The Well - Beloved
His Own Soul Confronts Him
From his roomy castle and its grounds and the cliffs hard by he could command every
move and aspect of her who was the rejuvenated Spirit of the Past to him--in the
effulgence of whom all sordid details were disregarded.
Among other things he observed that she was often anxious when it rained. If, after a wet
day, a golden streak appeared in the sky over Deadman's Bay, under a lid of cloud, her
manner was joyous and her tread light.
This puzzled him; and he found that if he endeavoured to encounter her at these times she
shunned him--stealthily and subtly, but unmistakably. One evening, when she had left her
cottage and tripped off in the direction of the under-hill townlet, he set out by the same
route, resolved to await her return along the high roadway which stretched between that
place and East Quarriers.
He reached the top of the old road where it makes a sudden descent to the townlet, but
she did not appear. Turning back, he sauntered along till he had nearly reached his own
house again. Then he retraced his steps, and in the dim night he walked backwards and
forwards on the bare and lofty convex of the isle; the stars above and around him, the
lighthouse on duty at the distant point, the lightship winking from the sandbank, the
combing of the pebble beach by the tide beneath, the church away south-westward, where
the island fathers lay.
He walked the wild summit till his legs ached, and his heart ached-- till he seemed to hear
on the upper wind the stones of the slingers whizzing past, and the voices of the invaders
who annihilated them, and married their wives and daughters, and produced Avice as the
ultimate flower of the combined stocks. Still she did not come. It was more than foolish
to wait, yet he could not help waiting. At length he discerned a dot of a figure, which he
knew to be hers rather by its motion than by its shape.
How incomparably the immaterial dream dwarfed the grandest of substantial things,
when here, between those three sublimities--the sky, the rock, and the ocean--the minute
personality of this washer- girl filled his consciousness to its extremest boundary, and the
stupendous inanimate scene shrank to a corner therein.
But all at once the approaching figure had disappeared. He looked about; she had
certainly vanished. At one side of the road was a low wall, but she could not have gone
behind that without considerable trouble and singular conduct. He looked behind him;
she had reappeared further on the road.
Jocelyn Pierston hurried after; and, discerning his movement, Avice stood still. When he
came up, she was slily shaking with restrained laughter.
'Well, what does this mean, my dear girl?' he asked.