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A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy

Part 7 out of 10

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'Very well; we won't part as enemies,' replied Dare, with the
flawless politeness of a man whose speech has no longer any
kinship with his feelings. 'Shall we share a bottle of wine?
You will not? Well, I hope your luck with your lady will be
more magnificent than mine has been here; but--mind Captain De
Stancy! he's a fearful wildfowl for you.'

'He's a harmless inoffensive soldier, as far as I know. If he
is not--let him be what he may for me.'

'And do his worst to cut you out, I suppose?'

'Ay--if you will.' Somerset, much against his judgment, was
being stimulated by these pricks into words of irritation.
'Captain De Stancy might, I think, be better employed than in
dangling at the heels of a lady who can well dispense with his
company. And you might be better employed than in wasting
your wages here.'

'Wages--a fit word for my money. May I ask you at what stage
in the appearance of a man whose way of existence is unknown,
his money ceases to be called wages and begins to be called
means?'

Somerset turned and left him without replying, Dare following
his receding figure with a look of ripe resentment, not less
likely to vent itself in mischief from the want of moral
ballast in him who emitted it. He then fixed a nettled and
unsatisfied gaze upon the gaming-rooms, and in another minute
or two left the Casino also.

Dare and Somerset met no more that day. The latter returned
to Nice by the evening train and went straight to the hotel.
He now thanked his fortune that he had not precipitately given
up his room there, for a telegram from Paula awaited him. His
hand almost trembled as he opened it, to read the following
few short words, dated from the Grand Hotel, Genoa:--

'Letter received. Am glad to hear of your journey. We are
not returning to Nice, but stay here a week. I direct this at
a venture.'

This tantalizing message--the first breaking of her recent
silence--was saucy, almost cruel, in its dry frigidity. It
led him to give up his idea of following at once to Genoa.
That was what she obviously expected him to do, and it was
possible that his non-arrival might draw a letter or message
from her of a sweeter composition than this. That would at
least be the effect of his tardiness if she cared in the least
for him; if she did not he could bear the worst. The argument
was good enough as far as it went, but, like many more, failed
from the narrowness of its premises, the contingent
intervention of Dare being entirely undreamt of. It was
altogether a fatal miscalculation, which cost him dear.

Passing by the telegraph-office in the Rue Pont-Neuf at an
early hour the next morning he saw Dare coming out from the
door. It was Somerset's momentary impulse to thank Dare for
the information given as to Paula's whereabouts, information
which had now proved true. But Dare did not seem to
appreciate his friendliness, and after a few words of studied
civility the young man moved on.

And well he might. Five minutes before that time he had
thrown open a gulf of treachery between himself and the
architect which nothing in life could ever close. Before
leaving the telegraph-office Dare had despatched the following
message to Paula direct, as a set-off against what he called
Somerset's ingratitude for valuable information, though it was
really the fruit of many passions, motives, and desires:--

'G. Somerset, Nice, to Miss Power, Grand Hotel, Genoa.

'Have lost all at Monte Carlo. Have learnt that Captain D. S.
returns here to-morrow. Please send me one hundred pounds by
him, and save me from disgrace. Will await him at eleven
o'clock and four, on the Pont-Neuf.'

V.

Five hours after the despatch of that telegram Captain De
Stancy was rattling along the coast railway of the Riviera
from Genoa to Nice. He was returning to England by way of
Marseilles; but before turning northwards he had engaged to
perform on Miss Power's account a peculiar and somewhat
disagreeable duty. This was to place in Somerset's hands a
hundred and twenty-five napoleons which had been demanded from
her by a message in Somerset's name. The money was in his
pocket--all in gold, in a canvas bag, tied up by Paula's own
hands, which he had observed to tremble as she tied it.

As he leaned in the corner of the carriage he was thinking
over the events of the morning which had culminated in that
liberal response. At ten o'clock, before he had gone out from
the hotel where he had taken up his quarters, which was not
the same as the one patronized by Paula and her friends, he
had been summoned to her presence in a manner so unexpected as
to imply that something serious was in question. On entering
her room he had been struck by the absence of that saucy
independence usually apparent in her bearing towards him,
notwithstanding the persistency with which he had hovered near
her for the previous month, and gradually, by the position of
his sister, and the favour of Paula's uncle in intercepting
one of Somerset's letters and several of his telegrams,
established himself as an intimate member of the travelling
party. His entry, however, this time as always, had had the
effect of a tonic, and it was quite with her customary self-
possession that she had told him of the object of her message.

'You think of returning to Nice this afternoon?' she inquired.

De Stancy informed her that such was his intention, and asked
if he could do anything for her there.

Then, he remembered, she had hesitated. 'I have received a
telegram,' she said at length; and so she allowed to escape
her bit by bit the information that her architect, whose name
she seemed reluctant to utter, had travelled from England to
Nice that week, partly to consult her, partly for a holiday
trip; that he had gone on to Monte Carlo, had there lost his
money and got into difficulties, and had appealed to her to
help him out of them by the immediate advance of some ready
cash. It was a sad case, an unexpected case, she murmured,
with her eyes fixed on the window. Indeed she could not
comprehend it.

To De Stancy there appeared nothing so very extraordinary in
Somerset's apparent fiasco, except in so far as that he should
have applied to Paula for relief from his distresses instead
of elsewhere. It was a self-humiliation which a lover would
have avoided at all costs, he thought. Yet after a momentary
reflection on his theory of Somerset's character, it seemed
sufficiently natural that he should lean persistently on
Paula, if only with a view of keeping himself linked to her
memory, without thinking too profoundly of his own dignity.
That the esteem in which she had held Somerset up to that hour
suffered a tremendous blow by his apparent scrape was clearly
visible in her, reticent as she was; and De Stancy, while
pitying Somerset, thanked him in his mind for having
gratuitously given a rival an advantage which that rival's
attentions had never been able to gain of themselves.

After a little further conversation she had said: 'Since you
are to be my messenger, I must tell you that I have decided to
send the hundred pounds asked for, and you will please to
deliver them into no hands but his own.' A curious little
blush crept over her sobered face--perhaps it was a blush of
shame at the conduct of the young man in whom she had of late
been suspiciously interested--as she added, 'He will be on the
Pont-Neuf at four this afternoon and again at eleven tomorrow.
Can you meet him there?'

'Certainly,' De Stancy replied.

She then asked him, rather anxiously, how he could account for
Mr. Somerset knowing that he, Captain De Stancy, was about to
return to Nice?

De Stancy informed her that he left word at the hotel of his
intention to return, which was quite true; moreover, there did
not lurk in his mind at the moment of speaking the faintest
suspicion that Somerset had seen Dare.

She then tied the bag and handed it to him, leaving him with a
serene and impenetrable bearing, which he hoped for his own
sake meant an acquired indifference to Somerset and his
fortunes. Her sending the architect a sum of money which she
could easily spare might be set down to natural generosity
towards a man with whom she was artistically co-operating for
the improvement of her home.

She came back to him again for a moment. 'Could you possibly
get there before four this afternoon?' she asked, and he
informed her that he could just do so by leaving almost at
once, which he was very willing to do, though by so
forestalling his time he would lose the projected morning with
her and the rest at the Palazzo Doria.

'I may tell you that I shall not go to the Palazzo Doria
either, if it is any consolation to you to know it,' was her
reply. 'I shall sit indoors and think of you on your
journey.'

The answer admitted of two translations, and conjectures
thereon filled the gallant soldier's mind during the greater
part of the journey. He arrived at the hotel they had all
stayed at in succession about six hours after Somerset had
left it for a little excursion to San Remo and its
neighbourhood, as a means of passing a few days till Paula
should write again to inquire why he had not come on. De
Stancy saw no one he knew, and in obedience to Paula's
commands he promptly set off on foot for the Pont-Neuf.

Though opposed to the architect as a lover, De Stancy felt for
him as a poor devil in need of money, having had experiences
of that sort himself, and he was really anxious that the
needful supply entrusted to him should reach Somerset's hands.
He was on the bridge five minutes before the hour, and when
the clock struck a hand was laid on his shoulder: turning he
beheld Dare.

Knowing that the youth was loitering somewhere along the
coast, for they had frequently met together on De Stancy's
previous visit, the latter merely said, 'Don't bother me for
the present, Willy, I have an engagement. You can see me at
the hotel this evening.'

'When you have given me the hundred pounds I will fly like a
rocket, captain,' said the young gentleman. 'I keep the
appointment instead of the other man.'

De Stancy looked hard at him. 'How--do you know about this?'
he asked breathlessly.

'I have seen him.'

De Stancy took the young man by the two shoulders and gazed
into his eyes. The scrutiny seemed not altogether to remove
the suspicion which had suddenly started up in his mind. 'My
soul,' he said, dropping his arms, 'can this be true?'

'What?'

'You know.'

Dare shrugged his shoulders; 'Are you going to hand over the
money or no?' he said.

'I am going to make inquiries,' said De Stancy, walking away
with a vehement tread.

'Captain, you are without natural affection,' said Dare,
walking by his side, in a tone which showed his fear that he
had over-estimated that emotion. 'See what I have done for
you. You have been my constant care and anxiety for I can't
tell how long. I have stayed awake at night thinking how I
might best give you a good start in the world by arranging
this judicious marriage, when you have been sleeping as sound
as a top with no cares upon your mind at all, and now I have
got into a scrape--as the most thoughtful of us may sometimes-
-you go to make inquiries.'

'I have promised the lady to whom this money belongs--whose
generosity has been shamefully abused in some way--that I will
deliver it into no hands but those of one man, and he has not
yet appeared. I therefore go to find him.'

Dare laid his hand upon De Stancy's arm. 'Captain, we are
both warm, and punctilious on points of honour; this will come
to a split between us if we don't mind. So, not to bring
matters to a crisis, lend me ten pounds here to enable me to
get home, and I'll disappear.'

In a state bordering on distraction, eager to get the young
man out of his sight before worse revelations should rise up
between them, De Stancy without pausing in his walk gave him
the sum demanded. He soon reached the post-office, where he
inquired if a Mr. Somerset had left any directions for
forwarding letters.

It was just what Somerset had done. De Stancy was told that
Mr. Somerset had commanded that any letters should be sent on
to him at the Hotel Victoria, San Remo.

It was now evident that the scheme of getting money from Paula
was either of Dare's invention, or that Somerset, ashamed of
his first impulse, had abandoned it as speedily as it had been
formed. De Stancy turned and went out. Dare, in keeping with
his promise, had vanished. Captain De Stancy resolved to do
nothing in the case till further events should enlighten him,
beyond sending a line to Miss Power to inform her that
Somerset had not appeared, and that he therefore retained the
money for further instructions.

BOOK THE FIFTH. DE STANCY AND PAULA.

I.

Miss Power was reclining on a red velvet couch in the bedroom
of an old-fashioned red hotel at Strassburg, and her friend
Miss De Stancy was sitting by a window of the same apartment.
They were both rather wearied by a long journey of the
previous day. The hotel overlooked the large open Kleber
Platz, erect in the midst of which the bronze statue of
General Kleber received the rays of a warm sun that was
powerless to brighten him. The whole square, with its people
and vehicles going to and fro as if they had plenty of time,
was visible to Charlotte in her chair; but Paula from her
horizontal position could see nothing below the level of the
many dormered house-tops on the opposite side of the Platz.
After watching this upper storey of the city for some time in
silence, she asked Charlotte to hand her a binocular lying on
the table, through which instrument she quietly regarded the
distant roofs.

'What strange and philosophical creatures storks are,' she
said. 'They give a taciturn, ghostly character to the whole
town.'

The birds were crossing and recrossing the field of the glass
in their flight hither and thither between the Strassburg
chimneys, their sad grey forms sharply outlined against the
sky, and their skinny legs showing beneath like the limbs of
dead martyrs in Crivelli's emaciated imaginings. The
indifference of these birds to all that was going on beneath
them impressed her: to harmonize with their solemn and silent
movements the houses beneath should have been deserted, and
grass growing in the streets.

Behind the long roofs thus visible to Paula over the window-
sill, with their tiers of dormer-windows, rose the cathedral
spire in airy openwork, forming the highest object in the
scene; it suggested something which for a long time she
appeared unwilling to utter; but natural instinct had its way.

'A place like this,' she said, 'where he can study Gothic
architecture, would, I should have thought, be a spot more
congenial to him than Monaco.'

The person referred to was the misrepresented Somerset, whom
the two had been gingerly discussing from time to time,
allowing any casual subject, such as that of the storks, to
interrupt the personal one at every two or three sentences.

'It would be more like him to be here,' replied Miss De
Stancy, trusting her tongue with only the barest generalities
on this matter.

Somerset was again dismissed for the stork topic, but Paula
could not let him alone; and she presently resumed, as if an
irresistible fascination compelled what judgment had
forbidden: 'The strongest-minded persons are sometimes caught
unawares at that place, if they once think they will retrieve
their first losses; and I am not aware that he is particularly
strong-minded.'

For a moment Charlotte looked at her with a mixed expression,
in which there was deprecation that a woman with any feeling
should criticize Somerset so frigidly, and relief that it was
Paula who did so. For, notwithstanding her assumption that
Somerset could never be anything more to her than he was
already, Charlotte's heart would occasionally step down and
trouble her views so expressed.

Whether looking through a glass at distant objects enabled
Paula to bottle up her affection for the absent one, or
whether her friend Charlotte had so little personality in
Paula's regard that she could commune with her as with a lay
figure, it was certain that she evinced remarkable ease in
speaking of Somerset, resuming her words about him in the tone
of one to whom he was at most an ordinary professional
adviser. 'It would be very awkward for the works at the
castle if he has got into a scrape. I suppose the builders
were well posted with instructions before he left: but he
ought certainly to return soon. Why did he leave England at
all just now?'

'Perhaps it was to see you.'

'He should have waited; it would not have been so dreadfully
long to May or June. Charlotte, how can a man who does such a
hare-brained thing as this be deemed trustworthy in an
important work like that of rebuilding Stancy Castle?'

There was such stress in the inquiry that, whatever
factitiousness had gone before, Charlotte perceived Paula to
be at last speaking her mind; and it seemed as if Somerset
must have considerably lost ground in her opinion, or she
would not have criticized him thus.

'My brother will tell us full particulars when he comes:
perhaps it is not at all as we suppose,' said Charlotte. She
strained her eyes across the Platz and added, 'He ought to
have been here before this time.'

While they waited and talked, Paula still observing the
storks, the hotel omnibus came round the corner from the
station. 'I believe he has arrived,' resumed Miss De Stancy;
'I see something that looks like his portmanteau on the top of
the omnibus. . . . Yes; it is his baggage. I'll run down to
him.'

De Stancy had obtained six weeks' additional leave on account
of his health, which had somewhat suffered in India. The
first use he made of his extra time was in hastening back to
meet the travelling ladies here at Strassburg. Mr. Power and
Mrs. Goodman were also at the hotel, and when Charlotte got
downstairs, the former was welcoming De Stancy at the door.

Paula had not seen him since he set out from Genoa for Nice,
commissioned by her to deliver the hundred pounds to Somerset.
His note, stating that he had failed to meet Somerset,
contained no details, and she guessed that he would soon
appear before her now to answer any question about that
peculiar errand.

Her anticipations were justified by the event; she had no
sooner gone into the next sitting-room than Charlotte De
Stancy appeared and asked if her brother might come up. The
closest observer would have been in doubt whether Paula's
ready reply in the affirmative was prompted by personal
consideration for De Stancy, or by a hope to hear more of his
mission to Nice. As soon as she had welcomed him she reverted
at once to the subject.

'Yes, as I told you, he was not at the place of meeting,' De
Stancy replied. And taking from his pocket the bag of ready
money he placed it intact upon the table.

De Stancy did this with a hand that shook somewhat more than a
long railway journey was adequate to account for; and in truth
it was the vision of Dare's position which agitated the
unhappy captain: for had that young man, as De Stancy feared,
been tampering with Somerset's name, his fate now trembled in
the balance; Paula would unquestionably and naturally invoke
the aid of the law against him if she discovered such an
imposition.

'Were you punctual to the time mentioned?' she asked
curiously.

De Stancy replied in the affirmative.

'Did you wait long?' she continued.

'Not very long,' he answered, his instinct to screen the
possibly guilty one confining him to guarded statements, while
still adhering to the literal truth.

'Why was that?'

'Somebody came and told me that he would not appear.'

'Who?'

'A young man who has been acting as his clerk. His name is
Dare. He informed me that Mr. Somerset could not keep the
appointment.'

'Why?'

'He had gone on to San Remo.'

'Has he been travelling with Mr. Somerset?'

'He had been with him. They know each other very well. But
as you commissioned me to deliver the money into no hands but
Mr. Somerset's, I adhered strictly to your instructions.'

'But perhaps my instructions were not wise. Should it in your
opinion have been sent by this young man? Was he commissioned
to ask you for it?'

De Stancy murmured that Dare was not commissioned to ask for
it; that upon the whole he deemed her instructions wise; and
was still of opinion that the best thing had been done.

Although De Stancy was distracted between his desire to
preserve Dare from the consequences of folly, and a
gentlemanly wish to keep as close to the truth as was
compatible with that condition, his answers had not appeared
to Paula to be particularly evasive, the conjuncture being one
in which a handsome heiress's shrewdness was prone to overleap
itself by setting down embarrassment on the part of the man
she questioned to a mere lover's difficulty in steering
between honour and rivalry.

She put but one other question. 'Did it appear as if he, Mr.
Somerset, after telegraphing, had--had--regretted doing so,
and evaded the result by not keeping the appointment?'

'That's just how it appears.' The words, which saved Dare
from ignominy, cost De Stancy a good deal. He was sorry for
Somerset, sorry for himself, and very sorry for Paula. But
Dare was to De Stancy what Somerset could never be: and 'for
his kin that is near unto him shall a man be defiled.'

After that interview Charlotte saw with warring impulses that
Somerset slowly diminished in Paula's estimate; slowly as the
moon wanes, but as certainly. Charlotte's own love was of a
clinging, uncritical sort, and though the shadowy intelligence
of Somerset's doings weighed down her soul with regret, it
seemed to make not the least difference in her affection for
him.

In the afternoon the whole party, including De Stancy, drove
about the streets. Here they looked at the house in which
Goethe had lived, and afterwards entered the cathedral.
Observing in the south transept a crowd of people waiting
patiently, they were reminded that they unwittingly stood in
the presence of the popular clock-work of Schwilgue.

Mr. Power and Mrs. Goodman decided that they would wait with
the rest of the idlers and see the puppets perform at the
striking. Charlotte also waited with them; but as it wanted
eight minutes to the hour, and as Paula had seen the show
before, she moved on into the nave.

Presently she found that De Stancy had followed. He did not
come close till she, seeing him stand silent, said, 'If it
were not for this cathedral, I should not like the city at
all; and I have even seen cathedrals I like better. Luckily
we are going on to Baden to-morrow.'

'Your uncle has just told me. He has asked me to keep you
company.'

'Are you intending to?' said Paula, probing the base-moulding
of a pier with her parasol.

'I have nothing better to do, nor indeed half so good,' said
De Stancy. 'I am abroad for my health, you know, and what's
like the Rhine and its neighbourhood in early summer, before
the crowd comes? It is delightful to wander about there, or
anywhere, like a child, influenced by no fixed motive more
than that of keeping near some friend, or friends, including
the one we most admire in the world.'

'That sounds perilously like love-making.'

''Tis love indeed.'

'Well, love is natural to men, I suppose,' rejoined the young
lady. 'But you must love within bounds; or you will be
enervated, and cease to be useful as a heavy arm of the
service.'

'My dear Miss Power, your didactic and respectable rules won't
do for me. If you expect straws to stop currents, you are
sadly mistaken! But no--let matters be: I am a happy
contented mortal at present, say what you will. . . . You
don't ask why? Perhaps you know. It is because all I care
for in the world is near me, and that I shall never be more
than a hundred yards from her as long as the present
arrangement continues.'

'We are in a cathedral, remember, Captain De Stancy, and
should not keep up a secular conversation.'

'If I had never said worse in a cathedral than what I have
said here, I should be content to meet my eternal judge
without absolution. Your uncle asked me this morning how I
liked you.'

'Well, there was no harm in that.'

'How I like you! Harm, no; but you should have seen how silly
I looked. Fancy the inadequacy of the expression when my
whole sense is absorbed by you.'

'Men allow themselves to be made ridiculous by their own
feelings in an inconceivable way.'

'True, I am a fool; but forgive me,' he rejoined, observing
her gaze, which wandered critically from roof to clerestory,
and then to the pillars, without once lighting on him. 'Don't
mind saying Yes.--You look at this thing and that thing, but
you never look at me, though I stand here and see nothing but
you.'

'There, the clock is striking--and the cock crows. Please go
across to the transept and tell them to come out this way.'

De Stancy went. When he had gone a few steps he turned his
head. She had at last ceased to study the architecture, and
was looking at him. Perhaps his words had struck her, for it
seemed at that moment as if he read in her bright eyes a
genuine interest in him and his fortunes.

II.

Next day they went on to Baden. De Stancy was beginning to
cultivate the passion of love even more as an escape from the
gloomy relations of his life than as matrimonial strategy.
Paula's juxtaposition had the attribute of making him forget
everything in his own history. She was a magic alterative;
and the most foolish boyish shape into which he could throw
his feelings for her was in this respect to be aimed at as the
act of highest wisdom.

He supplemented the natural warmth of feeling that she had
wrought in him by every artificial means in his power, to make
the distraction the more complete. He had not known anything
like this self-obscuration for a dozen years, and when he
conjectured that she might really learn to love him he felt
exalted in his own eyes and purified from the dross of his
former life. Such uneasiness of conscience as arose when he
suddenly remembered Dare, and the possibility that Somerset
was getting ousted unfairly, had its weight in depressing him;
but he was inclined to accept his fortune without much
question.

The journey to Baden, though short, was not without incidents
on which he could work out this curious hobby of cultivating
to superlative power an already positive passion. Handing her
in and out of the carriage, accidentally getting brushed by
her clothes, of all such as this he made available fuel.
Paula, though she might have guessed the general nature of
what was going on, seemed unconscious of the refinements he
was trying to throw into it, and sometimes, when in stepping
into or from a railway carriage she unavoidably put her hand
upon his arm, the obvious insignificance she attached to the
action struck him with misgiving.

One of the first things they did at Baden was to stroll into
the Trink-halle, where Paula sipped the water. She was about
to put down the glass, when De Stancy quickly took it from her
hands as though to make use of it himself.

'O, if that is what you mean,' she said mischievously, 'you
should have noticed the exact spot. It was there.' She put
her finger on a particular portion of its edge.

'You ought not to act like that, unless you mean something,
Miss Power,' he replied gravely.

'Tell me more plainly.'

'I mean, you should not do things which excite in me the hope
that you care something for me, unless you really do.'

'I put my finger on the edge and said it was there.'

'Meaning, "It was there my lips touched; let yours do the
same."'

'The latter part I wholly deny,' she answered, with disregard,
after which she went away, and kept between Charlotte and her
aunt for the rest of the afternoon.

Since the receipt of the telegram Paula had been frequently
silent; she frequently stayed in alone, and sometimes she
became quite gloomy--an altogether unprecedented phase for
her. This was the case on the morning after the incident in
the Trink-halle. Not to intrude on her, Charlotte walked
about the landings of the sunny white hotel in which they had
taken up their quarters, went down into the court, and petted
the tortoises that were creeping about there among the flowers
and plants; till at last, on going to her friend, she caught
her reading some old letters of Somerset's.

Paula made no secret of them, and Miss De Stancy could see
that more than half were written on blue paper, with diagrams
amid the writing: they were, in fact, simply those sheets of
his letters which related to the rebuilding. Nevertheless,
Charlotte fancied she had caught Paula in a sentimental mood;
and doubtless could Somerset have walked in at this moment
instead of Charlotte it might have fared well with him, so
insidiously do tender memories reassert themselves in the face
of outward mishaps.

They took a drive down the Lichtenthal road and then into the
forest, De Stancy and Abner Power riding on horseback
alongside. The sun streamed yellow behind their backs as they
wound up the long inclines, lighting the red trunks, and even
the blue-black foliage itself. The summer had already made
impression upon that mass of uniform colour by tipping every
twig with a tiny sprout of virescent yellow; while the minute
sounds which issued from the forest revealed that the
apparently still place was becoming a perfect reservoir of
insect life.

Abner Power was quite sentimental that day. 'In such places
as these,' he said, as he rode alongside Mrs. Goodman,
'nature's powers in the multiplication of one type strike me
as much as the grandeur of the mass.'

Mrs. Goodman agreed with him, and Paula said, 'The foliage
forms the roof of an interminable green crypt, the pillars
being the trunks, and the vault the interlacing boughs.'

'It is a fine place in a thunderstorm,' said De Stancy. 'I am
not an enthusiast, but to see the lightning spring hither and
thither, like lazy-tongs, bristling, and striking, and
vanishing, is rather impressive.'

'It must be indeed,' said Paula.

'And in the winter winds these pines sigh like ten thousand
spirits in trouble.'

'Indeed they must,' said Paula.

'At the same time I know a little fir-plantation about a mile
square not far from Markton,' said De Stancy, 'which is
precisely like this in miniature,--stems, colours, slopes,
winds, and all. If we were to go there any time with a highly
magnifying pair of spectacles it would look as fine as this--
and save a deal of travelling.'

'I know the place, and I agree with you,' said Paula.

'You agree with me on all subjects but one,' he presently
observed, in a voice not intended to reach the others.

Paula looked at him, but was silent.

Onward and upward they went, the same pattern and colour of
tree repeating themselves endlessly, till in a couple of hours
they reached the castle hill which was to be the end of their
journey, and beheld stretched beneath them the valley of the
Murg. They alighted and entered the fortress.

'What did you mean by that look of kindness you bestowed upon
me just now, when I said you agreed with me on all subjects
but one?' asked De Stancy half humorously, as he held open a
little door for her, the others having gone ahead.

'I meant, I suppose, that I was much obliged to you for not
requiring agreement on that one subject,' she said, passing
on.

'Not more than that?' said De Stancy, as he followed her.
'But whenever I involuntarily express towards you sentiments
that there can be no mistaking, you seem truly compassionate.'

'If I seem so, I feel so.'

'If you mean no more than mere compassion, I wish you would
show nothing at all, for your mistaken kindness is only
preparing more misery for me than I should have if let alone
to suffer without mercy.'

'I implore you to be quiet, Captain De Stancy! Leave me, and
look out of the window at the view here, or at the pictures,
or at the armour, or whatever it is we are come to see.'

'Very well. But pray don't extract amusement from my harmless
remarks. Such as they are I mean them.'

She stopped him by changing the subject, for they had entered
an octagonal chamber on the first floor, presumably full of
pictures and curiosities; but the shutters were closed, and
only stray beams of light gleamed in to suggest what was
there.

'Can't somebody open the windows?' said Paula.

'The attendant is about to do it,' said her uncle; and as he
spoke the shutters to the east were flung back, and one of the
loveliest views in the forest disclosed itself outside.

Some of them stepped out upon the balcony. The river lay
along the bottom of the valley, irradiated with a silver
shine. Little rafts of pinewood floated on its surface like
tiny splinters, the men who steered them not appearing larger
than ants.

Paula stood on the balcony, looking for a few minutes upon the
sight, and then came into the shadowy room, where De Stancy
had remained. While the rest were still outside she resumed:
'You must not suppose that I shrink from the subject you so
persistently bring before me. I respect deep affection--you
know I do; but for me to say that I have any such for you, of
the particular sort you only will be satisfied with, would be
absurd. I don't feel it, and therefore there can be nothing
between us. One would think it would be better to feel kindly
towards you than to feel nothing at all. But if you object to
that I'll try to feel nothing.'

'I don't really object to your sympathy,' said De Stancy,
rather struck by her seriousness. 'But it is very saddening
to think you can feel nothing more.'

'It must be so, since I CAN feel no more,' she decisively
replied, adding, as she stopped her seriousness: 'You must
pray for strength to get over it.'

'One thing I shall never pray for; to see you give yourself to
another man. But I suppose I shall witness that some day.'

'You may,' she gravely returned.

'You have no doubt chosen him already,' cried the captain
bitterly.

'No, Captain De Stancy,' she said shortly, a faint involuntary
blush coming into her face as she guessed his allusion.

This, and a few glances round at the pictures and curiosities,
completed their survey of the castle. De Stancy knew better
than to trouble her further that day with special remarks.
During the return journey he rode ahead with Mr. Power and she
saw no more of him.

She would have been astonished had she heard the conversation
of the two gentlemen as they wound gently downwards through
the trees.

'As far as I am concerned,' Captain De Stancy's companion was
saying, 'nothing would give me more unfeigned delight than
that you should persevere and win her. But you must
understand that I have no authority over her--nothing more
than the natural influence that arises from my being her
father's brother.'

'And for exercising that much, whatever it may be, in my
favour I thank you heartily,' said De Stancy. 'But I am
coming to the conclusion that it is useless to press her
further. She is right! I am not the man for her. I am too
old, and too poor; and I must put up as well as I can with her
loss--drown her image in old Falernian till I embark in
Charon's boat for good!--Really, if I had the industry I could
write some good Horatian verses on my inauspicious situation!.
. . Ah, well;--in this way I affect levity over my troubles;
but in plain truth my life will not be the brightest without
her.'

'Don't be down-hearted! you are too--too gentlemanly, De
Stancy, in this matter--you are too soon put off--you should
have a touch of the canvasser about you in approaching her;
and not stick at things. You have my hearty invitation to
travel with us all the way till we cross to England, and there
will be heaps of opportunities as we wander on. I'll keep a
slow pace to give you time.'

'You are very good, my friend! Well, I will try again. I am
full of doubt and indecision, mind, but at present I feel that
I will try again. There is, I suppose, a slight possibility
of something or other turning up in my favour, if it is true
that the unexpected always happens--for I foresee no chance
whatever. . . . Which way do we go when we leave here to-
morrow?'

'To Carlsruhe, she says, if the rest of us have no objection.'

'Carlsruhe, then, let it be, with all my heart; or anywhere.'

To Carlsruhe they went next day, after a night of soft rain
which brought up a warm steam from the Schwarzwald valleys,
and caused the young tufts and grasses to swell visibly in a
few hours. After the Baden slopes the flat thoroughfares of
'Charles's Rest' seemed somewhat uninteresting, though a busy
fair which was proceeding in the streets created a quaint and
unexpected liveliness. On reaching the old-fashioned inn in
the Lange-Strasse that they had fixed on, the women of the
party betook themselves to their rooms and showed little
inclination to see more of the world that day than could be
gleaned from the hotel windows.

III.

While the malignant tongues had been playing havoc with
Somerset's fame in the ears of Paula and her companion, the
young man himself was proceeding partly by rail, partly on
foot, below and amid the olive-clad hills, vineyards, carob
groves, and lemon gardens of the Mediterranean shores.
Arrived at San Remo he wrote to Nice to inquire for letters,
and such as had come were duly forwarded; but not one of them
was from Paula. This broke down his resolution to hold off,
and he hastened directly to Genoa, regretting that he had not
taken this step when he first heard that she was there.

Something in the very aspect of the marble halls of that city,
which at any other time he would have liked to linger over,
whispered to him that the bird had flown; and inquiry
confirmed the fancy. Nevertheless, the architectural beauties
of the palace-bordered street, looking as if mountains of
marble must have been levelled to supply the materials for
constructing it, detained him there two days: or rather a
feat of resolution, by which he set himself to withstand the
drag-chain of Paula's influence, was operative for that space
of time.

At the end of it he moved onward. There was no difficulty in
discovering their track northwards; and feeling that he might
as well return to England by the Rhine route as by any other,
he followed in the course they had chosen, getting scent of
them in Strassburg, missing them at Baden by a day, and
finally overtaking them at Carlsruhe, which town he reached on
the morning after the Power and De Stancy party had taken up
their quarters at the ancient inn above mentioned. When
Somerset was about to get out of the train at this place,
little dreaming what a meaning the word Carlsruhe would have
for him in subsequent years, he was disagreeably surprised to
see no other than Dare stepping out of the adjoining carriage.
A new brown leather valise in one of his hands, a new umbrella
in the other, and a new suit of fashionable clothes on his
back, seemed to denote considerable improvement in the young
man's fortunes. Somerset was so struck by the circumstance of
his being on this spot that he almost missed his opportunity
for alighting.

Dare meanwhile had moved on without seeing his former
employer, and Somerset resolved to take the chance that
offered, and let him go. There was something so mysterious in
their common presence simultaneously at one place, five
hundred miles from where they had last met, that he exhausted
conjecture on whether Dare's errand this way could have
anything to do with his own, or whether their juxtaposition a
second time was the result of pure accident. Greatly as he
would have liked to get this answered by a direct question to
Dare himself, he did not counteract his first instinct, and
remained unseen.

They went out in different directions, when Somerset for the
first time remembered that, in learning at Baden that the
party had flitted towards Carlsruhe, he had taken no care to
ascertain the name of the hotel they were bound for.
Carlsruhe was not a large place and the point was immaterial,
but the omission would necessitate a little inquiry. To follow
Dare on the chance of his having fixed upon the same quarters
was a course which did not commend itself. He resolved to get
some lunch before proceeding with his business--or fatuity--of
discovering the elusive lady, and drove off to a neighbouring
tavern, which did not happen to be, as he hoped it might, the
one chosen by those who had preceded him.

Meanwhile Dare, previously master of their plans, went
straight to the house which sheltered them, and on entering
under the archway from the Lange-Strasse was saved the trouble
of inquiring for Captain De Stancy by seeing him drinking
bitters at a little table in the court. Had Somerset chosen
this inn for his quarters instead of the one in the Market-
Place which he actually did choose, the three must inevitably
have met here at this moment, with some possibly striking
dramatic results; though what they would have been remains for
ever hidden in the darkness of the unfulfilled.

De Stancy jumped up from his chair, and went forward to the
new-comer. 'You are not long behind us, then,' he said, with
laconic disquietude. 'I thought you were going straight
home?'

'I was,' said Dare, 'but I have been blessed with what I may
call a small competency since I saw you last. Of the two
hundred francs you gave me I risked fifty at the tables, and I
have multiplied them, how many times do you think? More than
four hundred times.'

De Stancy immediately looked grave. 'I wish you had lost
them,' he said, with as much feeling as could be shown in a
place where strangers were hovering near.

'Nonsense, captain! I have proceeded purely on a calculation
of chances; and my calculations proved as true as I expected,
notwithstanding a little in-and-out luck at first. Witness
this as the result.' He smacked his bag with his umbrella,
and the chink of money resounded from within. 'Just feel the
weight of it!'

'It is not necessary. I take your word.'

'Shall I lend you five pounds?'

'God forbid! As if that would repay me for what you have cost
me! But come, let's get out of this place to where we can
talk more freely.' He put his hand through the young man's
arm, and led him round the corner of the hotel towards the
Schloss-Platz.

'These runs of luck will be your ruin, as I have told you
before,' continued Captain De Stancy. 'You will be for
repeating and repeating your experiments, and will end by
blowing your brains out, as wiser heads than yours have done.
I am glad you have come away, at any rate. Why did you travel
this way?'

'Simply because I could afford it, of course.--But come,
captain, something has ruffled you to-day. I thought you did
not look in the best temper the moment I saw you. Every sip
you took of your pick-up as you sat there showed me something
was wrong. Tell your worry!'

'Pooh--I can tell you in two words,' said the captain
satirically. 'Your arrangement for my wealth and happiness--
for I suppose you still claim it to be yours--has fallen
through. The lady has announced to-day that she means to send
for Somerset instantly. She is coming to a personal
explanation with him. So woe to me--and in another sense, woe
to you, as I have reason to fear.'

'Send for him!' said Dare, with the stillness of complete
abstraction. 'Then he'll come.'

'Well,' said De Stancy, looking him in the face. 'And does it
make you feel you had better be off? How about that telegram?
Did he ask you to send it, or did he not?'

'One minute, or I shall be up such a tree as nobody ever saw
the like of.'

'Then what did you come here for?' burst out De Stancy. ''Tis
my belief you are no more than a--But I won't call you names;
I'll tell you quite plainly that if there is anything wrong in
that message to her--which I believe there is--no, I can't
believe, though I fear it--you have the chance of appearing in
drab clothes at the expense of the Government before the year
is out, and I of being eternally disgraced!'

'No, captain, you won't be disgraced. I am bad to beat, I can
tell you. And come the worst luck, I don't say a word.'

'But those letters pricked in your skin would say a good deal,
it strikes me.'

'What! would they strip me?--but it is not coming to that.
Look here, now, I'll tell you the truth for once; though you
don't believe me capable of it. I DID concoct that telegram--
and sent it; just as a practical joke; and many a worse one
has been only laughed at by honest men and officers. I could
show you a bigger joke still--a joke of jokes--on the same
individual.'

Dare as he spoke put his hand into his breast-pocket, as if
the said joke lay there; but after a moment he withdrew his
hand empty, as he continued:

'Having invented it I have done enough; I was going to explain
it to you, that you might carry it out. But you are so
serious, that I will leave it alone. My second joke shall die
with me.'

'So much the better,' said De Stancy. 'I don't like your
jokes, even though they are not directed against myself. They
express a kind of humour which does not suit me.'

'You may have reason to alter your mind,' said Dare
carelessly. 'Your success with your lady may depend on it.
The truth is, captain, we aristocrats must not take too high a
tone. Our days as an independent division of society, which
holds aloof from other sections, are past. This has been my
argument (in spite of my strong Norman feelings) ever since I
broached the subject of your marrying this girl, who
represents both intellect and wealth--all, in fact, except the
historical prestige that you represent. And we mustn't flinch
at things. The case is even more pressing than ordinary
cases--owing to the odd fact that the representative of the
new blood who has come in our way actually lives in your own
old house, and owns your own old lands. The ordinary reason
for such alliances is quintupled in our case. Do then just
think and be reasonable, before you talk tall about not liking
my jokes, and all that. Beggars mustn't be choosers.'

'There's really much reason in your argument,' said De Stancy,
with a bitter laugh: 'and my own heart argues much the same
way. But, leaving me to take care of my aristocratic self, I
advise your aristocratic self to slip off at once to England
like any hang-gallows dog; and if Somerset is here, and you
have been doing wrong in his name, and it all comes out, I'll
try to save you, as far as an honest man can. If you have
done no wrong, of course there is no fear; though I should be
obliged by your going homeward as quickly as possible, as
being better both for you and for me. . . . Hullo--
Damnation!'

They had reached one side of the Schloss-Platz, nobody
apparently being near them save a sentinel who was on duty
before the Palace; but turning as he spoke, De Stancy beheld a
group consisting of his sister, Paula, and Mr. Power,
strolling across the square towards them.

It was impossible to escape their observation, and putting a
bold front upon it, De Stancy advanced with Dare at his side,
till in a few moments the two parties met, Paula and Charlotte
recognizing Dare at once as the young man who assisted at the
castle.

'I have met my young photographer,' said De Stancy cheerily.
'What a small world it is, as everybody truly observes! I am
wishing he could take some views for us as we go on; but you
have no apparatus with you, I suppose, Mr. Dare?'

'I have not, sir, I am sorry to say,' replied Dare
respectfully.

'You could get some, I suppose?' asked Paula of the
interesting young photographer.

Dare declared that it would be not impossible: whereupon De
Stancy said that it was only a passing thought of his; and in
a few minutes the two parties again separated, going their
several ways.

'That was awkward,' said De Stancy, trembling with excitement.
'I would advise you to keep further off in future.'

Dare said thoughtfully that he would be careful, adding, 'She
is a prize for any man, indeed, leaving alone the substantial
possessions behind her! Now was I too enthusiastic? Was I a
fool for urging you on?'

'Wait till success justifies the undertaking. In case of
failure it will have been anything but wise. It is no light
matter to have a carefully preserved repose broken in upon for
nothing--a repose that could never be restored!'

They walked down the Carl-Friedrichs-Strasse to the Margrave's
Pyramid, and back to the hotel, where Dare also decided to
take up his stay. De Stancy left him with the book-keeper at
the desk, and went upstairs to see if the ladies had returned.

IV.

He found them in their sitting-room with their bonnets on, as
if they had just come in. Mr. Power was also present, reading
a newspaper, but Mrs. Goodman had gone out to a neighbouring
shop, in the windows of which she had seen something which
attracted her fancy.

When De Stancy entered, Paula's thoughts seemed to revert to
Dare, for almost at once she asked him in what direction the
youth was travelling. With some hesitation De Stancy replied
that he believed Mr. Dare was returning to England after a
spring trip for the improvement of his mind.

'A very praiseworthy thing to do,' said Paula. 'What places
has he visited?'

'Those which afford opportunities for the study of the old
masters, I believe,' said De Stancy blandly. 'He has also
been to Turin, Genoa, Marseilles, and so on.' The captain
spoke the more readily to her questioning in that he divined
her words to be dictated, not by any suspicions of his
relations with Dare, but by her knowledge of Dare as the
draughtsman employed by Somerset.

'Has he been to Nice?' she next demanded. 'Did he go there in
company with my architect?'

'I think not.'

'Has he seen anything of him? My architect Somerset once
employed him. They know each other.'

'I think he saw Somerset for a short time.'

Paula was silent. 'Do you know where this young man Dare is
at the present moment?' she asked quickly.

De Stancy said that Dare was staying at the same hotel with
themselves, and that he believed he was downstairs.

'I think I can do no better than send for him,' said she. 'He
may be able to throw some light upon the matter of that
telegram.'

She rang and despatched the waiter for the young man in
question, De Stancy almost visibly trembling for the result.
But he opened the town directory which was lying on a table,
and affected to be engrossed in the names.

Before Dare was shown in she said to her uncle, 'Perhaps you
will speak to him for me?'

Mr. Power, looking up from the paper he was reading, assented
to her proposition. Dare appeared in the doorway, and the
waiter retired. Dare seemed a trifle startled out of his
usual coolness, the message having evidently been unexpected,
and he came forward somewhat uneasily.

'Mr. Dare, we are anxious to know something of Miss Power's
architect; and Captain De Stancy tells us you have seen him
lately,' said Mr. Power sonorously over the edge of his
newspaper.

Not knowing whether danger menaced or no, or, if it menaced,
from what quarter it was to be expected, Dare felt that
honesty was as good as anything else for him, and replied
boldly that he had seen Mr. Somerset, De Stancy continuing to
cream and mantle almost visibly, in anxiety at the situation
of the speaker.

'And where did you see him?' continued Mr. Power.

'In the Casino at Monte Carlo.'

'How long did you see him?'

'Only for half an hour. I left him there.'

Paula's interest got the better of her reserve, and she cut in
upon her uncle: 'Did he seem in any unusual state, or in
trouble?'

'He was rather excited,' said Dare.

'And can you remember when that was?'

Dare considered, looked at his pocket-book, and said that it
was on the evening of April the twenty-second.

The answer had a significance for Paula, De Stancy, and
Charlotte, to which Abner Power was a stranger. The
telegraphic request for money, which had been kept a secret
from him by his niece, because of his already unfriendly tone
towards Somerset, arrived on the morning of the twenty-third--
a date which neighboured with painfully suggestive nicety upon
that now given by Dare.

She seemed to be silenced, and asked no more questions. Dare
having furbished himself up to a gentlemanly appearance with
some of his recent winnings, was invited to stay on awhile by
Paula's uncle, who, as became a travelled man, was not
fastidious as to company. Being a youth of the world, Dare
made himself agreeable to that gentleman, and afterwards tried
to do the same with Miss De Stancy. At this the captain, to
whom the situation for some time had been amazingly
uncomfortable, pleaded some excuse for going out, and left the
room.

Dare continued his endeavours to say a few polite nothings to
Charlotte De Stancy, in the course of which he drew from his
pocket his new silk handkerchief. By some chance a card came
out with the handkerchief, and fluttered downwards. His
momentary instinct was to make a grasp at the card and conceal
it: but it had already tumbled to the floor, where it lay
face upward beside Charlotte De Stancy's chair.

It was neither a visiting nor a playing card, but one bearing
a photographic portrait of a peculiar nature. It was what
Dare had characterized as his best joke in speaking on the
subject to Captain De Stancy: he had in the morning put it
ready in his pocket to give to the captain, and had in fact
held it in waiting between his finger and thumb while talking
to him in the Platz, meaning that he should make use of it
against his rival whenever convenient. But his sharp
conversation with that soldier had dulled his zest for this
final joke at Somerset's expense, had at least shown him that
De Stancy would not adopt the joke by accepting the photograph
and using it himself, and determined him to lay it aside till
a more convenient time. So fully had he made up his mind on
this course, that when the photograph slipped out he did not
at first perceive the appositeness of the circumstance, in
putting into his own hands the role he had intended for De
Stancy; though it was asserted afterwards that the whole scene
was deliberately planned. However, once having seen the
accident, he resolved to take the current as it served.

The card having fallen beside her, Miss De Stancy glanced over
it, which indeed she could not help doing. The smile that had
previously hung upon her lips was arrested as if by frost and
she involuntarily uttered a little distressed cry of 'O!' like
one in bodily pain.

Paula, who had been talking to her uncle during this
interlude, started round, and wondering what had happened,
inquiringly crossed the room to poor Charlotte's side, asking
her what was the matter. Charlotte had regained self-
possession, though not enough to enable her to reply, and
Paula asked her a second time what had made her exclaim like
that. Miss De Stancy still seemed confused, whereupon Paula
noticed that her eyes were continually drawn as if by
fascination towards the photograph on the floor, which,
contrary to his first impulse, Dare, as has been said, now
seemed in no hurry to regain. Surmising at last that the
card, whatever it was, had something to do with the
exclamation, Paula picked it up.

It was a portrait of Somerset; but by a device known in
photography the operator, though contriving to produce what
seemed to be a perfect likeness, had given it the distorted
features and wild attitude of a man advanced in intoxication.
No woman, unless specially cognizant of such possibilities,
could have looked upon it and doubted that the photograph was
a genuine illustration of a customary phase in the young man's
private life.

Paula observed it, thoroughly took it in; but the effect upon
her was by no means clear. Charlotte's eyes at once forsook
the portrait to dwell on Paula's face. It paled a little, and
this was followed by a hot blush--perceptibly a blush of
shame. That was all. She flung the picture down on the
table, and moved away.

It was now Mr. Power's turn. Anticipating Dare, who was
advancing with a deprecatory look to seize the photograph, he
also grasped it. When he saw whom it represented he seemed
both amused and startled, and after scanning it a while handed
it to the young man with a queer smile.

'I am very sorry,' began Dare in a low voice to Mr. Power. 'I
fear I was to blame for thoughtlessness in not destroying it.
But I thought it was rather funny that a man should permit
such a thing to be done, and that the humour would redeem the
offence.'

'In you, for purchasing it,' said Paula with haughty quickness
from the other side of the room. 'Though probably his
friends, if he has any, would say not in him.'

There was silence in the room after this, and Dare, finding
himself rather in the way, took his leave as unostentatiously
as a cat that has upset the family china, though he continued
to say among his apologies that he was not aware Mr. Somerset
was a personal friend of the ladies.

Of all the thoughts which filled the minds of Paula and
Charlotte De Stancy, the thought that the photograph might
have been a fabrication was probably the last. To them that
picture of Somerset had all the cogency of direct vision.
Paula's experience, much less Charlotte's, had never lain in
the fields of heliographic science, and they would as soon
have thought that the sun could again stand still upon Gibeon,
as that it could be made to falsify men's characters in
delineating their features. What Abner Power thought he
himself best knew. He might have seen such pictures before;
or he might never have heard of them.

While pretending to resume his reading he closely observed
Paula, as did also Charlotte De Stancy; but thanks to the
self-management which was Miss Power's as much by nature as by
art, she dissembled whatever emotion was in her.

'It is a pity a professional man should make himself so
ludicrous,' she said with such careless intonation that it was
almost impossible, even for Charlotte, who knew her so well,
to believe her indifference feigned.

'Yes,' said Mr. Power, since Charlotte did not speak: 'it is
what I scarcely should have expected.'

'O, I am not surprised!' said Paula quickly. 'You don't know
all.' The inference was, indeed, inevitable that if her uncle
were made aware of the telegram he would see nothing unlikely
in the picture. 'Well, you are very silent!' continued Paula
petulantly, when she found that nobody went on talking. 'What
made you cry out "O," Charlotte, when Mr. Dare dropped that
horrid photograph?'

'I don't know; I suppose it frightened me,' stammered the
girl.

'It was a stupid fuss to make before such a person. One would
think you were in love with Mr. Somerset.'

'What did you say, Paula?' inquired her uncle, looking up from
the newspaper which he had again resumed.

'Nothing, Uncle Abner.' She walked to the window, and, as if
to tide over what was plainly passing in their minds about
her, she began to make remarks on objects in the street.
'What a quaint being--look, Charlotte!' It was an old woman
sitting by a stall on the opposite side of the way, which
seemed suddenly to hit Paula's sense of the humorous, though
beyond the fact that the dame was old and poor, and wore a
white handkerchief over her head, there was really nothing
noteworthy about her.

Paula seemed to be more hurt by what the silence of her
companions implied--a suspicion that the discovery of
Somerset's depravity was wounding her heart--than by the wound
itself. The ostensible ease with which she drew them into a
bye conversation had perhaps the defect of proving too much:
though her tacit contention that no love was in question was
not incredible on the supposition that affronted pride alone
caused her embarrassment. The chief symptom of her heart
being really tender towards Somerset consisted in her apparent
blindness to Charlotte's secret, so obviously suggested by her
momentary agitation.

V.

And where was the subject of their condemnatory opinions all
this while? Having secured a room at his inn, he came forth
to complete the discovery of his dear mistress's halting-place
without delay. After one or two inquiries he ascertained
where such a party of English were staying; and arriving at
the hotel, knew at once that he had tracked them to earth by
seeing the heavier portion of the Power luggage confronting
him in the hall. He sent up intelligence of his presence, and
awaited her reply with a beating heart.

In the meanwhile Dare, descending from his pernicious
interview with Paula and the rest, had descried Captain De
Stancy in the public drawing-room, and entered to him
forthwith. It was while they were here together that Somerset
passed the door and sent up his name to Paula.

The incident at the railway station was now reversed, Somerset
being the observed of Dare, as Dare had then been the observed
of Somerset. Immediately on sight of him Dare showed real
alarm. He had imagined that Somerset would eventually impinge
on Paula's route, but he had scarcely expected it yet; and the
architect's sudden appearance led Dare to ask himself the
ominous question whether Somerset had discovered his
telegraphic trick, and was in the mood for prompt measures.

'There is no more for me to do here,' said the boy hastily to
De Stancy. 'Miss Power does not wish to ask me any more
questions. I may as well proceed on my way, as you advised.'

De Stancy, who had also gazed with dismay at Somerset's
passing figure, though with dismay of another sort, was
recalled from his vexation by Dare's remarks, and turning upon
him he said sharply, 'Well may you be in such a hurry all of a
sudden!'

'True, I am superfluous now.'

'You have been doing a foolish thing, and you must suffer its
inconveniences.--Will, I am sorry for one thing; I am sorry I
ever owned you; for you are not a lad to my heart. You have
disappointed me--disappointed me almost beyond endurance.'

'I have acted according to my illumination. What can you
expect of a man born to dishonour?'

'That's mere speciousness. Before you knew anything of me,
and while you thought you were the child of poverty on both
sides, you were well enough; but ever since you thought you
were more than that, you have led a life which is intolerable.
What has become of your plan of alliance between the De
Stancys and the Powers now? The man is gone upstairs who can
overthrow it all.'

'If the man had not gone upstairs, you wouldn't have
complained of my nature or my plans,' said Dare drily. 'If I
mistake not, he will come down again with the flea in his ear.
However, I have done; my play is played out. All the rest
remains with you. But, captain, grant me this! If when I am
gone this difficulty should vanish, and things should go well
with you, and your suit should prosper, will you think of him,
bad as he is, who first put you on the track of such
happiness, and let him know it was not done in vain?'

'I will,' said De Stancy. 'Promise me that you will be a
better boy?'

'Very well--as soon as ever I can afford it. Now I am up and
away, when I have explained to them that I shall not require
my room.'

Dare fetched his bag, touched his hat with his umbrella to the
captain and went out of the hotel archway. De Stancy sat down
in the stuffy drawing-room, and wondered what other ironies
time had in store for him.

A waiter in the interim had announced Somerset to the group
upstairs. Paula started as much as Charlotte at hearing the
name, and Abner Power stared at them both.

'If Mr. Somerset wishes to see me ON BUSINESS, show him in,'
said Paula.

In a few seconds the door was thrown open for Somerset. On
receipt of the pointed message he guessed that a change had
come. Time, absence, ambition, her uncle's influence, and a
new wooer, seemed to account sufficiently well for that
change, and he accepted his fate. But a stoical instinct to
show her that he could regard vicissitudes with the equanimity
that became a man; a desire to ease her mind of any fear she
might entertain that his connection with her past would render
him troublesome in future, induced him to accept her
permission, and see the act to the end.

'How do you do, Mr. Somerset?' said Abner Power, with sardonic
geniality: he had been far enough about the world not to be
greatly concerned at Somerset's apparent failing, particularly
when it helped to reduce him from the rank of lover to his
niece to that of professional adviser.

Miss De Stancy faltered a welcome as weak as that of the Maid
of Neidpath, and Paula said coldly, 'We are rather surprised
to see you. Perhaps there is something urgent at the castle
which makes it necessary for you to call?'

'There is something a little urgent,' said Somerset slowly, as
he approached her; 'and you have judged rightly that it is the
cause of my call.' He sat down near her chair as he spoke,
put down his hat, and drew a note-book from his pocket with a
despairing sang froid that was far more perfect than had been
Paula's demeanour just before.

'Perhaps you would like to talk over the business with Mr.
Somerset alone?' murmured Charlotte to Miss Power, hardly
knowing what she said.

'O no,' said Paula, 'I think not. Is it necessary?' she said,
turning to him.

'Not in the least,' replied he, bestowing a penetrating glance
upon his questioner's face, which seemed however to produce no
effect; and turning towards Charlotte, he added, 'You will
have the goodness, I am sure, Miss De Stancy, to excuse the
jargon of professional details.'

He spread some tracings on the table, and pointed out certain
modified features to Paula, commenting as he went on, and
exchanging occasionally a few words on the subject with Mr.
Abner Power by the distant window.

In this architectural dialogue over his sketches, Somerset's
head and Paula's became unavoidably very close. The
temptation was too much for the young man. Under cover of the
rustle of the tracings, he murmured, 'Paula, I could not get
here before!' in a low voice inaudible to the other two.

She did not reply, only busying herself the more with the
notes and sketches; and he said again, 'I stayed a couple of
days at Genoa, and some days at San Remo, and Mentone.'

'But it is not the least concern of mine where you stayed, is
it?' she said, with a cold yet disquieted look.

'Do you speak seriously?' Somerset brokenly whispered.

Paula concluded her examination of the drawings and turned
from him with sorrowful disregard. He tried no further, but,
when she had signified her pleasure on the points submitted,
packed up his papers, and rose with the bearing of a man
altogether superior to such a class of misfortune as this.
Before going he turned to speak a few words of a general kind
to Mr. Power and Charlotte.

'You will stay and dine with us?' said the former, rather with
the air of being unhappily able to do no less than ask the
question. 'My charges here won't go down to the table-d'hote,
I fear, but De Stancy and myself will be there.'

Somerset excused himself, and in a few minutes withdrew. At
the door he looked round for an instant, and his eyes met
Paula's. There was the same miles-off expression in hers that
they had worn when he entered; but there was also a look of
distressful inquiry, as if she were earnestly expecting him to
say something more. This of course Somerset did not
comprehend. Possibly she was clinging to a hope of some
excuse for the message he was supposed to have sent, or for
the other and more degrading matter. Anyhow, Somerset only
bowed and went away.

A moment after he had gone, Paula, impelled by something or
other, crossed the room to the window. In a short time she
saw his form in the broad street below, which he traversed
obliquely to an opposite corner, his head somewhat bent, and
his eyes on the ground. Before vanishing into the
Ritterstrasse he turned his head and glanced at the hotel
windows, as if he knew that she was watching him. Then he
disappeared; and the only real sign of emotion betrayed by
Paula during the whole episode escaped her at this moment. It
was a slight trembling of the lip and a sigh so slowly
breathed that scarce anybody could hear--scarcely even
Charlotte, who was reclining on a couch her face on her hand
and her eyes downcast.

Not more than two minutes had elapsed when Mrs. Goodman came
in with a manner of haste.

'You have returned,' said Mr. Power. 'Have you made your
purchases?'

Without answering, she asked, 'Whom, of all people on earth,
do you think I have met? Mr. Somerset! Has he been here?--he
passed me almost without speaking!'

'Yes, he has been here,' said Paula. 'He is on the way from
Genoa home, and called on business.'

'You will have him here to dinner, of course?'

'I asked him,' said Mr. Power, 'but he declined.'

'O, that's unfortunate! Surely we could get him to come. You
would like to have him here, would you not, Paula?'

'No, indeed. I don't want him here,' said she.

'You don't?'

'No!' she said sharply.

'You used to like him well enough, anyhow,' bluntly rejoined
Mrs. Goodman.

Paula sedately: 'It is a mistake to suppose that I ever
particularly liked the gentleman mentioned.'

'Then you are wrong, Mrs. Goodman, it seems,' said Mr. Power.

Mrs. Goodman, who had been growing quietly indignant,
notwithstanding a vigorous use of her fan, at this said.
'Fie, fie, Paula! you did like him. You said to me only a
week or two ago that you should not at all object to marry
him.'

'It is a mistake,' repeated Paula calmly. 'I meant the other
one of the two we were talking about.'

'What, Captain De Stancy?'

'Yes.'

Knowing this to be a fiction, Mrs. Goodman made no remark, and
hearing a slight noise behind, turned her head. Seeing her
aunt's action, Paula also looked round. The door had been
left ajar, and De Stancy was standing in the room. The last
words of Mrs. Goodman, and Paula's reply, must have been quite
audible to him.

They looked at each other much as if they had unexpectedly met
at the altar; but after a momentary start Paula did not flinch
from the position into which hurt pride had betrayed her. De
Stancy bowed gracefully, and she merely walked to the furthest
window, whither he followed her.

'I am eternally grateful to you for avowing that I have won
favour in your sight at last,' he whispered.

She acknowledged the remark with a somewhat reserved bearing.
'Really I don't deserve your gratitude,' she said. 'I did not
know you were there.'

'I know you did not--that's why the avowal is so sweet to me.
Can I take you at your word?'

'Yes, I suppose.'

'Then your preference is the greatest honour that has ever
fallen to my lot. It is enough: you accept me?'

'As a lover on probation--no more.'

The conversation being carried on in low tones, Paula's uncle
and aunt took it as a hint that their presence could be
spared, and severally left the room--the former gladly, the
latter with some vexation. Charlotte De Stancy followed.

'And to what am I indebted for this happy change?' inquired De
Stancy, as soon as they were alone.

'You shouldn't look a gift-horse in the mouth,' she replied
brusquely, and with tears in her eyes for one gone.

'You mistake my motive. I am like a reprieved criminal, and
can scarcely believe the news.'

'You shouldn't say that to me, or I shall begin to think I
have been too kind,' she answered, some of the archness of her
manner returning. 'Now, I know what you mean to say in
answer; but I don't want to hear more at present; and whatever
you do, don't fall into the mistake of supposing I have
accepted you in any other sense than the way I say. If you
don't like such a limitation you can go away. I dare say I
shall get over it.'

'Go away! Could I go away?--But you are beginning to tease,
and will soon punish me severely; so I will make my escape
while all is well. It would be presumptuous to expect more in
one day.'

'It would indeed,' said Paula, with her eyes on a bunch of
flowers.

VI.

On leaving the hotel, Somerset's first impulse was to get out
of sight of its windows, and his glance upward had perhaps not
the tender significance that Paula imagined, the last look
impelled by any such whiff of emotion having been the
lingering one he bestowed upon her in passing out of the room.
Unluckily for the prospects of this attachment, Paula's
conduct towards him now, as a result of misrepresentation, had
enough in common with her previous silence at Nice to make it
not unreasonable as a further development of that silence.
Moreover, her social position as a woman of wealth, always
felt by Somerset as a perceptible bar to that full and free
eagerness with which he would fain have approached her,
rendered it impossible for him to return to the charge,
ascertain the reason of her coldness, and dispel it by an
explanation, without being suspected of mercenary objects.
Continually does it happen that a genial willingness to bottle
up affronts is set down to interested motives by those who do
not know what generous conduct means. Had she occupied the
financial position of Miss De Stancy he would readily have
persisted further and, not improbably, have cleared up the
cloud.

Having no further interest in Carlsruhe, Somerset decided to
leave by an evening train. The intervening hour he spent in
wandering into the thick of the fair, where steam roundabouts,
the proprietors of wax-work shows, and fancy-stall keepers
maintained a deafening din. The animated environment was
better than silence, for it fostered in him an artificial
indifference to the events that had just happened--an
indifference which, though he too well knew it was only
destined to be temporary, afforded a passive period wherein to
store up strength that should enable him to withstand the wear
and tear of regrets which would surely set in soon. It was
the case with Somerset as with others of his temperament, that
he did not feel a blow of this sort immediately; and what
often seemed like stoicism after misfortune was only the
neutral numbness of transition from palpitating hope to
assured wretchedness.

He walked round and round the fair till all the exhibitors
knew him by sight, and when the sun got low he turned into the
Erbprinzen-Strasse, now raked from end to end by ensaffroned
rays of level light. Seeking his hotel he dined there, and
left by the evening train for Heidelberg.

Heidelberg with its romantic surroundings was not precisely
the place calculated to heal Somerset's wounded heart. He had
known the town of yore, and his recollections of that period,
when, unfettered in fancy, he had transferred to his sketch-
book the fine Renaissance details of the Otto-Heinrichs-Bau
came back with unpleasant force. He knew of some carved cask-
heads and other curious wood-work in the castle cellars,
copies of which, being unobtainable by photographs, he had
intended to make if all went well between Paula and himself.
The zest for this was now well-nigh over. But on awaking in
the morning and looking up the valley towards the castle, and
at the dark green height of the Konigsstuhl alongside, he felt
that to become vanquished by a passion, driven to suffer,
fast, and pray in the dull pains and vapours of despised love,
was a contingency not to be welcomed too readily. Thereupon
he set himself to learn the sad science of renunciation, which
everybody has to learn in his degree--either rebelling
throughout the lesson, or, like Somerset, taking to it kindly
by force of judgment. A more obstinate pupil might have
altogether escaped the lesson in the present case by
discovering its illegality.

Resolving to persevere in the heretofore satisfactory paths of
art while life and faculties were left, though every instinct
must proclaim that there would be no longer any collateral
attraction in that pursuit, he went along under the trees of
the Anlage and reached the castle vaults, in whose cool shades
he spent the afternoon, working out his intentions with fair
result. When he had strolled back to his hotel in the evening
the time was approaching for the table-d'hote. Having seated
himself rather early, he spent the few minutes of waiting in
looking over his pocket-book, and putting a few finishing
touches to the afternoon performance whilst the objects were
fresh in his memory. Thus occupied he was but dimly conscious
of the customary rustle of dresses and pulling up of chairs by
the crowd of other diners as they gathered around him.
Serving began, and he put away his book and prepared for the
meal. He had hardly done this when he became conscious that
the person on his left hand was not the typical cosmopolite
with boundless hotel knowledge and irrelevant experiences that
he was accustomed to find next him, but a face he recognized
as that of a young man whom he had met and talked to at Stancy
Castle garden-party, whose name he had now forgotten. This
young fellow was conversing with somebody on his left hand--no
other personage than Paula herself. Next to Paula he beheld
De Stancy, and De Stancy's sister beyond him. It was one of
those gratuitous encounters which only happen to discarded
lovers who have shown commendable stoicism under
disappointment, as if on purpose to reopen and aggravate their
wounds.

It seemed as if the intervening traveller had met the other
party by accident there and then. In a minute he turned and
recognized Somerset, and by degrees the young men's cursory
remarks to each other developed into a pretty regular
conversation, interrupted only when he turned to speak to
Paula on his left hand.

'Your architectural adviser travels in your party: how very
convenient,' said the young tourist to her. 'Far pleasanter
than having a medical attendant in one's train!'

Somerset, who had no distractions on the other side of him,
could hear every word of this. He glanced at Paula. She had
not known of his presence in the room till now. Their eyes
met for a second, and she bowed sedately. Somerset returned
her bow, and her eyes were quickly withdrawn with scarcely
visible confusion.

'Mr. Somerset is not travelling with us,' she said. 'We have
met by accident. Mr. Somerset came to me on business a little
while ago.'

'I must congratulate you on having put the castle into good
hands,' continued the enthusiastic young man.

'I believe Mr. Somerset is quite competent,' said Paula
stiffly.

To include Somerset in the conversation the young man turned
to him and added: 'You carry on your work at the castle con
amore, no doubt?'

'There is work I should like better,' said Somerset.

'Indeed?'

The frigidity of his manner seemed to set her at ease by
dispersing all fear of a scene; and alternate dialogues of
this sort with the gentleman in their midst were more or less
continued by both Paula and Somerset till they rose from
table.

In the bustle of moving out the two latter for one moment
stood side by side.

'Miss Power,' said Somerset, in a low voice that was obscured
by the rustle, 'you have nothing more to say to me?'

'I think there is nothing more?' said Paula, lifting her eyes
with longing reticence.

'Then I take leave of you; and tender my best wishes that you
may have a pleasant time before you! . . . . I set out for
England to-night.'

'With a special photographer, no doubt?'

It was the first time that she had addressed Somerset with a
meaning distinctly bitter; and her remark, which had reference
to the forged photograph, fell of course without its intended
effect.

'No, Miss Power,' said Somerset gravely. 'But with a deeper
sense of woman's thoughtless trifling than time will ever
eradicate.'

'Is not that a mistake?' she asked in a voice that distinctly
trembled.

'A mistake? How?'

'I mean, do you not forget many things?' (throwing on him a
troubled glance). 'A woman may feel herself justified in her
conduct, although it admits of no explanation.'

'I don't contest the point for a moment. . . . Goodbye.'

'Good-bye.'

They parted amid the flowering shrubs and caged birds in the
hall, and he saw her no more. De Stancy came up, and spoke a
few commonplace words, his sister having gone out, either
without perceiving Somerset, or with intention to avoid him.

That night, as he had said, he was on his way to England.

VII.

The De Stancys and Powers remained in Heidelberg for some
days. All remarked that after Somerset's departure Paula was
frequently irritable, though at other times as serene as ever.
Yet even when in a blithe and saucy mood there was at bottom a
tinge of melancholy. Something did not lie easy in her
undemonstrative heart, and all her friends excused the
inequalities of a humour whose source, though not positively
known, could be fairly well guessed.

De Stancy had long since discovered that his chance lay
chiefly in her recently acquired and fanciful predilection
d'artiste for hoary mediaeval families with ancestors in
alabaster and primogenitive renown. Seeing this he dwelt on
those topics which brought out that aspect of himself more
clearly, talking feudalism and chivalry with a zest that he
had never hitherto shown. Yet it was not altogether
factitious. For, discovering how much this quondam Puritan
was interested in the attributes of long-chronicled houses, a
reflected interest in himself arose in his own soul, and he
began to wonder why he had not prized these things before.
Till now disgusted by the failure of his family to hold its
own in the turmoil between ancient and modern, he had grown to
undervalue its past prestige; and it was with corrective
ardour that he adopted while he ministered to her views.

Henceforward the wooing of De Stancy took the form of an
intermittent address, the incidents of their travel furnishing
pegs whereon to hang his subject; sometimes hindering it, but
seldom failing to produce in her a greater tolerance of his
presence. His next opportunity was the day after Somerset's
departure from Heidelberg. They stood on the great terrace of
the Schloss-Garten, looking across the intervening ravine to
the north-east front of the castle which rose before them in
all its customary warm tints and battered magnificence.

'This is a spot, if any, which should bring matters to a
crisis between you and me,' he asserted good-humouredly. 'But
you have been so silent to-day that I lose the spirit to take
advantage of my privilege.'

She inquired what privilege he spoke of, as if quite another
subject had been in her mind than De Stancy.

'The privilege of winning your heart if I can, which you gave
me at Carlsruhe.'

'O,' she said. 'Well, I've been thinking of that. But I do
not feel myself absolutely bound by the statement I made in
that room; and I shall expect, if I withdraw it, not to be
called to account by you.'

De Stancy looked rather blank.

'If you recede from your promise you will doubtless have good
reason. But I must solemnly beg you, after raising my hopes,
to keep as near as you can to your word, so as not to throw me
into utter despair.'

Paula dropped her glance into the Thier-Garten below them,
where gay promenaders were clambering up between the bushes
and flowers. At length she said, with evident embarrassment,
but with much distinctness: 'I deserve much more blame for
what I have done than you can express to me. I will confess
to you the whole truth. All that I told you in the hotel at
Carlsruhe was said in a moment of pique at what had happened
just before you came in. It was supposed I was much involved
with another man, and circumstances made the supposition
particularly objectionable. To escape it I jumped at the
alternative of yourself.'

'That's bad for me!' he murmured.

'If after this avowal you bind me to my words I shall say no
more: I do not wish to recede from them without your full
permission.'

'What a caprice! But I release you unconditionally,' he said.
'And I beg your pardon if I seemed to show too much assurance.
Please put it down to my gratified excitement. I entirely
acquiesce in your wish. I will go away to whatever place you
please, and not come near you but by your own permission, and
till you are quite satisfied that my presence and what it may
lead to is not undesirable. I entirely give way before you,
and will endeavour to make my future devotedness, if ever we
meet again, a new ground for expecting your favour.'

Paula seemed struck by the generous and cheerful fairness of
his remarks, and said gently, 'Perhaps your departure is not
absolutely necessary for my happiness; and I do not wish from
what you call caprice--'

'I retract that word.'

'Well, whatever it is, I don't wish you to do anything which
should cause you real pain, or trouble, or humiliation.'

'That's very good of you.'

'But I reserve to myself the right to accept or refuse your
addresses--just as if those rash words of mine had never been
spoken.'

'I must bear it all as best I can, I suppose,' said De Stancy,
with melancholy humorousness.

'And I shall treat you as your behaviour shall seem to
deserve,' she said playfully.

'Then I may stay?'

'Yes; I am willing to give you that pleasure, if it is one, in
return for the attentions you have shown, and the trouble you
have taken to make my journey pleasant.'

She walked on and discovered Mrs. Goodman near, and presently
the whole party met together. De Stancy did not find himself
again at her side till later in the afternoon, when they had
left the immediate precincts of the castle and decided on a
drive to the Konigsstuhl.

The carriage, containing only Mrs. Goodman, was driven a short
way up the winding incline, Paula, her uncle, and Miss De
Stancy walking behind under the shadow of the trees. Then
Mrs. Goodman called to them and asked when they were going to
join her.

'We are going to walk up,' said Mr. Power.

Paula seemed seized with a spirit of boisterousness quite
unlike her usual behaviour. 'My aunt may drive up, and you
may walk up; but I shall run up,' she said. 'See, here's a
way.' She tripped towards a path through the bushes which,
instead of winding like the regular track, made straight for
the summit.

Paula had not the remotest conception of the actual distance
to the top, imagining it to be but a couple of hundred yards
at the outside, whereas it was really nearer a mile, the
ascent being uniformly steep all the way. When her uncle and
De Stancy had seen her vanish they stood still, the former
evidently reluctant to forsake the easy ascent for a difficult
one, though he said, 'We can't let her go alone that way, I
suppose.'

'No, of course not,' said De Stancy.

They then followed in the direction taken by Paula, Charlotte
entering the carriage. When Power and De Stancy had ascended
about fifty yards the former looked back, and dropped off from
the pursuit, to return to the easy route, giving his companion

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