The Annotated "Ulysses"/Page 014

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The Annotated "Ulysses" by James Joyce
Page 014

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.

It is indeed, ma’am, Buck Mulligan said, pouring milk into their cups.

Taste it, sir, she said.

He drank at her bidding.

If we could only live on good food like that, he said to her somewhat
loudly, we wouldn’t have the country full of rotten teeth and rotten guts.
Living in a bogswamp, eating cheap food and the streets paved with dust,
horsedung and consumptives’ spits.

Are you a medical student, sir? the old woman asked.

I am, ma’am, Buck Mulligan answered.

Stephen listened in scornful silence. She bows her old head to a voice that
speaks to her loudly, her bonesetter, her medicineman; me she slights. To the
voice that will shrive and oil for the grave all there is of her but her woman’s
unclean loins, of man’s flesh made not in God’s likeness the serpent’s prey. And
to the loud voice that now bids her be silent with wondering unsteady eyes.

Do you understand what he says? Stephen asked her.

Is it French you are talking, sir? the old woman said to Haines.

Haines spoke to her again a longer speech, confidently.

Irish, Buck Mulligan said. Is there Gaelic on you?

I thought it was Irish, she said, by the sound of it. Are you from
west, sir?

I am an Englishman, Haines answered.

He’s English, Buck Mulligan said, and he thinks we ought to speak
Irish in Ireland.

Sure we ought to, the old woman said, and I’m ashamed I don’t
speak the language myself. I’m told it’s a grand language by them that knows.

Grand is no name for it, said Buck Mulligan. Wonderful entirely. Fill
us out some more tea, Kinch. Would you like a cup, ma’am?

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