Dubliners by James Joyce
Araby

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

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Dubliners by James Joyce.
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[693]      ARABY
[694]      
[695]      NORTH RICHMOND STREET being blind, was a quiet street
[696]      except at the hour when the Christian Brothers' School set the boys
[697]      free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end,
[698]      detached from its neighbours in a square ground The other houses
[699]      of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one
[700]      another with brown imperturbable faces.
[701]      
[702]      The former tenant of our house, a priest, had died in the back
[703]      drawing-room. Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung
[704]      in all the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was
[705]      littered with old useless papers. Among these I found a few
[706]      paper-covered books, the pages of which were curled and damp:
[707]      The Abbot, by Walter Scott, The Devout Communnicant and The
[708]      Memoirs of Vidocq. I liked the last best because its leaves were
[709]      yellow. The wild garden behind the house contained a central
[710]      apple-tree and a few straggling bushes under one of which I found
[711]      the late tenant's rusty bicycle-pump. He had been a very charitable
[712]      priest; in his will he had left all his money to institutions and the
[713]      furniture of his house to his sister.
[714]      
[715]      When the short days of winter came dusk fell before we had well
[716]      eaten our dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown
[717]      sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of
[718]      ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted
[719]      their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our
[720]      bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career
[721]      of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the
[722]      houses where we ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes from the
[723]      cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where
[724]      odours arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables where a
[725]      coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from
[726]      the buckled harness. When we returned to the street light from the
[727]      kitchen windows had filled the areas. If my uncle was seen turning
[728]      the corner we hid in the shadow until we had seen him safely
[729]      housed. Or if Mangan's sister came out on the doorstep to call her
[730]      brother in to his tea we watched her from our shadow peer up and
[731]      down the street. We waited to see whether she would remain or go
[732]      in and, if she remained, we left our shadow and walked up to
[733]      Mangan's steps resignedly. She was waiting for us, her figure
[734]      defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her brother always
[735]      teased her before he obeyed and I stood by the railings looking at
[736]      her. Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of
[737]      her hair tossed from side to side.
[738]      
[739]      Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her
[740]      door. The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so
[741]      that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my
[742]      heart leaped. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her. I
[743]      kept her brown figure always in my eye and, when we came near
[744]      the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and
[745]      passed her. This happened morning after morning. I had never
[746]      spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name
[747]      was like a summons to all my foolish blood.
[748]      
[749]      Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to
[750]      romance. On Saturday evenings when my aunt went marketing I
[751]      had to go to carry some of the parcels. We walked through the
[752]      flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women,
[753]      amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who
[754]      stood on guard by the barrels of pigs' cheeks, the nasal chanting of
[755]      street-singers, who sang a come-all-you about O'Donovan Rossa,
[756]      or a ballad about the troubles in our native land. These noises
[757]      converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I
[758]      bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang
[759]      to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I
[760]      myself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I
[761]      could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to
[762]      pour itself out into my bosom. I thought little of the future. I did
[763]      not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to
[764]      her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body
[765]      was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers
[766]      running upon the wires.
[767]      
[768]      One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest
[769]      had died. It was a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the
[770]      house. Through one of the broken panes I heard the rain impinge
[771]      upon the earth, the fine incessant needles of water playing in the
[772]      sodden beds. Some distant lamp or lighted window gleamed below
[773]      me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All my senses seemed
[774]      to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip
[775]      from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they
[776]      trembled, murmuring: "O love! O love!" many times.
[777]      
[778]      At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me
[779]      I was so confused that I did not know what to answer. She asked
[780]      me was I going to Araby. I forgot whether I answered yes or no. It
[781]      would be a splendid bazaar, she said she would love to go.
[782]      
[783]      "And why can't you?" I asked.
[784]      
[785]      While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her
[786]      wrist. She could not go, she said, because there would be a retreat
[787]      that week in her convent. Her brother and two other boys were
[788]      fighting for their caps and I was alone at the railings. She held one
[789]      of the spikes, bowing her head towards me. The light from the
[790]      lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up
[791]      her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the
[792]      railing. It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white
[793]      border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.
[794]      
[795]      "It's well for you," she said.
[796]      
[797]      "If I go," I said, "I will bring you something."
[798]      
[799]      What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping
[800]      thoughts after that evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious
[801]      intervening days. I chafed against the work of school. At night in
[802]      my bedroom and by day in the classroom her image came between
[803]      me and the page I strove to read. The syllables of the word Araby
[804]      were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated
[805]      and cast an Eastern enchantment over me. I asked for leave to go
[806]      to the bazaar on Saturday night. My aunt was surprised and hoped
[807]      it was not some Freemason affair. I answered few questions in
[808]      class. I watched my master's face pass from amiability to
[809]      sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could not call my
[810]      wandering thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with the
[811]      serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my
[812]      desire, seemed to me child's play, ugly monotonous child's play.
[813]      
[814]      On Saturday morning I reminded my uncle that I wished to go to
[815]      the bazaar in the evening. He was fussing at the hallstand, looking
[816]      for the hat-brush, and answered me curtly:
[817]      
[818]      "Yes, boy, I know."
[819]      
[820]      As he was in the hall I could not go into the front parlour and lie at
[821]      the window. I left the house in bad humour and walked slowly
[822]      towards the school. The air was pitilessly raw and already my heart
[823]      misgave me.
[824]      
[825]      When I came home to dinner my uncle had not yet been home.
[826]      Still it was early. I sat staring at the clock for some time and. when
[827]      its ticking began to irritate me, I left the room. I mounted the
[828]      staircase and gained the upper part of the house. The high cold
[829]      empty gloomy rooms liberated me and I went from room to room
[830]      singing. From the front window I saw my companions playing
[831]      below in the street. Their cries reached me weakened and
[832]      indistinct and, leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I looked
[833]      over at the dark house where she lived. I may have stood there for
[834]      an hour, seeing nothing but the brown-clad figure cast by my
[835]      imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved
[836]      neck, at the hand upon the railings and at the border below the
[837]      dress.
[838]      
[839]      When I came downstairs again I found Mrs. Mercer sitting at the
[840]      fire. She was an old garrulous woman, a pawnbroker's widow, who
[841]      collected used stamps for some pious purpose. I had to endure the
[842]      gossip of the tea-table. The meal was prolonged beyond an hour
[843]      and still my uncle did not come. Mrs. Mercer stood up to go: she
[844]      was sorry she couldn't wait any longer, but it was after eight
[845]      o'clock and she did not like to be out late as the night air was bad
[846]      for her. When she had gone I began to walk up and down the
[847]      room, clenching my fists. My aunt said:
[848]      
[849]      "I'm afraid you may put off your bazaar for this night of Our Lord."
[850]      
[851]      At nine o'clock I heard my uncle's latchkey in the halldoor. I heard
[852]      him talking to himself and heard the hallstand rocking when it had
[853]      received the weight of his overcoat. I could interpret these signs.
[854]      When he was midway through his dinner I asked him to give me
[855]      the money to go to the bazaar. He had forgotten.
[856]      
[857]      "The people are in bed and after their first sleep now," he said.
[858]      
[859]      I did not smile. My aunt said to him energetically:
[860]      
[861]      "Can't you give him the money and let him go? You've kept him
[862]      late enough as it is."
[863]      
[864]      My uncle said he was very sorry he had forgotten. He said he
[865]      believed in the old saying: "All work and no play makes Jack a
[866]      dull boy." He asked me where I was going and, when I had told
[867]      him a second time he asked me did I know The Arab's Farewell to
[868]      his Steed. When I left the kitchen he was about to recite the
[869]      opening lines of the piece to my aunt.
[870]      
[871]      I held a florin tightly in my hand as I strode down Buckingham
[872]      Street towards the station. The sight of the streets thronged with
[873]      buyers and glaring with gas recalled to me the purpose of my
[874]      journey. I took my seat in a third-class carriage of a deserted train.
[875]      After an intolerable delay the train moved out of the station
[876]      slowly. It crept onward among ruinous house and over the
[877]      twinkling river. At Westland Row Station a crowd of people
[878]      pressed to the carriage doors; but the porters moved them back,
[879]      saying that it was a special train for the bazaar. I remained alone in
[880]      the bare carriage. In a few minutes the train drew up beside an
[881]      improvised wooden platform. I passed out on to the road and saw
[882]      by the lighted dial of a clock that it was ten minutes to ten. In front
[883]      of me was a large building which displayed the magical name.
[884]      
[885]      I could not find any sixpenny entrance and, fearing that the bazaar
[886]      would be closed, I passed in quickly through a turnstile, handing a
[887]      shilling to a weary-looking man. I found myself in a big hall
[888]      girdled at half its height by a gallery. Nearly all the stalls were
[889]      closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness. I recognised
[890]      a silence like that which pervades a church after a service. I
[891]      walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few people were
[892]      gathered about the stalls which were still open. Before a curtain,
[893]      over which the words Cafe Chantant were written in coloured
[894]      lamps, two men were counting money on a salver. I listened to the
[895]      fall of the coins.
[896]      
[897]      Remembering with difficulty why I had come I went over to one of
[898]      the stalls and examined porcelain vases and flowered tea- sets. At
[899]      the door of the stall a young lady was talking and laughing with
[900]      two young gentlemen. I remarked their English accents and
[901]      listened vaguely to their conversation.
[902]      
[903]      "O, I never said such a thing!"
[904]      
[905]      "O, but you did!"
[906]      
[907]      "O, but I didn't!"
[908]      
[909]      "Didn't she say that?"
[910]      
[911]      "Yes. I heard her."
[912]      
[913]      "0, there's a ... fib!"
[914]      
[915]      Observing me the young lady came over and asked me did I wish
[916]      to buy anything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she
[917]      seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty. I looked
[918]      humbly at the great jars that stood like eastern guards at either side
[919]      of the dark entrance to the stall and murmured:
[920]      
[921]      "No, thank you."
[922]      
[923]      The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went
[924]      back to the two young men. They began to talk of the same
[925]      subject. Once or twice the young lady glanced at me over her
[926]      shoulder.
[927]      
[928]      I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to
[929]      make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned
[930]      away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed
[931]      the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a
[932]      voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The
[933]      upper part of the hall was now completely dark.
[934]      
[935]      Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and
[936]      derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.
[937]