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

"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: 

"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

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