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List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
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His imagination had so abstracted him that his name was called
twice before he answered. Mr. Alleyne and Miss Delacour were
standing outside the counter and all the clerks had turn round in
anticipation of something. The man got up from his desk. Mr.
Alleyne began a tirade of abuse, saying that two letters were
missing. The man answered that he knew nothing about them, that
he had made a faithful copy. The tirade continued: it was so bitter
and violent that the man could hardly restrain his fist from
descending upon the head of the manikin before him: 

"I know nothing about any other two letters," he said stupidly. 

"You--know--nothing. Of course you know nothing," said Mr.
Alleyne. "Tell me," he added, glancing first for approval to the
lady beside him, "do you take me for a fool? Do you think me an
utter fool?" 

The man glanced from the lady's face to the little egg-shaped head
and back again; and, almost before he was aware of it, his tongue
had found a felicitous moment: 

"I don't think, sir," he said, "that that's a fair question to put to me." 

There was a pause in the very breathing of the clerks. Everyone
was astounded (the author of the witticism no less than his
neighbours) and Miss Delacour, who was a stout amiable person,
began to smile broadly. Mr. Alleyne flushed to the hue of a wild
rose and his mouth twitched with a dwarf s passion. He shook his
fist in the man's face till it seemed to vibrate like the knob of some
electric machine: 

"You impertinent ruffian! You impertinent ruffian! I'll make short
work of you! Wait till you see! You'll apologise to me for your
impertinence or you'll quit the office instanter! You'll quit this, I'm
telling you, or you'll apologise to me!"





He stood in a doorway opposite the office watching to see if the
cashier would come out alone. All the clerks passed out and finally
the cashier came out with the chief clerk. It was no use trying to
say a word to him when he was with the chief clerk. The man felt
that his position was bad enough. He had been obliged to offer an
abject apology to Mr. Alleyne for his impertinence but he knew
what a hornet's nest the office would be for him. He could
remember the way in which Mr. Alleyne had hounded little Peake
out of the office in order to make room for his own nephew. He
felt savage and thirsty and revengeful, annoyed with himself and
with everyone else. Mr. Alleyne would never give him an hour's
rest; his life would be a hell to him. He had made a proper fool of
himself this time. Could he not keep his tongue in his cheek? But
they had never pulled together from the first, he and Mr. Alleyne,
ever since the day Mr. Alleyne had overheard him mimicking his
North of Ireland accent to amuse Higgins and Miss Parker: that
had been the beginning of it. He might have tried Higgins for the
money, but sure Higgins never had anything for himself. A man
with two establishments to keep up, of course he couldn't.... 

He felt his great body again aching for the comfort of the
public-house. The fog had begun to chill him and he wondered
could he touch Pat in O'Neill's. He could not touch him for more
than a bob -- and a bob was no use. Yet he must get money
somewhere or other: he had spent his last penny for the g.p. and
soon it would be too late for getting money anywhere. Suddenly,
as he was fingering his watch-chain, he thought of Terry Kelly's
pawn-office in Fleet Street. That was the dart! Why didn't he think
of it sooner? 

He went through the narrow alley of Temple Bar quickly,
muttering to himself that they could all go to hell because he was
going to have a good night of it. The clerk in Terry Kelly's said A
crown! but the consignor held out for six shillings; and in the end
the six shillings was allowed him literally. He came out of the
pawn-office joyfully, making a little cylinder, of the coins between
his thumb and fingers. In Westmoreland Street the footpaths were
crowded with young men and women returning from business and
ragged urchins ran here and there yelling out the names of the
evening editions. The man passed through the crowd, looking on
the spectacle generally with proud satisfaction and staring
masterfully at the office-girls. His head was full of the noises of
tram- gongs and swishing trolleys and his nose already sniffed the
curling fumes punch. As he walked on he preconsidered the terms
in which he would narrate the incident to the boys: 

"So, I just looked at him -- coolly, you know, and looked at her.
Then I looked back at him again -- taking my time, you know. 'I
don't think that that's a fair question to put to me,' says I." 

Nosey Flynn was sitting up in his usual corner of Davy Byrne's
and, when he heard the story, he stood Farrington a half-one,
saying it was as smart a thing as ever he heard. Farrington stood a
drink in his turn. After a while O'Halloran and Paddy Leonard
came in and the story was repeated to them. O'Halloran stood
tailors of malt, hot, all round and told the story of the retort he had
made to the chief clerk when he was in Callan's of Fownes's Street;
but, as the retort was after the manner of the liberal shepherds in
the eclogues, he had to admit that it was not as clever as
Farrington's retort. At this Farrington told the boys to polish off
that and have another. 

Just as they were naming their poisons who should come in but
Higgins! Of course he had to join in with the others. The men
asked him to give his version of it, and he did so with great
vivacity for the sight of five small hot whiskies was very
exhilarating. Everyone roared laughing when he showed the way in
which Mr. Alleyne shook his fist in Farrington's face. Then he
imitated Farrington, saying, "And here was my nabs, as cool as you
please," while Farrington looked at the company out of his heavy
dirty eyes, smiling and at times drawing forth stray drops of liquor
from his moustache with the aid of his lower lip. 

When that round was over there was a pause. O'Halloran had
money but neither of the other two seemed to have any; so the
whole party left the shop somewhat regretfully. At the corner of
Duke Street Higgins and Nosey Flynn bevelled off to the left while
the other three turned back towards the city. Rain was drizzling
down on the cold streets and, when they reached the Ballast
Office, Farrington suggested the Scotch House. The bar was full of
men and loud with the noise of tongues and glasses. The three men
pushed past the whining matchsellers at the door and formed a
little party at the corner of the counter. They began to exchange
stories. Leonard introduced them to a young fellow named
Weathers who was performing at the Tivoli as an acrobat and
knockabout artiste. Farrington stood a drink all round. Weathers
said he would take a small Irish and Apollinaris. Farrington, who
had definite notions of what was what, asked the boys would they
have an Apollinaris too; but the boys told Tim to make theirs hot.
The talk became theatrical. O'Halloran stood a round and then
Farrington stood another round, Weathers protesting that the
hospitality was too Irish. He promised to get them in behind the
scenes and introduce them to some nice girls. O'Halloran said that
he and Leonard would go, but that Farrington wouldn't go because
he was a married man; and Farrington's heavy dirty eyes leered at
the company in token that he understood he was being chaffed.
Weathers made them all have just one little tincture at his expense
and promised to meet them later on at Mulligan's in Poolbeg
Street. 

When the Scotch House closed they went round to Mulligan's.
They went into the parlour at the back and O'Halloran ordered
small hot specials all round. They were all beginning to feel
mellow. Farrington was just standing another round when
Weathers came back. Much to Farrington's relief he drank a glass
of bitter this time. Funds were getting low but they had enough to
keep them going. Presently two young women with big hats and a
young man in a check suit came in and sat at a table close by.
Weathers saluted them and told the company that they were out of
the Tivoli. Farrington's eyes wandered at every moment in the
direction of one of the young women. There was something
striking in her appearance. An immense scarf of peacock-blue
muslin was wound round her hat and knotted in a great bow under
her chin; and she wore bright yellow gloves, reaching to the elbow.
Farrington gazed admiringly at the plump arm which she moved
very often and with much grace; and when, after a little time, she
answered his gaze he admired still more her large dark brown eyes.
The oblique staring expression in them fascinated him. She
glanced at him once or twice and, when the party was leaving the
room, she brushed against his chair and said "O, pardon!" in a
London accent. He watched her leave the room in the hope that she
would look back at him, but he was disappointed. He cursed his
want of money and cursed all the rounds he had stood, particularly
all the whiskies and Apolinaris which he had stood to Weathers. If
there was one thing that he hated it was a sponge. He was so angry
that he lost count of the conversation of his friends. 

When Paddy Leonard called him he found that they were talking
about feats of strength. Weathers was showing his biceps muscle
to the company and boasting so much that the other two had called
on Farrington to uphold the national honour. Farrington pulled up
his sleeve accordingly and showed his biceps muscle to the
company. The two arms were examined and compared and finally
it was agreed to have a trial of strength. The table was cleared and
the two men rested their elbows on it, clasping hands. When Paddy
Leonard said "Go!" each was to try to bring down the other's hand
on to the table. Farrington looked very serious and determined. 

The trial began. After about thirty seconds Weathers brought his
opponent's hand slowly down on to the table. Farrington's dark
wine-coloured face flushed darker still with anger and humiliation
at having been defeated by such a stripling. 

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