He sidled out of the alley, smiling slyly. Cranly watched him with a blank expressionless face.
—Look at him! he said. Did you ever see such a go-by-the-wall?
His phrase was greeted by a strange laugh from a student who lounged against the wall, his peaked cap down on his eyes. The laugh, pitched in a high key and coming from a so muscular frame, seemed like the whinny of an elephant. The student’s body shook all over and, to ease his mirth, he rubbed both his hands delightedly over his groins.
—Lynch is awake, said Cranly.
Lynch, for answer, straightened himself and thrust forward his chest.
—Lynch puts out his chest, said Stephen, as a criticism of life.
Lynch smote himself sonorously on the chest and said:
—Who has anything to say about my girth?
Cranly took him at the word and the two began to tussle. When their faces had flushed with the struggle they drew apart, panting. Stephen bent down towards Davin who, intent on the game, had paid no heed to the talk of the others.
—And how is my little tame goose? he asked. Did he sign, too?
David nodded and said:
—And you, Stevie?
Stephen shook his head.
—You’re a terrible man, Stevie, said Davin, taking the short pipe from his mouth, always alone.
—Now that you have signed the petition for universal peace, said Stephen, I suppose you will burn that little copybook I saw in your room.
As Davin did not answer, Stephen began to quote:
—Long pace, fianna! Right incline, fianna! Fianna, by numbers, salute, one, two!
—That’s a different question, said Davin. I’m an Irish nationalist, first and foremost. But that’s you all out. You’re a born sneerer, Stevie.
—When you make the next rebellion with hurleysticks, said Stephen, and want the indispensable informer, tell me. I can find you a few in this college.
—I can’t understand you, said Davin. One time I hear you talk against English literature. Now you talk against the Irish informers. What with your name and your ideas—Are you Irish at all?
—Come with me now to the office of arms and I will show you the tree of my family, said Stephen.
—Then be one of us, said Davin. Why don’t you learn Irish? Why did you drop out of the league class after the first lesson?
—You know one reason why, answered Stephen.
Davin tossed his head and laughed.
—Oh, come now, he said. Is it on account of that certain young lady and Father Moran? But that’s all in your own mind, Stevie. They were only talking and laughing.
Stephen paused and laid a friendly hand upon Davin’s shoulder.
—Do you remember, he said, when we knew each other first? The first morning we met you asked me to show you the way to the matriculation class, putting a very strong stress on the first syllable. You remember? Then you used to address the jesuits as father, you remember? I ask myself about you: IS HE AS INNOCENT AS HIS SPEECH?