The Well - Beloved HTML version
The New Becomes Established
A few mornings later he was looking through an upper back window over a screened part
of the garden. The door beneath him opened, and a figure appeared tripping forth. She
went round out of sight to where the gardener was at work, and presently returned with a
bunch of green stuff fluttering in each hand. It was Avice, her dark hair now braided up
snugly under a cap. She sailed on with a rapt and unconscious face, her thoughts a
thousand removes from him.
How she had suddenly come to be an inmate of his own house he could not understand,
till he recalled the fact that he had given the castle servants a whole holiday to attend a
review of the yeomanry in the watering-place over the bay, on their stating that they
could provide a temporary substitute to stay in the house. They had evidently called in
Avice. To his great pleasure he discovered their opinion of his requirements to be such a
mean one that they had called in no one else.
The Spirit, as she seemed to him, brought his lunch into the room where he was writing,
and he beheld her uncover it. She went to the window to adjust a blind which had slipped,
and he had a good view of her profile. It was not unlike that of one of the three goddesses
in Rubens's 'Judgment of Paris,' and in contour was nigh perfection. But it was in her full
face that the vision of her mother was most apparent.
'Did you cook all this, Avice?' he asked, arousing himself.
She turned and half-smiled, merely murmuring, 'Yes, sir.'
Well he knew the arrangement of those white teeth. In the junction of two of the upper
ones there was a slight irregularity; no stranger would have noticed it, nor would he, but
that he knew of the same mark in her mother's mouth, and looked for it here. Till Avice
the Second had revealed it this moment by her smile, he had never beheld that mark since
the parting from Avice the First, when she had smiled under his kiss as the copy had done
Next morning, when dressing, he heard her through the ricketty floor of the building
engaged in conversation with the other servants. Having by this time regularly installed
herself as the exponent of the Long- pursued--as one who, by no initiative of his own, had
been chosen by some superior Power as the vehicle of her next debut, she attracted him
by the cadences of her voice; she would suddenly drop it to a rich whisper of roguishness,
when the slight rural monotony of its narrative speech disappeared, and soul and heart--or
what seemed soul and heart-- resounded. The charm lay in the intervals, using that word
in its musical sense. She would say a few syllables in one note, and end her sentence in a
soft modulation upwards, then downwards, then into her own note again. The curve of