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The Well - Beloved

The Past Shines In The Present
It was the evening of Pierston's arrival at Sylvania Castle, a dignified manor-house in a
nook by the cliffs, with modern castellations and battlements; and he had walked through
the rooms, about the lawn, and into the surrounding plantation of elms, which on this
island of treeless rock lent a unique character to the enclosure. In name, nature, and
accessories the property within the girdling wall formed a complete antithesis to
everything in its precincts. To find other trees between Pebble-bank and Beal, it was
necessary to recede a little in time--to dig down to a loose stratum of the underlying
stone- beds, where a forest of conifers lay as petrifactions, their heads all in one direction,
as blown down by a gale in the Secondary geologic epoch.
Dusk had closed in, and he now proceeded with what was, after all, the real business of
his sojourn. The two servants who had been left to take care of the house were in their
own quarters, and he went out unobserved. Crossing a hollow overhung by the budding
boughs he approached an empty garden-house of Elizabethan design, which stood on the
outer wall of the grounds, and commanded by a window the fronts of the nearest
cottages. Among them was the home of the resuscitated Avice.
He had chosen this moment for his outlook through knowing that the villagers were in no
hurry to pull down their blinds at nightfall. And, as he had divined, the inside of the
young woman's living-room was visible to him as formerly, illuminated by the rays of its
own lamp.
A subdued thumping came every now and then from the apartment. She was ironing linen
on a flannel table-cloth, a row of such apparel hanging on a clothes-horse by the fire. Her
face had been pale when he encountered her, but now it was warm and pink with her
exertions and the heat of the stove. Yet it was in perfect and passionless repose, which
imparted a Minerva cast to the profile. When she glanced up, her lineaments seemed to
have all the soul and heart that had characterized her mother's, and had been with her a
true index of the spirit within. Could it be possible that in this case the manifestation was
fictitious? He had met with many such examples of hereditary persistence without the
qualities signified by the traits. He unconsciously hoped that it was at least not entirely so
here.
The room was less furnished than when he had last beheld it. The 'bo- fet,' or double
corner-cupboard, where the china was formerly kept, had disappeared, its place being
taken by a plain board. The tall old clock, with its ancient oak carcase, arched brow, and
humorous mouth, was also not to be seen, a cheap, white-dialled specimen doing its
work. What these displacements might betoken saddened his humanity less than it
cheered his primitive instinct in pointing out how her necessities might bring them
together.
 
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