’A strange idea has come into my mind, and I cannot help smiling at the topsyturvydom of Nature, or what seems to be topsyturvydom. You, who began by living in your instincts, are now wandering beyond Palestine in search of scrolls; and I, who began my life in scrolls, am now going to try to pick up the lost thread of my instincts in some great commercial town, in London or New York. My life for a long time will be that of some poor clerk or some hack journalist, picking up thirty shillings a week when he is in luck. I imagine myself in a threadbare suit of clothes edging my way along the pavement, nearing a great building, and making my way to my desk, and, when the day’s work is done, returning home along the same pavement to a room high up among the rafters, close to the sky, in some cheap quarter.
’I do not doubt my ability to pick up a living—it will be a shameful thing indeed if I cannot; for the poor curlew with its legs tied together managed to live somehow, and cannot I do as much? And I have taken care that no fetters shall be placed upon my legs or chain about my neck. Anything may happen—life is full of possibilities—but my first concern must be how I may earn my living. To earn one’s living is an obligation that can only be dispensed with at one’s own great risk. What may happen afterwards, Heaven knows! I may meet you, or I may meet another woman, or I may remain unmarried. I do not intend to allow myself to think of these things; my thoughts are set on one thing only—how to get to New York, and how I shall pick up a living when I get there. Again I thank you for what you have done for me, for the liberation you have brought me of body and mind. I need not have added the words “body and mind,” for these are not two things, but one thing. And that is the lesson I have learned. Good-bye.
It would be a full moon on the fifteenth of July, and every night he went out on the hillside to watch the horned moon swelling to a disc.
And on the fifteenth, the day he had settled for his departure, as he sat thinking how he would go down to the lake in a few hours, a letter started to his mind which, as well as he could remember, was written in a foolish, vainglorious mood—a stupid letter that must have made him appear a fool in her eyes. Had he not said something about—The thought eluded him; he could only remember the general tone of his letter, and in it he seemed to consider Nora as a sort of medicine—a cure for religion.
He should have written her a simple little letter, telling her that he was leaving Ireland because he had suffered a great deal, and would write to her from New York, whereas he had written her the letter of a booby. And feeling he must do something to rectify his mistake, he went to his writing-table, but he had hardly put the pen to the paper when he heard a step on the gravel outside his door.