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Chapter 2

Next day they went on to Baden. De Stancy was beginning to
cultivate the passion of love even more as an escape from the
gloomy relations of his life than as matrimonial strategy.
Paula's juxtaposition had the attribute of making him forget
everything in his own history. She was a magic alterative;
and the most foolish boyish shape into which he could throw
his feelings for her was in this respect to be aimed at as the
act of highest wisdom.

He supplemented the natural warmth of feeling that she had
wrought in him by every artificial means in his power, to make
the distraction the more complete. He had not known anything
like this self-obscuration for a dozen years, and when he
conjectured that she might really learn to love him he felt
exalted in his own eyes and purified from the dross of his
former life. Such uneasiness of conscience as arose when he
suddenly remembered Dare, and the possibility that Somerset
was getting ousted unfairly, had its weight in depressing him;
but he was inclined to accept his fortune without much
question.

The journey to Baden, though short, was not without incidents
on which he could work out this curious hobby of cultivating
to superlative power an already positive passion. Handing her
in and out of the carriage, accidentally getting brushed by
her clothes, of all such as this he made available fuel.
Paula, though she might have guessed the general nature of
what was going on, seemed unconscious of the refinements he
was trying to throw into it, and sometimes, when in stepping
into or from a railway carriage she unavoidably put her hand
upon his arm, the obvious insignificance she attached to the
action struck him with misgiving.

One of the first things they did at Baden was to stroll into
the Trink-halle, where Paula sipped the water. She was about
to put down the glass, when De Stancy quickly took it from her
hands as though to make use of it himself.

'O, if that is what you mean,' she said mischievously, 'you
should have noticed the exact spot. It was there.' She put
her finger on a particular portion of its edge.

'You ought not to act like that, unless you mean something,
Miss Power,' he replied gravely.

'Tell me more plainly.'

'I mean, you should not do things which excite in me the hope
that you care something for me, unless you really do.'

'I put my finger on the edge and said it was there.'

'Meaning, "It was there my lips touched; let yours do the
same."'

'The latter part I wholly deny,' she answered, with disregard,
after which she went away, and kept between Charlotte and her
aunt for the rest of the afternoon.

Since the receipt of the telegram Paula had been frequently
silent; she frequently stayed in alone, and sometimes she
became quite gloomy--an altogether unprecedented phase for
her. This was the case on the morning after the incident in
the Trink-halle. Not to intrude on her, Charlotte walked
about the landings of the sunny white hotel in which they had
taken up their quarters, went down into the court, and petted
the tortoises that were creeping about there among the flowers
and plants; till at last, on going to her friend, she caught
her reading some old letters of Somerset's.

Paula made no secret of them, and Miss De Stancy could see
that more than half were written on blue paper, with diagrams
amid the writing: they were, in fact, simply those sheets of
his letters which related to the rebuilding. Nevertheless,
Charlotte fancied she had caught Paula in a sentimental mood;
and doubtless could Somerset have walked in at this moment
instead of Charlotte it might have fared well with him, so
insidiously do tender memories reassert themselves in the face
of outward mishaps.

They took a drive down the Lichtenthal road and then into the
forest, De Stancy and Abner Power riding on horseback
alongside. The sun streamed yellow behind their backs as they
wound up the long inclines, lighting the red trunks, and even
the blue-black foliage itself. The summer had already made
impression upon that mass of uniform colour by tipping every
twig with a tiny sprout of virescent yellow; while the minute
sounds which issued from the forest revealed that the
apparently still place was becoming a perfect reservoir of
insect life.

Abner Power was quite sentimental that day. 'In such places
as these,' he said, as he rode alongside Mrs. Goodman,
'nature's powers in the multiplication of one type strike me
as much as the grandeur of the mass.'

Mrs. Goodman agreed with him, and Paula said, 'The foliage
forms the roof of an interminable green crypt, the pillars
being the trunks, and the vault the interlacing boughs.'

'It is a fine place in a thunderstorm,' said De Stancy. 'I am
not an enthusiast, but to see the lightning spring hither and
thither, like lazy-tongs, bristling, and striking, and
vanishing, is rather impressive.'

'It must be indeed,' said Paula.

'And in the winter winds these pines sigh like ten thousand
spirits in trouble.'

'Indeed they must,' said Paula.

'At the same time I know a little fir-plantation about a mile
square not far from Markton,' said De Stancy, 'which is
precisely like this in miniature,--stems, colours, slopes,
winds, and all. If we were to go there any time with a highly
magnifying pair of spectacles it would look as fine as this--
and save a deal of travelling.'

'I know the place, and I agree with you,' said Paula.

'You agree with me on all subjects but one,' he presently
observed, in a voice not intended to reach the others.

Paula looked at him, but was silent.

Onward and upward they went, the same pattern and colour of
tree repeating themselves endlessly, till in a couple of hours
they reached the castle hill which was to be the end of their
journey, and beheld stretched beneath them the valley of the
Murg. They alighted and entered the fortress.

'What did you mean by that look of kindness you bestowed upon
me just now, when I said you agreed with me on all subjects
but one?' asked De Stancy half humorously, as he held open a
little door for her, the others having gone ahead.

'I meant, I suppose, that I was much obliged to you for not
requiring agreement on that one subject,' she said, passing
on.

'Not more than that?' said De Stancy, as he followed her.
'But whenever I involuntarily express towards you sentiments
that there can be no mistaking, you seem truly compassionate.'

'If I seem so, I feel so.'

'If you mean no more than mere compassion, I wish you would
show nothing at all, for your mistaken kindness is only
preparing more misery for me than I should have if let alone
to suffer without mercy.'

'I implore you to be quiet, Captain De Stancy! Leave me, and
look out of the window at the view here, or at the pictures,
or at the armour, or whatever it is we are come to see.'

'Very well. But pray don't extract amusement from my harmless
remarks. Such as they are I mean them.'

She stopped him by changing the subject, for they had entered
an octagonal chamber on the first floor, presumably full of
pictures and curiosities; but the shutters were closed, and
only stray beams of light gleamed in to suggest what was
there.

'Can't somebody open the windows?' said Paula.

'The attendant is about to do it,' said her uncle; and as he
spoke the shutters to the east were flung back, and one of the
loveliest views in the forest disclosed itself outside.

Some of them stepped out upon the balcony. The river lay
along the bottom of the valley, irradiated with a silver
shine. Little rafts of pinewood floated on its surface like
tiny splinters, the men who steered them not appearing larger
than ants.

Paula stood on the balcony, looking for a few minutes upon the
sight, and then came into the shadowy room, where De Stancy
had remained. While the rest were still outside she resumed:
'You must not suppose that I shrink from the subject you so
persistently bring before me. I respect deep affection--you
know I do; but for me to say that I have any such for you, of
the particular sort you only will be satisfied with, would be
absurd. I don't feel it, and therefore there can be nothing
between us. One would think it would be better to feel kindly
towards you than to feel nothing at all. But if you object to
that I'll try to feel nothing.'

'I don't really object to your sympathy,' said De Stancy,
rather struck by her seriousness. 'But it is very saddening
to think you can feel nothing more.'

'It must be so, since I CAN feel no more,' she decisively
replied, adding, as she stopped her seriousness: 'You must
pray for strength to get over it.'

'One thing I shall never pray for; to see you give yourself to
another man. But I suppose I shall witness that some day.'

'You may,' she gravely returned.

'You have no doubt chosen him already,' cried the captain
bitterly.

'No, Captain De Stancy,' she said shortly, a faint involuntary
blush coming into her face as she guessed his allusion.

This, and a few glances round at the pictures and curiosities,
completed their survey of the castle. De Stancy knew better
than to trouble her further that day with special remarks.
During the return journey he rode ahead with Mr. Power and she
saw no more of him.

She would have been astonished had she heard the conversation
of the two gentlemen as they wound gently downwards through
the trees.

'As far as I am concerned,' Captain De Stancy's companion was
saying, 'nothing would give me more unfeigned delight than
that you should persevere and win her. But you must
understand that I have no authority over her--nothing more
than the natural influence that arises from my being her
father's brother.'

'And for exercising that much, whatever it may be, in my
favour I thank you heartily,' said De Stancy. 'But I am
coming to the conclusion that it is useless to press her
further. She is right! I am not the man for her. I am too
old, and too poor; and I must put up as well as I can with her
loss--drown her image in old Falernian till I embark in
Charon's boat for good!--Really, if I had the industry I could
write some good Horatian verses on my inauspicious situation!.
. . Ah, well;--in this way I affect levity over my troubles;
but in plain truth my life will not be the brightest without
her.'

'Don't be down-hearted! you are too--too gentlemanly, De
Stancy, in this matter--you are too soon put off--you should
have a touch of the canvasser about you in approaching her;
and not stick at things. You have my hearty invitation to
travel with us all the way till we cross to England, and there
will be heaps of opportunities as we wander on. I'll keep a
slow pace to give you time.'

'You are very good, my friend! Well, I will try again. I am
full of doubt and indecision, mind, but at present I feel that
I will try again. There is, I suppose, a slight possibility
of something or other turning up in my favour, if it is true
that the unexpected always happens--for I foresee no chance
whatever. . . . Which way do we go when we leave here to-
morrow?'

'To Carlsruhe, she says, if the rest of us have no objection.'

'Carlsruhe, then, let it be, with all my heart; or anywhere.'

To Carlsruhe they went next day, after a night of soft rain
which brought up a warm steam from the Schwarzwald valleys,
and caused the young tufts and grasses to swell visibly in a
few hours. After the Baden slopes the flat thoroughfares of
'Charles's Rest' seemed somewhat uninteresting, though a busy
fair which was proceeding in the streets created a quaint and
unexpected liveliness. On reaching the old-fashioned inn in
the Lange-Strasse that they had fixed on, the women of the
party betook themselves to their rooms and showed little
inclination to see more of the world that day than could be
gleaned from the hotel windows.


Thomas Hardy