She took out her purse with the silver clasps and read again the words A Present from Belfast. She was very fond of that purse because Joe had brought it to her five years before on a Whit-Monday trip…. Often he had wanted her to go and live with them, but she would have felt herself in the way (though Joe’s wife was ever so nice with her) and she had become accustomed to the life of the laundry. Joe was a good fellow. She had nursed him and Alphy too[.]
Maria superintended the distribution of the barmbrack and saw that every woman got her four slices. There was a great deal of laughing and joking during the meal. Lizzie Fleming said Maria was sure to get the ring and, though Fleming had said that for so many Hallow Eves, Maria had to laugh and say she didn’t want any ring or man either; and when she laughed her grey-green eyes sparkled with disappointed shyness and the tip of her nose nearly met the tip of her chin.
She thought she would have to stand in the Drumcondra train because none of the young men seemed to notice her but an elderly gentleman made room for her…. Maria thought he was a colonel-looking gentleman and she reflected how much more polite he was than the young men who simply stared straight before them. The gentleman began to chat with her about Hallow Eve and the rainy weather. He supposed the bag was full of good things for the little ones and said it was only right that the youngsters should enjoy themselves[.]
Maria said she had brought something special for papa and mamma, something they would be sure to like, and she began to look for her plumcake. She tried in Downes’ bag and then in the pockets of her waterproof and then on the hallstand but nowhere could she find it…. Mrs. Donnelly said it was plain that Maria had left it behind her in the tram . . . At the thought of the failure of her little surprise and of the two and four-pence she had thrown away for nothing she nearly cried outright.
They led her up to the table amid laughing and joking and she put her hand out in the air as she was told to do . . . She felt a soft wet substance with her fingers and was surprised that nobody spoke or took off her bandage. There was a pause for a few seconds, and then a great deal of scuffling and whispering . . . Mrs. Donnelly said something very cross to one of the next-door girls and told her to throw it out at once . . . Maria understood that it was wrong that time and so she had to do it over again: and this time she got the prayer-book.