—I would beg first, Stephen said.
—And if you got nothing, would you rob?
—You wish me to say, Stephen answered, that the rights of property are provisional, and that in certain circumstances it is not unlawful to rob. Everyone would act in that belief. So I will not make you that answer. Apply to the jesuit theologian, Juan Mariana de Talavera, who will also explain to you in what circumstances you may lawfully Kill your king and whether you had better hand him his poison in a goblet or smear it for him upon his robe or his saddlebow. Ask me rather would I suffer others to rob me, or if they did, would I call down upon them what I believe is called the chastisement of the secular arm?
—And would you?
—I think, Stephen said, it would pain me as much to do so as to be robbed.
—I see, Cranly said.
He produced his match and began to clean the crevice between two teeth. Then he said carelessly:
—Tell me, for example, would you deflower a virgin?
—Excuse me, Stephen said politely, is that not the ambition of most young gentlemen?
—What then is your point of view? Cranly asked.
His last phrase, sour smelling as the smoke of charcoal and disheartening, excited Stephen’s brain, over which its fumes seemed to brood.
—Look here, Cranly, he said. You have asked me what I would do and what I would not do. I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use—silence, exile, and cunning.
Cranly seized his arm and steered him round so as to lead him back towards Leeson Park. He laughed almost slyly and pressed Stephen’s arm with an elder’s affection.
—Cunning indeed! he said. Is it you? You poor poet, you!
—And you made me confess to you, Stephen said, thrilled by his touch, as I have confessed to you so many other things, have I not?
—Yes, my child, Cranly said, still gaily.
—You made me confess the fears that I have. But I will tell you also what I do not fear. I do not fear to be alone or to be spurned for another or to leave whatever I have to leave. And I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake, and perhaps as long as eternity too.
Cranly, now grave again, slowed his pace and said:
—Alone, quite alone. You have no fear of that. And you know what that word means? Not only to be separate from all others but to have not even one friend.
—I will take the risk, said Stephen.