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List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
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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?" 

"0, 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: 

"Here's Freddy." 

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. 

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