was an old man's face, very bony and hairy. The moist blue
eyes blinked at the fire and the moist mouth fell open at times,
munching once or twice mechanically when it closed. When the
cinders had caught he laid the piece of cardboard against the wall,
sighed and said:
"That's better now, Mr. O'Connor."
Mr. O'Connor, a grey-haired young man, whose face was
disfigured by many blotches and pimples, had just brought the
tobacco for a cigarette into a shapely cylinder but when spoken to
he undid his handiwork meditatively. Then he began to roll the
tobacco again meditatively and after a moment's thought decided
to lick the paper.
"Did Mr. Tierney say when he'd be back?" he asked in a sky
"He didn't say."
Mr. O'Connor put his cigarette into his mouth and began search his
pockets. He took out a pack of thin pasteboard cards.
"I'll get you a match," said the old man.
"Never mind, this'll do," said Mr. O'Connor.
He selected one of the cards and read what was printed on it:
ROYAL EXCHANGE WARD
Mr. Richard J. Tierney, P.L.G., respectfully solicits the
favour of your vote and influence at the coming election
in the Royal Exchange Ward.
Mr. O'Connor had been engaged by Tierney's agent to canvass one
part of the ward but, as the weather was inclement and his boots
let in the wet, he spent a great part of the day sitting by the fire in
the Committee Room in Wicklow Street with Jack, the old
caretaker. They had been sitting thus since e short day had grown
dark. It was the sixth of October, dismal and cold out of doors.
Mr. O'Connor tore a strip off the card and, lighting it, lit his
cigarette. As he did so the flame lit up a leaf of dark glossy ivy the
lapel of his coat. The old man watched him attentively and then,
taking up the piece of cardboard again, began to fan the fire slowly
while his companion smoked.
"Ah, yes," he said, continuing, "it's hard to know what way to bring
up children. Now who'd think he'd turn out like that! I sent him to
the Christian Brothers and I done what I could him, and there he
goes boosing about. I tried to make him someway decent."
He replaced the cardboard wearily.
"Only I'm an old man now I'd change his tune for him. I'd take the
stick to his back and beat him while I could stand over him--as I
done many a time before. The mother, you know, she cocks him
up with this and that...."
"That's what ruins children," said Mr. O'Connor.
"To be sure it is," said the old man. "And little thanks you get for
it, only impudence. He takes th'upper hand of me whenever he sees
I've a sup taken. What's the world coming to when sons speaks that
way to their fathers?"
"What age is he?" said Mr. O'Connor.
"Nineteen," said the old man.
"Why don't you put him to something?"
"Sure, amn't I never done at the drunken bowsy ever since he left
school? 'I won't keep you,' I says. 'You must get a job for yourself.'
But, sure, it's worse whenever he gets a job; he drinks it all."
Mr. O'Connor shook his head in sympathy, and the old man fell
silent, gazing into the fire. Someone opened the door of the room
and called out:
"Hello! Is this a Freemason's meeting?"
"Who's that?" said the old man.
"What are you doing in the dark?" asked a voice.
"Is that you, Hynes?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"Yes. What are you doing in the dark?" said Mr. Hynes. advancing
into the light of the fire.
He was a tall, slender young man with a light brown moustache.
Imminent little drops of rain hung at the brim of his hat and the
collar of his jacket-coat was turned up.
"Well, Mat," he said to Mr. O'Connor, "how goes it?"
Mr. O'Connor shook his head. The old man left the hearth and
after stumbling about the room returned with two candlesticks
which he thrust one after the other into the fire and carried to the
table. A denuded room came into view and the fire lost all its
cheerful colour. The walls of the room were bare except for a copy
of an election address. In the middle of the room was a small table
on which papers were heaped.
Mr. Hynes leaned against the mantelpiece and asked:
"Has he paid you yet?"
"Not yet," said Mr. O'Connor. "I hope to God he'll not leave us in
the lurch tonight."
Mr. Hynes laughed.
"O, he'll pay you. Never fear," he said.
"I hope he'll look smart about it if he means business," said Mr.
"What do you think, Jack?" said Mr. Hynes satirically to the old
The old man returned to his seat by the fire, saying:
"It isn't but he has it, anyway. Not like the other tinker."
"What other tinker?" said Mr. Hynes.
"Colgan," said the old man scornfully.
"It is because Colgan's a working--man you say that? What's the
difference between a good honest bricklayer and a publican--eh?
Hasn't the working-man as good a right to be in the Corporation as
anyone else--ay, and a better right than those shoneens that are
always hat in hand before any fellow with a handle to his name?
Isn't that so, Mat?" said Mr. Hynes, addressing Mr. O'Connor.
"I think you're right," said Mr. O'Connor.
"One man is a plain honest man with no hunker-sliding about him.
He goes in to represent the labour classes. This fellow you're
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