He broke into a fit of laughter and coughing and added:
— . . . manufacturing that champagne for those fellows.
Mr Dedalus laughed loudly.
— Is it Christy? he said. There's more cunning in one of those warts on his bald head than in a pack of jack foxes.
He inclined his head, closed his eyes, and, licking his lips profusely, began to speak with the voice of the hotel keeper.
— And he has such a soft mouth when he's speaking to you, don't you know. He's very moist and watery about the dewlaps, God bless him.
Mr Casey was still struggling through his fit of coughing and laughter. Stephen, seeing and hearing the hotel keeper through his father's face and voice, laughed.
Mr Dedalus put up his eyeglass and, staring down at him, said quietly and kindly:
— What are you laughing at, you little puppy, you?
The servants entered and placed the dishes on the table. Mrs Dedalus followed and the places were arranged.
— Sit over, she said.
Mr Dedalus went to the end of the table and said:
— Now, Mrs Riordan, sit over. John, sit you down, my hearty.
He looked round to where uncle Charles sat and said:
— Now then, sir, there's a bird here waiting for you.
When all had taken their seats he laid his hand on the cover and then said quickly, withdrawing it:
— Now, Stephen.
Stephen stood up in his place to say the grace before meals:
Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which through Thy bounty we are about to receive through Christ our Lord. Amen.
All blessed themselves and Mr Dedalus with a sigh of pleasure lifted from the dish the heavy cover pearled around the edge with glistening drops.
Stephen looked at the plump turkey which had lain, trussed and skewered, on the kitchen table. He knew that his father had paid a guinea for it in Dunn's of D'Olier Street and that the man had prodded it often at the breastbone to show how good it was: and he remembered the man's voice when he had said:
— Take that one, sir. That's the real Ally Daly.
Why did Mr Barrett in Clongowes call his pandybat a turkey? But Clongowes was far away: and the warm heavy smell of turkey and ham and celery rose from the plates and dishes and the great fire was banked high and red in the grate and the green ivy and red holly made you feel so happy and when dinner was ended the big plum pudding would be carried in, studded with peeled almonds and sprigs of holly, with bluish fire running around it and a little green flag flying from the top.
It was his first Christmas dinner and he thought of his little brothers and sisters who were waiting in the nursery, as he had often waited, till the pudding came. The deep low collar and the Eton jacket made him feel queer and oldish: and that morning when his mother had brought him down to the parlour, dressed for mass, his father had cried. That was because he was thinking of his own father. And uncle Charles had said so too.
Mr Dedalus covered the dish and began to eat hungrily. Then he said:
— Poor old Christy, he's nearly lopsided now with roguery.
— Simon, said Mrs Dedalus, you haven't given Mrs Riordan any sauce.
Mr Dedalus seized the sauceboat.
— Haven't I? he cried. Mrs Riordan, pity the poor blind. Dante covered her plate with her hands and said:
— No, thanks.
Mr Dedalus turned to uncle Charles.
— How are you off, sir?
— Right as the mail, Simon.
— You, John?
— I'm all right. Go on yourself.
— Mary? Here, Stephen, here's something to make your hair curl.
He poured sauce freely over Stephen's plate and set the boat again on the table. Then he asked uncle Charles was it tender. Uncle Charles could not speak because his mouth was full; but he nodded that it was.
— That was a good answer our friend made to the canon. What? said Mr Dedalus.
— I didn't think he had that much in him, said Mr Casey.
— I'LL PAY YOUR DUES, FATHER, WHEN YOU CEASE TURNING THE HOUSE OF GOD INTO A POLLING-BOOTH.
— A nice answer, said Dante, for any man calling himself a catholic to give to his priest.
— They have only themselves to blame, said Mr Dedalus suavely. If they took a fool's advice they would confine their attention to religion.
— It is religion, Dante said. They are doing their duty in warning the people.
— We go to the house of God, Mr Casey said, in all humility to pray to our Maker and not to hear election addresses.
— It is religion, Dante said again. They are right. They must direct their flocks.
— And preach politics from the altar, is it? asked Mr Dedalus.
— Certainly, said Dante. It is a question of public morality. A priest would not be a priest if he did not tell his flock what is right and what is wrong.
Mrs Dedalus laid down her knife and fork, saying:
— For pity sake and for pity sake let us have no political discussion on this day of all days in the year.
— Quite right, ma'am, said uncle Charles. Now, Simon, that's quite enough now. Not another word now.
— Yes, yes, said Mr Dedalus quickly.
He uncovered the dish boldly and said:
— Now then, who's for more turkey?
Nobody answered. Dante said:
— Nice language for any catholic to use!
— Mrs Riordan, I appeal to you, said Mrs Dedalus, to let the matter drop now.
Dante turned on her and said:
— And am I to sit here and listen to the pastors of my church being flouted?
— Nobody is saying a word against them, said Mr Dedalus, so long as they don't meddle in politics.
— The bishops and priests of Ireland have spoken, said Dante, and they must be obeyed.
— Let them leave politics alone, said Mr Casey, or the people may leave their church alone.
— You hear? said Dante, turning to Mrs Dedalus.
— Mr Casey! Simon! said Mrs Dedalus, let it end now.
— Too bad! Too bad! said uncle Charles.
— What? cried Mr Dedalus. Were we to desert him at the bidding of the English people?
— He was no longer worthy to lead, said Dante. He was a public sinner.
— We are all sinners and black sinners, said Mr Casey coldly.
— WOE BE TO THE MAN BY WHOM THE SCANDAL COMETH! said Mrs Riordan. IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR HIM THAT A MILLSTONE WERE TIED ABOUT HIS NECK AND THAT HE WERE CAST INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA RATHER THAN THAT HE SHOULD SCANDALIZE ONE OF THESE, MY LEAST LITTLE ONES. That is the language of the Holy Ghost.
— And very bad language if you ask me, said Mr Dedalus coolly.
— Simon! Simon! said uncle Charles. The boy.
— Yes, yes, said Mr Dedalus. I meant about the . . . I was thinking about the bad language of the railway porter. Well now, that's all right. Here, Stephen, show me your plate, old chap. Eat away now. Here.
He heaped up the food on Stephen's plate and served uncle Charles and Mr Casey to large pieces of turkey and splashes of sauce. Mrs Dedalus was eating little and Dante sat with her hands in her lap. She was red in the face. Mr Dedalus rooted with the carvers at the end of the dish and said:
— There's a tasty bit here we call the pope's nose. If any lady or gentleman . . .
He held a piece of fowl up on the prong of the carving fork. Nobody spoke. He put it on his own plate, saying:
— Well, you can't say but you were asked. I think I had better eat it myself because I'm not well in my health lately.
He winked at Stephen and, replacing the dish-cover, began to eat again.
There was a silence while he ate. Then he said:
— Well now, the day kept up fine after all. There were plenty of strangers down too.
Nobody spoke. He said again:
— I think there were more strangers down than last Christmas.
He looked round at the others whose faces were bent towards their plates and, receiving no reply, waited for a moment and said bitterly:
— Well, my Christmas dinner has been spoiled anyhow.
— There could be neither luck nor grace, Dante said, in a house where there is no respect for the pastors of the church.
Mr Dedalus threw his knife and fork noisily on his plate.
— Respect! he said. Is it for Billy with the lip or for the tub of guts up in Armagh? Respect!
— Princes of the church, said Mr Casey with slow scorn.
— Lord Leitrim's coachman, yes, said Mr Dedalus.
— They are the Lord's anointed, Dante said. They are an honour to their country.
— Tub of guts, said Mr Dedalus coarsely. He has a handsome face, mind you, in repose. You should see that fellow lapping up his bacon and cabbage of a cold winter's day. O Johnny!