The short autumn day was
drawing to a close with a long drab twilight as they drove.
“That’s a pity,” said Hapgood. “It’s not that long a drive from here. And for a while I think our friends back there will be trying to explain things to the police.”
“They’ll get it together soon
They found an old inn with half timbered construction. The builders had put up a framework of squared beams and then had plastered stones into the triangular spaces formed by the crossing of the beams. If all you had to work with was an axe and adze and a shovel, it was an excellent way to build a tight house. The most durable structure is pure stone, but that requires enormous skill and effort either to shape the stone to its purpose or to select from a collection of tons the exact stone to fit into a wall that will hold it together. Dry stone architecture none the less was having a bit of a revival.
Brick walls could never
outlast the mortar which held them together, and the secret of truly durable
cement had vanished with the Romans.
Bricks dated back to the oldest city of the all,
But the inn seemed
peaceful. There was dancing in a lounge
on the ground floor. The four rented a
small suite of rooms with beveled glass windows that looked out onto the Salisbury
They crossed the street to where the cathedral stood illuminated against the darkening sky. “The original cathedral stood north of here at a place called Old Sarum,” said Hapgood. “It’s right on our line. The town was there, but it was on very high ground, so when the cathedral was hit by lighting and burned, they decided to move to a place where there was water, fertile soil and they’d be out of the way of lighting.
“So they moved right down the
“The story is that they decided to shoot an arrow from the site of the old cathedral and build the new one where the arrow fell. Well the arrow struck a deer, which started off running and finally fell and died right here.”
“There is a connection with
“What connection is that?”
“For one thing here was a
major temple to
“More to the point, there was a belief that the protection of the goddess extended as far from the temple as an arrow could be shot from a bow. It may be coincidence, but the connection with the story of this place seems very strong.
“The temple itself was
demolished, but there is a rumor that somewhere in
“This cathedral is beautiful,”
“It was beautiful before electric lights, too,” said Hapgood a little sadly. “About a hundred years ago somebody went around and took photographs of all the English cathedrals by moonlight. Usually moonlight is very harsh in a photograph, like sunlight. But the very long exposure times he had to use gave the moon time to move, and that softened the light. It was a wonderful collection.”
Repairs were being done, but the sanctuary was still open. They went inside and gazed at the vast space.
“Notice the gothic columns,” said Hapgood. “Instead of a single mass of stone they are carved to look like a bundle of much smaller columns. The result is a scalloped surface, much like folds in a woman’s skirt.”
He gazed upward. “You can see how distorted the building is. It was originally built in Old English Gothic style, very delicate. Later they decided to add the immense tower in Perpendicular Gothic style. But as you see, there is no support directly under the center of the tower. The weight had to be carried by the fabric of the walls. It was more than they were designed for. The building began to collapse. Over here, they marked where the center of the spire ought to be and where it had swung to. Up there you can see where the stone itself has deformed under the weight from above. Most people think you can’t bend stone.
“They added some support, and for a while the repair held. But it started to sag again, and they are adding more support.” The ongoing work was being done from scaffolds mostly hidden by hanging cloth.
They found an ancient clock preserved in the sanctuary, and they learned that one of the original copies of the Magna Charta was kept here.
As they completed the tour
“Oh there’s an old tradition
of cathedrals falling,” said Hapgood. “They almost lost the one at
“When they first began to build
“But they built huge rafts of oak, which they weighted with stones and sank and laid the foundations on that.”
“They should have used
“They found a diver who was willing to work under those walls. For two years, unable to see through the peat in the water and so cold his hands were numb he worked at the foundations. And now she stands, bedded on the gravel, secure at last.”
“I hope they thanked the
“There’s a statue to him.” Then he added impishly, “Of course the diver said it was secure. Probably nobody else has been down to check.”
They had supper and made their way back to the inn. As they did, the man at the desk called them over.
“Excuse me, but this will mean I don’t have to disturb you with a phone call. What time will you be having breakfast in the morning?”
“ will do,” said
“Right O. And what will you wish to have?”
“What’s the choice?” asked
“Anything really, any common breakfast food. We can arrange it for you.”
“Ham and eggs,” said
“Ham and eggs,” said
“Ham and eggs,” said Hapgood.
“Well, I’m just going to be
weird and have ham and eggs,” said
As the man concluded
“We don’t actually prepare the meals here any longer. We order the food over the internet. They’ll bring it straight to your room. This way we can offer a far greater variety and much more flexibility than anything we could do in a cost effective way …”
He trailed off.
The men were just beginning
to settle into chairs and think about relaxing when
“Grab sheets,” said
They had just worked their way past a gable and out of sight when they heard their window opening.
Just as there is no code that cannot be broken if used too often, there is no knot that cannot be eventually untied. Thus there is no safe way to knot sheets together and slide down them. But the most treacherous knot of all for such use is the square not. Sliding over it will trip it.
They crouched in the darkest
corner they could find while
One by one they followed him down to the cobbled alley and sped into the dark.
The sheets would be an arrow
pointed directly at their backs, but there was no help for it. As they ran in silence
They ran up two floors before they found a way onto the sloping slate roof. It was slow going, but one roof led to the next so that they were able to work their way most of the length of the block with whatever silence they could manage. Then in the dark Hapgood stepped on something slick. His feet went and he slid down the slates. There was no rain gutter on this building. He went over the side.
Hapgood put his legs out to stop himself. In the dark and off balance his legs were not
straight beneath him. He wound up
executing a fairly presentable
They moved at an angle to the old cathedral, seeking the oldest and crookedest passages they could find. Few people were strolling the street by this time, and those who were seemed sufficiently beery not to protest a motley gang of fugitives flitting through the shadows.
At last down a dark alley
with a view of illuminated street at either end they crouched in a doorway to
catch their breath.
Then they were out of the alley and dashing heedlessly across the street through traffic. Down another alley and taking a left past some garbage cans they found a passage that revealed the old stone town wall at the other end. That was promising.
As they started toward the
wall, a familiar model motorcycle engine screamed behind them.
They made for the town wall.
There was a flight of stone
steps leading upward. They pelted up the
steps and turned to run the perimeter toward the side of town close to the
river. As they ran, a grappling hook
came up over the side of the wall, shortly followed by a man in a hood and a black
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