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Chapter 4

To return for a while to George Somerset. The sun of his
later existence having vanished from that young man's horizon,
he confined himself closely to the studio, superintending the
exertions of his draughtsmen Bowles, Knowles, and Cockton, who
were now in the full swing of working out Somerset's creations
from the sketches he had previously prepared.

He had so far got the start of Havill in the competition that,
by the help of these three gentlemen, his design was soon
finished. But he gained no unfair advantage on this account,
an additional month being allowed to Havill to compensate for
his later information.

Before scaling up his drawings Somerset wished to spend a
short time in London, and dismissing his assistants till
further notice, he locked up the rooms which had been
appropriated as office and studio and prepared for the
journey.

It was afternoon. Somerset walked from the castle in the
direction of the wood to reach Markton by a detour. He had
not proceeded far when there approached his path a man riding
a bay horse with a square-cut tail. The equestrian wore a
grizzled beard, and looked at Somerset with a piercing eye as
he noiselessly ambled nearer over the soft sod of the park.
He proved to be Mr. Cunningham Haze, chief constable of the
district, who had become slightly known to Somerset during his
sojourn here.

'One word, Mr. Somerset,' said the Chief, after they had
exchanged nods of recognition, reining his horse as he spoke.

Somerset stopped.

'You have a studio at the castle in which you are preparing
drawings?'

'I have.'

'Have you a clerk?'

'I had three till yesterday, when I paid them off.'

'Would they have any right to enter the studio late at night?'

'There would have been nothing wrong in their doing so.
Either of them might have gone back at any time for something
forgotten. They lived quite near the castle.'

'Ah, then all is explained. I was riding past over the grass
on the night of last Thursday, and I saw two persons in your
studio with a light. It must have been about half-past nine
o'clock. One of them came forward and pulled down the blind
so that the light fell upon his face. But I only saw it for a
short time.'

'If it were Knowles or Cockton he would have had a beard.'

'He had no beard.'

'Then it must have been Bowles. A young man?'

'Quite young. His companion in the background seemed older.'

'They are all about the same age really. By the way--it
couldn't have been Dare--and Havill, surely! Would you
recognize them again?'

'The young one possibly. The other not at all, for he
remained in the shade.'

Somerset endeavoured to discern in a description by the chief
constable the features of Mr. Bowles: but it seemed to
approximate more closely to Dare in spite of himself. 'I'll
make a sketch of the only one who had no business there, and
show it to you,' he presently said. 'I should like this
cleared up.'

Mr. Cunningham Haze said he was going to Toneborough that
afternoon, but would return in the evening before Somerset's
departure. With this they parted. A possible motive for
Dare's presence in the rooms had instantly presented itself to
Somerset's mind, for he had seen Dare enter Havill's office
more than once, as if he were at work there.

He accordingly sat on the next stile, and taking out his
pocket-book began a pencil sketch of Dare's head, to show to
Mr. Haze in the evening; for if Dare had indeed found
admission with Havill, or as his agent, the design was lost.

But he could not make a drawing that was a satisfactory
likeness. Then he luckily remembered that Dare, in the
intense warmth of admiration he had affected for Somerset on
the first day or two of their acquaintance, had begged for his
photograph, and in return for it had left one of himself on
the mantelpiece, taken as he said by his own process.
Somerset resolved to show this production to Mr. Haze, as
being more to the purpose than a sketch, and instead of
finishing the latter, proceeded on his way.

He entered the old overgrown drive which wound indirectly
through the wood to Markton. The road, having been laid out
for idling rather than for progress, bent sharply hither and
thither among the fissured trunks and layers of horny leaves
which lay there all the year round, interspersed with cushions
of vivid green moss that formed oases in the rust-red expanse.

Reaching a point where the road made one of its bends between
two large beeches, a man and woman revealed themselves at a
few yards' distance, walking slowly towards him. In the short
and quaint lady he recognized Charlotte De Stancy, whom he
remembered not to have seen for several days.

She slightly blushed and said, 'O, this is pleasant, Mr.
Somerset! Let me present my brother to you, Captain De Stancy
of the Royal Horse Artillery.'

Her brother came forward and shook hands heartily with
Somerset; and they all three rambled on together, talking of
the season, the place, the fishing, the shooting, and whatever
else came uppermost in their minds.

Captain De Stancy was a personage who would have been called
interesting by women well out of their teens. He was ripe,
without having declined a digit towards fogeyism. He was
sufficiently old and experienced to suggest a goodly
accumulation of touching amourettes in the chambers of his
memory, and not too old for the possibility of increasing the
store. He was apparently about eight-and-thirty, less tall
than his father had been, but admirably made; and his every
movement exhibited a fine combination of strength and
flexibility of limb. His face was somewhat thin and
thoughtful, its complexion being naturally pale, though
darkened by exposure to a warmer sun than ours. His features
were somewhat striking; his moustache and hair raven black;
and his eyes, denied the attributes of military keenness by
reason of the largeness and darkness of their aspect, acquired
thereby a softness of expression that was in part womanly.
His mouth as far as it could be seen reproduced this
characteristic, which might have been called weakness, or
goodness, according to the mental attitude of the observer.
It was large but well formed, and showed an unimpaired line of
teeth within. His dress at present was a heather-coloured
rural suit, cut close to his figure.

'You knew my cousin, Jack Ravensbury?' he said to Somerset, as
they went on. 'Poor Jack: he was a good fellow.'

'He was a very good fellow.'

'He would have been made a parson if he had lived--it was his
great wish. I, as his senior, and a man of the world as I
thought myself, used to chaff him about it when he was a boy,
and tell him not to be a milksop, but to enter the army. But
I think Jack was right--the parsons have the best of it, I see
now.'

'They would hardly admit that,' said Somerset, laughing. 'Nor
can I.'

'Nor I,' said the captain's sister. 'See how lovely you all
looked with your big guns and uniform when you entered
Markton; and then see how stupid the parsons look by
comparison, when they flock into Markton at a Visitation.'

'Ah, yes,' said De Stancy,


'"Doubtless it is a brilliant masquerade;
But when of the first sight you've had your fill,
It palls--at least it does so upon me,
This paradise of pleasure and ennui."

When one is getting on for forty;

"When we have made our love, and gamed our gaming,
Dressed, voted, shone, and maybe, something more;
With dandies dined, heard senators declaiming;
Seen beauties brought to market by the score,"

and so on, there arises a strong desire for a quiet old-
fashioned country life, in which incessant movement is not a
necessary part of the programme.'

'But you are not forty, Will?' said Charlotte.

'My dear, I was thirty-nine last January.'

'Well, men about here are youths at that age. It was India
used you up so, when you served in the line, was it not? I
wish you had never gone there!'

'So do I,' said De Stancy drily. 'But I ought to grow a youth
again, like the rest, now I am in my native air.'

They came to a narrow brook, not wider than a man's stride,
and Miss De Stancy halted on the edge.

'Why, Lottie, you used to jump it easily enough,' said her
brother. 'But we won't make her do it now.' He took her in
his arms, and lifted her over, giving her a gratuitous ride
for some additional yards, and saying, 'You are not a pound
heavier, Lott, than you were at ten years old. . . . What do
you think of the country here, Mr. Somerset? Are you going to
stay long?'

'I think very well of it,' said Somerset. 'But I leave to-
morrow morning, which makes it necessary that I turn back in a
minute or two from walking with you.'

'That's a disappointment. I had hoped you were going to
finish out the autumn with shooting. There's some, very fair,
to be got here on reasonable terms, I've just heard.'

'But you need not hire any!' spoke up Charlotte. 'Paula would
let you shoot anything, I am sure. She has not been here long
enough to preserve much game, and the poachers had it all in
Mr. Wilkins' time. But what there is you might kill with
pleasure to her.'

'No, thank you,' said De Stancy grimly. 'I prefer to remain a
stranger to Miss Power--Miss Steam-Power, she ought to be
called--and to all her possessions.'

Charlotte was subdued, and did not insist further; while
Somerset, before he could feel himself able to decide on the
mood in which the gallant captain's joke at Paula's expense
should be taken, wondered whether it were a married man or a
bachelor who uttered it.

He had not been able to keep the question of De Stancy's
domestic state out of his head from the first moment of seeing
him. Assuming De Stancy to be a husband, he felt there might
be some excuse for his remark; if unmarried, Somerset liked
the satire still better; in such circumstances there was a
relief in the thought that Captain De Stancy's prejudices
might be infinitely stronger than those of his sister or
father.

'Going to-morrow, did you say, Mr. Somerset?' asked Miss De
Stancy. 'Then will you dine with us to-day? My father is
anxious that you should do so before you go. I am sorry there
will be only our own family present to meet you; but you can
leave as early as you wish.'

Her brother seconded the invitation, and Somerset promised,
though his leisure for that evening was short. He was in
truth somewhat inclined to like De Stancy; for though the
captain had said nothing of any value either on war, commerce,
science, or art, he had seemed attractive to the younger man.
Beyond the natural interest a soldier has for imaginative
minds in the civil walks of life, De Stancy's occasional
manifestations of taedium vitae were too poetically shaped to
be repellent. Gallantry combined in him with a sort of
ascetic self-repression in a way that was curious. He was a
dozen years older than Somerset: his life had been passed in
grooves remote from those of Somerset's own life; and the
latter decided that he would like to meet the artillery
officer again.

Bidding them a temporary farewell, he went away to Markton by
a shorter path than that pursued by the De Stancys, and after
spending the remainder of the afternoon preparing for
departure, he sallied forth just before the dinner-hour
towards the suburban villa.

He had become yet more curious whether a Mrs. De Stancy
existed; if there were one he would probably see her to-night.
He had an irrepressible hope that there might be such a lady.
On entering the drawing-room only the father, son, and
daughter were assembled. Somerset fell into talk with
Charlotte during the few minutes before dinner, and his
thought found its way out.

'There is no Mrs. De Stancy?' he said in an undertone.

'None,' she said; 'my brother is a bachelor.'

The dinner having been fixed at an early hour to suit
Somerset, they had returned to the drawing-room at eight
o'clock. About nine he was aiming to get away.

'You are not off yet?' said the captain.

'There would have been no hurry,' said Somerset, 'had I not
just remembered that I have left one thing undone which I want
to attend to before my departure. I want to see the chief
constable to-night.'

'Cunningham Haze?--he is the very man I too want to see. But
he went out of town this afternoon, and I hardly think you
will see him to-night. His return has been delayed.'

'Then the matter must wait.'

'I have left word at his house asking him to call here if he
gets home before half-past ten; but at any rate I shall see
him to-morrow morning. Can I do anything for you, since you
are leaving early?'

Somerset replied that the business was of no great importance,
and briefly explained the suspected intrusion into his studio;
that he had with him a photograph of the suspected young man.
'If it is a mistake,' added Somerset, 'I should regret putting
my draughtsman's portrait into the hands of the police, since
it might injure his character; indeed, it would be unfair to
him. So I wish to keep the likeness in my own hands, and
merely to show it to Mr. Haze. That's why I prefer not to
send it.'

'My matter with Haze is that the barrack furniture does not
correspond with the inventories. If you like, I'll ask your
question at the same time with pleasure.'

Thereupon Somerset gave Captain De Stancy an unfastened
envelope containing the portrait, asking him to destroy it if
the constable should declare it not to correspond with the
face that met his eye at the window. Soon after, Somerset
took his leave of the household.

He had not been absent ten minutes when other wheels were
heard on the gravel without, and the servant announced Mr.
Cunningham Haze, who had returned earlier than he had
expected, and had called as requested.

They went into the dining-room to discuss their business.
When the barrack matter had been arranged De Stancy said, 'I
have a little commission to execute for my friend Mr.
Somerset. I am to ask you if this portrait of the person he
suspects of unlawfully entering his room is like the man you
saw there?'

The speaker was seated on one side of the dining-table and Mr.
Haze on the other. As he spoke De Stancy pulled the envelope
from his pocket, and half drew out the photograph, which he
had not as yet looked at, to hand it over to the constable.
In the act his eye fell upon the portrait, with its uncertain
expression of age, assured look, and hair worn in a fringe
like a girl's.

Captain De Stancy's face became strained, and he leant back in
his chair, having previously had sufficient power over himself
to close the envelope and return it to his pocket.

'Good heavens, you are ill, Captain De Stancy?' said the chief
constable.

'It was only momentary,' said De Stancy; 'better in a minute--
a glass of water will put me right.'

Mr. Haze got him a glass of water from the sideboard.

'These spasms occasionally overtake me,' said De Stancy when
he had drunk. 'I am already better. What were we saying? O,
this affair of Mr. Somerset's. I find that this envelope is
not the right one.' He ostensibly searched his pocket again.
'I must have mislaid it,' he continued, rising. 'I'll be with
you again in a moment.'

De Stancy went into the room adjoining, opened an album of
portraits that lay on the table, and selected one of a young
man quite unknown to him, whose age was somewhat akin to
Dare's, but who in no other attribute resembled him.

De Stancy placed this picture in the original envelope, and
returned with it to the chief constable, saying he had found
it at last.

'Thank you, thank you,' said Cunningham Haze, looking it over.
'Ah--I perceive it is not what I expected to see. Mr.
Somerset was mistaken.'

When the chief constable had left the house, Captain De Stancy
shut the door and drew out the original photograph. As he
looked at the transcript of Dare's features he was moved by a
painful agitation, till recalling himself to the present, he
carefully put the portrait into the fire.

During the following days Captain De Stancy's manner on the
roads, in the streets, and at barracks, was that of Crusoe
after seeing the print of a man's foot on the sand.


Thomas Hardy