The bell rang furiously and, when Miss Parker went to the tube, a

furious voice called out in a piercing North of Ireland accent:

“Send Farrington here!”

Miss Parker returned to her machine, saying to a man who was writing at

a desk:

“Mr Alleyne wants you upstairs.”

The man muttered “_Blast_ him!” under his breath and pushed back his

chair to stand up. When he stood up he was tall and of great bulk. He

had a hanging face, dark wine-coloured, with fair eyebrows and

moustache: his eyes bulged forward slightly and the whites of them were

dirty. He lifted up the counter and, passing by the clients, went out

of the office with a heavy step.

He went heavily upstairs until he came to the second landing, where a

door bore a brass plate with the inscription _Mr Alleyne_. Here he

halted, puffing with labour and vexation, and knocked. The shrill voice


“Come in!”

The man entered Mr Alleyne’s room. Simultaneously Mr Alleyne, a little

man wearing gold-rimmed glasses on a clean-shaven face, shot his head

up over a pile of documents. The head itself was so pink and hairless

it seemed like a large egg reposing on the papers. Mr Alleyne did not

lose a moment:

“Farrington? What is the meaning of this? Why have I always to complain

of you? May I ask you why you haven’t made a copy of that contract

between Bodley and Kirwan? I told you it must be ready by four


“But Mr Shelley said, sir——”

“_Mr Shelley said, sir…._ Kindly attend to what I say and not to what

_Mr Shelley says, sir_. You have always some excuse or another for

shirking work. Let me tell you that if the contract is not copied

before this evening I’ll lay the matter before Mr Crosbie…. Do you

hear me now?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you hear me now?… Ay and another little matter! I might as well

be talking to the wall as talking to you. Understand once for all that

you get a half an hour for your lunch and not an hour and a half. How

many courses do you want, I’d like to know…. Do you mind me, now?”

“Yes, sir.”

Mr Alleyne bent his head again upon his pile of papers. The man stared

fixedly at the polished skull which directed the affairs of Crosbie &

Alleyne, gauging its fragility. A spasm of rage gripped his throat for

a few moments and then passed, leaving after it a sharp sensation of

thirst. The man recognised the sensation and felt that he must have a

good night’s drinking. The middle of the month was passed and, if he

could get the copy done in time, Mr Alleyne might give him an order on

the cashier. He stood still, gazing fixedly at the head upon the pile

of papers. Suddenly Mr Alleyne began to upset all the papers, searching

for something. Then, as if he had been unaware of the man’s presence

till that moment, he shot up his head again, saying:

“Eh? Are you going to stand there all day? Upon my word, Farrington,

you take things easy!”

“I was waiting to see….”

“Very good, you needn’t wait to see. Go downstairs and do your work.”

The man walked heavily towards the door and, as he went out of the

room, he heard Mr Alleyne cry after him that if the contract was not

copied by evening Mr Crosbie would hear of the matter.

He returned to his desk in the lower office and counted the sheets

which remained to be copied. He took up his pen and dipped it in the

ink but he continued to stare stupidly at the last words he had

written: _In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be…._ The evening

was falling and in a few minutes they would be lighting the gas: then

he could write. He felt that he must slake the thirst in his throat. He

stood up from his desk and, lifting the counter as before, passed out

of the office. As he was passing out the chief clerk looked at him


“It’s all right, Mr Shelley,” said the man, pointing with his finger to

indicate the objective of his journey.

The chief clerk glanced at the hat-rack but, seeing the row complete,

offered no remark. As soon as he was on the landing the man pulled a

shepherd’s plaid cap out of his pocket, put it on his head and ran

quickly down the rickety stairs. From the street door he walked on

furtively on the inner side of the path towards the corner and all at

once dived into a doorway. He was now safe in the dark snug of

O’Neill’s shop, and filling up the little window that looked into the

bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark wine or dark meat, he

called out:

“Here, Pat, give us a g.p., like a good fellow.”

The curate brought him a glass of plain porter. The man drank it at a

gulp and asked for a caraway seed. He put his penny on the counter and,

leaving the curate to grope for it in the gloom, retreated out of the

snug as furtively as he had entered it.

Darkness, accompanied by a thick fog, was gaining upon the dusk of

February and the lamps in Eustace Street had been lit. The man went up

by the houses until he reached the door of the office, wondering

whether he could finish his copy in time. On the stairs a moist pungent

odour of perfumes saluted his nose: evidently Miss Delacour had come

while he was out in O’Neill’s. He crammed his cap back again into his

pocket and re-entered the office, assuming an air of absent-mindedness.

“Mr Alleyne has been calling for you,” said the chief clerk severely.

“Where were you?”

The man glanced at the two clients who were standing at the counter as

if to intimate that their presence prevented him from answering. As the

clients were both male the chief clerk allowed himself a laugh.

“I know that game,” he said. “Five times in one day is a little bit….

Well, you better look sharp and get a copy of our correspondence in the

Delacour case for Mr Alleyne.”

This address in the presence of the public, his run upstairs and the

porter he had gulped down so hastily confused the man and, as he sat

down at his desk to get what was required, he realised how hopeless was

the task of finishing his copy of the contract before half past five.

The dark damp night was coming and he longed to spend it in the bars,

drinking with his friends amid the glare of gas and the clatter of

glasses. He got out the Delacour correspondence and passed out of the

office. He hoped Mr Alleyne would not discover that the last two

letters were missing.

The moist pungent perfume lay all the way up to Mr Alleyne’s room. Miss

Delacour was a middle-aged woman of Jewish appearance. Mr Alleyne was

said to be sweet on her or on her money. She came to the office often

and stayed a long time when she came. She was sitting beside his desk

now in an aroma of perfumes, smoothing the handle of her umbrella and

nodding the great black feather in her hat. Mr Alleyne had swivelled

his chair round to face her and thrown his right foot jauntily upon his

left knee. The man put the correspondence on the desk and bowed

respectfully but neither Mr Alleyne nor Miss Delacour took any notice

of his bow. Mr Alleyne tapped a finger on the correspondence and then

flicked it towards him as if to say: _“That’s all right: you can go.”_

The man returned to the lower office and sat down again at his desk. He

stared intently at the incomplete phrase: _In no case shall the said

Bernard Bodley be_ … and thought how strange it was that the last

three words began with the same letter. The chief clerk began to hurry

Miss Parker, saying she would never have the letters typed in time for

post. The man listened to the clicking of the machine for a few minutes

and then set to work to finish his copy. But his head was not clear and

his mind wandered away to the glare and rattle of the public-house. It

was a night for hot punches. He struggled on with his copy, but when

the clock struck five he had still fourteen pages to write. Blast it!

He couldn’t finish it in time. He longed to execrate aloud, to bring

his fist down on something violently. He was so enraged that he wrote

_Bernard Bernard_ instead of _Bernard Bodley_ and had to begin again on

a clean sheet.

He felt strong enough to clear out the whole office singlehanded. His

body ached to do something, to rush out and revel in violence. All the

indignities of his life enraged him…. Could he ask the cashier

privately for an advance? No, the cashier was no good, no damn good: he

wouldn’t give an advance…. He knew where he would meet the boys:

Leonard and O’Halloran and Nosey Flynn. The barometer of his emotional

nature was set for a spell of riot.

His imagination had so abstracted him that his name was called twice

before he answered. Mr Alleyne and Miss Delacour were standing outside

the counter and all the clerks had turned round in anticipation of

something. The man got up from his desk. Mr Alleyne began a tirade of

abuse, saying that two letters were missing. The man answered that he

knew nothing about them, that he had made a faithful copy. The tirade

continued: it was so bitter and violent that the man could hardly

restrain his fist from descending upon the head of the manikin before


“I know nothing about any other two letters,” he said stupidly.

“_You—know—nothing_. Of course you know nothing,” said Mr Alleyne.

“Tell me,” he added, glancing first for approval to the lady beside

him, “do you take me for a fool? Do you think me an utter fool?”

The man glanced from the lady’s face to the little egg-shaped head and

back again; and, almost before he was aware of it, his tongue had found

a felicitous moment:

“I don’t think, sir,” he said, “that that’s a fair question to put to


There was a pause in the very breathing of the clerks. Everyone was

astounded (the author of the witticism no less than his neighbours) and

Miss Delacour, who was a stout amiable person, began to smile broadly.

Mr Alleyne flushed to the hue of a wild rose and his mouth twitched

with a dwarf’s passion. He shook his fist in the man’s face till it

seemed to vibrate like the knob of some electric machine:

“You impertinent ruffian! You impertinent ruffian! I’ll make short work

of you! Wait till you see! You’ll apologise to me for your impertinence

or you’ll quit the office instanter! You’ll quit this, I’m telling you,

or you’ll apologise to me!”

He stood in a doorway opposite the office watching to see if the

cashier would come out alone. All the clerks passed out and finally the

cashier came out with the chief clerk. It was no use trying to say a

word to him when he was with the chief clerk. The man felt that his

position was bad enough. He had been obliged to offer an abject apology

to Mr Alleyne for his impertinence but he knew what a hornet’s nest the

office would be for him. He could remember the way in which Mr Alleyne

had hounded little Peake out of the office in order to make room for

his own nephew. He felt savage and thirsty and revengeful, annoyed with

himself and with everyone else. Mr Alleyne would never give him an

hour’s rest; his life would be a hell to him. He had made a proper fool

of himself this time. Could he not keep his tongue in his cheek? But

they had never pulled together from the first, he and Mr Alleyne, ever

since the day Mr Alleyne had overheard him mimicking his North of

Ireland accent to amuse Higgins and Miss Parker: that had been the

beginning of it. He might have tried Higgins for the money, but sure

Higgins never had anything for himself. A man with two establishments

to keep up, of course he couldn’t….

He felt his great body again aching for the comfort of the

public-house. The fog had begun to chill him and he wondered could he

touch Pat in O’Neill’s. He could not touch him for more than a bob—and

a bob was no use. Yet he must get money somewhere or other: he had

spent his last penny for the g.p. and soon it would be too late for

getting money anywhere. Suddenly, as he was fingering his watch-chain,

he thought of Terry Kelly’s pawn-office in Fleet Street. That was the

dart! Why didn’t he think of it sooner?

He went through the narrow alley of Temple Bar quickly, muttering to

himself that they could all go to hell because he was going to have a

good night of it. The clerk in Terry Kelly’s said _A crown!_ but the

consignor held out for six shillings; and in the end the six shillings

was allowed him literally. He came out of the pawn-office joyfully,

making a little cylinder, of the coins between his thumb and fingers.

In Westmoreland Street the footpaths were crowded with young men and

women returning from business and ragged urchins ran here and there

yelling out the names of the evening editions. The man passed through

the crowd, looking on the spectacle generally with proud satisfaction

and staring masterfully at the office-girls. His head was full of the

noises of tram-gongs and swishing trolleys and his nose already sniffed

the curling fumes of punch. As he walked on he preconsidered the terms

in which he would narrate the incident to the boys:

“So, I just looked at him—coolly, you know, and looked at her. Then I

looked back at him again—taking my time, you know. ‘I don’t think that

that’s a fair question to put to me,’ says I.”

Nosey Flynn was sitting up in his usual corner of Davy Byrne’s and,

when he heard the story, he stood Farrington a half-one, saying it was

as smart a thing as ever he heard. Farrington stood a drink in his

turn. After a while O’Halloran and Paddy Leonard came in and the story

was repeated to them. O’Halloran stood tailors of malt, hot, all round

and told the story of the retort he had made to the chief clerk when he

was in Callan’s of Fownes’s Street; but, as the retort was after the

manner of the liberal shepherds in the eclogues, he had to admit that

it was not as clever as Farrington’s retort. At this Farrington told

the boys to polish off that and have another.

Just as they were naming their poisons who should come in but Higgins!

Of course he had to join in with the others. The men asked him to give

his version of it, and he did so with great vivacity for the sight of

five small hot whiskies was very exhilarating. Everyone roared laughing

when he showed the way in which Mr Alleyne shook his fist in

Farrington’s face. Then he imitated Farrington, saying, _“And here was

my nabs, as cool as you please,”_ while Farrington looked at the

company out of his heavy dirty eyes, smiling and at times drawing forth

stray drops of liquor from his moustache with the aid of his lower lip.

When that round was over there was a pause. O’Halloran had money but

neither of the other two seemed to have any; so the whole party left

the shop somewhat regretfully. At the corner of Duke Street Higgins and

Nosey Flynn bevelled off to the left while the other three turned back

towards the city. Rain was drizzling down on the cold streets and, when

they reached the Ballast Office, Farrington suggested the Scotch House.

The bar was full of men and loud with the noise of tongues and glasses.

The three men pushed past the whining match-sellers at the door and

formed a little party at the corner of the counter. They began to

exchange stories. Leonard introduced them to a young fellow named

Weathers who was performing at the Tivoli as an acrobat and knockabout

_artiste_. Farrington stood a drink all round. Weathers said he would

take a small Irish and Apollinaris. Farrington, who had definite

notions of what was what, asked the boys would they have an Apollinaris

too; but the boys told Tim to make theirs hot. The talk became

theatrical. O’Halloran stood a round and then Farrington stood another

round, Weathers protesting that the hospitality was too Irish. He

promised to get them in behind the scenes and introduce them to some

nice girls. O’Halloran said that he and Leonard would go, but that

Farrington wouldn’t go because he was a married man; and Farrington’s

heavy dirty eyes leered at the company in token that he understood he

was being chaffed. Weathers made them all have just one little tincture

at his expense and promised to meet them later on at Mulligan’s in

Poolbeg Street.

When the Scotch House closed they went round to Mulligan’s. They went

into the parlour at the back and O’Halloran ordered small hot specials

all round. They were all beginning to feel mellow. Farrington was just

standing another round when Weathers came back. Much to Farrington’s

relief he drank a glass of bitter this time. Funds were getting low but

they had enough to keep them going. Presently two young women with big

hats and a young man in a check suit came in and sat at a table close

by. Weathers saluted them and told the company that they were out of

the Tivoli. Farrington’s eyes wandered at every moment in the direction

of one of the young women. There was something striking in her

appearance. An immense scarf of peacock-blue muslin was wound round her

hat and knotted in a great bow under her chin; and she wore bright

yellow gloves, reaching to the elbow. Farrington gazed admiringly at

the plump arm which she moved very often and with much grace; and when,

after a little time, she answered his gaze he admired still more her

large dark brown eyes. The oblique staring expression in them

fascinated him. She glanced at him once or twice and, when the party

was leaving the room, she brushed against his chair and said _“O,

pardon!”_ in a London accent. He watched her leave the room in the hope

that she would look back at him, but he was disappointed. He cursed his

want of money and cursed all the rounds he had stood, particularly all

the whiskies and Apollinaris which he had stood to Weathers. If there

was one thing that he hated it was a sponge. He was so angry that he

lost count of the conversation of his friends.

When Paddy Leonard called him he found that they were talking about

feats of strength. Weathers was showing his biceps muscle to the

company and boasting so much that the other two had called on

Farrington to uphold the national honour. Farrington pulled up his

sleeve accordingly and showed his biceps muscle to the company. The two

arms were examined and compared and finally it was agreed to have a

trial of strength. The table was cleared and the two men rested their

elbows on it, clasping hands. When Paddy Leonard said _“Go!”_ each was

to try to bring down the other’s hand on to the table. Farrington

looked very serious and determined.

The trial began. After about thirty seconds Weathers brought his

opponent’s hand slowly down on to the table. Farrington’s dark

wine-coloured face flushed darker still with anger and humiliation at

having been defeated by such a stripling.

“You’re not to put the weight of your body behind it. Play fair,” he


“Who’s not playing fair?” said the other.

“Come on again. The two best out of three.”

The trial began again. The veins stood out on Farrington’s forehead,

and the pallor of Weathers’ complexion changed to peony. Their hands

and arms trembled under the stress. After a long struggle Weathers

again brought his opponent’s hand slowly on to the table. There was a

murmur of applause from the spectators. The curate, who was standing

beside the table, nodded his red head towards the victor and said with

stupid familiarity:

“Ah! that’s the knack!”

“What the hell do you know about it?” said Farrington fiercely, turning

on the man. “What do you put in your gab for?”

“Sh, sh!” said O’Halloran, observing the violent expression of

Farrington’s face. “Pony up, boys. We’ll have just one little smahan

more and then we’ll be off.”

A very sullen-faced man stood at the corner of O’Connell Bridge waiting

for the little Sandymount tram to take him home. He was full of

smouldering anger and revengefulness. He felt humiliated and

discontented; he did not even feel drunk; and he had only twopence in

his pocket. He cursed everything. He had done for himself in the

office, pawned his watch, spent all his money; and he had not even got

drunk. He began to feel thirsty again and he longed to be back again in

the hot reeking public-house. He had lost his reputation as a strong

man, having been defeated twice by a mere boy. His heart swelled with

fury and, when he thought of the woman in the big hat who had brushed

against him and said _Pardon!_ his fury nearly choked him.

His tram let him down at Shelbourne Road and he steered his great body

along in the shadow of the wall of the barracks. He loathed returning

to his home. When he went in by the side-door he found the kitchen

empty and the kitchen fire nearly out. He bawled upstairs:

“Ada! Ada!”

His wife was a little sharp-faced woman who bullied her husband when he

was sober and was bullied by him when he was drunk. They had five

children. A little boy came running down the stairs.

“Who is that?” said the man, peering through the darkness.

“Me, pa.”

“Who are you? Charlie?”

“No, pa. Tom.”

“Where’s your mother?”

“She’s out at the chapel.”

“That’s right…. Did she think of leaving any dinner for me?”

“Yes, pa. I——”

“Light the lamp. What do you mean by having the place in darkness? Are

the other children in bed?”

The man sat down heavily on one of the chairs while the little boy lit

the lamp. He began to mimic his son’s flat accent, saying half to

himself: _“At the chapel. At the chapel, if you please!”_ When the lamp

was lit he banged his fist on the table and shouted:

“What’s for my dinner?”

“I’m going … to cook it, pa,” said the little boy.

The man jumped up furiously and pointed to the fire.

“On that fire! You let the fire out! By God, I’ll teach you to do that


He took a step to the door and seized the walking-stick which was

standing behind it.

“I’ll teach you to let the fire out!” he said, rolling up his sleeve in

order to give his arm free play.

The little boy cried _“O, pa!”_ and ran whimpering round the table, but

the man followed him and caught him by the coat. The little boy looked

about him wildly but, seeing no way of escape, fell upon his knees.

“Now, you’ll let the fire out the next time!” said the man striking at

him vigorously with the stick. “Take that, you little whelp!”

The boy uttered a squeal of pain as the stick cut his thigh. He clasped

his hands together in the air and his voice shook with fright.

“O, pa!” he cried. “Don’t beat me, pa! And I’ll … I’ll say a _Hail

Mary_ for you…. I’ll say a _Hail Mary_ for you, pa, if you don’t beat

me…. I’ll say a _Hail Mary_….”

Shaws and Goolees

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