He rose nimbly and went towards the door, set it ajar and said:
—A draught is said to be a help in these matters.
As he came back to the hearth, limping slightly but with a brisk step, Stephen saw the silent soul of a jesuit look out at him from the pale loveless eyes. Like Ignatius he was lame but in his eyes burned no spark of Ignatius’s enthusiasm. Even the legendary craft of the company, a craft subtler and more secret than its fabled books of secret subtle wisdom, had not fired his soul with the energy of apostleship. It seemed as if he used the shifts and lore and cunning of the world, as bidden to do, for the greater glory of God, without joy in their handling or hatred of that in them which was evil but turning them, with a firm gesture of obedience back upon themselves and for all this silent service it seemed as if he loved not at all the master and little, if at all, the ends he served. SIMILITER ATQUE SENIS BACULUS, he was, as the founder would have had him, like a staff in an old man’s hand, to be leaned on in the road at nightfall or in stress of weather, to lie with a lady’s nosegay on a garden seat, to be raised in menace.
The dean returned to the hearth and began to stroke his chin.
—When may we expect to have something from you on the esthetic question? he asked.
—From me! said Stephen in astonishment. I stumble on an idea once a fortnight if I am lucky.
—These questions are very profound, Mr Dedalus, said the dean. It is like looking down from the cliffs of Moher into the depths. Many go down into the depths and never come up. Only the trained diver can go down into those depths and explore them and come to the surface again.
—If you mean speculation, sir, said Stephen, I also am sure that there is no such thing as free thinking inasmuch as all thinking must be bound by its own laws.
—For my purpose I can work on at present by the light of one or two ideas of Aristotle and Aquinas.
—I see. I quite see your point.
—I need them only for my own use and guidance until I have done something for myself by their light. If the lamp smokes or smells I shall try to trim it. If it does not give light enough I shall sell it and buy another.
—Epictetus also had a lamp, said the dean, which was sold for a fancy price after his death. It was the lamp he wrote his philosophical dissertations by. You know Epictetus?
—An old gentleman, said Stephen coarsely, who said that the soul is very like a bucketful of water.
—He tells us in his homely way, the dean went on, that he put an iron lamp before a statue of one of the gods and that a thief stole the lamp. What did the philosopher do? He reflected that it was in the character of a thief to steal and determined to buy an earthen lamp next day instead of the iron lamp.