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The Lady of the Basement Flat   By: (1857-1917)

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The Lady of the Basement Flat, by Mrs George de Horne Vaizey.

The scene opens with the marriage of one of a pair of sisters, and her departure for North America. The other sister is left feeling very much at a loss, but she hits on the idea of renting a small London flat in a poor area, making herself look like a very elderly woman, and finding acts of kindness to do for her neighbours. She takes the name of Miss Harding.

However the married sister's marriage founders, and she comes back to England. Both the sisters rent a nice place in the country and spend a lot of effort in decorating it. So Miss Harding has occasional spells of living as her original young self with her sister, before returning to her basement flat. As usual with this author, with her fascination with illness, a child of one of the neighbours, Billie, becomes very ill and needs roound the clock nursing. Miss Harding plays a big part in this. But one day a chance remark by another of the tenants in the block of flats makes it clear that the reason why the married sister's marriage had foundered was no more than a misunderstanding. So Miss Harding is able to fix her sister's problems, and Miss Harding herself finds a husband, in her true and original identity, and so ends her parallel existence as Miss Harding.




At three o'clock this afternoon Evelyn Wastneys died. I am Evelyn Wastneys, and I died, standing at the door of an old country home in Ireland, with my hands full of ridiculous little silver shoes and horseshoes, and a Paris hat on my head, and a trembling treble voice whispering in my ear:

"Good bye, Evelyn darling darling! Thank you thank you for all you have been to me! Oh, Evelyn, promise you will not be unhappy!"

Then some mysterious hidden muscle, whose existence I had never before suspected, pulled two little strings at the corners of my mouth, and my lips smiled a marionette smile and a marionette voice cried jauntily:

"Unhappy? Never! Why, I am free! I am going to begin to live."

Then I watched a tall bridegroom in tweeds tenderly help a little bride in mole coloured taffeta and sable furs into the waiting car, the horn blew, the engines whirled, a big hand and a little one flourished handkerchiefs out of the window, a white satin shoe danced ridiculously after the wheels, and Aunt Emmeline cried sensibly:

"That's over, thank goodness! The wind is sharp! Let's have tea!"

She hurried into the house to give orders, and the old Evelyn Wastneys stood staring after the car, as it sped down the drive, passed through the lodge gates, and spun out into the high road. She had the strangest, most curious feeling that it was only the ghost of herself who stood there a ghost in a Paris hat and gown, with long suede gloves wrinkled up her arms, and a pendant of mingled initials sparkling on her lace waistcoat. The real, true Evelyn a little, naked, shivering creature was skurrying after that car, bleating piteously to be taken in.

But the car rolled on quicker and quicker, its occupants too much taken up with themselves to have time to waste on dull other people. In another minute it was out of sight, but the ghost did not come back. The new Evelyn lingered upon the steps, waiting for it to return. There was such a blank, empty ache in the place where her heart used to be. It seemed impossible that that skurrying little ghost would not come back, nestle again in its own place, and warm up the empty void. But it never came back. The new Evelyn turned and walked into the house.

"Well, it has all gone off very well! Kathleen looked quite nice, though I always do say that a real lace veil is less becoming than tulle. There was a rose and thistle pattern right across her nose, and personally I think those sheaves of lilies are too large... Continue reading book >>

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