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 laborers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs’ cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers . . . I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes.
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… She could not go, she said, because there would be a retreat that week in her convent . . . “If I go,” I said, “I will bring you something.”
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.”
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 girdled at half its height by a gallery. Nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness . . . I walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few people were gathered about the stalls which were still open.
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 at either side of the dark entrance to the stall and murmured: “No, thank you.”