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 3

While the malignant tongues had been playing havoc with
Somerset's fame in the ears of Paula and her companion, the
young man himself was proceeding partly by rail, partly on
foot, below and amid the olive-clad hills, vineyards, carob
groves, and lemon gardens of the Mediterranean shores.
Arrived at San Remo he wrote to Nice to inquire for letters,
and such as had come were duly forwarded; but not one of them
was from Paula. This broke down his resolution to hold off,
and he hastened directly to Genoa, regretting that he had not
taken this step when he first heard that she was there.

Something in the very aspect of the marble halls of that city,
which at any other time he would have liked to linger over,
whispered to him that the bird had flown; and inquiry
confirmed the fancy. Nevertheless, the architectural beauties
of the palace-bordered street, looking as if mountains of
marble must have been levelled to supply the materials for
constructing it, detained him there two days: or rather a
feat of resolution, by which he set himself to withstand the
drag-chain of Paula's influence, was operative for that space
of time.

At the end of it he moved onward. There was no difficulty in
discovering their track northwards; and feeling that he might
as well return to England by the Rhine route as by any other,
he followed in the course they had chosen, getting scent of
them in Strassburg, missing them at Baden by a day, and
finally overtaking them at Carlsruhe, which town he reached on
the morning after the Power and De Stancy party had taken up
their quarters at the ancient inn above mentioned. When
Somerset was about to get out of the train at this place,
little dreaming what a meaning the word Carlsruhe would have
for him in subsequent years, he was disagreeably surprised to
see no other than Dare stepping out of the adjoining carriage.
A new brown leather valise in one of his hands, a new umbrella
in the other, and a new suit of fashionable clothes on his
back, seemed to denote considerable improvement in the young
man's fortunes. Somerset was so struck by the circumstance of
his being on this spot that he almost missed his opportunity
for alighting.

Dare meanwhile had moved on without seeing his former
employer, and Somerset resolved to take the chance that
offered, and let him go. There was something so mysterious in
their common presence simultaneously at one place, five
hundred miles from where they had last met, that he exhausted
conjecture on whether Dare's errand this way could have
anything to do with his own, or whether their juxtaposition a
second time was the result of pure accident. Greatly as he
would have liked to get this answered by a direct question to
Dare himself, he did not counteract his first instinct, and
remained unseen.

They went out in different directions, when Somerset for the
first time remembered that, in learning at Baden that the
party had flitted towards Carlsruhe, he had taken no care to
ascertain the name of the hotel they were bound for.
Carlsruhe was not a large place and the point was immaterial,
but the omission would necessitate a little inquiry. To follow
Dare on the chance of his having fixed upon the same quarters
was a course which did not commend itself. He resolved to get
some lunch before proceeding with his business--or fatuity--of
discovering the elusive lady, and drove off to a neighbouring
tavern, which did not happen to be, as he hoped it might, the
one chosen by those who had preceded him.

Meanwhile Dare, previously master of their plans, went
straight to the house which sheltered them, and on entering
under the archway from the Lange-Strasse was saved the trouble
of inquiring for Captain De Stancy by seeing him drinking
bitters at a little table in the court. Had Somerset chosen
this inn for his quarters instead of the one in the Market-
Place which he actually did choose, the three must inevitably
have met here at this moment, with some possibly striking
dramatic results; though what they would have been remains for
ever hidden in the darkness of the unfulfilled.

De Stancy jumped up from his chair, and went forward to the
new-comer. 'You are not long behind us, then,' he said, with
laconic disquietude. 'I thought you were going straight
home?'

'I was,' said Dare, 'but I have been blessed with what I may
call a small competency since I saw you last. Of the two
hundred francs you gave me I risked fifty at the tables, and I
have multiplied them, how many times do you think? More than
four hundred times.'

De Stancy immediately looked grave. 'I wish you had lost
them,' he said, with as much feeling as could be shown in a
place where strangers were hovering near.

'Nonsense, captain! I have proceeded purely on a calculation
of chances; and my calculations proved as true as I expected,
notwithstanding a little in-and-out luck at first. Witness
this as the result.' He smacked his bag with his umbrella,
and the chink of money resounded from within. 'Just feel the
weight of it!'

'It is not necessary. I take your word.'

'Shall I lend you five pounds?'

'God forbid! As if that would repay me for what you have cost
me! But come, let's get out of this place to where we can
talk more freely.' He put his hand through the young man's
arm, and led him round the corner of the hotel towards the
Schloss-Platz.

'These runs of luck will be your ruin, as I have told you
before,' continued Captain De Stancy. 'You will be for
repeating and repeating your experiments, and will end by
blowing your brains out, as wiser heads than yours have done.
I am glad you have come away, at any rate. Why did you travel
this way?'

'Simply because I could afford it, of course.--But come,
captain, something has ruffled you to-day. I thought you did
not look in the best temper the moment I saw you. Every sip
you took of your pick-up as you sat there showed me something
was wrong. Tell your worry!'

'Pooh--I can tell you in two words,' said the captain
satirically. 'Your arrangement for my wealth and happiness--
for I suppose you still claim it to be yours--has fallen
through. The lady has announced to-day that she means to send
for Somerset instantly. She is coming to a personal
explanation with him. So woe to me--and in another sense, woe
to you, as I have reason to fear.'

'Send for him!' said Dare, with the stillness of complete
abstraction. 'Then he'll come.'

'Well,' said De Stancy, looking him in the face. 'And does it
make you feel you had better be off? How about that telegram?
Did he ask you to send it, or did he not?'

'One minute, or I shall be up such a tree as nobody ever saw
the like of.'

'Then what did you come here for?' burst out De Stancy. ''Tis
my belief you are no more than a--But I won't call you names;
I'll tell you quite plainly that if there is anything wrong in
that message to her--which I believe there is--no, I can't
believe, though I fear it--you have the chance of appearing in
drab clothes at the expense of the Government before the year
is out, and I of being eternally disgraced!'

'No, captain, you won't be disgraced. I am bad to beat, I can
tell you. And come the worst luck, I don't say a word.'

'But those letters pricked in your skin would say a good deal,
it strikes me.'

'What! would they strip me?--but it is not coming to that.
Look here, now, I'll tell you the truth for once; though you
don't believe me capable of it. I DID concoct that telegram--
and sent it; just as a practical joke; and many a worse one
has been only laughed at by honest men and officers. I could
show you a bigger joke still--a joke of jokes--on the same
individual.'

Dare as he spoke put his hand into his breast-pocket, as if
the said joke lay there; but after a moment he withdrew his
hand empty, as he continued:

'Having invented it I have done enough; I was going to explain
it to you, that you might carry it out. But you are so
serious, that I will leave it alone. My second joke shall die
with me.'

'So much the better,' said De Stancy. 'I don't like your
jokes, even though they are not directed against myself. They
express a kind of humour which does not suit me.'

'You may have reason to alter your mind,' said Dare
carelessly. 'Your success with your lady may depend on it.
The truth is, captain, we aristocrats must not take too high a
tone. Our days as an independent division of society, which
holds aloof from other sections, are past. This has been my
argument (in spite of my strong Norman feelings) ever since I
broached the subject of your marrying this girl, who
represents both intellect and wealth--all, in fact, except the
historical prestige that you represent. And we mustn't flinch
at things. The case is even more pressing than ordinary
cases--owing to the odd fact that the representative of the
new blood who has come in our way actually lives in your own
old house, and owns your own old lands. The ordinary reason
for such alliances is quintupled in our case. Do then just
think and be reasonable, before you talk tall about not liking
my jokes, and all that. Beggars mustn't be choosers.'

'There's really much reason in your argument,' said De Stancy,
with a bitter laugh: 'and my own heart argues much the same
way. But, leaving me to take care of my aristocratic self, I
advise your aristocratic self to slip off at once to England
like any hang-gallows dog; and if Somerset is here, and you
have been doing wrong in his name, and it all comes out, I'll
try to save you, as far as an honest man can. If you have
done no wrong, of course there is no fear; though I should be
obliged by your going homeward as quickly as possible, as
being better both for you and for me. . . . Hullo--
Damnation!'

They had reached one side of the Schloss-Platz, nobody
apparently being near them save a sentinel who was on duty
before the Palace; but turning as he spoke, De Stancy beheld a
group consisting of his sister, Paula, and Mr. Power,
strolling across the square towards them.

It was impossible to escape their observation, and putting a
bold front upon it, De Stancy advanced with Dare at his side,
till in a few moments the two parties met, Paula and Charlotte
recognizing Dare at once as the young man who assisted at the
castle.

'I have met my young photographer,' said De Stancy cheerily.
'What a small world it is, as everybody truly observes! I am
wishing he could take some views for us as we go on; but you
have no apparatus with you, I suppose, Mr. Dare?'

'I have not, sir, I am sorry to say,' replied Dare
respectfully.

'You could get some, I suppose?' asked Paula of the
interesting young photographer.

Dare declared that it would be not impossible: whereupon De
Stancy said that it was only a passing thought of his; and in
a few minutes the two parties again separated, going their
several ways.

'That was awkward,' said De Stancy, trembling with excitement.
'I would advise you to keep further off in future.'

Dare said thoughtfully that he would be careful, adding, 'She
is a prize for any man, indeed, leaving alone the substantial
possessions behind her! Now was I too enthusiastic? Was I a
fool for urging you on?'

'Wait till success justifies the undertaking. In case of
failure it will have been anything but wise. It is no light
matter to have a carefully preserved repose broken in upon for
nothing--a repose that could never be restored!'

They walked down the Carl-Friedrichs-Strasse to the Margrave's
Pyramid, and back to the hotel, where Dare also decided to
take up his stay. De Stancy left him with the book-keeper at
the desk, and went upstairs to see if the ladies had returned.

Thomas Hardy