—You, Cochrane, what city sent for him?
—Very good. Well?
—There was a battle, sir.
—Very good. Where?
The boy’s blank face asked the blank window.
Fabled by the daughters of memory. And yet it was in some way if not as memory fabled it. A phrase, then, of impatience, thud of Blake’s wings of excess. I hear the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry, and time one livid final flame. What’s left us then?
—I forget the place, sir. 279 B. C.
—Asculum, Stephen said, glancing at the name and date in the gorescarred book.
—Yes, sir. And he said: Another victory like that and we are done for.
That phrase the world had remembered. A dull ease of the mind. From a hill above a corpsestrewn plain a general speaking to his officers, leaned upon his spear. Any general to any officers. They lend ear.
—You, Armstrong, Stephen said. What was the end of Pyrrhus?
—End of Pyrrhus, sir?
—I know, sir. Ask me, sir, Comyn said.
—Wait. You, Armstrong. Do you know anything about Pyrrhus?
A bag of figrolls lay snugly in Armstrong’s satchel. He curled them between his palms at whiles and swallowed them softly. Crumbs adhered to the tissues of his lips. A sweetened boy’s breath. Welloff people, proud that their eldest son was in the navy. Vico Road, Dalkey.
—Pyrrhus, sir? Pyrrhus, a pier.
All laughed. Mirthless high malicious laughter. Armstrong looked round