List Of Contents | Contents of Dubliners, by James Joyce
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son was going down to Mount Melleray in a week or so. The table
then spoke of Mount Melleray, how bracing the air was down
there, how hospitable the monks were and how they never asked
for a penny-piece from their guests. 

"And do you mean to say," asked Mr. Browne incredulously, "that
a chap can go down there and put up there as if it were a hotel and
live on the fat of the land and then come away without paying

"O, most people give some donation to the monastery when they
leave." said Mary Jane. 

"I wish we had an institution like that in our Church," said Mr.
Browne candidly. 

He was astonished to hear that the monks never spoke, got up at
two in the morning and slept in their coffins. He asked what they
did it for. 

"That's the rule of the order," said Aunt Kate firmly. 

"Yes, but why?" asked Mr. Browne. 

Aunt Kate repeated that it was the rule, that was all. Mr. Browne
still seemed not to understand. Freddy Malins explained to him, as
best he could, that the monks were trying to make up for the sins
committed by all the sinners in the outside world. The explanation
was not very clear for Mr. Browne grinned and said: 

"I like that idea very much but wouldn't a comfortable spring bed
do them as well as a coffin?" 

"The coffin," said Mary Jane, "is to remind them of their last end." 

As the subject had grown lugubrious it was buried in a silence of
the table during which Mrs. Malins could be heard saying to her
neighbour in an indistinct undertone: 

"They are very good men, the monks, very pious men." 

The raisins and almonds and figs and apples and oranges and
chocolates and sweets were now passed about the table and Aunt
Julia invited all the guests to have either port or sherry. At first Mr.
Bartell D'Arcy refused to take either but one of his neighbours
nudged him and whispered something to him upon which he
allowed his glass to be filled. Gradually as the last glasses were
being filled the conversation ceased. A pause followed, broken
only by the noise of the wine and by unsettlings of chairs. The
Misses Morkan, all three, looked down at the tablecloth. Someone
coughed once or twice and then a few gentlemen patted the table
gently as a signal for silence. The silence came and Gabriel pushed
back his chair 

The patting at once grew louder in encouragement and then ceased
altogether. Gabriel leaned his ten trembling fingers on the
tablecloth and smiled nervously at the company. Meeting a row of
upturned faces he raised his eyes to the chandelier. The piano was
playing a waltz tune and he could hear the skirts sweeping against
the drawing-room door. People, perhaps, were standing in the
snow on the quay outside, gazing up at the lighted windows and
listening to the waltz music. The air was pure there. In the distance
lay the park where the trees were weighted with snow. The
Wellington Monument wore a gleaming cap of snow that flashed
westward over the white field of Fifteen Acres. 

He began: 

"Ladies and Gentlemen, 

"It has fallen to my lot this evening, as in years past, to perform a
very pleasing task but a task for which I am afraid my poor powers
as a speaker are all too inadequate." 

"No, no!" said Mr. Browne. 

"But, however that may be, I can only ask you tonight to take the
will for the deed and to lend me your attention for a few moments
while I endeavour to express to you in words what my feelings are
on this occasion. 

"Ladies and Gentlemen, it is not the first time that we have
gathered together under this hospitable roof, around this hospitable
board. It is not the first time that we have been the recipients -- or
perhaps, I had better say, the victims -- of the hospitality of certain
good ladies." 

He made a circle in the air with his arm and paused. Everyone
laughed or smiled at Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia and Mary Jane who
all turned crimson with pleasure. Gabriel went on more boldly: 

"I feel more strongly with every recurring year that our country has
no tradition which does it so much honour and which it should
guard so jealously as that of its hospitality. It is a tradition that is
unique as far as my experience goes (and I have visited not a few
places abroad) among the modern nations. Some would say,
perhaps, that with us it is rather a failing than anything to be
boasted of. But granted even that, it is, to my mind, a princely
failing, and one that I trust will long be cultivated among us. Of
one thing, at least, I am sure. As long as this one roof shelters the
good ladies aforesaid -- and I wish from my heart it may do so for
many and many a long year to come -- the tradition of genuine
warm-hearted courteous Irish hospitality, which our forefathers
have handed down to us and which we in turn must hand down to
our descendants, is still alive among us." 

A hearty murmur of assent ran round the table. It shot through
Gabriel's mind that Miss Ivors was not there and that she had gone
away discourteously: and he said with confidence in himself: 

"Ladies and Gentlemen, 

"A new generation is growing up in our midst, a generation
actuated by new ideas and new principles. It is serious and
enthusiastic for these new ideas and its enthusiasm, even when it is
misdirected, is, I believe, in the main sincere. But we are living in
a sceptical and, if I may use the phrase, a thought-tormented age:
and sometimes I fear that this new generation, educated or
hypereducated as it is, will lack those qualities of humanity, of
hospitality, of kindly humour which belonged to an older day.
Listening tonight to the names of all those great singers of the past
it seemed to me, I must confess, that we were living in a less
spacious age. Those days might, without exaggeration, be called
spacious days: and if they are gone beyond recall let us hope, at
least, that in gatherings such as this we shall still speak of them
with pride and affection, still cherish in our hearts the memory of
those dead and gone great ones whose fame the world will not
willingly let die." 

"Hear, hear!" said Mr. Browne loudly. 

"But yet," continued Gabriel, his voice falling into a softer
inflection, "there are always in gatherings such as this sadder
thoughts that will recur to our minds: thoughts of the past, of
youth, of changes, of absent faces that we miss here tonight. Our
path through life is strewn with many such sad memories: and
were we to brood upon them always we could not find the heart to
go on bravely with our work among the living. We have all of us
living duties and living affections which claim, and rightly claim,
our strenuous endeavours. 

"Therefore, I will not linger on the past. I will not let any gloomy
moralising intrude upon us here tonight. Here we are gathered
together for a brief moment from the bustle and rush of our
everyday routine. We are met here as friends, in the spirit of
good-fellowship, as colleagues, also to a certain extent, in the true
spirit of camaraderie, and as the guests of -- what shall I call them?
-- the Three Graces of the Dublin musical world." 

The table burst into applause and laughter at this allusion. Aunt
Julia vainly asked each of her neighbours in turn to tell her what
Gabriel had said. 

"He says we are the Three Graces, Aunt Julia," said Mary Jane. 

Aunt Julia did not understand but she looked up, smiling, at
Gabriel, who continued in the same vein: 

"Ladies and Gentlemen, 

"I will not attempt to play tonight the part that Paris played on
another occasion. I will not attempt to choose between them. The
task would be an invidious one and one beyond my poor powers.
For when I view them in turn, whether it be our chief hostess
herself, whose good heart, whose too good heart, has become a
byword with all who know her, or her sister, who seems to be
gifted with perennial youth and whose singing must have been a
surprise and a revelation to us all tonight, or, last but not least,
when I consider our youngest hostess, talented, cheerful,
hard-working and the best of nieces, I confess, Ladies and
Gentlemen, that I do not know to which of them I should award the

Gabriel glanced down at his aunts and, seeing the large smile on
Aunt Julia's face and the tears which had risen to Aunt Kate's eyes,
hastened to his close. He raised his glass of port gallantly, while
every member of the company fingered a glass expectantly, and
said loudly: 

"Let us toast them all three together. Let us drink to their health,
wealth, long life, happiness and prosperity and may they long
continue to hold the proud and self-won position which they hold
in their profession and the position of honour and affection which
they hold in our hearts." 

All the guests stood up, glass in hand, and turning towards the
three seated ladies, sang in unison, with Mr. Browne as leader:

For they are jolly gay fellows,
For they are jolly gay fellows,
For they are jolly gay fellows,
Which nobody can deny.

Aunt Kate was making frank use of her handkerchief and even
Aunt Julia seemed moved. Freddy Malins beat time with his
pudding-fork and the singers turned towards one another, as if in
melodious conference, while they sang with emphasis:

Unless he tells a lie,
Unless he tells a lie,

Then, turning once more towards their hostesses, they sang:

For they are jolly gay fellows,
For they are jolly gay fellows,
For they are jolly gay fellows,
Which nobody can deny.

The acclamation which followed was taken up beyond the door of
the supper-room by many of the other guests and renewed time
after time, Freddy Malins acting as officer with his fork on high.

The piercing morning air came into the hall where they were
standing so that Aunt Kate said: 

"Close the door, somebody. Mrs. Malins will get her death of

"Browne is out there, Aunt Kate," said Mary Jane. 

"Browne is everywhere," said Aunt Kate, lowering her voice. 

Mary Jane laughed at her tone. 

"Really," she said archly, "he is very attentive." 

"He has been laid on here like the gas," said Aunt Kate in the same
tone, "all during the Christmas." 

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