Stephen, an elbow rested on the jagged granite, leaned his palm against his brow and gazed at the fraying edge of his shiny black coatsleeve. Pain, that was not yet the pain of love, fretted his heart. Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death, her wasted body within its loose brown graveclothes giving off an odor of wax and rosewood, her breath, that bent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes. Across the threadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfed voice beside him. The ring of bay and skyline held a dull green mass of liquid. A bowl of white china had stood beside her deathbed holding the green sluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting.
— And what is death, he asked, your mother’s or yours or your own? You saw only your mother die. I see them pop off every day in the Mater and Richmond and cut up into tripes in the dissectingroom. It’s a beastly thing and nothing else. It simply doesn’t matter.
A cloud began to cover the sun slowly, wholly, shadowing the bay in deeper green. It lay beneath him, a bowl of bitter waters. Fergus’ song: I sang it alone in the house, holding down the long dark chords. Her door was open: she wanted to hear my music. Silent with awe and pity I went to her bedside. She was crying in her wretched bed. For those words, Stephen: love’s bitter mystery.
Her secrets: old featherfans, tasselled dancecards, powdered with musk, a gaud of amber beads in her locked drawer. A birdcage hung in the sunny window of her house when she was a girl. She heard old Royce sing in the pantomime of Turko the Terrible and laughed with others when he sang:
I am the boy
That can enjoy
Phantasmal mirth, folded away: muskperfumed.
And no more turn aside and brood.
Folded away in the memory of nature with her toys. Memories beset his brooding brain. Her glass of water from the kitchen tap when she had approached the sacrament. A cored apple, filled with brown sugar, roasting for her at the hob on a dark autumn evening. Her shapely fingernails reddened by the blood of squashed lice from the children’s shirts.
In a dream, silently, she had come to him, her wasted body within its loose graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, bent over him with mute secret words, a faint odour of wetted ashes.
Her glazing eyes, staring out of death, to shake and bend my soul. On me alone. The ghostcandle to light her agony. Ghostly light on the tortured face. Her hoarse loud breath rattling in horror, while all prayed on their knees. Her eyes on me to strike me down. Liliata rutilantium te confessorum turma circumdet: iubilantium te virginum chorus excipiat.
Ghoul! Chewer of corpses!
No, mother! Let me be and let me live.
— Kinch ahoy!
Buck Mulligan’s voice sang from within the tower. It came nearer up the staircase, calling again. Stephen, still trembling at his soul’s cry, heard warm running sunlight and in the air behind him friendly words.
He watched her pour into the measure and thence into the jug rich white milk, not hers. Old shrunken paps. She poured again a measureful and a tilly. Old and secret she had entered from a morning world, maybe a messenger. She praised the goodness of the milk, pouring it out. Crouching by a patient cow at daybreak in the lush field, a witch on her toadstool, her wrinkled fingers quick at the squirting dugs. They lowed about her whom they knew, dewsilky cattle. Silk of the kine and poor old woman, names given her in old times. A wandering crone, lowly form of an immortal serving her conqueror and her gay betrayer, their common cuckquean, a messenger from the secret morning. To serve or to upbraid, whether he could not tell: but scorned to beg her favour.
He stood up, gravely ungirdled and disrobed himself of his gown, saying resignedly:
— Mulligan is stripped of his garments.
He emptied his pockets on to the table.
— There’s your snotrag, he said.
And putting on his stiff collar and rebellious tie he spoke to them, chiding them, and to his dangling watchchain. His hands plunged and rummaged in his trunk while he called for a clean handkerchief. God, we’ll simply have to dress the character. I want puce gloves and green boots. Contradiction. Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. Mercurial Malachi. A limp black missile flew out of his talking hands.
Buck Mulligan at once put on a blithe broadly smiling face. He looked at them, his wellshaped mouth open happily, his eyes, from which he had suddenly withdrawn all shrewd sense, blinking with mad gaiety. He moved a doll’s head to and fro, the brims of his Panama hat quivering, and began to chant in a quiet happy foolish voice:
— I’m the queerest young fellow that ever you heard.
My mother’s a jew, my father’s a bird.
With Joseph the joiner I cannot agree.
So here’s to disciples and Calvary.
He held up a forefinger of warning.
— If anyone thinks that I amn’t divine
He’ll get no free drinks when I’m making the wine
But have to drink water and wish it were plain
That I make when the wine becomes water again.
He tugged swiftly at Stephen’s ashplant in farewell and, running forward to a brow of the cliff, fluttered his hands at his sides like fins or wings of one about to rise in the air, and chanted:
— Goodbye, now, goodbye! Write down all I said
And tell Tom, Dick and Harry I rose from the dead.
What’s bred in the bone cannot fail me to fly
And Olivet’s breezy — Goodbye, now, goodbye!
He capered before them down towards the fortyfoot hole, fluttering his winglike hands, leaping nimbly, Mercury’s hat quivering in the fresh wind that bore back to them his brief birdsweet cries.