Chapter One: Angel of Light
Dappled by its movement among the branches of a Japanese cherry, the afternoon light entered the study unhindered by draperies or shades.
It spilled through the long bank of windows behind the newly slip-covered sofa, warming the oak floor and quickening the air with the scent of freshly milled wood.
Under the spell of the June light, a certain luster and radiance appeared to emerge from every surface. The tall chest, once belonging to Father Tim's clergyman great-grandfather, had undergone a kind of rebirth. Beneath a sheen of lemon oil, the dense grain of old walnut, long invisible in the dark rectory hallway next door, became sharply defined. Even the awkward inscription of the letter M, carved by a pocketknife, could now be discovered near one of the original drawer pulls.
But it was the movement and play of the light, beyond its searching incandescence, that caused Father Tim to anticipate its daily arrival as others might look for a sunrise or sunset.
He came eagerly to this large, new room, as if long deprived of light or air, still incredulous that such a bright space might exist, and especially that it might exist for his own pursuits since retiring six months ago from Lord's Chapel.
As the rector of Mitford's Episcopal parish, he had lived next door in the former rectory for sixteen years. Now he was a rector no more, yet he owned the rectory; it had been bought and paid for with cash from his mother's estate, and he and Cynthia were living in the little yellow house.
Of course -- he kept forgetting -- this house wasn't so little anymore; he and his visionary wife had added 1,270 square feet to its diminutive proportions.
Only one thing remained constant. The house was still yellow, though freshly painted with Cynthia's longtime favorite, Wild Forsythia, and trimmed with a glossy coat of the dark green Highland Hemlock.
"Cheers!" said his wife, appearing in jeans and a denim shirt, toting glasses of lemonade on a tray. They had recently made it a ritual to meet here every afternoon, for what they called the Changing of the Light.
He chuckled. "We mustn't tell anyone what we do for fun."
"You can count on it! Besides, who'd ever believe that we sit around watching the light change?" She set the tray on the table, next to a packet of mail.
"We could do worse."
They thumped onto the sofa, which had been carted through the hedge from the rectory.
"One more week," he said, disbelieving.
"Ugh. Heaven help us!" She put her head back and closed her eyes. "How daunting to move to a place we've never seen ... for an unknown length of time ... behind a priest who's got them used to the guitar!"
He took her hand, laughing. "If anyone can do it, you can. How many cartons of books are we shipping down there, anyway?"
"Fourteen, so far."
"And not a shelf to put them on."
"We're mad as hatters!" she said with feeling. During the past week, his wife had worked like a Trojan to close up the yellow house, do most of the packing, and leave their financial affairs in order. He, on the other hand, had been allowed to troop around town saying his goodbyes, sipping tea like a country squire and trying to keep his mitts off the cookies and cakes that were proffered at every turn.
He had even dropped into Happy Endings Bookstore and bought two new books to take to Whitecap, a fact that he would never, even on penalty of death, reveal to Cynthia Kavanagh.
She looked at him and smiled. "I've prayed to see you sit and relax like this, without rushing to beat out a thousand fires. Just think how the refreshment of the last few weeks will help you, dearest, when we do the interim on the island. Who knows, after all, what lies ahead and what strength you may need?"
Text © 1999 Jan Karon. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, Viking.
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