A soft liquid joy flowed through the words where the soft long vowels hurtled noiselessly and fell away, lapping and flowing back and ever shaking the white bells of their waves in mute chime and mute peal, and soft low swooning cry; and he felt that the augury he had sought in the wheeling darting birds and in the pale space of sky above him had come forth from his heart like a bird from a turret, quietly and swiftly.
Symbol of departure or of loneliness? The verses crooned in the ear of his memory composed slowly before his remembering eyes the scene of the hall on the night of the opening of the national theatre. He was alone at the side of the balcony, looking out of jaded eyes at the culture of Dublin in the stalls and at the tawdry scene-cloths and human dolls framed by the garish lamps of the stage. A burly policeman sweated behind him and seemed at every moment about to act. The catcalls and hisses and mocking cries ran in rude gusts round the hall from his scattered fellow students.
—A libel on Ireland!
—Made in Germany.
—We never sold our faith!
—No Irish woman ever did it!
—We want no amateur atheists.
—We want no budding buddhists.
A sudden swift hiss fell from the windows above him and he knew that the electric lamps had been switched on in the reader’s room. He turned into the pillared hall, now calmly lit, went up the staircase and passed in through the clicking turnstile.
Cranly was sitting over near the dictionaries. A thick book, opened at the frontispiece, lay before him on the wooden rest. He leaned back in his chair, inclining his ear like that of a confessor to the face of the medical student who was reading to him a problem from the chess page of a journal. Stephen sat down at his right and the priest at the other side of the table closed his copy of THE TABLET with an angry snap and stood up.
Cranly gazed after him blandly and vaguely. The medical student went on in a softer voice:
—Pawn to king’s fourth.
—We had better go, Dixon, said Stephen in warning. He has gone to complain.
Dixon folded the journal and rose with dignity, saying:
—Our men retired in good order.
—With guns and cattle, added Stephen, pointing to the titlepage of Cranly’s book on which was printed DISEASES OF THE OX.
As they passed through a lane of the tables Stephen said:
—Cranly, I want to speak to you.
Cranly did not answer or turn. He laid his book on the counter and passed out, his well-shod feet sounding flatly on the floor. On the staircase he paused and gazing absently at Dixon repeated:
—Pawn to king’s bloody fourth.
—Put it that way if you like, Dixon said.
He had a quiet toneless voice and urbane manners and on a finger of his plump clean hand he displayed at moments a signet ring.