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List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
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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.

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