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Dubliners - Two Gallants

1. The Sisters

2. An Encounter

3. Araby

4. Eveline

5. After the Race

6. Two Gallants

7. The Boarding House

8. A Little Cloud

9. Counterparts

10. Clay

11. A Painful Case

12. Ivy Day in the Committee Room

13. A Mother

14. Grace

15. The Dead

16. The Dead - continue


THE grey warm evening of August had descended upon the city
and a mild warm air, a memory of summer, circulated in the
streets. The streets, shuttered for the repose of Sunday, swarmed
with a gaily coloured crowd. Like illumined pearls the lamps
shone from the summits of their tall poles upon the living texture
below which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up into the
warm grey evening air an unchanging unceasing murmur.

Two young men came down the hill of Rutland Square. On of
them was just bringing a long monologue to a close. The other,
who walked on the verge of the path and was at times obliged to
step on to the road, owing to his companion's rudeness, wore an
amused listening face. He was squat and ruddy. A yachting cap
was shoved far back from his forehead and the narrative to which
he listened made constant waves of expression break forth over his
face from the corners of his nose and eyes and mouth. Little jets of
wheezing laughter followed one another out of his convulsed body.
His eyes, twinkling with cunning enjoyment, glanced at every
moment towards his companion's face. Once or twice he
rearranged the light waterproof which he had slung over one
shoulder in toreador fashion. His breeches, his white rubber shoes
and his jauntily slung waterproof expressed youth. But his figure
fell into rotundity at the waist, his hair was scant and grey and his
face, when the waves of expression had passed over it, had a
ravaged look.

When he was quite sure that the narrative had ended he laughed
noiselessly for fully half a minute. Then he said:

"Well!... That takes the biscuit!"

His voice seemed winnowed of vigour; and to enforce his words he
added with humour:

"That takes the solitary, unique, and, if I may so call it, recherche
biscuit! "

He became serious and silent when he had said this. His tongue
was tired for he had been talking all the afternoon in a
public-house in Dorset Street. Most people considered Lenehan a
leech but, in spite of this reputation, his adroitness and eloquence
had always prevented his friends from forming any general policy
against him. He had a brave manner of coming up to a party of
them in a bar and of holding himself nimbly at the borders of the
company until he was included in a round. He was a sporting
vagrant armed with a vast stock of stories, limericks and riddles.
He was insensitive to all kinds of discourtesy. No one knew how
he achieved the stern task of living, but his name was vaguely
associated with racing tissues.

"And where did you pick her up, Corley?" he asked.

Corley ran his tongue swiftly along his upper lip.

"One night, man," he said, "I was going along Dame Street and I
spotted a fine tart under Waterhouse's clock and said good- night,
you know. So we went for a walk round by the canal and she told
me she was a slavey in a house in Baggot Street. I put my arm
round her and squeezed her a bit that night. Then next Sunday,
man, I met her by appointment. We vent out to Donnybrook and I
brought her into a field there. She told me she used to go with a
dairyman.... It was fine, man. Cigarettes every night she'd bring me
and paying the tram out and back. And one night she brought me
two bloody fine cigars--O, the real cheese, you know, that the old
fellow used to smoke.... I was afraid, man, she'd get in the family
way. But she's up to the dodge."

"Maybe she thinks you'll marry her," said Lenehan.

"I told her I was out of a job," said Corley. "I told her I was in
Pim's. She doesn't know my name. I was too hairy to tell her that.
But she thinks I'm a bit of class, you know."

Lenehan laughed again, noiselessly.

"Of all the good ones ever I heard," he said, "that emphatically
takes the biscuit."

Corley's stride acknowledged the compliment. The swing of his
burly body made his friend execute a few light skips from the path
to the roadway and back again. Corley was the son of an inspector
of police and he had inherited his father's frame and gut. He
walked with his hands by his sides, holding himself erect and
swaying his head from side to side. His head was large, globular
and oily; it sweated in all weathers; and his large round hat, set
upon it sideways, looked like a bulb which had grown out of
another. He always stared straight before him as if he were on
parade and, when he wished to gaze after someone in the street, it
was necessary for him to move his body from the hips. At present
he was about town. Whenever any job was vacant a friend was
always ready to give him the hard word. He was often to be seen
walking with policemen in plain clothes, talking earnestly. He
knew the inner side of all affairs and was fond of delivering final
judgments. He spoke without listening to the speech of his
companions. His conversation was mainly about himself what he
had said to such a person and what such a person had said to him
and what he had said to settle the matter. When he reported these
dialogues he aspirated the first letter of his name after the manner
of Florentines.

Lenehan offered his friend a cigarette. As the two young men
walked on through the crowd Corley occasionally turned to smile
at some of the passing girls but Lenehan's gaze was fixed on the
large faint moon circled with a double halo. He watched earnestly
the passing of the grey web of twilight across its face. At length he

"Well... tell me, Corley, I suppose you'll be able to pull it off all
right, eh?"

Corley closed one eye expressively as an answer.

"Is she game for that?" asked Lenehan dubiously. "You can never
know women."

"She's all right," said Corley. "I know the way to get around her,
man. She's a bit gone on me."

"You're what I call a gay Lothario," said Lenehan. "And the proper
kind of a Lothario, too!"

A shade of mockery relieved the servility of his manner. To save
himself he had the habit of leaving his flattery open to the
interpretation of raillery. But Corley had not a subtle mind.

"There's nothing to touch a good slavey," he affirmed. "Take my
tip for it."

"By one who has tried them all," said Lenehan.

"First I used to go with girls, you know," said Corley, unbosoming;
"girls off the South Circular. I used to take them out, man, on the
tram somewhere and pay the tram or take them to a band or a play
at the theatre or buy them chocolate and sweets or something that
way. I used to spend money on them right enough," he added, in a
convincing tone, as if he was conscious of being disbelieved.

But Lenehan could well believe it; he nodded gravely.

"I know that game," he said, "and it's a mug's game."

"And damn the thing I ever got out of it," said Corley.

"Ditto here," said Lenehan.

"Only off of one of them," said Corley.

He moistened his upper lip by running his tongue along it. The
recollection brightened his eyes. He too gazed at the pale disc of
the moon, now nearly veiled, and seemed to meditate.

She was... a bit of all right," he said regretfully.

He was silent again. Then he added:

"She's on the turf now. I saw her driving down Earl Street one
night with two fellows with her on a car."

"I suppose that's your doing," said Lenehan.

"There was others at her before me," said Corley philosophically.

This time Lenehan was inclined to disbelieve. He shook his head
to and fro and smiled.

"You know you can't kid me, Corley," he said.

"Honest to God!" said Corley. "Didn't she tell me herself?"

Lenehan made a tragic gesture.

"Base betrayer!" he said.

As they passed along the railings of Trinity College, Lenehan
skipped out into the road and peered up at the clock.

"Twenty after," he said.

"Time enough," said Corley. "She'll be there all right. I always let
her wait a bit."

Lenehan laughed quietly.

'Ecod! Corley, you know how to take them," he said.

"I'm up to all their little tricks," Corley confessed.

"But tell me," said Lenehan again, "are you sure you can bring it
off all right? You know it's a ticklish job. They're damn close on
that point. Eh? ... What?"

His bright, small eyes searched his companion's face for
reassurance. Corley swung his head to and fro as if to toss aside an
insistent insect, and his brows gathered.

"I'll pull it off," he said. "Leave it to me, can't you?"

Lenehan said no more. He did not wish to ruffle his friend's
temper, to be sent to the devil and told that his advice was not
wanted. A little tact was necessary. But Corley's brow was soon
smooth again. His thoughts were running another way.

"She's a fine decent tart," he said, with appreciation; "that's what
she is."

They walked along Nassau Street and then turned into Kildare
Street. Not far from the porch of the club a harpist stood in the
roadway, playing to a little ring of listeners. He plucked at the
wires heedlessly, glancing quickly from time to time at the face of
each new-comer and from time to time, wearily also, at the sky.
His harp, too, heedless that her coverings had fallen about her
knees, seemed weary alike of the eyes of strangers and of her
master's hands. One hand played in the bass the melody of Silent,
O Moyle, while the other hand careered in the treble after each
group of notes. The notes of the air sounded deep and full.

The two young men walked up the street without speaking, the
mournful music following them. When they reached Stephen's
Green they crossed the road. Here the noise of trams, the lights and
the crowd released them from their silence.

"There she is!" said Corley.

At the corner of Hume Street a young woman was standing. She
wore a blue dress and a white sailor hat. She stood on the
curbstone, swinging a sunshade in one hand. Lenehan grew lively.

"Let's have a look at her, Corley," he said.

Corley glanced sideways at his friend and an unpleasant grin
appeared on his face.

"Are you trying to get inside me?" he asked.

"Damn it!" said Lenehan boldly, "I don't want an introduction. All I
want is to have a look at her. I'm not going to eat her."

"O ... A look at her?" said Corley, more amiably. "Well... I'll tell
you what. I'll go over and talk to her and you can pass by."

"Right!" said Lenehan.

Corley had already thrown one leg over the chains when Lenehan
called out:

"And after? Where will we meet?"

"Half ten," answered Corley, bringing over his other leg.


"Corner of Merrion Street. We'll be coming back."

"Work it all right now," said Lenehan in farewell.

Corley did not answer. He sauntered across the road swaying his
head from side to side. His bulk, his easy pace, and the solid sound
of his boots had something of the conqueror in them. He
approached the young woman and, without saluting, began at once
to converse with her. She swung her umbrella more quickly and
executed half turns on her heels. Once or twice when he spoke to
her at close quarters she laughed and bent her head.

Lenehan observed them for a few minutes. Then he walked rapidly
along beside the chains at some distance and crossed the road
obliquely. As he approached Hume Street corner he found the air
heavily scented and his eyes made a swift anxious scrutiny of the
young woman's appearance. She had her Sunday finery on. Her
blue serge skirt was held at the waist by a belt of black leather.
The great silver buckle of her belt seemed to depress the centre of
her body, catching the light stuff of her white blouse like a clip.
She wore a short black jacket with mother-of-pearl buttons and a
ragged black boa. The ends of her tulle collarette had been
carefully disordered and a big bunch of red flowers was pinned in
her bosom stems upwards. Lenehan's eyes noted approvingly her
stout short muscular body. rank rude health glowed in her face, on
her fat red cheeks and in her unabashed blue eyes. Her features
were blunt. She had broad nostrils, a straggling mouth which lay
open in a contented leer, and two projecting front teeth. As he
passed Lenehan took off his cap and, after about ten seconds,
Corley returned a salute to the air. This he did by raising his hand
vaguely and pensively changing the angle of position of his hat.

Lenehan walked as far as the Shelbourne Hotel where he halted
and waited. After waiting for a little time he saw them coming
towards him and, when they turned to the right, he followed them,
stepping lightly in his white shoes, down one side of Merrion
Square. As he walked on slowly, timing his pace to theirs, he
watched Corley's head which turned at every moment towards the
young woman's face like a big ball revolving on a pivot. He kept
the pair in view until he had seen them climbing the stairs of the
Donnybrook tram; then he turned about and went back the way he
had come.

Now that he was alone his face looked older. His gaiety seemed to
forsake him and, as he came by the railings of the Duke's Lawn, he
allowed his hand to run along them. The air which the harpist had
played began to control his movements His softly padded feet
played the melody while his fingers swept a scale of variations idly
along the railings after each group of notes.

He walked listlessly round Stephen's Green and then down Grafton
Street. Though his eyes took note of many elements of the crowd
through which he passed they did so morosely. He found trivial all
that was meant to charm him and did not answer the glances which
invited him to be bold. He knew that he would have to speak a
great deal, to invent and to amuse and his brain and throat were
too dry for such a task. The problem of how he could pass the
hours till he met Corley again troubled him a little. He could think
of no way of passing them but to keep on walking. He turned to the
left when he came to the corner of Rutland Square and felt more at
ease in the dark quiet street, the sombre look of which suited his
mood. He paused at last before the window of a poor-looking shop
over which the words Refreshment Bar were printed in white
letters. On the glass of the window were two flying inscriptions:
Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale. A cut ham was exposed on a great
blue dish while near it on a plate lay a segment of very light
plum-pudding. He eyed this food earnestly for some time and then,
after glancing warily up and down the street, went into the shop

He was hungry for, except some biscuits which he had asked two
grudging curates to bring him, he had eaten nothing since
breakfast-time. He sat down at an uncovered wooden table
opposite two work-girls and a mechanic. A slatternly girl waited
on him.

"How much is a plate of peas?" he asked.

"Three halfpence, sir," said the girl.

"Bring me a plate of peas," he said, "and a bottle of ginger beer."

He spoke roughly in order to belie his air of gentility for his entry
had been followed by a pause of talk. His face was heated. To
appear natural he pushed his cap back on his head and planted his
elbows on the table. The mechanic and the two work-girls
examined him point by point before resuming their conversation in
a subdued voice. The girl brought him a plate of grocer's hot peas,
seasoned with pepper and vinegar, a fork and his ginger beer. He
ate his food greedily and found it so good that he made a note of
the shop mentally. When he had eaten all the peas he sipped his
ginger beer and sat for some time thinking of Corley's adventure.
In his imagination he beheld the pair of lovers walking along some
dark road; he heard Corley's voice in deep energetic gallantries and
saw again the leer of the young woman's mouth. This vision made
him feel keenly his own poverty of purse and spirit. He was tired
of knocking about, of pulling the devil by the tail, of shifts and
intrigues. He would be thirty-one in November. Would he never
get a good job? Would he never have a home of his own? He
thought how pleasant it would be to have a warm fire to sit by and
a good dinner to sit down to. He had walked the streets long
enough with friends and with girls. He knew what those friends
were worth: he knew the girls too. Experience had embittered his
heart against the world. But all hope had not left him. He felt
better after having eaten than he had felt before, less weary of his
life, less vanquished in spirit. He might yet be able to settle down
in some snug corner and live happily if he could only come across
some good simple-minded girl with a little of the ready.

He paid twopence halfpenny to the slatternly girl and went out of
the shop to begin his wandering again. He went into Capel Street
and walked along towards the City Hall. Then he turned into Dame
Street. At the corner of George's Street he met two friends of his
and stopped to converse with them. He was glad that he could rest
from all his walking. His friends asked him had he seen Corley and
what was the latest. He replied that he had spent the day with
Corley. His friends talked very little. They looked vacantly after
some figures in the crowd and sometimes made a critical remark.
One said that he had seen Mac an hour before in Westmoreland
Street. At this Lenehan said that he had been with Mac the night
before in Egan's. The young man who had seen Mac in
Westmoreland Street asked was it true that Mac had won a bit over
a billiard match. Lenehan did not know: he said that Holohan had
stood them drinks in Egan's.

He left his friends at a quarter to ten and went up George's Street.
He turned to the left at the City Markets and walked on into
Grafton Street. The crowd of girls and young men had thinned and
on his way up the street he heard many groups and couples bidding
one another good-night. He went as far as the clock of the College
of Surgeons: it was on the stroke of ten. He set off briskly along
the northern side of the Green hurrying for fear Corley should
return too soon. When he reached the corner of Merrion Street he
took his stand in the shadow of a lamp and brought out one of the
cigarettes which he had reserved and lit it. He leaned against the
lamp-post and kept his gaze fixed on the part from which he
expected to see Corley and the young woman return.

His mind became active again. He wondered had Corley managed
it successfully. He wondered if he had asked her yet or if he would
leave it to the last. He suffered all the pangs and thrills of his
friend's situation as well as those of his own. But the memory of
Corley's slowly revolving head calmed him somewhat: he was sure
Corley would pull it off all right. All at once the idea struck him
that perhaps Corley had seen her home by another way and given
him the slip. His eyes searched the street: there was no sign of
them. Yet it was surely half-an-hour since he had seen the clock of
the College of Surgeons. Would Corley do a thing like that? He lit
his last cigarette and began to smoke it nervously. He strained his
eyes as each tram stopped at the far corner of the square. They
must have gone home by another way. The paper of his cigarette
broke and he flung it into the road with a curse.

Suddenly he saw them coming towards him. He started with
delight and keeping close to his lamp-post tried to read the result
in their walk. They were walking quickly, the young woman taking
quick short steps, while Corley kept beside her with his long stride.
They did not seem to be speaking. An intimation of the result
pricked him like the point of a sharp instrument. He knew Corley
would fail; he knew it was no go.

They turned down Baggot Street and he followed them at once,
taking the other footpath. When they stopped he stopped too. They
talked for a few moments and then the young woman went down
the steps into the area of a house. Corley remained standing at the
edge of the path, a little distance from the front steps. Some
minutes passed. Then the hall-door was opened slowly and
cautiously. A woman came running down the front steps and
coughed. Corley turned and went towards her. His broad figure hid
hers from view for a few seconds and then she reappeared running
up the steps. The door closed on her and Corley began to walk
swiftly towards Stephen's Green.

Lenehan hurried on in the same direction. Some drops of light rain
fell. He took them as a warning and, glancing back towards the
house which the young woman had entered to see that he was not
observed, he ran eagerly across the road. Anxiety and his swift run
made him pant. He called out:

"Hallo, Corley!"

Corley turned his head to see who had called him, and then
continued walking as before. Lenehan ran after him, settling the
waterproof on his shoulders with one hand.

"Hallo, Corley!" he cried again.

He came level with his friend and looked keenly in his face. He
could see nothing there.

"Well?" he said. "Did it come off?"

They had reached the corner of Ely Place. Still without answering,
Corley swerved to the left and went up the side street. His features
were composed in stern calm. Lenehan kept up with his friend,
breathing uneasily. He was baffled and a note of menace pierced
through his voice.

"Can't you tell us?" he said. "Did you try her?"

Corley halted at the first lamp and stared grimly before him. Then
with a grave gesture he extended a hand towards the light and,
smiling, opened it slowly to the gaze of his disciple. A small gold
coin shone in the palm.

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