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Title: A Laodicean : A Story of To-day
Author: Hardy, Thomas
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A LAODICEAN: A STORY OF TO-DAY


By Thomas Hardy


CONTENTS.

   PREFACE                                          CHAPTERS
   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.



PREFACE.

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 counties.

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 ending.

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. T.H.

January 1896.



BOOK THE FIRST. GEORGE SOMERSET.


I.

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 before.

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,--in woman, in art, and in inanimate nature. Though he
would have been broadly characterized as a young man, his face bore
contradictory testimonies to his precise age. This was conceivably
owing to a too dominant speculative activity in him, which, while it
had preserved the emotional side of his constitution, and with it the
significant flexuousness of mouth and chin, had played upon his forehead
and temples till, at weary moments, they exhibited some traces of being
over-exercised. A youthfulness about the mobile features, a mature
forehead--though not exactly what the world has been familiar with
in past ages--is now growing common; and with the advance of juvenile
introspection it probably must grow commoner still. Briefly, he had more
of the beauty--if beauty it ought to be called--of the future human type
than of the past; but not so much as to make him other than a nice young
man.

His build was somewhat slender and tall; his complexion, though a little
browned by recent exposure, was that of a man who spent much of his time
indoors. Of beard he had but small show, though he was as innocent as
a Nazarite of the use of the razor; but he possessed a moustache
all-sufficient to hide the subtleties of his mouth, which could thus be
tremulous at tender moments without provoking inconvenient criticism.

Owing to his situation on high ground, open to the west, he remained
enveloped in the lingering aureate haze till a time when the eastern
part of the churchyard was in obscurity, and damp with rising dew.
When it was too dark to sketch further he packed up his drawing, and,
beckoning to a lad who had been idling by the gate, directed him to
carry the stool and implements to a roadside inn which he named, lying a
mile or two ahead. The draughtsman leisurely followed the lad out of the
churchyard, and along a lane in the direction signified.



The spectacle of a summer traveller from London sketching mediaeval
details in these neo-Pagan days, when a lull has come over the study of
English Gothic architecture, through a re-awakening to the art-forms of
times that more nearly neighbour our own, is accounted for by the fact
that George Somerset, son of the Academician of that name, was a man
of independent tastes and excursive instincts, who unconsciously, and
perhaps unhappily, took greater pleasure in floating in lonely currents
of thought than with the general tide of opinion. When quite a lad, in
the days of the French Gothic mania which immediately succeeded to the
great English-pointed revival under Britton, Pugin, Rickman, Scott, and
other mediaevalists, he had crept away from the fashion to admire what
was good in Palladian and Renaissance. As soon as Jacobean, Queen
Anne, and kindred accretions of decayed styles began to be popular, he
purchased such old-school works as Revett and Stuart, Chambers, and the
rest, and worked diligently at the Five Orders; till quite bewildered
on the question of style, he concluded that all styles were extinct, and
with them all architecture as a living art. Somerset was not old enough
at that time to know that, in practice, art had at all times been as
full of shifts and compromises as every other mundane thing; that ideal
perfection was never achieved by Greek, Goth, or Hebrew Jew, and
never would be; and thus he was thrown into a mood of disgust with
his profession, from which mood he was only delivered by recklessly
abandoning these studies and indulging in an old enthusiasm for poetical
literature. For two whole years he did nothing but write verse in every
conceivable metre, and on every conceivable subject, from Wordsworthian
sonnets on the singing of his tea-kettle to epic fragments on the Fall
of Empires. His discovery at the age of five-and-twenty that these
inspired works were not jumped at by the publishers with all the
eagerness they deserved, coincided in point of time with a severe hint
from his father that unless he went on with his legitimate profession he
might have to look elsewhere than at home for an allowance. Mr. Somerset
junior then awoke to realities, became intently practical, rushed back
to his dusty drawing-boards, and worked up the styles anew, with a view
of regularly starting in practice on the first day of the following
January.

It is an old story, and perhaps only deserves the light tone in which
the soaring of a young man into the empyrean, and his descent again, is
always narrated. But as has often been said, the light and the truth may
be on the side of the dreamer: a far wider view than the wise ones
have may be his at that recalcitrant time, and his reduction to common
measure be nothing less than a tragic event. The operation called
lunging, in which a haltered colt is made to trot round and round
a horsebreaker who holds the rope, till the beholder grows dizzy in
looking at them, is a very unhappy one for the animal concerned. During
its progress the colt springs upward, across the circle, stops, flies
over the turf with the velocity of a bird, and indulges in all sorts of
graceful antics; but he always ends in one way--thanks to the knotted
whipcord--in a level trot round the lunger with the regularity of a
horizontal wheel, and in the loss for ever to his character of the
bold contours which the fine hand of Nature gave it. Yet the process is
considered to be the making of him.

Whether Somerset became permanently made under the action of the
inevitable lunge, or whether he lapsed into mere dabbling with the
artistic side of his profession only, it would be premature to say; but
at any rate it was his contrite return to architecture as a calling that
sent him on the sketching excursion under notice. Feeling that something
still was wanting to round off his knowledge before he could take his
professional line with confidence, he was led to remember that his own
native Gothic was the one form of design that he had totally neglected
from the beginning, through its having greeted him with wearisome
iteration at the opening of his career. Now it had again returned to
silence; indeed--such is the surprising instability of art ‘principles’
as they are facetiously called--it was just as likely as not to sink
into the neglect and oblivion which had been its lot in Georgian times.
This accident of being out of vogue lent English Gothic an additional
charm to one of his proclivities; and away he went to make it the
business of a summer circuit in the west.

The quiet time of evening, the secluded neighbourhood, the unusually
gorgeous liveries of the clouds packed in a pile over that quarter of
the heavens in which the sun had disappeared, were such as to make
a traveller loiter on his walk. Coming to a stile, Somerset mounted
himself on the top bar, to imbibe the spirit of the scene and hour. The
evening was so still that every trifling sound could be heard for miles.
There was the rattle of a returning waggon, mixed with the smacks of the
waggoner’s whip: the team must have been at least three miles off. From
far over the hill came the faint periodic yell of kennelled hounds;
while from the nearest village resounded the voices of boys at play in
the twilight. Then a powerful clock struck the hour; it was not from
the direction of the church, but rather from the wood behind him; and he
thought it must be the clock of some mansion that way.

But the mind of man cannot always be forced to take up subjects by the
pressure of their material presence, and Somerset’s thoughts were often,
to his great loss, apt to be even more than common truants from the
tones and images that met his outer senses on walks and rides. He would
sometimes go quietly through the queerest, gayest, most extraordinary
town in Europe, and let it alone, provided it did not meddle with him
by its beggars, beauties, innkeepers, police, coachmen, mongrels, bad
smells, and such like obstructions. This feat of questionable utility he
began performing now. Sitting on the three-inch ash rail that had been
peeled and polished like glass by the rubbings of all the small-clothes
in the parish, he forgot the time, the place, forgot that it was
August--in short, everything of the present altogether. His mind flew
back to his past life, and deplored the waste of time that had resulted
from his not having been able to make up his mind which of the many
fashions of art that were coming and going in kaleidoscopic change
was the true point of departure from himself. He had suffered from the
modern malady of unlimited appreciativeness as much as any living man
of his own age. Dozens of his fellows in years and experience, who had
never thought specially of the matter, but had blunderingly applied
themselves to whatever form of art confronted them at the moment of
their making a move, were by this time acquiring renown as new lights;
while he was still unknown. He wished that some accident could have
hemmed in his eyes between inexorable blinkers, and sped him on in a
channel ever so worn.

Thus balanced between believing and not believing in his own future,
he was recalled to the scene without by hearing the notes of a familiar
hymn, rising in subdued harmonies from a valley below. He listened more
heedfully. It was his old friend the ‘New Sabbath,’ which he had never
once heard since the lisping days of childhood, and whose existence,
much as it had then been to him, he had till this moment quite
forgotten. Where the ‘New Sabbath’ had kept itself all these years--why
that sound and hearty melody had disappeared from all the cathedrals,
parish churches, minsters and chapels-of-ease that he had been
acquainted with during his apprenticeship to life, and until his ways
had become irregular and uncongregational--he could not, at first,
say. But then he recollected that the tune appertained to the old
west-gallery period of church-music, anterior to the great choral
reformation and the rule of Monk--that old time when the repetition of
a word, or half-line of a verse, was not considered a disgrace to an
ecclesiastical choir.

Willing to be interested in anything which would keep him out-of-doors,
Somerset dismounted from the stile and descended the hill before him, to
learn whence the singing proceeded.



II.

He found that it had its origin in a building standing alone in a field;
and though the evening was not yet dark without, lights shone from the
windows. In a few moments Somerset stood before the edifice. Being just
then en rapport with ecclesiasticism by reason of his recent occupation,
he could not help murmuring, ‘Shade of Pugin, what a monstrosity!’

Perhaps this exclamation (rather out of date since the discovery that
Pugin himself often nodded amazingly) would not have been indulged in
by Somerset but for his new architectural resolves, which caused
professional opinions to advance themselves officiously to his
lips whenever occasion offered. The building was, in short, a
recently-erected chapel of red brick, with pseudo-classic ornamentation,
and the white regular joints of mortar could be seen streaking its
surface in geometrical oppressiveness from top to bottom. The roof was
of blue slate, clean as a table, and unbroken from gable to gable;
the windows were glazed with sheets of plate glass, a temporary iron
stovepipe passing out near one of these, and running up to the height of
the ridge, where it was finished by a covering like a parachute. Walking
round to the end, he perceived an oblong white stone let into the wall
just above the plinth, on which was inscribed in deep letters:--

               Erected 187-,

          AT THE SOLE EXPENSE OF

          JOHN POWER, ESQ., M.P.

The ‘New Sabbath’ still proceeded line by line, with all the emotional
swells and cadences that had of old characterized the tune: and the body
of vocal harmony that it evoked implied a large congregation within, to
whom it was plainly as familiar as it had been to church-goers of a past
generation. With a whimsical sense of regret at the secession of his
once favourite air Somerset moved away, and would have quite withdrawn
from the field had he not at that moment observed two young men with
pitchers of water coming up from a stream hard by, and hastening with
their burdens into the chapel vestry by a side door. Almost as soon as
they had entered they emerged again with empty pitchers, and proceeded
to the stream to fill them as before, an operation which they repeated
several times. Somerset went forward to the stream, and waited till the
young men came out again.

‘You are carrying in a great deal of water,’ he said, as each dipped his
pitcher.

One of the young men modestly replied, ‘Yes: we filled the cistern this
morning; but it leaks, and requires a few pitcherfuls more.’

‘Why do you do it?’

‘There is to be a baptism, sir.’

Somerset was not sufficiently interested to develop a further
conversation, and observing them in silence till they had again vanished
into the building, he went on his way. Reaching the brow of the hill he
stopped and looked back. The chapel was still in view, and the shades
of night having deepened, the lights shone from the windows yet more
brightly than before. A few steps further would hide them and the
edifice, and all that belonged to it from his sight, possibly for ever.
There was something in the thought which led him to linger. The chapel
had neither beauty, quaintness, nor congeniality to recommend it: the
dissimilitude between the new utilitarianism of the place and the scenes
of venerable Gothic art which had occupied his daylight hours could not
well be exceeded. But Somerset, as has been said, was an instrument
of no narrow gamut: he had a key for other touches than the purely
aesthetic, even on such an excursion as this. His mind was arrested by
the intense and busy energy which must needs belong to an assembly that
required such a glare of light to do its religion by; in the heaving of
that tune there was an earnestness which made him thoughtful, and the
shine of those windows he had characterized as ugly reminded him of the
shining of the good deed in a naughty world. The chapel and its shabby
plot of ground, from which the herbage was all trodden away by busy
feet, had a living human interest that the numerous minsters and
churches knee-deep in fresh green grass, visited by him during the
foregoing week, had often lacked. Moreover, there was going to be a
baptism: that meant the immersion of a grown-up person; and he had
been told that Baptists were serious people and that the scene was most
impressive. What manner of man would it be who on an ordinary plodding
and bustling evening of the nineteenth century could single himself out
as one different from the rest of the inhabitants, banish all shyness,
and come forward to undergo such a trying ceremony? Who was he that
had pondered, gone into solitudes, wrestled with himself, worked up his
courage and said, I will do this, though few else will, for I believe it
to be my duty?

Whether on account of these thoughts, or from the circumstance that
he had been alone amongst the tombs all day without communion with his
kind, he could not tell in after years (when he had good reason to think
of the subject); but so it was that Somerset went back, and again stood
under the chapel-wall.

Instead of entering he passed round to where the stove-chimney came
through the bricks, and holding on to the iron stay he put his toes on
the plinth and looked in at the window. The building was quite full of
people belonging to that vast majority of society who are denied the
art of articulating their higher emotions, and crave dumbly for a
fugleman--respectably dressed working people, whose faces and forms were
worn and contorted by years of dreary toil. On a platform at the end
of the chapel a haggard man of more than middle age, with grey whiskers
ascetically cut back from the fore part of his face so far as to be
almost banished from the countenance, stood reading a chapter. Between
the minister and the congregation was an open space, and in the floor of
this was sunk a tank full of water, which just made its surface visible
above the blackness of its depths by reflecting the lights overhead.

Somerset endeavoured to discover which one among the assemblage was to
be the subject of the ceremony. But nobody appeared there who was at all
out of the region of commonplace. The people were all quiet and settled;
yet he could discern on their faces something more than attention,
though it was less than excitement: perhaps it was expectation. And as
if to bear out his surmise he heard at that moment the noise of wheels
behind him.

His gaze into the lighted chapel made what had been an evening scene
when he looked away from the landscape night itself on looking back;
but he could see enough to discover that a brougham had driven up to
the side-door used by the young water-bearers, and that a lady in
white-and-black half-mourning was in the act of alighting, followed by
what appeared to be a waiting-woman carrying wraps. They entered the
vestry-room of the chapel, and the door was shut. The service went on as
before till at a certain moment the door between vestry and chapel was
opened, when a woman came out clothed in an ample robe of flowing white,
which descended to her feet. Somerset was unfortunate in his position;
he could not see her face, but her gait suggested at once that she
was the lady who had arrived just before. She was rather tall than
otherwise, and the contour of her head and shoulders denoted a girl in
the heyday of youth and activity. His imagination, stimulated by this
beginning, set about filling in the meagre outline with most attractive
details.

She stood upon the brink of the pool, and the minister descended the
steps at its edge till the soles of his shoes were moistened with the
water. He turned to the young candidate, but she did not follow him:
instead of doing so she remained rigid as a stone. He stretched out his
hand, but she still showed reluctance, till, with some embarrassment, he
went back, and spoke softly in her ear.

She approached the edge, looked into the water, and turned away shaking
her head. Somerset could for the first time see her face. Though humanly
imperfect, as is every face we see, it was one which made him think that
the best in woman-kind no less than the best in psalm-tunes had gone
over to the Dissenters. He had certainly seen nobody so interesting
in his tour hitherto; she was about twenty or twenty-one--perhaps
twenty-three, for years have a way of stealing marches even upon
beauty’s anointed. The total dissimilarity between the expression of
her lineaments and that of the countenances around her was not a little
surprising, and was productive of hypotheses without measure as to
how she came there. She was, in fact, emphatically a modern type of
maidenhood, and she looked ultra-modern by reason of her environment: a
presumably sophisticated being among the simple ones--not wickedly so,
but one who knew life fairly well for her age. Her hair, of good
English brown, neither light nor dark, was abundant--too abundant for
convenience in tying, as it seemed; and it threw off the lamp-light in
a hazy lustre. And though it could not be said of her features that this
or that was flawless, the nameless charm of them altogether was only
another instance of how beautiful a woman can be as a whole without
attaining in any one detail to the lines marked out as absolutely
correct. The spirit and the life were there: and material shapes could
be disregarded.

Whatever moral characteristics this might be the surface of, enough
was shown to assure Somerset that she had some experience of things far
removed from her present circumscribed horizon, and could live, and was
even at that moment living, a clandestine, stealthy inner life which had
very little to do with her outward one. The repression of nearly every
external sign of that distress under which Somerset knew, by a sudden
intuitive sympathy, that she was labouring, added strength to these
convictions.

‘And you refuse?’ said the astonished minister, as she still stood
immovable on the brink of the pool. He persuasively took her sleeve
between his finger and thumb as if to draw her; but she resented this by
a quick movement of displeasure, and he released her, seeing that he had
gone too far.

‘But, my dear lady,’ he said, ‘you promised! Consider your profession,
and that you stand in the eyes of the whole church as an exemplar of
your faith.’

‘I cannot do it!’

‘But your father’s memory, miss; his last dying request!’

‘I cannot help it,’ she said, turning to get away.

‘You came here with the intention to fulfil the Word?’

‘But I was mistaken.’

‘Then why did you come?’

She tacitly implied that to be a question she did not care to answer.
‘Please say no more to me,’ she murmured, and hastened to withdraw.

During this unexpected dialogue (which had reached Somerset’s ears
through the open windows) that young man’s feelings had flown hither and
thither between minister and lady in a most capricious manner: it had
seemed at one moment a rather uncivil thing of her, charming as she was,
to give the minister and the water-bearers so much trouble for
nothing; the next, it seemed like reviving the ancient cruelties of the
ducking-stool to try to force a girl into that dark water if she had not
a mind to it. But the minister was not without insight, and he had seen
that it would be useless to say more. The crestfallen old man had to
turn round upon the congregation and declare officially that the baptism
was postponed.

She passed through the door into the vestry. During the exciting
moments of her recusancy there had been a perceptible flutter among the
sensitive members of the congregation; nervous Dissenters seeming to be
at one with nervous Episcopalians in this at least, that they heartily
disliked a scene during service. Calm was restored to their minds by the
minister starting a rather long hymn in minims and semibreves, amid the
singing of which he ascended the pulpit. His face had a severe and
even denunciatory look as he gave out his text, and Somerset began to
understand that this meant mischief to the young person who had caused
the hitch.

‘In the third chapter of Revelation and the fifteenth and following
verses, you will find these words:--

‘“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou
wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold
nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.... Thou sayest, I am rich,
and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that
thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”’

The sermon straightway began, and it was soon apparent that the
commentary was to be no less forcible than the text. It was also
apparent that the words were, virtually, not directed forward in
the line in which they were uttered, but through the chink of the
vestry-door, that had stood slightly ajar since the exit of the young
lady. The listeners appeared to feel this no less than Somerset did, for
their eyes, one and all, became fixed upon that vestry door as if they
would almost push it open by the force of their gazing. The preacher’s
heart was full and bitter; no book or note was wanted by him; never
was spontaneity more absolute than here. It was no timid reproof of
the ornamental kind, but a direct denunciation, all the more vigorous
perhaps from the limitation of mind and language under which the speaker
laboured. Yet, fool that he had been made by the candidate, there was
nothing acrid in his attack. Genuine flashes of rhetorical fire
were occasionally struck by that plain and simple man, who knew what
straightforward conduct was, and who did not know the illimitable
caprice of a woman’s mind.

At this moment there was not in the whole chapel a person whose
imagination was not centred on what was invisibly taking place within
the vestry. The thunder of the minister’s eloquence echoed, of course,
through the weak sister’s cavern of retreat no less than round the
public assembly. What she was doing inside there--whether listening
contritely, or haughtily hastening to put on her things and get away
from the chapel and all it contained--was obviously the thought of each
member. What changes were tracing themselves upon that lovely face: did
it rise to phases of Raffaelesque resignation or sink so low as to flush
and frown? was Somerset’s inquiry; and a half-explanation occurred when,
during the discourse, the door which had been ajar was gently pushed to.

Looking on as a stranger it seemed to him more than probable that this
young woman’s power of persistence in her unexpected repugnance to the
rite was strengthened by wealth and position of some sort, and was
not the unassisted gift of nature. The manner of her arrival, and her
dignified bearing before the assembly, strengthened the belief. A woman
who did not feel something extraneous to her mental self to fall back
upon would be so far overawed by the people and the crisis as not to
retain sufficient resolution for a change of mind.

The sermon ended, the minister wiped his steaming face and turned down
his cuffs, and nods and sagacious glances went round. Yet many, even of
those who had presumably passed the same ordeal with credit, exhibited
gentler judgment than the preacher’s on a tergiversation of which they
had probably recognized some germ in their own bosoms when in the lady’s
situation.

For Somerset there was but one scene: the imagined scene of the girl
herself as she sat alone in the vestry. The fervent congregation rose
to sing again, and then Somerset heard a slight noise on his left hand
which caused him to turn his head. The brougham, which had retired
into the field to wait, was back again at the door: the subject of his
rumination came out from the chapel--not in her mystic robe of white,
but dressed in ordinary fashionable costume--followed as before by the
attendant with other articles of clothing on her arm, including the
white gown. Somerset fancied that the younger woman was drying her eyes
with her handkerchief, but there was not much time to see: they quickly
entered the carriage, and it moved on. Then a cat suddenly mewed, and
he saw a white Persian standing forlorn where the carriage had been. The
door was opened, the cat taken in, and the carriage drove away.

The stranger’s girlish form stamped itself deeply on Somerset’s soul. He
strolled on his way quite oblivious to the fact that the moon had just
risen, and that the landscape was one for him to linger over, especially
if there were any Gothic architecture in the line of the lunar rays. The
inference was that though this girl must be of a serious turn of mind,
wilfulness was not foreign to her composition: and it was probable that
her daily doings evinced without much abatement by religion the unbroken
spirit and pride of life natural to her age.

The little village inn at which Somerset intended to pass the night
lay a mile further on, and retracing his way up to the stile he rambled
along the lane, now beginning to be streaked like a zebra with the
shadows of some young trees that edged the road. But his attention was
attracted to the other side of the way by a hum as of a night-bee,
which arose from the play of the breezes over a single wire of telegraph
running parallel with his track on tall poles that had appeared by the
road, he hardly knew when, from a branch route, probably leading from
some town in the neighbourhood to the village he was approaching. He did
not know the population of Sleeping-Green, as the village of his search
was called, but the presence of this mark of civilization seemed to
signify that its inhabitants were not quite so far in the rear of their
age as might be imagined; a glance at the still ungrassed heap of earth
round the foot of each post was, however, sufficient to show that it was
at no very remote period that they had made their advance.

Aided by this friendly wire Somerset had no difficulty in keeping his
course, till he reached a point in the ascent of a hill at which the
telegraph branched off from the road, passing through an opening in the
hedge, to strike across an undulating down, while the road wound round
to the left. For a few moments Somerset doubted and stood still. The
wire sang on overhead with dying falls and melodious rises that invited
him to follow; while above the wire rode the stars in their courses, the
low nocturn of the former seeming to be the voices of those stars,

     ‘Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubim.’

Recalling himself from these reflections Somerset decided to follow the
lead of the wire. It was not the first time during his present tour that
he had found his way at night by the help of these musical threads which
the post-office authorities had erected all over the country for quite
another purpose than to guide belated travellers. Plunging with it
across the down he came to a hedgeless road that entered a park or
chase, which flourished in all its original wildness. Tufts of rushes
and brakes of fern rose from the hollows, and the road was in places
half overgrown with green, as if it had not been tended for many years;
so much so that, where shaded by trees, he found some difficulty in
keeping it. Though he had noticed the remains of a deer-fence further
back no deer were visible, and it was scarcely possible that there
should be any in the existing state of things: but rabbits were
multitudinous, every hillock being dotted with their seated figures till
Somerset approached and sent them limping into their burrows. The road
next wound round a clump of underwood beside which lay heaps of faggots
for burning, and then there appeared against the sky the walls and
towers of a castle, half ruin, half residence, standing on an eminence
hard by.

Somerset stopped to examine it. The castle was not exceptionally large,
but it had all the characteristics of its most important fellows.
Irregular, dilapidated, and muffled in creepers as a great portion of it
was, some part--a comparatively modern wing--was inhabited, for a light
or two steadily gleamed from some upper windows; in others a reflection
of the moon denoted that unbroken glass yet filled their casements. Over
all rose the keep, a square solid tower apparently not much injured by
wars or weather, and darkened with ivy on one side, wherein wings could
be heard flapping uncertainly, as if they belonged to a bird unable
to find a proper perch. Hissing noises supervened, and then a hoot,
proclaiming that a brood of young owls were residing there in the
company of older ones. In spite of the habitable and more modern wing,
neglect and decay had set their mark upon the outworks of the pile,
unfitting them for a more positive light than that of the present hour.

He walked up to a modern arch spanning the ditch--now dry and
green--over which the drawbridge once had swung. The large door under
the porter’s archway was closed and locked. While standing here the
singing of the wire, which for the last few minutes he had quite
forgotten, again struck upon his ear, and retreating to a convenient
place he observed its final course: from the poles amid the trees
it leaped across the moat, over the girdling wall, and thence by
a tremendous stretch towards the keep where, to judge by sound, it
vanished through an arrow-slit into the interior. This fossil of
feudalism, then, was the journey’s-end of the wire, and not the village
of Sleeping-Green.

There was a certain unexpectedness in the fact that the hoary memorial
of a stolid antagonism to the interchange of ideas, the monument of hard
distinctions in blood and race, of deadly mistrust of one’s neighbour in
spite of the Church’s teaching, and of a sublime unconsciousness of
any other force than a brute one, should be the goal of a machine which
beyond everything may be said to symbolize cosmopolitan views and the
intellectual and moral kinship of all mankind. In that light the little
buzzing wire had a far finer significance to the student Somerset than
the vast walls which neighboured it. But the modern fever and fret which
consumes people before they can grow old was also signified by the wire;
and this aspect of to-day did not contrast well with the fairer side
of feudalism--leisure, light-hearted generosity, intense friendships,
hawks, hounds, revels, healthy complexions, freedom from care, and such
a living power in architectural art as the world may never again see.

Somerset withdrew till neither the singing of the wire nor the hisses of
the irritable owls could be heard any more. A clock in the castle struck
ten, and he recognized the strokes as those he had heard when sitting
on the stile. It was indispensable that he should retrace his steps and
push on to Sleeping-Green if he wished that night to reach his lodgings,
which had been secured by letter at a little inn in the straggling line
of roadside houses called by the above name, where his luggage had by
this time probably arrived. In a quarter of an hour he was again at the
point where the wire left the road, and following the highway over a
hill he saw the hamlet at his feet.



III.

By half-past ten the next morning Somerset was once more approaching
the precincts of the building which had interested him the night before.
Referring to his map he had learnt that it bore the name of Stancy
Castle or Castle de Stancy; and he had been at once struck with its
familiarity, though he had never understood its position in the county,
believing it further to the west. If report spoke truly there was
some excellent vaulting in the interior, and a change of study from
ecclesiastical to secular Gothic was not unwelcome for a while.

The entrance-gate was open now, and under the archway the outer ward was
visible, a great part of it being laid out as a flower-garden. This was
in process of clearing from weeds and rubbish by a set of gardeners, and
the soil was so encumbered that in rooting out the weeds such few hardy
flowers as still remained in the beds were mostly brought up with them.
The groove wherein the portcullis had run was as fresh as if only cut
yesterday, the very tooling of the stone being visible. Close to this
hung a bell-pull formed of a large wooden acorn attached to a vertical
rod. Somerset’s application brought a woman from the porter’s door, who
informed him that the day before having been the weekly show-day for
visitors, it was doubtful if he could be admitted now.

‘Who is at home?’ said Somerset.

‘Only Miss de Stancy,’ the porteress replied.

His dread of being considered an intruder was such that he thought at
first there was no help for it but to wait till the next week. But
he had already through his want of effrontery lost a sight of many
interiors, whose exhibition would have been rather a satisfaction to the
inmates than a trouble. It was inconvenient to wait; he knew nobody
in the neighbourhood from whom he could get an introductory letter: he
turned and passed the woman, crossed the ward where the gardeners were
at work, over a second and smaller bridge, and up a flight of stone
stairs, open to the sky, along whose steps sunburnt Tudor soldiers and
other renowned dead men had doubtless many times walked. It led to the
principal door on this side. Thence he could observe the walls of
the lower court in detail, and the old mosses with which they were
padded--mosses that from time immemorial had been burnt brown every
summer, and every winter had grown green again. The arrow-slit and the
electric wire that entered it, like a worm uneasy at being unearthed,
were distinctly visible now. So also was the clock, not, as he had
supposed, a chronometer coeval with the fortress itself, but new and
shining, and bearing the name of a recent maker.

The door was opened by a bland, intensely shaven man out of livery,
who took Somerset’s name and politely worded request to be allowed to
inspect the architecture of the more public portions of the castle. He
pronounced the word ‘architecture’ in the tone of a man who knew and
practised that art; ‘for,’ he said to himself, ‘if she thinks I am a
mere idle tourist, it will not be so well.’

No such uncomfortable consequences ensued. Miss De Stancy had great
pleasure in giving Mr. Somerset full permission to walk through whatever
parts of the building he chose.

He followed the butler into the inner buildings of the fortress, the
ponderous thickness of whose walls made itself felt like a physical
pressure. An internal stone staircase, ranged round four sides of a
square, was next revealed, leading at the top of one flight into a
spacious hall, which seemed to occupy the whole area of the keep. From
this apartment a corridor floored with black oak led to the more modern
wing, where light and air were treated in a less gingerly fashion.

Here passages were broader than in the oldest portion, and upholstery
enlisted in the service of the fine arts hid to a great extent the
coldness of the walls.

Somerset was now left to himself, and roving freely from room to room
he found time to inspect the different objects of interest that abounded
there. Not all the chambers, even of the habitable division, were in use
as dwelling-rooms, though these were still numerous enough for the wants
of an ordinary country family. In a long gallery with a coved ceiling
of arabesques which had once been gilded, hung a series of paintings
representing the past personages of the De Stancy line. It was a
remarkable array--even more so on account of the incredibly neglected
condition of the canvases than for the artistic peculiarities they
exhibited. Many of the frames were dropping apart at their angles, and
some of the canvas was so dingy that the face of the person depicted was
only distinguishable as the moon through mist. For the colour they had
now they might have been painted during an eclipse; while, to judge by
the webs tying them to the wall, the spiders that ran up and down their
backs were such as to make the fair originals shudder in their graves.

He wondered how many of the lofty foreheads and smiling lips of this
pictorial pedigree could be credited as true reflections of their
prototypes. Some were wilfully false, no doubt; many more so by
unavoidable accident and want of skill. Somerset felt that it required a
profounder mind than his to disinter from the lumber of conventionality
the lineaments that really sat in the painter’s presence, and to
discover their history behind the curtain of mere tradition.

The painters of this long collection were those who usually appear in
such places; Holbein, Jansen, and Vandyck; Sir Peter, Sir Geoffrey, Sir
Joshua, and Sir Thomas. Their sitters, too, had mostly been sirs; Sir
William, Sir John, or Sir George De Stancy--some undoubtedly having
a nobility stamped upon them beyond that conferred by their robes and
orders; and others not so fortunate. Their respective ladies hung by
their sides--feeble and watery, or fat and comfortable, as the case
might be; also their fathers and mothers-in-law, their brothers and
remoter relatives; their contemporary reigning princes, and their
intimate friends. Of the De Stancys pure there ran through the
collection a mark by which they might surely have been recognized as
members of one family; this feature being the upper part of the nose.
Every one, even if lacking other points in common, had the special
indent at this point in the face--sometimes moderate in degree,
sometimes excessive.

While looking at the pictures--which, though not in his regular line of
study, interested Somerset more than the architecture, because of their
singular dilapidation, it occurred to his mind that he had in his youth
been schoolfellow for a very short time with a pleasant boy bearing a
surname attached to one of the paintings--the name of Ravensbury. The
boy had vanished he knew not how--he thought he had been removed from
school suddenly on account of ill health. But the recollection was
vague, and Somerset moved on to the rooms above and below. In addition
to the architectural details of which he had as yet obtained but
glimpses, there was a great collection of old movables and other
domestic art-work--all more than a century old, and mostly lying as
lumber. There were suites of tapestry hangings, common and fine; green
and scarlet leather-work, on which the gilding was still but little
injured; venerable damask curtains; quilted silk table-covers,
ebony cabinets, worked satin window-cushions, carved bedsteads, and
embroidered bed-furniture which had apparently screened no sleeper for
these many years. Downstairs there was also an interesting collection of
armour, together with several huge trunks and coffers. A great many
of them had been recently taken out and cleaned, as if a long dormant
interest in them were suddenly revived. Doubtless they were those which
had been used by the living originals of the phantoms that looked down
from the frames.

This excellent hoard of suggestive designs for wood-work, metal-work,
and work of other sorts, induced Somerset to divert his studies from
the ecclesiastical direction, to acquire some new ideas from the objects
here for domestic application. Yet for the present he was inclined
to keep his sketch-book closed and his ivory rule folded, and devote
himself to a general survey. Emerging from the ground-floor by a small
doorway, he found himself on a terrace to the north-east, and on the
other side than that by which he had entered. It was bounded by a
parapet breast high, over which a view of the distant country met the
eye, stretching from the foot of the slope to a distance of many miles.
Somerset went and leaned over, and looked down upon the tops of the
bushes beneath. The prospect included the village he had passed through
on the previous day: and amidst the green lights and shades of the
meadows he could discern the red brick chapel whose recalcitrant inmate
had so engrossed him.

Before his attention had long strayed over the incident which
romanticized that utilitarian structure, he became aware that he was not
the only person who was looking from the terrace towards that point of
the compass. At the right-hand corner, in a niche of the curtain-wall,
reclined a girlish shape; and asleep on the bench over which she leaned
was a white cat--the identical Persian as it seemed--that had been taken
into the carriage at the chapel-door.

Somerset began to muse on the probability or otherwise of the
backsliding Baptist and this young lady resulting in one and the same
person; and almost without knowing it he found himself deeply hoping for
such a unity. The object of his inspection was idly leaning, and
this somewhat disguised her figure. It might have been tall or short,
curvilinear or angular. She carried a light sunshade which she fitfully
twirled until, thrusting it back over her shoulder, her head was
revealed sufficiently to show that she wore no hat or bonnet. This token
of her being an inmate of the castle, and not a visitor, rather damped
his expectations: but he persisted in believing her look towards the
chapel must have a meaning in it, till she suddenly stood erect, and
revealed herself as short in stature--almost dumpy--at the same time
giving him a distinct view of her profile. She was not at all like the
heroine of the chapel. He saw the dinted nose of the De Stancys outlined
with Holbein shadowlessness against the blue-green of the distant wood.
It was not the De Stancy face with all its original specialities: it
was, so to speak, a defective reprint of that face: for the nose tried
hard to turn up and deal utter confusion to the family shape.

As for the rest of the countenance, Somerset was obliged to own that it
was not beautiful: Nature had done there many things that she ought not
to have done, and left undone much that she should have executed. It
would have been decidedly plain but for a precious quality which no
perfection of chiselling can give when the temperament denies it, and
which no facial irregularity can take away--a tender affectionateness
which might almost be called yearning; such as is often seen in the
women of Correggio when they are painted in profile. But the plain
features of Miss De Stancy--who she undoubtedly was--were rather
severely handled by Somerset’s judgment owing to his impression of the
previous night. A beauty of a sort would have been lent by the flexuous
contours of the mobile parts but for that unfortunate condition the poor
girl was burdened with, of having to hand on a traditional feature with
which she did not find herself otherwise in harmony.

She glanced at him for a moment, and showed by an imperceptible movement
that he had made his presence felt. Not to embarrass her Somerset
hastened to withdraw, at the same time that she passed round to the
other part of the terrace, followed by the cat, in whom Somerset could
imagine a certain denominational cast of countenance, notwithstanding
her company. But as white cats are much alike each other at a distance,
it was reasonable to suppose this creature was not the same one as that
possessed by the beauty.



IV.

He descended the stone stairs to a lower story of the castle, in which
was a crypt-like hall covered by vaulting of exceptional and massive
ingenuity:

          ‘Built ere the art was known,
     By pointed aisle and shafted stalk
     The arcades of an alleyed walk
           To emulate in stone.’

It happened that the central pillar whereon the vaults rested, reputed
to exhibit some of the most hideous grotesques in England upon its
capital, was within a locked door. Somerset was tempted to ask a
servant for permission to open it, till he heard that the inner room
was temporarily used for plate, the key being kept by Miss De Stancy, at
which he said no more. But afterwards the active housemaid redescended
the stone steps; she entered the crypt with a bunch of keys in one hand,
and in the other a candle, followed by the young lady whom Somerset had
seen on the terrace.

‘I shall be very glad to unlock anything you may want to see. So few
people take any real interest in what is here that we do not leave it
open.’

Somerset expressed his thanks.

Miss De Stancy, a little to his surprise, had a touch of rusticity in
her manner, and that forced absence of reserve which seclusion from
society lends to young women more frequently than not. She seemed glad
to have something to do; the arrival of Somerset was plainly an event
sufficient to set some little mark upon her day. Deception had been
written on the faces of those frowning walls in their implying the
insignificance of Somerset, when he found them tenanted only by this
little woman whose life was narrower than his own.

‘We have not been here long,’ continued Miss De Stancy, ‘and that’s why
everything is in such a dilapidated and confused condition.’

Somerset entered the dark store-closet, thinking less of the ancient
pillar revealed by the light of the candle than what a singular remark
the latter was to come from a member of the family which appeared to
have been there five centuries. He held the candle above his head, and
walked round, and presently Miss De Stancy came back.

‘There is another vault below,’ she said, with the severe face of a
young woman who speaks only because it is absolutely necessary. ‘Perhaps
you are not aware of it? It was the dungeon: if you wish to go
down there too, the servant will show you the way. It is not at all
ornamental: rough, unhewn arches and clumsy piers.’

Somerset thanked her, and would perhaps take advantage of her kind
offer when he had examined the spot where he was, if it were not causing
inconvenience.

‘No; I am sure Paula will be glad to know that anybody thinks it
interesting to go down there--which is more than she does herself.’

Some obvious inquiries were suggested by this, but Somerset said, ‘I
have seen the pictures, and have been much struck by them; partly,’ he
added, with some hesitation, ‘because one or two of them reminded me of
a schoolfellow--I think his name was John Ravensbury?’

‘Yes,’ she said, almost eagerly. ‘He was my cousin!’

‘So that we are not quite strangers?’

‘But he is dead now.... He was unfortunate: he was mostly spoken of
as “that unlucky boy.”... You know, I suppose, Mr. Somerset, why the
paintings are in such a decaying state!--it is owing to the peculiar
treatment of the castle during Mr. Wilkins’s time. He was blind; so one
can imagine he did not appreciate such things as there are here.’

‘The castle has been shut up, you mean?’

‘O yes, for many years. But it will not be so again. We are going to
have the pictures cleaned, and the frames mended, and the old pieces of
furniture put in their proper places. It will be very nice then. Did you
see those in the east closet?’

‘I have only seen those in the gallery.’

‘I will just show you the way to the others, if you would like to see
them?’

They ascended to the room designated the east closet. The paintings
here, mostly of smaller size, were in a better condition, owing to the
fact that they were hung on an inner wall, and had hence been kept free
from damp. Somerset inquired the names and histories of one or two.

‘I really don’t quite know,’ Miss De Stancy replied after some thought.
‘But Paula knows, I am sure. I don’t study them much--I don’t see the
use of it.’ She swung her sunshade, so that it fell open, and turned it
up till it fell shut. ‘I have never been able to give much attention to
ancestors,’ she added, with her eyes on the parasol.

‘These ARE your ancestors?’ he asked, for her position and tone were
matters which perplexed him. In spite of the family likeness and other
details he could scarcely believe this frank and communicative country
maiden to be the modern representative of the De Stancys.

‘O yes, they certainly are,’ she said, laughing. ‘People say I am like
them: I don’t know if I am--well, yes, I know I am: I can see that, of
course, any day. But they have gone from my family, and perhaps it
is just as well that they should have gone.... They are useless,’ she
added, with serene conclusiveness.

‘Ah! they have gone, have they?’

‘Yes, castle and furniture went together: it was long ago--long before
I was born. It doesn’t seem to me as if the place ever belonged to a
relative of mine.’

Somerset corrected his smiling manner to one of solicitude.

‘But you live here, Miss De Stancy?’

‘Yes--a great deal now; though sometimes I go home to sleep.’

‘This is home to you, and not home?’

‘I live here with Paula--my friend: I have not been here long, neither
has she. For the first six months after her father’s death she did not
come here at all.’

They walked on, gazing at the walls, till the young man said: ‘I fear
I may be making some mistake: but I am sure you will pardon my
inquisitiveness this once. WHO is Paula?’

‘Ah, you don’t know! Of course you don’t--local changes don’t get talked
of far away. She is the owner of this castle and estate. My father sold
it when he was quite a young man, years before I was born, and not long
after his father’s death. It was purchased by a man named Wilkins, a
rich man who became blind soon after he had bought it, and never lived
here; so it was left uncared for.’

She went out upon the terrace; and without exactly knowing why, Somerset
followed.

‘Your friend--’

‘Has only come here quite recently. She is away from home to-day.... It
was very sad,’ murmured the young girl thoughtfully. ‘No sooner had
Mr. Power bought it of the representatives of Mr. Wilkins--almost
immediately indeed--than he died from a chill caught after a warm bath.
On account of that she did not take possession for several months; and
even now she has only had a few rooms prepared as a temporary residence
till she can think what to do. Poor thing, it is sad to be left alone!’

Somerset heedfully remarked that he thought he recognized that name
Power, as one he had seen lately, somewhere or other.

‘Perhaps you have been hearing of her father. Do you know what he was?’

Somerset did not.

She looked across the distant country, where undulations of dark-green
foliage formed a prospect extending for miles. And as she watched, and
Somerset’s eyes, led by hers, watched also, a white streak of steam,
thin as a cotton thread, could be discerned ploughing that green
expanse. ‘Her father made THAT,’ Miss De Stancy said, directing her
finger towards the object.

‘That what?’

‘That railway. He was Mr. John Power, the great railway contractor. And
it was through making the railway that he discovered this castle--the
railway was diverted a little on its account.’

‘A clash between ancient and modern.’

‘Yes, but he took an interest in the locality long before he purchased
the estate. And he built the people a chapel on a bit of freehold he
bought for them. He was a great Nonconformist, a staunch Baptist up to
the day of his death--a much stauncher one,’ she said significantly,
‘than his daughter is.’

‘Ah, I begin to spot her!’

‘You have heard about the baptism?’

‘I know something of it.’

‘Her conduct has given mortal offence to the scattered people of the
denomination that her father was at such pains to unite into a body.’

Somerset could guess the remainder, and in thinking over the
circumstances did not state what he had seen. She added, as if
disappointed at his want of curiosity--

‘She would not submit to the rite when it came to the point. The water
looked so cold and dark and fearful, she said, that she could not do it
to save her life.’

‘Surely she should have known her mind before she had gone so far?’
Somerset’s words had a condemnatory form, but perhaps his actual feeling
was that if Miss Power had known her own mind, she would have not
interested him half so much.

‘Paula’s own mind had nothing to do with it!’ said Miss De Stancy,
warming up to staunch partizanship in a moment. ‘It was all undertaken
by her from a mistaken sense of duty. It was her father’s dying wish
that she should make public profession of her--what do you call it--of
the denomination she belonged to, as soon as she felt herself fit to
do it: so when he was dead she tried and tried, and didn’t get any more
fit; and at last she screwed herself up to the pitch, and thought she
must undergo the ceremony out of pure reverence for his memory. It was
very short-sighted of her father to put her in such a position: because
she is now very sad, as she feels she can never try again after such a
sermon as was delivered against her.’

Somerset presumed that Miss Power need not have heard this Knox or
Bossuet of hers if she had chosen to go away?

‘She did not hear it in the face of the congregation; but from the
vestry. She told me some of it when she reached home. Would you believe
it, the man who preached so bitterly is a tenant of hers? I said,
“Surely you will turn him out of his house?”--But she answered, in her
calm, deep, nice way, that she supposed he had a perfect right to preach
against her, that she could not in justice molest him at all. I wouldn’t
let him stay if the house were mine. But she has often before allowed
him to scold her from the pulpit in a smaller way--once it was about an
expensive dress she had worn--not mentioning her by name, you know; but
all the people are quite aware that it is meant for her, because only
one person of her wealth or position belongs to the Baptist body in this
county.’

Somerset was looking at the homely affectionate face of the little
speaker. ‘You are her good friend, I am sure,’ he remarked.

She looked into the distant air with tacit admission of the impeachment.
‘So would you be if you knew her,’ she said; and a blush slowly rose
to her cheek, as if the person spoken of had been a lover rather than a
friend.

‘But you are not a Baptist any more than I?’ continued Somerset.

‘O no. And I never knew one till I knew Paula. I think they are very
nice; though I sometimes wish Paula was not one, but the religion of
reasonable persons.’

They walked on, and came opposite to where the telegraph emerged from
the trees, leapt over the parapet, and up through the loophole into the
interior.

‘That looks strange in such a building,’ said her companion.

‘Miss Power had it put up to know the latest news from town. It costs
six pounds a mile. She can work it herself, beautifully: and so can
I, but not so well. It was a great delight to learn. Miss Power was
so interested at first that she was sending messages from morning till
night. And did you hear the new clock?’

‘Is it a new one?--Yes, I heard it.’

‘The old one was quite worn out; so Paula has put it in the cellar, and
had this new one made, though it still strikes on the old bell. It tells
the seconds, but the old one, which my very great grandfather erected in
the eighteenth century, only told the hours. Paula says that time,
being so much more valuable now, must of course be cut up into smaller
pieces.’

‘She does not appear to be much impressed by the spirit of this ancient
pile.’

Miss De Stancy shook her head too slightly to express absolute negation.

‘Do you wish to come through this door?’ she asked. ‘There is a singular
chimney-piece in the kitchen, which is considered a unique example of
its kind, though I myself don’t know enough about it to have an opinion
on the subject.’

When they had looked at the corbelled chimney-piece they returned to the
hall, where his eye was caught anew by a large map that he had conned
for some time when alone, without being able to divine the locality
represented. It was called ‘General Plan of the Town,’ and showed
streets and open spaces corresponding with nothing he had seen in the
county.

‘Is that town here?’ he asked.

‘It is not anywhere but in Paula’s brain; she has laid it out from her
own design. The site is supposed to be near our railway station, just
across there, where the land belongs to her. She is going to grant cheap
building leases, and develop the manufacture of pottery.’

‘Pottery--how very practical she must be!’

‘O no! no!’ replied Miss De Stancy, in tones showing how supremely
ignorant he must be of Miss Power’s nature if he characterized her in
those terms. ‘It is GREEK pottery she means--Hellenic pottery she tells
me to call it, only I forget. There is beautiful clay at the place,
her father told her: he found it in making the railway tunnel. She has
visited the British Museum, continental museums, and Greece, and Spain:
and hopes to imitate the old fictile work in time, especially the Greek
of the best period, four hundred years after Christ, or before Christ--I
forget which it was Paula said.... O no, she is not practical in the
sense you mean, at all.’

‘A mixed young lady, rather.’

Miss De Stancy appeared unable to settle whether this new definition of
her dear friend should be accepted as kindly, or disallowed as decidedly
sarcastic. ‘You would like her if you knew her,’ she insisted, in half
tones of pique; after which she walked on a few steps.

‘I think very highly of her,’ said Somerset.

‘And I! And yet at one time I could never have believed that I should
have been her friend. One is prejudiced at first against people who are
reported to have such differences in feeling, associations, and habit,
as she seemed to have from mine. But it has not stood in the least in
the way of our liking each other. I believe the difference makes us the
more united.’

‘It says a great deal for the liberality of both,’ answered Somerset
warmly. ‘Heaven send us more of the same sort of people! They are not
too numerous at present.’

As this remark called for no reply from Miss De Stancy, she took
advantage of an opportunity to leave him alone, first repeating her
permission to him to wander where he would. He walked about for some
time, sketch-book in hand, but was conscious that his interest did not
lie much in the architecture. In passing along the corridor of an
upper floor he observed an open door, through which was visible a room
containing one of the finest Renaissance cabinets he had ever seen. It
was impossible, on close examination, to do justice to it in a hasty
sketch; it would be necessary to measure every line if he would bring
away anything of utility to him as a designer. Deciding to reserve this
gem for another opportunity he cast his eyes round the room and blushed
a little. Without knowing it he had intruded into the absent Miss
Paula’s own particular set of chambers, including a boudoir and sleeping
apartment. On the tables of the sitting-room were most of the popular
papers and periodicals that he knew, not only English, but from Paris,
Italy, and America. Satirical prints, though they did not unduly
preponderate, were not wanting. Besides these there were books from a
London circulating library, paper-covered light literature in French and
choice Italian, and the latest monthly reviews; while between the two
windows stood the telegraph apparatus whose wire had been the means of
bringing him hither.

These things, ensconced amid so much of the old and hoary, were as if
a stray hour from the nineteenth century had wandered like a butterfly
into the thirteenth, and lost itself there.

The door between this ante-chamber and the sleeping-room stood open.
Without venturing to cross the threshold, for he felt that he would be
abusing hospitality to go so far, Somerset looked in for a moment. It
was a pretty place, and seemed to have been hastily fitted up. In a
corner, overhung by a blue and white canopy of silk, was a little cot,
hardly large enough to impress the character of bedroom upon the old
place. Upon a counterpane lay a parasol and a silk neckerchief. On the
other side of the room was a tall mirror of startling newness, draped
like the bedstead, in blue and white. Thrown at random upon the floor
was a pair of satin slippers that would have fitted Cinderella. A
dressing-gown lay across a settee; and opposite, upon a small easy-chair
in the same blue and white livery, were a Bible, the Baptist Magazine,
Wardlaw on Infant Baptism, Walford’s County Families, and the Court
Journal. On and over the mantelpiece were nicknacks of various
descriptions, and photographic portraits of the artistic, scientific,
and literary celebrities of the day.

A dressing-room lay beyond; but, becoming conscious that his study
of ancient architecture would hardly bear stretching further in that
direction, Mr. Somerset retreated to the outside, obliviously passing by
the gem of Renaissance that had led him in.

‘She affects blue,’ he was thinking. ‘Then she is fair.’

On looking up, some time later, at the new clock that told the seconds,
he found that the hours at his disposal for work had flown without his
having transferred a single feature of the building or furniture to his
sketch-book. Before leaving he sent in for permission to come again, and
then walked across the fields to the inn at Sleeping-Green, reflecting
less upon Miss De Stancy (so little force of presence had she possessed)
than upon the modern flower in a mediaeval flower-pot whom Miss De
Stancy’s information had brought before him, and upon the incongruities
that were daily shaping themselves in the world under the great modern
fluctuations of classes and creeds.

Somerset was still full of the subject when he arrived at the end of
his walk, and he fancied that some loungers at the bar of the inn were
discussing the heroine of the chapel-scene just at the moment of his
entry. On this account, when the landlord came to clear away the dinner,
Somerset was led to inquire of him, by way of opening a conversation, if
there were many Baptists in the neighbourhood.

The landlord (who was a serious man on the surface, though he
occasionally smiled beneath) replied that there were a great many--far
more than the average in country parishes. ‘Even here, in my house,
now,’ he added, ‘when volks get a drop of drink into ‘em, and their
feelings rise to a zong, some man will strike up a hymn by preference.
But I find no fault with that; for though ‘tis hardly human nature to be
so calculating in yer cups, a feller may as well sing to gain something
as sing to waste.’

‘How do you account for there being so many?’

‘Well, you zee, sir, some says one thing, and some another; I think they
does it to save the expense of a Christian burial for ther children. Now
there’s a poor family out in Long Lane--the husband used to smite for
Jimmy More the blacksmith till ‘a hurt his arm--they’d have no less than
eleven children if they’d not been lucky t’other way, and buried five
when they were three or four months old. Now every one of them children
was given to the sexton in a little box that any journeyman could nail
together in a quarter of an hour, and he buried ‘em at night for a
shilling a head; whereas ‘twould have cost a couple of pounds each if
they’d been christened at church.... Of course there’s the new lady
at the castle, she’s a chapel member, and that may make a little
difference; but she’s not been here long enough to show whether ‘twill
be worth while to join ‘em for the profit o’t or whether ‘twill not. No
doubt if it turns out that she’s of a sort to relieve volks in trouble,
more will join her set than belongs to it already. “Any port in a
storm,” of course, as the saying is.’

‘As for yourself, you are a Churchman at present, I presume?’

‘Yes; not but I was a Methodist once--ay, for a length of time. ‘Twas
owing to my taking a house next door to a chapel; so that what with
hearing the organ bizz like a bee through the wall, and what with
finding it saved umbrellas on wet Zundays, I went over to that faith for
two years--though I believe I dropped money by it--I wouldn’t be the man
to say so if I hadn’t. Howsomever, when I moved into this house I turned
back again to my old religion. Faith, I don’t zee much difference: be
you one, or be you t’other, you’ve got to get your living.’

‘The De Stancys, of course, have not much influence here now, for that,
or any other thing?’

‘O no, no; not any at all. They be very low upon ground, and always
will be now, I suppose. It was thoughted worthy of being recorded in
history--you’ve read it, sir, no doubt?’

‘Not a word.’

‘O, then, you shall. I’ve got the history zomewhere. ‘Twas gay manners
that did it. The only bit of luck they have had of late years is
Miss Power’s taking to little Miss De Stancy, and making her her
company-keeper. I hope ‘twill continue.’

That the two daughters of these antipodean families should be such
intimate friends was a situation which pleased Somerset as much as it
did the landlord. It was an engaging instance of that human progress
on which he had expended many charming dreams in the years when poetry,
theology, and the reorganization of society had seemed matters of more
importance to him than a profession which should help him to a big house
and income, a fair Deiopeia, and a lovely progeny. When he was alone he
poured out a glass of wine, and silently drank the healths of the two
generous-minded young women who, in this lonely district, had found
sweet communion a necessity of life, and by pure and instinctive good
sense had broken down a barrier which men thrice their age and repute
would probably have felt it imperative to maintain. But perhaps this was
premature: the omnipotent Miss Power’s character--practical or ideal,
politic or impulsive--he as yet knew nothing of; and giving over
reasoning from insufficient data he lapsed into mere conjecture.



V.

The next morning Somerset was again at the castle. He passed some
interval on the walls before encountering Miss De Stancy, whom at last
he observed going towards a pony-carriage that waited near the door.

A smile gained strength upon her face at his approach, and she was the
first to speak. ‘I am sorry Miss Power has not returned,’ she said, and
accounted for that lady’s absence by her distress at the event of two
evenings earlier.

‘But I have driven over to my father’s--Sir William De Stancy’s--house
this morning,’ she went on. ‘And on mentioning your name to him, I found
he knew it quite well. You will, will you not, forgive my ignorance in
having no better knowledge of the elder Mr. Somerset’s works than a dim
sense of his fame as a painter? But I was going to say that my father
would much like to include you in his personal acquaintance, and wishes
me to ask if you will give him the pleasure of lunching with him to-day.
My cousin John, whom you once knew, was a great favourite of his, and
used to speak of you sometimes. It will be so kind if you can come. My
father is an old man, out of society, and he would be glad to hear the
news of town.’

Somerset said he was glad to find himself among friends where he had
only expected strangers; and promised to come that day, if she would
tell him the way.

That she could easily do. The short way was across that glade he saw
there--then over the stile into the wood, following the path till it
came out upon the turnpike-road. He would then be almost close to the
house. The distance was about two miles and a half. But if he thought it
too far for a walk, she would drive on to the town, where she had been
going when he came, and instead of returning straight to her father’s
would come back and pick him up.

It was not at all necessary, he thought. He was a walker, and could find
the path.

At this moment a servant came to tell Miss De Stancy that the telegraph
was calling her.

‘Ah--it is lucky that I was not gone again!’ she exclaimed. ‘John seldom
reads it right if I am away.’

It now seemed quite in the ordinary course that, as a friend of her
father’s, he should accompany her to the instrument. So up they went
together, and immediately on reaching it she applied her ear to the
instrument, and began to gather the message. Somerset fancied himself
like a person overlooking another’s letter, and moved aside.

‘It is no secret,’ she said, smiling. ‘“Paula to Charlotte,” it begins.’

‘That’s very pretty.’

‘O--and it is about--you,’ murmured Miss De Stancy.

‘Me?’ The architect blushed a little.

She made no answer, and the machine went on with its story. There was
something curious in watching this utterance about himself, under his
very nose, in language unintelligible to him. He conjectured whether it
were inquiry, praise, or blame, with a sense that it might reasonably
be the latter, as the result of his surreptitious look into that blue
bedroom, possibly observed and reported by some servant of the house.

‘“Direct that every facility be given to Mr. Somerset to visit any
part of the castle he may wish to see. On my return I shall be glad to
welcome him as the acquaintance of your relatives. I have two of his
father’s pictures.”’

‘Dear me, the plot thickens,’ he said, as Miss De Stancy announced the
words. ‘How could she know about me?’

‘I sent a message to her this morning when I saw you crossing the park
on your way here--telling her that Mr. Somerset, son of the Academician,
was making sketches of the castle, and that my father knew something of
you. That’s her answer.’

‘Where are the pictures by my father that she has purchased?’

‘O, not here--at least, not unpacked.’

Miss de Stancy then left him to proceed on her journey to Markton (so
the nearest little town was called), informing him that she would be
at her father’s house to receive him at two o’clock. Just about one he
closed his sketch-book, and set out in the direction she had indicated.
At the entrance to the wood a man was at work pulling down a rotten gate
that bore on its battered lock the initials ‘W. De S.’ and erecting a
new one whose ironmongery exhibited the letters ‘P. P.’

The warmth of the summer noon did not inconveniently penetrate the dense
masses of foliage which now began to overhang the path, except in spots
where a ruthless timber-felling had taken place in previous years for
the purpose of sale. It was that particular half-hour of the day in
which the birds of the forest prefer walking to flying; and there being
no wind, the hopping of the smallest songster over the dead leaves
reached his ear from behind the undergrowth. The track had originally
been a well-kept winding drive, but a deep carpet of moss and leaves
overlaid it now, though the general outline still remained to show that
its curves had been set out with as much care as those of a lawn walk,
and the gradient made easy for carriages where the natural slopes were
great. Felled trunks occasionally lay across it, and alongside were the
hollow and fungous boles of trees sawn down in long past years.

After a walk of three-quarters of an hour he came to another gate, where
the letters ‘P. P.’ again supplanted the historical ‘W. De S.’ Climbing
over this, he found himself on a highway which presently dipped down
towards the town of Markton, a place he had never yet seen. It appeared
in the distance as a quiet little borough of a few thousand inhabitants;
and, without the town boundary on the side he was approaching, stood
half-a-dozen genteel and modern houses, of the detached kind usually
found in such suburbs. On inquiry, Sir William De Stancy’s residence was
indicated as one of these.

It was almost new, of streaked brick, having a central door, and a small
bay window on each side to light the two front parlours. A little
lawn spread its green surface in front, divided from the road by iron
railings, the low line of shrubs immediately within them being coated
with pallid dust from the highway. On the neat piers of the neat
entrance gate were chiselled the words ‘Myrtle Villa.’ Genuine roadside
respectability sat smiling on every brick of the eligible dwelling.

Perhaps that which impressed Somerset more than the mushroom modernism
of Sir William De Stancy’s house was the air of healthful cheerfulness
which pervaded it. He was shown in by a neat maidservant in black gown
and white apron, a canary singing a welcome from a cage in the shadow
of the window, the voices of crowing cocks coming over the chimneys from
somewhere behind, and the sun and air riddling the house everywhere.

A dwelling of those well-known and popular dimensions which allow the
proceedings in the kitchen to be distinctly heard in the parlours, it
was so planned that a raking view might be obtained through it from the
front door to the end of the back garden. The drawing-room furniture
was comfortable, in the walnut-and-green-rep style of some years ago.
Somerset had expected to find his friends living in an old house with
remnants of their own antique furniture, and he hardly knew whether he
ought to meet them with a smile or a gaze of condolence. His doubt
was terminated, however, by the cheerful and tripping entry of Miss De
Stancy, who had returned from her drive to Markton; and in a few more
moments Sir William came in from the garden.

He was an old man of tall and spare build, with a considerable stoop,
his glasses dangling against his waistcoat-buttons, and the front
corners of his coat-tails hanging lower than the hinderparts, so that
they swayed right and left as he walked. He nervously apologized to his
visitor for having kept him waiting.

‘I am so glad to see you,’ he said, with a mild benevolence of tone,
as he retained Somerset’s hand for a moment or two; ‘partly for your
father’s sake, whom I met more than once in my younger days, before he
became so well-known; and also because I learn that you were a friend of
my poor nephew John Ravensbury.’ He looked over his shoulder to see if
his daughter were within hearing, and, with the impulse of the solitary
to make a confidence, continued in a low tone: ‘She, poor girl, was
to have married John: his death was a sad blow to her and to all of
us.--Pray take a seat, Mr. Somerset.’

The reverses of fortune which had brought Sir William De Stancy to
this comfortable cottage awakened in Somerset a warmer emotion than
curiosity, and he sat down with a heart as responsive to each speech
uttered as if it had seriously concerned himself, while his host gave
some words of information to his daughter on the trifling events that
had marked the morning just passed; such as that the cow had got out of
the paddock into Miss Power’s field, that the smith who had promised
to come and look at the kitchen range had not arrived, that two wasps’
nests had been discovered in the garden bank, and that Nick Jones’s baby
had fallen downstairs. Sir William had large cavernous arches to his
eye-sockets, reminding the beholder of the vaults in the castle he
once had owned. His hands were long and almost fleshless, each knuckle
showing like a bamboo-joint from beneath his coat-sleeves, which were
small at the elbow and large at the wrist. All the colour had gone from
his beard and locks, except in the case of a few isolated hairs of the
former, which retained dashes of their original shade at sudden points
in their length, revealing that all had once been raven black.

But to study a man to his face for long is a species of ill-nature which
requires a colder temperament, or at least an older heart, than the
architect’s was at that time. Incurious unobservance is the true
attitude of cordiality, and Somerset blamed himself for having fallen
into an act of inspection even briefly. He would wait for his host’s
conversation, which would doubtless be of the essence of historical
romance.

‘The favourable Bank-returns have made the money-market much easier
to-day, as I learn?’ said Sir William.

‘O, have they?’ said Somerset. ‘Yes, I suppose they have.’

‘And something is meant by this unusual quietness in Foreign stocks
since the late remarkable fluctuations,’ insisted the old man. ‘Is the
current of speculation quite arrested, or is it but a temporary lull?’

Somerset said he was afraid he could not give an opinion, and entered
very lamely into the subject; but Sir William seemed to find sufficient
interest in his own thoughts to do away with the necessity of acquiring
fresh impressions from other people’s replies; for often after putting a
question he looked on the floor, as if the subject were at an end. Lunch
was now ready, and when they were in the dining-room Miss De Stancy,
to introduce a topic of more general interest, asked Somerset if he had
noticed the myrtle on the lawn?

Somerset had noticed it, and thought he had never seen such a full-blown
one in the open air before. His eyes were, however, resting at the
moment on the only objects at all out of the common that the dining-room
contained. One was a singular glass case over the fireplace, within
which were some large mediaeval door-keys, black with rust and age; and
the others were two full-length oil portraits in the costume of the end
of the last century--so out of all proportion to the size of the room
they occupied that they almost reached to the floor.

‘Those originally belonged to the castle yonder,’ said Miss De Stancy,
or Charlotte, as her father called her, noticing Somerset’s glance at
the keys. ‘They used to unlock the principal entrance-doors, which were
knocked to pieces in the civil wars. New doors were placed afterwards,
but the old keys were never given up, and have been preserved by us ever
since.’

‘They are quite useless--mere lumber--particularly to me,’ said Sir
William.

‘And those huge paintings were a present from Paula,’ she continued.
‘They are portraits of my great-grandfather and mother. Paula would give
all the old family pictures back to me if we had room for them; but they
would fill the house to the ceilings.’

Sir William was impatient of the subject. ‘What is the utility of
such accumulations?’ he asked. ‘Their originals are but clay now--mere
forgotten dust, not worthy a moment’s inquiry or reflection at this
distance of time. Nothing can retain the spirit, and why should we
preserve the shadow of the form?--London has been very full this year,
sir, I have been told?’

‘It has,’ said Somerset, and he asked if they had been up that season.
It was plain that the matter with which Sir William De Stancy least
cared to occupy himself before visitors was the history of his own
family, in which he was followed with more simplicity by his daughter
Charlotte.

‘No,’ said the baronet. ‘One might be led to think there is a fatality
which prevents it. We make arrangements to go to town almost every year,
to meet some old friend who combines the rare conditions of being
in London with being mindful of me; but he has always died or gone
elsewhere before the event has taken place.... But with a disposition to
be happy, it is neither this place nor the other that can render us the
reverse. In short each man’s happiness depends upon himself, and his
ability for doing with little.’ He turned more particularly to Somerset,
and added with an impressive smile: ‘I hope you cultivate the art of
doing with little?’

Somerset said that he certainly did cultivate that art, partly because
he was obliged to.

‘Ah--you don’t mean to the extent that I mean. The world has not yet
learned the riches of frugality, says, I think, Cicero, somewhere; and
nobody can testify to the truth of that remark better than I. If a man
knows how to spend less than his income, however small that may
be, why--he has the philosopher’s stone.’ And Sir William looked in
Somerset’s face with frugality written in every pore of his own, as much
as to say, ‘And here you see one who has been a living instance of those
principles from his youth up.’

Somerset soon found that whatever turn the conversation took, Sir
William invariably reverted to this topic of frugality. When luncheon
was over he asked his visitor to walk with him into the garden, and no
sooner were they alone than he continued: ‘Well, Mr. Somerset, you are
down here sketching architecture for professional purposes. Nothing can
be better: you are a young man, and your art is one in which there are
innumerable chances.’

‘I had begun to think they were rather few,’ said Somerset.

‘No, they are numerous enough: the difficulty is to find out where they
lie. It is better to know where your luck lies than where your talent
lies: that’s an old man’s opinion.’

‘I’ll remember it,’ said Somerset.

‘And now give me some account of your new clubs, new hotels, and new
men.... What I was going to add, on the subject of finding out where
your luck lies, is that nobody is so unfortunate as not to have a lucky
star in some direction or other. Perhaps yours is at the antipodes; if
so, go there. All I say is, discover your lucky star.’

‘I am looking for it.’

‘You may be able to do two things; one well, the other but
indifferently, and yet you may have more luck in the latter. Then stick
to that one, and never mind what you can do best. Your star lies there.’

‘There I am not quite at one with you, Sir William.’

‘You should be. Not that I mean to say that luck lies in any one place
long, or at any one person’s door. Fortune likes new faces, and your
wisdom lies in bringing your acquisitions into safety while her favour
lasts. To do that you must make friends in her time of smiles--make
friends with people, wherever you find them. My daughter has
unconsciously followed that maxim. She has struck up a warm friendship
with our neighbour, Miss Power, at the castle. We are diametrically
different from her in associations, traditions, ideas, religion--she
comes of a violent dissenting family among other things--but I say to
Charlotte what I say to you: win affection and regard wherever you can,
and accommodate yourself to the times. I put nothing in the way of their
intimacy, and wisely so, for by this so many pleasant hours are added to
the sum total vouchsafed to humanity.’

It was quite late in the afternoon when Somerset took his leave. Miss
De Stancy did not return to the castle that night, and he walked through
the wood as he had come, feeling that he had been talking with a man
of simple nature, who flattered his own understanding by devising
Machiavellian theories after the event, to account for any spontaneous
action of himself or his daughter, which might otherwise seem eccentric
or irregular.

Before Somerset reached the inn he was overtaken by a slight shower, and
on entering the house he walked into the general room, where there was a
fire, and stood with one foot on the fender. The landlord was talking to
some guest who sat behind a screen; and, probably because Somerset
had been seen passing the window, and was known to be sketching at the
castle, the conversation turned on Sir William De Stancy.

‘I have often noticed,’ observed the landlord, ‘that volks who have come
to grief, and quite failed, have the rules how to succeed in life more
at their vingers’ ends than volks who have succeeded. I assure you that
Sir William, so full as he is of wise maxims, never acted upon a wise
maxim in his life, until he had lost everything, and it didn’t matter
whether he was wise or no. You know what he was in his young days, of
course?’

‘No, I don’t,’ said the invisible stranger.

‘O, I thought everybody knew poor Sir William’s history. He was the
star, as I may zay, of good company forty years ago. I remember him in
the height of his jinks, as I used to zee him when I was a very little
boy, and think how great and wonderful he was. I can seem to zee now
the exact style of his clothes; white hat, white trousers, white silk
handkerchief; and his jonnick face, as white as his clothes with keeping
late hours. There was nothing black about him but his hair and his
eyes--he wore no beard at that time--and they were black as slooes. The
like of his coming on the race-course was never seen there afore nor
since. He drove his ikkipage hisself; and it was always hauled by four
beautiful white horses, and two outriders rode in harness bridles. There
was a groom behind him, and another at the rubbing-post, all in livery
as glorious as New Jerusalem. What a ‘stablishment he kept up at that
time! I can mind him, sir, with thirty race-horses in training at
once, seventeen coach-horses, twelve hunters at his box t’other side of
London, four chargers at Budmouth, and ever so many hacks.’

‘And he lost all by his racing speculations?’ the stranger observed;
and Somerset fancied that the voice had in it something more than the
languid carelessness of a casual sojourner.

‘Partly by that, partly in other ways. He spent a mint o’ money in
a wild project of founding a watering-place; and sunk thousands in a
useless silver mine; so ‘twas no wonder that the castle named after him
vell into other hands.... The way it was done was curious. Mr. Wilkins,
who was the first owner after it went from Sir William, actually sat
down as a guest at his table, and got up as the owner. He took off, at
a round sum, everything saleable, furniture, plate, pictures, even the
milk and butter in the dairy. That’s how the pictures and furniture
come to be in the castle still; wormeaten rubbish zome o’ it, and hardly
worth moving.’

‘And off went the baronet to Myrtle Villa?’

‘O no! he went away for many years. ‘Tis quite lately, since his
illness, that he came to that little place, in zight of the stone walls
that were the pride of his forefathers.’

‘From what I hear, he has not the manner of a broken-hearted man?’

‘Not at all. Since that illness he has been happy, as you see him: no
pride, quite calm and mild; at new moon quite childish. ‘Tis that makes
him able to live there; before he was so ill he couldn’t bear a zight of
the place, but since then he is happy nowhere else, and never leaves
the parish further than to drive once a week to Markton. His head won’t
stand society nowadays, and he lives quite lonely as you zee, only
zeeing his daughter, or his son whenever he comes home, which is not
often. They say that if his brain hadn’t softened a little he would ha’
died--‘twas that saved his life.’

‘What’s this I hear about his daughter? Is she really hired companion to
the new owner?’

‘Now that’s a curious thing again, these two girls being so fond of one
another; one of ‘em a dissenter, and all that, and t’other a De Stancy.
O no, not hired exactly, but she mostly lives with Miss Power, and goes
about with her, and I dare say Miss Power makes it wo’th her while.
One can’t move a step without the other following; though judging by
ordinary volks you’d think ‘twould be a cat-and-dog friendship rather.’

‘But ‘tis not?’

‘’Tis not; they be more like lovers than maid and maid. Miss Power is
looked up to by little De Stancy as if she were a god-a’mighty, and Miss
Power lets her love her to her heart’s content. But whether Miss Power
loves back again I can’t zay, for she’s as deep as the North Star.’

The landlord here left the stranger to go to some other part of the
house, and Somerset drew near to the glass partition to gain a glimpse
of a man whose interest in the neighbourhood seemed to have arisen so
simultaneously with his own. But the inner room was empty: the man had
apparently departed by another door.



VI.

The telegraph had almost the attributes of a human being at Stancy
Castle. When its bell rang people rushed to the old tapestried chamber
allotted to it, and waited its pleasure with all the deference due to
such a novel inhabitant of that ancestral pile. This happened on the
following afternoon about four o’clock, while Somerset was sketching in
the room adjoining that occupied by the instrument. Hearing its call, he
looked in to learn if anybody were attending, and found Miss De Stancy
bending over it.

She welcomed him without the least embarrassment. ‘Another message,’ she
said.--‘“Paula to Charlotte.--Have returned to Markton. Am starting for
home. Will be at the gate between four and five if possible.”’

Miss De Stancy blushed with pleasure when she raised her eyes from the
machine. ‘Is she not thoughtful to let me know beforehand?’

Somerset said she certainly appeared to be, feeling at the same time
that he was not in possession of sufficient data to make the opinion of
great value.

‘Now I must get everything ready, and order what she will want, as Mrs.
Goodman is away. What will she want? Dinner would be best--she has had
no lunch, I know; or tea perhaps, and dinner at the usual time. Still,
if she has had no lunch--Hark, what do I hear?’

She ran to an arrow-slit, and Somerset, who had also heard something,
looked out of an adjoining one. They could see from their elevated
position a great way along the white road, stretching like a tape amid
the green expanses on each side. There had arisen a cloud of dust,
accompanied by a noise of wheels.

‘It is she,’ said Charlotte. ‘O yes--it is past four--the telegram has
been delayed.’

‘How would she be likely to come?’

‘She has doubtless hired a carriage at the inn: she said it would be
useless to send to meet her, as she couldn’t name a time.... Where is
she now?’

‘Just where the boughs of those beeches overhang the road--there she is
again!’

Miss De Stancy went away to give directions, and Somerset continued to
watch. The vehicle, which was of no great pretension, soon crossed the
bridge and stopped: there was a ring at the bell; and Miss De Stancy
reappeared.

‘Did you see her as she drove up--is she not interesting?’

‘I could not see her.’

‘Ah, no--of course you could not from this window because of the trees.
Mr. Somerset, will you come downstairs? You will have to meet her, you
know.’

Somerset felt an indescribable backwardness. ‘I will go on with my
sketching,’ he said. ‘Perhaps she will not be--’

‘O, but it would be quite natural, would it not? Our manners are easier
here, you know, than they are in town, and Miss Power has adapted
herself to them.’

A compromise was effected by Somerset declaring that he would hold
himself in readiness to be discovered on the landing at any convenient
time.

A servant entered. ‘Miss Power?’ said Miss De Stancy, before he could
speak.

The man advanced with a card: Miss De Stancy took it up, and read
thereon: ‘Mr. William Dare.’

‘It is not Miss Power who has come, then?’ she asked, with a
disappointed face.

‘No, ma’am.’

She looked again at the card. ‘This is some man of business, I
suppose--does he want to see me?’

‘Yes, miss. Leastwise, he would be glad to see you if Miss Power is not
at home.’

Miss De Stancy left the room, and soon returned, saying, ‘Mr. Somerset,
can you give me your counsel in this matter? This Mr. Dare says he is a
photographic amateur, and it seems that he wrote some time ago to Miss
Power, who gave him permission to take views of the castle, and promised
to show him the best points. But I have heard nothing of it, and
scarcely know whether I ought to take his word in her absence. Mrs.
Goodman, Miss Power’s relative, who usually attends to these things, is
away.’

‘I dare say it is all right,’ said Somerset.

‘Would you mind seeing him? If you think it quite in order, perhaps you
will instruct him where the best views are to be obtained?’

Thereupon Somerset at once went down to Mr. Dare. His coming as a sort
of counterfeit of Miss Power disposed Somerset to judge him with as much
severity as justice would allow, and his manner for the moment was not
of a kind calculated to dissipate antagonistic instincts. Mr. Dare was
standing before the fireplace with his feet wide apart, and his hands
in the pockets of his coat-tails, looking at a carving over the
mantelpiece. He turned quickly at the sound of Somerset’s footsteps, and
revealed himself as a person quite out of the common.

His age it was impossible to say. There was not a hair on his face which
could serve to hang a guess upon. In repose he appeared a boy; but his
actions were so completely those of a man that the beholder’s first
estimate of sixteen as his age was hastily corrected to six-and-twenty,
and afterwards shifted hither and thither along intervening years as
the tenor of his sentences sent him up or down. He had a broad forehead,
vertical as the face of a bastion, and his hair, which was parted in
the middle, hung as a fringe or valance above, in the fashion sometimes
affected by the other sex. He wore a heavy ring, of which the gold
seemed fair, the diamond questionable, and the taste indifferent. There
were the remains of a swagger in his body and limbs as he came forward,
regarding Somerset with a confident smile, as if the wonder were, not
why Mr. Dare should be present, but why Somerset should be present
likewise; and the first tone that came from Dare’s lips wound up his
listener’s opinion that he did not like him.

A latent power in the man, or boy, was revealed by the circumstance that
Somerset did not feel, as he would ordinarily have done, that
it was a matter of profound indifference to him whether this
gentleman-photographer were a likeable person or no.

‘I have called by appointment; or rather, I left a card stating that
to-day would suit me, and no objection was made.’ Somerset recognized
the voice; it was that of the invisible stranger who had talked with the
landlord about the De Stancys. Mr. Dare then proceeded to explain his
business.

Somerset found from his inquiries that the man had unquestionably been
instructed by somebody to take the views he spoke of; and concluded that
Dare’s curiosity at the inn was, after all, naturally explained by his
errand to this place. Blaming himself for a too hasty condemnation of
the stranger, who though visually a little too assured was civil enough
verbally, Somerset proceeded with the young photographer to sundry
corners of the outer ward, and thence across the moat to the field,
suggesting advantageous points of view. The office, being a shadow of
his own pursuits, was not uncongenial to Somerset, and he forgot other
things in attending to it.

‘Now in our country we should stand further back than this, and so get a
more comprehensive coup d’oeil,’ said Dare, as Somerset selected a good
situation.

‘You are not an Englishman, then,’ said Somerset.

‘I have lived mostly in India, Malta, Gibraltar, the Ionian Islands,
and Canada. I there invented a new photographic process, which I am bent
upon making famous. Yet I am but a dilettante, and do not follow this
art at the base dictation of what men call necessity.’

‘O indeed,’ Somerset replied.

As soon as this business was disposed of, and Mr. Dare had brought up
his van and assistant to begin operations, Somerset returned to the
castle entrance. While under the archway a man with a professional look
drove up in a dog-cart and inquired if Miss Power were at home to-day.

‘She has not yet returned, Mr. Havill,’ was the reply.

Somerset, who had hoped to hear an affirmative by this time,
thought that Miss Power was bent on disappointing him in the flesh,
notwithstanding the interest she expressed in him by telegraph; and as
it was now drawing towards the end of the afternoon, he walked off in
the direction of his inn.

There were two or three ways to that spot, but the pleasantest was by
passing through a rambling shrubbery, between whose bushes trickled
a broad shallow brook, occasionally intercepted in its course by a
transverse chain of old stones, evidently from the castle walls, which
formed a miniature waterfall. The walk lay along the river-brink. Soon
Somerset saw before him a circular summer-house formed of short sticks
nailed to ornamental patterns. Outside the structure, and immediately
in the path, stood a man with a book in his hand; and it was presently
apparent that this gentleman was holding a conversation with some
person inside the pavilion, but the back of the building being towards
Somerset, the second individual could not be seen.

The speaker at one moment glanced into the interior, and at another
at the advancing form of the architect, whom, though distinctly enough
beheld, the other scarcely appeared to heed in the absorbing interest
of his own discourse. Somerset became aware that it was the Baptist
minister, whose rhetoric he had heard in the chapel yonder.

‘Now,’ continued the Baptist minister, ‘will you express to me any
reason or objection whatever which induces you to withdraw from our
communion? It was that of your father, and of his father before him. Any
difficulty you may have met with I will honestly try to remove; for
I need hardly say that in losing you we lose one of the most valued
members of the Baptist church in this district. I speak with all the
respect due to your position, when I ask you to realize how irreparable
is the injury you inflict upon the cause here by this lukewarm
backwardness.’

‘I don’t withdraw,’ said a woman’s low voice within.

‘What do you do?’

‘I decline to attend for the present.’

‘And you can give no reason for this?’

There was no reply.

‘Or for your refusal to proceed with the baptism?’

‘I have been christened.’

‘My dear young lady, it is well known that your christening was the work
of your aunt, who did it unknown to your parents when she had you in
her power, out of pure obstinacy to a church with which she was not in
sympathy, taking you surreptitiously, and indefensibly, to the font
of the Establishment; so that the rite meant and could mean nothing at
all.... But I fear that your new position has brought you into contact
with the Paedobaptists, that they have disturbed your old principles,
and so induced you to believe in the validity of that trumpery
ceremony!’

‘It seems sufficient.’

‘I will demolish the basis of that seeming in three minutes, give me but
that time as a listener.’

‘I have no objection.’

‘Very well.... First, then, I will assume that those who have influenced
you in the matter have not been able to make any impression upon one so
well grounded as yourself in our distinctive doctrine, by the stale old
argument drawn from circumcision?’

‘You may assume it.’

‘Good--that clears the ground. And we now come to the New Testament.’

The minister began to turn over the leaves of his little Bible, which it
impressed Somerset to observe was bound with a flap, like a pocket book,
the black surface of the leather being worn brown at the corners by long
usage. He turned on till he came to the beginning of the New Testament,
and then commenced his discourse. After explaining his position, the old
man ran very ably through the arguments, citing well-known writers on
the point in dispute when he required more finished sentences than his
own.

The minister’s earnestness and interest in his own case led him
unconsciously to include Somerset in his audience as the young man
drew nearer; till, instead of fixing his eyes exclusively on the person
within the summer-house, the preacher began to direct a good proportion
of his discourse upon his new auditor, turning from one listener to
the other attentively, without seeming to feel Somerset’s presence as
superfluous.

‘And now,’ he said in conclusion, ‘I put it to you, sir, as to her: do
you find any flaw in my argument? Is there, madam, a single text which,
honestly interpreted, affords the least foothold for the Paedobaptists;
in other words, for your opinion on the efficacy of the rite
administered to you in your unconscious infancy? I put it to you both as
honest and responsible beings.’ He turned again to the young man.

It happened that Somerset had been over this ground long ago. Born, so
to speak, a High-Church infant, in his youth he had been of a thoughtful
turn, till at one time an idea of his entering the Church had been
entertained by his parents. He had formed acquaintance with men of
almost every variety of doctrinal practice in this country; and, as
the pleadings of each assailed him before he had arrived at an age of
sufficient mental stability to resist new impressions, however badly
substantiated, he inclined to each denomination as it presented itself,
was

     ‘Everything by starts, and nothing long,’

till he had travelled through a great many beliefs and doctrines without
feeling himself much better than when he set out.

A study of fonts and their origin had qualified him in this particular
subject. Fully conscious of the inexpediency of contests on minor ritual
differences, he yet felt a sudden impulse towards a mild intellectual
tournament with the eager old man--purely as an exercise of his wits in
the defence of a fair girl.

‘Sir, I accept your challenge to us,’ said Somerset, advancing to the
minister’s side.



VII.

At the sound of a new voice the lady in the bower started, as he could
see by her outline through the crevices of the wood-work and creepers.
The minister looked surprised.

‘You will lend me your Bible, sir, to assist my memory?’ he continued.

The minister held out the Bible with some reluctance, but he allowed
Somerset to take it from his hand. The latter, stepping upon a large
moss-covered stone which stood near, and laying his hat on a flat beech
bough that rose and fell behind him, pointed to the minister to seat
himself on the grass. The minister looked at the grass, and looked up
again at Somerset, but did not move.

Somerset for the moment was not observing him. His new position had
turned out to be exactly opposite the open side of the bower, and now
for the first time he beheld the interior. On the seat was the woman
who had stood beneath his eyes in the chapel, the ‘Paula’ of Miss De
Stancy’s enthusiastic eulogies. She wore a summer hat, beneath which
her fair curly hair formed a thicket round her forehead. It would be
impossible to describe her as she then appeared. Not sensuous enough
for an Aphrodite, and too subdued for a Hebe, she would yet, with the
adjunct of doves or nectar, have stood sufficiently well for either
of those personages, if presented in a pink morning light, and with
mythological scarcity of attire.

Half in surprise she glanced up at him; and lowering her eyes again,
as if no surprise were ever let influence her actions for more than a
moment, she sat on as before, looking past Somerset’s position at the
view down the river, visible for a long distance before her till it was
lost under the bending trees.

Somerset turned over the leaves of the minister’s Bible, and began:--

‘In the First Epistle to the Corinthians, the seventh chapter and the
fourteenth verse--‘.

Here the young lady raised her eyes in spite of her reserve, but it
being, apparently, too much labour to keep them raised, allowed her
glance to subside upon her jet necklace, extending it with the thumb of
her left hand.

‘Sir!’ said the Baptist excitedly, ‘I know that passage well--it is the
last refuge of the Paedobaptists--I foresee your argument. I have met
it dozens of times, and it is not worth that snap of the fingers! It
is worth no more than the argument from circumcision, or the
Suffer-little-children argument.’

‘Then turn to the sixteenth chapter of the Acts, and the thirty-third--’

‘That, too,’ cried the minister, ‘is answered by what I said before! I
perceive, sir, that you adopt the method of a special pleader, and not
that of an honest inquirer. Is it, or is it not, an answer to my proofs
from the eighth chapter of the Acts, the thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh
verses; the sixteenth of Mark, sixteenth verse; second of Acts,
forty-first verse; the tenth and the forty-seventh verse; or the
eighteenth and eighth verse?’

‘Very well, then. Let me prove the point by other reasoning--by the
argument from Apostolic tradition.’ He threw the minister’s book upon
the grass, and proceeded with his contention, which comprised a fairly
good exposition of the earliest practice of the Church and inferences
therefrom. (When he reached this point an interest in his off-hand
arguments was revealed by the mobile bosom of Miss Paula Power, though
she still occupied herself by drawing out the necklace.) Testimony from
Justin Martyr followed; with inferences from Irenaeus in the expression,
‘Omnes enim venit per semetipsum salvare; omnes inquam, qui per eum
renascuntur in Deum, INFANTES et parvulos et pueros et juvenes.’ (At the
sound of so much seriousness Paula turned her eyes upon the speaker with
attention.) He next adduced proof of the signification of ‘renascor’
in the writings of the Fathers, as reasoned by Wall; arguments
from Tertullian’s advice to defer the rite; citations from Cyprian,
Nazianzen, Chrysostom, and Jerome; and briefly summed up the whole
matter.

Somerset looked round for the minister as he concluded. But the old man,
after standing face to face with the speaker, had turned his back upon
him, and during the latter portions of the attack had moved slowly away.
He now looked back; his countenance was full of commiserating reproach
as he lifted his hand, twice shook his head, and said, ‘In the Epistle
to the Philippians, first chapter and sixteenth verse, it is written
that there are some who preach in contention and not sincerely. And
in the Second Epistle to Timothy, fourth chapter and fourth verse,
attention is drawn to those whose ears refuse the truth, and are turned
unto fables. I wish you good afternoon, sir, and that priceless gift,
SINCERITY.’

The minister vanished behind the trees; Somerset and Miss Power being
left confronting each other alone.

Somerset stepped aside from the stone, hat in hand, at the same moment
in which Miss Power rose from her seat. She hesitated for an instant,
and said, with a pretty girlish stiffness, sweeping back the skirt of
her dress to free her toes in turning: ‘Although you are personally
unknown to me, I cannot leave you without expressing my deep sense of
your profound scholarship, and my admiration for the thoroughness of
your studies in divinity.’

‘Your opinion gives me great pleasure,’ said Somerset, bowing, and
fairly blushing. ‘But, believe me, I am no scholar, and no theologian.
My knowledge of the subject arises simply from the accident that some
few years ago I looked into the question for a special reason. In the
study of my profession I was interested in the designing of fonts and
baptisteries, and by a natural process I was led to investigate the
history of baptism; and some of the arguments I then learnt up still
remain with me. That’s the simple explanation of my erudition.’

‘If your sermons at the church only match your address to-day, I shall
not wonder at hearing that the parishioners are at last willing to
attend.’

It flashed upon Somerset’s mind that she supposed him to be the new
curate, of whose arrival he had casually heard, during his sojourn at
the inn. Before he could bring himself to correct an error to which,
perhaps, more than to anything else, was owing the friendliness of her
manner, she went on, as if to escape the embarrassment of silence:--

‘I need hardly say that I at least do not doubt the sincerity of your
arguments.’

‘Nevertheless, I was not altogether sincere,’ he answered.

She was silent.

‘Then why should you have delivered such a defence of me?’ she asked
with simple curiosity.

Somerset involuntarily looked in her face for his answer.

Paula again teased the necklace. ‘Would you have spoken so eloquently on
the other side if I--if occasion had served?’ she inquired shyly.

‘Perhaps I would.’

Another pause, till she said, ‘I, too, was insincere.’

‘You?’

‘I was.’

‘In what way?

‘In letting him, and you, think I had been at all influenced by
authority, scriptural or patristic.’

‘May I ask, why, then, did you decline the ceremony the other evening?’

‘Ah, you, too, have heard of it!’ she said quickly.

‘No.’

‘What then?’

‘I saw it.’

She blushed and looked down the river. ‘I cannot give my reasons,’ she
said.

‘Of course not,’ said Somerset.

‘I would give a great deal to possess real logical dogmatism.’

‘So would I.’

There was a moment of embarrassment: she wanted to get away, but did
not precisely know how. He would have withdrawn had she not said, as if
rather oppressed by her conscience, and evidently still thinking him
the curate: ‘I cannot but feel that Mr. Woodwell’s heart has been
unnecessarily wounded.’

‘The minister’s?’

‘Yes. He is single-mindedness itself. He gives away nearly all he has
to the poor. He works among the sick, carrying them necessaries with his
own hands. He teaches the ignorant men and lads of the village when
he ought to be resting at home, till he is absolutely prostrate from
exhaustion, and then he sits up at night writing encouraging letters
to those poor people who formerly belonged to his congregation in the
village, and have now gone away. He always offends ladies, because he
can’t help speaking the truth as he believes it; but he hasn’t offended
me!’

Her feelings had risen towards the end, so that she finished quite
warmly, and turned aside.

‘I was not in the least aware that he was such a man,’ murmured
Somerset, looking wistfully after the minister.... ‘Whatever you may
have done, I fear that I have grievously wounded a worthy man’s heart
from an idle wish to engage in a useless, unbecoming, dull, last-century
argument.’

‘Not dull,’ she murmured, ‘for it interested me.’

Somerset accepted her correction willingly. ‘It was ill-considered of
me, however,’ he said; ‘and in his distress he has forgotten his Bible.’
He went and picked up the worn volume from where it lay on the grass.

‘You can easily win him to forgive you, by just following, and returning
the book to him,’ she observed.

‘I will,’ said the young man impulsively. And, bowing to her, he
hastened along the river brink after the minister. He at length saw his
friend before him, leaning over the gate which led from the private
path into a lane, his cheek resting on the palm of his hand with every
outward sign of abstraction. He was not conscious of Somerset’s presence
till the latter touched him on the shoulder.

Never was a reconciliation effected more readily. When Somerset said
that, fearing his motives might be misconstrued, he had followed to
assure the minister of his goodwill and esteem, Mr. Woodwell held out
his hand, and proved his friendliness in return by preparing to have
the controversy on their religious differences over again from the
beginning, with exhaustive detail. Somerset evaded this with alacrity,
and once having won his companion to other subjects he found that the
austere man had a smile as pleasant as an infant’s on the rare moments
when he indulged in it; moreover, that he was warmly attached to Miss
Power.

‘Though she gives me more trouble than all the rest of the Baptist
church in this district,’ he said, ‘I love her as my own daughter. But
I am sadly exercised to know what she is at heart. Heaven supply me with
fortitude to contest her wild opinions, and intractability! But she has
sweet virtues, and her conduct at times can be most endearing.’

‘I believe it!’ said Somerset, with more fervour than mere politeness
required.

‘Sometimes I think those Stancy towers and lands will be a curse to her.
The spirit of old papistical times still lingers in the nooks of those
silent walls, like a bad odour in a still atmosphere, dulling the
iconoclastic emotions of the true Puritan. It would be a pity indeed
if she were to be tainted by the very situation that her father’s
indomitable energy created for her.’

‘Do not be concerned about her,’ said Somerset gently. ‘She’s not a
Paedobaptist at heart, although she seems so.’

Mr. Woodwell placed his finger on Somerset’s arm, saying, ‘If she’s
not a Paedobaptist, or Episcopalian; if she is not vulnerable to the
mediaeval influences of her mansion, lands, and new acquaintance, it
is because she’s been vulnerable to what is worse: to doctrines beside
which the errors of Paaedobaptists, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, are
but as air.’

‘How? You astonish me.’

‘Have you heard in your metropolitan experience of a curious body of New
Lights, as they think themselves?’ The minister whispered a name to his
listener, as if he were fearful of being overheard.

‘O no,’ said Somerset, shaking his head, and smiling at the minister’s
horror. ‘She’s not that; at least, I think not.. .. She’s a woman;
nothing more. Don’t fear for her; all will be well.’

The poor old man sighed. ‘I love her as my own. I will say no more.’

Somerset was now in haste to go back to the lady, to ease her apparent
anxiety as to the result of his mission, and also because time seemed
heavy in the loss of her discreet voice and soft, buoyant look. Every
moment of delay began to be as two. But the minister was too earnest
in his converse to see his companion’s haste, and it was not till
perception was forced upon him by the actual retreat of Somerset that he
remembered time to be a limited commodity. He then expressed his wish
to see Somerset at his house to tea any afternoon he could spare, and
receiving the other’s promise to call as soon as he could, allowed the
younger man to set out for the summer-house, which he did at a smart
pace. When he reached it he looked around, and found she was gone.

Somerset was immediately struck by his own lack of social dexterity. Why
did he act so readily on the whimsical suggestion of another person, and
follow the minister, when he might have said that he would call on
Mr. Woodwell to-morrow, and, making himself known to Miss Power as the
visiting architect of whom she had heard from Miss De Stancy, have had
the pleasure of attending her to the castle? ‘That’s what any other man
would have had wit enough to do!’ he said.

There then arose the question whether her despatching him after the
minister was such an admirable act of good-nature to a good man as it
had at first seemed to be. Perhaps it was simply a manoeuvre for getting
rid of himself; and he remembered his doubt whether a certain light
in her eyes when she inquired concerning his sincerity were innocent
earnestness or the reverse. As the possibility of levity crossed
his brain, his face warmed; it pained him to think that a woman so
interesting could condescend to a trick of even so mild a complexion as
that. He wanted to think her the soul of all that was tender, and noble,
and kind. The pleasure of setting himself to win a minister’s goodwill
was a little tarnished now.



VIII.

That evening Somerset was so preoccupied with these things that he left
all his sketching implements out-of-doors in the castle grounds. The
next morning he hastened thither to secure them from being stolen or
spoiled. Meanwhile he was hoping to have an opportunity of rectifying
Paula’s mistake about his personality, which, having served a very good
purpose in introducing them to a mutual conversation, might possibly be
made just as agreeable as a thing to be explained away.

He fetched his drawing instruments, rods, sketching-blocks and other
articles from the field where they had lain, and was passing under the
walls with them in his hands, when there emerged from the outer archway
an open landau, drawn by a pair of black horses of fine action and
obviously strong pedigree, in which Paula was seated, under the shade of
a white parasol with black and white ribbons fluttering on the summit.
The morning sun sparkled on the equipage, its newness being made all the
more noticeable by the ragged old arch behind.

She bowed to Somerset in a way which might have been meant to express
that she had discovered her mistake; but there was no embarrassment in
her manner, and the carriage bore her away without her making any sign
for checking it. He had not been walking towards the castle entrance,
and she could not be supposed to know that it was his intention to enter
that day.

She had looked such a bud of youth and promise that his disappointment
at her departure showed itself in his face as he observed her. However,
he went on his way, entered a turret, ascended to the leads of the great
tower, and stepped out.

From this elevated position he could still see the carriage and the
white surface of Paula’s parasol in the glowing sun. While he watched
the landau stopped, and in a few moments the horses were turned, the
wheels and the panels flashed, and the carriage came bowling along
towards the castle again.

Somerset descended the stone stairs. Before he had quite got to the
bottom he saw Miss De Stancy standing in the outer hall.

‘When did you come, Mr. Somerset?’ she gaily said, looking up surprised.
‘How industrious you are to be at work so regularly every day! We didn’t
think you would be here to-day: Paula has gone to a vegetable show at
Markton, and I am going to join her there soon.’

‘O! gone to a vegetable show. But I think she has altered her--’

At this moment the noise of the carriage was heard in the ward, and
after a few seconds Miss Power came in--Somerset being invisible from
the door where she stood.

‘O Paula, what has brought you back?’ said Miss De Stancy.

‘I have forgotten something.’

‘Mr. Somerset is here. Will you not speak to him?’

Somerset came forward, and Miss De Stancy presented him to her friend.
Mr. Somerset acknowledged the pleasure by a respectful inclination of
his person, and said some words about the meeting yesterday.

‘Yes,’ said Miss Power, with a serene deliberateness quite noteworthy in
a girl of her age; ‘I have seen it all since. I was mistaken about you,
was I not? Mr. Somerset, I am glad to welcome you here, both as a friend
of Miss De Stancy’s family, and as the son of your father--which is
indeed quite a sufficient introduction anywhere.’

‘You have two pictures painted by Mr. Somerset’s father, have you not?
I have already told him about them,’ said Miss De Stancy. ‘Perhaps Mr.
Somerset would like to see them if they are unpacked?’

As Somerset had from his infancy suffered from a plethora of those
productions, excellent as they were, he did not reply quite so eagerly
as Miss De Stancy seemed to expect to her kind suggestion, and Paula
remarked to him, ‘You will stay to lunch? Do order it at your own time,
if our hour should not be convenient.’

Her voice was a voice of low note, in quality that of a flute at
the grave end of its gamut. If she sang, she was a pure contralto
unmistakably.

‘I am making use of the permission you have been good enough to grant
me--of sketching what is valuable within these walls.’

‘Yes, of course, I am willing for anybody to come. People hold these
places in trust for the nation, in one sense. You lift your hands,
Charlotte; I see I have not convinced you on that point yet.’

Miss De Stancy laughed, and said something to no purpose.

Somehow Miss Power seemed not only more woman than Miss De Stancy, but
more woman than Somerset was man; and yet in years she was inferior to
both. Though becomingly girlish and modest, she appeared to possess a
good deal of composure, which was well expressed by the shaded light of
her eyes.

‘You have then met Mr. Somerset before?’ said Charlotte.

‘He was kind enough to deliver an address in my defence yesterday. I
suppose I seemed quite unable to defend myself.’

‘O no!’ said he. When a few more words had passed she turned to Miss De
Stancy and spoke of some domestic matter, upon which Somerset withdrew,
Paula accompanying his exit with a remark that she hoped to see him
again a little later in the day.

Somerset retired to the chambers of antique lumber, keeping an eye
upon the windows to see if she re-entered the carriage and resumed her
journey to Markton. But when the horses had been standing a long time
the carriage was driven round to the stables. Then she was not going to
the vegetable show. That was rather curious, seeing that she had only
come back for something forgotten.

These queries and thoughts occupied the mind of Somerset until the bell
was rung for luncheon. Owing to the very dusty condition in which he
found himself after his morning’s labours among the old carvings he was
rather late in getting downstairs, and seeing that the rest had gone in
he went straight to the dining-hall.

The population of the castle had increased in his absence. There were
assembled Paula and her friend Charlotte; a bearded man some years older
than himself, with a cold grey eye, who was cursorily introduced to him
in sitting down as Mr. Havill, an architect of Markton; also an
elderly lady of dignified aspect, in a black satin dress, of which she
apparently had a very high opinion. This lady, who seemed to be a mere
dummy in the establishment, was, as he now learnt, Mrs. Goodman by
name, a widow of a recently deceased gentleman, and aunt to Paula--the
identical aunt who had smuggled Paula into a church in her helpless
infancy, and had her christened without her parents’ knowledge. Having
been left in narrow circumstances by her husband, she was at present
living with Miss Power as chaperon and adviser on practical matters--in
a word, as ballast to the management. Beyond her Somerset discerned
his new acquaintance Mr. Woodwell, who on sight of Somerset was for
hastening up to him and performing a laboured shaking of hands in
earnest recognition.

Paula had just come in from the garden, and was carelessly laying down
her large shady hat as he entered. Her dress, a figured material in
black and white, was short, allowing her feet to appear. There was
something in her look, and in the style of her corsage, which reminded
him of several of the bygone beauties in the gallery. The thought for a
moment crossed his mind that she might have been imitating one of them.

‘Fine old screen, sir!’ said Mr. Havill, in a long-drawn voice across
the table when they were seated, pointing in the direction of the
traceried oak division between the dining-hall and a vestibule at the
end. ‘As good a piece of fourteenth-century work as you shall see in
this part of the country.’

‘You mean fifteenth century, of course?’ said Somerset.

Havill was silent. ‘You are one of the profession, perhaps?’ asked the
latter, after a while.

‘You mean that I am an architect?’ said Somerset. ‘Yes.’

‘Ah--one of my own honoured vocation.’ Havill’s face had been not
unpleasant until this moment, when he smiled; whereupon there instantly
gleamed over him a phase of meanness, remaining until the smile died
away.

Havill continued, with slow watchfulness:--

‘What enormous sacrileges are committed by the builders every day, I
observe! I was driving yesterday to Toneborough where I am erecting a
town-hall, and passing through a village on my way I saw the workmen
pulling down a chancel-wall in which they found imbedded a unique
specimen of Perpendicular work--a capital from some old arcade--the
mouldings wonderfully undercut. They were smashing it up as filling-in
for the new wall.’

‘It must have been unique,’ said Somerset, in the too-readily
controversial tone of the educated young man who has yet to learn
diplomacy. ‘I have never seen much undercutting in Perpendicular
stone-work; nor anybody else, I think.’

‘O yes--lots of it!’ said Mr. Havill, nettled.

Paula looked from one to the other. ‘Which am I to take as guide?’ she
asked. ‘Are Perpendicular capitals undercut, as you call it, Mr. Havill,
or no?’

‘It depends upon circumstances,’ said Mr. Havill.

But Somerset had answered at the same time: ‘There is seldom or never
any marked undercutting in moulded work later than the middle of the
fourteenth century.’

Havill looked keenly at Somerset for a time: then he turned to Paula:
‘As regards that fine Saxon vaulting you did me the honour to consult me
about the other day, I should advise taking out some of the old stones
and reinstating new ones exactly like them.’

‘But the new ones won’t be Saxon,’ said Paula. ‘And then in time to
come, when I have passed away, and those stones have become stained like
the rest, people will be deceived. I should prefer an honest patch to
any such make-believe of Saxon relics.’

As she concluded she let her eyes rest on Somerset for a moment, as if
to ask him to side with her. Much as he liked talking to Paula, he
would have preferred not to enter into this discussion with another
professional man, even though that man were a spurious article; but he
was led on to enthusiasm by a sudden pang of regret at finding that the
masterly workmanship in this fine castle was likely to be tinkered and
spoilt by such a man as Havill.

‘You will deceive nobody into believing that anything is Saxon here,’ he
said warmly. ‘There is not a square inch of Saxon work, as it is called,
in the whole castle.’

Paula, in doubt, looked to Mr. Havill.

‘O yes, sir; you are quite mistaken,’ said that gentleman slowly. ‘Every
stone of those lower vaults was reared in Saxon times.’

‘I can assure you,’ said Somerset deferentially, but firmly, ‘that there
is not an arch or wall in this castle of a date anterior to the year
1100; no one whose attention has ever been given to the study of
architectural details of that age can be of a different opinion.’

‘I have studied architecture, and I am of a different opinion. I have
the best reason in the world for the difference, for I have history
herself on my side. What will you say when I tell you that it is a
recorded fact that this was used as a castle by the Romans, and that it
is mentioned in Domesday as a building of long standing?’

‘I shall say that has nothing to do with it,’ replied the young man.
‘I don’t deny that there may have been a castle here in the time of
the Romans: what I say is, that none of the architecture we now see was
standing at that date.’

There was a silence of a minute, disturbed only by a murmured dialogue
between Mrs. Goodman and the minister, during which Paula was looking
thoughtfully on the table as if framing a question.

‘Can it be,’ she said to Somerset, ‘that such certainty has been reached
in the study of architectural dates? Now, would you really risk anything
on your belief? Would you agree to be shut up in the vaults and fed upon
bread and water for a week if I could prove you wrong?’

‘Willingly,’ said Somerset. ‘The date of those towers and arches is
matter of absolute certainty from the details. That they should have
been built before the Conquest is as unlikely as, say, that the
rustiest old gun with a percussion lock should be older than the date of
Waterloo.’

‘How I wish I knew something precise of an art which makes one so
independent of written history!’

Mr. Havill had lapsed into a mannerly silence that was only sullenness
disguised. Paula turned her conversation to Miss De Stancy, who had
simply looked from one to the other during the discussion, though she
might have been supposed to have a prescriptive right to a few remarks
on the matter. A commonplace talk ensued, till Havill, who had not
joined in it, privately began at Somerset again with a mixed manner of
cordiality, contempt, and misgiving.

‘You have a practice, I suppose, sir?’

‘I am not in practice just yet.’

‘Just beginning?’

‘I am about to begin.’

‘In London, or near here?’

‘In London probably.’

‘H’m.... I am practising in Markton.’

‘Indeed. Have you been at it long?’

‘Not particularly. I designed the chapel built by this lady’s late
father; it was my first undertaking--I owe my start, in fact, to Mr.
Power. Ever build a chapel?’

‘Never. I have sketched a good many churches.’

‘Ah--there we differ. I didn’t do much sketching in my youth, nor have I
time for it now. Sketching and building are two different things, to my
mind. I was not brought up to the profession--got into it through sheer
love of it. I began as a landscape gardener, then I became a builder,
then I was a road contractor. Every architect might do worse than have
some such experience. But nowadays ‘tis the men who can draw pretty
pictures who get recommended, not the practical men. Young prigs win
Institute medals for a pretty design or two which, if anybody tried
to build them, would fall down like a house of cards; then they get
travelling studentships and what not, and then they start as architects
of some new school or other, and think they are the masters of us
experienced ones.’

While Somerset was reflecting how far this statement was true, he heard
the voice of Paula inquiring, ‘Who can he be?’

Her eyes were bent on the window. Looking out, Somerset saw in the mead
beyond the dry ditch, Dare, with his photographic apparatus.

‘He is the young gentleman who called about taking views of the castle,’
said Charlotte.

‘O yes--I remember; it is quite right. He met me in the village and
asked me to suggest him some views. I thought him a respectable young
fellow.’

‘I think he is a Canadian,’ said Somerset.

‘No,’ said Paula, ‘he is from the East--at least he implied so to me.’

‘There is Italian blood in him,’ said Charlotte brightly. ‘For he spoke
to me with an Italian accent. But I can’t think whether he is a boy or a
man.’

‘It is to be earnestly hoped that the gentleman does not prevaricate,’
said the minister, for the first time attracted by the subject. ‘I
accidentally met him in the lane, and he said something to me about
having lived in Malta. I think it was Malta, or Gibraltar--even if he
did not say that he was born there.’

‘His manners are no credit to his nationality,’ observed Mrs. Goodman,
also speaking publicly for the first time. ‘He asked me this morning to
send him out a pail of water for his process, and before I had turned
away he began whistling. I don’t like whistlers.’

‘Then it appears,’ said Somerset, ‘that he is a being of no age, no
nationality, and no behaviour.’

‘A complete negative,’ added Havill, brightening into a civil sneer.
‘That is, he would be, if he were not a maker of negatives well known in
Markton.’

‘Not well known, Mr. Havill,’ answered Mrs. Goodman firmly. ‘For I lived
in Markton for thirty years ending three months ago, and he was never
heard of in my time.’

‘He is something like you, Charlotte,’ said Paula, smiling playfully on
her companion.

All the men looked at Charlotte, on whose face a delicate nervous blush
thereupon made its appearance.

‘’Pon my word there is a likeness, now I think of it,’ said Havill.

Paula bent down to Charlotte and whispered: ‘Forgive my rudeness, dear.
He is not a nice enough person to be like you. He is really more like
one or other of the old pictures about the house. I forget which, and
really it does not matter.’

‘People’s features fall naturally into groups and classes,’ remarked
Somerset. ‘To an observant person they often repeat themselves; though
to a careless eye they seem infinite in their differences.’

The conversation flagged, and they idly observed the figure of the
cosmopolite Dare as he walked round his instrument in the mead and
busied himself with an arrangement of curtains and lenses, occasionally
withdrawing a few steps, and looking contemplatively at the towers and
walls.



IX.

Somerset returned to the top of the great tower with a vague
consciousness that he was going to do something up there--perhaps sketch
a general plan of the structure. But he began to discern that this
Stancy-Castle episode in his studies of Gothic architecture might be
less useful than ornamental to him as a professional man, though it was
too agreeable to be abandoned. Finding after a while that his drawing
progressed but slowly, by reason of infinite joyful thoughts more allied
to his nature than to his art, he relinquished rule and compass, and
entered one of the two turrets opening on the roof. It was not the
staircase by which he had ascended, and he proceeded to explore its
lower part. Entering from the blaze of light without, and imagining the
stairs to descend as usual, he became aware after a few steps that
there was suddenly nothing to tread on, and found himself precipitated
downwards to a distance of several feet.

Arrived at the bottom, he was conscious of the happy fact that he had
not seriously hurt himself, though his leg was twisted awkwardly. Next
he perceived that the stone steps had been removed from the turret, so
that he had dropped into it as into a dry well; that, owing to its being
walled up below, there was no door of exit on either side of him; that
he was, in short, a prisoner.

Placing himself in a more comfortable position he calmly considered
the best means of getting out, or of making his condition known. For
a moment he tried to drag himself up by his arm, but it was a hopeless
attempt, the height to the first step being far too great.

He next looked round at a lower level. Not far from his left elbow, in
the concave of the outer wall, was a slit for the admission of light,
and he perceived at once that through this slit alone lay his chance of
communicating with the outer world. At first it seemed as if it were to
be done by shouting, but when he learnt what little effect was produced
by his voice in the midst of such a mass of masonry, his heart failed
him for a moment. Yet, as either Paula or Miss De Stancy would probably
guess his visit to the top of the tower, there was no cause for terror,
if some for alarm.

He put his handkerchief through the window-slit, so that it fluttered
outside, and, fixing it in its place by a large stone drawn from the
loose ones around him, awaited succour as best he could. To begin this
course of procedure was easy, but to abide in patience till it should
produce fruit was an irksome task. As nearly as he could guess--for his
watch had been stopped by the fall--it was now about four o’clock, and
it would be scarcely possible for evening to approach without some
eye or other noticing the white signal. So Somerset waited, his eyes
lingering on the little world of objects around him, till they all
became quite familiar. Spiders’-webs in plenty were there, and one in
particular just before him was in full use as a snare, stretching across
the arch of the window, with radiating threads as its ribs. Somerset
had plenty of time, and he counted their number--fifteen. He remained
so silent that the owner of this elaborate structure soon forgot the
disturbance which had resulted in the breaking of his diagonal ties,
and crept out from the corner to mend them. In watching the process,
Somerset noticed that on the stonework behind the web sundry names and
initials had been cut by explorers in years gone by. Among these antique
inscriptions he observed two bright and clean ones, consisting of the
words ‘De Stancy’ and ‘W. Dare,’ crossing each other at right angles.
From the state of the stone they could not have been cut more than a
month before this date, and, musing on the circumstance, Somerset passed
the time until the sun reached the slit in that side of the tower,
where, beginning by throwing in a streak of fire as narrow as a
corn-stalk, it enlarged its width till the dusty nook was flooded with
cheerful light. It disclosed something lying in the corner, which on
examination proved to be a dry bone. Whether it was human, or had come
from the castle larder in bygone times, he could not tell. One bone was
not a whole skeleton, but it made him think of Ginevra of Modena, the
heroine of the Mistletoe Bough, and other cribbed and confined wretches,
who had fallen into such traps and been discovered after a cycle of
years.

The sun’s rays had travelled some way round the interior when Somerset’s
waiting ears were at last attracted by footsteps above, each tread being
brought down by the hollow turret with great fidelity. He hoped that
with these sounds would arise that of a soft voice he had begun to like
well. Indeed, during the solitary hour or two of his waiting here he had
pictured Paula straying alone on the terrace of the castle, looking
up, noting his signal, and ascending to deliver him from his painful
position by her own exertions. It seemed that at length his dream had
been verified. The footsteps approached the opening of the turret;
and, attracted by the call which Somerset now raised, began to descend
towards him. In a moment, not Paula’s face, but that of a dreary footman
of her household, looked into the hole.

Somerset mastered his disappointment, and the man speedily fetched a
ladder, by which means the prisoner of two hours ascended to the roof
in safety. During the process he ventured to ask for the ladies of the
house, and learnt that they had gone out for a drive together.

Before he left the castle, however, they had returned, a circumstance
unexpectedly made known to him by his receiving a message from
Miss Power, to the effect that she would be glad to see him at his
convenience. Wondering what it could possibly mean, he followed the
messenger to her room--a small modern library in the Jacobean wing of
the house, adjoining that in which the telegraph stood. She was alone,
sitting behind a table littered with letters and sketches, and looking
fresh from her drive. Perhaps it was because he had been shut up in that
dismal dungeon all the afternoon that he felt something in her presence
which at the same time charmed and refreshed him.

She signified that he was to sit down; but finding that he was going
to place himself on a straight-backed chair some distance off she said,
‘Will you sit nearer to me?’ and then, as if rather oppressed by her
dignity, she left her own chair of business and seated herself at
ease on an ottoman which was among the diversified furniture of the
apartment.

‘I want to consult you professionally,’ she went on. ‘I have been much
impressed by your great knowledge of castellated architecture. Will you
sit in that leather chair at the table, as you may have to take notes?’

The young man assented, expressed his gratification, and went to the
chair she designated.

‘But, Mr. Somerset,’ she continued, from the ottoman--the width of the
table only dividing them--‘I first should just like to know, and I trust
you will excuse my inquiry, if you are an architect in practice, or only
as yet studying for the profession?’

‘I am just going to practise. I open my office on the first of January
next,’ he answered.

‘You would not mind having me as a client--your first client?’ She
looked curiously from her sideway face across the table as she said
this.

‘Can you ask it!’ said Somerset warmly. ‘What are you going to build?’

‘I am going to restore the castle.’

‘What, all of it?’ said Somerset, astonished at the audacity of such an
undertaking.

‘Not the parts that are absolutely ruinous: the walls battered by the
Parliament artillery had better remain as they are, I suppose. But we
have begun wrong; it is I who should ask you, not you me.... I fear,’
she went on, in that low note which was somewhat difficult to catch at
a distance, ‘I fear what the antiquarians will say if I am not very
careful. They come here a great deal in summer and if I were to do the
work wrong they would put my name in the papers as a dreadful person.
But I must live here, as I have no other house, except the one in
London, and hence I must make the place habitable. I do hope I can trust
to your judgment?’

‘I hope so,’ he said, with diffidence, for, far from having much
professional confidence, he often mistrusted himself. ‘I am a Fellow
of the Society of Antiquaries, and a Member of the Institute of British
Architects--not a Fellow of that body yet, though I soon shall be.’

‘Then I am sure you must be trustworthy,’ she said, with enthusiasm.
‘Well, what am I to do?--How do we begin?’

Somerset began to feel more professional, what with the business
chair and the table, and the writing-paper, notwithstanding that these
articles, and the room they were in, were hers instead of his; and an
evenness of manner which he had momentarily lost returned to him. ‘The
very first step,’ he said, ‘is to decide upon the outlay--what is it to
cost?’

He faltered a little, for it seemed to disturb the softness of their
relationship to talk thus of hard cash. But her sympathy with his
feeling was apparently not great, and she said, ‘The expenditure shall
be what you advise.’

‘What a heavenly client!’ he thought. ‘But you must just give some
idea,’ he said gently. ‘For the fact is, any sum almost may be spent
on such a building: five thousand, ten thousand, twenty thousand, fifty
thousand, a hundred thousand.’

‘I want it done well; so suppose we say a hundred thousand? My father’s
solicitor--my solicitor now--says I may go to a hundred thousand without
extravagance, if the expenditure is scattered over two or three years.’

Somerset looked round for a pen. With quickness of insight she knew
what he wanted, and signified where one could be found. He wrote down in
large figures--

     100,000.

It was more than he had expected; and for a young man just beginning
practice, the opportunity of playing with another person’s money to that
extent would afford an exceptionally handsome opening, not so much
from the commission it represented, as from the attention that would be
bestowed by the art-world on such an undertaking.

Paula had sunk into a reverie. ‘I was intending to intrust the work
to Mr. Havill, a local architect,’ she said. ‘But I gathered from
his conversation with you to-day that his ignorance of styles might
compromise me very seriously. In short, though my father employed him
in one or two little matters, it would not be right--even a morally
culpable thing--to place such an historically valuable building in his
hands.’

‘Has Mr. Havill ever been led to expect the commission?’ he asked.

‘He may have guessed that he would have it. I have spoken of my
intention to him more than once.’

Somerset thought over his conversation with Havill. Well, he did not
like Havill personally; and he had strong reasons for suspecting that in
the matter of architecture Havill was a quack. But was it quite generous
to step in thus, and take away what would be a golden opportunity to
such a man of making both ends meet comfortably for some years to come,
without giving him at least one chance? He reflected a little longer,
and then spoke out his feeling.

‘I venture to propose a slightly modified arrangement,’ he said.
‘Instead of committing the whole undertaking to my hands without better
proof of my ability to carry it out than you have at present, let there
be a competition between Mr. Havill and myself--let our rival plans for
the restoration and enlargement be submitted to a committee of the Royal
Institute of British Architects--and let the choice rest with them,
subject of course to your approval.’

‘It is indeed generous of you to suggest it.’ She looked thoughtfully
at him; he appeared to strike her in a new light. ‘You really recommend
it?’ The fairness which had prompted his words seemed to incline her
still more than before to resign herself entirely to him in the matter.

‘I do,’ said Somerset deliberately.

‘I will think of it, since you wish it. And now, what general idea have
you of the plan to adopt? I do not positively agree to your suggestion
as yet, so I may perhaps ask the question.’

Somerset, being by this time familiar with the general plan of the
castle, took out his pencil and made a rough sketch. While he was doing
it she rose, and coming to the back of his chair, bent over him in
silence.

‘Ah, I begin to see your conception,’ she murmured; and the breath of
her words fanned his ear. He finished the sketch, and held it up to her,
saying--

‘I would suggest that you walk over the building with Mr. Havill and
myself, and detail your ideas to us on each portion.’

‘Is it necessary?’

‘Clients mostly do it.’

‘I will, then. But it is too late for me this evening. Please meet me
to-morrow at ten.’



X.

At ten o’clock they met in the same room, Paula appearing in a straw hat
having a bent-up brim lined with plaited silk, so that it surrounded
her forehead like a nimbus; and Somerset armed with sketch-book,
measuring-rod, and other apparatus of his craft.

‘And Mr. Havill?’ said the young man.

‘I have not decided to employ him: if I do he shall go round with me
independently of you,’ she replied rather brusquely.

Somerset was by no means sorry to hear this. His duty to Havill was
done.

‘And now,’ she said, as they walked on together through the passages, ‘I
must tell you that I am not a mediaevalist myself; and perhaps that’s a
pity.’

‘What are you?’

‘I am Greek--that’s why I don’t wish to influence your design.’

Somerset, as they proceeded, pointed out where roofs had been and
should be again, where gables had been pulled down, and where floors had
vanished, showing her how to reconstruct their details from marks in the
walls, much as a comparative anatomist reconstructs an antediluvian from
fragmentary bones and teeth. She appeared to be interested, listened
attentively, but said little in reply. They were ultimately in a long
narrow passage, indifferently lighted, when Somerset, treading on a
loose stone, felt a twinge of weakness in one knee, and knew in a moment
that it was the result of the twist given by his yesterday’s fall. He
paused, leaning against the wall.

‘What is it?’ said Paula, with a sudden timidity in her voice.

‘I slipped down yesterday,’ he said. ‘It will be right in a moment.’

‘I--can I help you?’ said Paula. But she did not come near him; indeed,
she withdrew a little. She looked up the passage, and down the passage,
and became conscious that it was long and gloomy, and that nobody was
near. A curious coy uneasiness seemed to take possession of her. Whether
she thought, for the first time, that she had made a mistake--that to
wander about the castle alone with him was compromising, or whether
it was the mere shy instinct of maidenhood, nobody knows; but she said
suddenly, ‘I will get something for you, and return in a few minutes.’

‘Pray don’t--it has quite passed!’ he said, stepping out again.

But Paula had vanished. When she came back it was in the rear of
Charlotte De Stancy. Miss De Stancy had a tumbler in one hand, half full
of wine, which she offered him; Paula remaining in the background.

He took the glass, and, to satisfy his companions, drank a mouthful or
two, though there was really nothing whatever the matter with him beyond
the slight ache above mentioned. Charlotte was going to retire, but
Paula said, quite anxiously, ‘You will stay with me, Charlotte, won’t
you? Surely you are interested in what I am doing?’

‘What is it?’ said Miss De Stancy.

‘Planning how to mend and enlarge the castle. Tell Mr. Somerset what I
want done in the quadrangle--you know quite well--and I will walk on.’

She walked on; but instead of talking on the subject as directed,
Charlotte and Somerset followed chatting on indifferent matters. They
came to an inner court and found Paula standing there.

She met Miss De Stancy with a smile. ‘Did you explain?’ she asked.

‘I have not explained yet.’ Paula seated herself on a stone bench, and
Charlotte went on: ‘Miss Power thought of making a Greek court of this.
But she will not tell you so herself, because it seems such dreadful
anachronism.

‘I said I would not tell any architect myself,’ interposed Paula
correctingly. ‘I did not then know that he would be Mr. Somerset.’

‘It is rather startling,’ said Somerset.

‘A Greek colonnade all round, you said, Paula,’ continued her less
reticent companion. ‘A peristyle you called it--you saw it in a book,
don’t you remember?--and then you were going to have a fountain in the
middle, and statues like those in the British Museum.’

‘I did say so,’ remarked Paula, pulling the leaves from a young
sycamore-tree that had sprung up between the joints of the paving.

From the spot where they sat they could see over the roofs the upper
part of the great tower wherein Somerset had met with his misadventure.
The tower stood boldly up in the sun, and from one of the slits in the
corner something white waved in the breeze.

‘What can that be?’ said Charlotte. ‘Is it the fluff of owls, or a
handkerchief?’

‘It is my handkerchief,’ Somerset answered. ‘I fixed it there with a
stone to attract attention, and forgot to take it away.’

All three looked up at the handkerchief with interest. ‘Why did you want
to attract attention?’ said Paula.

‘O, I fell into the turret; but I got out very easily.’

‘O Paula,’ said Charlotte, turning to her friend, ‘that must be the
place where the man fell in, years ago, and was starved to death!’

‘Starved to death?’ said Paula.

‘They say so. O Mr. Somerset, what an escape!’ And Charlotte De Stancy
walked away to a point from which she could get a better view of the
treacherous turret.

‘Whom did you think to attract?’ asked Paula, after a pause.

‘I thought you might see it.’

‘Me personally?’ And, blushing faintly, her eyes rested upon him.

‘I hoped for anybody. I thought of you,’ said Somerset.

She did not continue. In a moment she arose and went across to Miss
De Stancy. ‘Don’t YOU go falling down and becoming a skeleton,’
she said--Somerset overheard the words, though Paula was unaware of
it--after which she clasped her fingers behind Charlotte’s neck, and
smiled tenderly in her face.

It seemed to be quite unconsciously done, and Somerset thought it a
very beautiful action. Presently Paula returned to him and said, ‘Mr.
Somerset, I think we have had enough architecture for to-day.’

The two women then wished him good-morning and went away. Somerset,
feeling that he had now every reason for prowling about the castle,
remained near the spot, endeavouring to evolve some plan of
procedure for the project entertained by the beautiful owner of those
weather-scathed walls. But for a long time the mental perspective of his
new position so excited the emotional side of his nature that he could
not concentrate it on feet and inches. As Paula’s architect (supposing
Havill not to be admitted as a competitor), he must of necessity be in
constant communication with her for a space of two or three years to
come; and particularly during the next few months. She, doubtless,
cherished far too ambitious views of her career to feel any personal
interest in this enforced relationship with him; but he would be at
liberty to feel what he chose: and to be the victim of an unrequited
passion, while afforded such splendid opportunities of communion with
the one beloved, deprived that passion of its most deplorable features.
Accessibility is a great point in matters of love, and perhaps of the
two there is less misery in loving without return a goddess who is to
be seen and spoken to every day, than in having an affection tenderly
reciprocated by one always hopelessly removed.

With this view of having to spend a considerable time in the
neighbourhood Somerset shifted his quarters that afternoon from the
little inn at Sleeping-Green to a larger one at Markton. He required
more rooms in which to carry out Paula’s instructions than the former
place afforded, and a more central position. Having reached and dined
at Markton he found the evening tedious, and again strolled out in the
direction of the castle.

When he reached it the light was declining, and a solemn stillness
overspread the pile. The great tower was in full view. That spot of
white which looked like a pigeon fluttering from the loophole was his
handkerchief, still hanging in the place where he had left it. His
eyes yet lingered on the walls when he noticed, with surprise, that the
handkerchief suddenly vanished.

Believing that the breezes, though weak below, might have been strong
enough at that height to blow it into the turret, and in no hurry to get
off the premises, he leisurely climbed up to find it, ascending by
the second staircase, crossing the roof, and going to the top of the
treacherous turret. The ladder by which he had escaped still stood
within it, and beside the ladder he beheld the dim outline of a woman,
in a meditative attitude, holding his handkerchief in her hand.

Somerset softly withdrew. When he had reached the ground he looked up.
A girlish form was standing at the top of the tower looking over the
parapet upon him--possibly not seeing him, for it was dark on the lawn.
It was either Miss De Stancy or Paula; one of them had gone there alone
for his handkerchief and had remained awhile, pondering on his escape.
But which? ‘If I were not a faint-heart I should run all risk and wave
my hat or kiss my hand to her, whoever she is,’ he thought. But he did
not do either.

So he lingered about silently in the shades, and then thought of
strolling to his rooms at Markton. Just at leaving, as he passed under
the inhabited wing, whence one or two lights now blinked, he heard a
piano, and a voice singing ‘The Mistletoe Bough.’ The song had probably
been suggested to the romantic fancy of the singer by her visit to the
scene of his captivity.



XI.

The identity of the lady whom he had seen on the tower and afterwards
heard singing was established the next day.

‘I have been thinking,’ said Miss Power, on meeting him, ‘that you may
require a studio on the premises. If so, the room I showed you yesterday
is at your service. If I employ Mr. Havill to compete with you I will
offer him a similar one.’

Somerset did not decline; and she added, ‘In the same room you will find
the handkerchief that was left on the tower.’

‘Ah, I saw that it was gone. Somebody brought it down?’

‘I did,’ she shyly remarked, looking up for a second under her shady
hat-brim.

‘I am much obliged to you.’

‘O no. I went up last night to see where the accident happened, and
there I found it. When you came up were you in search of it, or did you
want me?’

‘Then she saw me,’ he thought. ‘I went for the handkerchief only; I was
not aware that you were there,’ he answered simply. And he involuntarily
sighed.

It was very soft, but she might have heard him, for there was interest
in her voice as she continued, ‘Did you see me before you went back?’

‘I did not know it was you; I saw that some lady was there, and I would
not disturb her. I wondered all the evening if it were you.’

Paula hastened to explain: ‘We understood that you would stay to dinner,
and as you did not come in we wondered where you were. That made me
think of your accident, and after dinner I went up to the place where it
happened.’

Somerset almost wished she had not explained so lucidly.

And now followed the piquant days to which his position as her
architect, or, at worst, as one of her two architects, naturally led.
His anticipations were for once surpassed by the reality. Perhaps
Somerset’s inherent unfitness for a professional life under ordinary
circumstances was only proved by his great zest for it now. Had he been
in regular practice, with numerous other clients, instead of having
merely made a start with this one, he would have totally neglected their
business in his exclusive attention to Paula’s.

The idea of a competition between Somerset and Havill had been highly
approved by Paula’s solicitor, but she would not assent to it as yet,
seeming quite vexed that Somerset should not have taken the good the
gods provided without questioning her justice to Havill. The room she
had offered him was prepared as a studio. Drawing-boards and Whatman’s
paper were sent for, and in a few days Somerset began serious labour.
His first requirement was a clerk or two, to do the drudgery of
measuring and figuring; but for the present he preferred to sketch
alone. Sometimes, in measuring the outworks of the castle, he ran
against Havill strolling about with no apparent object, who bestowed on
him an envious nod, and passed by.

‘I hope you will not make your sketches,’ she said, looking in upon him
one day, ‘and then go away to your studio in London and think of your
other buildings and forget mine. I am in haste to begin, and wish you
not to neglect me.’

‘I have no other building to think of,’ said Somerset, rising and
placing a chair for her. ‘I had not begun practice, as you may know. I
have nothing else in hand but your castle.’

‘I suppose I ought not to say I am glad of it; but it is an advantage
to have an architect all to one’s self. The architect whom I at first
thought of told me before I knew you that if I placed the castle in his
hands he would undertake no other commission till its completion.’

‘I agree to the same,’ said Somerset.

‘I don’t wish to bind you. But I hinder you now--do pray go on without
reference to me. When will there be some drawing for me to see?’

‘I will take care that it shall be soon.’

He had a metallic tape in his hand, and went out of the room to take
some dimension in the corridor. The assistant for whom he had advertised
had not arrived, and he attempted to fix the end of the tape by sticking
his penknife through the ring into the wall. Paula looked on at a
distance.

‘I will hold it,’ she said.

She went to the required corner and held the end in its place. She had
taken it the wrong way, and Somerset went over and placed it properly in
her fingers, carefully avoiding to touch them. She obediently raised
her hand to the corner again, and stood till he had finished, when she
asked, ‘Is that all?’

‘That is all,’ said Somerset. ‘Thank you.’ Without further speech she
looked at his sketch-book, while he marked down the lines just acquired.

‘You said the other day,’ she observed, ‘that early Gothic work might be
known by the under-cutting, or something to that effect. I have looked
in Rickman and the Oxford Glossary, but I cannot quite understand what
you meant.’

It was only too probable to her lover, from the way in which she
turned to him, that she HAD looked in Rickman and the Glossary, and was
thinking of nothing in the world but of the subject of her inquiry.

‘I can show you, by actual example, if you will come to the chapel?’ he
returned hesitatingly.

‘Don’t go on purpose to show me--when you are there on your own account
I will come in.’

‘I shall be there in half-an-hour.’

‘Very well,’ said Paula. She looked out of a window, and, seeing Miss De
Stancy on the terrace, left him.

Somerset stood thinking of what he had said. He had no occasion whatever
to go into the chapel of the castle that day. He had been tempted by her
words to say he would be there, and ‘half-an-hour’ had come to his lips
almost without his knowledge. This community of interest--if it were not
anything more tender--was growing serious. What had passed between them
amounted to an appointment; they were going to meet in the most solitary
chamber of the whole solitary pile. Could it be that Paula had well
considered this in replying with her friendly ‘Very well?’ Probably not.

Somerset proceeded to the chapel and waited. With the progress of the
seconds towards the half-hour he began to discover that a dangerous
admiration for this girl had risen within him. Yet so imaginative was
his passion that he hardly knew a single feature of her countenance well
enough to remember it in her absence. The meditative judgment of things
and men which had been his habit up to the moment of seeing her in
the Baptist chapel seemed to have left him--nothing remained but a
distracting wish to be always near her, and it was quite with dismay
that he recognized what immense importance he was attaching to the
question whether she would keep the trifling engagement or not.

The chapel of Stancy Castle was a silent place, heaped up in corners
with a lumber of old panels, framework, and broken coloured glass. Here
no clock could be heard beating out the hours of the day--here no
voice of priest or deacon had for generations uttered the daily
service denoting how the year rolls on. The stagnation of the spot was
sufficient to draw Somerset’s mind for a moment from the subject which
absorbed it, and he thought, ‘So, too, will time triumph over all this
fervour within me.’

Lifting his eyes from the floor on which his foot had been tapping
nervously, he saw Paula standing at the other end. It was not so
pleasant when he also saw that Mrs. Goodman accompanied her. The latter
lady, however, obligingly remained where she was resting, while Paula
came forward, and, as usual, paused without speaking.

‘It is in this little arcade that the example occurs,’ said Somerset.

‘O yes,’ she answered, turning to look at it.

‘Early piers, capitals, and mouldings, generally alternated with deep
hollows, so as to form strong shadows. Now look under the abacus of this
capital; you will find the stone hollowed out wonderfully; and also in
this arch-mould. It is often difficult to understand how it could be
done without cracking off the stone. The difference between this and
late work can be felt by the hand even better than it can be seen.’ He
suited the action to the word and placed his hand in the hollow.

She listened attentively, then stretched up her own hand to test the
cutting as he had done; she was not quite tall enough; she would step
upon this piece of wood. Having done so she tried again, and succeeded
in putting her finger on the spot. No; she could not understand it
through her glove even now. She pulled off her glove, and, her hand
resting in the stone channel, her eyes became abstracted in the effort
of realization, the ideas derived through her hand passing into her
face.

‘No, I am not sure now,’ she said.

Somerset placed his own hand in the cavity. Now their two hands were
close together again. They had been close together half-an-hour earlier,
and he had sedulously avoided touching hers. He dared not let such an
accident happen now. And yet--surely she saw the situation! Was the
inscrutable seriousness with which she applied herself to his lesson
a mockery? There was such a bottomless depth in her eyes that it was
impossible to guess truly. Let it be that destiny alone had ruled that
their hands should be together a second time.

All rumination was cut short by an impulse. He seized her forefinger
between his own finger and thumb, and drew it along the hollow, saying,
‘That is the curve I mean.’

Somerset’s hand was hot and trembling; Paula’s, on the contrary, was
cool and soft as an infant’s.

‘Now the arch-mould,’ continued he. ‘There--the depth of that cavity is
tremendous, and it is not geometrical, as in later work.’ He drew her
unresisting fingers from the capital to the arch, and laid them in the
little trench as before.

She allowed them to rest quietly there till he relinquished them. ‘Thank
you,’ she then said, withdrawing her hand, brushing the dust from her
finger-tips, and putting on her glove.

Her imperception of his feeling was the very sublimity of maiden
innocence if it were real; if not, well, the coquetry was no great sin.

‘Mr. Somerset, will you allow me to have the Greek court I mentioned?’
she asked tentatively, after a long break in their discourse, as
she scanned the green stones along the base of the arcade, with a
conjectural countenance as to his reply.

‘Will your own feeling for the genius of the place allow you?’

‘I am not a mediaevalist: I am an eclectic.’

‘You don’t dislike your own house on that account.’

‘I did at first--I don’t so much now.... I should love it, and adore
every stone, and think feudalism the only true romance of life, if--’

‘What?’

‘If I were a De Stancy, and the castle the long home of my forefathers.’

Somerset was a little surprised at the avowal: the minister’s words on
the effects of her new environment recurred to his mind. ‘Miss De Stancy
doesn’t think so,’ he said. ‘She cares nothing about those things.’

Paula now turned to him: hitherto her remarks had been sparingly spoken,
her eyes being directed elsewhere: ‘Yes, that is very strange, is it
not?’ she said. ‘But it is owing to the joyous freshness of her nature
which precludes her from dwelling on the past--indeed, the past is
no more to her than it is to a sparrow or robin. She is scarcely an
instance of the wearing out of old families, for a younger mental
constitution than hers I never knew.’

‘Unless that very simplicity represents the second childhood of her
line, rather than her own exclusive character.’

Paula shook her head. ‘In spite of the Greek court, she is more Greek
than I.’

‘You represent science rather than art, perhaps.’

‘How?’ she asked, glancing up under her hat.

‘I mean,’ replied Somerset, ‘that you represent the march of mind--the
steamship, and the railway, and the thoughts that shake mankind.’

She weighed his words, and said: ‘Ah, yes: you allude to my father. My
father was a great man; but I am more and more forgetting his greatness:
that kind of greatness is what a woman can never truly enter into. I am
less and less his daughter every day that goes by.’

She walked away a few steps to rejoin the excellent Mrs. Goodman, who,
as Somerset still perceived, was waiting for Paula at the discreetest
of distances in the shadows at the farther end of the building. Surely
Paula’s voice had faltered, and she had turned to hide a tear?

She came back again. ‘Did you know that my father made half the railways
in Europe, including that one over there?’ she said, waving her little
gloved hand in the direction whence low rumbles were occasionally heard
during the day.

‘Yes.’

‘How did you know?’

‘Miss De Stancy told me a little; and I then found his name and doings
were quite familiar to me.’

Curiously enough, with his words there came through the broken windows
the murmur of a train in the distance, sounding clearer and more clear.
It was nothing to listen to, yet they both listened; till the increasing
noise suddenly broke off into dead silence.

‘It has gone into the tunnel,’ said Paula. ‘Have you seen the tunnel my
father made? the curves are said to be a triumph of science. There is
nothing else like it in this part of England.’

‘There is not: I have heard so. But I have not seen it.’

‘Do you think it a thing more to be proud of that one’s father should
have made a great tunnel and railway like that, than that one’s remote
ancestor should have built a great castle like this?’

What could Somerset say? It would have required a casuist to decide
whether his answer should depend upon his conviction, or upon the family
ties of such a questioner. ‘From a modern point of view, railways are,
no doubt, things more to be proud of than castles,’ he said; ‘though
perhaps I myself, from mere association, should decide in favour of the
ancestor who built the castle.’ The serious anxiety to be truthful that
Somerset threw into his observation, was more than the circumstance
required. ‘To design great engineering works,’ he added musingly, and
without the least eye to the disparagement of her parent, ‘requires
no doubt a leading mind. But to execute them, as he did, requires, of
course, only a following mind.’

His reply had not altogether pleased her; and there was a distinct
reproach conveyed by her slight movement towards Mrs. Goodman. He saw
it, and was grieved that he should have spoken so. ‘I am going to walk
over and inspect that famous tunnel of your father’s,’ he added gently.
‘It will be a pleasant study for this afternoon.’

She went away. ‘I am no man of the world,’ he thought. ‘I ought to have
praised that father of hers straight off. I shall not win her respect;
much less her love!’



XII.

Somerset did not forget what he had planned, and when lunch was over
he walked away through the trees. The tunnel was more difficult of
discovery than he had anticipated, and it was only after considerable
winding among green lanes, whose deep ruts were like canyons of Colorado
in miniature, that he reached the slope in the distant upland where the
tunnel began. A road stretched over its crest, and thence along one side
of the railway-cutting.

He there unexpectedly saw standing Miss Power’s carriage; and on drawing
nearer he found it to contain Paula herself, Miss De Stancy, and Mrs.
Goodman.

‘How singular!’ exclaimed Miss De Stancy gaily.

‘It is most natural,’ said Paula instantly. ‘In the morning two people
discuss a feature in the landscape, and in the afternoon each has a
desire to see it from what the other has said of it. Therefore they
accidentally meet.’

Now Paula had distinctly heard Somerset declare that he was going to
walk there; how then could she say this so coolly? It was with a pang
at his heart that he returned to his old thought of her being possibly
a finished coquette and dissembler. Whatever she might be, she was not a
creature starched very stiffly by Puritanism.

Somerset looked down on the mouth of the tunnel. The popular commonplace
that science, steam, and travel must always be unromantic and hideous,
was not proven at this spot. On either slope of the deep cutting, green
with long grass, grew drooping young trees of ash, beech, and other
flexible varieties, their foliage almost concealing the actual railway
which ran along the bottom, its thin steel rails gleaming like silver
threads in the depths. The vertical front of the tunnel, faced with
brick that had once been red, was now weather-stained, lichened, and
mossed over in harmonious rusty-browns, pearly greys, and neutral
greens, at the very base appearing a little blue-black spot like a
mouse-hole--the tunnel’s mouth.

The carriage was drawn up quite close to the wood railing, and Paula was
looking down at the same time with him; but he made no remark to her.

Mrs. Goodman broke the silence by saying, ‘If it were not a railway we
should call it a lovely dell.’

Somerset agreed with her, adding that it was so charming that he felt
inclined to go down.

‘If you do, perhaps Miss Power will order you up again, as a
trespasser,’ said Charlotte De Stancy. ‘You are one of the largest
shareholders in the railway, are you not, Paula?’

Miss Power did not reply.

‘I suppose as the road is partly yours you might walk all the way to
London along the rails, if you wished, might you not, dear?’ Charlotte
continued.

Paula smiled, and said, ‘No, of course not.’

Somerset, feeling himself superfluous, raised his hat to his companions
as if he meant not to see them again for a while, and began to descend
by some steps cut in the earth; Miss De Stancy asked Mrs. Goodman to
accompany her to a barrow over the top of the tunnel; and they left the
carriage, Paula remaining alone.

Down Somerset plunged through the long grass, bushes, late summer
flowers, moths, and caterpillars, vexed with himself that he had come
there, since Paula was so inscrutable, and humming the notes of some
song he did not know. The tunnel that had seemed so small from the
surface was a vast archway when he reached its mouth, which emitted,
as a contrast to the sultry heat on the slopes of the cutting, a cool
breeze, that had travelled a mile underground from the other end. Far
away in the darkness of this silent subterranean corridor he could see
that other end as a mere speck of light.

When he had conscientiously admired the construction of the massive
archivault, and the majesty of its nude ungarnished walls, he looked up
the slope at the carriage; it was so small to the eye that it might
have been made for a performance by canaries; Paula’s face being still
smaller, as she leaned back in her seat, idly looking down at him. There
seemed something roguish in her attitude of criticism, and to be no
longer the subject of her contemplation he entered the tunnel out of her
sight.

In the middle of the speck of light before him appeared a speck of
black; and then a shrill whistle, dulled by millions of tons of earth,
reached his ears from thence. It was what he had been on his guard
against all the time,--a passing train; and instead of taking the
trouble to come out of the tunnel he stepped into a recess, till the
train had rattled past and vanished onward round a curve.

Somerset still remained where he had placed himself, mentally balancing
science against art, the grandeur of this fine piece of construction
against that of the castle, and thinking whether Paula’s father had
not, after all, the best of it, when all at once he saw Paula’s form
confronting him at the entrance of the tunnel. He instantly went forward
into the light; to his surprise she was as pale as a lily.

‘O, Mr. Somerset!’ she exclaimed. ‘You ought not to frighten me
so--indeed you ought not! The train came out almost as soon as you had
gone in, and as you did not return--an accident was possible!’

Somerset at once perceived that he had been to blame in not thinking of
this.

‘Please do forgive my thoughtlessness in not reflecting how it would
strike you!’ he pleaded. ‘I--I see I have alarmed you.’

Her alarm was, indeed, much greater than he had at first thought: she
trembled so much that she was obliged to sit down, at which he went up
to her full of solicitousness.

‘You ought not to have done it!’ she said. ‘I naturally thought--any
person would--’

Somerset, perhaps wisely, said nothing at this outburst; the cause of
her vexation was, plainly enough, his perception of her discomposure. He
stood looking in another direction, till in a few moments she had risen
to her feet again, quite calm.

‘It would have been dreadful,’ she said with faint gaiety, as the colour
returned to her face; ‘if I had lost my architect, and been obliged to
engage Mr. Havill without an alternative.’

‘I was really in no danger; but of course I ought to have considered,’
he said.

‘I forgive you,’ she returned good-naturedly. ‘I knew there was no
GREAT danger to a person exercising ordinary discretion; but artists and
thinkers like you are indiscreet for a moment sometimes. I am now going
up again. What do you think of the tunnel?’

They were crossing the railway to ascend by the opposite path, Somerset
keeping his eye on the interior of the tunnel for safety, when suddenly
there arose a noise and shriek from the contrary direction behind the
trees. Both knew in a moment what it meant, and each seized the other as
they rushed off the permanent way. The ideas of both had been so centred
on the tunnel as the source of danger, that the probability of a train
from the opposite quarter had been forgotten. It rushed past them,
causing Paula’s dress, hair, and ribbons to flutter violently, and
blowing up the fallen leaves in a shower over their shoulders.

Neither spoke, and they went up several steps, holding each other by the
hand, till, becoming conscious of the fact, she withdrew hers; whereupon
Somerset stopped and looked earnestly at her; but her eyes were averted
towards the tunnel wall.

‘What an escape!’ he said.

‘We were not so very near, I think, were we?’ she asked quickly. ‘If we
were, I think you were--very good to take my hand.’

They reached the top at last, and the new level and open air seemed to
give her a new mind. ‘I don’t see the carriage anywhere,’ she said, in
the common tones of civilization.

He thought it had gone over the crest of the hill; he would accompany
her till they reached it.

‘No--please--I would rather not--I can find it very well.’ Before he
could say more she had inclined her head and smiled and was on her way
alone.

The tunnel-cutting appeared a dreary gulf enough now to the young man,
as he stood leaning over the rails above it, beating the herbage with
his stick. For some minutes he could not criticize or weigh her conduct;
the warmth of her presence still encircled him. He recalled her face as
it had looked out at him from under the white silk puffing of her black
hat, and the speaking power of her eyes at the moment of danger. The
breadth of that clear-complexioned forehead--almost concealed by
the masses of brown hair bundled up around it--signified that if her
disposition were oblique and insincere enough for trifling, coquetting,
or in any way making a fool of him, she had the intellect to do it
cruelly well.

But it was ungenerous to ruminate so suspiciously. A girl not an actress
by profession could hardly turn pale artificially as she had done,
though perhaps mere fright meant nothing, and would have arisen in her
just as readily had he been one of the labourers on her estate.

The reflection that such feeling as she had exhibited could have no
tender meaning returned upon him with masterful force when he thought of
her wealth and the social position into which she had drifted. Somerset,
being of a solitary and studious nature, was not quite competent
to estimate precisely the disqualifying effect, if any, of her
nonconformity, her newness of blood, and other things, among the old
county families established round her; but the toughest prejudices, he
thought, were not likely to be long invulnerable to such cheerful beauty
and brightness of intellect as Paula’s. When she emerged, as she was
plainly about to do, from the seclusion in which she had been living
since her father’s death, she would inevitably win her way among her
neighbours. She would become the local topic. Fortune-hunters would
learn of her existence and draw near in shoals. What chance would there
then be for him?

The points in his favour were indeed few, but they were just enough
to keep a tantalizing hope alive. Modestly leaving out of count his
personal and intellectual qualifications, he thought of his family. It
was an old stock enough, though not a rich one. His great-uncle had
been the well-known Vice-admiral Sir Armstrong Somerset, who served his
country well in the Baltic, the Indies, China, and the Caribbean Sea.
His grandfather had been a notable metaphysician. His father, the Royal
Academician, was popular. But perhaps this was not the sort of reasoning
likely to occupy the mind of a young woman; the personal aspect of the
situation was in such circumstances of far more import. He had come as a
wandering stranger--that possibly lent some interest to him in her eyes.
He was installed in an office which would necessitate free communion
with her for some time to come; that was another advantage, and would be
a still greater one if she showed, as Paula seemed disposed to do,
such artistic sympathy with his work as to follow up with interest the
details of its progress.

The carriage did not reappear, and he went on towards Markton,
disinclined to return again that day to the studio which had been
prepared for him at the castle. He heard feet brushing the grass behind
him, and, looking round, saw the Baptist minister.

‘I have just come from the village,’ said Mr. Woodwell, who looked worn
and weary, his boots being covered with dust; ‘and I have learnt that
which confirms my fears for her.’

‘For Miss Power?’

‘Most assuredly.’

‘What danger is there?’ said Somerset.

‘The temptations of her position have become too much for her! She is
going out of mourning next week, and will give a large dinner-party on
the occasion; for though the invitations are partly in the name of
her relative Mrs. Goodman, they must come from her. The guests are
to include people of old cavalier families who would have treated her
grandfather, sir, and even her father, with scorn for their religion
and connections; also the parson and curate--yes, actually people who
believe in the Apostolic Succession; and what’s more, they’re coming.
My opinion is, that it has all arisen from her friendship with Miss De
Stancy.’

‘Well,’ cried Somerset warmly, ‘this only shows liberality of feeling on
both sides! I suppose she has invited you as well?’

‘She has not invited me!... Mr. Somerset, not withstanding your
erroneous opinions on important matters, I speak to you as a friend, and
I tell you that she has never in her secret heart forgiven that sermon
of mine, in which I likened her to the church at Laodicea. I admit
the words were harsh, but I was doing my duty, and if the case arose
to-morrow I would do it again. Her displeasure is a deep grief to me;
but I serve One greater than she.... You, of course, are invited to this
dinner?’

‘I have heard nothing of it,’ murmured the young man.

Their paths diverged; and when Somerset reached the hotel he was
informed that somebody was waiting to see him.

‘Man or woman?’ he asked.

The landlady, who always liked to reply in person to Somerset’s
inquiries, apparently thinking him, by virtue of his drawing implements
and liberality of payment, a possible lord of Burleigh, came forward and
said it was certainly not a woman, but whether man or boy she could not
say. ‘His name is Mr. Dare,’ she added.

‘O--that youth,’ he said.

Somerset went upstairs, along the passage, down two steps, round the
angle, and so on to the rooms reserved for him in this rambling edifice
of stage-coach memories, where he found Dare waiting. Dare came forward,
pulling out the cutting of an advertisement.

‘Mr. Somerset, this is yours, I believe, from the Architectural World?’

Somerset said that he had inserted it.

‘I think I should suit your purpose as assistant very well.’

‘Are you an architect’s draughtsman?’

‘Not specially. I have some knowledge of the same, and want to increase
it.’

‘I thought you were a photographer.’

‘Also of photography,’ said Dare with a bow. ‘Though but an amateur in
that art I can challenge comparison with Regent Street or Broadway.’

Somerset looked upon his table. Two letters only, addressed in initials,
were lying there as answers to his advertisement. He asked Dare to
wait, and looked them over. Neither was satisfactory. On this account he
overcame his slight feeling against Mr. Dare, and put a question to
test that gentleman’s capacities. ‘How would you measure the front of a
building, including windows, doors, mouldings, and every other feature,
for a ground plan, so as to combine the greatest accuracy with the
greatest despatch?’

‘In running dimensions,’ said Dare.

As this was the particular kind of work he wanted done, Somerset thought
the answer promising. Coming to terms with Dare, he requested the
would-be student of architecture to wait at the castle the next day, and
dismissed him.

A quarter of an hour later, when Dare was taking a walk in the country,
he drew from his pocket eight other letters addressed to Somerset in
initials, which, to judge by their style and stationery, were from men
far superior to those two whose communications alone Somerset had seen.
Dare looked them over for a few seconds as he strolled on, then tore
them into minute fragments, and, burying them under the leaves in the
ditch, went on his way again.



XIII.

Though exhibiting indifference, Somerset had felt a pang of
disappointment when he heard the news of Paula’s approaching
dinner-party. It seemed a little unkind of her to pass him over, seeing
how much they were thrown together just now. That dinner meant more
than it sounded. Notwithstanding the roominess of her castle, she was at
present living somewhat incommodiously, owing partly to the stagnation
caused by her recent bereavement, and partly to the necessity for
overhauling the De Stancy lumber piled in those vast and gloomy
chambers before they could be made tolerable to nineteenth-century
fastidiousness.

To give dinners on any large scale before Somerset had at least set
a few of these rooms in order for her, showed, to his thinking, an
overpowering desire for society.

During the week he saw less of her than usual, her time being to
all appearance much taken up with driving out to make calls on her
neighbours and receiving return visits. All this he observed from the
windows of his studio overlooking the castle ward, in which room he
now spent a great deal of his time, bending over drawing-boards and
instructing Dare, who worked as well as could be expected of a youth of
such varied attainments.

Nearer came the Wednesday of the party, and no hint of that event
reached Somerset, but such as had been communicated by the Baptist
minister. At last, on the very afternoon, an invitation was handed into
his studio--not a kind note in Paula’s handwriting, but a formal printed
card in the joint names of Mrs. Goodman and Miss Power. It reached him
just four hours before the dinner-time. He was plainly to be used as a
stop-gap at the last moment because somebody could not come.

Having previously arranged to pass a quiet evening in his rooms at the
Lord Quantock Arms, in reading up chronicles of the castle from
the county history, with the view of gathering some ideas as to the
distribution of rooms therein before the demolition of a portion of the
structure, he decided off-hand that Paula’s dinner was not of sufficient
importance to him as a professional man and student of art to justify
a waste of the evening by going. He accordingly declined Mrs. Goodman’s
and Miss Power’s invitation; and at five o’clock left the castle and
walked across the fields to the little town.

He dined early, and, clearing away heaviness with a cup of coffee,
applied himself to that volume of the county history which contained the
record of Stancy Castle.

Here he read that ‘when this picturesque and ancient structure was
founded, or by whom, is extremely uncertain. But that a castle stood on
the site in very early times appears from many old books of charters. In
its prime it was such a masterpiece of fortification as to be the wonder
of the world, and it was thought, before the invention of gunpowder,
that it never could be taken by any force less than divine.’

He read on to the times when it first passed into the hands of ‘De
Stancy, Chivaler,’ and received the family name, and so on from De
Stancy to De Stancy till he was lost in the reflection whether Paula
would or would not have thought more highly of him if he had accepted
the invitation to dinner. Applying himself again to the tome, he learned
that in the year 1504 Stephen the carpenter was ‘paid eleven pence for
necessarye repayrs,’ and William the mastermason eight shillings ‘for
whyt lyming of the kitchen, and the lyme to do it with,’ including ‘a
new rope for the fyer bell;’ also the sundry charges for ‘vij crockes,
xiij lytyll pans, a pare of pot hookes, a fyer pane, a lanterne, a
chafynge dyshe, and xij candyll stychs.’

Bang went eight strokes of the clock: it was the dinner-hour.

‘There, now I can’t go, anyhow!’ he said bitterly, jumping up, and
picturing her receiving her company. How would she look; what would she
wear? Profoundly indifferent to the early history of the noble
fabric, he felt a violent reaction towards modernism, eclecticism, new
aristocracies, everything, in short, that Paula represented. He even
gave himself up to consider the Greek court that she had wished for, and
passed the remainder of the evening in making a perspective view of the
same.

The next morning he awoke early, and, resolving to be at work betimes,
started promptly. It was a fine calm hour of day; the grass slopes were
silvery with excess of dew, and the blue mists hung in the depths of
each tree for want of wind to blow them out. Somerset entered the
drive on foot, and when near the castle he observed in the gravel the
wheel-marks of the carriages that had conveyed the guests thither the
night before. There seemed to have been a large number, for the road
where newly repaired was quite cut up. Before going indoors he was
tempted to walk round to the wing in which Paula slept.

Rooks were cawing, sparrows were chattering there; but the blind of her
window was as closely drawn as if it were midnight. Probably she was
sound asleep, dreaming of the compliments which had been paid her by
her guests, and of the future triumphant pleasures that would follow in
their train. Reaching the outer stone stairs leading to the great hall
he found them shadowed by an awning brilliantly striped with red
and blue, within which rows of flowering plants in pots bordered the
pathway. She could not have made more preparation had the gathering been
a ball. He passed along the gallery in which his studio was situated,
entered the room, and seized a drawing-board to put into correct drawing
the sketch for the Greek court that he had struck out the night before,
thereby abandoning his art principles to please the whim of a girl. Dare
had not yet arrived, and after a time Somerset threw down his pencil and
leant back.

His eye fell upon something that moved. It was white, and lay in the
folding chair on the opposite side of the room. On near approach he
found it to be a fragment of swan’s-down fanned into motion by his own
movements, and partially squeezed into the chink of the chair as though
by some person sitting on it.

None but a woman would have worn or brought that swan’s-down into his
studio, and it made him reflect on the possible one. Nothing interrupted
his conjectures till ten o’clock, when Dare came. Then one of the
servants tapped at the door to know if Mr. Somerset had arrived.
Somerset asked if Miss Power wished to see him, and was informed that
she had only wished to know if he had come. Somerset sent a return
message that he had a design on the board which he should soon be glad
to submit to her, and the messenger departed.

‘Fine doings here last night, sir,’ said Dare, as he dusted his
T-square.

‘O indeed!’

‘A dinner-party, I hear; eighteen guests.’

‘Ah,’ said Somerset.

‘The young lady was magnificent--sapphires and opals--she carried as
much as a thousand pounds upon her head and shoulders during that three
or four hour. Of course they call her charming; Compuesta no hay muger
fea, as they say at Madrid.’

‘I don’t doubt it for a moment,’ said Somerset, with reserve.

Dare said no more, and presently the door opened, and there stood Paula.

Somerset nodded to Dare to withdraw into an adjoining room, and offered
her a chair.

‘You wish to show me the design you have prepared?’ she asked, without
taking the seat.

‘Yes; I have come round to your opinion. I have made a plan for
the Greek court you were anxious to build.’ And he elevated the
drawing-board against the wall.

She regarded it attentively for some moments, her finger resting lightly
against her chin, and said, ‘I have given up the idea of a Greek court.’

He showed his astonishment, and was almost disappointed. He had been
grinding up Greek architecture entirely on her account; had wrenched his
mind round to this strange arrangement, all for nothing.

‘Yes,’ she continued; ‘on reconsideration I perceive the want of harmony
that would result from inserting such a piece of marble-work in a
mediaeval fortress; so in future we will limit ourselves strictly to
synchronism of style--that is to say, make good the Norman work by
Norman, the Perpendicular by Perpendicular, and so on. I have informed
Mr. Havill of the same thing.’

Somerset pulled the Greek drawing off the board, and tore it in two
pieces.

She involuntarily turned to look in his face, but stopped before she had
quite lifted her eyes high enough. ‘Why did you do that?’ she asked with
suave curiosity.

‘It is of no further use,’ said Somerset, tearing the drawing in the
other direction, and throwing the pieces into the fireplace. ‘You have
been reading up orders and styles to some purpose, I perceive.’ He
regarded her with a faint smile.

‘I have had a few books down from town. It is desirable to know a little
about the architecture of one’s own house.’

She remained looking at the torn drawing, when Somerset, observing on
the table the particle of swan’s-down he had found in the chair, gently
blew it so that it skimmed across the table under her eyes.

‘It looks as if it came off a lady’s dress,’ he said idly.

‘Off a lady’s fan,’ she replied.

‘O, off a fan?’

‘Yes; off mine.’

At her reply Somerset stretched out his hand for the swan’s-down, and
put it carefully in his pocket-book; whereupon Paula, moulding her
cherry-red lower lip beneath her upper one in arch self-consciousness at
his act, turned away to the window, and after a pause said softly as she
looked out, ‘Why did you not accept our invitation to dinner?’

It was impossible to explain why. He impulsively drew near and
confronted her, and said, ‘I hope you pardon me?’

‘I don’t know that I can quite do that,’ answered she, with ever so
little reproach. ‘I know why you did not come--you were mortified at not
being asked sooner! But it was purely by an accident that you received
your invitation so late. My aunt sent the others by post, but as
yours was to be delivered by hand it was left on her table, and was
overlooked.’

Surely he could not doubt her words; those nice friendly accents were
the embodiment of truth itself.

‘I don’t mean to make a serious complaint,’ she added, in injured tones,
showing that she did. ‘Only we had asked nearly all of them to meet
you, as the son of your illustrious father, whom many of my friends know
personally; and--they were disappointed.’

It was now time for Somerset to be genuinely grieved at what he had
done. Paula seemed so good and honourable at that moment that he could
have laid down his life for her.

‘When I was dressed, I came in here to ask you to reconsider your
decision,’ she continued; ‘or to meet us in the drawing-room if you
could not possibly be ready for dinner. But you were gone.’

‘And you sat down in that chair, didn’t you, darling, and remained there
a long time musing!’ he thought. But that he did not say.

‘I am very sorry,’ he murmured.

‘Will you make amends by coming to our garden party? I ask you the very
first.’

‘I will,’ replied Somerset. To add that it would give him great
pleasure, etc., seemed an absurdly weak way of expressing his feelings,
and he said no more.

‘It is on the nineteenth. Don’t forget the day.’

He met her eyes in such a way that, if she were woman, she must have
seen it to mean as plainly as words: ‘Do I look as if I could forget
anything you say?’

She must, indeed, have understood much more by this time--the whole of
his open secret. But he did not understand her. History has revealed
that a supernumerary lover or two is rarely considered a disadvantage by
a woman, from queen to cottage-girl; and the thought made him pause.



XIV.

When she was gone he went on with the drawing, not calling in Dare,
who remained in the room adjoining. Presently a servant came and laid a
paper on his table, which Miss Power had sent. It was one of the morning
newspapers, and was folded so that his eye fell immediately on a letter
headed ‘Restoration or Demolition.’

The letter was professedly written by a dispassionate person solely in
the interests of art. It drew attention to the circumstance that the
ancient and interesting castle of the De Stancys had unhappily passed
into the hands of an iconoclast by blood, who, without respect for the
tradition of the county, or any feeling whatever for history in stone,
was about to demolish much, if not all, that was interesting in that
ancient pile, and insert in its midst a monstrous travesty of some
Greek temple. In the name of all lovers of mediaeval art, conjured the
simple-minded writer, let something be done to save a building which,
injured and battered in the Civil Wars, was now to be made a complete
ruin by the freaks of an irresponsible owner. Her sending him the paper
seemed to imply that she required his opinion on the case; and in the
afternoon, leaving Dare to measure up a wing according to directions, he
went out in the hope of meeting her, having learnt that she had gone to
the village. On reaching the church he saw her crossing the churchyard
path with her aunt and Miss De Stancy. Somerset entered the enclosure,
and as soon as she saw him she came across.

‘What is to be done?’ she asked.

‘You need not be concerned about such a letter as that.’

‘I am concerned.’

‘I think it dreadful impertinence,’ spoke up Charlotte, who had joined
them. ‘Can you think who wrote it, Mr. Somerset?’

Somerset could not.

‘Well, what am I to do?’ repeated Paula.

‘Just as you would have done before.’

‘That’s what _I_ say,’ observed Mrs. Goodman emphatically.

‘But I have already altered--I have given up the Greek court.’

‘O--you had seen the paper this morning before you looked at my
drawing?’

‘I had,’ she answered.

Somerset thought it a forcible illustration of her natural reticence
that she should have abandoned the design without telling him the
reason; but he was glad she had not done it from mere caprice.

She turned to him and said quietly, ‘I wish YOU would answer that
letter.’

‘It would be ill-advised,’ said Somerset. ‘Still, if, after
consideration, you wish it much, I will. Meanwhile let me impress upon
you again the expediency of calling in Mr. Havill--to whom, as your
father’s architect, expecting this commission, something perhaps is
owed--and getting him to furnish an alternative plan to mine, and
submitting the choice of designs to some members of the Royal Institute
of British Architects. This letter makes it still more advisable than
before.’

‘Very well,’ said Paula reluctantly.

‘Let him have all the particulars you have been good enough to explain
to me--so that we start fair in the competition.’

She looked negligently on the grass. ‘I will tell the building steward
to write them out for him,’ she said.

The party separated and entered the church by different doors. Somerset
went to a nook of the building that he had often intended to visit. It
was called the Stancy aisle; and in it stood the tombs of that family.
Somerset examined them: they were unusually rich and numerous, beginning
with cross-legged knights in hauberks of chain-mail, their ladies beside
them in wimple and cover-chief, all more or less coated with the green
mould and dirt of ages: and continuing with others of later date, in
fine alabaster, gilded and coloured, some of them wearing round their
necks the Yorkist collar of suns and roses, the livery of Edward the
Fourth. In scrutinizing the tallest canopy over these he beheld Paula
behind it, as if in contemplation of the same objects.

‘You came to the church to sketch these monuments, I suppose, Mr.
Somerset?’ she asked, as soon as she saw him.

‘No. I came to speak to you about the letter.’

She sighed. ‘Yes: that letter,’ she said. ‘I am persecuted! If I had
been one of these it would never have been written.’ She tapped the
alabaster effigy of a recumbent lady with her parasol.

‘They are interesting, are they not?’ he said. ‘She is beautifully
preserved. The gilding is nearly gone, but beyond that she is perfect.’

‘She is like Charlotte,’ said Paula. And what was much like another sigh
escaped her lips.

Somerset admitted that there was a resemblance, while Paula drew her
forefinger across the marble face of the effigy, and at length took
out her handkerchief, and began wiping the dust from the hollows of the
features. He looked on, wondering what her sigh had meant, but guessing
that it had been somehow caused by the sight of these sculptures
in connection with the newspaper writer’s denunciation of her as an
irresponsible outsider.

The secret was out when in answer to his question, idly put, if she
wished she were like one of these, she said, with exceptional vehemence
for one of her demeanour--

‘I don’t wish I was like one of them: I wish I WAS one of them.’

‘What--you wish you were a De Stancy?’

‘Yes. It is very dreadful to be denounced as a barbarian. I want to be
romantic and historical.’

‘Miss De Stancy seems not to value the privilege,’ he said, looking
round at another part of the church where Charlotte was innocently
prattling to Mrs. Goodman, quite heedless of the tombs of her
forefathers.

‘If I were one,’ she continued, ‘I should come here when I feel alone in
the world, as I do to-day; and I would defy people, and say, “You cannot
spoil what has been!”’

They walked on till they reached the old black pew attached to the
castle--a vast square enclosure of oak panelling occupying half the
aisle, and surmounted with a little balustrade above the framework.
Within, the baize lining that had once been green, now faded to the
colour of a common in August, was torn, kicked and scraped to rags by
the feet and hands of the ploughboys who had appropriated the pew as
their own special place of worship since it had ceased to be used by any
resident at the castle, because its height afforded convenient shelter
for playing at marbles and pricking with pins.

Charlotte and Mrs. Goodman had by this time left the building, and could
be seen looking at the headstones outside.

‘If you were a De Stancy,’ said Somerset, who had pondered more deeply
upon that new wish of hers than he had seemed to do, ‘you would be a
churchwoman, and sit here.’

‘And I should have the pew done up,’ she said readily, as she rested
her pretty chin on the top rail and looked at the interior, her cheeks
pressed into deep dimples. Her quick reply told him that the idea was no
new one with her, and he thought of poor Mr. Woodwell’s shrewd prophecy
as he perceived that her days as a separatist were numbered.

‘Well, why can’t you have it done up, and sit here?’ he said warily.

Paula shook her head.

‘You are not at enmity with Anglicanism, I am sure?’

‘I want not to be. I want to be--what--’

‘What the De Stancys were, and are,’ he said insidiously; and her
silenced bearing told him that he had hit the nail.

It was a strange idea to get possession of such a nature as hers, and
for a minute he felt himself on the side of the minister. So strong was
Somerset’s feeling of wishing her to show the quality of fidelity to
paternal dogma and party, that he could not help adding--

‘But have you forgotten that other nobility--the nobility of talent and
enterprise?’

‘No. But I wish I had a well-known line of ancestors.’

‘You have. Archimedes, Newcomen, Watt, Telford, Stephenson, those
are your father’s direct ancestors. Have you forgotten them? Have you
forgotten your father, and the railways he made over half Europe, and
his great energy and skill, and all connected with him as if he had
never lived?’

She did not answer for some time. ‘No, I have not forgotten it,’ she
said, still looking into the pew. ‘But, I have a predilection d’artiste
for ancestors of the other sort, like the De Stancys.’

Her hand was resting on the low pew next the high one of the De Stancys.
Somerset looked at the hand, or rather at the glove which covered it,
then at her averted cheek, then beyond it into the pew, then at her hand
again, until by an indescribable consciousness that he was not going too
far he laid his own upon it.

‘No, no,’ said Paula quickly, withdrawing her hand. But there was
nothing resentful or haughty in her tone--nothing, in short, which makes
a man in such circumstances feel that he has done a particularly foolish
action.

The flower on her bosom rose and fell somewhat more than usual as she
added, ‘I am going away now--I will leave you here.’ Without waiting for
a reply she adroitly swept back her skirts to free her feet and went out
of the church blushing.

Somerset took her hint and did not follow; and when he knew that she had
rejoined her friends, and heard the carriage roll away, he made towards
the opposite door. Pausing to glance once more at the alabaster effigies
before leaving them to their silence and neglect, he beheld Dare bending
over them, to all appearance intently occupied.

He must have been in the church some time--certainly during the tender
episode between Somerset and Paula, and could not have failed to
perceive it. Somerset blushed: it was unpleasant that Dare should have
seen the interior of his heart so plainly. He went across and said, ‘I
think I left you to finish the drawing of the north wing, Mr. Dare?’

‘Three hours ago, sir,’ said Dare. ‘Having finished that, I came to look
at the church--fine building--fine monuments--two interesting people
looking at them.’

‘What?’

‘I stand corrected. Pensa molto, parla poco, as the Italians have it.’

‘Well, now, Mr. Dare, suppose you get back to the castle?’

‘Which history dubs Castle Stancy.... Certainly.’

‘How do you get on with the measuring?’

Dare sighed whimsically. ‘Badly in the morning, when I have been tempted
to indulge overnight, and worse in the afternoon, when I have been
tempted in the morning!’

Somerset looked at the youth, and said, ‘I fear I shall have to dispense
with your services, Dare, for I think you have been tempted to-day.’

‘On my honour no. My manner is a little against me, Mr. Somerset. But
you need not fear for my ability to do your work. I am a young man
wasted, and am thought of slight account: it is the true men who get
snubbed, while traitors are allowed to thrive!’

‘Hang sentiment, Dare, and off with you!’ A little ruffled, Somerset had
turned his back upon the interesting speaker, so that he did not observe
the sly twist Dare threw into his right eye as he spoke. The latter went
off in one direction and Somerset in the other, pursuing his pensive way
towards Markton with thoughts not difficult to divine.

From one point in her nature he went to another, till he again recurred
to her romantic interest in the De Stancy family. To wish she was one
of them: how very inconsistent of her. That she really did wish it was
unquestionable.



XV.

It was the day of the garden-party. The weather was too cloudy to be
called perfect, but it was as sultry as the most thinly-clad young lady
could desire. Great trouble had been taken by Paula to bring the lawn
to a fit condition after the neglect of recent years, and Somerset had
suggested the design for the tents. As he approached the precincts of
the castle he discerned a flag of newest fabric floating over the keep,
and soon his fly fell in with the stream of carriages that were passing
over the bridge into the outer ward.

Mrs. Goodman and Paula were receiving the people in the drawing-room.
Somerset came forward in his turn; but as he was immediately followed by
others there was not much opportunity, even had she felt the wish, for
any special mark of feeling in the younger lady’s greeting of him.

He went on through a canvas passage, lined on each side with flowering
plants, till he reached the tents; thence, after nodding to one or two
guests slightly known to him, he proceeded to the grounds, with a sense
of being rather lonely. Few visitors had as yet got so far in, and as
he walked up and down a shady alley his mind dwelt upon the new
aspect under which Paula had greeted his eyes that afternoon. Her
black-and-white costume had finally disappeared, and in its place she
had adopted a picturesque dress of ivory white, with satin enrichments
of the same hue; while upon her bosom she wore a blue flower. Her days
of infestivity were plainly ended, and her days of gladness were to
begin.

His reverie was interrupted by the sound of his name, and looking round
he beheld Havill, who appeared to be as much alone as himself.

Somerset already knew that Havill had been appointed to compete with
him, according to his recommendation. In measuring a dark corner a day
or two before, he had stumbled upon Havill engaged in the same pursuit
with a view to the rival design. Afterwards he had seen him receiving
Paula’s instructions precisely as he had done himself. It was as he had
wished, for fairness’ sake: and yet he felt a regret, for he was less
Paula’s own architect now.

‘Well, Mr. Somerset,’ said Havill, ‘since we first met an unexpected
rivalry has arisen between us! But I dare say we shall survive the
contest, as it is not one arising out of love. Ha-ha-ha!’ He spoke in a
level voice of fierce pleasantry, and uncovered his regular white teeth.

Somerset supposed him to allude to the castle competition?

‘Yes,’ said Havill. ‘Her proposed undertaking brought out some adverse
criticism till it was known that she intended to have more than one
architectural opinion. An excellent stroke of hers to disarm criticism.
You saw the second letter in the morning papers?’

‘No,’ said the other.

‘The writer states that he has discovered that the competent advice of
two architects is to be taken, and withdraws his accusations.’

Somerset said nothing for a minute. ‘Have you been supplied with the
necessary data for your drawings?’ he asked, showing by the question the
track his thoughts had taken.

Havill said that he had. ‘But possibly not so completely as you have,’
he added, again smiling fiercely. Somerset did not quite like the
insinuation, and the two speakers parted, the younger going towards the
musicians, who had now begun to fill the air with their strains from the
embowered enclosure of a drooping ash. When he got back to the marquees
they were quite crowded, and the guests began to pour out upon the
grass, the toilets of the ladies presenting a brilliant spectacle--here
being coloured dresses with white devices, there white dresses with
coloured devices, and yonder transparent dresses with no device at all.
A lavender haze hung in the air, the trees were as still as those of a
submarine forest; while the sun, in colour like a brass plaque, had a
hairy outline in the livid sky.

After watching awhile some young people who were so madly devoted to
lawn-tennis that they set about it like day-labourers at the moment
of their arrival, he turned and saw approaching a graceful figure in
cream-coloured hues, whose gloves lost themselves beneath her lace
ruffles, even when she lifted her hand to make firm the blue flower at
her breast, and whose hair hung under her hat in great knots so well
compacted that the sun gilded the convexity of each knot like a ball.

‘You seem to be alone,’ said Paula, who had at last escaped from the
duty of receiving guests.

‘I don’t know many people.’

‘Yes: I thought of that while I was in the drawing-room. But I could not
get out before. I am now no longer a responsible being: Mrs. Goodman
is mistress for the remainder of the day. Will you be introduced to
anybody? Whom would you like to know?’

‘I am not particularly unhappy in my solitude.’

‘But you must be made to know a few.’

‘Very well--I submit readily.’

She looked away from him, and while he was observing upon her cheek the
moving shadow of leaves cast by the declining sun, she said, ‘O, there
is my aunt,’ and beckoned with her parasol to that lady, who approached
in the comparatively youthful guise of a grey silk dress that whistled
at every touch.

Paula left them together, and Mrs. Goodman then made him acquainted with
a few of the best people, describing what they were in a whisper before
they came up, among them being the Radical member for Markton, who had
succeeded to the seat rendered vacant by the death of Paula’s father.
While talking to this gentleman on the proposed enlargement of the
castle, Somerset raised his eyes and hand towards the walls, the better
to point out his meaning; in so doing he saw a face in the square of
darkness formed by one of the open windows, the effect being that of a
highlight portrait by Vandyck or Rembrandt.

It was his assistant Dare, leaning on the window-sill of the studio, as
he smoked his cigarette and surveyed the gay groups promenading beneath.

After holding a chattering conversation with some ladies from a
neighbouring country seat who had known his father in bygone years, and
handing them ices and strawberries till they were satisfied, he found an
opportunity of leaving the grounds, wishing to learn what progress Dare
had made in the survey of the castle.

Dare was still in the studio when he entered. Somerset informed the
youth that there was no necessity for his working later that day, unless
to please himself, and proceeded to inspect Dare’s achievements thus
far. To his vexation Dare had not plotted three dimensions during the
previous two days. This was not the first time that Dare, either from
incompetence or indolence, had shown his inutility as a house-surveyor
and draughtsman.

‘Mr. Dare,’ said Somerset, ‘I fear you don’t suit me well enough to make
it necessary that you should stay after this week.’

Dare removed the cigarette from his lips and bowed. ‘If I don’t suit,
the sooner I go the better; why wait the week?’ he said.

‘Well, that’s as you like.’

Somerset drew the inkstand towards him, wrote out a cheque for Dare’s
services, and handed it across the table.

‘I’ll not trouble you to-morrow,’ said Dare, seeing that the payment
included the week in advance.

‘Very well,’ replied Somerset. ‘Please lock the door when you leave.’
Shaking hands with Dare and wishing him well, he left the room and
descended to the lawn below.

There he contrived to get near Miss Power again, and inquired of her for
Miss De Stancy.

‘O! did you not know?’ said Paula; ‘her father is unwell, and she
preferred staying with him this afternoon.’

‘I hoped he might have been here.’

‘O no; he never comes out of his house to any party of this sort; it
excites him, and he must not be excited.’

‘Poor Sir William!’ muttered Somerset.

‘No,’ said Paula, ‘he is grand and historical.’

‘That is hardly an orthodox notion for a Puritan,’ said Somerset
mischievously.

‘I am not a Puritan,’ insisted Paula.

The day turned to dusk, and the guests began going in relays to the
dining-hall. When Somerset had taken in two or three ladies to whom
he had been presented, and attended to their wants, which occupied him
three-quarters of an hour, he returned again to the large tent, with
a view to finding Paula and taking his leave. It was now brilliantly
lighted up, and the musicians, who during daylight had been invisible
behind the ash-tree, were ensconced at one end with their harps and
violins. It reminded him that there was to be dancing. The tent had in
the meantime half filled with a new set of young people who had come
expressly for that pastime. Behind the girls gathered numbers of newly
arrived young men with low shoulders and diminutive moustaches, who were
evidently prepared for once to sacrifice themselves as partners.

Somerset felt something of a thrill at the sight. He was an infrequent
dancer, and particularly unprepared for dancing at present; but to dance
once with Paula Power he would give a year of his life. He looked round;
but she was nowhere to be seen. The first set began; old and middle-aged
people gathered from the different rooms to look on at the gyrations of
their children, but Paula did not appear. When another dance or two had
progressed, and an increase in the average age of the dancers was making
itself perceptible, especially on the masculine side, Somerset was
aroused by a whisper at his elbow--

‘You dance, I think? Miss Deverell is disengaged. She has not been asked
once this evening.’ The speaker was Paula.

Somerset looked at Miss Deverell--a sallow lady with black twinkling
eyes, yellow costume, and gay laugh, who had been there all the
afternoon--and said something about having thought of going home.

‘Is that because I asked you to dance?’ she murmured. ‘There--she is
appropriated.’ A young gentleman had at that moment approached the
uninviting Miss Deverell, claimed her hand and led her off.

‘That’s right,’ said Somerset. ‘I ought to leave room for younger men.’

‘You need not say so. That bald-headed gentleman is forty-five. He does
not think of younger men.’

‘Have YOU a dance to spare for me?’

Her face grew stealthily redder in the candle-light. ‘O!--I have no
engagement at all--I have refused. I hardly feel at liberty to dance; it
would be as well to leave that to my visitors.’

‘Why?’

‘My father, though he allowed me to be taught, never liked the idea of
my dancing.’

‘Did he make you promise anything on the point?’

‘He said he was not in favour of such amusements--no more.’

‘I think you are not bound by that, on an informal occasion like the
present.’

She was silent.

‘You will just once?’ said he.

Another silence. ‘If you like,’ she venturesomely answered at last.

Somerset closed the hand which was hanging by his side, and somehow hers
was in it. The dance was nearly formed, and he led her forward. Several
persons looked at them significantly, but he did not notice it then, and
plunged into the maze.

Never had Mr. Somerset passed through such an experience before. Had he
not felt her actual weight and warmth, he might have fancied the whole
episode a figment of the imagination. It seemed as if those musicians
had thrown a double sweetness into their notes on seeing the mistress of
the castle in the dance, that a perfumed southern atmosphere had begun
to pervade the marquee, and that human beings were shaking themselves
free of all inconvenient gravitation.

Somerset’s feelings burst from his lips. ‘This is the happiest moment I
have ever known,’ he said. ‘Do you know why?’

‘I think I saw a flash of lightning through the opening of the tent,’
said Paula, with roguish abruptness.

He did not press for an answer. Within a few minutes a long growl of
thunder was heard. It was as if Jove could not refrain from
testifying his jealousy of Somerset for taking this covetable woman so
presumptuously in his arms.

The dance was over, and he had retired with Paula to the back of the
tent, when another faint flash of lightning was visible through an
opening. She lifted the canvas, and looked out, Somerset looking out
behind her. Another dance was begun, and being on this account left out
of notice, Somerset did not hasten to leave Paula’s side.

‘I think they begin to feel the heat,’ she said.

‘A little ventilation would do no harm.’ He flung back the tent door
where he stood, and the light shone out upon the grass.

‘I must go to the drawing-room soon,’ she added. ‘They will begin to
leave shortly.’

‘It is not late. The thunder-cloud has made it seem dark--see there;
a line of pale yellow stretches along the horizon from west to north.
That’s evening--not gone yet. Shall we go into the fresh air for a
minute?’

She seemed to signify assent, and he stepped off the tent-floor upon the
ground. She stepped off also.

The air out-of-doors had not cooled, and without definitely choosing a
direction they found themselves approaching a little wooden tea-house
that stood on the lawn a few yards off. Arrived here, they turned, and
regarded the tent they had just left, and listened to the strains that
came from within it.

‘I feel more at ease now,’ said Paula.

‘So do I,’ said Somerset.

‘I mean,’ she added in an undeceiving tone, ‘because I saw Mrs. Goodman
enter the tent again just as we came out here; so I have no further
responsibility.’

‘I meant something quite different. Try to guess what.’

She teasingly demurred, finally breaking the silence by saying, ‘The
rain is come at last,’ as great drops began to fall upon the ground with
a smack, like pellets of clay.

In a moment the storm poured down with sudden violence, and they drew
further back into the summer-house. The side of the tent from which they
had emerged still remained open, the rain streaming down between their
eyes and the lighted interior of the marquee like a tissue of glass
threads, the brilliant forms of the dancers passing and repassing behind
the watery screen, as if they were people in an enchanted submarine
palace.

‘How happy they are!’ said Paula. ‘They don’t even know that it is
raining. I am so glad that my aunt had the tent lined; otherwise such a
downpour would have gone clean through it.’

The thunder-storm showed no symptoms of abatement, and the music and
dancing went on more merrily than ever.

‘We cannot go in,’ said Somerset. ‘And we cannot shout for umbrellas. We
will stay till it is over, will we not?’

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘if you care to. Ah!’

‘What is it?’

‘Only a big drop came upon my head.’

‘Let us stand further in.’

Her hand was hanging by her side, and Somerset’s was close by. He took
it, and she did not draw it away. Thus they stood a long while, the rain
hissing down upon the grass-plot, and not a soul being visible outside
the dancing-tent save themselves.

‘May I call you Paula?’ asked he.

There was no answer.

‘May I?’ he repeated.

‘Yes, occasionally,’ she murmured.

‘Dear Paula!--may I call you that?’

‘O no--not yet.’

‘But you know I love you?’

‘Yes,’ she whispered.

‘And shall I love you always?’

‘If you wish to.’

‘And will you love me?’

Paula did not reply.

‘Will you, Paula?’ he repeated.

‘You may love me.’

‘But don’t you love me in return?’

‘I love you to love me.’

‘Won’t you say anything more explicit?’

‘I would rather not.’

Somerset emitted half a sigh: he wished she had been more demonstrative,
yet felt that this passive way of assenting was as much as he could hope
for. Had there been anything cold in her passivity he might have
felt repressed; but her stillness suggested the stillness of motion
imperceptible from its intensity.

‘We must go in,’ said she. ‘The rain is almost over, and there is no
longer any excuse for this.’

Somerset bent his lips toward hers. ‘No,’ said the fair Puritan
decisively.

‘Why not?’ he asked.

‘Nobody ever has.’

‘But!--’ expostulated Somerset.

‘To everything there is a season, and the season for this is not just
now,’ she answered, walking away.

They crossed the wet and glistening lawn, stepped under the tent and
parted. She vanished, he did not know whither; and, standing with his
gaze fixed on the dancers, the young man waited, till, being in no mood
to join them, he went slowly through the artificial passage lined with
flowers, and entered the drawing room. Mrs. Goodman was there, bidding
good-night to the early goers, and Paula was just behind her, apparently
in her usual mood. His parting with her was quite formal, but that he
did not mind, for her colour rose decidedly higher as he approached, and
the light in her eyes was like the ray of a diamond.

When he reached the door he found that his brougham from the Quantock
Arms, which had been waiting more than an hour, could not be heard of.
That vagrancy of spirit which love induces would not permit him to wait;
and, leaving word that the man was to follow him when he returned, he
went past the glare of carriage-lamps ranked in the ward, and under the
outer arch. The night was now clear and beautiful, and he strolled along
his way full of mysterious elation till the vehicle overtook him, and he
got in.

Up to this point Somerset’s progress in his suit had been, though
incomplete, so uninterrupted, that he almost feared the good chance he
enjoyed. How should it be in a mortal of his calibre to command success
with such a sweet woman for long? He might, indeed, turn out to be
one of the singular exceptions which are said to prove rules; but when
fortune means to men most good, observes the bard, she looks upon them
with a threatening eye. Somerset would even have been content that a
little disapproval of his course should have occurred in some quarter,
so as to make his wooing more like ordinary life. But Paula was not
clearly won, and that was drawback sufficient. In these pleasing agonies
and painful delights he passed the journey to Markton.



BOOK THE SECOND. DARE AND HAVILL.


I.

Young Dare sat thoughtfully at the window of the studio in which
Somerset had left him, till the gay scene beneath became embrowned by
the twilight, and the brilliant red stripes of the marquees, the
bright sunshades, the many-tinted costumes of the ladies, were
indistinguishable from the blacks and greys of the masculine contingent
moving among them. He had occasionally glanced away from the outward
prospect to study a small old volume that lay before him on the
drawing-board. Near scrutiny revealed the book to bear the title
‘Moivre’s Doctrine of Chances.’

The evening had been so still that Dare had heard conversations from
below with a clearness unsuspected by the speakers themselves; and among
the dialogues which thus reached his ears was that between Somerset and
Havill on their professional rivalry. When they parted, and Somerset had
mingled with the throng, Havill went to a seat at a distance. Afterwards
he rose, and walked away; but on the bench he had quitted there remained
a small object resembling a book or leather case.

Dare put away the drawing-board and plotting-scales which he had kept
before him during the evening as a reason for his presence at that post
of espial, locked up the door, and went downstairs. Notwithstanding his
dismissal by Somerset, he was so serene in countenance and easy in gait
as to make it a fair conjecture that professional servitude, however
profitable, was no necessity with him. The gloom now rendered it
practicable for any unbidden guest to join Paula’s assemblage without
criticism, and Dare walked boldly out upon the lawn. The crowd on the
grass was rapidly diminishing; the tennis-players had relinquished
sport; many people had gone in to dinner or supper; and many others,
attracted by the cheerful radiance of the candles, were gathering in the
large tent that had been lighted up for dancing.

Dare went to the garden-chair on which Havill had been seated, and found
the article left behind to be a pocket-book. Whether because it was
unclasped and fell open in his hand, or otherwise, he did not hesitate
to examine the contents. Among a mass of architect’s customary memoranda
occurred a draft of the letter abusing Paula as an iconoclast or
Vandal by blood, which had appeared in the newspaper: the draft was
so interlined and altered as to bear evidence of being the original
conception of that ungentlemanly attack.

The lad read the letter, smiled, and strolled about the grounds,
only met by an occasional pair of individuals of opposite sex in deep
conversation, the state of whose emotions led them to prefer the evening
shade to the publicity and glare of the tents and rooms. At last he
observed the white waistcoat of the man he sought.

‘Mr. Havill, the architect, I believe?’ said Dare. ‘The author of most
of the noteworthy buildings in this neighbourhood?’

Havill assented blandly.

‘I have long wished for the pleasure of your acquaintance, and now an
accident helps me to make it. This pocket-book, I think, is yours?’

Havill clapped his hand to his pocket, examined the book Dare held out
to him, and took it with thanks. ‘I see I am speaking to the artist,
archaeologist, Gothic photographer--Mr. Dare.’

‘Professor Dare.’

‘Professor? Pardon me, I should not have guessed it--so young as you
are.’

‘Well, it is merely ornamental; and in truth, I drop the title in
England, particularly under present circumstances.’

‘Ah--they are peculiar, perhaps? Ah, I remember. I have heard that you
are assisting a gentleman in preparing a design in opposition to mine--a
design--’

‘“That he is not competent to prepare himself,” you were perhaps going
to add?’

‘Not precisely that.’

‘You could hardly be blamed for such words. However, you are mistaken.
I did assist him to gain a little further insight into the working of
architectural plans; but our views on art are antagonistic, and I assist
him no more. Mr. Havill, it must be very provoking to a well-established
professional man to have a rival sprung at him in a grand undertaking
which he had a right to expect as his own.’

Professional sympathy is often accepted from those whose condolence on
any domestic matter would be considered intrusive. Havill walked up and
down beside Dare for a few moments in silence, and at last showed that
the words had told, by saying: ‘Every one may have his opinion. Had I
been a stranger to the Power family, the case would have been different;
but having been specially elected by the lady’s father as a competent
adviser in such matters, and then to be degraded to the position of a
mere competitor, it wounds me to the quick--’

‘Both in purse and in person, like the ill-used hostess of the Garter.’

‘A lady to whom I have been a staunch friend,’ continued Havill, not
heeding the interruption.

At that moment sounds seemed to come from Dare which bore a remarkable
resemblance to the words, ‘Ho, ho, Havill!’ It was hardly credible,
and yet, could he be mistaken? Havill turned. Dare’s eye was twisted
comically upward.

‘What does that mean?’ said Havill coldly, and with some amazement.

‘Ho, ho, Havill! “Staunch friend” is good--especially after “an
iconoclast and Vandal by blood”--“monstrosity in the form of a Greek
temple,” and so on, eh!’

‘Sir, you have the advantage of me. Perhaps you allude to that anonymous
letter?’

‘O-ho, Havill!’ repeated the boy-man, turning his eyes yet further
towards the zenith. ‘To an outsider such conduct would be natural;
but to a friend who finds your pocket-book, and looks into it before
returning it, and kindly removes a leaf bearing the draft of a letter
which might injure you if discovered there, and carefully conceals it
in his own pocket--why, such conduct is unkind!’ Dare held up the
abstracted leaf.

Havill trembled. ‘I can explain,’ he began.

‘It is not necessary: we are friends,’ said Dare assuringly.

Havill looked as if he would like to snatch the leaf away, but altering
his mind, he said grimly: ‘Well, I take you at your word: we are
friends. That letter was concocted before I knew of the competition:
it was during my first disgust, when I believed myself entirely
supplanted.’

‘I am not in the least surprised. But if she knew YOU to be the writer!’

‘I should be ruined as far as this competition is concerned,’ said
Havill carelessly. ‘Had I known I was to be invited to compete, I should
not have written it, of course. To be supplanted is hard; and thereby
hangs a tale.’

‘Another tale? You astonish me.’

‘Then you have not heard the scandal, though everybody is talking about
it.’

‘A scandal implies indecorum.’

‘Well, ‘tis indecorous. Her infatuated partiality for him is patent to
the eyes of a child; a man she has only known a few weeks, and one who
obtained admission to her house in the most irregular manner! Had she a
watchful friend beside her, instead of that moonstruck Mrs. Goodman, she
would be cautioned against bestowing her favours on the first adventurer
who appears at her door. It is a pity, a great pity!’

‘O, there is love-making in the wind?’ said Dare slowly. ‘That alters
the case for me. But it is not proved?’

‘It can easily be proved.’

‘I wish it were, or disproved.’

‘You have only to come this way to clear up all doubts.’

Havill took the lad towards the tent, from which the strains of a waltz
now proceeded, and on whose sides flitting shadows told of the progress
of the dance. The companions looked in. The rosy silk lining of the
marquee, and the numerous coronas of wax lights, formed a canopy to a
radiant scene which, for two at least of those who composed it, was an
intoxicating one. Paula and Somerset were dancing together.

‘That proves nothing,’ said Dare.

‘Look at their rapt faces, and say if it does not,’ sneered Havill.

Dare objected to a judgment based on looks alone.

‘Very well--time will show,’ said the architect, dropping the
tent-curtain.... ‘Good God! a girl worth fifty thousand and more a year
to throw herself away upon a fellow like that--she ought to be whipped.’

‘Time must NOT show!’ said Dare.

‘You speak with emphasis.’

‘I have reason. I would give something to be sure on this point, one way
or the other. Let us wait till the dance is over, and observe them more
carefully. Horensagen ist halb gelogen! Hearsay is half lies.’

Sheet-lightnings increased in the northern sky, followed by thunder like
the indistinct noise of a battle. Havill and Dare retired to the trees.
When the dance ended Somerset and his partner emerged from the tent,
and slowly moved towards the tea-house. Divining their goal Dare seized
Havill’s arm; and the two worthies entered the building unseen, by first
passing round behind it. They seated themselves in the back part of the
interior, where darkness prevailed.

As before related, Paula and Somerset came and stood within the door.
When the rain increased they drew themselves further inward, their forms
being distinctly outlined to the gaze of those lurking behind by the
light from the tent beyond. But the hiss of the falling rain and the
lowness of their tones prevented their words from being heard.

‘I wish myself out of this!’ breathed Havill to Dare, as he buttoned his
coat over his white waistcoat. ‘I told you it was true, but you wouldn’t
believe. I wouldn’t she should catch me here eavesdropping for the
world!’

‘Courage, Man Friday,’ said his cooler comrade.

Paula and her lover backed yet further, till the hem of her skirt
touched Havill’s feet. Their attitudes were sufficient to prove their
relations to the most obstinate Didymus who should have witnessed them.
Tender emotions seemed to pervade the summer-house like an aroma. The
calm ecstasy of the condition of at least one of them was not without
a coercive effect upon the two invidious spectators, so that they must
need have remained passive had they come there to disturb or annoy. The
serenity of Paula was even more impressive than the hushed ardour of
Somerset: she did not satisfy curiosity as Somerset satisfied it; she
piqued it. Poor Somerset had reached a perfectly intelligible depth--one
which had a single blissful way out of it, and nine calamitous ones; but
Paula remained an enigma all through the scene.

The rain ceased, and the pair moved away. The enchantment worked by
their presence vanished, the details of the meeting settled down in
the watchers’ minds, and their tongues were loosened. Dare, turning to
Havill, said, ‘Thank you; you have done me a timely turn to-day.’

‘What! had you hopes that way?’ asked Havill satirically.

‘I! The woman that interests my heart has yet to be born,’ said Dare,
with a steely coldness strange in such a juvenile, and yet almost
convincing. ‘But though I have not personal hopes, I have an objection
to this courtship. Now I think we may as well fraternize, the situation
being what it is?’

‘What is the situation?’

‘He is in your way as her architect; he is in my way as her lover: we
don’t want to hurt him, but we wish him clean out of the neighbourhood.’

‘I’ll go as far as that,’ said Havill.

‘I have come here at some trouble to myself, merely to observe: I find I
ought to stay to act.’

‘If you were myself, a married man with people dependent on him, who has
had a professional certainty turned to a miserably remote contingency
by these events, you might say you ought to act; but what conceivable
difference it can make to you who it is the young lady takes to her
heart and home, I fail to understand.’

‘Well, I’ll tell you--this much at least. I want to keep the place
vacant for another man.’

‘The place?’

‘The place of husband to Miss Power, and proprietor of that castle and
domain.’

‘That’s a scheme with a vengeance. Who is the man?’

‘It is my secret at present.’

‘Certainly.’ Havill drew a deep breath, and dropped into a tone of
depression. ‘Well, scheme as you will, there will be small advantage to
me,’ he murmured. ‘The castle commission is as good as gone, and a bill
for two hundred pounds falls due next week.’

‘Cheer up, heart! My position, if you only knew it, has ten times
the difficulties of yours, since this disagreeable discovery. Let us
consider if we can assist each other. The competition drawings are to be
sent in--when?’

‘In something over six weeks--a fortnight before she returns from the
Scilly Isles, for which place she leaves here in a few days.’

‘O, she goes away--that’s better. Our lover will be working here at his
drawings, and she not present.’

‘Exactly. Perhaps she is a little ashamed of the intimacy.’

‘And if your design is considered best by the committee, he will have
no further reason for staying, assuming that they are not definitely
engaged to marry by that time?’

‘I suppose so,’ murmured Havill discontentedly. ‘The conditions, as sent
to me, state that the designs are to be adjudicated on by three members
of the Institute called in for the purpose; so that she may return, and
have seemed to show no favour.’

‘Then it amounts to this: your design MUST be best. It must combine the
excellences of your invention with the excellences of his. Meanwhile a
coolness should be made to arise between her and him: and as there
would be no artistic reason for his presence here after the verdict is
pronounced, he would perforce hie back to town. Do you see?’

‘I see the ingenuity of the plan, but I also see two insurmountable
obstacles to it. The first is, I cannot add the excellences of his
design to mine without knowing what those excellences are, which he
will of course keep a secret. Second, it will not be easy to promote a
coolness between such hot ones as they.’

‘You make a mistake. It is only he who is so ardent. She is only
lukewarm. If we had any spirit, a bargain would be struck between us:
you would appropriate his design; I should cause the coolness.’

‘How could I appropriate his design?’

‘By copying it, I suppose.’

‘Copying it?’

‘By going into his studio and looking it over.’

Havill turned to Dare, and stared. ‘By George, you don’t stick at
trifles, young man. You don’t suppose I would go into a man’s rooms and
steal his inventions like that?’

‘I scarcely suppose you would,’ said Dare indifferently, as he rose.

‘And if I were to,’ said Havill curiously, ‘how is the coolness to be
caused?’

‘By the second man.’

‘Who is to produce him?’

‘Her Majesty’s Government.’

Havill looked meditatively at his companion, and shook his head. ‘In
these idle suppositions we have been assuming conduct which would be
quite against my principles as an honest man.’



II.

A few days after the party at Stancy Castle, Dare was walking down the
High Street of Markton, a cigarette between his lips and a silver-topped
cane in his hand. His eye fell upon a brass plate on an opposite door,
bearing the name of Mr. Havill, Architect. He crossed over, and rang the
office bell.

The clerk who admitted him stated that Mr. Havill was in his private
room, and would be disengaged in a short time. While Dare waited the
clerk affixed to the door a piece of paper bearing the words ‘Back at
2,’ and went away to his dinner, leaving Dare in the room alone.

Dare looked at the different drawings on the boards about the room.
They all represented one subject, which, though unfinished as yet, and
bearing no inscription, was recognized by the visitor as the design for
the enlargement and restoration of Stancy Castle. When he had glanced it
over Dare sat down.

The doors between the office and private room were double; but the one
towards the office being only ajar Dare could hear a conversation in
progress within. It presently rose to an altercation, the tenor of which
was obvious. Somebody had come for money.

‘Really I can stand it no longer, Mr. Havill--really I will not!’ said
the creditor excitedly. ‘Now this bill overdue again--what can you
expect? Why, I might have negotiated it; and where would you have been
then? Instead of that, I have locked it up out of consideration for you;
and what do I get for my considerateness? I shall let the law take its
course!’

‘You’ll do me inexpressible harm, and get nothing whatever,’ said
Havill. ‘If you would renew for another three months there would be no
difficulty in the matter.’

‘You have said so before: I will do no such thing.’

There was a silence; whereupon Dare arose without hesitation, and walked
boldly into the private office. Havill was standing at one end, as
gloomy as a thundercloud, and at the other was the unfortunate creditor
with his hat on. Though Dare’s entry surprised them, both parties seemed
relieved.

‘I have called in passing to congratulate you, Mr. Havill,’ said Dare
gaily. ‘Such a commission as has been entrusted to you will make you
famous!’

‘How do you do?--I wish it would make me rich,’ said Havill drily.

‘It will be a lift in that direction, from what I know of the
profession. What is she going to spend?’

‘A hundred thousand.’

‘Your commission as architect, five thousand. Not bad, for making a few
sketches. Consider what other great commissions such a work will lead
to.’

‘What great work is this?’ asked the creditor.

‘Stancy Castle,’ said Dare, since Havill seemed too agape to answer.
‘You have not heard of it, then? Those are the drawings, I presume, in
the next room?’

Havill replied in the affirmative, beginning to perceive the manoeuvre.
‘Perhaps you would like to see them?’ he said to the creditor.

The latter offered no objection, and all three went into the
drawing-office.

‘It will certainly be a magnificent structure,’ said the creditor, after
regarding the elevations through his spectacles. ‘Stancy Castle: I had
no idea of it! and when do you begin to build, Mr. Havill?’ he inquired
in mollified tones.

‘In three months, I think?’ said Dare, looking to Havill.

Havill assented.

‘Five thousand pounds commission,’ murmured the creditor. ‘Paid down, I
suppose?’

Havill nodded.

‘And the works will not linger for lack of money to carry them out, I
imagine,’ said Dare. ‘Two hundred thousand will probably be spent before
the work is finished.’

‘There is not much doubt of it,’ said Havill.

‘You said nothing to me about this?’ whispered the creditor to Havill,
taking him aside, with a look of regret.

‘You would not listen!’

‘It alters the case greatly.’ The creditor retired with Havill to the
door, and after a subdued colloquy in the passage he went away, Havill
returning to the office.

‘What the devil do you mean by hoaxing him like this, when the job is no
more mine than Inigo Jones’s?’

‘Don’t be too curious,’ said Dare, laughing. ‘Rather thank me for
getting rid of him.’

‘But it is all a vision!’ said Havill, ruefully regarding the pencilled
towers of Stancy Castle. ‘If the competition were really the commission
that you have represented it to be there might be something to laugh
at.’

‘It must be made a commission, somehow,’ returned Dare carelessly. ‘I am
come to lend you a little assistance. I must stay in the neighbourhood,
and I have nothing else to do.’

A carriage slowly passed the window, and Havill recognized the Power
liveries. ‘Hullo--she’s coming here!’ he said under his breath, as the
carriage stopped by the kerb. ‘What does she want, I wonder? Dare, does
she know you?’

‘I would just as soon be out of the way.’

‘Then go into the garden.’

Dare went out through the back office as Paula was shown in at the
front. She wore a grey travelling costume, and seemed to be in some
haste.

‘I am on my way to the railway-station,’ she said to Havill. ‘I shall be
absent from home for several weeks, and since you requested it, I have
called to inquire how you are getting on with the design.’

‘Please look it over,’ said Havill, placing a seat for her.

‘No,’ said Paula. ‘I think it would be unfair. I have not looked at
Mr.--the other architect’s plans since he has begun to design seriously,
and I will not look at yours. Are you getting on quite well, and do you
want to know anything more? If so, go to the castle, and get anybody to
assist you. Why would you not make use of the room at your disposal in
the castle, as the other architect has done?’

In asking the question her face was towards the window, and suddenly her
cheeks became a rosy red. She instantly looked another way.

‘Having my own office so near, it was not necessary, thank you,’ replied
Havill, as, noting her countenance, he allowed his glance to stray into
the street. Somerset was walking past on the opposite side.

‘The time is--the time fixed for sending in the drawings is the first
of November, I believe,’ she said confusedly; ‘and the decision will be
come to by three gentlemen who are prominent members of the Institute of
Architects.’

Havill then accompanied her to the carriage, and she drove away.

Havill went to the back window to tell Dare that he need not stay in the
garden; but the garden was empty. The architect remained alone in his
office for some time; at the end of a quarter of an hour, when the
scream of a railway whistle had echoed down the still street, he beheld
Somerset repassing the window in a direction from the railway, with
somewhat of a sad gait. In another minute Dare entered, humming the
latest air of Offenbach.

‘’Tis a mere piece of duplicity!’ said Havill.

‘What is?’

‘Her pretending indifference as to which of us comes out successful in
the competition, when she colours carmine the moment Somerset passes
by.’ He described Paula’s visit, and the incident.

‘It may not mean Cupid’s Entire XXX after all,’ said Dare judicially.
‘The mere suspicion that a certain man loves her would make a girl blush
at his unexpected appearance. Well, she’s gone from him for a time; the
better for you.’

‘He has been privileged to see her off at any rate.’

‘Not privileged.’

‘How do you know that?’

‘I went out of your garden by the back gate, and followed her carriage
to the railway. He simply went to the first bridge outside the station,
and waited. When she was in the train, it moved forward; he was all
expectation, and drew out his handkerchief ready to wave, while she
looked out of the window towards the bridge. The train backed before
it reached the bridge, to attach the box containing her horses, and the
carriage-truck. Then it started for good, and when it reached the bridge
she looked out again, he waving his handkerchief to her.’

‘And she waving hers back?’

‘No, she didn’t.’

‘Ah!’

‘She looked at him--nothing more. I wouldn’t give much for his chance.’
After a while Dare added musingly: ‘You are a mathematician: did you
ever investigate the doctrine of expectations?’

‘Never.’

Dare drew from his pocket his ‘Book of Chances,’ a volume as well
thumbed as the minister’s Bible. ‘This is a treatise on the subject,’ he
said. ‘I will teach it to you some day.’



The same evening Havill asked Dare to dine with him. He was just at
this time living en garcon, his wife and children being away on a visit.
After dinner they sat on till their faces were rather flushed. The talk
turned, as before, on the castle-competition.

‘To know his design is to win,’ said Dare. ‘And to win is to send him
back to London where he came from.’

Havill inquired if Dare had seen any sketch of the design while with
Somerset?

‘Not a line. I was concerned only with the old building.’

‘Not to know it is to lose, undoubtedly,’ murmured Havill.

‘Suppose we go for a walk that way, instead of consulting here?’

They went down the town, and along the highway. When they reached the
entrance to the park a man driving a basket-carriage came out from the
gate and passed them by in the gloom.

‘That was he,’ said Dare. ‘He sometimes drives over from the hotel, and
sometimes walks. He has been working late this evening.’

Strolling on under the trees they met three masculine figures, laughing
and talking loudly.

‘Those are the three first-class London draughtsmen, Bowles, Knowles,
and Cockton, whom he has engaged to assist him, regardless of expense,’
continued Dare.

‘O Lord!’ groaned Havill. ‘There’s no chance for me.’

The castle now arose before them, endowed by the rayless shade with a
more massive majesty than either sunlight or moonlight could impart; and
Havill sighed again as he thought of what he was losing by Somerset’s
rivalry. ‘Well, what was the use of coming here?’ he asked.

‘I thought it might suggest something--some way of seeing the design.
The servants would let us into his room, I dare say.’

‘I don’t care to ask. Let us walk through the wards, and then homeward.’

They sauntered on smoking, Dare leading the way through the gate-house
into a corridor which was not inclosed, a lamp hanging at the further
end.

‘We are getting into the inhabited part, I think,’ said Havill.

Dare, however, had gone on, and knowing the tortuous passages from his
few days’ experience in measuring them with Somerset, he came to the
butler’s pantry. Dare knocked, and nobody answering he entered, took
down a key which hung behind the door, and rejoined Havill. ‘It is
all right,’ he said. ‘The cat’s away; and the mice are at play in
consequence.’

Proceeding up a stone staircase he unlocked the door of a room in the
dark, struck a light inside, and returning to the door called in a
whisper to Havill, who had remained behind. ‘This is Mr. Somerset’s
studio,’ he said.

‘How did you get permission?’ inquired Havill, not knowing that Dare had
seen no one.

‘Anyhow,’ said Dare carelessly. ‘We can examine the plans at leisure;
for if the placid Mrs. Goodman, who is the only one at home, sees the
light, she will only think it is Somerset still at work.’

Dare uncovered the drawings, and young Somerset’s brain-work for the
last six weeks lay under their eyes. To Dare, who was too cursory
to trouble himself by entering into such details, it had very little
meaning; but the design shone into Havill’s head like a light into a
dark place. It was original; and it was fascinating. Its originality lay
partly in the circumstance that Somerset had not attempted to adapt an
old building to the wants of the new civilization. He had placed his new
erection beside it as a slightly attached structure, harmonizing with
the old; heightening and beautifying, rather than subduing it. His work
formed a palace, with a ruinous castle annexed as a curiosity. To
Havill the conception had more charm than it could have to the most
appreciative outsider; for when a mediocre and jealous mind that has
been cudgelling itself over a problem capable of many solutions, lights
on the solution of a rival, all possibilities in that kind seem to merge
in the one beheld.

Dare was struck by the arrested expression of the architect’s face. ‘Is
it rather good?’ he asked.

‘Yes, rather,’ said Havill, subduing himself.

‘More than rather?’

‘Yes, the clever devil!’ exclaimed Havill, unable to depreciate longer.

‘How?’

‘The riddle that has worried me three weeks he has solved in a way which
is simplicity itself. He has got it, and I am undone!’

‘Nonsense, don’t give way. Let’s make a tracing.’

‘The ground-plan will be sufficient,’ said Havill, his courage reviving.
‘The idea is so simple, that if once seen it is not easily forgotten.’

A rough tracing of Somerset’s design was quickly made, and blowing out
the candle with a wave of his hand, the younger gentleman locked the
door, and they went downstairs again.

‘I should never have thought of it,’ said Havill, as they walked
homeward.

‘One man has need of another every ten years: Ogni dieci anni un uomo ha
bisogno dell’ altro, as they say in Italy. You’ll help me for this turn
if I have need of you?’

‘I shall never have the power.’

‘O yes, you will. A man who can contrive to get admitted to a
competition by writing a letter abusing another man, has any amount of
power. The stroke was a good one.’

Havill was silent till he said, ‘I think these gusts mean that we are to
have a storm of rain.’

Dare looked up. The sky was overcast, the trees shivered, and a drop or
two began to strike into the walkers’ coats from the east. They were not
far from the inn at Sleeping-Green, where Dare had lodgings, occupying
the rooms which had been used by Somerset till he gave them up for more
commodious chambers at Markton; and they decided to turn in there till
the rain should be over.

Having possessed himself of Somerset’s brains Havill was inclined to be
jovial, and ordered the best in wines that the house afforded. Before
starting from home they had drunk as much as was good for them; so
that their potations here soon began to have a marked effect upon their
tongues. The rain beat upon the windows with a dull dogged pertinacity
which seemed to signify boundless reserves of the same and long
continuance. The wind rose, the sign creaked, and the candles waved. The
weather had, in truth, broken up for the season, and this was the first
night of the change.

‘Well, here we are,’ said Havill, as he poured out another glass of the
brandied liquor called old port at Sleeping-Green; ‘and it seems that
here we are to remain for the present.’

‘I am at home anywhere!’ cried the lad, whose brow was hot and eye wild.

Havill, who had not drunk enough to affect his reasoning, held up his
glass to the light and said, ‘I never can quite make out what you are,
or what your age is. Are you sixteen, one-and-twenty, or twenty-seven?
And are you an Englishman, Frenchman, Indian, American, or what? You
seem not to have taken your degrees in these parts.’

‘That’s a secret, my friend,’ said Dare. ‘I am a citizen of the world.
I owe no country patriotism, and no king or queen obedience. A man whose
country has no boundary is your only true gentleman.’

‘Well, where were you born--somewhere, I suppose?’

‘It would be a fact worth the telling. The secret of my birth lies
here.’ And Dare slapped his breast with his right hand.

‘Literally, just under your shirt-front; or figuratively, in your
heart?’ asked Havill.

‘Literally there. It is necessary that it should be recorded, for one’s
own memory is a treacherous book of reference, should verification be
required at a time of delirium, disease, or death.’

Havill asked no further what he meant, and went to the door. Finding
that the rain still continued he returned to Dare, who was by this time
sinking down in a one-sided attitude, as if hung up by the shoulder.
Informing his companion that he was but little inclined to move far
in such a tempestuous night, he decided to remain in the inn till next
morning. On calling in the landlord, however, they learnt that the house
was full of farmers on their way home from a large sheep-fair in the
neighbourhood, and that several of these, having decided to stay on
account of the same tempestuous weather, had already engaged the spare
beds. If Mr. Dare would give up his room, and share a double-bedded room
with Mr. Havill, the thing could be done, but not otherwise.

To this the two companions agreed, and presently went upstairs with as
gentlemanly a walk and vertical a candle as they could exhibit under the
circumstances.

The other inmates of the inn soon retired to rest, and the storm raged
on unheeded by all local humanity.



III.

At two o’clock the rain lessened its fury. At half-past two the obscured
moon shone forth; and at three Havill awoke. The blind had not been
pulled down overnight, and the moonlight streamed into the room, across
the bed whereon Dare was sleeping. He lay on his back, his arms thrown
out; and his well-curved youthful form looked like an unpedestaled
Dionysus in the colourless lunar rays.

Sleep had cleared Havill’s mind from the drowsing effects of the last
night’s sitting, and he thought of Dare’s mysterious manner in speaking
of himself. This lad resembled the Etruscan youth Tages, in one respect,
that of being a boy with, seemingly, the wisdom of a sage; and the
effect of his presence was now heightened by all those sinister and
mystic attributes which are lent by nocturnal environment. He who in
broad daylight might be but a young chevalier d’industrie was now an
unlimited possibility in social phenomena. Havill remembered how the lad
had pointed to his breast, and said that his secret was literally kept
there. The architect was too much of a provincial to have quenched
the common curiosity that was part of his nature by the acquired
metropolitan indifference to other people’s lives which, in essence more
unworthy even than the former, causes less practical inconvenience in
its exercise.

Dare was breathing profoundly. Instigated as above mentioned, Havill
got out of bed and stood beside the sleeper. After a moment’s pause he
gently pulled back the unfastened collar of Dare’s nightshirt and saw
a word tattooed in distinct characters on his breast. Before there was
time for Havill to decipher it Dare moved slightly, as if conscious of
disturbance, and Havill hastened back to bed. Dare bestirred himself yet
more, whereupon Havill breathed heavily, though keeping an intent glance
on the lad through his half-closed eyes to learn if he had been aware of
the investigation.

Dare was certainly conscious of something, for he sat up, rubbed his
eyes, and gazed around the room; then after a few moments of reflection
he drew some article from beneath his pillow. A blue gleam shone from
the object as Dare held it in the moonlight, and Havill perceived that
it was a small revolver.

A clammy dew broke out upon the face and body of the architect when,
stepping out of bed with the weapon in his hand, Dare looked under the
bed, behind the curtains, out of the window, and into a closet, as if
convinced that something had occurred, but in doubt as to what it was.
He then came across to where Havill was lying and still keeping up the
appearance of sleep. Watching him awhile and mistrusting the reality
of this semblance, Dare brought it to the test by holding the revolver
within a few inches of Havill’s forehead.

Havill could stand no more. Crystallized with terror, he said, without
however moving more than his lips, in dread of hasty action on the part
of Dare: ‘O, good Lord, Dare, Dare, I have done nothing!’

The youth smiled and lowered the pistol. ‘I was only finding out whether
it was you or some burglar who had been playing tricks upon me. I find
it was you.’

‘Do put away that thing! It is too ghastly to produce in a respectable
bedroom. Why do you carry it?’

‘Cosmopolites always do. Now answer my questions. What were you up to?’
and Dare as he spoke played with the pistol again.

Havill had recovered some coolness. ‘You could not use it upon me,’ he
said sardonically, watching Dare. ‘It would be risking your neck for too
little an object.’

‘I did not think you were shrewd enough to see that,’ replied Dare
carelessly, as he returned the revolver to its place. ‘Well, whether you
have outwitted me or no, you will keep the secret as long as I choose.’

‘Why?’ said Havill.

‘Because I keep your secret of the letter abusing Miss P., and of the
pilfered tracing you carry in your pocket.’

‘It is quite true,’ said Havill.

They went to bed again. Dare was soon asleep; but Havill did not attempt
to disturb him again. The elder man slept but fitfully. He was aroused
in the morning by a heavy rumbling and jingling along the highway
overlooked by the window, the front wall of the house being shaken by
the reverberation.

‘There is no rest for me here,’ he said, rising and going to the window,
carefully avoiding the neighbourhood of Mr. Dare. When Havill had
glanced out he returned to dress himself.

‘What’s that noise?’ said Dare, awakened by the same rumble.

‘It is the Artillery going away.’

‘From where?’

‘Markton barracks.’

‘Hurrah!’ said Dare, jumping up in bed. ‘I have been waiting for that
these six weeks.’

Havill did not ask questions as to the meaning of this unexpected
remark.

When they were downstairs Dare’s first act was to ring the bell and ask
if his Army and Navy Gazette had arrived.

While the servant was gone Havill cleared his throat and said, ‘I am an
architect, and I take in the Architect; you are an architect, and you
take in the Army and Navy Gazette.’

‘I am not an architect any more than I am a soldier; but I have taken in
the Army and Navy Gazette these many weeks.’

When they were at breakfast the paper came in. Dare hastily tore it open
and glanced at the pages.

‘I am going to Markton after breakfast!’ he said suddenly, before
looking up; ‘we will walk together if you like?’

They walked together as planned, and entered Markton about ten o’clock.

‘I have just to make a call here,’ said Dare, when they were opposite
the barrack-entrance on the outskirts of the town, where wheel-tracks
and a regular chain of hoof-marks left by the departed batteries were
imprinted in the gravel between the open gates. ‘I shall not be a
moment.’ Havill stood still while his companion entered and asked
the commissary in charge, or somebody representing him, when the new
batteries would arrive to take the place of those which had gone away.
He was informed that it would be about noon.

‘Now I am at your service,’ said Dare, ‘and will help you to rearrange
your design by the new intellectual light we have acquired.’

They entered Havill’s office and set to work. When contrasted with
the tracing from Somerset’s plan, Havill’s design, which was not far
advanced, revealed all its weaknesses to him. After seeing Somerset’s
scheme the bands of Havill’s imagination were loosened: he laid his own
previous efforts aside, got fresh sheets of drawing-paper and drew with
vigour.

‘I may as well stay and help you,’ said Dare. ‘I have nothing to do till
twelve o’clock; and not much then.’

So there he remained. At a quarter to twelve children and idlers began
to gather against the railings of Havill’s house. A few minutes past
twelve the noise of an arriving host was heard at the entrance to the
town. Thereupon Dare and Havill went to the window.

The X and Y Batteries of the Z Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery, were
entering Markton, each headed by the major with his bugler behind him.
In a moment they came abreast and passed, every man in his place; that
is to say:

Six shining horses, in pairs, harnessed by rope-traces white as milk,
with a driver on each near horse: two gunners on the lead-coloured
stout-wheeled limber, their carcases jolted to a jelly for lack of
springs: two gunners on the lead-coloured stout-wheeled gun-carriage,
in the same personal condition: the nine-pounder gun, dipping its heavy
head to earth, as if ashamed of its office in these enlightened times:
the complement of jingling and prancing troopers, riding at the wheels
and elsewhere: six shining horses with their drivers, and traces white
as milk, as before: two more gallant jolted men, on another jolting
limber, and more stout wheels and lead-coloured paint: two more jolted
men on another drooping gun: more jingling troopers on horseback: again
six shining draught-horses, traces, drivers, gun, gunners, lead paint,
stout wheels and troopers as before.

So each detachment lumbered slowly by, all eyes martially forward,
except when wandering in quest of female beauty.

‘He’s a fine fellow, is he not?’ said Dare, denoting by a nod a mounted
officer, with a sallow, yet handsome face, and black moustache, who came
up on a bay gelding with the men of his battery.

‘What is he?’ said Havill.

‘A captain who lacks advancement.’

‘Do you know him?’

‘I know him?’

‘Yes; do you?’

Dare made no reply; and they watched the captain as he rode past with
his drawn sword in his hand, the sun making a little sun upon its blade,
and upon his brilliantly polished long boots and bright spurs; also
warming his gold cross-belt and braidings, white gloves, busby with its
red bag, and tall white plume.

Havill seemed to be too indifferent to press his questioning; and when
all the soldiers had passed by, Dare observed to his companion that he
should leave him for a short time, but would return in the afternoon or
next day.

After this he walked up the street in the rear of the artillery,
following them to the barracks. On reaching the gates he found a crowd
of people gathered outside, looking with admiration at the guns and
gunners drawn up within the enclosure. When the soldiers were dismissed
to their quarters the sightseers dispersed, and Dare went through the
gates to the barrack-yard.

The guns were standing on the green; the soldiers and horses were
scattered about, and the handsome captain whom Dare had pointed out to
Havill was inspecting the buildings in the company of the quartermaster.
Dare made a mental note of these things, and, apparently changing a
previous intention, went out from the barracks and returned to the town.



IV.

To return for a while to George Somerset. The sun of his later existence
having vanished from that young man’s horizon, he confined himself
closely to the studio, superintending the exertions of his draughtsmen
Bowles, Knowles, and Cockton, who were now in the full swing of working
out Somerset’s creations from the sketches he had previously prepared.

He had so far got the start of Havill in the competition that, by the
help of these three gentlemen, his design was soon finished. But he
gained no unfair advantage on this account, an additional month being
allowed to Havill to compensate for his later information.

Before scaling up his drawings Somerset wished to spend a short time in
London, and dismissing his assistants till further notice, he locked up
the rooms which had been appropriated as office and studio and prepared
for the journey.

It was afternoon. Somerset walked from the castle in the direction of
the wood to reach Markton by a detour. He had not proceeded far when
there approached his path a man riding a bay horse with a square-cut
tail. The equestrian wore a grizzled beard, and looked at Somerset with
a piercing eye as he noiselessly ambled nearer over the soft sod of
the park. He proved to be Mr. Cunningham Haze, chief constable of the
district, who had become slightly known to Somerset during his sojourn
here.

‘One word, Mr. Somerset,’ said the Chief, after they had exchanged nods
of recognition, reining his horse as he spoke.

Somerset stopped.

‘You have a studio at the castle in which you are preparing drawings?’

‘I have.’

‘Have you a clerk?’

‘I had three till yesterday, when I paid them off.’

‘Would they have any right to enter the studio late at night?’

‘There would have been nothing wrong in their doing so. Either of them
might have gone back at any time for something forgotten. They lived
quite near the castle.’

‘Ah, then all is explained. I was riding past over the grass on the
night of last Thursday, and I saw two persons in your studio with a
light. It must have been about half-past nine o’clock. One of them came
forward and pulled down the blind so that the light fell upon his face.
But I only saw it for a short time.’

‘If it were Knowles or Cockton he would have had a beard.’

‘He had no beard.’

‘Then it must have been Bowles. A young man?’

‘Quite young. His companion in the background seemed older.’

‘They are all about the same age really. By the way--it couldn’t have
been Dare--and Havill, surely! Would you recognize them again?’

‘The young one possibly. The other not at all, for he remained in the
shade.’

Somerset endeavoured to discern in a description by the chief constable
the features of Mr. Bowles: but it seemed to approximate more closely to
Dare in spite of himself. ‘I’ll make a sketch of the only one who had no
business there, and show it to you,’ he presently said. ‘I should like
this cleared up.’

Mr. Cunningham Haze said he was going to Toneborough that afternoon, but
would return in the evening before Somerset’s departure. With this they
parted. A possible motive for Dare’s presence in the rooms had instantly
presented itself to Somerset’s mind, for he had seen Dare enter Havill’s
office more than once, as if he were at work there.

He accordingly sat on the next stile, and taking out his pocket-book
began a pencil sketch of Dare’s head, to show to Mr. Haze in the
evening; for if Dare had indeed found admission with Havill, or as his
agent, the design was lost.

But he could not make a drawing that was a satisfactory likeness. Then
he luckily remembered that Dare, in the intense warmth of admiration he
had affected for Somerset on the first day or two of their acquaintance,
had begged for his photograph, and in return for it had left one
of himself on the mantelpiece, taken as he said by his own process.
Somerset resolved to show this production to Mr. Haze, as being more
to the purpose than a sketch, and instead of finishing the latter,
proceeded on his way.

He entered the old overgrown drive which wound indirectly through the
wood to Markton. The road, having been laid out for idling rather than
for progress, bent sharply hither and thither among the fissured
trunks and layers of horny leaves which lay there all the year round,
interspersed with cushions of vivid green moss that formed oases in the
rust-red expanse.

Reaching a point where the road made one of its bends between two large
beeches, a man and woman revealed themselves at a few yards’ distance,
walking slowly towards him. In the short and quaint lady he recognized
Charlotte De Stancy, whom he remembered not to have seen for several
days.

She slightly blushed and said, ‘O, this is pleasant, Mr. Somerset!
Let me present my brother to you, Captain De Stancy of the Royal Horse
Artillery.’

Her brother came forward and shook hands heartily with Somerset; and
they all three rambled on together, talking of the season, the place,
the fishing, the shooting, and whatever else came uppermost in their
minds.

Captain De Stancy was a personage who would have been called interesting
by women well out of their teens. He was ripe, without having declined
a digit towards fogeyism. He was sufficiently old and experienced to
suggest a goodly accumulation of touching amourettes in the chambers of
his memory, and not too old for the possibility of increasing the store.
He was apparently about eight-and-thirty, less tall than his father
had been, but admirably made; and his every movement exhibited a fine
combination of strength and flexibility of limb. His face was somewhat
thin and thoughtful, its complexion being naturally pale, though
darkened by exposure to a warmer sun than ours. His features were
somewhat striking; his moustache and hair raven black; and his eyes,
denied the attributes of military keenness by reason of the largeness
and darkness of their aspect, acquired thereby a softness of expression
that was in part womanly. His mouth as far as it could be seen
reproduced this characteristic, which might have been called weakness,
or goodness, according to the mental attitude of the observer. It was
large but well formed, and showed an unimpaired line of teeth within.
His dress at present was a heather-coloured rural suit, cut close to his
figure.

‘You knew my cousin, Jack Ravensbury?’ he said to Somerset, as they went
on. ‘Poor Jack: he was a good fellow.’

‘He was a very good fellow.’

‘He would have been made a parson if he had lived--it was his great
wish. I, as his senior, and a man of the world as I thought myself,
used to chaff him about it when he was a boy, and tell him not to be a
milksop, but to enter the army. But I think Jack was right--the parsons
have the best of it, I see now.’

‘They would hardly admit that,’ said Somerset, laughing. ‘Nor can I.’

‘Nor I,’ said the captain’s sister. ‘See how lovely you all looked with
your big guns and uniform when you entered Markton; and then see how
stupid the parsons look by comparison, when they flock into Markton at a
Visitation.’

‘Ah, yes,’ said De Stancy,

     ‘“Doubtless it is a brilliant masquerade;
       But when of the first sight you’ve had your fill,
       It palls--at least it does so upon me,
       This paradise of pleasure and ennui.”

When one is getting on for forty;

       “When we have made our love, and gamed our gaming,
          Dressed, voted, shone, and maybe, something more;
        With dandies dined, heard senators declaiming;
          Seen beauties brought to market by the score,”

and so on, there arises a strong desire for a quiet old-fashioned
country life, in which incessant movement is not a necessary part of the
programme.’

‘But you are not forty, Will?’ said Charlotte.

‘My dear, I was thirty-nine last January.’

‘Well, men about here are youths at that age. It was India used you up
so, when you served in the line, was it not? I wish you had never gone
there!’

‘So do I,’ said De Stancy drily. ‘But I ought to grow a youth again,
like the rest, now I am in my native air.’

They came to a narrow brook, not wider than a man’s stride, and Miss De
Stancy halted on the edge.

‘Why, Lottie, you used to jump it easily enough,’ said her brother. ‘But
we won’t make her do it now.’ He took her in his arms, and lifted
her over, giving her a gratuitous ride for some additional yards, and
saying, ‘You are not a pound heavier, Lott, than you were at ten years
old.... What do you think of the country here, Mr. Somerset? Are you
going to stay long?’

‘I think very well of it,’ said Somerset. ‘But I leave to-morrow
morning, which makes it necessary that I turn back in a minute or two
from walking with you.’

‘That’s a disappointment. I had hoped you were going to finish out
the autumn with shooting. There’s some, very fair, to be got here on
reasonable terms, I’ve just heard.’

‘But you need not hire any!’ spoke up Charlotte. ‘Paula would let you
shoot anything, I am sure. She has not been here long enough to preserve
much game, and the poachers had it all in Mr. Wilkins’ time. But what
there is you might kill with pleasure to her.’

‘No, thank you,’ said De Stancy grimly. ‘I prefer to remain a stranger
to Miss Power--Miss Steam-Power, she ought to be called--and to all her
possessions.’

Charlotte was subdued, and did not insist further; while Somerset,
before he could feel himself able to decide on the mood in which the
gallant captain’s joke at Paula’s expense should be taken, wondered
whether it were a married man or a bachelor who uttered it.

He had not been able to keep the question of De Stancy’s domestic state
out of his head from the first moment of seeing him. Assuming De Stancy
to be a husband, he felt there might be some excuse for his remark; if
unmarried, Somerset liked the satire still better; in such circumstances
there was a relief in the thought that Captain De Stancy’s prejudices
might be infinitely stronger than those of his sister or father.

‘Going to-morrow, did you say, Mr. Somerset?’ asked Miss De Stancy.
‘Then will you dine with us to-day? My father is anxious that you
should do so before you go. I am sorry there will be only our own family
present to meet you; but you can leave as early as you wish.’

Her brother seconded the invitation, and Somerset promised, though his
leisure for that evening was short. He was in truth somewhat inclined
to like De Stancy; for though the captain had said nothing of any value
either on war, commerce, science, or art, he had seemed attractive
to the younger man. Beyond the natural interest a soldier has for
imaginative minds in the civil walks of life, De Stancy’s occasional
manifestations of taedium vitae were too poetically shaped to
be repellent. Gallantry combined in him with a sort of ascetic
self-repression in a way that was curious. He was a dozen years older
than Somerset: his life had been passed in grooves remote from those of
Somerset’s own life; and the latter decided that he would like to meet
the artillery officer again.

Bidding them a temporary farewell, he went away to Markton by a shorter
path than that pursued by the De Stancys, and after spending the
remainder of the afternoon preparing for departure, he sallied forth
just before the dinner-hour towards the suburban villa.

He had become yet more curious whether a Mrs. De Stancy existed;
if there were one he would probably see her to-night. He had an
irrepressible hope that there might be such a lady. On entering the
drawing-room only the father, son, and daughter were assembled. Somerset
fell into talk with Charlotte during the few minutes before dinner, and
his thought found its way out.

‘There is no Mrs. De Stancy?’ he said in an undertone.

‘None,’ she said; ‘my brother is a bachelor.’

The dinner having been fixed at an early hour to suit Somerset, they had
returned to the drawing-room at eight o’clock. About nine he was aiming
to get away.

‘You are not off yet?’ said the captain.

‘There would have been no hurry,’ said Somerset, ‘had I not just
remembered that I have left one thing undone which I want to attend to
before my departure. I want to see the chief constable to-night.’

‘Cunningham Haze?--he is the very man I too want to see. But he went out
of town this afternoon, and I hardly think you will see him to-night.
His return has been delayed.’

‘Then the matter must wait.’

‘I have left word at his house asking him to call here if he gets home
before half-past ten; but at any rate I shall see him to-morrow morning.
Can I do anything for you, since you are leaving early?’

Somerset replied that the business was of no great importance, and
briefly explained the suspected intrusion into his studio; that he had
with him a photograph of the suspected young man. ‘If it is a mistake,’
added Somerset, ‘I should regret putting my draughtsman’s portrait into
the hands of the police, since it might injure his character; indeed, it
would be unfair to him. So I wish to keep the likeness in my own hands,
and merely to show it to Mr. Haze. That’s why I prefer not to send it.’

‘My matter with Haze is that the barrack furniture does not correspond
with the inventories. If you like, I’ll ask your question at the same
time with pleasure.’

Thereupon Somerset gave Captain De Stancy an unfastened envelope
containing the portrait, asking him to destroy it if the constable
should declare it not to correspond with the face that met his eye at
the window. Soon after, Somerset took his leave of the household.

He had not been absent ten minutes when other wheels were heard on the
gravel without, and the servant announced Mr. Cunningham Haze, who had
returned earlier than he had expected, and had called as requested.

They went into the dining-room to discuss their business. When the
barrack matter had been arranged De Stancy said, ‘I have a little
commission to execute for my friend Mr. Somerset. I am to ask you if
this portrait of the person he suspects of unlawfully entering his room
is like the man you saw there?’

The speaker was seated on one side of the dining-table and Mr. Haze on
the other. As he spoke De Stancy pulled the envelope from his pocket,
and half drew out the photograph, which he had not as yet looked at,
to hand it over to the constable. In the act his eye fell upon the
portrait, with its uncertain expression of age, assured look, and hair
worn in a fringe like a girl’s.

Captain De Stancy’s face became strained, and he leant back in his
chair, having previously had sufficient power over himself to close the
envelope and return it to his pocket.

‘Good heavens, you are ill, Captain De Stancy?’ said the chief
constable.

‘It was only momentary,’ said De Stancy; ‘better in a minute--a glass of
water will put me right.’

Mr. Haze got him a glass of water from the sideboard.

‘These spasms occasionally overtake me,’ said De Stancy when he had
drunk. ‘I am already better. What were we saying? O, this affair of
Mr. Somerset’s. I find that this envelope is not the right one.’ He
ostensibly searched his pocket again. ‘I must have mislaid it,’ he
continued, rising. ‘I’ll be with you again in a moment.’

De Stancy went into the room adjoining, opened an album of portraits
that lay on the table, and selected one of a young man quite unknown
to him, whose age was somewhat akin to Dare’s, but who in no other
attribute resembled him.

De Stancy placed this picture in the original envelope, and returned
with it to the chief constable, saying he had found it at last.

‘Thank you, thank you,’ said Cunningham Haze, looking it over. ‘Ah--I
perceive it is not what I expected to see. Mr. Somerset was mistaken.’

When the chief constable had left the house, Captain De Stancy shut
the door and drew out the original photograph. As he looked at the
transcript of Dare’s features he was moved by a painful agitation, till
recalling himself to the present, he carefully put the portrait into the
fire.

During the following days Captain De Stancy’s manner on the roads, in
the streets, and at barracks, was that of Crusoe after seeing the print
of a man’s foot on the sand.



V.

Anybody who had closely considered Dare at this time would have
discovered that, shortly after the arrival of the Royal Horse Artillery
at Markton Barracks, he gave up his room at the inn at Sleeping-Green
and took permanent lodgings over a broker’s shop in the town
above-mentioned. The peculiarity of the rooms was that they commanded
a view lengthwise of the barrack lane along which any soldier, in the
natural course of things, would pass either to enter the town, to call
at Myrtle Villa, or to go to Stancy Castle.

Dare seemed to act as if there were plenty of time for his business.
Some few days had slipped by when, perceiving Captain De Stancy walk
past his window and into the town, Dare took his hat and cane, and
followed in the same direction. When he was about fifty yards short of
Myrtle Villa on the other side of the town he saw De Stancy enter its
gate.

Dare mounted a stile beside the highway and patiently waited. In about
twenty minutes De Stancy came out again and turned back in the direction
of the town, till Dare was revealed to him on his left hand. When De
Stancy recognized the youth he was visibly agitated, though apparently
not surprised. Standing still a moment he dropped his glance upon the
ground, and then came forward to Dare, who having alighted from the
stile stood before the captain with a smile.

‘My dear lad!’ said De Stancy, much moved by recollections. He held
Dare’s hand for a moment in both his own, and turned askance.

‘You are not astonished,’ said Dare, still retaining his smile, as if to
his mind there were something comic in the situation.

‘I knew you were somewhere near. Where do you come from?’

‘From going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it, as
Satan said to his Maker.--Southampton last, in common speech.’

‘Have you come here to see me?’

‘Entirely. I divined that your next quarters would be Markton, the
previous batteries that were at your station having come on here. I have
wanted to see you badly.’

‘You have?’

‘I am rather out of cash. I have been knocking about a good deal since
you last heard from me.’

‘I will do what I can again.’

‘Thanks, captain.’

‘But, Willy, I am afraid it will not be much at present. You know I am
as poor as a mouse.’

‘But such as it is, could you write a cheque for it now?’

‘I will send it to you from the barracks.’

‘I have a better plan. By getting over this stile we could go round
at the back of the villas to Sleeping-Green Church. There is always a
pen-and-ink in the vestry, and we can have a nice talk on the way. It
would be unwise for me to appear at the barracks just now.’

‘That’s true.’

De Stancy sighed, and they were about to walk across the fields
together. ‘No,’ said Dare, suddenly stopping: my plans make it
imperative that we should not run the risk of being seen in each other’s
company for long. Walk on, and I will follow. You can stroll into the
churchyard, and move about as if you were ruminating on the epitaphs.
There are some with excellent morals. I’ll enter by the other gate, and
we can meet easily in the vestry-room.’

De Stancy looked gloomy, and was on the point of acquiescing when he
turned back and said, ‘Why should your photograph be shown to the chief
constable?’

‘By whom?’

‘Somerset the architect. He suspects your having broken into his office
or something of the sort.’ De Stancy briefly related what Somerset had
explained to him at the dinner-table.

‘It was merely diamond cut diamond between us, on an architectural
matter,’ murmured Dare. ‘Ho! and he suspects; and that’s his remedy!’

‘I hope this is nothing serious?’ asked De Stancy gravely.

‘I peeped at his drawing--that’s all. But since he chooses to make that
use of my photograph, which I gave him in friendship, I’ll make use of
his in a way he little dreams of. Well now, let’s on.’

A quarter of an hour later they met in the vestry of the church at
Sleeping-Green.

‘I have only just transferred my account to the bank here,’ said De
Stancy, as he took out his cheque-book, ‘and it will be more convenient
to me at present to draw but a small sum. I will make up the balance
afterwards.’

When he had written it Dare glanced over the paper and said ruefully,
‘It is small, dad. Well, there is all the more reason why I should
broach my scheme, with a view to making such documents larger in the
future.’

‘I shall be glad to hear of any such scheme,’ answered De Stancy, with a
languid attempt at jocularity.

‘Then here it is. The plan I have arranged for you is of the nature of a
marriage.’

‘You are very kind!’ said De Stancy, agape.

‘The lady’s name is Miss Paula Power, who, as you may have heard since
your arrival, is in absolute possession of her father’s property and
estates, including Stancy Castle. As soon as I heard of her I saw what
a marvellous match it would be for you, and your family; it would make
a man of you, in short, and I have set my mind upon your putting no
objection in the way of its accomplishment.’

‘But, Willy, it seems to me that, of us two, it is you who exercise
paternal authority?’

‘True, it is for your good. Let me do it.’

‘Well, one must be indulgent under the circumstances, I suppose....
But,’ added De Stancy simply, ‘Willy, I--don’t want to marry, you know.
I have lately thought that some day we may be able to live together,
you and I: go off to America or New Zealand, where we are not known, and
there lead a quiet, pastoral life, defying social rules and troublesome
observances.’

‘I can’t hear of it, captain,’ replied Dare reprovingly. ‘I am what
events have made me, and having fixed my mind upon getting you settled
in life by this marriage, I have put things in train for it at an
immense trouble to myself. If you had thought over it o’ nights as much
as I have, you would not say nay.’

‘But I ought to have married your mother if anybody. And as I have not
married her, the least I can do in respect to her is to marry no other
woman.’

‘You have some sort of duty to me, have you not, Captain De Stancy?’

‘Yes, Willy, I admit that I have,’ the elder replied reflectively. ‘And
I don’t think I have failed in it thus far?’

‘This will be the crowning proof. Paternal affection, family pride, the
noble instincts to reinstate yourself in the castle of your ancestors,
all demand the step. And when you have seen the lady! She has the figure
and motions of a sylph, the face of an angel, the eye of love itself.
What a sight she is crossing the lawn on a sunny afternoon, or gliding
airily along the corridors of the old place the De Stancys knew so well!
Her lips are the softest, reddest, most distracting things you ever saw.
Her hair is as soft as silk, and of the rarest, tenderest brown.’

The captain moved uneasily. ‘Don’t take the trouble to say more, Willy,’
he observed. ‘You know how I am. My cursed susceptibility to these
matters has already wasted years of my life, and I don’t want to make
myself a fool about her too.’

‘You must see her.’

‘No, don’t let me see her,’ De Stancy expostulated. ‘If she is only half
so good-looking as you say, she will drag me at her heels like a
blind Samson. You are a mere youth as yet, but I may tell you that the
misfortune of never having been my own master where a beautiful face
was concerned obliges me to be cautious if I would preserve my peace of
mind.’

‘Well, to my mind, Captain De Stancy, your objections seem trivial. Are
those all?’

‘They are all I care to mention just now to you.’

‘Captain! can there be secrets between us?’

De Stancy paused and looked at the lad as if his heart wished to confess
what his judgment feared to tell. ‘There should not be--on this point,’
he murmured.

‘Then tell me--why do you so much object to her?’

‘I once vowed a vow.’

‘A vow!’ said Dare, rather disconcerted.

‘A vow of infinite solemnity. I must tell you from the beginning;
perhaps you are old enough to hear it now, though you have been too
young before. Your mother’s life ended in much sorrow, and it was
occasioned entirely by me. In my regret for the wrong done her I swore
to her that though she had not been my wife, no other woman should stand
in that relationship to me; and this to her was a sort of comfort. When
she was dead my knowledge of my own plaguy impressionableness, which
seemed to be ineradicable--as it seems still--led me to think what
safeguards I could set over myself with a view to keeping my promise to
live a life of celibacy; and among other things I determined to forswear
the society, and if possible the sight, of women young and attractive,
as far as I had the power to do.’

‘It is not so easy to avoid the sight of a beautiful woman if she
crosses your path, I should think?’

‘It is not easy; but it is possible.’

‘How?’

‘By directing your attention another way.’

‘But do you mean to say, captain, that you can be in a room with a
pretty woman who speaks to you, and not look at her?’

‘I do: though mere looking has less to do with it than mental
attentiveness--allowing your thoughts to flow out in her direction--to
comprehend her image.’

‘But it would be considered very impolite not to look at the woman or
comprehend her image?’

‘It would, and is. I am considered the most impolite officer in the
service. I have been nicknamed the man with the averted eyes--the man
with the detestable habit--the man who greets you with his shoulder,
and so on. Ninety-and-nine fair women at the present moment hate me like
poison and death for having persistently refused to plumb the depths of
their offered eyes.’

‘How can you do it, who are by nature courteous?’

‘I cannot always--I break down sometimes. But, upon the whole,
recollection holds me to it: dread of a lapse. Nothing is so potent as
fear well maintained.’

De Stancy narrated these details in a grave meditative tone with his
eyes on the wall, as if he were scarcely conscious of a listener.

‘But haven’t you reckless moments, captain?--when you have taken a
little more wine than usual, for instance?’

‘I don’t take wine.’

‘O, you are a teetotaller?’

‘Not a pledged one--but I don’t touch alcohol unless I get wet, or
anything of that sort.’

‘Don’t you sometimes forget this vow of yours to my mother?’

‘No, I wear a reminder.’

‘What is that like?’

De Stancy held up his left hand, on the third finger of which appeared
an iron ring.

Dare surveyed it, saying, ‘Yes, I have seen that before, though I never
knew why you wore it. Well, I wear a reminder also, but of a different
sort.’

He threw open his shirt-front, and revealed tattooed on his breast the
letters DE STANCY; the same marks which Havill had seen in the bedroom
by the light of the moon.

The captain rather winced at the sight. ‘Well, well,’ he said hastily,
‘that’s enough.... Now, at any rate, you understand my objection to know
Miss Power.’

‘But, captain,’ said the lad coaxingly, as he fastened his shirt;
‘you forget me and the good you may do me by marrying? Surely that’s a
sufficient reason for a change of sentiment. This inexperienced sweet
creature owns the castle and estate which bears your name, even to the
furniture and pictures. She is the possessor of at least forty thousand
a year--how much more I cannot say--while, buried here in Outer Wessex,
she lives at the rate of twelve hundred in her simplicity.’

‘It is very good of you to set this before me. But I prefer to go on as
I am going.’

‘Well, I won’t bore you any more with her to-day. A monk in
regimentals!--‘tis strange.’ Dare arose and was about to open the door,
when, looking through the window, Captain De Stancy said, ‘Stop.’ He
had perceived his father, Sir William De Stancy, walking among the
tombstones without.

‘Yes, indeed,’ said Dare, turning the key in the door. ‘It would look
strange if he were to find us here.’

As the old man seemed indisposed to leave the churchyard just yet they
sat down again.

‘What a capital card-table this green cloth would make,’ said Dare, as
they waited. ‘You play, captain, I suppose?’

‘Very seldom.’

‘The same with me. But as I enjoy a hand of cards with a friend, I don’t
go unprovided.’ Saying which, Dare drew a pack from the tail of his
coat. ‘Shall we while away this leisure with the witching things?’

‘Really, I’d rather not.’

‘But,’ coaxed the young man, ‘I am in the humour for it; so don’t be
unkind!’

‘But, Willy, why do you care for these things? Cards are harmless enough
in their way; but I don’t like to see you carrying them in your pocket.
It isn’t good for you.’

‘It was by the merest chance I had them. Now come, just one hand, since
we are prisoners. I want to show you how nicely I can play. I won’t
corrupt you!’

‘Of course not,’ said De Stancy, as if ashamed of what his objection
implied. ‘You are not corrupt enough yourself to do that, I should
hope.’

The cards were dealt and they began to play--Captain De Stancy
abstractedly, and with his eyes mostly straying out of the window upon
the large yew, whose boughs as they moved were distorted by the old
green window-panes.

‘It is better than doing nothing,’ said Dare cheerfully, as the game
went on. ‘I hope you don’t dislike it?’

‘Not if it pleases you,’ said De Stancy listlessly.

‘And the consecration of this place does not extend further than the
aisle wall.’

‘Doesn’t it?’ said De Stancy, as he mechanically played out his cards.
‘What became of that box of books I sent you with my last cheque?’

‘Well, as I hadn’t time to read them, and as I knew you would not like
them to be wasted, I sold them to a bloke who peruses them from morning
till night. Ah, now you have lost a fiver altogether--how queer! We’ll
double the stakes. So, as I was saying, just at the time the books came
I got an inkling of this important business, and literature went to the
wall.’

‘Important business--what?’

‘The capture of this lady, to be sure.’

De Stancy sighed impatiently. ‘I wish you were less calculating, and had
more of the impulse natural to your years!’

‘Game--by Jove! You have lost again, captain. That makes--let me
see--nine pounds fifteen to square us.’

‘I owe you that?’ said De Stancy, startled. ‘It is more than I have in
cash. I must write another cheque.’

‘Never mind. Make it payable to yourself, and our connection will be
quite unsuspected.’

Captain De Stancy did as requested, and rose from his seat. Sir William,
though further off, was still in the churchyard.

‘How can you hesitate for a moment about this girl?’ said Dare, pointing
to the bent figure of the old man. ‘Think of the satisfaction it would
be to him to see his son within the family walls again. It should be a
religion with you to compass such a legitimate end as this.’

‘Well, well, I’ll think of it,’ said the captain, with an impatient
laugh. ‘You are quite a Mephistopheles, Will--I say it to my sorrow!’

‘Would that I were in your place.’

‘Would that you were! Fifteen years ago I might have called the chance a
magnificent one.’

‘But you are a young man still, and you look younger than you are.
Nobody knows our relationship, and I am not such a fool as to divulge
it. Of course, if through me you reclaim this splendid possession, I
should leave it to your feelings what you would do for me.’

Sir William had by this time cleared out of the churchyard, and the pair
emerged from the vestry and departed. Proceeding towards Markton by the
same bypath, they presently came to an eminence covered with bushes of
blackthorn, and tufts of yellowing fern. From this point a good view of
the woods and glades about Stancy Castle could be obtained. Dare
stood still on the top and stretched out his finger; the captain’s eye
followed the direction, and he saw above the many-hued foliage in the
middle distance the towering keep of Paula’s castle.

‘That’s the goal of your ambition, captain--ambition do I say?--most
righteous and dutiful endeavour! How the hoary shape catches the
sunlight--it is the raison d’etre of the landscape, and its possession
is coveted by a thousand hearts. Surely it is an hereditary desire of
yours? You must make a point of returning to it, and appearing in the
map of the future as in that of the past. I delight in this work of
encouraging you, and pushing you forward towards your own. You are
really very clever, you know, but--I say it with respect--how comes it
that you want so much waking up?’

‘Because I know the day is not so bright as it seems, my boy. However,
you make a little mistake. If I care for anything on earth, I do care
for that old fortress of my forefathers. I respect so little among the
living that all my reverence is for my own dead. But manoeuvring, even
for my own, as you call it, is not in my line. It is distasteful--it is
positively hateful to me.’

‘Well, well, let it stand thus for the present. But will you refuse me
one little request--merely to see her? I’ll contrive it so that she may
not see you. Don’t refuse me, it is the one thing I ask, and I shall
think it hard if you deny me.’

‘O Will!’ said the captain wearily. ‘Why will you plead so? No--even
though your mind is particularly set upon it, I cannot see her, or
bestow a thought upon her, much as I should like to gratify you.’



VI.

When they had parted Dare walked along towards Markton with resolve on
his mouth and an unscrupulous light in his prominent black eye. Could
any person who had heard the previous conversation have seen him now, he
would have found little difficulty in divining that, notwithstanding De
Stancy’s obduracy, the reinstation of Captain De Stancy in the castle,
and the possible legitimation and enrichment of himself, was still
the dream of his brain. Even should any legal settlement or offspring
intervene to nip the extreme development of his projects, there
was abundant opportunity for his glorification. Two conditions were
imperative. De Stancy must see Paula before Somerset’s return. And it
was necessary to have help from Havill, even if it involved letting him
know all.

Whether Havill already knew all was a nice question for Mr. Dare’s
luminous mind. Havill had had opportunities of reading his secret,
particularly on the night they occupied the same room. If so, by
revealing it to Paula, Havill might utterly blast his project for the
marriage. Havill, then, was at all risks to be retained as an ally.

Yet Dare would have preferred a stronger check upon his confederate
than was afforded by his own knowledge of that anonymous letter and the
competition trick. For were the competition lost to him, Havill would
have no further interest in conciliating Miss Power; would as soon as
not let her know the secret of De Stancy’s relation to him.

Fortune as usual helped him in his dilemma. Entering Havill’s office,
Dare found him sitting there; but the drawings had all disappeared from
the boards. The architect held an open letter in his hand.

‘Well, what news?’ said Dare.

‘Miss Power has returned to the castle, Somerset is detained in London,
and the competition is decided,’ said Havill, with a glance of quiet
dubiousness.

‘And you have won it?’

‘No. We are bracketed--it’s a tie. The judges say there is no choice
between the designs--that they are singularly equal and singularly good.
That she would do well to adopt either. Signed So-and-So, Fellows of
the Royal Institute of British Architects. The result is that she
will employ which she personally likes best. It is as if I had spun a
sovereign in the air and it had alighted on its edge. The least false
movement will make it tails; the least wise movement heads.’

‘Singularly equal. Well, we owe that to our nocturnal visit, which must
not be known.’

‘O Lord, no!’ said Havill apprehensively.

Dare felt secure of him at those words. Havill had much at stake; the
slightest rumour of his trick in bringing about the competition, would
be fatal to Havill’s reputation.

‘The permanent absence of Somerset then is desirable architecturally on
your account, matrimonially on mine.’

‘Matrimonially? By the way--who was that captain you pointed out to me
when the artillery entered the town?’

‘Captain De Stancy--son of Sir William De Stancy. He’s the husband.
O, you needn’t look incredulous: it is practicable; but we won’t argue
that. In the first place I want him to see her, and to see her in the
most love-kindling, passion-begetting circumstances that can be thought
of. And he must see her surreptitiously, for he refuses to meet her.’

‘Let him see her going to church or chapel?’

Dare shook his head.

‘Driving out?’

‘Common-place!’

‘Walking in the gardens?’

‘Ditto.’

‘At her toilet?’

‘Ah--if it were possible!’

‘Which it hardly is. Well, you had better think it over and make
inquiries about her habits, and as to when she is in a favourable aspect
for observation, as the almanacs say.’

Shortly afterwards Dare took his leave. In the evening he made it his
business to sit smoking on the bole of a tree which commanded a view
of the upper ward of the castle, and also of the old postern-gate,
now enlarged and used as a tradesmen’s entrance. It was half-past six
o’clock; the dressing-bell rang, and Dare saw a light-footed young woman
hasten at the sound across the ward from the servants’ quarter. A light
appeared in a chamber which he knew to be Paula’s dressing-room; and
there it remained half-an-hour, a shadow passing and repassing on the
blind in the style of head-dress worn by the girl he had previously
seen. The dinner-bell sounded and the light went out.

As yet it was scarcely dark out of doors, and in a few minutes Dare had
the satisfaction of seeing the same woman cross the ward and emerge
upon the slope without. This time she was bonneted, and carried a little
basket in her hand. A nearer view showed her to be, as he had expected,
Milly Birch, Paula’s maid, who had friends living in Markton, whom she
was in the habit of visiting almost every evening during the three
hours of leisure which intervened between Paula’s retirement from the
dressing-room and return thither at ten o’clock. When the young woman
had descended the road and passed into the large drive, Dare rose and
followed her.

‘O, it is you, Miss Birch,’ said Dare, on overtaking her. ‘I am glad to
have the pleasure of walking by your side.’

‘Yes, sir. O it’s Mr. Dare. We don’t see you at the castle now, sir.’

‘No. And do you get a walk like this every evening when the others are
at their busiest?’

‘Almost every evening; that’s the one return to the poor lady’s maid for
losing her leisure when the others get it--in the absence of the family
from home.’

‘Is Miss Power a hard mistress?’

‘No.’

‘Rather fanciful than hard, I presume?’

‘Just so, sir.’

‘And she likes to appear to advantage, no doubt.’

‘I suppose so,’ said Milly, laughing. ‘We all do.’

‘When does she appear to the best advantage? When riding, or driving, or
reading her book?’

‘Not altogether then, if you mean the very best.’

‘Perhaps it is when she sits looking in the glass at herself, and you
let down her hair.’

‘Not particularly, to my mind.’

‘When does she to your mind? When dressed for a dinner-party or ball?’

‘She’s middling, then. But there is one time when she looks nicer and
cleverer than at any. It is when she is in the gymnasium.’

‘O--gymnasium?’

‘Because when she is there she wears such a pretty boy’s costume, and is
so charming in her movements, that you think she is a lovely young youth
and not a girl at all.’

‘When does she go to this gymnasium?’

‘Not so much as she used to. Only on wet mornings now, when she can’t
get out for walks or drives. But she used to do it every day.’

‘I should like to see her there.’

‘Why, sir?’

‘I am a poor artist, and can’t afford models. To see her attitudes would
be of great assistance to me in the art I love so well.’

Milly shook her head. ‘She’s very strict about the door being locked. If
I were to leave it open she would dismiss me, as I should deserve.’

‘But consider, dear Miss Birch, the advantage to a poor artist the sight
of her would be: if you could hold the door ajar it would be worth five
pounds to me, and a good deal to you.’

‘No,’ said the incorruptible Milly, shaking her head. ‘Besides, I don’t
always go there with her. O no, I couldn’t!’

Milly remained so firm at this point that Dare said no more.

When he had left her he returned to the castle grounds, and though there
was not much light he had no difficulty in discovering the gymnasium,
the outside of which he had observed before, without thinking to inquire
its purpose. Like the erections in other parts of the shrubberies it was
constructed of wood, the interstices between the framing being filled up
with short billets of fir nailed diagonally. Dare, even when without a
settled plan in his head, could arrange for probabilities; and wrenching
out one of the billets he looked inside. It seemed to be a simple oblong
apartment, fitted up with ropes, with a little dressing-closet at one
end, and lighted by a skylight or lantern in the roof. Dare replaced the
wood and went on his way.

Havill was smoking on his doorstep when Dare passed up the street. He
held up his hand.

‘Since you have been gone,’ said the architect, ‘I’ve hit upon something
that may help you in exhibiting your lady to your gentleman. In the
summer I had orders to design a gymnasium for her, which I did; and they
say she is very clever on the ropes and bars. Now--’

‘I’ve discovered it. I shall contrive for him to see her there on the
first wet morning, which is when she practises. What made her think of
it?’

‘As you may have heard, she holds advanced views on social and other
matters; and in those on the higher education of women she is very
strong, talking a good deal about the physical training of the Greeks,
whom she adores, or did. Every philosopher and man of science who
ventilates his theories in the monthly reviews has a devout listener in
her; and this subject of the physical development of her sex has had its
turn with other things in her mind. So she had the place built on her
very first arrival, according to the latest lights on athletics, and in
imitation of those at the new colleges for women.’

‘How deuced clever of the girl! She means to live to be a hundred!’



VII.

The wet day arrived with all the promptness that might have been
expected of it in this land of rains and mists. The alder bushes behind
the gymnasium dripped monotonously leaf upon leaf, added to this being
the purl of the shallow stream a little way off, producing a sense of
satiety in watery sounds. Though there was drizzle in the open meads,
the rain here in the thicket was comparatively slight, and two men with
fishing tackle who stood beneath one of the larger bushes found its
boughs a sufficient shelter.

‘We may as well walk home again as study nature here, Willy,’ said
the taller and elder of the twain. ‘I feared it would continue when we
started. The magnificent sport you speak of must rest for to-day.’

The other looked at his watch, but made no particular reply.

‘Come, let us move on. I don’t like intruding into other people’s
grounds like this,’ De Stancy continued.

‘We are not intruding. Anybody walks outside this fence.’ He indicated
an iron railing newly tarred, dividing the wilder underwood amid which
they stood from the inner and well-kept parts of the shrubbery, and
against which the back of the gymnasium was built.

Light footsteps upon a gravel walk could be heard on the other side of
the fence, and a trio of cloaked and umbrella-screened figures were
for a moment discernible. They vanished behind the gymnasium; and again
nothing resounded but the river murmurs and the clock-like drippings of
the leafage.

‘Hush!’ said Dare.

‘No pranks, my boy,’ said De Stancy suspiciously. ‘You should be above
them.’

‘And you should trust to my good sense, captain,’ Dare remonstrated. ‘I
have not indulged in a prank since the sixth year of my pilgrimage. I
have found them too damaging to my interests. Well, it is not too dry
here, and damp injures your health, you say. Have a pull for safety’s
sake.’ He presented a flask to De Stancy.

The artillery officer looked down at his nether garments.

‘I don’t break my rule without good reason,’ he observed.

‘I am afraid that reason exists at present.’

‘I am afraid it does. What have you got?’

‘Only a little wine.’

‘What wine?’

‘Do try it. I call it “the blushful Hippocrene,” that the poet describes
as

     “Tasting of Flora and the country green;
      Dance, and Provencal song, and sun-burnt mirth.”’

De Stancy took the flask, and drank a little.

‘It warms, does it not?’ said Dare.

‘Too much,’ said De Stancy with misgiving. ‘I have been taken unawares.
Why, it is three parts brandy, to my taste, you scamp!’

Dare put away the wine. ‘Now you are to see something,’ he said.

‘Something--what is it?’ Captain De Stancy regarded him with a puzzled
look.

‘It is quite a curiosity, and really worth seeing. Now just look in
here.’

The speaker advanced to the back of the building, and withdrew the wood
billet from the wall.

‘Will, I believe you are up to some trick,’ said De Stancy,
not, however, suspecting the actual truth in these unsuggestive
circumstances, and with a comfortable resignation, produced by the
potent liquor, which would have been comical to an outsider, but which,
to one who had known the history and relationship of the two speakers,
would have worn a sadder significance. ‘I am too big a fool about you to
keep you down as I ought; that’s the fault of me, worse luck.’

He pressed the youth’s hand with a smile, went forward, and looked
through the hole into the interior of the gymnasium. Dare withdrew
to some little distance, and watched Captain De Stancy’s face, which
presently began to assume an expression of interest.

What was the captain seeing? A sort of optical poem.

Paula, in a pink flannel costume, was bending, wheeling and undulating
in the air like a gold-fish in its globe, sometimes ascending by her
arms nearly to the lantern, then lowering herself till she swung level
with the floor. Her aunt Mrs. Goodman, and Charlotte De Stancy, were
sitting on camp-stools at one end, watching her gyrations, Paula
occasionally addressing them with such an expression as--‘Now, Aunt,
look at me--and you, Charlotte--is not that shocking to your weak
nerves,’ when some adroit feat would be repeated, which, however, seemed
to give much more pleasure to Paula herself in performing it than to
Mrs. Goodman in looking on, the latter sometimes saying, ‘O, it is
terrific--do not run such a risk again!’

It would have demanded the poetic passion of some joyous Elizabethan
lyrist like Lodge, Nash, or Constable, to fitly phrase Paula’s
presentation of herself at this moment of absolute abandonment to every
muscular whim that could take possession of such a supple form. The
white manilla ropes clung about the performer like snakes as she took
her exercise, and the colour in her face deepened as she went on.
Captain De Stancy felt that, much as he had seen in early life of beauty
in woman, he had never seen beauty of such a real and living sort as
this. A recollection of his vow, together with a sense that to gaze
on the festival of this Bona Dea was, though so innocent and pretty a
sight, hardly fair or gentlemanly, would have compelled him to withdraw
his eyes, had not the sportive fascination of her appearance glued
them there in spite of all. And as if to complete the picture of Grace
personified and add the one thing wanting to the charm which bound him,
the clouds, till that time thick in the sky, broke away from the upper
heaven, and allowed the noonday sun to pour down through the lantern
upon her, irradiating her with a warm light that was incarnadined by her
pink doublet and hose, and reflected in upon her face. She only
required a cloud to rest on instead of the green silk net which actually
supported her reclining figure for the moment, to be quite Olympian;
save indeed that in place of haughty effrontery there sat on her
countenance only the healthful sprightliness of an English girl.

Dare had withdrawn to a point at which another path crossed the path
occupied by De Stancy. Looking in a side direction, he saw Havill
idling slowly up to him over the silent grass. Havill’s knowledge of the
appointment had brought him out to see what would come of it. When he
neared Dare, but was still partially hidden by the boughs from the third
of the party, the former simply pointed to De Stancy upon which Havill
stood and peeped at him. ‘Is she within there?’ he inquired.

Dare nodded, and whispered, ‘You need not have asked, if you had
examined his face.’

‘That’s true.’

‘A fermentation is beginning in him,’ said Dare, half pitifully; ‘a
purely chemical process; and when it is complete he will probably be
clear, and fiery, and sparkling, and quite another man than the good,
weak, easy fellow that he was.’

To precisely describe Captain De Stancy’s admiration was impossible. A
sun seemed to rise in his face. By watching him they could almost see
the aspect of her within the wall, so accurately were her changing
phases reflected in him. He seemed to forget that he was not alone.

‘And is this,’ he murmured, in the manner of one only half apprehending
himself, ‘and is this the end of my vow?’

Paula was saying at this moment, ‘Ariel sleeps in this posture, does
he not, Auntie?’ Suiting the action to the word she flung out her arms
behind her head as she lay in the green silk hammock, idly closed her
pink eyelids, and swung herself to and fro.



BOOK THE THIRD. DE STANCY.



I.

Captain De Stancy was a changed man. A hitherto well-repressed energy
was giving him motion towards long-shunned consequences. His features
were, indeed, the same as before; though, had a physiognomist chosen to
study them with the closeness of an astronomer scanning the universe, he
would doubtless have discerned abundant novelty.

In recent years De Stancy had been an easy, melancholy, unaspiring
officer, enervated and depressed by a parental affection quite beyond
his control for the graceless lad Dare--the obtrusive memento of a
shadowy period in De Stancy’s youth, who threatened to be the curse of
his old age. Throughout a long space he had persevered in his system of
rigidly incarcerating within himself all instincts towards the opposite
sex, with a resolution that would not have disgraced a much stronger
man. By this habit, maintained with fair success, a chamber of his
nature had been preserved intact during many later years, like the
one solitary sealed-up cell occasionally retained by bees in a lobe of
drained honey-comb. And thus, though he had irretrievably exhausted the
relish of society, of ambition, of action, and of his profession, the
love-force that he had kept immured alive was still a reproducible
thing.

The sight of Paula in her graceful performance, which the judicious
Dare had so carefully planned, led up to and heightened by subtle
accessories, operated on De Stancy’s surprised soul with a promptness
almost magical.

On the evening of the self-same day, having dined as usual, he retired
to his rooms, where he found a hamper of wine awaiting him. It had been
anonymously sent, and the account was paid. He smiled grimly, but no
longer with heaviness. In this he instantly recognized the handiwork of
Dare, who, having at last broken down the barrier which De Stancy
had erected round his heart for so many years, acted like a skilled
strategist, and took swift measures to follow up the advantage so
tardily gained.

Captain De Stancy knew himself conquered: he knew he should yield to
Paula--had indeed yielded; but there was now, in his solitude, an hour
or two of reaction. He did not drink from the bottles sent. He went
early to bed, and lay tossing thereon till far into the night, thinking
over the collapse. His teetotalism had, with the lapse of years,
unconsciously become the outward and visible sign to himself of
his secret vows; and a return to its opposite, however mildly done,
signified with ceremonious distinctness the formal acceptance of
delectations long forsworn.

But the exceeding freshness of his feeling for Paula, which by reason of
its long arrest was that of a man far under thirty, and was a wonder
to himself every instant, would not long brook weighing in balances. He
wished suddenly to commit himself; to remove the question of retreat
out of the region of debate. The clock struck two: and the wish became
determination. He arose, and wrapping himself in his dressing-gown went
to the next room, where he took from a shelf in the pantry several large
bottles, which he carried to the window, till they stood on the sill a
goodly row. There had been sufficient light in the room for him to do
this without a candle. Now he softly opened the sash, and the radiance
of a gibbous moon riding in the opposite sky flooded the apartment. It
fell on the labels of the captain’s bottles, revealing their contents to
be simple aerated waters for drinking.

De Stancy looked out and listened. The guns that stood drawn up
within the yard glistened in the moonlight reaching them from over the
barrack-wall: there was an occasional stamp of horses in the stables;
also a measured tread of sentinels--one or more at the gates, one at the
hospital, one between the wings, two at the magazine, and others further
off. Recurring to his intention he drew the corks of the mineral waters,
and inverting each bottle one by one over the window-sill, heard its
contents dribble in a small stream on to the gravel below.

He then opened the hamper which Dare had sent. Uncorking one of the
bottles he murmured, ‘To Paula!’ and drank a glass of the ruby liquor.

‘A man again after eighteen years,’ he said, shutting the sash and
returning to his bedroom.

The first overt result of his kindled interest in Miss Power was his
saying to his sister the day after the surreptitious sight of Paula: ‘I
am sorry, Charlotte, for a word or two I said the other day.’

‘Well?’

‘I was rather disrespectful to your friend Miss Power.’

‘I don’t think so--were you?’

‘Yes. When we were walking in the wood, I made a stupid joke about
her.... What does she know about me--do you ever speak of me to her?’

‘Only in general terms.’

‘What general terms?’

‘You know well enough, William; of your idiosyncrasies and so on--that
you are a bit of a woman-hater, or at least a confirmed bachelor, and
have but little respect for your own family.’

‘I wish you had not told her that,’ said De Stancy with dissatisfaction.

‘But I thought you always liked women to know your principles!’ said
Charlotte, in injured tones; ‘and would particularly like her to know
them, living so near.’

‘Yes, yes,’ replied her brother hastily. ‘Well, I ought to see her, just
to show her that I am not quite a brute.’

‘That would be very nice!’ she answered, putting her hands together in
agreeable astonishment. ‘It is just what I have wished, though I did not
dream of suggesting it after what I have heard you say. I am going to
stay with her again to-morrow, and I will let her know about this.’

‘Don’t tell her anything plainly, for heaven’s sake. I really want to
see the interior of the castle; I have never entered its walls since my
babyhood.’ He raised his eyes as he spoke to where the walls in question
showed their ashlar faces over the trees.

‘You might have gone over it at any time.’

‘O yes. It is only recently that I have thought much of the place: I
feel now that I should like to examine the old building thoroughly,
since it was for so many generations associated with our fortunes,
especially as most of the old furniture is still there. My sedulous
avoidance hitherto of all relating to our family vicissitudes has been,
I own, stupid conduct for an intelligent being; but impossible grapes
are always sour, and I have unconsciously adopted Radical notions to
obliterate disappointed hereditary instincts. But these have a trick of
re-establishing themselves as one gets older, and the castle and what it
contains have a keen interest for me now.’

‘It contains Paula.’

De Stancy’s pulse, which had been beating languidly for many years, beat
double at the sound of that name.

‘I meant furniture and pictures for the moment,’ he said; ‘but I don’t
mind extending the meaning to her, if you wish it.’

‘She is the rarest thing there.’

‘So you have said before.’

‘The castle and our family history have as much romantic interest for
her as they have for you,’ Charlotte went on. ‘She delights in visiting
our tombs and effigies and ponders over them for hours.’

‘Indeed!’ said De Stancy, allowing his surprise to hide the satisfaction
which accompanied it. ‘That should make us friendly.... Does she see
many people?’

‘Not many as yet. And she cannot have many staying there during the
alterations.’

‘Ah! yes--the alterations. Didn’t you say that she has had a London
architect stopping there on that account? What was he--old or young?’

‘He is a young man: he has been to our house. Don’t you remember you met
him there?’

‘What was his name?’

‘Mr. Somerset.’

‘O, that man! Yes, yes, I remember.... Hullo, Lottie!’

‘What?’

‘Your face is as red as a peony. Now I know a secret!’ Charlotte vainly
endeavoured to hide her confusion. ‘Very well--not a word! I won’t say
more,’ continued De Stancy good-humouredly, ‘except that he seems to be
a very nice fellow.’

De Stancy had turned the dialogue on to this little well-preserved
secret of his sister’s with sufficient outward lightness; but it had
been done in instinctive concealment of the disquieting start with which
he had recognized that Somerset, Dare’s enemy, whom he had intercepted
in placing Dare’s portrait into the hands of the chief constable, was a
man beloved by his sister Charlotte. This novel circumstance might lead
to a curious complication. But he was to hear more.

‘He may be very nice,’ replied Charlotte, with an effort, after this
silence. ‘But he is nothing to me, more than a very good friend.’

‘There’s no engagement, or thought of one between you?’

‘Certainly there’s not!’ said Charlotte, with brave emphasis. ‘It is
more likely to be between Paula and him than me and him.’

De Stancy’s bare military ears and closely cropped poll flushed hot.
‘Miss Power and him?’

‘I don’t mean to say there is, because Paula denies it; but I mean that
he loves Paula. That I do know.’

De Stancy was dumb. This item of news which Dare had kept from him, not
knowing how far De Stancy’s sense of honour might extend, was decidedly
grave. Indeed, he was so greatly impressed with the fact, that he could
not help saying as much aloud: ‘This is very serious!’

‘Why!’ she murmured tremblingly, for the first leaking out of her tender
and sworn secret had disabled her quite.

‘Because I love Paula too.’

‘What do you say, William, you?--a woman you have never seen?’

‘I have seen her--by accident. And now, my dear little sis, you will
be my close ally, won’t you? as I will be yours, as brother and sister
should be.’ He placed his arm coaxingly round Charlotte’s shoulder.

‘O, William, how can I?’ at last she stammered.

‘Why, how can’t you, I should say? We are both in the same ship. I love
Paula, you love Mr. Somerset; it behoves both of us to see that this
flirtation of theirs ends in nothing.’

‘I don’t like you to put it like that--that I love him--it frightens
me,’ murmured the girl, visibly agitated. ‘I don’t want to divide him
from Paula; I couldn’t, I wouldn’t do anything to separate them. Believe
me, Will, I could not! I am sorry you love there also, though I should
be glad if it happened in the natural order of events that she should
come round to you. But I cannot do anything to part them and make Mr.
Somerset suffer. It would be TOO wrong and blamable.’

‘Now, you silly Charlotte, that’s just how you women fly off at a
tangent. I mean nothing dishonourable in the least. Have I ever prompted
you to do anything dishonourable? Fair fighting allies was all I thought
of.’

Miss De Stancy breathed more freely. ‘Yes, we will be that, of course;
we are always that, William. But I hope I can be your ally, and be quite
neutral; I would so much rather.’

‘Well, I suppose it will not be a breach of your precious neutrality if
you get me invited to see the castle?’

‘O no!’ she said brightly; ‘I don’t mind doing such a thing as that.
Why not come with me tomorrow? I will say I am going to bring you. There
will be no trouble at all.’

De Stancy readily agreed. The effect upon him of the information now
acquired was to intensify his ardour tenfold, the stimulus being due to
a perception that Somerset, with a little more knowledge, would hold a
card which could be played with disastrous effect against himself--his
relationship to Dare. Its disclosure to a lady of such Puritan
antecedents as Paula’s, would probably mean her immediate severance from
himself as an unclean thing.

‘Is Miss Power a severe pietist, or precisian; or is she a compromising
lady?’ he asked abruptly.

‘She is severe and uncompromising--if you mean in her judgments on
morals,’ said Charlotte, not quite hearing. The remark was peculiarly
apposite, and De Stancy was silent.

He spent some following hours in a close study of the castle history,
which till now had unutterably bored him. More particularly did he
dwell over documents and notes which referred to the pedigree of his own
family. He wrote out the names of all--and they were many--who had been
born within those domineering walls since their first erection; of those
among them who had been brought thither by marriage with the owner, and
of stranger knights and gentlemen who had entered the castle by marriage
with its mistress. He refreshed his memory on the strange loves and
hates that had arisen in the course of the family history; on memorable
attacks, and the dates of the same, the most memorable among them being
the occasion on which the party represented by Paula battered down the
castle walls that she was now about to mend, and, as he hoped, return in
their original intact shape to the family dispossessed, by marriage with
himself, its living representative.

In Sir William’s villa were small engravings after many of the portraits
in the castle galleries, some of them hanging in the dining-room in
plain oak and maple frames, and others preserved in portfolios. De
Stancy spent much of his time over these, and in getting up the romances
of their originals’ lives from memoirs and other records, all which
stories were as great novelties to him as they could possibly be to any
stranger. Most interesting to him was the life of an Edward De Stancy,
who had lived just before the Civil Wars, and to whom Captain De Stancy
bore a very traceable likeness. This ancestor had a mole on his cheek,
black and distinct as a fly in cream; and as in the case of the first
Lord Amherst’s wart, and Bennet Earl of Arlington’s nose-scar, the
painter had faithfully reproduced the defect on canvas. It so happened
that the captain had a mole, though not exactly on the same spot of his
face; and this made the resemblance still greater.

He took infinite trouble with his dress that day, showing an amount of
anxiety on the matter which for him was quite abnormal. At last, when
fully equipped, he set out with his sister to make the call proposed.
Charlotte was rather unhappy at sight of her brother’s earnest attempt
to make an impression on Paula; but she could say nothing against it,
and they proceeded on their way.

It was the darkest of November weather, when the days are so short that
morning seems to join with evening without the intervention of noon. The
sky was lined with low cloud, within whose dense substance tempests
were slowly fermenting for the coming days. Even now a windy turbulence
troubled the half-naked boughs, and a lonely leaf would occasionally
spin downwards to rejoin on the grass the scathed multitude of its
comrades which had preceded it in its fall. The river by the pavilion,
in the summer so clear and purling, now slid onwards brown and thick and
silent, and enlarged to double size.



II.

Meanwhile Paula was alone. Of anyone else it would have been said that
she must be finding the afternoon rather dreary in the quaint halls
not of her forefathers: but of Miss Power it was unsafe to predicate so
surely. She walked from room to room in a black velvet dress which
gave decision to her outline without depriving it of softness. She
occasionally clasped her hands behind her head and looked out of a
window; but she more particularly bent her footsteps up and down the
Long Gallery, where she had caused a large fire of logs to be kindled,
in her endeavour to extend cheerfulness somewhat beyond the precincts of
the sitting-rooms.

The fire glanced up on Paula, and Paula glanced down at the fire, and at
the gnarled beech fuel, and at the wood-lice which ran out from beneath
the bark to the extremity of the logs as the heat approached them. The
low-down ruddy light spread over the dark floor like the setting sun
over a moor, fluttering on the grotesque countenances of the bright
andirons, and touching all the furniture on the underside.

She now and then crossed to one of the deep embrasures of the windows,
to decipher some sentence from a letter she held in her hand. The
daylight would have been more than sufficient for any bystander
to discern that the capitals in that letter were of the peculiar
semi-gothic type affected at the time by Somerset and other young
architects of his school in their epistolary correspondence. She was
very possibly thinking of him, even when not reading his letter, for the
expression of softness with which she perused the page was more or less
with her when she appeared to examine other things.

She walked about for a little time longer, then put away the letter,
looked at the clock, and thence returned to the windows, straining her
eyes over the landscape without, as she murmured, ‘I wish Charlotte was
not so long coming!’

As Charlotte continued to keep away, Paula became less reasonable in
her desires, and proceeded to wish that Somerset would arrive; then that
anybody would come; then, walking towards the portraits on the wall, she
flippantly asked one of those cavaliers to oblige her fancy for company
by stepping down from his frame. The temerity of the request led her
to prudently withdraw it almost as soon as conceived: old paintings had
been said to play queer tricks in extreme cases, and the shadows this
afternoon were funereal enough for anything in the shape of revenge
on an intruder who embodied the antagonistic modern spirit to such an
extent as she. However, Paula still stood before the picture which had
attracted her; and this, by a coincidence common enough in fact,
though scarcely credited in chronicles, happened to be that one of
the seventeenth-century portraits of which De Stancy had studied the
engraved copy at Myrtle Villa the same morning.

Whilst she remained before the picture, wondering her favourite wonder,
how would she feel if this and its accompanying canvases were pictures
of her own ancestors, she was surprised by a light footstep upon the
carpet which covered part of the room, and turning quickly she beheld
the smiling little figure of Charlotte De Stancy.

‘What has made you so late?’ said Paula. ‘You are come to stay, of
course?’

Charlotte said she had come to stay. ‘But I have brought somebody with
me!’

‘Ah--whom?’

‘My brother happened to be at home, and I have brought him.’

Miss De Stancy’s brother had been so continuously absent from home in
India, or elsewhere, so little spoken of, and, when spoken of, so truly
though unconsciously represented as one whose interests lay wholly
outside this antiquated neighbourhood, that to Paula he had been a mere
nebulosity whom she had never distinctly outlined. To have him thus
cohere into substance at a moment’s notice lent him the novelty of a new
creation.

‘Is he in the drawing-room?’ said Paula in a low voice.

‘No, he is here. He would follow me. I hope you will forgive him.’

And then Paula saw emerge into the red beams of the dancing fire,
from behind a half-drawn hanging which screened the door, the military
gentleman whose acquaintance the reader has already made.

‘You know the house, doubtless, Captain De Stancy?’ said Paula, somewhat
shyly, when he had been presented to her.

‘I have never seen the inside since I was three weeks old,’ replied the
artillery officer gracefully; ‘and hence my recollections of it are not
remarkably distinct. A year or two before I was born the entail was cut
off by my father and grandfather; so that I saw the venerable place only
to lose it; at least, I believe that’s the truth of the case. But my
knowledge of the transaction is not profound, and it is a delicate point
on which to question one’s father.’

Paula assented, and looked at the interesting and noble figure of the
man whose parents had seemingly righted themselves at the expense of
wronging him.

‘The pictures and furniture were sold about the same time, I think?’
said Charlotte.

‘Yes,’ murmured De Stancy. ‘They went in a mad bargain of my father with
his visitor, as they sat over their wine. My father sat down as host on
that occasion, and arose as guest.’

He seemed to speak with such a courteous absence of regret for the
alienation, that Paula, who was always fearing that the recollection
would rise as a painful shadow between herself and the De Stancys, felt
reassured by his magnanimity.

De Stancy looked with interest round the gallery; seeing which Paula
said she would have lights brought in a moment.

‘No, please not,’ said De Stancy. ‘The room and ourselves are of so much
more interesting a colour by this light!’

As they moved hither and thither, the various expressions of De Stancy’s
face made themselves picturesquely visible in the unsteady shine of the
blaze. In a short time he had drawn near to the painting of the ancestor
whom he so greatly resembled. When her quick eye noted the speck on
the face, indicative of inherited traits strongly pronounced, a new and
romantic feeling that the De Stancys had stretched out a tentacle from
their genealogical tree to seize her by the hand and draw her in to
their mass took possession of Paula. As has been said, the De Stancys
were a family on whom the hall-mark of membership was deeply stamped,
and by the present light the representative under the portrait and the
representative in the portrait seemed beings not far removed. Paula was
continually starting from a reverie and speaking irrelevantly, as if
such reflections as those seized hold of her in spite of her natural
unconcern.

When candles were brought in Captain De Stancy ardently contrived to
make the pictures the theme of conversation. From the nearest they went
to the next, whereupon Paula as hostess took up one of the candlesticks
and held it aloft to light up the painting. The candlestick being tall
and heavy, De Stancy relieved her of it, and taking another candle in
the other hand, he imperceptibly slid into the position of exhibitor
rather than spectator. Thus he walked in advance holding the two candles
on high, his shadow forming a gigantic figure on the neighbouring wall,
while he recited the particulars of family history pertaining to each
portrait, that he had learnt up with such eager persistence during the
previous four-and-twenty-hours. ‘I have often wondered what could have
been the history of this lady, but nobody has ever been able to tell
me,’ Paula observed, pointing to a Vandyck which represented a beautiful
woman wearing curls across her forehead, a square-cut bodice, and a
heavy pearl necklace upon the smooth expanse of her neck.

‘I don’t think anybody knows,’ Charlotte said.

‘O yes,’ replied her brother promptly, seeing with enthusiasm that
it was yet another opportunity for making capital of his acquired
knowledge, with which he felt himself as inconveniently crammed as a
candidate for a government examination. ‘That lady has been largely
celebrated under a fancy name, though she is comparatively little
known by her own. Her parents were the chief ornaments of the
almost irreproachable court of Charles the First, and were not more
distinguished by their politeness and honour than by the affections and
virtues which constitute the great charm of private life.’

The stock verbiage of the family memoir was somewhat apparent in this
effusion; but it much impressed his listeners; and he went on to
point out that from the lady’s necklace was suspended a heart-shaped
portrait--that of the man who broke his heart by her persistent refusal
to encourage his suit. De Stancy then led them a little further, where
hung a portrait of the lover, one of his own family, who appeared in
full panoply of plate mail, the pommel of his sword standing up under
his elbow. The gallant captain then related how this personage of his
line wooed the lady fruitlessly; how, after her marriage with another,
she and her husband visited the parents of the disappointed lover, the
then occupiers of the castle; how, in a fit of desperation at the
sight of her, he retired to his room, where he composed some passionate
verses, which he wrote with his blood, and after directing them to her
ran himself through the body with his sword. Too late the lady’s heart
was touched by his devotion; she was ever after a melancholy woman, and
wore his portrait despite her husband’s prohibition. ‘This,’ continued
De Stancy, leading them through the doorway into the hall where the
coats of mail were arranged along the wall, and stopping opposite a
suit which bore some resemblance to that of the portrait, ‘this is his
armour, as you will perceive by comparing it with the picture, and this
is the sword with which he did the rash deed.’

‘What unreasonable devotion!’ said Paula practically. ‘It was too
romantic of him. She was not worthy of such a sacrifice.’

‘He also is one whom they say you resemble a little in feature, I
think,’ said Charlotte.

‘Do they?’ replied De Stancy. ‘I wonder if it’s true.’ He set down the
candles, and asking the girls to withdraw for a moment, was inside the
upper part of the suit of armour in incredibly quick time. Going
then and placing himself in front of a low-hanging painting near the
original, so as to be enclosed by the frame while covering the figure,
arranging the sword as in the one above, and setting the light that it
might fall in the right direction, he recalled them; when he put the
question, ‘Is the resemblance strong?’

He looked so much like a man of bygone times that neither of them
replied, but remained curiously gazing at him. His modern and
comparatively sallow complexion, as seen through the open visor, lent an
ethereal ideality to his appearance which the time-stained countenance
of the original warrior totally lacked.

At last Paula spoke, so stilly that she seemed a statue enunciating:
‘Are the verses known that he wrote with his blood?’

‘O yes, they have been carefully preserved.’ Captain De Stancy, with
true wooer’s instinct, had committed some of them to memory that morning
from the printed copy to be found in every well-ordered library. ‘I fear
I don’t remember them all,’ he said, ‘but they begin in this way:--

     “From one that dyeth in his discontent,
      Dear Faire, receive this greeting to thee sent;
      And still as oft as it is read by thee,
      Then with some deep sad sigh remember mee!

      O ‘twas my fortune’s error to vow dutie,
      To one that bears defiance in her beautie!
      Sweete poyson, pretious wooe, infectious jewell--
      Such is a Ladie that is faire and cruell.

      How well could I with ayre, camelion-like,
      Live happie, and still gazeing on thy cheeke,
      In which, forsaken man, methink I see
      How goodlie love doth threaten cares to mee.

      Why dost thou frowne thus on a kneelinge soule,
      Whose faults in love thou may’st as well controule?--
      In love--but O, that word; that word I feare
      Is hateful still both to thy hart and eare!

   .       .       .       .       .

      Ladie, in breefe, my fate doth now intend
      The period of my daies to have an end:
      Waste not on me thy pittie, pretious Faire:
      Rest you in much content; I, in despaire!”’

A solemn silence followed the close of the recital, which De Stancy
improved by turning the point of the sword to his breast, resting the
pommel upon the floor, and saying:--

‘After writing that we may picture him turning this same sword in this
same way, and falling on it thus.’ He inclined his body forward as he
spoke.

‘Don’t, Captain De Stancy, please don’t!’ cried Paula involuntarily.

‘No, don’t show us any further, William!’ said his sister. ‘It is too
tragic.’

De Stancy put away the sword, himself rather excited--not, however, by
his own recital, but by the direct gaze of Paula at him.

This Protean quality of De Stancy’s, by means of which he could assume
the shape and situation of almost any ancestor at will, had impressed
her, and he perceived it with a throb of fervour. But it had done no
more than impress her; for though in delivering the lines he had so
fixed his look upon her as to suggest, to any maiden practised in the
game of the eyes, a present significance in the words, the idea of any
such arriere-pensee had by no means commended itself to her soul.

At this time a messenger from Markton barracks arrived at the castle and
wished to speak to Captain De Stancy in the hall. Begging the two ladies
to excuse him for a moment, he went out.

While De Stancy was talking in the twilight to the messenger at one end
of the apartment, some other arrival was shown in by the side door, and
in making his way after the conference across the hall to the room he
had previously quitted, De Stancy encountered the new-comer. There was
just enough light to reveal the countenance to be Dare’s; he bore a
portfolio under his arm, and had begun to wear a moustache, in case the
chief constable should meet him anywhere in his rambles, and be struck
by his resemblance to the man in the studio.

‘What the devil are you doing here?’ said Captain De Stancy, in tones he
had never used before to the young man.

Dare started back in surprise, and naturally so. De Stancy, having
adopted a new system of living, and relinquished the meagre diet and
enervating waters of his past years, was rapidly recovering tone. His
voice was firmer, his cheeks were less pallid; and above all he was
authoritative towards his present companion, whose ingenuity in vamping
up a being for his ambitious experiments seemed about to be rewarded,
like Frankenstein’s, by his discomfiture at the hands of his own
creature.

‘What the devil are you doing here, I say?’ repeated De Stancy.

‘You can talk to me like that, after my working so hard to get you on in
life, and make a rising man of you!’ expostulated Dare, as one who felt
himself no longer the leader in this enterprise.

‘But,’ said the captain less harshly, ‘if you let them discover any
relations between us here, you will ruin the fairest prospects man ever
had!’

‘O, I like that, captain--when you owe all of it to me!’

‘That’s too cool, Will.’

‘No; what I say is true. However, let that go. So now you are here on a
call; but how are you going to get here often enough to win her before
the other man comes back? If you don’t see her every day--twice, three
times a day--you will not capture her in the time.’

‘I must think of that,’ said De Stancy.

‘There is only one way of being constantly here: you must come to copy
the pictures or furniture, something in the way he did.’

‘I’ll think of it,’ muttered De Stancy hastily, as he heard the voices
of the ladies, whom he hastened to join as they were appearing at the
other end of the room. His countenance was gloomy as he recrossed
the hall, for Dare’s words on the shortness of his opportunities had
impressed him. Almost at once he uttered a hope to Paula that he might
have further chance of studying, and if possible of copying, some of the
ancestral faces with which the building abounded.

Meanwhile Dare had come forward with his portfolio, which proved to be
full of photographs. While Paula and Charlotte were examining them he
said to De Stancy, as a stranger: ‘Excuse my interruption, sir, but if
you should think of copying any of the portraits, as you were stating
just now to the ladies, my patent photographic process is at your
service, and is, I believe, the only one which would be effectual in the
dim indoor lights.’

‘It is just what I was thinking of,’ said De Stancy, now so far cooled
down from his irritation as to be quite ready to accept Dare’s adroitly
suggested scheme.

On application to Paula she immediately gave De Stancy permission to
photograph to any extent, and told Dare he might bring his instruments
as soon as Captain De Stancy required them.

‘Don’t stare at her in such a brazen way!’ whispered the latter to the
young man, when Paula had withdrawn a few steps. ‘Say, “I shall highly
value the privilege of assisting Captain De Stancy in such a work.”’

Dare obeyed, and before leaving De Stancy arranged to begin performing
on his venerated forefathers the next morning, the youth so accidentally
engaged agreeing to be there at the same time to assist in the technical
operations.



III.

As he had promised, De Stancy made use the next day of the coveted
permission that had been brought about by the ingenious Dare. Dare’s
timely suggestion of tendering assistance had the practical result of
relieving the other of all necessity for occupying his time with the
proceeding, further than to bestow a perfunctory superintendence now
and then, to give a colour to his regular presence in the fortress, the
actual work of taking copies being carried on by the younger man.

The weather was frequently wet during these operations, and Paula,
Miss De Stancy, and her brother, were often in the house whole mornings
together. By constant urging and coaxing the latter would induce his
gentle sister, much against her conscience, to leave him opportunities
for speaking to Paula alone. It was mostly before some print or painting
that these conversations occurred, while De Stancy was ostensibly
occupied with its merits, or in giving directions to his photographer
how to proceed. As soon as the dialogue began, the latter would withdraw
out of earshot, leaving Paula to imagine him the most deferential young
artist in the world.

‘You will soon possess duplicates of the whole gallery,’ she said on one
of these occasions, examining some curled sheets which Dare had printed
off from the negatives.

‘No,’ said the soldier. ‘I shall not have patience to go on. I get
ill-humoured and indifferent, and then leave off.’

‘Why ill-humoured?’

‘I scarcely know--more than that I acquire a general sense of my own
family’s want of merit through seeing how meritorious the people are
around me. I see them happy and thriving without any necessity for me at
all; and then I regard these canvas grandfathers and grandmothers, and
ask, “Why was a line so antiquated and out of date prolonged till now?”’

She chid him good-naturedly for such views. ‘They will do you an
injury,’ she declared. ‘Do spare yourself, Captain De Stancy!’

De Stancy shook his head as he turned the painting before him a little
further to the light.

‘But, do you know,’ said Paula, ‘that notion of yours of being a family
out of date is delightful to some people. I talk to Charlotte about
it often. I am never weary of examining those canopied effigies in the
church, and almost wish they were those of my relations.’

‘I will try to see things in the same light for your sake,’ said De
Stancy fervently.

‘Not for my sake; for your own was what I meant, of course,’ she replied
with a repressive air.

Captain De Stancy bowed.

‘What are you going to do with your photographs when you have them?’ she
asked, as if still anxious to obliterate the previous sentimental lapse.

‘I shall put them into a large album, and carry them with me in my
campaigns; and may I ask, now I have an opportunity, that you would
extend your permission to copy a little further, and let me photograph
one other painting that hangs in the castle, to fittingly complete my
set?’

‘Which?’

‘That half-length of a lady which hangs in the morning-room. I remember
seeing it in the Academy last year.’

Paula involuntarily closed herself up. The picture was her own portrait.
‘It does not belong to your series,’ she said somewhat coldly.

De Stancy’s secret thought was, I hope from my soul it will belong some
day! He answered with mildness: ‘There is a sort of connection--you are
my sister’s friend.’

Paula assented.

‘And hence, might not your friend’s brother photograph your picture?’

Paula demurred.

A gentle sigh rose from the bosom of De Stancy. ‘What is to become of
me?’ he said, with a light distressed laugh. ‘I am always inconsiderate
and inclined to ask too much. Forgive me! What was in my mind when I
asked I dare not say.’

‘I quite understand your interest in your family pictures--and all
of it,’ she remarked more gently, willing not to hurt the sensitive
feelings of a man so full of romance.

‘And in that ONE!’ he said, looking devotedly at her. ‘If I had only
been fortunate enough to include it with the rest, my album would indeed
have been a treasure to pore over by the bivouac fire!’

‘O, Captain De Stancy, this is provoking perseverance!’ cried Paula,
laughing half crossly. ‘I expected that after expressing my decision
so plainly the first time I should not have been further urged upon the
subject.’ Saying which she turned and moved decisively away.

It had not been a productive meeting, thus far. ‘One word!’ said De
Stancy, following and almost clasping her hand. ‘I have given offence, I
know: but do let it all fall on my own head--don’t tell my sister of
my misbehaviour! She loves you deeply, and it would wound her to the
heart.’

‘You deserve to be told upon,’ said Paula as she withdrew, with just
enough playfulness to show that her anger was not too serious.

Charlotte looked at Paula uneasily when the latter joined her in the
drawing-room. She wanted to say, ‘What is the matter?’ but guessing that
her brother had something to do with it, forbore to speak at first. She
could not contain her anxiety long. ‘Were you talking with my brother?’
she said.

‘Yes,’ returned Paula, with reservation. However, she soon added, ‘He
not only wants to photograph his ancestors, but MY portrait too. They
are a dreadfully encroaching sex, and perhaps being in the army makes
them worse!’

‘I’ll give him a hint, and tell him to be careful.’

‘Don’t say I have definitely complained of him; it is not worth while
to do that; the matter is too trifling for repetition. Upon the whole,
Charlotte, I would rather you said nothing at all.’

De Stancy’s hobby of photographing his ancestors seemed to become a
perfect mania with him. Almost every morning discovered him in
the larger apartments of the castle, taking down and rehanging the
dilapidated pictures, with the assistance of the indispensable Dare;
his fingers stained black with dust, and his face expressing a busy
attention to the work in hand, though always reserving a look askance
for the presence of Paula.

Though there was something of subterfuge, there was no deep and double
subterfuge in all this. De Stancy took no particular interest in his
ancestral portraits; but he was enamoured of Paula to weakness. Perhaps
the composition of his love would hardly bear looking into, but it was
recklessly frank and not quite mercenary. His photographic scheme was
nothing worse than a lover’s not too scrupulous contrivance. After the
refusal of his request to copy her picture he fumed and fretted at the
prospect of Somerset’s return before any impression had been made on
her heart by himself; he swore at Dare, and asked him hotly why he had
dragged him into such a hopeless dilemma as this.

‘Hopeless? Somerset must still be kept away, so that it is not hopeless.
I will consider how to prolong his stay.’

Thereupon Dare considered.

The time was coming--had indeed come--when it was necessary for Paula to
make up her mind about her architect, if she meant to begin building in
the spring. The two sets of plans, Somerset’s and Havill’s, were hanging
on the walls of the room that had been used by Somerset as his studio,
and were accessible by anybody. Dare took occasion to go and study both
sets, with a view to finding a flaw in Somerset’s which might have been
passed over unnoticed by the committee of architects, owing to their
absence from the actual site. But not a blunder could he find.

He next went to Havill; and here he was met by an amazing state of
affairs. Havill’s creditors, at last suspecting something mythical
in Havill’s assurance that the grand commission was his, had lost all
patience; his house was turned upside-down, and a poster gleamed on the
front wall, stating that the excellent modern household furniture was
to be sold by auction on Friday next. Troubles had apparently come in
battalions, for Dare was informed by a bystander that Havill’s wife was
seriously ill also.

Without staying for a moment to enter his friend’s house, back went
Mr. Dare to the castle, and told Captain De Stancy of the architect’s
desperate circumstances, begging him to convey the news in some way to
Miss Power. De Stancy promised to make representations in the proper
quarter without perceiving that he was doing the best possible deed for
himself thereby.

He told Paula of Havill’s misfortunes in the presence of his sister,
who turned pale. She discerned how this misfortune would bear upon the
undecided competition.

‘Poor man,’ murmured Paula. ‘He was my father’s architect, and somehow
expected, though I did not promise it, the work of rebuilding the
castle.’

Then De Stancy saw Dare’s aim in sending him to Miss Power with the
news; and, seeing it, concurred: Somerset was his rival, and all was
fair. ‘And is he not to have the work of the castle after expecting it?’
he asked.

Paula was lost in reflection. ‘The other architect’s design and Mr.
Havill’s are exactly equal in merit, and we cannot decide how to give it
to either,’ explained Charlotte.

‘That is our difficulty,’ Paula murmured. ‘A bankrupt, and his wife
ill--dear me! I wonder what’s the cause.’

‘He has borrowed on the expectation of having to execute the castle
works, and now he is unable to meet his liabilities.’

‘It is very sad,’ said Paula.

‘Let me suggest a remedy for this dead-lock,’ said De Stancy.

‘Do,’ said Paula.

‘Do the work of building in two halves or sections. Give Havill the
first half, since he is in need; when that is finished the second half
can be given to your London architect. If, as I understand, the plans
are identical, except in ornamental details, there will be no difficulty
about it at all.’

Paula sighed--just a little one; and yet the suggestion seemed to
satisfy her by its reasonableness. She turned sad, wayward, but was
impressed by De Stancy’s manner and words. She appeared indeed to have
a smouldering desire to please him. In the afternoon she said to
Charlotte, ‘I mean to do as your brother says.’

A note was despatched to Havill that very day, and in an hour the
crestfallen architect presented himself at the castle. Paula instantly
gave him audience, commiserated him, and commissioned him to carry out
a first section of the buildings, comprising work to the extent of about
twenty thousand pounds expenditure; and then, with a prematureness quite
amazing among architects’ clients, she handed him over a cheque for five
hundred pounds on account.

When he had gone, Paula’s bearing showed some sign of being disquieted
at what she had done; but she covered her mood under a cloak of saucy
serenity. Perhaps a tender remembrance of a certain thunderstorm in the
foregoing August when she stood with Somerset in the arbour, and did not
own that she loved him, was pressing on her memory and bewildering her.
She had not seen quite clearly, in adopting De Stancy’s suggestion, that
Somerset would now have no professional reason for being at the castle
for the next twelve months.

But the captain had, and when Havill entered the castle he rejoiced with
great joy. Dare, too, rejoiced in his cold way, and went on with his
photography, saying, ‘The game progresses, captain.’

‘Game? Call it Divine Comedy, rather!’ said the soldier exultingly.

‘He is practically banished for a year or more. What can’t you do in a
year, captain!’

Havill, in the meantime, having respectfully withdrawn from the presence
of Paula, passed by Dare and De Stancy in the gallery as he had done
in entering. He spoke a few words to Dare, who congratulated him. While
they were talking somebody was heard in the hall, inquiring hastily for
Mr. Havill.

‘What shall I tell him?’ demanded the porter.

‘His wife is dead,’ said the messenger.

Havill overheard the words, and hastened away.

‘An unlucky man!’ said Dare.

‘That, happily for us, will not affect his installation here,’ said De
Stancy. ‘Now hold your tongue and keep at a distance. She may come this
way.’

Surely enough in a few minutes she came. De Stancy, to make
conversation, told her of the new misfortune which had just befallen Mr.
Havill.

Paula was very sorry to hear it, and remarked that it gave her great
satisfaction to have appointed him as architect of the first wing before
he learnt the bad news. ‘I owe you best thanks, Captain De Stancy, for
showing me such an expedient.’

‘Do I really deserve thanks?’ asked De Stancy. ‘I wish I deserved a
reward; but I must bear in mind the fable of the priest and the jester.’

‘I never heard it.’

‘The jester implored the priest for alms, but the smallest sum was
refused, though the holy man readily agreed to give him his blessing.
Query, its value?’

‘How does it apply?’

‘You give me unlimited thanks, but deny me the tiniest substantial
trifle I desire.’

‘What persistence!’ exclaimed Paula, colouring. ‘Very well, if you
WILL photograph my picture you must. It is really not worthy further
pleading. Take it when you like.’

When Paula was alone she seemed vexed with herself for having given
way; and rising from her seat she went quietly to the door of the
room containing the picture, intending to lock it up till further
consideration, whatever he might think of her. But on casting her eyes
round the apartment the painting was gone. The captain, wisely taking
the current when it served, already had it in the gallery, where he
was to be seen bending attentively over it, arranging the lights and
directing Dare with the instruments. On leaving he thanked her, and said
that he had obtained a splendid copy. Would she look at it?

Paula was severe and icy. ‘Thank you--I don’t wish to see it,’ she said.

De Stancy bowed and departed in a glow of triumph; satisfied,
notwithstanding her frigidity, that he had compassed his immediate aim,
which was that she might not be able to dismiss from her thoughts him
and his persevering desire for the shadow of her face during the next
four-and-twenty-hours. And his confidence was well founded: she could
not.

‘I fear this Divine Comedy will be slow business for us, captain,’ said
Dare, who had heard her cold words.

‘O no!’ said De Stancy, flushing a little: he had not been perceiving
that the lad had the measure of his mind so entirely as to gauge his
position at any moment. But he would show no shamefacedness. ‘Even if it
is, my boy,’ he answered, ‘there’s plenty of time before the other can
come.’

At that hour and minute of De Stancy’s remark ‘the other,’ to look
at him, seemed indeed securely shelved. He was sitting lonely in his
chambers far away, wondering why she did not write, and yet hoping
to hear--wondering if it had all been but a short-lived strain of
tenderness. He knew as well as if it had been stated in words that her
serious acceptance of him as a suitor would be her acceptance of him as
an architect--that her schemes in love would be expressed in terms of
art; and conversely that her refusal of him as a lover would be neatly
effected by her choosing Havill’s plans for the castle, and returning
his own with thanks. The position was so clear: he was so well walled in
by circumstances that he was absolutely helpless.

To wait for the line that would not come--the letter saying that, as
she had desired, his was the design that pleased her--was still the only
thing to do. The (to Somerset) surprising accident that the committee of
architects should have pronounced the designs absolutely equal in point
of merit, and thus have caused the final choice to revert after all to
Paula, had been a joyous thing to him when he first heard of it, full
of confidence in her favour. But the fact of her having again become
the arbitrator, though it had made acceptance of his plans all the more
probable, made refusal of them, should it happen, all the more crushing.
He could have conceived himself favoured by Paula as her lover, even had
the committee decided in favour of Havill as her architect. But not to
be chosen as architect now was to be rejected in both kinds.



IV.

It was the Sunday following the funeral of Mrs. Havill, news of whose
death had been so unexpectedly brought to her husband at the moment of
his exit from Stancy Castle. The minister, as was his custom, improved
the occasion by a couple of sermons on the uncertainty of life. One
was preached in the morning in the old chapel of Markton; the second at
evening service in the rural chapel near Stancy Castle, built by Paula’s
father, which bore to the first somewhat the relation of an episcopal
chapel-of-ease to the mother church.

The unscreened lights blazed through the plate-glass windows of the
smaller building and outshone the steely stars of the early night, just
as they had done when Somerset was attracted by their glare four months
before. The fervid minister’s rhetoric equalled its force on that more
romantic occasion: but Paula was not there. She was not a frequent
attendant now at her father’s votive building. The mysterious tank,
whose dark waters had so repelled her at the last moment, was boarded
over: a table stood on its centre, with an open quarto Bible upon it,
behind which Havill, in a new suit of black, sat in a large chair.
Havill held the office of deacon: and he had mechanically taken the
deacon’s seat as usual to-night, in the face of the congregation, and
under the nose of Mr. Woodwell.

Mr. Woodwell was always glad of an opportunity. He was gifted with a
burning natural eloquence, which, though perhaps a little too freely
employed in exciting the ‘Wertherism of the uncultivated,’ had in it
genuine power. He was a master of that oratory which no limitation
of knowledge can repress, and which no training can impart. The
neighbouring rector could eclipse Woodwell’s scholarship, and the
freethinker at the corner shop in Markton could demolish his logic; but
the Baptist could do in five minutes what neither of these had done in a
lifetime; he could move some of the hardest of men to tears.

Thus it happened that, when the sermon was fairly under way, Havill
began to feel himself in a trying position. It was not that he had
bestowed much affection upon his deceased wife, irreproachable woman as
she had been; but the suddenness of her death had shaken his nerves,
and Mr. Woodwell’s address on the uncertainty of life involved
considerations of conduct on earth that bore with singular directness
upon Havill’s unprincipled manoeuvre for victory in the castle
competition. He wished he had not been so inadvertent as to take his
customary chair in the chapel. People who saw Havill’s agitation did not
know that it was most largely owing to his sense of the fraud which had
been practised on the unoffending Somerset; and when, unable longer to
endure the torture of Woodwell’s words, he rose from his place and went
into the chapel vestry, the preacher little thought that remorse for
a contemptibly unfair act, rather than grief for a dead wife, was the
cause of the architect’s withdrawal.

When Havill got into the open air his morbid excitement calmed down, but
a sickening self-abhorrence for the proceeding instigated by Dare did
not abate. To appropriate another man’s design was no more nor less than
to embezzle his money or steal his goods. The intense reaction from
his conduct of the past two or three months did not leave him when
he reached his own house and observed where the handbills of the
countermanded sale had been torn down, as the result of the payment made
in advance by Paula of money which should really have been Somerset’s.

The mood went on intensifying when he was in bed. He lay awake till the
clock reached those still, small, ghastly hours when the vital fires
burn at their lowest in the human frame, and death seizes more of his
victims than in any other of the twenty-four. Havill could bear it no
longer; he got a light, went down into his office and wrote the note
subjoined.

‘MADAM,--The recent death of my wife necessitates a considerable change
in my professional arrangements and plans with regard to the future.
One of the chief results of the change is, I regret to state, that I
no longer find myself in a position to carry out the enlargement of the
castle which you had so generously entrusted to my hands.

‘I beg leave therefore to resign all further connection with the same,
and to express, if you will allow me, a hope that the commission may
be placed in the hands of the other competitor. Herewith is returned a
cheque for one-half of the sum so kindly advanced in anticipation of the
commission I should receive; the other half, with which I had cleared
off my immediate embarrassments before perceiving the necessity for this
course, shall be returned to you as soon as some payments from other
clients drop in.--I beg to remain, Madam, your obedient servant, JAMES
HAVILL.’

Havill would not trust himself till the morning to post this letter. He
sealed it up, went out with it into the street, and walked through the
sleeping town to the post-office. At the mouth of the box he held the
letter long. By dropping it, he was dropping at least two thousand five
hundred pounds which, however obtained, were now securely his. It was a
great deal to let go; and there he stood till another wave of conscience
bore in upon his soul the absolute nature of the theft, and made him
shudder. The footsteps of a solitary policeman could be heard nearing
him along the deserted street; hesitation ended, and he let the letter
go.

When he awoke in the morning he thought over the circumstances by the
cheerful light of a low eastern sun. The horrors of the situation seemed
much less formidable; yet it cannot be said that he actually regretted
his act. Later on he walked out, with the strange sense of being a man
who, from one having a large professional undertaking in hand, had, by
his own act, suddenly reduced himself to an unoccupied nondescript. From
the upper end of the town he saw in the distance the grand grey towers
of Stancy Castle looming over the leafless trees; he felt stupefied at
what he had done, and said to himself with bitter discontent: ‘Well,
well, what is more contemptible than a half-hearted rogue!’

That morning the post-bag had been brought to Paula and Mrs. Goodman
in the usual way, and Miss Power read the letter. His resignation was a
surprise; the question whether he would or would not repay the money
was passed over; the necessity of installing Somerset after all as sole
architect was an agitation, or emotion, the precise nature of which it
is impossible to accurately define.

However, she went about the house after breakfast with very much the
manner of one who had had a weight removed either from her heart or from
her conscience; moreover, her face was a little flushed when, in passing
by Somerset’s late studio, she saw the plans bearing his motto, and knew
that his and not Havill’s would be the presiding presence in the coming
architectural turmoil. She went on further, and called to Charlotte, who
was now regularly sleeping in the castle, to accompany her, and together
they ascended to the telegraph-room in the donjon tower.

‘Whom are you going to telegraph to?’ said Miss De Stancy when they
stood by the instrument.

‘My architect.’

‘O--Mr. Havill.’

‘Mr. Somerset.’

Miss De Stancy had schooled her emotions on that side cruelly well, and
she asked calmly, ‘What, have you chosen him after all?’

‘There is no choice in it--read that,’ said Paula, handing Havill’s
letter, as if she felt that Providence had stepped in to shape ends that
she was too undecided or unpractised to shape for herself.

‘It is very strange,’ murmured Charlotte; while Paula applied herself to
the machine and despatched the words:--


‘Miss Power, Stancy Castle, to G. Somerset, Esq., F.S.A., F.R.I.B.A.,
Queen Anne’s Chambers, St. James’s.

‘Your design is accepted in its entirety. It will be necessary to begin
soon. I shall wish to see and consult you on the matter about the 10th
instant.’


When the message was fairly gone out of the window Paula seemed still
further to expand. The strange spell cast over her by something or
other--probably the presence of De Stancy, and the weird romanticism of
his manner towards her, which was as if the historic past had touched
her with a yet living hand--in a great measure became dissipated,
leaving her the arch and serene maiden that she had been before.

About this time Captain De Stancy and his Achates were approaching the
castle, and had arrived about fifty paces from the spot at which it
was Dare’s custom to drop behind his companion, in order that their
appearance at the lodge should be that of master and man.

Dare was saying, as he had said before: ‘I can’t help fancying, captain,
that your approach to this castle and its mistress is by a very tedious
system. Your trenches, zigzags, counterscarps, and ravelins may be all
very well, and a very sure system of attack in the long run; but upon my
soul they are almost as slow in maturing as those of Uncle Toby himself.
For my part I should be inclined to try an assault.’

‘Don’t pretend to give advice, Willy, on matters beyond your years.’

‘I only meant it for your good, and your proper advancement in the
world,’ said Dare in wounded tones.

‘Different characters, different systems,’ returned the soldier. ‘This
lady is of a reticent, independent, complicated disposition, and any
sudden proceeding would put her on her mettle. You don’t dream what
my impatience is, my boy. It is a thing transcending your utmost
conceptions! But I proceed slowly; I know better than to do otherwise.
Thank God there is plenty of time. As long as there is no risk of
Somerset’s return my situation is sure.’

‘And professional etiquette will prevent him coming yet. Havill and he
will change like the men in a sentry-box; when Havill walks out, he’ll
walk in, and not a moment before.’

‘That will not be till eighteen months have passed. And as the Jesuit
said, “Time and I against any two.”... Now drop to the rear,’ added
Captain De Stancy authoritatively. And they passed under the walls of
the castle.

The grave fronts and bastions were wrapped in silence; so much so,
that, standing awhile in the inner ward, they could hear through an open
window a faintly clicking sound from within.

‘She’s at the telegraph,’ said Dare, throwing forward his voice softly
to the captain. ‘What can that be for so early? That wire is a nuisance,
to my mind; such constant intercourse with the outer world is bad for
our romance.’

The speaker entered to arrange his photographic apparatus, of which, in
truth, he was getting weary; and De Stancy smoked on the terrace till
Dare should be ready. While he waited his sister looked out upon him
from an upper casement, having caught sight of him as she came from
Paula in the telegraph-room.

‘Well, Lottie, what news this morning?’ he said gaily.

‘Nothing of importance. We are quite well.’.... She added with
hesitation, ‘There is one piece of news; Mr. Havill--but perhaps you
have heard it in Markton?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Mr. Havill has resigned his appointment as architect to the castle.’

‘What?--who has it, then?’

‘Mr. Somerset.’

‘Appointed?’

‘Yes--by telegraph.’

‘When is he coming?’ said De Stancy in consternation.

‘About the tenth, we think.’

Charlotte was concerned to see her brother’s face, and withdrew from the
window that he might not question her further. De Stancy went into
the hall, and on to the gallery, where Dare was standing as still as a
caryatid.

‘I have heard every word,’ said Dare.

‘Well, what does it mean? Has that fool Havill done it on purpose to
annoy me? What conceivable reason can the man have for throwing up an
appointment he has worked so hard for, at the moment he has got it, and
in the time of his greatest need?’

Dare guessed, for he had seen a little way into Havill’s soul during the
brief period of their confederacy. But he was very far from saying what
he guessed. Yet he unconsciously revealed by other words the nocturnal
shades in his character which had made that confederacy possible.

‘Somerset coming after all!’ he replied. ‘By God! that little
six-barrelled friend of mine, and a good resolution, and he would never
arrive!’

‘What!’ said Captain De Stancy, paling with horror as he gathered the
other’s sinister meaning.

Dare instantly recollected himself. ‘One is tempted to say anything at
such a moment,’ he replied hastily.

‘Since he is to come, let him come, for me,’ continued De Stancy, with
reactionary distinctness, and still gazing gravely into the young man’s
face. ‘The battle shall be fairly fought out. Fair play, even to a
rival--remember that, boy.... Why are you here?--unnaturally concerning
yourself with the passions of a man of my age, as if you were the
parent, and I the son? Would to heaven, Willy, you had done as I wished
you to do, and led the life of a steady, thoughtful young man! Instead
of meddling here, you should now have been in some studio, college, or
professional man’s chambers, engaged in a useful pursuit which
might have made one proud to own you. But you were so precocious
and headstrong; and this is what you have come to: you promise to be
worthless!’

‘I think I shall go to my lodgings to-day instead of staying here over
these pictures,’ said Dare, after a silence during which Captain De
Stancy endeavoured to calm himself. ‘I was going to tell you that
my dinner to-day will unfortunately be one of herbs, for want of
the needful. I have come to my last stiver.--You dine at the mess, I
suppose, captain?’

De Stancy had walked away; but Dare knew that he played a pretty sure
card in that speech. De Stancy’s heart could not withstand the suggested
contrast between a lonely meal of bread-and-cheese and a well-ordered
dinner amid cheerful companions. ‘Here,’ he said, emptying his pocket
and returning to the lad’s side. ‘Take this, and order yourself a good
meal. You keep me as poor as a crow. There shall be more to-morrow.’

The peculiarly bifold nature of Captain De Stancy, as shown in his
conduct at different times, was something rare in life, and perhaps
happily so. That mechanical admixture of black and white qualities
without coalescence, on which the theory of men’s characters was based
by moral analysis before the rise of modern ethical schools, fictitious
as it was in general application, would have almost hit off the truth as
regards Captain De Stancy. Removed to some half-known century, his deeds
would have won a picturesqueness of light and shade that might have made
him a fascinating subject for some gallery of illustrious historical
personages. It was this tendency to moral chequer-work which accounted
for his varied bearings towards Dare.

Dare withdrew to take his departure. When he had gone a few steps,
despondent, he suddenly turned, and ran back with some excitement.

‘Captain--he’s coming on the tenth, don’t they say? Well, four days
before the tenth comes the sixth. Have you forgotten what’s fixed for
the sixth?’

‘I had quite forgotten!’

‘That day will be worth three months of quiet attentions: with luck,
skill, and a bold heart, what mayn’t you do?’

Captain De Stancy’s face softened with satisfaction.

‘There is something in that; the game is not up after all. The sixth--it
had gone clean out of my head, by gad!’



V.

The cheering message from Paula to Somerset sped through the loophole
of Stancy Castle keep, over the trees, along the railway, under bridges,
across four counties--from extreme antiquity of environment to sheer
modernism--and finally landed itself on a table in Somerset’s chambers
in the midst of a cloud of fog. He read it and, in the moment of
reaction from the depression of his past days, clapped his hands like a
child.

Then he considered the date at which she wanted to see him. Had she
so worded her despatch he would have gone that very day; but there was
nothing to complain of in her giving him a week’s notice. Pure maiden
modesty might have checked her indulgence in a too ardent recall.

Time, however, dragged somewhat heavily along in the interim, and on the
second day he thought he would call on his father and tell him of his
success in obtaining the appointment.

The elder Mr. Somerset lived in a detached house in the north-west part
of fashionable London; and ascending the chief staircase the young
man branched off from the first landing and entered his father’s
painting-room. It was an hour when he was pretty sure of finding the
well-known painter at work, and on lifting the tapestry he was not
disappointed, Mr. Somerset being busily engaged with his back towards
the door.

Art and vitiated nature were struggling like wrestlers in that
apartment, and art was getting the worst of it. The overpowering gloom
pervading the clammy air, rendered still more intense by the height of
the window from the floor, reduced all the pictures that were standing
around to the wizened feebleness of corpses on end. The shadowy parts
of the room behind the different easels were veiled in a brown vapour,
precluding all estimate of the extent of the studio, and only subdued
in the foreground by the ruddy glare from an open stove of Dutch tiles.
Somerset’s footsteps had been so noiseless over the carpeting of the
stairs and landing, that his father was unaware of his presence; he
continued at his work as before, which he performed by the help of a
complicated apparatus of lamps, candles, and reflectors, so arranged as
to eke out the miserable daylight, to a power apparently sufficient for
the neutral touches on which he was at that moment engaged.

The first thought of an unsophisticated stranger on entering that room
could only be the amazed inquiry why a professor of the art of colour,
which beyond all other arts requires pure daylight for its exercise,
should fix himself on the single square league in habitable Europe to
which light is denied at noonday for weeks in succession.

‘O! it’s you, George, is it?’ said the Academician, turning from the
lamps, which shone over his bald crown at such a slant as to reveal
every cranial irregularity. ‘How are you this morning? Still a dead
silence about your grand castle competition?’

Somerset told the news. His father duly congratulated him, and added
genially, ‘It is well to be you, George. One large commission to attend
to, and nothing to distract you from it. I am bothered by having a dozen
irons in the fire at once. And people are so unreasonable.--Only this
morning, among other things, when you got your order to go on with your
single study, I received a letter from a woman, an old friend whom I
can scarcely refuse, begging me as a great favour to design her a set of
theatrical costumes, in which she and her friends can perform for some
charity. It would occupy me a good week to go into the subject and do
the thing properly. Such are the sort of letters I get. I wish, George,
you could knock out something for her before you leave town. It is
positively impossible for me to do it with all this work in hand, and
these eternal fogs to contend against.’

‘I fear costumes are rather out of my line,’ said the son. ‘However,
I’ll do what I can. What period and country are they to represent?’

His father didn’t know. He had never looked at the play of late years.
It was ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost.’ ‘You had better read it for yourself,’ he
said, ‘and do the best you can.’

During the morning Somerset junior found time to refresh his memory of
the play, and afterwards went and hunted up materials for designs to
suit the same, which occupied his spare hours for the next three days.
As these occupations made no great demands upon his reasoning faculties
he mostly found his mind wandering off to imaginary scenes at Stancy
Castle: particularly did he dwell at this time upon Paula’s lively
interest in the history, relics, tombs, architecture,--nay, the very
Christian names of the De Stancy line, and her ‘artistic’ preference
for Charlotte’s ancestors instead of her own. Yet what more natural
than that a clever meditative girl, encased in the feudal lumber of
that family, should imbibe at least an antiquarian interest in it?
Human nature at bottom is romantic rather than ascetic, and the local
habitation which accident had provided for Paula was perhaps acting as
a solvent of the hard, morbidly introspective views thrust upon her in
early life.

Somerset wondered if his own possession of a substantial genealogy
like Captain De Stancy’s would have had any appreciable effect upon her
regard for him. His suggestion to Paula of her belonging to a worthy
strain of engineers had been based on his content with his own
intellectual line of descent through Pheidias, Ictinus and Callicrates,
Chersiphron, Vitruvius, Wilars of Cambray, William of Wykeham, and
the rest of that long and illustrious roll; but Miss Power’s marked
preference for an animal pedigree led him to muse on what he could show
for himself in that kind.

These thoughts so far occupied him that when he took the sketches to
his father, on the morning of the fifth, he was led to ask: ‘Has any one
ever sifted out our family pedigree?’

‘Family pedigree?’

‘Yes. Have we any pedigree worthy to be compared with that of
professedly old families? I never remember hearing of any ancestor
further back than my great-grandfather.’

Somerset the elder reflected and said that he believed there was a
genealogical tree about the house somewhere, reaching back to a very
respectable distance. ‘Not that I ever took much interest in it,’ he
continued, without looking up from his canvas; ‘but your great uncle
John was a man with a taste for those subjects, and he drew up such a
sheet: he made several copies on parchment, and gave one to each of
his brothers and sisters. The one he gave to my father is still in my
possession, I think.’

Somerset said that he should like to see it; but half-an-hour’s search
about the house failed to discover the document; and the Academician
then remembered that it was in an iron box at his banker’s. He had used
it as a wrapper for some title-deeds and other valuable writings which
were deposited there for safety. ‘Why do you want it?’ he inquired.

The young man confessed his whim to know if his own antiquity would bear
comparison with that of another person, whose name he did not mention;
whereupon his father gave him a key that would fit the said chest, if he
meant to pursue the subject further. Somerset, however, did nothing in
the matter that day, but the next morning, having to call at the bank on
other business, he remembered his new fancy.

It was about eleven o’clock. The fog, though not so brown as it had been
on previous days, was still dense enough to necessitate lights in the
shops and offices. When Somerset had finished his business in the
outer office of the bank he went to the manager’s room. The hour being
somewhat early the only persons present in that sanctuary of balances,
besides the manager who welcomed him, were two gentlemen, apparently
lawyers, who sat talking earnestly over a box of papers. The manager,
on learning what Somerset wanted, unlocked a door from which a flight
of stone steps led to the vaults, and sent down a clerk and a porter for
the safe.

Before, however, they had descended far a gentle tap came to the door,
and in response to an invitation to enter a lady appeared, wrapped up in
furs to her very nose.

The manager seemed to recognize her, for he went across the room in
a moment, and set her a chair at the middle table, replying to some
observation of hers with the words, ‘O yes, certainly,’ in a deferential
tone.

‘I should like it brought up at once,’ said the lady.

Somerset, who had seated himself at a table in a somewhat obscure
corner, screened by the lawyers, started at the words. The voice
was Miss Power’s, and so plainly enough was the figure as soon as he
examined it. Her back was towards him, and either because the room
was only lighted in two places, or because she was absorbed in her own
concerns, she seemed to be unconscious of any one’s presence on the
scene except the banker and herself. The former called back the clerk,
and two other porters having been summoned they disappeared to get
whatever she required.

Somerset, somewhat excited, sat wondering what could have brought Paula
to London at this juncture, and was in some doubt if the occasion were
a suitable one for revealing himself, her errand to her banker being
possibly of a very private nature. Nothing helped him to a decision.
Paula never once turned her head, and the progress of time was marked
only by the murmurs of the two lawyers, and the ceaseless clash of
gold and rattle of scales from the outer room, where the busy heads
of cashiers could be seen through the partition moving about under the
globes of the gas-lamps.

Footsteps were heard upon the cellar-steps, and the three men previously
sent below staggered from the doorway, bearing a huge safe which nearly
broke them down. Somerset knew that his father’s box, or boxes, could
boast of no such dimensions, and he was not surprised to see the chest
deposited in front of Miss Power. When the immense accumulation of dust
had been cleared off the lid, and the chest conveniently placed for her,
Somerset was attended to, his modest box being brought up by one man
unassisted, and without much expenditure of breath.

His interest in Paula was of so emotional a cast that his attention
to his own errand was of the most perfunctory kind. She was close to
a gas-standard, and the lawyers, whose seats had intervened, having
finished their business and gone away, all her actions were visible to
him. While he was opening his father’s box the manager assisted Paula to
unseal and unlock hers, and he now saw her lift from it a morocco case,
which she placed on the table before her, and unfastened. Out of it she
took a dazzling object that fell like a cascade over her fingers. It
was a necklace of diamonds and pearls, apparently of large size and many
strands, though he was not near enough to see distinctly. When satisfied
by her examination that she had got the right article she shut it into
its case.

The manager closed the chest for her; and when it was again secured
Paula arose, tossed the necklace into her hand-bag, bowed to the
manager, and was about to bid him good morning. Thereupon he said with
some hesitation: ‘Pardon one question, Miss Power. Do you intend to take
those jewels far?’

‘Yes,’ she said simply, ‘to Stancy Castle.’

‘You are going straight there?’

‘I have one or two places to call at first.’

‘I would suggest that you carry them in some other way--by fastening
them into the pocket of your dress, for instance.’

‘But I am going to hold the bag in my hand and never once let it go.’

The banker slightly shook his head. ‘Suppose your carriage gets
overturned: you would let it go then.’

‘Perhaps so.’

‘Or if you saw a child under the wheels just as you were stepping in; or
if you accidentally stumbled in getting out; or if there was a collision
on the railway--you might let it go.’

‘Yes; I see I was too careless. I thank you.’

Paula removed the necklace from the bag, turned her back to the manager,
and spent several minutes in placing her treasure in her bosom, pinning
it and otherwise making it absolutely secure.

‘That’s it,’ said the grey-haired man of caution, with evident
satisfaction. ‘There is not much danger now: you are not travelling
alone?’

Paula replied that she was not alone, and went to the door. There
was one moment during which Somerset might have conveniently made his
presence known; but the juxtaposition of the bank-manager, and his own
disarranged box of securities, embarrassed him: the moment slipped by,
and she was gone.

In the meantime he had mechanically unearthed the pedigree, and, locking
up his father’s chest, Somerset also took his departure at the heels of
Paula. He walked along the misty street, so deeply musing as to be quite
unconscious of the direction of his walk. What, he inquired of himself,
could she want that necklace for so suddenly? He recollected a remark
of Dare’s to the effect that her appearance on a particular occasion
at Stancy Castle had been magnificent by reason of the jewels she
wore; which proved that she had retained a sufficient quantity of those
valuables at the castle for ordinary requirements. What exceptional
occasion, then, was impending on which she wished to glorify herself
beyond all previous experience? He could not guess. He was interrupted
in these conjectures by a carriage nearly passing over his toes at a
crossing in Bond Street: looking up he saw between the two windows of
the vehicle the profile of a thickly mantled bosom, on which a camellia
rose and fell. All the remainder part of the lady’s person was hidden;
but he remembered that flower of convenient season as one which had
figured in the bank parlour half-an-hour earlier to-day.

Somerset hastened after the carriage, and in a minute saw it stop
opposite a jeweller’s shop. Out came Paula, and then another woman, in
whom he recognized Mrs. Birch, one of the lady’s maids at Stancy Castle.
The young man was at Paula’s side before she had crossed the pavement.



VI.

A quick arrested expression in her two sapphirine eyes, accompanied by
a little, a very little, blush which loitered long, was all the
outward disturbance that the sight of her lover caused. The habit of
self-repression at any new emotional impact was instinctive with her
always. Somerset could not say more than a word; he looked his intense
solicitude, and Paula spoke.

She declared that this was an unexpected pleasure. Had he arranged
to come on the tenth as she wished? How strange that they should meet
thus!--and yet not strange--the world was so small.

Somerset said that he was coming on the very day she mentioned--that the
appointment gave him infinite gratification, which was quite within the
truth.

‘Come into this shop with me,’ said Paula, with good-humoured
authoritativeness.

They entered the shop and talked on while she made a small purchase. But
not a word did Paula say of her sudden errand to town.

‘I am having an exciting morning,’ she said. ‘I am going from here to
catch the one-o’clock train to Markton.’

‘It is important that you get there this afternoon, I suppose?’

‘Yes. You know why?’

‘Not at all.’

‘The Hunt Ball. It was fixed for the sixth, and this is the sixth. I
thought they might have asked you.’

‘No,’ said Somerset, a trifle gloomily. ‘No, I am not asked. But it is a
great task for you--a long journey and a ball all in one day.’

‘Yes: Charlotte said that. But I don’t mind it.’

‘You are glad you are going. Are you glad?’ he said softly.

Her air confessed more than her words. ‘I am not so very glad that I am
going to the Hunt Ball,’ she replied confidentially.

‘Thanks for that,’ said he.

She lifted her eyes to his for a moment. Her manner had suddenly become
so nearly the counterpart of that in the tea-house that to suspect any
deterioration of affection in her was no longer generous. It was only as
if a thin layer of recent events had overlaid her memories of him, until
his presence swept them away.

Somerset looked up, and finding the shopman to be still some way off,
he added, ‘When will you assure me of something in return for what I
assured you that evening in the rain?’

‘Not before you have built the castle. My aunt does not know about it
yet, nor anybody.’

‘I ought to tell her.’

‘No, not yet. I don’t wish it.’

‘Then everything stands as usual?’

She lightly nodded.

‘That is, I may love you: but you still will not say you love me.’

She nodded again, and directing his attention to the advancing shopman,
said, ‘Please not a word more.’

Soon after this, they left the jeweller’s, and parted, Paula driving
straight off to the station and Somerset going on his way uncertainly
happy. His re-impression after a few minutes was that a special journey
to town to fetch that magnificent necklace which she had not once
mentioned to him, but which was plainly to be the medium of some proud
purpose with her this evening, was hardly in harmony with her assertions
of indifference to the attractions of the Hunt Ball.

He got into a cab and drove to his club, where he lunched, and mopingly
spent a great part of the afternoon in making calculations for the
foundations of the castle works. Later in the afternoon he returned to
his chambers, wishing that he could annihilate the three days remaining
before the tenth, particularly this coming evening. On his table was a
letter in a strange writing, and indifferently turning it over he found
from the superscription that it had been addressed to him days before at
the Lord-Quantock-Arms Hotel, Markton, where it had lain ever since, the
landlord probably expecting him to return. Opening the missive, he found
to his surprise that it was, after all, an invitation to the Hunt Ball.

‘Too late!’ said Somerset. ‘To think I should be served this trick a
second time!’

After a moment’s pause, however, he looked to see the time of day. It
was five minutes past five--just about the hour when Paula would be
driving from Markton Station to Stancy Castle to rest and prepare
herself for her evening triumph. There was a train at six o’clock, timed
to reach Markton between eleven and twelve, which by great exertion he
might save even now, if it were worth while to undertake such a scramble
for the pleasure of dropping in to the ball at a late hour. A moment’s
vision of Paula moving to swift tunes on the arm of a person or persons
unknown was enough to impart the impetus required. He jumped up, flung
his dress clothes into a portmanteau, sent down to call a cab, and in a
few minutes was rattling off to the railway which had borne Paula away
from London just five hours earlier.

Once in the train, he began to consider where and how he could
most conveniently dress for the dance. The train would certainly
be half-an-hour late; half-an-hour would be spent in getting to the
town-hall, and that was the utmost delay tolerable if he would secure
the hand of Paula for one spin, or be more than a mere dummy behind
the earlier arrivals. He looked for an empty compartment at the next
stoppage, and finding the one next his own unoccupied, he entered it and
changed his raiment for that in his portmanteau during the ensuing run
of twenty miles.

Thus prepared he awaited the Markton platform, which was reached as
the clock struck twelve. Somerset called a fly and drove at once to the
town-hall.

The borough natives had ascended to their upper floors, and were putting
out their candles one by one as he passed along the streets; but
the lively strains that proceeded from the central edifice revealed
distinctly enough what was going on among the temporary visitors from
the neighbouring manors. The doors were opened for him, and entering
the vestibule lined with flags, flowers, evergreens, and escutcheons, he
stood looking into the furnace of gaiety beyond.

It was some time before he could gather his impressions of the scene,
so perplexing were the lights, the motions, the toilets, the full-dress
uniforms of officers and the harmonies of sound. Yet light, sound, and
movement were not so much the essence of that giddy scene as an intense
aim at obliviousness in the beings composing it. For two or three hours
at least those whirling young people meant not to know that they were
mortal. The room was beating like a heart, and the pulse was regulated
by the trembling strings of the most popular quadrille band in Wessex.
But at last his eyes grew settled enough to look critically around.

The room was crowded--too crowded. Every variety of fair one, beauties
primary, secondary, and tertiary, appeared among the personages
composing the throng. There were suns and moons; also pale planets of
little account. Broadly speaking, these daughters of the county
fell into two classes: one the pink-faced unsophisticated girls from
neighbouring rectories and small country-houses, who knew not town
except for an occasional fortnight, and who spent their time from Easter
to Lammas Day much as they spent it during the remaining nine months of
the year: the other class were the children of the wealthy landowners
who migrated each season to the town-house; these were pale and
collected, showed less enjoyment in their countenances, and wore in
general an approximation to the languid manners of the capital.

A quadrille was in progress, and Somerset scanned each set. His mind had
run so long upon the necklace, that his glance involuntarily sought out
that gleaming object rather than the personality of its wearer. At the
top of the room there he beheld it; but it was on the neck of Charlotte
De Stancy.

The whole lucid explanation broke across his understanding in a second.
His dear Paula had fetched the necklace that Charlotte should not appear
to disadvantage among the county people by reason of her poverty. It was
generously done--a disinterested act of sisterly kindness; theirs was
the friendship of Hermia and Helena. Before he had got further than
to realize this, there wheeled round amongst the dancers a lady whose
tournure he recognized well. She was Paula; and to the young man’s
vision a superlative something distinguished her from all the rest. This
was not dress or ornament, for she had hardly a gem upon her, her
attire being a model of effective simplicity. Her partner was Captain De
Stancy.

The discovery of this latter fact slightly obscured his appreciation of
what he had discovered just before. It was with rather a lowering brow
that he asked himself whether Paula’s predilection d’artiste, as she
called it, for the De Stancy line might not lead to a predilection of
a different sort for its last representative which would be not at all
satisfactory.

The architect remained in the background till the dance drew to a
conclusion, and then he went forward. The circumstance of having met him
by accident once already that day seemed to quench any surprise in Miss
Power’s bosom at seeing him now. There was nothing in her parting
from Captain De Stancy, when he led her to a seat, calculated to make
Somerset uneasy after his long absence. Though, for that matter, this
proved nothing; for, like all wise maidens, Paula never ventured on the
game of the eyes with a lover in public; well knowing that every moment
of such indulgence overnight might mean an hour’s sneer at her expense
by the indulged gentleman next day, when weighing womankind by the aid
of a cold morning light and a bad headache.

While Somerset was explaining to Paula and her aunt the reason of his
sudden appearance, their attention was drawn to a seat a short way off
by a fluttering of ladies round the spot. In a moment it was whispered
that somebody had fallen ill, and in another that the sufferer was Miss
De Stancy. Paula, Mrs. Goodman, and Somerset at once joined the group of
friends who were assisting her. Neither of them imagined for an instant
that the unexpected advent of Somerset on the scene had anything to do
with the poor girl’s indisposition.

She was assisted out of the room, and her brother, who now came up,
prepared to take her home, Somerset exchanging a few civil words with
him, which the hurry of the moment prevented them from continuing;
though on taking his leave with Charlotte, who was now better, De Stancy
informed Somerset in answer to a cursory inquiry, that he hoped to be
back again at the ball in half-an-hour.

When they were gone Somerset, feeling that now another dog might have
his day, sounded Paula on the delightful question of a dance.

Paula replied in the negative.

‘How is that?’ asked Somerset with reproachful disappointment.

‘I cannot dance again,’ she said in a somewhat depressed tone; ‘I must
be released from every engagement to do so, on account of Charlotte’s
illness. I should have gone home with her if I had not been particularly
requested to stay a little longer, since it is as yet so early, and
Charlotte’s illness is not very serious.’

If Charlotte’s illness was not very serious, Somerset thought, Paula
might have stretched a point; but not wishing to hinder her in showing
respect to a friend so well liked by himself, he did not ask it. De
Stancy had promised to be back again in half-an-hour, and Paula had
heard the promise. But at the end of twenty minutes, still seeming
indifferent to what was going on around her, she said she would stay no
longer, and reminding Somerset that they were soon to meet and talk over
the rebuilding, drove off with her aunt to Stancy Castle.

Somerset stood looking after the retreating carriage till it was
enveloped in shades that the lamps could not disperse. The ball-room
was now virtually empty for him, and feeling no great anxiety to return
thither he stood on the steps for some minutes longer, looking into
the calm mild night, and at the dark houses behind whose blinds lay the
burghers with their eyes sealed up in sleep. He could not but think that
it was rather too bad of Paula to spoil his evening for a sentimental
devotion to Charlotte which could do the latter no appreciable good; and
he would have felt seriously hurt at her move if it had not been equally
severe upon Captain De Stancy, who was doubtless hastening back, full of
a belief that she would still be found there.

The star of gas-jets over the entrance threw its light upon the walls
on the opposite side of the street, where there were notice-boards of
forthcoming events. In glancing over these for the fifth time, his eye
was attracted by the first words of a placard in blue letters, of a size
larger than the rest, and moving onward a few steps he read:--


                    STANCY CASTLE.

           By the kind permission of Miss Power,

                        A PLAY

       Will shortly be performed at the above CASTLE,


               IN AID OF THE FUNDS OF THE

                     COUNTY HOSPITAL,

                  By the Officers of the

                  ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY,

                     MARKTON BARRACKS,

                    ASSISTED BY SEVERAL

                LADIES OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD.

  The cast and other particulars will be duly announced in
small  bills.  Places will be reserved on application to Mr.
Clangham,  High Street, Markton, where a plan of the room may be seen.

  N.B--The Castle is about twenty minutes’ drive from Markton
Station,  to which there are numerous convenient trains from all parts
of the  county.



In a profound study Somerset turned and re-entered the ball-room, where
he remained gloomily standing here and there for about five minutes,
at the end of which he observed Captain De Stancy, who had returned
punctually to his word, crossing the hall in his direction.

The gallant officer darted glances of lively search over every group of
dancers and sitters; and then with rather a blank look in his face, he
came on to Somerset. Replying to the latter’s inquiry for his sister
that she had nearly recovered, he said, ‘I don’t see my father’s
neighbours anywhere.’

‘They have gone home,’ replied Somerset, a trifle drily. ‘They asked
me to make their apologies to you for leading you to expect they would
remain. Miss Power was too anxious about Miss De Stancy to care to stay
longer.’

The eyes of De Stancy and the speaker met for an instant. That curious
guarded understanding, or inimical confederacy, which arises at moments
between two men in love with the same woman, was present here; and in
their mutual glances each said as plainly as by words that her departure
had ruined his evening’s hope.

They were now about as much in one mood as it was possible for two such
differing natures to be. Neither cared further for elaborating giddy
curves on that town-hall floor. They stood talking languidly about this
and that local topic, till De Stancy turned aside for a short time to
speak to a dapper little lady who had beckoned to him. In a few minutes
he came back to Somerset.

‘Mrs. Camperton, the wife of Major Camperton of my battery, would very
much like me to introduce you to her. She is an old friend of your
father’s, and has wanted to know you for a long time.’

De Stancy and Somerset crossed over to the lady, and in a few minutes,
thanks to her flow of spirits, she and Somerset were chatting with
remarkable freedom.

‘It is a happy coincidence,’ continued Mrs. Camperton, ‘that I should
have met you here, immediately after receiving a letter from your
father: indeed it reached me only this morning. He has been so kind!
We are getting up some theatricals, as you know, I suppose, to help the
funds of the County Hospital, which is in debt.’

‘I have just seen the announcement--nothing more.’

‘Yes, such an estimable purpose; and as we wished to do it thoroughly
well, I asked Mr. Somerset to design us the costumes, and he has now
sent me the sketches. It is quite a secret at present, but we are going
to play Shakespeare’s romantic drama, ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost,’ and we
hope to get Miss Power to take the leading part. You see, being such a
handsome girl, and so wealthy, and rather an undiscovered novelty in the
county as yet, she would draw a crowded room, and greatly benefit the
funds.’

‘Miss Power going to play herself?--I am rather surprised,’ said
Somerset. ‘Whose idea is all this?’

‘O, Captain De Stancy’s--he’s the originator entirely. You see he is so
interested in the neighbourhood, his family having been connected with
it for so many centuries, that naturally a charitable object of this
local nature appeals to his feelings.’

‘Naturally!’ her listener laconically repeated. ‘And have you settled
who is to play the junior gentleman’s part, leading lover, hero, or
whatever he is called?’

‘Not absolutely; though I think Captain De Stancy will not refuse it;
and he is a very good figure. At present it lies between him and Mr.
Mild, one of our young lieutenants. My husband, of course, takes the
heavy line; and I am to be the second lady, though I am rather too old
for the part really. If we can only secure Miss Power for heroine the
cast will be excellent.’

‘Excellent!’ said Somerset, with a spectral smile.



VII.

When he awoke the next morning at the Lord-Quantock-Arms Hotel Somerset
felt quite morbid on recalling the intelligence he had received from
Mrs. Camperton. But as the day for serious practical consultation about
the castle works, to which Paula had playfully alluded, was now close at
hand, he determined to banish sentimental reflections on the frailties
that were besieging her nature, by active preparation for his
professional undertaking. To be her high-priest in art, to elaborate a
structure whose cunning workmanship would be meeting her eye every day
till the end of her natural life, and saying to her, ‘He invented it,’
with all the eloquence of an inanimate thing long regarded--this was no
mean satisfaction, come what else would.

He returned to town the next day to set matters there in such trim that
no inconvenience should result from his prolonged absence at the castle;
for having no other commission he determined (with an eye rather to
heart-interests than to increasing his professional practice) to make,
as before, the castle itself his office, studio, and chief abiding-place
till the works were fairly in progress.

On the tenth he reappeared at Markton. Passing through the town, on the
road to Stancy Castle, his eyes were again arrested by the notice-board
which had conveyed such startling information to him on the night of the
ball. The small bills now appeared thereon; but when he anxiously looked
them over to learn how the parts were to be allotted, he found
that intelligence still withheld. Yet they told enough; the list of
lady-players was given, and Miss Power’s name was one.

That a young lady who, six months ago, would scarcely join for
conscientious reasons in a simple dance on her own lawn, should now be
willing to exhibit herself on a public stage, simulating love-passages
with a stranger, argued a rate of development which under any
circumstances would have surprised him, but which, with the particular
addition, as leading colleague, of Captain De Stancy, inflamed him
almost to anger. What clandestine arrangements had been going on in his
absence to produce such a full-blown intention it were futile to guess.
Paula’s course was a race rather than a march, and each successive heat
was startling in its eclipse of that which went before.

Somerset was, however, introspective enough to know that his morals
would have taken no such virtuous alarm had he been the chief male
player instead of Captain De Stancy.

He passed under the castle-arch and entered. There seemed a little turn
in the tide of affairs when it was announced to him that Miss Power
expected him, and was alone.

The well-known ante-chambers through which he walked, filled with
twilight, draughts, and thin echoes that seemed to reverberate from two
hundred years ago, did not delay his eye as they had done when he had
been ignorant that his destiny lay beyond; and he followed on through
all this ancientness to where the modern Paula sat to receive him.

He forgot everything in the pleasure of being alone in a room with her.
She met his eye with that in her own which cheered him. It was a light
expressing that something was understood between them. She said quietly
in two or three words that she had expected him in the forenoon.

Somerset explained that he had come only that morning from London.

After a little more talk, in which she said that her aunt would join
them in a few minutes, and Miss De Stancy was still indisposed at her
father’s house, she rang for tea and sat down beside a little table.

‘Shall we proceed to business at once?’ she asked him.

‘I suppose so.’

‘First then, when will the working drawings be ready, which I think you
said must be made out before the work could begin?’

While Somerset informed her on this and other matters, Mrs. Goodman
entered and joined in the discussion, after which they found it would be
necessary to adjourn to the room where the plans were hanging. On their
walk thither Paula asked if he stayed late at the ball.

‘I left soon after you.’

‘That was very early, seeing how late you arrived.’

‘Yes.... I did not dance.’

‘What did you do then?’

‘I moped, and walked to the door; and saw an announcement.’

‘I know--the play that is to be performed.’

‘In which you are to be the Princess.’

‘That’s not settled,--I have not agreed yet. I shall not play the
Princess of France unless Mr. Mild plays the King of Navarre.’

This sounded rather well. The Princess was the lady beloved by the
King; and Mr. Mild, the young lieutenant of artillery, was a diffident,
inexperienced, rather plain-looking fellow, whose sole interest in
theatricals lay in the consideration of his costume and the sound of
his own voice in the ears of the audience. With such an unobjectionable
person to enact the part of lover, the prominent character of leading
young lady or heroine, which Paula was to personate, was really the most
satisfactory in the whole list for her. For although she was to be wooed
hard, there was just as much love-making among the remaining personages;
while, as Somerset had understood the play, there could occur no
flingings of her person upon her lover’s neck, or agonized downfalls
upon the stage, in her whole performance, as there were in the parts
chosen by Mrs. Camperton, the major’s wife, and some of the other
ladies.

‘Why do you play at all!’ he murmured.

‘What a question! How could I refuse for such an excellent purpose? They
say that my taking a part will be worth a hundred pounds to the
charity. My father always supported the hospital, which is quite
undenominational; and he said I was to do the same.’

‘Do you think the peculiar means you have adopted for supporting it
entered into his view?’ inquired Somerset, regarding her with critical
dryness. ‘For my part I don’t.’

‘It is an interesting way,’ she returned persuasively, though apparently
in a state of mental equipoise on the point raised by his question. ‘And
I shall not play the Princess, as I said, to any other than that quiet
young man. Now I assure you of this, so don’t be angry and absurd!
Besides, the King doesn’t marry me at the end of the play, as in
Shakespeare’s other comedies. And if Miss De Stancy continues seriously
unwell I shall not play at all.’

The young man pressed her hand, but she gently slipped it away.

‘Are we not engaged, Paula!’ he asked. She evasively shook her head.

‘Come--yes we are! Shall we tell your aunt?’ he continued. Unluckily
at that moment Mrs. Goodman, who had followed them to the studio at a
slower pace, appeared round the doorway.

‘No,--to the last,’ replied Paula hastily. Then her aunt entered, and
the conversation was no longer personal.

Somerset took his departure in a serener mood though not completely
assured.



VIII.

His serenity continued during two or three following days, when,
continuing at the castle, he got pleasant glimpses of Paula now and
then. Her strong desire that his love for her should be kept secret,
perplexed him; but his affection was generous, and he acquiesced in that
desire.

Meanwhile news of the forthcoming dramatic performance radiated in every
direction. And in the next number of the county paper it was announced,
to Somerset’s comparative satisfaction, that the cast was definitely
settled, Mr. Mild having agreed to be the King and Miss Power the French
Princess. Captain De Stancy, with becoming modesty for one who was the
leading spirit, figured quite low down, in the secondary character of
Sir Nathaniel.

Somerset remembered that, by a happy chance, the costume he had designed
for Sir Nathaniel was not at all picturesque; moreover Sir Nathaniel
scarcely came near the Princess through the whole play.

Every day after this there was coming and going to and from the castle
of railway vans laden with canvas columns, pasteboard trees, limp
house-fronts, woollen lawns, and lath balustrades. There were also
frequent arrivals of young ladies from neighbouring country houses, and
warriors from the X and Y batteries of artillery, distinguishable by
their regulation shaving.

But it was upon Captain De Stancy and Mrs. Camperton that the weight
of preparation fell. Somerset, through being much occupied in the
drawing-office, was seldom present during the consultations and
rehearsals: until one day, tea being served in the drawing-room at the
usual hour, he dropped in with the rest to receive a cup from Paula’s
table. The chatter was tremendous, and Somerset was at once consulted
about some necessary carpentry which was to be specially made at
Markton. After that he was looked on as one of the band, which resulted
in a large addition to the number of his acquaintance in this part of
England.

But his own feeling was that of being an outsider still. This vagary
had been originated, the play chosen, the parts allotted, all in his
absence, and calling him in at the last moment might, if flirtation were
possible in Paula, be but a sop to pacify him. What would he have given
to impersonate her lover in the piece! But neither Paula nor any one
else had asked him.

The eventful evening came. Somerset had been engaged during the day with
the different people by whom the works were to be carried out and in the
evening went to his rooms at the Lord-Quantock-Arms, Markton, where
he dined. He did not return to the castle till the hour fixed for the
performance, and having been received by Mrs. Goodman, entered the large
apartment, now transfigured into a theatre, like any other spectator.

Rumours of the projected representation had spread far and wide. Six
times the number of tickets issued might have been readily sold. Friends
and acquaintances of the actors came from curiosity to see how they
would acquit themselves; while other classes of people came because they
were eager to see well-known notabilities in unwonted situations. When
ladies, hitherto only beheld in frigid, impenetrable positions behind
their coachmen in Markton High Street, were about to reveal their hidden
traits, home attitudes, intimate smiles, nods, and perhaps kisses, to
the public eye, it was a throwing open of fascinating social secrets not
to be missed for money.

The performance opened with no further delay than was occasioned by the
customary refusal of the curtain at these times to rise more than two
feet six inches; but this hitch was remedied, and the play began. It was
with no enviable emotion that Somerset, who was watching intently, saw,
not Mr. Mild, but Captain De Stancy, enter as the King of Navarre.

Somerset as a friend of the family had had a seat reserved for him
next to that of Mrs. Goodman, and turning to her he said with some
excitement, ‘I understood that Mr. Mild had agreed to take that part?’

‘Yes,’ she said in a whisper, ‘so he had; but he broke down. Luckily
Captain De Stancy was familiar with the part, through having coached the
others so persistently, and he undertook it off-hand. Being about the
same figure as Lieutenant Mild the same dress fits him, with a little
alteration by the tailor.’

It did fit him indeed; and of the male costumes it was that on which
Somerset had bestowed most pains when designing them. It shrewdly burst
upon his mind that there might have been collusion between Mild and De
Stancy, the former agreeing to take the captain’s place and act as blind
till the last moment. A greater question was, could Paula have been
aware of this, and would she perform as the Princess of France now De
Stancy was to be her lover?

‘Does Miss Power know of this change?’ he inquired.

‘She did not till quite a short time ago.’

He controlled his impatience till the beginning of the second act. The
Princess entered; it was Paula. But whether the slight embarrassment
with which she pronounced her opening words,

     ‘Good Lord Boyet, my beauty, though but mean,
      Needs not the painted flourish of your praise,’

was due to the newness of her situation, or to her knowledge that De
Stancy had usurped Mild’s part of her lover, he could not guess. De
Stancy appeared, and Somerset felt grim as he listened to the gallant
captain’s salutation of the Princess, and her response.

  De S.   Fair Princess, welcome to the court of Navarre.
  Paula.  Fair, I give you back again:  and welcome, I have
not yet.

Somerset listened to this and to all that which followed of the same
sort, with the reflection that, after all, the Princess never throughout
the piece compromised her dignity by showing her love for the King; and
that the latter never addressed her in words in which passion got the
better of courtesy. Moreover, as Paula had herself observed, they did
not marry at the end of the piece, as in Shakespeare’s other comedies.
Somewhat calm in this assurance, he waited on while the other couples
respectively indulged in their love-making, and banter, including Mrs.
Camperton as the sprightly Rosaline. But he was doomed to be surprised
out of his humour when the end of the act came on. In abridging the play
for the convenience of representation, the favours or gifts from the
gentlemen to the ladies were personally presented: and now Somerset saw
De Stancy advance with the necklace fetched by Paula from London, and
clasp it on her neck.

This seemed to throw a less pleasant light on her hasty journey. To
fetch a valuable ornament to lend it to a poorer friend was estimable;
but to fetch it that the friend’s brother should have something
magnificent to use as a lover’s offering to herself in public, that
wore a different complexion. And if the article were recognized by
the spectators as the same that Charlotte had worn at the ball, the
presentation by De Stancy of what must seem to be an heirloom of his
house would be read as symbolizing a union of the families.

De Stancy’s mode of presenting the necklace, though unauthorized by
Shakespeare, had the full approval of the company, and set them in
good humour to receive Major Camperton as Armado the braggart. Nothing
calculated to stimulate jealousy occurred again till the fifth act; and
then there arose full cause for it.

The scene was the outside of the Princess’s pavilion. De Stancy, as
the King of Navarre, stood with his group of attendants awaiting the
Princess, who presently entered from her door. The two began to converse
as the play appointed, De Stancy turning to her with this reply--

     ‘Rebuke me not for that which you provoke;
      The virtue of your eye must break my oath.’

So far all was well; and Paula opened her lips for the set rejoinder.
But before she had spoken De Stancy continued--

     ‘If I profane with my unworthy hand
                                    (Taking her hand)
      This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this--
      My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
      To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.’

Somerset stared. Surely in this comedy the King never addressed the
Princess in such warm words; and yet they were Shakespeare’s, for they
were quite familiar to him. A dim suspicion crossed his mind. Mrs.
Goodman had brought a copy of Shakespeare with her, which she kept in
her lap and never looked at: borrowing it, Somerset turned to ‘Romeo and
Juliet,’ and there he saw the words which De Stancy had introduced as
gag, to intensify the mild love-making of the other play. Meanwhile De
Stancy continued--

     ‘O then, dear Saint, let lips do what hands do;
      They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
      Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
      Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purg’d!’

Could it be that De Stancy was going to do what came next in the stage
direction--kiss her? Before there was time for conjecture on that point
the sound of a very sweet and long-drawn osculation spread through the
room, followed by loud applause from the people in the cheap seats. De
Stancy withdrew from bending over Paula, and she was very red in the
face. Nothing seemed clearer than that he had actually done the deed.
The applause continuing, Somerset turned his head. Five hundred
faces had regarded the act, without a consciousness that it was an
interpolation; and four hundred and fifty mouths in those faces were
smiling. About one half of them were tender smiles; these came from the
women. The other half were at best humorous, and mainly satirical; these
came from the men. It was a profanation without parallel, and his face
blazed like a coal.

The play was now nearly at an end, and Somerset sat on, feeling what
he could not express. More than ever was he assured that there had been
collusion between the two artillery officers to bring about this end.
That he should have been the unhappy man to design those picturesque
dresses in which his rival so audaciously played the lover to his,
Somerset’s, mistress, was an added point to the satire. He could
hardly go so far as to assume that Paula was a consenting party to this
startling interlude; but her otherwise unaccountable wish that his own
love should be clandestinely shown lent immense force to a doubt of her
sincerity. The ghastly thought that she had merely been keeping him on,
like a pet spaniel, to amuse her leisure moments till she should have
found appropriate opportunity for an open engagement with some one else,
trusting to his sense of chivalry to keep secret their little episode,
filled him with a grim heat.



IX.

At the back of the room the applause had been loud at the moment of the
kiss, real or counterfeit. The cause was partly owing to an exceptional
circumstance which had occurred in that quarter early in the play.

The people had all seated themselves, and the first act had begun,
when the tapestry that screened the door was lifted gently and a figure
appeared in the opening. The general attention was at this moment
absorbed by the newly disclosed stage, and scarcely a soul noticed the
stranger. Had any one of the audience turned his head, there would have
been sufficient in the countenance to detain his gaze, notwithstanding
the counter-attraction forward.

He was obviously a man who had come from afar. There was not a square
inch about him that had anything to do with modern English life. His
visage, which was of the colour of light porphyry, had little of its
original surface left; it was a face which had been the plaything of
strange fires or pestilences, that had moulded to whatever shape they
chose his originally supple skin, and left it pitted, puckered, and
seamed like a dried water-course. But though dire catastrophes or
the treacherous airs of remote climates had done their worst upon his
exterior, they seemed to have affected him but little within, to judge
from a certain robustness which showed itself in his manner of standing.

The face-marks had a meaning, for any one who could read them, beyond
the mere suggestion of their origin: they signified that this man
had either been the victim of some terrible necessity as regarded the
occupation to which he had devoted himself, or that he was a man of
dogged obstinacy, from sheer sang froid holding his ground amid malign
forces when others would have fled affrighted away.

As nobody noticed him, he dropped the door hangings after a while,
walked silently along the matted alley, and sat down in one of the back
chairs. His manner of entry was enough to show that the strength of
character which he seemed to possess had phlegm for its base and not
ardour. One might have said that perhaps the shocks he had passed
through had taken all his original warmth out of him. His beaver hat,
which he had retained on his head till this moment, he now placed under
the seat, where he sat absolutely motionless till the end of the first
act, as if he were indulging in a monologue which did not quite reach
his lips.

When Paula entered at the beginning of the second act he showed as much
excitement as was expressed by a slight movement of the eyes. When she
spoke he turned to his next neighbour, and asked him in cold level words
which had once been English, but which seemed to have lost the accent
of nationality: ‘Is that the young woman who is the possessor of this
castle--Power by name?’

His neighbour happened to be the landlord at Sleeping-Green, and he
informed the stranger that she was what he supposed.

‘And who is that gentleman whose line of business seems to be to make
love to Power?’

‘He’s Captain De Stancy, Sir William De Stancy’s son, who used to own
this property.’

‘Baronet or knight?’

‘Baronet--a very old-established family about here.’

The stranger nodded, and the play went on, no further word being spoken
till the fourth act was reached, when the stranger again said, without
taking his narrow black eyes from the stage: ‘There’s something in that
love-making between Stancy and Power that’s not all sham!’

‘Well,’ said the landlord, ‘I have heard different stories about that,
and wouldn’t be the man to zay what I couldn’t swear to. The story is
that Captain De Stancy, who is as poor as a gallicrow, is in full cry
a’ter her, and that his on’y chance lies in his being heir to a title
and the wold name. But she has not shown a genuine hanker for anybody
yet.’

‘If she finds the money, and this Stancy finds the name and blood,
‘twould be a very neat match between ‘em,--hey?’

‘That’s the argument.’

Nothing more was said again for a long time, but the stranger’s eyes
showed more interest in the passes between Paula and De Stancy than they
had shown before. At length the crisis came, as described in the last
chapter, De Stancy saluting her with that semblance of a kiss which gave
such umbrage to Somerset. The stranger’s thin lips lengthened a couple
of inches with satisfaction; he put his hand into his pocket, drew out
two half-crowns which he handed to the landlord, saying, ‘Just applaud
that, will you, and get your comrades to do the same.’

The landlord, though a little surprised, took the money, and began to
clap his hands as desired. The example was contagious, and spread all
over the room; for the audience, gentle and simple, though they might
not have followed the blank verse in all its bearings, could at least
appreciate a kiss. It was the unusual acclamation raised by this means
which had led Somerset to turn his head.

When the play had ended the stranger was the first to rise, and going
downstairs at the head of the crowd he passed out of doors, and was lost
to view. Some questions were asked by the landlord as to the stranger’s
individuality; but few had seen him; fewer had noticed him, singular as
he was; and none knew his name.

While these things had been going on in the quarter allotted to the
commonalty, Somerset in front had waited the fall of the curtain with
those sick and sorry feelings which should be combated by the aid of
philosophy and a good conscience, but which really are only subdued by
time and the abrading rush of affairs. He was, however, stoical enough,
when it was all over, to accept Mrs. Goodman’s invitation to accompany
her to the drawing-room, fully expecting to find there a large company,
including Captain De Stancy.

But none of the acting ladies and gentlemen had emerged from their
dressing-rooms as yet. Feeling that he did not care to meet any of them
that night, he bade farewell to Mrs. Goodman after a few minutes of
conversation, and left her. While he was passing along the corridor,
at the side of the gallery which had been used as the theatre, Paula
crossed it from the latter apartment towards an opposite door. She was
still in the dress of the Princess, and the diamond and pearl necklace
still hung over her bosom as placed there by Captain De Stancy.

Her eye caught Somerset’s, and she stopped. Probably there was something
in his face which told his mind, for she invited him by a smile into the
room she was entering.

‘I congratulate you on your performance,’ he said mechanically, when she
pushed to the door.

‘Do you really think it was well done?’ She drew near him with a
sociable air.

‘It was startlingly done--the part from “Romeo and Juliet” pre-eminently
so.’

‘Do you think I knew he was going to introduce it, or do you think I
didn’t know?’ she said, with that gentle sauciness which shows itself in
the loved one’s manner when she has had a triumphant evening without the
lover’s assistance.

‘I think you may have known.’

‘No,’ she averred, decisively shaking her head. ‘It took me as much by
surprise as it probably did you. But why should I have told!’

Without answering that question Somerset went on. ‘Then what he did at
the end of his gag was of course a surprise also.’

‘He didn’t really do what he seemed to do,’ she serenely answered.

‘Well, I have no right to make observations--your actions are not
subject to my surveillance; you float above my plane,’ said the young
man with some bitterness. ‘But to speak plainly, surely he--kissed you?’

‘No,’ she said. ‘He only kissed the air in front of me--ever so far
off.’

‘Was it six inches off?’

‘No, not six inches.’

‘Nor three.’

‘It was quite one,’ she said with an ingenuous air.

‘I don’t call that very far.’

‘A miss is as good as a mile, says the time-honoured proverb; and it is
not for us modern mortals to question its truth.’

‘How can you be so off-hand?’ broke out Somerset. ‘I love you wildly and
desperately, Paula, and you know it well!’

‘I have never denied knowing it,’ she said softly.

‘Then why do you, with such knowledge, adopt an air of levity at such a
moment as this! You keep me at arm’s-length, and won’t say whether you
care for me one bit, or no. I have owned all to you; yet never once have
you owned anything to me!’

‘I have owned much. And you do me wrong if you consider that I show
levity. But even if I had not owned everything, and you all, it is not
altogether such a grievous thing.’

‘You mean to say that it is not grievous, even if a man does love a
woman, and suffers all the pain of feeling he loves in vain? Well, I say
it is quite the reverse, and I have grounds for knowing.’

‘Now, don’t fume so, George Somerset, but hear me. My not owning all
may not have the dreadful meaning you think, and therefore it may not
be really such a grievous thing. There are genuine reasons for women’s
conduct in these matters as well as for men’s, though it is sometimes
supposed to be regulated entirely by caprice. And if I do not give way
to every feeling--I mean demonstration--it is because I don’t want to.
There now, you know what that implies; and be content.’

‘Very well,’ said Somerset, with repressed sadness, ‘I will not expect
you to say more. But you do like me a little, Paula?’

‘Now!’ she said, shaking her head with symptoms of tenderness and
looking into his eyes. ‘What have you just promised? Perhaps I like you
a little more than a little, which is much too much! Yes,--Shakespeare
says so, and he is always right. Do you still doubt me? Ah, I see you
do!’

‘Because somebody has stood nearer to you to-night than I.’

‘A fogy like him!--half as old again as either of us! How can you mind
him? What shall I do to show you that I do not for a moment let him come
between me and you?’

‘It is not for me to suggest what you should do. Though what you should
permit ME to do is obvious enough.’

She dropped her voice: ‘You mean, permit you to do really and in earnest
what he only seemed to do in the play.’

Somerset signified by a look that such had been his thought.

Paula was silent. ‘No,’ she murmured at last. ‘That cannot be. He did
not, nor must you.’

It was said none the less decidedly for being spoken low.

‘You quite resent such a suggestion: you have a right to. I beg your
pardon, not for speaking of it, but for thinking it.’

‘I don’t resent it at all, and I am not offended one bit. But I am not
the less of opinion that it is possible to be premature in some things;
and to do this just now would be premature. I know what you would
say--that you would not have asked it, but for that unfortunate
improvisation of it in the play. But that I was not responsible for, and
therefore owe no reparation to you now.... Listen!’

‘Paula--Paula! Where in the world are you?’ was heard resounding along
the corridor in the voice of her aunt. ‘Our friends are all ready to
leave, and you will surely bid them good-night!’

‘I must be gone--I won’t ring for you to be shown out--come this way.’

‘But how will you get on in repeating the play tomorrow evening if that
interpolation is against your wish?’ he asked, looking her hard in the
face.

‘I’ll think it over during the night. Come to-morrow morning to help me
settle. But,’ she added, with coy yet genial independence, ‘listen to
me. Not a word more about a--what you asked for, mind! I don’t want to
go so far, and I will not--not just yet anyhow--I mean perhaps never.
You must promise that, or I cannot see you again alone.’

‘It shall be as you request.’

‘Very well. And not a word of this to a soul. My aunt suspects: but she
is a good aunt and will say nothing. Now that is clearly understood, I
should be glad to consult with you tomorrow early. I will come to you in
the studio or Pleasance as soon as I am disengaged.’

She took him to a little chamfered doorway in the corner, which opened
into a descending turret; and Somerset went down. When he had unfastened
the door at the bottom, and stepped into the lower corridor, she asked,
‘Are you down?’ And on receiving an affirmative reply she closed the top
door.



X.

Somerset was in the studio the next morning about ten o’clock
superintending the labours of Knowles, Bowles, and Cockton, whom he
had again engaged to assist him with the drawings on his appointment
to carry out the works. When he had set them going he ascended the
staircase of the great tower for some purpose that bore upon the
forthcoming repairs of this part. Passing the door of the telegraph-room
he heard little sounds from the instrument, which somebody was working.
Only two people in the castle, to the best of his knowledge, knew the
trick of this; Miss Power, and a page in her service called John. Miss
De Stancy could also despatch messages, but she was at Myrtle Villa.

The door was closed, and much as he would have liked to enter, the
possibility that Paula was not the performer led him to withhold his
steps. He went on to where the uppermost masonry had resisted the mighty
hostility of the elements for five hundred years without receiving worse
dilapidation than half-a-century produces upon the face of man. But he
still wondered who was telegraphing, and whether the message bore on
housekeeping, architecture, theatricals, or love.

Could Somerset have seen through the panels of the door in passing, he
would have beheld the room occupied by Paula alone.

It was she who sat at the instrument, and the message she was
despatching ran as under:--

‘Can you send down a competent actress, who will undertake the part of
Princess of France in “Love’s Labour’s Lost” this evening in a temporary
theatre here? Dresses already provided suitable to a lady about the
middle height. State price.’

The telegram was addressed to a well-known theatrical agent in London.

Off went the message, and Paula retired into the next room, leaving the
door open between that and the one she had just quitted. Here she
busied herself with writing some letters, till in less than an hour the
telegraph instrument showed signs of life, and she hastened back to its
side. The reply received from the agent was as follows:--

‘Miss Barbara Bell of the Regent’s Theatre could come. Quite competent.
Her terms would be about twenty-five guineas.’

Without a moment’s pause Paula returned for answer:--

‘The terms are quite satisfactory.’

Presently she heard the instrument again, and emerging from the next
room in which she had passed the intervening time as before, she read:--

‘Miss Barbara Bell’s terms were accidentally understated. They would be
forty guineas, in consequence of the distance. Am waiting at the office
for a reply.’

Paula set to work as before and replied:--

‘Quite satisfactory; only let her come at once.’

She did not leave the room this time, but went to an arrow-slit hard
by and gazed out at the trees till the instrument began to speak again.
Returning to it with a leisurely manner, implying a full persuasion that
the matter was settled, she was somewhat surprised to learn that,

‘Miss Bell, in stating her terms, understands that she will not be
required to leave London till the middle of the afternoon. If it
is necessary for her to leave at once, ten guineas extra would be
indispensable, on account of the great inconvenience of such a short
notice.’

Paula seemed a little vexed, but not much concerned she sent back with a
readiness scarcely politic in the circumstances:--

‘She must start at once. Price agreed to.’

Her impatience for the answer was mixed with curiosity as to whether it
was due to the agent or to Miss Barbara Bell that the prices had grown
like Jack’s Bean-stalk in the negotiation. Another telegram duly came:--

‘Travelling expenses are expected to be paid.’

With decided impatience she dashed off:--

‘Of course; but nothing more will be agreed to.’

Then, and only then, came the desired reply:--

‘Miss Bell starts by the twelve o’clock train.’

This business being finished, Paula left the chamber and descended into
the inclosure called the Pleasance, a spot grassed down like a lawn.
Here stood Somerset, who, having come down from the tower, was looking
on while a man searched for old foundations under the sod with a
crowbar. He was glad to see her at last, and noticed that she looked
serene and relieved; but could not for the moment divine the cause.
Paula came nearer, returned his salutation, and regarded the man’s
operations in silence awhile till his work led him to a distance from
them.

‘Do you still wish to consult me?’ asked Somerset.

‘About the building perhaps,’ said she. ‘Not about the play.’

‘But you said so?’

‘Yes; but it will be unnecessary.’

Somerset thought this meant skittishness, and merely bowed.

‘You mistake me as usual,’ she said, in a low tone. ‘I am not going to
consult you on that matter, because I have done all you could have asked
for without consulting you. I take no part in the play to-night.’

‘Forgive my momentary doubt!’

‘Somebody else will play for me--an actress from London. But on no
account must the substitution be known beforehand or the performance
to-night will never come off: and that I should much regret.’

‘Captain De Stancy will not play his part if he knows you will not play
yours--that’s what you mean?’

‘You may suppose it is,’ she said, smiling. ‘And to guard against this
you must help me to keep the secret by being my confederate.’

To be Paula’s confederate; to-day, indeed, time had brought him
something worth waiting for. ‘In anything!’ cried Somerset.

‘Only in this!’ said she, with soft severity. ‘And you know what you
have promised, George! And you remember there is to be no--what we
talked about! Now will you go in the one-horse brougham to Markton
Station this afternoon, and meet the four o’clock train? Inquire for a
lady for Stancy Castle--a Miss Bell; see her safely into the carriage,
and send her straight on here. I am particularly anxious that she should
not enter the town, for I think she once came to Markton in a starring
company, and she might be recognized, and my plan be defeated.’

Thus she instructed her lover and devoted friend; and when he could stay
no longer he left her in the garden to return to his studio. As Somerset
went in by the garden door he met a strange-looking personage coming out
by the same passage--a stranger, with the manner of a Dutchman, the face
of a smelter, and the clothes of an inhabitant of Guiana. The stranger,
whom we have already seen sitting at the back of the theatre the night
before, looked hard from Somerset to Paula, and from Paula again to
Somerset, as he stepped out. Somerset had an unpleasant conviction that
this queer gentleman had been standing for some time in the doorway
unnoticed, quizzing him and his mistress as they talked together. If so
he might have learnt a secret.

When he arrived upstairs, Somerset went to a window commanding a view
of the garden. Paula still stood in her place, and the stranger was
earnestly conversing with her. Soon they passed round the corner and
disappeared.

It was now time for him to see about starting for Markton, an
intelligible zest for circumventing the ardent and coercive captain of
artillery saving him from any unnecessary delay in the journey. He was
at the station ten minutes before the train was due; and when it drew
up to the platform the first person to jump out was Captain De Stancy in
sportsman’s attire and with a gun in his hand. Somerset nodded, and De
Stancy spoke, informing the architect that he had been ten miles up the
line shooting waterfowl. ‘That’s Miss Power’s carriage, I think,’ he
added.

‘Yes,’ said Somerset carelessly. ‘She expects a friend, I believe. We
shall see you at the castle again to-night?’

De Stancy assured him that they would, and the two men parted, Captain
De Stancy, when he had glanced to see that the carriage was empty, going
on to where a porter stood with a couple of spaniels.

Somerset now looked again to the train. While his back had been turned
to converse with the captain, a lady of five-and-thirty had alighted
from the identical compartment occupied by De Stancy. She made an
inquiry about getting to Stancy Castle, upon which Somerset, who had not
till now observed her, went forward, and introducing himself assisted
her to the carriage and saw her safely off.

De Stancy had by this time disappeared, and Somerset walked on to his
rooms at the Lord-Quantock-Arms, where he remained till he had dined,
picturing the discomfiture of his alert rival when there should enter to
him as Princess, not Paula Power, but Miss Bell of the Regent’s Theatre,
London. Thus the hour passed, till he found that if he meant to see the
issue of the plot it was time to be off.

On arriving at the castle, Somerset entered by the public door from the
hall as before, a natural delicacy leading him to feel that though he
might be welcomed as an ally at the stage-door--in other words, the door
from the corridor--it was advisable not to take too ready an advantage
of a privilege which, in the existing secrecy of his understanding with
Paula, might lead to an overthrow of her plans on that point.

Not intending to sit out the whole performance, Somerset contented
himself with standing in a window recess near the proscenium, whence he
could observe both the stage and the front rows of spectators. He was
quite uncertain whether Paula would appear among the audience to-night,
and resolved to wait events. Just before the rise of the curtain the
young lady in question entered and sat down. When the scenery was
disclosed and the King of Navarre appeared, what was Somerset’s surprise
to find that, though the part was the part taken by De Stancy on the
previous night, the voice was that of Mr. Mild; to him, at the appointed
season, entered the Princess, namely, Miss Barbara Bell.

Before Somerset had recovered from his crestfallen sensation at De
Stancy’s elusiveness, that officer himself emerged in evening dress from
behind a curtain forming a wing to the proscenium, and Somerset remarked
that the minor part originally allotted to him was filled by the
subaltern who had enacted it the night before. De Stancy glanced across,
whether by accident or otherwise Somerset could not determine, and his
glance seemed to say he quite recognized there had been a trial of wits
between them, and that, thanks to his chance meeting with Miss Bell in
the train, his had proved the stronger.

The house being less crowded to-night there were one or two vacant
chairs in the best part. De Stancy, advancing from where he had stood
for a few moments, seated himself comfortably beside Miss Power.

On the other side of her he now perceived the same queer elderly
foreigner (as he appeared) who had come to her in the garden that
morning. Somerset was surprised to perceive also that Paula with
very little hesitation introduced him and De Stancy to each other. A
conversation ensued between the three, none the less animated for being
carried on in a whisper, in which Paula seemed on strangely intimate
terms with the stranger, and the stranger to show feelings of
great friendship for De Stancy, considering that they must be new
acquaintances.

The play proceeded, and Somerset still lingered in his corner. He could
not help fancying that De Stancy’s ingenious relinquishment of his part,
and its obvious reason, was winning Paula’s admiration. His conduct was
homage carried to unscrupulous and inconvenient lengths, a sort of thing
which a woman may chide, but which she can never resent. Who could
do otherwise than talk kindly to a man, incline a little to him, and
condone his fault, when the sole motive of so audacious an exercise of
his wits was to escape acting with any other heroine than herself.

His conjectures were brought to a pause by the ending of the comedy, and
the opportunity afforded him of joining the group in front. The mass of
people were soon gone, and the knot of friends assembled around Paula
were discussing the merits and faults of the two days’ performance.

‘My uncle, Mr. Abner Power,’ said Paula suddenly to Somerset, as he came
near, presenting the stranger to the astonished young man. ‘I could not
see you before the performance, as I should have liked to do. The return
of my uncle is so extraordinary that it ought to be told in a less
hurried way than this. He has been supposed dead by all of us for nearly
ten years--ever since the time we last heard from him.’

‘For which I am to blame,’ said Mr. Power, nodding to Paula’s architect.
‘Yet not I, but accident and a sluggish temperament. There are times,
Mr Somerset, when the human creature feels no interest in his kind,
and assumes that his kind feels no interest in him. The feeling is not
active enough to make him fly from their presence; but sufficient to
keep him silent if he happens to be away. I may not have described it
precisely; but this I know, that after my long illness, and the fancied
neglect of my letters--’

‘For which my father was not to blame, since he did not receive them,’
said Paula.

‘For which nobody was to blame--after that, I say, I wrote no more.’

‘You have much pleasure in returning at last, no doubt,’ said Somerset.

‘Sir, as I remained away without particular pain, so I return without
particular joy. I speak the truth, and no compliments. I may add that
there is one exception to this absence of feeling from my heart, namely,
that I do derive great satisfaction from seeing how mightily this young
woman has grown and prevailed.’

This address, though delivered nominally to Somerset, was listened to by
Paula, Mrs. Goodman, and De Stancy also. After uttering it, the speaker
turned away, and continued his previous conversation with Captain
De Stancy. From this time till the group parted he never again spoke
directly to Somerset, paying him barely so much attention as he might
have expected as Paula’s architect, and certainly less than he might
have supposed his due as her accepted lover.

The result of the appearance, as from the tomb, of this wintry man was
that the evening ended in a frigid and formal way which gave little
satisfaction to the sensitive Somerset, who was abstracted and
constrained by reason of thoughts on how this resuscitation of the uncle
would affect his relation with Paula. It was possibly also the thought
of two at least of the others. There had, in truth, scarcely yet been
time enough to adumbrate the possibilities opened up by this gentleman’s
return.

The only private word exchanged by Somerset with any one that night was
with Mrs. Goodman, in whom he always recognized a friend to his cause,
though the fluidity of her character rendered her but a feeble one at
the best of times. She informed him that Mr. Power had no sort of legal
control over Paula, or direction in her estates; but Somerset could not
doubt that a near and only blood relation, even had he possessed but
half the static force of character that made itself apparent in Mr.
Power, might exercise considerable moral influence over the girl if
he chose. And in view of Mr. Power’s marked preference for De Stancy,
Somerset had many misgivings as to its operating in a direction
favourable to himself.



XI.

Somerset was deeply engaged with his draughtsmen and builders during
the three following days, and scarcely entered the occupied wing of the
castle.

At his suggestion Paula had agreed to have the works executed as
such operations were carried out in old times, before the advent of
contractors. Each trade required in the building was to be represented
by a master-tradesman of that denomination, who should stand responsible
for his own section of labour, and for no other, Somerset himself as
chief technicist working out his designs on the spot. By this means the
thoroughness of the workmanship would be greatly increased in comparison
with the modern arrangement, whereby a nominal builder, seldom present,
who can certainly know no more than one trade intimately and well, and
who often does not know that, undertakes the whole.

But notwithstanding its manifest advantages to the proprietor, the plan
added largely to the responsibilities of the architect, who, with
his master-mason, master-carpenter, master-plumber, and what not, had
scarcely a moment to call his own. Still, the method being upon the face
of it the true one, Somerset supervised with a will.

But there seemed to float across the court to him from the inhabited
wing an intimation that things were not as they had been before; that
an influence adverse to himself was at work behind the ashlared face of
inner wall which confronted him. Perhaps this was because he never saw
Paula at the windows, or heard her footfall in that half of the building
given over to himself and his myrmidons. There was really no reason
other than a sentimental one why he should see her. The uninhabited
part of the castle was almost an independent structure, and it was quite
natural to exist for weeks in this wing without coming in contact with
residents in the other.

A more pronounced cause than vague surmise was destined to perturb
him, and this in an unexpected manner. It happened one morning that he
glanced through a local paper while waiting at the Lord-Quantock-Arms
for the pony-carriage to be brought round in which he often drove to the
castle. The paper was two days old, but to his unutterable amazement he
read therein a paragraph which ran as follows:--

‘We are informed that a marriage is likely to be arranged between
Captain De Stancy, of the Royal Horse Artillery, only surviving son of
Sir William De Stancy, Baronet, and Paula, only daughter of the late
John Power, Esq., M.P., of Stancy Castle.’

Somerset dropped the paper, and stared out of the window. Fortunately
for his emotions, the horse and carriage were at this moment brought to
the door, so that nothing hindered Somerset in driving off to the spot
at which he would be soonest likely to learn what truth or otherwise
there was in the newspaper report. From the first he doubted it: and
yet how should it have got there? Such strange rumours, like paradoxical
maxims, generally include a portion of truth. Five days had elapsed
since he last spoke to Paula.

Reaching the castle he entered his own quarters as usual, and after
setting the draughtsmen to work walked up and down pondering how he
might best see her without making the paragraph the ground of his
request for an interview; for if it were a fabrication, such a reason
would wound her pride in her own honour towards him, and if it were
partly true, he would certainly do better in leaving her alone than in
reproaching her. It would simply amount to a proof that Paula was an
arrant coquette.

In his meditation he stood still, closely scanning one of the
jamb-stones of a doorless entrance, as if to discover where the old
hinge-hook had entered the stonework. He heard a footstep behind him,
and looking round saw Paula standing by. She held a newspaper in her
hand. The spot was one quite hemmed in from observation, a fact of which
she seemed to be quite aware.

‘I have something to tell you,’ she said; ‘something important. But you
are so occupied with that old stone that I am obliged to wait.’

‘It is not true surely!’ he said, looking at the paper.

‘No, look here,’ she said, holding up the sheet. It was not what he had
supposed, but a new one--the local rival to that which had contained
the announcement, and was still damp from the press. She pointed, and he
read--

‘We are authorized to state that there is no foundation whatever for the
assertion of our contemporary that a marriage is likely to be arranged
between Captain De Stancy and Miss Power of Stancy Castle.’

Somerset pressed her hand. ‘It disturbed me,’ he said, ‘though I did not
believe it.’

‘It astonished me, as much as it disturbed you; and I sent this
contradiction at once.’

‘How could it have got there?’

She shook her head.

‘You have not the least knowledge?’

‘Not the least. I wish I had.’

‘It was not from any friends of De Stancy’s? or himself?’

‘It was not. His sister has ascertained beyond doubt that he knew
nothing of it. Well, now, don’t say any more to me about the matter.’

‘I’ll find out how it got into the paper.’

‘Not now--any future time will do. I have something else to tell you.’

‘I hope the news is as good as the last,’ he said, looking into her face
with anxiety; for though that face was blooming, it seemed full of a
doubt as to how her next information would be taken.

‘O yes; it is good, because everybody says so. We are going to take a
delightful journey. My new-created uncle, as he seems, and I, and my
aunt, and perhaps Charlotte, if she is well enough, are going to Nice,
and other places about there.’

‘To Nice!’ said Somerset, rather blankly. ‘And I must stay here?’

‘Why, of course you must, considering what you have undertaken!’ she
said, looking with saucy composure into his eyes. ‘My uncle’s reason for
proposing the journey just now is, that he thinks the alterations
will make residence here dusty and disagreeable during the spring. The
opportunity of going with him is too good a one for us to lose, as I
have never been there.’

‘I wish I was going to be one of the party!... What do YOU wish about
it?’

She shook her head impenetrably. ‘A woman may wish some things she does
not care to tell!’

‘Are you really glad you are going, dearest?--as I MUST call you just
once,’ said the young man, gazing earnestly into her face, which struck
him as looking far too rosy and radiant to be consistent with ever so
little regret at leaving him behind.

‘I take great interest in foreign trips, especially to the shores of
the Mediterranean: and everybody makes a point of getting away when the
house is turned out of the window.’

‘But you do feel a little sadness, such as I should feel if our
positions were reversed?’

‘I think you ought not to have asked that so incredulously,’ she
murmured. ‘We can be near each other in spirit, when our bodies are far
apart, can we not?’ Her tone grew softer and she drew a little closer to
his side with a slightly nestling motion, as she went on, ‘May I be sure
that you will not think unkindly of me when I am absent from your sight,
and not begrudge me any little pleasure because you are not there to
share it with me?’

‘May you! Can you ask it?... As for me, I shall have no pleasure to be
begrudged or otherwise. The only pleasure I have is, as you well know,
in you. When you are with me, I am happy: when you are away, I take no
pleasure in anything.’

‘I don’t deserve it. I have no right to disturb you so,’ she said, very
gently. ‘But I have given you some pleasure, have I not? A little more
pleasure than pain, perhaps?’

‘You have, and yet.... But I don’t accuse you, dearest. Yes, you have
given me pleasure. One truly pleasant time was when we stood together
in the summer-house on the evening of the garden-party, and you said you
liked me to love you.’

‘Yes, it was a pleasant time,’ she returned thoughtfully. ‘How the rain
came down, and formed a gauze between us and the dancers, did it not;
and how afraid we were--at least I was--lest anybody should discover us
there, and how quickly I ran in after the rain was over!’

‘Yes’, said Somerset, ‘I remember it. But no harm came of it to you....
And perhaps no good will come of it to me.’

‘Do not be premature in your conclusions, sir,’ she said archly. ‘If you
really do feel for me only half what you say, we shall--you will make
good come of it--in some way or other.’

‘Dear Paula--now I believe you, and can bear anything.’

‘Then we will say no more; because, as you recollect, we agreed not to
go too far. No expostulations, for we are going to be practical young
people; besides, I won’t listen if you utter them. I simply echo your
words, and say I, too, believe you. Now I must go. Have faith in me, and
don’t magnify trifles light as air.’

‘I THINK I understand you. And if I do, it will make a great difference
in my conduct. You will have no cause to complain.’

‘Then you must not understand me so much as to make much difference; for
your conduct as my architect is perfect. But I must not linger longer,
though I wished you to know this news from my very own lips.’

‘Bless you for it! When do you leave?’

‘The day after to-morrow.’

‘So early? Does your uncle guess anything? Do you wish him to be told
just yet?’

‘Yes, to the first; no, to the second.’

‘I may write to you?’

‘On business, yes. It will be necessary.’

‘How can you speak so at a time of parting?’

‘Now, George--you see I say George, and not Mr. Somerset, and you may
draw your own inference--don’t be so morbid in your reproaches! I have
informed you that you may write, or still better, telegraph, since the
wire is so handy--on business. Well, of course, it is for you to judge
whether you will add postscripts of another sort. There, you make me
say more than a woman ought, because you are so obtuse and literal. Good
afternoon--good-bye! This will be my address.’

She handed him a slip of paper, and flitted away.

Though he saw her again after this, it was during the bustle of
preparation, when there was always a third person present, usually in
the shape of that breathing refrigerator, her uncle. Hence the few
words that passed between them were of the most formal description, and
chiefly concerned the restoration of the castle, and a church at Nice
designed by him, which he wanted her to inspect.

They were to leave by an early afternoon train, and Somerset was invited
to lunch on that day. The morning was occupied by a long business
consultation in the studio with Mr. Power and Mrs. Goodman on what rooms
were to be left locked up, what left in charge of the servants, and
what thrown open to the builders and workmen under the surveillance of
Somerset. At present the work consisted mostly of repairs to existing
rooms, so as to render those habitable which had long been used only as
stores for lumber. Paula did not appear during this discussion; but
when they were all seated in the dining-hall she came in dressed for
the journey, and, to outward appearance, with blithe anticipation at
its prospect blooming from every feature. Next to her came Charlotte
De Stancy, still with some of the pallor of an invalid, but wonderfully
brightened up, as Somerset thought, by the prospect of a visit to a
delightful shore. It might have been this; and it might have been that
Somerset’s presence had a share in the change.

It was in the hall, when they were in the bustle of leave-taking, that
there occurred the only opportunity for the two or three private words
with Paula to which his star treated him on that last day. His took the
hasty form of, ‘You will write soon?’

‘Telegraphing will be quicker,’ she answered in the same low tone; and
whispering ‘Be true to me!’ turned away.

How unreasonable he was! In addition to those words, warm as they were,
he would have preferred a little paleness of cheek, or trembling of
lip, instead of the bloom and the beauty which sat upon her undisturbed
maidenhood, to tell him that in some slight way she suffered at his
loss.

Immediately after this they went to the carriages waiting at the door.
Somerset, who had in a measure taken charge of the castle, accompanied
them and saw them off, much as if they were his visitors. She stepped
in, a general adieu was spoken, and she was gone.

While the carriages rolled away, he ascended to the top of the tower,
where he saw them lessen to spots on the road, and turn the corner out
of sight. The chances of a rival seemed to grow in proportion as Paula
receded from his side; but he could not have answered why. He had bidden
her and her relatives adieu on her own doorstep, like a privileged
friend of the family, while De Stancy had scarcely seen her since the
play-night. That the silence into which the captain appeared to have
sunk was the placidity of conscious power, was scarcely probable; yet
that adventitious aids existed for De Stancy he could not deny. The link
formed by Charlotte between De Stancy and Paula, much as he liked the
ingenuous girl, was one that he could have wished away. It constituted a
bridge of access to Paula’s inner life and feelings which nothing could
rival; except that one fact which, as he firmly believed, did actually
rival it, giving him faith and hope; his own primary occupation of
Paula’s heart. Moreover, Mrs. Goodman would be an influence favourable
to himself and his cause during the journey; though, to be sure, to set
against her there was the phlegmatic and obstinate Abner Power, in whom,
apprised by those subtle media of intelligence which lovers possess, he
fancied he saw no friend.

Somerset remained but a short time at the castle that day. The light
of its chambers had fled, the gross grandeur of the dictatorial towers
oppressed him, and the studio was hateful. He remembered a promise made
long ago to Mr. Woodwell of calling upon him some afternoon; and a
visit which had not much attractiveness in it at other times recommended
itself now, through being the one possible way open to him of hearing
Paula named and her doings talked of. Hence in walking back to
Markton, instead of going up the High Street, he turned aside into the
unfrequented footway that led to the minister’s cottage.

Mr. Woodwell was not indoors at the moment of his call, and Somerset
lingered at the doorway, and cast his eyes around. It was a house which
typified the drearier tenets of its occupier with great exactness.
It stood upon its spot of earth without any natural union with it: no
mosses disguised the stiff straight line where wall met earth; not
a creeper softened the aspect of the bare front. The garden walk was
strewn with loose clinkers from the neighbouring foundry, which rolled
under the pedestrian’s foot and jolted his soul out of him before he
reached the porchless door. But all was clean, and clear, and dry.

Whether Mr. Woodwell was personally responsible for this condition of
things there was not time to closely consider, for Somerset perceived
the minister coming up the walk towards him. Mr. Woodwell welcomed
him heartily; and yet with the mien of a man whose mind has scarcely
dismissed some scene which has preceded the one that confronts him. What
that scene was soon transpired.

‘I have had a busy afternoon,’ said the minister, as they walked
indoors; ‘or rather an exciting afternoon. Your client at Stancy Castle,
whose uncle, as I imagine you know, has so unexpectedly returned, has
left with him to-day for the south of France; and I wished to ask her
before her departure some questions as to how a charity organized by
her father was to be administered in her absence. But I have been very
unfortunate. She could not find time to see me at her own house, and I
awaited her at the station, all to no purpose, owing to the presence of
her friends. Well, well, I must see if a letter will find her.’

Somerset asked if anybody of the neighbourhood was there to see them
off.

‘Yes, that was the trouble of it. Captain De Stancy was there, and quite
monopolized her. I don’t know what ‘tis coming to, and perhaps I have no
business to inquire, since she is scarcely a member of our church now.
Who could have anticipated the daughter of my old friend John Power
developing into the ordinary gay woman of the world as she has done? Who
could have expected her to associate with people who show contempt for
their Maker’s intentions by flippantly assuming other characters than
those in which He created them?’

‘You mistake her,’ murmured Somerset, in a voice which he vainly
endeavoured to attune to philosophy. ‘Miss Power has some very rare and
beautiful qualities in her nature, though I confess I tremble--fear lest
the De Stancy influence should be too strong.’

‘Sir, it is already! Do you remember my telling you that I thought the
force of her surroundings would obscure the pure daylight of her spirit,
as a monkish window of coloured images attenuates the rays of God’s sun?
I do not wish to indulge in rash surmises, but her oscillation from
her family creed of Calvinistic truth towards the traditions of the De
Stancys has been so decided, though so gradual, that--well, I may be
wrong.’

‘That what?’ said the young man sharply.

‘I sometimes think she will take to her as husband the present
representative of that impoverished line--Captain De Stancy--which she
may easily do, if she chooses, as his behaviour to-day showed.’

‘He was probably there on account of his sister,’ said Somerset, trying
to escape the mental picture of farewell gallantries bestowed on Paula.

‘It was hinted at in the papers the other day.’

‘And it was flatly contradicted.’

‘Yes. Well, we shall see in the Lord’s good time; I can do no more for
her. And now, Mr. Somerset, pray take a cup of tea.’

The revelations of the minister depressed Somerset a little, and he did
not stay long. As he went to the door Woodwell said, ‘There is a worthy
man--the deacon of our chapel, Mr. Havill--who would like to be friendly
with you. Poor man, since the death of his wife he seems to have
something on his mind--some trouble which my words will not reach. If
ever you are passing his door, please give him a look in. He fears that
calling on you might be an intrusion.’

Somerset did not clearly promise, and went his way. The minister’s
allusion to the announcement of the marriage reminded Somerset that she
had expressed a wish to know how the paragraph came to be inserted. The
wish had been carelessly spoken; but he went to the newspaper office to
make inquiries on the point.

The reply was unexpected. The reporter informed his questioner that in
returning from the theatricals, at which he was present, he shared a fly
with a gentleman who assured him that such an alliance was certain,
so obviously did it recommend itself to all concerned, as a means of
strengthening both families. The gentleman’s knowledge of the Powers was
so precise that the reporter did not hesitate to accept his assertion.
He was a man who had seen a great deal of the world, and his face was
noticeable for the seams and scars on it.

Somerset recognized Paula’s uncle in the portrait.

Hostilities, then, were beginning. The paragraph had been meant as the
first slap. Taking her abroad was the second.



BOOK THE FOURTH. SOMERSET, DARE AND DE STANCY.



I.

There was no part of Paula’s journey in which Somerset did not think of
her. He imagined her in the hotel at Havre, in her brief rest at Paris;
her drive past the Place de la Bastille to the Boulevart Mazas to take
the train for Lyons; her tedious progress through the dark of a winter
night till she crossed the isothermal line which told of the beginning
of a southern atmosphere, and onwards to the ancient blue sea.

Thus, between the hours devoted to architecture, he passed the next
three days. One morning he set himself, by the help of John, to practise
on the telegraph instrument, expecting a message. But though he watched
the machine at every opportunity, or kept some other person on the alert
in its neighbourhood, no message arrived to gratify him till after the
lapse of nearly a fortnight. Then she spoke from her new habitation nine
hundred miles away, in these meagre words:--

‘Are settled at the address given. Can now attend to any inquiry about
the building.’

The pointed implication that she could attend to inquiries about nothing
else, breathed of the veritable Paula so distinctly that he could
forgive its sauciness. His reply was soon despatched:--

‘Will write particulars of our progress. Always the same.’

The last three words formed the sentimental appendage which she had
assured him she could tolerate, and which he hoped she might desire.

He spent the remainder of the day in making a little sketch to show what
had been done in the castle since her departure. This he despatched with
a letter of explanation ending in a paragraph of a different tenor:--

‘I have demonstrated our progress as well as I could; but another
subject has been in my mind, even whilst writing the former. Ask
yourself if you use me well in keeping me a fortnight before you so much
as say that you have arrived? The one thing that reconciled me to your
departure was the thought that I should hear early from you: my idea of
being able to submit to your absence was based entirely upon that.

‘But I have resolved not to be out of humour, and to believe that your
scheme of reserve is not unreasonable; neither do I quarrel with your
injunction to keep silence to all relatives. I do not know anything I
can say to show you more plainly my acquiescence in your wish “not to go
too far” (in short, to keep yourself dear--by dear I mean not cheap--you
have been dear in the other sense a long time, as you know), than by not
urging you to go a single degree further in warmth than you please.’

When this was posted he again turned his attention to her walls and
towers, which indeed were a dumb consolation in many ways for the lack
of herself. There was no nook in the castle to which he had not access
or could not easily obtain access by applying for the keys, and this
propinquity of things belonging to her served to keep her image before
him even more constantly than his memories would have done.

Three days and a half after the despatch of his subdued effusion the
telegraph called to tell him the good news that

‘Your letter and drawing are just received. Thanks for the latter. Will
reply to the former by post this afternoon.’

It was with cheerful patience that he attended to his three draughtsmen
in the studio, or walked about the environs of the fortress during the
fifty hours spent by her presumably tender missive on the road. A light
fleece of snow fell during the second night of waiting, inverting the
position of long-established lights and shades, and lowering to a dingy
grey the approximately white walls of other weathers; he could trace the
postman’s footmarks as he entered over the bridge, knowing them by the
dot of his walking-stick: on entering the expected letter was waiting
upon his table. He looked at its direction with glad curiosity; it was
the first letter he had ever received from her.


‘HOTEL ---, NICE,

Feb. 14.

‘MY DEAR MR. SOMERSET’ (the ‘George,’ then, to which she had so kindly
treated him in her last conversation, was not to be continued in black
and white),--

‘Your letter explaining the progress of the work, aided by the sketch
enclosed, gave me as clear an idea of the advance made since my
departure as I could have gained by being present. I feel every
confidence in you, and am quite sure the restoration is in good hands.
In this opinion both my aunt and my uncle coincide. Please act
entirely on your own judgment in everything, and as soon as you give a
certificate to the builders for the first instalment of their money it
will be promptly sent by my solicitors.

‘You bid me ask myself if I have used you well in not sending
intelligence of myself till a fortnight after I had left you. Now,
George, don’t be unreasonable! Let me remind you that, as a certain
apostle said, there are a thousand things lawful which are not
expedient. I say this, not from pride in my own conduct, but to offer
you a very fair explanation of it. Your resolve not to be out of humour
with me suggests that you have been sorely tempted that way, else why
should such a resolve have been necessary?

‘If you only knew what passes in my mind sometimes you would perhaps
not be so ready to blame. Shall I tell you? No. For, if it is a great
emotion, it may afford you a cruel satisfaction at finding I suffer
through separation; and if it be a growing indifference to you, it will
be inflicting gratuitous unhappiness upon you to say so, if you care for
me; as I SOMETIMES think you may do A LITTLE.’

[‘O, Paula!’ said Somerset.)

‘Please which way would you have it? But it is better that you
should guess at what I feel than that you should distinctly know it.
Notwithstanding this assertion you will, I know, adhere to your first
prepossession in favour of prompt confessions. In spite of that, I fear
that upon trial such promptness would not produce that happiness which
your fancy leads you to expect. Your heart would weary in time, and when
once that happens, good-bye to the emotion you have told me of. Imagine
such a case clearly, and you will perceive the probability of what I
say. At the same time I admit that a woman who is ONLY a creature of
evasions and disguises is very disagreeable.

‘Do not write VERY frequently, and never write at all unless you have
some real information about the castle works to communicate. I will
explain to you on another occasion why I make this request. You will
possibly set it down as additional evidence of my cold-heartedness.
If so you must. Would you also mind writing the business letter on
an independent sheet, with a proper beginning and ending? Whether you
inclose another sheet is of course optional.--Sincerely yours, PAULA
POWER.’

Somerset had a suspicion that her order to him not to neglect the
business letter was to escape any invidious remarks from her uncle. He
wished she would be more explicit, so that he might know exactly how
matters stood with them, and whether Abner Power had ever ventured to
express disapproval of him as her lover.

But not knowing, he waited anxiously for a new architectural event on
which he might legitimately send her another line. This occurred about
a week later, when the men engaged in digging foundations discovered
remains of old ones which warranted a modification of the original plan.
He accordingly sent off his professional advice on the point, requesting
her assent or otherwise to the amendment, winding up the inquiry with
‘Yours faithfully.’ On another sheet he wrote:--‘Do you suffer from any
unpleasantness in the manner of others on account of me? If so, inform
me, Paula. I cannot otherwise interpret your request for the separate
sheets. While on this point I will tell you what I have learnt relative
to the authorship of that false paragraph about your engagement. It
was communicated to the paper by your uncle. Was the wish father to the
thought, or could he have been misled, as many were, by appearances at
the theatricals?

‘If I am not to write to you without a professional reason, surely
you can write to me without such an excuse? When you write tell me of
yourself. There is nothing I so much wish to hear of. Write a great deal
about your daily doings, for my mind’s eye keeps those sweet operations
more distinctly before me than my bodily sight does my own.

‘You say nothing of having been to look at the chapel-of-ease I told
you of, the plans of which I made when an architect’s pupil, working in
metres instead of feet and inches, to my immense perplexity, that the
drawings might be understood by the foreign workmen. Go there and tell
me what you think of its design. I can assure you that every curve
thereof is my own.

‘How I wish you would invite me to run over and see you, if only for
a day or two, for my heart runs after you in a most distracted manner.
Dearest, you entirely fill my life! But I forget; we have resolved
not to go VERY FAR. But the fact is I am half afraid lest, with such
reticence, you should not remember how very much I am yours, and with
what a dogged constancy I shall always remember you. Paula, sometimes I
have horrible misgivings that something will divide us, especially if
we do not make a more distinct show of our true relationship. True do I
say? I mean the relationship which I think exists between us, but which
you do not affirm too clearly.--Yours always.’

Away southward like the swallow went the tender lines. He wondered if
she would notice his hint of being ready to pay her a flying visit, if
permitted to do so. His fancy dwelt on that further side of France,
the very contours of whose shore were now lines of beauty for him.
He prowled in the library, and found interest in the mustiest facts
relating to that place, learning with aesthetic pleasure that the number
of its population was fifty thousand, that the mean temperature of its
atmosphere was 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and that the peculiarities of a
mistral were far from agreeable.

He waited overlong for her reply; but it ultimately came. After the
usual business preliminary, she said:--

‘As requested, I have visited the little church you designed. It gave me
great pleasure to stand before a building whose outline and details had
come from the brain of such a valued friend and adviser.’

[‘Valued friend and adviser,’ repeated Somerset critically.)

‘I like the style much, especially that of the windows--Early English
are they not? I am going to attend service there next Sunday, BECAUSE
YOU WERE THE ARCHITECT, AND FOR NO GODLY REASON AT ALL. Does that
content you? Fie for your despondency! Remember M. Aurelius: “This is
the chief thing: Be not perturbed; for all things are of the nature
of the Universal.” Indeed I am a little surprised at your having
forebodings, after my assurance to you before I left. I have none. My
opinion is that, to be happy, it is best to think that, as we are the
product of events, events will continue to produce that which is in
harmony with us.... You are too faint-hearted, and that’s the truth of
it. I advise you not to abandon yourself to idolatry too readily; you
know what I mean. It fills me with remorse when I think how very far
below such a position my actual worth removes me.

‘I should like to receive another letter from you as soon as you have
got over the misgiving you speak of, but don’t write too soon. I wish I
could write anything to raise your spirits, but you may be so perverse
that if, in order to do this, I tell you of the races, routs, scenery,
gaieties, and gambling going on in this place and neighbourhood (into
which of course I cannot help being a little drawn), you may declare
that my words make you worse than ever. Don’t pass the line I have set
down in the way you were tempted to do in your last; and not too many
Dearests--at least as yet. This is not a time for effusion. You have my
very warm affection, and that’s enough for the present.’

As a love-letter this missive was tantalizing enough, but since its form
was simply a continuation of what she had practised before she left,
it produced no undue misgiving in him. Far more was he impressed by her
omitting to answer the two important questions he had put to her. First,
concerning her uncle’s attitude towards them, and his conduct in giving
such strange information to the reporter. Second, on his, Somerset’s,
paying her a flying visit some time during the spring. Since she had
requested it, he made no haste in his reply. When penned, it ran in
the words subjoined, which, in common with every line of their
correspondence, acquired from the strangeness of subsequent
circumstances an interest and a force that perhaps they did not
intrinsically possess.

‘People cannot’ (he wrote) ‘be for ever in good spirits on this gloomy
side of the Channel, even though you seem to be so on yours. However,
that I can abstain from letting you know whether my spirits are good or
otherwise, I will prove in our future correspondence. I admire you more
and more, both for the warm feeling towards me which I firmly believe
you have, and for your ability to maintain side by side with it so much
dignity and resolution with regard to foolish sentiment. Sometimes I
think I could have put up with a little more weakness if it had brought
with it a little more tenderness, but I dismiss all that when I mentally
survey your other qualities. I have thought of fifty things to say to
you of the TOO FAR sort, not one of any other; so that your prohibition
is very unfortunate, for by it I am doomed to say things that do not
rise spontaneously to my lips. You say that our shut-up feelings are not
to be mentioned yet. How long is the yet to last?

‘But, to speak more solemnly, matters grow very serious with us,
Paula--at least with me: and there are times when this restraint is
really unbearable. It is possible to put up with reserve when the
reserved being is by one’s side, for the eyes may reveal what the lips
do not. But when she is absent, what was piquancy becomes harshness,
tender railleries become cruel sarcasm, and tacit understandings
misunderstandings. However that may be, you shall never be able to
reproach me for touchiness. I still esteem you as a friend; I admire you
and love you as a woman. This I shall always do, however unconfiding you
prove.’



II.

Without knowing it, Somerset was drawing near to a crisis in this soft
correspondence which would speedily put his assertions to the test; but
the knowledge came upon him soon enough for his peace.

Her next letter, dated March 9th, was the shortest of all he had
received, and beyond the portion devoted to the building-works it
contained only the following sentences:--

‘I am almost angry with you, George, for being vexed because I am not
more effusive. Why should the verbal I LOVE YOU be ever uttered between
two beings of opposite sex who have eyes to see signs? During the seven
or eight months that we have known each other, you have discovered
my regard for you, and what more can you desire? Would a reiterated
assertion of passion really do any good? Remember it is a natural
instinct with us women to retain the power of obliging a man to hope,
fear, pray, and beseech as long as we think fit, before we confess to a
reciprocal affection.

‘I am now going to own to a weakness about which I had intended to keep
silent. It will not perhaps add to your respect for me. My uncle,
whom in many ways I like, is displeased with me for keeping up this
correspondence so regularly. I am quite perverse enough to venture
to disregard his feelings; but considering the relationship, and his
kindness in other respects, I should prefer not to do so at present.
Honestly speaking, I want the courage to resist him in some things. He
said to me the other day that he was very much surprised that I did not
depend upon his judgment for my future happiness. Whether that meant
much or little, I have resolved to communicate with you only by
telegrams for the remainder of the time we are here. Please reply by the
same means only. There, now, don’t flush and call me names! It is for
the best, and we want no nonsense, you and I. Dear George, I feel more
than I say, and if I do not speak more plainly, you will understand what
is behind after all I have hinted. I can promise you that you will not
like me less upon knowing me better. Hope ever. I would give up a good
deal for you. Good-bye!’

This brought Somerset some cheerfulness and a good deal of gloom. He
silently reproached her, who was apparently so independent, for lacking
independence in such a vital matter. Perhaps it was mere sex, perhaps
it was peculiar to a few, that her independence and courage, like
Cleopatra’s, failed her occasionally at the last moment.

One curious impression which had often haunted him now returned with
redoubled force. He could not see himself as the husband of Paula Power
in any likely future. He could not imagine her his wife. People were apt
to run into mistakes in their presentiments; but though he could picture
her as queening it over him, as avowing her love for him unreservedly,
even as compromising herself for him, he could not see her in a state of
domesticity with him.

Telegrams being commanded, to the telegraph he repaired, when, after two
days, an immediate wish to communicate with her led him to dismiss
vague conjecture on the future situation. His first telegram took the
following form:--

‘I give up the letter writing. I will part with anything to please you
but yourself. Your comfort with your relative is the first thing to be
considered: not for the world do I wish you to make divisions within
doors. Yours.’

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday passed, and on Saturday a telegram came in
reply:--

‘I can fear, grieve at, and complain of nothing, having your nice
promise to consider my comfort always.’

This was very pretty; but it admitted little. Such short messages were
in themselves poor substitutes for letters, but their speed and easy
frequency were good qualities which the letters did not possess. Three
days later he replied:--

‘You do not once say to me “Come.” Would such a strange accident as my
arrival disturb you much?’

She replied rather quickly:--

‘I am indisposed to answer you too clearly. Keep your heart strong: ‘tis
a censorious world.’

The vagueness there shown made Somerset peremptory, and he could not
help replying somewhat more impetuously than usual:-- ‘Why do you give
me so much cause for anxiety! Why treat me to so much mystification! Say
once, distinctly, that what I have asked is given.’

He awaited for the answer, one day, two days, a week; but none came. It
was now the end of March, and when Somerset walked of an afternoon
by the river and pool in the lower part of the grounds, his ear newly
greeted by the small voices of frogs and toads and other creatures who
had been torpid through the winter, he became doubtful and uneasy that
she alone should be silent in the awakening year.

He waited through a second week, and there was still no reply. It was
possible that the urgency of his request had tempted her to punish him,
and he continued his walks, to, fro, and around, with as close an ear to
the undertones of nature, and as attentive an eye to the charms of his
own art, as the grand passion would allow. Now came the days of battle
between winter and spring. On these excursions, though spring was to the
forward during the daylight, winter would reassert itself at night, and
not unfrequently at other moments. Tepid airs and nipping breezes met on
the confines of sunshine and shade; trembling raindrops that were still
akin to frost crystals dashed themselves from the bushes as he pursued
his way from town to castle; the birds were like an orchestra waiting
for the signal to strike up, and colour began to enter into the country
round.

But he gave only a modicum of thought to these proceedings. He rather
thought such things as, ‘She can afford to be saucy, and to find a
source of blitheness in my love, considering the power that wealth gives
her to pick and choose almost where she will.’ He was bound to own,
however, that one of the charms of her conversation was the complete
absence of the note of the heiress from its accents. That, other things
equal, her interest would naturally incline to a person bearing the name
of De Stancy, was evident from her avowed predilections. His original
assumption, that she was a personification of the modern spirit, who
had been dropped, like a seed from the bill of a bird, into a chink of
mediaevalism, required some qualification. Romanticism, which will
exist in every human breast as long as human nature itself exists, had
asserted itself in her. Veneration for things old, not because of any
merit in them, but because of their long continuance, had developed in
her; and her modern spirit was taking to itself wings and flying away.
Whether his image was flying with the other was a question which moved
him all the more deeply now that her silence gave him dread of an
affirmative answer.

For another seven days he stoically left in suspension all forecasts of
his possibly grim fate in being the employed and not the beloved. The
week passed: he telegraphed: there was no reply: he had sudden fears for
her personal safety and resolved to break her command by writing.

                                         ‘STANCY CASTLE, April
13.

‘DEAR PAULA,--Are you ill or in trouble? It is impossible in the very
unquiet state you have put me into by your silence that I should abstain
from writing. Without affectation, you sorely distress me, and I think
you would hardly have done it could you know what a degree of anxiety
you cause. Why, Paula, do you not write or send to me? What have I done
that you should treat me like this? Do write, if it is only to reproach
me. I am compelled to pass the greater part of the day in this castle,
which reminds me constantly of you, and yet eternally lacks your
presence. I am unfortunate indeed that you have not been able to find
half-an-hour during the last month to tell me at least that you are
alive.

‘You have always been ambiguous, it is true; but I thought I saw
encouragement in your eyes; encouragement certainly was in your eyes,
and who would not have been deluded by them and have believed them
sincere? Yet what tenderness can there be in a heart that can cause me
pain so wilfully!

‘There may, of course, be some deliberate scheming on the part of your
relations to intercept our letters; but I cannot think it. I know that
the housekeeper has received a letter from your aunt this very week, in
which she incidentally mentions that all are well, and in the same place
as before. How then can I excuse you?

‘Then write, Paula, or at least telegraph, as you proposed. Otherwise I
am resolved to take your silence as a signal to treat your fair words as
wind, and to write to you no more.’



III.

He despatched the letter, and half-an-hour afterwards felt sure that it
would mortally offend her. But he had now reached a state of temporary
indifference, and could contemplate the loss of such a tantalizing
property with reasonable calm.

In the interim of waiting for a reply he was one day walking to Markton,
when, passing Myrtle Villa, he saw Sir William De Stancy ambling about
his garden-path and examining the crocuses that palisaded its edge. Sir
William saw him and asked him to come in. Somerset was in the mood for
any diversion from his own affairs, and they seated themselves by the
drawing-room fire.

‘I am much alone now,’ said Sir William, ‘and if the weather were not
very mild, so that I can get out into the garden every day, I should
feel it a great deal.’

‘You allude to your daughter’s absence?’

‘And my son’s. Strange to say, I do not miss her so much as I miss him.
She offers to return at any moment; but I do not wish to deprive her of
the advantages of a little foreign travel with her friend. Always, Mr.
Somerset, give your spare time to foreign countries, especially those
which contrast with your own in topography, language, and art. That’s
my advice to all young people of your age. Don’t waste your money on
expensive amusements at home. Practise the strictest economy at home, to
have a margin for going abroad.’

Economy, which Sir William had never practised, but to which, after
exhausting all other practices, he now raised an altar, as the Athenians
did to the unknown God, was a topic likely to prolong itself on the
baronet’s lips, and Somerset contrived to interrupt him by asking--

‘Captain De Stancy, too, has gone? Has the artillery, then, left the
barracks?’

‘No,’ said Sir William. ‘But my son has made use of his leave in running
over to see his sister at Nice.’

The current of quiet meditation in Somerset changed to a busy whirl at
this reply. That Paula should become indifferent to his existence from a
sense of superiority, physical, spiritual, or social, was a sufficiently
ironical thing; but that she should have relinquished him because of the
presence of a rival lent commonplace dreariness to her cruelty.

Sir William, noting nothing, continued in the tone of clever
childishness which characterized him: ‘It is very singular how the
present situation has been led up to by me. Policy, and policy alone,
has been the rule of my conduct for many years past; and when I say that
I have saved my family by it, I believe time will show that I am within
the truth. I hope you don’t let your passions outrun your policy, as so
many young men are apt to do. Better be poor and politic, than rich and
headstrong: that’s the opinion of an old man. However, I was going
to say that it was purely from policy that I allowed a friendship to
develop between my daughter and Miss Power, and now events are proving
the wisdom of my course. Straws show how the wind blows, and there are
little signs that my son Captain De Stancy will return to Stancy Castle
by the fortunate step of marrying its owner. I say nothing to either of
them, and they say nothing to me; but my wisdom lies in doing nothing to
hinder such a consummation, despite inherited prejudices.’

Somerset had quite time enough to rein himself in during the old
gentleman’s locution, and the voice in which he answered was so cold and
reckless that it did not seem his own: ‘But how will they live happily
together when she is a Dissenter, and a Radical, and a New-light, and
a Neo-Greek, and a person of red blood; while Captain De Stancy is the
reverse of them all!’

‘I anticipate no difficulty on that score,’ said the baronet. ‘My son’s
star lies in that direction, and, like the Magi, he is following it
without trifling with his opportunity. You have skill in architecture,
therefore you follow it. My son has skill in gallantry, and now he is
about to exercise it profitably.’

‘May nobody wish him more harm in that exercise than I do!’ said
Somerset fervently.

A stagnant moodiness of several hours which followed his visit to Myrtle
Villa resulted in a resolve to journey over to Paula the very next day.
He now felt perfectly convinced that the inviting of Captain De Stancy
to visit them at Nice was a second stage in the scheme of Paula’s uncle,
the premature announcement of her marriage having been the first. The
roundness and neatness of the whole plan could not fail to recommend
it to the mind which delighted in putting involved things straight,
and such a mind Abner Power’s seemed to be. In fact, the felicity, in
a politic sense, of pairing the captain with the heiress furnished
no little excuse for manoeuvring to bring it about, so long as that
manoeuvring fell short of unfairness, which Mr. Power’s could scarcely
be said to do.

The next day was spent in furnishing the builders with such instructions
as they might require for a coming week or ten days, and in dropping a
short note to Paula; ending as follows:--

‘I am coming to see you. Possibly you will refuse me an interview. Never
mind, I am coming--Yours, G. SOMERSET.’

The morning after that he was up and away. Between him and Paula
stretched nine hundred miles by the line of journey that he found it
necessary to adopt, namely, the way of London, in order to inform his
father of his movements and to make one or two business calls. The
afternoon was passed in attending to these matters, the night in
speeding onward, and by the time that nine o’clock sounded next morning
through the sunless and leaden air of the English Channel coasts, he had
reduced the number of miles on his list by two hundred, and cut off the
sea from the impediments between him and Paula.

On awakening from a fitful sleep in the grey dawn of the morning
following he looked out upon Lyons, quiet enough now, the citizens
unaroused to the daily round of bread-winning, and enveloped in a haze
of fog.

Six hundred and fifty miles of his journey had been got over; there
still intervened two hundred and fifty between him and the end of
suspense. When he thought of that he was disinclined to pause; and
pressed on by the same train, which set him down at Marseilles at
mid-day.

Here he considered. By going on to Nice that afternoon he would
arrive at too late an hour to call upon her the same evening: it would
therefore be advisable to sleep in Marseilles and proceed the next
morning to his journey’s end, so as to meet her in a brighter condition
than he could boast of to-day. This he accordingly did, and leaving
Marseilles the next morning about eight, found himself at Nice early in
the afternoon.

Now that he was actually at the centre of his gravitation he seemed even
further away from a feasible meeting with her than in England. While
afar off, his presence at Nice had appeared to be the one thing needful
for the solution of his trouble, but the very house fronts seemed now to
ask him what right he had there. Unluckily, in writing from England, he
had not allowed her time to reply before his departure, so that he
did not know what difficulties might lie in the way of her seeing him
privately. Before deciding what to do, he walked down the Avenue de la
Gare to the promenade between the shore and the Jardin Public, and sat
down to think.

The hotel which she had given him as her address looked right out upon
him and the sea beyond, and he rested there with the pleasing hope that
her eyes might glance from a window and discover his form. Everything
in the scene was sunny and gay. Behind him in the gardens a band was
playing; before him was the sea, the Great sea, the historical and
original Mediterranean; the sea of innumerable characters in history and
legend that arranged themselves before him in a long frieze of memories
so diverse as to include both AEneas and St. Paul.

Northern eyes are not prepared on a sudden for the impact of such images
of warmth and colour as meet them southward, or for the vigorous
light that falls from the sky of this favoured shore. In any other
circumstances the transparency and serenity of the air, the perfume of
the sea, the radiant houses, the palms and flowers, would have acted
upon Somerset as an enchantment, and wrapped him in a reverie; but at
present he only saw and felt these things as through a thick glass which
kept out half their atmosphere.

At last he made up his mind. He would take up his quarters at her
hotel, and catch echoes of her and her people, to learn somehow if their
attitude towards him as a lover were actually hostile, before formally
encountering them. Under this crystalline light, full of gaieties,
sentiment, languor, seductiveness, and ready-made romance, the memory of
a solitary unimportant man in the lugubrious North might have faded from
her mind. He was only her hired designer. He was an artist; but he had
been engaged by her, and was not a volunteer; and she did not as yet
know that he meant to accept no return for his labours but the pleasure
of presenting them to her as a love-offering.

So off he went at once towards the imposing building whither his letters
had preceded him. Owing to a press of visitors there was a moment’s
delay before he could be attended to at the bureau, and he turned to the
large staircase that confronted him, momentarily hoping that her figure
might descend. Her skirts must indeed have brushed the carpeting of
those steps scores of times. He engaged his room, ordered his luggage to
be sent for, and finally inquired for the party he sought.

‘They left Nice yesterday, monsieur,’ replied madame.

Was she quite sure, Somerset asked her?

Yes, she was quite sure. Two of the hotel carriages had driven them to
the station.

Did she know where they had gone to?

This and other inquiries resulted in the information that they had
gone to the hotel at Monte Carlo; that how long they were going to stay
there, and whether they were coming back again, was not known. His final
question whether Miss Power had received a letter from England which
must have arrived the day previous was answered in the affirmative.

Somerset’s first and sudden resolve was to follow on after them to the
hotel named; but he finally decided to make his immediate visit to Monte
Carlo only a cautious reconnoitre, returning to Nice to sleep.

Accordingly, after an early dinner, he again set forth through the broad
Avenue de la Gare, and an hour on the coast railway brought him to the
beautiful and sinister little spot to which the Power and De Stancy
party had strayed in common with the rest of the frivolous throng.

He assumed that their visit thither would be chiefly one of curiosity,
and therefore not prolonged. This proved to be the case in even greater
measure than he had anticipated. On inquiry at the hotel he learnt that
they had stayed only one night, leaving a short time before his arrival,
though it was believed that some of the party were still in the town.

In a state of indecision Somerset strolled into the gardens of the
Casino, and looked out upon the sea. There it still lay, calm yet
lively; of an unmixed blue, yet variegated; hushed, but articulate even
to melodiousness. Everything about and around this coast appeared indeed
jaunty, tuneful, and at ease, reciprocating with heartiness the rays of
the splendid sun; everything, except himself. The palms and flowers on
the terraces before him were undisturbed by a single cold breath. The
marble work of parapets and steps was unsplintered by frosts. The whole
was like a conservatory with the sky for its dome.

For want of other occupation he went round towards the public entrance
to the Casino, and ascended the great staircase into the pillared hall.
It was possible, after all, that upon leaving the hotel and sending on
their luggage they had taken another turn through the rooms, to
follow by a later train. With more than curiosity he scanned first the
reading-rooms, only however to see not a face that he knew. He then
crossed the vestibule to the gaming-tables.



IV.

Here he was confronted by a heated phantasmagoria of splendour and a
high pressure of suspense that seemed to make the air quiver. A low
whisper of conversation prevailed, which might probably have been not
wrongly defined as the lowest note of social harmony.

The people gathered at this negative pole of industry had come from
all civilized countries; their tongues were familiar with many forms of
utterance, that of each racial group or type being unintelligible in its
subtler variations, if not entirely, to the rest. But the language of
meum and tuum they collectively comprehended without translation. In a
half-charmed spell-bound state they had congregated in knots, standing,
or sitting in hollow circles round the notorious oval tables marked with
figures and lines. The eyes of all these sets of people were watching
the Roulette. Somerset went from table to table, looking among the
loungers rather than among the regular players, for faces, or at least
for one face, which did not meet his gaze.

The suggestive charm which the centuries-old impersonality Gaming,
rather than games and gamesters, had for Somerset, led him to loiter on
even when his hope of meeting any of the Power and De Stancy party had
vanished. As a non-participant in its profits and losses, fevers and
frenzies, it had that stage effect upon his imagination which is
usually exercised over those who behold Chance presented to them with
spectacular piquancy without advancing far enough in its acquaintance to
suffer from its ghastly reprisals and impish tricks. He beheld a hundred
diametrically opposed wishes issuing from the murky intelligences around
a table, and spreading down across each other upon the figured diagram
in their midst, each to its own number. It was a network of hopes; which
at the announcement, ‘Sept, Rouge, Impair, et Manque,’ disappeared like
magic gossamer, to be replaced in a moment by new. That all the people
there, including himself, could be interested in what to the eye of
perfect reason was a somewhat monotonous thing--the property of numbers
to recur at certain longer or shorter intervals in a machine containing
them--in other words, the blind groping after fractions of a result
the whole of which was well known--was one testimony among many of the
powerlessness of logic when confronted with imagination.

At this juncture our lounger discerned at one of the tables about the
last person in the world he could have wished to encounter there. It was
Dare, whom he had supposed to be a thousand miles off, hanging about the
purlieus of Markton.

Dare was seated beside a table in an attitude of application which
seemed to imply that he had come early and engaged in this pursuit in
a systematic manner. Somerset had never witnessed Dare and De Stancy
together, neither had he heard of any engagement of Dare by the
travelling party as artist, courier, or otherwise; and yet it crossed
his mind that Dare might have had something to do with them, or at least
have seen them. This possibility was enough to overmaster Somerset’s
reluctance to speak to the young man, and he did so as soon as an
opportunity occurred.

Dare’s face was as rigid and dry as if it had been encrusted with
plaster, and he was like one turned into a computing machine which no
longer had the power of feeling. He recognized Somerset as indifferently
as if he had met him in the ward of Stancy Castle, and replying to his
remarks by a word or two, concentrated on the game anew.

‘Are you here alone?’ said Somerset presently.

‘Quite alone.’ There was a silence, till Dare added, ‘But I have seen
some friends of yours.’ He again became absorbed in the events of the
table. Somerset retreated a few steps, and pondered the question whether
Dare could know where they had gone. He disliked to be beholden to Dare
for information, but he would give a great deal to know. While pausing
he watched Dare’s play. He staked only five-franc pieces, but it was
done with an assiduity worthy of larger coin. At every half-minute or
so he placed his money on a certain spot, and as regularly had the
mortification of seeing it swept away by the croupier’s rake. After a
while he varied his procedure. He risked his money, which from the
look of his face seemed rather to have dwindled than increased, less
recklessly against long odds than before. Leaving off backing numbers en
plein, he laid his venture a cheval; then tried it upon the dozens; then
upon two numbers; then upon a square; and, apparently getting nearer and
nearer defeat, at last upon the simple chances of even or odd, over or
under, red or black. Yet with a few fluctuations in his favour fortune
bore steadily against him, till he could breast her blows no longer. He
rose from the table and came towards Somerset, and they both moved on
together into the entrance-hall.

Dare was at that moment the victim of an overpowering mania for more
money. His presence in the South of Europe had its origin, as may be
guessed, in Captain De Stancy’s journey in the same direction, whom
he had followed, and troubled with persistent request for more funds,
carefully keeping out of sight of Paula and the rest. His dream of
involving Paula in the De Stancy pedigree knew no abatement. But
Somerset had lighted upon him at an instant when that idea, though not
displaced, was overwhelmed by a rage for play. In hope of being able to
continue it by Somerset’s aid he was prepared to do almost anything to
please the architect.

‘You asked me,’ said Dare, stroking his impassive brow, ‘if I had seen
anything of the Powers. I have seen them; and if I can be of any use to
you in giving information about them I shall only be too glad.’

‘What information can you give?’

‘I can tell you where they are gone to.’

‘Where?’

‘To the Grand Hotel, Genoa. They went on there this afternoon.’

‘Whom do you refer to by they?’

‘Mrs. Goodman, Mr. Power, Miss Power, Miss De Stancy, and the worthy
captain. He leaves them tomorrow: he comes back here for a day on his
way to England.’

Somerset was silent. Dare continued: ‘Now I have done you a favour, will
you do me one in return?’

Somerset looked towards the gaming-rooms, and said dubiously, ‘Well?’

‘Lend me two hundred francs.’

‘Yes,’ said Somerset; ‘but on one condition: that I don’t give them to
you till you are inside the hotel you are staying at.’

‘That can’t be; it’s at Nice.’

‘Well I am going back to Nice, and I’ll lend you the money the instant
we get there.’

‘But I want it here, now, instantly!’ cried Dare; and for the first
time there was a wiry unreasonableness in his voice that fortified his
companion more firmly than ever in his determination to lend the young
man no money whilst he remained inside that building.

‘You want it to throw it away. I don’t approve of it; so come with me.’

‘But,’ said Dare, ‘I arrived here with a hundred napoleons and more,
expressly to work out my theory of chances and recurrences, which is
sound; I have studied it hundreds of times by the help of this.’ He
partially drew from his pocket the little volume that we have before
seen in his hands. ‘If I only persevere in my system, the certainty that
I must win is almost mathematical. I have staked and lost two hundred
and thirty-three times. Allowing out of that one chance in every
thirty-six, which is the average of zero being marked, and two hundred
and four times for the backers of the other numbers, I have the
mathematical expectation of six times at least, which would nearly
recoup me. And shall I, then, sacrifice that vast foundation of waste
chances that I have laid down, and paid for, merely for want of a little
ready money?’

‘You might persevere for a twelvemonth, and still not get the better of
your reverses. Time tells in favour of the bank. Just imagine for the
sake of argument that all the people who have ever placed a stake upon a
certain number to be one person playing continuously. Has that imaginary
person won? The existence of the bank is a sufficient answer.’

‘But a particular player has the option of leaving off at any
point favourable to himself, which the bank has not; and there’s my
opportunity.’

‘Which from your mood you will be sure not to take advantage of.’

‘I shall go on playing,’ said Dare doggedly.

‘Not with my money.’

‘Very well; we won’t part as enemies,’ replied Dare, with the flawless
politeness of a man whose speech has no longer any kinship with his
feelings. ‘Shall we share a bottle of wine? You will not? Well, I hope
your luck with your lady will be more magnificent than mine has been
here; but--mind Captain De Stancy! he’s a fearful wildfowl for you.’

‘He’s a harmless inoffensive soldier, as far as I know. If he is
not--let him be what he may for me.’

‘And do his worst to cut you out, I suppose?’

‘Ay--if you will.’ Somerset, much against his judgment, was being
stimulated by these pricks into words of irritation. ‘Captain De Stancy
might, I think, be better employed than in dangling at the heels of a
lady who can well dispense with his company. And you might be better
employed than in wasting your wages here.’

‘Wages--a fit word for my money. May I ask you at what stage in the
appearance of a man whose way of existence is unknown, his money ceases
to be called wages and begins to be called means?’

Somerset turned and left him without replying, Dare following his
receding figure with a look of ripe resentment, not less likely to vent
itself in mischief from the want of moral ballast in him who emitted it.
He then fixed a nettled and unsatisfied gaze upon the gaming-rooms, and
in another minute or two left the Casino also.

Dare and Somerset met no more that day. The latter returned to Nice by
the evening train and went straight to the hotel. He now thanked his
fortune that he had not precipitately given up his room there, for a
telegram from Paula awaited him. His hand almost trembled as he opened
it, to read the following few short words, dated from the Grand Hotel,
Genoa:--

‘Letter received. Am glad to hear of your journey. We are not returning
to Nice, but stay here a week. I direct this at a venture.’

This tantalizing message--the first breaking of her recent silence--was
saucy, almost cruel, in its dry frigidity. It led him to give up his
idea of following at once to Genoa. That was what she obviously expected
him to do, and it was possible that his non-arrival might draw a letter
or message from her of a sweeter composition than this. That would at
least be the effect of his tardiness if she cared in the least for him;
if she did not he could bear the worst. The argument was good enough as
far as it went, but, like many more, failed from the narrowness of its
premises, the contingent intervention of Dare being entirely undreamt
of. It was altogether a fatal miscalculation, which cost him dear.

Passing by the telegraph-office in the Rue Pont-Neuf at an early hour
the next morning he saw Dare coming out from the door. It was Somerset’s
momentary impulse to thank Dare for the information given as to Paula’s
whereabouts, information which had now proved true. But Dare did not
seem to appreciate his friendliness, and after a few words of studied
civility the young man moved on.

And well he might. Five minutes before that time he had thrown open a
gulf of treachery between himself and the architect which nothing in
life could ever close. Before leaving the telegraph-office Dare had
despatched the following message to Paula direct, as a set-off against
what he called Somerset’s ingratitude for valuable information, though
it was really the fruit of many passions, motives, and desires:--

‘G. Somerset, Nice, to Miss Power, Grand Hotel, Genoa.

‘Have lost all at Monte Carlo. Have learnt that Captain D. S. returns
here to-morrow. Please send me one hundred pounds by him, and save
me from disgrace. Will await him at eleven o’clock and four, on the
Pont-Neuf.’



V.

Five hours after the despatch of that telegram Captain De Stancy was
rattling along the coast railway of the Riviera from Genoa to Nice.
He was returning to England by way of Marseilles; but before turning
northwards he had engaged to perform on Miss Power’s account a peculiar
and somewhat disagreeable duty. This was to place in Somerset’s hands a
hundred and twenty-five napoleons which had been demanded from her by a
message in Somerset’s name. The money was in his pocket--all in gold,
in a canvas bag, tied up by Paula’s own hands, which he had observed to
tremble as she tied it.

As he leaned in the corner of the carriage he was thinking over the
events of the morning which had culminated in that liberal response. At
ten o’clock, before he had gone out from the hotel where he had taken up
his quarters, which was not the same as the one patronized by Paula
and her friends, he had been summoned to her presence in a manner
so unexpected as to imply that something serious was in question.
On entering her room he had been struck by the absence of that
saucy independence usually apparent in her bearing towards him,
notwithstanding the persistency with which he had hovered near her for
the previous month, and gradually, by the position of his sister, and
the favour of Paula’s uncle in intercepting one of Somerset’s letters
and several of his telegrams, established himself as an intimate member
of the travelling party. His entry, however, this time as always,
had had the effect of a tonic, and it was quite with her customary
self-possession that she had told him of the object of her message.

‘You think of returning to Nice this afternoon?’ she inquired.

De Stancy informed her that such was his intention, and asked if he
could do anything for her there.

Then, he remembered, she had hesitated. ‘I have received a telegram,’
she said at length; and so she allowed to escape her bit by bit the
information that her architect, whose name she seemed reluctant to
utter, had travelled from England to Nice that week, partly to consult
her, partly for a holiday trip; that he had gone on to Monte Carlo, had
there lost his money and got into difficulties, and had appealed to her
to help him out of them by the immediate advance of some ready cash. It
was a sad case, an unexpected case, she murmured, with her eyes fixed on
the window. Indeed she could not comprehend it.

To De Stancy there appeared nothing so very extraordinary in Somerset’s
apparent fiasco, except in so far as that he should have applied to
Paula for relief from his distresses instead of elsewhere. It was a
self-humiliation which a lover would have avoided at all costs, he
thought. Yet after a momentary reflection on his theory of Somerset’s
character, it seemed sufficiently natural that he should lean
persistently on Paula, if only with a view of keeping himself linked to
her memory, without thinking too profoundly of his own dignity. That
the esteem in which she had held Somerset up to that hour suffered
a tremendous blow by his apparent scrape was clearly visible in her,
reticent as she was; and De Stancy, while pitying Somerset, thanked him
in his mind for having gratuitously given a rival an advantage which
that rival’s attentions had never been able to gain of themselves.

After a little further conversation she had said: ‘Since you are to be
my messenger, I must tell you that I have decided to send the hundred
pounds asked for, and you will please to deliver them into no hands but
his own.’ A curious little blush crept over her sobered face--perhaps it
was a blush of shame at the conduct of the young man in whom she had
of late been suspiciously interested--as she added, ‘He will be on the
Pont-Neuf at four this afternoon and again at eleven tomorrow. Can you
meet him there?’

‘Certainly,’ De Stancy replied.

She then asked him, rather anxiously, how he could account for Mr.
Somerset knowing that he, Captain De Stancy, was about to return to
Nice?

De Stancy informed her that he left word at the hotel of his intention
to return, which was quite true; moreover, there did not lurk in his
mind at the moment of speaking the faintest suspicion that Somerset had
seen Dare.

She then tied the bag and handed it to him, leaving him with a serene
and impenetrable bearing, which he hoped for his own sake meant an
acquired indifference to Somerset and his fortunes. Her sending the
architect a sum of money which she could easily spare might be set
down to natural generosity towards a man with whom she was artistically
co-operating for the improvement of her home.

She came back to him again for a moment. ‘Could you possibly get there
before four this afternoon?’ she asked, and he informed her that he
could just do so by leaving almost at once, which he was very willing
to do, though by so forestalling his time he would lose the projected
morning with her and the rest at the Palazzo Doria.

‘I may tell you that I shall not go to the Palazzo Doria either, if
it is any consolation to you to know it,’ was her reply. ‘I shall sit
indoors and think of you on your journey.’

The answer admitted of two translations, and conjectures thereon filled
the gallant soldier’s mind during the greater part of the journey. He
arrived at the hotel they had all stayed at in succession about six
hours after Somerset had left it for a little excursion to San Remo and
its neighbourhood, as a means of passing a few days till Paula should
write again to inquire why he had not come on. De Stancy saw no one he
knew, and in obedience to Paula’s commands he promptly set off on foot
for the Pont-Neuf.

Though opposed to the architect as a lover, De Stancy felt for him as
a poor devil in need of money, having had experiences of that sort
himself, and he was really anxious that the needful supply entrusted
to him should reach Somerset’s hands. He was on the bridge five minutes
before the hour, and when the clock struck a hand was laid on his
shoulder: turning he beheld Dare.

Knowing that the youth was loitering somewhere along the coast, for they
had frequently met together on De Stancy’s previous visit, the latter
merely said, ‘Don’t bother me for the present, Willy, I have an
engagement. You can see me at the hotel this evening.’

‘When you have given me the hundred pounds I will fly like a rocket,
captain,’ said the young gentleman. ‘I keep the appointment instead of
the other man.’

De Stancy looked hard at him. ‘How--do you know about this?’ he asked
breathlessly.

‘I have seen him.’

De Stancy took the young man by the two shoulders and gazed into his
eyes. The scrutiny seemed not altogether to remove the suspicion which
had suddenly started up in his mind. ‘My soul,’ he said, dropping his
arms, ‘can this be true?’

‘What?’

‘You know.’

Dare shrugged his shoulders; ‘Are you going to hand over the money or
no?’ he said.

‘I am going to make inquiries,’ said De Stancy, walking away with a
vehement tread.

‘Captain, you are without natural affection,’ said Dare, walking by his
side, in a tone which showed his fear that he had over-estimated that
emotion. ‘See what I have done for you. You have been my constant care
and anxiety for I can’t tell how long. I have stayed awake at night
thinking how I might best give you a good start in the world by
arranging this judicious marriage, when you have been sleeping as sound
as a top with no cares upon your mind at all, and now I have got into
a scrape--as the most thoughtful of us may sometimes--you go to make
inquiries.’

‘I have promised the lady to whom this money belongs--whose generosity
has been shamefully abused in some way--that I will deliver it into no
hands but those of one man, and he has not yet appeared. I therefore go
to find him.’

Dare laid his hand upon De Stancy’s arm. ‘Captain, we are both warm, and
punctilious on points of honour; this will come to a split between us if
we don’t mind. So, not to bring matters to a crisis, lend me ten pounds
here to enable me to get home, and I’ll disappear.’

In a state bordering on distraction, eager to get the young man out
of his sight before worse revelations should rise up between them, De
Stancy without pausing in his walk gave him the sum demanded. He soon
reached the post-office, where he inquired if a Mr. Somerset had left
any directions for forwarding letters.

It was just what Somerset had done. De Stancy was told that Mr. Somerset
had commanded that any letters should be sent on to him at the Hotel
Victoria, San Remo.

It was now evident that the scheme of getting money from Paula was
either of Dare’s invention, or that Somerset, ashamed of his first
impulse, had abandoned it as speedily as it had been formed. De Stancy
turned and went out. Dare, in keeping with his promise, had vanished.
Captain De Stancy resolved to do nothing in the case till further events
should enlighten him, beyond sending a line to Miss Power to inform her
that Somerset had not appeared, and that he therefore retained the money
for further instructions.



BOOK THE FIFTH. DE STANCY AND PAULA.


I.

Miss Power was reclining on a red velvet couch in the bedroom of an
old-fashioned red hotel at Strassburg, and her friend Miss De Stancy was
sitting by a window of the same apartment. They were both rather wearied
by a long journey of the previous day. The hotel overlooked the large
open Kleber Platz, erect in the midst of which the bronze statue of
General Kleber received the rays of a warm sun that was powerless to
brighten him. The whole square, with its people and vehicles going to
and fro as if they had plenty of time, was visible to Charlotte in her
chair; but Paula from her horizontal position could see nothing below
the level of the many dormered house-tops on the opposite side of the
Platz. After watching this upper storey of the city for some time in
silence, she asked Charlotte to hand her a binocular lying on the table,
through which instrument she quietly regarded the distant roofs.

‘What strange and philosophical creatures storks are,’ she said. ‘They
give a taciturn, ghostly character to the whole town.’

The birds were crossing and recrossing the field of the glass in their
flight hither and thither between the Strassburg chimneys, their sad
grey forms sharply outlined against the sky, and their skinny legs
showing beneath like the limbs of dead martyrs in Crivelli’s emaciated
imaginings. The indifference of these birds to all that was going on
beneath them impressed her: to harmonize with their solemn and silent
movements the houses beneath should have been deserted, and grass
growing in the streets.

Behind the long roofs thus visible to Paula over the window-sill,
with their tiers of dormer-windows, rose the cathedral spire in
airy openwork, forming the highest object in the scene; it suggested
something which for a long time she appeared unwilling to utter; but
natural instinct had its way.

‘A place like this,’ she said, ‘where he can study Gothic architecture,
would, I should have thought, be a spot more congenial to him than
Monaco.’

The person referred to was the misrepresented Somerset, whom the two had
been gingerly discussing from time to time, allowing any casual subject,
such as that of the storks, to interrupt the personal one at every two
or three sentences.

‘It would be more like him to be here,’ replied Miss De Stancy, trusting
her tongue with only the barest generalities on this matter.

Somerset was again dismissed for the stork topic, but Paula could
not let him alone; and she presently resumed, as if an irresistible
fascination compelled what judgment had forbidden: ‘The strongest-minded
persons are sometimes caught unawares at that place, if they once think
they will retrieve their first losses; and I am not aware that he is
particularly strong-minded.’

For a moment Charlotte looked at her with a mixed expression, in which
there was deprecation that a woman with any feeling should criticize
Somerset so frigidly, and relief that it was Paula who did so. For,
notwithstanding her assumption that Somerset could never be anything
more to her than he was already, Charlotte’s heart would occasionally
step down and trouble her views so expressed.

Whether looking through a glass at distant objects enabled Paula to
bottle up her affection for the absent one, or whether her friend
Charlotte had so little personality in Paula’s regard that she could
commune with her as with a lay figure, it was certain that she evinced
remarkable ease in speaking of Somerset, resuming her words about him in
the tone of one to whom he was at most an ordinary professional adviser.
‘It would be very awkward for the works at the castle if he has got
into a scrape. I suppose the builders were well posted with instructions
before he left: but he ought certainly to return soon. Why did he leave
England at all just now?’

‘Perhaps it was to see you.’

‘He should have waited; it would not have been so dreadfully long to May
or June. Charlotte, how can a man who does such a hare-brained thing as
this be deemed trustworthy in an important work like that of rebuilding
Stancy Castle?’

There was such stress in the inquiry that, whatever factitiousness had
gone before, Charlotte perceived Paula to be at last speaking her mind;
and it seemed as if Somerset must have considerably lost ground in her
opinion, or she would not have criticized him thus.

‘My brother will tell us full particulars when he comes: perhaps it is
not at all as we suppose,’ said Charlotte. She strained her eyes across
the Platz and added, ‘He ought to have been here before this time.’

While they waited and talked, Paula still observing the storks, the
hotel omnibus came round the corner from the station. ‘I believe he has
arrived,’ resumed Miss De Stancy; ‘I see something that looks like his
portmanteau on the top of the omnibus.... Yes; it is his baggage. I’ll
run down to him.’

De Stancy had obtained six weeks’ additional leave on account of his
health, which had somewhat suffered in India. The first use he made of
his extra time was in hastening back to meet the travelling ladies here
at Strassburg. Mr. Power and Mrs. Goodman were also at the hotel, and
when Charlotte got downstairs, the former was welcoming De Stancy at the
door.

Paula had not seen him since he set out from Genoa for Nice,
commissioned by her to deliver the hundred pounds to Somerset. His note,
stating that he had failed to meet Somerset, contained no details,
and she guessed that he would soon appear before her now to answer any
question about that peculiar errand.

Her anticipations were justified by the event; she had no sooner gone
into the next sitting-room than Charlotte De Stancy appeared and asked
if her brother might come up. The closest observer would have been in
doubt whether Paula’s ready reply in the affirmative was prompted by
personal consideration for De Stancy, or by a hope to hear more of his
mission to Nice. As soon as she had welcomed him she reverted at once to
the subject.

‘Yes, as I told you, he was not at the place of meeting,’ De Stancy
replied. And taking from his pocket the bag of ready money he placed it
intact upon the table.

De Stancy did this with a hand that shook somewhat more than a long
railway journey was adequate to account for; and in truth it was the
vision of Dare’s position which agitated the unhappy captain: for had
that young man, as De Stancy feared, been tampering with Somerset’s
name, his fate now trembled in the balance; Paula would unquestionably
and naturally invoke the aid of the law against him if she discovered
such an imposition.

‘Were you punctual to the time mentioned?’ she asked curiously.

De Stancy replied in the affirmative.

‘Did you wait long?’ she continued.

‘Not very long,’ he answered, his instinct to screen the possibly guilty
one confining him to guarded statements, while still adhering to the
literal truth.

‘Why was that?’

‘Somebody came and told me that he would not appear.’

‘Who?’

‘A young man who has been acting as his clerk. His name is Dare. He
informed me that Mr. Somerset could not keep the appointment.’

‘Why?’

‘He had gone on to San Remo.’

‘Has he been travelling with Mr. Somerset?’

‘He had been with him. They know each other very well. But as you
commissioned me to deliver the money into no hands but Mr. Somerset’s, I
adhered strictly to your instructions.’

‘But perhaps my instructions were not wise. Should it in your opinion
have been sent by this young man? Was he commissioned to ask you for
it?’

De Stancy murmured that Dare was not commissioned to ask for it; that
upon the whole he deemed her instructions wise; and was still of opinion
that the best thing had been done.

Although De Stancy was distracted between his desire to preserve Dare
from the consequences of folly, and a gentlemanly wish to keep as close
to the truth as was compatible with that condition, his answers had not
appeared to Paula to be particularly evasive, the conjuncture being one
in which a handsome heiress’s shrewdness was prone to overleap itself
by setting down embarrassment on the part of the man she questioned to a
mere lover’s difficulty in steering between honour and rivalry.

She put but one other question. ‘Did it appear as if he, Mr. Somerset,
after telegraphing, had--had--regretted doing so, and evaded the result
by not keeping the appointment?’

‘That’s just how it appears.’ The words, which saved Dare from ignominy,
cost De Stancy a good deal. He was sorry for Somerset, sorry for
himself, and very sorry for Paula. But Dare was to De Stancy what
Somerset could never be: and ‘for his kin that is near unto him shall a
man be defiled.’

After that interview Charlotte saw with warring impulses that Somerset
slowly diminished in Paula’s estimate; slowly as the moon wanes, but as
certainly. Charlotte’s own love was of a clinging, uncritical sort, and
though the shadowy intelligence of Somerset’s doings weighed down her
soul with regret, it seemed to make not the least difference in her
affection for him.

In the afternoon the whole party, including De Stancy, drove about the
streets. Here they looked at the house in which Goethe had lived, and
afterwards entered the cathedral. Observing in the south transept
a crowd of people waiting patiently, they were reminded that they
unwittingly stood in the presence of the popular clock-work of
Schwilgue.

Mr. Power and Mrs. Goodman decided that they would wait with the rest of
the idlers and see the puppets perform at the striking. Charlotte also
waited with them; but as it wanted eight minutes to the hour, and as
Paula had seen the show before, she moved on into the nave.

Presently she found that De Stancy had followed. He did not come close
till she, seeing him stand silent, said, ‘If it were not for this
cathedral, I should not like the city at all; and I have even seen
cathedrals I like better. Luckily we are going on to Baden to-morrow.’

‘Your uncle has just told me. He has asked me to keep you company.’

‘Are you intending to?’ said Paula, probing the base-moulding of a pier
with her parasol.

‘I have nothing better to do, nor indeed half so good,’ said De Stancy.
‘I am abroad for my health, you know, and what’s like the Rhine and its
neighbourhood in early summer, before the crowd comes? It is delightful
to wander about there, or anywhere, like a child, influenced by no fixed
motive more than that of keeping near some friend, or friends, including
the one we most admire in the world.’

‘That sounds perilously like love-making.’

‘’Tis love indeed.’

‘Well, love is natural to men, I suppose,’ rejoined the young lady. ‘But
you must love within bounds; or you will be enervated, and cease to be
useful as a heavy arm of the service.’

‘My dear Miss Power, your didactic and respectable rules won’t do for
me. If you expect straws to stop currents, you are sadly mistaken! But
no--let matters be: I am a happy contented mortal at present, say what
you will.... You don’t ask why? Perhaps you know. It is because all I
care for in the world is near me, and that I shall never be more than a
hundred yards from her as long as the present arrangement continues.’

‘We are in a cathedral, remember, Captain De Stancy, and should not keep
up a secular conversation.’

‘If I had never said worse in a cathedral than what I have said here,
I should be content to meet my eternal judge without absolution. Your
uncle asked me this morning how I liked you.’

‘Well, there was no harm in that.’

‘How I like you! Harm, no; but you should have seen how silly I looked.
Fancy the inadequacy of the expression when my whole sense is absorbed
by you.’

‘Men allow themselves to be made ridiculous by their own feelings in an
inconceivable way.’

‘True, I am a fool; but forgive me,’ he rejoined, observing her gaze,
which wandered critically from roof to clerestory, and then to the
pillars, without once lighting on him. ‘Don’t mind saying Yes.--You look
at this thing and that thing, but you never look at me, though I stand
here and see nothing but you.’

‘There, the clock is striking--and the cock crows. Please go across to
the transept and tell them to come out this way.’

De Stancy went. When he had gone a few steps he turned his head. She
had at last ceased to study the architecture, and was looking at him.
Perhaps his words had struck her, for it seemed at that moment as if he
read in her bright eyes a genuine interest in him and his fortunes.



II.

Next day they went on to Baden. De Stancy was beginning to cultivate the
passion of love even more as an escape from the gloomy relations of
his life than as matrimonial strategy. Paula’s juxtaposition had the
attribute of making him forget everything in his own history. She was a
magic alterative; and the most foolish boyish shape into which he could
throw his feelings for her was in this respect to be aimed at as the act
of highest wisdom.

He supplemented the natural warmth of feeling that she had wrought in
him by every artificial means in his power, to make the distraction the
more complete. He had not known anything like this self-obscuration for
a dozen years, and when he conjectured that she might really learn to
love him he felt exalted in his own eyes and purified from the dross of
his former life. Such uneasiness of conscience as arose when he suddenly
remembered Dare, and the possibility that Somerset was getting ousted
unfairly, had its weight in depressing him; but he was inclined to
accept his fortune without much question.

The journey to Baden, though short, was not without incidents on which
he could work out this curious hobby of cultivating to superlative power
an already positive passion. Handing her in and out of the carriage,
accidentally getting brushed by her clothes, of all such as this he made
available fuel. Paula, though she might have guessed the general nature
of what was going on, seemed unconscious of the refinements he was
trying to throw into it, and sometimes, when in stepping into or from a
railway carriage she unavoidably put her hand upon his arm, the obvious
insignificance she attached to the action struck him with misgiving.

One of the first things they did at Baden was to stroll into the
Trink-halle, where Paula sipped the water. She was about to put down the
glass, when De Stancy quickly took it from her hands as though to make
use of it himself.

‘O, if that is what you mean,’ she said mischievously, ‘you should
have noticed the exact spot. It was there.’ She put her finger on a
particular portion of its edge.

‘You ought not to act like that, unless you mean something, Miss Power,’
he replied gravely.

‘Tell me more plainly.’

‘I mean, you should not do things which excite in me the hope that you
care something for me, unless you really do.’

‘I put my finger on the edge and said it was there.’

‘Meaning, “It was there my lips touched; let yours do the same.”’

‘The latter part I wholly deny,’ she answered, with disregard, after
which she went away, and kept between Charlotte and her aunt for the
rest of the afternoon.

Since the receipt of the telegram Paula had been frequently silent; she
frequently stayed in alone, and sometimes she became quite gloomy--an
altogether unprecedented phase for her. This was the case on the morning
after the incident in the Trink-halle. Not to intrude on her, Charlotte
walked about the landings of the sunny white hotel in which they had
taken up their quarters, went down into the court, and petted the
tortoises that were creeping about there among the flowers and plants;
till at last, on going to her friend, she caught her reading some old
letters of Somerset’s.

Paula made no secret of them, and Miss De Stancy could see that more
than half were written on blue paper, with diagrams amid the writing:
they were, in fact, simply those sheets of his letters which related to
the rebuilding. Nevertheless, Charlotte fancied she had caught Paula in
a sentimental mood; and doubtless could Somerset have walked in at
this moment instead of Charlotte it might have fared well with him,
so insidiously do tender memories reassert themselves in the face of
outward mishaps.

They took a drive down the Lichtenthal road and then into the forest, De
Stancy and Abner Power riding on horseback alongside. The sun streamed
yellow behind their backs as they wound up the long inclines, lighting
the red trunks, and even the blue-black foliage itself. The summer had
already made impression upon that mass of uniform colour by tipping
every twig with a tiny sprout of virescent yellow; while the minute
sounds which issued from the forest revealed that the apparently still
place was becoming a perfect reservoir of insect life.

Abner Power was quite sentimental that day. ‘In such places as these,’
he said, as he rode alongside Mrs. Goodman, ‘nature’s powers in the
multiplication of one type strike me as much as the grandeur of the
mass.’

Mrs. Goodman agreed with him, and Paula said, ‘The foliage forms the
roof of an interminable green crypt, the pillars being the trunks, and
the vault the interlacing boughs.’

‘It is a fine place in a thunderstorm,’ said De Stancy. ‘I am not an
enthusiast, but to see the lightning spring hither and thither,
like lazy-tongs, bristling, and striking, and vanishing, is rather
impressive.’

‘It must be indeed,’ said Paula.

‘And in the winter winds these pines sigh like ten thousand spirits in
trouble.’

‘Indeed they must,’ said Paula.

‘At the same time I know a little fir-plantation about a mile square
not far from Markton,’ said De Stancy, ‘which is precisely like this
in miniature,--stems, colours, slopes, winds, and all. If we were to go
there any time with a highly magnifying pair of spectacles it would look
as fine as this--and save a deal of travelling.’

‘I know the place, and I agree with you,’ said Paula.

‘You agree with me on all subjects but one,’ he presently observed, in a
voice not intended to reach the others.

Paula looked at him, but was silent.

Onward and upward they went, the same pattern and colour of tree
repeating themselves endlessly, till in a couple of hours they reached
the castle hill which was to be the end of their journey, and beheld
stretched beneath them the valley of the Murg. They alighted and entered
the fortress.

‘What did you mean by that look of kindness you bestowed upon me just
now, when I said you agreed with me on all subjects but one?’ asked
De Stancy half humorously, as he held open a little door for her, the
others having gone ahead.

‘I meant, I suppose, that I was much obliged to you for not requiring
agreement on that one subject,’ she said, passing on.

‘Not more than that?’ said De Stancy, as he followed her. ‘But whenever
I involuntarily express towards you sentiments that there can be no
mistaking, you seem truly compassionate.’

‘If I seem so, I feel so.’

‘If you mean no more than mere compassion, I wish you would show nothing
at all, for your mistaken kindness is only preparing more misery for me
than I should have if let alone to suffer without mercy.’

‘I implore you to be quiet, Captain De Stancy! Leave me, and look out
of the window at the view here, or at the pictures, or at the armour, or
whatever it is we are come to see.’

‘Very well. But pray don’t extract amusement from my harmless remarks.
Such as they are I mean them.’

She stopped him by changing the subject, for they had entered an
octagonal chamber on the first floor, presumably full of pictures and
curiosities; but the shutters were closed, and only stray beams of light
gleamed in to suggest what was there.

‘Can’t somebody open the windows?’ said Paula.

‘The attendant is about to do it,’ said her uncle; and as he spoke the
shutters to the east were flung back, and one of the loveliest views in
the forest disclosed itself outside.

Some of them stepped out upon the balcony. The river lay along the
bottom of the valley, irradiated with a silver shine. Little rafts of
pinewood floated on its surface like tiny splinters, the men who steered
them not appearing larger than ants.

Paula stood on the balcony, looking for a few minutes upon the sight,
and then came into the shadowy room, where De Stancy had remained. While
the rest were still outside she resumed: ‘You must not suppose that I
shrink from the subject you so persistently bring before me. I respect
deep affection--you know I do; but for me to say that I have any such
for you, of the particular sort you only will be satisfied with, would
be absurd. I don’t feel it, and therefore there can be nothing between
us. One would think it would be better to feel kindly towards you than
to feel nothing at all. But if you object to that I’ll try to feel
nothing.’

‘I don’t really object to your sympathy,’ said De Stancy, rather struck
by her seriousness. ‘But it is very saddening to think you can feel
nothing more.’

‘It must be so, since I CAN feel no more,’ she decisively replied,
adding, as she stopped her seriousness: ‘You must pray for strength to
get over it.’

‘One thing I shall never pray for; to see you give yourself to another
man. But I suppose I shall witness that some day.’

‘You may,’ she gravely returned.

‘You have no doubt chosen him already,’ cried the captain bitterly.

‘No, Captain De Stancy,’ she said shortly, a faint involuntary blush
coming into her face as she guessed his allusion.

This, and a few glances round at the pictures and curiosities, completed
their survey of the castle. De Stancy knew better than to trouble her
further that day with special remarks. During the return journey he rode
ahead with Mr. Power and she saw no more of him.

She would have been astonished had she heard the conversation of the two
gentlemen as they wound gently downwards through the trees.

‘As far as I am concerned,’ Captain De Stancy’s companion was saying,
‘nothing would give me more unfeigned delight than that you should
persevere and win her. But you must understand that I have no authority
over her--nothing more than the natural influence that arises from my
being her father’s brother.’

‘And for exercising that much, whatever it may be, in my favour I thank
you heartily,’ said De Stancy. ‘But I am coming to the conclusion that
it is useless to press her further. She is right! I am not the man for
her. I am too old, and too poor; and I must put up as well as I can with
her loss--drown her image in old Falernian till I embark in Charon’s
boat for good!--Really, if I had the industry I could write some good
Horatian verses on my inauspicious situation!... Ah, well;--in this way
I affect levity over my troubles; but in plain truth my life will not be
the brightest without her.’

‘Don’t be down-hearted! you are too--too gentlemanly, De Stancy, in
this matter--you are too soon put off--you should have a touch of the
canvasser about you in approaching her; and not stick at things. You
have my hearty invitation to travel with us all the way till we cross to
England, and there will be heaps of opportunities as we wander on. I’ll
keep a slow pace to give you time.’

‘You are very good, my friend! Well, I will try again. I am full of
doubt and indecision, mind, but at present I feel that I will try again.
There is, I suppose, a slight possibility of something or other turning
up in my favour, if it is true that the unexpected always happens--for
I foresee no chance whatever.... Which way do we go when we leave here
to-morrow?’

‘To Carlsruhe, she says, if the rest of us have no objection.’

‘Carlsruhe, then, let it be, with all my heart; or anywhere.’

To Carlsruhe they went next day, after a night of soft rain which
brought up a warm steam from the Schwarzwald valleys, and caused the
young tufts and grasses to swell visibly in a few hours. After the
Baden slopes the flat thoroughfares of ‘Charles’s Rest’ seemed somewhat
uninteresting, though a busy fair which was proceeding in the
streets created a quaint and unexpected liveliness. On reaching the
old-fashioned inn in the Lange-Strasse that they had fixed on, the
women of the party betook themselves to their rooms and showed little
inclination to see more of the world that day than could be gleaned from
the hotel windows.



III.

While the malignant tongues had been playing havoc with Somerset’s
fame in the ears of Paula and her companion, the young man himself was
proceeding partly by rail, partly on foot, below and amid the olive-clad
hills, vineyards, carob groves, and lemon gardens of the Mediterranean
shores. Arrived at San Remo he wrote to Nice to inquire for letters,
and such as had come were duly forwarded; but not one of them was from
Paula. This broke down his resolution to hold off, and he hastened
directly to Genoa, regretting that he had not taken this step when he
first heard that she was there.

Something in the very aspect of the marble halls of that city, which at
any other time he would have liked to linger over, whispered to him that
the bird had flown; and inquiry confirmed the fancy. Nevertheless, the
architectural beauties of the palace-bordered street, looking as if
mountains of marble must have been levelled to supply the materials
for constructing it, detained him there two days: or rather a feat
of resolution, by which he set himself to withstand the drag-chain of
Paula’s influence, was operative for that space of time.

At the end of it he moved onward. There was no difficulty in discovering
their track northwards; and feeling that he might as well return to
England by the Rhine route as by any other, he followed in the course
they had chosen, getting scent of them in Strassburg, missing them at
Baden by a day, and finally overtaking them at Carlsruhe, which town he
reached on the morning after the Power and De Stancy party had taken
up their quarters at the ancient inn above mentioned. When Somerset
was about to get out of the train at this place, little dreaming what
a meaning the word Carlsruhe would have for him in subsequent years, he
was disagreeably surprised to see no other than Dare stepping out of the
adjoining carriage. A new brown leather valise in one of his hands, a
new umbrella in the other, and a new suit of fashionable clothes on
his back, seemed to denote considerable improvement in the young man’s
fortunes. Somerset was so struck by the circumstance of his being on
this spot that he almost missed his opportunity for alighting.

Dare meanwhile had moved on without seeing his former employer, and
Somerset resolved to take the chance that offered, and let him go. There
was something so mysterious in their common presence simultaneously
at one place, five hundred miles from where they had last met, that
he exhausted conjecture on whether Dare’s errand this way could have
anything to do with his own, or whether their juxtaposition a second
time was the result of pure accident. Greatly as he would have liked
to get this answered by a direct question to Dare himself, he did not
counteract his first instinct, and remained unseen.

They went out in different directions, when Somerset for the first time
remembered that, in learning at Baden that the party had flitted towards
Carlsruhe, he had taken no care to ascertain the name of the hotel
they were bound for. Carlsruhe was not a large place and the point was
immaterial, but the omission would necessitate a little inquiry. To
follow Dare on the chance of his having fixed upon the same quarters
was a course which did not commend itself. He resolved to get some lunch
before proceeding with his business--or fatuity--of discovering the
elusive lady, and drove off to a neighbouring tavern, which did not
happen to be, as he hoped it might, the one chosen by those who had
preceded him.

Meanwhile Dare, previously master of their plans, went straight to the
house which sheltered them, and on entering under the archway from the
Lange-Strasse was saved the trouble of inquiring for Captain De Stancy
by seeing him drinking bitters at a little table in the court. Had
Somerset chosen this inn for his quarters instead of the one in the
Market-Place which he actually did choose, the three must inevitably
have met here at this moment, with some possibly striking dramatic
results; though what they would have been remains for ever hidden in the
darkness of the unfulfilled.

De Stancy jumped up from his chair, and went forward to the new-comer.
‘You are not long behind us, then,’ he said, with laconic disquietude.
‘I thought you were going straight home?’

‘I was,’ said Dare, ‘but I have been blessed with what I may call a
small competency since I saw you last. Of the two hundred francs you
gave me I risked fifty at the tables, and I have multiplied them, how
many times do you think? More than four hundred times.’

De Stancy immediately looked grave. ‘I wish you had lost them,’ he said,
with as much feeling as could be shown in a place where strangers were
hovering near.

‘Nonsense, captain! I have proceeded purely on a calculation of chances;
and my calculations proved as true as I expected, notwithstanding a
little in-and-out luck at first. Witness this as the result.’ He smacked
his bag with his umbrella, and the chink of money resounded from within.
‘Just feel the weight of it!’

‘It is not necessary. I take your word.’

‘Shall I lend you five pounds?’

‘God forbid! As if that would repay me for what you have cost me! But
come, let’s get out of this place to where we can talk more freely.’ He
put his hand through the young man’s arm, and led him round the corner
of the hotel towards the Schloss-Platz.

‘These runs of luck will be your ruin, as I have told you before,’
continued Captain De Stancy. ‘You will be for repeating and repeating
your experiments, and will end by blowing your brains out, as wiser
heads than yours have done. I am glad you have come away, at any rate.
Why did you travel this way?’

‘Simply because I could afford it, of course.--But come, captain,
something has ruffled you to-day. I thought you did not look in the best
temper the moment I saw you. Every sip you took of your pick-up as you
sat there showed me something was wrong. Tell your worry!’

‘Pooh--I can tell you in two words,’ said the captain satirically. ‘Your
arrangement for my wealth and happiness--for I suppose you still claim
it to be yours--has fallen through. The lady has announced to-day that
she means to send for Somerset instantly. She is coming to a personal
explanation with him. So woe to me--and in another sense, woe to you, as
I have reason to fear.’

‘Send for him!’ said Dare, with the stillness of complete abstraction.
‘Then he’ll come.’

‘Well,’ said De Stancy, looking him in the face. ‘And does it make you
feel you had better be off? How about that telegram? Did he ask you to
send it, or did he not?’

‘One minute, or I shall be up such a tree as nobody ever saw the like
of.’

‘Then what did you come here for?’ burst out De Stancy. ‘’Tis my belief
you are no more than a--But I won’t call you names; I’ll tell you quite
plainly that if there is anything wrong in that message to her--which
I believe there is--no, I can’t believe, though I fear it--you have the
chance of appearing in drab clothes at the expense of the Government
before the year is out, and I of being eternally disgraced!’

‘No, captain, you won’t be disgraced. I am bad to beat, I can tell you.
And come the worst luck, I don’t say a word.’

‘But those letters pricked in your skin would say a good deal, it
strikes me.’

‘What! would they strip me?--but it is not coming to that. Look here,
now, I’ll tell you the truth for once; though you don’t believe me
capable of it. I DID concoct that telegram--and sent it; just as a
practical joke; and many a worse one has been only laughed at by honest
men and officers. I could show you a bigger joke still--a joke of
jokes--on the same individual.’

Dare as he spoke put his hand into his breast-pocket, as if the said
joke lay there; but after a moment he withdrew his hand empty, as he
continued:

‘Having invented it I have done enough; I was going to explain it to
you, that you might carry it out. But you are so serious, that I will
leave it alone. My second joke shall die with me.’

‘So much the better,’ said De Stancy. ‘I don’t like your jokes, even
though they are not directed against myself. They express a kind of
humour which does not suit me.’

‘You may have reason to alter your mind,’ said Dare carelessly. ‘Your
success with your lady may depend on it. The truth is, captain, we
aristocrats must not take too high a tone. Our days as an independent
division of society, which holds aloof from other sections, are past.
This has been my argument (in spite of my strong Norman feelings) ever
since I broached the subject of your marrying this girl, who represents
both intellect and wealth--all, in fact, except the historical prestige
that you represent. And we mustn’t flinch at things. The case is even
more pressing than ordinary cases--owing to the odd fact that the
representative of the new blood who has come in our way actually lives
in your own old house, and owns your own old lands. The ordinary reason
for such alliances is quintupled in our case. Do then just think and
be reasonable, before you talk tall about not liking my jokes, and all
that. Beggars mustn’t be choosers.’

‘There’s really much reason in your argument,’ said De Stancy, with a
bitter laugh: ‘and my own heart argues much the same way. But, leaving
me to take care of my aristocratic self, I advise your aristocratic
self to slip off at once to England like any hang-gallows dog; and if
Somerset is here, and you have been doing wrong in his name, and it all
comes out, I’ll try to save you, as far as an honest man can. If you
have done no wrong, of course there is no fear; though I should be
obliged by your going homeward as quickly as possible, as being better
both for you and for me.... Hullo--Damnation!’

They had reached one side of the Schloss-Platz, nobody apparently being
near them save a sentinel who was on duty before the Palace; but turning
as he spoke, De Stancy beheld a group consisting of his sister, Paula,
and Mr. Power, strolling across the square towards them.

It was impossible to escape their observation, and putting a bold front
upon it, De Stancy advanced with Dare at his side, till in a few moments
the two parties met, Paula and Charlotte recognizing Dare at once as the
young man who assisted at the castle.

‘I have met my young photographer,’ said De Stancy cheerily. ‘What a
small world it is, as everybody truly observes! I am wishing he could
take some views for us as we go on; but you have no apparatus with you,
I suppose, Mr. Dare?’

‘I have not, sir, I am sorry to say,’ replied Dare respectfully.

‘You could get some, I suppose?’ asked Paula of the interesting young
photographer.

Dare declared that it would be not impossible: whereupon De Stancy said
that it was only a passing thought of his; and in a few minutes the two
parties again separated, going their several ways.

‘That was awkward,’ said De Stancy, trembling with excitement. ‘I would
advise you to keep further off in future.’

Dare said thoughtfully that he would be careful, adding, ‘She is a prize
for any man, indeed, leaving alone the substantial possessions behind
her! Now was I too enthusiastic? Was I a fool for urging you on?’

‘Wait till success justifies the undertaking. In case of failure it will
have been anything but wise. It is no light matter to have a carefully
preserved repose broken in upon for nothing--a repose that could never
be restored!’

They walked down the Carl-Friedrichs-Strasse to the Margrave’s Pyramid,
and back to the hotel, where Dare also decided to take up his stay. De
Stancy left him with the book-keeper at the desk, and went upstairs to
see if the ladies had returned.



IV.

He found them in their sitting-room with their bonnets on, as if they
had just come in. Mr. Power was also present, reading a newspaper, but
Mrs. Goodman had gone out to a neighbouring shop, in the windows of
which she had seen something which attracted her fancy.

When De Stancy entered, Paula’s thoughts seemed to revert to Dare, for
almost at once she asked him in what direction the youth was travelling.
With some hesitation De Stancy replied that he believed Mr. Dare was
returning to England after a spring trip for the improvement of his
mind.

‘A very praiseworthy thing to do,’ said Paula. ‘What places has he
visited?’

‘Those which afford opportunities for the study of the old masters, I
believe,’ said De Stancy blandly. ‘He has also been to Turin, Genoa,
Marseilles, and so on.’ The captain spoke the more readily to her
questioning in that he divined her words to be dictated, not by any
suspicions of his relations with Dare, but by her knowledge of Dare as
the draughtsman employed by Somerset.

‘Has he been to Nice?’ she next demanded. ‘Did he go there in company
with my architect?’

‘I think not.’

‘Has he seen anything of him? My architect Somerset once employed him.
They know each other.’

‘I think he saw Somerset for a short time.’

Paula was silent. ‘Do you know where this young man Dare is at the
present moment?’ she asked quickly.

De Stancy said that Dare was staying at the same hotel with themselves,
and that he believed he was downstairs.

‘I think I can do no better than send for him,’ said she. ‘He may be
able to throw some light upon the matter of that telegram.’

She rang and despatched the waiter for the young man in question, De
Stancy almost visibly trembling for the result. But he opened the town
directory which was lying on a table, and affected to be engrossed in
the names.

Before Dare was shown in she said to her uncle, ‘Perhaps you will speak
to him for me?’

Mr. Power, looking up from the paper he was reading, assented to her
proposition. Dare appeared in the doorway, and the waiter retired. Dare
seemed a trifle startled out of his usual coolness, the message having
evidently been unexpected, and he came forward somewhat uneasily.

‘Mr. Dare, we are anxious to know something of Miss Power’s architect;
and Captain De Stancy tells us you have seen him lately,’ said Mr. Power
sonorously over the edge of his newspaper.

Not knowing whether danger menaced or no, or, if it menaced, from what
quarter it was to be expected, Dare felt that honesty was as good as
anything else for him, and replied boldly that he had seen Mr. Somerset,
De Stancy continuing to cream and mantle almost visibly, in anxiety at
the situation of the speaker.

‘And where did you see him?’ continued Mr. Power.

‘In the Casino at Monte Carlo.’

‘How long did you see him?’

‘Only for half an hour. I left him there.’

Paula’s interest got the better of her reserve, and she cut in upon her
uncle: ‘Did he seem in any unusual state, or in trouble?’

‘He was rather excited,’ said Dare.

‘And can you remember when that was?’

Dare considered, looked at his pocket-book, and said that it was on the
evening of April the twenty-second.

The answer had a significance for Paula, De Stancy, and Charlotte, to
which Abner Power was a stranger. The telegraphic request for money,
which had been kept a secret from him by his niece, because of his
already unfriendly tone towards Somerset, arrived on the morning of the
twenty-third--a date which neighboured with painfully suggestive nicety
upon that now given by Dare.

She seemed to be silenced, and asked no more questions. Dare having
furbished himself up to a gentlemanly appearance with some of his recent
winnings, was invited to stay on awhile by Paula’s uncle, who, as became
a travelled man, was not fastidious as to company. Being a youth of the
world, Dare made himself agreeable to that gentleman, and afterwards
tried to do the same with Miss De Stancy. At this the captain, to whom
the situation for some time had been amazingly uncomfortable, pleaded
some excuse for going out, and left the room.

Dare continued his endeavours to say a few polite nothings to Charlotte
De Stancy, in the course of which he drew from his pocket his new silk
handkerchief. By some chance a card came out with the handkerchief, and
fluttered downwards. His momentary instinct was to make a grasp at the
card and conceal it: but it had already tumbled to the floor, where it
lay face upward beside Charlotte De Stancy’s chair.

It was neither a visiting nor a playing card, but one bearing a
photographic portrait of a peculiar nature. It was what Dare had
characterized as his best joke in speaking on the subject to Captain De
Stancy: he had in the morning put it ready in his pocket to give to the
captain, and had in fact held it in waiting between his finger and thumb
while talking to him in the Platz, meaning that he should make use of it
against his rival whenever convenient. But his sharp conversation with
that soldier had dulled his zest for this final joke at Somerset’s
expense, had at least shown him that De Stancy would not adopt the joke
by accepting the photograph and using it himself, and determined him to
lay it aside till a more convenient time. So fully had he made up his
mind on this course, that when the photograph slipped out he did not at
first perceive the appositeness of the circumstance, in putting into his
own hands the role he had intended for De Stancy; though it was asserted
afterwards that the whole scene was deliberately planned. However, once
having seen the accident, he resolved to take the current as it served.

The card having fallen beside her, Miss De Stancy glanced over it, which
indeed she could not help doing. The smile that had previously hung upon
her lips was arrested as if by frost and she involuntarily uttered a
little distressed cry of ‘O!’ like one in bodily pain.

Paula, who had been talking to her uncle during this interlude, started
round, and wondering what had happened, inquiringly crossed the room
to poor Charlotte’s side, asking her what was the matter. Charlotte had
regained self-possession, though not enough to enable her to reply, and
Paula asked her a second time what had made her exclaim like that. Miss
De Stancy still seemed confused, whereupon Paula noticed that her eyes
were continually drawn as if by fascination towards the photograph on
the floor, which, contrary to his first impulse, Dare, as has been
said, now seemed in no hurry to regain. Surmising at last that the card,
whatever it was, had something to do with the exclamation, Paula picked
it up.

It was a portrait of Somerset; but by a device known in photography
the operator, though contriving to produce what seemed to be a perfect
likeness, had given it the distorted features and wild attitude of a man
advanced in intoxication. No woman, unless specially cognizant of such
possibilities, could have looked upon it and doubted that the photograph
was a genuine illustration of a customary phase in the young man’s
private life.

Paula observed it, thoroughly took it in; but the effect upon her was by
no means clear. Charlotte’s eyes at once forsook the portrait to dwell
on Paula’s face. It paled a little, and this was followed by a hot
blush--perceptibly a blush of shame. That was all. She flung the picture
down on the table, and moved away.

It was now Mr. Power’s turn. Anticipating Dare, who was advancing with
a deprecatory look to seize the photograph, he also grasped it. When he
saw whom it represented he seemed both amused and startled, and after
scanning it a while handed it to the young man with a queer smile.

‘I am very sorry,’ began Dare in a low voice to Mr. Power. ‘I fear I was
to blame for thoughtlessness in not destroying it. But I thought it was
rather funny that a man should permit such a thing to be done, and that
the humour would redeem the offence.’

‘In you, for purchasing it,’ said Paula with haughty quickness from the
other side of the room. ‘Though probably his friends, if he has any,
would say not in him.’

There was silence in the room after this, and Dare, finding himself
rather in the way, took his leave as unostentatiously as a cat that has
upset the family china, though he continued to say among his apologies
that he was not aware Mr. Somerset was a personal friend of the ladies.

Of all the thoughts which filled the minds of Paula and Charlotte De
Stancy, the thought that the photograph might have been a fabrication
was probably the last. To them that picture of Somerset had all the
cogency of direct vision. Paula’s experience, much less Charlotte’s, had
never lain in the fields of heliographic science, and they would as soon
have thought that the sun could again stand still upon Gibeon, as
that it could be made to falsify men’s characters in delineating their
features. What Abner Power thought he himself best knew. He might have
seen such pictures before; or he might never have heard of them.

While pretending to resume his reading he closely observed Paula, as did
also Charlotte De Stancy; but thanks to the self-management which
was Miss Power’s as much by nature as by art, she dissembled whatever
emotion was in her.

‘It is a pity a professional man should make himself so ludicrous,’ she
said with such careless intonation that it was almost impossible,
even for Charlotte, who knew her so well, to believe her indifference
feigned.

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Power, since Charlotte did not speak: ‘it is what I
scarcely should have expected.’

‘O, I am not surprised!’ said Paula quickly. ‘You don’t know all.’ The
inference was, indeed, inevitable that if her uncle were made aware of
the telegram he would see nothing unlikely in the picture. ‘Well, you
are very silent!’ continued Paula petulantly, when she found that nobody
went on talking. ‘What made you cry out “O,” Charlotte, when Mr. Dare
dropped that horrid photograph?’

‘I don’t know; I suppose it frightened me,’ stammered the girl.

‘It was a stupid fuss to make before such a person. One would think you
were in love with Mr. Somerset.’

‘What did you say, Paula?’ inquired her uncle, looking up from the
newspaper which he had again resumed.

‘Nothing, Uncle Abner.’ She walked to the window, and, as if to tide
over what was plainly passing in their minds about her, she began to
make remarks on objects in the street. ‘What a quaint being--look,
Charlotte!’ It was an old woman sitting by a stall on the opposite side
of the way, which seemed suddenly to hit Paula’s sense of the humorous,
though beyond the fact that the dame was old and poor, and wore a white
handkerchief over her head, there was really nothing noteworthy about
her.

Paula seemed to be more hurt by what the silence of her companions
implied--a suspicion that the discovery of Somerset’s depravity was
wounding her heart--than by the wound itself. The ostensible ease with
which she drew them into a bye conversation had perhaps the defect
of proving too much: though her tacit contention that no love was in
question was not incredible on the supposition that affronted pride
alone caused her embarrassment. The chief symptom of her heart being
really tender towards Somerset consisted in her apparent blindness to
Charlotte’s secret, so obviously suggested by her momentary agitation.



V.

And where was the subject of their condemnatory opinions all this
while? Having secured a room at his inn, he came forth to complete the
discovery of his dear mistress’s halting-place without delay. After
one or two inquiries he ascertained where such a party of English were
staying; and arriving at the hotel, knew at once that he had tracked
them to earth by seeing the heavier portion of the Power luggage
confronting him in the hall. He sent up intelligence of his presence,
and awaited her reply with a beating heart.

In the meanwhile Dare, descending from his pernicious interview with
Paula and the rest, had descried Captain De Stancy in the public
drawing-room, and entered to him forthwith. It was while they were here
together that Somerset passed the door and sent up his name to Paula.

The incident at the railway station was now reversed, Somerset being
the observed of Dare, as Dare had then been the observed of Somerset.
Immediately on sight of him Dare showed real alarm. He had imagined that
Somerset would eventually impinge on Paula’s route, but he had scarcely
expected it yet; and the architect’s sudden appearance led Dare to
ask himself the ominous question whether Somerset had discovered his
telegraphic trick, and was in the mood for prompt measures.

‘There is no more for me to do here,’ said the boy hastily to De Stancy.
‘Miss Power does not wish to ask me any more questions. I may as well
proceed on my way, as you advised.’

De Stancy, who had also gazed with dismay at Somerset’s passing figure,
though with dismay of another sort, was recalled from his vexation by
Dare’s remarks, and turning upon him he said sharply, ‘Well may you be
in such a hurry all of a sudden!’

‘True, I am superfluous now.’

‘You have been doing a foolish thing, and you must suffer its
inconveniences.--Will, I am sorry for one thing; I am sorry I ever
owned you; for you are not a lad to my heart. You have disappointed
me--disappointed me almost beyond endurance.’

‘I have acted according to my illumination. What can you expect of a man
born to dishonour?’

‘That’s mere speciousness. Before you knew anything of me, and while
you thought you were the child of poverty on both sides, you were well
enough; but ever since you thought you were more than that, you have led
a life which is intolerable. What has become of your plan of alliance
between the De Stancys and the Powers now? The man is gone upstairs who
can overthrow it all.’

‘If the man had not gone upstairs, you wouldn’t have complained of my
nature or my plans,’ said Dare drily. ‘If I mistake not, he will come
down again with the flea in his ear. However, I have done; my play is
played out. All the rest remains with you. But, captain, grant me this!
If when I am gone this difficulty should vanish, and things should go
well with you, and your suit should prosper, will you think of him, bad
as he is, who first put you on the track of such happiness, and let him
know it was not done in vain?’

‘I will,’ said De Stancy. ‘Promise me that you will be a better boy?’

‘Very well--as soon as ever I can afford it. Now I am up and away, when
I have explained to them that I shall not require my room.’

Dare fetched his bag, touched his hat with his umbrella to the captain
and went out of the hotel archway. De Stancy sat down in the stuffy
drawing-room, and wondered what other ironies time had in store for him.

A waiter in the interim had announced Somerset to the group upstairs.
Paula started as much as Charlotte at hearing the name, and Abner Power
stared at them both.

‘If Mr. Somerset wishes to see me ON BUSINESS, show him in,’ said Paula.

In a few seconds the door was thrown open for Somerset. On receipt of
the pointed message he guessed that a change had come. Time, absence,
ambition, her uncle’s influence, and a new wooer, seemed to account
sufficiently well for that change, and he accepted his fate. But a
stoical instinct to show her that he could regard vicissitudes with the
equanimity that became a man; a desire to ease her mind of any fear
she might entertain that his connection with her past would render him
troublesome in future, induced him to accept her permission, and see the
act to the end.

‘How do you do, Mr. Somerset?’ said Abner Power, with sardonic
geniality: he had been far enough about the world not to be greatly
concerned at Somerset’s apparent failing, particularly when it helped to
reduce him from the rank of lover to his niece to that of professional
adviser.

Miss De Stancy faltered a welcome as weak as that of the Maid of
Neidpath, and Paula said coldly, ‘We are rather surprised to see you.
Perhaps there is something urgent at the castle which makes it necessary
for you to call?’

‘There is something a little urgent,’ said Somerset slowly, as he
approached her; ‘and you have judged rightly that it is the cause of
my call.’ He sat down near her chair as he spoke, put down his hat, and
drew a note-book from his pocket with a despairing sang froid that was
far more perfect than had been Paula’s demeanour just before.

‘Perhaps you would like to talk over the business with Mr. Somerset
alone?’ murmured Charlotte to Miss Power, hardly knowing what she said.

‘O no,’ said Paula, ‘I think not. Is it necessary?’ she said, turning to
him.

‘Not in the least,’ replied he, bestowing a penetrating glance upon
his questioner’s face, which seemed however to produce no effect; and
turning towards Charlotte, he added, ‘You will have the goodness, I am
sure, Miss De Stancy, to excuse the jargon of professional details.’

He spread some tracings on the table, and pointed out certain modified
features to Paula, commenting as he went on, and exchanging occasionally
a few words on the subject with Mr. Abner Power by the distant window.

In this architectural dialogue over his sketches, Somerset’s head and
Paula’s became unavoidably very close. The temptation was too much for
the young man. Under cover of the rustle of the tracings, he murmured,
‘Paula, I could not get here before!’ in a low voice inaudible to the
other two.

She did not reply, only busying herself the more with the notes and
sketches; and he said again, ‘I stayed a couple of days at Genoa, and
some days at San Remo, and Mentone.’

‘But it is not the least concern of mine where you stayed, is it?’ she
said, with a cold yet disquieted look.

‘Do you speak seriously?’ Somerset brokenly whispered.

Paula concluded her examination of the drawings and turned from him with
sorrowful disregard. He tried no further, but, when she had signified
her pleasure on the points submitted, packed up his papers, and rose
with the bearing of a man altogether superior to such a class of
misfortune as this. Before going he turned to speak a few words of a
general kind to Mr. Power and Charlotte.

‘You will stay and dine with us?’ said the former, rather with the air
of being unhappily able to do no less than ask the question. ‘My charges
here won’t go down to the table-d’hote, I fear, but De Stancy and myself
will be there.’

Somerset excused himself, and in a few minutes withdrew. At the door
he looked round for an instant, and his eyes met Paula’s. There was the
same miles-off expression in hers that they had worn when he entered;
but there was also a look of distressful inquiry, as if she were
earnestly expecting him to say something more. This of course Somerset
did not comprehend. Possibly she was clinging to a hope of some excuse
for the message he was supposed to have sent, or for the other and more
degrading matter. Anyhow, Somerset only bowed and went away.

A moment after he had gone, Paula, impelled by something or other,
crossed the room to the window. In a short time she saw his form in the
broad street below, which he traversed obliquely to an opposite corner,
his head somewhat bent, and his eyes on the ground. Before vanishing
into the Ritterstrasse he turned his head and glanced at the hotel
windows, as if he knew that she was watching him. Then he disappeared;
and the only real sign of emotion betrayed by Paula during the whole
episode escaped her at this moment. It was a slight trembling of the lip
and a sigh so slowly breathed that scarce anybody could hear--scarcely
even Charlotte, who was reclining on a couch her face on her hand and
her eyes downcast.

Not more than two minutes had elapsed when Mrs. Goodman came in with a
manner of haste.

‘You have returned,’ said Mr. Power. ‘Have you made your purchases?’

Without answering, she asked, ‘Whom, of all people on earth, do you
think I have met? Mr. Somerset! Has he been here?--he passed me almost
without speaking!’

‘Yes, he has been here,’ said Paula. ‘He is on the way from Genoa home,
and called on business.’

‘You will have him here to dinner, of course?’

‘I asked him,’ said Mr. Power, ‘but he declined.’

‘O, that’s unfortunate! Surely we could get him to come. You would like
to have him here, would you not, Paula?’

‘No, indeed. I don’t want him here,’ said she.

‘You don’t?’

‘No!’ she said sharply.

‘You used to like him well enough, anyhow,’ bluntly rejoined Mrs.
Goodman.

Paula sedately: ‘It is a mistake to suppose that I ever particularly
liked the gentleman mentioned.’

‘Then you are wrong, Mrs. Goodman, it seems,’ said Mr. Power.

Mrs. Goodman, who had been growing quietly indignant, notwithstanding
a vigorous use of her fan, at this said. ‘Fie, fie, Paula! you did like
him. You said to me only a week or two ago that you should not at all
object to marry him.’

‘It is a mistake,’ repeated Paula calmly. ‘I meant the other one of the
two we were talking about.’

‘What, Captain De Stancy?’

‘Yes.’

Knowing this to be a fiction, Mrs. Goodman made no remark, and hearing
a slight noise behind, turned her head. Seeing her aunt’s action,
Paula also looked round. The door had been left ajar, and De Stancy was
standing in the room. The last words of Mrs. Goodman, and Paula’s reply,
must have been quite audible to him.

They looked at each other much as if they had unexpectedly met at
the altar; but after a momentary start Paula did not flinch from
the position into which hurt pride had betrayed her. De Stancy bowed
gracefully, and she merely walked to the furthest window, whither he
followed her.

‘I am eternally grateful to you for avowing that I have won favour in
your sight at last,’ he whispered.

She acknowledged the remark with a somewhat reserved bearing. ‘Really
I don’t deserve your gratitude,’ she said. ‘I did not know you were
there.’

‘I know you did not--that’s why the avowal is so sweet to me. Can I take
you at your word?’

‘Yes, I suppose.’

‘Then your preference is the greatest honour that has ever fallen to my
lot. It is enough: you accept me?’

‘As a lover on probation--no more.’

The conversation being carried on in low tones, Paula’s uncle and aunt
took it as a hint that their presence could be spared, and severally
left the room--the former gladly, the latter with some vexation.
Charlotte De Stancy followed.

‘And to what am I indebted for this happy change?’ inquired De Stancy,
as soon as they were alone.

‘You shouldn’t look a gift-horse in the mouth,’ she replied brusquely,
and with tears in her eyes for one gone.

‘You mistake my motive. I am like a reprieved criminal, and can scarcely
believe the news.’

‘You shouldn’t say that to me, or I shall begin to think I have been too
kind,’ she answered, some of the archness of her manner returning. ‘Now,
I know what you mean to say in answer; but I don’t want to hear more at
present; and whatever you do, don’t fall into the mistake of supposing
I have accepted you in any other sense than the way I say. If you don’t
like such a limitation you can go away. I dare say I shall get over it.’

‘Go away! Could I go away?--But you are beginning to tease, and will
soon punish me severely; so I will make my escape while all is well. It
would be presumptuous to expect more in one day.’

‘It would indeed,’ said Paula, with her eyes on a bunch of flowers.



VI.

On leaving the hotel, Somerset’s first impulse was to get out of
sight of its windows, and his glance upward had perhaps not the tender
significance that Paula imagined, the last look impelled by any such
whiff of emotion having been the lingering one he bestowed upon her in
passing out of the room. Unluckily for the prospects of this attachment,
Paula’s conduct towards him now, as a result of misrepresentation,
had enough in common with her previous silence at Nice to make it not
unreasonable as a further development of that silence. Moreover, her
social position as a woman of wealth, always felt by Somerset as a
perceptible bar to that full and free eagerness with which he would fain
have approached her, rendered it impossible for him to return to the
charge, ascertain the reason of her coldness, and dispel it by an
explanation, without being suspected of mercenary objects. Continually
does it happen that a genial willingness to bottle up affronts is
set down to interested motives by those who do not know what generous
conduct means. Had she occupied the financial position of Miss De
Stancy he would readily have persisted further and, not improbably, have
cleared up the cloud.

Having no further interest in Carlsruhe, Somerset decided to leave by an
evening train. The intervening hour he spent in wandering into the thick
of the fair, where steam roundabouts, the proprietors of wax-work
shows, and fancy-stall keepers maintained a deafening din. The
animated environment was better than silence, for it fostered in him
an artificial indifference to the events that had just happened--an
indifference which, though he too well knew it was only destined to be
temporary, afforded a passive period wherein to store up strength that
should enable him to withstand the wear and tear of regrets which would
surely set in soon. It was the case with Somerset as with others of his
temperament, that he did not feel a blow of this sort immediately; and
what often seemed like stoicism after misfortune was only the neutral
numbness of transition from palpitating hope to assured wretchedness.

He walked round and round the fair till all the exhibitors knew him by
sight, and when the sun got low he turned into the Erbprinzen-Strasse,
now raked from end to end by ensaffroned rays of level light. Seeking
his hotel he dined there, and left by the evening train for Heidelberg.



Heidelberg with its romantic surroundings was not precisely the place
calculated to heal Somerset’s wounded heart. He had known the town of
yore, and his recollections of that period, when, unfettered in fancy,
he had transferred to his sketch-book the fine Renaissance details of
the Otto-Heinrichs-Bau came back with unpleasant force. He knew of some
carved cask-heads and other curious wood-work in the castle cellars,
copies of which, being unobtainable by photographs, he had intended to
make if all went well between Paula and himself. The zest for this was
now well-nigh over. But on awaking in the morning and looking up
the valley towards the castle, and at the dark green height of the
Konigsstuhl alongside, he felt that to become vanquished by a passion,
driven to suffer, fast, and pray in the dull pains and vapours of
despised love, was a contingency not to be welcomed too readily.
Thereupon he set himself to learn the sad science of renunciation, which
everybody has to learn in his degree--either rebelling throughout the
lesson, or, like Somerset, taking to it kindly by force of judgment.
A more obstinate pupil might have altogether escaped the lesson in the
present case by discovering its illegality.

Resolving to persevere in the heretofore satisfactory paths of art while
life and faculties were left, though every instinct must proclaim that
there would be no longer any collateral attraction in that pursuit, he
went along under the trees of the Anlage and reached the castle vaults,
in whose cool shades he spent the afternoon, working out his intentions
with fair result. When he had strolled back to his hotel in the evening
the time was approaching for the table-d’hote. Having seated himself
rather early, he spent the few minutes of waiting in looking over
his pocket-book, and putting a few finishing touches to the afternoon
performance whilst the objects were fresh in his memory. Thus occupied
he was but dimly conscious of the customary rustle of dresses and
pulling up of chairs by the crowd of other diners as they gathered
around him. Serving began, and he put away his book and prepared for the
meal. He had hardly done this when he became conscious that the person
on his left hand was not the typical cosmopolite with boundless hotel
knowledge and irrelevant experiences that he was accustomed to find next
him, but a face he recognized as that of a young man whom he had met
and talked to at Stancy Castle garden-party, whose name he had now
forgotten. This young fellow was conversing with somebody on his left
hand--no other personage than Paula herself. Next to Paula he beheld
De Stancy, and De Stancy’s sister beyond him. It was one of those
gratuitous encounters which only happen to discarded lovers who have
shown commendable stoicism under disappointment, as if on purpose to
reopen and aggravate their wounds.

It seemed as if the intervening traveller had met the other party by
accident there and then. In a minute he turned and recognized Somerset,
and by degrees the young men’s cursory remarks to each other developed
into a pretty regular conversation, interrupted only when he turned to
speak to Paula on his left hand.

‘Your architectural adviser travels in your party: how very convenient,’
said the young tourist to her. ‘Far pleasanter than having a medical
attendant in one’s train!’

Somerset, who had no distractions on the other side of him, could
hear every word of this. He glanced at Paula. She had not known of his
presence in the room till now. Their eyes met for a second, and she
bowed sedately. Somerset returned her bow, and her eyes were quickly
withdrawn with scarcely visible confusion.

‘Mr. Somerset is not travelling with us,’ she said. ‘We have met by
accident. Mr. Somerset came to me on business a little while ago.’

‘I must congratulate you on having put the castle into good hands,’
continued the enthusiastic young man.

‘I believe Mr. Somerset is quite competent,’ said Paula stiffly.

To include Somerset in the conversation the young man turned to him and
added: ‘You carry on your work at the castle con amore, no doubt?’

‘There is work I should like better,’ said Somerset.

‘Indeed?’

The frigidity of his manner seemed to set her at ease by dispersing all
fear of a scene; and alternate dialogues of this sort with the gentleman
in their midst were more or less continued by both Paula and Somerset
till they rose from table.

In the bustle of moving out the two latter for one moment stood side by
side.

‘Miss Power,’ said Somerset, in a low voice that was obscured by the
rustle, ‘you have nothing more to say to me?’

‘I think there is nothing more?’ said Paula, lifting her eyes with
longing reticence.

‘Then I take leave of you; and tender my best wishes that you may have a
pleasant time before you!.... I set out for England to-night.’

‘With a special photographer, no doubt?’

It was the first time that she had addressed Somerset with a meaning
distinctly bitter; and her remark, which had reference to the forged
photograph, fell of course without its intended effect.

‘No, Miss Power,’ said Somerset gravely. ‘But with a deeper sense of
woman’s thoughtless trifling than time will ever eradicate.’

‘Is not that a mistake?’ she asked in a voice that distinctly trembled.

‘A mistake? How?’

‘I mean, do you not forget many things?’ (throwing on him a troubled
glance). ‘A woman may feel herself justified in her conduct, although it
admits of no explanation.’

‘I don’t contest the point for a moment.... Goodbye.’

‘Good-bye.’

They parted amid the flowering shrubs and caged birds in the hall,
and he saw her no more. De Stancy came up, and spoke a few commonplace
words, his sister having gone out, either without perceiving Somerset,
or with intention to avoid him.

That night, as he had said, he was on his way to England.



VII.

The De Stancys and Powers remained in Heidelberg for some days. All
remarked that after Somerset’s departure Paula was frequently irritable,
though at other times as serene as ever. Yet even when in a blithe and
saucy mood there was at bottom a tinge of melancholy. Something did not
lie easy in her undemonstrative heart, and all her friends excused the
inequalities of a humour whose source, though not positively known,
could be fairly well guessed.

De Stancy had long since discovered that his chance lay chiefly in
her recently acquired and fanciful predilection d’artiste for hoary
mediaeval families with ancestors in alabaster and primogenitive renown.
Seeing this he dwelt on those topics which brought out that aspect of
himself more clearly, talking feudalism and chivalry with a zest that
he had never hitherto shown. Yet it was not altogether factitious.
For, discovering how much this quondam Puritan was interested in the
attributes of long-chronicled houses, a reflected interest in himself
arose in his own soul, and he began to wonder why he had not prized
these things before. Till now disgusted by the failure of his family to
hold its own in the turmoil between ancient and modern, he had grown to
undervalue its past prestige; and it was with corrective ardour that he
adopted while he ministered to her views.

Henceforward the wooing of De Stancy took the form of an intermittent
address, the incidents of their travel furnishing pegs whereon to hang
his subject; sometimes hindering it, but seldom failing to produce in
her a greater tolerance of his presence. His next opportunity was the
day after Somerset’s departure from Heidelberg. They stood on the great
terrace of the Schloss-Garten, looking across the intervening ravine
to the north-east front of the castle which rose before them in all its
customary warm tints and battered magnificence.

‘This is a spot, if any, which should bring matters to a crisis between
you and me,’ he asserted good-humouredly. ‘But you have been so silent
to-day that I lose the spirit to take advantage of my privilege.’

She inquired what privilege he spoke of, as if quite another subject had
been in her mind than De Stancy.

‘The privilege of winning your heart if I can, which you gave me at
Carlsruhe.’

‘O,’ she said. ‘Well, I’ve been thinking of that. But I do not feel
myself absolutely bound by the statement I made in that room; and I
shall expect, if I withdraw it, not to be called to account by you.’

De Stancy looked rather blank.

‘If you recede from your promise you will doubtless have good reason.
But I must solemnly beg you, after raising my hopes, to keep as near as
you can to your word, so as not to throw me into utter despair.’

Paula dropped her glance into the Thier-Garten below them, where gay
promenaders were clambering up between the bushes and flowers. At length
she said, with evident embarrassment, but with much distinctness: ‘I
deserve much more blame for what I have done than you can express to me.
I will confess to you the whole truth. All that I told you in the hotel
at Carlsruhe was said in a moment of pique at what had happened just
before you came in. It was supposed I was much involved with another
man, and circumstances made the supposition particularly objectionable.
To escape it I jumped at the alternative of yourself.’

‘That’s bad for me!’ he murmured.

‘If after this avowal you bind me to my words I shall say no more: I do
not wish to recede from them without your full permission.’

‘What a caprice! But I release you unconditionally,’ he said. ‘And I beg
your pardon if I seemed to show too much assurance. Please put it down
to my gratified excitement. I entirely acquiesce in your wish. I will go
away to whatever place you please, and not come near you but by your own
permission, and till you are quite satisfied that my presence and what
it may lead to is not undesirable. I entirely give way before you, and
will endeavour to make my future devotedness, if ever we meet again, a
new ground for expecting your favour.’

Paula seemed struck by the generous and cheerful fairness of his
remarks, and said gently, ‘Perhaps your departure is not absolutely
necessary for my happiness; and I do not wish from what you call
caprice--’

‘I retract that word.’

‘Well, whatever it is, I don’t wish you to do anything which should
cause you real pain, or trouble, or humiliation.’

‘That’s very good of you.’

‘But I reserve to myself the right to accept or refuse your
addresses--just as if those rash words of mine had never been spoken.’

‘I must bear it all as best I can, I suppose,’ said De Stancy, with
melancholy humorousness.

‘And I shall treat you as your behaviour shall seem to deserve,’ she
said playfully.

‘Then I may stay?’

‘Yes; I am willing to give you that pleasure, if it is one, in return
for the attentions you have shown, and the trouble you have taken to
make my journey pleasant.’

She walked on and discovered Mrs. Goodman near, and presently the whole
party met together. De Stancy did not find himself again at her side
till later in the afternoon, when they had left the immediate precincts
of the castle and decided on a drive to the Konigsstuhl.

The carriage, containing only Mrs. Goodman, was driven a short way up
the winding incline, Paula, her uncle, and Miss De Stancy walking behind
under the shadow of the trees. Then Mrs. Goodman called to them and
asked when they were going to join her.

‘We are going to walk up,’ said Mr. Power.

Paula seemed seized with a spirit of boisterousness quite unlike her
usual behaviour. ‘My aunt may drive up, and you may walk up; but I
shall run up,’ she said. ‘See, here’s a way.’ She tripped towards a path
through the bushes which, instead of winding like the regular track,
made straight for the summit.

Paula had not the remotest conception of the actual distance to the top,
imagining it to be but a couple of hundred yards at the outside, whereas
it was really nearer a mile, the ascent being uniformly steep all the
way. When her uncle and De Stancy had seen her vanish they stood
still, the former evidently reluctant to forsake the easy ascent for a
difficult one, though he said, ‘We can’t let her go alone that way, I
suppose.’

‘No, of course not,’ said De Stancy.

They then followed in the direction taken by Paula, Charlotte entering
the carriage. When Power and De Stancy had ascended about fifty yards
the former looked back, and dropped off from the pursuit, to return to
the easy route, giving his companion a parting hint concerning Paula.
Whereupon De Stancy went on alone. He soon saw Paula above him in the
path, which ascended skyward straight as Jacob’s Ladder, but was so
overhung by the brushwood as to be quite shut out from the sun. When he
reached her side she was moving easily upward, apparently enjoying the
seclusion which the place afforded.

‘Is not my uncle with you?’ she said, on turning and seeing him.

‘He went back,’ said De Stancy.

She replied that it was of no consequence; that she should meet him at
the top, she supposed.

Paula looked up amid the green light which filtered through the leafage
as far as her eyes could stretch. But the top did not appear, and she
allowed De Stancy to get in front. ‘It did not seem such a long way as
this, to look at,’ she presently said.

He explained that the trees had deceived her as to the real height, by
reason of her seeing the slope foreshortened when she looked up from the
castle. ‘Allow me to help you,’ he added.

‘No, thank you,’ said Paula lightly; ‘we must be near the top.’

They went on again; but no Konigsstuhl. When next De Stancy turned he
found that she was sitting down; immediately going back he offered his
arm. She took it in silence, declaring that it was no wonder her uncle
did not come that wearisome way, if he had ever been there before.

De Stancy did not explain that Mr. Power had said to him at parting,
‘There’s a chance for you, if you want one,’ but at once went on with
the subject begun on the terrace. ‘If my behaviour is good, you will
reaffirm the statement made at Carlsruhe?’

‘It is not fair to begin that now!’ expostulated Paula; ‘I can only
think of getting to the top.’

Her colour deepening by the exertion, he suggested that she should sit
down again on one of the mossy boulders by the wayside. Nothing loth she
did, De Stancy standing by, and with his cane scratching the moss from
the stone.

‘This is rather awkward,’ said Paula, in her usual circumspect way. ‘My
relatives and your sister will be sure to suspect me of having arranged
this scramble with you.’

‘But I know better,’ sighed De Stancy. ‘I wish to Heaven you had
arranged it!’

She was not at the top, but she took advantage of the halt to answer his
previous question. ‘There are many points on which I must be satisfied
before I can reaffirm anything. Do you not see that you are mistaken
in clinging to this idea?--that you are laying up mortification and
disappointment for yourself?’

‘A negative reply from you would be disappointment, early or late.’

‘And you prefer having it late to accepting it now? If I were a man, I
should like to abandon a false scent as soon as possible.’

‘I suppose all that has but one meaning: that I am to go.’

‘O no,’ she magnanimously assured him, bounding up from her seat; ‘I
adhere to my statement that you may stay; though it is true something
may possibly happen to make me alter my mind.’

He again offered his arm, and from sheer necessity she leant upon it as
before.

‘Grant me but a moment’s patience,’ he began.

‘Captain De Stancy! Is this fair? I am physically obliged to hold your
arm, so that I MUST listen to what you say!’

‘No, it is not fair; ‘pon my soul it is not!’ said De Stancy. ‘I won’t
say another word.’

He did not; and they clambered on through the boughs, nothing disturbing
the solitude but the rustle of their own footsteps and the singing of
birds overhead. They occasionally got a peep at the sky; and whenever a
twig hung out in a position to strike Paula’s face the gallant captain
bent it aside with his stick. But she did not thank him. Perhaps he was
just as well satisfied as if she had done so.

Paula, panting, broke the silence: ‘Will you go on, and discover if the
top is near?’

He went on. This time the top was near. When he returned she was sitting
where he had left her among the leaves. ‘It is quite near now,’ he told
her tenderly, and she took his arm again without a word. Soon the path
changed its nature from a steep and rugged watercourse to a level green
promenade.

‘Thank you, Captain De Stancy,’ she said, letting go his arm as if
relieved.

Before them rose the tower, and at the base they beheld two of their
friends, Mr. Power being seen above, looking over the parapet through
his glass.

‘You will go to the top now?’ said De Stancy.

‘No, I take no interest in it. My interest has turned to fatigue. I only
want to go home.’

He took her on to where the carriage stood at the foot of the tower,
and leaving her with his sister ascended the turret to the top. The
landscape had quite changed from its afternoon appearance, and had
become rather marvellous than beautiful. The air was charged with a
lurid exhalation that blurred the extensive view. He could see the
distant Rhine at its junction with the Neckar, shining like a thread
of blood through the mist which was gradually wrapping up the declining
sun. The scene had in it something that was more than melancholy,
and not much less than tragic; but for De Stancy such evening effects
possessed little meaning. He was engaged in an enterprise that taxed all
his resources, and had no sentiments to spare for air, earth, or skies.

‘Remarkable scene,’ said Power, mildly, at his elbow.

‘Yes; I dare say it is,’ said De Stancy. ‘Time has been when I should
have held forth upon such a prospect, and wondered if its livid colours
shadowed out my own life, et caetera, et caetera. But, begad, I have
almost forgotten there’s such a thing as Nature, and I care for nothing
but a comfortable life, and a certain woman who does not care for me!...
Now shall we go down?’



VIII.

It was quite true that De Stancy at the present period of his existence
wished only to escape from the hurly-burly of active life, and to win
the affection of Paula Power. There were, however, occasions when a
recollection of his old renunciatory vows would obtrude itself upon him,
and tinge his present with wayward bitterness. So much was this the case
that a day or two after they had arrived at Mainz he could not refrain
from making remarks almost prejudicial to his cause, saying to her, ‘I
am unfortunate in my situation. There are, unhappily, worldly reasons
why I should pretend to love you, even if I do not: they are so strong
that, though really loving you, perhaps they enter into my thoughts of
you.’

‘I don’t want to know what such reasons are,’ said Paula, with
promptness, for it required but little astuteness to discover that he
alluded to the alienated Wessex home and estates. ‘You lack tone,’ she
gently added: ‘that’s why the situation of affairs seems distasteful to
you.’

‘Yes, I suppose I am ill. And yet I am well enough.’

These remarks passed under a tree in the public gardens during an odd
minute of waiting for Charlotte and Mrs. Goodman; and he said no more to
her in private that day. Few as her words had been he liked them better
than any he had lately received. The conversation was not resumed till
they were gliding ‘between the banks that bear the vine,’ on board one
of the Rhine steamboats, which, like the hotels in this early summer
time, were comparatively free from other English travellers; so that
everywhere Paula and her party were received with open arms and cheerful
countenances, as among the first swallows of the season.

The saloon of the steamboat was quite empty, the few passengers being
outside; and this paucity of voyagers afforded De Stancy a roomy
opportunity.

Paula saw him approach her, and there appearing in his face signs that
he would begin again on the eternal subject, she seemed to be struck
with a sense of the ludicrous.

De Stancy reddened. ‘Something seems to amuse you,’ he said.

‘It is over,’ she replied, becoming serious.

‘Was it about me, and this unhappy fever in me?’

‘If I speak the truth I must say it was.’

‘You thought, “Here’s that absurd man again, going to begin his daily
supplication.”’

‘Not “absurd,”’ she said, with emphasis; ‘because I don’t think it is
absurd.’

She continued looking through the windows at the Lurlei Heights under
which they were now passing, and he remained with his eyes on her.

‘May I stay here with you?’ he said at last. ‘I have not had a word with
you alone for four-and-twenty hours.’

‘You must be cheerful, then.’

‘You have said such as that before. I wish you would say “loving”
 instead of “cheerful.”’

‘Yes, I know, I know,’ she responded, with impatient perplexity. ‘But
why must you think of me--me only? Is there no other woman in the world
who has the power to make you happy? I am sure there must be.’

‘Perhaps there is; but I have never seen her.’

‘Then look for her; and believe me when I say that you will certainly
find her.’

He shook his head.

‘Captain De Stancy, I have long felt for you,’ she continued, with a
frank glance into his face. ‘You have deprived yourself too long of
other women’s company. Why not go away for a little time? and when
you have found somebody else likely to make you happy, you can meet me
again. I will see you at your father’s house, and we will enjoy all the
pleasure of easy friendship.’

‘Very correct; and very cold, O best of women!’

‘You are too full of exclamations and transports, I think!’

They stood in silence, Paula apparently much interested in the
manoeuvring of a raft which was passing by. ‘Dear Miss Power,’ he
resumed, ‘before I go and join your uncle above, let me just ask, Do I
stand any chance at all yet? Is it possible you can never be more pliant
than you have been?’

‘You put me out of all patience!’

‘But why did you raise my hopes? You should at least pity me after doing
that.’

‘Yes; it’s that again! I unfortunately raised your hopes because I was
a fool--was not myself that moment. Now question me no more. As it is I
think you presume too much upon my becoming yours as the consequence of
my having dismissed another.’

‘Not on becoming mine, but on listening to me.’

‘Your argument would be reasonable enough had I led you to believe I
would listen to you--and ultimately accept you; but that I have not
done. I see now that a woman who gives a man an answer one shade less
peremptory than a harsh negative may be carried beyond her intentions,
and out of her own power before she knows it.’

‘Chide me if you will; I don’t care!’

She looked steadfastly at him with a little mischief in her eyes. ‘You
DO care,’ she said.

‘Then why don’t you listen to me? I would not persevere for a moment
longer if it were against the wishes of your family. Your uncle says it
would give him pleasure to see you accept me.’

‘Does he say why?’ she asked thoughtfully.

‘Yes; he takes, of course, a practical view of the matter; he thinks it
commends itself so to reason and common sense that the owner of Stancy
Castle should become a member of the De Stancy family.’

‘Yes, that’s the horrid plague of it,’ she said, with a nonchalance
which seemed to contradict her words. ‘It is so dreadfully reasonable
that we should marry. I wish it wasn’t!’

‘Well, you are younger than I, and perhaps that’s a natural wish. But to
me it seems a felicitous combination not often met with. I confess that
your interest in our family before you knew me lent a stability to my
hopes that otherwise they would not have had.’

‘My interest in the De Stancys has not been a personal interest except
in the case of your sister,’ she returned. ‘It has been an historical
interest only; and is not at all increased by your existence.’

‘And perhaps it is not diminished?’

‘No, I am not aware that it is diminished,’ she murmured, as she
observed the gliding shore.

‘Well, you will allow me to say this, since I say it without reference
to your personality or to mine--that the Power and De Stancy families
are the complements to each other; and that, abstractedly, they call
earnestly to one another: “How neat and fit a thing for us to join
hands!”’

Paula, who was not prudish when a direct appeal was made to her common
sense, answered with ready candour: ‘Yes, from the point of view of
domestic politics, that undoubtedly is the case. But I hope I am not so
calculating as to risk happiness in order to round off a social idea.’

‘I hope not; or that I am either. Still the social idea exists, and my
increased years make its excellence more obvious to me than to you.’

The ice once broken on this aspect of the question, the subject seemed
further to engross her, and she spoke on as if daringly inclined to
venture where she had never anticipated going, deriving pleasure from
the very strangeness of her temerity: ‘You mean that in the fitness of
things I ought to become a De Stancy to strengthen my social position?’

‘And that I ought to strengthen mine by alliance with the heiress of a
name so dear to engineering science as Power.’

‘Well, we are talking with unexpected frankness.’

‘But you are not seriously displeased with me for saying what, after
all, one can’t help feeling and thinking?’

‘No. Only be so good as to leave off going further for the present.
Indeed, of the two, I would rather have the other sort of address. I
mean,’ she hastily added, ‘that what you urge as the result of a real
affection, however unsuitable, I have some remote satisfaction in
listening to--not the least from any reciprocal love on my side, but
from a woman’s gratification at being the object of anybody’s devotion;
for that feeling towards her is always regarded as a merit in a woman’s
eye, and taken as a kindness by her, even when it is at the expense of
her convenience.’

She had said, voluntarily or involuntarily, better things than he
expected, and perhaps too much in her own opinion, for she hardly gave
him an opportunity of replying.

They passed St. Goar and Boppard, and when steering round the sharp
bend of the river just beyond the latter place De Stancy met her again,
exclaiming, ‘You left me very suddenly.’

‘You must make allowances, please,’ she said; ‘I have always stood in
need of them.’

‘Then you shall always have them.’

‘I don’t doubt it,’ she said quickly; but Paula was not to be caught
again, and kept close to the side of her aunt while they glided past
Brauback and Oberlahnstein. Approaching Coblenz her aunt said, ‘Paula,
let me suggest that you be not so much alone with Captain De Stancy.’

‘And why?’ said Paula quietly.

‘You’ll have plenty of offers if you want them, without taking trouble,’
said the direct Mrs. Goodman. ‘Your existence is hardly known to the
world yet, and Captain De Stancy is too near middle-age for a girl like
you.’ Paula did not reply to either of these remarks, being seemingly so
interested in Ehrenbreitstein’s heights as not to hear them.



IX.

It was midnight at Coblenz, and the travellers had retired to rest in
their respective apartments, overlooking the river. Finding that there
was a moon shining, Paula leant out of her window. The tall rock of
Ehrenbreitstein on the opposite shore was flooded with light, and a
belated steamer was drawing up to the landing-stage, where it presently
deposited its passengers.

‘We should have come by the last boat, so as to have been touched into
romance by the rays of this moon, like those happy people,’ said a
voice.

She looked towards the spot whence the voice proceeded, which was a
window quite near at hand. De Stancy was smoking outside it, and she
became aware that the words were addressed to her.

‘You left me very abruptly,’ he continued.

Paula’s instinct of caution impelled her to speak.

‘The windows are all open,’ she murmured. ‘Please be careful.’

‘There are no English in this hotel except ourselves. I thank you for
what you said to-day.’

‘Please be careful,’ she repeated.

‘My dear Miss P----’

‘Don’t mention names, and don’t continue the subject!’

‘Life and death perhaps depend upon my renewing it soon!’

She shut the window decisively, possibly wondering if De Stancy had
drunk a glass or two of Steinberg more than was good for him, and saw
no more of moonlit Ehrenbreitstein that night, and heard no more of De
Stancy. But it was some time before he closed his window, and previous
to doing so saw a dark form at an adjoining one on the other side.

It was Mr. Power, also taking the air. ‘Well, what luck to-day?’ said
Power.

‘A decided advance,’ said De Stancy.

None of the speakers knew that a little person in the room above heard
all this out-of-window talk. Charlotte, though not looking out, had left
her casement open; and what reached her ears set her wondering as to the
result.

It is not necessary to detail in full De Stancy’s imperceptible advances
with Paula during that northward journey--so slowly performed that it
seemed as if she must perceive there was a special reason for delaying
her return to England. At Cologne one day he conveniently overtook her
when she was ascending the hotel staircase. Seeing him, she went to the
window of the entresol landing, which commanded a view of the Rhine,
meaning that he should pass by to his room.

‘I have been very uneasy,’ began the captain, drawing up to her side;
‘and I am obliged to trouble you sooner than I meant to do.’

Paula turned her eyes upon him with some curiosity as to what was coming
of this respectful demeanour. ‘Indeed!’ she said.

He then informed her that he had been overhauling himself since they
last talked, and had some reason to blame himself for bluntness and
general want of euphemism; which, although he had meant nothing by it,
must have been very disagreeable to her. But he had always aimed at
sincerity, particularly as he had to deal with a lady who despised
hypocrisy and was above flattery. However, he feared he might have
carried his disregard for conventionality too far. But from that time
he would promise that she should find an alteration by which he hoped
he might return the friendship at least of a young lady he honoured more
than any other in the world.

This retrograde movement was evidently unexpected by the honoured young
lady herself. After being so long accustomed to rebuke him for his
persistence there was novelty in finding him do the work for her. The
guess might even have been hazarded that there was also disappointment.

Still looking across the river at the bridge of boats which stretched to
the opposite suburb of Deutz: ‘You need not blame yourself,’ she said,
with the mildest conceivable manner, ‘I can make allowances. All I wish
is that you should remain under no misapprehension.’

‘I comprehend,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘But since, by a perverse fate, I
have been thrown into your company, you could hardly expect me to feel
and act otherwise.’

‘Perhaps not.’

‘Since I have so much reason to be dissatisfied with myself,’ he added,
‘I cannot refrain from criticizing elsewhere to a slight extent, and
thinking I have to do with an ungenerous person.’

‘Why ungenerous?’

‘In this way; that since you cannot love me, you see no reason at all
for trying to do so in the fact that I so deeply love you; hence I say
that you are rather to be distinguished by your wisdom than by your
humanity.’

‘It comes to this, that if your words are all seriously meant it is much
to be regretted we ever met,’ she murmured. ‘Now will you go on to where
you were going, and leave me here?’

Without a remonstrance he went on, saying with dejected whimsicality as
he smiled back upon her, ‘You show a wisdom which for so young a lady is
perfectly surprising.’

It was resolved to prolong the journey by a circuit through Holland and
Belgium; but nothing changed in the attitudes of Paula and Captain De
Stancy till one afternoon during their stay at the Hague, when they had
gone for a drive down to Scheveningen by the long straight avenue of
chestnuts and limes, under whose boughs tufts of wild parsley waved
their flowers, except where the buitenplaatsen of retired merchants
blazed forth with new paint of every hue. On mounting the dune which
kept out the sea behind the village a brisk breeze greeted their faces,
and a fine sand blew up into their eyes. De Stancy screened Paula with
his umbrella as they stood with their backs to the wind, looking down
on the red roofs of the village within the sea wall, and pulling at the
long grass which by some means found nourishment in the powdery soil of
the dune.

When they had discussed the scene he continued, ‘It always seems to me
that this place reflects the average mood of human life. I mean, if we
strike the balance between our best moods and our worst we shall find
our average condition to stand at about the same pitch in emotional
colour as these sandy dunes and this grey scene do in landscape.’

Paula contended that he ought not to measure everybody by himself.

‘I have no other standard,’ said De Stancy; ‘and if my own is wrong, it
is you who have made it so. Have you thought any more of what I said at
Cologne?’

‘I don’t quite remember what you did say at Cologne?’

‘My dearest life!’ Paula’s eyes rounding somewhat, he corrected the
exclamation. ‘My dear Miss Power, I will, without reserve, tell it to
you all over again.’

‘Pray spare yourself the effort,’ she said drily. ‘What has that one
fatal step betrayed me into!... Do you seriously mean to say that I am
the cause of your life being coloured like this scene of grass and sand?
If so, I have committed a very great fault!’

‘It can be nullified by a word.’

‘Such a word!’

‘It is a very short one.’

‘There’s a still shorter one more to the purpose. Frankly, I believe you
suspect me to have some latent and unowned inclination for you--that you
think speaking is the only point upon which I am backward.... There now,
it is raining; what shall we do? I thought this wind meant rain.’

‘Do? Stand on here, as we are standing now.’

‘Your sister and my aunt are gone under the wall. I think we will walk
towards them.’

‘You had made me hope,’ he continued (his thoughts apparently far away
from the rain and the wind and the possibility of shelter), ‘that you
might change your mind, and give to your original promise a liberal
meaning in renewing it. In brief I mean this, that you would allow it to
merge into an engagement. Don’t think it presumptuous,’ he went on, as
he held the umbrella over her; ‘I am sure any man would speak as I do. A
distinct permission to be with you on probation--that was what you gave
me at Carlsruhe: and flinging casuistry on one side, what does that
mean?’

‘That I am artistically interested in your family history.’ And she went
out from the umbrella to the shelter of the hotel where she found her
aunt and friend.

De Stancy could not but feel that his persistence had made some
impression. It was hardly possible that a woman of independent nature
would have tolerated his dangling at her side so long, if his presence
were wholly distasteful to her. That evening when driving back to the
Hague by a devious route through the dense avenues of the Bosch he
conversed with her again; also the next day when standing by the Vijver
looking at the swans; and in each case she seemed to have at least
got over her objection to being seen talking to him, apart from the
remainder of the travelling party.

Scenes very similar to those at Scheveningen and on the Rhine were
enacted at later stages of their desultory journey. Mr. Power had
proposed to cross from Rotterdam; but a stiff north-westerly breeze
prevailing Paula herself became reluctant to hasten back to Stancy
Castle. Turning abruptly they made for Brussels.

It was here, while walking homeward from the Park one morning, that her
uncle for the first time alluded to the situation of affairs between
herself and her admirer. The captain had gone up the Rue Royale with his
sister and Mrs. Goodman, either to show them the house in which the ball
took place on the eve of Quatre Bras or some other site of interest, and
the two Powers were thus left to themselves. To reach their hotel they
passed into a little street sloping steeply down from the Rue Royale to
the Place Ste. Gudule, where, at the moment of nearing the cathedral, a
wedding party emerged from the porch and crossed in front of uncle and
niece.

‘I hope,’ said the former, in his passionless way, ‘we shall see a
performance of this sort between you and Captain De Stancy, not so very
long after our return to England.’

‘Why?’ asked Paula, following the bride with her eyes.

‘It is diplomatically, as I may say, such a highly correct thing--such
an expedient thing--such an obvious thing to all eyes.’

‘Not altogether to mine, uncle,’ she returned.

‘’Twould be a thousand pities to let slip such a neat offer of adjusting
difficulties as accident makes you in this. You could marry more tin,
that’s true; but you don’t want it, Paula. You want a name, and historic
what-do-they-call-it. Now by coming to terms with the captain you’ll be
Lady De Stancy in a few years: and a title which is useless to him, and
a fortune and castle which are in some degree useless to you, will make
a splendid whole useful to you both.’

‘I’ve thought it over--quite,’ she answered. ‘And I quite see what
the advantages are. But how if I don’t care one atom for artistic
completeness and a splendid whole; and do care very much to do what my
fancy inclines me to do?’

‘Then I should say that, taking a comprehensive view of human nature
of all colours, your fancy is about the silliest fancy existing on this
earthly ball.’

Paula laughed indifferently, and her uncle felt that, persistent as was
his nature, he was the wrong man to influence her by argument. Paula’s
blindness to the advantages of the match, if she were blind, was that of
a woman who wouldn’t see, and the best argument was silence.

This was in some measure proved the next morning. When Paula made her
appearance Mrs. Goodman said, holding up an envelope: ‘Here’s a letter
from Mr. Somerset.’

‘Dear me,’ said she blandly, though a quick little flush ascended her
cheek. ‘I had nearly forgotten him!’

The letter on being read contained a request as brief as it was
unexpected. Having prepared all the drawings necessary for the
rebuilding, Somerset begged leave to resign the superintendence of the
work into other hands.

‘His letter caps your remarks very aptly,’ said Mrs. Goodman, with
secret triumph. ‘You are nearly forgetting him, and he is quite
forgetting you.’

‘Yes,’ said Paula, affecting carelessness. ‘Well, I must get somebody
else, I suppose.’



X.

They next deviated to Amiens, intending to stay there only one night;
but their schemes were deranged by the sudden illness of Charlotte. She
had been looking unwell for a fortnight past, though, with her usual
self-abnegation, she had made light of her ailment. Even now she
declared she could go on; but this was said over-night, and in
the morning it was abundantly evident that to move her was highly
unadvisable. Still she was not in serious danger, and having called in a
physician, who pronounced rest indispensable, they prepared to remain in
the old Picard capital two or three additional days. Mr. Power thought
he would take advantage of the halt to run up to Paris, leaving De
Stancy in charge of the ladies.

In more ways than in the illness of Charlotte this day was the harbinger
of a crisis.

It was a summer evening without a cloud. Charlotte had fallen asleep
in her bed, and Paula, who had been sitting by her, looked out into the
Place St. Denis, which the hotel commanded. The lawn of the square was
all ablaze with red and yellow clumps of flowers, the acacia trees were
brightly green, the sun was soft and low. Tempted by the prospect Paula
went and put on her hat; and arousing her aunt, who was nodding in the
next room, to request her to keep an ear on Charlotte’s bedroom, Paula
descended into the Rue de Noyon alone, and entered the green enclosure.

While she walked round, two or three little children in charge of a
nurse trundled a large variegated ball along the grass, and it rolled
to Paula’s feet. She smiled at them, and endeavoured to return it by a
slight kick. The ball rose in the air, and passing over the back of
a seat which stood under one of the trees, alighted in the lap of a
gentleman hitherto screened by its boughs. The back and shoulders proved
to be those of De Stancy. He turned his head, jumped up, and was at her
side in an instant, a nettled flush having meanwhile crossed Paula’s
face.

‘I thought you had gone to the Hotoie Promenade,’ she said hastily. ‘I
am going to the cathedral;’ (obviously uttered lest it should seem that
she had seen him from the hotel windows, and entered the square for his
company).

‘Of course: there is nothing else to go to here--even for Roundheads.’

‘If you mean ME by that, you are very much mistaken,’ said she testily.

‘The Roundheads were your ancestors, and they knocked down my ancestors’
castle, and broke the stained glass and statuary of the cathedral,’
said De Stancy slily; ‘and now you go not only to a cathedral, but to a
service of the unreformed Church in it.’

‘In a foreign country it is different from home,’ said Paula
in extenuation; ‘and you of all men should not reproach me for
tergiversation--when it has been brought about by--by my sympathies
with--’

‘With the troubles of the De Stancys.’

‘Well, you know what I mean,’ she answered, with considerable anxiety
not to be misunderstood; ‘my liking for the old castle, and what it
contains, and what it suggests. I declare I will not explain to you
further--why should I? I am not answerable to you!’

Paula’s show of petulance was perhaps not wholly because she had
appeared to seek him, but also from being reminded by his criticism that
Mr. Woodwell’s prophecy on her weakly succumbing to surroundings was
slowly working out its fulfilment.

She moved forward towards the gate at the further end of the square,
beyond which the cathedral lay at a very short distance. Paula did not
turn her head, and De Stancy strolled slowly after her down the Rue du
College. The day happened to be one of the church festivals, and people
were a second time flocking into the lofty monument of Catholicism at
its meridian. Paula vanished into the porch with the rest; and, almost
catching the wicket as it flew back from her hand, he too entered
the high-shouldered edifice--an edifice doomed to labour under the
melancholy misfortune of seeming only half as vast as it really is, and
as truly as whimsically described by Heine as a monument built with the
strength of Titans, and decorated with the patience of dwarfs.

De Stancy walked up the nave, so close beside her as to touch her dress;
but she would not recognize his presence; the darkness that evening had
thrown over the interior, which was scarcely broken by the few candles
dotted about, being a sufficient excuse if she required one.

‘Miss Power,’ De Stancy said at last, ‘I am coming to the service with
you.’

She received the intelligence without surprise, and he knew she had been
conscious of him all the way.

Paula went no further than the middle of the nave, where there was
hardly a soul, and took a chair beside a solitary rushlight which looked
amid the vague gloom of the inaccessible architecture like a lighthouse
at the foot of tall cliffs.

He put his hand on the next chair, saying, ‘Do you object?’

‘Not at all,’ she replied; and he sat down.

‘Suppose we go into the choir,’ said De Stancy presently. ‘Nobody sits
out here in the shadows.’

‘This is sufficiently near, and we have a candle,’ Paula murmured.

Before another minute had passed the candle flame began to drown in its
own grease, slowly dwindled, and went out.

‘I suppose that means I am to go into the choir in spite of myself.
Heaven is on your side,’ said Paula. And rising they left their now
totally dark corner, and joined the noiseless shadowy figures who in
twos and threes kept passing up the nave.

Within the choir there was a blaze of light, partly from the altar, and
more particularly from the image of the saint whom they had assembled
to honour, which stood, surrounded by candles and a thicket of flowering
plants, some way in advance of the foot-pace. A secondary radiance from
the same source was reflected upward into their faces by the polished
marble pavement, except when interrupted by the shady forms of the
officiating priests.

When it was over and the people were moving off, De Stancy and his
companion went towards the saint, now besieged by numbers of women
anxious to claim the respective flower-pots they had lent for the
decoration. As each struggled for her own, seized and marched off with
it, Paula remarked--‘This rather spoils the solemn effect of what has
gone before.’

‘I perceive you are a harsh Puritan.’

‘No, Captain De Stancy! Why will you speak so? I am far too much
otherwise. I have grown to be so much of your way of thinking, that
I accuse myself, and am accused by others, of being worldly, and
half-and-half, and other dreadful things--though it isn’t that at all.’

They were now walking down the nave, preceded by the sombre figures with
the pot flowers, who were just visible in the rays that reached them
through the distant choir screen at their back; while above the grey
night sky and stars looked in upon them through the high clerestory
windows.

‘Do be a little MORE of my way of thinking!’ rejoined De Stancy
passionately.

‘Don’t, don’t speak,’ she said rapidly. ‘There are Milly and Champreau!’

Milly was one of the maids, and Champreau the courier and valet who had
been engaged by Abner Power. They had been sitting behind the other pair
throughout the service, and indeed knew rather more of the relations
between Paula and De Stancy than Paula knew herself.

Hastening on the two latter went out, and walked together silently up
the short street. The Place St. Denis was now lit up, lights shone
from the hotel windows, and the world without the cathedral had so far
advanced in nocturnal change that it seemed as if they had been gone
from it for hours. Within the hotel they found the change even greater
than without. Mrs. Goodman met them half-way on the stairs.

‘Poor Charlotte is worse,’ she said. ‘Quite feverish, and almost
delirious.’

Paula reproached herself with ‘Why did I go away!’

The common interest of De Stancy and Paula in the sufferer at once
reproduced an ease between them as nothing else could have done. The
physician was again called in, who prescribed certain draughts, and
recommended that some one should sit up with her that night. If Paula
allowed demonstrations of love to escape her towards anybody it
was towards Charlotte, and her instinct was at once to watch by the
invalid’s couch herself, at least for some hours, it being deemed
unnecessary to call in a regular nurse unless she should sicken further.

‘But I will sit with her,’ said De Stancy. ‘Surely you had better go to
bed?’ Paula would not be persuaded; and thereupon De Stancy, saying he
was going into the town for a short time before retiring, left the room.

The last omnibus returned from the last train, and the inmates of the
hotel retired to rest. Meanwhile a telegram had arrived for Captain De
Stancy; but as he had not yet returned it was put in his bedroom, with
directions to the night-porter to remind him of its arrival.

Paula sat on with the sleeping Charlotte. Presently she retired into the
adjacent sitting-room with a book, and flung herself on a couch, leaving
the door open between her and her charge, in case the latter should
awake. While she sat a new breathing seemed to mingle with the regular
sound of Charlotte’s that reached her through the doorway: she turned
quickly, and saw her uncle standing behind her.

‘O--I thought you were in Paris!’ said Paula.

‘I have just come from there--I could not stay. Something has occurred
to my mind about this affair.’ His strangely marked visage, now more
noticeable from being worn with fatigue, had a spectral effect by the
night-light.

‘What affair?’

‘This marriage.... Paula, De Stancy is a good fellow enough, but you
must not accept him just yet.’

Paula did not answer.

‘Do you hear? You must not accept him,’ repeated her uncle, ‘till I have
been to England and examined into matters. I start in an hour’s time--by
the ten-minutes-past-two train.’

‘This is something very new!’

‘Yes--‘tis new,’ he murmured, relapsing into his Dutch manner. ‘You must
not accept him till something is made clear to me--something about a
queer relationship. I have come from Paris to say so.’

‘Uncle, I don’t understand this. I am my own mistress in all matters,
and though I don’t mind telling you I have by no means resolved to
accept him, the question of her marriage is especially a woman’s own
affair.’

Her uncle stood irresolute for a moment, as if his convictions were
more than his proofs. ‘I say no more at present,’ he murmured. ‘Can I do
anything for you about a new architect?’

‘Appoint Havill.’

‘Very well. Good night.’ And then he left her. In a short time she heard
him go down and out of the house to cross to England by the morning
steamboat.

With a little shrug, as if she resented his interference in so delicate
a point, she settled herself down anew to her book.

One, two, three hours passed, when Charlotte awoke, but soon slumbered
sweetly again. Milly had stayed up for some time lest her mistress
should require anything; but the girl being sleepy Paula sent her to
bed.

It was a lovely night of early summer, and drawing aside the window
curtains she looked out upon the flowers and trees of the Place, now
quite visible, for it was nearly three o’clock, and the morning light
was growing strong. She turned her face upwards. Except in the case of
one bedroom all the windows on that side of the hotel were in darkness.
The room being rather close she left the casement ajar, and opening the
door walked out upon the staircase landing. A number of caged canaries
were kept here, and she observed in the dim light of the landing
lamp how snugly their heads were all tucked in. On returning to the
sitting-room again she could hear that Charlotte was still slumbering,
and this encouraging circumstance disposed her to go to bed herself.
Before, however, she had made a move a gentle tap came to the door.

Paula opened it. There, in the faint light by the sleeping canaries,
stood Charlotte’s brother.

‘How is she now?’ he whispered.

‘Sleeping soundly,’ said Paula.

‘That’s a blessing. I have not been to bed. I came in late, and have now
come down to know if I had not better take your place?’

‘Nobody is required, I think. But you can judge for yourself.’

Up to this point they had conversed in the doorway of the sitting-room,
which De Stancy now entered, crossing it to Charlotte’s apartment. He
came out from the latter at a pensive pace.

‘She is doing well,’ he said gently. ‘You have been very good to her.
Was the chair I saw by her bed the one you have been sitting in all
night?’

‘I sometimes sat there; sometimes here.’

‘I wish I could have sat beside you, and held your hand--I speak
frankly.’

‘To excess.’

‘And why not? I do not wish to hide from you any corner of my breast,
futile as candour may be. Just Heaven! for what reason is it ordered
that courtship, in which soldiers are usually so successful, should be a
failure with me?’

‘Your lack of foresight chiefly in indulging feelings that were not
encouraged. That, and my uncle’s indiscreet permission to you to travel
with us, have precipitated our relations in a way that I could neither
foresee nor avoid, though of late I have had apprehensions that it might
come to this. You vex and disturb me by such words of regret.’

‘Not more than you vex and disturb me. But you cannot hate the man who
loves you so devotedly?’

‘I have said before I don’t hate you. I repeat that I am interested in
your family and its associations because of its complete contrast with
my own.’ She might have added, ‘And I am additionally interested just
now because my uncle has forbidden me to be.’

‘But you don’t care enough for me personally to save my happiness.’

Paula hesitated; from the moment De Stancy confronted her she had
felt that this nocturnal conversation was to be a grave business. The
cathedral clock struck three. ‘I have thought once or twice,’ she said
with a naivete unusual in her, ‘that if I could be sure of giving peace
and joy to your mind by becoming your wife, I ought to endeavour to
do so and make the best of it--merely as a charity. But I believe that
feeling is a mistake: your discontent is constitutional, and would go on
just the same whether I accepted you or no. My refusal of you is purely
an imaginary grievance.’

‘Not if I think otherwise.’

‘O no,’ she murmured, with a sense that the place was very lonely and
silent. ‘If you think it otherwise, I suppose it is otherwise.’

‘My darling; my Paula!’ he said, seizing her hand. ‘Do promise me
something. You must indeed!’

‘Captain De Stancy!’ she said, trembling and turning away. ‘Captain De
Stancy!’ She tried to withdraw her fingers, then faced him, exclaiming
in a firm voice a third time, ‘Captain De Stancy! let go my hand; for I
tell you I will not marry you!’

‘Good God!’ he cried, dropping her hand. ‘What have I driven you to say
in your anger! Retract it--O, retract it!’

‘Don’t urge me further, as you value my good opinion!’

‘To lose you now, is to lose you for ever. Come, please answer!’

‘I won’t be compelled!’ she interrupted with vehemence. ‘I am resolved
not to be yours--not to give you an answer to-night! Never, never will I
be reasoned out of my intention; and I say I won’t answer you to-night!
I should never have let you be so much with me but for pity of you; and
now it is come to this!’

She had sunk into a chair, and now leaned upon her hand, and buried her
face in her handkerchief. He had never caused her any such agitation as
this before.

‘You stab me with your words,’ continued De Stancy. ‘The experience
I have had with you is without parallel, Paula. It seems like a
distracting dream.’

‘I won’t be hurried by anybody!’

‘That may mean anything,’ he said, with a perplexed, passionate air.
‘Well, mine is a fallen family, and we must abide caprices. Would to
Heaven it were extinguished!’

‘What was extinguished?’ she murmured.

‘The De Stancys. Here am I, a homeless wanderer, living on my pay;
in the next room lies she, my sister, a poor little fragile feverish
invalid with no social position--and hardly a friend. We two represent
the De Stancy line; and I wish we were behind the iron door of our
old vault at Sleeping-Green. It can be seen by looking at us and our
circumstances that we cry for the earth and oblivion!’

‘Captain De Stancy, it is not like that, I assure you,’ sympathized
Paula with damp eyelashes. ‘I love Charlotte too dearly for you to talk
like that, indeed. I don’t want to marry you exactly: and yet I cannot
bring myself to say I permanently reject you, because I remember you
are Charlotte’s brother, and do not wish to be the cause of any morbid
feelings in you which would ruin your future prospects.’

‘My dear life, what is it you doubt in me? Your earnestness not to do me
harm makes it all the harder for me to think of never being more than a
friend.’

‘Well, I have not positively refused!’ she exclaimed, in mixed tones
of pity and distress. ‘Let me think it over a little while. It is not
generous to urge so strongly before I can collect my thoughts, and at
this midnight time!’

‘Darling, forgive it!--There, I’ll say no more.’

He then offered to sit up in her place for the remainder of the night;
but Paula declined, assuring him that she meant to stay only another
half-hour, after which nobody would be necessary.

He had already crossed the landing to ascend to his room, when she
stepped after him, and asked if he had received his telegram.

‘No,’ said De Stancy. ‘Nor have I heard of one.’

Paula explained that it was put in his room, that he might see it the
moment he came in.

‘It matters very little,’ he replied, ‘since I shall see it now.
Good-night, dearest: good-night!’ he added tenderly.

She gravely shook her head. ‘It is not for you to express yourself like
that,’ she answered. ‘Good-night, Captain De Stancy.’

He went up the stairs to the second floor, and Paula returned to the
sitting-room. Having left a light burning De Stancy proceeded to look
for the telegram, and found it on the carpet, where it had been
swept from the table. When he had opened the sheet a sudden solemnity
overspread his face. He sat down, rested his elbow on the table, and his
forehead on his hands.

Captain De Stancy did not remain thus long. Rising he went softly
downstairs. The grey morning had by this time crept into the hotel,
rendering a light no longer necessary. The old clock on the landing was
within a few minutes of four, and the birds were hopping up and down
their cages, and whetting their bills. He tapped at the sitting-room,
and she came instantly.

‘But I told you it was not necessary--’ she began.

‘Yes, but the telegram,’ he said hurriedly. ‘I wanted to let you know
first that--it is very serious. Paula--my father is dead! He died
suddenly yesterday, and I must go at once... . About Charlotte--and how
to let her know--’

‘She must not be told yet,’ said Paula.... ‘Sir William dead!’

‘You think we had better not tell her just yet?’ said De Stancy
anxiously. ‘That’s what I want to consult you about, if you--don’t mind
my intruding.’

‘Certainly I don’t,’ she said.

They continued the discussion for some time; and it was decided that
Charlotte should not be informed of what had happened till the doctor
had been consulted, Paula promising to account for her brother’s
departure.

De Stancy then prepared to leave for England by the first morning train,
and roused the night-porter, which functionary, having packed off Abner
Power, was discovered asleep on the sofa of the landlord’s parlour. At
half-past five Paula, who in the interim had been pensively sitting with
her hand to her chin, quite forgetting that she had meant to go to bed,
heard wheels without, and looked from the window. A fly had been brought
round, and one of the hotel servants was in the act of putting up a
portmanteau with De Stancy’s initials upon it. A minute afterwards the
captain came to her door.

‘I thought you had not gone to bed, after all.’

‘I was anxious to see you off,’ said she, ‘since neither of the others
is awake; and you wished me not to rouse them.’

‘Quite right, you are very good;’ and lowering his voice: ‘Paula, it is
a sad and solemn time with me. Will you grant me one word--not on our
last sad subject, but on the previous one--before I part with you to go
and bury my father?’

‘Certainly,’ she said, in gentle accents.

‘Then have you thought over my position? Will you at last have pity upon
my loneliness by becoming my wife?’

Paula sighed deeply; and said, ‘Yes.’

‘Your hand upon it.’

She gave him her hand: he held it a few moments, then raised it to his
lips, and was gone.

When Mrs. Goodman rose she was informed of Sir William’s death, and of
his son’s departure.

‘Then the captain is now Sir William De Stancy!’ she exclaimed. ‘Really,
Paula, since you would be Lady De Stancy by marrying him, I almost
think--’

‘Hush, aunt!’

‘Well; what are you writing there?’

‘Only entering in my diary that I accepted him this morning for pity’s
sake, in spite of Uncle Abner. They’ll say it was for the title, but
knowing it was not I don’t care.’



XI.

On the evening of the fourth day after the parting between Paula and De
Stancy at Amiens, when it was quite dark in the Markton highway,
except in so far as the shades were broken by the faint lights from the
adjacent town, a young man knocked softly at the door of Myrtle Villa,
and asked if Captain De Stancy had arrived from abroad. He was answered
in the affirmative, and in a few moments the captain himself came from
an adjoining room.

Seeing that his visitor was Dare, from whom, as will be remembered, he
had parted at Carlsruhe in no very satisfied mood, De Stancy did not ask
him into the house, but putting on his hat went out with the youth into
the public road. Here they conversed as they walked up and down, Dare
beginning by alluding to the death of Sir William, the suddenness of
which he feared would delay Captain De Stancy’s overtures for the hand
of Miss Power.

‘No,’ said De Stancy moodily. ‘On the contrary, it has precipitated
matters.’

‘She has accepted you, captain?’

‘We are engaged to be married.’

‘Well done. I congratulate you.’ The speaker was about to proceed to
further triumphant notes on the intelligence, when casting his eye upon
the upper windows of the neighbouring villa, he appeared to reflect on
what was within them, and checking himself, ‘When is the funeral to be?’

‘To-morrow,’ De Stancy replied. ‘It would be advisable for you not to
come near me during the day.’

‘I will not. I will be a mere spectator. The old vault of our ancestors
will be opened, I presume, captain?’

‘It is opened.’

‘I must see it--and ruminate on what we once were: it is a thing I like
doing. The ghosts of our dead--Ah, what was that?’

‘I heard nothing.’

‘I thought I heard a footstep behind us.’

They stood still; but the road appeared to be quite deserted, and likely
to continue so for the remainder of that evening. They walked on again,
speaking in somewhat lower tones than before.

‘Will the late Sir William’s death delay the wedding much?’ asked the
younger man curiously.

De Stancy languidly answered that he did not see why it should do
so. Some little time would of course intervene, but, since there
were several reasons for despatch, he should urge Miss Power and her
relatives to consent to a virtually private wedding which might take
place at a very early date; and he thought there would be a general
consent on that point.

‘There are indeed reasons for despatch. Your title, Sir William, is a
new safeguard over her heart, certainly; but there is many a slip, and
you must not lose her now.’

‘I don’t mean to lose her!’ said De Stancy. ‘She is too good to be lost.
And yet--since she gave her promise I have felt more than once that
I would not engage in such a struggle again. It was not a thing of my
beginning, though I was easily enough inflamed to follow. But I will not
lose her now.--For God’s sake, keep that secret you have so foolishly
pricked on your breast. It fills me with remorse to think what she with
her scrupulous notions will feel, should she ever know of you and your
history, and your relation to me!’

Dare made no reply till after a silence, when he said, ‘Of course mum’s
the word till the wedding is over.’

‘And afterwards--promise that for her sake?’

‘And probably afterwards.’

Sir William De Stancy drew a dejected breath at the tone of the answer.
They conversed but a little while longer, the captain hinting to Dare
that it was time for them to part; not, however, before he had uttered
a hope that the young man would turn over a new leaf and engage in some
regular pursuit. Promising to call upon him at his lodgings De Stancy
went indoors, and Dare briskly retraced his steps to Markton.

When his footfall had died away, and the door of the house opposite had
been closed, another man appeared upon the scene. He came gently out of
the hedge opposite Myrtle Villa, which he paused to regard for a moment.
But instead of going townward, he turned his back upon the distant
sprinkle of lights, and did not check his walk till he reached the lodge
of Stancy Castle.

Here he pulled the wooden acorn beside the arch, and when the porter
appeared his light revealed the pedestrian’s countenance to be scathed,
as by lightning.

‘I beg your pardon, Mr. Power,’ said the porter with sudden deference
as he opened the wicket. ‘But we wasn’t expecting anybody to-night, as
there is nobody at home, and the servants on board wages; and that’s why
I was so long a-coming.’

‘No matter, no matter,’ said Abner Power. ‘I have returned on sudden
business, and have not come to stay longer than to-night. Your mistress
is not with me. I meant to sleep in Markton, but have changed my mind.’

Mr. Power had brought no luggage with him beyond a small hand-bag, and
as soon as a room could be got ready he retired to bed.

The next morning he passed in idly walking about the grounds and
observing the progress which had been made in the works--now temporarily
suspended. But that inspection was less his object in remaining there
than meditation, was abundantly evident. When the bell began to toll
from the neighbouring church to announce the burial of Sir William De
Stancy, he passed through the castle, and went on foot in the direction
indicated by the sound. Reaching the margin of the churchyard he looked
over the wall, his presence being masked by bushes and a group of
idlers from Markton who stood in front. Soon a funeral procession of
simple--almost meagre and threadbare--character arrived, but Power did
not join the people who followed the deceased into the church. De Stancy
was the chief mourner and only relation present, the other followers of
the broken-down old man being an ancient lawyer, a couple of faithful
servants, and a bowed villager who had been page to the late Sir
William’s father--the single living person left in the parish who
remembered the De Stancys as people of wealth and influence, and who
firmly believed that family would come into its rights ere long, and
oust the uncircumcized Philistines who had taken possession of the old
lands.

The funeral was over, and the rusty carriages had gone, together with
many of the spectators; but Power lingered in the churchyard as if he
were looking for some one. At length he entered the church, passing by
the cavernous pitfall with descending steps which stood open outside the
wall of the De Stancy aisle. Arrived within he scanned the few idlers
of antiquarian tastes who had remained after the service to inspect the
monuments; and beside a recumbent effigy--the effigy in alabaster
whose features Paula had wiped with her handkerchief when there with
Somerset--he beheld the man it had been his business to find. Abner
Power went up and touched this person, who was Dare, on the shoulder.

‘Mr. Power--so it is!’ said the youth. ‘I have not seen you since we met
in Carlsruhe.’

‘You shall see all the more of me now to make up for it. Shall we walk
round the church?’

‘With all my heart,’ said Dare.

They walked round; and Abner Power began in a sardonic recitative: ‘I
am a traveller, and it takes a good deal to astonish me. So I neither
swooned nor screamed when I learnt a few hours ago what I had suspected
for a week, that you are of the house and lineage of Jacob.’ He flung a
nod towards the canopied tombs as he spoke.--‘In other words, that you
are of the same breed as the De Stancys.’

Dare cursorily glanced round. Nobody was near enough to hear their
words, the nearest persons being two workmen just outside, who were
bringing their tools up from the vault preparatively to closing it.

Having observed this Dare replied, ‘I, too, am a traveller; and neither
do I swoon nor scream at what you say. But I assure you that if you
busy yourself about me, you may truly be said to busy yourself about
nothing.’

‘Well, that’s a matter of opinion. Now, there’s no scarlet left in my
face to blush for men’s follies; but as an alliance is afoot between my
niece and the present Sir William, this must be looked into.’

Dare reflectively said ‘O,’ as he observed through the window one of
the workmen bring up a candle from the vault and extinguish it with his
fingers.

‘The marriage is desirable, and your relationship in itself is of no
consequence,’ continued the elder, ‘but just look at this. You have
forced on the marriage by unscrupulous means, your object being only too
clearly to live out of the proceeds of that marriage.’

‘Mr. Power, you mock me, because I labour under the misfortune of having
an illegitimate father to provide for. I really deserve commiseration.’

‘You might deserve it if that were all. But it looks bad for my
niece’s happiness as Lady De Stancy, that she and her husband are to be
perpetually haunted by a young chevalier d’industrie, who can forge a
telegram on occasion, and libel an innocent man by an ingenious device
in photography. It looks so bad, in short, that, advantageous as a title
and old family name would be to her and her children, I won’t let my
brother’s daughter run the risk of having them at the expense of being
in the grip of a man like you. There are other suitors in the world, and
other titles: and she is a beautiful woman, who can well afford to be
fastidious. I shall let her know at once of these things, and break off
the business--unless you do ONE THING.’

A workman brought up another candle from the vault, and prepared to let
down the slab. ‘Well, Mr. Power, and what is that one thing?’

‘Go to Peru as my agent in a business I have just undertaken there.’

‘And settle there?’

‘Of course. I am soon going over myself, and will bring you anything you
require.’

‘How long will you give me to consider?’ said Dare.

Power looked at his watch. ‘One, two, three, four hours,’ he said. ‘I
leave Markton by the seven o’clock train this evening.’

‘And if I meet your proposal with a negative?’

‘I shall go at once to my niece and tell her the whole
circumstances--tell her that, by marrying Sir William, she allies
herself with an unhappy gentleman in the power of a criminal son who
makes his life a burden to him by perpetual demands upon his purse; who
will increase those demands with his accession to wealth, threaten to
degrade her by exposing her husband’s antecedents if she opposes his
extortions, and who will make her miserable by letting her know that her
old lover was shamefully victimized by a youth she is bound to screen
out of respect to her husband’s feelings. Now a man does not care to let
his own flesh and blood incur the danger of such anguish as that, and
I shall do what I say to prevent it. Knowing what a lukewarm sentiment
hers is for Sir William at best, I shall not have much difficulty.’

‘Well, I don’t feel inclined to go to Peru.’

‘Neither do I want to break off the match, though I am ready to do it.
But you care about your personal freedom, and you might be made to wear
the broad arrow for your tricks on Somerset.’

‘Mr. Power, I see you are a hard man.’

‘I am a hard man. You will find me one. Well, will you go to Peru? Or
I don’t mind Australia or California as alternatives. As long as you
choose to remain in either of those wealth-producing places, so long
will Cunningham Haze go uninformed.’

‘Mr. Power, I am overcome. Will you allow me to sit down? Suppose we go
into the vestry. It is more comfortable.’

They entered the vestry, and seated themselves in two chairs, one at
each end of the table.

‘In the meantime,’ continued Dare, ‘to lend a little romance to stern
realities, I’ll tell you a singular dream I had just before you returned
to England.’ Power looked contemptuous, but Dare went on: ‘I dreamt
that once upon a time there were two brothers, born of a Nonconformist
family, one of whom became a railway-contractor, and the other a
mechanical engineer.’

‘A mechanical engineer--good,’ said Power, beginning to attend.

‘When the first went abroad in his profession, and became engaged on
continental railways, the second, a younger man, looking round for a
start, also betook himself to the continent. But though ingenious and
scientific, he had not the business capacity of the elder, whose
rebukes led to a sharp quarrel between them; and they parted in bitter
estrangement--never to meet again as it turned out, owing to the dogged
obstinacy and self-will of the younger man. He, after this, seemed to
lose his moral ballast altogether, and after some eccentric doings he
was reduced to a state of poverty, and took lodgings in a court in a
back street of a town we will call Geneva, considerably in doubt as to
what steps he should take to keep body and soul together.’

Abner Power was shooting a narrow ray of eyesight at Dare from the
corner of his nearly closed lids. ‘Your dream is so interesting,’ he
said, with a hard smile, ‘that I could listen to it all day.’

‘Excellent!’ said Dare, and went on: ‘Now it so happened that the house
opposite to the one taken by the mechanician was peculiar. It was a tall
narrow building, wholly unornamented, the walls covered with a layer of
white plaster cracked and soiled by time. I seem to see that house now!
Six stone steps led up to the door, with a rusty iron railing on each
side, and under these steps were others which went down to a cellar--in
my dream of course.’

‘Of course--in your dream,’ said Power, nodding comprehensively.

‘Sitting lonely and apathetic without a light, at his own chamber-window
at night time, our mechanician frequently observed dark figures
descending these steps and ultimately discovered that the house was the
meeting-place of a fraternity of political philosophers, whose object
was the extermination of tyrants and despots, and the overthrow of
established religions. The discovery was startling enough, but our hero
was not easily startled. He kept their secret and lived on as before. At
last the mechanician and his affairs became known to the society, as the
affairs of the society had become known to the mechanician, and, instead
of shooting him as one who knew too much for their safety, they were
struck with his faculty for silence, and thought they might be able to
make use of him.’

‘To be sure,’ said Abner Power.

‘Next, like friend Bunyan, I saw in my dream that denunciation was
the breath of life to this society. At an earlier date in its history,
objectionable persons in power had been from time to time murdered, and
curiously enough numbered; that is, upon the body of each was set a mark
or seal, announcing that he was one of a series. But at this time the
question before the society related to the substitution for the dagger,
which was vetoed as obsolete, of some explosive machine that would be
both more effectual and less difficult to manage; and in short, a large
reward was offered to our needy Englishman if he would put their ideas
of such a machine into shape.’

Abner Power nodded again, his complexion being peculiar--which might
partly have been accounted for by the reflection of window-light from
the green-baize table-cloth.

‘He agreed, though no politician whatever himself, to exercise his wits
on their account, and brought his machine to such a pitch of perfection,
that it was the identical one used in the memorable attempt--’ (Dare
whispered the remainder of the sentence in tones so low that not a mouse
in the corner could have heard.) ‘Well, the inventor of that explosive
has naturally been wanted ever since by all the heads of police in
Europe. But the most curious--or perhaps the most natural part of my
story is, that our hero, after the catastrophe, grew disgusted with
himself and his comrades, acquired, in a fit of revulsion, quite a
conservative taste in politics, which was strengthened greatly by the
news he indirectly received of the great wealth and respectability of
his brother, who had had no communion with him for years, and supposed
him dead. He abjured his employers and resolved to abandon them;
but before coming to England he decided to destroy all trace of his
combustible inventions by dropping them into the neighbouring lake at
night from a boat. You feel the room close, Mr. Power?’

‘No, I suffer from attacks of perspiration whenever I sit in a
consecrated edifice--that’s all. Pray go on.’

‘In carrying out this project, an explosion occurred, just as he was
throwing the stock overboard--it blew up into his face, wounding him
severely, and nearly depriving him of sight. The boat was upset, but
he swam ashore in the darkness, and remained hidden till he recovered,
though the scars produced by the burns had been set on him for ever.
This accident, which was such a misfortune to him as a man, was an
advantage to him as a conspirators’ engineer retiring from practice,
and afforded him a disguise both from his own brotherhood and from the
police, which he has considered impenetrable, but which is getting seen
through by one or two keen eyes as time goes on. Instead of coming to
England just then, he went to Peru, connected himself with the guano
trade, I believe, and after his brother’s death revisited England, his
old life obliterated as far as practicable by his new principles. He is
known only as a great traveller to his surviving relatives, though he
seldom says where he has travelled. Unluckily for himself, he is WANTED
by certain European governments as badly as ever.’

Dare raised his eyes as he concluded his narration. As has been
remarked, he was sitting at one end of the vestry-table, Power at the
other, the green cloth stretching between them. On the edge of the table
adjoining Mr. Power a shining nozzle of metal was quietly resting, like
a dog’s nose. It was directed point-blank at the young man.

Dare started. ‘Ah--a revolver?’ he said.

Mr. Power nodded placidly, his hand still grasping the pistol behind
the edge of the table. ‘As a traveller I always carry one of ‘em,’ he
returned; ‘and for the last five minutes I have been closely considering
whether your numerous brains are worth blowing out or no. The vault
yonder has suggested itself as convenient and snug for one of the
same family; but the mental problem that stays my hand is, how am I to
despatch and bury you there without the workmen seeing?’

‘’Tis a strange problem, certainly,’ replied Dare, ‘and one on which I
fear I could not give disinterested advice. Moreover, while you, as a
traveller, always carry a weapon of defence, as a traveller so do I. And
for the last three-quarters of an hour I have been thinking concerning
you, an intensified form of what you have been thinking of me, but
without any concern as to your interment. See here for a proof of it.’
And a second steel nose rested on the edge of the table opposite to the
first, steadied by Dare’s right hand.

They remained for some time motionless, the tick of the tower clock
distinctly audible.

Mr. Power spoke first.

‘Well, ‘twould be a pity to make a mess here under such dubious
circumstances. Mr. Dare, I perceive that a mean vagabond can be as sharp
as a political regenerator. I cry quits, if you care to do the same?’

Dare assented, and the pistols were put away.

‘Then we do nothing at all, either side; but let the course of true love
run on to marriage--that’s the understanding, I think?’ said Dare as he
rose.

‘It is,’ said Power; and turning on his heel, he left the vestry.

Dare retired to the church and thence to the outside, where he idled
away a few minutes in looking at the workmen, who were now lowering
into its place a large stone slab, bearing the words ‘DE STANCY,’ which
covered the entrance to the vault. When the footway of the churchyard
was restored to its normal condition Dare pursued his way to Markton.

Abner Power walked back to the castle at a slow and equal pace, as
though he carried an over-brimming vessel on his head. He silently let
himself in, entered the long gallery, and sat down. The length of
time that he sat there was so remarkable as to raise that interval of
inanition to the rank of a feat.

Power’s eyes glanced through one of the window-casements: from a hole
without he saw the head of a tomtit protruding. He listlessly watched
the bird during the successive epochs of his thought, till night came,
without any perceptible change occurring in him. Such fixity would have
meant nothing else than sudden death in any other man, but in Mr.
Power it merely signified that he was engaged in ruminations which
necessitated a more extensive survey than usual. At last, at half-past
eight, after having sat for five hours with his eyes on the residence of
the tomtits, to whom night had brought cessation of thought, if not to
him who had observed them, he rose amid the shades of the furniture, and
rang the bell. There were only a servant or two in the castle, one of
whom presently came with a light in her hand and a startled look upon
her face, which was not reduced when she recognized him; for in the
opinion of that household there was something ghoul-like in Mr. Power,
which made him no desirable guest.

He ate a late meal, and retired to bed, where he seemed to sleep not
unsoundly. The next morning he received a letter which afforded him
infinite satisfaction and gave his stagnant impulses a new momentum. He
entered the library, and amid objects swathed in brown holland sat down
and wrote a note to his niece at Amiens. Therein he stated that, finding
that the Anglo-South-American house with which he had recently connected
himself required his presence in Peru, it obliged him to leave without
waiting for her return. He felt the less uneasy at going, since he had
learnt that Captain De Stancy would return at once to Amiens to his sick
sister, and see them safely home when she improved. He afterwards left
the castle, disappearing towards a railway station some miles above
Markton, the road to which lay across an unfrequented down.



XII.

It was a fine afternoon of late summer, nearly three months subsequent
to the death of Sir William De Stancy and Paula’s engagement to
marry his successor in the title. George Somerset had started on a
professional journey that took him through the charming district which
lay around Stancy Castle. Having resigned his appointment as architect
to that important structure--a resignation which had been accepted by
Paula through her solicitor--he had bidden farewell to the locality
after putting matters in such order that his successor, whoever he might
be, should have no difficulty in obtaining the particulars necessary
to the completion of the work in hand. Hardly to his surprise this
successor was Havill.

Somerset’s resignation had been tendered in no hasty mood. On returning
to England, and in due course to the castle, everything bore in upon
his mind the exceeding sorrowfulness--he would not say humiliation--of
continuing to act in his former capacity for a woman who, from seeming
more than a dear friend, had become less than an acquaintance.

So he resigned; but now, as the train drew on into that once beloved
tract of country, the images which met his eye threw him back in point
of emotion to very near where he had been before making himself a
stranger here. The train entered the cutting on whose brink he had
walked when the carriage containing Paula and her friends surprised him
the previous summer. He looked out of the window: they were passing the
well-known curve that led up to the tunnel constructed by her father,
into which he had gone when the train came by and Paula had been alarmed
for his life. There was the path they had both climbed afterwards,
involuntarily seizing each other’s hand; the bushes, the grass, the
flowers, everything just the same:

            ‘-----Here was the pleasant place,
          And nothing wanting was, save She, alas!’

When they came out of the tunnel at the other end he caught a glimpse of
the distant castle-keep, and the well-remembered walls beneath it. The
experience so far transcended the intensity of what is called mournful
pleasure as to make him wonder how he could have miscalculated himself
to the extent of supposing that he might pass the spot with controllable
emotion.

On entering Markton station he withdrew into a remote corner of the
carriage, and closed his eyes with a resolve not to open them till the
embittering scenes should be passed by. He had not long to wait for
this event. When again in motion his eye fell upon the skirt of a lady’s
dress opposite, the owner of which had entered and seated herself so
softly as not to attract his attention.

‘Ah indeed!’ he exclaimed as he looked up to her face. ‘I had not a
notion that it was you!’ He went over and shook hands with Charlotte De
Stancy.

‘I am not going far,’ she said; ‘only to the next station. We often run
down in summer time. Are you going far?’

‘I am going to a building further on; thence to Normandy by way of
Cherbourg, to finish out my holiday.’

Miss De Stancy thought that would be very nice.

‘Well, I hope so. But I fear it won’t.’

After saying that Somerset asked himself why he should mince matters
with so genuine and sympathetic a girl as Charlotte De Stancy? She could
tell him particulars which he burned to know. He might never again have
an opportunity of knowing them, since she and he would probably not meet
for years to come, if at all.

‘Have the castle works progressed pretty rapidly under the new
architect?’ he accordingly asked.

‘Yes,’ said Charlotte in her haste--then adding that she was not quite
sure if they had progressed so rapidly as before; blushingly correcting
herself at this point and that, in the tinkering manner of a nervous
organization aiming at nicety where it was not required.

‘Well, I should have liked to carry out the undertaking to its end,’
said Somerset. ‘But I felt I could not consistently do so. Miss Power--’
(here a lump came into Somerset’s throat--so responsive was he yet to
her image)--‘seemed to have lost confidence in me, and--it was best that
the connection should be severed.’

There was a long pause. ‘She was very sorry about it,’ said Charlotte
gently.

‘What made her alter so?--I never can think!’

Charlotte waited again as if to accumulate the necessary force for
honest speaking at the expense of pleasantness. ‘It was the telegram
that began it of course,’ she answered.

‘Telegram?’

She looked up at him in quite a frightened way--little as there was
to be frightened at in a quiet fellow like him in this sad time of his
life--and said, ‘Yes: some telegram--I think--when you were in trouble?
Forgive my alluding to it; but you asked me the question.’

Somerset began reflecting on what messages he had sent Paula, troublous
or otherwise. All he had sent had been sent from the castle, and were
as gentle and mellifluous as sentences well could be which had neither
articles nor pronouns. ‘I don’t understand,’ he said. ‘Will you explain
a little more--as plainly as you like--without minding my feelings?’

‘A telegram from Nice, I think?’

‘I never sent one.’

‘O! The one I meant was about money.’

Somerset shook his head. ‘No,’ he murmured, with the composure of a man
who, knowing he had done nothing of the sort himself, was blinded by his
own honesty to the possibility that another might have done it for him.
‘That must be some other affair with which I had nothing to do. O no,
it was nothing like that; the reason for her change of manner was quite
different!’

So timid was Charlotte in Somerset’s presence, that her timidity at this
juncture amounted to blameworthiness. The distressing scene which
must have followed a clearing up there and then of any possible
misunderstanding, terrified her imagination; and quite confounded by
contradictions that she could not reconcile, she held her tongue, and
nervously looked out of the window.

‘I have heard that Miss Power is soon to be married,’ continued
Somerset.

‘Yes,’ Charlotte murmured. ‘It is sooner than it ought to be by rights,
considering how recently my dear father died; but there are reasons in
connection with my brother’s position against putting it off: and it is
to be absolutely simple and private.’

There was another interval. ‘May I ask when it is to be?’ he said.

‘Almost at once--this week.’

Somerset started back as if some stone had hit his face.

Still there was nothing wonderful in such promptitude: engagements
broken in upon by the death of a near relative of one of the parties had
been often carried out in a subdued form with no longer delay.

Charlotte’s station was now at hand. She bade him farewell; and he
rattled on to the building he had come to inspect, and next to Budmouth,
whence he intended to cross the Channel by steamboat that night.

He hardly knew how the evening passed away. He had taken up his quarters
at an inn near the quay, and as the night drew on he stood gazing from
the coffee-room window at the steamer outside, which nearly thrust its
spars through the bedroom casements, and at the goods that were being
tumbled on board as only shippers can tumble them. All the goods were
laden, a lamp was put on each side the gangway, the engines broke into
a crackling roar, and people began to enter. They were only waiting for
the last train: then they would be off. Still Somerset did not move;
he was thinking of that curious half-told story of Charlotte’s, about
a telegram to Paula for money from Nice. Not once till within the last
half-hour had it recurred to his mind that he had met Dare both at Nice
and at Monte Carlo; that at the latter place he had been absolutely out
of money and wished to borrow, showing considerable sinister feeling
when Somerset declined to lend: that on one or two previous occasions he
had reasons for doubting Dare’s probity; and that in spite of the young
man’s impoverishment at Monte Carlo he had, a few days later, beheld
him in shining raiment at Carlsruhe. Somerset, though misty in his
conjectures, was seized with a growing conviction that there was
something in Miss De Stancy’s allusion to the telegram which ought to be
explained.

He felt an insurmountable objection to cross the water that night, or
till he had been able to see Charlotte again, and learn more of her
meaning. He countermanded the order to put his luggage on board, watched
the steamer out of the harbour, and went to bed. He might as well have
gone to battle, for any rest that he got. On rising the next morning he
felt rather blank, though none the less convinced that a matter required
investigation. He left Budmouth by a morning train, and about eleven
o’clock found himself in Markton.

The momentum of a practical inquiry took him through that ancient
borough without leaving him much leisure for those reveries which had
yesterday lent an unutterable sadness to every object there. It was just
before noon that he started for the castle, intending to arrive at a
time of the morning when, as he knew from experience, he could speak to
Charlotte without difficulty. The rising ground soon revealed the old
towers to him, and, jutting out behind them, the scaffoldings for the
new wing.

While halting here on the knoll in some doubt about his movements he
beheld a man coming along the road, and was soon confronted by his
former competitor, Havill. The first instinct of each was to pass with a
nod, but a second instinct for intercourse was sufficient to bring them
to a halt. After a few superficial words had been spoken Somerset said,
‘You have succeeded me.’

‘I have,’ said Havill; ‘but little to my advantage. I have just heard
that my commission is to extend no further than roofing in the wing that
you began, and had I known that before, I would have seen the castle
fall flat as Jericho before I would have accepted the superintendence.
But I know who I have to thank for that--De Stancy.’

Somerset still looked towards the distant battlements. On the
scaffolding, among the white-jacketed workmen, he could discern one
figure in a dark suit.

‘You have a clerk of the works, I see,’ he observed.

‘Nominally I have, but practically I haven’t.’

‘Then why do you keep him?’

‘I can’t help myself. He is Mr. Dare; and having been recommended by a
higher power than I, there he must stay in spite of me.’

‘Who recommended him?’

‘The same--De Stancy.’

‘It is very odd,’ murmured Somerset, ‘but that young man is the object
of my visit.’

‘You had better leave him alone,’ said Havill drily.

Somerset asked why.

‘Since I call no man master over that way I will inform you.’ Havill
then related in splenetic tones, to which Somerset did not care to
listen till the story began to advance itself, how he had passed the
night with Dare at the inn, and the incidents of that night, relating
how he had seen some letters on the young man’s breast which long had
puzzled him. ‘They were an E, a T, an N, and a C. I thought over them
long, till it eventually occurred to me that the word when filled out
was “De Stancy,” and that kinship explains the offensive and defensive
alliance between them.’

‘But, good heavens, man!’ said Somerset, more and more disturbed. ‘Does
she know of it?’

‘You may depend she does not yet; but she will soon enough. Hark--there
it is!’ The notes of the castle clock were heard striking noon. ‘Then it
is all over.’

‘What?--not their marriage!’

‘Yes. Didn’t you know it was the wedding day? They were to be at the
church at half-past eleven. I should have waited to see her go, but it
was no sight to hinder business for, as she was only going to drive over
in her brougham with Miss De Stancy.’

‘My errand has failed!’ said Somerset, turning on his heel. ‘I’ll walk
back to the town with you.’

However he did not walk far with Havill; society was too much at that
moment. As soon as opportunity offered he branched from the road by
a path, and avoiding the town went by railway to Budmouth, whence he
resumed, by the night steamer, his journey to Normandy.



XIII.

To return to Charlotte De Stancy. When the train had borne Somerset from
her side, and she had regained her self-possession, she became conscious
of the true proportions of the fact he had asserted. And, further, if
the telegram had not been his, why should the photographic distortion
be trusted as a phase of his existence? But after a while it seemed so
improbable to her that God’s sun should bear false witness, that instead
of doubting both evidences she was inclined to readmit the first.
Still, upon the whole, she could not question for long the honesty of
Somerset’s denial and if that message had indeed been sent by him, it
must have been done while he was in another such an unhappy state
as that exemplified by the portrait. The supposition reconciled all
differences; and yet she could not but fight against it with all the
strength of a generous affection.

All the afternoon her poor little head was busy on this perturbing
question, till she inquired of herself whether after all it might not
be possible for photographs to represent people as they had never been.
Before rejecting the hypothesis she determined to have the word of a
professor on the point, which would be better than all her surmises.
Returning to Markton early, she told the coachman whom Paula had sent,
to drive her to the shop of Mr. Ray, an obscure photographic artist in
that town, instead of straight home.

Ray’s establishment consisted of two divisions, the respectable and the
shabby. If, on entering the door, the visitor turned to the left,
he found himself in a magazine of old clothes, old furniture, china,
umbrellas, guns, fishing-rods, dirty fiddles, and split flutes. Entering
the right-hand room, which had originally been that of an independent
house, he was in an ordinary photographer’s and print-collector’s
depository, to which a certain artistic solidity was imparted by a
few oil paintings in the background. Charlotte made for the latter
department, and when she was inside Mr. Ray appeared in person from the
lumber-shop adjoining, which, despite its manginess, contributed by far
the greater share to his income.

Charlotte put her question simply enough. The man did not answer her
directly, but soon found that she meant no harm to him. He told her that
such misrepresentations were quite possible, and that they embodied a
form of humour which was getting more and more into vogue among certain
facetious persons of society.

Charlotte was coming away when she asked, as on second thoughts, if he
had any specimens of such work to show her.

‘None of my own preparation,’ said Mr. Ray, with unimpeachable probity
of tone. ‘I consider them libellous myself. Still, I have one or two
samples by me, which I keep merely as curiosities.--There’s one,’ he
said, throwing out a portrait card from a drawer. ‘That represents the
German Emperor in a violent passion: this one shows the Prime Minister
out of his mind; this the Pope of Rome the worse for liquor.’

She inquired if he had any local specimens.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘but I prefer not to exhibit them unless you really ask
for a particular one that you mean to buy.’

‘I don’t want any.’

‘O, I beg pardon, miss. Well, I shouldn’t myself own such things were
produced, if there had not been a young man here at one time who was
very ingenious in these matters--a Mr. Dare. He was quite a gent, and
only did it as an amusement, and not for the sake of getting a living.’

Charlotte had no wish to hear more. On her way home she burst into
tears: the entanglement was altogether too much for her to tear asunder,
even had not her own instincts been urging her two ways, as they were.

To immediately right Somerset’s wrong was her impetuous desire as
an honest woman who loved him; but such rectification would be the
jeopardizing of all else that gratified her--the marriage of her brother
with her dearest friend--now on the very point of accomplishment. It was
a marriage which seemed to promise happiness, or at least comfort, if
the old flutter that had transiently disturbed Paula’s bosom could be
kept from reviving, to which end it became imperative to hide from her
the discovery of injustice to Somerset. It involved the advantage of
leaving Somerset free; and though her own tender interest in him had
been too well schooled by habitual self-denial to run ahead on vain
personal hopes, there was nothing more than human in her feeling
pleasure in prolonging Somerset’s singleness. Paula might even be
allowed to discover his wrongs when her marriage had put him out of her
power. But to let her discover his ill-treatment now might upset the
impending union of the families, and wring her own heart with the sight
of Somerset married in her brother’s place.

Why Dare, or any other person, should have set himself to advance her
brother’s cause by such unscrupulous blackening of Somerset’s character
was more than her sagacity could fathom. Her brother was, as far as she
could see, the only man who could directly profit by the machination,
and was therefore the natural one to suspect of having set it going. But
she would not be so disloyal as to entertain the thought long; and who
or what had instigated Dare, who was undoubtedly the proximate cause of
the mischief, remained to her an inscrutable mystery.

The contention of interests and desires with honour in her heart shook
Charlotte all that night; but good principle prevailed. The wedding
was to be solemnized the very next morning, though for before-mentioned
reasons this was hardly known outside the two houses interested; and
there were no visible preparations either at villa or castle. De Stancy
and his groomsman--a brother officer--slept at the former residence.

De Stancy was a sorry specimen of a bridegroom when he met his sister
in the morning. Thick-coming fancies, for which there was more than good
reason, had disturbed him only too successfully, and he was as full of
apprehension as one who has a league with Mephistopheles. Charlotte told
him nothing of what made her likewise so wan and anxious, but drove
off to the castle, as had been planned, about nine o’clock, leaving her
brother and his friend at the breakfast-table.

That clearing Somerset’s reputation from the stain which had been thrown
on it would cause a sufficient reaction in Paula’s mind to dislocate
present arrangements she did not so seriously anticipate, now that
morning had a little calmed her. Since the rupture with her former
architect Paula had sedulously kept her own counsel, but Charlotte
assumed from the ease with which she seemed to do it that her feelings
towards him had never been inconveniently warm; and she hoped that Paula
would learn of Somerset’s purity with merely the generous pleasure of a
friend, coupled with a friend’s indignation against his traducer.

Still, the possibility existed of stronger emotions, and it was only too
evident to poor Charlotte that, knowing this, she had still less excuse
for delaying the intelligence till the strongest emotion would be
purposeless.

On approaching the castle the first object that caught her eye was
Dare, standing beside Havill on the scaffolding of the new wing. He
was looking down upon the drive and court, as if in anticipation of the
event. His contiguity flurried her, and instead of going straight to
Paula she sought out Mrs. Goodman.

‘You are come early; that’s right!’ said the latter. ‘You might as well
have slept here last night. We have only Mr. Wardlaw, the London lawyer
you have heard of, in the house. Your brother’s solicitor was here
yesterday; but he returned to Markton for the night. We miss Mr. Power
so much--it is so unfortunate that he should have been obliged to go
abroad, and leave us unprotected women with so much responsibility.’

‘Yes, I know,’ said Charlotte quickly, having a shy distaste for the
details of what troubled her so much in the gross.

‘Paula has inquired for you.’

‘What is she doing?’

‘She is in her room: she has not begun to dress yet. Will you go to
her?’

Charlotte assented. ‘I have to tell her something,’ she said, ‘which
will make no difference, but which I should like her to know this
morning--at once. I have discovered that we have been entirely mistaken
about Mr. Somerset.’ She nerved herself to relate succinctly what had
come to her knowledge the day before.

Mrs. Goodman was much impressed. She had never clearly heard before what
circumstances had attended the resignation of Paula’s architect. ‘We had
better not tell her till the wedding is over,’ she presently said; ‘it
would only disturb her, and do no good.’

‘But will it be right?’ asked Miss De Stancy.

‘Yes, it will be right if we tell her afterwards. O yes--it must
be right,’ she repeated in a tone which showed that her opinion was
unstable enough to require a little fortification by the voice. ‘She
loves your brother; she must, since she is going to marry him; and it
can make little difference whether we rehabilitate the character of a
friend now, or some few hours hence. The author of those wicked tricks
on Mr. Somerset ought not to go a moment unpunished.’

‘That’s what I think; and what right have we to hold our tongues even
for a few hours?’

Charlotte found that by telling Mrs. Goodman she had simply made two
irresolute people out of one, and as Paula was now inquiring for her,
she went upstairs without having come to any decision.



XIV.

Paula was in her boudoir, writing down some notes previous to beginning
her wedding toilet, which was designed to harmonize with the simplicity
that characterized the other arrangements. She owned that it was
depriving the neighbourhood of a pageant which it had a right to expect
of her; but the circumstance was inexorable.

Mrs. Goodman entered Paula’s room immediately behind Charlotte. Perhaps
the only difference between the Paula of to-day and the Paula of last
year was an accession of thoughtfulness, natural to the circumstances in
any case, and more particularly when, as now, the bride’s isolation made
self-dependence a necessity. She was sitting in a light dressing-gown,
and her face, which was rather pale, flushed at the entrance of
Charlotte and her aunt.

‘I knew you were come,’ she said, when Charlotte stooped and kissed
her. ‘I heard you. I have done nothing this morning, and feel dreadfully
unsettled. Is all well?’

The question was put without thought, but its aptness seemed almost to
imply an intuitive knowledge of their previous conversation. ‘Yes,’ said
Charlotte tardily.

‘Well, now, Clementine shall dress you, and I can do with Milly,’
continued Paula. ‘Come along. Well, aunt--what’s the matter?--and you,
Charlotte? You look harassed.’

‘I have not slept well,’ said Charlotte.

‘And have not you slept well either, aunt? You said nothing about it at
breakfast.’

‘O, it is nothing,’ said Mrs. Goodman quickly. ‘I have been disturbed
by learning of somebody’s villainy. I am going to tell you all some time
to-day, but it is not important enough to disturb you with now.’

‘No mystery!’ argued Paula. ‘Come! it is not fair.’

‘I don’t think it is quite fair,’ said Miss De Stancy, looking from one
to the other in some distress. ‘Mrs. Goodman--I must tell her! Paula,
Mr. Som--’

‘He’s dead!’ cried Paula, sinking into a chair and turning as pale as
marble. ‘Is he dead?--tell me!’ she whispered.

‘No, no--he’s not dead--he is very well, and gone to Normandy for a
holiday!’

‘O--I am glad to hear it,’ answered Paula, with a sudden cool
mannerliness.

‘He has been misrepresented,’ said Mrs. Goodman. ‘That’s all.’

‘Well?’ said Paula, with her eyes bent on the floor.

‘I have been feeling that I ought to tell you clearly, dear Paula,’
declared her friend. ‘It is absolutely false about his telegraphing to
you for money--it is absolutely false that his character is such as that
dreadful picture represented it. There--that’s the substance of it, and
I can tell you particulars at any time.’

But Paula would not be told at any time. A dreadful sorrow sat in her
face; she insisted upon learning everything about the matter there and
then, and there was no withstanding her.

When it was all explained she said in a low tone: ‘It is that
pernicious, evil man Dare--yet why is it he?--what can he have meant
by it! Justice before generosity, even on one’s wedding-day. Before I
become any man’s wife this morning I’ll see that wretch in jail! The
affair must be sifted.... O, it was a wicked thing to serve anybody
so!--I’ll send for Cunningham Haze this moment--the culprit is even now
on the premises, I believe--acting as clerk of the works!’ The usually
well-balanced Paula was excited, and scarcely knowing what she did went
to the bell-pull.

‘Don’t act hastily, Paula,’ said her aunt. ‘Had you not better consult
Sir William? He will act for you in this.’

‘Yes--He is coming round in a few minutes,’ said Charlotte, jumping at
this happy thought of Mrs. Goodman’s. ‘He’s going to run across to see
how you are getting on. He will be here by ten.’

‘Yes--he promised last night.’

She had scarcely done speaking when the prancing of a horse was heard in
the ward below, and in a few minutes a servant announced Sir William De
Stancy.

De Stancy entered saying, ‘I have ridden across for ten minutes, as I
said I would do, to know if everything is easy and straightforward for
you. There will be time enough for me to get back and prepare if I start
shortly. Well?’

‘I am ruffled,’ said Paula, allowing him to take her hand.

‘What is it?’ said her betrothed.

As Paula did not immediately answer Mrs. Goodman beckoned to Charlotte,
and they left the room together.

‘A man has to be given in charge, or a boy, or a demon,’ she replied. ‘I
was going to do it, but you can do it better than I. He will run away if
we don’t mind.’

‘But, my dear Paula, who is it?--what has he done?’

‘It is Dare--that young man you see out there against the sky.’ She
looked from the window sideways towards the new wing, on the roof of
which Dare was walking prominently about, after having assisted two of
the workmen in putting a red streamer on the tallest scaffold-pole. ‘You
must send instantly for Mr. Cunningham Haze!’

‘My dearest Paula,’ repeated De Stancy faintly, his complexion changing
to that of a man who had died.

‘Please send for Mr. Haze at once,’ returned Paula, with graceful
firmness. ‘I said I would be just to a wronged man before I was generous
to you--and I will. That lad Dare--to take a practical view of it--has
attempted to defraud me of one hundred pounds sterling, and he shall
suffer. I won’t tell you what he has done besides, for though it is
worse, it is less tangible. When he is handcuffed and sent off to jail
I’ll proceed with my dressing. Will you ring the bell?’

‘Had you not better consider?’ began De Stancy.

‘Consider!’ said Paula, with indignation. ‘I have considered. Will you
kindly ring, Sir William, and get Thomas to ride at once to Mr. Haze? Or
must I rise from this chair and do it myself?’

‘You are very hasty and abrupt this morning, I think,’ he faltered.

Paula rose determinedly from the chair. ‘Since you won’t do it, I must,’
she said.

‘No, dearest!--Let me beg you not to!’

‘Sir William De Stancy!’

She moved towards the bell-pull; but he stepped before and intercepted
her.

‘You must not ring the bell for that purpose,’ he said with husky
deliberateness, looking into the depths of her face.

‘It wants two hours to the time when you might have a right to express
such a command as that,’ she said haughtily.

‘I certainly have not the honour to be your husband yet,’ he sadly
replied, ‘but surely you can listen? There exist reasons against giving
this boy in charge which I could easily get you to admit by explanation;
but I would rather, without explanation, have you take my word, when I
say that by doing so you are striking a blow against both yourself and
me.’

Paula, however, had rung the bell.

‘You are jealous of somebody or something perhaps!’ she said, in tones
which showed how fatally all this was telling against the intention of
that day. ‘I will not be a party to baseness, if it is to save all my
fortune!’

The bell was answered quickly. But De Stancy, though plainly in great
misery, did not give up his point. Meeting the servant at the door
before he could enter the room he said. ‘It is nothing; you can go
again.’

Paula looked at the unhappy baronet in amazement; then turning to the
servant, who stood with the door in his hand, said, ‘Tell Thomas to
saddle the chestnut, and--’

‘It’s all a mistake,’ insisted De Stancy. ‘Leave the room, James!’

James looked at his mistress.

‘Yes, James, leave the room,’ she calmly said, sitting down. ‘Now what
have you to say?’ she asked, when they were again alone. ‘Why must I not
issue orders in my own house? Who is this young criminal, that you
value his interests higher than my honour? I have delayed for one
moment sending my messenger to the chief constable to hear your
explanation--only for that.’

‘You will still persevere?’

‘Certainly. Who is he?’

‘Paula... he is my son.’

She remained still as death while one might count ten; then turned her
back upon him. ‘I think you had better go away,’ she whispered. ‘You
need not come again.’

He did not move. ‘Paula--do you indeed mean this?’ he asked.

‘I do.’

De Stancy walked a few paces, then said in a low voice: ‘Miss Power,
I knew--I guessed just now, as soon as it began--that we were going to
split on this rock. Well--let it be--it cannot be helped; destiny is
supreme. The boy was to be my ruin; he is my ruin, and rightly. But
before I go grant me one request. Do not prosecute him. Believe me, I
will do everything I can to get him out of your way. He shall annoy you
no more.... Do you promise?’

‘I do,’ she said. ‘Now please leave me.’

‘Once more--am I to understand that no marriage is to take place to-day
between you and me?’

‘You are.’

Sir William De Stancy left the room. It was noticeable throughout the
interview that his manner had not been the manner of a man altogether
taken by surprise. During the few preceding days his mood had been that
of the gambler seasoned in ill-luck, who adopts pessimist surmises as a
safe background to his most sanguine hopes.

She remained alone for some time. Then she rang, and requested that
Mr. Wardlaw, her father’s solicitor and friend, would come up to her. A
messenger was despatched, not to Mr. Cunningham Haze, but to the parson
of the parish, who in his turn sent to the clerk and clerk’s wife,
then busy in the church. On receipt of the intelligence the two latter
functionaries proceeded to roll up the carpet which had been laid from
the door to the gate, put away the kneeling-cushions, locked the doors,
and went off to inquire the reason of so strange a countermand. It was
soon proclaimed in Markton that the marriage had been postponed for a
fortnight in consequence of the bride’s sudden indisposition: and less
public emotion was felt than the case might have drawn forth, from the
ignorance of the majority of the populace that a wedding had been going
to take place at all.

Meanwhile Miss De Stancy had been closeted with Paula for more than an
hour. It was a difficult meeting, and a severe test to any friendship
but that of the most sterling sort. In the turmoil of her distraction
Charlotte had the consolation of knowing that if her act of justice to
Somerset at such a moment were the act of a simpleton, it was the only
course open to honesty. But Paula’s cheerful serenity in some
measure laid her own troubles to rest, till they were reawakened by a
rumour--which got wind some weeks later, and quite drowned all other
surprises--of the true relation between the vanished clerk of works, Mr.
Dare, and the fallen family of De Stancy.



BOOK THE SIXTH. PAULA.


I.

‘I have decided that I cannot see Sir William again: I shall go away,’
said Paula on the evening of the next day, as she lay on her bed in a
flushed and highly-strung condition, though a person who had heard her
words without seeing her face would have assumed perfect equanimity to
be the mood which expressed itself with such quietness. This was the
case with her aunt, who was looking out of the window at some idlers
from Markton walking round the castle with their eyes bent upon its
windows, and she made no haste to reply.

‘Those people have come to see me, as they have a right to do when
a person acts so strangely,’ Paula continued. ‘And hence I am better
away.’

‘Where do you think to go to?’

Paula replied in the tone of one who was actuated entirely by practical
considerations: ‘Out of England certainly. And as Normandy lies nearest,
I think I shall go there. It is a very nice country to ramble in.’

‘Yes, it is a very nice country to ramble in,’ echoed her aunt, in
moderate tones. ‘When do you intend to start?’

‘I should like to cross to-night. You must go with me, aunt; will you
not?’

Mrs. Goodman expostulated against such suddenness. ‘It will redouble
the rumours that are afloat, if, after being supposed ill, you are seen
going off by railway perfectly well.’

‘That’s a contingency which I am quite willing to run the risk of. Well,
it would be rather sudden, as you say, to go to-night. But we’ll go
to-morrow night at latest.’ Under the influence of the decision she
bounded up like an elastic ball and went to the glass, which showed
a light in her eye that had not been there before this resolution to
travel in Normandy had been taken.

The evening and the next morning were passed in writing a final
and kindly note of dismissal to Sir William De Stancy, in making
arrangements for the journey, and in commissioning Havill to take
advantage of their absence by emptying certain rooms of their furniture,
and repairing their dilapidations--a work which, with that in hand,
would complete the section for which he had been engaged. Mr. Wardlaw
had left the castle; so also had Charlotte, by her own wish, her
residence there having been found too oppressive to herself to be
continued for the present. Accompanied by Mrs. Goodman, Milly, and
Clementine, the elderly French maid, who still remained with them, Paula
drove into Markton in the twilight and took the train to Budmouth.

When they got there they found that an unpleasant breeze was blowing out
at sea, though inland it had been calm enough. Mrs. Goodman proposed to
stay at Budmouth till the next day, in hope that there might be smooth
water; but an English seaport inn being a thing that Paula disliked
more than a rough passage, she would not listen to this counsel. Other
impatient reasons, too, might have weighed with her. When night came
their looming miseries began. Paula found that in addition to her own
troubles she had those of three other people to support; but she did not
audibly complain.

‘Paula, Paula,’ said Mrs. Goodman from beneath her load of wretchedness,
‘why did we think of undergoing this?’

A slight gleam of humour crossed Paula’s not particularly blooming face,
as she answered, ‘Ah, why indeed?’

‘What is the real reason, my dear? For God’s sake tell me!’

‘It begins with S.’

‘Well, I would do anything for that young man short of personal
martyrdom; but really when it comes to that--’

‘Don’t criticize me, auntie, and I won’t criticize you.’

‘Well, I am open to criticism just now, I am sure,’ said her aunt, with
a green smile; and speech was again discontinued.

The morning was bright and beautiful, and it could again be seen in
Paula’s looks that she was glad she had come, though, in taking
their rest at Cherbourg, fate consigned them to an hotel breathing an
atmosphere that seemed specially compounded for depressing the spirits
of a young woman; indeed nothing had particularly encouraged her thus
far in her somewhat peculiar scheme of searching out and expressing
sorrow to a gentleman for having believed those who traduced him; and
this coup d’audace to which she had committed herself began to look
somewhat formidable. When in England the plan of following him to
Normandy had suggested itself as the quickest, sweetest, and most honest
way of making amends; but having arrived there she seemed further off
from his sphere of existence than when she had been at Stancy Castle.
Virtually she was, for if he thought of her at all, he probably thought
of her there; if he sought her he would seek her there. However, as he
would probably never do the latter, it was necessary to go on. It had
been her sudden dream before starting, to light accidentally upon him in
some romantic old town of this romantic old province, but she had become
aware that the recorded fortune of lovers in that respect was not to be
trusted too implicitly.

Somerset’s search for her in the south was now inversely imitated.
By diligent inquiry in Cherbourg during the gloom of evening, in the
disguise of a hooded cloak, she learnt out the place of his stay while
there, and that he had gone thence to Lisieux. What she knew of the
architectural character of Lisieux half guaranteed the truth of the
information. Without telling her aunt of this discovery she announced
to that lady that it was her great wish to go on and see the beauties of
Lisieux.

But though her aunt was simple, there were bounds to her simplicity.
‘Paula,’ she said, with an undeceivable air, ‘I don’t think you should
run after a young man like this. Suppose he shouldn’t care for you by
this time.’

It was no occasion for further affectation. ‘I am SURE he will,’
answered her niece flatly. ‘I have not the least fear about it--nor
would you, if you knew how he is. He will forgive me anything.’

‘Well, pray don’t show yourself forward. Some people are apt to fly into
extremes.’

Paula blushed a trifle, and reflected, and made no answer. However, her
purpose seemed not to be permanently affected, for the next morning
she was up betimes and preparing to depart; and they proceeded almost
without stopping to the architectural curiosity-town which had so
quickly interested her. Nevertheless her ardent manner of yesterday
underwent a considerable change, as if she had a fear that, as her aunt
suggested, in her endeavour to make amends for cruel injustice, she was
allowing herself to be carried too far.

On nearing the place she said, ‘Aunt, I think you had better call upon
him; and you need not tell him we have come on purpose. Let him think,
if he will, that we heard he was here, and would not leave without
seeing him. You can also tell him that I am anxious to clear up a
misunderstanding, and ask him to call at our hotel.’

But as she looked over the dreary suburban erections which lined the
road from the railway to the old quarter of the town, it occurred to her
that Somerset would at that time of day be engaged in one or other of
the mediaeval buildings thereabout, and that it would be a much neater
thing to meet him as if by chance in one of these edifices than to call
upon him anywhere. Instead of putting up at any hotel, they left the
maids and baggage at the station; and hiring a carriage, Paula told the
coachman to drive them to such likely places as she could think of.

‘He’ll never forgive you,’ said her aunt, as they rumbled into the town.

‘Won’t he?’ said Paula, with soft faith. ‘I’ll see about that.’

‘What are you going to do when you find him? Tell him point-blank that
you are in love with him?’

‘Act in such a manner that he may tell me he is in love with me.’

They first visited a large church at the upper end of a square that
sloped its gravelled surface to the western shine, and was pricked out
with little avenues of young pollard limes. The church within was one to
make any Gothic architect take lodgings in its vicinity for a fortnight,
though it was just now crowded with a forest of scaffolding for repairs
in progress. Mrs. Goodman sat down outside, and Paula, entering, took a
walk in the form of a horse-shoe; that is, up the south aisle, round the
apse, and down the north side; but no figure of a melancholy young
man sketching met her eye anywhere. The sun that blazed in at the west
doorway smote her face as she emerged from beneath it and revealed real
sadness there.

‘This is not all the old architecture of the town by far,’ she said to
her aunt with an air of confidence. ‘Coachman, drive to St. Jacques’.’

He was not at St. Jacques’. Looking from the west end of that building
the girl observed the end of a steep narrow street of antique character,
which seemed a likely haunt. Beckoning to her aunt to follow in the fly
Paula walked down the street.

She was transported to the Middle Ages. It contained the shops of
tinkers, braziers, bellows-menders, hollow-turners, and other quaintest
trades, their fronts open to the street beneath stories of timber
overhanging so far on each side that a slit of sky was left at the top
for the light to descend, and no more. A blue misty obscurity pervaded
the atmosphere, into which the sun thrust oblique staves of light. It
was a street for a mediaevalist to revel in, toss up his hat and shout
hurrah in, send for his luggage, come and live in, die and be buried in.
She had never supposed such a street to exist outside the imaginations
of antiquarians. Smells direct from the sixteenth century hung in the
air in all their original integrity and without a modern taint. The
faces of the people in the doorways seemed those of individuals who
habitually gazed on the great Francis, and spoke of Henry the Eighth as
the king across the sea.

She inquired of a coppersmith if an English artist had been seen here
lately. With a suddenness that almost discomfited her he announced
that such a man had been seen, sketching a house just below--the ‘Vieux
Manoir de Francois premier.’ Just turning to see that her aunt was
following in the fly, Paula advanced to the house. The wood framework of
the lower story was black and varnished; the upper story was brown and
not varnished; carved figures of dragons, griffins, satyrs, and mermaids
swarmed over the front; an ape stealing apples was the subject of this
cantilever, a man undressing of that. These figures were cloaked with
little cobwebs which waved in the breeze, so that each figure seemed
alive.

She examined the woodwork closely; here and there she discerned
pencil-marks which had no doubt been jotted thereon by Somerset as
points of admeasurement, in the way she had seen him mark them at the
castle. Some fragments of paper lay below: there were pencilled lines on
them, and they bore a strong resemblance to a spoilt leaf of Somerset’s
sketch-book. Paula glanced up, and from a window above protruded an old
woman’s head, which, with the exception of the white handkerchief tied
round it, was so nearly of the colour of the carvings that she might
easily have passed as of a piece with them. The aged woman continued
motionless, the remains of her eyes being bent upon Paula, who asked her
in Englishwoman’s French where the sketcher had gone. Without replying,
the crone produced a hand and extended finger from her side, and pointed
towards the lower end of the street.

Paula went on, the carriage following with difficulty, on account of
the obstructions in the thoroughfare. At bottom, the street abutted on
a wide one with customary modern life flowing through it; and as she
looked, Somerset crossed her front along this street, hurrying as if for
a wager.

By the time that Paula had reached the bottom Somerset was a long way
to the left, and she recognized to her dismay that the busy transverse
street was one which led to the railway. She quickened her pace to a
run; he did not see her; he even walked faster. She looked behind for
the carriage. The driver in emerging from the sixteenth-century street
to the nineteenth had apparently turned to the right, instead of to the
left as she had done, so that her aunt had lost sight of her. However,
she dare not mind it, if Somerset would but look back! He partly turned,
but not far enough, and it was only to hail a passing omnibus upon which
she discerned his luggage. Somerset jumped in, the omnibus drove on, and
diminished up the long road. Paula stood hopelessly still, and in a few
minutes puffs of steam showed her that the train had gone.

She turned and waited, the two or three children who had gathered
round her looking up sympathizingly in her face. Her aunt, having now
discovered the direction of her flight, drove up and beckoned to her.

‘What’s the matter?’ asked Mrs. Goodman in alarm.

‘Why?’

‘That you should run like that, and look so woebegone.’

‘Nothing: only I have decided not to stay in this town.’

‘What! he is gone, I suppose?’

‘Yes!’ exclaimed Paula, with tears of vexation in her eyes. ‘It isn’t
every man who gets a woman of my position to run after him on foot, and
alone, and he ought to have looked round! Drive to the station; I want
to make an inquiry.’

On reaching the station she asked the booking-clerk some questions, and
returned to her aunt with a cheerful countenance. ‘Mr. Somerset has only
gone to Caen,’ she said. ‘He is the only Englishman who went by this
train, so there is no mistake. There is no other train for two hours. We
will go on then--shall we?’

‘I am indifferent,’ said Mrs. Goodman. ‘But, Paula, do you think this
quite right? Perhaps he is not so anxious for your forgiveness as you
think. Perhaps he saw you, and wouldn’t stay.’

A momentary dismay crossed her face, but it passed, and she answered,
‘Aunt, that’s nonsense. I know him well enough, and can assure you that
if he had only known I was running after him, he would have looked round
sharply enough, and would have given his little finger rather than have
missed me! I don’t make myself so silly as to run after a gentleman
without good grounds, for I know well that it is an undignified thing to
do. Indeed, I could never have thought of doing it, if I had not been so
miserably in the wrong!’



II.

That evening when the sun was dropping out of sight they started for the
city of Somerset’s pilgrimage. Paula seated herself with her face toward
the western sky, watching from her window the broad red horizon, across
which moved thin poplars lopped to human shapes, like the walking forms
in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace. It was dark when the travellers drove into
Caen.

She still persisted in her wish to casually encounter Somerset in some
aisle, lady-chapel, or crypt to which he might have betaken himself to
copy and learn the secret of the great artists who had erected those
nooks. Mrs. Goodman was for discovering his inn, and calling upon him in
a straightforward way; but Paula seemed afraid of it, and they went out
in the morning on foot. First they searched the church of St. Sauveur;
he was not there; next the church of St. Jean; then the church of St.
Pierre; but he did not reveal himself, nor had any verger seen or heard
of such a man. Outside the latter church was a public flower-garden, and
she sat down to consider beside a round pool in which water-lilies grew
and gold-fish swam, near beds of fiery geraniums, dahlias, and verbenas
just past their bloom. Her enterprise had not been justified by its
results so far; but meditation still urged her to listen to the little
voice within and push on. She accordingly rejoined her aunt, and they
drove up the hill to the Abbaye aux Dames, the day by this time having
grown hot and oppressive.

The church seemed absolutely empty, the void being emphasized by its
grateful coolness. But on going towards the east end they perceived a
bald gentleman close to the screen, looking to the right and to the
left as if much perplexed. Paula merely glanced over him, his back being
toward her, and turning to her aunt said softly, ‘I wonder how we get
into the choir?’

‘That’s just what I am wondering,’ said the old gentleman, abruptly
facing round, and Paula discovered that the countenance was not
unfamiliar to her eye. Since knowing Somerset she had added to her
gallery of celebrities a photograph of his father, the Academician, and
he it was now who confronted her.

For the moment embarrassment, due to complicated feelings, brought a
slight blush to her cheek, but being well aware that he did not know
her, she answered, coolly enough, ‘I suppose we must ask some one.’

‘And we certainly would if there were any one to ask,’ he said, still
looking eastward, and not much at her. ‘I have been here a long time,
but nobody comes. Not that I want to get in on my own account; for
though it is thirty years since I last set foot in this place, I
remember it as if it were but yesterday.’

‘Indeed. I have never been here before,’ said Paula.

‘Naturally. But I am looking for a young man who is making sketches in
some of these buildings, and it is as likely as not that he is in the
crypt under this choir, for it is just such out-of-the-way nooks that
he prefers. It is very provoking that he should not have told me more
distinctly in his letter where to find him.’

Mrs. Goodman, who had gone to make inquiries, now came back, and
informed them that she had learnt that it was necessary to pass through
the Hotel-Dieu to the choir, to do which they must go outside. Thereupon
they walked on together, and Mr. Somerset, quite ignoring his troubles,
made remarks upon the beauty of the architecture; and in absence of
mind, by reason either of the subject, or of his listener, retained his
hat in his hand after emerging from the church, while they walked all
the way across the Place and into the Hospital gardens.

‘A very civil man,’ said Mrs. Goodman to Paula privately.

‘Yes,’ said Paula, who had not told her aunt that she recognized him.

One of the Sisters now preceded them towards the choir and crypt, Mr.
Somerset asking her if a young Englishman was or had been sketching
there. On receiving a reply in the negative, Paula nearly betrayed
herself by turning, as if her business there, too, ended with the
information. However, she went on again, and made a pretence of looking
round, Mr. Somerset also staying in a spirit of friendly attention to
his countrywomen. They did not part from him till they had come out from
the crypt, and again reached the west front, on their way to which he
additionally explained that it was his son he was looking for, who had
arranged to meet him here, but had mentioned no inn at which he might be
expected.

When he had left them, Paula informed her aunt whose company they had
been sharing. Her aunt began expostulating with Paula for not telling
Mr. Somerset what they had seen of his son’s movements. ‘It would have
eased his mind at least,’ she said.

‘I was not bound to ease his mind at the expense of showing what I would
rather conceal. I am continually hampered in such generosity as that by
the circumstance of being a woman!’

‘Well, it is getting too late to search further tonight.’

It was indeed almost evening twilight in the streets, though the
graceful freestone spires to a depth of about twenty feet from their
summits were still dyed with the orange tints of a vanishing sun. The
two relatives dined privately as usual, after which Paula looked out
of the window of her room, and reflected upon the events of the day. A
tower rising into the sky quite near at hand showed her that some church
or other stood within a few steps of the hotel archway, and saying
nothing to Mrs. Goodman, she quietly cloaked herself, and went out
towards it, apparently with the view of disposing of a portion of a dull
dispiriting evening. The church was open, and on entering she found
that it was only lighted by seven candles burning before the altar of a
chapel on the south side, the mass of the building being in deep
shade. Motionless outlines, which resolved themselves into the forms
of kneeling women, were darkly visible among the chairs, and in the
triforium above the arcades there was one hitherto unnoticed radiance,
dim as that of a glow-worm in the grass. It was seemingly the effect of
a solitary tallow-candle behind the masonry.

A priest came in, unlocked the door of a confessional with a click which
sounded in the silence, and entered it; a woman followed, disappeared
within the curtain of the same, emerging again in about five minutes,
followed by the priest, who locked up his door with another loud click,
like a tradesman full of business, and came down the aisle to go out.
In the lobby he spoke to another woman, who replied, ‘Ah, oui, Monsieur
l’Abbe!’

Two women having spoken to him, there could be no harm in a third doing
likewise. ‘Monsieur l’Abbe,’ said Paula in French, ‘could you indicate
to me the stairs of the triforium?’ and she signified her reason for
wishing to know by pointing to the glimmering light above.

‘Ah, he is a friend of yours, the Englishman?’ pleasantly said the
priest, recognizing her nationality; and taking her to a little door he
conducted her up a stone staircase, at the top of which he showed her
the long blind story over the aisle arches which led round to where the
light was. Cautioning her not to stumble over the uneven floor, he left
her and descended. His words had signified that Somerset was here.

It was a gloomy place enough that she found herself in, but the seven
candles below on the opposite altar, and a faint sky light from the
clerestory, lent enough rays to guide her. Paula walked on to the bend
of the apse: here were a few chairs, and the origin of the light.

This was a candle stuck at the end of a sharpened stick, the latter
entering a joint in the stones. A young man was sketching by the
glimmer. But there was no need for the blush which had prepared
itself beforehand; the young man was Mr. Cockton, Somerset’s youngest
draughtsman.

Paula could have cried aloud with disappointment. Cockton recognized
Miss Power, and appearing much surprised, rose from his seat with a bow,
and said hastily, ‘Mr. Somerset left to-day.’

‘I did not ask for him,’ said Paula.

‘No, Miss Power: but I thought--’

‘Yes, yes--you know, of course, that he has been my architect. Well, it
happens that I should like to see him, if he can call on me. Which way
did he go?’

‘He’s gone to Etretat.’

‘What for? There are no abbeys to sketch at Etretat.’

Cockton looked at the point of his pencil, and with a hesitating motion
of his lip answered, ‘Mr. Somerset said he was tired.’

‘Of what?’

‘He said he was sick and tired of holy places, and would go to some
wicked spot or other, to get that consolation which holiness could not
give. But he only said it casually to Knowles, and perhaps he did not
mean it.’

‘Knowles is here too?’

‘Yes, Miss Power, and Bowles. Mr. Somerset has been kind enough to give
us a chance of enlarging our knowledge of French Early-pointed, and pays
half the expenses.’

Paula said a few other things to the young man, walked slowly round
the triforium as if she had come to examine it, and returned down the
staircase. On getting back to the hotel she told her aunt, who had just
been having a nap, that next day they would go to Etretat for a change.

‘Why? There are no old churches at Etretat.’

‘No. But I am sick and tired of holy places, and want to go to some
wicked spot or other to find that consolation which holiness cannot
give.’

‘For shame, Paula! Now I know what it is; you have heard that he’s gone
there! You needn’t try to blind me.’

‘I don’t care where he’s gone!’ cried Paula petulantly. In a moment,
however, she smiled at herself, and added, ‘You must take that for what
it is worth. I have made up my mind to let him know from my own lips how
the misunderstanding arose. That done, I shall leave him, and probably
never see him again. My conscience will be clear.’

The next day they took the steamboat down the Orne, intending to
reach Etretat by way of Havre. Just as they were moving off an elderly
gentleman under a large white sunshade, and carrying his hat in his
hand, was seen leisurely walking down the wharf at some distance, but
obviously making for the boat.

‘A gentleman!’ said the mate.

‘Who is he?’ said the captain.

‘An English,’ said Clementine.

Nobody knew more, but as leisure was the order of the day the engines
were stopped, on the chance of his being a passenger, and all eyes were
bent upon him in conjecture. He disappeared and reappeared from behind
a pile of merchandise and approached the boat at an easy pace, whereupon
the gangway was replaced, and he came on board, removing his hat to
Paula, quietly thanking the captain for stopping, and saying to Mrs.
Goodman, ‘I am nicely in time.’

It was Mr. Somerset the elder, who by degrees informed our travellers,
as sitting on their camp-stools they advanced between the green banks
bordered by elms, that he was going to Etretat; that the young man he
had spoken of yesterday had gone to that romantic watering-place instead
of studying art at Caen, and that he was going to join him there.

Paula preserved an entire silence as to her own intentions, partly from
natural reticence, and partly, as it appeared, from the difficulty of
explaining a complication which was not very clear to herself. At Havre
they parted from Mr. Somerset, and did not see him again till they were
driving over the hills towards Etretat in a carriage and four, when the
white umbrella became visible far ahead among the outside passengers of
the coach to the same place. In a short time they had passed and cut in
before this vehicle, but soon became aware that their carriage, like the
coach, was one of a straggling procession of conveyances, some mile and
a half in length, all bound for the village between the cliffs.

In descending the long hill shaded by lime-trees which sheltered their
place of destination, this procession closed up, and they perceived that
all the visitors and native population had turned out to welcome
them, the daily arrival of new sojourners at this hour being the chief
excitement of Etretat. The coach which had preceded them all the way, at
more or less remoteness, was now quite close, and in passing along the
village street they saw Mr. Somerset wave his hand to somebody in the
crowd below. A felt hat was waved in the air in response, the coach
swept into the inn-yard, followed by the idlers, and all disappeared.
Paula’s face was crimson as their own carriage swept round in the
opposite direction to the rival inn.

Once in her room she breathed like a person who had finished a long
chase. They did not go down before dinner, but when it was almost dark
Paula begged her aunt to wrap herself up and come with her to the shore
hard by. The beach was deserted, everybody being at the Casino; the
gate stood invitingly open, and they went in. Here the brilliantly lit
terrace was crowded with promenaders, and outside the yellow palings,
surmounted by its row of lamps, rose the voice of the invisible sea.
Groups of people were sitting under the verandah, the women mostly in
wraps, for the air was growing chilly. Through the windows at their
back an animated scene disclosed itself in the shape of a room-full of
waltzers, the strains of the band striving in the ear for mastery over
the sounds of the sea. The dancers came round a couple at a time, and
were individually visible to those people without who chose to look that
way, which was what Paula did.

‘Come away, come away!’ she suddenly said. ‘It is not right for us to be
here.’

Her exclamation had its origin in what she had at that moment seen
within, the spectacle of Mr. George Somerset whirling round the room
with a young lady of uncertain nationality but pleasing figure. Paula
was not accustomed to show the white feather too clearly, but she soon
had passed out through those yellow gates and retreated, till the mixed
music of sea and band had resolved into that of the sea alone.

‘Well!’ said her aunt, half in soliloquy, ‘do you know who I saw dancing
there, Paula? Our Mr. Somerset, if I don’t make a great mistake!’

‘It was likely enough that you did,’ sedately replied her niece. ‘He
left Caen with the intention of seeking distractions of a lighter kind
than those furnished by art, and he has merely succeeded in finding
them. But he has made my duty rather a difficult one. Still, it was
my duty, for I very greatly wronged him. Perhaps, however, I have done
enough for honour’s sake. I would have humiliated myself by an apology
if I had found him in any other situation; but, of course, one can’t he
expected to take MUCH trouble when he is seen going on like that!’

The coolness with which she began her remarks had developed into
something like warmth as she concluded.

‘He is only dancing with a lady he probably knows very well.’

‘He doesn’t know her! The idea of his dancing with a woman of that
description! We will go away tomorrow. This place has been greatly
over-praised.’

‘The place is well enough, as far as I can see.’

‘He is carrying out his programme to the letter. He plunges into
excitement in the most reckless manner, and I tremble for the
consequences! I can do no more: I have humiliated myself into following
him, believing that in giving too ready credence to appearances I had
been narrow and inhuman, and had caused him much misery. But he does not
mind, and he has no misery; he seems just as well as ever. How much this
finding him has cost me! After all, I did not deceive him. He must
have acquired a natural aversion for me. I have allowed myself to be
interested in a man of very common qualities, and am now bitterly alive
to the shame of having sought him out. I heartily detest him! I will
go back--aunt, you are right--I had no business to come.... His light
conduct has rendered him uninteresting to me!’



III.

When she rose the next morning the bell was clanging for the second
breakfast, and people were pouring in from the beach in every variety
of attire. Paula, whom a restless night had left with a headache,
which, however, she said nothing about, was reluctant to emerge from the
seclusion of her chamber, till her aunt, discovering what was the matter
with her, suggested that a few minutes in the open air would refresh
her; and they went downstairs into the hotel gardens.

The clatter of the big breakfast within was audible from this spot, and
the noise seemed suddenly to inspirit Paula, who proposed to enter.
Her aunt assented. In the verandah under which they passed was a rustic
hat-stand in the form of a tree, upon which hats and other body-gear
hung like bunches of fruit. Paula’s eye fell upon a felt hat to which
a small block-book was attached by a string. She knew that hat and
block-book well, and turning to Mrs. Goodman said, ‘After all, I don’t
want the breakfast they are having: let us order one of our own as
usual. And we’ll have it here.’

She led on to where some little tables were placed under the tall
shrubs, followed by her aunt, who was in turn followed by the
proprietress of the hotel, that lady having discovered from the French
maid that there was good reason for paying these ladies ample personal
attention.

‘Is the gentleman to whom that sketch-book belongs staying here?’ Paula
carelessly inquired, as she indicated the object on the hat-stand.

‘Ah, no!’ deplored the proprietress. ‘The Hotel was full when Mr.
Somerset came. He stays at a cottage beyond the Rue Anicet Bourgeois: he
only has his meals here.’

Paula had taken her seat under the fuchsia-trees in such a manner that
she could observe all the exits from the salle a manger; but for the
present none of the breakfasters emerged, the only moving objects on the
scene being the waitresses who ran hither and thither across the court,
the cook’s assistants with baskets of long bread, and the laundresses
with baskets of sun-bleached linen. Further back towards the inn-yard,
stablemen were putting in the horses for starting the flys and coaches
to Les Ifs, the nearest railway-station.

‘Suppose the Somersets should be going off by one of these conveyances,’
said Mrs. Goodman as she sipped her tea.

‘Well, aunt, then they must,’ replied the younger lady with composure.

Nevertheless she looked with some misgiving at the nearest stableman as
he led out four white horses, harnessed them, and leisurely brought a
brush with which he began blacking their yellow hoofs. All the vehicles
were ready at the door by the time breakfast was over, and the inmates
soon turned out, some to mount the omnibuses and carriages, some to
ramble on the adjacent beach, some to climb the verdant slopes, and some
to make for the cliffs that shut in the vale. The fuchsia-trees which
sheltered Paula’s breakfast-table from the blaze of the sun, also
screened it from the eyes of the outpouring company, and she sat on
with her aunt in perfect comfort, till among the last of the stream came
Somerset and his father. Paula reddened at being so near the former at
last. It was with sensible relief that she observed them turn towards
the cliffs and not to the carriages, and thus signify that they were not
going off that day.

Neither of the two saw the ladies, and when the latter had finished
their tea and coffee they followed to the shore, where they sat for
nearly an hour, reading and watching the bathers. At length footsteps
crunched among the pebbles in their vicinity, and looking out from her
sunshade Paula saw the two Somersets close at hand.

The elder recognized her, and the younger, observing his father’s action
of courtesy, turned his head. It was a revelation to Paula, for she was
shocked to see that he appeared worn and ill. The expression of his
face changed at sight of her, increasing its shade of paleness; but he
immediately withdrew his eyes and passed by.

Somerset was as much surprised at encountering her thus as she had been
distressed to see him. As soon as they were out of hearing, he asked his
father quietly, ‘What strange thing is this, that Lady De Stancy should
be here and her husband not with her? Did she bow to me, or to you?’

‘Lady De Stancy--that young lady?’ asked the puzzled painter. He
proceeded to explain all he knew; that she was a young lady he had met
on his journey at two or three different times; moreover, that if
she were his son’s client--the woman who was to have become Lady De
Stancy--she was Miss Power still; for he had seen in some newspaper
two days before leaving England that the wedding had been postponed on
account of her illness.

Somerset was so greatly moved that he could hardly speak connectedly to
his father as they paced on together. ‘But she is not ill, as far as I
can see,’ he said. ‘The wedding postponed?--You are sure the word was
postponed?--Was it broken off?’

‘No, it was postponed. I meant to have told you before, knowing you
would be interested as the castle architect; but it slipped my memory in
the bustle of arriving.’

‘I am not the castle architect.’

‘The devil you are not--what are you then?’

‘Well, I am not that.’

Somerset the elder, though not of penetrating nature, began to see that
here lay an emotional complication of some sort, and reserved further
inquiry till a more convenient occasion. They had reached the end of
the level beach where the cliff began to rise, and as this impediment
naturally stopped their walk they retraced their steps. On again nearing
the spot where Paula and her aunt were sitting, the painter would have
deviated to the hotel; but as his son persisted in going straight on, in
due course they were opposite the ladies again. By this time Miss
Power, who had appeared anxious during their absence, regained her
self-control. Going towards her old lover she said, with a smile, ‘I
have been looking for you!’

‘Why have you been doing that?’ said Somerset, in a voice which he
failed to keep as steady as he could wish.

‘Because--I want some architect to continue the restoration. Do you
withdraw your resignation?’

Somerset appeared unable to decide for a few instants. ‘Yes,’ he then
answered.

For the moment they had ignored the presence of the painter and Mrs.
Goodman, but Somerset now made them known to one another, and there was
friendly intercourse all round.

‘When will you be able to resume operations at the castle?’ she asked,
as soon as she could again speak directly to Somerset.

‘As soon as I can get back. Of course I only resume it at your special
request.’

‘Of course.’ To one who had known all the circumstances it would have
seemed a thousand pities that, after again getting face to face with
him, she did not explain, without delay, the whole mischief that
had separated them. But she did not do it--perhaps from the inherent
awkwardness of such a topic at this idle time. She confined herself
simply to the above-mentioned business-like request, and when the party
had walked a few steps together they separated, with mutual promises to
meet again.

‘I hope you have explained your mistake to him, and how it arose, and
everything?’ said her aunt when they were alone.

‘No, I did not.’

‘What, not explain after all?’ said her amazed relative.

‘I decided to put it off.’

‘Then I think you decided very wrongly. Poor young man, he looked so
ill!’

‘Did you, too, think he looked ill? But he danced last night. Why did he
dance?’ She turned and gazed regretfully at the corner round which the
Somersets had disappeared.

‘I don’t know why he danced; but if I had known you were going to be so
silent, I would have explained the mistake myself.’

‘I wish you had. But no; I have said I would; and I must.’

Paula’s avoidance of tables d’hote did not extend to the present one.
It was quite with alacrity that she went down; and with her entry the
antecedent hotel beauty who had reigned for the last five days at that
meal, was unceremoniously deposed by the guests. Mr. Somerset the elder
came in, but nobody with him. His seat was on Paula’s left hand, Mrs.
Goodman being on Paula’s right, so that all the conversation was between
the Academician and the younger lady. When the latter had again retired
upstairs with her aunt, Mrs. Goodman expressed regret that young Mr.
Somerset was absent from the table. ‘Why has he kept away?’ she asked.

‘I don’t know--I didn’t ask,’ said Paula sadly. ‘Perhaps he doesn’t care
to meet us again.’

‘That’s because you didn’t explain.’

‘Well--why didn’t the old man give me an opportunity?’ exclaimed the
niece with suppressed excitement. ‘He would scarcely say anything but
yes and no, and gave me no chance at all of introducing the subject. I
wanted to explain--I came all the way on purpose--I would have begged
George’s pardon on my two knees if there had been any way of beginning;
but there was not, and I could not do it!’

Though she slept badly that night, Paula promptly appeared in the public
room to breakfast, and that not from motives of vanity; for, while not
unconscious of her accession to the unstable throne of queen-beauty in
the establishment, she seemed too preoccupied to care for the honour
just then, and would readily have changed places with her unhappy
predecessor, who lingered on in the background like a candle after
sunrise.

Mrs. Goodman was determined to trust no longer to Paula for putting an
end to what made her so restless and self-reproachful. Seeing old Mr.
Somerset enter to a little side-table behind for lack of room at the
crowded centre tables, again without his son, she turned her head and
asked point-blank where the young man was.

Mr. Somerset’s face became a shade graver than before. ‘My son is
unwell,’ he replied; ‘so unwell that he has been advised to stay indoors
and take perfect rest.’

‘I do hope it is nothing serious.’

‘I hope so too. The fact is, he has overdone himself a little. He was
not well when he came here; and to make himself worse he must needs go
dancing at the Casino with this lady and that--among others with a young
American lady who is here with her family, and whom he met in London
last year. I advised him against it, but he seemed desperately
determined to shake off lethargy by any rash means, and wouldn’t listen
to me. Luckily he is not in the hotel, but in a quiet cottage a hundred
yards up the hill.’

Paula, who had heard all, did not show or say what she felt at the news:
but after breakfast, on meeting the landlady in a passage alone, she
asked with some anxiety if there were a really skilful medical man in
Etretat; and on being told that there was, and his name, she went back
to look for Mr. Somerset; but he had gone.

They heard nothing more of young Somerset all that morning, but towards
evening, while Paula sat at her window, looking over the heads of
fuchsias upon the promenade beyond, she saw the painter walk by. She
immediately went to her aunt and begged her to go out and ask Mr.
Somerset if his son had improved.

‘I will send Milly or Clementine,’ said Mrs. Goodman.

‘I wish you would see him yourself.’

‘He has gone on. I shall never find him.’

‘He has only gone round to the front,’ persisted Paula. ‘Do walk that
way, auntie, and ask him.’

Thus pressed, Mrs. Goodman acquiesced, and brought back intelligence to
Miss Power, who had watched them through the window, that his son did
not positively improve, but that his American friends were very kind to
him.

Having made use of her aunt, Paula seemed particularly anxious to get
rid of her again, and when that lady sat down to write letters, Paula
went to her own room, hastily dressed herself without assistance, asked
privately the way to the cottage, and went off thitherward unobserved.

At the upper end of the lane she saw a little house answering to the
description, whose front garden, window-sills, palings, and doorstep
were literally ablaze with nasturtiums in bloom.

She entered this inhabited nosegay, quietly asked for the invalid, and
if he were well enough to see Miss Power. The woman of the house soon
returned, and she was conducted up a crooked staircase to Somerset’s
modest apartments. It appeared that some rooms in this dwelling had
been furnished by the landlady of the inn, who hired them of the tenant
during the summer season to use as an annexe to the hotel.

Admitted to the outer room she beheld her architect looking as
unarchitectural as possible; lying on a small couch which was drawn up
to the open casement, whence he had a back view of the window flowers,
and enjoyed a green transparency through the undersides of the same
nasturtium leaves that presented their faces to the passers without.

When the latch had again clicked into the catch of the closed door Paula
went up to the invalid, upon whose pale and interesting face a flush had
arisen simultaneously with the announcement of her name. He would have
sprung up to receive her, but she pressed him down, and throwing
all reserve on one side for the first time in their intercourse, she
crouched beside the sofa, whispering with roguish solicitude, her face
not too far from his own: ‘How foolish you are, George, to get ill just
now when I have been wanting so much to see you again!--I am so sorry to
see you like this--what I said to you when we met on the shore was not
what I had come to say!’

Somerset took her by the hand. ‘Then what did you come to say, Paula?’
he asked.

‘I wanted to tell you that the mere wanton wandering of a capricious
mind was not the cause of my estrangement from you. There has been a
great deception practised--the exact nature of it I cannot tell you
plainly just at present; it is too painful--but it is all over, and
I can assure you of my sorrow at having behaved as I did, and of my
sincere friendship now as ever.’

‘There is nothing I shall value so much as that. It will make my work at
the castle very pleasant to feel that I can consult you about it without
fear of intruding on you against your wishes.’

‘Yes, perhaps it will. But--you do not comprehend me.’

‘You have been an enigma always.’

‘And you have been provoking; but never so provoking as now. I wouldn’t
for the world tell you the whole of my fancies as I came hither this
evening: but I should think your natural intuition would suggest what
they were.’

‘It does, Paula. But there are motives of delicacy which prevent my
acting on what is suggested to me.’

‘Delicacy is a gift, and you should thank God for it; but in some cases
it is not so precious as we would persuade ourselves.’

‘Not when the woman is rich, and the man is poor?’

‘O, George Somerset--be cold, or angry, or anything, but don’t be
like this! It is never worth a woman’s while to show regret for her
injustice; for all she gets by it is an accusation of want of delicacy.’

‘Indeed I don’t accuse you of that--I warmly, tenderly thank you for
your kindness in coming here to see me.’

‘Well, perhaps you do. But I am now in I cannot tell what mood--I will
not tell what mood, for it would be confessing more than I ought. This
finding you out is a piece of weakness that I shall not repeat; and I
have only one thing more to say. I have served you badly, George, I know
that; but it is never too late to mend; and I have come back to you.
However, I shall never run after you again, trust me for that, for it is
not the woman’s part. Still, before I go, that there may be no mistake
as to my meaning, and misery entailed on us for want of a word, I’ll add
this: that if you want to marry me, as you once did, you must say so;
for I am here to be asked.’

It would be superfluous to transcribe Somerset’s reply, and the
remainder of the scene between the pair. Let it suffice that
half-an-hour afterwards, when the sun had almost gone down, Paula walked
briskly into the hotel, troubled herself nothing about dinner, but went
upstairs to their sitting-room, where her aunt presently found her upon
the couch looking up at the ceiling through her fingers. They talked on
different subjects for some time till the old lady said ‘Mr. Somerset’s
cottage is the one covered with flowers up the lane, I hear.’

‘Yes,’ said Paula.

‘How do you know?’

‘I’ve been there.... We are going to be married, aunt.’

‘Indeed!’ replied Mrs. Goodman. ‘Well, I thought this might be the end
of it: you were determined on the point; and I am not much surprised at
your news. Your father was very wise after all in entailing everything
so strictly upon your offspring; for if he had not I should have been
driven wild with the responsibility!’

‘And now that the murder is out,’ continued Paula, passing over that
view of the case, ‘I don’t mind telling you that somehow or other I have
got to like George Somerset as desperately as a woman can care for any
man. I thought I should have died when I saw him dancing, and feared
I had lost him! He seemed ten times nicer than ever then! So silly we
women are, that I wouldn’t marry a duke in preference to him. There,
that’s my honest feeling, and you must make what you can of it; my
conscience is clear, thank Heaven!’

‘Have you fixed the day?’

‘No,’ continued the young lady, still watching the sleeping flies on the
ceiling. ‘It is left unsettled between us, while I come and ask you if
there would be any harm--if it could conveniently be before we return to
England?’

‘Paula, this is too precipitate!’

‘On the contrary, aunt. In matrimony, as in some other things, you
should be slow to decide, but quick to execute. Nothing on earth would
make me marry another man; I know every fibre of his character; and
he knows a good many fibres of mine; so as there is nothing more to be
learnt, why shouldn’t we marry at once? On one point I am firm: I will
never return to that castle as Miss Power. A nameless dread comes over
me when I think of it--a fear that some uncanny influence of the dead
De Stancys would drive me again from him. O, if it were to do that,’
she murmured, burying her face in her hands, ‘I really think it would be
more than I could bear!’

‘Very well,’ said Mrs. Goodman; ‘we will see what can be done. I will
write to Mr. Wardlaw.’



IV.

On a windy afternoon in November, when more than two months had closed
over the incidents previously recorded, a number of farmers were sitting
in a room of the Lord-Quantock-Arms Inn, Markton, that was used for the
weekly ordinary. It was a long, low apartment, formed by the union of
two or three smaller rooms, with a bow-window looking upon the street,
and at the present moment was pervaded by a blue fog from tobacco-pipes,
and a temperature like that of a kiln. The body of farmers who still
sat on there was greater than usual, owing to the cold air without, the
tables having been cleared of dinner for some time and their surface
stamped with liquid circles by the feet of the numerous glasses.

Besides the farmers there were present several professional men of
the town, who found it desirable to dine here on market-days for the
opportunity it afforded them of increasing their practice among the
agriculturists, many of whom were men of large balances, even luxurious
livers, who drove to market in elegant phaetons drawn by horses of
supreme blood, bone, and action, in a style never anticipated by their
fathers when jogging thither in light carts, or afoot with a butter
basket on each arm.

The buzz of groggy conversation was suddenly impinged on by the notes of
a peal of bells from the tower hard by. Almost at the same instant the
door of the room opened, and there entered the landlord of the little
inn at Sleeping-Green. Drawing his supply of cordials from this superior
house, to which he was subject, he came here at stated times like a
prebendary to the cathedral of his diocesan, afterwards retailing to
his own humbler audience the sentiments which he had learnt of this. But
curiosity being awakened by the church bells the usual position was for
the moment reversed, and one of the farmers, saluting him by name, asked
him the reason of their striking up at that time of day.

‘My mis’ess out yonder,’ replied the rural landlord, nodding sideways,
‘is coming home with her fancy-man. They have been a-gaying together
this turk of a while in foreign parts--Here, maid!--what with the wind,
and standing about, my blood’s as low as water--bring us a thimbleful of
that that isn’t gin and not far from it.’

‘It is true, then, that she’s become Mrs. Somerset?’ indifferently asked
a farmer in broadcloth, tenant of an estate in quite another direction
than hers, as he contemplated the grain of the table immediately
surrounding the foot of his glass.

‘True--of course it is,’ said Havill, who was also present, in the tone
of one who, though sitting in this rubicund company, was not of it. ‘I
could have told you the truth of it any day these last five weeks.’

Among those who had lent an ear was Dairyman Jinks, an old gnarled
character who wore a white fustian coat and yellow leggings; the only
man in the room who never dressed up in dark clothes for marketing. He
now asked, ‘Married abroad, was they? And how long will a wedding abroad
stand good for in this country?’

‘As long as a wedding at home.’

‘Will it? Faith; I didn’t know: how should I? I thought it might be some
new plan o’ folks for leasing women now they be so plentiful, so as to
get rid o’ ‘em when the men be tired o’ ‘em, and hev spent all their
money.’

‘He won’t be able to spend her money,’ said the landlord of
Sleeping-Green. ‘’Tis her very own person’s--settled upon the hairs of
her head for ever.’

‘O nation! Then if I were the man I shouldn’t care for such a one-eyed
benefit as that,’ said Dairyman Jinks, turning away to listen to the
talk on his other hand.

‘Is that true?’ asked the gentleman-farmer in broadcloth.

‘It is sufficiently near the truth,’ said Havill. ‘There is nothing at
all unusual in the arrangement; it was only settled so to prevent any
schemer making a beggar of her. If Somerset and she have any children,
which probably they will, it will be theirs; and what can a man want
more? Besides, there is a large portion of property left to her personal
use--quite as much as they can want. Oddly enough, the curiosities
and pictures of the castle which belonged to the De Stancys are not
restricted from sale; they are hers to do what she likes with. Old Power
didn’t care for articles that reminded him so much of his predecessors.’

‘Hey?’ said Dairyman Jinks, turning back again, having decided that the
conversation on his right hand was, after all, the more interesting.
‘Well--why can’t ‘em hire a travelling chap to touch up the picters into
her own gaffers and gammers? Then they’d be worth sommat to her.’

‘Ah, here they are? I thought so,’ said Havill, who had been standing up
at the window for the last few moments. ‘The ringers were told to begin
as soon as the train signalled.’

As he spoke a carriage drew up to the hotel-door, followed by another
with the maid and luggage. The inmates crowded to the bow-window, except
Dairyman Jinks, who had become absorbed in his own reflections.

‘What be they stopping here for?’ asked one of the previous speakers.

‘They are going to stay here to-night,’ said Havill. ‘They have come
quite unexpectedly, and the castle is in such a state of turmoil that
there is not a single carpet down, or room for them to use. We shall get
two or three in order by next week.’

‘Two little people like them will be lost in the chammers of that
wandering place!’ satirized Dairyman Jinks. ‘They will be bound to have
a randy every fortnight to keep the moth out of the furniture!’

By this time Somerset was handing out the wife of his bosom, and
Dairyman Jinks went on: ‘That’s no more Miss Power that was, than my
niece’s daughter Kezia is Miss Power--in short it is a different woman
altogether!’

‘There is no mistake about the woman,’ said the landlord; ‘it is her fur
clothes that make her look so like a caterpillar on end. Well, she is
not a bad bargain! As for Captain De Stancy, he’ll fret his gizzard
green.’

‘He’s the man she ought to ha’ married,’ declared the farmer in
broadcloth. ‘As the world goes she ought to have been Lady De Stancy.
She gave up her chapel-going, and you might have thought she would
have given up her first young man: but she stuck to him, though by all
accounts he would soon have been interested in another party.’

‘’Tis woman’s nature to be false except to a man, and man’s nature to be
true except to a woman,’ said the landlord of Sleeping-Green. ‘However,
all’s well that ends well, and I have something else to think of than
new-married couples;’ saying which the speaker moved off, and the
others returned to their seats, the young pair who had been their theme
vanishing through the hotel into some private paradise to rest and dine.

By this time their arrival had become known, and a crowd soon gathered
outside, acquiring audacity with continuance there. Raising a hurrah,
the group would not leave till Somerset had showed himself on the
balcony above; and then declined to go away till Paula also had
appeared; when, remarking that her husband seemed a quiet young man
enough, and would make a very good borough member when their present one
misbehaved himself, the assemblage good-humouredly dispersed.



Among those whose ears had been reached by the hurrahs of these idlers
was a man in silence and solitude, far out of the town. He was leaning
over a gate that divided two meads in a watery level between Stancy
Castle and Markton. He turned his head for a few seconds, then continued
his contemplative gaze towards the towers of the castle, visible over
the trees as far as was possible in the leaden gloom of the November
eve. The military form of the solitary lounger was recognizable as that
of Sir William De Stancy, notwithstanding the failing light and his
attitude of so resting his elbows on the gate that his hands enclosed
the greater part of his face.

The scene was inexpressibly cheerless. No other human creature was
apparent, and the only sounds audible above the wind were those of the
trickling streams which distributed the water over the meadow. A heron
had been standing in one of these rivulets about twenty yards from
the officer, and they vied with each other in stillness till the bird
suddenly rose and flew off to the plantation in which it was his custom
to pass the night with others of his tribe. De Stancy saw the heron
rise, and seemed to imagine the creature’s departure without a supper
to be owing to the increasing darkness; but in another minute he became
conscious that the heron had been disturbed by sounds too distant to
reach his own ears at the time. They were nearer now, and there came
along under the hedge a young man known to De Stancy exceedingly well.

‘Ah,’ he said listlessly, ‘you have ventured back.’

‘Yes, captain. Why do you walk out here?’

‘The bells began ringing because she and he were expected, and my
thoughts naturally dragged me this way. Thank Heaven the battery leaves
Markton in a few days, and then the precious place will know me no
more!’

‘I have heard of it.’ Turning to where the dim lines of the castle rose
he continued: ‘Well, there it stands.’

‘And I am not in it.’

‘They are not in it yet either.’

‘They soon will be.’

‘Well--what tune is that you were humming, captain?’

‘ALL IS LOST NOW,’ replied the captain grimly.

‘O no; you have got me, and I am a treasure to any man. I have another
match in my eye for you, and shall get you well settled yet, if you keep
yourself respectable. So thank God, and take courage!’

‘Ah, Will--you are a flippant young fool--wise in your own conceit; I
say it to my sorrow! ‘Twas your dishonesty spoilt all. That lady would
have been my wife by fair dealing--time was all I required. But base
attacks on a man’s character never deserve to win, and if I had once
been certain that you had made them, my course would have been very
different, both towards you and others. But why should I talk to you
about this? If I cared an atom what becomes of you I would take you in
hand severely enough; not caring, I leave you alone, to go to the devil
your own way.’

‘Thank you kindly, captain. Well, since you have spoken plainly, I will
do the same. We De Stancys are a worn-out old party--that’s the long
and the short of it. We represent conditions of life that have had their
day--especially me. Our one remaining chance was an alliance with new
aristocrats; and we have failed. We are past and done for. Our line has
had five hundred years of glory, and we ought to be content. Enfin les
renards se trouvent chez le pelletier.’

‘Speak for yourself, young Consequence, and leave the destinies of old
families to respectable philosophers. This fiasco is the direct result
of evil conduct, and of nothing else at all. I have managed badly; I
countenanced you too far. When I saw your impish tendencies I should
have forsworn the alliance.’

‘Don’t sting me, captain. What I have told you is true. As for my
conduct, cat will after kind, you know. You should have held your tongue
on the wedding morning, and have let me take my chance.’

‘Is that all I get for saving you from jail? Gad--I alone am the
sufferer, and feel I am alone the fool!... Come, off with you--I never
want to see you any more.’

‘Part we will, then--till we meet again. It will be a light night
hereabouts, I think, this evening.’

‘A very dark one for me.’

‘Nevertheless, I think it will be a light night. Au revoir!’

Dare went his way, and after a while De Stancy went his. Both were soon
lost in the shades.



V.

The castle to-night was as gloomy as the meads. As Havill had explained,
the habitable rooms were just now undergoing a scour, and the main block
of buildings was empty even of the few servants who had been retained,
they having for comfort’s sake taken up their quarters in the detached
rooms adjoining the entrance archway. Hence not a single light shone
from the lonely windows, at which ivy leaves tapped like woodpeckers,
moved by gusts that were numerous and contrary rather than violent.
Within the walls all was silence, chaos, and obscurity, till towards
eleven o’clock, when the thick immovable cloud that had dulled the
daytime broke into a scudding fleece, through which the moon forded her
way as a nebulous spot of watery white, sending light enough, though
of a rayless kind, into the castle chambers to show the confusion that
reigned there.

At this time an eye might have noticed a figure flitting in and about
those draughty apartments, and making no more noise in so doing than a
puff of wind. Its motion hither and thither was rapid, but methodical,
its bearing absorbed, yet cautious. Though it ran more or less through
all the principal rooms, the chief scene of its operations was the Long
Gallery overlooking the Pleasance, which was covered by an ornamental
wood-and-plaster roof, and contained a whole throng of family portraits,
besides heavy old cabinets and the like. The portraits which were of
value as works of art were smaller than these, and hung in adjoining
rooms.

The manifest occupation of the figure was that of removing these small
and valuable pictures from other chambers to the gallery in which the
rest were hung, and piling them in a heap in the midst. Included in the
group were nine by Sir Peter Lely, five by Vandyck, four by Cornelius
Jansen, one by Salvator Rosa (remarkable as being among the few English
portraits ever painted by that master), many by Kneller, and two
by Romney. Apparently by accident, the light being insufficient to
distinguish them from portraits, the figure also brought a Raffaelle
Virgin-and-Child, a magnificent Tintoretto, a Titian, and a Giorgione.

On these was laid a large collection of enamelled miniature portraits
of the same illustrious line; afterwards tapestries and cushions
embroidered with the initials ‘De S.’; and next the cradle presented by
Charles the First to the contemporary De Stancy mother, till at length
there arose in the middle of the floor a huge heap containing most of
what had been personal and peculiar to members of the De Stancy family
as distinct from general furniture.

Then the figure went from door to door, and threw open each that was
unfastened. It next proceeded to a room on the ground floor, at present
fitted up as a carpenter’s shop, and knee-deep in shavings. An armful of
these was added to the pile of objects in the gallery; a window at each
end of the gallery was opened, causing a brisk draught along the walls;
and then the activity of the figure ceased, and it was seen no more.

Five minutes afterwards a light shone upon the lawn from the windows of
the Long Gallery, which glowed with more brilliancy than it had known in
the meridian of its Caroline splendours. Thereupon the framed gentleman
in the lace collar seemed to open his eyes more widely; he with the
flowing locks and turn-up mustachios to part his lips; he in the armour,
who was so much like Captain De Stancy, to shake the plates of his
mail with suppressed laughter; the lady with the three-stringed pearl
necklace, and vast expanse of neck, to nod with satisfaction and
triumphantly signify to her adjoining husband that this was a meet and
glorious end.

The flame increased, and blown upon by the wind roared round the
pictures, the tapestries, and the cradle, up to the plaster ceiling and
through it into the forest of oak timbers above.



The best sitting-room at the Lord-Quantock-Arms in Markton was as cosy
this evening as a room can be that lacks the minuter furniture on which
cosiness so largely depends. By the fire sat Paula and Somerset, the
former with a shawl round her shoulders to keep off the draught which,
despite the curtains, forced its way in on this gusty night through the
windows opening upon the balcony. Paula held a letter in her hand, the
contents of which formed the subject of their conversation. Happy as she
was in her general situation, there was for the nonce a tear in her eye.


‘MY EVER DEAR PAULA (ran the letter),--Your last letter has just reached
me, and I have followed your account of your travels and intentions with
more interest than I can tell. You, who know me, need no assurance of
this. At the present moment, however, I am in the whirl of a change that
has resulted from a resolution taken some time ago, but concealed from
almost everybody till now. Why? Well, I will own--from cowardice--fear
lest I should be reasoned out of my plan. I am going to steal from the
world, Paula, from the social world, for whose gaieties and ambitions
I never had much liking, and whose circles I have not the ability to
grace. My home, and resting-place till the great rest comes, is with the
Protestant Sisterhood at -----. Whatever shortcomings may be found in
such a community, I believe that I shall be happier there than in any
other place.

‘Whatever you may think of my judgment in taking this step, I can assure
you that I have not done it without consideration. My reasons are good,
and my determination is unalterable. But, my own very best friend,
and more than sister, don’t think that I mean to leave my love and
friendship for you behind me. No, Paula, you will ALWAYS be with me,
and I believe that if an increase in what I already feel for you be
possible, it will be furthered by the retirement and meditation I shall
enjoy in my secluded home. My heart is very full, dear--too full to
write more. God bless you, and your husband. You must come and see me
there; I have not so many friends that I can afford to lose you who have
been so kind. I write this with the fellow-pen to yours, that you gave
me when we went to Budmouth together. Good-bye!--Ever your own sister,
CHARLOTTE.’


Paula had first read this through silently, and now in reading it a
second time aloud to Somerset her voice faltered, and she wept outright.
‘I had been expecting her to live with us always,’ she said through her
tears, ‘and to think she should have decided to do this!’

‘It is a pity certainly,’ said Somerset gently. ‘She was genuine, if
anybody ever was; and simple as she was true.’

‘I am the more sorry,’ Paula presently resumed, ‘because of a little
plan I had been thinking of with regard to her. You know that the
pictures and curiosities of the castle are not included in the things I
cannot touch, or impeach, or whatever it is. They are our own to do
what we like with. My father felt in devising the estate that, however
interesting to the De Stancys those objects might be, they did not
concern us--were indeed rather in the way, having been come by so
strangely, through Mr. Wilkins, though too valuable to be treated
lightly. Now I was going to suggest that we would not sell them--indeed
I could not bear to do such a thing with what had belonged to
Charlotte’s forefathers--but to hand them over to her as a gift, either
to keep for herself, or to pass on to her brother, as she should choose.
Now I fear there is no hope of it: and yet I shall never like to see
them in the house.’

‘It can be done still, I should think. She can accept them for her
brother when he settles, without absolutely taking them into her own
possession.’

‘It would be a kind of generosity which hardly amounts to more than
justice (although they were purchased) from a recusant usurper to a dear
friend--not that I am a usurper exactly; well, from a representative of
the new aristocracy of internationality to a representative of the old
aristocracy of exclusiveness.’

‘What do you call yourself, Paula, since you are not of your father’s
creed?’

‘I suppose I am what poor Mr. Woodwell said--by the way, we must call
and see him--something or other that’s in Revelation, neither cold nor
hot. But of course that’s a sub-species--I may be a lukewarm anything.
What I really am, as far as I know, is one of that body to whom
lukewarmth is not an accident but a provisional necessity, till they see
a little more clearly.’ She had crossed over to his side, and pulling
his head towards her whispered a name in his ear.

‘Why, Mr. Woodwell said you were that too! You carry your beliefs very
comfortably. I shall be glad when enthusiasm is come again.’

‘I am going to revise and correct my beliefs one of these days when I
have thought a little further.’ She suddenly breathed a sigh and
added, ‘How transitory our best emotions are! In talking of myself I am
heartlessly forgetting Charlotte, and becoming happy again. I won’t be
happy to-night for her sake!’

A few minutes after this their attention was attracted by a noise of
footsteps running along the street; then a heavy tramp of horses, and
lumbering of wheels. Other feet were heard scampering at intervals, and
soon somebody ascended the staircase and approached their door. The head
waiter appeared.

‘Ma’am, Stancy Castle is all afire!’ said the waiter breathlessly.

Somerset jumped up, drew aside the curtains, and stepped into the
bow-window. Right before him rose a blaze. The window looked upon the
street and along the turnpike road to the very hill on which the castle
stood, the keep being visible in the daytime above the trees. Here
rose the light, which appeared little further off than a stone’s throw
instead of nearly three miles. Every curl of the smoke and every wave
of the flame was distinct, and Somerset fancied he could hear the
crackling.

Paula had risen from her seat and joined him in the window, where she
heard some people in the street saying that the servants were all safe;
after which she gave her mind more fully to the material aspects of the
catastrophe.

The whole town was now rushing off to the scene of the conflagration,
which, shining straight along the street, showed the burgesses’ running
figures distinctly upon the illumined road. Paula was quite ready to act
upon Somerset’s suggestion that they too should hasten to the spot, and
a fly was got ready in a few minutes. With lapse of time Paula evinced
more anxiety as to the fate of her castle, and when they had driven as
near as it was prudent to do, they dismounted, and went on foot into
the throng of people which was rapidly gathering from the town and
surrounding villages. Among the faces they recognized Mr. Woodwell,
Havill the architect, the rector of the parish, the curate, and many
others known to them by sight. These, as soon as they saw the young
couple, came forward with words of condolence, imagining them to have
been burnt out of bed, and vied with each other in offering them a
lodging. Somerset explained where they were staying and that they
required no accommodation, Paula interrupting with ‘O my poor horses,
what has become of them?’

‘The fire is not near the stables,’ said Mr. Woodwell. ‘It broke out
in the body of the building. The horses, however, are driven into the
field.’

‘I can assure you, you need not be alarmed, madam,’ said Havill. ‘The
chief constable is here, and the two town engines, and I am doing all I
can. The castle engine unfortunately is out of repair.’

Somerset and Paula then went on to another point of view near the
gymnasium, where they could not be seen by the crowd. Three-quarters of
a mile off, on their left hand, the powerful irradiation fell upon the
brick chapel in which Somerset had first seen the woman who now
stood beside him as his wife. It was the only object visible in that
direction, the dull hills and trees behind failing to catch the light.
She significantly pointed it out to Somerset, who knew her meaning, and
they turned again to the more serious matter.

It had long been apparent that in the face of such a wind all the pigmy
appliances that the populace could bring to act upon such a mass of
combustion would be unavailing. As much as could burn that night was
burnt, while some of that which would not burn crumbled and fell as
a formless heap, whence new flames towered up, and inclined to the
north-east so far as to singe the trees of the park. The thicker walls
of Norman date remained unmoved, partly because of their thickness, and
partly because in them stone vaults took the place of wood floors.

The tower clock kept manfully going till it had struck one, its face
smiling out from the smoke as if nothing were the matter, after which
hour something fell down inside, and it went no more.

Cunningham Haze, with his body of men, was devoted in his attention, and
came up to say a word to our two spectators from time to time. Towards
four o’clock the flames diminished, and feeling thoroughly weary,
Somerset and Paula remained no longer, returning to Markton as they had
come.

On their journey they pondered and discussed what course it would be
best to pursue in the circumstances, gradually deciding not to attempt
rebuilding the castle unless they were absolutely compelled. True,
the main walls were still standing as firmly as ever; but there was
a feeling common to both of them that it would be well to make an
opportunity of a misfortune, and leaving the edifice in ruins start
their married life in a mansion of independent construction hard by the
old one, unencumbered with the ghosts of an unfortunate line.

‘We will build a new house from the ground, eclectic in style. We will
remove the ashes, charred wood, and so on from the ruin, and plant more
ivy. The winter rains will soon wash the unsightly smoke from the walls,
and Stancy Castle will be beautiful in its decay. You, Paula, will be
yourself again, and recover, if you have not already, from the warp
given to your mind (according to Woodwell) by the mediaevalism of that
place.’

‘And be a perfect representative of “the modern spirit”?’ she inquired;
‘representing neither the senses and understanding, nor the heart and
imagination; but what a finished writer calls “the imaginative reason”?’

‘Yes; for since it is rather in your line you may as well keep straight
on.’

‘Very well, I’ll keep straight on; and we’ll build a new house beside
the ruin, and show the modern spirit for evermore.... But, George, I
wish--’ And Paula repressed a sigh.

‘Well?’

‘I wish my castle wasn’t burnt; and I wish you were a De Stancy!’





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