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Title:      Tomorrow (1917)
Author:     Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Tomorrow (1917)
Author:     Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)

It was back in my sailor days, in the winter of my great down-and-
outness, that all this happened.  In those years of wandering, to
be broke and "on the beach" in some seaport or other of the world
was no new experience; but this had been an unusually long period
of inaction even for me.  Six months before I had landed in New
York after a voyage from Buenos Aires as able seaman on a British
tramp.  Since that time I had loafed around the water front, eking
out an existence on a small allowance from my family, too lazy of
body and mind, too indifferent to things in general, to ship to sea
again or do anything else.  I shared a small rear room with another
"gentleman-ranker," Jimmy Anderson, an old friend of mine, over an
all-night dive near South street known as Tommy the Priest's.

This is the story of Jimmy, my roommate, and it begins on a cold
night in the early part of March.  I had waited in Tommy the
Priest's, hunched up on a chair near the stove in the back room,
all the late afternoon until long after dark.  My nerves were on
edge as a result of a two days' carouse ensuing on the receipt of
my weekly allowance.  Now all that money was gone--over the bar--
and the next few days gloomed up as a dreary, sober and hungry
ordeal which must, barring miracles, be endured patiently or
otherwise.  Three or four others of the crowd I knew were sitting
near me, equally sick and penniless.  We stared gloomily before us,
in listless attitudes, spitting dejectedly at the glowing paunch of
the stove.  Every now and then someone would come in bringing with
him a chill of the freezing wind outside.  We would all look up
hopefully.  No, only a stranger.  Nothing in the way of hospitality
to be expected from him.  "Close that damned door!" we would growl
in chorus and huddle closer to the stove, shivering, muttering
disappointed curses.  In mocking contrast the crowd at the bar were
drinking, singing, arguing in each other's ears with loud, care-
free voices.  None of them noticed our existence.

Surely a bad night for Good Samaritans, I thought, and reflected
with bitterness that I counted several in that jubilant throng who
had eagerly accepted my favors of the two nights previous.  Now
they saw me and nodded--but that was all.  Suddenly sick with human
ingratitude, I got out of my chair and, grumbling a surly "good-
night, all" to the others, went out the side door and up the
rickety stairs to our room--Jimmy's and mine.

The thought of spending a long evening alone in the room seemed
intolerable to me.  I lit the lamp and glanced around angrily.  A
fine hole!  The two beds took up nearly all the space but Jimmy had
managed to cram in, in front of the window, a small table on which
stood his dilapidated typewriter.  The typewriter, of course, was
broken and wouldn't work.  Jimmy was always going to have it fixed--
tomorrow.  But then Jimmy lived in a dream of tomorrows; and
nothing he was ever associated with ever worked.

The lamp on the table threw a stream of light through the dirty
window, revealing the fire-escape outside.  Inside, on a shelf
along the windowsill, a dyspeptic geranium plant sulked in a small
red pot.  This plant was Jimmy's garden and his joy.  Even when he
was too sick to wash his own face he never forgot to water it the
first thing after getting up.  It goes without saying, the silly
thing never bloomed.  Nothing that Jimmy loved ever bloomed; but he
always hoped, in fact he was quite sure, it would eventually
blossom out--in the dawn of some vague tomorrow.

For me it had value only as a symbol of Jimmy's everlasting
futility, of his irritating inefficiency.  However, at that period
in my life, all flowers were yellow primroses and nothing more, and
Jimmy's pet was out of place, I thought, and in the way.

Books were piled on the floor against the walls--and what books!
Where Jimmy got them and what for, God only knows.  He never read
them, except a few pages at haphazard to put him to sleep.  Yet
there must have been fifty at least cluttering up the room--books
about history, about journalism, about economics--books of
impossible poetry and incredible prose, written by unknown authors
and published by firms one had never heard of.  He had a craze for
buying them and never failed, on the days he was paid for the odd
bits of work he did as occasional stenographer for a theatrical
booking firm, to stagger weakly into Tommy's, very drunk, with two
or three of these unreadable volumes clutched to his breast--books
with titles like:  "A Commentary on the Bulls of Pope Leo XIII," or
"God and the Darwinian Theory" by John Jones, or "Sunflowers and
Other Verses" by Lydia Smith.  Think of it!

I used to grow wild with rage as I watched him showing them to
Tommy, or Big John, if he was on, or to anyone else who would look
and listen, with all the besotted pride in the world.  I would
think of the drinks and the food--kippered herring and bread and
good Italian cheese--he might have purchased for the price of these
dull works; and I would swear to myself to thrash him good and hard
if he even dared to speak to me.

And then--Jimmy would come and lay his idiotic books on my table
and I would look up at him furiously; and there he would stand,
wavering a bit, smiling his sweet, good-natured smile, trying to
force half his remaining change into my hand, his lonely, wistful
eyes watching me with the appealing look of a lost dog hungry for
an affectionate pat.  What could I do but laugh and love him and
show him I did by a slap on the back or in some small way or
another?  It was worth while forgetting all the injuries in the
world just to see the light of gratitude shine up in his eyes.

This night I am speaking of I picked up one of the books in
desperation and lay down to read with the lamp at the head of the
bed; but I couldn't concentrate.  I was too sick in body, brain,
and soul to follow even the words.

I threw the book aside and lay on my back staring gloomily at the
ceiling.  The inmate of the next room, a broken-down telegrapher--
"the Lunger" we used to call him--had a violent attack of coughing
which seemed to be tearing his chest to pieces.  I shuddered.  He
used to spit blood in the back room below.  In fact, when drunk, he
was quite proud of this achievement, but grew terrified at all
allusions to consumption and wildly insisted that he only had
"bloody bronchitis," and that he was getting better every day.  He
died soon after in that same room next to ours.  Perhaps his
treatment was at fault.  A quart and a half of five-cent whiskey a
day and only a plate of free soup at noon to eat is hardly a diet
conducive to the cure of any disease--not even "bloody bronchitis."

He coughed and coughed until, in a frenzy of tortured nerves, I
yelled to him:  "For God's sake, shut up!"  Then he subsided into a
series of groans and querulous, choking complaints.  I thought of
consumption, the danger of contagion, and remembered that the
window ought to be open.  But it was too cold.  Besides, what was
the difference?  "Con" or something else, today or tomorrow, it was
all the same--the end.  What did I care?  I had failed--or rather I
had never cared enough about it all to want to succeed.

I must have dozed for I came to with a nervous jump to find the
lamp sputtering and smoking and the light growing dimmer every
minute.  No oil!  That fool Jimmy had promised to brink back some.
I had given him my last twenty cents and he had taken the can with
him.  He was sober, had been for almost a week, was suffering from
one of his infrequent and brief efforts at reformation.  No, there
was no excuse.  I cursed him viciously for the greatest imbecile on
earth.  The lamp was going out.  I would have to lie in darkness or
return to the misery of the back room downstairs.

Just then I recognized his step on the stairs and a moment later he
came in, bringing the oil.  I glared at him.  "Where've you been?"
I shouted.  "Look at that lamp, you idiot!  I'd have been in the
dark in another second."

Jimmy came forward shrinkingly, a look of deep hurt in his faded
blue eyes.  He murmured something about "office" and stooped down
to fill the lamp.

"Office!" I taunted scornfully, "what office?  What do you take me
for?  I've heard that bunk of yours a million times."

Jimmy finished filling the lamp and sat down on the side of his bed
opposite me.  He didn't answer; only stared at me with an
irritating sort of compassionate pity.  How prim he was sitting
there is his black suit, wispy, grey hair combed over his bald
spot, his jowly face scraped close and chalky with too much cheap
powder, the vile odor of which filled the room.  I noticed for the
first time his clean collar, his fresh shirt.  He must have been to
the Chinaman's and retrieved part of his laundry.  This was what he
usually did when he had a windfall of a dollar or so from some
unexpected source.  Never took out all his laundry.  That would
have been too expensive.  Just called at the Chink's and changed
his shirt and collar.  His other articles of clothing he washed
himself at the sink in the hallway.

I eyed him up and down resentfully.  Here was a man who ought
always to remain drunk.  Sober, he was a respectable nuisance.  And
his shoes were shined!

"Why the profound meditation?" I asked.  "You'd think, to look at
you, you were sitting up with my corpse.  Cheer up!  I feel bad
enough without your adding to the gloom."

"That's just it, Art," he began in slow, doleful tones.  "I hate to
see you in this condition.  You wouldn't ever feel this way if
you'd--only--only--" he hesitated as he saw my sneer.

"Only what?" I urged.

"Only stop your hard drinking," he mumbled, avoiding my eyes.

"This is almost too much, Jimmy.  The water wagon is fatal to your
sense of humor.  After a week's ride you've accumulated more cheap
moralizing than any anchorite in all his years of fasting."

"I'm your friend," he blundered on, "and you know it, Art--or I
wouldn't say it."

"And it hurts you more than it does me, I'll bet!"

Jimmy had the piqued air of the rebuffed but well-intentioned.  "If
that's the way you want to take it--" he was staring unhappily at
the floor.  We were silent for a time.  Then he continued with the
obstinacy of the reformed turned reformer:  "I'm your friend, the
best friend you've got."  His eyes looked up into mine and his
glance was timidly questioning.  "You know that, don't you, Art?"

All my peevishness vanished in a flash before his woeful sincerity.
I reached over and grabbed his hand--his white, pudgy little hand
so in keeping with the rest of him--warm and soft.  "Of course I
know it, Jimmy.  Don't be foolish and take what I've said
seriously.  I've got a full-sized grouch against everything

Jimmy brightened up and cleared his throat.  He evidently thought
my remarks an expression of willingness to serve as audience for
his temperance lecture.  Still he hesitated politely.  "I know you
don't want to listen--"

I laughed shortly.  "Go ahead.  Shoot.  I'm all ears."

Then he began.  You know the sort of drool--introduced by a sage
wag of the head and the inevitable remark:  "I've been through it
all myself, and I know."  I won't bore you with it.  Coming from
Jimmy it was the last word in absurdity.

I tried not to listen, concentrating my mind on the man himself, my
nerves soothed by the monotonous flow of his soft-voiced syllables.
Yes, he'd been through it all, there was no doubt of that, from
soup to nuts.  What he didn't realize was that none of it had ever
touched him deeply.  Forgetful of the last kick his eyes had always
looked up at life again with the same appealing, timid uncertainty,
pleading for a caress, fearful of a blow.  And life had never
failed to deal him the expected kick, never a vicious one, more of
a shove to get him out of the way of a spirited boot at someone who
really mattered.  Spurned, Jimmy had always returned, affectionate,
uncomprehending, wagging his tail ingratiatingly, so to speak.  The
longed-for caress would come, he was sure of it, if not today, then
tomorrow.  Ah, tomorrow!

I looked searchingly at his face--the squat nose, the wistful eyes,
the fleshy cheeks hanging down like dewlaps on either side of his
weak mouth with its pale, thick lips.  The usual marks of
dissipation were there but none of the scars of intense suffering.
The whole effect was characterless, unfinished; as if some sculptor
at the last moment had suddenly lost interest in his clay model of
a face and abandoned his work in disgust.  I wondered what Jimmy
would do if he ever saw that face in the clear, cruel mirror of
Truth.  Straggle on in the same lost way, no doubt, and cease to
have faith in mirrors.

Although most of his lecture was being lost on me I couldn't
prevent a chance word now and then from seeping into my
consciousness.  "Wasted youth--your education--ability--a shame--
lost opportunity--drink--some nice girl"--these words my ears
retained against my will, and each word had a sting to it.
Gradually my feeling of kindliness toward Jimmy petered out.  I
began to hate him for a pestiferous little crank.  What right had
he to meddle with my sins?  Some of the things he was saying were
true; and truth--that kind of truth--should be seen and not heard.

I was becoming angry enough to shrivel him up with some
contemptuous remark about his hypocrisy and the doubtful duration
of time he would stay on the wagon when he suddenly disgressed from
my misdeeds and began virtuously holding himself up as a horrible

He began at the beginning, and, even though I welcomed the change
of subject, I swore inwardly at the prospect of hearing the history
of his life all over again.  He had told me this tale at least
fifty times while in all stages of maudlin drunkenness.  Usually he
wept--which was sometimes funny and sometimes not, depending on my
own condition.  At all events it would be a novelty to hear his
sober version.  I might get at some facts this time.

To my surprise this story seemed to be identical with the others I
had been lulled to sleep by on so many nights.  Making allowances
for the natural exaggeration of one in liquor, there was but little
difference.  It started with the Anderson estate in Scotland where
Jimmy had spent his boyhood.  This estate of the family extended
over the greater part of a Scotch county, so Jimmy claimed, and he
was touchy when anyone seemed skeptical regarding its existence.

He loved to dilate on the beauty of the country, the old manor
house, the farms, the game park, and all the rest of it.  All this
was heavily mortgaged, he admitted; and he was not in good standing
with most of his relatives on the other side; but he declared that
there was one aunt, far gone in years and hoarded wealth, who still
treasured his memory, and he promised all the gang in the back room
a rare blowout should the old lady pass away in the proper frame of
mind.  To all of this the crowd would listen with an amiable
pretence of belief.  For, after all, he was Jimmy and they all
swore by him, and a fairy tale like that is no great matter to hold
against a man.

But here he was spinning the same yarn in all its details!  I
looked at him suspiciously.  No, he was certainly stone sober.
Could there be any truth in it then?  Impossible.  I finally
concluded that Jimmy, after the fashion of liars, had ended by
mistaking his own fabrications for fact.

He continued on through his years in Edinburgh University, his
graduation with honors, his going into journalism first in
Scotland, then in England, afterwards as a correspondent on the
Continent, and finally his work in South Africa during the Boer War
as representative of some news service.

I had never been able to verify any of this except that relating to
the Boer War.  An old friend of his had once told me that Jimmy did
hold a responsible position in South Africa during the war and had
received a large salary.  Then the old friend, old-friendlike,
shook his head gravely and muttered:  "Too bad!  Too bad!  Drink!"
Whether the rest of Jimmy's life, as related by him, had ever been
lived or not hardly mattered, I thought.  Undoubtedly he had been
well educated and what is called a gentleman over there.  Of course
the Anderson estate was a work of fiction, or, at best, a glorified
country house.

"And mind you, Art, up to that time," Jimmy's story had reached the
point where he was at the front in South Africa for the news
service company, "I had never touched a drop except a glass of wine
with dinner now and again.  That was ten years ago and I was
thirty-five.  Then--something happened.  Ten years," he repeated
sadly, "and now look where I am!"  He stared despondently before
him for a moment, then brightened up and squared his bent
shoulders.  "But that's all past and gone now, and I'm through with
this kind of life for good and all."

"There's always tomorrow," I ventured ironically.

"Yes, and I'm going to make the most of it."  His eyes were bright
with the dream of a new hope; or rather, the old hope eternally
redreamed.  He glanced at the table.  "I'll have to have that
typewriter fixed up."


"Yes, tomorrow, if I can spare the time."  He hadn't noticed my

"Why, is your day all taken up?" I asked, marvelling at his

"Pretty well so."  He put on an air of importance.  "I saw Edwards
today"--Edwards was a friend of his who had risen to be an editor
on one of the big morning papers--"and he's found an opening for
me--a real opening which will give me an opportunity to show them
all I'm still in the race."

"And you start in tomorrow?" I was dumbfounded.

"Yes, in the afternoon."  His face was alive with energy.  "Oh,
I'll show them all, Art, that I'm still one of the best when I want
to be.  They've sneered at me long enough."

"Then you really are about to become a wage slave?"  I simply
couldn't believe it.

"Honestly, Art.  Tomorrow.  Do you think I'm spoofing you about

"I must admit you seem to be confessing the shameless truth.  Well,
at any rate, you seem to be pleased, so--" here I jumped up and
pumped his hand up and down--"a million congratulations, Jimmy, old
scout!"  Jimmy's joy was good to see.  There were tears in his eyes
as he thanked me.  Good old Jimmy!  It took him quite a while to
get over his emotion.  Then, as if he had suddenly remembered
something, he began hurriedly fumbling through all his pockets.

"I must have lost it," he said finally, giving up the search.  "I
wanted to show it to you."


"A letter I received today from Aunt Mary."  Aunt Mary was the
elderly relative in whose will Jimmy hoped to be remembered.  "She
complains of having felt very feeble for the past half year.  She
appears to be entirely ignorant of my present condition, thank God.
Writes that I'm to come and pay her a long visit should I decide to
take a trip abroad this Spring.  Fancy!"

"And you've lost the letter?" I asked, trying to hide my

"Yes--was showing it to Edwards--must have dropped on the floor--or
else he--"  Jimmy stopped abruptly.  I think he must have sensed my
amused incredulity, for he seemed very put out at something and
didn't look at me.  "I do hope the poor old lady isn't seriously
ill," he murmured after a pause.

"What!"  I laughed.  "Have you the face to tell me that, when you
know you've been looking forward to her timely taking off ever
since I've known you?"

Jimmy's face grew red and he stammered confusedly.  He knew he'd
said things which might have sounded that way when he'd been
drinking.  It was whiskey talking and he didn't mean it.  Really he
liked her a lot.  He remembered she'd been very kind to him when he
was a lad.  Had hardly seen her since then--twenty-five years ago.
No, money or no money, he wanted her to live to be a hundred.

"But you've told me she's almost ninety now!  Isn't she?"

"Yes, eighty-six, I think."

"Then," I said with finality, "she's overlingered her welcome, and
you're a simpleton to be wasting your crocodile tears--in advance,
at that.  Besides, I've never noticed her sending you any of her
vast fortune.  She might at least have made you a present once in a
while if she cared to earn any regrets over her demise."

"I've never written her about my hard luck.  I hardly ever wrote to
her," Jimmy said slowly.  His tones were ridiculously dismal, and
he sat holding his face in his hands in the woebegone attitude of a

"Well, you should have written."  A sudden thought made me smile.
"What will the bunch in the back room say when they hear this?  You
may give them that long-promised blowout--tomorrow," I added

Jimmy stirred uneasily and turned on me a glance full of dim
suspicion.  "Why do you keep repeating that word tomorrow?  You've
said it now a dozen times."

"Because tomorrow is your day, Jimmy," I answered carelessly.
"Doesn't your career as a sober, industrious citizen begin then?"

"Oh," he sighed with relief, "I thought--" he walked up and down in
the narrow space between the beds, his hands deep in his pockets.
Finally he stopped and stood beside me.  There was an exultant ring
to his voice.  "Ah, I tell you, Art, it's great to feel like a man
again, to know you're done for good and all with that mess
downstairs."  After a pause he went on in a coaxing, motherly tone.
"Don't you think you ought to go to work and do something?  I hate
to see you--like this.  You know what a pal I am, Art.  You can
listen to me.  It's a shame for you to let yourself go to seed this
way.  Really, Art, I mean it."

"Now, Jimmy," I got up and put my hands on his shoulders.  "I say
it without any hard feeling, but I've had about enough of your
reform movement for one night.  It'll be more truly charitable of
you to offer me the price of a drink--if you have it.  Your day of
reformation is none so remote you can't realize from experience how
rotten I feel.  I can hear polar bears baying at the Northern

Jimmy sighed disconsolately and dug some small change out of his
pocket.  "I borrowed a dollar from Edwards," he explained.  "I'll
pay him back out of my first salary."  The self-sufficient pride he
put into that word salary!

But his financial aid proved to be unnecessary.  As I was about to
take half of his change, there was a great trampling from the
stairs outside.  Our door was kicked open with a bang and Lyons,
the stoker, and Paddy Mehan, the old deep-water sailor, came
crowding into the room.  Lyons was in the first jovial frenzy of
drink but poor Paddy was already awash and rapidly sinking.  They
had been paid off that afternoon after a trip across on the
American liner St. Paul.

"Hello, Lyons!  Hello, Paddy!" Jimmy and I hailed them in pleased

"Hello, yourself!"  Lyons crushed Jimmy's hand in one huge paw and
patted me affectionately on the back with the other.  The jar of it
nearly knocked me off my feet but I managed to smile.  Lyons and I
were old pals.  I had once made a trip as sailor on the
Philadelphia when he was in her stokehold, and we had become great
friends through a chance adventure together ashore in Southampton--
which is another story.  He stood grinning, swaying a bit in the
lamplight, a great, hard bulk of a man, dwarfing the proportions of
our little room.  Paddy lurched over to one of the beds and fell on
it.  "Thick weather!  Thick weather!" he groaned to himself, and
started to sing an old chanty in a thin, quavering, nasal whine.

     "A-roving, a-roving
      Since roving's been my ru-i-in,
      No more I'll go a-ro-o-ving with you, fair maid."

"Shut up!" roared Lyons and turned again to me.  "Art, how are ye?"
I dodged an attempt at another love-tap and replied that I was well
but thirsty.

"Thirsty, is ut?  D'ye hear that, Paddy, ye slimy Corkonian?
Here's a mate complainin' av thirst and we wid a full pay day in
our pockets."  He pulled out a roll of bills and flaunted them
before me with a splendid, spendthrift gesture.

"Oh, whiskey killed my poor old dad!  Whiskey!  O Johnny!" carolled
Paddy dolorously.

"Listen to 'im!"  Lyons reached over and shook him vigorously.
"That's the throuble wid all thim lazy, deck-scrubbers the loike av
'im.  They can't stand up to their dhrink loike men.  Wake up,
Paddy!  We'll be goin' below."  He hauled Paddy to his feet and
held him there.  Come on, Art.  There's some av the boys ye know
below waitin'.  Ye'll have all the dhrink ye can pour down your
throat, and welcome; and anything more you're wishful for ye've but
to name.  Come on, Jimmy, you're wan av us."

"I've got something to do before I go down.  I'll join you in a few
minutes," Jimmy replied, wisely evading a direct refusal.

"See that ye do, me sonny boy," warned Lyons, pushing Paddy to the
door.  I turned to Jimmy as I was going out.  "Well, good luck till
tomorrow, Jimmy, if I don't see you before then."

"Thank you, Art," he murmured huskily and shook my hand.  I started
down.  From the bottom of the flight below I heard Lyons' rough
curses and Paddy wailing lugubriously:  "Old Joe is dead, and gone
to hell, poor old Joe!"

"Ye'll be in hell yourself if ye fall in this black hole," Lyons
cautioned, steering him to the top of the second flight as I caught
up with them.

The fiesta which began with our arrival in the bar didn't break up
until long after daylight the next morning.  It was one of the old,
lusty debauches of my sailor days--songs of the sea and yarns about
ships punctuated by rounds of drinks.

The last I remember was Lyons bawling out for someone to come down
to the docks and strip to him and see which was the better man.
"Have a bit av fun wid 'im" was the way he put it.  I believe I was
Dutch-courageous enough to accept his challenge but he pushed me
back in my chair with a warning to be "a good bye" or I'd get a
spanking.  So the party had no fatal ending.

As you can well imagine I slept like a corpse all the next day and
didn't witness Jimmy's departure for his long hard climb back to
respectability and the man who was.  When he came home that night
he appeared very elated, full of the dignity of labor, tremendously
conscious of his position in life, provokingly solicitous
concerning my welfare.  It would have been insufferable in anyone
else; but Jimmy--well, Jimmy was Jimmy, and the most lovable chap
on earth.  You couldn't stay mad at him more than a minute, if you
had the slightest sense of humor.

Had he toiled and spun much on his first day, I asked him.  No, he
admitted after a moment's hesitation, he had spent the time mostly
in feeling about, getting the hang of his work.  Now tomorrow he'd
get the typewriter fixed so he could do Sunday special stuff in his
spare moments--stories of what he'd seen in South Africa and things
of that kind.  Wasn't that a bully idea?  I agreed that it was, and
retreated to the gang below who were still celebrating, leaving
Jimmy with pencil poised over a blank sheet of paper determined to
map out one of his stories then and there.

I didn't see him the next day or the day after.  I was touring the
water front with Lyons and Paddy and never returned to the room.
The fourth day of his job I ran into him for a second in the
hallway.  He said hello in a hurried tone and brushed past me.  For
my part I was glad he didn't stop.  I felt he'd immediately start
on a heart-to-heart talk which I was in no mood to hear.  Later on
I remembered his manner had been strange and that he looked drawn
and fagged out.

The fifth day Paddy and Lyons were both broke, but I collected my
puny allowance and we sat at a table in the back room squandering
it lingeringly on enormous scoops of lager and porter which were
filling and lasted a long time.  We were still sitting there
talking when Jimmy came back from work.  He looked in from the
hallway, saw us and nodded, but went on upstairs without speaking.

"What's the matther wid Jimmy?" grumbled Lyons.  "Can't he speak to
a man?"

"He looks like he was sick," said Paddy.  "Go up, Art, that's a
good lad, and ask him if he won't take a bit of a drink, maybe."

"I'll go," I said, getting up, "but he won't drink anything.
Jimmy's strictly temperance these days.  He's more likely to give
us all a sermon on our sins."

"Divil take him, then," growled Lyons, "but run and get him all the
same.  He looks loike he'd been drawn through a crack in the wall."

I ran quickly up the stairs and opened the door of our room.  Jimmy
was sitting on the side of his bed, his head in his hands.  I
glanced at the typewriter.  The keys were still grey with a layer
of long-accumulated dust.  Then he hadn't had it fixed.  The same
old tomorrow, I thought to myself.

"Jimmy," I called to him.  He jumped to his feet with a frightened
start.  When he saw who it was a flush of anger came over his face.

"Why don't you scare the life out of a man!" he said irritably.  I
was astonished.  I'd never known him to flare up like this over a

"Come down and join us for a while.  You don't have to drink, you
know.  You look done-up.  What's the trouble--been working too

He winced at this last remark as if I'd shaken my fist in his face.
Then he made a frantic gesture with his arms as though he were
pushing me out of the room.  "Go!  Go back!"  His voice was
unnaturally shrill.  "Leave me alone.  I want to be alone."

"Jimmy!"  I went to him in genuine alarm.  "What's the matter?
Anything wrong?"

He pressed my hand and tried a feeble attempt at a smile.  There
were dark rings under his eyes, and, somehow, in some indefinable
manner, he seemed years older, a broken old man.

"No, Art, I'm all right.  Don't mind me.  I've a splitting

"Don't be a fool and let them work you to death."  He raised his
hands as if he were going to clap them over his ears to shut out my

"Leave me alone, Art, will you?  I'm going to bed," he stammered.

"Right-o, that's the stuff.  Get a good sleep and you'll be O. K."
I went downstairs slowly, vaguely worried about him, wondering what
the trouble could be.  In the end I laid his peculiar actions to a
struggle he was having with his craving for drink.  Paddy and Lyons
agreed with this opinion and called him a "game little swine" for
sticking to his guns.  And as such we toasted him in our lager and

When I went up to the room to turn in he was asleep, or pretending
to be, and I was careful not to disturb him.  The next morning I
heard him moving about, but as soon as he saw I was awake, he
appeared in a nervous flurry to get away, and we didn't speak more
than a few words to each other.  That night he never came home at
all.  I went to bed early--everyone was broke and there was nothing
else to do--and when I was roused out of my slumber by the sun
shining on my face through the dirty window, I saw that his bed
hadn't been touched.  A somber presentiment of evil seemed to hover
around that bed.  The white spread, threadbare and full of holes,
which he had tucked in with such precise neatness, had the
suggestion of a shroud about it--a shroud symbolically woven for
one whose life had been threadbare and full of holes.

I tried to laugh at such grim imaginings.  Jimmy had stayed with
Edwards or someone else from his paper.  What was strange in that?
This wasn't the first time he'd remained away all night, was it?
If I was to give way to such worries I might just as well put on
skirts and be done with it.

But my phantoms, however foolish, refused to be laid.  I got
dressed in a hurry, anxious to escape from this room, bright with
sunlight, dark with uncanny threat.  Before I went down, struck by
a sentimental mood, I got some water from the sink in the hallway
and poured it on his ridiculous geranium plant.

After a breakfast of free soup, I walked with Paddy and Lyons down
to the Battery.  We spent the afternoon there, lounging on one of
the benches.  It was as warm as a day in Spring and we sat blinking
in the sunshine drowsily listening to each other's yarns about the
sea and lazily watching the passing ships.

When the sun went down we returned to Tommy the Priest's.  On the
way back I remembered this was Jimmy's pay day and wondered if he
would show up.  He owed me some money which I hoped would be
forthcoming.  Otherwise the night was liable to prove an uneventful
one.  And a farewell bust-up was imperative because Paddy and Lyons
would have to go on board ship the following day if they wanted to
make the next trip.

The evening didn't pass off as dully as we had feared.  Old
McDonald, the printer, was in a festive mood and invited us to join
him.  Two of the telegraph operators, out of a job at that time,
had borrowed some money somewhere and were anxious to return the
many treats they had received from us in the past.  So the time
whiled away very pleasantly.

It was shortly after midnight when Jimmy came in.  As soon as I saw
his face I knew that something had happened to him, something very
serious.  He was incredibly haggard and pale, and there were deep
lines of suffering about his mouth and eyes.  His eyes--I can't
describe them.  There was nothing behind them.  He nodded and took
his place at the bar beside us.  Then he spoke, asked us what we'd
have, in a strained, forced voice as though it cost him a
tremendous effort to talk.  He took whiskey himself, poured out a
glass brim full, and downed it straight.  Big John changed a bill
for him, and without looking at me, he held out the couple of
dollars he owed me.  I put them in my pocket.  Jimmy motioned to
Big John and called for another round.  A spell of silence was on
the whole barroom.  Everyone there knew him well.  They had all
joked with him during the week about his being on the wagon, but
they had secretly admired his firmness of will.  Now they stared at
him with genuine regret that he should have fallen.  Their faces
grew sad.  They had done the same thing themselves so many times.
They understood.

"Jimmy!"  He caught the reproach in my voice and turned to me with
a twisted smile.  "It doesn't matter," he said.  "Nothing matters."
His voice became harsh.  "Don't forget what you said about my
lectures and start in yourself."  He immediately felt sorry for
having said this.  "No, Art, I don't mean that.  Never mind what I
say.  I'm upset--about something."

"Tell me what it is, Jimmy.  Maybe I can help."

"Help?"  He laughed hysterically.  "No, no help please.  After all,
why shouldn't I tell you now?  You're bound to find out sooner or
later.  They'll all know it."  He indicated the others who, feeling
that Jimmy wanted to be alone with me, had taken their drinks to a
table in the rear and were sitting around talking in low,
constrained voices.  Jimmy blurted out:  "My job, Art, is gone to

"What!"  I pretended more astonishment than I felt.  I had guessed
what the trouble was.

"Yes, they asked me to quit--politely requested.  Edwards was very
nice about it--very kind--very charitable."  He put all the
bitterness of his heart into these last words.

"The rotten swine!"

"Oh no, Art, it wasn't his fault.  If they hadn't--fired me--I'd
have had to resign anyway.  I--I couldn't do the work."

"That's all nonsense, Jimmy.  Well, cheer up.  All said and done,
it's only a job the less.  You can always get another for the

He looked at me with a sort of wild scorn in his eyes.  "Can't you
understand any better than that?  What do I care for the job
itself?  It isn't that.  I tell you I couldn't do the work!  I
tried and tried.  What I wrote was rot.  I couldn't get any news.
No initiative--no imagination--no character--no courage!  All gone.
Nothing left--not even cleverness.  No memory even!"  He stopped,
breathing hard, the perspiration glistening on his forehead.  "It
came to me gradually--the realization.  I couldn't believe it.  I
had been so sure of myself all these years.  All I needed was a
chance.  It had been so easy for me in the past--long ago.  These
last few days I've guessed the truth.  I've been going crazy.  Last
night I walked--walked and walked--thinking--and finally--I knew!"
He paused, choking back a sob, his face twitching convulsively with
the effort he made to control himself.  Then he uttered a cracked
sound intended for a laugh.  "I'm done--burnt out--wasted!  It's
time to dump the garbage.  Nothing here."  He tapped his head with
a silly gesture and laughed again.  I began to be afraid he really
was going mad.  "No, Art, it isn't the job that's lost.  I'm lost!"

"Now you're talking like a fool!"  I spoke roughly, trying to shake
him out of this mood.

"I won't talk any more," he said quite calmly.  "Don't worry.  I'm
all shot to pieces--no sleep."  He broke down suddenly and turned
away from me.  "But it's hell, Art, to realize all at once--you're

I put my arm around his shoulders.  "Have a drink, Jimmy.  Hey you,
John, a little service!"  What else was there to do?  Life had
jammed the clear, cruel mirror in front of his eyes and he had
recognized himself--in that pitiful thing he saw.  "Have a drink,
Jimmy, and forget it.  Take a real drink!" I urged.  What else was
there to do?

After we had had a couple at the bar, Jimmy filling his glass to
the brim each time, I led him in back and we sat down at the table
with the crowd.  More drinks were immediately forthcoming, and it
wasn't long before Jimmy became very drunk.  He didn't say anything
but his eyes glazed, his lips drooped loosely, his head wagged
uncertainly from side to side.  I saw he'd had enough and I hoped
his tired brain had been numbed to a forgetful oblivion.

"Come on to bed, Jimmy," I shook him by the arm.

He stared at me vacantly.  "Bed--yes--sleep! sleep!" he mumbled,
and came with me willingly enough.  I helped him up the stairs to
the room and lit the lamp.  He sat on the side of the bed, swaying,
unlacing his shoes with difficulty.  Presently he began to weep
softly to himself.  "It's you, Alice--cause of all this--damn you--
no--didn't mean that--beg pardon," he muttered.  He lifted his head
and saw me sitting on the other bed.  "One word advice, Art--never
get married--all rotten, all of 'em--"

This was something new.  "What do you know about marriage?" I asked
curiously.  "Nothing from experience, surely."

He winked at me with drunken cunning.  "Don't I, though!  Not half!
Never told you that, what?  Never told you what happened--Cape

"No, you never did.  What was it?"

"Might s'well tell Art--best friend--tell you everything tonight--
all over.  Yes--married in England--English girl, pretty's picture--
big blue eyes--just before war--took her South Africa with me, 'n
left her in Cape Town when I went to front.  I was called back to
Cape Town s'denly--found her with staff officer--dirty swine!  No
chance for doubt--didn't expect me to turn up--saw them with my own
eyes--flagrante delictu, you know--dirty swine of a staff officer!
Good bye, Jimmy Anderson!  All over!  Drink!  Drink!  Forget!"  He
blubbered to himself, his face a grotesque masque of tragedy.

In a flash it came back to me how he'd always stopped in the
stories of his life at the point where he'd commenced drinking.
Even at his drunkest he'd always ended the history there by saying
abruptly: "and then--something happened."  I'd never attached much
importance to it--thought he merely wanted to suggest a mysterious
reason as an excuse for his tobogganing.  Now, I knew.  Who could
doubt the truth of his statements, knowing all he had been through
that day?  He was in a mood for truth.  So this was the something
which happened!  Here was real tragedy.

Real tragedy!  And there he was sobbing, hiccuping, rolling his
eyes stupidly, scratching with limp fingers at the tears which ran
down and tickled the sides of his nose.  I felt a mad desire to

"I suppose you and she were divorced?" I asked after a pause.

"No--I couldn't--no proof--no money.  Besides, what'd I care about
divorce?  Never want to marry again--never love anyone else."  He
wept more violently than ever.

"But didn't she get a divorce?"

"No, she's too cute for that--thinks Aunt Mary'll leave me money--
and I'll drink myself to death.  No," he interrupted himself
hastily, "can't be that--not s'bad s' that--not Alice--no, no,
mustn't say that--not right for me to say that--don't know her
reason--never can tell--about women.  Damn shoes!"  He gave up the
attempt to get his shoes off and flung himself on the bed, fully
dressed.  In a minute he was dead to the world and snoring.  I left
him and went downstairs.

Most of the people in the back room were asleep, but Paddy and
Lyons and the operators were still drinking at one table, and I sat
down with them.  I talked at random on every subject that came up,
seeking to forget Jimmy and his woes, for a time at least.  His two
confessions that night had got on my nerves.

Later on I must have dozed, for I was jolted out of a half dream by
a sharp cracking smash in the back yard.  Everyone was awake and
cursing in an instant.  Big John appeared from behind the curtain,
grumbling:  "Dot's right!  Leave bottle on the fire escape, you
fellers!  Dot's right!  Und I have to sweep up."

We heard someone racing down the stairs and Jimmy burst into the
room.  His face was livid, his eyes popping out of his head.  He
rushed to the chair beside me and sat down, shaking, his teeth
chattering as if he had a chill.  I told Big John to bring him a

"What's the trouble now, Jimmy?" I asked him when he'd calmed down
a little.  He appeared to be quite sober after his sleep.

"The geranium--" he began, his lips trembling, his eyes filling up.

"So that's what fell down just now, is it?"

"Yes, I woke up, and I remembered I'd forgotten to water it.  I got
up and went to get the water.  The window was open.  I must have
stumbled over something.  I put out my hand to steady myself.  It
was so dark I couldn't see.  I knocked it out on the fire escape.
Then I heard it crash in the yard."  He put his hands over his face
and cried heart-brokenly like a sick child whose only remaining toy
has been smashed.  Not drunken tears this time, but real tears
which made all of us at the table blink our eyes and swear fiercely
at nothing.

After a while he grew quiet again, attempted a smile, asked our
pardons for having created a foolish scene.  He stared at his drink
standing untouched on the table in front of him; but never made any
motion to take it, didn't seem to realize what it was.  For fully
fifteen minutes he sat and stared, as still as stone, never moving
his eyes, never even seeming to breathe.  Then he got up from his
chair and walked slowly to the door like a man in a trance.  As he
was going out he turned to me and said:  "I'm tired, Art.  I think
I'll go to sleep," and something like a wan smile trembled on his
pale lips.  He left the door open behind him and I heard him
climbing the stairs, and the slam of our door as he closed it
behind him.

A buzz of conversation broke out as if his going had lifted a
weight of silence off the roomful of men.  Then it happened--a
swish, a sickish thud as of a heavy rock dropping into thick mud.
We looked wildly at one another.  We knew.  We rushed into the hall
and out to the yard.  There it was--a motionless, dark huddle of
clothes, a splintered, protruding bone or two, a widening pool of
blood black against the grey flags--Jimmy!

The sky was pale with the light of dawn.  Tomorrow had come.


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