He pointed to the portrait of his grandfather on the wall to his right.
— Do you see that old chap up there, John? he said. He was a good Irishman when there was no money in the job. He was condemned to death as a whiteboy. But he had a saying about our clerical friends, that he would never let one of them put his two feet under his mahogany.
Dante broke in angrily:
— If we are a priest-ridden race we ought to be proud of it! They are the apple of God's eye. TOUCH THEM NOT, says Christ, FOR THEY ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE.
— And can we not love our country then? asked Mr Casey. Are we not to follow the man that was born to lead us?
— A traitor to his country! replied Dante. A traitor, an adulterer! The priests were right to abandon him. The priests were always the true friends of Ireland.
— Were they, faith? said Mr Casey.
He threw his fist on the table and, frowning angrily, protruded one finger after another.
— Didn't the bishops of Ireland betray us in the time of the union when Bishop Lanigan presented an address of loyalty to the Marquess Cornwallis? Didn't the bishops and priests sell the aspirations of their country in 1829 in return for catholic emancipation? Didn't they denounce the fenian movement from the pulpit and in the confession box? And didn't they dishonour the ashes of Terence Bellew MacManus?
His face was glowing with anger and Stephen felt the glow rise to his own cheek as the spoken words thrilled him. Mr Dedalus uttered a guffaw of coarse scorn.
— O, by God, he cried, I forgot little old Paul Cullen! Another apple of God's eye!
Dante bent across the table and cried to Mr Casey:
— Right! Right! They were always right! God and morality and religion come first.
Mrs Dedalus, seeing her excitement, said to her:
— Mrs Riordan, don't excite yourself answering them.
— God and religion before everything! Dante cried. God and religion before the world.
Mr Casey raised his clenched fist and brought it down on the table with a crash.
— Very well then, he shouted hoarsely, if it comes to that, no God for Ireland!
— John! John! cried Mr Dedalus, seizing his guest by the coat sleeve.
Dante stared across the table, her cheeks shaking. Mr Casey struggled up from his chair and bent across the table towards her, scraping the air from before his eyes with one hand as though he were tearing aside a cobweb.
— No God for Ireland! he cried. We have had too much God In Ireland. Away with God!
— Blasphemer! Devil! screamed Dante, starting to her feet and almost spitting in his face.
Uncle Charles and Mr Dedalus pulled Mr Casey back into his chair again, talking to him from both sides reasonably. He stared before him out of his dark flaming eyes, repeating:
— Away with God, I say!
Dante shoved her chair violently aside and left the table, upsetting her napkin-ring which rolled slowly along the carpet and came to rest against the foot of an easy-chair. Mrs Dedalus rose quickly and followed her towards the door. At the door Dante turned round violently and shouted down the room, her cheeks flushed and quivering with rage:
— Devil out of hell! We won! We crushed him to death! Fiend!
The door slammed behind her.
Mr Casey, freeing his arms from his holders, suddenly bowed his head on his hands with a sob of pain.
— Poor Parnell! he cried loudly. My dead king!
He sobbed loudly and bitterly.
Stephen, raising his terror-stricken face, saw that his father's eyes were full of tears.
The fellows talked together in little groups.
One fellow said:
— They were caught near the Hill of Lyons.
— Who caught them?
— Mr Gleeson and the minister. They were on a car. The same fellow added:
— A fellow in the higher line told me.
— But why did they run away, tell us?
— I know why, Cecil Thunder said. Because they had fecked cash out of the rector's room.
— Who fecked it?
— Kickham's brother. And they all went shares in it.
— But that was stealing. How could they have done that?
— A fat lot you know about it, Thunder! Wells said. I know why they scut.
— Tell us why.
— I was told not to, Wells said.
— O, go on, Wells, all said. You might tell us. We won't let it out.
Stephen bent forward his head to hear. Wells looked round to see if anyone was coming. Then he said secretly:
— You know the altar wine they keep in the press in the sacristy?
— Well, they drank that and it was found out who did it by the smell. And that's why they ran away, if you want to know.
And the fellow who had spoken first said:
— Yes, that's what I heard too from the fellow in the higher line.
The fellows all were silent. Stephen stood among them, afraid to speak, listening. A faint sickness of awe made him feel weak. How could they have done that? He thought of the dark silent sacristy. There were dark wooden presses there where the crimped surplices lay quietly folded. It was not the chapel but still you had to speak under your breath. It was a holy place. He remembered the summer evening he had been there to be dressed as boatbearer, the evening of the Procession to the little altar in the wood. A strange and holy place. The boy that held the censer had swung it lifted by the middle chain to keep the coals lighting. That was called charcoal: and it had burned quietly as the fellow had swung it gently and had given off a weak sour smell. And then when all were vested he had stood holding out the boat to the rector and the rector had put a spoonful of incense in it and it had hissed on the red coals.
The fellows were talking together in little groups here and there on the playground. The fellows seemed to him to have grown smaller: that was because a sprinter had knocked him down the day before, a fellow out of second of grammar. He had been thrown by the fellow's machine lightly on the cinder path and his spectacles had been broken in three pieces and some of the grit of the cinders had gone into his mouth.
That was why the fellows seemed to him smaller and farther away and the goalposts so thin and far and the soft grey sky so high up. But there was no play on the football grounds for cricket was coming: and some said that Barnes would be prof and some said it would be Flowers. And all over the playgrounds they were playing rounders and bowling twisters and lobs. And from here and from there came the sounds of the cricket bats through the soft grey air. They said: pick, pack, pock, puck: little drops of water in a fountain slowly falling in the brimming bowl.
Athy, who had been silent, said quietly:
— You are all wrong.
All turned towards him eagerly.
— Do you know?
— Who told you?
— Tell us, Athy.