—Get back into bed.
—Is he sick?
A fellow held his arms while he loosened the stocking clinging to his foot and climbed back into the hot bed.
He crouched down between the sheets, glad of their tepid glow. He heard the fellows talk among themselves about him as they dressed for mass. It was a mean thing to do, to shoulder him into the square ditch, they were saying.
Then their voices ceased; they had gone. A voice at his bed said:
—Dedalus, don’t spy on us, sure you won’t?
Wells’s face was there. He looked at it and saw that Wells was afraid.
—I didn’t mean to. Sure you won’t?
His father had told him, whatever he did, never to peach on a fellow. He shook his head and answered no and felt glad.
—I didn’t mean to, honour bright. It was only for cod. I’m sorry.
The face and the voice went away. Sorry because he was afraid. Afraid that it was some disease. Canker was a disease of plants and cancer one of animals: or another different. That was a long time ago then out on the playgrounds in the evening light, creeping from point to point on the fringe of his line, a heavy bird flying low through the grey light. Leicester Abbey lit up. Wolsey died there. The abbots buried him themselves.
It was not Wells’s face, it was the prefect’s. He was not foxing. No, no: he was sick really. He was not foxing. And he felt the prefect’s hand on his forehead; and he felt his forehead warm and damp against the prefect’s cold damp hand. That was the way a rat felt, slimy and damp and cold. Every rat had two eyes to look out of. Sleek slimy coats, little little feet tucked up to jump, black slimy eyes to look out of. They could understand how to jump. But the minds of rats could not understand trigonometry. When they were dead they lay on their sides. Their coats dried then. They were only dead things.
The prefect was there again and it was his voice that was saying that he was to get up, that Father Minister had said he was to get up and dress and go to the infirmary. And while he was dressing himself as quickly as he could the prefect said:
—We must pack off to Brother Michael because we have the collywobbles!
He was very decent to say that. That was all to make him laugh. But he could not laugh because his cheeks and lips were all shivery: and then the prefect had to laugh by himself.
The prefect cried:
—Quick march! Hayfoot! Strawfoot!
They went together down the staircase and along the corridor and past the bath. As he passed the door he remembered with a vague fear the warm turf-coloured bogwater, the warm moist air, the noise of plunges, the smell of the towels, like medicine.