through a deal board and round the corner sort of eye—to detect any beauty in me. And I am much too big and sensible for any man not a fool ever to think of wanting to take care of me.

“I believe,” remembered Miss Ramsbotham, “if it does not sound like idle boasting, I might have had a husband, of a kind, if Fate had not compelled me to save his life. I met him one year at Huyst, a small, quiet watering-place on the Dutch coast. He would walk always half a step behind me, regarding me out of the corner of his eye quite approvingly at times. He was a widower—a good little man, devoted to his three charming children. They took an immense fancy to me, and I really think I could have got on with him. I am very adaptable, as you know. But it was not to be. He got out of his depth one morning, and unfortunately there was no one within distance but myself who could swim. I knew what the result would be. You remember Labiche’s comedy, Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon? Of course, every man hates having had his life saved, after it is over; and you can imagine how he must hate having it saved by a woman. But what was I to do? In either case he would be lost to me, whether I let him drown or whether I rescued him. So, as it really made no difference, I rescued him. He was very grateful, and left the next morning.

“It is my destiny. No man has ever fallen in love with me, and no man ever will. I used to worry myself about it when I was younger. As a child I hugged to my bosom for years an observation I had overheard an aunt of mine whisper to my mother one afternoon as they sat knitting and talking, not thinking I was listening. ‘You never can tell,’ murmured my aunt, keeping her eyes carefully fixed upon her needles; ‘children change so. I have known the plainest girls grow up into quite beautiful women. I should not worry about it if I were you—not yet awhile.’ My mother was not at all a bad-looking woman, and my father was decidedly handsome; so there seemed no reason why I should not hope. I pictured myself the ugly duckling of Andersen’s fairy-tale, and every morning on waking I would run straight to my glass and try to persuade myself that the feathers of the swan were beginning at last to show themselves.” Miss Ramsbotham laughed, a genuine laugh of amusement, for of self-pity not a trace was now remaining to her.

“Later I plucked hope again,” continued Miss Ramsbotham her confession, “from the reading of a certain school of fiction more popular twenty years ago than now. In these romances the heroine was never what you would call beautiful, unless in common with the hero you happened to possess exceptional powers of observation. But she was better than that, she was good. I do not regard as time wasted the hours I spent studying this quaint literature. It helped me, I am sure, to form habits that have since been of service to me. I made a point, when any young man visitor happened to be staying with us, of rising exceptionally early in the morning, so that I always appeared at the breakfast-table fresh, cheerful, and carefully dressed, with, when possible, a dew-besprinkled flower in my hair to prove that I had already been out in the garden. The effort, as far as the young man visitor was concerned, was always thrown away; as a general rule, he came down late himself, and generally too drowsy to notice anything much. But it was excellent practice for me. I wake now at seven o’clock as a matter of course, whatever time I go to bed. I made my own dresses and most of our cakes, and took care to let everybody know it. Though I say it who should not, I play and sing rather well. I certainly was never a fool. I had no little brothers and sisters to whom to be exceptionally devoted, but I had my cousins about the house as much as possible, and damaged their characters, if anything, by over-indulgence. My dear, it never caught even a curate! I am not one of those women to run down men; I think them delightful creatures, and in a general way I find them very intelligent. But where their hearts are concerned it is the girl with the frizzy hair, who wants two people to help her over the stile, that is their idea of an angel. No man could fall in love with me; he couldn’t if he tried. That I can understand; but”—Miss Ramsbotham sunk her voice to a more confidential tone—“what I cannot understand is that I have never fallen in love with any man, because I like them all.”

“You have given the explanation yourself,” suggested the bosom friend—one Susan Fossett, the “Aunt Emma” of The Ladies’ Journal, a nice woman, but talkative. “You are too sensible.”

Miss Ramsbotham shook her head. “I should just love to fall in love. When I think about it, I feel quite ashamed of myself for not having done so.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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