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- The Untilled Field - 4/57 -
he and Taigdh came out of their room and had listened on the stairs. They did not understand everything that was said, they only understood that I had sat for a statue, and that the priest did not wish to put it up in his church, and that perhaps he would have to pay for it, and if he did not the Bishop would suspend him--you know there has always been talk about Father Tom's debts. They got talking, and Taigdh said he would like to see the statue, and he persuaded Pat to follow him, and they climbed along the wall and dropped into the mews, and got the hasp off the door with the kitchen poker."
"But why did they break the statue?" said Rodney.
"I don't think they know why themselves. I tried to get Pat to tell me, but all he could tell me was that he had bumped against a woman with a cloak on." "My lay figure."
"And in trying to get out of the studio they had knocked down a bust, and after they had done that Taigdh said: 'We had better have down this one. The priest does not like it, and if we have it down he won't have to pay for it.'"
"They must have heard the priest saying that he did not want the statue."
"Very likely they did, but I am sure the priest never said that he wanted the statue broken."
"Oh, it is a great muddle," said Rodney. "But there it is. My statue is broken. Two little boys have broken it. Two little boys who overheard a priest talking nonsense, and did not quite understand. I am going away to-night."
"Then I shall not see you again,... and you said I was a good model."
Her meaning was clear to him. He remembered how he had stood in the midst of his sculpture asking himself what a man is to do when a girl, walking with a walk at once idle and rhythmical, stops suddenly and puts her hand on his shoulder and looks up in his face. He had sworn he would not kiss her again and he had broken his oath, but the desire of her as a model had overborne every other desire. Now he was going away for ever, and his heart told him that she was as sweet a thing as he would find all the world over. But if he took her with him he would have to look after her till the end of his life. This was not his vocation. His hesitation endured but a moment, if he hesitated at all.
"You'd like to go away with me, but what should I do with you. I'm thirty-five and you're sixteen." He could see that the difference of age did not strike her--she was not looking into the remote future.
"I don't think, Lucy, your destiny is to watch me making statues. Your destiny is a gayer one than that. You want to play the piano, don't you?"
"I should have to go to Germany to study, and I have no money. Well," she said, "I must go back now. I just came to tell you who had wrecked your studio. Good-bye. It has all been an unlucky business for both of us."
"A beautiful model," Rodney said to himself, as he watched her going up the mews. "But there are other girls just as good in Paris and in Rome." And he remembered one who had sat to him in Paris, and this gave him courage. "So it was two little boys," he said, "who wrecked my studio. Two stupid little boys; two little boys who have been taught their Catechism, and will one day aspire to the priesthood." And that it should be two stupid little boys who had broken his statue seemed significant. "Oh, the ignorance, the crass, the patent ignorance! I am going. This is no place for a sculptor to live in. It is no country for an educated man. It won't be fit for a man to live in for another hundred years. It is an unwashed country, that is what it is!"
CHAPTER II SOME PARISHIONERS
The way before him was plain enough, yet his uncle's apathy and constitutional infirmity of purpose seemed at times to thwart him. Some two or three days ago, he had come running down from Kilmore with the news that a baby had been born out of wedlock, and Father Stafford had shown no desire that his curate should denounce the girl from the altar.
"The greatest saints," he said, "have been kind, and have found excuses for the sins of others."
And a few days later, when Father Maguire told his uncle that the Salvationists had come to Kilmore, and that he had walked up the village street and slit their drum with a carving knife, his uncle had not approved of his conduct, and what had especially annoyed Father Tom was that his uncle seemed to deplore the slitting of the drum in the same way as he deplored that the Kavanaghs had a barrel of porter in every Saturday, namely, as one of those regrettable excesses to which human nature is liable. On being pressed he had agreed with his nephew that dancing and drinking were no preparation for the Sabbath, but he would not agree that evil could be suppressed by force. He had even hinted that too strict a rule brought about a revolt against the rule, and when Father Tom had expressed his disbelief at any revolt against the authority of the priest, Father Stafford said:--
"They may just leave you, they may just go to America."
"Then you think that it is our condemnation of sin that is driving the people to America."
"My dear Tom, you told me the other day that you met a lad and a lass walking along the roadside, and that you drove them home. You told me you were sure they were talking about things they should not talk about; you have no right to assume these things. You're asking of the people an abstinence you don't practice yourself. Sometimes your friends are women."
Father Tom's anger prevented him from finding an adequate argument. Father Stafford pushed the tobacco bowl towards his nephew.
"You're not smoking, Tom."
"Your point is that a certain amount of vice is inherent in human nature, and that if we raise the standard of virtuous living our people will escape from us to New York or London."
"The sexes mix freely everywhere in western Europe; only in Ireland and Turkey is there any attempt made to separate them."
Later in the evening Father Tom insisted that the measure of responsibility was always the same.
"I should be sorry,' said his uncle, "to say that those who inherit drunkenness bear the same burden of responsibility as those who come of parents who are quite sane--"
"You cannot deny, uncle John, that free will and predestination--"
"My dear Tom, I really must go to bed. It is after midnight."
As he walked home, Father Maguire thought of the great change he perceived in his uncle. Father Stafford liked to go to bed at eleven, the very name of St. Thomas seemed to bore him; fifteen years ago he would sit up till morning. Father Maguire remembered the theological debates, sometimes prolonged till after three o'clock, and the passionate scholiast of Maynooth seemed to him unrecognisable in the esurient Vicar-General, only occasionally interested in theology, at certain hours and when he felt particularly well. He could not reconcile the two ages, his mind not being sufficiently acute to see that after all no one can discuss theology for more than five-and-twenty years without wearying of the subject.
The moon was shining among the hills and the mystery of the landscape seemed to aggravate his sensibility, and he asked himself if the guardians of the people should not fling themselves into the forefront of the battle. Men came to preach heresy in his parish--was he not justified in slitting their drum?
He had recourse to prayer, and he prayed for strength and for guidance. He had accepted the Church, and in the Church he saw only apathy, neglect, and bad administration on the part of his superiors.... He had read that great virtues are, like large sums of money, deposited in the bank, whereas humility is like the pence, always at hand, always current. Obedience to our superiors is the sure path. He could not persuade himself that it was right for him to allow the Kavanaghs to continue a dissolute life of drinking and dancing. They were the talk of the parish; and he would have spoken against them from the altar, but his uncle had advised him not to do so. Perhaps his uncle was right; he might be right regarding the Kavanaghs. In the main he disagreed with his uncle, but in this particular instance it might be well to wait and pray that matters might improve.
Father Tom believed Ned Kavanagh to be a good boy. Ned was going to marry Mary Byrne, and Father Tom had made up this marriage. The Byrnes did not care for the marriage--they were prejudiced against Ned on account of his family. But he was not going to allow them to break off the marriage. He was sure of Ned, but in order to make quite sure he would get him to take the pledge. Next morning when the priest had done his breakfast, and was about to unfold his newspaper, his servant opened the door, and told him that Ned Kavanagh was outside and wanted to see him.
It was a pleasure to look at this nice, clean boy, with his winning smile, and the priest thought that Mary could not wish for a better husband. Ned's smile seemed a little fainter than usual, and his face was paler; the priest wondered, and presently Ned told the priest that he had come to confession, and going down on
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