by James Joyce
The Modern Library
She was fast asleep.
Gabriel, leaning on his elbow, looked for a few moments unresentfully on
her tangled hair and half-open mouth, listening to her deep-drawn breath.
she had had that romance in her life: a man had died for her sake. It
pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her
life. He watched her while she slept as though he and she had never lived
together as man and wife. His curious eyes rested long upon her face and
her hair: and, as he thought of what she must have been then, in that time
her first girlish beauty, a strange friendly piety for her entered his
soul. He did
not like to say even to himself that her face was no longer beautiful but
knew that it was no longer the face for which Michael Furey had braved
Perhaps she had not told him all the story. His eyes moved to the chair
which she had thrown some of her clothes. A petticoat string dangled to
floor. One boot stood upright, its limp upper fallen down: the fellow of
upon its side. He wondered at his riot of emotions of an hour before. From
what had it proceeded? From his auntís supper, from his own foolish
from the wine and dancing, the merrymaking when saying good-night in the
hall, the pleasure of the walk along the river in the snow. Poor Aunt
too, would soon be a shade with the shade of Patrick Morkan and his horse.
He had caught that haggard look upon her face for a moment when she was
singing Arrayed for the Bridal. Soon, perhaps, he would be sitting in that
drawing-room, dressed in black, his silk hat on his knees. The blinds
drawn down and Aunt Kate would be sitting beside him, crying and blowing
nose and telling him how Julia had died. He would cast about in his mind
some words that might console her, and would find only lame and useless
ones. Yes, yes: that would happen very soon.
The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously
along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one they were
becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full
some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how
who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of
loverís eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.
Generous tears filled Gabrielís eyes. He had never felt like that himself
towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears
gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined
saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms
near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of
dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and
flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey
world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and
was dissolving and dwindling.
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had
to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling
against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey
westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over
It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless
softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into
mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely
churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly
the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on
barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling
through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last
all the living and the dead.
© Copyright The Estate of James Joyce, 1967. All Rights Reserved. No
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