In the garden of the convent there was a sundial. That was where Barbi had most of her talks with Mother Cecilia, when the big nun took a rest from bustling between the cloisters at one end of the garden and the convent dairy at the other.
Mother Cecilia wasn’t the prettiest person Barbi had ever seen. She had broad, purplish cheeks that seemed somehow pulled out to the sides as if they were the beginning of huge, flappy ears held in and hidden by the white band of her snood; she had no teeth at all, not even black ones, and her lips were all puckered as though her mouth had collapsed when the teeth had fallen out; also she had the most tremendous shoulders, which made her look as though she had been all bent out of shape under her black robes. But for all that, she had a friendly word for everyone, and had quickly become popular with the mothers of the children from round about.
The sundial is the place where the sun’s shadow falls, and Barbi discovers there is a shadow-side to the peaceful convent with its prosperous dairy business. She receives friendship from what ought to scare her, meets with ugliness in the hearts of “good” people and kindness at the heart of the grotesquely ugly.