Part 1 out of 10
This etext was produced from the 1907 Macmillan and Co. edition by
Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.
A LAODICEAN: A STORY OF TO-DAY
by Thomas Hardy
BOOK THE FIRST. GEORGE SOMERSET. I - XV.
BOOK THE SECOND. DARE AND HAVILL. I - VII.
BOOK THE THIRD. DE STANCY. I - XI.
BOOK THE FOURTH. SOMERSET, DARE, AND DE STANCY. I - V.
BOOK THE FIFTH. DE STANCY AND PAULA. I - XIV.
BOOK THE SIXTH. PAULA. I - V.
The changing of the old order in country manors and mansions
may be slow or sudden, may have many issues romantic or
otherwise, its romantic issues being not necessarily
restricted to a change back to the original order; though this
admissible instance appears to have been the only romance
formerly recognized by novelists as possible in the case.
Whether the following production be a picture of other
possibilities or not, its incidents may be taken to be fairly
well supported by evidence every day forthcoming in most
The writing of the tale was rendered memorable to two persons,
at least, by a tedious illness of five months that laid hold
of the author soon after the story was begun in a well-known
magazine; during which period the narrative had to be
strenuously continued by dictation to a predetermined cheerful
As some of these novels of Wessex life address themselves more
especially to readers into whose souls the iron has entered,
and whose years have less pleasure in them now than
heretofore, so "A Laodicean" may perhaps help to while away an
idle afternoon of the comfortable ones whose lines have fallen
to them in pleasant places; above all, of that large and happy
section of the reading public which has not yet reached
ripeness of years; those to whom marriage is the pilgrim's
Eternal City, and not a milestone on the way.
BOOK THE FIRST. GEORGE SOMERSET.
The sun blazed down and down, till it was within half-an-hour
of its setting; but the sketcher still lingered at his
occupation of measuring and copying the chevroned doorway--a
bold and quaint example of a transitional style of
architecture, which formed the tower entrance to an English
village church. The graveyard being quite open on its western
side, the tweed-clad figure of the young draughtsman, and the
tall mass of antique masonry which rose above him to a
battlemented parapet, were fired to a great brightness by the
solar rays, that crossed the neighbouring mead like a warp of
gold threads, in whose mazes groups of equally lustrous gnats
danced and wailed incessantly.
He was so absorbed in his pursuit that he did not mark the
brilliant chromatic effect of which he composed the central
feature, till it was brought home to his intelligence by the
warmth of the moulded stonework under his touch when
measuring; which led him at length to turn his head and gaze
on its cause.
There are few in whom the sight of a sunset does not beget as
much meditative melancholy as contemplative pleasure, the
human decline and death that it illustrates being too obvious
to escape the notice of the simplest observer. The sketcher,
as if he had been brought to this reflection many hundreds of
times before by the same spectacle, showed that he did not
wish to pursue it just now, by turning away his face after a
few moments, to resume his architectural studies.
He took his measurements carefully, and as if he reverenced
the old workers whose trick he was endeavouring to acquire six
hundred years after the original performance had ceased and
the performers passed into the unseen. By means of a strip of
lead called a leaden tape, which he pressed around and into
the fillets and hollows with his finger and thumb, he
transferred the exact contour of each moulding to his drawing,
that lay on a sketching-stool a few feet distant; where were
also a sketching-block, a small T-square, a bow-pencil, and
other mathematical instruments. When he had marked down the
line thus fixed, he returned to the doorway to copy another as
It being the month of August, when the pale face of the
townsman and the stranger is to be seen among the brown skins
of remotest uplanders, not only in England, but throughout the
temperate zone, few of the homeward-bound labourers paused to
notice him further than by a momentary turn of the head. They
had beheld such gentlemen before, not exactly measuring the
church so accurately as this one seemed to be doing, but
painting it from a distance, or at least walking round the
mouldy pile. At the same time the present visitor, even
exteriorly, was not altogether commonplace. His features were
good, his eyes of the dark deep sort called eloquent by the
sex that ought to know, and with that ray of light in them
which announces a heart susceptible to beauty of all kinds,--
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
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
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 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
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.
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:--
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
'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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
'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
'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.
'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
'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
'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
'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
Somerset was looking at the homely affectionate face of the
little speaker. 'You are her good friend, I am sure,' he
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
'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
'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,
'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
'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
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
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
'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.
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,"
'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
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
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
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
'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
'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
'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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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
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