The Well - Beloved
Misgivings On The Re-Embodiment
Pierston had been about to leave, but he sat down again on being asked if he would stay
and have a cup of tea. He hardly knew for a moment what he did; a dim thought that
Avice--the renewed Avice--might come into the house made his reseating himself an act
He forgot that twenty years earlier he had called the now Mrs. Pierston an elf, a witch;
and that lapse of time had probably not diminished the subtleties implied by those
epithets. He did not know that she had noted every impression that her daughter had
made upon him.
How he contrived to attenuate and disperse the rather tender personalities he had opened
up with the new Avice's mother, Pierston never exactly defined. Perhaps she saw more
than he thought she saw-- read something in his face--knew that about his nature which
he gave her no credit for knowing. Anyhow, the conversation took the form of a friendly
gossip from that minute, his remarks being often given while his mind was turned
But a chill passed through Jocelyn when there had been time for reflection. The renewed
study of his art in Rome without any counterbalancing practical pursuit had nourished
and developed his natural responsiveness to impressions; he now felt that his old trouble,
his doom--his curse, indeed, he had sometimes called it--was come back again. His
divinity was not yet propitiated for that original sin against her image in the person of
Avice the First, and now, at the age of one-and-sixty, he was urged on and on like the
Jew Ahasuerus--or, in the phrase of the islanders themselves, like a blind ram.
The Goddess, an abstraction to the general, was a fairly real personage to Pierston. He
had watched the marble images of her which stood in his working-room, under all
changes of light and shade in the brightening of morning, in the blackening of eve, in
moonlight, in lamplight. Every line and curve of her body none, naturally, knew better
than he; and, though not a belief, it was, as has been stated, a formula, a superstition, that
the three Avices were inter-penetrated with her essence.
'And the next Avice--your daughter,' he said stumblingly; 'she is, you say, a governess at
the castle opposite?'
Mrs. Pierston reaffirmed the fact, adding that the girl often slept at home because she, her
mother, was so lonely. She often thought she would like to keep her daughter at home
'She plays that instrument, I suppose?' said Pierston, regarding the piano.