Page:A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Huebsch 1916).djvu/151
God was almighty. God could call him now, call him as he sat at his desk, before he had time to be conscious of the summons. God had called him. Yes? What? Yes? His flesh shrank together as it felt the approach of the ravenous tongues of flames, dried up as it felt about it the swirl of stifling air. He had died. Yes. He was judged. A wave of fire swept through his body: the first. Again a wave. His brain began to glow. Another. His brain was simmering and bubbling within the cracking tenement of the skull. Flames burst forth from his skull like a corolla, shrieking like voices:
— Hell! Hell! Hell! Hell! Hell!—
Voices spoke near him:
— On hell.—
— I suppose he rubbed it into you well.—
— You bet he did. He put us all into a blue funk.—
— That'S what you fellows want: and plenty of it to make you work.—
He leaned back weakly in his desk. He had not died. God had spared him still. He was still in the familiar world of the school. Mr Tate and Vincent Heron stood at the window, talking, jesting, gazing out at the bleak rain, moving their heads.
— I wish it would clear up. I had arranged to go for a spin on the bike with some fellows out by Malahide. But the roads must be knee-deep.—
— It might clear up, sir.—
The voices that he knew so well, the common words, the quiet of the classroom when the voices paused and the silence was filled by the sound of softly browsing cattle as the other boys munched their lunches tranquilly, lulled his aching soul.
There was still time. O Mary, refuge of sinners, in-