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Chapter 11

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

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

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

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

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

'I am much obliged to you.'

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

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

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

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

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

Somerset almost wished she had not explained so lucidly.

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

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

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

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

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

'I agree to the same,' said Somerset.

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

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

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

'I will hold it,' she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'What?'

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

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

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

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

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

'You represent science rather than art, perhaps.'

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

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

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

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

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

'Yes.'

'How did you know?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Hardy