A LITTLE CLOUD
EIGHT years before he had seen his friend off at the North Wall
and wished him godspeed. Gallaher had got on. You could tell that
at once by his travelled air, his well-cut tweed suit, and fearless
accent. Few fellows had talents like his and fewer still could
remain unspoiled by such success. Gallaher's heart was in the right
place and he had deserved to win. It was something to have a
friend like that.
Little Chandler's thoughts ever since lunch-time had been of his
meeting with Gallaher, of Gallaher's invitation and of the great city
London where Gallaher lived. He was called Little Chandler
because, though he was but slightly under the average stature, he
gave one the idea of being a little man. His hands were white and
small, his frame was fragile, his voice was quiet and his manners
were refined. He took the greatest care of his fair silken hair and
moustache and used perfume discreetly on his handkerchief. The
half-moons of his nails were perfect and when he smiled you
caught a glimpse of a row of childish white teeth.
As he sat at his desk in the King's Inns he thought what changes
those eight years had brought. The friend whom he had known
under a shabby and necessitous guise had become a brilliant figure
on the London Press. He turned often from his tiresome writing to
gaze out of the office window. The glow of a late autumn sunset
covered the grass plots and walks. It cast a shower of kindly
golden dust on the untidy nurses and decrepit old men who
drowsed on the benches; it flickered upon all the moving figures--
on the children who ran screaming along the gravel paths and on
everyone who passed through the gardens. He watched the scene
and thought of life; and (as always happened when he thought of
life) he became sad. A gentle melancholy took possession of him.
He felt how useless it was to struggle against fortune, this being
the burden of wisdom which the ages had bequeathed to him.
He remembered the books of poetry upon his shelves at home. He
had bought them in his bachelor days and many an evening, as he
sat in the little room off the hall, he had been tempted to take one
down from the bookshelf and read out something to his wife. But
shyness had always held him back; and so the books had remained
on their shelves. At times he repeated lines to himself and this
When his hour had struck he stood up and took leave of his desk
and of his fellow-clerks punctiliously. He emerged from under the
feudal arch of the King's Inns, a neat modest figure, and walked
swiftly down Henrietta Street. The golden sunset was waning and
the air had grown sharp. A horde of grimy children populated the
street. They stood or ran in the roadway or crawled up the steps
before the gaping doors or squatted like mice upon the thresholds.
Little Chandler gave them no thought. He picked his way deftly
through all that minute vermin-like life and under the shadow of
the gaunt spectral mansions in which the old nobility of Dublin
had roystered. No memory of the past touched him, for his mind
was full of a present joy.
He had never been in Corless's but he knew the value of the name.
He knew that people went there after the theatre to eat oysters and
drink liqueurs; and he had heard that the waiters there spoke
French and German. Walking swiftly by at night he had seen cabs
drawn up before the door and richly dressed ladies, escorted by
cavaliers, alight and enter quickly. They wore noisy dresses and
many wraps. Their faces were powdered and they caught up their
dresses, when they touched earth, like alarmed Atalantas. He had
always passed without turning his head to look. It was his habit to
walk swiftly in the street even by day and whenever he found
himself in the city late at night he hurried on his way
apprehensively and excitedly. Sometimes, however, he courted the
causes of his fear. He chose the darkest and narrowest streets and,
as he walked boldly forward, the silence that was spread about his
footsteps troubled him, the wandering, silent figures troubled him;
and at times a sound of low fugitive laughter made him tremble
like a leaf.
He turned to the right towards Capel Street. Ignatius Gallaher on
the London Press! Who would have thought it possible eight years
before? Still, now that he reviewed the past, Little Chandler could
remember many signs of future greatness in his friend. People used
to say that Ignatius Gallaher was wild Of course, he did mix with a
rakish set of fellows at that time. drank freely and borrowed
money on all sides. In the end he had got mixed up in some shady
affair, some money transaction: at least, that was one version of his
flight. But nobody denied him talent. There was always a certain...
something in Ignatius Gallaher that impressed you in spite of
yourself. Even when he was out at elbows and at his wits' end for
money he kept up a bold face. Little Chandler remembered (and
the remembrance brought a slight flush of pride to his cheek) one
of Ignatius Gallaher's sayings when he was in a tight corner:
"Half time now, boys," he used to say light-heartedly. "Where's my
That was Ignatius Gallaher all out; and, damn it, you couldn't but
admire him for it.
Little Chandler quickened his pace. For the first time in his life he
felt himself superior to the people he passed. For the first time his
soul revolted against the dull inelegance of Capel Street. There
was no doubt about it: if you wanted to succeed you had to go
away. You could do nothing in Dublin. As he crossed Grattan
Bridge he looked down the river towards the lower quays and
pitied the poor stunted houses. They seemed to him a band of
tramps, huddled together along the riverbanks, their old coats
covered with dust and soot, stupefied by the panorama of sunset
and waiting for the first chill of night bid them arise, shake
themselves and begone. He wondered whether he could write a
poem to express his idea. Perhaps Gallaher might be able to get it
into some London paper for him. Could he write something
original? He was not sure what idea he wished to express but the
thought that a poetic moment had touched him took life within
him like an infant hope. He stepped onward bravely.
Every step brought him nearer to London, farther from his own
sober inartistic life. A light began to tremble on the horizon of his
mind. He was not so old--thirty-two. His temperament might be
said to be just at the point of maturity. There were so many
different moods and impressions that he wished to express in
verse. He felt them within him. He tried weigh his soul to see if it
was a poet's soul. Melancholy was the dominant note of his
temperament, he thought, but it was a melancholy tempered by
recurrences of faith and resignation and simple joy. If he could
give expression to it in a book of poems perhaps men would listen.
He would never be popular: he saw that. He could not sway the
crowd but he might appeal to a little circle of kindred minds. The
English critics, perhaps, would recognise him as one of the Celtic
school by reason of the melancholy tone of his poems; besides
that, he would put in allusions. He began to invent sentences and
phrases from the notice which his book would get. "Mr. Chandler
has the gift of easy and graceful verse." ... "wistful sadness
pervades these poems." ... "The Celtic note." It was a pity his name
was not more Irish-looking. Perhaps it would be better to insert his
mother's name before the surname: Thomas Malone Chandler, or
better still: T. Malone Chandler. He would speak to Gallaher about
He pursued his revery so ardently that he passed his street and had
to turn back. As he came near Corless's his former agitation began
to overmaster him and he halted before the door in indecision.
Finally he opened the door and entered.
The light and noise of the bar held him at the doorways for a few
moments. He looked about him, but his sight was confused by the
shining of many red and green wine-glasses The bar seemed to him
to be full of people and he felt that the people were observing him
curiously. He glanced quickly to right and left (frowning slightly to
make his errand appear serious), but when his sight cleared a little
he saw that nobody had turned to look at him: and there, sure
enough, was Ignatius Gallaher leaning with his back against the
counter and his feet planted far apart.
"Hallo, Tommy, old hero, here you are! What is it to be? What will
you have? I'm taking whisky: better stuff than we get across the
water. Soda? Lithia? No mineral? I'm the same Spoils the
flavour.... Here, garcon, bring us two halves of malt whisky, like a
good fellow.... Well, and how have you been pulling along since I
saw you last? Dear God, how old we're getting! Do you see any
signs of aging in me--eh, what? A little grey and thin on the top--
Ignatius Gallaher took off his hat and displayed a large closely
cropped head. His face was heavy, pale and cleanshaven. His eyes,
which were of bluish slate-colour, relieved his unhealthy pallor
and shone out plainly above the vivid orange tie he wore. Between
these rival features the lips appeared very long and shapeless and
colourless. He bent his head and felt with two sympathetic fingers
the thin hair at the crown. Little Chandler shook his head as a
denial. Ignatius Galaher put on his hat again.
"It pulls you down," be said, "Press life. Always hurry and scurry,
looking for copy and sometimes not finding it: and then, always to
have something new in your stuff. Damn proofs and printers, I say,
for a few days. I'm deuced glad, I can tell you, to get back to the
old country. Does a fellow good, a bit of a holiday. I feel a ton
better since I landed again in dear dirty Dublin.... Here you are,
Tommy. Water? Say when."
Little Chandler allowed his whisky to be very much diluted.
"You don't know what's good for you, my boy," said Ignatius
Gallaher. "I drink mine neat."
"I drink very little as a rule," said Little Chandler modestly. "An
odd half-one or so when I meet any of the old crowd: that's all."
"Ah well," said Ignatius Gallaher, cheerfully, "here's to us and to
old times and old acquaintance."
They clinked glasses and drank the toast.
"I met some of the old gang today," said Ignatius Gallaher. "O'Hara
seems to be in a bad way. What's he doing?"
"Nothing, said Little Chandler. "He's gone to the dogs."
"But Hogan has a good sit, hasn't he?"
"Yes; he's in the Land Commission."
"I met him one night in London and he seemed to be very flush....
Poor O'Hara! Boose, I suppose?"
"Other things, too," said Little Chandler shortly.
Ignatius Gallaher laughed.
"Tommy," he said, "I see you haven't changed an atom. You're the
very same serious person that used to lecture me on Sunday
mornings when I had a sore head and a fur on my tongue. You'd
want to knock about a bit in the world. Have you never been
anywhere even for a trip?"
"I've been to the Isle of Man," said Little Chandler.
Ignatius Gallaher laughed.
"The Isle of Man!" he said. "Go to London or Paris: Paris, for
choice. That'd do you good."
"Have you seen Paris?"
"I should think I have! I've knocked about there a little."
"And is it really so beautiful as they say?" asked Little Chandler.
He sipped a little of his drink while Ignatius Gallaher finished his
"Beautiful?" said Ignatius Gallaher, pausing on the word and on
the flavour of his drink. "It's not so beautiful, you know. Of course,
it is beautiful.... But it's the life of Paris; that's the thing. Ah, there's
no city like Paris for gaiety, movement, excitement...."
Little Chandler finished his whisky and, after some trouble,
succeeded in catching the barman's eye. He ordered the same
"I've been to the Moulin Rouge," Ignatius Gallaher continued when
the barman had removed their glasses, "and I've been to all the
Bohemian cafes. Hot stuff! Not for a pious chap like you,
Little Chandler said nothing until the barman returned with two
glasses: then he touched his friend's glass lightly and reciprocated
the former toast. He was beginning to feel somewhat disillusioned.
Gallaher's accent and way of expressing himself did not please
him. There was something vulgar in his friend which he had not
observed before. But perhaps it was only the result of living in
London amid the bustle and competition of the Press. The old
personal charm was still there under this new gaudy manner. And,
after all, Gallaher had lived, he had seen the world. Little Chandler
looked at his friend enviously.
"Everything in Paris is gay," said Ignatius Gallaher. "They believe
in enjoying life--and don't you think they're right? If you want to
enjoy yourself properly you must go to Paris. And, mind you,
they've a great feeling for the Irish there. When they heard I was
from Ireland they were ready to eat me, man."
Little Chandler took four or five sips from his glass.
"Tell me," he said, "is it true that Paris is so... immoral as they
Ignatius Gallaher made a catholic gesture with his right arm.
"Every place is immoral," he said. "Of course you do find spicy
bits in Paris. Go to one of the students' balls, for instance. That's
lively, if you like, when the cocottes begin to let themselves loose.
You know what they are, I suppose?"
"I've heard of them," said Little Chandler.
Ignatius Gallaher drank off his whisky and shook his had.
"Ah," he said, "you may say what you like. There's no woman like
the Parisienne--for style, for go."
"Then it is an immoral city," said Little Chandler, with timid
insistence--"I mean, compared with London or Dublin?"
"London!" said Ignatius Gallaher. "It's six of one and half-a-dozen
of the other. You ask Hogan, my boy. I showed him a bit about
London when he was over there. He'd open your eye.... I say,
Tommy, don't make punch of that whisky: liquor up."
"O, come on, another one won't do you any harm. What is it? The
same again, I suppose?"
"Well... all right."
"Francois, the same again.... Will you smoke, Tommy?"
Ignatius Gallaher produced his cigar-case. The two friends lit their
cigars and puffed at them in silence until their drinks were served.
"I'll tell you my opinion," said Ignatius Gallaher, emerging after
some time from the clouds of smoke in which he had taken refuge,
"it's a rum world. Talk of immorality! I've heard of cases--what
am I saying?--I've known them: cases of... immorality...."
Ignatius Gallaher puffed thoughtfully at his cigar and then, in a
calm historian's tone, he proceeded to sketch for his friend some
pictures of the corruption which was rife abroad. He summarised
the vices of many capitals and seemed inclined to award the palm
to Berlin. Some things he could not vouch for (his friends had told
him), but of others he had had personal experience. He spared
neither rank nor caste. He revealed many of the secrets of religious
houses on the Continent and described some of the practices which
were fashionable in high society and ended by telling, with details,