List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Glasnevin Road where, he flattered himself, his manners would
ingratiate him with the housewives of the district. He bore himself
with a certain grace, complimented little children and spoke with a
neat enunciation. He was not without culture. 

Mr. Fogarty brought a gift with him, a half-pint of special whisky.
He inquired politely for Mr. Kernan, placed his gift on the table
and sat down with the company on equal terms. Mr. Kernan
appreciated the gift all the more since he was aware that there was
a small account for groceries unsettled between him and Mr.
Fogarty. He said: 

"I wouldn't doubt you, old man. Open that, Jack, will you?" 

Mr. Power again officiated. Glasses were rinsed and five small
measures of whisky were poured out. This new influence
enlivened the conversation. Mr. Fogarty, sitting on a small area of
the chair, was specially interested. 

"Pope Leo XIII," said Mr. Cunningham, "was one of the lights of
the age. His great idea, you know, was the union of the Latin and
Greek Churches. That was the aim of his life." 

"I often heard he was one of the most intellectual men in Europe,"
said Mr. Power. "I mean, apart from his being Pope." 

"So he was," said Mr. Cunningham, "if not the most so. His motto,
you know, as Pope, was Lux upon Lux -- Light upon Light." 

"No, no," said Mr. Fogarty eagerly. "I think you're wrong there. It
was Lux in Tenebris, I think -- Light in Darkness." 

"O yes," said Mr. M'Coy, "Tenebrae." 

"Allow me," said Mr. Cunningham positively, "it was Lux upon
Lux. And Pius IX his predecessor's motto was Crux upon Crux --
that is, Cross upon Cross -- to show the difference between their
two pontificates." 

The inference was allowed. Mr. Cunningham continued. 

"Pope Leo, you know, was a great scholar and a poet." 

"He had a strong face," said Mr. Kernan. 

"Yes," said Mr. Cunningham. "He wrote Latin poetry." 

"Is that so?" said Mr. Fogarty. 

Mr. M'Coy tasted his whisky contentedly and shook his head with
a double intention, saying: 

"That's no joke, I can tell you." 

"We didn't learn that, Tom," said Mr. Power, following Mr.
M'Coy's example, "when we went to the penny-a-week school." 

"There was many a good man went to the penny-a-week school
with a sod of turf under his oxter," said Mr. Kernan sententiously.
"The old system was the best: plain honest education. None of
your modern trumpery...." 

"Quite right," said Mr. Power. 

"No superfluities," said Mr. Fogarty. 

He enunciated the word and then drank gravely. 

"I remember reading," said Mr. Cunningham, "that one of Pope
Leo's poems was on the invention of the photograph -- in Latin, of

"On the photograph!" exclaimed Mr. Kernan. 

"Yes," said Mr. Cunningham. 

He also drank from his glass. 

"Well, you know," said Mr. M'Coy, "isn't the photograph
wonderful when you come to think of it?" 

"O, of course," said Mr. Power, "great minds can see things." 

"As the poet says: Great minds are very near to madness," said Mr.

Mr. Kernan seemed to be troubled in mind. He made an effort to
recall the Protestant theology on some thorny points and in the end
addressed Mr. Cunningham. 

"Tell me, Martin," he said. "Weren't some of the popes -- of
course, not our present man, or his predecessor, but some of the
old popes -- not exactly ... you know... up to the knocker?" 

There was a silence. Mr. Cunningham said 

"O, of course, there were some bad lots... But the astonishing thing
is this. Not one of them, not the biggest drunkard, not the most...
out-and-out ruffian, not one of them ever preached ex cathedra a
word of false doctrine. Now isn't that an astonishing thing?" 

"That is," said Mr. Kernan. 

"Yes, because when the Pope speaks ex cathedra," Mr. Fogarty
explained, "he is infallible." 

"Yes," said Mr. Cunningham. 

"O, I know about the infallibility of the Pope. I remember I was
younger then.... Or was it that----?" 

Mr. Fogarty interrupted. He took up the bottle and helped the
others to a little more. Mr. M'Coy, seeing that there was not
enough to go round, pleaded that he had not finished his first
measure. The others accepted under protest. The light music of
whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude. 

"What's that you were saying, Tom?" asked Mr. M'Coy. 

"Papal infallibility," said Mr. Cunningham, "that was the greatest
scene in the whole history of the Church." 

"How was that, Martin?" asked Mr. Power. 

Mr. Cunningham held up two thick fingers. 

"In the sacred college, you know, of cardinals and archbishops and
bishops there were two men who held out against it while the
others were all for it. The whole conclave except these two was
unanimous. No! They wouldn't have it!" 

"Ha!" said Mr. M'Coy. 

"And they were a German cardinal by the name of Dolling... or
Dowling... or----" 

"Dowling was no German, and that's a sure five," said Mr. Power,

"Well, this great German cardinal, whatever his name was, was
one; and the other was John MacHale." 

"What?" cried Mr. Kernan. "Is it John of Tuam?" 

"Are you sure of that now?" asked Mr. Fogarty dubiously. "I
thought it was some Italian or American." 

"John of Tuam," repeated Mr. Cunningham, "was the man." 

He drank and the other gentlemen followed his lead. Then he

"There they were at it, all the cardinals and bishops and
archbishops from all the ends of the earth and these two fighting
dog and devil until at last the Pope himself stood up and declared
infallibility a dogma of the Church ex cathedra. On the very
moment John MacHale, who had been arguing and arguing against
it, stood up and shouted out with the voice of a lion: 'Credo!'" 

"I believe!" said Mr. Fogarty. 

"Credo!" said Mr. Cunningham "That showed the faith he had. He
submitted the moment the Pope spoke." 

"And what about Dowling?" asked Mr. M'Coy. 

"The German cardinal wouldn't submit. He left the church." 

Mr. Cunningham's words had built up the vast image of the church
in the minds of his hearers. His deep, raucous voice had thrilled
them as it uttered the word of belief and submission. When Mrs.
Kernan came into the room, drying her hands she came into a
solemn company. She did not disturb the silence, but leaned over
the rail at the foot of the bed. 

"I once saw John MacHale," said Mr. Kernan, "and I'll never forget
it as long as I live." 

He turned towards his wife to be confirmed. 

"I often told you that?" 

Mrs. Kernan nodded. 

"It was at the unveiling of Sir John Gray's statue. Edmund Dwyer
Gray was speaking, blathering away, and here was this old fellow,
crabbed-looking old chap, looking at him from under his bushy

Mr. Kernan knitted his brows and, lowering his head like an angry
bull, glared at his wife. 

"God!" he exclaimed, resuming his natural face, "I never saw such
an eye in a man's head. It was as much as to say: I have you
properly taped, my lad. He had an eye like a hawk." 

"None of the Grays was any good," said Mr. Power. 

There was a pause again. Mr. Power turned to Mrs. Kernan and
said with abrupt joviality: 

"Well, Mrs. Kernan, we're going to make your man here a good
holy pious and God-fearing Roman Catholic." 

He swept his arm round the company inclusively. 

"We're all going to make a retreat together and confess our sins --
and God knows we want it badly." 

"I don't mind," said Mr. Kernan, smiling a little nervously. 

Mrs. Kernan thought it would be wiser to conceal her satisfaction.
So she said: 

"I pity the poor priest that has to listen to your tale." 

Mr. Kernan's expression changed. 

"If he doesn't like it," he said bluntly, "he can... do the other thing.
I'll just tell him my little tale of woe. I'm not such a bad fellow----" 

Mr. Cunningham intervened promptly. 

"We'll all renounce the devil," he said, "together, not forgetting his
works and pomps." 

"Get behind me, Satan!" said Mr. Fogarty, laughing and looking at
the others. 

Mr. Power said nothing. He felt completely out-generalled. But a
pleased expression flickered across his face. 

"All we have to do," said Mr. Cunningham, "is to stand up with
lighted candles in our hands and renew our baptismal vows." 

"O, don't forget the candle, Tom," said Mr. M'Coy, "whatever you

"What?" said Mr. Kernan. "Must I have a candle?" 

"O yes," said Mr. Cunningham. 

"No, damn it all," said Mr. Kernan sensibly, "I draw the line there.
I'll do the job right enough. I'll do the retreat business and
confession, and... all that business. But... no candles! No, damn it
all, I bar the candles!" 

He shook his head with farcical gravity. 

"Listen to that!" said his wife. 

"I bar the candles," said Mr. Kernan, conscious of having created
an effect on his audience and continuing to shake his head to and
fro. "I bar the magic-lantern business." 

Everyone laughed heartily. 

"There's a nice Catholic for you!" said his wife. 

"No candles!" repeated Mr. Kernan obdurately. "That's off!" 

The transept of the Jesuit Church in Gardiner Street was almost
full; and still at every moment gentlemen entered from the side
door and, directed by the lay-brother, walked on tiptoe along the
aisles until they found seating accommodation. The gentlemen
were all well dressed and orderly. The light of the lamps of the
church fell upon an assembly of black clothes and white collars,
relieved here and there by tweeds, on dark mottled pillars of green
marble and on lugubrious canvases. The gentlemen sat in the
benches, having hitched their trousers slightly above their knees
and laid their hats in security. They sat well back and gazed
formally at the distant speck of red light which was suspended
before the high altar. 

In one of the benches near the pulpit sat Mr. Cunningham and Mr.
Kernan. In the bench behind sat Mr. M'Coy alone: and in the bench
behind him sat Mr. Power and Mr. Fogarty. Mr. M'Coy had tried
unsuccessfully to find a place in the bench with the others, and,
when the party had settled down in the form of a quincunx, he had

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: