BLTC Press Titles

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The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

My Lady Cinderella

by Alice Muriel Williamson


To-day I had meant to be a happy day. But, after all, I was miserable. I would have given a great deal to be almost anywhere else—yes, even at home in Cousin Sarah East's villa in Peckham.

I had never thought of myself as a vain girl; but I suppose it was a morbid sort of vanity that induced so keen a pang of shamed distress on this glorious June day in the Park.

Anne Bryden, who had brought me, and proudly paid for the chairs to which we had found our way through the crowd, looked serenely blissful. She was not one whit depressed by the fact that she and I were the only ugly ducklings in this dazzling array of swans. Forgotten was her rusty black frock, with the cheap, pathetic jet trimming on the bodice; her last year's hat, with its faded pink roses, had practically ceased to exist.

It did not even occur to her that it might be well to give her shabby boots the protection of her skirt. This lack of self-consciousness struck me as scarcely short of greatness in Anne. It was almost above the level of the feminine, and far above the level of the Me.

It was not often that I could get a holiday from Cousin Sarah's babies, to whom I had the honour of being nursery governess—alias nursemaid—with a mingling of "general servant's" duties. There were no regular "days out" for me, but Cousin Sarah considered Anne "a most respectable young woman." (Anne had with unwonted diplomacy praised the house, admired the babies, and deferred to Cousin Sarah's opinion during the one visit I had received from her at Happiholme Villa.) Accordingly, this whole long June afternoon in her society had been granted.

I ought to have been radiant, revelling in the pretty faces, the prettier dresses, and the glittering equipages of my betters, but instead I sat wishing that I were not ashamed to ask Anne if she were ready to go away; concealing the mended finger-tips of my gloves by curling my hands into fists, and feeling utterly wretched that I, who adored beauty, must be so hopelessly out of the picture.

Carriage after carriage rolled by; well-groomed, clean-limbed men lounged over the railings, and raised their tall, shining hats to the occupants, or chatted with exquisitely-dressed girls, who looked like floating flowers, under their tinted chiffon and lace parasols. The rhododendrons were a flame of glorious colour; the distance was blue with the soft mist that hung, ineffable and pensive,, above the Serpentine, and the far, billowy reaches of sweet-smelling, new-cut grass in the Park.

"It's a nice world, isn't it?" remarked Anne, apropos of everything—everything but ourselves.

"Yes. And there are lots of nice times in it. Only we're not in any of them."

Anne looked critically at me.

"You ought to be, Con," she observed, after an interval of reflection. "As for me, I don't count. I'm nobody. I wasn't born to things, and I don't expect them. But you—you are different. You are a beauty. And you are a mystery. A book could be written about you."

I laughed a little.

"It would have to be a book for children. Nothing has ever happened to me since I was a child, and then —they were all sad things."

"But you are the sort of girl that things do happen to. They will yet; you mark my words."

I shook my head.

"Oh, if they only would! I'm so, so tired of Peckham. If something would happen to-day!"

"What would you like best to happen?" queried Anne.

"Am I to have my choice? Are you a fairy godmother in disguise? Well, I should say, Please, fairy godmother, you see that beauteous maiden in pink muslin, driving with her mother in the particularly desirable victoria?" (As I spoke my eyes focussed upon a wonderful girl who laughed haughtily, lazily conscious that she was one of Fortune's supreme favourites.) "Well, then, dear fairy godmother, wave your magic wand which so sadly resembles a three-and-sixpenny umbrella, and make me, if only for the space of one gorgeous month, like her. Give me as many Paris gowns, as much fun, as wild a whirl of gaiety, as she will enjoy this season. It isn't a very noble or exalted wish; but I'm in the mood for that, and nothing else, to-day."

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