James Stephens, Here are Ladies (1913)

[Source: Here are Ladies [London 1913] (NY Macmillan 1914; rep. March, 1914; available at Gutenburg Project – online; accessed 11.09.2020.]


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 Young Mr. O’Grady was in love. It was the first time he had been in love, and it was all sufficiently startling. He seemed to have leaped from boyhood to manhood at a stroke, and the things which had pretended to be of moment yesterday were to-day discovered to have only the very meanest importance. Different affairs now occupied him. A little while ago his cogitations had included, where he would walk to on the next Sunday, whether his aunt in Meath Street would lend him the price of a ticket for the coming Bank Holiday excursion, whether his brother would be using his bicycle on Saturday afternoon, and whether the packet of cigarettes which he was momently smoking contained as many cigarettes as could be got elsewhere for two pence.
 These things were no longer noteworthy. Clothing had assumed an importance he could scarcely have believed in. Boots, neck-ties, the conduct of one’s hat and of one’s head, the progress of one’s moustache, one’s bearing towards people in the street and in the house, this and that social observance—all these things took on a new and important dignity. He bought a walking-stick, a card-case, a purse, a pipe with a glass bottom wherein one could observe one’s own nicotine inexorably accumulating.—He bought a book on etiquette and a pot of paste for making moustaches grow in spite of providence, and one day he insisted on himself drinking a half glass of whisky—it tasted sadly, but he drank it without a grimace. Etiquette and whisky! these things have to be done, and one might as well do them with an air. He was in love, he was grown up, he was a man, and he lived fearlessly up to his razor and his lady.
 From the book on etiquette he exhumed a miscellany of useful and peculiar wisdom. Following information about the portage of knives and forks at incredible dinners he discovered that a well-bred person always speaks to the young lady’s parents before he speaks to the young lady. He straightened his shoulders.—It would be almost as bad, he thought, as having to drink whisky, but if it had to be done why he would not shrink from this any more than he had from that. He set forth on the tingling errand.
 Mr. O’Reilly was a scrivener, a husband and a father. He made copies of all kinds of documents for a living. He also copied maps. It has been said that scriveners have to get drunk at least twice a week in order to preserve their sanity; but the person whose miserable employment is to draw copies of maps is more desperately environed than an ordinary scrivener. It was Mr. O’Reilly’s misfortune that he was unable to get drunk. He disliked liquor, and, moreover, it disagreed with him. He had, to paraphrase Lamb, toiled after liquor as other people toil after virtue, but the nearer he got the less did he like it. As a consequence of this enforced decency the ill-temper, which is the normal state of scriveners, had surged and buzzed around him so long that he had quite forgotten what a good temper was like.—It might be said that he hated every one, not excepting his wife and daughter. He could avoid other people, but these he could never escape from. They wanted to talk to him when he wanted to be let alone. They worried him with this and that domestic question or uproar. He would gladly have sold them both as slaves to the Barbadoes or presented them to the seraglio of any eastern potentate. There they were! and he often gnashed his teeth and grinned at them in amazement because they were there.
 On the evening when young Mr. O’Grady sallied forth to ask him for the hand of his daughter in marriage he was sitting at supper with his consort—
 Mr. O’Reilly took the last slice of bread from under his wife’s hand. It was loot, so he ate it with an extra relish and his good lady waddled away to get more bread from cupboard—
 “Everything’s a trouble,” said she, as she cut the loaf. “Doesn’t it make you think of the hymn ‘I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home’?”
 “No, ma’m,” said her husband, “it does not. Where is Julia Elizabeth?” and he daringly and skilfully abstracted the next slice of bread while his wife was laying down the butter knife.
 “I wish,” said she, as she reached for the knife again, “I wish you would give me a chance, O’Reilly: you eat much quicker than I do, God help me!”
 “I wish,” rapped her husband fiercely, “that you would give a plain answer to a plain question. Now then, ma’m, in two words, where is that girl? My whole life seems to be occupied in asking that question, and yours seems to be spent in dodging the answer to it.”
 “I don’t know,” replied his wife severely, “and that’s three words.”
 “You don’t know!” he looked around in helpless appeal and condemnation. “What sort of an answer is that for a mother to give about her daughter?” and under cover of his wrath he stole the next slice of bread.
 His wife also became angry—she put her plate in her lap and sat up at him—
 “Don’t barge me, man,” said she. “A nice daughter to have to give such an answer about. Leave me alone now for I’m not well, I say, on the head of her. I never know where she does be. One night it’s (she endeavoured to reproduce her daughter’s soprano) ‘I am going to a dance, mother, at the Durkins’——’“
 “Ha’penny hops!” said her husband fiercely. “Can’t you cut me a bit of bread!”
 “And another night, ‘she wants to go out to see Mary Durkan.’“
 “I know her well, a big hat and no morals, a bankrupt’s baggage.”
 “And the night after she ‘wants to go to the theatre, ma.’“
 “Dens of infamy,” said he. “If I had my way I’d shut them all up and put the actors in gaol, with their hamleting and gamyacting and ha-ha’ing out of them.”
 “I can’t keep her in,” said his wife, wringing her hands, “and I won’t try to any longer. I get a headache when I talk to her, so I do. Last night when I mentioned about her going out with that Rorke man she turned round as cool as you please and told me ‘to shut up.’ Her own mother!” and she surveyed Providence with a condemnatory eye—
 At this point her husband swung his long arm and arrested the slice of bread in his wife’s lap—
 “If she spoke to me that way,” he grinned, “I’ll bet I’d astonish her.”
 His wife looked in amazement from her lap to his plate, but she had ability for only one quarrel at a time—
 “And doesn’t she talk to you like that? You never say a word to her but she has a look in her eye that’s next door to calling you a fool.—I don’t know where she is at all to-day.”
 “What time did she go out?”
 “After breakfast this morning.”
 “And now it’s supper-time—ha! that’s good! Can’t you give me a bit of bread, or do you want to eat the whole loaf yourself? Try to remember that I do pay for my food.”
 With an angry shake of the head his wife began to cut the loaf, and continued speaking—
 “‘Where are you going to, Julia Elizabeth?’ said I. ‘Out,’ said she, and not another word could I get from her. Her own mother, mind you, and her best clothes——”
 Mr. O’Reilly ate the last slice of bread and arose from the table.
 “I suppose,” said he, “she is loafing about the streets with some young puppy who has nothing of his own but a cigarette and a walking-stick, and they both borrowed. I’ll have a talk with her when she comes in, and we’ll see if she tells me to shut up.”
 The door banged, the room shook, and Mrs. O’Reilly settled to her frustrated tea, but her thoughts still ran on her daughter.
 It was at this point that, directed by love and etiquette, Mr. O’Grady knocked at the door. Mrs. O’Reilly was again cutting the loaf in an exasperation which was partly hunger and partly maternal, and, as she cut, she communed with herself—
 “As if,” said she, “I haven’t enough trouble trying to keep a cranky man like her pa in good humour, without being plagued by Julia Elizabeth”—she paused, for there was a knock at the door.—”If,” said she to the door, “you are a woman with ferns in a pot I don’t want you, and I don’t want Dublin Bay herrings, or boot-laces either, so you can go away.—The crankiness of that man is more than tongue can tell. As Miss Carty says, I shouldn’t stand it for an hour—Come in, can’t you—and well she may say it, and she a spinster without a worry under heaven but her suspicious nature and her hair falling out. And then to be treated the way I am by that girl! It’d make a saint waxy so it would.—Good heavens! can’t you come in, or are you deaf or lame or what?” and in some exasperation she arose and went to the door. She looked in perplexity for one moment from her food to her visitor, but as good manners and a lady are never separate she welcomed and drew the young man inside—
 “Come in, Mr. O’Grady,” said she. “How are you now at all? Why it’s nearly a week since you were here. Your mother’s well I hope (sit down there now and rest yourself). Some people are always well, but I’m not—it’s (sit there beside the window, like a good boy) it’s hard to have poor health and a crotchety husband, but we all have our trials. Is your father well too? but what’s the use of asking, every one’s well but me. Did your aunt get the pot of jam I sent her last Tuesday? Raspberry is supposed to be good for the throat, but her throat’s all right. Maybe she threw it out: I’m not blaming her if she did. God knows she can buy jam if she wants it without being beholden to any one for presents and her husband in the Post Office.—Well, well, well, I’m real glad to see you—and now, tell me all the news?”
 The young man was a little embarrassed by this flood of language and its multiplicity of direction, but the interval gave him time to collect himself and get into the atmosphere.—He replied—
 “I don’t think there is any news to tell, ma’m. Father and mother are quite well, thank you, and Aunt Jane got the jam all right, but she didn’t eat it, because——”
 “I knew she didn’t,” said Mrs. O’Reilly with pained humility, “we all have our troubles and jam doesn’t matter. Give her my love all the same, but maybe she doesn’t want it either.”
 “You see,” said the young man, “the children got at the jam before she could, and they cleaned the pot. Aunt Jane was very angry about it.”
 “Was she now?” said the instantly interested lady. “It’s real bad for a stout person to be angry. Apoplexy or something might ensue and death would be instantaneous and cemeteries the price they are in Glasnevin and all: but the children shouldn’t have eaten all the jam at once, it’s bad for the stomach that way: still, God is good and maybe they’ll recover.”
 “They don’t seem much the worse for it,” said he, laughing; “they said it was fine jam.”
 “Well they might,” replied his hostess, with suppressed indignation, “and raspberries eightpence the pound in Grafton Street, and the best preserving sugar twopence-three-farthings, and coal the way it is.—Ah, no matter, God is good, and we can’t live for ever.”
 The four seconds of silence which followed was broken by the lover—
 “Is Julia Elizabeth in, ma’m?” said he timidly.
 “She’s not, then,” was the reply. “We all have our trials, Mr. O’Grady, and she’s mine. I don’t complain, but I don’t deserve it, for a harder working woman never lived, but there you are.”
 “I’m rather glad she’s out,” said the youth hastily, “for I wanted to speak to yourself and your husband before I said anything to her.”
 Mrs. O’Reilly wheeled slowly to face him—
 “Did you now?” said she, “and is it about Julia Elizabeth you came over? Well, well, well, just to think of it! But I guessed it long ago, when you bought the yellow boots. She’s a real good girl, Mr. O’Grady. There’s many and many’s the young man, and they in good positions, mind you—but maybe you don’t mean that at all. Is it a message from your Aunt Jane or your mother? Your Aunt Jane does send messages, God help her!”
 “It’s not, Mrs. O’Reilly: it’s, if I may presume to say so, about myself.”
 “I knew it,” was the rapid and enthusiastic reply. “She’s a fine cook, Mr. O’Grady, and a head of hair that reaches down to her waist, and won prizes at school for composition. I’ll call himself—he’ll be delighted. He’s in the next room making faces at a map. Maps are a terrible occupation, Mr. O’Grady, they spoil his eyesight and make him curse——”
 She ambled to the door and called urgently—
 “O’Reilly, here’s young Mr. O’Grady wants to see you.”
 Her husband entered with a pen in his mouth and looked very severely at his visitor—
 “What brought you round, young man?” said he.
 The youth became very nervous. He stood up stammering—
 “It’s a delicate subject, sir,” said he, “and I thought it would only be right to come to you first.”
 Here the lady broke in rapturously—
 “Isn’t it splendid, O’Reilly! You and me sitting here growing old and contented, and this young gentleman talking to us the way he is. Doesn’t it make you think of the song ‘John Anderson, my Jo, John’?”
 Her husband turned a bewildered but savage eye on his spouse—
 “It does not, ma’m,” said he. “Well,” he barked at Mr. O’Grady, “what do you want?”
 “I want to speak about your daughter, sir.”
 “She’s not a delicate subject.”
 “No indeed,” said his wife. “Never a day’s illness in her life except the measles, and they’re wholesome when you’re young, and an appetite worth cooking for, two eggs every morning and more if she got it.”
 Her husband turned on her with hands of frenzy—
 “Oh——!” said he, and then to their visitor, “What have you to say about my daughter?”
 “The fact is, sir,” he stammered, “I’m in love with her.”
 “I see, you are the delicate subject, and what then?”
 “And I want to marry her, sir.”
 “That’s not delicacy, that’s disease, young man. Have you spoken to
 Julia Elizabeth about this?”
 “No, sir, I wanted first to obtain your and Mrs. O’Reilly’s permission to approach her.”
 “And quite right, too,” said the lady warmly. “Isn’t it delightful,” she continued, “to see a young, bashful youth telling of his love for our dear child? Doesn’t it make you think of Moore’s beautiful song, ‘Love’s Young Dream,’ O’Reilly?”
 “It does not,” her husband snapped, “I never heard of the song I tell you, and I never want to.”
 He turned again to the youth—
 “If you are in earnest about this, you have my permission to court Julia Elizabeth as much as she’ll let you. But don’t blame me if she marries you. People who take risks must expect accidents. Don’t go about lamenting that I hooked you in, or led you on, or anything like that.—I tell you, here and now, that she has a rotten temper—”
 His wife was aghast—
 “For shame, O’Reilly,” said she.
 Her husband continued, looking steadily at her—
 “A rotten temper,” said he, “she gives back answers.”
 “Never,” was Mrs. O’Reilly’s wild exclamation.
 “She scratches like a cat,” said her husband.
 “It’s a falsehood,” cried the lady, almost in tears.
 “She is obstinate, sulky, stubborn and cantankerous.”
 “A tissue,” said his wife. “An absolute tissue,” she repeated with the firmness which masks hysteria.
 Her husband continued inexorably—
 “She’s a gad-about, a pavement-hopper, and when she has the toothache she curses like a carman. Now, young man, marry her if you like.”
 These extraordinary accusations were powerless against love and etiquette—the young man stood up: his voice rang—
 “I will, sir,” said he steadily, “and I’ll be proud to be her husband.”
 In a very frenzy of enthusiasm, Mrs. O’Reilly arose—
 “Good boy,” said she. “Tell your Aunt Jane I’ll send her another pot of jam.” She turned to her husband, “Isn’t it delightful, O’Reilly, doesn’t it make you think of the song, ‘True, True Till Death’?”
 Mr. O’Reilly replied grimly—
 “It does not, ma’m.—I’m going back to my work.”
 “Be a gentleman, O’Reilly,” said his wife pleadingly. “Won’t you offer
 Mr. O’Grady a bottle of stout or a drop of spirits?”
 The youth intervened hastily, for it is well to hide one’s vices from one’s family—
 “Oh no, ma’m, not at all,” said he, “I never drink intoxicating liquors.”
 “Splendid,” said the beaming lady. “You’re better without it. If you knew the happy homes it has ruined, and the things the clergy say about it you’d be astonished. I only take it myself for the rheumatism, but I never did like it, did I, O’Reilly?”
 “Never, ma’m,” was his reply. “I only take it myself because my hearing is bad. Now, listen to me, young man. You want to marry Julia Elizabeth, and I’ll be glad to see her married to a sensible, sober, industrious husband.—When I spoke about her a minute ago I was only joking.”
 “I knew it all the time,” said his wife. “Do you remember, Mr.
 O’Grady, I winked at you?”
 “The girl is a good girl,” said her husband, “and well brought up.”
 “Yes,” said his wife, “her hair reaches down to her waist, and she won a prize for composition—Jessica’s First Prayer, all about a girl with——”
 Mr. O’Reilly continued—
 “She brings me up a cup of tea every morning before I get up.”
 “She never wore spectacles in her life,” said Mrs. O’Reilly, “and she got a prize for freehand drawing.”
 “She did so,” said Mr. O’Reilly.
 His wife continued—
 “The Schoolboy Baronet it was; all about a young man that broke his leg down a coal mine and it never got well again until he met the girl of his heart.”
 “Tell me,” said Mr. O’Reilly, “how are you young people going to live, and where?”
 His wife interpolated—
 “Your Aunt Jane told me that you had seventeen shillings and sixpence a week.—Take my advice and live on the south side—two rooms easily and most salubrious.”
 The young man coughed guardedly, he had received a rise of wages since that information passed, but candour belongs to childhood, and one must live these frailties down—
 “Seventeen and six isn’t very much, of course,” said he, “but I am young and strong——”
 “It’s more than I had,” said his host, “when I was your age. Hello, there’s the post!”
 Mrs. O’Reilly went to the door and returned instantly with a letter in her hand. She presented it to her husband—
 “It’s addressed to you, O’Reilly,” said she plaintively. “Maybe it’s a bill, but God’s good and maybe it’s a cheque.”
 Her husband nodded at the company and tore his letter open. He read it, and, at once as it appeared, he went mad, he raved, he stuttered, now slapping the letter with his forefinger and, anon, shaking his fist at his wife—
 “Here’s your daughter, ma’m,” he stammered. “Here’s your daughter, I say.”
 “Where?” cried the amazed lady. “What is it, O’Reilly?” She arose hastily and rolled towards him.
 Mr. O’Reilly repelled her fiercely—
 “A good riddance,” he shouted.
 “Tell me, O’Reilly, I command you,” cried his wife.
 “A minx, a jade,” snarled the man.
 “I insist,” said she. “I must be told. I’m not well, I tell you. My head’s going round. Give me the letter.”
 Mr. O’Reilly drew about him a sudden and terrible calmness—
 “Listen, woman,” said he, “and you too, young man, and be thankful for your escape.”

 “DEAR PA,” he read, “this is to tell you that I got married to-day to Christie Rorke. We are going to open a little fried-fish shop near
 Amiens Street. Hoping this finds you as it leaves me at present, your  loving daughter,
 “P.S.—Give Christie’s love to Ma.”

 Mrs. O’Reilly sank again to her chair.
 Her mouth was partly open. She breathed with difficulty. Her eyes were fixed on space, and she seemed to be communing with the guardians of Chaos—
 “Married!” said she in a musing whisper. “Christie!” said she. She turned to her husband—”What an amazing thing. Doesn’t it make you think, O’Reilly, of the poem, ‘The World Recedes, it Disappears’?”
 “It does not, ma’m,” said her husband savagely.
 “And what is this young gentleman going to do?” she continued, gazing tearfully at the suitor.
 “He’s going to go home,” replied her husband fiercely. “He ought to be in bed long ago.”
 “A broken heart,” said his wife, “is a sad companion to go home with.
 Doesn’t it make you think of the song——?”
 “It does not, ma’m,” roared her husband. “I’m going back to my work,” and once again the door banged and the room shook.
 Young Mr. O’Grady arose timidly. The world was swimming about him. Love had deserted him, and etiquette was now his sole anchor; he shook hands with Mrs. O’Reilly—
 “I think I had better be going now,” said he. “Good-bye, Mrs.
 “Must you really go?” said that lady with the smile of a maniac.
 “I’m afraid so,” and he moved towards the door.
 “Well,” said she, “give my love to your mother and your Aunt Jane.”
 “I will,” was his reply, “and,” with firm politeness, “thank you for a very pleasant evening.”
 “Don’t mention it, Mr. O’Grady. Good-bye.”
 Mrs. O’Reilly closed the door and walked back towards the table smiling madly. She sank into a chair. Her eye fell on the butter-knife—
 “I haven’t had a bit to eat this day,” said she in a loud and threatening voice, and once again she pulled the loaf towards her.

 His mother finished reading the story of the Beautiful Princess, and it was surely the saddest story he had ever heard. He could not bear to think of that lovely and delicate lady all alone in the great, black forest waiting until the giant came back from killing her seven brothers. He would return with their seven heads swinging pitifully from his girdle, and, when he reached the castle gates, he would gnash his teeth through the keyhole with a noise like the grinding together of great rocks, and would poke his head through the fanlight of the door, and say, fee-faw-fum in a voice of such exceeding loudness that the castle would be shaken to its foundation.
 Thinking of this made his throat grow painful with emotion, and then his heart swelled to the most uncomfortable dimensions, and he resolved to devote his whole life to the rescue of the Princess, and, if necessary, die in her defence.
 Such was his impatience that he could not wait for anything more than his dinner, and this he ate so speedily that his father called him a Perfect-Young-Glutton, and a Disgrace-To-Any-Table. He bore these insults in a meek and heroic spirit, whereupon his mother said that he must be ill, and it was only by a violent and sustained outcry that he escaped being sent to bed.
 Immediately after dinner he set out in search of the giant’s castle. Now there is scarcely anything in the world more difficult to find than a giant’s castle, for it is so large that one can only see it through the wrong end of a telescope; and, furthermore, he did not even know this giant’s name. He might never have found the place if he had not met a certain old woman on the common.
 She was a very nice old woman. She had three teeth, a red shawl, and an umbrella with groceries inside it; so he told her of the difficulty he was in.
 She replied that he was in luck’s way, and that she was the only person in the world who could assist him. She said her name was Really-and-Truly, and that she had a magic head, and that if he cut her head off it would answer any questions he asked it. So he stropped his penknife on his boot, and said he was ready if she was.
 The old woman then informed him that in all affairs of this delicate nature it was customary to take the will for the deed, and that he might now ask her head anything he wanted to know—so he asked the head what was the way to the nearest giant, and the head replied that if he took the first turning to the left, the second to the right, and then the first to the left again, and if he then knocked at the fifth door on the right-hand side, he would see the giant.
 He thanked the old woman very much for the use of her head, and she permitted him to lend her one threepenny-piece, one pocket-handkerchief, one gun-metal watch, one cap, and one boot-lace. She said that she never took two of anything, because that was not fair, and that she wanted these for a very particular, secret purpose, about which she dare not speak, and, as to which she trusted he would not press her, and then she took a most affectionate leave of him and went away.
 He followed her directions with the utmost fidelity, and soon found himself opposite a house which, to the eyes of any one over seven years of age, looked very like any other house, but which, to the searching eye of six and three quarters, was patently and palpably a giant’s castle.
 He tried the door, but it was locked, as, indeed, he had expected it would be. Then he crept very cautiously, and peeped through the first floor window. He could see in quite plainly. There was a polar bear crouching on the floor, and the head looked at him so directly and vindictively that if he had not been a hero he would have fled. The unexpected is always terrible, and when one goes forth to kill a giant it is unkind of Providence to complicate one’s adventure with a gratuitous and wholly unnecessary polar bear. He was, however, reassured by the sight of a heavy chair standing on the polar bear’s stomach, and in the chair there sat the most beautiful woman in the world.
 An ordinary person would not have understood so instantly that she was the most beautiful woman in the world, because she looked very stout, and much older than is customary with princesses—but that was owing to the fact that she was under an enchantment, and she would become quite young again when the giant was slain and three drops of his blood had been sprinkled on her brow.
 She was leaning forward in the chair, staring into the fire, and she was so motionless that it was quite plain she must be under an enchantment. From the very first instant he saw the princess he loved her, and his heart swelled with pity to think that so beautiful a damsel should be subjected to the tyranny of a giant. These twin passions of pity and love grew to so furious a strength within him that he could no longer contain himself. He wept in a loud and very sudden voice which lifted the damsel out of her enchantment and her chair, and hurled her across the room as though she had been propelled by a powerful spring.
 He was so overjoyed at seeing her move that he pressed his face against the glass and wept with great strength, and, in a few moments, the princess came timidly to the window and looked out. She looked right over his head at first, and then she looked down and saw him, and her eyebrows went far up on her forehead, and her mouth opened; and so he knew that she was delighted to see him. He nodded to give her courage, and shouted three times, “Open Sesame, Open Sesame, Open Sesame,” and then she opened the window and he climbed in.
 The princess tried to push him out again, but she was not able, and he bade her put all her jewels in the heel of her boot and fly with him. But she was evidently the victim of a very powerful enchantment, for she struggled violently, and said incomprehensible things to him, such as “Is it a fire, or were you chased?” and “Where is the cook?” But after a little time she listened to the voice of reason, and recognised that these were legitimate and heroic embraces from which she could not honourably disentangle herself.
 When her first transports of joy were somewhat abated she assured him that excessive haste had often undone great schemes, and that one should always look before one leaped, and that one should never be rescued all at once, but gradually, in order that one might become accustomed to the severe air of freedom—and he was overjoyed to find that she was as wise as she was beautiful.
 He told her that he loved her dearly, and she admitted, after some persuasion, that she was not insensible to the charms of his heart and intellect, but she confessed that her love was given to another.
 At these tidings his heart withered away within him, and when the princess admitted she loved the giant his amazement became profound and complicated. There was a rushing sound in his ears. The debris of his well-known world was crashing about him, and he was staring upon a new planet, the name of which was Incredulity. He looked round with a queer feeling of insecurity. At any moment the floor might stand up on one of its corners, or the walls might begin to flap and waggle. But none of these things happened. Before him sat the princess in an attitude of deep dejection, and her lily-white hands rested helplessly on her lap. She told him in a voice that trembled that she would have married him if he had asked her ten years earlier, and urged that she could not fly with him now, because, in the first place, she had six children, and, in the second place, it would be against the law, and, in the third place, his mother might object. She admitted that she was unworthy of his love, and that she should have waited, and she bore his reproaches with a meekness which finally disarmed him.
 He stropped his penknife on his boot, and said that there was nothing left but to kill the giant, and that she had better leave the room while he did so, because it would not be a sight for a weak woman, and he wondered audibly how much hasty-pudding would fall out of the giant if he stabbed him right to the heart. The princess begged him not to kill her husband, and assured him that this giant had not got any hasty-pudding in his heart at all, and that he was really the nicest giant that ever lived, and, further, that he had not killed her seven brothers, but the seven brothers of quite another person entirely, which was only a reasonable thing to do when one looked at it properly, and she continued in a strain which proved to him that this unnatural woman really loved the giant.
 It was more in pity than in anger that he recognised the impossibility of rescuing this person. He saw at last that she was unworthy of being rescued, and told her so. He said bitterly that he had grave doubts of her being a princess at all, and that if she was married to a giant it was no more than she deserved, and further he had a good mind to rescue the giant from her, and he would do so in a minute, only that it was against his principles to rescue giants.—And, saying so, he placed his penknife between his teeth and climbed out through the window again.
 He stood for a moment outside the window with his right hand extended to the sky and the moonlight blazing on his penknife—a truly formidable figure, and one which the princess never forgot; and then he walked slowly away, hiding behind a cold and impassive demeanour a mind that was tortured and a heart that had plumbed most of the depths of human suffering.

 Aloysius Murphy went a-courting when the woods were green. There were grapes in the air and birds in the river. A voice and a song went everywhere, and the voice said, “Where is my beloved?” and the song replied, “Thy beloved is awaiting thee, and she stretches her hands abroad and laughs for thy coming; bind then the feather of a bird to thy heel and a red rose upon thy hair, and go quickly.”
 So he took his hat from behind the door and his stick from beside the bed and went out into the evening.
 He had been engaged to Miss Nora MacMahon for two ecstatic months, and held the opinion that the earth and the heavens were aware of the intensity of his passion, and applauded the unique justice of his choice.
 By day he sat humbly in a solicitor’s office, or scurried through the thousand offices of the Four Courts, but with night came freedom, and he felt himself to be of the kindred of the gods and marched in pomp. By what subterranean workings had he become familiar with the lady? Suffice it that the impossible is possible to a lover. Everything can be achieved in time. The man who wishes to put a mountain in his pocket can do so if his pocket and his wish be of the requisite magnitude.
 Now the lady towards whom the raging torrent of his affections had been directed was the daughter of his employer, and this, while it notated romance, pointed also to tragedy. Further, while this fact was well within his knowledge, it was far from the cognizance of the lady. He would have enlightened her on the point, but the longer he delayed the revelation, the more difficult did it become. Perpetually his tongue ached to utter the truth. When he might be squeezing her hand or plunging his glance into the depths of her eyes, consciousness would touch him on the shoulder with a bony hand and say, “That is the boss’s daughter you are hugging”—a reminder which was provocative sometimes of an almost unholy delight, when to sing and dance and go mad was but natural; but at other times it brought with it moods of woe, abysses of blackness.
 In the solitude of the room wherein he lodged he sometimes indulged in a small drama, wherein, as the hero, he would smile a slightly sad and quizzical smile, and say gently, “Child, you are Mr. MacMahon’s daughter, I am but his clerk”—here the smile became more sadly quizzical—”how can I ask you to forsake the luxury of a residence in Clontarf for the uncongenial, nay, bleak surroundings of a South Circular Road habitation?” And she, ah me! She vowed that a hut and a crust and the love of her heart ... ! No matter!
 So, nightly, Aloysius Murphy took the tram to Clontarf, and there, wide-coated and sombreroed like a mediaeval conspirator, he trod delicately beside his cloaked and hooded inamorata, whispering of the spice of the wind and the great stretches of the sea.
 Now a lover who comes with the shades of night, harbinger of the moon, and hand in glove with the stars, must be a very romantic person indeed, and, even if he is not, a lady whose years are tender can easily supply the necessary gauze to tone down his too-rigorous projections. But the bird that flies by night must adduce for our curiosity substantial reason why his flight has deserted the whiteness of the daytime; else we may be tempted to believe that his advent in darkness is thus shrouded for even duskier purposes.—Miss MacMahon had begun to inquire who Mr. Murphy was, and he had, accordingly, begun to explain who he was not. This explanation had wrapped his identity in the most labyrinthine mystery, but Miss MacMahon detected in the rapid, incomprehensible fluctuations of his story a heart torn by unmerited misfortune, and whose agony could only be alleviated by laying her own dear head against its turmoil.
 To a young girl a confidant is almost as necessary as a lover, and when the rendezvous is clandestine, the youth mysterious, and his hat broad-leafed and flapping, then the necessity for a confidant becomes imperative.
 Miss MacMahon confided the knowledge of all her happiness to the thrilled ear of her younger sister, who at once hugged her, and bubbled query, conjecture, and admonishment. “ ... Long or short? ... Dark or fair?” “ ... and slender ... with eyes ... dove ... lightning ... hair ... and so gentle ... and then I said ... and then he said ... !” “Oh, sweet!” sighed the younger sister, and she stretched her arms wide and crushed the absent excellences of Mr. Murphy to her youthful breast.
 On returning next day from church, having listened awe-stricken to a sermon on filial obedience, the little sister bound her mother to secrecy, told the story, and said she wished she were dead. Subsequently the father of Clann MacMahon was informed, and he said “Hum” and “Ha,” and rolled a fierce, hard eye, and many times during the progress of the narrative he interjected with furious energy these words, “Don’t be a fool, Jane,” and Mrs. MacMahon responded meekly, “Yes, dear,” and Mr. MacMahon then said “Hum” and “Ha” and “Gr-r-r-up” in a truly terrible and ogreish manner; and in her distant chamber Miss MacMahon heard the reverberation of that sonorous grunt, and whispered to her little sister, “Pa’s in a wax,” and the little sister pretended to be asleep.
 The spectacle of an elderly gentleman, side-whiskered, precise and grey, disguising himself with mufflers and a squash hat, and stalking with sombre fortitude the erratic wanderings of a pair of young featherheads, is one which mirth may be pleased to linger upon. Such a spectacle was now to be observed in the semi-rural outskirts of Clontarf. Mr. MacMahon tracked his daughter with considerable stealth, adopting unconsciously the elongated and nervous stride of a theatrical villain. He saw her meet a young man wearing a broad-brimmed hat, whose clothing was mysteriously theatrical, and whose general shape, when it could be glimpsed, was oddly familiar.
 “I have seen that fellow somewhere,” said he.
 The lovers met and kissed, and the glaring father spoke rapidly but softly to himself for a few moments. He was not accustomed to walking, and it appeared as if these two intended to walk for ever, but he kept them in sight, and when the time came for parting he was close at hand.
 The parting was prolonged, and renewed, and rehearsed again with amendments and additions: he could not have believed that saying good-bye to a person could be turned into so complicated and symbolic a ceremony: but, at last, his daughter, with many a backward look and wave of hand, departed in one direction, and the gentleman, after similar signals, moved towards the tramway.
 “I know that fellow, whoever he is,” said Mr. MacMahon.
 Passing a lamp-post, Mr. Aloysius Murphy stayed for a moment to light his pipe, and Mr. MacMahon stared, he ground his teeth, he foamed at the mouth, and his already prominent eyes bulged still further and rounder—
 “Well, I’m—!” said he.
 He turned and walked homewards slowly, murmuring often to himself and to the night, “All right! wait, though! Hum! Ha! Gr-r-r-up!”
 That night he repeatedly entreated his wife “not to be a fool, Jane,” and she as repeatedly replied, “Yes, dear.” Long after midnight he awoke her by roaring violently from the very interior depths of a dream, “Cheek of the fellow! Pup! Gr-r-r-up!”
 At breakfast on the following morning he suggested to his wife and elder daughter that they should visit his office later on in the day—
 “You have never seen it, Nora,” said he, “and you ought to have a look at the den where your poor old daddy spends his time grinding dress material for his family from the faces of the poor. I’ve got some funny clerks, too: one of them is a curiosity.” Here, growing suddenly furious, he gave an egg a clout.
 His daughter giggled—
 “Oh, Pa,” said she, “you are not breaking that egg, you are murdering it.”
 He looked at her gloomily—
 “It wasn’t the egg I was hitting,” said he. “Gr-r-r-up,” said he suddenly, and he stabbed a piece of butter, squashed it to death on a slice of bread, and tore it to pieces with his teeth.
 The young lady looked at him with some amazement, but she said nothing, for she believed, as most ladies do, that men are a little mad sometimes, and are foolish always.
 Her father intercepted that glance, and instantly snarled—
 “Can you cook, young woman?” said he.
 “Of course, father,” replied the perplexed maiden.
 He laid aside his spoon and gave her his full attention.
 “Can you cook potatoes?” said he. “Can you mash ‘em, eh? Can you mash ‘em? What! You can. They call them Murphies in this country, girl. Can you mash Murphys, eh? I can. There’s a Murphy I know, and, although it’s been mashed already, by the Lord Harry, I’ll mash it again. Did you ever know that potatoes had eyes, miss? Did you ever notice it when you were cooking them? Did you ever look into the eyes of a Murphy, eh? When you mashed it, what? Don’t answer me, girl.”
 “I don’t know what you are talking about, Pa,” said the young lady.
 “Don’t you, now?” grinned the furious gentleman, and his bulging eyes looked like little round balls of glass. “Who said you did, miss? Gr-r-r-up,” said he, and the poor girl jumped as though she had been prodded with a pin.
 Mr. Aloysius Murphy’s activities began at ten o’clock in the morning by opening the office letters with an ivory instrument and handing them to his employer; then, as each letter was read, he entered its receipt and date in a book kept for that purpose.
 When Mr. MacMahon came in on the morning following the occurrences I have detailed he neglected, for the first time in many years, to respond to his clerk’s respectfully-cordial salutation. To the discreet “Good-morning, sir,” he vouchsafed no reply. Mr. Murphy was a trifle indignant and a good deal perturbed, for to an unquiet conscience a word or the lack of it is a goad. Once or twice, looking up from his book, he discovered his employer’s hard eyes fixed upon him with a regard too particular to be pleasant.
 An employer seldom does more than glance at his clerk, just the sideward glint of a look which remarks his presence without admitting his necessity, and in return the clerk slants a hurried eye on his employer, notes swiftly if his aspect be sulky or benign, and stays his vision at that. But, now, Mr. Murphy, with sudden trepidation, with a frightful sinking in the pit of his stomach, became aware that his employer was looking at him stealthily; and, little by little, he took to sneaking glances at his employer. After a few moments neither seemed to be able to keep his eyes from straying—they created opportunities in connection with the letters; the one looking intent, wide-eyed, and with a cold, frigid, rigid, hard stare, and the other scurrying and furtive, in-and-away, hit-and-miss-and-try-again, wink, blink, and twitter.
 Mr. MacMahon spoke—
 “Yes, sir.”
 “Have you anything in Court to-day?”
 “Yes, sir, an ex parte application, Donald and Cluggs.”
 “Let O’Neill attend to it. I shall want you to draft a deed for some ladies who will call here at noon. You can come down at ten minutes after twelve.”
 “Yes, sir,” said Murphy.
 He grabbed his share of the letters and got to the door bathed in perspiration and forebodings. He closed the door softly behind him, and stood for a few seconds staring at the handle. “Blow you!” said he viciously to nothing in particular, and he went slowly upstairs.
 “He can’t know,” said he on the first landing. On the second floor he thought, “She couldn’t have told for she didn’t know herself.” He reached his desk. “I wish I had a half of whisky,” said the young man to himself.
 Before, however, twelve o’clock arrived he had journeyed on the hopeful pinions of youth from the dogmatic “could not be” to the equally immovable “is not,” and his mind resumed its interrupted equilibrium.
 At twelve o’clock Mrs. and Miss MacMahon arrived, and were at once shown into the private office. At ten minutes past, Mr. Murphy’s respectful tap was heard. “Don’t, Eddie,” said Mrs. MacMahon in a queer, flurried voice. “Come in,” said her husband. Nora was examining some judicial cartoons pinned over the mantelpiece. Mr. Murphy opened the door a few inches, slid through the aperture, and was at once caught and held by his employer’s eye, which, like a hand, guided him to the table with his notebook. Under the almost physical pressure of that authoritative glare he did not dare to look who was in the room, but the rim of his eye saw the movement of a skirt like the far-away, shadowy canter of a ghost’s robe. He fixed his attention on his note-book.
 Mr. MacMahon began to dictate a Deed of Conveyance from a precedent deed in his hand. After dictating for some few minutes—
 “Murphy,” said he, and at the word the young lady studying the cartoons stiffened, “I’ve rather lost the thread of that clause; please read what you have down.”
 Murphy began to read, and, at the first word, the girl made a tiny, shrill, mouse’s noise, and then stood stock-still, tightened up and frightened, with her two wild eyes trying to peep around her ears.
 Mr. Murphy heard the noise and faltered—he knew instinctively. Something told him with the bellowing assurance of a cannon who was there. He must look. He forced his slack face past the granite image that was his employer, saw a serge-clad figure that he knew, one ear and the curve of a cheek. Then a cascade broke inside his head. It buzzed and chattered and crashed, with now and again the blank brutality of thunder bashing through the noise. The serge-clad figure swelled suddenly to a tremendous magnitude, and then it receded just as swiftly, and the vast earth spun minutely on a pin’s point ten million miles away, and she was behind it, her eyes piercing with scorn ... . Through the furious winds that whirled about his brain he heard a whisper, thin and cold, and insistent as a razor’s edge, “Go on, Murphy; go on, Murphy.” He strove to fix his attention on his shorthand notes—To fight it down, to stand the shock like a man, and then crawl into a hole somewhere and die; but his mind would not grip, nor his eyes focus. The only words which his empty brain could pump up were these, irrelevant and idiotic, “‘A frog he would a-wooing go, heigho,’ said Rowley”; and they must not be said. “It is a bit difficult, perhaps,” said the whispering voice that crept through the tumult of winds and waters in his head. “Never mind, take down the rest of it,” and the far-away whisper began to say things all about nothing, making queer little noises and pauses, running for a moment into a ripple of sound, and eddying and dying away and coming back again—buz-z-z! His notebook lying on the table was as small as a postage stamp, while the pencil in his hand was as big as an elephant’s leg. How can a man write on a microscopic blur with the stump of a fir tree? He poked and prodded, and Mr. MacMahon watched for a few moments his clerk poking his note-book with the wrong end of a pencil. He silently pulled his daughter forward and made her look. After a little—
 “That will do, Murphy,” said he, and Mr. Murphy, before he got out, made two severe attempts to walk through a wall.
 For half an hour he sat at his desk in a trance, with his eyes fixed upon an ink-bottle. At last, nodding his head slowly—
 “I’ll bet you a shilling,” said he to the ink-bottle, “that I get the sack to-night.”
 And the ink-bottle lost the wager.


He was one who would have passed by the Sphinx without seeing it. He did not believe in the necessity for sphinxes, or in their reality, for that matter—they did not exist for him. Indeed, he was one to whom the Sphinx would not have been visible. He might have eyed it and noted a certain bulk of grotesque stone, but nothing more significant.
 He was sex-blind, and, so, peculiarly limited by the fact that he could not appreciate women. If he had been pressed for a theory or metaphysic of womanhood he would have been unable to formulate any. Their presence he admitted, perforce: their utility was quite apparent to him on the surface, but, subterraneously, he doubted both their existence and their utility. He might have said perplexedly—Why cannot they do whatever they have to do without being always in the way? He might have said—Hang it, they are everywhere and what good are they doing? They bothered him, they destroyed his ease when he was near them, and they spoke a language which he did not understand and did not want to understand. But as his limitations did not press on him neither did they trouble him. He was not sexually deficient, and he did not dislike women; he simply ignored them, and was only really at home with men. All the crudities which we enumerate as masculine delighted him—simple things, for, in the gender of abstract ideas, vice is feminine, brutality is masculine, the female being older, vastly older than the male, much more competent in every way, stronger, even in her physique, than he, and, having little baggage of mental or ethical preoccupations to delay her progress, she is still the guardian of evolution, requiring little more from man than to be stroked and petted for a while.
 He could be brutal at times. He liked to get drunk at seasonable periods. He would cheerfully break a head or a window, and would bandage the one damage or pay for the other with equal skill and pleasure. He liked to tramp rugged miles swinging his arms and whistling as he went, and he could sit for hours by the side of a ditch thinking thoughts without words—an easy and a pleasant way of thinking, and one which may lead to something in the long run.
 Even his mother was an abstraction to him. He was kind to her so far as doing things went, but he looked over her, or round her, and marched away and forgot her.
 Sex-blindness carries with it many other darknesses. We do not know what masculine thing is projected by the feminine consciousness, and civilisation, even life itself, must stand at a halt until that has been discovered or created, but art is the female projected by the male: science is the male projected by the male—as yet a poor thing, and to remain so until it has become art; that is, has become fertilised and so more psychological than mechanical. The small part of science which came to his notice (inventions, machinery, etc.) was easily and delightedly comprehended by him. He could do intricate things with a knife and a piece of string, or a hammer and a saw: but a picture, a poem, a statue, a piece of music—these left him as uninterested as they found him: more so, in truth, for they left him bored and dejected.
 His mother came to dislike him, and there were many causes and many justifications for her dislike. She was an orderly, busy, competent woman, the counterpart of endless millions of her sex, who liked to understand what she saw or felt, and who had no happiness in reading riddles. To her he was at times an enigma, and at times again a simpleton. In both aspects he displeased and embarrassed her. One has one’s sense of property, and in him she could not put her finger on anything that was hers. We demand continuity, logic in other words, but between her son and herself there was a gulf fixed, spanned by no bridge whatever; there was complete isolation; no boat plied between them at all. All the kindly human things which she loved were unintelligible to him, and his coarse pleasures or blunt evasions distressed and bewildered her. When she spoke to him he gaped or yawned; and yet she did not speak on weighty matters, just the necessary small-change of existence—somebody’s cold, somebody’s dress, somebody’s marriage or death. When she addressed him on sterner subjects, the ground, the weather, the crops, he looked at her as if she were a baby, he listened with stubborn resentment, and strode away a confessed boor. There was no contact anywhere between them, and he was a slow exasperation to her.—What can we do with that which is ours and not ours? either we own a thing or we do not, and, whichever way it goes, there is some end to it; but certain enigmas are illegitimate and are so hounded from decent cogitation.
 She could do nothing but dismiss him, and she could not even do that, for there he was at the required periods, always primed with the wrong reply to any question, the wrong aspiration, the wrong conjecture; a perpetual trampler on mental corns, a person for whom one could do nothing but apologise.
 They lived on a small farm and almost the entire work of the place was done by him. His younger brother assisted, but that assistance could have easily been done without. If the cattle were sick he cured them almost by instinct. If the horse was lame or wanted a new shoe he knew precisely what to do in both events. When the time came for ploughing he gripped the handles and drove a furrow which was as straight and as economical as any furrow in the world. He could dig all day long and be happy; he gathered in the harvest as another would gather in a bride; and, in the intervals between these occupations, he fled to the nearest publichouse and wallowed among his kind.
 He did not fly away to drink; he fled to be among men.—Then he awakened. His tongue worked with the best of them, and adequately too. He could speak weightily on many things—boxing, wrestling, hunting, fishing, the seasons, the weather, and the chances of this and the other man’s crops. He had deep knowledge about brands of tobacco and the peculiar virtues of many different liquors. He knew birds and beetles and worms; how a weazel would behave in extraordinary circumstances; how to train every breed of horse and dog. He recited goats from the cradle to the grave, could tell the name of any tree from its leaf; knew how a bull could be coerced, a cow cut up, and what plasters were good for a broken head. Sometimes, and often enough, the talk would chance on women, and then he laughed as heartily as any one else, but he was always relieved when the conversation trailed to more interesting things.
 His mother died and left the farm to the younger instead of the elder son; an unusual thing to do, but she did detest him. She knew her younger son very well. He was foreign to her in nothing. His temper ran parallel with her own, his tastes were hers, his ideas had been largely derived from her, she could track them at any time and make or demolish him. He would go to a dance or a picnic and be as exhilarated as she was, and would discuss the matter afterwards. He could speak with some cogency on the shape of this and that female person, the hat of such an one, the disagreeableness of tea at this house and the goodness of it at the other. He could even listen to one speaking without going to sleep at the fourth word. In all he was a decent, quiet lad who would become a father the exact replica of his own, and whose daughters would resemble his mother as closely as two peas resemble their green ancestors.—So she left him the farm.
 Of course, there was no attempt to turn the elder brother out. Indeed, for some years the two men worked quietly together and prospered and were contented; then, as was inevitable, the younger brother got married, and the elder had to look out for a new place to live in, and to work in—things had become difficult.
 It is very easy to say that in such and such circumstances a man should do this and that well-pondered thing, but the courts of logic have as yet the most circumscribed jurisdiction. Just as statistics can prove anything and be quite wrong, so reason can sit in its padded chair issuing pronouncements which are seldom within measurable distance of any reality. Everything is true only in relation to its centre of thought. Some people think with their heads—their subsequent actions are as logical and unpleasant as are those of the other sort who think only with their blood, and this latter has its irrefutable logic also. He thought in this subterranean fashion, and if he had thought in the other the issue would not have been any different.
 Still, it was not an easy problem for him, or for any person lacking initiative—a sexual characteristic. He might have emigrated, but his roots were deeply struck in his own place, so the idea never occurred to him; furthermore, our thoughts are often no deeper than our pockets, and one wants money to move anywhere. For any other life than that of farming he had no training and small desire. He had no money and he was a farmer’s son. Without money he could not get a farm; being a farmer’s son he could not sink to the degradation of a day labourer; logically he could sink, actually he could not without endangering his own centres and verities—so he also got married.
 He married a farm of about ten acres, and the sun began to shine on him once more; but only for a few days. Suddenly the sun went away from the heavens; the moon disappeared from the silent night; the silent night itself fled afar, leaving in its stead a noisy, dirty blackness through which one slept or yawned as one could. There was the farm, of course, one could go there and work; but the freshness went out of the very ground; the crops lost their sweetness and candour; the horses and cows disowned him; the goats ceased to be his friends—It was all up with him. He did not whistle any longer. He did not swing his shoulders as he walked, and, although he continued to smoke, he did not look for a particular green bank whereon he could sit quietly flooded with those slow thoughts that had no words.
 For he discovered that he had not married a farm at all. He had married a woman—a thin-jawed, elderly slattern, whose sole beauty was her farm. How her jaws worked! The processions and congregations of words that fell and dribbled and slid out of them! Those jaws were never quiet, and in spite of all he did not say anything. There was not anything to say, but much to do from which he shivered away in terror. He looked at her sometimes through the muscles of his arms, through his big, strong hands, through fogs and fumes and singular, quiet tumults that raged within him. She lessoned him on the things he knew so well, and she was always wrong. She lectured him on those things which she did know, but the unending disquisition, the perpetual repetition, the foolish, empty emphasis, the dragging weightiness of her tongue made him repudiate her knowledge and hate it as much as he did her.
 Sometimes, looking at her, he would rub his eyes and yawn with fatigue and wonder—there she was! A something enwrapped about with petticoats. Veritably alive. Active as an insect! Palpable to the touch! And what was she doing to him? Why did she do it? Why didn’t she go away? Why didn’t she die? What sense was there in the making of such a creature that clothed itself like a bolster, without any freedom or entertainment or shapeliness?
 Her eyes were fixed on him and they always seemed to be angry; and her tongue was uttering rubbish about horses, rubbish about cows, rubbish about hay and oats. Nor was this the sum of his weariness. It was not alone that he was married; he was multitudinously, egregiously married. He had married a whole family, and what a family—
 Her mother lived with her, her eldest sister lived with her, her youngest sister lived with her—and these were all swathed about with petticoats and shawls. They had no movement. Their feet were like those of no creature he had ever observed. One could hear the flip-flap of their slippers all over the place, and at all hours. They were down-at-heel, draggle-tailed, and futile. There was no workmanship about them. They were as unfinished, as unsightly as a puddle on a road. They insulted his eyesight, his hearing, and his energy. They had lank hair that slapped about them like wet seaweed, and they were all talking, talking, talking.
 The mother was of an incredible age. She was senile with age. Her cracked cackle never ceased for an instant. She talked to the dog and the cat; she talked to the walls of the room; she spoke out through the window to the weather; she shut her eyes in a corner and harangued the circumambient darkness. The eldest sister was as silent as a deep ditch and as ugly. She slid here and there with her head on one side like an inquisitive hen watching one curiously, and was always doing nothing with an air of futile employment. The youngest was a semi-lunatic who prattled and prattled without ceasing, and was always catching one’s sleeve, and laughing at one’s face.—And everywhere those flopping, wriggling petticoats were appearing and disappearing. One saw slack hair whisking by the corner of one’s eye. Mysteriously, urgently, they were coming and going and coming again, and never, never being silent.
 More and more he went running to the public-house. But it was no longer to be among men, it was to get drunk. One might imagine him sitting there thinking those slow thoughts without words. One might predict that the day would come when he would realise very suddenly, very clearly all that he had been thinking about, and, when this urgent, terrible thought had been translated into its own terms of action, he would be quietly hanged by the neck until he was as dead as he had been before he was alive.


 At the end of the bough, at the top of the tree
 (As fragrant, as high, and as lovely as thou)
 One sweet apple reddens which all men may see,
 At the end of the bough.

 Swinging full to the view, tho’ the gatherers now
 Pass, and evade, and o’erlook busily:
 Overlook! nay, but pluck it! they cannot tell how.

 For it swings out of reach as a cloud, and as free
 As a star, or thy beauty, which seems too, I vow,
 Remote as the sweet rosy apple—ah me!
 At the end of the bough.


 One awakened suddenly in those days. Sleep was not followed by the haze which trails behind more mature slumbers. One’s eyes opened wide and bright, and brains and legs became instantly active. If by a chance the boy lying next to you was still asleep, it was the thing to hit him with a pillow. Even among boys, however, there are certain morose creatures who are ill-tempered in the morning, and these, on being struck with a pillow, become malignantly active, and desire to fight with fists instead of pillows.
 Bull was such a boy. He was densely packed with pugnacity. He lived for ever on the extreme slope of a fight, down which he slid at a word, a nod, a wink, into strenuous and bloodthirsty warfare. He was never seen without a black eye, a bruised lip, or something wrong with his ear. He had the most miscellaneous collection of hurts that one could imagine, and he was always prepared to exhibit his latest injury in exchange for a piece of toffee. If this method of barter was not relished, he would hit the proprietor of the toffee and confiscate the goods to his own use.
 His knowledge of who had sweets was uncanny. He had an extra sense in that direction, which was a trouble to all smaller boys. No matter how cunningly one concealed a sticky treasure, just when one was secretly enjoying it he came leaping out of space with the most offensive friendliness crinkling all over his face, and his desire to participate in the confection was advanced without any preliminary courtesies—
 “What have you got? Show! Give us a bit. Can’t you give a fellow a bit?”
 When the bit was tendered he snatched it, swallowed it, and growled—
 “Do you call that a bit? Give us a real bit.”
 There are plenty of boys who will defend their toffee with their lives. Such boys he liked to meet, for their refusal to surrender a part gave him an opportunity to fight and a reason for confiscating the whole of the ravished sweetmeat. One often had to devour one’s sweets at a full gallop. It was no uncommon thing to see a small boy scudding furiously around a field with Bull pounding behind, intent as a bloodhound, and as horribly vocal. A close examination would discover that the small boy’s jaws were moving with even greater rapidity than his legs. If he managed to get his stuff devoured before he was caught it was all right, but he got hammered anyhow when he was caught. However, Bull’s approach was usually managed with great skill and strategy, and before the small boy was aware Bull was squatting beside him using blandishments both moral and minatory.
 He was a very gifted boy. He had no bent for learning lessons but he had a great gift for collecting and turning to his own use the property of other people. Sometimes three or four boys swore a Solemn League and Covenant against him. His perplexity then was extreme. He saw toffee being devoured and none of it coming his way. Possibly his method of thinking was in pictures, and he could visualise with painful clarity the alien gullets down which toffee was traveling, and, simultaneously, he could see the woeful emptiness of his own red lane. He must have felt that all was not right with a Providence which could allow such happenings. A world wherein there was toffee for others and none for him was certainly a world out of joint. His idea of Utopia would be a place where there were lots of things for him to eat and a circle of hungry boys who watched his deliberate jaws with envy and humility. Furthermore, the idea that smaller boys could have, not the courage, but the heart to congregate against him, must have come to him with a shock. He was appalled by a sense of the sinfulness of human nature, and dismayed by the odds against which virtue has to fight.
 The others, strong in numbers, followed him on such occasions chewing their tuck with grave deliberation, descanting minutely and loudly on the taste of each bit, the splendid length of time it took to dissolve, and the blessedly large quantity which yet remained to be eaten. He threatened them, but his threats were received with yawns. He wheedled (a thing he could do consummately well) but they were not to be blandished. He mapped out on his own person the particular and painful places where later on he would hit them unless he was bound over to the peace by toffee. And they sucked their sweetstuff and made diagrams on each other of the places where they could hit Bull if they had a mind to, and told each other and him that he was not worth hitting and, would probably die if he were hit. But they were careful not dissolve partnership until the sweets were eaten and beyond even the wildest hopes of salvage. Then, in the later-on that had been predicted, Bull captured them in detail, and, as he had promised, he “lammed the stuffing” out of them.
 He had all the grave wisdom of the stupid, and the extraordinary energy and persistence which perpetuates them. He never could learn a lesson, but he could, and did, pinch the boy next to him into adept prompting, and would intimidate any one into doing his sums. Indeed, the man of whom he was the promise had no need for ordinary learning. The lighter accomplishments of life had no appeal, nor would the deeper lessons have any meaning for him. He is simply a big, physical appetite, untrammelled by anything like introspection or conscience, and working in perfect innocence for the fulfilment of its simple wants. For at base his species are surely the most simple of human creatures. In spite of their complex physical structure they are one-celled organisms driven through life with only a passionate hunger as their motive power, and with no complexities of thought or emotion to hamper their loud progressions. None but those of their own kind can suffer from their ravages, and, even so, they fly the contact of each other with horror.
 Doubtless by this time Bull is a prosperous and wealthy citizen somewhere, the proprietor of a curved waistcoat and a gold watch. Possessions other than these he would regard with the amiable tolerance of a philosopher regarding a child with toys. So strongly acquisitive a nature must win the particular little battles which it is fitted to wage. When a conscienceless mind is buttressed by a pugnacious temperament then houses and land, and cattle and maidservants, and such-like, the small change of existence, are easily gotten.

 The sunlight of youth has a special quality which will never again be known until we rediscover it in Paradise. What a time it was! How the sun shone, and how often it shone! I remember playing about in a parched and ragged field with a leaf from a copy-book stuck under my cap to aid its quarter-inch peak in keeping off the glare of that tremendous sunshine.
 Tip-and-Tig, Horneys and Robbers, Relievo we played, and another game, the name of which did not then seem at all strange, but which now wears an amazing appearance—it was, Twenty-four Yards on the Billy-Goat’s Tail. I wonder now what was that Billy-Goat, and was he able to wag the triumphant tail of which twenty-four yards was probably no more than an inconsiderable moiety. There were other games: Ball-in-the-Decker, Cap-on-the-Back, and Towns or Rounders. These were all summer games.
 With the lightest effort of imagination I can see myself and other tireless atoms scooting across reaches of sunlight. I can hear the continuous howl which accompanied our play, and can see that ragged, parched field spreading, save for the cluster of boys, wide and silent to the further, greener fields, where the cows were lying down in great coloured lumps, and one antic deer, a pet, would make such astonishing journeys, jumping the entire circuit of the field on four thin and absolutely rigid legs; for when it made these peculiar excursions it never seemed to use its legs—these were held quite rigidly, and the deer bounded by some powerful, spring-like action, its brown coat flashing in the sunlight, and its movement a rhythmic glory which the boys watched with ecstasy and laughter.
 An old ass was native to that field also. He had been a bright, kind-hearted donkey at one time: a donkey whose nose might be tickled, and who would allow one to climb upon his back. But the presence of boys grew disturbing as he grew old, and the practical jokes of which his youth took no heed induced a kind of insanity in his latter age. He took to kicking the cows as they browsed peacefully, and, later, he developed a horrid appetite for fowl, and would stalk and kill and eat hens whenever possible. Later still he directed this unhealthy appetite towards small boys, and after he had eaten part of one lad’s shoulder and the calf from another boy’s leg he disappeared—whether he was sold to some innocent person, or had been slaughtered mysteriously, we did not know. We professed to believe that he had died of the horrible taste of the boys he had bitten, and, afterwards, whenever we played cannibals, we refused, greatly to their chagrin, to kill and eat these two boys, on the ground that their flesh was poisonous; but the others we slaughtered and fed on with undiminished gusto.
 There were only two trees in the field—great, gnarled monsters casting a deep shade. In that shade the grass grew long and green and juicy. After a game the boys would fling themselves down in the shadow of the trees to chew the sweet grass, and play “knifey,” and talk.—Such talk!—endless and careless, and loud as the converse of young bulls. What did we talk about? Delightful and inconsequent shoutings—
 “That is a hawk up there, he’s going to soar. How does he keep so steady without moving his wings? Watch now! down he drops like a stone ... . If you give your rabbit too many cabbage leaves he’ll die of the gripes ... . Did you ever play jack-stones? a fellow showed me how, look! ... When we were at the sea yesterday Jimmy Nelson wouldn’t go out from the shore. He was afraid of his life—he wouldn’t even duck down. I swam nearly out of sight, didn’t I, Sam? So did Sam ... . You could climb right up to the top of that tree if you tried. No you couldn’t.—Yes I could, it’s forked all the way up ... . The new master wears specs—Old Four-Eyes! and he grins at a fellow. I don’t think he’s much ... . How do midges get born? ... My brother has one with four blades and a thing for poking stones out of a horse’s hoof ... . A horse-hair won’t break the cane at all: it’s all bosh: rosin is the only thing ... .”
 There was a little stream which twisted a six-foot path through the field, the sunshine dashing off its waters in brilliant flashes. The top of the water swarmed with flying insects and strange, small spider-things skimmed over its surface with amazing swiftness. We believed there were otters in that stream—they came out at nightfall and, unless you had the good fortune to be rescued by a Newfoundland dog, they would hold you down under water until you were drowned. We also held there were leeches in the stream—they would grip you by the hundred thousand and suck you to death in five minutes, and they clung so tightly that one could not prise their mouths open with a poker. We hoped there were whales in it, but not one of us desired a shark because it is the Sailor’s Enemy.
 An iron railing ran by part of the field. Every hole and joint of it was crammed with earwigs, and these could be poked out of the crevices with a straw. When an amazing number of them had been poked out there was always another one left. The very last earwig that could be discovered was the King. He was able and willing to bite ten times as badly as any of the others, and he was awfully vicious when his nest was broken into. Furthermore, he had the ability to put a curse on you before he died, and he always did this because he was so vicious. If a King Earwig had time to curse you before he was killed terrible things might happen. His favourite curse was to translate himself into the next piece of bread you would eat, and then you would see one-half of him waggling in a hole in the bread: the other half you had already eaten.—For this reason the King Earwig was always allowed to go free until he was not looking, then he was killed with great suddenness.
 I remember how the slow evening shadows drew over the quiet fields. The sunlight slowly faded to a mist of gold, into which the great trees thrust timorous, shy fingers, and these gradually widened, until, at last, the whole horizon bowed into the twilight.
 Across the field there could be heard the voice of the river, a furtive, desolate hoarseness in the dusk. The cows in the far fields had long ago wandered home to be milked, scarcely a bird moved in the high silences, the gnats had hidden themselves away in the deep, rugged bark of the trees, and, through the dimness, the heavy beetles were hurling like stones, and dropping and rising again in a laborious flight.

 He could remember that he had wept to be allowed go to school. Even more vivid was his recollection of the persuasive and persistent tears which he had shed to be allowed to stay at home.
 Most of the joys of school were exhausted after he had submitted to one hour of dreary discipline.—To be compelled to sit still when every inch of one’s being clamoured to move about; to have to stand up and stare at a blackboard upon which meaningless white scrawls were perpetually being drawn, and as perpetually being wiped out to a master’s meaningless, monotonous verbal accompaniment; to have to join in a chant which began with “a, b, c,” and droned steadily through a complexity of sounds to a ridiculously inadequate “z”—such things became desperately boring. One was not even let go to sleep, and if one wept from sheer ennui, then one was clouted. School, he shortly decided, was not worth anybody’s while, but he also discovered that a torment had commenced which was not by any artifice to be evaded.
 Along the road to school there ran a succession of meadows—the path was really a footway through fields—and how not to stray into these meadows was a problem demanding the entire of one’s attention. Sometimes a rabbit bolted almost from under one’s feet—it flapped away through the grass, and bobbed up and down in a great hurry. Then his heart filled with envy. He said to himself—
 “That rabbit is not going to school: if it was it wouldn’t run so quickly.”
 It was paltry comfort to hurl a wad of grass after it.
 Through most of the journey there was an immense, lazy bee with a bass voice, and he droned defiance three feet away from one’s cap which almost jolted to be put over him. He seemed to understand that at such an hour he was not in any danger, and so he would drop to the grass, roll on his back, and cock up his legs in ecstasy.
 “Bees,” said he to himself in amazement and despair, “do not go to school.”
 Each bush and tree seemed, for the moment, to be inhabited by a bird whose song was unfamiliar and the markings on whom he could not remember to have seen before; and he had no time to stay and note them. He dragged beyond these objects reluctantly, pondering on the unreasonable savagery of parents who sent one to school when the sun was shining.
 But the greatest obstacle to getting to school was the river which danced briskly through the fields. The footpath went for a stretch along this stream, and, during that piece of the journey, haste was not possible. There are so many things in a river to look at. The movement of the water in itself exercises fascinations over a boy. There are always bubbles, based strongly in froth, sailing gallantly along.—One speculates how long a bubble will swim before it hits a rock, or is washed into nothing by an eddy, or is becalmed in a sheltered corner to ride at jaunty anchor with a navy of similar delicate tonnage.
 Further, if one finds a twig on the path, or a leaf, there is nothing more natural than to throw these into the river and see how fast or how erratically they sail. Pebbles also clamour to be cast into the stream. Perhaps a dragon-fly whirls above the surface of the water to hold one late from school. The grasses and rushes by the marge may stir as a grey rat slips out to take to the water and swim low down and very fast on some strange and important journey. The inspection of such an event cannot be hurried. One must, if it is possible, discover where he swims to, and if his hole is found it has to be blocked up with stones, even though the persistent bell is clanging down over the fields.
 Perhaps a big frog will push out from the grass and go in fat leaps down to the water—plop! and away he swims with his sarcastic nose up and his legs going like fury. The strange, very-little-boy motions of a frog in water is a thing to ponder over. There are small frogs also, every bit as interesting, thin-legged, round-bellied anatomies who try to jump two ways at once when they are observed, and are caught so easily that it is scarcely worth one’s trouble to chase them at all.
 Just where the path turned there was an arch under which the river flowed.—It was covered in with an iron grating. Surely it was a place of mystery. Through the bars the dark, swirling waters were dimly visible—there were things in there. Black lumps rose out of the water, and, for a little distance, the slimy, shimmering, cold-looking walls could be seen. Beyond there was a deeper gloom, and, beyond that again, a blank, mysterious darkness. Through the grating the voice of the stream came back with a strange note. On the outside, under the sun, it was a tinkle and a rush, a dance indeed, but within it was a low snarl that deepened to a grim whisper. There was an edge of malice to the sound: something dark and very terrible brooded on the face of those hidden waters. It was the home of surmise.—What might there not be there? There might be gully-holes where the waters whirled in wide circles, and then flew smoothly down, and down, and down. If one could have got in there to see! To crawl along by the slippery edge in the darkness and solitude! It was very hard to get away from this place.
 A little farther on two goats were tethered. As one passed they would cease to pluck the grass and begin to dance slowly, such dainty, antic steps, with their heads held down and their pale eyes looking upwards with a joke in them. They did not really want to fight; they wanted to play but were too shy to admit it.
 And here the schoolhouse was in sight. The bell had stopped: it was now time to run.
 He gripped the mouth of his satchel with one hand to prevent the lesson books from jumping out as he ran, he gripped his pocket with the other hand to prevent his lunch from being jolted into the road.
 Another few yards and he was at the gate—some one was glaring out through a window. It was a big face rimmed with spectacles and whiskers—a master. He knew that when yonder severe eye had lifted from him it had dropped to look at a watch, and he also knew exactly what the owner of the severe eye would say to him as he sidled in.


 If the Moon had a hand
 I wonder would she
 Stretch it down unto me?

 If she did, I would go
 To her glacier land,
 To her ice-covered strand.

 I would run, I would fly,
 Were the cold ever so,
 And be warm in the snow.

O Moon of all Light,
 Sailing far, sailing high
 In the infinite sky.

 Do not come down to me,
 Lest I shriek in affright,
 Lest I die in the night
 Of your chill ecstasy.

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