Shining Elbows

T. Baron Russell: A Guardian of the Poor

“As he shuffled off, Mr Borlase eyed his round shoulders and shining elbows with disapprobation.”

The shining elbows of John Hunt. For someone so shabby, with an equally ‘faded’ but kind (“Half an ounce of shag screwed up in paper!”) wife, a wife now near to dying after her giving birth to his lovely son whose baby fingernails he kissed, John Hunt has shining elbows. At least they were shining! And he loved his dog, whether he could afford its licence or not. “‘What, Joey! What the little bow-wow – didn’t they let you in?’”
Mr Borlase though, sharp-practising and unkind employer (draper) — “‘Lady wishes for a dark ’eliotrope ribbon, shot with cerise.’ (Such atrocities were common at Borlase’s.)” — an employer of this era masquerading as a so-called Guardian of the Poor; you must surely ride the sad attrition he caused, as conveyed by this work’s adept and feeling prose… 

“, almost sinfully novel. The raw material of feminine adornment was what Borlase and Company dealt in, uncostly chiffons and faced ribbons,”

“Lest any should go empty away, Borlase and Company in person – pompous, full-fed, and evaporating venality at every pore – mingled with his patrons near the exit; and woe to the shop girl who had failed to cajole her customer! This duty of shop-walking Mr Borlase divided at busy times with a lean man, grey-headed and stooping at the shoulders, who rubbed lank hands together…”

That was John Hunt stooping. Old coat and new… there is some mix in Borlase that harboured kindness when he donates a newer frock-coat to John, so I eat my words – but not eaten for long. Ever pure evil has a shining elbow somewhere to make it perfect by being imperfect, I guess, but which is really a threadbare sop?

“‘…look at the braid, look at the elbows.’ […] and he pushed Hunt by the elbow to the staircase which led to the upper storeys.”

“Presently he [Hunt] turned to the deal table – spotless, and scrubbed until the harder fibres of the wood stood out in ridges where the softer parts had worn away.”

“A leaking gutter-spout outside dripped – dop – dop – dop – on the stones; the recurrent sound impressed itself dully on his brain.”


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