He turned the handle and opened the door and fumbled for the handle of the green baize door inside. He found it and pushed it open and went in.
He saw the rector sitting at a desk writing. There was a skull on the desk and a strange solemn smell in the room like the old leather of chairs.
His heart was beating fast on account of the solemn place he was in and the silence of the room: and he looked at the skull and at the rector's kind-looking face.
— Well, my little man, said the rector, what is it?
Stephen swallowed down the thing in his throat and said:
— I broke my glasses, sir.
The rector opened his mouth and said:
Then he smiled and said:
— Well, if we broke our glasses we must write home for a new pair.
— I wrote home, sir, said Stephen, and Father Arnall said I am not to study till they come.
— Quite right! said the rector.
Stephen swallowed down the thing again and tried to keep his legs and his voice from shaking.
— But, sir —
— Father Dolan came in today and pandied me because I was not writing my theme.
The rector looked at him in silence and he could feel the blood rising to his face and the tears about to rise to his eyes.
The rector said:
— Your name is Dedalus, isn't it?
— Yes, sir . . .
— And where did you break your glasses?
— On the cinder-path, sir. A fellow was coming out of the bicycle house and I fell and they got broken. I don't know the fellow's name.
The rector looked at him again in silence. Then he smiled and said:
— O, well, it was a mistake; I am sure Father Dolan did not know.
— But I told him I broke them, sir, and he pandied me.
— Did you tell him that you had written home for a new pair? the rector asked.
— No, sir.
— O well then, said the rector, Father Dolan did not understand. You can say that I excuse you from your lessons for a few days.
Stephen said quickly for fear his trembling would prevent him:
— Yes, sir, but Father Dolan said he will come in tomorrow to pandy me again for it.
— Very well, the rector said, it is a mistake and I shall speak to Father Dolan myself. Will that do now?
Stephen felt the tears wetting his eyes and murmured:
— O yes sir, thanks.
The rector held his hand across the side of the desk where the skull was and Stephen, placing his hand in it for a moment, felt a cool moist palm.
— Good day now, said the rector, withdrawing his hand and bowing.
— Good day, sir, said Stephen.
He bowed and walked quietly out of the room, closing the doors carefully and slowly.
But when he had passed the old servant on the landing and was again in the low narrow dark corridor he began to walk faster and faster. Faster and faster he hurried on through the gloom excitedly. He bumped his elbow against the door at the end and, hurrying down the staircase, walked quickly through the two corridors and out into the air.
He could hear the cries of the fellows on the playgrounds. He broke into a run and, running quicker and quicker, ran across the cinderpath and reached the third line playground, panting.
The fellows had seen him running. They closed round him in a ring, pushing one against another to hear.
— Tell us! Tell us!
— What did he say?
— Did you go in?
— What did he say?
— Tell us! Tell us!
He told them what he had said and what the rector had said and, when he had told them, all the fellows flung their caps spinning up into the air and cried:
They caught their caps and sent them up again spinning sky-high and cried again:
— Hurroo! Hurroo!
They made a cradle of their locked hands and hoisted him up among them and carried him along till he struggled to get free. And when he had escaped from them they broke away in all directions, flinging their caps again into the air and whistling as they went spinning up and crying:
And they gave three groans for Baldyhead Dolan and three cheers for Conmee and they said he was the decentest rector that was ever in Clongowes.
The cheers died away in the soft grey air. He was alone. He was happy and free; but he would not be anyway proud with Father Dolan. He would be very quiet and obedient: and he wished that he could do something kind for him to show him that he was not proud.
The air was soft and grey and mild and evening was coming. There was the smell of evening in the air, the smell of the fields in the country where they digged up turnips to peel them and eat them when they went out for a walk to Major Barton's, the smell there was in the little wood beyond the pavilion where the gallnuts were.
The fellows were practising long shies and bowling lobs and slow twisters. In the soft grey silence he could hear the bump of the balls: and from here and from there through the quiet air the sound of the cricket bats: pick, pack, pock, puck: like drops of water in a fountain falling softly in the brimming bowl.