— And why were you shocked, Cranly pressed on in the same tone, if you feel sure that our religion is false and that Jesus was not the son of God?
— I am not at all sure of it, Stephen said. He is more like a son of God than a son of Mary.
— And is that why you will not communicate, Cranly asked, because you are not sure of that too, because you feel that the host, too, may be the body and blood of the son of God and not a wafer of bread? And because you fear that it may be?
— Yes, Stephen said quietly, I feel that and I also fear it.
— I see, Cranly said.
Stephen, struck by his tone of closure, reopened the discussion at once by saying:
— I fear many things: dogs, horses, fire-arms, the sea, thunder-storms, machinery, the country roads at night.
— But why do you fear a bit of bread?
— I imagine, Stephen said, that there is a malevolent reality behind those things I say I fear.
— Do you fear then, Cranly asked, that the God of the Roman catholics would strike you dead and damn you if you made a sacrilegious communion?
— The God of the Roman catholics could do that now, Stephen said. I fear more than that the chemical action which would be set up in my soul by a false homage to a symbol behind which are massed twenty centuries of authority and veneration.
— Would you, Cranly asked, in extreme danger, commit that particular sacrilege? For instance, if you lived in the penal days?
— I cannot answer for the past, Stephen replied. Possibly not.
— Then, said Cranly, you do not intend to become a protestant?
— I said that I had lost the faith, Stephen answered, but not that I had lost self-respect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?
They had walked on towards the township of Pembroke and now, as they went on slowly along the avenues, the trees and the scattered lights in the villas soothed their minds. The air of wealth and repose diffused about them seemed to comfort their neediness. Behind a hedge of laurel a light glimmered in the window of a kitchen and the voice of a servant was heard singing as she sharpened knives. She sang, in short broken bars:
Cranly stopped to listen, saying:
— MULIER CANTAT.
The soft beauty of the Latin word touched with an enchanting touch the dark of the evening, with a touch fainter and more persuading than the touch of music or of a woman's hand. The strife of their minds was quelled. The figure of a woman as she appears in the liturgy of the church passed silently through the darkness: a white-robed figure, small and slender as a boy, and with a falling girdle. Her voice, frail and high as a boy's, was heard intoning from a distant choir the first words of a woman which pierce the gloom and clamour of the first chanting of the passion:
— ET TU CUM JESU GALILAEO ERAS.
And all hearts were touched and turned to her voice, shining like a young star, shining clearer as the voice intoned the proparoxytone and more faintly as the cadence died.
The singing ceased. They went on together, Cranly repeating in strongly stressed rhythm the end of the refrain:
And when we are married,
O, how happy we'll be
For I love sweet Rosie O'Grady
And Rosie O'Grady loves me.
— There's real poetry for you, he said. There's real love.
He glanced sideways at Stephen with a strange smile and said:
— Do you consider that poetry? Or do you know what the words mean?
— I want to see Rosie first, said Stephen.
— She's easy to find, Cranly said.
His hat had come down on his forehead. He shoved it back and in the shadow of the trees Stephen saw his pale face, framed by the dark, and his large dark eyes. Yes. His face was handsome and his body was strong and hard. He had spoken of a mother's love. He felt then the sufferings of women, the weaknesses of their bodies and souls; and would shield them with a strong and resolute arm and bow his mind to them.
Away then: it is time to go. A voice spoke softly to Stephen's lonely heart, bidding him go and telling him that his friendship was coming to an end. Yes; he would go. He could not strive against another. He knew his part.
— Probably I shall go away, he said.
— Where? Cranly asked.
— Where I can, Stephen said.
— Yes, Cranly said. It might be difficult for you to live here now. But is it that makes you go?
— I have to go, Stephen answered.
— Because, Cranly continued, you need not look upon yourself as driven away if you do not wish to go or as a heretic or an outlaw. There are many good believers who think as you do. Would that surprise you? The church is not the stone building nor even the clergy and their dogmas. It is the whole mass of those born into it. I don't know what you wish to do in life. Is it what you told me the night we were standing outside Harcourt Street station?
— Yes, Stephen said, smiling in spite of himself at Cranly's way of remembering thoughts in connexion with places. The night you spent half an hour wrangling with Doherty about the shortest way from Sallygap to Larras.
— Pothead! Cranly said with calm contempt. What does he know about the way from Sallygap to Larras? Or what does he know about anything for that matter? And the big slobbering washing-pot head of him!
He broke into a loud long laugh.
— Well? Stephen said. Do you remember the rest?
— What you said, is it? Cranly asked. Yes, I remember it. To discover the mode of life or of art whereby your spirit could express itself in unfettered freedom.
Stephen raised his hat in acknowledgement.
— Freedom! Cranly repeated. But you are not free enough yet to commit a sacrilege. Tell me would you rob?
— 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.