beltway to his studio, almost the only building alive in the slums near the rusting railroad freightyard.
A sign that had once said “F. Labuerre, Sculptor—Portraits and Architectural Commissions” now said “Roald Halvorsen; Art Classes —Reasonable Fees.” It was a grimy two-story frame building with a shopfront in which were mounted some of his students’ charcoal figure studies and oil still-lifes. He lived upstairs, taught downstairs front, and did his own work downstairs, back behind dirty, ceiling-high drapes.
Going in, he noticed that he had forgotten to lock the door again. He slammed it bitterly. At the noise, somebody called from behind the drapes: “Who’s that?”
“Halvorsen!” he yelled in a sudden fury. “I live here. I own this place. Come out of there! What do you want?”
There was a fumbling at the drapes and a girl stepped between them, shrinking from their dirt.
“Your door was open,” she said firmly, “and it’s a shop. I’ve just been here a couple of minutes. I eame to ask about classes, but I don’t think I’m interested if you’re this bad-tempered.”
A pupil. Pupils were never to be abused, especially not now.
“I’m terribly sorry,” he said. “I had a trying day in the city.” Now turn it on. “I wouldn’t tell everybody a terrible secret like this, but I’ve lost a commission. You understand? I thought so. Anybody who’d traipse out here to my dingy abode would be simpatica. Won’t you sit down? No, not there—humor an artist and sit over there. The warm background of that still-life brings out your color—quite good color. Have you ever been painted? You’ve a very interesting face, you know. Some day I’d like to—but you mentioned classes.
“We have figure classes, male and female models alternating, on Tuesday nights. For that I have to be very stern and ask you to sign up for an entire course of twelve lessons at sixty dollars. It’s the models’ fees—they’re exorbitant. Saturday afternoons we have still-life classes for beginners in oils. That’s only two dollars a class, but you might sign up for a series of six and pay ten dollars in advance, which saves you two whole dollars. I also give private instructions to a few talented amateurs.”
The price was open on that one—whatever the traffic would bear. It had been a year since he’d had a private pupil and she’d taken only six lessons at five dollars an hour.
“The still-life sounds interesting,” said the girl, holding her head self-consciously the way they all did when he gave them the patter. It was a good head, carried well up. The muscles clung close, not yet slacked into geotropic loops and lumps. The line of youth is helio-tropic, he confusedly thought. “I saw some interesting things back there. Was that your own work?”
She rose, obviously with the expectation of being taken into the studio. Her body was one of those long-lined, small-breasted, coltish jobs that the pre-Raphaelites loved to draw.
“Well—” said Halvorsen. A deliberate show of reluctance and then a bright smile of confidence. “You’ll understand,” he said positively and drew aside the curtains.
“What a curious place!” She wandered about, inspecting the drums of plaster, clay, and plasticine, the racks of tools, the stands, the stones, the chisels, the forge, the kiln, the lumber, the glaze bench.
“I like this,” she said determinedly, picking up a figure a half-meter tall, a Venus he had cast in bronze while studying under Labuerre some years ago. “How much is it?”
An honest answer would scare her off, and there was no chance in the world that she’d buy. “I hardly ever put my things up for sale,” he told her lightly. “That was just a little study. I do work on commission only nowadays.”
Her eyes flicked about the dingy room, seeming to take in its scaling plaster and warped floor and see through the wall to the abanr doned slum in which it was set. There was amusement in her glance.
I am not being honest, she thinks. She thinks that is funny. Very well, I will be honest. “Six hundred dollars,” he said flatly.
The girl set the figurine on its stand with a rap and said, half angry and half amused: “I don’t understand it. That’s more than a month’s pay for me. I could get an S.P.G. statuette just as pretty as this for ten dollars. Who do you artists think you are, anyway?”