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The Drunkard
by [?]

It was a terrible blow to Father when Mr. Dooley on the terrace died. Mr. Dooley was a commercial traveller with two sons in the Dominicans and a car of his own, so socially he was miles ahead of us, but he had no false pride. Mr. Dooley was an intellectual, and, like all intellectuals the thing he loved best was conversation, and in his own limited way Father was a well-read man and could appreciate an intelligent talker. Mr. Dooley was remarkably intelligent. Between business acquaintances and clerical contacts, there was very little he didn’t know about what went on in town, and evening after evening he crossed the road to our gate to explain to Father the news behind the news. He had a low, palavering voice and a knowing smile, and Father would listen in astonishment, giving him a conversational lead now and again, and then stump triumphantly in to Mother with his face aglow and ask: “Do you know what Mr. Dooley is after telling me?” Ever since, when somebody has given me some bit of information off the record I have found myself on the point of asking: “Was it Mr. Dooley told you that?”

Till I actually saw him laid out in his brown shroud with the rosary beads entwined between his waxy fingers I did not take the report of his death seriously. Even then I felt there must be a catch and that some summer evening Mr. Dooley must reappear at our gate to give us a lowdown on the next world. But Father was very upset, partly because Mr. Dooley was about one age with himself, a thing that always gives a distinctly personal turn to another man’s demise; partly because now he would have no one to tell him what dirty work was behind the latest scene at the Corporation. You could count on your fingers the number of men in Blarney Lane who read the papers as Mr. Dooley did, and none of these would have overlooked the fact that Father was only a laboring man. Even Sullivan, the carpenter, a mere nobody, thought he was a cut above Father. It was certainly a solemn event.

“Half past two to the Curragh,” Father said meditatively, putting down the paper.

“But you’re not thinking of going to the funeral?” Mother asked in alarm.

“‘Twould be expected,” Father said, scenting opposition. “I wouldn’t give it to say to them.”

“I think,” said Mother with suppressed emotion, “it will be as much as anyone will expect if you go to the chapel with him.”

(“Going to the chapel,” of course, was one thing, because the body was removed after work, but going to the funeral meant the loss of a half-day’s pay. )

“The people hardly know us,” she added.

“God between us and all harm,” Father replied with dignity, “we’d be glad if it was our own turn.”

To give Father his due, he was always ready to lose a half day for the sake of an old neighbor. It wasn’t so much that he liked funerals as that he was a conscientious man who did as he would be done by; and nothing could have consoled him so much for the prospect of his own death as the assurance of a worthy funeral. And, to give Mother her due, it wasn’t the half day’s pay she begrudged, badly as we could afford it.

Drink, you see, was Father’s great weakness. He could keep steady for months, even for years, at a stretch, and while he did he was as good as gold. He was first up in the morning and brought the mother a cup of tea in bed, stayed at home in the evenings and read the paper; saved money and bought himself a new blue serge suit and bowler hat. He laughed at the folly of men who, week in week out, left their hard-earned money with the publicans; and sometimes, to pass an idle hour, he took pencil and paper and calculated precisely how much he saved each week through being a teetotaller. Being a natural optimist he sometimes continued this calculation through the whole span of his prospective existence and the total was breathtaking. He would die worth hundreds.