The Well - Beloved
She Is Enshrouded From Sight
One evening in early winter, when the air was dry and gusty, the dark little lane which
divided the grounds of Sylvania Castle from the cottage of Avice, and led down to the
adjoining ruin of Red-King Castle, was paced by a solitary man. The cottage was the
centre of his beat; its western limit being the gates of the former residence, its eastern the
drawbridge of the ruin. The few other cottages thereabout- -all as if carved from the solid
rock--were in darkness, but from the upper window of Avice's tiny freehold glimmered a
light. Its rays were repeated from the far-distant sea by the lightship lying moored over
the mysterious Shambles quicksand, which brought tamelessness and domesticity into
due position as balanced opposites.
The sea moaned--more than moaned--among the boulders below the ruins, a throe of its
tide being timed to regular intervals. These sounds were accompanied by an equally
periodic moan from the interior of the cottage chamber; so that the articulate heave of
water and the articulate heave of life seemed but differing utterances of the selfsame
troubled terrestrial Being--which in one sense they were.
Pierston--for the man in the lane was he--would look from lightship to cottage window;
then back again, as he waited there between the travail of the sea without, and the travail
of the woman within. Soon an infant's wail of the very feeblest was also audible in the
house. He started from his easy pacing, and went again westward, standing at the elbow
of the lane a long time. Then the peace of the sleeping village which lay that way was
broken by light wheels and the trot of a horse. Pierston went back to the cottage gate and
awaited the arrival of the vehicle.
It was a light cart, and a man jumped down as it stopped. He was in a broad-brimmed hat,
under which no more of him could be perceived than that he wore a black beard clipped
like a yew fence--a typical aspect in the island.
'You are Avice's husband?' asked the sculptor quickly.
The man replied that he was, in the local accent. 'I've just come in by to-day's boat,' he
added. 'I couldn't git here avore. I had contracted for the job at Peter-Port, and had to see
to't to the end.'
'Well,' said Pierston, 'your coming means that you are willing to make it up with her?'
'Ay, I don't know but I be,' said the man. 'Mid so well do that as anything else!'
'If you do, thoroughly, a good business in your old line awaits you here in the island.'