Dubliners by James Joyce
A Painful Case

Dublin The Sisters
An Encounter
After the Race
Two Gallants
The Boarding House
A Little Cloud
A Painful Case
Ivy Day in the Committee Room
A Mother
The Dead

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[3435]     A PAINFUL CASE
[3437]     MR. JAMES DUFFY lived in Chapelizod because he wished to
[3438]     live as far as possible from the city of which he was a citizen and
[3439]     because he found all the other suburbs of Dublin mean, modern
[3440]     and pretentious. He lived in an old sombre house and from his
[3441]     windows he could look into the disused distillery or upwards along
[3442]     the shallow river on which Dublin is built. The lofty walls of his
[3443]     uncarpeted room were free from pictures. He had himself bought
[3444]     every article of furniture in the room: a black iron bedstead, an
[3445]     iron washstand, four cane chairs, a clothes- rack, a coal-scuttle, a
[3446]     fender and irons and a square table on which lay a double desk. A
[3447]     bookcase had been made in an alcove by means of shelves of
[3448]     white wood. The bed was clothed with white bedclothes and a
[3449]     black and scarlet rug covered the foot. A little hand-mirror hung
[3450]     above the washstand and during the day a white-shaded lamp stood
[3451]     as the sole ornament of the mantelpiece. The books on the white
[3452]     wooden shelves were arranged from below upwards according to
[3453]     bulk. A complete Wordsworth stood at one end of the lowest shelf
[3454]     and a copy of the Maynooth Catechism, sewn into the cloth cover
[3455]     of a notebook, stood at one end of the top shelf. Writing materials
[3456]     were always on the desk. In the desk lay a manuscript translation
[3457]     of Hauptmann's Michael Kramer, the stage directions of which
[3458]     were written in purple ink, and a little sheaf of papers held
[3459]     together by a brass pin. In these sheets a sentence was inscribed
[3460]     from time to time and, in an ironical moment, the headline of an
[3461]     advertisement for Bile Beans had been pasted on to the first sheet.
[3462]     On lifting the lid of the desk a faint fragrance escaped--the
[3463]     fragrance of new cedarwood pencils or of a bottle of gum or of an
[3464]     overripe apple which might have been left there and forgotten.
[3466]     Mr. Duffy abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental
[3467]     disorder. A medival doctor would have called him saturnine. His
[3468]     face, which carried the entire tale of his years, was of the brown
[3469]     tint of Dublin streets. On his long and rather large head grew dry
[3470]     black hair and a tawny moustache did not quite cover an
[3471]     unamiable mouth. His cheekbones also gave his face a harsh
[3472]     character; but there was no harshness in the eyes which, looking at
[3473]     the world from under their tawny eyebrows, gave the impression of
[3474]     a man ever alert to greet a redeeming instinct in others but often
[3475]     disappointed. He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding
[3476]     his own acts with doubtful side-glasses. He had an odd
[3477]     autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from
[3478]     time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in
[3479]     the third person and a predicate in the past tense. He never gave
[3480]     alms to beggars and walked firmly, carrying a stout hazel.
[3482]     He had been for many years cashier of a private bank in Baggot
[3483]     Street. Every morning he came in from Chapelizod by tram. At
[3484]     midday he went to Dan Burke's and took his lunch--a bottle of
[3485]     lager beer and a small trayful of arrowroot biscuits. At four o'clock
[3486]     he was set free. He dined in an eating-house in George's Street
[3487]     where he felt himself safe from the society o Dublin's gilded youth
[3488]     and where there was a certain plain honesty in the bill of fare. His
[3489]     evenings were spent either before his landlady's piano or roaming
[3490]     about the outskirts of the city. His liking for Mozart's music
[3491]     brought him sometimes to an opera or a concert: these were the
[3492]     only dissipations of his life.
[3494]     He had neither companions nor friends, church nor creed. He lived
[3495]     his spiritual life without any communion with others, visiting his
[3496]     relatives at Christmas and escorting them to the cemetery when
[3497]     they died. He performed these two social duties for old dignity's
[3498]     sake but conceded nothing further to the conventions which
[3499]     regulate the civic life. He allowed himself to think that in certain
[3500]     circumstances he would rob his hank but, as these circumstances
[3501]     never arose, his life rolled out evenly--an adventureless tale.
[3503]     One evening he found himself sitting beside two ladies in the
[3504]     Rotunda. The house, thinly peopled and silent, gave distressing
[3505]     prophecy of failure. The lady who sat next him looked round at the
[3506]     deserted house once or twice and then said:
[3508]     "What a pity there is such a poor house tonight! It's so hard on
[3509]     people to have to sing to empty benches."
[3511]     He took the remark as an invitation to talk. He was surprised that
[3512]     she seemed so little awkward. While they talked he tried to fix her
[3513]     permanently in his memory. When he learned that the young girl
[3514]     beside her was her daughter he judged her to be a year or so
[3515]     younger than himself. Her face, which must have been handsome,
[3516]     had remained intelligent. It was an oval face with strongly marked
[3517]     features. The eyes were very dark blue and steady. Their gaze
[3518]     began with a defiant note but was confused by what seemed a
[3519]     deliberate swoon of the pupil into the iris, revealing for an instant
[3520]     a temperament of great sensibility. The pupil reasserted itself
[3521]     quickly, this half- disclosed nature fell again under the reign of
[3522]     prudence, and her astrakhan jacket, moulding a bosom of a certain
[3523]     fullness, struck the note of defiance more definitely.
[3525]     He met her again a few weeks afterwards at a concert in Earlsfort
[3526]     Terrace and seized the moments when her daughter's attention was
[3527]     diverted to become intimate. She alluded once or twice to her
[3528]     husband but her tone was not such as to make the allusion a
[3529]     warning. Her name was Mrs. Sinico. Her husband's
[3530]     great-great-grandfather had come from Leghorn. Her husband was
[3531]     captain of a mercantile boat plying between Dublin and Holland;
[3532]     and they had one child.
[3534]     Meeting her a third time by accident he found courage to make an
[3535]     appointment. She came. This was the first of many meetings; they
[3536]     met always in the evening and chose the most quiet quarters for
[3537]     their walks together. Mr. Duffy, however, had a distaste for
[3538]     underhand ways and, finding that they were compelled to meet
[3539]     stealthily, he forced her to ask him to her house. Captain Sinico
[3540]     encouraged his visits, thinking that his daughter's hand was in
[3541]     question. He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery
[3542]     of pleasures that he did not suspect that anyone else would take an
[3543]     interest in her. As the husband was often away and the daughter
[3544]     out giving music lessons Mr. Duffy had many opportunities of
[3545]     enjoying the lady's society. Neither he nor she had had any such
[3546]     adventure before and neither was conscious of any incongruity.
[3547]     Little by little he entangled his thoughts with hers. He lent her
[3548]     books, provided her with ideas, shared his intellectual life with
[3549]     her. She listened to all.
[3551]     Sometimes in return for his theories she gave out some fact of her
[3552]     own life. With almost maternal solicitude she urged him to let his
[3553]     nature open to the full: she became his confessor. He told her that
[3554]     for some time he had assisted at the meetings of an Irish Socialist
[3555]     Party where he had felt himself a unique figure amidst a score of
[3556]     sober workmen in a garret lit by an inefficient oil-lamp. When the
[3557]     party had divided into three sections, each under its own leader
[3558]     and in its own garret, he had discontinued his attendances. The
[3559]     workmen's discussions, he said, were too timorous; the interest
[3560]     they took in the question of wages was inordinate. He felt that they
[3561]     were hard-featured realists and that they resented an exactitude
[3562]     which was the produce of a leisure not within their reach. No
[3563]     social revolution, he told her, would be likely to strike Dublin for
[3564]     some centuries.
[3566]     She asked him why did he not write out his thoughts. For what, he
[3567]     asked her, with careful scorn. To compete with phrasemongers,
[3568]     incapable of thinking consecutively for sixty seconds? To submit
[3569]     himself to the criticisms of an obtuse middle class which entrusted
[3570]     its morality to policemen and its fine arts to impresarios?
[3572]     He went often to her little cottage outside Dublin; often they spent
[3573]     their evenings alone. Little by little, as their thoughts entangled,
[3574]     they spoke of subjects less remote. Her companionship was like a
[3575]     warm soil about an exotic. Many times she allowed the dark to fall
[3576]     upon them, refraining from lighting the lamp. The dark discreet
[3577]     room, their isolation, the music that still vibrated in their ears
[3578]     united them. This union exalted him, wore away the rough edges
[3579]     of his character, emotionalised his mental life. Sometimes he
[3580]     caught himself listening to the sound of his own voice. He thought
[3581]     that in her eyes he would ascend to an angelical stature; and, as he
[3582]     attached the fervent nature of his companion more and more
[3583]     closely to him, he heard the strange impersonal voice which he
[3584]     recognised as his own, insisting on the soul's incurable loneliness.
[3585]     We cannot give ourselves, it said: we are our own. The end of
[3586]     these discourses was that one night during which she had shown
[3587]     every sign of unusual excitement, Mrs. Sinico caught up his hand
[3588]     passionately and pressed it to her cheek.
[3590]     Mr. Duffy was very much surprised. Her interpretation of his
[3591]     words disillusioned him. He did not visit her for a week, then he
[3592]     wrote to her asking her to meet him. As he did not wish their last
[3593]     interview to be troubled by the influence of their ruined
[3594]     confessional they meet in a little cakeshop near the Parkgate. It
[3595]     was cold autumn weather but in spite of the cold they wandered up
[3596]     and down the roads of the Park for nearly three hours. They agreed
[3597]     to break off their intercourse: every bond, he said, is a bond to
[3598]     sorrow. When they came out of the Park they walked in silence
[3599]     towards the tram; but here she began to tremble so violently that,
[3600]     fearing another collapse on her part, he bade her good-bye quickly
[3601]     and left her. A few days later he received a parcel containing his
[3602]     books and music.
[3604]     Four years passed. Mr. Duffy returned to his even way of life. His
[3605]     room still bore witness of the orderliness of his mind. Some new
[3606]     pieces of music encumbered the music-stand in the lower room
[3607]     and on his shelves stood two volumes by Nietzsche: Thus Spake
[3608]     Zarathustra and The Gay Science. He wrote seldom in the sheaf of
[3609]     papers which lay in his desk. One of his sentences, written two
[3610]     months after his last interview with Mrs. Sinico, read: Love
[3611]     between man and man is impossible because there must not be
[3612]     sexual intercourse and friendship between man and woman is
[3613]     impossible because there must be sexual intercourse. He kept away
[3614]     from concerts lest he should meet her. His father died; the junior
[3615]     partner of the bank retired. And still every morning he went into
[3616]     the city by tram and every evening walked home from the city after
[3617]     having dined moderately in George's Street and read the evening
[3618]     paper for dessert.
[3620]     One evening as he was about to put a morsel of corned beef and
[3621]     cabbage into his mouth his hand stopped. His eyes fixed
[3622]     themselves on a paragraph in the evening paper which he had
[3623]     propped against the water-carafe. He replaced the morsel of food
[3624]     on his plate and read the paragraph attentively. Then he drank a
[3625]     glass of water, pushed his plate to one side, doubled the paper
[3626]     down before him between his elbows and read the paragraph over
[3627]     and over again. The cabbage began to deposit a cold white grease
[3628]     on his plate. The girl came over to him to ask was his dinner not
[3629]     properly cooked. He said it was very good and ate a few mouthfuls
[3630]     of it with difficulty. Then he paid his bill and went out.
[3632]     He walked along quickly through the November twilight, his stout
[3633]     hazel stick striking the ground regularly, the fringe of the buff Mail
[3634]     peeping out of a side-pocket of his tight reefer overcoat. On the
[3635]     lonely road which leads from the Parkgate to Chapelizod he
[3636]     slackened his pace. His stick struck the ground less emphatically
[3637]     and his breath, issuing irregularly, almost with a sighing sound,
[3638]     condensed in the wintry air. When he reached his house he went
[3639]     up at once to his bedroom and, taking the paper from his pocket,
[3640]     read the paragraph again by the failing light of the window. He
[3641]     read it not aloud, but moving his lips as a priest does when he
[3642]     reads the prayers Secreto. This was the paragraph:
[3645]                    DEATH OF A LADY AT SYDNEY PARADE
[3646]                            A PAINFUL CASE
[3649]     Today at the City of Dublin Hospital the Deputy Coroner (in the
[3650]     absence of Mr. Leverett) held an inquest on the body of Mrs.
[3651]     Emily Sinico, aged forty-three years, who was killed at Sydney
[3652]     Parade Station yesterday evening. The evidence showed that the
[3653]     deceased lady, while attempting to cross the line, was knocked
[3654]     down by the engine of the ten o'clock slow train from Kingstown,
[3655]     thereby sustaining injuries of the head and right side which led to
[3656]     her death.
[3658]     James Lennon, driver of the engine, stated that he had been in the
[3659]     employment of the railway company for fifteen years. On hearing
[3660]     the guard's whistle he set the train in motion and a second or two
[3661]     afterwards brought it to rest in response to loud cries. The train
[3662]     was going slowly.
[3664]     P. Dunne, railway porter, stated that as the train was about to start
[3665]     he observed a woman attempting to cross the lines. He ran towards
[3666]     her and shouted, but, before he could reach her, she was caught by
[3667]     the buffer of the engine and fell to the ground.
[3669]     A juror. "You saw the lady fall?"
[3671]     Witness. "Yes."
[3673]     Police Sergeant Croly deposed that when he arrived he found the
[3674]     deceased lying on the platform apparently dead. He had the body
[3675]     taken to the waiting-room pending the arrival of the ambulance.
[3677]     Constable 57 corroborated.
[3679]     Dr. Halpin, assistant house surgeon of the City of Dublin Hospital,
[3680]     stated that the deceased had two lower ribs fractured and had
[3681]     sustained severe contusions of the right shoulder. The right side of
[3682]     the head had been injured in the fall. The injuries were not
[3683]     sufficient to have caused death in a normal person. Death, in his
[3684]     opinion, had been probably due to shock and sudden failure of the
[3685]     heart's action.
[3687]     Mr. H. B. Patterson Finlay, on behalf of the railway company,
[3688]     expressed his deep regret at the accident. The company had always
[3689]     taken every precaution to prevent people crossing the lines except
[3690]     by the bridges, both by placing notices in every station and by the
[3691]     use of patent spring gates at level crossings. The deceased had
[3692]     been in the habit of crossing the lines late at night from platform to
[3693]     platform and, in view of certain other circumstances of the case,
[3694]     he did not think the railway officials were to blame.
[3696]     Captain Sinico, of Leoville, Sydney Parade, husband of the
[3697]     deceased, also gave evidence. He stated that the deceased was his
[3698]     wife. He was not in Dublin at the time of the accident as he had
[3699]     arrived only that morning from Rotterdam. They had been married
[3700]     for twenty-two years and had lived happily until about two years
[3701]     ago when his wife began to be rather intemperate in her habits.
[3703]     Miss Mary Sinico said that of late her mother had been in the habit
[3704]     of going out at night to buy spirits. She, witness, had often tried to
[3705]     reason with her mother and had induced her to join a League. She
[3706]     was not at home until an hour after the accident. The jury returned
[3707]     a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence and exonerated
[3708]     Lennon from all blame.
[3710]     The Deputy Coroner said it was a most painful case, and expressed
[3711]     great sympathy with Captain Sinico and his daughter. He urged on
[3712]     the railway company to take strong measures to prevent the
[3713]     possibility of similar accidents in the future. No blame attached to
[3714]     anyone.
[3720]     Mr. Duffy raised his eyes from the paper and gazed out of his
[3721]     window on the cheerless evening landscape. The river lay quiet
[3722]     beside the empty distillery and from time to time a light appeared
[3723]     in some house on the Lucan road. What an end! The whole
[3724]     narrative of her death revolted him and it revolted him to think that
[3725]     he had ever spoken to her of what he held sacred. The threadbare
[3726]     phrases, the inane expressions of sympathy, the cautious words of
[3727]     a reporter won over to conceal the details of a commonplace
[3728]     vulgar death attacked his stomach. Not merely had she degraded
[3729]     herself; she had degraded him. He saw the squalid tract of her vice,
[3730]     miserable and malodorous. His soul's companion! He thought of
[3731]     the hobbling wretches whom he had seen carrying cans and bottles
[3732]     to be filled by the barman. Just God, what an end! Evidently she
[3733]     had been unfit to live, without any strength of purpose, an easy
[3734]     prey to habits, one of the wrecks on which civilisation has been
[3735]     reared. But that she could have sunk so low! Was it possible he
[3736]     had deceived himself so utterly about her? He remembered her
[3737]     outburst of that night and interpreted it in a harsher sense than he
[3738]     had ever done. He had no difficulty now in approving of the course
[3739]     he had taken.
[3741]     As the light failed and his memory began to wander he thought her
[3742]     hand touched his. The shock which had first attacked his stomach
[3743]     was now attacking his nerves. He put on his overcoat and hat
[3744]     quickly and went out. The cold air met him on the threshold; it
[3745]     crept into the sleeves of his coat. When he came to the
[3746]     public-house at Chapelizod Bridge he went in and ordered a hot
[3747]     punch.
[3749]     The proprietor served him obsequiously but did not venture to talk.
[3750]     There were five or six workingmen in the shop discussing the
[3751]     value of a gentleman's estate in County Kildare They drank at
[3752]     intervals from their huge pint tumblers and smoked, spitting often
[3753]     on the floor and sometimes dragging the sawdust over their spits
[3754]     with their heavy boots. Mr. Duffy sat on his stool and gazed at
[3755]     them, without seeing or hearing them. After a while they went out
[3756]     and he called for another punch. He sat a long time over it. The
[3757]     shop was very quiet. The proprietor sprawled on the counter
[3758]     reading the Herald and yawning. Now and again a tram was heard
[3759]     swishing along the lonely road outside.
[3761]     As he sat there, living over his life with her and evoking
[3762]     alternately the two images in which he now conceived her, he
[3763]     realised that she was dead, that she had ceased to exist, that she
[3764]     had become a memory. He began to feel ill at ease. He asked
[3765]     himself what else could he have done. He could not have carried
[3766]     on a comedy of deception with her; he could not have lived with
[3767]     her openly. He had done what seemed to him best. How was he to
[3768]     blame? Now that she was gone he understood how lonely her life
[3769]     must have been, sitting night after night alone in that room. His
[3770]     life would be lonely too until he, too, died, ceased to exist, became
[3771]     a memory--if anyone remembered him.
[3773]     It was after nine o'clock when he left the shop. The night was cold
[3774]     and gloomy. He entered the Park by the first gate and walked along
[3775]     under the gaunt trees. He walked through the bleak alleys where
[3776]     they had walked four years before. She seemed to be near him in
[3777]     the darkness. At moments he seemed to feel her voice touch his
[3778]     ear, her hand touch his. He stood still to listen. Why had he
[3779]     withheld life from her? Why had he sentenced her to death? He
[3780]     felt his moral nature falling to pieces.
[3782]     When he gained the crest of the Magazine Hill he halted and
[3783]     looked along the river towards Dublin, the lights of which burned
[3784]     redly and hospitably in the cold night. He looked down the slope
[3785]     and, at the base, in the shadow of the wall of the Park, he saw
[3786]     some human figures lying. Those venal and furtive loves filled him
[3787]     with despair. He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he felt that he
[3788]     had been outcast from life's feast. One human being had seemed to
[3789]     love him and he had denied her life and happiness: he had
[3790]     sentenced her to ignominy, a death of shame. He knew that the
[3791]     prostrate creatures down by the wall were watching him and
[3792]     wished him gone. No one wanted him; he was outcast from life's
[3793]     feast. He turned his eyes to the grey gleaming river, winding along
[3794]     towards Dublin. Beyond the river he saw a goods train winding out
[3795]     of Kingsbridge Station, like a worm with a fiery head winding
[3796]     through the darkness, obstinately and laboriously. It passed slowly
[3797]     out of sight; but still he heard in his ears the laborious drone of the
[3798]     engine reiterating the syllables of her name.
[3800]     He turned back the way he had come, the rhythm of the engine
[3801]     pounding in his ears. He began to doubt the reality of what
[3802]     memory told him. He halted under a tree and allowed the rhythm
[3803]     to die away. He could not feel her near him in the darkness nor her
[3804]     voice touch his ear. He waited for some minutes listening. He
[3805]     could hear nothing: the night was perfectly silent. He listened
[3806]     again: perfectly silent. He felt that he was alone.