North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour whe_he Christian Brothers' School set the boys free. An uninhabited house of tw_toreys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a squar_round. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them,
gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.
The former tenant of our house, a priest, had died in the back drawing-room.
Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms, and th_aste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless papers. Amon_hese I found a few paper-covered books, the pages of which were curled an_amp: The Abbot, by Walter Scott, The Devout Communicant, and The Memoirs o_idocq. I liked the last best because its leaves were yellow. The wild garde_ehind the house contained a central apple-tree and a few straggling bushes,
under one of which I found the late tenant's rusty bicycle-pump. He had been _ery charitable priest; in his will he had left all his money to institution_nd the furniture of his house to his sister.
When the short days of winter came, dusk fell before we had well eaten ou_inners. When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space o_ky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamp_f the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and w_layed till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. Th_areer of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the houses,
where we ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes from the cottages, to the bac_oors of the dark dripping gardens where odours arose from the ashpits, to th_ark odorous stables where a coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shoo_usic from the buckled harness. When we returned to the street, light from th_itchen windows had filled the areas. If my uncle was seen turning the corner,
we hid in the shadow until we had seen him safely housed. Or if Mangan'_ister came out on the doorstep to call her brother in to his tea, we watche_er from our shadow peer up and down the street. We waited to see whether sh_ould remain or go in and, if she remained, we left our shadow and walked u_o Mangan's steps resignedly. She was waiting for us, her figure defined b_he light from the half-opened door. Her brother always teased her before h_beyed, and I stood by the railings looking at her. Her dress swung as sh_oved her body, and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.
Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. Th_lind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not b_een. When she came out on the doorstep my heart leaped. I ran to the hall,
seized my books and followed her. I kept her brown figure always in my ey_nd, when we came near the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened m_ace and passed her. This happened morning after morning. I had never spoke_o her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons t_ll my foolish blood.
Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. O_aturday evenings when my aunt went marketing I had to go to carry some of th_arcels. We walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men an_argaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-
boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs' cheeks, the nasal chanting o_treet-singers, who sang a come-all-you about O'Donovan Rossa, or a balla_bout the troubles in our native land. These noises converged in a singl_ensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through _hrong of foes.
Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which _yself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tel_hy) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into m_osom. I thought little of the future. I did not know whether I would eve_peak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confuse_doration. But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were lik_ingers running upon the wires.
One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest had died. I_as a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the house. Through one o_he broken panes I heard the rain impinge upon the earth, the fine incessan_eedles of water playing in the sodden beds. Some distant lamp or lighte_indow gleamed below me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All m_enses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about t_lip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled,
murmuring: 'O love! O love!' many times.
At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me I was s_onfused that I did not know what to answer. She asked me was I going t_raby. I forgot whether I answered yes or no. It would be a splendid bazaar;
she said she would love to go.
'And why can't you?' I asked.
While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist. Sh_ould not go, she said, because there would be a retreat that week in he_onvent. Her brother and two other boys were fighting for their caps, and _as alone at the railings. She held one of the spikes, bowing her head toward_e. The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of he_eck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon th_ailing. At fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of _etticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.
'It's well for you,' she said.
'If I go,' I said, `I will bring you something.'
What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after tha_vening! I wished to annihilate the tedious intervening days. I chafed agains_he work of school. At night in my bedroom and by day in the classroom he_mage came between me and the page I strove to read. The syllables of the wor_raby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated an_ast an Eastern enchantment over me. I asked for leave to go to the bazaar o_aturday night. My aunt was surprised, and hoped it was not some Freemaso_ffair. I answered few questions in class. I watched my master's face pas_rom amiability to sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I coul_ot call my wandering thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with th_erious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seeme_o me child's play, ugly monotonous child's play.
On Saturday morning I reminded my uncle that I wished to go to the bazaar i_he evening. He was fussing at the hallstand, looking for the hat-brush, an_nswered me curtly:
'Yes, boy, I know.'
As he was in the hall I could not go into the front parlour and lie at th_indow. I felt the house in bad humour and walked slowly towards the school.
The air was pitilessly raw and already my heart misgave me. When I came hom_o dinner my uncle had not yet been home. Still it was early. I sat staring a_he clock for some time and, when its ticking began to irritate me, I left th_oom. I mounted the staircase and gained the upper part of the house. Th_igh, cold, empty, gloomy rooms liberated me and I went from room to roo_inging. From the front window I saw my companions playing below in th_treet. Their cries reached me weakened and indistinct and, leaning m_orehead against the cool glass, I looked over at the dark house where sh_ived. I may have stood there for an hour, seeing nothing but the brown-cla_igure cast by my imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at th_urved neck, at the hand upon the railings and at the border below the dress.
When I came downstairs again I found Mrs Mercer sitting at the fire. She wa_n old, garrulous woman, a pawnbroker's widow, who collected used stamps fo_ome pious purpose. I had to endure the gossip of the tea-table. The meal wa_rolonged beyond an hour and still my uncle did not come. Mrs Mercer stood u_o go: she was sorry she couldn't wait any longer, but it was after eigh_'clock and she did not like to be out late, as the night air was bad for her.
When she had gone I began to walk up and down the room, clenching my fists. M_unt said:
'I'm afraid you may put off your bazaar for this night of Our Lord.'
At nine o'clock I heard my uncle's latchkey in the hall door. I heard hi_alking to himself and heard the hallstand rocking when it had received th_eight of his overcoat. I could interpret these signs. When he was midwa_hrough his dinner I asked him to give me the money to go to the bazaar. H_ad forgotten.
'The people are in bed and after their first sleep now,' he said. I did no_mile. My aunt said to him energetically:
'Can't you give him the money and let him go? You've kept him late enough a_t is.'
My uncle said he was very sorry he had forgotten. He said he believed in th_ld saying: 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.' He asked me where _as going and, when I told him a second time, he asked me did I know Th_rab's Farewell to his Steed. When I left the kitchen he was about to recit_he opening lines of the piece to my aunt.
I held a florin tightly in my hand as I strode down Buckingham Street toward_he station. The sight of the streets thronged with buyers and glaring wit_as recalled to me the purpose of my journey. I took my seat in a third-clas_arriage of a deserted train. After an intolerable delay the train moved ou_f the station slowly. It crept onward among ruinous houses and over th_winkling river. At Westland Row Station a crowd of people pressed to th_arriage doors; but the porters moved them back, saying that it was a specia_rain for the bazaar. I remained alone in the bare carriage. In a few minute_he train drew up beside an improvised wooden platform. I passed out on to th_oad and saw by the lighted dial of a clock that it was ten minutes to ten. I_ront of me was a large building which displayed the magical name.
I could not find any sixpenny entrance and, fearing that the bazaar would b_losed, I passed in quickly through a turnstile, handing a shilling to _eary-looking man. I found myself in a big hall girded at half its height by _allery. Nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hal_as in darkness. I recognized a silence like that which pervades a churc_fter a service. I walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few peopl_ere gathered about the stalls which were still open. Before a curtain, ove_hich the words Café Chantant were written in coloured lamps, two men wer_ounting money on a salver. I listened to the fall of the coins. Rememberin_ith difficulty why I had come, I went over to one of the stalls and examine_orcelain vases and flowered tea-sets. At the door of the stall a young lad_as talking and laughing with two young gentlemen. I remarked their Englis_ccents and listened vaguely to their conversation.
'O, I never said such a thing!'
'O, but you did!'
'O, but I didn't!'
'Didn't she say that?'
'Yes. I heard her.'
'O, there's a… fib!'
Observing me, the young lady came over and asked me did I wish to bu_nything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have spoke_o me out of a sense of duty. I looked humbly at the great jars that stoo_ike eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to the stall an_urmured:
'No, thank you.'
The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went back to th_wo young men. They began to talk of the same subject. Once or twice the youn_ady glanced at me over her shoulder. I lingered before her stall, though _new my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem the more real.
Then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowe_he two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voic_all from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of th_all was now completely dark.
Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided b_anity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.