Phase the Second: Maiden No More
14. CHAPTER XIV
It was a hazy sunrise in August. The denser nocturnal
vapours, attacked by the warm beams, were dividing and
shrinking into isolated fleeces within hollows and
coverts, where they waited till they should be dried
away to nothing.
The sun, on account of the mist, had a curious
sentient, personal look, demanding the masculine
pronoun for its adequate expression. His present
aspect, coupled with the lack of all human forms in the
scene, explained the old-time heliolatries in a moment.
One could feel that a saner religion had never
prevailed under the sky. The luminary was a
golden-haired, beaming, mild-eyed, God-like creature,
gazing down in the vigour and intentness of youth upon
an earth that was brimming with interest for him.
His light, a little later, broke though chinks of
cottage shutters, throwing stripes like red-hot pokers
upon cupboards, chests of drawers, and other furniture
within; and awakening harvesters who were not already
But of all ruddy things that morning the brightest were
two broad arms of painted wood, which rose from the
margin of yellow cornfield hard by Marlott village.
They, with two others below, formed the revolving
Maltese cross of the reaping-machine, which had been
brought to the field on the previous evening to be
ready for operations this day. The paint with which
they were smeared, intensified in hue by the sunlight,
imparted to them a look of having been dipped in liquid
The field had already been "opened"; that is to say,
a lane a few feet wide had been hand-cut through the
wheat along the whole circumference of the field for
the first passage of the horses and machine.
Two groups, one of men and lads, the other of women,
had come down the lane just at the hour when the
shadows of the eastern hedge-top struck the west hedge
midway, so that the heads of the groups were enjoying
sunrise while their feet were still in the dawn. They
disappeared from the lane between the two stone posts
which flanked the nearest field-gate.