List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
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trodden down all to one side. The fancy came to me that the old
priest was smiling as he lay there in his coffin. 

But no. When we rose and went up to the head of the bed I saw
that he was not smiling. There he lay, solemn and copious, vested
as for the altar, his large hands loosely retaining a chalice. His face
was very truculent, grey and massive, with black cavernous
nostrils and circled by a scanty white fur. There was a heavy odour
in the room -- the flowers. 

We crossed ourselves and came away. In the little room downstairs
we found Eliza seated in his arm-chair in state. I groped my way
towards my usual chair in the corner while Nannie went to the
sideboard and brought out a decanter of sherry and some
wine-glasses. She set these on the table and invited us to take a
little glass of wine. Then, at her sister's bidding, she filled out the
sherry into the glasses and passed them to us. She pressed me to
take some cream crackers also but I declined because I thought I
would make too much noise eating them. She seemed to be
somewhat disappointed at my refusal and went over quietly to the
sofa where she sat down behind her sister. No one spoke: we all
gazed at the empty fireplace. 

My aunt waited until Eliza sighed and then said: 

"Ah, well, he's gone to a better world." 

Eliza sighed again and bowed her head in assent. My aunt fingered
the stem of her wine-glass before sipping a little. 

"Did he... peacefully?" she asked. 

"Oh, quite peacefully, ma'am," said Eliza. "You couldn't tell when
the breath went out of him. He had a beautiful death, God be

"And everything...?" 

"Father O'Rourke was in with him a Tuesday and anointed him and
prepared him and all." 

"He knew then?" 

"He was quite resigned." 

"He looks quite resigned," said my aunt. 

"That's what the woman we had in to wash him said. She said he
just looked as if he was asleep, he looked that peaceful and
resigned. No one would think he'd make such a beautiful corpse." 

"Yes, indeed," said my aunt. 

She sipped a little more from her glass and said: 

"Well, Miss Flynn, at any rate it must be a great comfort for you to
know that you did all you could for him. You were both very kind
to him, I must say." 

Eliza smoothed her dress over her knees. 

"Ah, poor James!" she said. "God knows we done all we could, as
poor as we are -- we wouldn't see him want anything while he was
in it." 

Nannie had leaned her head against the sofa-pillow and seemed
about to fall asleep. 

"There's poor Nannie," said Eliza, looking at her, "she's wore out.
All the work we had, she and me, getting in the woman to wash
him and then laying him out and then the coffin and then arranging
about the Mass in the chapel. Only for Father O'Rourke I don't
know what we'd done at all. It was him brought us all them flowers
and them two candlesticks out of the chapel and wrote out the
notice for the Freeman's General and took charge of all the papers
for the cemetery and poor James's insurance." 

"Wasn't that good of him?" said my aunt 

Eliza closed her eyes and shook her head slowly. 

"Ah, there's no friends like the old friends," she said, "when all is
said and done, no friends that a body can trust." 

"Indeed, that's true," said my aunt. "And I'm sure now that he's
gone to his eternal reward he won't forget you and all your
kindness to him." 

"Ah, poor James!" said Eliza. "He was no great trouble to us. You
wouldn't hear him in the house any more than now. Still, I know
he's gone and all to that...." 

"It's when it's all over that you'll miss him," said my aunt. 

"I know that," said Eliza. "I won't be bringing him in his cup of
beef-tea any me, nor you, ma'am, sending him his snuff. Ah, poor

She stopped, as if she were communing with the past and then said

"Mind you, I noticed there was something queer coming over him
latterly. Whenever I'd bring in his soup to him there I'd find him
with his breviary fallen to the floor, lying back in the chair and his
mouth open." 

She laid a finger against her nose and frowned: then she continued: 

"But still and all he kept on saying that before the summer was
over he'd go out for a drive one fine day just to see the old house
again where we were all born down in Irishtown and take me and
Nannie with him. If we could only get one of them new-fangled
carriages that makes no noise that Father O'Rourke told him about,
them with the rheumatic wheels, for the day cheap -- he said, at
Johnny Rush's over the way there and drive out the three of us
together of a Sunday evening. He had his mind set on that.... Poor

"The Lord have mercy on his soul!" said my aunt. 

Eliza took out her handkerchief and wiped her eyes with it. Then
she put it back again in her pocket and gazed into the empty grate
for some time without speaking. 

"He was too scrupulous always," she said. "The duties of the
priesthood was too much for him. And then his life was, you night
say, crossed." 

"Yes," said my aunt. "He was a disappointed man. You could see

A silence took possession of the little room and, under cover of it,
I approached the table and tasted my sherry and then returned
quietly to my chair in the comer. Eliza seemed to have fallen into a
deep revery. We waited respectfully for her to break the silence:
and after a long pause she said slowly: 

"It was that chalice he broke.... That was the beginning of it. Of
course, they say it was all right, that it contained nothing, I mean.
But still.... They say it was the boy's fault. But poor James was so
nervous, God be merciful to him!" 

"And was that it?" said my aunt. "I heard something...." 

Eliza nodded. 

"That affected his mind," she said. "After that he began to mope by
himself, talking to no one and wandering about by himself. So one
night he was wanted for to go on a call and they couldn't find him
anywhere. They looked high up and low down; and still they
couldn't see a sight of him anywhere. So then the clerk suggested
to try the chapel. So then they got the keys and opened the chapel
and the clerk and Father O'Rourke and another priest that was
there brought in a light for to look for him.... And what do you
think but there he was, sitting up by himself in the dark in his
confession-box, wide- awake and laughing-like softly to himself?" 

She stopped suddenly as if to listen. I too listened; but there was
no sound in the house: and I knew that the old priest was lying still
in his coffin as we had seen him, solemn and truculent in death, an
idle chalice on his breast. 

Eliza resumed: 

"Wide-awake and laughing-like to himself.... So then, of course,
when they saw that, that made them think that there was something
gone wrong with him...." 


IT WAS Joe Dillon who introduced the Wild West to us. He had a
little library made up of old numbers of The Union Jack , Pluck
and The Halfpenny Marvel . Every evening after school we met in
his back garden and arranged Indian battles. He and his fat young
brother Leo, the idler, held the loft of the stable while we tried to
carry it by storm; or we fought a pitched battle on the grass. But,
however well we fought, we never won siege or battle and all our
bouts ended with Joe Dillon's war dance of victory. His parents
went to eight- o'clock mass every morning in Gardiner Street and
the peaceful odour of Mrs. Dillon was prevalent in the hall of the
house. But he played too fiercely for us who were younger and
more timid. He looked like some kind of an Indian when he
capered round the garden, an old tea-cosy on his head, beating a
tin with his fist and yelling: 

"Ya! yaka, yaka, yaka!" 

Everyone was incredulous when it was reported that he had a
vocation for the priesthood. Nevertheless it was true. 

A spirit of unruliness diffused itself among us and, under its
influence, differences of culture and constitution were waived. We
banded ourselves together, some boldly, some in jest and some
almost in fear: and of the number of these latter, the reluctant
Indians who were afraid to seem studious or lacking in robustness,
I was one. The adventures related in the literature of the Wild
West were remote from my nature but, at least, they opened doors
of escape. I liked better some American detective stories which
were traversed from time to time by unkempt fierce and beautiful
girls. Though there was nothing wrong in these stories and though
their intention was sometimes literary they were circulated secretly
at school. One day when Father Butler was hearing the four pages
of Roman History clumsy Leo Dillon was discovered with a copy
of The Halfpenny Marvel . 

"This page or this page? This page Now, Dillon, up! 'Hardly had
the day' ... Go on! What day? 'Hardly had the day dawned' ... Have
you studied it? What have you there in your pocket?" 

Everyone's heart palpitated as Leo Dillon handed up the paper and
everyone assumed an innocent face. Father Butler turned over the
pages, frowning. 

"What is this rubbish?" he said. "The Apache Chief! Is this what
you read instead of studying your Roman History? Let me not find
any more of this wretched stuff in this college. The man who wrote
it, I suppose, was some wretched fellow who writes these things
for a drink. I'm surprised at boys like you, educated, reading such
stuff. I could understand it if you were ... National School boys.
Now, Dillon, I advise you strongly, get at your work or..." 

This rebuke during the sober hours of school paled much of the
glory of the Wild West for me and the confused puffy face of Leo
Dillon awakened one of my consciences. But when the restraining
influence of the school was at a distance I began to hunger again
for wild sensations, for the escape which those chronicles of
disorder alone seemed to offer me. The mimic warfare of the
evening became at last as wearisome to me as the routine of school
in the morning because I wanted real adventures to happen to
myself. But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people

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