List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
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"You're not to put the weight of your body behind it. Play fair," he

"Who's not playing fair?" said the other. 

"Come on again. The two best out of three." 

The trial began again. The veins stood out on Farrington's
forehead, and the pallor of Weathers' complexion changed to
peony. Their hands and arms trembled under the stress. After a
long struggle Weathers again brought his opponent's hand slowly
on to the table. There was a murmur of applause from the
spectators. The curate, who was standing beside the table, nodded
his red head towards the victor and said with stupid familiarity: 

"Ah! that's the knack!" 

"What the hell do you know about it?" said Farrington fiercely,
turning on the man. "What do you put in your gab for?" 

"Sh, sh!" said O'Halloran, observing the violent expression of
Farrington's face. "Pony up, boys. We'll have just one little smahan
more and then we'll be off." 

A very sullen-faced man stood at the corner of O'Connell Bridge
waiting for the little Sandymount tram to take him home. He was
full of smouldering anger and revengefulness. He felt humiliated
and discontented; he did not even feel drunk; and he had only
twopence in his pocket. He cursed everything. He had done for
himself in the office, pawned his watch, spent all his money; and
he had not even got drunk. He began to feel thirsty again and he
longed to be back again in the hot reeking public-house. He had
lost his reputation as a strong man, having been defeated twice by
a mere boy. His heart swelled with fury and, when he thought of
the woman in the big hat who had brushed against him and said
Pardon! his fury nearly choked him. 

His tram let him down at Shelbourne Road and he steered his great
body along in the shadow of the wall of the barracks. He loathed
returning to his home. When he went in by the side- door he found
the kitchen empty and the kitchen fire nearly out. He bawled

"Ada! Ada!" 

His wife was a little sharp-faced woman who bullied her husband
when he was sober and was bullied by him when he was drunk.
They had five children. A little boy came running down the stairs. 

"Who is that?" said the man, peering through the darkness. 

"Me, pa." 

"Who are you? Charlie?" 

"No, pa. Tom." 

"Where's your mother?" 

"She's out at the chapel." 

"That's right.... Did she think of leaving any dinner for me?" 

"Yes, pa. I --" 

"Light the lamp. What do you mean by having the place in
darkness? Are the other children in bed?" 

The man sat down heavily on one of the chairs while the little boy
lit the lamp. He began to mimic his son's flat accent, saying half to
himself: "At the chapel. At the chapel, if you please!" When the
lamp was lit he banged his fist on the table and shouted: 

"What's for my dinner?" 

"I'm going... to cook it, pa," said the little boy. 

The man jumped up furiously and pointed to the fire. 

"On that fire! You let the fire out! By God, I'll teach you to do that

He took a step to the door and seized the walking-stick which was
standing behind it. 

"I'll teach you to let the fire out!" he said, rolling up his sleeve in
order to give his arm free play. 

The little boy cried "O, pa!" and ran whimpering round the table,
but the man followed him and caught him by the coat. The little
boy looked about him wildly but, seeing no way of escape, fell
upon his knees. 

"Now, you'll let the fire out the next time!" said the man striking at
him vigorously with the stick. "Take that, you little whelp!" 

The boy uttered a squeal of pain as the stick cut his thigh. He
clasped his hands together in the air and his voice shook with

"O, pa!" he cried. "Don't beat me, pa! And I'll... I'll say a Hail Mary
for you.... I'll say a Hail Mary for you, pa, if you don't beat me....
I'll say a Hail Mary...." 


THE matron had given her leave to go out as soon as the women's
tea was over and Maria looked forward to her evening out. The
kitchen was spick and span: the cook said you could see yourself
in the big copper boilers. The fire was nice and bright and on one
of the side-tables were four very big barmbracks. These
barmbracks seemed uncut; but if you went closer you would see
that they had been cut into long thick even slices and were ready to
be handed round at tea. Maria had cut them herself. 

Maria was a very, very small person indeed but she had a very long
nose and a very long chin. She talked a little through her nose,
always soothingly: "Yes, my dear," and "No, my dear." She was
always sent for when the women quarrelled Over their tubs and
always succeeded in making peace. One day the matron had said to

"Maria, you are a veritable peace-maker!" 

And the sub-matron and two of the Board ladies had heard the
compliment. And Ginger Mooney was always saying what she
wouldn't do to the dummy who had charge of the irons if it wasn't
for Maria. Everyone was so fond of Maria. 

The women would have their tea at six o'clock and she would be
able to get away before seven. From Ballsbridge to the Pillar,
twenty minutes; from the Pillar to Drumcondra, twenty minutes;
and twenty minutes to buy the things. She would be there before
eight. She took out her purse with the silver clasps and read again
the words A Present from Belfast. She was very fond of that purse
because Joe had brought it to her five years before when he and
Alphy had gone to Belfast on a Whit-Monday trip. In the purse
were two half-crowns and some coppers. She would have five
shillings clear after paying tram fare. What a nice evening they
would have, all the children singing! Only she hoped that Joe
wouldn't come in drunk. He was so different when he took any

Often he had wanted her to go and live with them;-but she would
have felt herself in the way (though Joe's wife was ever so nice
with her) and she had become accustomed to the life of the
laundry. Joe was a good fellow. She had nursed him and Alphy
too; and Joe used often say: 

"Mamma is mamma but Maria is my proper mother." 

After the break-up at home the boys had got her that position in the
Dublin by Lamplight laundry, and she liked it. She used to have
such a bad opinion of Protestants but now she thought they were
very nice people, a little quiet and serious, but still very nice
people to live with. Then she had her plants in the conservatory
and she liked looking after them. She had lovely ferns and
wax-plants and, whenever anyone came to visit her, she always
gave the visitor one or two slips from her conservatory. There was
one thing she didn't like and that was the tracts on the walks; but
the matron was such a nice person to deal with, so genteel. 

When the cook told her everything was ready she went into the
women's room and began to pull the big bell. In a few minutes the
women began to come in by twos and threes, wiping their
steaming hands in their petticoats and pulling down the sleeves of
their blouses over their red steaming arms. They settled down
before their huge mugs which the cook and the dummy filled up
with hot tea, already mixed with milk and sugar in huge tin cans.
Maria superintended the distribution of the barmbrack and saw
that every woman got her four slices. There was a great deal of
laughing and joking during the meal. Lizzie Fleming said Maria
was sure to get the ring and, though Fleming had said that for so
many Hallow Eves, Maria had to laugh and say she didn't want any
ring or man either; and when she laughed her grey-green eyes
sparkled with disappointed shyness and the tip of her nose nearly
met the tip of her chin. Then Ginger Mooney lifted her mug of tea
and proposed Maria's health while all the other women clattered
with their mugs on the table, and said she was sorry she hadn't a
sup of porter to drink it in. And Maria laughed again till the tip of
her nose nearly met the tip of her chin and till her minute body
nearly shook itself asunder because she knew that Mooney meant
well though, of course, she had the notions of a common woman. 

But wasn't Maria glad when the women had finished their tea and
the cook and the dummy had begun to clear away the tea- things!
She went into her little bedroom and, remembering that the next
morning was a mass morning, changed the hand of the alarm from
seven to six. Then she took off her working skirt and her
house-boots and laid her best skirt out on the bed and her tiny
dress-boots beside the foot of the bed. She changed her blouse too
and, as she stood before the mirror, she thought of how she used to
dress for mass on Sunday morning when she was a young girl; and
she looked with quaint affection at the diminutive body which she
had so often adorned, In spite of its years she found it a nice tidy
little body. 

When she got outside the streets were shining with rain and she
was glad of her old brown waterproof. The tram was full and she
had to sit on the little stool at the end of the car, facing all the
people, with her toes barely touching the floor. She arranged in her
mind all she was going to do and thought how much better it was
to be independent and to have your own money in your pocket.
She hoped they would have a nice evening. She was sure they
would but she could not help thinking what a pity it was Alphy and
Joe were not speaking. They were always falling out now but when
they were boys together they used to be the best of friends: but
such was life. 

She got out of her tram at the Pillar and ferreted her way quickly
among the crowds. She went into Downes's cake-shop but the shop
was so full of people that it was a long time before she could get
herself attended to. She bought a dozen of mixed penny cakes, and
at last came out of the shop laden with a big bag. Then she thought
what else would she buy: she wanted to buy something really nice.
They would be sure to have plenty of apples and nuts. It was hard
to know what to buy and all she could think of was cake. She
decided to buy some plumcake but Downes's plumcake had not
enough almond icing on top of it so she went over to a shop in

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