Stale smoky air hung in the study with the smell of drab abraded leather of its chairs. As on the first day he bargained with me here. As it was in the beginning, is now. On the sideboard the tray of Stuart coins, base treasure of a bog: and ever shall be. And snug in their spooncase of purple plush, faded, the twelve apostles having preached to all the gentiles: world without end.
A hasty step over the stone porch and in the corridor. Blowing out his rare moustache Mr Deasy halted at the table.
—First, our little financial settlement, he said.
He brought out of his coat a pocketbook bound by a leather thong. It slapped open and he took from it two notes, one of joined halves, and laid them carefully on the table.
—Two, he said, strapping and stowing his pocketbook away.
And now his strongroom for the gold. Stephen’s embarrassed hand moved over the shells heaped in the cold stone mortar: whelks and money cowries and leopard shells: and this, whorled as an emir’s turban, and this, the scallop of saint James. An old pilgrim’s hoard, dead treasure, hollow shells.
A sovereign fell, bright and new, on the soft pile of the tablecloth.
—Three, Mr Deasy said, turning his little savingsbox about in his hand. These are handy things to have. See. This is for sovereigns. This is for shillings. Sixpences, halfcrowns. And here crowns. See.
He shot from it two crowns and two shillings.
—Three twelve, he said. I think you’ll find that’s right.
—Thank you, sir, Stephen said, gathering the money together with shy haste and putting it all in a pocket of his trousers.
—No thanks at all, Mr Deasy said. You have earned it.
Stephen’s hand, free again, went back to the hollow shells. Symbols too of beauty and of power. A lump in my pocket: symbols soiled by greed and misery.
—Don’t carry it like that, Mr Deasy said. You’ll pull it out somewhere and lose it. You just buy one of these machines. You’ll find them very handy.
—Mine would be often empty, Stephen said.