—Do you know that you are an excitable man?
—I daresay I am, said Stephen, laughing also.
Their minds, lately estranged, seemed suddenly to have been drawn closer, one to the other.
—Do you believe in the eucharist? Cranly asked.
—I do not, Stephen said.
—Do you disbelieve then?
—I neither believe in it nor disbelieve in it, Stephen answered.
—Many persons have doubts, even religious persons, yet they overcome them or put them aside, Cranly said. Are your doubts on that point too strong?
—I do not wish to overcome them, Stephen answered.
Cranly, embarrassed for a moment, took another fig from his pocket and was about to eat it when Stephen said:
—Don’t, please. You cannot discuss this question with your mouth full of chewed fig.
Cranly examined the fig by the light of a lamp under which he halted. Then he smelt it with both nostrils, bit a tiny piece, spat it out and threw the fig rudely into the gutter.
Addressing it as it lay, he said:
—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!
Taking Stephen’s arms, he went on again and said:
—Do you not fear that those words may be spoken to you on the day of Judgement?
—What is offered me on the other hand? Stephen asked. An eternity of bliss in the company of the dean of studies?
—Remember, Cranly said, that he would be glorified.
—Ay, Stephen said somewhat bitterly, bright, agile, impassible and, above all, subtle.
—It is a curious thing, do you know, Cranly said dispassionately, how your mind is supersaturated with the religion in which you say you disbelieve. Did you believe in it when you were at school? I bet you did.
—I did, Stephen answered.
—And were you happier then? Cranly asked softly, happier than you are now, for instance?
—Often happy, Stephen said, and often unhappy. I was someone else then.
—How someone else? What do you mean by that statement?
—I mean, said Stephen, that I was not myself as I am now, as I had to become.
—Not as you are now, not as you had to become, Cranly repeated. Let me ask you a question. Do you love your mother?
Stephen shook his head slowly.
—I don’t know what your words mean, he said simply.
—Have you never loved anyone? Cranly asked.
—Do you mean women?
—I am not speaking of that, Cranly said in a colder tone. I ask you if you ever felt love towards anyone or anything?
Stephen walked on beside his friend, staring gloomily at the footpath.
—I tried to love God, he said at length. It seems now I failed. It is very difficult. I tried to unite my will with the will of God instant by instant. In that I did not always fail. I could perhaps do that still—
Cranly cut him short by asking:
—Has your mother had a happy life?
—How do I know? Stephen said.
—How many children had she?
—Nine or ten, Stephen answered. Some died.
—Was your father… Cranly interrupted himself for an instant, and then said: I don’t want to pry into your family affairs. But was your father what is called well-to-do? I mean, when you were growing up?