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A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy

Part 4 out of 10

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To this the two companions agreed, and presently went upstairs
with as gentlemanly a walk and vertical a candle as they could
exhibit under the circumstances.

The other inmates of the inn soon retired to rest, and the
storm raged on unheeded by all local humanity.

III.

At two o'clock the rain lessened its fury. At half-past two
the obscured moon shone forth; and at three Havill awoke. The
blind had not been pulled down overnight, and the moonlight
streamed into the room, across the bed whereon Dare was
sleeping. He lay on his back, his arms thrown out; and his
well-curved youthful form looked like an unpedestaled Dionysus
in the colourless lunar rays.

Sleep had cleared Havill's mind from the drowsing effects of
the last night's sitting, and he thought of Dare's mysterious
manner in speaking of himself. This lad resembled the
Etruscan youth Tages, in one respect, that of being a boy
with, seemingly, the wisdom of a sage; and the effect of his
presence was now heightened by all those sinister and mystic
attributes which are lent by nocturnal environment. He who in
broad daylight might be but a young chevalier d'industrie was
now an unlimited possibility in social phenomena. Havill
remembered how the lad had pointed to his breast, and said
that his secret was literally kept there. The architect was
too much of a provincial to have quenched the common curiosity
that was part of his nature by the acquired metropolitan
indifference to other people's lives which, in essence more
unworthy even than the former, causes less practical
inconvenience in its exercise.

Dare was breathing profoundly. Instigated as above mentioned,
Havill got out of bed and stood beside the sleeper. After a
moment's pause he gently pulled back the unfastened collar of
Dare's nightshirt and saw a word tattooed in distinct
characters on his breast. Before there was time for Havill to
decipher it Dare moved slightly, as if conscious of
disturbance, and Havill hastened back to bed. Dare bestirred
himself yet more, whereupon Havill breathed heavily, though
keeping an intent glance on the lad through his half-closed
eyes to learn if he had been aware of the investigation.

Dare was certainly conscious of something, for he sat up,
rubbed his eyes, and gazed around the room; then after a few
moments of reflection he drew some article from beneath his
pillow. A blue gleam shone from the object as Dare held it in
the moonlight, and Havill perceived that it was a small
revolver.

A clammy dew broke out upon the face and body of the architect
when, stepping out of bed with the weapon in his hand, Dare
looked under the bed, behind the curtains, out of the window,
and into a closet, as if convinced that something had
occurred, but in doubt as to what it was. He then came across
to where Havill was lying and still keeping up the appearance
of sleep. Watching him awhile and mistrusting the reality of
this semblance, Dare brought it to the test by holding the
revolver within a few inches of Havill's forehead.

Havill could stand no more. Crystallized with terror, he
said, without however moving more than his lips, in dread of
hasty action on the part of Dare: 'O, good Lord, Dare, Dare,
I have done nothing!'

The youth smiled and lowered the pistol. 'I was only finding
out whether it was you or some burglar who had been playing
tricks upon me. I find it was you.'

'Do put away that thing! It is too ghastly to produce in a
respectable bedroom. Why do you carry it?'

'Cosmopolites always do. Now answer my questions. What were
you up to?' and Dare as he spoke played with the pistol again.

Havill had recovered some coolness. 'You could not use it
upon me,' he said sardonically, watching Dare. 'It would be
risking your neck for too little an object.'

'I did not think you were shrewd enough to see that,' replied
Dare carelessly, as he returned the revolver to its place.
'Well, whether you have outwitted me or no, you will keep the
secret as long as I choose.'

'Why?' said Havill.

'Because I keep your secret of the letter abusing Miss P., and
of the pilfered tracing you carry in your pocket.'

'It is quite true,' said Havill.

They went to bed again. Dare was soon asleep; but Havill did
not attempt to disturb him again. The elder man slept but
fitfully. He was aroused in the morning by a heavy rumbling
and jingling along the highway overlooked by the window, the
front wall of the house being shaken by the reverberation.

'There is no rest for me here,' he said, rising and going to
the window, carefully avoiding the neighbourhood of Mr. Dare.
When Havill had glanced out he returned to dress himself.

'What's that noise?' said Dare, awakened by the same rumble.

'It is the Artillery going away.'

'From where?'

'Markton barracks.'

'Hurrah!' said Dare, jumping up in bed. 'I have been waiting
for that these six weeks.'

Havill did not ask questions as to the meaning of this
unexpected remark.

When they were downstairs Dare's first act was to ring the
bell and ask if his Army and Navy Gazette had arrived.

While the servant was gone Havill cleared his throat and said,
'I am an architect, and I take in the Architect; you are an
architect, and you take in the Army and Navy Gazette.'

'I am not an architect any more than I am a soldier; but I
have taken in the Army and Navy Gazette these many weeks.'

When they were at breakfast the paper came in. Dare hastily
tore it open and glanced at the pages.

'I am going to Markton after breakfast!' he said suddenly,
before looking up; 'we will walk together if you like?'

They walked together as planned, and entered Markton about ten
o'clock.

'I have just to make a call here,' said Dare, when they were
opposite the barrack-entrance on the outskirts of the town,
where wheel-tracks and a regular chain of hoof-marks left by
the departed batteries were imprinted in the gravel between
the open gates. 'I shall not be a moment.' Havill stood
still while his companion entered and asked the commissary in
charge, or somebody representing him, when the new batteries
would arrive to take the place of those which had gone away.
He was informed that it would be about noon.

'Now I am at your service,' said Dare, 'and will help you to
rearrange your design by the new intellectual light we have
acquired.'

They entered Havill's office and set to work. When contrasted
with the tracing from Somerset's plan, Havill's design, which
was not far advanced, revealed all its weaknesses to him.
After seeing Somerset's scheme the bands of Havill's
imagination were loosened: he laid his own previous efforts
aside, got fresh sheets of drawing-paper and drew with vigour.

'I may as well stay and help you,' said Dare. 'I have nothing
to do till twelve o'clock; and not much then.'

So there he remained. At a quarter to twelve children and
idlers began to gather against the railings of Havill's house.
A few minutes past twelve the noise of an arriving host was
heard at the entrance to the town. Thereupon Dare and Havill
went to the window.

The X and Y Batteries of the Z Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery,
were entering Markton, each headed by the major with his
bugler behind him. In a moment they came abreast and passed,
every man in his place; that is to say:

Six shining horses, in pairs, harnessed by rope-traces white
as milk, with a driver on each near horse: two gunners on the
lead-coloured stout-wheeled limber, their carcases jolted to a
jelly for lack of springs: two gunners on the lead-coloured
stout-wheeled gun-carriage, in the same personal condition:
the nine-pounder gun, dipping its heavy head to earth, as if
ashamed of its office in these enlightened times: the
complement of jingling and prancing troopers, riding at the
wheels and elsewhere: six shining horses with their drivers,
and traces white as milk, as before: two more gallant jolted
men, on another jolting limber, and more stout wheels and
lead-coloured paint: two more jolted men on another drooping
gun: more jingling troopers on horseback: again six shining
draught-horses, traces, drivers, gun, gunners, lead paint,
stout wheels and troopers as before.

So each detachment lumbered slowly by, all eyes martially
forward, except when wandering in quest of female beauty.

'He's a fine fellow, is he not?' said Dare, denoting by a nod
a mounted officer, with a sallow, yet handsome face, and black
moustache, who came up on a bay gelding with the men of his
battery.

'What is he?' said Havill.

'A captain who lacks advancement.'

'Do you know him?'

'I know him?'

'Yes; do you?'

Dare made no reply; and they watched the captain as he rode
past with his drawn sword in his hand, the sun making a little
sun upon its blade, and upon his brilliantly polished long
boots and bright spurs; also warming his gold cross-belt and
braidings, white gloves, busby with its red bag, and tall
white plume.

Havill seemed to be too indifferent to press his questioning;
and when all the soldiers had passed by, Dare observed to his
companion that he should leave him for a short time, but would
return in the afternoon or next day.

After this he walked up the street in the rear of the
artillery, following them to the barracks. On reaching the
gates he found a crowd of people gathered outside, looking
with admiration at the guns and gunners drawn up within the
enclosure. When the soldiers were dismissed to their quarters
the sightseers dispersed, and Dare went through the gates to
the barrack-yard.

The guns were standing on the green; the soldiers and horses
were scattered about, and the handsome captain whom Dare had
pointed out to Havill was inspecting the buildings in the
company of the quartermaster. Dare made a mental note of
these things, and, apparently changing a previous intention,
went out from the barracks and returned to the town.

IV.

To return for a while to George Somerset. The sun of his
later existence having vanished from that young man's horizon,
he confined himself closely to the studio, superintending the
exertions of his draughtsmen Bowles, Knowles, and Cockton, who
were now in the full swing of working out Somerset's creations
from the sketches he had previously prepared.

He had so far got the start of Havill in the competition that,
by the help of these three gentlemen, his design was soon
finished. But he gained no unfair advantage on this account,
an additional month being allowed to Havill to compensate for
his later information.

Before scaling up his drawings Somerset wished to spend a
short time in London, and dismissing his assistants till
further notice, he locked up the rooms which had been
appropriated as office and studio and prepared for the
journey.

It was afternoon. Somerset walked from the castle in the
direction of the wood to reach Markton by a detour. He had
not proceeded far when there approached his path a man riding
a bay horse with a square-cut tail. The equestrian wore a
grizzled beard, and looked at Somerset with a piercing eye as
he noiselessly ambled nearer over the soft sod of the park.
He proved to be Mr. Cunningham Haze, chief constable of the
district, who had become slightly known to Somerset during his
sojourn here.

'One word, Mr. Somerset,' said the Chief, after they had
exchanged nods of recognition, reining his horse as he spoke.

Somerset stopped.

'You have a studio at the castle in which you are preparing
drawings?'

'I have.'

'Have you a clerk?'

'I had three till yesterday, when I paid them off.'

'Would they have any right to enter the studio late at night?'

'There would have been nothing wrong in their doing so.
Either of them might have gone back at any time for something
forgotten. They lived quite near the castle.'

'Ah, then all is explained. I was riding past over the grass
on the night of last Thursday, and I saw two persons in your
studio with a light. It must have been about half-past nine
o'clock. One of them came forward and pulled down the blind
so that the light fell upon his face. But I only saw it for a
short time.'

'If it were Knowles or Cockton he would have had a beard.'

'He had no beard.'

'Then it must have been Bowles. A young man?'

'Quite young. His companion in the background seemed older.'

'They are all about the same age really. By the way--it
couldn't have been Dare--and Havill, surely! Would you
recognize them again?'

'The young one possibly. The other not at all, for he
remained in the shade.'

Somerset endeavoured to discern in a description by the chief
constable the features of Mr. Bowles: but it seemed to
approximate more closely to Dare in spite of himself. 'I'll
make a sketch of the only one who had no business there, and
show it to you,' he presently said. 'I should like this
cleared up.'

Mr. Cunningham Haze said he was going to Toneborough that
afternoon, but would return in the evening before Somerset's
departure. With this they parted. A possible motive for
Dare's presence in the rooms had instantly presented itself to
Somerset's mind, for he had seen Dare enter Havill's office
more than once, as if he were at work there.

He accordingly sat on the next stile, and taking out his
pocket-book began a pencil sketch of Dare's head, to show to
Mr. Haze in the evening; for if Dare had indeed found
admission with Havill, or as his agent, the design was lost.

But he could not make a drawing that was a satisfactory
likeness. Then he luckily remembered that Dare, in the
intense warmth of admiration he had affected for Somerset on
the first day or two of their acquaintance, had begged for his
photograph, and in return for it had left one of himself on
the mantelpiece, taken as he said by his own process.
Somerset resolved to show this production to Mr. Haze, as
being more to the purpose than a sketch, and instead of
finishing the latter, proceeded on his way.

He entered the old overgrown drive which wound indirectly
through the wood to Markton. The road, having been laid out
for idling rather than for progress, bent sharply hither and
thither among the fissured trunks and layers of horny leaves
which lay there all the year round, interspersed with cushions
of vivid green moss that formed oases in the rust-red expanse.

Reaching a point where the road made one of its bends between
two large beeches, a man and woman revealed themselves at a
few yards' distance, walking slowly towards him. In the short
and quaint lady he recognized Charlotte De Stancy, whom he
remembered not to have seen for several days.

She slightly blushed and said, 'O, this is pleasant, Mr.
Somerset! Let me present my brother to you, Captain De Stancy
of the Royal Horse Artillery.'

Her brother came forward and shook hands heartily with
Somerset; and they all three rambled on together, talking of
the season, the place, the fishing, the shooting, and whatever
else came uppermost in their minds.

Captain De Stancy was a personage who would have been called
interesting by women well out of their teens. He was ripe,
without having declined a digit towards fogeyism. He was
sufficiently old and experienced to suggest a goodly
accumulation of touching amourettes in the chambers of his
memory, and not too old for the possibility of increasing the
store. He was apparently about eight-and-thirty, less tall
than his father had been, but admirably made; and his every
movement exhibited a fine combination of strength and
flexibility of limb. His face was somewhat thin and
thoughtful, its complexion being naturally pale, though
darkened by exposure to a warmer sun than ours. His features
were somewhat striking; his moustache and hair raven black;
and his eyes, denied the attributes of military keenness by
reason of the largeness and darkness of their aspect, acquired
thereby a softness of expression that was in part womanly.
His mouth as far as it could be seen reproduced this
characteristic, which might have been called weakness, or
goodness, according to the mental attitude of the observer.
It was large but well formed, and showed an unimpaired line of
teeth within. His dress at present was a heather-coloured
rural suit, cut close to his figure.

'You knew my cousin, Jack Ravensbury?' he said to Somerset, as
they went on. 'Poor Jack: he was a good fellow.'

'He was a very good fellow.'

'He would have been made a parson if he had lived--it was his
great wish. I, as his senior, and a man of the world as I
thought myself, used to chaff him about it when he was a boy,
and tell him not to be a milksop, but to enter the army. But
I think Jack was right--the parsons have the best of it, I see
now.'

'They would hardly admit that,' said Somerset, laughing. 'Nor
can I.'

'Nor I,' said the captain's sister. 'See how lovely you all
looked with your big guns and uniform when you entered
Markton; and then see how stupid the parsons look by
comparison, when they flock into Markton at a Visitation.'

'Ah, yes,' said De Stancy,

'"Doubtless it is a brilliant masquerade;
But when of the first sight you've had your fill,
It palls--at least it does so upon me,
This paradise of pleasure and ennui."

When one is getting on for forty;

"When we have made our love, and gamed our gaming,
Dressed, voted, shone, and maybe, something more;
With dandies dined, heard senators declaiming;
Seen beauties brought to market by the score,"

and so on, there arises a strong desire for a quiet old-
fashioned country life, in which incessant movement is not a
necessary part of the programme.'

'But you are not forty, Will?' said Charlotte.

'My dear, I was thirty-nine last January.'

'Well, men about here are youths at that age. It was India
used you up so, when you served in the line, was it not? I
wish you had never gone there!'

'So do I,' said De Stancy drily. 'But I ought to grow a youth
again, like the rest, now I am in my native air.'

They came to a narrow brook, not wider than a man's stride,
and Miss De Stancy halted on the edge.

'Why, Lottie, you used to jump it easily enough,' said her
brother. 'But we won't make her do it now.' He took her in
his arms, and lifted her over, giving her a gratuitous ride
for some additional yards, and saying, 'You are not a pound
heavier, Lott, than you were at ten years old. . . . What do
you think of the country here, Mr. Somerset? Are you going to
stay long?'

'I think very well of it,' said Somerset. 'But I leave to-
morrow morning, which makes it necessary that I turn back in a
minute or two from walking with you.'

'That's a disappointment. I had hoped you were going to
finish out the autumn with shooting. There's some, very fair,
to be got here on reasonable terms, I've just heard.'

'But you need not hire any!' spoke up Charlotte. 'Paula would
let you shoot anything, I am sure. She has not been here long
enough to preserve much game, and the poachers had it all in
Mr. Wilkins' time. But what there is you might kill with
pleasure to her.'

'No, thank you,' said De Stancy grimly. 'I prefer to remain a
stranger to Miss Power--Miss Steam-Power, she ought to be
called--and to all her possessions.'

Charlotte was subdued, and did not insist further; while
Somerset, before he could feel himself able to decide on the
mood in which the gallant captain's joke at Paula's expense
should be taken, wondered whether it were a married man or a
bachelor who uttered it.

He had not been able to keep the question of De Stancy's
domestic state out of his head from the first moment of seeing
him. Assuming De Stancy to be a husband, he felt there might
be some excuse for his remark; if unmarried, Somerset liked
the satire still better; in such circumstances there was a
relief in the thought that Captain De Stancy's prejudices
might be infinitely stronger than those of his sister or
father.

'Going to-morrow, did you say, Mr. Somerset?' asked Miss De
Stancy. 'Then will you dine with us to-day? My father is
anxious that you should do so before you go. I am sorry there
will be only our own family present to meet you; but you can
leave as early as you wish.'

Her brother seconded the invitation, and Somerset promised,
though his leisure for that evening was short. He was in
truth somewhat inclined to like De Stancy; for though the
captain had said nothing of any value either on war, commerce,
science, or art, he had seemed attractive to the younger man.
Beyond the natural interest a soldier has for imaginative
minds in the civil walks of life, De Stancy's occasional
manifestations of taedium vitae were too poetically shaped to
be repellent. Gallantry combined in him with a sort of
ascetic self-repression in a way that was curious. He was a
dozen years older than Somerset: his life had been passed in
grooves remote from those of Somerset's own life; and the
latter decided that he would like to meet the artillery
officer again.

Bidding them a temporary farewell, he went away to Markton by
a shorter path than that pursued by the De Stancys, and after
spending the remainder of the afternoon preparing for
departure, he sallied forth just before the dinner-hour
towards the suburban villa.

He had become yet more curious whether a Mrs. De Stancy
existed; if there were one he would probably see her to-night.
He had an irrepressible hope that there might be such a lady.
On entering the drawing-room only the father, son, and
daughter were assembled. Somerset fell into talk with
Charlotte during the few minutes before dinner, and his
thought found its way out.

'There is no Mrs. De Stancy?' he said in an undertone.

'None,' she said; 'my brother is a bachelor.'

The dinner having been fixed at an early hour to suit
Somerset, they had returned to the drawing-room at eight
o'clock. About nine he was aiming to get away.

'You are not off yet?' said the captain.

'There would have been no hurry,' said Somerset, 'had I not
just remembered that I have left one thing undone which I want
to attend to before my departure. I want to see the chief
constable to-night.'

'Cunningham Haze?--he is the very man I too want to see. But
he went out of town this afternoon, and I hardly think you
will see him to-night. His return has been delayed.'

'Then the matter must wait.'

'I have left word at his house asking him to call here if he
gets home before half-past ten; but at any rate I shall see
him to-morrow morning. Can I do anything for you, since you
are leaving early?'

Somerset replied that the business was of no great importance,
and briefly explained the suspected intrusion into his studio;
that he had with him a photograph of the suspected young man.
'If it is a mistake,' added Somerset, 'I should regret putting
my draughtsman's portrait into the hands of the police, since
it might injure his character; indeed, it would be unfair to
him. So I wish to keep the likeness in my own hands, and
merely to show it to Mr. Haze. That's why I prefer not to
send it.'

'My matter with Haze is that the barrack furniture does not
correspond with the inventories. If you like, I'll ask your
question at the same time with pleasure.'

Thereupon Somerset gave Captain De Stancy an unfastened
envelope containing the portrait, asking him to destroy it if
the constable should declare it not to correspond with the
face that met his eye at the window. Soon after, Somerset
took his leave of the household.

He had not been absent ten minutes when other wheels were
heard on the gravel without, and the servant announced Mr.
Cunningham Haze, who had returned earlier than he had
expected, and had called as requested.

They went into the dining-room to discuss their business.
When the barrack matter had been arranged De Stancy said, 'I
have a little commission to execute for my friend Mr.
Somerset. I am to ask you if this portrait of the person he
suspects of unlawfully entering his room is like the man you
saw there?'

The speaker was seated on one side of the dining-table and Mr.
Haze on the other. As he spoke De Stancy pulled the envelope
from his pocket, and half drew out the photograph, which he
had not as yet looked at, to hand it over to the constable.
In the act his eye fell upon the portrait, with its uncertain
expression of age, assured look, and hair worn in a fringe
like a girl's.

Captain De Stancy's face became strained, and he leant back in
his chair, having previously had sufficient power over himself
to close the envelope and return it to his pocket.

'Good heavens, you are ill, Captain De Stancy?' said the chief
constable.

'It was only momentary,' said De Stancy; 'better in a minute--
a glass of water will put me right.'

Mr. Haze got him a glass of water from the sideboard.

'These spasms occasionally overtake me,' said De Stancy when
he had drunk. 'I am already better. What were we saying? O,
this affair of Mr. Somerset's. I find that this envelope is
not the right one.' He ostensibly searched his pocket again.
'I must have mislaid it,' he continued, rising. 'I'll be with
you again in a moment.'

De Stancy went into the room adjoining, opened an album of
portraits that lay on the table, and selected one of a young
man quite unknown to him, whose age was somewhat akin to
Dare's, but who in no other attribute resembled him.

De Stancy placed this picture in the original envelope, and
returned with it to the chief constable, saying he had found
it at last.

'Thank you, thank you,' said Cunningham Haze, looking it over.
'Ah--I perceive it is not what I expected to see. Mr.
Somerset was mistaken.'

When the chief constable had left the house, Captain De Stancy
shut the door and drew out the original photograph. As he
looked at the transcript of Dare's features he was moved by a
painful agitation, till recalling himself to the present, he
carefully put the portrait into the fire.

During the following days Captain De Stancy's manner on the
roads, in the streets, and at barracks, was that of Crusoe
after seeing the print of a man's foot on the sand.

V.

Anybody who had closely considered Dare at this time would
have discovered that, shortly after the arrival of the Royal
Horse Artillery at Markton Barracks, he gave up his room at
the inn at Sleeping-Green and took permanent lodgings over a
broker's shop in the town above-mentioned. The peculiarity of
the rooms was that they commanded a view lengthwise of the
barrack lane along which any soldier, in the natural course of
things, would pass either to enter the town, to call at Myrtle
Villa, or to go to Stancy Castle.

Dare seemed to act as if there were plenty of time for his
business. Some few days had slipped by when, perceiving
Captain De Stancy walk past his window and into the town, Dare
took his hat and cane, and followed in the same direction.
When he was about fifty yards short of Myrtle Villa on the
other side of the town he saw De Stancy enter its gate.

Dare mounted a stile beside the highway and patiently waited.
In about twenty minutes De Stancy came out again and turned
back in the direction of the town, till Dare was revealed to
him on his left hand. When De Stancy recognized the youth he
was visibly agitated, though apparently not surprised.
Standing still a moment he dropped his glance upon the ground,
and then came forward to Dare, who having alighted from the
stile stood before the captain with a smile.

'My dear lad!' said De Stancy, much moved by recollections.
He held Dare's hand for a moment in both his own, and turned
askance.

'You are not astonished,' said Dare, still retaining his
smile, as if to his mind there were something comic in the
situation.

'I knew you were somewhere near. Where do you come from?'

'From going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down
in it, as Satan said to his Maker.--Southampton last, in
common speech.'

'Have you come here to see me?'

'Entirely. I divined that your next quarters would be
Markton, the previous batteries that were at your station
having come on here. I have wanted to see you badly.'

'You have?'

'I am rather out of cash. I have been knocking about a good
deal since you last heard from me.'

'I will do what I can again.'

'Thanks, captain.'

'But, Willy, I am afraid it will not be much at present. You
know I am as poor as a mouse.'

'But such as it is, could you write a cheque for it now?'

'I will send it to you from the barracks.'

'I have a better plan. By getting over this stile we could go
round at the back of the villas to Sleeping-Green Church.
There is always a pen-and-ink in the vestry, and we can have a
nice talk on the way. It would be unwise for me to appear at
the barracks just now.'

'That's true.'

De Stancy sighed, and they were about to walk across the
fields together. 'No,' said Dare, suddenly stopping: my
plans make it imperative that we should not run the risk of
being seen in each other's company for long. Walk on, and I
will follow. You can stroll into the churchyard, and move
about as if you were ruminating on the epitaphs. There are
some with excellent morals. I'll enter by the other gate, and
we can meet easily in the vestry-room.'

De Stancy looked gloomy, and was on the point of acquiescing
when he turned back and said, 'Why should your photograph be
shown to the chief constable?'

'By whom?'

'Somerset the architect. He suspects your having broken into
his office or something of the sort.' De Stancy briefly
related what Somerset had explained to him at the dinner-
table.

'It was merely diamond cut diamond between us, on an
architectural matter,' murmured Dare. 'Ho! and he suspects;
and that's his remedy!'

'I hope this is nothing serious?' asked De Stancy gravely.

'I peeped at his drawing--that's all. But since he chooses to
make that use of my photograph, which I gave him in
friendship, I'll make use of his in a way he little dreams of.
Well now, let's on.'

A quarter of an hour later they met in the vestry of the
church at Sleeping-Green.

'I have only just transferred my account to the bank here,'
said De Stancy, as he took out his cheque-book, 'and it will
be more convenient to me at present to draw but a small sum.
I will make up the balance afterwards.'

When he had written it Dare glanced over the paper and said
ruefully, 'It is small, dad. Well, there is all the more
reason why I should broach my scheme, with a view to making
such documents larger in the future.'

'I shall be glad to hear of any such scheme,' answered De
Stancy, with a languid attempt at jocularity.

'Then here it is. The plan I have arranged for you is of the
nature of a marriage.'

'You are very kind!' said De Stancy, agape.

'The lady's name is Miss Paula Power, who, as you may have
heard since your arrival, is in absolute possession of her
father's property and estates, including Stancy Castle. As
soon as I heard of her I saw what a marvellous match it would
be for you, and your family; it would make a man of you, in
short, and I have set my mind upon your putting no objection
in the way of its accomplishment.'

'But, Willy, it seems to me that, of us two, it is you who
exercise paternal authority?'

'True, it is for your good. Let me do it.'

'Well, one must be indulgent under the circumstances, I
suppose. . . . But,' added De Stancy simply, 'Willy, I--don't
want to marry, you know. I have lately thought that some day
we may be able to live together, you and I: go off to America
or New Zealand, where we are not known, and there lead a
quiet, pastoral life, defying social rules and troublesome
observances.'

'I can't hear of it, captain,' replied Dare reprovingly. 'I
am what events have made me, and having fixed my mind upon
getting you settled in life by this marriage, I have put
things in train for it at an immense trouble to myself. If
you had thought over it o' nights as much as I have, you would
not say nay.'

'But I ought to have married your mother if anybody. And as I
have not married her, the least I can do in respect to her is
to marry no other woman.'

'You have some sort of duty to me, have you not, Captain De
Stancy?'

'Yes, Willy, I admit that I have,' the elder replied
reflectively. 'And I don't think I have failed in it thus
far?'

'This will be the crowning proof. Paternal affection, family
pride, the noble instincts to reinstate yourself in the castle
of your ancestors, all demand the step. And when you have
seen the lady! She has the figure and motions of a sylph, the
face of an angel, the eye of love itself. What a sight she is
crossing the lawn on a sunny afternoon, or gliding airily
along the corridors of the old place the De Stancys knew so
well! Her lips are the softest, reddest, most distracting
things you ever saw. Her hair is as soft as silk, and of the
rarest, tenderest brown.'

The captain moved uneasily. 'Don't take the trouble to say
more, Willy,' he observed. 'You know how I am. My cursed
susceptibility to these matters has already wasted years of my
life, and I don't want to make myself a fool about her too.'

'You must see her.'

'No, don't let me see her,' De Stancy expostulated. 'If she
is only half so good-looking as you say, she will drag me at
her heels like a blind Samson. You are a mere youth as yet,
but I may tell you that the misfortune of never having been my
own master where a beautiful face was concerned obliges me to
be cautious if I would preserve my peace of mind.'

'Well, to my mind, Captain De Stancy, your objections seem
trivial. Are those all?'

'They are all I care to mention just now to you.'

'Captain! can there be secrets between us?'

De Stancy paused and looked at the lad as if his heart wished
to confess what his judgment feared to tell. 'There should
not be--on this point,' he murmured.

'Then tell me--why do you so much object to her?'

'I once vowed a vow.'

'A vow!' said Dare, rather disconcerted.

'A vow of infinite solemnity. I must tell you from the
beginning; perhaps you are old enough to hear it now, though
you have been too young before. Your mother's life ended in
much sorrow, and it was occasioned entirely by me. In my
regret for the wrong done her I swore to her that though she
had not been my wife, no other woman should stand in that
relationship to me; and this to her was a sort of comfort.
When she was dead my knowledge of my own plaguy
impressionableness, which seemed to be ineradicable--as it
seems still--led me to think what safeguards I could set over
myself with a view to keeping my promise to live a life of
celibacy; and among other things I determined to forswear the
society, and if possible the sight, of women young and
attractive, as far as I had the power to do.'

'It is not so easy to avoid the sight of a beautiful woman if
she crosses your path, I should think?'

'It is not easy; but it is possible.'

'How?'

'By directing your attention another way.'

'But do you mean to say, captain, that you can be in a room
with a pretty woman who speaks to you, and not look at her?'

'I do: though mere looking has less to do with it than mental
attentiveness--allowing your thoughts to flow out in her
direction--to comprehend her image.'

'But it would be considered very impolite not to look at the
woman or comprehend her image?'

'It would, and is. I am considered the most impolite officer
in the service. I have been nicknamed the man with the
averted eyes--the man with the detestable habit--the man who
greets you with his shoulder, and so on. Ninety-and-nine fair
women at the present moment hate me like poison and death for
having persistently refused to plumb the depths of their
offered eyes.'

'How can you do it, who are by nature courteous?'

'I cannot always--I break down sometimes. But, upon the
whole, recollection holds me to it: dread of a lapse.
Nothing is so potent as fear well maintained.'

De Stancy narrated these details in a grave meditative tone
with his eyes on the wall, as if he were scarcely conscious of
a listener.

'But haven't you reckless moments, captain?--when you have
taken a little more wine than usual, for instance?'

'I don't take wine.'

'O, you are a teetotaller?'

'Not a pledged one--but I don't touch alcohol unless I get
wet, or anything of that sort.'

'Don't you sometimes forget this vow of yours to my mother?'

'No, I wear a reminder.'

'What is that like?'

De Stancy held up his left hand, on the third finger of which
appeared an iron ring.

Dare surveyed it, saying, 'Yes, I have seen that before,
though I never knew why you wore it. Well, I wear a reminder
also, but of a different sort.'

He threw open his shirt-front, and revealed tattooed on his
breast the letters DE STANCY; the same marks which Havill had
seen in the bedroom by the light of the moon.

The captain rather winced at the sight. 'Well, well,' he said
hastily, 'that's enough. . . . Now, at any rate, you
understand my objection to know Miss Power.'

'But, captain,' said the lad coaxingly, as he fastened his
shirt; 'you forget me and the good you may do me by marrying?
Surely that's a sufficient reason for a change of sentiment.
This inexperienced sweet creature owns the castle and estate
which bears your name, even to the furniture and pictures.
She is the possessor of at least forty thousand a year--how
much more I cannot say--while, buried here in Outer Wessex,
she lives at the rate of twelve hundred in her simplicity.'

'It is very good of you to set this before me. But I prefer
to go on as I am going.'

'Well, I won't bore you any more with her to-day. A monk in
regimentals!--'tis strange.' Dare arose and was about to open
the door, when, looking through the window, Captain De Stancy
said, 'Stop.' He had perceived his father, Sir William De
Stancy, walking among the tombstones without.

'Yes, indeed,' said Dare, turning the key in the door. 'It
would look strange if he were to find us here.'

As the old man seemed indisposed to leave the churchyard just
yet they sat down again.

'What a capital card-table this green cloth would make,' said
Dare, as they waited. 'You play, captain, I suppose?'

'Very seldom.'

'The same with me. But as I enjoy a hand of cards with a
friend, I don't go unprovided.' Saying which, Dare drew a
pack from the tail of his coat. 'Shall we while away this
leisure with the witching things?'

'Really, I'd rather not.'

'But,' coaxed the young man, 'I am in the humour for it; so
don't be unkind!'

'But, Willy, why do you care for these things? Cards are
harmless enough in their way; but I don't like to see you
carrying them in your pocket. It isn't good for you.'

'It was by the merest chance I had them. Now come, just one
hand, since we are prisoners. I want to show you how nicely I
can play. I won't corrupt you!'

'Of course not,' said De Stancy, as if ashamed of what his
objection implied. 'You are not corrupt enough yourself to do
that, I should hope.'

The cards were dealt and they began to play--Captain De Stancy
abstractedly, and with his eyes mostly straying out of the
window upon the large yew, whose boughs as they moved were
distorted by the old green window-panes.

'It is better than doing nothing,' said Dare cheerfully, as
the game went on. 'I hope you don't dislike it?'

'Not if it pleases you,' said De Stancy listlessly.

'And the consecration of this place does not extend further
than the aisle wall.'

'Doesn't it?' said De Stancy, as he mechanically played out
his cards. 'What became of that box of books I sent you with
my last cheque?'

'Well, as I hadn't time to read them, and as I knew you would
not like them to be wasted, I sold them to a bloke who peruses
them from morning till night. Ah, now you have lost a fiver
altogether--how queer! We'll double the stakes. So, as I was
saying, just at the time the books came I got an inkling of
this important business, and literature went to the wall.'

'Important business--what?'

'The capture of this lady, to be sure.'

De Stancy sighed impatiently. 'I wish you were less
calculating, and had more of the impulse natural to your
years!'

'Game--by Jove! You have lost again, captain. That makes--
let me see--nine pounds fifteen to square us.'

'I owe you that?' said De Stancy, startled. 'It is more than
I have in cash. I must write another cheque.'

'Never mind. Make it payable to yourself, and our connection
will be quite unsuspected.'

Captain De Stancy did as requested, and rose from his seat.
Sir William, though further off, was still in the churchyard.

'How can you hesitate for a moment about this girl?' said
Dare, pointing to the bent figure of the old man. 'Think of
the satisfaction it would be to him to see his son within the
family walls again. It should be a religion with you to
compass such a legitimate end as this.'

'Well, well, I'll think of it,' said the captain, with an
impatient laugh. 'You are quite a Mephistopheles, Will--I say
it to my sorrow!'

'Would that I were in your place.'

'Would that you were! Fifteen years ago I might have called
the chance a magnificent one.'

'But you are a young man still, and you look younger than you
are. Nobody knows our relationship, and I am not such a fool
as to divulge it. Of course, if through me you reclaim this
splendid possession, I should leave it to your feelings what
you would do for me.'

Sir William had by this time cleared out of the churchyard,
and the pair emerged from the vestry and departed. Proceeding
towards Markton by the same bypath, they presently came to an
eminence covered with bushes of blackthorn, and tufts of
yellowing fern. From this point a good view of the woods and
glades about Stancy Castle could be obtained. Dare stood
still on the top and stretched out his finger; the captain's
eye followed the direction, and he saw above the many-hued
foliage in the middle distance the towering keep of Paula's
castle.

'That's the goal of your ambition, captain--ambition do I
say?--most righteous and dutiful endeavour! How the hoary
shape catches the sunlight--it is the raison d'etre of the
landscape, and its possession is coveted by a thousand hearts.
Surely it is an hereditary desire of yours? You must make a
point of returning to it, and appearing in the map of the
future as in that of the past. I delight in this work of
encouraging you, and pushing you forward towards your own.
You are really very clever, you know, but--I say it with
respect--how comes it that you want so much waking up?'

'Because I know the day is not so bright as it seems, my boy.
However, you make a little mistake. If I care for anything on
earth, I do care for that old fortress of my forefathers. I
respect so little among the living that all my reverence is
for my own dead. But manoeuvring, even for my own, as you
call it, is not in my line. It is distasteful--it is
positively hateful to me.'

'Well, well, let it stand thus for the present. But will you
refuse me one little request--merely to see her? I'll
contrive it so that she may not see you. Don't refuse me, it
is the one thing I ask, and I shall think it hard if you deny
me.'

'O Will!' said the captain wearily. 'Why will you plead so?
No--even though your mind is particularly set upon it, I
cannot see her, or bestow a thought upon her, much as I should
like to gratify you.'

VI.

When they had parted Dare walked along towards Markton with
resolve on his mouth and an unscrupulous light in his
prominent black eye. Could any person who had heard the
previous conversation have seen him now, he would have found
little difficulty in divining that, notwithstanding De
Stancy's obduracy, the reinstation of Captain De Stancy in the
castle, and the possible legitimation and enrichment of
himself, was still the dream of his brain. Even should any
legal settlement or offspring intervene to nip the extreme
development of his projects, there was abundant opportunity
for his glorification. Two conditions were imperative. De
Stancy must see Paula before Somerset's return. And it was
necessary to have help from Havill, even if it involved
letting him know all.

Whether Havill already knew all was a nice question for Mr.
Dare's luminous mind. Havill had had opportunities of reading
his secret, particularly on the night they occupied the same
room. If so, by revealing it to Paula, Havill might utterly
blast his project for the marriage. Havill, then, was at all
risks to be retained as an ally.

Yet Dare would have preferred a stronger check upon his
confederate than was afforded by his own knowledge of that
anonymous letter and the competition trick. For were the
competition lost to him, Havill would have no further interest
in conciliating Miss Power; would as soon as not let her know
the secret of De Stancy's relation to him.

Fortune as usual helped him in his dilemma. Entering Havill's
office, Dare found him sitting there; but the drawings had all
disappeared from the boards. The architect held an open
letter in his hand.

'Well, what news?' said Dare.

'Miss Power has returned to the castle, Somerset is detained
in London, and the competition is decided,' said Havill, with
a glance of quiet dubiousness.

'And you have won it?'

'No. We are bracketed--it's a tie. The judges say there is
no choice between the designs--that they are singularly equal
and singularly good. That she would do well to adopt either.
Signed So-and-So, Fellows of the Royal Institute of British
Architects. The result is that she will employ which she
personally likes best. It is as if I had spun a sovereign in
the air and it had alighted on its edge. The least false
movement will make it tails; the least wise movement heads.'

'Singularly equal. Well, we owe that to our nocturnal visit,
which must not be known.'

'O Lord, no!' said Havill apprehensively.

Dare felt secure of him at those words. Havill had much at
stake; the slightest rumour of his trick in bringing about the
competition, would be fatal to Havill's reputation.

'The permanent absence of Somerset then is desirable
architecturally on your account, matrimonially on mine.'

'Matrimonially? By the way--who was that captain you pointed
out to me when the artillery entered the town?'

'Captain De Stancy--son of Sir William De Stancy. He's the
husband. O, you needn't look incredulous: it is practicable;
but we won't argue that. In the first place I want him to see
her, and to see her in the most love-kindling, passion-
begetting circumstances that can be thought of. And he must
see her surreptitiously, for he refuses to meet her.'

'Let him see her going to church or chapel?'

Dare shook his head.

'Driving out?'

'Common-place!'

'Walking in the gardens?'

'Ditto.'

'At her toilet?'

'Ah--if it were possible!'

'Which it hardly is. Well, you had better think it over and
make inquiries about her habits, and as to when she is in a
favourable aspect for observation, as the almanacs say.'

Shortly afterwards Dare took his leave. In the evening he
made it his business to sit smoking on the bole of a tree
which commanded a view of the upper ward of the castle, and
also of the old postern-gate, now enlarged and used as a
tradesmen's entrance. It was half-past six o'clock; the
dressing-bell rang, and Dare saw a light-footed young woman
hasten at the sound across the ward from the servants'
quarter. A light appeared in a chamber which he knew to be
Paula's dressing-room; and there it remained half-an-hour, a
shadow passing and repassing on the blind in the style of
head-dress worn by the girl he had previously seen. The
dinner-bell sounded and the light went out.

As yet it was scarcely dark out of doors, and in a few minutes
Dare had the satisfaction of seeing the same woman cross the
ward and emerge upon the slope without. This time she was
bonneted, and carried a little basket in her hand. A nearer
view showed her to be, as he had expected, Milly Birch,
Paula's maid, who had friends living in Markton, whom she was
in the habit of visiting almost every evening during the three
hours of leisure which intervened between Paula's retirement
from the dressing-room and return thither at ten o'clock.
When the young woman had descended the road and passed into
the large drive, Dare rose and followed her.

'O, it is you, Miss Birch,' said Dare, on overtaking her. 'I
am glad to have the pleasure of walking by your side.'

'Yes, sir. O it's Mr. Dare. We don't see you at the castle
now, sir.'

'No. And do you get a walk like this every evening when the
others are at their busiest?'

'Almost every evening; that's the one return to the poor
lady's maid for losing her leisure when the others get it--in
the absence of the family from home.'

'Is Miss Power a hard mistress?'

'No.'

'Rather fanciful than hard, I presume?'

'Just so, sir.'

'And she likes to appear to advantage, no doubt.'

'I suppose so,' said Milly, laughing. 'We all do.'

'When does she appear to the best advantage? When riding, or
driving, or reading her book?'

'Not altogether then, if you mean the very best.'

'Perhaps it is when she sits looking in the glass at herself,
and you let down her hair.'

'Not particularly, to my mind.'

'When does she to your mind? When dressed for a dinner-party
or ball?'

'She's middling, then. But there is one time when she looks
nicer and cleverer than at any. It is when she is in the
gymnasium.'

'O--gymnasium?'

'Because when she is there she wears such a pretty boy's
costume, and is so charming in her movements, that you think
she is a lovely young youth and not a girl at all.'

'When does she go to this gymnasium?'

'Not so much as she used to. Only on wet mornings now, when
she can't get out for walks or drives. But she used to do it
every day.'

'I should like to see her there.'

'Why, sir?'

'I am a poor artist, and can't afford models. To see her
attitudes would be of great assistance to me in the art I love
so well.'

Milly shook her head. 'She's very strict about the door being
locked. If I were to leave it open she would dismiss me, as I
should deserve.'

'But consider, dear Miss Birch, the advantage to a poor artist
the sight of her would be: if you could hold the door ajar it
would be worth five pounds to me, and a good deal to you.'

'No,' said the incorruptible Milly, shaking her head.
'Besides, I don't always go there with her. O no, I
couldn't!'

Milly remained so firm at this point that Dare said no more.

When he had left her he returned to the castle grounds, and
though there was not much light he had no difficulty in
discovering the gymnasium, the outside of which he had
observed before, without thinking to inquire its purpose.
Like the erections in other parts of the shrubberies it was
constructed of wood, the interstices between the framing being
filled up with short billets of fir nailed diagonally. Dare,
even when without a settled plan in his head, could arrange
for probabilities; and wrenching out one of the billets he
looked inside. It seemed to be a simple oblong apartment,
fitted up with ropes, with a little dressing-closet at one
end, and lighted by a skylight or lantern in the roof. Dare
replaced the wood and went on his way.

Havill was smoking on his doorstep when Dare passed up the
street. He held up his hand.

'Since you have been gone,' said the architect, 'I've hit upon
something that may help you in exhibiting your lady to your
gentleman. In the summer I had orders to design a gymnasium
for her, which I did; and they say she is very clever on the
ropes and bars. Now--'

'I've discovered it. I shall contrive for him to see her
there on the first wet morning, which is when she practises.
What made her think of it?'

'As you may have heard, she holds advanced views on social and
other matters; and in those on the higher education of women
she is very strong, talking a good deal about the physical
training of the Greeks, whom she adores, or did. Every
philosopher and man of science who ventilates his theories in
the monthly reviews has a devout listener in her; and this
subject of the physical development of her sex has had its
turn with other things in her mind. So she had the place
built on her very first arrival, according to the latest
lights on athletics, and in imitation of those at the new
colleges for women.'

'How deuced clever of the girl! She means to live to be a
hundred!'

VII.

The wet day arrived with all the promptness that might have
been expected of it in this land of rains and mists. The
alder bushes behind the gymnasium dripped monotonously leaf
upon leaf, added to this being the purl of the shallow stream
a little way off, producing a sense of satiety in watery
sounds. Though there was drizzle in the open meads, the rain
here in the thicket was comparatively slight, and two men with
fishing tackle who stood beneath one of the larger bushes
found its boughs a sufficient shelter.

'We may as well walk home again as study nature here, Willy,'
said the taller and elder of the twain. 'I feared it would
continue when we started. The magnificent sport you speak of
must rest for to-day.'

The other looked at his watch, but made no particular reply.

'Come, let us move on. I don't like intruding into other
people's grounds like this,' De Stancy continued.

'We are not intruding. Anybody walks outside this fence.' He
indicated an iron railing newly tarred, dividing the wilder
underwood amid which they stood from the inner and well-kept
parts of the shrubbery, and against which the back of the
gymnasium was built.

Light footsteps upon a gravel walk could be heard on the other
side of the fence, and a trio of cloaked and umbrella-screened
figures were for a moment discernible. They vanished behind
the gymnasium; and again nothing resounded but the river
murmurs and the clock-like drippings of the leafage.

'Hush!' said Dare.

'No pranks, my boy,' said De Stancy suspiciously. 'You should
be above them.'

'And you should trust to my good sense, captain,' Dare
remonstrated. 'I have not indulged in a prank since the sixth
year of my pilgrimage. I have found them too damaging to my
interests. Well, it is not too dry here, and damp injures
your health, you say. Have a pull for safety's sake.' He
presented a flask to De Stancy.

The artillery officer looked down at his nether garments.

'I don't break my rule without good reason,' he observed.

'I am afraid that reason exists at present.'

'I am afraid it does. What have you got?'

'Only a little wine.'

'What wine?'

'Do try it. I call it "the blushful Hippocrene," that the
poet describes as

"Tasting of Flora and the country green;
Dance, and Provencal song, and sun-burnt mirth."'

De Stancy took the flask, and drank a little.

'It warms, does it not?' said Dare.

'Too much,' said De Stancy with misgiving. 'I have been taken
unawares. Why, it is three parts brandy, to my taste, you
scamp!'

Dare put away the wine. 'Now you are to see something,' he
said.

'Something--what is it?' Captain De Stancy regarded him with
a puzzled look.

'It is quite a curiosity, and really worth seeing. Now just
look in here.'

The speaker advanced to the back of the building, and withdrew
the wood billet from the wall.

'Will, I believe you are up to some trick,' said De Stancy,
not, however, suspecting the actual truth in these
unsuggestive circumstances, and with a comfortable
resignation, produced by the potent liquor, which would have
been comical to an outsider, but which, to one who had known
the history and relationship of the two speakers, would have
worn a sadder significance. 'I am too big a fool about you to
keep you down as I ought; that's the fault of me, worse luck.'

He pressed the youth's hand with a smile, went forward, and
looked through the hole into the interior of the gymnasium.
Dare withdrew to some little distance, and watched Captain De
Stancy's face, which presently began to assume an expression
of interest.

What was the captain seeing? A sort of optical poem.

Paula, in a pink flannel costume, was bending, wheeling and
undulating in the air like a gold-fish in its globe, sometimes
ascending by her arms nearly to the lantern, then lowering
herself till she swung level with the floor. Her aunt Mrs.
Goodman, and Charlotte De Stancy, were sitting on camp-stools
at one end, watching her gyrations, Paula occasionally
addressing them with such an expression as--'Now, Aunt, look
at me--and you, Charlotte--is not that shocking to your weak
nerves,' when some adroit feat would be repeated, which,
however, seemed to give much more pleasure to Paula herself in
performing it than to Mrs. Goodman in looking on, the latter
sometimes saying, 'O, it is terrific--do not run such a risk
again!'

It would have demanded the poetic passion of some joyous
Elizabethan lyrist like Lodge, Nash, or Constable, to fitly
phrase Paula's presentation of herself at this moment of
absolute abandonment to every muscular whim that could take
possession of such a supple form. The white manilla ropes
clung about the performer like snakes as she took her
exercise, and the colour in her face deepened as she went on.
Captain De Stancy felt that, much as he had seen in early life
of beauty in woman, he had never seen beauty of such a real
and living sort as this. A recollection of his vow, together
with a sense that to gaze on the festival of this Bona Dea
was, though so innocent and pretty a sight, hardly fair or
gentlemanly, would have compelled him to withdraw his eyes,
had not the sportive fascination of her appearance glued them
there in spite of all. And as if to complete the picture of
Grace personified and add the one thing wanting to the charm
which bound him, the clouds, till that time thick in the sky,
broke away from the upper heaven, and allowed the noonday sun
to pour down through the lantern upon her, irradiating her
with a warm light that was incarnadined by her pink doublet
and hose, and reflected in upon her face. She only required a
cloud to rest on instead of the green silk net which actually
supported her reclining figure for the moment, to be quite
Olympian; save indeed that in place of haughty effrontery
there sat on her countenance only the healthful sprightliness
of an English girl.

Dare had withdrawn to a point at which another path crossed
the path occupied by De Stancy. Looking in a side direction,
he saw Havill idling slowly up to him over the silent grass.
Havill's knowledge of the appointment had brought him out to
see what would come of it. When he neared Dare, but was still
partially hidden by the boughs from the third of the party,
the former simply pointed to De Stancy upon which Havill stood
and peeped at him. 'Is she within there?' he inquired.

Dare nodded, and whispered, 'You need not have asked, if you
had examined his face.'

'That's true.'

'A fermentation is beginning in him,' said Dare, half
pitifully; 'a purely chemical process; and when it is complete
he will probably be clear, and fiery, and sparkling, and quite
another man than the good, weak, easy fellow that he was.'

To precisely describe Captain De Stancy's admiration was
impossible. A sun seemed to rise in his face. By watching
him they could almost see the aspect of her within the wall,
so accurately were her changing phases reflected in him. He
seemed to forget that he was not alone.

'And is this,' he murmured, in the manner of one only half
apprehending himself, 'and is this the end of my vow?'

Paula was saying at this moment, 'Ariel sleeps in this
posture, does he not, Auntie?' Suiting the action to the word
she flung out her arms behind her head as she lay in the green
silk hammock, idly closed her pink eyelids, and swung herself
to and fro.

BOOK THE THIRD. DE STANCY.

I.

Captain De Stancy was a changed man. A hitherto well-
repressed energy was giving him motion towards long-shunned
consequences. His features were, indeed, the same as before;
though, had a physiognomist chosen to study them with the
closeness of an astronomer scanning the universe, he would
doubtless have discerned abundant novelty.

In recent years De Stancy had been an easy, melancholy,
unaspiring officer, enervated and depressed by a parental
affection quite beyond his control for the graceless lad Dare-
-the obtrusive memento of a shadowy period in De Stancy's
youth, who threatened to be the curse of his old age.
Throughout a long space he had persevered in his system of
rigidly incarcerating within himself all instincts towards the
opposite sex, with a resolution that would not have disgraced
a much stronger man. By this habit, maintained with fair
success, a chamber of his nature had been preserved intact
during many later years, like the one solitary sealed-up cell
occasionally retained by bees in a lobe of drained honey-comb.
And thus, though he had irretrievably exhausted the relish of
society, of ambition, of action, and of his profession, the
love-force that he had kept immured alive was still a
reproducible thing.

The sight of Paula in her graceful performance, which the
judicious Dare had so carefully planned, led up to and
heightened by subtle accessories, operated on De Stancy's
surprised soul with a promptness almost magical.

On the evening of the self-same day, having dined as usual, he
retired to his rooms, where he found a hamper of wine awaiting
him. It had been anonymously sent, and the account was paid.
He smiled grimly, but no longer with heaviness. In this he
instantly recognized the handiwork of Dare, who, having at
last broken down the barrier which De Stancy had erected round
his heart for so many years, acted like a skilled strategist,
and took swift measures to follow up the advantage so tardily
gained.

Captain De Stancy knew himself conquered: he knew he should
yield to Paula--had indeed yielded; but there was now, in his
solitude, an hour or two of reaction. He did not drink from
the bottles sent. He went early to bed, and lay tossing
thereon till far into the night, thinking over the collapse.
His teetotalism had, with the lapse of years, unconsciously
become the outward and visible sign to himself of his secret
vows; and a return to its opposite, however mildly done,
signified with ceremonious distinctness the formal acceptance
of delectations long forsworn.

But the exceeding freshness of his feeling for Paula, which by
reason of its long arrest was that of a man far under thirty,
and was a wonder to himself every instant, would not long
brook weighing in balances. He wished suddenly to commit
himself; to remove the question of retreat out of the region
of debate. The clock struck two: and the wish became
determination. He arose, and wrapping himself in his
dressing-gown went to the next room, where he took from a
shelf in the pantry several large bottles, which he carried to
the window, till they stood on the sill a goodly row. There
had been sufficient light in the room for him to do this
without a candle. Now he softly opened the sash, and the
radiance of a gibbous moon riding in the opposite sky flooded
the apartment. It fell on the labels of the captain's
bottles, revealing their contents to be simple aerated waters
for drinking.

De Stancy looked out and listened. The guns that stood drawn
up within the yard glistened in the moonlight reaching them
from over the barrack-wall: there was an occasional stamp of
horses in the stables; also a measured tread of sentinels--one
or more at the gates, one at the hospital, one between the
wings, two at the magazine, and others further off. Recurring
to his intention he drew the corks of the mineral waters, and
inverting each bottle one by one over the window-sill, heard
its contents dribble in a small stream on to the gravel below.

He then opened the hamper which Dare had sent. Uncorking one
of the bottles he murmured, 'To Paula!' and drank a glass of
the ruby liquor.

'A man again after eighteen years,' he said, shutting the sash
and returning to his bedroom.

The first overt result of his kindled interest in Miss Power
was his saying to his sister the day after the surreptitious
sight of Paula: 'I am sorry, Charlotte, for a word or two I
said the other day.'

'Well?'

'I was rather disrespectful to your friend Miss Power.'

'I don't think so--were you?'

'Yes. When we were walking in the wood, I made a stupid joke
about her. . . . What does she know about me--do you ever
speak of me to her?'

'Only in general terms.'

'What general terms?'

'You know well enough, William; of your idiosyncrasies and so
on--that you are a bit of a woman-hater, or at least a
confirmed bachelor, and have but little respect for your own
family.'

'I wish you had not told her that,' said De Stancy with
dissatisfaction.

'But I thought you always liked women to know your
principles!' said Charlotte, in injured tones; 'and would
particularly like her to know them, living so near.'

'Yes, yes,' replied her brother hastily. 'Well, I ought to
see her, just to show her that I am not quite a brute.'

'That would be very nice!' she answered, putting her hands
together in agreeable astonishment. 'It is just what I have
wished, though I did not dream of suggesting it after what I
have heard you say. I am going to stay with her again to-
morrow, and I will let her know about this.'

'Don't tell her anything plainly, for heaven's sake. I really
want to see the interior of the castle; I have never entered
its walls since my babyhood.' He raised his eyes as he spoke
to where the walls in question showed their ashlar faces over
the trees.

'You might have gone over it at any time.'

'O yes. It is only recently that I have thought much of the
place: I feel now that I should like to examine the old
building thoroughly, since it was for so many generations
associated with our fortunes, especially as most of the old
furniture is still there. My sedulous avoidance hitherto of
all relating to our family vicissitudes has been, I own,
stupid conduct for an intelligent being; but impossible grapes
are always sour, and I have unconsciously adopted Radical
notions to obliterate disappointed hereditary instincts. But
these have a trick of re-establishing themselves as one gets
older, and the castle and what it contains have a keen
interest for me now.'

'It contains Paula.'

De Stancy's pulse, which had been beating languidly for many
years, beat double at the sound of that name.

'I meant furniture and pictures for the moment,' he said; 'but
I don't mind extending the meaning to her, if you wish it.'

'She is the rarest thing there.'

'So you have said before.'

'The castle and our family history have as much romantic
interest for her as they have for you,' Charlotte went on.
'She delights in visiting our tombs and effigies and ponders
over them for hours.'

'Indeed!' said De Stancy, allowing his surprise to hide the
satisfaction which accompanied it. 'That should make us
friendly. . . . Does she see many people?'

'Not many as yet. And she cannot have many staying there
during the alterations.'

'Ah! yes--the alterations. Didn't you say that she has had a
London architect stopping there on that account? What was he-
-old or young?'

'He is a young man: he has been to our house. Don't you
remember you met him there?'

'What was his name?'

'Mr. Somerset.'

'O, that man! Yes, yes, I remember. . . . Hullo, Lottie!'

'What?'

'Your face is as red as a peony. Now I know a secret!'
Charlotte vainly endeavoured to hide her confusion. 'Very
well--not a word! I won't say more,' continued De Stancy
good-humouredly, 'except that he seems to be a very nice
fellow.'

De Stancy had turned the dialogue on to this little well-
preserved secret of his sister's with sufficient outward
lightness; but it had been done in instinctive concealment of
the disquieting start with which he had recognized that
Somerset, Dare's enemy, whom he had intercepted in placing
Dare's portrait into the hands of the chief constable, was a
man beloved by his sister Charlotte. This novel circumstance
might lead to a curious complication. But he was to hear
more.

'He may be very nice,' replied Charlotte, with an effort,
after this silence. 'But he is nothing to me, more than a
very good friend.'

'There's no engagement, or thought of one between you?'

'Certainly there's not!' said Charlotte, with brave emphasis.
'It is more likely to be between Paula and him than me and
him.'

De Stancy's bare military ears and closely cropped poll
flushed hot. 'Miss Power and him?'

'I don't mean to say there is, because Paula denies it; but I
mean that he loves Paula. That I do know.'

De Stancy was dumb. This item of news which Dare had kept
from him, not knowing how far De Stancy's sense of honour
might extend, was decidedly grave. Indeed, he was so greatly
impressed with the fact, that he could not help saying as much
aloud: 'This is very serious!'

'Why!' she murmured tremblingly, for the first leaking out of
her tender and sworn secret had disabled her quite.

'Because I love Paula too.'

'What do you say, William, you?--a woman you have never seen?'

'I have seen her--by accident. And now, my dear little sis,
you will be my close ally, won't you? as I will be yours, as
brother and sister should be.' He placed his arm coaxingly
round Charlotte's shoulder.

'O, William, how can I?' at last she stammered.

'Why, how can't you, I should say? We are both in the same
ship. I love Paula, you love Mr. Somerset; it behoves both of
us to see that this flirtation of theirs ends in nothing.'

'I don't like you to put it like that--that I love him--it
frightens me,' murmured the girl, visibly agitated. 'I don't
want to divide him from Paula; I couldn't, I wouldn't do
anything to separate them. Believe me, Will, I could not! I
am sorry you love there also, though I should be glad if it
happened in the natural order of events that she should come
round to you. But I cannot do anything to part them and make
Mr. Somerset suffer. It would be TOO wrong and blamable.'

'Now, you silly Charlotte, that's just how you women fly off
at a tangent. I mean nothing dishonourable in the least.
Have I ever prompted you to do anything dishonourable? Fair
fighting allies was all I thought of.'

Miss De Stancy breathed more freely. 'Yes, we will be that,
of course; we are always that, William. But I hope I can be
your ally, and be quite neutral; I would so much rather.'

'Well, I suppose it will not be a breach of your precious
neutrality if you get me invited to see the castle?'

'O no!' she said brightly; 'I don't mind doing such a thing as
that. Why not come with me tomorrow? I will say I am going
to bring you. There will be no trouble at all.'

De Stancy readily agreed. The effect upon him of the
information now acquired was to intensify his ardour tenfold,
the stimulus being due to a perception that Somerset, with a
little more knowledge, would hold a card which could be played
with disastrous effect against himself--his relationship to
Dare. Its disclosure to a lady of such Puritan antecedents as
Paula's, would probably mean her immediate severance from
himself as an unclean thing.

'Is Miss Power a severe pietist, or precisian; or is she a
compromising lady?' he asked abruptly.

'She is severe and uncompromising--if you mean in her
judgments on morals,' said Charlotte, not quite hearing. The
remark was peculiarly apposite, and De Stancy was silent.

He spent some following hours in a close study of the castle
history, which till now had unutterably bored him. More
particularly did he dwell over documents and notes which
referred to the pedigree of his own family. He wrote out the
names of all--and they were many--who had been born within
those domineering walls since their first erection; of those
among them who had been brought thither by marriage with the
owner, and of stranger knights and gentlemen who had entered
the castle by marriage with its mistress. He refreshed his
memory on the strange loves and hates that had arisen in the
course of the family history; on memorable attacks, and the
dates of the same, the most memorable among them being the
occasion on which the party represented by Paula battered down
the castle walls that she was now about to mend, and, as he
hoped, return in their original intact shape to the family
dispossessed, by marriage with himself, its living
representative.

In Sir William's villa were small engravings after many of the
portraits in the castle galleries, some of them hanging in the
dining-room in plain oak and maple frames, and others
preserved in portfolios. De Stancy spent much of his time
over these, and in getting up the romances of their originals'
lives from memoirs and other records, all which stories were
as great novelties to him as they could possibly be to any
stranger. Most interesting to him was the life of an Edward
De Stancy, who had lived just before the Civil Wars, and to
whom Captain De Stancy bore a very traceable likeness. This
ancestor had a mole on his cheek, black and distinct as a fly
in cream; and as in the case of the first Lord Amherst's wart,
and Bennet Earl of Arlington's nose-scar, the painter had
faithfully reproduced the defect on canvas. It so happened
that the captain had a mole, though not exactly on the same
spot of his face; and this made the resemblance still greater.

He took infinite trouble with his dress that day, showing an
amount of anxiety on the matter which for him was quite
abnormal. At last, when fully equipped, he set out with his
sister to make the call proposed. Charlotte was rather
unhappy at sight of her brother's earnest attempt to make an
impression on Paula; but she could say nothing against it, and
they proceeded on their way.

It was the darkest of November weather, when the days are so
short that morning seems to join with evening without the
intervention of noon. The sky was lined with low cloud,
within whose dense substance tempests were slowly fermenting
for the coming days. Even now a windy turbulence troubled the
half-naked boughs, and a lonely leaf would occasionally spin
downwards to rejoin on the grass the scathed multitude of its
comrades which had preceded it in its fall. The river by the
pavilion, in the summer so clear and purling, now slid onwards
brown and thick and silent, and enlarged to double size.

II.

Meanwhile Paula was alone. Of anyone else it would have been
said that she must be finding the afternoon rather dreary in
the quaint halls not of her forefathers: but of Miss Power it
was unsafe to predicate so surely. She walked from room to
room in a black velvet dress which gave decision to her
outline without depriving it of softness. She occasionally
clasped her hands behind her head and looked out of a window;
but she more particularly bent her footsteps up and down the
Long Gallery, where she had caused a large fire of logs to be
kindled, in her endeavour to extend cheerfulness somewhat
beyond the precincts of the sitting-rooms.

The fire glanced up on Paula, and Paula glanced down at the
fire, and at the gnarled beech fuel, and at the wood-lice
which ran out from beneath the bark to the extremity of the
logs as the heat approached them. The low-down ruddy light
spread over the dark floor like the setting sun over a moor,
fluttering on the grotesque countenances of the bright
andirons, and touching all the furniture on the underside.

She now and then crossed to one of the deep embrasures of the
windows, to decipher some sentence from a letter she held in
her hand. The daylight would have been more than sufficient
for any bystander to discern that the capitals in that letter
were of the peculiar semi-gothic type affected at the time by
Somerset and other young architects of his school in their
epistolary correspondence. She was very possibly thinking of
him, even when not reading his letter, for the expression of
softness with which she perused the page was more or less with
her when she appeared to examine other things.

She walked about for a little time longer, then put away the
letter, looked at the clock, and thence returned to the
windows, straining her eyes over the landscape without, as she
murmured, 'I wish Charlotte was not so long coming!'

As Charlotte continued to keep away, Paula became less
reasonable in her desires, and proceeded to wish that Somerset
would arrive; then that anybody would come; then, walking
towards the portraits on the wall, she flippantly asked one of
those cavaliers to oblige her fancy for company by stepping
down from his frame. The temerity of the request led her to
prudently withdraw it almost as soon as conceived: old
paintings had been said to play queer tricks in extreme cases,
and the shadows this afternoon were funereal enough for
anything in the shape of revenge on an intruder who embodied
the antagonistic modern spirit to such an extent as she.
However, Paula still stood before the picture which had
attracted her; and this, by a coincidence common enough in
fact, though scarcely credited in chronicles, happened to be
that one of the seventeenth-century portraits of which De
Stancy had studied the engraved copy at Myrtle Villa the same
morning.

Whilst she remained before the picture, wondering her
favourite wonder, how would she feel if this and its
accompanying canvases were pictures of her own ancestors, she
was surprised by a light footstep upon the carpet which
covered part of the room, and turning quickly she beheld the
smiling little figure of Charlotte De Stancy.

'What has made you so late?' said Paula. 'You are come to
stay, of course?'

Charlotte said she had come to stay. 'But I have brought
somebody with me!'

'Ah--whom?'

'My brother happened to be at home, and I have brought him.'

Miss De Stancy's brother had been so continuously absent from
home in India, or elsewhere, so little spoken of, and, when
spoken of, so truly though unconsciously represented as one
whose interests lay wholly outside this antiquated
neighbourhood, that to Paula he had been a mere nebulosity
whom she had never distinctly outlined. To have him thus
cohere into substance at a moment's notice lent him the
novelty of a new creation.

'Is he in the drawing-room?' said Paula in a low voice.

'No, he is here. He would follow me. I hope you will forgive
him.'

And then Paula saw emerge into the red beams of the dancing
fire, from behind a half-drawn hanging which screened the
door, the military gentleman whose acquaintance the reader has
already made.

'You know the house, doubtless, Captain De Stancy?' said
Paula, somewhat shyly, when he had been presented to her.

'I have never seen the inside since I was three weeks old,'
replied the artillery officer gracefully; 'and hence my
recollections of it are not remarkably distinct. A year or
two before I was born the entail was cut off by my father and
grandfather; so that I saw the venerable place only to lose
it; at least, I believe that's the truth of the case. But my
knowledge of the transaction is not profound, and it is a
delicate point on which to question one's father.'

Paula assented, and looked at the interesting and noble figure
of the man whose parents had seemingly righted themselves at
the expense of wronging him.

'The pictures and furniture were sold about the same time, I
think?' said Charlotte.

'Yes,' murmured De Stancy. 'They went in a mad bargain of my
father with his visitor, as they sat over their wine. My
father sat down as host on that occasion, and arose as guest.'

He seemed to speak with such a courteous absence of regret for
the alienation, that Paula, who was always fearing that the
recollection would rise as a painful shadow between herself
and the De Stancys, felt reassured by his magnanimity.

De Stancy looked with interest round the gallery; seeing which
Paula said she would have lights brought in a moment.

'No, please not,' said De Stancy. 'The room and ourselves are
of so much more interesting a colour by this light!'

As they moved hither and thither, the various expressions of
De Stancy's face made themselves picturesquely visible in the
unsteady shine of the blaze. In a short time he had drawn
near to the painting of the ancestor whom he so greatly
resembled. When her quick eye noted the speck on the face,
indicative of inherited traits strongly pronounced, a new and
romantic feeling that the De Stancys had stretched out a
tentacle from their genealogical tree to seize her by the hand
and draw her in to their mass took possession of Paula. As
has been said, the De Stancys were a family on whom the hall-
mark of membership was deeply stamped, and by the present
light the representative under the portrait and the
representative in the portrait seemed beings not far removed.
Paula was continually starting from a reverie and speaking
irrelevantly, as if such reflections as those seized hold of
her in spite of her natural unconcern.

When candles were brought in Captain De Stancy ardently
contrived to make the pictures the theme of conversation.
From the nearest they went to the next, whereupon Paula as
hostess took up one of the candlesticks and held it aloft to
light up the painting. The candlestick being tall and heavy,
De Stancy relieved her of it, and taking another candle in the
other hand, he imperceptibly slid into the position of
exhibitor rather than spectator. Thus he walked in advance
holding the two candles on high, his shadow forming a gigantic
figure on the neighbouring wall, while he recited the
particulars of family history pertaining to each portrait,
that he had learnt up with such eager persistence during the
previous four-and-twenty-hours. 'I have often wondered what
could have been the history of this lady, but nobody has ever
been able to tell me,' Paula observed, pointing to a Vandyck
which represented a beautiful woman wearing curls across her
forehead, a square-cut bodice, and a heavy pearl necklace upon
the smooth expanse of her neck.

'I don't think anybody knows,' Charlotte said.

'O yes,' replied her brother promptly, seeing with enthusiasm
that it was yet another opportunity for making capital of his
acquired knowledge, with which he felt himself as
inconveniently crammed as a candidate for a government
examination. 'That lady has been largely celebrated under a
fancy name, though she is comparatively little known by her

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