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
"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
"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
"The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out
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
"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
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
"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
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
"To be sure," said Aunt Kate, "by far the best thing to do. And the
children, Gretta, you're not anxious about them?"
"0, for one night," said Mrs. Conroy. "Besides, Bessie will look
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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:
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"And haven't you your own land to visit," continued Miss Ivors,
"that you know nothing of, your own people, and your own
"0, 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:
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
"Well, you're the comical girl, Molly," said Mrs. Conroy frankly.
"Beannacht libh," cried Miss Ivors, with a laugh, as she ran down
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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.
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"O, now, Gabriel, he didn't live in Back Lane, really. Only the mill
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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, 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
"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
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
"It's the weather," said Aunt Julia, after a pause.
"Yes, everybody has colds," said