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

Meanwhile Paula was alone. Of anyone else it would have been
said that she must be finding the afternoon rather dreary in
the quaint halls not of her forefathers: but of Miss Power it
was unsafe to predicate so surely. She walked from room to
room in a black velvet dress which gave decision to her
outline without depriving it of softness. She occasionally
clasped her hands behind her head and looked out of a window;
but she more particularly bent her footsteps up and down the
Long Gallery, where she had caused a large fire of logs to be
kindled, in her endeavour to extend cheerfulness somewhat
beyond the precincts of the sitting-rooms.

The fire glanced up on Paula, and Paula glanced down at the
fire, and at the gnarled beech fuel, and at the wood-lice
which ran out from beneath the bark to the extremity of the
logs as the heat approached them. The low-down ruddy light
spread over the dark floor like the setting sun over a moor,
fluttering on the grotesque countenances of the bright
andirons, and touching all the furniture on the underside.

She now and then crossed to one of the deep embrasures of the
windows, to decipher some sentence from a letter she held in
her hand. The daylight would have been more than sufficient
for any bystander to discern that the capitals in that letter
were of the peculiar semi-gothic type affected at the time by
Somerset and other young architects of his school in their
epistolary correspondence. She was very possibly thinking of
him, even when not reading his letter, for the expression of
softness with which she perused the page was more or less with
her when she appeared to examine other things.

She walked about for a little time longer, then put away the
letter, looked at the clock, and thence returned to the
windows, straining her eyes over the landscape without, as she
murmured, 'I wish Charlotte was not so long coming!'

As Charlotte continued to keep away, Paula became less
reasonable in her desires, and proceeded to wish that Somerset
would arrive; then that anybody would come; then, walking
towards the portraits on the wall, she flippantly asked one of
those cavaliers to oblige her fancy for company by stepping
down from his frame. The temerity of the request led her to
prudently withdraw it almost as soon as conceived: old
paintings had been said to play queer tricks in extreme cases,
and the shadows this afternoon were funereal enough for
anything in the shape of revenge on an intruder who embodied
the antagonistic modern spirit to such an extent as she.
However, Paula still stood before the picture which had
attracted her; and this, by a coincidence common enough in
fact, though scarcely credited in chronicles, happened to be
that one of the seventeenth-century portraits of which De
Stancy had studied the engraved copy at Myrtle Villa the same
morning.

Whilst she remained before the picture, wondering her
favourite wonder, how would she feel if this and its
accompanying canvases were pictures of her own ancestors, she
was surprised by a light footstep upon the carpet which
covered part of the room, and turning quickly she beheld the
smiling little figure of Charlotte De Stancy.

'What has made you so late?' said Paula. 'You are come to
stay, of course?'

Charlotte said she had come to stay. 'But I have brought
somebody with me!'

'Ah--whom?'

'My brother happened to be at home, and I have brought him.'

Miss De Stancy's brother had been so continuously absent from
home in India, or elsewhere, so little spoken of, and, when
spoken of, so truly though unconsciously represented as one
whose interests lay wholly outside this antiquated
neighbourhood, that to Paula he had been a mere nebulosity
whom she had never distinctly outlined. To have him thus
cohere into substance at a moment's notice lent him the
novelty of a new creation.

'Is he in the drawing-room?' said Paula in a low voice.

'No, he is here. He would follow me. I hope you will forgive
him.'

And then Paula saw emerge into the red beams of the dancing
fire, from behind a half-drawn hanging which screened the
door, the military gentleman whose acquaintance the reader has
already made.

'You know the house, doubtless, Captain De Stancy?' said
Paula, somewhat shyly, when he had been presented to her.

'I have never seen the inside since I was three weeks old,'
replied the artillery officer gracefully; 'and hence my
recollections of it are not remarkably distinct. A year or
two before I was born the entail was cut off by my father and
grandfather; so that I saw the venerable place only to lose
it; at least, I believe that's the truth of the case. But my
knowledge of the transaction is not profound, and it is a
delicate point on which to question one's father.'

Paula assented, and looked at the interesting and noble figure
of the man whose parents had seemingly righted themselves at
the expense of wronging him.

'The pictures and furniture were sold about the same time, I
think?' said Charlotte.

'Yes,' murmured De Stancy. 'They went in a mad bargain of my
father with his visitor, as they sat over their wine. My
father sat down as host on that occasion, and arose as guest.'

He seemed to speak with such a courteous absence of regret for
the alienation, that Paula, who was always fearing that the
recollection would rise as a painful shadow between herself
and the De Stancys, felt reassured by his magnanimity.

De Stancy looked with interest round the gallery; seeing which
Paula said she would have lights brought in a moment.

'No, please not,' said De Stancy. 'The room and ourselves are
of so much more interesting a colour by this light!'

As they moved hither and thither, the various expressions of
De Stancy's face made themselves picturesquely visible in the
unsteady shine of the blaze. In a short time he had drawn
near to the painting of the ancestor whom he so greatly
resembled. When her quick eye noted the speck on the face,
indicative of inherited traits strongly pronounced, a new and
romantic feeling that the De Stancys had stretched out a
tentacle from their genealogical tree to seize her by the hand
and draw her in to their mass took possession of Paula. As
has been said, the De Stancys were a family on whom the hall-
mark of membership was deeply stamped, and by the present
light the representative under the portrait and the
representative in the portrait seemed beings not far removed.
Paula was continually starting from a reverie and speaking
irrelevantly, as if such reflections as those seized hold of
her in spite of her natural unconcern.

When candles were brought in Captain De Stancy ardently
contrived to make the pictures the theme of conversation.
From the nearest they went to the next, whereupon Paula as
hostess took up one of the candlesticks and held it aloft to
light up the painting. The candlestick being tall and heavy,
De Stancy relieved her of it, and taking another candle in the
other hand, he imperceptibly slid into the position of
exhibitor rather than spectator. Thus he walked in advance
holding the two candles on high, his shadow forming a gigantic
figure on the neighbouring wall, while he recited the
particulars of family history pertaining to each portrait,
that he had learnt up with such eager persistence during the
previous four-and-twenty-hours. 'I have often wondered what
could have been the history of this lady, but nobody has ever
been able to tell me,' Paula observed, pointing to a Vandyck
which represented a beautiful woman wearing curls across her
forehead, a square-cut bodice, and a heavy pearl necklace upon
the smooth expanse of her neck.

'I don't think anybody knows,' Charlotte said.

'O yes,' replied her brother promptly, seeing with enthusiasm
that it was yet another opportunity for making capital of his
acquired knowledge, with which he felt himself as
inconveniently crammed as a candidate for a government
examination. 'That lady has been largely celebrated under a
fancy name, though she is comparatively little known by her
own. Her parents were the chief ornaments of the almost
irreproachable court of Charles the First, and were not more
distinguished by their politeness and honour than by the
affections and virtues which constitute the great charm of
private life.'

The stock verbiage of the family memoir was somewhat apparent
in this effusion; but it much impressed his listeners; and he
went on to point out that from the lady's necklace was
suspended a heart-shaped portrait--that of the man who broke
his heart by her persistent refusal to encourage his suit. De
Stancy then led them a little further, where hung a portrait
of the lover, one of his own family, who appeared in full
panoply of plate mail, the pommel of his sword standing up
under his elbow. The gallant captain then related how this
personage of his line wooed the lady fruitlessly; how, after
her marriage with another, she and her husband visited the
parents of the disappointed lover, the then occupiers of the
castle; how, in a fit of desperation at the sight of her, he
retired to his room, where he composed some passionate verses,
which he wrote with his blood, and after directing them to her
ran himself through the body with his sword. Too late the
lady's heart was touched by his devotion; she was ever after a
melancholy woman, and wore his portrait despite her husband's
prohibition. 'This,' continued De Stancy, leading them
through the doorway into the hall where the coats of mail were
arranged along the wall, and stopping opposite a suit which
bore some resemblance to that of the portrait, 'this is his
armour, as you will perceive by comparing it with the picture,
and this is the sword with which he did the rash deed.'

'What unreasonable devotion!' said Paula practically. 'It was
too romantic of him. She was not worthy of such a sacrifice.'

'He also is one whom they say you resemble a little in
feature, I think,' said Charlotte.

'Do they?' replied De Stancy. 'I wonder if it's true.' He
set down the candles, and asking the girls to withdraw for a
moment, was inside the upper part of the suit of armour in
incredibly quick time. Going then and placing himself in
front of a low-hanging painting near the original, so as to be
enclosed by the frame while covering the figure, arranging the
sword as in the one above, and setting the light that it might
fall in the right direction, he recalled them; when he put the
question, 'Is the resemblance strong?'

He looked so much like a man of bygone times that neither of
them replied, but remained curiously gazing at him. His
modern and comparatively sallow complexion, as seen through
the open visor, lent an ethereal ideality to his appearance
which the time-stained countenance of the original warrior
totally lacked.

At last Paula spoke, so stilly that she seemed a statue
enunciating: 'Are the verses known that he wrote with his
blood?'

'O yes, they have been carefully preserved.' Captain De
Stancy, with true wooer's instinct, had committed some of them
to memory that morning from the printed copy to be found in
every well-ordered library. 'I fear I don't remember them
all,' he said, 'but they begin in this way:--


"From one that dyeth in his discontent,
Dear Faire, receive this greeting to thee sent;
And still as oft as it is read by thee,
Then with some deep sad sigh remember mee!

O 'twas my fortune's error to vow dutie,
To one that bears defiance in her beautie!
Sweete poyson, pretious wooe, infectious jewell--
Such is a Ladie that is faire and cruell.

How well could I with ayre, camelion-like,
Live happie, and still gazeing on thy cheeke,
In which, forsaken man, methink I see
How goodlie love doth threaten cares to mee.

Why dost thou frowne thus on a kneelinge soule,
Whose faults in love thou may'st as well controule?--
In love--but O, that word; that word I feare
Is hateful still both to thy hart and eare!

. . . . .

Ladie, in breefe, my fate doth now intend
The period of my daies to have an end:
Waste not on me thy pittie, pretious Faire:
Rest you in much content; I, in despaire!"'


A solemn silence followed the close of the recital, which De
Stancy improved by turning the point of the sword to his
breast, resting the pommel upon the floor, and saying:--

'After writing that we may picture him turning this same sword
in this same way, and falling on it thus.' He inclined his
body forward as he spoke.

'Don't, Captain De Stancy, please don't!' cried Paula
involuntarily.

'No, don't show us any further, William!' said his sister.
'It is too tragic.'

De Stancy put away the sword, himself rather excited--not,
however, by his own recital, but by the direct gaze of Paula
at him.

This Protean quality of De Stancy's, by means of which he
could assume the shape and situation of almost any ancestor at
will, had impressed her, and he perceived it with a throb of
fervour. But it had done no more than impress her; for though
in delivering the lines he had so fixed his look upon her as
to suggest, to any maiden practised in the game of the eyes, a
present significance in the words, the idea of any such
arriere-pensee had by no means commended itself to her soul.

At this time a messenger from Markton barracks arrived at the
castle and wished to speak to Captain De Stancy in the hall.
Begging the two ladies to excuse him for a moment, he went
out.

While De Stancy was talking in the twilight to the messenger
at one end of the apartment, some other arrival was shown in
by the side door, and in making his way after the conference
across the hall to the room he had previously quitted, De
Stancy encountered the new-comer. There was just enough light
to reveal the countenance to be Dare's; he bore a portfolio
under his arm, and had begun to wear a moustache, in case the
chief constable should meet him anywhere in his rambles, and
be struck by his resemblance to the man in the studio.

'What the devil are you doing here?' said Captain De Stancy,
in tones he had never used before to the young man.

Dare started back in surprise, and naturally so. De Stancy,
having adopted a new system of living, and relinquished the
meagre diet and enervating waters of his past years, was
rapidly recovering tone. His voice was firmer, his cheeks
were less pallid; and above all he was authoritative towards
his present companion, whose ingenuity in vamping up a being
for his ambitious experiments seemed about to be rewarded,
like Frankenstein's, by his discomfiture at the hands of his
own creature.

'What the devil are you doing here, I say?' repeated De
Stancy.

'You can talk to me like that, after my working so hard to get
you on in life, and make a rising man of you!' expostulated
Dare, as one who felt himself no longer the leader in this
enterprise.

'But,' said the captain less harshly, 'if you let them
discover any relations between us here, you will ruin the
fairest prospects man ever had!'

'O, I like that, captain--when you owe all of it to me!'

'That's too cool, Will.'

'No; what I say is true. However, let that go. So now you
are here on a call; but how are you going to get here often
enough to win her before the other man comes back? If you
don't see her every day--twice, three times a day--you will
not capture her in the time.'

'I must think of that,' said De Stancy.

'There is only one way of being constantly here: you must
come to copy the pictures or furniture, something in the way
he did.'

'I'll think of it,' muttered De Stancy hastily, as he heard
the voices of the ladies, whom he hastened to join as they
were appearing at the other end of the room. His countenance
was gloomy as he recrossed the hall, for Dare's words on the
shortness of his opportunities had impressed him. Almost at
once he uttered a hope to Paula that he might have further
chance of studying, and if possible of copying, some of the
ancestral faces with which the building abounded.

Meanwhile Dare had come forward with his portfolio, which
proved to be full of photographs. While Paula and Charlotte
were examining them he said to De Stancy, as a stranger:
'Excuse my interruption, sir, but if you should think of
copying any of the portraits, as you were stating just now to
the ladies, my patent photographic process is at your service,
and is, I believe, the only one which would be effectual in
the dim indoor lights.'

'It is just what I was thinking of,' said De Stancy, now so
far cooled down from his irritation as to be quite ready to
accept Dare's adroitly suggested scheme.

On application to Paula she immediately gave De Stancy
permission to photograph to any extent, and told Dare he might
bring his instruments as soon as Captain De Stancy required
them.

'Don't stare at her in such a brazen way!' whispered the
latter to the young man, when Paula had withdrawn a few steps.
'Say, "I shall highly value the privilege of assisting Captain
De Stancy in such a work."'

Dare obeyed, and before leaving De Stancy arranged to begin
performing on his venerated forefathers the next morning, the
youth so accidentally engaged agreeing to be there at the same
time to assist in the technical operations.


Thomas Hardy