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A Painful Case
MR. JAMES DUFFY lived in Chapelizod because he wished to live as far as possible
from the city of which he was a citizen and because he found all the other suburbs of
Dublin mean, modern and pretentious. He lived in an old sombre house and from his
windows he could look into the disused distillery or upwards along the shallow river on
which Dublin is built. The lofty walls of his uncarpeted room were free from pictures. He
had himself bought every article of furniture in the room: a black iron bedstead, an iron
washstand, four cane chairs, a clothes- rack, a coal-scuttle, a fender and irons and a
square table on which lay a double desk. A bookcase had been made in an alcove by
means of shelves of white wood. The bed was clothed with white bedclothes and a
black and scarlet rug covered the foot. A little hand-mirror hung above the washstand
and during the day a white-shaded lamp stood as the sole ornament of the mantelpiece.
The books on the white wooden shelves were arranged from below upwards according
to bulk. A complete Wordsworth stood at one end of the lowest shelf and a copy of the
Maynooth Catechism, sewn into the cloth cover of a notebook, stood at one end of the
top shelf. Writing materials were always on the desk. In the desk lay a manuscript
translation of Hauptmann's Michael Kramer, the stage directions of which were written
in purple ink, and a little sheaf of papers held together by a brass pin. In these sheets a
sentence was inscribed from time to time and, in an ironical moment, the headline of an
advertisement for Bile Beans had been pasted on to the first sheet. On lifting the lid of
the desk a faint fragrance escaped--the fragrance of new cedarwood pencils or of a
bottle of gum or of an overripe apple which might have been left there and forgotten.
Mr. Duffy abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental disorder. A medival
doctor would have called him saturnine. His face, which carried the entire tale of his
years, was of the brown tint of Dublin streets. On his long and rather large head grew
dry black hair and a tawny moustache did not quite cover an unamiable mouth. His
cheekbones also gave his face a harsh character; but there was no harshness in the
eyes which, looking at the world from under their tawny eyebrows, gave the impression
of a man ever alert to greet a redeeming instinct in others but often disappointed. He
lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glasses.
He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time
to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a
predicate in the past tense. He never gave alms to beggars and walked firmly, carrying
a stout hazel.
He had been for many years cashier of a private bank in Baggot Street. Every morning
he came in from Chapelizod by tram. At midday he went to Dan Burke's and took his
lunch--a bottle of lager beer and a small trayful of arrowroot biscuits. At four o'clock he
was set free. He dined in an eating-house in George's Street where he felt himself safe
from the society o Dublin's gilded youth and where there was a certain plain honesty in
the bill of fare. His evenings were spent either before his landlady's piano or roaming