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The Dead
LILY, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet. Hardly had she brought one
gentleman into the little pantry behind the office on the ground floor and helped him off
with his overcoat than the wheezy hall-door bell clanged again and she had to scamper
along the bare hallway to let in another guest. It was well for her she had not to attend
to the ladies also. But Miss Kate and Miss Julia had thought of that and had converted
the bathroom upstairs into a ladies' dressing-room. Miss Kate and Miss Julia were there,
gossiping and laughing and fussing, walking after each other to the head of the stairs,
peering down over the banisters and calling down to Lily to ask her who had come.
It was always a great affair, the Misses Morkan's annual dance. Everybody who knew
them came to it, members of the family, old friends of the family, the members of Julia's
choir, any of Kate's pupils that were grown up enough, and even some of Mary Jane's
pupils too. Never once had it fallen flat. For years and years it had gone off in splendid
style, as long as anyone could remember; ever since Kate and Julia, after the death of
their brother Pat, had left the house in Stoney Batter and taken Mary Jane, their only
niece, to live with them in the dark, gaunt house on Usher's Island, the upper part of
which they had rented from Mr. Fulham, the corn-factor on the ground floor. That was a
good thirty years ago if it was a day. Mary Jane, who was then a little girl in short
clothes, was now the main prop of the household, for she had the organ in Haddington
Road. She had been through the Academy and gave a pupils' concert every year in the
upper room of the Antient Concert Rooms. Many of her pupils belonged to the better-
class families on the Kingstown and Dalkey line. Old as they were, her aunts also did
their share. Julia, though she was quite grey, was still the leading soprano in Adam and
Eve's, and Kate, being too feeble to go about much, gave music lessons to beginners
on the old square piano in the back room. Lily, the caretaker's daughter, did
housemaid's work for them. Though their life was modest, they believed in eating well;
the best of everything: diamond-bone sirloins, three-shilling tea and the best bottled
stout. But Lily seldom made a mistake in the orders, so that she got on well with her
three mistresses. They were fussy, that was all. But the only thing they would not stand
was back answers.
Of course, they had good reason to be fussy on such a night. And then it was long after
ten o'clock and yet there was no sign of Gabriel and his wife. Besides they were
dreadfully afraid that Freddy Malins might turn up screwed. They would not wish for
worlds that any of Mary Jane's pupils should see him under the influence; and when he
was like that it was sometimes very hard to manage him. Freddy Malins always came
late, but they wondered what could be keeping Gabriel: and that was what brought them
every two minutes to the banisters to ask Lily had Gabriel or Freddy come.
"O, Mr. Conroy," said Lily to Gabriel when she opened the door for him, "Miss Kate and
Miss Julia thought you were never coming. Good-night, Mrs. Conroy."