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?"
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: