Episode I.3

A short paraphrase and guide to the episode

Prepared by Danis Rose

2010 edition FW pages 39-59
1939 edition FW pages 48-74

I.3§1: Afterlives, 39–49.29 (48–61.27)

This section deals with (a) brief lives of the now infamous scandal-mongers of chapter I.2; (b) the story of the cad in an English garden and his recollection of his encounter with HCE; (c) how the evidence regarding the said encounter is unreliable; and, lastly, (d) various opinions as to Earwicker's innocence or guilt as held by his contemporaries.

There remain but few shreds of recorded evidence concerning Earwicker's reputed disgrace. A full generation has elapsed. The natural dissipation of memory has distorted the names, relationships and sex, even the very identities and individualities, of the chief protagonists responsible for our hero's downfall. In this episode, while we can sort out most of the characters, there remains some confusion, partly transsexual. O'Donnell is described as Hosty's husband. Hosty, Frisky, and the Decent Sort are hopelessly mixed up and are seen here conjoined as one person: the gossiping wife of the layabout Treacle Tom. Worst of all, the Jesuit priest of page 30 (page 38) is now believed to be the elusive cad himself.

With the publication of the ballad there was released in that ‘kingsrick of Humidia’ (damp Chapelizod) a poisonous volume of cloud and smoke indeed: a very putrid odour of corruption. Jesus! Some stench! Derangement! Speak of visibility in a freak fog! Of sexual mosaics among goats, cats, and mice! Former outrages were belittled. Yet of the persons involved in the original saga — which though readable from end to end is from top to bottom ‘all falsetissues, antilibellous and nonactionable’ — these are as much now no more as were they not yet or had they not ever been.

Mere scraps of hard information are to hand. Of Hosty, ‘poor Osti-Fosti’, who was quite a musical genius, poet and tenor in his own way, no one definite end is known. He passed away. O'Donnell, ‘A'Hara (Okaroff?)’, somewhat crestfallen and down-at-heels at the time, accepted the Saxon shilling at the end of the Crimean War, enlisted in Tyrone's Horse and soldiered a little under the pseudonym of ‘Bucklovitch.’ He was never again to look upon the brick wall of that pauper's home in Pump Court. He perished abroad with his unit on the field of battle, in his last moments despatching a letter (a veritable bible!) to his father as well as some real chocolates to his mother in Louth. He bought it. Peter Cloran, ‘Paul Horan’, was deemed insane according to a report in the Dublin Intelligence and confined to a madhouse. He may perhaps have been the bit-player ‘Orani’ capable of sustaining long parts at short notice. He died. Treacle Tom, ‘Sordid Sam’, a dear decent Dubliner, died painlessly after life's ups-and-downs one Halloween night while inebriated and in a nude state. He was precipitated into the next world by footblows from behind by two seafarers, the last flesh-and-blood doss-house mates he was to have. When perspicacity struck him for the last time he is reputed to have announced: My dreams have come true! He had had it. Shorty, and/or the decent sort, the prophet ‘Langley’, the ‘decentest dozendest short of a frusker’, while still a hobo vanished into an astral plane from the surface of the earth so spoorlessly as to lead many to speculate that its interior had become his habitat. His name was erased from the book of life. He had had it.

But halt. Was it not the case, it is put, that the so-called reverend, the sodality priest ‘Father San Browne’, otherwise ‘Padre Don Bruno’, that enjoyed tea with the gossipy woman that dark time, that was a fashionable preacher to whose pulpit society ladies flocked and, we may add, also an objectionable ass who sometimes stuck a raffle ticket in the hat that he wore all to one side like the handle of a pan, was not he, who had been found guilty of malpractice with a table-knife, one and the same person, though by this time fully several years older, as the cad with a pipe encountered by Earwicker that fateful red-letter Tuesday in the people's park? Was he?

Identity is an unstable and uncertain thing. It is well known that the normal human physiognomy alters its shape with the passing of the years. Of extraordinary significance, then, is the identity of the individual in the English garden.[74]

Many years had come and gone since the ballad first saw the light of day when three drenched boarding-school children in trench coats asked, through the insistent rain, a man over a wall to tell them again the ghost story of the hardly credible adventures of the giant, the two skivvies, and the three troopers. Who he could have been, this teller of tales, is impossible to say, for he had changed a lot and his former self was well hidden under a layer of time-grown warts, patches, and wrinkles, not to mention a large fungus or beard he had nurtured. The request for the story was put one wet Sunday to the party (a native of Ireland by his accent, though with Welsh overtones) who had made the south-east bluffs of England his regifugium persecutorum or headquarters, as he paused for some minutes or so for a smoke during his weekend pastime of pegging stones at recently-drained stout-bottles. Puffing at his give-away pipe, this individual, with already an inclination to area baldness, having re-wound his watch and reset it in a pocket, rose to his feet and there and then, in that quiet English garden far from his native Tolka, spoke intensely and compassionately of the now to us mythical habiliments of HCE, ‘Our Farfar and Arthor of our doyne’: his ‘latitudinous baver with puggaree behind’, his four-in-hand necktie, the elbow-room surtout, his patched trousers of a ginger hue, the slate umbrella, his woolly pullover with the silver-bronze buttons, and the unforgettable gauntlet upon the mailed fist that had struck down D'Esterre.[75] Then and there, in the befitting words of his native land, the emigrant sketched for his short yet eager audience the touching scene as he had seen it, the peaceful oaks, the Phoenix monument rising stark from the moon-lit pine-barren, diggers struck dumb in their piety poised over their farm implements at that angelus hour, the soft tinkling of bells as deer wended their way. You could have heard a pin drop as the stranger spoke. Like a scene on some dumb arras, old as man's weariness, the image of the seventh city of Christendom was visible to them across the timeless air, no colder or wearier or less patient of subjection than in the far-off days of the Thingmote.

Pausing for effect, the tramp then took out an imitation-snakeskin wallet and handed the listening trio of children a cheroot to smoke between them for to spend a whole half hour in Havana. He met HCE, he said, that best of men and staunch republican, at ‘Eagle Cock Hostel on Lorenzo Tooley Street’ and he wished his lordship the blessings of God and Mary and Brigid and Patrick. And then, he said, says he (HCE) with crocodile tears: My good chap, I call the universe to witness, as sure as eggs are eggs, my business credit will stand as straight as that monument before the hygienic globe (here the Sabbath crack-shot uncovered himself of a tricoloured boater and pressed it to his breast, perspiration dripping down the ends of his moustache, and he cordially invited the three adolescents that he was wising up to do likewise, which they did) of the great schoolmaster's eye!

This evocation was never to be forgotten. Later on in that century, one of that little band of cap-bearing schoolboys, by then an ex-civil-servant out of the Customs House in a dressy black suit and polished tan boots, repeated it with much pointing of his own pipe to a cousin of the late archdeacon Francis Xavier Preserved Coppinger as they sat gazing at a tree out of the window of a Pullman coach. And whenever and as often as the cousin later placed aside his Irish Field and craved his listeners' attention and spoke of it again, all, on hearing this third-hand version of the tale, could picture themselves transported across the great abyss of time and space, back with the children listening to the dead-eyed bottle-breaker's twilight evocation of the doomed but ever eloquent agitator HCE standing there nobly, his great bristling walrus moustache shaded by a silk hat — a ghostly silhouette against the dusky screen of evening — with his man-slayer's hand silently and pointedly extended towards the stark memorial while, as the ten-ton bell tolled the hour, all over his drawn face, as a tear materialised upon a cheek, a mask of resignation ‘diffused a spectral appealingness’ similar in origin and exactly like a beam of sunshine reflected off a coffin-plate.

Not otherwise, the wind-chill factor notwithstanding, would a traveller from Van Diemen's Land, some lazy skald or wandering poet, remote and friendless, wearily lift his tired eyes to the signs on an alehouse and learn that there waiting for him were poiteen and tea, a bed, whiskey, tobacco, and almost begin as if to half-smile.

At this point, 45.36 (56.31), the pragmatic narrator intervenes to ask what exactly was the root cause of Earwicker's eldrich smile. And who was he to whom? And what English garden are we talking about anyway? Where exactly in England was it? What town or village? Was it down where the cudgel-players come from, in Cornwall? Or was it that fishy place, Yarmouth? Or in Wales, where the populace chew leeks? Or was it somewhere in Norwich? The facts, the hear-say about the balding individual, are too few and the witnesses too untrustworthy, he contends, to warrant our certitude. So what in the present case can we be certainly sure of? Do we, in the end, have anything more than a flimsy rumour to pin our belief to?

The sole physical evidence that has come down to us, it transpires, is an ‘exposure’ of HCE, a photograph preserved in the National Gallery, a more than life-like monument before which many have paused in the course of the years, in which Earwicker is pictured seated, frozen for all time in his clerical garb[76] as he watches the bland sun slide slowly into the land beyond the edge of the world, a telling tear corrugating a tired cheek, and the hand of a tiny Victorian (Alice) pressed to his ‘limper looser.’

Despite paucity of proof, and photographs apart, we can be sure of another thing. Before the winter of that year way back then had covered the pale face of lingering autumn in a pallid veil, and for some time after, the figure of the huge outsider H.C. Earwicker had cast its shadow over the dock of a hundred tribunals, acquitted here, convicted there, given benefit of clergy (exempted from trial) or suffered swift Jedburg justice (punishment first, trial later). And, as guilty as sin or as innocent as the fresh-fallen calf, though they waved the green boughs of triumph over him after they had torn him limb from limb, we must admit that whatever the particular statutes of the nation were at the time or whoever it was sat on the throne, then, by God, human, erring and forgivable as he was, Earwicker's heroic shade loomed up large behind the jostling judgements of his fellow Irishmen and Irishwomen in those far-off sean aimsir days.

The remainder of the section, 47.13–49.29 (58.21–61.27), critiques the judgements elicited by reporters in street interviews from a sample cross-section of the Dubliners of the day. Whatever else he might have been, HCE was the talk of the town. Opinions were as many as they were varied. Three Tommies were unanimous: ‘it was the first woman, they said, souped him that fatal wellesday, Lili Coninghams, by suggesting him they go in a field.’ An actress and noted beauty said she hoped Earwicker would be pardoned, for the world had been unkind to him. An ‘entychologist’ gave it as his professional opinion that HCE's ‘propenomen is a properismenon.’ A dustman named Sevenchurches, when asked the question whiles he masticated liver and bacon and a steak-and-kidney pie in a hash-house, replied that he and his mates concurred on one point, HCE was ‘a cemented brick, buck it all.’ A car driver named Larry, more than usually sober, explained that, to his mind, Earwicker was just a plain bloke but that some said he had parliamentary honours. A ‘perspirer’ over sixty, who was keeping up his tennis, puffed breathlessly that it was one thing to collect information but another thing to climb over a wall and trespass and press his bell and bang on his closed door. It would be a crying shame to lock him up, another said, him being an orphan and all that, no matter what those two prostitutes claimed he did. A Board of Trade official said he was proud to know him. I'm all for caveman sex, was the opinion of one laconic young man, while a would-be martyr felt that whatever it was happened trouble was bound to follow as sure as night follows day. A young revivalist maintained that Earwicker was a brute, but a magnificent brute. Some swore that the two women were to blame; others that greatness lay behind HCE's tragedy, but that he should pay the full penalty, notwithstanding. The last of those interviewed, Mr Meagher, a naval rating, seated at the time on a granite sett in the fish market, was encouraged to speak up by his fiancée and he opined that, while he was convinced that Earwicker was wholly responsible for the incident with ‘your two velvetthighs up Horniman's Hill’, in his humble opinion ‘there was someone else behind it — you bet your boughtem blarneys! — about their three drummers down Keysars Lane.’[77]

I.3§2: HCE in Exile, 49.30–54.15 (61.28–67.27)

Section Two deals with events subsequent to HCE's flight from Ireland and how he was subjected to terror. It specifies an attack made upon him by an unidentified masked assailant. Some details of an ensuing related trial are cited.

Regarding the above “referendum”, we must now ask ourselves: is it not just one more fable? Is it another case of seeing everything and forgetting everything? Can it really be that outrages so diversified were planned and in part carried out against the person of H.C. Earwicker, if it is true that some part of the totality of the testimonies is not exactly false? Are there not those who use the truth but sparingly?

Just as the cad did a bunk overseas, so did Earwicker. Buddha-like, our modern Hejirite exchanged clothes with another man and escaped under cover of darkness, travelling by boat, to a city of refuge where he could forget and expiate manslaughter.[78] Yet in time the denizens of that new place murmured against him. They would rise up as one man and hurt him, as were he a curse on them, and convince him of his sins. Business-bred to the stiff upper lip, Humphrey took no unnecessary chances. Yet he was subject to terror.

A page and a half, 50.19 to 51.37 (62.26 to 64.21), deal with the terror to which the unhappy fugitive was subjected. The scene appears to have shifted to London.

The most telling incident came about in this way. It was after attending a show at Wednesbury, a town in Staffordshire, that a tall man (HCE) returning home from a public house through a dense fog and carrying a suspicious parcel had a revolver put to the side of his head with the whispered words You're shot, Major! by a masked assailant over whom he had been jealous regarding a girl or girls. And when the waylayer (apparently not from Ireland, but hailing from Brittany) mentioned under his breath that he had in addition to the pistol a one-hundred-bladed clasp-knife and, failing that, a pair of hard-knotted fists, and demanded with menaces to know what in thunder he was doing with the parcel, he was told that that was for the other to know and for him to bloody well find out.[79]

We are once again up against the ill-defined and the implausible. What exactly constitutes tall? What girl or girls? Why jealous? Was it rather a simple case of breaking and entering? Was it not with precisely this intention that he, the heavily-built man in the blue blouse, a seaman with a ‘most decisive bottle of single’[80] in his possession, who was apprehended after dark by the town guard while loitering at HCE's gateway, was there in the gateway? And is it not visibly untrue what the wretch said, namely, that, muttering Irish[81], he had had a lot to drink in The House of Blazes and The Parrot and The Orange Tree and the Glibb and The Sun and The Holy Lamb[82] and at a ship hotel from early morning until the angelus rang and was only falling flutered up against the gatestone-pier that he mistook in any event for a ‘cattlepillar.’ And who can but ridicule his lamest of excuses that he was only trying to open a bottle of stout by hammering it (the shorter the club the greater the savage) against the bloody gate. The boots about the place, Maurice Behan, who threw on a pair of pants and slipped into his shoes and came down with nothing in his hand but a lamp and without his coat on, attracted as he was by the noise of gun-play and hammering on a grand scale, swore that he never heard anything like it before. He had been fast asleep in his bed at the time and would not have been roused from slumber deep by someone simply uncorking a bottle of stout. This battering all over the door and posts, he always claimed, reminded him forcibly of the playing of the overture to the last day. And, he added, it was shortly after that that the woman of the house came down and after her the old water-horse, HCE himself.

The whole thing positively stinks of conspiracy when you come to look at it. The following morning a postman was to hand in a huge chain-letter written to HCE in various colours of ink, every character in it revealing its author to be ALP. (Perhaps we can profitably connect this letter with the coffin and in turn with the parcel, or with the blackmail. Or with ALP's vindication of HCE. Perhaps.)

The said parcel — a coffin, a craftsman's triumph at first sight taken for a ‘handharp’ — had been removed from a hardware premises of a coffin shop supplying funeral requisites of every description, removed possibly with the intention of reminding lovers of death and resurrection and midnight ghouls and thus to persuade them to come home early at night. Very possibly.

The day following, Long Lally Tobkids, conscientious town-guard and a well-decorated scripture reader, swore blind behind his medals when questioned in court, saying that he was up against a right queer sort of a man in a blue blouse who, he continued with a grunt, had the evening before, after delivering some mutton chops and meat juice on behalf of his employers, gone and, to his unfeigned astonishment, kicked viciously at the door against all the rules. When challenged on his oath by the defendant about the alleged kick, the guard simply stated: you did, as I stressed before, I am on my oath. You are knee deep in error, then, let me tell you, sir! the butcher, Mr MacPartland, replied.

I.3§3: The Knocking at the Gate, 54.16–59 (67.28–74)

Section Three examines the contrasting lives led by the two maids after the park incident and looks at a new and savage assault on HCE by his tenant, a foreign newspaper-reporter.

We now look at the flip side of the coin. The outrages against HCE were believed at one time to have been perpetrated at the instigation of one or other of the ‘causing causes of all’, the two park heroines. As for these, horrible to say, one day shortly afterwards one put an end to her placid life by drinking carbolic acid while the other soiled dove, on learning to her surprise that she stripped teasingly and finding her hat altogether too small for her, took to selling her favours ad hoc for simple commodities in barns, closets, sunrooms, anywhere, even round by the back of hallowed churches, and with such a license as sent ‘many a pucker packing to perdition’, employing for her ends an aphrodisiac of her own concoction. Earwicker was loud in his denunciation of her behaviour, or would have been had he not been pressurised into silence, for if violence to life and limb and damage to property has as often as not (as here) been the instrument of womanhood offended, whether direct or through a male agent or agents, then blackmail as often as not has since the earliest times followed shortly thereafter.

To return to the case, that a gate qua gate existed is not in dispute: it exists still for all to see. It was a ‘stonehinged gate’ and it gave access to Earwicker's shack, an abode purchased by him under an annual rent of ruminants to the monetary value of fourteen pence. He had enlarged it with the intention of growing old there, carefree, in perfect, perpetual peace and prosperity.[83]

When everything had been got up to his satisfaction, Earwicker had an iron gate put in, ostensibly to keep stray goats out. This gate, however, was triply padlocked by a band of concerned citizens for his (Earwicker's) own protection, in case he felt like tempting providence and sticking his chest out too far by taking the air on Easter Sunday and strolling in the Phoenix Park, unused as he still was to being freely clodded.

In further connection with what has gone before, it ought to be remembered that there was a foreign gent, a Herr Betreffender, lodging at the same shack for the summer. This individual, a commercial traveller and part-time reporter from Austria, was paying 11/- a week for the use of a room. One day this fellow swore that his coat had been disturbed and declared that the five hundred pounds missing from the pocket must be returned and damage to the cloth made good. To his disgust, the paying guest next found that he had been locked out and Earwicker locked in. In response, he extinguished the smouldering stump of his cigar and promptly bleated through the iron gate above the noise of the wind that he would willingly break HCE's face for him and smash the gate over his head the same way he would crack a small nut with a monkey-wrench and give the blighter his own blood to drink, to boot. He then demanded more alcohol, shouting that it was only ten o'clock in the morning.

The quiet man inside was not to be drawn, so the assailant went on hammering at the gate without a let-up until two o'clock in the afternoon, pleading with the bugger inside to come on out and be executed. But Earwicker, that pattern mind, simply sat passively as he was, a trifle pale perhaps, behind the famine-built walls of his conservatory with thermos flask to hand and noted down for posterity a long list (alas, feared incomplete)[84] of all the abusive names he was being called by the impassioned man outside: Firstnighter, Informer, Old Fruit, and so on.

It would not have been difficult for the prisoner — his asylum now miniaturised into a telephone booth — to reach out and dial the Kimmage police station but, respectful as he always was of the fundamental liberty of the individual, he kept his cool and did nothing, not even uttering a single syllable of discontent in the face of a relentless torrent of abuse. As he later explained, when shocked into speech, the Dominican Mission was on at the time and he thought that the Holy Rosary might reform the foreigner. The more-than-drunk unpleasant trouble-maker outside meanwhile took to hurling uniformly-sized stones at the gate in support of his words but after he had slung a volley, realising in his subconscious the serious nature of what he might have done had he succeeding in carrying out his terrible intentions, he left down the stones and, having sobered up a bit, changed his bowling by shutting his trap and quitting the scene, later claiming to have left HCE on the dissecting table. Just before going, he exhorted the multiple-minded man safe behind his gate to come out to Judas out of it along with all his besieged gods and get himself burst and buried. Realising that he was still getting nowhere, the attacker at last accepted that his schemes would have to be put into abeyance, bid goodbye, bit his thumb, and slouched off backwards in the direction of a nearby deaf-and-dumb institution. Thus with this bully's exit ‘came to close that last stage in the siegings round our archicitadel.’

No more was heard about HCE, or from him, after that though he made leave to many a door in Dublin before disappearing. Yet, gone from sight as he was, interred and embalmed, deep in a mausoleum, unapproachable and unassailable, he would one day wake, an elm springing up among briars. Troops would again muster to his call. Over hill and over dale his mighty horn would sound again. And in those days yet to come God shall ask of him and call to him, Abraham! And he shall make answer, Adsum! Here I am! Anima ad diabolum mene credidisti mortuum?[85] There is silence today in the great banquet hall, but sounds of merriment shall again ring in the night air when our constant hero puts back on his pullover and his boots.

Earwicker is not dead. He sleeps. His brain is bloodless: cold porridge. His pelt is damp, his heart scarcely beats. His circulation is a-crawl, his respiration all but stopped. There is no power in his limbs. Hump dozes. He sleeps. His brain is drained. He stops. Words wash off him like raindrops dripping down the drains of Dublin: the drains of Finglas, Pembroke, Kilmainham, Baldoyle.[86]