BOOK THE FIRST. GEORGE SOMERSET. I - XV.
BOOK THE SECOND. DARE AND HAVILL. I - VII.
BOOK THE THIRD. DE STANCY. I - XI.
BOOK THE FOURTH. SOMERSET DARE AND DE STANCY. I - V.
BOOK THE FIFTH. DE STANCY AND PAULA. I - XIV.
BOOK THE SIXTH. PAULA. I - V.
The changing of the old order in country manors and mansions
may be slow or sudden may have many issues romantic or
otherwise its romantic issues being not necessarily
restricted to a change back to the original order; though this
admissible instance appears to have been the only romance
formerly recognized by novelists as possible in the case.
Whether the following production be a picture of other
possibilities or not its incidents may be taken to be fairly
well supported by evidence every day forthcoming in most
The writing of the tale was rendered memorable to two persons
at least by a tedious illness of five months that laid hold
of the author soon after the story was begun in a well-known
magazine; during which period the narrative had to be
strenuously continued by dictation to a predetermined cheerful
As some of these novels of Wessex life address themselves more
especially to readers into whose souls the iron has entered
and whose years have less pleasure in them now than
heretofore so "A Laodicean" may perhaps help to while away an
idle afternoon of the comfortable ones whose lines have fallen
to them in pleasant places; above all of that large and happy
section of the reading public which has not yet reached
ripeness of years; those to whom marriage is the pilgrim's
Eternal City and not a milestone on the way.
BOOK THE FIRST. GEORGE SOMERSET.
The sun blazed down and down till it was within half-an-hour
of its setting; but the sketcher still lingered at his
occupation of measuring and copying the chevroned doorway--a
bold and quaint example of a transitional style of
architecture which formed the tower entrance to an English
village church. The graveyard being quite open on its western
side the tweed-clad figure of the young draughtsman and the
tall mass of antique masonry which rose above him to a
battlemented parapet were fired to a great brightness by the
solar rays that crossed the neighbouring mead like a warp of
gold threads in whose mazes groups of equally lustrous gnats
danced and wailed incessantly.
He was so absorbed in his pursuit that he did not mark the
brilliant chromatic effect of which he composed the central
feature till it was brought home to his intelligence by the
warmth of the moulded stonework under his touch when
measuring; which led him at length to turn his head and gaze
on its cause.
There are few in whom the sight of a sunset does not beget as
much meditative melancholy as contemplative pleasure the
human decline and death that it illustrates being too obvious
to escape the notice of the simplest observer. The sketcher
as if he had been brought to this reflection many hundreds of
times before by the same spectacle showed that he did not
wish to pursue it just now by turning away his face after a
few moments to resume his architectural studies.
He took his measurements carefully and as if he reverenced
the old workers whose trick he was endeavouring to acquire six
hundred years after the original performance had ceased and
the performers passed into the unseen. By means of a strip of
lead called a leaden tape which he pressed around and into
the fillets and hollows with his finger and thumb he
transferred the exact contour of each moulding to his drawing
that lay on a sketching-stool a few feet distant; where were
also a sketching-block a small T-square a bow-pencil and
other mathematical instruments. When he had marked down the
line thus fixed he returned to the doorway to copy another as
It being the month of August when the pale face of the
townsman and the stranger is to be seen among the brown skins
of remotest uplanders not only in England but throughout the
temperate zone few of the homeward-bound labourers paused to
notice him further than by a momentary turn of the head. They
had beheld such gentlemen before not exactly measuring the
church so accurately as this one seemed to be doing but
painting it from a distance or at least walking round the
mouldy pile. At the same time the present visitor even
exteriorly was not altogether commonplace. His features were
good his eyes of the dark deep sort called eloquent by the
sex that ought to know and with that ray of light in them
which announces a heart susceptible to beauty of all kinds--