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List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
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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
to him. 

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
again: 

"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
be Smith." 

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: 

"Murphy!" 

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
little. 

ARABY 

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

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