The Ugly (and The Dead)
by Anne Pigone and James Joyce

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Lyle, Peter's oldest friend and best man, was literally running on empty. Hardly had he gotten one group of passengers to the Boulderado before his cell phone would wheeze and it was time to scamper out to the airport to pick up the next. Fortunately he didn't have to drive all the guests, as some rented cars of their own for transport to the hotel where Peter's parents, Elisabeth and Giles, were personally greeting one and all. Yet whenever there was a lull at their end, Elisabeth would call Lyle to ask whose plane had landed and when they could be expected in town.
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 a grand affair, the Karmon wedding, with over 200 guests from all over the country attending. Jackie and Peter knew few of these distant relatives, parental friends and Giles Karmon business cronies, yet the guest list would have been even longer had not Jan Mayer put his foot down. This is a marriage, not a Kenneth Copeland convention, Mayer had said.

Jan Mayer was an acclaimed pro in the nuptial trade with a slew of celebrity events across the country in his portfolio. On account of Jackie's family's economic circumstances, Giles was footing the wedding bill but it was Jan Mayer who ran the show, an arrangement which suited Pete's dad just fine as he had little interest in what he alternatively, but equally disdainfully, referred to as trifles and truffles. He just wanted to give his only son a damn good wedding with the best of everything: great American food (no frenchy dishes), the finest entertainment (no pony-tailed musicians) and an abundant quantity of decent liquor and California champagne. Damn the truffles, just make it the greatest wedding you have ever done, Giles Karmon would say to Mayer, ignoring the fact that trifles and truffles are a wedding coordinator's raison d΄κtre. For example, it was Mayer's insistence on individual airport welcomes for all out-of-state guests, including lace-entwined roses for the ladies and carnations for the men that had Lyle spending much of the last two days on Highway 470 connecting Boulder to Denver International.
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 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.

And now everyone was edgy, with the rehearsal starting in a few hours and snowstorms delaying guest's flights. Among the missing was Peter's stepsister and Matron-of-honor, Gabriella, who was flying in from New York with her husband, Garett. There were also worries that another late arrival, Giles's third wife, Carmen, might turn up plastered, a condition the Karmons would rather Jackie's family of non-indulging born-agains not have to witness. But as Carmen came late to everything and had no function in the actual ceremony, it was Gabriella's whereabouts that had Elisabeth calling Lyle every twenty minutes and he was in the middle of one such call, standing in front of the airport information desk, when he felt a tap from behind on his shoulder.
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.

—Gabriella! I've been paging you, said Lyle, presenting her with a bouquet of wilting roses and giving her husband his carnation. Hi Garett.
—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.

—Thank you Lyle, answered Gabriella. We heard our names being called, but my Garett here insisted on leading us in the wrong direction. He had us on our way to Barbados.
—I'll engage they did, said Gabriel, but they forget that my wife here takes three mortal hours to dress herself.

While Gabriella rummaged in her purse after baggage checks, Lyle remembered he still had Elisabeth on the phone:
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:

—Elisabeth, are you there? They've arrived. Lyle handed his phone to Garett.
—Miss Kate, here's Mrs Conroy.

Both Elisabeth and Giles were shouting on the other end, asking about their redirected flight and if Gabby was all in one piece.
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.

—I'm just fine, Elisabeth, called out Gabby over her husband's shoulder. See you at the hotel in a jiff, darlings.
—Here I am as right as the mail, Aunt Kate! Go on up. I'll follow, called out Gabriel from the dark.

A skycap was recruited to help Gabriella and Garett with their bags and Lyle went to get the van. The slush on the pavement seeped into his sneakers as he forded the parking lot crossing. Snowflakes spiked with the stifling fragrance of jet exhaust crept in through the openings of his jacket. The garage boom attendant asked for eight dollars. Thanks a million, said Lyle, adding up all the gas and parking money he would never see again.
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.

—You don't seem dressed for the weather, Gabriella, said Lyle, when she and her husband had settled in the van. She smiled at the syllabicate tilt he gave her name. Lyle was a slim 23 year-old with hay-colored hair and a waxy complexion that matched the pale gray Colorado skies. Gabriella had known him since he was a child playing Pacman with Pete in front of the living room fire in Aspen.
—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.

—I assumed the wedding would be indoors, she answered laughing.
—Yes, Lily, he answered, and I think we're in for a night of it.

She looked up ahead of them at the low shuffling clouds reupholstering the Rocky Mountains with a fresh cover of snow, checked for messages on her cellphone, and then glanced across at the boy who was folding their van casually through Denver traffic.
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, Lyle, she asked, do you still work for WPP?
—Tell me, Lily, he said in a friendly tone, do you still go to school?

—Hell no, he answered. I'm done with big companies. I wanted some quality time with myself.
—O no, sir, she answered. I'm done schooling this year and more.

—Great, said Gabriella. I suppose we'll be flying in for your wedding in the not too distant future then?
—O, then, said Gabriel gaily, I suppose we'll be going to your wedding one of these fine days with your young man, eh?

Lyle looked across at her and said caustically:
The girl glanced back at him over her shoulder and said with great bitterness:

—The kind of dates I go on don't usually lead to marriage.
—The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you.

Gabby laughed as she squirmed out of her jacket, but she wondered if it was not possibly a touchy subject.
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.

She was tall and formidably beautiful. Even more so than one could imagine from the photos that graced several of the magazines Lyle had browsed through while waiting for her at the airport. Jan Mayer's perseverance in convincing Jackie to have Gabriella as her matron of honor was understandable – as was the crushing disappointment this arrangement must have been for Jackie's closer girlfriends who might have expected that honor for themselves.
He was a stout tallish young man. The high colour of his cheeks pushed upwards even to his forehead where it scattered itself in a few formless patches of pale red; and on his hairless face there scintillated restlessly the polished lenses and the bright gilt rims of the glasses which screened his delicate and restless eyes. His glossy black hair was parted in the middle and brushed in a long curve behind his ears where it curled slightly beneath the groove left by his hat.

She took off her plum tinted sun glasses, laughed to herself that her husband had so quickly fallen asleep in the back seat and then pulled a card from her purse:
When he had flicked lustre into his shoes he stood up and pulled his waistcoat down more tightly on his plump body. Then he took a coin rapidly from his pocket.

—Lyle, call this woman and tell her I said to hire you since you are the most talented and least discombobulated, left-handed art director in America.
—O Lily, he said, thrusting it into her hands, it's Christmas-time, isn't it? Just … here's a little …

She checked her make-up in the sunshade mirror.
He walked rapidly towards the door.

—Listen, I don't need this, said Lyle. I am doing just fine. You would be depleting your goodwill in the industry for nothing.
—O no, sir! cried the girl, following him. Really, sir, I wouldn't take it.

—Weddings make me feel like hooking people up, said Gabriella, smiling brightly. Anyway, she will probably tell you that my opinion isn't worth a hill of beans.
—Christmas-time! Christmas-time! said Gabriel, almost trotting to the stairs and waving his hand to her in deprecation.

Lyle gave Gabriella a tight-lipped smile.
The girl, seeing that he had gained the stairs, called out after him:

—Thanks, Your highness, he said, turning on the radio.
—Well, thank you, sir.

They sat listening to a country ballad about a man who, being diagnosed with cancer and with six months to live had taken up skydiving and bull wrestling. Gabby wondered as to Lyle's offishness, but then again, she often intimidated men. It was a fact of life. She took a folded paper from her purse and skimmed through Jan Mayer's standard maid/matron-of-honor check-list. … haven't done that … not that either … hmm, doubt if I'll do that. Mayer had penned in a note about being conservative with the language in her speech. Oh well, a few anecdotes, a few superlatives, some lyrics from a Beatles song; that ought to do it. Uncouth bumper stickers on the cars in front of them were a reminder that she was out of her usual environment. Know your audience – she should follow the advice she so freely gave others. She had apparently already screwed up with Lyle.
He waited outside the drawing-room door until the waltz should finish, listening to the skirts that swept against it and to the shuffling of feet. He was still discomposed by the girl's bitter and sudden retort. It had cast a gloom over him which he tried to dispel by arranging his cuffs and the bows of his tie. Then he took from his waistcoat pocket a little paper and glanced at the headings he had made for his speech. He was undecided about the lines from Robert Browning for he feared they would be above the heads of his hearers. Some quotation that they could recognise from Shakespeare or from the Melodies would be better. The indelicate clacking of the men's heels and the shuffling of their soles reminded him that their grade of culture differed from his. He would only make himself ridiculous by quoting poetry to them which they could not understand. They would think that he was airing his superior education. He would fail with them just as he had failed with the girl in the pantry. He had taken up a wrong tone. His whole speech was a mistake from first to last, an utter failure.

The greeting committee was eagerly awaiting them when their van rolled to a stop in front of the Boulderado. First forward was Giles, pushing 80, painfully dressed in Navy Seal inspired skiing attire and a Daniel Boone trapper's cap. He was supported by his current wife Tish, easily ten inches and two generations his junior, featuring imposingly erect breasts and glazed-doughnut lips. Behind them came Peter's mother Elisabeth, her red apple face freshly tightened for the wedding and abundantly pasted with creams and powders, her hair molded in prefab wavelets the color of pistachio nuts.
Just then his aunts and his wife came out of the ladies' dressing-room. His aunts were two small plainly dressed old women. Aunt Julia was an inch or so the taller. Her hair, drawn low over the tops of her ears, was grey; and grey also, with darker shadows, was her large flaccid face. Though she was stout in build and stood erect her slow eyes and parted lips gave her the appearance of a woman who did not know where she was or where she was going. Aunt Kate was more vivacious. Her face, healthier than her sister's, was all puckers and creases, like a shrivelled red apple, and her hair, braided in the same old-fashioned way, had not lost its ripe nut colour.

They all hugged and kissed Gabriella frantically. She was the star of the family, with a career that had taken her from iconic fashion model to newly-crowned “Person of the Year in Advertising”.
They both kissed Gabriel frankly. He was their favourite nephew, the son of their dead elder sister, Ellen, who had married T. J. Conroy of the Port and Docks.

—Garett tells me you're not rushing back to New York, Gabby, said Elisabeth, escorting them into the lobby. That's great. We have so much to talk about.
—Gretta tells me you're not going to take a cab back to Monkstown to-night, Gabriel, said Aunt Kate.

—No, said Gabriella, smiling brightly as she acknowledged the greetings of friends and relatives in the lobby. No rushing for us anymore. Gives Garett ulcers. He likes moving slow and I know that's good for both of us.
—No, said Gabriel, turning to his wife, we had quite enough of that last year, hadn't we? Don't you remember, Aunt Kate, what a cold Gretta got out of it? Cab windows rattling all the way, and the east wind blowing in after we passed Merrion. Very jolly it was. Gretta caught a dreadful cold.

Elisabeth nodded approvingly.
Aunt Kate frowned severely and nodded her head at every word.

—Stress is our worst enemy, Gabby, she said. We have to strenuously avoid it.
—Quite right, Gabriel, quite right, she said. You can't be too careful.

—Well, stress doesn't come naturally to Garett, I assure you. He's the poster child for slomo living.
—But as for Gretta there, said Gabriel, she'd walk home in the snow if she were let.

Garett smiled obligingly as they reached the reception desk.
Mrs Conroy laughed.

—Of course, my wife, being in advertising, never exaggerates, he retorted. But you all know she is the maniac in our family. She's got both our kids in anti-anxiety programs, and now there's another crazy diet she is forcing us to submit to.
—Don't mind him, Aunt Kate, she said. He's really an awful bother, what with green shades for Tom's eyes at night and making him do the dumb-bells, and forcing Eva to eat the stirabout. The poor child! And she simply hates the sight of it!…O, but you'll never guess what he makes me wear now!

He shook his head and glanced at his wife, who looked back with mocking scorn. The others laughed heartily, for Gabriella's engagement in therapy and health fads was well known.
She broke out into a peal of laughter and glanced at her husband, whose admiring and happy eyes had been wandering from her dress to her face and hair. The two aunts laughed heartily too, for Gabriel's solicitude was a standing joke with them.

—The GI diet! continued Garett. That's the latest. Eating at home has become like driving down Broadway – there are green, yellow or red lights pasted on all the foods in our kitchen.
—Goloshes! said Mrs Conroy. That's the latest. Whenever it's wet underfoot I must put on my goloshes. Tonight even he wanted me to put them on, but I wouldn't. The next thing he'll buy me will be a diving suit.

Gabby smiled over her shoulder as she handed the desk clerk her credit card. Though Elisabeth laughed knowingly, Tish didn't catch the humor and Giles, completely out of the loop, had to ask:
Gabriel laughed nervously and patted his tie reassuringly while Aunt Kate nearly doubled herself, so heartily did she enjoy the joke. The smile soon faded from Aunt Julia's face and her mirthless eyes were directed towards her nephew's face. After a pause she asked:

—And just what is the GI diet, Gabby?
—And what are goloshes, Gabriel?

—The GI diet, Giles, exclaimed Elisabeth. You don't you know what the GI diet is? The gluten index, Garett, isn't that it?
—Goloshes, Julia! exclaimed her sister. Goodness me, don't you know what goloshes are? You wear them over your … over your boots, Gretta, isn't it?

—Yes, or rather the glycaemic, said Garett. Anyway it's about eating much of this and little of that. Gabby says it originated in Australia.
—Yes, said Mrs Conroy. Guttapercha things. We both have a pair now. Gabriel says everyone wears them on the continent.

—Kylie Minogue was one of the first to try it, Tish chipped in, nodding her head enthusiastically.
—O, on the continent, murmured Aunt Julia, nodding her head slowly.

Gabriella knitted her chin in feigned protest:
Gabriel knitted his brows and said, as if he were slightly angered:

—There is nothing extraordinary about it at all. Garett only thinks it's funny because GI makes it sound like a military thing.
—It's nothing very wonderful but Gretta thinks it very funny because she says the word reminds her of Christy Minstrels.

—Well, said Elisabeth, better get up to your room. I'm afraid there is not much time for you to get ready for the rehearsal.
—But tell me, Gabriel, said Aunt Kate, with brisk tact. Of course, you've seen about the room. Gretta was saying …

—I'm a fast changer, replied Gabriella. I'll leave Garett here to amuse you while I'm gone.
—O, the room is all right, replied Gabriel. I've taken one in the Gresham.

—With her background I suppose she would be, said Elisabeth after Gabby had left them to follow a bellhop towards the elevator. And the kids, Garett … you're not anxious about leaving them alone?
—To be sure, said Aunt Kate, by far the best thing to do. And the children, Gretta, you're not anxious about them?

—We have a wonderful au pair now, he answered. Cιline – from Geneva. She's quite fantastic.
—O, for one night, said Mrs Conroy. Besides, Bessie will look after them.

—I bet you can count on her like a Swiss watch, said Elisabeth, visibly pleased with her clever metaphor. Speaking of dependability, where did Lyle go? He should be collecting the attendants by now. He's never around when you need him.
—To be sure, said Aunt Kate again. What a comfort it is to have a girl like that, one you can depend on! There's that Lily, I'm sure I don't know what has come over her lately. She's not the girl she was at all.

She jerked her head about the room looking for Lyle only to discover that Giles was wandering off towards the lobby bar. She turned to Tish:
Gabriel was about to ask his aunt some questions on this point but she broke off suddenly to gaze after her sister who had wandered down the stairs and was craning her neck over the banisters.

—Where is your husband off to, dear? He's not having a drink now, is he? The Zuckors just drove up.
—Now, I ask you, she said, almost testily, where is Julia going? Julia! Julia! Where are you going?

Hearing her, Giles called out over his shoulder:
Julia, who had gone halfway down one flight, came back and announced blandly:

—You and Tish do the Zuckors, Elisabeth. I believe Carmen has arrived.
—Here's Freddy.

Rehearsal participants were filling the lobby. Elisabeth, bustled about the room preping everyone for the departure to the wedding venue. When Gabriella, who, true to her word, made a speedy return, looking homecoming queen fresh, Elisabeth quickly took her aside:
At the same moment a clapping of hands and a final flourish of the pianist told that the waltz had ended. The drawing- room door was opened from within and some couples came out. Aunt Kate drew Gabriel aside hurriedly and whispered into his ear:

—Be a dear, Gabby, and help out with Carmen. She must have sneaked in through a back entrance. No doubt stewed as a prune.
—Slip down, Gabriel, like a good fellow and see if he's all right, and don't let him up if he's screwed. I'm sure he's screwed. I'm sure he is.

Gabriella had recognized Carmen's laughter when she came down the mezzanine staircase. She nodded to Elisabeth, and taking Garett by the hand drew him with her in the direction of the hotel bar.
Gabriel went to the stairs and listened over the banisters. He could hear two persons talking in the pantry. Then he recognised Freddy Malins' laugh. He went down the stairs noisily.

—It's such a relief, said Elisabeth to Tish, that Gabby's here … Oh, oh! Don't look now, but I see Jackie's Dad and Nurse Wilson are having words with the concierge. I hope it's nothing serious. We don't have time for that.
—it's such a relief, said Aunt Kate to Mrs Conroy, that Gabriel is here. I always feel easier in my mind when he's here.… Julia, there's Miss Daly and Miss Power will take some refreshment. Thanks for your beautiful waltz, Miss Daly. It made lovely time.

At a desk adjacent to the Boulderado entrance, Jack Diamond and a sternly profiled woman in tweed were arguing heatedly with the concierge:
A tall wizen-faced man, with a stiff grizzled moustache and swarthy skin, who was passing out with his partner said:

—Are you trying to tell us that that woman you sent up to our room speaks English? asked Jackie's Dad, a short, bulb-faced man with grizzly skin and a swarthy mustache.
—And may we have some refreshment, too, Miss Morkan?

—All our contracted sitters are English speaking, answered the concierge. We booked you with Bonita Diaz. I have spoken English with her on several occasions.
—Julia, said Aunt Kate summarily, and here's Mr Browne and Miss Furlong. Take them in, Julia, with Miss Daly and Miss Power.

—Well, being a native English speaker myself, answered Mr Diamond, smiling menacingly, one would think I would be a better judge of that. How can Nurse Wilson here possibly take part in my daughter's rehearsal if it means leaving my wife in the care of an illiterate, and for all I know, undocumented, immigrant?
—I'm the man for the ladies, said Mr Browne, pursing his lips until his moustache bristled and smiling in all his wrinkles. You know, Miss Morkan, the reason they are so fond of me is —

Though Jackie's mother had been inflicted with permanent puerperal insanity after the traumatic birth of their only child, her husband had sworn to keep her by his side forever, and Nurse Wilson had been brought in to both help raise Jackie and care for her mother. Mrs Diamond would, of course, be attending the wedding, but it was deemed unnecessary to have her at the rehearsal. The concierge, after overcoming a stint of speechlessness, apologized and said he would try to find a replacement for Ms Diaz. While he was thumbing through his Rolodex, Jackie and Peter's groomsmen and bridesmaids were making a rather disheveled and noisy descent down the Boulderado's renowned lobby staircase led by Lyle.
He did not finish his sentence, but, seeing that Aunt Kate was out of earshot, at once led the three young ladies into the back room. The middle of the room was occupied by two square tables placed end to end, and on these Aunt Julia and the caretaker were straightening and smoothing a large cloth. On the sideboard were arrayed dishes and plates, and glasses and bundles of knives and forks and spoons. The top of the closed square piano served also as a sideboard for viands and sweets. At a smaller sideboard in one corner two young men were standing, drinking hop-bitters.

Jackie's father, who had apparently been waiting for this opportunity, left Nurse Wilson with the concierge and corralled in the youngsters at the bottom of the stairs, inviting them for some iced tea in the lobby before leaving for the rehearsal. They laughed and the drunkest of them said she never took anything that strong so early in the day. Jack then ceremoniously handed each of them one of the pamphlets he had been carrying around in a satchel all morning: What Every Christian Should Know About Marriage.
Mr Browne led his charges thither and invited them all, in jest, to some ladies' punch, hot, strong and sweet. As they said they never took anything strong he opened three bottles of lemonade for them. Then he asked one of the young men to move aside, and, taking hold of the decanter, filled out for himself a goodly measure of whisky. The young men eyed him respectfully while he took a trial sip.

—By Doctor Ted Haggard, he said, smiling. It's about God's will.
—God help me, he said, smiling, it's the doctor's orders.

His wrinkled red face broke into a broad smile, and the young ladies and men smiled back, waving the pamphlets gaily. The soberest said:
His wrinkled red face broke into a broad smile, and the young ladies and men smiled back, waving the pamphlets gaily. A groom said:

—Thank you, Mr Diamond, I had been hoping to find something like this.
—O, now, Mr Browne, I'm sure the doctor never ordered anything of the kind.

Jack Diamond bowed graciously and added:
Mr Browne took another sip of his whisky and said, with sidling mimicry:

—As Mary Magdalene said to Jesus: If I don't believe, teach me to believe, for I want to believe.
—Well, you see, I'm like the famous Mrs Cassidy, who is reported to have said: Now, Mary Grimes, if I don't take it, make me take it, for I feel I want it.

Jan Mayer had now appeared and was rounding up guests for transportation to the rehearsal. Mr. Diamond, feeling he had won some ground with the youngsters, was about to expound on his own beliefs when a loud commotion further up the landing interrupted him and had the whole lobby gaping in astonishment.
His hot face had leaned forward a little too confidentially and he had assumed a very low Dublin accent so that the young ladies, with one instinct, received his speech in silence. Miss Furlong, who was one of Mary Jane's pupils, asked Miss Daly what was the name of the pretty waltz she had played; and Mr Browne, seeing that he was ignored, turned promptly to the two young men who were more appreciative.

A red-faced woman, dressed in pansy patterned pajamas came dancing down the staircase, excitedly clapping her hands and crying:
red-faced woman, dressed in pansy pajamas was dancing down the staircase, excitedly clapping her hands and shouting:

—Quadrilles! Quadrilles!
—Quadrilles! Quadrilles!

Close on her heels came the unfortunate Bonita Diaz, crying:
Close on her heels came Aunt Kate, crying:

Mrs Diamond, Mrs Diamond, pleeez…
—Two gentlemen and three ladies, Mary Jane!

—Alright everyone, time to go, shouted Mayer in the lobby below, hoping to draw attention from the intermezzo on the stairs. Where are the children? The bus is filling up, we don't want anyone left behind.
—O, here's Mr Bergin and Mr Kerrigan, said Mary Jane. Mr Kerrigan, will you take Miss Power? Miss Furlong, may I get you a partner, Mr Bergin. O, that'll just do now.

—There is room for three in the back, called out Elisabeth.
—Three ladies, Mary Jane, said Aunt Kate.

As Nurse Wilson rushed over to comfort Mrs Diamond, Jan Mayer turned to a cousin who would be reading a poem in the ceremony:
The two young gentlemen asked the ladies if they might have the pleasure, and Mary Jane turned to Miss Daly.

—Wendy, we are only making one bus trip today so we will have to pack you all in like sardines.
—O, Miss Daly, you're really awfully good, after playing for the last two dances, but really we're so short of ladies to-night.

—I don't mind, Jan.
—I don't mind in the least, Miss Morkan.

—Good. Perhaps you would like to sit with Mr Bartell? said Mayer, indicating a puffy, pock-faced and beady-eyed sixty-year old, donning his overcoat in the hotel entranceway.
—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.

—It's Burger Bob, whispered Elisabeth encouragingly to Wendy. He's not only ridiculously rich – he sings like Dean Martin. Go for it.
—Lovely voice, lovely voice! said Aunt Kate.

The bus waiting outside politely honked twice to speed up the loading of passengers. Jan Mayer was leading a group of guests out of the lobby as Giles wandered in from the bar smiling broadly.
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 are you up to, Giles? asked Elisabeth, anxiously. We will be the last ones. I hope you are wearing proper clothes under that skiing garb.
—What is the matter, Julia? asked Aunt Kate anxiously. Who is it?

Giles, with a drink still in his hand, smiled at his ex-wife and answered:
Julia, who was carrying in a column of table-napkins, turned to her sister and said, simply, as if the question had surprised her:

—I've been Chatting with Carmen and Ponzy. Gabby and Garett joined us. They're all coming now – if slowly.
—It's only Freddy, Kate, and Gabriel with him.

Behind him Gabriella could be seen leading Carmen across the lobby floor. The latter, a woman in her fifties with strong Mediterranean features, was laughing heartily in a low key at a story which she had been telling Gabriella in the bar. She had thinly plucked eyebrows high above blood-laced walnut eyes and a wide mouth with tumid and protruding lips. The turbulent disorder of her long, Castilian black hair gave her a nervously sensuous look. She waved delicately with her well-manicured hands at Elisabeth. Her husband, Ponzy – a nondescript man, if one ignored his comical stiff-legged gait – walked alongside Garett.
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.

—How wonderful it is to see you, said Elisabeth.
—Good-evening, Freddy, said Aunt Julia.

Carmen exchanged little pecking kisses with Tish and Elisabeth before noticing the scene at the bottom of the stairwell, where Nurse Wilson had finally succeeded in soothing Jackie's mother. Bonita Diaz stood alone in tears while both the hotel manager and concierge were being dressed down by Jack Diamond. Carmen immediately forayed across the room to lend a hand.
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.

—Oh, no. Must she get involved? said Elisabeth to Gabby..
—He's not so bad, is he? said Aunt Kate to Gabriel.

Gabriella, bemusedly watching Carmen caught up in a bear hug with Jill Diamond, answered:
Gabriel's brows were dark but he raised them quickly and answered:

—It takes more than a couple of Bloody Marys to put that woman out of action.
—O no, hardly noticeable.

—Well, I wish she wouldn't, said Elisabeth. And Ponzy has had her at several clinics. But we must be going now. What should we do about the Diamonds?
—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.

The predicament was solved by Carmen, who insisted on her and Ponzy staying with Jack and Nurse Wilson. They could take a cab as soon as new sitter had shown up. When the others had left the lobby, Jackie's father thanked Carmen profusely:
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:

—Peter's said so many wonderful things about you.
—Now, then, Teddy, I'm going to fill you out a good glass of lemonade just to buck you up.

Carmen explained that if Elisabeth hadn't given birth to Pete she would have had to, because he was just such a fantastic kid and would always be like a son to her, and oh, how happy she was that he and Jackie had found each other. She suggested they all move into the bar and have drinks while they waited. But the new sitter had already arrived and Jill Diamond seemed to take to her straight off. The woman spoke English with only a slight Polish accent which was acceptable to Jack Diamond. Ponzy already had a cab waiting and they headed off to the chapel. In the car Jack handed Carmen one of his brochures which she rolled up and used to point out the scenic highlights of Boulder.
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.

… … .

Gabriella had given up on listening to Jan Mayer's elaborate directions. She wondered how many of the others really saw much point in the military precision Mayer was demanding and just why they had to go through everything three times, and why so many people needed to be at this rehearsal in the first place. Serves them right for getting Mayer to do it, she thought. Lyle and the other groomsmen, who had been visiting the portable refreshment bar in the church foyer at every opportunity, had taken to clowning whenever Mayer's back was turned, and Giles Karmon, who had a whale of a snore, had to be nudged awake in his front-row seat more than once by Tish. The only ones who seemed to wholeheartedly engage themselves in this rigmarole were Jackie, Elisabeth and the great wedding coordinator himself, strutting about, his hands conducting like a Toscanini, while Reverend Healy stood patiently thumbing the pages of a dog-eared and yellow post-it-petalled Bible.
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.

Gabriella's eyes, irritated by Mayer's fidgeting figure, wandered above the chapel organ to a reproduction of Botticelli's Birth of Venus and she remembered a somewhat censored version of that same painting on her second-grade school lunchbox. Luckless artists having their creations contorted by whoever, whenever, like Thus Spake Zarathustra opening up auto shows, Modigliani selling yoghurt, or Beethoven's Fifth accentuating face-offs in ice hockey games. Watching little Brittany twiddling with her practice bouquet and Kevin with his ring pillow brought back memories of a similar scene: She, holding the hem of her mother's wedding dress, her brother Conny carrying that same velvet cushion, a large bald, brute of a man whom she hardly knew lifting her mother's veil and … that awful kiss. But, of course, Tory knew what she was doing. Thanks to her marriage to Giles, Gabby could go to college and so would have Conny, had his and Tory's car not gone over the edge of Black Bear Pass the day before he was to turn twelve. A shadow passed over her face as she remembered first, her opposition to her stepfather, but also the hurt when he chose Carmen to replace Tory so soon after the funeral. There could never be a loneliness like that loneliness, watching her brother and mother lowered one after another into the earth. And then there was that night – the night of her junior prom, when she woke to the pulling of her sheets and saw the dark haunting figure of a heavily-breathing Giles looming above her bed.
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 names for her sons for she was very sensible of the dignity of family life. Thanks to her, Constantine was now senior curate in Balbriggan 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.

Gabriella gathered that the rehearsal proceedings were nearing the end for they were playing that march for the third time – at least Mendelssohn could imagine what would become of it – and Mayer was directing everyone out the chapel door in the reverse order they had entered it. Strolling arm in arm with Lyle, she put her grim memories aside. Once the procession members were all outside, great applause greeted Jan Mayer, the most vigorous clapping coming from Lyle and the groomsmen.
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.

The rehearsal dinner, where the actual participants were now joined by fifty or so family members and other VIPs, was held at an Italian restaurant in downtown Boulder. Gabby was seated between Lyle and a groomsman, Ivor Molly, who had several years ago attended one of her Ethics in Advertising seminars. He combed his long hair over his left cheek, hiding – or elaborating, depending on the tilt of his head – the maroon birthmark she thought looked like a map of New Zealand. He wore a Greenpeace button in the lapel of his jacket.
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.

When they had taken their seats he said abruptly:
When they had taken their places she said abruptly:

—So Mz. Media Star, what are you currently doing to to change this world for the better?
—I have a crow to pluck with you.

—Pardon me? What am I doing? said Gabby, fearing he might be serious.
—With me? said Gabriel.

He nodded with burlesque graveness.
She nodded her head gravely.

—You mean; what am I personally doing? she asked.
—What is it? asked Gabriel, smiling at her solemn manner.

—How Will You Change The World Today? recited Ivor Molly loudly, turning his eyes upon her.
—Who is G. C.? answered Miss Ivors, turning her eyes upon him.

Gabby didn't react, and he continued:
Gabriel coloured and was about to knit his brows, as if he did not understand, when she said bluntly:

—I know you're the genius who masterminded that Lehman Brothers campaign. Have you no qualms about that?
—O, innocent Amy! I have found out that you write for The Daily Express. Now, aren't you ashamed of yourself?

—Why? asked Gabriella, forging a smile.
—Why should I be ashamed of myself? asked Gabriel, blinking his eyes and trying to smile.

—Well, I'm disappointed, said Ivor chidingly. To work for a company like that. I didn't think you were such a mercenary.
—Well, I'm ashamed of you, said Miss Ivors frankly. To say you'd write for a rag like that. I didn't think you were a West Briton.

Asshole. Yes, she had designed that campaign, pocketing her agency a small fortune, though the thrill of doing something on such a grand scale – and so successfully as well, meant more to her than the money. She loved to see the commercials on TV and come across her ads in newspapers and magazines. She was fed up with detractors like Ivor. She told him indignantly that life was all about doing a good job – and putting your heart into it. If everybody did that, then this wouldn't be such a bad world to live in. But some people screw up and do a lousy job and some people cheat, and some steal. And that's lamentable, or deplorable or maybe even punishable by a few years in prison, but it doesn't automatically condemn whoever worked with them. Everybody at Lehman Brothers wasn't a crook, she reminded him, and she wasn't either.
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 Webb's or Massey's on Aston's Quay, or to O'Clohissey's in the by-street. 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.

From then on Gabriella pointedly confined her conversation to Lyle. But as the main course was served, Ivor Molly took her hand in a warm grasp and said in a reconcilatory tone:
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:

—Sorry, I was only jiving you. Can I pour you more wine?
—Of course, I was only joking. Come, we cross now.

He then spoke of how he had seen on the Internet a critique of Rawl's Theory of Justice she had written in college. He thought it was really fascinating. His face lit up:
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:

—Gabriella, what would you say to coming with us to Burning Man this autumn? You should come. I'm sure Garett and your kids would love it. Garett is a spiritual person, right?
—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?

—To a reasonable extent, said Gabriella curtly.
—Her people are, said Gabriel shortly.

—It is not as impossible as it sounds, said Ivor. I've a huge tent.
—But you will come, won't you? said Miss Ivors, laying her warm hand eagerly on his arm.

—The fact is, said Gabriella, I have a pretty heavy schedule.
—The fact is, said Gabriel, I have already arranged to go—

—Doing what? he asked.
—Go where? asked Miss Ivors.

—Well you know, a little dab here and a little dab there – trying to make ends meet.
—Well, you know every year I go for a cycling tour with some fellows and so—

—Like what? he persisted.
—But where? asked Miss Ivors.

—Like looking after the two hundred employees of our ad agency. Like twenty-something speaking engagements. Like trying to finish my second book.
—Well, we usually go to France or Belgium or perhaps Germany, said Gabriel awkwardly.

—Why do all that instead of finding peace within yourself? You've already had one breakdown. I read about it.
—And why do you go to France and Belgium, said Miss Ivors, instead of visiting your own land?

—Well, said Gabriella, it's partly because I enjoy my work and it's partly to make a living, but it's mostly none of your f– she checked herself – business.
—Well, said Gabriel, it's partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change.

—Does all that activity provide harmony for your own inner self? persisted Ivor Molly.
—And haven't you your own language to keep in touch with—Irish? asked Miss Ivors.

—Actually Ivor … (she leaned over and read the name on his place card) … Ivor Molly, omphaloskepsis is not really my thing.
—Well, said Gabriel, if it comes to that, you know, Irish is not my language.

Gabriella glanced right and left to the others at the table for someone to intervene, struggling to retain her good humor. Molly's face was flush with excitement and New Zealand was glowing.
Their neighbours had turned to listen to the cross- examination. Gabriel glanced right and left nervously and tried to keep his good humour under the ordeal which was making a blush invade his forehead.

—Are you sure you know yourself that well? he continued.
—And haven't you your own land to visit, continued Miss Ivors, that you know nothing of, your own people, and your own country?

—If you don't mind, said Gabriella, I'm extremely uninterested in your new age proselytism.
—O, to tell you the truth, retorted Gabriel suddenly, I'm sick of my own country, sick of it!

—Sorry, said Ivor Molly.
—Why? asked Miss Ivors.

Gabriella did not answer.
Gabriel did not answer for his retort had heated him.

—I didn't mean to … I was just trying to be helpful.
—Why? repeated Miss Ivors.

The seven-piece band brought in for the rehearsal party had begun to play. Giles sailed straight for Gabby's table, smiling magnanimously.
They had to go visiting together and, as he had not answered her, Miss Ivors said warmly:

—But you might give it some thought, said Ivor, as Gabriella got up to dance with her stepfather.
—Of course, you've no answer.

She did – she thought about what a dickhead he was. Best to make sure he got nowhere near her for the rest of the wedding. The band was playing a song called Animal Crackers, and guests, many of them only a months away from walkers or wheelchairs or worse, hopped about the cramped dance floor imitating birds and apes. Giles was content to just waltz Gabriella to the three steps he had learned in childhood dancing lessons and never varied upon. Her obnoxious table companion sailed past, twirling about a bridesmaid in some retro-fifties-be-bop charade:
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:

—Mercenary!
—West Briton!

After a few dances with those bold enough to ask her, Gabriella retreated to the darkest corner of the restaurant's bar, where Carmen's husband Ponzy was quietly sitting. He had a slight drawl like his wife and he sputtered his p's. Gabriella told him how happy she was to see Carmen, who had meant so much to her as a child after the loss of her only real family. She asked if they were happy together and Ponzy assured her that they were, and while he exemplified with some particularly happy details, Gabby tried to rid her mind of the obnoxious Ivor Molly. OK, maybe he believed in his inner light, kagi meditation, zen yoga bullshit or whatever it was they did out there in the desert, but, my god, he should have the good manners to keep it to himself. Maybe she could have handled it better, cut him off earlier. But the impudence of him calling her a mercenary, even in jest, was just too much. She had had enough of envious people trying to pull her down to their own level. He with his squirrelly eyes.
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 nice 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

Garett made his way towards her through the dancing guests and, after nodding to Ponzy said close to her ear:
He saw his wife making her way towards him through the waltzing couples. When she reached him she said into his ear:

—Gabby, Elisabeth wants to know if you have tomorrow's speech all figured out?
—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.

—Oh my god, said Gabby. Tell her to cool it. It's not that big a deal.
—All right, said Gabriel.

—Mayer is having everyone else go first so you will be the closing act, said Garett.
—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 Gabriella, changing the subject.
—Were you dancing? asked Gabriel.

—If you can call it that. I'm obligated, I suppose. What was the thing with Ivor?
—Of course I was. Didn't you see me? What words had you with Molly Ivors?

—Nothing. Why? Did he say something to you?
—No words. Why? Did she say so?

—No. Listen sweetheart, they're asking that Burger Bob creep to sing tomorrow night. And they want me to accompany him. You'll save me from that – won't you?
—Something like that. I'm trying to get that Mr D'Arcy to sing. He's full of conceit, I think.

—Ivor thinks we should all go and live naked in the woods, said Gabby, eating bark and worms – and mushrooms, I suppose.
—There were no words, said Gabriel moodily, only she wanted me to go for a trip to the west of Ireland and I said I wouldn't.

Her husband clapped his hands, playfully.
His wife clasped her hands excitedly and gave a little jump.

—Oh, great idea, Gabby, he laughed. I always wanted to be Carlos Castaneda.
—O, do go, Gabriel, she cried. I'd love to see Galway again.

—You can if you like, said Gabby, coldly.
—You can go if you like, said Gabriel coldly.

He looked at her for a moment, then turned to Ponzy and said:
She looked at him for a moment, then turned to Mrs Malins and said:

—Now, there's a good sport for you, Ponzy, and walked off.
—There's a nice husband for you, Mrs Malins.

When Garett had left, Ponzy, warming to the subject, went on to tell Gabriella that science has proved that civilization developed on the plains and savannahs, because you couldn't throw spears in the woods and throwing spears was the origin of speech.
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 fish, a beautiful big big fish, and the man in the hotel boiled it for their dinner.

Gabby shook her head enthusiastically, without taking in a word he said. When she saw Carmen coming over to be with her husband, she left the barstool free for her and made for the ladies room where some Geritol-set dancers who had run out of steam were panting heavily and mopping up their faces, all the while congratulating each other on their youthful looks and athletic fitness. Gabriella was thankful for the solitude of the stall. Her agitated fingers tapped the metal top of the toilet paper dispenser. How nice it would be to be somewhere else.
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!

Above the dispenser, written in lipstick were the words – EAT SHIT. Could it have been someone in the rehearsal party who wrote that? What people did – what people thought in the dark? One of those octillion-year-old aunts, maybe. Think of all the thought-tormented people in the world posing as normal and happy. Perhaps it was a personal message to her from that bridesmaid, Tracy, whose role as maid-of-honor she had usurped. Gabriella, using her Chanel Passion Red No. 3, abutted YOURSELF!!! to the existing message. She tried to think about her speech, but the repugnant face of Ivor Molly kept breaking in on her thoughts. In her purse she had that little souvenir voodoo doll Garett had bought her in New Orleans and she took it out and stabbed its belly repeatedly with a bio-gel sculptured fingernail. Enjoy this, Mr. Ivor Navel-Fucking-Gazing Molly.
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?

In the cozily-heated and lavishly catered pavilion set up outside Boulder First Presbyterian, a lithe young soprano accompanied by a string octet from the Denver Philharmonic had reached the closing lines of Eternal Flame as Jack Diamond and Giles, gallantly escorting a rather disorientated Mrs Diamond between them, made their entrance, followed by Giles' wives, past and present: Elisabeth, Carmen, and Tish, and behind them, Ponzy and Nurse Wilson.

Jan Mayer requested silence from the assembled guests and Giles, in a strong basso grosso, welcomed everyone to the glorious event about to take place, adding that though he had considerable first-hand experience with occasions of this sort, today was truly something special that would, if he had any say in the matter, only happen once in these children's life. You know, though weddings might cost fortunes, divorces can wipe them out, he quipped.

Amidst the ensuing laughter, he pulled Jack Diamond under his arm and confided that at the rate their friendship was developing Jack was either going to have him talking in tongues or Giles would see Jackie's father under the table with half a quart of sour mash in his belly. But seriously, folks, though we might have our differences, Jack and I, we did reach one agreement straight off the bat: That our two wonderful kids both knew what true love looked liked when it finally stared ‘em in the face … and they reached out for it and they grabbed it – and, by god, they are going to keep it. Ladies and gentlemen, a toast to love, happiness and the eternal flame of Jackie and Peter Karmon.

The speech was received with applause and cheers, and as the lithe, young soprano launched into Killing me Softly, Carmen moved over to her ex-husband and took his hand.
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 song-book 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.

—Wow, is she good, Carmen whispered. What an exquisitely beautiful voice. And as for great performances, Giles, that was a very sweet talk you gave. We might still be married today if you had practiced what you preach.
—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 to- night. 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.

Giles murmured something about why they were no longer married and Carmen quickly released his hand from her grasp. Jack Diamond gave Giles a big pat on the back, thanking him profusely for the speech but leaning closer to his ear, said:
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:

—Just one detail, Giles. We don't speak in tongues in our church.
—Miss Julia Morkan, my latest discovery!

Giles laughed so loudly at this information that Tish had to turn to the men reproachfully:
He was laughing very heartily at this himself when Freddy Malins turned to him and said:

—Shush you two! Listen to this woman sing, will you. All I can say is I've never heard such a wonderful voice. Is she famous?
—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 have I, said Jack Diamond, but I don't think the song is appropriate to the occasion.
—Neither did I, said Mr Browne. I think her voice has greatly improved.

Giles shrugged his shoulders as the parents made their way towards the chapel entrance:
Aunt Julia shrugged her shoulders and said with meek pride:

—You are probably right Jack, but I wouldn't mind her strumming my back with anything she chose.
—Thirty years ago I hadn't a bad voice as voices go.

—I envy those people, said Tish as they stood in the chapel foyer waiting to be seated. They are the greatest artists. They have rhythm and they have grace. God bless them.
—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 to the others for affirmation, but saw only embarrassed smiles and look-aways. Her husband was covering his eyes with his head down.
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.

—Face it, they can dance better, sing better, and play most sports better than we can, she continued. Just look at the Nuggets.
—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?

—My dear, said Jan Mayer, you must be careful how you phrase things. You don't want people to think you're a racist.
—Well, isn't it for the honour of God, Aunt Kate? asked Mary Jane, twisting round on the piano-stool and smiling.

Tish turned on him defiantly:
Aunt Kate turned fiercely on her niece and said:

—I may not have half the education of the rest of you, but I think I know what racism is, Jan, and it certainly isn't admiring people for their talents and skills. And no one's going to slam me for thinking so.
—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 up considerably and might have continued arguing right into the chapel. Jan Mayer remarked that this was an extremely inopportune moment for a nature-nurture debate.
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:

—We know you mean well, Tish, darling, but we must be careful how we phrase things, because if it is a racial trait to be a good dancer or excellent singer, then some unkind person might say it's a racial trait to steal or beat each other up.
—Now, Aunt Kate, you're giving scandal to Mr Browne who is of the other persuasion.

The ushers were patiently waiting to seat them but Tish was not pacified.
Aunt Kate turned to Mr Browne, who was grinning at this allusion to his religion, and said hastily:

—Well, I haven't the slightest what nurture-nature means, but there is such a thing as respect – I beg your pardon! And I certainly didn't say anything about stealing. I believe in respect for other people's opinions and I am pretty sure Reverend Healy would support me on that.
—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 Healy straight up to his face …

—Most certainly, said Jan Mayer, in a last-ditch attempt to calm the waters. And I for one think your theory that all positive traits are genetic and all negative ones socially fostered is brilliant.
—And besides, Aunt Kate, said Mary Jane, we really are all hungry and when we are hungry we are all very quarrelsome.

—You are mocking me, said Tish, almost in tears.
—And when we are thirsty we are also quarrelsome, added Mr Browne.

—No, Tish, we love you dearly, said Jan Mayer, giving her a big hug. And I believe this nice young usher here is more than ready to show you to your seat.
—So that we had better go to supper, said Mary Jane, and finish the discussion afterwards.

After taking Jack to his daughter in the chapel atrium, Jan checked in on the attendants in the front office. Here, chaos prevailed. Ivor Molly lay flat on his back, Kevin's ring cushion propped under his head. Lyle, who by now should have been at the head of the church with Pete and Reverend Healy, was attending him.
On the landing outside the drawing-room Gabriel found his wife and Mary Jane trying to persuade Miss Ivors to stay for supper. But Miss Ivors, who had put on her hat and was buttoning her cloak, would not stay. She did not feel in the least hungry and she had already overstayed her time.

—You are going to be just fine, Ivor, said Lyle. Take it easy. We've got plenty of time.
—But only for ten minutes, Molly, said Mrs Conroy. That won't delay you.

—Actually we don't, said Jan Mayer. Can you pick yourself up, man?
—To take a pick itself, said Mary Jane, after all your dancing.

—I don't think I can do it, said Ivor. I don't think I can move.
—I really couldn't, said Miss Ivors.

—Relax Ivor, you're hyperventilating – what happened? asked Jan Mayer.
—I am afraid you didn't enjoy yourself at all, said Mary Jane hopelessly.

—I'm so sorry, said Ivor Molly. But it feels like I've got daggers piercing my guts.
—Ever so much, I assure you, said Miss Ivors, but you really must let me run off now.

—We will get you a doctor – God knows there are plenty of them here, said Gabriella.
—But how can you get home? asked Mrs Conroy.

—No. No doctor. I will be OK.
—O, it's only two steps up the quay.

Gabriella ran out and called to one of the wedding photographers standing in the foyer:
Gabriel hesitated a moment and said:

—Find out where Dr Gogarty is sitting and discretely inform him he is needed here.
—If you will allow me, Miss Ivors, I'll see you home if you really are obliged to go.

Ivor, after an attempt at getting to his knees, was down again.
But Miss Ivors broke away from them.

—March on in there and don't mind me, he cried. Please. I can take care of myself.
—I won't hear of it, she cried. For goodness sake go in to your suppers and don't mind me. I'm quite well able to take care of myself.

—Well, you are going to have to find yourself another pillow, said little Kevin.
—Well, you're the comical girl, Molly, said Mrs Conroy frankly.

—God bless you, boy, said Ivor, laughing weakly.
Beannacht libh, cried Miss Ivors, with a laugh, as she ran down the staircase.

After a moment's self-deliberation, Jan Mayer told Tracy there would have to be some changes. Without her groomsman he couldn't let her march in the procession. It was a matter of symmetry. She would make her entrance through a side door. Otherwise they might think you are the Maid of Honor he told her. Upon which Tracy exploded into tears and informed him frankly that she should have been, and another of the bridesmaids said that if Tracy couldn't march, then none of them would, and that he could stick his symmetry up his pompous ass.
Mary Jane gazed after her, a moody puzzled expression on her face, while Mrs Conroy leaned over the banisters to listen for the hall-door. Gabriel asked himself was he the cause of her abrupt departure. But she did not seem to be in ill humour: she had gone away laughing. He stared blankly down the staircase. At that moment Aunt Kate came toddling out of the supper-room, almost wringing her hands in despair.

—OK, OK, everybody calm down, said Jan Mayer. Sean, go in there and find us a new groomsman, preferably somebody wearing pants the same color as yours – quick! … Ivor, I am afraid we're going to have to borrow your jacket. Where in the hell is Gabriella?
—Where is Gabriel? she cried. Where on earth is Gabriel? There's everyone waiting in there, stage to let, and nobody to carve the goose!

—Here I am! cried Gabriella. Ready to rock and roll.
—Here I am, Aunt Kate! cried Gabriel, with sudden animation, ready to carve a flock of geese, if necessary.

Leaving Ivor Molly in the care of Dr Gogarty processional members took up their foyer starting positions with Reverend Healy in their sights 150 feet ahead at the altar end of the chapel. Mayer, after counting through exactly 16 bars of Coro a bocca chiusa, exquisitely hummed by a CU Choir, launched the first pair of attendants with the commandment: Go with dignity, composure, and grace, but for god's sake go slow … start … now!

And off they sailed down an alleyway of twisted necks, dewy-eyes, sentimental smiles, and the cellphone photo flashes strictly forbidden by Jan Mayer. Soon all the attendants were in motion or had already taken their x-taped positions on the podium. Traditional bride-or-groom-side seating conventions had been abandoned due to the over-abundance of Karmon invitees, and multiple-procedured ladies decked in gold, silver, diamond and pearl could be seen on both sides of the aisle, their headgear resembling celery stalks, peeled almonds, and custard dishes bobbing as they elbowed their stern, platinum-card, Zegna-suited hubbys into showing a little more enthusiasm.

Gabriella's entrance was, as expected, the procession's show-stopper, though she pointedly ignored the oohs and aahs and retained her most modest composure, not wishing to upstage Jackie, though the sight of Tracy's new partner, Garett, ahead of her, uncomfortably squeezed into Ivor's tuxedo, almost had her giggling. Kevin and Brittany were incredibly cute and adorable, of course, and last but not least, Jack, proud as a goose escorting his radiant Jackie, whom two stout distant cousins that had just barely made the guestlist cutoff proclaimed to be the most beautiful bride they had ever seen.
A fat brown goose lay at one end of the table and at the other end, on a bed of creased paper strewn with sprigs of parsley, lay a great ham, stripped of its outer skin and peppered over with crust crumbs, a neat paper frill round its shin and beside this was a round of spiced beef. Between these rival ends ran parallel lines of side- dishes: two little minsters of jelly, red and yellow; a shallow dish full of blocks of blancmange and red jam, a large green leaf-shaped dish with a stalk-shaped handle, on which lay bunches of purple raisins and peeled almonds, a companion dish on which lay a solid rectangle of Smyrna figs, a dish of custard topped with grated nutmeg, a small bowl full of chocolates and sweets wrapped in gold and silver papers and a glass vase in which stood some tall celery stalks. In the centre of the table there stood, as sentries to a fruit-stand which upheld a pyramid of oranges and American apples, two squat old-fashioned decanters of cut glass, one containing port and the other dark sherry. On the closed square piano a pudding in a huge yellow dish lay in waiting and behind it were three squads of bottles of stout and ale and minerals, drawn up according to the colours of their uniforms, the first two black, with brown and red labels, the third and smallest squad white, with transverse green sashes.

Gabriel took his seat boldly at the head of the table and, having looked to the edge of the carver, plunged his fork firmly into the goose. He felt quite at ease now for he was an expert carver and liked nothing better than to find himself at the head of a well-laden table.

—Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, under the wings of angels, said Reverend Healy and continued on with many beautiful metaphors and words of wisdom before asking: Who gives this woman to be married to this man?
—Miss Furlong, what shall I send you? he asked. A wing or a slice of the breast?

—I, said Jack Diamond, beaming like Fourth of July fireworks.
—Just a small slice of the breast.

—Reverend Healy then asked the young couple before her:

—Do you promise to love, comfort, honor … better for worse, richer for poorer … in sickness and in health, forsaking all others … to be faithful, so long as you both shall live?
—Miss Higgins, what for you?

—I do and I do, said Pete and Jackie when each their turn came.
—O, anything at all, Mr Conroy.

As the bride and groom exchanged these promises of love and fidelity, Lyle went to them and draped an azure blue silk unity sash over their shoulders. This was a Jan Mayer innovation. He had also suggested that Reverend Healy anoint the bride and groom's foreheads with vermilion, a Hindu inspired rite currently in vogue at trendsetter weddings, but Elisabeth had objected, saying that plain Christian traditions were good enough for them, and that went for Comanche prayers and liberated doves as well.

… love is patient, love is kind …

Gabriella caught Garett's eye. Just the two of us and that sweet little Mexican priest in Santa Lucia, and Garett had surprised her with the mariachis, and then the buggers would never stop singing.

… a season, a time, a purpose …

Everybody was furious when they found out, as if there weren't enough big weddings to go around.

… faith cough and faith alone …

Yes, she thought, faith made for miracles. Creating faith was her job. Blind faith – brand faith – bingo! When you reached that level you could forget price sensitivity, cyclical trending, demographic fall-out. You could forget the competition. You could forget all of that.

Reverend Healy was having a coughing attack. Too bad – serves her right though, puffing away like that out in the back. Beautiful woman nevertheless. Little Kevin held his cushion splendidly high.

… love cough conquers all.
While Gabriel and Miss Daly exchanged plates of goose and plates of ham and spiced beef Lily went from guest to guest with a dish of hot floury potatoes wrapped in a white napkin. This was Mary Jane's idea and she had also suggested apple sauce for the goose but Aunt Kate had said that plain roast goose without apple sauce had always been good enough for her and she hoped she might never eat worse. Mary Jane waited on her pupils and saw that they got the best slices and Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia opened and carried across from the piano bottles of stout and ale for the gentlemen and bottles of minerals for the ladies. There was a great deal of confusion and laughter and noise, the noise of orders and counter-orders, of knives and forks, of corks and glass- stoppers. Gabriel began to carve second helpings as soon as he had finished the first round without serving himself. Everyone protested loudly so that he compromised by taking a long draught of stout for he had found the carving hot work. Mary Jane settled down quietly to her supper but Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia were still toddling round the table, walking on each other's heels, getting in each other's way and giving each other unheeded orders. Mr Browne begged of them to sit down and eat their suppers and so did Gabriel but they said there was time enough so that, at last, Freddy Malins stood up and, capturing Aunt Kate, plumped her down on her chair amid general laughter.

She wondered if Reverend Healy would ask the iconic question we all still love to hear, even if the movies have run it into the ground. Ah, yes, here it comes.
When everyone had been well served Gabriel said, smiling:

—… speak now or forever cough hold your peace …
—Now, if anyone wants a little more of what vulgar people call stuffing let him or her speak.

Reverend Healy's coughing problem was escalating in severity. Lyle came forward and gave her three solid back-slaps. She took a drink of water bottle kept in her pulpit.
A chorus of voices invited him to begin his own supper and Lily came forward with three potatoes which she had reserved for him.

——I now cough pronounce you cough man and wife. You may, cough, cough, cough … Unable to continue, she indicated with her hands that the bride and groom could kiss, which they did, and Mr and Mrs Peter Karmon was a done deal.
—Very well, said Gabriel amiably, as he took another preparatory draught, kindly forget my existence, ladies and gentlemen, for a few minutes.

As the bridal procession left the chapel Mendelssohn's indefatigable march was relayed from the church organ to the octet playing in the pavilion where the guests had returned to wait out the inevitable marathon photo session. Eventually the little orchestra shifted into Mozart who Burger Bob praised as the greatest composer that had ever lived. Isn't it strange that they've never been able to write music like that since? said Wendy. Carmen was following their conversation.
He set to his supper and took no part in the conversation with which the table covered Lily's removal of the plates. The subject of talk was the opera company which was then at the Theatre Royal. Mr Bartell D'Arcy, the tenor, a dark-complexioned young man with a smart moustache, praised very highly the leading contralto of the company but Miss Furlong thought she had a rather vulgar style of production. Freddy Malins said there was a negro chieftain singing in the second part of the Gaiety pantomime who had one of the finest tenor voices he had ever heard.

—Why is that music so great, Bob? she asked.
—Have you heard him? he asked Mr Bartell D'Arcy across the table.

—Because it just is, answered Burger Bob, categorically.
—No, answered Mr Bartell D'Arcy carelessly.

—Because, Carmen continued testily, I would just like to know how you can be so sure of that?
—Because, Freddy Malins explained, now I'd be curious to hear your opinion of him. I think he has a grand voice.

—Well, if I remember correctly, it was Mozart along with Beethoven and Bach that NASA sent up into outer space, said Burger Bob. They only sent up the best our civilization has to offer.
—It takes Teddy to find out the really good things, said Mr Browne familiarly to the table.

—Did they send up a sixteen-ounce glacier-iced Fortaleza margarita? asked Carmen to appreciative laughter.
—And why couldn't he have a voice too? asked Freddy Malins sharply. Is it because he's only a black?

Jan Mayer told a story about the NASA committees chosen to pick out the best the human race had ever produced. There was a professor on the music panel who kept quiet while everybody else argued for this composition or that, and when they finally got around to asking him he suggested a piece by Dicky Do and the Do-nots. What Professor? his colleagues asked. We couldn't hear you clearly – what are you recommending? And he said, I vote for My Baby Gets the Hiccups every time we start to kiss by Dicky Do and the Do-nots. He said that it was sufficient to just send the first verse if there was a shortage of space in the capsule.
Nobody answered this question and Mary Jane led the table back to the legitimate opera. One of her pupils had given her a pass for Mignon. Of course it was very fine, she said, but it made her think of poor Georgina Burns. Mr Browne could go back farther still, to the old Italian companies that used to come to Dublin—Tietjens, Ilma de Murzka, Campanini, the great Trebelli, Giuglini, Ravelli, Aramburo. Those were the days, he said, when there was something like singing to be heard in Dublin. He told too of how the top gallery of the old Royal used to be packed night after night, of how one night an Italian tenor had sung five encores to Let Me Like a Soldier Fall, introducing a high C every time, and of how the gallery boys would sometimes in their enthusiasm unyoke the horses from the carriage of some great prima donna and pull her themselves through the streets to her hotel. Why did they never play the grand old operas now, he asked, Dinorah, Lucrezia Borgia? Because they could not get the voices to sing them: that was why.

—Sounds like a bad joke to me, said Burger Bob.
—O, well, said Mr Bartell D'Arcy, I presume there are as good singers to-day as there were then.

—Sounds like a crock of manure, said Mr. Diamond, on temporary leave from photo duties.
—Where are they? asked Mr Browne defiantly.

—I've heard that story too, said Ponzy, but he then said they only needed to send the first note of that song, because all the music that ever was or ever would be could be found in that note. And that we should let the outer space folks enjoy figuring out the rest for themselves.
—In London, Paris, Milan, said Mr Bartell D'Arcy warmly. I suppose Caruso, for example, is quite as good, if not better than any of the men you have mentioned.

—What note was that? asked Mr Diamond, and everybody laughed.
—Maybe so, said Mr Browne. But I may tell you I doubt it strongly.

—How about the best art? Da Vinci or a dab of paint? asked a groomsman. And did they choose the greatest literature or just send up the letter ‘A'?
—O, I'd give anything to hear Caruso sing, said Mary Jane.

—Don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me if they sent up The Dead, answered Ponzy, many people think James Joyce's The Dead is the greatest short story in the English language. Not sure if it made it onto the space capsule, though.
—For me, said Aunt Kate, who had been picking a bone, there was only one tenor. To please me, I mean. But I suppose none of you ever heard of him.

—Why is that such a great story? asked Burger Bob.
—Who was he, Miss Morkan? asked Mr Bartell D'Arcy politely.

—Well, I'm no expert, answered Ponzy. But perhaps it's because great art is like great lovemaking — You just can't go for the climax straight off. You've got to diddle around first and The Dead has great diddling and a great climax.
—His name, said Aunt Kate, was Parkinson. I heard him when he was in his prime and I think he had then the purest tenor voice that was ever put into a man's throat.

—Strange, said Burger Bob. I've never heard of it. What's wrong with O'Henry, Mark Twain? Zane Grey?
—Strange, said Mr Bartell D'Arcy. I never even heard of him.

—Hey, I saw The Dead, said a groomsman. It's a movie. There's no sex. After this big Christmas party, this guy's wife remembers some kid she used to be in love with who died and the husband gets all jealous. There is no sex whatsoever.
—Yes, yes, Miss Morkan is right, said Mr Browne. I remember hearing of old Parkinson but he's too far back for me.

—I didn't say there was sex. I said it was like it, said Ponzy. It's not the same thing.
—A beautiful pure sweet mellow English tenor, said Aunt Kate with enthusiasm.

After every conceivable combination of bride, groom, attendants, family, dignitaries and the three Karmon dogs brought in by envoy from the ranch in Aspen had been photographically eternalized, Jackie and Peter were sent off with cheers and rice and confetti showers in a four-horse carriage, and the guests were transferred to the Boulderado in buses to prepare themselves for the reception dinner. It would be a full evening and then some, and after all the feting they had already done, Giles hoped Jack would still be game for it.
Gabriel having finished, the huge pudding was transferred to the table. The clatter of forks and spoons began again. Gabriel's wife served out spoonfuls of the pudding and passed the plates down the table. Midway down they were held up by Mary Jane, who replenished them with raspberry or orange jelly or with blancmange and jam. The pudding was of Aunt Julia's making and she received praises for it from all quarters. She herself said that it was not quite brown enough.

—Well, I believe, said Jackie's father, that I'm game enough for anything because, you know, I'm the Jack of Diamonds.
—Well, I hope, Miss Morkan, said Mr Browne, that I'm brown enough for you because, you know, I'm all brown.

The reception dinner was zipping along noisily but smoothly in the Boulderado's renowned 2nd floor banquet hall. Gabriella was doing her best to patch up relationships with her fellow attendants, telling racy jokes, complimenting the bridesmaids on their performance in the wedding and inviting one and all to visit her and Garett on Long Island – anytime, but she had caused new ire amongst the girls by changing out of her Rockies inspired bridesmaid's dress into a more becoming Phoebe Philo overall. At the parents table, Ponzy was saying how surprised he was by all the beggars in Boulder.
All the gentlemen, except Gabriel, ate some of the pudding out of compliment to Aunt Julia. As Gabriel never ate sweets the celery had been left for him. Freddy Malins also took a stalk of celery and ate it with his pudding. He had been told that celery was a capital thing for the blood and he was just then under doctor's care. Mrs Malins, who had been silent all through the supper, said that her 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.

—Beats me, asked Mr Diamond incredulously, that someone can live off the fat of the land like that without doing a day's work.
—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 a farthing?

—I wouldn't exactly call it ‘fat of the land', but it does seem as if people are pretty generous towards the homeless around here, said Jan Mayer. Not like in San Francisco.
—O, most people give some donation to the monastery when they leave, said Mary Jane.

—I hope they're as generous towards their church, where their money would do some real good, said Jack Diamond.
—I wish we had an institution like that in our Church, said Mr Browne candidly.

He wondered why people would stoop to begging on the streets in the first place. He'd seen some pretty tough times himself, but he felt firmly that in America there was always an opportunity to better your lot if you were prepared to roll up your sleeves.
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 doesn't seem to always be the case, said Carmen.
—That's the rule of the order, said Aunt Kate firmly.

—Well, of course if you're lazy, said Jack Diamond. Or you haven't got the guts.
—Yes, but why? asked Mr Browne.

Giles said he'd worked hard for every penny he'd ever made and never asked for a handout in his entire life. The more you give to those people the less incentive they have to do something useful with themselves. Carmen countered that it was absurd to think that all peoples' misfortune was of their own doing. She turned to Tish for support but the poor thing, still crushed from her faux pas earlier in the day, had made up her mind to avoid voicing opinions altogether.
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:

—Carmen has a point, said Jack, and charity towards those in need is in keeping with God's wishes, but I believe it should be organized through the church and other trustworthy organizations like Operation Blessing.
—I like that idea very much but wouldn't a comfortable spring bed do them as well as a coffin?

—The homeless, said Jan Mayer, serve to remind us of life's imperfections and should make us thankful that we are here in this wonderful setting and not out there sleeping on the streets.
—The coffin, said Mary Jane, is to remind them of their last end.

As the subject had grown contentious it was soon buried in more congenial table-talk. Though, at one point, Ponzy could be heard saying to Giles:
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:

—Some of those street people drive Cadillacs and have millions stashed away.
—They are very good men, the monks, very pious men.

After an abundance of food and drink had been consumed and acclaimed by the guests, and a great many speeches of uneven quality given, Giles stood up and invited everyone to fill their glasses with champagne, or carrot juice if they so chose, and to give their utmost attention to the next and final speaker, his little pearl, who, as long as he was on this earth would not want for anything she desired – though at the rate her career was skyrocketing and his stock portfolio nosediving – he sincerely hoped she would return the favor. Gabriella pushed back her chair and stood up to a great deal of applause. She blew Giles a kiss of appreciation.
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 and stood up.

Placing her confident hands serenely on the back of her chair, she composed herself, taking in as many of the 237 expectant faces as possible. The orchestra, which had struck up Copeland's Fanfare for the Common Man, concluded with a snare drum roll and the Boulderado servers discreetly retired to the back of the room, but no further, choosing to hear, despite a professionally conditioned aversion for banquet speeches, this elegant celebrity rather than take the opportunity for a quick smoke out on the snow-covered kitchen landing.
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.

She began::
He began:

—Reverend Healy, Jackie and Peter, family and friends.
—Ladies and Gentlemen.

—Since each of the preceding speakers has spoken with such ardor and so expansively of these two newlyweds one might think that all has been said there is to be said, but in truth – not. So, put down your glasses and lean back in your chairs for this might take all night … had you scared there for moment, didn't I? Fear not, I'll be brief.
—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. We want to hear it all! shouted Mr. Diamond.
—No, no! said Mr Browne.

—Then you'll have to discuss that with my agent, Jack, said Gabriella and when the laughter had died down continued: As some of you might know, I work in advertising, which might lead to the assumption that my talent is pulling the wool – or the bull – over your eyes … Perhaps, but that's my day job, folks. On an occasion like this, I tell it straight from the heart.
—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.

—Karmons and Diamonds, this is the first, though certainly not the last, occasion our two clans have gathered thanks to the abundantly generous hospitality of the parents. Will the parents: Giles, Elisabeth, Tish, Jack, Jill, Carmen, Ponzy all please stand up? You too, Nancy. As everyone has well noticed, there are more of these parents than we can keep track of … or the laws of biology can allow for. Hopefully Jackie and Pete know who did what.
—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.

Gabby made a sweeping bow to the parents now standing and accepting the enthusiastic acclaim of the guests. Then her voice toned down and her face grew serious:
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:

—And, let me tell you, if my dear mother, bless her heart, was still with us today, I know she would have sat at that table as well, for though a woman might leave Giles Karmon, she can never stop loving him. There he is: my stepfather, Pete's dad, a man who's autograph is now gratefully treasured by more than half of the wedding contractors in Boulder. Ladies and Gentleman – the great Giles Karmon! And by the way, that these wonderful people all sat in the first row pew today, is not your standard wedding procedure – but one of the hundreds of creative details thought up by our very own distinguished wedding coordinator. Will the fabulous Jan Mayer please take a bow. Wonderful job, Jan, but next time please find my husband a tux that fits him. Incidentally, the latest report from Saint James is that Ivor Molly is rapidly recovering from his appendicitis attack. He sends his best wishes to Jackie and Pete, and the all rest of us. 'Dearly beloved we are gathered …', isn't that something wonderful? Is there, in this callous, iconoclastic age any tradition more worth our respect and reverence, than the institution of the American marriage? … and didn't she do a beautiful job? Didn't she shine? Reverend Healy, you've got what it takes. Praise the lord. Stand up woman!
—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.

When several guests interjected ‘Hallelujahs' into their applause for Reverend Healy, the one and only Afro-American in the room, Gabriella wished she'd skipped her ‘Praise the Lord' ad lib. She then turned her head slowly to face Jackie's parents.
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:

—Mrs Diamond … Jack … Nurse Wilson.
—Ladies and Gentlemen.

—I am sure by now most of us have had an opportunity to speak with Jack – those little bible pamphlets in everyone's pockets are witness to that. And if you get the chance, ladies, I would also recommend a chat with Nancy Wilson, who, I have discovered, knows needle-point like none. Folks, I give you West Kansas Needlepoint Champion three years running, Nancy Wilson … and sitting in between them, supported by Jack and Nancy's loving, unselfish, tender devotion, a beautiful woman – her presence here tonight bearing witness to life's flickering, fragile, but imperishable flame … Jill, I know you can hear me. I know what is in your heart at this moment, the pride, joy and happiness you are feeling for your daughter on this magical day. Jill, we love you.
—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 to-night 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.

—God bless you, Gabby! said Jack Diamond loudly.
—Hear, hear! said Mr Browne loudly.

—And God bless you, Jack, she replied. An exaggerated perplexed look came over her face and she theatrically reached for her glasses and her notes on the table … Let's see, have I forgotten someone? Ah, now I remember. She put down her notes and turned to the bride and groom.
—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.

—Look at them. Look at these two beautiful people. Stand up kids. Let's hear it for them. Don't sit on your hands, my friends. Don't be shy. Show your love for this perfect couple – this marriage made in heaven. Rejoice in their happiness. Bask in their sunshine. Celebrate them, people. Celebrate!
—Therefore, I will not linger on the past. I will not let any gloomy moralising intrude upon us here to-night. 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.

Giles asked someone to make sure the video cameras were rolling.
The table burst into applause and laughter at this sally. Aunt Julia vainly asked each of her neighbours in turn to tell her what Gabriel had said.

—What a pro she is, said Jan Mayer.
—He says we are the Three Graces, Aunt Julia, said Mary Jane.

Giles nodded, rocking his bulbous frame back and forth in his chair. Elisabeth's make-up was dissolving in a flood of tears. Gabby paused until the room grew silent.
Aunt Julia did not understand but she looked up, smiling, at Gabriel, who continued in the same vein:

—Dearest Jackie. My adorable brother, Peter.
—Ladies and Gentlemen.

—So many decisions to make. So many choices. So many forks and bends in the road ahead. But the highway is wide open. And the fast lane is yours for the taking. And through teamwork – and Jackie, make damn sure you're in that driver's seat at least half of the trip – through teamwork together you'll get where you want to be. To where only love can take us … This road is not perfect. There are potholes, and detours, traffic jams and speed traps. Accidents can happen, and believe me, they will, but, oh God, then there are those moments when you just sail along with the top down, the wind blowing through your hair, under a blue-sky'd, sunlit heaven, your favorite tune blasting away on the radio, and nothing, nothing, nothing can slow you down or get in your way … that is, until you run out of gas, and have to make a road stop, and end up drinking some of the worst coffee in America …
—I will not attempt to play to-night 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 to-night, 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 prize.

When the laughter had died down, she raised her glass on high, taking in the entire hall with one final sweep.
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 drink a toast to the stars of this show and while we're at it, why not a toast to ourselves for our great fortune in being here, knowing them, loving them and sharing in the most wonderful moment of their lives.
—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.

The band, having missed the cue prearranged by Gabriella, had to be prompted by a wave of her hand. The piano player hit E-flat and the wedding singer began:
All the guests stood up, glass in hand, and, turning towards the three seated ladies, sang in unison, with Mr Browne as leader:

There's nothing you can say that can't be sung

There's nothing you can do that can't be done

There's nothing you can say … it's easy
For they are jolly gay fellows,
For they are jolly gay fellows, For they are jolly gay fellows,
Which nobody can deny.

Swinging their glasses wildly, a boisterous, jubilant chorus of voices joined in.
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:

Love, love, love

Love, love, love – it's easy.
Unless he tells a lie,
Unless he tells a lie,

The 7/8 cadence of the bridge caused some false starts and nervous laughter and then the entire room joined in on the mighty chorus.
Then, turning once more towards their hostesses, they sang:

All you need is love
   Brr-rumpdi-dum, filled in the more vocally bold

All you need is love
   Brr-rumpdi-dum, repeated the more vocally bold

Love is all you need
For they are jolly gay fellows,
For they are jolly gay felllows,
For they arre jolly gay fellows
Which nobody can deny

 

The jubilation that ended the song shook the banquet hall floor like a tsunami. Carmen, also in tears, said she needed a Ketel One straight-up right away. And Jack Diamond and his daughter took their places on the dance floor.
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 Boulderado, weary from food, drink and music, was ready for bed. In the banquet hall, servers grew less timid in their forays at the tables, picking what they could around lingering guests.
The piercing morning air came into the hall where they were standing so that Aunt Kate said:

—I suppose we should be getting out of here, these people all want to get home, said Ponzy. Where's that Jack of Diamonds?
—Close the door, somebody. Mrs Malins will get her death of cold.

—He is down in the kitchen, said Jan Mayer. Doing missionary work amongst the Latinos I suppose.
—Browne is out there, Aunt Kate, said Mary Jane.

—Doesn't he ever give up, said Elisabeth frowning.
—Browne is everywhere, said Aunt Kate, lowering her voice.

Jan Mayer laughed.
Mary Jane laughed at her tone.

—Why? He's winning hearts and saving souls right and left. We should send him to Afghanistan.
—Really, she said archly, he is very attentive.

—Be damned if he'll have me in church tomorrow, said Giles – or is it today? He looked at his watch muttered something about forgetting his medicine and left the table.
—He has been laid on here like the gas, said Aunt Kate in the same tone, all during the Christmas.

Tish called after him as he started off down the stairs:
She laughed herself this time good-humouredly and then added quickly:

—Don't forget your Creatine
—But tell him to come in, Mary Jane, and close the door. I hope to goodness he didn't hear me.

At that moment the serving elevator door opened and Jack Diamond appeared shepherding a bewildered little man in green overalls, white apron, and red headscarf. Jack presented him as his new friend Victor, and had him shake hands with everyone before letting him return to the kitchen.
At that moment the hall-door was opened and Mr Browne came in from the doorstep, laughing as if his heart would break. He was dressed in a long green overcoat with mock astrakhan cuffs and collar and wore on his head an oval fur cap. He pointed down the snow-covered quay from where the sound of shrill prolonged whistling was borne in.

—Can you believe it? That good fellow and I belong to the same church, exclaimed Jack. And I who thought they were all charter members of the Pope's Rosary Club.
—Teddy will have all the cabs in Dublin out, he said. Gabriel advanced from the little pantry behind the office, struggling into his overcoat and, looking round the hall, said:

—I can't find Garett, said Gabriella coming up the lobby stairway.
—Gretta not down yet?

—He's doing his thing, Gabby, said Elisabeth. She pointed to the end of the hall from where they could hear meditative, tinkering music.
—She's getting on her things, Gabriel, said Aunt Kate.

—Oh, he finally got to the piano. Is he playing for someone? asked Gabriella.
—Who's playing up there? asked Gabriel.

—Nobody – everyone's gone, said Tish.
—Nobody. They're all gone.

—Wrong, said Jan Mayer. Burger Bob is in there, adding with a coy smile: And if I'm not mistaken so is Wendy.
—O no, Aunt Kate, said Mary Jane. Bartell D'Arcy and Miss O'Callaghan aren't gone yet.

—Well they better hurry up if they're going to do the town with the rest of us, said Carmen.
—Someone is strumming at the piano, anyhow, said Gabriel.

Jan Mayer glanced from Gabriella to Carmen and said, delicately covering a yawn with the back of his hand:
Mary Jane glanced at Gabriel and Mr Browne and said with a shiver:

—Hard to imagine how you all can keep going. Another party after all we have been through today?
—It makes me feel cold to look at you two gentlemen muffled up like that. I wouldn't like to face your journey home at this hour.

—Well, I think we all need some good hot coffee to get us back in the groove, said Carmen. I'll see if I can find someone to make it for us.
—I'd like nothing better this minute, said Mr Browne stoutly, than a rattling fine walk in the country or a fast drive with a good spanking goer between the shafts.

—What was Tory like, Tish asked Gabriella when Carmen had gone. I know from pictures that she was a very beautiful woman.
—We used to have a very good horse and trap at home, said Aunt Julia sadly.

—Very, said Gabby, but above all she was a dedicated mother. The greatest sadness in my life is that she is not alive for me to thank her for what I have become. I might have surprised her.
—The never-to-be-forgotten Johnny, said Mary Jane, laughing.

The others all laughed.
Aunt Kate and Gabriel laughed too.

—How did she meet Giles? asked Tish.
—Why, what was wonderful about Johnny? asked Mr Browne.

—She worked in a coffee shop where Giles was a regular. He ate the same breakfast every morning, sitting in the same bar stool, with the same paper, and the same waitress – my mother. She knew little about him, though she'd seen him park his Ferrari in the lot.
—The late lamented Patrick Morkan, our grandfather, that is, explained Gabriel, commonly known in his later years as the old gentleman, was a glue-boiler.

—I think it was a Maserati, said Elisabeth. His wife at the time, Margaret, had a thing for Maseratis.
—O, now, Gabriel, said Aunt Kate, laughing, he had a starch mill.

—Well it wasn't a jalopy like mom drove, said Gabby laughing. Anyway, one day Giles, after a year of "the usual" breakfasts, completely out of the blue, with a fork of eggs still in his mouth, asked my mother out. And she just stood there staring at his ring. Once he'd explained that he was at the end of a divorce she said yes.
—Well, glue or starch, said Gabriel, the old gentleman had a horse by the name of Johnny. And Johnny used to work in the old gentleman's mill, walking round and round in order to drive the mill. That was all very well; but now comes the tragic part about Johnny. One fine day the old gentleman thought he'd like to drive out with the quality to a military review in the park.

—How romantic, said Tish.
—The Lord have mercy on his soul, said Aunt Kate compassionately.

—Amen, said Gabriella. So she went out and bought a killer dress, which, believe me, meant putting a dent in the cookie jar. She had him pick her up at the coffee shop 'cause she didn't want him to see how we lived – or perhaps that she had two kids. The other waitresses were green with envy when she got into his car.
—Amen, said Gabriel. So the old gentleman, as I said, harnessed Johnny and put on his very best tall hat and his very best stock collar and drove out in grand style from his ancestral mansion somewhere near Back Lane, I think.

They all laughed at the thought of it.
Everyone laughed, even Mrs Malins, at Gabriel's manner and Aunt Kate said:

—But Giles loves children. It wouldn't have mattered to him, said Elisabeth.
—O now, Gabriel, he didn't live in Back Lane, really. Only the mill was there.

—He was taking her to Delmonico's, continued Gabby. And, well, you can just imagine her sitting next to him in that car with that dress barely – she had legs, let me tell you – and just looking and smelling so good. Giles could have run over half a dozen pedestrians and never known it.
—Out from the mansion of his forefathers, continued Gabriel, he drove with Johnny. And everything went on beautifully until Johnny came in sight of King Billy's statue: and whether he fell in love with the horse King Billy sits on or whether he thought he was back again in the mill, anyhow he began to walk round the statue.

Gabby did a little pantomime of Giles driving like a fool, staring at her mother.
Gabriel paced in a circle round the hall in his goloshes amid the laughter of the others.

—At the restaurant, when the cocktail waitress came over to get their drink orders and mom looked up from the menu, all she could see was her dress – the very same dress on the waitress – it was, like, their uniform – and Tory – she died. She told Giles she had to go to the ladies and she ran out the back door and walked home in her heels – four miles – crying all the way. The next day Giles got her number from the coffee shop, called her up and asked her to marry him. And he didn't balk when she told him about me and Conny.
—Round and round he went, said Gabriel, and the old gentleman, who was a very pompous old gentleman, was highly indignant. Go on, sir! What do you mean, sir? Johnny! Johnny! Most extraordinary conduct! Can't understand the horse!

The laughter which followed Gabriella's story was interrupted by Giles and Carmen with a waiter in tow, balancing a trayful of Irish coffees.
The peals of laughter which followed Gabriel's imitation of the incident were interrupted by a resounding knock at the hall- door. Mary Jane ran to open it and let in Freddy Malins. Freddy Malins, with his hat well back on his head and his shoulders humped with cold, was puffing and steaming after his exertions.

—Take your medicine everybody, said Carmen. Everyone's gone to the "Four Quarts". I've got directions and a cab is waiting.
—I could only get one cab, he said.

—Well you go ahead, we'll get the next one, said Gabriella, hoping to avoid going at all. Garett has found a piano, and you know how he is.
—O, we'll find another along the quay, said Gabriel.

—Yes, you better get started, said Elisabeth, before Ponzy takes his plate for a pillow. But I'm afraid Eliot and I are already w-a-a-a-y past our bed time.
—Yes, said Aunt Kate. Better not keep Mrs Malins standing in the draught.

Giles also demurred, though he encouraged Tish to go if she wished. She said that as long as they had taken a room at the hotel, they ought spend some time in it. Ponzy was helped down the stairs by his wife – who could have used some help herself – and together with the inextinguishable Jack Diamond they got into the waiting cab. There was a good deal of confusion as to just where the Four Courts was located. The driver, a chemistry student from Minsk, who had apparently been hired without the vaguest notion as to the street layout of Boulder, drew a blank at the directions Carmen and Ponzy - which were conflicting in any case - tried to give him. The bellhop, seeing their difficulty came over and tried to speak Spanish with the Ukrainian.
Mrs Malins was helped down the front steps by her son and Mr Browne and, after many manoeuvres, hoisted into the cab. Freddy Malins clambered in after her and spent a long time settling her on the seat, Mr Browne helping him with advice. At last she was settled comfortably and Freddy Malins invited Mr Browne into the cab. There was a good deal of confused talk, and then Mr Browne got into the cab. The cabman settled his rug over his knees, and bent down for the address. The confusion grew greater and the cabman was directed differently by Freddy Malins and Mr Browne, each of whom had his head out through a window of the cab. The difficulty was to know where to drop Mr Browne along the route and Aunt Kate, Aunt Julia and Mary Jane helped the discussion from the doorstep with cross-directions and contradictions and abundance of laughter. As for Freddy Malins he was speechless with laughter. He popped his head in and out of the window every moment, to the great danger of his hat, and told his mother how the discussion was progressing till at last Mr Browne shouted to the bewildered cabman above the din of everybody's laughter:

—Conózcale Arapahoe? he asked through her window.
—Do you know Trinity College?

——No. I'm Dashkevich, answered the driver.
—Yes, sir, said the cabman.

—What ever is going to become of this country? said Diamond.
—Well, drive bang up against Trinity College gates, said Mr Browne, and then we'll tell you where to go. You understand now?

—You're asking me? said the driver.
—Yes, sir, said the cabman.

—Look, said Carmen. Just drive straight on until I tell you to turn.
—Make like a bird for Trinity College.

—Yes, Ma'am, answered the driver.
—Right, sir, cried the cabman.

He punched both the meter and his gas pedal enthusiastically.
The horse was whipped up and the cab rattled off along the quay amid a chorus of laughter and adieus.

Upstairs Gabriella sat quietly at the table with Tish. The man playing the piano in that dark room – she could not see his face, but she recognized the rivulets of black notes and accentuated arpeggios that he loved to immerse himself in – her husband. He was playing so quietly that Gabriella had to strain her ears to listen against the commotion of waiters folding up the last of the serving tables. Then she heard the voice of a man singing. It wasn't Garett. And the piano playing shifted into a stumbling sequence of rusty bar-piano chord progressions. The spell was broken.
Gabriel had not gone to the door with the others. He was in a dark part of the hall gazing up the staircase. A woman was standing near the top of the first flight, in the shadow also. He could not see her face but he could see the terracotta and salmonpink panels of her skirt which the shadow made appear black and white. It was his wife. She was leaning on the banisters, listening to something. Gabriel was surprised at her stillness and strained his ear to listen also. But he could hear little save the noise of laughter and dispute on the front steps, a few chords struck on the piano and a few notes of a man's voice singing.

Garett wasn't much of an accompanist. He preferred just playing for himself: always said his music was his mystery and he never wanted to know where it led. It certainly had always been a mystery to her – a gap between them she could never breech. He had been talking lately about doing a new album though he hadn't been in the studio since they had adopted the kids. She hoped he would go through with it. What fun to market it for him. If he'd let her, she'd name it: Distant Music.
He stood still in the gloom of the hall, trying to catch the air that the voice was singing and gazing up at his wife. There was grace and mystery in her attitude as if she were a symbol of something. He asked himself what is a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow, listening to distant music, a symbol of. If he were a painter he would paint her in that attitude. Her blue felt hat would show off the bronze of her hair against the darkness and the dark panels of her skirt would show off the light ones. Distant Music he would call the picture if he were a painter.

Giles, Elisabeth, Ponzy, and Jan Mayer, still laughing after waving off the taxi, returned to Gabby and Tish at the table.
The hall-door was closed; and Aunt Kate, Aunt Julia and Mary Jane came down the hall, still laughing.

—Poor Ponzy, said Jan Mayer. How she does drag him around. Carmen might as well have him on roller skates with a leash.
—Well, isn't Freddy terrible? said Mary Jane. He's really terrible.

Gabriella said nothing, but held up her hand for them to be silent, pointing off to where her husband was now accompanying the unfamiliar voice. The tune was recognizable though the singer was fumbling with the lyrics.
Gabriel said nothing but pointed up the stairs towards where his wife was standing. Now that the hall-door was closed the voice and the piano could be heard more clearly. Gabriel held up his hand for them to be silent. The song seemed to be in the old Irish tonality and the singer seemed uncertain both of his words and of his voice. The voice, made plaintive by distance and by the singer's hoarseness, faintly illuminated the cadence of the air with words expressing grief:

You're lovely
never never change
keep you breathless touch
darling please arrange it
'cause I love you…
div>
O, the rain falls on my heavy locks
And the dew wets my skin,
My babe lies cold …

—O, exclaimed Jan Mayer. It's Burger Bob singing and he wouldn't sing all night. Only now when everybody's gone. Isn't that …
—O, exclaimed Mary Jane. It's Bartell D'Arcy singing and he wouldn't sing all the night. O, I'll get him to sing a song before he goes.

—Well, we're still here, said Tish. Let's go listen.
—O do, Mary Jane, said Aunt Kate.

Before they got halfway over to the piano the singing and playing had stopped and Garett followed by Burger Bob and Wendy came towards them.
Mary Jane brushed past the others and ran to the staircase but before she reached it the singing stopped and the piano was closed abruptly.

—That's a shame, said Eliot. We were just coming to hear you. It sounded really great.
—O, what a pity! she cried. Is he coming down, Gretta? Gabriel heard his wife answer yes and saw her come down towards them. A few steps behind her were Mr Bartell D'Arcy and Miss O'Callaghan.

—O, Bob and Garett, Tish chimed in. What meanies you are to stop just when we were coming to listen.
—O, Mr D'Arcy, cried Mary Jane, it's downright mean of you to break off like that when we were all in raptures listening to you.

—Everyone has been after you two all night to perform, and you have made so many poor excuses, said Mayer.
—I have been at him all the evening, said Miss O'Callaghan, and Mrs Conroy too and he told us he had a dreadful cold and couldn't sing.

—And now when there is no one to hear you…
—O, Mr D'Arcy, said Aunt Kate, now that was a great fib to tell.

—We weren't putting on a show, said Burger Bob curtly, while Garett merely looked the other way.
—Can't you see that I'm as hoarse as a crow? said Mr D'Arcy roughly.

—Well if you are going to catch up with the others you had better get a move on it, said Elisabeth. And make sure you have some wraps. It's cold out there.
He went into the pantry hastily and put on his overcoat. The others, taken aback by his rude speech, could find nothing to say. Aunt Kate wrinkled her brows and made signs to the others to drop the subject. Mr D'Arcy stood swathing his neck carefully and frowning.

—Typical Colorado weather, said Tish.
—It's the weather, said Aunt Julia, after a pause.

—Yes, and famous it is for giving us colds, said Elisabeth
—Yes, everybody has colds, said Aunt Kate readily, everybody.

—Actually, it is not typical at all, said Giles. It's a record breaking winter. On television they say that all of the central western states are covered in at least 10 inches of snow.
—They say, said Mary Jane, we haven't had snow like it for thirty years; and I read this morning in the newspapers that the snow is general all over Ireland.

They're generalizing, said Burger Bob. It's raining in Las Cruces.
—I love the look of snow, said Aunt Julia sadly.

—Well the snow certainly made a wonderful backdrop for the wedding, said Wendy. It couldn't have been more romantic, if you ask me.
—So do I, said Miss O'Callaghan. I think Christmas is never really Christmas unless we have the snow on the ground.

—Bob doesn't like a lot of snow, because then people can't visit his drive-thrus, said Elisabeth, smiling.
—But poor Mr D'Arcy doesn't like the snow, said Aunt Kate, smiling.

Gabby would have given anything not to go anywhere, to just be alone with Garett, but she had promised Elisabeth to look out for Carmen and get her home safely. She wondered why Elisabeth was so concerned about Carmen whom she obviously didn't like and hardly ever spoke to. Garett stood aloof. Lost. In another world as usual. Distant Garett. Beautiful distant Garett. She went to stand beside him and took his hand.
Mr D'Arcy came from the pantry, fully swathed and buttoned, and in a repentant tone told them the history of his cold. Everyone gave him advice and said it was a great pity and urged him to be very careful of his throat in the night air. Gabriel watched his wife who did not join in the conversation. She was standing right under the dusty fanlight and the flame of the gas lit up the rich bronze of her hair which he had seen her drying at the fire a few days before. She was in the same attitude and seemed unaware of the talk about her. At last she turned towards them and Gabriel saw that there was colour on her checks and that her eyes were shining. A sudden tide of joy went leaping out of his heart.

—Bob, Tish asked, what was the name of that song you were singing?
—Mr D'Arcy, she said, what is the name of that song you were singing?

—The way you look tonight, said Burger Bob. I thought everybody knew it.
—It's called The Lass of Aughrim, said Mr D'Arcy, but I couldn't remember it properly. Why? Do you know it?

—Yes of course, The way you look tonight, she repeated. I just couldn't think of the name.
—The Lass of Aughrim, she repeated. I couldn't think of the name.

—A classic wedding reception piece, to be sure, said Jan Mayer.
—It's a very nice air, said Mary Jane. I'm sorry you were not in voice to-night.

—Don't get on his case, Jan, reprimanded Giles.
—Now, Mary Jane, said Aunt Kate, don't annoy Mr D'Arcy. I won't have him annoyed.

They wandered together down into the lobby. Burger Bob asked the bellhop to find them a taxi.
Seeing that all were ready to start she shepherded them to the door where good-night was said:

—Well good night, Giles, and thank you for a terrific party, he said.
—Well, good-night, Aunt Kate, and thanks for the pleasant evening.

—Good night, Gabby. Good night Garett, and don't get into trouble at that club.
—Good-night, Gabriel. Good-night, Gretta!

—Good night Elisabeth, it's been wonderful. What do you say Tish – not too late to join us?
—Good-night, Aunt Kate, and thanks ever so much. Good- night, Aunt Julia.

—Oh, my place is here with Giles, she answered. It's good night for me.
—O, good-night, Gretta, I didn't see you.

—Good night Gabby, Wendy.
—Good-night, Mr D'Arcy. Good-night, Miss O'Callaghan.

—Your shoe is untied, Garett, said Eliot.
—Good-night, Miss Morkan.

—Thank you, Eliot, said Garett.
—Good-night, again.

—Good night everybody. Don't be too late – church tomorrow, said Giles
—Good-night, all. Safe home.

—Good night, we love you, said Tish.
—Good-night. Good-night.

The Four Quarts, a dark, dull-yellow-lit, low-ceilinged basement club lacking in both headroom and a life-sustainable supply of oxygen was jammed to the walls with college students and many of the younger Karmon wedding guests. Burger Bob and Wendy had hardly gotten down the stairs before falling into a rhythmless clutch – a dance without legroom, his right hand tapping paradiddles on her butt, their eyes and ears blissfully shut to the strobelight dissected discjockey menacingly waving his vinyl orbs in the misty smear of a fog-machine. Garett shuffled off towards the bar to get beers none of them really wanted.
The morning was still dark. A dull yellow light brooded over the houses and the river; and the sky seemed to be descending. It was slushy underfoot; and only streaks and patches of snow lay on the roofs, on the parapets of the quay and on the area railings. The lamps were still burning redly in the murky air and, across the river, the palace of the Four Courts stood out menacingly against the heavy sky.

If Carmen, Ponzy, and Jack were tucked in here somewhere, Gabriella couldn't see them. Other wedding guests came up thanking her for her speech, or so she assumed, for no matter how loud they shouted (and spat saliva) into her ear, it was impossible to fathom a word of what they were saying.
She was walking on before him with Mr Bartell D'Arcy, her shoes in a brown parcel tucked under one arm and her hands holding her skirt up from the slush. She had no longer any grace of attitude but Gabriel's eyes were still bright with happiness. The blood went bounding along his veins; and the thoughts went rioting through his brain, proud, joyful, tender, valorous.

Garett returned with four Tecates, looking lost and distracted as usual, and as usual, the lost women in the room were distracted by her beautiful Garett — like flies sizing up a particularly sweet variety of flypaper. She wanted to grab him and yank him out of here. She shut out the clamor and unpleasantness of the club with memories of their life together: lying in bed with her laptop on her knees reading his first email. He had typed only a solitary '?'. This guy thinks he's Victor Hugo, she had laughed to herself, and mailed him back the '!' he had been hoping for … On the beach at Rarotonga under a parasol of palms, brushing sand from his browned shoulders, both laughing at the sight of that hermit crab running about in a Coca Cola can … Out front of a bar in the California desert on a starry, hot, pungent night, watching a motorcycle gang romping it up on their Harleys, doing wheelies and guzzling tequila from half-quart bottles, and true to form Garett had called out to one of the bikers:
She was walking on before him so lightly and so erect that he longed to run after her noiselessly, catch her by the shoulders and say something foolish and affectionate into her ear. She seemed to him so frail that he longed to defend her against something and then to be alone with her. Moments of their secret life together burst like stars upon his memory. A heliotrope envelope was lying beside his breakfast-cup and he was caressing it with his hand. Birds were twittering in the ivy and the sunny web of the curtain was shimmering along the floor: he could not eat for happiness. They were standing on the crowded platform and he was placing a ticket inside the warm palm of her glove. He was standing with her in the cold, looking in through a grated window at a man making bottles in a roaring furnace. It was very cold. Her face, fragrant in the cold air, was quite close to his; and suddenly she called out to the man at the furnace:

—Does it go fast, buddy?
—Is the fire hot, sir?

But the man could not hear him over the roar of the motorcycles, which was a lucky thing, for they might of thought he was being impertinent.
But the biker could not hear him over the roar of engines, which was fortunate, for they might have thought he was messin' with them.

What he knew about her, what she knew about him, what no one else could ever know. These secret thoughts illumined her memory. She longed to remind him of those moments, their moments of brilliance and ecstasy. They were not done, of course – there was more to come. But sometimes she felt there were no more words, as if they had used them all up.
A wave of yet more tender joy escaped from his heart and went coursing in warm flood along his arteries. Like the tender fires of stars moments of their life together, that no one knew of or would ever know of, broke upon and illumined his memory. He longed to recall to her those moments, to make her forget the years of their dull existence together and remember only their moments of ecstasy. For the years, he felt, had not quenched his soul or hers. Their children, his writing, her household cares had not quenched all their souls' tender fire. In one letter that he had written to her then he had said: Why is it that words like these seem to me so dull and cold? Is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name?

She longed to be rid the stifling air of the club, she wanted to be in bed with him beside her. She shouted over the cacophonic ocean of noise:
Like distant music these words that he had written years before were borne towards him from the past. He longed to be alone with her. When the others had gone away, when he and she were in their room in the hotel, then they would be alone together. He would call her softly:

—Garett!
—Gretta!

He did not hear her. She grabbed him by the arm and motioned with her head towards the door. Wendy and Burger Bob saw this and followed them out.
Perhaps she would not hear at once: she would be undressing. Then something in his voice would strike her. She would turn and look at him… .

A Victorian horse and carriage, complete with costumed driver and cozy plaid blankets, waited invitingly outside the Four Quarts, but Gabby told the driver: Sorry, but after all we are living in the twenty-first century, and together with Wendy and Bob they hoped into a heliotrope-colored, neon-light festooned, disco-taxi. Gabby took the front seat and for once was glad for loud music, for Garett had an annoying compulsion for chitchatting with cab drivers.
At the corner of Winetavern Street they met a cab. He was glad of its rattling noise as it saved him from conversation. She was looking out of the window and seemed tired. The others spoke only a few words, pointing out some building or street. The horse galloped along wearily under the murky morning sky, dragging his old rattling box after his heels, and Gabriel was again in a cab with her, galloping to catch the boat, galloping to their honeymoon.

But the music wasn't loud enough. Soon after leaving the club, Garett shouted from his backseat to the driver:
As the cab drove across O'Connell Bridge Miss O'Callaghan said:

—How tall is that Earl Boykins, anyway?
—They say you never cross O'Connell Bridge without seeing a white horse.

—He's five foot five, the driver shouted back.
—I see a white man this time, said Gabriel.

—Jesus, how does he do it?
Where? asked Mr Bartell D'Arcy.

And Garett pointed out for Gabriella a bus stop shelter billboard promoting the Denver Nuggets. Rising from a socle of white snow, four deadly-serious afro-American giants dwarfed a fawn-eyed boy holding a basketball. Gabby waved to the fawn-eyed boy.
Gabriel pointed to the statue, on which lay patches of snow. Then he nodded familiarly to it and waved his hand.

—Good-night, Earl, she said, wistfully.
—Good-night, Dan, he said gaily.

When the cab drew up before the hotel Gabriella, outdrawing Burger Bob, handed the driver a twenty and keep-the-change, and he ought to offer earplugs if he couldn't turn down his sound system.
When the cab drew up before the hotel Gabriel jumped out and, in spite of Mr Bartell D'Arcy's protest, paid the driver. He gave the man a shilling over his fare. The man saluted and said:

—That's a good idea, Ma'am.
—A prosperous New Year to you, sir.

—You're welcome to it, said Gabby.
—The same to you, said Gabriel cordially.

Garett helped her out of the cab. He held her hand lightly as when they had danced at the reception. She had felt proud and happy then – and loved. This touch aroused her once again. She pressed his arm closely to her side. They were nearing their freedom, approaching the end of their escape tunnel. From the street she could see the light left on in their room. Refuge from all the Burger Bobs and Ivor Mollys and religious fanatics and hypocrites and everyone in general. Everyone who lacked wisdom, courage or taste … so many genuinely unattractive people. As they stood at the hotel entrance door, she rubbed his cheek with her nose.
She leaned for a moment on his arm in getting out of the cab and while standing at the curbstone, bidding the others good- night. She leaned lightly on his arm, as lightly as when she had danced with him a few hours before. He had felt proud and happy then, happy that she was his, proud of her grace and wifely carriage. But now, after the kindling again of so many memories, the first touch of her body, musical and strange and perfumed, sent through him a keen pang of lust. Under cover of her silence he pressed her arm closely to his side; and, as they stood at the hotel door, he felt that they had escaped from their lives and duties, escaped from home and friends and run away together with wild and radiant hearts to a new adventure.

The lobby was dark. The bellman dozed on a chair and Wendy and Burger Bob tiptoed to the elevator waving silent, preoccupied good nights. Garett, who had come to life in the disco-taxi, zigzagged up the stairway in goose-steps, dribbling an imaginary basketball. She couldn't resist tripping him up with her hand, and he fell to one knee, giving out a cry, waking up the bellman. They apologized profusely. In the hallway on the second floor, the door lock reproached them with flashes of red when Garett fed it his plastic key-card. A thumping noise and guttered gasps could be heard from within. Gabriella and Garett giggled like little children. The next lock they tried two doors down was more obliging.
An old man was dozing in a great hooded chair in the hall. He lit a candle in the office and went before them to the stairs. They followed him in silence, their feet falling in soft thuds on the thickly carpeted stairs. She mounted the stairs behind the Porter, her head bowed in the ascent, her frail shoulders curved as with a burden, her skirt girt tightly about her. He could have flung his arms about her hips and held her still for his arms were trembling with desire to seize her and only the stress of his nails against the palms of his hands held the wild impulse of his body in check. The porter halted on the stairs to settle his guttering candle. They halted too on the steps below him. In the silence Gabriel could hear the falling of the molten wax into the tray and the thumping of his own heart against his ribs.

Their bed was turned down and there were chocolate mints on their pillows with a handwritten note from Juana, their room maid, who was delighted to continue serving them.
The porter led them along a corridor and opened a door. Then he set his unstable candle down on a toilet-table and asked at what hour they were to be called in the morning.

—'After Eights'! What a considerate woman Juana must be, said Gabby.
—Eight, said Gabriel.

Garett turned on the TV. Animated snow crystals were falling over the Rockies.
The porter pointed to the tap of the electric-light and began a muttered apology but Gabriel cut him short.

—We don't need the media to tell us it's snowing, dear. We can see that well enough just looking out the window. Extinguish that contraption, like a good boy.
—We don't want any light. We have light enough from the street. And I say, he added, pointing to the candle, you might remove that handsome article, like a good man.

She hanged the “Do-Not-Disturb” sign on the outside doorknob and turned off the overhead lights.
The porter took up his candle again, but slowly for he was surprised by such a novel idea. Then he mumbled good-night and went out. Gabriel shot the lock to.

Garett unhooked his tie while looking at himself in a full length mirror. Gabriella threw off her jacket and crossed the room to the window where flakes of snow dashed and dissolved on the pane. She turned away, with her back to the lights of the street, and removed her blouse. Softly, she called to him:
A ghostly light from the street lamp lay in a long shaft from one window to the door. Gabriel threw his overcoat and hat on a couch and crossed the room towards the window. He looked down into the street in order that his emotion might calm a little. Then he turned and leaned against a chest of drawers with his back to the light. She had taken off her hat and cloak and was standing before a large swinging mirror, unhooking her waist. Gabriel paused for a few moments, watching her, and then said:

—Garett!
—Gretta!

He turned away from the mirror and walked towards her.
She turned away from the mirror slowly and walked along the shaft of light towards him. Her face looked so serious and weary that the words would not pass Gabriel's lips. No, it was not the moment yet.

—You're not too tired to help me with my bra, are you dear? she said, turning again to look out over the wintry street.
—You looked tired, he said.

—I suppose I can muster some last little joule of energy for such an agreeable task, he answered, yet in a more mechanical than earnest tone.
—I am a little, she answered.

—Well, you know what I've taught you about keeping a woman waiting, she said.
—You don't feel ill or weak?

—Yes, you said, never keep a woman waiting, he answered with a smile.
—No, tired: that's all.

He loosened the clasps of her bra, and parting the straps gently across her shoulders, let it fall to the floor. Both could see their reflections in the hotel window, the dark brown of her nipples crowned her snow white breasts. But his eyes were focused past the window pane to the streets below. Her hands, which had been fingering his belt behind her, fell to her sides and she glided away from him to the arm of a stuffed chair.
She went on to the window and stood there, looking out. Gabriel waited again and then, fearing that diffidence was about to conquer him, he said abruptly:

—You know what Garett?
—By the way, Gretta!

—What?
—What is it?

—Carmen, she answered. I promised Elisabeth to watch out for her but she wasn't at the Four Quarts. I have no idea what happened to her. What if…
—You know that poor fellow Malins? he said quickly.

—They probably ended up in some other bar. Carmen wouldn't have know the difference.
—Yes. What about him?

—Can you believe she told me today I was the main reason she married Giles? To protect me from him? Amazing, if it's true. I wonder who she thought she was protecting when she married Ponzy? What a dullard.
—Well, poor fellow, he's a decent sort of chap after all, continued Gabriel in a false voice. He gave me back that sovereign I lent him and I didn't expect it really. It's a pity he wouldn't keep away from that Browne, because he's not a bad fellow at heart.

Garett nodded in agreement, still looking out the window. Irritation with his complacent, vacant, presence rose within her. Is this about me or is it him? She felt invisible and ignored. Desire me, stupid. Am I not desirable?
He was trembling now with annoyance. Why did she seem so abstracted? He did not know how he could begin. Was she annoyed, too, about something? If she would only turn to him or come to him of her own accord! To take her as she was would be brutal. No, he must see some ardour in her eyes first. He longed to be master of her strange mood.

—She didn't stay with Giles very long, did she, he said. She discovered you weren't so defenseless after all, or maybe she just got tired of being called Carmen Karmon.
—When did you lend him the pound? she asked, after a pause.

Why were they talking about Carmen? She didn't want to talk about Carmen or Giles or anybody. But she said:
Gabriel strove to restrain himself from breaking out into brutal language about the sottish Malins and his pound. He longed to cry to her from his soul, to crush her body against his, to overmaster her. But he said:

—Yeah, I could look after myself.
—O, at Christmas, when he opened that little Christmas- card shop in Henry Street.

She moved to the desk and sat down brushing her hair with aggravated strokes. She didn't hear Garett come to her from the window, bending over, cupping her thighs with his hands and gently kissing the nape of her neck.
He was in such a fever of rage and desire that he did not hear her come from the window. She stood before him for an instant, looking at him strangely. Then, suddenly raising herself on tiptoe and resting her hands lightly on his shoulders, she kissed him.

—You're strong Gabby and you're so beautiful, he whispered.
—You are a very generous person, Gabriel, she said.

She reached up and held his head to hers. He is such a slow starter, she thought – of course he had been longing for her. Of course. How could she have ever doubted it?
Gabriel, trembling with delight at her sudden kiss and at the quaintness of her phrase, put his hands on her hair and began smoothing it back, scarcely touching it with his fingers. The washing had made it fine and brilliant. His heart was brimming over with happiness. Just when he was wishing for it she had come to him of her own accord. Perhaps her thoughts had been running with his. Perhaps she had felt the impetuous desire that was in him and then the yielding mood had come upon her. Now that she had fallen to him so easily he wondered why he had been so diffident.

She turned around rising from the chair. Then, slipping one arm swiftly about his waist and drawing him towards her, she said:
He stood, holding her head between his hands. Then, slipping one arm swiftly about her body and drawing her towards him, he said softly:

Garett, where in the hell have you been all night?
—Gretta dear, what are you thinking about?

He did not answer, his body stiffened. She asked again, imploringly:
She did not answer nor yield wholly to his arm. He said again, softly:

—Tell me, Garett, what is the matter?
—Tell me what it is, Gretta. I think I know what is the matter. Do I know?

He looked away at a lithograph of the Matterhorn hanging over the bed.
She did not answer at once. Then she said in an outburst of tears:

—It's nothing. I was playing on that really nice Bφsendorfer, and he just walked up beside me and started singing, right out of the blue, and I had no choice but to accompany him. He just broke into my music and … I felt like I was being raped. He was assaulting me with his The Way You Look Tonight. What is it with that guy, just because he owns Burger King?
—O, I am thinking about that song, The Lass of Aughrim.

He turned away from her, shaking his head, and walked over to the bed. Gabriella, appealing with her eyes to an invisible audience, followed him. She caught sight of her bridesmaid's dress, lying limply on the armchair where she had thrown it when changing for the reception – a puzzling expression of prairie schooner billows and slick city cuts in lime green that some inept designer friend of Mayer's had ripped off Giles with. She thought of leaving it for Juana – a trade for the After Eights. She stopped just short of the bed and said:
She broke loose from him and ran to the bed and, throwing her arms across the bed-rail, hid her face. Gabriel stood stock-still for a moment in astonishment and then followed her. As he passed in the way of the cheval-glass he caught sight of himself in full length, his broad, well-filled shirt-front, the face whose expression always puzzled him when he saw it in a mirror and his glimmering gilt-rimmed eyeglasses. He halted a few paces from her and said:

—Nobody owns Burger King, Garett. It's a corporation. Bob just owns a lot of franchises. He only wanted to impress Wendy with his vocal talents. What does that have to do with us? Did that have to ruin our evening?
—What about the song? Why does that make you cry?

He looked up running his hand through his hair, but offered no answer. Gabby, in a voice she would have used with her children, repeated:
She raised her head from her arms and dried her eyes with the back of her hand like a child. A kinder note than he had intended went into his voice.

—Garett, what is going on?
—Why, Gretta? he asked.

—I was just thinking about the UK.
—I am thinking about a person long ago who used to sing that song.

—OK, so now we are thinking about the UK. Great. You know I was hoping we would get around to discussing the UK. That's all we needed to make this the perfect evening.
—And who was the person long ago? asked Gabriel, smiling.

—I was thinking about this time I was hitch-hiking to London from Belfast, he answered, as if oblivious to the irony in her voice. The ferry gets off in Stranraer. It was a long time ago. Long before you and I, of course.
—It was a person I used to know in Galway when I was living with my grandmother, she said.

Gabriella sighed heavily. This was her Garett in a nutshell. She contemplatively eyed her pillow.
The smile passed away from Gabriel's face. A dull anger began to gather again at the back of his mind and the dull fires of his lust began to glow angrily in his veins.

—Hitchhiking, she repeated, slowly.
—Someone you were in love with? he asked ironically.

—Outside of Stranraer, I got let off at some crossroad and there was another hitchhiker there, holding up a sign for London on a piece of cardboard.
—It was a young boy I used to know, she answered, named Michael Furey. He used to sing that song, The Lass of Aughrim. He was very delicate.

Gabriella said nothing. She assumed silence was the best way to minimize his narrative.
Gabriel was silent. He did not wish her to think that he was interested in this delicate boy.

—We teamed up and hitched together. I just happened to think of her – the look on her face when I left her in London. You see: the way she looked that night.
—I can see him so plainly, she said after a moment. Such eyes as he had: big dark eyes! And such an expression in them—an expression!

—Her? said Gabriella, coming to life. OK, so this is not about the UK or about hitchhiking – it's about a girl. You are not thinking about England, you are thinking about some English bitch who you were screwing in your salad days.
—O then, you were in love with him? said Gabriel.

—No, I didn't have sex with her. And she was Scots. We just hitch-hiked together – from Stranraer to London – that's all.
—I used to go out walking with him, she said, when I was in Galway.

Something clicked in Gabriella's head.
A thought flew across Gabriel's mind.

—So that's why you told Elisabeth you wanted to go back to England?
—Perhaps that was why you wanted to go to Galway with that Ivors girl? he said coldly.

He looked at her in surprise.
he looked at him and asked in surprise:

—For what?
—What for?

She shrugged sleepily:
Her eyes made Gabriel feel awkward. He shrugged his shoulders and said:

—How would I know? To see this girl again.
—How do I know? To see him perhaps.

He shook his head slowly, sighing:
She looked away from him along the shaft of light towards the window in silence.

—Hardly. How can you get worked up over some seventeen-year-old from my distant past, whose name I can't even remember?
—He is dead, she said at length. He died when he was only seventeen. Isn't it a terrible thing to die so young as that?

—So what's the big deal, Garett?
—What was he? asked Gabriel, still ironically.

—She was from the Gorbals in Glasgow, he said. Do you know it? It is quite a famous slum.
—He was in the gasworks, she said.

A famous slum? However she had seen herself in the wedding, marching down the aisle, giving that stupid speech, floating about the banquet room, not once doubting her own self – her charm and her beauty, not once doubting her ability to bring men to their knees – now, the one man who she allowed to share her life, the one man who mattered, was pushing her down with lovers from the past. Pop goes the balloon and it took just one little pinprick and it came from him, her husband, her man. She walked into the bathroom lest he see the devastation in her face.
Gabriel felt humiliated by the failure of his irony and by the evocation of this figure from the dead, a boy in the gasworks. While he had been full of memories of their secret life together, full of tenderness and joy and desire, she had been comparing him in her mind with another. A shameful consciousness of his own person assailed him. He saw himself as a ludicrous figure, acting as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealising his own clownish lusts, the pitiable fatuous fellow he had caught a glimpse of in the mirror. Instinctively he turned his back more to the light lest she might see the shame that burned upon his forehead.

She struggled to keep her voice indifferent.
He tried to keep up his tone of cold interrogation but his voice when he spoke was humble and indifferent.

—No, Garett. Sorry. I'm not familiar with all the famous slums in the world. And I think you are about to tell me you were in love. I think you were balling this gorgeous Gorbals girl, Garett.
—I suppose you were in love with this Michael Furey, Gretta, he said.

—I didn't … and she wasn't “gorgeous” – she was ugly. She was plain, skinny … ugly. That's the thing, you see?
—I was great with him at that time, she said.

His voice had modulated gradually into a sadder tone. Gabriella, beyond exasperation, peeped around through the bathroom door and recited slushingly, her mouth full of toothpaste:
Her voice was veiled and sad. Gabriel, feeling now how vain it would be to try to lead her whither he had purposed, caressed one of her hands and said, also sadly:

—She was just a young thin pale soft shy slim slip of a thing then.
—And what did he die of so young, Gretta? Consumption, was it?

—Where in the hell did you get that from? He stared at her frowning.
—I think he died for me, she answered.

She continued brushing, her naked breasts swinging in counterpoint to the vigorous strokes of her arm.
A vague terror seized Gabriel at this answer as if, at that hour when he had hoped to triumph, some impalpable and vindictive being was coming against him, gathering forces against him in its vague world. But he shook himself free of it with an effort of reason and continued to caress her hand. He did not question her again for he felt that she would tell him of herself. Her hand was warm and moist: it did not respond to his touch but he continued to caress it just as he had caressed her first letter to him that spring morning.

—After a lorry ride or two, we were left off at some cafι and we had tea together. She had a thick, comical accent like that janitor in the Simpson's, only for real. She was running away. Things were not good at home. It had something to do with her father; I think he drank and he beat her. And she didn't have a job – or maybe she had a job but it was a lousy job that she was sick of, and she had quit school too early, and there was no future in Glasgow for anyone, especially not for her. That was her story more or less.
—It was in the winter, she said, about the beginning of the winter when I was going to leave my grandmother's and come up here to the convent. And he was ill at the time in his lodgings in Galway and wouldn't be let out and his people in Oughterard were written to. He was in decline, they said, or something like that. I never knew rightly.

He paused, studying his hands before continuing.
She paused for a moment and sighed.

—And she listened rapturously to all my bullshit; about being born rich and leaving it, traveling all over Europe and Africa, singing in clubs and working on films. And she said that I was the most exciting person she had ever met. And she wasn't putting it on. She was, like, hopelessly defenseless. And I felt ridiculous for it.
—Poor fellow, she said. He was very fond of me and he was such a gentle boy. We used to go out together, walking, you know, Gabriel, like the way they do in the country. He was going to study singing only for his health. He had a very good voice, poor Michael Furey.

—Why? You were born lucky and you ran with it.
—Well; and then? asked Gabriel.

—Yeah, but it was all so circumstantial. I was so circumstantial. And such an asshole. When we got in cars, I would have her sit in the front seat and converse with the drivers. She would refer to us as a ‘we', but I had to make it clear for everyone that we had just met and that we were not a ‘we' at all.
—And then when it came to the time for me to leave Galway and come up to the convent he was much worse and I wouldn't be let see him so I wrote a letter saying I was going up to Dublin and would be back in the summer and hoping he would be better then.

He paused again, looking to Gabby for a token of understanding.
She paused for a moment to get her voice under control and then went on:

—I had to distance myself from her because she was ugly. I was too weak to see past that. I was so shallow, so false. She was sweet, smart, brave; she had nothing in London at all – one friend who worked in a pub and she wasn't even sure of her address. I could have helped her, but …
—Then the night before I left I was in my grandmother's house in Nuns' Island, packing up, and I heard gravel thrown up against the window. The window was so wet I couldn't see so I ran downstairs as I was and slipped out the back into the garden and there was the poor fellow at the end of the garden, shivering.

—Maybe you should have told her to go back to Glasgow, suggested Gabriella.
—And did you not tell him to go back? asked Gabriel.

—She offered me friendship – OK, love perhaps. She said that we would look out for each other in London and whatever happened I could count on her. She meant it – goddammit, I know that – with all her heart.
—I implored of him to go home at once and told him he would get his death in the rain. But he said he did not want to live. I can see his eyes as well as well! He was standing at the end of the wall where there was a tree.

—Go on.
—And did he go home? asked Gabriel.

—As we got closer to London I worried that I wouldn't be able to shake her off. But when we were dropped somewhere on the outskirts, well, we just said goodbye. She didn't try to hang on. She knew. I never saw her again. I was such an asshole – such a shallow, phony, chicken-shit, asshole. Do you understand now?
—Yes, he went home. And when I was only a week in the convent he died and he was buried in Oughterard where his people came from. O, the day I heard that, that he was dead!

He lay flat outstretched on the bed in his Jackie & Peter bomboniere boxer shorts, and when he closed his eyes, two perfect little tears squeezed out onto his cheeks. She sat quietly for several minutes watching the rise and fall of his chest and then walked over to the mini-bar to get herself some vodka. She drank two Stolly miniatures straight from the bottles, fuming in silence.
She stopped, choking with sobs, and, overcome by emotion, flung herself face downward on the bed, sobbing in the quilt. Gabriel held her hand for a moment longer, irresolutely, and then, shy of intruding on her grief, let it fall gently and walked quietly to the window.



 

When she returned to the bed, he was apparently fast asleep.
She was fast asleep.

She stood above him staring at his face, his Asturian nose, chin tucked into his shoulder. Some girl with a sign on a cold motorway. An ugly girl. She followed the shape of his figure downwards. His legs were spread innocently, innocuously wide, his toes slightly curled. Such a pose.
Gabriel, leaning on his elbow, looked for a few moments unresentfully on her tangled hair and half-open mouth, listening to her deep-drawn breath. So she had had that romance in her life: a man had died for her sake. It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life. He watched her while she slept as though he and she had never lived together as man and wife. His curious eyes rested long upon her face and on her hair: and, as he thought of what she must have been then, in that time of her first girlish beauty, a strange friendly pity for her entered his soul. He did not like to say even to himself that her face was no longer beautiful but he knew that it was no longer the face for which Michael Furey had braved death.

She felt no jealousy now, only indignation, and anger. Her eyes moved to the chair over which she had thrown her clothes. The strings of her slip dangled to the floor. His shoe lay on its side beneath it. She picked it up, balancing it in her hand lightly before smashing it into his unprotected crotch. He woke with a scream, pulling his limbs together in fetal contraction, cupping his numb-dumb member, his face contorted in pain.
Perhaps she had not told him all the story. His eyes moved to the chair over which she had thrown some of her clothes. A petticoat string dangled to the floor. One boot stood upright, its limp upper fallen down: the fellow of it lay upon its side. He wondered at his riot of emotions of an hour before. From what had it proceeded? From his aunt's supper, from his own foolish speech, from the wine and dancing, the merry-making when saying good- night in the hall, the pleasure of the walk along the river in the snow. Poor Aunt Julia! She, too, would soon be a shade with the shade of Patrick Morkan and his horse. He had caught that haggard look upon her face for a moment when she was singing Arrayed for the Bridal. Soon, perhaps, he would be sitting in that same drawing-room, dressed in black, his silk hat on his knees. The blinds would be drawn down and Aunt Kate would be sitting beside him, crying and blowing her nose and telling him how Julia had died. He would cast about in his mind for some words that might console her, and would find only lame and useless ones. Yes, yes: that would happen very soon.

—Gabby! What the fuck!
No correspondence with Joyce's text

—Shush, my darling, she said with her finger to her lips – you'll wake up the entire hotel.
No correspondence with Joyce's text
 

—Gabby?
No correspondence with Joyce's text

—Sorry baby, gut reaction. But now you know how it feels.
No correspondence with Joyce's text

—How what feels? his voice still trembling from the pain.
No correspondence with Joyce's text

—Well, for starters: here we are, you and I, alone together in a relatively nice hotel room, if one can ignore the botanical wallpaper, without the kids, just the two of us, finally free from all that shit out there. And tonight at the reception when they played A Thousand Miles Away and we danced with each other and I thought to hell with all these assholes because it's after all just the two of us … and twenty minutes ago I was feeling pretty horny – I can hardly lift my eyelids, but I was keeping them up for you, baby – I was feeling love for you, and that was the only thing keeping me awake and you, it turns out, are a thousand miles away, or ten thousand, thinking about some girl you couldn't get it up for twenty years ago. You get it now, Garett?
No correspondence with Joyce's text

—But it has nothing to do with us.
No correspondence with Joyce's text

—Oh, really? Nothing to do with us? Aren't I the one who is shallow, cowardly, circumstantial? The phoney, the faker, the hypocrite? Isn't it me you mean?
No correspondence with Joyce's text

—No, not you Gabby.
No correspondence with Joyce's text

—What are we, Garett? We are what we see and smell and touch: That's our world. And beauty – it's our judge and our judgment. And it also happens to be how I make my living – our living, I might add. I work on that shallow, superficial, skin-deep surface you are slamming. Appearances, packaging, that's my trade – and guess what? It's for real. Reality exists on that surface. And all that da da da fire sermon shit is a bunch of pretentious, hot-air crap; an abyss – a void. You can't go there and you can't live there. We ain't Buddhas, baby – we're consumers. We consume and then we die. In the profound words of the waitress: Enjoy! And for God's sake, stop moping about it.
No correspondence with Joyce's text

She sat on the bed, plucking at a strand of hair on her thigh, a lone wax job survivor. Garett stared at the ceiling. The tears now rounding his cheeks, falling to his pillow. My poor darling Garett, we are all circumstance – by birth, by fate. Of course it's not fair. Power's not fair. Wealth is not fair. Beauty? No way Josι. Only death is fair. Death evens us all out. But what's the big deal, Garett? We're only snowflakes, only butterflies with our little ephemeral moments of glory – our circumstantial, ephemeral moments. And then …
The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover's eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.

She laid herself flat-out on the bed so close to her husband that she could feel his warmth but not touching, and closed her eyes. Slumberous flakes of snow, silver and dark, fell over her body, Garett's body, and all the sleeping and sleepless bodies of the Hotel Boulderado. It truly was snowing everywhere. Snowflakes from stars and moons everywhere, falling like comets or dust or nothing. Falling on us all. Falling upon the beautiful and the ugly, the true and the counterfeit, the living and the dead.
Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. it was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.