Shadows on the Rock

Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather

Book: Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather Read Free Book Online
Authors: Willa Cather
Tags: Fiction, Literary, Literature
intense to be borne; one closed one’s eyes
and seemed to swim in throbbing red. Before noon there was a little thaw, the snow grew soft on top. But as the day wore on,
a cold wind came up and the surface froze, to the great delight of the children of Quebec. By three o’clock a crowd of them
were coasting down the steep hill named for the Holy Family, among them Cécile and her protégé. Before she and her father
had finished their déjeuner, Jacques had appeared at the shop door, wearing an expectant, hopeful look unusual to him.
Cécile remembered that she had promised to take him coasting on her sled when the first snow came. She unfastened his ragged
jacket and buttoned him into an old fur coat that she had long ago outgrown. Her mother had put it away in one of the chests
upstairs, not because she expected ever to have another child, but because all serviceable things deserve to be taken care
of.
    When they reached the coasting-hill, the sun was already well down the western sky (it would set by four o’clock), and
the light on the snow was more orange than golden; the long, steep street and the little houses on either side were a cold
blue, washed over with rose-colour. They went down double, — Jacques sat in front, and Cécile, after she had given the sled
a running start, dropped on the board behind him. Every time they reached the bottom, they trudged back up the hill to the
front of the Cathedral, where the street began.
    When the sun had almost sunk behind the black ridges of the western forest, Cécile and Jacques sat down on the Cathedral
steps to eat their goûter. While they sat there, the other children began to go home, and the air grew colder. Now they had
the hill all to themselves, — and this was the most beautiful part of the afternoon. They thought they would like to go down
once more. With a quick push-off their sled shot down through constantly changing colour; deeper and deeper into violet,
blue, purple, until at the bottom it was almost black. As they climbed up again, they watched the last flames of orange
light burn off the high points of the rock. The slender spire of the Récollet chapel, up by the Château, held the gleam
longest of all.
    Cécile saw that Jacques was cold. They were not far from Noël Pommier’s door, so she said they would go in and get
warm.
    The cobbler had pulled his bench close to the window and was making the most of the last daylight. Cécile begged him not
to get up.
    “We have only come in to get warm, Monsieur Pommier.”
    “Very good. You know the way. Come here, my boy, let me see whether your shoes keep the snow out.” He reached for
Jacques’s foot, felt the leather, and nodded. Cécile passed into the room behind the shop, called to Madame Pommier in her
kitchen, and asked if they might sit by her fire.
    “Certainly, my dear, find a chair. And little Jacques may have my footstool; it is just big enough for him. Noël,” she
called, “come put some wood on the fire, these children are frozen.” She came in bringing two squares of maple sugar — and a
towel for Jacques to wipe his fingers on. He took the sugar and thanked her, but she saw that his eyes were fixed upon a
dark corner of the room where a little copper lamp was burning before some coloured pictures. “That is my chapel, Jacques.
You see, being lame, I do not get to mass very often, so I have a little chapel of my own, and the lamp burns night and day,
like the sanctuary lamp. There is the Holy Mother and Child, and Saint Joseph, and on the other side are Sainte Anne and
Saint Joachim. I am especially devoted to the Holy Family.”
    Drawn out by something in her voice, Jacques ventured a question.
    “Is that why this is called Holy Family Hill, madame?”
    Madame Pommier laughed and stooped to pat his head. “Quite the other way about, my boy! I insisted upon living here
because the hill bore that name. My husband was for settling in the Basse Ville, thinking it would be better for

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