One day thirty years ago Marseilles lay in the burning sun.
A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in southern France
than at any other time before or since.
Everything in Marseilles and about Marseilles had stared at the fervid sun,
and had been stared at in return, until a staring habit had become universal there.
Strangers were stared out of countenance by staring white houses,
staring white streets, staring tracts of arid road, staring hills from which verdure was burnt away.
The only things to be seen not fixedly staring and glaring
were the vines drooping under their loads of grapes.
These did occasionally wink a little, as the hot air barely moved their faint leaves.
The universal stare made the eyes ache.
Towards the distant blue of the Italian coast, indeed,
it was a little relieved by light clouds of mist
slowly rising from the evaporation of the sea,
but it softened nowhere else.
Far away the dusty vines overhanging wayside cottages,
and the monotonous wayside avenues of parched trees without shade,
dropped beneath the stare of earth and sky.
So did the horses with drowsy bells, in long files of carts,
creeping slowly towards the interior;
so did their recumbent drivers, when they were awake, which rarely happened;
so did the exhausted laborers in the fields.
Everything that lived or grew was oppressed by the glare;
except the lizard, passing swiftly over rough stone walls,
and cicada, chirping its dry hot chirp, like a rattle.
The very dust was scorched brown,
and something quivered in the atmosphere as if the air itself were panting.
Blinds, shutters, curtains, awnings, were all closed and drawn to deep out the stare.
Grant it but a chink or a keyhole,
and it shot in like a white-hot arrow.