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Chapter 8

That evening Somerset was so preoccupied with these things
that he left all his sketching implements out-of-doors in the
castle grounds. The next morning he hastened thither to
secure them from being stolen or spoiled. Meanwhile he was
hoping to have an opportunity of rectifying Paula's mistake
about his personality, which, having served a very good
purpose in introducing them to a mutual conversation, might
possibly be made just as agreeable as a thing to be explained
away.

He fetched his drawing instruments, rods, sketching-blocks and
other articles from the field where they had lain, and was
passing under the walls with them in his hands, when there
emerged from the outer archway an open landau, drawn by a pair
of black horses of fine action and obviously strong pedigree,
in which Paula was seated, under the shade of a white parasol
with black and white ribbons fluttering on the summit. The
morning sun sparkled on the equipage, its newness being made
all the more noticeable by the ragged old arch behind.

She bowed to Somerset in a way which might have been meant to
express that she had discovered her mistake; but there was no
embarrassment in her manner, and the carriage bore her away
without her making any sign for checking it. He had not been
walking towards the castle entrance, and she could not be
supposed to know that it was his intention to enter that day.

She had looked such a bud of youth and promise that his
disappointment at her departure showed itself in his face as
he observed her. However, he went on his way, entered a
turret, ascended to the leads of the great tower, and stepped
out.

From this elevated position he could still see the carriage
and the white surface of Paula's parasol in the glowing sun.
While he watched the landau stopped, and in a few moments the
horses were turned, the wheels and the panels flashed, and the
carriage came bowling along towards the castle again.

Somerset descended the stone stairs. Before he had quite got
to the bottom he saw Miss De Stancy standing in the outer
hall.

'When did you come, Mr. Somerset?' she gaily said, looking up
surprised. 'How industrious you are to be at work so
regularly every day! We didn't think you would be here to-
day: Paula has gone to a vegetable show at Markton, and I am
going to join her there soon.'

'O! gone to a vegetable show. But I think she has altered
her--'

At this moment the noise of the carriage was heard in the
ward, and after a few seconds Miss Power came in--Somerset
being invisible from the door where she stood.

'O Paula, what has brought you back?' said Miss De Stancy.

'I have forgotten something.'

'Mr. Somerset is here. Will you not speak to him?'

Somerset came forward, and Miss De Stancy presented him to her
friend. Mr. Somerset acknowledged the pleasure by a
respectful inclination of his person, and said some words
about the meeting yesterday.

'Yes,' said Miss Power, with a serene deliberateness quite
noteworthy in a girl of her age; 'I have seen it all since. I
was mistaken about you, was I not? Mr. Somerset, I am glad to
welcome you here, both as a friend of Miss De Stancy's family,
and as the son of your father--which is indeed quite a
sufficient introduction anywhere.'

'You have two pictures painted by Mr. Somerset's father, have
you not? I have already told him about them,' said Miss De
Stancy. 'Perhaps Mr. Somerset would like to see them if they
are unpacked?'

As Somerset had from his infancy suffered from a plethora of
those productions, excellent as they were, he did not reply
quite so eagerly as Miss De Stancy seemed to expect to her
kind suggestion, and Paula remarked to him, 'You will stay to
lunch? Do order it at your own time, if our hour should not
be convenient.'

Her voice was a voice of low note, in quality that of a flute
at the grave end of its gamut. If she sang, she was a pure
contralto unmistakably.

'I am making use of the permission you have been good enough
to grant me--of sketching what is valuable within these
walls.'

'Yes, of course, I am willing for anybody to come. People
hold these places in trust for the nation, in one sense. You
lift your hands, Charlotte; I see I have not convinced you on
that point yet.'

Miss De Stancy laughed, and said something to no purpose.

Somehow Miss Power seemed not only more woman than Miss De
Stancy, but more woman than Somerset was man; and yet in years
she was inferior to both. Though becomingly girlish and
modest, she appeared to possess a good deal of composure,
which was well expressed by the shaded light of her eyes.

'You have then met Mr. Somerset before?' said Charlotte.

'He was kind enough to deliver an address in my defence
yesterday. I suppose I seemed quite unable to defend myself.'

'O no!' said he. When a few more words had passed she turned
to Miss De Stancy and spoke of some domestic matter, upon
which Somerset withdrew, Paula accompanying his exit with a
remark that she hoped to see him again a little later in the
day.

Somerset retired to the chambers of antique lumber, keeping an
eye upon the windows to see if she re-entered the carriage and
resumed her journey to Markton. But when the horses had been
standing a long time the carriage was driven round to the
stables. Then she was not going to the vegetable show. That
was rather curious, seeing that she had only come back for
something forgotten.

These queries and thoughts occupied the mind of Somerset until
the bell was rung for luncheon. Owing to the very dusty
condition in which he found himself after his morning's
labours among the old carvings he was rather late in getting
downstairs, and seeing that the rest had gone in he went
straight to the dining-hall.

The population of the castle had increased in his absence.
There were assembled Paula and her friend Charlotte; a bearded
man some years older than himself, with a cold grey eye, who
was cursorily introduced to him in sitting down as Mr. Havill,
an architect of Markton; also an elderly lady of dignified
aspect, in a black satin dress, of which she apparently had a
very high opinion. This lady, who seemed to be a mere dummy
in the establishment, was, as he now learnt, Mrs. Goodman by
name, a widow of a recently deceased gentleman, and aunt to
Paula--the identical aunt who had smuggled Paula into a church
in her helpless infancy, and had her christened without her
parents' knowledge. Having been left in narrow circumstances
by her husband, she was at present living with Miss Power as
chaperon and adviser on practical matters--in a word, as
ballast to the management. Beyond her Somerset discerned his
new acquaintance Mr. Woodwell, who on sight of Somerset was
for hastening up to him and performing a laboured shaking of
hands in earnest recognition.

Paula had just come in from the garden, and was carelessly
laying down her large shady hat as he entered. Her dress, a
figured material in black and white, was short, allowing her
feet to appear. There was something in her look, and in the
style of her corsage, which reminded him of several of the
bygone beauties in the gallery. The thought for a moment
crossed his mind that she might have been imitating one of
them.

'Fine old screen, sir!' said Mr. Havill, in a long-drawn voice
across the table when they were seated, pointing in the
direction of the traceried oak division between the dining-
hall and a vestibule at the end. 'As good a piece of
fourteenth-century work as you shall see in this part of the
country.'

'You mean fifteenth century, of course?' said Somerset.

Havill was silent. 'You are one of the profession, perhaps?'
asked the latter, after a while.

'You mean that I am an architect?' said Somerset. 'Yes.'

'Ah--one of my own honoured vocation.' Havill's face had been
not unpleasant until this moment, when he smiled; whereupon
there instantly gleamed over him a phase of meanness,
remaining until the smile died away.

Havill continued, with slow watchfulness:--

'What enormous sacrileges are committed by the builders every
day, I observe! I was driving yesterday to Toneborough where
I am erecting a town-hall, and passing through a village on my
way I saw the workmen pulling down a chancel-wall in which
they found imbedded a unique specimen of Perpendicular work--a
capital from some old arcade--the mouldings wonderfully
undercut. They were smashing it up as filling-in for the new
wall.'

'It must have been unique,' said Somerset, in the too-readily
controversial tone of the educated young man who has yet to
learn diplomacy. 'I have never seen much undercutting in
Perpendicular stone-work; nor anybody else, I think.'

'O yes--lots of it!' said Mr. Havill, nettled.

Paula looked from one to the other. 'Which am I to take as
guide?' she asked. 'Are Perpendicular capitals undercut, as
you call it, Mr. Havill, or no?'

'It depends upon circumstances,' said Mr. Havill.

But Somerset had answered at the same time: 'There is seldom
or never any marked undercutting in moulded work later than
the middle of the fourteenth century.'

Havill looked keenly at Somerset for a time: then he turned
to Paula: 'As regards that fine Saxon vaulting you did me the
honour to consult me about the other day, I should advise
taking out some of the old stones and reinstating new ones
exactly like them.'

'But the new ones won't be Saxon,' said Paula. 'And then in
time to come, when I have passed away, and those stones have
become stained like the rest, people will be deceived. I
should prefer an honest patch to any such make-believe of
Saxon relics.'

As she concluded she let her eyes rest on Somerset for a
moment, as if to ask him to side with her. Much as he liked
talking to Paula, he would have preferred not to enter into
this discussion with another professional man, even though
that man were a spurious article; but he was led on to
enthusiasm by a sudden pang of regret at finding that the
masterly workmanship in this fine castle was likely to be
tinkered and spoilt by such a man as Havill.

'You will deceive nobody into believing that anything is Saxon
here,' he said warmly. 'There is not a square inch of Saxon
work, as it is called, in the whole castle.'

Paula, in doubt, looked to Mr. Havill.

'O yes, sir; you are quite mistaken,' said that gentleman
slowly. 'Every stone of those lower vaults was reared in
Saxon times.'

'I can assure you,' said Somerset deferentially, but firmly,
'that there is not an arch or wall in this castle of a date
anterior to the year 1100; no one whose attention has ever
been given to the study of architectural details of that age
can be of a different opinion.'

'I have studied architecture, and I am of a different opinion.
I have the best reason in the world for the difference, for I
have history herself on my side. What will you say when I
tell you that it is a recorded fact that this was used as a
castle by the Romans, and that it is mentioned in Domesday as
a building of long standing?'

'I shall say that has nothing to do with it,' replied the
young man. 'I don't deny that there may have been a castle
here in the time of the Romans: what I say is, that none of
the architecture we now see was standing at that date.'

There was a silence of a minute, disturbed only by a murmured
dialogue between Mrs. Goodman and the minister, during which
Paula was looking thoughtfully on the table as if framing a
question.

'Can it be,' she said to Somerset, 'that such certainty has
been reached in the study of architectural dates? Now, would
you really risk anything on your belief? Would you agree to
be shut up in the vaults and fed upon bread and water for a
week if I could prove you wrong?'

'Willingly,' said Somerset. 'The date of those towers and
arches is matter of absolute certainty from the details. That
they should have been built before the Conquest is as unlikely
as, say, that the rustiest old gun with a percussion lock
should be older than the date of Waterloo.'

'How I wish I knew something precise of an art which makes one
so independent of written history!'

Mr. Havill had lapsed into a mannerly silence that was only
sullenness disguised. Paula turned her conversation to Miss
De Stancy, who had simply looked from one to the other during
the discussion, though she might have been supposed to have a
prescriptive right to a few remarks on the matter. A
commonplace talk ensued, till Havill, who had not joined in
it, privately began at Somerset again with a mixed manner of
cordiality, contempt, and misgiving.

'You have a practice, I suppose, sir?'

'I am not in practice just yet.'

'Just beginning?'

'I am about to begin.'

'In London, or near here?'

'In London probably.'

'H'm. . . . I am practising in Markton.'

'Indeed. Have you been at it long?'

'Not particularly. I designed the chapel built by this lady's
late father; it was my first undertaking--I owe my start, in
fact, to Mr. Power. Ever build a chapel?'

'Never. I have sketched a good many churches.'

'Ah--there we differ. I didn't do much sketching in my youth,
nor have I time for it now. Sketching and building are two
different things, to my mind. I was not brought up to the
profession--got into it through sheer love of it. I began as
a landscape gardener, then I became a builder, then I was a
road contractor. Every architect might do worse than have
some such experience. But nowadays 'tis the men who can draw
pretty pictures who get recommended, not the practical men.
Young prigs win Institute medals for a pretty design or two
which, if anybody tried to build them, would fall down like a
house of cards; then they get travelling studentships and what
not, and then they start as architects of some new school or
other, and think they are the masters of us experienced ones.'

While Somerset was reflecting how far this statement was true,
he heard the voice of Paula inquiring, 'Who can he be?'

Her eyes were bent on the window. Looking out, Somerset saw
in the mead beyond the dry ditch, Dare, with his photographic
apparatus.

'He is the young gentleman who called about taking views of
the castle,' said Charlotte.

'O yes--I remember; it is quite right. He met me in the
village and asked me to suggest him some views. I thought him
a respectable young fellow.'

'I think he is a Canadian,' said Somerset.

'No,' said Paula, 'he is from the East--at least he implied so
to me.'

'There is Italian blood in him,' said Charlotte brightly.
'For he spoke to me with an Italian accent. But I can't think
whether he is a boy or a man.'

'It is to be earnestly hoped that the gentleman does not
prevaricate,' said the minister, for the first time attracted
by the subject. 'I accidentally met him in the lane, and he
said something to me about having lived in Malta. I think it
was Malta, or Gibraltar--even if he did not say that he was
born there.'

'His manners are no credit to his nationality,' observed Mrs.
Goodman, also speaking publicly for the first time. 'He asked
me this morning to send him out a pail of water for his
process, and before I had turned away he began whistling. I
don't like whistlers.'

'Then it appears,' said Somerset, 'that he is a being of no
age, no nationality, and no behaviour.'

'A complete negative,' added Havill, brightening into a civil
sneer. 'That is, he would be, if he were not a maker of
negatives well known in Markton.'

'Not well known, Mr. Havill,' answered Mrs. Goodman firmly.
'For I lived in Markton for thirty years ending three months
ago, and he was never heard of in my time.'

'He is something like you, Charlotte,' said Paula, smiling
playfully on her companion.

All the men looked at Charlotte, on whose face a delicate
nervous blush thereupon made its appearance.

''Pon my word there is a likeness, now I think of it,' said
Havill.

Paula bent down to Charlotte and whispered: 'Forgive my
rudeness, dear. He is not a nice enough person to be like
you. He is really more like one or other of the old pictures
about the house. I forget which, and really it does not
matter.'

'People's features fall naturally into groups and classes,'
remarked Somerset. 'To an observant person they often repeat
themselves; though to a careless eye they seem infinite in
their differences.'

The conversation flagged, and they idly observed the figure of
the cosmopolite Dare as he walked round his instrument in the
mead and busied himself with an arrangement of curtains and
lenses, occasionally withdrawing a few steps, and looking
contemplatively at the towers and walls.

Thomas Hardy