The Man in Black by G P R James Page 1 of 460

THE MAN IN BLACK.


CHAPTER I.

Let me take you into an old-fashioned country house, built by architects of the early reign of James the First. It had all the peculiarities - I might almost say the oddities - of that particular epoch in the building art. Chimneys innumerable had it. Heaven only knows what rooms they ventilated; but their name must have been legion.

The windows were not fewer in number, and much more irregular: for the chimneys were gathered together in some sort of symmetrical arrangement, while the windows were scattered all over the various faces of the building, with no apparent arrangement at all. Heaven knows, also, what rooms they lighted, or were intended to light, for they very little served the purpose, being narrow, and obstructed by the stone mullions of the Elizabethan age.


Each, too, had its label of stone superincumbent, and projecting from the brick-work, which might leave the period of construction somewhat doubtful - but the gables decided the fact.

They, too, were manifold; for although the house had been built all at once, it seemed, nevertheless, to have been erected in detached masses, and joined together as best the builder could; so that there were no less than six gables, turning north, south, east, and west, with four right angles, and flat walls between them.

These gables were surmounted - topped, as it were, by a triangular wall, somewhat higher than the acute roof, and this wall was constructed with a row of steps, coped with freestone, on either side of the ascent, as if the architect had fancied that some man or statue would, one day or another, have to climb up to the top of the pyramid, and take his place upon the crowning stone.



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