Moynihan, on his way to the table, said in Stephen's ear:
— MacCann is in tiptop form. Ready to shed the last drop. Brand new world. No stimulants and votes for the bitches.
Stephen smiled at the manner of this confidence and, when Moynihan had passed, turned again to meet Cranly's eyes.
— Perhaps you can tell me, he said, why he pours his soul so freely into my ear. Can you?
A dull scowl appeared on Cranly's forehead. He stared at the table where Moynihan had bent to write his name on the roll, and then said flatly:
— A sugar!
— QUIS EST IN MALO HUMORE, said Stephen, EGO AUT VOS?
Cranly did not take up the taunt. He brooded sourly on his judgement and repeated with the same flat force:
— A flaming bloody sugar, that's what he is!
It was his epitaph for all dead friendships and Stephen wondered whether it would ever be spoken in the same tone over his memory. The heavy lumpish phrase sank slowly out of hearing like a stone through a quagmire. Stephen saw it sink as he had seen many another, feeling its heaviness depress his heart. Cranly's speech, unlike that of Davin, had neither rare phrases of Elizabethan English nor quaintly turned versions of Irish idioms. Its drawl was an echo of the quays of Dublin given back by a bleak decaying seaport, its energy an echo of the sacred eloquence of Dublin given back flatly by a Wicklow pulpit.
The heavy scowl faded from Cranly's face as MacCann marched briskly towards them from the other side of the hall.
— Here you are! said MacCann cheerily.
— Here I am! said Stephen.
— Late as usual. Can you not combine the progressive tendency with a respect for punctuality?
— That question is out of order, said Stephen. Next business.
His smiling eyes were fixed on a silver-wrapped tablet of milk chocolate which peeped out of the propagandist's breast-pocket. A little ring of listeners closed round to hear the war of wits. A lean student with olive skin and lank black hair thrust his face between the two, glancing from one to the other at each phrase and seeming to try to catch each flying phrase in his open moist mouth. Cranly took a small grey handball from his pocket and began to examine it closely, turning it over and over.
— Next business? said MacCann. Hom!
He gave a loud cough of laughter, smiled broadly and tugged twice at the straw-coloured goatee which hung from his blunt chin.
— The next business is to sign the testimonial.
— Will you pay me anything if I sign? asked Stephen.
— I thought you were an idealist, said MacCann.
The gipsy-like student looked about him and addressed the onlookers in an indistinct bleating voice.
— By hell, that's a queer notion. I consider that notion to be a mercenary notion.
His voice faded into silence. No heed was paid to his words. He turned his olive face, equine in expression, towards Stephen, inviting him to speak again.
MacCann began to speak with fluent energy of the Tsar's rescript, of Stead, of general disarmament arbitration in cases of international disputes, of the signs of the times, of the new humanity and the new gospel of life which would make it the business of the community to secure as cheaply as possible the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible number.
The gipsy student responded to the close of the period by crying:
— Three cheers for universal brotherhood!
— Go on, Temple, said a stout ruddy student near him. I'll stand you a pint after.
— I'm a believer in universal brotherhood, said Temple, glancing about him out of his dark oval eyes. Marx is only a bloody cod.
Cranly gripped his arm tightly to check his tongue, smiling uneasily, and repeated:
— Easy, easy, easy!
Temple struggled to free his arm but continued, his mouth flecked by a thin foam:
— Socialism was founded by an Irishman and the first man in Europe who preached the freedom of thought was Collins. Two hundred years ago. He denounced priestcraft, the philosopher of Middlesex. Three cheers for John Anthony Collins!
A thin voice from the verge of the ring replied:
— Pip! pip!
Moynihan murmured beside Stephen's ear:
— And what about John Anthony's poor little sister:
Lottie Collins lost her drawers; Won't you kindly lend her yours?
Stephen laughed and Moynihan, pleased with the result, murmured again:
— We'll have five bob each way on John Anthony Collins.
— I am waiting for your answer, said MacCann briefly.
— The affair doesn't interest me in the least, said Stephen wearily. You know that well. Why do you make a scene about it?
— Good! said MacCann, smacking his lips. You are a reactionary, then?
— Do you think you impress me, Stephen asked, when you flourish your wooden sword?
— Metaphors! said MacCann bluntly. Come to facts.
Stephen blushed and turned aside. MacCann stood his ground and said with hostile humour:
— Minor poets, I suppose, are above such trivial questions as the question of universal peace.
Cranly raised his head and held the handball between the two students by way of a peace-offering, saying:
— PAX SUPER TOTUM SANGUINARIUM GLOBUM.
Stephen, moving away the bystanders, jerked his shoulder angrily in the direction of the Tsar's image, saying:
— Keep your icon. If we must have a Jesus let us have a legitimate Jesus.
— By hell, that's a good one! said the gipsy student to those about him, that's a fine expression. I like that expression immensely.
He gulped down the spittle in his throat as if he were gulping down the phrase and, fumbling at the peak of his tweed cap, turned to Stephen, saying:
— Excuse me, sir, what do you mean by that expression you uttered just now?
Feeling himself jostled by the students near him, he said to them:
— I am curious to know now what he meant by that expression.
He turned again to Stephen and said in a whisper:
— Do you believe in Jesus? I believe in man. Of course, I don't know if you believe in man. I admire you, sir. I admire the mind of man independent of all religions. Is that your opinion about the mind of Jesus?
— Go on, Temple, said the stout ruddy student, returning, as was his wont, to his first idea, that pint is waiting for you.
— He thinks I'm an imbecile, Temple explained to Stephen, because I'm a believer in the power of mind.
Cranly linked his arms into those of Stephen and his admirer and said:
— NOS AD MANUM BALLUM JOCABIMUS.
Stephen, in the act of being led away, caught sight of MacCann's flushed blunt-featured face.
— My signature is of no account, he said politely. You are right to go your way. Leave me to go mine.
— Dedalus, said MacCann crisply, I believe you're a good fellow but you have yet to learn the dignity of altruism and the responsibility of the human individual.