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Chapter 4

It was the Sunday following the funeral of Mrs. Havill, news
of whose death had been so unexpectedly brought to her husband
at the moment of his exit from Stancy Castle. The minister,
as was his custom, improved the occasion by a couple of
sermons on the uncertainty of life. One was preached in the
morning in the old chapel of Markton; the second at evening
service in the rural chapel near Stancy Castle, built by
Paula's father, which bore to the first somewhat the relation
of an episcopal chapel-of-ease to the mother church.

The unscreened lights blazed through the plate-glass windows
of the smaller building and outshone the steely stars of the
early night, just as they had done when Somerset was attracted
by their glare four months before. The fervid minister's
rhetoric equalled its force on that more romantic occasion:
but Paula was not there. She was not a frequent attendant now
at her father's votive building. The mysterious tank, whose
dark waters had so repelled her at the last moment, was
boarded over: a table stood on its centre, with an open
quarto Bible upon it, behind which Havill, in a new suit of
black, sat in a large chair. Havill held the office of
deacon: and he had mechanically taken the deacon's seat as
usual to-night, in the face of the congregation, and under the
nose of Mr. Woodwell.

Mr. Woodwell was always glad of an opportunity. He was gifted
with a burning natural eloquence, which, though perhaps a
little too freely employed in exciting the 'Wertherism of the
uncultivated,' had in it genuine power. He was a master of
that oratory which no limitation of knowledge can repress, and
which no training can impart. The neighbouring rector could
eclipse Woodwell's scholarship, and the freethinker at the
corner shop in Markton could demolish his logic; but the
Baptist could do in five minutes what neither of these had
done in a lifetime; he could move some of the hardest of men
to tears.

Thus it happened that, when the sermon was fairly under way,
Havill began to feel himself in a trying position. It was not
that he had bestowed much affection upon his deceased wife,
irreproachable woman as she had been; but the suddenness of
her death had shaken his nerves, and Mr. Woodwell's address on
the uncertainty of life involved considerations of conduct on
earth that bore with singular directness upon Havill's
unprincipled manoeuvre for victory in the castle competition.
He wished he had not been so inadvertent as to take his
customary chair in the chapel. People who saw Havill's
agitation did not know that it was most largely owing to his
sense of the fraud which had been practised on the unoffending
Somerset; and when, unable longer to endure the torture of
Woodwell's words, he rose from his place and went into the
chapel vestry, the preacher little thought that remorse for a
contemptibly unfair act, rather than grief for a dead wife,
was the cause of the architect's withdrawal.

When Havill got into the open air his morbid excitement calmed
down, but a sickening self-abhorrence for the proceeding
instigated by Dare did not abate. To appropriate another
man's design was no more nor less than to embezzle his money
or steal his goods. The intense reaction from his conduct of
the past two or three months did not leave him when he reached
his own house and observed where the handbills of the
countermanded sale had been torn down, as the result of the
payment made in advance by Paula of money which should really
have been Somerset's.

The mood went on intensifying when he was in bed. He lay
awake till the clock reached those still, small, ghastly hours
when the vital fires burn at their lowest in the human frame,
and death seizes more of his victims than in any other of the
twenty-four. Havill could bear it no longer; he got a light,
went down into his office and wrote the note subjoined.

'MADAM,--The recent death of my wife necessitates a
considerable change in my professional arrangements and plans
with regard to the future. One of the chief results of the
change is, I regret to state, that I no longer find myself in
a position to carry out the enlargement of the castle which
you had so generously entrusted to my hands.

'I beg leave therefore to resign all further connection with
the same, and to express, if you will allow me, a hope that
the commission may be placed in the hands of the other
competitor. Herewith is returned a cheque for one-half of the
sum so kindly advanced in anticipation of the commission I
should receive; the other half, with which I had cleared off
my immediate embarrassments before perceiving the necessity
for this course, shall be returned to you as soon as some
payments from other clients drop in.--I beg to remain, Madam,
your obedient servant, JAMES HAVILL.'

Havill would not trust himself till the morning to post this
letter. He sealed it up, went out with it into the street,
and walked through the sleeping town to the post-office. At
the mouth of the box he held the letter long. By dropping it,
he was dropping at least two thousand five hundred pounds
which, however obtained, were now securely his. It was a
great deal to let go; and there he stood till another wave of
conscience bore in upon his soul the absolute nature of the
theft, and made him shudder. The footsteps of a solitary
policeman could be heard nearing him along the deserted
street; hesitation ended, and he let the letter go.

When he awoke in the morning he thought over the circumstances
by the cheerful light of a low eastern sun. The horrors of
the situation seemed much less formidable; yet it cannot be
said that he actually regretted his act. Later on he walked
out, with the strange sense of being a man who, from one
having a large professional undertaking in hand, had, by his
own act, suddenly reduced himself to an unoccupied
nondescript. From the upper end of the town he saw in the
distance the grand grey towers of Stancy Castle looming over
the leafless trees; he felt stupefied at what he had done, and
said to himself with bitter discontent: 'Well, well, what is
more contemptible than a half-hearted rogue!'

That morning the post-bag had been brought to Paula and Mrs.
Goodman in the usual way, and Miss Power read the letter. His
resignation was a surprise; the question whether he would or
would not repay the money was passed over; the necessity of
installing Somerset after all as sole architect was an
agitation, or emotion, the precise nature of which it is
impossible to accurately define.

However, she went about the house after breakfast with very
much the manner of one who had had a weight removed either
from her heart or from her conscience; moreover, her face was
a little flushed when, in passing by Somerset's late studio,
she saw the plans bearing his motto, and knew that his and not
Havill's would be the presiding presence in the coming
architectural turmoil. She went on further, and called to
Charlotte, who was now regularly sleeping in the castle, to
accompany her, and together they ascended to the telegraph-
room in the donjon tower.

'Whom are you going to telegraph to?' said Miss De Stancy when
they stood by the instrument.

'My architect.'

'O--Mr. Havill.'

'Mr. Somerset.'

Miss De Stancy had schooled her emotions on that side cruelly
well, and she asked calmly, 'What, have you chosen him after
all?'

'There is no choice in it--read that,' said Paula, handing
Havill's letter, as if she felt that Providence had stepped in
to shape ends that she was too undecided or unpractised to
shape for herself.

'It is very strange,' murmured Charlotte; while Paula applied
herself to the machine and despatched the words:--


'Miss Power, Stancy Castle, to G. Somerset, Esq., F.S.A.,
F.R.I.B.A., Queen Anne's Chambers, St. James's.

'Your design is accepted in its entirety. It will be
necessary to begin soon. I shall wish to see and consult you
on the matter about the 10th instant.'


When the message was fairly gone out of the window Paula
seemed still further to expand. The strange spell cast over
her by something or other--probably the presence of De Stancy,
and the weird romanticism of his manner towards her, which was
as if the historic past had touched her with a yet living
hand--in a great measure became dissipated, leaving her the
arch and serene maiden that she had been before.

About this time Captain De Stancy and his Achates were
approaching the castle, and had arrived about fifty paces from
the spot at which it was Dare's custom to drop behind his
companion, in order that their appearance at the lodge should
be that of master and man.

Dare was saying, as he had said before: 'I can't help
fancying, captain, that your approach to this castle and its
mistress is by a very tedious system. Your trenches, zigzags,
counterscarps, and ravelins may be all very well, and a very
sure system of attack in the long run; but upon my soul they
are almost as slow in maturing as those of Uncle Toby himself.
For my part I should be inclined to try an assault.'

'Don't pretend to give advice, Willy, on matters beyond your
years.'

'I only meant it for your good, and your proper advancement in
the world,' said Dare in wounded tones.

'Different characters, different systems,' returned the
soldier. 'This lady is of a reticent, independent,
complicated disposition, and any sudden proceeding would put
her on her mettle. You don't dream what my impatience is, my
boy. It is a thing transcending your utmost conceptions! But
I proceed slowly; I know better than to do otherwise. Thank
God there is plenty of time. As long as there is no risk of
Somerset's return my situation is sure.'

'And professional etiquette will prevent him coming yet.
Havill and he will change like the men in a sentry-box; when
Havill walks out, he'll walk in, and not a moment before.'

'That will not be till eighteen months have passed. And as
the Jesuit said, "Time and I against any two." . . . Now drop
to the rear,' added Captain De Stancy authoritatively. And
they passed under the walls of the castle.

The grave fronts and bastions were wrapped in silence; so much
so, that, standing awhile in the inner ward, they could hear
through an open window a faintly clicking sound from within.

'She's at the telegraph,' said Dare, throwing forward his
voice softly to the captain. 'What can that be for so early?
That wire is a nuisance, to my mind; such constant intercourse
with the outer world is bad for our romance.'

The speaker entered to arrange his photographic apparatus, of
which, in truth, he was getting weary; and De Stancy smoked on
the terrace till Dare should be ready. While he waited his
sister looked out upon him from an upper casement, having
caught sight of him as she came from Paula in the telegraph-
room.

'Well, Lottie, what news this morning?' he said gaily.

'Nothing of importance. We are quite well.' . . . . She added
with hesitation, 'There is one piece of news; Mr. Havill--but
perhaps you have heard it in Markton?'

'Nothing.'

'Mr. Havill has resigned his appointment as architect to the
castle.'

'What?--who has it, then?'

'Mr. Somerset.'

'Appointed?'

'Yes--by telegraph.'

'When is he coming?' said De Stancy in consternation.

'About the tenth, we think.'

Charlotte was concerned to see her brother's face, and
withdrew from the window that he might not question her
further. De Stancy went into the hall, and on to the gallery,
where Dare was standing as still as a caryatid.

'I have heard every word,' said Dare.

'Well, what does it mean? Has that fool Havill done it on
purpose to annoy me? What conceivable reason can the man have
for throwing up an appointment he has worked so hard for, at
the moment he has got it, and in the time of his greatest
need?'

Dare guessed, for he had seen a little way into Havill's soul
during the brief period of their confederacy. But he was very
far from saying what he guessed. Yet he unconsciously
revealed by other words the nocturnal shades in his character
which had made that confederacy possible.

'Somerset coming after all!' he replied. 'By God! that little
six-barrelled friend of mine, and a good resolution, and he
would never arrive!'

'What!' said Captain De Stancy, paling with horror as he
gathered the other's sinister meaning.

Dare instantly recollected himself. 'One is tempted to say
anything at such a moment,' he replied hastily.

'Since he is to come, let him come, for me,' continued De
Stancy, with reactionary distinctness, and still gazing
gravely into the young man's face. 'The battle shall be
fairly fought out. Fair play, even to a rival--remember that,
boy. . . . Why are you here?--unnaturally concerning yourself
with the passions of a man of my age, as if you were the
parent, and I the son? Would to heaven, Willy, you had done
as I wished you to do, and led the life of a steady,
thoughtful young man! Instead of meddling here, you should
now have been in some studio, college, or professional man's
chambers, engaged in a useful pursuit which might have made
one proud to own you. But you were so precocious and
headstrong; and this is what you have come to: you promise to
be worthless!'

'I think I shall go to my lodgings to-day instead of staying
here over these pictures,' said Dare, after a silence during
which Captain De Stancy endeavoured to calm himself. 'I was
going to tell you that my dinner to-day will unfortunately be
one of herbs, for want of the needful. I have come to my last
stiver.--You dine at the mess, I suppose, captain?'

De Stancy had walked away; but Dare knew that he played a
pretty sure card in that speech. De Stancy's heart could not
withstand the suggested contrast between a lonely meal of
bread-and-cheese and a well-ordered dinner amid cheerful
companions. 'Here,' he said, emptying his pocket and
returning to the lad's side. 'Take this, and order yourself a
good meal. You keep me as poor as a crow. There shall be
more to-morrow.'

The peculiarly bifold nature of Captain De Stancy, as shown in
his conduct at different times, was something rare in life,
and perhaps happily so. That mechanical admixture of black
and white qualities without coalescence, on which the theory
of men's characters was based by moral analysis before the
rise of modern ethical schools, fictitious as it was in
general application, would have almost hit off the truth as
regards Captain De Stancy. Removed to some half-known
century, his deeds would have won a picturesqueness of light
and shade that might have made him a fascinating subject for
some gallery of illustrious historical personages. It was
this tendency to moral chequer-work which accounted for his
varied bearings towards Dare.

Dare withdrew to take his departure. When he had gone a few
steps, despondent, he suddenly turned, and ran back with some
excitement.

'Captain--he's coming on the tenth, don't they say? Well,
four days before the tenth comes the sixth. Have you
forgotten what's fixed for the sixth?'

'I had quite forgotten!'

'That day will be worth three months of quiet attentions:
with luck, skill, and a bold heart, what mayn't you do?'

Captain De Stancy's face softened with satisfaction.

'There is something in that; the game is not up after all.
The sixth--it had gone clean out of my head, by gad!'

Thomas Hardy