Page:Ulysses, 1922.djvu/30

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
27
 

        A riddle, sir? Ask me, sir.
        O, ask me, sir.
        A hard one, sir.
        This is the riddle, Stephen said :

                                  The cock crew
                                  The sky was blue :
                                  The bells in heaven
                                  Were striking eleven.
                                  ’Tis time for this poor soul
                                  To go to heaven.

       What is that?
        What, sir?
        Again, sir. We didn’t hear.
       Their eyes grew bigger as the lines were repeated. After a silence
Cochrane said :
        What is it, sir? We give it up.
       Stephen, his throat itching, answered :
        The fox burying his grandmother under a hollybush.
       He stood up and gave a shout of nervous laughter to which their cries
echoed dismay.
       A stick struck the door and a voice in the corridor called :
        Hockey !
       They broke asunder, sidling out of their benches, leaping them. Quickly
they were gone and from the lumberroom came the rattle of sticks and
clamour of their boots and tongues.
       Sargent who alone had lingered came forward slowly, showing an open
copybook. His tangled hair and scraggy neck gave witness of unreadiness and
through his misty glasses weak eyes looked up pleading. On his cheek, dull
and bloodless, a soft stain of ink lay, dateshaped, recent and damp as a snail’s bed.
       He held out his copybook. The word Sums was written on the headline.
Beneath were sloping figures and at the foot a crooked signature with blind loops
and a blot. Cyril Sargent : his name and seal.
        Mr Deasy told me to write them out all again, he said, and show them
to you, sir.
       Stephen touched the edges of the book. Futility.