"Yes, everybody has colds," said Aunt Kate readily, "everybody."
"They say," said Mary Jane, "we haven't had snow like it for thirty
years; and I read this morning in the newspapers that the snow is
general all over Ireland."
"I love the look of snow," said Aunt Julia sadly.
"So do I," said Miss O'Callaghan. "I think Christmas is never really
Christmas unless we have the snow on the ground."
"But poor Mr. D'Arcy doesn't like the snow," said Aunt Kate,
Mr. D'Arcy came from the pantry, fully swathed and buttoned, and
in a repentant tone told them the history of his cold. Everyone gave
him advice and said it was a great pity and urged him to be very
careful of his throat in the night air. Gabriel watched his wife, who
did not join in the conversation. She was standing right under the
dusty fanlight and the flame of the gas lit up the rich bronze of her
hair, which he had seen her drying at the fire a few days before.
She was in the same attitude and seemed unaware of the talk about
her. At last she turned towards them and Gabriel saw that there was
colour on her cheeks and that her eyes were shining. A sudden tide
of joy went leaping out of his heart.
"Mr. D'Arcy," she said, "what is the name of that song you were
"It's called The Lass of Aughrim," said Mr. D'Arcy, "but I couldn't
remember it properly. Why? Do you know it?"
"The Lass of Aughrim," she repeated. "I couldn't think of the
"It's a very nice air," said Mary Jane. "I'm sorry you were not in
"Now, Mary Jane," said Aunt Kate, "don't annoy Mr. D'Arcy. I
won't have him annoyed."
Seeing that all were ready to start she shepherded them to the door,
where good-night was said:
"Well, good-night, Aunt Kate, and thanks for the pleasant
"Good-night, Gabriel. Good-night, Gretta!"
"Good-night, Aunt Kate, and thanks ever so much. Goodnight,
"O, good-night, Gretta, I didn't see you."
"Good-night, Mr. D'Arcy. Good-night, Miss O'Callaghan."
"Good-night, Miss Morkan."
"Good-night, all. Safe home."
"Good-night. Good night."
The morning was still dark. A dull, yellow light brooded over the
houses and the river; and the sky seemed to be descending. It was
slushy underfoot; and only streaks and patches of snow lay on the
roofs, on the parapets of the quay and on the area railings. The
lamps were still burning redly in the murky air and, across the
river, the palace of the Four Courts stood out menacingly against
the heavy sky.
She was walking on before him with Mr. Bartell D'Arcy, her shoes
in a brown parcel tucked under one arm and her hands holding her
skirt up from the slush. She had no longer any grace of attitude,
but Gabriel's eyes were still bright with happiness. The blood went
bounding along his veins; and the thoughts went rioting through
his brain, proud, joyful, tender, valorous.
She was walking on before him so lightly and so erect that he
longed to run after her noiselessly, catch her by the shoulders and
say something foolish and affectionate into her ear. She seemed to
him so frail that he longed to defend her against something and
then to be alone with her. Moments of their secret life together
burst like stars upon his memory. A heliotrope envelope was lying
beside his breakfast-cup and he was caressing it with his hand.
Birds were twittering in the ivy and the sunny web of the curtain
was shimmering along the floor: he could not eat for happiness.
They were standing on the crowded platform and he was placing a
ticket inside the warm palm of her glove. He was standing with her
in the cold, looking in through a grated window at a man making
bottles in a roaring furnace. It was very cold. Her face, fragrant in
the cold air, was quite close to his; and suddenly he called out to
the man at the furnace:
"Is the fire hot, sir?"
But the man could not hear with the noise of the furnace. It was
just as well. He might have answered rudely.
A wave of yet more tender joy escaped from his heart and went
coursing in warm flood along his arteries. Like the tender fire of
stars moments of their life together, that no one knew of or would
ever know of, broke upon and illumined his memory. He longed to
recall to her those moments, to make her forget the years of their
dull existence together and remember only their moments of
ecstasy. For the years, he felt, had not quenched his soul or hers.
Their children, his writing, her household cares had not quenched
all their souls' tender fire. In one letter that he had written to her
then he had said: "Why is it that words like these seem to me so
dull and cold? Is it because there is no word tender enough to be
Like distant music these words that he had written years before
were borne towards him from the past. He longed to be alone with
her. When the others had gone away, when he and she were in the
room in the hotel, then they would be alone together. He would
call her softly:
Perhaps she would not hear at once: she would be undressing.
Then something in his voice would strike her. She would turn and
look at him....
At the corner of Winetavern Street they met a cab. He was glad of
its rattling noise as it saved him from conversation. She was
looking out of the window and seemed tired. The others spoke
only a few words, pointing out some building or street. The horse
galloped along wearily under the murky morning sky, dragging his
old rattling box after his heels, and Gabriel was again in a cab with
her, galloping to catch the boat, galloping to their honeymoon.
As the cab drove across O'Connell Bridge Miss O'Callaghan said:
"They say you never cross O'Connell Bridge without seeing a
"I see a white man this time," said Gabriel.
"Where?" asked Mr. Bartell D'Arcy.
Gabriel pointed to the statue, on which lay patches of snow. Then
he nodded familiarly to it and waved his hand.
"Good-night, Dan," he said gaily.
When the cab drew up before the hotel, Gabriel jumped out and, in
spite of Mr. Bartell D'Arcy's protest, paid the driver. He gave the
man a shilling over his fare. The man saluted and said:
"A prosperous New Year to you, sir."
"The same to you," said Gabriel cordially.
She leaned for a moment on his arm in getting out of the cab and
while standing at the curbstone, bidding the others good- night.
She leaned lightly on his arm, as lightly as when she had danced
with him a few hours before. He had felt proud and happy then,
happy that she was his, proud of her grace and wifely carriage. But
now, after the kindling again of so many memories, the first touch
of her body, musical and strange and perfumed, sent through him a
keen pang of lust. Under cover of her silence he pressed her arm
closely to his side; and, as they stood at the hotel door, he felt that
they had escaped from their lives and duties, escaped from home
and friends and run away together with wild and radiant hearts to a
An old man was dozing in a great hooded chair in the hall. He lit a
candle in the office and went before them to the stairs. They
followed him in silence, their feet falling in soft thuds on the
thickly carpeted stairs. She mounted the stairs behind the porter,
her head bowed in the ascent, her frail shoulders curved as with a
burden, her skirt girt tightly about her. He could have flung his
arms about her hips and held her still, for his arms were trembling
with desire to seize her and only the stress of his nails against the
palms of his hands held the wild impulse of his body in check. The
porter halted on the stairs to settle his guttering candle. They
halted, too, on the steps below him. In the silence Gabriel could
hear the falling of the molten wax into the tray and the thumping
of his own heart against his ribs.
The porter led them along a corridor and opened a door. Then he
set his unstable candle down on a toilet-table and asked at what
hour they were to be called in the morning.
"Eight," said Gabriel.
The porter pointed to the tap of the electric-light and began a
muttered apology, but Gabriel cut him short.
"We don't want any light. We have light enough from the street.
And I say," he added, pointing to the candle, "you might remove
that handsome article, like a good man."
The porter took up his candle again, but slowly, for he was
surprised by such a novel idea. Then he mumbled good-night and
went out. Gabriel shot the lock to.
A ghastly light from the street lamp lay in a long shaft from one
window to the door. Gabriel threw his overcoat and hat on a couch
and crossed the room towards the window. He looked down into
the street in order that his emotion might calm a little. Then he
turned and leaned against a chest of drawers with his back to the
light. She had taken off her hat and cloak and was standing before
a large swinging mirror, unhooking her waist. Gabriel paused for a
few moments, watching her, and then said:
She turned away from the mirror slowly and walked along the
shaft of light towards him. Her face looked so serious and weary
that the words would not pass Gabriel's lips. No, it was not the
"You looked tired," he said.
"I am a little," she answered.
"You don't feel ill or weak?"
"No, tired: that's all."
She went on to the window and stood there, looking out. Gabriel
waited again and then, fearing that diffidence was about to
conquer him, he said abruptly:
"By the way, Gretta!"
"What is it?"
"You know that poor fellow Malins?" he said quickly.
"Yes. What about him?"
"Well, poor fellow, he's a decent sort of chap, after all," continued
Gabriel in a false voice. "He gave me back that sovereign I lent
him, and I didn't expect it, really. It's a pity he wouldn't keep away
from that Browne, because he's not a bad fellow, really."
He was trembling now with annoyance. Why did she seem so
abstracted? He did not know how he could begin. Was she
annoyed, too, about something? If she would only turn to him or
come to him of her own accord! To take her as she was would be
brutal. No, he must see some ardour in her eyes first. He longed to
be master of her strange mood.
"When did you lend him the pound?" she asked, after a pause.
Gabriel strove to restrain himself from breaking out into brutal
language about the sottish Malins and his pound. He longed to cry
to her from his soul, to crush her body against his, to overmaster
her. But he said:
"O, at Christmas, when he opened that little Christmas-card shop
in Henry Street."
He was in such a fever of rage and desire that he did not hear her
come from the window. She stood before him for an instant,
looking at him strangely. Then, suddenly raising herself on tiptoe
and resting her hands lightly on his shoulders, she kissed him.
"You are a very generous person, Gabriel," she said.
Gabriel, trembling with delight at her sudden kiss and at the
quaintness of her phrase, put his hands on her hair and began
smoothing it back, scarcely touching it with his fingers. The
washing had made it fine and brilliant. His heart was brimming
over with happiness. Just when he was wishing for it she had come
to him of her own accord. Perhaps her thoughts had been running
with his. Perhaps she had felt the impetuous desire that was in
him, and then the yielding mood had come upon her. Now that she
had fallen to him so easily, he wondered why he had been so
He stood, holding her head between his hands. Then, slipping one
arm swiftly about her body and drawing her towards him, he said
"Gretta, dear, what are you thinking about?"
She did not answer nor yield wholly to his arm. He said again,
"Tell me what it is, Gretta. I think I know what is the matter. Do I
She did not answer at once. Then she said in an outburst of tears:
"O, I am thinking about that song, The Lass of Aughrim."
She broke loose from him and ran to the bed and, throwing her
arms across the bed-rail, hid her face. Gabriel stood stockstill for a
moment in astonishment and then followed her. As he passed in
the way of the cheval-glass he caught sight of himself in full
length, his broad, well-filled shirt-front, the face whose expression
always puzzled him when he saw it in a mirror, and his
glimmering gilt-rimmed eyeglasses. He halted a few paces from
her and said:
"What about the song? Why does that make you cry?"
She raised her head from her arms and dried her eyes with the
back of her hand like a child. A kinder note than he had intended
went into his voice.
"Why, Gretta?" he asked.
"I am thinking about a person long ago who used to sing that
"And who was the person long ago?" asked Gabriel, smiling.
"It was a person I used to know in Galway when I was living with
my grandmother," she said.
The smile passed away from Gabriel's face. A dull anger began to
gather again at the back of his mind and the dull fires of his lust
began to glow angrily in his veins.
"Someone you were in love with?" he asked ironically.
"It was a young boy I used to know," she answered, "named
Michael Furey. He used to sing that song, The Lass of Aughrim.
He was very delicate."
Gabriel was silent. He did not wish her to think that he was
interested in this delicate boy.
"I can see him so plainly," she said, after a moment. "Such eyes as
he had: big, dark eyes! And such an expression in them--an
"O, then, you are in love with him?" said Gabriel.
"I used to go out walking with him," she said, "when I was in
A thought flew across Gabriel's mind.
"Perhaps that was why you wanted to go to Galway with that Ivors
girl?" he said coldly.
She looked at him and asked in surprise:
Her eyes made Gabriel feel awkward. He shrugged his shoulders
"How do I know? To see him, perhaps."
She looked away from him along the shaft of light towards the
window in silence.
"He is dead," she said at length. "He died when he was only
seventeen. Isn't it a terrible thing to die so young as that?"
"What was he?" asked Gabriel, still ironically.
"He was in the gasworks," she said.
Gabriel felt humiliated by the failure of his irony and by the
evocation of this figure from the dead, a boy in the gasworks.
While he had been full of memories of their secret life together,
full of tenderness and joy and desire, she had been comparing him
in her mind with another. A shameful consciousness of his own
person assailed him. He saw himself as a ludicrous figure, acting
as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous, well-meaning
sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealising his own
clownish lusts, the pitiable fatuous fellow he had caught a glimpse
of in the mirror. Instinctively he turned his back more to the light
lest she might see the shame that burned upon his forehead.
He tried to keep up his tone of cold interrogation, but his voice
when he spoke was humble and indifferent.
"I suppose you were in love with this Michael Furey, Gretta," he
"I was great with him at that time," she said.
Her voice was veiled and sad. Gabriel, feeling now how vain it
would be to try to lead her whither he had purposed, caressed one
of her hands and said, also sadly:
"And what did he die of so young, Gretta? Consumption, was it?"
"I think he died for me," she answered.
A vague terror seized Gabriel at this answer, as if, at that hour
when he had hoped to triumph, some impalpable and vindictive
being was coming against him, gathering forces against him in its
vague world. But he shook himself free of it with an effort of
reason and continued to caress her hand. He did not question her
again, for he felt that she would tell him of herself. Her hand was
warm and moist: it did not respond to his touch, but he continued
to caress it just as he had caressed her first letter to him that spring
"It was in the winter," she said, "about the beginning of the winter
when I was going to leave my grandmother's and come up here to
the convent. And he was ill at the time in his lodgings in Galway
and wouldn't be let out, and his people in Oughterard were written
to. He was in decline, they said, or something like that. I never
She paused for a moment and sighed.
"Poor fellow," she said. "He was very fond of me and he was such
a gentle boy. We used to go out together, walking, you know,
Gabriel, like the way they do in the country. He was going to study
singing only for his health. He had a very good voice, poor
"Well; and then?" asked Gabriel.
"And then when it came to the time for me to leave Galway and
come up to the convent he was much worse and I wouldn't be let
see him so I wrote him a letter saying I was going up to Dublin and
would be back in the summer, and hoping he would be better
She paused for a moment to get her voice under control, and then
"Then the night before I left, I was in my grandmother's house in
Nuns' Island, packing up, and I heard gravel thrown up against the
window. The window was so wet I couldn't see, so I ran downstairs
as I was and slipped out the back into the garden and there was the
poor fellow at the end of the garden, shivering."
"And did you not tell him to go back?" asked Gabriel.
"I implored of him to go home at once and told him he would get
his death in the rain. But he said he did not want to live. I can see
his eyes as well as well! He was standing at the end of the wall
where there was a tree."
"And did he go home?" asked Gabriel.
"Yes, he went home. And when I was only a week in the convent
he died and he was buried in Oughterard, where his people came
from. O, the day I heard that, that he was dead!"
She stopped, choking with sobs, and, overcome by emotion, flung
herself face downward on the bed, sobbing in the quilt. Gabriel
held her hand for a moment longer, irresolutely, and then, shy of
intruding on her grief, let it fall gently and walked quietly to the
She was fast asleep.
Gabriel, leaning on his elbow, looked for a few moments
unresentfully on her tangled hair and half-open mouth, listening to
her deep-drawn breath. So she had had that romance in her life: a
man had died for her sake. It hardly pained him now to think how
poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life. He watched her
while she slept, as though he and she had never lived together as
man and wife. His curious eyes rested long upon her face and on
her hair: and, as he thought of what she must have been then, in
that time of her first girlish beauty, a strange, friendly pity for her
entered his soul. He did not like to say even to himself that her
face was no longer beautiful, but he knew that it was no longer the
face for which Michael Furey had braved death.
Perhaps she had not told him all the story. His eyes moved to the
chair over which she had thrown some of her clothes. A petticoat
string dangled to the floor. One boot stood upright, its limp upper
fallen down: the fellow of it lay upon its side. He wondered at his
riot of emotions of an hour before. From what had it proceeded?
From his aunt's supper, from his own foolish speech, from the wine
and dancing, the merry-making when saying good-night in the hall,
the pleasure of the walk along the river in the snow. Poor Aunt
Julia! She, too, would soon be a shade with the shade of Patrick
Morkan and his horse. He had caught that haggard look upon her
face for a moment when she was singing Arrayed for the Bridal.
Soon, perhaps, he would be sitting in that same drawing-room,
dressed in black, his silk hat on his knees. The blinds would be
drawn down and Aunt Kate would be sitting beside him, crying
and blowing her nose and telling him how Julia had died. He
would cast about in his mind for some words that might console
her, and would find only lame and useless ones. Yes, yes: that
would happen very soon.
The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself
cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife.
One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into
that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and
wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside
him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her
lover's eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.
Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that
himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must
be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the
partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man
standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul
had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead.
He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and
flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey
impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one
time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It
had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver
and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had
come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the
newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was
falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills,
falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly
falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too,
upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael
Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and
headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns.
His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly
through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their
last end, upon all the living and the dead.