A great fire, banked high and red, flamed in the grate and under the ivytwined branches of the chandelier the Christmas table was spread. They had come home a little late and still dinner was not ready: but it would be ready in a jiffy his mother said. They were waiting for the door to open and for the servants to come in, holding the big dishes with their heavy metal covers.
A good start, yes, but soon the whisky is produced from the great stone jar, “a thimbleful … to whet your appetite”.
– 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 pollingbooth.
– 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’s 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?
The Dublin Review of Books wishes all its readers a Happy Christmas. And don’t be fighting.