—Yes, Stephen said.
—What was he? Cranly asked after a pause.
Stephen began to enumerate glibly his father’s attributes.
—A medical student, an oarsman, a tenor, an amateur actor, a shouting politician, a small landlord, a small investor, a drinker, a good fellow, a story-teller, somebody’s secretary, something in a distillery, a tax-gatherer, a bankrupt and at present a praiser of his own past.
Cranly laughed, tightening his grip on Stephen’s arm, and said:
—The distillery is damn good.
—Is there anything else you want to know? Stephen asked.
—Are you in good circumstances at present?
—Do I look it? Stephen asked bluntly.
—So then, Cranly went on musingly, you were born in the lap of luxury.
He used the phrase broadly and loudly as he often used technical expressions, as if he wished his hearer to understand that they were used by him without conviction.
—Your mother must have gone through a good deal of suffering, he said then. Would you not try to save her from suffering more even if… or would you?
—If I could, Stephen said, that would cost me very little.
—Then do so, Cranly said. Do as she wishes you to do. What is it for you? You disbelieve in it. It is a form: nothing else. And you will set her mind at rest.
He ceased and, as Stephen did not reply, remained silent. Then, as if giving utterance to the process of his own thought, he said:
—Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not. Your mother brings you into the world, carries you first in her body. What do we know about what she feels? But whatever she feels, it, at least, must be real. It must be. What are our ideas or ambitions? Play. Ideas! Why, that bloody bleating goat Temple has ideas. MacCann has ideas too. Every jackass going the roads thinks he has ideas.
Stephen, who had been listening to the unspoken speech behind the words, said with assumed carelessness:
—Pascal, if I remember rightly, would not suffer his mother to kiss him as he feared the contact of her sex.
—Pascal was a pig, said Cranly.
—Aloysius Gonzaga, I think, was of the same mind, Stephen said.
—And he was another pig then, said Cranly.
—The church calls him a saint, Stephen objected.
—I don’t care a flaming damn what anyone calls him, Cranly said rudely and flatly. I call him a pig.
Stephen, preparing the words neatly in his mind, continued:
—Jesus, too, seems to have treated his mother with scant courtesy in public but Suarez, a jesuit theologian and Spanish gentleman, has apologized for him.
—Did the idea ever occur to you, Cranly asked, that Jesus was not what he pretended to be?
—The first person to whom that idea occurred, Stephen answered, was Jesus himself.
—I mean, Cranly said, hardening in his speech, did the idea ever occur to you that he was himself a conscious hypocrite, what he called the jews of his time, a whited sepulchre? Or, to put it more plainly, that he was a blackguard?