George Moore, The Untilled Field (1903)


IT WAS A PLEASURE to meet, even when they had nothing to say, and the two men had stopped to talk.
 “Still in London, Rodney.”
 “Yes, till the end of the week; and then I go to Italy. And you? You’re going to meet Sir Owen Asher at Marseilles.”
 “I am going to Ireland,” and, catching sight of a look of astonishment and disapproval on Rodney’s face, Harding began to explain why he must return to Ireland.
 “The rest of your life is quite clear,” said Rodney. “You knew from the beginning that Paris was the source of all art, that everyone here who is more distinguished than the others has been to Paris. We go to Paris with baskets on our backs, and sticks in our hands, and bring back what we can pick up. And having lived immersed in art till you’re forty, you return to the Catholic Celt! Your biographer will be puzzled to explain this last episode, and, however he may explain it, it will seem a discrepancy.”
 “I suppose one should think of one’s biographer.”
 “It will be more like yourself to get Asher to land you at one of the Italian ports. We will go to Perugia and see Raphael’s first frescoes, done when he was sixteen, and the town itself climbing down into ravines. The streets are lonely at midday, but towards evening a breeze blows up from both seas — Italy is very narrow there — and the people begin to come out; and from the battlements one sees the lights of Assisi glimmering through the dusk.”
 “I may never see Italy. Go on talking. I like to hear you talk about Italy.”
 “There are more beautiful things in Italy than in the rest of the world put together, and there is nothing so beautiful as Italy. Just fancy a man like you never having seen the Campagna. I remember opening my shutters one morning in August at Frascati. The poisonous mists lay like clouds, but the sun came out and shone through them, and the wind drove them before it, and every moment a hill appeared, and the great aqueducts, and the tombs, and the wild grasses at the edge of the tombs waving feverishly; and here and there a pine, or group of pines with tufted heads, like Turner used to draw… . The plain itself is so shapely. Rome lies like a little dot in the middle of it, and it is littered with ruins. The great tomb of Cecilia Metella is there, built out of blocks of stone as big as an ordinary room. He must have loved her very much to raise such a tomb to her memory, and she must have been a wonderful woman.” Rodney paused a moment and then he said: “The walls of the tombs are let in with sculpture, and there are seats for wayfarers, and they will last as long as the world, — they are ever-lasting.”
 “Of one thing I’m sure,” said Harding. “I must get out of London. I can’t bear its ugliness any longer.”
 The two men crossed Piccadilly, and Harding told Rodney Asher’s reason for leaving London.
 “He says he is subject to nightmares, and lately he has been waking up in the middle of the night thinking that London and Liverpool had joined. Asher is right. No town ought to be more than fifty miles long. I like your description of Perugia. Every town should be walled round, now we trail into endless suburbs.”
 “But the Green Park is beautiful, and these evening distances!”
 “Never mind the Green Park; come and have a cup of tea. Asher has bought a new picture. I’d like to show it to you. But,” said Harding, “I forgot to tell you that I met your model.”
 “Lucy Delaney? Where?”
 “Here, I met her here,” said Harding, and he took Rodney’s arm so that he might be able to talk to him more easily. “One evening, a week ago, I was loitering, just as I was loitering to-day, and it was at the very door of St. James’s Hotel that she spoke to me.”
 “How did she get to London? and I didn’t know that you knew her.”
 “A girl came up suddenly and asked me the way to the Gaiety Theatre, and I told her, adding, however, that the Gaiety Theatre was closed. ’What shall I do?’ I heard her say, and she walked on; I hesitated and then walked after her. ’I beg your pardon,’ I said, ’the Gaiety Theatre is closed, but there are other theatres equally good. Shall I direct you?’ ’Oh, I don’t know what I shall do. I have run away from home… . I have set fire to my school and have come over to London thinking that I might go on the stage.’ She had set fire to her school! I never saw more winning eyes. But she’s a girl men would look after, and not liking to stand talking to her in Piccadilly, I asked her to come down Berkeley Street. I was very curious to know who was this girl who had set fire to her school and had come over to London to go on the stage; and we walked on, she telling me that she had set fire to her school so that she might be able to get away in the confusion. I hoped I should not meet anyone I knew, and let her prattle on until we got to the Square. The Square shone like a ball-room with a great plume of green branches in the middle and every corner a niche of gaudy window boxes. Past us came the season’s stream of carriages, the women resting against the cushions looking like finely cultivated flowers. The beauty of the Square that afternoon astonished me. I wondered how it struck Lucy. Very likely she was only thinking of her Gaiety Theatre!”
 “But how did you know her name?”
 “You remember it was at the corner of Berkeley Square that Evelyn Innes stood when she went to see Owen Asher for the first time, she used to tell me how she stood at the curb watching London passing by her, thinking that one day London would be going to hear her sing. As soon as there was a break in the stream of carriages I took Lucy across. We could talk unobserved in the Square, and she continued her story. ’I’m nearly seventeen,’ she said, ’and I was sent back to school because I sat for a sculpture.’”
 “What did you sit for?”
 “For a statue of the Blessed Virgin, and a priest told on me.”
 “Then you’re Lucy Delaney, and the sculptor you sat for is John Rodney, one of my intimate friends.”
 “What an extraordinary coincidence,” said Rodney. “I never thought that Lucy would stay in Ireland. Go on with your story.”
 “When I found out who she was there seemed no great harm in asking her in to have some tea. Asher will forgive you anything if there’s a woman in it; you may keep him waiting half an hour if you assure him your appointment was with a married woman. Well, Lucy had arrived that morning in London with threepence in her pocket, so I told the footman to boil a couple of eggs. I should have liked to have offered her a substantial meal, but that would have set the servants talking. Never did a girl eat with a better appetite, and when she had finished a second plateful of buttered toast she began to notice the pictures. I could see that she had been in a studio and had talked about art. It is extraordinary how quick a girl is to acquire the ideas of a man she likes. She admired Manet’s picture of Evelyn, and I told her Evelyn’s story — knowing it would interest her. ’That such a happy fate should be a woman’s and that she should reject it,’ her eyes seemed to say. ’She is now,’ I said, ’singing Ave Marias at Wimbledon for the pecuniary benefit of the nuns and the possible salvation of her own soul.’ Her walk tells the length of the limbs and the balance of the body, and my eyes followed her as she moved about the room, and when I told her I had seen the statue and had admired the legs, she turned and said, with a pretty pleased look, that you always said that she had pretty legs. When I asked her if you had made love to her, she said you had not, that you were always too busy with your sculpture.”
 “One can’t think of two things at the same time. If I had met her in Paris it would have been different.”
 “Unfortunately I was dining out that evening. It was hard to know what to do. At last I thought of a lodging-house kept by a praiseworthy person, and took her round there and, cursing my dinner-party, I left her in charge of the landlady.”
 “Like a pot of jam left carefully under cover… That will be all right till to-morrow,” said Rodney.
 “Very likely. It is humiliating to admit it, but it is so; the substance of our lives is woman; all other things are irrelevancies, hypocrisies, subterfuges. We sit talking of sport and politics, and all the while our hearts are filled with memories of women and plans for the capture of women. Consciously or unconsciously we regard every young woman from the one point of view, ’Will she do?’ You know the little look that passes between men and women as their hansoms cross? Do not the eyes say: ’Yes, yes, if we were to meet we might come to an understanding?’ We’re ashamed that it should be so, but it is the law that is over us. And that night at my dinner-party, while talking to wise mammas and their more or less guileless daughters, I thought of the disgrace if it were found out that I had picked up a girl in the street and put her in charge of the landlady.”
 “But one couldn’t leave her to the mercy of the street.”
 “Quite so; but I’m speaking now of what was in the back of my mind.”
 “The pot of jam carefully covered up,” said Rodney, laughing.
 “Yes, the pot of jam; and while talking about the responsibilities of Empire, I was thinking that I might send out for a canvas in the morning and sketch something out on it; and when I got home I looked out a photograph of some women bathing. I expected her about twelve, and she found me hard at work.
 “Oh, I didn’t know that you were a painter,” she said.
 “No more I am, I used to be; and thinking of Rodney’s statue and what I can see of you through that dress I thought I’d try and do something like you.”
 “I’m thinner than that.”
 “You’re not thin.”
 “We argued the point, and I tried to persuade her to give me a sitting. She broke away, saying that it wasn’t the same thing, and that she had sat for you because there were no models in Dublin. ’You’ve been very good to me,’ she said, ’I should have had to sleep in the Park last night if it had not been for you. Do continue to be good to me and get me on the stage, for if you don’t I shall have to go back to Dublin or to America.’ ’America,’ I said. ’Do you want to go to America?’ She didn’t answer, and when she was pressed for an answer, she said: ’Well, all the Irish go to America, I didn’t mean anything more; I am too worried to know what I am saying,’ and then, seeing me turn round to look at my picture, she said, ’I will sit to you one of these days, but I am too unhappy and frightened now. I don’t like saying no; it is always disagreeable to say no.’ And seeing it would give her no pleasure to sit, I did not ask her again.”
 “I’m sorry you missed seeing something very beautiful.”
 “I daresay she’d have sat if I’d have pressed her, but she was under my protection, and it seemed cowardly to press her, for she could not refuse. Suddenly we seemed to have nothing more to say to each other, and I asked her if she’d like to see a manager, and as it seemed a pity she should waste herself on the Gaiety Theatre I took her to see Sir Edward Higgins. The mummer was going out to lunch with a lord and could only think of the people he was going to meet. So we went to Dorking’s Theatre, and we found Dorking with his acting manager. The acting manager had been listening for a long while and wasn’t sorry for the interruption. But we had not been talking for more than two or three minutes when the call-boy brought in a bundle of newspaper cuttings, and the mummer had not the patience to wait until he was alone — one reads one’s cuttings alone — he stuck his knees together and opened the bundle, columns of print flowed over his knees, and after telling us what the critics were saying about him, mention was made of Ibsen, and we wondered if there was any chance of getting the public to come to see a good play. You know the conversation drifts.”
 “You couldn’t get her an engagement,” said Rodney, “I should have thought she was suited to the stage.”
 “If there had been time I could have done something for her; she’s a pretty girl, but you see all these things take a long time, and Lucy wanted an engagement at once. When we left the theatre I began to realise the absurdity of the adventure, and the danger to which I was exposing myself. I, a man of over forty, seeking the seduction of a girl of seventeen — for that is the plain English of it. We walked on side by side, and I asked myself, ’What am I to her, what is she to me? But one may argue with one’s self forever.”
 “One may indeed,” said Rodney, laughing, “one may argue, but the law that is over us.”
 “Well, the law that is over us compelled me to take her to lunch, and she enjoyed the lunch and the great restaurant. ’What a number of butlers,’ she said. After lunch the same problem confronted me: Was I or was I not going to pursue the adventure? I only knew for certain that I could not walk about the streets with Lucy. She is a pretty girl, but she looked odd enough in her country clothes. Suddenly it struck me that I might take her into the country, to Wimbledon.”
 “And you took her there and heard Evelyn Innes sing. And what did Lucy think? A very pretty experiment in experimental psychology.”
 “The voice is getting thinner. She sang Stradella’s Chanson D’Eglise, and Lucy could hardly speak when we came out of church. ’Oh, what a wonderful voice,’ she said, ’do you think she regrets?’ ’Whatever we do we regret,’ I answered, not because I thought the observation original, but because it seemed suitable to the occasion; ’and we regret still more what we don’t do.’ And I asked myself if I should write to Lucy’s people as we walked about the Common. But Lucy wanted to hear about Owen Asher and Evelyn, and the operas she had sung, and I told the story of Tannhauser and Tristan. She had never heard such stories before, and, as we got up from the warm grass, she said that she could imagine Evelyn standing in the nuns’ garden with her eyes fixed on the calm skies, getting courage from them to persevere. Wasn’t it clever of her? We dined together in a small restaurant and I spent the evening with her in the lodging-house; the landlady let us her sitting-room. Lucy is charming, and her happiness is volatile and her melancholy too; she’s persuasive and insinuating as a perfume; and when I left the house, it was as if I had come out of a moonlight garden. ’Thy green eyes look upon me… I love the moonlight of thine eyes.’”
 “Go on,” said Rodney, “what happened after that?”
 “The most disagreeable thing that ever happened to me in my life. You don’t know what it is to be really afraid. I didn’t until a fellow came up to me at the club and asked me if I had seen the detectives. Fear is a terrible thing, Rodney; there is nothing so demoralising as fear. You know my staid old club of black mahogany and low ceilings, where half a dozen men sit dining and talking about hunting and two-year-olds. There is a man in that club who has asked me for the last ten years what I am going to do with my two-year-olds. He cannot remember that I never had a two-year-old. But that night he wasn’t tipsy, and his sobriety impressed me; he sat down at my table, and after a while he leaned across and asked me if I knew that two detectives had been asking after me. ’You had better look to this. These things turn out devilish unpleasantly. Of course there is nothing wrong, but you don’t want to appear in the police court,’ he said.”
 “Had she told?”
 “She was more frightened than I was when I told her what had happened, but she had done the mischief nevertheless. She had written to her people saying that she had met a friend of Mr. Rodney, and that he was looking after her, and that he lived in Berkeley Square; she was quite simple and truthful, and notwithstanding my fear I was sorry for her, for we might have gone away together somewhere, but, of course, that was impossible now; her folly left no course open to me except to go to Dublin and explain everything to her parents.”
 “I don’t see,” said Rodney, “that there was anything against you.”
 “Yes, but I was judging myself according to inward motives, and for some time I did not see how admirable my conduct would seem to an unintelligent jury. There is nothing to do between London and Holyhead, and I composed the case for the prosecution and the case for the defence and the judge’s summing up. I wrote the articles in the newspapers next day and the paragraphs in the evening papers:… I had met her at the corner of Berkeley Street and she had asked me the way to the Gaiety Theatre; and, being anxious for her safety, I had asked her why she wanted the Gaiety Theatre, for of course if the case came to trial I should not have approved of the Gaiety, and disapproval would have won all the Methodists. The girl had told me that she had set fire to her school, and an excitable girl like that would soon be lost. I don’t know what expression the newspapers would use — ’in the labyrinths of London vice,’ she was just the kind of girl that a little good advice might save from ruin. She had told me that she knew you, I was her only friend, etc. What could I do better than to take her to a lodging-house where I had lodged myself and put her in charge of the landlady? The landlady would be an important witness, and I think it was at Rugby Junction that I began to hear the judge saying I had acted with great discretion and kindness, and left the court without a stain upon my character. Nevertheless, I should have appeared in a police court on a charge of abducting a girl, a seventeen-year-old maiden; and not everyone would be duped by outward appearances, many would have guessed the truth, and, though we’re all the same, every one tries to hide the secret of our common humanity. But I had forgotten to ask Lucy for the address. I only knew the name, and that the Delaneys were cheese-mongers, so I had to call on every cheese-monger called Delaney. My peregrinations were too absurd. ’Have you got a daughter? Has she left you and gone to London? And that all day in one form or another, for it was not until evening that I found the Delaneys I was seeking. The shop was shutting up, but there was a light in the passage, and one of the boys let me in and I went up the narrow stairs.”
 “I know them,” said Rodney.
 “And the room — ”
 “I know it,” said Rodney.
 “The horse-hair chairs full of holes.”
 “I know the rails,” said Rodney, “they catch you about here, across the thighs.”
 “The table in the middle of the room; the smell of the petroleum lamp and the great chair — ”
 “I know,” said Rodney, “the Buddah seated! An enormous head! The smoking-cap and the tassel hanging out of it!”
 “The great cheeks hanging and the little eyes, intelligent eyes, too, under the eyebrows, the only animation in his face. He must be sixteen stone!”
 “He is eighteen.”
 “The long clay pipe and the fat hands with the nails bitten.”
 “I see you have been observing him,” said Rodney.
 “The brown waistcoat with the white bone buttons, curving over the belly, and the belly shelving down into the short fat thighs, and the great feet wrapped in woollen slippers!”
 “He suffers terribly, and hardly dares to stir out of that chair on account of the stone in the bladder, which he won’t have removed.”
 “How characteristic the room seemed to me,” said Harding. “The piano against the wall near the window.”
 “I know,” said Rodney. “Lucy used to sit there playing. She plays beautifully.”
 “Yes, she plays very well.”
 “Go on,” said Rodney, “what happened?”
 “You know the mother, the thin woman with a pretty figure and the faded hair and the features like Lucy’s.”
 “I had just begun my little explanation about the top of Berkeley Square, how a girl came up to me and asked me the way to the Gaiety Theatre, when this little woman rushed forward and, taking hold of both my hands, said: ’We are so much obliged to you; and we do not know how much to thank you.’ A chair was pushed forward — ”
 “Which chair?” said Rodney. “I know them all. Was it the one with the hole in the middle, or was the hole in the side?”
 “’If it hadn’t been for you,’ said Mrs. Delaney, ’I don’t know what would have happened.’ ’We’ve much to thank you for,’ said the big man, and he begged to be excused for not getting up. His wife interrupted him in an explanation regarding his illness, and gradually I began to see that, from their point of view, I was Lucy’s saviour, a white Knight, a modern Sir Galahad. They hoped I had suffered no inconvenience when the detectives called at the Club. They had communicated with Scotland Yard, not because they suspected me of wishing to abduct their daughter, but because they wished to recover their daughter, and it was important that she should be recovered at once, for she was engaged to be married to a mathematical instrument maker who was on his way from Chicago; he was expected in a few days; he was at that moment on the Atlantic, and if it had not been for my admirable conduct, Mrs. Delaney did not know what story she could have told Mr. Wainscott.”
 “So Lucy is going to marry a mathematical instrument maker in Chicago?”
 “Yes,” said Harding, “and she is probably married to him by now. It went to my heart to tell her that her mother was coming over to fetch her, and that the mathematical instrument maker would arrive early next week. But I had to tell her these unpleasant things, for I could not take her away in Owen Asher’s yacht, her age and the circumstances forbade an agreeable episode among the Greek Islands. She is charming… . Poor Lucy! She slipped down on the floor very prettily and her hair fell on my knees. ’It isn’t fair, you’re going away on a yacht, and I am going to Chicago.’ And when I lifted her up she sat upon my knees and wept. ’Why don’t you take me away?’ she said. ’My dear Lucy, I’m forty and you’re seventeen.’ Her eyes grew enigmatic. ’I shall never live with him,’ she said.”
 “Did you kiss her?”
 “We spent the evening together and I was sorry for her.”
 “But you don’t know for certain that she married Wainscott.”
 “Yes. Wainscott wrote me a letter,” and after some searching in his pockets Harding found the letter.

DEAR SIR, — Mr. and Mrs. Delaney have told me of your kindness to Lucy, and Lucy has told me of the trouble you took trying to get her an engagement, and I write to thank you. Lucy did not know at the time that I had become a partner in the firm of Sheldon & Flint, and she thought that she might go on the stage and make money by singing, for she has a pretty voice, to help me to buy a partnership in the business of Sheldon & Flint. It was a kind thought. Lucy’s heart is in the right place, and it was kind of you, sir, to take her to different managers. She has given me an exact account of all you did for her.
 We are going to be married to-morrow, and next week we sail for the States. I live, sir, in Chicago City, and if you are ever in America Lucy and myself will esteem it an honour if you will come to see us.Lucy would write to you herself if she were not tired, having had to look after many things.
   I am, dear sir,
 Very sincerely yours,

 “Lucy wanted life,” said Rodney, “and she will find her adventure sooner or later. Poor Lucy!”
 “Lucy is the stuff the great women are made of and will make a noise in the world yet.”
 “It is well she has gone; for it is many years since there was honour in Ireland for a Grania.”
 “Maybe you’ll meet her in Paris and will do another statue from her.”
 “It wouldn’t be the same thing. Ah! my statue, my poor statue. Nothing but a lump of clay. I nearly went out of my mind. At first I thought it was the priest who ordered it to be broken. But no, two little boys who heard a priest talking. They tell strange stories in Dublin about that statue. It appears that, after seeing it, Father McCabe went straight to Father Brennan, and the priests sat till midnight, sipping their punch and considering this fine point of theology — if a man may ask a woman to sit naked to him; and then if it would be justifiable to employ a naked woman for a statue of the Virgin. Father Brennan said, ’Nakedness is not a sin,’ and Father McCabe said, ’Nakedness may not be in itself a sin, but it leads to sin, and is therefore unjustifiable.’ At their third tumbler of punch they had reached Raphael, and at the fourth Father McCabe held that bad statues were more likely to excite devotional feelings than good ones, bad statues being further removed from perilous Nature.”
 “I can see the two priests, I can hear them. If an exception be made in favour of the Virgin, would the sculptor be justified in employing a model to do a statue of a saint?”
 “No one supposes that Rubens did not employ a model for his descent from the Cross,” said Rodney.
 “A man is different, that’s what the priests would say.”
 “Yet, that slender body, slipping like a cut flower into women’s hands, has inspired more love in woman than the Virgin has in men.”
 “I can see these two obtuse priests. I can hear them. I should like to write the scene,” said Harding.
 The footman brought in the tea, and Harding told him that if Mr. Carmady called he was to show him in, and it was not long after that a knock came at the front door.
 “You have come in time for a cup of tea, Carmady. You know Rodney?”
 “Yes, indeed.”
 “Carmady used to come to my studio. Many’s the time we’ve had about the possibility of a neo-pagan Celtic renaissance. But I did not know you were in London. When did you arrive?”
 “Yesterday. I’m going to South Africa. There’s fighting going on there, and it is a brand new country.”
 “Three Irishmen meet,” said Rodney; “one seeking a country with a future, one seeking a country with a past, and one thinking of going back to a country without past or future.”
 “Is Harding going back to Ireland?” said Carmady.
 “Yes,” said Rodney. “You tried to snuff out the Catholic candle, but Harding hopes to trim it.”
 “I’m tired of talking about Ireland. I’ve talked enough.”
 “This is the last time, Carmady, you’ll be called to talk about Ireland. We’d like to hear you.”
 “There is no free thought, and where there is no free thought there is no intellectual life. The priests take their ideas from Rome cut and dried like tobacco and the people take their ideas from the priests cut and dried like tobacco. Ireland is a terrifying example of what becomes of a country when it accepts prejudices and conventions and ceases to inquire out the truth.”
 “You don’t believe,” said Harding, “in the possibility of a Celtic renaissance — that with the revival of the languages?”
 “I do not believe in Catholics. The Catholic kneels like the camel that burdens may be laid upon him. You know as well as I do, Harding, that the art and literature of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were due to a sudden dispersal, a sudden shedding of the prejudices and conventions of the middle ages; the renaissance was a joyous returning to Hellenism, the source of all beauty. There is as little free love in Ireland as there is free thought; men have ceased to care for women and women to care for men. Nothing thrives in Ireland but the celibate, the priest, the nun, and the ox. There is no unfaith, and the violence of the priest is against any sensual transgression. A girl marries at once or becomes a nun — a free girl is a danger. There is no courtship, there is no walking out, and the passion which is the direct inspiration of all the world’s music and art is reduced to the mere act of begetting children.”
 “Love books his passage in the emigrant ship,” said Rodney. “You speak truly. There are no bastards in Ireland; and the bastard is the outward sign of inward grace.”
 “That which tends to weaken life is the only evil, that which strengthens life the only good, and the result of this puritanical Catholicism will be an empty Ireland.”
 “Dead beyond hope of resurrection,” said Rodney.
 “I don’t say that; a wave of paganism may arise, and only a pagan revival can save Ireland.”
 “Ah, the beautiful pagan world!” said Rodney; “morality is but a dream, an academic discussion, but beauty is a reality.”
 “Out of the billions of men that have been born into the world,” said Carmady, “I am only sure that two would have been better unborn; and the second was but a reincarnation of the first.”
 “And who were they?” said Rodney.
 “St. Paul and Luther. Had it not been for Paul, the whole ghostly theory would have been a failure, and had it not been for Luther the name of Christ would be forgotten now. When the acetic monk, barefooted, ragged, with prayer-haunted eyes, went to Rome, Rome had reverted to her ancient paganism, statues took the place of sacraments, and the cardinals drove about Rome with their mistresses.”
 “The Pope, too,” said Rodney.
 “Everything was for the best when the pilgrim monk turned in shame and horror from the awakening; the kingdom of the earth was cursed. We certainly owe the last four hundred years of Christianity to Luther.”
 “I wonder if that is so,” said Rodney.
 After a pause, Carmady continued, “Belief is declining, but those who disavow the divinity of Christ eagerly insist that they retain his morality — the cowardly morality of the weak who demand a redeemer to redeem them. The morality of the Ghetto prevails; Christians are children of the Ghetto.”
 “It is given to men to choose between sacraments and statues,” said Rodney. “Beauty is a reality, morality is a myth, and Ireland has always struck me as a place for which God had intended to do something, but He changed his mind and that change of mind happened about a thousand years ago. Quite true that the Gael was hunted as if he were vermin for centuries, and had to think how to save his life. But there is no use thinking what the Gael might have done. It is quite certain he’ll never do it now — the time has gone by; everything has been done and gloriously.”
 And for a long while Rodney spoke of Italy.
 “I’ll show you a city,” he said, “no bigger than Rathmines, and in it Michael Angelo, Donatello, Del Sarto, and Da Vinci lived, and lived contemporaneously. Now what have these great pagans left the poor Catholic Celt to do? All that he was intended to do he did in the tenth century. Since then he has produced an incredible number of priests and policemen, some fine prize-fighters, and some clever lawyers; but nothing more serious. Ireland is too far north. Sculpture does not get farther north than Paris — oranges and sculpture! the orange zone and its long cigars, cigars eight inches long, a penny each, and lasting the whole day. They are lighted from a taper that is passed round in the cafes. The fruit that one can buy for three halfpence, enough for a meal! And the eating of the fruit by the edge of the canal — seeing beautiful things all the while. But, Harding, you sit there saying nothing. No, you’re not going back to Ireland. Before you came in, Carmady, I was telling Harding that he was not acting fairly towards his biographer. The poor man will not be able to explain this Celtic episode satisfactorily. Nothing short of a Balzac could make it convincing.”
 Rodney laughed loudly; the idea amused him, and he could imagine a man refraining from any excess that might disturb and perplex or confuse his biographer.
 “How did the Celtic idea come to you, Harding? Do you remember?”
 “How do ideas come to anyone?” said Harding. “A thought passes. A sudden feeling comes over you, and you’re never the same again. Looking across a park with a view of the mountains in the distance, I perceived a pathetic beauty in the country itself that I had not perceived before; and a year afterwards I was driving about the Dublin mountains, and met two women on the road; there was something pathetic and wistful about them, something dear, something intimate, and I felt drawn towards them. I felt I should like to live among these people again. There is a proverb in Irish which says that no man ever wanders far from his grave sod. We are thrown out, and we circle a while in the air, and return to the feet of the thrower. But what astonished me is the interest that everybody takes in my departure. Everyone seems agreed that nothing could be more foolish, nothing more mad. But if I were to go to meet Asher at Marseilles, and cruise with him in the Greek Islands, and go on to Cairo, and spend the winter talking to wearisome society, everyone would consider my conduct most rational. You, my dear friend, Rodney, you tempt me with Italy and conversations about yellowing marbles; and you won’t be angry with me when I tell you that all your interesting utterances about the Italian renaissance would not interest me half so much as what Paddy Durkin and Father Pat will say to me on the roadside.”

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