The Well - Beloved
The Renewed Image Burns Itself In
There was nothing to hinder Pierston in calling upon the new Avice's mother as often as
he should choose, beyond the five miles of intervening railway and additional mile or two
of clambering over the heights of the island. Two days later, therefore, he repeated his
journey and knocked about tea-time at the widow's door.
As he had feared, the daughter was not at home. He sat down beside the old sweetheart
who, having eclipsed her mother in past days, had now eclipsed herself in her child.
Jocelyn produced the girl's boot from his pocket.
'Then, 'tis YOU who helped Avice out of her predicament?' said Mrs. Pierston, with
'Yes, my dear friend; and perhaps I shall ask you to help me out of mine before I have
done. But never mind that now. What did she tell you about the adventure?'
Mrs. Pierston was looking thoughtfully upon him. 'Well, 'tis rather strange it should have
been you, sir,' she replied. She seemed to be a good deal interested. 'I thought it might
have been a younger man--a much younger man.'
'It might have been as far as feelings were concerned. . . . Now, Avice, I'll to the point at
once. Virtually I have known your daughter any number of years. When I talk to her I can
anticipate every turn of her thought, every sentiment, every act, so long did I study those
things in your mother and in you. Therefore I do not require to learn her; she was learnt
by me in her previous existences. Now, don't be shocked: I am willing to marry her--I
should be overjoyed to do it, if there would be nothing preposterous about it, or that
would seem like a man making himself too much of a fool, and so degrading her in
consenting. I can make her comparatively rich, as you know, and I would indulge her
every whim. There is the idea, bluntly put. It would set right something in my mind that
has been wrong for forty years. After my death she would have plenty of freedom and
plenty of means to enjoy it.'
Mrs. Isaac Pierston seemed only a little surprised; certainly not shocked.
'Well, if I didn't think you might be a bit taken with her!' she said with an arch simplicity
which could hardly be called unaffected. 'Knowing the set of your mind, from my little
time with you years ago, nothing you could do in this way would astonish me.'
'But you don't think badly of me for it?'