The thin papery sky of the early autumn afternoon was torn, and the eye of the sun, pale but piercing, looked through and down. The eye's gaze travelled on a shaft of light to the very centre of the town. A little scornful, very arrogant,...
The thin papery sky of the early autumn afternoon was torn, and the
eye of the sun, pale but piercing, looked through and down. The
eye's gaze travelled on a shaft of light to the very centre of the
town. A little scornful, very arrogant, it surveyed the scene.
The Cathedral had chimed at three, and at once the bells began with
their accustomed melody to ring for Evensong. The town, bathed in
a smoky haze, clustered about and around the Cathedral, Cathedral
Green and Arden Gate, dropping through the High Street, then lower
to the Market-place, then sharply over the Rock to Seatown that
bordered the river. Slowly up, beyond the river, sloped the quiet
autumn fields to the hills that spread, like dun cloths, to the
sea. For the moment, while the sun's eye gazed its last on that
afternoon, the huddled town, the long fields, the wide band of sea
caught a pale glow of light, looking up to the sun with the
timidity of a girl reassured by her lover's unexpected attentions.
Men lolling in Riverside Street said: 'There's the sun!'
At the St. Leath Hotel on Pol Hill beyond the town, windows stole a
glimmering shade. In Canon's Yard the old houses with their
twisted shapes and crooked chimneys grinned, for an instant, like
toothless old men. It was market day and in the Marketplace the
huddled sheep, the wide-eyed cows, the barking dogs, the farmers,
the old women were mistily gold-lit as with a divine dust. The
frock-coated statue at the top of Orange Street was illuminated at
the nose; in the yard of the old 'Bull' a weary maid rubbed her
eyes; Hattaway, the architect, standing in the door of Bennett's
bookshop, looked up to the sky and smiled; two of the old ladies of
10 Norman Row, starting out for their walk, said together: 'Why,
there's the sun!'; Mr. Stephen Furze, alone in his cobwebby room,
saw the sun strike ladders of light through the air and shook his
head at them; young 'Penny' Marlowe, arranging chrysanthemums in
the drawing-room at St. James's Rectory, smiled mysteriously as
though surprised in a secret.
The King Harry Tower caught the light, then seemed, with a proud
gesture of disdain, to toss it away.
The eye of the sun, having seen everything, withdrew.
Mists were rising from the river.
The Reverend Peter Gaselee, young and ardent, was crossing the
Cathedral Green to Evensong. Half-way over he was stopped by a
bent figure, shoulders wrapped in a grey shawl, hat shabby and
shapeless, that said in a sharp and piercing voice: 'Ah, Mr.
Gaselee--Sun came out for a moment but it's gone in again.' Peter
Gaselee was annoyed by this interruption, for he was in a hurry and
old Mr. Mordaunt was a fool. However, it was his policy to be
agreeable to everyone--it was also the obligation of his cloth. So
he said brightly:
'Ah, Mr. Mordaunt--been sketching?'
'Yes, I have. I've stopped now because the light's too bad. If
the sun had stayed I'd have had half an hour more.' He drew his
grey shawl closer about his shoulders. 'Like to see what I've been
'Delighted,' Gaselee said, but thought--'Silly old ass--always must
be showing his mad sketches to everyone.' His fine thin nose
twitched as it always did when he was irritated, but his smile was
genial as the old man, with a trembling hand, drew out a sketch-
'There--the light's bad. But you can see it all right, I daresay.'
He opened the book and showed, his fingers tapping against the
paper, a double-page drawing. Gaselee flattered himself that he
had a fine knowledge of the Arts. He and old Ronder, and possibly
Hattaway, were the only men, he told himself, who cared for such
things in Polchester.