داﺳﺘﺎن ﻛﻮﺗﺎه ) 7داﺳﺘﺎن از 9داﺳﺘﺎن(
رﺷﺘﻪ زﺑﺎن و ادﺑﻴﺎت اﻧﮕﻠﻴﺴﻲ
داﻧﺸﻜﺪه ادﺑﻴﺎت و زﺑﺎﻧﻬﺎي ﺧﺎرﺟﻪ
The Library of Babel, by Jorge Luis Borges (1941)
By this art you may contemplate the variations of the 23 letters...
The Anatomy of Melancholy, part 2, sect. II, mem. IV
The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and
perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between,
surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see,
interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is
invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except
two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that
of a normal bookcase. One of the free sides leads to a narrow hallway which
opens onto another gallery, identical to the first and to all the rest. To the left and
right of the hallway there are two very small closets. In the first, one may sleep
standing up; in the other, satisfy one's fecal necessities. Also through here
passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upwards to remote
distances. In the hallway there is a mirror which faithfully duplicates all
appearances. Men usually infer from this mirror that the Library is not infinite (if it
were, why this illusory duplication?); I prefer to dream that its polished surfaces
represent and promise the infinite ... Light is provided by some spherical fruit
which bear the name of lamps. There are two, transversally placed, in each
hexagon. The light they emit is insufficient, incessant.
Like all men of the Library, I have traveled in my youth; I have wandered in
search of a book, perhaps the catalogue of catalogues; now that my eyes can
hardly decipher what I write, I am preparing to die just a few leagues from the
hexagon in which I was born. Once I am dead, there will be no lack of pious
hands to throw me over the railing; my grave will be the fathomless air; my body
will sink endlessly and decay and dissolve in the wind generated by the fall,
which is infinite. I say that the Library is unending. The idealists argue that the
hexagonal rooms are a necessary form of absolute space or, at least, of our
intuition of space. They reason that a triangular or pentagonal room is
inconceivable. (The mystics claim that their ecstasy reveals to them a circular
chamber containing a great circular book, whose spine is continuous and which
follows the complete circle of the walls; but their testimony is suspect; their
words, obscure. This cyclical book is God.) Let it suffice now for me to repeat the
classic dictum: The Library is a sphere whose exact center is any one of its
hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible.
There are five shelves for each of the hexagon's walls; each shelf contains
thirty-five books of uniform format; each book is of four hundred and ten pages;
each page, of forty lines, each line, of some eighty letters which are black in
color. There are also letters on the spine of each book; these letters do not
indicate or prefigure what the pages will say. I know that this incoherence at one
time seemed mysterious. Before summarizing the solution (whose discovery, in
spite of its tragic projections, is perhaps the capital fact in history) I wish to recall
a few axioms.
First: The Library exists ab aeterno. This truth, whose immediate corollary is
the future eternity of the world, cannot be placed in doubt by any reasonable
mind. Man, the imperfect librarian, may be the product of chance or of malevolent
demiurgi; the universe, with its elegant endowment of shelves, of enigmatical
volumes, of inexhaustible stairways for the traveler and latrines for the seated
librarian, can only be the work of a god. To perceive the distance between the
divine and the human, it is enough to compare these crude wavering symbols
which my fallible hand scrawls on the cover of a book, with the organic letters
inside: punctual, delicate, perfectly black, inimitably symmetrical.
Second: The orthographical symbols are twenty-five in number.1 This finding
made it possible, three hundred years ago, to formulate a general theory of the
Library and solve satisfactorily the problem which no conjecture had deciphered:
the formless and chaotic nature of almost all the books. One which my father saw
in a hexagon on circuit fifteen ninety-four was made up of the letters MCV,
perversely repeated from the first line to the last. Another (very much consulted
in this area) is a mere labyrinth of letters, but the next-to-last page says Oh time
thy pyramids. This much is already known: for every sensible line of
straightforward statement, there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal
jumbles and incoherences. (I know of an uncouth region whose librarians
repudiate the vain and superstitious custom of finding a meaning in books and
equate it with that of finding a meaning in dreams or in the chaotic lines of one's
palm ... They admit that the inventors of this writing imitated the twenty-five
natural symbols, but maintain that this application is accidental and that the
books signify nothing in themselves. This dictum, we shall see, is not entirely
For a long time it was believed that these impenetrable books corresponded
to past or remote languages. It is true that the most ancient men, the first
librarians, used a language quite different from the one we now speak; it is true
that a few miles to the right the tongue is dialectical and that ninety floors farther
up, it is incomprehensible. All this, I repeat, is true, but four hundred and ten
pages of inalterable MCV's cannot correspond to any language, no matter how
dialectical or rudimentary it may be. Some insinuated that each letter could
influence the following one and that the value of MCV in the third line of page 71
was not the one the same series may have in another position on another page,
but this vague thesis did not prevail. Others thought of cryptographs; generally,
this conjecture has been accepted, though not in the sense in which it was
formulated by its originators.
Five hundred years ago, the chief of an upper hexagon2 came upon a book
as confusing as the others, but which had nearly two pages of homogeneous
lines. He showed his find to a wandering decoder who told him the lines were
written in Portuguese; others said they were Yiddish. Within a century, the
language was established: a Samoyedic Lithuanian dialect of Guarani, with
classical Arabian inflections. The content was also deciphered: some notions of
combinative analysis, illustrated with examples of variations with unlimited
repetition. These examples made it possible for a librarian of genius to discover
the fundamental law of the Library. This thinker observed that all the books, no
matter how diverse they might be, are made up of the same elements: the space,
the period, the comma, the twenty-two letters of the alphabet. He also alleged a
fact which travelers have confirmed: In the vast Library there are no two identical
books. From these two incontrovertible premises he deduced that the Library is
total and that its shelves register all the possible combinations of the twenty-odd
orthographical symbols (a number which, though extremely vast, is not infinite):
Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels'
autobiographies, the faithful catalogues of the Library, thousands and thousands
of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the
demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of
Basilides, the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary
on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all
languages, the interpolations of every book in all books.
When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first
impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the
masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world
problem whose eloquent solution did not exist in some hexagon. The universe
was justified, the universe suddenly usurped the unlimited dimensions of hope.
At that time a great deal was said about the Vindications: books of apology and
prophecy which vindicated for all time the acts of every man in the universe and
retained prodigious arcana for his future. Thousands of the greedy abandoned
their sweet native hexagons and rushed up the stairways, urged on by the vain
intention of finding their Vindication. These pilgrims disputed in the narrow
corridors, proferred dark curses, strangled each other on the divine stairways,
flung the deceptive books into the air shafts, met their death cast down in a
similar fashion by the inhabitants of remote regions. Others went mad ... The
Vindications exist (I have seen two which refer to persons of the future, to
persons who are perhaps not imaginary) but the searchers did not remember that
the possibility of a man's finding his Vindication, or some treacherous variation
thereof, can be computed as zero.
At that time it was also hoped that a clarification of humanity's basic
mysteries -- the origin of the Library and of time -- might be found. It is verisimilar
that these grave mysteries could be explained in words: if the language of
philosophers is not sufficient, the multiform Library will have produced the
unprecedented language required, with its vocabularies and grammars. For four
centuries now men have exhausted the hexagons ... There are official searchers,
inquisitors. I have seen them in the performance of their function: they always
arrive extremely tired from their journeys; they speak of a broken stairway which
almost killed them; they talk with the librarian of galleries and stairs; sometimes
they pick up the nearest volume and leaf through it, looking for infamous words.
Obviously, no one expects to discover anything.
As was natural, this inordinate hope was followed by an excessive
depression. The certitude that some shelf in some hexagon held precious books
and that these precious books were inaccessible, seemed almost intolerable. A
blasphemous sect suggested that the searches should cease and that all men
should juggle letters and symbols until they constructed, by an improbable gift of
chance, these canonical books. The authorities were obliged to issue severe
orders. The sect disappeared, but in my childhood I have seen old men who, for
long periods of time, would hide in the latrines with some metal disks in a
forbidden dice cup and feebly mimic the divine disorder.
Others, inversely, believed that it was fundamental to eliminate useless
works. They invaded the hexagons, showed credentials which were not always
false, leafed through a volume with displeasure and condemned whole shelves:
their hygienic, ascetic furor caused the senseless perdition of millions of books.
Their name is execrated, but those who deplore the ``treasures'' destroyed by
this frenzy neglect two notable facts. One: the Library is so enormous that any
reduction of human origin is infinitesimal. The other: every copy is unique,
irreplaceable, but (since the Library is total) there are always several hundred
thousand imperfect facsimiles: works which differ only in a letter or a comma.
Counter to general opinion, I venture to suppose that the consequences of the
Purifiers' depredations have been exaggerated by the horror these fanatics
produced. They were urged on by the delirium of trying to reach the books in the
Crimson Hexagon: books whose format is smaller than usual, all-powerful,
illustrated and magical.
We also know of another superstition of that time: that of the Man of the
Book. On some shelf in some hexagon (men reasoned) there must exist a book
which is the formula and perfect compendium of all the rest: some librarian has
gone through it and he is analogous to a god. In the language of this zone
vestiges of this remote functionary's cult still persist. Many wandered in search of
Him. For a century they have exhausted in vain the most varied areas. How
could one locate the venerated and secret hexagon which housed Him?
Someone proposed a regressive method: To locate book A, consult first book B
which indicates A's position; to locate book B, consult first a book C, and so on to
infinity ... In adventures such as these, I have squandered and wasted my years.
It does not seem unlikely to me that there is a total book on some shelf of the
universe3; I pray to the unknown gods that a man -- just one, even though it were
thousands of years ago! -- may have examined and read it. If honor and wisdom
and happiness are not for me, let them be for others. Let heaven exist, though
my place be in hell. Let me be outraged and annihilated, but for one instant, in
one being, let Your enormous Library be justified. The impious maintain that
nonsense is normal in the Library and that the reasonable (and even humble and
pure coherence) is an almost miraculous exception. They speak (I know) of the
``feverish Library whose chance volumes are constantly in danger of changing
into others and affirm, negate and confuse everything like a delirious divinity.''
These words, which not only denounce the disorder but exemplify it as well,
notoriously prove their authors' abominable taste and desperate ignorance. In
truth, the Library includes all verbal structures, all variations permitted by the
twenty-five orthographical symbols, but not a single example of absolute
nonsense. It is useless to observe that the best volume of the many hexagons
under my administration is entitled The Combed Thunderclap and another The
Plaster Cramp and another Axaxaxas mlö. These phrases, at first glance
incoherent, can no doubt be justified in a cryptographical or allegorical manner;
such a justification is verbal and, ex hypothesi, already figures in the Library. I
cannot combine some characters
which the divine Library has not foreseen and which in one of its secret
tongues do not contain a terrible meaning. No one can articulate a syllable which
is not filled with tenderness and fear, which is not, in one of these languages, the
powerful name of a god. To speak is to fall into tautology. This wordy and
useless epistle already exists in one of the thirty volumes of the five shelves of
one of the innumerable hexagons -- and its refutation as well. (An n number of
possible languages use the same vocabulary; in some of them, the symbol
library allows the correct definition a ubiquitous and lasting system of hexagonal
galleries, but library is bread or pyramid or anything else, and these seven words
which define it have another value. You who read me, are You sure of
understanding my language?)
The methodical task of writing distracts me from the present state of men.
The certitude that everything has been written negates us or turns us into
phantoms. I know of districts in which the young men prostrate themselves
before books and kiss their pages in a barbarous manner, but they do not know
how to decipher a single letter. Epidemics, heretical conflicts, peregrinations
which inevitably degenerate into banditry, have decimated the population. I
believe I have mentioned suicides, more and more frequent with the years.
Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human
species -- the unique species -- is about to be extinguished, but the Library will
endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious
volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.
I have just written the word “infinite”.' I have not interpolated this adjective out
of rhetorical habit; I say that it is not illogical to think that the world is infinite.
Those who judge it to be limited postulate that in remote places the corridors and
stairways and hexagons can conceivably come to an end -- which is absurd.
Those who imagine it to be without limit forget that the possible number of books
does have such a limit. I venture to suggest this solution to the ancient problem:
The Library is unlimited and cyclical. If an eternal traveler were to cross it in any
direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in
the same disorder (which, thus repeated, would be an order: the Order). My
solitude is gladdened by this elegant hope4.
Translated by J. E. I.
The original manuscript does not contain digits or capital letters. The punctuation has been
limited to the comma and the period. These two signs, the space and the twenty-two letters of the
alphabet are the twenty-five symbols considered sufficient by this unknown author. (Editor's
Before, there was a man for every three hexagons. Suicide and pulmonary diseases have
destroyed that proportion. A memory of unspeakable melancholy: at times I have traveled for
many nights through corridors and along polished stairways without finding a single librarian.
I repeat: it suffices that a book be possible for it to exist. Only the impossible is excluded. For
example: no book can be a ladder, although no doubt there are books which discuss and negate
and demonstrate this possibility and others whose structure corresponds to that of a ladder.
Letizia Álvarez de Toledo has observed that this vast Library is useless: rigorously speaking, a
single volume would be sufficient, a volume of ordinary format, printed in nine or ten point type,
containing an infinite number if infinitely thin leaves. (In the early seventeenth century, Cavalieri
said that all solid bodies are the superimposition of an infinite number of planes.) The handling of
this silky vade mecum would not be convenient: each apparent page would unfold into other
analogous ones; the inconceivable middle page would have no reverse.
The Cask of Amontillado
Poe, Edgar Allan
Categorie(s): Fiction, Horror, Short Stories
Edgar Allan Poe was an American poet, short story writer, playwright,
editor, critic, essayist and one of the leaders of the American Romantic
Movement. Best known for his tales of the macabre and mystery, Poe
was one of the early American practitioners of the short story and a progenitor of detective fiction and crime fiction. He is also credited with
contributing to the emergent science fiction genre.Poe died at the age of
40. The cause of his death is undetermined and has been attributed to alcohol, drugs, cholera, rabies, suicide (although likely to be mistaken with
his suicide attempt in the previous year), tuberculosis, heart disease,
brain congestion and other agents. Source: Wikipedia
Also available on Feedbooks for Poe:
• The Tell-Tale Heart (1843)
• The Raven (1845)
• The Fall of the House of Usher (1839)
• The Pit and the Pendulum (1842)
• The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841)
• Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840)
• The Masque of the Red Death (1842)
• The Black Cat (1842)
• The Purloined Letter (1844)
• A Descent into the Maelström (1841)
Note: This book is brought to you by Feedbooks
Strictly for personal use, do not use this file for commercial purposes.
The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when
he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the
nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a
threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled
—but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the
idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong
is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who
has done the wrong.
It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my in to smile
in his face, and he did not perceive that my to smile now was at the
thought of his immolation.
He had a weak point —this Fortunato —although in other regards he
was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his
connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For
the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In
painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but
in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ
from him materially; —I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and
bought largely whenever I could.
It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the
carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley.
He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I
thought I should never have done wringing his hand.
I said to him —"My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day. But I have received a pipe of what
passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts."
"How?" said he. "Amontillado, A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle
of the carnival!"
"I have my doubts," I replied; "and I was silly enough to pay the full
Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to
be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain."
"I have my doubts."
"And I must satisfy them."
"As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a
critical turn it is he. He will tell me —"
"Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry."
"And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.
"Come, let us go."
"To your vaults."
"My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive
you have an engagement. Luchresi—"
"I have no engagement; —come."
"My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with
which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp.
They are encrusted with nitre."
"Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You
have been imposed upon. And as for Luchresi, he cannot distinguish
Sherry from Amontillado."
Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm; and putting
on a mask of black silk and drawing a roquelaire closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.
There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry
in honour of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the
morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house.
These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.
I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato,
bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway that led into
the vaults. I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting him
to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood together upon the damp ground of the catacombs of the
The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingled
as he strode.
"The pipe," he said.
"It is farther on," said I; "but observe the white web-work which
gleams from these cavern walls."
He turned towards me, and looked into my eves with two filmy orbs
that distilled the rheum of intoxication.
"Nitre?" he asked, at length.
"Nitre," I replied. "How long have you had that cough?"
"Ugh! ugh! ugh! —ugh! ugh! ugh! —ugh! ugh! ugh! —ugh! ugh! ugh!
—ugh! ugh! ugh!"
My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.
"It is nothing," he said, at last.
"Come," I said, with decision, "we will go back; your health is precious.
You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was.
You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you
will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchresi —"
"Enough," he said; "the cough's a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I
shall not die of a cough."
"True —true," I replied; "and, indeed, I had no intention of alarming
you unnecessarily —but you should use all proper caution. A draught of
this Medoc will defend us from the damps.
Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from a long row
of its fellows that lay upon the mould.
"Drink," I said, presenting him the wine. He raised it to his lips with a
leer. He paused and nodded to me familiarly, while his bells jingled.
"I drink," he said, "to the buried that repose around us."
"And I to your long life."
He again took my arm, and we proceeded.
"These vaults," he said, "are extensive."
"The Montresors," I replied, "were a great and numerous family."
"I forget your arms."
"A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent
rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel."
"And the motto?"
"Nemo me impune lacessit."
"Good!" he said.
The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. My own fancy
grew warm with the Medoc. We had passed through long walls of piled
skeletons, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs. I paused again, and this time I made bold to
seize Fortunato by an arm above the elbow.
"The nitre!" I said; "see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults.
We are below the river's bed. The drops of moisture trickle among the
bones. Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Your cough —"
"It is nothing," he said; "let us go on. But first, another draught of the
I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grave. He emptied it at a
breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light. He laughed and threw the
bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand.
I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement —a grotesque
"You do not comprehend?" he said.
"Not I," I replied.
"Then you are not of the brotherhood."
"You are not of the masons."
"Yes, yes," I said; "yes, yes."
"You? Impossible! A mason?"
"A mason," I replied.
"A sign," he said, "a sign."
"It is this," I answered, producing from beneath the folds of my
roquelaire a trowel.
"You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. "But let us proceed to
"Be it so," I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak and again offering him my arm. He leaned upon it heavily. We continued our route in
search of the Amontillado. We passed through a range of low arches,
descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in
which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than
At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious. Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault
overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of
this interior crypt were still ornamented in this manner. From the fourth
side the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon the
earth, forming at one point a mound of some size. Within the wall thus
exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still interior crypt
or recess, in depth about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven.
It seemed to have been constructed for no especial use within itself, but
formed merely the interval between two of the colossal supports of the
roof of the catacombs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing
walls of solid granite.
It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavoured to
pry into the depth of the recess. Its termination the feeble light did not
enable us to see.
"Proceed," I said; "herein is the Amontillado. As for Luchresi —"
"He is an ignoramus," interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily
forward, while I followed immediately at his heels. In niche, and finding
an instant he had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment more
and I had fettered him to the granite. In its surface were two iron staples,
distant from each other about two feet, horizontally. From one of these
depended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throwing the links
about his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds to secure it. He was
too much astounded to resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back from
"Pass your hand," I said, "over the wall; you cannot help feeling the
nitre. Indeed, it is very damp. Once more let me implore you to return.
No? Then I must positively leave you. But I must first render you all the
little attentions in my power."
"The Amontillado!" ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his
"True," I replied; "the Amontillado."
As I said these words I busied myself among the pile of bones of
which I have before spoken. Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a
quantity of building stone and mortar. With these materials and with the
aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of the niche.
I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered that
the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the
recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a long and
obstinate silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and
then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labours and sat down upon the bones. When at last
the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel, and finished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh tier. The wall was now nearly
upon a level with my breast. I again paused, and holding the flambeaux
over the mason-work, threw a few feeble rays upon the figure within.
A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the
throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back. For a
brief moment I hesitated, I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier, I began to
grope with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant reassured
me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs, and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall; I replied to the yells of him who
clamoured. I re-echoed, I aided, I surpassed them in volume and in
strength. I did this, and the clamourer grew still.
It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth and the tenth tier. I had finished a portion of
the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted
and plastered in. I struggled with its weight; I placed it partially in its
destined position. But now there came from out the niche a low laugh
that erected the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded by a sad voice,
which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of the noble Fortunato. The
"Ha! ha! ha! —he! he! he! —a very good joke, indeed —an excellent
jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo —he! he! he!
—over our wine —he! he! he!"
"The Amontillado!" I said.
"He! he! he! —he! he! he! —yes, the Amontillado. But is it not getting
late? Will not they be awaiting us at the palazzo, the Lady Fortunato and
the rest? Let us be gone."
"Yes," I said, "let us be gone."
"For the love of God, Montresor!"
"Yes," I said, "for the love of God!"
But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew impatient. I
called aloud —
No answer. I called again —
No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and let
it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My
heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. I
hastened to make an end of my labour. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In
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Food for the mind
Table of Contents
This page copyright © 2001 Blackmask Online.
ALTHOUGH it was so brilliantly finethe blue sky powdered with gold and great spots of light like white wine
splashed over the Jardins PubliquesMiss Brill was glad that she had decided on her fur. The air was motionless,
but when you opened your mouth there was just a faint chill, like a chill from a glass of iced water before you sip,
and now and again a leaf came driftingfrom nowhere, from the sky. Miss Brill put up her hand and touched her
fur. Dear little thing! It was nice to feel it again. She had taken it out of its box that afternoon, shaken out the moth
powder, given it a good brush, and rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes. "What has been happening to
me?" said the sad little eyes. Oh, how sweet it was to see them snap at her again from the red eiderdown! . . . But
the nose, which was of some black composition, wasn't at all firm. It must have had a knock, somehow. Never
minda little dab of black sealing−wax when the time camewhen it was absolutely necessary . . . Little rogue!
Yes, she really felt like that about it. Little rogue biting its tail just by her left ear. She could have taken it off and
laid it on her lap and stroked it. She felt a tingling in her hands and arms, but that came from walking, she
supposed. And when she breathed, something light and sadno, not sad, exactlysomething gentle seemed to
move in her bosom.
There were a number of people out this afternoon, far more than last Sunday. And the band sounded louder and
gayer. That was because the Season had begun. For although the band played all the year round on Sundays, out
of season it was never the same. It was like some one playing with only the family to listen; it didn't care how it
played if there weren't any strangers present. Wasn't the conductor wearing a new coat, too? She was sure it was
new. He scraped with his foot and flapped his arms like a rooster about to crow, and the bandsmen sitting in the
green rotunda blew out their cheeks and glared at the music. Now there came a little "flutey" bitvery pretty!a
little chain of bright drops. She was sure it would be repeated. It was; she lifted her head and smiled.
Only two people shared her "special" seat: a fine old man in a velvet coat, his hands clasped over a huge carved
walking−stick, and a big old woman, sitting upright, with a roll of knitting on her embroidered apron. They did
not speak. This was disappointing, for Miss Brill always looked forward to the conversation. She had become
really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn't listen, at sitting in other people's lives just for a
minute while they talked round her.
She glanced, sideways, at the old couple. Perhaps they would go soon. Last Sunday, too, hadn't been as interesting
as usual. An Englishman and his wife, he wearing a dreadful Panama hat and she button boots. And she'd gone on
the whole time about how she ought to wear spectacles; she knew she needed them; but that it was no good
getting any; they'd be sure to break and they'd never keep on. And he'd been so patient. He'd suggested
everythinggold rims, the kind that curve round your ears, little pads inside the bridge. No, nothing would please
her. "They'll always be sliding down my nose!" Miss Brill had wanted to shake her.
The old people sat on a bench, still as statues. Never mind, there was always the crowd to watch. To and fro, in
front of the flower beds and the band rotunda, the couples and groups paraded, stopped to talk, to greet, to buy a
handful of flowers from the old beggar who had his tray fixed to the railings. Little children ran among them,
swooping and laughing; little boys with big white silk bows under their chins, little girls, little French dolls,
dressed up in velvet and lace. And sometimes a tiny staggerer came suddenly rocking into the open from under
the trees, stopped, stared, as suddenly sat down "flop," until its small high−stepping mother, like a young hen,
rushed scolding to its rescue. Other people sat on the benches and green chairs, but they were nearly always the
same, Sunday after Sunday, andMiss Brill had often noticedthere was something funny about nearly all of
them. They were odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they'd just come
from dark little rooms or eveneven cupboards!
Behind the rotunda the slender trees with yellow leaves down drooping, and through them just a line of sea, and
beyond the blue sky with gold−veined clouds.
Tum−tum−tum tiddle−um! tiddle−um! tum tiddley−um tum ta! blew the band.
Two young girls in red came by and two young soldiers in blue met them, and they laughed and paired and went
off arm−in−arm. Two peasant women with funny straw hats passed, gravely, leading beautiful smoke−coloured
donkeys. A cold, pale nun hurried by. A beautiful woman came along and dropped her bunch of violets, and a
little boy ran after to hand them to her, and she took them and threw them away as if they'd been poisoned. Dear
me! Miss Brill didn't know whether to admire that or not! And now an ermine toque and a gentleman in gray met
just in front of her. He was tall, stiff, dignified, and she was wearing the ermine toque she'd bought when her hair
was yellow. Now everything, her hair, her face, even her eyes, was the same colour as the shabby ermine, and her
hand, in its cleaned glove, lifted to dab her lips, was a tiny yellowish paw. Oh, she was so pleased to see
himdelighted! She rather thought they were going to meet that afternoon. She described where she'd
beeneverywhere, here, there, along by the sea. The day was so charmingdidn't he agree? And wouldn't he,
perhaps? . . . But he shook his head, lighted a cigarette, slowly breathed a great deep puff into her face, and even
while she was still talking and laughing, flicked the match away and walked on. The ermine toque was alone; she
smiled more brightly than ever. But even the band seemed to know what she was feeling and played more softly,
played tenderly, and the drum beat, "The Brute! The Brute!" over and over. What would she do? What was going
to happen now? But as Miss Brill wondered, the ermine toque turned, raised her hand as though she'd seen
someone else, much nicer, just over there, and pattered away. And the band changed again and played more
quickly, more gayly than ever, and the old couple on Miss Brill's seat got up and marched away, and such a funny
old man with long whiskers hobbled along in time to the music and was nearly knocked over by four girls
Oh, how fascinating it was! How she enjoyed it! How she loved sitting here, watching it all! It was like a play. It
was exactly like a play. Who could believe the sky at the back wasn't painted? But it wasn't till a little brown dog
trotted on solemn and then slowly trotted off, like a little "theatre" dog, a little dog that had been drugged, that
Miss Brill discovered what it was that made it so exciting. They were all on stage. They weren't only the
audience, not only looking on; they were acting. Even she had a part and came every Sunday. No doubt somebody
would have noticed if she hadn't been there; she was part of the performance after all. How strange she'd never
thought of it like that before! And yet it explained why she made such point of starting from home at just the same
time each weekso as not to be late for the performanceand it also explained why she had a queer, shy feeling at
telling her English pupils how she spent her Sunday afternoons. No wonder! Miss Brill nearly laughed out loud.
She was on the stage. She thought of the old invalid gentleman to whom she read the newspaper four afternoons a
week while he slept in the garden. She had got quite used to the frail head on the cotton pillow, the hollowed eyes,
the open mouth and the high pinched nose. If he'd been dead she mightn't have noticed for weeks; she wouldn't
have minded. But suddenly he knew he was having the paper read to him by an actress! "An actress!" The old
head lifted; two points of light quivered in the old eyes. "An actressare ye?" And Miss Brill smoothed the
newspaper as though it were the manuscript of her part and said gently; "Yes, I have been an actress for a long
The band had been having a rest. Now they started again. And what they played was warm, sunny, yet there was
just a faint chilla something, what was it?not sadnessno, not sadnessa something that made you want to
sing. The tune lifted, lifted, the light shone; and it seemed to Miss Brill that in another moment all of them, all the
whole company, would begin singing. The young ones, the laughing ones who were moving together, they would
begin and the men's voices, very resolute and brave, would join them. And then she too, she too, and the others on
the benchesthey would come in with a kind of accompanimentsomething low, that scarcely rose or fell,
something so beautifulmoving. . . . And Miss Brill's eyes filled with tears and she looked smiling at all the other
members of the company. Yes, we understand, we understand, she thoughtthough what they understood she
Just at that moment a boy and girl came and sat down where the old couple had been. They were beautifully
dressed; they were in love. The hero and heroine, of course, just arrived from his father's yacht. And still
soundlessly singing, still with that trembling smile, Miss Brill prepared to listen.
"No, not now," said the girl. "Not here, I can't."
"But why? Because of that stupid old thing at the end there?" asked the boy. "Why does she come here at allwho
wants her? Why doesn't she keep her silly old mug at home?"
"It's her fu−ur which is so funny," giggled the girl. "It's exactly like a fried whiting."
"Ah, be off with you!" said the boy in an angry whisper. Then: "Tell me, ma petite chère"
"No, not here," said the girl. "Not yet."
On her way home she usually bought a slice of honeycake at the baker's. It was her Sunday treat. Sometimes there
was an almond in her slice, sometimes not. It made a great difference. If there was an almond it was like carrying
home a tiny presenta surprisesomething that might very well not have been there. She hurried on the almond
Sundays and struck the match for the kettle in quite a dashing way.
But to−day she passed the baker's by, climbed the stairs, went into the little dark roomher room like a
cupboardand sat down on the red eiderdown. She sat there for a long time. The box that the fur came out of was
on the bed. She unclasped the necklet quickly; quickly, without looking, laid it inside. But when she put the lid on
she thought she heard something crying.
The Guest by Albert Camus. Translated by Justin O'Brien. 1 The schoolmaster was watching the two men climb toward him. One was on horseback, the other on foot. They had not yet tackled the abrupt rise leading to the schoolhouse built on the hillside. They were toiling onward, making slow progress in the snow, among the stones, on the vast expanse oft he high, deserted plateau. From time to time the horse stumbled. Without hearing anything yet, he could see the breath issuing from the horses nostrils. One of the men, at least, knew the region. They were following the trail although it had disappeared days ago under a layer of dirty white snow. The schoolmaster calculated that it would take them half an hour to get onto the hill. It was cold; he went back into the school to get a sweater. 2 He crossed the empty, frigid classroom. On the blackboard the four rivers of France, 1 drawn with four different colored chalks, had been flowing toward their estuaries for the past three days. Snow had suddenly fallen in mid‐October after eight months of drought without the transition of rain, and the twenty pupils, more or less, who lived in the villages scattered over the plateau had stopped coming. With fair weather they would return. Daru now heated only the single room that was lodging, adjoining the classroom and giving also onto the plateau to the east. Like the class cows, his window looked to the south too. On that side the school was a few kilometers from the point where the plateau began to slope toward the south. In clear weather could be seen the purple mass of the mountain range where the gap opened onto the desert. 2 Somewhat warmed, Daru returned to the window from which he had first seen the two men. They were no longer visible. Hence they must have tackled the rise. The sky was not so dark, for the snow had stopped falling during the night. The morning had opened with a dirty light which had scarcely become brighter as the ceiling of clouds lifted. At two in the after‐ noon 42
it seemed as if the day were merely beginning. But still this was better than those three days when the thick snow was falling amidst unbroken darkness with little gusts of wind that rattled the double door of the class‐ room. Then Daru had spent long hours in his room, leaving it only to go to the shed and feed the chickens or get some coal. Fortunately the delivery truck from Tadjid, the nearest village to the north, had brought his supplies two days before the blizzard. It would return in forty‐eight hours. 3 Besides, he had enough to resist a siege, for the little room was cluttered with bags of wheat that the administration left as a stock to distribute to those of his pupils whose families had suffered from the drought. Actually they had all been victims because they were all poor. Every day Daru would distribute a ration to the children. They had missed it, he knew, during these bad days. Possibly one of the fathers would come this afternoon and he could supply them with grain. It was just a matter of carrying them over to the next harvest. Now shiploads of wheat were arriving from France and the worst was over. But it would be hard to forget that poverty, that army of ragged ghosts wandering in the sunlight, the plateaus burned to a cinder month after month, the earth shriveled up little by little, literally scorched, every stone bursting into dust under one's foot. The sheep had died then by thousands and even a few men, here and there, sometimes without anyone's knowing. 4 In contrast with such poverty, he who lived almost like a monk in his remote schoolhouse, nonetheless satisfied with the little he had and with the rough life, had felt like a lord with his whitewashed walls, his narrow couch, his unpainted shelves, his well, and his weekly provision of water and food. And suddenly this snow, without warning, without the foretaste of rain. This is the way the region was, cruel to live in, even without men‐‐who didn't help matters either. But Daru had been born here Everywhere else, he felt exiled. 5 43
He stepped out onto the terrace in front of the schoolhouse. The two men were now halfway up the slope. He recognized the horseman as Balducci the old gendarme he had known for a long time. Balducci was holding on the end of a rope an Arab who was walking behind him with hands bound and head lowered. The gendarme waved a greeting to which Daru did not reply, lost as he was in contemplation of the Arab dressed in a faded blue jellaba, 2 his feet in sandals but covered with socks of heavy raw wool, his head surmounted by a narrow, short cheche. They were approaching. Balducci was holding back his horse in order not to hurt the Arab, and the group was advancing slowly. 6 Within earshot, Balducci shouted: "One hour to do the three kilometers from El Ameur!" Daru did not answer. Short and square in his thick sweater he watched them climb. Not once had the Arab raised his head. "Hello," said Daru when they got up onto the terrace. "Come in and warm up." Balducci painfully got down from his horse without letting go the rope. From under his bristling mustache he smiled at the schoolmaster. His little dark eyes, deep‐set under a tanned forehead, and his mouth surrounded with wrinkles made him look attentive and studious. Daru took the bridle ]led the horse to the shed, and came back to the two men, who were now waiting for him in the school. He led them into his room "I am going to heat up the classroom," he said. "We'll be more comfortable there." When he entered the room again, Balducci was on the couch. He had undone the rope tying him to the Arab, who had squashed near the stove. His hands still bound, the cheche pushed back on his head, he was looking toward the window. At first Daru noticed only his huge lips, fat, smooth, almost Negroid; yet his nose was straight, his eyes were dark and full of fever. The cheche revealed an obstinate forehead and, under the weathered skin now rather discolored by the cold, the whole face had a restless and rebellious look that struck Daru when the Arab, turning his face toward him, looked him straight in the eyes. "Go into the other room," said the schoolmaster' "and I'll make you some mint tea." ''Thanks,'' Balducci said. "what a chore! How I long for retirement." And addressing his prisoner in Arabic: "Come on, you." The Arab got up and, slowly, holding his bound wrists in front of him, went into the classroom. 7 44
With the tea, Daru brought a chair. But Balducci was already enthroned on the nearest pupil's desk and the Arab had squatted against the teacher's platform facing the stove, which stood between the desk and the window. When he held out the glass of tea to the prisoner, Daru hesitated at the sight of his bound hands. "He might perhaps be untied." "Sure," said Balducci. "That was for the trip." He started to get to his feet. But Daru, setting the glass on the floor, had knelt beside the Arab. Without saying anything, the Arab watched him with his feverish eyes. Once his hands were free, he rubbed his swollen wrists against each other, took the glass of tea, and sucked up the burning liquid in swift little sips. 8 "Good," said Daru. "And where are you headed?" Balducci withdrew his mustache from the tea. "Here, Son." "Odd pupils! And you're spending the night?" "No. I'm going back to El Ameur. And you will deliver this fellow to Tinguit. He is expected at police headquarters." Balducci was looking at Daru with a friendly little smile. "What's this story?" asked the schoolmaster. "Are you pulling my leg?" "No, son. Those are the orders." "The orders? I'm not . . ." Daru hesitated, not wanting to hurt the old Corsican. 3 "I mean, that's not my job." "What! What's the meaning of that? In wartime people do all kinds of jobs." "Then I'll wait for the declaration of war!" Balducci nodded. "O. K. But the orders exist and they concern you too. Things are brewing, it appears. There is talk of a forthcoming revolt. We are mobilized,in away. Daru still had his obstinate look. 9 Listen, Son," Balducci said. "I like you and you must understand. There's only a dozen of us at El Ameur to patrol throughout the whole territory of a small department 4 and I must get back in a hurry. I was told to hand this guy over to you and return without delay. He couldn't be kept there. His village was beginning to stir; they wanted to take him back. You must take him to Tinguit tomorrow before the day is over. Twenty kilometers shouldn't 45
faze a husky fellow like you. After that, all will be over. You'll come back to your pupils and your comfortable life." 10 Behind the wall the horse could be heard snorting and pawing the earth. Daru was looking out the window. Decidedly, the weather was clearing and the light was increasing over the snowy plateau. When all the snow had melted, the sun would take over again and once more would burn the fields of stone. For days, still, the unchanging sky would shed its dry light on the solitary expanse where nothing had any connection with man. "After all," he said, turning around toward Balducci, "what did he do?" And, before the gendarme had opened his mouth, he asked: "Does he speak French?" "No, not a word. We had been looking for him for a month, but they were hiding him. He killed his cousin." "Is he against us?" 5 11 "I don't think so. But you can never be sure." "Why did he kill?" "A family squabble, I think one owned the other grain, it seems. It's not all clear. In short, he killed his cousin with a billhook. You know, like a sheep, kreeck!" Balducci made the gesture of drawing a blade across his throat and the Arab, his attention attracted, watched him with a sort of anxiety. Dam felt a sudden wrath against the mall, against all men with their rotten spite, their tireless hates, their blood lust. But the kettle was singing on the stove. He sened Balducci more tea hesitated, then served the Arab again, who, a second time, drank avidly his raised arms made the jellaba fall open and the schoolmastcr saw his thin, muscular chest. "Thanks, kid," Balducci said. "And now, I'm off." He got up and went toward the Arab, taking a small rope from his pocket. "What are you doing?" Daru asked dryly. Balducci, disconcerted, showed him the rope. "Don't bother." The old gendarme hesitated. "It's up to you. Of course, you are armed?" "I have my shotgun." 46
"Where?" "In the trunk." 12 "You ought to have it near your bed." "Why? I have nothing to fear." "You're crazy, son. If there's an uprising, no one is safe, we're all in the same boat." "I'll defend myself. I'll have time to see them coming." Balducci began to laugh, then suddenly the mustache covered the white teeth. "You'll have time? O.K. That's just what I was saying. You have always been a little cracked. That's why I like you, my son was like that." At the same time he took out his revolver and put it on the desk. "Keep it; I don't need two weapons from here to El Ameur." The revolver shone against the black paint of the table. When the gendarme turned toward him, the schoolmastcr caught the smell of leather and horseflesh. "Listen, Balducci," Daru said suddenly, "every bit of this disgusts me, and first of all your fellow here. But I won't hand him over. Fight, yes, if I have to. But not that." The old gendarme stood in front of him and looked at him severely. "You're being a fool," he said slowly. "I don't like it either. You don't get used to putting a rope on a man even after vears of it, and you're even ashamedÑyes, ashamed. But you can't let them have their way." "I won't hand him over," Daru said again. "It's an order, son, and I repeat it." "That's right. Repeat to them what l've said to you: I won't hand him over." 13 Balducci made a visible effort to reflect. He looked at the Arab and at Daru. At last he decided. "No, I won't tell them anything. If you want to drop us, go ahead. I'll not denounce you. I have an order to deliver the prisoner and I'm doing so. And now you'll just sign this paper for me." "There's no need. I'll not deny that you left him with me." "Don't be mean with me. I know you'll tell the truth. You're from 47
hereabouts and you are a man. But you must sign, that's the rule." Daru opened his drawer, took out a little square bottle of purple ink, the red wooden penholder with the "sergeant‐major" pen he used for making models of penmanship, and signed. The gendarme carfully folded the paper and put it into his wallet. Then he moved toward the door. "I'll see you off," Daru said. "No," said Balducci. "There's no use being polite. You insulted me." 14 He looked at the Arab, motionless in the same spot, sniffed peevishly, and turned away toward the door. "Good‐by, son," he said. The door shut behind him. Balducci appeared suddenly outside the window and then disappeared. His footsteps were muffled by the snow. The horse stirred on the other side of the wall and several chickens fluttered in fright. A moment later Balducci reappeared outside the window leading the horse by the bridle. He walked toward the little rise without turning around and disappeared from sight with the horse following him. A big stone could be heard bouncing down. Daru walked back toward the prisoner, who, without stirring, never took his eyes off him. "Wait," the schoolmaster said in Arabic and went toward the bedroom. As he was going through the door, he had a second thought, went to the desk, took the revolver, and stuck it in his pocket. Then, without looking back, he went into his room. 15 For some time he lay on his couch watching the sky gradually close over, listening to the silence. It was this silence that had seemed painful to him during the first days here, after the war. He had requested a post in the little town at the base of the foothills separating the upper platueas from the desert. There, rocky walls, green and black to the north, pink and lavender to the south, marked the frontier of eternal summer. He had been named to a post farther north, on the plateau itself. In the beginning, the solitude and the silence had been hard for him on these wastelands peopled only by stones. Occasionally, furrows suggested cultivation, but they had been dug to uncover a certain kind of stone good for building. The only plowing here 48
was to harvest rocks. Elsewhere a thin layer of soil accumulated in the hollows would be scraped out to enrich palty village gardens. This is the way it was: bare rock covered three quarters of the region. Towns sprang up, flourished, then disappeared; men came by, loved one another or fought bitterly, then died. No one in this desert, neither he nor his guest, mattered. And yet, outside this desert neither or them, Daru knew, could have really lived. 16 When he got up, no noise came from the classroom. He was amazed at the unmixed joy he derived from the mere thought that the Arab might have fled and that he would be alone with no decision to make. But theprisoner was there. He had merely stretched out between the stove and the desk. With eyes open, he was staring at the ceiling. In that position, his thick lips were particularly noticeable, giving him a pouting look. "Come," said Daru. The Arab got up and followed him. In the bedroom, the schoolmaster pointed to a chair near the table under the window. The Arab sat down without taking his eyes off Daru. "Are you hungry?" "Yes," the prisoner said. 17 Daru set the table for two. He took flour and oil, shaped a cake in a frying‐pan, and lighted the litde stove that functioned on bottled gas. While the cake was cooking, he went out to the shed to get cheese, eggs, dates and condensed mflk. When the cake was done he set it on the window sill to cool, heated some condensed milk diluted with water, and beat up the eggs into an omelette. In one of his motions he knocked against the revolver stuck m his right pocket. He set the bowl down, went into the classroom and put the revolver in his desk drawer. When he came back to the room night was falling. He put on the light and served the Arab. "Eat," he said. The Arab took a piece of the cake, lifted it eagerly to his mouth, and stopped short. "And you?" he asked. "After you. I'll eat too." The thick lips opened slightly. The Arab hesitated, then bit into the cake determinedly. The meal over, the Arab looked at the schoolmaster. "Are you the judge?" 49
"No, I'm simply keeping you "Why do you eat "I'm hungry." until tomorrow." with me?" 18 The Arab fell silent. Daru got up and went out. He brought back a folding bed from the shed, set it up between the table and the stove, perpendicular to his own bed. From a large suitcase which, upright in a corner, served as a shelf for papers, he took two blankets and arranged them on the camp bed. Then he stopped, felt useless, and sat down on his bed. There was nothing more to do or to get ready. He had to look at this man. He looked at him, therefore, trying to imagine his face bursting with rage. He couldn't do so. He could see nothing but the dark yet shining eyes and the animal mouth. "Why did you kill him?" he asked in a voice whose hostile tone surprised him. The Arab looked away. "He ran away. I ran after him." He raised his eyes to Daru again and they were full of a sort of woeful interrogation. "Now what will they do to me?" "Are you afraid?" He stiffened, turning his eyes away. "Are you sorry?" The Arab stared at him openmouthed. Obviously he did not understand. Daru's annoyance was growing. At the same time he felt awkward and self‐conscious with his big body wedged between the two beds. "Lie down there," he said impatiently. "That's your bed." 19 The Arab didn't move. He called to Daru: "Tell me!" The schoolmaster looked at him. gendarme coming back tomorrow?" "Is the "I don't know." "Are you coming with us?" "I don't know. Why?" The prisoner got up and stretched out on top of the blankets, his feet toward the window. The light from the electric bulb shone straight into his eyes and he closed them at once. "Why?" Daru repeated, standing beside the bed. 50
The Arab opened his eyes under the blinding light and looked at him, trying not to blink. "Come with us," he said. 20 In the middle of the night, Daru was still not asleep. He had gone to bed after undressing completely; he generally slept naked. But when he suddenly realized that he had nothing on, he hesitated. He felt vulnerable and the temptation came to him to put his clothes back on. Then he shrugged his shoulders; after all, he wasn't a child and, if need be, he could break his adversary in two. From his bed he could observe him, lying on his back, still motionless with his eyes closed under the harsh light. When Daru turned out the light, the darkness seemed to coagulate all of a sudden. Little bv little, the night came back to life in the window where the starless skv was stirring gently. The schoolmaster soon made out the body lying at his feet. The Arab still did not move, but his eyes seemed open. A light wind was prowling around the schoolhouse. Perhaps it would drive away the cIouds and the sin would reappear. 21 During the night the wind increased. The hens fluttered a little and then were silent. The Arab turned over on his side with his back to Daru, who thought he heard him moan. Then he listened for his guest's breathing, become heavier and more regular. He listened to that breath so close to him and mused without being able to go to sleep. In this room where he had been sleeping alone for a year, this presence bothered him. But it bothered him also by imposing on him a sort of brotherhood he knew well but refused to accept in the present circumstances. Men who share the same rooms, soldiers or prisoners, develop a strange alliance as if, having cast off their armor with their clothing, they fraternized every evening, over and above their differences, in the ancient community of dream and fatigue. But Daru shook himself; he didn't like such musings, and it was essential to sleep. 22 A little later, however, when the Arab stirred slightly, the schoolmaster was still not asleep. When the prisoner made a 51
second move, he stiffened, on the alert. The Arab was lifting himself slowly on his arms with almost the motion of a sleepwalker. Seated upright in bed, he waited motionless without turning his head toward Daru, as if he were listening attentively. Daru did not stir; it had just occurred to him that the revolver was still in the drawer of his desk. It was better to act at once. Yet he continued to observe the prisoner, who, with the same slithery motion, put his feet on the ground, waited again, then began to stand up slowly. Daru was about to call out to him when the Arab began to walk, in a quite natural but extraordinarily silent way. He was heading toward the door at the end of the room that opened into the shed. He lifted the latch with precaution and went out, pushing the door behind him but without shutting it. Daru had not stirred. "He is running away," he merely thought. "Good riddance!" Yet he listened attentively. The hens were not fluttering; the guest must be on the plateau. A faint sound of water reached him, and he didn't know what it was until the Arab again stood framed in the doorway, closed the door carefully, and came back to bed without a sound. Then Daru turned his back on him and fell asleep. Still later he seemed, from the depths of his sleep, to hear furtive steps around the schoolhouse. "I'm dreaming! I'm dreaming!" he repeated to himself. And he went on sleeping. 23 When he awoke, the sky was clear; the loose window let in a cold, pure air. The Arab was asleep, hunched up under the blankets now, his mouth open, utterly relaxed. But when Daru shook him, he started dreadfully staring at Daru with wild eyes as if he had never seen him and such a frightened expression that the schoolmaster stepped back. "Don't be afraid. It's me. You must eat." The Arab nodded his head and said yes. Calm had returned to his face, but his expression was vacant and listless. 24 The coffee was ready. They drank it seated together on the folding bed as they munched their pieces of the cake. Then Daru led the Arab under the shed and showed him the faucet where he washed. He went back into the room, folded the blankets and the bed, made his own bed and put the room in order. Then he went through the classroom and out onto the terrace. The sun was already rising in the blue sky; a soft, bright light was bathing 52
the deserted plateau. On the ridge the snow was melting in spots. Ttlc stones were about to reappear. Crouched on the edge of the plateau, the schoolmaster looked at the deserted expanse. He thought of Balducci. He had hurt him, for he had sent him off in a way as if he didn't want to bc associated with him. He could still hear the gendarme's farewell and, without knowing why, he felt strangely empty and vulnerable. At that moment, from the other side of the schoolhouse, the prisoner coughed. Daru listened to him almost despite himself and then furious, threw a pebble that whistled through the air before sinking into the snow. That man's stupid crime revolted him, but to hand him over was contrary to honor. Merely thinking of it made him smart with humiliation. And he cursed at one and the same time his own people who had sent him this Arab and the Arab too who had dared to kill and not managed to get away. Dary got up, walked in a circle on the terrace, waited motionless, and then went back into the schoolhouse. 25 The Arab, leaning over the cement floor of the shed, was washing his teeth with two fingers. Daru looked at him and said: "Come." He went back into the room ahead of the prisoner. He slipped a hunting‐jacket on over his sweater and put on walking‐
shoes. Standing, he waited until the Arab had put on his cheche and sandals. They went into the classroom and the schoolmaster pointed to the exit, saying: "Go ahead." The fellow didn't budge. "I'm coming," said Daru. The Arab went out. Daru went back into the room and made a package of pieces of rusk, dates, and sugar. In the classroom, before going out, he hesitated a second in front of his desk, then crossed the threshold and locked the door. "That's the way," he said. He started toward the east, followed by the prisoner. But, a short distance from the schoolhouse, he thought he heard a slight sound behind them. He retraced his steps and examined the surroundings of the house, there was no one there. The Arab watched him without seeming to understand. "Come on," said Daru. 26 They walked for an hour and rested beside a sharp peak of limestone. The snow was melting faster and faster and the sun was drinking up the puddles at once, rapidly cleaning the plateau, which gradually dried and vibrated like the air itself. 53
When they resumed walking, the ground rang under their feet. From time to time a bird rent the space in front of them with a joyful cry. Daru breathed in deeply the fresh morning light. He felt a sort of rapture before the vast familiar expanse, now almost entirely yellow under its dome of blue sky. They walked an hour more, descending toward the south. They reached a level height made up of crumbly rocks. From there on, the plateau sloped down, eastward, toward a low plain where there were a few spindly trees and, to the south, toward outcroppings of rock that gave the landscape a chaotic look. 27 Daru surveyed the two directions. There was nothing but the sky on the horizon. Not a man could be seen. He turned toward the Arab, who was looking at him blankly. Daru held out the package to him. "Take it," he said. "There are dates, bread, and sugar. You can hold out for two days. Here are a thousand francs too." The Arab took the package and the money but kept his full hands at chest level as if he didn't know what to do with what was being given him. "Now look," the schoolmaster said as he pointed in the direction of the east, "there's the way to Tinguit. You have a two‐hour walk. At Tinguit you'll find the administration and the police. They are expecting you." The Arab looked toward the east, still holding the package and the money against his chest. Daru took his elbow and turned him rather roughly toward the south. At the foot of the height on which they stood could be seen a faint path. "That's the trail across the plateau. In a day's walk from here you'll find pasturelands and the first nomads. They'll take you in and shelter you according to their law." The Arab had now turned toward Daru and a sort of panic was visible in his expression. "Listen," he said. Daru shook his head: "No, be quiet. Now I'm leaving you." He turned his back on him, took two long steps in the direction of the school, looking hesitantly at the motionless Arab and started off again. For a few minutes he heard nothing but his own step resounding on the cold ground and did not turn his head. A moment later however he turned around. The Arab was still there on the edge of the hill his arms hanging now, and he was looking at the schoolmaster. Daru felt something rise in his throat. But he swore with impatience, waved vaguely, and started off again. He had already gone some distance when he again stopped and looked. There was no longer anyone on the hill. 54
28 Daru hesitated. The sun was now rather high in the sky and was beginning to beat down on his head. The schoolmaster retraced his steps at first somewhat uncertainly then with decision. When he reached the little hill he was bathed in sweat. He climbed it as fast as he could and stopped. Out of breath at the top. The rock‐
ficelds to the south stood out sharply against the blue sky but on the plain to the east a steamy heat was already rising. And in that slight haze Daru with heavy heart made out the Arab walking slowly on the road to prison. 29 A little later standing before the window of thc classroom the school master was watching the clear light bathing the whole surface of the plateau but he hardly saw it. Behind him on the blackboard among the winding French rivers sprawled the clumsily chalked‐up words he had just read. "You handcd over our brothnr. You will pay for this." Daru looked at the sky, the plateau and beyond the invisible lands stretching all the way to the sea. In this vast landscape he had loved so much, he was alone. 1. The Seine, Loire, Rhone, and Gironder rivers; French geography was taught in the French colonies. Back to text 2. A long hooded robe worn by Arabs in North Africa. Cheche: Scarf; here wound as a turban around the head. Back to text 3. Balducci is a na ve of Corsica, a French island north of Sardinia.Back to text 4. French administra ve and territorial division: like a county.Back to text 5. Against the French colonial governmentBack to text 55
Anton Chekhov The Kiss At eight o'clock on the evening of the twentieth of May all the six batteries of the N‐‐
‐‐ Reserve Artillery Brigade halted for the night in the village of Myestetchki on their way to camp. When the general commotion was at its height, while some officers were busily occupied around the guns, while others, gathered together in the square near the church enclosure, were listening to the quartermasters, a man in civilian dress, riding a strange horse, came into sight round the church. The little dun‐
coloured horse with a good neck and a short tail came, moving not straight forward, but as it were sideways, with a sort of dance step, as though it were being lashed about the legs. When he reached the officers the man on the horse took off his hat and said: "His Excellency Lieutenant‐General von Rabbek invites the gentlemen to drink tea with him this minute. . . ." The horse turned, danced, and retired sideways; the messenger raised his hat once more, and in an instant disappeared with his strange horse behind the church. "What the devil does it mean?" grumbled some of the officers, dispersing to their quarters. "One is sleepy, and here this Von Rabbek with his tea! We know what tea means." The officers of all the six batteries remembered vividly an incident of the previous year, when during manoeuvres they, together with the officers of a Cossack regiment, were in the same way invited to tea by a count who had an estate in the neighbourhood and was a retired army officer: the hospitable and genial count made much of them, fed them, and gave them drink, refused to let them go to their quarters in the village and made them stay the night. All that, of course, was very nice ‐‐ nothing better could be desired, but the worst of it was, the old army officer was so carried away by the pleasure of the young men's company that till sunrise he was telling the officers anecdotes of his glorious past, taking them over the house, showing them expensive pictures, old engravings, rare guns, reading them autograph letters from great people, while the weary and exhausted officers looked and listened, longing for their beds and yawning in their sleeves; when at last their host let them go, it was too late for sleep. < 2 > Might not this Von Rabbek be just such another? Whether he were or not, there was no help for it. The officers changed their uniforms, brushed themselves, and went all together in search of the gentleman's house. In the square by the church they were told they could get to His Excellency's by the lower path ‐‐ going down behind the church to the river, going along the bank to the garden, and there an 56
avenue would taken them to the house; or by the upper way ‐‐ straight from the church by the road which, half a mile from the village, led right up to His Excellency's granaries. The officers decided to go by the upper way. "What Von Rabbek is it?" they wondered on the way. "Surely not the one who was in command of the N‐‐‐‐ cavalry division at Plevna?" "No, that was not Von Rabbek, but simply Rabbe and no 'von.' " "What lovely weather!" At the first of the granaries the road divided in two: one branch went straight on and vanished in the evening darkness, the other led to the owner's house on the right. The officers turned to the right and began to speak more softly. . . . On both sides of the road stretched stone granaries with red roofs, heavy and sullen‐looking, very much like barracks of a district town. Ahead of them gleamed the windows of the manor‐house. "A good omen, gentlemen," said one of the officers. "Our setter is the foremost of all; no doubt he scents game ahead of us! . . ." Lieutenant Lobytko, who was walking in front, a tall and stalwart fellow, though entirely without moustache (he was over five‐and‐twenty, yet for some reason there was no sign of hair on his round, well‐fed face), renowned in the brigade for his peculiar faculty for divining the presence of women at a distance, turned round and said: "Yes, there must be women here; I feel that by instinct." < 3 > On the threshold the officers were met by Von Rabbek himself, a comely‐looking man of sixty in civilian dress. Shaking hands with his guests, he said that he was very glad and happy to see them, but begged them earnestly for God's sake to excuse him for not asking them to stay the night; two sisters with their children, some brothers, and some neighbours, had come on a visit to him, so that he had not one spare room left. The General shook hands with every one, made his apologies, and smiled, but it was evident by his face that he was by no means so delighted as their last year's count, and that he had invited the officers simply because, in his opinion, it was a social obligation to do so. And the officers themselves, as they walked up the softly carpeted stairs, as they listened to him, felt that they had been invited to this house simply because it would have been awkward not to invite them; and at the sight of the footmen, who hastened to light the lamps in the entrance below and in the anteroom above, they began to feel as though they had brought uneasiness and 57
discomfort into the house with them. In a house in which two sisters and their children, brothers, and neighbours were gathered together, probably on account of some family festivity, or event, how could the presence of nineteen unknown officers possibly be welcome? At the entrance to the drawing‐room the officers were met by a tall, graceful old lady with black eyebrows and a long face, very much like the Empress Eugénie. Smiling graciously and majestically, she said she was glad and happy to see her guests, and apologized that her husband and she were on this occasion unable to invite messieurs les officiers to stay the night. From her beautiful majestic smile, which instantly vanished from her face every time she turned away from her guests, it was evident that she had seen numbers of officers in her day, that she was in no humour for them now, and if she invited them to her house and apologized for not doing more, it was only because her breeding and position in society required it of her. < 4 > When the officers went into the big dining‐room, there were about a dozen people, men and ladies, young and old, sitting at tea at the end of a long table. A group of men was dimly visible behind their chairs, wrapped in a haze of cigar smoke; and in the midst of them stood a lanky young man with red whiskers, talking loudly, with a lisp, in English. Through a door beyond the group could be seen a light room with pale blue furniture. "Gentlemen, there are so many of you that it is impossible to introduce you all!" said the General in a loud voice, trying to sound very cheerful. "Make each other's acquaintance, gentlemen, without any ceremony!" The officers ‐‐ some with very serious and even stern faces, others with forced smiles, and all feeling extremely awkward ‐‐ somehow made their bows and sat down to tea. The most ill at ease of them all was Ryabovitch ‐‐ a little officer in spectacles, with sloping shoulders, and whiskers like a lynx's. While some of his comrades assumed a serious expression, while others wore forced smiles, his face, his lynx‐like whiskers, and spectacles seemed to say: "I am the shyest, most modest, and most undistinguished officer in the whole brigade!" At first, on going into the room and sitting down to the table, he could not fix his attention on any one face or object. The faces, the dresses, the cut‐glass decanters of brandy, the steam from the glasses, the moulded cornices ‐‐ all blended in one general impression that inspired in Ryabovitch alarm and a desire to hide his head. Like a lecturer making his first appearance before the public, he saw everything that was before his eyes, but apparently only had a dim understanding of it (among physiologists this condition, when the subject sees but does not understand, is called psychical blindness). After a little while, 58
growing accustomed to his surroundings, Ryabovitch saw clearly and began to observe. As a shy man, unused to society, what struck him first was that in which he had always been deficient ‐‐ namely, the extraordinary boldness of his new acquaintances. Von Rabbek, his wife, two elderly ladies, a young lady in a lilac dress, and the young man with the red whiskers, who was, it appeared, a younger son of Von Rabbek, very cleverly, as though they had rehearsed it beforehand, took seats between the officers, and at once got up a heated discussion in which the visitors could not help taking part. The lilac young lady hotly asserted that the artillery had a much better time than the cavalry and the infantry, while Von Rabbek and the elderly ladies maintained the opposite. A brisk interchange of talk followed. Ryabovitch watched the lilac young lady who argued so hotly about what was unfamiliar and utterly uninteresting to her, and watched artificial smiles come and go on her face. < 5 > Von Rabbek and his family skilfully drew the officers into the discussion, and meanwhile kept a sharp lookout over their glasses and mouths, to see whether all of them were drinking, whether all had enough sugar, why some one was not eating cakes or not drinking brandy. And the longer Ryabovitch watched and listened, the more he was attracted by this insincere but splendidly disciplined family. After tea the officers went into the drawing‐room. Lieutenant Lobytko's instinct had not deceived him. There were a great number of girls and young married ladies. The "setter" lieutenant was soon standing by a very young, fair girl in a black dress, and, bending down to her jauntily, as though leaning on an unseen sword, smiled and shrugged his shoulders coquettishly. He probably talked very interesting nonsense, for the fair girl looked at his well‐fed face condescendingly and asked indifferently, "Really?" And from that uninterested "Really?" the setter, had he been intelligent, might have concluded that she would never call him to heel. The piano struck up; the melancholy strains of a valse floated out of the wide open windows, and every one, for some reason, remembered that it was spring, a May evening. Every one was conscious of the fragrance of roses, of lilac, and of the young leaves of the poplar. Ryabovitch, in whom the brandy he had drunk made itself felt, under the influence of the music stole a glance towards the window, smiled, and began watching the movements of the women, and it seemed to him that the smell of roses, of poplars, and lilac came not from the garden, but from the ladies' faces and dresses. Von Rabbek's son invited a scraggy‐looking young lady to dance, and waltzed round the room twice with her. Lobytko, gliding over the parquet floor, flew up to the lilac young lady and whirled her away. Dancing began. . . . Ryabovitch stood near the door among those who were not dancing and looked on. He had never once danced in his whole life, and he had never once in his life put his arm round the waist 59
of a respectable woman. He was highly delighted that a man should in the sight of all take a girl he did not know round the waist and offer her his shoulder to put her hand on, but he could not imagine himself in the position of such a man. There were times when he envied the boldness and swagger of his companions and was inwardly wretched; the consciousness that he was timid, that he was round‐shouldered and uninteresting, that he had a long waist and lynx‐like whiskers, had deeply mortified him, but with years he had grown used to this feeling, and now, looking at his comrades dancing or loudly talking, he no longer envied them, but only felt touched and mournful. < 6 > When the quadrille began, young Von Rabbek came up to those who were not dancing and invited two officers to have a game at billiards. The officers accepted and went with him out of the drawing‐room. Ryabovitch, having nothing to do and wishing to take part in the general movement, slouched after them. From the big drawing‐room they went into the little drawing‐room, then into a narrow corridor with a glass roof, and thence into a room in which on their entrance three sleepy‐
looking footmen jumped up quickly from the sofa. At last, after passing through a long succession of rooms, young Von Rabbek and the officers came into a small room where there was a billiard‐table. They began to play. Ryabovitch, who had never played any game but cards, stood near the billiard‐
table and looked indifferently at the players, while they in unbuttoned coats, with cues in their hands, stepped about, made puns, and kept shouting out unintelligible words. The players took no notice of him, and only now and then one of them, shoving him with his elbow or accidentally touching him with the end of his cue, would turn round and say "Pardon!" Before the first game was over he was weary of it, and began to feel he was not wanted and in the way. . . . He felt disposed to return to the drawing‐room, and he went out. On his way back he met with a little adventure. When he had gone half‐way he noticed he had taken a wrong turning. He distinctly remembered that he ought to meet three sleepy footmen on his way, but he had passed five or six rooms, and those sleepy figures seemed to have vanished into the earth. Noticing his mistake, he walked back a little way and turned to the right; he found himself in a little dark room which he had not seen on his way to the billiard‐room. After standing there a little while, he resolutely opened the first door that met his eyes and walked into an absolutely dark room. Straight in front could be seen the crack in the doorway through which there was a gleam of vivid light; from the other side of the door came the muffled sound of a melancholy mazurka. Here, too, as in the drawing‐room, the windows were wide open and there was a smell of poplars, lilac and roses. . . . 60
< 7 > Ryabovitch stood still in hesitation. . . . At that moment, to his surprise, he heard hurried footsteps and the rustling of a dress, a breathless feminine voice whispered "At last!" And two soft, fragrant, unmistakably feminine arms were clasped about his neck; a warm cheek was pressed to his cheek, and simultaneously there was the sound of a kiss. But at once the bestower of the kiss uttered a faint shriek and skipped back from him, as it seemed to Ryabovitch, with aversion. He, too, almost shrieked and rushed towards the gleam of light at the door. . . . When he went back into the drawing‐room his heart was beating and his hands were trembling so noticeably that he made haste to hide them behind his back. At first he was tormented by shame and dread that the whole drawing‐room knew that he had just been kissed and embraced by a woman. He shrank into himself and looked uneasily about him, but as he became convinced that people were dancing and talking as calmly as ever, he gave himself up entirely to the new sensation which he had never experienced before in his life. Something strange was happening to him. . . . His neck, round which soft, fragrant arms had so lately been clasped, seemed to him to be anointed with oil; on his left cheek near his moustache where the unknown had kissed him there was a faint chilly tingling sensation as from peppermint drops, and the more he rubbed the place the more distinct was the chilly sensation; all over, from head to foot, he was full of a strange new feeling which grew stronger and stronger. . . . He wanted to dance, to talk, to run into the garden, to laugh aloud. . . . He quite forgot that he was round‐shouldered and uninteresting, that he had lynx‐like whiskers and an "undistinguished appearance" (that was how his appearance had been described by some ladies whose conversation he had accidentally overheard). When Von Rabbek's wife happened to pass by him, he gave her such a broad and friendly smile that she stood still and looked at him inquiringly. "I like your house immensely!" he said, setting his spectacles straight. < 8 > The General's wife smiled and said that the house had belonged to her father; then she asked whether his parents were living, whether he had long been in the army, why he was so thin, and so on. . . . After receiving answers to her questions, she went on, and after his conversation with her his smiles were more friendly than ever, and he thought he was surrounded by splendid people. . . . At supper Ryabovitch ate mechanically everything offered him, drank, and without listening to anything, tried to understand what had just happened to him. . . . The adventure was of a mysterious and romantic character, but it was not difficult to explain it. No doubt some girl or young married lady had arranged a tryst with some one in the dark room; had waited a long time, and being nervous and excited had taken Ryabovitch for her hero; this was the more probable as Ryabovitch had stood 61
still hesitating in the dark room, so that he, too, had seemed like a person expecting something. . . . This was how Ryabovitch explained to himself the kiss he had received. "And who is she?" he wondered, looking round at the women's faces. "She must be young, for elderly ladies don't give rendezvous. That she was a lady, one could tell by the rustle of her dress, her perfume, her voice. . . ." His eyes rested on the lilac young lady, and he thought her very attractive; she had beautiful shoulders and arms, a clever face, and a delightful voice. Ryabovitch, looking at her, hoped that she and no one else was his unknown. . . . But she laughed somehow artificially and wrinkled up her long nose, which seemed to him to make her look old. Then he turned his eyes upon the fair girl in a black dress. She was younger, simpler, and more genuine, had a charming brow, and drank very daintily out of her wineglass. Ryabovitch now hoped that it was she. But soon he began to think her face flat, and fixed his eyes upon the one next her. < 9 > "It's difficult to guess," he thought, musing. "If one takes the shoulders and arms of the lilac one only, adds the brow of the fair one and the eyes of the one on the left of Lobytko, then . . ." He made a combination of these things in his mind and so formed the image of the girl who had kissed him, the image that he wanted her to have, but could not find at the table. . . . After supper, replete and exhilarated, the officers began to take leave and say thank you. Von Rabbek and his wife began again apologizing that they could not ask them to stay the night. "Very, very glad to have met you, gentlemen," said Von Rabbek, and this time sincerely (probably because people are far more sincere and good‐humoured at speeding their parting guests than on meeting them). "Delighted. I hope you will come on your way back! Don't stand on ceremony! Where are you going? Do you want to go by the upper way? No, go across the garden; it's nearer here by the lower way." The officers went out into the garden. After the bright light and the noise the garden seemed very dark and quiet. They walked in silence all the way to the gate. They were a little drunk, pleased, and in good spirits, but the darkness and silence made them thoughtful for a minute. Probably the same idea occurred to each one of them as to Ryabovitch: would there ever come a time for them when, like Von Rabbek, they would have a large house, a family, a garden ‐‐ when they, too, would 62
be able to welcome people, even though insincerely, feed them, make them drunk and contented? Going out of the garden gate, they all began talking at once and laughing loudly about nothing. They were walking now along the little path that led down to the river, and then ran along the water's edge, winding round the bushes on the bank, the pools, and the willows that overhung the water. The bank and the path were scarcely visible, and the other bank was entirely plunged in darkness. Stars were reflected here and there on the dark water; they quivered and were broken up on the surface ‐‐ and from that alone it could be seen that the river was flowing rapidly. It was still. Drowsy curlews cried plaintively on the further bank, and in one of the bushes on the nearest side a nightingale was trilling loudly, taking no notice of the crowd of officers. The officers stood round the bush, touched it, but the nightingale went on singing. < 10 > "What a fellow!" they exclaimed approvingly. "We stand beside him and he takes not a bit of notice! What a rascal!" At the end of the way the path went uphill, and, skirting the church enclosure, turned into the road. Here the officers, tired with walking uphill, sat down and lighted their cigarettes. On the other side of the river a murky red fire came into sight, and having nothing better to do, they spent a long time in discussing whether it was a camp fire or a light in a window, or something else. . . . Ryabovitch, too, looked at the light, and he fancied that the light looked and winked at him, as though it knew about the kiss. On reaching his quarters, Ryabovitch undressed as quickly as possible and got into bed. Lobytko and Lieutenant Merzlyakov ‐‐ a peaceable, silent fellow, who was considered in his own circle a highly educated officer, and was always, whenever it was possible, reading the "Vyestnik Evropi," which he carried about with him everywhere ‐‐ were quartered in the same hut with Ryabovitch. Lobytko undressed, walked up and down the room for a long while with the air of a man who has not been satisfied, and sent his orderly for beer. Merzlyakov got into bed, put a candle by his pillow and plunged into reading the "Vyestnik Evropi." "Who was she?" Ryabovitch wondered, looking at the smoky ceiling. His neck still felt as though he had been anointed with oil, and there was still the chilly sensation near his mouth as though from peppermint drops. The shoulders and arms of the young lady in lilac, the brow and the truthful eyes of the fair girl in black, waists, dresses, and brooches, floated through his imagination. He tried to fix his attention on these images, but they danced about, broke up and flickered. When these images vanished altogether from the broad dark background which every man 63
sees when he closes his eyes, he began to hear hurried footsteps, the rustle of skirts, the sound of a kiss and ‐‐ an intense groundless joy took possession of him. . . . Abandoning himself to this joy, he heard the orderly return and announce that there was no beer. Lobytko was terribly indignant, and began pacing up and down again. < 11 > "Well, isn't he an idiot?" he kept saying, stopping first before Ryabovitch and then before Merzlyakov. "What a fool and a dummy a man must be not to get hold of any beer! Eh? Isn't he a scoundrel?" "Of course you can't get beer here," said Merzlyakov, not removing his eyes from the "Vyestnik Evropi." "Oh! Is that your opinion?" Lobytko persisted. "Lord have mercy upon us, if you dropped me on the moon I'd find you beer and women directly! I'll go and find some at once. . . . You may call me an impostor if I don't!" He spent a long time in dressing and pulling on his high boots, then finished smoking his cigarette in silence and went out. "Rabbek, Grabbek, Labbek," he muttered, stopping in the outer room. "I don't care to go alone, damn it all! Ryabovitch, wouldn't you like to go for a walk? Eh?" Receiving no answer, he returned, slowly undressed and got into bed. Merzlyakov sighed, put the "Vyestnik Evropi" away, and put out the light. "H'm! . . ." muttered Lobytko, lighting a cigarette in the dark. Ryabovitch pulled the bed‐clothes over his head, curled himself up in bed, and tried to gather together the floating images in his mind and to combine them into one whole. But nothing came of it. He soon fell asleep, and his last thought was that some one had caressed him and made him happy ‐‐ that something extraordinary, foolish, but joyful and delightful, had come into his life. The thought did not leave him even in his sleep. When he woke up the sensations of oil on his neck and the chill of peppermint about his lips had gone, but joy flooded his heart just as the day before. He looked enthusiastically at the window‐frames, gilded by the light of the rising sun, and listened to the movement of the passers‐by in the street. People were talking loudly close to the window. Lebedetsky, the commander of Ryabovitch's battery, who had only just overtaken the brigade, was talking to his sergeant at the top of his voice, being always accustomed to shout. < 12 > 64
"What else?" shouted the commander. "When they were shoeing yesterday, your high nobility, they drove a nail into Pigeon's hoof. The vet. put on clay and vinegar; they are leading him apart now. And also, your honour, Artemyev got drunk yesterday, and the lieutenant ordered him to be put in the limber of a spare gun‐carriage." The sergeant reported that Karpov had forgotten the new cords for the trumpets and the rings for the tents, and that their honours, the officers, had spent the previous evening visiting General Von Rabbek. In the middle of this conversation the red‐bearded face of Lebedetsky appeared in the window. He screwed up his short‐
sighted eyes, looking at the sleepy faces of the officers, and said good‐morning to them. "Is everything all right?" he asked. "One of the horses has a sore neck from the new collar," answered Lobytko, yawning. The commander sighed, thought a moment, and said in a loud voice: "I am thinking of going to see Alexandra Yevgrafovna. I must call on her. Well, good‐bye. I shall catch you up in the evening." A quarter of an hour later the brigade set off on its way. When it was moving along the road by the granaries, Ryabovitch looked at the house on the right. The blinds were down in all the windows. Evidently the household was still asleep. The one who had kissed Ryabovitch the day before was asleep, too. He tried to imagine her asleep. The wide‐open windows of the bedroom, the green branches peeping in, the morning freshness, the scent of the poplars, lilac, and roses, the bed, a chair, and on it the skirts that had rustled the day before, the little slippers, the little watch on the table ‐‐ all this he pictured to himself clearly and distinctly, but the features of the face, the sweet sleepy smile, just what was characteristic and important, slipped through his imagination like quicksilver through the fingers. When he had ridden on half a mile, he looked back: the yellow church, the house, and the river, were all bathed in light; the river with its bright green banks, with the blue sky reflected in it and glints of silver in the sunshine here and there, was very beautiful. Ryabovitch gazed for the last time at Myestetchki, and he felt as sad as though he were parting with something very near and dear to him. < 13 > And before him on the road lay nothing but long familiar, uninteresting pictures. . . . To right and to left, fields of young rye and buckwheat with rooks hopping about in them. If one looked ahead, one saw dust and the backs of men's heads; if one looked back, one saw the same dust and faces. . . . Foremost of all marched four men with 65
sabres ‐‐ this was the vanguard. Next, behind, the crowd of singers, and behind them the trumpeters on horseback. The vanguard and the chorus of singers, like torch‐
bearers in a funeral procession, often forgot to keep the regulation distance and pushed a long way ahead. . . . Ryabovitch was with the first cannon of the fifth battery. He could see all the four batteries moving in front of him. For any one not a military man this long tedious procession of a moving brigade seems an intricate and unintelligible muddle; one cannot understand why there are so many people round one cannon, and why it is drawn by so many horses in such a strange network of harness, as though it really were so terrible and heavy. To Ryabovitch it was all perfectly comprehensible and therefore uninteresting. He had known for ever so long why at the head of each battery there rode a stalwart bombardier, and why he was called a bombardier; immediately behind this bombardier could be seen the horsemen of the first and then of the middle units. Ryabovitch knew that the horses on which they rode, those on the left, were called one name, while those on the right were called another ‐‐ it was extremely uninteresting. Behind the horsemen came two shaft‐horses. On one of them sat a rider with the dust of yesterday on his back and a clumsy and funny‐looking piece of wood on his leg. Ryabovitch knew the object of this piece of wood, and did not think it funny. All the riders waved their whips mechanically and shouted from time to time. The cannon itself was ugly. On the fore part lay sacks of oats covered with canvas, and the cannon itself was hung all over with kettles, soldiers' knapsacks, bags, and looked like some small harmless animal surrounded for some unknown reason by men and horses. To the leeward of it marched six men, the gunners, swinging their arms. After the cannon there came again more bombardiers, riders, shaft‐horses, and behind them another cannon, as ugly and unimpressive as the first. After the second followed a third, a fourth; near the fourth an officer, and so on. There were six batteries in all in the brigade, and four cannons in each battery. The procession covered half a mile; it ended in a string of wagons near which an extremely attractive creature ‐‐ the ass, Magar, brought by a battery commander from Turkey ‐‐ paced pensively with his long‐eared head drooping. < 14 > Ryabovitch looked indifferently before and behind, at the backs of heads and at faces; at any other time he would have been half asleep, but now he was entirely absorbed in his new agreeable thoughts. At first when the brigade was setting off on the march he tried to persuade himself that the incident of the kiss could only be interesting as a mysterious little adventure, that it was in reality trivial, and to think of it seriously, to say the least of it, was stupid; but now he bade farewell to logic and gave himself up to dreams. . . . At one moment he imagined himself in Von Rabbek's drawing‐room beside a girl who was like the young lady in lilac and the fair girl in black; then he would close his eyes and see himself with another, entirely unknown girl, whose features were very vague. In his imagination he talked, caressed her, 66
leaned on her shoulder, pictured war, separation, then meeting again, supper with his wife, children. . . . "Brakes on!" the word of command rang out every time they went downhill. He, too, shouted "Brakes on!" and was afraid this shout would disturb his reverie and bring him back to reality. . . . As they passed by some landowner's estate Ryabovitch looked over the fence into the garden. A long avenue, straight as a ruler, strewn with yellow sand and bordered with young birch‐trees, met his eyes. . . . With the eagerness of a man given up to dreaming, he pictured to himself little feminine feet tripping along yellow sand, and quite unexpectedly had a clear vision in his imagination of the girl who had kissed him and whom he had succeeded in picturing to himself the evening before at supper. This image remained in his brain and did not desert him again. At midday there was a shout in the rear near the string of wagons: "Easy! Eyes to the left! Officers!" The general of the brigade drove by in a carriage with a pair of white horses. He stopped near the second battery, and shouted something which no one understood. Several officers, among them Ryabovitch, galloped up to them. < 15 > "Well?" asked the general, blinking his red eyes. "Are there any sick?" Receiving an answer, the general, a little skinny man, chewed, thought for a moment and said, addressing one of the officers: "One of your drivers of the third cannon has taken off his leg‐guard and hung it on the fore part of the cannon, the rascal. Reprimand him." He raised his eyes to Ryabovitch and went on: "It seems to me your front strap is too long." Making a few other tedious remarks, the general looked at Lobytko and grinned. "You look very melancholy today, Lieutenant Lobytko," he said. "Are you pining for Madame Lopuhov? Eh? Gentlemen, he is pining for Madame Lopuhov." The lady in question was a very stout and tall person who had long passed her fortieth year. The general, who had a predilection for solid ladies, whatever their ages, suspected a similar taste in his officers. The officers smiled respectfully. The 67
general, delighted at having said something very amusing and biting, laughed loudly, touched his coachman's back, and saluted. The carriage rolled on. . . . "All I am dreaming about now which seems to me so impossible and unearthly is really quite an ordinary thing," thought Ryabovitch, looking at the clouds of dust racing after the general's carriage. "It's all very ordinary, and every one goes through it. . . . That general, for instance, has once been in love; now he is married and has children. Captain Vahter, too, is married and beloved, though the nape of his neck is very red and ugly and he has no waist. . . . Salrnanov is coarse and very Tatar, but he has had a love affair that has ended in marriage. . . . I am the same as every one else, and I, too, shall have the same experience as every one else, sooner or later. . . ." < 16 > And the thought that he was an ordinary person, and that his life was ordinary, delighted him and gave him courage. He pictured her and his happiness as he pleased, and put no rein on his imagination. When the brigade reached their halting‐place in the evening, and the officers were resting in their tents, Ryabovitch, Merzlyakov, and Lobytko were sitting round a box having supper. Merzlyakov ate without haste, and, as he munched deliberately, read the "Vyestnik Evropi," which he held on his knees. Lobytko talked incessantly and kept filling up his glass with beer, and Ryabovitch, whose head was confused from dreaming all day long, drank and said nothing. After three glasses he got a little drunk, felt weak, and had an irresistible desire to impart his new sensations to his comrades. "A strange thing happened to me at those Von Rabbeks'," he began, trying to put an indifferent and ironical tone into his voice. "You know I went into the billiard‐
room. . . ." He began describing very minutely the incident of the kiss, and a moment later relapsed into silence. . . . In the course of that moment he had told everything, and it surprised him dreadfully to find how short a time it took him to tell it. He had imagined that he could have been telling the story of the kiss till next morning. Listening to him, Lobytko, who was a great liar and consequently believed no one, looked at him sceptically and laughed. Merzlyakov twitched his eyebrows and, without removing his eyes from the "Vyestnik Evropi," said: "That's an odd thing! How strange! . . . throws herself on a man's neck, without addressing him by name. .. . She must be some sort of hysterical neurotic." "Yes, she must," Ryabovitch agreed. "A similar thing once happened to me," said Lobytko, assuming a scared expression. "I was going last year to Kovno. . . . I took a second‐class ticket. The train 68
was crammed, and it was impossible to sleep. I gave the guard half a rouble; he took my luggage and led me to another compartment. . . . I lay down and covered myself with a rug. . . . It was dark, you understand. Suddenly I felt some one touch me on the shoulder and breathe in my face. I made a movement with my hand and felt somebody's elbow. . . . I opened my eyes and only imagine ‐‐ a woman. Black eyes, lips red as a prime salmon, nostrils breathing passionately ‐‐ a bosom like a buffer. . . ." < 17 > "Excuse me," Merzlyakov interrupted calmly, "I understand about the bosom, but how could you see the lips if it was dark?" Lobytko began trying to put himself right and laughing at Merzlyakov's unimaginativeness. It made Ryabovitch wince. He walked away from the box, got into bed, and vowed never to confide again. Camp life began. . . . The days flowed by, one very much like another. All those days Ryabovitch felt, thought, and behaved as though he were in love. Every morning when his orderly handed him water to wash with, and he sluiced his head with cold water, he thought there was something warm and delightful in his life. In the evenings when his comrades began talking of love and women, he would listen, and draw up closer; and he wore the expression of a soldier when he hears the description of a battle in which he has taken part. And on the evenings when the officers, out on the spree with the setter ‐‐ Lobytko ‐‐ at their head, made Don Juan excursions to the "suburb," and Ryabovitch took part in such excursions, he always was sad, felt profoundly guilty, and inwardly begged her forgiveness. . . . In hours of leisure or on sleepless nights, when he felt moved to recall his childhood, his father and mother ‐‐ everything near and dear, in fact, he invariably thought of Myestetchki, the strange horse, Von Rabbek, his wife who was like the Empress Eugénie, the dark room, the crack of light at the door. . . . On the thirty‐first of August he went back from the camp, not with the whole brigade, but with only two batteries of it. He was dreaming and excited all the way, as though he were going back to his native place. He had an intense longing to see again the strange horse, the church, the insincere family of the Von Rabbeks, the dark room. The "inner voice," which so often deceives lovers, whispered to him for some reason that he would be sure to see her . . . and he was tortured by the questions, How he should meet her? What he would talk to her about? Whether she had forgotten the kiss? If the worst came to the worst, he thought, even if he did not meet her, it would be a pleasure to him merely to go through the dark room and recall the past. . . . < 18 > 69
Towards evening there appeared on the horizon the familiar church and white granaries. Ryabovitch's heart beat. . . . He did not hear the officer who was riding beside him and saying something to him, he forgot everything, and looked eagerly at the river shining in the distance, at the roof of the house, at the dovecote round which the pigeons were circling in the light of the setting sun. When they reached the church and were listening to the billeting orders, he expected every second that a man on horseback would come round the church enclosure and invite the officers to tea, but . . . the billeting orders were read, the officers were in haste to go on to the village, and the man on horseback did not appear. "Von Rabbek will hear at once from the peasants that we have come and will send for us," thought Ryabovitch, as he went into the hut, unable to understand why a comrade was lighting a candle and why the orderlies were hurriedly setting samovars. . . . A painful uneasiness took possession of him. He lay down, then got up and looked out of the window to see whether the messenger were coming. But there was no sign of him. He lay down again, but half an hour later he got up, and, unable to restrain his uneasiness, went into the street and strode towards the church. It was dark and deserted in the square near the church. . . . Three soldiers were standing silent in a row where the road began to go downhill. Seeing Ryabovitch, they roused themselves and saluted. He returned the salute and began to go down the familiar path. On the further side of the river the whole sky was flooded with crimson: the moon was rising; two peasant women, talking loudly, were picking cabbage in the kitchen garden; behind the kitchen garden there were some dark huts. . . . And everything on the near side of the river was just as it had been in May: the path, the bushes, the willows overhanging the water . . . but there was no sound of the brave nightingale, and no scent of poplar and fresh grass. < 19 > Reaching the garden, Ryabovitch looked in at the gate. The garden was dark and still. . . . He could see nothing but the white stems of the nearest birch‐trees and a little bit of the avenue; all the rest melted together into a dark blur. Ryabovitch looked and listened eagerly, but after waiting for a quarter of an hour without hearing a sound or catching a glimpse of a light, he trudged back. . . . He went down to the river. The General's bath‐house and the bath‐sheets on the rail of the little bridge showed white before him. . . . He went on to the bridge, stood 70
a little, and, quite unnecessarily, touched the sheets. They felt rough and cold. He looked down at the water. . . . The river ran rapidly and with a faintly audible gurgle round the piles of the bath‐house. The red moon was reflected near the left bank; little ripples ran over the reflection, stretching it out, breaking it into bits, and seemed trying to carry it away. "How stupid, how stupid!" thought Ryabovitch, looking at the running water. "How unintelligent it all is!" Now that he expected nothing, the incident of the kiss, his impatience, his vague hopes and disappointment, presented themselves in a clear light. It no longer seemed to him strange that he had not seen the General's messenger, and that he would never see the girl who had accidentally kissed him instead of some one else; on the contrary, it would have been strange if he had seen her. . . . The water was running, he knew not where or why, just as it did in May. In May it had flowed into the great river, from the great river into the sea; then it had risen in vapour, turned into rain, and perhaps the very same water was running now before Ryabovitch's eyes again. . . . What for? Why? And the whole world, the whole of life, seemed to Ryabovitch an unintelligible, aimless jest. . . . And turning his eyes from the water and looking at the sky, he remembered again how fate in the person of an unknown woman had by chance caressed him, he remembered his summer dreams and fancies, and his life struck him as extraordinarily meagre, poverty‐stricken, and colourless. . . . < 20 > When he went back to his hut he did not find one of his comrades. The orderly informed him that they had all gone to "General von Rabbek's, who had sent a messenger on horseback to invite them. . . ." For an instant there was a flash of joy in Ryabovitch's heart, but he quenched it at once, got into bed, and in his wrath with his fate, as though to spite it, did not go to the General's. 71
Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet. Hardly had she brought one gentleman into
the little pantry behind the office on the ground floor and helped him off with his overcoat, than the
wheezy hall-door bell clanged again and she had to scamper along the bare hallway to let in another
guest. It was well for her she had not to attend to the ladies also. But Miss Kate and Miss Julia had
thought of that and had converted the bathroom upstairs into a ladies' dressing-room. Miss Kate and
Miss Julia were there, gossiping and laughing and fussing, walking after each other to the head of the
stairs, peering down over the banisters and calling down to Lily to ask her who had come.
It was always a great affair, the Misses Morkan's annual dance. Everybody who knew them came to it,
members of the family, old friends of the family, the members of Julia's choir, any of Kate's pupils that
were grown up enough, and even some of Mary Jane's pupils too. Never once had it fallen flat. For
years and years it had gone off in splendid style, as long as anyone could remember: ever since Kate
and Julia, after the death of their brother Pat, had left the house in Stoney Batter and taken Mary Jane,
their only niece, to live with them in the dark, gaunt house on Usher's Island, the upper part of which
they had rented from Mr Fulham, the corn-factor on the ground floor. That was a good thirty years ago
if it was a day. Mary Jane, who was then a little girl in short clothes, was now the main prop of the
household, for she had the organ in Haddington Road. She had been through the Academy and gave a
pupils' concert every year in the upper room of the Ancient Concert Rooms. Many of her pupils
belonged to the better-class families on the Kingstown and Dalkey line. Old as they were, her aunts
also did their share. Julia, though she was quite grey, was still the leading soprano in Adam and Eve's,
and Kate, being too feeble to go about much, gave music lessons to beginners on the old square piano
in the back room. Lily, the caretaker's daughter, did housemaid's work for them. Though their life was
modest, they believed in eating well; the best of everything: diamond-bone sirloins, three-shilling tea
and the best bottled stout. But Lily seldom made a mistake in the orders, so that she got on well with
her three mistresses. They were fussy, that was all. But the only thing they would not stand was back
Of course, they had good reason to be fussy on such a night. And then it was long after ten o'clock and
yet there was no sign of Gabriel and his wife. Besides they were dreadfully afraid that Freddy Malins
might turn up screwed. They would not wish for worlds that any of Mary Jane's pupils should see him
under the influence; and when he was like that it was sometimes very hard to manage him. Freddy
Malins always came late, but they wondered what could be keeping Gabriel: and that was what
brought them every two minutes to the banisters to ask Lily had Gabriel or Freddy come.
--O, Mr Conroy, said Lily to Gabriel when she opened the door for him, Miss Kate and Miss Julia
thought you were never coming. Good night, Mrs Conroy.
--I'll engage they did, said Gabriel, but they forget that my wife here takes three mortal hours to dress
He stood on the mat, scraping the snow from his goloshes, while Lily led his wife to the foot of the
stairs and called out:
--Miss Kate, here's Mrs Conroy.
Kate and Julia came toddling down the dark stairs at once. Both of them kissed Gabriel's wife, said she
must be perished alive, and asked was Gabriel with her.
--Here I am as right as the mail, Aunt Kate! Go on up. I'll follow, called out Gabriel from the dark.
He continued scraping his feet vigorously while the three women went upstairs, laughing, to the ladies'
dressing-room. A light fringe of snow lay like a cape on the shoulders of his overcoat and like toecaps
on the toes of his goloshes; and, as the buttons of his overcoat slipped with a squeaking noise through
the snow-stiffened frieze, a cold, fragrant air from out-of-doors escaped from crevices and folds.
--Is it snowing again, Mr Conroy? asked Lily.
She had preceded him into the pantry to help him off with his overcoat. Gabriel smiled at the three
syllables she had given his surname and glanced at her. She was a slim, growing girl, pale in
complexion and with hay-coloured hair. The gas in the pantry made her look still paler. Gabriel had
known her when she was a child and used to sit on the lowest step nursing a rag doll.
--Yes, Lily, he answered, and I think we're in for a night of it.
He looked up at the pantry ceiling, which was shaking with the stamping and shuffling of feet on the
floor above, listened for a moment to the piano and then glanced at the girl, who was folding his
overcoat carefully at the end of a shelf.
--Tell me, Lily, he said in a friendly tone, do you still go to school?
--O no, sir, she answered. I'm done schooling this year and more.
--O, then, said Gabriel gaily, I suppose we'll be going to your wedding one of these fine days with
your young man, eh?
The girl glanced back at him over her shoulder and said with great bitterness:
--The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you.
Gabriel coloured, as if he felt he had made a mistake, and, without looking at her, kicked off his
goloshes and flicked actively with his muffler at his patent-leather shoes.
He was a stout, tallish young man. The high colour of his cheeks pushed upwards even to his forehead,
where it scattered itself in a few formless patches of pale red; and on his hairless face there scintillated
restlessly the polished lenses and the bright gilt rims of the glasses which screened his delicate and
restless eyes. His glossy black hair was parted in the middle and brushed in a long curve behind his
ears where it curled slightly beneath the groove left by his hat.
When he had flicked lustre into his shoes he stood up and pulled his waistcoat down more tightly on
his plump body. Then he took a coin rapidly from his pocket.
--O Lily, he said, thrusting it into her hands, it's Christmas-time, isn't it? Just... here's a little...
He walked rapidly towards the door.
--O no, sir! cried the girl, following him. Really, sir, I wouldn't take it.
--Christmas-time! Christmas-time! said Gabriel, almost trotting to the stairs and waving his hand to
her in deprecation.
The girl, seeing that he had gained the stairs, called out after him:
--Well, thank you, sir.
He waited outside the drawing-room door until the waltz should finish, listening to the skirts that
swept against it and to the shuffling of feet. He was still discomposed by the girl's bitter and sudden
retort. It had cast a gloom over him which he tried to dispel by arranging his cuffs and the bows of his
tie. He then took from his waistcoat pocket a little paper and glanced at the headings he had made for
his speech. He was undecided about the lines from Robert Browning, for he feared they would be
above the heads of his hearers. Some quotation that they would recognize from Shakespeare or from
the Melodies would be better. The indelicate clacking of the men's heels and the shuffling of their
soles reminded him that their grade of culture differed from his. He would only make himself
ridiculous by quoting poetry to them which they could not understand. They would think that he was
airing his superior education. He would fail with them just as he had failed with the girl in the pantry.
He had taken up a wrong tone. His whole speech was a mistake from first to last, an utter failure.
Just then his aunts and his wife came out of the ladies' dressing-room. His aunts were two small,
plainly dressed old women. Aunt Julia was an inch or so the taller. Her hair, drawn low over the tops
of her ears, was grey; and grey also, with darker shadows, was her large flaccid face. Though she was
stout in build and stood erect, her slow eyes and parted lips gave her the appearance of a woman who
did not know where she was or where she was going. Aunt Kate was more vivacious. Her face,
healthier than her sister's, was all puckers and creases, like a shrivelled red apple, and her hair, braided
in the same old-fashioned way, had not lost its ripe nut colour.
They both kissed Gabriel frankly. He was their favourite nephew, the son of their dead elder sister,
Ellen, who had married T. J. Conroy of the Port and Docks.
--Gretta tells me you're not going to take a cab back to Monkstown tonight, Gabriel, said Aunt Kate.
--No, said Gabriel, turning to his wife, we had quite enough of that last year, hadn't we? Don't you
remember, Aunt Kate, what a cold Gretta got out of it? Cab windows rattling all the way, and the east
wind blowing in after we passed Merrion. Very jolly it was. Gretta caught a dreadful cold.
Aunt Kate frowned severely and nodded her head at every word.
--Quite right, Gabriel, quite right, she said. You can't be too careful.
--But as for Gretta there, said Gabriel, she'd walk home in the snow if she were let.
Mrs Conroy laughed.
--Don't mind him, Aunt Kate, she said. He's really an awful bother, what with green shades for Tom's
eyes at night and making him do the dumb-bells, and forcing Eva to eat the stirabout. The poor child!
And she simply hates the sight of it!... O, but you'll never guess what he makes me wear now!
She broke out into a peal of laughter and glanced at her husband, whose admiring and happy eyes had
been wandering from her dress to her face and hair. The two aunts laughed heartily, too, for Gabriel's
solicitude was a standing joke with them.
--Goloshes! said Mrs Conroy. That's the latest. Whenever it's wet underfoot I must put on my
goloshes. Tonight even, he wanted me to put them on, but I wouldn't. The next thing he'll buy me will
be a diving suit.
Gabriel laughed nervously and patted his tie reassuringly, while Aunt Kate nearly doubled herself, so
heartily did she enjoy the joke. The smile soon faded from Aunt Julia's face and her mirthless eyes
were directed towards her nephew's face. After a pause she asked:
--And what are goloshes, Gabriel?
--Goloshes, Julia! exclaimed her sister. Goodness me, don't you know what goloshes are? You wear
them over your... over your boots, Gretta, isn't it?
--Yes, said Mrs Conroy. Gutta-percha things. We both have a pair now. Gabriel says everyone wears
them on the Continent.
--O, on the Continent, murmured Aunt Julia, nodding her head slowly.
Gabriel knitted his brows and said, as if he were slightly angered:
--It's nothing very wonderful, but Gretta thinks it very funny, because she says the word reminds her
of Christy Minstrels.
`But tell me, Gabriel,' said Aunt Kate, with brisk tact. `Of course, you've seen about the room. Gretta
was saying... '
--O, the room is all right, replied Gabriel. I've taken one in the Gresham.
--To be sure, said Aunt Kate, by far the best thing to do. And the children, Gretta, you're not anxious
--O, for one night, said Mrs Conroy. Besides, Bessie will look after them.
--To be sure, said Aunt Kate again. What a comfort it is to have a girl like that, one you can depend
on! There's that Lily, I'm sure I don't know what has come over her lately. She's not the girl she was at
Gabriel was about to ask his aunt some questions on this point, but she broke off suddenly to gaze
after her sister, who had wandered down the stairs and was craning her neck over the banisters.
--Now, I ask you, she said almost testily, where is Julia going? Julia! Julia! Where are you going?
Julia, who had gone half-way down one flight, came back and announced blandly:
At the same moment a clapping of hands and a final flourish of the pianist told that the waltz had
ended. The drawing-room door was opened from within and some couples came out. Aunt Kate drew
Gabriel aside hurriedly and whispered into his ear:
--Slip down, Gabriel, like a good fellow and see if he's all right, and don't let him up if he's screwed.
I'm sure he's screwed. I'm sure he is.
Gabriel went to the stairs and listened over the banisters. He could hear two persons talking in the
pantry. Then he recognized Freddy Malins' laugh. He went down the stairs noisily.
--It's such a relief, said Aunt Kate to Mrs Conroy, that Gabriel is here. I always feel easier in my mind
when he's here... Julia, there's Miss Daly and Miss Power will take some refreshment. Thanks for your
beautiful waltz, Miss Daly. It made lovely time.
A tall wizen-faced man, with a stiff grizzled moustache and swarthy skin, who was passing out with
his partner, said:
--And may we have some refreshment, too, Miss Morkan?
--Julia, said Aunt Kate summarily, and here's Mr Browne and Miss Furlong. Take them in, Julia, with
Miss Daly and Miss Power.
--I'm the man for the ladies, said Mr Browne, pursing his lips until his moustache bristled, and smiling
in all his wrinkles. `You know, Miss Morkan, the reason they are so fond of me is-He did not finish his sentence, but, seeing that Aunt Kate was out of earshot, at once led the three
young ladies into the back room. The middle of the room was occupied by two square tables placed
end to end, and on these Aunt Julia and the caretaker were straightening and smoothing a large cloth.
On the sideboard were arrayed dishes and plates, and glasses and bundles of knives and forks and
spoons. The top of the closed Square piano served also as a sideboard for viands and sweets. At a
smaller sideboard in one corner two young men were standing, drinking hop-bitters.
Mr Browne led his charges thither and invited them all, in jest, to some ladies' punch, hot, strong, and
sweet. As they said they never took anything strong, he opened three bottles of lemonade for them.
Then he asked one of the young men to move aside, and, taking hold of the decanter, filled out for
himself a goodly measure of whisky. The young men eyed him respectfully while he took a trial sip.
--God help me, he said, smiling, it's the doctor's order.
His wizened face broke into a broader smile, and the three young ladies laughed in musical echo to his
pleasantry, swaying their bodies to and fro, with nervous jerks of their shoulders. The boldest said:
--O, now, Mr Browne, I'm sure the doctor never ordered anything of the kind.
Mr Browne took another sip of his whisky and said, with sidling mimicry:
--Well, you see, I'm the famous Mrs Cassidy, who is reported to have said: Now, Mary Grimes, if I
don't take it, make me take it, for I feel I want it.
His hot face had leaned forward a little too confidentially and he had assumed a very low Dublin
accent, so that the young ladies, with one instinct, received his speech in silence. Miss Furlong, who
was one of Mary Jane's pupils, asked Miss Daly what was the name of the pretty waltz she had played;
and Mr Browne, seeing that he was ignored, turned promptly to the two young men, who were more
A red-faced young woman, dressed in pansy, came into the room, excitedly clapping her hands and
Close on her heels came Aunt Kate, crying:
--Two gentlemen and three ladies, Mary Jane!
--O, here's Mr Bergin and Mr Kerrigan, said Mary Jane.
Mr Kerrigan, will you take Miss Power? Miss Furlong, may I get you a partner, Mr Bergin. O, that'll
just do now.
--Three ladies, Mary Jane, said Aunt Kate.
The two young gentlemen asked the ladies if they might have the pleasure, and Mary Jane turned to
--O, Miss Daly, you're really awfully good, after playing for the last two dances, but really we're so
short of ladies tonight.
--I don't mind in the least, Miss Morkan.
--But I've a nice partner for you, Mr Bartell D'Arcy, the tenor. I'll get him to sing later on. All Dublin
is raving about him.
--Lovely voice, lovely voice! said Aunt Kate.
As the piano had twice begun the prelude to the first figure Mary Jane led her recruits quickly from the
room. They had hardly gone when Aunt Julia wandered slowly into the room, looking behind her at
--What is the matter, Julia? asked Aunt Kate anxiously. Who is it?
Julia, who was carrying in a column of table-napkins, turned to her sister and said, simply, as if the
question had surprised her:
--It's only Freddy, Kate, and Gabriel with him.
In fact, right behind her Gabriel could be seen piloting Freddy Malins across the landing. The latter, a
young man of about forty, was of Gabriel's size and build, with very round shoulders. His face was
fleshy and pallid, touched with colour only at the thick hanging lobes of his ears and at the wide wings
of his nose. He had coarse features, a blunt nose, a convex and receding brow, tumid and protruded
lips. His heavy-lidded eyes and the disorder of his scanty hair made him look sleepy. He was laughing
heartily in a high key at a story which he had been telling Gabriel on the stairs and at the same time
rubbing the knuckles of his left fist backwards and forwards into his left eye.
--Good evening, Freddy, said Aunt Julia.
Freddy Malins bade the Misses Morkan good evening in what seemed an off-hand fashion by reason
of the habitual catch in his voice and then, seeing that Mr Browne was grinning at him from the
sideboard, crossed the room on rather shaky legs and began to repeat in an undertone the story he had
just told to Gabriel.
--He's not so bad, is he? said Aunt Kate to Gabriel.
Gabriel's brows were dark, but he raised them quickly and answered:
--O, no, hardly noticeable.
--Now, isn't he a terrible fellow! she said. And his poor mother made him take the pledge on New
Year's Eve. But come on, Gabriel, into the drawing-room.
Before leaving the room with Gabriel she signalled to Mr Browne by frowning and shaking her
forefinger in warning to and fro. Mr Browne nodded in answer and, when she had gone, said to Freddy
--Now, then, Teddy, I'm going to fill you out a good glass of lemonade just to buck you up.
Freddy Malins, who was nearing the climax of his story, waved the offer aside impatiently, but Mr
Browne, having first called Freddy Malins' attention to a disarray in his dress, filled out and handed
him a full glass of lemonade. Freddy Malins' left hand accepted the glass mechanically, his right hand
being engaged in the mechanical readjustment of his dress. Mr Browne, whose face was once more
wrinkling with mirth, poured out for himself a glass of whisky while Freddy Malins exploded, before
he had well reached the climax of his story, in a kink of high-pitched bronchitic laughter and, setting
down his untasted and overflowing glass, began to run the knuckles of his left fist backwards and
forwards into his left eye, repeating words of his last phrase as well as his fit of laughter would allow
Gabriel could not listen while Mary Jane was playing her Academy piece, full of runs and difficult
passages, to the hushed drawing-room. He liked music, but the piece she was playing had no melody
for him and he doubted whether it had any melody for the other listeners, though they had begged
Mary Jane to play something. Four young men, who had come from the refreshment-room to stand in
the doorway at the sound of the piano, had gone away quietly in couples after a few minutes. The only
persons who seemed to follow the music were Mary Jane herself, her hands racing along the keyboard
or lifted from it at the pauses like those of a priestess in momentary imprecation, and Aunt Kate
standing at her elbow to turn the page.
Gabriel's eyes, irritated by the floor, which glittered with beeswax under the heavy chandelier,
wandered to the wall above the piano. A picture of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet hung there
and beside it was a picture of the two murdered princes in the Tower which Aunt Julia had worked in
red, blue, and brown wools when she was a girl. Probably in the school they had gone to as girls that
kind of work had been taught for one year. His mother had worked for him as a birthday present a
waistcoat of purple tabinet, with little foxes' heads upon it, lined with brown satin and having round
mulberry buttons. It was strange that his mother had had no musical talent, though Aunt Kate used to
call her the brains carrier of the Morkan family. Both she and Julia had always seemed a little proud of
their serious and matronly sister. Her photograph stood before the pier-glass. She had an open book on
her knees and was pointing out something in it to Constantine who, dressed in a man-o'-war suit, lay at
her feet. It was she who had chosen the names of her sons, for she was very sensible of the dignity of
family life. Thanks to her, Constantine was now senior curate in Balbriggan and, thanks to her, Gabriel
himself had taken his degree in the Royal University. A shadow passed over his face as he
remembered her sullen opposition to his marriage. Some slighting phrases she had used still rankled in
his memory; once she had spoken of Gretta as being country cute and that was not true of Gretta at all.
It was Gretta who had nursed her during all her last long illness in their house at Monkstown.
He knew that Mary Jane must be near the end of her piece, for she was playing again the opening
melody with runs of scales after every bar, and while he waited for the end the resentment died down
in his heart. The piece ended with a trill of octaves in the treble and a final deep octave in the bass.
Great applause greeted Mary Jane as, blushing and rolling up her music nervously, she escaped from
the room. The most vigorous clapping came from the four young men in the doorway who had gone
away to the refreshment-room at the beginning of the piece but had come back when the piano had
Lancers were arranged. Gabriel found himself partnered with Miss Ivors. She was a frank-mannered,
talkative young lady, with a freckled face and prominent brown eyes. She did not wear a low-cut
bodice, and the large brooch which was fixed in the front of her collar bore on it an Irish device and
When they had taken their places she said abruptly:
--I have a crow to pluck with you.
--With me? said Gabriel.
She nodded her head gravely.
--What is it? asked Gabriel, smiling at her solemn manner.
--Who is G.C.? answered Miss Ivors, turning her eyes upon him.
Gabriel coloured and was about to knit his brows, as if he did not understand, when she said bluntly:
--O, innocent Amy! I have found out that you write for The Daily Express. Now, aren't you ashamed
--Why should I be ashamed of myself?' asked Gabriel, blinking his eyes and trying to smile.
--Well, I'm ashamed of you, said Miss Ivors frankly. To say you'd write for a paper like that. I didn't
think you were a West Briton.
A look of perplexity appeared on Gabriel's face. It was true that he wrote a literary column every
Wednesday in The Daily Express, for which he was paid fifteen shillings. But that did not make him a
West Briton surely. The books he received for review were almost more welcome than the paltry
cheque. He loved to feel the covers and turn over the pages of newly printed books. Nearly every day
when his teaching in the college was ended he used to wander down the quays to the second-hand
booksellers, to Hickey's on Bachelor's Walk, to Webb's or Massey's on Aston's Quay, or to
O'Clohissey's in the by-street. He did not know how to meet her charge. He wanted to say that
literature was above politics. But they were friends of many years' standing and their careers had been
parallel, first at the University and then as teachers: he could not risk a grandiose phrase with her. He
continued blinking his eyes and trying to smile and murmured lamely that he saw nothing political in
writing reviews of books.
When their turn to cross had come he was still perplexed and inattentive. Miss Ivors promptly took his
hand in a warm grasp and said in a soft friendly tone:
--Of course, I was only joking. Come, we cross now.
When they were together again she spoke of the University question and Gabriel felt more at ease. A
friend of hers had shown her his review of Browning's poems. That was how she had found out the
secret: but she liked the review immensely. Then she said suddenly:
--O, Mr Conroy, will you come for an excursion to the Aran Isles this summer? We're going to stay
there a whole month. It will be splendid out in the Atlantic. You ought to come. Mr Clancy is coming,
and Mr Kilkelly and Kathleen Kearney. It would be splendid for Gretta too if she'd come. She's from
Connacht, isn't she?
--Her people are, said Gabriel shortly.
--But you will come, won't you? said Miss Ivors, laying her warm hand eagerly on his arm.
--The fact is, said Gabriel, I have just arranged to go---Go where? asked Miss Ivors.
--Well, you know, every year I go for a cycling tour with some fellows and so---But where? asked Miss Ivors.
--Well, we usually go to France or Belgium or perhaps Germany, said Gabriel awkwardly.
--And why do you go to France and Belgium, said Miss Ivors, instead of visiting your own land?
--Well, said Gabriel, it's partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change.
--And haven't you your own language to keep in touch with - Irish? asked Miss Ivors.
--Well, said Gabriel, if it comes to that, you know, Irish is not my language.
Their neighbours had turned to listen to the cross-examination. Gabriel glanced right and left
nervously and tried to keep his good humour under the ordeal, which was making a blush invade his
--And haven't you your own land to visit, continued Miss Ivors, that you know nothing of, your own
people, and your own country?
--O, to tell you the truth, retorted Gabriel suddenly, I'm sick of my own country, sick of it!
--Why? asked Miss Ivors.
Gabriel did not answer, for his retort had heated him.
--Why? repeated Miss Ivors.
They had to go visiting together and, as he had not answered her, Miss Ivors said warmly:
--Of course, you've no answer.
Gabriel tried to cover his agitation by taking part in the dance with great energy. He avoided her eyes,
for he had seen a sour expression on her face. But when they met in the long chain he was surprised to
feel his hand firmly pressed. She looked at him from under her brows for a moment quizzically until
he smiled. Then, just as the chain was about to start again, she stood on tiptoe and whispered into his
When the lancers were over Gabriel went away to a remote corner of the room where Freddy Malins'
mother was sitting. She was a stout, feeble old woman with white hair. Her voice had a catch in it like
her son's and she stuttered slightly. She had been told that Freddy had come and that he was nearly all
right. Gabriel asked her whether she had had a good crossing. She lived with her married daughter in
Glasgow and came to Dublin on a visit once a year. She answered placidly that she had had a beautiful
crossing and that the captain had been most attentive to her. She spoke also of the beautiful house her
daughter kept in Glasgow, and of all the friends they had there. While her tongue rambled on Gabriel
tried to banish from his mind all memory of the unpleasant incident with Miss Ivors. Of course the
girl, or woman, or whatever she was, was an enthusiast, but there was a time for all things. Perhaps he
ought not to have answered her like that. But she had no right to call him a West Briton before people,
even in joke. She had tried to make him ridiculous before people, heckling him and staring at him with
her rabbit's eyes.
He saw his wife making her way towards him through the waltzing couples. When she reached him
she said into his ear:
--Gabriel, Aunt Kate wants to know won't you carve the goose as usual. Miss Daly will carve the ham
and I'll do the pudding.
--All right, said Gabriel.
--She's sending in the younger ones first as soon as this waltz is over so that we'll have the table to
--Were you dancing? asked Gabriel.
--Of course I was. Didn't you see me? What words had you with Molly Ivors?
--No words. Why? Did she say so?
--Something like that. I'm trying to get that Mr D'Arcy to sing. He's full of conceit, I think.
--There were no words, said Gabriel moodily, only she wanted me to go for a trip to the west of
Ireland and I said I wouldn't.
His wife clasped her hands excitedly and gave a little jump.
--O, do go, Gabriel, she cried. I'd love to see Galway again.
--You can go if you like, said Gabriel coldly.
She looked at him for a moment, then turned to Mrs Malins and said:
--There's a nice husband for you, Mrs Malins.
While she was threading her way back across the room Mrs Malins, without adverting to the
interruption, went on to tell Gabriel what beautiful places there were in Scotland and beautiful scenery.
Her son-in-law brought them every year to the lakes and they used to go fishing. Her son-in-law was a
splendid fisher. One day he caught a beautiful big fish and the man in the hotel cooked it for their
Gabriel hardly heard what she said. Now that supper was coming near he began to think again about
his speech and about the quotation. When he saw Freddy Malins coming across the room to visit his
mother Gabriel left the chair free for him and retired into the embrasure of the window. The room had
already cleared and from the back room came the clatter of plates and knives. Those who still
remained in the drawing-room seemed tired of dancing and were conversing quietly in little groups.
Gabriel's warm, trembling fingers tapped the cold pane of the window. How cool it must be outside!
How pleasant it would be to walk out alone, first along by the river and then through the park! The
snow would be lying on the branches of the trees and forming a bright cap on the top of the
Wellington Monument. How much more pleasant it would be there than at the supper-table!
He ran over the headings of his speech: Irish hospitality, sad memories, the Three Graces, Paris, the
quotation from Browning. He repeated to himself a phrase he had written in his review: `One feels that
one is listening to a thought-tormented music.' Miss Ivors had praised the review. Was she sincere?
Had she really any life of her own behind all her propagandism? There had never been any ill-feeling
between them until that night. It unnerved him to think that she would be at the supper-table, looking
up at him, while he spoke, with her critical quizzing eyes. Perhaps she would not be sorry to see him
fail in his speech. An idea came into his mind and gave him courage. He would say, alluding to Aunt
Kate and Aunt Julia: Ladies and Gentlemen, the generation which is now on the wane among us may
have had its faults, but for my part I think it had certain qualities of hospitality, of humour, of
humanity, which the new and very serious and hyper-educated generation that is growing up around
us seems to me to lack. Very good: that was one for Miss Ivors. What did he care that his aunts were
only two ignorant old women?
A murmur in the room attracted his attention. Mr Browne was advancing from the door, gallantly
escorting Aunt Julia, who leaned upon his arm, smiling and hanging her head. An irregular musketry
of applause escorted her also as far as the piano and then, as Mary Jane seated herself on the stool, and
Aunt Julia, no longer smiling, half turned so as to pitch her voice fairly into the room, gradually
ceased. Gabriel recognized the prelude. It was that of an old song of Aunt Julia's -- Arrayed for the
Bridal . Her voice, strong and clear in tone, attacked with great spirit the runs which embellish the air,
and though she sang very rapidly she did not miss even the smallest of the grace notes. To follow the
voice, without looking at the singer's face, was to feel and share the excitement of swift and secure
flight. Gabriel applauded loudly with all the others at the close of the song, and loud applause was
borne in from the invisible supper-table. It sounded so genuine that a little colour struggled into Aunt
Julia's face as she bent to replace in the music-stand the old leather-bound song-book that had her
initials on the cover. Freddy Malins, who had listened with his head perched sideways to hear her
better, was still applauding when everyone else had ceased and talking animatedly to his mother, who
nodded her head gravely and slowly in acquiescence. At last, when he could clap no more, he stood up
suddenly and hurried across the room to Aunt Julia whose hand he seized and held in both his hands,
shaking it when words failed him or the catch in his voice proved too much for him.
--I was just telling my mother, he said, I never heard you sing so well, never. No, I never heard your
voice so good as it is tonight. Now! Would you believe that now? That's the truth. Upon my word and
honour that's the truth. I never heard your voice sound so fresh and so... so clear and fresh, never.
Aunt Julia smiled broadly and murmured something about compliments as she released her hand from
his grasp. Mr Browne extended his open hand towards her and said to those who were near him in the
manner of a showman introducing a prodigy to an audience:
--Miss Julia Morkan, my latest discovery!
He was laughing very heartily at this himself when Freddy Malins turned to him and said:
--Well, Browne, if you're serious you might make a worse discovery. All I can say is I never heard her
sing half so well as long as I am coming here. And that's the honest truth.
--Neither did I, said Mr Browne. I think her voice has greatly improved.
Aunt Julia shrugged her shoulders and said with meek pride:
--Thirty years ago I hadn't a bad voice as voices go.
--I often told Julia, said Aunt Kate emphatically, that she was simply thrown away in that choir. But
she never would be said by me.
She turned as if to appeal to the good sense of the others against a refractory child, while Aunt Julia
gazed in front of her, a vague smile of reminiscence playing on her face.
--No, continued Aunt Kate, she wouldn't be said or led by anyone, slaving there in that choir night and
day, night and day. Six o'clock on Christmas morning! And all for what?
--Well, isn't it for the honour of God, Aunt Kate? asked Mary Jane, twisting round on the piano-stool
Aunt Kate turned fiercely on her niece and said:
--I know all about the honour of God, Mary Jane, but I think it's not at all honourable for the Pope to
turn out the women out of the choirs that have slaved there all their lives and put little whippersnappers of boys over their heads. I suppose it is for the good of the Church, if the Pope does it. But
it's not just, Mary Jane, and it's not right.
She had worked herself into a passion and would have continued in defence of her sister, for it was a
sore subject with her, but Mary Jane, seeing that all the dancers had come back, intervened pacifically.
--Now, Aunt Kate, you're giving scandal to Mr Browne, who is of the other persuasion.
Aunt Kate turned to Mr Browne, who was grinning at this allusion to his religion, and said hastily:
--O, I don't question the Pope's being right. I'm only a stupid old woman and I wouldn't presume to do
such a thing. But there's such a thing as common everyday politeness and gratitude. And if I were in
Julia's place I'd tell that Father Healey straight up to his face...
--And besides, Aunt Kate, said Mary Jane, we really are all hungry and when we are hungry we are all
--And when we are thirsty we are also quarrelsome, added Mr Browne.
--So that we had better go to supper, said Mary Jane, and finish the discussion afterwards.
On the landing outside the drawing-room Gabriel found his wife and Mary Jane trying to persuade
Miss Ivors to stay for supper. But Miss Ivors, who had put on her hat and was buttoning her cloak,
would not stay. She did not feel in the least hungry and she had already overstayed her time.
--But only for ten minutes, Molly, said Mrs Conroy. That won't delay you.
--To take a pick itself, said Mary Jane, after all your dancing.
--I really couldn't, said Miss Ivors.
--I am afraid you didn't enjoy yourself at all, said Mary Jane hopelessly.
--Ever so much, I assure you, said Miss Ivors, but you really must let me run off now.
--But how can you get home? asked Mrs Conroy.
--O, it's only two steps up the quay.
Gabriel hesitated a moment and said:
--If you will allow me, Miss Ivors, I'll see you home if you are really obliged to go.
But Miss Ivors broke away from them.
--I won't hear of it, she cried. For goodness' sake go in to your suppers and don't mind me. I'm quite
well able to take care of myself.
--Well, you're the comical girl, Molly, said Mrs Conroy frankly.
--Beannacht libh, cried Miss Ivors, with a laugh, as she ran down the staircase.
Mary Jane gazed after her, a moody puzzled expression on her face, while Mrs Conroy leaned over the
banisters to listen for the hall-door. Gabriel asked himself was he the cause of her abrupt departure.
But she did not seem to be in ill humour - she had gone away laughing. He stared blankly down the
At that moment Aunt Kate came toddling out of the supper-room, almost wringing her hands in
--Where is Gabriel? she cried. Where on earth is Gabriel? There's everyone waiting in there, stage to
let, and nobody to carve the goose!
--Here I am, Aunt Kate! cried Gabriel, with sudden animation, ready to carve a flock of geese, if
A fat brown goose lay at one end of the table, and at the other end, on a bed of creased paper strewn
with sprigs of parsley, lay a great ham, stripped of its outer skin and peppered over with crust crumbs,
a neat paper frill round its shin, and beside this was a round of spiced beef. Between these rival ends
ran parallel lines of side-dishes: two little minsters of jelly, red and yellow; a shallow dish full of
blocks of blancmange and red jam, a large green leaf-shaped dish with a stalk-shaped handle, on
which lay bunches of purple raisins and peeled almonds, a companion dish on which lay a solid
rectangle of Smyrna figs, a dish of custard topped with grated nutmeg, a small bowl full of chocolates
and sweets wrapped in gold and silver papers and a glass vase in which stood some tall celery stalks.
In the centre of the table there stood, as sentries to a fruit-stand which upheld a pyramid of oranges
and American apples, two squat old-fashioned decanters of cut glass, one containing port and the other
dark sherry. On the closed square piano a pudding in a huge yellow dish lay in waiting, and behind it
were three squads of bottles of stout and ale and minerals drawn up according to the colours of their
uniforms, the first two black, with brown and red labels, the third and smallest squad white, with
transverse green sashes.
Gabriel took his seat boldly at the head of the table and, having looked to the edge of the carver,
plunged his fork firmly into-the goose. He felt quite at ease now, for he was an expert carver and liked
nothing better than to find himself at the head of a well-laden table.
--Miss Furlong, what shall I send you? he asked. A wing or a slice of the breast?
--Just a small slice of the breast.
--Miss Higgins, what for you?
--O, anything at all, Mr Conroy.
While Gabriel and Miss Daly exchanged plates of goose and plates of ham and spiced beef, Lily went
from guest to guest with a dish of hot floury potatoes wrapped in a white napkin. This was Mary Jane's
idea and she had also suggested apple sauce for the goose, but Aunt Kate had said that plain roast
goose without any apple sauce had always been good enough for her and she hoped she might never
eat worse. Mary Jane waited on her pupils and saw that they got the best slices, and Aunt Kate and
Aunt Julia opened and carried across from the piano bottles of stout and ale for the gentlemen and
bottles of minerals for the ladies. There was a great deal of confusion and laughter and noise, the noise
of orders and counter-orders, of knives and forks, of corks and glass-stoppers. Gabriel began to carve
second helpings as soon as he had finished the first round without serving himself. Everyone protested
loudly, so that he compromised by taking a long draught of stout, for he had found the carving hot
work. Mary Jane settled down quietly to her supper, but Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia were still toddling
round the table, walking on each other's heels, getting in each other's way and giving each other
unheeded orders. Mr Browne begged of them to sit down and eat their suppers and so did Gabriel, but
they said there was time enough, so that, at last, Freddy Malins stood up and, capturing Aunt Kate,
plumped her down on her chair amid general laughter.
When everyone had been well served Gabriel said, smiling:
--Now, if anyone wants a little more of what vulgar people call stuffing let him or her speak.
A chorus of voices invited him to begin his own supper, and Lily came forward with three potatoes
which she had reserved for him.
--Very well, said Gabriel amiably, as he took another preparatory draught, kindly forget my existence,
ladies and gentlemen, for a few minutes.
He set to his supper and took no part in the conversation with which the table covered Lily's removal
of the plates. The subject of talk was the opera company which was then at the Theatre Royal. Mr
Bartell D'Arcy, the tenor, a dark-complexioned young man with a smart moustache, praised very
highly the leading contralto of the company, but Miss Furlong thought she had a rather vulgar style of
production. Freddy Malins said there was a Negro chieftain singing in the second part of the Gaiety
pantomime who had one of the finest tenor voices he had ever heard.
--Have you heard him? he asked Mr Bartell D'Arcy across the table.
--No, answered Mr Bartell D'Arcy carelessly.
--Because, Freddy Malins explained, now I'd be curious to hear your opinion of him. I think he has a
--It takes Teddy to find out the really good things, said Mr Browne familiarly to the table.
--And why couldn't he have a voice too? asked Freddy Malins sharply. Is it because he's only a black?
Nobody answered this question and Mary Jane led the table back to the legitimate opera. One of her
pupils had given her a pass for Mignon. Of course it was very fine, she said, but it made her think of
poor Georgina Burns. Mr Browne could go back farther still, to the old Italian companies that used to
come to Dublin - Tietjens, Ilma de Murzka, Campanini, the great Trebelli, Giuglini, Ravelli,
Aramburo. Those were the days, he said, when there was something like singing to be heard in Dublin.
He told too of how the top gallery of the old Royal used to be packed night after night, of how one
night an Italian tenor had sung five encores to Let Me Like a Soldier Fall, introducing a high C every
time, and of how the gallery boys would sometimes in their enthusiasm unyoke the horses from the
carriage of some great prima donna and pull her themselves through the streets to her hotel. Why did
they never play the grand old operas now, he asked, Dinorah, Lucrezia Borgia? Because they could
not get the voices to sing them: that was why.
--O, well, said Mr Bartell D'Arcy, I presume there are as good singers today as there were then.
--Where are they? asked Mr Browne defiantly.
--In London, Paris, Milan, said Mr Bartell D'Arcy warmly. I suppose Caruso, for example, is quite as
good, if not better than any of the men you have mentioned.
--Maybe so, said Mr Browne. But I may tell you I doubt it strongly.
--O, I'd give anything to hear Caruso sing, said Mary Jane.
--For me, said Aunt Kate, who had been picking a bone, there was only one tenor. To please me, I
mean. But I suppose none of you ever heard of him.
--Who was he, Miss Morkan? asked Mr Bartell D'Arcy politely.
--His name, said Aunt Kate, was Parkinson. I heard him when he was in his prime and I think he had
then the purest tenor voice that was ever put into a man's throat.
--Strange, said Mr Bartell D'Arcy. I never even heard of him.
--Yes, yes, Miss Morkan is right, said Mr Browne. I remember hearing old Parkinson, but he's too far
back for me.
--A beautiful, pure, sweet, mellow English tenor, said Aunt Kate with enthusiasm.
Gabriel having finished, the huge pudding was transferred to the table. The clatter of forks and spoons
began again. Gabriel's wife served out spoonfuls of the pudding and passed the plates down the table.
Midway down they were held up by Mary Jane, who replenished them with raspberry or orange jelly
or with blancmange and jam. The pudding was of Aunt Julia's making, and she received praises for it
from all quarters. She herself said that it was not quite brown enough.
--Well, I hope, Miss Morkan, said Mr Browne, that I'm brown enough for you because, you know, I'm
All the gentlemen, except Gabriel, ate some of the pudding out of compliment to Aunt Julia. As
Gabriel never ate sweets the celery had been left for him. Freddy Malins also took a stalk of celery and
ate it with his pudding. He had been told that celery was a capital thing for the blood and he was just
then under doctor's care. Mrs Malins, who had been silent all through the supper, said that her son was
going down to Mount Melleray in a week or so. The table then spoke of Mount Melleray, how bracing
the air was down there, how hospitable the monks were and how they never asked for a penny-piece
from their guests.
--And do you mean to say, asked Mr Browne incredulously, that a chap can go down there and put up
there as if it were a hotel and live on the fat of the land and then come away without paying anything?
--O, most people give some donation to the monastery when they leave, said Mary Jane.
--I wish we had an institution like that in our Church, said Mr Browne candidly.
He was astonished to hear that the monks never spoke, got up at two in the morning and slept in their
coffins. He asked what they did it for.
--That's the rule of the order, said Aunt Kate firmly.
--Yes, but why? asked Mr Browne.
Aunt Kate repeated that it was the rule, that was all. Mr Browne still seemed not to understand. Freddy
Malins explained to him, as best he could, that the monks were trying to make up for the sins
committed by all the sinners in the outside world. The explanation was not very clear, for Mr Browne
grinned and said:
--I like that idea very much, but wouldn't a comfortable spring bed do them as well as a coffin?
--The coffin, said Mary Jane, is to remind them of their last end.
As the subject had grown lugubrious it was buried in a silence of the table, during which Mrs Malins
could be heard saying to her neighbour in an indistinct undertone:
--They are very good men, the monks, very pious men.
The raisins and almonds and figs and apples and oranges and chocolates and sweets were now passed
about the table, and Aunt Julia invited all the guests to have either port or sherry. At first Mr Bartell
D'Arcy refused to take either, but one of his neighbours nudged him and whispered something to him,
upon which he allowed his glass to be filled. Gradually as the last glasses were being filled the
conversation ceased. A pause followed, broken only by the noise of the wine and by unsettling of
chairs. The Misses Morkan, all three, looked down at the tablecloth. Someone coughed once or twice,
and then a few gentlemen patted the table gently as a signal for silence. The silence came and Gabriel
pushed back his chair and stood up.
The patting at once grew louder in encouragement and then ceased altogether. Gabriel leaned his ten
trembling fingers on the tablecloth and smiled nervously at the company. Meeting a row of upturned
faces he raised his eyes to the chandelier. The piano was playing a waltz tune and he could hear the
skirts sweeping against the drawing-room door. People, perhaps, were standing in the snow on the
quay outside, gazing up at the lighted windows and listening to the waltz music. The air was pure
there. In the distance lay the park, where the trees were weighted with snow. The Wellington
Monument wore a gleaming cap of snow that flashed westwards over the white field of Fifteen Acres.
--Ladies and Gentlemen,
--It has fallen to my lot this evening, as in years past, to perform a very pleasing task, but a task for
which I am afraid my poor powers as a speaker are all too inadequate.
--No, no! said Mr Browne.
--But, however that may be, I can only ask you tonight to take the will for the deed, and to lend me
your attention for a few moments while I endeavour to express to you in words what my feelings are
on this occasion.
--Ladies and Gentlemen, it is not the first time that we have gathered together under this hospitable
roof, around this hospitable board. It is not the first time that we have been the recipients - or perhaps,
I had better say, the victims - of the hospitality of certain good ladies.
He made a circle in the air with his arm and paused. Everyone laughed or smiled at Aunt Kate and
Aunt Julia and Mary Jane, who all turned crimson with pleasure. Gabriel went on more boldly:
--I feel more strongly with every recurring year that our country has no tradition which does it so
much honour and which it should guard so jealously as that of its hospitality. It is a tradition that is
unique as far as my experience goes (and I have visited not a few places abroad) among the modern
nations. Some would say, perhaps, that with us it is rather a failing than anything to be boasted of. But
granted even that, it is, to my mind, a princely failing, and one that I trust will long be cultivated
among us. Of one thing, at least, I am sure. As long as this one roof shelters the good ladies aforesaid and I wish from my heart it may do so for many and many a long year to come - the tradition of
genuine warm-hearted courteous Irish hospitality, which our forefathers have handed down to us and
which we must hand down to our descendants, is still alive among us.
A hearty murmur of assent ran round the table. It shot through Gabriel's mind that Miss Ivors was not
there and that she had gone away discourteously: and he said with confidence in himself:
--Ladies and Gentlemen,
--A new generation is growing up in our midst, a generation actuated by new ideas and new principles.
It is serious and enthusiastic for these new ideas and its enthusiasm, even when it is misdirected, is, I
believe, in the main sincere. But we are living in a sceptical and, if I may use the phrase, a thoughttormented age: and sometimes I fear that this new generation, educated or hyper-educated as it is, will
lack those qualities of humanity, of hospitality, of kindly humour which belonged to an older day.
Listening tonight to the names of all those great singers of the past it seemed to me, I must confess,
that we were living in a less spacious age. Those days might, without exaggeration, be called spacious
days: and if they are gone beyond recall, let us hope, at least, that in gatherings such as this we shall
still speak of them with pride and affection, still cherish in our hearts the memory of those dead and
gone great ones whose fame the world will not willingly let die.
--Hear, hear! said Mr Browne loudly.
--But yet, continued Gabriel, his voice falling into a softer inflection, there are always in gatherings
such as this sadder thoughts that will recur to our minds: thoughts of the past, of youth, of changes, of
absent faces that we miss here tonight. Our path through life is strewn with many such sad memories:
and were we to brood upon them always we could not find the heart to go on bravely with our work
among the living. We have all of us living duties and living affections which claim, and rightly claim,
our strenuous endeavours.
--Therefore, I will not linger on the past. I will not let any gloomy moralizing intrude upon us here
tonight. Here we are gathered together for a brief moment from the bustle and rush of our everyday
routine. We are met here as friends, in the spirit of good-fellowship, as colleagues, also, to a certain
extent, in the true spirit of camaraderie, and as the guests of - what shall I call them? - the Three
Graces of the Dublin musical world.
The table burst into applause and laughter at this allusion. Aunt Julia vainly asked each of her
neighbours in turn to tell her what Gabriel had said.
--He says we are the Three Graces, Aunt Julia, said Mary Jane.
Aunt Julia did not understand, but she looked up, smiling at Gabriel, who continued in the same vein:
--Ladies and Gentlemen,
--I will not attempt to play tonight the part that Paris played on another occasion. I will not attempt to
choose between them. The task would be an invidious one and one beyond my poor powers. For when
I view them in turn, whether it be our chief hostess herself, whose good heart, whose too good heart,
has become a byword with all who know her; or her sister, who seems to be gifted with perennial
youth and whose singing must have been a surprise and a revelation to us all tonight; or, last but not
least, when I consider our youngest hostess, talented, cheerful, hardworking and the best of nieces, I
confess, Ladies and Gentlemen, that I do not know to which of them I should award the prize.
Gabriel glanced down at his aunts and, seeing the large smile on Aunt Julia's face and the tears which
had risen to Aunt Kate's eyes, hastened to his close. He raised his glass of port gallantly, while every
member of the company fingered a glass expectantly, and said loudly:
--Let us toast them all three together. Let us drink to their health, wealth, long life, happiness, and
prosperity and may they long continue to hold the proud and self-won position which they hold in their
profession and the position of honour and affection which they hold in our hearts.
All the guests stood up, glass in hand, and turning towards the three seated ladies, sang in unison, with
Mr Browne as leader:
For they are jolly gay fellows,
For they are jolly gay fellows,
For they are jolly gay fellows,
Which nobody can deny.
Aunt Kate was making frank use of her handkerchief and even Aunt Julia seemed moved. Freddy
Malins beat time with his pudding-fork and the singers turned towards one another, as if in melodious
conference, while they sang with emphasis:
Unless he tells a lie,
Unless he tells a lie.
Then, turning once more towards their hostesses, they sang:
For they are jolly gay fellows,
For they are jolly gay fellows,
For they are jolly gay fellows,
Which nobody can deny.
The acclamation which followed was taken up beyond the door of the supper-room by many of the
other guests and renewed time after time, Freddy Malins acting as officer with his fork on high.
The piercing morning air came into the hall where they were standing so that Aunt Kate said:
--Close the door, somebody. Mrs Malins will get her death of cold.
--Browne is out there, Aunt Kate, said Mary Jane.
--Browne is everywhere, said Aunt Kate, lowering her voice.
Mary Jane laughed at her tone.
--Really, she said archly, he is very attentive.
--He has been laid on here like the gas, said Aunt Kate in the same tone, all during the Christmas.
She laughed herself this time good-humouredly and then added quickly:
--But tell him to come in, Mary Jane, and close the door. I hope to goodness he didn't hear me.
At that moment the hall-door was opened and Mr Browne came in from the doorstep, laughing as if
his heart would break. He was dressed in a long green overcoat with mock astrakhan cuffs and collar
and wore on his head an oval fur cap. He pointed down the snow-covered quay from where the sound
of shrill prolonged whistling was borne in.
--Teddy will have all the cabs in Dublin out, he said.
Gabriel advanced from the little pantry behind the office, struggling into his overcoat and, looking
round the hall, said.
--Gretta not down yet?
--She's getting on her things, Gabriel, said Aunt Kate.
--Who's playing up there? asked Gabriel.
--Nobody. They're all gone.
--O no, Aunt Kate, said Mary Jane. Bartell D'Arcy and Miss O'Callaghan aren't gone yet.
--Someone is fooling at the piano anyhow, said Gabriel.
Mary Jane glanced at Gabriel and Mr Browne and said with a shiver:
--It makes me feel cold to look at you two gentlemen muffled up like that. I wouldn't like to face your
journey home at this hour.
--I'd like nothing better this minute, said Mr Browne stoutly, than a rattling fine walk in the country or
a fast drive with a good spanking goer between the shafts.
--We used to have a very good horse and trap at home, said Aunt Julia, sadly.
--The never-to-be-forgotten Johnny, said Mary Jane, laughing.
Aunt Kate and Gabriel laughed too.
--Why, what was wonderful about Johnny? asked Mr Browne.
--The late lamented Patrick Morkan, our grandfather, that is, explained Gabriel, commonly known in
his later years as the old gentleman, was a glue-boiler.
--O, now, Gabriel, said Aunt Kate, laughing, he had a starch mill.
--Well, glue or starch, said Gabriel, the old gentleman had a horse by the name of Johnny. And Johnny
used to work in the old gentleman's mill, walking round and round in order to drive the mill. That was
all very well; but now comes the tragic part about Johnny. One fine day the old gentleman thought
he'd like to drive out with the quality to a military review in the park.
--The Lord have mercy on his soul, said Aunt Kate, compassionately.
--Amen, said Gabriel. So the old gentleman, as I said, harnessed Johnny and put on his very best tall
hat and his very best stock collar and drove out in grand style from his ancestral mansion somewhere
near Back Lane, I think.
Everyone laughed, even Mrs Malins, at Gabriel's manner, and Aunt Kate said:
--O, now, Gabriel, he didn't live in Back Lane, really. Only the mill was there.
--Out from the mansion of his forefathers, continued Gabriel, he drove with Johnny. And everything
went on beautifully until Johnny came in sight of King Billy's statue: and whether he fell in love with
the horse King Billy sits on or whether he thought he was back again in the mill, anyway he began to
walk round the statue.
Gabriel paced in a circle round the hall in his goloshes amid the laughter of the others.
--Round and round he went, said Gabriel, and the old gentleman, who was a very pompous old
gentleman, was highly indignant. Go on, sir! What do you mean, sir? Johnny! Johnny! Most
extraordinary conduct! Can't understand the horse!
The peals of laughter which followed Gabriel's imitation of the incident were interrupted by a
resounding knock at the hall-door. Mary Jane ran to open it and let in Freddy Malins. Freddy Malins,
with his hat well back on his head and his shoulders humped with cold, was puffing and steaming after
--I could only get one cab, he said.
--O, we'll find another along the quay, said Gabriel.
--Yes, said Aunt Kate. Better not keep Mrs Malins standing in the draught.
Mrs Malins was helped down the front steps by her son and Mr Browne and, after many manoeuvres,
hoisted into the cab. Freddy Malins clambered in after her and spent a long time settling her on the
seat, Mr Browne helping him with advice. At last she was settled comfortably and Freddy Malins
invited Mr Browne into the cab. There was a good deal of confused talk, and then Mr Browne got into
the cab. The cabman settled his rug over his knees, and bent down for the address. The confusion grew
greater and the cabman was directed differently by Freddy Malins and Mr Browne, each of whom had
his head out through a window of the cab. The difficulty was to know where to drop Mr Browne along
the route, and Aunt Kate, Aunt Julia, and Mary Jane helped the discussion from the doorstep with
cross-directions and contradictions and abundance of laughter. As for Freddy Malins he was
speechless with laughter. He popped his head in and out of the window every moment to the great
danger of his hat, and told his mother how the discussion was progressing, till at last Mr Browne
shouted to the bewildered cabman above the din of everybody's laughter:
--Do you know Trinity College?
--Yes, sir, said the cabman.
--Well, drive bang up against Trinity College gates, said Mr Browne, and then we'll tell you where to
go. You understand now?
--Yes, sir, said the cabman.
--Make like a bird for Trinity College.
--Right, sir, said the cabman.
The horse was whipped up and the cab rattled off along the quay amid a chorus of laughter and adieus.
Gabriel had not gone to the door with the others. He was in a dark part of the hall gazing up the
staircase. A woman was standing near the top of the first flight, in the shadow also. He could not see
her face but he could see the terra-cotta and salmon-pink panels of her skirt which the shadow made
appear black and white. It was his wife. She was leaning on the banisters, listening to something.
Gabriel was surprised at her stillness and strained his ear to listen also. But he could hear little save the
noise of laughter and dispute on the front steps, a few chords struck on the piano and a few notes of a
man's voice singing.
He stood still in the gloom of the hall, trying to catch the air that the voice was singing and gazing up
at his wife. There was grace and mystery in her attitude as if she were a symbol of something. He
asked himself what is a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow, listening to distant music, a
symbol of. If he were a painter he would paint her in that attitude. Her blue felt hat would show off the
bronze of her hair against the darkness and the dark panels of her skirt would show off the light ones.
Distant Music he would call the picture if he were a painter.
The hall-door was closed, and Aunt Kate, Aunt Julia, and Mary Jane came down the hall, still
--Well, isn't Freddy terrible? said Mary Jane. He's really terrible.
Gabriel said nothing, but pointed up the stairs towards where his wife was standing. Now that the halldoor was closed the voice and the piano could be heard more clearly. Gabriel held up his hand for
them to be silent. The song seemed to be in the old Irish tonality and the singer seemed uncertain both
of his words and of his voice. The voice, made plaintive by distance and by the singer's hoarseness,
faintly illuminated the cadence of the air with words expressing grief:
O, the rain falls on my heavy locks
And the dew wets my skin,
My babe lies cold...
--O, exclaimed Mary Jane. It's Bartell D'Arcy singing, and he wouldn't sing all the night. O, I'll get
him to sing a song before he goes.
--O, do, Mary Jane, said Aunt Kate.
Mary Jane brushed past the others and ran to the staircase, but before she reached it the singing
stopped and the piano was closed abruptly.
--O, what a pity! she cried. Is he coming down, Gretta?
Gabriel heard his wife answer yes and saw her come down towards them. A few steps behind her were
Mr Bartell D'Arcy and Miss O'Callaghan.
--O, Mr D'Arcy, cried Mary Jane, it's downright mean of you to break off like that when we were all in
raptures listening to you.
--I have been at him all the evening, said Miss O'Callaghan, and Mrs Conroy, too, and he told us he
had a dreadful cold and couldn't sing.
--O, Mr D'Arcy, said Aunt Kate, now that was a great fib to tell.
--Can't you see that I'm as hoarse as a crow? said Mr D'Arcy roughly.
He went into the pantry hastily and put on his overcoat. The others, taken back by his rude speech,
could find nothing to say. Aunt Kate wrinkled her brows and made signs to the others to drop the
subject. Mr D'Arcy stood swathing his neck carefully and frowning.
--It's the weather, said Aunt Julia, after a pause.
--Yes, everybody has colds, said Aunt Kate readily, everybody.
--They say, said Mary Jane, we haven't had snow like it for thirty years, and I read this morning in the
newspapers that the snow is general all over Ireland.
--I love the look of snow, said Aunt Julia sadly.
--So do I, said Miss O'Callaghan. I think Christmas is never really Christmas unless we have the snow
on the ground.
--But poor Mr D'Arcy doesn't like the snow, said Aunt Kate, smiling.
Mr D'Arcy came from the pantry, fully swathed and buttoned, and in a repentant tone told them the
history of his cold. Everyone gave him advice and said it was a great pity and urged him to be very
careful of his throat in the night air. Gabriel watched his wife, who did not join in the conversation.
She was standing right under the dusty fanlight and the flame of the gas lit up the rich bronze of her
hair, which he had seen her drying at the fire a few days before. She was in the same attitude and
seemed unaware of the talk about her. At last she turned towards them and Gabriel saw that there was
colour on her cheeks and that her eyes were shining. A sudden tide of joy went leaping out of his
--Mr D'Arcy, she said, what is the name of that song you were singing?
--It's called The Lass of Aughrim, said Mr D'Arcy, but I couldn't remember it properly. Why? Do you
--The Lass of Aughrim, she repeated. I couldn't think of the name.
--It's a very nice air, said Mary Jane. I'm sorry you were not in voice tonight.
--Now, Mary Jane, said Aunt Kate, don't annoy Mr D'Arcy. I won't have him annoyed.
Seeing that all were ready to start she shepherded them to the door, where good night was said:
--Well, good night, Aunt Kate, and thanks for the pleasant evening.
--Good night, Gabriel. Good night, Gretta!
--Good night, Aunt Kate, and thanks ever so much. Good night, Aunt Julia.
--O, good night, Gretta, I didn't see you.
--Good night, Mr D'Arcy. Good night, Miss O'Callaghan.
--Good night, Miss Morkan.
--Good night, again.
--Good night, all. Safe home.
--Good night. Good night.
The morning was still dark. A dull, yellow light brooded over the houses and the river; and the sky
seemed to be descending. It was slushy underfoot, and only streaks and patches of snow lay on the
roofs, on the parapets of the quay and on the area railings. The lamps were still burning redly in the
murky air and, across the river, the palace of the Four Courts stood out menacingly against the heavy
She was walking on before him with Mr Bartell D'Arcy, her shoes in a brown parcel tucked under one
arm and her hands holding her skirt up from the slush. She had no longer any grace of attitude, but
Gabriel's eyes were still bright with happiness. The blood went bounding along his veins and the
thoughts went rioting through his brain, proud, joyful, tender, valorous.
She was walking on before him so lightly and so erect that he longed to run after her noiselessly, catch
her by the shoulders and say something foolish and affectionate into her ear. She seemed to him so
frail that he longed to defend her against something and then to be alone with her. Moments of their
secret life together burst like stars upon his memory. A heliotrope envelope was lying beside his
breakfast-cup and he was caressing it with his hand. Birds were twittering in the ivy and the sunny
web of the curtain was shimmering along the floor: he could not eat for happiness. They were standing
on the crowded platform and he was placing a ticket inside the warm palm of her glove. He was
standing with her in the cold, looking in through a grated window at a man making bottles in a roaring
furnace. It was very cold. Her face, fragrant in the cold air, was quite close to his, and suddenly she
called out to the man at the furnace:
--Is the fire hot, sir?
But the man could not hear with the noise of the furnace. It was just as well. He might have answered
A wave of yet more tender joy escaped from his heart and went coursing in warm flood along his
arteries. Like the tender fire of stars moments of their life together, that no one knew of or would ever
know of, broke upon and illumined his memory. He longed to recall to her those moments, to make
her forget the years of their dull existence together and remember only their moments of ecstasy. For
the years, he felt, had not quenched his soul or hers. Their children, his writing, her household cares
had not quenched all their souls' tender fire. In one letter that he had written to her then he had said:
Why is it that words like these seem to me so dull and cold? Is it because there is no word tender
enough to be your name?
Like distant music these words that he had written years before were borne towards him from the past.
He longed to be alone with her. When the others had gone away, when he and she were in the room in
their hotel, then they would be alone together. He would call her softly:
Perhaps she would not hear at once: she would be undressing. Then something in his voice would
strike her. She would turn and look at him....
At the corner of Winetavern Street they met a cab. He was glad of its rattling noise as it saved him
from conversation. She was looking out of the window and seemed tired. The others spoke only a few
words, pointing out some building or street. The horse galloped along wearily under the murky
morning sky, dragging his old rattling box after his heels, and Gabriel was again in a cab with her,
galloping to catch the boat, galloping to their honeymoon.
As the cab drove across O'Connell Bridge Miss O'Callaghan said:
--They say you never cross O'Connell Bridge without seeing a white horse.
--I see a white man this time, said Gabriel.
--Where? asked Mr Bartell D'Arcy.
Gabriel pointed to the statue, on which lay patches of snow. Then he nodded familiarly to it and waved
--Good night, Dan, he said gaily.
When the cab drew up before the hotel, Gabriel jumped out and, in spite of Mr Bartell D'Arcy's
protest, paid the driver. He gave the man a shilling over his fare. The man saluted and said:
--A prosperous New Year to you, sir.
--The same to you, said Gabriel cordially.
She leaned for a moment on his arm in getting out of the cab and while standing at the kerb-stone,
bidding the others good night. She leaned lightly on his arm, as lightly as when she had danced with
him a few hours before. He had felt proud and happy then, happy that she was his, proud of her grace
and wifely carriage. But now, after the kindling again of so many memories, the first touch of her
body, musical and strange and perfumed, sent through him a keen pang of lust. Under cover of her
silence he pressed her arm closely to his side, and, as they stood at the hotel door, he felt that they had
escaped from their lives and duties, escaped from home and friends and run away together with wild
and radiant hearts to a new adventure.
An old man was dozing in a great hooded chair in the hall. He lit a candle in the office and went before
them to the stairs. They followed him in silence, their feet falling in soft thuds on the thickly carpeted
stairs. She mounted the stairs behind the porter, her head bowed in the ascent, her frail shoulders
curved as with a burden, her skirt girt tightly about her. He could have flung his arms about her hips
and held her still, for his arms were trembling with desire to seize her and only the stress of his nails
against the palms of his hands held the wild impulse of his body in check. The porter halted on the
stairs to settle his guttering candle. They halted, too, on the steps below him. In the silence Gabriel
could hear the falling of molten wax into the tray and the thumping of his own heart against his ribs.
The porter led them along a corridor and opened a door. Then he set his unstable candle down on a
toilet-table and asked at what hour they were to be called in the morning.
--Eight, said Gabriel.
The porter pointed to the tap of the electric-light and began a muttered apology, but Gabriel cut him
--We don't want any light. We have light enough from the street. And I say,' he added, pointing to the
candle, `you might remove that handsome article, like a good man.
The porter took up his candle again, but slowly, for he was surprised by such a novel idea. Then he
mumbled good night and went out. Gabriel shot the lock to.
A ghostly light from the street lamp lay in a long shaft from one window to the door. Gabriel threw his
overcoat and hat on a couch and crossed the room towards the window. He looked down into the street
in order that his emotion might calm a little. Then he turned and leaned against a chest of drawers with
his back to the light. She had taken off her hat and cloak and was standing before a large swinging
mirror, unhooking her waist. Gabriel paused for a few moments, watching her, and then said:
She turned away from the mirror slowly and walked along the shaft of light towards him. Her face
looked so serious and weary that the words would not pass Gabriel's lips. No, it was not the moment
--You looked tired, he said.
--I am a little, she answered.
--You don't feel ill or weak?
--No, tired: that's all.
She went on to the window and stood there, looking out. Gabriel waited again and then, fearing that
diffidence was about to conquer him, he said abruptly:
--By the way, Gretta!
--What is it?
--You know that poor fellow Malins? he said quickly.
--Yes. What about him?
--Well, poor fellow, be's a decent sort of chap, after all, continued Gabriel in a false voice. He gave me
back that sovereign I lent him, and I didn't expect it, really. It's a pity he wouldn't keep away from that
Browne, because he's not a bad fellow, really.
He was trembling now with annoyance. Why did she seem so abstracted? He did not know how he
could begin. Was she annoyed, too, about something? If she would only turn to him or come to him of
her own accord! To take her as she was would be brutal. No, he must see some ardour in her eyes first.
He longed to be master of her strange mood.
--When did you lend him the pound? she asked, after a pause.
Gabriel strove to restrain himself from breaking out into brutal language about the sottish Malins and
his pound. He longed to cry to her from his soul, to crush her body against his, to overmaster her. But
--O, at Christmas, when he opened that little Christmas-card shop, in Henry Street.
He was in such a fever of rage and desire that he did not hear her come from the window. She stood
before him for an instant, looking at him strangely. Then, suddenly raising herself on tiptoe and resting
her hands lightly on his shoulders, she kissed him.
--You are a very generous person, Gabriel, she said.
Gabriel, trembling with delight at her sudden kiss and at the quaintness of her phrase, put his hands on
her hair and began smoothing it back, scarcely touching it with his fingers. The washing had made it
fine and brilliant. His heart was brimming over with happiness. Just when he was wishing for it she
had come to him of her own accord. Perhaps her thoughts had been running with his. Perhaps she had
felt the impetuous desire that was in him, and then the yielding mood had come upon her. Now that
she had fallen to him so easily, he wondered why he had been so diffident.
He stood, holding her head between his hands. Then, slipping one arm swiftly about her body and
drawing her towards him, he said softly:
--Gretta, dear, what are you thinking about?
She did not answer nor yield wholly to his arm. He said again, softly:
--Tell me what it is, Gretta. I think I know what is the matter. Do I know?
She did not answer at once. Then she said in an outburst of tears:
--O, I am thinking about that song, The Lass of Aughrim.
She broke loose from him and ran to the bed and, throwing her arms across the bed-rail, hid her face.
Gabriel stood stock-still for a moment in astonishment and then followed her. As he passed in the way
of the cheval-glass he caught sight of himself in full length, his broad, well-filled shirt-front, the face
whose expression always puzzled him when he saw it in a mirror, and his glimmering gilt-rimmed
eye-glasses. He halted a few paces from her and said:
--What about the song? Why does that make you cry?
She raised her head from her arms and dried her eyes with the back of her hand like a child. A kinder
note than he had intended went into his voice.
--Why, Gretta? he asked.
--I am thinking about a person long ago who used to sing that song.
--And who was the person long ago? asked Gabriel, smiling.
--It was a person I used to know in Galway when I was living with my grandmother, she said.
The smile passed away from Gabriel's face. A dull anger began to gather again at the back of his mind
and the dull fires of his lust began to glow angrily in his veins.
--Someone you were in love with? he asked ironically.
--It was a young boy I used to know, she answered, named Michael Furey. He used to sing that song,
The Lass of Aughrim. He was very delicate.'
Gabriel was silent. He did not wish her to think that he was interested in this delicate boy.
--I can see him so plainly, she said, after a moment. Such eyes as he had: big, dark eyes! And such an
expression in them - an expression!
--O, then, you were in love with him? said Gabriel.
--I used to go out walking with him, she said, when I was in Galway.
A thought flew across Gabriel's mind.
--Perhaps that was why you wanted to go to Galway with that Ivors girl? he said coldly.
She looked at him and asked in surprise:
Her eyes made Gabriel feel awkward. He shrugged his shoulders and said:
--How do I know? To see him, perhaps.
She looked away from him along the shaft of light towards the window in silence.
--He is dead, she said at length. He died when he was only seventeen. Isn't it a terrible thing to die so
young as that?
--What was he? asked Gabriel, still ironically.
--He was in the gasworks, she said.
Gabriel felt humiliated by the failure of his irony and by the evocation of this figure from the dead, a
boy in the gasworks. While he had been full of memories of their secret life together, full of tenderness
and joy and desire, she had been comparing him in her mind with another. A shameful consciousness
of his own person assailed him. He saw himself as a ludicrous figure, acting as a penny-boy for his
aunts, a nervous, well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealizing his own clownish
lusts, the pitiable fatuous fellow he had caught a glimpse of in the mirror. Instinctively he turned his
back more to the light lest she might see the shame that burned upon his forehead.
He tried to keep up his tone of cold interrogation, but his voice when he spoke was humble and
--I suppose you were in love with this Michael Furey, Gretta, he said.
--I was great with him at that time, she said.
Her voice was veiled and sad. Gabriel, feeling now how vain it would be to try to lead her whither he
had purposed, caressed one of her hands and said, also sadly:
--And what did he die of so young, Gretta? Consumption, was it?
--I think he died for me, she answered.
A vague terror seized Gabriel at this answer, as if, at that hour when he had hoped to triumph, some
impalpable and vindictive being was coming against him, gathering forces against him in its vague
world. But he shook himself free of it with an effort of reason and continued to caress her hand. He did
not question her again, for he felt that she would tell him of herself. Her hand was warm and moist: it
did not respond to his touch, but he continued to caress it just as he had caressed her first letter to him
that spring morning.
--It was in the winter, she said, about the beginning of the winter when I was going to leave my
grandmother's and come up here to the convent. And he was ill at the time in his lodgings in Galway
and wouldn't be let out, and his people in Oughterard were written to. He was in decline, they said, or
something like that. I never knew rightly.
She paused for a moment and sighed.
--Poor fellow, she said. He was very fond of me and he was such a gentle boy. We used to go out
together, walking, you know, Gabriel, like the way they do in the country. He was going to study
singing only for his health. He had a very good voice, poor Michael Furey.
--Well; and then? asked Gabriel.
--And then when it came to the time for me to leave Galway and come up to the convent he was much
worse and I wouldn't be let see him, so I wrote him a letter saying I was going up to Dublin and would
be back in the summer, and hoping he would be better then.
She paused for a moment to get her voice under control, and then went on:
--Then the night before I left, I was in my grandmother's house in Nuns' Island, packing up, and I
heard gravel thrown up against the window. The window was so wet I couldn't see, so I ran downstairs
as I was and slipped out the back into the garden and there was the poor fellow at the end of the
--And did you not tell him to go back? asked Gabriel.
--I implored of him to go home at once and told him he would get his death in the rain. But he said he
did not want to live. I can see his eyes as well as well! He was standing at the end of the wall where
there was a tree.
--And did he go home? asked Gabriel.
--Yes, he went home. And when I was only a week in the convent he died and he was buried in
Oughterard, where his people came from. O, the day I heard that, that he was dead!
She stopped, choking with sobs, and, overcome by emotion, flung herself face downward on the bed,
sobbing in the quilt. Gabriel held her hand for a moment longer, irresolutely, and then, shy of intruding
on her grief, let it fall gently and walked quietly to the window.
She was fast asleep.
Gabriel, leaning on his elbow, looked for a few moments unresentfully on her tangled hair and halfopen mouth, listening to her deep-drawn breath. So she had had that romance in her life: a man had
died for her sake. It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her
life. He watched her while she slept, as though he and she had never lived together as man and wife.
His curious eyes rested long upon her face and on her hair: and, as he thought of what she must have
been then, in that time of her first girlish beauty, a strange, friendly pity for her entered his soul. He
did not like to say even to himself that her face was no longer beautiful, but he knew that it was no
longer the face for which Michael Furey had braved death.
Perhaps she had not told him all the story. His eyes moved to the chair over which she had thrown
some of her clothes. A petticoat string dangled to the floor. One boot stood upright, its limp upper
fallen down: the fellow of it lay upon its side. He wondered at his riot of emotions of an hour before.
From what had it proceeded? From his aunt's supper, from his own foolish speech, from the wine and
dancing, the merry-making when saying good night in the hall, the pleasure of the walk along the river
in the snow. Poor Aunt Julia! She, too, would soon be a shade with the shade of Patrick Morkan and
his horse. He had caught that haggard look upon her face for a moment when she was singing Arrayed
for the Bridal. Soon, perhaps, he would be sitting in that same drawing-room, dressed in black, his silk
hat on his knees. The blinds would be drawn down and Aunt Kate would be sitting beside him, crying
and blowing her nose and telling him how Julia had died. He would cast about in his mind for some
words that might console her, and would find only lame and useless ones. Yes, yes: that would happen
The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and
lay down beside his wife. One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that
other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of
how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover's eyes
when he had told her that he did not wish to live.
Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he
knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial
darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms
were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was
conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was
fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared
and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched
sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him
to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland.
It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of
Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too,
upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly
drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His
soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like
the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.