Death From Above Essay Research Paper death

Death From Above Essay, Research Paper

death from above

North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when

the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free. An uninhabited house of two

storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square

ground. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them,

gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.

The former tenant of our house, a priest, had died in the back drawing-room.

Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms, and the

waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless papers. Among

these I found a few paper-covered books, the pages of which were curled and

damp: The Abbot, by Walter Scott, The Devout Communicant, and The Memoirs of

Vidocq. I liked the last best because its leaves were yellow. The wild garden

behind the house contained a central apple-tree and a few straggling bushes,

under one of which I found the late tenant’s rusty bicycle-pump. He had been a

very charitable priest; in his will he had left all his money to institutions

and the furniture of his house to his sister.

When the short days of winter came, dusk fell before we had well eaten our

dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of

sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps

of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we

played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The

career of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the houses,

where we ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes from the cottages, to the back

doors of the dark dripping gardens where odours arose from the ashpits, to the

dark odorous stables where a coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook

music from the buckled harness. When we returned to the street, light from the

kitchen windows had filled the areas. If my uncle was seen turning the corner,

we hid in the shadow until we had seen him safely housed. Or if Mangan’s

sister came out on the doorstep to call her brother in to his tea, we watched

her from our shadow peer up and down the street. We waited to see whether she

would remain or go in and, if she remained, we left our shadow and walked up

to Mangan’s steps resignedly. She was waiting for us, her figure defined by

the light from the half-opened door. Her brother always teased her before he

obeyed, and I stood by the railings looking at her. Her dress swung as she

moved her body, and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.

Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The

blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be

seen. When she came out on the doorstep my heart leaped. I ran to the hall,

seized my books and followed her. I kept her brown figure always in my eye

and, when we came near the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my

pace and passed her. This happened morning after morning. I had never spoken

to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to

all my foolish blood.

Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. On

Saturday evenings when my aunt went marketing I had to go to carry some of the

parcels. We walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and

bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of

shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs’ cheeks, the nasal

chanting of street-singers, who sang a come-all-you about O’Donovan Rossa, or

a ballad about the troubles in our native land. These noises converged in a

single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely

through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange

prayers and praises which I myself did not understand. My eyes were often full

of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to

pour itself out into my bosom. I thought little of the future. I did not know

whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could

tell her of my confused adoration. But my body was like a harp and her words

and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.

One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest had died. It

was a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the house. Through one of

the broken panes I heard the rain impinge upon the earth, the fine incessant

needles of water playing in the sodden beds. Some distant lamp or lighted

window gleamed below me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All my

senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to

slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled,

murmuring: ‘O love! O love!’ many times.

At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me I was so

confused that I did not know what to answer. She asked me was I going to

Araby. I forgot whether I answered yes or no. It would be a splendid bazaar;

she said she would love to go.

‘And why can’t you?’ I asked.

While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist. She

could not go, she said, because there would be a retreat that week in her

convent. Her brother and two other boys were fighting for their caps, and I

was alone at the railings. She held one of the spikes, bowing her head towards

me. The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her

neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the

railing. It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of a

petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.

‘It’s well for you,’ she said.

‘If I go,’ I said, ‘I will bring you something.’

What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after that

evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious intervening days. I chafed against

the work of school. At night in my bedroom and by day in the classroom her

image came between me and the page I strove to read. The syllables of the word

Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and

cast an Eastern enchantment over me. I asked for leave to go to the bazaar on

Saturday night. My aunt was surprised, and hoped it was not some Freemason

affair. I answered few questions in class. I watched my master’s face pass

from amiability to sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could

not call my wandering thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with the

serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed

to me child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play.

On Saturday morning I reminded my uncle that I wished to go to the bazaar in

the evening. He was fussing at the hallstand, looking for the hat-brush, and

answered me curtly:

‘Yes, boy, I know.’

As he was in the hall I could not go into the front parlour and lie at the

window. I felt the house in bad humour and walked slowly towards the school.

The air was pitilessly raw and already my heart misgave me.

When I came home to dinner my uncle had not yet been home. Still it was early.

I sat staring at the clock for some time and, when its ticking began to

irritate me, I left the room. I mounted the staircase and gained the upper

part of the house. The high, cold, empty, gloomy rooms liberated me and I went

from room to room singing. From the front window I saw my companions playing

below in the street. Their cries reached me weakened and indistinct and,

leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I looked over at the dark house

where she lived. I may have stood there for an hour, seeing nothing but the

brown-clad figure cast by my imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight

at the curved neck, at the hand upon the railings and at the border below the


When I came downstairs again I found Mrs Mercer sitting at the fire. She was

an old, garrulous woman, a pawnbroker’s widow, who collected used stamps for

some pious purpose. I had to endure the gossip of the tea-table. The meal was

prolonged beyond an hour and still my uncle did not come. Mrs Mercer stood up

to go: she was sorry she couldn’t wait any longer, but it was after eight

o’clock and she did not like to be out late, as the night air was bad for her.

When she had gone I began to walk up and down the room, clenching my fists. My

aunt said:

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

At nine o’clock I heard my uncle’s latchkey in the hall door. I heard him

talking to himself and heard the hallstand rocking when it had received the

weight of his overcoat. I could interpret these signs. When he was midway

through his dinner I asked him to give me the money to go to the bazaar. He

had forgotten.

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

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

‘Can’t you give him the money and let him go? You’ve kept him late enough as

it is.’

My uncle said he was very sorry he had forgotten. He said he believed in the

old saying: ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ He asked me where I

was going and, when I told him a second time, he asked me did I know The

Arab’s Farewell to his Steed. When I left the kitchen he was about to recite

the opening lines of the piece to my aunt.

I held a florin tightly in my hand as I strode down Buckingham Street towards

the station. The sight of the streets thronged with buyers and glaring with

gas recalled to me the purpose of my journey. I took my seat in a third-class

carriage of a deserted train. After an intolerable delay the train moved out

of the station slowly. It crept onward among ruinous houses and over the

twinkling river. At Westland Row Station a crowd of people pressed to the

carriage doors; but the porters moved them back, saying that it was a special

train for the bazaar. I remained alone in the bare carriage. In a few minutes

the train drew up beside an improvised wooden platform. I passed out on to the

road and saw by the lighted dial of a clock that it was ten minutes to ten. In

front of me was a large building which displayed the magical name.

I could not find any sixpenny entrance and, fearing that the bazaar would be

closed, I passed in quickly through a turnstile, handing a shilling to a

weary-looking man. I found myself in a big hall girded at half its height by a

gallery. Nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hall

was in darkness. I recognized a silence like that which pervades a church

after a service. I walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few people

were gathered about the stalls which were still open. Before a curtain, over

which the words Caf Chantant were written in coloured lamps, two men were

counting money on a salver. I listened to the fall of the coins.

Remembering with difficulty why I had come, I went over to one of the stalls

and examined porcelain vases and flowered tea-sets. At the door of the stall a

young lady was talking and laughing with two young gentlemen. I remarked their

English accents and listened vaguely to their conversation.

‘O, I never said such a thing!’

‘O, but you did!’

‘O, but I didn’t!’

‘Didn’t she say that?’

‘Yes. I heard her.’

‘O, there’s a… fib!’

Observing me, the young lady came over and asked me did I wish to buy

anything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have spoken

to me out of a sense of duty. I looked humbly at the great jars that stood

like eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to the stall and


‘No, thank you.’

The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went back to the

two young men. They began to talk of the same subject. Once or twice the young

lady glanced at me over her shoulder.

I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my

interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned away slowly and walked

down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed the two pennies to fall against the

sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that

the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark.

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by

vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.


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