Part 1 out of 5
Prepared by David Reed firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Updates by Karol Pietrzak.
by James Joyce
After the Race
The Boarding House
A Little Cloud
A Painful Case
Ivy Day in the Committee Room
THERE was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke.
Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and
studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had
found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was
dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the
darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head
of a corpse. He had often said to me: "I am not long for this
world," and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were
true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to
myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my
ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in
the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some
maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed
to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.
Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came
downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout
he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:
"No, I wouldn't say he was exactly... but there was something
queer... there was something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my
He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his
mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be
rather interesting, talking of faints and worms; but I soon grew
tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery.
"I have my own theory about it," he said. "I think it was one of
those ... peculiar cases .... But it's hard to say...."
He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory. My
uncle saw me staring and said to me:
"Well, so your old friend is gone, you'll be sorry to hear."
"Who?" said I.
"Is he dead?"
"Mr. Cotter here has just told us. He was passing by the house."
I knew that I was under observation so I continued eating as if the
news had not interested me. My uncle explained to old Cotter.
"The youngster and he were great friends. The old chap taught him
a great deal, mind you; and they say he had a great wish for him."
"God have mercy on his soul," said my aunt piously.
Old Cotter looked at me for a while. I felt that his little beady
black eyes were examining me but I would not satisfy him by
looking up from my plate. He returned to his pipe and finally spat
rudely into the grate.
"I wouldn't like children of mine," he said, "to have too much to
say to a man like that."
"How do you mean, Mr. Cotter?" asked my aunt.
"What I mean is," said old Cotter, "it's bad for children. My idea is:
let a young lad run about and play with young lads of his own age
and not be... Am I right, Jack?"
"That's my principle, too," said my uncle. "Let him learn to box his
corner. That's what I'm always saying to that Rosicrucian there:
take exercise. Why, when I was a nipper every morning of my life
I had a cold bath, winter and summer. And that's what stands to me
now. Education is all very fine and large.... Mr. Cotter might take a
pick of that leg mutton," he added to my aunt.
"No, no, not for me," said old Cotter.
My aunt brought the dish from the safe and put it on the table.
"But why do you think it's not good for children, Mr. Cotter?" she
"It's bad for children," said old Cotter, "because their mind are so
impressionable. When children see things like that, you know, it
has an effect...."
I crammed my mouth with stirabout for fear I might give utterance
to my anger. Tiresome old red-nosed imbecile!
It was late when I fell asleep. Though I was angry with old Cotter
for alluding to me as a child, I puzzled my head to extract meaning
from his unfinished sentences. In the dark of my room I imagined
that I saw again the heavy grey face of the paralytic. I drew the
blankets over my head and tried to think of Christmas. But the grey
face still followed me. It murmured, and I understood that it
desired to confess something. I felt my soul receding into some
pleasant and vicious region; and there again I found it waiting for
me. It began to confess to me in a murmuring voice and I
wondered why it smiled continually and why the lips were so
moist with spittle. But then I remembered that it had died of
paralysis and I felt that I too was smiling feebly as if to absolve the
simoniac of his sin.
The next morning after breakfast I went down to look at the little
house in Great Britain Street. It was an unassuming shop,
registered under the vague name of Drapery . The drapery
consisted mainly of children's bootees and umbrellas; and on
ordinary days a notice used to hang in the window, saying:
Umbrellas Re-covered . No notice was visible now for the shutters
were up. A crape bouquet was tied to the doorknocker with ribbon.
Two poor women and a telegram boy were reading the card pinned
on the crape. I also approached and read:
July 1st, 1895
The Rev. James Flynn (formerly of S. Catherine's Church,
Meath Street), aged sixty-five years.
R. I. P.
The reading of the card persuaded me that he was dead and I was
disturbed to find myself at check. Had he not been dead I would
have gone into the little dark room behind the shop to find him
sitting in his arm-chair by the fire, nearly smothered in his
great-coat. Perhaps my aunt would have given me a packet of High
Toast for him and this present would have roused him from his
stupefied doze. It was always I who emptied the packet into his
black snuff-box for his hands trembled too much to allow him to
do this without spilling half the snuff about the floor. Even as he
raised his large trembling hand to his nose little clouds of smoke
dribbled through his fingers over the front of his coat. It may have
been these constant showers of snuff which gave his ancient
priestly garments their green faded look for the red handkerchief,
blackened, as it always was, with the snuff-stains of a week, with
which he tried to brush away the fallen grains, was quite
I wished to go in and look at him but I had not the courage to
knock. I walked away slowly along the sunny side of the street,
reading all the theatrical advertisements in the shop-windows as I
went. I found it strange that neither I nor the day seemed in a
mourning mood and I felt even annoyed at discovering in myself a
sensation of freedom as if I had been freed from something by his
death. I wondered at this for, as my uncle had said the night
before, he had taught me a great deal. He had studied in the Irish
college in Rome and he had taught me to pronounce Latin
properly. He had told me stories about the catacombs and about
Napoleon Bonaparte, and he had explained to me the meaning of
the different ceremonies of the Mass and of the different vestments
worn by the priest. Sometimes he had amused himself by putting
difficult questions to me, asking me what one should do in certain
circumstances or whether such and such sins were mortal or venial
or only imperfections. His questions showed me how complex and
mysterious were certain institutions of the Church which I had
always regarded as the simplest acts. The duties of the priest
towards the Eucharist and towards the secrecy of the confessional
seemed so grave to me that I wondered how anybody had ever
found in himself the courage to undertake them; and I was not
surprised when he told me that the fathers of the Church had
written books as thick as the Post Office Directory and as closely
printed as the law notices in the newspaper, elucidating all these
intricate questions. Often when I thought of this I could make no
answer or only a very foolish and halting one upon which he used
to smile and nod his head twice or thrice. Sometimes he used to
put me through the responses of the Mass which he had made me
learn by heart; and, as I pattered, he used to smile pensively and
nod his head, now and then pushing huge pinches of snuff up each
nostril alternately. When he smiled he used to uncover his big
discoloured teeth and let his tongue lie upon his lower lip--a habit
which had made me feel uneasy in the beginning of our
acquaintance before I knew him well.
As I walked along in the sun I remembered old Cotter's words and
tried to remember what had happened afterwards in the dream. I
remembered that I had noticed long velvet curtains and a swinging
lamp of antique fashion. I felt that I had been very far away, in
some land where the customs were strange--in Persia, I thought....
But I could not remember the end of the dream.
In the evening my aunt took me with her to visit the house of
mourning. It was after sunset; but the window-panes of the houses
that looked to the west reflected the tawny gold of a great bank of
clouds. Nannie received us in the hall; and, as it would have been
unseemly to have shouted at her, my aunt shook hands with her for
all. The old woman pointed upwards interrogatively and, on my
aunt's nodding, proceeded to toil up the narrow staircase before us,
her bowed head being scarcely above the level of the banister-rail.
At the first landing she stopped and beckoned us forward
encouragingly towards the open door of the dead-room. My aunt
went in and the old woman, seeing that I hesitated to enter, began
to beckon to me again repeatedly with her hand.
I went in on tiptoe. The room through the lace end of the blind was
suffused with dusky golden light amid which the candles looked
like pale thin flames. He had been coffined. Nannie gave the lead
and we three knelt down at the foot of the bed. I pretended to pray
but I could not gather my thoughts because the old woman's
mutterings distracted me. I noticed how clumsily her skirt was
hooked at the back and how the heels of her cloth boots were
trodden down all to one side. The fancy came to me that the old
priest was smiling as he lay there in his coffin.
But no. When we rose and went up to the head of the bed I saw
that he was not smiling. There he lay, solemn and copious, vested
as for the altar, his large hands loosely retaining a chalice. His face
was very truculent, grey and massive, with black cavernous
nostrils and circled by a scanty white fur. There was a heavy odour
in the room--the flowers.
We crossed ourselves and came away. In the little room downstairs
we found Eliza seated in his arm-chair in state. I groped my way
towards my usual chair in the corner while Nannie went to the
sideboard and brought out a decanter of sherry and some
wine-glasses. She set these on the table and invited us to take a
little glass of wine. Then, at her sister's bidding, she filled out the
sherry into the glasses and passed them to us. She pressed me to
take some cream crackers also but I declined because I thought I
would make too much noise eating them. She seemed to be
somewhat disappointed at my refusal and went over quietly to the
sofa where she sat down behind her sister. No one spoke: we all
gazed at the empty fireplace.
My aunt waited until Eliza sighed and then said:
"Ah, well, he's gone to a better world."
Eliza sighed again and bowed her head in assent. My aunt fingered
the stem of her wine-glass before sipping a little.
"Did he... peacefully?" she asked.
"Oh, quite peacefully, ma'am," said Eliza. "You couldn't tell when
the breath went out of him. He had a beautiful death, God be
"Father O'Rourke was in with him a Tuesday and anointed him and
prepared him and all."
"He knew then?"
"He was quite resigned."
"He looks quite resigned," said my aunt.
"That's what the woman we had in to wash him said. She said he
just looked as if he was asleep, he looked that peaceful and
resigned. No one would think he'd make such a beautiful corpse."
"Yes, indeed," said my aunt.
She sipped a little more from her glass and said:
"Well, Miss Flynn, at any rate it must be a great comfort for you to
know that you did all you could for him. You were both very kind
to him, I must say."
Eliza smoothed her dress over her knees.
"Ah, poor James!" she said. "God knows we done all we could, as
poor as we are--we wouldn't see him want anything while he was
Nannie had leaned her head against the sofa-pillow and seemed
about to fall asleep.
"There's poor Nannie," said Eliza, looking at her, "she's wore out.
All the work we had, she and me, getting in the woman to wash
him and then laying him out and then the coffin and then arranging
about the Mass in the chapel. Only for Father O'Rourke I don't
know what we'd done at all. It was him brought us all them flowers
and them two candlesticks out of the chapel and wrote out the
notice for the Freeman's General and took charge of all the papers
for the cemetery and poor James's insurance."
"Wasn't that good of him?" said my aunt
Eliza closed her eyes and shook her head slowly.
"Ah, there's no friends like the old friends," she said, "when all is
said and done, no friends that a body can trust."
"Indeed, that's true," said my aunt. "And I'm sure now that he's
gone to his eternal reward he won't forget you and all your
kindness to him."
"Ah, poor James!" said Eliza. "He was no great trouble to us. You
wouldn't hear him in the house any more than now. Still, I know
he's gone and all to that...."
"It's when it's all over that you'll miss him," said my aunt.
"I know that," said Eliza. "I won't be bringing him in his cup of
beef-tea any me, nor you, ma'am, sending him his snuff. Ah, poor
She stopped, as if she were communing with the past and then said
"Mind you, I noticed there was something queer coming over him
latterly. Whenever I'd bring in his soup to him there I'd find him
with his breviary fallen to the floor, lying back in the chair and his
She laid a finger against her nose and frowned: then she continued:
"But still and all he kept on saying that before the summer was
over he'd go out for a drive one fine day just to see the old house
again where we were all born down in Irishtown and take me and
Nannie with him. If we could only get one of them new-fangled
carriages that makes no noise that Father O'Rourke told him about,
them with the rheumatic wheels, for the day cheap--he said, at
Johnny Rush's over the way there and drive out the three of us
together of a Sunday evening. He had his mind set on that.... Poor
"The Lord have mercy on his soul!" said my aunt.
Eliza took out her handkerchief and wiped her eyes with it. Then
she put it back again in her pocket and gazed into the empty grate
for some time without speaking.
"He was too scrupulous always," she said. "The duties of the
priesthood was too much for him. And then his life was, you might
"Yes," said my aunt. "He was a disappointed man. You could see
A silence took possession of the little room and, under cover of it,
I approached the table and tasted my sherry and then returned
quietly to my chair in the comer. Eliza seemed to have fallen into a
deep revery. We waited respectfully for her to break the silence:
and after a long pause she said slowly:
"It was that chalice he broke.... That was the beginning of it. Of
course, they say it was all right, that it contained nothing, I mean.
But still.... They say it was the boy's fault. But poor James was so
nervous, God be merciful to him!"
"And was that it?" said my aunt. "I heard something...."
"That affected his mind," she said. "After that he began to mope by
himself, talking to no one and wandering about by himself. So one
night he was wanted for to go on a call and they couldn't find him
anywhere. They looked high up and low down; and still they
couldn't see a sight of him anywhere. So then the clerk suggested
to try the chapel. So then they got the keys and opened the chapel
and the clerk and Father O'Rourke and another priest that was
there brought in a light for to look for him.... And what do you
think but there he was, sitting up by himself in the dark in his
confession-box, wide- awake and laughing-like softly to himself?"
She stopped suddenly as if to listen. I too listened; but there was
no sound in the house: and I knew that the old priest was lying still
in his coffin as we had seen him, solemn and truculent in death, an
idle chalice on his breast.
"Wide-awake and laughing-like to himself.... So then, of course,
when they saw that, that made them think that there was something
gone wrong with him...."
IT WAS Joe Dillon who introduced the Wild West to us. He had a
little library made up of old numbers of The Union Jack , Pluck
and The Halfpenny Marvel . Every evening after school we met in
his back garden and arranged Indian battles. He and his fat young
brother Leo, the idler, held the loft of the stable while we tried to
carry it by storm; or we fought a pitched battle on the grass. But,
however well we fought, we never won siege or battle and all our
bouts ended with Joe Dillon's war dance of victory. His parents
went to eight- o'clock mass every morning in Gardiner Street and
the peaceful odour of Mrs. Dillon was prevalent in the hall of the
house. But he played too fiercely for us who were younger and
more timid. He looked like some kind of an Indian when he
capered round the garden, an old tea-cosy on his head, beating a
tin with his fist and yelling:
"Ya! yaka, yaka, yaka!"
Everyone was incredulous when it was reported that he had a
vocation for the priesthood. Nevertheless it was true.
A spirit of unruliness diffused itself among us and, under its
influence, differences of culture and constitution were waived. We
banded ourselves together, some boldly, some in jest and some
almost in fear: and of the number of these latter, the reluctant
Indians who were afraid to seem studious or lacking in robustness,
I was one. The adventures related in the literature of the Wild
West were remote from my nature but, at least, they opened doors
of escape. I liked better some American detective stories which
were traversed from time to time by unkempt fierce and beautiful
girls. Though there was nothing wrong in these stories and though
their intention was sometimes literary they were circulated secretly
at school. One day when Father Butler was hearing the four pages
of Roman History clumsy Leo Dillon was discovered with a copy
of The Halfpenny Marvel .
"This page or this page? This page Now, Dillon, up! 'Hardly had
the day' ... Go on! What day? 'Hardly had the day dawned' ... Have
you studied it? What have you there in your pocket?"
Everyone's heart palpitated as Leo Dillon handed up the paper and
everyone assumed an innocent face. Father Butler turned over the
"What is this rubbish?" he said. "The Apache Chief! Is this what
you read instead of studying your Roman History? Let me not find
any more of this wretched stuff in this college. The man who wrote
it, I suppose, was some wretched fellow who writes these things
for a drink. I'm surprised at boys like you, educated, reading such
stuff. I could understand it if you were ... National School boys.
Now, Dillon, I advise you strongly, get at your work or..."
This rebuke during the sober hours of school paled much of the
glory of the Wild West for me and the confused puffy face of Leo
Dillon awakened one of my consciences. But when the restraining
influence of the school was at a distance I began to hunger again
for wild sensations, for the escape which those chronicles of
disorder alone seemed to offer me. The mimic warfare of the
evening became at last as wearisome to me as the routine of school
in the morning because I wanted real adventures to happen to
myself. But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people
who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.
The summer holidays were near at hand when I made up my mind
to break out of the weariness of schoollife for one day at least.
With Leo Dillon and a boy named Mahony I planned a day's
miching. Each of us saved up sixpence. We were to meet at ten in
the morning on the Canal Bridge. Mahony's big sister was to write
an excuse for him and Leo Dillon was to tell his brother to say he
was sick. We arranged to go along the Wharf Road until we came
to the ships, then to cross in the ferryboat and walk out to see the
Pigeon House. Leo Dillon was afraid we might meet Father Butler
or someone out of the college; but Mahony asked, very sensibly,
what would Father Butler be doing out at the Pigeon House. We
were reassured: and I brought the first stage of the plot to an end
by collecting sixpence from the other two, at the same time
showing them my own sixpence. When we were making the last
arrangements on the eve we were all vaguely excited. We shook
hands, laughing, and Mahony said:
"Till tomorrow, mates!"
That night I slept badly. In the morning I was firstcomer to the
bridge as I lived nearest. I hid my books in the long grass near the
ashpit at the end of the garden where nobody ever came and
hurried along the canal bank. It was a mild sunny morning in the
first week of June. I sat up on the coping of the bridge admiring
my frail canvas shoes which I had diligently pipeclayed overnight
and watching the docile horses pulling a tramload of business
people up the hill. All the branches of the tall trees which lined the
mall were gay with little light green leaves and the sunlight slanted
through them on to the water. The granite stone of the bridge was
beginning to be warm and I began to pat it with my hands in time
to an air in my head. I was very happy.
When I had been sitting there for five or ten minutes I saw
Mahony's grey suit approaching. He came up the hill, smiling, and
clambered up beside me on the bridge. While we were waiting he
brought out the catapult which bulged from his inner pocket and
explained some improvements which he had made in it. I asked
him why he had brought it and he told me he had brought it to
have some gas with the birds. Mahony used slang freely, and spoke
of Father Butler as Old Bunser. We waited on for a quarter of an
hour more but still there was no sign of Leo Dillon. Mahony, at
last, jumped down and said:
"Come along. I knew Fatty'd funk it."
"And his sixpence...?" I said.
"That's forfeit," said Mahony. "And so much the better for us--a
bob and a tanner instead of a bob."
We walked along the North Strand Road till we came to the Vitriol
Works and then turned to the right along the Wharf Road. Mahony
began to play the Indian as soon as we were out of public sight. He
chased a crowd of ragged girls, brandishing his unloaded catapult
and, when two ragged boys began, out of chivalry, to fling stones
at us, he proposed that we should charge them. I objected that the
boys were too small and so we walked on, the ragged troop
screaming after us: "Swaddlers! Swaddlers!" thinking that we were
Protestants because Mahony, who was dark-complexioned, wore
the silver badge of a cricket club in his cap. When we came to the
Smoothing Iron we arranged a siege; but it was a failure because
you must have at least three. We revenged ourselves on Leo Dillon
by saying what a funk he was and guessing how many he would
get at three o'clock from Mr. Ryan.
We came then near the river. We spent a long time walking about
the noisy streets flanked by high stone walls, watching the working
of cranes and engines and often being shouted at for our
immobility by the drivers of groaning carts. It was noon when we
reached the quays and as all the labourers seemed to be eating
their lunches, we bought two big currant buns and sat down to eat
them on some metal piping beside the river. We pleased ourselves
with the spectacle of Dublin's commerce--the barges signalled
from far away by their curls of woolly smoke, the brown fishing
fleet beyond Ringsend, the big white sailingvessel which was
being discharged on the opposite quay. Mahony said it would be
right skit to run away to sea on one of those big ships and even I,
looking at the high masts, saw, or imagined, the geography which
had been scantily dosed to me at school gradually taking substance
under my eyes. School and home seemed to recede from us and
their influences upon us seemed to wane.
We crossed the Liffey in the ferryboat, paying our toll to be
transported in the company of two labourers and a little Jew with a
bag. We were serious to the point of solemnity, but once during the
short voyage our eyes met and we laughed. When we landed we
watched the discharging of the graceful threemaster which we had
observed from the other quay. Some bystander said that she was a
Norwegian vessel. I went to the stern and tried to decipher the
legend upon it but, failing to do so, I came back and examined the
foreign sailors to see had any of them green eyes for I had some
confused notion.... The sailors' eyes were blue and grey and even
black. The only sailor whose eyes could have been called green
was a tall man who amused the crowd on the quay by calling out
cheerfully every time the planks fell:
"All right! All right!"
When we were tired of this sight we wandered slowly into
Ringsend. The day had grown sultry, and in the windows of the
grocers' shops musty biscuits lay bleaching. We bought some
biscuits and chocolate which we ate sedulously as we wandered
through the squalid streets where the families of the fishermen
live. We could find no dairy and so we went into a huckster's shop
and bought a bottle of raspberry lemonade each. Refreshed by this,
Mahony chased a cat down a lane, but the cat escaped into a wide
field. We both felt rather tired and when we reached the field we
made at once for a sloping bank over the ridge of which we could
see the Dodder.
It was too late and we were too tired to carry out our project of
visiting the Pigeon House. We had to be home before four o'clock
lest our adventure should be discovered. Mahony looked
regretfully at his catapult and I had to suggest going home by train
before he regained any cheerfulness. The sun went in behind some
clouds and left us to our jaded thoughts and the crumbs of our
There was nobody but ourselves in the field. When we had lain on
the bank for some time without speaking I saw a man approaching
from the far end of the field. I watched him lazily as I chewed one
of those green stems on which girls tell fortunes. He came along
by the bank slowly. He walked with one hand upon his hip and in
the other hand he held a stick with which he tapped the turf lightly.
He was shabbily dressed in a suit of greenish-black and wore what
we used to call a jerry hat with a high crown. He seemed to be
fairly old for his moustache was ashen-grey. When he passed at
our feet he glanced up at us quickly and then continued his way.
We followed him with our eyes and saw that when he had gone on
for perhaps fifty paces he turned about and began to retrace his
steps. He walked towards us very slowly, always tapping the
ground with his stick, so slowly that I thought he was looking for
something in the grass.
He stopped when he came level with us and bade us goodday. We
answered him and he sat down beside us on the slope slowly and
with great care. He began to talk of the weather, saying that it
would be a very hot summer and adding that the seasons had
changed gready since he was a boy--a long time ago. He said that
the happiest time of one's life was undoubtedly one's schoolboy
days and that he would give anything to be young again. While he
expressed these sentiments which bored us a little we kept silent.
Then he began to talk of school and of books. He asked us whether
we had read the poetry of Thomas Moore or the works of Sir
Walter Scott and Lord Lytton. I pretended that I had read every
book he mentioned so that in the end he said:
"Ah, I can see you are a bookworm like myself. Now," he added,
pointing to Mahony who was regarding us with open eyes, "he is
different; he goes in for games."
He said he had all Sir Walter Scott's works and all Lord Lytton's
works at home and never tired of reading them. "Of course," he
said, "there were some of Lord Lytton's works which boys couldn't
read." Mahony asked why couldn't boys read them--a question
which agitated and pained me because I was afraid the man would
think I was as stupid as Mahony. The man, however, only smiled. I
saw that he had great gaps in his mouth between his yellow teeth.
Then he asked us which of us had the most sweethearts. Mahony
mentioned lightly that he had three totties. The man asked me how
many I had. I answered that I had none. He did not believe me and
said he was sure I must have one. I was silent.
"Tell us," said Mahony pertly to the man, "how many have you
The man smiled as before and said that when he was our age he
had lots of sweethearts.
"Every boy," he said, "has a little sweetheart."
His attitude on this point struck me as strangely liberal in a man of
his age. In my heart I thought that what he said about boys and
sweethearts was reasonable. But I disliked the words in his mouth
and I wondered why he shivered once or twice as if he feared
something or felt a sudden chill. As he proceeded I noticed that his
accent was good. He began to speak to us about girls, saying what
nice soft hair they had and how soft their hands were and how all
girls were not so good as they seemed to be if one only knew.
There was nothing he liked, he said, so much as looking at a nice
young girl, at her nice white hands and her beautiful soft hair. He
gave me the impression that he was repeating something which he
had learned by heart or that, magnetised by some words of his own
speech, his mind was slowly circling round and round in the same
orbit. At times he spoke as if he were simply alluding to some fact
that everybody knew, and at times he lowered his voice and spoke
mysteriously as if he were telling us something secret which he did
not wish others to overhear. He repeated his phrases over and over
again, varying them and surrounding them with his monotonous
voice. I continued to gaze towards the foot of the slope, listening
After a long while his monologue paused. He stood up slowly,
saying that he had to leave us for a minute or so, a few minutes,
and, without changing the direction of my gaze, I saw him walking
slowly away from us towards the near end of the field. We
remained silent when he had gone. After a silence of a few
minutes I heard Mahony exclaim:
"I say! Look what he's doing!"
As I neither answered nor raised my eyes Mahony exclaimed
"I say... He's a queer old josser!"
"In case he asks us for our names," I said "let you be Murphy and I'll
We said nothing further to each other. I was still considering
whether I would go away or not when the man came back and sat
down beside us again. Hardly had he sat down when Mahony,
catching sight of the cat which had escaped him, sprang up and
pursued her across the field. The man and I watched the chase. The
cat escaped once more and Mahony began to throw stones at the
wall she had escaladed. Desisting from this, he began to wander
about the far end of the field, aimlessly.
After an interval the man spoke to me. He said that my friend was
a very rough boy and asked did he get whipped often at school. I
was going to reply indignantly that we were not National School
boys to be whipped, as he called it; but I remained silent. He began
to speak on the subject of chastising boys. His mind, as if
magnetised again by his speech, seemed to circle slowly round and
round its new centre. He said that when boys were that kind they
ought to be whipped and well whipped. When a boy was rough and
unruly there was nothing would do him any good but a good sound
whipping. A slap on the hand or a box on the ear was no good:
what he wanted was to get a nice warm whipping. I was surprised
at this sentiment and involuntarily glanced up at his face. As I did
so I met the gaze of a pair of bottle-green eyes peering at me from
under a twitching forehead. I turned my eyes away again.
The man continued his monologue. He seemed to have forgotten
his recent liberalism. He said that if ever he found a boy talking to
girls or having a girl for a sweetheart he would whip him and whip
him; and that would teach him not to be talking to girls. And if a
boy had a girl for a sweetheart and told lies about it then he would
give him such a whipping as no boy ever got in this world. He said
that there was nothing in this world he would like so well as that.
He described to me how he would whip such a boy as if he were
unfolding some elaborate mystery. He would love that, he said,
better than anything in this world; and his voice, as he led me
monotonously through the mystery, grew almost affectionate and
seemed to plead with me that I should understand him.
I waited till his monologue paused again. Then I stood up abruptly.
Lest I should betray my agitation I delayed a few moments
pretending to fix my shoe properly and then, saying that I was
obliged to go, I bade him good-day. I went up the slope calmly but
my heart was beating quickly with fear that he would seize me by
the ankles. When I reached the top of the slope I turned round and,
without looking at him, called loudly across the field:
My voice had an accent of forced bravery in it and I was ashamed
of my paltry stratagem. I had to call the name again before
Mahony saw me and hallooed in answer. How my heart beat as he
came running across the field to me! He ran as if to bring me aid.
And I was penitent; for in my heart I had always despised him a
NORTH RICHMOND STREET being blind, was a quiet street
except at the hour when the Christian Brothers' School set the boys
free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end,
detached from its neighbours in a square ground The other houses
of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one
another with brown imperturbable faces.
The former tenant of our house, a priest, had died in the back
drawing-room. Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung
in all the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was
littered with old useless papers. Among these I found a few
paper-covered books, the pages of which were curled and damp:
The Abbot, by Walter Scott, The Devout Communnicant and The
Memoirs of Vidocq. I liked the last best because its leaves were
yellow. The wild garden behind the house contained a central
apple-tree and a few straggling bushes under one of which I found
the late tenant's rusty bicycle-pump. He had been a very charitable
priest; in his will he had left all his money to institutions and the
furniture of his house to his sister.
When the short days of winter came dusk fell before we had well
eaten our dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown
sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of
ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted
their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our
bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career
of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the
houses where we ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes from the
cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where
odours arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables where a
coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from
the buckled harness. When we returned to the street light from the
kitchen windows had filled the areas. If my uncle was seen turning
the corner we hid in the shadow until we had seen him safely
housed. Or if Mangan's sister came out on the doorstep to call her
brother in to his tea we watched her from our shadow peer up and
down the street. We waited to see whether she would remain or go
in and, if she remained, we left our shadow and walked up to
Mangan's steps resignedly. She was waiting for us, her figure
defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her brother always
teased her before he obeyed and I stood by the railings looking at
her. Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of
her hair tossed from side to side.
Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her
door. The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so
that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my
heart leaped. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her. I
kept her brown figure always in my eye and, when we came near
the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and
passed her. This happened morning after morning. I had never
spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name
was like a summons to all my foolish blood.
Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to
romance. On Saturday evenings when my aunt went marketing I
had to go to carry some of the parcels. We walked through the
flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women,
amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who
stood on guard by the barrels of pigs' cheeks, the nasal chanting of
street-singers, who sang a come-all-you about O'Donovan Rossa,
or a ballad about the troubles in our native land. These noises
converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I
bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang
to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I
myself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I
could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to
pour itself out into my bosom. I thought little of the future. I did
not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to
her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body
was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers
running upon the wires.
One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest
had died. It was a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the
house. Through one of the broken panes I heard the rain impinge
upon the earth, the fine incessant needles of water playing in the
sodden beds. Some distant lamp or lighted window gleamed below
me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All my senses seemed
to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip
from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they
trembled, murmuring: "O love! O love!" many times.
At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me
I was so confused that I did not know what to answer. She asked
me was I going to Araby. I forgot whether I answered yes or no. It
would be a splendid bazaar, she said she would love to go.
"And why can't you?" I asked.
While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her
wrist. She could not go, she said, because there would be a retreat
that week in her convent. Her brother and two other boys were
fighting for their caps and I was alone at the railings. She held one
of the spikes, bowing her head towards me. The light from the
lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up
her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the
railing. It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white
border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.
"It's well for you," she said.
"If I go," I said, "I will bring you something."
What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping
thoughts after that evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious
intervening days. I chafed against the work of school. At night in
my bedroom and by day in the classroom her image came between
me and the page I strove to read. The syllables of the word Araby
were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated
and cast an Eastern enchantment over me. I asked for leave to go
to the bazaar on Saturday night. My aunt was surprised and hoped
it was not some Freemason affair. I answered few questions in
class. I watched my master's face pass from amiability to
sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could not call my
wandering thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with the
serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my
desire, seemed to me child's play, ugly monotonous child's play.
On Saturday morning I reminded my uncle that I wished to go to
the bazaar in the evening. He was fussing at the hallstand, looking
for the hat-brush, and answered me curtly:
"Yes, boy, I know."
As he was in the hall I could not go into the front parlour and lie at
the window. I left the house in bad humour and walked slowly
towards the school. The air was pitilessly raw and already my heart
When I came home to dinner my uncle had not yet been home.
Still it was early. I sat staring at the clock for some time and. when
its ticking began to irritate me, I left the room. I mounted the
staircase and gained the upper part of the house. The high cold
empty gloomy rooms liberated me and I went from room to room
singing. From the front window I saw my companions playing
below in the street. Their cries reached me weakened and
indistinct and, leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I looked
over at the dark house where she lived. I may have stood there for
an hour, seeing nothing but the brown-clad figure cast by my
imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved
neck, at the hand upon the railings and at the border below the
When I came downstairs again I found Mrs. Mercer sitting at the
fire. She was an old garrulous woman, a pawnbroker's widow, who
collected used stamps for some pious purpose. I had to endure the
gossip of the tea-table. The meal was prolonged beyond an hour
and still my uncle did not come. Mrs. Mercer stood up to go: she
was sorry she couldn't wait any longer, but it was after eight
o'clock and she did not like to be out late as the night air was bad
for her. When she had gone I began to walk up and down the
room, clenching my fists. My aunt said:
"I'm afraid you may put off your bazaar for this night of Our Lord."
At nine o'clock I heard my uncle's latchkey in the halldoor. I heard
him talking to himself and heard the hallstand rocking when it had
received the weight of his overcoat. I could interpret these signs.
When he was midway through his dinner I asked him to give me
the money to go to the bazaar. He had forgotten.
"The people are in bed and after their first sleep now," he said.
I did not smile. My aunt said to him energetically:
"Can't you give him the money and let him go? You've kept him
late enough as it is."
My uncle said he was very sorry he had forgotten. He said he
believed in the old saying: "All work and no play makes Jack a
dull boy." He asked me where I was going and, when I had told
him a second time he asked me did I know The Arab's Farewell to
his Steed. When I left the kitchen he was about to recite the
opening lines of the piece to my aunt.
I held a florin tightly in my hand as I strode down Buckingham
Street towards the station. The sight of the streets thronged with
buyers and glaring with gas recalled to me the purpose of my
journey. I took my seat in a third-class carriage of a deserted train.
After an intolerable delay the train moved out of the station
slowly. It crept onward among ruinous house and over the
twinkling river. At Westland Row Station a crowd of people
pressed to the carriage doors; but the porters moved them back,
saying that it was a special train for the bazaar. I remained alone in
the bare carriage. In a few minutes the train drew up beside an
improvised wooden platform. I passed out on to the road and saw
by the lighted dial of a clock that it was ten minutes to ten. In front
of me was a large building which displayed the magical name.
I could not find any sixpenny entrance and, fearing that the bazaar
would be closed, I passed in quickly through a turnstile, handing a
shilling to a weary-looking man. I found myself in a big hall
girdled at half its height by a gallery. Nearly all the stalls were
closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness. I recognised
a silence like that which pervades a church after a service. I
walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few people were
gathered about the stalls which were still open. Before a curtain,
over which the words Cafe Chantant were written in coloured
lamps, two men were counting money on a salver. I listened to the
fall of the coins.
Remembering with difficulty why I had come I went over to one of
the stalls and examined porcelain vases and flowered tea- sets. At
the door of the stall a young lady was talking and laughing with
two young gentlemen. I remarked their English accents and
listened vaguely to their conversation.
"O, I never said such a thing!"
"O, but you did!"
"O, but I didn't!"
"Didn't she say that?"
"Yes. I heard her."
"0, there's a ... fib!"
Observing me the young lady came over and asked me did I wish
to buy anything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she
seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty. I looked
humbly at the great jars that stood like eastern guards at either side
of the dark entrance to the stall and murmured:
"No, thank you."
The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went
back to the two young men. They began to talk of the same
subject. Once or twice the young lady glanced at me over her
I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to
make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned
away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed
the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a
voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The
upper part of the hall was now completely dark.
Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and
derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.
SHE sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue.
Her head was leaned against the window curtains and in her
nostrils was the odour of dusty cretonne. She was tired.
Few people passed. The man out of the last house passed on his
way home; she heard his footsteps clacking along the concrete
pavement and afterwards crunching on the cinder path before the
new red houses. One time there used to be a field there in which
they used to play every evening with other people's children. Then
a man from Belfast bought the field and built houses in it--not
like their little brown houses but bright brick houses with shining
roofs. The children of the avenue used to play together in that field
--the Devines, the Waters, the Dunns, little Keogh the cripple, she
and her brothers and sisters. Ernest, however, never played: he was
too grown up. Her father used often to hunt them in out of the field
with his blackthorn stick; but usually little Keogh used to keep nix
and call out when he saw her father coming. Still they seemed to
have been rather happy then. Her father was not so bad then; and
besides, her mother was alive. That was a long time ago; she and
her brothers and sisters were all grown up her mother was dead.
Tizzie Dunn was dead, too, and the Waters had gone back to
England. Everything changes. Now she was going to go away like
the others, to leave her home.
Home! She looked round the room, reviewing all its familiar
objects which she had dusted once a week for so many years,
wondering where on earth all the dust came from. Perhaps she
would never see again those familiar objects from which she had
never dreamed of being divided. And yet during all those years she
had never found out the name of the priest whose yellowing
photograph hung on the wall above the broken harmonium beside
the coloured print of the promises made to Blessed Margaret Mary
Alacoque. He had been a school friend of her father. Whenever he
showed the photograph to a visitor her father used to pass it with a
"He is in Melbourne now."
She had consented to go away, to leave her home. Was that wise?
She tried to weigh each side of the question. In her home anyway
she had shelter and food; she had those whom she had known all
her life about her. O course she had to work hard, both in the
house and at business. What would they say of her in the Stores
when they found out that she had run away with a fellow? Say she
was a fool, perhaps; and her place would be filled up by
advertisement. Miss Gavan would be glad. She had always had an
edge on her, especially whenever there were people listening.
"Miss Hill, don't you see these ladies are waiting?"
"Look lively, Miss Hill, please."
She would not cry many tears at leaving the Stores.
But in her new home, in a distant unknown country, it would not
be like that. Then she would be married--she, Eveline. People
would treat her with respect then. She would not be treated as her
mother had been. Even now, though she was over nineteen, she
sometimes felt herself in danger of her father's violence. She knew
it was that that had given her the palpitations. When they were
growing up he had never gone for her like he used to go for Harry
and Ernest, because she was a girl but latterly he had begun to
threaten her and say what he would do to her only for her dead
mother's sake. And no she had nobody to protect her. Ernest was
dead and Harry, who was in the church decorating business, was
nearly always down somewhere in the country. Besides, the
invariable squabble for money on Saturday nights had begun to
weary her unspeakably. She always gave her entire wages--seven
shillings--and Harry always sent up what he could but the trouble
was to get any money from her father. He said she used to
squander the money, that she had no head, that he wasn't going to
give her his hard-earned money to throw about the streets, and
much more, for he was usually fairly bad on Saturday night. In the
end he would give her the money and ask her had she any intention
of buying Sunday's dinner. Then she had to rush out as quickly as
she could and do her marketing, holding her black leather purse
tightly in her hand as she elbowed her way through the crowds and
returning home late under her load of provisions. She had hard
work to keep the house together and to see that the two young
children who had been left to hr charge went to school regularly
and got their meals regularly. It was hard work--a hard life--but
now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly
She was about to explore another life with Frank. Frank was very
kind, manly, open-hearted. She was to go away with him by the
night-boat to be his wife and to live with him in Buenos Ayres
where he had a home waiting for her. How well she remembered
the first time she had seen him; he was lodging in a house on the
main road where she used to visit. It seemed a few weeks ago. He
was standing at the gate, his peaked cap pushed back on his head
and his hair tumbled forward over a face of bronze. Then they had
come to know each other. He used to meet her outside the Stores
every evening and see her home. He took her to see The Bohemian
Girl and she felt elated as she sat in an unaccustomed part of the
theatre with him. He was awfully fond of music and sang a little.
People knew that they were courting and, when he sang about the
lass that loves a sailor, she always felt pleasantly confused. He
used to call her Poppens out of fun. First of all it had been an
excitement for her to have a fellow and then she had begun to like
him. He had tales of distant countries. He had started as a deck boy
at a pound a month on a ship of the Allan Line going out to
Canada. He told her the names of the ships he had been on and the
names of the different services. He had sailed through the Straits
of Magellan and he told her stories of the terrible Patagonians. He
had fallen on his feet in Buenos Ayres, he said, and had come over
to the old country just for a holiday. Of course, her father had
found out the affair and had forbidden her to have anything to say
"I know these sailor chaps," he said.
One day he had quarrelled with Frank and after that she had to
meet her lover secretly.
The evening deepened in the avenue. The white of two letters in
her lap grew indistinct. One was to Harry; the other was to her
father. Ernest had been her favourite but she liked Harry too. Her
father was becoming old lately, she noticed; he would miss her.
Sometimes he could be very nice. Not long before, when she had
been laid up for a day, he had read her out a ghost story and made
toast for her at the fire. Another day, when their mother was alive,
they had all gone for a picnic to the Hill of Howth. She
remembered her father putting on her mothers bonnet to make the
Her time was running out but she continued to sit by the window,
leaning her head against the window curtain, inhaling the odour of
dusty cretonne. Down far in the avenue she could hear a street
organ playing. She knew the air Strange that it should come that
very night to remind her of the promise to her mother, her promise
to keep the home together as long as she could. She remembered
the last night of her mother's illness; she was again in the close
dark room at the other side of the hall and outside she heard a
melancholy air of Italy. The organ-player had been ordered to go
away and given sixpence. She remembered her father strutting
back into the sickroom saying:
"Damned Italians! coming over here!"
As she mused the pitiful vision of her mother's life laid its spell on
the very quick of her being--that life of commonplace sacrifices
closing in final craziness. She trembled as she heard again her
mother's voice saying constantly with foolish insistence:
"Derevaun Seraun! Derevaun Seraun!"
She stood up in a sudden impulse of terror. Escape! She must
escape! Frank would save her. He would give her life, perhaps
love, too. But she wanted to live. Why should she be unhappy? She
had a right to happiness. Frank would take her in his arms, fold her
in his arms. He would save her.
She stood among the swaying crowd in the station at the North
Wall. He held her hand and she knew that he was speaking to her,
saying something about the passage over and over again. The
station was full of soldiers with brown baggages. Through the wide
doors of the sheds she caught a glimpse of the black mass of the
boat, lying in beside the quay wall, with illumined portholes. She
answered nothing. She felt her cheek pale and cold and, out of a
maze of distress, she prayed to God to direct her, to show her what
was her duty. The boat blew a long mournful whistle into the mist.
If she went, tomorrow she would be on the sea with Frank,
steaming towards Buenos Ayres. Their passage had been booked.
Could she still draw back after all he had done for her? Her
distress awoke a nausea in her body and she kept moving her lips
in silent fervent prayer.
A bell clanged upon her heart. She felt him seize her hand:
All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing
her into them: he would drown her. She gripped with both hands at
the iron railing.
No! No! No! It was impossible. Her hands clutched the iron in
frenzy. Amid the seas she sent a cry of anguish.
He rushed beyond the barrier and called to her to follow. He was
shouted at to go on but he still called to her. She set her white face
to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign
of love or farewell or recognition.
AFTER THE RACE
THE cars came scudding in towards Dublin, running evenly like
pellets in the groove of the Naas Road. At the crest of the hill at
Inchicore sightseers had gathered in clumps to watch the cars
careering homeward and through this channel of poverty and
inaction the Continent sped its wealth and industry. Now and again
the clumps of people raised the cheer of the gratefully oppressed.
Their sympathy, however, was for the blue cars--the cars of their
friends, the French.
The French, moreover, were virtual victors. Their team had
finished solidly; they had been placed second and third and the
driver of the winning German car was reported a Belgian. Each
blue car, therefore, received a double measure of welcome as it
topped the crest of the hill and each cheer of welcome was
acknowledged with smiles and nods by those in the car. In one of
these trimly built cars was a party of four young men whose spirits
seemed to be at present well above the level of successful
Gallicism: in fact, these four young men were almost hilarious.
They were Charles Segouin, the owner of the car; Andre Riviere, a
young electrician of Canadian birth; a huge Hungarian named
Villona and a neatly groomed young man named Doyle. Segouin
was in good humour because he had unexpectedly received some
orders in advance (he was about to start a motor establishment in
Paris) and Riviere was in good humour because he was to be
appointed manager of the establishment; these two young men
(who were cousins) were also in good humour because of the
success of the French cars. Villona was in good humour because
he had had a very satisfactory luncheon; and besides he was an
optimist by nature. The fourth member of the party, however, was
too excited to be genuinely happy.
He was about twenty-six years of age, with a soft, light brown
moustache and rather innocent-looking grey eyes. His father, who
had begun life as an advanced Nationalist, had modified his views
early. He had made his money as a butcher in Kingstown and by
opening shops in Dublin and in the suburbs he had made his
money many times over. He had also been fortunate enough to
secure some of the police contracts and in the end he had become
rich enough to be alluded to in the Dublin newspapers as a
merchant prince. He had sent his son to England to be educated in
a big Catholic college and had afterwards sent him to Dublin
University to study law. Jimmy did not study very earnestly and
took to bad courses for a while. He had money and he was popular;
and he divided his time curiously between musical and motoring
circles. Then he had been sent for a term to Cambridge to see a
little life. His father, remonstrative, but covertly proud of the
excess, had paid his bills and brought him home. It was at
Cambridge that he had met Segouin. They were not much more
than acquaintances as yet but Jimmy found great pleasure in the
society of one who had seen so much of the world and was reputed
to own some of the biggest hotels in France. Such a person (as his
father agreed) was well worth knowing, even if he had not been
the charming companion he was. Villona was entertaining also--a
brilliant pianist--but, unfortunately, very poor.
The car ran on merrily with its cargo of hilarious youth. The two
cousins sat on the front seat; Jimmy and his Hungarian friend sat
behind. Decidedly Villona was in excellent spirits; he kept up a
deep bass hum of melody for miles of the road The Frenchmen
flung their laughter and light words over their shoulders and often
Jimmy had to strain forward to catch the quick phrase. This was
not altogether pleasant for him, as he had nearly always to make a
deft guess at the meaning and shout back a suitable answer in the
face of a high wind. Besides Villona's humming would confuse
anybody; the noise of the car, too.
Rapid motion through space elates one; so does notoriety; so does
the possession of money. These were three good reasons for
Jimmy's excitement. He had been seen by many of his friends that
day in the company of these Continentals. At the control Segouin
had presented him to one of the French competitors and, in answer
to his confused murmur of compliment, the swarthy face of the
driver had disclosed a line of shining white teeth. It was pleasant
after that honour to return to the profane world of spectators amid
nudges and significant looks. Then as to money--he really had a
great sum under his control. Segouin, perhaps, would not think it a
great sum but Jimmy who, in spite of temporary errors, was at
heart the inheritor of solid instincts knew well with what difficulty
it had been got together. This knowledge had previously kept his
bills within the limits of reasonable recklessness, and if he had
been so conscious of the labour latent in money when there had
been question merely of some freak of the higher intelligence, how
much more so now when he was about to stake the greater part of
his substance! It was a serious thing for him.
Of course, the investment was a good one and Segouin had
managed to give the impression that it was by a favour of
friendship the mite of Irish money was to be included in the capital
of the concern. Jimmy had a respect for his father's shrewdness in
business matters and in this case it had been his father who had
first suggested the investment; money to be made in the motor
business, pots of money. Moreover Segouin had the unmistakable
air of wealth. Jimmy set out to translate into days' work that lordly
car in which he sat. How smoothly it ran. In what style they had
come careering along the country roads! The journey laid a
magical finger on the genuine pulse of life and gallantly the
machinery of human nerves strove to answer the bounding courses
of the swift blue animal.
They drove down Dame Street. The street was busy with unusual
traffic, loud with the horns of motorists and the gongs of impatient
tram-drivers. Near the Bank Segouin drew up and Jimmy and his
friend alighted. A little knot of people collected on the footpath to
pay homage to the snorting motor. The party was to dine together
that evening in Segouin's hotel and, meanwhile, Jimmy and his
friend, who was staying with him, were to go home to dress. The
car steered out slowly for Grafton Street while the two young men
pushed their way through the knot of gazers. They walked
northward with a curious feeling of disappointment in the exercise,
while the city hung its pale globes of light above them in a haze of
In Jimmy's house this dinner had been pronounced an occasion. A
certain pride mingled with his parents' trepidation, a certain
eagerness, also, to play fast and loose for the names of great
foreign cities have at least this virtue. Jimmy, too, looked very
well when he was dressed and, as he stood in the hall giving a last
equation to the bows of his dress tie, his father may have felt even
commercially satisfied at having secured for his son qualities often
unpurchaseable. His father, therefore, was unusually friendly with
Villona and his manner expressed a real respect for foreign
accomplishments; but this subtlety of his host was probably lost
upon the Hungarian, who was beginning to have a sharp desire for
The dinner was excellent, exquisite. Segouin, Jimmy decided, had
a very refined taste. The party was increased by a young
Englishman named Routh whom Jimmy had seen with Segouin at
Cambridge. The young men supped in a snug room lit by electric
candle lamps. They talked volubly and with little reserve. Jimmy,
whose imagination was kindling, conceived the lively youth of the
Frenchmen twined elegantly upon the firm framework of the
Englishman's manner. A graceful image of his, he thought, and a
just one. He admired the dexterity with which their host directed
the conversation. The five young men had various tastes and their
tongues had been loosened. Villona, with immense respect, began
to discover to the mildly surprised Englishman the beauties of the
English madrigal, deploring the loss of old instruments. Riviere,
not wholly ingenuously, undertook to explain to Jimmy the
triumph of the French mechanicians. The resonant voice of the
Hungarian was about to prevail in ridicule of the spurious lutes of
the romantic painters when Segouin shepherded his party into
politics. Here was congenial ground for all. Jimmy, under generous
influences, felt the buried zeal of his father wake to life within
him: he aroused the torpid Routh at last. The room grew doubly
hot and Segouin's task grew harder each moment: there was even
danger of personal spite. The alert host at an opportunity lifted his
glass to Humanity and, when the toast had been drunk, he threw
open a window significantly.
That night the city wore the mask of a capital. The five young men
strolled along Stephen's Green in a faint cloud of aromatic smoke.
They talked loudly and gaily and their cloaks dangled from their
shoulders. The people made way for them. At the corner of
Grafton Street a short fat man was putting two handsome ladies on
a car in charge of another fat man. The car drove off and the short
fat man caught sight of the party.
A torrent of talk followed. Farley was an American. No one knew
very well what the talk was about. Villona and Riviere were the
noisiest, but all the men were excited. They got up on a car,
squeezing themselves together amid much laughter. They drove by
the crowd, blended now into soft colours, to a music of merry
bells. They took the train at Westland Row and in a few seconds,
as it seemed to Jimmy, they were walking out of Kingstown
Station. The ticket-collector saluted Jimmy; he was an old man:
"Fine night, sir!"
It was a serene summer night; the harbour lay like a darkened
mirror at their feet. They proceeded towards it with linked arms,
singing Cadet Roussel in chorus, stamping their feet at every:
"Ho! Ho! Hohe, vraiment!"
They got into a rowboat at the slip and made out for the
American's yacht. There was to be supper, music, cards. Villona
said with conviction:
"It is delightful!"
There was a yacht piano in the cabin. Villona played a waltz for
Farley and Riviere, Farley acting as cavalier and Riviere as lady.
Then an impromptu square dance, the men devising original
figures. What merriment! Jimmy took his part with a will; this was
seeing life, at least. Then Farley got out of breath and cried "Stop!"
A man brought in a light supper, and the young men sat down to it
for form's sake. They drank, however: it was Bohemian. They
drank Ireland, England, France, Hungary, the United States of
America. Jimmy made a speech, a long speech, Villona saying:
"Hear! hear!" whenever there was a pause. There was a great
clapping of hands when he sat down. It must have been a good
speech. Farley clapped him on the back and laughed loudly. What
jovial fellows! What good company they were!
Cards! cards! The table was cleared. Villona returned quietly to his
piano and played voluntaries for them. The other men played game
after game, flinging themselves boldly into the adventure. They
drank the health of the Queen of Hearts and of the Queen of
Diamonds. Jimmy felt obscurely the lack of an audience: the wit
was flashing. Play ran very high and paper began to pass. Jimmy
did not know exactly who was winning but he knew that he was
losing. But it was his own fault for he frequently mistook his cards
and the other men had to calculate his I.O.U.'s for him. They were
devils of fellows but he wished they would stop: it was getting late.
Someone gave the toast of the yacht The Belle of Newport and
then someone proposed one great game for a finish.
The piano had stopped; Villona must have gone up on deck. It was
a terrible game. They stopped just before the end of it to drink for
luck. Jimmy understood that the game lay between Routh and
Segouin. What excitement! Jimmy was excited too; he would lose,
of course. How much had he written away? The men rose to their
feet to play the last tricks. talking and gesticulating. Routh won.
The cabin shook with the young men's cheering and the cards were
bundled together. They began then to gather in what they had won.
Farley and Jimmy were the heaviest losers.
He knew that he would regret in the morning but at present he was
glad of the rest, glad of the dark stupor that would cover up his
folly. He leaned his elbows on the table and rested his head
between his hands, counting the beats of his temples. The cabin
door opened and he saw the Hungarian standing in a shaft of grey
THE grey warm evening of August had descended upon the city
and a mild warm air, a memory of summer, circulated in the
streets. The streets, shuttered for the repose of Sunday, swarmed
with a gaily coloured crowd. Like illumined pearls the lamps
shone from the summits of their tall poles upon the living texture
below which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up into the
warm grey evening air an unchanging unceasing murmur.
Two young men came down the hill of Rutland Square. On of
them was just bringing a long monologue to a close. The other,
who walked on the verge of the path and was at times obliged to
step on to the road, owing to his companion's rudeness, wore an
amused listening face. He was squat and ruddy. A yachting cap
was shoved far back from his forehead and the narrative to which
he listened made constant waves of expression break forth over his
face from the corners of his nose and eyes and mouth. Little jets of
wheezing laughter followed one another out of his convulsed body.
His eyes, twinkling with cunning enjoyment, glanced at every
moment towards his companion's face. Once or twice he
rearranged the light waterproof which he had slung over one
shoulder in toreador fashion. His breeches, his white rubber shoes
and his jauntily slung waterproof expressed youth. But his figure
fell into rotundity at the waist, his hair was scant and grey and his
face, when the waves of expression had passed over it, had a
When he was quite sure that the narrative had ended he laughed
noiselessly for fully half a minute. Then he said:
"Well!... That takes the biscuit!"
His voice seemed winnowed of vigour; and to enforce his words he
added with humour:
"That takes the solitary, unique, and, if I may so call it, recherche
He became serious and silent when he had said this. His tongue
was tired for he had been talking all the afternoon in a
public-house in Dorset Street. Most people considered Lenehan a
leech but, in spite of this reputation, his adroitness and eloquence
had always prevented his friends from forming any general policy
against him. He had a brave manner of coming up to a party of
them in a bar and of holding himself nimbly at the borders of the
company until he was included in a round. He was a sporting
vagrant armed with a vast stock of stories, limericks and riddles.
He was insensitive to all kinds of discourtesy. No one knew how
he achieved the stern task of living, but his name was vaguely
associated with racing tissues.
"And where did you pick her up, Corley?" he asked.
Corley ran his tongue swiftly along his upper lip.
"One night, man," he said, "I was going along Dame Street and I
spotted a fine tart under Waterhouse's clock and said good- night,
you know. So we went for a walk round by the canal and she told
me she was a slavey in a house in Baggot Street. I put my arm
round her and squeezed her a bit that night. Then next Sunday,
man, I met her by appointment. We vent out to Donnybrook and I
brought her into a field there. She told me she used to go with a
dairyman.... It was fine, man. Cigarettes every night she'd bring me
and paying the tram out and back. And one night she brought me
two bloody fine cigars--O, the real cheese, you know, that the old
fellow used to smoke.... I was afraid, man, she'd get in the family
way. But she's up to the dodge."
"Maybe she thinks you'll marry her," said Lenehan.
"I told her I was out of a job," said Corley. "I told her I was in
Pim's. She doesn't know my name. I was too hairy to tell her that.
But she thinks I'm a bit of class, you know."
Lenehan laughed again, noiselessly.
"Of all the good ones ever I heard," he said, "that emphatically
takes the biscuit."
Corley's stride acknowledged the compliment. The swing of his
burly body made his friend execute a few light skips from the path
to the roadway and back again. Corley was the son of an inspector
of police and he had inherited his father's frame and gut. He
walked with his hands by his sides, holding himself erect and
swaying his head from side to side. His head was large, globular
and oily; it sweated in all weathers; and his large round hat, set
upon it sideways, looked like a bulb which had grown out of
another. He always stared straight before him as if he were on
parade and, when he wished to gaze after someone in the street, it
was necessary for him to move his body from the hips. At present
he was about town. Whenever any job was vacant a friend was
always ready to give him the hard word. He was often to be seen
walking with policemen in plain clothes, talking earnestly. He
knew the inner side of all affairs and was fond of delivering final
judgments. He spoke without listening to the speech of his
companions. His conversation was mainly about himself what he
had said to such a person and what such a person had said to him
and what he had said to settle the matter. When he reported these
dialogues he aspirated the first letter of his name after the manner
Lenehan offered his friend a cigarette. As the two young men
walked on through the crowd Corley occasionally turned to smile
at some of the passing girls but Lenehan's gaze was fixed on the
large faint moon circled with a double halo. He watched earnestly
the passing of the grey web of twilight across its face. At length he
"Well... tell me, Corley, I suppose you'll be able to pull it off all
Corley closed one eye expressively as an answer.
"Is she game for that?" asked Lenehan dubiously. "You can never
"She's all right," said Corley. "I know the way to get around her,
man. She's a bit gone on me."
"You're what I call a gay Lothario," said Lenehan. "And the proper
kind of a Lothario, too!"
A shade of mockery relieved the servility of his manner. To save
himself he had the habit of leaving his flattery open to the
interpretation of raillery. But Corley had not a subtle mind.
"There's nothing to touch a good slavey," he affirmed. "Take my
tip for it."
"By one who has tried them all," said Lenehan.
"First I used to go with girls, you know," said Corley, unbosoming;
"girls off the South Circular. I used to take them out, man, on the
tram somewhere and pay the tram or take them to a band or a play
at the theatre or buy them chocolate and sweets or something that
way. I used to spend money on them right enough," he added, in a
convincing tone, as if he was conscious of being disbelieved.
But Lenehan could well believe it; he nodded gravely.
"I know that game," he said, "and it's a mug's game."
"And damn the thing I ever got out of it," said Corley.
"Ditto here," said Lenehan.
"Only off of one of them," said Corley.
He moistened his upper lip by running his tongue along it. The
recollection brightened his eyes. He too gazed at the pale disc of
the moon, now nearly veiled, and seemed to meditate.
She was... a bit of all right," he said regretfully.
He was silent again. Then he added:
"She's on the turf now. I saw her driving down Earl Street one
night with two fellows with her on a car."
"I suppose that's your doing," said Lenehan.
"There was others at her before me," said Corley philosophically.
This time Lenehan was inclined to disbelieve. He shook his head
to and fro and smiled.
"You know you can't kid me, Corley," he said.
"Honest to God!" said Corley. "Didn't she tell me herself?"
Lenehan made a tragic gesture.
"Base betrayer!" he said.
As they passed along the railings of Trinity College, Lenehan
skipped out into the road and peered up at the clock.
"Twenty after," he said.
"Time enough," said Corley. "She'll be there all right. I always let
her wait a bit."
Lenehan laughed quietly.
'Ecod! Corley, you know how to take them," he said.
"I'm up to all their little tricks," Corley confessed.
"But tell me," said Lenehan again, "are you sure you can bring it
off all right? You know it's a ticklish job. They're damn close on
that point. Eh? ... What?"
His bright, small eyes searched his companion's face for
reassurance. Corley swung his head to and fro as if to toss aside an
insistent insect, and his brows gathered.
"I'll pull it off," he said. "Leave it to me, can't you?"
Lenehan said no more. He did not wish to ruffle his friend's
temper, to be sent to the devil and told that his advice was not
wanted. A little tact was necessary. But Corley's brow was soon
smooth again. His thoughts were running another way.
"She's a fine decent tart," he said, with appreciation; "that's what
They walked along Nassau Street and then turned into Kildare
Street. Not far from the porch of the club a harpist stood in the
roadway, playing to a little ring of listeners. He plucked at the
wires heedlessly, glancing quickly from time to time at the face of
each new-comer and from time to time, wearily also, at the sky.
His harp, too, heedless that her coverings had fallen about her
knees, seemed weary alike of the eyes of strangers and of her
master's hands. One hand played in the bass the melody of Silent,
O Moyle, while the other hand careered in the treble after each
group of notes. The notes of the air sounded deep and full.
The two young men walked up the street without speaking, the
mournful music following them. When they reached Stephen's
Green they crossed the road. Here the noise of trams, the lights and
the crowd released them from their silence.
"There she is!" said Corley.
At the corner of Hume Street a young woman was standing. She
wore a blue dress and a white sailor hat. She stood on the
curbstone, swinging a sunshade in one hand. Lenehan grew lively.
"Let's have a look at her, Corley," he said.
Corley glanced sideways at his friend and an unpleasant grin
appeared on his face.
"Are you trying to get inside me?" he asked.
"Damn it!" said Lenehan boldly, "I don't want an introduction. All I
want is to have a look at her. I'm not going to eat her."
"O ... A look at her?" said Corley, more amiably. "Well... I'll tell
you what. I'll go over and talk to her and you can pass by."
"Right!" said Lenehan.
Corley had already thrown one leg over the chains when Lenehan
"And after? Where will we meet?"
"Half ten," answered Corley, bringing over his other leg.
"Corner of Merrion Street. We'll be coming back."
"Work it all right now," said Lenehan in farewell.
Corley did not answer. He sauntered across the road swaying his
head from side to side. His bulk, his easy pace, and the solid sound
of his boots had something of the conqueror in them. He
approached the young woman and, without saluting, began at once
to converse with her. She swung her umbrella more quickly and
executed half turns on her heels. Once or twice when he spoke to
her at close quarters she laughed and bent her head.
Lenehan observed them for a few minutes. Then he walked rapidly
along beside the chains at some distance and crossed the road
obliquely. As he approached Hume Street corner he found the air
heavily scented and his eyes made a swift anxious scrutiny of the
young woman's appearance. She had her Sunday finery on. Her
blue serge skirt was held at the waist by a belt of black leather.
The great silver buckle of her belt seemed to depress the centre of
her body, catching the light stuff of her white blouse like a clip.
She wore a short black jacket with mother-of-pearl buttons and a
ragged black boa. The ends of her tulle collarette had been
carefully disordered and a big bunch of red flowers was pinned in
her bosom stems upwards. Lenehan's eyes noted approvingly her
stout short muscular body. rank rude health glowed in her face, on
her fat red cheeks and in her unabashed blue eyes. Her features
were blunt. She had broad nostrils, a straggling mouth which lay
open in a contented leer, and two projecting front teeth. As he
passed Lenehan took off his cap and, after about ten seconds,
Corley returned a salute to the air. This he did by raising his hand
vaguely and pensively changing the angle of position of his hat.
Lenehan walked as far as the Shelbourne Hotel where he halted
and waited. After waiting for a little time he saw them coming
towards him and, when they turned to the right, he followed them,
stepping lightly in his white shoes, down one side of Merrion
Square. As he walked on slowly, timing his pace to theirs, he
watched Corley's head which turned at every moment towards the
young woman's face like a big ball revolving on a pivot. He kept
the pair in view until he had seen them climbing the stairs of the
Donnybrook tram; then he turned about and went back the way he
Now that he was alone his face looked older. His gaiety seemed to
forsake him and, as he came by the railings of the Duke's Lawn, he
allowed his hand to run along them. The air which the harpist had
played began to control his movements His softly padded feet
played the melody while his fingers swept a scale of variations idly
along the railings after each group of notes.
He walked listlessly round Stephen's Green and then down Grafton
Street. Though his eyes took note of many elements of the crowd
through which he passed they did so morosely. He found trivial all
that was meant to charm him and did not answer the glances which
invited him to be bold. He knew that he would have to speak a
great deal, to invent and to amuse and his brain and throat were
too dry for such a task. The problem of how he could pass the
hours till he met Corley again troubled him a little. He could think
of no way of passing them but to keep on walking. He turned to the
left when he came to the corner of Rutland Square and felt more at
ease in the dark quiet street, the sombre look of which suited his
mood. He paused at last before the window of a poor-looking shop
over which the words Refreshment Bar were printed in white
letters. On the glass of the window were two flying inscriptions:
Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale. A cut ham was exposed on a great
blue dish while near it on a plate lay a segment of very light
plum-pudding. He eyed this food earnestly for some time and then,
after glancing warily up and down the street, went into the shop
He was hungry for, except some biscuits which he had asked two
grudging curates to bring him, he had eaten nothing since
breakfast-time. He sat down at an uncovered wooden table
opposite two work-girls and a mechanic. A slatternly girl waited
"How much is a plate of peas?" he asked.
"Three halfpence, sir," said the girl.
"Bring me a plate of peas," he said, "and a bottle of ginger beer."
He spoke roughly in order to belie his air of gentility for his entry
had been followed by a pause of talk. His face was heated. To
appear natural he pushed his cap back on his head and planted his
elbows on the table. The mechanic and the two work-girls
examined him point by point before resuming their conversation in
a subdued voice. The girl brought him a plate of grocer's hot peas,
seasoned with pepper and vinegar, a fork and his ginger beer. He
ate his food greedily and found it so good that he made a note of
the shop mentally. When he had eaten all the peas he sipped his
ginger beer and sat for some time thinking of Corley's adventure.
In his imagination he beheld the pair of lovers walking along some
dark road; he heard Corley's voice in deep energetic gallantries and
saw again the leer of the young woman's mouth. This vision made
him feel keenly his own poverty of purse and spirit. He was tired
of knocking about, of pulling the devil by the tail, of shifts and
intrigues. He would be thirty-one in November. Would he never
get a good job? Would he never have a home of his own? He
thought how pleasant it would be to have a warm fire to sit by and
a good dinner to sit down to. He had walked the streets long
enough with friends and with girls. He knew what those friends
were worth: he knew the girls too. Experience had embittered his
heart against the world. But all hope had not left him. He felt
better after having eaten than he had felt before, less weary of his
life, less vanquished in spirit. He might yet be able to settle down
in some snug corner and live happily if he could only come across
some good simple-minded girl with a little of the ready.
He paid twopence halfpenny to the slatternly girl and went out of
the shop to begin his wandering again. He went into Capel Street
and walked along towards the City Hall. Then he turned into Dame
Street. At the corner of George's Street he met two friends of his
and stopped to converse with them. He was glad that he could rest
from all his walking. His friends asked him had he seen Corley and
what was the latest. He replied that he had spent the day with
Corley. His friends talked very little. They looked vacantly after
some figures in the crowd and sometimes made a critical remark.
One said that he had seen Mac an hour before in Westmoreland
Street. At this Lenehan said that he had been with Mac the night
before in Egan's. The young man who had seen Mac in
Westmoreland Street asked was it true that Mac had won a bit over
a billiard match. Lenehan did not know: he said that Holohan had
stood them drinks in Egan's.
He left his friends at a quarter to ten and went up George's Street.
He turned to the left at the City Markets and walked on into
Grafton Street. The crowd of girls and young men had thinned and
on his way up the street he heard many groups and couples bidding
one another good-night. He went as far as the clock of the College
of Surgeons: it was on the stroke of ten. He set off briskly along
the northern side of the Green hurrying for fear Corley should
return too soon. When he reached the corner of Merrion Street he
took his stand in the shadow of a lamp and brought out one of the
cigarettes which he had reserved and lit it. He leaned against the
lamp-post and kept his gaze fixed on the part from which he
expected to see Corley and the young woman return.
His mind became active again. He wondered had Corley managed
it successfully. He wondered if he had asked her yet or if he would
leave it to the last. He suffered all the pangs and thrills of his
friend's situation as well as those of his own. But the memory of
Corley's slowly revolving head calmed him somewhat: he was sure
Corley would pull it off all right. All at once the idea struck him
that perhaps Corley had seen her home by another way and given
him the slip. His eyes searched the street: there was no sign of
them. Yet it was surely half-an-hour since he had seen the clock of
the College of Surgeons. Would Corley do a thing like that? He lit
his last cigarette and began to smoke it nervously. He strained his
eyes as each tram stopped at the far corner of the square. They
must have gone home by another way. The paper of his cigarette
broke and he flung it into the road with a curse.
Suddenly he saw them coming towards him. He started with
delight and keeping close to his lamp-post tried to read the result
in their walk. They were walking quickly, the young woman taking
quick short steps, while Corley kept beside her with his long stride.
They did not seem to be speaking. An intimation of the result
pricked him like the point of a sharp instrument. He knew Corley
would fail; he knew it was no go.
They turned down Baggot Street and he followed them at once,
taking the other footpath. When they stopped he stopped too. They
talked for a few moments and then the young woman went down
the steps into the area of a house. Corley remained standing at the
edge of the path, a little distance from the front steps. Some
minutes passed. Then the hall-door was opened slowly and
cautiously. A woman came running down the front steps and
coughed. Corley turned and went towards her. His broad figure hid
hers from view for a few seconds and then she reappeared running
up the steps. The door closed on her and Corley began to walk
swiftly towards Stephen's Green.
Lenehan hurried on in the same direction. Some drops of light rain
fell. He took them as a warning and, glancing back towards the
house which the young woman had entered to see that he was not
observed, he ran eagerly across the road. Anxiety and his swift run
made him pant. He called out:
Corley turned his head to see who had called him, and then
continued walking as before. Lenehan ran after him, settling the
waterproof on his shoulders with one hand.
"Hallo, Corley!" he cried again.
He came level with his friend and looked keenly in his face. He
could see nothing there.
"Well?" he said. "Did it come off?"
They had reached the corner of Ely Place. Still without answering,
Corley swerved to the left and went up the side street. His features
were composed in stern calm. Lenehan kept up with his friend,
breathing uneasily. He was baffled and a note of menace pierced
through his voice.
"Can't you tell us?" he said. "Did you try her?"
Corley halted at the first lamp and stared grimly before him. Then
with a grave gesture he extended a hand towards the light and,
smiling, opened it slowly to the gaze of his disciple. A small gold
coin shone in the palm.
THE BOARDING HOUSE
MRS. MOONEY was a butcher's daughter. She was a woman who
was quite able to keep things to herself: a determined woman. She
had married her father's foreman and opened a butcher's shop near
Spring Gardens. But as soon as his father-in-law was dead Mr.
Mooney began to go to the devil. He drank, plundered the till, ran
headlong into debt. It was no use making him take the pledge: he
was sure to break out again a few days after. By fighting his wife
in the presence of customers and by buying bad meat he ruined his
business. One night he went for his wife with the cleaver and she
had to sleep a neighbour's house.
After that they lived apart. She went to the priest and got a
separation from him with care of the children. She would give him
neither money nor food nor house-room; and so he was obliged to
enlist himself as a sheriff's man. He was a shabby stooped little
drunkard with a white face and a white moustache white eyebrows,
pencilled above his little eyes, which were veined and raw; and all
day long he sat in the bailiff's room, waiting to be put on a job.
Mrs. Mooney, who had taken what remained of her money out of
the butcher business and set up a boarding house in Hardwicke
Street, was a big imposing woman. Her house had a floating
population made up of tourists from Liverpool and the Isle of Man
and, occasionally, artistes from the music halls. Its resident
population was made up of clerks from the city. She governed the
house cunningly and firmly, knew when to give credit, when to be
stern and when to let things pass. All the resident young men spoke
of her as The Madam.
Mrs. Mooney's young men paid fifteen shillings a week for board
and lodgings (beer or stout at dinner excluded). They shared in
common tastes and occupations and for this reason they were very
chummy with one another. They discussed with one another the
chances of favourites and outsiders. Jack Mooney, the Madam's
son, who was clerk to a commission agent in Fleet Street, had the
reputation of being a hard case. He was fond of using soldiers'
obscenities: usually he came home in the small hours. When he
met his friends he had always a good one to tell them and he was
always sure to be on to a good thing-that is to say, a likely horse or
a likely artiste. He was also handy with the mits and sang comic
songs. On Sunday nights there would often be a reunion in Mrs.
Mooney's front drawing-room. The music-hall artistes would
oblige; and Sheridan played waltzes and polkas and vamped
accompaniments. Polly Mooney, the Madam's daughter, would
also sing. She sang:
I'm a ... naughty girl.
You needn't sham:
You know I am.
Polly was a slim girl of nineteen; she had light soft hair and a
small full mouth. Her eyes, which were grey with a shade of green
through them, had a habit of glancing upwards when she spoke
with anyone, which made her look like a little perverse madonna.
Mrs. Mooney had first sent her daughter to be a typist in a
corn-factor's office but, as a disreputable sheriff's man used to
come every other day to the office, asking to be allowed to say a
word to his daughter, she had taken her daughter home again and
set her to do housework. As Polly was very lively the intention was
to give her the run of the young men. Besides young men like to
feel that there is a young woman not very far away. Polly, of
course, flirted with the young men but Mrs. Mooney, who was a
shrewd judge, knew that the young men were only passing the time
away: none of them meant business. Things went on so for a long
time and Mrs. Mooney began to think of sending Polly back to
typewriting when she noticed that something was going on
between Polly and one of the young men. She watched the pair and
kept her own counsel.
Polly knew that she was being watched, but still her mother's
persistent silence could not be misunderstood. There had been no
open complicity between mother and daughter, no open
understanding but, though people in the house began to talk of the
affair, still Mrs. Mooney did not intervene. Polly began to grow a
little strange in her manner and the young man was evidently
perturbed. At last, when she judged it to be the right moment, Mrs.
Mooney intervened. She dealt with moral problems as a cleaver
deals with meat: and in this case she had made up her mind.
It was a bright Sunday morning of early summer, promising heat,
but with a fresh breeze blowing. All the windows of the boarding
house were open and the lace curtains ballooned gently towards
the street beneath the raised sashes. The belfry of George's Church
sent out constant peals and worshippers, singly or in groups,
traversed the little circus before the church, revealing their purpose
by their self-contained demeanour no less than by the little
volumes in their gloved hands. Breakfast was over in the boarding
house and the table of the breakfast-room was covered with plates
on which lay yellow streaks of eggs with morsels of bacon-fat and
bacon-rind. Mrs. Mooney sat in the straw arm-chair and watched
the servant Mary remove the breakfast things. She mad Mary
collect the crusts and pieces of broken bread to help to make
Tuesday's bread- pudding. When the table was cleared, the broken
bread collected, the sugar and butter safe under lock and key, she
began to reconstruct the interview which she had had the night
before with Polly. Things were as she had suspected: she had been
frank in her questions and Polly had been frank in her answers.
Both had been somewhat awkward, of course. She had been made
awkward by her not wishing to receive the news in too cavalier a
fashion or to seem to have connived and Polly had been made
awkward not merely because allusions of that kind always made
her awkward but also because she did not wish it to be thought that
in her wise innocence she had divined the intention behind her
Mrs. Mooney glanced instinctively at the little gilt clock on the
mantelpiece as soon as she had become aware through her revery
that the bells of George's Church had stopped ringing. It was
seventeen minutes past eleven: she would have lots of time to have
the matter out with Mr. Doran and then catch short twelve at
Marlborough Street. She was sure she would win. To begin with
she had all the weight of social opinion on her side: she was an
outraged mother. She had allowed him to live beneath her roof,
assuming that he was a man of honour and he had simply abused
her hospitality. He was thirty-four or thirty-five years of age, so
that youth could not be pleaded as his excuse; nor could ignorance
be his excuse since he was a man who had seen something of the
world. He had simply taken advantage of Polly's youth and
inexperience: that was evident. The question was: What reparation
would he make?
There must be reparation made in such case. It is all very well for
the man: he can go his ways as if nothing had happened, having
had his moment of pleasure, but the girl has to bear the brunt.
Some mothers would be content to patch up such an affair for a
sum of money; she had known cases of it. But she would not do so.
For her only one reparation could make up for the loss of her
daughter's honour: marriage.
She counted all her cards again before sending Mary up to Doran's
room to say that she wished to speak with him. She felt sure she
would win. He was a serious young man, not rakish or loud-voiced
like the others. If it had been Mr. Sheridan or Mr. Meade or
Bantam Lyons her task would have been much harder. She did not
think he would face publicity. All the lodgers in the house knew
something of the affair; details had been invented by some.
Besides, he had been employed for thirteen years in a great
Catholic wine-merchant's office and publicity would mean for
him, perhaps, the loss of his job. Whereas if he agreed all might be
well. She knew he had a good screw for one thing and she