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The Well - Beloved

A Grille Descends Between
'O Avice!' he cried, with the tenderly subdued scolding of a mother. 'What is this you
have done to alarm me so!'
She seemed unconscious of having done anything, and was altogether surprised at his
anxiety. In his relief he did not speak further till he asked her suddenly if she would take
his arm since she must be tired.
'O no, sir!' she assured him, 'I am not a bit tired, and I don't require any help at all, thank
you.'
They went upstairs without using the lift, and he let her and himself in with his latchkey.
She entered the kitchen, and he, following, sat down in a chair there.
'Where have you been?' he said, with almost angered concern on his face. 'You ought not
to have been absent more than ten minutes.'
'I knew there was nothing for me to do, and thought I should like to see a little of
London,' she replied naively. 'So when I had got the stamps I went on into the fashionable
streets, where ladies are all walking about just as if it were daytime! 'Twas for all the
world like coming home by night from Martinmas Fair at the Street o' Wells, only more
genteel.'
'O Avice, Avice, you must not go out like this! Don't you know that I am responsible for
your safety? I am your--well, guardian, in fact, and am bound by law and morals, and I
don't know what-all, to deliver you up to your native island without a scratch or blemish.
And yet you indulge in such a midnight vagary as this!'
'But I am sure, sir, the gentlemen in the street were more respectable than they are
anywhere at home! They were dressed in the latest fashion, and would have scorned to do
me any harm; and as to their love-making, I never heard anything so polite before.'
'Well, you must not do it again. I'll tell you some day why. What's that you have in your
hand?'
'A mouse-trap. There are lots of mice in this kitchen--sooty mice, not clean like ours--and
I thought I'd try to catch them. That was what I went so far to buy, as there were no shops
open just about here. I'll set it now.'
She proceeded at once to do so, and Pierston remained in his seat regarding the operation,
which seemed entirely to engross her. It was extraordinary, indeed, to observe how she
wilfully limited her interests; with what content she received the ordinary things that life
 
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