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Chapter 14

When she was gone he went on with the drawing, not calling in
Dare, who remained in the room adjoining. Presently a servant
came and laid a paper on his table, which Miss Power had sent.
It was one of the morning newspapers, and was folded so that
his eye fell immediately on a letter headed 'Restoration or
Demolition.'

The letter was professedly written by a dispassionate person
solely in the interests of art. It drew attention to the
circumstance that the ancient and interesting castle of the De
Stancys had unhappily passed into the hands of an iconoclast
by blood, who, without respect for the tradition of the
county, or any feeling whatever for history in stone, was
about to demolish much, if not all, that was interesting in
that ancient pile, and insert in its midst a monstrous
travesty of some Greek temple. In the name of all lovers of
mediaeval art, conjured the simple-minded writer, let
something be done to save a building which, injured and
battered in the Civil Wars, was now to be made a complete ruin
by the freaks of an irresponsible owner. Her sending him the
paper seemed to imply that she required his opinion on the
case; and in the afternoon, leaving Dare to measure up a wing
according to directions, he went out in the hope of meeting
her, having learnt that she had gone to the village. On
reaching the church he saw her crossing the churchyard path
with her aunt and Miss De Stancy. Somerset entered the
enclosure, and as soon as she saw him she came across.

'What is to be done?' she asked.

'You need not be concerned about such a letter as that.'

'I am concerned.'

'I think it dreadful impertinence,' spoke up Charlotte, who
had joined them. 'Can you think who wrote it, Mr. Somerset?'

Somerset could not.

'Well, what am I to do?' repeated Paula.

'Just as you would have done before.'

'That's what _I_ say,' observed Mrs. Goodman emphatically.

'But I have already altered--I have given up the Greek court.'

'O--you had seen the paper this morning before you looked at
my drawing?'

'I had,' she answered.

Somerset thought it a forcible illustration of her natural
reticence that she should have abandoned the design without
telling him the reason; but he was glad she had not done it
from mere caprice.

She turned to him and said quietly, 'I wish YOU would answer
that letter.'

'It would be ill-advised,' said Somerset. 'Still, if, after
consideration, you wish it much, I will. Meanwhile let me
impress upon you again the expediency of calling in Mr.
Havill--to whom, as your father's architect, expecting this
commission, something perhaps is owed--and getting him to
furnish an alternative plan to mine, and submitting the choice
of designs to some members of the Royal Institute of British
Architects. This letter makes it still more advisable than
before.'

'Very well,' said Paula reluctantly.

'Let him have all the particulars you have been good enough to
explain to me--so that we start fair in the competition.'

She looked negligently on the grass. 'I will tell the
building steward to write them out for him,' she said.

The party separated and entered the church by different doors.
Somerset went to a nook of the building that he had often
intended to visit. It was called the Stancy aisle; and in it
stood the tombs of that family. Somerset examined them: they
were unusually rich and numerous, beginning with cross-legged
knights in hauberks of chain-mail, their ladies beside them in
wimple and cover-chief, all more or less coated with the green
mould and dirt of ages: and continuing with others of later
date, in fine alabaster, gilded and coloured, some of them
wearing round their necks the Yorkist collar of suns and
roses, the livery of Edward the Fourth. In scrutinizing the
tallest canopy over these he beheld Paula behind it, as if in
contemplation of the same objects.

'You came to the church to sketch these monuments, I suppose,
Mr. Somerset?' she asked, as soon as she saw him.

'No. I came to speak to you about the letter.'

She sighed. 'Yes: that letter,' she said. 'I am persecuted!
If I had been one of these it would never have been written.'
She tapped the alabaster effigy of a recumbent lady with her
parasol.

'They are interesting, are they not?' he said. 'She is
beautifully preserved. The gilding is nearly gone, but beyond
that she is perfect.'

'She is like Charlotte,' said Paula. And what was much like
another sigh escaped her lips.

Somerset admitted that there was a resemblance, while Paula
drew her forefinger across the marble face of the effigy, and
at length took out her handkerchief, and began wiping the dust
from the hollows of the features. He looked on, wondering
what her sigh had meant, but guessing that it had been somehow
caused by the sight of these sculptures in connection with the
newspaper writer's denunciation of her as an irresponsible
outsider.

The secret was out when in answer to his question, idly put,
if she wished she were like one of these, she said, with
exceptional vehemence for one of her demeanour--

'I don't wish I was like one of them: I wish I WAS one of
them.'

'What--you wish you were a De Stancy?'

'Yes. It is very dreadful to be denounced as a barbarian. I
want to be romantic and historical.'

'Miss De Stancy seems not to value the privilege,' he said,
looking round at another part of the church where Charlotte
was innocently prattling to Mrs. Goodman, quite heedless of
the tombs of her forefathers.

'If I were one,' she continued, 'I should come here when I
feel alone in the world, as I do to-day; and I would defy
people, and say, "You cannot spoil what has been!"'

They walked on till they reached the old black pew attached to
the castle--a vast square enclosure of oak panelling occupying
half the aisle, and surmounted with a little balustrade above
the framework. Within, the baize lining that had once been
green, now faded to the colour of a common in August, was
torn, kicked and scraped to rags by the feet and hands of the
ploughboys who had appropriated the pew as their own special
place of worship since it had ceased to be used by any
resident at the castle, because its height afforded convenient
shelter for playing at marbles and pricking with pins.

Charlotte and Mrs. Goodman had by this time left the building,
and could be seen looking at the headstones outside.

'If you were a De Stancy,' said Somerset, who had pondered
more deeply upon that new wish of hers than he had seemed to
do, 'you would be a churchwoman, and sit here.'

'And I should have the pew done up,' she said readily, as she
rested her pretty chin on the top rail and looked at the
interior, her cheeks pressed into deep dimples. Her quick
reply told him that the idea was no new one with her, and he
thought of poor Mr. Woodwell's shrewd prophecy as he perceived
that her days as a separatist were numbered.

'Well, why can't you have it done up, and sit here?' he said
warily.

Paula shook her head.

'You are not at enmity with Anglicanism, I am sure?'

'I want not to be. I want to be--what--'

'What the De Stancys were, and are,' he said insidiously; and
her silenced bearing told him that he had hit the nail.

It was a strange idea to get possession of such a nature as
hers, and for a minute he felt himself on the side of the
minister. So strong was Somerset's feeling of wishing her to
show the quality of fidelity to paternal dogma and party, that
he could not help adding--

'But have you forgotten that other nobility--the nobility of
talent and enterprise?'

'No. But I wish I had a well-known line of ancestors.'

'You have. Archimedes, Newcomen, Watt, Telford, Stephenson,
those are your father's direct ancestors. Have you forgotten
them? Have you forgotten your father, and the railways he
made over half Europe, and his great energy and skill, and all
connected with him as if he had never lived?'

She did not answer for some time. 'No, I have not forgotten
it,' she said, still looking into the pew. 'But, I have a
predilection d'artiste for ancestors of the other sort, like
the De Stancys.'

Her hand was resting on the low pew next the high one of the
De Stancys. Somerset looked at the hand, or rather at the
glove which covered it, then at her averted cheek, then beyond
it into the pew, then at her hand again, until by an
indescribable consciousness that he was not going too far he
laid his own upon it.

'No, no,' said Paula quickly, withdrawing her hand. But there
was nothing resentful or haughty in her tone--nothing, in
short, which makes a man in such circumstances feel that he
has done a particularly foolish action.

The flower on her bosom rose and fell somewhat more than usual
as she added, 'I am going away now--I will leave you here.'
Without waiting for a reply she adroitly swept back her skirts
to free her feet and went out of the church blushing.

Somerset took her hint and did not follow; and when he knew
that she had rejoined her friends, and heard the carriage roll
away, he made towards the opposite door. Pausing to glance
once more at the alabaster effigies before leaving them to
their silence and neglect, he beheld Dare bending over them,
to all appearance intently occupied.

He must have been in the church some time--certainly during
the tender episode between Somerset and Paula, and could not
have failed to perceive it. Somerset blushed: it was
unpleasant that Dare should have seen the interior of his
heart so plainly. He went across and said, 'I think I left
you to finish the drawing of the north wing, Mr. Dare?'

'Three hours ago, sir,' said Dare. 'Having finished that, I
came to look at the church--fine building--fine monuments--two
interesting people looking at them.'

'What?'

'I stand corrected. Pensa molto, parla poco, as the Italians
have it.'

'Well, now, Mr. Dare, suppose you get back to the castle?'

'Which history dubs Castle Stancy. . . . Certainly.'

'How do you get on with the measuring?'

Dare sighed whimsically. 'Badly in the morning, when I have
been tempted to indulge overnight, and worse in the afternoon,
when I have been tempted in the morning!'

Somerset looked at the youth, and said, 'I fear I shall have
to dispense with your services, Dare, for I think you have
been tempted to-day.'

'On my honour no. My manner is a little against me, Mr.
Somerset. But you need not fear for my ability to do your
work. I am a young man wasted, and am thought of slight
account: it is the true men who get snubbed, while traitors
are allowed to thrive!'

'Hang sentiment, Dare, and off with you!' A little ruffled,
Somerset had turned his back upon the interesting speaker, so
that he did not observe the sly twist Dare threw into his
right eye as he spoke. The latter went off in one direction
and Somerset in the other, pursuing his pensive way towards
Markton with thoughts not difficult to divine.

From one point in her nature he went to another, till he again
recurred to her romantic interest in the De Stancy family. To
wish she was one of them: how very inconsistent of her. That
she really did wish it was unquestionable.

Thomas Hardy