“I hid my books in the long grass near the ashpit at the end of the garden where nobody ever came and hurried along the canal bank. It was a mild sunny morning in the first week of June. I sat up on the coping of the bridge admiring my frail canvas shoes which I had diligently pipeclayed overnight and watching the docile horses pulling a tramload of business people up the hill. All the branches of the tall trees which lined the mall were gay with little light green leaves and the sunlight slanted through them on to the water. The granite stone of the bridge was beginning to be warm and I began to pat it with my hands in time to an air in my head. I was very happy.”

Eager for his adventure to begin, the narrator leaves early in the morning and waits for the rest of his friends at the agreed-upon rendezvous spot at the Canal Bridge. The narrator is in high spirits as he admires the scenery before him—so much so that he describes the trees as “gay.” This is an example of a pathetic fallacy; the narrator is projecting his own emotions onto inanimate objects in the natural world.

“We came then near the river. We spent a long time walking about the noisy streets flanked by high stone walls, watching the working of cranes and engines and often being shouted at for our immobility by the drivers of groaning carts. It was noon when we reached the quays and, as all the labourers seemed to be eating their lunches, we bought two big currant buns and sat down to eat them on some metal piping beside the river. We pleased ourselves with the spectacle of Dublin’s commerce—the barges signalled from far away by their curls of woolly smoke, the brown fishing fleet beyond Ringsend, the big white sailing-vessel which was being discharged on the opposite quay.”

This passage describes the some of the sights that the narrator and Mahony encounter as they meander through Dublin on their adventure. The lengthy descriptions of machinery, ships, and laborers serve to accentuate the boys’ youth—they are fascinated by sights that are dull and commonplace for any adult who works in this part of Dublin. However, Joyce still alludes to the drudgery that this “spectacle of Dublin’s commerce” produces, using the color brown to describe the fishing fleets. Joyce uses the color brown repeatedly throughout Dubliners to represent the deadening monotony of Dublin life.

“There was nobody but ourselves in the field. When we had lain on the bank for some time without speaking I saw a man approaching from the far end of the field.”

Here, the narrator describes the field where the two boys will soon meet the old nan at the end of the story. The narrator’s observation that there is nobody but he, Mahony, and the old man in the field increases suspense and generates an unnerving tone because there are no other people around to help the children once it becomes clear that the old man is a violent and predatory person.