—Two, he said, strapping and stowing his pocketbook away.
And now his strongroom for the gold. Stephen’s embarrassed hand moved over the shells heaped in the cold stone mortar: whelks and money cowries and leopard shells: and this, whorled as an emir’s turban, and this, the scallop of Saint James. An old pilgrim’s hoard, dead treasure, hollow shells.
A sovereign fell, bright and new, on the soft pile of the tablecloth.
—Three, Mr Deasy said, turning his little savingsbox about in his hand. These are handy things to have. See. This is for sovereigns. This is for shillings, sixpences, halfcrowns. And here crowns. See.
He shot from it two crowns and two shillings.
—Three twelve, he said. I think you’ll find that’s right.
—Thank you, sir, Stephen said, gathering the money together with shy haste and putting it all in a pocket of his trousers.
—No thanks at all, Mr Deasy said. You have earned it.
Stephen’s hand, free again, went back to the hollow shells. Symbols too of beauty and of power. A lump in my pocket. Symbols soiled by greed and misery.
—Don’t carry it like that, Mr Deasy said. You’ll pull it out somewhere and lose it. You just buy one of these machines. You’ll find them very handy.
—Mine would be often empty, Stephen said.
The same room and hour, the same wisdom: and I the same. Three times now. Three nooses round me here. Well. I can break them in this instant if I will.
—Because you don’t save, Mr Deasy said, pointing his finger. You don’t know yet what money is. Money is power, when you have lived as long as I have. I know, I know. If youth but knew. But what does Shakespeare say? Put but money in thy purse.
—Iago, Stephen murmured.
He lifted his gaze from the idle shells to the old man’s stare.
—He knew what money was, Mr Deasy said. He made money. A poet. but an Englishman too. Do you know what is the pride of the English? Do you know what is the proudest word you will ever hear from an Englishman’s mouth?
The seas’ ruler. His seacold eyes looked on the empty bay: history is to blame: on me and on my words, unhating.
—That on his empire, Stephen said, the sun never sets.