Chapter 4

Miss Ramsbotham gives her Services

To regard Miss Ramsbotham as a marriageable quantity would have occurred to few men. Endowed by Nature with every feminine quality calculated to inspire liking, she had, on the other hand, been disinherited of every attribute calculated to excite passion. An ugly woman has for some men an attraction; the proof is ever present to our eyes. Miss Ramsbotham was plain but pleasant looking. Large, healthy in mind and body, capable, self-reliant, and cheerful, blessed with a happy disposition together with a keen sense of humour, there was about her absolutely nothing for tenderness to lay hold of. An ideal wife, she was an impossible sweetheart. Every man was her friend. The suggestion that any man could be her lover she herself would have greeted with a clear, ringing laugh.

Not that she held love in despite; for such folly she was possessed of far too much sound sense. “To have somebody in love with you—somebody strong and good,” so she would confess to her few close intimates, a dreamy expression clouding for an instant her broad, sunny face, “why, it must be just lovely!” For Miss Ramsbotham was prone to American phraseology, and had even been at some pains, during a six months’ journey through the States (whither she had been commissioned by a conscientious trade journal seeking reliable information concerning the condition of female textile workers) to acquire a slight but decided American accent. It was her one affectation, but assumed, as one might feel certain, for a practical and legitimate object.

“You can have no conception,” she would explain, laughing, “what a help I find it. ‘I’m ’Muriken’ is the ‘Civis Romanus sum’ of the modern woman’s world. It opens every door to us. If I ring the bell and say, ‘Oh, if you please, I have come to interview Mr. So-and-So for such-and-such a paper,’ the footman looks through me at the opposite side of the street, and tells me to wait in the hall while he inquires if Mr. So-and-So will see me or not. But if I say, ‘That’s my keerd, young man. You tell your master Miss Ramsbotham is waiting for him in the showroom, and will take it real kind if he’ll just bustle himself,’ the poor fellow walks backwards till he stumbles against the bottom stair, and my gentleman comes down with profuse apologies for having kept me waiting three minutes and a half.

“And to be in love with someone,” she would continue, “someone great that one could look up to and honour and worship—someone that would fill one’s whole life, make it beautiful, make every day worth living, I think that would be better still. To work merely for one’s self, to think merely for one’s self, it is so much less interesting.”

Then, at some such point of the argument, Miss Ramsbotham would jump up from her chair and shake herself indignantly.

“Why, what nonsense I’m talking,” she would tell herself, and her listeners. “I make a very fair income, have a host of friends, and enjoy every hour of my life. I should like to have been pretty or handsome, of course; but no one can have all the good things of this world, and I have my brains. At one time, perhaps, yes; but now—no, honestly I would not change myself.”

Miss Ramsbotham was sorry that no man had ever fallen in love with her, but that she could understand.

“It is quite clear to me.” So she had once unburdened herself to her bosom friend. “Man for the purposes of the race has been given two kinds of love, between which, according to his opportunities and temperament, he is free to choose: he can fall down upon his knees and adore physical beauty (for Nature ignores entirely our mental side), or he can take delight in circling with his protecting arm the weak and helpless. Now, I make no appeal to either instinct. I possess neither the charm nor beauty to attract——”

“Beauty,” reminded her the bosom friend, consolingly, “dwells in the beholder’s eye.”

“My dear,” cheerfully replied Miss Ramsbotham, “it would have to be an eye of the range and capacity Sam Weller frankly owned up to not possessing—a patent double-million magnifying, capable of seeing

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