BACK IN LONDON, Epstein found a studio in Kensington and settled comfortably to work.
For a time things were quiet, and Epstein pressed forward with a "Pieta" that he was interested in doing. But the quiet studio work never continued for very long.
This time it was interrupted by his friend Charles Holden, the architect. Holden, for whom Epstein had done the "Medical Association Carvings", wanted Epstein to do two carvings for above the doors of the new Underground Headquarters Building. He was to work on these while five other sculptors worked on a series of carvings above him which were to represent the "Winds of the Earth".
Epstein proposed two groups, "Day" and "Night", as symbolic of speed and transportation. Holden was satisfied and took him to see the building. While there, he insisted upon introducing him as merely "the sculptor". When Epstein asked him why he didn't introduce him by name, Holden hinted at dark forces which might interfere if they knew in advance that it was Epstein who was to do the carvings.
Thus in the ideal air of an E. Phillips Oppenheim intrigue, Epstein started to work on an open scaffold with the bitter winter wind whistling about him.
The building was still in the process of being put up, and Epstein had the pleasant position of being mid-way up the face of the building. Beneath him there was a considerable amount of thin air before one reached the sidewalk, and directly above his head tons of stone were continually being hoisted by rope.
Whenever he stopped for a breather, Epstein would consider the charming possibilities of what might happen were he to miss his step on the scaffolding or, on the other hand, what might happen if one of those ropes above him happened to break.
One day, he struck up a conversation with one of the laborers, and the talk traveled along the lines which had been suggesting themselves to Epstein. The workman told him very cheerfully that there was nothing to worry about because they were all insured by the builders. Epstein was delighted and out of curiosity decided to question his employers to confirm this bit of news.
It was true. He found that all the sculptors on the job were insured--they were insured for a bit less than one quarter of the amount for which the laborers were insured.