Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 2

A few days after the party at Stancy Castle, Dare was walking
down the High Street of Markton, a cigarette between his lips
and a silver-topped cane in his hand. His eye fell upon a
brass plate on an opposite door, bearing the name of Mr.
Havill, Architect. He crossed over, and rang the office bell.

The clerk who admitted him stated that Mr. Havill was in his
private room, and would be disengaged in a short time. While
Dare waited the clerk affixed to the door a piece of paper
bearing the words 'Back at 2,' and went away to his dinner,
leaving Dare in the room alone.

Dare looked at the different drawings on the boards about the
room. They all represented one subject, which, though
unfinished as yet, and bearing no inscription, was recognized
by the visitor as the design for the enlargement and
restoration of Stancy Castle. When he had glanced it over
Dare sat down.

The doors between the office and private room were double; but
the one towards the office being only ajar Dare could hear a
conversation in progress within. It presently rose to an
altercation, the tenor of which was obvious. Somebody had
come for money.

'Really I can stand it no longer, Mr. Havill--really I will
not!' said the creditor excitedly. 'Now this bill overdue
again--what can you expect? Why, I might have negotiated it;
and where would you have been then? Instead of that, I have
locked it up out of consideration for you; and what do I get
for my considerateness? I shall let the law take its course!'

'You'll do me inexpressible harm, and get nothing whatever,'
said Havill. 'If you would renew for another three months
there would be no difficulty in the matter.'

'You have said so before: I will do no such thing.'

There was a silence; whereupon Dare arose without hesitation,
and walked boldly into the private office. Havill was
standing at one end, as gloomy as a thundercloud, and at the
other was the unfortunate creditor with his hat on. Though
Dare's entry surprised them, both parties seemed relieved.

'I have called in passing to congratulate you, Mr. Havill,'
said Dare gaily. 'Such a commission as has been entrusted to
you will make you famous!'

'How do you do?--I wish it would make me rich,' said Havill
drily.

'It will be a lift in that direction, from what I know of the
profession. What is she going to spend?'

'A hundred thousand.'

'Your commission as architect, five thousand. Not bad, for
making a few sketches. Consider what other great commissions
such a work will lead to.'

'What great work is this?' asked the creditor.

'Stancy Castle,' said Dare, since Havill seemed too agape to
answer. 'You have not heard of it, then? Those are the
drawings, I presume, in the next room?'

Havill replied in the affirmative, beginning to perceive the
manoeuvre. 'Perhaps you would like to see them?' he said to
the creditor.

The latter offered no objection, and all three went into the
drawing-office.

'It will certainly be a magnificent structure,' said the
creditor, after regarding the elevations through his
spectacles. 'Stancy Castle: I had no idea of it! and when do
you begin to build, Mr. Havill?' he inquired in mollified
tones.

'In three months, I think?' said Dare, looking to Havill.

Havill assented.

'Five thousand pounds commission,' murmured the creditor.
'Paid down, I suppose?'

Havill nodded.

'And the works will not linger for lack of money to carry them
out, I imagine,' said Dare. 'Two hundred thousand will
probably be spent before the work is finished.'

'There is not much doubt of it,' said Havill.

'You said nothing to me about this?' whispered the creditor to
Havill, taking him aside, with a look of regret.

'You would not listen!'

'It alters the case greatly.' The creditor retired with
Havill to the door, and after a subdued colloquy in the
passage he went away, Havill returning to the office.

'What the devil do you mean by hoaxing him like this, when the
job is no more mine than Inigo Jones's?'

'Don't be too curious,' said Dare, laughing. 'Rather thank me
for getting rid of him.'

'But it is all a vision!' said Havill, ruefully regarding the
pencilled towers of Stancy Castle. 'If the competition were
really the commission that you have represented it to be there
might be something to laugh at.'

'It must be made a commission, somehow,' returned Dare
carelessly. 'I am come to lend you a little assistance. I
must stay in the neighbourhood, and I have nothing else to
do.'

A carriage slowly passed the window, and Havill recognized the
Power liveries. 'Hullo--she's coming here!' he said under his
breath, as the carriage stopped by the kerb. 'What does she
want, I wonder? Dare, does she know you?'

'I would just as soon be out of the way.'

'Then go into the garden.'

Dare went out through the back office as Paula was shown in at
the front. She wore a grey travelling costume, and seemed to
be in some haste.

'I am on my way to the railway-station,' she said to Havill.
'I shall be absent from home for several weeks, and since you
requested it, I have called to inquire how you are getting on
with the design.'

'Please look it over,' said Havill, placing a seat for her.

'No,' said Paula. 'I think it would be unfair. I have not
looked at Mr.--the other architect's plans since he has begun
to design seriously, and I will not look at yours. Are you
getting on quite well, and do you want to know anything more?
If so, go to the castle, and get anybody to assist you. Why
would you not make use of the room at your disposal in the
castle, as the other architect has done?'

In asking the question her face was towards the window, and
suddenly her cheeks became a rosy red. She instantly looked
another way.

'Having my own office so near, it was not necessary, thank
you,' replied Havill, as, noting her countenance, he allowed
his glance to stray into the street. Somerset was walking
past on the opposite side.

'The time is--the time fixed for sending in the drawings is
the first of November, I believe,' she said confusedly; 'and
the decision will be come to by three gentlemen who are
prominent members of the Institute of Architects.'

Havill then accompanied her to the carriage, and she drove
away.

Havill went to the back window to tell Dare that he need not
stay in the garden; but the garden was empty. The architect
remained alone in his office for some time; at the end of a
quarter of an hour, when the scream of a railway whistle had
echoed down the still street, he beheld Somerset repassing the
window in a direction from the railway, with somewhat of a sad
gait. In another minute Dare entered, humming the latest air
of Offenbach.

''Tis a mere piece of duplicity!' said Havill.

'What is?'

'Her pretending indifference as to which of us comes out
successful in the competition, when she colours carmine the
moment Somerset passes by.' He described Paula's visit, and
the incident.

'It may not mean Cupid's Entire XXX after all,' said Dare
judicially. 'The mere suspicion that a certain man loves her
would make a girl blush at his unexpected appearance. Well,
she's gone from him for a time; the better for you.'

'He has been privileged to see her off at any rate.'

'Not privileged.'

'How do you know that?'

'I went out of your garden by the back gate, and followed her
carriage to the railway. He simply went to the first bridge
outside the station, and waited. When she was in the train,
it moved forward; he was all expectation, and drew out his
handkerchief ready to wave, while she looked out of the window
towards the bridge. The train backed before it reached the
bridge, to attach the box containing her horses, and the
carriage-truck. Then it started for good, and when it reached
the bridge she looked out again, he waving his handkerchief to
her.'

'And she waving hers back?'

'No, she didn't.'

'Ah!'

'She looked at him--nothing more. I wouldn't give much for
his chance.' After a while Dare added musingly: 'You are a
mathematician: did you ever investigate the doctrine of
expectations?'

'Never.'

Dare drew from his pocket his 'Book of Chances,' a volume as
well thumbed as the minister's Bible. 'This is a treatise on
the subject,' he said. 'I will teach it to you some day.'

The same evening Havill asked Dare to dine with him. He was
just at this time living en garcon, his wife and children
being away on a visit. After dinner they sat on till their
faces were rather flushed. The talk turned, as before, on the
castle-competition.

'To know his design is to win,' said Dare. 'And to win is to
send him back to London where he came from.'

Havill inquired if Dare had seen any sketch of the design
while with Somerset?

'Not a line. I was concerned only with the old building.'

'Not to know it is to lose, undoubtedly,' murmured Havill.

'Suppose we go for a walk that way, instead of consulting
here?'

They went down the town, and along the highway. When they
reached the entrance to the park a man driving a basket-
carriage came out from the gate and passed them by in the
gloom.

'That was he,' said Dare. 'He sometimes drives over from the
hotel, and sometimes walks. He has been working late this
evening.'

Strolling on under the trees they met three masculine figures,
laughing and talking loudly.

'Those are the three first-class London draughtsmen, Bowles,
Knowles, and Cockton, whom he has engaged to assist him,
regardless of expense,' continued Dare.

'O Lord!' groaned Havill. 'There's no chance for me.'

The castle now arose before them, endowed by the rayless shade
with a more massive majesty than either sunlight or moonlight
could impart; and Havill sighed again as he thought of what he
was losing by Somerset's rivalry. 'Well, what was the use of
coming here?' he asked.

'I thought it might suggest something--some way of seeing the
design. The servants would let us into his room, I dare say.'

'I don't care to ask. Let us walk through the wards, and then
homeward.'

They sauntered on smoking, Dare leading the way through the
gate-house into a corridor which was not inclosed, a lamp
hanging at the further end.

'We are getting into the inhabited part, I think,' said
Havill.

Dare, however, had gone on, and knowing the tortuous passages
from his few days' experience in measuring them with Somerset,
he came to the butler's pantry. Dare knocked, and nobody
answering he entered, took down a key which hung behind the
door, and rejoined Havill. 'It is all right,' he said. 'The
cat's away; and the mice are at play in consequence.'

Proceeding up a stone staircase he unlocked the door of a room
in the dark, struck a light inside, and returning to the door
called in a whisper to Havill, who had remained behind. 'This
is Mr. Somerset's studio,' he said.

'How did you get permission?' inquired Havill, not knowing
that Dare had seen no one.

'Anyhow,' said Dare carelessly. 'We can examine the plans at
leisure; for if the placid Mrs. Goodman, who is the only one
at home, sees the light, she will only think it is Somerset
still at work.'

Dare uncovered the drawings, and young Somerset's brain-work
for the last six weeks lay under their eyes. To Dare, who was
too cursory to trouble himself by entering into such details,
it had very little meaning; but the design shone into Havill's
head like a light into a dark place. It was original; and it
was fascinating. Its originality lay partly in the
circumstance that Somerset had not attempted to adapt an old
building to the wants of the new civilization. He had placed
his new erection beside it as a slightly attached structure,
harmonizing with the old; heightening and beautifying, rather
than subduing it. His work formed a palace, with a ruinous
castle annexed as a curiosity. To Havill the conception had
more charm than it could have to the most appreciative
outsider; for when a mediocre and jealous mind that has been
cudgelling itself over a problem capable of many solutions,
lights on the solution of a rival, all possibilities in that
kind seem to merge in the one beheld.

Dare was struck by the arrested expression of the architect's
face. 'Is it rather good?' he asked.

'Yes, rather,' said Havill, subduing himself.

'More than rather?'

'Yes, the clever devil!' exclaimed Havill, unable to
depreciate longer.

'How?'

'The riddle that has worried me three weeks he has solved in a
way which is simplicity itself. He has got it, and I am
undone!'

'Nonsense, don't give way. Let's make a tracing.'

'The ground-plan will be sufficient,' said Havill, his courage
reviving. 'The idea is so simple, that if once seen it is not
easily forgotten.'

A rough tracing of Somerset's design was quickly made, and
blowing out the candle with a wave of his hand, the younger
gentleman locked the door, and they went downstairs again.

'I should never have thought of it,' said Havill, as they
walked homeward.

'One man has need of another every ten years: Ogni dieci anni
un uomo ha bisogno dell' altro, as they say in Italy. You'll
help me for this turn if I have need of you?'

'I shall never have the power.'

'O yes, you will. A man who can contrive to get admitted to a
competition by writing a letter abusing another man, has any
amount of power. The stroke was a good one.'

Havill was silent till he said, 'I think these gusts mean that
we are to have a storm of rain.'

Dare looked up. The sky was overcast, the trees shivered, and
a drop or two began to strike into the walkers' coats from the
east. They were not far from the inn at Sleeping-Green, where
Dare had lodgings, occupying the rooms which had been used by
Somerset till he gave them up for more commodious chambers at
Markton; and they decided to turn in there till the rain
should be over.

Having possessed himself of Somerset's brains Havill was
inclined to be jovial, and ordered the best in wines that the
house afforded. Before starting from home they had drunk as
much as was good for them; so that their potations here soon
began to have a marked effect upon their tongues. The rain
beat upon the windows with a dull dogged pertinacity which
seemed to signify boundless reserves of the same and long
continuance. The wind rose, the sign creaked, and the candles
waved. The weather had, in truth, broken up for the season,
and this was the first night of the change.

'Well, here we are,' said Havill, as he poured out another
glass of the brandied liquor called old port at Sleeping-
Green; 'and it seems that here we are to remain for the
present.'

'I am at home anywhere!' cried the lad, whose brow was hot and
eye wild.

Havill, who had not drunk enough to affect his reasoning, held
up his glass to the light and said, 'I never can quite make
out what you are, or what your age is. Are you sixteen, one-
and-twenty, or twenty-seven? And are you an Englishman,
Frenchman, Indian, American, or what? You seem not to have
taken your degrees in these parts.'

'That's a secret, my friend,' said Dare. 'I am a citizen of
the world. I owe no country patriotism, and no king or queen
obedience. A man whose country has no boundary is your only
true gentleman.'

'Well, where were you born--somewhere, I suppose?'

'It would be a fact worth the telling. The secret of my birth
lies here.' And Dare slapped his breast with his right hand.

'Literally, just under your shirt-front; or figuratively, in
your heart?' asked Havill.

'Literally there. It is necessary that it should be recorded,
for one's own memory is a treacherous book of reference,
should verification be required at a time of delirium,
disease, or death.'

Havill asked no further what he meant, and went to the door.
Finding that the rain still continued he returned to Dare, who
was by this time sinking down in a one-sided attitude, as if
hung up by the shoulder. Informing his companion that he was
but little inclined to move far in such a tempestuous night,
he decided to remain in the inn till next morning. On calling
in the landlord, however, they learnt that the house was full
of farmers on their way home from a large sheep-fair in the
neighbourhood, and that several of these, having decided to
stay on account of the same tempestuous weather, had already
engaged the spare beds. If Mr. Dare would give up his room,
and share a double-bedded room with Mr. Havill, the thing
could be done, but not otherwise.

To this the two companions agreed, and presently went upstairs
with as gentlemanly a walk and vertical a candle as they could
exhibit under the circumstances.

The other inmates of the inn soon retired to rest, and the
storm raged on unheeded by all local humanity.


Thomas Hardy