It was a sad and leaden afternoon, and Pierston paced up the long, steep pass or street of
the Wells. On either side of the road young girls stood with pitchers at the fountains
which bubbled there, and behind the houses forming the propylaea of the rock rose the
massive forehead of the Isle--crested at this part with its enormous ramparts as with a
As you approach the upper end of the street all progress seems about to be checked by the
almost vertical face of the escarpment. Into it your track apparently runs point-blank: a
confronting mass which, if it were to slip down, would overwhelm the whole town. But
in a moment you find that the road, the old Roman highway into the peninsula, turns at a
sharp angle when it reaches the base of the scarp, and ascends in the stiffest of inclines to
the right. To the left there is also another ascending road, modern, almost as steep as the
first, and perfectly straight. This is the road to the forts.
Pierston arrived at the forking of the ways, and paused for breath. Before turning to the
right, his proper and picturesque course, he looked up the uninteresting left road to the
fortifications. It was new, long, white, regular, tapering to a vanishing point, like a lesson
in perspective. About a quarter of the way up a girl was resting beside a basket of white
linen: and by the shape of her hat and the nature of her burden he recognized her.
She did not see him, and abandoning the right-hand course he slowly ascended the incline
she had taken. He observed that her attention was absorbed by something aloft. He
followed the direction of her gaze. Above them towered the green-grey mountain of
grassy stone, here levelled at the top by military art. The skyline was broken every now
and then by a little peg-like object--a sentry-box; and near one of these a small red spot
kept creeping backwards and forwards monotonously against the heavy sky.
Then he divined that she had a soldier-lover.
She turned her head, saw him, and took up her clothes-basket to continue the ascent. The
steepness was such that to climb it unencumbered was a breathless business; the linen
made her task a cruelty to her. 'You'll never get to the forts with that weight,' he said.
'Give it to me.'
But she would not, and he stood still, watching her as she panted up the way; for the
moment an irradiated being, the epitome of a whole sex: by the beams of his own
'. . . . . . . robed in such exceeding glory That he beheld her not;'