The Well - Beloved
The Image Persists
It was dark when the four-wheeled cab wherein he had brought Avice from the station
stood at the entrance to the pile of flats of which Pierston occupied one floor--rarer then
as residences in London than they are now. Leaving Avice to alight and get the luggage
taken in by the porter Pierston went upstairs. To his surprise his floor was silent, and on
entering with a latchkey the rooms were all in darkness. He descended to the hall, where
Avice was standing helpless beside the luggage, while the porter was outside with the
'Do you know what has become of my servants?' asked Jocelyn.
'What--and ain't they there, saur? Ah, then my belief is that what I suspected is thrue!
You didn't leave your wine-cellar unlocked, did you, saur, by no mistake?'
Pierston considered. He thought he might have left the key with his elder servant, whom
he had believed he could trust, especially as the cellar was not well stocked.
'Ah, then it was so! She's been very queer, saur, this last week or two. O yes, sending
messages down the spakin'-tube which were like madness itself, and ordering us this and
that, till we would take no notice at all. I see them both go out last night, and possibly
they went for a holiday not expecting ye, or maybe for good! Shure, if ye'd written, saur,
I'd ha' got the place ready, ye being out of a man, too, though it's not me duty at all!'
When Pierston got to his floor again he found that the cellar door was open; some bottles
were standing empty that had been full, and many abstracted altogether. All other articles
in the house, however, appeared to be intact. His letter to his housekeeper lay in the box
as the postman had left it.
By this time the luggage had been sent up in the lift; and Avice, like so much more
luggage, stood at the door, the hall-porter behind offering his assistance.
'Come here, Avice,' said the sculptor. 'What shall we do now? Here's a pretty state of
Avice could suggest nothing, till she was struck with the bright thought that she should
light a fire.
'Light a fire?--ah, yes. . . . I wonder if we could manage. This is an odd coincidence--and
awkward!' he murmured. 'Very well, light a fire.'
'Is this the kitchen, sir, all mixed up with the parlours?'