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List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
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autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from
time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in
the third person and a predicate in the past tense. He never gave
alms to beggars and walked firmly, carrying a stout hazel. 

He had been for many years cashier of a private bank in Baggot
Street. Every morning he came in from Chapelizod by tram. At
midday he went to Dan Burke's and took his lunch -- a bottle of
lager beer and a small trayful of arrowroot biscuits. At four o'clock
he was set free. He dined in an eating-house in George's Street
where he felt himself safe from the society o Dublin's gilded youth
and where there was a certain plain honesty in the bill of fare. His
evenings were spent either before his landlady's piano or roaming
about the outskirts of the city. His liking for Mozart's music
brought him sometimes to an opera or a concert: these were the
only dissipations of his life. 

He had neither companions nor friends, church nor creed. He lived
his spiritual life without any communion with others, visiting his
relatives at Christmas and escorting them to the cemetery when
they died. He performed these two social duties for old dignity's
sake but conceded nothing further to the conventions which
regulate the civic life. He allowed himself to think that in certain
circumstances he would rob his hank but, as these circumstances
never arose, his life rolled out evenly -- an adventureless tale. 

One evening he found himself sitting beside two ladies in the
Rotunda. The house, thinly peopled and silent, gave distressing
prophecy of failure. The lady who sat next him looked round at the
deserted house once or twice and then said: 

"What a pity there is such a poor house tonight! It's so hard on
people to have to sing to empty benches." 

He took the remark as an invitation to talk. He was surprised that
she seemed so little awkward. While they talked he tried to fix her
permanently in his memory. When he learned that the young girl
beside her was her daughter he judged her to be a year or so
younger than himself. Her face, which must have been handsome,
had remained intelligent. It was an oval face with strongly marked
features. The eyes were very dark blue and steady. Their gaze
began with a defiant note but was confused by what seemed a
deliberate swoon of the pupil into the iris, revealing for an instant
a temperament of great sensibility. The pupil reasserted itself
quickly, this half- disclosed nature fell again under the reign of
prudence, and her astrakhan jacket, moulding a bosom of a certain
fullness, struck the note of defiance more definitely. 

He met her again a few weeks afterwards at a concert in Earlsfort
Terrace and seized the moments when her daughter's attention was
diverted to become intimate. She alluded once or twice to her
husband but her tone was not such as to make the allusion a
warning. Her name was Mrs. Sinico. Her husband's
great-great-grandfather had come from Leghorn. Her husband was
captain of a mercantile boat plying between Dublin and Holland;
and they had one child. 

Meeting her a third time by accident he found courage to make an
appointment. She came. This was the first of many meetings; they
met always in the evening and chose the most quiet quarters for
their walks together. Mr. Duffy, however, had a distaste for
underhand ways and, finding that they were compelled to meet
stealthily, he forced her to ask him to her house. Captain Sinico
encouraged his visits, thinking that his daughter's hand was in
question. He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery
of pleasures that he did not suspect that anyone else would take an
interest in her. As the husband was often away and the daughter
out giving music lessons Mr. Duffy had many opportunities of
enjoying the lady's society. Neither he nor she had had any such
adventure before and neither was conscious of any incongruity.
Little by little he entangled his thoughts with hers. He lent her
books, provided her with ideas, shared his intellectual life with
her. She listened to all. 

Sometimes in return for his theories she gave out some fact of her
own life. With almost maternal solicitude she urged him to let his
nature open to the full: she became his confessor. He told her that
for some time he had assisted at the meetings of an Irish Socialist
Party where he had felt himself a unique figure amidst a score of
sober workmen in a garret lit by an inefficient oil-lamp. When the
party had divided into three sections, each under its own leader
and in its own garret, he had discontinued his attendances. The
workmen's discussions, he said, were too timorous; the interest
they took in the question of wages was inordinate. He felt that they
were hard-featured realists and that they resented an exactitude
which was the produce of a leisure not within their reach. No
social revolution, he told her, would be likely to strike Dublin for
some centuries. 

She asked him why did he not write out his thoughts. For what, he
asked her, with careful scorn. To compete with phrasemongers,
incapable of thinking consecutively for sixty seconds? To submit
himself to the criticisms of an obtuse middle class which entrusted
its morality to policemen and its fine arts to impresarios? 

He went often to her little cottage outside Dublin; often they spent
their evenings alone. Little by little, as their thoughts entangled,
they spoke of subjects less remote. Her companionship was like a
warm soil about an exotic. Many times she allowed the dark to fall
upon them, refraining from lighting the lamp. The dark discreet
room, their isolation, the music that still vibrated in their ears
united them. This union exalted him, wore away the rough edges
of his character, emotionalised his mental life. Sometimes he
caught himself listening to the sound of his own voice. He thought
that in her eyes he would ascend to an angelical stature; and, as he
attached the fervent nature of his companion more and more
closely to him, he heard the strange impersonal voice which he
recognised as his own, insisting on the soul's incurable loneliness.
We cannot give ourselves, it said: we are our own. The end of
these discourses was that one night during which she had shown
every sign of unusual excitement, Mrs. Sinico caught up his hand
passionately and pressed it to her cheek. 

Mr. Duffy was very much surprised. Her interpretation of his
words disillusioned him. He did not visit her for a week, then he
wrote to her asking her to meet him. As he did not wish their last
interview to be troubled by the influence of their ruined
confessional they meet in a little cakeshop near the Parkgate. It
was cold autumn weather but in spite of the cold they wandered up
and down the roads of the Park for nearly three hours. They agreed
to break off their intercourse: every bond, he said, is a bond to
sorrow. When they came out of the Park they walked in silence
towards the tram; but here she began to tremble so violently that,
fearing another collapse on her part, he bade her good-bye quickly
and left her. A few days later he received a parcel containing his
books and music. 

Four years passed. Mr. Duffy returned to his even way of life. His
room still bore witness of the orderliness of his mind. Some new
pieces of music encumbered the music-stand in the lower room
and on his shelves stood two volumes by Nietzsche: Thus Spake
Zarathustra and The Gay Science. He wrote seldom in the sheaf of
papers which lay in his desk. One of his sentences, written two
months after his last interview with Mrs. Sinico, read: Love
between man and man is impossible because there must not be
sexual intercourse and friendship between man and woman is
impossible because there must be sexual intercourse. He kept away
from concerts lest he should meet her. His father died; the junior
partner of the bank retired. And still every morning he went into
the city by tram and every evening walked home from the city after
having dined moderately in George's Street and read the evening
paper for dessert. 

One evening as he was about to put a morsel of corned beef and
cabbage into his mouth his hand stopped. His eyes fixed
themselves on a paragraph in the evening paper which he had
propped against the water-carafe. He replaced the morsel of food
on his plate and read the paragraph attentively. Then he drank a
glass of water, pushed his plate to one side, doubled the paper
down before him between his elbows and read the paragraph over
and over again. The cabbage began to deposit a cold white grease
on his plate. The girl came over to him to ask was his dinner not
properly cooked. He said it was very good and ate a few mouthfuls
of it with difficulty. Then he paid his bill and went out. 

He walked along quickly through the November twilight, his stout
hazel stick striking the ground regularly, the fringe of the buff Mail
peeping out of a side-pocket of his tight reefer overcoat. On the
lonely road which leads from the Parkgate to Chapelizod he
slackened his pace. His stick struck the ground less emphatically
and his breath, issuing irregularly, almost with a sighing sound,
condensed in the wintry air. When he reached his house he went
up at once to his bedroom and, taking the paper from his pocket,
read the paragraph again by the failing light of the window. He
read it not aloud, but moving his lips as a priest does when he
reads the prayers Secreto. This was the paragraph:


               DEATH OF A LADY AT SYDNEY PARADE
                       A PAINFUL CASE


Today at the City of Dublin Hospital the Deputy Coroner (in the
absence of Mr. Leverett) held an inquest on the body of Mrs.
Emily Sinico, aged forty-three years, who was killed at Sydney
Parade Station yesterday evening. The evidence showed that the
deceased lady, while attempting to cross the line, was knocked
down by the engine of the ten o'clock slow train from Kingstown,
thereby sustaining injuries of the head and right side which led to
her death. 

James Lennon, driver of the engine, stated that he had been in the

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