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- The Untilled Field - 2/57 -
last, and he had told him of the room at the top of the house for which he paid thirty francs a month. There was a policeman on one side and there was a footman on the other. It was a bare little room, and he lived principally on bread. In those days his only regret was that he had not the necessary threepence to go to the cafe. "One can't go to the cafe without threepence to pay for the harmless bock, and if one has threepence one can sit in the cafe discussing Carpeaux, Rodin, and the mysteries, until two in the morning, when one is at last ejected by an exhausted proprietor at the head of numerous waiters."
Rodney's resolutions were not broken; he had managed to live for nearly a year in Paris upon fifty pounds, and when he came to the end of his money he went to London in search of work. He found himself in London with two pounds, but he had got work from a sculptor, a pupil of Dalous: "a clever man," Rodney said, "a good sculptor; it is a pity he died." At this time Garvier was in fairly good health and had plenty of orders, and besides Rodney he employed three Italian carvers, and from these Italians Rodney learned Italian, and he spent two years in London earning three pounds a week. But the time came when the sculptor had no more work for Rodney, and one day he told him that he would not require him that week, there was no work for him, nor was there the next week or the next, and Rodney kicked his heels and pondered Elgin marbles for a month. Then he got a letter from the sculptor saying he had some work for him to do; and it was a good job of work, and Rodney remained with Garvier for two months, knowing very well that his three pounds a week was precarious fortune. Some time after, the sculptor's health began to fail him and he had to leave London. Rodney received news of his death two years afterwards. He was then teaching sculpture in the art schools of Northampton, and he wondered whether, if Garvier had lived, he would have succeeded in doing better work than he had done.
From Northampton he went to Edinburgh, he wandered even as far as Inverness. From Inverness he had been called back to Dublin, and for seven years he had taught in the School of Art, saving money every year, putting by a small sum of money out of the two hundred pounds that he received from the Government, and all the money he got for commissions. He accepted any commission, he had executed bas-reliefs from photographs. He was determined to purchase his freedom, and a sculptor requires money more than any other artist.
Rodney had always looked upon Dublin as a place to escape from. He had always desired a country where there was sunshine and sculpture. The day his father took him to the School of Art he had left his father talking to the head-master, and had wandered away to look at a Florentine bust, and this first glimpse of Italy had convinced him that he must go to Italy and study Michael Angelo and Donatello. Only twice had he relaxed the severity of his rule of life and spent his holidays in Italy. He had gone there with forty pounds in his pocket, and had studied art where art had grown up naturally, independent of Government grants and mechanical instruction, in a mountain town like Perugia; and his natural home had seemed to him those narrow, white streets streaked with blue shadows. "Oh, how blue the shadows are there in the morning," he had said the other night to Harding, "and the magnificent sculpture and painting! In the afternoon the sun is too hot, but at evening one stands at the walls of the town and sees sunsets folding and unfolding over Italy. I am at home amid those Southern people, and a splendid pagan life is always before one's eyes, ready to one's hand. Beautiful girls and boys are always knocking at one's doors. Beautiful nakedness abounds. Sculpture is native to the orange zone--the embers of the renaissance smoulder under orange-trees."
He had never believed in any Celtic renaissance, and all the talk he had heard about stained glass and the revivals did not deceive him. "Let the Gael disappear," he said. "He is doing it very nicely. Do not interfere with his instinct. His instinct is to disappear in America. Since Cormac's Chapel he has built nothing but mud cabins. Since the Cross of Cong he has imported Virgins from Germany. However, if they want sculpture in this last hour I will do some for them."
And Rodney had designed several altars and had done some religious sculpture, or, as he put it to himself, he had done some sculpture on religious themes. There was no such thing as religious sculpture, and could not be. The moment art, especially sculpture, passes out of the domain of the folk tale it becomes pagan.
One of Rodney's principal patrons was a certain Father McCabe, who had begun life by making an ancient abbey ridiculous by adding a modern steeple. He had ruined two parishes by putting up churches so large that his parishioners could not afford to keep them in repair. All this was many years ago, and the current story was that a great deal of difficulty had been experienced in settling Father McCabe's debts, and that the Bishop had threatened to suspend him if he built any more. However this may be, nothing was heard of Father McCabe for fifteen years. He retired entirely into private life, but at his Bishop's death he was heard of in the newspapers as the propounder of a scheme for the revival of Irish Romanesque. He had been to America, and had collected a large sum of money, and had got permission from his Bishop to set an example of what Ireland could do "in the line" of Cormac's Chapel.
Rodney had designed an altar for him, and he had also given Rodney a commission for a statue of the Virgin. There were no models in Dublin. There was no nakedness worth a sculptor's while. One of the two fat unfortunate women that the artists of Dublin had been living upon for the last seven years was in child, the other had gone to England, and the memory of them filled Rodney with loathing and contempt and an extraordinary eagerness for Italy. He had been on the point of telling Father McCabe that he could not undertake to do the Virgin and Child because there were no models. He had just stopped in time. He had suddenly remembered that the priest did not know that sculptors use models; that he did not know, at all events, that a nude model would be required to model a Virgin from, and he had replied ambiguously, making no promise to do this group before he left Ireland. "If I can get a model here I will do it," he had said to himself. "If not, the ecclesiastic will have to wait until I get to Italy."
Rodney no more believed in finding a good model in Dublin than he believed in Christianity. But the unexpected had happened. He had discovered in Dublin the most delicious model that had ever enchanted a sculptor's eyes, and this extraordinary good fortune had happened in the simplest way. He had gone to a solicitor's office to sign an agreement for one of Father McCabe's altars, and as he came in he saw a girl rise from her typewriting machine. There was a strange idle rhythm in her walk as she crossed the office, and Rodney, as he stood watching her, divined long tapering legs and a sinuous back. He did not know what her face was like. Before she had time to turn round, Mr. Lawrence had called him into his office, and he had been let out by a private door. Rodney had been dreaming of a good model, of the true proportions and delicate articulations that in Paris and Italy are knocking at your door all day, and this was the very model he wanted for his girl feeding chickens and for his Virgin, and he thought of several other things he might do from her. But he might as well wish for a star out of heaven, for if he were to ask that girl to sit to him she would probably scream with horror; she would run to her confessor, and the clergy would be up in arms. Rodney had put the girl out of his head, and had gone on with his design for an altar. But luck had followed him for this long while, and a few days afterwards he had met the pretty clerk in a tea-room. He had not seen her face before, and he did not know who it was until she turned to go, and as she was paying for her tea at the desk he asked her if Mr. Lawrence were in town. He could see that she was pleased at being spoken to. Her eyes were alert, and she told him that she knew he was doing altars for Father McCabe, and Father McCabe was a cousin of hers, and her father had a cheese-monger's shop, and their back windows overlooked the mews in which Rodney had his studio.
"How late you work! Sometimes your light does not go out until twelve o'clock at night."
Henceforth he met her at tea in the afternoons, and they went to the museum together, and she promised to try to get leave from her father and mother to sit to him for a bust. But she could only sit to him for an hour or two before she went to Mr. Lawrence, and Rodney said that she would be doing him an extraordinary favour if she would get up some hours earlier and sit to him from eight till ten. It was amusing to do the bust, but the bust was only a pretext. What he wanted her to do was to sit for the nude, and he could not help trying to persuade her, though he did not believe for a moment that he would succeed. He took her to the museum and he showed her the nude, and told her how great ladies sat for painters in the old times. He prepared the way very carefully, and when the bust was finished he told her suddenly that he must go to a country where he could get models. He could see she was disappointed at losing him, and he asked her if she would sit.
"You don't want a nude model for Our Blessed Lady. Do you?"
There was a look, half of hesitation, half of pleasure, and he knew that she would sit to him, and he guessed she would have sat to him long ago if he had asked her. No doubt his long delay in asking her to sit had made her fear he did not think her figure a good one. He had never had such a model before, not in France or in Italy, and had done the best piece of work he had ever done in his life. Harding had seen it, and had said that it was the best piece that he had done. Harding had said that he would buy it from him if he got rid of the conventional head, and when Harding had left him he had lain awake all night thinking how he should model Lucy's head, and he was up and ready for her at eight, and had done the best head he had ever done in his life.
Good God! that head was now flattened out, and the child was probably thrown back over the shoulders. Nothing remained of his statue. He had not the strength to do or to think. He was like a lay figure, without strength for anything, and if he were to hear that an earthquake was shaking Dublin into ruins he would not care. "Shake the whole town into the sea," he would have said.
The charwoman had closed the door, and he did not hear Lucy until she was in the studio.
"I have come to tell you that I cannot sit again. But what has happened?"
Rodney got up, and she could see that his misfortune was greater than her's.
"Who has done this?" she said. "Your casts are all broken."
"Who, indeed, has done this?"
"Who broke them? What has happened? Tell me. They have broken the
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