But he did neither: and, when he was sitting alone in the deserted tram, he tore his ticket into shreds and stared gloomily at the corrugated footboard.
The next day he sat at his table in the bare upper room for many hours. Before him lay a new pen, a new bottle of ink and a new emerald exercise. From force of habit he had written at the top of the first page the initial letters of the jesuit motto: A.M.D.G. On the first line of the page appeared the title of the verses he was trying to write: To E — C — . He knew it was right to begin so for he had seen similar titles in the collected poems of Lord Byron. When he had written this title and drawn an ornamental line underneath he fell into a daydream and began to draw diagrams on the cover of the book. He saw himself sitting at his table in Bray the morning after the discussion at the Christmas dinner table, trying to write a poem about Parnell on the back of one of his father's second moiety notices. But his brain had then refused to grapple with the theme and, desisting, he had covered the page with the names and addresses of certain of his classmates:
Now it seemed as if he would fail again but, by dint of brooding on the incident, he thought himself into confidence. During this process all those elements which he deemed common and insignificant fell out of the scene. There remained no trace of the tram itself nor of the tram-men nor of the horses: nor did he and she appear vividly. The verses told only of the night and the balmy breeze and the maiden lustre of the moon. Some undefined sorrow was hidden in the hearts of the protagonists as they stood in silence beneath the leafless trees and when the moment of farewell had come the kiss, which had been withheld by one, was given by both. After this the letters L. D. S. were written at the foot of the page, and, having hidden the book, he went into his mother's bedroom and gazed at his face for a long time in the mirror of her dressing-table.
But his long spell of leisure and liberty was drawing to its end. One evening his father came home full of news which kept his tongue busy all through dinner. Stephen had been awaiting his father's return for there had been mutton hash that day and he knew that his father would make him dip his bread in the gravy. But he did not relish the hash for the mention of Clongowes had coated his palate with a scum of disgust.
— I walked bang into him, said Mr Dedalus for the fourth time, just at the corner of the square.
— Then I suppose, said Mrs Dedalus, he will be able to arrange it. I mean about Belvedere.
— Of course he will, said Mr Dedalus. Don't I tell you he's provincial of the order now?
— I never liked the idea of sending him to the christian brothers myself, said Mrs Dedalus.
— Christian brothers be damned! said Mr Dedalus. Is it with Paddy Stink and Micky Mud? No, let him stick to the jesuits in God's name since he began with them. They'll be of service to him in after years. Those are the fellows that can get you a position.
— And they're a very rich order, aren't they, Simon?
— Rather. They live well, I tell you. You saw their table at Clongowes. Fed up, by God, like gamecocks.
Mr Dedalus pushed his plate over to Stephen and bade him finish what was on it.
— Now then, Stephen, he said, you must put your shoulder to the wheel, old chap. You've had a fine long holiday.
— O, I'm sure he'll work very hard now, said Mrs Dedalus, especially when he has Maurice with him.
— O, Holy Paul, I forgot about Maurice, said Mr Dedalus. Here, Maurice! Come here, you thick-headed ruffian! Do you know I'm going to send you to a college where they'll teach you to spell c.a.t. cat. And I'll buy you a nice little penny handkerchief to keep your nose dry. Won't that be grand fun?
Maurice grinned at his father and then at his brother.
Mr Dedalus screwed his glass into his eye and stared hard at both his sons. Stephen mumbled his bread without answering his father's gaze.
— By the bye, said Mr Dedalus at length, the rector, or provincial rather, was telling me that story about you and Father Dolan. You're an impudent thief, he said.
— O, he didn't, Simon!
— Not he! said Mr Dedalus. But he gave me a great account of the whole affair. We were chatting, you know, and one word borrowed another. And, by the way, who do you think he told me will get that job in the corporation? But I'll tell you that after. Well, as I was saying, we were chatting away quite friendly and he asked me did our friend here wear glasses still, and then he told me the whole story.
— And was he annoyed, Simon?
— Annoyed? Not he! MANLY LITTLE CHAP! he said.
Mr Dedalus imitated the mincing nasal tone of the provincial.
Father Dolan and I, when I told them all at dinner about it, Father Dolan and I had a great laugh over it. YOU BETTER MIND YOURSELF FATHER DOLAN, said I, OR YOUNG DEDALUS WILL SEND YOU UP FOR TWICE NINE. We had a famous laugh together over it. Ha! Ha! Ha!
Mr Dedalus turned to his wife and interjected in his natural voice:
— Shows you the spirit in which they take the boys there. O, a jesuit for your life, for diplomacy!
He reassumed the provincial's voice and repeated:
— I TOLD THEM ALL AT DINNER ABOUT IT AND FATHER DOLAN AND I AND ALL OF US WE HAD A HEARTY LAUGH TOGETHER OVER IT. HA! HA! HA!
The night of the Whitsuntide play had come and Stephen from the window of the dressing-room looked out on the small grass-plot across which lines of Chinese lanterns were stretched. He watched the visitors come down the steps from the house and pass into the theatre. Stewards in evening dress, old Belvedereans, loitered in groups about the entrance to the theatre and ushered in the visitors with ceremony. Under the sudden glow of a lantern he could recognize the smiling face of a priest.
The Blessed Sacrament had been removed from the tabernacle and the first benches had been driven back so as to leave the dais of the altar and the space before it free. Against the walls stood companies of barbells and Indian clubs; the dumbbells were piled in one corner: and in the midst of countless hillocks of gymnasium shoes and sweaters and singlets in untidy brown parcels there stood the stout leather- jacketed vaulting horse waiting its turn to be carried up on the stage and set in the middle of the winning team at the end of the gymnastic display.
Stephen, though in deference to his reputation for essay writing he had been elected secretary to the gymnasium, had had no part in the first section of the programme but in the play which formed the second section he had the chief part, that of a farcical pedagogue. He had been cast for it on account of his stature and grave manners for he was now at the end of his second year at Belvedere and in number two.
A score of the younger boys in white knickers and singlets came pattering down from the stage, through the vestry and to the chapel. The vestry and chapel were peopled with eager masters and boys. The plump bald sergeant major was testing with his foot the springboard of the vaulting horse. The lean young man in a long overcoat, who was to give a special display of intricate club swinging, stood near watching with interest, his silver-coated clubs peeping out of his deep side-pockets. The hollow rattle of the wooden dumbbells was heard as another team made ready to go up on the stage: and in another moment the excited prefect was hustling the boys through the vestry like a flock of geese, flapping the wings of his soutane nervously and crying to the laggards to make haste. A little troop of Neapolitan peasants were practising their steps at the end of the chapel, some circling their arms above their heads, some swaying their baskets of paper violets and curtsying. In a dark corner of the chapel at the gospel side of the altar a stout old lady knelt amid her copious black skirts. When she stood up a pink-dressed figure, wearing a curly golden wig and an old-fashioned straw sunbonnet, with black pencilled eyebrows and cheeks delicately rouged and powdered, was discovered. A low murmur of curiosity ran round the chapel at the discovery of this girlish figure. One of the prefects, smiling and nodding his head, approached the dark corner and, having bowed to the stout old lady, said pleasantly:
— Is this a beautiful young lady or a doll that you have here, Mrs Tallon?