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    1.Over the dinner-table he gave her particulars. At the end of a bothersome, wasted morning he had dropped into “Scott’s,” and there, in the coffee-room, had tumbled across Purdy. (“What! — PURDY?” was Mary’s amazed inner comment, she being as usual hard at work drawing inferences.) Purdy had met him in friendliest fashion: “I’ve come to the conclusion, my dear, I’ve sometimes been rather hard on the boy of late.” They had lunched together, over a chop and a bottle of claret had got talking, and had sat for the better part of an hour. Naturally the subject of Simmonds’s collapse had come up, and the fix it had put him into. Purdy —”‘Pon my word, Mary, I saw to-day he’s got his head screwed on the right way!”— had given him various useful tips how to deal with the modern broker, which an innocent old sheep like himself would never have dreamt of. And then just at the end, as they were making a move, Purdy had scratched his head and believed he knew some one who might ——
    2.He stayed with them but for three days; longer he could not have borne the lifeless atmosphere of his old home. But . . . seventeen years, and for three days! There was, however, another reason. Their poverty was such that it wrung his heart to have to watch their shifts and makeshifts. In this big house not a single servant moved; his sisters’ thin, elderly hands were hard and seamy with work. The two women rose at daybreak to clean the steps and polish the knocker. Themselves they washed and ironed the finely darned damask; kept bright the massive bits of silver, than which there was little else on the oval surface of a dinner-table built to seat a score of people. They did their scanty shopping in distant neighbourhoods where they were not known, creeping out with their baskets early in the morning, while others of their class were still between the sheets. No! the food they set before him stuck in his throat; it was so much taken from them, who looked so bloodless. Yet, though he grudged himself each mouthful, he did not dare either to refuse what was offered him, or to add to it by a gift of money or eatables — anything that might have shown them he saw how matters stood. Banknotes slipped, unmentioned, into a letter from far Australia had been a different thing. These could be politely ignored — as indeed they had always remained unacknowledged. He imagined the fine gesture with which his mother let them flutter through her fingers, in saying airily to Sophy and Lucinda: “Some nonsense of poor Richard’s!” He ventured no more than to buy her a bouquet of cut flowers and a vellum-bound book of devotions. Even hothouse grapes might have exuded a utilitarian flavour. But all he felt went into his gift; and he knew just the nerve in the proud old heart that would be satisfied by it. For though he did not warm to them, yet like spoke to like, blood to blood, directly they met again. He could read their private thoughts, their secret feelings. At a glance he saw through the inventions and excuses, the tricks and stratagems with which they bolstered up their lives; while yet retaining their dignity as great ladies. Again, the flashes of mordant humour, which not your godliest Irishman can ever wholly subdue; or the sudden, caustic, thumb-nail sketch of friend or foe: these were so familiar to him as to seem his own: while the practical Irish habit of stripping things of false sentiment was homely and refreshing. Thus, with regard to Mary’s childlessness, his mother queried briskly: “Has fretted for lack of a family? Nonsense! In such a climate she was much better without.” Again: “Her relatives will miss you. No doubt they placed great faith in your skill. Besides, your visits cost them nothing.” Or her description of a neighbour’s state as: “A demi-fortune — cab and one horse!”
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