and in my mind's darkness a sloth of the underworld, reluctant, shy of brightness, shifting her dragon scaly folds. Thought is the thought of thought. Tranquil brightness. The soul is in a manner all that is: the soul is the form of forms. Tranquility sudden, vast, candescent: form of forms.
—Through the dear might of Him that walked the waves
Through the dear might …
—Turn over, Stephen said quietly. I don't see anything.
—What, sir? Talbot asked simply, bending forward.
His hand turned the page over. He leaned back and went on again having just remembered. Of him that walked the waves. Here also over these craven hearts his shadow lies and on the scoffer's heart and lips and on mine. It lies upon their eager faces who offered him a coin of the tribute. To Caesar what is Caesar's, to God what is God's. A long look from dark eyes, a riddling sentence to be woven on the church's looms.
Riddle me, riddle me, randy ro.
My father gave me seeds to sow.
Talbot slid his closed book into his satchel.
—Have I heard all? Stephen asked.
—Yes, sir. Hockey at ten, sir.
—Half day, sir. Thursday.
—Who can answer a riddle? Stephen asked.
They bundled their books away, pencils clacking, pages rustling. Crowding together they strapped and buckled their satchels, all gabbling gaily:
—A riddle, sir? Ask me, sir.
—O, ask me, sir.
—A hard one, sir.
—This is the riddle, Stephen said.
The cock crew
The sky was blue:
The bells in heaven
Were striking eleven.
Tis time for this pour soul
To go to heaven.
—What is that?
—Again, sir. We didn't hear.
Their eyes grew bigger as the lines were repeated. After a silence Cochrane said:
—What is it, sir? We give it up.
Stephen, his throat itching, answered:
—The fox burying his grandmother under a hollybush.
He stood up and gave a shout of nervous laughter to which their cries echoed dismay.
A stick struck the door and a voice in the corridor called:
They broke asunder, sidling out of their benches, leaping them. Quickly they were gone and from the lumberroom came the rattle of sticks and clamour of their boots and tongues.
Sargent who alone had lingered came forward slowly, showing an open copybook. His tangled hair and scraggy neck gave witness of unreadiness and through his misty glasses weak eyes looked up pleading. On his cheek, dull and bloodless, a soft stain of ink lay, dateshaped, recent and damp as a snail's bed.
He held out his copybook. The words Sums was written on the headline, Beneath were sloping figures and at the foot a crooked signature with blind loops and a blot. Cyril Sargent: his name and seal.
—Mr Deasy told me to write them out all again, he said, and show them to you, sir.
Stephen touched the edges of the book. Futility.
—Do you understand how to do them now? he asked.
—Numbers eleven to fifteen, Sargent answered. Mr Deasy said I was to copy them off the board, sir.
—Can you do them yourself? Stephen asked.
Ugly and futile: lean neck and tangled hair and a stain of ink, a snail's bed. Yet someone had loved him, borne him in her arms and in her heart. But for her the race of the world would have trampled him under foot, a squashed boneless snail. She had loved his weak watery blood drained from her own. Was that then real? The only true thing in life? His mother's prostrate body the fiery Columbanus in holy zeal bestrode. She was no more: the trembling skeleton of a twig burnt in the fire, an odour of rosewood and wetted ashes. She