List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

"O Bob! Bob! What am I to do? What am I to do at all?" 

She would put an end to herself, she said. 

He comforted her feebly, telling her not to cry, that it would be all
right, never fear. He felt against his shirt the agitation of her

It was not altogether his fault that it had happened. He
remembered well, with the curious patient memory of the celibate,
the first casual caresses her dress, her breath, her fingers had given
him. Then late one night as he was undressing for she had tapped
at his door, timidly. She wanted to relight her candle at his for hers
had been blown out by a gust. It was her bath night. She wore a
loose open combing- jacket of printed flannel. Her white instep
shone in the opening of her furry slippers and the blood glowed
warmly behind her perfumed skin. From her hands and wrists too
as she lit and steadied her candle a faint perfume arose. 

On nights when he came in very late it was she who warmed up his
dinner. He scarcely knew what he was eating feeling her beside
him alone, at night, in the sleeping house. And her thoughtfulness!
If the night was anyway cold or wet or windy there was sure to be
a little tumbler of punch ready for him. Perhaps they could be
happy together.... 

They used to go upstairs together on tiptoe, each with a candle,
and on the third landing exchange reluctant goodnights. They used
to kiss. He remembered well her eyes, the touch of her hand and
his delirium.... 

But delirium passes. He echoed her phrase, applying it to himself:
"What am I to do?" The instinct of the celibate warned him to hold
back. But the sin was there; even his sense of honour told him that
reparation must be made for such a sin. 

While he was sitting with her on the side of the bed Mary came to
the door and said that the missus wanted to see him in the parlour.
He stood up to put on his coat and waistcoat, more helpless than
ever. When he was dressed he went over to her to comfort her. It
would be all right, never fear. He left her crying on the bed and
moaning softly: "O my God!" 

Going down the stairs his glasses became so dimmed with
moisture that he had to take them off and polish them. He longed
to ascend through the roof and fly away to another country where
he would never hear again of his trouble, and yet a force pushed
him downstairs step by step. The implacable faces of his employer
and of the Madam stared upon his discomfiture. On the last flight
of stairs he passed Jack Mooney who was coming up from the
pantry nursing two bottles of Bass. They saluted coldly; and the
lover's eyes rested for a second or two on a thick bulldog face and
a pair of thick short arms. When he reached the foot of the
staircase he glanced up and saw Jack regarding him from the door
of the return-room. 

Suddenly he remembered the night when one of the musichall
artistes, a little blond Londoner, had made a rather free allusion to
Polly. The reunion had been almost broken up on account of Jack's
violence. Everyone tried to quiet him. The music-hall artiste, a
little paler than usual, kept smiling and saying that there was no
harm meant: but Jack kept shouting at him that if any fellow tried
that sort of a game on with his sister he'd bloody well put his teeth
down his throat, so he would. 

Polly sat for a little time on the side of the bed, crying. Then she
dried her eyes and went over to the looking-glass. She dipped the
end of the towel in the water-jug and refreshed her eyes with the
cool water. She looked at herself in profile and readjusted a
hairpin above her ear. Then she went back to the bed again and sat
at the foot. She regarded the pillows for a long time and the sight
of them awakened in her mind secret, amiable memories. She
rested the nape of her neck against the cool iron bed-rail and fell
into a reverie. There was no longer any perturbation visible on her

She waited on patiently, almost cheerfully, without alarm. her
memories gradually giving place to hopes and visions of the
future. Her hopes and visions were so intricate that she no longer
saw the white pillows on which her gaze was fixed or remembered
that she was waiting for anything. 

At last she heard her mother calling. She started to her feet and ran
to the banisters. 

"Polly! Polly!" 

"Yes, mamma?" 

"Come down, dear. Mr. Doran wants to speak to you." 

Then she remembered what she had been waiting for. 


EIGHT years before he had seen his friend off at the North Wall
and wished him godspeed. Gallaher had got on. You could tell that
at once by his travelled air, his well-cut tweed suit, and fearless
accent. Few fellows had talents like his and fewer still could
remain unspoiled by such success. Gallaher's heart was in the right
place and he had deserved to win. It was something to have a
friend like that. 

Little Chandler's thoughts ever since lunch-time had been of his
meeting with Gallaher, of Gallaher's invitation and of the great city
London where Gallaher lived. He was called Little Chandler
because, though he was but slightly under the average stature, he
gave one the idea of being a little man. His hands were white and
small, his frame was fragile, his voice was quiet and his manners
were refined. He took the greatest care of his fair silken hair and
moustache and used perfume discreetly on his handkerchief. The
half-moons of his nails were perfect and when he smiled you
caught a glimpse of a row of childish white teeth. 

As he sat at his desk in the King's Inns he thought what changes
those eight years had brought. The friend whom he had known
under a shabby and necessitous guise had become a brilliant figure
on the London Press. He turned often from his tiresome writing to
gaze out of the office window. The glow of a late autumn sunset
covered the grass plots and walks. It cast a shower of kindly
golden dust on the untidy nurses and decrepit old men who
drowsed on the benches; it flickered upon all the moving figures --
on the children who ran screaming along the gravel paths and on
everyone who passed through the gardens. He watched the scene
and thought of life; and (as always happened when he thought of
life) he became sad. A gentle melancholy took possession of him.
He felt how useless it was to struggle against fortune, this being
the burden of wisdom which the ages had bequeathed to him. 

He remembered the books of poetry upon his shelves at home. He
had bought them in his bachelor days and many an evening, as he
sat in the little room off the hall, he had been tempted to take one
down from the bookshelf and read out something to his wife. But
shyness had always held him back; and so the books had remained
on their shelves. At times he repeated lines to himself and this
consoled him. 

When his hour had struck he stood up and took leave of his desk
and of his fellow-clerks punctiliously. He emerged from under the
feudal arch of the King's Inns, a neat modest figure, and walked
swiftly down Henrietta Street. The golden sunset was waning and
the air had grown sharp. A horde of grimy children populated the
street. They stood or ran in the roadway or crawled up the steps
before the gaping doors or squatted like mice upon the thresholds.
Little Chandler gave them no thought. He picked his way deftly
through all that minute vermin-like life and under the shadow of
the gaunt spectral mansions in which the old nobility of Dublin
had roystered. No memory of the past touched him, for his mind
was full of a present joy. 

He had never been in Corless's but he knew the value of the name.
He knew that people went there after the theatre to eat oysters and
drink liqueurs; and he had heard that the waiters there spoke
French and German. Walking swiftly by at night he had seen cabs
drawn up before the door and richly dressed ladies, escorted by
cavaliers, alight and enter quickly. They wore noisy dresses and
many wraps. Their faces were powdered and they caught up their
dresses, when they touched earth, like alarmed Atalantas. He had
always passed without turning his head to look. It was his habit to
walk swiftly in the street even by day and whenever he found
himself in the city late at night he hurried on his way
apprehensively and excitedly. Sometimes, however, he courted the
causes of his fear. He chose the darkest and narrowest streets and,
as he walked boldly forward, the silence that was spread about his
footsteps troubled him, the wandering, silent figures troubled him;
and at times a sound of low fugitive laughter made him tremble
like a leaf. 

He turned to the right towards Capel Street. Ignatius Gallaher on
the London Press! Who would have thought it possible eight years
before? Still, now that he reviewed the past, Little Chandler could
remember many signs of future greatness in his friend. People used
to say that Ignatius Gallaher was wild Of course, he did mix with a
rakish set of fellows at that time. drank freely and borrowed
money on all sides. In the end he had got mixed up in some shady
affair, some money transaction: at least, that was one version of his
flight. But nobody denied him talent. There was always a certain...
something in Ignatius Gallaher that impressed you in spite of
yourself. Even when he was out at elbows and at his wits' end for
money he kept up a bold face. Little Chandler remembered (and
the remembrance brought a slight flush of pride to his cheek) one
of Ignatius Gallaher's sayings when he was in a tight corner: 

"Half time now, boys," he used to say light-heartedly. "Where's my
considering cap?" 

That was Ignatius Gallaher all out; and, damn it, you couldn't but
admire him for it. 

Little Chandler quickened his pace. For the first time in his life he
felt himself superior to the people he passed. For the first time his
soul revolted against the dull inelegance of Capel Street. There
was no doubt about it: if you wanted to succeed you had to go
away. You could do nothing in Dublin. As he crossed Grattan
Bridge he looked down the river towards the lower quays and
pitied the poor stunted houses. They seemed to him a band of

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: