—You’re a sly dog.
—Why so? said Stephen.
—You’d think butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth said Heron. But I’m afraid you’re a sly dog.
—Might I ask you what you are talking about? said Stephen urbanely.
—Indeed you might, answered Heron. We saw her, Wallis, didn’t we? And deucedly pretty she is too. And inquisitive! AND WHAT PART DOES STEPHEN TAKE, MR DEDALUS? AND WILL STEPHEN NOT SING, MR DEDALUS? Your governor was staring at her through that eyeglass of his for all he was worth so that I think the old man has found you out too. I wouldn’t care a bit, by Jove. She’s ripping, isn’t she, Wallis?
—Not half bad, answered Wallis quietly as he placed his holder once more in a corner of his mouth.
A shaft of momentary anger flew through Stephen’s mind at these indelicate allusions in the hearing of a stranger. For him there was nothing amusing in a girl’s interest and regard. All day he had thought of nothing but their leave-taking on the steps of the tram at Harold’s Cross, the stream of moody emotions it had made to course through him and the poem he had written about it. All day he had imagined a new meeting with her for he knew that she was to come to the play. The old restless moodiness had again filled his breast as it had done on the night of the party, but had not found an outlet in verse. The growth and knowledge of two years of boyhood stood between then and now, forbidding such an outlet: and all day the stream of gloomy tenderness within him had started forth and returned upon itself in dark courses and eddies, wearying him in the end until the pleasantry of the prefect and the painted little boy had drawn from him a movement of impatience.
—So you may as well admit, Heron went on, that we’ve fairly found you out this time. You can’t play the saint on me any more, that’s one sure five.
A soft peal of mirthless laughter escaped from his lips and, bending down as before, he struck Stephen lightly across the calf of the leg with his cane, as if in jesting reproof.
Stephen’s moment of anger had already passed. He was neither flattered nor confused, but simply wished the banter to end. He scarcely resented what had seemed to him a silly indelicateness for he knew that the adventure in his mind stood in no danger from these words: and his face mirrored his rival’s false smile.
—Admit! repeated Heron, striking him again with his cane across the calf of the leg.
The stroke was playful but not so lightly given as the first one had been. Stephen felt the skin tingle and glow slightly and almost painlessly; and, bowing submissively, as if to meet his companion’s jesting mood, began to recite the CONFITEOR. The episode ended well, for both Heron and Wallis laughed indulgently at the irreverence.