—Turn over, Stephen said quietly. I don’t see anything.
—What, sir? Talbot asked simply, bending forward.
His hand turned the page over. He leaned back and went on again, having just remembered. Of him that walked the waves. Here also over these craven hearts his shadow lies and on the scoffer’s heart and lips and on mine. It lies upon their eager faces who offered him a coin of the tribute. To Caesar what is Caesar’s, to God what is God’s. A long look from dark eyes, a riddling sentence to be woven and woven on the church’s looms. Ay.
Riddle me, riddle me, randy ro. My father gave me seeds to sow.
Talbot slid his closed book into his satchel.
—Have I heard all? Stephen asked.
—Yes, sir. Hockey at ten, sir.
—Half day, sir. Thursday.
—Who can answer a riddle? Stephen asked.
They bundled their books away, pencils clacking, pages rustling. Crowding together they strapped and buckled their satchels, all gabbling gaily:
—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?
—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.