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A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy

Part 9 out of 10

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violent passion: this one shows the Prime Minister out of his
mind; this the Pope of Rome the worse for liquor.'

She inquired if he had any local specimens.

'Yes,' he said, 'but I prefer not to exhibit them unless you
really ask for a particular one that you mean to buy.'

'I don't want any.'

'O, I beg pardon, miss. Well, I shouldn't myself own such
things were produced, if there had not been a young man here
at one time who was very ingenious in these matters--a Mr.
Dare. He was quite a gent, and only did it as an amusement,
and not for the sake of getting a living.'

Charlotte had no wish to hear more. On her way home she burst
into tears: the entanglement was altogether too much for her
to tear asunder, even had not her own instincts been urging
her two ways, as they were.

To immediately right Somerset's wrong was her impetuous desire
as an honest woman who loved him; but such rectification would
be the jeopardizing of all else that gratified her--the
marriage of her brother with her dearest friend--now on the
very point of accomplishment. It was a marriage which seemed
to promise happiness, or at least comfort, if the old flutter
that had transiently disturbed Paula's bosom could be kept
from reviving, to which end it became imperative to hide from
her the discovery of injustice to Somerset. It involved the
advantage of leaving Somerset free; and though her own tender
interest in him had been too well schooled by habitual self-
denial to run ahead on vain personal hopes, there was nothing
more than human in her feeling pleasure in prolonging
Somerset's singleness. Paula might even be allowed to
discover his wrongs when her marriage had put him out of her
power. But to let her discover his ill-treatment now might
upset the impending union of the families, and wring her own
heart with the sight of Somerset married in her brother's
place.

Why Dare, or any other person, should have set himself to
advance her brother's cause by such unscrupulous blackening of
Somerset's character was more than her sagacity could fathom.
Her brother was, as far as she could see, the only man who
could directly profit by the machination, and was therefore
the natural one to suspect of having set it going. But she
would not be so disloyal as to entertain the thought long; and
who or what had instigated Dare, who was undoubtedly the
proximate cause of the mischief, remained to her an
inscrutable mystery.

The contention of interests and desires with honour in her
heart shook Charlotte all that night; but good principle
prevailed. The wedding was to be solemnized the very next
morning, though for before-mentioned reasons this was hardly
known outside the two houses interested; and there were no
visible preparations either at villa or castle. De Stancy and
his groomsman--a brother officer--slept at the former
residence.

De Stancy was a sorry specimen of a bridegroom when he met his
sister in the morning. Thick-coming fancies, for which there
was more than good reason, had disturbed him only too
successfully, and he was as full of apprehension as one who
has a league with Mephistopheles. Charlotte told him nothing
of what made her likewise so wan and anxious, but drove off to
the castle, as had been planned, about nine o'clock, leaving
her brother and his friend at the breakfast-table.

That clearing Somerset's reputation from the stain which had
been thrown on it would cause a sufficient reaction in Paula's
mind to dislocate present arrangements she did not so
seriously anticipate, now that morning had a little calmed
her. Since the rupture with her former architect Paula had
sedulously kept her own counsel, but Charlotte assumed from
the ease with which she seemed to do it that her feelings
towards him had never been inconveniently warm; and she hoped
that Paula would learn of Somerset's purity with merely the
generous pleasure of a friend, coupled with a friend's
indignation against his traducer.

Still, the possibility existed of stronger emotions, and it
was only too evident to poor Charlotte that, knowing this, she
had still less excuse for delaying the intelligence till the
strongest emotion would be purposeless.

On approaching the castle the first object that caught her eye
was Dare, standing beside Havill on the scaffolding of the new
wing. He was looking down upon the drive and court, as if in
anticipation of the event. His contiguity flurried her, and
instead of going straight to Paula she sought out Mrs.
Goodman.

'You are come early; that's right!' said the latter. 'You
might as well have slept here last night. We have only Mr.
Wardlaw, the London lawyer you have heard of, in the house.
Your brother's solicitor was here yesterday; but he returned
to Markton for the night. We miss Mr. Power so much--it is so
unfortunate that he should have been obliged to go abroad, and
leave us unprotected women with so much responsibility.'

'Yes, I know,' said Charlotte quickly, having a shy distaste
for the details of what troubled her so much in the gross.

'Paula has inquired for you.'

'What is she doing?'

'She is in her room: she has not begun to dress yet. Will
you go to her?'

Charlotte assented. 'I have to tell her something,' she said,
'which will make no difference, but which I should like her to
know this morning--at once. I have discovered that we have
been entirely mistaken about Mr. Somerset.' She nerved
herself to relate succinctly what had come to her knowledge
the day before.

Mrs. Goodman was much impressed. She had never clearly heard
before what circumstances had attended the resignation of
Paula's architect. 'We had better not tell her till the
wedding is over,' she presently said; 'it would only disturb
her, and do no good.'

'But will it be right?' asked Miss De Stancy.

'Yes, it will be right if we tell her afterwards. O yes--it
must be right,' she repeated in a tone which showed that her
opinion was unstable enough to require a little fortification
by the voice. 'She loves your brother; she must, since she is
going to marry him; and it can make little difference whether
we rehabilitate the character of a friend now, or some few
hours hence. The author of those wicked tricks on Mr.
Somerset ought not to go a moment unpunished.'

'That's what I think; and what right have we to hold our
tongues even for a few hours?'

Charlotte found that by telling Mrs. Goodman she had simply
made two irresolute people out of one, and as Paula was now
inquiring for her, she went upstairs without having come to
any decision.

XIV.

Paula was in her boudoir, writing down some notes previous to
beginning her wedding toilet, which was designed to harmonize
with the simplicity that characterized the other arrangements.
She owned that it was depriving the neighbourhood of a pageant
which it had a right to expect of her; but the circumstance
was inexorable.

Mrs. Goodman entered Paula's room immediately behind
Charlotte. Perhaps the only difference between the Paula of
to-day and the Paula of last year was an accession of
thoughtfulness, natural to the circumstances in any case, and
more particularly when, as now, the bride's isolation made
self-dependence a necessity. She was sitting in a light
dressing-gown, and her face, which was rather pale, flushed at
the entrance of Charlotte and her aunt.

'I knew you were come,' she said, when Charlotte stooped and
kissed her. 'I heard you. I have done nothing this morning,
and feel dreadfully unsettled. Is all well?'

The question was put without thought, but its aptness seemed
almost to imply an intuitive knowledge of their previous
conversation. 'Yes,' said Charlotte tardily.

'Well, now, Clementine shall dress you, and I can do with
Milly,' continued Paula. 'Come along. Well, aunt--what's the
matter?--and you, Charlotte? You look harassed.'

'I have not slept well,' said Charlotte.

'And have not you slept well either, aunt? You said nothing
about it at breakfast.'

'O, it is nothing,' said Mrs. Goodman quickly. 'I have been
disturbed by learning of somebody's villainy. I am going to
tell you all some time to-day, but it is not important enough
to disturb you with now.'

'No mystery!' argued Paula. 'Come! it is not fair.'

'I don't think it is quite fair,' said Miss De Stancy, looking
from one to the other in some distress. 'Mrs. Goodman--I must
tell her! Paula, Mr. Som--'

'He's dead!' cried Paula, sinking into a chair and turning as
pale as marble. 'Is he dead?--tell me!' she whispered.

'No, no--he's not dead--he is very well, and gone to Normandy
for a holiday!'

'O--I am glad to hear it,' answered Paula, with a sudden cool
mannerliness.

'He has been misrepresented,' said Mrs. Goodman. 'That's
all.'

'Well?' said Paula, with her eyes bent on the floor.

'I have been feeling that I ought to tell you clearly, dear
Paula,' declared her friend. 'It is absolutely false about
his telegraphing to you for money--it is absolutely false that
his character is such as that dreadful picture represented it.
There--that's the substance of it, and I can tell you
particulars at any time.'

But Paula would not be told at any time. A dreadful sorrow
sat in her face; she insisted upon learning everything about
the matter there and then, and there was no withstanding her.

When it was all explained she said in a low tone: 'It is that
pernicious, evil man Dare--yet why is it he?--what can he have
meant by it! Justice before generosity, even on one's
wedding-day. Before I become any man's wife this morning I'll
see that wretch in jail! The affair must be sifted. . . . O,
it was a wicked thing to serve anybody so!--I'll send for
Cunningham Haze this moment--the culprit is even now on the
premises, I believe--acting as clerk of the works!' The
usually well-balanced Paula was excited, and scarcely knowing
what she did went to the bell-pull.

'Don't act hastily, Paula,' said her aunt. 'Had you not
better consult Sir William? He will act for you in this.'

'Yes--He is coming round in a few minutes,' said Charlotte,
jumping at this happy thought of Mrs. Goodman's. 'He's going
to run across to see how you are getting on. He will be here
by ten.'

'Yes--he promised last night.'

She had scarcely done speaking when the prancing of a horse
was heard in the ward below, and in a few minutes a servant
announced Sir William De Stancy.

De Stancy entered saying, 'I have ridden across for ten
minutes, as I said I would do, to know if everything is easy
and straightforward for you. There will be time enough for me
to get back and prepare if I start shortly. Well?'

'I am ruffled,' said Paula, allowing him to take her hand.

'What is it?' said her betrothed.

As Paula did not immediately answer Mrs. Goodman beckoned to
Charlotte, and they left the room together.

'A man has to be given in charge, or a boy, or a demon,' she
replied. 'I was going to do it, but you can do it better than
I. He will run away if we don't mind.'

'But, my dear Paula, who is it?--what has he done?'

'It is Dare--that young man you see out there against the
sky.' She looked from the window sideways towards the new
wing, on the roof of which Dare was walking prominently about,
after having assisted two of the workmen in putting a red
streamer on the tallest scaffold-pole. 'You must send
instantly for Mr. Cunningham Haze!'

'My dearest Paula,' repeated De Stancy faintly, his complexion
changing to that of a man who had died.

'Please send for Mr. Haze at once,' returned Paula, with
graceful firmness. 'I said I would be just to a wronged man
before I was generous to you--and I will. That lad Dare--to
take a practical view of it--has attempted to defraud me of
one hundred pounds sterling, and he shall suffer. I won't
tell you what he has done besides, for though it is worse, it
is less tangible. When he is handcuffed and sent off to jail
I'll proceed with my dressing. Will you ring the bell?'

'Had you not better consider?' began De Stancy.

'Consider!' said Paula, with indignation. 'I have considered.
Will you kindly ring, Sir William, and get Thomas to ride at
once to Mr. Haze? Or must I rise from this chair and do it
myself?'

'You are very hasty and abrupt this morning, I think,' he
faltered.

Paula rose determinedly from the chair. 'Since you won't do
it, I must,' she said.

'No, dearest!--Let me beg you not to!'

'Sir William De Stancy!'

She moved towards the bell-pull; but he stepped before and
intercepted her.

'You must not ring the bell for that purpose,' he said with
husky deliberateness, looking into the depths of her face.

'It wants two hours to the time when you might have a right to
express such a command as that,' she said haughtily.

'I certainly have not the honour to be your husband yet,' he
sadly replied, 'but surely you can listen? There exist
reasons against giving this boy in charge which I could easily
get you to admit by explanation; but I would rather, without
explanation, have you take my word, when I say that by doing
so you are striking a blow against both yourself and me.'

Paula, however, had rung the bell.

'You are jealous of somebody or something perhaps!' she said,
in tones which showed how fatally all this was telling against
the intention of that day. 'I will not be a party to
baseness, if it is to save all my fortune!'

The bell was answered quickly. But De Stancy, though plainly
in great misery, did not give up his point. Meeting the
servant at the door before he could enter the room he said.
'It is nothing; you can go again.'

Paula looked at the unhappy baronet in amazement; then turning
to the servant, who stood with the door in his hand, said,
'Tell Thomas to saddle the chestnut, and--'

'It's all a mistake,' insisted De Stancy. 'Leave the room,
James!'

James looked at his mistress.

'Yes, James, leave the room,' she calmly said, sitting down.
'Now what have you to say?' she asked, when they were again
alone. 'Why must I not issue orders in my own house? Who is
this young criminal, that you value his interests higher than
my honour? I have delayed for one moment sending my messenger
to the chief constable to hear your explanation--only for
that.'

'You will still persevere?'

'Certainly. Who is he?'

'Paula. . . he is my son.'

She remained still as death while one might count ten; then
turned her back upon him. 'I think you had better go away,'
she whispered. 'You need not come again.'

He did not move. 'Paula--do you indeed mean this?' he asked.

'I do.'

De Stancy walked a few paces, then said in a low voice: 'Miss
Power, I knew--I guessed just now, as soon as it began--that
we were going to split on this rock. Well--let it be--it
cannot be helped; destiny is supreme. The boy was to be my
ruin; he is my ruin, and rightly. But before I go grant me
one request. Do not prosecute him. Believe me, I will do
everything I can to get him out of your way. He shall annoy
you no more. . . . Do you promise?'

'I do,' she said. 'Now please leave me.'

'Once more--am I to understand that no marriage is to take
place to-day between you and me?'

'You are.'

Sir William De Stancy left the room. It was noticeable
throughout the interview that his manner had not been the
manner of a man altogether taken by surprise. During the few
preceding days his mood had been that of the gambler seasoned
in ill-luck, who adopts pessimist surmises as a safe
background to his most sanguine hopes.

She remained alone for some time. Then she rang, and
requested that Mr. Wardlaw, her father's solicitor and friend,
would come up to her. A messenger was despatched, not to Mr.
Cunningham Haze, but to the parson of the parish, who in his
turn sent to the clerk and clerk's wife, then busy in the
church. On receipt of the intelligence the two latter
functionaries proceeded to roll up the carpet which had been
laid from the door to the gate, put away the kneeling-
cushions, locked the doors, and went off to inquire the reason
of so strange a countermand. It was soon proclaimed in
Markton that the marriage had been postponed for a fortnight
in consequence of the bride's sudden indisposition: and less
public emotion was felt than the case might have drawn forth,
from the ignorance of the majority of the populace that a
wedding had been going to take place at all.

Meanwhile Miss De Stancy had been closeted with Paula for more
than an hour. It was a difficult meeting, and a severe test
to any friendship but that of the most sterling sort. In the
turmoil of her distraction Charlotte had the consolation of
knowing that if her act of justice to Somerset at such a
moment were the act of a simpleton, it was the only course
open to honesty. But Paula's cheerful serenity in some
measure laid her own troubles to rest, till they were
reawakened by a rumour--which got wind some weeks later, and
quite drowned all other surprises--of the true relation
between the vanished clerk of works, Mr. Dare, and the fallen
family of De Stancy.

BOOK THE SIXTH. PAULA.

I.

'I have decided that I cannot see Sir William again: I shall
go away,' said Paula on the evening of the next day, as she
lay on her bed in a flushed and highly-strung condition,
though a person who had heard her words without seeing her
face would have assumed perfect equanimity to be the mood
which expressed itself with such quietness. This was the case
with her aunt, who was looking out of the window at some
idlers from Markton walking round the castle with their eyes
bent upon its windows, and she made no haste to reply.

'Those people have come to see me, as they have a right to do
when a person acts so strangely,' Paula continued. 'And hence
I am better away.'

'Where do you think to go to?'

Paula replied in the tone of one who was actuated entirely by
practical considerations: 'Out of England certainly. And as
Normandy lies nearest, I think I shall go there. It is a very
nice country to ramble in.'

'Yes, it is a very nice country to ramble in,' echoed her
aunt, in moderate tones. 'When do you intend to start?'

'I should like to cross to-night. You must go with me, aunt;
will you not?'

Mrs. Goodman expostulated against such suddenness. 'It will
redouble the rumours that are afloat, if, after being supposed
ill, you are seen going off by railway perfectly well.'

'That's a contingency which I am quite willing to run the risk
of. Well, it would be rather sudden, as you say, to go to-
night. But we'll go to-morrow night at latest.' Under the
influence of the decision she bounded up like an elastic ball
and went to the glass, which showed a light in her eye that
had not been there before this resolution to travel in
Normandy had been taken.

The evening and the next morning were passed in writing a
final and kindly note of dismissal to Sir William De Stancy,
in making arrangements for the journey, and in commissioning
Havill to take advantage of their absence by emptying certain
rooms of their furniture, and repairing their dilapidations--a
work which, with that in hand, would complete the section for
which he had been engaged. Mr. Wardlaw had left the castle;
so also had Charlotte, by her own wish, her residence there
having been found too oppressive to herself to be continued
for the present. Accompanied by Mrs. Goodman, Milly, and
Clementine, the elderly French maid, who still remained with
them, Paula drove into Markton in the twilight and took the
train to Budmouth.

When they got there they found that an unpleasant breeze was
blowing out at sea, though inland it had been calm enough.
Mrs. Goodman proposed to stay at Budmouth till the next day,
in hope that there might be smooth water; but an English
seaport inn being a thing that Paula disliked more than a
rough passage, she would not listen to this counsel. Other
impatient reasons, too, might have weighed with her. When
night came their looming miseries began. Paula found that in
addition to her own troubles she had those of three other
people to support; but she did not audibly complain.

'Paula, Paula,' said Mrs. Goodman from beneath her load of
wretchedness, 'why did we think of undergoing this?'

A slight gleam of humour crossed Paula's not particularly
blooming face, as she answered, 'Ah, why indeed?'

'What is the real reason, my dear? For God's sake tell me!'

'It begins with S.'

'Well, I would do anything for that young man short of
personal martyrdom; but really when it comes to that--'

'Don't criticize me, auntie, and I won't criticize you.'

'Well, I am open to criticism just now, I am sure,' said her
aunt, with a green smile; and speech was again discontinued.

The morning was bright and beautiful, and it could again be
seen in Paula's looks that she was glad she had come, though,
in taking their rest at Cherbourg, fate consigned them to an
hotel breathing an atmosphere that seemed specially compounded
for depressing the spirits of a young woman; indeed nothing
had particularly encouraged her thus far in her somewhat
peculiar scheme of searching out and expressing sorrow to a
gentleman for having believed those who traduced him; and this
coup d'audace to which she had committed herself began to look
somewhat formidable. When in England the plan of following
him to Normandy had suggested itself as the quickest,
sweetest, and most honest way of making amends; but having
arrived there she seemed further off from his sphere of
existence than when she had been at Stancy Castle. Virtually
she was, for if he thought of her at all, he probably thought
of her there; if he sought her he would seek her there.
However, as he would probably never do the latter, it was
necessary to go on. It had been her sudden dream before
starting, to light accidentally upon him in some romantic old
town of this romantic old province, but she had become aware
that the recorded fortune of lovers in that respect was not to
be trusted too implicitly.

Somerset's search for her in the south was now inversely
imitated. By diligent inquiry in Cherbourg during the gloom
of evening, in the disguise of a hooded cloak, she learnt out
the place of his stay while there, and that he had gone thence
to Lisieux. What she knew of the architectural character of
Lisieux half guaranteed the truth of the information. Without
telling her aunt of this discovery she announced to that lady
that it was her great wish to go on and see the beauties of
Lisieux.

But though her aunt was simple, there were bounds to her
simplicity. 'Paula,' she said, with an undeceivable air, 'I
don't think you should run after a young man like this.
Suppose he shouldn't care for you by this time.'

It was no occasion for further affectation. 'I am SURE he
will,' answered her niece flatly. 'I have not the least fear
about it--nor would you, if you knew how he is. He will
forgive me anything.'

'Well, pray don't show yourself forward. Some people are apt
to fly into extremes.'

Paula blushed a trifle, and reflected, and made no answer.
However, her purpose seemed not to be permanently affected,
for the next morning she was up betimes and preparing to
depart; and they proceeded almost without stopping to the
architectural curiosity-town which had so quickly interested
her. Nevertheless her ardent manner of yesterday underwent a
considerable change, as if she had a fear that, as her aunt
suggested, in her endeavour to make amends for cruel
injustice, she was allowing herself to be carried too far.

On nearing the place she said, 'Aunt, I think you had better
call upon him; and you need not tell him we have come on
purpose. Let him think, if he will, that we heard he was
here, and would not leave without seeing him. You can also
tell him that I am anxious to clear up a misunderstanding, and
ask him to call at our hotel.'

But as she looked over the dreary suburban erections which
lined the road from the railway to the old quarter of the
town, it occurred to her that Somerset would at that time of
day be engaged in one or other of the mediaeval buildings
thereabout, and that it would be a much neater thing to meet
him as if by chance in one of these edifices than to call upon
him anywhere. Instead of putting up at any hotel, they left
the maids and baggage at the station; and hiring a carriage,
Paula told the coachman to drive them to such likely places as
she could think of.

'He'll never forgive you,' said her aunt, as they rumbled into
the town.

'Won't he?' said Paula, with soft faith. 'I'll see about
that.'

'What are you going to do when you find him? Tell him point-
blank that you are in love with him?'

'Act in such a manner that he may tell me he is in love with
me.'

They first visited a large church at the upper end of a square
that sloped its gravelled surface to the western shine, and
was pricked out with little avenues of young pollard limes.
The church within was one to make any Gothic architect take
lodgings in its vicinity for a fortnight, though it was just
now crowded with a forest of scaffolding for repairs in
progress. Mrs. Goodman sat down outside, and Paula, entering,
took a walk in the form of a horse-shoe; that is, up the south
aisle, round the apse, and down the north side; but no figure
of a melancholy young man sketching met her eye anywhere. The
sun that blazed in at the west doorway smote her face as she
emerged from beneath it and revealed real sadness there.

'This is not all the old architecture of the town by far,' she
said to her aunt with an air of confidence. 'Coachman, drive
to St. Jacques'.'

He was not at St. Jacques'. Looking from the west end of that
building the girl observed the end of a steep narrow street of
antique character, which seemed a likely haunt. Beckoning to
her aunt to follow in the fly Paula walked down the street.

She was transported to the Middle Ages. It contained the
shops of tinkers, braziers, bellows-menders, hollow-turners,
and other quaintest trades, their fronts open to the street
beneath stories of timber overhanging so far on each side that
a slit of sky was left at the top for the light to descend,
and no more. A blue misty obscurity pervaded the atmosphere,
into which the sun thrust oblique staves of light. It was a
street for a mediaevalist to revel in, toss up his hat and
shout hurrah in, send for his luggage, come and live in, die
and be buried in. She had never supposed such a street to
exist outside the imaginations of antiquarians. Smells direct
from the sixteenth century hung in the air in all their
original integrity and without a modern taint. The faces of
the people in the doorways seemed those of individuals who
habitually gazed on the great Francis, and spoke of Henry the
Eighth as the king across the sea.

She inquired of a coppersmith if an English artist had been
seen here lately. With a suddenness that almost discomfited
her he announced that such a man had been seen, sketching a
house just below--the 'Vieux Manoir de Francois premier.'
Just turning to see that her aunt was following in the fly,
Paula advanced to the house. The wood framework of the lower
story was black and varnished; the upper story was brown and
not varnished; carved figures of dragons, griffins, satyrs,
and mermaids swarmed over the front; an ape stealing apples
was the subject of this cantilever, a man undressing of that.
These figures were cloaked with little cobwebs which waved in
the breeze, so that each figure seemed alive.

She examined the woodwork closely; here and there she
discerned pencil-marks which had no doubt been jotted thereon
by Somerset as points of admeasurement, in the way she had
seen him mark them at the castle. Some fragments of paper lay
below: there were pencilled lines on them, and they bore a
strong resemblance to a spoilt leaf of Somerset's sketch-book.
Paula glanced up, and from a window above protruded an old
woman's head, which, with the exception of the white
handkerchief tied round it, was so nearly of the colour of the
carvings that she might easily have passed as of a piece with
them. The aged woman continued motionless, the remains of her
eyes being bent upon Paula, who asked her in Englishwoman's
French where the sketcher had gone. Without replying, the
crone produced a hand and extended finger from her side, and
pointed towards the lower end of the street.

Paula went on, the carriage following with difficulty, on
account of the obstructions in the thoroughfare. At bottom,
the street abutted on a wide one with customary modern life
flowing through it; and as she looked, Somerset crossed her
front along this street, hurrying as if for a wager.

By the time that Paula had reached the bottom Somerset was a
long way to the left, and she recognized to her dismay that
the busy transverse street was one which led to the railway.
She quickened her pace to a run; he did not see her; he even
walked faster. She looked behind for the carriage. The
driver in emerging from the sixteenth-century street to the
nineteenth had apparently turned to the right, instead of to
the left as she had done, so that her aunt had lost sight of
her. However, she dare not mind it, if Somerset would but
look back! He partly turned, but not far enough, and it was
only to hail a passing omnibus upon which she discerned his
luggage. Somerset jumped in, the omnibus drove on, and
diminished up the long road. Paula stood hopelessly still,
and in a few minutes puffs of steam showed her that the train
had gone.

She turned and waited, the two or three children who had
gathered round her looking up sympathizingly in her face. Her
aunt, having now discovered the direction of her flight, drove
up and beckoned to her.

'What's the matter?' asked Mrs. Goodman in alarm.

'Why?'

'That you should run like that, and look so woebegone.'

'Nothing: only I have decided not to stay in this town.'

'What! he is gone, I suppose?'

'Yes!' exclaimed Paula, with tears of vexation in her eyes.
'It isn't every man who gets a woman of my position to run
after him on foot, and alone, and he ought to have looked
round! Drive to the station; I want to make an inquiry.'

On reaching the station she asked the booking-clerk some
questions, and returned to her aunt with a cheerful
countenance. 'Mr. Somerset has only gone to Caen,' she said.
'He is the only Englishman who went by this train, so there is
no mistake. There is no other train for two hours. We will
go on then--shall we?'

'I am indifferent,' said Mrs. Goodman. 'But, Paula, do you
think this quite right? Perhaps he is not so anxious for your
forgiveness as you think. Perhaps he saw you, and wouldn't
stay.'

A momentary dismay crossed her face, but it passed, and she
answered, 'Aunt, that's nonsense. I know him well enough, and
can assure you that if he had only known I was running after
him, he would have looked round sharply enough, and would have
given his little finger rather than have missed me! I don't
make myself so silly as to run after a gentleman without good
grounds, for I know well that it is an undignified thing to
do. Indeed, I could never have thought of doing it, if I had
not been so miserably in the wrong!'

II.

That evening when the sun was dropping out of sight they
started for the city of Somerset's pilgrimage. Paula seated
herself with her face toward the western sky, watching from
her window the broad red horizon, across which moved thin
poplars lopped to human shapes, like the walking forms in
Nebuchadnezzar's furnace. It was dark when the travellers
drove into Caen.

She still persisted in her wish to casually encounter Somerset
in some aisle, lady-chapel, or crypt to which he might have
betaken himself to copy and learn the secret of the great
artists who had erected those nooks. Mrs. Goodman was for
discovering his inn, and calling upon him in a straightforward
way; but Paula seemed afraid of it, and they went out in the
morning on foot. First they searched the church of St.
Sauveur; he was not there; next the church of St. Jean; then
the church of St. Pierre; but he did not reveal himself, nor
had any verger seen or heard of such a man. Outside the
latter church was a public flower-garden, and she sat down to
consider beside a round pool in which water-lilies grew and
gold-fish swam, near beds of fiery geraniums, dahlias, and
verbenas just past their bloom. Her enterprise had not been
justified by its results so far; but meditation still urged
her to listen to the little voice within and push on. She
accordingly rejoined her aunt, and they drove up the hill to
the Abbaye aux Dames, the day by this time having grown hot
and oppressive.

The church seemed absolutely empty, the void being emphasized
by its grateful coolness. But on going towards the east end
they perceived a bald gentleman close to the screen, looking
to the right and to the left as if much perplexed. Paula
merely glanced over him, his back being toward her, and
turning to her aunt said softly, 'I wonder how we get into the
choir?'

'That's just what I am wondering,' said the old gentleman,
abruptly facing round, and Paula discovered that the
countenance was not unfamiliar to her eye. Since knowing
Somerset she had added to her gallery of celebrities a
photograph of his father, the Academician, and he it was now
who confronted her.

For the moment embarrassment, due to complicated feelings,
brought a slight blush to her cheek, but being well aware that
he did not know her, she answered, coolly enough, 'I suppose
we must ask some one.'

'And we certainly would if there were any one to ask,' he
said, still looking eastward, and not much at her. 'I have
been here a long time, but nobody comes. Not that I want to
get in on my own account; for though it is thirty years since
I last set foot in this place, I remember it as if it were but
yesterday.'

'Indeed. I have never been here before,' said Paula.

'Naturally. But I am looking for a young man who is making
sketches in some of these buildings, and it is as likely as
not that he is in the crypt under this choir, for it is just
such out-of-the-way nooks that he prefers. It is very
provoking that he should not have told me more distinctly in
his letter where to find him.'

Mrs. Goodman, who had gone to make inquiries, now came back,
and informed them that she had learnt that it was necessary to
pass through the Hotel-Dieu to the choir, to do which they
must go outside. Thereupon they walked on together, and Mr.
Somerset, quite ignoring his troubles, made remarks upon the
beauty of the architecture; and in absence of mind, by reason
either of the subject, or of his listener, retained his hat in
his hand after emerging from the church, while they walked all
the way across the Place and into the Hospital gardens.

'A very civil man,' said Mrs. Goodman to Paula privately.

'Yes,' said Paula, who had not told her aunt that she
recognized him.

One of the Sisters now preceded them towards the choir and
crypt, Mr. Somerset asking her if a young Englishman was or
had been sketching there. On receiving a reply in the
negative, Paula nearly betrayed herself by turning, as if her
business there, too, ended with the information. However, she
went on again, and made a pretence of looking round, Mr.
Somerset also staying in a spirit of friendly attention to his
countrywomen. They did not part from him till they had come
out from the crypt, and again reached the west front, on their
way to which he additionally explained that it was his son he
was looking for, who had arranged to meet him here, but had
mentioned no inn at which he might be expected.

When he had left them, Paula informed her aunt whose company
they had been sharing. Her aunt began expostulating with
Paula for not telling Mr. Somerset what they had seen of his
son's movements. 'It would have eased his mind at least,' she
said.

'I was not bound to ease his mind at the expense of showing
what I would rather conceal. I am continually hampered in
such generosity as that by the circumstance of being a woman!'

'Well, it is getting too late to search further tonight.'

It was indeed almost evening twilight in the streets, though
the graceful freestone spires to a depth of about twenty feet
from their summits were still dyed with the orange tints of a
vanishing sun. The two relatives dined privately as usual,
after which Paula looked out of the window of her room, and
reflected upon the events of the day. A tower rising into the
sky quite near at hand showed her that some church or other
stood within a few steps of the hotel archway, and saying
nothing to Mrs. Goodman, she quietly cloaked herself, and went
out towards it, apparently with the view of disposing of a
portion of a dull dispiriting evening. The church was open,
and on entering she found that it was only lighted by seven
candles burning before the altar of a chapel on the south
side, the mass of the building being in deep shade.
Motionless outlines, which resolved themselves into the forms
of kneeling women, were darkly visible among the chairs, and
in the triforium above the arcades there was one hitherto
unnoticed radiance, dim as that of a glow-worm in the grass.
It was seemingly the effect of a solitary tallow-candle behind
the masonry.

A priest came in, unlocked the door of a confessional with a
click which sounded in the silence, and entered it; a woman
followed, disappeared within the curtain of the same, emerging
again in about five minutes, followed by the priest, who
locked up his door with another loud click, like a tradesman
full of business, and came down the aisle to go out. In the
lobby he spoke to another woman, who replied, 'Ah, oui,
Monsieur l'Abbe!'

Two women having spoken to him, there could be no harm in a
third doing likewise. 'Monsieur l'Abbe,' said Paula in
French, 'could you indicate to me the stairs of the
triforium?' and she signified her reason for wishing to know
by pointing to the glimmering light above.

'Ah, he is a friend of yours, the Englishman?' pleasantly said
the priest, recognizing her nationality; and taking her to a
little door he conducted her up a stone staircase, at the top
of which he showed her the long blind story over the aisle
arches which led round to where the light was. Cautioning her
not to stumble over the uneven floor, he left her and
descended. His words had signified that Somerset was here.

It was a gloomy place enough that she found herself in, but
the seven candles below on the opposite altar, and a faint sky
light from the clerestory, lent enough rays to guide her.
Paula walked on to the bend of the apse: here were a few
chairs, and the origin of the light.

This was a candle stuck at the end of a sharpened stick, the
latter entering a joint in the stones. A young man was
sketching by the glimmer. But there was no need for the blush
which had prepared itself beforehand; the young man was Mr.
Cockton, Somerset's youngest draughtsman.

Paula could have cried aloud with disappointment. Cockton
recognized Miss Power, and appearing much surprised, rose from
his seat with a bow, and said hastily, 'Mr. Somerset left to-
day.'

'I did not ask for him,' said Paula.

'No, Miss Power: but I thought--'

'Yes, yes--you know, of course, that he has been my architect.
Well, it happens that I should like to see him, if he can call
on me. Which way did he go?'

'He's gone to Etretat.'

'What for? There are no abbeys to sketch at Etretat.'

Cockton looked at the point of his pencil, and with a
hesitating motion of his lip answered, 'Mr. Somerset said he
was tired.'

'Of what?'

'He said he was sick and tired of holy places, and would go to
some wicked spot or other, to get that consolation which
holiness could not give. But he only said it casually to
Knowles, and perhaps he did not mean it.'

'Knowles is here too?'

'Yes, Miss Power, and Bowles. Mr. Somerset has been kind
enough to give us a chance of enlarging our knowledge of
French Early-pointed, and pays half the expenses.'

Paula said a few other things to the young man, walked slowly
round the triforium as if she had come to examine it, and
returned down the staircase. On getting back to the hotel she
told her aunt, who had just been having a nap, that next day
they would go to Etretat for a change.

'Why? There are no old churches at Etretat.'

'No. But I am sick and tired of holy places, and want to go
to some wicked spot or other to find that consolation which
holiness cannot give.'

'For shame, Paula! Now I know what it is; you have heard that
he's gone there! You needn't try to blind me.'

'I don't care where he's gone!' cried Paula petulantly. In a
moment, however, she smiled at herself, and added, 'You must
take that for what it is worth. I have made up my mind to let
him know from my own lips how the misunderstanding arose.
That done, I shall leave him, and probably never see him
again. My conscience will be clear.'

The next day they took the steamboat down the Orne, intending
to reach Etretat by way of Havre. Just as they were moving
off an elderly gentleman under a large white sunshade, and
carrying his hat in his hand, was seen leisurely walking down
the wharf at some distance, but obviously making for the boat.

'A gentleman!' said the mate.

'Who is he?' said the captain.

'An English,' said Clementine.

Nobody knew more, but as leisure was the order of the day the
engines were stopped, on the chance of his being a passenger,
and all eyes were bent upon him in conjecture. He disappeared
and reappeared from behind a pile of merchandise and
approached the boat at an easy pace, whereupon the gangway was
replaced, and he came on board, removing his hat to Paula,
quietly thanking the captain for stopping, and saying to Mrs.
Goodman, 'I am nicely in time.'

It was Mr. Somerset the elder, who by degrees informed our
travellers, as sitting on their camp-stools they advanced
between the green banks bordered by elms, that he was going to
Etretat; that the young man he had spoken of yesterday had
gone to that romantic watering-place instead of studying art
at Caen, and that he was going to join him there.

Paula preserved an entire silence as to her own intentions,
partly from natural reticence, and partly, as it appeared,
from the difficulty of explaining a complication which was not
very clear to herself. At Havre they parted from Mr.
Somerset, and did not see him again till they were driving
over the hills towards Etretat in a carriage and four, when
the white umbrella became visible far ahead among the outside
passengers of the coach to the same place. In a short time
they had passed and cut in before this vehicle, but soon
became aware that their carriage, like the coach, was one of a
straggling procession of conveyances, some mile and a half in
length, all bound for the village between the cliffs.

In descending the long hill shaded by lime-trees which
sheltered their place of destination, this procession closed
up, and they perceived that all the visitors and native
population had turned out to welcome them, the daily arrival
of new sojourners at this hour being the chief excitement of
Etretat. The coach which had preceded them all the way, at
more or less remoteness, was now quite close, and in passing
along the village street they saw Mr. Somerset wave his hand
to somebody in the crowd below. A felt hat was waved in the
air in response, the coach swept into the inn-yard, followed
by the idlers, and all disappeared. Paula's face was crimson
as their own carriage swept round in the opposite direction to
the rival inn.

Once in her room she breathed like a person who had finished a
long chase. They did not go down before dinner, but when it
was almost dark Paula begged her aunt to wrap herself up and
come with her to the shore hard by. The beach was deserted,
everybody being at the Casino; the gate stood invitingly open,
and they went in. Here the brilliantly lit terrace was
crowded with promenaders, and outside the yellow palings,
surmounted by its row of lamps, rose the voice of the
invisible sea. Groups of people were sitting under the
verandah, the women mostly in wraps, for the air was growing
chilly. Through the windows at their back an animated scene
disclosed itself in the shape of a room-full of waltzers, the
strains of the band striving in the ear for mastery over the
sounds of the sea. The dancers came round a couple at a time,
and were individually visible to those people without who
chose to look that way, which was what Paula did.

'Come away, come away!' she suddenly said. 'It is not right
for us to be here.'

Her exclamation had its origin in what she had at that moment
seen within, the spectacle of Mr. George Somerset whirling
round the room with a young lady of uncertain nationality but
pleasing figure. Paula was not accustomed to show the white
feather too clearly, but she soon had passed out through those
yellow gates and retreated, till the mixed music of sea and
band had resolved into that of the sea alone.

'Well!' said her aunt, half in soliloquy, 'do you know who I
saw dancing there, Paula? Our Mr. Somerset, if I don't make a
great mistake!'

'It was likely enough that you did,' sedately replied her
niece. 'He left Caen with the intention of seeking
distractions of a lighter kind than those furnished by art,
and he has merely succeeded in finding them. But he has made
my duty rather a difficult one. Still, it was my duty, for I
very greatly wronged him. Perhaps, however, I have done
enough for honour's sake. I would have humiliated myself by
an apology if I had found him in any other situation; but, of
course, one can't he expected to take MUCH trouble when he is
seen going on like that!'

The coolness with which she began her remarks had developed
into something like warmth as she concluded.

'He is only dancing with a lady he probably knows very well.'

'He doesn't know her! The idea of his dancing with a woman of
that description! We will go away tomorrow. This place has
been greatly over-praised.'

'The place is well enough, as far as I can see.'

'He is carrying out his programme to the letter. He plunges
into excitement in the most reckless manner, and I tremble for
the consequences! I can do no more: I have humiliated myself
into following him, believing that in giving too ready
credence to appearances I had been narrow and inhuman, and had
caused him much misery. But he does not mind, and he has no
misery; he seems just as well as ever. How much this finding
him has cost me! After all, I did not deceive him. He must
have acquired a natural aversion for me. I have allowed
myself to be interested in a man of very common qualities, and
am now bitterly alive to the shame of having sought him out.
I heartily detest him! I will go back--aunt, you are right--I
had no business to come. . . . His light conduct has rendered
him uninteresting to me!'

III.

When she rose the next morning the bell was clanging for the
second breakfast, and people were pouring in from the beach in
every variety of attire. Paula, whom a restless night had
left with a headache, which, however, she said nothing about,
was reluctant to emerge from the seclusion of her chamber,
till her aunt, discovering what was the matter with her,
suggested that a few minutes in the open air would refresh
her; and they went downstairs into the hotel gardens.

The clatter of the big breakfast within was audible from this
spot, and the noise seemed suddenly to inspirit Paula, who
proposed to enter. Her aunt assented. In the verandah under
which they passed was a rustic hat-stand in the form of a
tree, upon which hats and other body-gear hung like bunches of
fruit. Paula's eye fell upon a felt hat to which a small
block-book was attached by a string. She knew that hat and
block-book well, and turning to Mrs. Goodman said, 'After all,
I don't want the breakfast they are having: let us order one
of our own as usual. And we'll have it here.'

She led on to where some little tables were placed under the
tall shrubs, followed by her aunt, who was in turn followed by
the proprietress of the hotel, that lady having discovered
from the French maid that there was good reason for paying
these ladies ample personal attention.

'Is the gentleman to whom that sketch-book belongs staying
here?' Paula carelessly inquired, as she indicated the object
on the hat-stand.

'Ah, no!' deplored the proprietress. 'The Hotel was full when
Mr. Somerset came. He stays at a cottage beyond the Rue
Anicet Bourgeois: he only has his meals here.'

Paula had taken her seat under the fuchsia-trees in such a
manner that she could observe all the exits from the salle a
manger; but for the present none of the breakfasters emerged,
the only moving objects on the scene being the waitresses who
ran hither and thither across the court, the cook's assistants
with baskets of long bread, and the laundresses with baskets
of sun-bleached linen. Further back towards the inn-yard,
stablemen were putting in the horses for starting the flys and
coaches to Les Ifs, the nearest railway-station.

'Suppose the Somersets should be going off by one of these
conveyances,' said Mrs. Goodman as she sipped her tea.

'Well, aunt, then they must,' replied the younger lady with
composure.

Nevertheless she looked with some misgiving at the nearest
stableman as he led out four white horses, harnessed them, and
leisurely brought a brush with which he began blacking their
yellow hoofs. All the vehicles were ready at the door by the
time breakfast was over, and the inmates soon turned out, some
to mount the omnibuses and carriages, some to ramble on the
adjacent beach, some to climb the verdant slopes, and some to
make for the cliffs that shut in the vale. The fuchsia-trees
which sheltered Paula's breakfast-table from the blaze of the
sun, also screened it from the eyes of the outpouring company,
and she sat on with her aunt in perfect comfort, till among
the last of the stream came Somerset and his father. Paula
reddened at being so near the former at last. It was with
sensible relief that she observed them turn towards the cliffs
and not to the carriages, and thus signify that they were not
going off that day.

Neither of the two saw the ladies, and when the latter had
finished their tea and coffee they followed to the shore,
where they sat for nearly an hour, reading and watching the
bathers. At length footsteps crunched among the pebbles in
their vicinity, and looking out from her sunshade Paula saw
the two Somersets close at hand.

The elder recognized her, and the younger, observing his
father's action of courtesy, turned his head. It was a
revelation to Paula, for she was shocked to see that he
appeared worn and ill. The expression of his face changed at
sight of her, increasing its shade of paleness; but he
immediately withdrew his eyes and passed by.

Somerset was as much surprised at encountering her thus as she
had been distressed to see him. As soon as they were out of
hearing, he asked his father quietly, 'What strange thing is
this, that Lady De Stancy should be here and her husband not
with her? Did she bow to me, or to you?'

'Lady De Stancy--that young lady?' asked the puzzled painter.
He proceeded to explain all he knew; that she was a young lady
he had met on his journey at two or three different times;
moreover, that if she were his son's client--the woman who was
to have become Lady De Stancy--she was Miss Power still; for
he had seen in some newspaper two days before leaving England
that the wedding had been postponed on account of her illness.

Somerset was so greatly moved that he could hardly speak
connectedly to his father as they paced on together. 'But she
is not ill, as far as I can see,' he said. 'The wedding
postponed?--You are sure the word was postponed?--Was it
broken off?'

'No, it was postponed. I meant to have told you before,
knowing you would be interested as the castle architect; but
it slipped my memory in the bustle of arriving.'

'I am not the castle architect.'

'The devil you are not--what are you then?'

'Well, I am not that.'

Somerset the elder, though not of penetrating nature, began to
see that here lay an emotional complication of some sort, and
reserved further inquiry till a more convenient occasion.
They had reached the end of the level beach where the cliff
began to rise, and as this impediment naturally stopped their
walk they retraced their steps. On again nearing the spot
where Paula and her aunt were sitting, the painter would have
deviated to the hotel; but as his son persisted in going
straight on, in due course they were opposite the ladies
again. By this time Miss Power, who had appeared anxious
during their absence, regained her self-control. Going
towards her old lover she said, with a smile, 'I have been
looking for you!'

'Why have you been doing that?' said Somerset, in a voice
which he failed to keep as steady as he could wish.

'Because--I want some architect to continue the restoration.
Do you withdraw your resignation?'

Somerset appeared unable to decide for a few instants. 'Yes,'
he then answered.

For the moment they had ignored the presence of the painter
and Mrs. Goodman, but Somerset now made them known to one
another, and there was friendly intercourse all round.

'When will you be able to resume operations at the castle?'
she asked, as soon as she could again speak directly to
Somerset.

'As soon as I can get back. Of course I only resume it at
your special request.'

'Of course.' To one who had known all the circumstances it
would have seemed a thousand pities that, after again getting
face to face with him, she did not explain, without delay, the
whole mischief that had separated them. But she did not do
it--perhaps from the inherent awkwardness of such a topic at
this idle time. She confined herself simply to the above-
mentioned business-like request, and when the party had walked
a few steps together they separated, with mutual promises to
meet again.

'I hope you have explained your mistake to him, and how it
arose, and everything?' said her aunt when they were alone.

'No, I did not.'

'What, not explain after all?' said her amazed relative.

'I decided to put it off.'

'Then I think you decided very wrongly. Poor young man, he
looked so ill!'

'Did you, too, think he looked ill? But he danced last night.
Why did he dance?' She turned and gazed regretfully at the
corner round which the Somersets had disappeared.

'I don't know why he danced; but if I had known you were going
to be so silent, I would have explained the mistake myself.'

'I wish you had. But no; I have said I would; and I must.'

Paula's avoidance of tables d'hote did not extend to the
present one. It was quite with alacrity that she went down;
and with her entry the antecedent hotel beauty who had reigned
for the last five days at that meal, was unceremoniously
deposed by the guests. Mr. Somerset the elder came in, but
nobody with him. His seat was on Paula's left hand, Mrs.
Goodman being on Paula's right, so that all the conversation
was between the Academician and the younger lady. When the
latter had again retired upstairs with her aunt, Mrs. Goodman
expressed regret that young Mr. Somerset was absent from the
table. 'Why has he kept away?' she asked.

'I don't know--I didn't ask,' said Paula sadly. 'Perhaps he
doesn't care to meet us again.'

'That's because you didn't explain.'

'Well--why didn't the old man give me an opportunity?'
exclaimed the niece with suppressed excitement. 'He would
scarcely say anything but yes and no, and gave me no chance at
all of introducing the subject. I wanted to explain--I came
all the way on purpose--I would have begged George's pardon on
my two knees if there had been any way of beginning; but there
was not, and I could not do it!'

Though she slept badly that night, Paula promptly appeared in
the public room to breakfast, and that not from motives of
vanity; for, while not unconscious of her accession to the
unstable throne of queen-beauty in the establishment, she
seemed too preoccupied to care for the honour just then, and
would readily have changed places with her unhappy
predecessor, who lingered on in the background like a candle
after sunrise.

Mrs. Goodman was determined to trust no longer to Paula for
putting an end to what made her so restless and self-
reproachful. Seeing old Mr. Somerset enter to a little side-
table behind for lack of room at the crowded centre tables,
again without his son, she turned her head and asked point-
blank where the young man was.

Mr. Somerset's face became a shade graver than before. 'My
son is unwell,' he replied; 'so unwell that he has been
advised to stay indoors and take perfect rest.'

'I do hope it is nothing serious.'

'I hope so too. The fact is, he has overdone himself a
little. He was not well when he came here; and to make
himself worse he must needs go dancing at the Casino with this
lady and that--among others with a young American lady who is
here with her family, and whom he met in London last year. I
advised him against it, but he seemed desperately determined
to shake off lethargy by any rash means, and wouldn't listen
to me. Luckily he is not in the hotel, but in a quiet cottage
a hundred yards up the hill.'

Paula, who had heard all, did not show or say what she felt at
the news: but after breakfast, on meeting the landlady in a
passage alone, she asked with some anxiety if there were a
really skilful medical man in Etretat; and on being told that
there was, and his name, she went back to look for Mr.
Somerset; but he had gone.

They heard nothing more of young Somerset all that morning,
but towards evening, while Paula sat at her window, looking
over the heads of fuchsias upon the promenade beyond, she saw
the painter walk by. She immediately went to her aunt and
begged her to go out and ask Mr. Somerset if his son had
improved.

'I will send Milly or Clementine,' said Mrs. Goodman.

'I wish you would see him yourself.'

'He has gone on. I shall never find him.'

'He has only gone round to the front,' persisted Paula. 'Do
walk that way, auntie, and ask him.'

Thus pressed, Mrs. Goodman acquiesced, and brought back
intelligence to Miss Power, who had watched them through the
window, that his son did not positively improve, but that his
American friends were very kind to him.

Having made use of her aunt, Paula seemed particularly anxious
to get rid of her again, and when that lady sat down to write
letters, Paula went to her own room, hastily dressed herself
without assistance, asked privately the way to the cottage,
and went off thitherward unobserved.

At the upper end of the lane she saw a little house answering
to the description, whose front garden, window-sills, palings,
and doorstep were literally ablaze with nasturtiums in bloom.

She entered this inhabited nosegay, quietly asked for the
invalid, and if he were well enough to see Miss Power. The
woman of the house soon returned, and she was conducted up a
crooked staircase to Somerset's modest apartments. It
appeared that some rooms in this dwelling had been furnished
by the landlady of the inn, who hired them of the tenant
during the summer season to use as an annexe to the hotel.

Admitted to the outer room she beheld her architect looking as
unarchitectural as possible; lying on a small couch which was
drawn up to the open casement, whence he had a back view of
the window flowers, and enjoyed a green transparency through
the undersides of the same nasturtium leaves that presented
their faces to the passers without.

When the latch had again clicked into the catch of the closed
door Paula went up to the invalid, upon whose pale and
interesting face a flush had arisen simultaneously with the
announcement of her name. He would have sprung up to receive
her, but she pressed him down, and throwing all reserve on one
side for the first time in their intercourse, she crouched
beside the sofa, whispering with roguish solicitude, her face
not too far from his own: 'How foolish you are, George, to
get ill just now when I have been wanting so much to see you
again!--I am so sorry to see you like this--what I said to you
when we met on the shore was not what I had come to say!'

Somerset took her by the hand. 'Then what did you come to
say, Paula?' he asked.

'I wanted to tell you that the mere wanton wandering of a
capricious mind was not the cause of my estrangement from you.
There has been a great deception practised--the exact nature
of it I cannot tell you plainly just at present; it is too
painful--but it is all over, and I can assure you of my sorrow
at having behaved as I did, and of my sincere friendship now
as ever.'

'There is nothing I shall value so much as that. It will make
my work at the castle very pleasant to feel that I can consult
you about it without fear of intruding on you against your
wishes.'

'Yes, perhaps it will. But--you do not comprehend me.'

'You have been an enigma always.'

'And you have been provoking; but never so provoking as now.
I wouldn't for the world tell you the whole of my fancies as I
came hither this evening: but I should think your natural
intuition would suggest what they were.'

'It does, Paula. But there are motives of delicacy which
prevent my acting on what is suggested to me.'

'Delicacy is a gift, and you should thank God for it; but in
some cases it is not so precious as we would persuade
ourselves.'

'Not when the woman is rich, and the man is poor?'

'O, George Somerset--be cold, or angry, or anything, but don't
be like this! It is never worth a woman's while to show
regret for her injustice; for all she gets by it is an
accusation of want of delicacy.'

'Indeed I don't accuse you of that--I warmly, tenderly thank
you for your kindness in coming here to see me.'

'Well, perhaps you do. But I am now in I cannot tell what
mood--I will not tell what mood, for it would be confessing
more than I ought. This finding you out is a piece of
weakness that I shall not repeat; and I have only one thing
more to say. I have served you badly, George, I know that;
but it is never too late to mend; and I have come back to you.
However, I shall never run after you again, trust me for that,
for it is not the woman's part. Still, before I go, that
there may be no mistake as to my meaning, and misery entailed
on us for want of a word, I'll add this: that if you want to
marry me, as you once did, you must say so; for I am here to
be asked.'

It would be superfluous to transcribe Somerset's reply, and
the remainder of the scene between the pair. Let it suffice
that half-an-hour afterwards, when the sun had almost gone
down, Paula walked briskly into the hotel, troubled herself
nothing about dinner, but went upstairs to their sitting-room,
where her aunt presently found her upon the couch looking up
at the ceiling through her fingers. They talked on different
subjects for some time till the old lady said 'Mr. Somerset's
cottage is the one covered with flowers up the lane, I hear.'

'Yes,' said Paula.

'How do you know?'

'I've been there. . . . We are going to be married, aunt.'

'Indeed!' replied Mrs. Goodman. 'Well, I thought this might
be the end of it: you were determined on the point; and I am
not much surprised at your news. Your father was very wise
after all in entailing everything so strictly upon your
offspring; for if he had not I should have been driven wild
with the responsibility!'

'And now that the murder is out,' continued Paula, passing
over that view of the case, 'I don't mind telling you that
somehow or other I have got to like George Somerset as
desperately as a woman can care for any man. I thought I
should have died when I saw him dancing, and feared I had lost
him! He seemed ten times nicer than ever then! So silly we
women are, that I wouldn't marry a duke in preference to him.
There, that's my honest feeling, and you must make what you
can of it; my conscience is clear, thank Heaven!'

'Have you fixed the day?'

'No,' continued the young lady, still watching the sleeping
flies on the ceiling. 'It is left unsettled between us, while
I come and ask you if there would be any harm--if it could
conveniently be before we return to England?'

'Paula, this is too precipitate!'

'On the contrary, aunt. In matrimony, as in some other
things, you should be slow to decide, but quick to execute.
Nothing on earth would make me marry another man; I know every
fibre of his character; and he knows a good many fibres of
mine; so as there is nothing more to be learnt, why shouldn't
we marry at once? On one point I am firm: I will never
return to that castle as Miss Power. A nameless dread comes
over me when I think of it--a fear that some uncanny influence
of the dead De Stancys would drive me again from him. O, if
it were to do that,' she murmured, burying her face in her
hands, 'I really think it would be more than I could bear!'

'Very well,' said Mrs. Goodman; 'we will see what can be done.
I will write to Mr. Wardlaw.'

IV.

On a windy afternoon in November, when more than two months
had closed over the incidents previously recorded, a number of
farmers were sitting in a room of the Lord-Quantock-Arms Inn,
Markton, that was used for the weekly ordinary. It was a
long, low apartment, formed by the union of two or three
smaller rooms, with a bow-window looking upon the street, and
at the present moment was pervaded by a blue fog from tobacco-
pipes, and a temperature like that of a kiln. The body of
farmers who still sat on there was greater than usual, owing
to the cold air without, the tables having been cleared of
dinner for some time and their surface stamped with liquid
circles by the feet of the numerous glasses.

Besides the farmers there were present several professional
men of the town, who found it desirable to dine here on
market-days for the opportunity it afforded them of increasing
their practice among the agriculturists, many of whom were men
of large balances, even luxurious livers, who drove to market
in elegant phaetons drawn by horses of supreme blood, bone,
and action, in a style never anticipated by their fathers when
jogging thither in light carts, or afoot with a butter basket
on each arm.

The buzz of groggy conversation was suddenly impinged on by
the notes of a peal of bells from the tower hard by. Almost
at the same instant the door of the room opened, and there
entered the landlord of the little inn at Sleeping-Green.
Drawing his supply of cordials from this superior house, to
which he was subject, he came here at stated times like a
prebendary to the cathedral of his diocesan, afterwards
retailing to his own humbler audience the sentiments which he
had learnt of this. But curiosity being awakened by the
church bells the usual position was for the moment reversed,
and one of the farmers, saluting him by name, asked him the
reason of their striking up at that time of day.

'My mis'ess out yonder,' replied the rural landlord, nodding
sideways, 'is coming home with her fancy-man. They have been
a-gaying together this turk of a while in foreign parts--Here,
maid!--what with the wind, and standing about, my blood's as
low as water--bring us a thimbleful of that that isn't gin and
not far from it.'

'It is true, then, that she's become Mrs. Somerset?'
indifferently asked a farmer in broadcloth, tenant of an
estate in quite another direction than hers, as he
contemplated the grain of the table immediately surrounding
the foot of his glass.

'True--of course it is,' said Havill, who was also present, in
the tone of one who, though sitting in this rubicund company,
was not of it. 'I could have told you the truth of it any day
these last five weeks.'

Among those who had lent an ear was Dairyman Jinks, an old
gnarled character who wore a white fustian coat and yellow
leggings; the only man in the room who never dressed up in
dark clothes for marketing. He now asked, 'Married abroad,
was they? And how long will a wedding abroad stand good for
in this country?'

'As long as a wedding at home.'

'Will it? Faith; I didn't know: how should I? I thought it
might be some new plan o' folks for leasing women now they be
so plentiful, so as to get rid o' 'em when the men be tired o'
'em, and hev spent all their money.'

'He won't be able to spend her money,' said the landlord of
Sleeping-Green. ''Tis her very own person's--settled upon the
hairs of her head for ever.'

'O nation! Then if I were the man I shouldn't care for such a
one-eyed benefit as that,' said Dairyman Jinks, turning away
to listen to the talk on his other hand.

'Is that true?' asked the gentleman-farmer in broadcloth.

'It is sufficiently near the truth,' said Havill. 'There is
nothing at all unusual in the arrangement; it was only settled
so to prevent any schemer making a beggar of her. If Somerset
and she have any children, which probably they will, it will
be theirs; and what can a man want more? Besides, there is a
large portion of property left to her personal use--quite as
much as they can want. Oddly enough, the curiosities and
pictures of the castle which belonged to the De Stancys are
not restricted from sale; they are hers to do what she likes
with. Old Power didn't care for articles that reminded him so
much of his predecessors.'

'Hey?' said Dairyman Jinks, turning back again, having decided
that the conversation on his right hand was, after all, the
more interesting. 'Well--why can't 'em hire a travelling chap
to touch up the picters into her own gaffers and gammers?
Then they'd be worth sommat to her.'

'Ah, here they are? I thought so,' said Havill, who had been
standing up at the window for the last few moments. 'The
ringers were told to begin as soon as the train signalled.'

As he spoke a carriage drew up to the hotel-door, followed by
another with the maid and luggage. The inmates crowded to the
bow-window, except Dairyman Jinks, who had become absorbed in
his own reflections.

'What be they stopping here for?' asked one of the previous
speakers.

'They are going to stay here to-night,' said Havill. 'They
have come quite unexpectedly, and the castle is in such a
state of turmoil that there is not a single carpet down, or
room for them to use. We shall get two or three in order by
next week.'

'Two little people like them will be lost in the chammers of
that wandering place!' satirized Dairyman Jinks. 'They will
be bound to have a randy every fortnight to keep the moth out
of the furniture!'

By this time Somerset was handing out the wife of his bosom,
and Dairyman Jinks went on: 'That's no more Miss Power that
was, than my niece's daughter Kezia is Miss Power--in short it
is a different woman altogether!'

'There is no mistake about the woman,' said the landlord; 'it
is her fur clothes that make her look so like a caterpillar on
end. Well, she is not a bad bargain! As for Captain De
Stancy, he'll fret his gizzard green.'

'He's the man she ought to ha' married,' declared the farmer
in broadcloth. 'As the world goes she ought to have been Lady
De Stancy. She gave up her chapel-going, and you might have
thought she would have given up her first young man: but she
stuck to him, though by all accounts he would soon have been
interested in another party.'

''Tis woman's nature to be false except to a man, and man's
nature to be true except to a woman,' said the landlord of
Sleeping-Green. 'However, all's well that ends well, and I
have something else to think of than new-married couples;'
saying which the speaker moved off, and the others returned to
their seats, the young pair who had been their theme vanishing
through the hotel into some private paradise to rest and dine.

By this time their arrival had become known, and a crowd soon
gathered outside, acquiring audacity with continuance there.
Raising a hurrah, the group would not leave till Somerset had
showed himself on the balcony above; and then declined to go
away till Paula also had appeared; when, remarking that her
husband seemed a quiet young man enough, and would make a very
good borough member when their present one misbehaved himself,
the assemblage good-humouredly dispersed.

Among those whose ears had been reached by the hurrahs of
these idlers was a man in silence and solitude, far out of the
town. He was leaning over a gate that divided two meads in a
watery level between Stancy Castle and Markton. He turned his
head for a few seconds, then continued his contemplative gaze
towards the towers of the castle, visible over the trees as
far as was possible in the leaden gloom of the November eve.
The military form of the solitary lounger was recognizable as
that of Sir William De Stancy, notwithstanding the failing
light and his attitude of so resting his elbows on the gate
that his hands enclosed the greater part of his face.

The scene was inexpressibly cheerless. No other human
creature was apparent, and the only sounds audible above the
wind were those of the trickling streams which distributed the
water over the meadow. A heron had been standing in one of
these rivulets about twenty yards from the officer, and they
vied with each other in stillness till the bird suddenly rose
and flew off to the plantation in which it was his custom to
pass the night with others of his tribe. De Stancy saw the
heron rise, and seemed to imagine the creature's departure
without a supper to be owing to the increasing darkness; but
in another minute he became conscious that the heron had been
disturbed by sounds too distant to reach his own ears at the
time. They were nearer now, and there came along under the
hedge a young man known to De Stancy exceedingly well.

'Ah,' he said listlessly, 'you have ventured back.'

'Yes, captain. Why do you walk out here?'

'The bells began ringing because she and he were expected, and
my thoughts naturally dragged me this way. Thank Heaven the
battery leaves Markton in a few days, and then the precious
place will know me no more!'

'I have heard of it.' Turning to where the dim lines of the
castle rose he continued: 'Well, there it stands.'

'And I am not in it.'

'They are not in it yet either.'

'They soon will be.'

'Well--what tune is that you were humming, captain?'

'ALL IS LOST NOW,' replied the captain grimly.

'O no; you have got me, and I am a treasure to any man. I
have another match in my eye for you, and shall get you well
settled yet, if you keep yourself respectable. So thank God,
and take courage!'

'Ah, Will--you are a flippant young fool--wise in your own
conceit; I say it to my sorrow! 'Twas your dishonesty spoilt
all. That lady would have been my wife by fair dealing--time
was all I required. But base attacks on a man's character
never deserve to win, and if I had once been certain that you
had made them, my course would have been very different, both
towards you and others. But why should I talk to you about
this? If I cared an atom what becomes of you I would take you
in hand severely enough; not caring, I leave you alone, to go
to the devil your own way.'

'Thank you kindly, captain. Well, since you have spoken
plainly, I will do the same. We De Stancys are a worn-out old
party--that's the long and the short of it. We represent
conditions of life that have had their day--especially me.
Our one remaining chance was an alliance with new aristocrats;
and we have failed. We are past and done for. Our line has
had five hundred years of glory, and we ought to be content.
Enfin les renards se trouvent chez le pelletier.'

'Speak for yourself, young Consequence, and leave the
destinies of old families to respectable philosophers. This
fiasco is the direct result of evil conduct, and of nothing
else at all. I have managed badly; I countenanced you too
far. When I saw your impish tendencies I should have forsworn
the alliance.'

'Don't sting me, captain. What I have told you is true. As
for my conduct, cat will after kind, you know. You should
have held your tongue on the wedding morning, and have let me
take my chance.'

'Is that all I get for saving you from jail? Gad--I alone am
the sufferer, and feel I am alone the fool!. . . Come, off
with you--I never want to see you any more.'

'Part we will, then--till we meet again. It will be a light
night hereabouts, I think, this evening.'

'A very dark one for me.'

'Nevertheless, I think it will be a light night. Au revoir!'

Dare went his way, and after a while De Stancy went his. Both
were soon lost in the shades.

V.

The castle to-night was as gloomy as the meads. As Havill had
explained, the habitable rooms were just now undergoing a
scour, and the main block of buildings was empty even of the
few servants who had been retained, they having for comfort's
sake taken up their quarters in the detached rooms adjoining
the entrance archway. Hence not a single light shone from the
lonely windows, at which ivy leaves tapped like woodpeckers,
moved by gusts that were numerous and contrary rather than
violent. Within the walls all was silence, chaos, and
obscurity, till towards eleven o'clock, when the thick
immovable cloud that had dulled the daytime broke into a
scudding fleece, through which the moon forded her way as a
nebulous spot of watery white, sending light enough, though of
a rayless kind, into the castle chambers to show the confusion
that reigned there.

At this time an eye might have noticed a figure flitting in
and about those draughty apartments, and making no more noise
in so doing than a puff of wind. Its motion hither and
thither was rapid, but methodical, its bearing absorbed, yet
cautious. Though it ran more or less through all the
principal rooms, the chief scene of its operations was the
Long Gallery overlooking the Pleasance, which was covered by
an ornamental wood-and-plaster roof, and contained a whole
throng of family portraits, besides heavy old cabinets and the
like. The portraits which were of value as works of art were
smaller than these, and hung in adjoining rooms.

The manifest occupation of the figure was that of removing
these small and valuable pictures from other chambers to the
gallery in which the rest were hung, and piling them in a heap
in the midst. Included in the group were nine by Sir Peter
Lely, five by Vandyck, four by Cornelius Jansen, one by
Salvator Rosa (remarkable as being among the few English
portraits ever painted by that master), many by Kneller, and
two by Romney. Apparently by accident, the light being
insufficient to distinguish them from portraits, the figure
also brought a Raffaelle Virgin-and-Child, a magnificent
Tintoretto, a Titian, and a Giorgione.

On these was laid a large collection of enamelled miniature
portraits of the same illustrious line; afterwards tapestries
and cushions embroidered with the initials 'De S.'; and next
the cradle presented by Charles the First to the contemporary
De Stancy mother, till at length there arose in the middle of
the floor a huge heap containing most of what had been
personal and peculiar to members of the De Stancy family as
distinct from general furniture.

Then the figure went from door to door, and threw open each
that was unfastened. It next proceeded to a room on the
ground floor, at present fitted up as a carpenter's shop, and
knee-deep in shavings. An armful of these was added to the
pile of objects in the gallery; a window at each end of the
gallery was opened, causing a brisk draught along the walls;
and then the activity of the figure ceased, and it was seen no
more.

Five minutes afterwards a light shone upon the lawn from the
windows of the Long Gallery, which glowed with more brilliancy
than it had known in the meridian of its Caroline splendours.
Thereupon the framed gentleman in the lace collar seemed to
open his eyes more widely; he with the flowing locks and turn-
up mustachios to part his lips; he in the armour, who was so
much like Captain De Stancy, to shake the plates of his mail
with suppressed laughter; the lady with the three-stringed
pearl necklace, and vast expanse of neck, to nod with
satisfaction and triumphantly signify to her adjoining husband
that this was a meet and glorious end.

The flame increased, and blown upon by the wind roared round
the pictures, the tapestries, and the cradle, up to the
plaster ceiling and through it into the forest of oak timbers
above.

The best sitting-room at the Lord-Quantock-Arms in Markton was
as cosy this evening as a room can be that lacks the minuter
furniture on which cosiness so largely depends. By the fire
sat Paula and Somerset, the former with a shawl round her
shoulders to keep off the draught which, despite the curtains,
forced its way in on this gusty night through the windows
opening upon the balcony. Paula held a letter in her hand,
the contents of which formed the subject of their
conversation. Happy as she was in her general situation,
there was for the nonce a tear in her eye.

'MY EVER DEAR PAULA (ran the letter),--Your last letter has
just reached me, and I have followed your account of your
travels and intentions with more interest than I can tell.
You, who know me, need no assurance of this. At the present
moment, however, I am in the whirl of a change that has
resulted from a resolution taken some time ago, but concealed
from almost everybody till now. Why? Well, I will own--from
cowardice--fear lest I should be reasoned out of my plan. I
am going to steal from the world, Paula, from the social
world, for whose gaieties and ambitions I never had much
liking, and whose circles I have not the ability to grace. My
home, and resting-place till the great rest comes, is with the
Protestant Sisterhood at -----. Whatever shortcomings may be
found in such a community, I believe that I shall be happier
there than in any other place.

'Whatever you may think of my judgment in taking this step, I
can assure you that I have not done it without consideration.
My reasons are good, and my determination is unalterable.
But, my own very best friend, and more than sister, don't
think that I mean to leave my love and friendship for you
behind me. No, Paula, you will ALWAYS be with me, and I
believe that if an increase in what I already feel for you be
possible, it will be furthered by the retirement and
meditation I shall enjoy in my secluded home. My heart is
very full, dear--too full to write more. God bless you, and
your husband. You must come and see me there; I have not so
many friends that I can afford to lose you who have been so
kind. I write this with the fellow-pen to yours, that you
gave me when we went to Budmouth together. Good-bye!--Ever
your own sister, CHARLOTTE.'

Paula had first read this through silently, and now in reading
it a second time aloud to Somerset her voice faltered, and she
wept outright. 'I had been expecting her to live with us
always,' she said through her tears, 'and to think she should
have decided to do this!'

'It is a pity certainly,' said Somerset gently. 'She was
genuine, if anybody ever was; and simple as she was true.'

'I am the more sorry,' Paula presently resumed, 'because of a
little plan I had been thinking of with regard to her. You
know that the pictures and curiosities of the castle are not
included in the things I cannot touch, or impeach, or whatever
it is. They are our own to do what we like with. My father
felt in devising the estate that, however interesting to the
De Stancys those objects might be, they did not concern us--
were indeed rather in the way, having been come by so
strangely, through Mr. Wilkins, though too valuable to be
treated lightly. Now I was going to suggest that we would not
sell them--indeed I could not bear to do such a thing with
what had belonged to Charlotte's forefathers--but to hand them
over to her as a gift, either to keep for herself, or to pass
on to her brother, as she should choose. Now I fear there is
no hope of it: and yet I shall never like to see them in the
house.'

'It can be done still, I should think. She can accept them
for her brother when he settles, without absolutely taking
them into her own possession.'

'It would be a kind of generosity which hardly amounts to more
than justice (although they were purchased) from a recusant
usurper to a dear friend--not that I am a usurper exactly;
well, from a representative of the new aristocracy of
internationality to a representative of the old aristocracy of
exclusiveness.'

'What do you call yourself, Paula, since you are not of your
father's creed?'

'I suppose I am what poor Mr. Woodwell said--by the way, we
must call and see him--something or other that's in
Revelation, neither cold nor hot. But of course that's a sub-
species--I may be a lukewarm anything. What I really am, as
far as I know, is one of that body to whom lukewarmth is not
an accident but a provisional necessity, till they see a
little more clearly.' She had crossed over to his side, and
pulling his head towards her whispered a name in his ear.

'Why, Mr. Woodwell said you were that too! You carry your
beliefs very comfortably. I shall be glad when enthusiasm is
come again.'

'I am going to revise and correct my beliefs one of these days
when I have thought a little further.' She suddenly breathed
a sigh and added, 'How transitory our best emotions are! In
talking of myself I am heartlessly forgetting Charlotte, and
becoming happy again. I won't be happy to-night for her
sake!'

A few minutes after this their attention was attracted by a
noise of footsteps running along the street; then a heavy
tramp of horses, and lumbering of wheels. Other feet were
heard scampering at intervals, and soon somebody ascended the
staircase and approached their door. The head waiter
appeared.

'Ma'am, Stancy Castle is all afire!' said the waiter
breathlessly.

Somerset jumped up, drew aside the curtains, and stepped into
the bow-window. Right before him rose a blaze. The window
looked upon the street and along the turnpike road to the very
hill on which the castle stood, the keep being visible in the
daytime above the trees. Here rose the light, which appeared
little further off than a stone's throw instead of nearly
three miles. Every curl of the smoke and every wave of the
flame was distinct, and Somerset fancied he could hear the
crackling.

Paula had risen from her seat and joined him in the window,
where she heard some people in the street saying that the
servants were all safe; after which she gave her mind more
fully to the material aspects of the catastrophe.

The whole town was now rushing off to the scene of the
conflagration, which, shining straight along the street,
showed the burgesses' running figures distinctly upon the
illumined road. Paula was quite ready to act upon Somerset's
suggestion that they too should hasten to the spot, and a fly
was got ready in a few minutes. With lapse of time Paula
evinced more anxiety as to the fate of her castle, and when
they had driven as near as it was prudent to do, they
dismounted, and went on foot into the throng of people which
was rapidly gathering from the town and surrounding villages.
Among the faces they recognized Mr. Woodwell, Havill the
architect, the rector of the parish, the curate, and many
others known to them by sight. These, as soon as they saw the
young couple, came forward with words of condolence, imagining
them to have been burnt out of bed, and vied with each other
in offering them a lodging. Somerset explained where they
were staying and that they required no accommodation, Paula
interrupting with 'O my poor horses, what has become of them?'

'The fire is not near the stables,' said Mr. Woodwell. 'It
broke out in the body of the building. The horses, however,
are driven into the field.'

'I can assure you, you need not be alarmed, madam,' said
Havill. 'The chief constable is here, and the two town
engines, and I am doing all I can. The castle engine
unfortunately is out of repair.'

Somerset and Paula then went on to another point of view near
the gymnasium, where they could not be seen by the crowd.
Three-quarters of a mile off, on their left hand, the powerful
irradiation fell upon the brick chapel in which Somerset had
first seen the woman who now stood beside him as his wife. It
was the only object visible in that direction, the dull hills
and trees behind failing to catch the light. She
significantly pointed it out to Somerset, who knew her
meaning, and they turned again to the more serious matter.

It had long been apparent that in the face of such a wind all
the pigmy appliances that the populace could bring to act upon
such a mass of combustion would be unavailing. As much as
could burn that night was burnt, while some of that which
would not burn crumbled and fell as a formless heap, whence
new flames towered up, and inclined to the north-east so far
as to singe the trees of the park. The thicker walls of
Norman date remained unmoved, partly because of their
thickness, and partly because in them stone vaults took the
place of wood floors.

The tower clock kept manfully going till it had struck one,
its face smiling out from the smoke as if nothing were the
matter, after which hour something fell down inside, and it
went no more.

Cunningham Haze, with his body of men, was devoted in his
attention, and came up to say a word to our two spectators
from time to time. Towards four o'clock the flames

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