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- The Untilled Field - 3/57 -
bust you did of me. And the statue of the Virgin--has anything happened to that?"
"The statue of the Virgin is a lump of clay. Oh, don't look at it. I am out of my mind."
She took two or three steps forward.
"There it is," he said. "Don't speak about it, don't touch it."
"Something may be left."
"No, nothing is left. Don't look at me that way. I tell you nothing is left. It is a lump of clay, and I cannot do it again. I feel as if I never could do a piece of sculpture again, as if I never wanted to. But what are you thinking of? You said just now that you could not sit to me again. Tell me, Lucy, and tell me quickly. I can see you know something about this. You suspect someone."
"No, I suspect no one. It is very strange."
"You were going to tell me something when you came in. You said you could not sit to me again. Why is that?"
"Because they have found out everything at home, that I sat for you, for the Virgin."
"But they don't know that--"
"Yes, they do. They know everything. Father McCabe came in last night, just after we had closed the shop. It was I who let him in, and mother was sorry. She knew he had come to ask father for a subscription to his church. But I had said that father and mother were at home, and when I brought him upstairs and we got into the light, he stood looking at me. He had not seen me for some years, and I thought at first it was because he saw me grown up. He sat down, and began to talk to father and mother about his church, and the altars he had ordered for it, and the statues, and then he said that you were doing a statue for him, and mother said that she knew you very well, and that you sometimes came to spend an evening with us, and that I sat to you. It was then that I saw him give a start. Unfortunately, I was sitting under a lamp reading a book, and the light was full upon my face, and he had a good view of it. I could see that he recognised me at once. You must have shown him the statue. It was yesterday you changed the head."
"You had not gone an hour when he called, and I had not covered up the group. Now I am beginning to see light. He came here anxious to discuss every sort of thing with me, the Irish Romanesque, the Celtic renaissance, stained glass, the possibility of rebuilding another Cormac's Chapel. He sat warming his shins before the stove, and I thought he would have gone on for ever arguing about the possibility of returning to origins of art. I had to stop him, he was wasting all my day, and I brought over that table to show him my design for the altar. He said it was not large enough, and he took hours to explain how much room the priest would require for his book and his chalice. I thought I should never have got rid of him. He wanted to know about the statue of the Virgin, and he was not satisfied when I told him it was not finished. He prowled about the studio, looking into everything. I had sent him a sketch for the Virgin and Child, and he recognised the pose as the same, and he began to argue. I told him that sculptors always used models, and that even a draped figure had to be done from the nude first, and that the drapery went on afterwards. It was foolish to tell him these things, but one is tempted to tread on their ignorance, their bigotry; all they say and do is based on hatred of life. Iconoclast and peasant! He sent some religion- besotted slave to break my statue."
"I don't think Father McCabe would have done that; he has got me into a great deal of trouble, but you are wronging him. He would not get a ruffian to break into your studio."
Rodney and Lucy stood looking at each other, and she had spoken with such conviction that he felt she might be right.
"But who else could do it except the priest? No one had any interest in having it done except the priest. He as much as told me that he would never get any pleasure from the statue now that he knew it had been done from a naked woman. He went away thinking it out. Ireland is emptying before them. By God, it must have been he. Now it all comes back to me. He has as much as said that something of the temptation of the naked woman would transpire through the draperies. He said that. He said that it would be a very awful thing if the temptations of the flesh were to transpire through the draperies of the Virgin. From the beginning they have looked upon women as unclean things. They have hated woman. Woman have to cover up their heads before they go into the churches. Everything is impure in their eyes, in their impure eyes, whereas I saw nothing in you but loveliness. He was shocked by those round tapering legs; and would have liked to curse them; and the dainty design of the hips, the beautiful little hips, and the breasts curved like shells, that I modelled so well. It is he who blasphemes. They blaspheme against Life.... My God, what a vile thing is the religious mind. And all the love and veneration that went into that statue! There it is: only a lump of clay."
"I am sure you are wronging Father Tom; he has his faults, but he would not do such a thing as that."
"Yes," said Rodney, "he would. I know them better than you. I know the creed. But you did not finish your story. Tell me what happened when he began to suspect that you sat for the statue."
"He asked me if I had seen the statue of the Virgin in your studio. I grew red all over. I could not answer him, and mother said, 'Why don't you answer Father Tom?' I could see from his manner that he knew that I had sat for the statue. And then he said he wanted to speak to father and mother. Mother said I had read enough, that I had better go to bed."
"And you went out of the room knowing what the priest was going to say?" said Rodney, melting into sympathy for the first time. "And then?"
"I waited on the stairs for a little while, long enough to make sure that he was telling them that I had sat for the statue. I heard the door open, father came out, they talked on the landing. I fled into my room and locked the door, and just as I locked the door I heard father say, 'My daughter! you're insulting my daughter!' You know father is suffering from stone, and mother said, 'If you don't stop I shall be up with you all night,' and so she was. All the night I heard father moaning, and to-day he is so ill the doctor is with him, and he has been taken to the hospital, and mother says when he leaves the hospital he will turn me out of the house."
"Well," said Rodney, "great misfortunes have happened us both. It was a cruel thing of the priest to tell your father that you sat for me. But to pay someone to wreck my studio!"
Lucy begged of him not to believe too easily that Father McCabe had done this. He must wait a little while, and he had better communicate with the police. They would be able to find out who had done it.
"Now," she said, "I must go."
He glanced at the rags that had once covered his statue, but he had not the courage to undo them. If his statue had been cast the ruin would not be so irreparable. It could be put together in some sort of way.
Who would have done it but the priest? It was difficult to believe that a priest could do such a thing, that anyone could do such a thing, it was an inhuman thing to do. He might go to the police as Lucy had suggested, and the police would inquire the matter out. But would that be of any satisfaction; a wretched fine, a few days' imprisonment. Of one thing he was sure, that nowhere except in Ireland could such a thing happen. Thank God he was going! There was at least satisfaction in knowing that only twelve hours of Ireland remained. To-morrow evening he would be in Paris. He would leave the studio as it was. Maybe he might take a few busts and sketches, a few books, and a few pictures; he must take some of them with him, and he tried to formulate some plan. But he could not collect his thoughts sufficiently to think out the details. Would there be time to have a case made, or should he leave them to be sold, or should he give orders that they should be sent after him?
At that moment his eyes went towards the lump of clay, and he wished that he had asked the charwoman to take it out of his studio. He thought of it as one thinks of a corpse, and he took down a few books and tied them up with a string, and then forgot what he was doing. He and his country were two thousand years apart, and would always be two thousand years apart, and then growing superstitious, he wondered if his country had punished him for his contempt. There was something extraordinarily fateful in the accident that had happened to him. Such an accident had never happened to anyone before. A most singular accident! He stood looking through the studio unable to go on with his packing, thinking of what Harding and he had been saying to each other. The "Celtic renaissance!" Harding believed, or was inclined to believe, that the Gael was not destined to disappear, that in making the Cross of Cong he had not got as far as he was intended to get. But even Harding had admitted that no race had taken to religion quite so seriously as the Celt. The Druids had put aside the oak leaves and put on the biretta. There had never been a religious revolution in Ireland. In the fifth and sixth centuries all the intelligence of Ireland had gone into religion. "Ireland is immersed in the religious vocation, and there can be no renaissance without a religious revolt." The door of the studio opened. It was Lucy; and he wondered what she had come back for.
"It wasn't Father Tom. I knew it wasn't," she said.
"Do you know who it was then?"
"Yes, my brothers, Pat and Taigdh."
"Pat and Taigdh broke my statue! But what did they do that for? What did I ever do to them?"
"I saw them whispering together. I could see they had a secret, something inspired me, and when Taigdh went out I got Pat by himself and I coaxed him and I frightened him. I told him that things had been broken in your studio, and that the police were making inquiries. I saw at once that he knew all about it. He got frightened and he told me that last night when I went to my room
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