Under the Greenwood Tree
PART II: 2. A Meeting Of The Quire
It was the evening of a fine spring day. The descending sun appeared as a nebulous blaze
of amber light, its outline being lost in cloudy masses hanging round it, like wild locks of
The chief members of Mellstock parish choir were standing in a group in front of Mr.
Penny's workshop in the lower village. They were all brightly illuminated, and each was
backed up by a shadow as long as a steeple the lowness of the source of light rendering
the brims of their hats of no use at all as a protection to the eyes.
Mr. Penny's was the last house in that part of the parish, and stood in a hollow by the
roadside so that cart-wheels and horses' legs were about level with the sill of his shop-
window. This was low and wide, and was open from morning till evening, Mr. Penny
himself being invariably seen working inside, like a framed portrait of a shoemaker by
some modern Moroni. He sat facing the road, with a boot on his knees and the awl in his
hand, only looking up for a moment as he stretched out his arms and bent forward at the
pull, when his spectacles flashed in the passer's face with a shine of flat whiteness, and
then returned again to the boot as usual. Rows of lasts, small and large, stout and slender,
covered the wall which formed the background, in the extreme shadow of which a kind of
dummy was seen sitting, in the shape of an apprentice with a string tied round his hair
(probably to keep it out of his eyes). He smiled at remarks that floated in from without,
but was never known to answer them in Mr. Penny's presence. Outside the window the
upper-leather of a Wellington-boot was usually hung, pegged to a board as if to dry. No
sign was over his door; in fact--as with old banks and mercantile houses--advertising in
any shape was scorned, and it would have been felt as beneath his dignity to paint up, for
the benefit of strangers, the name of an establishment whose trade came solely by
connection based on personal respect.
His visitors now came and stood on the outside of his window, sometimes leaning against
the sill, sometimes moving a pace or two backwards and forwards in front of it. They
talked with deliberate gesticulations to Mr. Penny, enthroned in the shadow of the
"I do like a man to stick to men who be in the same line o' life--o' Sundays, anyway--that
I do so."
"'Tis like all the doings of folk who don't know what a day's work is, that's what I say."
"My belief is the man's not to blame; 'tis SHE--she's the bitter weed!"
"No, not altogether. He's a poor gawk-hammer. Look at his sermon yesterday."