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Chapter 1

PAULA.

'I have decided that I cannot see Sir William again: I shall
go away,' said Paula on the evening of the next day, as she
lay on her bed in a flushed and highly-strung condition,
though a person who had heard her words without seeing her
face would have assumed perfect equanimity to be the mood
which expressed itself with such quietness. This was the case
with her aunt, who was looking out of the window at some
idlers from Markton walking round the castle with their eyes
bent upon its windows, and she made no haste to reply.

'Those people have come to see me, as they have a right to do
when a person acts so strangely,' Paula continued. 'And hence
I am better away.'

'Where do you think to go to?'

Paula replied in the tone of one who was actuated entirely by
practical considerations: 'Out of England certainly. And as
Normandy lies nearest, I think I shall go there. It is a very
nice country to ramble in.'

'Yes, it is a very nice country to ramble in,' echoed her
aunt, in moderate tones. 'When do you intend to start?'

'I should like to cross to-night. You must go with me, aunt;
will you not?'

Mrs. Goodman expostulated against such suddenness. 'It will
redouble the rumours that are afloat, if, after being supposed
ill, you are seen going off by railway perfectly well.'

'That's a contingency which I am quite willing to run the risk
of. Well, it would be rather sudden, as you say, to go to-
night. But we'll go to-morrow night at latest.' Under the
influence of the decision she bounded up like an elastic ball
and went to the glass, which showed a light in her eye that
had not been there before this resolution to travel in
Normandy had been taken.

The evening and the next morning were passed in writing a
final and kindly note of dismissal to Sir William De Stancy,
in making arrangements for the journey, and in commissioning
Havill to take advantage of their absence by emptying certain
rooms of their furniture, and repairing their dilapidations--a
work which, with that in hand, would complete the section for
which he had been engaged. Mr. Wardlaw had left the castle;
so also had Charlotte, by her own wish, her residence there
having been found too oppressive to herself to be continued
for the present. Accompanied by Mrs. Goodman, Milly, and
Clementine, the elderly French maid, who still remained with
them, Paula drove into Markton in the twilight and took the
train to Budmouth.

When they got there they found that an unpleasant breeze was
blowing out at sea, though inland it had been calm enough.
Mrs. Goodman proposed to stay at Budmouth till the next day,
in hope that there might be smooth water; but an English
seaport inn being a thing that Paula disliked more than a
rough passage, she would not listen to this counsel. Other
impatient reasons, too, might have weighed with her. When
night came their looming miseries began. Paula found that in
addition to her own troubles she had those of three other
people to support; but she did not audibly complain.

'Paula, Paula,' said Mrs. Goodman from beneath her load of
wretchedness, 'why did we think of undergoing this?'

A slight gleam of humour crossed Paula's not particularly
blooming face, as she answered, 'Ah, why indeed?'

'What is the real reason, my dear? For God's sake tell me!'

'It begins with S.'

'Well, I would do anything for that young man short of
personal martyrdom; but really when it comes to that--'

'Don't criticize me, auntie, and I won't criticize you.'

'Well, I am open to criticism just now, I am sure,' said her
aunt, with a green smile; and speech was again discontinued.

The morning was bright and beautiful, and it could again be
seen in Paula's looks that she was glad she had come, though,
in taking their rest at Cherbourg, fate consigned them to an
hotel breathing an atmosphere that seemed specially compounded
for depressing the spirits of a young woman; indeed nothing
had particularly encouraged her thus far in her somewhat
peculiar scheme of searching out and expressing sorrow to a
gentleman for having believed those who traduced him; and this
coup d'audace to which she had committed herself began to look
somewhat formidable. When in England the plan of following
him to Normandy had suggested itself as the quickest,
sweetest, and most honest way of making amends; but having
arrived there she seemed further off from his sphere of
existence than when she had been at Stancy Castle. Virtually
she was, for if he thought of her at all, he probably thought
of her there; if he sought her he would seek her there.
However, as he would probably never do the latter, it was
necessary to go on. It had been her sudden dream before
starting, to light accidentally upon him in some romantic old
town of this romantic old province, but she had become aware
that the recorded fortune of lovers in that respect was not to
be trusted too implicitly.

Somerset's search for her in the south was now inversely
imitated. By diligent inquiry in Cherbourg during the gloom
of evening, in the disguise of a hooded cloak, she learnt out
the place of his stay while there, and that he had gone thence
to Lisieux. What she knew of the architectural character of
Lisieux half guaranteed the truth of the information. Without
telling her aunt of this discovery she announced to that lady
that it was her great wish to go on and see the beauties of
Lisieux.

But though her aunt was simple, there were bounds to her
simplicity. 'Paula,' she said, with an undeceivable air, 'I
don't think you should run after a young man like this.
Suppose he shouldn't care for you by this time.'

It was no occasion for further affectation. 'I am SURE he
will,' answered her niece flatly. 'I have not the least fear
about it--nor would you, if you knew how he is. He will
forgive me anything.'

'Well, pray don't show yourself forward. Some people are apt
to fly into extremes.'

Paula blushed a trifle, and reflected, and made no answer.
However, her purpose seemed not to be permanently affected,
for the next morning she was up betimes and preparing to
depart; and they proceeded almost without stopping to the
architectural curiosity-town which had so quickly interested
her. Nevertheless her ardent manner of yesterday underwent a
considerable change, as if she had a fear that, as her aunt
suggested, in her endeavour to make amends for cruel
injustice, she was allowing herself to be carried too far.

On nearing the place she said, 'Aunt, I think you had better
call upon him; and you need not tell him we have come on
purpose. Let him think, if he will, that we heard he was
here, and would not leave without seeing him. You can also
tell him that I am anxious to clear up a misunderstanding, and
ask him to call at our hotel.'

But as she looked over the dreary suburban erections which
lined the road from the railway to the old quarter of the
town, it occurred to her that Somerset would at that time of
day be engaged in one or other of the mediaeval buildings
thereabout, and that it would be a much neater thing to meet
him as if by chance in one of these edifices than to call upon
him anywhere. Instead of putting up at any hotel, they left
the maids and baggage at the station; and hiring a carriage,
Paula told the coachman to drive them to such likely places as
she could think of.

'He'll never forgive you,' said her aunt, as they rumbled into
the town.

'Won't he?' said Paula, with soft faith. 'I'll see about
that.'

'What are you going to do when you find him? Tell him point-
blank that you are in love with him?'

'Act in such a manner that he may tell me he is in love with
me.'

They first visited a large church at the upper end of a square
that sloped its gravelled surface to the western shine, and
was pricked out with little avenues of young pollard limes.
The church within was one to make any Gothic architect take
lodgings in its vicinity for a fortnight, though it was just
now crowded with a forest of scaffolding for repairs in
progress. Mrs. Goodman sat down outside, and Paula, entering,
took a walk in the form of a horse-shoe; that is, up the south
aisle, round the apse, and down the north side; but no figure
of a melancholy young man sketching met her eye anywhere. The
sun that blazed in at the west doorway smote her face as she
emerged from beneath it and revealed real sadness there.

'This is not all the old architecture of the town by far,' she
said to her aunt with an air of confidence. 'Coachman, drive
to St. Jacques'.'

He was not at St. Jacques'. Looking from the west end of that
building the girl observed the end of a steep narrow street of
antique character, which seemed a likely haunt. Beckoning to
her aunt to follow in the fly Paula walked down the street.

She was transported to the Middle Ages. It contained the
shops of tinkers, braziers, bellows-menders, hollow-turners,
and other quaintest trades, their fronts open to the street
beneath stories of timber overhanging so far on each side that
a slit of sky was left at the top for the light to descend,
and no more. A blue misty obscurity pervaded the atmosphere,
into which the sun thrust oblique staves of light. It was a
street for a mediaevalist to revel in, toss up his hat and
shout hurrah in, send for his luggage, come and live in, die
and be buried in. She had never supposed such a street to
exist outside the imaginations of antiquarians. Smells direct
from the sixteenth century hung in the air in all their
original integrity and without a modern taint. The faces of
the people in the doorways seemed those of individuals who
habitually gazed on the great Francis, and spoke of Henry the
Eighth as the king across the sea.

She inquired of a coppersmith if an English artist had been
seen here lately. With a suddenness that almost discomfited
her he announced that such a man had been seen, sketching a
house just below--the 'Vieux Manoir de Francois premier.'
Just turning to see that her aunt was following in the fly,
Paula advanced to the house. The wood framework of the lower
story was black and varnished; the upper story was brown and
not varnished; carved figures of dragons, griffins, satyrs,
and mermaids swarmed over the front; an ape stealing apples
was the subject of this cantilever, a man undressing of that.
These figures were cloaked with little cobwebs which waved in
the breeze, so that each figure seemed alive.

She examined the woodwork closely; here and there she
discerned pencil-marks which had no doubt been jotted thereon
by Somerset as points of admeasurement, in the way she had
seen him mark them at the castle. Some fragments of paper lay
below: there were pencilled lines on them, and they bore a
strong resemblance to a spoilt leaf of Somerset's sketch-book.
Paula glanced up, and from a window above protruded an old
woman's head, which, with the exception of the white
handkerchief tied round it, was so nearly of the colour of the
carvings that she might easily have passed as of a piece with
them. The aged woman continued motionless, the remains of her
eyes being bent upon Paula, who asked her in Englishwoman's
French where the sketcher had gone. Without replying, the
crone produced a hand and extended finger from her side, and
pointed towards the lower end of the street.

Paula went on, the carriage following with difficulty, on
account of the obstructions in the thoroughfare. At bottom,
the street abutted on a wide one with customary modern life
flowing through it; and as she looked, Somerset crossed her
front along this street, hurrying as if for a wager.

By the time that Paula had reached the bottom Somerset was a
long way to the left, and she recognized to her dismay that
the busy transverse street was one which led to the railway.
She quickened her pace to a run; he did not see her; he even
walked faster. She looked behind for the carriage. The
driver in emerging from the sixteenth-century street to the
nineteenth had apparently turned to the right, instead of to
the left as she had done, so that her aunt had lost sight of
her. However, she dare not mind it, if Somerset would but
look back! He partly turned, but not far enough, and it was
only to hail a passing omnibus upon which she discerned his
luggage. Somerset jumped in, the omnibus drove on, and
diminished up the long road. Paula stood hopelessly still,
and in a few minutes puffs of steam showed her that the train
had gone.

She turned and waited, the two or three children who had
gathered round her looking up sympathizingly in her face. Her
aunt, having now discovered the direction of her flight, drove
up and beckoned to her.

'What's the matter?' asked Mrs. Goodman in alarm.

'Why?'

'That you should run like that, and look so woebegone.'

'Nothing: only I have decided not to stay in this town.'

'What! he is gone, I suppose?'

'Yes!' exclaimed Paula, with tears of vexation in her eyes.
'It isn't every man who gets a woman of my position to run
after him on foot, and alone, and he ought to have looked
round! Drive to the station; I want to make an inquiry.'

On reaching the station she asked the booking-clerk some
questions, and returned to her aunt with a cheerful
countenance. 'Mr. Somerset has only gone to Caen,' she said.
'He is the only Englishman who went by this train, so there is
no mistake. There is no other train for two hours. We will
go on then--shall we?'

'I am indifferent,' said Mrs. Goodman. 'But, Paula, do you
think this quite right? Perhaps he is not so anxious for your
forgiveness as you think. Perhaps he saw you, and wouldn't
stay.'

A momentary dismay crossed her face, but it passed, and she
answered, 'Aunt, that's nonsense. I know him well enough, and
can assure you that if he had only known I was running after
him, he would have looked round sharply enough, and would have
given his little finger rather than have missed me! I don't
make myself so silly as to run after a gentleman without good
grounds, for I know well that it is an undignified thing to
do. Indeed, I could never have thought of doing it, if I had
not been so miserably in the wrong!'


Thomas Hardy