List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
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"Such a sight! O, he'll do for himself one day and that's the holy
alls of it. He's been drinking since Friday." 

Mr. Power was careful to explain to her that he was not
responsible, that he had come on the scene by the merest accident.
Mrs. Kernan, remembering Mr. Power's good offices during
domestic quarrels, as well as many small, but opportune loans,

"O, you needn't tell me that, Mr. Power. I know you're a friend of
his, not like some of the others he does be with. They're all right so
long as he has money in his pocket to keep him out from his wife
and family. Nice friends! Who was he with tonight, I'd like to

Mr. Power shook his head but said nothing. 

"I'm so sorry," she continued, "that I've nothing in the house to
offer you. But if you wait a minute I'll send round to Fogarty's, at
the corner." 

Mr. Power stood up. 

"We were waiting for him to come home with the money. He
never seems to think he has a home at all." 

"O, now, Mrs. Kernan," said Mr. Power, "we'll make him turn over
a new leaf. I'll talk to Martin. He's the man. We'll come here one of
these nights and talk it over." 

She saw him to the door. The carman was stamping up and down
the footpath, and swinging his arms to warm himself. 

"It's very kind of you to bring him home," she said. 

"Not at all," said Mr. Power. 

He got up on the car. As it drove off he raised his hat to her gaily. 

"We'll make a new man of him," he said. "Good-night, Mrs.

Mrs. Kernan's puzzled eyes watched the car till it was out of sight.
Then she withdrew them, went into the house and emptied her
husband's pockets. 

She was an active, practical woman of middle age. Not long before
she had celebrated her silver wedding and renewed her intimacy
with her husband by waltzing with him to Mr. Power's
accompaniment. In her days of courtship, Mr. Kernan had seemed
to her a not ungallant figure: and she still hurried to the chapel
door whenever a wedding was reported and, seeing the bridal pair,
recalled with vivid pleasure how she had passed out of the Star of
the Sea Church in Sandymount, leaning on the arm of a jovial
well-fed man, who was dressed smartly in a frock-coat and
lavender trousers and carried a silk hat gracefully balanced upon
his other arm. After three weeks she had found a wife's life
irksome and, later on, when she was beginning to find it
unbearable, she had become a mother. The part of mother
presented to her no insuperable difficulties and for twenty-five
years she had kept house shrewdly for her husband. Her two eldest
sons were launched. One was in a draper's shop in Glasgow and
the other was clerk to a tea- merchant in Belfast. They were good
sons, wrote regularly and sometimes sent home money. The other
children were still at school. 

Mr. Kernan sent a letter to his office next day and remained in bed.
She made beef-tea for him and scolded him roundly. She accepted
his frequent intemperance as part of the climate, healed him
dutifully whenever he was sick and always tried to make him eat a
breakfast. There were worse husbands. He had never been violent
since the boys had grown up, and she knew that he would walk to
the end of Thomas Street and back again to book even a small

Two nights after, his friends came to see him. She brought them up
to his bedroom, the air of which was impregnated with a personal
odour, and gave them chairs at the fire. Mr. Kernan's tongue, the
occasional stinging pain of which had made him somewhat
irritable during the day, became more polite. He sat propped up in
the bed by pillows and the little colour in his puffy cheeks made
them resemble warm cinders. He apologised to his guests for the
disorder of the room, but at the same time looked at them a little
proudly, with a veteran's pride. 

He was quite unconscious that he was the victim of a plot which
his friends, Mr. Cunningham, Mr. M'Coy and Mr. Power had
disclosed to Mrs. Kernan in the parlour. The idea been Mr.
Power's, but its development was entrusted to Mr. Cunningham.
Mr. Kernan came of Protestant stock and, though he had been
converted to the Catholic faith at the time of his marriage, he had
not been in the pale of the Church for twenty years. He was fond,
moreover, of giving side-thrusts at Catholicism. 

Mr. Cunningham was the very man for such a case. He was an
elder colleague of Mr. Power. His own domestic life was very
happy. People had great sympathy with him, for it was known that
he had married an unpresentable woman who was an incurable
drunkard. He had set up house for her six times; and each time she
had pawned the furniture on him. 

Everyone had respect for poor Martin Cunningham. He was a
thoroughly sensible man, influential and intelligent. His blade of
human knowledge, natural astuteness particularised by long
association with cases in the police courts, had been tempered by
brief immersions in the waters of general philosophy. He was well
informed. His friends bowed to his opinions and considered that
his face was like Shakespeare's. 

When the plot had been disclosed to her, Mrs. Kernan had said: 

"I leave it all in your hands, Mr. Cunningham." 

After a quarter of a century of married life, she had very few
illusions left. Religion for her was a habit, and she suspected that a
man of her husband's age would not change greatly before death.
She was tempted to see a curious appropriateness in his accident
and, but that she did not wish to seem bloody-minded, would have
told the gentlemen that Mr. Kernan's tongue would not suffer by
being shortened. However, Mr. Cunningham was a capable man;
and religion was religion. The scheme might do good and, at least,
it could do no harm. Her beliefs were not extravagant. She
believed steadily in the Sacred Heart as the most generally useful
of all Catholic devotions and approved of the sacraments. Her faith
was bounded by her kitchen, but, if she was put to it, she could
believe also in the banshee and in the Holy Ghost. 

The gentlemen began to talk of the accident. Mr. Cunningham said
that he had once known a similar case. A man of seventy had
bitten off a piece of his tongue during an epileptic fit and the
tongue had filled in again, so that no one could see a trace of the

"Well, I'm not seventy," said the invalid. 

"God forbid," said Mr. Cunningham. 

"It doesn't pain you now?" asked Mr. M'Coy. 

Mr. M'Coy had been at one time a tenor of some reputation. His
wife, who had been a soprano, still taught young children to play
the piano at low terms. His line of life had not been the shortest
distance between two points and for short periods he had been
driven to live by his wits. He had been a clerk in the Midland
Railway, a canvasser for advertisements for The Irish Times and
for The Freeman's Journal, a town traveller for a coal firm on
commission, a private inquiry agent, a clerk in the office of the
Sub-Sheriff, and he had recently become secretary to the City
Coroner. His new office made him professionally interested in Mr.
Kernan's case. 

"Pain? Not much," answered Mr. Kernan. "But it's so sickening. I
feel as if I wanted to retch off." 

"That's the boose," said Mr. Cunningham firmly. 

"No," said Mr. Kernan. "I think I caught cold on the car. There's
something keeps coming into my throat, phlegm or----" 

"Mucus." said Mr. M'Coy. 

"It keeps coming like from down in my throat; sickening." 

"Yes, yes," said Mr. M'Coy, "that's the thorax." 

He looked at Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Power at the same time
with an air of challenge. Mr. Cunningham nodded his head rapidly
and Mr. Power said: 

"Ah, well, all's well that ends well." 

"I'm very much obliged to you, old man," said the invalid. 

Mr. Power waved his hand. 

"Those other two fellows I was with----" 

"Who were you with?" asked Mr. Cunningham. 

"A chap. I don't know his name. Damn it now, what's his name?
Little chap with sandy hair...." 

"And who else?" 


"Hm," said Mr. Cunningham. 

When Mr. Cunningham made that remark, people were silent. It
was known that the speaker had secret sources of information. In
this case the monosyllable had a moral intention. Mr. Harford
sometimes formed one of a little detachment which left the city
shortly after noon on Sunday with the purpose of arriving as soon
as possible at some public-house on the outskirts of the city where
its members duly qualified themselves as bona fide travellers. But
his fellow-travellers had never consented to overlook his origin.
He had begun life as an obscure financier by lending small sums of
money to workmen at usurious interest. Later on he had become
the partner of a very fat, short gentleman, Mr. Goldberg, in the
Liffey Loan Bank. Though he had never embraced more than the
Jewish ethical code, his fellow-Catholics, whenever they had
smarted in person or by proxy under his exactions, spoke of him
bitterly as an Irish Jew and an illiterate, and saw divine
disapproval of usury made manifest through the person of his idiot
son. At other times they remembered his good points. 

"I wonder where did he go to," said Mr. Kernan. 

He wished the details of the incident to remain vague. He wished
his friends to think there had been some mistake, that Mr. Harford
and he had missed each other. His friends, who knew quite well
Mr. Harford's manners in drinking were silent. Mr. Power said

"All's well that ends well." 

Mr. Kernan changed the subject at once. 

"That was a decent young chap, that medical fellow," he said.
"Only for him----" 

"O, only for him," said Mr. Power, "it might have been a case of
seven days, without the option of a fine." 

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Kernan, trying to remember. "I remember now
there was a policeman. Decent young fellow, he seemed. How did
it happen at all?" 

"It happened that you were peloothered, Tom," said Mr.
Cunningham gravely. 

"True bill," said Mr. Kernan, equally gravely. 

"I suppose you squared the constable, Jack," said Mr. M'Coy. 

Mr. Power did not relish the use of his Christian name. He was not

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