Mr John Clarke

One evening I had been to see John Hughes at his flat, where he lived with his sister and his dog Ned. He walked back with me to my hotel. On the way we went to his studio where he was working on one of the great clay models of the allegorical groups for the Queen Victoria monument. It was dark. It was late. He lit a candle and we examined the figures in the dim light. The bit of the candle was very small, and as we sat and talked for a few minutes it flared up and went out. We both remained absolutely still, in silence. The dog was asleep on the floor and snoring gently. There was the faint sound of water dripping from a tap somewhere in the far corner of the studio. As my eyes got used to the darkness, the skylight seemed to get brighter and a few stars appeared. After what seemed quite a long time, during which neither of us had moved or spoken, Hughes got up and went to the door and opened it. The light from the boulevard streamed in. The dog got up and stretched himself and we went out.

Years later, after the war, when I went to Paris and met Hughes again and we walked and talked in the Luxembourg Gardens, I asked him if he remembered the night the candle went out. He said he did and he paused for a moment and then added ‘If you had laid a finger on me that night, my dog would have torn you limb from limb.’