His pace slackened. Here. Am I going to Aunt Sara's or not? My consubstantial father's voice. Did you see anything of your artist brother Stephen lately? No? Sure he's not down in Strasburg terrace with his aunt Sally? Couldn't he fly a bit higher than that, eh? And and and and tell us Stephen, how is uncle Si? O weeping God, the things I married into. De boys up in de hayloft. The drunken little costdrawer and his brother, the cornet player. Highly respectable gondoliers. And skeweyed Walter sirring his father, no less. Sir. Yes, sir. No, sir. Jesus wept: and no wonder, by Christ.
I pull the wheezy bell of their shuttered cottage: and wait. They take me for a dun, peer out from a coign of vantage.
-- It's Stephen, sir.
-- Let him in. Let Stephen in.
A bolt drawn back and Walter welcomes me.
-- We thought you were someone else.
In his broad bed nuncle Richie, pillowed and blanketed, extends over the hillock of his knees a sturdy forearm. Cleanchested. He has washed the upper moiety.
-- Morrow, nephew.
He lays aside the lapboard whereon he drafts his bills of costs for the eyes of Master Goff and Master Shapland Tandy, filing consents and common searches and a writ of Duces Tecum. A bogoak frame over his bald head: Wilde's Requiescat. The drone of his misleading whistle brings Walter back.
-- Yes, sir?
-- Malt for Richie and Stephen, tell mother. Where is she?
-- Bathing Crissie, sir.
Papa's little bedpal. Lump of love.
-- No, uncle Richie...
-- Call me Richie. Damn your lithia water. It lowers. Whusky!
-- Uncle Richie, really...
-- Sit down or by the law Harry I'll knock you down.
Walter squints vainly for a chair.
-- He has nothing to sit down on, sir.
-- He has nowhere to put it, you mug. Bring in our Chippendale chair. Would you like a bite of something? None of your damned lawdeedaw air here; the rich of a rasher fried with a herring? Sure? So much the better. We have nothing in the house but backache pills.
He drones bars of Ferrando's aria de sortita. The grandest number, Stephen, in the whole opera. Listen.
His tuneful whistle sounds again, finely shaded, with rushes of the air, his fists bigdrumming on his padded knees.
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