— You, Cochrane, what city sent for him?
— Tarentum, sir.
— 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