On his countenance was just a trace of solicitude

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "On his countenance was just a trace of solicitude" means in the following sentences:

"He knocked the dust out of the pipe he had been smoking, and again set off for a stroll along the lanes. On his countenance was just a trace of solicitude, but for the most part he wore a thoughtful smile. Now and then he stroked his smoothly-shaven jaws with thumb and fingers. Occasionally he became observant of wayside details—of the colour of a maple leaf, the shape of a tall thistle, the consistency of a fungus."

- George Gissing, New Grub Streeet, Chapter 1
Jasper Milvain, the protagonist of the novel which is first published in 1891 in the United Kingdom, who is learning a literary business to become a literary critic, had a little argument with his sister over the money he is taking because he is currently unable to earn his own living. After that, he strolled to the outside, and "on his countenance was just a trace of solitude."

In this part, I am especially curious to know the meaning of "just."
Does it mean that it was "exactly" a trace of solitude? Or that there was "merely" a trace of solitude on his face, even after his argument with his sister?

I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Uncle Jack,

    Thank you very much for the explanation!
    Then, is "just" equal to a superlative expression here, meaning that there was only a teeny-weeny bit of solitude on his face?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Then, is "just" equal to a superlative expression here, meaning that there was only a teeny-weeny bit of solitude on his face?
    I know I used "smallest", but "just a trace" isn't quite as strong an expression as "smallest". "Just a trace" in this situation means it was detectable, to anyone observant enough to notice, at any rate.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Uncle Jack,

    Thank you so much for the additional explanation.
    Then there was indeed a trace of solitude, but just of a small amount, on his face.
    I'm much obliged to you.
     
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