He drew the letter from his pocket and folded it into the newspaper he carried. Might just walk into her here. The lane is safer.
He passed the cabman’s shelter. Curious the life of drifting cabbies. All weathers, all places, time or setdown, no will of their own. Voglio e non. Like to give them an odd cigarette. Sociable. Shout a few flying syllables as they pass. He hummed:Là ci darem la mano La la lala la la.
He turned into Cumberland street and, going on some paces, halted in the lee of the station wall. No-one. Meade’s timberyard. Piled balks. Ruins and tenements. With careful tread he passed over a hopscotch court with its forgotten pickeystone. Not a sinner. Near the timberyard a squatted child at marbles, alone, shooting the taw with a cunnythumb. A wise tabby, a blinking sphinx, watched from her warm sill. Pity to disturb them. Mohammed cut a piece out of his mantle not to wake her. Open it. And once I played marbles when I went to that old dame’s school. She liked mignonette. Mrs Ellis’s. And Mr? He opened the letter within the newspaper.
A flower. I think it’s a. A yellow flower with flattened petals. Not annoyed then? What does she say?
I’m not exactly sure who he’s trying to not run into by taking the lane. It may be Molly, but that seems unlikely as he was moments ago assuming she may still be in bed. It makes sense to me that he’s trying to avoid the author of the letter. This suggests that although he enjoys the secrecy of this correspondence, he doesn’t intend on actually acting out on it in the real world. This fits his character who has a deeply explicit fantasy life, but a somewhat emasculated real world relationship to women. This idea to me is further supported by his consideration of the cabbies who he regards as having no will of their own. The latin phrase Voglio e non translates into “I will not”, perhaps Bloom stating his will to not relinquish that much control over his own life.
Bloom then hums words from Don Giovanni, an opera about a notorious Rake ( source ). Perhaps he’s thinking about his own flirtation through his letter writing but it seems more likely that he’s considering his suspicion of Molly’s infidelity. The song he’s singing is a famous duet in Mozart’s Opera ( source ). Suggesting he’s picturing his wife as the soprano being seduced by the Opera’s main character.
Bloom’s mind then seems to wander back to his surroundings, which make for some great illustrative inspiration, and back to the letter in his pocket.