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Title: The Charwoman's Daughter (1912)
Author: James Stephens
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0700221.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: February 2007
Date most recently updated: February 2007

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Title: The Charwoman's Daughter (1912)
Author: James Stephens





TO BETHEL SOLOMONS, M.B.




I


Mary Makebelieve lived with her mother in a small room at the very top of
a big, dingy house in a Dublin back street. As long as she could remember
she had lived in that top back room. She knew every crack in the ceiling,
and they were numerous and of strange shapes. Every spot of mildew on the
ancient wall-paper was familiar. She had, indeed, watched the growth of
most from a greyish shade to a dark stain, from a spot to a great blob,
and the holes in the skirting of the walls, out of which at night time
the cockroaches came rattling, she knew also. There was but one window in
the room, and when she wished to look out of it she had to push the
window up, because the grime of many years had so encrusted the glass
that it was of no more than the demi-semi-transparency of thin horn. When
she did look there was nothing to see but a bulky array of chimney-pots
crowning a next-door house, and these continually hurled jays of soot
against her window; therefore, she did not care to look out often, for
each time that she did so she was forced to wash herself, and as water
had to be carried from the very bottom of the five-story house up
hundreds and hundreds of stairs to her room, she disliked having to use
too much water.

Her mother seldom washed at all. She held that washing was very unhealthy
and took the natural gloss off the face, and that, moreover, soap either
tightened the skin or made it wrinkle. Her own face was very tight in
some places and very loose in others, and Mary Makebelieve often thought
that the tight places were spots which her mother used to wash when she
was young, and the loose parts were those which had never been washed at
all. She thought that she would prefer to be either loose all over her
face or tight all over it, and, therefore, when she washed she did it
thoroughly, and when she abstained she allowed of no compromise.

Her mother's face was the colour of old, old ivory. Her nose was like a
great strong beak, and on it the skin was stretched very tightly, so that
her nose shone dully when the candle was lit. Her eyes were big and as
black as pools of ink and as bright as the eyes of a bird. Her hair also
was black, it was as smooth as the finest silk, and when unloosened it
hung straightly down, shining about her ivory face. Her lips were thin
and scarcely coloured at all, and her hands were sharp, quick hands,
seeming all knuckle when she closed them and all fingers when they were
opened again.

Mary Makebelieve loved her mother very dearly, and her mother returned
her affection with an overwhelming passion that sometimes surged into
physically painful caresses. When her mother hugged her for any length of
time she soon wept, rocking herself and her daughter to and fro, and her
clutch became then so frantic that poor Mary Makebelieve found it
difficult to draw her breath; but she would not for the world have
disturbed the career of her mother's love. Indeed, she found some
pleasure in the fierceness of those caresses, and welcomed the pain far
more than she reprobated it.

Her mother went out early every morning to work, and seldom returned home
until late at night. She was a charwoman, and her work was to scrub out
rooms and wash down staircases. She also did cooking when she was asked,
and needlework when she got any to do. She had made exquisite dresses
which were worn by beautiful young girls at balls and picnics, and fine
white shirts that great gentlemen wore when they were dining, and
fanciful waistcoats for gay young men, and silk stockings for dancing
in--but that was a long time ago, because these beautiful things used to
make her very angry when they were taken from her, so that she cursed the
people who came to take them away, and sometimes tore up the dresses and
danced on them and screamed.

She used often to cry because she was not rich. Sometimes, when she came
home from work, she liked to pretend that she was rich; she would play at
imagining that some one had died and left her a great fortune, or that
her brother Patrick had come back from America with vast wealth, and then
she would tell Mary Makebelieve of the things she intended to buy and do
the very next day. Mary Makebelieve liked that...They were to move the
first thing in the morning to a big house with a garden behind it full of
fruit-trees and flowers and birds. There would be a wide lawn in front of
the house to play lawn-tennis in, and to walk with delicately fine young
men with fair faces and white hands, who would speak in the French
language and bow often with their hats almost touching the ground. There
were to be twelve servants--six of them men servants and six of them
women servants--who would instantly do as they were bidden, and would
receive ten shillings each per week and their board; they would also have
two nights free in the week, and would be very well fed. There were many
wonderful dresses to be bought, dresses for walking in the streets and
dresses for driving in a carriage, and others again for riding on
horseback and for travelling in. There was a dress of crimson silk with a
deep lace collar, and a heavy, wine-coloured satin dress with a gold
chain falling down in front of it, and there was a pretty white dress of
the finest linen, having one red rose pinned at the waist. There were
black silken stockings with quaint designs worked on them in red silk,
and scarves of silver gauze, and others embroidered with flowers and
little shapes of men and women.

When her mother was planning all these things she was very happy, but
afterwards she used to cry bitterly and rock her daughter to and fro on
her breast until she hurt her.



II


Every morning about six o'clock Mary Makebelieve left her bed and lit the
fire. It was an ugly fire to light, because the chimney had never been
swept, and there was no draught. Also, they never had any sticks in the
house, and scraps of paper twisted tightly into balls with the last
night's cinders placed on them and a handful of small coals strewn on the
top were used instead. Sometimes the fire blazed up quickly, and that
made her happy, but at other times it went out three and four, and often
half a dozen times; then the little bottle of paraffin oil had to be
squandered--a few rags well steeped in the oil with a newspaper stretched
over the grate seldom failed to coax enough fire to boil the saucepan of
water; generally this method smoked the water, and then the tea tasted so
so horrid that one only drank it for the sake of economy.

Mrs. Makebelieve liked to lie in bed until the last possible moment. As
there was no table in the room, Mary used to bring the two cups of tea,
the tin of condensed milk, and the quarter of a loaf over to the bed, and
there she and her mother took their breakfast.

From the time she opened her eyes in the morning her mother never ceased
to talk. It was then she went over all the things that had happened on
the previous day, and enumerated the places she would have to go to on
the present day, and the chances for and against the making of a little
money. At this meal she used to arrange also to have the room re-papered
and the chimney swept and the rat-holes stopped up--there were three of
these; one was on the left-hand side of the fire grate, the other two
were under the bed, and Mary Makebelieve had lain awake many a night
listening to the gnawing of teeth on the skirting and the scamper of
little feet here and there on the floor. Her mother further arranged to
have a Turkey carpet placed' on the floor, although she admitted that
oilcloth or linoleum was easier to clean, but they were not so nice to
the feet or the eye. Into all these improvements her daughter entered
with the greatest delight. There was to be a red mahogany chest of
drawers against one wall, and a rosewood piano against the wall opposite;
a fender of shining brass, with brazen furniture, a bright copper kettle
for boiling water in, and an iron pot for cooking potatoes and meat;
there was to be a life-sized picture of Mary over the mantelpiece, and a
picture of her mother near the window in a golden frame, also a picture
of a Newfoundland dog lying in a barrel and a little wee terrier crawling
up to make friends with him, and a picture of a battle between black
people and soldiers.

Her mother knew it was time to get out of bed when she heard a heavy step
coming from the next room and going downstairs. A labouring man lived
there with his wife and six children. When the door banged she jumped up,
dressed quickly, and flew from the room in a panic of haste. Usually
then, as there was nothing to do, Mary went back to bed for another
couple of hours. After this she arose, made the bed and tidied the room,
and went out to walk in the streets, or to sit in the St. Stephen's Green
Park. She knew every bird in the Park, those that had chickens, and those
that had had chickens, and those that never had any chickens at
all--these latter were usually drakes, and had reason on their side for
an abstention which might otherwise have appeared remarkable, but they
did not deserve the pity which Mary lavished on their childishness, nor
the extra pieces of bread with which she sought to recompense them. She
loved to watch the ducklings swimming after their mothers: they were
quite fearless, and would dash to the water's edge where one was standing
and pick up nothing with the greatest eagerness and swallow it with
delight. The mother duck swam placidly close to her brood, and clucked in
a low voice all kinds of warnings and advice and reproof to the little
ones. Mary Makebelieve thought it was very clever of the little ducklings
to be able to swim so well. She loved them, and when nobody was looking
she used to cluck at them like their mother; but she did not often do
this, because she did not know duck language really well, and feared that
her cluck might mean the wrong things, and that she might be giving these
innocents bad advice, and telling them to do something contrary to what
their mother had just directed.

The bridge across the big lake was a fascinating place. On the sunny side
lots of ducks were always standing on their heads searching for something
in the water, so that they looked like only half ducks. On the shady side
hundreds of eels were swimming about--they were most wonderful things;
some of them were thin like ribbons, and others were round and plump like
thick ropes. They never seemed to fight at all, and although the
ducklings were so tiny the big eels never touched any of them, even when
they dived right down amongst them. Some of the eels swam along very
slowly, looking on this side and on that as if they were out of work or
up from the country, and others whizzed by with incredible swiftness.
Mary Makebelieve thought that the latter kind had just heard their babies
crying; she wondered, when a little fish cried, could its mother see the
tears where there was already so much water about, and then she thought
that maybe they cried hard lumps of something that was easily visible.

After this she would go around the flower-beds and look at each; some of
them were shaped like stars, and some were quite round, and others again
were square. She liked the star-shaped flower-beds best, and next she
liked the round ones, and last of all the square. But she loved all the
flowers, and used to make up stories about them.

After that, growing hungry, she would go home for her lunch. She went
home down Grafton Street and O'Connell Street. She always went along the
right-hand side of the street going home, and looked in every shop window
that she passed; and then, when she had eaten her lunch, she came out
again and walked along the left-hand side of the road, looking at the
shops on that side; and so she knew daily everything that was new in the
city, and was able to tell her mother at night time that the black dress
with Spanish lace was taken out of Manning's window, and a red gown with
tucks at the shoulders and Irish lace at the wrists put in its place; or
that the diamond ring in Johnson's marked One Hundred Pounds was gone
from the case, and that a slide of brooches of beaten silver and blue
enamel was there instead.

In the night time her mother and herself went round to each of the
theatres in turn and watched the people going in, and looked at the big
posters. When they went home afterwards they had supper, and used to try
to make out the plots of the various plays from the pictures they had
seen, so that generally they had lots to talk about before they went to
bed. Mary Makebelieve used to talk most in the night time, but her mother
talked most in the morning.



III


Her mother spoke sometimes of matrimony as a thing remote but very
certain: the remoteness of this adventure rather shocked Mary
Makebelieve; she knew that a girl had to get married, that a strange,
beautiful man would come from somewhere looking for a wife, and would
retire again with his bride to that Somewhere which is the country of
Romance. At times (and she could easily picture it) he rode in armour on
a great bay horse, the plume of his helmet trailing among the high leaves
of the forest. Or he came standing on the prow of a swift ship with the
sunlight blazing back from his golden armour. Or on a grassy plain, fleet
as the wind, he came running, leaping, laughing.

When the subject of matrimony was under discussion her mother planned
minutely the person of the groom, his vast accomplishments, and yet
vaster wealth, the magnificence of his person, and the love in which he
was held by rich and poor alike. She also discussed, down to the
smallest detail, the elaborate trousseau she would provide for her
daughter, the extravagant presents the bridegroom would make to his bride
and her maids, and those, yet more costly, which the bridegroom's family
would send to the newly-married pair. All these wonders could only
concentrate in the person of a lord. Mary Makebelieve's questions as to
the status and appurtenances of a lord were searching and minute; her
mother's rejoinders were equally elaborate and particular.

At his birth a lord is cradled in silver; at his death he is laid in a
golden casket, an oaken coffin, and a leaden outer coffin, until,
finally, a massy stone sarcophagus shrouds his remains for ever. His life
is a whirl of gaiety and freedom. Around his castle there spread miles
upon miles of sunny grass lands and ripened orchards and waving forests,
and through these he hunts with his laughing companions or walks gently
with his lady. He has servants by the thousand, each anxious to die for
him, and his wealth, prodigious beyond the computation of avarice, is
stored in underground chambers, whose low, tortuous passages lead to
labyrinths of vaults massy and impregnable.

Mary Makebelieve would have loved to wed a lord. If a lord had come to
her when she paced softly through a forest, or stood alone on the
seashore, or crouched among the long grass of a windy plain, she would
have placed her hands in his and followed him and loved him truly for
ever. But she did not believe that these things happened nowadays, nor
did her mother. Nowadays! her mother looked on these paltry times with an
eye whose scorn was complicated by fury. Mean, ugly days! mean, ugly
lives! and mean, ugly people! said her mother, that's all one can get
nowadays; and then she spoke of the people whose houses she washed out
and whose staircases she scrubbed down, and her old-ivory face flamed
from her black hair, and her deep, dark eyes whirled and became hard and
motionless as points of jet, and her hands jumped alternately into
knuckles and claws.

But it became increasingly evident to Mary Makebelieve that marriage was
not a story but a fact, and, somehow, the romance of it did not drift
away, although the very house wherein she lived was infested by these
conjoints, and the streets wherein she walked were crowded with
undistinguished couples...Those grey--lived, dreary--natured people had a
spark of fire smouldering somewhere in their poor economy. Six feet deep
is scarcely deep enough to bury romance, and until that depth of clay has
clogged our bones the fire can still smoulder and be fanned, and,
perhaps, blaze up and flare across a county or a country to warm the cold
hands of many a shrivelled person.

How did all these people come together? She did not yet understand the
basic necessity that drives the male to the female. Sex was not yet to
her a physiological distinction, it was only a differentiation of
clothing, a matter of whiskers and no whiskers: but she had begun to take
a new and peculiar interest in men. One of these hurrying or loitering
strangers might be the husband whom fate had ordained for her. She would
scarcely have been surprised if one of the men who looked at her casually
in the street had suddenly halted and asked her to marry him. It came on
her with something like assurance that that was the only business these
men were there for; she could not discover any other reason or excuse for
their existence, and if some man had been thus adventurous Mary
Make-believe would have been sadly perplexed to find an answer: she
might, indeed, have replied, "Yes, thank you, sir," for when a man asks
one to do a thing for him one does it gladly. There was an attraction
about young men which she could not understand, something peculiarly dear
and magnetic; she would have liked to shake hands with one to see how
different he felt from a girl. They would, probably, shake hands quite
hard and then hit one. She fancied she would not mind being hit by a man,
and then, watching the vigour of their movements, she thought they could
hit very hard, but still there was a terrible attraction about the idea
of being hit by a man. She asked her mother (with apparent irrelevance),
had a man ever struck her? Her mother was silent for a few moments, and
then burst into so violent a passion of weeping that Mary Makebelieve was
frightened. She rushed into her mother's arms, and was rocked fiercely
against a heart almost bursting with bitter pride and recollection. But
her mother did not then, nor did she ever afterwards, answer Mary
Make-believe's question.



IV


Every afternoon a troop of policemen marched in solemn and majestic
single file from the College Green Police Station. At regular intervals,
one by one, a policeman stepped sideways from the file, adjusted his
belt, touched his moustache, looked up the street and down the street for
stray criminals, and condescended to the duties of his beat.

At the crossing where Nassau and Suffolk Streets intersect Grafton Street
one of these superb creatures was wont to relinquish his companions, and
there in the centre of the road, a monument of solidity and law, he
remained until the evening hour which released him again to the
companionship of his peers.

Perhaps this point is the most interesting place in Dublin. Upon one
vista Grafton Street with its glittering shops stretches, or rather
winds, to the St. Stephen's Green Park, terminating at the gate known as
the Fusiliers' Arch, but which local patriotism has rechristened the
Traitors' Gate. On the left Nassau Street, broad and clean, and a trifle
vulgar and bourgeois in its openness, runs away to Merrion Square, and on
with a broad ease to Blackrock and Kingstown and the sea. On the right
hand Suffolk Street, reserved and shy, twists up to St. Andrew's Church,
touches gingerly the South City Markets, droops to George's Street, and
is lost in mean and dingy intersections. At the back of the crossing
Grafton Street continues again for a little distance down to Trinity
College (at the gates whereof very intelligent young men flaunt very
tattered gowns and smoke massive pipes with great skill for their years),
skirting the Bank of Ireland, and on to the river Liffey and the street
which local patriotism defiantly speaks of as O'Connell Street, and alien
patriotism, with equal defiance and pertinacity, knows as Sackville
Street.

To the point where these places meet, and where the policeman stands, all
the traffic of Dublin converges in a constant stream. The trams hurrying
to Terenure, or Donnybrook, or Dalkey flash around this corner; the
doctors, who, in these degenerate days, concentrate in Merrion Square,
fly up here in carriages and motor-cars; the vans of the great firms in
Grafton and O'Connell Streets, or those outlying, never cease their
exuberant progress. The ladies and gentlemen of leisure stroll here daily
at four o'clock, and from all sides the vehicles and pedestrians, the
bicycles and motor bicycles, the trams and the outside cars rush to the
solitary policeman, who directs them all with his severe but tolerant
eye. He knows all the tram-drivers who go by, and his nicely graduated
wink rewards the glances of the rubicund, jolly drivers of the hackneys
and the decayed jehus with purple faces and dismal hopefulness who drive
sepulchral cabs for some reason which has no acquaintance with profit;
nor are the ladies and gentlemen who saunter past foreign to his
encyclopedic eye. Constantly his great head swings a slow recognition,
constantly his serene finger motions onwards a well-known undesirable,
and his big white teeth flash for an instant at young, laughing girls and
the more matronly acquaintances who solicit the distinction of his
glance.

To this place, and about this hour, Mary Makebelieve, returning from her
solitary lunch, was wont to come. The figure of the massive policeman
fascinated her. Surely everything desirable in manhood was concentrated
in his tremendous body. What an immense, shattering blow that mighty fist
could give! She could imagine it swinging vast as the buffet of an hero,
high-thrown and then down irresistibly--a crashing, monumental hand. She
delighted in his great, solid head as it swung slowly from side to side,
and his calm, proud eye--a governing, compelling, and determined eye. She
had never met his glance yet: she withered away before it as a mouse
withers and shrinks and falls to its den before a cat's huge glare. She
used to look at him from the kerbstone in front of the chemist's shop, or
on the opposite side of the road, while pretending to wait for a tram;
and at the pillar-box beside the optician's she found time for one
furtive twinkle of a glance that shivered to his face and trembled away
into the traffic. She did not think he noticed her; but there was nothing
he did not notice. His business was noticing: he caught her in his mental
policeman's notebook the very first day she came; he saw her each day
beside, and at last looked for her coming and enjoyed her strategy. One
day her shy, creeping glance was caught by his; it held her mesmerised
for a few seconds; it looked down into her--for a moment the whole world
seemed to have become one immense eye--she could scarcely get away from
it.



When she remembered again she was standing by the pond in the St.
Stephen's Green Park, with a queer, frightened exaltation lightening
through her blood. She did not go home that night by Grafton Street--she
did not dare venture within reach of that powerful organism--but went a
long way round, and still the way seemed very short.

That night her mother, although very tired, was the more talkative of the
two. She offered in exchange for her daughter's thoughts pennies that
only existed in her imagination. Mary Makebelieve professed that it was
sleep and not thought obsessed her, and exhibited voucher yawns which
were as fictitious as her reply. When they went to bed that night it was
a long time before she slept. She lay looking into the deep gloom of the
chamber, and scarcely heard the fierce dreams of her mother, who was
demanding from a sleep world the things she lacked in the wide-awake one.



V


This is the appearance was on Mary Makebelieve at that time:--She had
fair hair, and it was very soft and very thick; when she unwound this it
fell, or rather flowed, down to her waist, and when she walked about the
room with her hair unloosened it curved beautifully about her head,
snuggled into the hollow of her neck, ruffled out broadly again upon her
shoulders, and swung into and out of her figure with every motion,
surging and shrinking and dancing; the ends of her hair were soft and
loose as foam, and it had the colour and shining of pure, light gold.
Commonly in the house she wore her hair loose, because her mother liked
the appearance of youth imparted by hanging hair, and would often desire
her daughter to leave off her outer skirt and walk only in her petticoats
to heighten the illusion of girlishness. Her head was shaped very
tenderly and softly; it was so small that when her hair was twisted up it
seemed much too delicate to bear so great a burden. Her eyes were grey,
limpidly tender and shy, drooping under weighty lids, so that they seldom
seemed more than half opened, and commonly sought the ground rather than
the bolder excursions of straightforwardness; they seldom looked for
longer than a glance, climbing and poising and eddying about the person
at whom she gazed, and then dived away again; and always when she looked
at any one she smiled a deprecation of her boldness. She had a small
white face, very like her mother's in some ways and at some angles, but
the tight beak which was her mother's nose was absent in Mary; her nose
withdrew timidly in the centre, and only snatched a hurried courage to
become visible at the tip. It was a nose which seemed to have been
snubbed almost out of existence. Her mother loved it because it was so
little, and had tried so hard not to be a nose at all. They often stood
together before the little glass that had a great crack running drunkenly
from the right-hand top corner down to the left-hand bottom corner, and
two small arm crosses, one a little above the other, in the centre. When
one's face looked into this glass it often appeared there as four faces
with horrible aberrations; an ear might be curving around a lip, or an
eye leering strangely in the middle of a chin. But there were ways of
looking into the glass which practice had discovered, and usage had long
ago dulled the terrors of its vagaries. Looking into this glass, Mrs.
Makebelieve would comment minutely upon the two faces therein, and,
pointing to her own triumphantly genuine nose and the fact that her
husband's nose had been of quite discernible proportions, she would seek
in labyrinths of pedigree for a reason to justify her daughter's lack;
she passed all her sisters in this review, with an army of aunts and
great-aunts, rifling the tombs of grandparents and their remoter blood,
and making long-dead noses to live again. Mary Makebelieve used to lift
her timidly curious eye and smile in deprecation of her nasal
shortcomings, and then her mother would kiss the dejected button and vow
it was the dearest, loveliest bit of a nose that had ever been seen.


"Big noses suit some people," said Mrs. Makebelieve, "but they do not
suit others, and one would not suit you, dearie. They go well with
black-haired people and very tall people, military gentlemen, judges and
apothecaries; but small, fair folk cannot support great noses. I like my
own nose," she continued. "At school, when I was a little girl, the
other girls used to laugh at my nose, but I always liked it, and after a
time other people came to like it also."

Mary Makebelieve had small, slim hands and feet: the palms of her hands
were softer than anything in the world; there were five little, pink
cushions on her palm--beginning at the little finger there was a very
tiny cushion, the next one was bigger, and the next bigger again, until
the largest ended a perfect harmony at the base of her thumb. Her mother
used to kiss these little cushions at times, holding back the finger
belonging to each, and naming it as she touched it. These are the names
of Mary Makebelieve's fingers, beginning with the thumb:--Tom Tumkins,
Willie Winkles, Long Daniel, Bessie Bobtail, and Little Dick-Dick.

Her slight, girlish figure was only beginning to creep to the deeper
contours of womanhood, a half curve here and there, a sudden softness in
the youthful lines, certain angles trembling on the slightest of rolls, a
hint, a suggestion, the shadowy prophecy of circles and half hoops that
could not yet roll: the trip of her movements was troubled sometimes to a
sedater motion.

These things her mother's curiosity was continually recording, sometimes
with happy pride, but oftener in a kind of anger to find that her little
girl was becoming a big girl. If it had been possible she would have
detained her daughter for ever in the physique of a child; she feared the
time when Mary would become too evidently a woman, when all kinds of
equalities would come to hinder her spontaneous and active affection. A
woman might object to be nursed, while a girl would not; Mrs. Makebelieve
feared that objection, and, indeed, Mary, under the stimulus of an
awakening body and a new, strange warmth, was not altogether satisfied by
being nursed or by being the passive participant in these caresses. She
sometimes thought that she would like to take her mother on her own
breast and rock her to and fro, crooning soft made-up words and kissing
the top of a head or the half-hidden curve of a cheek, but she did not
dare to do so for fear her mother would strike her. Her mother was very
jealous on that point; she loved her daughter to kiss her and stroke her
hands and her face, but she never liked her to play at being the mother,
nor had she ever encouraged her daughter in the occupations of a doll.
She was the mother and Mary was the baby, and she could not bear to have
her motherhood hindered even in play.



VI


VI

Although Mary Makebelieve was sixteen years of age she had not yet gone
to work; her mother did not like the idea of her little girl stooping to
the drudgery of the only employment she could have aided her to
obtain--that was, to assist herself in the humble and arduous toil of
charing. She had arranged that Mary was to go into a shop, a drapery
store, or some such other, but that was to be in a sometime which seemed
infinitely remote. "And then, too," said Mrs. Makebelieve, "all kinds of
things may happen in a year or so if we wait. Your uncle Patrick, who
went to America twenty years ago, may come home, and when he does you
will not have to work, dearie, nor will I. Or again, some one going along
the street may take a fancy to you and marry you; things often happen
like that." There were a thousand schemes and accidents which, in her
opinion, might occur to the establishment of her daughter's ease and the
enlargement of her own dignity. And so Mary Makebelieve, when her mother
was at work (which was sometimes every day in the week), had all the day
to loiter in and spend as best she liked. Sometimes she did not go out at
all. She stayed in the top back room sewing or knitting, mending holes in
the sheets or the blankets, or reading books from the Free Library in
Capel Street: but generally she preferred, after the few hours which
served to put the room in order, to go out and walk along the streets,
taking new turnings as often as she fancied, and striking down strange
roads to see the shops and the people.

There were so many people whom she knew by sight; almost daily she saw
these somewhere, and she often followed them for a short distance, with a
feeling of friendship; for the loneliness of the long day often drew down
upon her like a weight, so that even the distant companionship of these
remembered faces that did not know her was comforting.

She wished she could find out who some of them were.--There was a tall
man with a sweeping brown beard, whose heavy overcoat looked as though
it had been put on with a shovel; he wore spectacles, and his eyes were
blue, and always seemed as if they were going to laugh; he, also, looked
into the shops as he went along, and he seemed to know everybody. Every
few paces people would halt and shake his hand, but these people never
spoke, because the big man with the brown beard would instantly burst
into a fury of speech which had no intervals; and when there was no one
with him at all he would talk to himself. On these occasions he did not
see any one, and people had to jump out of his way while he strode
onwards swinging his big head from one side to the other, and with his
eyes fixed on some place a great distance away. Once or twice, in
passing, she heard him singing to himself the most lugubrious song in
the world. There was another--a long, thin, black man--who looked young
and was always smiling secretly to himself; his lips were never still
for a moment, and, passing Mary Makebelieve a few times, she heard him
buzzing like a great bee. He did not stop to shake hands with any one,
and although many people saluted him he took no heed, but strode on,
smiling his secret smile and buzzing serenely. There was a third man
whom she often noticed: his clothing seemed as if it had been put on him
a long time ago and had never been taken off again. He had a long, pale
face, with a dark moustache drooping over a most beautiful mouth. His
eyes were very big and lazy, and did not look quite human; they had a
trick of looking sidewards--a most intimate, personal look. Sometimes he
saw nothing in the world but the pavement, and at other times he saw
everything. He looked at Mary Makebelieve once, and she got a fright;
she had a queer idea that she had known him well hundreds of years
before, and that he remembered her also. She was afraid of that man, but
she liked him because he looked so gentle and so--there was something
else he looked which as yet she could not put a name to, but which her
ancestry remembered dimly. There was a short, fair, pale-faced man, who
looked like the tiredest man in the world. He was often preoccupied, but
not in the singular way the others were. He seemed to be always chewing
the cud of remembrance, and looked at people as if they reminded him of
other people who were dead a long time and whom he thought of but did
not regret. He was a detached man even in a crowd, and carried with him
a cold atmosphere; even his smile was bleak and aloof. Mary Makebelieve
noticed that many people nudged each other as he went by, and then they
would turn and look after him and go away whispering.

These and many others she saw almost daily, and used to look for with a
feeling of friendship. At other times she walked up the long line of
quays sentinelling the Liffey, watching the swift boats of Guinness
puffing down the river, and the thousands of sea-gulls hovering above or
swimming on the dark waters, until she came to the Phoenix Park, where
there was always a cricket or football match being played, or some young
men or girls playing hurley, or children playing tip-and-tig, running
after one another, and dancing and screaming in the sunshine. Her mother
liked very much to go with her to the Phoenix Park on days when there was
no work to be done. Leaving the great, white main road, up which the
bicycles and motor-cars are continually whizzing, a few minutes' walk
brings one to quiet alleys sheltered by trees and groves of hawthorn. In
these passages one can walk for a long time without meeting a person, or
lie on the grass in the shadow of a tree and watch the sunlight beating
down on the green fields and shimmering between the trees. There is a
deep silence to be found here, very strange and beautiful to one fresh
from the city, and it is strange also to look about in the broad sunshine
and see no person near at all, and no movement saving the roll and
folding of the grass, the slow swinging of the branches of the trees, or
the noiseless flight of a bee, a butterfly, or a bird.

These things Mary Makebelieve liked, but her mother would pine for the
dances of the little children, the gallant hurrying of the motor-cars,
and the movement to and fro of the people with gay dresses and coloured
parasols and all the circumstance of holiday.



VII


One morning Mary Makebelieve jumped out of bed and lit the fire. For a
wonder it lit easily: the match was scarcely applied when the flames were
leaping up the black chimney, and this made her feel at ease with the
world. Her mother stayed in bed chatting with something more of gaiety
than usual. It was nearly six o'clock, and the early summer sun was
flooding against the grimy window. The previous evening's post had
brought a postcard for Mrs. Makebelieve, requesting her to call on a Mrs.
O'Connor, who had a house off Harcourt Street. This, of course, meant a
day's work--it also meant a new client.

Mrs. Makebelieve's clients were always new. She could not remain for any
length of time in people's employment without being troubled by the fact
that these folk had houses of their own and were actually employing her
in a menial capacity. She sometimes looked at their black silk aprons in
a way which they never failed to observe with anger, and on their
attempting (as they always termed it) to put her in her proper place, she
would discuss their appearance and morals with such power that they at
once dismissed her from their employment and incited their husbands to
assault her.

Mrs. Makebelieve's mind was exercised in finding out who had recommended
her to this new lady, and in what terms of encomium such recommendation
had been framed. She also debated as to whether it would be wise to ask
for one shilling and ninepence per day instead of the customary one
shilling and sixpence. If the house was a big one she might be required
by this new customer oftener than once a week, and, perhaps, there were
others in the house besides the lady who would find small jobs for her to
do--needlework or messages, or some such which would bring in a little
extra money; for she professed her willingness and ability to undertake
with success any form of work in which a woman could be eminent. In a
house where she had worked she had once been asked by a gentleman who
lodged there to order in two dozen bottles of stout, and, on returning
with the stout, the gentleman had thanked her and given her a shilling.
Incidents parallel to this had kept her faith in humanity green. There
must be plenty of these open-handed gentlemen in houses such as she
worked in, and, perhaps, in Mrs. O'Connor's house there might be more
than one such person. There were stingy people enough, heaven knew,
people who would get one to run messages and almost expect to be paid
themselves for allowing one to work for them. Mrs. Makebelieve
anathematised such skinflints with a vocabulary which was quite equal to
the detailing of their misdeeds; but she refused to dwell on them: they
were not really important in a world where the sun was shining. In the
night time she would again believe in their horrible existences, but
until then the world must be peopled with kindhearted folk. She instanced
many whom she knew, people who had advanced services and effects without
exacting or indeed expecting any return.

When the tea was balanced insecurely on the bed, the two tea-cups on one
side of her legs, the three-quarters of a loaf and the tin of condensed
milk on the other, Mary sat down with great care, and all through the
breakfast her mother culled from her capacious memory a list of
kindnesses of which she had been the recipient or the witness. Mary
supplemented the recital by incidents from her own observation. She had
often seen a man in the street give a penny to an old woman. She had
often seen old women give things to other old women. She knew many people
who never looked for the halfpenny change from a newsboy. Mrs.
Makebelieve applauded the justice of such transactions; they were, she
admitted, the things she would do herself if she were in a position to be
careless; but a person to whom the discovery of her daily bread is a
daily problem, and who can scarcely keep pace with the ever-changing
terms of the problem, is not in a position to be careless.--"Grind,
grind, grind," said Mrs. Makebelieve, "that is life for me, and if I
ceased to grind for an instant ..." she flickered her thin hand into a
nowhere of terror. Her attitude was, that when one had enough one should
give the residue to some one who had not enough. It was her woe, it
stabbed her to the heart, to see desolate people dragging through the
streets, standing to glare through the windows of bakeries and
confectioners' shops, and little children in some of these helpless arms!
Thinking of these, she said that every morsel she ate would choke her
were it not for her own hunger. But maybe, said she, catching a
providential glance of the golden-tinted window, maybe these poor people
were not as poor as they seemed: surely they had ways of collecting a
living which other people did not know anything about. It might be that
they got lots of money from kind-hearted people, and food at hospitable
doors, and here and there clothing and oddments which, if they did not
wear, they knew how to dispose of advantageously. What extremes of ways
and means such people must be acquainted with! No ditch was too low to
rummage in, no rat-hole too hidden to be ravaged; a gate represented
something to be climbed over; an open door was an invitation, a locked
one a challenge. They could dodge under the fences of the law and climb
the barbed wire of morality with equal impunity, and the utmost rigour of
punishment had little terror for those whose hardships could scarcely be
artificially worsened. The stagger of despair, the stricken, helpless
aspect of such people, their gaunt faces and blurred eyes, might
conceivably be their stock-in-trade, the keys wherewith they unlocked
hearts and purses and area doors. It must be so when the sun was shining
and birds were singing across fields not immeasurably distant, and
children in walled gardens romped among fruits and flowers. She would
believe this, for it was the early morning when one must believe, but
when the night time came again she would laugh to scorn such easy
beliefs, she would see the lean ribs of humanity when she undressed
herself.



VIII


After her mother had gone, Mary Make-believe occupied herself settling
the room and performing the various offices which the keeping in order of
even one small room involves. There were pieces of the wallpaper flapping
loosely; these had to be gummed down with strips of stamp-paper. The bed
had to be made, the floor scrubbed, and a miscellany of objects patted
and tapped into order. Her few dresses also had to be gone over for loose
buttons, and the darning of threadbare places was a duty exercising her
constant attention. Her clothing was always made by her mother, whose
needle had once been noted for expertness, and, therefore, fitted more
accurately than is customary in young girls' dresses. The arranging and
rearranging of her beads was a frequent and enjoyable labour. She had
four different necklaces, representing four different pennyworths of
beads purchased at a shop whose merchandise was sold for one penny per
item. One pennyworth of these beads was coloured green, another red, a
third was coloured like pearls, and the fourth was a miscellaneous packet
of many colours. A judicious selection of these beads could always
provide a new and magnificent necklace at the expense of little more than
a half-hour's easy work.

Because the sun was shining she brought out her white dress, and for a
time was busy on it. There had been five tucks in the dress, but one
after one they had to be let out. This was the last tuck that remained,
and it also had to go, but even with such extra lengthening the dress
would still swing free of her ankles. Her mother had promised to add a
false hem to it when she got time, and Mary determined to remind her of
this promise as soon as she came in from work. She polished her shoes,
put on the white dress, and then did up her hair in front of the cracked
looking-glass. She always put up her hair very plainly. She first combed
it down straight, then parted it in the centre, and rolled it into a
great ball at the back of her neck. She often wished to curl her hair,
and, indeed, it would have curled with the lightest persuasion; but her
mother, being approached on the subject, said that curls were common and
were seldom worn by respectable people, excepting very small children or
actresses, both of whose slender mentalities were registered by these
tiny daintinesses. Also, curls took up too much time in arranging, and
the slightest moisture in the air was liable to draw them down into lank
and unsightly plasters, and, therefore, saving for a dance or a picnic,
curls should not be used.

Mary Makebelieve, having arranged her hair, hesitated for some time in
the choice of a necklace. There was the pearl-coloured necklace--it was
very pretty, but every one could tell at once that they were not genuine
pearls. Real pearls of the bigness of these would be very valuable. Also,
there was something childish about pearls which latterly she wished to
avoid. She had quite grown up now. The letting down of the last tuck in
her dress marked an epoch as distinct as did the first rolling up of her
hair. She wished her dress would go right down to her heels so that she
might have a valid reason for holding up her skirts with one hand. She
felt a trifle of impatience because her mother had delayed making the
false hem: she could have stitched it on herself if her mother had cut it
out, but for this day the dress would have to do. She wished she owned a
string of red coral; not that round beady sort, but the jagged crisscross
coral--a string of these long enough to go twice round her neck, and yet
hang down in front to her waist. If she owned a string as long as that
she might be able to cut enough off to make a slender wristlet. She would
have loved to see such a wristlet sagging down to her hand.

Red, it seemed, would have to be the colour for this day, so she took the
red beads out of a box and put them on. They looked very nice against her
white dress, but still--she did not quite like them they seemed too
solid, so she put them back into the box again, and instead tied round
her neck a narrow ribbon of black velvet, which satisfied her better.
Next she put on her hat; it was of straw, and had been washed many times.
There was a broad ribbon of black velvet around it. She wished earnestly
that she had a sash of black velvet about three inches deep to go round
her waist. There was such a piece about the hem of her mother's Sunday
skirt, but, of course, that could not be touched; maybe her mother would
give it to her if she asked. The skirt would look quite as well without
it, and when her mother knew how nice it looked round her waist she would
certainly give it to her.

She gave a last look at herself in the glass and went out, turning up to
the quays in the direction of the Phoenix Park. The sun was shining
gloriously, and the streets seemed wonderfully clean in the sunlight. The
horses under the heavy drays pulled their loads as if they were not
heavy. The big, red-faced drivers leaned back at ease, with their hard
hats pushed back from their foreheads and their eyes puckered at the
sunshine. The tram-cars whizzed by like great jewels. The outside cars
went spanking down the broad road, and every jolly-faced jarvey winked
at her as he jolted by. The people going up and down the street seemed
contented and happy. It was one o'clock, and from all kinds of offices
and shops young men and women were darting forth for their lunch; none
of the young men were so hurried but they had a moment to glance
admiringly at Mary Makebelieve before diving into a cheap restaurant
or cheaper public-house for their food. The gulls in the river were
flying in long, lazy curves, dipping down to the water, skimming it
an instant, and then wheeling up again with easy, slanting wings. Every
few minutes a boat laden with barrels puffed swiftly from beneath a
bridge. All these boats had pretty names--there was the _Shannon_, the
_Suir_, the _Nore_, the _Lagan_, and many others. The men on board sat
contentedly on the barrels and smoked and made slow remarks to one
another; and overhead the sky was blue and wonderful, immeasurably
distant, filled from horizon to horizon with sparkle and warmth. Mary
Makebelieve went slowly on towards the Park. She felt very happy. Now and
then a darker spot flitted through her mind, not at all obscuring, but
toning the brightness of her thoughts to a realisable serenity. She
wished her skirts were long enough to be held up languidly like the lady
walking in front: the hand holding up the skirt had a golden curb-chain
on the wrist which drooped down to the neatly-gloved hand, and between
each link of the chain was set a blue turquoise, and upon this jewel the
sun danced splendidly. Mary Makebelieve wished she had a slender red
coral wristlet; it also would have hung down to her palm and been lovely
in the sunlight, and it would, she thought, have been far nicer than the
bangle.



IX


She walked along for some time in the Park. Through the railings flanking
the great road many beds of flowers could be seen. These were laid out in
a great variety of forms, of stars and squares and crosses and circles,
and the flowers were arranged in exquisite patterns. There was a great
star which flamed with red flowers at the deep points, and in its heart a
heavier mass of yellow blossom glared suddenly. There were circles
wherein each ring was a differently-coloured flower, and others where
three rings alternated--three rings white, three purple, and three
orange, and so on in slenderer circles to the tiniest diminishing. Mary
Makebelieve wished she knew the names of all the flowers, but the only
ones she recognised by sight were the geraniums, some species of roses,
violets, and forget-me-nots and pansies. The more exotic sorts she did
not know, and, while she admired them greatly, she had not the same
degree of affection for them as for the commoner, friendly varieties.

Leaving the big road, she wandered into wider fields. In a few moments
the path was hidden; the outside cars, motor-cars, and bicycles had
vanished as completely as though there were no such things in the world.
Great numbers of children were playing about in distinct bands; each
troop was accompanied by one and sometimes two older people, girls or
women who lay stretched out on the warm grass or leaned against the
tree-trunks reading novelettes, and around them the children whirled and
screamed and laughed. It was a world of waving pinafores and thin,
black-stockinged legs and shrill, sweet voices. In the great spaces the
children's voices had a strangely remote quality; the sweet, high tones
were not such as one heard in the streets or in houses. In a house or a
street these voices thudded upon the air and beat sonorously back again
from the walls, the houses, or the pavements; but out here the slender
sounds sang to a higher tenuity and disappeared out and up and away into
the tree-tops and the clouds and the wide, windy reaches. The little
figures partook also of this diminuendo effect; against the great grassy
curves they seemed smaller than they really were; the trees stirred
hugely above them, the grass waved vast beneath them, and the sky ringed
them in from immensity. Their forms scarcely disturbed the big outline of
nature; their laughter only whispered against the silence, as ineffectual
to disturb that gigantic serenity as a gnat's wing fluttered against a
precipice.

Mary Makebelieve wandered on; a few cows lifted solemnly curious faces as
she passed, and swung their heavy heads behind her. Once or twice half a
dozen deer came trotting from beyond the trees, and were shocked to a
halt on seeing her--a moment's gaze, and away like the wind, bounding in
a delicious freedom. Now a butterfly came twisting on some eccentric
journey--ten wing-beats to the left, twenty to the right, and then back
to the left, or, with a sudden twist, returning on the path which it had
already traversed, jerking carelessly through the sunlight. Across the
sky, very far up, a troop of birds sailed definitely--they knew where
they were going; momently one would detach itself from the others in a
burst of joyous energy and sweep a great circle and back again to its
comrades, and then away, away, away to the skyline.--Ye swift ones!
O, freedom and sweetness! A song falling from the heavens! A lilt through
deep sunshine! Happy wanderers! How fast ye fly and how bravely--up and
up, till the earth has fallen away and the immeasurable heavens and the
deep loneliness of the sunlight and the silence of great spaces receive
you!

Mary Makebelieve came to a tree around which a circular wooden seat had
been placed. Here for a time she sat looking out on the wide fields. Far
away in front the ground rolled down into valleys and up into little
hills, and from the valleys the green heads of trees emerged, and on the
further hills, in slender, distinct silhouette, and in great masses,
entire trees could be seen. Nearer were single trees, each with its
separate shadow and a stream of sunlight flooding between; and everywhere
the greenery of leaves and of grass, and the gold of myriad buttercups,
and multitudes of white daisies.

She had been sitting for some time when a shadow came from behind her.
She watched its lengthening and its queer bobbing motion. When it grew to
its greatest length it ceased to move. She felt that some one had
stopped. From the shape of the shadow she knew it was a man, but being so
close she did not like to look. Then a voice spoke. It was a voice as
deep as the rolling of a sea.

"Hello," said the voice, "what are you doing here all alone, young
lady?"

Mary Makebelieve's heart suddenly spurted to full speed. It seemed to
want more space than her bosom could afford. She looked up. Beside her
stood a prodigious man: one lifted hand curled his moustache, the other
carelessly twirled a long cane. He was dressed in ordinary clothing, but
Mary Makebelieve knew him at once for that great policeman who guided the
traffic at the Grafton Street crossing.



X


The policeman told her wonderful things. He informed her why the Phoenix
Park was called the Phoenix Park. He did not believe there was a phoenix
in the Zoological Gardens, although they probably had every kind of bird
in the world there. It had never struck him, now he came to think of it,
to look definitely for that bird, but he would do so the next time he
went into the Gardens. Perhaps the young lady would allow him (it would
be a much-appreciated privilege) to escort her through the Gardens some
fine day--the following day, for instance...? He rather inclined to the
belief that the phoenix was extinct--that is, died out; and then, again,
when he called to mind the singular habits with which this bird was
credited, he conceived that it had never had a real but only a mythical
existence--that is, it was a makebelieve bird, a kind of fairy tale.

He further informed Mary Makebelieve that this Park was the third largest
in the world, but the most beautiful. His evidence for this statement was
not only the local newspapers, whose opinion might be biased by
patriotism--that is, led away from the exact truth; but in the more
stable testimony of reputable English journals, such as _Answers_ and
_Tit-Bits_ and _Pearson's Weekly_, he found an authoritative and
gratifying confirmation--that is, they agreed. He cited for Mary
Makebelieve's incredulity the exact immensity of the Park in miles, in
yards, and in acres, and the number of head of cattle which could be
accommodated therein if it were to be utilised for grazing--that is,
turned into grass lands; or, if transformed into tillage, the number of
small farmers who would be the proprietors of economic holdings--that is,
a recondite--that is, an abstruse and a difficult scientific and
sociological term.

Mary Makebelieve scarcely dared lift her glance to his face. An
uncontrollable shyness had taken possession of her. Her eyes could not
lift without an effort; they fluttered vainly upwards, but before
reaching any height they flinched aside and drooped again to her lap. The
astounding thought that she was sitting beside a man warmed and
affrighted her blood so that it rushed burningly to her cheeks and went
shuddering back again coldly. Her downcast eyes were almost mesmerised by
the huge tweed-clad knees which towered like monoliths beside her. They
rose much higher than her knees did, and extended far out more than a
foot and a half beyond her own modest stretch. Her knees slanted gently
downwards as she sat, but his jagged straitly forward, like the immovable
knees of a god which she had seen once in the Museum. On one of these
great knees an equally great hand rested. Automatically she placed her
own hand on her lap and, awe-stricken, tried to measure the difference.
Her hand was very tiny and as white as snow; it seemed so light that the
breathing of a wind might have fluttered it. The wrist was slender and
delicate, and through its milky covering faint blue veins glimmered. A
sudden and passionate wish came to her as she watched her wrist. She
wished she had a red coral bracelet on it, or a chain of silver beaten
into flat discs, or even two twists of little green beads. The hand that
rested on the neighbouring knee was bigger by three times than her own,
the skin on it was tanned to the colour of ripe mahogany-wood, and the
heat of the day had caused great purple veins to grow in knots and ridges
across the back and running in big twists down to the wrists. The
specific gravity of that hand seemed tremendous; she could imagine it
holding down the strong neck of a bull. It moved continually while he
spoke to her, closing in a tense strong grip that changed the mahogany
colour to a dull whiteness, and opening again to a ponderous, inert
width.

She was ashamed that she could find nothing to say. Her vocabulary had
suddenly and miserably diminished to a "yes" and "no," only tolerably
varied by a timid "indeed" and "I did not know that." Against the easy
clamour of his speech she could find nothing to oppose, and ordinarily
her tongue tripped and eddied and veered as easily and nonchalantly as a
feather in a wind. But he did not mind silence. He interpreted it rightly
as the natural homage of a girl to a policeman. He liked this homage
because it helped him to feel as big as he looked, and he had every
belief in his ability to conduct a polite and interesting conversation
with any lady for an indefinite time.

After a while Mary Makebelieve arose and was about bidding him a timid
good-bye. She wished to go away to her own little room where she could
look at herself and ask herself questions. She wanted to visualise
herself sitting under a tree beside a man. She knew that she could
reconstruct him to the smallest detail, but feared that she might not be
able to reconstruct herself. When she arose he also stood up, and fell so
naturally into step beside her that there was nothing to do but to walk
straight on. He still withstood the burden of conversation easily and
pleasantly and very learnedly. He discussed matters of high political and
social moment, explaining generously the more unusual and learned words
which bristled from his vocabulary. Soon they came to a more populous
part of the Park. The children ceased from their play to gaze round-eyed
at the little girl and the big man; their attendants looked and giggled
and envied. Under these eyes Mary Makebelieve's walk became afflicted
with a sideward bias which jolted her against her companion. She was
furious with herself and ashamed. She set her teeth to walk easily and
straightly, but constantly the jog of his elbow on her shoulder or the
swing of his hand against her blouse sent her ambling wretchedly
arm's-length from him. When this had occurred half a dozen times she
could have plumped down on the grass and wept loudly and without
restraint. At the Park gate she stopped suddenly and, with the courage of
despair, bade him good-bye. He begged courteously to be allowed to see
her a little way to her home, but she would not permit it, and so he
lifted his hat to her. (Through her distress she could still note in a
subterranean and half-conscious fashion the fact that this was the first
time a man had ever uncovered before her.) As she went away down the road
she felt that his eyes were following her, and her tripping walk hurried
almost to a run. She wished frantically that her dress was longer than it
was--that false hem! If she could have gathered a skirt in her hand, the
mere holding on to something would have given her self-possession, but
she feared he was looking critically at her short skirt and immodest
ankles.

He stood for a time gazing after her with a smile on his great face. He
knew that she knew he was watching, and as he stood he drew his hand from
his pocket and tapped and smoothed his moustache. He had a red moustache;
it grew very thickly, but was cropped short and square, and its fibre was
so strong that it stood out above his lip like wire. One expected it to
crackle when he touched it, but it never did.



XI


When Mrs. Makebelieve came home that night she seemed very tired, and
complained that her work at Mrs. O'Connor's house was arduous beyond any
which she had yet engaged in. She enumerated the many rooms that were in
the house: those that were covered with carpets, the margins whereof had
to be beeswaxed; those others, only partially covered with rugs, which
had to be entirely waxed; the upper rooms were uncarpeted and unrugged,
and had, therefore, to be scrubbed; the basement, consisting of two
red-flagged kitchens and a scullery, had also to be scoured out. The lady
was very particular about the scouring of wainscotings and doors. The
upper part of the staircase was bare and had to be scrubbed down, and the
part down to the hall had a thin strip of carpet on it secured by brazen
rods; the margins on either side of this carpet had to be beeswaxed and
the brass rods polished. There was a great deal of unnecessary and
vexatious brass of one kind or another scattered about the house, and as
there were four children in the family, besides Mrs. O'Connor and her
two, sisters, the amount of washing which had constantly to be done was
enormous and terrifying.

During their tea Mrs. Makebelieve called to mind the different ornaments
which stood on the parlour mantelpiece and on the top of the piano..
There was a china shepherdess with a basket of flowers at one end of the
mantelpiece and an exact duplicate on the other. In the centre a big
clock of speckled marble was surmounted by a little domed edifice with
Corinthian pillars in front, and this again was topped by the figure of
an archer with a bent bow--there was nothing on top of this figure
because there was not any room. Between each of these articles there
stood little framed photographs of members of Mrs. O'Connor's family, and
behind all there was a carved looking-glass with bevelled edges having
many shelves. Each shelf had a cup or a saucer or a china bowl on it. On
the left-hand side of the fireplace there was a plaque whereon a young
lady dressed in a sky-blue robe crossed by means of well-defined
stepping-stones a thin but furious stream; the middle distance was
embellished by a cow, and the horizon sustained two white lambs, a brown
dog, a fountain, and a sun-dial. On the right-hand side a young gentleman
clad in a crimson coat and yellow knee-breeches carried a three-cornered
hat under his arm, and he also crossed a stream which seemed the exact
counterpart of the other one and whose perspective was similarly
complicated. There were three pictures on each wall--nine in all: three
of these were pictures of ships; three were pictures of battles; two
portrayed saintly but emaciated personages sitting in peculiarly
disheartening wildernesses (each wilderness contained one cactus plant
and a camel). One of these personages stared fixedly at a skull; the
other personage looked with intense firmness away from a lady of scant
charms in a white and all-too-insufficient robe: above the robe a segment
of the lady's bosom was hinted at bashfully--it was probably this the
personage looked firmly away from. The remaining picture showed a little
girl seated in a big arm-chair and reading with profound culture the most
massive of Bibles: she had her grandmother's mutch cap and spectacles on,
and looked very sweet and solemn; a doll sat bolt upright beside her,
and on the floor a kitten hunted a ball of wool with great earnestness.

All these things Mrs. Makebelieve discussed to her daughter, as also of
the carpet which might have been woven in Turkey or elsewhere, the
sideboard that possibly was not mahogany, and the chairs and occasional
tables whose legs had attained to rickets through convulsions; the
curtains of cream-coloured lace which were reinforced by rep hangings and
guarded shutters from Venice, also the deer's head which stood on a shelf
over the door and was probably shot by a member of the family in a dream,
and the splendid silver tankards which flanked this trophy and were
possibly made of tin.

Mrs. Makebelieve further spoke of the personal characteristics of the
householder with an asperity which was still restrained. She had a hairy
chin, said Mrs. Makebelieve: she had buck teeth and a solid smile, and
was given to telling people who knew their business how things ought to
be done. Beyond this she would not say anything--The amount of soap the
lady allowed to wash out five rooms and a lengthy staircase was not as
generous as one was accustomed to, but, possibly, she was well-meaning
enough when one came to know her better.

Mary Makebelieve, apropos of nothing, asked her mother did she ever know
a girl who got married to a policeman, and did she think that policemen
were good men?

Her mother replied that policemen were greatly sought after as husbands
for several reasons--firstly, they were big men, and big men are always
good to look upon; secondly, their social standing was very high and
their respectability undoubted; thirdly, a policeman's pay was such as
would bring comfort to any household which was not needlessly and
criminally extravagant, and this was often supplemented in a variety of
ways which rumour only hinted at (there was also the safe prospect of a
pension and the possibility of a sergeantship, where the emoluments were
very great); and fourthly, a policeman, being subjected for many years to
a rigorous discipline, would likely make a nice and obedient husband.
Personally Mrs. Makebelieve did not admire policemen--they thought too
much of themselves, and their continual pursuit of and intercourse with
criminals tended to deteriorate their moral tone; also, being much
admired by a certain type of woman, their morals were subjected to so
continuous an assault that the wife of such a one would be worn to a
shadow in striving to preserve her husband from designing and persistent
females.

Mary Makebelieve said she thought it would be nice to have other women
dying for love of one's husband, but her mother opposed this with the
reflection that such people did not die for love at all--they were merely
anxious to gratify a foolish and excessive pride, or to inflict pain on
respectable married women. On the whole, a policeman was not an ideal
person to marry. The hours at which he came home were liable to constant
and vexatious changes, so that there was a continual feeling of
insecurity, which was bad for housekeeping; and if one had not stability
in one's home all discipline and all real home life was at an end. There
was this to be said for them--that they all loved little children. But,
all things considered, a clerk made a better husband: his hours were
regular, and knowing where he was at any moment, one's mind was at ease.

Mary Makebelieve was burning to tell some one of her adventure during the
day, but although she had never before kept a secret from her mother she
was unable to tell her this one. Something--perhaps the mere difference
of age, and also a kind of shyness--kept her silent. She wished she knew
a nice girl of her own age, or even a little younger, to whose enraptured
ear she might have confided her story. They would have hugged each other
during the recital, and she would have been able to enlarge upon an
hundred trivialities of moustache and hair and eyes, the wonder of which
older minds can seldom appreciate.

Her mother said she did not feel at all well. She did not know what was
the matter with her, but she was more tired than she could remember being
for a long time. There was a dull aching in all her bones, a coldness in
her limbs, and when she pressed her hair backwards it hurt her head; so
she went to bed much earlier than was usual. But long after her regular
time for sleep had passed Mary Makebelieve crouched on the floor before
the few warm coals. She was looking into the redness, seeing visions of
rapture, strange things which could not possibly be true; but these
visions warmed her blood and lifted her heart on light and tremulous
wings; there was a singing in her ears to which she could never be tired
listening.



XII


Mrs. Makebelieve felt much better the next morning after the extra sleep
which she had. She still confessed to a slight pain in her scalp when she
brushed her hair, and was a little languid, but not so much as to call
for complaint. She sat up in bed while her daughter prepared the
breakfast, and her tongue sped as rapidly as heretofore. She said she had
a sort of feeling that her brother Patrick must come back from America
some time, and she was sure that when he did return he would lose no time
in finding out his relatives and sharing with them the wealth which he
had amassed in that rich country. She had memories of his generosity even
as a mere infant, when he would always say "no" if only half a potato
remained in the dish or a solitary slice of bread was on the platter. She
delighted to talk of his good looks and high spirits and of the amazingly
funny things he had said and done. There was always, of course, the
chance that Patrick had got married and settled down in America, and, if
so, that would account for so prolonged a silence. Wives always came
between a man and his friends, and this woman would do all she could to
prevent Patrick benefiting his own sister and her child. Even in Ireland
there were people like that, and the more one heard of America the less
one knew what to expect from the strange people who were native to that
place. She had often thought she would like to go out there herself, and,
indeed, if she had a little money she would think nothing of packing up
her things to-morrow and setting out for the States. There were fine
livings to be made there, and women were greatly in request, both as
servants and wives. It was well known, too, that the Americans loved
Irish people, and so there would be no difficulty at all in getting a
start. The more she thought of Mrs. O'Connor, the more favourably she
pondered on emigration. She would say nothing against Mrs. O'Connor yet,
but the fact remained that she had a wen on her cheek and buck teeth.
Either of these afflictions taken separately was excusable, but together
she fancied they betoken a bad, sour nature; but maybe the woman was to
be pitied: she might be a nice person in herself, but, then, there was
the matter of the soap, and she was very fond of giving unnecessary
orders. However, time would show, and, clients being as scarce as they
were, one could not quarrel with one's bread and butter.

The opening of a door and the stamping downstairs of heavy feet shot Mrs.
Makebelieve from her bed and into her clothing with furious speed. Within
five minutes she was dressed, and after kissing her daughter three times
she fled down the stairs and away to her business.

Mary had obtained her mother's consent to do as she pleased with the
piece of black velvet on the hem of her Sunday skirt, so she passed some
time in ripping this off and cleaning it. It would not come as fresh as
she desired, and there were some parts of it frayed and rubbed so that
the velvet was nearly lost, but other portions were quite good, and by
cutting out the worn parts and neatly joining the good pieces she at last
evolved a quite passable sash. Having the sash ready, she dressed herself
to see how it looked, and was delighted. Then, becoming dissatisfied with
the severe method of doing her hair, she manipulated it gently for a few
minutes until a curl depended by both ears and two or three very tiny
ones fluttered above her forehead. She put on her hat and stole out,
walking very gently for fear any of the other people in the house would
peep through their doors as she went by. Walk as gently as she could,
these bare, solid stairs rang loudly to each footfall, and so she ended
in a rush and was out and away without daring to look if she was
observed. She had a sort of guilty feeling as she walked, which she tried
to allay by saying very definitely that she was not doing anything wrong.
She said to herself with determined candour that she would walk up to the
St. Stephen's Green Park and look at the ducks and the flower-beds and
the eels, but when she reached the quays she blushed deeply, and turning
towards the right, went rapidly in the direction of the Phoenix Park. She
told herself that she was not going in there, but would merely take a
walk by the river, cross at Island Bridge, and go back on the opposite
side of the Liffey to the Green. But when she saw the broad sunlit road
gleaming through the big gates she thought she would go for a little way
up there to look at the flowers behind the railings. As she went in a
great figure came from behind the newspaper kiosk outside the gates and
followed Mary up the road. When she paused to look at the flowers the
great figure halted also, and when she went on again it followed. Mary
walked past the Gough Statue and turned away into the fields and the
trees, and here the figure lengthened its stride. In the middle of the
field a big shadow bobbed past her shoulder, and she walked on holding
her breath and watching the shadow growing by queer forward jerks. In a
moment the dull beat of feet on grass banished all thought of the shadow,
and then there came a cheerful voice in her ears, and the big policeman
was standing by her side. For a few moments they were stationary, making
salutation and excuse and explanation, and then they walked slowly on
through the sunshine. Wherever there was a bush there were flowers on it.
Every tree was thronged with birds that sang shrilly and sweetly in
sudden thrills and clear sustained melodies, but in the open spaces the
silence was more wonderful; there was no bird note to come between Mary
and that deep voice, no shadow of a tree to swallow up their own two
shadows; and the sunlight was so mildly warm, the air was so sweet and
pure, and the little wind that hushed by from the mountains was a tender
and a peaceful wind.



XIII


After that day Mary Makebelieve met her new friend frequently. Somehow,
wherever she went, he was not far away; he seemed to spring out of
space--one moment she was alone watching the people passing and the
hurrying cars and the thronged and splendid shop windows, and then a big
voice was booming down to her and a big form was pacing deliberately by
her side. Twice he took her into a restaurant and gave her lunch. She had
never been in a restaurant before, and it seemed to her like a place in
fairyland. The semi-darkness of the retired rooms faintly coloured by
tiny electric lights, the beautifully clean tables and the strange foods,
the neatly dressed waitresses with quick, deft movements and gravely
attentive faces--these things thrilled her. She noticed that the girls in
the restaurant, in spite of their gravity and industry, observed both
herself and the big man with the minutest inspection, and she felt that
they all envied her the attentions of so superb a companion. In the
street also she found that many people looked at them, but, listening to
his constant and easy speech, she could not give these people the
attention they deserved.

When they did not go to the Park they sought the most reserved streets or
walked out to the confines of the town and up by the river Dodder. There
are exquisitely beautiful places along the side of the Dodder: shy little
harbours and backwaters, and now and then a miniature waterfall or a
broad, placid reach upon which the sun beats down like silver. Along the
river-bank the grass grows rank and wildly luxurious, and at this season,
warmed by the sun, it was a splendid place to sit. She thought she could
sit there for ever watching the shining river and listening to the great
voice by her side.

He told her many things about himself and about his comrades--those
equally huge men. She could see them walking with slow vigour through
their barrack-yard, falling in for exercise or gymnastics or for school.
She wondered what they were taught, and who had sufficient impertinence
to teach giants, and were they ever slapped for not knowing their
lessons? He told her of his daily work, the hours when he was on and off
duty, the hours when he rose in the morning and when he went to bed. He
told her of night duty, and drew a picture of the blank deserted streets
which thrilled and frightened her...the tense darkness, and how through
the silence the sound of a footstep was magnified a thousand-fold,
ringing down the desolate pathways away and away to the smallest shrill
distinctness; and she saw also the alleys and lane-ways hooded in
blackness, and the one or two human fragments who drifted aimless and
frantic along the lonely streets, striving to walk easily for fear of
their own thundering footsteps, cowering in the vastness of the city,
dwarfed and shivering beside the gaunt houses; the thousands upon
thousands of black houses, each deadly silent, each seeming to wait and
listen for the morning, and each teeming with men and women who slept in
peace because he was walking up and down outside, flashing his lantern on
shop windows, and feeling doors to see if they were by any chance open.
Now and again a step from a great distance would tap-tap-tap, a far-off
delicacy of sound, and either die away down echoing side streets or come
clanking on to where he stood, growing louder and clearer and more
resonant, ringing again and again in doubled and trebled echoes; while
he, standing far back in a doorway, watched to see who was abroad at the
dead of night--and then that person went away on his strange errand, his
footsteps trampling down immense distances, till the last echo and the
last faint tremble of his feet eddied into the stillness. Now and again a
cat dodged gingerly along a railing, or a strayed dog slunk fearfully
down the pathway, nosing everywhere in and out of the lamplight, silent
and hungry and desperately eager. He told her stories also, wonderful
tales of great fights and cunning tricks, of men and women whose whole
lives were tricks, of people who did not know how to live except by theft
and violence; people who were born by stealth, who ate by subterfuge,
drank by dodges, got married in attics, and slid into death by strange,
subterranean passages. He told her the story of the Two Hungry Men, and
of The Sailor who had been Robbed, and a funny tale about the Barber who
had Two Mothers. He also told her the stories of The Eight Tinkers and of
the Old Women who Steal Fish at Night-time, and the story of The Man he
Let Off, and he told her a terrible story of how he fought five men in a
little room, and he showed her a great livid scar hidden by his cap, and
the marks in his neck where he had been stabbed with a jagged bottle, and
his wrist which an Italian madman had thrust through and through with a
dagger.

But though he was always talking, he was not always talking of himself.
Through his conversation there ran a succession of queries--tiny, slender
questions which ran out of his stories and into her life--questions so
skilful and natural and spontaneous that only a girl could discover the
curiosity which prompted them. He wanted her name, her address, her
mother's name, her father's name; had she other relatives, did she go to
work yet, what was her religion, was it a long time since she left
school, and what was her mother's business? To all of these Mary
Makebelieve answered with glad candour. She saw each question coming, and
the personal curiosity lying behind it she divined and was glad of. She
would have loved to ask him personal and intimate questions about his
parents, his brothers and sisters, and what he said when he said his
prayers, and had he walked with other girls, and, if so, what had he said
to them, and what did he really and truly think of her? Her curiosity on
all these points was abundant and eager, but she did not dare to even
hint a question.

One of the queries often touched upon by him she eluded--she shrank from
it with something like terror--it was, "What was her mother's business?"
She could not bear to say that her mother was a charwoman. It did not
seem fitting. She suddenly hated and was ashamed of this occupation. It
took on an aspect of incredible baseness. It seemed to be the meanest
employment wherein any one could be engaged; and so when the question,
conveyed in a variety of ways, had to be answered it was answered with
reservations--Mary Makebelieve told him a lie. She said her mother was a
dressmaker.



XIV


One night when Mrs. Makebelieve came home she was very low-spirited
indeed. She complained once more of a headache and of a languor which she
could not account for. She said it gave her all the trouble in the world
to lift a bucket. It was not exactly that she could not lift a bucket,
but that she could scarcely close her mind down to the fact that a bucket
had to be lifted. Some spring of willingness seemed to be temporarily
absent. To close her two hands on a floor-cloth and twist it into a
spiral in order to wring it thoroughly was a thing which she found
herself imagining she could do if she liked, but had not the least wish
to do. These duties, even when she was engaged in them, had a curious
quality of remoteness. The bucket into which her hand had been plunged a
moment before seemed somehow incredibly distant. To lift the soap lying
beside the bucket one would require an arm of more than human reach, and
having washed, or rather dabbed, at a square of flooring, it was a matter
of grave concern how to reach the unwashed part just beyond without
moving herself. This languor alarmed her. The pain in her head, while it
was severe, did not really matter. Every one had pains and aches, sores
and sprains, but this unknown weariness and disinclination for the very
slightest exertion gave her a fright.

Mary tempted her to come out and watch the people going into the Gaiety
Theatre. She said a certain actor was playing whom all the women of
Dublin make pilgrimages, even from distant places, to look at; and by
going at once they might be in time to see him arriving in a motor-car at
the stage door, when they could have a good look at him getting out of
the car and going into the theatre. At these tidings Mrs. Makebelieve
roused for a moment from her strange apathy. Since tea-time she had sat
(not as usual upright and gesticulating, but humped up and flaccid)
staring at a blob of condensed milk on the outside of the tin. She said
she thought she would go out and see the great actor, although what all
the women saw in him to go mad about she did not know, but in another
moment she settled back to her humped-up position and restored her gaze
to the condensed milk tin. With a little trouble Mary got her to bed,
where, after being hugged for one moment, she went swiftly and soundly to
sleep.

Mary was troubled because of her mother's illness, but, as it is always
difficult to believe in the serious illness of another person until death
has demonstrated its gravity, she soon dismissed the matter from her
mind. This was the more easily done because her mind was teeming with
impressions and pictures and scraps of dialogue.

As her mother was sleeping peacefully, Mary put on her hat and went out.
She wanted, in her then state of mind, to walk in the solitude which can
only be found in crowded places, and also she wanted some kind of
distraction. Her days had lately been so filled with adventure that the
placid immobility of the top back room was not only irksome but
maddening, and her mother's hasty and troubled breathing came between her
and her thoughts. The poor furniture of the room was hideous to her eyes;
the uncarpeted floor and bleak, stained walls dulled her.

She went out, and in a few moments was part of the crowd which passes and
repasses nightly from the Rotunda up the broad pathways of Sackville
Street, across O'Connell Bridge, up Westmoreland Street, past Trinity
College, and on through the brilliant lights of Grafton Street to the
Fusiliers' Arch at the entrance to St. Stephen's Green Park. Here from
half-past seven o'clock in the evening youthful Dublin marches in joyous
procession. Sometimes bevies of young girls dance by, each a giggle
incarnate. A little distance behind these a troop of young men follow
stealthily and critically. They will be acquainted and more or less
happily paired before the Bridge is reached. But generally the movement
is in couples. Appointments, dating from the previous night, have filled
the streets with happy and careless boys and girls--they are not exactly
courting, they are enjoying the excitement of fresh acquaintance; old
conversation is here poured into new bottles, old jokes have the
freshness of infancy, every one is animated, and polite to no one but his
partner; the people they meet and pass and those who overtake and pass
them are all subjects for their wit and scorn, while they, in turn,
furnish a moment's amusement and conversation to each succeeding couple.
Constantly there are stoppages when very high-bred introductions result
in a re-distribution of the youngsters. As they move apart the words
"To-morrow night," or "Thursday," or "Friday" are called laughingly
back, showing that the late partner is not to be lost sight of utterly;
and then the procession begins anew.

Among these folk Mary Makebelieve passed rapidly. She knew that if she
walked slowly some partially--elaborate gentleman would ask suddenly what
she had been doing with herself since last Thursday, and would introduce
her as Kate Ellen to six precisely similar young gentlemen, who smiled
blandly in a semicircle six feet distant. This had happened to her once
before, and as she fled the six young gentlemen had roared "Bow, wow,
wow" after her, while the seventh mewed earnestly and with noise.

She stood for a time watching the people thronging into the Gaiety
Theatre. Some came in motor-cars, others in carriages. Many hearse-like
cabs deposited weighty and respectable solemnities under the glass-roofed
vestibule. Swift outside cars buzzed on rubber tyres with gentlemen clad
in evening dress, and ladies whose silken wraps blew gently from their
shoulders, and, in addition, a constant pedestrian stream surged along
the pathway. From the shelter of an opposite doorway Mary watched these
gaily animated people. She envied them all innocently enough, and
wondered would the big policeman ever ask her to go to the theatre with
him, and if he did, would her mother let her go. She thought her mother
would refuse, but was dimly certain that in some way she would manage to
get out if such a delightful invitation were given her. She was dreaming
of the alterations she would make in her best frock in anticipation of
such a treat when, half-consciously, she saw a big figure appear round
the corner of Grafton Street and walk towards the theatre. It was he, and
her heart jumped with delight. She prayed that he would not see her, and
then she prayed that he would, and then, with a sudden, sickening
coldness, she saw that he was not alone. A young, plump, rosycheeked girl
was at his side. As they came nearer the girl put her arm into his and
said something. He bent down to her and replied, and she flashed a laugh
up at him. There was a swift interchange of sentences, and they both
laughed together; then they disappeared into the half-crown door.

Mary shrank back into the shadow of the doorway. She had a strange notion
that everybody was trying to look at her, and that they were all laughing
maliciously. After a few moments she stepped out on the path and walked
homewards quickly. She did not hear the noises of the streets, nor see
the promenading crowds. Her face was bent down as she walked, and beneath
the big brim of her straw hat her eyes were blinded with the bitterest
tears she had ever shed.



XV


Next morning her mother was no better. She made no attempt to get out of
bed, and listened with absolute indifference when the morning feet of the
next-door man pounded the stairs. Mary awakened her again and again, but
each time, after saying "All right, dearie," she relapsed to a slumber
which was more torpor than sleep. Her yellow, old-ivory face was faintly
tinged with colour; her thin lips were relaxed, and seemed a trifle
fuller, so that Mary thought she looked better in sickness than in
health; but the limp arm lying on the patchwork quilt seemed to be more
skinny than thin, and the hand was more waxen and claw-like than
heretofore.

Mary laid the breakfast on the bed as usual, and, again awakened her
mother, who, after staring into vacancy for a few moments, forced herself
to her elbow, and then, with sudden determination, sat up in the bed and
bent her mind inflexibly on her breakfast. She drank two cups of tea
greedily, but the bread had no taste in her mouth, and after swallowing a
morsel she laid it aside.

"I don't know what's up with me at all, at all," said she.

"Maybe it's a cold, mother," replied Mary.

"Do I look bad, now?"

Mary scrutinised her narrowly.

"No," she answered; "your face is redder than it does be, and your eyes
are shiny. I think you look splendid and well. What way do you feel?"

"I don't feel at all, except that I'm sleepy. Give me the glass in my
hand, dearie, till I see what I'm like."

Mary took the glass from the wall and handed it to her.

"I don't look bad at all. A bit of colour always suited me. Look at my
tongue, though, it's very, very dirty; it's a bad tongue altogether. My
mother had a tongue like that, Mary, when she died."

"Have you any pain?" said her daughter.

"No, dearie; there is a buzz in the front of my head as if something was
spinning round and round very quickly, and that makes my eyes tired, and
there's a sort of feeling as if my head was twice as heavy as it should
be. Hang up the glass again. I'll try and get a sleep, and maybe I'll be
better when I waken up. Run you out and get a bit of steak, and we'll
stew it down and make beef-tea, and maybe that will do me good. Give me
my purse out of the pocket of my skirt."

Mary found the purse and brought it to the bed. Her mother opened it and
brought out a thimble, a bootlace, five buttons, one sixpenny piece and a
penny. She gave Mary the sixpence.

"Get half a pound of leg beef," said she, "and then we'll have fourpence
left for bread and tea: no, take the other penny, too, and get half a
pound of pieces at the butcher's for twopence, and a twopenny tin of
condensed milk, that's fourpence; and a three-ha'penny loaf and one penny
for tea, that's sixpence ha'penny; and get onions with the odd ha'penny,
and we'll put them in the beef-tea. Don't forget, dearie, to pick lean
bits of meat; them fellows do be always trying to stick bits of bone and
gristle on a body. Tell him it's for beef-tea for your mother, and that
I'm not well at all, and ask how Mrs. Quinn is; she hasn't been down in
the shop for a long time. I'll go to sleep now. I'll have to go to work
in the morning whatever happens, because there isn't any money in the
house at all. Come home as quick as you can, dearie."

Mary dressed herself and went out for the provisions, but she did not buy
them at once. As she went down the street she turned suddenly, clasping
her hands in a desperate movement, and walked very quickly in the
opposite direction. She turned up the side streets to the quays, and
along these to the Park gates. Her hands were clasping and unclasping in
an agony of impatience, and her eyes roved busily here and there, flying
among the few pedestrians like lanterns. She went through the gates and
up the broad central path, and here 'she walked more slowly: but she did
not see the flowers behind the railings, or even the sunshine that bathed
the world in glory. At the monument she sped a furtive glance down the
road she had travelled--there was nobody behind her. She turned into the
fields, walking under trees which she did not see, and up hills and down
valleys without noticing the incline of either. At times, through the
tatter of her mind there blazed a memory of her mother lying sick at
home, waiting for her daughter to return with food, and at such memories
she gripped her hands together frightfully and banished the thought.--A
moment's reflection and she could have hated her mother.

It was nearly five o'clock before she left the Park. She walked in a fog
of depression. For hours she had gone hither and thither in the
well-remembered circle, every step becoming more wayward and aimless. The
sun had disappeared, and a grey evening bowed down upon the fields; the
little wind that whispered along the grass or swung the light branches of
the trees had a bleak edge to it. As she left the big gates she was
chilled through and through, but the memory of her mother now set her
running homewards. For the time she forgot her quest among the trees, and
thought only, with shame and fear, of what her mother would say, and of
the reproachful, amazed eyes which would be turned on her when she went
in. What could she say? She could not imagine anything. How could she
justify a neglect which must appear gratuitous, cold-blooded,
inexplicable?

When she had brought the food and climbed the resonant stairs she stood
outside the door crying softly to herself. She hated to open the door.
She could imagine her mother sitting up in the bed dazed and unbelieving,
angry and frightened, imagining accidents and terrors, and when she would
go in...She had an impulse to open the door gently, leave the food just
inside, and run down the stairs out into the world anywhere and never
come back again. At last in desperation she turned the handle and stepped
inside. Her face flamed; the blood burned her eyes physically so that she
could not see through them. She did not look at the bed, but went direct
to the fireplace, and with a dogged patience began mending the fire.
After a few stubborn moments she twisted violently to face whatever might
come, ready to break into angry reproaches and impertinences; but her
mother was lying very still. She was fast asleep, and a weight, an
absolutely real pressure, was lifted from Mary's heart. Her fingers flew
about the preparation of the beef-tea. She forgot the man whom she had
gone to meet. Her arms were tired and hungry to close around her mother.
She wanted to whisper little childish words to her, to rock her to and
fro on her breast, and croon little songs and kiss her and pat her face.



XVI


Her mother did not get better. Indeed, she got worse. In addition to the
lassitude of which she had complained, she suffered also from great heat
and great cold, and, furthermore, sharp pains darted so swiftly through
her brows that at times she was both dizzy and sightless. A twirling
movement in her head prevented her from standing up. Her centre of
gravity seemed destroyed, for when she did stand and attempted to walk
she had a strange bearing away on one side, so that on striving to walk
towards the door she veered irresistibly at least four feet to the
left-hand side of that point. Mary Makebelieve helped her back to bed,
where she lay for a time watching horizontal lines spinning violently in
front of her face, and these lines after a time crossed and recrossed
each other in so mazy and intricate a pattern that she became violently
sick from the mere looking at them.

All of these things she described to her daughter, tracing the queer
patterns which were spinning about her with such fidelity that Mary was
almost able to see them. She also theorised about the cause and ultimate
effect of these symptoms, and explained the degrees of heat and cold
which burned or chilled her, and the growth of a pain to its exquisite
startling apex, its subsequent slow recession, and the thud of an
india-rubber hammer which ensued when the pain had ebbed to its easiest
level. It did not occur to either of them to send for a doctor. Doctors
in such cases are seldom sent for, seldom even thought of. One falls sick
according to some severely definite, implacable law with which it is
foolish to quarrel, and one gets well again for no other reason than that
it is impossible to be sick for ever. As the night struggles slowly into
day, so sickness climbs stealthily into health, and nature has a system
of medicining her ailments which might only be thwarted by the
ministrations of a mere doctor. Doctors also expect payment for their
services--an expectation so wildly beyond the range of common sense as to
be ludicrous. Those who can scarcely fee a baker when they are in health
can certainly not remunerate a physician when they are ill.

But, despite her sickness, Mrs. Makebelieve was worried with the
practical common politics of existence. The food purchased with her last
sevenpence was eaten beyond remembrance. The vital requirements of the
next day, and the following day, and of all subsequent days thronged upon
her, clamouring for instant attention. The wraith of a landlord sat on
her bed demanding rent and threatening grisly alternatives. Goblins that
were bakers and butchers and grocers grinned and leered and jabbered from
the corners of the room.

Each day Mary Makebelieve went to the pawn office with something. They
lived for a time on the only capital they had--the poor furniture of
their room. Everything which had even the narrowest margin of value was
sold. Mary's dresses kept them for six days. Her mother's Sunday skirt
fed them for another day. They held famine at bay with a patchwork quilt
and a crazy wash-stand. A water-jug and a strip of oilcloth tinkled
momentarily against the teeth of the wolf and disappeared. The maw of
hunger was not incommoded by the window curtain.

At last the room was as bare as a desert and almost as uninhabitable. A
room without furniture is a ghostly place. Sounds made therein are
uncanny; even the voice puts off its humanity and rings back with a bleak
and hollow note, an empty resonance tinged with the frost of winter.
There is no other sound so deadly, so barren and dispiriting, as the
echoes of an empty room. The gaunt woman in the bed seemed less gaunt
than her residence, and there was nothing more to be sent to the
pawnbroker or the second-hand dealer.

A post-card came from Mrs. O'Connor requesting, in the peremptory
language customary to such communications, that Mrs. Makebelieve would
please call on her the following morning before eight o'clock. Mrs.
Makebelieve groaned as she read it. It meant work and food and the
repurchase of her household goods, and she knew that on the following
morning she would not be able to get up. She lay a while thinking, and
then called her daughter.

"Dearie," said she, "you will have to go to this place in the morning and
try what you can do. Tell Mrs. O'Connor that I am sick, and that you are
my daughter and will do the work, and try and do the best you can for a
while."

She caught her daughter's head down to her bosom and wept over her, for
she saw in this work a beginning and an end--the end of the little
daughter who could be petted and rocked and advised; the beginning of a
womanhood which would grow up to and beyond her, which would collect and
secrete emotions and aspirations and adventures not to be shared even by
a mother; and she saw the failure which this work meant, the expanding of
her daughter's life ripples to a bleak and miserable horizon where the
clouds were soap-suds and floor-cloths, and the beyond a blank
resignation only made energetic by hunger.

"Oh, my dear," said she, "I hate to think of you having to do such work,
but it will only be for a while, a week, and then I will be well again.
Only a little week, my love, my sweetheart, my heart's darling."



XVII


Early on the following morning Mary Makebelieve awakened with a start.
She felt as if some one had called her, and lay for a few moments to see
had her mother spoken. But her mother was still asleep. Her slumber was
at all times almost as energetic as her wakening hours. She twisted
constantly and moved her hands and spoke ramblingly. Odd interjections,
such as "Ah, well!" "No matter!" "Certainly not!" and "Indeed aye!"
shot from her lips like bullets, and at intervals a sarcastic sniff
fretted or astonished her bedfellow into wakefulness. But now as she lay
none of these strenuous ejaculations were audible. Sighs only, weighty
and deep-drawn and very tired, broke on her lips and lapsed sadly into
the desolate room.

Mary Makebelieve lay for a time wondering idly what had awakened her so
completely, for her eyes were wide open and every vestige of sleep was
gone from her brain; and then she remembered that on this morning, and
for the first time in her life, she had to go to work. That knowledge had
gone to bed with her and had awakened her with an imperious urgency. In
an instant she sprang out of bed, huddled on sufficient clothing for
warmth, and set about lighting the fire. She was far too early awake, but
could not compose herself to lie for another moment in bed. She did not
at all welcome the idea of going to work, but the interest attaching to a
new thing, the freshness which vitalises for a time even the dreariest
undertaking, prevented her from rueing with any bitterness her first
day's work. To a young person even work is an adventure, and anything
which changes the usual current of life is welcome. The fire also went
with her; in quite a short time the flames had gathered to a blaze, and
matured, and concentrated to the glowing redness of perfect combustion;
then, when the smoke had disappeared with the flames, she put on the
saucepan of water. Quickly the saucepan boiled, and she wet the tea. She
cut the bread into slices, put a spoonful of condensed milk into each
cup, and awakened her mother.

All through the breakfast her mother advised her on the doing of her
work. She cautioned her daughter when scrubbing woodwork always to scrub
against the grain, for this gave a greater purchase to the brush, and
removed the dirt twice as quickly as the seemingly easy opposite
movement. She told her never to save soap--little soap meant much
rubbing--and advised that she should scrub two minutes with one hand and
then two minutes with the other hand; and she was urgent on the necessity
of thoroughness in the wringing out of one's floor-cloth, because a dry
floor-cloth takes up twice as much water as a wet one, and thus lightens
labour; also she advised Mary to change her positions as frequently as
possible to avoid cramp when scrubbing, and to kneel up or stand up when
wringing her cloths, as this would give her a rest, and the change of
movement would relieve her very greatly; and above all to take her time
about the business, because haste seldom resulted in clean work, and was
never appreciated by one's employer.

Before going out Mary Makebelieve had to arrange for some one to look
after her mother during the day. This is an arrangement which, among poor
people, is never difficult of accomplishment. The first to whom she
applied was the labouring man's wife in the next room; she was a vast
woman with six children and a laugh like the rolling of a great wind, and
when Mary Makebelieve advanced her request she shook six children off her
like toys and came out on the landing.

"Run off to your work now, honey," said she, "and let you be easy in
your mind about your mother, for I'll go up to her this minute, and when
I'm not there myself I'll leave one of the children with her to call me
if she wants anything; and don't you be fretting at all, God help you!
for she'll be as safe and as comfortable with me as if she was in Jervis
Street Hospital or the Rotunda itself. What's wrong with her now? Is it a
pain in her head she has, or a sick stomach, God help her?"

Mary explained briefly, and as she went down the stairs she saw the big
woman going into her mother's room.

She had not been out in the streets so early before, and had never known
the wonder and beauty of the sun in the early morning. The streets were
almost deserted, and the sunlight--a most delicate and nearly colourless
radiance--fell gently on the long silent paths. Missing the customary
throng of people and traffic, she seemed almost in a strange country, and
had to look twice for turnings which she could easily have found with her
eyes shut. The shutters were up in all the shops, and the blinds were
down in most of the windows. Now and again a milk cart came clattering
and rattling down a street, and now and again a big red-painted baker's
cart dashed along the road. Such few pedestrians as she met were poorly
dressed men, who carried tommy cans and tools, and they were all walking
at a great pace, as if they feared they were late for somewhere. Three or
four boys passed her running; one of these had a great lump of bread in
his hand, and as he ran he tore pieces off the bread with his teeth and
ate them. The streets looked cleaner than she had thought they could
look, and the houses seemed very quiet and beautiful. When she came near
a policeman she looked at him keenly from a distance, hoping and fearing
that it might be her friend, but she did not see him. She had a sinking
feeling at the thought that maybe he would be in the Phoenix Park this
day looking for her, and might, indeed, have been there for the past few
days, and the thought that he might be seeking for her unavailingly
stabbed through her mind like a pain. It did not seem right, it was not
in proportion, that so big a man should seek for a mere woman and not
find one instantly to hand. It was pitiful to think of the huge man
looking on this side and on that, peering behind trees and through
distances, and thinking that maybe he was forgotten or scorned. Mary
Makebelieve almost wept at the idea that he should fancy she scorned him.
She wondered how, under such circumstances, a small girl can comfort a
big man. One may fondle his hand, but that is miserably inadequate. She
wished she was twice as big as he was, so that she might lift him bodily
to her breast and snuggle and hug him like a kitten. So comprehensive an
embrace alone could atone for injury to a big man's feelings.

In about twenty minutes she reached Mrs. O'Connor's house and knocked.
She had to knock half a dozen times before she was admitted, and on being
admitted had a great deal of trouble explaining who she was, and why her
mother had not come, and that she was quite competent to undertake the
work. She knew the person who opened the door for her was not Mrs.
O'Connor, because she had not a hairy wart on her chin, nor had she buck
teeth. After a little delay she was brought to the scullery and given a
great pile of children's clothing to wash, and after starting this work
she was left to herself for a long time.



XVIII


It was a dark house. The windows were all withered away behind stiff
curtains, and the light that laboured between these was chastened to the
last degree of respectability. The doors skulked behind heavy plush
hangings. The floors hid themselves decently under thick red and black
carpets, and the margins which were uncarpeted were disguised by beeswax,
so that no one knew they were there at all. The narrow hall was steeped
in shadow, for there two black velvet portieres, at distances of six feet
apart, depended from rods in the ceiling. Similar palls flopped on each
landing of the staircase, and no sound was heard in the house at all,
except dim voices that droned from somewhere, muffled and sepulchral and
bodiless.

At ten o'clock, having finished the washing, Mary was visited by Mrs.
O'Connor, whom she knew at once by the signs she had been warned of. The
lady subjected each article that had been washed to a particular
scrutiny, and, with the shadowy gallop of a smile that dashed into and
out of sight in an instant, said they would do. She then conducted Mary
to the kitchen and, pointing to a cup of tea and two slices of bread,
invited her to breakfast, and left her for six minutes, when she
reappeared with the suddenness of a marionette and directed her to wash
her cup and saucer, and then to wash the kitchen, and these things also
Mary did.

She got weary very soon, but not dispirited, because there were many
things to look at in the kitchen. There were pots of various sizes and
metals, saucepans little and big, jugs of all shapes, and a regiment of
tea things were ranged on the dresser; on the walls were hung great
pot-lids like the shields of barbarous warriors which she had seen in a
story-book. Under the kitchen table there was a row of boots, all
wrinkled by usage, and each wearing a human and almost intelligent
aspect--a well-wrinkled boot has often an appearance of mad humanity
which can chain and almost hypnotise the observer. As she lifted the
boots out of her way she named each by its face. There was Grubtoes,
Sloucher, Thump-thump, Hoppit, Twitter, Hide-away, and Fairybell.

While she was working a young girl came into the kitchen and took up the
boots called Fairybell. Mary just tossed a look at her as she entered and
bent again to her washing. Then with an extreme perturbation she stole
another look. The girl was young and as trim as a sunny garden. Her face
was packed with laughter and freedom, like a young morning when tender
rosy clouds sail in the sky. She walked with a light spring of happiness;
each step seemed the beginning of a dance, light and swift and certain.
Mary knew her in a pang, and her bent face grew redder than the tiles she
was scrubbing. Like lightning she knew her. Her brain swung in a clamour
of "Where, where?" and even in the question she had the answer, for this
was the girl she had seen going into the Gaiety Theatre swinging on the
arm of her big policeman. The girl said "Good morning" to her in a
kindly voice, and Mary, with a swift, frightened glance, whispered back
"Good morning"; then the girl went upstairs again, and Mary continued to
scrub the floor.

When the kitchen was finished and inspected and approved of, she was
instructed to wash out the front hall, and set about the work at once.

"Get it done as quickly as you can," said the mistress; "I am expecting
my nephew here soon, and he dislikes washing."

So Mary bent quickly to her work. She was not tired now. Her hands moved
swiftly up and down the floor without effort. Indeed, her actions were
almost mechanical. The self that was thinking and probing seemed somehow
apart from the body bending over the bucket, and the hands that scrubbed
and dipped and wrung. She had finished about three-quarters of the hall
when a couple of sharp raps came to the door. Mrs. O'Connor flew
noiselessly up from the kitchen.

"I knew," said she bitterly, "that you would not be finished before he
came. Dry that puddle at once, so that he can walk in, and take the soap
out of the way."

She stood with her hand on the door while Mary followed these directions;
then, when a couple of hasty movements had removed the surplus water,
Mrs. O'Connor drew the bolt and her nephew entered. Mary knew him on the
doorstep, and her blood froze in terror and boiled again in shame.

Mrs. O'Connor drew the big policeman inside and kissed him.

"I can't get these people to do things in time," said she. "They are
that slow! Hang up your hat and coat and come into the parlour."

The policeman, with his eyes fixed steadily on Mary, began to take off
his coat. His eyes, his moustache, all his face and figure seemed to be
looking at her. He was an enormous and terrifying interrogation. He
tapped his tough moustache and stepped over the bucket; at the entrance
to the parlour he stood again and hung his monstrous look on her. He
seemed about to speak, but it was to Mrs. O'Connor 'his words went.

"How's everything?" said he; and then the door closed behind him.

Mary, with extraordinary slowness, knelt down again beside the bucket and
began to scrub. She worked very deliberately, sometimes cleaning the same
place two or three times. Now and again she sighed, but without any
consciousness of trouble. These were sighs which did not seem to belong
to her. She knew she was sighing, but could not exactly see how the dull
sounds came from her lips when she had no desire to sigh and did not make
any conscious effort to do so. Her mind was an absolute blank; she could
think of nothing but the bubbles which broke on the floor and in the
bucket, and the way the water squeezed down from the cloth. There was
something she could have thought about if she wanted to, but she did not
want to.

Mrs. O'Connor came out in a few minutes, inspected the hall, and said it
would do. She paid Mary her wages and told her to come again the next
day, and Mary went home. As she walked along she was very careful not to
step on any of the lines on the pavement; she walked between these, and
was distressed because these lines were not equally distant from each
other, so that she had to make unequal paces as she went.



XIX


The name of the woman from next door was Mrs. Cafferty. She was big and
round, and when she walked her dress whirled about her like a tempest.
She seemed to be always turning round; when she was going straight
forward in any direction, say towards a press, she would turn aside
midway so sharply that her clothing spun gustily in her wake--this
probably came from having many children. A mother is continually driving
in oblique directions from her household employments to rescue her
children from a multitude of perils. An infant and a fireplace act upon
each other like magnets; a small boy is always trying to eat a kettle or
a piece of coal or the backbone of a herring; a little girl and a
slop-bucket are in immediate contact; the baby has a knife in its mouth;
the twin is on the point of swallowing a marble, or is trying to wash
itself in the butter, or the cat is about to take a nap on its face.
Indeed, the woman who has six children never knows in what direction her
next step must be, and the continual strain of preserving her progeny
converts many a one into regular cyclones of eyes and arms and legs. It
also induces in some a perpetual good-humoured irritability wherein one
can slap and cuddle a child in the same instant, or shout threateningly
or lovingly, call warningly and murmur encouragingly in an astonishing
sequence. The woman with six children must both physically and mentally
travel at a tangent, and when a husband has to be badgered or humoured
into the bargain, then the life of such a woman is more complex than is
readily understood.

When Mary came home Mrs. Cafferty was sitting on her mother's bed, two
small children and a cat were also on the bed, two slightly bigger
children were under the bed, and two others were galloping furiously up
and down the room. At one moment these latter twain were runaway horses,
at another they were express trains. When they were horses they snorted
and neighed and kicked; when they were trains they backed and shunted,
blew whistles and blew off steam. The children under the bed were tigers
in a jungle, and they made the noises proper to such beasts and such a
place; they bit each other furiously, and howled and growled precisely as
tigers do. The pair of infants on the bed were playing the game of bump;
they would stand upright, then spring high into the air, and come
crashing down on the bed, which then sprung them partly up again. Each
time they jumped they screamed loudly, each time they fell they roared
delighted congratulations to each other, and when they fell together they
fought with strong good humour. Sometimes they fell on Mrs. Makebelieve;
always they bumped her. At the side of the bed their mother sat telling
with a gigantic voice a story wherein her husband's sister figured as the
despicable person she was to the eye of discernment, and this story was
punctuated and shot through and dislocuted by objurgations, threats,
pleadings, admirations, alarms, and despairs addressed to the children
separately and _en masse_, by name, nickname, and hastily created
epithet.

Mary halted in amazement in the doorway. She could not grasp all the
pandemonium at once, and while she stood Mrs. Cafferty saw her.

"Come on in, honey," said she. "Your ma's as right as a trivet. All she
wanted was a bit of good company and some children to play with. Deed,"
she continued, "children are the best medicine for a woman that I know
of. They don't give you time to be sick, the creatures! Patrick John, I'll
give you a smack on the side of the head if you don't let your little
sister alone; and don't you, Norah, be vexing him or you'll deserve all
you get. Run inside, Julia Elizabeth, cut a slice of bread for the twins,
and put a bit of sugar on it, honey. Yes, Alanna, you can have a slice
for yourself, too, you poor child you, well you deserve it."

Mrs. Makebelieve was sitting up in the bed with two pillows propping up
her back. One of her long thin arms was stretched out to preserve the
twins from being bruised against the wall in their play. Plainly they had
become great friends with her, for every now and then they swarmed over
her, and a hugging match of extreme complexity ensued. She looked almost
her usual self, and all the animation which had been so marked a feature
of her personality had returned to her.

"Are you better, mother?" said Mary.

Mrs. Makebelieve took her daughter's head in her hands and kissed her
until the twins butted them apart, clamouring for caresses.

"I am, honey," said she. "Those children done me good. I could have got
up at one o'clock, I felt so well, but Mrs. Cafferty thought I'd better
not."

"I did so," said Mrs. Cafferty. "Not a foot do you stir out of that bed
till your daughter comes home, ma'm,' said I. For do you see, child,
many's the time you'd be thinking you were well and feeling as fit as a
fiddle, and nothing would be doing you but to be up and gallivanting
about, and then the next day you'd have a relapse, and the next day you'd
be twice as bad, and the day after that they'd be measuring you for your
coffin maybe. I knew a woman was taken like that--up she got; I'm as well
as ever I was,' said she, and she ate a feed of pig's cheek and cabbage
and finished her washing, and they buried her in a week. It's the quare
thing sickness. What I say is, when you're sick get into bed and stop
there."

"It's easy saying that," said Mrs. Makebelieve.

"Sure, don't I know, you poor thing you," said Mrs. Cafferty; "but you
should stay in bed as long as you are able to, anyhow."

"How did you get on with Mrs. O'Connor?" said Mrs. Makebelieve.

"That's the mistress, isn't it?" queried Mrs. Cafferty; "an ould devil,
I'll bet you."

Mrs. Makebelieve rapidly and lightly sketched Mrs. O'Connor's leading
peculiarities.

"It's queer the people one has to work for, God knows it is," said Mrs.
Cafferty.

At this point a grave controversy on work might have arisen, but the
children, caring little for conversation, broke into so tumultuous play
that talk could not be proceeded with. Mary was enticed into a game
composed in part of pussy-four-corners and tip-and-tig, with a general
flavour of leap-frog working through. In five minutes her hair and her
stockings were both down, and the back of her skirt had crawled
three-quarters round to the front. The twins shouted and bumped on the
bed, upon which and on Mrs. Makebelieve they rubbed bread and butter and
sugar, while their mother roared an anecdote at Mrs. Makebelieve in tones
that ruled the din as a fog-horn rules the waves.



XX


Mary had lavished the entire of her first day's wages on delicate foods
wherewith to tempt her mother's languid appetite, and when the morning
dawned she arose silently, lit the fire, wet the tea, and spread her
purchases out on the side of the bed. There was a slice of brawn, two
pork sausages, two eggs, three rashers of bacon, a bun, a pennyworth of
sweets, and a pig's foot. These with bread and butter and tea made a
collection amid which an invalid might browse with some satisfaction.
Mary then awakened her, and sat by in a dream of happiness watching her
mother's eye roll slowly and unbelievingly from item to item. Mrs.
Makebelieve tipped each article with her first finger and put its right
name on it unerringly. Then she picked out an important-looking sweet
that had four colours and shone like the sun, and put it in her mouth.

"I never saw anything like it, you good child you," said she.

Mary rocked herself to and fro and laughed loudly for delight, and then
they ate a bit of everything, and were very happy.

Mrs. Makebelieve said that she felt altogether better that morning. She
had slept like a top all through the night, and, moreover, had a dream
wherein she saw her brother Patrick standing on the remotest sea point of
distant America, from whence he had shouted loudly across the ocean that
he was coming back to Ireland soon, that he had succeeded very well
indeed, and that he was not married. He had not changed in the slightest
degree, said Mrs. Makebelieve, and he looked as young and as jolly as
when he was at home with her father and herself in the County Meath
twenty-two years before. This mollifying dream and the easy sleep which
followed it had completely restored her health and spirits. Mrs.
Makebelieve further intimated that she intended to go to work that day.
It did not fit in with her ideas of propriety that her child should turn
into a charwoman, the more particularly as there was a strong--an almost
certain--possibility of an early betterment of her own and her daughter's
fortunes.

Dreams, said Mrs. Makebelieve, did not come for nothing. There was more
in dreams than was generally understood. Many and many were the dreams
which she herself had been visited by, and they had come true so often
that she could no longer disregard their promises, admonishments, or
threats. Of course many people had dreams which were of no consequence,
and these could usually be traced to gluttony or a flighty, inconstant
imagination. Drunken people, for instance, often dreamed strange and
terrible things, but, even while they were awake, these people were
liable to imaginary enemies whom their clouded eyes and intellects
magnified beyond any thoughtful proportions, and when they were asleep
their dreams would also be subject to this haze and whirl of unreality
and hallucination.

Mary said that sometimes she did not dream at all, and at other times she
dreamed very vividly, but usually could not remember what the dream had
been about when she awakened; and once she had dreamed that some one gave
her a shilling which she placed carefully under her pillow, and this
dream was so real that in the morning she put her hand under the pillow
to see if the shilling was there, but it was not. The very next night she
dreamed the same dream, and as she put the phantom money under her pillow
she said out loudly to herself, "I am dreaming this, and I dreamt it
last night also." Her mother said if she had dreamt it for the third time
some one would have given her a shilling surely. To this Mary agreed, and
admitted that she had tried very hard to dream it on the third night, but
somehow could not do it.

"When my brother comes home from America," said Mrs. Makebelieve, "we'll
go away from this part of the city at once. I suppose he'd want a rather
big house on the south side--Rathfarnham or Terenure way, or, maybe,
Donnybrook. Of course he'll ask me to mind the house for him, and keep
the servants in order, and provide a different dinner every day, and all
that; while you could go out to the neighbours' places to play
lawn-tennis or cricket, and have lunch. It will be a very great
responsibility."

"What kind of dinners would you have?" said Mary.

Mrs. Makebelieve's eyes glistened, and she leaned forward in the bed; but
just as she was about to reply the labouring man in the next room slammed
his door, and went thundering down the stairs. In an instant Mrs.
Makebelieve bounded from her bed; three wide twists put up her hair;
eight strange, billow-like movements put on her clothes; as each article
of clothing reached a definite point on her person Mary stabbed it
swiftly with a pin--four ordinary pins in this place, two safety-pins in
that: then Mrs. Makebelieve kissed her daughter sixteen times, and fled
down the stairs and away to her work.



XXI


In a few minutes Mrs. Cafferty came into the room. She was, as every
woman is in the morning, primed with conversation about husbands; for in
the morning husbands are unwieldy, morose creatures without joy, without
lightness, lacking even the common, elemental interest in their own
children, and capable of detestably misinterpreting the conversation of
their wives. It is only by mixing amongst other men that this malignant
humour may be dispelled. To them the company of men is like a great bath
into which a husband will plunge wildly, renouncing as he dives wife and
children, all anchors and securities of hearth and roof, and from which
he again emerges singularly refreshed and capable of being interested by
a wife, a family, and a home until the next morning. To many women this
is a grievance amounting often to an affront, and although they
endeavour, even by cooking, to heal the singular breach, they are utterly
unable to do so, and perpetually seek the counsel of each other on the
subject. Mrs. Cafferty had merely asked her husband would he hold the
baby while she poured out his stirabout, and he had incredibly threatened
to pour the stirabout down the back of her neck if she didn't leave him
alone.

It was upon this morning madness she had desired to consult her friend,
and when she saw that Mrs. Makebelieve had gone away her disappointment
was quite evident. But this was only for a moment. Almost all women are
possessed of a fine social sense in relation to other women. They are
always on their best behaviour towards one another. Indeed, it often
seems as if they feared and must by all possible means placate each other
by flattery, humour, or a serious tactfulness. There is very little
freedom between them, because there is no real freedom or acquaintance
but between things polar. There is nothing but a superficial resemblance
between like and like, but between like and unlike there is space wherein
both curiosity and spirit may go adventuring. Extremes must meet, it is
their urgent necessity, the reason for their distance, and the greater
the distance between them the swifter will be their return and the warmer
their impact: they may shatter each other to fragments, or they may fuse
and become indissoluble and new and wonderful, but there is no other
fertility. Between the sexes there is a really extraordinary freedom of
intercourse. They meet each other something more than half-way. A man and
a woman may become quite intimate in a quarter of an hour. Almost
certainly they will endeavour to explain themselves to each other before
many minutes have elapsed; but a man and a man will not do this, and even
less so will a woman and a woman, for these are the parallel lines which
never meet. The acquaintanceship of the latter, in particular, often
begins and ends in an armed and calculating neutrality. They preserve
their distances and each other's sufferance by the exercise of a grave
social tact which never deserts them, and which more than anything else
has contributed to build the ceremonials which are nearly one-half of our
civilisation.

It is a common belief amongst men that women cannot live together without
quarrelling, and that they are unable to get work done by other women
with any of the good will which men display in the same occupations. If
this is true, the reason should not be looked for in any intersexual
complications, such as fear or an acrid rivalry, but only in the
perpetually recurring physical disturbances to which, as a sex, they are
subjected; and as the ability and willingness of a man to use his fists
in response to an affront has imposed sobriety and good humour towards
each other in almost all their relations, so women have placed barriers
of politeness and ceremonial between their fellow-women and their own
excoriated sensibilities.

Mrs. Cafferty, therefore, dissembled her disappointment, and with an
increased cordiality addressed herself towards Mary. Sitting down on the
bedside, she discoursed on almost every subject upon which a woman may
discourse. It is considered that the conversation of women, while
incessant in its use, is rigorously bounded between the parlour and the
kitchen, or, to be more precise, between the attic and the scullery; but
these extremes are more inclusive than is imagined, for the attic has an
outlook on the stars while the scullery usually opens on the kitchen
garden or the dust-heap--vistas equal to horizons. The mysteries of death
and birth occupy women far more than is the case with men, to whom
political and mercantile speculations are more congenial. With immediate
buying and selling, and all the absolute forms of exchange and barter,
women are deeply engaged, so that the realities of trade are often more
intelligible to them than to many merchants. If men understood domestic
economy half as well as women do, then their political economy and their
entire consequent statecraft would not be the futile muddle which it is.

It was all very interesting to Mary, and, moreover, she had a great
desire for companionship at the moment. If she had been left alone it
might have become necessary to confront certain thoughts, memories,
pictures, from which she had a dim idea it would be wise to keep her
distance. Her work on the previous day, the girl she had met in the
house, the policeman--from all or any of these recollections she swerved
mentally. She steadily rejected all impressions that touched upon these.
The policeman floated vaguely on her consciousness not as a desirable
person, not even as a person, but as a distance, as an hour of her
childhood, as a half-forgotten quaintness, a memory which it would be
better should never be revived. Indeed, her faint thought shadowed him as
a person who was dead, and would never again be visible to her anywhere.
So, resolutely, she let him drop down into her mind to some uncomfortable
oubliette from whence he threatened with feeble insistence to pop up at
any moment like a strange question or a sudden shame. She hid him in a
rosy flush which a breath could have made flame unbearably, and she hid
from him behind the light garrulity of Mrs. Cafferty, through which now
and again, as through a veil, she saw the spike of his helmet, a wiry,
bristling moustache, a surge of great shoulders. On these ghostly
indications she heaped a tornado of words which swamped the wraith, but
she knew he was waiting to catch her alone, and would certainly catch
her, and the knowledge made her hate him.



XXII


Mrs. Cafferty suggested that she and Mary should go out together to
purchase that day's dinner, and by the time she had draped her shoulders
in a shawl, buried her head in a bonnet, cautioned all her brood against
going near the fireplace, the coal-box, and the slop-bucket, cut a slice
of bread for each of them, and placed each of them in charge of all the
rest, Mary's more elaborate dressing was within two stages of her hat.

"Wait until you have children, my dear," said Mrs. Cafferty, "you won't
be so pernickety then." She further told Mary that when she was herself
younger she had often spent an hour and a half doing up her hair, and she
had been so particular that the putting on of a blouse or the pinning of
a skirt to a belt had tormented her happily for two hours. "But, bless
you," she roared, "you get out of all that when you get children. Wait
till you have six of them to be dressed every morning, and they with some
of their boots lost and the rest of them mixed up, and each of them
wriggling like an eel on a pan until you have to slap the devil out of
them before their stocking can be got on: the way they screw their toes
up in the wrong places and the way they squeal that you're pinching them!
and the way that they say you've rubbed soap in their eyes!"--Mrs.
Cafferty lifted her eyes and her hands to the ceiling in a dumb
remonstrance with Providence, and dropped them again forlornly as one in
whom Providence had never been really interested "you'll have all the
dressing you want, and a bit over for luck," said she.

She complimented Mary on her hair, her complexion, the smallness of her
feet, the largeness of her eyes, the slenderness of her waist, the width
of her hat and of her shoestrings: so impartially and inclusively did she
compliment her that by the time they went out Mary was rosy with
appreciation and as self-confident as a young girl is entitled to be.

It was a beautiful grey day, with a massy sky which seemed as if it never
could move again or change, and, as often happens in Ireland in cloudy
weather, the air was so very clear that one could see to a great
distance. On such days everything stands out in sharp outline. A street
is no longer a congeries of houses huddling shamefully together and
terrified lest any one should look at them and laugh. Each house then
recaptures its individuality. The very roadways are aware of themselves,
and bear their horses and cars and trams in a competent spirit, adorned
with modesty as with a garland. It has a beauty beyond sunshine, for
sunshine is only youth and carelessness. The impress of a thousand
memories, the historic visage, becomes apparent; the quiet face which
experience has ripened into knowledge and mellowed into the wisdom of
charity is seen then; the great social beauty shines from the streets
under this sky that broods like a thoughtful forehead.

While they walked Mrs. Cafferty planned, as a general might, her campaign
of shopping. Her shopping differed greatly from Mrs. Makebelieve's, and
the difference was probably caused by her necessity to feed and clothe
eight people as against Mrs. Makebelieve's two. Mrs. Makebelieve went to
the shop nearest her house, and there entered into a staunch personal
friendship with the proprietor. When she was given anything of doubtful
value or material she instantly returned and handed it back, and the
prices which were first quoted to her and settled upon became to Mrs.
Makebelieve an unalterable standard from which no departure would be
tolerated. Eggs might go up in price for the remainder of the world, but
not for her. A change of price threw Mrs. Makebelieve into so wide-eyed,
so galvanic, so powerfully-verbal and friendship-shattering an anger that
her terms were accepted and registered as Median exactitudes. Mrs.
Cafferty, on the other hand, knew shopkeepers as personal enemies and as
foes to the human race, who were bent on despoiling the poor, and against
whom a remorseless warfare should be conducted by all decent people. Her
knowledge of material, of quality, of degrees of freshness, of local and
distant prices was profound. In Clanbrassil Street she would quote the
prices of Moore Street with shattering effect, and if the shopkeeper
declined to revise his tariff her good-humoured voice toned so huge a
disapproval that other intending purchasers left the shop impressed by
the unmasking of a swindler. Her method was abrupt. She seized an
article, placed it on the counter, and uttered these words, "Sixpence
and not a penny more; I can get it in Moore Street for fivepence
halfpenny." She knew all the shops having a cheap line in some special
article, and, therefore, her shopping was of a very extended description;
not that she went from point to point, for she continually departed from
the line of battle with the remark, "Let's try what they have here," and
when inside the shop her large eye took in at a glance a thousand details
of stock and price which were never afterwards forgotten.

Mrs. Cafferty's daughter, Nora, was going to celebrate her first
Communion in a few days. This is a very important ceremony for a young
girl and for her mother. A white muslin dress and a blue sash, a white
muslin hat with blue ribbons, tan shoes, and stockings as germane to the
colour of tan as may be--these all have to be provided. It is a time of
grave concern for everybody intimately connected with the event. Every
girl in the world has performed this ceremony: they have all been clad in
these garments and shoes, and for a day or so all women, of whatever age,
are in love with the little girl making her first Communion. Perhaps more
than anything else it swings the passing stranger back to the time when
she was not a woman but a child with present gaiety and curiosity, and a
future all expectation and adventure. Therefore, the suitable apparelling
of one's daughter is a public duty, and every mother endeavours to do the
thing that is right, and live, if only for one day, up to the admiration
of her fellow-creatures.

It was a trial, but an enjoyable one, to Mrs. Cafferty and Mary this
matching of tan stockings with tan shoes. The shoes were bought, and then
an almost impossible quest began to find stockings which would exactly go
with them. Thousands of boxes were opened, ransacked, and waved aside
without the absolute colour being discovered. From shop to shop and from
street to street they went, and the quest led them through Grafton Street
_en route_ to a shop where, months before, Mrs. Cafferty had seen
stockings of a colour so nearly approximating to tan that they almost
might be suitable.

As they went past the College and entered the winding street Mary's heart
began to beat. She did not see any of the traffic flowing up and down, or
the jostling, busy foot-passengers, nor did she hear the eager lectures
of her companion. Her eyes were straining up the street towards the
crossing. She dared not turn back or give any explanation to Mrs.
Cafferty, and in a few seconds she saw him, gigantic, calm, the adequate
monarch of his world. His back was turned to her, and the great sweep of
his shoulders, his solid legs, his red neck, and close-cropped, wiry hair
were visible to her strangely. She had a peculiar feeling of acquaintness
and of aloofness, intimate knowledge and a separation of sharp finality,
caused her to stare at him with so intent a curiosity that Mrs. Cafferty
noticed it.

"That's a fine man," said she; "he won't have to go about looking for
girls."

As she spoke they passed by the policeman, and Mary knew that when her
eyes left him his gaze almost automatically fell upon her. She was glad
that he could not see her face. She was glad that Mrs. Cafferty was
beside her: had she been alone she would have been tempted to walk away
very quickly, almost to run, but her companion gave her courage and
self-possession, so that she walked gallantly. But her mind was a fever.
She could feel his eyes raking her from head to foot; she could see his
great hand going up to tap his crinkly moustache. These things she could
see in her terrified mind, but she could not think, she could only give
thanks to God because she had her best clothes on.



XXIII


Mrs. Makebelieve was planning to get back such of her furniture and
effects as had been pawned during her illness. Some of these things she
had carried away from her father's house many years before when she got
married. They had been amongst the earliest objects on which her eyes
had rested when she was born, and around them her whole life of memories
revolved: a chair in which her father had sat, and on the edge whereof
her husband had timidly balanced himself when he came courting her, and
into which her daughter had been tied when she was a baby. A strip, of
carpet and some knives and forks had formed portion of her wedding
presents. She loved these things, and had determined that if work could
retrieve them they should not be lost for ever. Therefore, she had to
suffer people like Mrs. O'Connor, not gladly, but with the resignation
due to the hests of Providence which one must obey but may legitimately
criticise. Mrs. Makebelieve said definitely that she detested the woman.
She was a cold-eyed person whose only ability was to order about other
people who were much better than she was. It distressed Mrs. Makebelieve
to have to work for such a person, to be subject to her commands and
liable to her reproofs or advice; these were things which seemed to her
to be out of all due proportion. She did not wish the woman any harm,
but some day or other she would undoubtedly have to put her in her
proper place. It was a day to which she looked forward. Any one who had
a sufficient income could have a house and could employ and pay for
outside help without any particular reason for being proud, and many
people, having such an income, would certainly have a better appointed
house and would be more generous and civil to those who came to work for
them. Everybody, of course, could not have a policeman for a nephew, and
there were a great many people who would rather not have anything to do
with a policeman at all. Overbearing, rough creatures to whom everybody
is a thief! If Mrs. Makebelieve had such a nephew she would certainly
have wrecked his pride--the great beast! Here Mrs. Makebelieve grew
very angry: her black eyes blazed, her great nose grew thin and white,
and her hands went leaping in fury. "'You're not in Court now, you
jackanapes you,' said I--with his whiskers, and his baton, and his feet
that were bigger than anything in the world except his ignorant
self-conceit. 'Have you a daughter, ma'm?' said he. 'What's her age,
ma'm?' said he. 'Is she a good girl, ma'm?' said he." But she had
settled him. "And that woman was prouder of him than a king would be of
his crown! Never mind," said Mrs. Make-believe, and she darted fiercely
up and down the room, tearing pieces off the atmosphere and throwing
them behind her.

In a few minutes, however, she sat down on the floor and drew her
daughter's head to her breast, and then, staring into the scrap of fire,
she counselled Mary wisely on many affairs of life and the conduct of a
girl under all kinds of circumstances--to be adequate in spirit if not in
physique: that was her theme. Never be a servant in your heart, said she.
To work is nothing; the king on his throne, the priest kneeling before
the Holy Altar, all people in all places had to work, but no person at
all need be a servant. One worked and was paid, and went away keeping the
integrity of one's soul unspotted and serene. If an employer was wise or
good or kind, Mrs. Makebelieve was prepared to accord such a person
instant and humble reverence. She would work for such a one until the
nails dropped off her fingers and her feet crumpled up under her body;
but a policeman, or a rich person, or a person who ordered one about ...
until she died and was buried in the depths of the world, she would never
give in to such a person or admit anything but their thievishness and
ill-breeding. Bad manners to the like of them! said she, and might have
sailed boisterously away upon an ocean of curses, but that Mary turned
her face closer to her breast and began to speak.

For suddenly there had come to Mary a vision of peace: like a green
island in the sea it was, like a white cloud on a broiling day; the
sheltered life where all mundane preoccupations were far away, where
ambition and hope and struggle were incredibly distant foolishness. Lowly
and peaceful and unjaded was that life: she could see the nuns pacing
quietly in their enclosed gardens, fingering their beads as they went to
and fro and praying noiselessly for the sins of the world, or walking
with solemn happiness to the Chapel to praise God in their own small
companies, or going with hidden feet through the great City to nurse the
sick and comfort those who had no other comforter than God--To pray in a
quiet place, and not to be afraid any more or doubtful or despised...!
These things she saw and her heart leaped to them, and of these things
she spoke to her mother, who listened with a tender smile and stroked her
hair and hands. But her mother did not approve of these things. She spoke
of nuns with reverence and affection. Many a gentle, sweet woman had she
known of that sisterhood, many a one before whom she could have abased
herself with tears and love, but such a life of shelter and restraint
could never have been hers, nor did she believe it could be Mary's. For
her a woman's business was life; the turmoil and strife of it was good to
be in; it was a cleansing and a bracing. God did not need any assistance,
but man did, bitterly he wanted it, and the giving of such assistance was
the proper business of a woman. Everywhere there was a man to be helped,
and the quest of a woman was to find the man who most needed her aid, and
having found, to cleave to him for ever. In most of the trouble of life
she divined men and women not knowing or not doing their duty, which was
to love one another and to be neighbourly and obliging to their fellows.
A partner, a home and children--through the loyal co-operation of these
she saw happiness and, dimly, a design of so vast an architecture as
scarcely to be discussed. The bad and good of humanity moved her to an
equal ecstasy of displeasure and approbation, but her God was Freedom and
her religion Love. Freedom! even the last rags of it that remain to a
regimented world! That was a passion with her. She must order her
personal life without any ghostly or bodily supervision. She would oppose
an encroachment on that with her nails and her teeth; and this last
fringe of freedom was what nuns had sacrificed and all servants and other
people had bartered away. One must work, but one must never be a
slave--these laws seemed to her equally imperative; the structure of the
world swung upon them, and whoever violated these laws was a traitor to
both God and man.

But Mary did not say anything. Her mother's arms were around her, and
suddenly she commenced to cry upon a bosom that was not strange. There
was surely healing in that breast of love, a rampart of tenderness
against the world, a door which would never be closed against her or
opened to her enemies.



XXIV


In a little city like Dublin one meets every person whom one knows within
a few days. Around each bend in the road there is a friend, an enemy, or
a bore striding towards you, so that, with a piety which is almost
religious, one says "touch wood" before turning any corner. It was not
long, therefore, until Mary again met the big policeman. He came up
behind her and walked by her side, chatting with a pleasant ease, in
which, however, her curious mind could discover some obscure
distinctions. On looking backwards it seemed to Mary that he had always
come from behind her, and the retrospect dulled his glory to the
diminishing point. For indeed his approach was too consistently
policeman-like, it was too crafty; his advent hinted at a gross
espionage, at a mind which was no longer a man's but a detective's, who
tracked everybody by instinct, and arrested his friends instead of
saluting them.

As they walked along Mary was in a fever of discomfort. She wished dumbly
that the man would go away, but for the wealth of the world she could not
have brought herself to hurt the feelings of so big a man. To endanger
the very natural dignity of a big man was a thing which no woman could do
without a pang; the shame of it made her feel hot: he might have blushed
or stammered, and the memory of that would sting her miserably for weeks
as though she had insulted an elephant or a baby.

She could not get away from him. She had neither the courage nor the
experience which enables a woman to dismiss a man without wounding him,
and so, perforce, she continued walking by his side while he treated her
to an intelligent dissertation on current political events and the
topography of the City of Dublin.

But, undoubtedly, there was a change in the policeman, and it was not
difficult to account for. He was more easy and familiar in his speech:
while formerly he had bowed as from the peaks of manly intellect to the
pleasant valleys of girlish incompetence, he now condescended from the
loftiness of a policeman and a person of quality to the quaint gutters of
social inferiority. To many people mental inferiority in a companion has
a charm, for it induces in one's proper person a feeling of philosophic
detachment, a fine effect of personal individuality and superiority which
is both bracing and uplifting--there is not any particular harm in this:
progress can be, and is, accelerated by the hypocrisies and snobbishness,
all the minor, unpleasant adjuncts of mediocrity. Snobbishness is a
puling infant, but it may grow to a deeply whiskered ambition, and most
virtues are, on examination, the amalgam of many vices. But while
intellectual poverty may be forgiven and loved, social inequality can
only be utilised. Our fellows, however addled, are our friends, our
inferiors are our prey, and since the policeman had discovered Mary
publicly washing out an alien hall his respect for her had withered and
dropped to death almost in an instant; whence it appears that there is
really only one grave and debasing vice in the world, and that is
poverty.

In many little ways the distinction and the difference were apparent to
Mary. The dignity of a gentleman and a man of the world was partly shorn
away: the gentleman portion, which comprised kindness and reticence, had
vanished; the man of the world remained, typified by a familiarity which
assumed that this and that, understood but not to be mentioned, shall be
taken for granted; a spurious equalisation perched jauntily but
insecurely on a non-committal, and that base flattery which is the only
coin wherewith a thief can balance his depredations. For as they went
pacing down a lonely road towards the Dodder the policeman diversified
his entertaining lore by a succession of compliments which ravaged the
heavens and the earth and the deep sea for a fitting symbology. Mary's
eyes and the gay heavens were placed in juxtaposition and the heavens
were censured, the vegetable, animal, and mineral worlds were
discomfited, the deep sea sustained a reproof, and the by-products of
nature and of art drooped into a nothingness too vast even for laughter.
Mary had not the slightest objection to hearing that all the other women
in the world seemed cripples and gargoyles when viewed against her own
transcendent splendour, and she was prepared to love the person who said
this innocently and happily. She would have agreed to be an angel or a
queen to a man demanding potentates and powers in his sweetheart, and
would joyfully have equalised matters by discovering the buried god in
her lover and believing in it as sincerely as he permitted--But this man
was not saying the truth. She could see him making the things up as he
talked. There was eagerness in him, but no spontaneity. It was not even
eagerness, it was greediness: he wanted to eat her up and go away with
her bones sticking out of his mouth as the horns of a deer protrude from
the jaws of an anaconda, veritable evidence to it and his fellows of a
victory and an orgy to command respect and envy. But he was familiar, he
was complacent, and--amazedly she discovered it--he was big. Her
vocabulary could not furnish her with the qualifying word, or rather
epithet, for his bigness. Horrible was suggested and retained, but her
instinct clamoured that there was a fat, oozy word somewhere which would
have brought comfort to her brains and her hands and feet. He did not
keep his arms quiet, but tapped his remarks into her blouse and her
shoulder. Each time his hands touched her they remained a trifle longer.
They seemed to be great red spiders, they would grip her all round and
squeeze her clammily while his face spiked her to death with its
moustache...And he smiled also, he giggled and cut capers; his language
now was a perpetual witticism at which he laughed in jerks, and at which
she laughed tightly like an obedient, quick echo: and then, suddenly,
without a word, in a dazing flash, his arms were about her. There was
nobody in sight at all, and he was holding her like a great spider, and
his bristly moustache darted forward to spike her to death, and then,
somehow, she was free, away from him, scudding down the road lightly and
fearfully and very swiftly. "Wait, wait," he called--"wait!" But she
did not wait.



XXV


Mrs. Cafferty came in that evening for a chat with Mrs. Makebelieve.
There were traces of worry on the lady's face, and she hushed the
children who trooped in her wake with less of good humour than they were
accustomed to. Instead of threatening to smack them on the head, as was
usual, she did smack them, and she walked surrounded by lamentations as
by a sea.

Things were not going at all well with her. There was a slackness in her
husband's trade; so that for days together he was idle, and although the
big woman amended her expenditure in every direction she could not by any
means adjust eight robust appetites to a shrunken income. She explained
her position to Mrs. Makebelieve:--Children would not, they could not,
consent to go on shorter rations than they had been accustomed to, and it
seemed to her that daily, almost hourly, their appetites grew larger and
more terrible. She showed her right hand whereon the mere usage of a
bread-knife had scored a ridge which was now a permanent disfigurement.

"God bless me," she shouted angrily, "what right have I to ask the
creatures to go hungry? Am I to beat them when they cry? It's not their
fault that they want food, and it's not my poor man's fault that they
haven't any. He's ready to work at his trade if anybody wants him to do
so, and if he can't get work, and if the children are hungry, whose fault
is it?"

Mrs. Cafferty held that there was something wrong somewhere, but whether
the blame was to be allocated to the weather, the employer, the
Government, or the Deity, she did not know, nor did Mrs. Makebelieve
know; but they were agreed that there was an error somewhere, a lack of
adjustment with which they had nothing to do, but the effects whereof
were grievously visible in their privations. Meantime it had become
necessary that Mrs. Cafferty should adjust herself to a changing
environment. A rise or fall in wages is automatically followed by a
similar enlargement or shrinkage of one's necessities, and the consequent
difference is registered at all points of one's life-contact. The
physical and mental activities of a well-to-do person can reach out to a
horizon, while those of very poor people are limited to their immediate,
stagnant atmosphere, and so the lives of a vast portion of society are
liable to a ceaseless change, a flux swinging from good to bad for ever,
an expansion and constriction against which they have no safeguards and
not even any warning. In free nature this problem is paralleled by the
shrinking and expansion of the seasons; the summer with its wealth of
food, the winter following after with its famine; but many wild creatures
are able to make a thrifty provision against the bad time which they know
comes as certainly and periodically as the good time. Bees and squirrels
and many others fill their barns with the plentiful overplus of the
summer fields; birds can migrate and find sunshine and sustenance
elsewhere; and others again can store during their good season a life
energy by means whereof they may sleep healthily through their hard
times. These organisations can be adjusted to their environments because
the changes of the latter are known and can be more or less accurately
predicted from any point. But the human worker has no such regularity.
His food period does not ebb and recur with the seasons. There is no
periodicity in their changes, and, therefore, no possibility for
defensive or protective action. His physical structure uses and excretes
energy so rapidly that he cannot store it up and go to sleep on his
savings, and his harvests are usually so lean and disconnected that the
exercise of thrift is equally an impossibility and a mockery. The life,
therefore, of such a person is composed of a constant series of
adjustments and readjustments, and the stern ability wherewith these
changes are met and combated are more admirably ingenious than the
much-praised virtues of ants and bees to which they are constantly
directed as to exemplars.

Mrs. Cafferty had now less money than she had been used to, but she had
still the same rent to pay, the same number of children to feed, and the
same personal dignity to support as in her better days, and her problem
was to make up, by some means to which she was a stranger, the money
which had drifted beyond the reach of her husband. The methods by which
she could do this were very much restricted. Children require an
attention which occupies the entire of a mother's time, and,
consequently, she was prevented from seeking abroad any mitigation of her
hardships. The occupations which might be engaged in at home were closed
to her by mere overwhelming competition. The number of women who are
prepared to make ten million shirts for a penny is already far in excess
of the demand, and so, except by a severe undercutting such as a contract
to make twenty million shirts for a halfpenny, work of this description
is very difficult to obtain.

Under these circumstances nothing remained for Mrs. Cafferty but to take
in a lodger. This is a form of co-operation much practised among the
poorer people. The margin of direct profit accruing from such a venture
is very small, but this is compensated for by the extra spending power
achieved. A number of people pooling their money in this way can buy to
greater advantage and in a cheaper market than is possible to the
solitary purchaser, and a moderate toll for wear and tear and usage, or,
as it is usually put, for rent and attendance, gives the small personal
profit at which such services are reckoned.

Through the good offices of a neighbouring shopkeeper Mrs. Cafferty had
secured a lodger, and, with the courage which is never separate from
despair, she had rented a small room beside her own. This room, by an
amazing economy of construction, contained a fireplace and a window: it
was about one square inch in diameter, and was undoubtedly a fine room.
The lodger was to enter into possession on the following day, and Mrs.
Cafferty said he was a very nice young man indeed and did not drink.



XXVI


Mrs. Cafferty's lodger duly arrived. He was young and as thin as a lath,
and he moved with fury. He was seldom in the place at all: he fled into
the house for his food, and having eaten it, he fled away from the house
again, and did not reappear until it was time to go to bed. What he did
with himself in the interval Mrs. Cafferty did not know, but she was
prepared to wager her soul, the value of which she believed was high, on
the fact that he was a good young man who never gave the slightest
trouble, saving that his bedclothes were always lying on the floor in the
morning, that there was candle grease on one corner of his pillow, and
that he cleaned his boots on a chair. But these were things which one
expected a young man to do, and the omission of them might have caused
one to look curiously at the creature and to doubt his masculinity.

Mrs. Makebelieve replied that habits of order and neatness were rarely to
be found in young people of either sex; more especially were these absent
in boys who are released in early youth by their mothers from all purely
domestic employments. A great many people believed, and she believed
herself, that it was not desirable a man or boy should conform too
rigidly to household rules. She had observed that the comfort of a home
was lost to many men if they were expected to take their boots off when
they came into the house, or to hang their hats up in a special place.
The women of a household, being so constantly indoors, find it easy and
businesslike to obey the small rules which comprise household
legislation, but as the entire policy of a house was to make it habitable
and comfortable for its men folk, all domestic ordinances might be
strained to the uttermost until the compromise was found to mollify even
exceptional idiosyncrasies. A man, she held, bowed to quite sufficient
discipline during his working hours, and his home should be a place free
from every vexatious restraint and wherein he might enjoy as wide a
liberty as was good for him.

These ideas were applauded by Mrs. Cafferty, and she supplemented them by
a recital of how she managed her own husband, and of the ridiculous ease
whereby any man may be governed; for she had observed that men were very
susceptible to control if only the control was not too apparent. If a man
did a thing twice, the doing of that thing became a habit and a passion,
any interference with which provoked him to an unreasoning, bull-like
wrath wherein both wives and crockery were equally shattered; and,
therefore, a woman had only to observe the personal habits of her beloved
and fashion her restrictions according to that standard. This meant that
men made the laws and women administered them--a wise allocation of
prerogatives, for she conceived that the executive female function was
every whit as important as the creative faculty which brought these laws
into being. She was quite prepared to leave the creative powers in male
hands if they would equally abstain from interference with the subsequent
working details, for she was of opinion that in the pursuit of comfort
(not entirely to their credit was it said) men were far more anxiously
concerned than were women, and they flew to their bourne with an instinct
for short cuts wherewith women were totally unacquainted.

But in the young man who had come to lodge with her Mrs. Cafferty
discerned a being in whom virtue had concentrated to a degree that almost
amounted to a congestion. He had instantly played with the children on
their being presented to him: this was the sign of a good nature. Before
he was acquainted with her ten minutes he had made four jokes: this was
the sign of a pleasant nature; and he sang loudly and unceasingly when he
awoke in the morning, which was the unfailing index to a happy nature.
Moreover, he ate the meals provided for him without any of that
particular, tedious examination which is so insulting, and had
complimented Mrs. Cafferty on an ability to put a taste on food which she
was pleased to obtain recognition of.

Both Mary and her mother remarked on these details with an admiration
which was as much as either politeness or friendship could expect. Mrs.
Makebelieve's solitary method of life had removed her so distantly from
youth that information about a young man was almost tonic to her. She had
never wished for a second husband, but had often fancied that a son would
have been a wonderful joy to her. She considered that a house which had
no young man growing up in it was not a house at all, and she believed
that a boy would love his mother, if not more than a daughter could, at
least with a difference which would be strangely sweet--a rash,
impulsive, unquiet love; a love which would continually prove her love to
the breaking point; a love that demanded, and demanded with careless
assurance, that accepted her goodness as unquestioningly as she accepted
the fertility of the earth, and used her knowing blindly and flatteringly
how inexhaustively rich her depths were...She could have wept for this;
it was priceless beyond kingdoms; the smile on a boy's face lifted her to
an exaltation. Her girl was inexpressibly sweet, surely an island in her
wide heart, but a little boy...her breasts could have filled with milk
for him, him she could have nourished in the rocks and in desert places:
he would have been life to her and adventure, a barrier against old age,
an incantation against sorrow, a fragrance and a grief and a defiance...

It was quite plain that Mrs. Cafferty was satisfied with this addition to
her household, but the profit which she had expected to accrue from his
presence was not the liberal one she had in mind when making the
preliminary arrangements. For it appeared that the young man had an
appetite of which Mrs. Cafferty spoke with the respect proper to
something colossal and awesome. A half-loaf did not more than break the
back of a hunger which could wriggle disastrously over another half-loaf:
so that, instead of being relieved by his advent, she was confronted by a
more immediate and desolating bankruptcy than that from which she had
attempted to escape. Exactly how to deal with this situation she did not
know, and it was really in order to discuss her peculiar case that she
had visited Mrs. Makebelieve. She could, of course, have approached the
young man and demanded from him an increase of money that would still be
equitable to both parties, but she confessed a repugnance to this course.
She did not like to upbraid or trouble any one on account of an appetite
which was so noteworthy. She disliked, in any event, to raise a question
about food: her instinct for hospitality was outraged at the thought, and
as she was herself the victim, or the owner, of an appetite which had
often placed a strain on her revenues, a fellow-feeling operated still
further in mitigation of his disqualification.

Mrs. Makebelieve's advice was that she should stifle the first fierce and
indiscriminate cravings of the young man's hunger by a liberal allowance
of stirabout, which was a cheap, wholesome, and very satisfying food, and
in that way his destruction of more costly victuals would be kept within
reasonable limits. Appetite, she held, was largely a matter of youth, and
as a boy who was scarcely done growing had no way of modifying his
passion for nourishment, it would be a lapse from decency to insult him
on so legitimate a failing.

Mrs. Cafferty thought that this might be done, and thanked her friend for
the counsel; but Mary, listening to these political matters, conceived
Mrs. Cafferty as a person who had no longer any claim to honour, and she
pitied the young man whose appetite was thus publicly canvassed, and who
might at any moment be turned out of house and home on account of a
hunger against which he had no safeguard and no remedy.



XXVII


It was not long until Mary and Mrs. Cafferty's lodger met. As he came in
by the hall-door one day Mary was carrying upstairs a large water-bucket,
the portage of which two or three times a day is so heavy a strain on the
dweller in tenements. The youth instantly seized the bucket, and despite
her protestations and appeals, he carried it upstairs. He walked a few
steps in advance of Mary, whistling cheerfully as he went, so she was
able to get a good view of him. He was so thin that he nearly made her
laugh, but he carried the bucket, the weight of which she had often bowed
under, with an ease astonishing in so slight a man, and there was a
spring in his walk which was pleasant to see. He laid the bucket down
outside her room, and requested her urgently to knock at his door
whenever she required more water fetched, because he would be only too
delighted to do it for her, and it was not the slightest trouble in the
world. While he spoke he was stealing glances at her face and Mary was
stealing glances at his face, and when they caught one another doing this
at the same moment they both looked hurriedly away, and the young man
departed to his own place.

But Mary was very angry with this young man. She had gone downstairs in
her house attire, which was not resplendent, and she objected to being
discovered by any youth in raiment not suitable to such an occasion. She
could not visualise herself speaking to a man unless she was adorned as
for a festivity. The gentlemen and ladies of whom her mother sometimes
spoke, and of whom she had often dreamt, were never mean in their
habiliments. The gentlemen frequently had green silken jackets with a
foam of lace at the wrists and a cascade of the same rich material
brawling upon their breasts, and the ladies were attired in a magnificent
scarcity of clothing, the fundamental principle whereof, although she was
quite assured of its righteousness, she did not yet understand.

Indeed, at this period Mary's interest in dress far transcended any
interest she had ever known before. She knew intimately the window
contents of every costumier's shop in Grafton and Wicklow and Dawson
Streets, and could follow with intelligent amazement the apparently
trifling, but exceedingly important, differences of line or seam or
flounce which ranked one garment as a creation and its neighbour as a
dress. She and her mother often discussed the gowns wherein the native
dignity of their souls might be adequately caparisoned. Mrs.
Makebelieve, with a humility which had still a trace of anger, admitted
that the period when she could have been expressed in colour had
expired, and she decided that a black silk dress, with a heavy gold
chain falling along the bosom, was as much as her soul was now entitled
to. She had an impatience, amounting to contempt, for those florid,
flamboyant souls whose outer physical integument so grievously
misrepresented them. She thought that after a certain time one should
dress the body and not the soul, and, discovering an inseparability
between the two, she held that the mean shrine must hold a very trifling
deity and that an ill-made or time-worn body should never dress
gloriously under pain of an accusation of hypocrisy or foolishness.

But for Mary she planned garments with a freedom and bravery which
astonished while it delighted her daughter. She combined twenty styles
into one style of terrifying originality. She conceived dresses of a
complexity beyond the labour of any but a divinely inspired needle, and
others again whose simplicity was almost too tenuous for human speech.
She discussed robes whose trailing and voluminous richness could with
difficulty be supported by ten strong attendants, and she had heard of a
dress the fabric whereof was of such gossamer and ethereal insubstancy
that it might be packed into a walnut more conveniently than an ordinary
dress could be impressed into a portmanteau. Mary's exclamations of
delight and longing ranged from every possible dress to every impossible
one, and then Mrs. Makebelieve reviewed all the dresses she had worn from
the age of three years to the present day, including wedding and mourning
dresses, those which were worn at picnics and dances and for travelling,
with an occasional divergence which comprehended the clothing of her
friends and her enemies during the like period. She explained the basic
principles of dress to her daughter, showing that in this art, as in all
else, order cannot be dispensed with. There were things a tall person
might wear, but which a short person might not, and the draperies which
adorned a portly lady were but pitiable weeds when trailed by her
attenuated sister. The effect of long, thin lines in a fabric will make a
short woman appear tall, while round, thick lines can reduce the altitude
of people whose height is a trouble to be combated. She illustrated the
usage of large and small checks and plaids and all the mazy interweaving
of other cloths, and she elucidated the mystery of colour, tone,
half-tone, light and shade so interestingly that Mary could scarcely hear
enough of her lore. She was acquainted with the colours which a dark
person may wear and those which are suitable to a fair person, and the
shades proper to be used by the wide class ranging between these extremes
she knew also, with a special provision for red-haired and sandy folk and
those who have no complexion at all. Certain laws which she formulated
were cherished by her daughter as oracular utterances--that one should
match one's eyes in the house and one's hair in the street, was one; that
one's hat and gloves and shoes were of vastly more importance than all
the rest of one's clothing, was another; that one's hair and stockings
should tone as nearly as possible, was a third. Following these rules,
she assured her daughter, a woman could never be other than well dressed,
and all of these things Mary learned by heart and asked her mother to
tell her more, which her mother was quite able and willing to do.



XXVIII


When the sexual instinct is aroused, men and dogs and frogs and beetles,
and such other creatures as are inside or outside of this catalogue, are
very tenacious in the pursuit of their ambition. We can seldom get away
from that which attracts or repels us. Love and hate are equally magnetic
and compelling, and each, being supernormal, drags us willingly or
woefully in its wake, until at last our blind persistency is either
routed or appeased, and we advance our lauds or gnash our teeth as the
occasion bids us. There is no tragedy more woeful than the victory of
hate, nor any attainment so hopelessly barren as the sterility of that
achievement; for hate is finality, and finality is the greatest evil
which can happen in a world of movement. Love is an inaugurator
displaying his banners on captured peaks and pressing for ever to a new
and more gracious enterprise, but the victories of hate are gained in a
ditch from which there is no horizon visible, and whence there does not
go even one limping courier,

After Mary fled from the embrace of the great policeman he came to think
more closely of her than he had been used; but her image was throned now
in anger: she came to him like a dull brightness wherefrom desolate
thunder might roll at an instant. Indeed, she began to obsess him so that
not even the ministrations of his aunt nor the obeisances of that
pleasant girl, the name of whose boots was Fairybell, could give him any
comfort or wean him from a contemplation which sprawled gloomily between
him and his duties to the traffic. If he had not discovered the lowliness
of her quality his course might have been simple and straightforward: the
issue, in such an event, would have narrowed to every man's
poser--whether he should marry this girl or that girl?--but the
arithmetic whereby such matters are elucidated would at the last have
eased his perplexity, and the path indicated could have been followed
with the fullest freedom on his part and without any disaster to his
self-love. If, whichever way his inclination wavered, there was any pang
of regret (and there was bound to be), such a feeling would be ultimately
waived by his reason or retained as a memorial which had a gratifying
savour. But the knowledge of Mary's social inferiority complicated
matters, for, although this automatically put her out of the question as
his wife, her subsequent ill-treatment of himself had injected a virus to
his blood which was one-half a passion for her body and one-half a frenzy
for vengeance. He could have let her go easily enough if she had not
first let him go; for he read dismissal in her action and resented it as
a trespass on his own just prerogative.--He had but to stretch out his
hand and she would have dropped to it as tamely as a kitten, whereas now
she eluded his hand, would, indeed, have nothing to do with it; and this
could not be forgiven. He would gladly have beaten her into submission,
for what right has a slip of a girl to withstand the advances of a man
and a policeman? That is a crooked spirit demanding to be straightened
with a truncheon: but as we cannot decently, or even peaceably, beat a
girl until she is married to us, he had to relinquish that dear idea. He
would have dismissed her from his mind with the contempt she deserved,
but, alas! he could not: she clung there like a burr, not to be dislodged
saving by possession or a beating--two shuddering alternatives--for she
had become detestably dear to him. His senses and his self-esteem
conspired to heave her to a pedestal where his eye strained upwards in
bewilderment--that she who was below him could be above him! This was
astounding: she must be pulled from her eminence and stamped back to her
native depths by his own indignant hoofs; thence she might be gloriously
lifted again with a calm, benignant, masculine hand shedding pardons and
favours, and perhaps a mollifying unguent for her bruises. Bruises! a
knee, an elbow--they were nothing; little damages which to kiss was to
make well again. Will not women cherish a bruise that it may be medicined
by male kisses? Nature and precedent have both sworn to it...But she was
out of reach; his hand, high-flung as it might be, could not get to her.
He went furiously to the Phoenix Park, to St. Stephen's Green, to
outlying leafy spots and sheltered lanes, but she was in none of these
places. He even prowled about the neighbourhood of her home and could not
meet her. Once he had seen Mary as she came along the road, and he drew
back into a doorway. A young man was marching by her side, a young man
who gabbled without ceasing and to whom Mary chattered again with an
equal volubility. As they passed by Mary caught sight of him, and her
face went flaming. She caught her companion's arm, and they hurried down
the road at a great pace...She had never chattered to him. Always he had
done the talking, and she had been an obedient, grateful listener. Nor
did he quarrel with her silence, but her reserve shocked him; it was a
pretence--worse, a lie--a masked and hooded falsehood. She had
surrendered to him willingly, and yet drew about her a protective armour
of reserve wherein she skulked immune to the arms which were lawfully
victorious. Is there, then, no loot for a conqueror? We demand the keys
of the City Walls and unrestricted entry, or our torches shall blaze
again. This chattering Mary was a girl whom he had never caught sight of
at all. She had been hiding from him even in his presence. In every
aspect she was an anger. But she could talk to the fellow with her...a
skinny whipper-snapper, whom the breath of a man could shred into remote,
eyeless vacuity. Was this man another insult? Did she not even wait to
bury her dead? Pah! she was not value for his thought. A girl so lightly
facile might be blown from here to there and she would scarcely notice
the difference. Here and there were the same places to her, and him and
him were the same person. A girl of that type comes to a bad end: he had
seen it often, the type and the end, and never separate. Can one not
prophesy from facts? He saw a slut in a slum, a drab hovering by a dark
entry, and the vision cheered him mightily for one glowing minute and
left him unoccupied for the next, into which she thronged with the
flutter of wings and the sound of a great mocking.

His aunt tracked his brows back to the responsible duties of his
employment, and commiserated with him, and made a lamentation about
matters with which he never had been occupied, so that the last tag of
his good manners departed from him, and he damned her unswervingly into
consternation. That other pleasant girl, whose sweetness he had not so
much tasted as sampled, had taken to brooding in his presence: she
sometimes drooped an eye upon him like a question...Let her look out or
maybe he'd blaze into her teeth: howl menace down her throat until she
swooned. Some one should yield to him a visible and tangible agony to
balance his. Does law probe no deeper than the pillage of a watch? Can
one filch our self-respect and escape free? Shall not our souls also sue
for damages against its aggressor? Some person rich enough must pay for
his lacerations or there was less justice in heaven than in the Police
Courts; and it might be that girl's lot to expiate the sins of Mary. It
would be a pleasure, if a sour one, to make somebody wriggle as he had,
and somebody should wriggle; of that he was blackly determined.



XXIX


Indeed, Mrs. Cafferty's lodger and Mary had become quite intimate, and it
was not through the machinations of either that this had happened. Ever
since Mrs. Makebelieve had heard of that young man's appetite, and the
miseries through which he had to follow it, she had been deeply concerned
on his behalf. She declined to believe that the boy ever got sufficient
to eat, and she enlarged to her daughter on the seriousness of this
privation to a young man. Disabilities, such as a young girl could not
comprehend, followed in the train of insufficient nourishment. Mrs.
Cafferty was her friend, and was, moreover, a good decent woman against
whom the tongue of rumour might wag in vain; but Mrs. Cafferty was the
mother of six children, and her natural kindliness dared not expand to
their detriment. Furthermore, the fact of her husband being out of work
tended to still further circumscribe the limits of her generosity. She
divined a lean pot in the Cafferty household, and she saw the young man
getting only as much food as Mrs. Cafferty dared to give him, so that the
pangs of his hunger almost gnawed at her own vitals. Under these
circumstances she had sought for an opportunity to become better
acquainted with him, and had very easily succeeded; so when Mary found
him seated on their bed and eating violently of their half-loaf, if she
was astonished at first she was also very glad. Her mother watched the
demolition of their food with a calm happiness, for although the amount
she could contribute was small, every little helped, and not alone were
his wants assisted, but her friend Mrs. Cafferty and her children were
also aided by this dulling of an appetite which might have endangered
their household peace.

The young man repaid their hospitality by an easy generosity of speech
covering affairs which neither Mrs. Makebelieve nor her daughter had many
opportunities for studying. He spoke of those very interesting matters
with which a young man is concerned, and his speculations on various
subjects, while often quite ignorant, were sufficiently vivid to be
interesting and were wrong in a boyish fashion which was not unpleasant.
He was very argumentative, but was still open to reason; therefore Mrs.
Makebelieve had opportunities for discussion which were seldom granted to
her. Insensibly she adopted the position of guide, philosopher, and
friend to him; and Mary also found new interests in speech, for although
the young man thought very differently from her, he did think upon her
own plane, and the things which secretly engrossed him were also the
things wherewith she was deeply preoccupied. A community of ignorances
may be as binding as a community of interests. We have a dull suspicion
of that him or her who knows more than we do, but the person who is
prepared to go out adventuring with us, with surmise only for a chart and
enjoyment for a guide, may use our hand as his own and our pockets as his
treasury.

As the young man had no more shyness than a cat, it soon fell out that he
and Mary took their evening walks together. He was a clerk in a large
retail establishment, and had many things to tell Mary which were of
great interest to both of them. For in his place of business he had both
friends and enemies of whom he was able to speak with the fluency which
was their due. Mary knew, for instance, that the chief was bald but
decent (she could not believe that the connection was natural), and that
the second in command had neither virtues nor whiskers. (She saw him as a
codfish with a malignant eye.) He epitomised the vices which belonged in
detail to the world, but were peculiar to himself in bulk. (He must be
hairy in that event.) Language, even the young man's, could not describe
him adequately. (He ate boys for breakfast and girls for tea.) With this
person the young man was in eternal conflict (a bear with little ears and
big teeth); not open conflict, for that would have meant instant
dismissal (not hairy at all--a long, slimy eel with a lot of sense), but
a veiled, unremitting warfare which occupied all their spare attention.
The young man knew for an actual fact that some day he would be compelled
to hit that chap, and it would be a sorry day for the fellow, because his
ability to hit was startling. He told Mary of the evil results which had
followed some of his blows, and Mary's incredulity was only heightened by
a display of the young man's muscles. She extolled these because she
thought it was her duty to do so, but preserved some doubts of their
unique destructiveness. Once she asked him could he fight a policeman,
and he assured her that policemen are not able to fight at all singly,
but only in squads, when their warfare is callous and ugly and conducted
mainly with their boots; so that decent people have no respect for their
fighting qualities or their private characters. He assured her that not
only could he fight a policeman, but he could also tyrannise over the
seed, breed, and generation of such a one, and, moreover, he could
accomplish this without real exertion. Against all policemen and soldiers
the young man professed an eager hostility, and with these bad people he
included landlords and many employers of labour. His denunciation of
these folk might be traced back to the belief that none of them treated
one fairly. A policeman, he averred, would arrest a man for next door to
nothing, and any resistance offered to their spleen rendered the
unfortunate prisoner liable to be man-handled in his cell until their
outraged dignity was appeased. The three capital crimes upon which a man
is liable to arrest are for being drunk, or disorderly, or for refusing
to fight, and to these perils a young man is peculiarly susceptible, and
is, to that extent, interested in the Force, and critical of their
behaviour. The sight of a soldier annoyed him, for he saw a conqueror,
trampling vaingloriously through the capital of his country, and the
inability of his land to eject the braggart astonished and mortified him.
Landlords had no bowels of compassion. There was no kindliness of heart
among them, nor any wish to assist those whose whole existence was
engaged on their behalf. He saw them as lazy, unproductive gluttons who
cried for, ever "Give, give," and who gave nothing in return but an
increased insolent tyranny. Many employers came into the same black
category. They were people who had disowned all duty to humanity, and who
saw in themselves the beginning and the end of all things. They gratified
their acquisitiveness not in order that they might become benefactors of
their kind (the only righteous freedom of which we know), but merely to
indulge a petty exercise of power and to attain that approval which is
granted to wealth and the giving of which is the great foolishness of
mankind. These people used their helpers and threw them away; they
exploited and bought and sold their fellow-men, while their arrogant
self-assurance and the monstrous power which they had gathered for their
security shocked him like a thing unbelievable in spite of its reality.
That such things could be, fretted him into clamour. He wanted to point
them out to all people. He saw his neighbours' ears clogged, and he was
prepared to die howling if only he could pierce those encrusted
auditories. That what was so simple to him should not be understood by
everybody! He could see plainly and others could not, although their eyes
looked straightly forward and veritably rolled with intent and
consciousness! Did their eyes and ears and brains act differently to his,
or was he a singular monster cursed from his birth with madness? At times
he was prepared to let humanity and Ireland go to the devil their own
way, he being well assured that without him they were bound quickly for
deep perdition. Of Ireland he sometimes spoke with a fervour of passion
which would be outrageous if addressed to a woman. Surely he saw her as a
woman, queenly and distressed and very proud. He was physically anguished
for her, and the man who loved her was the very brother of his bones.
There were some words the effect of which were almost hypnotic on
him--The Isle of the Blest, The Little Dark Rose, The Poor Old Woman, and
Caitlin the Daughter of Holohan. The mere repetition of these phrases
lifted him to an ecstasy; they had hidden, magical meanings which pricked
deeply to his heart-strings and thrilled him to a tempest of pity and
love. He yearned to do deeds of valour, violent, grandiose feats which
would redound to her credit and make the name of Irishmen synonymous with
either greatness or singularity: for, as yet, the distinction between
these words was no more clear to him than it is to any other young man
who reads violence as heroism and eccentricity as genius. Of England he
spoke with something like stupefaction: as a child cowering in a dark
wood tells of the ogre who has slain his father and carried his mother
away to a drear captivity in his castle built of bones--so he spoke of
England. He saw an Englishman stalking hideously forward with a princess
tucked under each arm, while their brothers and their knights were netted
in enchantment and slept heedless of the wrongs done to their ladies and
of the defacement of their shields... "Alas, alas and alas, for the once
proud people of Banba!"



XXX


Mrs. Makebelieve was astonished when the policeman knocked at her door. A
knock at her door was a rare sound, for many years had gone by since any
one had come to visit her. Of late Mrs. Cafferty often came to talk to
her, but she never knocked; she usually shouted, "Can I come in?" and
then she came in. But this was a ceremonious knock which startled her,
and the spectacle of the great man bending through the doorway almost
stopped her breath. Mary also was so shocked into terror that she stood
still, forgetful of all good manners, and stared at the visitor
open-eyed. She knew and did not know what he had come for; but that, in
some way, his appearance related to her she was instantly assured,
although she could not even dimly guess at a closer explanation of his
visit. His eyes stayed on her for an instant and then passed to her
mother, and, following her rather tremulous invitation, he came into the
room. There was no chair to sit on, so Mrs. Makebelieve requested him to
sit down on the bed, which he did. She fancied he had come on some errand
from Mrs. O'Connor, and was inclined to be angry at a visit which she
construed as an intrusion, so, when he was seated, she waited to hear
what he might have to say.

Even to her it was evident that the big man was perplexed and abashed;
his hat was in his way, and so were his hands, and when he spoke his
voice was so husky as to be distressful. On Mary, who had withdrawn to
the very end of the room, this discomfort of speech had a peculiar
effect: the unsteady voice touched her breast to a kindred fluttering,
and her throat grew parched and so irritated that a violent fit of
coughing could not be restrained, and this, with the nervousness and
alarm which his appearance had thronged upon her, drove her to a very
fever of distress. But she could not take her eyes away from him, and she
wondered and was afraid of what he might say. She knew there were a great
many things he might discuss which she would be loath to hear in her
mother's presence, and which her mother would not be gratified to hear
either.

He spoke for a few moments about the weather, and Mrs. Makebelieve
hearkened to his remarks with a perplexity which she made no effort to
conceal. She was quite certain he had not called to speak about the
weather, and she was prepared to tell him so if a suitable opportunity
should occur. She was also satisfied that he had not come on a formal,
friendly visit--the memory of her last interview with him forbade such a
conjecture, for on that occasion politeness had been deposed from her
throne and acrimony had reigned in her stead. If his aunt had desired him
to undertake an embassy to her he would surely have delivered his message
without preamble, and would not have been thrown by so trifling a duty
into the state of agitation in which he was. It was obvious, therefore,
that he had not come with a message relating to her work. Something of
fear touched Mrs. Makebelieve as she looked at him, and her voice had an
uneasy note when she requested to know what she could do for him.

The policeman suddenly, with the gesture of one throwing away anchors,
plunged into the heart of his matter, and as he spoke the look on Mrs.
Makebelieve's face changed quickly from bewilderment to curiosity and
dulled again to a blank amazement. After the first few sentences she half
turned to Mary, but an obscure shame prevented her from searching out her
daughter's eyes. It was borne quickly and painfully to her that Mary had
not treated her fairly: there was a secret here with which a mother ought
to have been trusted, and one which she could not believe Mary would have
withheld from her; and so, gauging her child's feelings by her own, she
steadfastly refused to look at her lest the shocked surprise in her eyes
might lacerate the girl she loved, and who she knew must at the instant
be in a sufficient agony.--Undoubtedly the man was suggesting that he
wanted to marry her daughter, and the unexpectedness of such a proposal
left her mentally gaping; but that there must have been some
preliminaries of meeting and courtship became obvious to her. Mary also
listened to his remarks in a stupor. Was there no possibility at all of
getting away from the man? A tenacity such as this seemed to her
malignant. She had the feeling of one being pursued by some relentless
and unscrupulous hunter. She heard him speaking through a cloud, and the
only things really clear to her were the thoughts which she knew her
mother must be thinking. She was frightened and ashamed, and the
sullenness which is the refuge of most young people descended upon her
like a darkness. Her face grew heavy and vacant, and she stared in front
of her in the attitude of one who had nothing to do with what was
passing. She did not believe altogether that he was in earnest: her
immediate discomfort showed him as one who was merely seeking to get her
into trouble with her mother in order to gratify an impotent rage. Twice
or three times she flamed suddenly, went tiptoe to run from the room. A
flash, and she would be gone from the place, down the stairs, into the
streets, and away anywhere, and she tingled with the very speed of her
vision; but she knew that one word from her mother would halt her like a
barrier, and she hated the thought that he should be a witness to her
obedience.

While he was speaking he did not look at Mary. He told Mrs. Makebelieve
that, he loved her daughter very much, and he begged her permission and
favour for his suit. He gave her to understand that he and Mary had many
opportunities of becoming acquainted, and were at one in this desire for
matrimony.--To Mrs. Makebelieve's mind there recurred a conversation
which she had once held with her daughter, when Mary was curious to know
if a policeman was a desirable person for a girl to marry. She saw this
question now, not as being prompted by a laudable, an almost scientific
curiosity, but as the interested, sly speculation of a schemer hideously
accomplished in deceit. Mary could see that memory flitting back through
her mother's brain, and it tormented her. Nor was her mother at
ease--there was no chair to sit upon; she had to stand and listen to all
this while he spoke, more or less at his ease, from the bed. If she also
had been sitting down she might have been mistress of her thoughts and
able to deal naturally with the situation; but an easy pose is difficult
when standing: her hands would fold in front of her, and the school-girl
attitude annoyed and restrained her. Also, the man appeared to be in
earnest in what he said. His words at the least, and the intention which
drove them, seemed honourable. She could not give rein to her feelings
without lapsing to a barbarity which she might not justify to herself
even in anger, and might, indeed, blush to remember. Perhaps his chief
disqualification consisted in a relationship to Mrs. O'Connor for which
he could not justly be held to blame, and for which she sincerely pitied
him. But this certainly was a disqualification never to be redeemed. He
might leave hi's work, or his religion, or his country, but he could
never quit his aunt, because he carried her with him under his skin; he
was her with additions, and at times Mrs. Makebelieve could see Mrs.
O'Connor looking cautiously at her through the policeman's eyes; a turn
of his forehead and she was there like a thin wraith that vanished and
appeared again. The man was spoiled for her. He did not altogether lack
sense, and the fact that he wished to marry her daughter showed that he
was not so utterly beyond the reach of redemption as she had fancied.

Meanwhile, he had finished his statement as regarded the affection which
he bore to her daughter and the suitability of their temperaments, and
had hurled himself into an explanation of his worldly affairs, comprising
his salary as a policeman, the possibility of promotion and the increased
emoluments which would follow it, and the certain pension which would
sustain his age. There were, furthermore, his parents, from whose decease
he would reap certain monetary increments, and the deaths of other
relatives from which an additional enlargement of his revenues might
reasonably be expected. Indeed, he had not desired to speak of these
matters 'at all, but the stony demeanour of Mrs. Makebelieve and the
sullen aloofness of her daughter forced him, however reluctantly, to draw
even ignoble weapons from his armoury. He had not conceived they would be
so obdurate: he had, in fact, imagined that the elder woman must be
flattered by his offer to marry her daughter, and when no evidence to
support this was forthcoming he was driven to appeal to the cupidity
which he believed occupies the heart of every middle-aged, hard-worked
woman. But these statements also were received with a dreadful composure.
He could have smashed Mrs. Makebelieve where she stood. Now and again his
body strained to a wild, physical outburst, a passionate, red fury that
would have terrified these women to their knees, while he roared their
screams into thin whimpers as a man should. He did not even dare to stop
speaking, and his efforts at an easy, good-humoured, half-careless
presentation of his case was bitterly painful to him as it was to his
auditors. The fact that they were both standing up unnerved him also--the
pleasant equality which should have formed the atmosphere of such an
interview was destroyed from the first moment, and having once sat down,
he did not like to stand up again. He felt glued to the bed on which he
sat, and he felt also that if he stood up the tension in the room would
so relax that Mrs. Makebelieve would at once break out into speech
sarcastic and final, or her daughter might scream reproaches and
disclaimers of an equal finality. At her he did not dare to look, but the
corner of his eye could see her shape stiffened against the fireplace, an
attitude so different from the pliable contours to which he was
accustomed in her as almost to be repellent. He would have thanked God to
find himself outside the room, but how to get out of it he did not know:
his self-esteem forbade anything like a retreat without honour, his
nervousness did not permit him to move at all, the anger which prickled
the surface of his body and mind was held in check only by an instinct of
fear as to what he might do if he moved, and so, with dreadful
jocularity, he commenced to speak of himself, his personal character, his
sobriety and steadiness--of all those safe negations on which many women
place reliance he spoke, and also of certain small vices which he
magnified merely for the sake of talking, such as smoking, an odd glass
of porter, and the shilling which, now and again, he had ventured upon a
race-horse.

Mary listened to him for a while with angry intentness. The fact that she
was the subject of his extraordinary discourse quickened at the first all
her apprehensions. Had the matter been less important she would have been
glad to look at herself in this strange position, and to savour, with as
much detachment as was possible, the whole spirit of the adventure. But
when she heard him, as she put it, "telling on her," laying bare to her
mother all the walks they had taken together, visits to restaurants and
rambles through the streets and the parks, what he had said to her on
this occasion and on that, and her remarks on such and such a matter, she
could not visualise him save as a malignant and uncultivated person; and
when he tacitly suggested that she was as eager for matrimony as he was,
and so put upon her the horrible onus of rejecting him before a second
person, she closed her mind and her ears against him. She refused to
listen, although her perceptions admitted the trend of his speech. His
words droned heavily and monotonously to her as through dull banks of
fog. She made up her mind that if she were asked any questions by either
of them she would not reply, and that she would not look at either of
them; and then she thought that she would snap and stamp her feet and say
that she hated him, that he had looked down on her because she worked for
his aunt, that he had meanly been ashamed of and cut her because she was
poor, that he had been going with another girl all the time he was going
with her, and that he only pursued her in order to annoy her; that she
didn't love him, that she didn't even like him--that, in fact, she
disliked him heartily. She wished to say all these things in one whirling
outcry, but feared that before she had rightly begun she might become
abashed, or, worse, might burst into tears and lose all the dignity which
she meant to preserve in his presence for the purpose of showing to him
in the best light exactly what he was losing.

But the big man had come to the end of his speech. He made a few attempts
to begin anew on the desirability of such a union for both of them, and
the happiness it would give him if Mrs. Makebelieve would come to live
with them when they were married. He refused to let it appear that there
was any doubt as to Mary's attitude in the matter, for up to the moment
he came to their door he had not doubted her willingness himself. Her
late avoidance of him he had put down to mere feminine tactics, which
leads on by holding off. The unwilling person he had been assured was
himself--he stooped to her, and it was only after a severe battle that he
had been able to do it. The astonishment and disapproval of his relatives
and friends at such a step were very evident to him, for to a man of his
position and figure girls were cheap creatures, the best of them to be
had for the mere asking. Therefore, the fact that this girl could be
seriously rejecting his offer of marriage came upon him like red
astonishment. He had no more to say, however, and he blundered and
fumbled into silence.

For a moment or two the little room was so still that the quietness
seemed to hum and buzz like an eternity. Then, with a sigh, Mrs.
Makebelieve spoke.

"I don't know at all," said she, "why you should speak to me about this,
for neither my daughter nor yourself have ever even hinted to me before
that you were courting one another. Why Mary should keep such a secret
from her own mother I don't know. Maybe I've been cruel and frightened
her, although I don't remember doing anything that she could have against
me of that sort: or, maybe, she didn't think I was wise enough to advise
her about a particular thing like her marriage, for, God knows, old women
are foolish enough in their notions, or else they wouldn't be slaving and
grinding for the sake of their children the way they do be doing year in
and year out, every day in the week, and every hour of the day. It isn't
any wonder at all that a child would be a liar and a sleeveen and a
trampler of the roads with the first man that nods to her when her mother
is a foolish person that she can't trust. Of course, I wouldn't be
looking for a gentleman like yourself to mention the matter to me when I
might be scrubbing out your aunt's kitchen or her hall-door, maybe, and
you sitting in the parlour with the company. Sure, I'm only an old
charwoman, and what does it matter at all what I'd be thinking, or
whether I'd be agreeing or not to anything? Don't I get my wages for my
work, and what more does anybody want in the world? As for me going to
live with you when you are married--it was kind of you to ask me that;
but it's not the sort of thing I'm likely to do, for if I didn't care for
you as a stranger I'm not going to like you any better as my daughter's
husband. You'll excuse me saying one thing, sir, but while we are talking
we may as well be talking out, and it's this--that I never did like you,
and I never will like you, and I'd sooner see my daughter married to any
one at all than to yourself. But, sure, I needn't be talking about it;
isn't it Mary's business altogether? and she'll be settling it with you
nicely, I don't doubt. She's a practised hand now at arranging things,
like you are yourself, and it will do me good to be learning something
from her."

Mrs. Makebelieve took a cloth in her hand and walked over to the
fireplace, which she commenced to polish.

The big man looked at Mary. It was incumbent on him to say something.
Twice he attempted to speak, and each time, on finding himself about to
say something regarding the weather, he stopped. Mary did not look at
him; her eyes were fixed stubbornly on a part of the wall well away from
his neighbourhood, and it seemed to him that she had made a vow to
herself never to look at him again. But the utter silence of the room was
unbearable. He knew that he ought to get up and go out, but he could not
bring himself to do so. His self-love, his very physical strength,
rebelled against so tame a surrender. One thought he gathered in from
swaying vacuity--that the timid little creature whom he had patronised
would not find the harsh courage to refuse him point--blank if he charged
her straitly with the question: and so he again assayed speech.

"Your mother is angry with us, Mary," said he, "and I suppose she has
good right to be angry; but the reason I did not speak to her before, as
I admit I should have if I'd done the right thing, was that I had very
few chances of meeting her, and never did meet her without some other
person being there at the same time. I suppose the reason you did not say
anything was that you wanted to be quite sure of yourself and of me too
before you mentioned it. We have both done the wrong thing in not being
open, but maybe your mother will forgive us when she knows we had no
intention of hurting her, or of doing anything behind her back. Your
mother seems to hate me: I don't know why, because she hardly knows me at
all, and I've never done her any harm or said a word against her. Perhaps
when she knows me as well as you do she'll change her mind: but you know
I love you better than any one else, and that I'd do anything I could to
please you and be a good husband to you. What I want to ask you before
your mother is--will you marry me?"

Mary made no reply. She did not look or give the slightest sign that she
had heard. But now it was that she did not dare to look at him. The
spectacle of this big man badgered by her and by her mother, pleading to
her, and pleading, as he and she well knew, hopelessly, would have broken
her heart if she looked at him. She had to admire the good masculine
fight he made of it. Even his tricks of word and tactic, which she
instantly divined, moved her almost to tears; but she feared terribly
that if she met his gaze she might not be able to resist his huge
helplessness, and that she might be compelled to do whatever he begged of
her even in despite of her own wishes.

The interval which followed his question weighed heavily upon them all.
It was only broken by Mrs. Makebelieve, who began to hum a song as she
polished the fire-grate. She meant to show her careless detachment from
the whole matter, but in the face of Mary's silence she could not keep it
up. After a few moments she moved around and said:

"Why don't you answer the gentleman, Mary?"

Mary turned and looked at her, and the tears which she had resisted so
long swam in her eyes: although she could keep her features composed she
had no further command over her tears.

"I'll answer whatever you ask me, mother," she whispered.

"Then, tell the gentleman whether you will marry him or not."

"I don't want to marry any one at all," said Mary.

"You are not asked to marry any one, darling," said Mrs. Makebelieve,
"but some one--this gentleman here whose name I don't happen to know. Do
you know his name?"

"No," said Mary.

"My name..." began the policeman.

"It doesn't matter, sir," said Mrs. Make-believe. "Do you want to marry
this gentleman, Mary?"

"No," whispered Mary.

"Are you in love with him?"

Mary turned completely away from him. "No," she whispered again.

"Do you think you ever will be in love with him?"

She felt as a rat might when hunted to a corner. But the end must be very
near; this could not last for ever, because nothing can. Her lips were
parched, her eyes were burning. She wanted to lie down and go asleep, and
waken again laughing to say, "It was a dream."

Her reply was almost inaudible. "No," she said.

"You are quite sure? It is always better to be quite sure."

She did not answer any more, but the faint droop of her head gave the
reply her mother needed.

"You see, sir," said Mrs. Makebelieve, "that you were mistaken in your
opinion. My daughter is not old enough yet to be thinking of marriage and
such-like. Children do be thoughtless. I am sorry for all the trouble she
has given you, and "--a sudden compunction stirred her, for the man was
standing up now, and there was no trace of Mrs. O'Connor visible in him;
his face was as massive and harsh as a piece of wall. "Don't you be
thinking too badly of us now," said Mrs. Makebelieve, with some
agitation; "the child is too young altogether to be asking her to marry.
Maybe in a year or two--I said things, I know, but I was vexed, and..."

The big man nodded his head and marched out.

Mary ran to her mother, moaning like a sick person, but Mrs. Makebelieve
did not look at her. She lay down on the bed and turned her face to the
wall, and she did not speak to Mary for a long time.



XXXI


When the young man who lodged with Mrs. Cafferty came in on the following
day he presented a deplorable appearance. His clothes were torn and his
face had several large strips of sticking-plaster on it, but he seemed to
be in a mood of extraordinary happiness notwithstanding, and proclaimed
that he had participated in the one really great fight of his lifetime,
that he wasn't injured at all, and that he wouldn't have missed it for a
pension.

Mrs. Cafferty was wild with indignation, and marched him into Mrs.
Makebelieve's room, where he had again to tell his story and have his
injuries inspected and commiserated. Even Mr. Cafferty came into the room
on this occasion. He was a large, slow man, dressed very comfortably in a
red beard--his beard was so red and so persistent that it quite
overshadowed the rest of his wrappings and did, indeed, seem to clothe
him. As he stood the six children walked in and out of his legs, and
stood on his feet in their proper turns without causing him any apparent
discomfort. During the young man's recital Mr. Cafferty every now and
then solemnly and powerfully smote his left hand with his right fist, and
requested that the aggressor should be produced to him.

The young man said that as he was coming home the biggest man in the
world walked up to him. He had never set eyes on the man before in his
life, and thought at first he wanted to borrow a match or ask the way to
somewhere, or something like that, and, accordingly, he halted; but the
big man gripped him by the shoulder and said, "You damned young whelp!"
and then he laughed and hit him a tremendous blow with his other hand. He
twisted himself free at that, and said, "What's that for?" and then the
big man made another desperate clout at him. A fellow wasn't going to
stand that kind of thing, so he let out at him with his left, and then
jumped in with two short arm jabs that must have tickled the chap; that
fellow didn't have it all his own way anyhow...The young man exhibited
his knuckles, which were skinned and bleeding, as evidence of some
exchange; but, he averred, you might as well be punching a sack of coal
as that man's face. In another minute they both slipped and rolled over
and over in the road, hitting and kicking as they sprawled: then a crowd
of people ran forward and pulled them asunder. When they were separated
he saw the big man lift his fist, and the person who was holding him
ducked suddenly and ran for his life: the other folk got out of the way
too, and the big man walked over to where he stood and stared into his
face. His jaw was stuck out like the seat of a chair, and his moustache
was like a bristle of barbed wire. The young man said to him, "What the
hell's wrong with you to go bashing a man for nothing at all?" and all of
a sudden the big fellow turned and walked away. It was a grand fight
altogether, said the youth, but the other man was a mile and a half too
big for him.

As this story proceeded Mrs. Makebelieve looked once or twice at her
daughter. Mary's face had gone very pale, and she nodded back a
confirmation of her mother's conjecture; but it did not seem necessary or
wise to either of them that they should explain their thoughts. The young
man did not require either condolences or revenge. He was well pleased at
an opportunity to measure his hardihood against a worthy opponent. He had
found that his courage exceeded his strength, as it always should--for
how could we face the gods and demons of existence if our puny arms were
not backed up by our invincible eyes?--and he displayed his contentment
at the issue as one does a banner emblazoned with merits. Mrs.
Makebelieve understood also that the big man's action was merely his
energetic surrender, as of one who, instead of tendering his sword
courteously to the victor, hurls it at him with a malediction; and that
in assaulting their friend he was bidding them farewell as heartily and
impressively as he was able. So they fed the young man and extolled him,
applauding to the shrill winding of his trumpet until he glowed again in
the full satisfaction of heroism.

He and Mary did not discontinue their evening walks. Of these Mrs.
Makebelieve was fully cognisant, and although she did not remark on the
fact, she had been observing the growth of their intimacy with a care
which was one part approval and one part pain; for it was very evident to
her that her daughter was no longer a child to be controlled and directed
by authority. Her little girl was a big girl; she had grown up and was
eager to undertake the business of life on her own behalf. But the period
of Mrs. Makebelieve's motherhood had drawn to a close, and her arms were
empty. She was too used now to being a mother to relinquish easily the
prerogatives of that status, and her discontent had this justification
and assistance that it could be put into definite words, fronted and
approved or rejected as reason urged. By knowledge and thought we will
look through a stone wall if we look long enough, for we see less through
eyes than through Time. Time is the clarifying perspective whereby myopia
of any kind is adjusted, and a thought emerges in its field as visibly as
a tree does in nature's. Mrs. Makebelieve saw seventeen years'
apprenticeship to maternity cancelled automatically without an
explanation or a courtesy, and for a little time her world was in ruins,
the ashes of existence powdered her hair and her forehead. Then she
discovered that the debris was valuable in known currency; the dust was
golden: her love remained to her undisturbed and unlikely to be disturbed
by whatever event. And she discovered further that parentage is neither a
game nor a privilege, but a duty; it is--astounding thought--the care of
the young until the young can take care of itself. It was for this
freedom only that her elaborate care had been necessary; her bud had
blossomed and she could add no more to its bloom or fragrance. Nothing
had happened that was not natural, and whoso opposes his brow against
that imperious urgency is thereby renouncing his kind and claiming a
kinship with the wild boar and the goat, which they, too, may repudiate
with leaden foreheads. There remained also the common human equality, not
alone of blood, but of sex also, which might be fostered and grow to an
intimacy more dear and enduring, more lovely and loving, than the
necessarily one-sided devotions of parentage. Her duties in that
relationship having been performed, it was her daughter's turn to take up
hers and prove her rearing by repaying to her mother the conscious love
which intelligence and a good heart dictates. This given Mrs. Makebelieve
could smile happily again, for her arms would be empty only for a little
time. The continuity of nature does not fail, saving for extraordinary
instances. She sees to it that a breast and an arm shall not very long be
unoccupied, and consequently, as Mrs. Makebelieve sat contemplating that
futurity which is nothing more than a prolongation of experience, she
could smile contentedly, for all was very well.



XXXII


If the unexpected did not often happen life would be a logical,
scientific progression which might become dispirited and repudiate its
goal for very boredom, but nature has cunningly diversified the methods
whereby she coaxes or coerces us to prosecute, not our own, but her own
adventure. Beyond every corner there may be a tavern or a church wherein
both the saint and the sinner may be entrapped and remoulded. Beyond the
skyline you may find a dynamite cartridge, a drunken tinker, a mad dog,
or a shilling which some person has dropped; and any one of these
unexpectednesses may be potent to urge the traveller down a side street
and put a crook in the straight line which had been his life, and to
which he had become miserably reconciled. The element of surprise being,
accordingly, one of the commonest things in the world, we ought not to be
hypercritical in our review of singularities, or say, "These things do
not happen "--because it is indisputable that they do happen. That
combination which comprises a dark night, a highwayman armed and hatted
to the teeth, and myself, may be a purely fortuitous one, but will such a
criticism bring any comfort to the highwayman? And the concourse of three
benevolent millionaires with the person to whom poverty can do no more is
so pleasant and possible that I marvel it does not occur more frequently.
I am prepared to believe on the very lightest assurance that these things
do happen, but are hushed up for reasons which would be cogent enough if
they were available.

Mrs. Makebelieve opened the letter which the evening's post had brought
to her. She had pondered well before opening it, and had discussed with
her daughter all the possible people who could have written it. The
envelope was long and narrow; it was addressed in a swift emphatic hand,
the tail of the letter M enjoying a career distinguished beyond any of
its fellows by length and beauty. The envelope, moreover, was sealed by a
brilliant red lion with jagged whiskers and a simper, who threatened the
person daring to open a missive not addressed to him with the vengeance
of a battle-axe which was balanced lightly but truculently on his right
claw.

This envelope contained several documents purporting to be copies of
extraordinary originals, and amongst them a letter which was read by Mrs.
Makebelieve more than ten thousand times or ever she went to bed that
night. It related that more than two years previously one Patrick Joseph
Brady had departed this life, and that his will (dated from a
multitudinous address in New York) devised and bequeathed to his dearly
beloved sister Mary Eileen Makebelieve, otherwise Brady, the following
shares and securities for shares, to wit...and the thereinafter mentioned
houses and messuages, lands, tenements, hereditaments, and premises, that
was to say...and all household furniture, books, pictures, prints, plate,
linen, glass, and objects of vertu, carriages, wines, liquors, and all
consumable stores and effects whatsoever then in the house so and so, and
all money then in the Bank and thereafter to accrue due upon the
thereinbefore mentioned stocks, funds, shares, and securities...Mrs.
Makebelieve wept and besought God not to make a fool of a woman who was
not only poor but old. The letter requested her to call on the following
day, or at her earliest convenience, to "the above address," and desired
that she should bring with her such letters or other documents as would
establish her relationship to the deceased and assist in extracting the
necessary Grant of Probate to the said Will, and it was subscribed by
Messrs. Platitude and Glambe, Solicitors, Commissioners for Oaths, and
Protectors of the Poor.

To the Chambers of these gentlemen Mrs. Makebelieve and Mary repaired on
the following day, and having produced the letters and other documents
for inspection, the philanthropists, Platitude and Glambe, professed
themselves to be entirely satisfied as to their bona fides, and exhibited
an eagerness to be of immediate service to the ladies in whatever
capacity might be conceived. Mrs. Make-believe instantly invoked the
Pragmatic Sanction; she put the entire matter to the touchstone of
absolute verity by demanding an advance of fifty pounds. Her mind reeled
as she said the astounding amount, but her voice did not. A cheque was
signed and a clerk despatched, who returned with eight five-pound notes
and ten sovereigns of massy gold. Mrs. Makebelieve secreted these, and
went home marvelling to find that she was yet alive. No trams ran over
her. The motorcars pursued her, and were evaded. She put her hope in God,
and explained so breathlessly to the furious street. One cyclist who took
corners on trust she cursed by the Ineffable Name, but instantly withdrew
the malediction for luck, and addressed his dwindling back with an eye of
misery and a voice of benediction. For a little time neither she nor her
daughter spoke of the change in their fortunes saving in terms of
allusion; they feared that, notwithstanding their trust, God might hear
and shatter them with His rolling laughter. They went out again that day
furtively and feverishly and bought...

But on the following morning Mrs. Make-believe returned again to her
labour. She intended finishing her week's work with Mrs. O'Connor (it
might not last for a week). She wished to observe that lady with the
exact particularity, the singleness of eye, the true, candid, critical
scrutiny which had hitherto been impossible to her. It was, she said to
Mary, just possible that Mrs. O'Connor might make some remarks about
soap. It was possible that the lady might advance theories as to how this
or that particular kind of labour ought to be conducted...Mrs.
Makebelieve's black eye shone upon her child with a calm peace, a
benevolent happiness rare indeed to human regard.

In the evening of that day Mary and the young man who lodged with their
neighbour went out for the walk which had become customary with them. The
young man had been fed with an amplitude which he had never known before,
so that not even the' remotest slim thread, shred, hint, echo, or memory
of hunger remained with him: he tried but could not make a dint in
himself anywhere, and, consequently, he was as sad as only a well-fed
person can be. Now that his hunger was gone he deemed that all else was
gone also. His hunger, his sweetheart, his hopes, his good looks (for his
injuries had matured to the ripe purple of the perfect bruise), all were
gone, gone, gone. He told it to Mary, but she did not listen to him; to
the rolling sky he announced it, and it paid no heed. He walked beside
Mary at last in silence, listening to her plans and caprices, the things
she would do and buy, the people to whom gifts should be made, and the
species of gift uniquely suitable to this person and to that person, the
people to whom money might be given and the amounts, and the methods
whereby such largesse could be distributed. Hats were mentioned, and
dresses, and the new house somewhere--a space-embracing somewhere, beyond
surmise, beyond geography. They walked onwards for a long time, so long
that at last a familiar feeling stole upon the youth. The word "food"
seemed suddenly a topic worthy of the most spirited conversation. His
spirits arose. He was no longer solid, space belonged to him also, it was
in him and of him, and so there was a song in his heart. He was hungry
and the friend of man again. Now everything was possible. The girl? Was
she not by his side? The regeneration of Ireland and of Man? That could
be done also; a little leisure and everything that can be thought can be
done: even his good looks might be returned to him; he felt the sting and
tightness of his bruises and was reassured, exultant. He was a man
predestined to bruises; they would be his meat and drink and happiness,
his refuge and sanctuary for ever. Let us leave him, then, pacing volubly
by the side of Mary, and exploring with a delicate finger his half-closed
eye, which, until it was closed entirely, would always be half-closed by
the decent buffet of misfortune. His ally and stay was hunger, and there
is no better ally for any man: that satisfied and the game is up; for
hunger is life, ambition, goodwill and understanding, while fulness is
all those negatives which culminate in greediness, stupidity, and decay;
so his bruises troubled him no further than as they affected the eyes of
a lady wherein he prayed to be comely.

Bruises, unless they are desperate indeed, will heal at the last for no
other reason than that they must. The inexorable compulsion of all things
is towards health or destruction, life or death, and we hasten our joys
or our woes to the logical extreme. It is urgent, therefore, that we be
joyous if we wish to live. Our heads may be as solid as is possible, but
our hearts and our heels shall be light or we are ruined. As to the
golden mean--let us have nothing to do with that thing at all; it may
only be gilded, it is very likely made of tin of a dull colour and a
lamentable sound, unworthy even of being stolen; and unless our treasures
may be stolen they are of no use to us. It is contrary to the laws of
life to possess that which other people do not want; therefore, your beer
shall foam, your wife shall be pretty, and your little truth shall have a
plum in it--for this is so, that your beer can only taste of your
company, you can only know your wife when some one else does, and your
little truth shall be savoured or perish. Do you demand a big truth?
Then, 0 Ambitious! you must turn aside from all your companions and sit
very quietly, and if you sit long enough and quiet enough it may come to
you; but this thing alone of all things you cannot steal, nor can it be
given to you by the County Council. It cannot be communicated, and yet
you may get it. It is unspeakable but not unthinkable, and it is born as
certainly and unaccountably as you were yourself, and is of just as
little immediate consequence. Long, long ago, in the dim beginnings of
the world, there was a careless and gay young man who said, "Let truth
go to hell "--and it went there. It was his misfortune that he had to
follow it; it is ours that we are his descendants. An evil will either
kill you or be killed by you, and (the reflection is comforting) the odds
are with us in every fight waged against humanity by the dark or
elemental beings. But humanity is timid and lazy, a believer in golden
means and subterfuges and compromises, loath to address itself to any
combat until its frontiers are virtually overrun and its cities and
granaries and places of refuge are in jeopardy from those gloomy
marauders. In that wide struggle which we call Progress, evil is always
the aggressor and the vanquished, and it is right that this should be so,
for without its onslaughts and depredations humanity might fall to a fat
slumber upon its corn-sacks and die snoring: or, alternatively, lacking
these valorous alarms and excursions, it might become self-satisfied and
formularised, and be crushed to death by the mere dull density of virtue.
Next to good the most valuable factor in life is evil. By the interaction
of these all things are possible, and therefore (or for any other reason
that pleases you) let us wave a friendly hand in the direction of that
bold, bad policeman whose thoughts were not governed by the Book of
Regulations which is issued to all recruits, and who, in despite of the
fact that he was enrolled among the very legions of order, had that chaos
in his soul which may "give birth to a Dancing Star."

As to Mary: Even ordinary, workaday politeness frowns on too abrupt a
departure from a lady, particularly one whom we have companioned thus
distantly from the careless simplicity of girlhood to the equally
careless but complex businesses of adolescence. The world is all before
her, and her chronicler may not be her guide. She will have adventures,
for everybody has. She will win through with them, for everybody does.
She may even meet bolder and badder men than the policeman--shall we,
then, detain her? I, for one, having urgent calls elsewhere, will salute
her fingers and raise my hat and stand aside, and you will do likewise,
because it is my pleasure that you should. She will go forward, then, to
do that which is pleasing to the gods, for less than that she cannot do,
and more is not to be expected of any one.


THUS FAR THE STORY OF MARY MAKEBELIEVE



THE END





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