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Chapter 5

Five hours after the despatch of that telegram Captain De
Stancy was rattling along the coast railway of the Riviera
from Genoa to Nice. He was returning to England by way of
Marseilles; but before turning northwards he had engaged to
perform on Miss Power's account a peculiar and somewhat
disagreeable duty. This was to place in Somerset's hands a
hundred and twenty-five napoleons which had been demanded from
her by a message in Somerset's name. The money was in his
pocket--all in gold, in a canvas bag, tied up by Paula's own
hands, which he had observed to tremble as she tied it.

As he leaned in the corner of the carriage he was thinking
over the events of the morning which had culminated in that
liberal response. At ten o'clock, before he had gone out from
the hotel where he had taken up his quarters, which was not
the same as the one patronized by Paula and her friends, he
had been summoned to her presence in a manner so unexpected as
to imply that something serious was in question. On entering
her room he had been struck by the absence of that saucy
independence usually apparent in her bearing towards him,
notwithstanding the persistency with which he had hovered near
her for the previous month, and gradually, by the position of
his sister, and the favour of Paula's uncle in intercepting
one of Somerset's letters and several of his telegrams,
established himself as an intimate member of the travelling
party. His entry, however, this time as always, had had the
effect of a tonic, and it was quite with her customary self-
possession that she had told him of the object of her message.

'You think of returning to Nice this afternoon?' she inquired.

De Stancy informed her that such was his intention, and asked
if he could do anything for her there.

Then, he remembered, she had hesitated. 'I have received a
telegram,' she said at length; and so she allowed to escape
her bit by bit the information that her architect, whose name
she seemed reluctant to utter, had travelled from England to
Nice that week, partly to consult her, partly for a holiday
trip; that he had gone on to Monte Carlo, had there lost his
money and got into difficulties, and had appealed to her to
help him out of them by the immediate advance of some ready
cash. It was a sad case, an unexpected case, she murmured,
with her eyes fixed on the window. Indeed she could not
comprehend it.

To De Stancy there appeared nothing so very extraordinary in
Somerset's apparent fiasco, except in so far as that he should
have applied to Paula for relief from his distresses instead
of elsewhere. It was a self-humiliation which a lover would
have avoided at all costs, he thought. Yet after a momentary
reflection on his theory of Somerset's character, it seemed
sufficiently natural that he should lean persistently on
Paula, if only with a view of keeping himself linked to her
memory, without thinking too profoundly of his own dignity.
That the esteem in which she had held Somerset up to that hour
suffered a tremendous blow by his apparent scrape was clearly
visible in her, reticent as she was; and De Stancy, while
pitying Somerset, thanked him in his mind for having
gratuitously given a rival an advantage which that rival's
attentions had never been able to gain of themselves.

After a little further conversation she had said: 'Since you
are to be my messenger, I must tell you that I have decided to
send the hundred pounds asked for, and you will please to
deliver them into no hands but his own.' A curious little
blush crept over her sobered face--perhaps it was a blush of
shame at the conduct of the young man in whom she had of late
been suspiciously interested--as she added, 'He will be on the
Pont-Neuf at four this afternoon and again at eleven tomorrow.
Can you meet him there?'

'Certainly,' De Stancy replied.

She then asked him, rather anxiously, how he could account for
Mr. Somerset knowing that he, Captain De Stancy, was about to
return to Nice?

De Stancy informed her that he left word at the hotel of his
intention to return, which was quite true; moreover, there did
not lurk in his mind at the moment of speaking the faintest
suspicion that Somerset had seen Dare.

She then tied the bag and handed it to him, leaving him with a
serene and impenetrable bearing, which he hoped for his own
sake meant an acquired indifference to Somerset and his
fortunes. Her sending the architect a sum of money which she
could easily spare might be set down to natural generosity
towards a man with whom she was artistically co-operating for
the improvement of her home.

She came back to him again for a moment. 'Could you possibly
get there before four this afternoon?' she asked, and he
informed her that he could just do so by leaving almost at
once, which he was very willing to do, though by so
forestalling his time he would lose the projected morning with
her and the rest at the Palazzo Doria.

'I may tell you that I shall not go to the Palazzo Doria
either, if it is any consolation to you to know it,' was her
reply. 'I shall sit indoors and think of you on your
journey.'

The answer admitted of two translations, and conjectures
thereon filled the gallant soldier's mind during the greater
part of the journey. He arrived at the hotel they had all
stayed at in succession about six hours after Somerset had
left it for a little excursion to San Remo and its
neighbourhood, as a means of passing a few days till Paula
should write again to inquire why he had not come on. De
Stancy saw no one he knew, and in obedience to Paula's
commands he promptly set off on foot for the Pont-Neuf.

Though opposed to the architect as a lover, De Stancy felt for
him as a poor devil in need of money, having had experiences
of that sort himself, and he was really anxious that the
needful supply entrusted to him should reach Somerset's hands.
He was on the bridge five minutes before the hour, and when
the clock struck a hand was laid on his shoulder: turning he
beheld Dare.

Knowing that the youth was loitering somewhere along the
coast, for they had frequently met together on De Stancy's
previous visit, the latter merely said, 'Don't bother me for
the present, Willy, I have an engagement. You can see me at
the hotel this evening.'

'When you have given me the hundred pounds I will fly like a
rocket, captain,' said the young gentleman. 'I keep the
appointment instead of the other man.'

De Stancy looked hard at him. 'How--do you know about this?'
he asked breathlessly.

'I have seen him.'

De Stancy took the young man by the two shoulders and gazed
into his eyes. The scrutiny seemed not altogether to remove
the suspicion which had suddenly started up in his mind. 'My
soul,' he said, dropping his arms, 'can this be true?'

'What?'

'You know.'

Dare shrugged his shoulders; 'Are you going to hand over the
money or no?' he said.

'I am going to make inquiries,' said De Stancy, walking away
with a vehement tread.

'Captain, you are without natural affection,' said Dare,
walking by his side, in a tone which showed his fear that he
had over-estimated that emotion. 'See what I have done for
you. You have been my constant care and anxiety for I can't
tell how long. I have stayed awake at night thinking how I
might best give you a good start in the world by arranging
this judicious marriage, when you have been sleeping as sound
as a top with no cares upon your mind at all, and now I have
got into a scrape--as the most thoughtful of us may sometimes-
-you go to make inquiries.'

'I have promised the lady to whom this money belongs--whose
generosity has been shamefully abused in some way--that I will
deliver it into no hands but those of one man, and he has not
yet appeared. I therefore go to find him.'

Dare laid his hand upon De Stancy's arm. 'Captain, we are
both warm, and punctilious on points of honour; this will come
to a split between us if we don't mind. So, not to bring
matters to a crisis, lend me ten pounds here to enable me to
get home, and I'll disappear.'

In a state bordering on distraction, eager to get the young
man out of his sight before worse revelations should rise up
between them, De Stancy without pausing in his walk gave him
the sum demanded. He soon reached the post-office, where he
inquired if a Mr. Somerset had left any directions for
forwarding letters.

It was just what Somerset had done. De Stancy was told that
Mr. Somerset had commanded that any letters should be sent on
to him at the Hotel Victoria, San Remo.

It was now evident that the scheme of getting money from Paula
was either of Dare's invention, or that Somerset, ashamed of
his first impulse, had abandoned it as speedily as it had been
formed. De Stancy turned and went out. Dare, in keeping with
his promise, had vanished. Captain De Stancy resolved to do
nothing in the case till further events should enlighten him,
beyond sending a line to Miss Power to inform her that
Somerset had not appeared, and that he therefore retained the
money for further instructions.

Thomas Hardy