The bell rang furiously and, when Miss Parker went to the tube, a furiou_oice called out in a piercing North of Ireland accent:
"Send Farrington here!"
Miss Parker returned to her machine, saying to a man who was writing at _esk:
"Mr. Alleyne wants you upstairs."
The man muttered "Blast him!" under his breath and pushed back his chair t_tand up. When he stood up he was tall and of great bulk. He had a hangin_ace, dark wine-coloured, with fair eyebrows and moustache: his eyes bulge_orward slightly and the whites of them were dirty. He lifted up the counte_nd, passing by the clients, went out of the office with a heavy step.
He went heavily upstairs until he came to the second landing, where a doo_ore a brass plate with the inscription Mr. Alleyne. Here he halted, puffin_ith labour and vexation, and knocked. The shrill voice cried:
The man entered Mr. Alleyne's room. Simultaneously Mr. Alleyne, a little ma_earing gold-rimmed glasses on a cleanshaven face, shot his head up over _ile of documents. The head itself was so pink and hairless it seemed like _arge egg reposing on the papers. Mr. Alleyne did not lose a moment:
"Farrington? What is the meaning of this? Why have I always to complain o_ou? May I ask you why you haven't made a copy of that contract between Bodle_nd Kirwan? I told you it must be ready by four o'clock."
"But Mr. Shelley said, sir——"
"Mr. Shelley said, sir … . Kindly attend to what I say and not to what Mr.
Shelley says, sir. You have always some excuse or another for shirking work.
Let me tell you that if the contract is not copied before this evening I'l_ay the matter before Mr. Crosbie… . Do you hear me now?"
"Do you hear me now?… Ay and another little matter! I might as well be talkin_o the wall as talking to you. Understand once for all that you get a half a_our for your lunch and not an hour and a half. How many courses do you want, I'd like to know… . Do you mind me now?"
Mr. Alleyne bent his head again upon his pile of papers. The man stare_ixedly at the polished skull which directed the affairs of Crosbie & Alleyne, gauging its fragility. A spasm of rage gripped his throat for a few moment_nd then passed, leaving after it a sharp sensation of thirst. The ma_ecognised the sensation and felt that he must have a good night's drinking.
The middle of the month was passed and, if he could get the copy done in time, Mr. Alleyne might give him an order on the cashier. He stood still, gazin_ixedly at the head upon the pile of papers. Suddenly Mr. Alleyne began t_pset all the papers, searching for something. Then, as if he had been unawar_f the man's presence till that moment, he shot up his head again, saying:
"Eh? Are you going to stand there all day? Upon my word, Farrington, you tak_hings easy!"
"I was waiting to see… "
"Very good, you needn't wait to see. Go downstairs and do your work."
The man walked heavily towards the door and, as he went out of the room, h_eard Mr. Alleyne cry after him that if the contract was not copied by evenin_r. Crosbie would hear of the matter.
He returned to his desk in the lower office and counted the sheets whic_emained to be copied. He took up his pen and dipped it in the ink but h_ontinued to stare stupidly at the last words he had written: In no case shal_he said Bernard Bodley be… The evening was falling and in a few minutes the_ould be lighting the gas: then he could write. He felt that he must slake th_hirst in his throat. He stood up from his desk and, lifting the counter a_efore, passed out of the office. As he was passing out the chief clerk looke_t him inquiringly.
"It's all right, Mr. Shelley," said the man, pointing with his finger t_ndicate the objective of his journey.
The chief clerk glanced at the hat-rack, but, seeing the row complete, offere_o remark. As soon as he was on the landing the man pulled a shepherd's plai_ap out of his pocket, put it on his head and ran quickly down the ricket_tairs. From the street door he walked on furtively on the inner side of th_ath towards the corner and all at once dived into a doorway. He was now saf_n the dark snug of O'Neill's shop, and filling up the little window tha_ooked into the bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark wine or dar_eat, he called out:
"Here, Pat, give us a g.p.. like a good fellow."
The curate brought him a glass of plain porter. The man drank it at a gulp an_sked for a caraway seed. He put his penny on the counter and, leaving th_urate to grope for it in the gloom, retreated out of the snug as furtively a_e had entered it.
Darkness, accompanied by a thick fog, was gaining upon the dusk of Februar_nd the lamps in Eustace Street had been lit. The man went up by the house_ntil he reached the door of the office, wondering whether he could finish hi_opy in time. On the stairs a moist pungent odour of perfumes saluted hi_ose: evidently Miss Delacour had come while he was out in O'Neill's. H_rammed his cap back again into his pocket and re-entered the office, assumin_n air of absentmindedness.
"Mr. Alleyne has been calling for you," said the chief clerk severely. "Wher_ere you?"
The man glanced at the two clients who were standing at the counter as if t_ntimate that their presence prevented him from answering. As the clients wer_oth male the chief clerk allowed himself a laugh.
"I know that game," he said. "Five times in one day is a little bit… Well, yo_etter look sharp and get a copy of our correspondence in the Delacour cas_or Mr. Alleyne."
This address in the presence of the public, his run upstairs and the porter h_ad gulped down so hastily confused the man and, as he sat down at his desk t_et what was required, he realised how hopeless was the task of finishing hi_opy of the contract before half past five. The dark damp night was coming an_e longed to spend it in the bars, drinking with his friends amid the glare o_as and the clatter of glasses. He got out the Delacour correspondence an_assed out of the office. He hoped Mr. Alleyne would not discover that th_ast two letters were missing.
The moist pungent perfume lay all the way up to Mr. Alleyne's room. Mis_elacour was a middle-aged woman of Jewish appearance. Mr. Alleyne was said t_e sweet on her or on her money. She came to the office often and stayed _ong time when she came. She was sitting beside his desk now in an aroma o_erfumes, smoothing the handle of her umbrella and nodding the great blac_eather in her hat. Mr. Alleyne had swivelled his chair round to face her an_hrown his right foot jauntily upon his left knee. The man put th_orrespondence on the desk and bowed respectfully but neither Mr. Alleyne no_iss Delacour took any notice of his bow. Mr. Alleyne tapped a finger on th_orrespondence and then flicked it towards him as if to say: "That's al_ight: you can go."
The man returned to the lower office and sat down again at his desk. He stare_ntently at the incomplete phrase: In no case shall the said Bernard Bodle_e… and thought how strange it was that the last three words began with th_ame letter. The chief clerk began to hurry Miss Parker, saying she woul_ever have the letters typed in time for post. The man listened to th_licking of the machine for a few minutes and then set to work to finish hi_opy. But his head was not clear and his mind wandered away to the glare an_attle of the public-house. It was a night for hot punches. He struggled o_ith his copy, but when the clock struck five he had still fourteen pages t_rite. Blast it! He couldn't finish it in time. He longed to execrate aloud, to bring his fist down on something violently. He was so enraged that he wrot_ernard Bernard instead of Bernard Bodley and had to begin again on a clea_heet.
He felt strong enough to clear out the whole office singlehanded. His bod_ched to do something, to rush out and revel in violence. All the indignitie_f his life enraged him… . Could he ask the cashier privately for an advance?
No, the cashier was no good, no damn good: he wouldn't give an advance… . H_new where he would meet the boys: Leonard and O'Halloran and Nosey Flynn. Th_arometer of his emotional nature was set for a spell of riot.
His imagination had so abstracted him that his name was called twice before h_nswered. Mr. Alleyne and Miss Delacour were standing outside the counter an_ll the clerks had turn round in anticipation of something. The man got u_rom his desk. Mr. Alleyne began a tirade of abuse, saying that two letter_ere missing. The man answered that he knew nothing about them, that he ha_ade a faithful copy. The tirade continued: it was so bitter and violent tha_he man could hardly restrain his fist from descending upon the head of th_anikin before him:
"I know nothing about any other two letters," he said stupidly.
"You—know—nothing. Of course you know nothing," said Mr. Alleyne. "Tell me,"
he added, glancing first for approval to the lady beside him, "do you take m_or a fool? Do you think me an utter fool?"
The man glanced from the lady's face to the little egg-shaped head and bac_gain; and, almost before he was aware of it, his tongue had found _elicitous moment:
"I don't think, sir," he said, "that that's a fair question to put to me."
There was a pause in the very breathing of the clerks. Everyone was astounded (the author of the witticism no less than his neighbours) and Miss Delacour, who was a stout amiable person, began to smile broadly. Mr. Alleyne flushed t_he hue of a wild rose and his mouth twitched with a dwarf s passion. He shoo_is fist in the man's face till it seemed to vibrate like the knob of som_lectric machine:
"You impertinent ruffian! You impertinent ruffian! I'll make short work o_ou! Wait till you see! You'll apologise to me for your impertinence or you'l_uit the office instanter! You'll quit this, I'm telling you, or you'l_pologise to me!"
He stood in a doorway opposite the office watching to see if the cashier woul_ome out alone. All the clerks passed out and finally the cashier came ou_ith the chief clerk. It was no use trying to say a word to him when he wa_ith the chief clerk. The man felt that his position was bad enough. He ha_een obliged to offer an abject apology to Mr. Alleyne for his impertinenc_ut he knew what a hornet's nest the office would be for him. He coul_emember the way in which Mr. Alleyne had hounded little Peake out of th_ffice in order to make room for his own nephew. He felt savage and thirst_nd revengeful, annoyed with himself and with everyone else. Mr. Alleyne woul_ever give him an hour's rest; his life would be a hell to him. He had made _roper fool of himself this time. Could he not keep his tongue in his cheek?
But they had never pulled together from the first, he and Mr. Alleyne, eve_ince the day Mr. Alleyne had overheard him mimicking his North of Irelan_ccent to amuse Higgins and Miss Parker: that had been the beginning of it. H_ight have tried Higgins for the money, but sure Higgins never had anythin_or himself. A man with two establishments to keep up, of course he couldn't… .
He felt his great body again aching for the comfort of the public-house. Th_og had begun to chill him and he wondered could he touch Pat in O'Neill's. H_ould not touch him for more than a bob—and a bob was no use. Yet he must ge_oney somewhere or other: he had spent his last penny for the g.p. and soon i_ould be too late for getting money anywhere. Suddenly, as he was fingerin_is watch-chain, he thought of Terry Kelly's pawn-office in Fleet Street. Tha_as the dart! Why didn't he think of it sooner?
He went through the narrow alley of Temple Bar quickly, muttering to himsel_hat they could all go to hell because he was going to have a good night o_t. The clerk in Terry Kelly's said A crown! but the consignor held out fo_ix shillings; and in the end the six shillings was allowed him literally. H_ame out of the pawn-office joyfully, making a little cylinder, of the coin_etween his thumb and fingers. In Westmoreland Street the footpaths wer_rowded with young men and women returning from business and ragged urchin_an here and there yelling out the names of the evening editions. The ma_assed through the crowd, looking on the spectacle generally with prou_atisfaction and staring masterfully at the office-girls. His head was full o_he noises of tram- gongs and swishing trolleys and his nose already sniffe_he curling fumes punch. As he walked on he preconsidered the terms in whic_e would narrate the incident to the boys:
"So, I just looked at him—coolly, you know, and looked at her. Then I looke_ack at him again—taking my time, you know. 'I don't think that that's a fai_uestion to put to me,' says I."
Nosey Flynn was sitting up in his usual corner of Davy Byrne's and, when h_eard the story, he stood Farrington a half-one, saying it was as smart _hing as ever he heard. Farrington stood a drink in his turn. After a whil_'Halloran and Paddy Leonard came in and the story was repeated to them.
O'Halloran stood tailors of malt, hot, all round and told the story of th_etort he had made to the chief clerk when he was in Callan's of Fownes'_treet; but, as the retort was after the manner of the liberal shepherds i_he eclogues, he had to admit that it was not as clever as Farrington'_etort. At this Farrington told the boys to polish off that and have another.
Just as they were naming their poisons who should come in but Higgins! O_ourse he had to join in with the others. The men asked him to give hi_ersion of it, and he did so with great vivacity for the sight of five smal_ot whiskies was very exhilarating. Everyone roared laughing when he showe_he way in which Mr. Alleyne shook his fist in Farrington's face. Then h_mitated Farrington, saying, "And here was my nabs, as cool as you please,"
while Farrington looked at the company out of his heavy dirty eyes, smilin_nd at times drawing forth stray drops of liquor from his moustache with th_id of his lower lip.
When that round was over there was a pause. O'Halloran had money but neithe_f the other two seemed to have any; so the whole party left the shop somewha_egretfully. At the corner of Duke Street Higgins and Nosey Flynn bevelled of_o the left while the other three turned back towards the city. Rain wa_rizzling down on the cold streets and, when they reached the Ballast Office, Farrington suggested the Scotch House. The bar was full of men and loud wit_he noise of tongues and glasses. The three men pushed past the whinin_atchsellers at the door and formed a little party at the corner of th_ounter. They began to exchange stories. Leonard introduced them to a youn_ellow named Weathers who was performing at the Tivoli as an acrobat an_nockabout artiste. Farrington stood a drink all round. Weathers said he woul_ake a small Irish and Apollinaris. Farrington, who had definite notions o_hat was what, asked the boys would they have an Apollinaris too; but the boy_old Tim to make theirs hot. The talk became theatrical. O'Halloran stood _ound and then Farrington stood another round, Weathers protesting that th_ospitality was too Irish. He promised to get them in behind the scenes an_ntroduce them to some nice girls. O'Halloran said that he and Leonard woul_o, but that Farrington wouldn't go because he was a married man; an_arrington's heavy dirty eyes leered at the company in token that h_nderstood he was being chaffed. Weathers made them all have just one littl_incture at his expense and promised to meet them later on at Mulligan's i_oolbeg Street.
When the Scotch House closed they went round to Mulligan's. They went into th_arlour at the back and O'Halloran ordered small hot specials all round. The_ere all beginning to feel mellow. Farrington was just standing another roun_hen Weathers came back. Much to Farrington's relief he drank a glass o_itter this time. Funds were getting low but they had enough to keep the_oing. Presently two young women with big hats and a young man in a check sui_ame in and sat at a table close by. Weathers saluted them and told th_ompany that they were out of the Tivoli. Farrington's eyes wandered at ever_oment in the direction of one of the young women. There was somethin_triking in her appearance. An immense scarf of peacock-blue muslin was woun_ound her hat and knotted in a great bow under her chin; and she wore brigh_ellow gloves, reaching to the elbow. Farrington gazed admiringly at the plum_rm which she moved very often and with much grace; and when, after a littl_ime, she answered his gaze he admired still more her large dark brown eyes.
The oblique staring expression in them fascinated him. She glanced at him onc_r twice and, when the party was leaving the room, she brushed against hi_hair and said "O, pardon!" in a London accent. He watched her leave the roo_n the hope that she would look back at him, but he was disappointed. H_ursed his want of money and cursed all the rounds he had stood, particularl_ll the whiskies and Apolinaris which he had stood to Weathers. If there wa_ne thing that he hated it was a sponge. He was so angry that he lost count o_he conversation of his friends.
When Paddy Leonard called him he found that they were talking about feats o_trength. Weathers was showing his biceps muscle to the company and boastin_o much that the other two had called on Farrington to uphold the nationa_onour. Farrington pulled up his sleeve accordingly and showed his bicep_uscle to the company. The two arms were examined and compared and finally i_as agreed to have a trial of strength. The table was cleared and the two me_ested their elbows on it, clasping hands. When Paddy Leonard said "Go!" eac_as to try to bring down the other's hand on to the table. Farrington looke_ery serious and determined.
The trial began. After about thirty seconds Weathers brought his opponent'_and slowly down on to the table. Farrington's dark wine-coloured face flushe_arker still with anger and humiliation at having been defeated by such _tripling.
"You're not to put the weight of your body behind it. Play fair," he said.
"Who's not playing fair?" said the other.
"Come on again. The two best out of three."
The trial began again. The veins stood out on Farrington's forehead, and th_allor of Weathers' complexion changed to peony. Their hands and arms tremble_nder the stress. After a long struggle Weathers again brought his opponent'_and slowly on to the table. There was a murmur of applause from th_pectators. The curate, who was standing beside the table, nodded his red hea_owards the victor and said with stupid familiarity:
"Ah! that's the knack!"
"What the hell do you know about it?" said Farrington fiercely, turning on th_an. "What do you put in your gab for?"
"Sh, sh!" said O'Halloran, observing the violent expression of Farrington'_ace. "Pony up, boys. We'll have just one little smahan more and then we'll b_ff."
A very sullen-faced man stood at the corner of O'Connell Bridge waiting fo_he little Sandymount tram to take him home. He was full of smouldering ange_nd revengefulness. He felt humiliated and discontented; he did not even fee_runk; and he had only twopence in his pocket. He cursed everything. He ha_one for himself in the office, pawned his watch, spent all his money; and h_ad not even got drunk. He began to feel thirsty again and he longed to b_ack again in the hot reeking public-house. He had lost his reputation as _trong man, having been defeated twice by a mere boy. His heart swelled wit_ury and, when he thought of the woman in the big hat who had brushed agains_im and said Pardon! his fury nearly choked him.
His tram let him down at Shelbourne Road and he steered his great body alon_n the shadow of the wall of the barracks. He loathed returning to his home.
When he went in by the side- door he found the kitchen empty and the kitche_ire nearly out. He bawled upstairs:
His wife was a little sharp-faced woman who bullied her husband when he wa_ober and was bullied by him when he was drunk. They had five children. _ittle boy came running down the stairs.
"Who is that?" said the man, peering through the darkness.
"Who are you? Charlie?"
"No, pa. Tom."
"Where's your mother?"
"She's out at the chapel."
"That's right… . Did she think of leaving any dinner for me?"
"Yes, pa. I —"
"Light the lamp. What do you mean by having the place in darkness? Are th_ther children in bed?"
The man sat down heavily on one of the chairs while the little boy lit th_amp. He began to mimic his son's flat accent, saying half to himself: "At th_hapel. At the chapel, if you please!" When the lamp was lit he banged hi_ist on the table and shouted:
"What's for my dinner?"
"I'm going… to cook it, pa," said the little boy.
The man jumped up furiously and pointed to the fire.
"On that fire! You let the fire out! By God, I'll teach you to do that again!"
He took a step to the door and seized the walking-stick which was standin_ehind it.
"I'll teach you to let the fire out!" he said, rolling up his sleeve in orde_o give his arm free play.
The little boy cried "O, pa!" and ran whimpering round the table, but the ma_ollowed him and caught him by the coat. The little boy looked about hi_ildly but, seeing no way of escape, fell upon his knees.
"Now, you'll let the fire out the next time!" said the man striking at hi_igorously with the stick. "Take that, you little whelp!"
The boy uttered a squeal of pain as the stick cut his thigh. He clasped hi_ands together in the air and his voice shook with fright.
"O, pa!" he cried. "Don't beat me, pa! And I'll… I'll say a Hail Mary for you… . I'll say a Hail Mary for you, pa, if you don't beat me… . I'll say a Hai_ary… ."