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- St. George and St. Michael Vol. I - 1/27 -
Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Charles Franks and the Distributed Proofreading Team
ST. GEORGE AND ST. MICHAEL
BY GEORGE MACDONALD
IN THREE VOLUMES
CONTENTS OF VOL. I.
CHAPTER I. DOROTHY AND RICHARD.
CHAPTER II. RICHARD AND HIS FATHER.
CHAPTER III. THE WITCH.
CHAPTER IV. A CHAPTER OF FOOLS.
CHAPTER V. ANIMADVERSIONS.
CHAPTER VI. PREPARATIONS.
CHAPTER VII. REFLECTIONS.
CHAPTER VIII. AN ADVENTURE.
CHAPTER IX. LOVE AND WAR.
CHAPTER X. DOROTHY'S REFUGE.
CHAPTER XI. RAGLAN CASTLE.
CHAPTER XII. THE TWO MARQUISES.
CHAPTER XIII. THE MAGICIAN'S VAULT.
CHAPTER XIV. SEVERAL PEOPLE.
CHAPTER XV. HUSBAND AND WIFE.
CHAPTER XVI. DOROTHY'S INITIATION.
ST. GEORGE AND ST. MICHAEL.
DOROTHY AND RICHARD.
It was the middle of autumn, and had rained all day. Through the lozenge-panes of the wide oriel window the world appeared in the slowly gathering dusk not a little dismal. The drops that clung trickling to the dim glass added rain and gloom to the landscape beyond, whither the eye passed, as if vaguely seeking that help in the distance, which the dripping hollyhocks and sodden sunflowers bordering the little lawn, or the honeysuckle covering the wide porch, from which the slow rain dropped ceaselessly upon the pebble-paving below, could not give--steepy slopes, hedge-divided into small fields, some green and dotted with red cattle, others crowded with shocks of bedraggled and drooping corn, which looked suffering and patient.
The room to which the window having this prospect belonged was large and low, with a dark floor of uncarpeted oak. It opened immediately upon the porch, and although a good fire of logs blazed on the hearth, was chilly to the sense of the old man, who, with his feet on the skin of a fallow-deer, sat gazing sadly into the flames, which shone rosy through the thin hands spread out before them. At the opposite corner of the great low-arched chimney sat a lady past the prime of life, but still beautiful, though the beauty was all but merged in the loveliness that rises from the heart to the face of such as have taken the greatest step in life--that is, as the old proverb says, the step out of doors. She was plainly yet rather richly dressed, in garments of an old-fashioned and well-preserved look. Her hair was cut short above her forehead, and frizzed out in bunches of little curls on each side. On her head was a covering of dark stuff, like a nun's veil, which fell behind and on her shoulders. Close round her neck was a string of amber beads, that gave a soft harmonious light to her complexion. Her dark eyes looked as if they found repose there, so quietly did they rest on the face of the old man, who was plainly a clergyman. It was a small, pale, thin, delicately and symmetrically formed face, yet not the less a strong one, with endurance on the somewhat sad brow, and force in the closed lips, while a good conscience looked clear out of the grey eyes.
They had been talking about the fast-gathering tide of opinion which, driven on by the wind of words, had already begun to beat so furiously against the moles and ramparts of Church and kingdom. The execution of lord Strafford was news that had not yet begun to 'hiss the speaker.'
'It is indeed an evil time,' said the old man. 'The world has seldom seen its like.'
'But tell me, master Herbert,' said the lady, 'why comes it in this our day? For our sins or for the sins of our fathers?'
'Be it far from me to presume to set forth the ways of Providence!' returned her guest. 'I meddle not, like some that should be wiser, with the calling of the prophet. It is enough for me to know that ever and again the pride of man will gather to "a mighty and a fearful head," and, like a swollen mill-pond overfed of rains, burst the banks that confine it, whether they be the laws of the land or the ordinances of the church, usurping on the fruitful meadows, the hope of life for man and beast. Alas!' he went on, with a new suggestion from the image he had been using, 'if the beginning of strife be as the letting out of water, what shall be the end of that strife whose beginning is the letting out of blood?'
'Think you then, good sir, that thus it has always been? that such times of fierce ungodly tempest must ever follow upon seasons of peace and comfort?--even as your cousin of holy memory, in his verses concerning the church militant, writes:
"Thus also sin and darkness follow still The church and sun, with all their power and skill."'
'Truly it seems so. But I thank God the days of my pilgrimage are nearly numbered. To judge by the tokens the wise man gives us, the mourners are already going about my streets. The almond-tree flourisheth at least.'
He smiled as he spoke, laying his hand on his grey head.
'But think of those whom we must leave behind us, master Herbert. How will it fare with them?' said the lady in troubled tone, and glancing in the direction of the window.
In the window sat a girl, gazing from it with the look of a child who had uttered all her incantations, and could imagine no abatement in the steady rain-pour.
'We shall leave behind us strong hearts and sound heads too,' said Mr. Herbert. 'And I bethink me there will be none stronger or sounder than those of your young cousins, my late pupils, of whom I hear brave things from Oxford, and in whose affection my spirit constantly rejoices.'
'You will be glad to hear such good news of your relatives, Dorothy,' said the lady, addressing her daughter.
Even as she said the words, the setting sun broke through the mass of grey cloud, and poured over the earth a level flood of radiance, in which the red wheat glowed, and the drops that hung on every ear flashed like diamonds. The girl's hair caught it as she turned her face to answer her mother, and an aureole of brown-tinted gold gleamed for a moment about her head.
'I am glad that you are pleased, madam, but you know I have never seen them--or heard of them, except from master Herbert, who has, indeed, often spoke rare things of them.'
'Mistress Dorothy will still know the reason why,' said the clergyman, smiling, and the two resumed their conversation. But the girl rose, and, turning again to the window, stood for a moment rapt in the transfiguration passing upon the world. The vault of grey was utterly shattered, but, gathering glory from ruin, was hurrying in rosy masses away from under the loftier vault of blue. The ordered shocks upon twenty fields sent their long purple shadows across the flush; and the evening wind, like the sighing that follows departed tears, was shaking the jewels from their feathery tops. The sunflowers and hollyhocks no longer cowered under the tyranny of the rain, but bowed beneath the weight of the gems that adorned them. A flame burned as upon an altar on the top of every tree, and the very pools that lay on the distant road had their message of light to give to the hopeless earth. As she gazed, another hue than that of the sunset, yet rosy too, gradually flushed the face of the maiden.
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