were still fixed calmly on the colourless sky. But an unresting doubt flew hither and thither before his mind. Masked memories passed quickly before him: he recognised scenes and persons yet he was conscious that he had failed to perceive some vital circumstance in them. He saw himself walking about the grounds watching the sports in Clongowes and eating slim jim out of his cricketcap. Some jesuits were walking round the cycletrack in the company of ladies. The echoes of certain expressions used in Clongowes sounded in remote caves of his mind.
His ears were listening to these distant echoes amid the silence of the parlour when he became aware that the priest was addressing him in a different voice.
----I sent for you today, Stephen, because I wished to speak to you on a very important subject.
----Have you ever felt that you had a vocation?
Stephen parted his lips to answer yes and then withheld the word suddenly. The priest waited for the answer and added:
----I mean have you ever felt within yourself, in your soul, a desire to join the order. Think.
----I have sometimes thought of it, said Stephen.
The priest let the blindcord fall to one side and, uniting his hands, leaned his chin gravely upon them, communing with himself.
----In a college like this, he said at length, there is one boy or perhaps two or three boys whom God calls to the religious life. Such a boy is marked off from his companions by his piety, by the good example he shows to others. He is looked up to by them; he is chosen perhaps as prefect by his fellow sodalists. And you, Stephen, have been such a boy in this college, prefect of Our Blessed Lady's sodality. Perhaps you are the boy in this college whom God designs to call to Himself.