An elderly man of slight build entered, smiling diffidently at me as I sat there at the supervision of my papers. His body was bent sideways in an awkward fashion and his shoulders appeared to move lithely beneath his coat as if his woollen small-clothes had been disarranged in the divesting of his street-coat. His skull shone clearly in the gaslight under the aura of his sparse hair. His double-breasted jacket bore a vertical ripple in the front, a result of the inexpensive quality of the canvas lining. He nodded to me in friendly salutation.
Fingering his coat-tails, my uncle took a stand near the fire and surveyed us, bisecting between us the benison of his smile. Not terminating it when he addressed me, it imparted a soft husky quality to his voice.
Well, fellow-my-lad, he said, what are we at this evening? My nephew, Mr. Corcoran.
I arose. Mr. Corcoran advanced and extended his small hand, exerting considerable strength in a fine man-grip.
I hope we are not disturbing you at your work, he said.
Not at all, I answered.
My uncle laughed.
Faith, he said, you would want to be a clever man to do that, Mr. Corcoran. That would be a miracle certainly. Tell me this, do you ever open a book at all?
This I received in silence, standing quietly by the table.
Nature of silence: Indifferent, contemptuous.
[At Swim Two Birds, O'Brien, F.]