List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
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tried unsuccessfully to make comic remarks. As these had not been
well received, he had desisted. Even he was sensible of the
decorous atmosphere and even he began to respond to the religious
stimulus. In a whisper, Mr. Cunningham drew Mr. Kernan's
attention to Mr. Harford, the moneylender, who sat some distance
off, and to Mr. Fanning, the registration agent and mayor maker of
the city, who was sitting immediately under the pulpit beside one
of the newly elected councillors of the ward. To the right sat old
Michael Grimes, the owner of three pawnbroker's shops, and Dan
Hogan's nephew, who was up for the job in the Town Clerk's
office. Farther in front sat Mr. Hendrick, the chief reporter of The
Freeman's Journal, and poor O'Carroll, an old friend of Mr.
Kernan's, who had been at one time a considerable commercial
figure. Gradually, as he recognised familiar faces, Mr. Kernan
began to feel more at home. His hat, which had been rehabilitated
by his wife, rested upon his knees. Once or twice he pulled down
his cuffs with one hand while he held the brim of his hat lightly,
but firmly, with the other hand. 

A powerful-looking figure, the upper part of which was draped
with a white surplice, was observed to be struggling into the pulpit.
Simultaneously the congregation unsettled, produced
handkerchiefs and knelt upon them with care. Mr. Kernan
followed the general example. The priest's figure now stood
upright in the pulpit, two-thirds of its bulk, crowned by a massive
red face, appearing above the balustrade. 

Father Purdon knelt down, turned towards the red speck of light
and, covering his face with his hands, prayed. After an interval, he
uncovered his face and rose. The congregation rose also and
settled again on its benches. Mr. Kernan restored his hat to its
original position on his knee and presented an attentive face to the
preacher. The preacher turned back each wide sleeve of his
surplice with an elaborate large gesture and slowly surveyed the
array of faces. Then he said: 

"For the children of this world are wiser in their generation than
the children of light. Wherefore make unto yourselves friends out
of the mammon of iniquity so that when you die they may receive
you into everlasting dwellings." 

Father Purdon developed the text with resonant assurance. It was
one of the most difficult texts in all the Scriptures, he said, to
interpret properly. It was a text which might seem to the casual
observer at variance with the lofty morality elsewhere preached by
Jesus Christ. But, he told his hearers, the text had seemed to him
specially adapted for the guidance of those whose lot it was to lead
the life of the world and who yet wished to lead that life not in the
manner of worldlings. It was a text for business men and
professional men. Jesus Christ with His divine understanding of
every cranny of our human nature, understood that all men were
not called to the religious life, that by far the vast majority were
forced to live in the world, and, to a certain extent, for the world:
and in this sentence He designed to give them a word of counsel,
setting before them as exemplars in the religious life those very
worshippers of Mammon who were of all men the least solicitous
in matters religious. 

He told his hearers that he was there that evening for no terrifying,
no extravagant purpose; but as a man of the world speaking to his
fellow-men. He came to speak to business men and he would
speak to them in a businesslike way. If he might use the metaphor,
he said, he was their spiritual accountant; and he wished each and
every one of his hearers to open his books, the books of his
spiritual life, and see if they tallied accurately with conscience. 

Jesus Christ was not a hard taskmaster. He understood our little
failings, understood the weakness of our poor fallen nature,
understood the temptations of this life. We might have had, we all
had from time to time, our temptations: we might have, we all had,
our failings. But one thing only, he said, he would ask of his
hearers. And that was: to be straight and manly with God. If their
accounts tallied in every point to say: 

"Well, I have verified my accounts. I find all well." 

But if, as might happen, there were some discrepancies, to admit
the truth, to be frank and say like a man: 

"Well, I have looked into my accounts. I find this wrong and this
wrong. But, with God's grace, I will rectify this and this. I will set
right my accounts." 


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
Freddy come. 

"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
of you." 

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

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