He descended the stone stairs to a lower story of the castle, in
which was a crypt-like hall covered by vaulting of exceptional and
'Built ere the art was known,
By pointed aisle and shafted stalk
The arcades of an alleyed walk
To emulate in stone.'
It happened that the central pillar whereon the vaults rested,
reputed to exhibit some of the most hideous grotesques in England
upon its capital, was within a locked door. Somerset was tempted to
ask a servant for permission to open it, till he heard that the
inner room was temporarily used for plate, the key being kept by
Miss De Stancy, at which he said no more. But afterwards the active
housemaid redescended the stone steps; she entered the crypt with a
bunch of keys in one hand, and in the other a candle, followed by
the young lady whom Somerset had seen on the terrace.
'I shall be very glad to unlock anything you may want to see. So
few people take any real interest in what is here that we do not
leave it open.'
Somerset expressed his thanks.
Miss De Stancy, a little to his surprise, had a touch of
rusticity in her manner, and that forced absence of reserve which
seclusion from society lends to young women more frequently than
not. She seemed glad to have something to do; the arrival of
Somerset was plainly an event sufficient to set some little mark
upon her day. Deception had been written on the faces of those
frowning walls in their implying the insignificance of Somerset,
when he found them tenanted only by this little woman whose life
was narrower than his own.
'We have not been here long,' continued Miss De Stancy, 'and
that's why everything is in such a dilapidated and confused
Somerset entered the dark store-closet, thinking less of the
ancient pillar revealed by the light of the candle than what a
singular remark the latter was to come from a member of the family
which appeared to have been there five centuries. He held the
candle above his head, and walked round, and presently Miss De
Stancy came back.
'There is another vault below,' she said, with the severe face
of a young woman who speaks only because it is absolutely
necessary. 'Perhaps you are not aware of it? It was the dungeon: if
you wish to go down there too, the servant will show you the way.
It is not at all ornamental: rough, unhewn arches and clumsy
Somerset thanked her, and would perhaps take advantage of her
kind offer when he had examined the spot where he was, if it were
not causing inconvenience.
'No; I am sure Paula will be glad to know that anybody thinks it
interesting to go down there—which is more than she does
Some obvious inquiries were suggested by this, but Somerset
said, 'I have seen the pictures, and have been much struck by them;
partly,' he added, with some hesitation, 'because one or two of
them reminded me of a schoolfellow—I think his name was John
'Yes,' she said, almost eagerly. 'He was my cousin!'
'So that we are not quite strangers?'
'But he is dead now… . He was unfortunate: he was mostly spoken
of as "that unlucky boy."… You know, I suppose, Mr. Somerset, why
the paintings are in such a decaying state!—it is owing to the
peculiar treatment of the castle during Mr. Wilkins's time. He was
blind; so one can imagine he did not appreciate such things as
there are here.'
'The castle has been shut up, you mean?'
'O yes, for many years. But it will not be so again. We are
going to have the pictures cleaned, and the frames mended, and the
old pieces of furniture put in their proper places. It will be very
nice then. Did you see those in the east closet?'
'I have only seen those in the gallery.'
'I will just show you the way to the others, if you would like
to see them?'
They ascended to the room designated the east closet. The
paintings here, mostly of smaller size, were in a better condition,
owing to the fact that they were hung on an inner wall, and had
hence been kept free from damp. Somerset inquired the names and
histories of one or two.
'I really don't quite know,' Miss De Stancy replied after some
thought. 'But Paula knows, I am sure. I don't study them much—I
don't see the use of it.' She swung her sunshade, so that it fell
open, and turned it up till it fell shut. 'I have never been able
to give much attention to ancestors,' she added, with her eyes on
'These ARE your ancestors?' he asked, for her position and tone
were matters which perplexed him. In spite of the family likeness
and other details he could scarcely believe this frank and
communicative country maiden to be the modern representative of the
'O yes, they certainly are,' she said, laughing. 'People say I
am like them: I don't know if I am—well, yes, I know I am: I can
see that, of course, any day. But they have gone from my family,
and perhaps it is just as well that they should have gone… . They
are useless,' she added, with serene conclusiveness.
'Ah! they have gone, have they?'
'Yes, castle and furniture went together: it was long ago—long
before I was born. It doesn't seem to me as if the place ever
belonged to a relative of mine.'
Somerset corrected his smiling manner to one of solicitude.
'But you live here, Miss De Stancy?'
'Yes—a great deal now; though sometimes I go home to sleep.'
'This is home to you, and not home?'
'I live here with Paula—my friend: I have not been here long,
neither has she. For the first six months after her father's death
she did not come here at all.'
They walked on, gazing at the walls, till the young man said: 'I
fear I may be making some mistake: but I am sure you will pardon my
inquisitiveness this once. WHO is Paula?'
'Ah, you don't know! Of course you don't—local changes don't get
talked of far away. She is the owner of this castle and estate. My
father sold it when he was quite a young man, years before I was
born, and not long after his father's death. It was purchased by a
man named Wilkins, a rich man who became blind soon after he had
bought it, and never lived here; so it was left uncared for.'
She went out upon the terrace; and without exactly knowing why,
'Has only come here quite recently. She is away from home
to-day… . It was very sad,' murmured the young girl thoughtfully.
'No sooner had Mr. Power bought it of the representatives of Mr.
Wilkins—almost immediately indeed—than he died from a chill caught
after a warm bath. On account of that she did not take possession
for several months; and even now she has only had a few rooms
prepared as a temporary residence till she can think what to do.
Poor thing, it is sad to be left alone!'
Somerset heedfully remarked that he thought he recognized that
name Power, as one he had seen lately, somewhere or other.
'Perhaps you have been hearing of her father. Do you know what
Somerset did not.
She looked across the distant country, where undulations of
dark-green foliage formed a prospect extending for miles. And as
she watched, and Somerset's eyes, led by hers, watched also, a
white streak of steam, thin as a cotton thread, could be discerned
ploughing that green expanse. 'Her father made THAT,' Miss De
Stancy said, directing her finger towards the object.
'That railway. He was Mr. John Power, the great railway
contractor. And it was through making the railway that he
discovered this castle—the railway was diverted a little on its
'A clash between ancient and modern.'
'Yes, but he took an interest in the locality long before he
purchased the estate. And he built the people a chapel on a bit of
freehold he bought for them. He was a great Nonconformist, a
staunch Baptist up to the day of his death—a much stauncher one,'
she said significantly, 'than his daughter is.'
'Ah, I begin to spot her!'
'You have heard about the baptism?'
'I know something of it.'
'Her conduct has given mortal offence to the scattered people of
the denomination that her father was at such pains to unite into a
Somerset could guess the remainder, and in thinking over the
circumstances did not state what he had seen. She added, as if
disappointed at his want of curiosity—
'She would not submit to the rite when it came to the point. The
water looked so cold and dark and fearful, she said, that she could
not do it to save her life.'
'Surely she should have known her mind before she had gone so
far?' Somerset's words had a condemnatory form, but perhaps his
actual feeling was that if Miss Power had known her own mind, she
would have not interested him half so much.
'Paula's own mind had nothing to do with it!' said Miss De
Stancy, warming up to staunch partizanship in a moment. 'It was all
undertaken by her from a mistaken sense of duty. It was her
father's dying wish that she should make public profession of
her—what do you call it—of the denomination she belonged to, as
soon as she felt herself fit to do it: so when he was dead she
tried and tried, and didn't get any more fit; and at last she
screwed herself up to the pitch, and thought she must undergo the
ceremony out of pure reverence for his memory. It was very
short-sighted of her father to put her in such a position: because
she is now very sad, as she feels she can never try again after
such a sermon as was delivered against her.'
Somerset presumed that Miss Power need not have heard this Knox
or Bossuet of hers if she had chosen to go away?
'She did not hear it in the face of the congregation; but from
the vestry. She told me some of it when she reached home. Would you
believe it, the man who preached so bitterly is a tenant of hers? I
said, "Surely you will turn him out of his house?"—But she
answered, in her calm, deep, nice way, that she supposed he had a
perfect right to preach against her, that she could not in justice
molest him at all. I wouldn't let him stay if the house were mine.
But she has often before allowed him to scold her from the pulpit
in a smaller way—once it was about an expensive dress she had
worn—not mentioning her by name, you know; but all the people are
quite aware that it is meant for her, because only one person of
her wealth or position belongs to the Baptist body in this
Somerset was looking at the homely affectionate face of the
little speaker. 'You are her good friend, I am sure,' he
She looked into the distant air with tacit admission of the
impeachment. 'So would you be if you knew her,' she said; and a
blush slowly rose to her cheek, as if the person spoken of had been
a lover rather than a friend.
'But you are not a Baptist any more than I?' continued
'O no. And I never knew one till I knew Paula. I think they are
very nice; though I sometimes wish Paula was not one, but the
religion of reasonable persons.'
They walked on, and came opposite to where the telegraph emerged
from the trees, leapt over the parapet, and up through the loophole
into the interior.
'That looks strange in such a building,' said her companion.
'Miss Power had it put up to know the latest news from town. It
costs six pounds a mile. She can work it herself, beautifully: and
so can I, but not so well. It was a great delight to learn. Miss
Power was so interested at first that she was sending messages from
morning till night. And did you hear the new clock?'
'Is it a new one?—Yes, I heard it.'
'The old one was quite worn out; so Paula has put it in the
cellar, and had this new one made, though it still strikes on the
old bell. It tells the seconds, but the old one, which my very
great grandfather erected in the eighteenth century, only told the
hours. Paula says that time, being so much more valuable now, must
of course be cut up into smaller pieces.'
'She does not appear to be much impressed by the spirit of this
Miss De Stancy shook her head too slightly to express absolute
'Do you wish to come through this door?' she asked. 'There is a
singular chimney-piece in the kitchen, which is considered a unique
example of its kind, though I myself don't know enough about it to
have an opinion on the subject.'
When they had looked at the corbelled chimney-piece they
returned to the hall, where his eye was caught anew by a large map
that he had conned for some time when alone, without being able to
divine the locality represented. It was called 'General Plan of the
Town,' and showed streets and open spaces corresponding with
nothing he had seen in the county.
'Is that town here?' he asked.
'It is not anywhere but in Paula's brain; she has laid it out
from her own design. The site is supposed to be near our railway
station, just across there, where the land belongs to her. She is
going to grant cheap building leases, and develop the manufacture
'Pottery—how very practical she must be!'
'O no! no!' replied Miss De Stancy, in tones showing how
supremely ignorant he must be of Miss Power's nature if he
characterized her in those terms. 'It is GREEK pottery she
means—Hellenic pottery she tells me to call it, only I forget.
There is beautiful clay at the place, her father told her: he found
it in making the railway tunnel. She has visited the British
Museum, continental museums, and Greece, and Spain: and hopes to
imitate the old fictile work in time, especially the Greek of the
best period, four hundred years after Christ, or before Christ—I
forget which it was Paula said… . O no, she is not practical in the
sense you mean, at all.'
'A mixed young lady, rather.'
Miss De Stancy appeared unable to settle whether this new
definition of her dear friend should be accepted as kindly, or
disallowed as decidedly sarcastic. 'You would like her if you knew
her,' she insisted, in half tones of pique; after which she walked
on a few steps.
'I think very highly of her,' said Somerset.
'And I! And yet at one time I could never have believed that I
should have been her friend. One is prejudiced at first against
people who are reported to have such differences in feeling,
associations, and habit, as she seemed to have from mine. But it
has not stood in the least in the way of our liking each other. I
believe the difference makes us the more united.'
'It says a great deal for the liberality of both,' answered
Somerset warmly. 'Heaven send us more of the same sort of people!
They are not too numerous at present.'
As this remark called for no reply from Miss De Stancy, she took
advantage of an opportunity to leave him alone, first repeating her
permission to him to wander where he would. He walked about for
some time, sketch-book in hand, but was conscious that his interest
did not lie much in the architecture. In passing along the corridor
of an upper floor he observed an open door, through which was
visible a room containing one of the finest Renaissance cabinets he
had ever seen. It was impossible, on close examination, to do
justice to it in a hasty sketch; it would be necessary to measure
every line if he would bring away anything of utility to him as a
designer. Deciding to reserve this gem for another opportunity he
cast his eyes round the room and blushed a little. Without knowing
it he had intruded into the absent Miss Paula's own particular set
of chambers, including a boudoir and sleeping apartment. On the
tables of the sitting-room were most of the popular papers and
periodicals that he knew, not only English, but from Paris, Italy,
and America. Satirical prints, though they did not unduly
preponderate, were not wanting. Besides these there were books from
a London circulating library, paper-covered light literature in
French and choice Italian, and the latest monthly reviews; while
between the two windows stood the telegraph apparatus whose wire
had been the means of bringing him hither.
These things, ensconced amid so much of the old and hoary, were
as if a stray hour from the nineteenth century had wandered like a
butterfly into the thirteenth, and lost itself there.
The door between this ante-chamber and the sleeping-room stood
open. Without venturing to cross the threshold, for he felt that he
would be abusing hospitality to go so far, Somerset looked in for a
moment. It was a pretty place, and seemed to have been hastily
fitted up. In a corner, overhung by a blue and white canopy of
silk, was a little cot, hardly large enough to impress the
character of bedroom upon the old place. Upon a counterpane lay a
parasol and a silk neckerchief. On the other side of the room was a
tall mirror of startling newness, draped like the bedstead, in blue
and white. Thrown at random upon the floor was a pair of satin
slippers that would have fitted Cinderella. A dressing-gown lay
across a settee; and opposite, upon a small easy-chair in the same
blue and white livery, were a Bible, the Baptist Magazine, Wardlaw
on Infant Baptism, Walford's County Families, and the Court
Journal. On and over the mantelpiece were nicknacks of various
descriptions, and photographic portraits of the artistic,
scientific, and literary celebrities of the day.
A dressing-room lay beyond; but, becoming conscious that his
study of ancient architecture would hardly bear stretching further
in that direction, Mr. Somerset retreated to the outside,
obliviously passing by the gem of Renaissance that had led him
'She affects blue,' he was thinking. 'Then she is fair.'
On looking up, some time later, at the new clock that told the
seconds, he found that the hours at his disposal for work had flown
without his having transferred a single feature of the building or
furniture to his sketch-book. Before leaving he sent in for
permission to come again, and then walked across the fields to the
inn at Sleeping-Green, reflecting less upon Miss De Stancy (so
little force of presence had she possessed) than upon the modern
flower in a mediaeval flower-pot whom Miss De Stancy's information
had brought before him, and upon the incongruities that were daily
shaping themselves in the world under the great modern fluctuations
of classes and creeds.
Somerset was still full of the subject when he arrived at the
end of his walk, and he fancied that some loungers at the bar of
the inn were discussing the heroine of the chapel-scene just at the
moment of his entry. On this account, when the landlord came to
clear away the dinner, Somerset was led to inquire of him, by way
of opening a conversation, if there were many Baptists in the
The landlord (who was a serious man on the surface, though he
occasionally smiled beneath) replied that there were a great
many—far more than the average in country parishes. 'Even here, in
my house, now,' he added, 'when volks get a drop of drink into 'em,
and their feelings rise to a zong, some man will strike up a hymn
by preference. But I find no fault with that; for though 'tis
hardly human nature to be so calculating in yer cups, a feller may
as well sing to gain something as sing to waste.'
'How do you account for there being so many?'
'Well, you zee, sir, some says one thing, and some another; I
think they does it to save the expense of a Christian burial for
ther children. Now there's a poor family out in Long Lane—the
husband used to smite for Jimmy More the blacksmith till 'a hurt
his arm—they'd have no less than eleven children if they'd not been
lucky t'other way, and buried five when they were three or four
months old. Now every one of them children was given to the sexton
in a little box that any journeyman could nail together in a
quarter of an hour, and he buried 'em at night for a shilling a
head; whereas 'twould have cost a couple of pounds each if they'd
been christened at church… . Of course there's the new lady at the
castle, she's a chapel member, and that may make a little
difference; but she's not been here long enough to show whether
'twill be worth while to join 'em for the profit o't or whether
'twill not. No doubt if it turns out that she's of a sort to
relieve volks in trouble, more will join her set than belongs to it
already. "Any port in a storm," of course, as the saying is.'
'As for yourself, you are a Churchman at present, I
'Yes; not but I was a Methodist once—ay, for a length of time.
'Twas owing to my taking a house next door to a chapel; so that
what with hearing the organ bizz like a bee through the wall, and
what with finding it saved umbrellas on wet Zundays, I went over to
that faith for two years—though I believe I dropped money by it—I
wouldn't be the man to say so if I hadn't. Howsomever, when I moved
into this house I turned back again to my old religion. Faith, I
don't zee much difference: be you one, or be you t'other, you've
got to get your living.'
'The De Stancys, of course, have not much influence here now,
for that, or any other thing?'
'O no, no; not any at all. They be very low upon ground, and
always will be now, I suppose. It was thoughted worthy of being
recorded in history—you've read it, sir, no doubt?'
'Not a word.'
'O, then, you shall. I've got the history zomewhere. 'Twas gay
manners that did it. The only bit of luck they have had of late
years is Miss Power's taking to little Miss De Stancy, and making
her her company-keeper. I hope 'twill continue.'
That the two daughters of these antipodean families should be
such intimate friends was a situation which pleased Somerset as
much as it did the landlord. It was an engaging instance of that
human progress on which he had expended many charming dreams in the
years when poetry, theology, and the reorganization of society had
seemed matters of more importance to him than a profession which
should help him to a big house and income, a fair Deiopeia, and a
lovely progeny. When he was alone he poured out a glass of wine,
and silently drank the healths of the two generous-minded young
women who, in this lonely district, had found sweet communion a
necessity of life, and by pure and instinctive good sense had
broken down a barrier which men thrice their age and repute would
probably have felt it imperative to maintain. But perhaps this was
premature: the omnipotent Miss Power's character—practical or
ideal, politic or impulsive—he as yet knew nothing of; and giving
over reasoning from insufficient data he lapsed into mere