When the Bishop and Father Dan arrived, the bell was rung and we went in to breakfast.
We breakfasted in the new dining-room, which was now finished and being used for the first time.
It was a gorgeous chamber beblazoned with large candelabra, huge mirrors, and pictures in gold frames—resembling the room it was intended to imitate, yet not resembling it, as a woman over-dressed resembles a well-dressed woman.
My father sat at the head of his table with the Bishop, Lady Margaret and Aunt Bridget on his right, and myself, my husband, Betsy Beauty and Mr. Eastcliff on his left. The lawyers and the trustee were midway down, Father Dan with Nessy MacLeod was at the end, and a large company of our friends and neighbours, wearing highly-coloured flowers on their breasts and in their buttonholes, sat between.
The meal was very long, and much of the food was very large—large fish, large roasts of venison, veal, beef and mutton, large puddings and large cheeses, all cut on the table and served by waiters from Blackwater. There were two long black lines of them—a waiter behind the chair of nearly every other guest.
All through the breakfast the storm raged outside. More than once it drowned the voices of the people at the table, roaring like a wild beast in the great throat of the wide chimney, swirling about the lantern light, licking and lashing and leaping at the outsides of the walls like lofty waves breaking against a breakwater, and sending up a thunderous noise from the sea itself, where the big bell of St. Mary’s Rock was still tolling like a knell.
Somebody—it must have been Aunt Bridget again—said there had been nothing like it since the day of my birth, and it must be “fate.”
“Chut, woman!” said my father. “We’re living in the twentieth century. Who’s houlding with such ould wife’s wonders now?”
He was intensely excited, and, his excitement betrayed itself, as usual, in reversion to his native speech. Sometimes he surveyed in silence, with the old masterful lift of his eyebrows, his magnificent room and the great guests who were gathered within it; sometimes he whispered to the waiters to be smarter with the serving of the dishes; and sometimes he pitched his voice above the noises within and without and shouted, in country-fashion, to his friends at various points of the table to know how they were faring.
“How are you doing, Mr. Curphy, sir?”
“Doing well, sir. Are you doing well yourself, Mr. O’Neill, sir?”
“Lord-a-massy yes, sir. I’m always doing well, sir.”
Never had anybody in Ellan seen so strange a mixture of grandeur and country style. My husband seemed to be divided between amused contempt for it, and a sense of being compromised by its pretence. More than once I saw him, with his monocle in his eye, look round at his friend Eastcliff, but he helped himself frequently from a large decanter of brandy and drank healths with everybody.