The Well - Beloved HTML version
The Resumption Takes Place
Having returned to London he mechanically resumed his customary life; but he was not
really living there. The phantom of Avice, now grown to be warm flesh and blood, held
his mind afar. He thought of nothing but the isle, and Avice the Second dwelling therein--
inhaling its salt breath, stroked by its singing rains and by the haunted atmosphere of
Roman Venus about and around the site of her perished temple there. The very defects in
the country girl became charms as viewed from town.
Nothing now pleased him so much as to spend that portion of the afternoon which he
devoted to out-door exercise, in haunting the purlieus of the wharves along the Thames,
where the stone of his native rock was unshipped from the coasting-craft that had brought
it thither. He would pass inside the great gates of these landing-places on the right or left
bank, contemplate the white cubes and oblongs, imbibe their associations, call up the
genius loci whence they came, and almost forget that he was in London.
One afternoon he was walking away from the mud-splashed entrance to one of the
wharves, when his attention was drawn to a female form on the opposite side of the way,
going towards the spot he had just left. She was somewhat small, slight, and graceful; her
attire alone would have been enough to attract him, being simple and countrified to
picturesqueness; but he was more than attracted by her strong resemblance to Avice Caro
the younger--Ann Avice, as she had said she was called.
Before she had receded a hundred yards he felt certain that it was Avice indeed; and his
unifying mood of the afternoon was now so intense that the lost and the found Avice
seemed essentially the same person. Their external likeness to each other--probably
owing to the cousinship between the elder and her husband--went far to nourish the
fantasy. He hastily turned, and rediscovered the girl among the pedestrians. She kept on
her way to the wharf, where, looking inquiringly around her for a few seconds, with the
manner of one unaccustomed to the locality, she opened the gate and disappeared.
Pierston also went up to the gate and entered. She had crossed to the landing-place,
beyond which a lumpy craft lay moored. Drawing nearer, he discovered her to be
engaged in conversation with the skipper and an elderly woman--both come straight from
the oolitic isle, as was apparent in a moment from their accent. Pierston felt no hesitation
in making himself known as a native, the ruptured engagement between Avice's mother
and himself twenty years before having been known to few or none now living.
The present embodiment of Avice recognized him, and with the artless candour of her
race and years explained the situation, though that was rather his duty as an intruder than