In the next part most guests have left, Freddy Malins is out on the street, trying to attract the attention of cab drivers in these pre-Uber times by whistling, and the last two guests (Batell D’Arcy and Miss O’Callaghan) are still strumming the piano upstairs. Aunt Kate says to close the door because Mrs Malins “will get her death of cold”, and Mary Jane objects, saying that Browne is out there. Aunt Kate says sotto voce that “Browne is everywhere” and that “he has been laid on here like the gas… all during the Christmas.” What she means is that he’s been visiting them too often, but here we really could do with a language footnote. But then she laughs good-naturedly, tells Mary Jane to ask Browne in and close the door. Browne comes in, muffled in his winter coat and cap, and Gabriel comes out of the pantry, also dressed to go out. Mary Jane shivers and says she wouldn’t like to have to travel home at this hour. Browne says cheerfully he really would like to go horse riding on a night like this, which reminds Julia about the horse they used to have at home. Mary Jane laughs and says “The never-to-be-forgotten Johnny” and Mr Browne asks to know the story of Johnny, which Gabriel proceeds to tell. The humour is in the telling of the story, which in Gabriel’s version is a bit mock epic, and in order to achieve this effect he has to downgrade his family a bit, while Aunt Kate protests and tries to make them more genteel. So their grandfather, who used to be according to Gabriel a glue-boiler, and according to Aunt Kate a starch-mill owner, used to own a horse named Johnny, who ran the mill, walking around in circles. One day the grandfather wanted to go out riding on Johnny to a military review in the park, so he put on his best clothes and went out on Johnny “from his ancestral mansion somewhere near Back Lane” (no, it was only his mill that was located there, he didn’t live there, protests Aunt Kate). Everything went on well until he reached the statue of “King Billy” (the statue of William III, in front of Trinity College, blown up in 1928 by the IRA – read about its history, it’s truly fascinating), which for some reason reminded Johnny of his mill and he started walking around it in circles, despite the cries of indignation from the hapless rider. Everybody laughs at this funny story, and I wonder whether poor Johnny is not also symbolic of the Irish, unable to get away from their history.
Freddy Malins comes in to say that he was able to get only one cab. Gabriel says it’s fine, he and his wife will find another along the quay. Mrs Malins is led and with much trouble seated in the cab. Freddy invites Mr Browne to share the cab with them, and the scene that follows is familiar to everybody who has ever shared a cab of whatever kind, horse- or motor-powered, with people getting off at different places – everybody tries to give directions to the driver, but everybody has a different idea about what the shortest route would be. Finally Mr Browne cuts it by telling the bewildered cabman to drive to Trinity College, and they will take it up from there.