—I believe that Lord Macaulay was a man who probably never committed a mortal sin in his life, that is to say, a deliberate mortal sin.
Some of the boys had then asked the priest if Victor Hugo were not the greatest French writer. The priest had answered that Victor Hugo had never written half so well when he had turned against the church as he had written when he was a catholic.
—But there are many eminent French critics, said the priest, who consider that even Victor Hugo, great as he certainly was, had not so pure a French style as Louis Veuillot.
The tiny flame which the priest’s allusion had kindled upon Stephen’s cheek had sunk down again and his eyes were still fixed calmly on the colourless sky. But an unresting doubt flew hither and thither before his mind. Masked memories passed quickly before him: he recognized scenes and persons yet he was conscious that he had failed to perceive some vital circumstance in them. He saw himself walking about the grounds watching the sports in Clongowes and eating slim jim out of his cricket cap. Some jesuits were walking round the cycle-track in the company of ladies. The echoes of certain expressions used in Clongowes sounded in remote caves of his mind.
His ears were listening to these distant echoes amid the silence of the parlour when he became aware that the priest was addressing him in a different voice.
—I sent for you today, Stephen, because I wished to speak to you on a very important subject.
—Have you ever felt that you had a vocation?
Stephen parted his lips to answer yes and then withheld the word suddenly. The priest waited for the answer and added:
—I mean, have you ever felt within yourself, in your soul, a desire to join the order? Think.