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The child had vague eyes. Elizabeth, who was not good with small children, bent across the table and tried to get her face into his line of vision. The boy’s gaze drifted, but not towards her. It was like looking at him through water. A smile of blessedness warmed his features and was gone; a little knot of thought bulged between his brows and smoothed itself again. She could not get his attention.

The old man cleared his throat. ‘I’m afraid Billy’s not quite . . .’

Elizabeth sat up.

‘They didn’t realise for quite a . . . He never spoke. He does sing. His voice is very . . . Dexter and his wife thought for a while he was some sort of musical genius. They can be toilet-trained, taught to keep themselves clean . . .’

Dexter came charging back. He had one arm above his head, holding a plate with cake on it. He plunged into the seat beside her. ‘Shithouse cheese cake,’ he roared. He reached across and wedged a piece of it into the little boy’s mouth.

Does it mean:

  1. He came back with a plate full of cake?

  2. He came back with hurry?

And in the dialogue below:

They didn’t realise for quite a . . . He never spoke. He does sing. His voice is very . . . Dexter and his wife thought for a while he was some sort of musical genius. They can be toilet-trained, taught to keep themselves clean . . .’

Does the first "They" refer to "Dexter and his wife" and the second "They" refer to "children like Billy"?

Source: The children's Bach by Helen Garner

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Dexter came running back to the table in a determined manner (see this definition, scrolling down to 'move forward'). He came in a hurry, not with hurry.

The first 'they' refers to Billy's parents and the second to children like Billy.

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  • Lots of Thank. And in the first paragraph does "A smile of blessedness warmed his features and was gone" mean "A smile of blessedness appeared in his face and then disappeared"? – Viser Hashemi Apr 2 at 8:35
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    Yes, I would think so. – Kate Bunting Apr 2 at 8:44

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