James Joyce - 2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941
Photo by C. Ruf, Zurich, ca. 1918
Mr. Holohan, assistant secretary of the Eire Abu Society, had been walking up and down Dublin for nearly a month, with his hands and pockets full of dirty pieces of paper, arranging about the series of concerts. He had a game leg and for this his friends called him Hoppy Holohan. He walked up and down constantly, stood by the hour at street corners arguing the point and made notes; but in the end it was Mrs. Kearney who arranged everything.
Miss Devlin had become Mrs. Kearney out of spite. She had been educated in a high-class convent, where she had learned French and music. As she was naturally pale and unbending in manner she made few friends at school. When she came to the age of marriage she was sent out to many houses, where her playing and ivory manners were much admired. She sat amid the chilly circle of her accomplishments, waiting for some suitor to brave it and offer her a brilliant life. But the young men whom she met were ordinary and she gave them no encouragement, trying to console her romantic desires by eating a great deal of Turkish Delight in secret. However, when she drew near the limit and her friends began to loosen their tongues about her, she silenced them by marrying Mr. Kearney, who was a bootmaker on Ormond Quay.
He was much older than she. His conversation, which was serious, took place at intervals in his great brown beard. After the first year of married life, Mrs. Kearney perceived that such a man would wear better than a romantic person, but she never put her own romantic ideas away. He was sober, thrifty and pious; he went to the altar every first Friday, sometimes with her, oftener by himself. But she never weakened in her religion and was a good wife to him. At some party in a strange house when she lifted her eyebrow ever so slightly he stood up to take his leave and, when his cough troubled him, she put the eider-down quilt over his feet and made a strong rum punch. For his part, he was a model father. By paying a small sum every week into a society, he ensured for both his daughters a dowry of one hundred pounds each when they came to the age of twenty-four. He sent the older daughter, Kathleen, to a good convent, where she learned French and music, and afterward paid her fees at the Academy. Every year in the month of July Mrs. Kearney found occasion to say to some friend:
"My good man is packing us off to Skerries for a few weeks."
If it was not Skerries it was Howth or Greystones.
When the Irish Revival began to be appreciable Mrs. Kearney determined to take advantage of her daughter's name and brought an Irish teacher to the house. Kathleen and her sister sent Irish picture postcards to their friends and these friends sent back other Irish picture postcards. On special Sundays, when Mr. Kearney went with his family to the pro-cathedral, a little crowd of people would assemble after mass at the corner of Cathedral Street. They were all friends of the Kearneys musical friends or Nationalist friends; and, when they had played every little counter of gossip, they shook hands with one another all together, laughing at the crossing of so man hands, and said goodbye to one another in Irish. Soon the name of Miss Kathleen Kearney began to be heard often on people's lips. People said that she was very clever at music and a very nice girl and, moreover, that she was a believer in the language movement. Mrs. Kearney was well content at this. Therefore she was not surprised when one day Mr. Holohan came to her and proposed that her daughter should be the accompanist at a series of four grand concerts which his Society was going to give in the Antient Concert Rooms. She brought him into the drawing-room, made him sit down and brought out the decanter and the silver biscuit-barrel. She entered heart and soul into the details of the enterprise, advised and dissuaded: and finally a contract was drawn up by which Kathleen was to receive eight guineas for her services as accompanist at the four grand concerts.
As Mr. Holohan was a novice in such delicate matters as the wording of bills and the disposing of items for a programm, Mrs. Kearney helped him. She had tact. She knew what artistes should go into capitals and what artistes should go into small type. She knew that the first tenor would not like to come on after Mr. Meade's comic turn. To keep the audience continually diverted she slipped the doubtful items in between the old favourites. Mr. Holohan called to see her every day to have her advice on some point. She was invariably friendly and advising homely, in fact. She pushed the decanter towards him, saying:
"Now, help yourself, Mr. Holohan !"
And while he was helping himself she said:
"Don't be afraid ! Don't be afraid of it ! "
Everything went on smoothly. Mrs. Kearney bought some lovely blush-pink charmeuse in Brown Thomas's to let into the front of Kathleen's dress. It cost a pretty penny; but there are occasions when a little expense is justifiable. She took a dozen of two-shilling tickets for the final concert and sent them to those friends who could not be trusted to come otherwise. She forgot nothing, and, thanks to her, everything that was to be done was done.
The concerts were to be on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. When Mrs. Kearney arrived with her daughter at the Ancient Concert Rooms on Wednesday night she did not like the look of things. A few young men, wearing bright blue badges in their coats, stood idle in the vestibule; none of them wore evening dress. She passed by with her daughter and a quick glance through the open door of the hall showed her the cause of the stewards' idleness. At first she wondered had she mistaken the hour. No, it was twenty minutes to eight.
In the dressing-room behind the stage she was introduced to the secretary of the Society, Mr. Fitzpatrick. She smiled and shook his hand. He was a little man, with a white, vacant face. She noticed that he wore his soft brown hat carelessly on the side of his head and that his accent was flat. He held a programme in his hand, and, while he was talking to her, he chewed one end of it into a moist pulp. He seemed to bear disappointments lightly. Mr. Holohan came into the dressing room every few minutes with reports from the box- office. The artistes talked among themselves nervously, glanced from time to time at the mirror and rolled and unrolled their music. When it was nearly half-past eight, the few people in the hall began to express their desire to be entertained. Mr. Fitzpatrick came in, smiled vacantly at the room, and said:
"Well now, ladies and gentlemen. I suppose we'd better open the ball."
Mrs. Kearney rewarded his very flat final syllable with a quick stare of contempt, and then said to her daughter encouragingly:
"Are you ready, dear ?"
When she had an opportunity, she called Mr. Holohan aside and asked him to tell her what it meant. Mr. Holohan did not know what it meant. He said that the committee had made a mistake in arranging for four concerts: four was too many.
"And the artistes !" said Mrs. Kearney. "Of course they are doing their best, but really they are not good."
Mr. Holohan admitted that the artistes were no good but the committee, he said, had decided to let the first three concerts go as they pleased and reserve all the talent for Saturday night. Mrs. Kearney said nothing, but, as the mediocre items followed one another on the platform and the few people in the hall grew fewer and fewer, she began to regret that she had put herself to any expense for such a concert. There was something she didn't like in the look of things and Mr. Fitzpatrick's vacant smile irritated her very much. However, she said nothing and waited to see how it would end. The concert expired shortly before ten, and everyone went home quickly.
The concert on Thursday night was better attended, but Mrs. Kearney saw at once that the house was filled with paper. The audience behaved indecorously, as if the concert were an informal dress rehearsal. Mr. Fitzpatrick seemed to enjoy himself; he was quite unconscious that Mrs. Kearney was taking angry note of his conduct. He stood at the edge of the screen, from time to time jutting out his head and exchanging a laugh with two friends in the corner of the balcony. In the course of the evening, Mrs. Kearney learned that the Friday concert was to be abandoned and that the committee was going to move heaven and earth to secure a bumper house on Saturday night. When she heard this, she sought out Mr. Holohan. She buttonholed him as he was limping out quickly with a glass of lemonade for a young lady and asked him was it true. Yes. it was true.
"But, of course, that doesn't alter the contract," she said. "The contract was for four concerts."
Mr. Holohan seemed to be in a hurry; he advised her to speak to Mr. Fitzpatrick. Mrs. Kearney was now beginning to be alarmed. She called Mr. Fitzpatrick away from his screen and told him that her daughter had signed for four concerts and that, of course, according to the terms of the contract, she should receive the sum originally stipulated for, whether the society gave the four concerts or not. Mr. Fitzpatrick, who did not catch the point at issue very quickly, seemed unable to resolve the difficulty and said that he would bring the matter before the committee. Mrs. Kearney's anger began to flutter in her cheek and she had all she could do to keep from asking:
"And who is the Cometty pray? "
But she knew that it would not be lady like to do that: so she was silent.
Little boys were sent out into the principal streets of Dublin early on Friday morning with bundles of handbills. Special puffs appeared in all the evening papers, reminding the music loving public of the treat which was in store for it on the following evening. Mrs. Kearney was somewhat reassured, but be thought well to tell her husband part of her suspicions.
He listened carefully and said that perhaps it would be better if he went with her on Saturday night. She agreed. She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed; and though she knew the small number of his talents she appreciated his abstract value as a male. She was glad that he had suggested coming with her. She thought her plans over.
The night of the grand concert came. Mrs. Kearney, with her husband and daughter, arrived at the Ancient Concert Rooms three-quarters of an hour before the time at which the concert was to begin. By ill luck it was a rainy evening. Mrs. Kearney placed her daughter's clothes and music in charge of her husband and went all over the building looking for Mr. Holohan or Mr. Fitzpatrick. She could find neither. She asked the stewards was any member of the committee in the hall and, after a great deal of trouble, a steward brought out a little woman named Miss Beirne to whom Mrs. Kearney explained that she wanted to see one of the secretaries. Miss Beirne expected them any minute and asked could she do anything. Mrs. Kearney looked searchingly at the oldish face which was screwed into an expression of trustfulness and enthusiasm and answered:
"No, thank you !"
The little woman hoped they would have a good house. She looked out at the rain until the melancholy of the wet street effaced all the trustfulness and enthusiasm from her twisted features. Then she gave a little sigh and said:
"Ah, well ! We did our best, the dear knows."
Mrs. Kearney had to go back to the dressing-room.
The artistes were arriving. The bass and the second tenor had already come. The bass, Mr. Duggan, was a slender young man with a scattered black moustache. He was the son of a hall porter in an office in the city and, as a boy, he had sung prolonged bass notes in the resounding hall. From this humble state he had raised himself until he had become a first-rate artiste. He had appeared in grand opera. One night, when an operatic artiste had fallen ill, he had undertaken the part of the king in the opera of Maritana at the Queen's Theatre. He sang his music with great feeling and volume and was warmly welcomed by the gallery; but, unfortunately, he marred the good impression by wiping his nose in his gloved hand once or twice out of thoughtlessness. He was unassuming and spoke little. He said yous so softly that it passed unnoticed and he never drank anything stronger than milk for his voice's sake. Mr. Bell, the second tenor, was a fair-haired little man who competed every year for prizes at the Feis Ceoil. On his fourth trial he had been awarded a bronze medal. He was extremely nervous and extremely jealous of other tenors and he covered his nervous jealousy with an ebullient friendliness. It was his humour to have people know what an ordeal a concert was to him. Therefore when he saw Mr. Duggan he went over to him and asked:
"Are you in it too ? "
"Yes," said Mr. Duggan.
Mr. Bell laughed at his fellow-sufferer, held out his hand and said:
Mrs. Kearney passed by these two young men and went to the edge of the screen to view the house. The seats were being filled up rapidly and a pleasant noise circulated in the auditorium. She came back and spoke to her husband privately. Their conversation was evidently about Kathleen for they both glanced at her often as she stood chatting to one of her Nationalist friends, Miss Healy, the contralto. An unknown solitary woman with a pale face walked through the room. The women followed with keen eyes the faded blue dress which was stretched upon a meagre body. Someone said that she was Madam Glynn, the soprano.
"I wonder where did they dig her up," said Kathleen to Miss Healy. "I'm sure I never heard of her."
Miss Healy had to smile. Mr. Holohan limped into the dressing-room at that moment and the two young ladies asked him who was the unknown woman. Mr. Holohan said that she was Madam Glynn from London. Madam Glynn took her stand in a corner of the room, holding a roll of music stiffly before her and from time to time changing the direction of her startled gaze. The shadow took her faded dress into shelter but fell revengefully into the little cup behind her collar-bone. The noise of the hall became more audible. The first tenor and the baritone arrived together. They were both well dressed, stout and complacent and they brought a breath of opulence among the company.
Mrs. Kearney brought her daughter over to them, and talked to them amiably. She wanted to be on good terms with them but, while she strove to be polite, her eyes followed Mr. Holohan in his limping and devious courses. As soon as she could she excused herself and went out after him.
"Mr. Holohan, I want to speak to you for a moment," she said.
They went down to a discreet part of the corridor. Mrs Kearney asked him when was her daughter going to be paid. Mr. Holohan said that Mr. Fitzpatrick had charge of that. Mrs. Kearney said that she didn't know anything about Mr. Fitzpatrick. Her daughter had signed a contract for eight guineas and she would have to be paid. Mr. Holohan said that it wasn't his business.
"Why isn't it your business ?" asked Mrs. Kearney. "Didn't you yourself bring her the contract ? Anyway, if it's not your business it's my business and I mean to see to it."
"You'd better speak to Mr. Fitzpatrick," said Mr. Holohan distantly.
"I don't know anything about Mr. Fitzpatrick," repeated Mrs. Kearney. "I have my contract, and I intend to see that it is carried out."
When she came back to the dressing-room her cheeks were slightly suffused. The room was lively. Two men in outdoor dress had taken possession of the fireplace and were chatting familiarly with Miss Healy and the baritone. They were the Freeman man and Mr. O'Madden Burke. The Freeman man had come in to say that he could not wait for the concert as he had to report the lecture which an American priest was giving in the Mansion House. He said they were to leave the report for him at the Freeman office and he would see that it went in. He was a grey-haired man, with a plausible voice and careful manners. He held an extinguished cigar in his hand and the aroma of cigar smoke floated near him. He had not intended to stay a moment because concerts and artistes bored him considerably but he remained leaning against the mantelpiece. Miss Healy stood in front of him, talking and laughing. He was old enough to suspect one reason for her politeness but young enough in spirit to turn the moment to account. The warmth, fragrance and colour of her body appealed to his senses. He was pleasantly conscious that the bosom which he saw rise and fall slowly beneath him rose and fell at that moment for him, that the laughter and fragrance and wilful glances were his tribute. When he could stay no longer he took leave of her regretfully.
"O'Madden Burke will write the notice," he explained to Mr. Holohan, "and I'll see it in."
"Thank you very much, Mr. Hendrick," said Mr. Holohan. you'll see it in, I know. Now, won't you have a little something before you go ?"
"I don't mind," said Mr. Hendrick.
The two men went along some tortuous passages and up a dark staircase and came to a secluded room where one of the stewards was uncorking bottles for a few gentlemen. One of these gentlemen was Mr. O'Madden Burke, who had found out the room by instinct. He was a suave, elderly man who balanced his imposing body, when at rest, upon a large silk umbrella. His magniloquent western name was the moral umbrella upon which he balanced the fine problem of his finances. He was widely respected.
While Mr. Holohan was entertaining the Freeman man Mrs. Kearney was speaking so animatedly to her husband that he had to ask her to lower her voice. The conversation of the others in the dressing-room had become strained. Mr. Bell, the first item, stood ready with his music but the accompanist made no sign. Evidently something was wrong. Mr. Kearney looked straight before him, stroking his beard, while Mrs. Kearney spoke into Kathleen's ear with subdued emphasis. From the hall came sounds of encouragement, clapping and stamping of feet. The first tenor and the baritone and Miss Healy stood together, waiting tranquilly, but Mr. Bell's nerves were greatly agitated because he was afraid the audience would think that he had come late.
Mr. Holohan and Mr. O'Madden Burke came into the room In a moment Mr. Holohan perceived the hush. He went over to Mrs. Kearney and spoke with her earnestly. While they were speaking the noise in the hall grew louder. Mr. Holohan became very red and excited. He spoke volubly, but Mrs. Kearney said curtly at intervals:
"She won't go on. She must get her eight guineas."
Mr. Holohan pointed desperately towards the hall where the audience was clapping and stamping. He appealed to Mr Kearney and to Kathleen. But Mr. Kearney continued to stroke his beard and Kathleen looked down, moving the point of her new shoe: it was not her fault. Mrs. Kearney repeated:
"She won't go on without her money."
After a swift struggle of tongues Mr. Holohan hobbled out in haste. The room was silent. When the strain of the silence had become somewhat painful Miss Healy said to the baritone:
"Have you seen Mrs. Pat Campbell this week ?"
The baritone had not seen her but he had been told that she was very fine. The conversation went no further. The first tenor bent his head and began to count the links of the gold chain which was extended across his waist, smiling and humming random notes to observe the effect on the frontal sinus. From time to time everyone glanced at Mrs. Kearney.
The noise in the auditorium had risen to a clamour when Mr. Fitzpatrick burst into the room, followed by Mr. Holohan who was panting. The clapping and stamping in the hall were punctuated by whistling. Mr. Fitzpatrick held a few banknotes in his hand. He counted out four into Mrs. Kearney's hand and said she would get the other half at the interval. Mrs. Kearney said:
"This is four shillings short."
But Kathleen gathered in her skirt and said: "Now. Mr. Bell," to the first item, who was shaking like an aspen. The singer and the accompanist went out together. The noise in hall died away. There was a pause of a few seconds: and then the piano was heard.
The first part of the concert was very successful except for Madam Glynn's item. The poor lady sang Killarney in a bodiless gasping voice, with all the old-fashioned mannerisms of intonation and pronunciation which she believed lent elegance to her singing. She looked as if she had been resurrected from an old stage-wardrobe and the cheaper parts of the hall made fun of her high wailing notes. The first tenor and the contralto, however, brought down the house. Kathleen played a selection of Irish airs which was generously applauded. The first part closed with a stirring patriotic recitation delivered by a young lady who arranged amateur theatricals. It was deservedly applauded; and, when it was ended, the men went out for the interval, content.
All this time the dressing-room was a hive of excitement. In one corner were Mr. Holohan, Mr. Fitzpatrick, Miss Beirne, two of the stewards, the baritone, the bass, and Mr. O'Madden Burke. Mr. O'Madden Burke said it was the most scandalous exhibition he had ever witnessed. Miss Kathleen Kearney's musical career was ended in Dublin after that, he said. The baritone was asked what did he think of Mrs. Kearney's conduct. He did not like to say anything. He had been paid his money and wished to be at peace with men. However, he said that Mrs. Kearney might have taken the artistes into consideration. The stewards and the secretaries debated hotly as to what should be done when the interval came.
"I agree with Miss Beirne," said Mr. O'Madden Burke. "Pay her nothing."
In another corner of the room were Mrs. Kearney and he: husband, Mr. Bell, Miss Healy and the young lady who had to recite the patriotic piece. Mrs. Kearney said that the Committee had treated her scandalously. She had spared neither trouble nor expense and this was how she was repaid.
They thought they had only a girl to deal with and that therefore, they could ride roughshod over her. But she would show them their mistake. They wouldn't have dared to have treated her like that if she had been a man. But she would see that her daughter got her rights: she wouldn't be fooled. If they didn't pay her to the last farthing she would make Dublin ring. Of course she was sorry for the sake of the artistes. But what else could she do ? She appealed to the second tenor who said he thought she had not been well treated. Then she appealed to Miss Healy. Miss Healy wanted to join the other group but she did not like to do so because she was a great friend of Kathleen's and the Kearneys had often invited her to their house.
As soon as the first part was ended Mr. Fitzpatrick and Mr. Holohan went over to Mrs. Kearney and told her that the other four guineas would be paid after the committee meeting on the following Tuesday and that, in case her daughter did not play for the second part, the committee would consider the contract broken and would pay nothing.
"I haven't seen any committee," said Mrs. Kearney angrily. "My daughter has her contract. She will get four pounds eight into her hand or a foot she won't put on that platform."
"I'm surprised at you, Mrs. Kearney," said Mr. Holohan. "I never thought you would treat us this way."
"And what way did you treat me ?" asked Mrs. Kearney.
Her face was inundated with an angry colour and she looked as if she would attack someone with her hands.
"I'm asking for my rights." she said.
You might have some sense of decency," said Mr. Holohan.
"Might I, indeed ?... And when I ask when my daughter is going to be paid I can't get a civil answer."
She tossed her head and assumed a haughty voice:
"You must speak to the secretary. It's not my business. I'm a great fellow fol-the-diddle-I-do."
"I thought you were a lady," said Mr. Holohan, walking away from her abruptly.
After that Mrs. Kearney's conduct was condemned on all hands: everyone approved of what the committee had done. She stood at the door, haggard with rage, arguing with her husband and daughter, gesticulating with them. She waited until it was time for the second part to begin in the hope that the secretaries would approach her. But Miss Healy had kindly consented to play one or two accompaniments. Mrs. Kearney had to stand aside to allow the baritone and his accompanist to pass up to the platform. She stood still for an instant like an angry stone image and, when the first notes of the song struck her ear, she caught up her daughter's cloak and said to her husband:
"Get a cab !"
He went out at once. Mrs. Kearney wrapped the cloak round her daughter and followed him. As she passed through the doorway she stopped and glared into Mr. Holohan's face.
"I'm not done with you yet," she said.
"But I'm done with you," said Mr. Holohan.
Kathleen followed her mother meekly. Mr. Holohan began to pace up and down the room, in order to cool himself for he his skin on fire.
"That's a nice lady !" he said. "O, she's a nice lady !"
You did the proper thing, Holohan," said Mr. O'Madden Burke, poised upon his umbrella in approval.
A PAINFUL CASE
Mr. James Duffy lived in Chapelizod because he wished to live as far as possible from the city of which he was a citizen and because he found all the other suburbs of Dublin mean, modern and pretentious. He lived in an old sombre house and from his windows he could look into the disused distillery or upwards along the shallow river on which Dublin is built. The lofty walls of his uncarpeted room were free from pictures. He had himself bought every article of furniture in the room: a black iron bedstead, an iron washstand, four cane chairs, a clothes- rack, a coal-scuttle, a fender and irons and a square table on which lay a double desk. A bookcase had been made in an alcove by means of shelves of white wood. The bed was clothed with white bedclothes and a black and scarlet rug covered the foot. A little hand-mirror hung above the washstand and during the day a white-shaded lamp stood as the sole ornament of the mantelpiece. The books on the white wooden shelves were arranged from below upwards according to bulk. A complete Wordsworth stood at one end of the lowest shelf and a copy of the Maynooth Catechism, sewn into the cloth cover of a notebook, stood at one end of the top shelf. Writing materials were always on the desk. In the desk lay a manuscript translation of Hauptmann's Michael Kramer, the stage directions of which were written in purple ink, and a little sheaf of papers held together by a brass pin. In these sheets a sentence was inscribed from time to time and, in an ironical moment, the headline of an advertisement for Bile Beans had been pasted on to the first sheet. On lifting the lid of the desk a faint fragrance escaped -- the fragrance of new cedarwood pencils or of a bottle of gum or of an overripe apple which might have been left there and forgotten.
Mr. Duffy abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental disorder. A medival doctor would have called him saturnine. His face, which carried the entire tale of his years, was of the brown tint of Dublin streets. On his long and rather large head grew dry black hair and a tawny moustache did not quite cover an unamiable mouth. His cheekbones also gave his face a harsh character; but there was no harshness in the eyes which, looking at the world from under their tawny eyebrows, gave the impression of a man ever alert to greet a redeeming instinct in others but often disappointed. He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glasses. He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a predicate in the past tense. He never gave alms to beggars and walked firmly, carrying a stout hazel.
He had been for many years cashier of a private bank in Baggot Street. Every morning he came in from Chapelizod by tram. At midday he went to Dan Burke's and took his lunch -- a bottle of lager beer and a small trayful of arrowroot biscuits. At four o'clock he was set free. He dined in an eating-house in George's Street where he felt himself safe from the society o Dublin's gilded youth and where there was a certain plain honesty in the bill of fare. His evenings were spent either before his landlady's piano or roaming about the outskirts of the city. His liking for Mozart's music brought him sometimes to an opera or a concert: these were the only dissipations of his life.
He had neither companions nor friends, church nor creed. He lived his spiritual life without any communion with others, visiting his relatives at Christmas and escorting them to the cemetery when they died. He performed these two social duties for old dignity's sake but conceded nothing further to the conventions which regulate the civic life. He allowed himself to think that in certain circumstances he would rob his hank but, as these circumstances never arose, his life rolled out evenly an adventureless tale.
One evening he found himself sitting beside two ladies in the Rotunda. The house, thinly peopled and silent, gave distressing prophecy of failure. The lady who sat next him looked round at the deserted house once or twice and then said:
"What a pity there is such a poor house tonight! It's so hard on people to have to sing to empty benches."
He took the remark as an invitation to talk. He was surprised that she seemed so little awkward. While they talked he tried to fix her permanently in his memory. When he learned that the young girl beside her was her daughter he judged her to be a year or so younger than himself. Her face, which must have been handsome, had remained intelligent. It was an oval face with strongly marked features. The eyes were very dark blue and steady. Their gaze began with a defiant note but was confused by what seemed a deliberate swoon of the pupil into the iris, revealing for an instant a temperament of great sensibility. The pupil reasserted itself quickly, this half- disclosed nature fell again under the reign of prudence, and her astrakhan jacket, moulding a bosom of a certain fullness, struck the note of defiance more definitely.
He met her again a few weeks afterwards at a concert in Earlsfort Terrace and seized the moments when her daughter's attention was diverted to become intimate. She alluded once or twice to her husband but her tone was not such as to make the allusion a warning. Her name was Mrs. Sinico. Her husband's great-great-grandfather had come from Leghorn. Her husband was captain of a mercantile boat plying between Dublin and Holland; and they had one child.
Meeting her a third time by accident he found courage to make an appointment. She came. This was the first of many meetings; they met always in the evening and chose the most quiet quarters for their walks together. Mr. Duffy, however, had a distaste for underhand ways and, finding that they were compelled to meet stealthily, he forced her to ask him to her house. Captain Sinico encouraged his visits, thinking that his daughter's hand was in question. He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery of pleasures that he did not suspect that anyone else would take an interest in her. As the husband was often away and the daughter out giving music lessons Mr. Duffy had many opportunities of enjoying the lady's society. Neither he nor she had had any such adventure before and neither was conscious of any incongruity. Little by little he entangled his thoughts with hers. He lent her books, provided her with ideas, shared his intellectual life with her. She listened to all.
Sometimes in return for his theories she gave out some fact of her own life. With almost maternal solicitude she urged him to let his nature open to the full: she became his confessor. He told her that for some time he had assisted at the meetings of an Irish Socialist Party where he had felt himself a unique figure amidst a score of sober workmen in a garret lit by an inefficient oil-lamp. When the party had divided into three sections, each under its own leader and in its own garret, he had discontinued his attendances. The workmen's discussions, he said, were too timorous; the interest they took in the question of wages was inordinate. He felt that they were hard-featured realists and that they resented an exactitude which was the produce of a leisure not within their reach. No social revolution, he told her, would be likely to strike Dublin for some centuries.
She asked him why did he not write out his thoughts. For what, he asked her, with careful scorn. To compete with phrasemongers, incapable of thinking consecutively for sixty seconds ? To submit himself to the criticisms of an obtuse middle class which entrusted its morality to policemen and its fine arts to impresarios ?
He went often to her little cottage outside Dublin; often they spent their evenings alone. Little by little, as their thoughts entangled, they spoke of subjects less remote. Her companionship was like a warm soil about an exotic. Many times she allowed the dark to fall upon them, refraining from lighting the lamp. The dark discreet room, their isolation, the music that still vibrated in their ears united them. This union exalted him, wore away the rough edges of his character, emotionalised his mental life. Sometimes he caught himself listening to the sound of his own voice. He thought that in her eyes he would ascend to an angelical stature; and, as he attached the fervent nature of his companion more and more closely to him, he heard the strange impersonal voice which he recognised as his own, insisting on the soul's incurable loneliness. We cannot give ourselves, it said: we are our own. The end of these discourses was that one night during which she had shown every sign of unusual excitement, Mrs. Sinico caught up his hand passionately and pressed it to her cheek.
Mr. Duffy was very much surprised. Her interpretation of his words disillusioned him. He did not visit her for a week, then he wrote to her asking her to meet him. As he did not wish their last interview to be troubled by the influence of their ruined confessional they meet in a little cakeshop near the Parkgate. It was cold autumn weather but in spite of the cold they wandered up and down the roads of the Park for nearly three hours. They agreed to break off their intercourse: every bond, he said, is a bond to sorrow. When they came out of the Park they walked in silence towards the tram; but here she began to tremble so violently that, fearing another collapse on her part, he bade her good-bye quickly and left her. A few days later he received a parcel containing his books and music.
Four years passed. Mr. Duffy returned to his even way of life. His room still bore witness of the orderliness of his mind. Some new pieces of music encumbered the music-stand in the lower room and on his shelves stood two volumes by Nietzsche: Thus Spake Zarathustra and The Gay Science. He wrote seldom in the sheaf of papers which lay in his desk. One of his sentences, written two months after his last interview with Mrs. Sinico, read: Love between man and man is impossible because there must not be sexual intercourse and friendship between man and woman is impossible because there must be sexual intercourse. He kept away from concerts lest he should meet her. His father died; the junior partner of the bank retired. And still every morning he went into the city by tram and every evening walked home from the city after having dined moderately in George's Street and read the evening paper for dessert.
One evening as he was about to put a morsel of corned beef and cabbage into his mouth his hand stopped. His eyes fixed themselves on a paragraph in the evening paper which he had propped against the water-carafe. He replaced the morsel of food on his plate and read the paragraph attentively. Then he drank a glass of water, pushed his plate to one side, doubled the paper down before him between his elbows and read the paragraph over and over again. The cabbage began to deposit a cold white grease on his plate. The girl came over to him to ask was his dinner not properly cooked. He said it was very good and ate a few mouthfuls of it with difficulty. Then he paid his bill and went out.
He walked along quickly through the November twilight, his stout hazel stick striking the ground regularly, the fringe of the buff Mail peeping out of a side-pocket of his tight reefer overcoat. On the lonely road which leads from the Parkgate to Chapelizod he slackened his pace. His stick struck the ground less emphatically and his breath, issuing irregularly, almost with a sighing sound, condensed in the wintry air. When he reached his house he went up at once to his bedroom and, taking the paper from his pocket, read the paragraph again by the failing light of the window. He read it not aloud, but moving his lips as a priest does when he reads the prayers Secreto. This was the paragraph:
DEATH OF A LADY AT SYDNEY PARADE A PAINFUL CASE
Today at the City of Dublin Hospital the Deputy Coroner (in the absence of Mr. Leverett) held an inquest on the body of Mrs. Emily Sinico, aged forty-three years, who was killed at Sydney Parade Station yesterday evening. The evidence showed that the deceased lady, while attempting to cross the line, was knocked down by the engine of the ten o'clock slow train from Kingstown, thereby sustaining injuries of the head and right side which led to her death.
James Lennon, driver of the engine, stated that he had been in the employment of the railway company for fifteen years. On hearing the guard's whistle he set the train in motion and a second or two afterwards brought it to rest in response to loud cries. The train was going slowly.
P. Dunne, railway porter, stated that as the train was about to start he observed a woman attempting to cross the lines. He ran towards her and shouted, but, before he could reach her, she was caught by the buffer of the engine and fell to the ground.
A juror. "You saw the lady fall ?"
Police Sergeant Croly deposed that when he arrived he found the deceased lying on the platform apparently dead. He had the body taken to the waiting-room pending the arrival of the ambulance.
Constable 57 corroborated.
Dr. Halpin, assistant house surgeon of the City of Dublin Hospital, stated that the deceased had two lower ribs fractured and had sustained severe contusions of the right shoulder. The right side of the head had been injured in the fall. The injuries were not sufficient to have caused death in a normal person. Death, in his opinion, had been probably due to shock and sudden failure of the heart's action.
Mr. H. B. Patterson Finlay, on behalf of the railway company, expressed his deep regret at the accident. The company had always taken every precaution to prevent people crossing the lines except by the bridges, both by placing notices in every station and by the use of patent spring gates at level crossings. The deceased had been in the habit of crossing the lines late at night from platform to platform and, in view of certain other circumstances of the case, he did not think the railway officials were to blame.
Captain Sinico, of Leoville, Sydney Parade, husband of the deceased, also gave evidence. He stated that the deceased was his wife. He was not in Dublin at the time of the accident as he had arrived only that morning from Rotterdam. They had been married for twenty-two years and had lived happily until about two years ago when his wife began to be rather intemperate in her habits.
Miss Mary Sinico said that of late her mother had been in the habit of going out at night to buy spirits. She, witness, had often tried to reason with her mother and had induced her to join a League. She was not at home until an hour after the accident. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence and exonerated Lennon from all blame.
The Deputy Coroner said it was a most painful case, and expressed great sympathy with Captain Sinico and his daughter. He urged on the railway company to take strong measures to prevent the possibility of similar accidents in the future. No blame attached to anyone.
Mr. Duffy raised his eyes from the paper and gazed out of his window on the cheerless evening landscape. The river lay quiet beside the empty distillery and from time to time a light appeared in some house on the Lucan road. What an end! The whole narrative of her death revolted him and it revolted him to think that he had ever spoken to her of what he held sacred. The threadbare phrases, the inane expressions of sympathy, the cautious words of a reporter won over to conceal the details of a commonplace vulgar death attacked his stomach. Not merely had she degraded herself; she had degraded him. He saw the squalid tract of her vice, miserable and malodorous. His soul's companion! He thought of the hobbling wretches whom he had seen carrying cans and bottles to be filled by the barman. Just God, what an end! Evidently she had been unfit to live, without any strength of purpose, an easy prey to habits, one of the wrecks on which civilisation has been reared. But that she could have sunk so low! Was it possible he had deceived himself so utterly about her? He remembered her outburst of that night and interpreted it in a harsher sense than he had ever done. He had no difficulty now in approving of the course he had taken.
As the light failed and his memory began to wander he thought her hand touched his. The shock which had first attacked his stomach was now attacking his nerves. He put on his overcoat and hat quickly and went out. The cold air met him on the threshold; it crept into the sleeves of his coat. When he came to the public-house at Chapelizod Bridge he went in and ordered a hot punch.
The proprietor served him obsequiously but did not venture to talk. There were five or six workingmen in the shop discussing the value of a gentleman's estate in County Kildare They drank at intervals from their huge pint tumblers and smoked, spitting often on the floor and sometimes dragging the sawdust over their spits with their heavy boots. Mr. Duffy sat on his stool and gazed at them, without seeing or hearing them. After a while they went out and he called for another punch. He sat a long time over it. The shop was very quiet. The proprietor sprawled on the counter reading the Herald and yawning. Now and again a tram was heard swishing along the lonely road outside.
As he sat there, living over his life with her and evoking alternately the two images in which he now conceived her, he realised that she was dead, that she had ceased to exist, that she had become a memory. He began to feel ill at ease. He asked himself what else could he have done. He could not have carried on a comedy of deception with her; he could not have lived with her openly. He had done what seemed to him best. How was he to blame ? Now that she was gone he understood how lonely her life must have been, sitting night after night alone in that room. His life would be lonely too until he, too, died, ceased to exist, became a memory, if anyone remembered him.
It was after nine o'clock when he left the shop. The night was cold and gloomy. He entered the Park by the first gate and walked along under the gaunt trees. He walked through the bleak alleys where they had walked four years before. She seemed to be near him in the darkness. At moments he seemed to feel her voice touch his ear, her hand touch his. He stood still to listen. Why had he withheld life from her ? Why had he sentenced her to death ? He felt his moral nature falling to pieces.
When he gained the crest of the Magazine Hill he halted and looked along the river towards Dublin, the lights of which burned redly and hospitably in the cold night. He looked down the slope and, at the base, in the shadow of the wall of the Park, he saw some human figures lying. Those venal and furtive loves filled him with despair. He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he felt that he had been outcast from life's feast. One human being had seemed to love him and he had denied her life and happiness: he had sentenced her to ignominy, a death of shame. He knew that the prostrate creatures down by the wall were watching him and wished him gone. No one wanted him; he was outcast from life's feast. He turned his eyes to the grey gleaming river, winding along towards Dublin. Beyond the river he saw a goods train winding out of Kingsbridge Station, like a worm with a fiery head winding through the darkness, obstinately and laboriously. It passed slowly out of sight; but still he heard in his ears the laborious drone of the engine reiterating the syllables of her name.
He turned back the way he had come, the rhythm of the engine pounding in his ears. He began to doubt the reality of what memory told him. He halted under a tree and allowed the rhythm to die away. He could not feel her near him in the darkness nor her voice touch his ear. He waited for some minutes listening. He could hear nothing: the night was perfectly silent. He listened again: perfectly silent. He felt that he was alone.
IVY IN THE COMMITTEE ROOM
OLD JACK raked the cinders together with a piece of cardboard and spread them judiciously over the whitening dome of coals. When the dome was thinly covered his face lapsed into darkness but, as he set himself to fan the fire again, his crouching shadow ascended the opposite wall and his face slowly reemerged into light. It was an old man's face, very bony and hairy. The moist blue eyes blinked at the fire and the moist mouth fell open at times, munching once or twice mechanically when it closed. When the cinders had caught he laid the piece of cardboard against the wall, sighed and said:
"That's better now, Mr. O'Connor."
Mr. O'Connor, a grey-haired young man, whose face was disfigured by many blotches and pimples, had just brought the tobacco for a cigarette into a shapely cylinder but when spoken to he undid his handiwork meditatively. Then he began to roll the tobacco again meditatively and after a moment's thought decided to lick the paper.
"Did Mr. Tierney say when he'd be back?" he asked in a sky falsetto.
"He didn't say."
Mr. O'Connor put his cigarette into his mouth and began search his pockets. He took out a pack of thin pasteboard cards.
"I'll get you a match," said the old man.
"Never mind, this'll do," said Mr. O'Connor.
He selected one of the cards and read what was printed on it:
MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS ---------- ROYAL EXCHANGE WARD ---------- Mr. Richard J. Tierney, P.L.G., respectfully solicits the favour of your vote and influence at the coming election in the Royal Exchange Ward.
Mr. O'Connor had been engaged by Tierney's agent to canvass one part of the ward but, as the weather was inclement and his boots let in the wet, he spent a great part of the day sitting by the fire in the Committee Room in Wicklow Street with Jack, the old caretaker. They had been sitting thus since e short day had grown dark. It was the sixth of October, dismal and cold out of doors.
Mr. O'Connor tore a strip off the card and, lighting it, lit his cigarette. As he did so the flame lit up a leaf of dark glossy ivy the lapel of his coat. The old man watched him attentively and then, taking up the piece of cardboard again, began to fan the fire slowly while his companion smoked.
"Ah, yes," he said, continuing, "it's hard to know what way to bring up children. Now who'd think he'd turn out like that! I sent him to the Christian Brothers and I done what I could him, and there he goes boosing about. I tried to make him someway decent."
He replaced the cardboard wearily.
"Only I'm an old man now I'd change his tune for him. I'd take the stick to his back and beat him while I could stand over him -- as I done many a time before. The mother, you know, she cocks him up with this and that...."
"That's what ruins children," said Mr. O'Connor.
"To be sure it is," said the old man. "And little thanks you get for it, only impudence. He takes th'upper hand of me whenever he sees I've a sup taken. What's the world coming to when sons speaks that way to their fathers ?"
"What age is he ?" said Mr. O'Connor.
"Nineteen," said the old man.
"Why don't you put him to something ?"
"Sure, amn't I never done at the drunken bowsy ever since he left school? 'I won't keep you,' I says. 'You must get a job for yourself.' But, sure, it's worse whenever he gets a job; he drinks it all."
Mr. O'Connor shook his head in sympathy, and the old man fell silent, gazing into the fire. Someone opened the door of the room and called out:
"Hello! Is this a Freemason's meeting?"
"Who's that?" said the old man.
"What are you doing in the dark ?" asked a voice.
"Is that you, Hynes ?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"Yes. What are you doing in the dark ?" said Mr. Hynes. advancing into the light of the fire.
He was a tall, slender young man with a light brown moustache. Imminent little drops of rain hung at the brim of his hat and the collar of his jacket-coat was turned up.
"Well, Mat," he said to Mr. O'Connor, "how goes it ?"
Mr. O'Connor shook his head. The old man left the hearth and after stumbling about the room returned with two candlesticks which he thrust one after the other into the fire and carried to the table. A denuded room came into view and the fire lost all its cheerful colour. The walls of the room were bare except for a copy of an election address. In the middle of the room was a small table on which papers were heaped.
Mr. Hynes leaned against the mantelpiece and asked:
"Has he paid you yet ?"
"Not yet," said Mr. O'Connor. "I hope to God he'll not leave us in the lurch tonight."
Mr. Hynes laughed.
"O, he'll pay you. Never fear," he said.
"I hope he'll look smart about it if he means business," said Mr. O'Connor.
"What do you think, Jack ?" said Mr. Hynes satirically to the old man.
The old man returned to his seat by the fire, saying:
"It isn't but he has it, anyway. Not like the other tinker."
"What other tinker ?" said Mr. Hynes.
"Colgan," said the old man scornfully.
"It is because Colgan's a working man you say that ? What's the difference between a good honest bricklayer and a publican, eh? Hasn't the working-man as good a right to be in the Corporation as anyone else , ay, and a better right than those shoneens that are always hat in hand before any fellow with a handle to his name ? Isn't that so, Mat ?" said Mr. Hynes, addressing Mr. O'Connor.
"I think you're right," said Mr. O'Connor.
"One man is a plain honest man with no hunker-sliding about him. He goes in to represent the labour classes. This fellow you're working for only wants to get some job or other."
"0f course, the working-classes should be represented," said the old man.
"The working-man," said Mr. Hynes, "gets all kicks and no halfpence. But it's labour produces everything. The workingman is not looking for fat jobs for his sons and nephews and cousins. The working-man is not going to drag the honour of Dublin in the mud to please a German monarch."
"How's that ?" said the old man.
"Don't you know they want to present an address of welcome to Edward Rex if he comes here next year ? What do we want kowtowing to a foreign king ?"
"Our man won't vote for the address," said Mr. O'Connor. "He goes in on the Nationalist ticket."
"Won't he ?" said Mr. Hynes. "Wait till you see whether he will or not. I know him. Is it Tricky Dicky Tierney ?"
"By God ! perhaps you're right, Joe," said Mr. O'Connor. "Anyway, I wish he'd turn up with the spondulics."
The three men fell silent. The old man began to rake more cinders together. Mr. Hynes took off his hat, shook it and then turned down the collar of his coat, displaying, as he did so, an ivy leaf in the lapel.
"If this man was alive," he said, pointing to the leaf, "we'd have no talk of an address of welcome."
"That's true," said Mr. O'Connor.
"Musha, God be with them times !" said the old man. "There was some life in it then."
The room was silent again. Then a bustling little man with a snuffling nose and very cold ears pushed in the door. He walked over quickly to the fire, rubbing his hands as if he intended to produce a spark from them.
"No money, boys," he said.
"Sit down here, Mr. Henchy," said the old man, offering him his chair.
"O, don't stir, Jack, don't stir," said Mr. Henchy
He nodded curtly to Mr. Hynes and sat down on the chair which the old man vacated.
"Did you serve Aungier Street ?" he asked Mr. O'Connor.
"Yes," said Mr. O'Connor, beginning to search his pockets for memoranda.
"Did you call on Grimes ?"
"Well? How does he stand ?"
"He wouldn't promise. He said: 'I won't tell anyone what way I'm going to vote.' But I think he'll be all right."
"Why so ?"
"He asked me who the nominators were; and I told him. I mentioned Father Burke's name. I think it'll be all right."
Mr. Henchy began to snuffle and to rub his hands over the fire at a terrific speed. Then he said:
"For the love of God, Jack, bring us a bit of coal. There must be some left."
The old man went out of the room.
"It's no go," said Mr. Henchy, shaking his head. "I asked the little shoeboy, but he said: 'Oh, now, Mr. Henchy, when I see work going on properly I won't forget you, you may be sure.' Mean little tinker ! 'Usha, how could he be anything else ?"
"What did I tell you, Mat ?" said Mr. Hynes. "Tricky Dicky Tierney."
"0, he's as tricky as they make 'em," said Mr. Henchy. "He hasn't got those little pigs' eyes for nothing. Blast his soul ! Couldn't he pay up like a man instead of: 'O, now, Mr. Henchy, I must speak to Mr. Fanning.... I've spent a lot of money' ? Mean little schoolboy of hell ! I suppose he forgets the time his little old father kept the hand-me-down shop in Mary's Lane."
"But is that a fact ?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"God, yes," said Mr. Henchy. "Did you never hear that ? And the men used to go in on Sunday morning before the houses were open to buy a waistcoat or a trousers moya ! But Tricky Dicky's little old father always had a tricky little black bottle up in a corner. Do you mind now ? That's that. That's where he first saw the light."
The old man returned with a few lumps of coal which he placed here and there on the fire.
"Thats a nice how-do-you-do," said Mr. O'Connor. "How does he expect us to work for him if he won't stump up ?"
"I can't help it," said Mr. Henchy. "I expect to find the bailiffs in the hall when I go home."
Mr. Hynes laughed and, shoving himself away from the mantelpiece with the aid of his shoulders, made ready to leave.
"It'll be all right when King Eddie comes," he said. "Well boys, I'm off for the present. See you later. 'Bye, 'bye."
He went out of the room slowly. Neither Mr. Henchy nor the old man said anything, but, just as the door was closing, Mr. O'Connor, who had been staring moodily into the fire, called out suddenly:
" Bye, Joe."
Mr. Henchy waited a few moments and then nodded in the direction of the door.
"Tell me," he said across the fire, "what brings our friend in here ? What does he want ?"
"Usha, poor Joe !" said Mr. O'Connor, throwing the end of his cigarette into the fire, "he's hard up, like the rest of us."
Mr. Henchy snuffled vigorously and spat so copiously that he nearly put out the fire, which uttered a hissing protest.
"To tell you my private and candid opinion," he said, "I think he's a man from the other camp. He's a spy of Colgan's, if you ask me. Just go round and try and find out how they're getting on. They won't suspect you. Do you twig ?"
"Ah, poor Joe is a decent skin," said Mr. O'Connor.
"His father was a decent, respectable man," Mr. Henchy admitted. "Poor old Larry Hynes ! Many a good turn he did in his day ! But I'm greatly afraid our friend is not nineteen carat. Damn it, I can understand a fellow being hard up, but what I can't understand is a fellow sponging. Couldn't he have some spark of manhood about him ?"
"He doesn't get a warm welcome from me when he comes," said the old man. "Let him work for his own side and not come spying around here."
"I don't know," said Mr. O'Connor dubiously, as he took out cigarette-papers and tobacco. "I think Joe Hynes is a straight man. He's a clever chap, too, with the pen. Do you remember that thing he wrote...?"
"Some of these hillsiders and fenians are a bit too clever if ask me," said Mr. Henchy. "Do you know what my private and candid opinion is about some of those little jokers ? I believe half of them are in the pay of the Castle."
"There's no knowing," said the old man.
"O, but I know it for a fact," said Mr. Henchy. "They're Castle hacks.... I don't say Hynes.... No, damn it, I think he's a stroke above that.... But there's a certain little nobleman with a cock-eye you know the patriot I'm alluding to ?"
Mr. O'Connor nodded.
"There's a lineal descendant of Major Sirr for you if you like ! O, the heart's blood of a patriot ! That's a fellow now that'd sell his country for fourpence, ay and go down on his bended knees and thank the Almighty Christ he had a country to sell."
There was a knock at the door.
"Come in !" said Mr. Henchy.
A person resembling a poor clergyman or a poor actor appeared in the doorway. His black clothes were tightly buttoned on his short body and it was impossible to say whether he wore a clergyman's collar or a layman's, because the collar of his shabby frock-coat, the uncovered buttons of which reflected the candlelight, was turned up about his neck. He wore a round hat of hard black felt. His face, shining with raindrops, had the appearance of damp yellow cheese save where two rosy spots indicated the cheekbones. He opened his very long mouth suddenly to express disappointment and at the same time opened wide his very bright blue eyes to express pleasure and surprise.
"O Father Keon !" said Mr. Henchy, jumping up from his chair. "Is that you ? Come in !"
"O, no, no, no !" said Father Keon quickly, pursing his lips as if he were addressing a child.
"Won't you come in and sit down ?"
"No, no, no !" said Father Keon, speaking in a discreet, indulgent, velvety voice. "Don't let me disturb you now ! I'm just looking for Mr. Fanning...."
"He's round at the Black Eagle," said Mr. Henchy. "But won't you come in and sit down a minute ?"
"No, no, thank you. It was just a little business matter," said Father Keon. "Thank you, indeed."
He retreated from the doorway and Mr. Henchy, seizing one of the candlesticks, went to the door to light him downstairs.
"O, don't trouble, I beg !"
"No, but the stairs is so dark."
"No, no, I can see.... Thank you, indeed."
"Are you right now ?"
"All right, thanks.... Thanks."
Mr. Henchy returned with the candlestick and put it on the table. He sat down again at the fire. There was silence for a few moments.
"Tell me, John," said Mr. O'Connor, lighting his cigarette with another pasteboard card.
"Hm ? "
"What he is exactly ?"
"Ask me an easier one," said Mr. Henchy.
"Fanning and himself seem to me very thick. They're often in Kavanagh's together. Is he a priest at all ?"
"Mmmyes, I believe so.... I think he's what you call black sheep. We haven't many of them, thank God ! but we have a few.... He's an unfortunate man of some kind...."
"And how does he knock it out ?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"That's another mystery."
"Is he attached to any chapel or church or institution or..."
"No," said Mr. Henchy, "I think he's travelling on his own account.... God forgive me," he added, "I thought he was the dozen of stout."
"Is there any chance of a drink itself ?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"I'm dry too," said the old man.
"I asked that little shoeboy three times," said Mr. Henchy, "would he send up a dozen of stout. I asked him again now, but he was leaning on the counter in his shirt-sleeves having a deep goster with Alderman Cowley."
"Why didn't you remind him ?" said Mr. O'Connor.
"Well, I couldn't go over while he was talking to Alderman Cowley. I just waited till I caught his eye, and said: 'About that little matter I was speaking to you about....' 'That'll be all right, Mr. H.,' he said. Yerra, sure the little hop-o'- my-thumb has forgotten all about it."
"There's some deal on in that quarter," said Mr. O'Connor thoughtfully. "I saw the three of them hard at it yesterday at Suffolk Street corner."
"I think I know the little game they're at," said Mr. Henchy. "You must owe the City Fathers money nowadays if you want to be made Lord Mayor. Then they'll make you Lord Mayor. By God ! I'm thinking seriously of becoming a City Father myself. What do you think ? Would I do for the job ?"
Mr. O'Connor laughed.
"So far as owing money goes...."
"Driving out of the Mansion House," said Mr. Henchy, "in all my vermin, with Jack here standing up behind me in a powdered wig, eh ?"
"And make me your private secretary, John."
"Yes. And I'll make Father Keon my private chaplain. We'll have a family party."
"Faith, Mr. Henchy," said the old man, "you'd keep up better style than some of them. I was talking one day to old Keegan, the porter. 'And how do you like your new master, Pat ?' says I to him. 'You haven't much entertaining now,' says I. 'Entertaining !' says he. 'He'd live on the smell of an oil- rag.' And do you know what he told me? Now, I declare to God I didn't believe him."
"What ?" said Mr. Henchy and Mr. O'Connor.
"He told me: 'What do you think of a Lord Mayor of Dublin sending out for a pound of chops for his dinner ? How's that for high living ?' says he. 'Wisha ! wisha,' says I. 'A pound of chops,' says he, 'coming into the Mansion House.' 'Wisha !' says I, 'what kind of people is going at all now ?"
At this point there was a knock at the door, and a boy put in his head.
"What is it ?" said the old man.
"From the Black Eagle," said the boy, walking in sideways and depositing a basket on the floor with a noise of shaken bottles.
The old man helped the boy to transfer the bottles from the basket to the table and counted the full tally. After the transfer the boy put his basket on his arm and asked:
"Any bottles ?"
"What bottles ?" said the old man.
"Won't you let us drink them first ?" said Mr. Henchy.
"I was told to ask for the bottles."
"Come back tomorrow," said the old man.
"Here, boy !" said Mr. Henchy, "will you run over to O'Farrell's and ask him to lend us a corkscrew for Mr. Henchy, say. Tell him we won't keep it a minute. Leave the basket there."
The boy went out and Mr. Henchy began to rub his hands cheerfully, saying:
"Ah, well, he's not so bad after all. He's as good as his word, anyhow."
"There's no tumblers," said the old man.
"O, don't let that trouble you, Jack," said Mr. Henchy. "Many's the good man before now drank out of the bottle."
"Anyway, it's better than nothing," said Mr. O'Connor.
"He's not a bad sort," said Mr. Henchy, "only Fanning has such a loan of him. He means well, you know, in his own tinpot way."
The boy came back with the corkscrew. The old man opened three bottles and was handing back the corkscrew when Mr. Henchy said to the boy:
"Would you like a drink, boy ?"
"If you please, sir," said the boy.
The old man opened another bottle grudgingly, and handed it to the boy.
"What age are you ?" he asked.
"Seventeen," said the boy.
As the old man said nothing further, the boy took the bottle. said: "Here's my best respects, sir, to Mr. Henchy," drank the contents, put the bottle back on the table and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. Then he took up the corkscrew and went out of the door sideways, muttering some form of salutation.
"That's the way it begins," said the old man.
"The thin edge of the wedge," said Mr. Henchy.
The old man distributed the three bottles which he had opened and the men drank from them simultaneously. After having drank each placed his bottle on the mantelpiece within hand's reach and drew in a long breath of satisfaction.
"Well, I did a good day's work today," said Mr. Henchy, after a pause.
"That so, John ?"
"Yes. I got him one or two sure things in Dawson Street, Crofton and myself. Between ourselves, you know, Crofton (he's a decent chap, of course), but he's not worth a damn as a canvasser. He hasn't a word to throw to a dog. He stands and looks at the people while I do the talking."
Here two men entered the room. One of them was a very fat man whose blue serge clothes seemed to be in danger of falling from his sloping figure. He had a big face which resembled a young ox's face in expression, staring blue eyes and a grizzled moustache. The other man, who was much younger and frailer, had a thin, clean-shaven face. He wore a very high double collar and a wide-brimmed bowler hat.
"Hello, Crofton !" said Mr. Henchy to the fat man. "Talk of the devil..."
"Where did the boose come from ?" asked the young man. "Did the cow calve ?"
"O, of course, Lyons spots the drink first thing !" said Mr. O'Connor, laughing.
"Is that the way you chaps canvass," said Mr. Lyons, "and Crofton and I out in the cold and rain looking for votes ?"
"Why, blast your soul," said Mr. Henchy, "I'd get more votes in five minutes than you two'd get in a week."
"Open two bottles of stout, Jack," said Mr. O'Connor.
"How can I ?" said the old man, "when there's no corkscrew ? "
"Wait now, wait now !" said Mr. Henchy, getting up quickly. "Did you ever see this little trick ?"
He took two bottles from the table and, carrying them to the fire, put them on the hob. Then he sat dow-n again by the fire and took another drink from his bottle. Mr. Lyons sat on the edge of the table, pushed his hat towards the nape of his neck and began to swing his legs.
"Which is my bottle ?" he asked.
"This, lad," said Mr. Henchy.
Mr. Crofton sat down on a box and looked fixedly at the other bottle on the hob. He was silent for two reasons. The first reason, sufficient in itself, was that he had nothing to say; the second reason was that he considered his companions beneath him. He had been a canvasser for Wilkins, the Conservative, but when the Conservatives had withdrawn their man and, choosing the lesser of two evils, given their support to the Nationalist candidate, he had been engaged to work for Mr. Tiemey.
In a few minutes an apologetic "Pok !" was heard as the cork flew out of Mr. Lyons' bottle. Mr. Lyons jumped off the table, went to the fire, took his bottle and carried it back to the table.
"I was just telling them, Crofton," said Mr. Henchy, that we got a good few votes today."
"Who did you get ?" asked Mr. Lyons.
"Well, I got Parkes for one, and I got Atkinson for two, and got Ward of Dawson Street. Fine old chap he is, too regular old toff, old Conservative! 'But isn't your candidate a Nationalist ?' said he. 'He's a respectable man,' said I. 'He's in favour of whatever will benefit this country. He's a big ratepayer,' I said. 'He has extensive house property in the city and three places of business and isn't it to his own advantage to keep down the rates ? He's a prominent and respected citizen,' said I, 'and a Poor Law Guardian, and he doesn't belong to any party, good, bad, or indifferent.' That's the way to talk to 'em."
"And what about the address to the King ?" said Mr. Lyons, after drinking and smacking his lips.
"Listen to me," said Mr. Henchy. "What we want in thus country, as I said to old Ward, is capital. The King's coming here will mean an influx of money into this country. The citizens of Dublin will benefit by it. Look at all the factories down by the quays there, idle! Look at all the money there is in the country if we only worked the old industries, the mills, the ship-building yards and factories. It's capital we want."
"But look here, John," said Mr. O'Connor. "Why should we welcome the King of England ? Didn't Parnell himself..."
"Parnell," said Mr. Henchy, "is dead. Now, here's the way I look at it. Here's this chap come to the throne after his old mother keeping him out of it till the man was grey. He's a man of the world, and he means well by us. He's a jolly fine decent fellow, if you ask me, and no damn nonsense about him. He just says to himself: 'The old one never went to see these wild Irish. By Christ, I'll go myself and see what they're like.' And are we going to insult the man when he comes over here on a friendly visit? Eh ? Isn't that right, Crofton ?"
Mr. Crofton nodded his head.
"But after all now," said Mr. Lyons argumentatively, "King Edward's life, you know, is not the very..."
"Let bygones be bygones," said Mr. Henchy. "I admire the man personally. He's just an ordinary knockabout like you and me. He's fond of his glass of grog and he's a bit of a rake, perhaps, and he's a good sportsman. Damn it, can't we Irish play fair ?"
"That's all very fine," said Mr. Lyons. "But look at the case of Parnell now."
"In the name of God," said Mr. Henchy, "where's the analogy between the two cases ?"
"What I mean," said Mr. Lyons, "is we have our ideals. Why, now, would we welcome a man like that ? Do you think now after what he did Parnell was a fit man to lead us ? And why, then, would we do it for Edward the Seventh ?"
"This is Parnell's anniversary," said Mr. O'Connor, "and don't let us stir up any bad blood. We all respect him now that he's dead and gone even the Conservatives," he added, turning to Mr. Crofton.
Pok! The tardy cork flew out of Mr. Crofton's bottle. Mr. Crofton got up from his box and went to the fire. As he returned with his capture he said in a deep voice:
"Our side of the house respects him, because he was a gentleman."
"Right you are, Crofton !" said Mr. Henchy fiercely. "He was the only man that could keep that bag of cats in order. 'Down, ye dogs ! Lie down, ye curs !' That's the way he treated them. Come in, Joe ! Come in!" he called out, catching sight of Mr. Hynes in the doorway.
Mr. Hynes came in slowly.
"Open another bottle of stout, Jack," said Mr. Henchy. "O, I forgot there's no corkscrew ! Here, show me one here and I'll put it at the fire."
The old man handed him another bottle and he placed it on the hob.
"Sit down, Joe," said Mr. O'Connor, "we're just talking about the Chief."
"Ay, ay !" said Mr. Henchy.
Mr. Hynes sat on the side of the table near Mr. Lyons but said nothing.
"There's one of them, anyhow," said Mr. Henchy, "that didn't renege him. By God, I'll say for you, Joe ! No, by God, you stuck to him like a man !"
"O, Joe," said Mr. O'Connor suddenly. "Give us that thing you wrote -- do you remember ? Have you got it on you ?"
"O, ay !" said Mr. Henchy. "Give us that. Did you ever hear that. Crofton ? Listen to this now: splendid thing."
"Go on," said Mr. O'Connor. "Fire away, Joe."
Mr. Hynes did not seem to remember at once the piece to which they were alluding, but, after reflecting a while, he said:
"O, that thing is it.... Sure, that's old now."
"Out with it, man !" said Mr. O'Connor.
"'Sh, 'sh," said Mr. Henchy. "Now, Joe !"
Mr. Hynes hesitated a little longer. Then amid the silence he took off his hat, laid it on the table and stood up. He seemed to be rehearsing the piece in his mind. After a rather long pause he announced:
THE DEATH OF PARNELL 6th October, 1891
He cleared his throat once or twice and then began to recite:
He is dead. Our Uncrowned King is dead. O, Erin, mourn with grief and woe For he lies dead whom the fell gang Of modern hypocrites laid low. He lies slain by the coward hounds He raised to glory from the mire; And Erin's hopes and Erin's dreams Perish upon her monarch's pyre. In palace, cabin or in cot The Irish heart where'er it be Is bowed with woe for he is gone Who would have wrought her destiny. He would have had his Erin famed, The green flag gloriously unfurled, Her statesmen, bards and warriors raised Before the nations of the World. He dreamed (alas, 'twas but a dream !) Of Liberty: but as he strove To clutch that idol, treachery Sundered him from the thing he loved. Shame on the coward, caitiff hands That smote their Lord or with a kiss Betrayed him to the rabble-rout Of fawning priests no friends of his. May everlasting shame consume The memory of those who tried To befoul and smear the exalted name Of one who spurned them in his pride. He fell as fall the mighty ones, Nobly undaunted to the last, And death has now united him With Erin's heroes of the past. No sound of strife disturb his sleep ! Calmly he rests: no human pain Or high ambition spurs him now The peaks of glory to attain. They had their way: they laid him low. But Erin, list, his spirit may Rise, like the Phoenix from the flames, When breaks the dawning of the day, The day that brings us Freedom's reign. And on that day may Erin well Pledge in the cup she lifts to Joy One grief the memory of Parnell.
Mr. Hynes sat down again on the table. When he had finished his recitation there was a silence and then a burst of clapping: even Mr. Lyons clapped. The applause continued for a little time. When it had ceased all the auditors drank from their bottles in silence.
Pok ! The cork flew out of Mr. Hynes' bottle, but Mr. Hynes remained sitting flushed and bare-headed on the table. He did not seem to have heard the invitation.
"Good man, Joe !" said Mr. O'Connor, taking out his cigarette papers and pouch the better to hide his emotion.
"What do you think of that, Crofton ?" cried Mr. Henchy. "Isn't that fine ? What ?"
Crofton said that it was a very fine piece of writing.
There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me: "I am not long for this world," and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true.
Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.
Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stir about he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:
"No, I wouldn't say he was exactly... but there was something queer... there was something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my opinion...."
He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool ! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms; but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery.
"I have my own theory about it," he said. "I think it was one of those ... peculiar cases .... But it's hard to say...."
He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory. My uncle saw me staring and said to me:
"Well, so your old friend is gone, you'll be sorry to hear."
"Who ?" said I.
"Is he dead ?"
"Mr. Cotter here has just told us. He was passing by the house."
I knew that I was under observation so I continued eating as if the news had not interested me. My uncle explained to old Cotter.
"The youngster and he were great friends. The old chap taught him a great deal, mind you; and they say he had a great wish for him."
"God have mercy on his soul," said my aunt piously.
Old Cotter looked at me for a while. I felt that his little beady black eyes were examining me but I would not satisfy him by looking up from my plate. He returned to his pipe and finally spat rudely into the grate.
"I wouldn't like children of mine," he said, "to have too much to say to a man like that."
"How do you mean, Mr. Cotter ?" asked my aunt.
"What I mean is," said old Cotter, "it's bad for children. My idea is: let a young lad run about and play with young lads of his own age and not be... Am I right, Jack ?"
"That's my principle, too," said my uncle. "Let him learn to box his corner. That's what I'm always saying to that Rosicrucian there: take exercise. Why, when I was a nipper every morning of my life I had a cold bath, winter and summer. And that's what stands to me now. Education is all very fine and large.... Mr. Cotter might take a pick of that leg mutton," he added to my aunt.
"No, no, not for me," said old Cotter.
My aunt brought the dish from the safe and put it on the table.
"But why do you think it's not good for children, Mr. Cotter ?" she asked.
"It's bad for children," said old Cotter, "because their mind are so impressionable. When children see things like that, you know, it has an effect...."
I crammed my mouth with stir about for fear I might give utterance to my anger. Tiresome old red-nosed imbecile !
It was late when I fell asleep. Though I was angry with old Cotter for alluding to me as a child, I puzzled my head to extract meaning from his unfinished sentences. In the dark of my room I imagined that I saw again the heavy grey face of the paralytic. I drew the blankets over my head and tried to think of Christmas. But the grey face still followed me. It murmured, and I understood that it desired to confess something. I felt my soul receding into some pleasant and vicious region; and there again I found it waiting for me. It began to confess to me in a murmuring voice and I wondered why it smiled continually and why the lips were so moist with spittle. But then I remembered that it had died of paralysis and I felt that I too was smiling feebly as if to absolve the simoniac of his sin.
The next morning after breakfast I went down to look at the little house in Great Britain Street. It was an unassuming shop, registered under the vague name of Drapery . The drapery consisted mainly of children's bootees and umbrellas; and on ordinary days a notice used to hang in the window, saying: Umbrellas Re-covered . No notice was visible now for the shutters were up. A crape bouquet was tied to the doorknocker with ribbon.
Two poor women and a telegram boy were reading the card pinned on the crape. I also approached and read:
July 1st, 1895 The Rev. James Flynn (formerly of S. Catherine's Church, Meath Street), aged sixty-five years. R. I. P.
The reading of the card persuaded me that he was dead and I was disturbed to find myself at check. Had he not been dead I would have gone into the little dark room behind the shop to find him sitting in his arm-chair by the fire, nearly smothered in his great-coat. Perhaps my aunt would have given me a packet of High Toast for him and this present would have roused him from his stupefied doze. It was always I who emptied the packet into his black snuff-box for his hands trembled too much to allow him to do this without spilling half the snuff about the floor.
Even as he raised his large trembling hand to his nose little clouds of smoke dribbled through his fingers over the front of his coat. It may have been these constant showers of snuff which gave his ancient priestly garments their green faded look for the red handkerchief, blackened, as it always was, with the snuff-stains of a week, with which he tried to brush away the fallen grains, was quite inefficacious.
I wished to go in and look at him but I had not the courage to knock. I walked away slowly along the sunny side of the street, reading all the theatrical advertisements in the shop-windows as I went. I found it strange that neither I nor the day seemed in a mourning mood and I felt even annoyed at discovering in myself a sensation of freedom as if I had been freed from something by his death. I wondered at this for, as my uncle had said the night before, he had taught me a great deal. He had studied in the Irish college in Rome and he had taught me to pronounce Latin properly. He had told me stories about the catacombs and about Napoleon Bonaparte, and he had explained to me the meaning of the different ceremonies of the Mass and of the different vestments worn by the priest. Sometimes he had amused himself by putting difficult questions to me, asking me what one should do in certain circumstances or whether such and such sins were mortal or venial or only imperfections. His questions showed me how complex and mysterious were certain institutions of the Church which I had always regarded as the simplest acts.
The duties of the priest towards the Eucharist and towards the secrecy of the confessional seemed so grave to me that I wondered how anybody had ever found in himself the courage to undertake them; and I was not surprised when he told me that the fathers of the Church had written books as thick as the Post Office Directory and as closely printed as the law notices in the newspaper, elucidating all these intricate questions. Often when I thought of this I could make no answer or only a very foolish and halting one upon which he used to smile and nod his head twice or thrice. Sometimes he used to put me through the responses of the Mass which he had made me learn by heart; and, as I pattered, he used to smile pensively and nod his head, now and then pushing huge pinches of snuff up each nostril alternately. When he smiled he used to uncover his big discoloured teeth and let his tongue lie upon his lower lip , a habit which had made me feel uneasy in the beginning of our acquaintance before I knew him well.
As I walked along in the sun I remembered old Cotter's words and tried to remember what had happened afterwards in the dream.
I remembered that I had noticed long velvet curtains and a swinging lamp of antique fashion. I felt that I had been very far away, in some land where the customs were strange in Persia, I thought....
But I could not remember the end of the dream.
In the evening my aunt took me with her to visit the house of mourning. It was after sunset; but the window-panes of the houses that looked to the west reflected the tawny gold of a great bank of clouds. Nannie received us in the hall; and, as it would have been unseemly to have shouted at her, my aunt shook hands with her for all.
The old woman pointed upwards interrogatively and, on my aunt's nodding, proceeded to toil up the narrow staircase before us, her bowed head being scarcely above the level of the banister-rail. At the first landing she stopped and beckoned us forward encouragingly towards the open door of the dead-room. My aunt went in and the old woman, seeing that I hesitated to enter, began to beckon to me again repeatedly with her hand.
I went in on tiptoe. The room through the lace end of the blind was suffused with dusky golden light amid which the candles looked like pale thin flames. He had been coffined. Nannie gave the lead and we three knelt down at the foot of the bed. I pretended to pray but I could not gather my thoughts because the old woman's mutterings distracted me. I noticed how clumsily her skirt was hooked at the back and how the heels of her cloth boots were trodden down all to one side. The fancy came to me that the old priest was smiling as he lay there in his coffin.
But no. When we rose and went up to the head of the bed I saw that he was not smiling. There he lay, solemn and copious, vested as for the altar, his large hands loosely retaining a chalice. His face was very truculent, grey and massive, with black cavernous nostrils and circled by a scanty white fur. There was a heavy odour in the room the flowers.
We crossed ourselves and came away. In the little room downstairs we found Eliza seated in his arm-chair in state. I groped my way towards my usual chair in the corner while Nannie went to the sideboard and brought out a decanter of sherry and some wine-glasses. She set these on the table and invited us to take a little glass of wine. Then, at her sister's bidding, she filled out the sherry into the glasses and passed them to us. She pressed me to take some cream crackers also but I declined because I thought I would make too much noise eating them. She seemed to be somewhat disappointed at my refusal and went over quietly to the sofa where she sat down behind her sister. No one spoke: we all gazed at the empty fireplace.
My aunt waited until Eliza sighed and then said:
"Ah, well, he's gone to a better world."
Eliza sighed again and bowed her head in assent. My aunt fingered the stem of her wine-glass before sipping a little.
"Did he... peacefully ?" she asked.
"Oh, quite peacefully, ma'am," said Eliza. "You couldn't tell when the breath went out of him. He had a beautiful death, God be praised."
"Father O'Rourke was in with him a Tuesday and anointed him and prepared him and all."
"He knew then ?"
"He was quite resigned."
"He looks quite resigned," said my aunt.
"That's what the woman we had in to wash him said. She said he just looked as if he was asleep, he looked that peaceful and resigned. No one would think he'd make such a beautiful corpse."
"Yes, indeed," said my aunt.
She sipped a little more from her glass and said:
"Well, Miss Flynn, at any rate it must be a great comfort for you to know that you did all you could for him. You were both very kind to him, I must say."
Eliza smoothed her dress over her knees.
"Ah, poor James !" she said. "God knows we done all we could, as poor as we are we wouldn't see him want anything while he was in it."
Nannie had leaned her head against the sofa-pillow and seemed about to fall asleep.
"There's poor Nannie," said Eliza, looking at her, "she's wore out. All the work we had, she and me, getting in the woman to wash him and then laying him out and then the coffin and then arranging about the Mass in the chapel. Only for Father O'Rourke I don't know what we'd done at all. It was him brought us all them flowers and them two candlesticks out of the chapel and wrote out the notice for the Freeman's General and took charge of all the papers for the cemetery and poor James's insurance."
"Wasn't that good of him ?" said my aunt
Eliza closed her eyes and shook her head slowly.
"Ah, there's no friends like the old friends," she said, "when all is said and done, no friends that a body can trust."
"Indeed, that's true," said my aunt. "And I'm sure now that he's gone to his eternal reward he won't forget you and all your kindness to him."
"Ah, poor James !" said Eliza. "He was no great trouble to us. You wouldn't hear him in the house any more than now. Still, I know he's gone and all to that...."
"It's when it's all over that you'll miss him," said my aunt.
"I know that," said Eliza. "I won't be bringing him in his cup of beef-tea any me, nor you, ma'am, sending him his snuff. Ah, poor James !"
She stopped, as if she were communing with the past and then said shrewdly:
"Mind you, I noticed there was something queer coming over him latterly. Whenever I'd bring in his soup to him there I'd find him with his breviary fallen to the floor, lying back in the chair and his mouth open."
She laid a finger against her nose and frowned: then she continued:
"But still and all he kept on saying that before the summer was over he'd go out for a drive one fine day just to see the old house again where we were all born down in Irish town and take me and Nannie with him. If we could only get one of them new-fangled carriages that makes no noise that Father O'Rourke told him about, them with the rheumatic wheels, for the day cheap, he said, at Johnny Rush's over the way there and drive out the three of us together of a Sunday evening. He had his mind set on that.... Poor James !"
"The Lord have mercy on his soul !" said my aunt.
Eliza took out her handkerchief and wiped her eyes with it. Then she put it back again in her pocket and gazed into the empty grate for some time without speaking.
"He was too scrupulous always," she said. "The duties of the priesthood was too much for him. And then his life was, you night say, crossed."
"Yes," said my aunt. "He was a disappointed man. You could see that."
A silence took possession of the little room and, under cover of it, I approached the table and tasted my sherry and then returned quietly to my chair in the comer. Eliza seemed to have fallen into a deep revery. We waited respectfully for her to break the silence: and after a long pause she said slowly:
"It was that chalice he broke.... That was the beginning of it. Of course, they say it was all right, that it contained nothing, I mean. But still.... They say it was the boy's fault. But poor James was so nervous, God be merciful to him !"
"And was that it ?" said my aunt. "I heard something...."
"That affected his mind," she said. "After that he began to mope by himself, talking to no one and wandering about by himself. So one night he was wanted for to go on a call and they couldn't find him anywhere. They looked high up and low down; and still they couldn't see a sight of him anywhere. So then the clerk suggested to try the chapel. So then they got the keys and opened the chapel and the clerk and Father O'Rourke and another priest that was there brought in a light for to look for him.... And what do you think but there he was, sitting up by himself in the dark in his confession-box, wide- awake and laughing-like softly to himself ?"
She stopped suddenly as if to listen. I too listened; but there was no sound in the house: and I knew that the old priest was lying still in his coffin as we had seen him, solemn and truculent in death, an idle chalice on his breast.
"Wide-awake and laughing-like to himself.... So then, of course, when they saw that, that made them think that there was something gone wrong with him...."
The grey warm evening of August had descended upon the city and a mild warm air, a memory of summer, circulated in the streets. The streets, shuttered for the repose of Sunday, swarmed with a gaily coloured crowd. Like illumined pearls the lamps shone from the summits of their tall poles upon the living texture below which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up into the warm grey evening air an unchanging unceasing murmur.
Two young men came down the hill of Rutland Square. On of them was just bringing a long monologue to a close. The other, who walked on the verge of the path and was at times obliged to step on to the road, owing to his companion's rudeness, wore an amused listening face. He was squat and ruddy. A yachting cap was shoved far back from his forehead and the narrative to which he listened made constant waves of expression break forth over his face from the corners of his nose and eyes and mouth. Little jets of wheezing laughter followed one another out of his convulsed body. His eyes, twinkling with cunning enjoyment, glanced at every moment towards his companion's face. Once or twice he rearranged the light waterproof which he had slung over one shoulder in toreador fashion. His breeches, his white rubber shoes and his jauntily slung waterproof expressed youth. But his figure fell into rotundity at the waist, his hair was scant and grey and his face, when the waves of expression had passed over it, had a ravaged look.
When he was quite sure that the narrative had ended he laughed noiselessly for fully half a minute. Then he said:
"Well !... That takes the biscuit !"
His voice seemed winnowed of vigour; and to enforce his words he added with humour:
"That takes the solitary, unique, and, if I may so call it, recherche biscuit ! "
He became serious and silent when he had said this. His tongue was tired for he had been talking all the afternoon in a public-house in Dorset Street. Most people considered Lenehan a leech but, in spite of this reputation, his adroitness and eloquence had always prevented his friends from forming any general policy against him. He had a brave manner of coming up to a party of them in a bar and of holding himself nimbly at the borders of the company until he was included in a round. He was a sporting vagrant armed with a vast stock of stories, limericks and riddles. He was insensitive to all kinds of discourtesy. No one knew how he achieved the stern task of living, but his name was vaguely associated with racing tissues.
"And where did you pick her up, Corley ?" he asked.
Corley ran his tongue swiftly along his upper lip.
"One night, man," he said, "I was going along Dame Street and I spotted a fine tart under Waterhouse's clock and said good- night, you know. So we went for a walk round by the canal and she told me she was a slavey in a house in Baggot Street. I put my arm round her and squeezed her a bit that night. Then next Sunday, man, I met her by appointment.
We vent out to Donnybrook and I brought her into a field there. She told me she used to go with a dairyman.... It was fine, man. Cigarettes every night she'd bring me and paying the tram out and back. And one night she brought me two bloody fine cigars . O, the real cheese, you know, that the old fellow used to smoke.... I was afraid, man, she'd get in the family way. But she's up to the dodge."
"Maybe she thinks you'll marry her," said Lenehan.
"I told her I was out of a job," said Corley. "I told her I was in Pim's. She doesn't know my name. I was too hairy to tell her that. But she thinks I'm a bit of class, you know."
Lenehan laughed again, noiselessly.
"Of all the good ones ever I heard," he said, "that emphatically takes the biscuit."
Corley's stride acknowledged the compliment. The swing of his burly body made his friend execute a few light skips from the path to the roadway and back again. Corley was the son of an inspector of police and he had inherited his father's frame and gut. He walked with his hands by his sides, holding himself erect and swaying his head from side to side. His head was large, globular and oily; it sweated in all weathers; and his large round hat, set upon it sideways, looked like a bulb which had grown out of another.
He always stared straight before him as if he were on parade and, when he wished to gaze after someone in the street, it was necessary for him to move his body from the hips.
At present he was about town. Whenever any job was vacant a friend was always ready to give him the hard word. He was often to be seen walking with policemen in plain clothes, talking earnestly. He knew the inner side of all affairs and was fond of delivering final judgments. He spoke without listening to the speech of his companions. His conversation was mainly about himself what he had said to such a person and what such a person had said to him and what he had said to settle the matter. When he reported these dialogues he aspirated the first letter of his name after the manner of Florentines.
Lenehan offered his friend a cigarette. As the two young men walked on through the crowd Corley occasionally turned to smile at some of the passing girls but Lenehan's gaze was fixed on the large faint moon circled with a double halo. He watched earnestly the passing of the grey web of twilight across its face. At length he said:
"Well... tell me, Corley, I suppose you'll be able to pull it off all right, eh ?"
Corley closed one eye expressively as an answer.
"Is she game for that ?" asked Lenehan dubiously. "You can never know women."
"She's all right," said Corley. "I know the way to get around her, man. She's a bit gone on me."
"You're what I call a gay Lothario," said Lenehan. "And the proper kind of a Lothario, too !"
A shade of mockery relieved the servility of his manner. To save himself he had the habit of leaving his flattery open to the interpretation of raillery. But Corley had not a subtle mind.
"There's nothing to touch a good slavey," he affirmed. "Take my tip for it."
"By one who has tried them all," said Lenehan.
"First I used to go with girls, you know," said Corley, unbosoming; "girls off the South Circular. I used to take them out, man, on the tram somewhere and pay the tram or take them to a band or a play at the theatre or buy them chocolate and sweets or something that way. I used to spend money on them right enough," he added, in a convincing tone, as if he was conscious of being disbelieved.
But Lenehan could well believe it; he nodded gravely.
"I know that game," he said, "and it's a mug's game."
"And damn the thing I ever got out of it," said Corley.
"Ditto here," said Lenehan.
"Only off of one of them," said Corley.
He moistened his upper lip by running his tongue along it. The recollection brightened his eyes. He too gazed at the pale disc of the moon, now nearly veiled, and seemed to meditate.
She was... a bit of all right," he said regretfully.
He was silent again. Then he added:
"She's on the turf now. I saw her driving down Earl Street one night with two fellows with her on a car."
"I suppose that's your doing," said Lenehan.
"There was others at her before me," said Corley philosophically.
This time Lenehan was inclined to disbelieve. He shook his head to and fro and smiled.
"You know you can't kid me, Corley," he said.
"Honest to God !" said Corley. "Didn't she tell me herself ? "
Lenehan made a tragic gesture.
"Base betrayer !" he said.
As they passed along the railings of Trinity College, Lenehan skipped out into the road and peered up at the clock.
"Twenty after," he said.
"Time enough," said Corley. "She'll be there all right. I always let her wait a bit."
Lenehan laughed quietly.
'Ecod ! Corley, you know how to take them," he said.
"I'm up to all their little tricks," Corley confessed.
"But tell me," said Lenehan again, "are you sure you can bring it off all right ? You know it's a ticklish job. They're damn close on that point. Eh? ... What ?"
His bright, small eyes searched his companion's face for reassurance. Corley swung his head to and fro as if to toss aside an insistent insect, and his brows gathered.
"I'll pull it off," he said. "Leave it to me, can't you ?"
Lenehan said no more. He did not wish to ruffle his friend's temper, to be sent to the devil and told that his advice was not wanted. A little tact was necessary. But Corley's brow was soon smooth again. His thoughts were running another way.
"She's a fine decent tart," he said, with appreciation; "that's what she is."
They walked along Nassau Street and then turned into Kildare Street. Not far from the porch of the club a harpist stood in the roadway, playing to a little ring of listeners. He plucked at the wires heedlessly, glancing quickly from time to time at the face of each new-comer and from time to time, wearily also, at the sky. His harp, too, heedless that her coverings had fallen about her knees, seemed weary alike of the eyes of strangers and of her master's hands. One hand played in the bass the melody of Silent, O Moyle, while the other hand careered in the treble after each group of notes. The notes of the air sounded deep and full.
The two young men walked up the street without speaking, the mournful music following them. When they reached Stephen's Green they crossed the road. Here the noise of trams, the lights and the crowd released them from their silence.
"There she is !" said Corley.
At the corner of Hume Street a young woman was standing. She wore a blue dress and a white sailor hat. She stood on the curbstone, swinging a sunshade in one hand. Lenehan grew lively.
"Let's have a look at her, Corley," he said.
Corley glanced sideways at his friend and an unpleasant grin appeared on his face.
"Are you trying to get inside me ?" he asked.
"Damn it !" said Lenehan boldly, "I don't want an introduction. All I want is to have a look at her. I'm not going to eat her."
"O ... A look at her ?" said Corley, more amiably. "Well... I'll tell you what. I'll go over and talk to her and you can pass by."
"Right !" said Lenehan.
Corley had already thrown one leg over the chains when Lenehan called out:
"And after ? Where will we meet ?"
"Half ten," answered Corley, bringing over his other leg.
"Corner of Merrion Street. We'll be coming back."
"Work it all right now," said Lenehan in farewell.
Corley did not answer. He sauntered across the road swaying his head from side to side. His bulk, his easy pace, and the solid sound of his boots had something of the conqueror in them. He approached the young woman and, without saluting, began at once to converse with her. She swung her umbrella more quickly and executed half turns on her heels. Once or twice when he spoke to her at close quarters she laughed and bent her head.
Lenehan observed them for a few minutes. Then he walked rapidly along beside the chains at some distance and crossed the road obliquely. As he approached Hume Street corner he found the air heavily scented and his eyes made a swift anxious scrutiny of the young woman's appearance. She had her Sunday finery on. Her blue serge skirt was held at the waist by a belt of black leather. The great silver buckle of her belt seemed to depress the centre of her body, catching the light stuff of her white blouse like a clip. She wore a short black jacket with mother-of-pearl buttons and a ragged black boa. The ends of her tulle collarette had been carefully disordered and a big bunch of red flowers was pinned in her bosom stems upwards. Lenehan's eyes noted approvingly her stout short muscular body. rank rude health glowed in her face, on her fat red cheeks and in her unabashed blue eyes. Her features were blunt. She had broad nostrils, a straggling mouth which lay open in a contented leer, and two projecting front teeth. As he passed Lenehan took off his cap and, after about ten seconds, Corley returned a salute to the air. This he did by raising his hand vaguely and pensively changing the angle of position of his hat.
Lenehan walked as far as the Shelbourne Hotel where he halted and waited. After waiting for a little time he saw them coming towards him and, when they turned to the right, he followed them, stepping lightly in his white shoes, down one side of Merrion Square. As he walked on slowly, timing his pace to theirs, he watched Corley's head which turned at every moment towards the young woman's face like a big ball revolving on a pivot. He kept the pair in view until he had seen them climbing the stairs of the Donnybrook tram; then he turned about and went back the way he had come.
Now that he was alone his face looked older. His gaiety seemed to forsake him and, as he came by the railings of the Duke's Lawn, he allowed his hand to run along them. The air which the harpist had played began to control his movements His softly padded feet played the melody while his fingers swept a scale of variations idly along the railings after each group of notes.
He walked listlessly round Stephen's Green and then down Grafton Street. Though his eyes took note of many elements of the crowd through which he passed they did so morosely. He found trivial all that was meant to charm him and did not answer the glances which invited him to be bold. He knew that he would have to speak a great deal, to invent and to amuse and his brain and throat were too dry for such a task. The problem of how he could pass the hours till he met Corley again troubled him a little. He could think of no way of passing them but to keep on walking. He turned to the left when he came to the corner of Rutland Square and felt more at ease in the dark quiet street, the sombre look of which suited his mood. He paused at last before the window of a poor-looking shop over which the words Refreshment Bar were printed in white letters. On the glass of the window were two flying inscriptions: Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale. A cut ham was exposed on a great blue dish while near it on a plate lay a segment of very light plum-pudding. He eyed this food earnestly for some time and then, after glancing warily up and down the street, went into the shop quickly.
He was hungry for, except some biscuits which he had asked two grudging curates to bring him, he had eaten nothing since breakfast-time. He sat down at an uncovered wooden table opposite two work-girls and a mechanic. A slatternly girl waited on him.
"How much is a plate of peas ?" he asked.
"Three halfpence, sir," said the girl.
"Bring me a plate of peas," he said, "and a bottle of ginger beer."
He spoke roughly in order to belie his air of gentility for his entry had been followed by a pause of talk. His face was heated. To appear natural he pushed his cap back on his head and planted his elbows on the table. The mechanic and the two work-girls examined him point by point before resuming their conversation in a subdued voice. The girl brought him a plate of grocer's hot peas, seasoned with pepper and vinegar, a fork and his ginger beer. He ate his food greedily and found it so good that he made a note of the shop mentally.
When he had eaten all the peas he sipped his ginger beer and sat for some time thinking of Corley's adventure. In his imagination he beheld the pair of lovers walking along some dark road; he heard Corley's voice in deep energetic gallantries and saw again the leer of the young woman's mouth. This vision made him feel keenly his own poverty of purse and spirit. He was tired of knocking about, of pulling the devil by the tail, of shifts and intrigues.
He would be thirty-one in November. Would he never get a good job ? Would he never have a home of his own ? He thought how pleasant it would be to have a warm fire to sit by and a good dinner to sit down to. He had walked the streets long enough with friends and with girls. He knew what those friends were worth: he knew the girls too. Experience had embittered his heart against the world. But all hope had not left him. He felt better after having eaten than he had felt before, less weary of his life, less vanquished in spirit. He might yet be able to settle down in some snug corner and live happily if he could only come across some good simple-minded girl with a little of the ready.
He paid twopence halfpenny to the slatternly girl and went out of the shop to begin his wandering again. He went into Capel Street and walked along towards the City Hall. Then he turned into Dame Street. At the corner of George's Street he met two friends of his and stopped to converse with them. He was glad that he could rest from all his walking.
His friends asked him had he seen Corley and what was the latest. He replied that he had spent the day with Corley. His friends talked very little. They looked vacantly after some figures in the crowd and sometimes made a critical remark. One said that he had seen Mac an hour before in Westmoreland Street. At this Lenehan said that he had been with Mac the night before in Egan's. The young man who had seen Mac in Westmoreland Street asked was it true that Mac had won a bit over a billiard match. Lenehan did not know: he said that Holohan had stood them drinks in Egan's.
He left his friends at a quarter to ten and went up George's Street. He turned to the left at the City Markets and walked on into Grafton Street. The crowd of girls and young men had thinned and on his way up the street he heard many groups and couples bidding one another good-night. He went as far as the clock of the College of Surgeons: it was on the stroke of ten. He set off briskly along the northern side of the Green hurrying for fear Corley should return too soon.
When he reached the corner of Merrion Street he took his stand in the shadow of a lamp and brought out one of the cigarettes which he had reserved and lit it.
He leaned against the lamp-post and kept his gaze fixed on the part from which he expected to see Corley and the young woman return.
His mind became active again. He wondered had Corley managed it successfully. He wondered if he had asked her yet or if he would leave it to the last. He suffered all the pangs and thrills of his friend's situation as well as those of his own.
But the memory of Corley's slowly revolving head calmed him somewhat: he was sure Corley would pull it off all right. All at once the idea struck him that perhaps Corley had seen her home by another way and given him the slip.
His eyes searched the street: there was no sign of them. Yet it was surely half-an-hour since he had seen the clock of the College of Surgeons.
Would Corley do a thing like that ?
He lit his last cigarette and began to smoke it nervously. He strained his eyes as each tram stopped at the far corner of the square. They must have gone home by another way.
The paper of his cigarette broke and he flung it into the road with a curse.
Suddenly he saw them coming towards him. He started with delight and keeping close to his lamp-post tried to read the result in their walk.
They were walking quickly, the young woman taking quick short steps, while Corley kept beside her with his long stride. They did not seem to be speaking.
An intimation of the result pricked him like the point of a sharp instrument. He knew Corley would fail; he knew it was no go.
They turned down Baggot Street and he followed them at once, taking the other footpath. When they stopped he stopped too.
They talked for a few moments and then the young woman went down the steps into the area of a house. Corley remained standing at the edge of the path, a little distance from the front steps. Some minutes passed.
Then the hall-door was opened slowly and cautiously.
A woman came running down the front steps and coughed. Corley turned and went towards her. His broad figure hid hers from view for a few seconds and then she reappeared running up the steps. The door closed on her and Corley began to walk swiftly towards Stephen's Green.
Lenehan hurried on in the same direction. Some drops of light rain fell. He took them as a warning and, glancing back towards the house which the young woman had entered to see that he was not observed, he ran eagerly across the road.
Anxiety and his swift run made him pant. He called out:
"Hallo, Corley !"
Corley turned his head to see who had called him, and then continued walking as before. Lenehan ran after him, settling the waterproof on his shoulders with one hand.
"Hallo, Corley !" he cried again.
He came level with his friend and looked keenly in his face. He could see nothing there.
"Well ?" he said. "Did it come off ?"
They had reached the corner of Ely Place. Still without answering, Corley swerved to the left and went up the side street.
His features were composed in stern calm.
Lenehan kept up with his friend, breathing uneasily. He was baffled and a note of menace pierced through his voice.
"Can't you tell us ?" he said. "Did you try her ?"
Corley halted at the first lamp and stared grimly before him.
Then with a grave gesture he extended a hand towards the light and, smiling, opened it slowly to the gaze of his disciple.
A small gold coin shone in the palm.
Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet. Hardly had she brought one gentleman into the little pantry behind the office on the ground floor and helped him off with his overcoat than the wheezy hall-door bell clanged again and she had to scamper along the bare hallway to let in another guest. It was well for her she had not to attend to the ladies also.
But Miss Kate and Miss Julia had thought of that and had converted the bathroom upstairs into a ladies' dressing-room.
Miss Kate and Miss Julia were there, gossiping and laughing and fussing, walking after each other to the head of the stairs, peering down over the banisters and calling down to Lily to ask her who had come.
It was always a great affair, the Misses Morkan's annual dance. Everybody who knew them came to it, members of the family, old friends of the family, the members of Julia's choir, any of Kate's pupils that were grown up enough, and even some of Mary Jane's pupils too.
Never once had it fallen flat. For years and years it had gone off in splendid style, as long as anyone could remember; ever since Kate and Julia, after the death of their brother Pat, had left the house in Stoney Batter and taken Mary Jane, their only niece, to live with them in the dark, gaunt house on Usher's Island, the upper part of which they had rented from Mr. Fulham, the corn-factor on the ground floor.
That was a good thirty years ago if it was a day.
Mary Jane, who was then a little girl in short clothes, was now the main prop of the household, for she had the organ in Haddington Road. She had been through the Academy and gave a pupils' concert every year in the upper room of the Antient Concert Rooms.
Many of her pupils belonged to the better-class families on the Kingstown and Dalkey line.
Old as they were, her aunts also did their share. Julia, though she was quite grey, was still the leading soprano in Adam and Eve's, and Kate, being too feeble to go about much, gave music lessons to beginners on the old square piano in the back room.
Lily, the caretaker's daughter, did housemaid's work for them. Though their life was modest, they believed in eating well; the best of everything: diamond-bone sirloins, three-shilling tea and the best bottled stout. But Lily seldom made a mistake in the orders, so that she got on well with her three mistresses.
They were fussy, that was all. But the only thing they would not stand was back answers.
Of course, they had good reason to be fussy on such a night. And then it was long after ten o'clock and yet there was no sign of Gabriel and his wife. Besides they were dreadfully afraid that Freddy Malins might turn up screwed.
They would not wish for worlds that any of Mary Jane's pupils should see him under the influence; and when he was like that it was sometimes very hard to manage him.
Freddy Malins always came late, but they wondered what could be keeping Gabriel: and that was what brought them every two minutes to the banisters to ask Lily had Gabriel or Freddy come.
"O, Mr. Conroy," said Lily to Gabriel when she opened the door for him, "Miss Kate and Miss Julia thought you were never coming. Good-night, Mrs. Conroy."
"I'll engage they did," said Gabriel, "but they forget that my wife here takes three mortal hours to dress herself."
He stood on the mat, scraping the snow from his goloshes, while Lily led his wife to the foot of the stairs and called out:
"Miss Kate, here's Mrs. Conroy."
Kate and Julia came toddling down the dark stairs at once. Both of them kissed Gabriel's wife, said she must be perished alive, and asked was Gabriel with her.
"Here I am as right as the mail, Aunt Kate ! Go on up. I'll follow," called out Gabriel from the dark.
He continued scraping his feet vigorously while the three women went upstairs, laughing, to the ladies' dressing-room. A light fringe of snow lay like a cape on the shoulders of his overcoat and like toecaps on the toes of his goloshes; and, as the buttons of his overcoat slipped with a squeaking noise through the snow-stiffened frieze, a cold, fragrant air from out-of-doors escaped from crevices and folds.
"Is it snowing again, Mr. Conroy ?" asked Lily.
She had preceded him into the pantry to help him off with his overcoat. Gabriel smiled at the three syllables she had given his surname and glanced at her.
She was a slim; growing girl, pale in complexion and with hay-coloured hair.
The gas in the pantry made her look still paler. Gabriel had known her when she was a child and used to sit on the lowest step nursing a rag doll.
"Yes, Lily," he answered, "and I think we're in for a night of it."
He looked up at the pantry ceiling, which was shaking with the stamping and shuffling of feet on the floor above, listened for a moment to the piano and then glanced at the girl, who was folding his overcoat carefully at the end of a shelf.
"Tell me. Lily," he said in a friendly tone, "do you still go to school ?"
"O no, sir," she answered. "I'm done schooling this year and more."
"O, then," said Gabriel gaily, "I suppose we'll be going to your wedding one of these fine days with your young man, eh ? "
The girl glanced back at him over her shoulder and said with great bitterness:
"The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you."
Gabriel coloured, as if he felt he had made a mistake and, without looking at her, kicked off his goloshes and flicked actively with his muffler at his patent-leather shoes.
He was a stout, tallish young man. The high colour of his cheeks pushed upwards even to his forehead, where it scattered itself in a few formless patches of pale red; and on his hairless face there scintillated restlessly the polished lenses and the bright gilt rims of the glasses which screened his delicate and restless eyes.
His glossy black hair was parted in the middle and brushed in a long curve behind his ears where it curled slightly beneath the groove left by his hat.
When he had flicked lustre into his shoes he stood up and pulled his waistcoat down more tightly on his plump body.
Then he took a coin rapidly from his pocket.
"O Lily," he said, thrusting it into her hands, "it's Christmastime, isn't it ? Just... here's a little...."
He walked rapidly towards the door.
"O no, sir !" cried the girl, following him. "Really, sir, I wouldn't take it."
"Christmas-time ! Christmas-time !" said Gabriel, almost trotting to the stairs and waving his hand to her in deprecation.
The girl, seeing that he had gained the stairs, called out after him:
"Well, thank you, sir."
He waited outside the drawing-room door until the waltz should finish, listening to the skirts that swept against it and to the shuffling of feet. He was still discomposed by the girl's bitter and sudden retort.
It had cast a gloom over him which he tried to dispel by arranging his cuffs and the bows of his tie.
He then took from his waistcoat pocket a little paper and glanced at the headings he had made for his speech.
He was undecided about the lines from Robert Browning, for he feared they would be above the heads of his hearers. Some quotation that they would recognise from Shakespeare or from the Melodies would be better. The indelicate clacking of the men's heels and the shuffling of their soles reminded him that their grade of culture differed from his. He would only make himself ridiculous by quoting poetry to them which they could not understand. They would think that he was airing his superior education. He would fail with them just as he had failed with the girl in the pantry. He had taken up a wrong tone. His whole speech was a mistake from first to last, an utter failure.
Just then his aunts and his wife came out of the ladies' dressing-room. His aunts were two small, plainly dressed old women. Aunt Julia was an inch or so the taller. Her hair, drawn low over the tops of her ears, was grey; and grey also, with darker shadows, was her large flaccid face. Though she was stout in build and stood erect, her slow eyes and parted lips gave her the appearance of a woman who did not know where she was or where she was going. Aunt Kate was more vivacious. Her face, healthier than her sister's, was all puckers and creases, like a shrivelled red apple, and her hair, braided in the same old-fashioned way, had not lost its ripe nut colour.
They both kissed Gabriel frankly. He was their favourite nephew the son of their dead elder sister, Ellen, who had married T. J. Conroy of the Port and Docks.
"Gretta tells me you're not going to take a cab back to Monkstown tonight, Gabriel," said Aunt Kate.
"No," said Gabriel, turning to his wife, "we had quite enough of that last year, hadn't we ? Don't you remember, Aunt Kate, what a cold Gretta got out of it ? Cab windows rattling all the way, and the east wind blowing in after we passed Merrion. Very jolly it was. Gretta caught a dreadful cold."
Aunt Kate frowned severely and nodded her head at every word.
"Quite right, Gabriel, quite right," she said. "You can't be too careful."
"But as for Gretta there," said Gabriel, "she'd walk home in the snow if she were let."
Mrs. Conroy laughed.
"Don't mind him, Aunt Kate," she said. "He's really an awful bother, what with green shades for Tom's eyes at night and making him do the dumb-bells, and forcing Eva to eat the stirabout. The poor child ! And she simply hates the sight of it !... O, but you'll never guess what he makes me wear now !"
She broke out into a peal of laughter and glanced at her husband, whose admiring and happy eyes had been wandering from her dress to her face and hair. The two aunts laughed heartily, too, for Gabriel's solicitude was a standing joke with them.
"Goloshes!" said Mrs. Conroy. "That's the latest. Whenever it's wet underfoot I must put on my galoshes. Tonight even, he wanted me to put them on, but I wouldn't. The next thing he'll buy me will be a diving suit."
Gabriel laughed nervously and patted his tie reassuringly, while Aunt Kate nearly doubled herself, so heartily did she enjoy the joke. The smile soon faded from Aunt Julia's face and her mirthless eyes were directed towards her nephew's face. After a pause she asked:
"And what are goloshes, Gabriel ?"
"Goloshes, Julia!" exclaimed her sister "Goodness me, don't you know what goloshes are ? You wear them over your... over your boots, Gretta, isn't it ?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Conroy. "Guttapercha things. We both have a pair now. Gabriel says everyone wears them on the Continent."
"O, on the Continent," murmured Aunt Julia, nodding her head slowly.
Gabriel knitted his brows and said, as if he were slightly angered:
"It's nothing very wonderful, but Gretta thinks it very funny because she says the word reminds her of Christy Minstrels."
"But tell me, Gabriel," said Aunt Kate, with brisk tact. "Of course, you've seen about the room. Gretta was saying..."
"0, the room is all right," replied Gabriel. "I've taken one in the Gresham."
"To be sure," said Aunt Kate, "by far the best thing to do. And the children, Gretta, you're not anxious about them ?"
"O, for one night," said Mrs. Conroy. "Besides, Bessie will look after them."
"To be sure," said Aunt Kate again. "What a comfort it is to have a girl like that, one you can depend on ! There's that Lily, I'm sure I don't know what has come over her lately. She's not the girl she was at all."
Gabriel was about to ask his aunt some questions on this point, but she broke off suddenly to gaze after her sister, who had wandered down the stairs and was craning her neck over the banisters.
"Now, I ask you," she said almost testily, "where is Julia going ? Julia! Julia ! Where are you going ?"
Julia, who had gone half way down one flight, came back and announced blandly:
At the same moment a clapping of hands and a final flourish of the pianist told that the waltz had ended. The drawing-room door was opened from within and some couples came out. Aunt Kate drew Gabriel aside hurriedly and whispered into his ear:
"Slip down, Gabriel, like a good fellow and see if he's all right, and don't let him up if he's screwed. I'm sure he's screwed. I'm sure he is."
Gabriel went to the stairs and listened over the banisters. He could hear two persons talking in the pantry. Then he recognised Freddy Malins' laugh. He went down the stairs noisily.
"It's such a relief," said Aunt Kate to Mrs. Conroy, "that Gabriel is here. I always feel easier in my mind when he's here.... Julia, there's Miss Daly and Miss Power will take some refreshment. Thanks for your beautiful waltz, Miss Daly. It made lovely time."
A tall wizen-faced man, with a stiff grizzled moustache and swarthy skin, who was passing out with his partner, said:
"And may we have some refreshment, too, Miss Morkan ?"
"Julia," said Aunt Kate summarily, "and here's Mr. Browne and Miss Furlong. Take them in, Julia, with Miss Daly and Miss Power."
"I'm the man for the ladies," said Mr. Browne, pursing his lips until his moustache bristled and smiling in all his wrinkles. "You know, Miss Morkan, the reason they are so fond of me is ..."
He did not finish his sentence, but, seeing that Aunt Kate was out of earshot, at once led the three young ladies into the back room. The middle of the room was occupied by two square tables placed end to end, and on these Aunt Julia and the caretaker were straightening and smoothing a large cloth. On the sideboard were arrayed dishes and plates, and glasses and bundles of knives and forks and spoons. The top of the closed square piano served also as a sideboard for viands and sweets. At a smaller sideboard in one corner two young men were standing, drinking hop-bitters.
Mr. Browne led his charges thither and invited them all, in jest, to some ladies' punch, hot, strong and sweet. As they said they never took anything strong, he opened three bottles of lemonade for them. Then he asked one of the young men to move aside, and, taking hold of the decanter, filled out for himself a goodly measure of whisky. The young men eyed him respectfully while he took a trial sip.
"God help me," he said, smiling, "it's the doctor's orders."
His wizened face broke into a broader smile, and the three young ladies laughed in musical echo to his pleasantry, swaying their bodies to and fro, with nervous jerks of their shoulders. The boldest said:
"O, now, Mr. Browne, I'm sure the doctor never ordered anything of the kind."
Mr. Browne took another sip of his whisky and said, with sidling mimicry:
"Well, you see, I'm like the famous Mrs. Cassidy, who is reported to have said: 'Now, Mary Grimes, if I don't take it, make me take it, for I feel I want it."
His hot face had leaned forward a little too confidentially and he had assumed a very low Dublin accent so that the young ladies, with one instinct, received his speech in silence. Miss Furlong, who was one of Mary Jane's pupils, asked Miss Daly what was the name of the pretty waltz she had played; and Mr. Browne, seeing that he was ignored, turned promptly to the two young men who were more appreciative.
A red-faced young woman, dressed in pansy, came into the room, excitedly clapping her hands and crying:
"Quadrilles ! Quadrilles !"
Close on her heels came Aunt Kate, crying:
"Two gentlemen and three ladies, Mary Jane !"
"O, here's Mr. Bergin and Mr. Kerrigan," said Mary Jane. "Mr. Kerrigan, will you take Miss Power ? Miss Furlong, may I get you a partner, Mr. Bergin. O, that'll just do now."
"Three ladies, Mary Jane," said Aunt Kate.
The two young gentlemen asked the ladies if they might have the pleasure, and Mary Jane turned to Miss Daly.
"O, Miss Daly, you're really awfully good, after playing for the last two dances, but really we're so short of ladies tonight."
"I don't mind in the least, Miss Morkan."
"But I've a nice partner for you, Mr. Bartell D'Arcy, the tenor. I'll get him to sing later on. All Dublin is raving about him."
"Lovely voice, lovely voice !" said Aunt Kate.
As the piano had twice begun the prelude to the first figure Mary Jane led her recruits quickly from the room. They had hardly gone when Aunt Julia wandered slowly into the room, looking behind her at something.
"What is the matter, Julia ?" asked Aunt Kate anxiously. "Who is it ?"
Julia, who was carrying in a column of table-napkins, turned to her sister and said, simply, as if the question had surprised her:
"It's only Freddy, Kate, and Gabriel with him."
In fact right behind her Gabriel could be seen piloting Freddy Malins across the landing. The latter, a young man of about forty, was of Gabriel's size and build, with very round shoulders. His face was fleshy and pallid, touched with colour only at the thick hanging lobes of his ears and at the wide wings of his nose. He had coarse features, a blunt nose, a convex and receding brow, tumid and protruded lips. His heavy-lidded eyes and the disorder of his scanty hair made him look sleepy. He was laughing heartily in a high key at a story which he had been telling Gabriel on the stairs and at the same time rubbing the knuckles of his left fist backwards and forwards into his left eye.
"Good-evening, Freddy," said Aunt Julia.
Freddy Malins bade the Misses Morkan good-evening in what seemed an offhand fashion by reason of the habitual catch in his voice and then, seeing that Mr. Browne was grinning at him from the sideboard, crossed the room on rather shaky legs and began to repeat in an undertone the story he had just told to Gabriel.
"He's not so bad, is he ?" said Aunt Kate to Gabriel.
Gabriel's brows were dark but he raised them quickly and answered:
"O, no, hardly noticeable."
"Now, isn't he a terrible fellow !" she said. "And his poor mother made him take the pledge on New Year's Eve. But come on, Gabriel, into the drawing-room."
Before leaving the room with Gabriel she signalled to Mr. Browne by frowning and shaking her forefinger in warning to and fro. Mr. Browne nodded in answer and, when she had gone, said to Freddy Malins:
"Now, then, Teddy, I'm going to fill you out a good glass of lemonade just to buck you up."
Freddy Malins, who was nearing the climax of his story, waved the offer aside impatiently but Mr. Browne, having first called Freddy Malins' attention to a disarray in his dress, filled out and handed him a full glass of lemonade. Freddy Malins' left hand accepted the glass mechanically, his right hand being engaged in the mechanical readjustment of his dress. Mr. Browne, whose face was once more wrinkling with mirth, poured out for himself a glass of whisky while Freddy Malins exploded, before he had well reached the climax of his story, in a kink of high-pitched bronchitic laughter and, setting down his untasted and overflowing glass, began to rub the knuckles of his left fist backwards and forwards into his left eye, repeating words of his last phrase as well as his fit of laughter would allow him.
Gabriel could not listen while Mary Jane was playing her Academy piece, full of runs and difficult passages, to the hushed drawing-room. He liked music but the piece she was playing had no melody for him and he doubted whether it had any melody for the other listeners, though they had begged Mary Jane to play something. Four young men, who had come from the refreshment-room to stand in the doorway at the sound of the piano, had gone away quietly in couples after a few minutes. The only persons who seemed to follow the music were Mary Jane herself, her hands racing along the key-board or lifted from it at the pauses like those of a priestess in momentary imprecation, and Aunt Kate standing at her elbow to turn the page.
Gabriel's eyes, irritated by the floor, which glittered with beeswax under the heavy chandelier, wandered to the wall above the piano. A picture of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet hung there and beside it was a picture of the two murdered princes in the Tower which Aunt Julia had worked in red, blue and brown wools when she was a girl. Probably in the school they had gone to as girls that kind of work had been taught for one year. His mother had worked for him as a birthday present a waistcoat of purple tabinet, with little foxes' heads upon it, lined with brown satin and having round mulberry buttons. It was strange that his mother had had no musical talent though Aunt Kate used to call her the brains carrier of the Morkan family. Both she and Julia had always seemed a little proud of their serious and matronly sister. Her photograph stood before the pierglass. She held an open book on her knees and was pointing out something in it to Constantine who, dressed in a man-o-war suit, lay at her feet. It was she who had chosen the name of her sons for she was very sensible of the dignity of family life. Thanks to her, Constantine was now senior curate in Balbrigan and, thanks to her, Gabriel himself had taken his degree in the Royal University. A shadow passed over his face as he remembered her sullen opposition to his marriage. Some slighting phrases she had used still rankled in his memory; she had once spoken of Gretta as being country cute and that was not true of Gretta at all. It was Gretta who had nursed her during all her last long illness in their house at Monkstown.
He knew that Mary Jane must be near the end of her piece for she was playing again the opening melody with runs of scales after every bar and while he waited for the end the resentment died down in his heart. The piece ended with a trill of octaves in the treble and a final deep octave in the bass. Great applause greeted Mary Jane as, blushing and rolling up her music nervously, she escaped from the room. The most vigorous clapping came from the four young men in the doorway who had gone away to the refreshment-room at the beginning of the piece but had come back when the piano had stopped.
Lancers were arranged. Gabriel found himself partnered with Miss Ivors. She was a frank-mannered talkative young lady, with a freckled face and prominent brown eyes. She did not wear a low-cut bodice and the large brooch which was fixed in the front of her collar bore on it an Irish device and motto.
When they had taken their places she said abruptly:
"I have a crow to pluck with you."
"With me ?" said Gabriel.
She nodded her head gravely.
"What is it ?" asked Gabriel, smiling at her solemn manner.
"Who is G. C. ?" answered Miss Ivors, turning her eyes upon him.
Gabriel coloured and was about to knit his brows, as if he did not understand, when she said bluntly:
"O, innocent Amy ! I have found out that you write for The Daily Express. Now, aren't you ashamed of yourself ?"
"Why should I be ashamed of myself ?" asked Gabriel, blinking his eyes and trying to smile.
"Well, I'm ashamed of you," said Miss Ivors frankly. "To say you'd write for a paper like that. I didn't think you were a West Briton."
A look of perplexity appeared on Gabriel's face. It was true that he wrote a literary column every Wednesday in The Daily Express, for which he was paid fifteen shillings. But that did not make him a West Briton surely. The books he received for review were almost more welcome than the paltry cheque. He loved to feel the covers and turn over the pages of newly printed books. Nearly every day when his teaching in the college was ended he used to wander down the quays to the second-hand booksellers, to Hickey's on Bachelor's Walk, to Web's or Massey's on Aston's Quay, or to O'Clohissey's in the bystreet. He did not know how to meet her charge. He wanted to say that literature was above politics. But they were friends of many years' standing and their careers had been parallel, first at the University and then as teachers: he could not risk a grandiose phrase with her. He continued blinking his eyes and trying to smile and murmured lamely that he saw nothing political in writing reviews of books.
When their turn to cross had come he was still perplexed and inattentive. Miss Ivors promptly took his hand in a warm grasp and said in a soft friendly tone:
"Of course, I was only joking. Come, we cross now."
When they were together again she spoke of the University question and Gabriel felt more at ease. A friend of hers had shown her his review of Browning's poems. That was how she had found out the secret: but she liked the review immensely. Then she said suddenly:
"O, Mr. Conroy, will you come for an excursion to the Aran Isles this summer ? We're going to stay there a whole month. It will be splendid out in the Atlantic. You ought to come. Mr. Clancy is coming, and Mr. Kilkelly and Kathleen Kearney. It would be splendid for Gretta too if she'd come. She's from Connacht, isn't she ?"
"Her people are," said Gabriel shortly.
"But you will come, won't you ?" said Miss Ivors, laying her arm hand eagerly on his arm.
"The fact is," said Gabriel, "I have just arranged to go "
"Go where ?" asked Miss Ivors.
"Well, you know, every year I go for a cycling tour with some fellows and so..."
"But where ?" asked Miss Ivors.
"Well, we usually go to France or Belgium or perhaps Germany," said Gabriel awkwardly.
"And why do you go to France and Belgium," said Miss Ivors, "instead of visiting your own land ?"
"Well," said Gabriel, "it's partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change."
"And haven't you your own language to keep in touch with Irish ?" asked Miss Ivors.
"Well," said Gabriel, "if it comes to that, you know, Irish is not my language."
Their neighbours had turned to listen to the cross- examination. Gabriel glanced right and left nervously and tried to keep his good humour under the ordeal which was making a blush invade his forehead.
"And haven't you your own land to visit," continued Miss Ivors, "that you know nothing of, your own people, and your own country ?"
"O, to tell you the truth," retorted Gabriel suddenly, "I'm sick of my own country, sick of it !"
"Why ?" asked Miss Ivors.
Gabriel did not answer for his retort had heated him.
"Why ?" repeated Miss Ivors.
They had to go visiting together and, as he had not answered her, Miss Ivors said warmly:
"Of course, you've no answer."
Gabriel tried to cover his agitation by taking part in the dance with great energy. He avoided her eyes for he had seen a sour expression on her face. But when they met in the long chain he was surprised to feel his hand firmly pressed. She looked at him from under her brows for a moment quizzically until he smiled. Then, just as the chain was about to start again, she stood on tiptoe and whispered into his ear:
"West Briton !"
When the lancers were over Gabriel went away to a remote corner of the room where Freddy Malins' mother was sitting. She was a stout feeble old woman with white hair. Her voice had a catch in it like her son's and she stuttered slightly. She had been told that Freddy had come and that he was nearly all right. Gabriel asked her whether she had had a good crossing. She lived with her married daughter in Glasgow and came to Dublin on a visit once a year. She answered placidly that she had had a beautiful crossing and that the captain had been most attentive to her. She spoke also of the beautiful house her daughter kept in Glasgow, and of all the friends they had there. While her tongue rambled on Gabriel tried to banish from his mind all memory of the unpleasant incident with Miss Ivors. Of course the girl or woman, or whatever she was, was an enthusiast but there was a time for all things. Perhaps he ought not to have answered her like that. But she had no right to call him a West Briton before people, even in joke. She had tried to make him ridiculous before people, heckling him and staring at him with her rabbit's eyes.
He saw his wife making her way towards him through the waltzing couples. When she reached him she said into his ear:
"Gabriel. Aunt Kate wants to know won't you carve the goose as usual. Miss Daly will carve the ham and I'll do the pudding."
"All right," said Gabriel.
"She's sending in the younger ones first as soon as this waltz is over so that we'll have the table to ourselves."
"Were you dancing ?" asked Gabriel.
"Of course I was. Didn't you see me ? What row had you with Molly Ivors ?"
"No row. Why ? Did she say so ?"
"Something like that. I'm trying to get that Mr. D'Arcy to sing. He's full of conceit, I think."
"There was no row," said Gabriel moodily, "only she wanted me to go for a trip to the west of Ireland and I said I wouldn't."
His wife clasped her hands excitedly and gave a little jump.
"O, do go, Gabriel," she cried. "I'd love to see Galway again."
"You can go if you like," said Gabriel coldly.
She looked at him for a moment, then turned to Mrs. Malins and said:
"There's a nice husband for you, Mrs. Malins."
While she was threading her way back across the room Mrs. Malins, without adverting to the interruption, went on to tell Gabriel what beautiful places there were in Scotland and beautiful scenery. Her son-in-law brought them every year to the lakes and they used to go fishing. Her son-in-law was a splendid fisher. One day he caught a beautiful big fish and the man in the hotel cooked it for their dinner.
Gabriel hardly heard what she said. Now that supper was coming near he began to think again about his speech and about the quotation. When he saw Freddy Malins coming across the room to visit his mother Gabriel left the chair free for him and retired into the embrasure of the window. The room had already cleared and from the back room came the clatter of plates and knives. Those who still remained in the drawing room seemed tired of dancing and were conversing quietly in little groups. Gabriel's warm trembling fingers tapped the cold pane of the window. How cool it must be outside! How pleasant it would be to walk out alone, first along by the river and then through the park! The snow would be lying on the branches of the trees and forming a bright cap on the top of the Wellington Monument. How much more pleasant it would be there than at the supper-table !
He ran over the headings of his speech: Irish hospitality, sad memories, the Three Graces, Paris, the quotation from Browning. He repeated to himself a phrase he had written in his review: "One feels that one is listening to a thought- tormented music." Miss Ivors had praised the review. Was she sincere ? Had she really any life of her own behind all her propagandism ? There had never been any ill-feeling between them until that night. It unnerved him to think that she would be at the supper-table, looking up at him while he spoke with her critical quizzing eyes. Perhaps she would not be sorry to see him fail in his speech. An idea came into his mind and gave him courage. He would say, alluding to Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia: "Ladies and Gentlemen, the generation which is now on the wane among us may have had its faults but for my part I think it had certain qualities of hospitality, of humour, of humanity, which the new and very serious and hypereducated generation that is growing up around us seems to me to lack." Very good: that was one for Miss Ivors. What did he care that his aunts were only two ignorant old women ?
A murmur in the room attracted his attention. Mr. Browne was advancing from the door, gallantly escorting Aunt Julia, who leaned upon his arm, smiling and hanging her head. An irregular musketry of applause escorted her also as far as the piano and then, as Mary Jane seated herself on the stool, and Aunt Julia, no longer smiling, half turned so as to pitch her voice fairly into the room, gradually ceased. Gabriel recognised the prelude. It was that of an old song of Aunt Julia's Arrayed for the Bridal. Her voice, strong and clear in tone, attacked with great spirit the runs which embellish the air and though she sang very rapidly she did not miss even the smallest of the grace notes. To follow the voice, without looking at the singer's face, was to feel and share the excitement of swift and secure flight. Gabriel applauded loudly with all the others at the close of the song and loud applause was borne in from the invisible supper-table. It sounded so genuine that a little colour struggled into Aunt Julia's face as she bent to replace in the music-stand the old leather-bound songbook that had her initials on the cover. Freddy Malins, who had listened with his head perched sideways to hear her better, was still applauding when everyone else had ceased and talking animatedly to his mother who nodded her head gravely and slowly in acquiescence. At last, when he could clap no more, he stood up suddenly and hurried across the room to Aunt Julia whose hand he seized and held in both his hands, shaking it when words failed him or the catch in his voice proved too much for him.
"I was just telling my mother," he said, "I never heard you sing so well, never. No, I never heard your voice so good as it is tonight. Now ! Would you believe that now ? That's the truth. Upon my word and honour that's the truth. I never heard your voice sound so fresh and so... so clear and fresh, never."
Aunt Julia smiled broadly and murmured something about compliments as she released her hand from his grasp. Mr. Browne extended his open hand towards her and said to those who were near him in the manner of a showman introducing a prodigy to an audience:
"Miss Julia Morkan, my latest discovery !"
He was laughing very heartily at this himself when Freddy Malins turned to him and said:
"Well, Browne, if you're serious you might make a worse discovery. All I can say is I never heard her sing half so well as long as I am coming here. And that's the honest truth."
"Neither did I," said Mr. Browne. "I think her voice has greatly improved."
Aunt Julia shrugged her shoulders and said with meek pride:
"Thirty years ago I hadn't a bad voice as voices go."
"I often told Julia," said Aunt Kate emphatically, "that she was simply thrown away in that choir. But she never would be said by me."
She turned as if to appeal to the good sense of the others against a refractory child while Aunt Julia gazed in front of her, a vague smile of reminiscence playing on her face.
"No," continued Aunt Kate, "she wouldn't be said or led by anyone, slaving there in that choir night and day, night and day. Six o'clock on Christmas morning! And all for what ?"
"Well, isn't it for the honour of God, Aunt Kate ?" asked Mary Jane, twisting round on the piano-stool and smiling.
Aunt Kate turned fiercely on her niece and said:
"I know all about the honour of God, Mary Jane, but I think it's not at all honourable for the pope to turn out the women out of the choirs that have slaved there all their lives and put little whipper-snappers of boys over their heads. I suppose it is for the good of the Church if the pope does it. But it's not just, Mary Jane, and it's not right."
She had worked herself into a passion and would have continued in defence of her sister for it was a sore subject with her but Mary Jane, seeing that all the dancers had come back, intervened pacifically:
"Now, Aunt Kate, you're giving scandal to Mr. Browne who is of the other persuasion."
Aunt Kate turned to Mr. Browne, who was grinning at this allusion to his religion, and said hastily:
"O, I don't question the pope's being right. I'm only a stupid old woman and I wouldn't presume to do such a thing. But there's such a thing as common everyday politeness and gratitude. And if I were in Julia's place I'd tell that Father Healey straight up to his face..."
"And besides, Aunt Kate," said Mary Jane, "we really are all hungry and when we are hungry we are all very quarrelsome."
"And when we are thirsty we are also quarrelsome," added Mr. Browne.
"So that we had better go to supper," said Mary Jane, "and finish the discussion afterwards."
On the landing outside the drawing-room Gabriel found his wife and Mary Jane trying to persuade Miss Ivors to stay for supper. But Miss Ivors, who had put on her hat and was buttoning her cloak, would not stay. She did not feel in the least hungry and she had already overstayed her time.
"But only for ten minutes, Molly," said Mrs. Conroy. "That won't delay you."
"To take a pick itself," said Mary Jane, "after all your dancing."
"I really couldn't," said Miss Ivors.
"I am afraid you didn't enjoy yourself at all," said Mary Jane hopelessly.
"Ever so much, I assure you," said Miss Ivors, "but you really must let me run off now."
"But how can you get home ?" asked Mrs. Conroy.
"O, it's only two steps up the quay."
Gabriel hesitated a moment and said:
"If you will allow me, Miss Ivors, I'll see you home if you are really obliged to go."
But Miss Ivors broke away from them.
"I won't hear of it," she cried. "For goodness' sake go in to your suppers and don't mind me. I'm quite well able to take care of myself."
"Well, you're the comical girl, Molly," said Mrs. Conroy frankly.
"Beannacht libh," cried Miss Ivors, with a laugh, as she ran down the staircase.
Mary Jane gazed after her, a moody puzzled expression on her face, while Mrs. Conroy leaned over the banisters to listen for the hall-door. Gabriel asked himself was he the cause of her abrupt departure. But she did not seem to be in ill humour: she had gone away laughing. He stared blankly down the staircase.
At the moment Aunt Kate came toddling out of the supper-room, almost wringing her hands in despair.
"Where is Gabriel ?" she cried. "Where on earth is Gabriel ? There's everyone waiting in there, stage to let, and nobody to carve the goose !"
"Here I am, Aunt Kate !" cried Gabriel, with sudden animation, "ready to carve a flock of geese, if necessary."
A fat brown goose lay at one end of the table and at the other end, on a bed of creased paper strewn with sprigs of parsley, lay a great ham, stripped of its outer skin and peppered over with crust crumbs, a neat paper frill round its shin and beside this was a round of spiced beef. Between these rival ends ran parallel lines of side-dishes: two little minsters of jelly, red and yellow; a shallow dish full of blocks of blancmange and red jam, a large green leaf-shaped dish with a stalk-shaped handle, on which lay bunches of purple raisins and peeled almonds, a companion dish on which lay a solid rectangle of Smyrna figs, a dish of custard topped with grated nutmeg, a small bowl full of chocolates and sweets wrapped in gold and silver papers and a glass vase in which stood some tall celery stalks. In the centre of the table there stood, as sentries to a fruit-stand which upheld a pyramid of oranges and American apples, two squat old-fashioned decanters of cut glass, one containing port and the other dark sherry. On the closed square piano a pudding in a huge yellow dish lay in waiting and behind it were three squads of bottles of stout and ale and minerals, drawn up according to the colours of their uniforms, the first two black, with brown and red labels, the third and smallest squad white, with transverse green sashes.
Gabriel took his seat boldly at the head of the table and, having looked to the edge of the carver, plunged his fork firmly into the goose. He felt quite at ease now for he was an expert carver and liked nothing better than to find himself at the head of a well-laden table.
"Miss Furlong, what shall I send you ?" he asked. "A wing or a slice of the breast ?"
"Just a small slice of the breast."
"Miss Higgins, what for you ?"
"O, anything at all, Mr. Conroy."
While Gabriel and Miss Daly exchanged plates of goose and plates of ham and spiced beef Lily went from guest to guest with a dish of hot floury potatoes wrapped in a white napkin. This was Mary Jane's idea and she had also suggested apple sauce for the goose but Aunt Kate had said that plain roast goose without any apple sauce had always been good enough for her and she hoped she might never eat worse. Mary Jane waited on her pupils and saw that they got the best slices and Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia opened and carried across from the piano bottles of stout and ale for the gentlemen and bottles of minerals for the ladies. There was a great deal of confusion and laughter and noise, the noise of orders and counter-orders, of knives and forks, of corks and glass-stoppers. Gabriel began to carve second helpings as soon as he had finished the first round without serving himself. Everyone protested loudly so that he compromised by taking a long draught of stout for he had found the carving hot work. Mary Jane settled down quietly to her supper but Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia were still toddling round the table, walking on each other's heels, getting in each other's way and giving each other unheeded orders. Mr. Browne begged of them to sit down and eat their suppers and so did Gabriel but they said there was time enough, so that, at last, Freddy Malins stood up and, capturing Aunt Kate, plumped her down on her chair amid general laughter.
When everyone had been well served Gabriel said, smiling:
"Now, if anyone wants a little more of what vulgar people call stuffing let him or her speak."
A chorus of voices invited him to begin his own supper and Lily came forward with three potatoes which she had reserved for him.
"Very well," said Gabriel amiably, as he took another preparatory draught, "kindly forget my existence, ladies and gentlemen, for a few minutes."
He set to his supper and took no part in the conversation with which the table covered Lily's removal of the plates. The subject of talk was the opera company which was then at the Theatre Royal. Mr. Bartell D'Arcy, the tenor, a dark- complexioned young man with a smart moustache, praised very highly the leading contralto of the company but Miss Furlong thought she had a rather vulgar style of production. Freddy Malins said there was a Negro chieftain singing in the second part of the Gaiety pantomime who had one of the finest tenor voices he had ever heard.
"Have you heard him ?" he asked Mr. Bartell D'Arcy across the table.
"No," answered Mr. Bartell D'Arcy carelessly.
"Because," Freddy Malins explained, "now I'd be curious to hear your opinion of him. I think he has a grand voice."
"It takes Teddy to find out the really good things," said Mr. Browne familiarly to the table.
"And why couldn't he have a voice too ?" asked Freddy Malins sharply. "Is it because he's only a black ?"
Nobody answered this question and Mary Jane led the table back to the legitimate opera. One of her pupils had given her a pass for Mignon. Of course it was very fine, she said, but it made her think of poor Georgina Burns. Mr. Browne could go back farther still, to the old Italian companies that used to come to Dublin Tietjens, Ilma de Murzka, Campanini, the great Trebelli, Giuglini, Ravelli, Aramburo. Those were the days, he said, when there was something like singing to be heard in Dublin. He told too of how the top gallery of the old Royal used to be packed night after night, of how one night an Italian tenor had sung five encores to Let me like a Soldier fall, introducing a high C every time, and of how the gallery boys would sometimes in their enthusiasm unyoke the horses from the carriage of some great prima donna and pull her themselves through the streets to her hotel. Why did they never play the grand old operas now, he asked, Dinorah, Lucrezia Borgia ? Because they could not get the voices to sing them: that was why.
"Oh, well," said Mr. Bartell D'Arcy, "I presume there are as good singers today as there were then."
"Where are they ?" asked Mr. Browne defiantly.
"In London, Paris, Milan," said Mr. Bartell D'Arcy warmly. "I suppose Caruso, for example, is quite as good, if not better than any of the men you have mentioned."
"Maybe so," said Mr. Browne. "But I may tell you I doubt it strongly."
"O, I'd give anything to hear Caruso sing," said Mary Jane.
"For me," said Aunt Kate, who had been picking a bone, "there was only one tenor. To please me, I mean. But I suppose none of you ever heard of him."
"Who was he, Miss Morkan ?" asked Mr. Bartell D'Arcy politely.
"His name," said Aunt Kate, "was Parkinson. I heard him when he was in his prime and I think he had then the purest tenor voice that was ever put into a man's throat."
"Strange," said Mr. Bartell D'Arcy. "I never even heard of him."
"Yes, yes, Miss Morkan is right," said Mr. Browne. "I remember hearing of old Parkinson but he's too far back for me."
"A beautiful, pure, sweet, mellow English tenor," said Aunt Kate with enthusiasm.
Gabriel having finished, the huge pudding was transferred to the table. The clatter of forks and spoons began again. Gabriel's wife served out spoonfuls of the pudding and passed the plates down the table. Midway down they were held up by Mary Jane, who replenished them with raspberry or orange jelly or with blancmange and jam. The pudding was of Aunt Julia's making and she received praises for it from all quarters She herself said that it was not quite brown enough.
"Well, I hope, Miss Morkan," said Mr. Browne, "that I'm brown enough for you because, you know, I'm all brown."
All the gentlemen, except Gabriel, ate some of the pudding out of compliment to Aunt Julia. As Gabriel never ate sweets the celery had been left for him. Freddy Malins also took a stalk of celery and ate it with his pudding. He had been told that celery was a capital thing for the blood and he was just then under doctor's care. Mrs. Malins, who had been silent all through the supper, said that her son was going down to Mount Melleray in a week or so. The table then spoke of Mount Melleray, how bracing the air was down there, how hospitable the monks were and how they never asked for a penny-piece from their guests.
"And do you mean to say," asked Mr. Browne incredulously, "that a chap can go down there and put up there as if it were a hotel and live on the fat of the land and then come away without paying anything ?"
"O, most people give some donation to the monastery when they leave." said Mary Jane.
"I wish we had an institution like that in our Church," said Mr. Browne candidly.
He was astonished to hear that the monks never spoke, got up at two in the morning and slept in their coffins. He asked what they did it for.
"That's the rule of the order," said Aunt Kate firmly.
"Yes, but why ?" asked Mr. Browne.
Aunt Kate repeated that it was the rule, that was all. Mr. Browne still seemed not to understand. Freddy Malins explained to him, as best he could, that the monks were trying to make up for the sins committed by all the sinners in the outside world. The explanation was not very clear for Mr. Browne grinned and said:
"I like that idea very much but wouldn't a comfortable spring bed do them as well as a coffin ?"
"The coffin," said Mary Jane, "is to remind them of their last end."
As the subject had grown lugubrious it was buried in a silence of the table during which Mrs. Malins could be heard saying to her neighbour in an indistinct undertone:
"They are very good men, the monks, very pious men."
The raisins and almonds and figs and apples and oranges and chocolates and sweets were now passed about the table and Aunt Julia invited all the guests to have either port or sherry. At first Mr. Bartell D'Arcy refused to take either but one of his neighbours nudged him and whispered something to him upon which he allowed his glass to be filled. Gradually as the last glasses were being filled the conversation ceased. A pause followed, broken only by the noise of the wine and by unsettlings of chairs. The Misses Morkan, all three, looked down at the tablecloth. Someone coughed once or twice and then a few gentlemen patted the table gently as a signal for silence. The silence came and Gabriel pushed back his chair
The patting at once grew louder in encouragement and then ceased altogether. Gabriel leaned his ten trembling fingers on the tablecloth and smiled nervously at the company. Meeting a row of upturned faces he raised his eyes to the chandelier. The piano was playing a waltz tune and he could hear the skirts sweeping against the drawing-room door. People, perhaps, were standing in the snow on the quay outside, gazing up at the lighted windows and listening to the waltz music. The air was pure there. In the distance lay the park where the trees were weighted with snow. The Wellington Monument wore a gleaming cap of snow that flashed westward over the white field of Fifteen Acres.
"Ladies and Gentlemen,
"It has fallen to my lot this evening, as in years past, to perform a very pleasing task but a task for which I am afraid my poor powers as a speaker are all too inadequate."
"No, no!" said Mr. Browne.
"But, however that may be, I can only ask you tonight to take the will for the deed and to lend me your attention for a few moments while I endeavour to express to you in words what my feelings are on this occasion.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, it is not the first time that we have gathered together under this hospitable roof, around this hospitable board. It is not the first time that we have been the recipients or perhaps, I had better say, the victims of the hospitality of certain good ladies."
He made a circle in the air with his arm and paused. Everyone laughed or smiled at Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia and Mary Jane who all turned crimson with pleasure. Gabriel went on more boldly:
"I feel more strongly with every recurring year that our country has no tradition which does it so much honour and which it should guard so jealously as that of its hospitality. It is a tradition that is unique as far as my experience goes (and I have visited not a few places abroad) among the modern nations. Some would say, perhaps, that with us it is rather a failing than anything to be boasted of. But granted even that, it is, to my mind, a princely failing, and one that I trust will long be cultivated among us. Of one thing, at least, I am sure. As long as this one roof shelters the good ladies aforesaid and I wish from my heart it may do so for many and many a long year to come -- the tradition of genuine warm-hearted courteous Irish hospitality, which our forefathers have handed down to us and which we in turn must hand down to our descendants, is still alive among us."
A hearty murmur of assent ran round the table. It shot through Gabriel's mind that Miss Ivors was not there and that she had gone away discourteously: and he said with confidence in himself:
"Ladies and Gentlemen,
"A new generation is growing up in our midst, a generation actuated by new ideas and new principles. It is serious and enthusiastic for these new ideas and its enthusiasm, even when it is misdirected, is, I believe, in the main sincere. But we are living in a sceptical and, if I may use the phrase, a thought-tormented age: and sometimes I fear that this new generation, educated or hypereducated as it is, will lack those qualities of humanity, of hospitality, of kindly humour which belonged to an older day. Listening tonight to the names of all those great singers of the past it seemed to me, I must confess, that we were living in a less spacious age. Those days might, without exaggeration, be called spacious days: and if they are gone beyond recall let us hope, at least, that in gatherings such as this we shall still speak of them with pride and affection, still cherish in our hearts the memory of those dead and gone great ones whose fame the world will not willingly let die."
"Hear, hear !" said Mr. Browne loudly.
"But yet," continued Gabriel, his voice falling into a softer inflection, "there are always in gatherings such as this sadder thoughts that will recur to our minds: thoughts of the past, of youth, of changes, of absent faces that we miss here tonight. Our path through life is strewn with many such sad memories: and were we to brood upon them always we could not find the heart to go on bravely with our work among the living. We have all of us living duties and living affections which claim, and rightly claim, our strenuous endeavours.
"Therefore, I will not linger on the past. I will not let any gloomy moralising intrude upon us here tonight. Here we are gathered together for a brief moment from the bustle and rush of our everyday routine. We are met here as friends, in the spirit of good-fellowship, as colleagues, also to a certain extent, in the true spirit of camaraderie, and as the guests of what shall I call them ? the Three Graces of the Dublin musical world."
The table burst into applause and laughter at this allusion. Aunt Julia vainly asked each of her neighbours in turn to tell her what Gabriel had said.
"He says we are the Three Graces, Aunt Julia," said Mary Jane.
Aunt Julia did not understand but she looked up, smiling, at Gabriel, who continued in the same vein:
"Ladies and Gentlemen,
"I will not attempt to play tonight the part that Paris played on another occasion. I will not attempt to choose between them. The task would be an invidious one and one beyond my poor powers. For when I view them in turn, whether it be our chief hostess herself, whose good heart, whose too good heart, has become a byword with all who know her, or her sister, who seems to be gifted with perennial youth and whose singing must have been a surprise and a revelation to us all tonight, or, last but not least, when I consider our youngest hostess, talented, cheerful, hard-working and the best of nieces, I confess, Ladies and Gentlemen, that I do not know to which of them I should award the prize."
Gabriel glanced down at his aunts and, seeing the large smile on Aunt Julia's face and the tears which had risen to Aunt Kate's eyes, hastened to his close. He raised his glass of port gallantly, while every member of the company fingered a glass expectantly, and said loudly:
"Let us toast them all three together. Let us drink to their health, wealth, long life, happiness and prosperity and may they long continue to hold the proud and self-won position which they hold in their profession and the position of honour and affection which they hold in our hearts."
All the guests stood up, glass in hand, and turning towards the three seated ladies, sang in unison, with Mr. Browne as leader:
For they are jolly gay fellows, For they are jolly gay fellows, For they are jolly gay fellows, Which nobody can deny.
Aunt Kate was making frank use of her handkerchief and even Aunt Julia seemed moved. Freddy Malins beat time with his pudding-fork and the singers turned towards one another, as if in melodious conference, while they sang with emphasis:
Unless he tells a lie, Unless he tells a lie,
Then, turning once more towards their hostesses, they sang:
For they are jolly gay fellows, For they are jolly gay fellows, For they are jolly gay fellows, Which nobody can deny.
The acclamation which followed was taken up beyond the door of the supper-room by many of the other guests and renewed time after time, Freddy Malins acting as officer with his fork on high.
The piercing morning air came into the hall where they were standing so that Aunt Kate said:
"Close the door, somebody. Mrs. Malins will get her death of cold."
"Browne is out there, Aunt Kate," said Mary Jane.
"Browne is everywhere," said Aunt Kate, lowering her voice.
Mary Jane laughed at her tone.
"Really," she said archly, "he is very attentive."
"He has been laid on here like the gas," said Aunt Kate in the same tone, "all during the Christmas."
She laughed herself this time good-humouredly and then added quickly:
"But tell him to come in, Mary Jane, and close the door. I hope to goodness he didn't hear me."
At that moment the hall-door was opened and Mr. Browne came in from the doorstep, laughing as if his heart would break. He was dressed in a long green overcoat with mock astrakhan cuffs and collar and wore on his head an oval fur cap. He pointed down the snow-covered quay from where the sound of shrill prolonged whistling was borne in.
"Teddy will have all the cabs in Dublin out," he said.
Gabriel advanced from the little pantry behind the office, struggling into his overcoat and, looking round the hall, said:
"Gretta not down yet ?"
"She's getting on her things, Gabriel," said Aunt Kate.
"Who's playing up there ?" asked Gabriel.
"Nobody. They're all gone."
"O no, Aunt Kate," said Mary Jane. "Bartell D'Arcy and Miss O'Callaghan aren't gone yet."
"Someone is fooling at the piano anyhow," said Gabriel.
Mary Jane glanced at Gabriel and Mr. Browne and said with a shiver:
"It makes me feel cold to look at you two gentlemen muffled up like that. I wouldn't like to face your journey home at this hour."
"I'd like nothing better this minute," said Mr. Browne stoutly, "than a rattling fine walk in the country or a fast drive with a good spanking goer between the shafts."
"We used to have a very good horse and trap at home," said Aunt Julia sadly.
"The never-to-be-forgotten Johnny," said Mary Jane, laughing.
Aunt Kate and Gabriel laughed too.
"Why, what was wonderful about Johnny ?" asked Mr. Browne.
"The late lamented Patrick Morkan, our grandfather, that is," explained Gabriel, "commonly known in his later years as the old gentleman, was a glue-boiler."
"O, now, Gabriel," said Aunt Kate, laughing, "he had a starch mill."
"Well, glue or starch," said Gabriel, "the old gentleman had a horse by the name of Johnny. And Johnny used to work in the old gentleman's mill, walking round and round in order to drive the mill. That was all very well; but now comes the tragic part about Johnny. One fine day the old gentleman thought he'd like to drive out with the quality to a military review in the park."
"The Lord have mercy on his soul," said Aunt Kate compassionately.
"Amen," said Gabriel. "So the old gentleman, as I said, harnessed Johnny and put on his very best tall hat and his very best stock collar and drove out in grand style from his ancestral mansion somewhere near Back Lane, I think."
Everyone laughed, even Mrs. Malins, at Gabriel's manner and Aunt Kate said:
"O, now, Gabriel, he didn't live in Back Lane, really. Only the mill was there."
"Out from the mansion of his forefathers," continued Gabriel, "he drove with Johnny. And everything went on beautifully until Johnny came in sight of King Billy's statue: and whether he fell in love with the horse King Billy sits on or whether he thought he was back again in the mill, anyhow he began to walk round the statue."
Gabriel paced in a circle round the hall in his goloshes amid the laughter of the others.
"Round and round he went," said Gabriel, "and the old gentleman, who was a very pompous old gentleman, was highly indignant. 'Go on, sir ! What do you mean, sir ? Johnny ! Johnny ! Most extraordinary conduct ! Can't understand the horse!"
The peal of laughter which followed Gabriel's imitation of the incident was interrupted by a resounding knock at the hall door. Mary Jane ran to open it and let in Freddy Malins. Freddy Malins, with his hat well back on his head and his shoulders humped with cold, was puffing and steaming after his exertions.
"I could only get one cab," he said.
"O, we'll find another along the quay," said Gabriel.
"Yes," said Aunt Kate. "Better not keep Mrs. Malins standing in the draught."
Mrs. Malins was helped down the front steps by her son and Mr. Browne and, after many manoeuvres, hoisted into the cab. Freddy Malins clambered in after her and spent a long time settling her on the seat, Mr. Browne helping him with advice. At last she was settled comfortably and Freddy Malins invited Mr. Browne into the cab. There was a good deal of confused talk, and then Mr. Browne got into the cab. The cabman settled his rug over his knees, and bent down for the address. The confusion grew greater and the cabman was directed differently by Freddy Malins and Mr. Browne, each of whom had his head out through a window of the cab. The difficulty was to know where to drop Mr. Browne along the route, and Aunt Kate, Aunt Julia and Mary Jane helped the discussion from the doorstep with cross-directions and contradictions and abundance of laughter. As for Freddy Malins he was speechless with laughter. He popped his head in and out of the window every moment to the great danger of his hat, and told his mother how the discussion was progressing, till at last Mr. Browne shouted to the bewildered cabman above the din of everybody's laughter:
"Do you know Trinity College ?"
"Yes, sir," said the cabman.
"Well, drive bang up against Trinity College gates," said Mr. Browne, "and then we'll tell you where to go. You understand now ?"
"Yes, sir," said the cabman.
"Make like a bird for Trinity College."
"Right, sir," said the cabman.
The horse was whipped up and the cab rattled off along the quay amid a chorus of laughter and adieus.
Gabriel had not gone to the door with the others. He was in a dark part of the hall gazing up the staircase. A woman was standing near the top of the first flight, in the shadow also. He could not see her face but he could see the terra-cotta and salmon-pink panels of her skirt which the shadow made appear black and white. It was his wife. She was leaning on the banisters, listening to something. Gabriel was surprised at her stillness and strained his ear to listen also. But he could hear little save the noise of laughter and dispute on the front steps, a few chords struck on the piano and a few notes of a man's voice singing.
He stood still in the gloom of the hall, trying to catch the air that the voice was singing and gazing up at his wife. There was grace and mystery in her attitude as if she were a symbol of something. He asked himself what is a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow, listening to distant music, a symbol of. If he were a painter he would paint her in that attitude. Her blue felt hat would show off the bronze of her hair against the darkness and the dark panels of her skirt would show off the light ones. Distant Music he would call the picture if he were a painter.
The hall-door was closed; and Aunt Kate, Aunt Julia and Mary Jane came down the hall, still laughing.
"Well, isn't Freddy terrible ?" said Mary Jane. "He's really terrible."
Gabriel said nothing but pointed up the stairs towards where his wife was standing. Now that the hall-door was closed the voice and the piano could be heard more clearly. Gabriel held up his hand for them to be silent. The song seemed to be in the old Irish tonality and the singer seemed uncertain both of his words and of his voice. The voice, made plaintive by distance and by the singer's hoarseness, faintly illuminated the cadence of the air with words expressing grief:
O, the rain falls on my heavy locks And the dew wets my skin, My babe lies cold...
"O," exclaimed Mary Jane. "It's Bartell D'Arcy singing and he wouldn't sing all the night. O, I'll get him to sing a song before he goes."
"O, do, Mary Jane," said Aunt Kate.
Mary Jane brushed past the others and ran to the staircase, but before she reached it the singing stopped and the piano was closed abruptly.
"O, what a pity !" she cried. "Is he coming down, Gretta ?"
Gabriel heard his wife answer yes and saw her come down towards them. A few steps behind her were Mr. Bartell D'Arcy and Miss O'Callaghan.
"O, Mr. D'Arcy," cried Mary Jane, "it's downright mean of you to break off like that when we were all in raptures listening to you."
"I have been at him all the evening," said Miss O'Callaghan, "and Mrs. Conroy, too, and he told us he had a dreadful cold and couldn't sing."
"O, Mr. D'Arcy," said Aunt Kate, "now that was a great fib to tell."
"Can't you see that I'm as hoarse as a crow ?" said Mr. D'Arcy roughly.
He went into the pantry hastily and put on his overcoat. The others, taken aback by his rude speech, could find nothing to say. Aunt Kate wrinkled her brows and made signs to the others to drop the subject. Mr. D'Arcy stood swathing his neck carefully and frowning.
"It's the weather," said Aunt Julia, after a pause.
"Yes, everybody has colds," said Aunt Kate readily, "everybody."
"They say," said Mary Jane, "we haven't had snow like it for thirty years; and I read this morning in the newspapers that the snow is general all over Ireland."
"I love the look of snow," said Aunt Julia sadly.
"So do I," said Miss O'Callaghan. "I think Christmas is never really Christmas unless we have the snow on the ground."
"But poor Mr. D'Arcy doesn't like the snow," said Aunt Kate, smiling.
Mr. D'Arcy came from the pantry, fully swathed and buttoned, and in a repentant tone told them the history of his cold. Everyone gave him advice and said it was a great pity and urged him to be very careful of his throat in the night air. Gabriel watched his wife, who did not join in the conversation. She was standing right under the dusty fanlight and the flame of the gas lit up the rich bronze of her hair, which he had seen her drying at the fire a few days before. She was in the same attitude and seemed unaware of the talk about her At last she turned towards them and Gabriel saw that there was colour on her cheeks and that her eyes were shining. A sudden tide of joy went leaping out of his heart.
"Mr. D'Arcy," she said, "what is the name of that song you were singing ?"
"It's called The Lass of Aughrim," said Mr. D'Arcy, "but I couldn't remember it properly. Why ? Do you know it ?"
"The Lass of Aughrim," she repeated. "I couldn't think of the name."
"It's a very nice air," said Mary Jane. "I'm sorry you were not in voice tonight."
"Now, Mary Jane," said Aunt Kate, "don't annoy Mr. D'Arcy. I won't have him annoyed."
Seeing that all were ready to start she shepherded them to the door, where good-night was said:
"Well, good-night, Aunt Kate, and thanks for the pleasant evening."
"Good-night, Gabriel. Good-night, Gretta !"
"Good-night, Aunt Kate, and thanks ever so much. Goodnight, Aunt Julia."
"O, good-night, Gretta, I didn't see you."
"Good-night, Mr. D'Arcy. Good-night, Miss O'Callaghan."
"Good-night, Miss Morkan."
"Good-night, all. Safe home."
"Good-night. Good night."
The morning was still dark. A dull, yellow light brooded over the houses and the river; and the sky seemed to be descending. It was slushy underfoot; and only streaks and patches of snow lay on the roofs, on the parapets of the quay and on the area railings. The lamps were still burning redly in the murky air and, across the river, the palace of the Four Courts stood out menacingly against the heavy sky.
She was walking on before him with Mr. Bartell D'Arcy, her shoes in a brown parcel tucked under one arm and her hands holding her skirt up from the slush. She had no longer any grace of attitude, but Gabriel's eyes were still bright with happiness. The blood went bounding along his veins; and the thoughts went rioting through his brain, proud, joyful, tender, valorous.
She was walking on before him so lightly and so erect that he longed to run after her noiselessly, catch her by the shoulders and say something foolish and affectionate into her ear. She seemed to him so frail that he longed to defend her against something and then to be alone with her. Moments of their secret life together burst like stars upon his memory. A heliotrope envelope was lying beside his breakfast-cup and he was caressing it with his hand. Birds were twittering in the ivy and the sunny web of the curtain was shimmering along the floor: he could not eat for happiness. They were standing on the crowded platform and he was placing a ticket inside the warm palm of her glove. He was standing with her in the cold, looking in through a grated window at a man making bottles in a roaring furnace. It was very cold. Her face, fragrant in the cold air, was quite close to his; and suddenly he called out to the man at the furnace:
"Is the fire hot, sir ?"
But the man could not hear with the noise of the furnace. It was just as well. He might have answered rudely.
A wave of yet more tender joy escaped from his heart and went coursing in warm flood along his arteries. Like the tender fire of stars moments of their life together, that no one knew f or would ever know of, broke upon and illumined his memory. He longed to recall to her those moments, to make her forget the years of their dull existence together and remember only their moments of ecstasy. For the years, he felt, had not quenched his soul or hers. Their children, his writing, her household cares had not quenched all their souls' tender fire. In one letter that he had written to her then he had said: "Why is it that words like these seem to me so dull and cold? Is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name ?"
Like distant music these words that he had written years before were borne towards him from the past. He longed to be alone with her. When the others had gone away, when he and she were in the room in the hotel, then they would be alone together. He would call her softly:
Perhaps she would not hear at once: she would be undressing. Then something in his voice would strike her. She would turn and look at him....
At the corner of Winetavern Street they met a cab. He was glad of its rattling noise as it saved him from conversation. She was looking out of the window and seemed tired. The others spoke only a few words, pointing out some building or street. The horse galloped along wearily under the murky morning sky, dragging his old rattling box after his heels, and Gabriel was again in a cab with her, galloping to catch the boat, galloping to their honeymoon.
As the cab drove across O'Connell Bridge Miss O'Callaghan said:
"They say you never cross O'Connell Bridge without seeing a white horse."
"I see a white man this time," said Gabriel.
"Where ?" asked Mr. Bartell D'Arcy.
Gabriel pointed to the statue, on which lay patches of snow. Then he nodded familiarly to it and waved his hand.
"Good-night, Dan," he said gaily.
When the cab drew up before the hotel, Gabriel jumped out and, in spite of Mr. Bartell D'Arcy's protest, paid the driver. He gave the man a shilling over his fare. The man saluted and said:
"A prosperous New Year to you, sir."
"The same to you," said Gabriel cordially.
She leaned for a moment on his arm in getting out of the cab and while standing at the curbstone, bidding the others good- night. She leaned lightly on his arm, as lightly as when she had danced with him a few hours before. He had felt proud and happy then, happy that she was his, proud of her grace and wifely carriage. But now, after the kindling again of so many memories, the first touch of her body, musical and strange and perfumed, sent through him a keen pang of lust. Under cover of her silence he pressed her arm closely to his side; and, as they stood at the hotel door, he felt that they had escaped from their lives and duties, escaped from home and friends and run away together with wild and radiant hearts to a new adventure.
An old man was dozing in a great hooded chair in the hall. He lit a candle in the office and went before them to the stairs. They followed him in silence, their feet falling in soft thuds on the thickly carpeted stairs. She mounted the stairs behind the porter, her head bowed in the ascent, her frail shoulders curved as with a burden, her skirt girt tightly about her. He could have flung his arms about her hips and held her still, for his arms were trembling with desire to seize her and only the stress of his nails against the palms of his hands held the wild impulse of his body in check. The porter halted on the stairs to settle his guttering candle. They halted, too, on the steps below him. In the silence Gabriel could hear the falling of the molten wax into the tray and the thumping of his own heart against his ribs.
The porter led them along a corridor and opened a door. Then he set his unstable candle down on a toilet-table and asked at what hour they were to be called in the morning.
"Eight," said Gabriel.
The porter pointed to the tap of the electric-light and began a muttered apology, but Gabriel cut him short.
"We don't want any light. We have light enough from the street. And I say," he added, pointing to the candle, "you might remove that handsome article, like a good man."
The porter took up his candle again, but slowly, for he was surprised by such a novel idea. Then he mumbled good-night and went out. Gabriel shot the lock to.
A ghastly light from the street lamp lay in a long shaft from one window to the door. Gabriel threw his overcoat and hat on a couch and crossed the room towards the window. He looked down into the street in order that his emotion might calm a little. Then he turned and leaned against a chest of drawers with his back to the light. She had taken off her hat and cloak and was standing before a large swinging mirror, unhooking her waist. Gabriel paused for a few moments, watching her, and then said:
"Gretta ! "
She turned away from the mirror slowly and walked along the shaft of light towards him. Her face looked so serious and weary that the words would not pass Gabriel's lips. No, it was not the moment yet.
"You looked tired," he said.
"I am a little," she answered.
"You don't feel ill or weak ?"
"No, tired: that's all."
She went on to the window and stood there, looking out. Gabriel waited again and then, fearing that diffidence was about to conquer him, he said abruptly:
"By the way, Gretta !"
"What is it ?"
"You know that poor fellow Malins ?" he said quickly.
"Yes. What about him ?"
"Well, poor fellow, he's a decent sort of chap, after all," continued Gabriel in a false voice. "He gave me back that sovereign I lent him, and I didn't expect it, really. It's a pity he wouldn't keep away from that Browne, because he's not a bad fellow, really."
He was trembling now with annoyance. Why did she seem so abstracted ? He did not know how he could begin. Was she annoyed, too, about something ? If she would only turn to him or come to him of her own accord ! To take her as she was would be brutal. No, he must see some ardour in her eyes first. He longed to be master of her strange mood.
"When did you lend him the pound ?" she asked, after a pause.
Gabriel strove to restrain himself from breaking out into brutal language about the sottish Malins and his pound. He longed to cry to her from his soul, to crush her body against his, to overmaster her. But he said:
"O, at Christmas, when he opened that little Christmas-card shop in Henry Street."
He was in such a fever of rage and desire that he did not hear her come from the window. She stood before him for an instant, looking at him strangely. Then, suddenly raising herself on tiptoe and resting her hands lightly on his shoulders, she kissed him.
"You are a very generous person, Gabriel," she said.
Gabriel, trembling with delight at her sudden kiss and at the quaintness of her phrase, put his hands on her hair and began smoothing it back, scarcely touching it with his fingers. The washing had made it fine and brilliant. His heart was brimming over with happiness. Just when he was wishing for it she had come to him of her own accord. Perhaps her thoughts had been running with his. Perhaps she had felt the impetuous desire that was in him, and then the yielding mood had come upon her. Now that she had fallen to him so easily, he wondered why he had been so diffident.
He stood, holding her head between his hands. Then, slipping one arm swiftly about her body and drawing her towards him, he said softly:
"Gretta, dear, what are you thinking about ?"
She did not answer nor yield wholly to his arm. He said again, softly:
"Tell me what it is, Gretta. I think I know what is the matter. Do I know ?"
She did not answer at once. Then she said in an outburst of tears:
"O, I am thinking about that song, The Lass of Aughrim."
She broke loose from him and ran to the bed and, throwing her arms across the bed-rail, hid her face. Gabriel stood stockstill for a moment in astonishment and then followed her. As he passed in the way of the cheval-glass he caught sight of himself in full length, his broad, well-filled shirt-front, the face whose expression always puzzled him when he saw it in a mirror, and his glimmering gilt-rimmed eyeglasses. He halted a few paces from her and said:
"What about the song ? Why does that make you cry ?"
She raised her head from her arms and dried her eyes with the back of her hand like a child. A kinder note than he had intended went into his voice.
"Why, Gretta ?" he asked.
"I am thinking about a person long ago who used to sing that song."
"And who was the person long ago ?" asked Gabriel, smiling.
"It was a person I used to know in Galway when I was living with my grandmother," she said.
The smile passed away from Gabriel's face. A dull anger began to gather again at the back of his mind and the dull fires of his lust began to glow angrily in his veins.
"Someone you were in love with ?" he asked ironically.
"It was a young boy I used to know," she answered, "named Michael Furey. He used to sing that song, The Lass of Aughrim. He was very delicate."
Gabriel was silent. He did not wish her to think that he was interested in this delicate boy.
"I can see him so plainly," she said, after a moment. "Such eyes as he had: big, dark eyes ! And such an expression in them an expression !"
"O, then, you are in love with him ?" said Gabriel.
"I used to go out walking with him," she said, "when I was in Galway."
A thought flew across Gabriel's mind.
"Perhaps that was why you wanted to go to Galway with that Ivors girl ?" he said coldly.
She looked at him and asked in surprise:
"What for ?"
Her eyes made Gabriel feel awkward. He shrugged his shoulders and said:
"How do I know ? To see him, perhaps."
She looked away from him along the shaft of light towards the window in silence.
"He is dead," she said at length. "He died when he was only seventeen. Isn't it a terrible thing to die so young as that ?"
"What was he ?" asked Gabriel, still ironically.
"He was in the gasworks," she said.
Gabriel felt humiliated by the failure of his irony and by the evocation of this figure from the dead, a boy in the gasworks. While he had been full of memories of their secret life together, full of tenderness and joy and desire, she had been comparing him in her mind with another. A shameful consciousness of his own person assailed him. He saw himself as a ludicrous figure, acting as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous, well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealising his own clownish lusts, the pitiable fatuous fellow he had caught a glimpse of in the mirror. Instinctively he turned his back more to the light lest she might see the shame that burned upon his forehead.
He tried to keep up his tone of cold interrogation, but his voice when he spoke was humble and indifferent.
"I suppose you were in love with this Michael Furey, Gretta," he said.
"I was great with him at that time," she said.
Her voice was veiled and sad. Gabriel, feeling now how vain it would be to try to lead her whither he had purposed, caressed one of her hands and said, also sadly:
"And what did he die of so young, Gretta ? Consumption, was it ?"
"I think he died for me," she answered.
A vague terror seized Gabriel at this answer, as if, at that hour when he had hoped to triumph, some impalpable and vindictive being was coming against him, gathering forces against him in its vague world. But he shook himself free of it with an effort of reason and continued to caress her hand. He did not question her again, for he felt that she would tell him of herself. Her hand was warm and moist: it did not respond to his touch, but he continued to caress it just as he had caressed her first letter to him that spring morning.
"It was in the winter," she said, "about the beginning of the winter when I was going to leave my grandmother's and come up here to the convent. And he was ill at the time in his lodgings in Galway and wouldn't be let out, and his people in Oughterard were written to. He was in decline, they said, or something like that. I never knew rightly."
She paused for a moment and sighed.
"Poor fellow," she said. "He was very fond of me and he was such a gentle boy. We used to go out together, walking, you know, Gabriel, like the way they do in the country. He was going to study singing only for his health. He had a very good voice, poor Michael Furey."
"Well; and then ?" asked Gabriel.
"And then when it came to the time for me to leave Galway and come up to the convent he was much worse and I wouldn't be let see him so I wrote him a letter saying I was going up to Dublin and would be back in the summer, and hoping he would be better then."
She paused for a moment to get her voice under control, and then went on:
"Then the night before I left, I was in my grandmother's house in Nuns' Island, packing up, and I heard gravel thrown up against the window. The window was so wet I couldn't see, so I ran downstairs as I was and slipped out the back into the garden and there was the poor fellow at the end of the garden, shivering."
"And did you not tell him to go back ?" asked Gabriel.
"I implored of him to go home at once and told him he would get his death in the rain. But he said he did not want to live. I can see his eyes as well as well ! He was standing at the end of the wall where there was a tree."
"And did he go home ?" asked Gabriel.
"Yes, he went home. And when I was only a week in the convent he died and he was buried in Oughterard, where his people came from. O, the day I heard that, that he was dead !"
She stopped, choking with sobs, and, overcome by emotion, flung herself face downward on the bed, sobbing in the quilt. Gabriel held her hand for a moment longer, irresolutely, and then, shy of intruding on her grief, let it fall gently and walked quietly to the window.
She was fast asleep.
Gabriel, leaning on his elbow, looked for a few moments unresentfully on her tangled hair and half-open mouth, listening to her deep-drawn breath. So she had had that romance in her life: a man had died for her sake. It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life. He watched her while she slept, as though he and she had never lived together as man and wife. His curious eyes rested long upon her face and on her hair: and, as he thought of what she must have been then, in that time of her first girlish beauty, a strange, friendly pity for her entered his soul. He did not like to say even to himself that her face was no longer beautiful, but he knew that it was no longer the face for which Michael Furey had braved death.
Perhaps she had not told him all the story. His eyes moved to the chair over which she had thrown some of her clothes. A petticoat string dangled to the floor. One boot stood upright, its limp upper fallen down: the fellow of it lay upon its side. He wondered at his riot of emotions of an hour before. From what had it proceeded ? From his aunt's supper, from his own foolish speech, from the wine and dancing, the merry-making when saying good-night in the hall, the pleasure of the walk along the river in the snow. Poor Aunt Julia! She, too, would soon be a shade with the shade of Patrick Morkan and his horse. He had caught that haggard look upon her face for a moment when she was singing Arrayed for the Bridal. Soon, perhaps, he would be sitting in that same drawing-room, dressed in black, his silk hat on his knees. The blinds would be drawn down and Aunt Kate would be sitting beside him, crying and blowing her nose and telling him how Julia had died. He would cast about in his mind for some words that might console her, and would find only lame and useless ones. Yes, yes: that would happen very soon.
The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover's eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.
Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.