The Well - Beloved
The Well-Beloved Is--Where?
Mrs. Pierston passed a restless night, but this she let nobody know; nor, what was
painfully evident to herself, that her prostration was increased by anxiety and suspense
about the wedding on which she had too much set her heart.
During the very brief space in which she dozed Avice came into her room. As it was not
infrequent for her daughter to look in upon her thus she took little notice, merely saying
to assure the girl: 'I am better, dear. Don't come in again. Get to sleep yourself.'
The mother, however, went thinking anew. She had no apprehensions about this
marriage. She felt perfectly sure that it was the best thing she could do for her girl. Not a
young woman on the island but was envying Avice at that moment; for Jocelyn was
absurdly young for three score, a good-looking man, one whose history was generally
known here; as also were the exact figures of the fortune he had inherited from his father,
and the social standing he could claim--a standing, however, which that fortune would
not have been large enough to procure unassisted by his reputation in his art.
But Avice had been weak enough, as her mother knew, to indulge in fancies for local
youths from time to time, and Mrs. Pierston could not help congratulating herself that her
daughter had been so docile in the circumstances. Yet to every one except, perhaps,
Avice herself, Jocelyn was the most romantic of lovers. Indeed was there ever such a
romance as that man embodied in his relations to her house? Rejecting the first Avice, the
second had rejected him, and to rally to the third with final achievement was an artistic
and tender finish to which it was ungrateful in anybody to be blind.
The widow thought that the second Avice might probably not have rejected Pierston on
that occasion in the London studio so many years ago if destiny had not arranged that she
should have been secretly united to another when the proposing moment came.
But what had come was best. 'My God,' she said at times that night, 'to think my aim in
writing to him should be fulfilling itself like this!'
When all was right and done, what a success upon the whole her life would have been.
She who had begun her career as a cottage-girl, a small quarry-owner's daughter, had
sunk so low as to the position of laundress, had engaged in various menial occupations,
had made an unhappy marriage for love which had, however, in the long run, thanks to
Jocelyn's management, much improved her position, was at last to see her daughter
secure what she herself had just missed securing, and established in a home of affluence
Thus the sick woman excited herself as the hours went on. At last, in her tenseness it
seemed to her that the time had already come at which the household was stirring, and