The director had begun to speak of the dominican and franciscan orders and of the friendship between saint Thomas and saint Bonaventure. The capuchin dress, he thought, was rather too…
Stephen’s face gave back the priest’s indulgent smile and, not being anxious to give an opinion, he made a slight dubitative movement with his lips.
—I believe, continued the director, that there is some talk now among the capuchins themselves of doing away with it and following the example of the other franciscans.
—I suppose they would retain it in the cloisters? said Stephen.
—O certainly, said the director. For the cloister it is all right but for the street I really think it would be better to do away with it, don’t you?
—It must be troublesome, I imagine.
—Of course it is, of course. Just imagine when I was in Belgium I used to see them out cycling in all kinds of weather with this thing up about their knees! It was really ridiculous. LES JUPES, they call them in Belgium.
The vowel was so modified as to be indistinct.
—What do they call them?
Stephen smiled again in answer to the smile which he could not see on the priest’s shadowed face, its image or spectre only passing rapidly across his mind as the low discreet accent fell upon his ear. He gazed calmly before him at the waning sky, glad of the cool of the evening and of the faint yellow glow which hid the tiny flame kindling upon his cheek.
The names of articles of dress worn by women or of certain soft and delicate stuffs used in their making brought always to his mind a delicate and sinful perfume. As a boy he had imagined the reins by which horses are driven as slender silken bands and it shocked him to feel at Stradbrooke the greasy leather of harness. It had shocked him, too, when he had felt for the first time beneath his tremulous fingers the brittle texture of a woman’s stocking for, retaining nothing of all he read save that which seemed to him an echo or a prophecy of his own state, it was only amid soft-worded phrases or within rose-soft stuffs that he dared to conceive of the soul or body of a woman moving with tender life.