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Chapter 1

DE STANCY.

Captain De Stancy was a changed man. A hitherto well-
repressed energy was giving him motion towards long-shunned
consequences. His features were, indeed, the same as before;
though, had a physiognomist chosen to study them with the
closeness of an astronomer scanning the universe, he would
doubtless have discerned abundant novelty.

In recent years De Stancy had been an easy, melancholy,
unaspiring officer, enervated and depressed by a parental
affection quite beyond his control for the graceless lad Dare-
-the obtrusive memento of a shadowy period in De Stancy's
youth, who threatened to be the curse of his old age.
Throughout a long space he had persevered in his system of
rigidly incarcerating within himself all instincts towards the
opposite sex, with a resolution that would not have disgraced
a much stronger man. By this habit, maintained with fair
success, a chamber of his nature had been preserved intact
during many later years, like the one solitary sealed-up cell
occasionally retained by bees in a lobe of drained honey-comb.
And thus, though he had irretrievably exhausted the relish of
society, of ambition, of action, and of his profession, the
love-force that he had kept immured alive was still a
reproducible thing.

The sight of Paula in her graceful performance, which the
judicious Dare had so carefully planned, led up to and
heightened by subtle accessories, operated on De Stancy's
surprised soul with a promptness almost magical.

On the evening of the self-same day, having dined as usual, he
retired to his rooms, where he found a hamper of wine awaiting
him. It had been anonymously sent, and the account was paid.
He smiled grimly, but no longer with heaviness. In this he
instantly recognized the handiwork of Dare, who, having at
last broken down the barrier which De Stancy had erected round
his heart for so many years, acted like a skilled strategist,
and took swift measures to follow up the advantage so tardily
gained.

Captain De Stancy knew himself conquered: he knew he should
yield to Paula--had indeed yielded; but there was now, in his
solitude, an hour or two of reaction. He did not drink from
the bottles sent. He went early to bed, and lay tossing
thereon till far into the night, thinking over the collapse.
His teetotalism had, with the lapse of years, unconsciously
become the outward and visible sign to himself of his secret
vows; and a return to its opposite, however mildly done,
signified with ceremonious distinctness the formal acceptance
of delectations long forsworn.

But the exceeding freshness of his feeling for Paula, which by
reason of its long arrest was that of a man far under thirty,
and was a wonder to himself every instant, would not long
brook weighing in balances. He wished suddenly to commit
himself; to remove the question of retreat out of the region
of debate. The clock struck two: and the wish became
determination. He arose, and wrapping himself in his
dressing-gown went to the next room, where he took from a
shelf in the pantry several large bottles, which he carried to
the window, till they stood on the sill a goodly row. There
had been sufficient light in the room for him to do this
without a candle. Now he softly opened the sash, and the
radiance of a gibbous moon riding in the opposite sky flooded
the apartment. It fell on the labels of the captain's
bottles, revealing their contents to be simple aerated waters
for drinking.

De Stancy looked out and listened. The guns that stood drawn
up within the yard glistened in the moonlight reaching them
from over the barrack-wall: there was an occasional stamp of
horses in the stables; also a measured tread of sentinels--one
or more at the gates, one at the hospital, one between the
wings, two at the magazine, and others further off. Recurring
to his intention he drew the corks of the mineral waters, and
inverting each bottle one by one over the window-sill, heard
its contents dribble in a small stream on to the gravel below.

He then opened the hamper which Dare had sent. Uncorking one
of the bottles he murmured, 'To Paula!' and drank a glass of
the ruby liquor.

'A man again after eighteen years,' he said, shutting the sash
and returning to his bedroom.

The first overt result of his kindled interest in Miss Power
was his saying to his sister the day after the surreptitious
sight of Paula: 'I am sorry, Charlotte, for a word or two I
said the other day.'

'Well?'

'I was rather disrespectful to your friend Miss Power.'

'I don't think so--were you?'

'Yes. When we were walking in the wood, I made a stupid joke
about her. . . . What does she know about me--do you ever
speak of me to her?'

'Only in general terms.'

'What general terms?'

'You know well enough, William; of your idiosyncrasies and so
on--that you are a bit of a woman-hater, or at least a
confirmed bachelor, and have but little respect for your own
family.'

'I wish you had not told her that,' said De Stancy with
dissatisfaction.

'But I thought you always liked women to know your
principles!' said Charlotte, in injured tones; 'and would
particularly like her to know them, living so near.'

'Yes, yes,' replied her brother hastily. 'Well, I ought to
see her, just to show her that I am not quite a brute.'

'That would be very nice!' she answered, putting her hands
together in agreeable astonishment. 'It is just what I have
wished, though I did not dream of suggesting it after what I
have heard you say. I am going to stay with her again to-
morrow, and I will let her know about this.'

'Don't tell her anything plainly, for heaven's sake. I really
want to see the interior of the castle; I have never entered
its walls since my babyhood.' He raised his eyes as he spoke
to where the walls in question showed their ashlar faces over
the trees.

'You might have gone over it at any time.'

'O yes. It is only recently that I have thought much of the
place: I feel now that I should like to examine the old
building thoroughly, since it was for so many generations
associated with our fortunes, especially as most of the old
furniture is still there. My sedulous avoidance hitherto of
all relating to our family vicissitudes has been, I own,
stupid conduct for an intelligent being; but impossible grapes
are always sour, and I have unconsciously adopted Radical
notions to obliterate disappointed hereditary instincts. But
these have a trick of re-establishing themselves as one gets
older, and the castle and what it contains have a keen
interest for me now.'

'It contains Paula.'

De Stancy's pulse, which had been beating languidly for many
years, beat double at the sound of that name.

'I meant furniture and pictures for the moment,' he said; 'but
I don't mind extending the meaning to her, if you wish it.'

'She is the rarest thing there.'

'So you have said before.'

'The castle and our family history have as much romantic
interest for her as they have for you,' Charlotte went on.
'She delights in visiting our tombs and effigies and ponders
over them for hours.'

'Indeed!' said De Stancy, allowing his surprise to hide the
satisfaction which accompanied it. 'That should make us
friendly. . . . Does she see many people?'

'Not many as yet. And she cannot have many staying there
during the alterations.'

'Ah! yes--the alterations. Didn't you say that she has had a
London architect stopping there on that account? What was he-
-old or young?'

'He is a young man: he has been to our house. Don't you
remember you met him there?'

'What was his name?'

'Mr. Somerset.'

'O, that man! Yes, yes, I remember. . . . Hullo, Lottie!'

'What?'

'Your face is as red as a peony. Now I know a secret!'
Charlotte vainly endeavoured to hide her confusion. 'Very
well--not a word! I won't say more,' continued De Stancy
good-humouredly, 'except that he seems to be a very nice
fellow.'

De Stancy had turned the dialogue on to this little well-
preserved secret of his sister's with sufficient outward
lightness; but it had been done in instinctive concealment of
the disquieting start with which he had recognized that
Somerset, Dare's enemy, whom he had intercepted in placing
Dare's portrait into the hands of the chief constable, was a
man beloved by his sister Charlotte. This novel circumstance
might lead to a curious complication. But he was to hear
more.

'He may be very nice,' replied Charlotte, with an effort,
after this silence. 'But he is nothing to me, more than a
very good friend.'

'There's no engagement, or thought of one between you?'

'Certainly there's not!' said Charlotte, with brave emphasis.
'It is more likely to be between Paula and him than me and
him.'

De Stancy's bare military ears and closely cropped poll
flushed hot. 'Miss Power and him?'

'I don't mean to say there is, because Paula denies it; but I
mean that he loves Paula. That I do know.'

De Stancy was dumb. This item of news which Dare had kept
from him, not knowing how far De Stancy's sense of honour
might extend, was decidedly grave. Indeed, he was so greatly
impressed with the fact, that he could not help saying as much
aloud: 'This is very serious!'

'Why!' she murmured tremblingly, for the first leaking out of
her tender and sworn secret had disabled her quite.

'Because I love Paula too.'

'What do you say, William, you?--a woman you have never seen?'

'I have seen her--by accident. And now, my dear little sis,
you will be my close ally, won't you? as I will be yours, as
brother and sister should be.' He placed his arm coaxingly
round Charlotte's shoulder.

'O, William, how can I?' at last she stammered.

'Why, how can't you, I should say? We are both in the same
ship. I love Paula, you love Mr. Somerset; it behoves both of
us to see that this flirtation of theirs ends in nothing.'

'I don't like you to put it like that--that I love him--it
frightens me,' murmured the girl, visibly agitated. 'I don't
want to divide him from Paula; I couldn't, I wouldn't do
anything to separate them. Believe me, Will, I could not! I
am sorry you love there also, though I should be glad if it
happened in the natural order of events that she should come
round to you. But I cannot do anything to part them and make
Mr. Somerset suffer. It would be TOO wrong and blamable.'

'Now, you silly Charlotte, that's just how you women fly off
at a tangent. I mean nothing dishonourable in the least.
Have I ever prompted you to do anything dishonourable? Fair
fighting allies was all I thought of.'

Miss De Stancy breathed more freely. 'Yes, we will be that,
of course; we are always that, William. But I hope I can be
your ally, and be quite neutral; I would so much rather.'

'Well, I suppose it will not be a breach of your precious
neutrality if you get me invited to see the castle?'

'O no!' she said brightly; 'I don't mind doing such a thing as
that. Why not come with me tomorrow? I will say I am going
to bring you. There will be no trouble at all.'

De Stancy readily agreed. The effect upon him of the
information now acquired was to intensify his ardour tenfold,
the stimulus being due to a perception that Somerset, with a
little more knowledge, would hold a card which could be played
with disastrous effect against himself--his relationship to
Dare. Its disclosure to a lady of such Puritan antecedents as
Paula's, would probably mean her immediate severance from
himself as an unclean thing.

'Is Miss Power a severe pietist, or precisian; or is she a
compromising lady?' he asked abruptly.

'She is severe and uncompromising--if you mean in her
judgments on morals,' said Charlotte, not quite hearing. The
remark was peculiarly apposite, and De Stancy was silent.

He spent some following hours in a close study of the castle
history, which till now had unutterably bored him. More
particularly did he dwell over documents and notes which
referred to the pedigree of his own family. He wrote out the
names of all--and they were many--who had been born within
those domineering walls since their first erection; of those
among them who had been brought thither by marriage with the
owner, and of stranger knights and gentlemen who had entered
the castle by marriage with its mistress. He refreshed his
memory on the strange loves and hates that had arisen in the
course of the family history; on memorable attacks, and the
dates of the same, the most memorable among them being the
occasion on which the party represented by Paula battered down
the castle walls that she was now about to mend, and, as he
hoped, return in their original intact shape to the family
dispossessed, by marriage with himself, its living
representative.

In Sir William's villa were small engravings after many of the
portraits in the castle galleries, some of them hanging in the
dining-room in plain oak and maple frames, and others
preserved in portfolios. De Stancy spent much of his time
over these, and in getting up the romances of their originals'
lives from memoirs and other records, all which stories were
as great novelties to him as they could possibly be to any
stranger. Most interesting to him was the life of an Edward
De Stancy, who had lived just before the Civil Wars, and to
whom Captain De Stancy bore a very traceable likeness. This
ancestor had a mole on his cheek, black and distinct as a fly
in cream; and as in the case of the first Lord Amherst's wart,
and Bennet Earl of Arlington's nose-scar, the painter had
faithfully reproduced the defect on canvas. It so happened
that the captain had a mole, though not exactly on the same
spot of his face; and this made the resemblance still greater.

He took infinite trouble with his dress that day, showing an
amount of anxiety on the matter which for him was quite
abnormal. At last, when fully equipped, he set out with his
sister to make the call proposed. Charlotte was rather
unhappy at sight of her brother's earnest attempt to make an
impression on Paula; but she could say nothing against it, and
they proceeded on their way.

It was the darkest of November weather, when the days are so
short that morning seems to join with evening without the
intervention of noon. The sky was lined with low cloud,
within whose dense substance tempests were slowly fermenting
for the coming days. Even now a windy turbulence troubled the
half-naked boughs, and a lonely leaf would occasionally spin
downwards to rejoin on the grass the scathed multitude of its
comrades which had preceded it in its fall. The river by the
pavilion, in the summer so clear and purling, now slid onwards
brown and thick and silent, and enlarged to double size.

Thomas Hardy