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Chapter 6

On leaving the hotel, Somerset's first impulse was to get out
of sight of its windows, and his glance upward had perhaps not
the tender significance that Paula imagined, the last look
impelled by any such whiff of emotion having been the
lingering one he bestowed upon her in passing out of the room.
Unluckily for the prospects of this attachment, Paula's
conduct towards him now, as a result of misrepresentation, had
enough in common with her previous silence at Nice to make it
not unreasonable as a further development of that silence.
Moreover, her social position as a woman of wealth, always
felt by Somerset as a perceptible bar to that full and free
eagerness with which he would fain have approached her,
rendered it impossible for him to return to the charge,
ascertain the reason of her coldness, and dispel it by an
explanation, without being suspected of mercenary objects.
Continually does it happen that a genial willingness to bottle
up affronts is set down to interested motives by those who do
not know what generous conduct means. Had she occupied the
financial position of Miss De Stancy he would readily have
persisted further and, not improbably, have cleared up the
cloud.

Having no further interest in Carlsruhe, Somerset decided to
leave by an evening train. The intervening hour he spent in
wandering into the thick of the fair, where steam roundabouts,
the proprietors of wax-work shows, and fancy-stall keepers
maintained a deafening din. The animated environment was
better than silence, for it fostered in him an artificial
indifference to the events that had just happened--an
indifference which, though he too well knew it was only
destined to be temporary, afforded a passive period wherein to
store up strength that should enable him to withstand the wear
and tear of regrets which would surely set in soon. It was
the case with Somerset as with others of his temperament, that
he did not feel a blow of this sort immediately; and what
often seemed like stoicism after misfortune was only the
neutral numbness of transition from palpitating hope to
assured wretchedness.

He walked round and round the fair till all the exhibitors
knew him by sight, and when the sun got low he turned into the
Erbprinzen-Strasse, now raked from end to end by ensaffroned
rays of level light. Seeking his hotel he dined there, and
left by the evening train for Heidelberg.

Heidelberg with its romantic surroundings was not precisely
the place calculated to heal Somerset's wounded heart. He had
known the town of yore, and his recollections of that period,
when, unfettered in fancy, he had transferred to his sketch-
book the fine Renaissance details of the Otto-Heinrichs-Bau
came back with unpleasant force. He knew of some carved cask-
heads and other curious wood-work in the castle cellars,
copies of which, being unobtainable by photographs, he had
intended to make if all went well between Paula and himself.
The zest for this was now well-nigh over. But on awaking in
the morning and looking up the valley towards the castle, and
at the dark green height of the Konigsstuhl alongside, he felt
that to become vanquished by a passion, driven to suffer,
fast, and pray in the dull pains and vapours of despised love,
was a contingency not to be welcomed too readily. Thereupon
he set himself to learn the sad science of renunciation, which
everybody has to learn in his degree--either rebelling
throughout the lesson, or, like Somerset, taking to it kindly
by force of judgment. A more obstinate pupil might have
altogether escaped the lesson in the present case by
discovering its illegality.

Resolving to persevere in the heretofore satisfactory paths of
art while life and faculties were left, though every instinct
must proclaim that there would be no longer any collateral
attraction in that pursuit, he went along under the trees of
the Anlage and reached the castle vaults, in whose cool shades
he spent the afternoon, working out his intentions with fair
result. When he had strolled back to his hotel in the evening
the time was approaching for the table-d'hote. Having seated
himself rather early, he spent the few minutes of waiting in
looking over his pocket-book, and putting a few finishing
touches to the afternoon performance whilst the objects were
fresh in his memory. Thus occupied he was but dimly conscious
of the customary rustle of dresses and pulling up of chairs by
the crowd of other diners as they gathered around him.
Serving began, and he put away his book and prepared for the
meal. He had hardly done this when he became conscious that
the person on his left hand was not the typical cosmopolite
with boundless hotel knowledge and irrelevant experiences that
he was accustomed to find next him, but a face he recognized
as that of a young man whom he had met and talked to at Stancy
Castle garden-party, whose name he had now forgotten. This
young fellow was conversing with somebody on his left hand--no
other personage than Paula herself. Next to Paula he beheld
De Stancy, and De Stancy's sister beyond him. It was one of
those gratuitous encounters which only happen to discarded
lovers who have shown commendable stoicism under
disappointment, as if on purpose to reopen and aggravate their
wounds.

It seemed as if the intervening traveller had met the other
party by accident there and then. In a minute he turned and
recognized Somerset, and by degrees the young men's cursory
remarks to each other developed into a pretty regular
conversation, interrupted only when he turned to speak to
Paula on his left hand.

'Your architectural adviser travels in your party: how very
convenient,' said the young tourist to her. 'Far pleasanter
than having a medical attendant in one's train!'

Somerset, who had no distractions on the other side of him,
could hear every word of this. He glanced at Paula. She had
not known of his presence in the room till now. Their eyes
met for a second, and she bowed sedately. Somerset returned
her bow, and her eyes were quickly withdrawn with scarcely
visible confusion.

'Mr. Somerset is not travelling with us,' she said. 'We have
met by accident. Mr. Somerset came to me on business a little
while ago.'

'I must congratulate you on having put the castle into good
hands,' continued the enthusiastic young man.

'I believe Mr. Somerset is quite competent,' said Paula
stiffly.

To include Somerset in the conversation the young man turned
to him and added: 'You carry on your work at the castle con
amore, no doubt?'

'There is work I should like better,' said Somerset.

'Indeed?'

The frigidity of his manner seemed to set her at ease by
dispersing all fear of a scene; and alternate dialogues of
this sort with the gentleman in their midst were more or less
continued by both Paula and Somerset till they rose from
table.

In the bustle of moving out the two latter for one moment
stood side by side.

'Miss Power,' said Somerset, in a low voice that was obscured
by the rustle, 'you have nothing more to say to me?'

'I think there is nothing more?' said Paula, lifting her eyes
with longing reticence.

'Then I take leave of you; and tender my best wishes that you
may have a pleasant time before you! . . . . I set out for
England to-night.'

'With a special photographer, no doubt?'

It was the first time that she had addressed Somerset with a
meaning distinctly bitter; and her remark, which had reference
to the forged photograph, fell of course without its intended
effect.

'No, Miss Power,' said Somerset gravely. 'But with a deeper
sense of woman's thoughtless trifling than time will ever
eradicate.'

'Is not that a mistake?' she asked in a voice that distinctly
trembled.

'A mistake? How?'

'I mean, do you not forget many things?' (throwing on him a
troubled glance). 'A woman may feel herself justified in her
conduct, although it admits of no explanation.'

'I don't contest the point for a moment. . . . Goodbye.'

'Good-bye.'

They parted amid the flowering shrubs and caged birds in the
hall, and he saw her no more. De Stancy came up, and spoke a
few commonplace words, his sister having gone out, either
without perceiving Somerset, or with intention to avoid him.

That night, as he had said, he was on his way to England.


Thomas Hardy