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A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy

Part 2 out of 10

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wheels.

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

'How would she be likely to come?'

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

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

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

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

'I could not see her.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'No, ma'am.'

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

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

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

'I dare say it is all right,' said Somerset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'You are not an Englishman, then,' said Somerset.

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

'O indeed,' Somerset replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'What do you do?'

'I decline to attend for the present.'

'And you can give no reason for this?'

There was no reply.

'Or for your refusal to proceed with the baptism?'

'I have been christened.'

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

'It seems sufficient.'

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

'I have no objection.'

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

'You may assume it.'

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

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

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

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

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

'Everything by starts, and nothing long,'

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

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

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

VII.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Nevertheless, I was not altogether sincere,' he answered.

She was silent.

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

Somerset involuntarily looked in her face for his answer.

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

'Perhaps I would.'

Another pause, till she said, 'I, too, was insincere.'

'You?'

'I was.'

'In what way?,

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

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

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

'No.'

'What then?'

'I saw it.'

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

'Of course not,' said Somerset.

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

'So would I.'

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

'The minister's?'

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

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

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

'Not dull,' she murmured, 'for it interested me.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'How? You astonish me.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIII.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'I have forgotten something.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'You have then met Mr. Somerset before?' said Charlotte.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'You mean fifteenth century, of course?' said Somerset.

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

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

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

Havill continued, with slow watchfulness:--

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

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

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

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

'It depends upon circumstances,' said Mr. Havill.

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

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

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

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

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

Paula, in doubt, looked to Mr. Havill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'You have a practice, I suppose, sir?'

'I am not in practice just yet.'

'Just beginning?'

'I am about to begin.'

'In London, or near here?'

'In London probably.'

'H'm. . . . I am practising in Markton.'

'Indeed. Have you been at it long?'

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

'Never. I have sketched a good many churches.'

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

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

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

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

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

'I think he is a Canadian,' said Somerset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IX.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'I am going to restore the castle.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

100,000.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'I do,' said Somerset deliberately.

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

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

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

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

'Is it necessary?'

'Clients mostly do it.'

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

X.

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

'And Mr. Havill?' said the young man.

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

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

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

'What are you?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'What is it?' said Miss De Stancy.

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

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

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

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

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

'It is rather startling,' said Somerset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Starved to death?' said Paula.

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

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

'I thought you might see it.'

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

'I hoped for anybody. I thought of you,' said Somerset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XI.

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

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

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

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

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

'I am much obliged to you.'

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

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

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

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

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

Somerset almost wished she had not explained so lucidly.

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

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

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

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

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

'I agree to the same,' said Somerset.

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

'I will take care that it shall be soon.'

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

'I will hold it,' she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

'I shall be there in half-an-hour.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

'O yes,' she answered, turning to look at it.

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

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

'No, I am not sure now,' she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'I am not a mediaevalist: I am an eclectic.'

'You don't dislike your own house on that account.'

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

'What?'

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

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

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

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

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

'You represent science rather than art, perhaps.'

'How?' she asked, glancing up under her hat.

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

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

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

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

'Yes.'

'How did you know?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XII.

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

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

'How singular!' exclaimed Miss De Stancy gaily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Power did not reply.

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

Paula smiled, and said, 'No, of course not.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were crossing the railway to ascend by the opposite path,
Somerset keeping his eye on the interior of the tunnel for
safety, when suddenly there arose a noise and shriek from the
contrary direction behind the trees. Both knew in a moment
what it meant, and each seized the other as they rushed off

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