873

April 24, 2006

His last phrase, sour smelling as the smoke of charcoal and disheartening, excited Stephen’s brain, over which its fumes seemed to brood.

β€” Look here, Cranly, he said. You have asked me what I would do and what I would not do. I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to useβ€” silence, exile and cunning.

Cranly seized his arm and steered him round so as to lead him back towards Leeson Park. He laughed almost slyly and pressed Stephen’s arm with an elder’s affection.

β€” Cunning indeed! he said. Is it you? You poor poet, you!

β€” And you made me confess to you, Stephen said, thrilled by his touch, as I have confessed to you so many other things, have I not?

β€” Yes, my child, Cranly said, still gaily.

β€” You made me confess the fears that I have. But I will tell you also what I do not fear. I do not fear to be alone or to be spurned for another or to leave whatever I have to leave. And I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake and perhaps as long as eternity too.

Cranly, now grave again, slowed his pace and said:

β€” Alone, quite alone. You have no fear of that. And you know what that word means? Not only to be separate from all others but to have not even one friend.

β€” I will take the risk, said Stephen.

β€” And not to have any one person, Cranly said, who would be more than a friend, more even than the noblest and truest friend a man ever had.

His words seemed to have struck some deep chord in his own nature. Had he spoken of himself, of himself as he was or wished to be? Stephen watched his face for some moments in silence. A cold sadness was there. He had spoken of himself, of his own loneliness which he feared.

β€” Of whom are you speaking? Stephen asked at length.

Cranly did not answer.


I always dreamed myself as Stephen; now I see I am much more Cranly.