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The Well-Beloved

A Lonely Pedestrian
When the boy had gone Jocelyn retraced his steps to the last lamp, and read, in Avice's
hand:
'MY DEAREST,--I shall be sorry if I grieve you at all in what I am going to say about
our arrangement to meet to-night in the Sandsfoot ruin. But I have fancied that my seeing
you again and again lately is inclining your father to insist, and you as his heir to feel,
that we ought to carry out Island Custom in our courting--your people being such old
inhabitants in an unbroken line. Truth to say, mother supposes that your father, for
natural reasons, may have hinted to you that we ought. Now, the thing is contrary to my
feelings: it is nearly left off; and I do not think it good, even where there is property, as in
your case, to justify it, in a measure. I would rather trust in Providence.
'On the whole, therefore, it is best that I should not come--if only for appearances--and
meet you at a time and place suggesting the custom, to others than ourselves, at least, if
known.
'I am sure that this decision will not disturb you much; that you will understand my
modern feelings, and think no worse of me for them. And dear, if it were to be done, and
we were unfortunate in it, we might both have enough old family feeling to think, like our
forefathers, and possibly your father, that we could not marry honourably; and hence we
might be made unhappy.
'However, you will come again shortly, will you not, dear Jocelyn?--and then the time
will soon draw on when no more good-byes will be required.--Always and ever yours,
'AVICE.'
Jocelyn, having read the letter, was surprised at the naivete it showed, and at Avice and
her mother's antiquated simplicity in supposing that to be still a grave and operating
principle which was a bygone barbarism to himself and other absentees from the island.
His father, as a money-maker, might have practical wishes on the matter of descendants
which lent plausibility to the conjecture of Avice and her mother; but to Jocelyn he had
never expressed himself in favour of the ancient ways, old-fashioned as he was.
Amused therefore at her regard of herself as modern, Jocelyn was disappointed, and a
little vexed, that such an unforeseen reason should have deprived him of her company.
How the old ideas survived under the new education!
The reader is asked to remember that the date, though recent in the history of the Isle of
Slingers, was more than forty years ago.
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