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A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy

Part 5 out of 10

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own. Her parents were the chief ornaments of the almost
irreproachable court of Charles the First, and were not more
distinguished by their politeness and honour than by the
affections and virtues which constitute the great charm of
private life.'

The stock verbiage of the family memoir was somewhat apparent
in this effusion; but it much impressed his listeners; and he
went on to point out that from the lady's necklace was
suspended a heart-shaped portrait--that of the man who broke
his heart by her persistent refusal to encourage his suit. De
Stancy then led them a little further, where hung a portrait
of the lover, one of his own family, who appeared in full
panoply of plate mail, the pommel of his sword standing up
under his elbow. The gallant captain then related how this
personage of his line wooed the lady fruitlessly; how, after
her marriage with another, she and her husband visited the
parents of the disappointed lover, the then occupiers of the
castle; how, in a fit of desperation at the sight of her, he
retired to his room, where he composed some passionate verses,
which he wrote with his blood, and after directing them to her
ran himself through the body with his sword. Too late the
lady's heart was touched by his devotion; she was ever after a
melancholy woman, and wore his portrait despite her husband's
prohibition. 'This,' continued De Stancy, leading them
through the doorway into the hall where the coats of mail were
arranged along the wall, and stopping opposite a suit which
bore some resemblance to that of the portrait, 'this is his
armour, as you will perceive by comparing it with the picture,
and this is the sword with which he did the rash deed.'

'What unreasonable devotion!' said Paula practically. 'It was
too romantic of him. She was not worthy of such a sacrifice.'

'He also is one whom they say you resemble a little in
feature, I think,' said Charlotte.

'Do they?' replied De Stancy. 'I wonder if it's true.' He
set down the candles, and asking the girls to withdraw for a
moment, was inside the upper part of the suit of armour in
incredibly quick time. Going then and placing himself in
front of a low-hanging painting near the original, so as to be
enclosed by the frame while covering the figure, arranging the
sword as in the one above, and setting the light that it might
fall in the right direction, he recalled them; when he put the
question, 'Is the resemblance strong?'

He looked so much like a man of bygone times that neither of
them replied, but remained curiously gazing at him. His
modern and comparatively sallow complexion, as seen through
the open visor, lent an ethereal ideality to his appearance
which the time-stained countenance of the original warrior
totally lacked.

At last Paula spoke, so stilly that she seemed a statue
enunciating: 'Are the verses known that he wrote with his
blood?'

'O yes, they have been carefully preserved.' Captain De
Stancy, with true wooer's instinct, had committed some of them
to memory that morning from the printed copy to be found in
every well-ordered library. 'I fear I don't remember them
all,' he said, 'but they begin in this way:--

"From one that dyeth in his discontent,
Dear Faire, receive this greeting to thee sent;
And still as oft as it is read by thee,
Then with some deep sad sigh remember mee!

O 'twas my fortune's error to vow dutie,
To one that bears defiance in her beautie!
Sweete poyson, pretious wooe, infectious jewell--
Such is a Ladie that is faire and cruell.

How well could I with ayre, camelion-like,
Live happie, and still gazeing on thy cheeke,
In which, forsaken man, methink I see
How goodlie love doth threaten cares to mee.

Why dost thou frowne thus on a kneelinge soule,
Whose faults in love thou may'st as well controule?--
In love--but O, that word; that word I feare
Is hateful still both to thy hart and eare!

. . . . .

Ladie, in breefe, my fate doth now intend
The period of my daies to have an end:
Waste not on me thy pittie, pretious Faire:
Rest you in much content; I, in despaire!"'

A solemn silence followed the close of the recital, which De
Stancy improved by turning the point of the sword to his
breast, resting the pommel upon the floor, and saying:--

'After writing that we may picture him turning this same sword
in this same way, and falling on it thus.' He inclined his
body forward as he spoke.

'Don't, Captain De Stancy, please don't!' cried Paula
involuntarily.

'No, don't show us any further, William!' said his sister.
'It is too tragic.'

De Stancy put away the sword, himself rather excited--not,
however, by his own recital, but by the direct gaze of Paula
at him.

This Protean quality of De Stancy's, by means of which he
could assume the shape and situation of almost any ancestor at
will, had impressed her, and he perceived it with a throb of
fervour. But it had done no more than impress her; for though
in delivering the lines he had so fixed his look upon her as
to suggest, to any maiden practised in the game of the eyes, a
present significance in the words, the idea of any such
arriere-pensee had by no means commended itself to her soul.

At this time a messenger from Markton barracks arrived at the
castle and wished to speak to Captain De Stancy in the hall.
Begging the two ladies to excuse him for a moment, he went
out.

While De Stancy was talking in the twilight to the messenger
at one end of the apartment, some other arrival was shown in
by the side door, and in making his way after the conference
across the hall to the room he had previously quitted, De
Stancy encountered the new-comer. There was just enough light
to reveal the countenance to be Dare's; he bore a portfolio
under his arm, and had begun to wear a moustache, in case the
chief constable should meet him anywhere in his rambles, and
be struck by his resemblance to the man in the studio.

'What the devil are you doing here?' said Captain De Stancy,
in tones he had never used before to the young man.

Dare started back in surprise, and naturally so. De Stancy,
having adopted a new system of living, and relinquished the
meagre diet and enervating waters of his past years, was
rapidly recovering tone. His voice was firmer, his cheeks
were less pallid; and above all he was authoritative towards
his present companion, whose ingenuity in vamping up a being
for his ambitious experiments seemed about to be rewarded,
like Frankenstein's, by his discomfiture at the hands of his
own creature.

'What the devil are you doing here, I say?' repeated De
Stancy.

'You can talk to me like that, after my working so hard to get
you on in life, and make a rising man of you!' expostulated
Dare, as one who felt himself no longer the leader in this
enterprise.

'But,' said the captain less harshly, 'if you let them
discover any relations between us here, you will ruin the
fairest prospects man ever had!'

'O, I like that, captain--when you owe all of it to me!'

'That's too cool, Will.'

'No; what I say is true. However, let that go. So now you
are here on a call; but how are you going to get here often
enough to win her before the other man comes back? If you
don't see her every day--twice, three times a day--you will
not capture her in the time.'

'I must think of that,' said De Stancy.

'There is only one way of being constantly here: you must
come to copy the pictures or furniture, something in the way
he did.'

'I'll think of it,' muttered De Stancy hastily, as he heard
the voices of the ladies, whom he hastened to join as they
were appearing at the other end of the room. His countenance
was gloomy as he recrossed the hall, for Dare's words on the
shortness of his opportunities had impressed him. Almost at
once he uttered a hope to Paula that he might have further
chance of studying, and if possible of copying, some of the
ancestral faces with which the building abounded.

Meanwhile Dare had come forward with his portfolio, which
proved to be full of photographs. While Paula and Charlotte
were examining them he said to De Stancy, as a stranger:
'Excuse my interruption, sir, but if you should think of
copying any of the portraits, as you were stating just now to
the ladies, my patent photographic process is at your service,
and is, I believe, the only one which would be effectual in
the dim indoor lights.'

'It is just what I was thinking of,' said De Stancy, now so
far cooled down from his irritation as to be quite ready to
accept Dare's adroitly suggested scheme.

On application to Paula she immediately gave De Stancy
permission to photograph to any extent, and told Dare he might
bring his instruments as soon as Captain De Stancy required
them.

'Don't stare at her in such a brazen way!' whispered the
latter to the young man, when Paula had withdrawn a few steps.
'Say, "I shall highly value the privilege of assisting Captain
De Stancy in such a work."'

Dare obeyed, and before leaving De Stancy arranged to begin
performing on his venerated forefathers the next morning, the
youth so accidentally engaged agreeing to be there at the same
time to assist in the technical operations.

III.

As he had promised, De Stancy made use the next day of the
coveted permission that had been brought about by the
ingenious Dare. Dare's timely suggestion of tendering
assistance had the practical result of relieving the other of
all necessity for occupying his time with the proceeding,
further than to bestow a perfunctory superintendence now and
then, to give a colour to his regular presence in the
fortress, the actual work of taking copies being carried on by
the younger man.

The weather was frequently wet during these operations, and
Paula, Miss De Stancy, and her brother, were often in the
house whole mornings together. By constant urging and coaxing
the latter would induce his gentle sister, much against her
conscience, to leave him opportunities for speaking to Paula
alone. It was mostly before some print or painting that these
conversations occurred, while De Stancy was ostensibly
occupied with its merits, or in giving directions to his
photographer how to proceed. As soon as the dialogue began,
the latter would withdraw out of earshot, leaving Paula to
imagine him the most deferential young artist in the world.

'You will soon possess duplicates of the whole gallery,' she
said on one of these occasions, examining some curled sheets
which Dare had printed off from the negatives.

'No,' said the soldier. 'I shall not have patience to go on.
I get ill-humoured and indifferent, and then leave off.'

'Why ill-humoured?'

'I scarcely know--more than that I acquire a general sense of
my own family's want of merit through seeing how meritorious
the people are around me. I see them happy and thriving
without any necessity for me at all; and then I regard these
canvas grandfathers and grandmothers, and ask, "Why was a line
so antiquated and out of date prolonged till now?"'

She chid him good-naturedly for such views. 'They will do you
an injury,' she declared. 'Do spare yourself, Captain De
Stancy!'

De Stancy shook his head as he turned the painting before him
a little further to the light.

'But, do you know,' said Paula, 'that notion of yours of being
a family out of date is delightful to some people. I talk to
Charlotte about it often. I am never weary of examining those
canopied effigies in the church, and almost wish they were
those of my relations.'

'I will try to see things in the same light for your sake,'
said De Stancy fervently.

'Not for my sake; for your own was what I meant, of course,'
she replied with a repressive air.

Captain De Stancy bowed.

'What are you going to do with your photographs when you have
them?' she asked, as if still anxious to obliterate the
previous sentimental lapse.

'I shall put them into a large album, and carry them with me
in my campaigns; and may I ask, now I have an opportunity,
that you would extend your permission to copy a little
further, and let me photograph one other painting that hangs
in the castle, to fittingly complete my set?'

'Which?'

'That half-length of a lady which hangs in the morning-room.
I remember seeing it in the Academy last year.'

Paula involuntarily closed herself up. The picture was her
own portrait. 'It does not belong to your series,' she said
somewhat coldly.

De Stancy's secret thought was, I hope from my soul it will
belong some day! He answered with mildness: 'There is a sort
of connection--you are my sister's friend.'

Paula assented.

'And hence, might not your friend's brother photograph your
picture?'

Paula demurred.

A gentle sigh rose from the bosom of De Stancy. 'What is to
become of me?' he said, with a light distressed laugh. 'I am
always inconsiderate and inclined to ask too much. Forgive
me! What was in my mind when I asked I dare not say.'

'I quite understand your interest in your family pictures--and
all of it,' she remarked more gently, willing not to hurt the
sensitive feelings of a man so full of romance.

'And in that ONE!' he said, looking devotedly at her. 'If I
had only been fortunate enough to include it with the rest, my
album would indeed have been a treasure to pore over by the
bivouac fire!'

'O, Captain De Stancy, this is provoking perseverance!' cried
Paula, laughing half crossly. 'I expected that after
expressing my decision so plainly the first time I should not
have been further urged upon the subject.' Saying which she
turned and moved decisively away.

It had not been a productive meeting, thus far. 'One word!'
said De Stancy, following and almost clasping her hand. 'I
have given offence, I know: but do let it all fall on my own
head--don't tell my sister of my misbehaviour! She loves you
deeply, and it would wound her to the heart.'

'You deserve to be told upon,' said Paula as she withdrew,
with just enough playfulness to show that her anger was not
too serious.

Charlotte looked at Paula uneasily when the latter joined her
in the drawing-room. She wanted to say, 'What is the matter?'
but guessing that her brother had something to do with it,
forbore to speak at first. She could not contain her anxiety
long. 'Were you talking with my brother?' she said.

'Yes,' returned Paula, with reservation. However, she soon
added, 'He not only wants to photograph his ancestors, but MY
portrait too. They are a dreadfully encroaching sex, and
perhaps being in the army makes them worse!'

'I'll give him a hint, and tell him to be careful.'

'Don't say I have definitely complained of him; it is not
worth while to do that; the matter is too trifling for
repetition. Upon the whole, Charlotte, I would rather you
said nothing at all.'

De Stancy's hobby of photographing his ancestors seemed to
become a perfect mania with him. Almost every morning
discovered him in the larger apartments of the castle, taking
down and rehanging the dilapidated pictures, with the
assistance of the indispensable Dare; his fingers stained
black with dust, and his face expressing a busy attention to
the work in hand, though always reserving a look askance for
the presence of Paula.

Though there was something of subterfuge, there was no deep
and double subterfuge in all this. De Stancy took no
particular interest in his ancestral portraits; but he was
enamoured of Paula to weakness. Perhaps the composition of
his love would hardly bear looking into, but it was recklessly
frank and not quite mercenary. His photographic scheme was
nothing worse than a lover's not too scrupulous contrivance.
After the refusal of his request to copy her picture he fumed
and fretted at the prospect of Somerset's return before any
impression had been made on her heart by himself; he swore at
Dare, and asked him hotly why he had dragged him into such a
hopeless dilemma as this.

'Hopeless? Somerset must still be kept away, so that it is
not hopeless. I will consider how to prolong his stay.'

Thereupon Dare considered.

The time was coming--had indeed come--when it was necessary
for Paula to make up her mind about her architect, if she
meant to begin building in the spring. The two sets of plans,
Somerset's and Havill's, were hanging on the walls of the room
that had been used by Somerset as his studio, and were
accessible by anybody. Dare took occasion to go and study
both sets, with a view to finding a flaw in Somerset's which
might have been passed over unnoticed by the committee of
architects, owing to their absence from the actual site. But
not a blunder could he find.

He next went to Havill; and here he was met by an amazing
state of affairs. Havill's creditors, at last suspecting
something mythical in Havill's assurance that the grand
commission was his, had lost all patience; his house was
turned upside-down, and a poster gleamed on the front wall,
stating that the excellent modern household furniture was to
be sold by auction on Friday next. Troubles had apparently
come in battalions, for Dare was informed by a bystander that
Havill's wife was seriously ill also.

Without staying for a moment to enter his friend's house, back
went Mr. Dare to the castle, and told Captain De Stancy of the
architect's desperate circumstances, begging him to convey the
news in some way to Miss Power. De Stancy promised to make
representations in the proper quarter without perceiving that
he was doing the best possible deed for himself thereby.

He told Paula of Havill's misfortunes in the presence of his
sister, who turned pale. She discerned how this misfortune
would bear upon the undecided competition.

'Poor man,' murmured Paula. 'He was my father's architect,
and somehow expected, though I did not promise it, the work of
rebuilding the castle.'

Then De Stancy saw Dare's aim in sending him to Miss Power
with the news; and, seeing it, concurred: Somerset was his
rival, and all was fair. 'And is he not to have the work of
the castle after expecting it?' he asked.

Paula was lost in reflection. 'The other architect's design
and Mr. Havill's are exactly equal in merit, and we cannot
decide how to give it to either,' explained Charlotte.

'That is our difficulty,' Paula murmured. 'A bankrupt, and
his wife ill--dear me! I wonder what's the cause.'

'He has borrowed on the expectation of having to execute the
castle works, and now he is unable to meet his liabilities.'

'It is very sad,' said Paula.

'Let me suggest a remedy for this dead-lock,' said De Stancy.

'Do,' said Paula.

'Do the work of building in two halves or sections. Give
Havill the first half, since he is in need; when that is
finished the second half can be given to your London
architect. If, as I understand, the plans are identical,
except in ornamental details, there will be no difficulty
about it at all.'

Paula sighed--just a little one; and yet the suggestion seemed
to satisfy her by its reasonableness. She turned sad,
wayward, but was impressed by De Stancy's manner and words.
She appeared indeed to have a smouldering desire to please
him. In the afternoon she said to Charlotte, 'I mean to do as
your brother says.'

A note was despatched to Havill that very day, and in an hour
the crestfallen architect presented himself at the castle.
Paula instantly gave him audience, commiserated him, and
commissioned him to carry out a first section of the
buildings, comprising work to the extent of about twenty
thousand pounds expenditure; and then, with a prematureness
quite amazing among architects' clients, she handed him over a
cheque for five hundred pounds on account.

When he had gone, Paula's bearing showed some sign of being
disquieted at what she had done; but she covered her mood
under a cloak of saucy serenity. Perhaps a tender remembrance
of a certain thunderstorm in the foregoing August when she
stood with Somerset in the arbour, and did not own that she
loved him, was pressing on her memory and bewildering her.
She had not seen quite clearly, in adopting De Stancy's
suggestion, that Somerset would now have no professional
reason for being at the castle for the next twelve months.

But the captain had, and when Havill entered the castle he
rejoiced with great joy. Dare, too, rejoiced in his cold way,
and went on with his photography, saying, 'The game
progresses, captain.'

'Game? Call it Divine Comedy, rather!' said the soldier
exultingly.

'He is practically banished for a year or more. What can't
you do in a year, captain!'

Havill, in the meantime, having respectfully withdrawn from
the presence of Paula, passed by Dare and De Stancy in the
gallery as he had done in entering. He spoke a few words to
Dare, who congratulated him. While they were talking somebody
was heard in the hall, inquiring hastily for Mr. Havill.

'What shall I tell him?' demanded the porter.

'His wife is dead,' said the messenger.

Havill overheard the words, and hastened away.

'An unlucky man!' said Dare.

'That, happily for us, will not affect his installation here,'
said De Stancy. 'Now hold your tongue and keep at a distance.
She may come this way.'

Surely enough in a few minutes she came. De Stancy, to make
conversation, told her of the new misfortune which had just
befallen Mr. Havill.

Paula was very sorry to hear it, and remarked that it gave her
great satisfaction to have appointed him as architect of the
first wing before he learnt the bad news. 'I owe you best
thanks, Captain De Stancy, for showing me such an expedient.'

'Do I really deserve thanks?' asked De Stancy. 'I wish I
deserved a reward; but I must bear in mind the fable of the
priest and the jester.'

'I never heard it.'

'The jester implored the priest for alms, but the smallest sum
was refused, though the holy man readily agreed to give him
his blessing. Query, its value?'

'How does it apply?'

'You give me unlimited thanks, but deny me the tiniest
substantial trifle I desire.'

'What persistence!' exclaimed Paula, colouring. 'Very well,
if you WILL photograph my picture you must. It is really not
worthy further pleading. Take it when you like.'

When Paula was alone she seemed vexed with herself for having
given way; and rising from her seat she went quietly to the
door of the room containing the picture, intending to lock it
up till further consideration, whatever he might think of her.
But on casting her eyes round the apartment the painting was
gone. The captain, wisely taking the current when it served,
already had it in the gallery, where he was to be seen bending
attentively over it, arranging the lights and directing Dare
with the instruments. On leaving he thanked her, and said
that he had obtained a splendid copy. Would she look at it?

Paula was severe and icy. 'Thank you--I don't wish to see
it,' she said.

De Stancy bowed and departed in a glow of triumph; satisfied,
notwithstanding her frigidity, that he had compassed his
immediate aim, which was that she might not be able to dismiss
from her thoughts him and his persevering desire for the
shadow of her face during the next four-and-twenty-hours. And
his confidence was well founded: she could not.

'I fear this Divine Comedy will be slow business for us,
captain,' said Dare, who had heard her cold words.

'O no!' said De Stancy, flushing a little: he had not been
perceiving that the lad had the measure of his mind so
entirely as to gauge his position at any moment. But he would
show no shamefacedness. 'Even if it is, my boy,' he answered,
'there's plenty of time before the other can come.'

At that hour and minute of De Stancy's remark 'the other,' to
look at him, seemed indeed securely shelved. He was sitting
lonely in his chambers far away, wondering why she did not
write, and yet hoping to hear--wondering if it had all been
but a short-lived strain of tenderness. He knew as well as if
it had been stated in words that her serious acceptance of him
as a suitor would be her acceptance of him as an architect--
that her schemes in love would be expressed in terms of art;
and conversely that her refusal of him as a lover would be
neatly effected by her choosing Havill's plans for the castle,
and returning his own with thanks. The position was so clear:
he was so well walled in by circumstances that he was
absolutely helpless.

To wait for the line that would not come--the letter saying
that, as she had desired, his was the design that pleased her-
-was still the only thing to do. The (to Somerset) surprising
accident that the committee of architects should have
pronounced the designs absolutely equal in point of merit, and
thus have caused the final choice to revert after all to
Paula, had been a joyous thing to him when he first heard of
it, full of confidence in her favour. But the fact of her
having again become the arbitrator, though it had made
acceptance of his plans all the more probable, made refusal of
them, should it happen, all the more crushing. He could have
conceived himself favoured by Paula as her lover, even had the
committee decided in favour of Havill as her architect. But
not to be chosen as architect now was to be rejected in both
kinds.

IV.

It was the Sunday following the funeral of Mrs. Havill, news
of whose death had been so unexpectedly brought to her husband
at the moment of his exit from Stancy Castle. The minister,
as was his custom, improved the occasion by a couple of
sermons on the uncertainty of life. One was preached in the
morning in the old chapel of Markton; the second at evening
service in the rural chapel near Stancy Castle, built by
Paula's father, which bore to the first somewhat the relation
of an episcopal chapel-of-ease to the mother church.

The unscreened lights blazed through the plate-glass windows
of the smaller building and outshone the steely stars of the
early night, just as they had done when Somerset was attracted
by their glare four months before. The fervid minister's
rhetoric equalled its force on that more romantic occasion:
but Paula was not there. She was not a frequent attendant now
at her father's votive building. The mysterious tank, whose
dark waters had so repelled her at the last moment, was
boarded over: a table stood on its centre, with an open
quarto Bible upon it, behind which Havill, in a new suit of
black, sat in a large chair. Havill held the office of
deacon: and he had mechanically taken the deacon's seat as
usual to-night, in the face of the congregation, and under the
nose of Mr. Woodwell.

Mr. Woodwell was always glad of an opportunity. He was gifted
with a burning natural eloquence, which, though perhaps a
little too freely employed in exciting the 'Wertherism of the
uncultivated,' had in it genuine power. He was a master of
that oratory which no limitation of knowledge can repress, and
which no training can impart. The neighbouring rector could
eclipse Woodwell's scholarship, and the freethinker at the
corner shop in Markton could demolish his logic; but the
Baptist could do in five minutes what neither of these had
done in a lifetime; he could move some of the hardest of men
to tears.

Thus it happened that, when the sermon was fairly under way,
Havill began to feel himself in a trying position. It was not
that he had bestowed much affection upon his deceased wife,
irreproachable woman as she had been; but the suddenness of
her death had shaken his nerves, and Mr. Woodwell's address on
the uncertainty of life involved considerations of conduct on
earth that bore with singular directness upon Havill's
unprincipled manoeuvre for victory in the castle competition.
He wished he had not been so inadvertent as to take his
customary chair in the chapel. People who saw Havill's
agitation did not know that it was most largely owing to his
sense of the fraud which had been practised on the unoffending
Somerset; and when, unable longer to endure the torture of
Woodwell's words, he rose from his place and went into the
chapel vestry, the preacher little thought that remorse for a
contemptibly unfair act, rather than grief for a dead wife,
was the cause of the architect's withdrawal.

When Havill got into the open air his morbid excitement calmed
down, but a sickening self-abhorrence for the proceeding
instigated by Dare did not abate. To appropriate another
man's design was no more nor less than to embezzle his money
or steal his goods. The intense reaction from his conduct of
the past two or three months did not leave him when he reached
his own house and observed where the handbills of the
countermanded sale had been torn down, as the result of the
payment made in advance by Paula of money which should really
have been Somerset's.

The mood went on intensifying when he was in bed. He lay
awake till the clock reached those still, small, ghastly hours
when the vital fires burn at their lowest in the human frame,
and death seizes more of his victims than in any other of the
twenty-four. Havill could bear it no longer; he got a light,
went down into his office and wrote the note subjoined.

'MADAM,--The recent death of my wife necessitates a
considerable change in my professional arrangements and plans
with regard to the future. One of the chief results of the
change is, I regret to state, that I no longer find myself in
a position to carry out the enlargement of the castle which
you had so generously entrusted to my hands.

'I beg leave therefore to resign all further connection with
the same, and to express, if you will allow me, a hope that
the commission may be placed in the hands of the other
competitor. Herewith is returned a cheque for one-half of the
sum so kindly advanced in anticipation of the commission I
should receive; the other half, with which I had cleared off
my immediate embarrassments before perceiving the necessity
for this course, shall be returned to you as soon as some
payments from other clients drop in.--I beg to remain, Madam,
your obedient servant, JAMES HAVILL.'

Havill would not trust himself till the morning to post this
letter. He sealed it up, went out with it into the street,
and walked through the sleeping town to the post-office. At
the mouth of the box he held the letter long. By dropping it,
he was dropping at least two thousand five hundred pounds
which, however obtained, were now securely his. It was a
great deal to let go; and there he stood till another wave of
conscience bore in upon his soul the absolute nature of the
theft, and made him shudder. The footsteps of a solitary
policeman could be heard nearing him along the deserted
street; hesitation ended, and he let the letter go.

When he awoke in the morning he thought over the circumstances
by the cheerful light of a low eastern sun. The horrors of
the situation seemed much less formidable; yet it cannot be
said that he actually regretted his act. Later on he walked
out, with the strange sense of being a man who, from one
having a large professional undertaking in hand, had, by his
own act, suddenly reduced himself to an unoccupied
nondescript. From the upper end of the town he saw in the
distance the grand grey towers of Stancy Castle looming over
the leafless trees; he felt stupefied at what he had done, and
said to himself with bitter discontent: 'Well, well, what is
more contemptible than a half-hearted rogue!'

That morning the post-bag had been brought to Paula and Mrs.
Goodman in the usual way, and Miss Power read the letter. His
resignation was a surprise; the question whether he would or
would not repay the money was passed over; the necessity of
installing Somerset after all as sole architect was an
agitation, or emotion, the precise nature of which it is
impossible to accurately define.

However, she went about the house after breakfast with very
much the manner of one who had had a weight removed either
from her heart or from her conscience; moreover, her face was
a little flushed when, in passing by Somerset's late studio,
she saw the plans bearing his motto, and knew that his and not
Havill's would be the presiding presence in the coming
architectural turmoil. She went on further, and called to
Charlotte, who was now regularly sleeping in the castle, to
accompany her, and together they ascended to the telegraph-
room in the donjon tower.

'Whom are you going to telegraph to?' said Miss De Stancy when
they stood by the instrument.

'My architect.'

'O--Mr. Havill.'

'Mr. Somerset.'

Miss De Stancy had schooled her emotions on that side cruelly
well, and she asked calmly, 'What, have you chosen him after
all?'

'There is no choice in it--read that,' said Paula, handing
Havill's letter, as if she felt that Providence had stepped in
to shape ends that she was too undecided or unpractised to
shape for herself.

'It is very strange,' murmured Charlotte; while Paula applied
herself to the machine and despatched the words:--

'Miss Power, Stancy Castle, to G. Somerset, Esq., F.S.A.,
F.R.I.B.A., Queen Anne's Chambers, St. James's.

'Your design is accepted in its entirety. It will be
necessary to begin soon. I shall wish to see and consult you
on the matter about the 10th instant.'

When the message was fairly gone out of the window Paula
seemed still further to expand. The strange spell cast over
her by something or other--probably the presence of De Stancy,
and the weird romanticism of his manner towards her, which was
as if the historic past had touched her with a yet living
hand--in a great measure became dissipated, leaving her the
arch and serene maiden that she had been before.

About this time Captain De Stancy and his Achates were
approaching the castle, and had arrived about fifty paces from
the spot at which it was Dare's custom to drop behind his
companion, in order that their appearance at the lodge should
be that of master and man.

Dare was saying, as he had said before: 'I can't help
fancying, captain, that your approach to this castle and its
mistress is by a very tedious system. Your trenches, zigzags,
counterscarps, and ravelins may be all very well, and a very
sure system of attack in the long run; but upon my soul they
are almost as slow in maturing as those of Uncle Toby himself.
For my part I should be inclined to try an assault.'

'Don't pretend to give advice, Willy, on matters beyond your
years.'

'I only meant it for your good, and your proper advancement in
the world,' said Dare in wounded tones.

'Different characters, different systems,' returned the
soldier. 'This lady is of a reticent, independent,
complicated disposition, and any sudden proceeding would put
her on her mettle. You don't dream what my impatience is, my
boy. It is a thing transcending your utmost conceptions! But
I proceed slowly; I know better than to do otherwise. Thank
God there is plenty of time. As long as there is no risk of
Somerset's return my situation is sure.'

'And professional etiquette will prevent him coming yet.
Havill and he will change like the men in a sentry-box; when
Havill walks out, he'll walk in, and not a moment before.'

'That will not be till eighteen months have passed. And as
the Jesuit said, "Time and I against any two." . . . Now drop
to the rear,' added Captain De Stancy authoritatively. And
they passed under the walls of the castle.

The grave fronts and bastions were wrapped in silence; so much
so, that, standing awhile in the inner ward, they could hear
through an open window a faintly clicking sound from within.

'She's at the telegraph,' said Dare, throwing forward his
voice softly to the captain. 'What can that be for so early?
That wire is a nuisance, to my mind; such constant intercourse
with the outer world is bad for our romance.'

The speaker entered to arrange his photographic apparatus, of
which, in truth, he was getting weary; and De Stancy smoked on
the terrace till Dare should be ready. While he waited his
sister looked out upon him from an upper casement, having
caught sight of him as she came from Paula in the telegraph-
room.

'Well, Lottie, what news this morning?' he said gaily.

'Nothing of importance. We are quite well.' . . . . She added
with hesitation, 'There is one piece of news; Mr. Havill--but
perhaps you have heard it in Markton?'

'Nothing.'

'Mr. Havill has resigned his appointment as architect to the
castle.'

'What?--who has it, then?'

'Mr. Somerset.'

'Appointed?'

'Yes--by telegraph.'

'When is he coming?' said De Stancy in consternation.

'About the tenth, we think.'

Charlotte was concerned to see her brother's face, and
withdrew from the window that he might not question her
further. De Stancy went into the hall, and on to the gallery,
where Dare was standing as still as a caryatid.

'I have heard every word,' said Dare.

'Well, what does it mean? Has that fool Havill done it on
purpose to annoy me? What conceivable reason can the man have
for throwing up an appointment he has worked so hard for, at
the moment he has got it, and in the time of his greatest
need?'

Dare guessed, for he had seen a little way into Havill's soul
during the brief period of their confederacy. But he was very
far from saying what he guessed. Yet he unconsciously
revealed by other words the nocturnal shades in his character
which had made that confederacy possible.

'Somerset coming after all!' he replied. 'By God! that little
six-barrelled friend of mine, and a good resolution, and he
would never arrive!'

'What!' said Captain De Stancy, paling with horror as he
gathered the other's sinister meaning.

Dare instantly recollected himself. 'One is tempted to say
anything at such a moment,' he replied hastily.

'Since he is to come, let him come, for me,' continued De
Stancy, with reactionary distinctness, and still gazing
gravely into the young man's face. 'The battle shall be
fairly fought out. Fair play, even to a rival--remember that,
boy. . . . Why are you here?--unnaturally concerning yourself
with the passions of a man of my age, as if you were the
parent, and I the son? Would to heaven, Willy, you had done
as I wished you to do, and led the life of a steady,
thoughtful young man! Instead of meddling here, you should
now have been in some studio, college, or professional man's
chambers, engaged in a useful pursuit which might have made
one proud to own you. But you were so precocious and
headstrong; and this is what you have come to: you promise to
be worthless!'

'I think I shall go to my lodgings to-day instead of staying
here over these pictures,' said Dare, after a silence during
which Captain De Stancy endeavoured to calm himself. 'I was
going to tell you that my dinner to-day will unfortunately be
one of herbs, for want of the needful. I have come to my last
stiver.--You dine at the mess, I suppose, captain?'

De Stancy had walked away; but Dare knew that he played a
pretty sure card in that speech. De Stancy's heart could not
withstand the suggested contrast between a lonely meal of
bread-and-cheese and a well-ordered dinner amid cheerful
companions. 'Here,' he said, emptying his pocket and
returning to the lad's side. 'Take this, and order yourself a
good meal. You keep me as poor as a crow. There shall be
more to-morrow.'

The peculiarly bifold nature of Captain De Stancy, as shown in
his conduct at different times, was something rare in life,
and perhaps happily so. That mechanical admixture of black
and white qualities without coalescence, on which the theory
of men's characters was based by moral analysis before the
rise of modern ethical schools, fictitious as it was in
general application, would have almost hit off the truth as
regards Captain De Stancy. Removed to some half-known
century, his deeds would have won a picturesqueness of light
and shade that might have made him a fascinating subject for
some gallery of illustrious historical personages. It was
this tendency to moral chequer-work which accounted for his
varied bearings towards Dare.

Dare withdrew to take his departure. When he had gone a few
steps, despondent, he suddenly turned, and ran back with some
excitement.

'Captain--he's coming on the tenth, don't they say? Well,
four days before the tenth comes the sixth. Have you
forgotten what's fixed for the sixth?'

'I had quite forgotten!'

'That day will be worth three months of quiet attentions:
with luck, skill, and a bold heart, what mayn't you do?'

Captain De Stancy's face softened with satisfaction.

'There is something in that; the game is not up after all.
The sixth--it had gone clean out of my head, by gad!'

V.

The cheering message from Paula to Somerset sped through the
loophole of Stancy Castle keep, over the trees, along the
railway, under bridges, across four counties--from extreme
antiquity of environment to sheer modernism--and finally
landed itself on a table in Somerset's chambers in the midst
of a cloud of fog. He read it and, in the moment of reaction
from the depression of his past days, clapped his hands like a
child.

Then he considered the date at which she wanted to see him.
Had she so worded her despatch he would have gone that very
day; but there was nothing to complain of in her giving him a
week's notice. Pure maiden modesty might have checked her
indulgence in a too ardent recall.

Time, however, dragged somewhat heavily along in the interim,
and on the second day he thought he would call on his father
and tell him of his success in obtaining the appointment.

The elder Mr. Somerset lived in a detached house in the north-
west part of fashionable London; and ascending the chief
staircase the young man branched off from the first landing
and entered his father's painting-room. It was an hour when
he was pretty sure of finding the well-known painter at work,
and on lifting the tapestry he was not disappointed, Mr.
Somerset being busily engaged with his back towards the door.

Art and vitiated nature were struggling like wrestlers in that
apartment, and art was getting the worst of it. The
overpowering gloom pervading the clammy air, rendered still
more intense by the height of the window from the floor,
reduced all the pictures that were standing around to the
wizened feebleness of corpses on end. The shadowy parts of
the room behind the different easels were veiled in a brown
vapour, precluding all estimate of the extent of the studio,
and only subdued in the foreground by the ruddy glare from an
open stove of Dutch tiles. Somerset's footsteps had been so
noiseless over the carpeting of the stairs and landing, that
his father was unaware of his presence; he continued at his
work as before, which he performed by the help of a
complicated apparatus of lamps, candles, and reflectors, so
arranged as to eke out the miserable daylight, to a power
apparently sufficient for the neutral touches on which he was
at that moment engaged.

The first thought of an unsophisticated stranger on entering
that room could only be the amazed inquiry why a professor of
the art of colour, which beyond all other arts requires pure
daylight for its exercise, should fix himself on the single
square league in habitable Europe to which light is denied at
noonday for weeks in succession.

'O! it's you, George, is it?' said the Academician, turning
from the lamps, which shone over his bald crown at such a
slant as to reveal every cranial irregularity. 'How are you
this morning? Still a dead silence about your grand castle
competition?'

Somerset told the news. His father duly congratulated him,
and added genially, 'It is well to be you, George. One large
commission to attend to, and nothing to distract you from it.
I am bothered by having a dozen irons in the fire at once.
And people are so unreasonable.--Only this morning, among
other things, when you got your order to go on with your
single study, I received a letter from a woman, an old friend
whom I can scarcely refuse, begging me as a great favour to
design her a set of theatrical costumes, in which she and her
friends can perform for some charity. It would occupy me a
good week to go into the subject and do the thing properly.
Such are the sort of letters I get. I wish, George, you could
knock out something for her before you leave town. It is
positively impossible for me to do it with all this work in
hand, and these eternal fogs to contend against.'

'I fear costumes are rather out of my line,' said the son.
'However, I'll do what I can. What period and country are
they to represent?'

His father didn't know. He had never looked at the play of
late years. It was 'Love's Labour's Lost.' 'You had better
read it for yourself,' he said, 'and do the best you can.'

During the morning Somerset junior found time to refresh his
memory of the play, and afterwards went and hunted up
materials for designs to suit the same, which occupied his
spare hours for the next three days. As these occupations
made no great demands upon his reasoning faculties he mostly
found his mind wandering off to imaginary scenes at Stancy
Castle: particularly did he dwell at this time upon Paula's
lively interest in the history, relics, tombs, architecture,--
nay, the very Christian names of the De Stancy line, and her
'artistic' preference for Charlotte's ancestors instead of her
own. Yet what more natural than that a clever meditative
girl, encased in the feudal lumber of that family, should
imbibe at least an antiquarian interest in it? Human nature
at bottom is romantic rather than ascetic, and the local
habitation which accident had provided for Paula was perhaps
acting as a solvent of the hard, morbidly introspective views
thrust upon her in early life.

Somerset wondered if his own possession of a substantial
genealogy like Captain De Stancy's would have had any
appreciable effect upon her regard for him. His suggestion to
Paula of her belonging to a worthy strain of engineers had
been based on his content with his own intellectual line of
descent through Pheidias, Ictinus and Callicrates,
Chersiphron, Vitruvius, Wilars of Cambray, William of Wykeham,
and the rest of that long and illustrious roll; but Miss
Power's marked preference for an animal pedigree led him to
muse on what he could show for himself in that kind.

These thoughts so far occupied him that when he took the
sketches to his father, on the morning of the fifth, he was
led to ask: 'Has any one ever sifted out our family
pedigree?'

'Family pedigree?'

'Yes. Have we any pedigree worthy to be compared with that of
professedly old families? I never remember hearing of any
ancestor further back than my great-grandfather.'

Somerset the elder reflected and said that he believed there
was a genealogical tree about the house somewhere, reaching
back to a very respectable distance. 'Not that I ever took
much interest in it,' he continued, without looking up from
his canvas; 'but your great uncle John was a man with a taste
for those subjects, and he drew up such a sheet: he made
several copies on parchment, and gave one to each of his
brothers and sisters. The one he gave to my father is still
in my possession, I think.'

Somerset said that he should like to see it; but half-an-
hour's search about the house failed to discover the document;
and the Academician then remembered that it was in an iron box
at his banker's. He had used it as a wrapper for some title-
deeds and other valuable writings which were deposited there
for safety. 'Why do you want it?' he inquired.

The young man confessed his whim to know if his own antiquity
would bear comparison with that of another person, whose name
he did not mention; whereupon his father gave him a key that
would fit the said chest, if he meant to pursue the subject
further. Somerset, however, did nothing in the matter that
day, but the next morning, having to call at the bank on other
business, he remembered his new fancy.

It was about eleven o'clock. The fog, though not so brown as
it had been on previous days, was still dense enough to
necessitate lights in the shops and offices. When Somerset
had finished his business in the outer office of the bank he
went to the manager's room. The hour being somewhat early the
only persons present in that sanctuary of balances, besides
the manager who welcomed him, were two gentlemen, apparently
lawyers, who sat talking earnestly over a box of papers. The
manager, on learning what Somerset wanted, unlocked a door
from which a flight of stone steps led to the vaults, and sent
down a clerk and a porter for the safe.

Before, however, they had descended far a gentle tap came to
the door, and in response to an invitation to enter a lady
appeared, wrapped up in furs to her very nose.

The manager seemed to recognize her, for he went across the
room in a moment, and set her a chair at the middle table,
replying to some observation of hers with the words, 'O yes,
certainly,' in a deferential tone.

'I should like it brought up at once,' said the lady.

Somerset, who had seated himself at a table in a somewhat
obscure corner, screened by the lawyers, started at the words.
The voice was Miss Power's, and so plainly enough was the
figure as soon as he examined it. Her back was towards him,
and either because the room was only lighted in two places, or
because she was absorbed in her own concerns, she seemed to be
unconscious of any one's presence on the scene except the
banker and herself. The former called back the clerk, and two
other porters having been summoned they disappeared to get
whatever she required.

Somerset, somewhat excited, sat wondering what could have
brought Paula to London at this juncture, and was in some
doubt if the occasion were a suitable one for revealing
himself, her errand to her banker being possibly of a very
private nature. Nothing helped him to a decision. Paula
never once turned her head, and the progress of time was
marked only by the murmurs of the two lawyers, and the
ceaseless clash of gold and rattle of scales from the outer
room, where the busy heads of cashiers could be seen through
the partition moving about under the globes of the gas-lamps.

Footsteps were heard upon the cellar-steps, and the three men
previously sent below staggered from the doorway, bearing a
huge safe which nearly broke them down. Somerset knew that
his father's box, or boxes, could boast of no such dimensions,
and he was not surprised to see the chest deposited in front
of Miss Power. When the immense accumulation of dust had been
cleared off the lid, and the chest conveniently placed for
her, Somerset was attended to, his modest box being brought up
by one man unassisted, and without much expenditure of breath.

His interest in Paula was of so emotional a cast that his
attention to his own errand was of the most perfunctory kind.
She was close to a gas-standard, and the lawyers, whose seats
had intervened, having finished their business and gone away,
all her actions were visible to him. While he was opening his
father's box the manager assisted Paula to unseal and unlock
hers, and he now saw her lift from it a morocco case, which
she placed on the table before her, and unfastened. Out of it
she took a dazzling object that fell like a cascade over her
fingers. It was a necklace of diamonds and pearls, apparently
of large size and many strands, though he was not near enough
to see distinctly. When satisfied by her examination that she
had got the right article she shut it into its case.

The manager closed the chest for her; and when it was again
secured Paula arose, tossed the necklace into her hand-bag,
bowed to the manager, and was about to bid him good morning.
Thereupon he said with some hesitation: 'Pardon one question,
Miss Power. Do you intend to take those jewels far?'

'Yes,' she said simply, 'to Stancy Castle.'

'You are going straight there?'

'I have one or two places to call at first.'

'I would suggest that you carry them in some other way--by
fastening them into the pocket of your dress, for instance.'

'But I am going to hold the bag in my hand and never once let
it go.'

The banker slightly shook his head. 'Suppose your carriage
gets overturned: you would let it go then.'

'Perhaps so.'

'Or if you saw a child under the wheels just as you were
stepping in; or if you accidentally stumbled in getting out;
or if there was a collision on the railway--you might let it
go.'

'Yes; I see I was too careless. I thank you.'

Paula removed the necklace from the bag, turned her back to
the manager, and spent several minutes in placing her treasure
in her bosom, pinning it and otherwise making it absolutely
secure.

'That's it,' said the grey-haired man of caution, with evident
satisfaction. 'There is not much danger now: you are not
travelling alone?'

Paula replied that she was not alone, and went to the door.
There was one moment during which Somerset might have
conveniently made his presence known; but the juxtaposition of
the bank-manager, and his own disarranged box of securities,
embarrassed him: the moment slipped by, and she was gone.

In the meantime he had mechanically unearthed the pedigree,
and, locking up his father's chest, Somerset also took his
departure at the heels of Paula. He walked along the misty
street, so deeply musing as to be quite unconscious of the
direction of his walk. What, he inquired of himself, could
she want that necklace for so suddenly? He recollected a
remark of Dare's to the effect that her appearance on a
particular occasion at Stancy Castle had been magnificent by
reason of the jewels she wore; which proved that she had
retained a sufficient quantity of those valuables at the
castle for ordinary requirements. What exceptional occasion,
then, was impending on which she wished to glorify herself
beyond all previous experience? He could not guess. He was
interrupted in these conjectures by a carriage nearly passing
over his toes at a crossing in Bond Street: looking up he saw
between the two windows of the vehicle the profile of a
thickly mantled bosom, on which a camellia rose and fell. All
the remainder part of the lady's person was hidden; but he
remembered that flower of convenient season as one which had
figured in the bank parlour half-an-hour earlier to-day.

Somerset hastened after the carriage, and in a minute saw it
stop opposite a jeweller's shop. Out came Paula, and then
another woman, in whom he recognized Mrs. Birch, one of the
lady's maids at Stancy Castle. The young man was at Paula's
side before she had crossed the pavement.

VI.

A quick arrested expression in her two sapphirine eyes,
accompanied by a little, a very little, blush which loitered
long, was all the outward disturbance that the sight of her
lover caused. The habit of self-repression at any new
emotional impact was instinctive with her always. Somerset
could not say more than a word; he looked his intense
solicitude, and Paula spoke.

She declared that this was an unexpected pleasure. Had he
arranged to come on the tenth as she wished? How strange that
they should meet thus!--and yet not strange--the world was so
small.

Somerset said that he was coming on the very day she
mentioned--that the appointment gave him infinite
gratification, which was quite within the truth.

'Come into this shop with me,' said Paula, with good-humoured
authoritativeness.

They entered the shop and talked on while she made a small
purchase. But not a word did Paula say of her sudden errand
to town.

'I am having an exciting morning,' she said. 'I am going from
here to catch the one-o'clock train to Markton.'

'It is important that you get there this afternoon, I
suppose?'

'Yes. You know why?'

'Not at all.'

'The Hunt Ball. It was fixed for the sixth, and this is the
sixth. I thought they might have asked you.'

'No,' said Somerset, a trifle gloomily. 'No, I am not asked.
But it is a great task for you--a long journey and a ball all
in one day.'

'Yes: Charlotte said that. But I don't mind it.'

'You are glad you are going. Are you glad?' he said softly.

Her air confessed more than her words. 'I am not so very glad
that I am going to the Hunt Ball,' she replied confidentially.

'Thanks for that,' said he.

She lifted her eyes to his for a moment. Her manner had
suddenly become so nearly the counterpart of that in the tea-
house that to suspect any deterioration of affection in her
was no longer generous. It was only as if a thin layer of
recent events had overlaid her memories of him, until his
presence swept them away.

Somerset looked up, and finding the shopman to be still some
way off, he added, 'When will you assure me of something in
return for what I assured you that evening in the rain?'

'Not before you have built the castle. My aunt does not know
about it yet, nor anybody.'

'I ought to tell her.'

'No, not yet. I don't wish it.'

'Then everything stands as usual?'

She lightly nodded.

'That is, I may love you: but you still will not say you love
me.'

She nodded again, and directing his attention to the advancing
shopman, said, 'Please not a word more.'

Soon after this, they left the jeweller's, and parted, Paula
driving straight off to the station and Somerset going on his
way uncertainly happy. His re-impression after a few minutes
was that a special journey to town to fetch that magnificent
necklace which she had not once mentioned to him, but which
was plainly to be the medium of some proud purpose with her
this evening, was hardly in harmony with her assertions of
indifference to the attractions of the Hunt Ball.

He got into a cab and drove to his club, where he lunched, and
mopingly spent a great part of the afternoon in making
calculations for the foundations of the castle works. Later
in the afternoon he returned to his chambers, wishing that he
could annihilate the three days remaining before the tenth,
particularly this coming evening. On his table was a letter
in a strange writing, and indifferently turning it over he
found from the superscription that it had been addressed to
him days before at the Lord-Quantock-Arms Hotel, Markton,
where it had lain ever since, the landlord probably expecting
him to return. Opening the missive, he found to his surprise
that it was, after all, an invitation to the Hunt Ball.

'Too late!' said Somerset. 'To think I should be served this
trick a second time!'

After a moment's pause, however, he looked to see the time of
day. It was five minutes past five--just about the hour when
Paula would be driving from Markton Station to Stancy Castle
to rest and prepare herself for her evening triumph. There
was a train at six o'clock, timed to reach Markton between
eleven and twelve, which by great exertion he might save even
now, if it were worth while to undertake such a scramble for
the pleasure of dropping in to the ball at a late hour. A
moment's vision of Paula moving to swift tunes on the arm of a
person or persons unknown was enough to impart the impetus
required. He jumped up, flung his dress clothes into a
portmanteau, sent down to call a cab, and in a few minutes was
rattling off to the railway which had borne Paula away from
London just five hours earlier.

Once in the train, he began to consider where and how he could
most conveniently dress for the dance. The train would
certainly be half-an-hour late; half-an-hour would be spent in
getting to the town-hall, and that was the utmost delay
tolerable if he would secure the hand of Paula for one spin,
or be more than a mere dummy behind the earlier arrivals. He
looked for an empty compartment at the next stoppage, and
finding the one next his own unoccupied, he entered it and
changed his raiment for that in his portmanteau during the
ensuing run of twenty miles.

Thus prepared he awaited the Markton platform, which was
reached as the clock struck twelve. Somerset called a fly and
drove at once to the town-hall.

The borough natives had ascended to their upper floors, and
were putting out their candles one by one as he passed along
the streets; but the lively strains that proceeded from the
central edifice revealed distinctly enough what was going on
among the temporary visitors from the neighbouring manors.
The doors were opened for him, and entering the vestibule
lined with flags, flowers, evergreens, and escutcheons, he
stood looking into the furnace of gaiety beyond.

It was some time before he could gather his impressions of the
scene, so perplexing were the lights, the motions, the
toilets, the full-dress uniforms of officers and the harmonies
of sound. Yet light, sound, and movement were not so much the
essence of that giddy scene as an intense aim at obliviousness
in the beings composing it. For two or three hours at least
those whirling young people meant not to know that they were
mortal. The room was beating like a heart, and the pulse was
regulated by the trembling strings of the most popular
quadrille band in Wessex. But at last his eyes grew settled
enough to look critically around.

The room was crowded--too crowded. Every variety of fair one,
beauties primary, secondary, and tertiary, appeared among the
personages composing the throng. There were suns and moons;
also pale planets of little account. Broadly speaking, these
daughters of the county fell into two classes: one the pink-
faced unsophisticated girls from neighbouring rectories and
small country-houses, who knew not town except for an
occasional fortnight, and who spent their time from Easter to
Lammas Day much as they spent it during the remaining nine
months of the year: the other class were the children of the
wealthy landowners who migrated each season to the town-house;
these were pale and collected, showed less enjoyment in their
countenances, and wore in general an approximation to the
languid manners of the capital.

A quadrille was in progress, and Somerset scanned each set.
His mind had run so long upon the necklace, that his glance
involuntarily sought out that gleaming object rather than the
personality of its wearer. At the top of the room there he
beheld it; but it was on the neck of Charlotte De Stancy.

The whole lucid explanation broke across his understanding in
a second. His dear Paula had fetched the necklace that
Charlotte should not appear to disadvantage among the county
people by reason of her poverty. It was generously done--a
disinterested act of sisterly kindness; theirs was the
friendship of Hermia and Helena. Before he had got further
than to realize this, there wheeled round amongst the dancers
a lady whose tournure he recognized well. She was Paula; and
to the young man's vision a superlative something
distinguished her from all the rest. This was not dress or
ornament, for she had hardly a gem upon her, her attire being
a model of effective simplicity. Her partner was Captain De
Stancy.

The discovery of this latter fact slightly obscured his
appreciation of what he had discovered just before. It was
with rather a lowering brow that he asked himself whether
Paula's predilection d'artiste, as she called it, for the De
Stancy line might not lead to a predilection of a different
sort for its last representative which would be not at all
satisfactory.

The architect remained in the background till the dance drew
to a conclusion, and then he went forward. The circumstance
of having met him by accident once already that day seemed to
quench any surprise in Miss Power's bosom at seeing him now.
There was nothing in her parting from Captain De Stancy, when
he led her to a seat, calculated to make Somerset uneasy after
his long absence. Though, for that matter, this proved
nothing; for, like all wise maidens, Paula never ventured on
the game of the eyes with a lover in public; well knowing that
every moment of such indulgence overnight might mean an hour's
sneer at her expense by the indulged gentleman next day, when
weighing womankind by the aid of a cold morning light and a
bad headache.

While Somerset was explaining to Paula and her aunt the reason
of his sudden appearance, their attention was drawn to a seat
a short way off by a fluttering of ladies round the spot. In
a moment it was whispered that somebody had fallen ill, and in
another that the sufferer was Miss De Stancy. Paula, Mrs.
Goodman, and Somerset at once joined the group of friends who
were assisting her. Neither of them imagined for an instant
that the unexpected advent of Somerset on the scene had
anything to do with the poor girl's indisposition.

She was assisted out of the room, and her brother, who now
came up, prepared to take her home, Somerset exchanging a few
civil words with him, which the hurry of the moment prevented
them from continuing; though on taking his leave with
Charlotte, who was now better, De Stancy informed Somerset in
answer to a cursory inquiry, that he hoped to be back again at
the ball in half-an-hour.

When they were gone Somerset, feeling that now another dog
might have his day, sounded Paula on the delightful question
of a dance.

Paula replied in the negative.

'How is that?' asked Somerset with reproachful disappointment.

'I cannot dance again,' she said in a somewhat depressed tone;
'I must be released from every engagement to do so, on account
of Charlotte's illness. I should have gone home with her if I
had not been particularly requested to stay a little longer,
since it is as yet so early, and Charlotte's illness is not
very serious.'

If Charlotte's illness was not very serious, Somerset thought,
Paula might have stretched a point; but not wishing to hinder
her in showing respect to a friend so well liked by himself,
he did not ask it. De Stancy had promised to be back again in
half-an-hour, and Paula had heard the promise. But at the end
of twenty minutes, still seeming indifferent to what was going
on around her, she said she would stay no longer, and
reminding Somerset that they were soon to meet and talk over
the rebuilding, drove off with her aunt to Stancy Castle.

Somerset stood looking after the retreating carriage till it
was enveloped in shades that the lamps could not disperse.
The ball-room was now virtually empty for him, and feeling no
great anxiety to return thither he stood on the steps for some
minutes longer, looking into the calm mild night, and at the
dark houses behind whose blinds lay the burghers with their
eyes sealed up in sleep. He could not but think that it was
rather too bad of Paula to spoil his evening for a sentimental
devotion to Charlotte which could do the latter no appreciable
good; and he would have felt seriously hurt at her move if it
had not been equally severe upon Captain De Stancy, who was
doubtless hastening back, full of a belief that she would
still be found there.

The star of gas-jets over the entrance threw its light upon
the walls on the opposite side of the street, where there were
notice-boards of forthcoming events. In glancing over these
for the fifth time, his eye was attracted by the first words
of a placard in blue letters, of a size larger than the rest,
and moving onward a few steps he read:--

STANCY CASTLE.

By the kind permission of Miss Power,

A PLAY

Will shortly be performed at the above CASTLE,

IN AID OF THE FUNDS OF THE

COUNTY HOSPITAL,

By the Officers of the

ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY,

MARKTON BARRACKS,

ASSISTED BY SEVERAL

LADIES OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD.

The cast and other particulars will be duly announced in
small
bills. Places will be reserved on application to Mr.
Clangham,
High Street, Markton, where a plan of the room may be seen.

N.B--The Castle is about twenty minutes' drive from Markton
Station,
to which there are numerous convenient trains from all parts
of the
county.

In a profound study Somerset turned and re-entered the ball-
room, where he remained gloomily standing here and there for
about five minutes, at the end of which he observed Captain De
Stancy, who had returned punctually to his word, crossing the
hall in his direction.

The gallant officer darted glances of lively search over every
group of dancers and sitters; and then with rather a blank
look in his face, he came on to Somerset. Replying to the
latter's inquiry for his sister that she had nearly recovered,
he said, 'I don't see my father's neighbours anywhere.'

'They have gone home,' replied Somerset, a trifle drily.
'They asked me to make their apologies to you for leading you
to expect they would remain. Miss Power was too anxious about
Miss De Stancy to care to stay longer.'

The eyes of De Stancy and the speaker met for an instant.
That curious guarded understanding, or inimical confederacy,
which arises at moments between two men in love with the same
woman, was present here; and in their mutual glances each said
as plainly as by words that her departure had ruined his
evening's hope.

They were now about as much in one mood as it was possible for
two such differing natures to be. Neither cared further for
elaborating giddy curves on that town-hall floor. They stood
talking languidly about this and that local topic, till De
Stancy turned aside for a short time to speak to a dapper
little lady who had beckoned to him. In a few minutes he came
back to Somerset.

'Mrs. Camperton, the wife of Major Camperton of my battery,
would very much like me to introduce you to her. She is an
old friend of your father's, and has wanted to know you for a
long time.'

De Stancy and Somerset crossed over to the lady, and in a few
minutes, thanks to her flow of spirits, she and Somerset were
chatting with remarkable freedom.

'It is a happy coincidence,' continued Mrs. Camperton, 'that I
should have met you here, immediately after receiving a letter
from your father: indeed it reached me only this morning. He
has been so kind! We are getting up some theatricals, as you
know, I suppose, to help the funds of the County Hospital,
which is in debt.'

'I have just seen the announcement--nothing more.'

'Yes, such an estimable purpose; and as we wished to do it
thoroughly well, I asked Mr. Somerset to design us the
costumes, and he has now sent me the sketches. It is quite a
secret at present, but we are going to play Shakespeare's
romantic drama, 'Love's Labour's Lost,' and we hope to get
Miss Power to take the leading part. You see, being such a
handsome girl, and so wealthy, and rather an undiscovered
novelty in the county as yet, she would draw a crowded room,
and greatly benefit the funds.'

'Miss Power going to play herself?--I am rather surprised,'
said Somerset. 'Whose idea is all this?'

'O, Captain De Stancy's--he's the originator entirely. You
see he is so interested in the neighbourhood, his family
having been connected with it for so many centuries, that
naturally a charitable object of this local nature appeals to
his feelings.'

'Naturally!' her listener laconically repeated. 'And have you
settled who is to play the junior gentleman's part, leading
lover, hero, or whatever he is called?'

'Not absolutely; though I think Captain De Stancy will not
refuse it; and he is a very good figure. At present it lies
between him and Mr. Mild, one of our young lieutenants. My
husband, of course, takes the heavy line; and I am to be the
second lady, though I am rather too old for the part really.
If we can only secure Miss Power for heroine the cast will be
excellent.'

'Excellent!' said Somerset, with a spectral smile.

VII.

When he awoke the next morning at the Lord-Quantock-Arms Hotel
Somerset felt quite morbid on recalling the intelligence he
had received from Mrs. Camperton. But as the day for serious
practical consultation about the castle works, to which Paula
had playfully alluded, was now close at hand, he determined to
banish sentimental reflections on the frailties that were
besieging her nature, by active preparation for his
professional undertaking. To be her high-priest in art, to
elaborate a structure whose cunning workmanship would be
meeting her eye every day till the end of her natural life,
and saying to her, 'He invented it,' with all the eloquence of
an inanimate thing long regarded--this was no mean
satisfaction, come what else would.

He returned to town the next day to set matters there in such
trim that no inconvenience should result from his prolonged
absence at the castle; for having no other commission he
determined (with an eye rather to heart-interests than to
increasing his professional practice) to make, as before, the
castle itself his office, studio, and chief abiding-place till
the works were fairly in progress.

On the tenth he reappeared at Markton. Passing through the
town, on the road to Stancy Castle, his eyes were again
arrested by the notice-board which had conveyed such startling
information to him on the night of the ball. The small bills
now appeared thereon; but when he anxiously looked them over
to learn how the parts were to be allotted, he found that
intelligence still withheld. Yet they told enough; the list
of lady-players was given, and Miss Power's name was one.

That a young lady who, six months ago, would scarcely join for
conscientious reasons in a simple dance on her own lawn,
should now be willing to exhibit herself on a public stage,
simulating love-passages with a stranger, argued a rate of
development which under any circumstances would have surprised
him, but which, with the particular addition, as leading
colleague, of Captain De Stancy, inflamed him almost to anger.
What clandestine arrangements had been going on in his absence
to produce such a full-blown intention it were futile to
guess. Paula's course was a race rather than a march, and
each successive heat was startling in its eclipse of that
which went before.

Somerset was, however, introspective enough to know that his
morals would have taken no such virtuous alarm had he been the
chief male player instead of Captain De Stancy.

He passed under the castle-arch and entered. There seemed a
little turn in the tide of affairs when it was announced to
him that Miss Power expected him, and was alone.

The well-known ante-chambers through which he walked, filled
with twilight, draughts, and thin echoes that seemed to
reverberate from two hundred years ago, did not delay his eye
as they had done when he had been ignorant that his destiny
lay beyond; and he followed on through all this ancientness to
where the modern Paula sat to receive him.

He forgot everything in the pleasure of being alone in a room
with her. She met his eye with that in her own which cheered
him. It was a light expressing that something was understood
between them. She said quietly in two or three words that she
had expected him in the forenoon.

Somerset explained that he had come only that morning from
London.

After a little more talk, in which she said that her aunt
would join them in a few minutes, and Miss De Stancy was still
indisposed at her father's house, she rang for tea and sat
down beside a little table.

'Shall we proceed to business at once?' she asked him.

'I suppose so.'

'First then, when will the working drawings be ready, which I
think you said must be made out before the work could begin?'

While Somerset informed her on this and other matters, Mrs.
Goodman entered and joined in the discussion, after which they
found it would be necessary to adjourn to the room where the
plans were hanging. On their walk thither Paula asked if he
stayed late at the ball.

'I left soon after you.'

'That was very early, seeing how late you arrived.'

'Yes. . . . I did not dance.'

'What did you do then?'

'I moped, and walked to the door; and saw an announcement.'

'I know--the play that is to be performed.'

'In which you are to be the Princess.'

'That's not settled,--I have not agreed yet. I shall not play
the Princess of France unless Mr. Mild plays the King of
Navarre.'

This sounded rather well. The Princess was the lady beloved
by the King; and Mr. Mild, the young lieutenant of artillery,
was a diffident, inexperienced, rather plain-looking fellow,
whose sole interest in theatricals lay in the consideration of
his costume and the sound of his own voice in the ears of the
audience. With such an unobjectionable person to enact the
part of lover, the prominent character of leading young lady
or heroine, which Paula was to personate, was really the most
satisfactory in the whole list for her. For although she was
to be wooed hard, there was just as much love-making among the
remaining personages; while, as Somerset had understood the
play, there could occur no flingings of her person upon her
lover's neck, or agonized downfalls upon the stage, in her
whole performance, as there were in the parts chosen by Mrs.
Camperton, the major's wife, and some of the other ladies.

'Why do you play at all!' he murmured.

'What a question! How could I refuse for such an excellent
purpose? They say that my taking a part will be worth a
hundred pounds to the charity. My father always supported the
hospital, which is quite undenominational; and he said I was
to do the same.'

'Do you think the peculiar means you have adopted for
supporting it entered into his view?' inquired Somerset,
regarding her with critical dryness. 'For my part I don't.'

'It is an interesting way,' she returned persuasively, though
apparently in a state of mental equipoise on the point raised
by his question. 'And I shall not play the Princess, as I
said, to any other than that quiet young man. Now I assure
you of this, so don't be angry and absurd! Besides, the King
doesn't marry me at the end of the play, as in Shakespeare's
other comedies. And if Miss De Stancy continues seriously
unwell I shall not play at all.'

The young man pressed her hand, but she gently slipped it
away.

'Are we not engaged, Paula!' he asked. She evasively shook
her head.

'Come--yes we are! Shall we tell your aunt?' he continued.
Unluckily at that moment Mrs. Goodman, who had followed them
to the studio at a slower pace, appeared round the doorway.

'No,--to the last,' replied Paula hastily. Then her aunt
entered, and the conversation was no longer personal.

Somerset took his departure in a serener mood though not
completely assured.

VIII.

His serenity continued during two or three following days,
when, continuing at the castle, he got pleasant glimpses of
Paula now and then. Her strong desire that his love for her
should be kept secret, perplexed him; but his affection was
generous, and he acquiesced in that desire.

Meanwhile news of the forthcoming dramatic performance
radiated in every direction. And in the next number of the
county paper it was announced, to Somerset's comparative
satisfaction, that the cast was definitely settled, Mr. Mild
having agreed to be the King and Miss Power the French
Princess. Captain De Stancy, with becoming modesty for one
who was the leading spirit, figured quite low down, in the
secondary character of Sir Nathaniel.

Somerset remembered that, by a happy chance, the costume he
had designed for Sir Nathaniel was not at all picturesque;
moreover Sir Nathaniel scarcely came near the Princess through
the whole play.

Every day after this there was coming and going to and from
the castle of railway vans laden with canvas columns,
pasteboard trees, limp house-fronts, woollen lawns, and lath
balustrades. There were also frequent arrivals of young
ladies from neighbouring country houses, and warriors from the
X and Y batteries of artillery, distinguishable by their
regulation shaving.

But it was upon Captain De Stancy and Mrs. Camperton that the
weight of preparation fell. Somerset, through being much
occupied in the drawing-office, was seldom present during the
consultations and rehearsals: until one day, tea being served
in the drawing-room at the usual hour, he dropped in with the
rest to receive a cup from Paula's table. The chatter was
tremendous, and Somerset was at once consulted about some
necessary carpentry which was to be specially made at Markton.
After that he was looked on as one of the band, which resulted
in a large addition to the number of his acquaintance in this
part of England.

But his own feeling was that of being an outsider still. This
vagary had been originated, the play chosen, the parts
allotted, all in his absence, and calling him in at the last
moment might, if flirtation were possible in Paula, be but a
sop to pacify him. What would he have given to impersonate
her lover in the piece! But neither Paula nor any one else
had asked him.

The eventful evening came. Somerset had been engaged during
the day with the different people by whom the works were to be
carried out and in the evening went to his rooms at the Lord-
Quantock-Arms, Markton, where he dined. He did not return to
the castle till the hour fixed for the performance, and having
been received by Mrs. Goodman, entered the large apartment,
now transfigured into a theatre, like any other spectator.

Rumours of the projected representation had spread far and
wide. Six times the number of tickets issued might have been
readily sold. Friends and acquaintances of the actors came
from curiosity to see how they would acquit themselves; while
other classes of people came because they were eager to see
well-known notabilities in unwonted situations. When ladies,
hitherto only beheld in frigid, impenetrable positions behind
their coachmen in Markton High Street, were about to reveal
their hidden traits, home attitudes, intimate smiles, nods,
and perhaps kisses, to the public eye, it was a throwing open
of fascinating social secrets not to be missed for money.

The performance opened with no further delay than was
occasioned by the customary refusal of the curtain at these
times to rise more than two feet six inches; but this hitch
was remedied, and the play began. It was with no enviable
emotion that Somerset, who was watching intently, saw, not Mr.
Mild, but Captain De Stancy, enter as the King of Navarre.

Somerset as a friend of the family had had a seat reserved for
him next to that of Mrs. Goodman, and turning to her he said
with some excitement, 'I understood that Mr. Mild had agreed
to take that part?'

'Yes,' she said in a whisper, 'so he had; but he broke down.
Luckily Captain De Stancy was familiar with the part, through
having coached the others so persistently, and he undertook it
off-hand. Being about the same figure as Lieutenant Mild the
same dress fits him, with a little alteration by the tailor.'

It did fit him indeed; and of the male costumes it was that on
which Somerset had bestowed most pains when designing them.
It shrewdly burst upon his mind that there might have been
collusion between Mild and De Stancy, the former agreeing to
take the captain's place and act as blind till the last
moment. A greater question was, could Paula have been aware
of this, and would she perform as the Princess of France now
De Stancy was to be her lover?

'Does Miss Power know of this change?' he inquired.

'She did not till quite a short time ago.'

He controlled his impatience till the beginning of the second
act. The Princess entered; it was Paula. But whether the
slight embarrassment with which she pronounced her opening
words,

'Good Lord Boyet, my beauty, though but mean,
Needs not the painted flourish of your praise,'

was due to the newness of her situation, or to her knowledge
that De Stancy had usurped Mild's part of her lover, he could
not guess. De Stancy appeared, and Somerset felt grim as he
listened to the gallant captain's salutation of the Princess,
and her response.

De S. Fair Princess, welcome to the court of Navarre.
Paula. Fair, I give you back again: and welcome, I have
not yet.

Somerset listened to this and to all that which followed of
the same sort, with the reflection that, after all, the
Princess never throughout the piece compromised her dignity by
showing her love for the King; and that the latter never
addressed her in words in which passion got the better of
courtesy. Moreover, as Paula had herself observed, they did
not marry at the end of the piece, as in Shakespeare's other
comedies. Somewhat calm in this assurance, he waited on while
the other couples respectively indulged in their love-making,
and banter, including Mrs. Camperton as the sprightly
Rosaline. But he was doomed to be surprised out of his humour
when the end of the act came on. In abridging the play for
the convenience of representation, the favours or gifts from
the gentlemen to the ladies were personally presented: and
now Somerset saw De Stancy advance with the necklace fetched
by Paula from London, and clasp it on her neck.

This seemed to throw a less pleasant light on her hasty
journey. To fetch a valuable ornament to lend it to a poorer
friend was estimable; but to fetch it that the friend's
brother should have something magnificent to use as a lover's
offering to herself in public, that wore a different
complexion. And if the article were recognized by the
spectators as the same that Charlotte had worn at the ball,
the presentation by De Stancy of what must seem to be an
heirloom of his house would be read as symbolizing a union of
the families.

De Stancy's mode of presenting the necklace, though
unauthorized by Shakespeare, had the full approval of the
company, and set them in good humour to receive Major
Camperton as Armado the braggart. Nothing calculated to
stimulate jealousy occurred again till the fifth act; and then
there arose full cause for it.

The scene was the outside of the Princess's pavilion. De
Stancy, as the King of Navarre, stood with his group of
attendants awaiting the Princess, who presently entered from
her door. The two began to converse as the play appointed, De
Stancy turning to her with this reply--

'Rebuke me not for that which you provoke;
The virtue of your eye must break my oath.'

So far all was well; and Paula opened her lips for the set
rejoinder. But before she had spoken De Stancy continued--

'If I profane with my unworthy hand
(Taking her hand)
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this--
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.'

Somerset stared. Surely in this comedy the King never
addressed the Princess in such warm words; and yet they were
Shakespeare's, for they were quite familiar to him. A dim
suspicion crossed his mind. Mrs. Goodman had brought a copy
of Shakespeare with her, which she kept in her lap and never
looked at: borrowing it, Somerset turned to 'Romeo and
Juliet,' and there he saw the words which De Stancy had
introduced as gag, to intensify the mild love-making of the
other play. Meanwhile De Stancy continued--

'O then, dear Saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purg'd!'

Could it be that De Stancy was going to do what came next in
the stage direction--kiss her? Before there was time for
conjecture on that point the sound of a very sweet and long-
drawn osculation spread through the room, followed by loud
applause from the people in the cheap seats. De Stancy
withdrew from bending over Paula, and she was very red in the
face. Nothing seemed clearer than that he had actually done
the deed. The applause continuing, Somerset turned his head.
Five hundred faces had regarded the act, without a
consciousness that it was an interpolation; and four hundred
and fifty mouths in those faces were smiling. About one half
of them were tender smiles; these came from the women. The
other half were at best humorous, and mainly satirical; these
came from the men. It was a profanation without parallel, and
his face blazed like a coal.

The play was now nearly at an end, and Somerset sat on,
feeling what he could not express. More than ever was he
assured that there had been collusion between the two
artillery officers to bring about this end. That he should
have been the unhappy man to design those picturesque dresses
in which his rival so audaciously played the lover to his,
Somerset's, mistress, was an added point to the satire. He
could hardly go so far as to assume that Paula was a
consenting party to this startling interlude; but her
otherwise unaccountable wish that his own love should be

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