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Chapter 11 A Painful Case

  • MR. JAMES DUFFY lived in Chapelizod because he wished to live as far a_ossible from the city of which he was a citizen and because he found all th_ther suburbs of Dublin mean, modern and pretentious. He lived in an ol_ombre house and from his windows he could look into the disused distillery o_pwards along the shallow river on which Dublin is built. The lofty walls o_is uncarpeted room were free from pictures. He had himself bought ever_rticle of furniture in the room: a black iron bedstead, an iron washstand,
  • four cane chairs, a clothes- rack, a coal-scuttle, a fender and irons and _quare table on which lay a double desk. A bookcase had been made in an alcov_y means of shelves of white wood. The bed was clothed with white bedclothe_nd a black and scarlet rug covered the foot. A little hand-mirror hung abov_he washstand and during the day a white-shaded lamp stood as the sol_rnament of the mantelpiece. The books on the white wooden shelves wer_rranged from below upwards according to bulk. A complete Wordsworth stood a_ne end of the lowest shelf and a copy of the Maynooth Catechism, sewn int_he cloth cover of a notebook, stood at one end of the top shelf. Writin_aterials were always on the desk. In the desk lay a manuscript translation o_auptmann's Michael Kramer, the stage directions of which were written i_urple ink, and a little sheaf of papers held together by a brass pin. I_hese sheets a sentence was inscribed from time to time and, in an ironica_oment, the headline of an advertisement for Bile Beans had been pasted on t_he first sheet. On lifting the lid of the desk a faint fragrance escaped—th_ragrance of new cedarwood pencils or of a bottle of gum or of an overrip_pple which might have been left there and forgotten.
  • Mr. Duffy abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental disorder. _edival doctor would have called him saturnine. His face, which carried th_ntire tale of his years, was of the brown tint of Dublin streets. On his lon_nd rather large head grew dry black hair and a tawny moustache did not quit_over an unamiable mouth. His cheekbones also gave his face a harsh character;
  • but there was no harshness in the eyes which, looking at the world from unde_heir tawny eyebrows, gave the impression of a man ever alert to greet _edeeming instinct in others but often disappointed. He lived at a littl_istance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glasses. H_ad an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind fro_ime to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the thir_erson and a predicate in the past tense. He never gave alms to beggars an_alked firmly, carrying a stout hazel.
  • He had been for many years cashier of a private bank in Baggot Street. Ever_orning he came in from Chapelizod by tram. At midday he went to Dan Burke'_nd took his lunch—a bottle of lager beer and a small trayful of arrowroo_iscuits. At four o'clock he was set free. He dined in an eating-house i_eorge's Street where he felt himself safe from the society o Dublin's gilde_outh and where there was a certain plain honesty in the bill of fare. Hi_venings were spent either before his landlady's piano or roaming about th_utskirts of the city. His liking for Mozart's music brought him sometimes t_n opera or a concert: these were the only dissipations of his life.
  • He had neither companions nor friends, church nor creed. He lived hi_piritual life without any communion with others, visiting his relatives a_hristmas and escorting them to the cemetery when they died. He performe_hese two social duties for old dignity's sake but conceded nothing further t_he conventions which regulate the civic life. He allowed himself to thin_hat in certain circumstances he would rob his hank but, as thes_ircumstances never arose, his life rolled out evenly—an adventureless tale.
  • One evening he found himself sitting beside two ladies in the Rotunda. Th_ouse, thinly peopled and silent, gave distressing prophecy of failure. Th_ady who sat next him looked round at the deserted house once or twice an_hen said:
  • "What a pity there is such a poor house tonight! It's so hard on people t_ave to sing to empty benches."
  • He took the remark as an invitation to talk. He was surprised that she seeme_o little awkward. While they talked he tried to fix her permanently in hi_emory. When he learned that the young girl beside her was her daughter h_udged her to be a year or so younger than himself. Her face, which must hav_een handsome, had remained intelligent. It was an oval face with strongl_arked features. The eyes were very dark blue and steady. Their gaze bega_ith a defiant note but was confused by what seemed a deliberate swoon of th_upil into the iris, revealing for an instant a temperament of grea_ensibility. The pupil reasserted itself quickly, this half- disclosed natur_ell again under the reign of prudence, and her astrakhan jacket, moulding _osom of a certain fullness, struck the note of defiance more definitely.
  • He met her again a few weeks afterwards at a concert in Earlsfort Terrace an_eized the moments when her daughter's attention was diverted to becom_ntimate. She alluded once or twice to her husband but her tone was not suc_s to make the allusion a warning. Her name was Mrs. Sinico. Her husband'_reat-great-grandfather had come from Leghorn. Her husband was captain of _ercantile boat plying between Dublin and Holland; and they had one child.
  • Meeting her a third time by accident he found courage to make an appointment.
  • She came. This was the first of many meetings; they met always in the evenin_nd chose the most quiet quarters for their walks together. Mr. Duffy,
  • however, had a distaste for underhand ways and, finding that they wer_ompelled to meet stealthily, he forced her to ask him to her house. Captai_inico encouraged his visits, thinking that his daughter's hand was i_uestion. He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery of pleasure_hat he did not suspect that anyone else would take an interest in her. As th_usband was often away and the daughter out giving music lessons Mr. Duffy ha_any opportunities of enjoying the lady's society. Neither he nor she had ha_ny such adventure before and neither was conscious of any incongruity. Littl_y little he entangled his thoughts with hers. He lent her books, provided he_ith ideas, shared his intellectual life with her. She listened to all.
  • Sometimes in return for his theories she gave out some fact of her own life.
  • With almost maternal solicitude she urged him to let his nature open to th_ull: she became his confessor. He told her that for some time he had assiste_t the meetings of an Irish Socialist Party where he had felt himself a uniqu_igure amidst a score of sober workmen in a garret lit by an inefficient oil-
  • lamp. When the party had divided into three sections, each under its ow_eader and in its own garret, he had discontinued his attendances. Th_orkmen's discussions, he said, were too timorous; the interest they took i_he question of wages was inordinate. He felt that they were hard-feature_ealists and that they resented an exactitude which was the produce of _eisure not within their reach. No social revolution, he told her, would b_ikely to strike Dublin for some centuries.
  • She asked him why did he not write out his thoughts. For what, he asked her,
  • with careful scorn. To compete with phrasemongers, incapable of thinkin_onsecutively for sixty seconds? To submit himself to the criticisms of a_btuse middle class which entrusted its morality to policemen and its fin_rts to impresarios?
  • He went often to her little cottage outside Dublin; often they spent thei_venings alone. Little by little, as their thoughts entangled, they spoke o_ubjects less remote. Her companionship was like a warm soil about an exotic.
  • Many times she allowed the dark to fall upon them, refraining from lightin_he lamp. The dark discreet room, their isolation, the music that stil_ibrated in their ears united them. This union exalted him, wore away th_ough edges of his character, emotionalised his mental life. Sometimes h_aught himself listening to the sound of his own voice. He thought that in he_yes he would ascend to an angelical stature; and, as he attached the ferven_ature of his companion more and more closely to him, he heard the strang_mpersonal voice which he recognised as his own, insisting on the soul'_ncurable loneliness. We cannot give ourselves, it said: we are our own. Th_nd of these discourses was that one night during which she had shown ever_ign of unusual excitement, Mrs. Sinico caught up his hand passionately an_ressed it to her cheek.
  • Mr. Duffy was very much surprised. Her interpretation of his word_isillusioned him. He did not visit her for a week, then he wrote to he_sking her to meet him. As he did not wish their last interview to be trouble_y the influence of their ruined confessional they meet in a little cakesho_ear the Parkgate. It was cold autumn weather but in spite of the cold the_andered up and down the roads of the Park for nearly three hours. They agree_o break off their intercourse: every bond, he said, is a bond to sorrow. Whe_hey came out of the Park they walked in silence towards the tram; but her_he began to tremble so violently that, fearing another collapse on her part,
  • he bade her good-bye quickly and left her. A few days later he received _arcel containing his books and music.
  • Four years passed. Mr. Duffy returned to his even way of life. His room stil_ore witness of the orderliness of his mind. Some new pieces of musi_ncumbered the music-stand in the lower room and on his shelves stood tw_olumes by Nietzsche: Thus Spake Zarathustra and The Gay Science. He wrot_eldom in the sheaf of papers which lay in his desk. One of his sentences,
  • written two months after his last interview with Mrs. Sinico, read: Lov_etween man and man is impossible because there must not be sexual intercours_nd friendship between man and woman is impossible because there must b_exual intercourse. He kept away from concerts lest he should meet her. Hi_ather died; the junior partner of the bank retired. And still every mornin_e went into the city by tram and every evening walked home from the cit_fter having dined moderately in George's Street and read the evening pape_or dessert.
  • One evening as he was about to put a morsel of corned beef and cabbage int_is mouth his hand stopped. His eyes fixed themselves on a paragraph in th_vening paper which he had propped against the water-carafe. He replaced th_orsel of food on his plate and read the paragraph attentively. Then he dran_ glass of water, pushed his plate to one side, doubled the paper down befor_im between his elbows and read the paragraph over and over again. The cabbag_egan to deposit a cold white grease on his plate. The girl came over to hi_o ask was his dinner not properly cooked. He said it was very good and ate _ew mouthfuls of it with difficulty. Then he paid his bill and went out.
  • He walked along quickly through the November twilight, his stout hazel stic_triking the ground regularly, the fringe of the buff Mail peeping out of _ide-pocket of his tight reefer overcoat. On the lonely road which leads fro_he Parkgate to Chapelizod he slackened his pace. His stick struck the groun_ess emphatically and his breath, issuing irregularly, almost with a sighin_ound, condensed in the wintry air. When he reached his house he went up a_nce to his bedroom and, taking the paper from his pocket, read the paragrap_gain by the failing light of the window. He read it not aloud, but moving hi_ips as a priest does when he reads the prayers Secreto. This was th_aragraph:
  • DEATH OF A LADY AT SYDNEY PARADE
  • A PAINFUL CASE
  • Today at the City of Dublin Hospital the Deputy Coroner (in the absence of Mr.
  • Leverett) held an inquest on the body of Mrs. Emily Sinico, aged forty-thre_ears, who was killed at Sydney Parade Station yesterday evening. The evidenc_howed that the deceased lady, while attempting to cross the line, was knocke_own by the engine of the ten o'clock slow train from Kingstown, thereb_ustaining injuries of the head and right side which led to her death.
  • James Lennon, driver of the engine, stated that he had been in the employmen_f the railway company for fifteen years. On hearing the guard's whistle h_et the train in motion and a second or two afterwards brought it to rest i_esponse to loud cries. The train was going slowly.
  • P. Dunne, railway porter, stated that as the train was about to start h_bserved a woman attempting to cross the lines. He ran towards her an_houted, but, before he could reach her, she was caught by the buffer of th_ngine and fell to the ground.
  • A juror. "You saw the lady fall?"
  • Witness. "Yes."
  • Police Sergeant Croly deposed that when he arrived he found the deceased lyin_n the platform apparently dead. He had the body taken to the waiting-roo_ending the arrival of the ambulance.
  • Constable 57 corroborated.
  • Dr. Halpin, assistant house surgeon of the City of Dublin Hospital, state_hat the deceased had two lower ribs fractured and had sustained sever_ontusions of the right shoulder. The right side of the head had been injure_n the fall. The injuries were not sufficient to have caused death in a norma_erson. Death, in his opinion, had been probably due to shock and sudde_ailure of the heart's action.
  • Mr. H. B. Patterson Finlay, on behalf of the railway company, expressed hi_eep regret at the accident. The company had always taken every precaution t_revent people crossing the lines except by the bridges, both by placin_otices in every station and by the use of patent spring gates at leve_rossings. The deceased had been in the habit of crossing the lines late a_ight from platform to platform and, in view of certain other circumstances o_he case, he did not think the railway officials were to blame.
  • Captain Sinico, of Leoville, Sydney Parade, husband of the deceased, also gav_vidence. He stated that the deceased was his wife. He was not in Dublin a_he time of the accident as he had arrived only that morning from Rotterdam.
  • They had been married for twenty-two years and had lived happily until abou_wo years ago when his wife began to be rather intemperate in her habits.
  • Miss Mary Sinico said that of late her mother had been in the habit of goin_ut at night to buy spirits. She, witness, had often tried to reason with he_other and had induced her to join a League. She was not at home until an hou_fter the accident. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medica_vidence and exonerated Lennon from all blame.
  • The Deputy Coroner said it was a most painful case, and expressed grea_ympathy with Captain Sinico and his daughter. He urged on the railway compan_o take strong measures to prevent the possibility of similar accidents in th_uture. No blame attached to anyone.
  • Mr. Duffy raised his eyes from the paper and gazed out of his window on th_heerless evening landscape. The river lay quiet beside the empty distiller_nd from time to time a light appeared in some house on the Lucan road. Wha_n end! The whole narrative of her death revolted him and it revolted him t_hink that he had ever spoken to her of what he held sacred. The threadbar_hrases, the inane expressions of sympathy, the cautious words of a reporte_on over to conceal the details of a commonplace vulgar death attacked hi_tomach. Not merely had she degraded herself; she had degraded him. He saw th_qualid tract of her vice, miserable and malodorous. His soul's companion! H_hought of the hobbling wretches whom he had seen carrying cans and bottles t_e filled by the barman. Just God, what an end! Evidently she had been unfi_o live, without any strength of purpose, an easy prey to habits, one of th_recks on which civilisation has been reared. But that she could have sunk s_ow! Was it possible he had deceived himself so utterly about her? H_emembered her outburst of that night and interpreted it in a harsher sens_han he had ever done. He had no difficulty now in approving of the course h_ad taken.
  • As the light failed and his memory began to wander he thought her hand touche_is. The shock which had first attacked his stomach was now attacking hi_erves. He put on his overcoat and hat quickly and went out. The cold air me_im on the threshold; it crept into the sleeves of his coat. When he came t_he public-house at Chapelizod Bridge he went in and ordered a hot punch.
  • The proprietor served him obsequiously but did not venture to talk. There wer_ive or six workingmen in the shop discussing the value of a gentleman'_state in County Kildare They drank at intervals from their huge pint tumbler_nd smoked, spitting often on the floor and sometimes dragging the sawdus_ver their spits with their heavy boots. Mr. Duffy sat on his stool and gaze_t them, without seeing or hearing them. After a while they went out and h_alled for another punch. He sat a long time over it. The shop was very quiet.
  • The proprietor sprawled on the counter reading the Herald and yawning. Now an_gain a tram was heard swishing along the lonely road outside.
  • As he sat there, living over his life with her and evoking alternately the tw_mages in which he now conceived her, he realised that she was dead, that sh_ad ceased to exist, that she had become a memory. He began to feel ill a_ase. He asked himself what else could he have done. He could not have carrie_n a comedy of deception with her; he could not have lived with her openly. H_ad done what seemed to him best. How was he to blame? Now that she was gon_e understood how lonely her life must have been, sitting night after nigh_lone in that room. His life would be lonely too until he, too, died, cease_o exist, became a memory—if anyone remembered him.
  • It was after nine o'clock when he left the shop. The night was cold an_loomy. He entered the Park by the first gate and walked along under the gaun_rees. He walked through the bleak alleys where they had walked four year_efore. She seemed to be near him in the darkness. At moments he seemed t_eel her voice touch his ear, her hand touch his. He stood still to listen.
  • Why had he withheld life from her? Why had he sentenced her to death? He fel_is moral nature falling to pieces.
  • When he gained the crest of the Magazine Hill he halted and looked along th_iver towards Dublin, the lights of which burned redly and hospitably in th_old night. He looked down the slope and, at the base, in the shadow of th_all of the Park, he saw some human figures lying. Those venal and furtiv_oves filled him with despair. He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he fel_hat he had been outcast from life's feast. One human being had seemed to lov_im and he had denied her life and happiness: he had sentenced her t_gnominy, a death of shame. He knew that the prostrate creatures down by th_all were watching him and wished him gone. No one wanted him; he was outcas_rom life's feast. He turned his eyes to the grey gleaming river, windin_long towards Dublin. Beyond the river he saw a goods train winding out o_ingsbridge Station, like a worm with a fiery head winding through th_arkness, obstinately and laboriously. It passed slowly out of sight; bu_till he heard in his ears the laborious drone of the engine reiterating th_yllables of her name.
  • He turned back the way he had come, the rhythm of the engine pounding in hi_ars. He began to doubt the reality of what memory told him. He halted under _ree and allowed the rhythm to die away. He could not feel her near him in th_arkness nor her voice touch his ear. He waited for some minutes listening. H_ould hear nothing: the night was perfectly silent. He listened again:
  • perfectly silent. He felt that he was alone.