—A merchant, Stephen said, is one who buys cheap and sells dear, jew or gentile, is he not?
—They sinned against the light, Mr Deasy said gravely. And you can see the darkness in their eyes. And that is why they are wandered on the earth to this day.
On the steps of the Paris Stock Exchange the goldskinned men quoting prices on their gemmed fingers. Gabbles of geese. They swarmed loud, uncouth about the temple, their heads thickplotting under maladroit silk hats. Not theirs: these clothes, this speech, these gestures, Their full slow eyes belied the words, the gestures eager and unoffending, but knew the rancours massed about them and knew their zeal was vain. Vain patience to heap and hoard. Time surely would scatter all. A hoard heaped by the roadside: plundered and passing on. Their eyes knew the years of wandering and, patient, knew the dishonours of their flesh.
—Who has not? Stephen said.
—What do you mean? Mr Deasy asked.
He came forward a pace and stood by the table. His underjaw fell sideways open uncertainly. Is this old wisdom? He waits to hear from me.
—History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
From the playfield the boys raised a shout. A whirring whistle: goal. What if that nightmare gave you a back kick?
—The ways of the creator are not our ways, Mr Deasy said. All history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God.
Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying:
—That is God.
Hooray! Ay! Whrrwhee!
—What? Mr Deasy asked.
—A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders.
Mr Deasy looked down and held for a while the wings of his nose tweaked between his fingers. Looking up again he set them free.
—I am happier than you are, he said. We have committed many errors and many sins. A woman brought sin into the world. For a woman who was no better than she should be, Helen, the runaway wife of Menelaus, ten years the Greeks made war on Troy. A faithless wife first brought the strangers to our shore here, MacMurrough's wife and her leman O'Rourke, prince of Breffni. A woman too brought Parnell low. Many errors, many failures but not the one sin. I am a struggler now at the end of my days. But I will fight for the right till the end.
For Ulster will fight
And Ulster will be right
Stephen raised the sheets in his hand.
—Well, sir, he began,
—I foresee, Mr Deasy said, that you will not remain here very long at this work. You were not born to be a teacher, I think. Perhaps I am wrong.
—A learner rather, Stephen said.
And here what will you learn more?
Mr Deasy shook his head.
—Who knows? he said. To learn one must be humble. But life is the great teacher. Stephen rustled the sheets again.
—As regards these, he began.
—Yes, Mr Deasy said. You have two copies there. If you can have them published at once.
Telegraph. Irish Homestead.
—I will try, Stephen said, and let you know tomorrow. I know two editor slightly.
—That will do, Mr Deasy said briskly. I wrote last night to Mr Field, M.P. There is a meeting of the cattletraders' association today at the City Arms Hotel. I asked him to lay my letter before the meeting. You see if you can get it into your two papers. What are they?
—The Evening Telegraph…
—That will do, Mr Deasy said. There is no time to lose. Now that I have to answer that letter from my cousin.
—Good morning, sir, Stephen said, putting the sheets in his pocket. Thank you.
—Not at all, Mr Deasy said as he searched the papers on his desk. I like to break a lance with you, old as I am.
—Good morning, sir, Stephen said again, bowing to his bent back.
He went out by the open porch and down the gravel path under the trees, hearing the cries of voices and crack of sticks from the playfield. The lions couchant on the pillars as he passed out through the gat; toothless terrors. Still I will help him in his fight. Mulligan will dub me a new nameL the bullockbefriending bard.
Running after me. No more letters, I hope.
—Just one moment.
—Yes, sir, Stephen said, turning back at the gate.
Mr Deasy halted, breathing hard and swallowing his breath.
—I just wanted to say, he said. Ireland, they say, has the honour of being the only country which never persecuted the jews. Do you know that? No. And do you know why?
He frowned sternly on the bright air.
—Why, sir? Stephen asked, beginning to smile.
—Because she never let them in, Mr Deasy said solemnly.
A coughball of laughter leaped from his throat dragging after it a rattling chain of phlegm. He turned back quickly, coughing, laughing, his lifted his arms waving to the air.
—She never let them in, he cried again through his laughter as he stamped on gaited feet over the gravel of the path. That's why.
On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins.