Dah Duit (Hi) and welcome

ARABY from DUBLINERS By James Joyce


NORTH RICHMOND STREET, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour
when the Christian Brothers' School set the boys free. An uninhabited
house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its
neighbours in a square ground The other houses of the street,
conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown
imperturbable faces.

The former tenant of our house, a priest, had died in the back
drawing-room. Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all
the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old
useless papers. Among these I found a few paper-covered books, the pages
of which were curled and damp: The Abbot, by Walter Scott, The Devout
Communicant and The Memoirs of Vidocq. I liked the last best because
its leaves were yellow. The wild garden behind the house contained a
central apple-tree and a few straggling bushes under one of which
I found the late tenant's rusty bicycle-pump. He had been a very
charitable priest; in his will he had left all his money to institutions
and the furniture of his house to his sister.

When the short days of winter came dusk fell before we had well eaten
our dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The
space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards
it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air
stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the
silent street. The career of our play brought us through the dark muddy
lanes behind the houses where we ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes
from the cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where
odours arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables where a
coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from the buckled
harness. When we returned to the street light from the kitchen windows
had filled the areas. If my uncle was seen turning the corner we hid in
the shadow until we had seen him safely housed. Or if Mangan's sister
came out on the doorstep to call her brother in to his tea we watched
her from our shadow peer up and down the street. We waited to see
whether she would remain or go in and, if she remained, we left our
shadow and walked up to Mangan's steps resignedly. She was waiting
for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her
brother always teased her before he obeyed and I stood by the railings
looking at her. Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope
of her hair tossed from side to side.

Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door.
The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could
not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my heart leaped. I ran
to the hall, seized my books and followed her. I kept her brown figure
always in my eye and, when we came near the point at which our ways
diverged, I quickened my pace and passed her. This happened morning
after morning. I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words,
and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.

Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. On
Saturday evenings when my aunt went marketing I had to go to carry
some of the parcels. We walked through the flaring streets, jostled
by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the
shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs'
cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers, who sang a come-all-you
about O'Donovan Rossa, or a ballad about the troubles in our native
land. These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I
imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her
name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I
myself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I could not
tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out
into my bosom. I thought little of the future. I did not know whether I
would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell
her of my confused adoration. But my body was like a harp and her words
and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.

One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest had
died. It was a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the house.
Through one of the broken panes I heard the rain impinge upon the earth,
the fine incessant needles of water playing in the sodden beds. Some
distant lamp or lighted window gleamed below me. I was thankful that I
could see so little. All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves
and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of
my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: "O love! O love!" many
times.

At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me I was
so confused that I did not know what to answer. She asked me was I going
to Araby. I forgot whether I answered yes or no. It would be a splendid
bazaar, she said;s she would love to go.

"And why can't you?" I asked.

While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist.
She could not go, she said, because there would be a retreat that week
in her convent. Her brother and two other boys were fighting for their
caps and I was alone at the railings. She held one of the spikes, bowing
her head towards me. The light from the lamp opposite our door caught
the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and,
falling, lit up the hand upon the railing. It fell over one side of her
dress and caught the white border of a petticoat, just visible as she
stood at ease.

"It's well for you," she said.

"If I go," I said, "I will bring you something."

What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts
after that evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious intervening days.
I chafed against the work of school. At night in my bedroom and by day
in the classroom her image came between me and the page I strove to
read. The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the
silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over
me. I asked for leave to go to the bazaar on Saturday night. My aunt
was surprised and hoped it was not some Freemason affair. I answered few
questions in class. I watched my master's face pass from amiability to
sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could not call my
wandering thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with the serious
work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed
to me child's play, ugly monotonous child's play.

On Saturday morning I reminded my uncle that I wished to go to the
bazaar in the evening. He was fussing at the hallstand, looking for the
hat-brush, and answered me curtly:

"Yes, boy, I know."

As he was in the hall I could not go into the front parlour and lie at
the window. I left the house in bad humour and walked slowly towards the
school. The air was pitilessly raw and already my heart misgave me.

When I came home to dinner my uncle had not yet been home. Still it was
early. I sat staring at the clock for some time and, when its ticking
began to irritate me, I left the room. I mounted the staircase and
gained the upper part of the house. The high cold empty gloomy rooms
liberated me and I went from room to room singing. From the front window
I saw my companions playing below in the street. Their cries reached me
weakened and indistinct and, leaning my forehead against the cool glass,
I looked over at the dark house where she lived. I may have stood
there for an hour, seeing nothing but the brown-clad figure cast by my
imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved neck, at
the hand upon the railings and at the border below the dress.

When I came downstairs again I found Mrs. Mercer sitting at the fire.
She was an old garrulous woman, a pawnbroker's widow, who collected
used stamps for some pious purpose. I had to endure the gossip of the
tea-table. The meal was prolonged beyond an hour and still my uncle did
not come. Mrs. Mercer stood up to go: she was sorry she couldn't wait
any longer, but it was after eight o'clock and she did not like to be
out late as the night air was bad for her. When she had gone I began to
walk up and down the room, clenching my fists. My aunt said:

"I'm afraid you may put off your bazaar for this night of Our Lord."

At nine o'clock I heard my uncle's latchkey in the halldoor. I heard him
talking to himself and heard the hallstand rocking when it had received
the weight of his overcoat. I could interpret these signs. When he was
midway through his dinner I asked him to give me the money to go to the
bazaar. He had forgotten.

"The people are in bed and after their first sleep now," he said.

I did not smile. My aunt said to him energetically:

"Can't you give him the money and let him go? You've kept him late
enough as it is."

My uncle said he was very sorry he had forgotten. He said he believed in
the old saying: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." He asked
me where I was going and, when I had told him a second time he asked me
did I know The Arab's Farewell to his Steed. When I left the kitchen he
was about to recite the opening lines of the piece to my aunt.

I held a florin tightly in my hand as I strode down Buckingham Street
towards the station. The sight of the streets thronged with buyers and
glaring with gas recalled to me the purpose of my journey. I took my
seat in a third-class carriage of a deserted train. After an intolerable
delay the train moved out of the station slowly. It crept onward among
ruinous houses and over the twinkling river. At Westland Row Station a
crowd of people pressed to the carriage doors; but the porters moved
them back, saying that it was a special train for the bazaar. I remained
alone in the bare carriage. In a few minutes the train drew up beside an
improvised wooden platform. I passed out on to the road and saw by the
lighted dial of a clock that it was ten minutes to ten. In front of me
was a large building which displayed the magical name.

I could not find any sixpenny entrance and, fearing that the bazaar
would be closed, I passed in quickly through a turnstile, handing a
shilling to a weary-looking man. I found myself in a big hall girdled at
half its height by a gallery. Nearly all the stalls were closed and the
greater part of the hall was in darkness. I recognised a silence like
that which pervades a church after a service. I walked into the centre
of the bazaar timidly. A few people were gathered about the stalls which
were still open. Before a curtain, over which the words Cafe Chantant
were written in coloured lamps, two men were counting money on a salver.
I listened to the fall of the coins.

Remembering with difficulty why I had come I went over to one of the
stalls and examined porcelain vases and flowered tea-sets. At the
door of the stall a young lady was talking and laughing with two young
gentlemen. I remarked their English accents and listened vaguely to
their conversation.

"O, I never said such a thing!"

"O, but you did!"

"O, but I didn't!"

"Didn't she say that?"

"Yes. I heard her."

"O, there's a... fib!"

Observing me the young lady came over and asked me did I wish to buy
anything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have
spoken to me out of a sense of duty. I looked humbly at the great jars
that stood like eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to
the stall and murmured:

"No, thank you."

The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went back to
the two young men. They began to talk of the same subject. Once or twice
the young lady glanced at me over her shoulder.

I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make
my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned away slowly
and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed the two pennies to
fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voice call from one
end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall
was now completely dark.

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and
derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.