Page:Ulysses, 1922.djvu/393

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390
 

Hagar, the Egyptian! In the question of the grazing lands his peevish asperity
is notorious and in Mr Cuffe’s hearing brought upon him from an indignant
rancher a scathing retort couched in terms as straightforward as they were
bucolic. It ill becomes him to preach that gospel. Has he not nearer home a
seedfield that lies fallow for the want of a ploughshare? A habit reprehensible
at puberty is second nature and an opprobium in middle life. If he must
dispense his balm of Gilead in nostrums and apothegms of dubious taste to
restore to health a generation of unfledged profligates let his practice consist better
with the doctrines that now engross him. His marital breast is the repository
of secrets which decorum is reluctant to adduce. The lewd suggestions of some
faded beauty may console him for a consort neglected and debauched but this
new exponent of morals and healer of ills is at his best an exotic tree which,
when rooted in its native orient, throve and flourished and was abundant in balm
but, transplanted to a clime more temperate, its roots have lost their quondam
vigour while the stuff that comes away from it is stagnant, acid and inoperative.
       The news was imparted with a circumspection recalling the ceremonial
usages of the Sublime Porte by the second female infirmarian to the junior
medical officer in residence, who in his turn announced to the delegation that
an heir had been born. When he had betaken himself to the women’s apartment
to assist at the prescribed ceremony of the afterbirth in the presence of the
secretary of state for domestic affairs and the members of the privy council,
silent in unanimous exhaustion and approbation the delegates, chafing
under the length and solemnity of their vigil and hoping that the joyful
occurrence would palliate a licence which the simultaneous absence of abigail
and officer rendered the easier broke out at once into a strife of tongues. In
vain the voice of Mr Canvasser Bloom was heard endeavouring to urge, to
mollify, to restrain. The moment was too propitious for the display of that
discursiveness which seemed the only bond of union among tempers so
divergent. Every phase of the situation was successively eviscerated : the
prenatal repugnance of uterine brothers, the Caesarean section, posthumity
with respect to the father and, that rarer form, with respect to the mother, the
fratricidal case known as the Childs murder and rendered memorable by the
impassioned plea of Mr Advocate Bushe which secured the acquittal of the
wrongfully accused, the rights of primogeniture and king’s bounty touching
twins and triplets, miscarriages and infanticides, simulated and dissimulated,
acardiac foetus in foetu, aprosopia due to a congestion, the agnatia of certain
chinless Chinamen (cited by Mr Candidate Mulligan) in consequence of