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[.]
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 applause 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.
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[.]
Gabriel had not gone to the front door with the others. He was in a dark part of the hall gazing up at the staircase. A woman was standing near the top of the first flight, in the shadow also . . . 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.
She broke loose from him and ran to the bed and, throwing her arms across the bed-rail, hid her face . . . “I am thinking about a person long ago who used to sing that song . . . It was a person I used to know in Galway when I was living with my grandmother,” she said . . . “It was a young boy I used to know, named Michael Furey. He used to sing that song, The Lass of Aughrim. He was very delicate . . . I can see him so plainly . . . Such eyes as he had: big, dark eyes! And such an expression in them—an expression!”