The Well - Beloved
She Threatens To Resume Corporeal Substance
The lispings of the sea beneath the cliffs were all the sounds that reached him, for the
quarries were silent now. How long he sat here lonely and thinking he did not know.
Neither did he know, though he felt drowsy, whether inexpectant sadness--that gentle
soporific--lulled him into a short sleep, so that he lost count of time and consciousness of
incident. But during some minute or minutes he seemed to see Avice Caro herself,
bending over and then withdrawing from her grave in the light of the moon.
She seemed not a year older, not a digit less slender, not a line more angular than when
he had parted from her twenty years earlier, in the lane hard by. A renascent reasoning on
the impossibility of such a phenomenon as this being more than a dream-fancy roused
him with a start from his heaviness.
'I must have been asleep,' he said.
Yet she had seemed so real. Pierston however dismissed the strange impression, arguing
that even if the information sent him of Avice's death should be false--a thing incredible--
that sweet friend of his youth, despite the transfiguring effects of moonlight, would not
now look the same as she had appeared nineteen or twenty years ago. Were what he saw
substantial flesh, it must have been some other person than Avice Caro.
Having satisfied his sentiment by coming to the graveside there was nothing more for
him to do in the island, and he decided to return to London that night. But some time
remaining still on his hands, Jocelyn by a natural instinct turned his feet in the direction
of East Quarriers, the village of his birth and of hers. Passing the market- square he
pursued the arm of road to 'Sylvania Castle,' a private mansion of comparatively modern
date, in whose grounds stood the single plantation of trees of which the isle could boast.
The cottages extended close to the walls of the enclosure, and one of the last of these
dwellings had been Avice's, in which, as it was her freehold, she possibly had died.
To reach it he passed the gates of 'Sylvania,' and observed above the lawn wall a board
announcing that the house was to be let furnished. A few steps further revealed the
cottage which with its quaint and massive stone features of two or three centuries'
antiquity, was capable even now of longer resistance to the rasp of Time than ordinary
new erections. His attention was drawn to the window, still unblinded, though a lamp lit
the room. He stepped back against the wall opposite, and gazed in.
At a table covered with a white cloth a young woman stood putting tea- things away into
a corner-cupboard. She was in all respects the Avice he had lost, the girl he had seen in
the churchyard and had fancied to be the illusion of a dream. And though there was this
time no doubt about her reality, the isolation of her position in the silent house lent her a
curiously startling aspect. Divining the explanation he waited for footsteps, and in a few
moments a quarryman passed him on his journey home. Pierston inquired of the man
concerning the spectacle.