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The Well - Beloved

On The Verge Of Possession
In anticipation of his marriage Pierston had taken a new red house of the approved
Kensington pattern, with a new studio at the back as large as a mediaeval barn. Hither, in
collusion with the elder Avice--whose health had mended somewhat--he invited mother
and daughter to spend a week or two with him, thinking thereby to exercise on the latter's
imagination an influence which was not practicable while he was a guest at their house;
and by interesting his betrothed in the fitting and furnishing of this residence to create in
her an ambition to be its mistress.
It was a pleasant, reposeful time to be in town. There was nobody to interrupt them in
their proceedings, and, it being out of the season, the largest tradesmen were as attentive
to their wants as if those firms had never before been honoured with a single customer
whom they really liked. Pierston and his guests, almost equally inexperienced-- for the
sculptor had nearly forgotten what knowledge of householding he had acquired earlier in
life--could consider and practise thoroughly a species of skeleton-drill in receiving
visitors when the pair should announce themselves as married and at home in the coming
winter season.
Avice was charming, even if a little cold. He congratulated himself yet again that time
should have reserved for him this final chance for one of the line. She was somewhat like
her mother, whom he had loved in the flesh, but she had the soul of her grandmother,
whom he had loved in the spirit--and, for that matter, loved now. Only one criticism had
he to pass upon his choice: though in outward semblance her grandam idealized, she had
not the first Avice's candour, but rather her mother's closeness. He never knew exactly
what she was thinking and feeling. Yet he seemed to have such prescriptive rights in
women of her blood that her occasional want of confidence did not deeply trouble him.
It was one of those ripe and mellow afternoons that sometimes colour London with their
golden light at this time of the year, and produce those marvellous sunset effects which, if
they were not known to be made up of kitchen coal-smoke and animal exhalations, would
be rapturously applauded. Behind the perpendicular, oblique, zigzagged, and curved zinc
'tall-boys,' that formed a grey pattern not unlike early Gothic numerals against the sky,
the men and women on the tops of the omnibuses saw an irradiation of topaz hues,
darkened here and there into richest russet.
There had been a sharp shower during the afternoon, and Pierston--who had to take care
of himself--had worn a pair of goloshes on his short walk in the street. He noiselessly
entered the studio, inside which some gleams of the same mellow light had managed to
creep, and where he guessed he should find his prospective wife and mother-in-law
awaiting him with tea. But only Avice was there, seated beside the teapot of brown delf,
which, as artists, they affected, her back being toward him. She was holding her
handkerchief to her eyes, and he saw that she was weeping silently.
 
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